Thank You! :-)

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Many thanks to all those who stop by, read, and comment on the posts! It really makes me feel as though I’m not talking to myself! If you’d like to stay up to date on the sequel to Twisted and other little doodads going on in the world of S.M. Dahman, please subscribe to the mailing list below. Your privacy is important. Rest assured that your info will never be given to a third party.

 

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Editors Are Your Friends

Yikes

Yikes!

Alas! I’ve written the last word and my story is complete! My friends and family are singing my praises. All I need now is to hit the publish button on Amazon. I don’t need an editor. He or she will only end up trashing it. My baby is perfect as is!

Ha! I had a lot to learn! Arguably, writers view editors as the bane of their creative existence. They dissect your thoughts, converting them into mere shells of themselves. Your prose is utterly fucked by the time they’re done marking it to hell and back. Right? Nope. Wrong! Editors are your friends. Don’t believe me?  I’m sure the lady above who made that mistake regrets not having someone edit her work, or at least this sentence! No matter how strong your writing skills are you still need to have someone professionally edit your work. Trust me, I’ve learned that the hard way.

Fortunately for me, I didn’t get totally slammed for the initial rendition of Twisted by Amazon reviewers. But, I’m sure I would not have received that 2 star rating had I consulted with an editor prior to releasing Twisted the first time around. Aside from editors correcting spelling, syntax, and other miscellaneous grammatical mishaps, here are 3 more reasons why you should invest in an editor before releasing your baby to the world:

Editors help you to streamline your manuscript. Your protagonist has just found a skeleton key to the creepy mysterious door in the basement of her house. Throughout the story, she’s been hearing strange noises coming from behind the door. However, she can’t open it because it’s locked and the key is missing. She’s searched all story long to find a key that unlocks it. Finally, she finds it! She slowly creeps to the door. Her heart rate is elevated. Her palms are sweaty. She’s quivering as she places the key into the hole. Right as she turns the key to unlock it, she then says, “Oh forget this, I’m going for a swim.” Wow! Does that make sense in the overall scheme of the story? She’s at the moment of confronting whatever is making that noise behind the door. Why in the hell would she go swimming? Maybe in your mind it flows since you are the creator of it (I was guilty of this). But, an editor can point out this plot mistake and help you see the error of your ways.

Editors help improve your writing skills. Would your character really be so subdued if he found out his wife became pregnant by his best friend? Doubtful. He would probably be a little more pissed off and heads would be rolling. An editor can highlight places within your narrative that seem unrealistic, thus strengthening the story.

Another error I committed in the initial draft was revealing  information via exposition (aka info dump) rather through action. Let’s use the previous scenario as an illustration of what I mean:

Bob was pissed at his wife, Lisa,  for getting knocked up by his best friend, Don. For a while now, Bob suspected something was going on between his wife and his friend, but he never would have guessed Lisa would tell him she was expecting Don’s child. That was why Bob pressed the shotgun into Don’s chest and pulled the trigger.

Pause. So we know that Lisa is Bob’s wife, and that Lisa has been sleeping with Don, Bob’s best friend. She is carrying Don’s child. Apparently, that was reason enough for Bob to blow a big ol’ hole in Don’s chest. Ok. That’s interesting. Now, imagine how much more interesting that scene would have been if acted out on the pages. Let’s take another look:

Bob leveled the barrel of the shotgun at Don’s chest. Don’s arms sprang in the air. “Don’t do this Bob! I know I fucked up and I’m sorry man! For the love of God! Please, put the gun down!”

Lisa, hearing the commotion outside, ran to the front door. Seeing her husband aiming the gun square at her lover’s chest, she swung the door open and raced down the stairs of the porch. “Stop Bob!” She shouted as she positioned herself between her husband and her lover. “You’re not thinking straight. I know you’re upset but we can talk about this calmly,” she said in what she hoped was a reassuring voice. She carefully eyed his expression as she spoke, praying that the she was making some headway.

Bob was having none of that. He eyed his wife’s stomach. Just thinking about that bastard growing inside her made him burn with rage. He shoved his wife aside. “I’ll deal with you later,” he muttered.

Lisa fell to the ground. Instinctually, she clutched her belly. 

Bob cocked the gun. With one final press of his index finger, he watched his former best friend fly through the air before making his final landing…

See. It’s a little more interesting seeing it rather than hearing about it. That probably needs some editing but you catch my drift.

