A few of my favorite tools

 

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There’s a term out in our society right now called shiny object syndrome. I prefer to call it the law of the new toys to me this means you’re jumping from one new product to the next before you really tried them out with the hopes of finding gold and key to success.
I’m guilty of this as well I have tried so many different things. But I have to be honest nothing works without hard work and hard work is the easiest with systems that work for you, not whoever’s promoting it but for you. And for each person that is going to be different.
When I look at my computer, I find apps and programs that I hadn’t used in a long time because I always tend to fall back on the tried-and-true that I know to work for me. There’s nothing wrong with the apps that I downloaded and paid for. some of them were very good, but they just didn’t fit my mode of writing.
I’m staring at the computer screen thinking, “I really need to clean this up and get rid of some of the stuff I don’t use.” Instead, I will share the programs that work the best for me. The ones that I use day in and day out and have made my life as a writer so much easier there are half a dozen or so that I use and I’ll start them off in order of appointment importance for me.

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1. Scrivener. I don’t know how I ever wrote before I found the Scrivener program. And every time I open it up, I seem to find another little tidbit that helps me be a better writer I’m not going into all the pros and cons of it I’m just going to say I love it and I’d be lost without it.
2. Scapple. This is a great mind mapping app. And it can be used alongside of Scrivener. I use this to remind myself how the characters connect to each other, major plot points and descriptions of locations and characters (I “cast” my characters by adding a picture of what I think they’ll resemble and do the same with settings.)
3. Dropbox. Dropbox is my insurance for keeping my files from being lost. I have a few other ones that I use like Carbonite and Google Docs, but I rely on Dropbox, and I use it to organize all of my files according to books, work, and play.
4. Dragon/ Dragon Anywhere The next to are primarily because I love to dictate with my work schedule it is easier to dictate on my lunch hours when I can just stop and polish off five or 600 words or that having an exceptional day couple thousand. The first one is Dragon Anywhere. If you’ve ever used the Dragon app on your computer, you’ll love this. It works with your cell phone, and even though most cell phones do have the ability to take dictation, it still doesn’t compare to Dragon.
5. Evernote. The second app that I use along with Dragon is Evernote. From Dragon, I can drop my dictation directly into Evernote organizes and files according to books and be assured that I have a backup. Then I take my file from Evernote cleaned it up a little bit and drop it into Scrivener. It may sound like a lot of extra steps, but I’m paranoid, and with each of these steps, I create a backup. I don’t ever want to have to lose an entire book because I didn’t back up or save things as I went along.
6. Word / Google Docs. And how can we fund forget Microsoft Word or Google Docs whichever one you use because these are essential yes you can write your entire manuscript in Scrivener and you can even format it, but there’s something comfortable about Microsoft Word, at least for me there is. Maybe it’s because I’m so used to it I been using it forever.
7. ProWriting Aid / Grammarly. These two I used together. ProWriting Aid is an intensive grammar program, and sometimes it’s intimidating, at least for me. But I start with a run-through in Grammarly and ProWriting Aid. And then just before I send my work off to the editor, I run it through a second program called grammar only. I figure what one doesn’t catch the other one might.
8. Natural Reader. And finally, after everything is ready and just before I send it off to the editor, I use an app called Natural Reader, which reads my book back to me. You’d be surprised how many errors I didn’t see, but I can hear. Besides, it’s kind of fun listening to your words being spoken back to you, proving you really are a writer.

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There are other apps that I use; different thesauruses and word documents, search engines, and Google for research. My husband bought me an Alexa, and I’m using that for research too. It’s also perfect for entertaining the cats because it’ll play videos designed for cats and that will keep them away from my writing. I bet Amazon didn’t think about one!
So, these are just a few of the things I use when I’m writing. They’re tools, and that’s all they are; only tools. You have to come up with the words, and you have to come up with the ideas and most of all you have to put in the work.

What do you use to aid your writing process?

Please note this is how I do my writing and the programs I use. You may find something else works better for you. There is no right or wrong answer. I have not been asked or reimbursed by any of these companies to promote them.

Have a safe and Happy 4th of July Holiday!

Victoria LK Williams

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The Perfect Spot

Summer has officially arrived!! 

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And now we’re settling into those hot, lazy days. But for me, summer is my writing time. All winter I work in playing with the gardens, creating areas my customers can enjoy. Florida is different; our seasons are opposite everybody else, especially down here in South Florida. During the winter we hustle like crazy keep the tourist happy and the snowbirds content. But once they all leave, our quiet little towns become slow-paced. It’s time for the residents to enjoy all the amenities our towns and local areas have to offer. And it’s during the summer time that I do my writing.

