Friday, January 28, 2011

Past the Point of No Return

It is a lovely Friday to behold!

I am still in love with my novel. It feels perfect and wonderful and I have a great feel for the voice of my characters and love the story. Needless to say, I am approaching the middle. Soon I will be posting dark thoughts about burning the book and dancing on it's ashes, but for now, the romance is still young. Ahh young love.

I have been getting migraines recently, which is hindering the writing process. I have really bad TMJ problems as I have previously mentioned and I am working with an oral surgeon to correct the problem. In the meantime...migraines!

Writing is helping me in the sense that it gives me something to focus on other than the feeling that I have mistakenly placed my head in a vice. Sort of like a two for one: I get a novel, and a distraction from my headaches. 

I am really enjoying writing steampunk. It's my first foray into the genre, and I have to tell you: it's a lot of fun. I've also woven some gothic elements into the novel, which seems to fit really naturally with steampunk, given the Neo-Victorian era was the time frame for both. 

I really enjoyed Rachelle Gardner's post today. She talked about coming to the end of herself, and just when she thought she couldn't go on, she found that she had more to give. Writing is like that for me. I start the book, excited about the plot and characters but eventually I loose steam (see what I did there? Huh? Huh? Anyone? *cricket*). 

I worry about the characters, the setting. I think that it's the worst thing I have ever written and no one could ever love it. I should go back to doing...something else (my inner critic has a hard time with this insult because I have always wanted to be a writer. I have my day job to support my writing. So there's really not a profession for me to go back to. But that doesn't stop her from insulting me!).

But then I reach down deep into myself and realize that there's more to give. I am invested more than ever in this story being told. I find the strength to continue on. This strength helps me through the revision process, it helps me through the critiquing process, and it's going to help me through the query process.

Oh yeah, the Rejectionist has this post today with a funny cat video. I have watched it a bajillion times already. I keep rooting for that cat...

So, have you ever reached a point where you thought you couldn't go on...and then discovered in fact you can?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Heart is an Awesome Power

My intention for my writing is HEART.

I received an email from Holly Lisle about a contest she's holding

It's about motivation. You post a comment in her weblog what one word you would want on an intention coin, and she will randomly select winners.

An intention coin (for those of you too lazy/enthralled with my writing to click on the link)  is a hand stamped metal coin you can keep in your wallet, in your writing journal, or elsewhere to remind yourself of your goal(s).

I love this idea. I love the idea of picking one powerful word to sum up my intention toward my writing. Some people use these coins to help them lose weight, or stay punctual, or whatever goal they have that seems impossible, but for me, the intention is for my writing.

And my intention is different than what you might initially think. 

Sure, I would love to land a wonderful agent and get a sweet publishing deal, and maybe hit the bestseller's list, and win a Hugo or a Nebula award

But this year I've learned I need to take a step back. None of that matters without the writing. It's all about me, and the words on the page.

I will order myself an intention coin soon, but in the meantime, I think I will just write HEART in bold letters on a piece of paper and stick it in front of my computer screen. 

Heart, to remind myself to write from the heart, the deepest part of myself.

To remind myself it takes a lot of heart to see a book through the entire publication process, but I can succeed. 

To remind myself not to let the myriad of voices drown out the heart of my book.

So, here's the question: What one word would you use to sum up your intentions for this year? Or the rest of your life?

PS:  This post was named after this TV trope.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Birthday Blogfest!

The day has come! Today is the one year anniversary of my blog, and as a celebration we're having a blogfest.

I tried to get my Linky widget onto this page so the rest of the entries would be here, but after looking at it I am afraid I will break the rest of the links. So here is the link to the other bloggers: 

Birthday Blogfest!

Be sure to check out everyone else's entries! I am so excited to see what every one else wrote!

Here is my own entry. It's about twins!

Dear Aurora,

            I am really sorry about what happened at our birthday party. I don’t know how things got so out of hand. Our celebration started out like any other. People congratulated us on finally coming of age, and Uncle Senu made lots of embarrassing jokes. So pretty much a normal family gathering for us.

