#IWSG – Swallow Rejection, Focus on the Work

Mis Quince Años (28)Insecure Writer’s Support Group

Writers have secrets! What are one or two of yours, something readers would never know from your work?

Why y’all asking people to tell their secrets?

A lot of my work as a cultural critic and author involves me asserting confidence about my abilities and talents and using them to encourage writers to form supportive networks that will help us all get our words to the world. While I am blessed to get to write for online publications and my own stories, I also take advantage of opportunities to coach, mentor and cheerlead my fellow writers to get their thoughts and stories out there. I guess that is why it is hard to accept the infrequency for substantial mutual support. Continue reading “#IWSG – Swallow Rejection, Focus on the Work”

Writing Characters in Real Places and Spaces

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Talk about the setting of your book. Is it entirely imaginary or is it based on a real-life place?

I love writing stories that allow readers to tap into the fantasy and escapism that fiction provides. At the same time, I like to include points of reference from my environment. Similar to integrating real-life characters experience, my story plots also contain geographical references to position readers in characters’ environments, potentially essential to reinforce arches and allow them to relate.

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Settings in the romance genre tend to be at economic and geographic extremes. At a Popular Cultural Association conference, romance scholar Jodi McAllister pointed out that romance plots frequently unfold between female protagonists and rich men in cities or small-town bearded hunks.  She posed a question asking why people didn’t seem to fall in love in the suburbs. She made a great point. I spent my teens and early adult life reading about ridiculously wealthy men taking their love interests to bed. Not necessarily a bad thing, I enjoyed the escapism, but not everyone lives like that way, nor do they exist in tiny towns with one traffic light. I want my readers to see themselves in my stories. Continue reading “Writing Characters in Real Places and Spaces”

The Dual Life of the Self-Published Author

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How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

Control is something I have a difficult time relinquishing to anyone. I can delegate easily enough but must maintain the power to make the final decisions, especially when it comes to my writing.

Like many authors, I put a lot of myself in my books. I have been exhilarated while writing some scenes and depleted by others. More than time and talent, storytelling requires energy. After completing a fleshed-out plot, I am usually vested in it and the characters, making it hard to detach myself and place it into someone else’s hands. I figured out pretty early into the novel-writing process that I did not want to let go.

Mis Quince Años (24) Continue reading “The Dual Life of the Self-Published Author”

The Non-negotiable Writing Exchange

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What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?

For people dedicated to the craft, writing is an impactful part of their lives and identities. I mentioned in another post, “I acquired and honed skills to interpret and craft words, using a range of prose (and a tiny bit of poetry) to harness the resilient power of language for liberation and resistance.”

Endeavors to generate words can be powerful and empowering, making writing a tool and art form requiring commitment. 

Dedicated writers pick up their pens [or fire up their keyboards] to share their perspectives and stories. The better ones know that wordsmithing involves layers of composition, drafting, editing and revising—all of which require development. Only deluded writers think that their skillsets are fine and they don’t need to hone them. 

Two mistakes many new writers make are thinking that all writing is the same and it will not take that much work.  Continue reading “The Non-negotiable Writing Exchange”

Book Writing, A Numbers Game

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How many hours a day do you write? How long on average does it take you to write a book?

When I saw this week’s Open Book Blog Hop prompt, I laughed because it coincides with some realities I have had to face while participating in NaNoWriMo this month. The month-long writing challenge is meant to get writers to sit themselves down and finish a set goal during November.

Although I signed up for NaNoWriMo years ago, I had not participated. Why? That’s for another blog post. This year, someone encouraged to consider using NaNoWriMo as a tool to complete book four in the Brothers in Law romance series. Brandon and Hawwah want their story out there,  so I agreed.  I am half-way through the challenge and only have a little over 4k of my 50k goal achieved. I have been writing but not just the manuscript.

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Continue reading “Book Writing, A Numbers Game”

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”

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.

Continue reading “Character Building: I Made This”

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”

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”

Problems when Working a Scene

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What was your hardest scene to write?

