January 31, 2011

My Muse Tells Me a Story

So, my muse is a genius. It's funny, but I don't feel like I can take credit for those little sparks of inspiration that just fit. Does anyone else have that problem?

Anyway, I've been avoiding writing the last 36 hours or so because I have no idea what's going to happen next (a common thing with this book, I'm finding). So I read the last paragraph or two and just write. One more sentence. One more sentence.

And I get to a point where I realize my heroine has to leave the castle. I didn't intend for that to happen, but she has to. She has to help someone.

So as she's running (or, as I'm typing her run), I'm going through all the different things that are going to change because she left. I'm going through all the things that can go wrong for her, all the plot twists that are possible now.

And the possibilities are endless.

This was definitely the right thing to do. It's like I'm reading this book, not writing it. The surprises unfold as I go. I looked back to see why these great things have been happening and my muse answered: because the book belongs to the character.

I haven't had the plot set in my mind like I usually do. I normally have several plot points in my head and then as I write, I just make sure to connect the dots. The problem with that is that my characters are more like puppets. The story is plot-driven.

But with this one, my character thinks things through as I think through them. And then she chooses what to do next. It's like I don't have a say in it. She wouldn't just leave someone to die, so she's leaving the castle to go help them. End of story.

I love this.

January 28, 2011

RePost: Do You Need Some Motivation? What Writer Doesn't?

We all need a little boost every now and then. Most of the good stuff is posted in November, during NaNoWriMo season. (Let's face it, we need it.) But the summer months tend to dry up when it comes to mood-boosters.

Suzanne Young did a guest post on Delightful Reviews on How to Keep Writing. It's not easy.

Elana Johnson reminded her readers last month: You Can Do Hard Things.

If you tend to fizzle out in the middle of your projects, you'll appreciate Staying Faithful to Your WIP by Christopher Jackson. He helps writers keep the love for your story burnin' ;)

Writers can be insecure, especially with all the rejection we face. This article was retweeted over a hundred times and will be a classic go-to for me. Writer Unboxed: The Only Way to Know If You'll Be A Successful Writer


There Are No Rules: Read This and Tell Me What To Do (Same message, from a different perspective.)

This isn't exactly motivational, but it got my brain churning and thinking new ideas, so it still counts. Finding Your Perfect Writing Method by Jennifer Blanchard

Writers tend to be introverts, but staying indoors in our pajamas could hurt our creativity. Alexis Montgomery tells writers to Cut the Cord to stimulate that muse.

Lilith Saintcrow never ceases to inspire me and her blog post on the Importance of Dreams is no exception. She even uses one of my all-time favorite quotes:
"We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of the dreams." (Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka)

and, from the same source:

If you want to view Paradise

Simply look around and view it.
Anything you want to, do it…
Wanta change the world?
There’s nothing
to it… (Willy Wonka)

January 24, 2011

Still Blocked? I Have More!

Like I said, there's a LOT out there about writer's block. These posts address some common issues related to writer's block or they analyze the process.

Beth Revis addresses the age-old, impossible-to-really answer question: Where Do You Get Your Inspiration? Maybe her answers can help you.

Stuck In the Middle: the Novel Doctor is one of my favorite bloggers. He posted about that ever-present hump that seems to pop up around 40,000 words with every. Single. Book.

Joanna Penn's blog is also in my top 5 favorite writing blogs. Ask Your Inner Voice: How to Call on Your Muse Just When You Need Her. This post is thorough and organized.

January 21, 2011

How to Beat Writer's Block

It seems like everyone has their say about how to beat writer's block. So of course, I'm going to post a bunch of opinions! (It's what I do.) There's a lot of overlap, but I wanted to post them all so you can see what works for a lot of people. (I'd try those first.)

Personally, if I'm a little blocked, I take a pen and paper and write whatever comes to mind. It's like my Muse is holding the good stuff hostage until I put down what she needs to vent. Or something.

10 Ways to Beat Writer's Block by Tina Morgan has some questions to ask yourself to help you figure out if you're really blocked or if you're just in a little slump. (I didn't even know there was a difference!) Then she gets into some ways to break through that block. I especially like that she says I should take a nap.

James from Men with Pens has some tips. (This post is short and sweet.)

Barry Lyga has some advice about writer's block: Don't Worry About It! (I love this guy's voice and sense of humor. It's worth a read, even if you aren't blocked.)

Write On…with Steve Gottry! gives 17 Sure-Fire Solutions to Writer's Block. He has a few I've never heard of, like listening to music or radio hosts that you don't normally listen to/like. Who knew?

Stick-with-it-ability on Genreality takes unblocking from a structural point of view. Good stuff, as always.

Amy and the Pen talks about what to do if you just don't know how to write something. She says: Write What You Know.

January 14, 2011

Goals for the New Year

I realized I hadn't posted my goals for 2011. Writing them down (especially in public) is the only way I'll get my butt moving.

Writing Goals:
Complete my Ivy book in time for Pennwriters Conference (May)
  includes completing first draft (est 60,000 words)
  running book through How to Revise Your Novel
  get book pitch-ready 

Submit it to agents
  includes writing query letter

Finish first draft of Demon book
OR run Phantom book through HTRYN

Participate in NaNoWriMo 2011?

Other goals:
Run 5k in July
run half marathon in October
I'm sure there are others, but they escape me.

I think that's enough to keep me busy for the year. It's enough to keep me working, and it may be more than I can do, but at least I won't finish early.

What are your goals for the year?

