Showing 16 Result(s)
bookshelf

Being Paid to Read a Book and Write a Review

I’ve been reading books since grade school but I’ve started doing book reviews in 2012.

I remember when I revived my old Webs.com account and started a blog category I named “My Bookshelf”. The original plan was to write a review on each book that I have on my bookshelf literally.

However, technology has introduced us to e-books. Scrolling on a tablet or cellphone made reading much easier for me. And I enjoyed reading both printed and electronic book formats since then.

2012 was also a time of social media frenzy.  Out came the social media platforms for book lovers.

BookLikes and Goodreads

I’m not sure which I got first: BookLikes or Goodreads. But I’m sure, it was during around this time I created an account on each platform. The good thing is, they both work in sync. So whatever book I rated on the one platform, it will appear on the other. And if I posted a book review on my blog, I would just provide a link on these platforms that will lead the readers to my website.

However, there are web visitors who prefer staying on one site rather than being led to another with a click on a link. I tried to provide a written review but the fear of doing a duplicate content prevented me from doing so.

Being Paid to Read

Recently, I got the opportunity to be paid or rewarded to read a book and write a review on a website. The pay could be the book itself (which is also available on Amazon for a price) or it could be a minimal amount (in US dollars) depending on one’s reviewer score. I just started out and have posted a few reviews already. Those reviews I’ve submitted will stay on their website and if ever I’ll share it here, it would be just a link to that page or I’ll tell about it.

I’m Open to Any Book Suggestions

Also, as I’ve mentioned in one of my pages, I accept requests for book reviews. And last month, I received an email from a publishing company to review one of their publications. I’m so honored.

If you would like to send me books for me to read, send it to: Marissa N. Uycoco-Bacsa Professional Services, McArthur Highway, Poblacion 1, Moncada, Tarlac 2803 Philippines or if e-books, send it to: info@issabacsa.com (for PDF and e-pub formats) or creativemixedmediafreelancing@gmail.com  (for Kindle format).

Just so you know, I read both fiction and non-fiction. For fiction, I prefer mystery, crime, suspense thrillers. Although I also read romance, historical fiction, comedy, fantasy, and sci-fi.

For non-fiction, I prefer biographies, autobiographies, self-help, psychology, health, true crime. Although I also read about food and travel. It seems that I can read almost anything except fan fiction.

book series episodes

When They Say That Your Writing is Episodic

After winning Honorable Mention in a screenplay writing contest, I lent my screenplay manuscript to a  co-worker for her to read. When she returned to me the manuscript, she said, “…the story is good, but it’s episodic…”

Hearing the word “episodic”, I immediately agreed because in my thoughts the story was also based in some episodes of a TV series, given that there are five stories running parallel to each other in one full-length narrative film.

Actually, “episodic” means the novel or story is made up of a series of events or episodes that are loosely tied together and only the main character connects them all. This is one way of constructing a plot but this technique ends up having no character change.

Episodic writing dates back even before Cervantes wrote Don Quixote. Episodic writing also graced TV series of the ’60s and the ’70s. And growing up during the ’70s and seeing those TV series, it somehow influenced the way I write.

So how would you know if you’re writing something episodic?

1. The character is reactive rather than proactive.
2. There is no story question.
3. The reactive character does not operate from his strengths

Now that you know how to spot them, what can you do to save it?

1. Give your protagonist (and antagonist) a goal.

In episodic stories, the main character is put in an adventurous situation (more likely a quest) and goes to finish it. However, the goal tends to be shallow that the reader would ask, “so what?” Therefore, you make the main character proactive, making him decide for his actions by himself and not from other characters’ influence.

2. Give your two main characters (protagonist and antagonist) significant strengths and some weaknesses.

Make them more human. Balance the strengths with a few flaws that readers can relate to. Readers would also relate to the antagonist’s motives if the characterization is done well.

3. Decide on the obstacles that the characters will encounter on their way to their goal.

Make the protagonist’s goal difficult for him/her to achieve so that the readers will start to ask, “will he/she fail or not?” Just be careful not to make it contrived or coincidental.

