How do authors manage to visit all the places they write so eloquently about? #Travel #Inspiration #mgtab @jacqbiggar

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Did you ever wonder how authors manage to visit all the places in the world they write so eloquently about?

Believe me, if I could travel to exotic locales I would (not so sure about different worlds though!), but most of us have to make do with researching the areas we’re interested in placing our characters into.

Whether it’s a castle in England

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or the vineyards of Italy

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We can get real-time views thanks to modern day search engines like Google. With Instant Street View simply type in any address and you’re instantly transported there with a complete 360 picture of the area.

Another great search tool for authors is Pinterest. You can find just about anything you’re looking for on subjects ranging from fashion to settings, and of course inspiration 🙂

My upcoming release, Hold ‘Em: A Gambling Hearts Romance, is set in the Texas hill country. I had visions in my head of what the area should look like, but needed to make sure of some facts such as what sort of flowers are prevalent in the open ranch fields? I did an online search and came up with this lovely field of bluebonnets:

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Perfect for my scene! Here’s a little taste of what I wrote:

Cassandra stared at him, bemused. The sun had decided to peek out from behind the clouds, turning his hair antique gold in the streaming light. Their clothes were soaked, but on him, it was a good look. His shirt plastered to his torso highlighted strong shoulders and a well-defined chest. One she wanted to rest her head against.

Startled out of her trance, she jerked her gaze out across the most beautiful valley she’d ever seen. Bluebonnets and healthy green grass waved back and forth, teased by a playful breeze. An old log cabin, its roof sagging and covered with moss, crouched by a babbling brook shaded by a giant cottonwood. And just to finish the fairytale, a multi-hued rainbow cast its benevolent glow over the entire picturesque area as though daring the rainclouds to return.

“Wow,” she said. “You weren’t kidding. This place is fantastic.”

A deer broke cover and slowly made its way down to the brook, testing the air every few feet.

Cass grabbed Matt’s arm, intensely conscious of the coiled strength that lay just under the skin. She cleared her throat and pointed, “Look, Matt, it’s a Bambi.”

Matt gazed at her instead of the animal, the quirk of his mouth causing a heart-palpitating dimple to appear. “What is it with women and Disney creatures?”

She laughed and dropped her hand, uncomfortable now with his sole attention. “Are you telling me you never had a favorite character from a movie when you were a child?”

He lifted his head and eyed the deer, his profile reminding her of a proud animal. When he turned back the humor was gone. “We should get down there before the weather decides to break again. You ready?”

Curiously sorry she’d ruined the moment, Cassandra nodded and they started out for the valley floor. The deer took one look at them and bounded away, disappearing into the woods on the far side of the clearing.

“What is this place?” she asked, lagging along in his wake, her hand brushing the top of the grass as they walked.

Matt glanced back, then kept going, his body cutting them a trail. “It was my great-grandfather’s first home. Dad used it as his fishing shack when he wanted a break from ranching.”

Cassandra gazed upon the valley with new eyes. She imagined an adventurous young man with Matt’s face riding across the Texas plains until he happened upon this magical land. Easy to see why he decided to stay.

If you’d like more of my vision for this story, check out my Pinterest board here

What about you? How do you research your settings? Any tips or tricks you’d care to share?

Hold ‘Em releases August 15th, I hope you give this funny, heartwarming book a try!

 

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In the game of love all bets are off

When professional poker player Matthew Shaughnessy wins the pot of a lifetime, he didn’t expect to land himself a fiancée.

Cassandra Gardener is left with little choice but to play the part of a Texan’s fiancée for a week if she wants to clear her father’s gambling debt.

Can two people with so much to lose win the biggest bet of all- love?

http://a.co/9OJfSea

International Link: http://books2read.com/HoldEm

Add to your TBR List: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34682965-hold-em

Thanks for stopping by today!

