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Posts Tagged ‘kristen lamb’

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We’re all writers, right?

And every story starts with a beginning. So I thought I’d share the beginning of my writing journey with you.

Like 95% of writers, I have always loved writing. Back in the eighties, 1985 on a Friday night if memory serves, I used to video tape (remember those)?, a TV cop show called Dempsey and Makepeace.  Then on the Saturday morning I’d get up at the crack of dawn, before anyone else, and watch, write, and rewind the show until I’d written the whole script. Makes me laugh now, knowing how easy it is today to find scripts on that revolutionary tool called the internet. But, back in ’85, I had to make do with a VCR, writing pad, and my trusty biro.

The crime stopping duo

So what was my reason for doing this?

Why, to adapt the episode into a novel of course.

And my passion for writing never dwindled. Well, I misplaced it for a few years while I went to college, worked in a chartered accountants, slogged my guts out at OK! Magazine, and wrote a car off while at Essex Police.

Then, a few years ago I began writing articles for magazines and my passion returned.

So, how did I get to where I am now? Well, I have two different stories.

The first involves a lady you all know very well; the fabulous Kristen Lamb. By sheer luck, she came across a chapter I’d written on the internet, and through sheer generosity, she emailed me some critism. And, there began my novel writing career and my friendship with a true hero.

Up until that point, I’d only written one novel; a romantic thriller called ‘The Stalker’. Friends had read it and loved it and naturally I thought, “Hey, I’m onto a winner here.”

I worked hard with Kristen as she bomboozeled me with plotting, character profiling, the three act structure, conflict, ARC’s, inciting incidents, antagonists, protagonists, minions, Big Boss Trouble-makers and, oh yeah, pulling me out of my comfort zone, I realised what a load of rubbish I’d actually written. The story was okay but the characters were so boring and one dimentional – worse, they had no flaws!

Of course, now I’m a fully fledged psychotic nutter and there’s no switching off my imagination. In fact, my tag line “I could write for Days of our Lives” as seen in my banner, is Kristen’s description of me.

So began my second novel. Only this one I was writing the Warrior Writers Boot Camp (WWBC) way. After months of researching, character profiling, plotting, and re-plotting, I was ready to start writing another thriller……

Only Jason Statham could play my villain

And then I met Natalie Hamilton-Duggan. She’d just finished film school in London, wanted to write a paranormal screenplay, and asked if I’d like to help. At first I was a little apprehensive. I am not a massive YA paranormal fan. Sure I like The Vampire Diaries and True Blood, and Supernatural is one of my favorites, but I’d had enough of vampires. They’d been done to death. After a full five minutes deliberating, I agree to become a co-writer. I knew nothing about script writing but what the hell. There was one condition though….. No Vampires!

So, together we began to plot out a story. Kristen’s WWBC training became invaluable and I applied it to screenwriting the same as I had my novel.

Now I was working on two different stories in two different formats at the same time.

It was during this time that Kristen invited me out to Texas to attend the DFW Writing Convention. I thought, why not? I could pitch my novel to an agent and see what they thought.

Also, Natalie and I had finished the script to the now titled “Legend”, and decided to take the plunge and stop in L.A. first, you know, to see if we could get a bite out there. We emailed hundreds of queries and waited.

Wayne Alexander, an entertainment lawyer, read it and promptly emailed it across to Amy Schiffman, a manager and literary agent colleague of his at IPG. She loved the script and wanted to meet us.

So out go Natalie and I, wet behind the ears, totally out of our depth, and expecting the whole experience to swallow us whole. We couldn’t have been more wrong. We loved Wayne and Amy, and they seemed to love us. Amy became our manager, gave us a ton of ideas to start work on, and asked if I would adapt the script into a novel.

