Tips for Simplifying Research

By E.  M. Youman

I came across a great blog post from author, Chuck Wendig. The article was about writer’s block. Something he wrote truly resonated with me: “Sometimes you’re not ready to write a story.”

Picture this scenario: You take an idea, jump in and start writing it, but the words won’t come. Maybe you have an idea for a story, but it doesn’t have legs yet. Could it be you haven’t finished letting it roll around in your subconsciousness? But if all the advice on the interweb is screaming for you to write every day, then what are you, fledgling writer, supposed to do? Continue reading

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Four Tips for Finding the Perfect Editor

By E. M. Youman

June 18th, 2016 marks the anniversary of when I started writing again. Four years ago the itch to write hit me and I wrote The Prince’s Plan. This is not my first novel, but it is the first one I ever finished. April marked the finalization of editing for The Prince’s Plan. I will be publishing the novel on February 7th, 2017. I am preparing to send it out to ARC readers and I thought today would be a good time to reflect on what I learned about editing.

You can never have enough fresh eyeballs on your story. Continue reading

Just the Facts, Ma’am: Tips on creating characters with emotional relevance

by E. M. Youman

Sniff, sniff. Why am I dabbing my eyes, you ask? I just finished watching season three of Once Upon a Time. I think it’s rife with great storytelling tips for beginning writers. Spoiler alert: If you haven’t been watching this awesome show, stop reading. Go fire up Netflix and then come back and read this article. I’ll be talking about some pivotal scenes from the show. Continue reading

Turtle Power

By E. M. Youman

Hi, my name is E. M. Youman and I am a Pantser. I couldn’t plot my way out of a paper bag. If I was forced to outline at gun point—you get the idea. I have spent countless hours trying to figure out how to be more productive as a writer. Read dozens of craft books on plotting, outlining and structure. When I say I can’t plot, that doesn’t mean my stories don’t have them, it just means when you ask me what my current work in progress is be forewarned that elevator pitch is going to be a long one. But today’s post isn’t about writing faster or lambasting the poor plight of a pantser. It’s more about embracing your inner turtle.

I think slowly. It takes time for me to come up with a good story where others may take a week or a month, I’m taking months and years. Last year I set about trying to increase my word count and ended the year writing 200,000 words, but then I fell off a cliff and couldn’t write for months. It’s made me learn several important things

  1. Aretha and Teddy both said it best: R-e-s-p-e-c-t.

I have to respect who I am and not what looks good on paper. Sure, it’s great to bang out dozens of stories in a month, but if you have no hair on your head and only speak in monosyllables, because your brain is fried then you like me need a different approach.

For me trying to write fast actually made me dislike writing, because I kept trying to whip a dead horse. “Come on brain tell me what happens next.”

  1. “But E. M., I have to write fast. Don’t you know someone is putting up a new book on Amazon every five seconds?”

Yes, that is a very valid fear and I have a suggestion. This writing, wanna be author “thing”, is a marathon. Dorothy Brande said best when she wrote that you have to get used to writing. In my freshman year of college, my English professor told the class we had to keep a journal. He wanted two whole pages each week. I went home, nearly in tears and tried to write one. I had to double space and narrow the margin’s just to get a page and s third. You know what he wrote on the assignment? Nice try E. M., but I need two pages.

He might as well have told me I needed to write a book. Fast foreword five years and guess how long it took me to write this blog post? One hour–and it’s three pages long. Forget about the three days I spent thinking about it or the two days I spent editing. The rough draft took me one hour. I couldn’t have done that five years ago. It took time.

You are not going to start banging out novels like you are a copy machine at Kinkos. You’ve got to build up to it. Otherwise, you could end up hating the journey because you pushed yourself too fast too soon.

I can tell you are still skeptical about taking your time. I was too, because Amazon.

  1. You can have your cake and eat it too.

You can focus on writing fast, but if you’re a pantser or a slow writer like me, then you need to change your approach to writing. Your muse, will suggest ideas (like a story about two fire fighters fighting for the hand of an EMT who’s secretly a lost heiress) but on most days she won’t tell you what to write. As a pantser that’s like offering me a s’more without chocolate. It should be a crime. So how do you marry the idea to write with the desire to write fast?

You Pomodoro that sucker.

  1. Pomodoro anyone?

So what is the Pomodoro? The Pomodoro technique is not a chicken dish. It’s a productivity strategy. The best thing about this technique is that word count goals do not matter. All you need is twenty five minutes.

