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Writing

Self-Review – The Dish

Review – The Dish

The Dish came from a dirty plate in our kitchen sink. Therefore, it proves you can get writing inspiration from just about anywhere.

Background

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | The Dish
The Dish, exclusively on Wattpad

Also, without a doubt, it serves as an utterly passive-aggressive study of human nature. Essentially, you first. No, you. I insist. I’m not gonna until you do it first. Etc you get the idea.

Plot

The main concept behind this plot serves to almost warn couples but also provide a bit of a primer on how to really be passive-aggressive. The narrator is never named and is only barely described as being female but there is nothing else.

Hence she remains a cypher, as does the cause of whatever the argument was initially all about. Also, the husband remains a cypher.

A plate is an odd place for inspiration, but the truth is that a plate had been sitting in our sink and I was getting annoyed by that. However, I didn’t make any moves to take care of this tiny mess. Neither did my husband. We are only talking about a few days here. The plot, of course, takes some liberties with the time, as this is fiction and not reportage.

Characters

The only character is the unnamed narrator although she does refer to her husband, who is also unnamed.

Memorable Quotes

I am, despite my flaws, what they used to refer to in the old days as a ‘good woman’. And I am! But then there’s that dish again.

Story Postings

This story is only available on Wattpad.

Rating

The Story is Rated K.

Upshot

As I noted previously, inspiration can come from nearly anywhere. And while this little story could perhaps stand some improvement, people tend to like it wherever I have posted it. For I did use it as a sample of my non-scholastic writing for a course when I was getting my Master’s.

By the way, yes, that’s really one of our dishes. And I think I was the one to rinse it off and put it into the dishwasher.

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Book Reviews Career changing Inspiration

Ideas Jar for Writing

Ideas jar

Do you have an ideas jar?

Origin

Adventures in Career Changing | Ideas jar | Janet Gershen-Siegel
An ideas jar can really help when you’re stuck.

I first heard of this idea when I read Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing. However, I suspect this methodology may not have been his invention. However, either way, it is a fantastic concept and it can help you in two very separate ways when you write.

This makes it truly a win-win.

Oh and by the way, it doesn’t have to be a jar. Although a jar is more of a tangible representation, there’s no reason you can’t just use the notes app on your phone or simply email yourself a list. As always, do whatever works the best for you.

Adding to It

So when you are feeling inspired and giddy and happy, make some observations, write them down, and throw them into the jar. Or maybe you have an idea but no good place to put it. You guessed it; put it in the jar. And another time to fill the jar is when you have a ton of ideas and you can’t decide on which one to start. Select your weakest idea(s) and put it/them in. And if you are seeing plot bunnies everywhere but need to concentrate on one story and one universe, park your other ideas in the jar. The jar never goes away and so you can dip into it later if you like. And it can help to quiet your brain down, to find a home for all of your stray thoughts.

Subtracting from It

There are two times to take things out of the jar. The first is to help you out when you have writer’s block (yes, it really exists!). And the ideas don’t even have to make any sense with reference to whatever you want to write. Because what you need to do when you have writer’s block is to start writing something – anything! It does not matter that you’re trying to write a fantasy story about dragons and the idea has to do with making tea. If you have to, mash the ideas together and boom! You’ve got a dragon making tea.

And the second reason is when you are going along all right but are having trouble with either a transition (or maybe more than one transition) or the ending. While this method can also be used for the beginning, usually if you have this much story together already, that generally means you’ve already got a beginning. However, if you don’t, I don’t see any reason why you can’t use something from your ideas jar.

So maybe your story starts when a dragon interrupts a knight making tea, or the tea contains something which will kill or mollify the dragon. Or maybe the moment of tea making convinces the knight to make peace with the dragon, thereby ending the story.

Takeaways

An ideas jar is, in a lot of ways, your own personal prompt dispenser. So help yourself and fill it – and take ideas out if you need them. After all, that’s what it’s there for.

Categories
Career changing Inspiration

Getting inspiration from pets

Getting inspiration from pets

Pets are our constant companions. For a lot of people, their animal friends are their sole contact on some days. And they can inspire.

Do you speak Dog?

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Getting inspiration from pets
Do your pets ever inspire you?

Humans first domesticated dogs back when we still lived in caves. They probably saved our species and certainly love us unconditionally. Dogs are incredibly observant and usually act to please us, although they have their own personalities and quirks.

However, dog bites are fairly common; there are a few million per year in the United States alone. From 2005 to 2015, dogs killed 360 Americans. As a result, some people are deathly afraid of them.

