Tag: writing (Page 1 of 4)

Where Do Ideas Come From?

Thriller author Nicole Wilson let’s loose the secret to the age-old question, “where do you get your ideas?”


By far, the most popular question asked of authors, and, by far, the least favorite question for authors to answer. It’s not because we don’t enjoy sharing our experiences and tips to you; it’s because we barely know the answer ourselves! There’s a mysterious click in our heads that says, “Hey, this might be kind of cool.”

But, as I’ve listened to other authors explain how they get ideas and as I’ve considered how I get my own, I’ve come to a different conclusion (but possibly just as frustrating): they come from everywhere!

Honestly. It’s a matter of training your brain to pick up on oddities. “Why did that guy just dart out of the ATM line?” “What would have happened if that person didn’t stop despite a green light as the other car blew past?” “Why is this girl standing literally two inches from me and sticking her chest out?” (That last one actually happened to me over the weekend.) When you’ve picked up on something, don’t shrug it off, and don’t settle for a one-word answer. Really explore it.

For example, the one that happened to me over the weekend: Why is this girl standing literally two inches from me and sticking her chest out? Think of a few possibilities. Maybe she’s feeling insecure. Maybe she wants to assert her superiority (she was a full foot taller than me). Maybe someone paid her to stand next to me and draw my attention away from what was happening at the front of the store.

Ah. And this is where stories begin.

Read the rest…


 

Nicole Wilson spends her days planning for disasters and her nights writing about them. She lives in a small apartment with her husband and two cats, all who contribute to her writing endeavors. Nicole has written many books and short stories and is at work on more. Three of the short stories have been published online, which you can find on her website at www.nicolewilsonauthor.com

 

What’s In a Title?

We all know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but we all do. Just as important as the cover is the title. This is something thriller writers seem to have a real knack for, so here is an article from thriller author Nicole Wilson about the elements of a great fiction title.


 

In the process of writing my first serious novel, I ran into a bit of a snag: I didn’t know what to call it! I had the plot down, the characters drawn out, even a possible series developing from it, but I couldn’t figure out what to title the darn thing.

To me, titles are important. The old adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover” just doesn’t work for me. There are too many good books out there to read that I have to have some way to filter them. So a good title and cover design are really important. Besides, titles are generally the first thing a reader will see of a book, so it should help snatch a reader in.

Because I had this issue, I decided to do some research. And you know what I found? I was right! Titles are ever important. That being said, let me share a few of the tips I discovered:

  1. Identify the genre of your book and research books similar to yours. If you write thrillers, search Amazon.com or Goodreads.com for best-selling thriller titles. If you write literary fiction, do the same. Look for trends in those titles, and apply it to your book’s title.

  2. Use the theme or motif of your novel. If a certain piece of dialogue or story creeps up constantly throughout your book, consider that. Or if you have a theme that runs underneath the novel, use it as the title or at least as a base word to develop a title from.

Read the rest…


 

Nicole Wilson spends her days planning for disasters and her nights writing about them. She lives in a small apartment with her husband and two cats, all who contribute to her writing endeavors. Nicole has written many books and short stories and is at work on more. Three of the short stories have been published online, which you can find on her website at www.nicolewilsonauthor.com

The Citizens’ Police Academy – My Experience

First hand research is a must. Nicole Wilson, a thriller author, recently went through the Citizens’ Police Academy and learned what it takes to be a police officer — and got a ton of great writing research. Here, she shares here boon.


For the last nine weeks, I have had the opportunity to be a part of a program with the Houston Police Department called the Citizens’ Police Academy. It has been an incredible experience, both from a personal and a writer’s standpoint. I’ve been exposed to new people and situations, seen buildings normally locked down to civilians, and ridden along with police officers. It has given me a new respect for the officers and what they do.

Introduction

For those that don’t know, the Citizens’ Police Academy is a ten week program that teaches civilians about different divisions within a police department. The goal of the academy is to educate the public on the inner workings of the department, so they can act as a public representative within their communities. Police these days get lots of bad press, and it’s easy to forget that, most of the time, only the bad get media attention. More often than not, the outstanding things they do aren’t publicized. This program gives civilians an inside look at what they do and why they do it.

One day a week for three hours, they give lectures, hands-on demonstrations, and field trips to the various units. Each week is a different topic, and for every topic, they bring in experts to talk to us, show us what they do, and, in some cases, teach us how to do it, too. Basically, we get to learn all of the things the cadets do in the academy, but without the homework, sweat, and tears (and the badge and gun– we don’t get those either). This program is not limited only to HPD; several students in my class have done this program around the country.