Last month I read Write, Better, Faster by Monica Leonelle. In it, she said writers need to outline their stories. Face palm. That’s not going to help the pantser is it?

“E M. Why are you talking about a book that can’t help me?”

Every book always has a hidden nugget of useful information. For Leonelle it was the Pomodoro technique. All you have to do is set a timer for twenty-five minutes and write until the timer goes off. Then take a break for five minutes. It’s like a sprint, but a small one. I had heard of this technique before, but hadn’t bothered to try it. Since I was completely burned out from my writing sprint last year I was open to trying anything.

Using this technique I wrote 11,000 words in seven days. I usually conk out at 1200 a day, so I was really happy with this technique. The best part about it is that the more I did it the more words I wrote. My theory on why it works for me is that I was stuck with finishing a manuscript that hadn’t worked on in months. I had a small inkling of what I wanted to write but not how I wanted to say it. By writing cold, I was excited to see what I would come up with. For a pantser, this is gold, because I like to pretend I am the reader when I write. With the timed technique if the buzzer goes off I am stopping in the middle of a sentence. This leaves my subconscious chomping at the bit to create the next part. This excitement brought the muse out. The best part about it is that I didn’t feel the guilt of having to talk myself into sitting down for a few hours. I could schedule twenty five minutes and do them throughout the day. I currently have a goal to get through five a day, but with my unpredictable schedule I’ve only achieved that twice. So realistically it’s going to be three a day going forward and hopefully I can move up to doing six a day.

Coupling that with being able to jump around to different scenes in Scrivener and I am in writing heaven again. I am writing faster, a little bit. I don’t think I am going to be cranking out a book a month, but I am slowly teaching myself how to get used to writing for long stretches. Respecting that I have turtle power instead of trying to drill sergeant my way through a story has made me and my muse happier.

What techniques or tricks help you be more productive?

About the Author

Author Bio

Once upon a time there was a girl who dreamed of a genie that took her on magical journeys, many of which may have included scenes from the Nancy Drew series (shh!!). Then one day she discovered Molly Ringwald and Andrew McCarthy and became obsessed with heart wrenching romances. When she’s not watching tearjerkers, she’s usually writing them.

E.M. Youman is a freelance writer from Oakland, CA. Some of her short stories have been published by The Bowman’s Inn, Black Cat Press, S/tick Magazine and IFF. When she’s not writing fiction, E.M. Youman, works at an independent record label and runs a music blog. She has a B.A. and Master in Communication and is currently working on her first romance novel.

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A Romance by Any Other Name

By E. M. Youman

Before I decided that I wanted to be a writer, I was a reading carnivore. I usually went to the library and left with six books. By the end of the day I had devoured half of them and two days later I was back at my local branch, ready to devour more. I knew nothing of online review sites like Goodreads. Finding books to read was either by word of mouth, gifts, or borrowing a book from a cousin. Thanks, Christina! Continue reading

Feed the Story

By E.M. Youman

I have written 210,000 words this year. I may clock out at more by the end of December, but for the sake of this article let’s cap it at 210k. That’s not a lot of words on the face of it. Last year I only wrote 40,000 words. Partly because I was stuck in revision hell, and because I hadn’t committed to writing every day. I learned a lot about myself by writing every day. That’s the focus of this article. Continue reading

The Writer’s Frenemy by E.M. Youman

Writing has taught me a lot about who I am and what I will put up with and won’t stand for.

About three years ago I was sitting at my job ready to scream. Not that it’s a bad job or anything. My boss is actually very nice. But I was feeling rather sucky about my ability to meet certain goals. At the back of my mind, I kept thinking, I don’t want to do this. I stopped sending out e-mails and opened up notepad and started writing. At the time I didn’t know that I wanted to write a story, it was just a need. My body was signaling to me I needed to focus on something else. It could have been anything, but I take it as a sign that I chose to write. Continue reading

Dominating the Editor by E.M. Youman

I wrapped the cords around her wrist. She squirmed beneath me, lace garters scratched against my arm and I chuckled at her feeble attempts. Shackled, she rose to her knees and crawled along the bed toward me.
She cocked an eyebrow. “You think this will hold me?” she flexed her wrist against the telephone cord. One, two, three her arms broke free from the double buntline knot. A satisfied smile curled her lips and she lay back against the sheets. “If you had paid more attention to your sailing research you’d know how to tie a proper knot. Now back to that scene you just wrote. Cut it. Cut it all.” Continue reading

The Lonely Endeavor By E.M. Youman

You’ve probably heard the saying that writing is a lonely endeavor. You put butt in chair and spend hours writing. At least that’s the way it is for me. Would you like to know what my writing environment is like? First off, the door has to be closed. Even if I’m at the house by myself. Don’t ask me why. A sliver of the window open, but if the wind or cars passing get too loud, shut that baby. My muse demands complete silence.

