Monday, February 28, 2011

Pushing through the block



First, sorry for the delay in posts. I had family over for an extended trip, which basically meant no blogging, no writing, and a disaster for a house!

I mentioned last week (or maybe the week before…hmm…my days are mixing together) that I was ¾ into my WIP and slammed to a halt. I bought a plotting book—checked out 3 more from the library—and at the end of the day knew more about plot, but was no closer to breaking through the wall.

So this is how I pushed through, and as it worked I thought I would share.
  1. Write out a plot paragraph for your entire novel, including the ending.

  2. Read through what you have already written—meaning the MS. Make/add notes anywhere the plot drifts from that plot paragraph.

  3. Once you reach the point where you are stuck, push through a page or two, keeping with the plot paragraph, and writing “as if” you have already fixed the earlier plot issues.

  4. Give yourself plot points for the rest of the MS. Detail the reversal, climax, and ending.

  5. Smile at yourself when you crank out 14 pages in one day!! Yes I did!

I am so relieved I could scream in excitement. I hoped to have the draft complete by today, but with the delay that won’t happen. I should have it complete in a week from today though! Come back to celebrate with me next Monday.

Now tell me, how do you push through?

M.B.

Monday, February 21, 2011

History prevails



I went to the library yesterday to do some research for my WIP, but in the midst of my research I realized that I need to write a paragraph/page/few pages on the history of the story. Now, I’m not talking about a character sketch—also helpful. I’m talking about a full out history of my world PRIOR to the start of my story.
Talk about eye opening.

See here’s the thing, stories need depth, and the only way you’re going to create depth is to have a history. This doesn’t mean you need to drop in loads of back-story. There’s no reason to detail the history during the story’s progression, that’s not the point. You want your characters round, the world vivid, and the circumstances exciting and intense. You won’t get there without a detailed past.

Example time:

Let’s say your story takes place on another planet. The entire story is on that one planet so you may think that’s all you need. Who cares how they arrived there, right? Wrong, wrong, wrong. You have to know how humans arrived on this other planet. Do you have to go into that during the story? No. Not in my opinion. Not in full detail, anyway. But I do think drops of info here and there will offer believability to your story. You can’t drop bits of info if you, as the writer, do not know the history.

So take a peek at your WIP. Do you know the history? Do you know why things are the way they are? Do you know why the leaders are leaders? The rich, rich? The poor, poor? Why do certain people have powers, while others don’t? Why did your civilization fall?

Knowing these things will only strengthen your story. Need an example of an expert on world-building and history? Tolkien, of course!

M.B.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Leave your subplot at the door



So this past weekend I began to freak out, like seriously freak out. I’m ¾ through my WIP and all the sudden I had no idea where I wanted to go with the story. YIKES!

I posted immediately on the amazing blue boards and received some fantastic advice. One such member advised the book BOOK IN A MONTH, which has come up many a times on the blogosphere. I’ve chosen to ignore this book because I’m a pantser. What do I need with a super strict, outlining book? Yeah, nothing.

LESSON 1: I’m not that good. Nope, not at all. I don’t need a rigid schedule, but I do need to know where I’m heading…a bit.

Fast forward to yesterday where I rush into B&N and buy this fantastic book.
O. M. G. It is really something of a genius book. Now, those who have been around awhile know I adore Stein. This is a very different book. It’s colorful and easy paced and doesn’t make you say “huh?” while you read it.

I dive in and already I’m beside myself at how stupid I have been.

LESSON 2 (directly from the book): No subplots during draft mode

Whaa? No subplots? But I have to have subplots, and loads of mind-bending, cool ones. That’s how I write. Now you want me to write a draft without any?

Yes. Yes. Yes.

It’s writing genius. Stick to the main plot. Stick to that spine. It’s been said before, of course, but my ears weren’t listening. And this was the golden ticket for me.

I’m reading through the first parts of my WIP now, cleaning up the main plot and ignoring everything else. It is so gratifying and easy, like breathing. Geez, why didn’t I buy this book when everyone said I should?

LESSON 3: Listen to others, often. They know more than you.

Happy Almost Friday, folks!

M.B.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Romance and annoyances


There are two types of romance in fiction that drive me crazy.


  • The Nicholas Sparks Unhappy Ending

    I’m not sure about you, but for me, I prefer the romance element of any book to end happily. They can be standing on a destroyed planet, with no water, no food, things are looking bad, but if they are TOGETHER then I’m happy.

    See, I realize life is not always so happy. As a child of a divorced family, I definitely know that relationships do not always end happily. I get that, I do. But when reading, I want that warm fuzzy feeling.

  • Forced Romance

    I have issues with books where the romantic element doesn’t feel realistic. You know the ones? The romance is thrown in there because the majority of readers are women…blah, blah, blah…so let’s toss in a romantic tie (not related really to the story, mind you), because we women supposedly appreciate that sort of thing.

    I am not one of those women.

    If the story demands romance, then the romance really should be the central plot of the story or tied very closely to the central plot of the story. Am I alone here? Let's say the story is about aliens attacking from Mars, and the super star guy is supposed to kill them. Great, I can handle that. Now, try adding in his sweet next-door neighbor, who he’s always adored, and now that the world is ending they decide to get together.

    Oh-K...What’s up with that?

    Now tell me, what about the romantic element of fiction gets under your skin? I know we’re supposed to talk about the joys of love today, but I thought I would take a different approach. :)
M.B.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Make your readers uncomfortable



I have this one scene in TWISTED ROOT that is…intense. It is so intense that I’ve had reactions all over the place from my CP’s and betas.

