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1. How Characters Can Become Stories – Erika Wassall

snowman family

Talk about character, here is a steampunk snowman family Sylvia Liu recently made, as part of a new daily creative challenge blog that she started titled, Create One a Day. You can see her portfolio at: http://www.enjoyingplanetearth.com)

erikaphoto-45Erika Wassall, the Jersey Farm Scribe here on….

How Characters Can Become Stories

I enjoy character studies. Books that give perspective into the mysteries of human nature, and how we deal with intense mental, physical and psychological difficulties.

Give me a character I want to sit down and have a drink with, or even observe from afar and watch their interactions and reactions… and I’m sold.

When I write, I’m often focusing on a character in my mind. They’re more than a name, more than any description I can put on paper. I can sense them, know their thoughts, feel their emotions.

Which is great, right?

Well… yes. And sometimes no.

I tend to get bogged down in character development. Plot, is much more difficult for me. I’m exceedingly jealous of people who are more natural at plot than character development. While probably similar to curly-haired people wanting straight hair and straight-hair people longing for curls, being able to nail down a plot always seemed like it would make things “come together” more, give me more to go from.

Reading books on plot and attending workshops has been absolutely mandatory for me.   Martha Anderson, The Plot Whisperer… I honestly don’t know where my writing would be without her insight. I highly recommend her books for anyone else who gets stuck on plot.

For me, I’ve found one trick that works wonders for me, helping me take my character molds, and create not just ANY plot, but THE PLOT. The path the character was meant to take.

It’s focused on character transformation.

One of the other problems with an overly specific character profile, is that, to me, that’s how they ARE. And it’s hard for me to see them any other way. This makes for a very stagnant character, which we all know doesn’t really work.

This process helps me on both accounts.

I take the character, in all their their moods, their quirks, their temperament, and I make them the FINAL version of the character. (obviously this can change as time goes on, it’s just part of my process).

I ask myself… why?  What happened to them that gave them that chip on their shoulder or that far away look on their face they get when they listen to a certain song? Why do they place money all facing the same way, before putting it in their pocket?

I write out/think about, three categories: Mental, Physical and Psychological. I start out with at least two major and three minor things in each category. There are overlaps, but they each must have their own, specific effects on the character.

And then I delete them.

Naomi doesn’t like to be alone because she was once left behind during a field trip and spent a horrifying weekend alone in a museum. What was she like before that? Maybe before, she didn’t see how people could be a source of comfort. Or maybe it’s the opposite. Maybe before she was just a healthily independent person, and now she’s overly clingy.

Jurret has scars on his back up into his neck from fighting off a robot scorpion that was attacking his older sister. It makes him uncomfortable taking off his shirt, and sometimes he even wears turtlenecks so no one can see it. His sister lived, but was badly injured with many scars of her own, including some on her face. He feels responsible for her turmoil as well.

What was he like before all that happened? Did he and his sister get along? Were they close? Maybe he was a gym junkie who was overly concerned with appearance and it gave him much-needed humility. Or maybe he was already plenty humble and this just drained him of his confidence. Perhaps before that, he always felt like the baby, the one everyone was taking care OF, and that day, everything changed. Before then, perhaps he never felt both the joy, and the burden of responsibility.

I do this with dozens of concepts for my character. Literally.

And I don’t always write them down. Sometimes I just think about them. While I’m driving. Cooking. Food shopping. It’s a great exercise I work into time that I’m not necessarily able to write. Then later, I’ll jot down a few notes, sometimes just two or three words, to remember the concept.

The more interesting an idea – or a “deletion” as I have come to call it – the more I actually write it out. Sometimes these “scenes” even become actual events in the book.

But I write out FAR more than I end up using.

At some point, I start to feel a general theme, a pull in a direction of a certain “type” of transformation, and certain related concepts that bring the character through that change… events, relationships, both pain and joy.

And for me, this is where I find my plot. Hidden beneath the intricacies of the character. And I know it’s right when it makes the character themselves even stronger, more solid in nature, more truthful.

This doesn’t (usually) give me a nicely-laid-out plot. But it gives me ideas, storylines I can get excited about. It helps make “plot” a less intimidating, overwhelming word, and interweaves it into what I already have.

What “deletions” could you do to your characters? Do you have other tricks or exercises that help you to develop the nature and variables of your plot?

This one really can be time consuming. And I end up throwing out countless concepts, but that’s just nature of beast! And you know that I’m a believer…

… our manuscripts are worth it!

Erika Wassall is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. She is a member of SCBWI and a proud Mad Scientist, bringing science experiments right into children’s classrooms, and hearts. She has a small farm in New Jersey with sheep, chickens, pigs and vegetables. Check out her new website at www.TheJerseyFarmScribe.com where as a first generation farmer, she often takes the long way, learning the tricks of the trade on The Farm. On her website is also The Shop page with tips and a free Q/A from her husband’s mechanic shop, and The Writer page where she shares stories, experiences and characters from the heart. Follow her on Twitter at @NJFarmScribe. She’d love to hear from you!

Thank you Erika for another great post. We all enjoy your posts.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, article, Author, Character, inspiration, writing Tagged: Erika Wassall, Guest Post, How Characters Can Become Stories, Sylvia Liu

3 Comments on How Characters Can Become Stories – Erika Wassall, last added: 12/18/2014
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2. Writer Wednesday: Should You Query New Agencies?




Today's post topic came by request last week. Thank you, Fi, for a great question that I think many people probably have. Here's the question:

With regard to literary agents, would you approach a newly founded agency (with lots of industry experience) or hang off and see how they progress?