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One of my favorite writing spots is on the inter-coastal waterways. There little areas that you could pull off and sit to enjoy the river. It’s not at all uncommon to see the dolphins swimming, or paddle boarders enjoying the smooth waters. If you can find a beautiful shady spot, it’s easy to sit and enjoy a comfortable breeze coming off the ocean or river that are cooling, even in 90° weather. As long as you can stay out of that blazing sun, you can enjoy your time.
With it being quiet, I have the opportunity to concentrate on my writing during downtime, often working in sprints dictating to get the next chapter written. This time you year, the phone doesn’t ring as often and spend my lunchtime getting some words down, while I sit by the water.
Each writer has their own particular spot where they like to write. Whether it’s your office, the park, the local coffee shop, or a quiet spot at home, you know where you can get the best work done. This will be where you’re at your most productive and creative. Once you find the spot covet it like it’s a golden jewel because it is it your sweet spot.

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Victoria LK Williams

Go ahead-kill ’em!

Kill your darlings.

The first time I heard that phrase I thought it was awful. What kind of a sadistic person would deliberately kill a character you created that wasn’t an evil villain?
Your characters are like your friends. You know them inside and out. You’ve created them with distinct personality traits and flaws. Hopefully, you’ve got your readers to connect with those characters.But now some writing Guru has told you to kill them.

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I have to be honest, it took me a while to fully understand why you would do this. But now that I know, I’m not afraid to do it.
Having a murder in your mystery is pretty much a no-brainer. The reader usually doesn’t have a chance to get to know the victim, so you don’t feel any guilt having killed the character. But there’s more at stake when the characters have had a chance to become known to your reader.
Why would you put your characters in mortal danger? There are a number of reasons, but probably the most common is to build tension, or change the direction of the story. In a cozy mystery, it’s rare that a killing is random, there must be a meaning behind it. Keep this in mind and don’t go killing characters just for the sake of excitement. And a word of warning: you can kill the granny next door, but don’t kill her pet! For some reason, readers (myself included) get upset at the death of a animal. The animal can accidentally cause a death, but Fido or FeeFee must walk away unscathed.

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In the book I’m working on now, I was stumped. I had all the clues in place, the red herrings were planted everything was going smoothly. Yet, I was bored. And if I was bored, I knew my reader would be too. But there was this one annoying character…
Yes, I’ll admit, I killed her. This added urgency to the story. And it also explains some plot points.
Do I feel guilty about killing off my darling? Maybe a little. I think I had honestly hoped to redeem her and make her a little bit more likable at the end of the book. But not everybody can be redeemed, and not everybody can be liked.
No, I’m not saying go and start killing off your characters merely to build tension in your story. There are other ways that you can create the same tension without being murderous.
Something unexpected or harmful can happen to a character. Thrown for a loop, your characters will act differently than the reader is expecting. Use those unexpected events to build more tension or even to set up an explaination that must be answered by the end of the book.

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There, now I put some evil thoughts into your head as a writer.
Take a good hard look at your characters and decide whether you kill them off or just throw an unexpected twist their way.

Victoria LK Williams

Stop, Look, Listen…Write

Have you ever looked at somebody and just wondered?
Wondered- do I know you from somewhere? Have we met another time and place? Who do you remind me of? Or even more probing questions… What in the world are you doing? Why would you say something like? What an odd reaction! What an exciting job or hobby?

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Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

 
If you’re a people watcher, these are things that often happen, and if you’re a writer, these are potential characters for your stories.
It’s a storyteller’s job to be observant of what’s going on around them, not only current news and happenings but the people who come in and out of our lives on a daily and infrequent basis.
Sometimes those people just skim the outer circles of our day-to-day life. It might be somebody you happen to see in a park or a store. Or perhaps a conversation that you hear, but are not part of. Maybe an interaction between two people that you observe and it makes you wonder.
The sidekicks and minor characters a writer creates for the story can, and should be, just as important as your main character. It would be ridiculous to have your main character have all the action revolve around them. Some vital information, clues or conversations can come from other people within the story. Yet you don’t want those other people or characters to be blah and uninteresting. These characters need to hold the reader’s attention as much as the main characters.

