A few of my favorite tools

 

shutterstock_227270773

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.

shutterstock_338731511
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.

Writer.

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

BookBrushImage-2019-5-29-15-3842

Advertisements

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.

20190318_111906
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.

shutterstock_247865356
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.

shutterstock_92158444
So, prepare yourself as you walk along the shores of a writer and don’t get caught in the riptides.

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.

original_327102476
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.

rendered (14)
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.

shutterstock_269911703
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

Writing is Hard Work, not a Hobby!

 

shutterstock_360771284

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…

my staff & writing space

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

shutterstock_351834056

Victoria LK Williams

Author- know your Characters!

How well do you know your characters?

Are they close, like a best friend, or are they a vague notion on a piece of paper?

Untitled design
The characters will determine the intimacy of how much you get to know them. Minor characters are like ships passing in the night, and there may not be a reason to go in depth about what makes them tick. But, for your protagonist and the sidekick it’s essential. Even for the antagonist is essential – almost as much as the protagonist.
Although you can’t put everything  about your characters down on paper, you should know them. Be familiar with them as you are with your family-even better. After all, they are your creation and you need to understand how and why your character reacts to something you are plotting.
Now granted, just like human beings, your characters will change in time as you go from book 1 to book 10. They must, or they will become flat and boring. A perfect example of this is Harry Potter. If the young wizard had stayed the same frighten boy living under the stairs, you would have never read the rest of the series to learn of all the wonderful adventures (and dangers) that he faced while fighting the evil Lord Voldemort.
Expect that your characters will grow, just as you grow as a writer. Knowing your characters inside and out isn’t just knowing they have blond hair and blue eyes, or they have a southern accent.

Knowing your character involves understanding how they react to situations we, the writer, put them into. How will your hero react to criticism or complement? How will your heroine react when faced with danger or romance?
As a writer, I think we have to know ourselves in order to answer these questions about our characters. Be honest; isn’t a part of us in each one of our characters?

shutterstock_367013954 - Copy
There are always different character profiles and different ways to come up with them.   Some great computer programs are available to  help you  keep track of all the details. Or perhaps a good old-fashioned piece of paper in a notebook. There you can jot down the traits of your character, both physical and physiological.
I’ve found character casting is a lot of fun. This is where you find pictures of people you think would be like your character, not only in looks but in actions. I love to use pictures of actors from old shows I loved. I remember what the actor’s charter was like, and that’s the picture I borrow for my casting.

I’ve seen or used all of these methods. I feel the ones which work best ask questions about your characters, causing you think beyond the obvious. These methods don’t simply have you filling in the blanks about how tall is your character or their eye color. Instead, they asked the questions about what is your characters favorite childhood memory, what is your character afraid of.
See the difference between the two types of questions? Even if you don’t write everything down, I think a good writer needs this information back of her head.   Putting it down on paper just keeps a clear.
So, let me be noisy and ask you this; is your relationship with your character like a first date, where you’re just trying to find out things about them to decide if there will be a second date? Or does it feel as if you’re in a 50-year-old marriage and you can finish each other’s sentences?

shutterstock_366634616
If you’re still in the dating stage, I suggest you ask more questions. You need to know your characters; you might need to reign them in one day when they take your story in a different direction. If you don’t know how they will react, your story will get away from you. When it gets out of your control, then how will you be able to keep the reader interested?
How do you get to know your character? Share your methods with us.

www.VictoriaLKWilliams.com

Goodbye?

Yes!  

shutterstock_351834056
Well, I’ve reached my word count for the April 2018 Camp NaNo challenge. As a matter fact, I went over my word count. And that’s a great feeling of satisfaction.
But, along with that satisfaction comes the knowledge I haven’t completely finished the book. There’s still more work to do; I have to come up with my ending.
 For me, the ending is the hardest part. I know what I want my characters to do; I know how the mystery has to end. Often, I might have more than one ending in mind, and I only need to choose which one best fits the directions my characters took me in.
And even though I have this knowledge, I still find the endings are hard. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to say goodbye to my characters. They’ve become such a part of me, as I’ve written these stories. The thought of shutting the doors on their adventures is a little sad.

shutterstock_1073247623
But wait — that’s why I write in a series!
 I don’t have to say goodbye to my characters; they can keep having adventures– as long as I can come up with ideas. As a matter-of-fact, some of my ideas are calling for spin-off series with minor characters from the main story. Now they are branching off on their, own seeking their adventures. Isn’t that great? I’m giving myself endless possibilities for new stories. Believe me, I will never in my lifetime be able to write all the outlines I’ve come up with. Mainly because I keep coming up with new ones. But I will have fun trying.

