Thursday’s Thoughts on Writing ~ Introverts, Interaction, Networking & Community

Writers need to write.

It’s simple enough. Rather basic, really. No big surprise there. But when you look in greater detail at what successful writers do, there’s more to it than just writing (or writing well).

Writers need to network. They need a #WritingCommunity.

Image result for lone wolfWait. What? But aren’t we all shy? Lone wolves doing our own thing, fearful of leaving our safe writing spots and interaction and (gasp) conversation. With other people?!?!

I’m what you’d call a severe introvert. I wouldn’t say I’m shy, I’ve seemed to have outgrown that throughout the years, but I’m horrible at small talk. Bad at starting conversations with strangers. I’ve read that people like being asked questions about themselves, but I can’t seem to do that, either. Sometimes, when people ask me questions, it feels like the Inquisition. It seems cruel to do that to someone else.

Isn’t this the way you’re supposed to be as a writer?

Image result for writer's digest conventionThen what are all the conventions about? Big gatherings of people – who write – all across America, held for the purpose of meeting, talking, networking. How does this work, exactly? And how do we learn to step out of our comfort zone to join the chaos  nightmare  fun?

Are there enough writers who are extroverts? Do they carry the conversation for all of us, or are they the only ones getting networking done? I need a large dose of courage, stat!

Next month I’m attending my first conference. Just me and several hundred strangers. That’s not uncomfortable at all. Gulp. 😨

I’ve read up on what I’m supposed to do. I’ve checked Twitter to see who’s posting and what’s trending about the event. In this case, very little indeed. So there’s really no one to follow, no one to ‘pre-meet’ before the event from behind the safety of an electronic device, no way to integrate myself into a ‘social’ group beforehand. Unless I make it happen.

Twitter is the #1 recommendation I’ve seen for introverts trying to prepare for writer events. Since tweeting takes very little effort, I’m going to try building my ‘pack’, see if anyone connects with me if I try throwing myself out there. If anyone reading this is going to the 2018 New England Crime Bake, (and is not opposed to a little pre-conference convo), send me an email (AuthorShannonHollinger@gmail.com) or a message in the comment section below.

If anyone’s been to some of these events before, and has some advice, I’d love to hear it!

Image result for lone wolfIn the meantime, I’m researching members of the panel, familiarizing myself with everyone and everything that I  can so I don’t get struck mum and wind up regretting that I didn’t say a word to anyone the entire time. This lone wolf is ready for action, prepared for stranger danger and ready to say some words! (I think hope am!)

 

 

Poll: Which book did you find more suspenseful?

For this week’s poll, I’d love to know which of the following popular, mid-twentieth century novels you found most suspenseful. If you haven’t read them, no worries, I want to know that, too!

You may notice that all have been made into movies, some multiple times – because the movies vary so widely in style (ie. The Haunting of Hill House aka The Haunting 1963 vs 1999 versions vs 2018 TV series), please don’t base your vote on a film version.

 

Update from the last poll:

poll results 1

5 Considerations for Your Author Website

Image result for author platformsFor years I’ve kept my author website and my blog separate. I’m not sure why. Maybe I wanted to keep my author identity and blogging persona as two distinct entities. Maybe I wanted different analytics for each one to see which got more traffic. Or maybe I just Image result for author platformslike being difficult.

Regardless of the true reason, I have now merged the two, porting over my author domain to my blog host. AdventuresinThirtysomething the blog can now be found under the ‘posts’ tab on ShannonHollinger.com. 

As I’ve been making the transition, updating and condensing material, I keep asking myself – what, exactly, should an author page entail? There’s so much hype about branding and presence and social media that figuring out what to focus on to streamline the process can be overwhelming.

There are no cut and dry rules. I did a quick study of some other author’s pages, both those well established in their careers and those just starting out, and came up with the following 5 areas of focus:

1) How easy is the site to navigate? Can you easily find what you’re looking for? Is the site sparse, tasteful or cluttered? 

2) How is the author’s “voice” represented? Is the tone casual, professional, personalized? Do you get a sense of the author from their ‘About’ page?

3) How is the author photographed? How are they posed, dressed, smiling? Is it a studio head shot? An outdoor candid? Do they show their personal style, or do they appear conservative for mass appeal?

4) What does the author place emphasis on? Is their site a billboard for their books, or a platform to meet their readers? 

5) How well kept is the site? Are there broken links? Is the information up-to-date? Is the author’s social media presence well represented, or do they suggest you check out their MySpace page?

An author website doesn’t need to be a full-time job. If there’s anything you want to add to the list, any must haves, please don’ts, or random observations, I’d love to hear them!

 

 

 

Writing with Emotional Power

One of the best lessons I’ve learned recently is that good writing is a form of manipulation. When an author manipulates the emotions of both their characters and their readers, the story resonates on a deeper level with the reader. The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass is an excellent resource if you want to learn how to make your writing connect with your readers on a more visceral level. Below are some of the notes I’ve made after reading the book:

28915986* Don’t just write about the emotions your character is experiencing, but about the experience they are having to endure. Make your reader experience their journey, too.

* Pay attention to the details; have your character ruminate about the big impact of small events or the easily overlooked ramifications of major plot twists.

* Your characters’ emotions have more impact when they have personal significance to your readers, something the reader can relate to and understand, which is much more impactful than just the ‘fact’ that your character feels a certain way.

* Have a character become aware of the meaning of something small and common and everyday that they ‘just now realize’.

