Weaving Stories Readers Want

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Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

Authors frequently discuss notions of originality and fulfilling reader expectations. I have read posts all over social media and on blogs, all with writers seeking to draft texts that pristine from anything else written under the sun and that will satisfy a mass of readers worthy of their artistry. Both are exercises in futility.

Defeatist? No. A powerful storyteller resolves to the realities that neither is their story completely untold nor will it enchant every pair of eyes (ears hearing, fingertips touching) gracing it.  At the crux of any good story is the distinctive style and voice of the weaver of the tale, which is the primary way an author can create something that is theirs to share for people to connect with and respond.

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Continue reading “Weaving Stories Readers Want”

Dry Those Writer Tears: Dealing with Reviews

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Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

Ah, book reviews. They can send an author’s heart soaring or sink it like a stone into a deep abyss of despair.  Because a writer is often intimately connected to their works, reviews can have a substantial impact on the creative process.

I have warned new authors to be mindful of the effects reviews have on them, particularly negative ones:

All authors get negative reviews. Reading is subjective. There will always be at least one reader who doesn’t like something about a book, and some will express it in reviews. A lot of new authors are simply not ready for people to express any level of dislike.

Mis Quince Años (13) Continue reading “Dry Those Writer Tears: Dealing with Reviews”

I Don’t See No Stinkin’ Writer’s Block

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How do you move past writer's block?

I never get writer’s block. I may say I do but not really. What I usually experience is more like a hurdle to clear and keep things moving. A basic definition of writer’s block is, “the condition of being unable to create a piece of written work because something in your mind prevents you from doing it.” Other definitions describe it as an inability to write—as if there a mystical wall keeping words stuck in the mind or a force imprisoning creativity. There are reasons why a writer can’t write, and it is not always psychological or due to “having something on your mind.”

Through years of academic, professional, teaching and coaching writing, I learned a few things about the ominous “writer’s block” and the external and internal factors that drive writers to fall back on what is ultimately an excuse, a justification, for a blank screen.  Covering everything in one post is not possible. So, I will highlight some prevalent ones.

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Internal Factors

Continue reading “I Don’t See No Stinkin’ Writer’s Block”

LWL Podcast: Naming Characters

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Naming characters can be an involved and frustrating part of the novel-writing process, but it is critical to provide ones that will pique readers’ interest and give them a chance to connect with the personalities making up a story’s plot. In this LWL episode, I talk about the undertaking of finding the most suitable names for my stories’ characters and a little bit of reader drama with one character’s name.

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Character Building: I Made This

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What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?

I may (or may not—I admit to nothing) base a character on someone I respect or despise, so I will have to be salty and sweet with the response to this week’s OpenBook blog hop post. Let’s start with the people I like.

Sweet

I’ve explained in a Black Glue Podcast interview how the Prophet Muhammad served as inspiration for the male characters featured in the Brothers in Law series.

I reflected on the Prophet (Muhammad’s) life and how he was as a husband … lover … someone out in the community and how he transitioned between those things. What he did when his women were mad at him, and what he did when his women were acting out. [The brothers in law] don’t act exactly like the Prophet, but there are characteristics each one of them has.

Simon is the one who keeps things at a level where it doesn’t get too bad. He doesn’t allow things to get to him as much.  Marcus is the alpha, alpha. He’s the leader. He expects things to happen the way he needs for them to happen because he’s progressing the nation. Adam is that inner reflection.

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3 Books, 1 Author: Eclectic Reading that Feeds the Mind

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What are the best two or three books you've read this year?

This was supposed to be an easy question but not so much for me. I read a ton of different things over the course of the year. In addition to reading novels, I am always looking for books that will help me improve my writing skills as an author and writer.

I also am constantly gathering titles to read and analyze with my colleagues at the Muslim Anti-racism Collaborative. I am a strong proponent for life-long learning inside and outside of one’s professional spheres. My collection of books that help me develop as an anti-racism trainer, instructor, managing editor, and self-published author grew quite a bit this year. A few of them gripped me, so it is difficult not to mention any of them.

As usual, I will take the convoluted way to answer the blog hop prompt and include a shortlist of three of the best books I have read so far this year in fiction and nonfiction, connecting each to my life’s work. Continue reading “3 Books, 1 Author: Eclectic Reading that Feeds the Mind”

My Author Ego: It’s Big; Who’s Asking?

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Does a big ego help or hurt writers?

Ego is an often vilified human characteristic.  Regarding one’s self-image, confidence, and esteem, we all need some ego.  Without a healthy ego, a person can become easily manipulated and hesitant to take the risks needed to put herself out there and achieve life’s goals. Self-published authors especially need that last one in spades. 

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Authors take big risks by releasing their work into a world that may be unkind. Writing something that readers may arbitrarily skewer for a plethora of substantial and tedious reasons is damn scary.  I once had someone give my book a lower review because they thought I didn’t show how the main character was Muslim (the character wasn’t) and another because they didn’t like “all of the racism” in an interracial romance.

Yeah, exactly. It takes a humongous ego to read helplessly while people slice and dice away at something that took blood, sweat, and tears—I am not exaggerating—to create.  Continue reading “My Author Ego: It’s Big; Who’s Asking?”

Research – A Key Element to Storytelling

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What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I spend a lot of time researching all kinds of things for various writing projects. I need to research curriculum development and pedagogical methods for my work with the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative. I just spent the past few days hitting Google for historical and cultural research while taking part in an anti-racism workshop.

My job teaching at the college and romance scholarship also requires time researching. Before leaving for Chicago, I looked for additional sources as I edited an essay about African American Muslim romance fiction (yes, it’s a thing) and how female protagonists are othered. It is interesting how Muslim authors use the other woman trope in love triangles.

Focus, Lyndell. Okay.

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It may seem that so many demands will make research a tedious exercise. The opposite is true for me. Continue reading “Research – A Key Element to Storytelling”

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