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Posts tagged ‘C Hope Clark’

Guest Post: The Charm and the Challenge of Writing a Series, by C. Hope Clark

I first discovered C. Hope Clark through her Funds for Writer’s weekly newsletter. Soon I began looking forward to Friday afternoons, waiting for the newsletter to appear in my inbox, full of markets to peruse and advice about making money from writing.

After waffling back and forth for several months, I broke down and ordered her book, The Shy Writer Reborn. It is still my favorite writing go-to guide several years later. The poor volume is dog-eared, highlighted, underlined and hasn’t been shown any respect. It’s a book I learn from each time I open it up.

And then, I read Edisto Jinx, and fell in love with Hope’s Edisto Island Mystery series. Like the gift that keeps giving, Hope is the author that keeps delivering, be it writing that draws you right into the pages of the story, or through her wise words of wisdom about how to develop and market our world of words.

To celebrate the release of her newest book, Echoes of Edisto, Hope is our guest blogger today, sharing her thoughts about the charm and challenges of writing a series. This  guest post originally ran on Trisha Faye earlier this month. To reach out to those interested in writing, we’re reposting today on Writer’s Zen.

Enjoy these nuggets from one of my favorite authors, C. Hope Clark.

The Charm and Challenge of Writing a Series

By C. Hope Clark

hope_echoes of edisto            A good mystery series grips me as reader, reeling me in to devour every book the author’s released . . . and to buy every pre-order often months ahead of release. As an author, molding a series carries a similar sense of charm and magnetism. I love sitting down to the desk with characters who feel like family.

Authors spend a tremendous number of days, weeks, even months, sculpting the world of a series. The place, the time period, the main characters and those sidekicks and secondary players that give this recurring world depth and flavor all add to this compilation that will hopefully maintain readers itching to buy book two, three, or like Janet Evanovich, 23 books in the Stephanie Plum mystery series.

First, let’s consider why readers love series. What is the magic formula that returns them to the same characters time after time?

Familiarity: Everyone loves to return to a place where they are remembered. To some it’s like coming home. To others, it’s more of revisiting a comfortable setting full of people we already know . . . people we understand, somewhat predict, and can let down our guard with. Instead of walking into a strange place full of the unfamiliar, we fall right back to where we left off, understanding the jokes, weather, buildings, traffic and community.

Ease of choice: With too many books to sort through for our next read, readers will leap toward the next in a series rather than a new author. Reading a series reduces the frustration of choosing something new that might not be worth the investment of time and money.

Accomplishment: While silly to some, readers find a sense of achievement in keeping up with a series. Not only do they feel they understand the players more intensely, but they also feel closer to the author. Becoming an expert in a series makes a reader feel a kinship with the creator.

Momentum: We live in a time of bingeing. Video games, television series on Netflix, movies sequels. Watching all the Lord of the Rings in one day sort of bingeing. A thrill shoots through readers when they discover an author with multiple books already published, and that thrill deepens when those books are a series. We like sliding from the end of one book to the start of another.

But from another angle, what drives an author to stick to one world and write about the same characters? The same feelings as readers do, maybe with a different spin.

hope_beach.jpgFamiliarity: Having a world already created enables stories to build upon the previous releases. The author already knows the behaviors, settings, clothing styles and weather. There’s a comfortable use of assumption that isn’t allowed in a stand-alone novel or the first in a group.

Ease of choice: Many characters return, giving the story a foundation from the opening page. Authors can more quickly select characters to make decisions because they can base action and reaction upon established behavior and past experiences. There is a sense of ease to writing in a world already designed, tried, and tested.

Accomplishment: A satisfying delight comes from writing book four, five, eight, or ten in a series. While an author can write the same number of stand-alones, the fact they’ve perpetuated the same package for so long, with readers following and begging for more, carries a serious feeling of accomplishment. Sue Grafton could have written 24 different books with 24 different characters, but instead she wrote 24 books about Kinsey Millhone. Which is more memorable?

Momentum: A story jumpstarts quicker for an author when the setting and players are already waiting for their marching orders. A book has a story and a character arc, with both changing over the course of the tale. A successful series has not only individual book arcs, but also a series arc, where the characters deepen, grow, learn, and change . . . maybe even the setting shifts as the series propels itself further. Each book is a stepping stone. When arcs quit occurring in a series, when the characters stop evolving, the series falls flat.

