But Mr. IRS-Man, I’m not American… or How to Get an ITIN

Welcome to the GWN blog! Today we have author Joan Leacott talking about something important to non U.S. authors. The ITIN.

Here’s Joan!

What is an ITIN or TIN?

An International Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN or TIN) is an identification number used by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the administration of the US tax laws.

Why Should You Get an ITIN?

To avoid a 30% withholding tax on book sales made on through an American publisher (e.g. HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster) or distributor (e.g. Amazon, Smashwords). You will also need an ITIN to complete any W-8 BEN forms which may come your way.

When Should You Get an ITIN?

Preferably before you have any book sales. Then you won’t have to complete an American tax return, with accompanying ITIN application, to get a refund of the withheld amount. Life is so much simpler when the papers are in order.

Before We Begin, a Caveat

I am not a lawyer or an Acceptance Agent. These instructions are based on my personal experience and the procedures as I knew them in January 2013. Your experience may differ. Anything I say here is superseded by the information on the IRS website at http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/International-Taxpayers/Taxpayer-Identification-Numbers-(TIN).

How Do You Get an ITIN?

The IRS revamped their process in January 2013. Three forms must be completed and sent to the IRS offices currently located in Texas.

  1. A completed W-7 Application Form accompanied by
  2. Documentation proving your identity, and
  3. A signed letter from the withholding agent (e.g. publisher or distributor), on official letterhead, showing that an ITIN is required to pay you.

 

You can use an Acceptance Agent, a person who’s had IRS training at a cost of $250 or so, but it’s not a requirement. If you follow instructions carefully, you shouldn’t need to.

1) Form W-7: Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number

You can get a pdf version of the form at http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw7.pdf and complete instructions at http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/iw7.pdf.

It’s fairly straightforward if you follow the instructions, except for one detail, the Tax Treaty number. The spot where you type this is tucked away under item H in the Reason you are submitting for W-7 section. Here’s a snippet of my W-7 form showing the Tax Treaty number for Canada highlighted in yellow.

ITINForm

 

If you’re reading this article from a country other than Canada, you can find your Tax Treaty number in Table 3, starting on the second last page, here: http://www.irs.gov/publications/p901/ar02.html#en_US_2013_publink1000219601.

If you’d rather read a printed booklet, there’s a pdf available at http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p1915.pdf.

Don’t forget to date and sign the W-7 after you’ve printed it.

2) Proving Your Identity

A list of acceptable forms of identification is provided in the instructions linked above. The easiest one to use is a valid passport, which is what I did. If you don’t have a passport, the instructions state which other documents, used in combination, are acceptable.

You can submit your actual passport (not the best idea), have your passport certified at a US Consulate or Embassy (if you don’t mind standing in line), or submit a certified copy of your passport.

A certified copy is NOT the same as a notarized copy. Notarized copies are no longer accepted by the IRS.

To get a certified copy of a Canadian passport, you need to two forms:

a)      A letter requesting a certified copy of your passport

b)      A completed PPTC 516 Request for Certified True Copy of Canadian Travel Document

Both are available here: http://www.mnptax.ca/media/documents/pdfs/Questionnaires/ITIN/Passport_Canada_Certified_Copy_Request.pdf

Take, or mail, both forms to your nearest Passport Canada Office. You can either pick up the copy and the original or have both mailed back to you. You will have to leave your passport with them, but you’ll get a receipt for it.

For the Passport Canada Office nearest you, go to http://www.ppt.gc.ca/service/index.aspx?lang=eng.

If you’re reading this article from another country, please refer to your passport office procedures to get a certified copy. The Passport Canada staff will also let you know when the copy will be ready for pickup or delivery.

3) A signed letter from the withholding agent

The withholding agent is the publisher (Penguin, Harlequin) or distributor (Amazon) of your book.

If you’re working through a publisher, get the letter from them.

If you’re working through Amazon, go to https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/G/01/opt/general/test/AmazonDigitalServices_ITIN_Letter. You can get it with only a partially completed author account. Fill out the form with the current date and the name exactly as completed on the W-7 form, print it, and you’re ready to go.

Sending Your Completed Forms to the IRS

You should now have your three pieces of paper ready to go.

1)      A completed and signed W-7 form with the correct Tax Treaty number,

2)      A certified copy of your passport, and

3)      A dated letter addressed to you from your publisher or Amazon Digital Services.

Only US embassies in Beijing, Frankfurt, London, and Paris can process a W-7 on site. So fold the three papers into an envelope, affix sufficient postage (two regular stamps in Canada) and send it to:

Internal Revenue Service

ITIN Operation

Mail Stop 6090-AUSC

3651 S. Interregional, Hwy 35

Austin, TX 78741-0000

USA

The IRS will return the certified copy of your passport under separate cover from the ITIN certificate.

It took three months almost to the day to get my ITIN certificate in the mail. It’s expected to take less time out of tax season (January 15 through April 30).

Using your ITIN

Once you get your ITIN certificate, you can record the information at your various author accounts.

The number has the format 123-45-6789. Some websites want the hyphens, others don’t. If you fail with one format, just try the other.

