Wednesday, October 29, 2014

When Writing Your First Draft, Take all the Detours

by Faye Rapoport DesPres

Think about the last time you went for a hike or a walk around your neighborhood. You probably set out with a specific plan; maybe you had a route mapped out, a particular amount of time reserved, a good idea of what you would likely see and hear. You wore clothing appropriate for your adventure—maybe hiking boots if the trail was steep or muddy, a rain parka if the sky looked foreboding.

Did your hike or walk turn out exactly as you expected? Did anything out of the ordinary happen along the way? Maybe the sun came out and you had to peel off the rain parka. Maybe you spotted a side trail, decided to explore it, and discovered a hidden pond at the bottom of a small hill. You sat on a large, flat rock at the edge of the pond and breathed in the fresh air, which smelled of mud and pine, and noticed a small turtle sunning itself on a fallen branch. You watched the turtle for a while and noticed how its head was turned up toward the sky. Then, without notice, the turtle slipped off the branch and into the water with a gentle “blip,” leaving a small, circular wake that slowly spread before dissipating.

Or maybe, you stayed closer to home, walking around your block. You waved to a neighbor who was outside tending some roses that had been planted against a white fence in their front garden. You stopped to say hello only to discover how downtrodden they looked; she had recently suffered a tragedy in her family. You expressed your condolences and gave her a hug, offered to help any way you could, and made a mental note to stop by later with fresh-baked cookies.

In neither of these scenarios did your hike or walk turn out exactly the way you expected. In fact, it became a richer experience because you were willing to stop and look around, or deviate from your expected path. “Two roads diverged in a wood, and . . . "*

The same is usually true in the craft of writing, and many writers (including me) often forget this. We set out with an idea of what we've planned to write, then get stuck when we stick too closely to that predetermined path. Before we’ve gotten very far at all, we start worrying about whether our sentences or paragraphs are “good” and start lamenting that what we've written isn’t working. We stare blankly at a page with just a few words on it because we’ve shackled our minds with restrictions and expectations.

Some writers draft once (perhaps from an outline), and that’s it. Those who can do this certainly have my admiration. For most writers, however, this approach doesn’t work. Instead, we have to give ourselves permission to create what Anne Lamott dubbed the “sh*tty first draft.” Freewriting is a wonderful way to do this—just write for a period of time, not allowing yourself to stop even when the words don’t seem to be flowing, and don’t worry about the shape or meaning of what you write. Not yet. Don’t even worry about the grammar or the spelling. Just let your mind connect to the page through your fingers, let it wander through your thoughts or your memories or your plot, and see what happens. See where it takes you. You might be surprised to discover that not only have you spent your time actually writing, you’ve found a new approach to your topic or idea, or maybe your idea has completely changed. You’ve given your mind permission to explore, and by doing so you’ve stumbled upon something that’s deeper, more interesting, or more inspiring to you than your original concept.

Once you’ve found what you’re looking for, whether it’s the “theme,” the structure, the voice, or some plot twist of your piece, you can go back and start draft two—where you  start thinking more seriously about shaping your text. Some writers go through this process with many, many drafts over many, many months before they hit that moment when they just know they have it “right.” Even then, months or even a year later when they dust off that old draft, they might find something new to say or change.

The writing process is, of course, different for every writer. What’s important, I think, is to take the pressure off yourself to be perfect every time, right from the first draft. Now and then you might get lucky and write a piece that will require little editing the first time you sit down with it at your desk (or with your notebook outside, or at the kitchen table, or wherever you write). But for most writers, most of the time, it takes numerous drafts to perfect a piece of writing.

So, when you sit down for the first time with a topic or a character or a plot, why not set your mind free? My guess is it will be well worth the unexpected journey.

*Frost, R. The Road Not Taken. web. Accessed October 21, 2014. 4

@2014 Faye Rapoport DesPres

Faye Rapoport DesPres has spent much of her writing career as a journalist and business/non-profit writer. In 2010 she earned her MFA from Pine Manor College, where she focused on creative nonfiction.

Her journalism has appeared in The New York Times, Animal Life, Trail, Timberline and other publications. Her personal essays, fiction, and poetry have been published in Ascent, Superstition Review, and Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, as well as other journals, magazines, and anthologies. Currently, DesPres is an adjunct first-year writing instructor at Lasell College. She lives in the Boston area with her husband and their rescued cats. Message from a Blue Jay -- Love, Loss, and One Writer's Journey Home is her first book.

Our thanks to Faye for a thought provoking piece! We hope you enjoyed it! 
Join us every week for our latest edition of #WW Writer Wednesday where authors share tips, tricks, thoughts, and flash fiction. Want to make sure you never miss an issue? Just follow us by email - top of the sidebar.  
We hope you'll be back next Wednesday when Paula Gail Benson stops by to talk about Writer's Conferences - Why you should attend them & what you'll learn when you do!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Mystery Times 2014 DEADLINE EXTENDED!!