But there is a writing challenge in continuing a series. At first blush, a series appears simpler since, after all, a lot of the work has been done in the earlier books. However, series carry their own difficulties for the author.

hope_seashellsOriginality: The reader knows the world you’ve built. While they want more of the same, they also want fresh material. How do you take the familiar and infuse novelty into it without undermining the foundation?

Evolution: The reader enjoys this series’ universe, but they don’t appreciate it remaining static. Where is it going? How is it growing? What occurs in book four versus book three that changes the experience for entertainment’s sake, but also without disturbing enough of the old that keeps your reader coming back?

Character Growth: The protagonist in the first book isn’t quite the one in book six. A lot of water has flowed under that bridge, and each experience in each plot has changed that person. Novels cover life-altering, mind-bending events. Upheaval and confrontation make human beings adapt to circumstances as part of an evolutionary process instilled into our DNA. We try not to make the same mistakes, and we try to learn lessons that will make our futures easier, safer, and brighter. The difficulty for the writer is to continue these changes from book to book, piling on the education, while keeping the character likeable and familiar enough for the reader to still love.

Series have their charms and challenges. They remain keenly appealing to reader and author alike. It’s human nature to return to the familiar. However, sometimes the author has to shake that series up a bit to keep it crisp and spunky. And the reader, whether they know it or not, don’t want that world to be so familiar that it’s no fun to return to.

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BIO: Hope Clark has written six novels in two series, with her latest being Echoes of Edisto, the third in the Edisto Island Mysteries. Mystery continues to excite her as both reader and writer, and she hopes to continue as both for years to come. Hope is also founder of FundsforWriters, chosen by Writer’s Digest Magazine for its 101 Best Websites for Writers. www.chopeclark.com / www.fundsforwriters.com

ECHOES OF EDISTO on Amazon

The Voice & Palmetto Poison

C. Hope Clark, author of The Carolina Slade Mystery Series and editor of the award-winning site FundsforWriters.com, joins Writer’s Zen today as a guest blogger. Hope has tips and suggestions for writers on finding and strengthening their voice. She shares the process of finding her voice through Lowcountry Bribe, the first book in her Carolina Slade Series. The process of finding her voice didn’t happen overnight. It took time, rewriting, and many edits. With each edit her voice got stronger and clearer. C. Hope Clark’s new release, Palmetto Poison, is the ‘proof in the pudding’, proving that this author speaks with knowledge and experience.

Thanks for stopping by. Hope and I both hope that you’ve found something useful here. Leave a comment for Hope. And check out Palmetto Poison!

The Voice
By C. Hope Clark

          In my early years of fiction, my writing wandered all over the place. Chapter three might not read like chapter six, and my characters came across two-dimensional. Being a logic-ridden person, I searched for A-B-C ways to correct my style, but nowhere could I find a hard-and-fast lesson on nailing voice.

palmetto poisonLowcountry Bribe was the first in my Carolina Slade Series.  Palmetto Poison, my newest release, is now available on Amazon, and on Kindle. It will be available soon on all other book venues. Lowcountry Bribe will always hold that special place in my heart as does any first born. Through that story, I found my voice. After throwing away that story twice to start over from scratch, and after two critique groups and twenty five edits later, my voice rose to the surface in its infancy. I’ve been raising it ever since. Palmetto Poison should hopefully appear stronger, not just in the character’s growth, but in the turn of phrase and the ark carrying the reader through the story.

Voice is an obscure, ambiguous term. Those who have it understand it. Those who seek it are frustrated since they can’t quite put their finger on what they’re looking for. To me, voice didn’t make sense until I started hearing it when I read my work aloud.

USING VISUAL

When my characters appear on a page, I visualize the scene. Every house, office, road or restaurant in my books has a tangible quality for me, meaning I’ve seen some semblance of them in real life. Same goes for many of the players of my stories.

When they speak, I stop and see them in my mind’s eye, anchoring them such that I can free-write about them. I hear the words, see the body language, and get in the head of my point-of-view character to include the snark and the silliness, fear and love. Like an actress prepping for her role, I insert myself into a character’s mind and body to sense the pang of hurt feelings, or the heart-thumping anxiety of what’s next to come.  Make myself cry at loss, smile at joy, and heat up as the love interest approaches ever so close. Being up close and personal with them, getting into their heads, loosens the writing. It becomes more about getting the feelings on paper than what words are used.