            I tried to stop Dad from bringing up our matchmaking charts. You know how much it embarrasses me. You shouldn’t feel bad about scoring so low—you can’t help that you were born with red hair any more than I can help being born with black hair. I love how you’re interested in alchemy no matter what the rest of society thinks. I wish I could be that free sometimes. You scoff when I say that, but it’s true. No one expects you to marry a duke or a prince so you get to study and do whatever you want.

            It just really hurts my feelings when you act like I enjoy this attention, because I don’t. Everyone is making all of these wild assumptions about the men who will court me, and I feel like I have to singlehandedly make an amazing match or the family is going to starve to death. Sometimes I lay awake at night and worry about it.

            Even if I do match a good match, so what? It will be based on something I didn’t do—I was born with the gift of beauty. It’s such a shallow trait to be praised for. It really is uncomfortable when the ladies make a big deal about it. I didn’t earn it.

No one tells me what a good exorcist I am, even though I try as hard as I can. You feel bad about being compared to me, but I also feel bad being compared to you. Like the only use I have is to marry for money and bring in a large dowry. You’re free to pursue your dreams, and the man that does court you, will court you because he loves your personality—and looks—as much as I do.

Because we’re twins, we share our destinies. So when Aunt Reneska wants to know why you didn’t score higher on your matchmaking chart, I also feel humiliated. I wish you wouldn’t shut me out, because I do understand what you are going through. I really do.

I wrote you this letter because I wanted to tell you I love you, and I am sorry. It will get better, I swear. We’ll figure out some way to solve our courting problems. In the meantime, we can go back to playing pranks on Thasana. You’re always up for that.

All my best, always,


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Singel Serving Cookie

After complaining to my friend Lena that I wanted a cookie, she valiantly Googled until she found this wonderful recipe: Chocolate Chip Cookie for One! 

Naturally I doubled the recipe, because you can't just eat one. They are cooking as I type this, so I will have to update you on their deliciousness.  

In other news, my blogfest is coming up on Tuesday. If you haven't joined yet, there's still time! We're going to have a party, with lots of cake and balloons, and pin the tail on the donkey, and presents...

Not in real life, but it's going to be like that...on the Internet.

Considering I am still in the book trance, I don't seem to be able to say anything really useful today, so I will redirect your attention to useful links instead:

Drawing the (Plot) Line by Janice Hardy

Plot Outline: a free mini course *this one has me a little biased. I use this course all the time, and when asked to write a testimonial, I did--and Holly actually used it! Scroll down to the bottom of the page...Elizabeth, from Georgia? That's me! Yeah buddy.

Update on cookies: Yummy!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Book Trance

Isn't it strange how the days just merge together? It doesn't help that my day job has me working evenings with strange days off (Wednesday and Sunday). Sometimes it takes a minute for me to remember what day it is. 

I am in a routine of get up, shower and dress, and sit in front of the computer until it's time to go to work. I don't think very hard about the day of the week except to keep track of when I have a day off coming up. 

Keeping track of the days is even harder now that I am in that trance state. If you've been in the middle of a first draft, you know what I am talking about. That feeling of being disconnected with reality. I go through the motions of eating, driving, and working, but it feels like my spirit is somewhere else. Inside my book, thinking and breathing my characters.

It's a good feeling, because for this book in particular the characters were a long time coming. I used to wish I was one of those writers who came up with plots first, and then characters. But with my current work in progress, The Heart's Remains, I came up with the premise first. It's been really different to work backwards, but the good news is I finally feel like I am in the mind set of my characters. I guess that's what I get for thinking writers who come up with the plot first have it "easier". There is no easier, there's just a different approach. 

I am really glad I have the Internet to meet other writers with. Truly. I am a social person, and I don't usually have a hard time interacting with other people. But sometimes, like now, when I experience something outside the normal, like my book trance, I feel alone. My co-workers comment I seem spacier than normal. And how can I explain? I am spacing out because I am picturing my book, my characters? I am thinking about what they eat for dinner, and which side of the bed my main character prefers to sleep on? I actually tried to explain to a coworker once, but got a lot of strange looks after that. So I simply smile now, and say I am daydreaming.