Editors constructively critique your story, not criticize it or you. One of my biggest fears in finding an editor was that he or she was going to tell me my story sucks, I am a horrible writer, and I should just throw in the towel before I even get started. I think most newbie authors feel that way. Editors know this. A good one will never discourage you, but rather show you ways to hone your craft. If you find one that does discourage you, fire them ASAP.

For all those teetering on the fence about whether or not to hire an editor, I hope the aforementioned reasons are compelling enough to persuade you to do so. If you are looking for one, I highly suggest giving my editor, Lindsey Alexander, a try. She proved to be an invaluable mentor and asset for me during the rewriting process of Twisted. (Boy did I learn the importance of story logic and character motivations!) Being able to converse with her and bounce ideas back and forth was extremely helpful in flushing out plot holes and addressing other plot related intricacies.

What has your experience been like working with an editor? Pleasant? Awful? Pleasantly awful? Share your comments here or find me on social media!

 

 

Character Problems

Twitter: A Place of Intrigue

Twitter: A Place of Intrigue

The Twitter world is fascinating. I wrote that random, perfunctory comment and for some reason many people either retweeted or set it as a favorite of theirs. I found that intriguing. Out of all the other tweets I’ve posted regarding Twisted, that for some reason tended to stand from the pack. That got me thinking; why did an offhanded remark about my story resonate with people?

The answer is simple; people like a good story. Ok, so what makes a story good? Drama of course! If the protagonist never goes through adversity or isn’t flawed in some way, then the story is dull. Who wants to read something about someone who never goes through something challenging, or, has some sort of major character flaw that always comes back to bite him in the ass (AJ)? Additionally, a character that never struggles is not reflective of real life. We’re all going through or have gone through something. What makes a story about a tortured character rewarding is seeing the character struggle while subsequently watching him find a way to overcome adversity as the story progresses.

So, for all of you writers out there, go ahead and take you characters through every imaginable form of hell you can (within reason and logic of your story of course!). I bet your story will be more compelling and enjoyable in the end.

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts. What makes a story interesting for you? Leave your comments here or find me on social media.

Character Development 2

I was asked by a reader to post another character “interview.” I decided to share Colton Hunter’s. Check out his Q&A below:

I picture Colton Hunter as a modern day Don Draper type, but with blond and gray streaked hair.

I picture Colton Hunter as a modern day Don Draper type, but with blond and gray streaked hair.

Colton Hunter Q&A:

The man entered the room carrying a small Styrofoam cup of liquid. His wore a navy blue tailored suit with a crisp white shirt. His dark brown shoes were immaculately buffed. Steam drifted from the cup as the man glanced at the interviewer. “This is this is the right place.” He says as he gently closed the door behind him. He smiled brightly at the interviewer. “Should I have a seat across from you at this table?” The interviewer smiled and nodded toward the chair. The man crossed the room and placed his cup on the table before pulling back the chair. He smoothly lowered himself in the chair and crossed his right leg over his left. He lifted the cup to his lips and sipped his drink. “Ah, nothing beats a good, strong cup of coffee.” He placed the cup back on the table before crossing his hands in front of the cup. His nails were just as neat and buff as his shoes. A glimmer of something shiny briefly flashed on his left wrist under his sleeve. Not a single strand of hair on his head was out of place. The man smiled at the interviewer. “Well friend, shall we begin?”

 Interviewer: Who are you?

Colton Hunter: [The man smiled] My name is Colton Hunter. I am the owner and founder of Hunter Industries. [He chuckled] I am sure you knew that once I walked through that door.

 Interviewer: What do you want more than anything Mr. Hunter?

 CH: Hmm… I think I have most of everything that I want. I’ve been very fortunate in my line of work.

Interviewer: Most of everything? Could you please explain?

CH: [He smiled before he took another sip of his coffee] Yes friend. Most. I’d love another boat, but that would just be greedy. [He winked at the interviewer before returning the cup to the table]

Interviewer: Come on Mr. Hunter. There must be something you want that’s more momentous than a boat. Even someone who seemingly has it all must still want more.

CH: Yes, one would think. However, like I stated, I’ve been very, very fortunate in my life. I’ve achieved my success with good old-fashioned hard work, [he paused] and admittedly with a bit of influence.