4. Decide how your characters will react to these obstacles.

Let the protagonist and antagonist think and react to every problem that comes their way. I remember an advice from a famous writer that we need to push the protagonist to the corner until he/she couldn’t do anything but to fight back.

5. Make sure the scenes move the story forward and logically flows from one scene to the next.

One good characteristic of an episodic writing is its being fast-paced. However, since episodic writing are loosely tied, it tends to slow down the whole story overall. Look for loopholes and tie those loose ends!

If you like more info on creative writing, subscribe to my newsletter and be updated.

character archetypes

Are Your Characters Running On Empty?

 

You have seen this cycle before. You’re writing a novel or screenplay. You have a great idea, so great that you dream it will become the next bestseller or award-winning film. You spend days outlining and writing the first few pages. Then… you lose steam. It becomes harder to write. The momentum goes down. Writer’s block sets in. You lose excitement. You tell yourself, “I should work on a different story because this doesn’t work.”

The problem is not you

Most of the time, the problem isn’t with the story, but with the characters. How can you move the story forward if your characters are running on empty? How can you tell exciting discoveries about your characters if they’re stereotypes? Did you think about how these characters will react to those plot points you put them into?

The characters’ reactions should drive the story forward, not the plot points. A character doesn’t need to get into a burning house because you want him or her there. The character gets into that burning house because it’s in his/her nature to do so.

A story is built on characters and reason.Steven Amsterdam

Archetypes

Archetypes are blueprints for building well-defined characters. It defines protagonists, antagonists, antiheroes, or supporting characters. 16 personality types based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator are good archetypes . Each type defines a role and a strategy on how their type of character act on things.

THE ANALYSTS

  • The Architect (INTJ – Introversion-iNtuition-Thinking-Judging)
  • The Logician (INTP – Introversion-iNtuition-Thinking-Perceiving)
  • The Commander (ENTJ – Extraversion-iNtuition-Thinking-Judging)
  • The Debater (ENTP – Extraversion-iNtuition-Thinking-Perceiving)

THE DIPLOMATS

  • The Advocate (INFJ – Introversion-iNtuition-Feeling-Judging)
  • The Mediator (INFP – Introversion-iNtuition-Feeling-Perceiving)
  • The Protagonist (ENFJ – Extraversion-iNtuition-Feeling-Judging)
  • The Campaigner (ENFP – Extraversion-iNtuition-Feeling-Perceiving)

THE SENTINELS

  • The Logistician (ISTJ – Introversion-Sensing-Thinking-Judging)
  • The Defender (ISFJ – Introversion-Sensing-Feeling-Judging)
  • The Executive (ESTJ – Extraversion-Sensing-Thinking-Judging)
  • The Consul (ESFJ – Extraversion-Sensing-Feeling-Judging)

THE EXPLORERS

  • The Virtuoso (ISTP- Introversion-Sensing-Thinking-Perceiving)
  • The Adventurer (ISFP – Introversion-Sensing-Feeling-Perceiving)
  • The Entrepreneur (ESTP – Extraversion-Sensing-Thinking-Judging)
  • The Entertainer (ESFP – Extraversion-Sensing-Feeling-Perceiving)

I use these 16 personality archetypes as an invaluable tool. Their essences give me a general idea of who they are but still force me to delve deeper into the characters. I don’t see them as Character 1 or “the policeman” but as a person who responds to a conflict in a specific way.

As a writer, I’m guilty of creating characters who act like me. Archetypes will help us avoid this. Each personality has its own set of motivations, fears, and cares that move him/her as the plot forward.

After selecting an archetype, other details follow. The details will shape how the character expresses that essence. Details like the physical, social, intellectual, and spiritual aspects of a character shapes their actions in the story.

Most memorable characters in books and in film are not bland and one-dimensional. They invoke strong emotions in us that either we want to be like them or completely the opposite. What makes them memorable is not the story they’re into but the depth of their characters. They are not perfect, they have flaws, own defense mechanisms, and a dark side that make them human, complex, and interesting.

A character arc shows the changes he/she goes through during the story. The character needs to emerge at the end as a new person who has learned something from the journey. It’s the archetype that inspires the discoveries and details that make it interesting.

