Friday, October 31, 2014

How to Write a Short Story or Novel Without Actually Buying A Book About It

Before I begin, let me throw my hands in the air and confess yes, I have bought a couple of these "How-To-Write" books. And yes, there are definitely some good ones out there, for instance, Stephen King's On-Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

But even then, there are just as many bad books as good ones and believe me, your head will spin making sense of them all . Plus there's the question of what to buy, because you'll find a million and one options to choose from. How to write a novel, How not to write a novel, How to write a novel in 30 days, How to write a novel for children, How to write a fantasy, How to market your novel, How to get an agent, How to write a query letter, and so on and so on. Don't take my word for it. Go to Google and type, "How to write a novel," and see what comes up.
Like myself, most of the authors I know have limited funds, and so for them I have decided to compile a list of resources I've used thus far on my
writing journey. The list includes not only the craft of writing, but sites that will help you get your book out there, once it's finally written.

Absolute Write Forums: This has been by far my most valuable resource to date.  The posts in the forums have accumulated over a number of years and you can find the answer to pretty much any kind of writing question there is. But even more importantly, it's a writing community, attended by thousands of people walking similar paths to yourself.  The information there is dynamic, so totally up to the minute. Joining is free, but if you're like me and don't trust free, head over and just lurk for a while. You don't have to say or share a thing until you're ready to, but believe me, most are glad when they do.

 Writer's Digest: Although this is a magazine you can subscribe to, they have an on-line presence and there's generally a ton of useful articles you can read without spending anything at all. for example, in their search field I typed "tips for writing," and came up with an article called 5 Tips On Writing First Drafts by Chuck Sambuchino, which was a particularly interesting read. The home page currently has an interesting article on NanoWriMo month, which starts tomorrow, Nov 1. Go check it out if you have time.

Facebook: Writing is a pretty lonely profession. No one will write that story for you, so for most of us that means hours in front of you computer, armed with your own brain and, if you're lucky, a cup of tea. The great thing about FB is you can hook up with writers of similar interest, or follow the agents and publishers of your genre. Joining writing related groups is a great way to obtain industry specific information, without bugging your family and friends with all the things that you do. It's never too early to make connections and get your name out there, and FB is invaluable for that.

Twitter: Twitter is an excellent way to network with other writers and get your name out there.

Querytracker and Agentquery: The publishing world is incredibly dynamic, and what publishers and agents want to see changes at an alarming rate. You could run out and buy a copy of say, Writers and Artists Year book - but since its updated annually it could cost you a fortune in renewals every year. That said, in addition to lists, the book offers invaluable advice on the how to's of your craft, so there is a lot to be said for buying this one. Just saying. They do have a web site - and there's some useful resources there too.

Its NanoWriMo month starting November 1! The great thing about Nano is you can participate with other writers, who really push you to finally plant your backside on a chair and get the job done. I myself will be on the front line tomorrow - and you can find me under my Nano name as TypoToffee. Please fill free to add me as a writing buddy.

Ah Blogger. Perhaps the most important resource for any writer, wherever they are in their journey are the works of other writers. I suspect most of you reading this blog are avid readers, the kind who buy books before you think of what to have for dinner. (Kudos by the way.) Read writers, not just for enjoyment, but to see how they overcome the hurdles of the craft. Think about your favorite writer. What makes them stand out over everyone else? How do they do that?  Blogger and Wordpress are great ways to read the works of other writers without spending a nickel. And come to that, why not write a blog? Even before your great novel is finally written, these help to develop your readership and skills.

Everything I found was initially discovered using a search engine, such as Google. There is a treasure trove of information to be had for free on the internet, if you have the time to look. As I said at the start; these are the key resources that worked for me. Please share any sites that helped you in the comments section. I'd be happy to take a look, and love sharing useful discoveries.

Thank you for reading, and for those of you getting down to write for NanoWriMo, I wish you the very best!

Jill Jackson!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Pride and Prejudice - An Insight into Mr. Bennet

My printer refused to print this morning, and my dishwasher simply won't dissolve the soap, resulting in pans covered in a chalky white primeval gunk. What has this to do with Mr. Bennet, you might ask? Absolutely nothing in itself, but my brain will wander when dealing with mundane chores, (such as hooking up the spare printer and washing out the detergent cavity  - - YET AGAIN.)

