Carolyn M. Walker


Official Blog of Carolyn M. Walker

Friday, January 6, 2017

Please check out my new Author Website!



Hello dear friends!

I've finally launched my new website: carolynmwalker.com ! I'm very excited for this venture and from now on, I will be posting new blogs there so be sure to check it out, connect, and follow me there! 


2017: The Year of Great Things


I've got a feeling 2017 is going to be my year and a lot of great things are coming my way! I'll keep you posted as things develop. I'll also keep posting some very useful writing tips and resources I've picked up recently that absolutely must be shared!

Till next time!




Saturday, November 12, 2016

NaNoWriMo Mania!

Dear Friends!

As you may well know, we are fast approaching the mid-month mark of National Novel Writing Month, most endearingly known as NaNoWriMo! If you don't know what it is, allow me to fill you in. It is a 30-day writing challenge that goes along the basis of writing a full length novel in just 30 days! Can you do it? Do you have it in you? That's what NaNoWriMo seeks to answer! It's a wonderful challenge that really allows you to really evaluate your abilities as a writer and see how far you can go.

It's no easy feat writing a novel in 30 days to be sure. Even so, the task is obtainable and in fact reasonable if you stick to a set regimen and don't deviate. The requirement for the "full-length" novel is in fact only 50,000 words which is really a nicely rounded novella (though some would certainly argue). The bottom line is that 50,000 words is a very small book by publishing standards. 60,000 - 75,000 words are often the beginnings of a novel sized piece and even that is on the smaller end. It also varies by genre. Romance yields a higher starting word count, leaning toward the grand 100K mark and up.Regardless of word counts and such, if you drill out 2,000 words steadily a day, you should meet 60,000 words within 30 days. A book to be proud of! 


My NaNoWriMo Experience


So what's my experience been thus far? Well, it is my first year doing this challenge and I must say it has been quite an experience thus far! I have to admit, I've only written 12,000 words so far, and I should at least be up to 24,000 by now. The catch-up factor based on the 2K a day requirement means I've got a lot of catching up to do and if I don't the chances of "winning" NaNoWriMo looks to be dismal (winning is essentially finishing, which is a personal best and the “reward”).  However, I've learned so much more from this wonderful and amazing experience! As a methodical person and devout planner, it's not my normal style to just sit down and start writing words on the page as they come. But with this challenge, I did just that.

I sat down and started penning my manuscript and before I knew it, I was three chapters into an amazing YA dark fantasy about zombies. It's taken a lot of soul searching and evaluating where I feel my niche is but I write best in the genre of dark fantasy, with psychological themes and literary horror. I love exploring the minds of my often diverse characters and gaining a deeper insight into how the world around them challenges them, changes them, shapes them, and ultimately affects others. The mind is a dizzying maze of astonishing wonders and I love exploring that with an ominous setting and a dollop of dark humor.

Now What?


That being said, I have written my latest work, aptly titled "The Serials," and it has been wonderful writing this new and very different story without abandon! And I think it's developing nicely so far. I strive to catch up and meet the goal but regardless, I will see this project through. Some friends of mine are penning their next great masterpiece with the hopes of publication, and while I may pursue that down the road some day, this is purely a creative endeavor for me right now that I am truly enjoying. I believe it’s a great way to further hone your craft and work towards being a more prolific writer. For fun, I created the above cover (using my Photoshop skills among many other creative things I know about) and slapped it on the front of my NaNoWriMo project page. I'm excited to see how it all ends and I'll be sure to post an update. Also, I’d love you to share NaNoWriMo experiences too! Till next time keep on writing, my friends! 



Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Writing Communities: Why You Should Join

So we all know that writing is a pretty solitary art, but that's not to say you don't need companionship, support and other people to help you along the way. We should face the fact that strength is in numbers and others can make us better than we are alone. That beings said, I've got some important pointers on why you should consider a writing community. 

