Write for the Smashing Guest Writing Gala

Hello All You! I hope you had a great Fourth of July!

I am currently in Portland, Oregon for The World Domination Summit and am totally excited about learning some awesome things from writers and bloggers of today! Also very excited to meet new contacts.

If you are still interested, The Smashing Summer Writing Gala is still going on and there are a few more places left. If you are interested in guest posting be sure to click and send me a pitch of at least 2 paragraphs on what you’d like to write about and then press send! :)

I will write again soon when I get back home to Minnesota.

Be a Guest Writer

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Hello All! I am running a call for submissions over at my new website: http://www.devinberglund.com called The Smashing Summer of Writing Gala.

Are you awesome? Yesss… Yes… You are! And because of that I’d love to have you guest post.

Send me a pitch – a few paragraphs on the topic of the post you’d like to write.

Your posts can be anything about writing! So, share that awesomeness! 😄
www.devinberglund.com/contact

What are you up to this summer? I’m on my way to Portland Oregon for a conference!

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Ditch the Gimmicks & Tell the Story

I would like to give a big warm welcome to my friend and fellow writer, Steven James. Hope you enjoy his words of wisdom. :) Also, note to all of you. Be sure to come to my new website www.devinberglund.com for fun, inspiring posts about writing, life, traveling, and health. I will be moving there permanently and would love for you all to join me! P.S. I am giving away a book for free… and all you have to do is sign up to be on my mailing list. You can even do it here.

In fiction, story matters more than anything else.

Yet, all too often, authors forget this and in their zeal to impress readers or wow editors, they end up peppering their writing with distracting gimmicks that undermine the story.

Never let anything get between your story and your readers. Here are six ways to remove some of the most common stumbling blocks:

#1 – Tone down the symbolism

A few years ago I picked up a literary novel that everyone was talking about. In the first chapter there was a storm; in the second, someone was washing his hands; then a character was crying; then there was a baptism. I remember thinking, “Okay, I get it. Your image is water, your theme is cleansing, now get on with the story.”

And from that point on, guess what I was doing?

Yup.

Looking for the next way the writer was going to weave a water image into her story. And she delivered, scene after predictable scene.

As a reader I was no longer emotionally present in the story. I’d become a critic, an observer. And that’s definitely not what a storyteller wants her readers to do.

The more your readers are on the lookout for your images, your theme, your symbolism, and so on, the less they’ll be impacted by your story.

Rather than building your story around a theme (love, forgiveness, freedom, etc . . .) or advice (“Follow your dreams,” “Be true to your heart,” etc . . .) or a cliche (“Every cloud has a silver lining,” “Time heals all wounds,” etc . . .) drive your narrative forward through tension and moral dilemmas.

So, instead of using the theme “justice,” let the story ask the question “What’s more important, telling the truth or protecting the innocent?”

Rather than giving the advice “You should forgive others,” let your story explore the dilemma “How do I forgive someone who has done the unthinkable to someone I love?”

Let your story do more than reiterate the cliche “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.“ Instead, challenge that axiom by asking, “When do the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many?”

Respect your readers. Assume that they’re as smart as you are. If you can identify imagery, symbolism, theme and so on, expect that they will too. And as soon as they do they’ll be distracted from the story itself.

#2 – Stop trying to be clever

There’s nothing less impressive than someone trying to be impressive. There’s nothing less funny than someone trying to be funny. Eloquence doesn’t impress anyone except for the person trying so hard to be eloquent.

So look for places in your story where you were trying to be funny, clever or impressive, and change those sections or remove them.

Some writers shoot for humor by using speaker attributions like, “she joked,” “he quipped,” “he mentioned in his usual fun-loving way,” and so on. Don’t fall into this trap. If your story is funny, you don’t need to tell your readers. If it’s not funny, you don’t need to draw attention to the fact.

Some authors resort to using a profusion of speaker attributions. Their characters chortle, grunt, exclaim, reiterate, gasp, howl, hiss and bark. Whenever I read a book like this I find myself skimming through the dialogue just to see what the next synonym for “said” will be. Readers get it. They know you own a thesaurus. Just tell the story.

