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Editing: The Greatest Challenge to my Writing by guest blogger, Paul Moscarella

April 30, 2021-Today we wrap up our theme of Pushing the Envelope in our writing! Thank you to everyone who read our posts and special thanks to my authors for sharing their methods and ideas in how they push the envelope in their own books. Paul Moscarella, author of Machinia, is our guest blogger today.


​The writing process for me has always been a peculiar outlet that demands my obedience yet gives no instruction for compliance. This manifestation of my active imagination into words began when I was in grade 4. I had selected a book on the shelf of our art class, The War of the Worlds, because the cover art intrigued me. It was a difficult read, but the tale of the Martian invasion had me riveted. After reading that book, I knew that I wanted to share the things that I imagined into something others could experience. But right away I saw that there was a limit to what I could express, mostly because at age 9 emulating the classic writing style of H.G. Wells was beyond my ability! It was a challenge, but I gave every story I submitted in my English class that extra effort that went well beyond what was required. The endeavour paid off as my submissions were always given praise (and high marks). Those were the exciting days, when what was put to paper rarely saw revision greater than a few erased words. The written word was magic, and my pen was the sorcerer’s wand.

​Since that time, the greatest challenge to my writing has been the revision process. Imagination for me has always come easy. Shaping the rough draft into a cohesive well-written form takes continuous effort. Too little self-editing and the rough edges mar the prose. Too much, and the creative inspiration becomes a bland stream of clarified beige. And then, more challenging still, the editor’s feedback! I can get a sentence or paragraph rewritten to the point where I feel it is perfect only to get comments that ask for clarification or a slash through the writing with a simple “No!” So, following the advice I was given numerous times, I’ve learned not to fall in love with sentences, or paragraphs, perhaps even whole pages.

​When the first draft of Machinia was completed in 1992, I never dreamed that a novel of over two hundred thousand words would ultimately be subjected to a thirty-year editing cycle. It eventually emerged as a ninety-thousand-word triumph. It taught me that no piece of writing worth reading ever reaches the published page without the struggle and meticulous challenge of revision. In many ways writing is revision, and each reread gives clarity to what we truly wanted to say in the first place. And whether it takes hours, days, or decades, I’ve learned to treat the revision process as if seeing the prose for the first time.*

*author’s note: this submission was subject to several revisions and my wife’s editing notes.

Get your copy of Machinia here: http://www.pandamoniumpublishing.com/shop/Machinia

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Plot Twist Twists

April 29, 2021– As we wrap up pushing the envelope in our writing, I hope that you’ve enjoyed the theme of this month. Be sure to join us in May as we begin our next topic, Writing Kid’s Books; you don’t want to miss it! Today we’ll be chatting about 3 ways you can push the envelope in your writing by choosing an epic plot that is unexpected.

  • Rags to Riches to Rags-Rags to riches is a pretty common theme in novels and movies, but taking it one step further will help push the envelope in your writing. I know you’ve heard me say this before, but it’s worth repeating; not every story has to have a happy ending! If you’re going to do a classic rags to riches story, where your character pulls themselves out of poverty and lands in a big pile of money, be sure to throw in a plot twist where they lose it all and end up with nothing. Many people have experienced this in reality, and we should be writing, so it reflects that. Think Cinderella after she doesn’t end up with Prince Charming and has to spend her life cleaning for her stepmother and stepsisters or Robin Hood stealing from the rich and giving to the poor only to be caught and sentenced to hard labour for the rest of his days. Take the norm and flip it upside down.
  • The Quest-Sending your character on a quest to find something of value is pretty normal in most adventure books; think Indian Jones or National Treasure as good examples. But what if in your book, the character dies at the end while never completing the quest or ever finding what they were looking for? Or better yet, that they got within arms reach and failed. We don’t always succeed in life or win, but the point is to never give up. Push the envelope and give your reader something unexpected.
  • The Rebirth-We can speak about this plotline in literal and figurative terms. We could write characters that are ‘reborn’ after an accident (a brush with death or losing their memory and beginning their life again) or ‘reborn’ after some kind of enlightenment (they found religion or have had an experience that completely changed their life). An example of the first type of rebirth would be Still Alice or The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The second type of rebirth includes examples such as Heaven is for Real or The Shack. Push the envelope in your writing by combining both types of rebirths. Put your characters in situations that will forever change them but not always for the better.