I also will share with you my own top five writing community websites that I think are worth joining or at least taking a moment to look further into.  You never know what benefits you might reap from a good critique, a burst of encouragement, a positive comment or just a virtual shoulder to cry on.

Why to Look into Joining a Writer's Community Online?

First, I want to talk about WHY you should consider joining a writer's community in the first place. There are many benefits to joining one, but here are a few reasons that really make the experience worth it:

Feedback and Critiques

Hands down, feedback is truly invaluable. As a writer, you might look at your content over and over, and miss the same mistake or out of place detail...over and over. A second set of eyes will likely catch it. You know when something just doesn't flow or sound right. You also know that feeling when you can't quite put your finger on what it is that's off. Well that's where the power of critiquing comes into play. It goes beyond asking your mom or your best friend to review your book or work. They might be biased. However, on a writer's community, you can expect much more meaningful and honest feedback or reviews, which can make or break a piece you've been trying to perfect.

Community Support

The best thing about a community is that writers tend to get other writers! They've been there just like you. That's why it's a community! And a community promotes encouragement. Other writers will understand how it feels to be attached to a particular character, or struggle to get the dialogue just right. They know what it's like to fall in love with a part of your story and breathe life into a world that you created from your mind. These people are your support group because they just get it. Encouragement in an environment from like-minded individuals can do so much for you as a writer.

Exposure

In the end, once we finish our grand work of art, we might want to sell it for profit, so writing communities can be a great resource for this! Especially, if you plan to self-publish, you will need to market your book and what better way to do that than to reach out to other writers in your community. You do realize that a lot of great writers are also avid readers too, right? :P Connections and links like promoting your blog and social media pages are a plus too. Best yet, other writers who may have already gone down the publication road and know the ropes can share their tricks, tips and techniques in discussion forums or an area in the community committed to book promotions. I will say though, that this is a give and get scenario. You should jump in and help share your expertise and insights as well. Also, some communities have ties with agents and publishers, which can provide some nifty exposure opportunities as well.  

5 Writer Communities to Join

1. Figment

This writer’s community covers topics such as writing advice and tips for improving your craft, to specific and detailed information about how to create a catchy cover design for your book. Figment is very fun, lively and active, with a huge following. Those who are new to the writer’s community scene should certainly check this one out. The community is well structured, it’s very user friendly, and the members are very welcoming, and you can get some great and fast feedback/critiquing on here. They also offer nice contest opportunities.

2. WritersCafe

This is an easy to use platform where you can publish your work and gain new readers of your stuff. More than that, WritersCafe also offers a plethora of advice and tips on publishing and going further with your work. They offer classes to further educate the ever-growing writer. Plus they have lists and access to literary agents (but be careful and confirm the list is current) with writing contest opportunities, like Figment. If you are particularly interested in traditional publishing, this is a great community.

3. NaNoWriMo

This popular and large writing community offers countless resources for support and writing tips for writers, new and seasoned. Some of their popular board topics include: Writing 101, Tips for Doctoring Your Plot, and Character Development 101. They also have an expansive "reference desk." NaNoWriMo stands for: "Short for National Novel Writing Month," focused on the insane challenge of writing an entire novel within a month's time. It's cutting edge, chock full of information and has a nice band of dedicated followers. Definitely worth checking out.

4. Wattpad

On Wattpad you will find A LOT of YA, fantasy, science fiction, paranormal content and the like. While it may be geared toward these genres more than others, you can certainly get some good feedback, motivation and encouragement in other genres too. Wattpad is a great place to get your work noticed by other writers and readers. There are awards that are given and "top picks" to help highlight popular titles. Readers quickly become fans and writers can generate a nice following through Wattpad.

