Sunday, July 26, 2015

Don't Judge Me for Judging

After assembling my own anthology for publication (Young Adventurers, due for release in December) I thought I was fully ready to help judge a short story contest that would result in an anthology for fellow publisher.  Well… maybe.

Nancy Sakaduski of Cat & Mouse Press invited me to be one of the six judges for this year’s Rehoboth Beach Reads Short Story Contest. I was honored, but still didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. Nancy is tapped into a pretty vital writing community in Delaware, which resulted in more than 130 submissions! When I got my first batch of 40 stories to review I figured I’d blow through them pretty quickly. I just needed to pick my top five choices with no reviews, comments, or explanation required. We were judging the stories based on their creativity, quality of writing, their suitability as a beach read, and how well they fit the beach theme. Eliminations should be easy, right? You know a story’s too weak  by the end of the first page.
The problem is, almost none of them was weak. This was a pretty darn good bunch of stories. I wanted five great reads to float to the surface, but it was more like twenty. I had to get really picky to choose the 5.
But then we all needed to read the entire group of semi-finalists. Six judges,  five stories each.  That means thirty counting my five, but surely there’d be a lot of overlap that would reduce that number, right? Well, not so much. We had 28 semi-finalists to consider. And shoot, almost all of these were really good! Plus there was the apples vs oranges issue: is this really well written romance better or worse than that well written humorous story? Or the thriller? But hard choices had to be made. We each shared our top three choices (although I couldn’t resist mentioning two that were an eyelash away from the top three.)
Finally, we judges met to hash out which of these fine efforts would be declared first, second and third place winners. There was lively discussion but no conflict really. These people were definitely my respected peers and we all made passionate arguments for our favorites. Ultimately we all loved the top stories to some degree so settling on final winners was not that hard. And we each got to give a Judge’s Award to a favorite that didn’t make it into the top three.

It was exhausting but SO rewarding, and I now know several authors I want to pursue for a Intrigue Publishing. If you are an accomplished writer you should look for an opportunity to judge. It’s a wonderful experience.

Monday, July 13, 2015

It's All About the Dialog III

Last month I wrote a bit about dialog, but it was all just mechanics. But remember that good dialog is so important to your fiction because dialog is the best place to reveal your character’s inner self.  It is also the place where you can most easily destroy your character, and your book.  I know you’ve been told that every writer should have his own individual voice.  If you want your characters to become real people, they too should each have an individual voice, and that voice should grow organically out of who that person is.

You must think of every character you create as a real person, as real as you or me.  How you speak is the result where you come from, your age, your ethnic background, your gender, whether you’re a leader or follower, and whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert.  So you need to know all of that and more about every character before he opens his mouth. Your speech is also affected by what groups you have belonged to.  For example, ex-cons and retired soldiers have distinctive speech patterns that are very different.

One final tip on making your dialog fresh and believable.  When you have a conversation written and you think it’s the way it is supposed to be, the final test is done by ear.  Read your dialog aloud.  Say exactly what you wrote, and if you find yourself tempted to change it in the reading, consider changing what is on the page.  If you stumble over an unintentional tongue twister, change that too because people don’t usually say things that are hard for them to say during conversations.  And pay attention to the word choices.  Consider this sentence from a book I was asked to critique: 
“Your sourpuss persona is rubbing off on everyone, including Whimsy.  She’s seven years old and by now you should have adjusted to being a parent—-she deserves more from you.  It’s Christmas, for pity’s sake!”   

Now, if you had written that and then read it aloud, I hope you would ask yourself - would the person who used a phrase like “sourpuss persona” also use a phrase like, “for pity’s sake?” 

The test by ear is the final test of whether you’ve written strong, believable dialog.  I hope these few tips will help you put better words into your characters’ mouths.

Friday, July 3, 2015

What Genre Do I Write in?

Today's guest author, B. Swangin Webster, is the mother of five grown children and the "Nina" of seven grandchildren. She continues to write because if she didn't, she believes she would stop breathing. "Live life with passion" is her motto and this is something that she does every day. She has written two successful novels that strike close to reality, yet people still ask what genre her work falls into. Today she explains.

What is the genre I write in?

Well with a name like B. Swangin Webster you may assume, erotica. WRONG!

I write Contemporary Dramas. It can also be called Urban Drama.

Next question…oh, like street lit? WRONG!

Contemporary/Urban dramas are nothing like street lit. There are no drug dealers in my novels (well one time there was but he was just passing through) and there are no women stripping for money or marrying a man for money.

Street lit is hard core literature that has taken the literary world by storm. Most street lit novels will have titles that include the word, (pardon my language) Bitch and Nigga. Most likely they will have covers with stacks of money on the cover or a scantily clad woman or man.

My novels have none of that. Yes, it may contain the word Bitch but not in EVERY conversation.
Contemporary dramas are stories that can be lived right now. They could be your neighbor’s drama and most of them are LIFETIME movies. You know; the ones that have the stalker, the mistress or the missing child. 

What I write is taken from today’s headlines and fictionalized to put you in the middle of the situation and have you going through all of your emotions. If you don’t use at least 4 (or 5) emotions (well some say there are 6 emotions; but that’s another blog) while reading my novel, than I haven’t done my job.

So take a look at one of my novels and see what I write. Don’t assume that you won’t read an urban or contemporary drama because most movies that aren’t mystery, suspense or action are in fact contemporary dramas.

Give me a try and see if you enjoy it. Please feel free to contact me after you do; I’d love to hear from you. Just write to - and make sure to LIKE my fan page on Facebook: