AI Will NOT be Writing My Novels

© Can Stock Photo / vwalakte

I’m hearing a lot of hoopla about AI being here. I’m also reading some interesting social media posts about it from fellow authors. Let’s just say we’re not impressed. None of us plan on using it.

I’m also perfectly capable of writing my own blog posts, thank you very much. I’ve been writing them for years, and I certainly don’t need a robot to write them for me. And, like all writers I have own unique writing voice.  So why would I allow a piece of software to take my voice away from me?

For novel writers, writing is very much a form of art. We tap into our wonderful human imaginations and create stories. We create imaginary people and bring them to life. Over the years readers have told me how believable my characters are. I take it as a complement. Interestingly enough, I don’t consciously create them. I’ll start out with a few basic ideas, such as their age and physical characteristics. The magic happens when I put them on paper. They come to life, and they tell me who they are. I also put a lot of love into my stories. No machine can do that. Machines aren’t living beings. Therefore, they cannot experience emotions.

Lord willing, I plan on writing romance novels for many years to come. Writing novels is my life’s calling. It’s what gives my life its meaning and purpose. I will also continue using human editors and proofreaders. Of course this means my books might contain a few errors. No human being is perfect. Making mistakes is one of the things that makes us human.

I’m currently working on my next Marina Martindale contemporary romance novel, and I will be adding the following to my disclaimer.

This book was written and edited by real human beings. We do not include content generated by AI (Artificial Intelligence) software of any kind.

I’ve worked hard to create a following. I want my readers to feel confident in knowing that the novels they are reading were written by me, and not by a machine.

Gayle Martin aka Marina Martindale

 

No, I am Not a Hobbyist

Whenever I log into Facebook I always look at my memories page. It’s interesting to see something I posted years ago. Sometimes it’s bittersweet. I’ll read a comment, or see a like, from a good friend or family member who has since passed away.

The other day I found something notable on my memories page. It was something I posted back in 2018 about how artists sometimes have to deal with people who disrespect them and refuse to pay them a fair price for their services. One man commented that perhaps the problem was supply and demand. He thought there were simply too many artists out there. Therefore, we should give up our art.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean the person who is giving their opinion is right.

My arts are writing and photography. They are my life’s passions. My art is what defines me as a human being. It’s what gives my life its meaning and purpose. Other artists, whether they be writers, musicians, actors, or painters, will tell you the same.

The Myth that Artists are Merely Hobbyists

It’s age-old misconception that way too many people seem to embrace. Art is nothing more than a hobby. People who are serious about earning a living need to get a “real job.” Whatever a real job is.

Some artists are lucky. They’re able to make a living full time with their art. Or they may find a career where they can use their artistic skills, such as a copywriter or graphic designer at an advertising agency. Most, however, will have to find a day job, and they are not alone. There are teachers, office workers, and others who have to work second jobs in order to make ends meet. So why are they not called, “hobbyists?”

They Would Be if They Could Be

There are some who get into the arts, not to express themselves, but because they want to become rich and famous. I recall once talking to a man who told me he was going to write a book, but he refused to tell me what his book was about. All he would say was he had come up with an idea that was so unique no one in human history had ever thought of it before. Therefore, his book was going to be a runaway bestseller. Hollywood would want to buy the screen rights to his story. This was why he couldn’t tell me what his book was about. If he told me, I would steal it from him.

Sometimes it’s hard to keep a straight face. I asked him how far along was he in writing his book. He said he hadn’t started writing it yet. Of course he hadn’t. No surprise there. So I wished him the best of luck. He will need it.

The man was a total fake. Real artists aren’t trying to impress anyone. They’re much too busy creating their art. The others, the ones who would-be if they could-be, are just blowing hot air about what they’re going to do. Someday. When they have the time. Right now they’re just too busy. I’ll give the man credit. He became the inspiration for a feature article called, The Author Myth, which is posted above the blog banner.

Some people do enjoy dabbling in art simply because they enjoy it. To them it’s strictly a hobby. They’re not interested in becoming professionals, and that’s okay too. However, they should never be confused with other artists who are professionals and are paid for their work, even if they have other jobs.

