Thursday, 18 April 2013

It's all about the detail - In a Nutshell

It’s all about the detail. – In a Nutshell
A couple of blog posts back –I talked about the Killer Diller details as highlighted in The Complete Guide to Novel Writing edited by Meg Leder (Which, may I add, is an amazing book and must be read). Anyway the article in the book suggested that you keep a little note book where you can write down description and day to day detail that you see and then you can dip into this book when you are looking to say… describe a snow scene – I have a lot of weather description in my book as when I am driving I am probably the post observant.
I think that naturally as a writer you become more observant. Why? Because that is our skill – to recreate in fiction a reality. Writers walk around observing different aspects of people, their habits, their twitches and we take a twitch from one person, a dimple from the other and make our characters. So what is this blog post all about? Well my observation skills have been greatly improved since starting on my writing journey but it has taken me a while to really hone in on these observation skills and I am still learning the art of observation.
I thought that in this ‘In a Nutshell’ blogpost I would share a couple of tips in becoming more observant and using those observations in your writing.
Like I said above keep a journal or a note book in your bag always (not sure where you put this if you are a guy – unless you have a man bag or walk around looking intelligent holding a notebook!) – although a smart phone with notes is helpful too. Divide the notebook up into vocabulary, personal detail, feelings, nature, rooms and objects – or what you want detail about – you get the picture. If there is no division it’s going to be hard finding the section you are after for a particular scene.
Set yourself a goal of how many details you want to put in there everyday. My goal was three details. Truth be told I barely manage three a week though. I need to get into the habit of it.
Occasionally read through this book. It might provide inspiration for a new scene or an added description of someone’s characters.
How do you use this detail well?  – You can use it as suggested above but I believe if you can really crystalise what you are trying to describe in a few words – and we all know – show don’t tell- use a combination. For example if you are talking about how cold it is. You could talk about the crunch under foot from the frozen leaves, the pavements sparkling with frost, the cobwebs on the traffic lights frozen like silly string, the fog thick and oppressive covering the town in a blanket. Those are just a couple of my observations from the weather earlier this year – It’s spring now- it would probably take me longer to think of them if I didn’t have a little book filled with such goodies.    Using your book of description you will be able to describe things with fewer words and such clarity that your books will be simple to read. And books that are easy to read are good books!  This is why you need the vocab section as well! Call it your own little thesaurus. For example there are several ways to say someone sat down on a sofa, they could slump, lower themselves, fall into– you get my meaning.
If you are like me when you are writing you just want to get the story out but when you are editing there is no harm in reading your description/observation book intermittently just for a bit of inspiration.
Another great way to hone in your description/observation skills is to take a notepad or journal and go somewhere random but I choose a garden or a park. Then describe what is closest to you. What can you see near your feet… in your immediate vicinity- say 1 metre around you. Describe it all- take five minutes to do this. Then increase the circle- describe everything within 6 metres – keep increasing your vision until you get to the end. Then describe what you can’t see behind the line of vision. Go crazy – be imaginative- remember this is not going in your book it’s just an exercise to help your observation/description skills.
Remember the other senses as well. It’s not all about sight! In some of the best books description can get all the senses going. What does the place smell like? Smell a flower and describe how its smells- describe what emotions and feelings this evokes in you. Your characters may someday use it. And not just flowers- horrible smells too- new tarmac being rolled out, petrol stations, butchers – where ever you go – have a smell. Smells evoke feelings and memories and must be used in books to really transport the reader to a different place. And remember textures… Its all about the texture! Touch some fabric and objects around you- what do they feel like- jot it down! And taste- give your taste buds an explosion put in foods that people don’t know about- make your readers want to Google them and see where they can try them! For me food is important in a book (I was a bit OTT in Goa Traffic – with food). I always think if your reader Googles something about your book – it’s a successful novel as you are really engaging them!
That is about all I can think of so far on description and observation. I hope it helps!
Happy Writing!
Like this? Got a comment- follow me on twitter @marissadeluna and let me know what you think! 

It's never ending...