After three whirlwind days in L.A., Natalie and I flew to Texas; where I pitched an idea for a book I hadn’t even thought of writing two days previously. Luckily the agent loved the idea and asked to see a chapter or two when I’d written them. Oh yeah, as if that wasn’t amazing enough, Kristen gave me a fabulous stetson and took me shooting, and I brought a wicked pair of cowboy boots.

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That’s me in the centre

Since then Natalie and I have written two TV pilots and I’m half way through writing ‘Legend’ (the novel version). I’ve two agents in the UK who are also waiting to read it.

With regards to WWBC, I now help Kristen teach other writers, along with my WWBC team mates and writing buddies, Piper BayardNigel BlackwellKerry Meacham, and Xandra James. I just hope I can help them as much as Kristen has helped me.

So, what’s your story? How did you start writing? How long have you been writing? Do you have an agent? Have you been published? How did you feel seeing your book in print? Have you even just taken a chance and come up trumps?

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A few weeks back, Karen McFarland asked if I could guest on her blog. And I thought you guys may like to read it, too.

Three years ago, I made a decision. To step away from writing articles and write that ‘book’ I’d always planned to write.

Okay, that wasthe easy part sorted out.

I sat down, and for a couple of months scribbled in my note pad and tapped away on my laptop. I gave my finished story to friends, all of who liked it, and began plotting the sequel.

Then I met Kristen Lamb.

Kristen stumbled upon the first chapter, which I’d posted on a blogger site, and proceeded to hunt me down. She pointed out where I was going wrong and offered to help me. Naturally, I jumped at the chance.

We stripped back my story to its very core, and I wrote a background for my antagonist – something I had never done before.

Kristen’s reply, after I nervously emailed it across to her. “Crap, do it again.”

And again I did. Several times in fact. Until, finally everything clicked into place and I created a psychopathic alter-ego.

  Be wary if Kristen invites you over for dinner.

I’m very good friends with Kristen now. She has the most amazing way of making you pay for her kindness (see picture). I’ve since written two teleplays and currently adapting one into a novel. I’ve plotted my second book, and lead WWBC Team Delta. I apply the Warrior Writer method to every story I plot and wouldn’t consider doing it any other way.

So, without further ado, here is the way to write – Warrior Writer style.

Your Story

First and foremost – you must have an idea of what your book is about. Knowing the genre is extremely helpful, and what your protagonist wants and who’s trying to stop he/she from getting it will also make things a lot easier for you. 

Log Line

Once you know the basis of your story, you can write that log line. Now, don’t be scared. They are easier to write if you follow this simple rule:

An ADJECTIVE NOUN (protagonist) must ACTIVE VERB the ANTAGONIST before  SOME REALLY HORRIBLE THING HAPPENS (stopping the protagonist from reaching her goal).

See my post on Log Lines

Backgrounds

A background is a little like a biography. Imagine you were writing your own life story. You’d start from the moment you were born and take the reader up to the current day. Well, a background is the same thing. Write all about your character from the moment they were born, right up to the moment you are about to start your story.

This is a fantastic way to get to know your character, and give you time to flesh them out. Once done, you will have no trouble writing them, or writing their dialogue.

Backgrounds – Who To Start With?

Antagonist – Why? Because they are the biggest problem. Without them in our story, we have NO story.

Protagonist – Yep, you’ve guessed it. Now do the same for your protagonist. Oh, and don’t make them too perfect. Flaws are good! Flaws make us human.

Love Interest and Supporting Cast – Mentors, Minions, Allies and Love Interests all fit under this section. Note: These are characters that aid your main characters. I’m not talking about the guy who shows up in one scene and delivers the post.

Your Story

You need to ‘bullet point’ your story from beginning to end. Walk yourself through your story step by step. It’s better to hit your dead ends now so you can re-plot, rather than get 40k words in and realise you have to axe 10,000 of them.

Start with:

Normal World
Inciting Incident
Turning Point Act I into Act II
Turning Point Act II into Act III
Darkest Moment
Dénouement 

Get to this point and voila! You have a story to write.

