Author Archives: K.L. Gore

About K.L. Gore

I write YA contemporary and suspense, as well as MG fantasy. Come check out my author site: www.klgore.com, and my blog about edibles: www.amateurfooddetective.blogspot.com.

The “Great” Idea for a Book Concept

It happened again.

I went to a party, struck up a conversation with a very nice guy, and when he found out I was a writer, he said the inevitable: “Really? I have a great idea for a book.”

I wish I had a pen for every time someone said that same sentence to me. I would never run out of ink again. Anyone can come up with a “great” idea. Most of the time, that idea has already been done. And if it hasn’t, a variation of it has. Listen up…your idea is not genius.

The genius lies in how you construct your idea. In other words…how you implement that idea into a story.

Let’s take an example…an easy one. Harry Potter. Boy has a special gift. Only he can destroy the enemy. In the end, he wins.

That plot has been around for centuries. (David and Goliath, anyone?) But J.K. Rowling masterfully creates an entire hidden world of witches and wizards around it. And she sprinkles mythology throughout…bringing the familiar into the fold.

The other part I love about people who want to let me know they have a “great” idea for a book…most of the time they add, “Tell you what. I’ll give you my idea, you can write it, and we’ll split the profit.”

Really? You will come up with an idea…maybe spend ten minutes on it…then I can spend the next two years crafting it into a publishable book…and we can split the money 50/50? How lucky for me I bumped into you!

I suppose we could make a deal. If you build houses, how about I design one, hand you the picture, you build it, and then we split the profit after it sells? Or, wait, how about this? If you own a restaurant, I’ll mention what should be on the menu, you make sure the chefs make those meals, and we will split the profit!

Sounds silly? Then how about this? Instead of sharing your “great” idea with me, you spend the next ten years learning how to write a book, then write the dang thing yourself.

Ninety-five percent of those people with “great” ideas won’t even try. Four percent will give up before they finish the story. But one percent will make a go of it. And perhaps a handful of those people will succeed.

But a full 100% will understand…writing is demanding. Having an idea is only a fraction of the work involved. Making that idea work throughout the entire novel and finding a satisfying conclusion involves patience, research, and many hours of sitting at a computer screen praying loose ends can be tied up and readers will find the story plausible.

So when people tell me they have a “great” idea for a book and maybe they should have me write it (and split the profits), I tell them that I have more than enough ideas in my head, thank you very much. But that if they truly believe in their idea, then they should sit down and start writing that book.

It’s not going to write itself.

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How Do You Live with a Ghost? by Roz Murphy

By Roz Murphy

 

During the break in our last LCRW meeting, someone asked me how I managed to live with a ghost. The question has haunted me (hmm….) ever since. So this morning, as part of my daily exercises in writerly procrastination, I finally decided to ask Bob, my resident ghost, his thoughts on the topic. He’d drifted in early, which was unusual since we tend to chat at dinnertime. In retrospect, I don’t know why I even bothered to consult him. Bob’s rarely much help when it comes to practical matters and he’s even less useful early in the morning.

 

“So my LCRW colleagues want to know, Bob, how I live with a ghost,” I tossed out, my fingers hovering over the keyboard as I awaited his pearls of wisdom.

 

“How should I know how you live with a ghost?” Bob muttered, obviously in a bad mood. I suspected a little too much partying in his mysterious netherworld last night. “I’m on the other side of the equation here.” He sat back in his chair at the kitchen table and rubbed his face with both hands, shielding his eyes from the bright sunshine reflecting off the lake and flooding the room. The light caromed off his balding dome and illuminated wrinkles in his usually immaculate silk smoking jacket. Maybe he’d slept in it?

 

“Look at the question from my point of view,” Bob continued. “My assignment is to help a crabby, middle-aged,” he hesitated as he noticed the mutinous look on my face and back-pedalled swiftly, “I mean, my assignment is to help a put-upon ‘woman-of-a-certain-age’ get a few things done. Since I’m the ghost in this scenario, I’m not sure I’m the right person to ask. I don’t really worry about how you live with me.”

