Embrace Insecurity: An Important Writing Tool

Linus and his blanketOften when I get interviewed about my writing and my books I get asked some kind of variation on what helps me as an author. In other words, what is the one tool in my arsenal I can’t do without.

Sometimes I point to my education, many times I point to my library and my reading (for, it is my opinion that all writers have to be industrious readers), but there is a secret friend I usually never bring up. He is a nagging voice, usually the last one I hear in my head each night before I go to bed. He questions everything I did that day, and wonders what I can do in the morning to correct it.

That is insecurity, and over the years I have learned to look at him as a companion in this upside-down, backwards and forwards, writing career. He rarely cheers or gets excited when something goes right (if he goes quiet for even a minute it is rare), but he keeps me on my toes, challenges me and always has my back in any situation.

Yes, I am telling you my fellow authors to be insecure! Fill your mind with self-doubt and worry! Let your uncertainty overwhelm you!

…And then use that power like I do. Continue reading

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The Madness and Joy in Blogging, Writing, Etc., Etc.

WindOne of the perks of running your own site is that you are your own boss. And how strict you want to be with yourself is your decision. Some are mean with themselves. Me? I’m an old softie! Do I want cookies? Sure, here you go…

I once wrote a post that gave some advice to bloggers on topics and what not to do. One of the points in the “What not to do” category was to discuss how tired you are. Frankly, everyone gets tired, and writing about being too tired to write really doesn’t make sense. So my advice was to take a breath and come back when you have something else to say.

Now me? I’m not saying I’m tired, but definitely something is going on with me creatively. The winds are shifting and on Sunday I decided to throw my cards into it and see where they land.

1. Originally my hope was to share a book over the summer, but I don’t know if that is going to happen now. I mean, I’m happy with the first draft but honestly, my creativity is really interested in another work. I went out this weekend to work on the planned book, but I ended up spending most of my time working on the new book and giggling my way through it.  Continue reading

Is Historical Fiction a Good or Bad Thing?

HistoryI have a few writing posts on my site that are a little bit controversial.

One of those posts is my discussion around fan fiction, which you can read here. Every time—and I do mean every time—I share this article on Twitter or on a site it generates a response. (This is not surprising because people that read and write fan fiction come from a place of loving a story or an author. The debate is really around how best to show their love, what is appropriate and what isn’t, and who owns the story.)

On Saturday, I decided to re-tweet some of my writing articles, and just like clockwork I was getting responses to my fan fiction piece. One responder, Vanilla Rose (@MsVanillaRose), asked if that was not the same thing I was doing with my novel A Jane Austen Daydream. I quickly replied that my novel was historical fiction, a re-imagining of Jane’s life as one of her romantic and literary adventures.

It was after a few more tweet exchanges that Vanilla Rose said this, taking my breath away:

“…I think that inventing stuff about a person’s life is more problematic than playing with their work.”

Whoa… Continue reading

Loving Goodreads (And Some Reviewing Suggestions)

Good ReadsI am addicted to Goodreads.

I visit the site a few times a day and I can lose hours (hours!) just scrolling through the home page, looking at what readers are reading and saying about books that they had just finished. It’s almost like a sport as I moan and then cheer.

Yeah, I can get depressed by how few classics are being read by the population (I’ve never been one of those people who believe reading something is better than reading nothing), but it is always a thrill to see this immediate literary data. People always like to claim that literature is dying, but I see breath and heartbeats on this site everyday.

Right now, I have over 4,300 “friends” and over 80 fans. Some of this is related to my Twitter account, but I think it’s also because of my books, my blog (Hello!) and the book reviews I do on my local NPR station (you can check them out via links on this page).

The thing about book reviewing is that in many ways it is an art onto itself. Yet, ever since Amazon so long ago allowed customers to review products and books, that special door controlling whose voice is heard in the market has swung so far open that the hinges are broken. That door will never be fixed, and everyone is now welcomed in.

I know someone who will never give a book 5 stars. Never. Her reasoning, nothing is perfect. Case closed. I also had one person give my novel A Jane Austen Daydream only 4 stars with the comment that she would give it 5, but she wanted to encourage me to write more. I still don’t know how I feel about that. (Does that mean I am encouraged? I don’t feel encouraged, only a little confusedly sad.)