We’ve got one more post coming up tomorrow to wrap up our theme of pushing the envelope in your writing! Then we’re moving on in May to Writing for Kids! I’m so excited, and I hope you are too. Check out my number 1, best selling book for more advice on what publishers want: Advice from a Publisher (Insider Tips for Getting Your Work Published!): Bakker, Lacey L., Goubar, Alex: 9781989506141: Books – Amazon.ca

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Pushing the Envelope with (the one and only) Tim Ford

April 28, 2021-I am so excited to wrap up this month’s theme of pushing the envelope in your writing! I hope that you will enjoy our guest blogger Tim Ford, who is the author of the Mitch Strongbow series! If you haven’t read his work yet, you’re missing out on a brilliant mind and even more brilliant storyteller. Here what he has to say:

My name is Tim Ford, and I am a writer. Well, truth be told, I am a storyteller, the editor truly makes me a writer. For me, my whole writing career has been a challenge, a challenge that I met head on, no surrender. I never graduated high school; in fact, I don’t even have grade 10 English. But as I stated above, I am a storyteller, self-taught.
Approx. 14 years ago, I was working night shifts over the Xmas holidays. I truly felt pissed off leaving my family, and heading to work. Everyone was enjoying Christmas dinner, and for me, well mine was packed up and taking to work to be nuked.
I have always had this storyline, character in my head. From time to time, I would write some stuff out, put it away until I felt the need to write out more of the story. So, while working over Christmas, I could have sulked, felt sorry for myself and turn that 12-hour shift, into a shift that seemed to never end, or do something that truly made me happy, my joy to my world, my celebration. Pulled out my notes, brought up a Microsoft Word page, and started to bang away on the keyboards. The feeling was rather euphoric, I felt so alive. Time meant nothing, that crazy Irish imagination of mine was firing on all cylinders. And you know what, I couldn’t wait to my next shift. To bring more of Mitchell Strongbow to life.
Now confidence is either your best friend, or worst enemy. I thought I had a solid storyline, but I realized, my lack of education quickly rose to the surface, we are talking warp speed. The fear was real.
Luckily for me, several curious coworkers asked what all was I doing pecking away on the keyboard like a chicken. I explained my story. I could tell I intrigue them by my storyline. They would ask for me to send them some stuff. Nervously I did, and the feedback was outstanding.
Originally my storyline was just this 17-year-old asking out a classmate to a New Year’s Eve party. Now, heck, I am in book 17 of the series.

My new challenges are not repeating the same storylines. Remember who all the characters and plotlines are, and also for each contract kill Mitch performs, it has to be unique, not the same bang-bang their dead.
I have also recently retired. I preferred to work night shifts. I would say 80% of my writing would take place between 22:00 and 04:00. My thought process would peak during these hours. Now, no way can I stay up that late. So, I need a new peak writing time, that has been a bit of a challenge, discipline will be the key for me.
And also, the Covid world, it is truly a dark world, not much sunshine in the world these days. The Strongbow series gets very dark at times. It was hard going down the Strongbow rabbit hole as when I came back up, the world much like Mitch’s world, still surrounded by darkness.

Check out his collection here: http://www.pandamoniumpublishing.com/shop

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Best Selling Author, Tonya Cartmell is Our Guest Blogger!

April 26, 2021– Our guest blogger today is none other than the one and only Tonya Cartmell! You know her as the author of the number 1, best-selling children’s bookThe 12 Days of Rescue! Available here: The 12 Days of Rescue – Pandamonium Publishing House

Let’s see what her take is for pushing the envelope in her writing:

How do I push the envelope in my writing?  That is an interesting question and one which being a new author with only one book published, I am not sure I can offer a lot of insight into.  What I can tell you is this:

Push yourself and believe in your ability to accomplish your dreams – For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a writer.  Several times a day I will see, hear or read something that makes me think of a story idea, an opening sentence or a “What if?” scenario.  The problem was because I never believed that I could create something that someone would want to publish, I never pushed myself to make my dream a reality.  I also did not invest in things that could help me accomplish my goal. 