 

Truer words were never spoken.

 

I sighed and took my fingers off the keyboard. Another one of our baffling conversations, circling endlessly around the drain. Bob and I had been at this for weeks–talking for hours at night to help me ‘fix’ a few issues with both my daily and my non-existent love lives. (A ghostly two-fer…lucky me…) Frankly, most days, the only issue I felt like fixing was the one in which I could show Bob the door. Not that he’s a bad ghost, exactly. As he diplomatically pointed out when we first met, he’s not one of those young, thuggish spirits who throw furniture around and terrify people. Instead, Bob’s ghostly toolbox includes martinis, babbling, obscure references and large doses of nagging. (For instance, his idea of great dinner conversation includes lecturing me on the menace of buttered toast. Or on the sex lives of newts. I mean, really…newts?) For a woman trying to survive the financial ravages of the Great Recession, I find that this ‘haunting’ situation sucks up a lot of time that I could spend better elsewhere.

 

“Let me rephrase the question, Bob.” I tried again. “How could I, the hauntee, make this a better experience for you, the hauntor?”

 

“Well, now that’s a much better angle,” Bob responded, sitting up straight and brightening. “You need more martinis around this place, for one thing. And you’ve got to do something about that awful music you’re always playing, like that Goo-Goo Lady. Why can’t we listen to something snappy by Irving Berlin or George Gershwin? They write zippy tunes!”

 

“Irving Berlin? That’s the soundtrack that would make this haunting experience more enjoyable for you? And more liquor? Don’t you carry enough rye around in that flask in your pocket?” I shook my head in dismay. No way am I going to incorporate Bob’s suggestions for improvement.

 

The conversation–as most of our conversations do–degenerated from there. When it comes to life with Bob, sometimes I feel like I’ve woken up in the middle of an Abbott and Costello routine (‘who’s on first?’) or a Marx Brother’s skit. So thanks so much, LCRW, for sending us more fodder for another lakeside squabble…oops, I mean, discussion. Sigh.

 

Yours from the misty shores of Keuka Lake,

Roz

 

p.s.–Bob also sends his regards and asks if anyone out there recalls the real (birth) first names of the Marx Brothers. He’s having a spectral moment and can’t remember them, and it’s making him (and, consequently, me) crazier than usual. If you would just comment below or post the answer on my FB wall at ‘Roz Murphy Author’ I will pass along your message and put the poor ghost out of his misery…

 

(To learn more about the misadventures of ghost Bob and his long-suffering hauntee, Roz, read Roz Murphy’s novel, Bob at the Lake, available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble online.)

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On Writing by Elizabeth Kelly

Elizabeth Kelly August 4, 2014

As a Counselor for the state of New York, I found writing reports the easiest part of my job. I used writing like a cup of chamomile tea to calm my anxieties. The formulas of the reports made them easy to write and took little effort.

My joy with the prescribed writing was that I could play with words and sentences within a structure. I didn’t need to step out of my comfort zone. I tried to create descriptions of my clients that made them unique instead of the diagnostic label they were forced to become.

I wrote for a paycheck. I wrote using a specific template. I wrote about someone else. It was stress free.

Writing for myself is different; it is not easy. There is no formula to follow. No one is going to pay me for writing at my dining room table. All the characters I create are a part of me. I feel like I am undressing in public.

Then there is the issue of being perfect. How hard is that? Without my template, without my structure, I forgot how to have fun with words and sentences. I didn’t know where to start or even how to start. Then I found Natalie Goldberg, author and writing teacher who wrote the books,“Writing down the Bones,” “Old Friend from Far and Away,” and “Thunder and Lightning, Cracking Open the Writer’s Craft,” and many other books.