It’s never ending…

Today I feel slightly overwhelmed. By nature I like researching stuff. When I decide I want to do something I research everything I can about it and immerse myself in it in order to achieve my goal. I am a determined person and I am sure many authors out there do the same. I often look at writing blogs and websites to find juicy snippets about the publishing world, self publishing, books to read about novel writing, novel writing tips etc. And more often than not I post some of the jewels of my findings on this blog. Just have a look at some of the labels on my blog posts such as on-line resources and writing tips. But today I feel overwhelmed. This happened when I Googled Authonomy

Authonomy it is a website set up by HarperCollins where you post your work and if people like it you may even get a publishing deal out of them. There are quite a few sites like Wattpad which is similar I suppose, but whilst I was on Authonomy I found myself looking at and then their blog and I just felt like there was too much. Too much information out there on writing! I mean where do you stop? I think the internet is great. Absolutely it is – I wouldn’t be where I am today without the benefits of the internet but really there is a lot of information out there. Information you can get yourself lost in. I know this is a pointless whinge because on one hand I am saying I can’t live without it and on the other I am saying I hate it because I can’t get through reading all the writing articles out there!

I guess I have to accept that there will always be new stuff out there and celebrate the fact that there is – after all we can’t know everything. Anyway I thought I would have a moan!!!!

The next couple of things on my to do list is joining Google Analytics and joining the society of authors (and oh yes the grammar course). I have created a Google analytics account and being the dozy person that I am I assumed that you would type in your website details and it would churn out reports for you – WRONG! I need to cut and paste the code they provide into my website- each page at that. Mmmm I think I will leave that to H to sort out.  You see what I mean it is never ending. However Google Analytics is free so I really can’t complain.

I have also heard from friends that once you have a publisher it is a must to join the Society of Authors- they give good and free advice (subject to the joining fee) and also I finally match the criteria required to join the society. (Having a publishing book contract or having sold over 500 copies of a self published book).

And in other news I am nearly there with a readable draft of Under The Coconut Tree. By the end of April it will be there – but I will be putting it on a back burner whilst I complete book number 4 – Living the Dream (I know – it’s a terrible title but watch this space)

Speaking of revisions check out this great new Blog Post from Gabby Aquilina about editing your novel:  - I couldn’t get by without point number 5! She has also pointed me in the direction of which I will be checking out when my brain can cope again!

I’ll let you know if they accept me in their group! In the meantime Happy writing!

Friday, 12 April 2013

Guest Blog Post by Luke Murphy: From professional Hockey Player to Published Novelist.

From Professional Hockey Player to Published Novelist - Luke Murphy



From a family of avid readers, even as a child, I always had a passion for books. Whether it was reading novels on road trips or writing assignments in school, literature was always part of my life.

In the winter of 2000, after sustaining a season ending eye injury while playing professional hockey in Oklahoma City, I found myself with a lot of time on my hands, and a new hobby emerged.

I didn’t write with the intention of being published. I wrote for the love of writing, as a hobby. I continued to hobby write through the years, honing my craft, making time between work and family obligations.

Then I made a decision to take my interest one step further. I’ve never been one to take things lightly or jump in half way. I took a full year off from writing to study the craft.
I constantly read, from novels in my favorite genres to books written by experts in the writing field. My first two purchases were “Stein on Writing”, a book written by successful editor Sol Stein, and “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers” by Renni Browne and Dave King.
I read through these novels and highlighted important answers to my questions. My major breakthrough from Stein’s book was to “Show don’t Tell”. I had to trust my readers. I even wrote that phrase on a sticky note and put it on my computer monitor.

The Self-Editing book helped me learn how to cut the FAT off my manuscript, eliminating unnecessary details, making it more lean and crisp, with a better flow. I learned to cut repetition and remain consistent throughout the novel.

I continually researched the internet, reading up on the industry and process “What is selling?” and “Who is buying?” were my two major questions.

I attended the “Bloody Words” writing conference in Ottawa, Canada, rubbing elbows with other writers, editors, agents and publishers. I made friends (published and unpublished authors), bombarding them with questions, learning what it took to become successful.
Feeling that I was finally prepared, in the winter of 2007, with an idea in mind and an outline on paper, I started to write DEAD MAN`S HAND. It took me two years (working around full time jobs) to complete the first draft of my novel.

The first person to read my completed manuscript was my former high school English teacher. With her experience and wisdom, she gave me some very helpful advice. I then hired McCarthy Creative Services to help edit DEAD MAN’S HAND, to make it the best possible novel.

I joined a critique group, teaming up with published authors Nadine Doolittle and Kathy Leveille, and exchanging manuscripts and information. Working with an editor and other authors was very rewarding and not only made my novel better, but made me a better writer.

When I was ready, I researched agents who fit my criteria (successful, worked with my genres, etc.) and sent out query letters. After six months of rejections, I pulled my manuscript back and worked on it again. Then in my next round of proposals, I was offered representation by the Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency.