In the same way, inserting your authorial voice intrudes on the story.

Drop those antiquated, obscure or uncommon words unless they’re necessary for character development or for maintaing the narrator’s voice. This isn’t to say that you can’t write intelligent, incisive, challenging stories, but any time the meaning of an unfamiliar word isn’t immediately obvious within the context of the story, choose another word that won’t trip readers up. This is especially true as you build toward the story’s climax since the pace of the story needs to steadily increase.

Also, avoid the temptation to impress your readers with your research, your vocabulary, your plot structure, or your knowledge of the flora and fauna of western North Carolina.

When readers pick up your book, they’re not preparing for a spelling bee or a doctoral dissertation or a medical exam; they’re hoping for an entertaining, believable story that will transport them to another world and move them on a deep, emotional level.

It’s your job to deliver.

#3 – Avoid contrived literary devices

Writing something like, “She cautiously closed the closet door and crept across the carpet,” might have impressed your high school English teacher, but it does nothing to serve readers in today’s marketable fiction.

As soon as readers notice the alliteration they’ll be distracted—whether they’re counting up the number of times you used the letter “c,” or rolling their eyes at your attempt to be clever, you’ve caused readers to momentarily disengage from your story. And that’s the last thing you want to do.

You don’t even want readers to admire your writing; you want them to be so engaged in the story itself that they don’t notice the way you use words to shape it. Anything that jars readers loose from the grip of the story needs to go, even if it seems to make the story appear more “literary.”

Weed out figures of speech that don’t serve the mood of the scene. During an airplane hijacking you wouldn’t write “the clouds outside the window were castles in the sky.” Castles carry a positive connotation and undermine the suspense in this story sequence. If you were to use a figure of speech, perhaps choose one that accentuates the tense mood: “the jet plummeted through the dungeon of clouds.”

Over the years I’ve heard of authors who’ve written books without punctuation, or without using the word “said,” or without quotation marks, or novels that contain an exact predetermined number of words. But by becoming more important to the author than the reader’s experience with the story, those artificial constraints handcuff it.

Whenever you break the rules or keep them, it must be for the benefit of readers. If your writing style or techniques get in the way of the story, cause readers to question what’s happening, analyze the writing, or page back through sections they’ve already read in order to understand the context, you’ve failed.

You want your writing to be an invisible curtain between your readers and your story. Any time you draw attention to the narrative tools at your disposal, you insert yourself into the story and cause readers to notice the curtain.

In order to improve their writing, most authors need to cut back on the literary devices they use (whether that’s assonance, onomatopoeia, hyperbole, overwrought similes, or whatever), rather than add more.

#4 – Keep readers from asking “why?”

A plot flaw is, simply put, a glitch in believability or causality. When a character acts in a way that doesn’t make sense, or when one scene doesn’t naturally follow from the one that precedes it, readers will stumble.

Imagine that your protagonist hears that a killer is in the neighborhood and she decides to go make pasta. Readers will think, “What? Why doesn’t she lock the door, or call the police, or run to her car and get out of the area?”

Do you see what happened? At the very moment in your story where you want your readers to be drawn deeper into the narrative, they’ve pulled away and started to question your character’s actions, and, to some degree, your storytelling ability.

As soon as an event isn’t believable it becomes a distraction, so ask yourself, “Is there enough stimulus to motivate this action?” And then make sure that there is.

Always anticipate your readers’ response.

Try to step back and read the story as objectively as you can, through the eyes of a reader who has never seen it before. If you come to a place where you think, “Why doesn’t she just . . . ?” or “What?! That doesn’t make sense!” you’ll know you have some editing to do.

Pointing out the story’s plot flaws can often solve them. Have your character say something like, “I couldn’t believe she would do such a thing. It just didn’t compute.” Readers will think, “Yes, exactly! I thought the same thing! There’s more going on here than meets the eye.” The more you admit that the scene has a believability problem, the less readers will hold you responsible for it.