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Because these side characters often don’t play an intricate part in your story, it is easy to use real-life people that you barely know or that you observe just in a casual setting as models. You can take the liberty with what you see and hear and create those side characters into funny, interesting, or evil characters, depending upon your storyline. Take care not to make them more interesting than your main character. Instead, you should be able to make them play off of your main character, making the main character have more depth and interest by how they interact with the people and events around them.
So start watching what goes on around you, regardless of where you’re at. You can hear some of the most interesting conversations standing in line in the grocery store. Waiting for your waitress at a restaurant? Watch how the occupants in the tables around you are reacting to each other. Is there a comradery or tension? Sitting in a park with your kids pay attention to how the other adults respond to children. Some will be loving and giving, possibly because they have children of their own. Others might be more annoyed and feel like the children are pesty, getting in their way of a quiet afternoon.
But don’t limit yourself to just people. Interactions between animals and people can create a release of tension in your story or an “awwwww” moment. These type of moments can easily be used to distract the reader from something in your storyline. A clue in your mystery that was glaring can be softened with the interaction of your main character in the dog. Suddenly that clue has lost its importance, at least for that moment until you’re ready to bring it back out to readers attention.

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The build-up between characters for that first kiss can easily be dragged out by a kid brother or sister interrupting their moment.
These are just a few examples of how you can take online or event or character and use them in your story. Use them to give your main character more interest and more exciting things to do.
Can you think of something you’ve seen just this week that took you by surprise or caught your attention? Can you weave it into your story? Good, I’ve given you something to look for.
Now go write!

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Welcome to 2019.
I know I know we’re more than a week into the new year and I’m late on getting this greeting out to you. But I did that on purpose. Personally, I ’ve been bombarded with good wishes to the forms of blogs, newsletters, and podcast. And I’ve enjoyed every one of them and would like to reciprocate to all of those I’ve listened to and read; happy new year to you too.
Like everyone else, the new year means new goals new visions and plans for a better future. Old habits will be thrown out, hopefully, and resolutions for better healthier habits are made.
I’m going to do a little bit of both. Before I could look forward, I need to look back. So I’m looking back at where it all began– that very first book.
The book began as a challenge from a group of friends. I had said I wanted to write a book and they held me to it. To be honest, I never thought I could do it, but once I started, there was no stopping me. To date, I have 15 books published and plans for so many more.

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But to get back to that first book. Everything starts with inspiration, and I’d like to share my inspiration for the first book…
The summers in my small town in South Florida can be pretty quiet. I could go for weeks on my job and not see a customer at their home. It was one of those hot blistering summer days, and I was grateful to be working along the river where, at least, a cool breeze could be found. As I looked out into the intercoastal, I couldn’t help but notice how isolated it felt. The channels that run in and out of the intercoastal take you into different communities or out into the river. As I was doing my job, I noticed a small boat motoring up one of those channels and the idea clicked you could commit a crime in such a location, getting in and out by boat, and nobody would ever know.

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And so began Murder for Neptune’s Trident. As I looked across the water, thoughts quickly came, and the story outline developed in my head. But of course, it took a couple of days before I got it down on paper. I was continually adding to it before I was ready to start writing a book. Don’t forget it was my first one and I was pretty nervous there more than one day that I just put the paperwork aside and thought “it’s a great idea, but I’m never going to pull it off; I don’t have the talent to write it.” But my friends kept after me, asking me how the writing was going, so I dug the outline back out and started writing. And that’s how it all began.

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This leads me to now and my goals for 2019. I have two different series that I want to start. One, I already have the first book completed and have half-written. The other series? Well, the idea is percolating, and I like where it’s going. I also want to continue the novella series I started in December. It was fun writing a short mystery in between books. It kept the juices flowing and kept me in the practice of writing.
Another goal for 2019 is to format my existing books into large print. The first one, Now Arriving (Sisters Station 1), was published in large print in December.
I’m curious about creating an audiobook as well. I know I enjoy listening to books, especially when I’m driving, so I think it would be a whole new avenue of readers for me.
I love all the new groups that I’ve joined on Facebook. Writers are helping writers, and I’m learning so much. I hope I’m giving back just as much as I’m getting.
Other than this, my goals are to continue to move forward with what I’m doing, exploring the publishing and promotional side of writing a little bit more. One thing I did learn in 2018 is it when I take a break from writing I don’t feel whole. Yes, my gardening business is crazy at the end of the year, and it takes up all of my time. But the writing gives me the creative energy that I need to keep the ideas fresh. And when I have new ideas, everything benefits; my business, my writing, and even my family life–because I feel more alive when I’m creative.
And I’m not the only creative writer out there. Here’s the link to the  Cozy January Book Fair, a mystery promotional going on this month. I hope you’ll check it out. Heck, there’s even get the chance to enter the drawing for $100 Amazon gift card.

