How to Write A Book – the Rough Draft

I love rough drafts.  I love how spiky they are, all edges and splinters.  Nasty and messy. Rough. Catching on wisps of idea, snagging emotions, ripping off assumptions like over due band-aids.Rough draft

All smacked down like blobs of paint that once swirled and smeared,  start creating the background, or the foreground

You don’t know, you just laid down wild thoughts and random adjectives.

This is the best of times.  This is the most fun you will have with your novel.  The rest of it is just work.

Revel in the rough draft, the rocks and cliffs, the hiking outdoors where the only destination is the hike – the journey.

Enjoy outfitting yourself for the journey.  The stuff of writing is so fun and compelling – a new lap top, a new iPad,  a new notebook, colored pens, a huge calendar to track word counts, a huge paper covering the study wall with your book’s time line.  Classes, conference.  The announcement- I am working on a book – carries  all the status ( or incomprehension) of “I just published a book.”  Either statement grants you writer status and you are now officially allowed to sit in a Starbucks, drink a Venti something with soy, no foam, three pumps and work on your book.

That’s where the fun is.

You don’t believe me do you?  No new writer believes me. They believe, deep in their newbie hearts, that it’s publication that brings joy.

No, it doesn’t.

Publication brings to do lists, jobs and activities that are at best, soul sucking, at worst, completely avoided.

But the rough draft?  That avalanche of words now blocking what you thought was a clear path?  That’s the fun. Chipping through the ice and snow to reveal the next steps.  Working on a character because you want to get them just right.

That’s why we write.

You may be like me, and want to stay in the rough draft forever.

 

Why Bother Writing?To learn more.
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Social Media for Authors – Illustrated

Social Media helpI’ve had the privileged of speaking to a number of authors this month on Social Media.

Here is the summary of the talks and the Social Media Graph

Goodreads.  You must get yourself on Goodreads even before your book is published.  Make friends, create a list of your books, write reviews, join groups.  Participate a little each week and grow your presence.  Once your book is published – create a book give away to increase your book’s exposure.

Facebook: For an author the very first social media channel for your book is Facebook.   Millennials feel that FB is here to stay, they consider it an old established form of social.  Which is just fine by us.  For an author your best strategy is to create a FB Page so you can separate the information about your book from your own personal feed.

Pinterest is surprisingly good for authors.  Create boards and posts about your book, join other boards, post photos while you wait in line or are sitting as a car passenger.

Ideas:  Post photos and comments about where the book is set, what the characters are wearing, old photos.  Photos of film stars who resemble your book characters, stuff found in the book.

Both Pinterest and FB are great resources for ads.  But create the boards and pins first before launching into paid ads so you don’t appear inauthentic.

Paid ads are inexpensive and easily tracked.  Try a boosted post on Facebook for 20.00 and evaluate the results.  Try a boosted post on Pinterest and do the same.  You can refine and explore quickly and fairly easily.Social Media for authors

For a better version – I’ll trade you – sign up for my quarterly newsletter and I’ll send you a PDF version of the graph!

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Social Media for Authors

How to keep writing

I’m teaching a seminar on Social Media for Authors at the Sierra Writer’s Conference this January 21 in Nevada City, CA

One of the more overwhelming aspects of marketing your book is managing social media. Think of Social Media as an exponential tool: focus on creating 100 fans, and those fans will share with their 100 fans, and those fans will share . . . well, you get the idea.  Since there is no such thing as the best social media channel, learn which one will work best for you and your project.  We will also discuss what to say, how to say it, and most importantly – why do this at all? 

Sign up today!

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Luring Your Muse

Don’t Write Like You Talk
What I learned from agents & authors, publishers & poets

This blog first appeared on Writer’s Fun Zone

I’m not a fan of Sara Gilbert per se, but she delivered a great TED talk on the Muse.  Based on that talk (the Muse must have been pleased with her TED talk) she has a book, Big Magic.  I bought it hard cover, I’ve read the whole thing, I liked it much better than that other book of hers.  I talk about the Muse all the time, and Gilbert does a good job defining the Muse and what it means for authors.Blog by Catharine Bramkamp

In the past, writers and artists were not so much responsible for their creative work as they were honored to be the instruments of creative inspiration. The artist was simply a medium for a greater power to flow through them and create work that needed to be born into the world.

As passive as that sounds – that we are merely hands, eyes and bodies at the service of a capricious god, it does take some of the pressure off.

If we are channeling the Muse, then a dry spell, the inability to produce great art, is not entirely the direct result of bad character or lack of will power.  However, it may mean that you angered your god.