The Legal Entity Name is the full name as shown on the ITIN certificate.

One last warning. You will be expected to report earnings and pay income taxes in Canada, or wherever else you live. Honesty is always the best policy.

Author Bio: Joan Leacott writes authentic multi-generational stories of people living and loving in today’s world. She is currently working on the second book of the Clarence Bay Chronicles set in a small town on the eastern shores of Georgian Bay, Canada. Read more about Joan and her books at http://joanleacott/ca.

Copyright © 2013 Woven Red Productions. Feel free to distribute this article, but please do so in its entirety including author credit.

Cindy here again!

Thanks so much for being here, Joan! I need to go through this process right now so this is perfect timing.

Happy writing!

Cindy

Unleashing Your Muse (Free-Writing Act 1)

Welcome back to the GWN blog! Today we have our monthly columnist Cyndi Faria talking about unleashing your muse. Cyndi will be a regular guest on the blog and will be appearing monthly on the first Monday of the month. We’ve got her twice this month though so don’t forget to come back August 26 when she’ll be posting part two of unleashing your muse.

Here’s Cyndi!

In my opinion, free-writing is the act of unleashing your muse after a short talking to. Sure, you might think, isn’t that plotting? Well, it’s kind of a cross between pantsing (writing-by-the-seat-of-your-pants) and plotting.

Today, I want to show you how to successfully use free-writing to craft Act 1 of a romance novel (Act II and III will follow in future posts).

Let’s begin by looking at what goes into Act 1:

Note: If you can’t wrap your mind around this information now, that’s okay. Just commit the bulleted items to memory and unleash your muse.

  • Opening Image: This image will be the opposite of the final image in the story. Example: If in the beginning the hero is a playboy, at the end he’s shown in a committed relationship—maybe proposing or even married.
  • Meet the hero(H)/heroine (h).
    • -> What does your H/h fear, as a result of backstory (show don’t tell)? Think: Indiana Jones and snakes.
    • -> If you are familiar with the Enneagram (if not, visit my website here.), list the H/h’s personality type’s strength and weaknesses, fear and desire, and what they must learn about themselves by the end of Act II in order to defeat the villain (Character Arc).
  • External Goal: What does H/h want in life? Must be able to take a picture of external goal?
  • Internal Goal: What do they really want? Example: To be loved, needed, etc.
  • What is happening to your H/h right before something serious triggers a primal response that entices/forces them to leave their ordinary world? (See my blog post: Tipping Point) (Example: Die Hard—A policeman must save his wife who’s been taken hostage by terrorists.)
  • Cute Meet: How does the H/h meet and what is it about that person or situation that links the H/h together in a permanent-for-now way? (Example: How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days—Advertising executives for competing agencies come together on a bet, he to get her to fall in love with him in 10 days and she to lose him in 10 days.)
  • What special skill or tool does the H/h possess? This will be important during the climax of the story when H/h uses his/her special skill to defeat the antagonist. (This Means War: The heroine played by Reese Witherspoon combines her knowledge as a Product Tester with hero Chris Pine’s weaponry skills to defeat the bad guy.)
  • Antagonist: May meet the antagonist and/or his associates at this time.
  • Secondary Characters: Introduce secondary characters that can rally during the climax and help the H/h defeat the antagonist’s associates.
  • Lastly, right before the H/h enters Act II—or accepts the challenge—there will be a debate section where he/she takes pause to consider the ramifications of leaving behind the old world. Firmly, he decides to step into Act II. In Blake Snyder’s book Save the Cat, he discusses the debate in depth saying, “…it’s important to remember that the debate section must ask a question of some kind.” In the case of Die Hard: Will the hero save his wife?

Once you know the answers to these questions, you’re ready to unleash your muse and free-write Act 1.

This can be a combination of sentences, thoughts, dialogue, or whatever pops into your mind. There are no rules.

I usually write 3-5 pages, single-spaced. Sometimes information that belongs in other acts creeps in. That’s okay—just start a new section titled Other Acts.

Next Unleashing Your Muse post, I’ll list what belongs in Act II and Act III.

Happy Writing, Cyndi Faria

Visit Cyndi’s Website: www.CyndiFaria.com

Visit Cyndi’s Amazon page: Amazon Author Page

About the Author:
“Cyndi Faria writes with passion and her stories touch the heart.”

—Virna DePaul, Bestselling Author

Author Photo B-WCyndi Faria is an engineer turned romance writer whose craving for structure is satisfied by plotting emotional and cozy paranormal romance stories about Native American folklore, cursed spirits, lost souls, harbingers, and even a haunted coastal town. If you love a tale with courageous heroes and heroines, where their unconditional love for each other gives them strength to defeat their inner demons, Cyndi Faria invites you to enter the pages of her stories.

On and off her sexy romance pages, this California country girl isn’t afraid to dirty her hands fighting for the underdog and caretaking rescued pets. Find her helping fellow writers and leading readers to happily-ever-after at www.cyndifaria.com

 

Cindy here again!

