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  1. For a while in the blog, we used to do "Blast from the Past" posts. All of these posts came from the old newsletter. I was struggling to figure out what to post for today, when I thought, why not check out the earlier posts of the revived blog. In looking back, I found the perfect post, and it happens to be the first "Writing Tip" that was posted when Lugh started the blog back up. I hope you find it informative. If you want to check out the past comments on the original post, you can go check out the old blog post.
  2. Sometimes it's hard to find new content to share in the GA News Blog. Lately, I've been looking back at some of the stuff that has been shared since the Blog started up again and I realized something. We have new authors joining all the time and not everyone wants to search through the News Blog and read the tips that have been shared. With that thought in mind, I decided to look at some of the past tips and bring them back to the forefront. The first one I'm once again featuring is from Libby Drew and is all about the conflict in stories. It was first featured in the blog back in July 2013. I hope you enjoy this little blast from the past. Conflict Is Key Creating powerful conflict and weaving it tightly throughout the story is a difficult skill to master. It can take years of practice. But the reward is worth the learning curve, especially if the result is cathartic to the reader. Conflict is what makes us interested in outcome. A story with a weak conflict that leaves the characters exactly as they were at the start won’t be satisfying; your story won’t make a lasting impression. I’m betting that’s a no-brainer for most people reading this. Unfortunately, knowing isn’t the same as doing, so here are a few generalities to keep in mind while crafting your plot. Your main character, your hero, should face three different types of conflict. • Internal • Relational (with other characters) • External (against environment or circumstances). Use all three. It’s not as difficult as it might seem at first glance, and your story will have more depth. Keep the tension rising. Always. All the time. The pacing of conflict in your story should look like this: Conflict Simmers --> Conflict Boils --> Conflict Explodes --> Temporary Safety --> Repeat. Envision your story with peaks and valleys. Your peaks should get progressively higher as the climax nears. At every turn, ask yourself “How can I make this situation worse?” Conflict is the nervous system of your story. It sets characters in motion, forcing them to do things they would never have imagined doing. They may lash out or jump onto paths they never expected to travel. In reality, most people try to get along with others, to bring peace to potentially explosive situations. Your characters should go out of their way to make those situations worse. This will highlight their imperfections. Make them more richly rounded. Your characters can’t all love each other. They can’t always agree. If they do, your readers will be asleep by chapter two. Or looking for something else to read. So don’t hold back. Let characters say things they’ll regret. Make then lose their tempers, their possessions, and their hearts. Push them beyond their limits and then show the reader how much that hurts them. Consider these suggestions: • Give your characters opposing goals. • Make them face their fears and rely on their weaknesses instead of their strengths. • Deny them what they want most of all. Then deny them again. • Introduce uncertainty at every opportunity—is a friend truly a friend? • Make them care, then threaten what they care about. • Leave them isolated and under attack from both friends and enemies. Maybe even from themselves. It may sound complicated, but chances are you already have a solid grasp of what’s needed. Execution may not be so simple, so stay vigilant. Test yourself by “graphing” your story. Is the tension escalating as it should? Pushing your characters into conflict will drive your story tension higher, forcibly evict blandness and banality, and leave behind something far more fulfilling for the reader. Conflict is a requirement of satisfying fiction, so make it a strong component of your stories. ~Libby
  3. Who's ready for another Grammar Rodeo? Today's Grammar Rodeo is sorta a Part 2 of last weeks. A big thanks to Cia for providing these for the blog. They are a great learning tool and include some great tips and tricks to help authors remember what is best to use. Hopefully you'll find Grammar Rodeo #6 as informative as I did! Grammar Rodeo #6 Plural Nouns Last time we talked about plural verbs… now let’s talk about plural nouns. Remember how there are ‘regular’ forms and ‘irregular’ forms? Well, in nouns there are a LOT of both that dictate how you make a noun become plural. Regular forms: Adding s: This is the most common form of making a noun plural. Now let’s look at the other ways! Example: Play becomes plays, book becomes books, poem becomes poems. Adding es: You use es in words that end with ch, sh, x, or s. Example: Ax becomes axes, church becomes churches, pass becomes passes Adding ies: You use ies when a word ends in a consonant and y. Example: Butterfly becomes butterflies, aviary becomes aviaries. (notice play is just s, since it ends with vowel and y, not a consonant) Irregular Forms: Nouns ending in o: Add es (Avocado becomes avocadoes) Nouns containing oo: Double oo becomes double ee (eg: Foot becomes feet) Nouns ending in f: Change f to v and and es (eg: Scarf becomes scarves) Nouns ending in fe: Change fe to v and add es (eg: Knife becomes knives) Nouns ending in us: Change us to i (eg: Octopus becomes octopi) Now, many of these have exceptions. Plus you have nouns that stay the same like moose or mouse which becomes mice in a completely random change. As always, when in doubt… check the dictionary! That vs. Which Both that and which connect clauses in sentences. The difference is actually pretty easy to figure out. That connects clauses that are dependent on each other, where both parts of the sentence are needed to make sense. Which connects independent clauses, or those that are not essential to the sentence meaning. Examples: That: I’m allergic to the trees in the yard that bloom every spring. Which: The trees in the yard, which bloom every spring, make me sneeze. Exceptions! What grammar rule exists without these, right? As I mentioned in Grammar Rodeo #5, when you refer to people you use who instead of that. Of course, the exception to this is when you refer to a group—even if it’s a group of people. Example: The Secret Service team that flooded the building scared me.
  4. I hope everyone is having a great week so far! As you can see, Cia has provided us with another Grammar Rodeo. Ever been confused by Present Tense Verbs vs. Past Tense Verbs? Cia gives us a guideline to help out with those pesky issues. In addition to Tense Verbs, Cia also helps out a bit with That vs. Who. Past Tense Verbs While there are a variety of tenses to write in, I think the most common method is to use past tense. So today we’re going to talk about past tense verbs. For the most part, verbs are pretty easy to write in past tense. The majority of them are regular verbs and simply require you add a d or ed to the word, and voila! Pick becomes picked and finish becomes finished. But what about those irregular verbs? You know, the ones that have to screw with the system? Drive becomes drove. Eat becomes ate. Have becomes had. Break becomes broke. Unfortunately, there’s no way I can share to guarantee you know which words are regular or irregular and how to tell the difference beyond just knowing them. The dictionary is definitely your friend. But… what about when the rules are bent or broken? C’mon, well know the English language is rife with “exceptions” and tenses are no different. Usually these exist due to dialect, or in other words, common usage in a region. Drug vs. Dragged While many of you might drug is correct, if you follow the rules, dragged is the past tense word for ‘drag’ and drug only refers to pharmaceuticals. However, in the southern region of the United States, drug is commonly used. **Another little tidbit. When a verb has the emphasis on the ending syllable, you add repeat the consonant letter, as in dragged adding ged to drag.** Snuck vs. Sneaked Once again, the traditional ed form to make sneak past tense by using sneaked is correct. However, through common dialect usage in widespread regions, snuck has now become an accepted alternative. Dove vs. Dived This time again, both are not considered correct, but dived is the grammatically preferred past term use for dive. Outside the US, some even consider the use of dove to be incorrect, though popular usage in many areas does allow for it. So what do you think about the use of verbs common in local dialect versus the grammatically correct version? Is there a common use of a verb, regular or irregular, that you’re not sure is correct? That vs. Who Earlier we visited who vs. whom. Today I want to share a quick reminder about a grammar issue I see pretty often: that vs. who in a sentence. And I do have a quick way to help you remember! The use of that or who in a sentence depends on the subject. If you’re writing a person, it’s insulting to use that because they’re a person—not a thing. So remember, if you’re writing about a thing, use that. If you’re writing about a person, use who, or whom, as grammatically correct!