So What Defines an Artist?

An artist is someone who creates art because it’s their life’s calling. They will do whatever they have to do, including working day jobs, to pay the bills so they can continue being artists.

I consider myself an artist. As I mentioned before, my art happens to be fine art photography and writing contemporary romance novels. I’m an author with a good following. I also created my own publishing company, Good Oak Press, LLC. Many of my fellow independent authors have done the same.

We’re in this gig because writing is our life’s passion. We’ve put many, many years of blood, sweat and tears into learning our craft and becoming the people we are. As far as we’re concerned, anyone who thinks we should, “give up our art and get a real job,” is woefully ignorant.

 

The Cure for Writer’s Block

Image by Gayle Martin

It happens to all of us at one time or another. We run into a proverbial brick wall and suddenly find ourselves unable to come up with something to write about. Oh, no! It’s the dreaded writer’s block. Ugh!

Creativity is a funny thing. We can’t  turn it on and off whenever it’s convenient. This can be particularly frustrating for fiction writers who have to juggle their writing between work and family time, only to end up staring at a blank screen or paper and wondering what to do with it.

Sometimes switching gears and writing about another topic can help. I have friends who typically work on two or three different books at the same time. If they get stuck on one they simply set it aside and work on another one. However, if you’re like me, and you only work on one story at a time, then you may have to get a little more creative. Try stepping away from the computer and doing a project that’s been on your to do list for too long. Those nagging issues really can effect your creativity.

If that doesn’t help, then why not take a break and do something you enjoy doing? Bake some cookies. Play a round of golf. Go to a movie, or a ball game. Take a day trip somewhere. Read a book that you haven’t had time to read. Call a friend or relative you haven’t spoken to in awhile. Taking a time out and doing something different, particularly if it’s something you really enjoy, but don’t get to do too often, gives your mind a chance to focus on other things, giving your creative muse a rest.

Don’t worry about your story. It’ll come back. And when it does, you can pick up where you left off.

Gayle Martin

Dialog vs Using Proper Grammar

© Can Stock Photo / bradcalkins

One of the things I love the most about writing fiction is the dialog. It’s what brings the characters to life. However, like any other kind of writing, there is a technique for writing effective dialog. In fact, there are entire books about how to write dialog. If you’re new to writing fiction I highly recommend reading them. In the meantime, I’m going to cover some of the basics, and the way I go about writing dialog.

What is the purpose of dialog?

As most of you already know, fiction writing is all about the conflict. The conflict is what drives the storyline, and the dialog helps build the tension. For example, the more a character talks about their big plans, and how they made everything foolproof, the more we know something is about to go terribly wrong.

Dialog also defines the character’s personality. A character who has a PhD will undoubtably have a different speech pattern than a character who’s a high school dropout. Here in the United States, different regions of the country have their own dialects. A character from Boston will speak differently than a character from New Orleans. Therefore, it’s a good idea to set your story in a location where you are familiar with the local lingo.

Dialog and Grammar

People don’t use perfect grammar when they are speaking. We tend to shorten words. We’ll say, “gonna,” instead of, “going to.” We speak in incomplete sentences as well as comma spliced sentences. Therefore, none of my characters speak perfect, grammatically correct English. Fortunately, my editor gets this. She’s a fiction writer herself. However, it’s been an issue with some of the proofreaders I’ve worked with.

Gloria, who proofread many of my earlier Marina Martindale romance novels, passed away a few years ago. She was a dear friend who I will always miss, and she also loved my books. While not a writer herself, she had once been a proofreader for a newspaper. Trust me, nothing got past her watchful eye. She also understood the difference between narrative and dialog.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t so lucky with the proofreaders for my next two novels. One was a retired English teacher who not only corrected all the grammar in my dialog, she also argued with me when I pointed out, more than once, that real people do not speak perfect, grammatically correct English. My most recent proofreader was someone who had learned English as a second language. To her credit, she was very fluent in English, and she had also written a few nonfiction books. However, when it came to the dialog, she didn’t always understand slang words and common idioms, which caused some confusion.

