March 31, 2010
March 30, 2010
Okay, I admit it. I kinda sorta cheated on lesson 2. I peeked at it before I was done with lesson 1 and decided I could combine them. Lesson 2 is on finding the promises you made to your reader. I got a smallish version of this lesson in How to Think Sideways, so I was pretty confident I could handle it.
I found some broken promises. Not a ton, but a few. I'm not sure if it was because I was familiar with the material when I wrote the last draft, or if it was because I was too focused on lesson 1 stuff. I'm gonna go with the I'm-already-so-awesome theory. ;)
Anyway, I found a character that seems to be very important. He has a name and dialogue and dominates a whole scene. Actually, he's an extra and I need to get rid of him. He's distracting.
Another broken promise: I may have said something about my world I didn't intend to. Well, my character did. She sees a ghost do something and makes an assumption. The assumption was wrong, but it doesn't seem that way. So it's gotta go.
There were a few others, but these were the major ones. (I'll admit I'm embarrassed, but I think most writers do it.)
What about you? Do you find yourself dropping hints about things that aren't there?
March 27, 2010
Here's a sample shot of the new template I've picked out:
In addition to a new layout, I'll be adding some pages to Musings: About Me, FAQ, and Current Projects. If you have any questions you'd like answered, or have any suggestions for additional pages, leave me a comment.
Man, I'm going to miss that nifty little magic quill. **sigh**
March 25, 2010
But these are new links--so much better than the ones posted way back in December. (Okay, maybe not. You be the judge.)
I'll start off with the YA Highway's Survivor's Guide to Revisions: A step-by-step process for taking your manuscript apart and putting it back together.
Then there are the Dames. They've provided a great checklist for your manuscript. This is a great post if you *think* it's ready to send out into the world.
Also, one of the dames gives her personal take on revision with some interesting humor--how revision is like being in a cave.
Finally, when all is said and done, you think you're ready to submit. You research agents and *carefully* read their submission guidelines only to discover that your novel isn't the right word length! (Oh no!)
You can get advice from all over the place, telling you how long your book should be. But very few explain the why. Here are the Economics of Word Count by Lucienne Diver.
March 23, 2010
So I'm still on Lesson 1. It's embarrassing, but to be fair, this lesson is supposed to take a long time. (I'm sure I'll wow you with how quickly I make it through the other lessons.) I should finish lesson 1 in about a week.
I've already told you that I've caught a lot of problems in my manuscript while going through this lesson. Honestly, it's unbelievable. You can read about it here. But today is about specifics.
1) I need to work on pacing and voice. A lot of the inner dialogue coming from my main character is slow. The sentences are long and the structure is old-fashioned. I sometimes sound like I'm writing a term paper. (Thanks a lot, public education.)
2) I need a lot more description. And it needs to be specific. The passages with description are like laundry lists. I need to get into my setting and pick the one or two details that go beyond the basics. I once heard that you should make a list of 10 things your character would notice about a place. Then don't use them. Don't be obvious. Pick something else, something unusual, something that effects your character emotionally.
3) I rush through the good parts. I get so excited about getting to those good scenes. When they finally get here, I rush through them. I'm constantly telling myself to slow down and let everything soak in. One thing I need more of is emotion. These dramatic scenes are pivotal. They affect my character. They matter. So what is she feeling during this big moment of change?
4) My characters don't always progress logically. I mean sure, they act in response to stimuli in a completely "normal" and expected way. But I'm talking long term here.
For example, Rachel and Nathan develop a relationship. Rachel may be head-over-heels for Nathan in chapter 8, but in chapter 9 she's "beginning to trust/like/love him". Really? I thought we were past that point.
I also need help with making sure Rachel has learned everything she needs to know before completing task X. And I need to make sure that the people who help her get that information like her enough to help her. (Did that make sense?) Everything has to line up.
So what I need to do is create arcs for stuff like this. A timeline that shows me (and the reader) exactly where everyone is and how they feel about it. You know, logical progression that continues over the course of the book. Simple stuff, but apparently I missed a few places here and there.
March 20, 2010
First, @DocumentDriven posted on Twitter: Conflict should escalate, & when the big moment arrives, pace should slow to give reader full scope of scene they've waited for.
This tweet really spoke to me. It was hard for me to express in 140 characters just how much of an impact it made.
As I go over Shadow Bound, I'm noticing how almost all of my "big scenes" are rushed. It's been so unsatisfying, but I couldn't figure out why. Then it hit me: I've been foreshadowing and hinting and building up to this pivotal moment. When I finally get to it, it's over before I really get to enjoy it. The scene just fizzles. Now I think I know how to fix it.