Stereotypes vs. Archetypes

But beware of stereotypes, which are the complete opposite. Stereotypes are oversimplified generalizations about people usually stemming from one person’s prejudice. Archetypes stemmed from the entire human race’s experience of people and psychological studies.

Describing a character as a “typical librarian” makes you assume that all librarians are quiet spinsters and shows the writer’s sloppy characterization. Stereotypes may be used to describe an archetype but a stereotype is only a shallow imitation.

characters' goals

Character’s Goal

 

You have a story but it seems that the pages feel slow and aimless. You check the character and the premise, both are good enough to move the story. However, there’s a problem in the handling of the characters’ goals.

We as writers understand what a goal is in storytelling. It is what the main character wants to achieve at the beginning of the story.

What are the things we need to pay attention to when writing the main character’s goal?

  • Define an immediate goal at the beginning.

So we have a character who wants something, and wants it now. Okay, says your reader. “But why should I care? Let the character have it.” Hmm, that’s not going to be. Although the main character’s goal is something immediate, it should not be too achievable. Now, the reader has something to worry about. Will he/she get it or not?

  • Build around that goal.

We as writers tend to put in some background into the story to explain why the main character needs to achieve the goal in the first place. Cut it out, if necessary. Readers don’t want to be dragged through those kind of stuff. They want to be turning pages to answer the question “Will he/she get it or not?”.  Get the readers into the action. Use the writing tools of description, or dialogue in introducing the goal your main character wants to achieve.

When I’m writing, I want people to actually have a goal, something that’s dragging them forward.Kaui Hart Hemmings

  • Sharpen the conflict.

We already defined the main goal, but what is the main obstacle? To make the story more effective, the obstacle should be strong and meaningful for the main character to get through. It grows out of other characters in the story and bring out their personalities, fears, and world views. So you’re not just thinking of the protagonist’s goal but also the antagonist’s goal, too.

The clash of goals brings out the clash of world views. This way, we know who the characters are, their goals, and how are they going to get it. It is this kind of differences that moves the story forward, keeps the reader turning pages, and gives the story the depth and dimension.

Transform your good fiction to great fiction by keeping your characters’ goals clear, immediate, and complex.

 

crime fiction

6 Good Reasons Why You Should Give Crime Fiction A Chance

There are those people who rarely read crime fiction and have good reasons to do so. But, if they give crime fiction a chance, they will understand why there is such a genre. Here are the reasons why:

1. Non-fiction provides you the facts. The fiction about it provides you the feelings.

Most of us start their research by reading non-fiction accounts of events. But if you want to know eyewitness accounts, better look into the writings of those who were there. Most fiction writers use their experiences and those of others in their writing. They present it with a better picture that stays in your mind much better than a photograph.

2. Crime fiction is as good as social criticism.

Lawlessness and corruption in society has brought about crime fiction. The cynicism is in response to the depression, corruption, brutality, racism, and the double standards in society. Most crime fiction depicts these themes because of its prevalence in society as a form of social commentary.

3. Crime fiction mirrors the social conditions that “cultivates” crime.

This is something related to number 2. But ever since Hollywood began making films from crime novels, the typical story line about catching-the-killer-before-he-kills-again became formulaic. These films don’t show a statement to the society that produced the killer. It’s not as simple as “society made him do it.” Depicting violence shouldn’t be about sensationalizing the gore. It’s about describing the violent consequences that may last for decades. And crime fiction should move people to act upon on this.

4. Crime fiction isn’t about killing, it can also show white-collar crimes.

Behind every great fortune lies a great crime. – Honoré de Balzac

White-collar crimes happen in the corporate world and described in one word: greed. White-collar criminals don’t need to kill.  Many authors have written about it. But sometimes, the only place where corrupt men and women go to jail or get killed is in the pages of our novels.

5. Crime fiction can analyze the life and times of one person.

One death is a tragedy, one million deaths is a statistic. – Josef Stalin

Unfortunately, a lot of contemporary crime fiction is escapism. But best crime writers can dramatize the solitary and tragic life of a single character. They make the reader feel the pain, sorrow, loss, and injustice that character had gone through.