Okay, well I'm not sure I have the answer to this one because it's really a personal decision, but I'm going to give you some pros and cons on signing with a new agency to help you make a decision.

Pros:

  • More individualized attention:  New agents and new agencies have smaller client lists, which means that if you sign with them, you will get a lot of individualized attention. That means quicker response times and an overall feeling of being special. :)
  • Hardworking:  I know writers who prefer newer agents and agencies because they work so hard for their authors. Why? The new agent/agencies have something to prove. They are trying to make a name for themselves. That means they are going to do their absolute best on your behalf. (I want to make it known that ALL agents/agencies should do this for you, though.)

Cons:
  • No reputation to stand on:  New agencies don't have a reputation to stand on when it comes to submitting your work to editors. An editor may not recognize the agency name at all, instead of seeing a well-known agency they've worked with before and who knows the publishing house's tastes.
  • You might be the guinea pig:  There's a learning curve in this industry, so if you sign on with a new agent or agency, you have to understand that they are new to this and might not have a lot of experience negotiating contracts. However, some new agencies are started by very well-known and experienced agents. I don't consider them to be in this category.
I didn't set out to make an even number of pros and cons, but I think it goes to show that you have to judge each agent individually. Follow them online. See what kind of an agent he/she is. Are they editorial? Do they have relationships with editors at houses you'd like to be with? (You can see this easily on Twitter and Facebook.) Is the agent someone who represents him/herself in a way that you are comfortable with, because if you sign with that agent he/she will be representing you, too.

My advice to anyone querying is only query someone you could see yourself saying "yes" to if you are offered representation. If you're on the fence, wait. See what that agent does as far as sales. If you query someone you don't have faith in, you're really just waisting your time and the agent's. So query selectively. Finding an agent is like finding the person you want to marry. Sure, people divorce and find new agents all the time, but wouldn't it be great to have a long and successful career with someone who will really champion your books?

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3. Dublin

DUBLIN

Stone statues view strangely the sights below

Copper dye melts around the hallowed heads

And drips down to form pools of green.

They sit upon the ancient stones

And watch the urgency far below.

Tram tracks now covered deep.

The old ways  buried with layers of seasons past.

Dublin watches with her dons of old

Her Georgian facades hide songs of older times

She moves within her cast of sculptures; frozen.

Rusty steel arches stands proud and red above the fray

Placed over swirling Liffey, green. A path for trade and friends alike

They join her North and South.

Welcome lines hide ages in their grace.

Many crossed its spans for love or on the run.

Pillared columns stand haughty against the ages

They define the day. They fix the view.

The cut stone gates of Trinity.

The cobbled stones of streets of old.

Where iron shod feet once plied their trades.

Fanlights now illuminate the carpets thick.

In rooms where tailored suits and money meet.

The tea maids are gone. The scones are cold.

The silver set, now frozen behind the water glass.

Portraits watch with moldy eyes, from plastered walls.

Ireland April 2012 412.jpg large webNew blood moves quickly beneath her veins.

Her structure hardened by shells of old.

Her nature, pure, for all to see.

Her ancient stones laid stately, by the Norse.

Her history still defines her course.

Denis Hearn 2002

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4. Examples of Tone

Last week we talked about what tone is, and isn't. This week we'll try to define it with examples.

You are writing a Romance.

Let's say Dick, your narrator, is at a company picnic in a park. The sky is clear. The grill is smoking. His coworkers are drinking beer and it is mid afternoon. How does Dick feel about being there? If he is an extrovert and happy with his job, he is lightheartedly milling around, joking, laughing, and downing brews with the best of them. He has a great time, until he learns something that turns his happy place into a not so happy place. Like the fact that his rival, Ted, got the promotion instead of him. Dick worries that Ted’s promotion gives him a leg up with the girl of both men’s dreams. Dick leaves feeling determined. He rushes to call Sally before Ted can. The tone in this story should reflect Dick's upbeat point of view and competitive attitude toward the situation. If your romance is light and breezy, Dick views this obstacle as a fun challenge. He finds a way to woo Sally, no matter what comical lengths he must go to. There is tension, but it is a funny situation. If your romance is a tragedy, Dick views this scene as one more nail in his coffin. There is tension, but it is bleak, foreshadowing inevitable demise, and somber.

You are writing a Thriller.

Dick is at the company picnic in the park. The sky is overcast and threatening rain. The barbecue smoke makes his eyes water and nose run. He hates hotdogs. He hates his co-workers. He wishes he never had to see those drunken slobs ever again; but he grins and bears it until he can steal the research documents. So, he sips water. He smiles, nods, and bides his time. When he feels everyone is drunk enough, he goes back to the office and begins the search. In this example, Dick views the situation as dark and bleak. He focuses on the negative. The picnic is something to be endured to meet his goal. The overall tone of the story focuses on the tension, the hurry, the risk. There may be light moments, but there is no doubt that the situation is serious and the consequences are high.

You are writing a Literary novel.

Dick is at the company picnic in the park. He desperately needs the promotion. He has child support and outrageous alimony to pay. He can't afford to be unemployed. The sun burns. He sweats profusely. The smoke is suffocating and the stench of roasting steak makes his stomach churn. Dick circulates. He shakes hands and fake smiles at his coworkers until his jaws hurt. He finds out Ted got the promotion. In fact, Dick’s department is being cut. Dick is grateful when it starts raining so he can leave and drown his sorrows in a bottle of Scotch. In this example, the tone could be comic or tragic. The reader walks away, wryly acknowledging that bad things happen to good people, or walks away ruminating on the evils of cruel corporations. There is tension. It is either released by continual humor, or you emphasize the pathos of modern living along the way.