Thanks for being here, Cyndi! Great post. I loved This Means War! I knew her work as a product tester would come into play at some point. 🙂

Cindy

How to do a Goodreads giveaway

Welcome to the GWN blog! Today I have Shelley Munro talking about doing a Goodreads giveaway.

Here’s Shelley!

A Goodreads giveaway is an excellent and cost-effective way of promoting a new print release. They’re simple and quick to set in motion and best of all, doing a giveaway is free—apart from the postage and cost of the book.

According to Goodreads stats the average giveaway attracts 825 entries and over 40,000 readers enter for the chance of winning a giveaway every day. Many of the entrants add your book to their to-read shelf, which means your cover will be seen by other readers who look at their Goodreads stream.

So how do you start a giveaway?

1. Your book must be set up on Goodreads in order to do a giveaway, so this is your first step. Make sure all the details are loaded plus the cover. You definitely want readers to see your cover.

2. Click to Goodreads’ giveaway page http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/new

3. First, decide on the dates of the giveaway. There is a lag time while the Goodreads people check your giveaway details, especially if you complete the form over a weekend or public holiday. Bear this in mind when you decide on a start date. e.g. if you want to start your giveaway on the 10th of the month then give a start date a couple of days earlier i.e. 8th.

4. Closing date – the length of your giveaway can be as long or short as you wish. I generally do my giveaways for around a month while other authors do week or day giveaways with equal success. I suggest you play around a little with the length of your giveaways and work out the premium length for your books. I like to start each giveaway in the middle or toward the end of the month, because I’ve found that many authors do giveaways for a calendar month. You don’t want your giveaway lost amongst all the others. It’s worth while checking to see how many other giveaways are on the same day as the one you’ve chosen.

5. The book release date and ISBN are self-explanatory.

6. The description for the giveaway is where you can use your writer talent. You can mention top reviews, contest wins for your book and of course, the blurb. Different writers have different approaches. Having said this, I tend to just go with the blurb and mention if the book is in a series. In this section you can tell readers that your book will be an autographed copy. I send my books directly from The Book Depository because this works out cheaper than postage for me, therefore my prizes are not signed copies.

7. Number of copies to give away. I’ve found that the number of entries doesn’t increase with the number of copies I give away, which is why I stick with one copy. However, most winners leave a review for the book they win. If you give away multiple copies you will likely receive more reviews.

8. Countries for giveaway. A lot of authors restrict their giveaways to the US and Canada. I live in New Zealand and do a worldwide giveaway, and I think the number of my entries is higher as a result. I do regular giveaways and have only had two non-US winners so far.

9. Comment section – I say I am the author of the book.

10. Once the giveaway ends, Goodreads will email you your winner’s details. It’s your responsibility to ship your book to your winner in a timely fashion. Don’t forget to hit the button on the right-hand side of your giveaway page to let Goodreads know you’ve sent your book to your winner.

11. I also send a quick message of congratulations to my winner, send them a friend request, and let them know their book is in the mail.

Conclusion: I’ve found Goodreads giveaways a good method of promoting both new and upcoming print releases. It’s also possible to promote older print titles too, so what are you waiting for?

TheBottomLine200x300And if you’re interested – here is the link to my current giveaway for The Bottom Line

http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/59849-the-bottom-line

Shelley Munro is tall and curvaceous with blue eyes and a smile that turns masculine heads everywhere she goes. She’s a university tutor and an explorer/treasure hunter during her vacations. Skilled with weapons and combat, she is currently in talks with a producer about a television series based on her world adventures.

Shelley is also a writer blessed with a VERY vivid imagination and lives with her own hero in New Zealand. She writes mainly erotic romance in the contemporary, paranormal and historical genres for publishers Carina Press, Ellora’s Cave and Samhain Publishing. You can learn more about Shelley and her books at the following links.

WEBSITE: http://www.shelleymunro.com

BLOG: http://www.shelleymunro.com/blog

AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE: http://www.amazon.com/Shelley-Munro/e/B001JOWGNK

FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/ShelleyMunroAuthor

GOODREADS: http://www.goodreads.com/ShelleyMunro

PINTEREST: http://www.pinterest.com/ShelleyMunro

TWITTER: http://www.twitter.com/ShelleyMunro

Cindy here again!

Thanks for being here, Shelley. Great information about doing a giveaway. I will have to keep the points in mind for when I’m ready to do one.

 

Happy writing!

 

Cindy

 

Is it Writer’s Block or just plain ol’ Procrastination?

Monday’s a great time to talk about procrastination! Today we have Catherine Chant talking about tips to help us write even if we tend to procrastinate.

Here’s Catherine!

Chalkboard drawing - Today or TomorrowWhen faced with something difficult, it seems the natural reaction is to avoid it. To procrastinate. To do anything but the difficult task until you can’t avoid it any longer.

Let’s face it, writing is difficult. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. Writing is work. Sometimes it’s fun but other times it’s a challenge, one writers don’t always face enthusiastically.

So, are you really “blocked” or are you just avoiding a difficult task? If you suspect the latter, come clean. Honesty is the best policy and all that.