At no other time is the inherent "weirdness", that strangeness that marks me as a writer, more obvious than when I am a book trance. It seems ironic that one of the markers of being a writer should also be one of my favorite aspects of it. I LOVE the feeling of being far away, in book land. But it can be very lonely.

It's actually hard for me to reconnect with the real world sometimes. It takes a certain mental concentration to pay attention to what people are saying that I don't normally have to work for. But when my heart is in the book, it's a struggle to pay attention to people. 

Even if I can connect with people in real life, I still feel like an outsider. They wouldn't understand if I tried to explain to them that I am in the story world right now. Which is why I am glad I have the Internet, and other writers. Maybe you guys don't leave the real world behind exactly in the same manner I do, but you still understand where I am coming from. Or rather, where I am going. Because you've been there before too.

I just wanted to thank all of my followers and people who stop by my blog for making this writer's life a little less solitary. 

Do you ever feel removed from "normal" people? How do you deal with that? Does it bother you?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Or Else What?

No really, or else what?

Writers are often told to "raise the stakes". This little chestnut of advice has been making it's way from writer to writer for years. So much so, the advice sort of falls on deaf ears. "Yeah yeah," You think, "And right afterward I am going to show, not tell."

I think it's because that simply raising the stakes isn't enough. I find myself scratching my head when I am trying to raise the stakes in the book. I already have death, explosions, world ending much worse can things get? Its worse for writer who don't write extremely action packed plots. What would happen is someone told F. Scott Fitzgerald to raise the stakes? The Great Gatsby and the Zombie Apocalypse?

The problem is most writers leave off the "or else XYZ will happen." Sure, the subway station might be in danger of exploding, and people could die, but those are faceless people. They fail to engage our sympathies beyond, "Oh, that would be a tragedy. I wonder what's on TV?"

You have failed to give the protagonist, and your readers, an ultimatum. When you're building the stakes in your book, when you're laying down the gauntlet for your characters to traverse across, you need to show why these events are devastating to that main character. Make it personal. Show why it matters. 

Show us what the main character's life will be like if this terrible event does happen, and why it's worse. This goes for quiet, coming of age stories and well as techno-thrillers. Why does the spelling bee matter so much?

And excellent example of small stakes having a large impact is one of my favorite childhood books, Words By Heart. Lena is an African American girl who can memorize long passages. She enters a Bible quoting contest. Normally, contests like this shouldn't matter. It's just a contest. No one is dying. 
And yet we care, because Lena thinks if she wins the contest, her father will be proud of her. Her classmates will respect her. 

Suddenly, winning a school contest matters. Suddenly we see the stakes are raised. And we care. 

The next time you feel like your plot is dragging, or your main character is just going through the motions, stop and think: what will happen if his goals aren't reached? Why does he care?

How do you like to raise the stakes in your novel?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Public Service Annoucement: Back Up Your Files

If you are one of the lucky ones, you've never lost a large chuck of your work. 

I am not one of the lucky ones. Luckier than some, I suppose. When I was in high school, I wrote a lot of poems and short stories and character sketches. I kept all of these on a floppy disk (which wasn't floppy at this point, because I am not THAT old, but old enough to still know what a floppy disk is).

And one day, the floppy disk was gone. Poof! I have no idea what happened to it, and still don't to this day.

When you realize you've lost a large chuck of your work it feels like someone has sucker punched you in the gut. I am not being literary here, either. It really truly does feel like you've lost your breath. You feel physically ill, like someone has just informed you a beloved relative has died. 

You think I would have learned early on to back up my work. I did, sort of. I saved all of my writing files to my laptop, so when I lost the flash drive containing all of my work, I actually had a back up. Sadly, the backup was like a week old, so I still lost some work. Lucky for me, I wasn't in the middle of writing a book, or I would have been devastated. Or more devastated than already I was.  