Voice is quality, style, attitude, speech patterns and phrasing. It’s knowing which character is speaking without needing the tags. It’s reaction to movement, to senses, to a message.

All of us have experienced letdown when reading a sixth, or eighth or twelfth book of a well-known author who seemed to regress in his abilities. In those books, the author fell back and rode the laurels of the voice he became known for. He forgot that voice has to be constantly honed, made smarter as each new story is birthed. He has to try harder with each story, no matter how many stories he’s written. One of the many difficulties in writing a series.

SUGGESTION TO FIND YOUR VOICE:

  • Relax and write. Turn off the editor and free-write with permission to forget about grammar and commas. What rises to the surface when you have no rules hindering your style?

  • Do not try to copy other writers. Be well read, but don’t try to copy. When you read a wonderfully written paragraph, slow down and reread it, then say it aloud. Let it sink in. Maybe even write it down and keep it in a list of others you’ve found. Reread them periodically, reminding yourself of your aspirations.

  • Read quality writing. Noted Southern novelist Pat Conroy entrenched himself in the classics as a young man. Readers can see the results in the ornate quality of his descriptions.

  • Write in a variety of styles. Literary versus genre fiction. Light versus dark. Humorous versus noir. Positive, negative, quick, slow. You won’t know your voice’s sweet spot until you’ve missed it enough times to tell the difference.
  • Write as if speaking to a person in the room. Make it personal, as if telling the story to a friend. If you need to, speak it and record it, then paraphrase it into your writing, taking note of what makes your choice of words unique.
  • Write about something meaningful. Find an emotional moment in your past and recreate it on paper. Do writing exercises like: The sexiest moment of my life. The scariest day. My biggest phobia. My worst nightmare. The most wonderful meal I’ve ever had. What I fear most. These exercises loosen you up.
  • Write on a taboo subject. Go where you never wanted to go before, or write about an embarrassing subject, or an off-color dream you’d never share. If it doesn’t make you cringe, it isn’t quirky enough.
  • Read it aloud to others for feedback. If you stick with a critique group long enough, they’ll help guide you to what sounds most authentic for you.
  • Repeat. Voice comes from doing all the above repeatedly, because voice is partially habit. It comes after writing thousands of words that sound generic—words anyone could’ve written. Writing until you’re tired of writing often lets the real you come out. Then one day, you reread an old piece versus one you are proud of, and you see the difference.

BOTTOM LINE ABOUT VOICE

Because voice has so much to do with the reader’s experience, it’s critical to our recognition. A writer’s voice requires every part of a writer’s toolbox: syntax, diction, punctuation, character depth, dialogue, flow. Voice must be so natural that the reader falls into the story without seeing the words. He reads the words and knows who wrote them, or realizes he’s never read this author before.

Bottom line is voice is when the author’s thoughts flow more easily than the vocabulary. It’s your fingerprint, your soul, your personality. However you define it, voice is your most promising tool in leading you to success as an author. A good voice can tell any story.

c hope clark

  • BIO – C. Hope Clark is author of The Carolina Slade Mystery Series, published by Bell Bridge Books out of Memphis, TN. She is also editor of the award-winning site FundsforWriters.com, with a newsletter service that reaches 45,000 readers and writers. She lives on the banks of Lake Murray in central South Carolina, when she’s  not running off to Edisto Beach on the Carolina coast.  www.chopeclark.com / www.fundsforwriters.com

     

Prose from the Pros – Writing Success in 2014

Start out the new year with writing advice from ‘The Pros’.  See what they have to say, what helpful advice they have to share. Then, check out their links, their webpages, Facebook books, and other links they’ve listed.

Happy 2014!

2014

LINDSAY DOWNS
Writing into the New Year
Well, one year has ended and another begins. As authors what does that mean?

We continue what we love doing, creating worlds through words to take our readers to times and places they otherwise never could have gone.

For me that means writing two Jessica Sales books which will finish the series. Also, starting at least one, maybe two, new regency series.

So, yes I’m looking forward to 2014 and new, along with the older, books for my readers.