5. WEbook

This is a personal favorite of mine. WEbook is a place where you can upload parts or whole books for critique feedback and improvement. The navigation is user friendly and the community is welcoming. Here, you can share your work and easily interact with others. You can also join different discussions, enter contests and take on weekly and daily writer challenges. WEbook also has connections with literary agents and publishers and they provide you with opportunities to reach out and connect with them. Their infamous "Page to Fame" contest allows you to submit the first few pages of your manuscript for peer rating by other members. There are two rounds you must pass and then the top submissions are reviewed by literary agents. Round 3 winners participate in a literary agents’ showcase, giving them a real shot at getting a publishing deal!

The Bottom Line


Joining a writing community can be a really smart move if you need that little bit of extra motivation and you are open to improving your craft. Whether you are a newbie writer or a long-term veteran, we can always improve. Period. Every community is different and each one has something unique to offer. You might just be pleasantly surprised by how valuable they can actually be.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Truth About Multitasking

Hello all!

Long time, no blog! Far too long but summertime is always a crazy time for me! Needless to say, I am back and ready to rev up the ole pen (or typing fingers) and discuss some topics I fancy (and hopefully you do too), pertaining to the fascinating world of writing! Today's topic? Multitasking!


Multitasking: Model or Myth? 


Interestingly, a recent study by the National Safety Council (NSC) focused on the growing issue of distracted driving, debunks the all-too-common “Myth of Multitasking.” The study reveals that  contrary to popular belief, the human brain is not able to multitask! But what about that old classic example of walking and chewing gum? Misconception at its finest. Walking is known as a thinking task, while chewing gum is a non-thinking task. So is it really multi-tasking? 

Let's take the scenario of answering a multi-line phone at a front desk in an office. This is absolutely a thinking task as you coordinate several variables to get the calls routed efficiently and accordingly. Next let's look at tallying up numbers for a weekly expense report. Like the first duty, this is a thinking task as you focus on checks and balances. If you are a star multi-tasker (or claim to be), this should be a cinch right? Think again.

Simultaneously and effectively performing two "thinking" tasks at the same time is... well, impossible. Medical studies show that psychologically, our brain is incapable of doing this. We believe we are multitasking when in actuality we are "micro-tasking." This is done when our brain handles one task at a time, quickly alternating between both tasks as it works toward completion. 

However, because our brain cannot adequately process all of that information coming in, our brain processes only parts of the information, resulting in performing the task at less than 100%. Everything may turn out well but the risk for error, failure or worse are ever present when we do this. So answering that switchboard while trying to run that expense report? NOT a good idea, no matter how great of a multi-tasker you believe you are! Can we say burnout ahead? It would seem that we can safely say that multitasking is indeed a big fat myth!


Multitasking and Writing


So how does all of this relate to the act of writing? Well, if you are a writer and you give any value to the act, you are likely putting your brain power into it. If that is the case then, your brain is completely focused on that task at hand. Taking it a step further, if you are trying to write, you can’t very well watch your favorite show or carry an intelligent conversation with your spouse 100% effectively at the same time. At least you can’t without diminishing the written work, right? So it stands to reason that if you really, truly, actually, HONESTLY want to get some real work done when it comes to writing, you need to padlock your door and have a blow torch ready if anyone manages to get through. (If only, though!)

It boils down to this: if our brains cannot truly multitask as we might have once believed, then we might be cutting ourselves short by taking much needed attention away from our work or craft. In this day and age, it’s something of a proud bragging chip to be able to say “I’m the multitasking queen” or “I am the king of multitasking!” Truth be told, it’s no better than saying you are an expert at doing everything at 63.4% of the quality it should be. You see the dilemma, I’m sure.

Writing the Right Way


We can all agree that writing is definitely a thinking task. That being said, we should treat it as such and stop with the distractions. In the end, we want to be productive as writers and we cannot do that until we turn the rest of the noise around us off (some nice instrumental music doesn’t really hurt though). The goal is to write and focus on that task ONLY. Don’t try to make that doctor’s appointment, don’t try to plan for dinner, don’t try to toggle between your writing project and some other work-related project you might have. Simply stop, breathe, and turn it off. 