Enter this lovely post by Janice Hardy: Protect Your Writing Files.

I was painfully reminded again that my writing, now more prolific than ever, was still in danger. I have an external hard drive. Everything is on my external hard drive. I had considered making copies on flash drives and giving them to friends and family, but then I would run into the same problem: they would be quickly outdated. Lo, come Dropbox. It matches your files up with a copy on the Internet, so you can work from whatever computer and have access to your files.

I am not done playing around with it yet, so I can't give a full report, but I already feel much safer. My writing is now protected. Even if you decide to not use Dropbox (it's free, so it shouldn't be a monetary reason) I would highly advise you to back up your writing somehow.

You don't want to learn the hard way, trust me.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Internal Conflict Part II: A Rock and A Hard Place

Okay, so a little later than I planned, but here is the second part of discussing Internal Conflict!

My attempts at blogging was briefly interrupted by a trip to the oral surgeon yesterday. I have very bad TMJD, and we're trying to figure out a way to fix it. So! After the oral surgeon was done making me open wide, I had a headache the size of Texas. Trust me, you wouldn't have wanted me blogging about internal conflict in that state. 

But I have prevailed, and now we can talk about WHY internal conflict is so important. It's a very short explanation, but vitally important.

It's a little something called empathy. 

The more conflicted your character is, the more they are caught between a rock and a hard place, the more your readers will empathize with them.

Every single book that has ever made me weep with joy and sorrow had an internally conflicted character. Movies work the same way. Think about your favorite movies, movies that moved you to emotion by their own merit and not because of nostalgia or you were already predisposed to like them (book adaptations and comic book movies being an example of a book you are already predisposed to have an opinion about).

There's nothing more excruciating than watching a character struggle between two equally difficult decisions. Your reader will HAVE to find out what happens, and think about how they have had to make similar decisions in their own life.

This works even for anti-heroes. Think about Fight Club, or the TV show House. Neither main character is a "nice" person, but we can still relate. We can empathize, if not condone, how they feel. Partially because of the character's driving internal conflicts.

Another excellent point about internal conflict is that it's a great way to build character. How your character responds to internal conflict says a lot about him. Some people are considered "impulsive". They jump into decisions without a lot of forethought. It could be because this character doesn't want to deal with the agony of decision, so they just make one based on impulse.

Other people are considered "procrastinators". The weight of decision bears heavily upon them. They think and plan and try their best to see the future, so they know which is the correct decision to make. They put off making a decision at all simply because they are afraid of choosing wrong. 

When the decision at hand is what to have for breakfast, it's not a big deal. When it's who to save: your lover or child, suddenly people sit up. It creates instant empathy because every single human being has had to make a difficult choice in their lives. 

Let's go back to my throw away example. You set up your plot believably so that the main character has to choose between their husband/wife or their child. Maybe it's life or death. Maybe they have been through a divorce, and now they must split their time between their child and their new love. Readers will hang on the edge of their seat to figure out how the character balances themselves between these two equally important people.

The choice can be more subtle too. It can be the character's morals vs. their honor.  Their loyalty to their family vs. the loyalty to their lover. Their love for chocolate vs. their recent diabetes diagnosis. 

Give the character a seemingly impossible choice (No more chocolate ever????) and the readers will hang with your main character, waiting to see what they finally decide. 

This internal conflict doesn't have to take over your plot, but it makes your plot richer if it's directly tied into the main events, so the external pressures also increases the internal pressures the character faces. 

In short, creating internal conflict for your character will make your readers empathize with them, and this my friends, is the Holy Grail of writing.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Internal Conflict: The Horns of a Dilemma

I have been thinking about my main character. A lot. While I am doing the dishes and cooking dinner. Plotting how to utterly destroy her life. You know, the usual. 

An element of writing that is well covered is the character's growth arc. Most writers know that it's a good idea to have your character grow from the beginning to end of the book. Readers like that sort of thing. It provides a really cathartic experience to read about character growth, and that's generally considered to be a good thing.