But another mantra that we always hear is that the art of writing is in the rewriting. After practicing for the last three years I can finally say I am beginning to understand what that entails. Rewriting is a combination of feedback and the dirty E for editing.

Feedback

Comes from critique groups either online or off. First readers and beta readers. How an author handles feedback is crucial to the rewrite stage. I’ve come to understand that critiques aren’t necessarily about making sure the work is good or having someone slash a red pen across your work and tell you how to “fix it.” This idea didn’t become concrete to me until my latest short story. One of my loyal critiquers was reading my work in segments. She looked at the first segment and said I love it. Always what an author wants to hear, right? But then when I handed her the next segment she said your MC is completely different than the MC in the first segment. I like them both though, keep up the good work.

Now the usual cycle of the feedback meltdown is to get mad. She just doesn’t understand. Did she even read it?! Sniff, cry. Maybe I don’t know what I’m doing. I crawl under the covers. I’ll never be a writer. Time passes and I crawl out of the covers. I like the character. I don’t want to change him. Herein lies the decision that affects the fate every story an author will ever write. What am I going to do? The quality of the work and taste level of your critters will vary. They can’t tell you a story is good or bad. That’s like trying to nominate a barbecue sauce for best award. Every voter will have a favorite and most likely someone will like something you hate. The only thing feedback can ever do for a writer is tell them, how a story is coming across. And that’s important because we don’t see how weird it is for a character to go from being a vegetarian to eating a hamburger.

We take the feedback and revise to make our ideas clearer. It’s not about changing the story; it’s about amplifying your voice. Feedback pushes you to think about what you want to say.

Then we take it to beta readers. Their feedback is just as important because they tell us how the story made them feel. If they don’t want to scream, laugh or cry with your characters, it’s nail biting time and you revise again.

Editing: a.k.a the evil E.

Now it’s time to take the story to an editor. Here’s where they massage the words and you learn how to expand, condense and paint the story for your readers.

Wow. That’s a lot of people. You may have started out on your own, but when you think about it, there’s a network of people ready and willing to help you along every stage of the writing process. So if writing feels daunting, remember only the first drafted is written in isolation. You are not alone.

About The Author

E.M. Youman is a freelance writer from Oakland, CA. Some of her short stories have been published by Black Cat Press, S/tick Magazine and IFF. When she’s not writing fiction, E.M. Youman, works at an independent record label and runs a music blog. She has a B.A. and Master in Communication and is currently working on her first romance novel.

7 Reasons why Anti-heroes are Hot

We all love heroes and heroines, but these goody two-shoe characters are being put in a corner. I’m putting the spotlight on their equally hot cousins. Today we are delving into what made me fall in love with the romance genre and spurred my quest to become a romance writer.

What are Anti-heroes?

Anti-heroes according to literarydevices.net are:

A  literary device used by writers for a prominent character in a play or book that has characteristics opposite to that of a conventional hero. The protagonist is generally admired for his bravery, strength, charm, ingenuity etc. while an anti-hero is typically clumsy, unsolicited, and unskilled and has both good and bad qualities.

Google says:

anti-hero

  1. a central character in a story, movie, or drama who lacks conventional heroic attributes.

Neither one of these live up to the panty- melting characters that have graced the screen and literature world. Below are seven in depth profiles of the heroes devious cousins.

  • Pretty Woman

Anti-hero: Edward Lewis

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0100405/

Richard Gere played corporate raider Edward Lewis. Edward’s job was to literally rape and pillage troubled companies for profit. If that didn’t help his bad boy status, his best friend was a self-absorbed prick. When Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) comes into his life, she becomes nothing more than  another one of his many employees. But Vivian peels back the cynicism to reveal a kind heart inside this bad boy. He changes his pillaging ways and even tries to conquer his fear of heights to the get girl. When Vivian ‘saves him right back’ the bad boy is redeemed.

