Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Writing Prompts and New Release

I'm getting really excited for my friend Angela Scott. Her first book is going to be released sometime in March. What makes this so exciting, not just that she is one of my favorite people, but her book started out as a writing exercise--a double dog dare.

We've been writing buddies for a while and used to meet regularly to talk about writing and whatever else--mostly writing. We thought we'd change things up and challenged each other to write out of our comfort zone. Elisa, our nonfiction and YA writing buddy, was challenged to write romance. Me, the suspense/women's fiction girl, landed sci-fi/fantasy. And, just because we love to torture Angela, we dared her to write a zombie western.

The jokes on us, I suppose, because she is in love with her zombies. She even has a another zombie YA book brewing after the two in her Zombie West Series.

I know there are a lot of writing exercises out there to wrangle your creative juices. What are some of yours? 

If you have a minute check out the link to my first photo challenge using a photo from my friend's Flickr account as a writing prompt.

Finding Inspiration: My First Writing Challenge 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

I Was Tagged!

I got tagged by Christine Taylor. It didn't hurt, no worries. But I'm supposed to answer questions about myself. Normally, when I get these award/game thingies I turn into a big smart ass and post things about myself that is all made up and from the fictional characters we love, (Stylin' and Profilin' and  Look Shiny! Secrets revealed )but just to play nice here are my answers.

1.    What do you eat when you write? What don’t I eat—ever? I’m game for anything.
2.    What do you do when you experience despair and crippling doubt? Wow, if I didn’t feel despair before, I do now. Am I supposed to be crippled with doubt? That doesn’t sound good. I am my worst critic. I will always think my stuff stinks, but that doesn’t stop me from clicking and clacking away at the keyboard.
3.    How did you find your first critique partner, or what are you looking for in a future CP? Back when I was a closeted writer, another friend of mine mentioned she was writing a novel, soon we exchanged our crap and found other writers from there. We didn’t match well for writing. I am far too honest and she is far too nice, so it didn’t work out, more so for her. I can be brutal, but it's all because of love and passion. I'm the most brutal on the people I care about. Kinda like spinach in the teeth--gotta tell 'em something nasty is in their choppers, right? As far as what I look for in a CP:  I think it is important to be honest and brutal, but fair. I expect my feelings to be hurt and I expect to get better; it's the circle of life without the Hyena that has a Whoopi voice.
4.    What is your biggest distraction when you write? My kids, husband, cats, squirrels, rainbows, sunshine. You name it. I am easily distracted and . . . I forgot what we were talking about.
5.    What character in your writing are you most proud of development wise? Why? I like a piece of each of them, I’m not sure if I like one more than the other because I sort of move on to the new characters I’m working on. I love the father of my second novel, because I had a crappy one and good dads are hard to come by. Atticus Finch syndrome or something. 
6.    What is the worst thing you’ve ever written? Ugh! My first novel was crap, embarrassing crap, but I reworked it and have had some great praise, a couple contest wins, but I still see such huge flaws.
7.    Do you talk to yourself, get up, act things out, or make faces when you’re writing? I read my stuff aloud to make sure it flows. My husband makes fun of me all the time because he thinks I’m talking to myself.
8.    Where do you go for inspiration? Other books, movies, a long shower, a drive in the country, my car at lunchtime. Anywhere where I have a moment to just be and let the voices tell me what’s up.
9.    What is the hardest part about writing for you? Writing is a huge sacrifice to family. We are so consumed by it that’s all we want to do. I say, we, because I’ve seen it over and over. It is really hard to balance life and writing. My kids miss out of me because, rather than living in the real world, all I want to do is play in imaginary ones.
10.  If I were a world famous author what advice would I give new writers? Hmmm. . . Don’t ever let anyone tell you how you should write, what I mean is yes, there are rules, but getting wrapped up in them takes away from the creative unique way you tell a story. If you want an adverb, write it. Don’t be afraid to break the rules, but in order to write well you need to know the rules just so you can break them. (That makes sense in my head)
11.  Have you ever had ketchup chips? Nope, but I like the dill pickle kind.

So, I’m supposed to tag people now. If that doesn’t involve running, then maybe I’ll participate. Unless you’d like to make my life a lot easier and pick one question on here and answer it in my comment box. Help a girl out. Oh, and can you hand me the remote, while you're up.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Little Study In Movement Thanks To "Lars and The Real Girl"

I don’t have much to blog about, but I just had to share a clip from a movie I’m crazy about. I love Ryan Gosling, first of all, but the story is one of the more endearing ones I’ve seen in a while.

When I find a movie I like, I usually try to watch it again when it is fresh on my brain. Instead of watching for the story, I watch the characters and their reactions to what’s happening around them. Movement and description can be difficult to effectively pull off for a writer, especially with so many characters furrowing their brows or nodding and the endless chuckling...fuhgetaboutit. Movement is where we truly see who a character is without being told through blatant narration.

Ryan Gosling did an amazing job in this flick. The blinking eyes, the smell of his baby blanket he keeps around his neck like a scarf, the reactions of supporting players to him. 

