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Career changing Inspiration Writing

Getting Inspiration From Aging

Getting Inspiration From Aging

Aging happens to all of us, even if we die young. And much like children experience various developmental stages, our aging has some stages, too. However, in order to avoid repeating myself, let’s throw out a caveat here and only look at age forty and up.

Forties

For most people in their forties, this decade is a good place to be. Any children are often out of the house or are just about to be. Perimenopause has started for most women. And while that can sometimes be challenging, it’s a signal of things to come. Work can be at or near its zenith in terms of pay and responsibilities. And the house might even be paid for by this time, or close to it.

However, for some people, this is the age bracket when early-onset Alzheimer’s begins.

Fifties

Going beyond the forties means more wear and tear on all bodies. By this time, most women are fully menopausal, although on rare occasions a woman in her fifties becomes pregnant. However, if she does decided to keep her child, she and her child have increased risks of problems.

For people who had children while in their thirties, this decade means sending them to college (and paying for it). Or it can mean getting them married (and possibly paying for that) or starting to work. Furthermore, not every child can afford to leave home and so people in their fifties may find they are still living with their kids. In addition, many people become grandparents during this decade.

This is also a decade to catch up on retirement savings and begin to assess options.

Sixties

While 65 was once the standard retirement age, that’s no longer the case. For people in more sedentary jobs, they might continue to work throughout this decade. In the United States, Social Security rewards you the longer you stay in the work force, so some people may try to make it through the decade.

Parents can often become grandparents in this decade, if they haven’t already. And their children may start to become a lot more financially independent. That’s a good thing, as people in their sixties need to think about the future even more. And it’s the decade when people start to (more often) become the target of scam artists. In addition, widows comprise about one-third of all persons aged 65 and older.

Furthermore, one in nine people over 65 have Alzheimer’s.

Seventies

A lot of people in their seventies may fit in the group of the so-called “young-old” if they haven’t had a major health scare. However, a lot of people get cancer (half of all cancers in Britain are diagnosed during this decade and later). And this is the decade when mortality from Alzheimer’s is at its highest, with 61% of those in this age group with Alzheimer’s dying before their eightieth birthday.

Age 72 is when the Social Security advantages to delaying retirement effectively stop. Hence anyone who works past 72 either likes what they are doing or they really, really need the money.

Eighties

By this decade, if you haven’t gotten Alzheimer’s, your chances of getting it continue to climb. And by now, the risk of it starts doubling every five years. By age 85 and older, one-quarter to one-half of all seniors will exhibit symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

However, if you make it past 45, life expectancy for both genders is in the eighties. Hence if you are in a couple, and you’re still together, you may even be during much of this decade. The differences in life expectancy for both sexes flatten out.

For people who have grandchildren, they are often grown or almost grown by now. And pretty much everyone in this age group should at least be thinking about help with the basics of life, everything from navigating stairs to running errands or doing chores.

Aging to the Nineties and Beyond

It’s hard to say if the incidence of Alzheimer’s goes down. Some studies seem to support this although in all fairness, the sample size is understandably smaller. Hence if the doubling incidence continues, that would mean virtually everyone in this age group would be showing at least a few symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Furthermore, cancer is uncommon as a cause of death. However, even more people become widowed by now. And it might even be the second time that they have become widows or widowers.

Some people become great-grandparents during this decade (or during the previous one), although that depends a lot on a group’s age(s) at becoming parents. Very few people live alone or independently by now.

Is there an upper limit to how long we can live? That’s probably not something we can prove, at least not now. However, the oldest-ever confirmed individual was Jeanne Calment, who died when she was 122 and a half.

Aging: Some Takeaways

Beyond dry statistics about life expectancy, disease prevalence, and widowhood, aging can bring with it grace, or wisdom, or bitterness. All of these are choices, and many more, for your aging characters. Because not every interesting character is young, you know.

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Career changing Publishing Writing

Beta Readers and Editors

Beta Readers and editors

Consider beta readers and editors – what’s the difference? Does it matter which one you use to help with your manuscript?

Beta Readers

Beta readers are people who read over your work. They evaluate it before it gets anywhere near a publisher. They might read for typos, spelling errors, grammatical issues, and punctuation problems, but that is not a very good way to work with them.