Don’t multitask, just task. Give your talent 100% of the attention it deserves. Just above my desk, I’ve got a simple mantra I’ve tacked on to my cork board that states: “No Distractions. Writing Comes First.” I bring it to the forefront and I give it priority. In life, things happen, interruptions occur (unfortunately) and then life goes on. Take time, make time, mind set for single tasking, and own it. Sometimes doing it all does nothing while doing one thing at a time is all you ever needed to do in the first place.



Friday, May 6, 2016

Writing a Synopsis for Your Fiction Novel

I'm excited. I'm seeking representation for my novel. I'm nervous. I've never done this before. I have to write a synopsis for a literary agent who's looking at me. I'm lost. Ah, the lovely synopsis; that nice little document some agents want to see in order to gain a concise yet powerful rendering of your novel's story and the growth/development of my characters. 

All of this must be, mind you, distilled down to a one-page document that not only hits all the key points of your story but also piques their interest to read the entire manuscript, while providing enough information so as not to bog down or turn the reader away. Yep, it's the dreaded synopsis. 

Some agents aren't a fan but others want (and need) it to decide if your work is worth reading another word of. I've done a fair amount of research over the past week on how to write an effective and meaningful synopsis for your fiction novel, which I will share with you momentarily. One thing I will say that a synopsis is NOT: a brief plot summary of your story. It is not a play-by-play either. You have to provide just the right amount of pertinent and valuable information to convey that your tale is worthy and developed to the point of potential publication. 

So, without further ado, here's what I found out after hours of scouring the internet, checking out as many publication guides and synopsis books I could find at the library (the librarian thought I was crazy), and asking my writer friends for their two-cents on the matter:

Fiction Novel Synopsis Checklist:


TOP MISTAKES TO AVOID-

  • Do not create a bare bones plot summary.
  • Do not summarize EVERY chapter.
  • Don’t get bogged down with the specifics of character names.
  • Avoid character backstory. Only use flashbacks if it progresses the story.
  • Avoid dialogue, unless it represents a major moment in the book.
  • Don’t ask rhetorical or unanswered questions.
  • Don’t split your synopsis into sections, or label the different plot points.
  • Tell, don't show. Keep it concise and to the point.
  • Keep it tight, not wordy.
  
WHAT MAKES A GREAT SYNOPSIS-

  • Capturing the emotions (anticipation, fear, hope, excitement, and disappointment).
    • The elation of victory at the end, or the agony of defeat.
    • Emotional twists (especially of main character) and turns make a novel appealing.
  • Identify your protagonist, the protagonist’s conflict, and the setting by the end of the first paragraph.
  • Simultaneously describing your sequence of key plot events.
  • Use energy and vitality. Synopses should usually be written in active voice, third person, present tense.
  • Keep it short, or at least starting short. Write a one-page synopsis—about 500-600 words, single spaced—and use that as your default.
  • Make us care about the characters.
  • Define the protagonist’s core conflict and how he succeeds/fails in dealing with it.
  • Help us understand how that conflict is resolved and how the protagonist’s situation, both internally and externally, has changed.
  • To decide what characters/plot points stay or go in a synopsis, ask yourself: “will the ending make sense without this character or plot point? If it’s no, it stays.
  • Broadly generalize less important areas.
  • Incident (Story Advancement) + Reaction (Color) = Decision (Story Advancement).
  • The ending paragraph must show how major conflicts are resolved.
  
WHAT A SYNOPSIS DOES FOR A LITERARY AGENT-

  • A synopsis must convey a book’s entire narrative arc. It shows what happens and who changes, and it has to reveal the ending.
  • The synopsis ensures character actions and motivations are realistic and make sense.
  • A synopsis will reveal any big problems in your story.
  • A synopsis will reveal plot flaws, serious gaps in character motivation, or a lack of structure.
  • A synopsis also can reveal how fresh your story is; if there’s nothing surprising or unique, your manuscript may not get read.
  • Shows whether your story has an original idea or premise.
  • Shows whether you have an interesting main character.
  • Shows whether your subject matter and theme are either topical or intriguing.
  • Shows whether you can create a sound plot that makes sense.
  • Reveals if you can build tension and lead to a satisfactory conclusion.
  