“Writing Down the Bones” was the first book I read about the art and work of writing. In it Ms. Goldberg motivates the new writer to be courageous; to write with love, energy, and confidence. She teaches different techniques some of which come from her Buddhist background. One technique is to sit quietly for at least 10 minutes, watching your breath. This technique clears the mind of distracting thoughts. It also opens up the writer to inspiration. Maybe the next scene in your novel is in the quiet of your mind.

Another technique is to center yourself before writing by walking very, very, painstakingly slowly. I attended a Workshop with Ms. Goldberg at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY. We walked very slowly from the dormitory to the building where the class was held so we could center our minds before writing.    I had to concentrate on the process of putting on foot in front of the other to walk as slowly as required. As with deep breathing my mind slowed down to concentrate on how my feet were moving and my mind was forced to focus.

A focused mind is open to new ideas and thoughts instead of being obstructed by the numerous daily happenings such as looking in the past, worrying about the future, unfocused, distracted, uninspired and closed to new thoughts and ideas. Ms. Goldberg’s writing techniques help the mind to quiet and listen for the next great sentence or great scene. I can’t say that I wrote a mind bending response to the prompt we were given after that slow, so slow walk, but I was grateful to sit down and I wrote.

The major part of her teaching technique is the ten minute writing exercise. I quote “Writing is an athletic activity.” Athletes practices every day to build up their muscles to win the game. You can see the Athlete’s muscles bulging, but a writer’s muscles are not easily seen, yet it is important to exercise and build up writing muscles.

The ten minute writing exercise is the impetus of her Writing Program. Ten minutes of writing on a specific topic is the same as bench presses to a body builder. Think of a specific topic to write about, “What makes up my perfect day” “My favorite actress is ____ because”, “Sunrise smells like”. If you can’t think of a what to write about write on the topic then start your prompt with “I am thinking of”. When you reach a block go back to “I am thinking of” This simple prompt can lead to much more or it can lead to nothing, but either way you are writing and building up writing muscles.

Ms. Goldberg’s books gives numerous simple writing prompts. Or you can make up your own writing prompts to help you work on a specific project. As Ms. Goldberg states, “Maybe you will write nonsense for 10 minutes, but there could be one great sentence or thought in the middle of the nonsense you can use.

The Memoir writer can find writing prompts and motivation in her book “Old Friends from Far Away”

A few of her prompts are:
Write about your mother’s jewelry. Go. Write Ten minutes.
Write about your mother’s shoes. Go. Write ten minutes.
The ten minute writing exercise can be used when you are blocked or you need
inspiration for the next scene. It can be used to Show and not tell.
Describe your house. Go. Ten minutes.
Describe the colors of a sunset. Go. Ten minutes.
Describe feelings of terror. Go. Ten minutes.

Writing for you me is easier when I have a specific question to answer, especially when I feel blocked. Ten minutes can grow to 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 90 minutes or more.

You may think Ms. Goldberg’s books are for the beginning writer or someone like me who feels insecure. But they can also be for the seasoned writer who needs a new trick, because at some time we all need a new trick.

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Dedicated to Maya Angelou

Another prolific writer has passed away. Maya Angelou has written well-known works such as the memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and is well known for her poetry and her brutal honesty. Although I’ve read and admired her poetry, I only recently “discovered” her as the incredible woman whose traumatic past influenced her to become a voice for women; especially for African American women.

Earlier this year I read a quote of hers posted in front of my son’s fourth grade classroom. It resonated with me and drenched me with its wisdom. In a twist of irony, later that afternoon I decided to break open one of the Oprah magazines I was behind in reading and discovered an interview with Ms. Angelou inside its pages. If you’re the type to believe in signs, then that was one for sure. I’m still trying to figure out what it means. 🙂 Now fast forward two months and this author’s name has been plastered across Facebook, unfortunately because of her demise.

Her famous quotes include:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

“Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.”

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.”