Curriculum

Week 1 – Orientation/Tactics

Orientation was just what it sounds like: introductions all around. But then they took us out in the police cruisers and had trainers drive us through the precision course (the driving course with all the orange cones around). Talk about an adrenaline rush! We hit 50 MPH a couple of times on a very short track. Then, they showed us intermediate weapons: OC spray (mace), batons, and tasers. They even let me shoot a taser! At a paper target, of course.

Fun fact I learned this week: Chevy Caprices are favored by some officers as their car because it’s lighter, more maneuverable, and has better handling than the Crown Vics.

Read the rest…


 

Nicole Wilson spends her days planning for disasters and her nights writing about them. She lives in a small apartment with her husband and two cats, all who contribute to her writing endeavors. Nicole has written many books and short stories and is at work on more. Three of the short stories have been published online, which you can find on her website at www.nicolewilsonauthor.com


 

Finding (A Writing) Community

Nicole Wilson, a thriller author, has written about the importance of writer’s groups several times. Here is a fantastic post about getting involved in writing communities.

We, as a people, are social creatures. That’s how we’re built. Sure, there are personality differences that change the level of interaction needed or desired, but we still need others. Especially when your chosen craft is as solitary as writing is. It’s a lonely sport. We sit alone at home (or in a coffee shop), we outline (maybe), we write, we revise, and we edit. All of that, for the most part, is a solitary activity.

It’s also a difficult path to pursue as a hobby or career. There isn’t a guarantee of money or fame, but those are the goals a lot of us work toward. In the wake of the loneliness, these also bring heartache, discouragement, and pain. Between the length of time it takes to finish a project (start to finish, it took me 16 months to finish Deception) and the rejection letters from agents and the poor sales numbers on self-publishing sites, the heart can only take so much.

This is why community is so important. While the craft itself is fairly solitary, there are opportunities to interact with other writers. It’s important to find others to help you grow, encourage you, and to help you persevere during the inevitable lows. And there are so many existing places to connect! They can be in person or online, and most of them are free!

Some examples include writing groups (also called critique groups or critique circles), online communities, and social media. They can provide you with encouragement, answers your questions, help you make other connections, critique your work, and suggest ways for you to grow. And the best part: they’re writers just like you! They know the struggle of sifting through rejection letters. It’s not an empty “I’m sorry” but a heartfelt “I’ve been there and you’ll make it through.” (Not that those who aren’t writers can’t offer support and encouragement. It’s just different.) They have the same goals as you, so they understand when you text “can’t talk – in a writing streak”.

Read the rest…


Nicole Wilson spends her days planning for disasters and her nights writing about them. She lives in a small apartment with her husband and two cats, all who contribute to her writing endeavors. Nicole has written many books and short stories and is at work on more. Three of the short stories have been published online, which you can find on her website at www.nicolewilsonauthor.com.

 


 

What I Learned From My Second Manuscript

Nicole Wilson is back with more of her sage advice. Previously, she shared her lessons from writing a first manuscript. This time she talks about her second.


Late last year, I wrote a blog post on what I learned from writing my first manuscript. Since then, I have gone through most of the editing process for Deception–the manuscript that blog post is based on–and begun the marketing process (query letters, synopses, sample chapters, oh my!). I’ve also written the first draft of my second novel, The Grudge. Here are a few things that I’ve learned in writing that second manuscript.

Writing well is still hard. Sigh Deep down, I think I’d hoped that after conquering that first manuscript, magical words that would make agents and editors come knocking my door down would flow from my fingertips effortlessly. Sadly, that is not what happened. I haven’t had one single agent or editor even say hi. In fact, I think writing The Grudge was harder than Deception. Probably because I expected it to be easier, and because The Grudge is about 20K words longer than Deception was at this stage. That’s an extra full month of writing for me. Long time to gruelingly trudge out every word.

Character outlines are a God-send. I wrote a blog post on the importance of character profiles, but I didn’t start using character profiles until halfway through Deception. Oh my gosh. Writing the full manuscript with a simple packet for each character made life so much easier. No more game-time decisions that affected other parts of the manuscript.

Research first. I don’t typically do a lot of research for my stories (none of my short stories required any research), but The Grudge dealt heavily with a lot of topics I wasn’t familiar with: Volgan Germans, Unmanned Ground Vehicles, and robotic tanks are just some of them. Before I started writing, I did internet research on all of them, printed out several pages, and had them handy for my writing. That way, I didn’t spend thirty minutes searching for the right information and another two hours getting lost down the rabbit hole of clicking on links that looked interesting.