Feline Follies

Cats can seem aloof, but they also bond well to humans. A cat is often a great companion for people who live in apartments. This is because they are small and often quiet, and their non-hairball messes are well confined. However, a lot of us (myself included) are allergic to them. Furthermore, strays and outdoor cats differ. If your furry friend wanders, you might want to do a thought experiment and try to figure out where they go, and what they do, and why.

The Reptilian World

Lots of people love snakes and turtles. During my childhood, my brother had an iguana. Maybe a dinosaur-like creature can inspire some interesting tales.

Polly Wanna Write?

Parrots are extremely intelligent and can live a long time. Furthermore, a lot of birds are extremely beautiful. Plus there’s the very concept of flight – and they’re so casual about it! So how would we humans be if we could fly, too?

How Ya Gonna Keep ’em down on the Farm?

While farm animals aren’t often seen as companion animals, per se, people do sometimes see them that way. The most obvious are horses, but this includes chickens and potbellied pigs, for example. Maybe consider what it’s like to befriend a creature which a lot of other people only see as food.

Big Inspiration from the Very Small

So, for the purposes of this kind of catch-all section, let’s look at not only smaller critters like mice and hamsters, but also fish, insects and spiders, and others like rats and ferrets. Your animal friend might be lively and playful, or sedate. Maybe the wheel gets a lot of use. And what are they thinking? Is it just about food, or is there more to them?

Takeaways

When we get into others’ heads, we see the world differently. Animals are almost aliens on our world, so considering how they think might prove very helpful when writing science fiction. Hug your pets today!

Categories
Career changing Covers Legal

Working with covers

Working with covers

Covers! Let’s say you aren’t working with a cover artist. Or maybe you are doing the covers work, and you have purchased the work and been given full rights to it, to do with it as you please. Or maybe your work is not selling, and you are looking to make your own cover or covers (perhaps with a unified theme). Not to worry.

Adventures in Career Changing | Fonts and Covers | Janet Gershen-Siegel
Let’s Check out Fonts and Covers

Making Your Own Covers (10 rules)

So you might find that this is the way to go. Also, this can be an option if you are a decent photographer or cannot afford a cover artist. However, seriously consider a cover artist just the same. Or try Fiverr if you’re really stuck!

But let’s say you are bound and determined to create your own cover art.

Some tips

  1. First of all, do yourself a favor, and use a program designed for this purpose. This means Adobe Photoshop or Adobe InDesign, or Gimp. Please don’t use Paint. This is because you just won’t have the options you would with these other programs I’ve listed.
  2. Go simple. Why? Because busy covers look terrible online, and they usually don’t look so hot in bookstores, either. Consider a main element from your story and go with that as your image. The Twilight novels use this to stunning effect.

Use the right images

  1. Use images which you have permission to use, always! Just because you can right-click on an image does not mean you have permission to use it! Here are three ways to assure you have permission to use an image:
    • Take the picture yourself.
    • Buy it from someone! Also, don’t forget to have a written agreement with them for usage.
    • Get it from a friend or relative who has taken it. Yet again: don’t forget to have a written agreement with them for usage.
  2. Don’t use a model unless you get a model release.

Working with images

  1. Make the image big! Scaling it down is possible. Scaling it up will result in a loss of quality.
  2. Consider what the image will look like if it any part of it is cut off. This is another argument in favor of simplicity.
  3. Consider what the image will look like on mobile devices.
  4. Never, ever use the word ‘by‘ unless you are referring to an ‘edited by‘ line. Otherwise, just use your name as the author name.

Fonts and verbiage

  1. If the title is in serif font, use sans-serif for your name, and vice versa, unless you are using the exact same font. E. g. don’t use two different serif fonts. They’ll look mismatched.
  2. Also, make sure your verbiage (title and author name) is readable! This means size and color, and sometimes outlining. Usually it helps if your image is more or less all one color or at least one color tint, tone, or shade. That, is make it all bright or all pastel or all muted, as that will make it easier for the verbiage to stand out and be readable.

Finally, practice! You aren’t going to turn out a great cover without knowing your program well.

You can do it!

Categories
Book Reviews Covers Writing

Self-Review – Revved Up

Review – Revved Up

Revved Up rocks.

It’s the kind of story I tossed off rather quickly and then it kind of took on a life of its own.

Background

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Revved Up
Revved Up (exclusively on Wattpad)

This story started because I had stayed at my childhood home and noticed something odd in the front yard. And the truth is, it was nearly nothing. However, I sometimes have an overactive imagination, and so I took this idea and I ran with it.

What did I notice? It was only a few ruts near a flower bed. They were nothing, really, and were most likely made by a hoe or a rake. However, in my mind, I decided they would be tire tracks. And then the fun started.

