Wednesday Writing Warrior: T. Haven Morse

Welcome to Wednesday Writing Warriors! This is a new feature I’ll be doing every Wednesday. If you’d like to be featured, please email me at allison@thesentrancedwriter.com.

This week, I’m happy to introduce T. Haven Morse, poetess and Sci-Fi/Fantasy fan fiction author.THavenMorse1

You can check out her collection of poetry, Flooded By: A Persona Poetry Collection on Amazon.

TSW: Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

Morse: After a twenty-year career as a stage and improv actress, on a whim, my husband and I moved to an 18-acre farmstead in the middle of a national forest. Needless to say, I was no longer near a theater, so I retired from acting. After a few weeks, my husband noted that my eye was starting to twitch and I had better find a new creative outlet soon or I might explode. Over the years, I’d written some stage plays and sketched out a ton of characters, so writing seemed the natural choice. Something I could do from anywhere and fiction was a realm I already knew well.


TSW: 
In which genre do you classify your writing?

Morse: Poetry is my main category of work, but I also write flash fiction and am about to start the edits on the rough draft of book one of a fantasy novel series. Within poetry, I have one collection of persona poetry that came out in March and a science fiction/fantasy fan fiction book that comes out later this month called “Beam Me Up, Yoda.” My flash can be found in a handful of journals, mags, and anthologies.


TSW: 
What books/short stories/novellas/poetry have you published, or what projects are you working on?

Morse: Oops, guess I jumped the promote-my-work gun on the last question! You can purchase my persona poetry collection “Flooded By” on Amazon in Kindle or paperback. It’s a unique book that contains sixty individuals writing on topics they’ve been flooded by – sorrow, wonder, adrenaline, and more. I also have pieces published in “In Medias Res: Stories from the In Between”, two anthologies put out by the Woodlands Writing Guild, and a handful of poetry journals. “Beam Me Up, Yoda” is my latest literary baby and it’s a collection of poems written by and about one hundred of the most iconic science fiction and fantasy characters of all time like the Wicked Witch of the East, Han Solo, Captain Picard, Katniss Everdeen, and ninety-six others. It’s a fun poetry ride that will hit shelves and Amazon by mid-to-end of October.THavenMorse2


TSW: 
What is your favorite writing resource, be it a book, website, program…?

Morse: I’m old school and love actual books in my hand. A few of my constant “go-to”s for craft tips and inspiration are “Steering the Craft” by Ursula Le Guin, classic Strunk/White “Elements of Style”, and “The Story Behind the Story” from Norton Press. However old school I may be, I’m also a podcast junkie. Some of my faves are the Write Now podcast with Sarah Rhea Werner, the Writership podcast, Story Shots with C. Steven Manley, and the Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor. Check all of these out! They make my commutes into the city worth driving and my writing always improving.


TSW: 
Are you a plotter or pantser? Do you outline your stories, or do you write them as they come to you?

Morse: Being a former improv artist, I’m an observer and tend to get the spark of an idea from something or someone I encounter. Then it depends. Sometimes the story or poem outline hits me first and I develop it before the rough draft words are written. Other times, I just let the muse run and see where she/the characters lead then do the cleanup, organizing, and polishing after the fact. So, a bit of both, I guess.


TSW: 
Can you give us a glimpse into your writing routine?

Morse: I usually have, at least, four of five writing-project coals stoking in the creative fire at a time. When it’s the writing hour, I sit down, take a breath, and see what kind of mood I’m in. Given my current mindset, day’s events, or level of energy, I decide which project would be best. Sometimes I have deadlines to meet, so one will win due to time constraints. But usually, I pick based on the moment. I will note that location and music are also important for me in setting the tone of my writing time. The right Pandora station or playlist can alter my work for the day, as can being at home on my balcony at sunset or inside a coffee shop watching a summer storm rage outside.


TSW: 
What do you find to be the hardest part about writing?

Morse: Knowing when to say, “It is finished.” Being the daughter of an editor, I could knit-pick a piece to death for eternity. Drawing that line of “good enough” is tough for me.


TSW: 
What’s the first book that made you cry (if there is one)?

Morse: “Angel Unaware” by Dale Evans Rogers. Dale wrote the story as a way to deal with the pain of her infant daughter’s death. Written in first person from the perspective of Robin (the daughter), it’s a tiny book that made a huge impact on me – at nine-years-old. “Bridge to Terabithia” was the next one that got me!?!


TSW: 
What does success look like to you?

Morse: Connections achieved. My “why” for writing, and for living, is to connect with others. Whether we share a deep conversation over lunch, someone is moved to tears (or laughter) by one of my poems, or a complete stranger returns my smile in the grocery checkout line, these are my moments of success in life and in writing.


TSW: 
Are there any writers who inspire you?

Morse: Tons! I’m all over the board with writers I adore – Elizabeth Gilbert, Dean Koontz, Brene Brown, Ken Liu, Neil Gaiman, St. Catharine of Sienna, Maya Angelou, Thomas Merton, Stephen King, C.S. Lewis, Tracy K. Smith, and those are just a handful of the well-knowns. I also love to read and support my local writers and new, emerging writers like Holly Walrath, Diane Prokop, Curt Locklear, John Bernhard, Chantell Renee, Eloisa Perez-Lozano de Castelan, and Cassandra Rose Clarke.


