Tink...tink...tink...anyone out there? Hi! I'm Barbara Donlon Bradley - Author - editor and slightly crazy - ask anyone in my family. I hope to use this blog to talk about writing, editing and whatever pops in my head. Hope you enjoy.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Random Thoughts: My Characters Follow me Everywhere

I'm not sure if anyone else has the problem I do, but this new series of mine is like walking around with a bunch of people in my head. I work in retail as a merchandiser so I'm constantly talking to people, which I love. I'm a people person. But when I'm working on my latest MS, my characters are right there talking to me at the same time. It's a little distracting when they're whispering in my ears about what they want in a scene or which scene they think should be next while a customer is asking where something is.

I know I talk out loud to myself too. I remember several years ago I was working and talking out loud and a customer came down the isle I was working on. Out of the corner of my eye I saw him give me a wide berth as he went around me. I had to laugh.

"It's okay. I do talk out loud to myself."

"As long as you don't answer yourself."

"Hey, sometimes it's the only time I can have an intelligent conversation."

That made him laugh and realize I wasn't some crazy lady - okay so I am a little crazy, but I try not to flaunt it too much.

This taught me to try to keep my thoughts to myself, especially if I'm working through a scene. There is no way anyone, but another author, would understand what I'm doing. They'd just give me a jacket with extra long sleeves and put me in a padded room. Can't type with those sleeves.

I just wish I could ride in the HOV lane with all these people in my head, but I'm not sure a policeman would understand. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Writing Down the Bones: Writer's Block

So you're writing along. The words are flowing and then all the sudden you hit a brick wall. Not literally, but mentally. The words stop coming. You sit in front of your computer and find it hard to string two words together. The computer stares back, blank, empty. What do you do?

There are several ways to try to get the creative juices to flow again.

Try to sit and write for fifteen minutes a day. Even if all you get out is a sentence that you ended up erasing you did write.

You can try working on something else. Sometimes it's another story, sometimes it's gardening. I work through scene ideas while I'm merchandising, but I have the kind of job that involves a lot of busy work so I can free my mind and let it go do what it needs to do and I have been caught talking out loud to myself because of it. Thank goodness for Bluetooth, if no one is paying any attention they think I'm on the phone.

If you use the computer all the time then grab a pen and paper and try that. If you use pen and paper then transfer it to your writing program, try writing on in that program. If you write at a desk try sitting outside, or in a comfortable chair. If you write in silence try listening to music. I write while the TV is on. I'm able to drown it out as background noise.

Try free writing. If you can't think of anything dealing with your WIP write whatever you want. It might help steer you back to the story that has stymied you.

You could try to visualize what you are trying to write. Sometimes that helps. With all the different social medias I'd try one like Pinerest. Some of the images I see are awe inspiring. Maybe the pictures there will help get your creative juices flowing. Other authors post pictures of their characters, clothing they might wear, rooms or locations where their scenes might happen. You could do the same thing and it might help to get the words to flow again.

There is only one thing I can say about writing, don't ever give up. There times when you find it hard to put one word after the other. Just about every author has had that happen to them, but we work through it. You will too.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Random Thoughts: How my Male Hero from the Vespian Way Would Handle Valentine's Day

I love Valentine's Day. It doesn't matter if I get a card or a box of chocolates as long as my husband acknowledges the day. Now I think I need to warn everyone that we've been married twenty-eight years now and I might tease him that I'll change him in for two twenty-something year olds - that number changes as we get older, but he is my best friend and I wouldn't change him for anything in the world. He is my heart.

Now I sound like my characters in the Vespian Way series.

That is the one thing I haven't been able to work into my SF stories. Normally my stories take place on another planet so our holidays wouldn't be the same but with the holiday coming up I wonder what my hero would do to make the day special.

Can you see how these characters are always on my mind? It's kind of crazy.

I know Storm would take advantage of it. The man has a libido that doesn't stop. If it means he'll be intimate with Heather he'd do it.