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If you haven’t already, be sure to go to my website and sign up for my newsletter. I always include recommendations of new books by other authors and any promotional giveaways that I’m involved.
Until next time, happy writing and happy new year.

The most important tool a write has.

Sitting at the outside table of the restaurant, I couldn’t help but smile as I looked out the window towards the water. It’s a beautiful day and the river is full of boats. Between the river and where I sat is a wonderful park. There are plenty of slides and swings, but also lots of open grassy area for play. Today the park was full; a group of teenagers had a game of volleyball going, a few couples were walking the pathways. There were kids on the swings and I could hear music from someone’s radio.

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But it was the gleeful laughter coming from a small group of pre-schoolers that had me smiling. They were playing in the same way my son had at their age, and so did I for that matter. It was simple entertainment with one of the oldest toys: a bottle of bubbles. The laughter was contagious and as I watched, a young puppy joined in the fun, making the children laugh harder.
I didn’t see one iPad, laptop or even phone. Even the parents were getting in on the fun. It was a game we all know, and as sophisticated as today’s toys are, it never seems to go out of style. The simple joy of chasing and popping the soapy bubbles seemed to be able to entertain all, with no problems.
I love how the simple old-fashioned toy worked. There was no need for fancy gadgets or accessories. All you needed is a device to hold the soap while you blew into it to create the bubble. The wind would take the bubble up and out of reach and you would try to pop it before it got too far away from you.
I watch for a few moments longer and then looked down at the paper I had jotted down a few ideas on. I was getting anxious to leave, I wanted to get to my laptop and start writing. Without thinking, I wrote a single item on the paper. Words.

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As simple as the bubbles were, they proved over and over that they would last for a long, long time. I didn’t really need my laptop. Nor the programs I have installed on it to help me write most effectively. There were 3 tools I needed to tell my story. They are as old as dirt, and part of my day to day life.

First I need a method to record my ideas. Any old pen will do. Then I must have the means to hold those ideas. A notebook, a piece of paper, even the napkin on my plate. It doesn’t matter, as long I have those two I can begin.
But the most important tool I need is the same, regardless of how they are being recorded.
WORDS.
Words are the glue to our life. They help us communicate with not only those around us, but ourselves (come on, admit it: you talk to yourself too!) Words are used for direction, instructions, and to express our feeling. Words are the ultimate tool of the storyteller. After all, words have been the way we communicate since the caveman.
As the storyteller, it’s our job to pick through the words and pick the ones that help us connect with our readers, create the feeling of the sharing a great story while pulling them into our tale. It’s the words that are the tool of our trade. Not the fancy computer, or the umpteen writing programs we all try.
Just the words!
Our words alone are the tool of the writer that must be constantly sharped and used. It’s up to us to sort through the millions of words and find the ones that convey not only the storyline, but also feel the story is trying to tell. Words are the mightiest tool we have and if we want to be successful, we must use them wisely. Using the right words will set the tone for your story, making it a romance or a thriller; a fantasy or a scary tale of horror. Your words can make your reader laugh out loud, or cry with sadness.

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So remember, all the fun and shiny programs, computers, fancy journals or pretty pens don’t make you a writer—your words do!

It’s a Mega Sale!

Good morning! It’s still dark here in south Florida, but I wanted to get this info to you early so you don’t miss out.

I’m thrilled to be part of the ” Cozy Mystery Mega Sale” and am so very thankful for all the hard work Ava Mallory did putting this together. There are over 100 books and all of them are $.99 or free!

With fall almost here, the nights will be long and perfect for reading, so stock up now. This is the perfect opportunity to try out a new author. (Remember to leave reviews for the books you read, please.)

You will find two of my Citrus Beach Mysteries included: Murder for Neptune’s Trident and Trouble has a Tail.

 

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click here to go to sale!

It’s a short sale, so don’t miss out!! I won’t hold you up any longer; there’s a lot of books to look over.

Happy Reading!

Victoria LK Williams

Sharing the Toys…er…Tools

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Toys, toys, toys, oh the shiny toys.
Oops, I really mean tools! Because as writers we don’t have time to play, do we?