The Plot of Revved Up

A holier than thou narrator tells the story to an unnamed police officer. The plot circles around the narrator’s elderly parents’ next-door neighbors. And the narrator refers to them as the POJ Family. That is, the “Pair of Jerks”.

As the story progresses, our narrator gets more and more self-righteous as the POJ Family continues to perform more and more outrageous acts in her parents’ sleepy, leafy Northern New Jersey suburban street (Note: my folks live on Long Island and they don’t even live in the inspiration house any more).

Sharp-eyed readers should be able to follow along, at least in part. The narrator keeps a lot of information close to the vest, so it pays, actually, to read the book again. And no, I’m not trying to inflate read counts.

Characters

No one is actually named in the story. The main character is the narrator, who is telling the story to an officer of the law. The other characters are her elderly parents, her son and daughter, various neighbors, and her next-door nemeses, the so-called POJ family.

The narrator is a divorced middle-aged woman and that’s all a reader learns about her. Her children are teenagers; her parents, elderly and coming to the time in their lives when they’re just about ready to move into assisted living.

As for the POJ family, they have a decidedly more earthy philosophy than our heroine. And so she takes matters into her own hands.

Memorable Quotes

I returned to my parents’ home and the three of us began washing the many plates – eighteen in all. My mother declared that perchance these city people did not understand our ways and so she carefully hand-lettered a number of delicately-worded thank you notes to everyone in the neighborhood. We knew who had provided the apple pie, the cherry cobbler and even the New York-style cheesecake.

Story Postings

The story’s sole posting is on Wattpad, where became a Featured Story a few years ago.

Rating for Revved Up

The story has a K rating.

Upshot for Revved Up

This story has had better traction than nearly anything I have ever written. With (as of the time of the writing of this blog post) over 58,000 reads and over 500 comments (many of which referenced the surprise ending), Revved Up remains an unqualified success. Of course having had Featured Story status helped a great deal.

Could I sell it? I have toyed with that idea, but the story is so odd and it’s really too short for a novel. Plus it does not really lend itself to a sequel. While sequels are far from necessary, it can help if that’s an option. But I am totally fine without one.

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Career changing Publishing

Choosing an editor

Choosing an editor

Choosing an editor can be tricky. Sometimes, you just end up with whoever is cheapest or whoever you know. But if you have a choice in the matter, consider it carefully.

Adventures in Career Changing | Choosing an Editor | Editors
Choosing an Editor is a means of creating a business relationship.

It’s a business relationship like any other

Do yourself a favor, and write a contract. This is a sample copy editing contract, and it’s pretty good. Be sure to change the contract to indicate the laws of your state apply, and clarify it is editing rather than copyediting you are contracting for (unless you are also contracting for copyediting services, naturally).

Working with an editor

Be your courteous and professional self. Editors are a more professional group than beta readers (what I mean is, this is a profession, whereas beta reading is for free and is not a paying gig) 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.

Continuity

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.

Finding an editor

The best way to get an editor is to do some research. Ask people you know who have been published, including your online friends. An editor no longer has to live in the same city or country as you do. However, you will be best served by someone who is a native speaker of the language your book is written in. Work with the editor on a sample chapter. Do you get along? Are his or her suggestions reasonable? Are they slow? Does it seem to cost too much for what you are getting?

Finding an editor on a budget

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.

If you go the collegiate route, don’t just put up flyers. Instead, talk to a professor! Ask who the best students are. The professor may have an idea of who (a) knows what they are talking about and (b) is looking to make some money.

Helping the editor

No matter how much you spend for editing services, be sure to recommend that person wherever they wish, whether it is on LinkedIn, Yelp, or elsewhere. Be kind and helpful to this person, and you could start a lasting professional relationship that will benefit both of you for, potentially, years to come.

Categories
Career changing Publishing

Descriptions in Fiction Writing

Descriptions

All about descriptions

Descriptions are a must. You need them for any type of writing beyond the barest drabbles. Involve the reader in the piece. And that means pulling descriptive prose out of your head. You must commit it to paper or pixels.

Scenes

Scene setting is covered elsewhere in this blog. However, that’s closely related to your descriptive abilities. Consider what is important.

People

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Descriptions
How well do you write descriptions?

Describe human beings as soon as you can. Unless the character’s appearance is some sort of spoiler, you should get their basics down quickly. Otherwise, your readers will picture one thing and, when they are told something different about the character, it will feel jarring to them. If I think your Mary character is Asian, and then you later (finally!) tell me she’s a blonde, that has the potential to take me right out of the story.

I’ll blog about describing people of color elsewhere. For now, just concentrate on basic descriptors. Those are, generally: gender, age range, height, body size and shape, hair color (or baldness), facial hair if appropriate, and eye color. Furthermore, add any unique identifiers. These are a disability or tattoos or the like.