** New deadline for submissions : Midnight EST Friday Dec 5th, 2014 **


Yes, we're extending the submissions deadline! Last year, we received over 200 entries from new and established authors alike. Never before published, they were gathered together in our third annual Mystery Times collection. Each story was read and rated by our judges using a single set of parameters, but each judge brought his or her own unique talents and tastes to the task at hand.
The quality of the stories was outstanding—so strong that we added two additional stories to the book—and the 2013 book hit the Top 10 on Amazon's BestSeller's lists for both paperback and kindle editions.
So we're doing it again!

Our Mystery Times 2014 seeks new mystery short stories.

Submission Guidelines:

Genre: Mystery—you choose the subgenre; from murder, cozy, soft-boiled, hard-boiled, paranormal. police procedural, suspense, thriller, to amateur detective.

What is a mystery? In a mystery, the main character must track down the truth about an event, often a murder. If the protagonist is in any danger, it usually becomes a problem only as the detective or protagonist approaches the truth. That's your base, how it plays out is up to you!

  • No gratuitous sex, violence, or foul language.  
  • The competition is open to all writers in English except current employees of Buddhapuss Ink LLC.
  • Submissions will be accepted from July 15th, 2014 to December 5th, 2014.
  • You must be 18 or older to enter unless you have written permission from your parent or guardian.
  • No previously published work(s) or simultaneous submissions please.
  • Word count should be between 3000-7000.
  • Send your submissions via email with the subject line “Submission for MYSTERY TIMES 2014” from with your story as an attached file in .doc (Word) format.

PLEASE INCLUDE in the body of the email:

Your name and contact information.

A brief author bio (2-5 sentences).
Entry should be single-spaced in a 12 pt. readable font. We suggest Times New Roman, Courier, or Arial.

NOTE: You will receive an email acknowledging our receipt of your entry within 1 business day. If you don't receive this email, first check your junk/bulk/spam folder, then if necessary please re-submit your entry and change the subject line to: "RESUBMISSION for MYSTERY TIMES 2014".

Submissions that do not follow these guidelines will not be considered.

Notifications will be sent to finalists via email in late December 2014.

There is no limit on the number of entries you may submit. There is no fee to enter.

Buddhapuss Ink LLC reserves the right to close or extend the competition if not enough suitable entries are received.

Winning Selections:

The Ten (10) Winning entries will be published in a showcase titled Mystery Times 2014 to be published by Buddhapuss Ink LLC.

First Place winner will receive a Brand New Kindle, featured placement in the book, and Buddhapuss Ink swag.

Second and Third Place winners will receive featured placement in the book, and a Buddhapuss Ink t-shirt.

ALL WINNERS will receive: two (2) copies of the finished book.

Some winning entries will also be featured on our website, blog, and/or Facebook page.


All entries that meet submission guidelines will be read by and rated by judges. The top twenty (20) entries—based on points accrued—will then go on to our Editorial Review Panel.
The decisions of the judges will be final.
No manuscripts will be returned.
Winners will be notified in late December 2014.
Publication is scheduled for January-February 2015.

Send your best words our way!

Key dates: Contest ends: December 5, 2014
Winners announced: Late December 2014
Publication: January-February 2015

Send to:

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Do's and Don'ts of Tweeting for Authors

Many new authors shy away from Twitter, because they find it confusing, yet they know they have to post on Twitter daily if they want to find an audience for their books.

The feed you set up so carefully, the followers you found to read your promotional material, it all swims by at an alarming speed. Can anyone see how you used exactly 140 characters to describe your book? Did they even notice that you added in a couple of tags to get others to retweet your post, or those adorable hashtags in plain view? Your tweet will soon be lost in the endless twitterstream!

Fear not, here's a few tips to make using Twitter easier.

Twitter Jail: Breaking these rules will land you in Twitter jail faster than you can say "Peep!"

  • Less than 2,000 followers? Make sure you don't follow more than 10% over the number of followers you have. (i.e. 2,000 followers means the maximum number of tweeps you can follow is 2,200.) 

  • Don't add more than 2,000 people per day to the list of people you follow. 
  • If you have a lot of people to retweet for, be sure it’s not more than 2,400. I’m proud to say that I’ve been in Twitter jail 3 times in the last month, all for trying to do too many tweets. No worries, it’s only for a few hours, then you can jump back on the Tweet horse!

Tweet Schedulers: The most popular two are HootSuite and TweetDeck. These programs allow you to schedule your tweets ahead of time, freeing you to continue working on your next book. Just remember to set up a schedule so you don’t forget to schedule your next round of tweets.

Notifications: This is where you’ll see a list of those who have retweeted your work, followed you, clicked on favorite for something you’ve tweeted, or are conversing with you. Be sure to visit this section at some point during the day to retweet those who have done the same for you, tweet things people have tweeted about you, or get into conversations with your followers.