Think back, did you  leave the right offering at the feet of your Muse?  Did you remember to thank her for the last creative rush, the one that left you exhausted and spent but also gloriously alive?

Did you wait around, burning your incense, leaving cookies and brandy, yet  she never came and you just spent a month staring at a blank screen?   And now you’re pissed?

That’ s the conundrum.  Wait for inspiration?  Worship, pray and hope?  Or, as Jack London suggested, hunt down inspiration with a bat.   

You don’t need a bat. It is possible to encourage the Muse to visit on a daily basis.  Contrary to popular lore, the Muse responds well to schedules.  She will often drop  by at the same time each day.  Your job is to discover when that is and be there when she visits.

Gertrude Stein once said of the writing process, “It will come if it is there and if you will let it come.”

But for the writing to come, you may have to nudge it along by finding a consistent source of inspiration. Stein claimed her best ideas came to her while she was driving around in her car looking at cows. She would write for only 30 minutes a day, driving around a farm and stopping at different cows until she found the one that most fit her mood.

Barring counting cows  follow the advice of many, including me: show up.

If the Muse knows you’re home, she is more likely to stop by.

For the first weeks, you may show up in good faith but the Muse may not reciprocate.  She may  be wandering around your house, checking the base boards for dust, reading the books in your library and judging if you are really serious, or if you’re actually playing Candy Crush and it just looks like you’re working.  The Muse is not that easily fooled.  To attract the Muse, you need to be writing.

And by writing I mean anything you want, anything that comes to mind. Like warming up the water in the shower, you turn on the words, let them flow and pretty soon  they will become the right temperature, and you then can step into the shower and relish the flow.

I believe in the Muse, I believe in luring her to my side with promises of wine, chocolate, and attentive listening.  I believe in thanking her for her efforts on my behalf. And if I could, I would book her as a guest on Newbie Writers Podcast.

Make your offering today.  Your writing will start to improve by tomorrow.  I swear by the wild red hair of my Muse.

To learn more.
Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
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When Your Characters Go Rouge

From our upcoming book –
Don’t Write Like We Talk
What we learned from agents & authors, publishers & poets

Why characters matter, Catharine BramkampYou have your character all figured out. You’ve even created the hero according to last week’s suggestion of deconstructing the characters in a comic book

Some authors identify their characters by zodiac sign.

Some write extensive backgrounds, time lines, favorite pets, the parent’s story.

We write long biographies for every character who appears in the story.
All of this work can be excellent exercises, and valuable as you flex your writing muscles; however, most writers will confess that their characters, the good characters, are not so easily controlled. What many of us have discovered: as soon as you think you know everything about your character and as soon as you sit down and think, well today my character will drive to the store fight a dragon, and fall in love with the prince — they suddenly will not cooperate.

Like children, fictional characters are strangely resistant to The Plan. You remember the week after your precious bundles of joy showed up? You created the ultimate calendar of success based on the 98 books on child rearing you  read during the last nine months.  You tracked to the hour  developmental benchmarks.  You wavered between placing the child in the advanced  Yellow Tiger class or holding him back for another six months as a Blue Bear.

You delivered multiple children to multiple lessons:  piano, trumpet, bongo. You spent months of your life driving  to band, ballet, tumbling practices. You  spent hours cheering from the side lines during little league, soccer, la cross.  And what happened?  At twenty, your precious bundle announced he wants to be a chicken farmer, an option markedly absent from the Goals List (subtitled Acceptable Careers Mom Thinks You Should Pursue).   

Fictional characters will do much the same thing. Characters in your story   or novel will just blurt out comments, pursue the villain down unmarked streets and race so quickly away from your expectations that you have no choice but to just hold on for the ride.

Take notes along the way.
As traits and details about your characters emerge, just keep track.
Create a running reference list chronicling his coffee preference, her favorite drink, what she hates, what he’s afraid of.
Remember to note her eye color or if she starts flipping back her hair when she’s stressed.
These notes will help with consistency as well as keeping your hero and heroine on track, not your track of course, but theirs.
The picture will emerge. Sketch it out as your character comes into focus.

Someone needs to farm those chickens.   

To learn more.
Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
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Why Your Characters Matter

“First, find out what your hero wants. Then just follow him.”

~Ray Bradbury

Ask me about a favorite book – and I’ll describe the heroine.

We often, if pressed, remember key points of a plot, but what really sticks in our heads are the characters.  We remember the who over the how, and before the what.   