I know most of you may read this and think “Huh? What a waste of time.”

I’ve met people like this and guess what? They are still at the same stage they were a year or so ago. My team mate Piper Bayard and I are living proof this method works. Agents have requested fulls on both our manuscripts.

It’s like building a house. Do the prep-work: dig footings, add cement, lay bricks, and your building will be standing for decades to come.

Good luck with your writing.

Now, let me know if you are a ‘plot and plan‘ writer, or if you just ‘make it up’ as you go along. What works best for you? Have you ever written yourself into a corner?

Want more? You can also find me on FacebookTwitter, Google+ and Linkedin

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I’m currently in the middle of reading Kristen Lamb’s book ‘Are You There Blog? It’s Me, Writer‘.

Firstly, I have to recommend that all writers read Kristen’s books, the other one being ‘We Are Not Alone’ (you can read my review here).

Secondly, I have to excitedly brag that I am in it. Yay me, I’m famous! Page 24 and 25 for anyone who is interested 😀

Ok, now down to business. Kristen talks about how writers have to juggle their writing with everyday life. Especially writers who already have a full time job. Their allocated writing time is squeezed in between a tuna mayo sandwich and a packet of cheese and onion crisps at lunchtime.

I am extremely lucky. Why? I’ll tell you. I am able to write full time. So, in theory, this should make my career as a writer a doddle, right?

Wrong!

Sitting at my desk all day piled on the pounds. I started having to tuck my belly in my trousers like I did my T-Shirt.

Now, I had two options.

Option A: I could go on a huge shopping spree and replace all my clothes, or

Option B: Do some exercise.

Option A was without  doubt my favorite choice. Afterall, I don’t have time to excercise……well, apart from when I run to the car. But, Option A did have a downfall. I have expensive tastes and my husband would have suffered open wallet surgery. And even I’m not that wicked 🙂

So, Option B it was. But now I had another problem. When could I squeeze in exercise?

My normal day is this: Get Up, Get Kids To School, Write, Collect Kids, Play Taxi to After School Activities, Return Home, Cook (my husband will argue this one), Help With Homework, Clean House (my husband will argue this one, too).

The truth is, I am on the go all day until I sit down at 8.30pm to eat my dinner. I then hold my eyelids up with match sticks and indulge in an hour of television before I crash out for the night.

No, my only choice was to get up earlier. Earlier! I must really like my clothes.

So, now I get up at 6.10am and watch the news while I pound my step machine and do a hundred crunches.

And you know what? I actually like it!

So, have you had to change your day to fit in writing? Have you had to sacrifice anything? Do you feel writing is worth it? How many hours a day do you get to spend on writing? Let me know. I love hearing your comments.

You can also find me on FacebookTwitter, Google+ and Linkedin

 

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There are different types of writers, and I would hazard a guess that you are one, too.

Am I right?

So, what do I mean when I say ‘absent author’?

Well, clearly I mean an author who is not present during the writing of their book.

What? How can you write a book if you are not present? It’s damn right impossible. Trust me, I’ve tried. One night, I told my computer to finish chapter four and when I checked it in the morning, nothing had been done. I know. It’s unforgivable. I spend hours sitting at my computer and it couldn’t even manage a measly few paragraphs for me. I promptly sent it to the naughty step and left it there to stew for a full sixty minutes.

As writers, whether you write fiction or non-fiction, we spend hours and hours researching, plotting, crafting, devising arc’s, editing, character backgrounds, re-writes……well, you get the idea. We work damn hard.

But, what is the absent author?

Hold on, I’m getting to it.

Let me throw a few names at you. Actually I think it’s easier to show and not tell 🙂

Left to right - Kardashian, Snooki, Loren Conrad

Okay, are we on the same page? For those of you still scratching your heads, I’m talking about ghostwriters – and not the supernatural kind.

Jordan (aka Katie Price), Hilary Duff, Nicole Richie, Lauren Conrad, and Snooki have all produced novels with the aid of ghostwriters.