  5. This time for the grammar rodeo, I thought I'd keep our subject matter simple and maybe even fun! Yes, yes, I swear, grammar can be fun--at least when you're like me and find a wicked glee in rolling your eyes at the grammar fails around you!! First, though, let's take a look at a technical writing tip that seems simple, but catches up more people than you might think! Grammar Rodeo #4 Getting It Write Err... Right! Subject and Verb Agreement No, I don't expect them to shake hands after coming to some sort of deal. And I'm not going to go on and on about all the different subject and verb combos, though these rules can work with verbs that aren't joined with "is" or "are", those two words are the particular angle of this grammar lesson. So how do you know which to use, "is" or "are"? Which one is appropriate depends on the subject of the sentence you're writing. Have I lost you already? The subject in a sentence is the who or what is doing the action. Sometimes the subject is singular and sometimes it becomes a compound subject if you link two subjects with the word 'and'. A subject can also be part of a noun phrase usually made up of a noun/pronoun, modifiers, determiners, and/or complements. That sounds complicated, but really, it's just the bit tacked on that shares a bit more about the subject. Example: Dave "is" driving me crazy. (Singular Subject) Dave and Peter "are" driving me crazy. Compound Subject (Plural Subject) The man seated in front of me "is" driving me crazy. Noun phrase subject (Singular Subject) The men seated in front me "are" driving me crazy. Still a noun phrase subject, but now it's plural because I used 'men'. (Plural Subject) The important part is to know what the subject of the sentence is and whether it's singular or plural. The easiest way to figure that out is to first look for the word "and" in the subject. If you use "and" typically your sentence has a plural subject so you should use the word "are". Sometimes, though, it can be a little tricky because you have to pick out which part of the phrase is the actual subject--and sometimes a sentence with a single subject can still be plural due to what the subject actually is. Which is right? 1A The use of cellular phones and mp3 players is prohibited. or 1B The use of cellular phones and mp3 players are prohibited. 2A Beef and pork is good in moderation. or 2B Beef and pork are good in moderation. 3A Your assistance and cooperation is appreciated. or 3B Your assistance and cooperation are appreciated. Grammar Fails Speaking of "your"... the fun part of today's Grammar Rodeo! If you're a bit of an editing geek, like me, you see these on your travels and can't help but snicker. One day at the county fair I saw this shirt and couldn't help but take a picture! I'm sure many of you have seen pics like these shared online or have a story of one, or more, grammar fails you've seen. So share already!
  6. Who's ready for another Grammar Rodeo? This one focuses on Affect vs Effect and Ellipses vs Em Dashes. A thank you to Cia for taking the time to put these together. I hope you find them as informative as I do. Grammar Rodeo #3 Those Pesky Word Choices Affect vs. Effect This is one of those small things that isn’t always picked out by a spellcheck, but knowing when to use affect vs. effect can be tricky for some people to remember. I have a simple mnemonic clue for authors when they use the most common meanings of these words. Affect is a verb that means to act upon something. Effect is a noun meaning something that occurs from some action taking place. This is a result. Example: Sometimes your actions affect other people, creating an effect you didn’t expect. In other words, your actions do something to other people, creating a ‘result’ you don’t expect. An easy tip: To know which one to use is to remember Affect = Act. If you’re writing that your ‘affect’ is happening to someone or something, then it is an action, hence a verb. You still have to remember which is why, but having the association can help you remember the difference between affect and effect. Cut Off vs. Trailing Off (Em dashes and Ellipses) Overuse of any one type of punctuation can make it hard for readers to follow your dialogue or narration, but sometimes it’s good to sprinkle in ellipses or em dashes to create a certain speech pattern or effect in the motions. Ellipses: These indicate fragmented sentences or pauses longer than a comma would indicate. Technically, the common use in fiction make these ‘suspension points’ instead of ellipses, but many people use the term even when discussing trailing off in dialogue or narration. Different editing style guides dictate how you use them. Either three periods in sequence with either no space between them or after the preceding word hut including one before the next word, or spaces on each side, or no spaces on either side of the periods at all, of course, with appropriate closing punctuation as needed. Examples: In this case, the reader would read the I as a stressed word, trailing off, before the speaker begins again. “I… don’t know why I did that.” Or “I … don’t know why I did that.” Or “I . . . don’t know why I did that.” Closing punctuation with ellipses/suspension points: When the person does not resume their thought or speech, you need to indicate that with closing punctuation. “Do you know why you…?” she asked. “You did that because you were…,” she said. “I can’t believe you…!” she shouted. “I can’t believe you….” She turned away, one hand pressed against her mouth. To even think her husband had…. The biggest element of using these is that you are consistent with your style. Decide if you want them spaced/unspaced, and do it that way the entire story. Never use more than 3 points, with closing punctuation as needed. If you need… a longer pause or break than this… use narration to indicate that rather than a number of points like this……. which is not an accepted format in any style guide. And remember to use them in moderation. Tip: If you like the ellipses a certain format, and want to ensure they don’t break at the end of a sentence due to page margins, use the Insert symbol option to select the ‘Auto Correct’ feature. There, you can select what the program automatically changes your written ellipses into the appropriate symbol that won’t break. Example: … could be replaced with . . . and then every time you place … in your document, it would change it appropriately and keep it from breaking at the end of a line. Also the keyboard shortcut in Word for placing the ‘symbol’ ellipses points are control, alt, spacebar for earlier Word versions and control, alt, period for newer versions. Em Dash Em dashes—long dashes—are used to indicate interruptions in dialogue or narration, or they can indicate an aside. Asides are phrases within a sentence that provides more information and explains something within the sentence, but it can also be removed without affecting the meaning of the sentence. Example: Peter—a usually mild-mannered man—reacted angrily when he was cut off and killed the other driver. “You’re trying to say that that Peter—” “We have it on video. Your husband caused the crash, ma’am.” Detective Ryans sympathized with the widow, but it was best she faced it now, before the press ambushed her. She couldn’t hide from the facts. Tip: Em dash shortcuts are included in later Word versions to prevent breaking, usually if you add two hyphens together. You can also create that shortcut in the Auto Correct feature, just like with the ellipses points. You can also use the keyboard shortcut of control, alt, the minus sign in the number pad. Special use: Em dashes are used in a special way with dialogue punctuation when you split a line of speech with an action without using a speech tag/attribution like said or asked. Example: “I know it’s hard to believe”—he handed her a tissue to wipe her face—“but your husband was a well-known man, and people are going to have questions for you.”
  7. Who's ready for another Grammar Rodeo? A big thanks to Cia for providing these for the blog. They are a great learning tool and include some great tips and tricks to help authors remember what is best to use. Hopefully you'll find Grammar Rodeo #2 as informative as I did! Grammar Rodeo #2 Those Pesky Word Choices Past vs. Passed This one is complicated when you consider the many, many variations of past. Past can be used as an adjective, a noun, a preposition, and an adverb. Passed is only used as verb. Let’s start with the easy one: Passed. Passed is the past tense form of the word ‘pass’. It’s the word that indicates an action of passing something that already took place. That is the only accepted use of this word. Verb: A word that indicates an action of physically moving an object. “He passed me the phone.” Past is a bit more complicated, as it has many uses, however, it is NEVER used as a verb. So if your meaning indicates an action itself, use passed. If you are using the word any other way, use past. I’ll still share the different meanings of past, as the adverb and preposition meanings are what cause the most confusion for people. Adjective: Past-just gone by; elapsed or a time before the present “The lessons of the past should never be forgotten in the future.” In this case, past is an adjective of the subject ‘the lessons’. Noun: An earlier time; a time before the present “The past is over.” In this case, the subject (noun) is simply ‘the past’. Adverb: To and beyond a certain point in time. “Years went past before I learned the truth.” In this case ‘went’ is the verb, so past is being used as an adverb to describe it. How many confuse this one: If you do not have another verb like went in the sentence as the action word, you’d need to change from past to passed. “Years passed before I learned the truth.” Note how passed is now being used to indicate the action itself. Preposition: At the farther side; beyond; after “We turned at the house just past the one on the corner.” Note that it’s the house ‘past’ the one on the corner. Here past indicates the house they turned at is beyond the house on the corner. The word past is describing the location of the houses. Possessive vs. Plural Let’s do a quick one for this second grammar snafu. Possessive: Add an s or es to a word to indicate more than one. “Bill’s alarm is going off.” The alarm belongs to Bill, so you use ’s to indicate the possessive use. Plural: Add s to a word to indicate possession. Example: “I grew up in the 80s and 90s.” Decades are probably the #1 consistent typo I see of possessive ’s instead of the proper possessive s use. Variations: Possessive its: Its is the only use of a possessive word that doesn’t use the apostrophe. It’s is only used to indicate the contraction of it is. “Its buttons flashed red.” In this case, its refers to an object, not a person, so using it is appropriate but the object still possesses the buttons so you use possessive its. Words that end in s: Previously, the use of an apostrophe after a word ending in s indicated possession. “Carlos’ alarm is going off.” In the past, that was the only accepted format. Then, because when you say a word that ends in an s as a possessive, you add the extra s sound, the s’s style gained in popular use and was an accepted variation, even preferred with some editing standards. In 2015, CMoS even switched to s’s being the proper usage and s’ not being an accepted variation. But really, this one will depend upon your preference and your publisher (if you publish).