An aspect that is important for this vital character growth, and doesn't always come up, is internal conflict. Internal conflict can turn an averagely interesting story into something you absolutely cannot put down.

Let's say Angela is your main character. You know that she's going to move from insecure to self confident by the end of the book. I actually write that under the character's name in my notes (Angela: Insecure---> Self Confident. Brad: arrogant ---> humbled). You can too. It's fun, and also a really great quick reference tool any time you're feeling bogged down in the story itself.

So now, depending on your writing process, you either plan or start writing. But whichever you do, I would advise you to take one more step. It's a little something I like to call Torture the Character. *mwhahahaha*

Only the best for my characters!

The Joys of Torturing Characters 101: Internal Conflict

Step One: Go to Youtube and play Lux Aertna. Also known as the song from Requiem for a Dream. It will get you in the mood to really make your character miserable. Just listen to the song and think about how horrified/miserable/conflicted you can make your character, and how awesome that would be.

Step Two: Decide on the different type of Internal Conflict you wish to inflict upon your character

You have given your character a goal. Something the character wants badly. Maybe you're writing Young Adult and Angela is the kid that gets picked on all the time, and falls in love with the captain of the football team, Brad. Angela's goal is to get Brad to take her to prom. You have your quick reference character arc for Angela and Brad.

If you want to take your story from good to great, you need to go one step further. You need to give Angela a reason to be conflicted. Not just the external problems she faces with trying to make herself attractive to a jock and the life lessons she learns along the way, but something else that tears at her. 

Ideally, internal conflict works the best if it comes naturally from the character. Not only are there external obstacles to Angela's goals, but internal (hence the "internal" part of internal conflict) obstacles as well.

There are a few ways to come up with internal conflict for your characters. In interest of giving you the best tools to torture your characters with, I will list them out for you. 

Tool 1: The Rack, aka Give your main character an equally compelling reason to NOT want to achieve her goal

This works the best when the goal is something that the character chose for themselves. Like going to a prom, or writing a book, or something like that. Less so than if the goal is forced upon the character, like "This bus will explode if it slows down below fifty miles an hour". It's because it's obvious why the character doesn't want to explode, so there's not a lot of tension beyond that. You could pull it off, but it's a little harder. And depending on your plot, might seem forced (as with the example, it would be hard to believe that the character would want the bus to explode).

This also works better for your story if this reason isn't based on a complication from her trying to achieve her goal. For example, since that probably sounds like gibberish:

Angela decided that she wanted to get Brad to take her to the prom. This is her story goal. There are complications, like her insecurity and her perception that she isn't pretty enough (and please, for the love of all that is good in the world, if you do write an ugly duckling plot, don't make the nerdy girl just take off her glasses and POOF! She's pretty after all!).

If your only source of internal conflict is from giving her crippling insecurities, or a traumatic event in the past that would cause her to think she's not good enough, this works only until she overcomes her confidence issues. So when you resolve her main conflict, you also resolve her internal conflict as well. 

I am not saying to ignore such conflicts. I am simply suggesting you categorize those conflicts as complications to the main plot, and not part of your internal conflict. 

An example of a reason why she wouldn't want Brad to take her to prom could be Angela's best friend has been in love with Brad her entire life, and wants Brad to take her to the prom as well. Both girls can't take Brad to the prom (they could if he was a playa though! But this is YA, so let's keep it clean). Making something rare or mutually exclusive is a fun way to create some conflict. 

Now, Angela worries about her friendship with Mary Sue (get it? Mary Sue? Anyone? *cricket*), and this makes her feel even more insecure about how she looks, because Mary Sue is way prettier than Angela (or so she thinks). So not only does this create internal conflict for Angela, but it makes her initial problems of self confidence even worse. This is why I suspect there are a lot of love triangles in fiction, because it creates instant internal conflict.

Another example of this type of internal conflict is the character wanting something that is not accepted by their parents or society, like dating the wrong guy or stepping outside of her religious faith or social norms. Angela wants to go the prom, but her parents are utterly opposed to her going, because they think she's just going to get drunk and have sex. 