And I can't believe I didn't post this last time, but the Blood-Red Pencil has a post that covers pacing. Great site, by the way.
And finally, Scott Eagan tells writers to keep the pace moving. Because whe wants to read a book When the Only Action is Me Turning the Page?
March 17, 2010
These links come from my "random but good" file. I don't know how to categorize them, but they were fun.
First, some Haphazard Tweets. Twitter is a useful tool, but it can be so time-consuming! I like to find little treasures like this post that collect a bunch of helpful tweets into one place.
And the second link will lead into next week's series on revising: Words Writers Should Delete. Here are some great examples of wordiness and how to fix them.
March 16, 2010
Yesterday, just for fun, I did some mind mapping. I wanted to tap into my creative side and make sure my Muse was happy :)
Anyway, I used bubbl.us to start a new map and got a little carried away on a Fairy Tale tangent. I love fairy tales. I always have. They're beautiful and magical and classic. The imagery in some of them is incredible. When I read fairy tales, I find myself drawn in by the symbols and archetypes.
Can you tell I get excited?
Click the picture to enlarge. It may take a while. There will be some Zoom options in the top left corner.
This exercise is meant to tap into your Muse--what she likes, is drawn to, gets excited about (as well as what she fears and hates). This is part of my map. The section that stemmed off from I am drawn to... familiar stories... fairy tales.
March 13, 2010
Straight from QueryTracker: 9 Steps for Plotting Fiction. Good, straight-forward stuff.
And, for those of you who love to use flashbacks, but aren't sure when/how to use them: 3 Tips from Writer's Digest
This last link isn't ONLY plot and structure, but it's good. Here are Things Every Reader Wants from a Writer
March 12, 2010
But low points still need conflict. This is why information dumping doesn't work. When you dump, the pacing automatically slows and there is a complete void of conflict.
"But my reader needs to know this!" you might say.
Then show it. Bit by bit. I have a story where my heroine (a high school girl) does some strange things when she gets home--double-checking the locks and carrying mace in a friendly small-town setting. And then I move on. The pacing was slow there (because my character was being meticulous), but the reader is interested and asking questions.
Later, at another slow point, my heroine is with the love of her life, but something is keeping her from diving into the relationship. Why? She gets flashes of memory of her mom, crying on the floor telling her to go back to bed. She has a red mark on her chin where the heroine's dad has hit the mom. At this point, the reader is putting this information together with some earlier stuff.
The heroine's dad was abusive and apparently has made the heroine skiddish. Not only for her safety, but when she's around any man. See how these slow points, this slow pacing, still has conflict? It moves the story forward, even though slow pacing is appropriate.
Enough about my writing. Let's see what the oh-so-clever internet has to say about pacing.
C. Patrick Schulz reveals The Secrets to Pace Your Novel and argues that slow pacing kills your novel. He gives some tips on how to move things along. If you've ever wondered how to speed up the pacing of your novel, this is the post for you. You can even listen to the podcast.
Unfortunately, there isn't a ton of information on this subject (at least that I've found). Most people just say, "don't let the pace drag" or "fix the pacing". Hugely helpful, I know.
But these posts are semi-related.
Jennifer Cruise writes an article on Argh Link about pacing your novel from a plotting perspective. Basically, stepping back and making sure your novel moves along plot-wise.
One thing I really struggle with is being too "jumpy". The pacing is off because the story seems disjointed and sudden. This happens because I'm terrible at transitions. As soon as I've done what needs to be done, I move on to the next scene. Ask the editor has given me some great tips: Help with transitions.
March 9, 2010
QueryTracker always has great posts. It's a shame they don't happen very often :) Here's their post called Don't Use That Voice With Me. A few tricks that should shed some light.
And finally, all great authors read. I've talked about choosing my "magical books". This post tells you how to analyze great writers and how to find out how they do it. Including how they develop a fantastic voice.
HOW TO THINK SIDEWAYS (my How To Write Your Novel and Build A Writing Career course) was supposed to be closed until June.
HOW TO REVISE YOUR NOVEL was supposed to be closed until November.
But they're both open now!
I strongly recommend that you don't join both at the same time. (There are rumors of heads exploding with students who tried that.)
Seriously, BOTH courses are a lot of work, each uses different skill sets, and they're better approached one at a time than both at once.
