Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Give Peace a Chance

By now everyone has probably heard of the author who didn't like the review given her book at BigAl's Books and Pals.  If not go over and check it out. It's a classic example of how not to react.  The author blames the reviewer, demands the review be taken down, and eventually resorts to name calling and swearing.

I've never had a piece published outside of my high school literary magazine, (Hey I had to start somewhere, and it was nationally recognized) but I can imagine the heartbreak at seeing something you love and have slaved over belittled.  Though I'm more of the hide in my closet and cry person than the lash out at everyone person.

A few weeks ago an another blog I saw a commenter ream the blogger, calling her naive and condescending, her post misinformed and elitist and telling her she had no business writing.  Now I don't know what the blogger did in private, cry, yell, rant, we didn't see it.  The blogger's response was along the lines of: thanks for reminding me things don't always come across as I mean them too.  I'll try to be more precise next time and remember not everyone sees things the way I do.  What easily could have denigrated into name calling and crudity was diffused by the blogger's professionalism.

Most of the time writing is a solitary pursuit.  We interact with other writers on twitter, blogs, websites and crit groups but much of that is on the computer.  It's easy to forget there is another person on the other end of the connection.  That person deserves respect and politeness.  Not just because we're professionals and this is our job, though that is true, but because we're all human and it's the right thing to do. 

What do you think about bad reviews, professionalism, and author/reviewer relationships?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Soap Bubble Sanity

I’m going slowly insane.  Which I have decided is much less fun than getting there quickly.  Crazy people never know they’re crazy right?  If I had already completed the transformation I would be in my own little happy place.  Instead I’m watching my sanity slowly melt away like soap bubbles.  The harder I try to hold onto it the quicker it slides through my fingers.  

The non-writing part of my life has stepped up in a big way.  Ha! It stepped up, punched me in the nose, knocked me down and tied me up with duct-tape.  Now it’s holding me hostage.  I think it wants chocolate doughnuts.  Or possibly royal blue costume satin. (Don’t ask, you really don’t want to know)  Anyway, I’m ashamed to admit how little writing I’m getting done.  Part of the problem is when I do sit down at the computer I’m too drained physically and emotionally to be able to get anything onto paper except  “alds;jkgadlkfd’glj”  as I fall asleep on the keys.  

The cool thing is, when the stars align and I have time and energy I actually get a lot done.  I know my time is short so I focus, not allowing myself to get distracted.  Isn’t it odd?  I have less time so I get more done.  It’s not pressure because I usually choke under pressure.  But when I’m busy I’m more organized and that makes a difference.  

 Anyone have systems or tricks that help you write better when the whole world is conspiring against writing time?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Extra, Extra.

I know it's not my usual posting day but I just found some interesting posts on story and manuscript development and thought I'd share them.  Hope you enjoy.

Seventeen questions you should ask your novel,

Does your MS tick these boxes?

Friday, March 25, 2011

I'm Linking...

Like most of you I visit lots of blogs and reader websites.  Whenever I come across some useful info I save it, or a link to it.  I have a folder with documents for writing, rewriting, querying, proposals, etc.  I recently went through the rewriting information, since that's where I am in my journey and thought I would pass some links on. 

This first comment I saved from a discussion on Compuserve Books and Writers Community.  This was written by Beth

Start with the big stuff. Look for ways to tighten up overall story by cutting or combining scenes and cutting or combining characters.  Look closely at subplots. Do they support them main plot or are they independent digressions? Also look for ways to strengthen your main character(s). How badly do they want what they want? How clear are their motives? How far did you go to thwart them? Are the stakes high enough?
Look at the plot itself:  are there reversals and setbacks? Is there a moment when the protag appears to lose everything and/or when the antagonist appears to win? Is there rising tension throughout the story? Look for plot holes, continuity errors, and credibility issues.
(Don Maass's Breakout Novel Workbook would probably be helpful in this process.)
When you've addressed all the major areas, then start working through the story scene  by scene, line by line, increasing tension, eliminating excess, arranging flow, adding (or reducing) underpainting, sharpening the emotional impact.
Last thing, copy edit for word choice, typos, etc.
~Beth 

Here are some links to a few blogs.






Hopefully someone else out there will find these useful.

 I'm sure many of you have your own saved links and if you want to share any great ones on any writing subject in the comments please do.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Let's Talk About Books Baby

I’m curious, when someone asks you what a book is about how do you answer?  Now, I’m not talking about when people ask what your novel is about.  I’m speaking of just the day to day book recommendations and sharing that goes on in a book loving community.   Do you detail the plot?  Talk about character, theme?  Does it vary depending on whether the person you’re talking to is a writer or not? I know I answer differently if I’m talking to a writer.