Let me start by saying I have a ton of people read my work. An 8 person crit group, 2 crit partners, and 2 that I would say are alpha readers—friends who read tons and have strong editing backgrounds.

So I receive crits all over the place, and this scene has created some interesting responses. One critter went crazy for it, loved it. Another referred to it as slightly icky. I loved that response. :) Another blushed when we discussed it in person. And all of the male critters I have thought it was awesome—go figure. Men have a much higher threshold for uncomfortable-ness, than most women. (JMHO!!!)

Now I’m not saying I don’t adore all my readers. I do. I couldn’t write without them. Each one makes my work stronger. But here’s the thing, I’m keeping the scene, as it is (for now). Wanna know why?

I think as a writer you should make your reader uncomfortable at times. If the reader shudders—good! If the reader cries—good! If the reader makes a disgusting face because the scene produces such an intense image—all the better!

I believe in tasteful writing. I’m not sure I have ever written a scene that I feel is inappropriate or tasteless (CPs could disagree!). All that said, I prefer to write with emotion—intense emotion. I want people to read my work and know that, if nothing else, they’re going to feel something during the process.

What about you? Do you have uncomfortable scenes? Share. I promise not to judge. :)


M.B.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Books turned into movies

Recently, I AM NUMBER FOUR has become the talk of the town due to the movie release 2/18/11. This is absurdly quick from the book release date, which was August 2010. So close, in fact, that some are saying the movie idea came before the book.

I’m not sure how much merit that rumor has, and in doing a few Google searches, I couldn’t find anything to substantiate it, but it did get me thinking. There are many YA books being made into movies: HUNGER GAMES, WICKED LOVELY, SHIVER, among others.

There have been many books in our past adapted into movies: HARRY POTTER, PERCY JACKSON, TWILIGHT, FOREST GUMP, THE GODFATHER, and lots of Stephen King and Nicholas Sparks. It has become such a trend that I venture to say most of the movies out are in some way based upon a book. This is great news for authors and publishers a like as it adds lots of $$’s to the books brand as well as $$’s to future books by that author and in that series.

I think we can all agree it’s a good thing. But here’ the question I have: How many movies (adapted from books) did you actually enjoy? How many did you enjoy close to as much as the book?

I absolutely loved the latest HP move: 1st half of Deathly Hallows. It is probably the only HP movie that didn’t disappoint me compared to the book. Now did I enjoy the others? Absolutely. I like the first 3 movies quite a lot.

I like the movie adaptation of THE NOTEBOOK. I like THE SHINING. I like (don’t go crazy) the Keira Knightley PRIDE & PREJUDICE

What about you? Are most book adaptations disappointing to you? Are there any you really enjoy?

M.B.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Feeling flu-ish?

Okay, I know I'm supposed to write about all things writing, books, and etc, but I've stumbled upon a miracle drug that I must pass along to the world.

No kidding, my husband and daughter both had the dreaded flu -- complete with 103+ fevers, chills, etc. I began to feel horrible last week and took this magical, homeopathic medicine. Guess what? In 24 hours -- yes 24 hours -- I felt completely normal again. It is a tad expensive, but I will never be without this lovely gem.

M.B.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tight writing

As a reader and frequent critter, I've learned something valuable for my own writing. Tight writing reads easier, even though it feels awkward during revisions. Pull one of your favorite books from the shelf. Read a few paragraphs and analyze the sentence variation. There are long sentences, of course, and short, of course, but all in all most are simply tight, basic structure sentences.

So when you feel the urge to keep that 40 word sentence, consider just for a moment how the reader interprets the sentence.

This goes hand-in-hand with purple prose. Here's the Wiki def:

Purple prose is a term of literary criticism used to describe passages, or sometimes entire literary works, written in prose so overly extravagant, ornate, or flowery as to break the flow and draw attention to itself.

Now prose can be tight, but still purple, though I've found that overly written sentences tend to also be, well, purplish.

M.B.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Helping others and an anniversary


I read a blog post today discussing drafts and the importance of focusing on the "spine." It was a fantastic post on a fantastic blog. For obvious reasons mentioned below, I will keep that part private, but email me if you want the link.

The post seemed a little familiar to me, and I wondered why I recognized the author's name. I wracked my brain for awhile, and then it hit me. This author, who I will call Mr. Critter, gave me my very first critique.

Now I'm sure he doesn't remember, why would he? It was almost exactly a year ago and I was thrilled to have 10,000 words of my first ever novel. 10,000 words! I seriously thought it was something amazing. I was going back and forth between past and present tense when I decided to post on Verla Kay's BBs to request for help. To say that I was inexperienced at that point is a vast understatement. I should never have allowed those words to cross anyone's eyes, but Mr. Critter, who has no idea who I am mind you, posted in reply offering to read the sample pages.

He read them and gave an entire email of critique back to me, even offering to read a rewrite. I never emailed him back after thanking him, though. Want to know why? The very next month he received a dream-come-true book deal from one of the top houses.

Did he have to read my work? Certainly not. And when he did and saw that it was horrifyingly bad, did he have to provide valuable feedback? Heck no.

But he did.

I am further along in my journey now. So I receive requests, separate from my crit partners--Hi!--quite a lot. And regardless of the writer's level, I crit the work. Why? Because Mr. Critter did it for me, and his crit made all the difference in my journey.

We are all busy, for sure, but if someone ventures into this crazy game of writing and wants you to read his/her work, please consider helping. I sucked bad when I first started. I may have given up if that first crit had said--you suck, pack up your laptop and go home.
So, many, many thanks to Mr. Critter and happy anniversary SECOND SOUL. Even if you are eventually shelved, I am forever thankful for what you taught me.


M.B.