Admit to yourself that you are a procrastinator and accept there’s nothing wrong with this per se. It’s a natural reaction to hard work. It doesn’t mean you are lazy (unless you do nothing to change it, of course).

Once you accept that procrastination is going to happen, you can form a plan to work around it and still accomplish your goals. Here are few things to try to help re-motivate yourself to get back to writing.

 

  • Do something mindless like laundry where the only thought you have is whites or colors. This leaves your mind free to wander and if you subtly nudge it in the direction of your work-in-progress, you may be surprised to find some ideas sneaking up from your subconscious as you fold those towels.

 

  • Keep a notebook handy for when those moments of subconscious inspiration hit. You may not be able to get to the computer fast enough before the thought fades, so tiny notebooks can be very handy.

 

  • Have a goal and write it down. Then tape it somewhere you can see it every time you are at your computer. Give yourself a deadline for this goal as well. Deadlines create a pressure to succeed that often motivates us more than simple wishing to get something done.

 

  • Partner up with another writer to hold each other accountable for reaching these deadlines. When you feel the need to “hand in something” like the old days of homework to avoid letting your partner down, it can help keep you motivated to succeed.

 

  • Set reasonable goals. If the goals you list are monumental and unrealistic, you’re only setting yourself up to fail. Instead, set yourself up for success with smaller goals. Then if you exceed those goals by your deadlines, you’ll feel you’ve accomplished so much more.

 

  • Write on a regular schedule. The more you make it a habit, the more it trains your brain to realize when it’s time to work and when it’s time to play.

 

  • Turn off email. I know it’s hard, but the Internet is one of the worst distraction and procrastination tools out there. Unplug that cable or turn off that wireless and get offline. Try limiting your online usage to specific times of the day, or even use it as a reward for meeting your writing goal for that day.

Speaking of which…

 

  • Reward yourself. Find something you really love and dangle it as a carrot until you meet your goal.

And last of all…

 

  • Celebrate your successes. At the end of the week, look back and tally up the goals you met and revel in your accomplishments.

Brief blurb for the book:

cchant-WYWH-200x300Travel back in time to 1957 for a little drama, a few life or death moments, and a lot of rock ‘n’ roll romance in WISHING YOU WERE HERE by Catherine Chant. This young adult time travel romance is available now at Amazon.com

http://www.amazon.com/Wishing-Were-Here-Mates-ebook/dp/B00AG15MJC/

 

 

 

 

BIO:

Catherine Chant is a PRO member of the Romance Writers of America (RWA) and a Golden Heart® finalist. Before becoming a full-time writer, Catherine worked as a computing & communication consultant at Boston College. In 2006, she put that tech knowledge to good use and began teaching online workshops for her fellow writers. She currently offers four classes through various RWA chapters and writing organizations. You can learn more about Catherine and her workshops at her website http://www.CatherineChant.com or visit her on Facebook http://www.Facebook.com/CatherineChantNovels and Twitter http://www.Twitter.com/Catherine_Chant

Cindy here again!

Thanks so much for being here, Catherine. I tend to procrastinate so this is a great post for me.

Happy writing!

 

Cindy

Just One More Time

We’ve got an important post here on the GWN blog. Author Terry Shames talks about a great way to edit your novels.

Here’s Terry!

The last time I went through my most recent manuscript, I reported to my editor that I had found 25 last, tiny errors. There was a moment of silence on the other end of the phone, and then, “You mean before you sent it to the copyeditor?” No, after.

“But…” He wanted to know how the copyeditor had missed 25 errors that included missing quotation marks, misspellings, missing words and one quotation mark at the end of a sentence that wasn’t a quote. I hadn’t meant to get the copyeditor in trouble. What I meant was to tell him about a technique I discovered for ferreting out those last, pesky errors.

An experienced writer with many novels under his belt once told me that when my first novel came out, I’d open it and the first page I looked at would contain an error. I couldn’t argue with him because too often these days within a few pages of beginning a novel I run across errors, usually small ones; but sometimes glaring, impossibly bumbling errors that make me want to have a stern talk with whomever was given the task of ridding the manuscript of those glitches.

That’s the problem, though. Even the biggest publishers, and the most meticulous small ones have systematically ditched their editing staffs out of economic necessity. Content editors barely have time to help an author shape the manuscript, and it’s up to a harried copy editor and/ or proofreader to file off the rough edges and make the final product look professional.

Pulling hair out

That’s why an author is well advised to turn in the most pristine copy she can manage. Easier said than done. By the time you’ve read your 300-page manuscript what seems like 100 times for action or dialogue that doesn’t make sense, timeline errors, name switches; and then gone through it to correct what seems like endless typos, dropped or added punctuation, to have one more go at that paragraph that has never rung true, one more attempt to tweak that imperfect description, you’re sick to death of it. You’ve even read it aloud, and hated the sound of your voice by the time you reach the last chapter.

The mere thought of having to read through it one more time makes you have fantasies of calling the whole publication thing off and running off to join the circus. At that point you are ready to clean out your bank account to pay any amount of money for a professional to hunt down those last errors rather than having to do it yourself.

