Tuesday, October 28, 2014

National Novel Writing Month!

Nathan Bransford - Everything you need for NaNoWriMo

Posted: 28 Oct 2014 09:00 AM PDT
Na-No! *Clap Clap*

Wri-Mo! *Clap Clap*

Na-No! *Clap Clap*

Wri-Mo! *Clap Clap*

Yes, it's that time of year! Time for tens of thousands intrepid souls to ignore friends, family and pumpkin spice everything in order to write themselves a novel.

National Novel Writing Month!!

Some of you might be writing your first novel, some of you might be writing your tenth, but it will be a great experience for everybody.

Here are some resources that might help.

First and most importantly, all of my very best writing tips are contained in my guide to writing a novel: How to Write a Novel: 47 Rules for Writing a Stupendously Ultimate Novel You Will Love Forever. The great James Dashner, author of The Maze Runner, said these kind words:
"In his 47 brilliant rules, Nathan Bransford has nailed everything I've always wanted to tell people about writing a book but never knew how. Wonderfully thought out with lots of practical examples, this is a must-read for anyone brave enough to try their hand at a novel. It's also a great review for experienced writers. Highly recommended."
Check it out!

However, if you prefer your advice for free you have also come to the right place! Here are some posts that will help you along the way:

How to write a novel (overview)
How to choose an idea for a novel
How to get started writing a novel
How to find a writing style that works for you
How to get over writer's block
Make sure your characters have goals and obstacles
All about conflict
Seven keys to writing good dialogue
What makes a great setting
Do you have a plot?
Five ways to stay motivated
The solution to every writing problem that has ever existed
Writing Advice Database

Good luck!!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Writing Assignment- Bringing out fear as vehicle for plot.

My newest novel embroils me. The characters are as real to me as my children. 

I worry about them, want to make sure they are happy and moving forward. Then I realize the only way to get my readers to feel this impassioned is to run them into some obstacles. 

It is time to pick some inciting instances, crash them emotionally into a wall and see how they resolve it. 

This is basic plot exploration.

It feels like I am throwing a toddler up into a tall tree. 
It feels dangerous. 
It feels cruel. 
With all things fear based, I am enjoying every second of the fear.

I am inviting you to embrace the fear. It is what opens the creative gates more than any emotion.

Go forth and fall in love with your characters, them shred them to bits.

 Writing exercise:

Woman walks up to a tall tree. She hears a noise and looks up. There is a toddler in the branches. How did it get there? What does she do?

“Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating.”

I will show you the 5 factors that you can arrange to make your lives more creative. Sign up today for next Wednesday's class at 6:00 at www.teribayus.com

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Fall 2014 Classes and Other Hot Happenings From Teri Bayus

Classes and Other Hot Happenings From Teri Bayus
The Writer's Life Classes
  • Writing Your Life’s Story
  • Writer’s Tool Box
  • How to Write Strong Characters
  • Will Write for Food
  • Screenwriting for the Soul
  • Promoting Your Writing
FEE: $150 (you can take individual classes for $30 each)
DATES: Every Wednesday from Oct 1-Nov 5, 2014; 6:00-8:00pm

Register Here:
Cuesta Writing Classes for SLO and North County

Writing Exercises

If you want to get weekly writing exercises that will stretch your writers muscle, subscribe and they will arrive in your in-box.

Writing Exercise Blog

Social Media Marketing for Businesses & Non-Profits
Social Media for Businesses: Students will learn how to promote, gain new customers, and cultivate business relationships using Social Media. Specific advice and tips for using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, You Tube, Pinterest, Blogging, Review Sites and other constantly evolving, cutting edge technology.