Do we love Jane Austen’s books because of the  intricate plots? Not really.

The story? Please, we know the story. What we love are the characters, the strong women who get into trouble because they blurt out what they are thinking, the handsome hero who is just misunderstood, the spunky friend for whom we wish as much happiness as we wish for the heroine. We may not relate to the plot, but we certainly identify with a well developed character.

Listen to what you say when you play a movie for the fifth time, it’s not

about the plot or the story — you just want to see the hero or heroine again.

“I love him.” You murmur under your breath.

That said, how on earth do you do it?

One way is to open a comic book. (Bonus, the trip to the comic store can be called research.  You’re welcome.)

Comics have great heroes.  Take a look at three or four heroes and deconstruct them:

What motivates them?Why characters matter, Catharine Bramkamp

What do they look like?

What are their tags?

What is their super power?

Their kryptonite?

Love interest?

Why do they wear a mask? (Think of this metaphorically for your own heroine)

As simplistic as is sounds, just taking a look at Iron Man, Batman, and/or Cat Woman can give you a strong idea of how to create an equally strong character.

Once you have your character, start throwing obstacles at them, and watch what they do.

To learn more.
Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
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How to Start Writing A Book

Don’t Write Like You Talk
What I learned from agents & authors, publishers & poetsStarting Your book by Catharine Bramkamp

Just start.  Sometimes we get caught up in the promotion and the expectations for our books, because they are like children.  We incubate the tiny human for nine months, they are painfully born and here they are!  And before we’ve spent any time at all getting acquainted, we think, ah, this child will be a police officer, construction worker, cowboy or Indian chief.  And we will be so proud.  You picture the graduations from multiple universities. You picture yourself bragging to your friends about your wonderful child who is wonderful because you are the perfect parent.

This child will live all the dreams you were forced to defer.

This child will make the income that eluded you.

This child will take advantage of new technologies, new attitudes, and better fashion.

And on her second birthday, the child will demonstrate that no, no she will not.  And all  you are left with  is sixteen years to get used to your dissapointment.

Yeah, writing a book is just like that. All those expectations about publishing?  Like as soon as your book is published you will become younger, thiner, and richer?  May not pan out.  All those hopes for a transformative experience the minute the book is accepted for publication?  You still must do the laundry.

And all those  accolades?   People don’t really care that much, they don’t understand the process or the effort.  Oh, you wrote a book.  I just won third place in the local rodeo for roping tanks.  And the both of you stand there and you think, my kid said something about wanting to rope inanimate objects. 

You cannot control the outcomes. Not for your book and not for your child.  But as you know, you can control the daily interaction.  You can listen to your child, you can take them out on adventures, you can love them.

You can be in every moment possible.

That’s how you manage any great big huge project.

Once you let go of the outcome (I know, sounds kind of zen, and it kind of is), then you can concentrate on the work.  Decide what you want from the writing experience.  Do you have something to say?  Begin by saying it.  Do you have  a beef against the small cowboy child who yesterday  roped  the  full coffee maker?  Write about that.    

You start because there is something about doing that will feed your soul.  You begin because you are essentially raising a book and it’s all about the daily tasks and efforts.

Think of book  publication as  High School Graduation.  You are finished with all the daily work, all the moments, all the concentration, all the homework.  And now the child and the book have graduated – it’s official. 

I would like to say that now the work is done.  But it’s not. The work has just changed.

Believe me, it’s more fun to do the first phase, the writing phase, than the second, the post publication phase.  As my friend commented, the hardest years for raising a boy is between 18 and 23, because all you can do is take the call that starts with “I’m okay”.

To learn more.
Visit us on ITunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
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How to Keep Writing Your Book

Don’t Write Like You Talk
What I learned from agents & authors, publishers & poets

It’s NaNoWriMo.

How to keep writing You’re writing a book
I’m writing a book
This is fun, this writing of books.
But now that the first few hours of ecstasy has worn off. How do you keep writing that book?
Cheat
Scheme
Win

I wrote the raw drafts for five books during five consecutive Novembers.  They have all been accepted for publication (the release of said books is another matter).  I love writing a raw draft in a month, I get a kick out of writing dangerously, recklessly.  But the system does have its drawbacks.   Like when you get stuck during your third hour of writing.

What next?

Rather than tell you how to manage your plot and your character, because at this stage in a draft, all you need is a fearless hero/heroine and for pages and page you keep putting stuff in their way:  drain pipes, data, dragons, it  doesn’t matter, this is November, it’s all about the word count.