Summertime is my time for writing. The other times of the year I’m busy with my landscape business. So this is when I get to explore what’s up-and-coming in the industry, all those wonderful things I put aside during my busy season. Now I can finally read books on my list about the industry as well as for entertainment.
And speaking of entertainment, even though these tools  seem self-indulgent, they are meant to grow my writing experience and business, but I have to it admit they are fun. Maybe it’s learning a new skill, exploring the possibilities of what your book can do, or making fun graphics for your promotions, it feels more like play and work. This summer I’ve indulged in a few new toys

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Kindle Rocket this is a great tool for helping you understand the keywords you need to promote your book and find out what books you’re competing against in your own category.
KD Spy. Another new tool to help you with promotions. Picking the right categories and niches and positioning yourselves and your book where it needs to be.
Natural Reader. Oh my gosh, the mistakes this thing finds for me! I use this tool to read back my work in progress letting me catch mistakes of my eyes don’t see. (The only thing to keep in mind; if you want to make corrections as you read, you’ll need to get the software, not the online app.)
Covers Sell Books. I will freely admit that this is the most fun I’ve had in a long time. This program will let you take your book cover to create a 3-D picture you can use for making ads and post for all the major sites. But beware, hours can be lost using this program.

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These are just four of the many programs out there. Most of these programs will have a free trial. And I encourage you to use it. As indie authors everything about putting our books out for sale falls on our shoulders. Why not find it used the tools will help you achieve your goals?

Victoria LK Williams

*I have not received any benefits from any of the above companies-I simply wanted to share what I have used to help me in my writing. 

Go ahead-walk away!

Hey-You!

Sometimes you need to stand up, push the chair in and walk away from the desk!

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We all work hard, there is no denying this, but at some point the hard work turns in to that phase where you feel like the little mouse on the wheel, running in circles and not getting anywhere. And sometimes, it’s hard to see when you need to take a break from the writing.

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Whether it’s a ten-minute break, or a long weekend, or a real vacation; you need to take time to recharge.
“Oh, no I can’t do that! I’m on a deadline.” (or something to that effect) Runs through your head and you dig in your heels, pulling the keyboard closer, like a security blanket. But even a child has to give up the blanket so it can be washed. Letting go will be equal to washing of a blanket.
Once all the clutter and tangled thoughts are allowed to settle down, it’s much easier to look at them and decide what you need to keep and what should be let go. Walk away and let your ideas slow down. The brilliant idea you had months ago isn’t working, so put it aside until the time is right. Come back and look at it again with a fresh perspective.
I think we get trapped in our writing environment and miss out on so much. How can you write about something when you’re shut in an office for hours, only seeing the screen in front of you? Where are you getting your inspiration from? I don’t mean inspiration for the big picture, but for the details. How do you know what the sound of the wind in the trees, the feel of sunlight on your skin, the smells of cut grass are like if you don’t take a second and actually put yourself in the middle of these things? And it is the little details like this that make your story come alive for the reader.

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By freeing our mind, we are opening it up to the possibilities of new ideas and solutions. That clue you were looking for? Suddenly it’s crystal clear. The conversation you were trying to write, but it was coming off stilted? Now it feels as if your characters are in the room with you talking. The little details are easier to spot and you may not feel so overwhelmed.
I had to be reminded of this just this week. Moaning and groaning, I gave in and went on a day trip with my husband. We visited an old favorite place, enjoying the peaceful walks through the gardens, had a wonderful dinner and talked. And as we talked and laughed, teasing and joking about different things, the ideas began to form. By the time we got home that night, I had the plot for two new books.
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The added bonus; I was able to talk with my husband about the ideas, and he had some of his own. They were jokes at first, but as the ideas nestled into my brain, I was caught up in the possibilities. Now they are written down for future development.
As you can see, taking a break worked out very well for me. And most authors that I talk to agree with me.

Sometimes you need to turn off the computer and let the little grey cells do their thing.

Victoria LK Williams

Writing is Hard Work, not a Hobby!

 

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I love to listen to U-tube as I drive. There is some great information out there that not only educates you, but can also amuse and stimulate your thoughts. Most of what I listen to is about the writing craft; from the words on the page to selling those words. Yesterday I ran across not one, but two hilarious videos  about what not to say/ask a writer. I was laughing so hard, the other drivers around me had to think I was nuts.

I agreed with 90% of what the authors said, but 100% on the question “how’s your hobby doing”. It got me thinking…

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Anyone who has sat down and wrote a book will agree that this is not a hobby. It’s darn hard work. Time consuming, energy draining, mind shattering work! So, I thought I’d share with the potential writer (or the helpful person who just doesn’t get it) my process. There are things I’m sure I’ve missed, and this is a broad over-view. Each item on this list has multiply levels and tons of details that need to be taken care of. Every author has their own process, the things that are important to producing their books.

For the new writers-I hope this helps guides you through the process. For the friends and family looking in from the sidelines, I hope this opens your eyes to the reason we spend so much time on each book. And I thank those of you on the sidelines for all your support-we need it to keep going.writing process for me

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Victoria LK Williams