A few hints about the care and feeding of followers.

1.    Always thank people for retweeting your tweets. Some may say you’re welcome, some will ignore this. Experience has taught me this simple kindness garners more followers and more retweeting of my tweets.

2.     Say you’re welcome if someone thanks you.

3.    Always retweet someone who has done the same for you.

4.    Thank your new followers and then follow them back, after retweeting one of their tweets.

Finally, don’t just tweet about your books. Add tidbits about your day—what you’re having for dinner, the game you just watched, even the weather will get people talking and tweeting. And don’t never get into a fight on Twitter. One of the things authors need to learn from the start—our public face must always be nice, no matter how nasty the other person is. 
 ©2014 K.C. Sprayberry

Born and raised in Southern California’s Los Angeles basin, K.C. Sprayberry spent years traveling the United States and Europe while in the Air Force before settling in Northwest Georgia. She and her husband of more than twenty years are empty nesters which leaves her plenty of time to figure out new ways to torment her characters and come up with innovative tales from the South and beyond.
A multi-genre author she gets her ideas from the strangest sources. Some of her short stories have appeared in anthologies, others in magazines. Three of her books: Softly Say Goodbye, Who Am I?, and Mama’s Advice, are Amazon best sellers. Her other books are: Take Chances, Where U @, The Wrong One, Pony Dreams, Evil Eyes, Inits, Canoples Investigations Tackles Space Pirates, The Call Chronicles 1: The Griswold Gang, and Starlight. Additionally, she has shorts available on Amazon: Grace, Secret From the Flames, Family Curse … Times Two, and The Ghost Catcher.

Follow K.C. on:

We hope you enjoyed this week's edition of our #WW Writer Wednesday Series! Thanks to K.C for taking time out of a busy schedule to share these twitter tips with you. Stay tuned: Next week we will host author, Faye Rapoport Des Pres as she talks about allowing discovery in the writing process. Don't miss a single issue of this series - follow us! 
~ The Black Cat

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Congrats, Sam Hilliard and The Last Track - #1 on Amazon Kindle Bestseller List!

Over 36,000 downloaded TODAY!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Process of Writing

by Selaine Henriksen

When we speak of the writing process, often what is being referred to is the habit of sitting down every day and writing. It can also refer to actively learning the craft, reading what others have to say, and reading, reading, reading. I have an ecelctic taste in reading (hence the blog title and I often bounce from one genre to another, as well as to non-fiction and of course, down the rabbit hole of the internet.

One rule I always tried to keep when reading other's work, was to finish one book before I began another. I don't any more. I have less time than I used to, and if a book hasn't grabbed me (I'll give it a chapter or two) I'm done with it. Maybe I'll pick it up again at another time. Books can resonate with where you are in your life and maybe this one will affect me later.

In a similar fashion I find the creative process different from the writing process. A story I'm working on may come to a screeching halt, mainly due to the fact that I haven't solved a plot problem. I'll sit and try and force it. Literally mashing the key board, hoping something will come out that I can shape into a plot. What usually happens instead—at least for me—is that a completely new character, and their story, waltz into my head. I used to fight it—no, I must finish one story before I move on to another—but now I go with it. Start the next one. And, when that one comes to a grinding halt, as they are want to do, I go back to the first one, and seeing it with fresh eyes, the answer to whatever problem there was, suddenly appears. This way I always have something to work on and, as my stories are as ecclectic as my reading, and are very different in tone and style. When I return to something it feels fresh, instead of forced.

If I have any advice to pass on then, it's never throw anything out. You may not get back to a story until months, years even, have passed but when you do you'll see the problems with fresh eyes, with new knowledge, and experience. A story you thought was hopeless may turn out in the end to be your favorite.

© 2014 Selaine Henriksen

SELAINE HENRIKSEN has supported her writing habit by working a variety of jobs over the years, from bookstore clerk to research technologist. Currently a fitness instructor and mom to two editors-in-training, she lives in Ottawa, Ontario, where she is a member of Capital Crime Writers. She has eclectic reading tastes, as well as writing, but is a firm believer that at the heart of every good story is a mystery. Selaine's work, "My Grandmother's Attic," appeared in Buddhapuss Ink's Mystery Times Ten 2013. She blogs at

Thanks, Selaine! We're always telling authors: "Think twice before deleting a piece, or even a passage, you never know when you'll find the perfect spot for it!" Sadly, once tossed it is often impossible to recreate.
We hope everyone has enjoyed today's edition of #WW Writer Wednesday, and we encourage you to follow our blog so you never miss a single issue! Hats off to all our writers who so graciously share their thoughts, words, and experiences here. Up next week, veteran writer, KC Sprayberry who talks about "Tweeting Do's and Don'ts." See you then!   ~ The Black Cat