Beta Readers and Continuity Checks

Instead, you want them to help you with flow and continuity. If your main character is female and 5’2″ and has a chihuahua on page 4, then she should still be female, 5’2″, and the owner of a chihuahua on page 204, unless there is some on-page reason why she isn’t. E. g.:

  • They are transgender, and successfully transitioned (with or without surgery) to male. Or the character no longer identifies as female or male.
  • The character had a growth spurt and is taller, or has osteoporosis, and became shorter. Or maybe her legs were amputated (sorry, character!).
  • She gave away the chihuahua, or it ran away, etc.

The last thing you want is for your beta reader to wonder where the chihuahua went, particularly if the little dog isn’t a big part of the story.

Demographics

Good beta readers are in the demographics of the people you’re trying to reach with your novel. They like your genre or at least are willing to read in it and offer feedback. They don’t tear you a new one when they don’t like something, but they are also unafraid to tell you if something isn’t working for them.

Some Questions to Ask Them

Ask them:

  • Are the characters believable? Are they distinguishable?
  • Do you think the situations are plausible?
  • Are there good descriptions for the scenes? Can you picture yourself where the characters are?
  • Do the transitions work?
  • Are the conflicts plausible?
  • Is the conclusion a satisfying one?

Also ask about genre-specific issues, such as whether your mystery was too easy or difficult to solve, if your horror story was scary enough, if the technobabble in your science fiction novel was credible, etc.

The best way to get a beta reader is to be one! Offer a trade with another indie. Usually this work is done for free. So be kind, and either recommend your beta reader friend or at least donate a little something to one of their three favorite charities.

Editors

Editors are more professional than beta readers and are generally people you hire. They will do copy editing, where they check for typos, etc., although there should be a last pass by a proofreader before publishing, no matter what.

Editors can also check for continuity, but they will mainly read with the audience in mind. They are a good enhancement to the work of a beta reader, and are a good idea before you send your work out for querying.

Researching Editors

The best way to get an editor is to do some research. Ask people you know are published. After all, an editor no longer has to live in the same city or country as you (but you will do best with someone who is a native speaker of the language your book is in). Work with the editor on a sample chapter. Do you get along? Are his or her suggestions reasonable? Are they slow?

And if you are absolutely, utterly stuck for funds, try a local college or university. You might be able to get an English major to help you, but be aware they probably won’t have experience and they may not be the best fit. But they may be all you’ve got.

And make sure to have a written agreement with them! This is a sample copyediting contract, and it’s pretty good. Be sure to change the contract to indicate the laws of your state apply!

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Career changing Inspiration

Getting Inspiration From Literature

Getting Inspiration From Literature

Literature sometimes feels like medicine writing. You know you should read it. But sometimes it just feels like cod liver oil in book form.

Literature

What is it about literature? From the classic to the lowbrow, it permeates our lives. As writers, we might appreciate it more than others do.

Reading to Write

First of all, whenever people ask about how to best develop their writing chops, inevitably they are told two things. One of these is to read extensively. Hence if you are following this, you are already halfway there. And it does not have to be classics. It does not have to be Silas Marner or the like. You can be voraciously reading YA, or bodice rippers. It does not matter.

As a writer, examine the work. How does the author pull you from one chapter to the next? Or how does she start? How does the story end? Are the supporting characters as interesting as the lead(s)? Or do they take over? Or are they cardboard cutouts? Do you ever lose the suspension of disbelief?

Writing to Write

The other standard piece of writing advice is: write a lot. And you can do that with any form of literature. Hence take whatever you just read. Flip the POV (point of view) and rewrite it. Gender swap. Figure out what happens after ‘The End’, when the curtain comes down. Decide what happened before the story started. Write a back story for a supporting character, or even a bit player.

So if the work is in the public domain, then you might even be able to publish your work. Yet if it’s not, then treat it like any fan fiction and use it as a learning experience. Since you can’t publish fan fiction, why not consider how to further alter your new piece? Maybe you can convert it to something more wholly original. Because you might even be able to publish it.

Takeaways From Literature

Since so much of writing is structural, why not pick apart someone else’s work? Because if they have been published, then someone liked their work enough to take a chance on it. Finally, a peek behind the curtain can also show you where even great works falter. And that can be comforting if you ever doubt your own abilities.

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Writing

Writing – Starting a Piece

Background – Starting a Piece

Starting can be fraught with stress and worry. You can, at times, wonder if what you’re doing is worthwhile at all. But don’t worry; it is.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quill - Starting a Piece
Starting a piece? Here are some ideas of how to get going.

