Essentials of Writing: Background Research

Character names:

  • If you’re planning to write a story in the past rather than the present, use sites like Ancestry.com to access birth registries from your timeline You can make your search as broad or as limited as you wish. While researching names for my current book, I searched for births in regional Victoria, Australia between 188Os and 19OOs as a starting place, knowing that some names in vogue today were not known or popular in that time frame

Character descriptions:

  • Go through magazines and find people that resemble the physical features you’re trying to create. You don’t have to be exact, it’s just a starting place. They might have an expression on their face that you want to reproduce in your writing or a particular hairstyle even.

Clothes:

  • Hit the library for books on clothes design and, if your story is based on reality, try to keep these elements as close to what you see as possible.
  • Do a google search on clothes of a particular time era

General research:

Depending on if your story is fiction or non-fiction, your choice of research procedures will vary quite a lot.

  • Libraries are an invaluable source of information, and an academic library like at a tertiary education place, the selection is even more wide to choose from. Pick and choose what you connect to and can use and make your notes.
  • Use the internet at caution. Choose which websites you get your information from. Wikipedia can be a great starting place, but if you need the facts, make sure that you verify everything that you find there on another, more reliable source.
  • Look for places that you can base your settings on and visit them, get a feel for life there.

 

Don’t forget, keep any and all research you find. If it doesn’t fit into the story you’re currently working on, it will fit another one in the future. These references become an invaluable tool as you might find the original resources become lost or damaged in the future. I have at least 7 research folders all filled with writing information and general information that I can use in stories. My collection includes a bit of everything that I’ve found interesting.

 

© 2O12 Patricia Kekewick

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Whys of publishing

I’m preparing my next novella for submission to a publisher and I have been asked a few times why I’m not taking the independent publishing route again.

I tried to mainstream publish my debut novella Ferris Wheel, sending it to publishers that might accept unsolicited manuscripts but got no further than the initial reading stage. I knew, right from the beginning of writing the story that it might end up being independently published simply because I choose not to write to the current market.

There are several well-known publishers in Australia that accept unsolicited manuscripts. Allen and Unwin are prepared to read the first chapter and brief synopsis of a completed work if submitted to them via their Friday Pitch. Other publishing houses have a week or a month set aside where they will also take the time to read work by a new, upcoming author.

With my newest project, I’ve got big ideas in regards to cover design and distribution, but at the moment, neither of these are within my current budget to do to the degree I wish. My hope is that a publisher will like what they read in the 1st chapter and synopsis and will ask me to send them more. At that point I can say that my manuscript has been read by a mainstream publisher and is under a somewhat serious consideration phase. If they do not publish afterwards, I have really lost nothing that I couldn’t afford to loose.

My point is that even if you’re thinking the independent publishing route, try mainstream as well. You might find a publisher that believes in you and your story and is willing to take that chance. It hasn’t happened for me yet, but that doesn’t mean that I will stop trying to get their attention.

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What I’m up to this week!

Come and meet me at the Mecure in Ballarat on Friday May 18 2O12.

I will be attending the Australian Active Aim Moving Up Show with a stall promoting my business, book and ebooks.
I will be doing mini-consultations on what I can do for businesses, selling copies of my books and promoting myself as much as possible.
It is going to be huge!
A great opportunity to see what some of Ballarat’s best small businesses have to offer.

Copies of my book Ferris Wheel will be for sale at $25 each, cash sales only.

Check out the event on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/399560003396983/
Or the event’s website: http://event.australianactiveaim.com.au/

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Writing exercise #2 – 10 words challenge

This is a great way to get the creative writing juices flowing. You might end up with a story that’s just so-so or something that you can build upon. Either way, it’s a great way to give your muse a kick in the right direction.

For this you’ll need an old school dictionary. Not a website. A real dictionary that you can flip to and open up to a random page.

You will also need a pen and a piece of paper to record each word.

Now open the dictionary up to a random page and point to a word without thinking too much about it. Write that word down. It doesn’t matter if it’s something you’ve never used before or something that you’ll never use again. The point is to use it [and use it correctly].

Repeat that step another NINE times so that you have a list of words.