Interviewer: Influence?

CH: Yes. Influence. Once you’ve achieved my pinnacle of success, there is a certain level of clout, or influence, that naturally comes with the territory.

Interviewer: Sounds like influence is important to you since you mentioned it. [A moment of silence pervaded the room before the interviewer continued] Is that important to you Mr. Hunter? Would you want more influence?

CH: [He leaned back in his chair, placing his hands on his right thigh] Is this Q and A session on or off the record?

Interviewer: Off

CH: [He stared at the interviewer as he carefully decided which words to use] Since we are being candid, I’ll admit that having and maintaining influence is tantamount to maintaining my level of success. A myriad of fortuitous opportunities tend to fall my way due to my level of influence.

Interviewer: Is that more so due to influence or would you say due to power? From what you’ve just said I think it’s fair to say the words could be used interchangeably.

CH: [He flashed a wide grin] You tell me my friend. It’s your observation.

Interviewer: I’ll defer to you. I’m not the one being interviewed.

CH: Hmm. No. I think I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. What’s your next question?

 Interviewer: Ok. Since I’m drawing my own conclusions, how far would you go to keep your power?

 CH: [He heartily laughed. The interviewer patiently waited until Hunter’s laughter subsided] In keeping with your extrapolation, if I hypothetically wanted to maintain power, I think I’d do anything to keep it.

Interviewer: Anything?

CH: Yes. Anything. [He flashed another grin] Wouldn’t you since I’d assume power is… addictive, for lack of a better word. [He held up his hands] But what do I know? [He placed his hands back in his lap]

 Interviewer: Well, Mr. Hunter, why is power so important?

 CH: [He slightly raised his eyebrows] If we look at this from a purely philosophical perspective, power is somewhat analogous to control, right? So, once you have established power and therefore control over something, or even someone in some instances, then you have complete domination. You are free to do what you will with no objection. I’m assuming that must be a rush!

Interviewer: Even if that entails hurting people?

CH: [He shrugged] We all can’t be winners. Life is dichotomous; on the topic of power, there are few who have it and many more who do not have it. People get roughed up from time to time in order to maintain or establish power.

 Interviewer: Oh, ok. Um, how do you feel about the people in your life?

 CH: Everyone serves a purpose.

Interviewer: That sounds harsh.

CH: [He slightly tilted his head to the side] No. Maybe it does on the surface but not if you think about it. You have people who serve as lovers, people who serve as friends, people who serve as role models, etcetera. I think most everyone can relate to those relationships. With that being said, it’s fair to say that all those relationships serve a purpose in a one’s life.

Interviewer: That’s a mechanical way of looking at things. How do you feel about those people who fill those spaces in your life?

CH: So far I’m content.

Interviewer: Care to elaborate?

CH: No. I’d like to maintain an air of mystique. People are too open now. There’s no fun without mystery?

Interviewer: You live a high profile life.

CH: Yes and yet I show what I want to show. [He winked]

 Interviewer: Final question; how do you feel about yourself?

 CH: [Another wide grin] I love me and I am proud of all that I’ve achieved in my life. [He stood and smoothed the few wrinkles out of his pants and jacket] Well my friend, this was rather enjoyable. We should do this again sometime. [He grabbed his cup of coffee from the table and quietly exited the room]

Character Development

Twisted Greens 600x1200 promo baner

What makes an interesting story? Is it the plot? The characters? I think it’s a little bit of both. After all, could you truly have a dynamic story if the plot is banging, but the characters suck or vice versa? While in the process of writing Twisted, I stumbled upon a writing exercise that I found pretty helpful in flushing out who my characters are. This entailed getting to know their mannerisms, how they speak, and how they think. I documented all of these observations into an “interview.” Before I knew it, I discovered more about my characters than I thought I would. I’ve posted AJ’s “interview” below. If you’re interested in other character interviews they’re under the Twisted Greens tab. How do you dig deeper into your characters? As always, I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or find me on social media:

Alistair Davis Jameson (AJ) Q&A:

The tall young man walked into the room wearing a pair of basketball shorts, an old shirt, and a pair of sneakers covered in bits of grass and mud. He slouched down in the metal chair across the table and sighed. He ran his fingers through his shaggy dark brown hair in an effort to clear his line of vision. His hazel eyes briefly glanced around the room before turning their attention to the interviewer. His expression was blank, fingers interlaced as his hands rested on the table. He shook his leg as he waited to see if the interviewer would speak first. The young man and the interviewer stared at each other as each second ticked by. Finally, the young man folded his arms in front of his chest. He took a deep breath. “I heard you have some questions for me,” he said. “I kind of need to speed this up. I have an errand to run.”