Around 14 years ago, I decided it was time to go back and finish my university degree.  I took an adult leadership course and the final paper required you to analyse a situation and suggest leadership skills or strategies that could be used to recognize and improve employee satisfaction and workplace workflows.  There was a situation outlined that we could use however, it was close to Christmas and there was a song playing on the radio that I thought was a perfect example of unhappy employees about to mutiny.  If you have not heard Elf’s Lament by the Barenaked Ladies, listen to the words.  I decided to try and base my paper on that song and was able to apply the leadership skills and strategies I had learned about in that class to it.  Pushing myself to come up with something original made my paper stand out amongst the others.

In 2019, I faced turning fifty.  Not a big deal to many people but, to me it was the kick in the pants to finally push myself to stop dreaming and start doing.  I made it my goal to write a book and submit it.  I also signed up for a writing course.  The one I choose was offered by Pandamonium Publishing House.  It provided me with many writing tools and someone that I could ask questions to.  The next hurdle was coming up with something to write about.  How do I turn a few sentences or an idea into a book?  What worked for me was making myself write.  I have always been one who writes things in my head and then sits down to put it on paper.  While this worked well for school papers, it was harder for a book.  I started keeping notebooks everywhere to jot things into when I did not have my laptop and have even used the voice memo feature on my phone in the car.  I started doing photo prompts which I had never tried before and now love to do.  I even submitted one to Pandamonium in May 2019 and it was picked to be posted in their blog the next month.  That was the turning point that made me realize I can really do this.  From there I did write a children’s book, Twelve Days of Rescue which was published by Pandamonium in September 2020.  All because I finally believed I could do it and pushed myself to work for it.

Try new things – What better way to write and learn about things, then by trying new experiences that relate to the story you are going to tell.  The middle school novel I have almost finished is called The Second Hand Witch.  Another that I have outlined is Called the Dead Boys.  All I knew about witches and ghosts is what I have seen on tv, in movies, read about or stories I’ve heard.  Luckily, I have two friends who are always up for an adventure or whatever crazy idea I may have.  So, to push myself outside of my comfort zone, and to experience new things, I get them to come along.  Together, we have taken classes on crystal ball reading, witches broom making, spell casting, done gravestone rubbings, participated in a Samhain ceremony, slept in a haunted hotel and hostel, participated in the ghost investigation of a cemetery and Fort Henry and done many ghost walks.  I love paranormal things but would never do these things on my own. With them, I have met some wonderful people, learned new things, been scared and had tons of laughs.  You can be sure that some of our adventures will be in those two books.

Explore a new genre – I want to branch out from writing children or middle school books but was unsure what to move to.  One thing I love is the Irish history my husband and I have learned while visiting Ireland, so I thought I would try my hand at an adult historical fiction novel.  This is something I have never done or even considered before, so it is a big leap for me.  

The word count is a little intimidating, so I know I am going to have to push myself to be organized, create character sheets, and outline my chapters in more detail than I normally do.   I know the time period I want to set the story in and have an idea for some of the characters but learning how to tie a fictional story into actual events that happened makes me want to ensure I have my facts right.  To do this, I am going to have to do research.  With COVID, our local library is closed and there are not a lot of books easily available here on the event I am researching. 

I decided to try something I have not done before and requested to join a private Facebook group dedicated to the events I am trying to learn about.  From here I met someone with connections to that time period who has helped me find books on the subject as well as shared some stories with me.  This has increased my excitement for the project, and I am looking forward to seeing how it develops.

For me, these are the ways that I push myself to try and improve my writing. 

Awesome job, Tonya! Stay tuned for more guest bloggers as we wrap up this month’s theme of pushing the envelope.

To check out our writing classes, click here:

Children’s Book Writing Master Class – Pandamonium Publishing House 

Transitioning from Writer to Author (An Introductory Course) – Pandamonium Publishing House

Course: Get Your Book Noticed and Increase Your Sales – Pandamonium Publishing House

Novel Writing Course – Pandamonium Publishing House

Kids Creative Writing Course – Pandamonium Publishing House

 

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Once Upon a Time by Sam Nemeth

April 28, 2021-I’d like to wish my sweet nephew, Harvey a very happy first birthday! We love you so much, Harvard and are so excited to watch you grow!

