January 27, 2012

Genre As Diverse As Candy

There are millions of books in the world written by hundreds of different authors, each with a distinct style and voice of their own. No two books are alike and that leaves readers with countless options. This is also good news for writers. Since there are a variety of genres in literature, there is always a new book just waiting to be written.

When you have a story idea in mind, the next step is to choose a genre, if you don’t already have one picked out. For a first-time writer, picking a genre could be daunting, but look at it as an adventure instead. Each genre is a different path to explore. Take your time to find the one that fits with the idea you have in mind and will bring you all the way to “THE END.”

Fiction Genre List:      
· Action and Adventure
· Chick Lit
· Children’s
· Commercial Fiction
· Contemporary
· Crime
· Erotica
· Family Saga
· Fantasy
· Gay and Lesbian
· Historical
· Horror
· Humor
· Literary
· Military and Espionage
· Multicultural
· Mystery
· Religious
· Romance
· Science Fiction
· Supernatural and paranormal
· Thrillers and Suspense
· Western
· Women’s Fiction
· Young Adult

And every sub-genre in-between, which means you can combine two genres in one.

Do you feel like a kid in a candy store right now? So many delicious options to choose from, but which one do you really want?

To make the decision easier ask yourself these two simple questions (and feel free to share your answers):

QUESTION #1: What kind of books do you like to read?

QUESTION #2: What kind of movies do you like to watch?

For instance: I love to read romance novels and thrillers like J.D. Robb’s “In Death” series, and I enjoy watching movies with nonstop action and supernatural themes, which is why I have a passion for writing urban fantasy with a lot of action and a splash of romance.

As soon as you select the genre that you want to write in, there will be no stopping you.

January 20, 2012

Write What You Know

NOTE: This post has been revised slightly since publication. Images and formatting have been updated.

Your anxious fingers are tapping the end of your pen against your temple. On the ground next to you is an expanding mountain of crumpled paper that you have ripped out of a notebook, balled into your ink-stained fist, and chucked onto the floor in frustration. Every time you thought you had an idea and jotted it down, you as quickly changed your mind. 

“It’s not good enough,” you growl.

Just not good enough to be the book that you want to write!

Take a long deep breath through your nose and expel it slowly out of your mouth. Your fairy-writing mother is here, and she has come to wave her wand before you and remind you to be patient. If you don’t have an idea for your story yet, don’t sweat it! Think about what you know and go from there.

I know, I know. Writers hate the phrase "write what you know," because it sounds restrictive. Often the things I write about I know in some form or another, and sometimes that's just from watching TV. Yes, really. 

When I say “what you know” that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be a cop to write a story about one. You could know enough about police work from watching popular television shows to be able to right a convincing book with a cop or detective as your main character.

I write urban fantasies where the main character is a tough crime-fighting woman. I am not a cop/detective nor do I have a degree in criminal justice, but I have a knack for this kind of writing. And I have published several stories with detective character. Perhaps I was in law enforcement in another life? Hmm…

If you do have a degree, (GREAT!) use that valuable knowledge to write your book. A degree in the medical field can help you to write a thrilling book about a doctor’s life (or if you’re a huge fan of Grey’s Anatomy, that can help, too).

You can even turn a hobby into a story idea. Do you know how to knit? There are many heart-warming stories about women in knitting clubs. If you love to cook, could you write an interesting novel about a chef or baker?

Even your memories and experiences can be used in your story. Or what you've seen a loved one go through. These things count as things you know. 

The possibilities are endless!

So, search far and deep to find a subject that you are passionate about. This can lead to a story idea.

QUESTION: Other than writing, what are your hobbies and interests?

January 13, 2012

Yes, You Can Write A Book!

Remember when you were little and you were told that you could do whatever you set your mind to? You believed that you were going to be an astronaut jumping from crater to crater on the moon. You saw yourself wearing a beautiful ballerina costume and dancing like a butterfly on stage in front of rows and rows of people.

Maybe you never took a ride on the shuttle or performed Swan Lake in a grand theater, but as children we have magnificent imaginations, and in our playtime, we really did do those things that we imagined. No one could tell us different.

Now as an adult, you can still do whatever you set your mind to. And just like when you were a child, no one can tell you that you cannot write a book. Anyone can write a book. That does not exclude but includes YOU! Maybe it won’t be a great American novel, but it will be yours and that is a treasure to be cherished. Maybe it won’t be distributed all around the world, but it could be passed down from generation to generation as a family heirloom.

Now say it out loud: “I CAN WRITE A BOOK!!!!”

Here is what you need to write:
1. Determination
 As long as you are determined, then you can write a novel. 
2. Pen and Paper 
At the least you need pen and paper to write. Microsoft Word is important if you want to submit your book for publication. 
3. Inspiration 
Inspiration comes in many forms such as books and art. For me, its music.     
4. A source for advice 
Blogs, books, other writers. 
5. Senses, Thoughts, Emotions 
You need to get in touch with your senses (sight, tough, taste, hear, smell), thoughts and Emotions to write vivid prose and realistic characters.

And guess what? You do not need a degree in literature to write a book, because a degree does not prove that you are a good writer; your writing does. It also doesn’t prove your passionate or dedicated; writing and never giving up does that. And a degree may not even teach you how to write. You can hone your skills and grow as a writer without pursuing a degree. You don’t even need a high school diploma! Having a GED (as I do) does not mean that you’re not as good as New York Times Best-Sellers.

I repeat, you do not need authorization to write a book AND you do not need a degree as proof that you are a good writer. Of course, if you want a degree in literature, that is your right. Go for it!

Now say it again and say it with pride: “I CAN WRITE A BOOK!!!!”

QUESTION: What are your dreams for writing? Where do you hope you are in five years?

January 06, 2012

Catching A Spark

A story is an artistic arrangement of words that can make us see a lush green field, hear a baby’s terrified wails, smell delicate orange blossoms, and even taste rich red wine.

To write a story you need an idea; a spark that you can lay on a piece of paper to blaze into a book. An idea for a story can be anything. The sky is not limit, the limit is beyond it.

The idea for a story can be as simple as a young wizard boy (J.K. Rowling), a futuristic cop (Nora Roberts as J.D. Robb), or a haunted hotel (Stephen King). You could get an idea from your grandparents’ great love story that you hear every time you visit them, or from a friend who just went through something good (or bad). It could be a memoir or a true crime that has always fascinated you. You could also get an idea from a bizarre incident, which is how I started writing….
One day, when I was twelve years old, I sat down on a small grassy hill next to my house after a lone game of basketball. I was playing with the sharp blades of grass when my fingers brushed something stuck deep in the roots. I thought it could’ve been a lucky penny or a key to a secret place. 
Curious, I dug it out and looked at my find. Unfortunately, it was not a penny or a key but a screw. The tip was crooked and it was crusted with orange rust. 
For the strangest reason, while holding that pathetic screw, a story came to me about an extraordinary girl in an alternate world. 
I rushed inside my house, grabbed an old notebook and a black pen, and then ran back to that little mound of grass to write the beginning of that story. I wrote fiercely, trying to catch all the words stumbling around in my head. 
I've written ever since.

So, as you can see, an idea and inspiration for a story (or a series of them) can literally come from anything. Don’t fight to find a story, let it come to you instead.

One day, when you’re least expecting it (that is always the moment) your eyes will widen and you’ll think “that would make a great story!” and voilĂ !

Now capture that spark with both hands and set it on a piece of paper to blaze.

QUESTION: What sparked your urge to want to write (a novel)?