Storm would do the research from Earth and have their bedroom decked out out in candles and rose petals. There would be chocolate covered strawberries, and champagne, even though Earth's alcohol doesn't effect him. Soft music would play in the background.

And then he'd wait in anticipation...

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Writing Down the Bones: Formatting

When you submit your manuscripts do you read the publishers submission guidelines? Do they make sense to you? As an editor I'm always amazed at how the manuscript isn't in the proper font, or the proper size for the font (which is why I decided to talk about this). How many underline instead of use italics. So I went looking. I didn't get far. I went to Loose ID, Samhain (which by the way are part of Ellora's Cave), Melange Books (where I edit and publish short stories), and Phaze (my publisher for my longer books. Phaze, Hardshell Word Factory, Awe-Struck are part of Mundania Press). Loose ID, Samhain, Melange Books, Phaze - none of them have the same information for submitting to them so it's not like there is a standard grid all electronic publishers use. Yet writing for two publishers I know there are basic things they all want.

So here's what I know:

Electronic publishers normally want 1 inch margins all around, left justified, Times New Roman font, one space between sentences (not the two you learned in school) and they want it in RTF. All manuscripts and synopsis are to be attached to your e-mail, not in the body of that e-mail. The only thing you should put in your e-mail is your letter.

If you plan on using italics in your ms, use them instead of underlining. The large conglomerates might still tell you to underline, but most small press/electronic don't.

Here's where things can change from publisher to publisher. Although RTF is a good universal doc, some will take Word. You need to check with the publisher you intend to submit to if you want to use Word to make sure they take it. Not all publishers will accept Word Documents, but it does seem to be an industry standard.

Not all word programs are compatible, even when you convert it to RTF. I just edited one that was done in Open Office - a free beta program and it didn't play well at all with my Word 7 program. It was saved as an RTF, but every time the author addressed the changes I suggested it messed with the formatting. A slight pain since I corrected all the formatting only to have it erased when the author sent it back to me. This is something you should be aware of when writing.

Most publishers want double spaced, but not all. Now a few minutes ago I said single spaced between sentences, and now I'm saying double spaced. So there is no confusion when you were taught to submit papers in school you were told to put  two spaces  between your sentences, where most publishers only want one, which is different than double spaced rows. Here's an example:

Mary walked in the bar. She was followed by three of her friends. (one space between sentences)
Mary walked in the bar.  She was followed by three of her friends. (two spaces between sentences)

Mary walked in the bar. She was followed by three of her friends. (double spaced from the line above)

Most want a point three indent in each paragraph, not point five, which is the default indent in most word programs. If the publisher doesn't have this information in the submission section on their website then the best thing to do is to use the default indent instead of the tab button so your editor can set it to the right indent without a problem.

I also recommend you use page breaks when ending a chapter. I used to try to line up the pages by hitting the enter key until I switched pages, but every time I had something edited that would change. especially if the document had to be converted to RTF or my editor had a different version of Word. It will make you life a little easier. I don't think the publishers care one way or the other. It's one thing I've never gotten a 'hey don't do that' on.

When you do a scene break most seem to like the *. Both of the publishers I work with want four of them, but that is where it ends. One wants no spaces and the other wants spaces between them.

I hope this helps you when formatting your manuscript. Publishers really appreciate it when you do the real basics, it makes their life easier and you never know when something this simple can sell your manuscript or get it rejected.

Barb:)

Monday, February 4, 2013

Random Thoughts: Snow

I love snow. Where I live we don't get it that often, maybe once or twice a year and it rarely sticks so I'm always like a child when it starts. When it blankets everything it's like the world got a clean slate to work with. The silence of it as it falls wraps you in a cocoon, allowing you to forget everything for a moment.

Bundling up and standing in it for a few moments allows me to enjoy the wonder. It clears my soul of all the clutter it has collected for the year. That first snowfall is beautiful. The soft flakes land on my face like kisses, absorbing my frustrations and fears and allowing me to see the world in a different light.

There are times when we all need to forget the clutter that fills our lives and snow does that for me.