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”

I’m very glad I “discovered” her. I’m including one of her poems. If you don’t know much about her, this is a good resources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_Angelou

Caged Bird

by Maya Angelou

A free bird leaps

on the back of the wind

and floats downstream

till the current ends

and dips his wing

in the orange sun rays

and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks

down his narrow cage

can seldom see through

his bars of rage

his wings are clipped

and his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.

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How do you get a writer’s butt to the top of a hill?

(Roz here)

 

As anyone who’s read my debut novel Bob at the Lake knows, I’m a very reluctant exerciser. Squabbles with Bob (the ghost who lives with me), Finger Lakes wines, and homemade cookies are my pastimes of choice and it takes a lot to levitate my (somewhat oversized, I admit) butt out of a chair to work up a sweat. Luckily, though, I live in a house surrounded by hills, and they provide an amazing workout anytime I want one.

 

The only thing that pushes my butt up those hills is music. Hard, driving music. This morning, motivated by an article about the work habits of creative people and stunned to see how many writers include vigorous workouts in their lives, I’ve decided to goose up my hillwalking routine. That means, of course, that I have to goose up my music.

 

For fun, I thought I’d share some of the hyper-pumping songs I’ve added to my new Playlist entitled: “Butt up Hill.” (Bob hates this music. He can be an old fuddy-duddy sometimes. He’d rather I work out to the tunes of Irving Berlin or George Gershwin. Don’t get me wrong–I love Bob’s musical selections. They’re just not going to achieve my exercise mission: ‘butt up hill.’)

 

So here you go: Five musical selections guaranteed to push your heinie up a steep incline…

 

1) Kenny Loggins, “Footloose”

 

2) Bay City Rollers, “Saturday Night”

 

3) Lady GaGa, “The Edge of Glory”

 

4) Cast of Glee version, “Party All the Time”

 

5) Tina Turner, “The Best”

 

I’d love to get any reader recommendations for songs that might fire up a reluctant workout queen to put on her sneakers and hit the hill. Please add them below or join me on Roz Murphy Author on Facebook. I look forward to checking out your suggestions!

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5 Writing Myths

As a writer, you’ve probably heard plenty of advice along your journey to publication. Advice can be very handy. It gives novices a framework of rules so they can improve on the craft. It gives intermediate writers a challenge. It even makes people feel as if they have come a long way in their writing once they’ve successfully followed the advice to the letter.

But I’ve found at least five pieces of advice that are thrown around like so much confetti. And what I’ve realized is that authors…popular, never-have-to-work-another-day-job-again authors…break these so-called rules, and no one says a thing! That’s right.The very rules editors, agents, critique buddies are claiming to be chiseled in rock I have discovered is really written in sand. So why have these rules been made when they can be swept asunder by frothy waves?

I’ll explain as I submit to you five of the biggest writing myths I’ve read about.

MYTH NUMBER 1: Never use -ly adverbs. That’s just lazy writing.

WHY IT AIN’T NECESSARILY SO: Middle grade authors use many -ly adverbs. As for other genres, I can pick up any book from my book shelf and find an -ly adverb lingering on one of its page, oblivious to the fact that it’s despised by so many in the writing industry. The truth of the matter is, so many novice authors overuse -ly adverbs to the point where the book sounds as if it’s all “telling” and no “showing.” By throwing that rule out there, it prevents wanna-be authors from giving a ho-hum narration. But can the occasional -ly adverb be used? Certainly! Especially if it prevents a sentence from becoming cumbersome or lasting longer than the taste of Wrigley’s Spearmint gum.

MYTH NUMBER 2: Always “show.” Never “tell.”

WHY IT AIN’T NECESSARILY SO: Most books contain some form of “telling.” A narrator might explain why they did something. Or an earlier event might need to be summarized quickly. (Note my use of the -ly adverb here.) The reason why this is a rule…and one that is repeated often, I might add…is because novice writers tend not to understand the difference between talking about what is happening and describing what is happening. The important point to remember is to use descriptive language that engages all of the senses, especially the part of us that becomes visually attuned to the action happening on the page.