After months of editing with Jennifer, and more rejections from publishers, my dream was finally realized in April, 2012, when I signed a publishing contract with Imajin Books (Edmonton, Alberta).

What happens when the deck is stacked against you…

From NFL rising-star prospect to wanted fugitive, Calvin Watters is a sadistic African-American Las Vegas debt-collector framed by a murderer who, like the Vegas Police, finds him to be the perfect fall-guy.

…and the cards don't fall your way?

When the brutal slaying of a prominent casino owner is followed by the murder of a well-known bookie, Detective Dale Dayton is thrown into the middle of a highly political case and leads the largest homicide investigation in Vegas in the last twelve years.

What if you're dealt a Dead Man's Hand?

Against his superiors and better judgment, Dayton is willing to give Calvin one last chance. To redeem himself, Calvin must prove his innocence by finding the real killer, while avoiding the LVMPD, as well as protect the woman he loves from a professional assassin hired to silence them.

Dead Man's Hand is a pleasure, a debut novel that doesn't read like one, but still presents original characters and a fresh new voice.” Thomas Perry, New York Times bestselling author of Poison Flower

“You may want to give it the whole night, just to see how it turns out.”—William Martin, New York Times bestselling author of The Lincoln Letter

Luke Murphy lives in Shawville, Quebec with his wife, two daughters and pug.

He played six years of professional hockey before retiring in 2006. Since then, he’s held a number of jobs, from sports columnist to radio journalist, before earning his Bachelor of Education degree (Magna Cum Laude).

Murphy`s debut novel, Dead Man`s Hand, was released by Imajin Books on October 20, 2012.

For more information on Luke and his books, visit:, ‘like’ his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter!/AuthorLMurphy

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Fiction is about stuff that's screwed up.

Fiction is about stuff that’s screwed up.
- Nancy Kress

So another guest post has made its way onto The Coffee Stained Manuscript! This time it’s from Hockey player turned published novelist (international bestselling author), Luke Murphy. I think guest blog posts are great for getting your work out there and I am seriously considering a blog tour to coincide with the release of The Bittersweet Vine. Like I have said before I don’t know if blog posts and blog hits relate to sales. I certainly haven’t seen much of a correlation with Goa Traffic. Nevertheless half of this marketing malarkey is all about getting your name out there. It’s about branding and raising awareness for your brand. It’s about attracting people to your blog, your website and perhaps your Amazon page. I applaud people for giving it a go. And the benefit is two fold! you drive people to their sites. They drive people to your blog! Anyway  on the 12th April I will be posting a guest blog by author, Luke Murphy, and how he went from hockey player to a published author. I must admit I haven’t read his book, Dead Man’s Hand yet. But I am sure I will. His story is interesting and inspiring. So remember to have a look on the 12th April for the guest blog!

the following has been swiped from Luke's Amazon page:

This is the the author bio: Luke Murphy was born in Shawville, a small rural community in Western Quebec.

He played six years of professional hockey before retiring in 2006.

His road to novelist began in the winter of 2000, after sustaining a season ending eye injury. He continued to hobby write through the years, honing his craft, making time between work and family obligations.

He constantly read, from novels in his favorite genres to books written by experts in the writing field. He made friends (published and unpublished authors), learning what it took to become successful.

Feeling that he was finally prepared, in the winter of 2007, Murphy started to write Dead Man’s Hand. It took him two years to complete the first draft of his novel.

He hired Ms. Jennifer Lyons, of the Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency, and in 2012, signed his first publishing contract with Imajin Books.

Murphy lives in Shawville with his wife, two daughters and a pug. He is a teacher who holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing, and a Bachelor of Education (Magna Cum Laude).

For more information, see:

And perhaps I will write a riveting guest blog post that I can share on other blogs for The Bittersweet Vine.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Fiction is the truth inside the lie

“Fiction is the truth inside the lie.”
Stephen King

So today during my lunch hour I decided to have a look through some writing blogs/websites as opposed to reading through ‘A brief History of Art,’ which has been staring at me on my desk for at least two months! I am living in hope that it will make me more intelligent.

So the first web blog I clicked on was Copyblogger and basically I didn’t have time to look at anything else. It is my new fave writing site. It is jam packed (and I mean bursting at the seams) with articles, inspiration and ways to improve your creativity/writing business and most importantly its funny! For example are social media experts worth the money they charge? See

Here I was introduced to Sturgeon’s law (that 90% of everything is crap) and what I love about the site is that things like this link to definitions or explanations on other sites and Wikipedia – so you are not left with a list of things to Google later! – it’s a hassle-free blog! So it’s definitely worth the read!