So now Angela has the main problem of getting Brad to take her to the prom, but she also struggles with whether or not to obey her parents. If she goes, she defies her parents. If she doesn't go, she will feel like she's missing out on her life as a teenager.

Tool 2) The Iron Maiden, aka Mutually Exclusive Goals

We just talked about making things mutually exclusive. If you make something rare or hard to obtain, you instantly create value and conflict for it. Two characters competing for the same job, the same guy or girl, the same piece of toast. 

In all fairness, it was a really good piece of toast.
Whatever it is, if one person gaining it means no one else can, it's mutually exclusive. Bonus points if both people have an equally good reason for wanting that job, guy/girl, or piece of toast.

Tool 3) The Thumbscrews, aka Create a Time Conflict

You can also look at it another way, and make it a mutually exclusive event. Like Angela's prom. She's never going to have another one. Period. Even if she went to someone else's prom, it's not the same. Humans put a lot of value on the "first time" you experience something. Like your wedding, or prom, or having a baby. These first events are given special significance, so it's considered tragic if something happens to ruin them. 

Playing with time gives your story an extra edge. A character has to be at two different, equally important places at the same time. Maybe on the same night as her prom, Angela was also asked to attend another event. This other event can give you a lot of opportunity to show more of Angela's character. If you want her to be religious, then it can be a church fair. If you want to show Angela's family, maybe it's her little brother's soccer tournament.

Whatever this other event is, make sure it's equally important to the character, and that by having one she cannot have the other. She will agonize over which event is more important for her to attend. You could show her trying to attend both, with hilariously disastrous results (Hilarious for you, disastrous for the character). 

Step 3: Cackle manically and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Watch your character squirm. 

You can focus on one of these internal conflicts, or you can sprinkle in different types, depending on how layered you want to make your story. But whatever you decide, recognize internal conflict as the gold mine it is for creating a character that readers will follow to the end of the book, simply because they have to find out what the character decided to do.

I was going to include the benefits of internal conflict and how it impacts your story, but this post is already getting long. So I will talk about the Whys of Internal Conflict tomorrow. Stay tuned!

**By the way, I have another snow day today. Yay for me!

***Reminder! I have a blogfest coming up on the 25th! It would be great to have more people join! Act now while supplies last!

****Welcome new followers! We have a good time here on my blog, and it's great to see some new faces!

What about you? How do you create internal conflict for your characters? Is it something you do consciously or do you just allow it to rise out of the story?

Monday, January 10, 2011


This is right outside my apartment.

It doesn't matter how old you are. The words "snow day" can still bring joy and glee to your heart. Today I have a snow day. It's snowed a whole three inches and as a result, I don't have to go to work. The towns in the area are pretty much shut down.

I know those of you in the colder regions are laughing. When we lived in New York, if the snow fall was less than several feet nothing closed. They got the snow plows out and life carried on.

Here in Georgia, it's another story. We don't get snow very often, so they don't have snow plows and salt. So when the snow falls, or the roads ice, it just stays there until it melts. 

Last night my manager called me and said we were closed in the morning. It was already sleeting/snowing outside. I did a happy dance, and resumed working on my book.  

Which is going well. I decided that constantly stopping to brainstorm for what's going to happen next is putting a cramp my creativity though, and there are some events that I actually need to plan out in order to be able to write the book, so I stopped writing for a few days to plan out said events. I find that as the book progresses I am planning more and more out. 

Cold white stuff on the ground! What is this?
Next time I think I will plan a little more out than I had this time around. It's just too weird for me to go back and forth between planning and writing. Also, some of my ideas require knowing how specific things work, and it's hard to write when you haven't thought that part out yet. 

I guess I am really not a pantser after all. I tried, but as time goes on, I am planning more and more out. I do think it was a success to cut back on the planning, since now I am only planning what I have to know. I think as writers it's good to test your process. Figure out what still working for you and what isn't.