And, if you do nothing else before you start writing, back up your outline! Back up your outline. Oh yeah, and back up your outline. I had one of the worst days of my writing career when I misplaced my scene cards. I keep a stack of an index card per scene, handwritten, bound with a binder clip while I’m writing. Not very big. Easy to lose, I learned. I couldn’t find them in my backpack one Friday. Convinced I’d left them at work, I didn’t think much of it until I got to work on Monday and couldn’t find them there either. I was devastated. Over halfway through with my novel, I’d lost about 25 cards that I hadn’t yet typed. That’s a whole lot of lost words. I was lucky. My husband found them under our stove (courtesy of one of our cats). But I went straight home and scanned them all into my computer. Lesson learned.

Read the rest…


Nicole Wilson spends her days planning for disasters and her nights writing about them. She lives in a small apartment with her husband and two cats, all who contribute to her writing endeavors. Nicole has written many books and short stories and is at work on more. Three of the short stories have been published online, which you can find on her website at www.nicolewilsonauthor.com

Learnings from Comicpalooza

My wife and I went to Comicpalooza 2017 in Houston, Texas and it was a blast. She went to most of the writers panels and we both talked to many authors and artists. Here are some of the things she learned.


Comicpalooza is one of my favorite events all year long. A convention in the style of Comic-Con, Comicpalooza has something for everyone. Like Avengers? Star Wars? Steampunk? It’s got it all. Booths fill all of the George R. Brown Convention Center’s first floor with everything from photo opportunities (“Oh, a picture with Darth Vader? Don’t mind if I do.”) to t-shirt vendors. I definitely walked away with one custom-made t-shirt and the website for another t-shirt I wanted (Princess Leia telling a campfire story about Darth Vader to the other Disney princesses. You can find the shirt here.).

They also have artists and authors selling and promoting their work. And famous people! Several celebrities had signing booths, and, though I didn’t get their autograph (extra $$$), I did see Marina Sirtis (Star Trek: Next Generation’s Deanna Troi) and Summer Glau (Firefly’s River Tam). Stan Lee and George Takei also made appearances over the weekend.

One of the other great things about Comicpalooza is the panels. The third floor of GRB has dozens of small rooms where they host panels, workshops, presentations, and demonstrations. And the topics vary just as much as the general floor does on the first floor.

I attended several (at least fifteen) of these. This year, my husband and I bought four-day passes, which was great, because we were there almost all day all four days. Some of the panels I went to included an origami workshop, a sword demonstration by the choreographer of Kill Bill, and several NASA panels discussing the reality of science fiction.

I also sat through a bunch of writing panels. Here are some of the things I learned while I was there:

  • Writing Unforgettable Characters
    • Twist the plot to enhance your characters
    • Use sharp, hooky words to make your reader wonder why you used that specific word

Read the rest…


Nicole Wilson spends her days planning for disasters and her nights writing about them. She lives in a small apartment with her husband and two cats, all who contribute to her writing endeavors. Nicole has written many books and short stories and is at work on more. Three of the short stories have been published online, which you can find on her website at www.nicolewilsonauthor.com

What to Ask After An Offer of Representation (by an Agent)

Here’s a great problem to have! You’ve poured your soul into your manuscript and you’ve stayed up nights working on the perfect query package. Now, an agent has bit and offers you representation. What do you do now? Here’s some of the industry-standard advice you MUST consider.


Glorious Heaven, light is shining around you and music is playing in the air and angels are dancing and it’s the most beautiful moment because AN AGENT WANTS YOU.

But now what? Do you just say yes and hope they’re the best fit for you? Maybe you better ask them some questions first. While I’m sure you’ve done your homework about agents and submitted to ones you already would feel relatively comfortable with, there’s only so much research you can do without actually talking to the agent him/herself. It’s also good to know if you two will be a good fit for each other.

All right. You’ve got them on the phone, they’re interested, so what do you ask?

Here are suggestions: (Pro tip: Don’t ask all of these. Find the ones you like or the ones you need and ask those. You don’t want to overwhelm them or yourself.)

About your project

  1. What does the agent like best about your project?
  2. Does the agent feel that the project is ready for submission to publishers, or will she require revisions before submission? Are they small tweaks, or does she want a major plot or character development change?
  3. Which publishing houses does the agent believe would be a good fit for your book?
  4. How many editors does she plan to pitch in the first round of submissions?
  5. Will the agent consult with you on all offers from publishers? Does the agent make any decisions on your behalf?
  6. Does the agent forward rejection letters to you?

Read the rest (there’s a lot more)…


Nicole Wilson spends her days planning for disasters and her nights writing about them. She lives in a small apartment with her husband and two cats, all who contribute to her writing endeavors. Nicole has written many books and short stories and is at work on more. Three of the short stories have been published online, which you can find on her website at www.nicolewilsonauthor.com.

Obscure Folklore and Inspiration

One of my favorite quotes goes something like, “a writer is just someone who has trained his mind to misbehave.” I love that. Storytellers take bits and pieces from all the things we know and mash them around to create something new and cool.