CREATING A SYNOPSIS, STEP BY STEP-

Take the major story points and edit them into something resembling a short story (without dialogue or description). Write a synopsis that addresses both the plot and the emotional sides of your story.

  1. Start With Plot Basics

Identify the several basic stages. These include...
  • The inciting incident that gets things moving and sets the protagonist on a path.
  • Opposing event(s) going against the path/goal.
  • The crisis event or turning point that that leads to meeting or failing the goal.
  • The resolution or the climax, which reveals the meet/fail of the goal and aftermath.

  1. Add the Main Character's Arc

The emotional side of the story will be expressed by the main character's progression Answer the following questions:
  • Who is your main character at the start of the story?
  • What kind of person is he/she? What is his/her approach to life?
  • Describe how your main character is thrust into a situation and pressured to change.
  • Does your main character decide to take a leap of faith and change?
  • Does he adopt a new approach or take some uncharacteristic action?
  • Does he hold true to who he is and become stronger?
  • At the end of the novel, is the main character better or worse?
  • Does the reader feel that the main character has done the right thing?
  1. Consider the Impact Character's Role

The impact character(s) are responsible for pressuring the main character to change, generally with a different approach or outlook. He or she shows why and how the main character might need to change. Answer the following questions:
  • When the impact character enters the novel, how does their approach or attitude from the main character?
  • How does the impact character pressure or influence the main character?
  • If the main character changes at the climax of the story, the impact character typically remains fixed in their ways. If the main character stays the same, the impact character may be forced to change. How is this illustrated in your novel?
  • Is the impact character better or worse off at the end of the novel?

  1. The Major Relationship

Another aspect to a well-rounded story is the progression of the relationship between the main and impact characters. They could be romantic, the hero and villain, hero and mentor, etc. Regardless, the relationship between them will also exhibit an emotional arc. Answer the following questions:

  • How does their relationship start at the beginning of the story?
  • How does their relationship develop or is tested in the course of the story?
  • What is the climax of their relationship (a decisive change)?
  • How is their relationship at the end of the story different?

NOTE: All of the “#1”s from each of the steps above will go into the first part of your synopsis. All the “#2”s will go into the second part, etc.

  1. Include Thematic Considerations

If these points are a crucial part of your novel, write them down.
Answer the following questions:

  • What issues do your characters struggle with in your novel?
  • What themes will be addressed and weighed in the story?
  • What is the message or moral?

  1. Include the 8 Basic Plot Elements

Write an index card for each of the 8 basic plot elements, describing how it is illustrated in your novel. Once again, put each card into the appropriate pile, according to where the illustration appears in the story.


  1. Edit All Your Points Together.

By now you have a set of over 24 index cards, each describing an element of your novel. The cards are in four piles, representing the four acts of your story. Your final step is to arrange the cards in order within each pile and write/edit them together to create a summary of your story. If you have included all of these elements, you should find that your synopsis covers not only the events that make up the plot but also the emotional side of your novel.

You may find it useful to write each point on an index card or piece of paper. Then you can sort them into four piles representing the order they will appear in your synopsis.

The above checklist was in part, compiled from the wonderful tools and information provided by Jane Friedman's wonderful post about the topic. Very helpful stuff! :)

Take from this what you will and happy Synopsis-creating! 

carolyn m walker signature

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Writer's Market 2016 - The Ultimate Guide to Publication!