So yes, anyone can review on Goodreads, and, yes, anyone can review how they want. But I would love to give some suggestions for my fellow Goodreaders. Consider these my recommended new ground rules before you join this new literary sport.
Continue reading

Is the word “said” too boring?

SpeakerWe live in a very fast world.

The days of quietly sitting and putting all your focus solely on the words in front of you are gone. Books are not even always on paper anymore! We might listen to music while we read, have conversations, text message, the TV might be on, etc. And then consider how we read things on the internet?

We are a pack of skimmers now. We skim articles, skim status updates, skim blogposts (Hello!), etc. Skim, skim, skim, SKIM! Yes, we might get the gist of what a writer is trying to say through that quick glance, and maybe that is enough, but we are just not consuming the words like we once did.

So, as storytellers, one of our new challenges is to fight to keep the attention on the page… or screen… or whatever.

We need to fight the distractions of television, movies, the internet, video games, and, well, life, getting our readers from page one to the last page with as few distracting hiccups as possible. Which brings me to my little controversial writing thought for the day…

Have we (readers and writers) outgrown “said”? Continue reading

“To write or not to write.” Part two of my interview with Nancy Christie

BooksPart two of my interview with blogger and author Nancy Christie is up on her site! (You can read part one here.) Check it out via this link!

In this segment of the interview, I dive more into my life as a writer and a reader. For example in this question I am asked which three authors I would like to have a “one-on-one” with.

The idea of meeting a hero has always been terrifying for me. For example, one of the authors I would put on the list would have been Kurt Vonnegut. But I had his home phone number for years on my desk! I am not kidding, for years. It was given to me by a friend. I just never had the courage to call him and now it is, of course, too late.

I think someone needs to sit down with William Shakespeare and get the truth on the authorship question. That interview has to happen just so we can get the discussion behind us, good or bad.

Growing up, I exchanged a few letters with Ray Bradbury. I would have loved to have spoken to him in person. He was very kind to me then.

You can read the rest of the interview here. Thank you Nancy for this chance to speak to your readers!

A Jane Austen DaydreamMy latest novel, A Jane Austen Daydream, can be purchased in print ($13.46) or as an eBook for the outrageously low price of $3.99 for Kindle. You can find it on Amazon here (http://amzn.com/B00CH3HQUU).

“Nightmares and dreams” Part one of an interview with Nancy Christie

Jane AustenHappy New Year faithful readers! 

Last month I was interviewed by novelist Nancy Christie as part of her “One on One” series. It was quite a long and fun interview, and she has turned it into a two-part series for the site!

If you ever wanted to get really into my writing head, meet the wizard hiding behind the curtain, this is that interview! The first part of her interview was released today; you can read it here.  In this excerpt is my answer to the most challenging undertaking I have had as a writer:

A JANE AUSTEN DAYDREAM was easily the most difficult book I have ever undertaken, because I had to be true to Jane. In other words, I wanted her to be alive on the pages, which means her own dialogue and spirit had to be part of the narrative.

So first, I had to research her life and her books thoroughly. I used to be able to quote entire passages of her novels! (Not anymore, now that space is taken over by cute kid songs from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood thanks to my young daughter’s obsession with the show.)

Then I had to decide what of her life I wanted to keep and what I wanted to use for the book. See, I wanted the plot to be influenced more by her own stories than her actual life (it is a daydream).

After the plot was in place (with some very notable surprises and literary twists included), I then had to write a book where her voice would feel natural, but not too dated to scare off a contemporary reader.

Yes, it was a slow process, with each sentence and chapter written and re-written numerous times. By the end, I felt like I had run a marathon (or at least what I assume that would feel like). But it was all very worth it.

You can read the rest of the interview here. Part 2 of the interview will be on Nancy Christie’s site on January 15. Thanks Nancy! 

A Jane Austen Daydream

My latest novel, A Jane Austen Daydream, can be purchased in print ($13.46) or as an eBook for the outrageously low price of $3.99 for Kindle. You can find it on Amazon here (http://amzn.com/B00CH3HQUU).