Our guest blogger today is our very own Samantha Nemeth! We’re continuing to talk about pushing the envelope in our writing and we’re so excited to get Sam’s perspective. Check out her book DJ the Terrible, here: DJ (Djeaneautha) The Terrible! – Pandamonium Publishing House

Once upon a time, there was an ordinary bookstore employee named Sam and every day she helped customers, worked the cash, and dreamed of being a writer. At home, she wrote for fun and through a stroke of serendipity, her first novel was published! She then spent her retail days dreaming of a summer filled with festivals and fairs to sell her beloved work of art…until the Pandemic hit and shook the foundations of life as she knew it. Retail was shut down, Festivals were cancelled, fairs postponed. And because of that she had a surplus of time, and nothing to dream about. What was a dreamer with no dreams to do?

Aha, she thought, I’ll work on my sequel! But the times were grim, inspiration was scarce, and she grew tired of sitting in the dark of writer’s block. So she reached for the shining blue light of her computer and took to the internet.

She gathered tips from her publisher and fellow writers and put them to practice. She made herself write when ideas were dry. She read genres she’d neglected before. She listened to music that embodied the tone for her tale. She enrolled in an improv class, stepping out of her comfort zone. She embarked on a quest for mindfulness to squash the gremlin who whispered lies that she was not good enough.

And because of that, she began to believe. In her story, in her characters, and in herself. She no longer had to force herself to write. She was alive with ideas! The ebbs and flows of the music that trilled through her headphones inspired twists and turns that thrilled the author. Her characters surprised her with uninhibited quirks, quips, and moments of growth. Her story grew into something more fantastical than she ever could have imagined when her journey began. Her fingers flew across the keyboard and committed to paper the escapade unfolding in her mind’s eye. And as the decadent hum of the printer faded into the night, she held up her fresh, shiny precious with a grin. Her outline was complete.

And because she’d written such an outline, she was faced with the age old question…to submit to the publisher, or not to submit? She was afraid. She loved what her story had become and the fear of rejection was strong. But thanks to her tactics, her newfound confidence was stronger. She didn’t shy away, but took the fear with her as she bravely hit that Gmail send button.

She spent the afternoon biting her nails as she awaited a reply. What if she hates it? The gremlin whispered until finally, a blipideboop rang out from her computer. She had a reply, and it was good!

And ever since, Sam has spent her days not as a dreamer, but as a writer, nurturing that outline into her sequel, and being happily entertained by her own creation.

***

In case you’re wondering, that girl is me. Hi, I’m Sam. The theme of this month is all about pushing the envelope and trying new things, so I wanted to try something a little quirky with my story above. I actually have been utilizing all of those tactics in addition to simply writing more often. When I look back at my first book and compare it to what I’ve written of my second, I can see a definite change; for the better in my humble opinion.

The most important thing for me was to get out of my own way; to figure out how to believe in myself and my imagination. Mindfulness has been huge for me in that sense. The next thing that has been super fun in terms of broadening my horizons, has been improv. I’m also an actor, so performing has been a part of my life for a long time, but improv was always this big scary beast that I cowered from. When I started to embrace it, I realized that it was an excellent way to get into the moment, let ideas fly without fear of looking “dumb”, and to see things from a different perspective.

In this class, I also learned about something called the Once Upon a Time Story Spine, which was developed by Pixar and is used in the movie industry to pitch plot ideas. I actually challenged myself to use that Story Spine format to write my story up above. Here’s the general flow of it.

  1. Once Upon a Time there was (insert description of your character)…
  2. Every day (this happened, or they did this, etc)…
  3. Until (insert some course changing event)
  4. And Because of That (what did they do?)
  5. And Because of That…
  6. And Because of That…
  7. Until finally, (some big crux happens)…
  8. And ever since (their world and their ‘every day’ has been changed)…

So, I challenge you to write a Pixar movie plot about yourself. Who knows, maybe the hero your writing needs, is you!

Thanks, Sam! We can’t wait for your next book! If you’re looking for inspiration in your writing, check out my number 1 best selling book here: Advice From a Publisher (Insider Secrets for Getting Your Work Published!) An Amazon Best Seller – Pandamonium Publishing House

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Angels vs. Demons by Kinga Ulazka Mcdonald

April 22, 2021-I thought you would like some different perspectives about pushing the envelope in your writing by bringing in some guest bloggers! They’ll share their take on how they push the envelope and how you can too. Today’s post is written by Kinga Ulazka Mcdonald; she explores a different side to religion in her writing and this allows her to open her mind to infinite possibilities in her manuscripts. I love her take on this and how she pushes the envelope and embraces the flip side to grow and explore something she believes in.