Revision Tips
As you read through your manuscript, consider the narrator's tone. Can you identify it? Do you want the story to be breezy, syrupy, gripping, horrifying, or funny?

What is your genre? Does the tone correlate?

Look at your descriptions and setting. How does the point of view character view the situation? Is it consistent with the tone you have adopted?

Do the details that your character focuses on and the words he uses to relate them support the tone?

Is your tone consistent? Do you find yourself handling the material as dramatic in one scene and slapstick in another?

For these and other tips on revision, pick up a copy of: 

http://www.amazon.com/Story-Building-Blocks-III-Revision/dp/1475011369

http://www.amazon.com/Story-Building-Blocks-III-Revision-ebook/dp/B007SPPL68

0 Comments on Examples of Tone as of 12/16/2014 10:48:00 AM
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5. The discipline of writing.

Is there a write (pun) way  to procrastinate or does it come naturally?

Yes. I do it while I’m thinking about the next rush of words that fills a sentence or paragraph.

Procrastination helps me look at a sentence from many points of view. Does it stop me writing?

No. I think it makes me more focused. So why am I writing this post instead of finishing my novel?

I am doing both. If words are coming out of me: its a good day.

My job is to put them in the correct order and keep pumping life into my characters.

Denis.

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6. Childrens Books by David Chuka in 2015

I’ve been staring into my crystal ball and trying to foresee what 2015 holds. I keep staring and staring but I can’t seem to see anything. A good clean job might do the job…ehm…nothing. I don’t think this is working.

Why????????????????

If you know me, then you know the above scenario and a crystal ball would be the last thing I’d be staring at. I think sometimes, we want people to predict our future and lay it on a plate for us. The sad reality is that (like the saying goes) if it’s to be, then it’s up to me. With that in mind, I’ve been thinking of what I want to achieve in the coming year, especially with regards to my role as a children’s book author. I would like to write four books next year. Below are the David Chuka titles hopefully coming to your book shelf sometime in 2015.

Kojo the Sea Dragon Meets a Stranger – After the overwhelming success of Kojo the Sea Dragon Gets Lost, I just knew I had to write more stories with Kojo and his friends from the Zakari River.Sea Life Books Below is a review from a reader:

Such a vivid and colorful tale for such a simple, yet important lesson; listen to your parents. The illustrations are vibrant and imaginative as are the characters. Kojo the Sea Dragon Gets Lost is a very fun read!

In this episode, Kojo and his friends plus everyone in the Zakari River is looking forward to the BOOM BOOM festival. It’s a time of fun, dancing, singing with lots of food. Everyone in the Zakari River gathers in the town center and there are performances by different groups. Kojo is looking forward to doing a special dance with his friends. The day finally arrives and Kojo is having so much fun with his friends and is enjoying the sights and sounds. Then something happens with some yummy cake and an evil eel that makes Kojo learn something new about his world and talking to strangers. This will most likely be the first book I publish in the coming year, so watch this space.

Non-Fiction Book on Writing and Publishing Children’s Books – I get asked a lot of questions by people looking to write and publish children’s books and I think it’s time I crystallise all my experience into a book that get that can help other aspiring and established children’s book authors. Some of the topics I’ll be touching in this book will include working with an illustrator, doing research, getting reviews, social media, marketing etc. I’m excited about the challenge of writing this book and currently putting ideas together.

Billy and Monster Meet the President – Like my most recent book – Billy and Monster’s Golden Christmas – I had finished writing this book in 2013 but due to challenges in finding the right illustrator, its release was delayed. I am quietly confident that I’ll be able to get this published in May and just in time for the Independence Day celebrations.

A Book about Thanksgiving – I’m not really sure what the story or characters will be but I do know that it’ll something based around Thanksgiving.David Chuka Banner I could either place Billy or Kojo in a situation where they learn something valuable about Thanksgiving. On the other hand, I could create new characters and tell the Thanksgiving story through them. Will provide more details later.

I’ll be visiting more schools in 2015 and looking to share my stories with more of my target audience. Thanks for all your support and do have a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous 2015.

2 Comments on Childrens Books by David Chuka in 2015, last added: 12/16/2014
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7. Advice to a new novelist: be hardcore

Good morning! I got an email from a friend asking for advice on behalf of his niece, who has written a novel but can't find an agent. As I get these sorts of questions a lot I thought I'd answer here and get my Monday post done! Two birds! One stone!

The niece has sent her ms to various agents and heard the same reply: they admire the writing but the market is saturated with dystopian literature so they pass.

First, niece my friend, this happens ALL THE TIME. Perhaps that's a comfort to you? To hear that you're not alone? Example: Harry Potter came out, was a huge success, all the publishers were like, wait a minute, we need more middle grade fantasy series! They published a bunch of them. Most of them weren't hits. Publishers lost money.

Meanwhile, lots of people read Harry Potter and the subsequent fantasy series that were coming out and were inspired to write their own. Only they'd missed the swell. Publishers just weren't looking for them anymore. My own book THE GOOSE GIRL missed the swell. I'd been working on it for years, had no idea about any market and such, but by the time it was done and we were submitting it, the publishers were weary of all the fantasy series they were getting and all the major publishers rejected it.

This happened again with TWILIGHT. It hit big. Publishers began to gobble up vampire stories and then just all paranormal romance. Agents who happened to have YA paranormal romance at the time found it easy to sell them. An entire section of Barnes & Noble was renamed Paranormal Romance. Nathan Hale joked B&N was renaming themselves "Paranormal Romance 'N Things." And then, the inevitable happened. Readers grew weary of paranormal romance. Publishers lost money. They were no longer looking for it. All those writers who had been reading paranormal romance and were inspired to write it found they couldn't sell their manuscripts.