Tuesday & Thursday: Sep 30 & Oct 2, 2014; 6:00-9:00pm
North County Campus

Tuesday & Thursday: Nov 18 & 20, 2014; 6:00-9:00pm
San Luis Obispo Campus

Register Here:

Cuesta College Registration Link
Central Coast Writer's Conference

I am the Director of the Central Coast Writers Conference for 2015.  I was honored to be considered and look forward to next year, keeping what is wonderful about the conference and embracing new technologies, genres and techniques for 2015.
My goal is to enhance the conference (September 18-20, 2015) with new genres including screenwriting, comedy, dystopian, horror and erotic writing workshops. 
Teri is on TV!
I am doing a TV version of my dinner reviews for Central Coast Now TV (Charter Channel 10 & Comcast Channel 27) so look for my show "Taste Buds". I am already having a ball producing it, here is the promo:
Taste Buds with Teri Bayus

Writing Exercise- Each story is a healing

  Each story is a healing. 
A reminder of things softened by time and your use of language. 
Or things inflated, made incendiary by the memory.  

It is yours to tell, but the reader is as important as the teller

The next assignment has no barriers, move thru time and space, to another planet, another world. Use all your senses to explore your space. 

Remember: all must have the Four elements of story:  Plot, conflict, characters and message.

Your Assignment:

A door is locked but you hold in your hand the key. 

You do not know the door or the key and taking a deep breath, open the door. 

Enter now and stand for a moment, taking in what you see, smell, hear, taste and feel. 

Tell me what you will do after you peeked inside. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Weekly Writing Exercise - I'm in Love

Hey all- I am back. Novel is nearly done (and I can't tell you how much fun it is to write a steamy book!). I am on my second draft and it should be out for Christmas.

Many new things in my life- I have been asked to take on the Central Coast Writers Conference as the director, so that is very exciting. I have a real passion for helping writers achieve their goals, so it is a dream job.

I am also doing a TV version of my dinner reviews for Central Coast Now TV- so look for the show. We are calling it Taste Buds and I am already having a ball producing it.

Meanwhile, we need to keep writing! I will be giving you weekly assignments again in the strange genre that is Teri's warped mind.

Here is your assignment: 

The first time we feel love for something can be transforming. Write about a new feeling, the physical manifestation of it and how it forever changed you. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

It is July 1, 2014 and I have decided I am going to write a summer blockbuster. Not just read one this year, write one.
I have a steamy idea that incorporates the things I love best (food and sex) and it is time I venture into this genre of writing.

All my other writing has been for the big screen or a memoir (factual fiction).

This is a plain ole throw the words down on the paper made up story. With some neat sex.

I am excited. I am terrified. I am the queen of procrastination. I am scared. I am thrilled. I am going to do it. 

If nothing else, Mr Bayus will have a eventful summer as I try out my plot and possibilities.

Wish Me Luck!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Five Common Problems with New Writers

Because I teach writing courses, I preach this over and over. 

The Five most common mistakes:
  1. Realize that the first page is Vital. You have to give the reason to keep reading. 
  2. Stop overwriting. Brevity is the Key.
  3. Character is the most important Element (that is why I teach a whole class on just this).
  4. Make something Happen. Every scene, every word should be driving the story forward.
  5. Get out of your story- Even if it is yours, you must create a character.
My friend the crazy Chuck Wendig has his own rant on the five most common problems and gives you his twisted yet poignant views below. 

Chuck does the whole dance (with Expletives below)

Five Common Problems I See In Your Stories

by terribleminds
This past weekend, I served as faculty at the wonderful Pike's Peak Writing Conferencein lovely Colorado Springs, Colorado. There, my first job on the first day of the conference was to take part in a roundtable blind critique session of the first pages of several manuscripts.
It's very cool to be asked to do that, because rarely do I have the opportunity to crush souls and milk dreams of their precious dreamjuice in person. Like, I could critique a page and even though the manuscripts were blind and I did not know to whom they belonged, I could still gaze out into the audience and find the author there, eyes wet and trembling as I bit into their writing with my dread incisors. And then I bellowed "DOOM" and ate the ashen pages as they wept.
Okay, not really. I do not relish the chance to destroy dreams, and I always tried to temper my criticisms with HEY I ALSO LIKED THIS because, quite truthfully, each page always had something I liked. In fact, almost all of them had at least one sentence that I wish I had written.
What was interesting to me, however, was that while each story was very different, my criticisms of those stories often kept to a few common themes. And I thought, as I always do, HEY, HOLY CRAP, BLOG POST. I can pass along my dubious critique and maybe you writers young and old can do something with them. Or maybe you'll think, "That bearded fucktart can go pound sand," and that's fine, too. And bonus points for calling me "bearded fucktart." SEE, I LIKE YOU.
(As a sidenote, I had originally thought to label this as advice for "aspiring writers," but I will remind you that aspiring is often the same as dreaming of, but never doing, and really, fuck that noise. This blog is for writers who write. Full stop.)