They market the book via press and television, leading their young fans to believe they have in fact either picked up a pen, or tapped endlessly at their keyboard and written every word themselves. And, guess what? They get angry if questioned about it.

According to website ‘Jezebel’:

“Ms. (Nicole) Richie promoted her second novel, “Priceless,” in an interview last year with USA Today, describing her writing routine: write early in the morning, before the rest of her family wakes up. “I write all my own stories,” she said.

But Ms. Richie’s publisher, Judith Curr of Atria Books, indicated otherwise, saying that a ghostwriter did most of the writing of Ms. Richie’s book. (Ms. Richie did not respond to a request for comment.)”

Hilary Duff, who when quizzed as to why she didn’t credit her co-writer, basically replied with a ‘why should I? It’s my idea.’ (That is my edited version)

But is this right?

Agents and publishers know there is money to be earned off the back of the celebrity’s name. They also know if they market the product correctly, they can often secure the sale to the movie/TV rights as well. The publishers earn a stack of cash, and the substantially wealthy celebrity extends their ‘brand’….everyone’s happy. Or are they?

What about the writers who ACTUALLY wrote these books.

It is almost non-existent they are ever mentioned on the cover. Doesn’t the publishing industry owe the ghostwriter a little more credit?

Doesn’t the publisher have an obligation to let the reader know their beloved celebrity had (a lot of) help with writing the book they are about to read?

Shouldn’t the publisher have a conscious and clear their desks of celebrity endorsed stories? Maybe make a little room for the talent of up and coming novelists?

Then again, publishers and agents are in this game to make money. It’s probably the main reason they get up in the morning. They’d be nuts if, for instance, they were to choose first time and unknown novelist Sissy Smith from Ramsbottom, Kent over, say, Cameron Diaz.

If you read Kristen Lamb’s blog, you’ll see that social media plays a massive part in a novelist’s road to sales. However, you’d have to be dancing with the fairies and sprinkling magic dust to think you’ll ever create a name bigger than an A-list celebrity. Not even marketing 25 hours day will get you that kind of notoriety.

So, as always, I would like your comments.

Do you think publishers have a moral right to print the co-writer or ghost writers name on the cover of a novel? Should readers know whose writing they are reading? Or is it just a business and they are right to earn their money anyway they choose? Are you a ghostwriter? Would you want to be one?

You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Linkedin

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I want to ask a question. 

You’ve written a book. What direction should you take? Should you concentrate all your energy into querying literary agents and wait for months with bated breath in the hope one asks for a nibble? Or should you take the plunge and go it alone down the e-book road?

I am a book lover. I love holding a book in my hands, to feel the paper rough between my fingers. I love my book case. I love dust jackets….oh God, I love books full stop. Doesn’t everyone?

Up until now, I’d never considered owning a Kindle or Nook and, as an author, I couldn’t imagine my books being in any other format other than paper. I never thought the Kindle would ever take off. After all, how do you ask an author to sign a computer screen?

But, am I behind the times?

A couple of days ago I read a story in the Evening Standard newspaper which kind of got me thinking. I reiterate ‘kind of’. I’m not totally convinced, yet.

Most of you have probably already heard of Louise Voss. She was a struggling UK writer who couldn’t find an agent, took matters into her own hands, and published her novel on Amazon’s Kindle. She is now selling 50,000 books per month and has been offered a six-figure, four-book deal by publishers HarperFiction.

This also seems the case with writing duo Sarah Griffiths and Mark Williams, who write under the pen name Saffina Desforges. Their success on Kindle has led to discussions with a top New York agent.

We, as writers, already enter our stories into competitions and dedicate hours a week to social media so we can proudly boast our conquests to agents. Being able to brag at e-book sales is just another plus point, isn’t it? As author Linda Regan told me last year, “Agents have to sell you as well as the book. You have to be interesting.”