If I know the person, close friend or family member, I can tailor the answer to their personality.  I have a friend that is a plot reader so I know what she wants to hear about if she asks about a book.  But what about the people you don’t know, the casual bystander that sees you with a book and asks about it?  It’s a vague question, really, and subjective.  If you ask any author they say the query or one sentence pitch is harder than writing the whole book.  Though, I do believe it’s easier to do with someone else’s work than your own.  Often I just resort to the blurb on the jacket until I can tell if the person can intelligently discuss books.

How do you answer that question? 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Journey or Destination?

A long while ago, before I started this blog, I spent a little time wallowing in a mire of self pity.   My first draft was taking forever and my writing didn't seem to be improving.  I compared myself to so many authors and completed manuscripts.  Despairing that I did not have the sensitivity or understanding of so many other writers I asked myself some serious questions.  Do I want to be published?  Absolutely.   Am I good enough to get there?  I don’t know.  I don’t write just to get published.  I have a story, a person, an emotion I want to explore or get to know. That is why I write, but I would like to share the things I've learned by sharing my writing with the world.  

Will I ever be as good as Charlote Bronte, Diana Gabaldon, or any of the other talented published or unpublished writers?  It's not likely, a girl can dream though.  Will I ever be the best I can be?  I don’t know.  And here is the clinker.   If I could see into the future and know I will never be published, know I will never gain the skill level and understanding I want would I keep writing?  Yes.  Absolutley.  I have to.  It is how I think, how I process information and emotions.   

While I want the end destination of publishing I need the journey writing provides.  I would write for me even if no one else ever read my work.   And there was my answer.  It didn’t matter if I was depressed or despaired of ever being able to write like I wanted.  I must write,  I will work to improve, I will learn and grow and strive for publication.  But if I never achieve my goal, the journey will last my whole life long. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Mythbusters

Rachelle Gardner did a three day series on busting (or confirming) myths of the publishing world.  I linked to the third day but you may want to read them all.  There wasn't anything earth-shatteringly new but it was a good read and kept things in perspective.  I especially liked the breakdown of what you get out of a six figure advance.  Did you find anything new?  How about any myths you didn't see discussed?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

You wrote about me?

On Monday Jessica over at BookEnds answered a question about using real people (friends and family) in a novel.  Her response and the general consensus in the comments were Don’t Do It.

Even if people have given their consent to the author they may not like the portrayal of themselves.  Friendships will be lost, lawsuits will happen.  I have heard that no matter where your characters come from someone will think you put them into your book and be offended.  Why invite the trouble?

I once wrote a novel I based on a thought by Pirandello.  I made up the characters and the family based on the thoughts and feelings prompted by that quote.  I told The Engineer about the plot and he said if I was going to write about my family I shouldn’t be so obvious about it.  What?  I didn’t think it had any connection to my family.  The sad thing was I had already let my mom read an early draft.  I don’t know if she saw the same thing The Engineer did (if so sorry mom), I’ve always been too scared to ask.  Needless to say I never finished the novel. 

A novel is part writer’s thoughts and part reader’s perception.  In what quantities I’m not entirely sure.  (If we knew do you think we could write the perfect novel?)   You can never know if what you put down about someone even thinking it a compliment will be taken the same way.  So be safe.  I think it was Voltaire that said something like (I know this isn’t accurate but I can’t look it up as there’s a baby asleep in that room.  If anyone wants I’ll look it up later) he took a bit of what he saw in others, some of himself and mixed it up like a stew with a healthy dose of imagination.   

Where do your characters come from?  Or do they come to you fully formed?

Monday, March 14, 2011

You're the weakest link...goodbye

I don’t know if I stopped writing because my arthritis was acting up or my arthritis is acting up because I stopped exercising.  Either way it’s a vicious cycle.  Once again as I find it hard to write due to being physically uncomfortable I am reminded of the connection between physical and mental, and emotional and spiritual for that matter.  We are only as strong as our weakest link.  So is my story. 

I may have a new fresh plot but it it’s overwritten and filled with boring clich├ęs it doesn’t matter. Some chapters may be beautiful and moving, but if others are so dull readers would rather pluck out their eyes than finish we have a problem.   

I recently read a book which confused me.  The beginning was telling, and back story.   There were a lot of lists and it felt as if the author was glossing over things in order to get to the juicy part.  I almost quit reading but continued because I wanted to know why it had been published.  The story and writing did improve in the second half though I still felt like the story didn’t go as deep as it could have.  If it had all been written like the last half it would have been a good book.  As it is the best I can say is “Meh” and I have to think of how close I came to not finishing it.

We need to keep our book healthy as a whole.  If parts of it are great you may be all right, you may even be published, but if the best a person can say is “meh”  there won’t be any word of mouth raving which is what every author wants for his book. 