And then, again. HUNGER GAMES. DIVERGENT. MAZE RUNNER. etc. There's a bubble, the bubble pops.

When that bubble pops, it's not the end of the world. I've heard from agents and editors that they will take up any book that really, really sings to them, even if in the current marketplace it's far from a sure thing. THE GOOSE GIRL eventually found a home, for example. The key, the challenge, is finding just the right person who falls in love with your writing, even if dystopian is past its prime.

A few things you can do to help that happen:

1. make sure your book is amazing. No problem there, right? Easy peasy.

2. keep submitting until you find that one agent who just can't resist your voice, your characters, your style, what you've done to make sure your book is unique among all the others. Which means not giving up, querying everybody, attending conferences where you can meet an agent in person and hope that you click somehow with this one. To just keep trying.

3. write a new book

Because chances are, your first book will never sell. Even if it isn't dystopian. Most first books don't sell. Ask most published writers and you'll hear war stories of all the books we wrote that will never see the light of day.

Your goal as a writer isn't to get a book published. It's to make yourself a writer. Sometimes writers must write a lot of books as practice before our brains are good enough to write something new, original, exciting, interesting, unputtdownable. Sometimes you have to chalk this one up to a rehearsal and get moving on the next thing.

THIS IS NOT AN EASY BUSINESS. THERE IS NO SHORTCUT. TO WRITE NOVELS FOR A LIVING YOU MUST BE HARDCORE.

The second question the niece had was, should I just self-publish it?

My answer: maybe. I don't know. I've never self-published anything so I'm far from an expert. Indie publishing is a great resource for books that don't find a home in traditional publishing. I guess it depends on what your goal is here. To share your work? To make a living? I'd recommend seeking out blogs and sites about self-publishing for more answers. Note that self-publishing is not as simple as uploading your manuscript to Amazon. In order to have success, you'll have to educate yourself on the business, put in time and money. I've read that most first novels that are self-published never get into the black--at least the ones who hire professional editors, cover designers, etc., in order to do it all professionally. In other words, in order to self-publish, you must be hardcore. So it really depends on your skill set, personality, and desire. Do you want to learn about this business? Invest your resources in it? Put in the time?

So, niece, what kind of hardcore are you?

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8. How to write dystopian fiction

I came across an article from Writer’s Digest titled “Writing Dystopian Fiction: 7 Tips.” It’s by Brian Klems. As I’m interested in writing dystopian fiction for the YA market, I took a look. And the insights have generated new thoughts in me that I think will help when I get around to tackling it. Check it out.

Brian’s tips focus on:

  1. Extrapolation of current technology
  2. The central theme
  3. Taking things to an extreme
  4. A “burning fire” message
  5. Uncovering a present truth
  6. Using examples from the past
  7. Coming from current affairs

For what it's worth.

Submissions Wanted. Nothing in the queue for Friday or next week. If you’d like a fresh look at your opening chapter or prologue, please email your submission to me re the directions at the bottom of this post.

Ray

© 2014 Ray Rhamey

Submitting to the Flogometer:

Email the following in an attachment (.doc, .docx, or .rtf preferred, no PDFs):

  1. your title
  2. your complete 1st chapter or prologue plus 1st chapter
  3. Please include in your email permission to post it on FtQ.
  4. Note: I’m adding a copyright notice for the writer at the end of the post. I’ll use just the first name unless I’m told I can use the full name.
  5. Also, please tell me if it’s okay to post the rest of the chapter so people can turn the page.
  6. And, optionally, include your permission to use it as an example in a book on writing craft if that's okay.
  7. If you’re in a hurry, I’ve done “private floggings,” $50 for a first chapter.
  8. If you rewrite while you wait for your turn, it’s okay with me to update the submission.

Were I you, I'd examine my first page in the light of the first-page checklist before submitting to the Flogometer.

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9. The Next Stage: Tagging all my Sketches




Now that the basic structure of my sketching book is sorted, I have to go back to all the piles of sketchbooks which John and I waded through when I first got started on the project in the summer. Of course, there are a few new ones now too.


Back then, I had a rough idea of the categories I was trying to illustrate, and used colour-coded bookmarks to help with that. Now the book's structure has been fine-tuned, I'm ready to make the selections, but I have to find a way of shortlisting from the hundreds of possible sketches, buried in nearly 90 books. 


The plan we hatched was to work through the images we bookmarked last time, taking quick snaps on my phone, so I can see them all together. I used post-it notes to tag drawings against the sections of the book I had in mind. Trouble is, the tags needed transferring to the photos I'd taken, or I'd just end up with a bucketful of meaningless snaps, which wouldn't be much better than the piles of sketchbooks! Then there was the complication that most sketches could potentially work in various sections of the book. Oh dear...

There were so many images in play, I had to find a system that would be efficient, without being too time-consuming. John came to the rescue and downloaded Picasa: photo-album software, which lets you tag your images. 


I have been working through the sketchbooks, numbering each sketch as I photograph it and logging it in a book, along with the number of the sketchbook (so we can find the sketch again when it comes to scanning), and any tags which might apply. The photos are then uploaded to the computer in batches and quickly renamed with the two reference numbers. 

While I am snapping the next batch and scribbling in my book, poor John has the unenviable task of adding all the tags in Picasa. I'm still using the post-it notes, to speed up finding specific sketches if they make the grade and we need to scan them in:


The system is not as time-consuming as it sounds and we did the lot in a few days (though an emergency-dash to Staples had to be made half way through, for more post-its).

