Writer’s Road Trip – Part 3: Pictures to Inspire #WritingPhotos

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The view driving back into the Sacramento Valley

This is the last part of the road trip series. It’s not very long, but I hope the small things I learned can help you. Todays is about… pictures. I took a lot of pictures, on the trip; I shared a few on Twitter.  Though most I took for myself.

As we were traveling, I was looking for inspiration. Of course, we are always told the best way to remember something is by writing it down, but as we traveled I got a better idea: taking pictures.
useing pictures for writing ideasWe all have had that moment, “I don’t need to write that down, I’ll remember it.” And then an hour later we can’t remember. I feel writers are most guilty of this. So I made it a goal to write down any new idea or thought I have, but writing doesn’t always do the job. Taking a picture helps, after all, a pictures is worth more than a thousand words.

I got the idea as we were driving. I saw a mountain that was exactly what I wanted for a mountain in my book.  At first I thought, “I’ll remember that.” But when I went to write it down, I couldn’t remember it clearly enough. Then the thought hit me, I have a smart phone; why didn’t I just take a picture of it? Then I can look it over while I write it. I took the picture on the way back. Take a look.

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After that, I realized I could do this to capture my ideas. After all, isn’t that why we take pictures? So we can remember good times? We want to remember the ideas. So why don’t we do this more as writers?

I’ll show you a few more examples of pictures I took and how I use them.

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I took this one because it has a unique feel. The snow and clouds give it one feeling, and the desert foreground adds a different dimension. Together they give a kind of foreboding, ominous feel. I have an area in my fantasy world that is like this. The picture allows me to capture the mood of the area better. Better than it would if I just wrote about it.

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Now apart from being beautiful, this one has a good romantic/hopeful feel to it. It’s sunrise, we’d just started on our long drive home after an even longer trip. We were excited and ready to take on life.

Now, if I just wrote that, it would give you the basic idea, but with the picture you feel it better. So even if you don’t use this picture in the book (though you can because you took it) it helps the writer feel it. From my experience, nine out of ten times if the writer feelings it, the read will feel it too.  I use these to help me get the feeling back in my mind and heart before I write the scene.

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Okay, so this last one isn’t the best. I couldn’t get the post out of the way, but in the back, you can see the amazing salt flats and the mountains behind them. Now I don’t know what I’ll do with this yet, but can’t you just see the feeling of dread you’d get if you were told you had to reach those far mountains on foot, or better yet, can you picture an amazing battle on those flats? I could see it in my head. Now, I could just write it down, but the feeling of seeing it inspires me even more. Having the picture helps me get ideas. I could use this many times to get different ideas. This trick I used most on my trip. I would get an idea, take a picture and then let my mind go wild.

So the challenge: try it.  When something you see inspires you, take a picture. Then go back and use it to help you feel the mood, sharpen ideas, or get your creative juices flowing. Then share them with me on Facebook, Twitter or Google+. Use #WritingPhotos to share them with each other.  If you want me to see them, tag me on Twitter at @RealRMDonaldson or using my Facebook page, R.M Donaldson

Now go forth! And take inspiriting, descriptive and powerful pictures!

Taking Pictures to Inspire

Writer’s Road Trip – Part 2: Editing and Marketing Ideas from Children’s Bedtime Stories #childstorytelling

Bedtime story helps for writers

This post has no mention off classic fairytales or any other classic bedtime stories. This post is about how to use the techniques used in a bedtime story to help you edit and market your own books. These ideas can be used to help any kind of book, Adult, Young Adult, Mystery, Thriller, Fantasy, Science Fiction, or any others you come up with. This is about how thinking about your story as a bedtime story can be highly beneficial.

While on my road trip, one of the most fun parts was being able to play with my nieces, ages five and three years old. They love stories. After reading them every book we’d brought, they wanted more and we were out of ideas. I decided I’d tell them the story of my book. At first, it just seemed like fun. However, I learned three things that you can get out of doing this.

  1. It’s Helps with Marketing Ideas
  2. It helps you find the best marketing genre
  3. Finding where to trim out the excess scenes

Book Marketing useing bedtime storiesLet’s start with number one. When you are marketing your book, you have to give a potential reader enough of a taste to be interested, but not give up the whole story. As writers, it’s hard for us to see the big picture. After all, we sit and take months or years, planning the story, a few months or a few more years writing, and then editing it over and over. You’re down in the trenches of storytelling; you are fighting the battle on the front lines. When it’s time to market, you’re called up to be a captain of the battle. It is hard to change our mindsets from intense detail to big picture again.

A great way to overcome it is to tell the story like a bedtime story. When you tell the story at bedtime, you have to simplify it. You don’t get hours to tell the story. So you have to condense it. When you say it aloud, it helps you see the big picture again. It may even help you feel the same first spark you felt when you got the idea.

For example, my book is a fantasy series; that tells the story of the family given the commission to protect their world. Now there is so much more detail. As writers, we want to share more. For our first draft, this is a good thing. It’s easier to trim a tree than to graft in new branches. So it is with a book. It’s better to have too much and take away than come up short and need more. Movies always have deleted scenes, right?  It’s the same idea.

genreThe second thing I learned, is telling the bedtime story helps you pin down the genre. When you are so deep into your book, you can see it fitting many sub-genres. When you telling the bedtime story, you can see the basics. Putting your book into a genre can be more of the most important things you can do to find your target audience. It’s a important key in marketing success.