My 6 Favorite Blogposts of 2013

ChampagneEvery year, I like to stop and take a look at my life and the year that just was. And one of the great things about having a blog is it makes it quite easy to do just that! I get all of the highs and the lows, they are all there in easy to read formatting… sometimes even with cute pictures.

How did I feel about being a parent or on a child’s birthday, it is there. It’s like a personal photo album, but it is available for all to share. I just hope I am not that annoying friend who is showing you slides of their last family outing. That is the blogger nightmare, I guess.

Looking back, 2013 has been a great year for me. I finished writing a new novel (Permanent Spring Showers), I had two very well-reviewed books published (A Jane Austen Daydream and Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare), and I continued to watch this blog and my writing grow. Over the course of the year, my blog gained 600 new subscribers (now having over 1000) and my digits are higher on all of my other social media platforms.  It all almost calls for champagne.

Okay, I don’t like champagne. Seriously, I’m a light drinker. It is almost embarrassing. It makes my patient wife laugh how little I can handle. And when I do order drinks they come with funny straws and too much chocolate. I’m not James Bond, but I wish I was. I also threw up once in college after drinking goldschalger. You remember a moment like that, trust me. I kept drunkenly thinking, “There is gold everywhere! Look at all the money!”

For those new to my blog, or those who are catching up, here are my six favorite posts from the last year. If you have already read the articles, I have included a new afterthought to each. Something for everyone… about me. Enjoy! Continue reading

Working The Audience: A Very Useful Writing Trick

On the StageI am a little bit of a helpless romantic.

For those who read my novel A Jane Austen Daydream that is not at all surprising. And before I met my wife I thought of my writing as a gateway to the heart.

I was one of those fools that bought into the lie of the romantic novels and the romantic comedy films. You see this plot twist all the time! That grand gesture that makes a person reconsider another in a different light. Oh, it is a great idea in a story, but we all know, honestly, it goes against how people are wired in the real world.

Short stories with hidden messages (and not so hidden ones), books, and I still squirm to remember the poetry. I have admitted a lot of embarrassing stuff on this site, but this is one of those few memories I still want to crawl into a cave and live out my remaining days because of. Yup, just the hint of it makes me want to become a hermit.

I, Scott Southard, was the creator of bad love poems. And I have sent them, strategically left them around, and even mailed them once anonymously in the hope that it would make another stop and see me as hotter (as some kind of light rock classic kicks on in the background like in a bad movie). In the end it never worked… and, by the way, the recipient of the anonymous love poems didn’t even figure out they were from me until I said something! Ouch!

All those bad memories aside, there is something to be said for the importance of an audience. I’m not just talking about the readers all writers dream to have, I mean that more enigmatic dream of a reader. The one we hope will find our work, the one in the back of our mind that drives the creation forward. They demand the story. What many don’t realize is that dream reader can be a tool, and can help over many different steps in the creative process if used right. Just be sure to leave the poetry at home… Continue reading

My Greatest Hits! Genres, Series Writing, and Finding Writing Sucess

JukeboxTo introduce my new editing services for authors via Rebecca T. Dickson’s site (here), we are sharing some of my most popular writing articles. The Greatest Hits collection continues!

Three weeks ago, I linked to the previous three entries (here), these are the most recent articles to be shared. Two of them were pretty controversial on my site. Enjoy!

  • Our Dangerous Fixation With Genres. The world of writing is so “properly” organized, from bookstores to libraries, that I worry about what this may be doing to creativity and the future of our artform. (Oh, and there is a fun bit where I describe the armies for each of the genres. Trust me.)
  • Redefining Writing Success: Learning to Fly in Today’s Congested Writing World. Maybe it is the growth of self-publishing or the fact people are reading less than they did before, whatever the case we need to change how to we look at success as an author… and it doesn’t always point to the wallet.
  • Writers, why does everything need to be a series? Is it because of TV? Comic books? Whatever the case, the idea of writing a series is now very prevalent. It has not always been this way, and I worry about how this is shaping our literary landscape.

If you would like to learn more about hiring me as an editor, you can do so via this page. Or you can contact Rebecca T. Dickson and ask for more information via her site, which you can visit by clicking the image below.

Rebecca T. Dickson, Editor