BOXSET1a
There’s always the next story sitting on my desk waiting for me. Sometimes I sneak into it to add a line or two of outline, or I might even write the first chapter. Sometimes an idea just grabs hold of you and have to get  it on paper. I may rewrite it later, but the ideas needs to get out of my head, and onto paper. This will free my mind to continue with the work in progress.

Meanwhile, on my desk is my current WIP, waiting for my attention.
Speaking of which, now I need to make a decision. Do I kill somebody in the story ending? Or perhaps a more gentle ending is called for, maybe a romance can work better?
See what I mean?

This is why endings are so hard for me. Because there are so many directions to take them. So, I guess I’m like my reader, I’ll have to wait until I decide which way to finish the story.

17692947 - beagle dog wearing glasses reading book
17692947 – beagle dog wearing glasses reading book

 
 Or rather, my characters will tell me which way they want to go to find out their ending. 

 

VictoriaLKWilliams.com

Far, Far Away…

Don’t mistake that faraway look in my eyes as boredom.
No, I’m not ignoring you either, and I’m far from falling asleep.

Writer.
Writer.

What I’m doing is plotting. There are ideas all around us and sometimes you must stop and think about how one little item that caught your interest can work into a story. How one little phrase you overheard can be worked into a conversation. Or maybe it’s a news item you saw the night before, that’s been sitting in the back of your mind, wondering how it can create an alternative universe or whole new world and a completely different series.
I would say half of my writing time is spent daydreaming. But not daydreaming in a useless way. These daydreams are a productive thought gathering, plotting exercise. Let’s face it our minds are our biggest tools, probably the only tool we need, other than a writing devise. When we let allow our thought to wander where-ever they want, we can produce some great concepts.
If we don’t use this tool regularly, it will become dull and foggy. We need to sharpen our minds and use it to the fullest potential possible. This might mean thinking of things outside of the realm of your normal everyday expectations. If you don’t use those tools and you allow them to become dull and unproductive, you’re heading down the road to writer’s block, I’m sure of it.

images
Fortunately, I have a very active imagination and I love to tell stories; never seeming to run out of ideas. Instead the opposite happens. Too many ideas bounce around in my head, often causing difficulty in concentrating on one story line at a time. Thankfully, I’ve never experienced writer’s block.
I keep my mind sharp and I keep thinking and imagining: creating scenarios out of nothing, forming conversations between characters and asking a lot of “what ifs. A good exercise is to have somebody just toss you a word. See what you can do with it; whether it’s a phrase, an object or an action— weave it into your story. Give your story on a new twist, make your characters do something unexpected. Remember if it holds your interest, it will also hold your readers.

shutterstock_448811584
Find a way of recording those ideas, be a pen and paper or your phone or your computer. Jot them down when you get them and please, don’t tell yourself that you’ll remember. It seems the minute you do this, you’ve already set yourself up to forget them. Honestly, with so many thoughts going to our mind daily just with our everyday actions it’s sometimes impossible to remember what we need to get through the day.
Don’t discard an idea or thought path simple because it doesn’t fit your current work in progress. Jot it down and put it in a file for future work. Keeping a file of ideas is another way to fight writer’s block or adding a twist to your story that will keep it original and interesting.
So, what did you see or hear today that created a “what if idea”?

www.VictoriaLKWilliams.com

Everyone loves a Gift

Untitled design

Surprise!

We all love to receive a gift, especially a thoughtful gift that was picked up just for us. The more thought put into the gift the more it affects us and the more we treasure it. Unusual gifts tend to target the heartstrings little bit more.
For example, I’ve a customer who ever year his wife goes out-of-town to visit relatives. As soon as she leaves, he has me design a different section of her garden. One year was a butterfly garden, another year  the front flower garden, another year a herb garden. each year she comes back delighted and surprised with his gift that will last for years.

***
This got me thinking about our characters in our books.
Do you give your characters a special or unusual gift during your story? Does this gift play an important part of the story’s progression? Did your character receive their gift either by some magical way or possibly by a loved one or maybe even a mysterious gift left by the doorstop?

I hadn’t thought about it, but my characters have all received gifts. For example, in book number five of the Citrus Beach Series (A Tank Full of Trouble) Aiden surprised Megan as he keeps sending making mysterious while he was out-of-town. Each gift leads up to a grand conclusion.

Miss Marple
In my upcoming series Storm Voices, my main character, McKenzie, is given a beautiful little gray kitten help her as she recovers from… well you’ll just have to read it and find out. These are gifts that are beyond the normal birthday, Christmas, or anniversary gift, they’re something special that our characters are not expecting and play a major role in the plot line of story.
What books have you read where the characters have been given special gift? Was it a gift of love, magic or surprise? As a writer, you have the ability to give your character something unusual that can be used in ongoing story lines.

shutterstock_448811584

And authors, remember as much as we enjoyed getting gifts ourselves, our characters enjoy it to.

