Monday, September 25, 2017

Taxes and Writers

For American Writers Only

NOTE:  I found a new article on taxes and decided to update my old article to include it as well as checking for dead links.  I discovered that many of these articles have been updated to include information for those who are self published. So, here is the update.

Did you know that you don't have to make a profit to write off your writing expenses?  You don't even have to be published or contracted to publish.  

All you have to do is prove that you are a working writer.  This can be as simple as having copies of your rejection letters.  

I'm not an accountant or tax attorney so here are some experts to give you even more information on writers and taxes.

Writers and taxes, General Information:


Monday, September 18, 2017

Finding Your Voice

I've read somewhere that an author doesn't have a voice or true style until they have written over a million words. This is true to a certain extent. By that time, we've stopped trying to copy our favorite authors or second guess ourselves, etc., if for no other reason than we're tired of doing that.

Some writers don't read the kind of fiction they write while they are working on a book for fear that they will start copying a writer's voice instead of using their own.

Voice is more than just the use or misuse of metaphors, etc. I know I choose the language I use because of the character's viewpoint I'm in. (I write strict third-person viewpoint.)

One character might see a small plane wreck and describe it in my narrative as

The plane's pieces were scattered over the valley like clothes dropped by a drunk on the way to bed.

Another character who is more analytical would think

The gouge of earth left by the plane's moving fuselage led him to a boulder. The left wing tip lay against it. The furrow veered violently left there, and bits of wing then fuselage littered the area around it. When there was nothing left of the plane to break apart, the gouge ended.

The author must also choose voice by the genre expectations of the readers. Choosing the wrong voice can be quite jarring.

Can you imagine a romance novel written like a noir detective novel?

I can say this for Lord Garven, he was built, built like Cleopatra's Needle, but I walked away alone in the dark, dank London fog. I had my partner to avenge, and he had a date with Lord Southby.

One big mistake I've seen used by beginning writers is emulating the wrong writers, especially writers from the past.

A friend had a thing for Sinclair Lewis who wrote in the early 20th century.  I had to explain to him that Lewis' style was hopelessly outdated with its languid pace, florid style, and sentence structure, and with the current tastes of editors and readers, he would find no readers.

It's equally disastrous to emulate the current literary style of the moment like writing in first person immediate or second person immediate.

I look at Lord Garven. He is built. Like Cleopatra's Needle. But I shake my head no and walk through the door. I must find my partner's killer.


You look at Lord Garven. He is built. Like Cleopatra's Needle. But you shake your head no and walk through the door. You must find your partner's killer.

By the time you're publishable, the moment is long gone.

What I'm saying is find the right voice for each work, and your own voice will emerge.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Finishing a Novel

QUESTION:  I keep starting novels but can't seem to finish them because I can't figure out how.  Help!

Writing isn't just inspiration. A novel involves a great deal of planning, thought, and preparation. Those who just write instead of doing some form of plan or outline are more likely to be unable to finish a novel, or their novel falls apart. 

Learn how to make that plan, if not an outline. 

To do this, read books on writing. Most are one-size fits almost nobody, but you may eventually stumble on the one idea or method that gives you an "ah ha!" moment. 

Mine was Ben Bova's WRITING SCIENCE FICTION THAT SELLS which helped me understand the relationship between plot and character. It's a good book even if you don't write science fiction. (It's been republished under a number of names.) 

Find a good teacher. The Internet has some wonderful online teaching sites.

Ask questions at blogs like this one.

And when you find novels you really like, reread them and try to figure out what the writer did and how the novel was structured.  

Take the book apart by writing a short description of what happens in each chapter so you can better see the structure.  

Don't give up if  you really want to tell the story.  Eventually, you will figure out how to finish it if you work at it. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Finding Your Character's Weakness

According to Greek myth, Achilles' goddess mother dipped him into the River Styx to make him invulnerable to injury, but the heel she held him by wasn't dipped.  As fate and story would have it, he died when someone shot him in that heel.   

Most people and the most interesting fictional characters always have an Achilles heel, that one weakness which will defeat them unless they overcome it.

As a writer, you must figure out what your main character's weakness is and attack it through plot.

That weakness can be fear of some physical danger.  If like Indiana Jones, your character is afraid of snakes, then snakes he must face to achieve victory.  

A better weakness is an inner one.  If your character prides himself on his dignity and fears ridicule, he must find the strength, at his high school reunion, to race across the room in his bunny underwear to protect his girlfriend from the same bullies who just stripped him.  

If he fears death, he must find the strength to risk dying for something or someone who is more important than life.

Minor weaknesses and disasters can add conflict to a scene, but that one Achilles' heel of your character and his attempts to overcome it are the heart and soul of a good story.