Photo credit: http://www.writersdigestshop.com/
Hi peeps! Yesterday, I bought my first Writer's Market, deluxe edition! I am super excited for the amazing information within its pages. I intend to read it front to back and take in all the great resources and advice I can find. Anyone serious about publishing their work, be it articles for trade magazines, poetry, children's books, graphic novels, short story anthologies, nonfiction and fiction works alike, the Writer's Market has it all! There is even a nifty section with fresh listings on contests and awards of which you can enter.

The book begins with a letter from the editor, Robert Lee Brewer, and some very interesting and useful guidelines on how to properly use the Writer's Market. I suggest reading this before diving in. After that, you can thumb through at your leisure and see what catches your fancy, from literary agents looking for new talent to publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts. I must say I have sold myself short over the years not looking into this golden gem sooner. 

The 2016 Writer's Market is in stores now at fine retailers like Barnes and Noble where I picked mine up. It can be pre-ordered for possibly less online as well (but beware of those tacked on shipping fees). With tax it ran me about $53 but the investment was well worth it. I intend on using every available resource this puppy has to offer. With this year's edition, you also get access for a whole year to their frequently updated database at writersmarket.com. You might also want to check out the Writer's Market Guide to Getting Published which serves as an additional companion to the official Writer's Market.

I am very much looking forward to sharing some exciting new news with you soon as I embark on my journey to publication!

Till next time. 



Thursday, December 3, 2015

LOL...How Funny are You?

carolyn m walker humorous textToday, I want to talk about a particularly funny topic: humorous writing. Yes, it’s a thing and yes, it deserves all the respect of other types of professions. After all, who can’t use a good laugh from time to time? In fact, some of the most unforgettable ads and forms are copy are the ones that make us double over with delirious laughter. So the burning question is: how does one achieve it and is it something you can do?

It sure is! (Those with only “how did the chicken cross the road” jokes need not apply.) The key to truly maintaining success when writing a humorous piece is originality. If you don’t have that, well… [insert cricket sound here]. You get the point. So if you are concerned about it and want to add some LOLs or at the very least smiles to your copy, read on to see how it’s done.

I should just point out right now that I come from a long line of goofballs, therefore it’s kind of in my genes to be a goof. If you don’t score so high on the laugh-o-meter, not to worry! Humor comes in many forms, my friend.

Sarcasm


The dark comedy of the written language can often be attributed to some perfectly placed sarcasm. The beauty of sarcasm is you don’t have to throw buckets of it at your audience. A sliver of sarcasm here, a helping of irony there, a hint at mockery elsewhere and voila! You have yourself copy that’s been nicely spiced up with edge and yes even a laugh or two.

Puns


Word play at its finest is best found in a pun that leaves your audience still thinking about it long after they've read it. Suggesting two or more meanings, by spring boarding off words with multiple meanings is a common way to add in a good pun. Alliteration is sometimes added with a good pun as well, often for extra humor. The best thing about a pun is it can quickly spice up your copy and generate a good laugh almost immediately. Not to mention they are often downright clever and often very much appreciated.

Slapstick


Cheap shots and SNL style skit references are fair game here. This style of humor works best in story mode copy. Telling a tale that’s worth a few extra laughs? Slap-stick is excellent for this and it’s easier to achieve than you may think. The best thing about slap-stick is there really is no right or wrong. Bumbling foolishness and epic fails are all a part of life, right?

Niche



carolyn m walker niche writingDownright quirky and completely niche humor is not an easy thing to accomplish, I won’t lie. A few years back, I covered a travel column piece on the summer festivities at Disney World. It just so happened Epcot had a summer Flower Garden festival occurring during the Star Wars weekends. If you are catering to a group of Star-Wars enthusiasts who also happen to love gardening, you better come up with more than just a blip about greenery and "may the force be with you." Let’s just say creativity knows no bounds with niche-based humor. By the time I was done Darth Vader and flowers sounded like a rosy pair—puns very much intended! It was challenging but rewarding. The best thing about niche humor is that it is literally one of a kind, so you have more freedom to think outside the box and have fun with it.