Look at your book, do you have scenes you feel contain necessary info but you gloss over them when editing because it’s not a critical part or because it’s good enough?  If so you need to rewrite it.  Include the information in a way that propels the story forward and leaves the reader needing more.  Spend as much time editing and perfecting the information scenes as you do the action, beginning and end.  Find your weakest links and fix them, whether it’s a scene, dialogue, action, or emotion.  

What are some weak links you've seen in literature?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Dear Novel

Beautiful Novel what’s wrong with us?  Our relationship used to be so good.  Remember the days when I would ignore everything and everyone just to be with you.  Every spare five minutes were dedicated to you.  We got along so well.  Now more often than not you stand with your back to me, arms crossed, and I have to plead and work my way into your graces.  Sometimes you shut me out completely.   

You used to fling open the door and pull me inside, opening yourself up to me, showing me the wonder of your stories.  Remember?  Now you allow me glimpses.  Then, just as I start to think we understand one another, capricious, you slam the door in my face refusing me entrance to your soul.  I sweat and ache trying to write what I saw, desperately wanting it to be good enough for you to open the door again.

Should we get help?  I know some crit groups….

Those other bright shinny ideas meant nothing to me.  I didn’t ask them to come, they just showed up.  I don’t respond to the other characters that talk in my head.  Most of the time.  And that time you found me with a different notebook I only jotted down a few ideas, mere sentences.  I’ll always be yours Novel.  I won’t leave you for a newer idea that doesn’t have our troubled past, tempting though that might be.   

Do you resent my necessary existence in the real world?  I have people who depend on me, but don’t worry, I’m always thinking of you.   So come on, let’s work together.  The kids are napping, all my time is yours. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mafia

Having a two year old that often wants to be fed, changed and cuddled means I am usually a little behind on the big wide webiverse, aka the internet.  So I have just recently found out about the brouhaha surrounding the YA mafia.  You heard me.  Ok, there isn't really a YA mafia but if there was I would definitely want to be part of it.  John Scalzi has a great post on the debate.  (warning, there is a wee bit of language if that bothers you)  Hope you enjoy the read.  

If you could run the mafia what would you do?  Who would you exclude or include or would it be you ruling everyone?  

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Magpie

There is a little girl I babysit that I like to call a magpie.  She finds two, three or six toys she likes then carries them around all day.  I have to pry them out of her clenched fists at meals and naps.  I don't know what it is about each object that catches her attention.  The other day it was two Uno cards.  By the time she went home they were so crumpled and sweaty I threw them away.

I just read a book where one of the characters would cross her legs and jiggle her foot every time she was upset or angry.  This wasn't mentioned every page or even every chapter.  I noticed it four times, just enough to get a hint, a suggestion of her personality.  Combined with a few other details we got the impression of a woman who didn't want to sit still, she was always moving, acting. 

Subtle but interesting character habits, like the jiggling of a foot or the collecting of bits and pieces, can help round out a character, though one must be careful not to overdo it.  If the author had mentioned the jiggling foot anymore it would be repetitive and boring.  I would have been angry at the author for not trusting me to understand what they were saying. Pride and Prejudice comes to mind.  Think of the description of Lizzy.  What concrete things are we told about her appearance.  Not much.  Just that she had fine eyes and a couple of references to a graceful figure, but that was all we need.  It was a lot more interesting to think about her fine eyes than for Jane Austen to say something like "She had wide open brown eyes that sparkled when she was happy."  The subtle touch is much more satisfactory. 

What character traits do your characters' have that makes them unique and interesting?  

Monday, March 7, 2011

Research


The Engineer and I have been trying to watch The Half Blood Prince for a month or more.  (What’s that you say?  The first half of Deathly Hallows is out too?  We’re desperately behind on the movie/tv watching thing.) We borrowed it from a friend and it’s been sitting on the desk.  Each time I think about watching it there is something else we immediately have to do.  Meanwhile I’m tempted to give it back to our neighbors unwatched just so they don’t worry about it. (I hate borrowing things for extended periods of time)  The only problem is I know she wants to talk to me about the differences between the movie and the book and I don’t think I could lie that convincingly.

It’s sort of like researching for my book.  Sometimes I’m in the groove and think I’ll get to that later I don’t want to interrupt the flow.  Sometimes I’m having so much fun researching I keep thinking I’ll get to the writing in a minute, then just like Harry Potter I find a month or more has passed and no visible work has been done.  Research (or crafting a new world) takes time and the more you know the better the world will be and the more believable the story.  However, If you don’t put the words down on paper there is no story.

Face it, no one can write only what they know.  Writers have to make stuff up.  Some writers spend as much time crafting or researching their world as they do writing the story.  So, when that bright shinny new idea beckons,  when you’re writing and you pause wondering if a certain scenario is true to life, when you’re revising and that word, phrase or description just doesn’t fit do you open explorer and research it right then?  Or do you put in brackets and come back to it later?