Then start writing or typing. The aim of this is to use all ten words in a short story. It can be a full story with beginning, middle and end or a ‘slice of life’ piece if that’s more your style.

I’ve used this myself sometimes when I’ve been stumped or sluggish as a writer and it’s just a different way to get your creativity moving.

 

© Patricia Kekewick 2O12

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Writing Exercise #1 – Setting

Let’s get those juices flowing…
Open up google and do an image search for house/ home
Save the image as a jpeg and close the browser to eliminate further googling
Look at the image. Begin taking notes about the following:
• What first get’s your attention? Is it a broken window? The perfectly cut grass? The overgrown gardens? Whatever it is, make a note.
• Then consider what type of people would live there? What are their neighbours like?
• What do you want to fix about this house? Make a note. Remember that this is a jumping off point for your story. It can become something completely new.
• What are the traffic patterns of the neighbourhood? Are there any schools nearby? Where is the nearest shop?
• What would it look like on the inside? How would it smell? Would it be damp and cold or would it be warm and inviting? What condition would the furniture be in?
• Look over your notes. Is there a setting emerging? If so, good job. If not, keep going.

© 2O12, Patricia Kekewick

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Writing Press Releases: Beginner’s Guide

Writing a press release and getting it out there shouldn’t be a major hassle. It should be as easy as making a checklist for yourself to follow.
For a press release regarding an event, mine goes something like this:
• Have I included all the major event information: What’s happening? How much does it cost to get in? Who’s hosting? Are there any headliners? Time, date and place… All of this information should be in the first two paragraphs to grab the reader/ journalist’s attention
• Have I included all relevant information about the hosting organisation? This can be something along the lines of a brief bio
• Then the contact details of the person responsible for handling the media queries. Name, position in the organisation, phone number and email address.
• Double check that all information contained in the press release is correct. It would be embarrassing to sent it out into the world, only to find out you gave the wrong date or contact number, or even worse, spelled a headliner’s name wrong
• Start sending it out. Most media outlets will accept unsolicited releases via email or website submission. You can contact them by phone to see the most direct route to send them.
• List your event on all local free internet calendars
• Wait about 2 or 3 days after you’ve sent them out to start making your follow-up phone calls [even if there has been no response]. These calls can be to gauge interest or to make plans for an interview or photo session.
• If you feel comfortable, phone again the day before to ensure that the plans are going forward.
• Good luck!

This checklist is a guide only. It may not directly result in media coverage, but with a lot of time, it may do so.

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Writing a book: Get That One Idea and make it work for you!

I love coming up with ideas to write about. Sometimes it can be the simplest thing that fascinates you, makes you wonder what could happen.
In writing Ferris Wheel, I actually wrote the scene where Sasha watches the belly dancing show first. It was borne simply out of my own fascination with belly dancing. From there it was a simple shift, working out what sort of environment it could fit into. It took a bit, and for a while it actually sat to the side while I concentrated on ‘reality’ – the ever-present evil …
Add to that a bit of downtime in a job seeking class with an internet capable computer and a thirst for knowledge on different genre conventions and suddenly I stumbled across the magical realism genre. I even had the perfect excuse if they caught me at it. I was doing research on how to be a better writer, a career path I had chosen for myself.
Magical Realism is all about opposites, and a common feature is carnival-esque features. I suddenly realised that my little belly-dancing scene could fit into that. Add in the ‘magic as a part of the real world’ elements and suddenly inspiration comes a-flowing.
It’s about the idea, finding something that fascinates you, and you hope it fascinates your readers too. Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein with the same reasoning, after she supposedly had a frightening dream.
The hardest part is to stick with it once you have that idea. Follow it through whatever crazy paths it takes you on. Some will work, others you will toss out with a sigh and a thought along the lines of ‘what was I thinking?’.
When I am in the planning stages, I go through the basic WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, HOW formula, asking myself a variety of questions:
Who is this person?
What do they fear the most?
When were they last truly happy?
Where do they like to spend their time?
Why are they tired?
How many people are in their life that they truly care about?
(Okay, so this time I focused on characters, but you can ask questions about everything, plot, setting, themes, genres)
If you care about it, write about it. It doesn’t matter if you know a little or a lot about your story topic, you can always ‘google’ it later on if you feel blocked!

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