Tuesday, December 6, 2016

W Is For Work-In-Progress

Jennifer is almost finished…

I’m a few thousand words from writing “The End” on one of my manuscripts. It’s been slow going. I try to write at least 1,000 words a day, so that I have a goal and so that I stay in the habit of writing regularly. I don’t edit as I go, although I do go back after a certain number of pages and re-read and edit at that time. But I write regardless of the quality of words, just to get them on the page.

The problem is life gets in the way. I’ve been trying to de-stress my life and reorganize my priorities. In the long run, it will result in a happier me with more writing time. Currently, it results in more writing time, but also more stress—change is hard, for me as well as for others affected by my actions. So I often get to my writing time still reeling from what’s going on elsewhere.

The outside world certainly doesn’t help. Politics and people’s reactions and the media all infringe on my writing time as well. As does social media. What used to be a nice break has turned into one of stress. I can’t abandon it, as I use it for marketing and networking, but I’m trying to put limits on how and when I involve myself in it.

So the WIP is getting there. Slowly. It will require lots of editing, as my notes I leave myself as I go—fix this, add this, etc.—grow longer. It’s by no means done. But it’s a start. And just by having something complete encourages me to take the next step and improve it.

And now, back to writing!

Monday, December 5, 2016

W is for Writing Scenes

Ana summarized a post by C.S. Lakin. See the entire post at jerryjenkins.com.  Nov 28, 2016

8-Step Process for a Solid Scene Worksheet

#1. Identify the Purpose of the Scene. In one sentence, explain what you intend to accomplish with this scene.

#2. Identify the High Moment. What is the key moment your scene is going to build toward? Describe in one sentence what will happen and why it’s important to your story.

#3.  Describe the inner and outer conflict that will permeate this scene and what this conflict will accomplish.

#4. Describe how your character will change by the end of the scene. Explain how this change helps advance your plot and/or complicates things for your character.

#5. Determine the best character to experience this scene in POV. Be sure that every line in your scene reflects the voice and mind-set of the POV character. Describe each new character through your POV character’s eyes.

#6. Leave Out the Boring Stuff. Distill backstory to a line or two. Take out lines of description of character or setting that reveal nothing that matters.If your scene has dialogue, look for extraneous speech tags you can delete. Ensure your narrative tags are helpful and revealing (instead of phrases like “she sipped her coffee”).

#7. Work on Your Beginning and Ending Hooks. Make the opening of your scene engaging. Start in the middle of something happening and stay in the present action to quickly build to the climax.

End at or right after your high moment with a strong hook that will make your readers dive right into the next scene.

#8. Add in Texture and Sensory Details. Be sure the first paragraphs of your scene establish the setting. Think about weather, time of day, time of year, sights, smells, sounds, the feel of the air or room, lighting. Include details that will help transport your readers into your story.

Choose intriguing settings that will add texture to your scene, where possible.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

V is for Vicariously

Debra loves to step into other people's shoes in books.

One of the best things about books is they can take you to other places. Whether it's a galaxy far, far away, or a southern plantation in the throws of the Civil War, or a city under a near-constant cover of clouds in the Pacific Northwest, or a magical, enchanted castle in England...stories take us there. All without the hassle of passports or ground transportation or air travel. And while we're there, we get to live the lives of the characters who inhabit those places.

Which is why I tend to write small town/country feeling fiction. My bio says that although I live in a suburb of Chicago, I'm a country girl at heart. My stories definitely reflect this. With very few exceptions (three out of fourteen to be exact), my stories all take place in small towns. Where there are cowboys. And dance saloons. And tractors. Or at the very least a cozy Main Street filled with home-town shops.

I don't think I would ever in reality leave my life here, but it is fun to step outside of it and enter another world. Reading other people's stories and 'living' them is fun, but what's really exciting is getting to create my own world that I can play around in and live in my imagination. It gives me goosebumps to think about the endless possibilities.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


V is for Victim

Paula looks at the ‘victims’ in our stories.  

The dictionary definition of victim is “someone or something that has been hurt, damaged, or killed or has suffered, either because of the actions of someone or something else, or because of illness or chance.”

If we were writing crime novels, the ‘victim’ would probably be obvious, but if we look at the wider definition, we can see that characters in romance novels can also be victims.

They can, of course, be victims in an accident of some kind – a car crash, flood, or fire, or they can be victims of some form of physical abuse.