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Jacquie Biggar

Lives in paradise along the west coast of Canada with her her husband, daughter, and grandson. Loves reading, writing, and flower gardening. Spoils her German shepherd, Annie and calico cat, Harley.
And can’t function without coffee.
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You Are My Sunshine #LazyDaysOfSummer #amwriting #mgtab @jacqbiggar

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I don’t know about you, but when the warm winds and indigo blue skies of summer appear on the horizon, the last thing I want to do is sit in a chair forcing myself to fight past the sticky middle of my current WIP (work-in-progress).

It’s literally like pulling teeth.

I’d much sooner have my hands buried up to the elbow in fine black planting soil, or daydream on the end of a water hose watching the hummingbirds and butterflies play in the breeze.

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But, I also realize if I want to take this writing career seriously, and I do, I need to sometimes make sacrifices.

One thing I’ve learned is better time management. I’m a late riser, mornings are not my thing :), so I usually sit at the computer with my coffee and go through the social media platforms sharing and promoting.

Then I spend an hour or two visiting my mom next door before FINALLY waking up enough to begin my day!

I take the computer outside to our gazebo where I can work on my story while watering the flowers, and occasionally catching a glimpse of a friendly hummingbird or two.

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Sometimes, I don’t get much writing done, but that’s okay. It’s a WIP, just like me 🙂

If you’d like to see what I’ve been up to lately, you can check out the new anthology written by members of my critique group to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary!

 

My Baby Wrote Me A LetterA family's brush with the past will threaten the fabric of their lives.

Dreams and Promises

Dreams and Promises includes six short stories and novellas written by authors who live in beautiful British Columbia.

It’s our way of honoring Canada’s Sesquicentennial.

Some of Canada’s major cities were founded in the seventeenth century, but July 1st 2017 marks 150 years since our country became a Confederation.

Our stories range from the era of the fur trade, to a commercial enterprise that opened up the Canadian and American West, to present day James Bay, a thriving neighborhood in the garden city of Victoria, British Columbia.

Universal link: http://books2read.com/DreamsandPromises

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Add to your TBR List: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35387646-dreams-and-promises

Jacquie Biggar

Lives in paradise along the west coast of Canada with her her husband, daughter, and grandson. Loves reading, writing, and flower gardening. Spoils her German shepherd, Annie and calico cat, Harley.
And can’t function without coffee.
View website

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10 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD GO TO A WRITER’S CONFERENCE…EVEN IF YOU AREN’T A WRITER

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malice-signings_11_-_webI’m throwing energy bars, running shoes, “author clothes,” sample books, and 3-oz. travel containers of shampoo, sun block, and mouth wash into a rolling suitcase. I really don’t have the time for this trip…and it won’t do my budget any good. “This is nonsense!” I tell myself. “I should be staying home and writing.” But I’ll drag myself out of bed tomorrow morning at 3 a.m. in order to get to the airport for my crack-of-dawn flight. And I’ll stay in a strange city for 5 days in spite of all of the arguments against making this trip.

Why?

Because there are a ton of really great reasons why writer’s conferences are worth the time, expense, and inevitable travel annoyances. Let me share ten of them with you…

1)      No matter how many writer’s conferences I attend, I always learn something new that will help me write better or further my publishing career. Plus! Conferences are about the only way to meet literary agents, face-to-face, and pitch your book. (Eeeek!)

2)      Attending a large, well-managed writer’s conference energizes me and my muse. We NEED this time away from our comfort zone to recharge our creativity. I know I’ll return home eager to plunge back into my WIP.

3)      The writing community is a shockingly small world. Even if 2,000 people attend your chosen conference, you’ll run into familiar faces and friends you met previous years. This social aspect is healthy and comforting when in a strange city. And besides, now you have a face to put to those emails you’ve been receiving from folks who love to read and write your kind of story.

4)      Most conference attendees—whether writers, readers, literary agents, or publisher’s acquiring editors—are friendly people. They come expecting to talk to others and share their knowledge. Now—how refreshing (and valuable) is that!

5)      If you’re taking writing classes and/or actively writing and submitting your stories for publication, you are justified in using travel expenses and conference fees as business-related expenses when you do your taxes. You don’t even need to have sold your work, yet. You are preparing for a new career.

