Friday, January 3, 2014

Monday, December 2, 2013

Do you have any favorite Christmas stories?

Are there any books that you always read around Christmas time?  Maybe they are traditional stories that you read to your children, such as T'was the Night Before Christmas, or maybe they are just some of your favorites that remind you of the season.  Maybe you prefer a Christian novel, something that reflects on the life of Jesus.  A friend of mine always reads A Prayer for Owen Meany by Irving.  If I were to pick a story, I'd have to go with Gone With the Wind.  I know it's slightly cliche for your favorite book to be such a classic, but until a book can hold up to the amazing masterpiece that is Gone With the Wind, this book remains #1.  It's certainly not a Christmas story, but the journey the reader experiences certainly touches on many human emotions that connect with the spirit of the holiday.

What about you?  If you were going to start this tradition, what book would you pick?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

NaNo WriMo back on!

I'm happy to report that I'm 27,000 words into a new NaNoWriMo.  I feel much better about this story!  It's a romance, of course :) , but it's not your typical man-meets-woman experience.  I'm looking forward to finishing it up and submitting it to contests in the spring!

Speaking of contests, I'm very excited to announce that I've become a finalist for the Splickety Love Contest!  The judge is......Susan May Warren and the folks over at MBT!!  How amazingly awesome is that!!!??!!  When I found out the news, I actually got teary eyed.  I still can't believe that for one tiny second in the universe, my world and that of Warren's is going to actually intersect!  Thank you God!

So that's the latest news from my writing desk!  Speaking of which, where do you do most of your writing?  I do have a designated "desk", it's actually a fold out table, but I never use it.  Instead, I've taken over the kitchen table for the past two years :)  It's easier because while I right, my son is playing in eye sight in the living room.  But I also have found Starbucks to be one of my favorite spots.  Is that cliche?  I don't care, it totally works for me :) 

What about you?  Where do you write your best work?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

And just like that, my NaNoWriMo failed.

One second, I was typing away and the next it was over.  I knew it instantly.  My plot, the characters, they weren't going to work.  Everything I'd worked for since November 1st, completely useless.  I stopped and closed my laptop.  I thumbed through my journal that contains all my notes, story mapping, character developed...nothing.  I sat down with my husband and ran over every possible scenario for these characters, all the ways the story could end and the steps that needed to occur to make these endings reality.  Impossible. 

So just like that, my story was unable to end. 

Even as I type, I'm going through the plot one more time, asking "Well, maybe if I change.....Nope, that won't work.  What  Not that either."

Darn.  Ok, a different less appropriate word came to mind.

It's not like this  has never happened to me before.  I've started and abandoned plenty of projects, knowing in my gut that they simply aren't the "right" story for me to tell.  But I've never gotten so far (almost 25,000 words) into a story nor have I ever set a deadline (end of November) that I really wanted to accomplish.

A part of me is still clinging to hope that I can salvage something.  I tell myself that I'll just put it aside for a while, marinate on it, then when I have more time I can recreate some of the characters and try again.  Maybe it will happen.  Probably not.

I started a new NaNoWriMo, mapped out the entire 16 chapters with each chapter having 2 scenes.  I know exactly what I want to write about in each 1500 chunk.  A step in the right direction but the hit of my failure is weighing on my mind.  Almost 25,000 words, completely unusable. 

And November is ticking away.  I'll have to work twice as hard to hit the 50,000 word mark.  Can I even do it with the time left?

Here's how it's going to work for me.  I don't like to fail, never have, but I've done it enough times to know how to pick myself up, tell my self-doubt to "suck it" and keep moving forward.  So that's what I'm going to do.  Yeah, it's a bummer I put so much time into something that didn't work out, but I learned a lot about drafting scenes, and even though the entire story won't come together, I re-read chapters and individually, it's some of my better writing.  And whenever you write, you practice.  I got practice address the 5 "w's", adding detail, working with believable dialog, and writing historical fiction.  On a side note, I know way more about the roaring 20s and the Polish-Soviet war than I ever imagined I would.  So all isn't wasted.

I'm going to pick up the pace, write fast, work hard and at the end of November, I'll have my NaNoWriMo. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

NaNa WriMo : Conflict

Today, I read through my entire NaNoWriMo.   I’d gotten some really good writing sessions in but I had no idea that I was about halfway through my 50,000 word goal.  Yay!  But then I read through it.  Boo!  I made the classic new writer mistake – one that I pretty much always do at this point – which is not including enough detail.  I’m not really beating myself up too much because it’s NaNoWriMo and the name of the game is 50,000 words.  I can always go back and add detail later. 

I did, however, notice that my storyline is almost over.  So let’s recap. I’m about 25,000 words into my story and I could pretty much wrap it up in another 10,000.  No wonder my first book, A Light in the Darkness was only about 30,000 words.  It’s my lack of detail!  But it’s also a bit more than just that.  It's my conflict.  I need more conflict.
Let me give you a basic idea of how a typical plot works and how we get to our ultimate conflict moment.  You start with a big bang (inciting incident) then back off, then you gradually crescendo until you reach the climax, then you take it another step further, to the black moment, then you finish up with, perhaps, a happy ending.