I've taken How to Think Sideways. It teaches SO much, but the most valuable lessons I got were How to Find Your Ending and How to Find Great Ideas for Your Book. Oh, and How to Make Your Characters Matter. If you want to see a list of all the lessons, you can find it here.
I'm taking How to Revise Your Novel right now. I mentioned this before, but I revised Shadow Bound on my own about three times. I thought it was done, but it got rejected. (Very polite, personalized rejections, but still.) After I finish this course, I think it may be "the one" that gets me an agent. I can't believe how much more I see in my manuscript. It's unbelievable.
* Both courses apply to ALL genres. You do not need to be working in a specific genre to benefit from them.
* Both courses are "work-at-your-own-pace" with the added benefit of a community of dedicated writers if you choose to make use of it. (Community participation is NOT a required part of the course. The course is complete without it.)
* Both courses are online, with downloadable lessons and a student page that will keep your lessons for you.
* And with either course, you get every upgrade and new addition I make to the course, with no increase in the price you pay, and with no additional charges after you have finished paying.
Think about it.
March 6, 2010
The First Novels Club has my favorite article on dialogue. They analize each part of dialogue, give a tip, and then show by example. Good stuff.
Next, some oldies but goodies:
Some people go overboard with dialogue. Author2Author lists a few things to be aware of when writing dialogue. One big thing to remember: Dialogue slows pacing!
A while back I posted on the Functions of Dialogue. While this post from The Blood-Red Pencil is similar, I love the fresh perspective. It's worth a quick read.
And a few tips from yours truly:
To use dialogue to create conflict, you can list what each character in the scene wants and try to find two things that don't match up. For example, Penny wants to wear red, but her husband wants her to wear black.
This can also help you throw in some conflict. For example, maybe Penny's red dress is dirty and the black dress isn't warm enough for the weather. Suddenly, the two of them are scrambling to make their preferred color dress wearable. (Penny throws her red dress in the wash, while her husband looks for a black shawl to put over the backless dress.)
Remeber to use dialogue to show conflict. If the dialogue isn't related to the main conflict in the scene, it doesn't need to be in there! Dialogue always moves the story forward!
March 5, 2010
March 4, 2010
How do you end your book? You want it to be perfect, but your ending just isn't coming to you.
I'll start with what I do because I never start a novel knowing how it's going to end. (What's the fun in that?) But I usually figure out how it's going to end somewhere past the halfway point. When I want to figure out my ending, I gather information:
My characters' values and personalities
How my characters interact with each other
My characters' goals
Then I need to think about my story. I think about what has changed in the story. My characters have changed, their goals may have changed, the setting may have changed, and the rules of the world may have changed. (Like in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Umbridge changed the rules at Hogwarts, making Dumbledore's Army a pretty scary thing to the people in charge.)
The story (the beginning and the middle) has to matter. So these changes--what happened earlier in your book--have to guide you to your ending. Otherwise, what's the point in telling the story? Without putting these changes into your ending, you might as well just give a list of bullet points, rather than bother telling a story.
Finally, taking all of this into consideration, I come up with every logical ending I can come up with, including:
Good guys win, hands down
Good guys win, but with great sacrifice (my personal favorite)
The good guys win, but not what they were hoping for
The bad guys win, but it's not as much of a victory as they'd hoped
The bad guys win, but suffer great losses
The bad guys win, hands down
**And I always like to throw in: "The planet blows up, killing everyone." It makes me feel better knowing that's an option, even though I haven't used it. Yet.
Then I choose my favorite ending. The one that makes me smile, that ties up all lose ends, that is the most satisfying. If you don't have that happy, satisfied feeling about any of your endings, then I'd suggest you go back and look at your manuscript. Try to find all those little details that might push the story in one direction or another. It might be something you never intended to include. (Holly Lisle calls this "leaving toys on the floor".)
I'm afraid that's the best advice I can offer from my experience, so I'll leave you with some links. Maybe someone else has a method that works better for you.
Story Logic: A basic how-to for story logic
Hitting the Writing Wall (and how to break through it)
The Rockpile Theory of Plotting (short, but interesting)
March 2, 2010
2) Putting Emotion into your novel
4) Time Wasters for Writers
6) Plotting and Structure (includes Flashbacks)
7) Promotion for you and your novel
11) Writing for Teens
13) Basic Writing Technique
Leave your preference in the comments section. I know there are a lot to choose from, but feel free to suggest more than one category. Some of these subjects only have one article, so I may do a hodge-podge post.