About Lindsay Downs:
What does it take to be a bestselling author? Determination, skill, talent, luck or taking a risk with a venture into a totally new genre. For me it was a little of some and a lot of the others.
In 2008 when I got two books published I thought it was due to skill; little did I know it was more luck than anything. Over the next three years I wrote, submitted, got rejected. I then did what I tell everyone who asks; I wrote some more. I didn’t give up.
More on a dare than anything I tried my hand at a regency, one of the most difficult genres because of the rules, which I might add I broke almost every one. Within two days of its release the book was on a best seller list and stayed there for two months.
Turns out it is all of the aforementioned.
After two failed marriages, one from divorce while with the other died unexpectedly I decided upon retirement to move. That opportunity came in September 2012 when I migrated to Texas.
For me, as a multipublished author, it was one of the best things I’ve done to date. Now, every day I can write, creating stories to take my readers to places they can only dream about.
I’m also a member of the Published Authors Network (PAN) by the Romance Writers of America (RWA).

Follow Lindsay here:
Facebook- http://www.facebook.com/lindsay.downs.7
Facebook Pages-         https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lindsay-Downs-Author/325132754200597?ref=hl
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Regency-by-Lindsay-Downs/421654731286944
Lindsay
Downs-Romance Author- http://lindsaydowns-romanceauthor.weebly.com/

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SHERRY GLOAG
Is it possible for a panster writer to offer advice on how to go about writing as a career? Are they not the kind of people for whom organization is an anathema? In my case, pretty much. At least it seems like it when writing. But…

There is a point in writing a story when most, if not all writers hit a buffer. While it may not be a big buffer, it may seem huge.  If you can’t write over or round it then don’t write anything about it at all. Open a new page and start writing. Don’t think about what’s going on to the page, just write.

Sometimes, and it’s happened to me, I’ve been gifted with a wonderful, stand-alone scene that offers the reader a ‘side step’ of information. It may end up leading you into or through the block, or it may slot into another part of your story. Enhancing it; adding another layer to that particular bit of scene or plot. When that happens it’s totally satisfying. If it doesn’t, then it likely to redirect your brain, remove the strain of anxiety that may be building because of that wretched block.

It’s not called ‘Freewriting’ for nothing.

It sets your mind free to explore, to grow and to adventure. Make the most of the gift of a block and enjoy the unexpected routes it may take you down.

It could even be the start of a new book!

About Sherry:
When best-selling author Sherry Gloag is not writing you may find her knee deep in dust. Selenite dust. The crystal she handcrafts unique items and ideal, personalized gifts from… or walking or gardening. All are occupations that allow her mind to cogitate on her plots, plans and characters of her next book.

Follow Sherry here:
Website: http://authorsherrygloagtheheartofroman.weebly.com/
Facebook
: https://www.facebook.com/SherryGloagAuthor

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MORGAN WYATT
As a newly published writer, I’ve discovered I have to be bold about my books as if they are a favorite child. My husband calls it winning one fan at a time. Meeting people in a person or being a more rounded on social media helps. I never say buy my book, but instead comment on the weather, my dog, the holidays and when my book is coming out or the great cover art. Pictures on Twitter make the tweet earn more retweets too.

The best advice on social media was to keep it light. Never make comments about religion, gun control, politics, anything that causes conflict. I’ve unfriended people because of their objectionable content too.

About Morgan:
Morgan K Wyatt, raised on a steady diet of superheroes, believed she could fly at a very young age. After using trees, barn lofts, sliding boards, and even a second story window as launch pads, she found her flying skills were limited to fast and downward. By the age of nine, her dreams to be a superhero needed some modifications, which caused her to turn to writing and horseback riding as alternatives to flying.

At the age of twenty, she had another chance at superhero greatness as being one of the few female soldiers trained for combat. The fact that women will be able to serve in combat soon indicates that all the witnesses to the grenade incident have retired. The grenade incident didn’t prevent her two sons or daughter-in-law from enlisting in the service. Having different last names probably helped.

Morgan recently retired from teaching special needs students to write fulltime, instead of in the wee hours of the night. With the help of her helpful husband and loyal hound, she creates characters who often grab plot lines and run with them. As for flying, she prefers the airlines now.