EV005170

That’s when you need to read it backwards. Yep. Backwards. I thought I had heard of every trick and then somewhere (I wish I knew where, so I could thank this unsung hero), I read that reading the manuscript backward is like a miracle. You read the last page, and then the page before that, etc., through the whole shebang. Oh, yeah, and you do it out loud.

The first time I did it, I felt like an idiot. I was sure I had caught Every Single Error the last time I went through the manuscript. There couldn’t be anymore. But the article about reading backwards said that I’d be surprised how many errors I caught. So I decided I had nothing to lose. At least I wouldn’t have to read it forwards again. And who knew? I might even catch a couple of things. 100 errors later I was a convert. Not only did I catch a lot of errors, but I caught a couple of places where I used a word too many times in one paragraph, and could take care of that before the public had to see it, too!

Happy editing, everyone!

Book Description:

Killing at Cotton Hill-3In A KILLING AT COTTON HILL the chief of police of Jarrett Creek, Texas, doubles as the town drunk. So when Dora Lee Parjeter is murdered, her old friend and former police chief Samuel Craddock steps in to investigate. He discovers that a lot of people may have wanted Dora Lee dead—the conniving rascals on a neighboring farm, her estranged daughter and her surly live-in grandson. And then there’s the stranger Dora Lee claimed was spying on her. During the course of the investigation the human foibles of the small-town residents—their pettiness and generosity, their secret vices and true virtues—are revealed.

 

 

Bio:

Larger readingTerry Shames grew up in Texas. She has abiding affection for the small town where here grandparents lived, the model for the fictional town of Jarrett Creek. A resident of Berkeley, California, Terry lives with her husband, two rowdy terriers and a semi-tolerant cat. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. Her second Samuel Craddock novel, THE LAST DEATH OF JACK HARBIN will be out in January 2014. Find out more about Terry and her books at www.Terryshames.com.

Cindy here again!

Great post, Terry! It’s a great idea to read it backwards! I’ll try that next time I’m revising my story.

Happy writing!

 

Cindy

Let’s talk about sex

Welcome to Wednesday on the GWN blog! We have a scintillating topic today. Mimi DiFrancesca talking about writing sex scenes.

Here’s Mimi!

Let’s talk about sex, baby… You’re writing a story and you know that your characters will eventually be getting physical together. Out of nowhere that makes any sense, you’ve begun feeling nervous about how to write this scene. It feels like the same kind of nervous you felt the first time you…ya know. (Insert covered mouth giggle here).

The weird part about anxiety over writing a sex scene is that we dive right in with enthusiasm when we kill off a character in a bloody and fantastically violent way. Chatting with another writer recently about what our search histories on our computers look like, we wondered if the NSA really is monitoring us, just what the heck they think we are actually up to. Maybe there should be a cyber-tag we can use identifying us as writers and not lunatics.  I’ve researched some very weird things for my dark urban fiction novel. I can now hold a plausible debate over who would win a battle between a samurai or a ninja. It’s a ninja, by the way. I have also researched some extra steamy things for an erotica book and the research trail on my laptop even makes me blush, occasionally.

When we write about sex, we may fall into a few categories. We may choose to distance ourselves from the action by making it too technical and reducing a beautiful and sensual experience down to what reads like a medical report on a standard root canal. We may tell the truth and (maybe) expose some of our own personal preferences in the privacy of our bedrooms.  Or we may embody our characters more completely as we write and allow some amalgam of the technical aspect and use of a poetic hand while fashioning the language of description.

Sex is a tactile experience like food preparation and consumption. We see it, we smell it, we hear it, we taste it and we touch it. Lips can touch in a kiss but who wouldn’t want a lover to desperately hunger for a taste of us? The scent of someone attractive to you registers even before your conscious mind has done all the calculating of their qualities. A cologne can override a logic switch and we forgive the one we haven’t spoken to all day because they smell…delicious. We hear sex words that drop like safety deposit keys into our ears and unlock a yes that we’ve been holding down inside of us like a protected heirloom. The silky texture of skin under our fingers makes us want keep touching until we have explored every curve, every surface and angle and every hidden cave of wonder. Our smooth instep as it grazes the hair of his calf when we run our bare foot up his leg can ignite a fire in us that can only be doused one way. Reading about sex should be a multisensory experience, with your character adding that elusive 6th sense of knowing what comes next and showing it to us through their actions.

The words we use to describe body parts can be a stumbling point for some writers. Unless all your characters are Victorian era virgins, you are going to want to write a character one day that sounds more like the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and less like Jane Austen. And I’d venture a guess that in the throes of hot, steamy passion, even Jane probably let a few colorful words fly in her starched linen world.

Ironically, I am restraining myself in the use of “colorful” language as I write this blog post as I’m not sure what the reader’s reception is here for back room banter. In my own life, I could probably make a pirate blush and I do not refrain from using any word that my character might use just so I don’t shock readers. Those who know my work have come to expect the unexpected.