Today's brain wander had me thinking about Mr. Bennet, and in particular the description Jane Austen gives of him in relation to his wife. Why? Because I'm reading Pride and Prejudice once more, and the books I read infiltrate my brain like food dye, coloring everything I do and think. So, what rattled me this morning was this particular passage:

Mr. Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three and twenty years had been insufficient to make his wife understand his character.

Most accounts I have read of Mr. Bennet focus on his foolhardy economic outlook, and his obtuse resistance to either support or assist his daughters in their quest for suitable husbands. To our modern sensibilities, these may be trifling matters, but back in the day such indifference would have had a tremendous negative impact on his daughter's fortunes. Today it would be like saying, "Pah, what do they need a college education for? They'll work it all out without my help."

What struck me though was something else. Like some of you, perhaps, I am SUCKED IN to the vortex of all things Austenabilia. When Death Comes to Pemberley screens on PBS I will be right there with my remote, recording for dear life. As you can imagine, I've watched Miss Austen Regrets, Becoming Jane, and every televised  Masterpiece reproduction of her work, so on some level, and like many ardent fans, I feel I know her.

So when I read this passage again last night I had one of those ah-ha! moments. There is a reason why Mr. Bennet and Elizabeth share a special bond. To my thinking they are born from the same source. Lizzy Bennet is a quirky, quick-tongued intellectual. Through her eyes we see the people-watcher inherent in all authors; she is master of the folly she sees around her, capturing it in perfect caricature, and forming her opinions accordingly, though not always correctly. Show me an author who cannot relate to this and I'll show you an impostor. Elizabeth, flaws and all, represents the character Jane herself always wanted to be.

By all accounts Jane's own father George Austen was a scholarly, rational man, not known to be reckless in his behaviors. Though not affluent by the standards of the day, the family enjoyed a comfortable middle-class living, including regular trips to the seaside and university educations for the boys. However towards the end of his life, the family moved to Bath, which though still a respectable town had long since passed its heyday. Before his death in 1805, he turned his living over to his son, James, but when he died his daughters found themselves in financial difficulty. We see Jane's feelings regarding this matter in her reflections on Mr. Bennets economy:

Mr. Bennet had very often wished, before this period of his life, that, instead of spending his whole income, he had laid by an annual sum for the better provision of his children, and of his wife, if she survived him. He now wished it more than ever. Had he done his duty in that respect, Lydia need not have been indebted to her uncle for whatever of honour or credit could now be purchased for her. The satisfaction of prevailing on one of the most worthless young men in Great Britain to be her husband might then have rested in its proper place.

This explains his pecuniary difficulties, but what of his nature? Was her father, a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice? If he was indeed a calm, scholarly man, this would hardly seem likely. So where did Jane get his character from? In the movie, Twins, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito come from a single egg, where Arnie gets all the good genes and Danny DeVito is left with all the crud. It occurred to me that Elizabeth Bennet is the ideal to which the author aspired, but Mr. Bennet reflects all the warts and follies of the woman herself. So two halves of the same coin.

As a writer I can relate. I could never live up to the ideals of my heroines, and I throw all my daftness into my villains and sub characters. I think Austen must have done pretty much the same. Does it matter? Yes and no. We people watch to better understand ourselves and our own idiosyncrasies, don't we? And understanding how people tick brings color to the characters we write about.

Anyway, look at me, getting all rallied up when I should be dealing with more practical matters. But then nobody's perfect (thank God.) And since neither the printer nor the dishwasher will fix themselves, I better get back to them, or else all hell will break lose. And I'll write about that too, sooner or later. As is only right.

Thanks for reading,


About Jill Jackson:
Jill Jackson lives in Parkton with two fat cats and some serious ninja hummingbirds. She moved from London to the US in 2001, where she instantly fell in love with the people and culture.

She writes about anything that pops into her head, which most frequently includes fantasy, erotica and historical stories. She is represented by the L Perkins literary agency in NY.

Jill dreams of having a NY Times best seller and being hugged by Benedict Cumberbatch. She's not fussy about which one comes first.