MYTH NUMBER 3: Write what you want to write and don’t follow trends.

WHY IT AIN’T NECESSARILY SO: This is great advice if you don’t want to be published. The truth is, publishing houses are looking for the tried and true. If stories about talking octopuses become the next big thing, that is what editors will be buying. If you love to write about lesbian astronauts but lesbian astronauts are not a big hit in the industry, even if your story is amazing, no editor is going to hand over an offer. Sure, there is the Trend Setting Starter…and that may be you and your lesbian astronaut. But more likely than not, your manuscript will see nothing but rejection. If you want a more likely chance to find a home for your novel, you are going to write what has traditionally sold well, or something that is breaking into popularity.

MYTH NUMBER 4: Write what you know.

WHY IT AIN’T NECESSARILY SO: You think Stephen King really brought people back from the dead? Or that J.K. Rowling was a sorceress? Of course not. This is another rule that was made to prevent people from writing stories that have glaring errors. For example, someone might write a story involving politics, but not know the first thing about how government works, thus ruining the story’s credibility. Nowadays, information is at a writer’s fingertips via the Internet and with many hours of research and locating sources for interviews, anyone can write about any subject…and make it sound like an honest portrayal. So even if you’ve never flown an airplane, feel free to make your main character an airline pilot.

MYTH NUMBER 5: Throw out your first chapter.

WHY IT AIN’T NECESSARILY SO: Not every first chapter is terrible, yet the advice is to toss that first chapter out because “the real story begins at chapter 2.” Again, this advice is great for the newbie writer. So many first-timers begin their stories when the main character wakes up in the morning, rubs his or her eyes, and glances at the nightstand clock. The character then has a revelation, and the rest of the chapter explores this revelation. By chapter 2, things really pick up, and usually that’s when the reader feels a stir of interest. It’s no wonder the advice to toss the first chapter is so common. However, if you have started your novel at a place that introduces the problem, the character, and what is in the way of the character solving his or her problem, there’s no need to junk the first ten pages. In fact, the first ten pages may be crucial to understanding the story’s stakes.

So there you have it. 5 writing myths. Sure, every one of these tips can help you write a stronger, more suitable story or novel. But don’t let well-meaning critiquers blast you with these words of advice if you feel you know exactly what your doing and that some rules are all right to break as long as there’s good reason to do so. Remember, each of these rules have been etched in sand. As long as the tide is high and strong, they can be washed away.

 

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Tell Me, Tell Me…Calling All Authors!

Quick synopsis and title of your latest book, short story, or fan fiction piece. Get ready, get set, go!

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Self-Publish or Traditionally Publish?

I know people who have signed with large publishing houses, small presses, and vanity presses. I also know people who have self-published their work. With all these different venues, it’s difficult to know which way to go with your novel.

First off, let me say that I have self-published a middle grade novel as well as an anthology written by my writer’s group. I also have an agent who has brought three different novels I’ve written to various major publishing houses. I have never worked with a vanity press or a small press. There. Full disclosure out of the way.

Here is what needs to be considered when deciding which way to go with your book.

Large Publishing House:

* They take a cut of your profits, and your agent takes a cut of what the publishing house pays out to you.

* They professionally edit your work without you paying any of the costs out of pocket.

* They give you a top-notch professional cover for your work.

* Your book is likely to be on bookshelves across the country and possibly overseas, and also in libraries.

* The publishing house may help with marketing and book signing opportunities.

* Your work will be offered both in hard copy and as an eBook.

* Can take up to two years for your book to become available

Vanity Press:

* You will possibly pay thousands of dollars in upfront costs.

* You can pay to have one of their editors work on your book, or use one of your own (or choose to edit the book yourself).