  8. Today's blog is courtesy of Cia! Ever wondered which is the correct word to use when faced with lay/lie? You're not alone and Cia has put together a very informative blog entry to help, it even includes tips and tricks for when you're really not sure. Thanks Cia for taking the time to give us Grammar Rodeo #1! Grammar Rodeo #1 Tips and Tricks for wrangling those Pesky Word Choices! Who and Whom Okay, I hate this one, even though it’s relatively simple! Let’s make it easy: Who is used as a subject of the verb. It describes the person doing whatever the action word says is happening. Whom is the object of the verb. That means whatever the action is, it is happening to that person. Examples: Rick just knew who spilled the beans. (Who spilled the beans—so they did the action spilled the beans) Rick has a crush on whom? (The subject he ‘has’ a crush is on the whom in this sentence) Easy Tip: Substitute he and him. If he sounds better, you usually use the word who. If him sounds better, you usually use the word whom. Examples: Rick just knew he spilled the beans. or Rick just knew him spilled the beans. Rick has a crush on he? or Rick has a crush on him? Lay vs. Lie This is another one I constantly flub, much to my dismay. Both are very similar, but, when used correctly, lay and lie indicate very different things. Lay means to put an object down. That means the subject is putting the object—book, pillow, plate—down on something. Lie means to be, rest, assume a horizontal position. So that means the subject’s bod is actually in that position, and not moving an object. The water gets a LOT murkier when you start hitting past tense because lay becomes laid and lie becomes lay. Yep, gotta love the English language. And there’s more below, after the present and past examples, so keep reading! Tip: What the subject (character) is doing is key in knowing which to use, no matter what tense you’re writing in. If the subject is moving themselves, you use lie (present) or lay (past). If the subject (character) is moving an object you use lay (present) or laid (past). Examples: Present tense: I lay down the pencil beside my completed paper. (the pencil is being lay down by I) I lie down after an exhausting homework session. (the person “I” is moving to lie down) Past tense: I laid down the pencil beside my completed paper. (The person, I, put the pencil down) I lay down after an exhausting homework session. (The person, I, hit the sheets after the homework session) There are present and past participles too, depending on ‘helping’ verbs, just to make it even more fun, but the rule still stands on what is moving into that horizontal position. Examples: Present Participle: I am laying the pencil down beside my completed paper. (helping verb: am) I was lying down after an exhausting homework session. (helping verb: was) Past Participle: I had laid down the pencil beside my completed paper. (helping verb: had) I had lain down after an exhausting homework session. (helping verb: had) Tip Chart: Lay (moving an object) Present: Lay Past: laid Present Participle: laying Past Participle: laid Lie (subject actually moving) Present: lie Past: lay Present Participle: lying Past Participle: lain
  9. I hope everyone is having a great week so far. Last week we did a post on Constructive Criticism. I received so many great responses, I decided it was better to break it up and do two posts rather than the single one that I originally had planned. Today, we're looking at the final five author's answers to the question: What is constructive criticism? Enjoy! So there you have it, the final five! Now, I have a question for all of you! Do you have a question you would like to put to all the authors, site wide? Maybe you have a question you'd like to put to all the readers, or the editors? Maybe even the beta readers! I'm always looking for new ideas for blog articles. If you have an idea for a question for me to pose to the site members, send me a PM!
  10. Many authors welcome criticism, providing it is constructive, but... What is constructive criticism? The definition can vary from person to person, so rather than just one author giving their definition, I thought it would be a good idea to get multiple perspectives. I put the question out to all authors site wide and got eleven great responses. With so many great responses, I've decided to do a part 1 and a part 2. Here's part 1, enjoy! So there's the first 6, next week you'll get the other 5!
  11. I thought, this week, that we’d discuss something we host here on GA, and promote weekly on the blog. Flash fiction, namely in the guise of our prompts. Our anthologies are an extension of that as well. But we’ve never really talked about the art of creating these types of short stories—so today we will! I think there are two main questions most people have: What is flash fiction and why do people write it? FLASH FICTION Flash fiction can also run the gamut of ‘regular fiction’. It can be found lurking in all genres and styles. It is often themed or prompted by specific words, phrases, or images. And any one prompt can become any number of story angles, based on how the author sees the image. But what do all flash pieces have in common? They’re short. We’re talking 100 to 1,500 words, usually. That doesn’t mean they’re incomplete or lesser in any way from longer novellas or novels. It just means the author must, with an economy of words, unfold their tale from start to finish. Does that mean flash pieces should still have an arc? Well, maybe the longer pieces can, but instead of thinking flash must employ a beginning/middle/end the way most arcs do, think about what makes a reader drawn to a story. What do they enjoy and take away from it? Satisfaction. Whether a flash piece is about an orphan finding a home or a cat, desperate for a taste, knocking the cream off the counter and down the sink or a man getting the nerve up to ask someone on a date but finds his cell is dead… there’s an expectation of something happening and that moment being fulfilled in some way. Thus, satisfaction is achieved. Readers can see this writing element in many of the popular pieces from GA’s prompts, if they look for it. That doesn’t mean authors have to employ a positive outcome, of course. Sadness, disappointment, even loss, can be powerful emotions to leave with a reader. How is that done? In many ways! That’s the beauty of flash fiction, and why many authors do write it. Authors are free to explore different styles and genres when they’re not looking to fill a notebook or type 100 pages locked into one storyline. A single image or phrase can become a comedy, a tragedy, or a science fiction parody… all depending on skill and desire. It gives authors a chance to stretch their mental muscles, to explore and expand their style and repertoire. But isn’t it lazy to not attempt to make every story idea into the next great novel? Flash is so… simple, right? After all, it’s just a few words. Not many. Isn’t it easy? Anyone can do it! Well yes, anyone can write a few hundred words. But can they do it well? Do they understand why flash fiction really is its own niche of the writing world? Well, some do. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Explaining a static visual or scene prompt in as few words as possible can be much harder than people think. Authors must avoid bloat words and phrases and often editing is more cut, cut, cut, than removing typos. Ensuring the reader can relate with a scene or character, without having chapters to share all their information, is incredibly difficult. Authors have to find that connection because, without it, their flash just won’t resonate. Okay, so I like to make these blog posts interactive so you can tell me what you think I have right or wrong, lol. I have a few questions for everyone. Have you thought about writing flash but haven’t for some reason? Spill it! If you do write flash, what aspect of the craft do you most enjoy? What do you find the most challenging? For those who are interested, how about trying a bit of flash now? It’ll be a micro challenge; that will make it easy… right? Describe, in 10 words—exactly 10, no more and no less—what is happening in this picture. Who are they? 3 friends? A ménage? Who is taking the picture? Why? What has their day been like? Are they having fun in the sun or much need relief after a hot summer day slaving away at work? Is the beach winter cold and bad for surfing, so they play Frisbee? Well?
  12. Every once in a while I like to take a look through the blog to see what has been used before that could be useful to some of the newer authors here on Gay Authors. Back in October 2012, Sara Alva (known then as KingdombytheSea) shared her experience with using song lyrics in her story Social Skills. Many authors use song lyrics in their stories without ever thinking of the repercussions that they may be facing if/when they decide to publish. I hope that Sara's experience helps some authors here at Gay Authors, and if you want to hear some input from other members, you can check out the forum thread or past blog post as well. ***Note: Please keep in mind that this was written back in 2012, so some things mentioned are relevant to situations going on at the time.*** Keeping it Legal by Sara Alva a.k.a. KingdombytheSea The Copyright Police do exist, and if you’re an author planning on publishing, it’s a good idea to keep that in mind. When I wrote Social Skills and posted it on GA, I was blissfully unaware of having infringed on anyone’s copyrights. Because Connor is a violinist, music factors heavily into the story. In the second half of the book he joins a pit orchestra, and within those scenes I quoted a few lines of lyrics from a Kiss Me Kate song. As I prepared Social Skills for publication this summer, I handed it off to a beta/author friend, who immediately questioned my use of the lyrics. A little Googling revealed that all lyrics from any Cole Porter musical are copyrighted, despite the fact that they can be found scattered across the internet (Here’s a page with copyright terms in the United States as of January 1, 2012). But could quoting just a few lines really get me in trouble? Yes, it could. Even those lyrics sites can get in trouble, and though they may be too numerous to completely eradicate, some have already been sued. One just got hit with a $6.6 million default judgement a few days ago. Bottom line: When you publish/post something that contains copyrighted material, there’s a chance that someone might see, object, and sue. I didn’t want to risk it, so I took a second look at my work and decided to edit out the lyrics. Unfortunately, I’d really entangled them with the emotions of the scene, and cutting them out proved difficult. Meanwhile, my friend found a link to a site with information on Cole Porter’s Trust and encouraged me to poke around a bit and see what the legal process for obtaining permission entailed. The Trust put me in contact with the publishing company that now owns the rights to the lyrics, and that led me to their Permissions department. I had to email a copy of the book as well as separate PDFs of the pages containing the quoted lyrics. The initial price I was given was $255, which was too steep for me. I did some more digging (or pestering of the Permissions department) and eventually found out the price was calculated based on an estimated 10,000 print run. Many businesses have not caught up with the ebook trend—I won’t have a ‘print run’, and while I’d love to sell 10,000 copies, I wouldn’t mind starting off with a more obtainable goal. I emailed back and requested a 2,000 copy print run, and voila! the price dropped to an affordable $55. I mailed my check and received a ‘lyrics used by permission’ copyright blurb to stick in the front of my novel. Different publishers/companies will obviously have their own pricing structure in place—my friend recommended this article about author Blake Morrison, who wound up paying around $7,000 for his song lyrics usage. And I’ve already been warned off quoting Dr. Seuss, whose estate evidently does go after people for copyright infringement. From my experience, I’d give the following advice to authors: * Think carefully about any lyrics/books/short stories/plays/movies you quote from in your story. You never know when you might get the urge to publish or even make an ebook to release for free on Smashwords. Better to be safe than sorry, and it’s usually easier to reimagine a scene before writing than it is to change one that’s already comfortably sitting in your story. * If you are planning on self-publishing, you should be extra vigilant about copyrighted material, as you won’t have a publishing company to take any of the blame should you be sued. Also, some newer epublishing companies might not do thorough checks for copyrighted material, so as an author, it’s always best to be aware. * If you decide to quote copyrighted material or already have it in your story, do your research. It doesn’t hurt to question the companies that hold the rights or to try to negotiate with them. Perhaps they will one day catch up with the times and start taking a percentage of ebook sales instead of asking for a lump fee up front, but for now you can always ask for their pricing structure and do what you can to get to a mutually agreeable fee. This might involve lowering your estimated print run and then reapplying for permission should you exceed that number of sales, or quoting fewer lines. Though it may not make a whole lot of sense—especially in the case of song lyrics, where quoting almost seems like free advertising—this is the way the world currently works. Even when you attribute quotes to their rightful owners, you might have to pay for the right to use them in your story. So don’t forget to keep it legal, and happy writing everyone!