The tagging system is brilliant, as I can now pull together all the sketches of noses, or contour-drawing, or speed-sketching at the touch of a button. It's going to make the next stage much, much easier. Phew.

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10. Back with a Review of a Marvelous Book on Writing

My writing corner when it's tidy.
         
Although this is what is usually looks like.





Hello, again, at last, after the long silence. I have keenly missed blogging and connecting with blog friends, but I had to put writing first these last few weeks, and it's paid off. I finished my mystery, and now I'm doing the re-thinking, re-conceiving, additional research, etc. that is so much of the re-writing process. And I have been reading a wonderful book that I just have to share. The Art of Character, by David Corbett.



I first came across Corbett's insights in an article titled, "Characters, Scene by Scene", in the January, 2015 issue of Writer's Digest. (Yes, I know it's not January yet, but that's how magazines do things.)

In his article, Corbett emphasizes that "dimensional characters are born from drama—not description." Yes, you should know descriptive and biographical details: eye color, hair color, height, weight, hobbies, work history, biographical information, etc., but that's doesn't create characters who live and breathe. What brings them alive on the page is interaction with others in scenes that serve a purpose in the story.

To paraphrase just one of his examples: How your character looks isn't as important as, say, how her appearance makes her feel, how it makes others feel, and how this translates into behavior. The same is true of age: How does her age affect her interactions? I have to say that just reading this article inspired several insights into my main character and a couple of others, and I immediately sent off for his book, The Art of Character.   Here's the book at Amazon, although several sites sell it.                                                      
And I bought the paperback, not the kindle. (When I read something this pithy, I do a lot of underlining.)

The Art of Character does not disappoint. It's like a course in creative writing, with exercises that are challenging but oh-so useful if you want rounded out characters that truly drive your story. It's also like a course in psychology, probing your characters fears, desires, hates, loves, spirituality or lack of it. Or a course in sociology. Or philosophy. Or literature. (Corbett gives solid examples of stories, plays, novels, that illustrate the concepts he covers.)

You can tap into this book as deeply as you feel your work calls for, but the advice and insights gleaned from it are useful for any genre: light fiction, cosy mystery, MG or YA novel, literary adult fiction. It's the best book on writing I've come across in a long time. And it's the kind of book you can return to again and again.

You can visit his website to learn more about this book and the best-selling mysteries he writes. Meanwhile, I have to get back to the last chapter, the one on "voice". Happy reading.

And happy writing.

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11. Interesting blog posts about writing – w/e December 12th 2014



Here’s my selection of interesting (and sometimes amusing) posts about writing from the last week:

Alert: Questionable Terms of Use in HBO's Game of Thrones Compendium (Victoria Strauss)
http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2014/12/alert-questionable-terms-of-use-in-hbos.html

Identifying Your Unique Brand (Mary Keeley)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/identifying-unique-brand/

How To Become a Writer (Lisa Cron)
http://writerunboxed.com/2014/12/11/how-to-become-a-writer/

Even More New Year’s Resolutions for Writers (Keith Cronin)
www.writerunboxed.com/2014/12/09/even-more-new-years-resolutions-for-writers/

Spam, self-promotion, and the thin, jellyfish-covered line between (Seanan McGuire)
http://seanan-mcguire.livejournal.com/600634.html

Will you ever buy mostly e-books? The results! (NathanBransford)
http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2014/12/will-you-ever-buy-mostly-e-books-results.html

Small Changes in Your Writing Process Can Lead to Big Results (Janice Hardy)
www.blog.janicehardy.com/2014/12/small-changes-in-your-writing-process.html

What Your Writer’s Resume Says About Your Chances for Recognition (Sharon Bially)
http://writerunboxed.com/2014/12/08/what-your-writers-resume-says-about-your-chances-for-recognition/

Facebook for Authors: Getting Started Guide (Jane Friedman)
http://janefriedman.com/2014/12/08/facebook-for-authors/

The Role of Concept in a Real-World Story (Larry Brooks)
http://storyfix.com/role-concept-real-world-story


If you found these useful, you may also like my personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2013, and last week’s list.

If you have a particular favorite among these, please let the author know (and me too, if you have time).  Also, if you've a link to a great post that isn't here, feel free to share.

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12. Watch That Tone

A child learns early on to recognize tone of voice. The mother's soft, sweet coo means she is happy with him. The low growl utilizing his middle name means he pushed the boundaries a tad too far, but what does tone have to do with fiction?



Tone is the emotional atmosphere the writer establishes and maintains throughout the entire novel based on how the author, through the point of view character, feels about the information she relates. 

You may not have thought about how you actually feel about your story. Take a moment to consider. Are you writing about ghosts with a wink and a nudge or are you aiming for chill bumps? Is the story serious and bittersweet or a satirical exposé?

1. Tone can be formal or informal, light or dark, grave or comic, impersonal or personal, subdued or passionate, reasonable or irrational, plain or ornate.

The narrator can be cynical, sarcastic, sweet, or funny. A satirical and caustic tone plays well in a dark Comedy. It won't play well in a cozy Mystery.

2. Tone should suit genre.

Are you writing a shallow Chick Lit comedy or a dark and mysterious Gothic novel? If you write a mixed genre, the tone should match the genre that takes precedence over the other.

If you are writing a funny romance, you have to decide if you want your reader to belly laugh her way through it or have a few moments that make her belly laugh while worrying about the outcome of the relationship. Some Romance fans love a frothy, light tone. Others prefer the melodramatic tone of Historical Romance. Yet another prefers a heart-wrenching Literary love story.

Some paranormal stories are eerie and set an ominous tone. Light Horror feels almost comic to the reader. Readers who prefer ominous, creepy paranormal might not enjoy the comical version.