The First Page Is Vital

You don't realize how much that first page matters until you have to judge a story based on that first page. And then you're forced to ask the question: "Would I keep reading?"
That first page is the start of the fulfillment of promise of your premise.
It's saying, "Here is what this story is." It's the first taste of a meal -- and if someone doesn't like that first taste, they aren't always so inclined to continue unless they're starving for content. And in this day and age? Nobody is starving for content.

You're Totally Overwriting

You are using too many words to say too few things. And the words you're using are too big, or poorly chosen, or feel awkward. You're using exposition where you don't need any. You're invoking description that is redundant or unnecessary. You're giving your characters a wealth of mechanical details and actions that go well-beyond a few gestures and into the territory of telegraphing every eyebrow arch, every lip twitch, every action beat of picking up a coffee mug, blowing on it, sipping from it, setting it back down, picking it back up, drinking from it, on and on.
You're overwriting.
You're placing all this language on the page that serves no purpose except its own existence.
You're not James Joyce.
Cut. Tighten. Aim for rhythm-and-beat, not droning cacophony. Seek clarity over confusion. Early on, seek action over explanation. Mystery over answer. Leave things out rather than putting everything in. That's not to say you cannot engage in a few flourishes of language. That's not to say there won't be a kind of poetry to your description, or a certain creative stuntery in terms of metaphor. But those are not the point of what you're doing. Those are enhancements. They serve mood. They are a kind of narrative punctuation. They are single bites, not whole meals.
If your whole meal is just a wall of language, it's both too much and not enough. It's too much language, and not enough of why the fuck would I keep reading? Words are what we read, not why we read. They do not exist to serve themselves but rather, the purpose of conveying information. And the information you're trying to convey is: story.
Kill exposition. Trim description to the leanest of cuts.
The fat will come later. The conversation will deepen as the story grows.
Do not build a wall of words.
Stop overwriting.
More on this later.

Character Above All Else

Everything is character.
Because character is story.
This is not exaggeration. We read stories for characters. Characters are the prime movers of story. They say shit and they do shit and they want things and they are afraid of things and that's it. That's plot, story, that's all of it. We may stay with a story for a whole lot of reasons, but our driving reason is character. Character compels us because we are people reading stories about people. Even when they're robots or dragons or robot-dragons or orangutan secret agents, they're still people for purposes of our narrative consumption. We see ourselves as characters in our own stories and so we seek characters within stories. It's like an empathy bridge.
Your story must connect us to character immediately.
Because otherwise, I just don't care. No threat or suspense or mystery is particularly engaging if it doesn't have a character to reflect and represent it. Without strong character shot through the first page, everything you're giving me is a data point.
I don't read stories to consume data points.
If your story begins and I have no sense of character or why I should give a single slippery fuck about them, what's the point? I'm looking for connection. I want to tether myself to a character. I want to care enough to continue reading. Make me care. It's not enough to make me think. You can worry about my intellectual connection to the story later. Right now? Hit me in the emotions. Make me feel something. PUNCH ME IN MY HEARTBUCKET.