  13. Have you thought about writing your first story, but it seems a little daunting? Don't worry, every new author has been there at one point or another. Thankfully, you're part of a great community that has plenty of authors willing to share their knowledge, and/or what they wished they'd known when they first started. If you're thinking that you've heard that before, it's because you have, but that's the best intro to this feature. Back in December we first introduced the "New Author Advice" feature and it seemed to be well received. So let's take a look at what advice our site authors have this time. Building Readership & Criticism Mikiesboy Ok... building readership... read others work, comment/review, be active in forums, say hello to people be friendly. That's what I did. Works from my experience. It can't be a one way street. And reply to people who comment. They took the time to read your work, you should do the same in return. Criticism? Well that can be hard to take, depending on how it's written and the kind of person you are. If you're unsure, ask the person who commented what they mean. I've not experienced any sort of mean-spirited criticism on GA. Most people are pretty helpful and thoughtful. At least the ones I've met. You can also use the Your Status thing to advertise .. but I don't personally. Feedback Carlos Hazday Encourage readers to give you honest feedback. Reviews pointing out what they liked are great, but the ones where they tell you what they didn't like are even better in my opinion. If you want to make your stories the best they can be, knowing what didn't work for readers is a priority. If you react badly to criticism, you may miss out on great advice, your writing may suffer, and in the end you could end up losing readers when your style stagnates. Before You Start Jamessavik First, read a lot. Read a lot of different authors, different genres and different styles. Read with an eye towards not just the plot but, the craft in which the story is developed. You will see that some authors do a great job in this respect while others- not so much. Second- Start with short stories. They can teach you a great deal. Unlike a novel, you can't wander around for a 40,000 words to make a point. Short stories require a certain discipline to do them well. You have to balance things very carefully with an economy of words while providing characterization and description while advancing a plot. Don't expect to master this over a few weekends. It's more art than science. In fact it's a lot like golf. When you are in the zone, you can do great things. If not, you bogey every hole. Finally- before you embark on a novel, learn how to plan it out. We all make the mistake of sitting down at a blank page on the computer, write a great beginning and then hit a wall. There are numerous GREAT but INCOMPLETE novels on the web. Unfortunately several of them are my own. Know where you are going because, if you don't, your chances of getting there are slim. If you're a current or experienced author and have some advice for newbie authors, send me a PM with your advice and be featured in a future "New Author Advice" feature. If you're a new author, or even an existing author, what questions would you ask your fellow authors? PM me your questions regarding writing and if there is enough interest, we'll start a new feature where I post your questions for the various site authors to give their opinion. You can choose to remain anonymous if you'd like.
  14. I hope everyone has had a great month so far. It's been a while since we had a Grammar Rodeo from Cia, but it's back! Thank you, Cia for providing us with another great writing tip! The Structure of a Sentence Okay, so maybe this seems intuitive. After all, we all write sentences every day, right? But sometimes the visual we’re trying to get across doesn’t work because of the way the sentence has been written. A lot of the time, this can be chalked up to dangling modifiers. What are dangling modifiers? I bet you’ll realize you intuitively know what I mean once we get to the examples, even if you didn’t know you knew! So, dangling modifiers are words or phrases, usually offset by commas, that are supposed to explain more/better describe the subject of the sentence but don’t because the sentence structure either places the subject in the wrong place to work with the modifier or doesn’t have a subject at all. These can be dangling participles or gerunds, but that’s a little more exact than I want to go in for this lesson. We’ll come back to that though! Let’s try a few examples to show just how modifiers work, how they can go wrong, and how easily they can be fixed. Example: Having come to the same conclusion, the project temporarily halted. Having come to the same conclusion is our modifier, but the subject of this sentence is ‘the project’. Can the project come to the same conclusion? No. So the modifier is dangling because the true subject is missing from the sentence. Rephrased: Having come to the same conclusion, the contractor temporarily halted the project. The contractor can come to the same conclusion, so he can halt the project. Example: Without knowing what his job was, it was hard to pick the right outfit. “It” didn’t know his job? That doesn’t make sense. In this case, the surrounding information might make it clear who/what ‘it’ refers to, but that doesn’t prevent this sentence from having a dangling modifier. Rephrased: Without knowing what his job was, Jacob found it hard to pick the right outfit. Jacob didn’t know what his job was, so he could find it hard to pick the outfit. ​Example: Long and boring, the author must revise their manuscript. Is the author long and boring? No. In this case, the subject of the modifier is a ‘misplaced modifier’ because the manuscript is what is long and boring, not the author. Rephrased: Long and boring, the manuscript must be revised by the author. This phrase properly describes what is long and boring, which could not be the author as a person (we don’t usually call a person long, lol). So, basically when you have a modifier in the sentence, you want to make sure it takes place in the sentence close to the subject. If you’re unsure if you’ve structured the sentence properly to avoid a dangling or misplaced modifier, ask yourself, “Was the (subject) (dangling modifier)”? If you have it wrong, the question will usually show how your sentence doesn’t make sense. Was the project coming to the same conclusion? Was it not knowing what his job was? Was the author long and boring?
  15. Have you thought about writing your first story, but it seems a little daunting? Don't worry, every new author has been there at one point or another. Thankfully, you're part of a great community that has plenty of authors willing to share their knowledge, and/or what they wished they'd known when they first started. Today we've got both Aditus, who is going to tell how he started out, and Graeme who is going to share a little advice on planning out your story. Hope this helps! Starting Out Aditus I can tell how I did it. I read a lot of stories and comments first, to get a feel of GA. Then I answered a prompt or two. The response was amazing and I felt motivated. Next I tried the anthologies. I think short stories are a good start for a new author, you get to know people and some of them even might offer help. Multi chapter stories need a lot of time, energy and motivation. If the author doesn't finish them, readers get disappointed and might not read another story of the same author. Another beautiful thing about GA is that people are always willing to support you. Find an editor, and/or a beta reader and all will be well. Planning Graeme Every writer is a new author at some point in time, so what do I know now that I wished I'd known when I started? There is a lot more than can fit into one blog entry, so I'll concentrate on one part of writing only, and that's planning. The two best pieces of advice I received in this area are related. They are: Know how you want the story to end. It doesn't have to be in detail, but does the boy get the boy? Does the team win the competition? Does the homophobe turn over a new leaf, or does he remain a villain to the end? Always keep in mind what's going to happen in the next chapter when you're writing the current one. Both of these recommendations have the same purpose: to keep the writing direction focused. All too often a new author writes themselves into a corner. They want something to happen, but what they've written stops that from happening. By keeping in mind what's going to happen in the future (either the short-term future for the next chapter, or the longer-term future for the end of the story), an author is aided to keep the story moving in the direction they want. This doesn't prevent an author from writing themselves into a corner, but it helps reduce the risk. It also helps stop the where-does-the-story-go-now syndrome, where an author writes until they run out of ideas, without finishing what they started. It's okay if you don't follow this advice, because some authors don't. There are many authors who start with a situation, and then write until the ending presents itself. Stephen King, for example, has said that he doesn't know how a story will end when he starts. However, authors that do this are usually experienced, with a full toolbox of options and techniques to allow them to progress a story to a satisfactory conclusion. That's not something that comes easily to most writers, so please at least consider having an ending in mind when you start. It's also okay if you change your mind during the writing. While some authors will write the ending of a story first, and then write towards that ending, others will have a general concept in mind for the ending, or even multiple options with the decision as to which ending they go for not being known until closer to the ending. This happened to me with my Leopards Leap novel. Right up to the last few chapters, I didn't know exactly what was going to happen to one of the main characters. I had a number of options that I had to choose from, each with their pros and cons. That persisted right up until I had no choice but to make a decision and write up one of the options. Another way of looking at this approach is to view the writing of a story as a journey. You start at one point and you look to where you want to go. That may lead directly to the final destination, or it may be to a significant point in the story, a bridge or a fork in the road. Once you've set your sights on that destination, you then put your head down and start walking the road towards where you want to go, looking up from time-to-time to make sure you don't lose your way. The more often you look up, the less likely you are to wander off the path...but there's nothing wrong with a short side trek to see that beautiful waterfall off to the side as long as you return to the path afterwards. In short, know where you're going with your story. The better you understand where you want to go, both in the short-term and the long-term, the less chance you'll lose your way. Good luck, and have fun finding your way to the ending you want!