One year I created a kind of web. I had the main character and put her name in a circle on paper. Then I drew a bunch of lines radiating out. I connected her to other characters and then, on the lines, wrote why they connected – whatever it was (and she didn’t have to connect to everyone, of course). That got me to start creating scenes, and I ordered them. Some ended up just being little scenelets. I did this with all of the major characters and eliminated redundancies. Once I had the order down, I started to think about transitions between scenes.

Points of View

This web concept worked very well for a story with one main character. For The Real Hub of the Universe series, Ceilidh was always the center of things and everything would happen from her point of view. If she did not directly witness something, she would have to read about it or learn about it in some other fashion. Sometimes this meant that another character would have to have a conversation with her.

Multiple POVs

For a piece with multiple points of view, the process can differ. This time, the web is more like a series of intersecting rings. How do characters relate? What do they see, feel, and hear, touch and taste? Who do they know, or like, or despise? What are their goals? What are their prejudices? With Mettle, there are nine separate points of view, although some of them (like Eleanor’s) aren’t the focus too often. Instead, characters with more “screen time”, such as Nell, Craig, and Elise, had to do more of the heavy lifting. One thing which helped a great deal (and it was serendipity, I swear!) was that one of the major plot points concerned lessons which the middle schooler characters had not yet had. Therefore, a part of the exposition became teaching them. As they were taught, so was the reader.

This is one of the reasons why so many television programs kick off with someone moving or getting a new job, or the start of a relationship. Newness is appealing, yes, but it’s also because that gives an expository “out”. If everyone in the book or TV show knows how high Niagara Falls is, then they won’t need to bother talking about it. But if one character does not know, then the audience or reader learns this piece of information at the same time that the ignorant character does. That’s ignorant in terms of “not knowing” rather than being dumb, FYI.

Starting a Piece: Some Takeaways

If you’re still having a hard time starting, recognize that it can also be a species of writer’s block. But if the stress is really bad, you can always write about it.

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Career changing Promotions

Your Elevator Pitch

Your Elevator Pitch

We have all heard of what an elevator pitch is. It seems like it is the kind of stuff for overly eager new sales associates looking to make an impression on the big boss between floors.

But there is more to it than that.

Someone has just turned to you and said, “You’re a writer. What’s your book about?”

Don’t just stand there! You’ve got to be ready.

Your Verbal Elevator Pitch

Try something like this on for size.

Imagine if animals started talking, and they told you what to do in a topsy-turvy world.

My book is about Alice; she’s a young girl, a little bored on a sunny afternoon, when she spots a white rabbit. The odd thing about this rabbit is, he’s wearing clothes and talking. She follows him down a rabbit hole, but then she can’t get out.

That’s less than seventy words, and the person asking has the basic plot, the name of the heroine, and a reason to want to know more.

Your Pitch in Writing

Yes, you need one of these, too. But but a written elevator pitch a little different.

Even if readers know you for writing sweeping, epic sagas, you should still write some short stories. They can be in your universe, or not, although it might help with both marketing and your own personal creativity if they can fit somewhere within your universe.

They do not even necessarily have to be sent out for publication, but they could be good for anthologies. Don’t knock that; this is exactly how a lot of people get their starts. In fact, if you are having trouble breaking in, or want to impress a publisher, try submitting to anthologies. You can get a published credit and impress the publisher of the anthology. There’s a win-win right there.

Point them there, if someone wants to read a sampling of your work. Don’t make them commit to a 100,000 word novel.

On Balance

Finally, have fun with it. Is your main character funny? What about quoting one of her best zingers, assuming you don’t need to explain the joke? Now there’s an idea for a pitch.

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Community Management Facebook

Why Use a Screen Name?

Why Use a Screen Name?

Screen name – good idea, or no?

I was inspired by this post in Angela Connor‘s blog. If you don’t know Angela Connor, I urge you to check her out; her blog is extremely insightful and is still one of my favorites.

Her ideas make a great deal of sense, and I think some of this is why the Blizzard forum experiment in real names for users was such an immediate and egregious flop.

Masks

The ‘net, like it or not, is for many people a place of masks. You pretend to be younger and thinner than you are. Or you pretend to be unmarried. You pretend to be a Klingon. Or you’re a teenager and pretend to be an adult. Or you pretend to be another gender or richer or lovelier or more conservative or whatever.