Make Something Happen

I'm bored. Your first page has bored me. Because nothing is happening. I don't mean that the first moment should be cataclysm and clamor -- but something needs to happen. Or be in the midst of happening. Repeat after me: action, dialogue, action, dialogue. Quick description as connective tissue. Short, sharp shock. Activity over passivity.
And hey, I get it. This is easier said than done. What I just told you above about character makes this part doubly tricky, and only goes to show just what an amazing trick it is to write a jaw-dropping face-kicking sphincter-clencher of a first page. It's threading like, seven different needles in one swift movement. You're trying to convey action and conversation but not without also giving us enough character to care but not so much character that you're overwriting and you're trying to say what you need to say at the bare minimum while still trying to maintain style and energy and you wanna offer mystery but not confusion and you want to inject genre without being ham-fisted and you wanna worldbuild a little bit but not write an encyclopedia...
It's hard.
I get it.
But damnit, penmonkey, you gotta try.
And you're best starting off with:
Something Is Happening.
Right fucking now. And that's why the story must be told and heard right fucking now.
Urgency! Impetus! Incitement! Excitement!

Get The Fuck Out Of The Way Of Your Story

And here, the biggest lesson of them all, and a summation of all the problems.
You are in the way of your story.
Hard truth: writing is actually not that important.
Writing is a mechanism.
It's an inelegant middleman to what we do. It's a shame, in some ways, that we even call ourselves writers, because it describes only the mechanical act of what we do. It's a vital mechanism, sure, but by describing it as the prominent thing, it tends to suggest, well, prominence.
But our writing must serve story.
Story does not serve writing.
This is cart-before-horse stuff, but important to realize.
Listen, in what we do there exist three essential participants.
We have:
The tale, the teller of the tale, and the listener of the tale.
Story. Author. And audience.
That's it.
You are two-thirds of that equation. You are the story (or, by proxy, its architect) and the teller of the story. The telling of the story is most often done through writing -- through that mechanical act, and because it's the act you can sit and watch, it's the one that is used to describe our role. I AM WRITER, you say, and so you focus so much on the actual writing you forget that there's this other invisible -- but altogether more critical -- part, which is what you're writing.
So, what happens is, early on, you put so much on the page. You write and write and write and use too many words and too much exposition and big meaty paragraphs and at the end all it serves to do is create distance between the tale and the listener of the tale.
It keeps the audience at arm's length.
Quit that shit.
Bring the audience into the story. This is at the heart of show, don't tell -- which is a rule that can and should be broken at times, but at its core remains a reasonable notion: don't talk at, don't preach, don't lecture, don't fill their time with unnecessary wordsmithy.
Get. To. The. Point.
And the point is the story. Not the words used to tell that story.
Here, look at it this way: you ever have a conversation with someone and they tell you a story -- something that happened to them, some thing at work, some wacky sexual escapade featuring an escaped circus shark and a kale farmer named "Dave" -- and you just want to smack them around and tell them to get to the actual story? Like, they just dick around in the telling of the tale, orbiting the juicy bits and taking too goddamn long to just spit it out? Maybe they think they're creating suspense, but they're only creating frustration. Or maybe they know -- as we all do, sometimes -- that the story they're telling is actually ALL HAT, NO COWBOY, and they're trying to fill the time with hot air in much the same way you might pad a college paper with several shovels of additional horseshit to lend it weight (and, incidentally, stench)?
Stop doing that.
Stop wasting time.
Get the fuck out of the way of your story.
You are a facilitator. Writing is a mechanism. It can be an artful and beautiful mechanism, but without substance behind it -- without you actually saying something and sharing a story -- it is a hollow, gutless art. The story is what your audience wants, needs, and cares about.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

8 Ways to Fix the Dreaded First Draft

This blog post comes from Ruth Harris Anne R. Allen's Blog

She mirrors everything I teach in my classes, only more elegantly. Please enjoy:

Feb 23, 2014 09:57 am | Anne R. Allen
by Ruth Harris

You’re happy, even delirious. You’ve finished your first draft!

Then you read it.

OMG, you think, did I write that?

Yes, you did. :-)

It stinks. It sucks. It’s so rancid it threatens to warp the time-space continuum.