Also, in case you didn't know, the wonderful Sara Megibow is hosting a webinar! She is an agent at the Nelson Literary Agency. Seriously, this agency is on my dream agent list. Agents Kristin and Sara are so sweet, and smart, and really seem to know the industry. I am very excited about Sara's first three pages seminar. It seems like a great way to get feedback on your book.

Speaking of pages, it's back to the work in progress!
How do you figure out parts of your writing process? Trial and error? Habit?

Snow day!


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Nothing to Fear

If you're feeling down in the dumps, like you're never going to write something good again...

If you're afraid that you're never going to get an agent/get published/finish your book/be the laughingstock of EVERYWHERE...

Or if you just need a pick me up, have I got the post for you: Give Me Your Best Fears. I Will PWN Them.

Yes, Natalie Whipple, a wonderful blogger and all around excellent human being, decided to open up her comments section for people to post their worst writing fears. She then goes on to talk people off the ledge, so to speak. What follows is an uplifting, heartwarming post about people confessing their fears and getting some solace. 

And if you think Natalie, agented but unpublished, has nothing to fear or only empty platitudes to offer, you haven't heard her horror story.

You know those stories that make their way around the writing convention. They are often told in the dark, with a flashlight held up to the person's face, "...and they were never published again."

You can read her horror story here, and thank the heavens this isn't you (or pray it won't be). 

So yeah...she knows fear. She knows fear well. But she is PWNing her fear, and you can too. 

Read the post and feel better. And then get back to writing. *takes her own advice*

How do you quell your writing fears? Chocolate? A sledgehammer?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

It Never Fails

It never fails. 

Every time I start working on a book, I get an idea for a shiny new book. Seriously, every time. If I ever need a great idea for a book, all I have to do it start working on a book and throw myself into it. Soon afterward a great idea will follow. I think my muse is contrarary.

Speaking of The Book, it's going slowly. I am adjusting to doing things by the seat of my pants, so this means a lot of stops and starts while I work on motivation and depth, and then write the next scenes. I was floundering for a little while until I found this awesome blog: Plot to Punctuation. Mr. Black's posts are short, sweet, and packed full of great information. I especially enjoyed his posts on Why Stakes Work, Five Steps to Building a Believable Character Arc, and Making Good Choices for Your Characters

He's also a book doctor, if you're looking for someone with experience to evaluate your work before you send it off to agents or publishing houses.

I want to highlight one post in particular: Why Smart Characters Make Dumb Mistakes . This isn't talking about avoiding making stupid decisions for your characters because the plot demands it (that's Making Good Choices for Your Characters). This is talking about HOW to make that happen in a believable context. How cool is that? Sometimes we need our characters to mess up, but it's hard to do that in a realistic fashion after you've spent your time making them appear smart.

In other business, I am hosting a blogfest on January 25th! The topic is a unique birthday. Tessa Conte is also hosting a birthday blogfest, so if you why not check that one out too?

Now it's back to the book. I hope you're all doing well with your New Year's Resolutions.

Monday, January 3, 2011

I Am Hosting a Birthday Blogfest!

This is my twin brother and I on our birthday last year. That strange look on my face? Yeah, he's totally cutting the cake wrong.
Hello everyone!

Today is a great day! It’s my birthday, and in celebration I decided to host a blogfest! What would be more fitting on my birthday, than a birthday blogfest? Nothing, that's what. What's more, the blogfest is happening on the one year anniversary of my blog, January 25th!

So, without further ado, here’s the scoop:

1) Pick a scene, either something you’ve made up for this blogfest or something from a work in progress, showcasing a birthday. It doesn’t have to be your main character’s birthday, just a birthday in general.

Also, make something about this birthday is unusual. It could be that you’re showcasing the birthday customs of a fantasy culture, or a birthday during the zombie apocalypse, or even something relatively mundane, like the bakery messed up and made the frosting for your geriatric uncle's cake Pepto-Bismal pink. You could also write a memoir piece about the really crazy birthday traditions in your family. If it’s weird, or unique, or different, we want to hear about it. 