Make sure every special skill or gadget needed in the climax is foreshadowed earlier in the story. Coincidences drive a wedge in believability. Foreshadowing removes them. So if the diver suddenly needs a harpoon gun to fight off the killer barracuda and he reaches down and—how convenient!—has one, readers won’t buy it. Show us the harpoon gun earlier so it makes sense that he has it at the climactic fish battle.

#5 – Reevaluate your “hook”

Many well-meaning writing instructors will tell you that you need to start your story with a good “hook” to snag your readers’ attention. And they’re right.

To a certain extent.

While I was teaching at one writers conference a woman gave me her story for a critique. It started with an exciting car chase. I said, “Great, so this is an action story.”

“No,” she told me. “It’s a romance. The woman goes to the hospital and falls in love with the doctor.”

“But it starts with a car chase and explosion. Readers will expect it to escalate from there.”

“I had a different opening,” she admitted, “but my writing critique group told me I needed a good hook.”

It may have been true that her story needed a better hook, but she landed on the wrong one. Hooks become gimmicks if they don’t provide the platform for escalation.

An effective hook needs to do seven things:

1. Grab the readers’ attention.

  1. Introduce a character they care about.
  2. Set the story’s mood.
  3. Establish the storyteller’s voice.
  4. Orient readers to the world of the protagonist (and enable them to picture it).
  5. Lock in the genre.
  6. End in a way that is both surprising and satisfying.

Too many times a writer will grab readers’ attention early on, but not introduce them to the characters or setting of the story. Consequently, she’s forced to insert excessive backstory that undermines the forward movement of the story. Take your time, trust your readers, orient them to the world of the story, and then drive the story forward without having to explain why you started it the way you did.

#6 – Answer readers’ questions as they arise

Never annoy your readers.

Sometimes I read books in which the author withholds information from readers “to create suspense.” But failing to give readers what they want doesn’t create suspense, it causes dissatisfaction.

For example, don’t leave a point-of-view character in the middle of an action sequence.

So, if, during a chase scene, you write (about your protagonist), “She careened around the bend and crashed into the cement pylon jutting up from the side of the road,” and then you close your chapter, readers will obviously want to find out if the woman is conscious, dead, etc . . .

But some writers will then jump to another point-of-view character, often in a less stressful situation, then come back to the woman in the car (or maybe she’s in the hospital by then) a chapter later.

If readers are tempted to skip over part of your story to get to a part they want to read, you need to fix that section. That means that as you write you’ll constantly ask yourself what the readers want at this moment of the story.

Then give it to them, or surprise them with something even better.

799bb96230fe0e8c3cb120093b8266a9Steven James is the award- winning author of 30+ books including the critically acclaimed Patrick Bowers thriller series and the newly released Jevin Banks series. He has an MA in Storytelling, is a contributing editor to the Writer’s Digest, and has taught writing and creative communication around the world. When he’s not writing or speaking, you’ll find him trail running, rock climbing, or drinking a dark roast coffee near his home in eastern Tennessee.

Quick FUN before I DIVE back IN!

Photo Credit: Johan Joubert

Photo Credit: Johan Joubert (Check out Johan’s art at his website!)

(Story about picture above: For my 25th birthday my boyfriend did such an amazing thing. It was a gift any writer would love to receive! While, I was still in Australia I finished my novel and printed it out for us to read through. Once I left, he had started reading it. I wasn’t aware that he was actually reading as much as he was. I didn’t know for sure if he’d actually read it all. But then, he told me he was doing something exciting for my birthday gift. I was excited, but I was even more excited when I opened it. Inside the box was a three-ring binder with my edited manuscript. He read it and left his edit marks. He also took a bunch of pictures, playing around with his camera. He loves art and photography. Then he created a cover to inspire me. A small box was also a part of the gift. When I took the lid off, I found this. [below])

Photo Credit: Devin Berglund

Photo Credit: Devin Berglund

It was The Mason of Hearts. My very own… lol…


Title of Book?

The Mason of Hearts

Where did the idea for the book come from?

I got my first idea about this book from a dream where these evil people were not happy with how they were created, that they wanted to change everything about themselves. They heard about this beautiful girl who held many powers and secrets. A rumor was that, if she was killed her powers would give them the ability to change who they were into who they wanted to be.