Interviewer: Who are you?

AJ: Is this a real question dude? [He huffed] You know who I am. You’re the one who called me in here.

Interviewer: For the record please.

AJ: [He rolled his eyes] Fine. My name is AJ, but I’m sure you’d like my entire legal name, right? It’s Alistair Davis Jameson Jr.

Interviewer: Thank you AJ. Now, What do you want more than anything?

AJ: Wow. [He smirked] That’s a loaded question. Are you looking for generic answers like world peace or do you want a real answer?

Interviewer: You tell me AJ.

AJ: [He paused for a moment while briefly glancing at the ceiling] It can only be one thing?

Interviewer: Yes.

AJ: [He scratched his chin] Well shit, if it’s just one thing, I’d have to say success earned by my own two hands.

Interviewer: Care to elaborate?

AJ: [He grinned] Come on! You know me! You know who I am and who my parents are. [He leaned across the table] I think you know what I mean. [He smiled as he shook his head while waiting for the interviewer to respond. He leaned back, one arm propped on the back of the chair] Seriously? [He asked after a moment of silence] Damn, this must be how Dr. Alice’s patients feel in a session with her. [He stopped smiling. He quickly shook his hair out of his eyes] I want to build my own successes without help from my parents. I don’t want their kind of success. There, are you happy?

Interviewer: What do you mean by “their kind of success?”

AJ: [He smirked] I’ll just say that the success they achieved didn’t make them happy or better people.

 Interviewer: How far would you go to be successful?

 AJ: [He smiled] Damn near anything, but I don’t want my parents’ assistance. I want to learn and figure shit out on my own and in my own way.

Interviewer: Why is success so important to you?

AJ: Dude, I don’t think anyone walks around wanting to be a failure. I’m no exception. I just don’t want my parents involved.

Interviewer: You keep saying you don’t want your parents’ help, yet your mother is a pretty successful psychiatrist and your father had a successful business.

AJ: Yeah, well, professional success isn’t everything and my father’s business didn’t turn out too well.

Interview: Ok. Your answer leads into the next question; how do you feel about the people in your life?

AJ: [He threw his hands in the air before running them through his hair] Jesus dude! Did Dr. Alice hire you to ask all this? I mean is she trying to covertly figure out what I’m thinking, where my head is? [He sat up straighter and took a deep breath before returning is hands to the table] Everyone is cool. Ok? I’ve got a great girlfriend. I’ve got a cool friend. My dad is trying to get back on his feet. My mother is successful, as you pointed out, and my sister is doing just peachy in law school. [He counted his fingers as he listed the people in his life] I think that covers all the important people.

Interviewer: That doesn’t answer the question. How do you feel about all those people you just named?

AJ: [Indistinct mumbling as he leaned forward in his chair. He stared icily into the interviewers eyes] What is the point of all these questions?

Interviewer: Answer the question please. The quicker you answer the quicker you can leave.

AJ: [He sighed as he leaned back into the chair. He shifted his weight and repositioned is hands into the pockets of his shorts] I love Savannah, my girlfriend, a lot. I’d do anything for her. I also love my parents. By far I’m closer to my dad than my mother. I feel that’s he’s a more genuine person than my mother could ever be. He’s very vulnerable; especially in light of this Owen Chandler shit. At the same time, I feel as though my dad can be a bit weak at times, even before shit hit the fan. He’s definitely dramatic, which I think clouds his judgment and ability to see things through. [He paused as he stared into the distance]  I don’t want to ever be weak like him. [He looked down at the table. A slow grin spread across his face] Now where my father lacks in personality, my mother more than makes up for it. I mean fuck! Talk about overbearing! [He laughed] My sister, Sage, is cool. We don’t talk as much since she moved away for law school. She’s my mother ‘s perfect child. Ethan, my friend is cool too. He kind of reminds me of my dad at times. I mean, with the theatrics and all. He can be pretty damn dramatic at times.

