Write What You Know-Right?

Write what you know – right?

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For years I heard that advice; write what you know. And to some extent, it was good advice. After all, if you know the subject, you are going to be more involved in it. You will know the ins and outs and consequently be more passionate. But it’s also very limiting. How many times can you write about the same thing before you start boring your readers?

My advice is to write what you want to write.
Write what you dream about, what excites you.

There’s no excuse for saying, “I don’t know about that subject.”  With today’s vast sources of information, you can find out about things in ways we never could have before, even 10 years ago. You don’t need to haul around a thick, heavy encyclopedia anymore! All you have to do is click a button and ask your computer, Seri, Alexa, or Google, and the answer is spoken to you like magic.

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And the ever-increasing number of videos now available on YouTube is another excellent source of information. Pick a video and let yourself explore far-away-places you would never have thought of going, or had the financial means to do so.

Have a question about something? It’s easy enough to ask; just get on a social media outlet and find someone knowledgeable in the area. If they don’t know they may be able to point you in the right direction.

And even if you want a hands-on experience, travel is so easy nowadays. Hop on a plane, rent a vehicle, take a cruise, or go for a train ride. These are all possible now, and many trips can be made on a short weekend jaunt.

Use your writing as an outlet for learning new things. Learn about a trade you never knew about, learn about a culture you’ve never been exposed to. Discover the native flora and animals that live in the area you want to write about. Find out about an unsolved crime, a fantastic discovery…the list goes on!

But don’t over helm your reader with facts. Most of what you find in your research should stay in your notes, not in the pages of your book. Pick two or three really interesting or unusual fact that relates to your storyline and use only those. Keep strictly to the facts, or embellish them to fit your story, it’s up to you. But do not make things up. Your readers will know, and may even call you out on it.

 

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Knowledge has never been so easily accessible. Which means if your book isn’t filled with points of interest for your readers to grab hold of and keep their attention, then shame on you. Boring books should be a thing of the past! We have so many avenues of information to draw from to make our books enjoyable.

Now, go, find the facts that will help you create a great book, and have fun learning some new things.

Victoria LK Williams

 

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Currently Available in e-reader and print formats

 

 

 

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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

Watch out for the Riptides!

If you live anywhere along the coast, you know riptides can be a dangerous problem for the unexpected swimmer. Lifeguards will post warnings, and there are signs along all the beaches that show what to do if you get caught in a riptide.

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But there are other types of riptide’s it affects our lives. And being an indie author, we seem to be swallowed up and rip tides constantly.
When I first started writing, I was dumbfounded when another writer said that writing the rough draft is the easiest part of the process. Little did I know she was probably right.
For me, writing that first draft is pure joy. It’s all about letting my imagination go and letting my words take hold of the page. But once it’s done, the riptide begins to appear; the riptide of all the other things that get in the way of writing the next book.
Just a few of the things that will pull you wonder if you’re not aware and prepared are the editing, publication, and promotion. The hardest parts of being an indie writer. Here are just a few things that can “suck” you under.

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The cover; it helps sell your book. It takes time and work to find the right illustrator. Then you need to convey your thoughts so that she or he can create the cover that will sell your book.
Once you open the book, it’s critical that you’ve taken the time to make the inside just as enticing as that cover. This is where that rough draft becomes a polished piece. Multiple editing drafts might be necessary to get your work to a salable point. Then once the words are right, you need to get it formatted for your readers to enjoy.
Now you’ve got the book ready to go. The next step is to get it out there where the readers can find it. You must determine how you’re going to publish your book. Are you going directly with Amazon or any of the other large distributors or are you going to use an aggregate publisher who will distribute for you?
Okay, step two is done. You’ve written the book, polished it, and published where readers can get it.
But now how do they find your book in among the thousands published every month? The promotional process can sometimes be as aggravating as the writing process itself.
Everything changes so fast, what you did yesterday may not work today. There’s no sitting back on your laurels waiting for the things to happen. You need to stand top of the industry and figure out what the next steps are going to be. You need to learn how to anticipate market trends so that you don’t find yourself falling behind.
Is it easy? No.
Is it necessary? Yes.
I’ve been doing this for almost 6 years, with 15 books published 3 more in that dreaded editing stage. Do I have it all figured out? Course not. Because it’s always changing.
When I first started, it was easy to put a book up on Amazon and help hundreds of downloads and thousands of pages read with very little advertising. But that’s not the way it works anymore. Now, you must be creative, you must find the right advertisers, and most of all you must have faith in yourself that your book will be read.
You need to stay on top of the industry, but more importantly, you need to be working on that next book; because nothing sells a new book than the book before it.

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So, prepare yourself as you walk along the shores of a writer and don’t get caught in the riptides.

Victoria LK Williams

Move the furniture!

Have you ever noticed how some things in your life are so every day that you don’t even think about it? Until something changes.
And I can prove it. Do you remember the opening to the old Dick VanDyke show? Without telling anyone, the characters moved a footstool, and the results are seen again and again in each show opening.