I got the idea earlier this year, while writing the original book, The Created Ones. When I finished that book, I realized that I didn’t really feel like I knew some of the characters well enough. They were dark shadows in the corners of my mind, so I decided I needed to find out more about these characters before going back over my first book. This book, The Mason of Hearts, is book one of the trilogy and The Created Ones will be book two. It’s just funny I wrote book two, before book 1.

What genre does your book fall under?

Definitely Fantasy Adventure. (It could be placed in either the YA or the NA genres… just haven’t figured that out yet.)

What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? Since, I have quite a few characters in my book… I will show you three of them. :)

Photo Credit: www.imdb.com

Photo Credit: http://www.imdb.com

Dustin – Benjamin Stone

Photo Credit: www.imb

Photo Credit: http://www.imdb.com

Sara – Evangeline Lilly (with shoulder length hair)

Photo Credit: Fanshare

Photo Credit: Fanshare

Evangeline – Niomi Watts

What is a short synopsis of your book?

A maleficent witch kills many of the Preventer warriors, throwing the world into a panic. Dustin, one of the last Preventer warriors starts training when the King calls upon him to protect his daughter and unborn grand children. The witch adds hearts to her collection which she stores in her necklace. She uses their gifts and talents as she needs– her necklace The Mason of Hearts, when filled with the most powerful and innocent of hearts would give her unlimited power to manipulate the world. Dustin is captured by a stranger with a dark secret – an affectionate bond forms between the two, and they must enter the witch’s game of hide-n-seek with life and death to protect the king’s grandchildren and to save people’s lives or many will die, including them.

Will your book be self-published, or represented by an agency?

I am shopping for a literary agent to rep me and my book.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? 

The Mason of Hearts took about 9 months to write. I am currently in a rewrite/edit stage.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

It would probably be compared to C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia tied with The Hobbit with a touch of Harry Potter.

What else about your book might pique the readers interest?

This book is set in it’s own world, but the extraordinary adventures and situations will be relatable with readers lives. In The Mason of Hearts, My top goal is to  make readers see a little of themselves in my characters. I also want my readers to see how special they, themselves are.

Does it interest you? Would you want to read it? 

Packing… STILL…

 

 

My desk has filled up with a bunch of things....

My desk has filled up with a bunch of things….

Packing Still…

You know how they say you can learn a lot about a person by seeing what is in their locker? Or you can learn a lot about a woman by what she carries in her purse? That is a thought that came to me today while packing. Everything I pack has meaning. In each item a person could probably see that they are mine.

What about you?

Do the things you own radiate off of your personality?

But yes, I just thought I would share a few photos. Now, I am not a messy person – but if some of the photos seem crazy it is because it’s crazy to only be allowed to pack your life into two 50lb bags without exceeding the weight limit. 

 

Packing these giants is a long process. Pack them and then weigh them. They weigh too much. REarrange things. Weigh AGAIN.

Packing these giants is a long process. Pack them and then weigh them. They weigh too much. REarrange things. Weigh AGAIN!!

What should I bring with me on my carry-on? AGH... troublesome thing to pack as well. Hehe... can you spot Lizzy?

What should I bring with me on my carry-on? AGH… troublesome thing to pack as well. Hehe… can you spot Lizzy?

I know that most people wouldn’t want to show their packing process… but I just thought… since you all are close friends and all I wanted to show you everything that I am experiencing. And part of that is the expat life I have been living.

Once back in America, I will start doing a daily goal of writing a short story everyday. I think it will be an exciting journey.

AND…

I will EDIT… Further on The Mason of Hearts… Yes, I said it…

EDIT.

Then as I do that I will also work on putting together a Query letter to send in to an agent. How exciting, right? I am kind of scared actually. But, it will be interesting none the less. I will let you tag along on my journey to finding an agent.

 

How about you? If you look around your room, car, house, locker, purse, or backpack… could a stranger look at all of those items and come up with a clue on what sort of person you are?