6. You’ll discover new and unknown crime fiction writers.

Most of the new, aspiring writers start with crime fiction because the genre is in demand. At the same time, most writers create their first fiction from experience. And if you read more of these writers and their works, the publishers and the reading public might take notice.

I appeal to those who don’t read crime fiction, give the genre a chance and discover our different world.

Organize your writing

Organize Your Writing

Staring at a blank page is dreadful for a writer. The question, “What will I write?” is really not a problem. It’s the question “How do I start?” that matters.

Most of us often underestimate the planning of things because we’re obsessed with the goal. We have the clear picture of the end product but we don’t have a detailed plan on how to get there.

However, we also believe that planning is needed but to what extend do we believe that statement makes each of us different. Some would go for the general planning while others go for the much specific plan. In the end, we all believe that once the stage is set and everything is in place, we’re ready to go.

Let’s Start Organizing

So how does a writer organize his or her writing?

  1. RESEARCH. First things first: gather and organize the raw materials. Having all the research notes and reference materials at hand before starting saves a lot of time.
  2. OUTLINE. Next, sorting the materials into an outline will not only gives ideas but also provides an organization for us to fill in the details.
  3. DECIDE THE ORDER. Now that we have an outline, decide on what order are we going to cover the subject. Here are a few ways to do it:
    1. Chronological — the best bet for story telling: a beginning, a middle, an end.
    2. Synthesis — this is usually used in essays: from general to specific
    3. Spatial — this is usually used for descriptive writing: from left to right, top to bottom, exterior to interior, etc.

A story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end… but not necessarily in that order.Jean Luc Godard

However, flashbacks, reverse orders, and flash forwards have became common that others tempted to follow suit, too. But before doing that, be comfortable with the sequence first and try to check if they’ll work. Don’t forget that readers have to start somewhere, follow a path, and reach a clear ending.

Final Thoughts

Don’t worry about putting too much details. Be like a sculptor. Have the basic rough form first, and eventually chip off the things you don’t need until you come up with a work of art.

But before I end this, don’t forget to give proper credit where credit is due. So if you have sources that require permission or acknowledgment, list them down and keep them. Don’t discard your raw materials too soon. You’re going to return to consult these during the editing and revision processes. Dispense them only when you have the published work in your hands. Or better yet, keep them for future references.

genre

Genre

When we say genre, the first thing that comes into our minds is category. True, genres are categories of literary compositions. Each genre is determined by technique, tone, content, and even length.

The criteria used to divide literary works into genres are not consistent. It changes constantly and it’s even a subject for debate among literary scholars, authors, publishers, and critics.

Just see how literature as an art is divided into something like this:

1. Poetry

a. Lyric

(1) Song
(2) Ode
(3) Ballad
(4) Elegy
(5) Sonnet

b. Epic
c. Dramatic

(1) Comedy
(2) Tragedy
(3) Melodrama
(4) Tragicomedy

2. Drama

a. Tragedy
b. Comedy

(1) comedy of manners
(2) sentimental comedy
(3) burlesque comedy
(4) satirical comedy

3. Prose

a. Fiction

(1) Classic
(2) Crime/detective
(3) Drama
(4) Fan fiction
(5) Fantasy
(6) Historical fiction
(7) Horror
(8) Humor
(9) Mystery
(10) Realistic fiction
(11) Science fiction
(12) Short story
(13) Suspense/thriller
(14) Western

b. Non-fiction

(1) Autobiography
(2) Biography
(3) Essay
(4) Journalism
(5) Lab Report
(6) Memoir
(7) Narrative nonfiction/personal narrative
(8) Reference book
(9) Self-help book
(10) Speech
(11) Textbook

You might have noticed that a few genre overlap with another or the distinctions between them are thin. For example, crime/detective can also be mystery or suspense/thriller. Yet, their definitions differ and some scholars have made distinctions between each genres and subgroups.

Some people tend to use age categories as genre. In bookstores and libraries, literature may be classified as either adult, young-adult, or children’s.

Genre must not also be confused with format, such as graphic novel or picture book.