* Your book will be offered at on-line retailers, but most likely not in bookstores or libraries unless you do the work to get it in there.

* The company will print bound books for you, but you will pay a fee for those books.

* You will do the marketing of your book yourself.

* Your book will most likely be available to the public within a year.

Small Press:

* They will take a cut of your profits.

* They use their own editors, but don’t charge you an editing fee.

* Some small press houses can get your book into bookstores. Your book will be offered at on-line retailers.

* Some small presses are nothing more than a print-on-demand factory. They make profits on your books that you could be keeping for yourself.

* Depending on the press, your book may be available for purchase between a month to two years.

Self-Publishing:

* There are many venues to use including Amazon.com, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble’s PubIt.

* You decide the price, therefore decide the profit you will receive from each book.

* You have complete control over your work, including overseeing the cover and the edits.

* It will not likely be sold in bookstores unless you can convince local retailers to carry them.

* You either have to pay someone to format and upload your work to a self-publishing site, or figure it out for yourself. This includes producing a cover.

* You can have your work ready for sale within 48 hours.

 

There you have it, the pros and cons of four ways to go regarding publishing. As an aside, in order to find a large publishing house to purchase your book, unless you write picture books or have a way to get your foot in the door on your own, you will need a literary agent. And even if you have a literary agent, it doesn’t guarantee you’ll sell your book. Also, some people have no trouble marketing and selling their self-published books while others struggle and are fortunate to sell ten copies. You probably won’t get rich selling your book no matter what, which is why so many authors have day jobs. But hopefully this will give you an idea about which way you’d like to proceed. Feel free to add to this post if you know of other pros and cons.

 

 

 

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How To Make Sure You Will Never Become Published

10. Send out your first draft to an agent or editor. Without reading it over first.

9. Disagree with everyone’s opinion about how to make your work stronger. Extra points for rolling your eyes and muttering, “Whatever.”

8. Submit your tale of horror, gratuitous sex, and gore to Highlights Magazine for Children.

7. Mock out and insult editors and agents on other peoples’ blogs. Sign your real name.

6. Write a meandering story with no plot, one-dimensional characters, and make people guess what your underlying message might be, smugly knowing they’ll be wrong.

5. State on your query letters that you are God’s gift to writing. Let the receiver know that if they don’t publish you, they’ll blow their chance forever. Next month send a new query and let them know you’ve decided to give them a second chance.

4. Plagiarize famous writers such as Agatha Christie, Lewis Carroll, or Danielle Steel. Change only the names of the characters. Hope no one notices.

3. Attend writers’ conferences and stalk the editors and agents. They love to be pitched to while using the urinal or stall. If you can hand them a soiled manuscript on the way out, all the better.

2. Have editors’ home phone numbers on speed dial. Question every red mark they’ve made on your manuscript. Disagree with their comments, especially at 2 a.m. when you’ve consumed an entire bottle of wine by yourself.

And the number one way to make sure you will never be published:

Don’t send out your work. Ever. Because it may not be good enough. Or you might receive a curt no. As long as you don’t try, you can never fail.

Or, even scarier, succeed.

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Why Do You Write?

I like to write for the same reasons I love to read: to live vicariously through someone else, to escape my own life for a while, for enjoyment and pleasure, and to learn something about the world and/or about myself. I’ve been writing stories since I was a little girl…they were always accompanied by my own artwork…and what I liked about writing then was that I was doing it for myself, not for anyone else. I had no need to edit (nor did I realize that option even existed), and I didn’t care if someone else liked it or not because I didn’t care whether or not anyone else read it.

I wish we could all return to that place…where we wrote to express ourselves without worrying it might not be “good enough.” In fact, I challenge you to do this. Right now. Write ONLY for yourself. Not for publication. Not for anyone else’s eyes. Only for you and for the reason you started creating stories in the first place. Maybe your reasons are similar to my own. Maybe they’re different.

I’d like to know…why do YOU write?

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