How do you drag yourself through the slog of word counts? 

I cheat.

My first way  is to give myself really small, ridiculous goals.  I write them all down using colored felt pens, I make big squares on a calendar and post the calendar for all to see.  On each square I write, say, 1,600 words.

Then I do a little more.  If I do a lot more I re-align the goals so they are either smaller goals or the time shorter.  I make big Xs through each accomplished word count goal. 

I dance, I do more and get ahead.  I cheat against my own system. It’s enormously satisfying and it keeps me focused.

Can you “earn” a day off on Thanksgiving by writing 3,400 works on Wednesday? 

Can you start early and bank up your words?  Seriously, who will know you didn’t start at Zero on November 1.  Start with 10,000 words on November first.  You are a rock star!  You are amazing! See how great that feels?  Only we will know.

Maybe your November is packed.  I wrote Future Sky in October – same rules, 50,000 words in a month, but I used October as my month.

NaNoWriMo is not about rules, it’s about community and about stretching yourself, challenging yourself.  It’s about writing as fast as you can and jumping over data, dragons and drain pipes.

If you need to start ahead, if you have a special needs novel that needs more time, take it.

It’s all about getting the words down.

Visit us on ITunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
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The Next Steps to Writing a Novel

What are the steps to writing?

Last week we discuss the first step to creating your masterpiece, or the great American Novel, or a how-to book on beer brewing.

The first is to start, or even just stand up and know, in your black little soul, that you are going to do this.

Next steps?Article on the first step to writing a book

Figuring out exactly how to go about it.  I know, you wanted this last week – what are the five easy steps to guarantee a best selling novel?

Unless you are the favorite child of the senior book editor for Random House, there are no five easy steps and no guarantees.

But there are ways to start so you can build a book, and take satisfaction in the process.

Initial step:  If you don’t like the work, nothing will work for you.

Step 1 – Stand up and wobble a bit – think of yourself as a writer.

Step 2- Read everything in the genre in which you’d like to write – actually this is on going, and if you love your genre, every book, every lecture, every book store visit will be a joy.  If you are only writing in this genre because you think it will make money, you life will become hell on wheels. Stop it. 

If you love to read romance novels, then go ahead and write them.

But if you’d rather write fantasy – write it. Don’t chase the market, write what you love best, it will show.

Step 3 –  Outline your idea for your book.

Step 3.5  Failing that, consider your main character – who is he or she, what do they want?

Step 4 – what gets in the way of your main character?  What prevents him or her from getting their heart’s desire?

Step 5 – repeat step four.

Plot is just one damn thing after another.  Story is the way your character overcomes all those damn obstacles.  Together, they make up your novel.

It’s not a complete list, but it is a way to start.

To learn more.
Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
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First Step towards Writing a Book

Don’t Write Like You Talk
What I learned from agents & authors, publishers & poets

Clients often ask, what are the steps to writing a book?

There are steps and there are steps.  Writing is personal and interesting and quirky. That is why there are so many books about writing, that is why there are so many suggestions, that is why I’m part of the problem.Article on the first step to writing a book

When you are stuck writing – and if you’re reading this, you are, mosey over to Pinterest.  There are countless Pinterest boards devoted to writing – from pithy quotes to fabulous infographics on how, what, who, colors, better words that “said”, better words that “you”.  A nice selection of information and help.  I have Pinterest Boards on writing so you can check them out. But I’m not the only writer on Pinterest.

In case those  nifty infographics do not inspire –  here is the first basic writing step.

(Just to continue the metaphor – no one learns to walk without falling down. A lot.

Remember that as you take those steps towards your writing project.)

Step 1 – start small with embarrassingly low stakes, goals and expectations.

I’m not kidding. 

Examples of good first step goals.

  • Today I’m going to think about my writing for ten minutes while standing in the shower
  • This month I will write for 1/2 hour.
  • I will stop talking about my novel (since I suspect my friends are bored with the plot already) and instead write down all the ideas that I like to discuss when well into my fourth handcrafted stout.

You may think, that’s just insane, those aren’t real goals, I have never seen an infographic listing goals like that.

Yes they are. Any activity that gets  words out of your head, out of your summary speech for the academy awards which you know by heart, and onto paper, is a good activity.

Start there – take an initial step, clutch the back of a chair for support.  Then tune in for additional steps right here.

To learn more.
Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
And Instagram #catharineBramkampWriter
And Pinterest Catharine Bramkamp
The theme is, Catharine Bramkamp

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