3. Tone is demonstrated by word choice and the way you reveal the details.

It informs the narrator's attitude toward the characters and the situation through his interior narration, his actions, and his dialogue. If he does not take the characters or situation seriously, the reader won't either. Word choice, syntax, imagery, sensory cues, level of detail, depth of information, and metaphors reveal tone.

4. Tone is not the same as voice.

Stephen King writes horror. His voice is distinct. At times he employs quirky, adolescent boy humor (his voice), but his aim is to chill you and his quips impart comic relief in a sinister story world. Being heavy-handed with the humor can ruin a good horror story, even turn it into parody.

5. Tone is not the same as mood.

Tone is how the author/narrator approaches the scene. Mood is the atmosphere you set for the scene. If you are writing a mystery, a scene can be brooding and dark leading up to the sleuth finding the body. The mood can lighten as the detectives indulge in a moment of gallows humor. Tone defines your overall mystery as wisecracking noir or cozy British as they solve the crime.

6. Tone is not the same as style.

Style reflects the author or narrator's voice. It is also revealed through sentence structure, use of literary devices, rhythm, jargon, slang, and accents. Style is revealed through dialogue. Style showcases the background and education of the characters. It expresses the cast's belief system, opinions, likes, and dislikes. It is controlled by what the characters say and how they say it. Tone is revealed by the narrator's perceptions, what he chooses to explore, and what he chooses to hide.

Stay tuned for examples of tone next week.

For these and other tips on revision, pick up a copy of: 




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13. 2015 Short Story Challenge

short Story banner

Carol MacAllister copied me on this contest, yesterday. I don’t usually bring you contests with more than a $10 entry fee, but this one sounds like fun, is giving feedback on all submissions, cash prizes, and has gotten a lot of buzz, so I thought I would let you know about it for you to decide.

The Short Story Challenge 2015 Early Entry Deadline is Today!

The 9th Annual Short Story Challenge is a creative writing competition open to writers around the world.  There are 3 rounds of competition.  In the 1st Round (January 16-24, 2015), writers are placed randomly in heats and are assigned a genre, subject, and character assignment.  They have 8 days to write an original story no longer than 2,500 words.  The top 5 in each heat advance to the 2nd Round (March 12-15, 2015) where they receive new assignments, only this time they have just 3 days to write a 2,000 word (maximum) short story.  Judges choose finalists to advance to the 3rd and final round of the competition where writers are challenged to write a 1,500 word (maximum) story in just 24 hours (April 24-25, 2015).  The top writers receive thousands in cash and prizes and feedback from the judges is provided for every entered story.  Sound like fun?  Make sure to register by the early entry deadline of December 11th before the entry fee goes up!

OFFICAL RULES and PARTICIPATION AGREEMENT

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

EARLY ENTRY FEE: $45 – Get $5 off if you tweet or post on facebook
EARLY ENTRY DEADLINE: Today – December 11th.

SHORTSTORYDEADLINE

shortstoryfeedback

Click Here to Visit the Forums.

In addition to the cash prizes listed below, we will be announcing many more great prizes for the 2015 competition soon!

1st Place • USD$2,000 Cash

2nd Place • USD$750 Cash

3rd Place • USD$500 Cash

4th Place • USD$250 Cash

5th Place • USD$100 Cash

Good Luck!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Competition, Contest, inspiration, opportunity, Places to Submit, Win, writing Tagged: 2015 Short Story Contest, Cash Prizes, Story Feedback

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14. Jami Gold’s Writing Worksheets

Jami Picture 200 x 300Yvonne Ventresca (Pandemic author) sent me a note pointing out all the wonderful writing worksheets on Jami Gold’s Blog. I wanted to make sure I pointed out all the helpful information you can find, download, and use on her site.

Last week we talked about the Seven Point Story Structure System. You can find worksheets for other story structure systems to use on Jami’s site, too.

I particularly like the one below because you can use to see if each scene in your manuscript has what it takes when you revise.

Here is Jami Gold’s Elements of a Good Scene Worksheet from her blog:

jamigold elements of a scene

Use this link to download and print the spreadsheet out to use: http://jamigold.com/for-writers/worksheets-for-writers/ – Check it out!

Jami also does workshops:

Full Beat Sheet Basics OnDemand Workshop Information:

Beat sheets, long used by movie scriptwriters, can also help us create strong stories for our novels.
Don’t know what beat sheets are or how to use them?
Do you write by the seat of your pants and don’t want to plan your story in advance?

Never fear—learn the terminology, uses, and ways to adapt beat sheets to our writing methods. At the end of this class, students will have an overview of story structure and beat sheets:

  • Introduction to story arcs
  • Introduction to beats and terminology
  • Digging deeper to avoid formulaic clichés
  • Using beat sheets to find unnecessary scenes and pacing issues
  • How those who write by the seat of their pants can use beat sheets too

Click here for more information about Jami Gold’s Beat Sheet Basics OnDemand Workshop

A little bit about Jami: After escaping the corporate asylum by leaving a clone in her place, Jami Gold moved to Arizona and decided to become a writer, where she could put her talent for making up stuff to good use. Fortunately, her muse, an arrogant male who delights in causing her to sound as insane as possible, rewards her with unique and rich story ideas. Fueled by chocolate, she writes paranormal romance and urban fantasy tales that range from dark to humorous, but one thing remains the same: Normal need not apply. Just ask her family—and zombie cat.