I have always been Catholic and was taught many teachings about the Bible. I have always feared the Devil, just as I fear God. When COVID first hit, I began having horrible nightmares. Some included demons and I didn’t know why, but I figured most likely due to my anxiety. I started writing short stories and poems reflecting my nightmares and I began asking myself why I often wrote about the Devil. Some would say spreading demonic tales just pushes the envelope of satanic worship, but to be honest I think it educates more than anything. Many in my family won’t even read my short stories or listen to them because they feature a demon, a witch or a supernatural force. I can’t say I blame them really. Some of the tales are quite disturbing, but isn’t that the point of writing, to push the envelope? I’m not writing about illegal, crude acts of horror that will mess the psyche up, but the stories aren’t for the faint of heart. They provoke fear and question our beliefs, but Stephen King makes his career off of these tales, why can’t I?
My writing has definitely evolved since this lockdown began. I am more open to ideas, and concepts that may have frightened me before. I was always focused on writing dramatic, or romantic when I’ve realized horror is my cup of tea. Many may not know, but these tales of despair often reflect reality in some way. I’ve realized an actual demon can be a reflection of something we fear in reality. Maybe that witch is the act of taking back the stereotype of strong women. The alien invasion may be the fear of changes in our lives, and the cult theme may be the curiosity of different ideas that we have within ourselves.

I truly believe pushing the envelope is only a different word for exploring something different. Controversy will not always be that because times do change. Something that was once never discussed may be what’s being explored this year. Ideas are also evolving and I along with it, write what you want and what you can. The best writing I have ever done was writing that came to me through nightmares, through the exploration of imagination and the boundary that we push towards making something viewed differently as a masterpiece. So continue fearing the Devil, and for me, I will always believe in God, but those tales of horror only evoke me to think more inside my religion, then create fear about something I’ve grown up believing in.

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What’d Ya Say?

April 21, 2021-We only have about a week left as we continue this month’s theme of pushing the envelope in your writing and our series wouldn’t be complete without touching on dialogue. Dialogue is one of the most important driving forces in your writing and there’s nothing that kills a story more than bad dialogue. Dialogue (talking between characters) can make or break your story (especially for publishers) for your audience. We know that characters have to speak how people do in real life (except while writing fantasy, there can be some slack given here especially if the characters have their own language that they use sparingly throughout) and most writers make the mistake of being too formal, boxy, or choppy when writing dialogue. Here are three ways that you can push the envelope in your writing through character dialogue.

  • You can use expletives. I’m not talking about being gratuitous with swear words, I’m talking about having your character use them if the situation calls for it. How would you act in a certain situation? Would you utter a curse word under your breath when you see you’ve got a flat tire and are already having a bad day? Would you mutter a swear when your idiot boss walks away from your desk after you’ve just received a bad work review? Use expletives where needed and be sure that they fit in the genre that you’re writing in.
  • Get familiar. If your book is set in the Australian outback your characters will speak differently than if they were from New York. An excellent example of this contrast is the movie Crocodile Dundee. Mitch speaks a specific way native to where he’s from; mate means friend, crikey means holy s*it, brekkie means breakfast, and the list goes on. Be careful not to overuse slang (especially slang that is trendy and new) because it will age your book. Write your characters to speak in such a way that you feel as though you were having a conversation with them in real life. WRITE HOW PEOPLE TALK! And be sure to do your research on places that are foreign to you, if you’re writing this way, so that you get it right and don’t lose any credibility with your readers.
  • Throw in another language. Let’s say that you’re writing a novel set in Moscow that has a British character and a Russian character working together to foil a museum robbery; use words in Russian intermixed with English to make your dialogue more believable. For example, my grandmother was Dutch, and she used to speak to us in English and Dutch intermixed, often within the same sentence. This is a normal thing for most people who immigrate to a different country or when speaking with people who are non-native tongues of the place where the story is set. Sprinkle in foreign words that fit in the situation that you’re writing about. Don’t overdo this because you don’t want your reader to have to stop and translate what you’ve written and lose momentum in the story.

I hope that you’ll continue to push the envelope in your writing by changing up the dialogue between your characters! Make it real and make it believable.