The Use of Grammar in First and Third Person Narratives

I write in the third person narrative. When my characters aren’t speaking I use proper grammar and punctuation in my narrative as I describe the events from an anonymous and detached point of view. However, the rules may vary when using the first person narrative. Since your character is telling the entire story from start to finish, you need to let the character speak in his or her own voice. The same is true when writing dialog in the third person narrative. Let your characters have their own distinctive voice.

Gayle Martin

Lying vs Fiction Writing

© Can Stock Photo / Ostill

I sometimes see the stupidest things on social media memes, such as, “Writers are professional liars because they tell stories for a living.”

Oh, please! Go peddle it someplace else. If you can’t tell the difference between a fictional story and “bearing false witness,” you’re beyond hope.

What’s the Difference?

Lying is knowing something to be false and presenting it as fact. It can also be telling a half-truth, or lying by omission. Simply put, you’re withholding pertinent information about something to slant the narrative in your favor. A good example would be a married man who presents himself a  single, unattached man. He’s a self-serving individual who intentionally deceives others solely to please himself. I included such an individual in one of my Marina Martindale novels. Interestingly enough, it’s titled, The Deception. I’ll just say it didn’t end well for him.

Fiction writing, or storytelling, is presenting a story about people who never existed. Unlike the liar, whose motives are to mislead or deceive, the storyteller is altruistic. Their goal is to entertain, or educate, or both. For example, I read Aesop’s Fables when I was a child. It’s common knowledge that the stories are make believe. They’re told to teach lessons about morality.

The other purpose for storytelling is to entertain. Life isn’t always easy or fair. We all feel overwhelmed at times, and we need to take a break. We’ll turn on the TV, watch a video, or perhaps read a book. As a novel writer, my purpose it to entertain the reader so he or she can take a break from reality.

So there you have it. I also get it. Some people don’t read fiction, and that’s okay. To each their own. However, I have zero tolerance for people who intentionally insult the integrity and sully the reputations of fiction authors. As stated, our purpose isn’t to deceive. It’s to entertain. There is a difference.

Gayle Martin

Making Promises You Can’t Deliver

© Can Stock Photo / eric1513

Years ago, a fellow writer contacted me about including me in a book she was writing. I’d met her at a few events where I was promoting my Luke and Jenny book series. Her book was about honoring people who helped to preserve the history or promote the culture of the old west. It would feature many prominent Arizonans, as well as a few Hollywood actors.

Needless to say, I felt both honored and excited to be included in this very distinguished group. One member had been the host of a kid’s TV show in Phoenix which ran for over thirty-five years. He may not have been as famous as the Hollywood actors, but I grew up watching him on TV. I was especially excited to be in the same group as him, and I really looked forward to reading her book once it was published.

A few years went by. I checked her website from time to time. There was no new information, but I wasn’t concerned. Writing a book doesn’t happen overnight, so this was not uncommon.

It’s now been more than a decade since she first contacted me, and her website has since been taken down. It wasn’t a good sign, so I wondered if something might have happened to her. A number of people she included in her book have since passed away, including the kid’s TV show host. Then the other day I saw one of her posts on Facebook. It was the first I’d seen or heard of her in years.

I commented on her post and asked how she was doing. I also asked her about her book. Her response was totally unexpected. She had changed her mind and wasn’t going to do her book after all. It was too much work and she just didn’t have the time. Seriously?

We’ve all had ideas for books which we may have started, but, for whatever reason, were unable to finish. The issue is her having contacted and interviewed people before she changed her mind. At the very least, she should have reached out us, along with the families of those who had passed away, to thank us for our time and apologize for not being able to complete the book. It would have also been nice if she had returned whatever materials I may have sent to her. Where I come from this is called common courtesy.

Things happen, but it never ends well when you don’t deliver on the promises you make. I honestly feel like I’ve been duped, and whatever respect I may have had for her evaporated the minute I read her comment. I take my profession seriously. I’ve worked hard to build a good reputation. If something beyond my control comes up and prevents me from keeping a promise, I let the other party know, as soon as I possibly can. Not only is it common courtesy, it’s also good karma.