The challenges that present when writing a scene vary from one writing project to another. A manuscript can have multiple difficult scenes taxing authors, making time drag as the cursor flashes or notebook page sits untouched, leaving them all kinds of frustrated.

Scene troubles may involve persistent issues with the plot’s structure, or they may be thematic and restricted to one manuscript. Continue reading “Problems when Working a Scene”

Why Seasons Matter in Fiction

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Do your stories and worlds reference seasons and do they play into the plots of your books?

Seasons provide important time elements to a story’s plot. The environment in which characters interact is significant in setting the tone and helping readers keep track of how much time has passed between plot points.

Time passage within a novel can be large (days, months, and years) or small (a few moments or minutes), and all of it can affect the story’s pacing, grabbing readers’ attention or losing it. A lot of my novels involve events requiring longs periods of time to pass from the book’s beginning to the end.

Anchoring Time

Continue reading “Why Seasons Matter in Fiction”

3 Writing Traps for Newbies

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What are common traps for aspiring writers?

Writing is a process rich with possibilities for errors. Anyone taking to the pen and pad or keyboard to share their stories and experiences with the world will inevitably trip, fall, get crushed, or end up a blubbering puddle of frustrations and regrets.

Count on all the above because our humanness makes it inevitable. Things will get messy just like us.

I spent years as a writing coach at a four-year college, where I saw students making the same mistakes and helped them hone their skills. When I ventured into professional writing as a freelancer, the easy transition from academic writing surprised me. I became popular with some online Muslim publications (I only write for them for personal reasons) and launched a cultural platform. Save for a few shifts in tone, I had it easy.

I didn’t encounter many bumps in the road of my journey as a writer until I wrote a novel. My strong writing background did not secure me from making some newbie mistakes, and I found many other authors who expressed that they made them. 

Continue reading “3 Writing Traps for Newbies”

Pens, Knives, and Guns: The Power of Crafting Words

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What was an early experience when you learned that language had power?

I think humans have an innate appreciation for the power contained in language. We have a need to communicate from the moment we leave the womb. Crying, whimpering, whining and cooing are all methods that infants have to convey their feelings and desires.

It can be so strong that many mothers and primary caregivers learn the meanings behind each utterance coming from the tiny person, finding it almost impossible to ignore. The impact of our children’s infant cries frazzled each one of my nerves, motivating me to satisfy or wreak havoc on whatever or whoever was upsetting them. People didn’t start calling me Mama Bear for nothing.

Yeah, kinda like that. So, knowledge about the power of language is something intrinsic. We know its influence on those around us. When people are past the infancy, “cry to get what I want stage”, it is important to recognize how compelling words can be on one’s mindset and those around them, especially words strategically used to convince, inspire, anger and degrade—some of which may become branded in one’s psyche, influencing their internal dialogue and actions. Continue reading “Pens, Knives, and Guns: The Power of Crafting Words”

#OpenBook – “Masculine Energy” and The Woman Writer

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What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?

I remember listening to a male lecturer talk about women, men, and gender relations. One thing that stuck with me was when he went on this diatribe about women who have a lot of what he called “masculine energy.” He waxed for what seemed like forever about how a woman who dares to have a lot of masculine energy is a problem because she will always be ready to challenge a man. He claimed that such women are too assertive and authoritative and proclaimed that he could tell when there is such a woman in his midst.

After I laughed my…head off, I cringed a little at the incendiary generalizations he made, that make life hell for women. I won’t go into an analysis of how his language dangerously allocated certain human behaviors like confidence, ambition, critical thinking, power, and resistance as masculine and categorized women embodying any of these characteristics as “manly” deviants straying from their feminine nature.

I won’t highlight how someone privileged by gender can be guilty of reinforcing oppression by demonizing those struggling against their subjugation, discrediting them as misfits. Really, men need to stop that nonsense, especially those disguising themselves as progressive but are actually just as chauvinistic as their fellow misogynists.

Continue reading “#OpenBook – “Masculine Energy” and The Woman Writer”

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