  • Silver Linings Playbook

Anti-hero: Pat Solitano.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1045658/

When Pat Solitano( Bradley Cooper) enters the screen he’s a text book anti-hero. He’s clumsy, neurotic, and selfish. His story begins with him freshly out of a mental institution. It doesn’t look like he has romantic bone in his body. He spends two thirds of the movie obsessing about his ex-wife, who clearly wants nothing to do with him. But underneath this mental movie is a sweet love story. But when Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) beats his crazy with her own, he wises up and ends the unrequited obsession. When he reveals his true feelings for Tiffany, Pat’s redeemed.

  • You’ve Got Mail

Anti-hero: Joe Fox

 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0128853/

This 1998 classic was single handedly my inspiration for becoming a writer. Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) was an absolute jerk in the movie. He pushed Kathleen Kelly ( Meg Ryan) to close her family business. Antagonizes her in public. But the worst one is when he finds out she’s the girl he’s been e-mailing. He pranks her, allowing her to think the man of her dreams is a faker. So how does this grouch redeem himself? Once Kathleen’s business is kaput she falls into a depression. Joe takes care of her, despite the fact that Kathleen calls him every name in the book. When Joe reveals he’s her dream man, Kathleen sighs with relief and says “I wanted it to be you.” I did too.

  • Secretary

Anti-hero: Mr. Grey

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0274812/

Love isn’t always sweet and pretty. This office romance is a dark one. Mr. Grey (James Spader) is a full blown sadist. He makes Christian Grey look like a cuddly kitten. Lee Holloway (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is a shy woman, perfect fodder for domineering Mr. Grey who her spanks her when she makes typos. But Lee is a woman who likes to cut herself when she’s emotionally overwhelmed. Mr. Grey’s strict nature and unconventional attitude provide her a safe environment where she can experience pain without the consequences. Her pushes to the limit, thinking she can’t possibly love his perverse mind. To prove she loves him Lee sits at his desk for days without food or water. In the end he rewards her undying devotion. He marries her, thereby giving her a life where she safely deal with the world.

  • He’s Just Not that Into You

Anti-hero: Alex

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1001508/

When Justin Long’s character says “you’re not the exception, you’re the rule.” Who didn’t want to jump through the screen and strangle him?

Alex (Justin Long) is your boy next door. Everyone likes and respects him. He’s also the cynic that’ll every ruin every romantic dream you have. That’s what he does to Gigi Haim. For two thirds of the move, Alex exposes her to the harsh truths of how men feel about her. Poor Gigi is a sweet bubbly girl, but men don’t call her after the second date.  When Gigi comes on to him, Alex shuts her down, breaking the poor girl’s heart. But when Gigi stops coming around, Alex realizes he’s fallen for her. The jerk rushes to Gigi’s apartment and he’s happy to discover his cynicism never rubbed off on Gigi.

Literary Equivalents

  • Beautiful Bastard

Anti-hero: Bennett Ryan

http://www.amazon.com/Beautiful-Bastard-The-Series/dp/1476730091

My favorite modern literary equivalent is Beautiful Bastard by Christina Lauren

This dynamic duo created a story that set the interwebs on fire. Bennet Ryan makes Edward Lewis look like a teddy bear. He’s ruthless, and his  acerbic mouth  is no match for any woman. Until he meet Chloe Mills. A sexy independent woman, who’s not afraid to tell Bennett off. The only problem is she’s his assistant. As they enter a secret love affair Bennett tries to keep a cold distance between them, but the more he gets to know Chloe, he realizes he’ll have to shed his bastard attitude and give  Chloe the respect she deserves if he wants her in his life and his bed.

Classic literary equivalent

  • Gone with the wind

Anti-heroine: Scarlett O’Hara

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gone_with_the_Wind

In this case our protagonist is an anti-heroine. Bad girls can be just as sexy as their male counterparts. Scarlett O’hara is desperately in love with Ashly Wilkes. Unfortunately the man only has eyes for one woman. His wife. Scarlett spends three fourths of the book pinning for Wilkes all the while marrying men for the money to rebuild her precious family plantation. When she marries Rhett Butler she realizes once it’s too late that he’s the truth love  of her life. When Rhett turns her down, Scarlett’s unwavering optimism prompts one of the most famous quotes in history. “Tomorrow is another day”.

What are some of your favorite anti-heroes?