  16. I don't think there's really too much that I can say to introduce the topic for today. There's obstacles everywhere we look and today Cia has written up an article that takes a look at some of the most common ones that plague authors. Not only does she name them, but she gives some great tips on how to overcome them. We'd also like to hear some of the obstacles you're faced with when writing and how you overcome them! Overcoming the Obstacles By Cia Any good writer knows it doesn’t come easy. From conception to publication—however far along that route you go—writing is definitely a labor. For many, it’s a labor of love, but it is still an endeavor that takes a lot of time and effort. We try to share a lot of information about writing and editing, to help authors on the site, but this week we’re looking at the act of writing instead of the result, as well as a few things that might trip an author up and how to get past them. Tick, Tock… Beating That Clock! Finding the time to write can be hard. Life doesn’t stop just because we get an idea, feel like writing, or face a looming deadline. Something has to give… be it the dishes, your lunch break, or sleep. For some, using voice recording software increases the time to write their rough drafts—getting it all out for editing when time isn’t at such a premium. ~Log your time expenses. Okay, yeah, it’s a bit of work and won’t get you writing immediately. But keep track of what you do each day and when. A lot of what we do is routine-based. Then eliminate. Do you have to vacuum every day? Who says you need to open all the junk mail? Do you have to watch the news in the morning or evening? Why not set your phone or computer to get breaking news from a local station and get a weather app? ~Set a scheduled writing time. Hold that time sacred. Habits, once formed, are hard to break. Respect the time you set, and ask others to respect that time too. Beat distractions off with a spare keyboard, if necessary. ~Get up two hours earlier. You can sleep when you meet your deadline. Just remember to set that coffee pot! My Space—No, Not the Pre-Facebook Website. Growing up, did you do your homework in front of the TV? Does your boss let you read gay romance while you work? I bet not. Where you work is just as important as when you work. But not everyone is lucky enough to have an office for writing. So what can you do? ~Remove distractions. If you get up early to work while everyone is sleeping, make sure you leave the TV off. Don’t check your email; don’t read the news. Open your writing program/app only. ~Reduce distractions if you can’t eliminate them. Create a visual barrier—a sheet or a cardboard divider set up on the table. Wear earplugs or headphones. ~Find an alternate location. Maybe you work best in a café or library. Beating Your Block We’ve all been there—that moment when inspiration dries up and writing becomes akin to beating our heads against a brick wall. It can be overcome. But first you have to figure out why you’re blocked. Is it a time or location issue disrupting the flow of writing? Did you write yourself into a corner? Do you just not feel the story anymore? ~Don’t re-read your work. There’s a time and a place for criticism for your chapter or story. That’s called the editing phase. Just write! Worry about creating a polished piece once you get it down. ~Set deadlines—and keep them. A lot of people work better when motivated by a goal. A chapter a week, 5,000 words every five days, a novel in three months… whatever works for you. Then take a break! When you meet your goals, give yourself time off. You’ve earned it. ~Beat the creative block by sharing your stumbles. Talk to a friend, a fellow author, a dedicated reader… and be honest. Sometimes getting it out can reduce the stress enough to let you take a step back. ~Work on more than one project. Sometimes changing gears can get you back in motion. Try some flash pieces or prompts if you’re in the midst of a novel. Switch up genres and styles. Stretch and expand beyond whatever has halted you in your tracks. We all face obstacles. The only way past them is to just keep trying. Have you faced writer’s block before? What happened, and how did you beat it?
  17. Crafting a Story... More Work than You Might Think! by Cia There's a lot that goes into writing a story, more than what the average reader would think. After thinking up the story, and writing then it, there comes the many rounds of editing. This is the nuts and bolts process, when you strip something down to its basic components and put it all back together--hopefully without any extra pieces! For me, that involves several reads of the story. Then I ask for help from my team members. Then I go over it again, lol. This is my usual process: 1. Spellcheck. 2. Read straight through for phrase changes and any mistakes that catch my eye. I often do this aloud as it is the best way to make sure the story has a good 'flow'. 3. Spellcheck. 4. Read backward one paragraph at a time from the end to look for errors. 5. Spellcheck. 6. Send on to betas/editors for beta/edit. 7. Make changes and run them by team if necessary. 8. Spellcheck! Now, this is just the process for a story I'm posting online for free. I've recently had a publisher accept a story for e-publishing and have been going through the editing process. First, the agent that accepted the story had suggestions for lengthening it and changing some scenes. I made those changes and sent it back. Then it went to an editor. We sent the story back and forth three times before it was to the point she approved it. Then ... it went to the editor-in-chief who suggested even further scene additions and changes. Then we moved back into pure line editing for typos and errors. That went through two rounds until the EiC approved all the changes and had no further spots for me to fix. At that point, the story went through about fifteen rounds of editing! I had no idea writing could be so involved when I first started. It is a great hobby, and a lot of fun, but if you want to do it right, there is also a lot of work involved. You have to really dig in and be prepared to put in the time and effort if you're going to be successful. What are your editing habits? Do you write and edit in different formats? Do you prefer to self-edit or work with a team? What type of team do you use: betas and editors or strictly one or the other? Do you have a favorite editing manual or book that helped you refine your work the most? Share your editing tips with the rest of the site here!
  18. I wanted to do something a little bit different for the second part of Signature Week. This month, the story picked for the Signature Background was "Into the Deep" by CassieQ. If you haven't already done so, you can download your background, with or without the calendar, here. I decided to ask Cassie if she would be willing to share her views on writing fantasy, she was more than willing to write up a little something for us. Hope you enjoy it!! Tips for Writing Fantasy by CassieQ So as part of Signature Week, I was asked to write a little bit about how to write fantasy, since Into the Deep is a fantasy story. I think a lot of tips of writing fantasy apply to writing in general, but I will do the best I can to mention some things that I consider to be very specific to fantasy. (Kudos to my beta reader, Nathaniel, for adding some good ideas to the mix). Read and research. This is critical. If you are wanting to write fantasy, one of the first things to do is figure out what kind of fantasy you like. To do so you have to read fantasy. Lots of it. This gives you a good idea of what you like and don't like. For example, I don't like reading "high fantasy" type novels, therefore it is highly unlikely that I would ever write something that contained elves, fairies, dwarves, dragons, and the like. (Except maybe dragons. Dragons are cool). But I do like mythology, especially Greek mythology and for Into the Deep, I wanted to work with some of the things I read about in Greek mythology, especially the Sirens. This leads to research. Unless you are an expert in the type of fantasy you are going to write about, you will probably need to do at least some research. It is far easier to do research on something you find fun and interesting than in something you don't. Researching merpeople, Sirens and the such was fun. If I had to research dwarves, I would probably cry. Whose world are you using? Decide whether to create your own world or take on an existing world. Into the Deep belonged to ancient Greek, mythological hijinks included. There are also alternate realities, or completely different worlds, or worlds hidden within our world (Harry Potter, for example). If you decide to create your own world, decided what you are doing to involve; time/decade, technology level, political system, religion, whether magic exists or not, etc. The level of detail depends on how much immersion you create for your reader. Some writers create crazily detailed and vivid worlds for their characters. I tend more towards alternative realities that are very similar to our world. It's up to the writer. However, if you don't want to create a world with a whole lot of detail, make it at least believable and coherent enough that the reader won't stumble about inconsistencies. Bend the rules but don't break them. One of my favorite things about writing fantasy is the flexibility that it offers. For example, consider a mermaid. Could they exist on land? That was up to me. In some stories, merpeople are confined solely to the water. In the fable of the Little Mermaid, the mermaid was confined to the sea until a sea witch gave her legs to walk on land. In the movie Splash, the mermaid could exist on land, but would turn back into a mermaid if she came in contact with the water. So there are options. However, just because a story is a fantasy doesn't mean there aren't rules. Vampires can't walk in sunlight, werewolves can't keep from transforming, and regular men can't breathe underwater. If you break one of these rules, then you need to explain why this particular vampire can walk in the sun, why these werewolves can keep from transforming on the full moon and why a human being can fall in love with a merman. The better the reason, the more interesting the story. So those are my opinions on writing fantasy. Please feel free to share your own ideas, I know there are plenty of fantasy writers out there!