Gayle Martin

Questions to Ask an Editor

© Can Stock Photo/ novelo

As I’ve mentioned many times on this blog, every author, regardless of experience or genre, needs an editor. There are no exceptions. However, finding the right editor for your book may be daunting. This is especially true if you’re a new author working on your first book.

The best way I know to find an editor is to ask for referrals through writers groups, forums and associations. Then, once you have a few names, the next step is to reach out to them and see if they would be a good fit for you.

Your editor is your writing partner, so chances are you’ll be working closely together. He or she will also be working for you. So, as with any job, you’ll need to conduct a job interview. The following questions are a guide to help you determine if your prospective editor would be the best fit for you.

  • Do you edit books in my genre?
  • Do you charge be the hour, or by the word count?
  • How much will you charge?
  • Do you offer manuscript evaluations?
  • How long is your turnaround time?
  • Would you have any issues if my manuscript should contain graphic violence, sexual content, or harsh language?

I found Cynthia, my current editor, at a writer’s association meeting. We were both surprised to see one another there as both of us were, at the time, also performers in Tombstone, Arizona. Because we already knew one another we knew we would be a great fit as we shared other interests besides writing.  We also have the same twisted sense of humor. Never underestimate the importance of having a good sense of humor. In fact, I learned the hard way to never drink coffee while I’m reviewing her edits. A few years ago there was an unfortunate incident when I was reading one of her snarky comments in the margin while swallowing my coffee. I of course started laughing, and the coffee nearly went out my nose.

I can’t think of a better example of having a good relationship with your editor. The editing process can sometimes be intense, so being able to crack a joke can relieve the tension. Remember, your editor is there to help you. He or she reviews your manuscript with a fresh pair of eyes to catch the mistakes you may have missed, and, when necessary, make revisions or suggest rewrites. Their goal is to create a positive experience for your readers. And the better the reading experience, the more likely your readers will recommend your book to others.

Gayle Martin

 

I Have This Really Great Idea

“I have this really great idea for a book that I think you should write.”
© Can Stock Photo/ racorn

This has to be the most infuriating thing anyone could ever say to an author. While the person saying it may have thought they meant well, they’ve just told you how to do your job. Then there’s the other implication. Somehow you’re not capable of coming up with your own ideas for your books. Good grief! I never thought that I would actually hear this, but sure enough, someone said this to me. It was a real jaw dropping moment.

My response was firm, but polite. I told him I write contemporary romance novels, and that I ONLY write contemporary romance novels. Period. In other words, I set my boundaries before the conversation went any further. Had he said, “Yes, I know. I just wanted to tell you about my crazy ex girlfriend,” I would have listened. When he finished his story, I would have thanked him for his time time. I would have also let him know that I couldn’t guarantee I would ever use his story for a future book.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with people sharing their stories. Other people’s stories can be great inspiration for a novel, and oftentimes they are. However, adding the words, “I really think you should write this,” changes the dynamics of the conversation rather quickly, and not in a good way. I don’t need you to tell me how to do my job. Any decision to use anyone’s story, whether it’s yours or someone else’s, is mine and mine alone, and it’s subject to my own interpretation.

Once I firmly set my boundaries the gentleman didn’t elaborate any further. I had a funny feeling that romance novels weren’t his thing. He never got around to telling me what his great idea was, and I didn’t ask.

Gayle Martin

 

 

 

 

Learn to Set Your Boundaries

© 2021 by Gayle Martin. All Rights Reserved.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a writer working from home, it’s having to set my boundaries.

Working at home is certainly convenient. The commute time is less than a minute. You don’t have to worry about who used the restroom before you. You can work in your sweats, assuming you don’t have a Zoom meeting. If you do, then wear a nice top with your slippers and sweatpants. Going to lunch is easy too. It’s only a short walk to the kitchen.

Convenience, however, has it’s drawbacks. You miss out on watercooler conversations. There’s no coworker saying it’s five o’clock so let’s go grab a beer. It gets lonely at times, and you can easily put in sixty or eighty hours a week. Sometimes it’s necessary. Especially when you have a deadline.  However, if you’re not careful, you could easily burn out. And for creative people, burnout can be a career killer.

If took me a while to figure it out, but I eventually came to realize that I had to set boundaries for myself.