Think you’re alone? Here’s Hugh Howey in a blog post: “I suck at writing. Watching a rough draft emerge from my fingertips in realtime would induce nausea.”

So remember, it’s not just you.

The first draft is just that—a first step.

As a long-time editor and author, I’ve found 8 strategies that can help you shape, refine and improve your draft. (Actually it’s called editing and, yes, you can do quite a bit of it yourself.)

1. Embrace the power of the delete button.

Elmore Leonard advised taking out all the unnecessary words. Cutting almost always makes a book better, more readable, more exciting.

Specifically, that means delete all the spongy, weasely, namby-pamby words—the ones that aren’t crisp and precise, the ones that drag out a scene or a description without adding anything except length.

Get rid of the windy digressions, the pointless descriptions, the info dumps, the meandering philosophical musings.

Duplicate your document before you begin in case you get too enthusiastic but, with a safe back-up on hand, go ahead and hack away. Take out everything that doesn’t advance your story or define your characters. See if the resulting clarity doesn’t vastly improve the pace of your book.

Don’t just kill your darlings. Kill everything that doesn’t move the story forward. Save your gems in a “future” file and use them in another book where they pull their weight.

2. Sharpen dialogue.

Just as you leave out the um’s and ah’s of real life, leave out chitchat about the weather, the local gossip, the “warming up” before you get to the point.

 Condense long speeches that have nothing to do with your story or characters. Ernest Hemingway wrote narrative in long hand but used the typewriter for dialogue—the rat-tat-tat, he thought, was similar to speed of talk.

Dialogue should be short, sharp and speedy. A scene with dialogue should have lots of white space. Allow your characters to speechify at your own peril!

FREE dialogue tips from Nanowrimo here. More dialogue tips here.

3. Spot and solve plot problems.

Plot problems in a first draft?

I’m shocked, I tell you. Shocked.

A powerful technique called reverse outlining will help ferret them out. A reverse outline will also help you track character arcs and/or rein in wandering POV dilemmas.

Reverse outlining—basically a list plus some first-grade arithmetic—can also bail you out of glitches and blocks, aka those dreaded now-what-happens? moments.

The difference between an outline and a reverse outline is that you compose your reverse outline after you finish your first draft (or as you’re in the process of writing it). Even pantsers like me find the reverse outline invaluable.

You will find FREE directions and demonstrations of the power of reverse outlining hereherehere, andhere.

4. Naming names.

Names are powerful—Hannibal Lector, Miss Marple, Mr. Darcy, Scarlett O’Hara, Rosa Kleb—and can even define character. Choose names carefully in order to make things easy for the reader.

Example: The hero is Kevin Barnett. The heroine is Kathy Blanchard. The villain is Keith Barron. The names are similar and the initials are identical.

Do you really want to drive your reader crazy, as s/he tries to remember which of the K’s are OK and which aren’t?

Make a list of all the character names in your book and see to it they are individual, even memorable, and, if possible, convey something about the character. Change names and initials that are too bland, too similar or easily confusable. Use a name generator if you run out of ideas or need ethnically or genre-correct names.

Scrivener, the go-to app for many writers offers a generous FREE trial and comes with a name generator. Find it in the edit > writing tools menu.

There’s a FREE standalone name generator offering everything from Finnish and Maori names to Biblical, witch, and rapper names here.

5. Cliffhanging.

The cliffhanger is the professional writer’s secret. Pros use the cliffhanger to compel the reader to turn the page so they end every chapter on a note of anxiety, suspense or irresolution.

The reader, dying to know what happens next, will turn the page, stay up till three AM to finish your book and the next day tell her/his friends “you have to read it!”

The cliffhanger worked for Shakespeare and probably back in the days when writers lived in caves and used chisels and clay tablets to tell their stories. It worked in soap operas, on sitcoms, and in commercial bestsellers. The cliffhanger is eternal: right now, today, tonight, you will find the little buggers on every show right before the commercial break.

Embrace the cliffhanger.

Respect its power.

Learn to use it.