Use this to push your story forward and draw the reader into the life of your characters.

 

It’s all about the prep.

Don’t prepare and you might be preparing to fail.
No matter what you’re doing, the job is always easier when you prepare for it ahead of time. Whether you’re cooking a new recipe, planting a garden, building a bookshelf, or writing a book —preparation is the key to success.

There are those that say they are Pantsers and there are those say they are Plotters…

shutterstock_176225708
But, I think, all in all, each of us does a bit of preparation before we sit down to write that first word. We have a general idea of what our book it’s going to be about. Who are main characters will be and the central setting we will create. A Pantser might stop right there and start writing. On the other hand, a plotter (like me) will sit down and do an outline. We want to get as much preparation done before we start making, making the writing process flow.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, there will be changes. Something comes up that makes your story go in a different direction, but if the outline is done and your notes are organized, then it’s easy enough to adjust and move on.
And so tomorrow begins the month of July. This is one of three months that I participate in NaNoWriMo. To me the preparation for this month (as well as April and November) are critical to my success. Writing 50,000 words in 30 days is more than a challenge it’s a conquest!

shutterstock_338731511
Today is June 30th, and I wait with bated breath for midnight. Why? Because I’m ready to go. My outline is complete, I’ve got my first scene is written in my head and I’m just counting the hours to start. Yet, I can also look back and remember when there were times that I wasn’t so prepared. Because of this, I wasted precious time and word counts trying to figure out where I was going.
To all of you who have no preparations set out–there is less than 24 hours to be prepared. Turn off that TV and get ready!
And to all of you who are prepared and are waiting for that stroke of midnight-—good luck. I hope Camp NaNo is a rousing success and at the end of the 30 days you are pleased. Then you will hold a rough draft of your book in your hands, ready to edit and publish.

shutterstock_562756204
Happy Writing!

Use a bit of Sense

When developing a character, I like to think of everything. it’s almost as if I place my character on it examination table.   I go over him from limb-to-limb, cell-to-cell, wondering what makes him tick.

I recently wanted to create a new character and take away one of his senses, but which one which would he lose? Then I thought, well which one would I lose willingly – or, at least, miss the least.

shutterstock_357229451

Would have been my sense of sight? Would I miss watching a morning sunrise or looking into the face of a loved one? Would I miss looking into a garden seeing all the flowers in full bloom or watching a child take his first step? How could I enjoy a quiet snowfall or a thundering storm? No, this isn’t the sense I could lose.

shutterstock_421214461

Maybe I wouldn’t mind losing the sense of smell? Goodness knows there’s enough things to smell throughout my day; the sweet scents coming from my garden flowers or the spicy fragrance from the herbs. Or, that home cooked meal, made from scratch, that you know will stay with you for the whole evening. Or the aroma of the first cup of coffee in the morning, helping wake you up to face your day. No, the sense of smell helps me get through the day, so I don’t want to lose that one either.

shutterstock_185011271

What about the sense of hearing? I have two ears – would it be so awful to lose the sense of sound, or diminish the ability, from just one ear?  Then I remember the beautiful music that gets me through the day, and the sound of laughter from my friends as we share a quiet joke. Or the voice of the newscaster as he tells us what went on during the day and, most importantly, the sounds of my loved ones. No, even though I have two ears, this is one sense I do not want to lose either.

shutterstock_163877546

And what about the sense of taste? It goes along with your sense of smell, but the sense of taste can also protect by keeping you from eating something that is bad. Yet, the special flavor of certain ingredients can help you devour a whole chocolate bar and smile afterwards. Certain distinguishing flavors can bring back memories of food  you’ve had before, like a seasonal fruit. There’s nothing like biting into that first strawberry of the season, or the Christmas cookies only gets baked once a year. While I might lose some weight if I lost my sense of taste, I wouldn’t want to give it up for one pound.

shutterstock_116494774

Then there’s the sense of touch. This is sense can offer us protection by warning you if you are near something too hot or cold. It allows us the luxury of feeling a soft cashmere sweater on your skin, the sweet kiss from your lover. Or the sensation of the smoothness of our baby’s skin and the silkiness of your dog’s soft fur. I wouldn’t want to miss out on the joys the sense of touch can bring either.

I ponder long and hard, finally deciding I don’t want to lose any of my five senses. And it would be cruel-hearted to make my character loose one of theirs. How could I relate to what they’re going through when I can’t experience it myself? Besides, it would make for one miserable character.

So, cherish each of your senses and remember them as you write.

Let your characters feel all they are capable of. Weave each of the 5 senses into your words, so your reader knows what the character is feeling and experiencing.