I’ll offer an exercise for any writer who is having a challenge at letting their keyboard create other words for penis, vagina, breast or any other body part; what can be done with them or to them. Get out a piece of paper and write down every single word that would have gotten you thrown out of school as a kid, grounded by your parents or had your mouth washed out with soap by your severely proper, Aunt Marge. (I write from experience. Newsflash: Gold Dial Soap is not a food option) Go for it. Think of subway walls and highway overpasses. Quote from rap music and movies that you had to turn off when your kids entered the room. I’m talking Saturday night and three tequila bottles later at the Jersey Shore set. Write them all down and then read them out loud, preferably to a few people like girlfriends who you shared that tequila with. Ask them to add to your list.

We’re trying to make all these descriptive words, dirty words, profanities and blue language a part of the costume and character of the people in your stories. The only way you can allow your characters to be real and three dimensional is by giving them permission to be themselves.  After you’ve written them all down, read them out loud and have a really good laugh. Then, you need to get over it. They are just words and they are not “your” words. They are your characters words.

Herein lies the heart of writing a sex scene; it is not you having sex, it is your character. You, in this instance, are the accidental voyeur who is documenting the moment like an anthropologist/poet finding surprise and sensual wonder in the fierce beauty of sexual encounter. You will stand there in awe and tell us what you saw. And if you still shy away from using graphic language, there is poetry to be written in the thrusting gasps of lovers who take each other over the edge so many times that there is nothing left unknown between them.

By now, you have probably read some sex scenes in books that were gratuitous, silly and physically impossible or written like a marginally functional teenager’s MTV fantasy. You may also have read scenes that left you flushed and dreaming of deserted islands and all the time in the world. I hope that when you come to the moment when the clothing comes off and your characters get down to doing what brought seven billion people on to the planet in the first place, that you will take the writing on as a sacred challenge.

Someone out there in Reader World has never had it as good as your characters are giving it to each other. Someone out there is stopping their life for five minutes and living vicariously through your pages.

You have a choice to either button them up to their chins and or you can let him weigh her breast with his hand while the cool breeze from the open window sends a wash of goose bumps over their naked skin. Every time you write a sex scene, it’s the first time for those characters. Make it memorable even if your own first time was more like a Saturday Night Live skit, write the first time you wish you’d had.

Sex is real and honest in its urgency. Be exactly that through your pen or keyboard and you’re reader will be right there with you needing a cold shower or a hot encounter when they finish your story. Now get out there and write some smut. Make me proud.

About Mimi: Writer, Former Columnist, Poet, Blogger, Artist, Jewelry Designer, Event Planner, Ridiculously Good Cook, Animal lover, Traveler, Photographer, Metaphysics Guide and Connoisseur of Hilarity and a Certified Hypnotherapist. She is a published author, lives in Mid Michigan with her Great Dane and family and is currently working on a fantasy romance, an urban fiction novel, a sci-fi romance and erotica, under a pseudonym. Member of the RWA, MMRWA and CCWA.

Visit Mimi’s website: http://www.WordNinjaGirl.com 

Cindy here again!

Great, informative post, Mimi. I don’t write many sex scenes but I will have to keep these tips in mind for when I do.

Happy writing!

Cindy

The Happy Hooker

It’s not what you think! Today on the GWN blog we’ve got agent and author Lois Winston talking about the importance of the first page of your manuscript.

Here’s Lois!

lois-winston-low-res-fileNo, this is not about the world’s oldest profession. It’s about the first page of your manuscript. Do you know how few seconds an author has to hook an agent, an editor, or a reader? Precious few. Attention spans just aren’t what they used to be. If you don’t hook a reader (and by readers, I mean agents, editors, and the reading public) with the first page of your book, chances are, she won’t read the second page.

Too many writers make the mistake of opening their books with long passages of description and back-story. So not a good idea! Especially when you open with a description of the weather. There’s a reason Snoopy kept getting all those rejection letters whenever he submitted his novel that opened with, “It was a dark and stormy night…”

It’s also the reason that a well known annual writing contest for the worst opening lines is named for Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, the actual author of that famous line. It appeared in his 1830 novel Paul Clifford. Ever read the complete opening sentence? Most people haven’t. Here it is:

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents–except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.

Pretty bad, right? The sad truth is that too many authors open their books in a similar manner. That’s why I’m a firm believer in hooking a reader with the very first line of my books. I want my readers to be intrigued enough by that first line to continue reading.

A book’s hook doesn’t have to be defined by the first sentence, but that first sentence should make the reader want to read the next. And the next. Those first sentences should form a paragraph that makes the reader want to read the next paragraph. And the next. And the next—until the reader has read a complete page that makes her want to turn the page and read the next page. And finally, those first pages should create a first scene that has sufficiently hooked the reader so she can’t put down the book. She has to keep reading to find out what happens next.

The opening of a book should suck the reader into the world the author has created. Back-story can come later, trickling in to tease the reader to continue reading more, not as information dumps that pull the reader from the story. A good opening will include only the barest minimum of back-story that is essential for that moment.