2) Sign up using Mr. Linky at the bottom of the page either before or on the date of the blogfest (January 25th) so everyone can read your wonderful entry.

3) Tell your followers that you're doing a blogfest! Generate some excitement for your writing! Link back to me so they join in the fun too!

4) Post your entry on the day of the blogfest, January 25th. Read the other entries, and let's have a party! *throws confetti*

Special thanks go to Andrew Rosenberg and his wonderful post, How to Host a Writer's Blogfest for making sure I didn't mess this blogfest-hosting thing up. He's got a great blog, so you should check him out.

Also, please forgive the "In "other" words" statement on Mr. Linky. It's not his fault he's labeled wrong. Apparently I don't know how to operate simple instructions, and I can't seem to make it say "Birthday Blogfest".

I present to you...Mr. Linky! Huzzah!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Year In Review

Happy New Year!

I know today is the first day of 2011, and most people review their year yesterday, or the day before...but that's just silly! How can you review a year that hasn't past yet?

Now that the year has truly past, here is a brief look at all the things I accomplished this year:

Personal Life

*Started a New Job
*Married my husband
*Moved into a new apartment

Writing Life

*Took Holly Lisle's online class for writers. How to Think Sideways and How to Revise Your Novel. These classes are absolutely amazing. It's like having a pro writer for a mentor. 

*Took a three day writing seminar from Aaron Allston and Michael Stackpole. It was absolutely spectacular. The classes were short, yet packed with information. They talked about a lot of issues like Plot Analysis and Writing a Series that doesn't get a whole lot of coverage. Michael Stackpole has a newsletter full of goodies, and he's bundled them, along with some How-to writing books that I bought, and I still refer to frequently. 

*Read NUMEROUS books on writing. I have lost count, honestly. 

*Took Kristin Nelson's webninar about writing query letters. It was soooooooo informative and awesome. She is one of my favorite agents, and it was great to hear from the agent's mouth about some of the pitfalls of fantasy and science fiction queries.

(**A short aside: Many would-be and even published authors debate the merits and flaws of reading books about the craft of writing. Some writers argue it takes away precious time when you could be writing or reading fiction, which is also essential to a writer. Obviously I think there is some merit to reading books about writing, since I own so many, and have taken classes. 

While every writing style is different, I like to be ahead of the curve. I like to learn what I can from the people who have "been there, done that" and make my own mistakes. It's partially in this spirit that I blog, actually. Hopefully someone can learn from the processes and mistakes I am making. There's no short cut to good writing, but I honestly feel like these books have helped me. The caveat is that not all How To writing books are created equal, and you should do lots of research as to the content of the book and the author.)

*Read tons of fiction books. Also lost count. Some highlights were Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series (Soulless, Changeless, Blameless, Heartless) and Jim Butcher's latest addition to the Dresden Files.

*Started a blog! And meet all kinds of wonderful people like Joseph Selby and Charity Bradford and Mia Hayson and more people too numerous to count! I would like to mention Lena Hoppe here, even though I met her a few years ago during NaNo. Just because she's been an awesome part of my writing life, and this is starting to sound like an acceptance speech. Acceptance for what????

*Revised a book and decided with much debate to trunk it. It was a hard decision, but ultimately, in order to bring it up to standards I would have had to rewrite the entire thing. I might do that in the future, but I needed some space. The other issue I have with it is the book is really like two small books fused together. And the love interest is from one book, and the main character from the other, so I am having a hard time imagining how I would rewrite it into one coherent book and keep the love interest there.
 Also, with my current WIP I took the subplot, and made it the primary plot so I worry there might be too much conceptual overlap.

*Started three books. The third one is being writing right now (no, not literally). The other two...well, they had issues.

Whew! That was a busy year!

I don't know about anyone else, but I am pumped for this coming year. Last year was great, and I can't wait to see how the next one turns out. I also have some exciting things (secret things!) planned for the blog, and I can't wait to get the ball rolling. Until then, I hope everyone has a great New Year!