6)      Writer’s conferences usually take place in large, interesting cities. If you’ve ever wanted to visit the city where this year’s conference is being held, this is a wonderful chance. At least some of your expenses will be offset at tax time, and conference organizers often arrange for fun side-trips—like ghost tours, history lectures, or group walking tours.

7)      If you’re an avid reader of a particular genre, but not actually writing, you may get a chance to meet some of your fave authors. Many conferences aren’t just for authors. They’re for anyone who appreciates their kind of story—whether it’s mysteries, romances, thrillers, children’s literature, or…whatever.

8)      If you’re a novice writer, you’ll get to chat with others interested in what you’re working on while you encourage other writers. And these conversations around the banquet table, in panel sessions, or in the bar will help you learn the ins and outs of the publishing biz.

9)       Publishing is an ever-changing business. By attending conferences where the pros share their insight, authors have a better chance of keeping up with changes that could affect their careers. And readers get to enjoy being insiders!

10)   Conferences are just plain fun! They offer stimulating conversation, time spent with other people who share your interest in writing and reading, plus—auctions, raffles, games, and (sometimes) Dessert Parties that are a chocoholic’s paradise.dreamstimesmall_575330041

So next time you read in Writer’s Digest about a writer’s conference, or hear that a friend is attending one—give it serious thought. It may be just what you need to jump-start your writing, or introduce you to a new author you’d love to read. And if you’re attending Bouchercon: The World Mystery Conference, September 15-19 in New Orleans, stop me and say “Hey!” because I’ll be there, too. If I can just get this darn suitcase closed!

 

Alicia Street

Alicia Street is a USA TODAY bestselling author and Daphne Award-winner often writing in collaboration with her husband, Roy, as well as on solo projects. She spent many years as a dancer, choreographer and teacher. A compulsive reader of every genre, she also loves watching old black-and-white movies and inventing new recipes for soups.
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Weeding Your (Word) Garden (aka De-Cluttering Your Writing)

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GardenEvery gardener knows that flowers and vegetables won’t thrive if you let weeds take over your garden plot. The same is true of writing. Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, a short story or hefty book-length project, prose that’s littered with unnecessary verbiage loses its impact.

How do we know what to keep and what to toss out? A good gardener learns the difference between a baby plant they started from seed and an insidious intruder. Before the weeds threaten the desirable plants a good gardener will yank those suckers out of there, allowing vegetables and flowers the nourishment and light they need to survive.

Here are a few tips for weeding your literary garden:

1)      Trim back adjective lists. (The tall, slim, vivacious woman with bright red hair and matching lipstick walked up to him.) Leave one or, at most, two adjectives. Make them the most vivid and specific. Readers only retain one or two details per sentence.

2)      Avoid unnecessary adverbs. Best-selling horror author Stephen King advises cutting all adverbs, but sometimes these colorful words do add to a scene, if judiciously used.

3)      However, be particularly aware of the dreaded -ly form in dialogue tags. (…he said hopelessly; …she commented sulkily.) Instead of tacking on an adverb to label the speaker’s emotion, keep the emphasis on the spoken words, or the character’s actions.

4)      “Would” is often an overused word that clutters good prose. Some writers string together paragraphs full of “woulds”. Search on it and, if you find this particularly persistent weed, substitute the root verb form, which is often more direct and powerful. Instead of “he would often attend the opera,” write: “he often attended the opera.”

5)      Don’t be afraid to use the strategic incomplete sentence. Writers who insist on every sentence following the Subject/Verb/Direct Object pattern often end up creating a stilted, forced style. This is particularly true of dialogue. Real people don’t all talk like college professors, using perfect grammar.

6)      Even a word like “the” can become clutter. (Cluttered: He picked up the hammer, the nails, then the stack of boards and loaded them into the truck. Better: He picked up hammer, nails, and a stack of boards then loaded them into the truck.)

7)      Dig out your “pet” words. We all have them. If you think you might be relying too heavily on one or more words, particularly the sort of word that stands out for the reader, use your word processor to search for it throughout the manuscript. You may be shocked to see how many characters use that same word or phrase in their dialogue, or how frequently you use it as your catch-all word for description. (Frequent weeds: big, large, got/get, just, went, going to…, about to…, etc.)