  19. Many authors have had reviews in which they're just not sure how to respond. We've had reviews that tell us how much a reader has loved our stories and how they just can't wait for the next chapter or story to come out, but there's the other side that as an author we're not always sure how to handle. The purpose of this blog is to show how some of our promoted authors have dealt with some of their worst criticisms. There was so much interest from our Promising and Signature Authors that I had to break the blog post up into two parts. Today, in Part I, I'm focusing on Promising Authors. On March 19th, I'll post Part II and you'll get to hear from the Signature Authors here at Gay Authors. Each author has picked what they felt was both one of their best compliments and their worst/harshest criticism. I hope you enjoy this look into how other authors handle some of their harsher criticisms. Promising Author: Andy78; author of The Crown Affair Well, not really much of a struggle to find my worst criticism. It was from my creative writing lecturer. She said: Although the story fulfils the provided brief, I find it an implausible plot, set in yet another homophobic school. What makes the plot even more implausible, is that it contains the obligatory and clichéd teen who accepts and befriends the gay character. Although the story has no issues concerning grammar or punctuation, the repetitive feel to previous stories means this is definitely not your best piece of work. How was I affected by it: To say I was irked is an understatement. The brief was “write a 2000-3000 word story on a bullied teen”, and this was only the third short I had “set in yet another homophobic school” out of probably twenty shorts over two years. I wasn’t the only person in the class who had gone down “the gay teen” route, but what had annoyed me was that she had based her comments on the fact that I had previously written gay-themed stories and not considered the story on its own merits. I felt that her criticism was unjust, but hey, it was after all only one person’s opinion on one 2500 word story. It took a lot, but I finally managed to shrug it off Finding my best compliment has been so much harder. I’ve had so many wonderful reviews and some great feedback from readers here at GA, and offsite. But I guess one of my favourites, one that probably meant the most to me, was a review left by Nephylim of The Ddraig-Cyfinachau (which I really must get back to writing): (Chapter 7 Review) – posted by Nephylim June 12, 2012 The Cailleach is my favourite goddess. She who tears down so that new growth may sprout up. Not as violent at the Mhorrigan, more natural... which, after all death is. Can the deaths be justified? In a way, I suppose it depends on how you view death. Many Celtic deities/demi gods can be considered to be violent and immoral but it depends on your own particular moral code and what you justify to yourself. I have no problem with accepting the deaths were necessary. Cruel, yes but necessary in the progression of the story and the myth, How was I affected by it: This was a review of a particularly gruesome chapter, and to be honest about the only review/comment/feedback that didn’t make me think I’d made a horrible mistake with the way the chapter played out. There was a lot of emotional response from the chapter, mostly sent to me by PM, and I’m sure I lost a number of readers because of it. Although I have had some great reviews in my time here, they have been primarily from widely liked stories, this was one of only a couple of positive reviews I received for the chapter, which told me that I must have done something right. The very lopsided feedback I had from this chapter made me realise that the saying is true: You can please some of the people some of the time, all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but you can never please all of the people all of the time. However, Nephylim’s review gave me the confidence to write my story my way. Promising Author: Andr0gene; author of Colorado Game Best Compliment: Not sure if it is a compliment, but they always want more. I guess that is the best compliment one can get. Worst Criticism: There are three 'critisisms' that I agree with, and would love to correct at some point in time: 1) The cop out with the father being ill, and the main character leaving without a word since. Too easy. 2) People hating Mark for being too trusting with Kyle, not realizing he was being played by Kyle. That didn't come out right, and I'd love to fix it. 3) Spelling. Writing in another language is not a good excuse to use. Good editors would fix that. Having said that, I would not dream of dissing my old editor's efforts (Bill) for even a smidge. All I can do is expand on what he has done for me. Promising Author: K.C.; author of Pour Me Another Ever since I started putting my writing out there for the world to see, I’ve gotten an overwhelming number of reviews both good and bad over the last few years. When readers connect with my stories, when they enjoy something I’ve created, it gives me encouragement and it makes me want to work harder to bring them the best story I can. Unfortunately, negative review can sometimes do the opposite. It’s hard to keep your chin up and take the blows when someone hates a story I’ve worked so hard to create. I try to stay objective and tell myself that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but honestly, it hurts! At one point, while working on "Shepherd's Crook" a reader publically announced that people should never read this story. The reader said to stay clear of it or they will have to adjust their depression medication. I was very taken aback by this. The reader went on to say that I thrived on pain and use nuclear energy to fill the world with bombs. In that moment, I contemplated giving up writing. I sat and stared at the screen. Dazed...Speechless…Wondering… Then I pulled out the journal I use to write all my story ideas. I read over the plots of what I've written in the past and new projects I had for the future. If I only write happy stories, where the world is full of rainbows, fluffy clouds and butterflies, my creative side will die! Life isn’t perfect, it isn’t sugarcoated, and it sure as hell isn’t easy. Nobody is guaranteed a happily-ever-after! Life is messy and complex and a mix of triumph and pain. My goal is create something great, something amazing, something that leaves readers breathless, hanging on each word, begging for more…anything less isn’t worth writing. Promising Author: Mann Ramblings; author of So Little Magic Left Best Compliment: I have two really, both from The Luxorian Fugitive. The first was a review after a chapter where all hell had broken loose and the fate of the main characters was seriously in question: "Oh. My. God." The other was by the same reviewer after a particularly steamy scene in a shower: "You tred the fine line of raunchy so well, lol!" I'm very proud of both and can't choose which one I prefer. Worst Criticism: This was more "Harshest" rather than "Worst." After a particularly violent scene in Little Man I braced for unhappy reactions. "How does this violent physical assault and rape advance the plot? It just strikes me that the drama and its related tesion were already quite high. Now this. I don't get it." I sat back, took a deep breath and responded as politely as I knew how. The story wasn't complete and I hoped the remaining chapters made the scene valid even if the content may have been controversial. Promising Author: Sasha Distan; author of Born Wolf Best Compliment: Wow! After the last chapter, I figured out that each would have to submit to the other in different form for their relationship to work, but OMG! The werewolf culture you have created is fascinating, and the complex relationship you are developing between the boys provides some of the most drawn-out, hottest foreplay in history! I feel like a wolf, panting with my tongue hanging out, waiting for the next chapter! Kudos! Worst Criticism This sucks. I like your story about the bear and the boy, so I decided to read this. It's terrible! You have a "dominant" and big male get raped and not anally raped (not that would have made it better), and is crying and throwing up like a female dog. Women who have actually gotten raped don't act as weak and pathetic as this guy. I can't get over how pathetic you've made him. You should just take the story down and try again. Reaction: As awful as finding out that somebody out there thinks that what you've written isn't worth the binary it's stored in (please forgive my bad-geek paraphrasing), to me, it's still better than no feedback at all. This particular piece of vitriol did not make me question the worth of what i had done. It is one person's opinion. However, our best feedback comes from complaints, and it's important to listen - if this idea had been repeated, then i would have worried. You should never give up because one person doesn't like what you've done, because for each bit of bad feedback, there's always something nice to say. When I get negative feedback (and this bit in particular) I generally storm up and down the house (shouting) until my husband gets me to calm down from the stressed and sweary mess I have gotten myself into. Then I go back to the keyboard and try to prove everybody else wrong. Don't forget to check back on March 19th for Part II!!!!