I’m at the point where things are starting to get really tense.  The black moment is around the corner.  I can feel it coming…but wait!  I forgot one important thing.

Knock the hero down, then kick him in the ribs.

My hero is about to be kicked, without the initial knock down.  This simply won’t do.  It doesn’t create the element of surprise nor does it lead to the level of suspense I’m looking to achieve.  Sure, I could have one turn, one surprise, one big kick to the ribs, but why have one when you could do two?  It makes the book much more exciting.  Plus it creates an emotional roller coaster for your reader that hopefully will make them fall even more in love with your character.

Remember, readers want to connect to the hero/heroine.  They want to feel their pain, laugh at their silly antics, cry along with their distress.  I recently read Sons of Thunder by Susan May Warren, and at one point, I said outloud, “Oh Markos (the main character)" with genuine sympathy as if Markos was standing in front of me, then got teary eyed at the event taking place (hey, it was a good story, and I’m not embarrassed to admit that it brought tears).  I was right there with him, getting knocked down, getting kicked in the ribs.  Sure, she could have only picked one incident, but man-oh-man, the two together blew me away.

Think of some of your favorite stories.  I bet you can point out the ups and downs, the climax, the black moment.  Now look at your story.  What are you missing?  Now roll up your sleeves and get back to work!

Monday, November 4, 2013

NaNo WriMo : Premise

Congrats for making through the first week of NaNoWriMo!  By now, you're hopefully settling into a routine and working out your hero/heroine. 

So let's talk premise.

As defined in From the Inside Out: Discover, Create and Publish the Novel for You! by Susan May Warrenn and Rachel Hauck, a premise is a 2-5 sentence "blurb" that really zeros in on the stakes, fears, dreams, theme and plot of your story.  Once crafted, you can continue to refer back to your premise to help keep yourself on track.

Your premise is a paragraph with the most important aspects of your story.  Even if you don't know everything that's going to happen, it's a good idea to write your premise BEFORE you get too far in your story.  Like I said, it will serve as your compass while you navigate through the many layers of your novel.

So how do you do it?

Your premise needs to have your main character easily identified as well as the character's goal for the story.  Basically, you have to tell the reader what your story is about.  Again, you may not have all the details, but you can still write this with general ideas.  You'll need to throw in the conflict and the stakes.  Then, you need to include the story question.

What's a story question?

It's different than a theme.  A theme is the overall idea of the story.  A story question asks "what if" on a universal level.  It address a "what if" that many people are asking themselves.  It is a question that connects you to the reader and makes the reader want to keep reading.  Think about what your book is about and what you're saying about that subject.

For example, your story may be about overcoming social norms.  The story question could be something along the lines of "What if a group of teenagers where able to see past their social labels?"  You can rephrase, "Can a group of socially mismatched teenagers break through their stereotypes and develop meaningful relationships with each other?"  That would be the story question for the movie The Breakfast Club.  Starting to get the idea?

Take time and really go through this.  A good story question will captivate the audience.  Once you get it, write it down and keep it somewhere you can see it while you work.  Everything in your story will revolve around it.

So now you need to piece it together.  Put all the elements into a paragraph.  Use colorful language and have fun with it!  Like I said, getting the premise down will keep you on track and help when the writer's block sets in later on.  Good luck!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

NaNoWriMo...Start your engines!

It's here!  Write a story in a month is finally here! 

Who else is super pumped?

Ok, I'm going to be helping you out as much as I can.  I'll be writing my own book, something I've been working on for a few months but haven't gotten past the research phase.  Also, I joined a support group through My Book Therapy, which is a great website for budding authors.  They'll be emailing tips and encouragement throughout the month.

So let's get started with some "how to" pointers:

1.  Map out the basics.  I've written tons of stories, short stories, scribbles and nonsense but I always start with a basic idea of where I'm going.  I don't always know the details but I have a general idea of where my characters are heading.  That sink or swim moment is called the "black moment", it's when their darkest fears are becoming reality and it's good to have a general idea of what this moment will look like.  All scenes lead to this.

2.  Time Management.  Ok, if you're really organized, map out how many words you're aiming for, figure out how long it takes to write 1500 or 3000 words (average length for a short or longer chapter) then you can tell how many hours it will take for you finish the book.  Set aside the hours and get writing.  If you aren't organized, make sure you write everyday, or at least every week day.  Keep an eye on the calendar and aim for 25,000 by mid month, just to stay on track.

3.  No editing.  No going back.  That's right, shut off your internal editor, shut off your self doubt and just write.  Don't worry about grammar, passive voice, verb choice, just write.  Also, if you come up with a new idea mid-story, go with it.  Don't go back and edit the past to fit that story line.  You may end up coming up with a different story thread later and then you'd end up editing twice.  If you're mid-story and you discover a turn in plot, just make a note and start writing the new plot idea.  You'll edit everything later.

Ok, these are three tips to get you started.  Don't forget to have fun!