When I’m editing another writer’s work, one of the first things I do is de-clutter it. Think of it as putting your manuscript on a diet. A slimmed-down manuscript reads with more power, better pacing, and will more likely appeal to a literary agent or publisher. It’s just plain better writing—and that’s something we should all aim for.

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If you’d like to learn more tricks for perfecting your writing, you might want to check out The Extreme Novelist, my book based on the courses I teach in Washington, DC at The Writer’s Center, and for The Smithsonian Associates educational programs. Short story writers and memoirists will also find loads of information to them. You can order the book through any bookstore, or find it quickly here:  https://www.amazon.com/Extreme-Novelist-No-Time-Write-Drafting-ebook/dp/B00WA5FCVK/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1473169296&sr=8-1#nav-subnav

Alicia Street

Alicia Street is a USA TODAY bestselling author and Daphne Award-winner often writing in collaboration with her husband, Roy, as well as on solo projects. She spent many years as a dancer, choreographer and teacher. A compulsive reader of every genre, she also loves watching old black-and-white movies and inventing new recipes for soups.
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Authors: Hold Onto Your Readers…with Brisk Pacing

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hand-281995_640I’m sure you’ve “been there…done that.” You’re reading a novel that seemed interesting, but somewhere around the middle it began to drag. When a short story, novella, or novel slows down and then sputters to a halt—readers lose interest and often fail to continue reading. Literary agents and acquiring editors for publishing firms are even more likely to put a story aside and send a canned rejection, without ever seeing the wonderful writing that follows. But intensifying the pace of a scene, or an entire story, is often an easy thing to do if you know how.

Regardless of the genre in which you’re writing, it’s first helpful to break down the chore of creating an effective pace for your story into three steps: Planning (before you start to write), Writing, and Revising. Here is a summary of some of the best tips I know, which I shared with my students at The Writer’s Center in the Washington, DC area this past Saturday. Some tips may initially seem unrelated to the structure and pace of a story—but they all have an effect on how the reader views the progress of the story. You probably won’t use all of them, but I hope you’ll find at least a few that will help you pick up the pace in your stories, and hold your readers’ interest to The End.

The Planning Stage:

1)      Before starting to write, determine the genre, sub-genre, mood and style of your story. In short, know what you’re writing. It’s not just a story.

2)      Give yourself a target word length, or at least a range. (For a novel, 80,000 words is a safe range in today’s publishing world.)

3)      If you are a “plotter,” review your plot outline (synopsis) for key climax scenes. If you are a “pantser,” remember that you will need to include these dramatic high moments throughout your story. Don’t just save all the drama for a big splashy scene near the end.

4)      Determine your launch pad. Where should the story start? (An active, visual scene at a moment that establishes the central conflict is always a good choice.)

5)      Choose “movers & shakers” for characters. (i.e., those who are most involved, not mere onlookers or an inactive narrator)

While Writing:

  •   Avoid repetition like the plague. (Words, phrases, incidents, dialogue…must be varied.) Do a “Find” to search for overused words and phrases. Cut and tighten your prose.
  • Move the plot toward resolution in virtually every scene. Throw out scenes that fail to build toward the final climax scenes.
  • Dual-purpose your scenes whenever you can. If you are writing a scene for the purpose of character development, or to show setting detail, allow your characters to continue interacting throughout. Never stop the action to deliver information.
  • Minimize or simplify dialogue tags. (Use “said,” action, or speech-style to identify speakers if possible, rather than relying on colorful tags like ‘he pontificated’, ‘she wailed miserably’, ‘Gerald muttered worriedly’.)
  • Make the most of emotion. Readers are more forgiving of a slowly developing plot if emotion and tension constantly tug at the characters…and therefore, at the reader.
  • Add a ticking clock. (How many minutes before the train crashes, the bomb goes off, or the business deal becomes irreversible?)
  • Let the characters fail—then try, try, try again.
  • Plant surprises, secrets, and unexpected twists. You’ll never bore your readers.
  • Hold back information…but not too long.