Thank you Jami for sharing this with all of us.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

 


Filed under: Advice, Courses, How to, opportunity, reference, writing Tagged: Downloadable Writing Worksheets, Forms, Jami Gold, Yvonne Ventresca

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15. The Tale of Two Labours - Eve Ainsworth


It dawned on me the other day that writing is very similar to raising children. Bear with me on this, it may sound crazy, but there are parallels.
I guess it goes without saying that I'm a mother - a bit obvious I guess and a bloody tired one at that. I'm not your 'Earth-woman' type. I hated NCT classes and physically recoiled if anyone pushed a childcare manual my way, but somehow, god knows how, I managed to raise two, slightly quirky but still very beautiful-to-me children.






One of my bundles of joy...













I guess my writing is quite similar. I wasn't particularly academic (never had the concentration), I hated reading any 'how-to' manuals, but somehow, god knows how, I managed to produce a book.

And the coincidences do not end there. I noted the following:

  • I fell pregnant the first time and it was a bright and exciting moment (this was long before the morning sickness and other uglies kicked in). You are full of hope and wonder. The world seems a bright and exciting place. You start writing an idea down, it's the same - bright and exciting. You can't stop thinking about it. It's alive and growing.  Everything is good.
  • In pregnancy you think of names. You toil with the absurd and the traditional. Something might grab you and stick. In the early stages of writing, you might gift your book with a title. For me It has to have one. I can't physically write without it. And it has to be right. This has caused me serious neurosis.
  • In both pregnancy and writing you grow. Pregnancy is pretty obvious, especially with my cravings for deep fried chicken and waffles. In writing, if you're like me, you'll eat constantly - grazing like a demented sheep. Crumbs will litter your keyboard like scabby snow. I know this because my bum has slowly expanded to the size of a cow.
  • Then birth, the agonising labour. Sweating and cursing to get that baby free from you.Not so dissimilar to the sweating and cursing at the last stages of the first draft. You start shouting at people (my husband in both cases) and you wonder why the hell you bothered in the first place.
  • Then relief. Love. A feeling of satisfaction - achievement perhaps?
  • That's until the sleepless nights kick in. After childbirth, the baby whines and moans. After drafts, it's me whining and moaning as I wait for feedback. I rethink sentences at night, torturing myself, wondering if I did enough.
  • A slow sense of worry claws at you. You wonder if you're actually any good at this, as you plaster the nappy on backwards (yes, I did do that...). Or re-read your book and hate EVERY SINGLE WORD.
  • You look at other writers/mothers. Why do they seem so 'together'. Why are their babies perfect and behave like they should. How do they manage to write so beautifully. Why can't your writing be like that?  
  • The baby is growing, the baby smiles and you feel good again. As you edit, your book is becoming stronger. You re-read a bit you love and feel good again.
  • Someone tells you how beautiful/well behaved your baby is and you glow. A blogger/reader tells you how wonderful your book is and you glow.
  • You look at the finished product with a sense of pride. You want to tell the world about it.This is what you wanted. This is what you must always remind yourself.


I guess the most important thing of all is that either in writing, or in children - or perhaps both, we have left some kind of legacy. Some sort of stick in the ground.
Although as I watch my little boy trying to walk backwards with a cat basket on his head....this could be a very wobbly stick indeed.







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16. Meeting my Publisher and Choosing Guests


As you can see, I have been sketching stuffed animals:


But more of that later...

It's been a week since my trip to see the publisher of my latest project, the 'Sketching People' book. I have been pretty full-on with it ever since.

The meeting went really well. Everyone in the team was very friendly and easy to get on with. It was good to finally meet the designer, who I worked with on all the presentation spreads. Five of us sat round a table with proper coffee and very nice chocolate biscuits (their regular treat for author visits) and my editor sat me at the head of the table: I felt very important.



Once we got down to business, we really hammered away at the project. They were great at listening to my take on things and good at explaining what I needed to know, so all very positive. 

I love that my editor is a straight-talker, like myself, so we got loads sorted in just a couple of hours. There were some tweakings needed to the flat plan and synopsis I had created, but luckily it was basically sound: the changes were mainly a structuring issue that I hadn't realised and a bit of streamlining, all of which was a great improvement.



A new flat plan has been created out of the meeting, although it is apparently still very fluid: the idea is that the structure is there to hang all my work on, but it can adjust to accommodate more or less space needed in the different sections, as I go along.



After the meeting, I had a few hours to kill before my train home. It was bitterly cold and no good for sketching outside unfortunately, so I took myself and my sketchbook to the warmth of Natural History Museum, as I enjoyed it so much the last time. Which is where our stuffed friends above come in.

The rest of last week was mostly spent choosing guest contributors for various sections of the book. We have to do that early on, to give plenty of time for people to sign the paperwork and get their artwork scanned. I need guests because there are some aspects of sketching people which I am pretty rubbish at - crowd scenes for one - so I have collected examples from people like Caroline Johnson, who are great at it:


It's good to have a variety of approaches in other sections too, so I had my head in Flickr and Pinterest for days, searching people out, and got quite bug-eyed!

I have tried to mix it up a bit: some well-known Urban Sketchers correspondents, whose work often appears in similar publications, but also some less known sketchers, as the book seems a great way to showcase talent. I sent a list of possibilities to the publisher today, and am waiting to hear what they think. Keep you posted!

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17. Tinkering Vs. Progress

I had a great phone call with a coaching client a few weeks ago, and it reminded me that I’ve been meaning to write about a phenomenon I’ve noticed over the years. He was really passionate about his first five chapters, the ones he’d already drafted. He had a strong goal to finish his manuscript, but no matter how hard he tried, he wasn’t progressing. Why? He was fixating on revising those completed chapters!

Some writers sit down and bang out a draft, no problem. (Those jerks!) Some writers have the hardest time pursuing new pages when they already have part of a draft completed. This can be trouble for a few reasons.