 

Introduction to my blog! :)

I decided to make an introduction video for my vlog. I have been hearing from a lot of writers that it’s a good thing to be on Youtube as well, so I am going to try my hand at Vlogging as well! Watch out for my next vlog – It will probably be on the outcome of NaNoWrimo! :)

P.S. Are you participating in NaNoWrimo (Nation Novel Writing Month)?? If so add me as a buddy on there. I am interested in doing some writing sprints with people. (A sprint is like a race to see how many words one can write in a given time like 30 minutes, or an hour.)

Also If you haven’t seen it. I was a guest blogger on writing blog Write It Sideways! Want to know how to boost your writing creativity with a camera? Check it out here! 

Writers Can Learn MORE From Television Shows…

Photo Credit : The Walking Dead – AMC

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Writers Can Learn MORE From Television Shows
Than Just Procrastinating From Writing

I am fond of certain television shows.

Do you have your shows that you love watching?

Are you a writer and do you enjoy watching certain television shows?

Do you ever wish you were as good of a writer as some of those script writers?

Do you want to know how to write like those script writers that can pull you into their story as easy as a witch waving her wand?

If you answered yes, I know a few points and hints that may help you!

The shows I have found myself drawn into are The Walking Dead, Switched At Birth, The Vampire Diaries, and Pretty Little Liars.

INTRIGUE & PASSION

There are funny moments in a show where I am sitting on the edge of my seat with my nails tearing the cushion because of the conflict in the writing. I know exactly when more conflict will enter the story. It’s as soon as good things start happening to characters.

eg. 24 – This show isn’t running anymore, but I have been watching it with Johan lately and when ever the characters have a chance of being safe or getting what they want. It is then, at that very moment that something bad happens. (MISSION: What does your character want Most?” In the first season, Jack Bauer’s wants his wife and daughter and when they are one step closer to being back together together what happens?

Something causes them to be seperated for longer. This reminds me of what Best-Time-Selling Author Steven James once told a bunch of writers at a Writer’s Conference, “What does your character want most? When you figure that out – tear that “Wanted” thing or person away from your character.”

“What does your character want most? When you figure that out – tear that “Wanted” thing or person away from your character.”

Television writers are really good at this. I hadn’t always been into tv shows, but it makes me happy that I can see the conflict coming. In your writing you want to make the readers so happy that your father character and daughter character are about to be united again… but then, WHACK you need to throw your readers for a ride. Oh, Oh… She gets kidnapped again? NOooo…

This also is a great way to build conflict and pace your story! AND not to mention it will make your readers continue reading. :)

I have made up a list of some things I don’t like about some screen-writers: (Things that can push a reader/watcher away from a story)

Pushy or preachy (Pretty Little Liars) (Mr. Brooks) Shows and movies like this cause problems in my mind… they deal with things that are not okay in society and make them seem like they are okay. Like in Mr. Brooks, the pov character is a serial killer, and throughout the whole movie it makes you feel like you are the killer…

And with Pretty Little Liars, I have already posted on that one day… I hate how they are pushy with gay stuff. I mean there are shows with gays that I have watched and been able to keep watching – but I think what bugs me so badly here is that I really love the story because it is well written, but then they throw in a gay girl and only have one pair of glasses and that is a fully accepting view. It bugs me because I do not agree with that…

I don’t like watching things that make me feel icky and bad for the next few weeks… I like reading, watching, and writing things that make a person walk away from the show, story, or book with a good feeling.

I have found these are some really important things to stay away from if you want to keep your readers. :)

  1. What are some things that you like and dislike about television shows
  2. What are your favorite shows?
  3. What can watching tv shows do to help you with your writing? 

Be Blessed x

Devin Berglund <- I enjoy walking through gardens, having picnics and spending time with my boyfriend Johan. I find old train stations to be romantic and I love to writing about everything from my journey in Australia, my writing, and life. Follow my blog and twitter. I’m also on facebook! This month I’m working on my 1st novel in a trilogy. I’ll also be participating in NaNoWrimo. Add me as a buddy if you are also participating! I love meeting new people, especially writers. Add me and I will add you back! Can’t wait to get to know you all. Be Blessed! x