During Revisions:

  • Search out any word usage that interrupts the flow of reading.
  • Look for overly detailed setting descriptions that stop the story’s progress.
  • Notice any scenes that are too similar, and cut them.
  • Delete empty scenes—the trip across town, a chat over tea that reveals nothing new.
  • Clean out clutter words/phrases (going to, starting to, thought about, to-be forms, would, etc.)
  • Remove your travelogues! Reserve for your holiday newsletter.
  • Does your plot move forward in a cause & effect pattern? It should.
  • Is what happens logical/believable, given the fictional world you’ve created?
  • Make sure your characters recognize the cost for failing or succeeding.

First-aid for Submissions (Because pacing may be the reason for rejections):

If an agent or publisher likes some elements of your story but ultimately rejects it, the reason might be a weak opening or dismal pacing. Try giving your manuscript a fresh eye. Ask yourself:

  • Do you deliver a hook that can’t be ignored on the first pages?
  • Does the story begin with an active, vivid scene?
  • Have you moved all backstory from the opening to the middle of the story?
  • How far into the book is the Central Conflict revealed? Can you move it up to the first chapter? The first two pages? To page 1? Is the conflict important enough to carry the whole story?
  • ake things worse for your characters, and/or make those challenging events happen at closer intervals.

Whatever form of fiction you are writing, constantly look for ways to keep the pacing brisk. This is what makes readers keep turning pages.

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If you’re curious as to how this works…here are two of my novels that, hopefully, will give you a sense of brisk pacing, even though they are historical fiction, which is generally thought of as a more leisurely paced type of novel. Above all…enjoy your writing time! Kathryn

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The Gentleman Poet https://www.amazon.com/Gentleman-Poet-Danger-Shakespeares-Tempest-ebook/dp/B003V1WTWM/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1472495073&sr=1-1&keywords=the+gentleman+poet#nav-subnav

The Wild Princess: A Novel of Queen Victoria’s Daughters https://www.amazon.com/dp/B007679UQA/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1#nav-subnav

Alicia Street

Alicia Street is a USA TODAY bestselling author and Daphne Award-winner often writing in collaboration with her husband, Roy, as well as on solo projects. She spent many years as a dancer, choreographer and teacher. A compulsive reader of every genre, she also loves watching old black-and-white movies and inventing new recipes for soups.
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Germinating Seeds for Stories or…Spinach?

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This week I’m writing all about getting seeds to germinate. Plot seeds (as in a story) or veggie seeds. They really aren’t very different.

Hatching a new story requires a writer to search through their mental file cabinet of ideas. Once you decide upon the type of story you want to tell, you need to prepare the soil—so to speak. This might mean clearing your desk of distracting paperwork or craft projects. Ignore your email inbox and phone messages, until you get your day’s writing done. While plants need the proper lighting and right amount of water and fertilizer—the writer’s brain and body require a healthy diet, sufficient hydration, exercise, and a comfortable working environment. We also need to dedicate sufficient time to grow our story into something worthwhile.

In the garden world, I have the more trouble encouraging my spinach seed to sprout than any other veggie seed. All the pros tell me that it can take weeks for those little pellets to sprout. Although you might be able to hurry them along with either a good soak for 24 hours or a cold-treatment in the fridge. It seems they are so temperature sensitive that, when the soil is over 75-degrees, they’ll refuse to germinate at all. Spinach loves cool weather. And on top of that, even in the best of conditions, only about 30% are likely to ever sprout. Stubborn little babies, aren’t they?

Why bother with planting spinach at all? Maybe it’s for reasons similar to why I spend so many hours writing stories. Just as I love spinach for all of its marvelous benefits to my health, I love producing fiction because it’s healthy for my brain. Writing a novel encourages me to exercise my imagination and fully engage creatively. And I’m convinced that, like growing vegetables, we write better depending upon the seasons.