Also, literary techniques should not be confused with genres. These techniques may be loosely defined like any genre but they are not the same. Examples are parody, frame story, constrained writing, stream of consciousness.

On this site, we focus on a specific genre: crime fiction. It is defined as the literary genre that fictionalizes crimes, their detection, criminals, and their motives.

But what distinguishes crime fiction from the other genres like mystery and suspense/thrillers? We will discuss this on my next blog.

guilty

Guilty

I wrote Guilty back in August 2002, right after submitting the manuscript of Living In a Lie. The idea came from an article I’ve read from an old copy of the Reader’s Digest. If I’m not mistaken, the article was entitled, “Why Do I Defend Criminals?” something like that.

While writing the story, I used the casting call method in developing the characters. I had in my mind the pictures of a well-known actress and a well-known teenage actor to play Rita and Paolo respectively. Whenever I write a scene, I would imagine how would the actress portray Rita — the way she moves, talks, and reasons out. Same with the teenage actor portraying Paolo.

I remember writing down the draft on an intermediate pad, on longhand, just to get the story out of my mind. After one chapter, I typed it on a short bond paper, double-spaced. Yes, I was using Voltaire’s typewriter then which he lent me since I don’t have a computer at that time yet. It was during that time that I’ve observed that one page of a handwritten story was equal to one page of a typewritten manuscript.

At that time, I wrote the story with Paolo’s transformation in mind. The original ending was a heart-tugging, emotional, unsent letter from Kaye addressed to Paolo. I remembered having the Mayor, Kaye’s dad, handed that piece of letter to Paolo a few days after the trial ended. My purpose was to show that the Mayor had accepted the court’s decision in acquitting Paolo.

The letter was Kaye’s reaction to what Paolo and his friends usually say that it was Kaye who reformed Paolo from a drug addict to a boy with a sense of direction. In that letter, it was revealed that Kaye was thankful to Paolo because it was Paolo who prevented her to commit suicide on the day that they first met. It was revealed that she had been depressed with her family’s situation, too. It was really a tearjerker.

After submitting the manuscript, my editor told me to change the ending. “Make it something hopeful,” he said. So I was instructed to type the new ending at the office, directly on the office computer, because the story was about to be printed. I guess, it took me a few hours to change two chapters at the end.

After submitting my revision, I moved on to the next projects. So I almost forgot this novel’s production.

Four stories after, sometime in November 2002, we (me and the other writers) had a falling out with the editors. I wasn’t paid for my last story that I’ve written. That was also the time I decided to venture to another medium: komiks. A few months after, karma had taken over so I don’t have to do anything.

Anyway, I’m presenting to you the e-book version of this novella. It’s much shorter than the others that I’ve written. And I do hope that you’ll enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Si Aling Mameng

Si Aling Mameng

It was sometime November 2002 that I got in touch with a former acquaintance who introduced me to Willy Fatal, the Editor-in-Chief of Abante Komiks that time. I told Willy that I haven’t written a manuscript for a graphic novel or comics before but I know how.

So Willy said that he would give me a try and asked me to submit a manuscript as soon as possible. My first assignment was any mystery/suspense/thriller story which they usually publish every Thursday. I agreed because it was my favorite genre and I already had an idea brewing in my head at that time. I went home and laid out my story, figured out how to spread the story in frames on 32 pages.

My idea came from a blurb of a new novel from an unknown author which I’ve read in a magazine. It was about the most hated neighbor in the whole neighborhood who died and no one came to his funeral. But when the police suspected a foul play, everybody in the neighborhood became suspects. That idea was so strong that I had to make my own version of it. So I wrote the manuscript in less than a week, I guess, and submitted the typewritten manuscript to Willy. My first comics. Yes, it was 2002 and I don’t have a computer yet at that time.

Willy was impressed that he gave me the freedom to write stories of any genre. So I started writing Two Weeks After, a romantic story, after that. When I submitted the manuscript of Two Weeks After, I saw Willy proofreading a copy of Si Aling Mameng. He even introduced me to Louie Celerio, son of National Artist Levi Celerio, and the illustrator of my story. I was thrilled to see the proofreader’s copy of my story and meet the illustrator at the same time. I was really honored. And my comics writing career began.