I also found a list of commonly misused words! – I am the first to admit my grammar is bad – this post was humorous and informative! I had read about many of them before – maybe if I keep reading them I will finally understand. I think I am nearly there with who and whom!

The article that resonated with me the most though was 7 bad habits of productive people. See the link below:

It is funny and true and I really recommend if you have five minutes to spare to have a look at this. It’s great and weirdly inspirational to know that I am not the only one with some of these habits! – Also does that imply I am productive? Mmm – I hope so!

A post on marketing on Pinterest definitely caught my attention- as it’s my new hobby! This was what I managed in an hour. But there is so much more to discover on that site. I will be back.

I also had a quick look at The Write Practice. It’s a great site if you are looking for inspiration and to get your creative juices going. I particularly liked their suggestion to write something that truly terrifies you. So imagine your worst fear and write about it!

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Half my life is an act of revision

Half my life is an act of revision.
- John Irving

So as part of my new years resolution is all about adding colour to my life. I have to admit it's proving difficult – especially when the closest people around me are anti-colour. But I have been adding pops of colour here and there. I think I am going to rev the colour up for April though. H&M seems the best place to start with coloured vests and cardigans that can go over or under the fail safe black!

Anyway enough of that! I hope everyone had a fab Easter. I didn’t do much writing at all. I had a mini break on the sofa eating chocolate, but it's back to Chupplejeep this week. This first revision is not like my usual revisions- it's not a quick read through- it's like the deep clean revision 4 happening at revision 1 – is the first draft really that bad? Or am I progressing as a writer? I hope it’s the latter.

In other news I played around with the price for GT again. I put it up by £0.20p! yep this kindle malarkey is rock and roll! No seriously. I’ll let you know what the change in price does to sales. Last time I upped the price sales doubled. Its still at a low price so I am thinking its worth trying. If after three months sales fall I’ll drop the price back down. If they rise or stay the same I will keep the price as it is for a while before I increase it again (if I choose to do so). I must say playing with the price like this is good experience and fascinating- but remember dont piss off your readers by doing it too often or for the sake of it. You need to be consistent and professional as a publisher/author. But in saying that I think that being able to monitor your price is the great thing about self pubbing to kindle. You really get to be the publisher! Being able to see how many sales you made is a huge benefit and can be motivating when you are feeling down about your work-in-progress.

I have also heard from my agent that the signed contract is with him – and I can now reveal the publisher is Thames River Press. So I am just waiting for my copy! What is even more exciting is that they are hoping for a November 2013 release and I have been provided with a contact at the publishing house! Woohoo!!! So I emailed over my manuscript and some other bits and bobs and had my first email back- Yes it’s the little things in life that make me happy. I think since this whole process started it’s the first time I can sit back a little and take it all in! Bring on November. Bit by bit I will let you know how it goes working with a traditional publisher. I can say that I am extremely happy with my decision to self publish before this because (although it is a different process) I feel I know more about the industry now than I would have done a couple of years ago. So if you are debating self publishing - go for it!

I have also (just this week) discovered Pinterest! I may have mentioned it yonks back when it was invitation only or something like that- anyway now I am on it! Although (and this is lame) I have 0, yes 0 followers! In my defence I have only been on it for a couple of days.  I have had some likes and re-pinning going on but no followers and I follow people or boards- Is there no follow back rule - what is Pinterest etiquette? Mmm let me know on twitter @marissadeluna

Nicola Morgan, I need a Pinterest guide  - a bit like Tweet Right! Anyway I though Pinterest would be another string to my marketing bow. Every little helps right? I have also set myself little goals for GT such as making a certain number of sales, getting another 100 followers of Twitter etc. I think it is important to have little goals like that especially when you are working on another book or like me have a full time job- otherwise it's easy to forget what you are supposed to do.

I am also thinking (and this is in order to achieve my Twitter goal) to spend dedicated time on Twitter as in 1 hour a day. Not just when I get five minutes on my smart phone. By using one hour without distraction I believe I can get more out of it. Anyway my goal for the end of the year is to have 500 followers. I know this doesn't seem like much but I am not actively following people to get follows back- maybe that's something I need to work on but are these just pointless follows? - Secretly I am yet to see (unless you are lady Gaga) the power of twitter for the small time author but as with most things I am doing right now- Watch this space!  

Anyway must persevere!

Happy writing people.