I tend to write more fluidly and with greater energy in the spring and the fall. The air feels fresher where I live in the Washington, DC area during those seasons. I seem to breathe easier, think clearer. Spinach, too, grows most happily (once you get it started, that is) in both the early spring and the late fall. In fact, some varieties will winter over so that you have lovely fresh greens without any fuss at all, as soon as the snow melts. If you forget to do a fall planting you can even sprinkle seeds over the frozen ground. As soon as it thaws in spring, I’m told, seeds will sprout for a carefree crop. It’s apparently only when you’re trying to force the little darlings to sprout in less than optimum conditions that they won’t send up shoots.CoverFinalSM-TheExtremeNovelist

That’s one thing that’s magical about writing, which we talk a lot about in the classes I teach at The Writer’s Center in Washington, DC (and in The Extreme Novelist). If we scatter story seeds then let them develop organically in our mind before starting to write…and then take the time to draft a working synopsis. If we then give these ideas the attention they need by writing daily and not letting the craziness of everyday life crowd out our writing time–that’s how we  grow as writers and begin to produce quality, publishable  fiction.

Write daily, my friends. Write with focus. Nurture yourself as a writer, just as a good gardener tends her garden. You’ll harvest an amazing crop.

Alicia Street

Alicia Street is a USA TODAY bestselling author and Daphne Award-winner often writing in collaboration with her husband, Roy, as well as on solo projects. She spent many years as a dancer, choreographer and teacher. A compulsive reader of every genre, she also loves watching old black-and-white movies and inventing new recipes for soups.
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5 Easy Ways to Breathe Life into Your Characters

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hand-281995_640If you love to write fiction—be it short stories, novellas, or novels—you need to people your tales with characters. And, if you want readers to flock to your stories, these paper people need to be believable and interesting. So how does a new writer learn to develop characters that rise above flat Dick & Jane figures?

Here are five techniques to get you started. If you use all of these in your storytelling you’ll move your fiction above and beyond the realm of tired clichés.

Make them talk. In real life, people interact by speaking to one another. Characters who live in their own world, rarely interacting with others—you may call them loners—can come across as uninteresting, one-dimensional navel-gazers. Try putting them into situations where they’re forced into conversation with others. Introspection is fine, but when you let characters voice their desires, goals, intent, fears or even threaten each other…they seem so much more real.

Roger  Kathryn from Roy

Make them move. Today’s fiction is all about creating scenes that readers can visualize. We’ve been trained by the media. We go to the movies, watch TV, spend hours viewing videos on our computers or phones. We expect visual entertainment. If you don’t make your characters run, walk, gesture, eat, throw things, make love and do hundreds of other things to create visual images in the reader’s mind, you’ll have a very small audience for your stories. We need to “see” a story to become engaged in it.

Give them a friend (or enemy). When we observe a person who is acting as if they are in love, worried about another person, being kind to a stranger, or fearful of someone—we know what that feels like. Emotions are universal. We identify with a character through the feelings this person experiences towards others. And when we identify with a fictional character, we become curious and want to find out what happens to them in their story, so we keep turning pages.

Give them a history. Real people don’t just appear out of nowhere on a street, in a house, or at a place of work. They have a past, and their past determines their personality and how they react to situations. Try “interviewing” each of your main characters. Ask them where they grew up. Did they come from a warm, close family…or a troubled childhood? Was religion a part of their upbringing? What did they want to be when they grew up…and what did they actually become? Ask them anything you like. If you write the questions and answers as an exercise, similar to the format of a magazine interview, you’ll gather valuable information that will bring your people to life. Then use what you’ve learned about them to write your story.

Give them a challenge. A hard one. Don’t leave your characters to idly muse over their lives, their troubles. Force them to act. In real life, we are fascinated with people who tackle their problems with gusto. We love stories about the immigrant who came to this country with nothing and built a successful life. We love stories about the “little guy” who, against all odds, beat out the powerful corporate or government figure. Because they act when faced with a challenge, we believe they exist.

Above all, have fun with your characters. If they entertain you, you can be sure they’ll also entertain your readers.