  20. Exactly a month ago, we gave you Best/Worst Part I, which consisted of Promising Authors, though one of the authors has since been promoted to Signature. There were lots of response as everyone seemed to enjoy the post. As promised, here's Part II: Signature Authors! I asked each author what they felt was both one of their best compliments and their worst/harshest criticism. I hope you enjoy this look into how other authors handle some of their harsher criticisms. Signature Author: CassieQ and author of Geeks Worst criticism: This is a tough one to pick from, because I believe all criticism is useful unless it is non constructive. In my mind, the worst criticism is no feedback at all! In all the time I've been writing and posting online, I've never had a criticism that has torn me apart, and although I get harsh comments from my beta sometimes they are invaluable, because they show me how to make my work better. The closest I ever came to non-constructive criticism was a review that I got on this site for NTS, in which a reviewer stated that they didn't like this kind of story and didn't like cliffhanger endings. And while I definitely appreciated the feedback, it wasn't the type of criticism that I felt that I could really do much with. I can't change the story to make it fit into a genre that the reviewer liked better and while readers often claim that cliffhangers drive them crazy, this site seems to value them. (Reader's Choice awards, anyone)? If choosing a worst criticism was hard, then choosing the best compliment is even tougher. All constructive feedback is valuable to be, so I can't really say that one is better, or best, in my mind. However, I think my favorite feedback probably comes from my beta, just because of his honesty and his willingness to tell me things that I don't like to hear sometimes. Because his criticism is so honest despite hurting my feelings sometimes (okay, most of the time) when he comes across something he likes, I know he is honest about that as well. So I never have to worry about him "just being nice" or "not hurting my feelings" because he doesn't do things that way, and I know that whatever he tells me will help further my writing and you can't get much better than that. (Although someone telling me that the opening chapter of Reach was "one of the most erotic story chapters" they had ever read was pretty sweet. Especially considering it was the first erotic scene between two males that I had ever written before. That comes in a very close second!) Signature Author: Cia and author of Needing You Hmm… feedback is one of those things that is so subjective. What is negative to me might not be to the person commenting, so I try to keep an open mind about what the other person says. This is especially apt with published work, which should be held to a higher standard. When I published Pricolici a reader discovered they could comment on Goodreads as they read… and boy was I treated to a LOT of commentary, way too much to share here. And a graphic too. A highlight of the reviewer’s feelings at 39% in: "At this point, I cheerfully dislike both MCs. Woot. Prospects are great, guys!" Of course my ending reply on the review sums up my basic regard toward feedback on any of my work but especially for anything published. The most important part of my reply: “Ah well, if I couldn't hack it, I wouldn't have published it. You'd make a great beta, the sarcasm is entertaining, and I certainly can't mistake how you feel.” You can see the entire exchange here. Knowing what I now editing-wise, I can see a lot of validity in the commentary. The lessons an author can and should learn as they mature in our craft makes all the difference when we look back. In January I had two eBooks come out with two publishing houses. The both began as free serial stories, and both were polished and improved. Since they came out I’ve received some stellar reviews. The best of which came from someone I’m not even sure I know personally, but who is definitely an amazing fan. This effusive review is from Todd Ticen on Amazon about my writing in general and Protecting Bear in particular. When this comes from friends it's nice, but when it comes out of the blue, I really treasure knowing I've touched a reader so much. “If you have not had the privilege of reading one of Alicia Nordwell's stories then I strongly encourage you to delve into her world and experience stories that will both excite your senses and ensnare your soul. A truly remarkable writer that has a special and very talented way of pulling a reader into her stories with lifelike characters, enthralling plots and always the thrill of escaping into the world she vividly paints with her imagination. A truly gifted writer and a MUST read. I can promise you that you will not be disappointed with any of her stories." Obviously I was floored by Todd’s lovely review and ecstatic to receive such praise. You can read all of it here. I only hope I can continue to live up to it! Signature Author: Comicfan and author of Last Christmas I’ve written a number of stories on GA. Some have been reviewed favorably but there are reviews you get that are emailed to you. Among those you get people who are incredibly kind and those who are deeply vicious. The good ones I keep these, no matter how long ago they came in and read them when I need a pick me up. I have had two of the best and perhaps sweetest reviews come in on a tale I wrote called “A Cat’s Life.” Here are the reviews as they were emailed to me. Hi :I was reading some stories on the Gay Authors site and without going into a long explanation, I came across your stories. I have read several and enjoyed them, but " A Cat's Life " just touched something in me. It is so heartwarming and kind, I had to write to you and say thank you. Best wishes, Joel Then there was this one as well. Hope this is okay for contacting you as I am not a member of the website. I just wanted to say that I really enjoy your stories a lot. Especially "The Strange Life of Jonas Marks" (which I am trying to wait patiently for the next installment), "Accidents Happen" and "A cat's life". I also read Broken and found it very upsetting. It was good, don't get me wrong, but I hated that this was probably true somewhere. I have no doubt that people do that to other people. I think if I ever found a letter like that, I would do anything I could to try to find this person. It was very thought provoking, and made me cry. I wish things like that wouldn't happen, but I know they do. Anyway, just wanted to say that I think you need to be more well known for your stories. I will definitely be handing them along to friends. Please keep writing, and I can't wait for the next part of Jonas' story. Jenna Reviews like this encourage me. They remind me that the stories I write have a life beyond me. They can affect people and that is something special that can only come between a reader and a story. Knowing I have had a hand in that just shows me that the things I enjoy are also enjoyed by others. Of course I have also had those that felt it was completely alright to rip me apart because they wrote to me privately. One such piece came about my work in an Anthology for the “The End of the World.” The reviewer of my story very “politely” told me that my writing sucked, the dialogue was stilted, and the story didn’t work. I was told I should stay to the little tales of happily ever after and leave the real writing to others. The author tore the work to shreds without giving me any encouragement of what I did well or that anything was worth going on with. Instead of quitting as my reviewer suggested, it pissed me the hell off. The end result of it was I took a huge departure from my usual style of writing and delivered the story, “The Escape of John Doe.” I don’t think I have had so many surprised comments on a piece of work I have done in a long time. Signature Author: Renee Stevens and author of Thwarted Honestly, choosing my harshest criticism wasn't that hard to do. I've received a few over the years that I've been writing, but one really sticks out in my mind. It was a review to my story Leather Bar. As far as the author was concerned, there was nothing redeeming about the story. Sorry to spoil the party, but this was boring beyond belief. Nothing happened. A non night out which had been predicted. A guy who isn't actually safe to be out on his own. There was no tension. No dramatic pre-emption. No twist. No significant plot. No point. Two guys debate going out, go out, have experience predicted, came home. God only knows what sex would have been like if we had actually got there and klutz had not broken his neck tripping over an ant. Probably would have snapped the condom and pinged himself in the eye ... and no, not THAT eye either. That would have been funny. I had to walk away before I could respond. As I responded to the reviewer, I understand that not everyone is going to like what I write, but I didn't feel that was a constructive criticism. I finally had to sit back and look at my other readers' thoughts and remind myself that it was one reviewers thoughts. The other readers saw the story for what it was, a short look into the lives of my two characters. Choosing my best compliment, that was much harder. I've received some absolutely wonderful reviews, both on and off site. I think the one that really stands out in my mind, is one that was left on one of my prompt responses, The Only One. The reviewer really put a lot of thought into the review and took the story down to its basic elements, elements that I didn't even really think about while I was writing it. As I read the review, I realized that the reviewer was right. I'm only going to share the first part of the review, cause the rest of the review would contain spoilers. I enjoyed this story immensely based solely on the technical challenge this kind of story presents to the writer. In a sense, this is a "confession story", similar to "True Confessions", a magazine sold in the UK and mostly written by women for the confession market, except, of-course, this is a gay confession. Technically, it has all the attributes of a confession story. Let's look at them for a moment. If you want to read the rest of the review, I'd strongly suggest you read the story first! I don't usually think of formulas when I write, but the fact that the reviewer was able to point out the formula to me, was great. I enjoy getting reviews and all of them make me think and look for ways to improve. Some point out things they don't like, not always nicely. Others, like the one on The Only One, show me what I'm doing right, whether or not I realized it when I was writing it.
  21. So, I was looking through some of the blog articles that I have and was trying to decide what would be a good choice for Wacky Wednesday. It was a hard choice, to be honest, but then I came across this little gem. Since I don't want to give too much away, I'll just let you see for yourself what I found... Story Cost... More or Less by Cia Yes, we're putting a price on stories. No more free fiction. *snickers* Are you getting ready to flame me? Okay, okay, we're not going to stop anyone from posting free stories or anything. However, I did want to share some thoughts I recently had on 'fifty cent' words and their place in fiction. These so called fifty cent words are ones that catch your eye, the big words full of rich meaning in the English language (or whatever the author writes in). So many times I see a story littered with them with every sentence structured to feature the words that jump out at readers, sometimes even hosting two or three of them! I guess to some that's a good thing. They like to use those fifty cent words, thinking they increase the worth of their story. For example: "Oh, how spectacular," she exclaimed fervently, enthralled by the landscape when she beheld the vermillion flowers carpeting the verdant meadow. Now, my writing is all about entertainment. I'm after the picture, not the words, to be memorable for my readers. I'm not trying to enlighten anyone when I write, I'm trying to entertain. For my style bigger is not better. I made those mistakes at first, throwing out the unusual words with great shades of meaning, but those become annoying and difficult to wade through for the average reader. Sure, there was little confusion for those of us who grew up reading the dictionary for fun, but for the other 99% of readers it isn't nearly as enjoyable. (Yes, self-confessed geek here, lol) I came to a decision. My goal is to always make the words in a story as invisible as possible. That means using simple phrases and key words everyone knows to create vivid images in the reader's mind. I'm a big fan of 'nickel words' of the fiction world you might call them. I don't want my writing to get in the way of my story, so I streamline visuals and add only the essential descriptions. Or you could just call me cheap! For example: "Oh!" Her bright smile lit up her eyes. She gripped his hand as she stared, taking in the ruby red flowers carpeting the lush meadow. The second example is simpler but very visual and still rich with meaning. I use the word ruby to evoke a vivid red color everyone knows, and since most people already think of meadows as green, I used lush. It works since we usually relate the word to something really rich with gives a visual of a green meadow with a ton of plant life and flowers. I also avoid the speech tag and instead show her reaction with visual cues, so the reader can see how she feels and, therefore, get a better 'picture' than if I tell them she's excited. Now, I'm not saying using big words is wrong all the time, or that they can't enhance a story. You might have a discussion between two doctors, for example, and they'd logically use more technical words than the average person--depending on the discussion. A story set back in the Victorian era would also be more adaptable to a flowery turn of phrase because that is the expected speech pattern of the time. But for regular ole entertaining stories, the kind I enjoy presenting to my readers, I think I'll stick to my trusty nickel words!