This all sounds super cool and easy, but is it? Going it alone sounds a mighty bit scary if you ask me. But, as I am the curious sort – and probably the only writer on planet earth that hasn’t looked at e-book (or indie) publishing – I had a nose around the Amazon web site.

So, let’s look at what I found.

Marketing.

If I was considering the e-book route, and let’s just use Amazon for this example as it’s the only site I looked at, I’d have to market the book myself. Okay, this I don’t find scary. It’s 2011 and I have Twitter and Facebook. Oh, and my good friend Kristen Lamb’s social media book ‘We Are Not Alone’ to guide me through – it should be a doddle. Plus, I have Kristen’s phone number and I know where she lives. She also taught me how to shoot a gun. There is nowhere she can hide 🙂

A big fat tick can go next to marketing.

What’s next?

Formatting.

Huh? I saw something about an rtf file and as I save all my work that way, I think I can tick that one too. Moving on swiftly.

Cost.

Books sell for as little as 96p on Amazon. How can anyone make any money from that?

Well, from what I can see, Amazon’s cut is 30%. I’ll round my book off at a £1 to make things easy, and because it’s late and I can’t be bothered to go fetch my calculator. I’ll earn 70p from each sale. Hmmm, that’s about the price of a chocolate Snicker bar these days, isn’t it?

Right, so unless I sell a hundred thousand copies, I’ll never be rich. Then again, writers don’t write for money. They write for the love of it, so that doesn’t matter.

(N.B. There is another plus point to this 96p Kindle e-book downloading, which is – I’d have saved a fortune on the rubbish Vampire Diary books).

Another tick.

Other bits worthy of a mention.

I retain the rights to my novel and, as the author, I’ll have full control of the book cover, pricing, and well, absolutely everything.

Tick, tick, tick.

I’ve tried to find some horror stories on the web regarding e-publishing on Kindle, but there really aren’t any out there.

So, that is why I am turning to my trusty followers. Have I missed something?

What do you think of e-publishing? Do you know anyone who has published on Kindle? Would you consider publishing your novel on Kindle? Have you already published on Kindle? What are your experiences? Do you know of any successes or, more importantly, have you heard any horror stories? Let me know.

You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Linkedin

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I remember years ago having someone say to me, “As long has you have a good story, it doesn’t matter what your writing is like. That’s what editors are for.”

I can just hear the gasps echoing throughout the writing community as the murmur or a witch hunt is organised.

I research a lot. I like research. Very lucky thing considering I’m a writer. And, like most writers, I have read much on the subject of writing. From all that advice, and I am talking tons of it, one main point consistently raised its ugly head….The advice was contradicting.

“Agents want first three chapters. Never send agents the first three chapters. Send to a publisher. Don’t send to a publisher.”

It’s enough to drive a writer even more insane than they already are. And yet, here I am; about to add yet another blog post and more advice onto a mound higher than the slush pile at Harper and Collins.

Hang on. Did I say advice? I don’t do advice. I merely try to enlighten. Phew! Untie the nooses – You can breathe again.

Finish Or Not To Finish?

“Start sending off your book as soon as you’ve finished the first few chapters. After all, what is the point in finishing it if no one wants it?”

Now this does seem like its common sense but I’ll say it (type it) anyway. You need to complete your novel before you submit. If an agent likes it and requests a full manuscript  to read, he isn’t going to wait half a year while you finish it.

Check it and double check it. Let your friends read it and critique it. Polish it until it’s beaming brighter than the diamond tennis bracelet I’m begging my hubby for. Then, and only then, can you submit it.

Publisher Or Agent?

“Send you book to everyone and their friends. The more the merrier.”

It seems that, in today’s market, publishers are frequently turning to agents for submissions. The idea behind their madness being, why should they spend time and money sorting through manuscripts when an agent can do it for them?