 

As for description, it should be woven into the narrative and dialogue. Nothing bores more than long paragraphs describing everything from the length of the protagonist’s hair to the color of her toenail polish. It, too, pulls the reader from the story. And pulling the reader from the story is a bad idea. It adversely affects the pacing of the book, and good pacing is something that is important to a well-written novel.

 

“If that damn woman doesn’t shut up, I’m going to strangle her.”

rejected_v002_x1000That’s the first line of Revenge of the Crafty Corpse, the third book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series. Reading that sentence, the reader knows something is about to happen. Hopefully, she’ll keep reading to find out just what that something is, why it happens, what sort of impact it has on my protagonist, and how it drives the plot of the book.

 

Do you open your books with dialogue and/or active narrative that hooks the reader right from that first sentence and makes her want to keep reading? If you don’t, you’re most likely committing one of the top ten reasons your novel will be rejected by agents and editors. If you’d like to find out what the other nine reasons are and how you can avoid committing them, check out Top Ten Reasons Your Novel is Rejected http://www.loiswinston.com/bookstop10.html, available as an ebook from all the usual sources.

I wrote this book after too many years of having to write rejection letters to authors. I hate writing rejection letters. All agents do. Many authors think agents and editors take perverse pleasure in rejecting them. Nothing could be further from the truth. We don’t make money rejecting novels; we make money by discovering and selling them. Every time we begin reading a manuscript, we’re hoping to find something fabulous. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen often enough.


BIO
: Lois Winston is both an agent with the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency and the author of the critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series. Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series, received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Other books in the series include Death By Killer Mop Doll, Revenge of the Crafty Corpse, and the ebook novelette Crewel Intentions. Lois is also published in romance, romantic suspense, women’s fiction, and non-fiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Visit Lois at http://www.loiswinston.com, visit Emma at http://www.emmacarlyle.com, and visit Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog: http://www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com. You can also follow Lois on Twitter @anasleuth.

Cindy here again!

Excellent post, Lois. I also try to make that first sentence a great hook.

Happy writing!

 

Cindy

Creating subplots that work

Hi everyone! Welcome back to the GWN blog. Today we have Lyncee Shillard talking about subplots!

Here’s Lyncee!

Most writers don’t have a problem coming up with the ‘bare’ bones of a plot – something happens, it’s resolved. Nice and neat but will only result in about 100 words.  The hard part is developing valid subplots. Not just really cool subplots that don’t move your bare bones plot or contribute to your main character’s growth (those have to go into the ‘cool subplot’ file).

What makes a ‘good’ subplot?  A subplot must fit into two slots to stay. Some authors live by the rule if a subplot can be taken out and your bare bones plot doesn’t fall apart it should be cut.  I believe a good subplot can involve your main character’s growth and not the bare bones plot and it would still benefit your story.

For example, you’re writing a romanctic suspense.

Bare Bones Plot ~ Jane finds a dead body in her apartment elevator. She falls in love with the victim’s brother.  They catch the killer.

Examples of possible sub-plots ~

Jane’s brother is arrested for a throwing rocks through a local gay bar. This adds tension between the hero and heroine because the victim was gay. So when Jane goes and bails her brother out, the hero views it as supporting her brother’s views. Then the hero learns Jane and her brother grew up in foster care. Now the plot would chug along fine without this thread but it adds conflict between the hero and heroine and reveals a piece of Jane’s character – while she is appalled at her brother’s actions she can’t abandon him like their mother did.

The victim is a relapsed gambler. Was he killed for his gambling debt? No but this makes a valid subplot (the investigation) as a red herring.

Examples of non-useable sub-plots~

The building is being bought out and will be torn down. Unless the victim’s murder is directly related to this it won’t add to your plot. Yes Jane will be stressed about having to find a new place to live but it doesn’t add to her character like the brother’s arrest.

Remember subplots can’t just add pages and characters. They need to reveal something about the main character or add a piece to the bare bones plot.

Thanks for stopping by!

Kick Start is my lastest release ~

HotRodsHotBodsJada Anderson had known from the beginning it would only be a three week hook-up. Nothing more than twenty-one days of great dirt bike riding, nights spent drinking bat bites, and making awesome love. So she left without a word on the twenty-first morning.

Dezmond Blance has the chance to take his career as a motocross rider to the next level. He’s been invited to compete for a spot on one of the national top ranked teams. After a great ride, he’s ready to celebrate but he’s missing one thing – the woman who stole his heart weeks earlier.  To his surprise Jada is there to congratulate him.

When he wakes the next morning to find her gone, he thinks she’s done another vanishing act until his mechanic’s wife comes up missing to.  Now both men must race to find the women they love before the next try-outs.

 

Available at…http://jupitergardenspress.com/shop/hot-rods-hot-bods/

Cindy here again!

Thanks for being here, Lyncee! Great post on subplots. I will keep these points in mind when I’m writing.

Happy writing.

 

Cindy

It’s a puzzle

Welcome to the start of another week on the GWN blog. Today we have Agatha nominated author Kaye George talking about the differences between writing short stories and novels.

Here’s Kaye!