Good stuff. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Likable VS Fallible Characters

Nobody’s perfect
We all make mistakes
Live and learn
                        To err is human to forgive is divine

One of the most important things a writer can do is create believable characters. Even if writing a zombies vs. robots book, we have to relate to the characters.

 There are so many characters in literature who are noble and good. We want to be a better person after reading their stories. I think those are great, however we are not a perfect race. We are not always noble or good. We think and do things we genuinely know we aren’t supposed to, but we do it without really knowing why.

 I like to pride myself on being a giving person. Someone who is considerate of others feelings, however there have been so many occasions when words fly out of my mouth unintended—at least partially unintended. It takes a few seconds. A look. Whatever. Then I want to crawl back inside myself and take it back. I don’t know why I said what I said, but I did. Does that make me a bad person? No. I guess, it just makes me real.

So how far can you go when crafting characters? How big of a hole can you dig them in before the reader simply thinks the person is unlikable?

I’m struggling with this in my second novel. It’s completed, but in need of a good edit. I am a by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer, no matter how hard I try to follow a written or even an imaginary guide, my characters steer me on their own path. 

In this story, the MC is struggling to relate to her father, to forgive him for a foolish and disastrous mistake he made in a moment of weakness. He made the wrong decision because he loved someone so much. He paid his consequences, however so did his family and that is the thing she can't forgive him for. 

Years later, his daughter makes a really bad decision of her own also in the name of love. She tells a horrible lie. One that she can’t undo. This isn't new. Who hasn't lied when they've been pushed in a corner? 

I’ve had a critique partner suggest I take it out. “We need to like her,” she says.  I get that, but so often in life we repeat our parents mistakes. No matter how much we say we won’t do this or that, we end up doing the exact same things. My character judged her father so harshly for something he would give anything to take back, yet she made a dumb mistake too. She took a risk and it didn’t pay off. 

So do I dumb it down? Make her do the right thing so she’s likable? Or do I let it ride, hoping someone gets it? 

I’d love to hear about how you infuse character idiosyncrasies into your work? 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Starting In The Right Place: Are You a Flasher or A Meander-er?

One of the biggest issues I see with some of the free downloads I’m reading on my Kindle is that many of them are starting in the wrong place. The concept of the story sounds great, but the beginning isn’t enough to pull me in, or it’s full of so much backstory and narrative.

We are an impatient society. We want our food fast, our internet fast, and our women . . . (just seeing if you’re paying attention).

So how do you know if your story starts in the right place?

Wanna come to a party and find out? Put on your fancy shoes and step inside. Drinks are on me. 

When I was rackin’ my brain trying to come up with a way to explain how to start a story in the right place, I kept seeing two friends of mine. We’ll call one Matilda and the other Amy.

Matilda is responsible. She works hard and likes her life to be as simple and stress free as possible. Amy also works hard, but she grabs each minute of her free time and lives it completely. These two girls are a blast, but they are very different.

Matilda takes her time in each situation. She thinks things through. She wanders the food table, samples a bit of the usual tid bits, takes a cracker or two, but she just isn’t ready to jump into the gooey stuff everyone’s been raving about—too risky. She nurses her drink while she makes small talk with Jimmy, a friend of a friend’s brother Larry. They chat about nothing in particular, in fact, Matilda can’t remember his name. She’s so preoccupied with saying the right thing that she loses a bit of focus.

Meanwhile, Amy doesn’t waste any time. She storms into the room and announces her presence. She skips the crackers and cheese and takes a big dollup of the gooey stuff and smacks Jimmy on the ass. She doesn’t waste time with idle chit chat; she heads straight for the dance floor. She isn’t much of a dancer, but that doesn’t stop her. And when the party starts to waver, she’s the first to flash the crowd and bring them back to submission.

So am I saying your main character needs to flash her boobs and smack some ass? Yep, I am. We don’t have time to meander through the crowd, building up courage to talk to the hot shot across the room. We need to start with action—purpose—and not only lead the reader through the story, but pull them by the eyeballs.

I’m a smart reader, most of the time. I catch onto things. Trust me a little bit. Let me discover and feel the story. Resist the urge to explain. Have a drink. Flash your boobs. (book boobs, not real boobs)

This is a hard lesson, I know. I’m a meanderer in real life. I don’t wanna touch the gooey stuff, especially not after Larry double dipped. I want to get to know people slowly, so I know whether I can trust them. I don’t want to be the first on the dance floor. But if I bog people down with backstory and dense narrative right from the get go, I’m gonna be the girl who doesn’t get invited back to the party, and what a shame that would be since I just bought a fancy pair of shoes. 

What do you think about starting in the right place? Do you see more stories getting it right or meandering?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

It’s Time To Kiss The Baby

A year ago, I was an active writer, deep in the dream of publication. I wrote every day, blogged, belonged to two different critique groups, and pursued my dream head on.