Interviewer: Do you not get along with your mother?

AJ: It’s complicated, you’d understand if you really knew her. I hope you ask her all this shit you’ve asked me. [He paused and shrugged] Lets just say she wanted me to play tennis and I wanted to do karate.

Interviewer: Care to elaborate?

AJ: [He rubbed the bridge of his nose with his left thumb and forefinger] Again, it’s complicated. [He sighed] I’m just not the son she could mold into the masculine version of herself. I don’t do everything she tells me to do, like Sage. I don’t want to be a lawyer, or any other bullshit professional for that matter. I don’t want to go into real estate with my father. I didn’t want to play tennis, golf, or lacrosse. I don’t dress the way she wants me to dress. I don’t date the girls she approves. The list goes on. [He rubbed his forehead before placing is hands flat against the table] I just want to be my own man and she can’t stand that.

Interviewer: One last question, how do you feel about yourself?

 AJ: [He sat back in the chair, folding his arms confidently across his chest. A sly grin spread across his face] I think I’m one smart, cool ass dude. I’ll get what I want on my own terms. [He paused] Are we done now? I really need to go.

Discovering An Audience

If only my audience waited for me like this...

If only my audience was waiting like this!

When I began the self-publishing journey in March of this year, I greatly underestimated the importance of having an audience (or platform). As I continue on my trek, I’ve learned that finding your target audience is critical. After all, most people write to be heard, I’m no exception. In my naiveté, I thought if I wrote a good story and threw it on Amazon, people would find me. Clearly, that’s not how it works. Discovering who resonates with your story or with what you have to say is tough, especially if you’re naturally shy, and a little reserved (like me!). However, discovering your audience is tantamount to gaining any real success with selling your product, or conveying your message. My own experience of finding my audience has been a somewhat of a trial and error process. I’m still looking for my peeps. I know they’re out there somewhere!

Initially, I thought my story would resonate with people of a certain age group (~18-30), of a certain gender (female) that enjoy reading fast-paced thrillers coupled with family drama. I still think that’s part of my audience. Nonetheless, after reading Gary McLaren’s article about platform building and the importance of marketing to yourself first, I revisited my initial assumption. Maybe I was going about attracting an audience the wrong way? Essentially, the key to discovering my audience begins with me. Who am I and what do I enjoy doing, reading, and watching?

While I’m sure age range and other demographic factors play a role in attracting an audience to your story, I’ve found that actively engaging with others really is one of the most important things that can attract (or repel) a potential audience. As someone once told me on Google+, hard selling on social media is, well… a hard sell. It’s difficult to get people to buy what you’re selling or hear what you’re saying if you don’t connect with them. So, I got down to basics.

I am Stephanie, a married black female who’s from Georgia. I’m at that stage in life where I’ll say farewell to my 20’s this December. I enjoy writing and having good conversations with people over a cocktail, a good meal, or hell, even social media. I also have a dark sense of humor (well more so crude). I love music across all genres (I’m nostalgic for early to mid 90’s alternative in particular). I‘m also eclectic when it comes to reading genres. I don’t really have a set genre that I enjoy because I tend to go through phases. Sometimes I’ll kick my heels up to a good romance, or sometimes I’ll get down with an addictive murder/mystery (right now I’m coming out of a romance spell). I love sci-fi television (e.g. Humans, Doctor Who), thought provoking stuff (Mr. Robot, The Walking Dead, Snowpiercer), as well as some horror (the clown from It still creeps me out) and action packed entertainment (Sons of Anarchy is one of my favorites!). All of that is just for starters! I’m sure someone out there can connect with me just from that little bit of information alone.

The point of me sharing all of that about myself is to emphasize that people like authenticity and getting to know who you are, not just what you’re pushing. Hell, I even go through people’s timelines or posts to see if there are things that I have in common with them, as stalker-ish as that may sound. Furthermore, I actively reach out to people who have said or posted things that are particularly interesting to me, not only by hitting a “like” button, but by commenting. I’m hoping to build my audience by connecting with others based off of things that we mutually enjoy. With all that being said, who would of thought finding an audience is a lot like finding a mate? It’s definitely a reciprocal relationship. For all those seeking (or already found) an audience, I would love to hear any comments about your journey. Leave a comment on the post or find me on social media!

– Stephanie