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Tuesday, January 01, 2013

2013 Writing Goals

My top-ten 2013 writing goals:

1. Continue my freelance gigs (copy editing and article writing) so I can "Starve Better." (Writer friends--"StarveBetter" is an excellent book on writing. Get it!)
2. Make a decision once and for all about which publishing direction I want to go in with Cornelius, and DO IT.
3. Get some of my short stories sold (I have dozens just sitting in my computer twiddling their thumbs).
4. Write a series of short books specifically to market as e-books just to test the market.
5. Work with Denise Churchill to try to figure out what to do with our screenplay, Harry's Ashes. Possibly adapt it into a novel and pitch it to both screen and literature markets.
6. Line up more great speakers (writers, agents, publishers) for LWC.
7. Attend at least one writers' conference and maybe a retreat (looking at Wildacres in North Carolina).
8. Read at least one pleasure book per week.       
9. Expand my social-media presence.
10. Spend less time frittering on Facebook and other Internet sites.

What are your 2013 writing goals?

Monday, December 31, 2012

"Brain Pickings" for Writers

I've become lost in this really cool website called Brain Pickings. There are tons of writing inspirations in its pages, and I feel like I've seeped into my computer and laid down in the articles and wallowed around in the words. And a piece of my writer self feels even more mentally unbalanced than I realized I was, but another piece feels like it can conquer the writing world. 

What websites on writing make you feel like you can conquer the writing world?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

2013: My Burning Year

I'm officially naming 2013 my burning year. 

I'll be symbolically burning anything that doesn't further my writing and life goals. I've already started by "burning" one of my clients who's consuming my time and creative energy.

Are you "burning" anything in 2013?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Nothing New Under the Writing Sun

The realization that there is nothing new under the sun has hit me really hard the past few days. I've become obsessed with it.

I'm always looking for a new story to tell when in fact what I should be seeking is a fresh and entertaining way to tell an old story. Every storyline (whether you believe in three, five, ten, or more plot theories) basically shakes out to one--there's a dude with a problem, and will he overcome? Dude can be literal or symbolic--one or more actual dudes (or she-dudes) or a city of rabbits. It's all the same.

Even the core "problems" (those three, five, ten, or more plots) have become trite. It's the telling of the story that makes it fresh and entertaining--but the story itself is nothing new under the sun, ever.

Have you ever read any story or seen any movie where there wasn't a "dude" with a core problem?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Desperate Situations: WL 366 (#16)

Lesson 16: Put your characters in desperate situations right away.

If you read my last lesson "In Medias Res" you might be wondering how to jump into your story right in the middle of the action. It's simple: put your characters in desperate situations right away.

You can work in description as the situation unfolds, but readers stick with active scenes where characters struggle for something. Giving your reader a desperate situation to follow right away is an instant character-reader bonding technique.

Knowing that Suzie wears her blond hair in braids and blue is her favorite color hair bow isn't going to make your reader feel anything or want a deeper connection to Suzie. Giving Suzie a plight your reader can empathize with--that's the voodoo mind-capturing stuff great writers are known for.

Once you've captured us, then feel free to tell us Suzie likes blue hair bows (if you must, and if and only if it adds to your story in some way--that's a whole other post I'll share later).

Bova ( rough character drawing)
In my current fantasy novel, the first paragraph begins with Bova, a berry picker, frozen in place as a poisonous serpent curls up his leg. Bova's situation becomes more desperate as the chapter continues, and through it all description is peppered in--Bova's winged ears clapping against the side of his leathery head, for example, as he shivers. This description clearly a reaction to his situation, which makes it a logical and visual part of the story rather than an unnecessary detail.

And unnecessary details can bore your reader and take their focus off your character's desperate situation. 

Tell us about one of your stories where your character is thrown into a desperate situation on page one.

Visit me tomorrow for another Writer's Leap 366 lesson.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

In Medias Res: WL 366 (#15)

Lesson 15: Start your story in the middle of the action.

In the literary world the Latin phrase in medias res is often used. It's translated into the middle of things, and it's a very powerful tool in the hands of a talented writer.

In it's simplest form, in medias res means to start your story in the middle of the action. In other words, don't start your story at the beginning with lengthy exposition setting the scene, describing your characters, filling in the backstory, and other telling narrative. Start where you're most likely to hook your reader--with some action.

Scene, character description, and backstory is important, but all of this can be worked in gradually and creatively in small doses rather than in one massive injection.

Most people today are not patient readers. They don't savor the words and relish the beauty of the language like they did before our society became so rushed. They bore easily, and a bored reader stops reading and tells everyone on Amazon what a great doorstop your book makes, and because of its solid binding, they were feeling generous enough to give you one-star.

If your material is written for literary academics, which there are an extremely small number of compared to the rest of the reading world, this won't apply to you. But if you are writing for a mass audience (and I hope you are thinking internationally as you write--you don't want to limit your book's market), consider starting your story in medias res.

Do you prefer books that jump right into the midst of the story, or do you prefer some lead-in?

Visit me tomorrow for another Writer's Leap 366 lesson. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Your Process Must Be 'Your' Process: WL 366 (#14)

Lesson 14: Your writing process must be your writing process if it's going to work for you.

Yesterday, I shared how important it is to develop a writing process. Today, you need to know that your writing process must be your writing process if you want to be successful at this writing game.

I do not believe there is a single book, mentor, instructor, or writer out there that can teach you the perfect process. Each writer will have her own individual writing process--it's never wrong as long as it works for you. I'd love to hear about your process. Here's mine for novel writing (my screenwriting process varies, but it's similar):

A sample of draft-two revisions in my novel

Step 1: Idea generation / note taking - If you're like me, you probably play with ideas and take notes for a while before you actually start writing. My idea for my Cornelius book series came to my mind around February. I didn't start writing the book until July.

Step 2: Write draft one - This is my brain dump. I write it fast and furious. I don't worry about style, grammar, punctuation, or technique. My goal is to get the story out of my brain and into my computer's brain. Oh, and editing in any form is forbidden.

Step 3: Write character biographies / outline if necessary - Yes, you've read this right. I don't write my character biographies until after my first draft is written. I don't do outlines unless I need it to work through a difficult section. My first draft tells me where my story is going and who is going to be in it. An outline is too structured for me in novel writing, however, I have to do a very detailed outline in screenwriting (before writing the first draft).

Step 4: Write draft two (draft-one revisions)- This is where I sculpt the true shape of my story. I add in the character personality enhancements based off the profiles I wrote in step 3. I delete scenes that don't work, and I add scenes where they're needed. I shift it all around until the puzzle fits together nicely.

Step 5: Write draft three (draft-two revisions) - This is where I add my style and flavor, enhance conflict, strengthen plot lines. This is also the draft where I make my characters shine by taking their personality enhancements in step 4 and making them larger than life.

Step 6: Write draft four, five, . . . and the final - This is where I polish it. I review grammar and punctuation, and I fiddle around with it--nip it, tuck it, puff it up--until I like it.  

Tell us about your writing process.

Visit me tomorrow for another Writer's Leap 366 lesson.