However, a bump in the road steered me in a different direction—a different state—and I started working full time. Full time work meant part time writing, and when part time writing seemed too much I stopped all together. Meanwhile, the lives of my writing circle changed. They moved closer to their goals of publication and soon, one buddy published with an e-publisher, and another decided to go the self-pub route and a couple months ago another signed with a publisher and is getting ready to release her debut. Yet I remained just as I was—stagnant and far away from my group in both distance and direction.

As much as I wanted to be supportive, I struggled to keep up the mask of excitement. I was excited for them, but I was the one who had brought us together and soon, I was the one standing in the crowd watching. I had lost my desire.

I was resentful that I wasn’t strong enough to balance it all and bitter that I allowed myself to slow down, to let my dream fade as if it meant nothing at all.

I was thinking about this recently as I tried to pull myself out of my funk and give my writing peeps some of the support I wasn’t previously able to give. I remembered when I had graduated college and started my big girl job.

I met a couple friends who were born to be mommies and desperately wanted children. They couldn’t get enough of the drooling, boogery things, but unfortunately, no matter how hard they tried, they couldn’t have children. Despite their hang-ups, life carried on for those around them. Soon, a mutual friend had a child, then another and another. One year turned into ten. Yet, through years and trial after trial, these women weren’t able to live their dream. Failed adoptions and broken hearts kept them at a distance. Relationships faltered.

I couldn’t imagine what it was like to want something so bad and have to face that loss every day. To greet friends with smiles, knowing that she has the one thing you could never have. Baby showers full of women, forced laughter, and envious stares, then a hug goodbye and a silent car ride to an empty nest.

I remember watching one of these ladies as she scooped up a child into her arms and lulled it to sleep. The look in her eyes as she stared at that baby was heartbreaking. All the people in the room hushed because this woman, in particular, had suffered through three miscarriages.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have, but I couldn’t help but ask her later how she was able to cope and she simply said, “Sometimes you just have to kiss the baby.”

So as I figure my way back to my dream, I just wanted to tell my friends—new and old—how exciting it is to see them pursue theirs. This is a rough business and not one for everyone. We face scrutiny, jealousy, frustration, and a loss of faith in ourselves. But it doesn’t have to be that way if we take a minute to remember why we do what we do, why it matters. 

How do you handle life and writing? Have you ever wanted to give up?  

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Rach Writes Platform Building: Are you in?

When I first started blogging, I was fortunate to get involved in Rach Writes Platform Building or "Crusade". It is a great opportunity to meet other writers and bloggers and support each other.

Pop on over and check it out. Hope to see ya there!

Here it is in Rachel's own words:

"There are so many of us out there. Aspiring authors, bloggers (whether established or beginning), industry peeps, even published authors, all of whom want to build their online platforms. We write insightful posts and articles, actively blog within the blogosphere, take part in challenges, competitions, and contests galore.

We have the passion and the drive to make it, but…we could all do with a bit of support.

So I started thinking. What if we link all these people together? What if we create a way to meet people in a similar position, people who genuinely want to help build our online platform while at the same time building theirs? People who want to pay it forward in the spirit of writerly writerness and blogging beautificity (and see it come back to them in turn).

And so, my Writers’ Platform-Building Campaign was born."

Click here to head right to her site. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The End? Seriously?

My husband bought me a Kindle for Christmas, which was much nicer than last year’s present. I won’t rat him out on what I scored last year, however let’s just say I did not shake, shake, shake myself into great arms and shoulders.

Anyway, love my new gadget. The trouble is I’m downloading a mess of sample chapters and not a lot of books. I’m just simply not impressed. Perhaps it is my impatient mind, or my whining children. I don’t know. I just feel like there isn’t a lot of great, grab-you-by-the-eyeballs books out there.

I just finished a self-published dystopian. It actually started pretty good and I willingly purchased the book. The author kept my attention, however the book could’ve been so much better.

Repeater words, thick narrative saying essentially the same thing, bare minimum character development, and just enough to get by world building.

The worst, and deal breaker for me, was the ending. The book simply cut off after a major turning point in the story with a lackluster lead to the next book. The End. Please purchase my next book. 

Thanks for the sample chapter, Ms. Author, but I’ll pass.

I don’t like ploys. Hate ellipses that try to infuse drama. And I won’t spend another $3.99 for your second book because chances are you won’t know how to end the next one.

I love series books. BUT the first book needs to have some sort of resolution—a pay off of sorts. The threat can remain, but I need it to come full circle somehow or I have no desire to read on.
Hunger Games is hugely popular, so I will reference this. The first book’s ending alluded to more to come, however the initial threat was satisfied. Katniss and Peeta lived. They won the games and outsmarted the government. It was a moment to breathe, yet our minds couldn’t help but wonder what else was on the horizon for them. We knew they were in for it. And because I read the book right after it came out I had to wait another year before Catching Fire came out. I had time to think about it, let it stew, yet not feel jipped.

What do you think about the ending of a series (first book in particular)? Do you need resolution of sorts, or if the second book is out is that okay?