  22. Hope everyone is having a fantastic week so far! If you haven't already done so, don't forget to chime in on the CSR Discussion on "Wrangler Butts" by Reddirtwriter! For today's installment of the blog, I have a list of some great quotes compiled by Cia. I hope you all enjoy them as much as I did! Quotes from the Greats Compiled By Cia Writing Quotes There is probably no hell for authors in the next world -- they suffer so much from critics and publishers in this. - C. N. Bovee If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor. - Edgar Rice Burroughs If you have other things in your life -- family, friends, good productive day work -- these can interact with your writing and the sum will be all the richer. - David Brin I have been successful probably because I have always realized that I knew nothing about writing and have merely tried to tell an interesting story entertainingly. - Edgar Rice Burroughs Thank your readers and the critics who praise you, and then ignore them. Write for the most intelligent, wittiest, wisest audience in the universe: Write to please yourself. - Harlan Ellison Editing Quotes I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil. - Truman Capote It is perfectly okay to write garbage--as long as you edit brilliantly. - C. J. Cherryh Never throw up on an editor. - Ellen Datlow Half my life is an act of revision. - John Irving [Editors] drive us nuts. We go from near-worshipful groveling when we submit to bitter cursing when they reject us. - Ken Rand Publishing Quotes When a man publishes a book, there are so many stupid things said that he declares he'll never do it again. The praise is almost always worse than the criticism. - Sherwood Anderson Rejection slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil - but there is no way around them. - Isaac Asimov The reason 99% of all stories written are not bought by editors is very simple. Editors never buy manuscripts that are left on the closet shelf at home. - John Campbell There are three difficulties in authorship: to write anything worth publishing -- to find honest men to publish it -- and to get sensible men to read it. - Charles Caleb Cotton Engrave this in your brain: EVERY WRITER GETS REJECTED. You will be no different. - John Scalzi
  23. As we've mentioned before, FictionStoriesOnline.com is a "sister" site of GayAuthors.org with some great writing advice and tips. With permission, here is one that ran last year, but the advice is great and we hope you enjoy it! Flashbacks: Friends or Foe? I had a discussion in a chat room recently over flashbacks. Specifically, how does an author relate history in a story of another character that isn't the main POV? This was especially important, as he wasn't known to the main character at the point where his actions impacted the plot, and the story was written in third person limited. So there wasn't a logical way to simply introduce him to the reader by showing a scene in the present timeline. One of the ways discussed to provide that information on the character's personality and his history with the main character was a flashback. While I don't prefer them myself, we all agreed there are a few simple guidelines that are vital to ensuring a flashback is used correctly to help the author tell their story. 1) The flashback needs to clearly relate to the specific point in the plot where it begins. If it is a memory triggered by a specific drink the character has, the memory should start with a situation where the drink was involved - such as a date in a coffee shop. It wouldn't, however, be clear to the reader if you had the flashback start while the character is making the date days before then. 2) The scene shared in the flashback must have a purpose. Why does the reader need this information? If it is just to share the history of the characters, and it doesn't move the story forward, then don't add it. 3) The most important rule we agreed on was very simple. The story must return to the exact point the flashback started. To do anything else removes the legitimacy of the 'flashback' and makes it become a scene out of timeline sequence instead. For example: A woman waiting for her husband picks up her cup of coffee and takes a sip, then she has the memory of their blind date in the same coffee shop. She puts down the cup, then her new husband walks in. She smiles at him when he sits down and repeats the corny line he used on her when he first sat down in the memory. They laugh. The coffee drink/shop in the present scene relates to the memory of the first date directly. The memory is vital to explaining the line, why she'd use it with her husband, and why it is funny. Without it, the reader wouldn't understand the scene that the author returns to as the woman puts the cup back down and her husband walks in. Using those simple guidelines, a flashback can enhance your story. Just remember not to overdo the flashbacks scenes or the timeline can become muddled. It can be a very useful tool, however, when used sparingly. What are your thoughts on this? Do you agree with these guidelines? Are there any other tips about using flashbacks that you've found in your writing or in stories that you've read? Let us know in the comments - Trebs
  24. Not everyone knows that GayAuthors.org has a number of sister websites - also operated by CDEJR Web Services Inc for various purposes. One of those sites, fictionstoriesonline.com is the source of today's blog and we thank FSO for allowing us to use it. Meaningless Words With A Purpose What's a meaningless word? How could one have meaning? Well, I'm talking about interjections! What is an interjection really? Well, it's a word that doesn't have any part of speech but is put in a sentence to indicate an emotion. Sometimes they're not really even words, but through their use, they've come to mean something. They can be very useful, though I believe they should be limited to dialogue. Below is a list of frequently used interjections and their commonly held meanings. Feel free to add to this list, as it is by no way complete. Mmm: Indicates thought or sort of a lazy pleasure Mmhmm: Indicates agreement Aha: This indicates triumph or a sudden moment of understanding. Um: Is just a place holder for a pause, but sometimes expresses confusion. Oh: Very versatile. It can express surprise, pain, pleasure, add emphasis to a statement, Oh my god! or could be used to indicate a question with the addition of a question mark, Oh? Hmph: This one is very Scottish sounding, lol. It expresses indignation or annoyance. Ew, Ick, Ack: These all can express disgust. Duh: Expresses disdain to someone who is being dense. Eek: This could be fright or an unpleasant surprise. Bah: Indicates derisive dismissal. Shh: Indicates a need for silence. Aw: This one is also versatile, it can be disappointment or if extended, it could be an expression of sympathy, like awww. BTW - did you know that we're on Facebook too? Give us a "Like" to see updates...
  25. This is a first - normally we solicit articles or pull up things from the distant past, but for this week's blog article, I was looking around last Thursday and saw a personal blog that comicfan had written. As I read it, I went "Self - this is PERFECT." So after a little cajoling and offers of first-born puppies, I was able to steal borrow his blog to share it with all of you. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do! Leaving Reviews by comicfan I noticed someone had commented on leaving reviews. I've been on both sides of this, reading them and leaving them. I just figured I would note a few things. 1) I love a review. It is nice to know what what people think of the ideas I have in my head. I have had great reviews and bad ones. 2) Bad reviews - I have no problem if someone doesn't like my story. However saying "You suck as a writer," or "Why did you write such crap," really doesn't tell me much, other than feeling it is a personal attack on me. I would rather read, "your characters don't seem real to me" or "people don't talk like you have them doing here." These sort of comments are something I can now focus on and see about fixing. The reviewer is presenting to me what they see as the flaws. Sometimes mistakes happen and by being specific it gives the author something they can go and look at. 3) Good reviews - Every author loves an ego boost. Reading such things as "This is wonderful" or "I love your work" will always make us feel great. However, just like the bad review it doesn't let us know much about what you liked if you leave that out. "I really connected to the mother in this story, she reminds me so much of my own mom," or "I've had times when I felt just like that and those comments have passed through my own head" allow the author to know we are connecting and how with the reader. A favorite line or favorite character that is commented on allows the author to realize where we have succeed and can hopefully do so again in the future. 4) Finding an error. Most authors on the site have a beta and editor. However, even the best of us are still human. If you find something (The author changed Karen to Karren, or misspelled experience in the middle of the story) isn't something to note in a review. A simple note to author goes a long to making the correction and saving the embarrassment for the author and their team. Remember, the review will stay even after the correction will be made. 5) Answering the review. You have taken the time to read and comment on an author's story. You have giddily commented on what you seen, enjoyed, and now wait to hear back on your comment. Yeah, as you have taken the time to write, it is also now on the author to answer those reviews. With a published author, they made their money and may have someone else answering their fan mail. Here the reader is much closer, reading weekly an author's contribution to their tales. Responding to those readers also lets them know you appreciate their time and the kindness they have taken in responding to what you have written. Personally I try not to let any review go more than a day without answering it. I like my readers to know I really am interested in their comments and ideas. It is just a courtesy I try to keep. So those are my ideas and comments on reviews. Might help someone with what they are doing. Anyway, enjoy. Thanks again comicfan for your viewpoint on this - I think it really is helpful. What do you think? Let us know in the comments! - Trebs
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