Three stories after, and staying in Moncada, Tarlac, I stopped writing comics and focused on my tabloid column with Diyaryong Imbestigador. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to claim my complementary copies of the other stories I’ve written for Abante Komiks.

At that time, the Filipino komiks industry was in its last days, trying to survive in a world dominated by new and popular entertainment formats: the Internet, video games, cheap pocketbooks, funny text messages, DVDs, and of course, television.  At least, I was able to write stories in comics format and was able to contribute something in the industry’s last days.

 

mentor

In Search For a Writing Mentor

It is not just a question of having or not having your own writing mentor. The real question here is: Do you really need a mentor or could you do without one? Opinions vary from writer to writer. But first, let’s take a closer look at what mentoring a writer is.

When we say “mentor”, it is synonymous to a “guide” or “counselor”. He/She is someone who could give sound advice not just on our writing career but also on life in general; someone who has been there and done that and has inspired you to become a better writer.

Most likely, the mentor a writer has in mind could be someone who is well-known or experienced, who have written and published numerous articles, stories, or novels, and probably still be busy writing his/her next book. How could that mentor squeeze in time for mentoring is something the mentor can only determine.

Another common source for writing mentors is from the field of education. Teachers, professors, and even workshop instructors are always ready to act as someone’s writing mentor because it is innate in their personality and job.

I don’t have a mentor in the strict definition. I take as much advice and inspiration as I can from the people I am close to.Natalie Massenet

Mentoring follows three stages which are:

  1. To lead — It starts with the mentor leading the mentoree the way, teaching what and what not to do most of the time.
  2. To follow through — The mentor will let the writer do things on his/her own, following through the steps — this time giving advice, commenting, giving suggestions, etc.  , and
  3. To let go — When the mentor feels that the writer is successful and can do things independently without him/her, the mentor starts to let go.

But the relationship doesn’t end there. The friendship still continues.

On the other hand, there are people who don’t maintain this kind of mentor-mentoree relationship with someone. These writers would just take advice from different sources and take it from there. They are too independent that they don’t need to be followed through. Others are those who had a bad experience with mentoring before that they decide to do things on their own instead. Which brings me back to my question: Do you really need a mentor or could you do without one?

Every writer would claim to have been taught and inspired by someone to write and be the person and writer he/she is now and would consider that someone as a mentor. To maintain a professional mentoring relationship with someone is his/her own choice.

research

Who Cares? Just Make It Up! It’s Fiction.

As a fiction writer, that title is something easy to say. But as a journalist, writing should be based on facts.

I’m not a professional journalist but I’ve been a news writer and managing editor for our school paper back in college. Writing news follows an inverted pyramid pattern and has to be factual and up-to-date. With that kind of training, my logical side has this tendency to put down facts in my fiction, yet my creative side wants to mangle with these facts to bring out an incredible story.

But readers nowadays could tell if a novel or story was well-researched or not. And once a reader had sensed a not-so-well-researched story, he or she could drop the novel and walk away.

All writers will agree that even crime fiction writing still needs to be researched. An author should take time to look for facts regarding characters, places, events, business establishments, and even the industry where these characters work. It could be by reading books and other printed materials, watching films and videos, or interviewing experts on the subject matter. Whatever kind of research and information related to the story has to be taken in and noted down.

Most of the time, I have more information than what I need or would use in the actual novel. But that’s okay, better to get the facts straight first and discard the unnecessary information afterwards.

How much research will I put in my fiction? I would say enough to make the characters, places, events, or business establishments realistic and logical for the readers to relate with. At the same time, something enough to provide me the creative liberty to put in fictional elements to make a story become larger than life.

Research should be used more as background information to give me the confidence to write about the story without sounding too ignorant or too all-knowing.

I’m taking my time to do research for this novel I’m currently writing. Good thing I have a good set of reference books and an online writing tool that helps me map out my story as I research. I’m even contemplating to interview a criminal lawyer cum police officer. If you know someone I could talk to, feel free to contact me through this website.