And the masks can be freeing to many. Perhaps they were freeing when the ancient Greeks donned them while performing “Oedipus Rex” for the first time. I think there is more of a place for them than perhaps we’d all care to admit. Because there seems to be a value to being able to spread war paint (or lamp black) on one’s face, or wear a Halloween costume.

Screen Name Unreality

screen name
Halloween Costume Close-up (Photo credit: trustella)

And this is not the same as our reality. It is related but not identical. Maybe the librarian who goes out for Halloween dressed as a dance hall girl wants to be known as someone who takes risks (and maybe foolish ones, at that). But when the morning after rolls around, she’s back in the library helping others do research.

Anonymous Commenting

This kind of anonymous commenting allows for something like this. Because the sympathetic guy who’s really seething inside gets to call people out. He gets to be a bully and be an all-around racist jerk (I have worse names, but don’t wish to besmirch my blog) behind one screen name. But then he surfs to a different site where he can chat up the ladies with his sensitive New Age guy demeanor, all behind another screen name. And then when the time to log off comes, he goes home and kisses his wife and plays with his children. And this is all one guy.

Facebook

To comment openly through a full, correct name (usually) medium like Facebook would be to cut off the dance hall girl. And it would stifle the racist jerk, the ladies’ man, and any number of other secret selves in favor of a drab and ordinary world. Even on a news site, which is pretty much the definition of drab unless there’s some sort of a hot story, the jerk, the dancer and the Romeo all want to be free.

Who’s Real?

But we shouldn’t take their opinions as seriously as the real people. Because, even though those personae live in real people’s skins, it’s the real people who vote, marry, pay taxes, work, make the news and are members of our real society.

The trouble is telling them apart and knowing which one is real.

Can you always tell? I bet you can’t. Not always.

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Career changing Inspiration

Getting Inspiration From The News

Getting Inspiration From The News

The News

News stories can be a fantastic source of inspiration. Remember the phrase, ‘ripped from the headlines‘? So while it has become a TV trope all its own, current events can really inspire. Because you just can’t make this stuff up.

International Events

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Getting inspiration from the news
Do you get inspiration from the news?

In particular, when writing about an alien society, you can get a lot of mileage out of looking abroad. This is because governments, climates, poverty levels, languages, customs, and mores all differ. And some of those can differ rather substantially. Consider what weekends are like in Canada, in Israel, or in Japan. What about the educational system, or whether a nation is an energy exporter, or an importer? Furthermore, what happens when you look at dictatorships, or at least at different democracies?

National Current Events

By the time this blog post goes live, the American elections will be over (thank God!). However, what is voting like in the United States (this question also make sense when looking at other countries’ ways of doing things)? And what about the nominations process? Back room deals, lobbying, and pressing the flesh can all inspire. In addition, what about other areas of interest? How does the government balance the budget (if at all)? What about fads and fashions sweeping the nation?

And, naturally, these questions apply to other countries. None of this is confined to just America.

Local News

Your local news can be dominated by violence, or even by oddities. Small things can loom large if you live in a small town. I grew up in a fairly small town on Long Island although it has a connection to a larger township. Local current events often centered around the high school, the library, and the movie house. Closing a long-term business was a topic of great interest.

Sports

Sports are a terrific source for drama and inspiration, and include everything from come-from-behind victories to cheating and doping scandals. Are the winners gracious? Are the losers vindictive? Did something interesting happen to the spectators?

Takeaways

Open up your newspaper or do so virtually online. And check out the news next time you’re stumped for ideas.

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Career changing Promotions

Working With a Facebook Page

Working With a Facebook Page

How do you go about working with a Facebook page?

Keep in mind that Facebook is constantly A/B testing (e. g. checking to see if new layouts or color schemes, etc. will make you click more), so these instructions might be a little out of date after a while. This is what currently works. Caveat emptor.

Adding images

Working with Facebook Pages | Adventures in Career Changing
Working with Facebook Pages

Images are always helpful; use a measure of branding for your work, and always use images you have permission to post! If someone else created or photographed an image you are using, even if you now own the rights, it is a courtesy to link to them and give them a shout out. A lot of my father’s and husband’s photography is on my personal author page, and people like to see newer work from them. It’s just another way to acknowledge that this is a community and this solitary pursuit is far from being completely solitary.

Working On And Handling Updates

It’s all about the updates. You can schedule a few months in advance, so make a point of doing this. You can cover a lot more if you spread out your work and set it to emerge at various times; just look at your insights to get an idea of when people are online, and match to those times as well as you are able to.