For example, the Lord of the Rings can be many sub-genres. When you get down into the details, it could be an alternate world fantasy, epic fantasy, quest fantasy, or sword and sorcery fantasy. All of these are correct, but which of these is best to market. As a writer, we will often get wrapped up in the army of sub-genres it could be, most of all in marketing. When you tell the story aloud to a child, the best category to market becomes clearer.

editing2600Last, but not least, number three. I mentioned this a bit before, but if you need to know what scenes need to be cut or shortened, you can find them more easily by using this method. An example from my own book, I had a wedding scene that I thought the reader needed details on. However, when telling it aloud to my nieces, I found I could really make it much shorter than it was. For me as the writer, it was great that I knew that detail. Then I can use it later to help there be more substance to the story.

Remember the film maker? He had extra scenes he didn’t need, some have to be deleted. The film makers have to decide why to delete a scene. So it is with a writer. By telling the story to a child, or pretending to, you can weed out the empty scenes from needful ones. You can see how to give the best teaser possible.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think at least the author needs to know the details. I firmly believe it is worth the time to write, even if only you read it. It’s just like having a backstory to a character who never tells their story. It helps the story become more real. It gives the story levels; it gives it secrets and details we don’t know. This helps bring power to the story. A good example of someone who did this well is our favorite J.K. Rowling. She is able to share those untold details using her Pottermore website. It’s part of what gives “The Harry Potter Series” its magic. (No pun intended)

Vector challenge messageSo today’s challenge, is to try telling your story aloud to a child or pretend to. Then you can see how to best market the book, how to best place it in a genre and find where it needs trimming. You may even get other ideas. I’d love to see what you learn. You can leave a comment on this post, on my Facebook, Twitter or Google+. Did you find another way it helped you? Let me know using #childstorytelling. I’m excited to see what you come up with.

Part 3 will be the last bit of the road trip series. It will be about how to use to better create your own world. Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed it.

Writer’s Road Trip – Part 1: Experience Writing #writerexperiences

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Alright guys, as promised, I finally sat down and to go work on at least the start of my road trip. I’ve been super busy catching up in school and work, so sorry it’s been a while. I’ll have more writing tips come out soon.

So I’m starting ta the begin of the adventure.The first thing I learned on this trip: is when you are trying to work on your writing, doesn’t always mean you have to be actually writing. I expected to use the ten hour drive to actually sit and write. It didn’t happen, but I found other ways to improve my writing.

Now, don’t any of you use that as another excuse to procrastinate writing. I have a dear friend who has a great story, she and I have talked about many times. The only reason she isn’t as close to publication as I am is because she has a hard time just sitting down and writing. We could both be promoting each other’s work right now. Instead, I’m helping her get started; while I’m towards the end of my first publication. So don’t use that as an excuse. A writer writes!

Pile of vintage luggage

Now with that out of the way, we began our trip. It was early in the morning, when we started, about 4-5am. It was dark and we’d hardly slept the night before. The shadows of closing shift were on my eyes as I came home the night before. I found everyone trying to pack frantically. Most of us were done, but we’d all had worked that day. I’d had the morning to pack, but despite having mostly packed that morning, the rest of us still had to pack. We were all up late. As a result, we were all dead tired when we got into the car the next morning and set off.

I tried to sleep in the car, but – as I think I’ve told you before – I have chronic insomnia. So my attempts to sleep didn’t work too well. I tried to write several times, but on the windy roads of the California Sierras, it wasn’t working. I get car sick pretty easily. So looking at the computer screen in the car wasn’t a good idea. However, I was determined to work on my writing in those hours. I had to think, but I found another way to work on my writing. I would memorize how I felt. After all, how often will I write a tired character who had a very long day and then had to get up early and travel? Seems likely, right?

So here’s what I did, I started to write down notes about how I felt and descriptive ways I could explain them to a reader. For example, as we set into the mountains, we hit a deep snow storm. How did that feel? I use my phone take pictures to try to get the image.

IMAG00207I spent a winter in the snow, though most winters to me meant rain in northern California. That winter, I honestly didn’t mind the snow. I loved the adventure. Though I loved snow, most people don’t. Therefore, most of my characters won’t. So how could I better understand them? Well, I could I use the feelings of the driver and co-driver to help me picture how a character who is not happy about snow would feel.

With that lesson learned, I did that for the rest of the road trip. I took in every experience and soaked in how it felt. Take in the good, take in the bad, how would you write down how you felt? You can even take time to write down those feelings. Make a notebook or online document that you can reference for different experiences. This will make you a more well-rounded author. It will allow you to display more emotion in your writing. And we all know how much more we enjoy a book if we can feel those feelings with the writer.

Vector challenge messageSo today’s challenge! I challenge you: to experience life. Do something different. The more we’ve done, the more we can help our characters do, and therefore our readers feel. Maybe you’ve never gone a road trip, make plans to take one. Maybe you love rain, try to experience rain with someone who hates rain and see how they feel about it. There is no right or wrong way to try to experience the world. Find your own way, then share it. Post pictures or videos about your experience and add #writerexperiences to the post. Let’s see how far this can go and how much more of life you can experience. The more feelings we have lived and understand, the more we can put into our writing.

I’ll start the trend. I’m going to find little experiences every day that will help me in my writing. I’m going to try to do this every day. I’ll #writerexperiences so we can all see what experiences we are living together. To keep up to date on them, follow me on twitter. The link is in the side bar. Now, go forth writers, live life, so we can help others live theirs over and over in our books.