Decide on an agent, and please find one that deals with your genre. Check out their website and most importantly, follow their submission guideline rules. Every agent is different. Some want a query letter, while others are happy to look at a synopsis too. Some, the wonderful few, will even read a couple of chapters.

One Agent Or Two?

“Send your book to as many agents as you can. Why wait for one to answer first?”

Oh, now this I am 50/50 on. Usually, this would be seen as a massive ‘no-no’. But nobody likes to wait six months for a reply before they can submit to their second choice agent. We’d all like to get a book represented during this lifetime 😀

Who Goes There – Friend or Foe?

“I’ve sent this book to many other agents so, if you know what’s good for you, you’ll get in quick .”

Er, do you like prison food? No mild threats! Enough said.

“I’ve enclosed a picture of my dog, and a woolly scarf for those cold New York winters.”

This is a stranger! While grocery shopping in the frozen food aisle at Asda, would you go up to a person you’ve never met before and give them a present? Of course you wouldn’t. (And shame on you if you say ‘yes, but only if they were gorgeous’).

One mistake many new writers make is they address the agents like they are their friends. They’re not. There should be no first names, no information about the last holiday you took. Just as there shouldn’t be any mild attempt to scare your agent into representing you.

Now, I want you to tell me about the horror stories you’ve read, not including this one :). What’s the worst advice you’ve been given? Again, this post is excluded :). What’s the most cringe worthy mistake you’ve ever made while submitting to an agent? Do you agree with the above? Do you submit direct to a publisher? 

I also talk on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn

Some other excellent websites for writers are Kristen Lamb, Nathan Bransford, Jennifer Holbrook-~Talty

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Like most of you, I like to read. Unfortunately, and probably unlike most of you, I am a very slow reader. With this in mind, I thought reviewing books would fit nicely into my two blog’s a month schedule 😀

My debut book has to be Kristen Lamb’s ‘We Are Not Alone’: The Writers Guide to Social Media. Why this book? Well, for one, I know Kristen and if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be blogging now. As for the other reasons? Take your pick. Kristen is fast becoming the Queen of Social Media. She has been an invaluable mentor to me, and heck, she’s just an awesome gal. And if that isn’t reason enough, ‘We Are Not Alone’ is a best seller.

A year ago, if anyone other than Kristen had told me to read a social media book, I would have told them to get on their bike and keep pedalling until they reached the Sahara Dessert. I was a Facebooker. I Facebooked with friends. What did I need social media for? I’d tried Twitter and, although I’d met a few great tweeps, I didn’t really ‘get’ it. Then I read Kristen’s book and it transformed the way I look a social media.

So, what is this book about?

Well, for starters, it will teach you the importance of branding yourself. I’m not talking about taking a branding iron and burning your initials into your butt. I’m talking about the ‘YOU’ brand. Your name, as a writer, is your greatest weapon. I didn’t understand that at first. I can’t even remember what my first twitter name was. Something stupid for sure, unlike the DonnaNewtonUK I have now.

Secondly, Kristen goes on to explain what Social Media is, and how we can use it to our advantage. Take Twitter and Facebook. I have transformed both of these so they are working for me now. I still have my personal Facebook page. But now, I also have a writer’s page (www.facebook.com/donnanewtonuk). Who would have thought a year ago I would have built platforms?

And, further still, you will become a blogger like me. I know, how clever do I feel. 😀

Kristen will walk you, step by step, through the WordPress set up. She’ll show you the importance of Bio’s, what a # (hashtag) is, the advantages and disadvantages of having a pen name. Everything you never thought you’d ever need to know is in this book.

Kristen injects such a style and sense of humour that you’ll read it totally unaware you are actually learning something. What’s more important, you can read it without the aid of a dictionary.

Kristen also has a fantastic blog in which she further strives to help people like me understand the world of social medial.

My advice? Whether you are published or unpublished, you should definitely read this book.

Have you read this book? Let me know what you thought of it? Did it, like me, help you tackle the world of social media?

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