Think about what is normally considered in a standard police lineup. For example, police officers can’t conduct an overly suggestive American police lineup. And it might even be unconstitutional. That is, if the witness claims the suspect is male, then the lineup is no good if it consists of four females and one male.

More natural exposition

You don’t have to dump a garbage can full of expository data in the first sentence. A female pronoun or name can give away gender. A nickname might indicate age, such as Junior or Grandma. Maybe you can comment on agility or speed or fatigue in order to get physical condition across. And height can come up fairly naturally if your character has to reach something on a high shelf, or look up or down at another character. Or maybe they have to determine if they’re tall enough to get onto an amusement park ride.

Any of these is better than a list of vital statistics. Those don’t really come up naturally unless you’re writing about medicine or, maybe, a beauty pageant or a sporting competition.

Aliens

Describe aliens very quickly. The basics should still be your guide. However, you might need to cover other issues, such as whether they can speak or hear, or whether they can breathe our air.

Takeaways

Give your readers as much of the picture as is necessary. Don’t describe the corners of the room unless you need to. But at least tell them there’s a room.

Categories
Career changing Covers Legal

Creative commons

Creative Commons and Whether You Can Use Certain Images

What is Creative Commons?

Their story is best told by them:

Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools.

But this is not copyright! Instead, the concept exists to work with copyright, in order to help you refine the rights in your work. Also, it can work to help you understand the nuances of rights in others’ works. But which others? Cover artists and songwriters, to name two.

Can I use all of the images I find online?

Absolutely not. Just because you can right-click an image or take a screenshot does not mean you have the right to just take it. And do not get me started on wiping off someone else’s photographic watermark.

Just don’t do it. Don’t be a jerk.

Currently, CC specifies six separate types of licenses. So be sure to click and read the specifics!

  • Attribution CC BY – this is the most open of the licenses. It allows others to do nearly anything to a creative work.
  • Attribution-ShareAlike CC BY-SA – this one is similar to CC BY. Except, it requires you attribute to the original artist. Wikipedia uses this one!
  • Attribution-NoDerivs CC BY-ND – you can pass along the work. However, you can’t alter it. And you must credit the creator.
  • Attribution-NonCommercial CC BY-NC – you can alter the original work, but you must credit the original artist. Furthermore, you can’t make any money from the work.
  • Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike CC BY-NC-SA – this one is the same as CC BY-NC. Except, you must license any new creations under identical terms.
  • Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND – this is the most restrictive license, allowing for sharing. But attribution is required. Also, you cannot make any changes. Further, the sharer can’t make any money off the creative work.
Categories
Career changing Inspiration

Eavesdropping for fun and inspiration

Eavesdropping for fun and inspiration

So, Eavesdropping?

Eavesdropping really works, and it is probably a writer‘s best tool. Once you start listening in on conversations, you will open up a whole new world. Because real dialogue, interspersed with your created dialogue, adds realism.

Subtlety

First of all, you have got to be subtle. This means maybe you pretend to play with your phone. Or you look out a window or stare into space. Because you should not be obvious about such things.

Eavesdropping for fun and inspiration | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Adventures in Career Changing
Eavesdropping for fun and inspiration

Furthermore, conversations are often layered. While you are perhaps listening to one person talk to three other people, there is a give and take between that person and the others. However, there are also words passed among the others in the group. Then they might even break off and begin their own conversations.

This doesn’t even get into what happens when you’re in a crowded room. Since it is hard to follow a lot of conversations, concentrate on only one or two. You won’t hear it all, anyway. Furthermore, if you split your focus, you won’t get anything good.

Nosiness

I am not saying you need to be nosy. Furthermore, this is not for gossip. Rather, you are a writer and you are doing research. Do yourself a favor and mix up what you hear. Don’t copy paragraphs outright. Instead, grab a sentence here and there. Write them down and put them away for later. Since you will presumably be writing for years, a sentence might work a decade from now. You never know.

The Names Have Been Changed to Protect the Innocent

Have you ever heard that? Make sure to change names. Or eliminate them altogether. You can also swap gender. Hence if a friend is complaining about her boyfriend, why not change the friend to a man? Or slip the complaint into something else. The complaint could be about your protagonist’s coworker.

Takeaways

Be subtle. Don’t use what you hear in order to gossip. Change the details. Finally, don’t repeat truly personal information (bank accounts, divorce proceedings, fatal disease diagnoses, etc.) unless you change nearly all of the verbiage. Be your usual pleasant, polite, and caring self. Yes, even as you gather some writing fodder.