* “Plot events are what happen. Inner moments give those events meaning. Together they both shelter and lead the reader somewhere new.” ~ Donald Maass

* Pacing involves emotion, not just plot. There need to be emotional shifts, fluctuations, and growth entwined with the story-line and action.

Image result for readre emotions * Stakes should be personal to your character. Increase the emotion by having your character choose between the morally correct choice and the choice that is better for them personally. Make your readers feel the angst of the conflict.

* Your protagonist should discover something unexpected about his/herself over the course of the story, an epiphany about something deep at their core that makes them who they are. They should change and evolve.

* All plot events can be opportunities to manipulate emotions. Use them.

Image result for writing* Make the reader take an active role and get their ‘wheels turning’ – make them develop their own insight into the character, make them consider a moral decision your character has to make, make them think about your character and the character’s choices . . . even when they aren’t reading.

* Characters with good values are more appealing. A character committed to justice, family, self-sacrifice or just ‘doing the right thing’ hooks readers better than a character after fame, fortune, or a self-serving agenda.

* Make your story more compelling by creating a sense of hope. Make your readers fear that the hope won’t be fulfilled.

* After writing your first draft, decide what hurt your protagonist most, then plant seeds throughout the story that suggest that they are particularly vulnerable to the source of that pain.

What I’ve taken away most is that in order to write compelling fiction, you need to find a way to develop a personal connection between your readers and your story and characters. When readers feel invested in the outcome, it becomes harder for them to put the book down. Give them something to root for, something to fear, and above all else, make them feel and care.

If you have any suggestions or tips you’d like to add, I’d love to hear them! 

Please introduce yourself and what you write if you feel so inclined . . . we’re all in this together and I consider you a member of my #writingcommunity! I look forward to connecting with you here and on social media, and am open to guest bloggers who’d like to share their knowledge or experiences!

 

 

 

 

5 Forensic Tips for Your Fiction

I love getting caught up in a good, suspenseful mystery. I love losing myself in the world the author has created, book (or Kindle) clenched in a white knuckled grasp as the protagonist closes in on the villain. What I don’t love is when the author does a forensic See the source imagebelly flop.

Often times it’s a lack of research, a simple mistake caused by confusion, or a reliance on what is shown on TV shows, but it can jar readers right out of the pages of a story when they trip on a “that’s not right” moment. Conversely, going the extra mile by including some factual science can draw a reader deeper into the story because you’re constructing a more realistic world for them to get lost in.

I no longer work in forensics, and I’ll be the first to admit that my wheels are a little rusty, but here are 5 tips (based on my biggest pet peeves) to strengthen the forensics in your writing.

Image result for blood spatter analysis1) When referencing blood, it’s spatter, not splatter!!! This mistake drives me absolutely insane, probably because it’s so common. Seriously. From TV shows to books released by major publishing houses to those published by indie writers, I see this all the time, and it’s simply not correct. (On a side note, the cast off of a blood pattern can tell a detailed story of an attack – it’s worth a little research to bring this element of your story to life. ) Please, make my world a better place and tell everyone you know – blood spatters, paint splatters.

Image result for dna2) No matter what your sleuth’s connections, they’re not getting immediate DNA results. It just doesn’t work that way. If you need a way to provide a means of getting information into your character’s hands more quickly, check out what serology can tell you.

Image result for forensic burial recovery3) If buried remains are recovered in your story, either skeletal or in any stage of decomposition, the professional recovering the remains isn’t just after the body. Some authors include screening the soil, usually having the analyst recover rivets from jeans, zippers, etc. This is correct, but only a tiny fraction of what the process actually entails. The recovery person or team will pedestal the body, removing the soil from the top and sides of the remains, documenting the location of any artifacts found around the body, and screening the dirt. They will also be looking for insect casings, which can help determine the time of year a body was interred, and they’ll collect soil samples for volatile fatty acid analysis to help establish TSD (time since death). With a little quick research, you can make this scene in your novel or short story much more memorable and impactful.

Image result for fingerprint4) Any time I read a fingerprint scene, it’s so boring! And I’ll admit, fingerprint classification is tedious, but collecting them doesn’t have to be! Check out alternative methods (and the situations they are used in) to add a little spice to your scene. From superglue fumes to metal filings, there’s a more interesting way! (Also, don’t forget that other ‘prints’ can sometimes be lifted, like shoe prints.) But remember – fingerprints aren’t always present, and there are surfaces that do not lend themselves to collection.

Image result for evidence collection5) I’ve read too many books in which evidence collection is just a random handoff of plastic baggies. This is not true! First, the collection of evidence is a very detailed and controlled process. Besides everything being photographed in situ before collection, not just anyone on scene handles the collection. A chain of custody for the evidence must be created and maintained, with certain information either labeled or written on the collection container, including the initials of who collected it. Finally, the container will be sealed with a tamper proof sticker or tape that will not allow the evidence to be opened and contaminated without obvious signs. Also, what a piece of evidence is determines what is used to collect it. For example, a bloody shirt would be collected and packaged in a paper bag, not a plastic evidence container. I’d love to read a story where some really wild stuff is collected as evidence – imagine how creative you could get – or make your characters have to get to collect it!

What are your pet peeves that you hate to read in books? Do you have any items you’d like to add to the list? Any forensic question in particular that you need an answer to? If so, I’d love to hear from you!

Please introduce yourself and what you write if you feel so inclined . . . we’re all in this together and I consider you a member of my #writingcommunity! I look forward to connecting with you here and on social media, and am open to guest bloggers who’d like to share their knowledge or experiences!