Learn to Set Boundaries

Family time, and time for yourself, is as important as the time you put into your work. Perhaps even more so. Kids grow up fast. You don’t want to miss school plays or soccer games or other family time because you were too busy working. You also need to give your creative mind time to recharge itself.

I set my first boundary when I decided to get my nails done every week. A little pampering does wonders for your self-esteem, and a manicure isn’t that expensive. Now every Wednesday afternoon is my time for me, and in spite of it all, I still get things done.

Another boundary is ending my workday at five o’clock. I define a workday as doing paying gigs and activities related marketing and promoting my creative work. However, writing contemporary romance novels is one of my greatest joys in life. I live for my creative writing time, so I don’t set time limits on that.

Weekends are another boundary. I don’t open my business email account on weekends or holidays. If brick and mortar offices are closed on weekends and holidays, then my home office can be closed on weekends and holidays too.

How and when to set your boundaries is entirely up to you. What’s matters is keeping things in balance, and making the time to do the things you enjoy doing.

Gayle Martin

Are You Ready to be Published?

© Can Stock Photo / alexskopje

There is nothing quite like the thrill of finishing your very first manuscript. If you’re like most new authors, you probably can’t wait to see your book in print. However, there are a number of steps you need to take before you’re ready to publish. The following checklist will help you determine if you are indeed ready.

Is there is a viable market for your book?

The old adage about there being an audience for every book is generally true, but some genres are more popular than others. That said, some niche authors do very well. I know a gay man who writes romance novels for gay readers, and he built a following rather quickly

Have you completed your research and listed all your sources in a bibliography?

This mostly applies to nonfiction works, although I included bibliographies in my Luke and Jenny series of historical novels for young readers. The series was written to teach actual historic events in an interesting and entertaining way, and the books were geared toward educators.

Have you gotten two to four manuscript reviews to use for your back cover blurbs?

It’s an important step which many new authors miss. Having a back cover blurb gives you more credibility. I’ll ask other authors for reviews and let them know there’s some free publicity for them, as their name and book title appears on my cover. Authors associations and online forums are a great way to connect with other authors.

Have you obtained written permission for all the visual references you’re including, such as photographs or charts?

This is a biggie, and never assume it’s public domain because it’s a historic image or it’s royalty free. Copyright laws changed dramatically in the 1970s, and some museums own the rights to images in their collections. Also royalty free doesn’t mean copyright free, so read the terms and conditions carefully when purchasing stock images. When in doubt, ask. Better yet, create it yourself if you can.

Have you used your spellchecker?

Seriously. Even the best of us make silly mistakes, and double checking your spelling will make your editor’s job a little easier.

Have you decided how to publish your book?

Gone are the days when big publishing houses dominated the market. Today’s authors have many options. Please refer to my post,  The Three Options for Book Publishing, for more specific information.

Are you prepared to deal with the possibility of rejection letters or receiving bad reviews?

Not everyone is going to like your book, and those who choose to find an agent or go the traditional publishing route will have to deal with rejection letters. However, you needn’t fear an occasional bad review. It means you are real, because not everyone will like your book.

Are you willing to accept editorial changes?

This is another biggie. Your editor is a fresh pair of eyes who goes over your manuscript to give it the polish it needs to help it become successful. They can and will make changes. Therefore, it’s important that you find someone you feel comfortable working with. Once again, author’s associations and online forums are good places to ask for referrals.

Have you planned a budget to cover expenses such as software, editors, and other out-of-pocket costs?

Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, writing a book is a business venture, and you will have some out-of-pocket expenses. Even traditionally published authors have overhead expenses, such as computers and software. Grants, endowments or crowd funding may be available for those authors in need of financial assistance.

Do you have a plan for marketing and promoting your book?

Marketing the book is the author’s responsibility, even if you are traditionally published. Thankfully, there are many how-to books out there to help you with your marketing plan.

If you answered no any of these questions then you’re not ready to be published. However, this checklist may be a handy guide for doing what you need to be ready.

Remember, book publishing is a team effort. So for best results, you must be willing to work with others and be willing to consider whatever suggestions or advice they may offer you.

Gayle Martin