TSW: 
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned on your journey as a writer?

Morse: Listen for the gauntlets to be thrown. That’s when I know a project is worthy of my efforts, skills, talents, and attention. When someone says, “Poetry can’t make money.” Gauntlet thrown. When I’m standing at a comic book convention and my muse says, “Sci-Fi/Fantasy people need more poetry.” Gauntlet thrown. When I hear people say, “Writing in first-person is bad.” Big time gauntlet thrown. I always listen and watch for the challenges then head to the war room and start strategizing.


About T. Haven Morse:
Character-driven, emotion-evoking stories and poems that brand a lasting impression on readers, these are the type of writings T. Haven Morse pens. Some are literary, some are genre, but they all aim at the amygdala with a balance of intrigue and entertainment. She has a persona poetry collection available, titled “Flooded By”, and other pieces published in numerous journals and anthologies. Find her on social media @THavenMorse and at http://www.BountifulBalconyBooks.com/thavenmorse. Also, coming out in October 2017, “Beam Me Up, Yoda” – a SFF collection of fan fiction fauxetry.

You can connect with Morse on:
Twitter

Facebook

https://www.bountifulbalconybooks.com/thavenmorse

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Review: Write

I was recently asked to review a new writing program — Write!

Screen Shot 2017-10-11 at 11.54.24 AM(Image credit: http://www.writeapp.co)

And after trying it out for a few weeks, I came to enjoy it. It’s a simple, easy-to-use, distraction-free text editor that allows you to separate documents into different projects/folders. I frequently use it for writing blog posts, writing out forum posts for my online class, and any random scenes that pop into my head.

It does have an interesting feature that I found pretty nifty. You can “publish” documents to the Write! website if you need or want someone to check out your work. It’s not like publishing to WordPress or KDP or anything (nor is it published publicly), but just a way to share your work with others. Once you publish it to the Write! website, you can link others to the document, even if they’re not Write! users. It has Cloud capabilities, so you can also pick up right where you left off on any computer.

While it does have some other features, such as the ability for Markup language and textile headers, I found its best feature to be its simplicity. It’s simple and easy to use; no fancy, overly complicated tutorials to learn.

You can check it out here.

Point of View: Back to Basics (#1)

If you’ve landed on this page, odds are you already know what POV is and are trying to decide which to use. If you don’t, or if you’re confused, that’s okay too. There are a ton of articles out there on viewpoint, a few of which I’ve found helpful and will link at the end of this post.

There are various options for storytelling. Sometimes it will come naturally; other times, you’ll dilly dally back and forth before deciding what works best. Ultimately there’s no right or wrong answer!

So, what is the POV of your story? In the most basic of terms, it’s who’s telling the story to your readers. Is it your main character? Is it an all-knowing person outside of your story who can read the minds of all your characters? Or is it a narrator who can read the mind of only one character?

Let’s cover the absolute basics first. We’ll cover more the more nitty-gritty pros and cons of each in upcoming posts. Here are your POV options at the most basic level:

  • 1st Person
    “I” narration. I sat down. I said something. I did this. I’m the main character in your story.

    The story is told from a character’s viewpoint, and is typically filtered through that character’s speech, thoughts, and overall personality. This type of narration creates intimacy between the reader and the narrator, and can help create sympathy.

  • 2nd Person
    “You” narration. You sat down. You said something. You did this. You are the main character.

    This type of POV is rare in fiction novels. It’s mostly used in pick-your-own-adventure type books or some short stories. The one example I know of for contemporary fiction is Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerny.

  • 3rd Person
    “He/she” narration. He sat down. She said something. They did this. She is the main character in your story.

    There are two basic types of 3rd person:

    • Limited
      • The narrator knows the thoughts and emotions of only one character. Creates intimacy similar to 1st person.

    • Omniscient (God-like or all-knowing)
      • The narrator knows the thoughts and emotions of all the characters and can describe them at will. Creates much more distance than 1st or 3rd limited.

There’s no right or wrong choice for your story, only what works best. Each type of POV has its pros and cons, and we’ll be looking at all of them in this series.

Writing a Back Cover Blurb that Sells

book cover blurb, blurb, copy, writing, novel, book, book marketing, marketingAh, yes. The infamous back cover blurb. Something that tends to lurk out of sight in the very back of our minds until we’re done with our book. It always seems to come as an afterthought, and always seems to be one of the more dreaded tasks for writers.

There’s a fine line between writing copy that sells and sounding completely cheesy and over the top. A quick Google search reveals hundreds of articles about writing back cover blurb, but there some common threads found in many of them.

  • Don’t wait until you’ve finished the manuscript to write your synopsis.

Don’t get me wrong. Things that you’re looking to put on your back cover copy, like testimonials from other authors or reviewers, can’t be obtained until your manuscript is totally, completely polished (which I’m now offering editing services here!). But writing your teaser blurb may just help you finish your manuscript.