6. Crutch words.

Many writers have them. Anne fesses up to “just.” Mine is “begin.”

Example: “She began to run for the bus” becomes “She ran for the bus.”

Simpler, more direct and more powerful and yet another example of the power of the delete button.

Do you abuse adverbs? A search for ly will ferret them out.

Scrivener provides an easy way to nail those crutch words. Go to Project > text statistics > word frequency and Scriv turns up a list (with numbers + bar chart!) of how many times you used a word in that particular project. Now that you have the evidence, go into hunt-and-kill mode and mow them down!

ID your own crutch words and be on the lookout for better, more expressive ways to convey what you want to describe.

7. Know your genre.

No football team is going to draft you as a receiver if you didn’t know how to run a route. Ditto, genre. Romance, thrillers, horror, romcom—all have conventions and readers expect those conventions to be honored.

Study the genre(s) you work in. Read widely. Keep up with shifts and changes in the genre. Be aware of what your readers are looking for and, when you revise that first draft, be sure you are giving your readers exactly what they are looking for.

Focus on thrills in a thriller, sexual tension in a romance, scares in horror. Make sure those scenes deliver the goods or you will lose your reader.

Find FREE expert advice on genre at the following sites:

  • Romance writers lecture three times a week at Romance University.
  • Mystery writers share tricks of their trade at Crime Fiction Collective.
  • David Morrell discusses writing thrillers here and Lee Child talks about how he breaks rules here. A few more tips about thrillers here.
  • Chuck Wendig discusses 25 things you need to know about writing horror here. Stephen King on the craft of writing horror here.

8. Once is enough.

A common first-draft problem and not always a quick or easy one to fix because it involves actual thinking. Sorry about that, guys—but be on the lookout for places where you convey the same thought two (or more) times in different words.

Usually, this kind of repetition means the writer—that would be you—hasn’t quite thought through what he/she is trying to say. If you find yourself falling into this trap, you need to do the hard work of clarifying your thoughts and then conveying them clearly.

Decide exactly what you want to say and then say it. Do it right once and you don’t have to do it again.

Now you are ready to expose your book to your editor, crit group, beta readers.

If you show your work before you address the glitches and flaws you perceive, you risk getting stepped on and deflated. It’s not worth it.

Don’t ask me how I know.

What about you, scriveners? Do you edit before you show your work to other people? Have you learned to do that the hard way? What other self-editing tricks can you add?

We LOVE comments. If you have trouble commenting because Blogger elves won't accept your ID (They prefer Google+ IDs, because they're owned by Google, alas) just email Anne through the "contact us" page and she'll personally post your comment.


ZURI--the word means "beautiful" in Swahili--is an inspirational, romantic story of grief, healing, and second chances (contains no sex or cursing and is appropriate for adult and young adult readers.)

Available at Amazon USAmazon UKNOOK

Lanky, dark-haired Renny Kudrow, Director of the Kihali Animal Orphanage in Kenya, is a brilliant scientist, a noted television personality, and an expert in animal communication. But human communication? Not so much, thinks Starlite Higgins, the talented young vet he has hired over the objection of others. He is prickly, remote, critical, and Starlite, anxious to please and accustomed to success, is unable to win his approval.

When Renny and Starlite set out on a dangerous mission, they rescue a severely injured baby rhino whose mother has been killed by poachers. Upon their return to Kihali, they must work together to save the little orphan, now named Zuri. Zuri's courage and determination and the idyllic beauty of Kihali, gradually break down Renny's and Starlite's emotional walls. Little by little, they each confront their own painful, invisible wounds.

But how can Starlite know the secret Renny guards is as shocking as the past she conceals?


This just in: HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE: A Self Help Guide is back in e-print!! 
Now published by Fast Forward, this is a new, updated version, full of tips from Anne and #1 Bestseller Catherine Ryan Hyde. A must-read for new writers who are planning to go the traditional OR indie route. Lots of info on how to query, self-edit, use social media, deal with rejection and bad reviews, and stay safe online.