January 12, 2011

Re-Post (and Follow-Up): Crash Test for Writers

Let me briefly get you up to speed, in case you don't religiously follow my posts:

Holly Lisle makes a living as a writer. She also happens to be a great teacher and devotes her time (in between novel writing) to teaching writers how to be better writers. I've mentioned her Clinics and course How to Think Sideways, but she also does Crash Tests.

A crash test is where she takes a few paragraphs of fiction from one of her students and she picks them apart piece by piece, showing what's good, what went wrong, and how to fix it. She just posted her fourth crash test AND IT'S MINE!!! Holy cow!

It's very helpful. I knew there were things wrong with it, but didn't know how to fix them. Anyway, here's the link to Holly Lisle and the Case of the Ghostly Girls.
This was really exciting for me. She helped me a lot with this scene. Looking back over this, I'm not sure I used her advice as much as I should have. In fact, I kind of want to go back and fix it. I will resist.
But here's the scene after editing:

Ghosts can be so rude sometimes. I walked with Lisa to a shaded picnic table, ready to take a break from schoolwork when I suddenly felt very strange--awkward yet familiar, like that dream where you find yourself on stage and can’t remember what you’re supposed to be doing.

The courtyard came to life around us, the tables filling up fast with students and the smell of fried food wafting from the cafeteria. Squirrels scampered around garbage cans and darted over piles of mulching leaves. Everything around me was normal. Or it seemed that way.

Then I saw him: a guy sitting with his arm draped over a bench. The guy who was looking right at me, his face expressionless. Normally, I’d be freaked out by someone staring at me like that, but this guy wasn’t eating. He wasn’t interacting with anyone. He was about my age, but he wasn’t dressed like a student. And Lexington, Virginia has its share of ghosts.

“Rachel?” Lisa raised an eyebrow. “What are you staring at?” She pulled her leg over so she straddled the bench.

With her back turned, I braved another look. Kids behind him shouted and threw a Frisbee back and forth, but the ghost sat perfectly still. His stare was starting to bug me. Why couldn’t ghosts remember to be polite every now and then?

When Lisa twisted back around, I forced a laugh, trying to soothe the confused look on her face. “Sorry. I spaced out. You ready to go?” I grabbed my bag and stood, trying to shake the ghost’s intense gaze. Didn’t he have any manners? At all?

Lisa looked down an her cell phone and opened her eyes wide in mock surprise. “Ooh yeah, better hurry. We only have thirty-two minutes before the bell.” She laughed, but picked up her bag. “It’s okay. I want to have a talk with Paul before next period.”

I rolled my eyes. “Oh.” Paul Mason was a baseball player Lisa had a crush on. She talked about him constantly and dragged me to parties if she thought he might be there. For some reason Lisa had never been able to get him to notice her, even though she was stunning. No other girl in school could compete with her full lips and perfect oval face.

“I’ll catch up with you later, okay?” Lisa wiggled her fingers at me and practically skipped across the courtyard.

Fine with me. I wanted to talk some sense into this ghost.

January 9, 2011

Re-Post (and Follow-Up): Resolutions for Writers

I've been digging through my archives. I'd forgotten what all was in there. Some really good links fell through the cracks, and some pivotal moments in my writing journey never got resolved (on the blog anyway). So. What I want to do is put up an old (but useful) post, and then write about what happened next (or some other current, relevant info.)

First Re-Post:
New Year Resolutions for Writers
Original Link:

We're all determined to write THE book this year. THIS will be the one. (And I genuinely hope it is, for all of us!)

So this post is for all of you who need a little motivation or help setting goals.

Here are 7 Weekly tasks for Authors that I think is excellent ground work for setting your own personal goals.

And here's a post by author Devon Monk called Why I Write. It's more of a reflective piece, but I found it to be motivating.

And finally, QueryTracker.net posted Setting, Keeping, and Achieving Your Writing Goals in the New Year. A few basics, with the writer in mind :)

My goals for this next year:

--edit Shadow Bound for the 569th time

--Get a clean, polished copy of Song of the Muse out on submission

--Write a book that is better than all my previous work

--Read at least 5 books that I can learn from as a writer (and love as a reader)

What about you?

Okay, so I didn't quite meet all of those goals. What really happened that year?
  • I took Shadow Bound through How to Revise Your Novel. It took me a few months, but I went from 3 partial requests to six partial requests and 2 full requests (and counting). The book is infinitely better. (I'll show you the opening scene later)
  • I read 10 books that helped me as a writer and entertained me as a reader (Maybe more. I lost count.)
  • I ran my first half marathon
  • I had my second child
  • I went to my first writers' conference ever (a wonderful experience that I plan to repeat this year)
  • I started my Ivy posts, which inspired my current WIP
  • I wrote the first 12,500 words of my WIP
Not bad. I had no idea until just now how much I'd accomplished in 2010. I actually thought I'd bummed out because of my pregnancy.
So there you have it: an excellent reason to keep a journal, a blog, and/or a writing diary.

January 4, 2011

The YA Writer (Part 2)

Moving right along in this (rather short) series on YA. This post covers characters in young adult fiction.

First Novels Club writes about the Various Nefarious Ones: Villains/Antagonists in YA. It covers all the "types". Entertaining and helpful.

And to go right along with it, Dissecting the Token Bad Boy (and where to draw the line between alluring and just plain psycho). This can be a tricky problem and has brought SO much criticism down on the heads of YA writers.

The Nuclear Family in MG or YA Fiction addresses an interesting question: why is it that young adult characters never come from a traditional, unbroken family?
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