What we’re talking about here is the synopsis of your story–that tantalizing teaser that should make potential readers want to invest their time in it. You should be able to pitch your story in a paragraph or two* (no more than three at the very most) without giving away the entire plot, using this fairly basic, boiled down formula:

1. Hook
2. Meat
3. Payoff

It should be noted that not every blurb will fit neatly into an exact formula. Romance is one of those genres that, generally, won’t fit into this type of formula. Women’s Literature is another that may not always fit.

According to Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn, the back cover blurb should fall right around 150, and should be spaced out–not squashed together. It’s visually easier on the eyes to have more space in between paragraphs.

*(I just want to note here that by paragraphs, we’re looking anywhere between 4-6 lines of text that fit on the back cover of a book. Many times you’ll see big chunks of text broken up into smaller lines, simply for aesthetic purposes. I’ll touch more on that shortly.)

The Hook
The hook should be able to tell potential readers four main bullet points:

  • Who is your protagonist?
  • What is it they want/What is their goal?
  • When/where does the story take place? (i.e. What’s your setting?)

The Meat
The meat is made up of what obstacles stand in your protagonist’s way of whatever it is they want.

  • What obstacles stand in the way of what they want?
  • What is the main conflict?

The Payoff
The payoff is the reason potential readers should care. The stakes should be high enough that potential readers want to know what happens.

  • What are the stakes?
  • What happens if your protagonist fails to meet their goal?

Many synopses end with some type of teaser question. Next time you’re in your local bookshop, browse your genre of choice and peruse the back cover copy of the bestsellers. According to Jane Friedman, “what you’re trying to get across is an intriguing story premise.”

Typically found beneath the synopsis are testimonials or quotes from reviewers (besides Mom). If you don’t have either, don’t fret. You can always update your cover down the road. I won’t get into testimonials here.

In general, try to:

  • Limit the amount of text. If you’ve whittled down your synopsis but still have a lot of text, consider not having reviews or testimonials. Perhaps, instead, move them to an interior page just inside the front cover.
  • Avoid clichés and overly hyperbolic vocabulary.
  • Research back cover blurbs of bestsellers in your genre.
  • Include a small, brief author bio (and don’t forget your headshot!)

 

What tips or tricks have you used on your back cover copy?

Beta Readers: How to Utilize the Power of Readers

What exactly is a beta reader? Simply put, it’s an average joe reader who gives feedback for an unpublished manuscript.

betareaders

(It’s a betta fish…get it?! …I thought it was funny…)

Betas give feedback and offer suggestions for “suspension of disbelief”/believability, continuity and general flow of the story, any possible plot holes, characterization, etc. Betas who are not writers themselves can make some of the best beta readers, as they tend to not over analyze every minute detail of the story like writers. They can take in the story as a whole and get a better view of the big picture.

Should you consider looking for beta readers? Yes! After working on a manuscript for what seems like an eternity, it’s hard to look at our own work objectively. Betas can read your work with fresh eyes and a completely new, unbiased take on it.

There are some important things to remember when working with beta readers:

  • Be up front and clear about what you are and are not looking for. What kind of feedback are you looking for? Characterization? Plot holes? Descriptions? Voice? Flow? Recurring grammar faux pas like dangling modifiers?
  • Know your target audience. If possible, find beta readers within your target audience. Is your story intended for young adults? 18+ adults only? Businessmen? Stay-at-home moms who need a break from the kids? You’ll get the most useful feedback from betas roughly within your target audience and, in turn, gauge what kind of revisions you may need to make. Avoid having family and friends beta read for you. As much as they insist that they can give you helpful feedback, the fact that they know you personally can influence how they see the story.
  • Edit your manuscript to the best of your abilities. Yes, it’s still an unpublished manuscript, but it’s important to give your betas the most polished writing you can give. Even if it hasn’t been to a professional editor yet, revise and edit as much as you can. Take your time with edits, and don’t rush. Remember, some of these beta readers may end up recommending your upcoming novel to people they know — or worse, telling them to steer clear.
  • Have several file options available. Some authors think it’s all about them, when in reality, it’s about the readers. Make it as easy as possible for them to read your work. Ask your betas if they have a preference for file type and, inversely, let them know what types you’re able to provide, such as .pdf, .mobi, .docx.
  • Be considerate of their time. This goes both ways. Authors, remember that betas are taking time out of their day to read your work. Don’t expect them to read and have their comments/notes written within 24 hours. Also, refrain from asking someone to beta for you until you’re absolutely ready for beta readers.
    Readers, remember that authors may have a timeline they’re working on. Don’t dilly dally or put off reading the manuscript for weeks at a time.
  • Get some thick skin. It sounds harsh, but remember to not take feedback personally. Be prepared for both positive and negative feedback. Never lash out or defend yourself against something a beta reader says. Even if you don’t agree with their critique right off the bat, give yourself some time to consider their suggestions. Again, don’t become defensive. Just be gracious for their time and remember to thank them.

 

There are many places to find beta readers — even sites like the Goodreads forums and Tumblr. I also offer more in-depth editing services such as developmental and substantive editing. You can check out pricing info here or email me at allison@thesentrancedwriter.com.