Follow Morgan here
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/morgankwyatt
Blogs: www.writerwonderland.weebly.comwww.datingafterfortyeight.blogspot.comwww.frugaldivatellsall.blogspot.com
Perfect
Stranger/SCP Publishing http://bit.ly/1cttsFv

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V.L. LOCEY
Before I get chatting let me give Trisha a huge thanks for having me here today. Thank you so much, Trisha. I hope my tip for writing success in 2014 can help someone realize and live their dream of being a writer.

My tip is a simple but darned difficult one.  It is to plant your butt in your chair daily and write. Even if it`s for an hour, or a half hour, put the backside in the seat. Every. Single. Day.

Discipline is one of the most critical things a prospective author needs to learn. I`ve had so many people ask me how I`m so prolific. I reply that it comes from having my rump in a chair and a keyboard in front of me. Once you make writing a priority, and carve out that niche of time for yourself and your craft, the words will start to add up on that Word page, I promise!

I know it is incredibly hard when we have jobs, husbands, wives, children, pets, family, and a thousand other things keeping us from our stories. But if you wish to find success as a writer you must write. Saying you plan to write won`t get your novel started.

So, buttocks in chair every day! Coffee and yellow writing cat at hand are optional but highly recommended.

About V.L. Locey:
Hi there! My name is V. L. Locey. I`m a romantica writer of M/M and M/ F books who loves worn jeans, belly laughs, anything romantic, ice hockey (Go Rangers!), Greek mythology, comic books and coffee. (Not necessarily in that order.) She shares her life with her husband, her daughter, one dog, two cats, a steer named Mooka, and a flock of assorted domestic fowl.

Follow V.L. Locey here:
I love to meet new friends! You can contact me at my blog: http://thoughtsfromayodelinggoatherder.blogspot.com/

As well as Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/VL-Locey/124405447678452

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C. HOPE CLARK
Set Three Goals
The best writing advice I can offer for 2014 is to establish three goals – very specific goals – and post them over your computer. Not “I’m going to write more” or “I’m going to improve my platform.” But more exact goals, which if you study goal-setting, are the goals more likely to be achieved.

For instance, my three goals are:

  1. Write the second book in my new mystery series.
  2. Draft the third book in my mystery series.
  3. Perform at least 50 guest blog posts in 2014.

That means that when I sit at my keyboard each day, those are first and foremost my responsibility. I’ll still answer emails and produce my weekly newsletter FundsforWriters. I’ll maintain my social media following on Facebook and Twitter. But, I will not tackle these tasks without having contributed to the top three first.

Any efficiency expert will tell you that benchmarks make your goals measureable, so set measures to let you know when you’re ahead or behind schedule. Each month revisit where you stand. Intangible goals often dissipate before a month goes by. Buy a 2014 desk calendar and record what is expected of you, so you can hit the ground running . . . and understand the direction you must go. It’s exciting seeing where you’re headed, and ticking off the accomplishments as the horizon gets closer and closer in your journey.

About C. Hope Clark:
C. Hope Clark is editor of FundsforWriters.com, chosen by Writer’s Digest Magazine for its 101 Best Websites for Writers for the past 13 years. She is also author of the award-winning Carolina Slade Mystery Series, published by Bell Bridge Books. Book three, Palmetto Poison, releases February 2014.

Follow C. Hope Clark:
www.fundsforwriters.com / www.chopeclark.com

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Stay tuned … new features on the way!

stay tunedStay Tuned!

Writer’s Zen is bringing you two new features in 2014.

PROSE FROM THE PROS, a post with writing advice from the professionals, will post on the first of each month. Each month bring you advice on different topics. January 1st is our debut post, WRITING SUCCESS IN 2014. Successful, published authors share their tips for writing success. (Shhhh …. I’ve seen some of the advice already and I think you’ll like it. This advice, if followed, will benefit our writing and our careers. I’m not going to say any more – stay tuned and come back January 1st to read what professional authors advise.)

Writer’s Zen is adding guest posts for our readers. On December 27th, Robin Marvel will kick off this new feature with a guest post and an excerpt from her new release. Other popular authors, including C. Hope Clark and Barbara Sinor, along with others are scheduled for future posts. 2014 is going to be a great year!

Stay tuned for more fun!

stay tuned1

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