For those of us who write fantasy, this means we have a wide buffet to choose from. Still, it can take some work to find those little-known bits of awesome. I’ve done some of the legwork for you. Here are a couple articles about obscure fairy tales and mythological creatures.

  • http://screenrant.com/grimm-fairy-tales-movies/
  • http://listverse.com/2013/03/16/10-unusual-little-known-fairy-tales/
  • http://www.huffingtonpost.com/maria-tatar/10-lesserknown-fairy-tale_b_6755354.html
  • http://www.wonderslist.com/lesser-known-folklore-creatures/

Share your own in the comments below.

Writers’ Groups

Writers groups, or critique circles, are pivotal in becoming a professional writer. Thriller writer Nicole Wilson shares her thoughts on the importance of these groups, what makes a good group, and how to get the most out of the experience.


One of the most important steps a writer can take to help their craft is to join a writers’ group. It’s literally a collection of people who are experiencing the same struggle you are, and it can be incredibly encouraging.

How They Work

A small group of people meet at a predefined location, usually a bookstore or someone’s house. Everyone is a writer, so it’s a safe zone to express your successes, frustrations, and everything in between. Also, each person is at a different stage in their writing. Some are already published, others are agenting, and others are working on their first manuscript. Normally, there’s a set page limit, so all of you bring, say, ten pages a week every Thursday night at 7 PM. Each person either reads their piece aloud or has it read aloud by someone else in the group. Then the group takes a few minutes (some are stricter and time it) to discuss any big-ticket items.

My Experiences

I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of two great writers’ groups in my writing career. A friend – who later became my husband – invited me to tag along to his group. The first time I went, I had no clue what to expect. We were meeting at a Barnes & Noble, and, when I walked in, there was this small table toward the back where eight or nine people were sitting. I found Michael and was immediately welcomed with open arms in the group. I made several friends that, three years later, I still keep in touch with. As for the structure, each person picked someone else to read their five pages. We went around the circle and gave short feedback. The author was not aloud to speak until the feedback was complete.

The second writers’ group I’ve loved (which I’m currently in now) is also amazing. We meet at one woman’s house and sit around her dining room table. Everyone reads their own ten pages out loud, then whoever has a comment speaks and the group discusses. The author is allowed to comment with the group. It’s a loving community of 8-13 people (depending on the week), and we share food and life as well.

Benefits

There are many benefits to joining a writers’ group.
1) Simply put, you have access to a support group. These people either know what it’s like to go through what you are now or they want to know, so they encourage sharing stories, both successes and failures.

Read the rest…


Nicole Wilson spends her days planning for disasters and her nights writing about them. She lives in a small apartment with her husband and two cats, all who contribute to her writing endeavors. Nicole has written many books and short stories and is at work on more. Three of the short stories have been published online, which you can find on her website at www.nicolewilsonauthor.com

(Writing for fiction) Research, Research, Research

As an author of technology thrillers, Nicole Wilson does a lot of research before she ever pens the first word. Here is a great article about her research process.


So there’s this funny thing called “research” that creeps up on unsuspecting writers. There are two sides to this: Some want to write without having to do any research (cough cough me). Others have to limit themselves on how much research they’re allowed to do or they’ll get carried away. Regardless of which side authors fall on, research is a necessity for most.

How much research is necessary is dictated by the book. It varies by genre, setting, situation, etc. But, for the most part, it’s important to get the facts straight. Readers pay attention, and it throws them when something is almost right, but there’s one thing off. It takes them out of the book. They’re no longer immersed in the story, which is the exact opposite of what writers want.

Writing in the thriller genre, I work in today’s world. Therefore, I need to know the basic layout and feel of cities (even if I do end up butchering it; then I can claim it was “for the book”). I need to get whatever the topic of my book is straight so I can figure out where to stick to real life and where to deviate. My books have a lot of technology in them, so I need to know how that technology works. For historical fiction, it may seem obvious that research is pivotal. Readers pick that book up partially so they can experience what 12th century villages were like. Fantasy may not seem so obvious. “They can make up their world so what do they have to research?” However, a lot of fantasy has basis in the real world, or some basis in our scientific principles (e.g. how physics works, gravity), so they need to research in order to create their own realistic imaginary world.

When to do the research is a matter of preference. Some authors do it before plotting, some do it before writing, some wait until they’re in the moment and need information. I (now) do mine early on, though I usually do some research throughout as I come across things I didn’t think of in planning.

Read the rest…


Nicole Wilson spends her days planning for disasters and her nights writing about them. She lives in a small apartment with her husband and two cats, all who contribute to her writing endeavors. Nicole has written many books and short stories and is at work on more. Three of the short stories have been published online, which you can find on her website at www.nicolewilsonauthor.com.

 

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