Setting Up a ‘Buy Now’ Button

You will definitely want one of these. Right in front of your background image, there are three buttons. The one on the left (which is actually in the middle of your background) is a variable. Pull down on it and choose what you want to showcase. Select Edit Call to Action and enter a link directly to buy your work. Be sure it is a link directly to your work on Amazon or Smashwords or wherever. That is, clear away the extraneous junk on the URL. So for Amazon works, this is everything after the ISBN.

If you have nothing to currently sell, you can always upload a YouTube video and change the call to action to a call to watch a video on your site. There are other choices such as Call Now. So, use whatever works best for your needs.

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Career changing Inspiration Writing

Getting Inspiration From The Physical World

Getting Inspiration From The Physical World

A Look at The Physical World

The physical world can inspire, whether it’s the Appalachian Trail, or your bedroom, or the Himalayas. And while not everyone can live in Paris or visit Yosemite National Park, we can all be inspired by our own personal universes. Moreover, if your world can inspire you, then your readers can come along for the ride.

The Great Indoors

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Getting inspiration from the physical world
Does the physical world inspire you?

So consider The Chronicles of Narnia. Why? Because the means of traveling to a magical world is via a common ordinary wardrobe. And how about Alice in Wonderland? Lewis Carroll told his story about a lot of things Alice Liddell already knew, such as chair legs and a deck of cards.

So from your desk to your computer or chair, what can you really see when you look closely? Also, go beyond the somewhat common idea of a computer sucking someone into cyberspace. It’s not a bad idea; it’s just been done a lot. Maybe your character is buried by paper. Or they end up in the vacuum cleaner. Attics and cellars can seem very frightening. What about the walls, or the ceiling?

The Physical World Includes The Great Outdoors

And then we get to the outside. So what do we see? Carroll saw hedgehogs, dormice, and rabbits. We can also see plants, of course. Are they large and menacing, or small and fragrant? And what about natural structures or scenery, such as mountains, rivers, lakes, and canyons?

Part of The Wizard of Oz takes place in an apple orchard. It’s easy to see how and why L. Frank Baum imagined trees talking and even throwing fruit. How about imagining how a certain structure came to be? We all know (or at least we should) that craters come from falling meteors or even comet strikes. But what if a crater exists because a spaceship landed there? A structure like Stonehenge can also inspire.

Takeaways

Get outside and take stock of your surroundings. They may inspire more than you think.

Categories
Career changing Inspiration Writing

Character Sexuality

Character Sexuality

A look at character sexuality can take you in any number of directions.

Character Sexuality
Character Sexuality matters!

First of all, you need to listen to your characters. Are they telling you who they like? Maybe they are, or maybe they’re a little shy about that. Can you see your characters with someone of the same sex, or with anyone, for that matter? Because remember that your own characters’ sexualities need not reflect your own.

So consider how you will present it. For a great, matter-of-fact presentation of character sexuality, just look at Sulu in Star Trek Beyond. Because without saying a word, all that happens is, he is greeted by a man with a little girl, he hugs the girl, and then the three walk away as Sulu and the other man (it’s unclear whether they are meant to be married, so I’m hesitant to use a word like boyfriend or husband) go arm in arm. And that’s it. It’s subtle and loving and sweet.

And of course people protested. Because change can be scary to a lot of folks, I suppose.

Flipping Your Own Personal Script

You have probably been the same sexuality for much of your life. And while gender and sexuality can be fluid, that is not the case for everyone. However, there is a spectrum. Hence even if you have been, say, heterosexual your entire life, you may find you are not completely, 100% ‘straight’.

Furthermore, consider a thought experiment. Why am I suggesting this? Because a writer should be able to think about any number of characters and types of characters. And that includes those who have differing sexualities from the writer. After all, don’t we write about men if we are women, or women if we are men? Stephen King wrote about Dolores Claiborne. Harper Lee wrote about Atticus Finch. And even though most writers aren’t in their league(s), you can still make the effort.

Hence this means also looking into not only gay and lesbian characters, but also asexual characters, bisexual ones, and even characters into other things, like, say, S & M.

Character Sexuality: Some Takeaways

None of this is required, of course. But a thought experiment, I feel, is never a bad idea. You may find a character who speaks to you and who you really want to write. Or maybe you won’t. Only you can know that.