What’s the difference between writing a mystery short story and writing a mystery novel? A mystery is a puzzle, right? They both contain a puzzle to be solved, so they’re basically similar.

However, you can’t put as much into a short story as you can a novel, obviously. There’s not enough room!  I know some writers do only shorts and some do only novels, but a good number of us want to do both.

Here’s what I do. I have to switch my mindset when I change forms. Short story writing comes more easily to me. I’ve written short stories most of my life and only came to novel writing about ten years ago. Maybe it’s because I’ve done a lot more of them that I find short stories simpler to write. Not simple, just simpler!

I can hold an entire short story in my head. I can plot the whole thing, think up the characters, picture the setting, and get it from my brain to my computer without intermediate notes and scribbles. I’ll tweak it, of course, sometimes for quite a while after I’ve set it down, but I still have the whole thing in my mind at once. I liken it to fitting together a game of Tetris, or solving a Sudoku puzzle.

When I write a novel, however, I have to do a bunch of planning. It’s more like a chess game. I will note here that I don’t play chess well. The characters usually come easily and I can remember them. Likewise the basics of the plot. But the subplots and secondary characters have to be written down and kept track of. I can’t remember who is tall and who is short. Who is bald and who has flowing locks. I’ll forget what some of the settings look like. Then there’s the problem of what everyone is doing.

I’m somewhat of an outliner. Okay, I am an outliner, in that I make an outline before I begin writing a novel. That’s essential for me, even if the outline bears little resemblance to my finished book. I like to note, on a spreadsheet, the description of each character, their age, what vehicle they drive, and if they have any peculiarities. I also keep the plot on a spreadsheet, but more after the fact, to keep track of what I’ve written and what happens on which day and at what time–and to whom.

If I didn’t keep track of everything on a spreadsheet, a character might fall down a well in the afternoon, spend the night at home in bed, then discover the well the next morning. I could easily have a character drive up in a red pickup and go home in a beige Honda.

So, when I switch from one to the other, it’s a matter of resetting my thinking from small to large, from cinematic to TV episodic, from Tetris to chess.

About Kaye: Kaye George is a short story writer and novelist who has been nominated for Agatha awards twice. She is the author of four mystery series: the Imogene Duckworthy humorous Texas series, the Cressa Carraway musical mystery series, the FAT CAT cozy series, and The People of the Wind Neanderthal series.

Her short stories can be found in her collection, A PATCHWORK OF
STORIES, as well as in several anthologies, various online and print
magazines. She reviews for “Suspense Magazine”, writes for several
newsletters and blogs, and gives workshops on short story writing and
promotion. Kaye lives in Knoxville, TN.

Visit Kaye’s website: http://kayegeorge.com/

About Eine Kleine Murder – When aspiring conductor Cressa Carraway arrives at her grandmother’s resort home, she finds Gram dead. When Gram’s best friend drowns in the same place, Cressa knows something sinister is at work in this idyllic setting.

Cindy here again!

Thanks for being here, Kaye. I find it difficult switching back and forth myself but I need to get used to it. I like the way you look at them.

Happy writing!

 

Cindy

Dancing, Ducks and Hit Lists: Polishing Your Words

It’s finally Friday! Welcome to the end of the week on the GWN blog. Today we have Alissa Callen talking about polishing your prose.

Here’s Alissa!

Your muse is happy dancing, your plot ducks all in a neat row and now you need to polish your words to crystal-brilliance before your trigger finger presses submit.

For some this book buff-and-shine is more rewarding than chocolate while for others it is as gratifying as ironing handkerchiefs. But whatever your polishing-mindset a list of ‘seek and destroy’ words can hasten and streamline the process. For every author this hit-list will differ but no matter how vigilant you may be a hard core group of words may shoulder their way onto your page.

The key code Ctrl + F is a perfect tool to not only identify your ‘crutch’ words (words you use all the time) but also to eliminate any general hit-list words. Below is a list collated from my own work as well as others. Be sure to cross out the words that don’t frequently appear in your work and add in any extra ones that do.

Happy polishing and all the very best when you hit submit.

PolishProse

 

Alissa Callen x

When Alissa Callen isn’t writing she plays traffic controller to four children, three dogs, two horses and one renegade cow who really does believe the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. After a childhood spent chasing sheep on the family farm, Alissa has always been drawn to remote areas and small towns, even when residing overseas. Once a teacher and a counsellor, she remains interested in the life journeys that people take and her books are characteristically heart-warming, emotional and character driven. She currently lives on a small slice of rural Australia in central western New South Wales.

Beneath Outback Skies

Book/buy link: http://www.randomhouse.com.au/books/alissa-callen/beneath-outback-skies-9780857980397.aspx

What Love Sounds Like

Book/buy link: http://www.escapepublishing.com.au/product/9780857990129

Face book page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Alissa-Callen-Author/355366704552838

Vist Alissa’s Website:  www.alissacallen.com
Cindy here again!

So true, Alissa. I have my favourite words and I have to do a search and destroy before I send my stories anywhere.

Happy writing!

Cindy

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