Want more tips to bump up your fiction? You might enjoy the book inspired by courses Kathryn teaches for The Writer’s Center and Smithsonian Associates programs in Washington, DC. You can find it here: CoverFinalSM-TheExtremeNovelisthttps://www.amazon.com/Extreme-Novelist-No-Time—Write-Drafting/dp/0692420835/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1471356664&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Extreme+Novelist

 

Alicia Street

Alicia Street is a USA TODAY bestselling author and Daphne Award-winner often writing in collaboration with her husband, Roy, as well as on solo projects. She spent many years as a dancer, choreographer and teacher. A compulsive reader of every genre, she also loves watching old black-and-white movies and inventing new recipes for soups.
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How to Snag a Literary Agent!

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DSC_0002_5I’ve just returned from speaking at Thrillerfest, the huge annual writer’s conference sponsored by the International Thriller Writers and held in New York City. The ITW Conference has been, by far and away, my go-to place for sending my clients and students who are writing suspense, thrillers (obviously), mysteries, and emotionally electrified novels of all types. Why?

Because this is the only conference that, to my knowledge, has managed to corral 50 or more agents in a room, for around three hours, at what’s called PitchFest. Authors are given a chance to, in effect, speed-date agents. You get to sit down and talk for about 3 minutes to a real agent about your novel. If they find your pitch interesting, the agent will ask you to send either a partial or full manuscript to them. Then you move on to the next agent on your hit list. You can pitch to as many agents as you can fit into the session. This, as you can imagine, is a golden opportunity for authors who have books with intrigue, mystery, and thriller elements that are ready to be published. But I’ve also heard from authors writing in other genres, who have found, at PitchFest, an enthusiastic agent for their novels.

However, the price of the conference, expense of staying in a New York City hotel, and airfare can be substantial. Does this mean that you can’t connect with a good agent to represent you and your books if you are unable to afford traveling to a big conference? Not at all.

DSC_0003There are many ways to search out and find a legitimate, experienced literary agent. Different authors have used a variety of techniques with equal success. But I’ll share with you my favorite method:

  • Finish your book and do all you can to polish your product until it shines. An agent can’t sell a manuscript to a publisher that isn’t complete of is full of grammatical errors. Many authors invest in a professional edit or critical read to help them make their book the best it can be.
  • Go online and look up the Association of Authors’ Representatives site (aaronline.org). Click on “Find an Agent”. You’ll be able to search for legitimate agents interested in your type of book.
  • After you’ve made a list of agents whose interests match yours—50-60 isn’t too many!—check out their websites. By gathering more information about each agent, you’ll fine tune your list.
  • Go online to Publishers Marketplace (publishersmarketplace.com). Register for Publishers Lunch Deluxe. It will cost you $25./month, but all you need to do is join for one month, do your research, then opt out. For that month, you will receive daily reports on the industry and the ability to “track deals, sales, agents, editors” and more.
  • Using your hit list of agents, choose one and search on his/her sales for the past 6 months. Even better, search on their sales just for your category of book. When I went looking for an agent who was representing and actively selling lots of historical fiction, I was able to track down a number of really strong agents in that field. Then I chose from among them the ones with whom I’d most like to work.
  • Check out the details of their sales (and others, if you like…this is fascinating stuff!) The Daily Deals will tell you the title of the book sold, its author, the publisher and acquiring editor who bought it, the name of the agent who sold it…and a brief description of the book’s concept. Wow! How valuable is that!

If you’ve done your homework, you’ll have found many good matches. Circle back to their websites and note their preferences for submissions. Follow their instructions implicitly. It’s a test, of sorts. If an agent wants only a query letter for initial contact, don’t send your manuscript…yet. Each agent has their own process for screening prospective clients.

I hope this gives you some insight into how to snag the best agent for the book you’ve written. Good luck! And let me know how it goes.  Cheers! Kathryn

Alicia Street

Alicia Street is a USA TODAY bestselling author and Daphne Award-winner often writing in collaboration with her husband, Roy, as well as on solo projects. She spent many years as a dancer, choreographer and teacher. A compulsive reader of every genre, she also loves watching old black-and-white movies and inventing new recipes for soups.
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