Other times a character can be the victim of anger, jealousy, lies, emotional blackmail, false accusations, or other ‘trouble-making’ by another person – an ex-lover (either the heroine’s or the hero’s), or someone with a grudge, or with their own agenda.

And, of course, characters can be the victims of their own inner issues e.g. self-doubt, misconceptions, false reasoning, lack of trust etc.

The important thing is that the hero/heroine are no longer victims by the end of the story. They have found a way to handle the victimisation and overcome it, or have developed inner strengths to deal with their own inadequacies. In this way, our characters will develop and learn more about themselves and other people.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

V Is For Voice

Jennifer uses Gilmore Girls as an example…

Every writer knows what “voice” is. It’s what makes you as an author distinguishable from every other author. It’s your way of putting words together, how you describe things, your pacing and your POV. Voice identifies YOU.

On Black Friday, or the day after Thanksgiving for those of you not in the U.S., my family and I binge-watched the return of Gilmore Girls. For those of you not familiar with the show, it was on for seven seasons several years ago and is about the relationship between a single mother and her daughter (and lots of other peripheral characters) living in a small town named Stars Hollow.

The show was originally created by Amy Sherman-Palladino and it was known for it’s snappy, fast-paced dialogue, comedy and touching moments. Due to a contract dispute, she left after the sixth season. The rest of the producers tried to keep it going for one last year, but Ms. Sherman-Palladino was disappointed with the way they ended the show. When she was given the opportunity to bring it back for a limited run—a four-episode arc that spanned a year in the life—she took it. She wrote two episodes, her husband wrote the other two.

Watching the show, I could immediately tell the difference between those episodes she wrote and those her husband wrote. The dialogue, while still snappy, wasn’t quite as polished or clever. The pacing was slower in her husband’s episodes. The characters weren’t quite as “on.” Even if I hadn’t seen the writing credits, it was obvious.

In this case, what made the show so enjoyable was Ms. Sherman-Palladino’s voice. Honestly, I didn’t enjoy her husband’s episodes nearly as much as I did hers, although they were still good. They just didn’t sparkle.

Variety in voice is essential. We wouldn’t want all stories to sound the same. Nor would we want someone else trying to imitate a voice. I can’t do Ms. Sherman-Palladino’s voice, no matter how hard I try. And I shouldn’t. I have my own, just as you all have your own. So don’t just write what you know, write how you are best able to do so.

Be you. You’re the only one who can.

Monday, November 28, 2016

V is for Variations on archetypal story themes

Ana muses: 

Christopher Booker, author of The 7 basic plots, distills all of storytelling to 7 basic archetypes that make up all of storytelling throughout history. 

1   Overcoming the Monster
2   Rags to Riches
3   The Quest
4   Voyage and Return
5   Comedy
6   Tragedy
7   Rebirth

Overcoming the Monster 
The hero must destroy the monster to restore balance to the world. In the real world, this story appeals to readers who are overcoming an addiction, fighting off a pervvy boss, debt, beating an illness or anything else that requires something to be defeated for the hero (your customer) to win.
Rags to Riches
A modest and moral but downtrodden character achieves a happy ending when their natural talents are displayed to the world at large. In the real world, this theme appeals to anyone with an undeniably incredible talent who wants to break through and be successful. This could apply to photographers, musicians, artists, and yes even bloggers.

The Quest
The hero, often accompanied by sidekicks, travels in search of a priceless treasure and must defeat evil and overcome powerful odds, and ends when he gets both the treasure and the girl. The Odyssey is a classic example of this kind of story.

Often "Quest" stories make our hero(s) encounter a variety of challenges that are all seemingly unrelated. In the real world, this is very much the story of every beginning entrepreneurial journey.
Voyage and Return
Stories of normal protagonists who are suddenly thrust into strange and alien worlds and must make their way back to normal life once more. Examples of this are Alice in Wonderland, or Cast Away. 

Not in the "Haha" that's funny kind of way, but more in the Shakespeare kind of way. The plot of a comedy involves some kind of confusion that must be resolved before the hero and heroine can be united in love.
As a rule, the consequences of human overreaching and egotism. Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet etc... Stories from this category are usually very self evident. 
This story archetype almost always has a threatening shadow that seems nearly victorious until a sequence of fortuitous (or even miraculous) events lead to redemption and rebirth, and the restoration of a happier world. The best example of this is "A Christmas Carol" where Scrooge much change his ways in order to not be hated and have a much better impact on the world around him. 

Do you agree with this categorization?