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Now you try it, move that piece of furniture and watch what happens. Some people are going to trip over it, others will walk into it while other people may automatically walk around it without registering what they’re doing. Until they look around trying to figure out what’s different.
I’m a little bit sneaky. I used to wait until my husband was out of town, or late at night when he wouldn’t notice, and that’s when I would rearrange the furniture. The hubby is pretty observant, and within five or six minutes he always seems to catch on to what was happening. But once in a while, I can catch him. Want to really find out what happens? Wait until your kids go away to college and rearrange the room. Then watch their expression when they come home and go to throw their backpack on the bed- and it’s on the other side of the room.
Yes, we form habits in our daily life; the way we walk around furniture, the way you move around your house, and for us writers the way we write. But don’t you want to shake things up once in a while and move a piece of furniture? Or for writers- change things up in the way you write.
Make your characters a little crazy, instead of straightlaced and deadpan. Murder a likable character instead of the villain, give your protagonist unusual traits that you wouldn’t expect. These are a few ways to shake up your writing. It might feel uncomfortable to you as a writer, but the readers will love it. And if you’re honest, you know there are times when you need to shake things up. Who wants to keep reading the same mundane book over and over again. Some tropes are becoming worn out, and that’s why when a writer changes things up just a little bit it catches the reader’s attention. This will help sales and gives you the incentive to write the next book.
So go ahead and move that piece of furniture. Put it right in the way where someone’s going to trip over it and grab their attention. Of course, I’m talking about the metaphoric furniture in your book; we don’t want to do any physical harm to our friends and family.
As a reader, has something caught your attention that a writer has included in the book that you were expecting?

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As a writer, what can you do to change things up, keeping your writing fresh and your readers interested?
If you’ve had experience as a writer or a reader when a store has caught you by surprise, feel free to share!
Happy Writing!

Victoria LK Williams

The Writing Lull

Yup, that’s where I am. The lull before the storm.
The writing storm that is.
I don’t know if other writers go through this or not, but when I finish a book, I always seem to be hesitant to start the next one.
It’s not for lack of ideas or enthusiasm.

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No, it’s that blank page syndrome.
I spent a week getting the outline done, figuring out just to my characters are and developing great settings to continue the series. Technically everything is in place, I’m ready to go, but I just can’t put the words down on the paper. Maybe it’s because I know once I start there’s no stopping, I’ll want to be consumed by the story.
So in the meantime, we have a clean house, I made some cookies, cleaned my office, organized my desk, caught up on all my emails and arranged the folders on my computer. I spent some time on Facebook, got some reading done and explored some research ideas.
In other words, I mastered the art procrastination once again.

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Maybe part of it is because it’s so busy at work with spring, approaching. And the weather has been absolutely perfect down here in Florida, making it hard to stay inside.
So my dilemma is, do I hold off in writing this book and use it as my Camp NaNo challenge? I have the outlines for a couple of novellas done too, so that might be another option.
But I think the realization is that regardless of what I write, I need to be writing. When you take the long gaps away from your desk and that creative juice begins to dry up becomes harder and harder to sit down in front of the computer and commit to your story. Because let’s be honest, there’s always something else could be done, and if you’re not in the right mindset, you’re going to be easily distracted.

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What about you? Do you jump right in and start the next story? Or do you take a break? Maybe you jump right into the editing phase or start promoting your work.
Each writer is different and there is no right answer–except to always keep plotting and writing at your own pace.

VictoriaLKWilliams

Want to connect on FB with other readers & writers who love cozy mysteries?

For the Love of Pets

The modern cozy mystery has something that the old traditional ones doesn’t seem to have… 

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Pets!
Now, by all means, correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t seem to remember any of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot characters having cat or dog as the main character, but today’s cozy mysteries sure do. Mine included.
Maybe it’s because in the day of Agatha Christie pets did not play as significant a role in our lives as they do now. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that people didn’t love their pets in Dame Agatha’s day. But did they catered to them? Did they dress Fido up in Halloween costumes? Were their pet served gourmet pet food? And I bet they sure as heck didn’t have pet, insurance!
But today’s pets are part of our lives, treated as good (or sometimes slightly better) as our children, and pampered like royalty.
So, it only seems reasonable, if pets are that important in our everyday life that they would also be important in our characters daily life?
Personally, I love adding pets to my stories. They can give comic relief and help the reader relate to the main character. A pet can sniff out clues the main character may not have seen, and they have a sense of awareness that humans don’t.

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For instance, in my Citrus Beach Mysteries, my main character has a beagle named Barney and Barney is excellent at sniffing out clues. In book number two, Scent of a Mystery, Barney is the one that finds the first clue, setting the book in motion.
In Storm Voices, Mac is given a little gray kitten. This kitten seems to have mystic abilities, and she definitely knows that there’s something unusual living in the garden of Mac’s home.
If you look at the covers of many cozy mysteries, you’ll find a cat or dog on it; after all was a witch without a cat. Two of my favorite series are Lauren Carr’s Mac Faraday Mystery books and The Cat Who series by Lilian Jackson Braun.
Having a cat, dog, or some other animal in your mystery draws in the animal lover as well as the mystery lover. And let’s face it, an animal can get away with so much more than a human. Nobody is going to yell at the dog or point a gun at him for snooping in the den. And if the cat happens to knock over a valuable clue, it will only seem like her curiosity is coming into play. But if your main character is doing either of those things while searching for clues, then the chances are if they get caught, they will be held at gunpoint by the villain or arrested by the cops.

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Go ahead and include an animal in your story.
Use Fido or FeeFee to your advantage. Let them be the ones to ferret out the clues and warm the cockles of your reader’s hearts.
But be careful-they can easily take over your story, because everyone loves a pet.

Victoria LK Williams

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!

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