What you’ve already written is a known. It’s there already, and you can begin to work on it. Plus, there’s the idea that if you really polish those first few chapters, you’ll have a stronger springboard for the rest of the story. The blank pages that follow are unknown, they’re not nearly as appealing. In fact, they can be downright intimidating. So who would blame a writer for sticking to the familiar?

In addition to being done, your existing chapters also provide a lot of opportunity for distraction. When we’re tinkering with the same few chapters over and over again, we tend to feel pretty productive. But we may also miss the forest for the trees. Because while you’re working on syntax and trying to decide what order those three scenes should go in, the “bird’s eye view” of the entire project itself is getting ignored. Just like some manuscript revisions tend to devolve into moving around commas rather than dealing with larger issues like plot and voice, tinkering can take you away from what needs to be your focus, especially in an early draft: getting the big picture down on paper.

What do I recommend to writers who are getting caught up in their early pages at the expense of finishing a draft? Write a long outline where you detail what you plan to do in each additional chapter. Cover what scenes you’ll include, what the big plot turning points will be, and how characters might grown and change as a result. It doesn’t have to be fancy or thorough. The goal here is to give yourself a map for finally committing those unknown chapters to the page.

The hard truth is this: once you finish a manuscript, you will most likely discover things you didn’t know about your story, you’ll have developed your themes and characters, and you will want to go back to the beginning and start planting some seeds that will eventually grow and blossom over the course of the novel. So those first chapters that you’re polishing are likely to change as your own understanding of the manuscript changes.

Tinkering can be good if you recognize it for what it is, and don’t indulge it too much. When writers come to me with a promising first few chapters or one really rough complete draft, I am much more intrigued by the draft, each and every time. In the first chapters, you are still very much in the idea stage and trying to figure your novel out. When you’ve completed a first draft, you’ve at least put everything down on paper and you’ve executed a version of your vision. It may not be the final version, and it may not be terribly polished yet, but at least it’s complete. Pulling that off may be more intimidating up-front, but it’s definitely more gratifying in the long run.

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18. WRITE YOUR STORY…WITH FIRST LINE.

2015 marks the 17th year of The First Line.  This online publication gives writers an opportunity to see one of their stories in print using the format of the same first line.

Here are the new first lines for 2015.

Spring 2015: Fairy tales hardly ever come true for quiet girls.   (Submissions due February 1, 2015.)

Summer 2015: Laura liked to think she was honest with herself; it was everyone else she lied to.   (Submissions due May 1, 2015.)

 Fall 2015: The old neighborhood was nearly unrecognizable.   (Submissions due August 1, 2015.)

 Winter 2015: George pressed the call button and said, “Mrs. Whitfield, you have a visitor.”(Submissions due November 1, 2015.)

The First Line is available on Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B006XGLLSU


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19. Taking Risks in your Writing

Julieby Julie Eshbaugh

~~~

The seed of this post began as a reflection on my own writing choices – the constant desire to create something new and original on the page, pitted against the awareness that any break with writing conventions and norms carries with it a certain level of risk. Will readers feel drawn in by this choice, or will they find it off-putting? Is this a bold break with tradition, or is it a gimmick? Risk can be terrifying, (especially for an unpublished writer,) but I’m a strong advocate for risk-taking, and the aim of this post is to help you discover the best risks for your story.

What do I mean by taking risks?

Risk is a broad term. Dictionary.com defines it as exposure to the chance of injury or loss; a hazard or dangerous chance. Reading that definition, it’s difficult for me to see how I’m going to make a convincing argument in favor of risk-taking! Even dictionary.com’s example of the word used in a phrase is negative – their example is: not worth the risk. Wow! So much risk aversion!!!

Even when narrowed down to the art of storytelling, the concept of risk is still quite broad and could represent a zillion different things. A writer weighs many choices as he or she forms a new story – the setting… the age, gender, race, etc., of the characters… the time period… the point of view… and on and on and on. Every choice could represent a type of risk to the story. For purposes of this post, however, I want to focus less on the story and more on the telling of the story. I want to talk about narrative choices – risks that a writer might take in deciding to employ a style or structure outside of the norms or expected conventions.

For clarity, let me share some examples of books and films that took narrative risks and succeeded.

(*Spoiler Alert* Most of the narrative “secrets” of these stories are well known, but I personally hate even the tiniest of spoilers. Most of these are harmless, but if you haven’t read Atonement or seen The Sixth Sense – and somehow haven’t been spoiled to their secrets – please skip my notes about them! I would hate to be the one who spoiled these for you!):

  1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – A book narrated by Death himself.
  2. Monster by Walter Dean Myers – The story of Steve Harmon, a teenage boy in juvenile detention and on trial, presented as a screenplay of Steve’s own imagination.
  3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – The story of a boy named Charlie, who describes the events of his freshman year of high school through letters to an anonymous stranger.
  4. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov – A foreword, a 999-line poem by a fictional poet, and a commentary to the poem combine to form the story of the novel.
  5. Atonement by Ian McEwan – A “story within a story,” but the reader is kept unaware of the nested story until well into the book.
  6. The Sixth Sense (a film by M. Night Shyamalan) – The main character can only be seen by one other character, a narrative manipulation that is hidden from the viewer until late in the story.
  7. Memento (a film by Christopher Nolan) – A story presented as two different sequences of scenes: a black-and-white series of scenes in chronological order, and a color series of scenes shown in reverse order. The two sequences converge at the end of the film, creating a unified story.

These are just a handful of examples, but I hope they convey the breadth of stories that can be successfully told outside of the standard conventions of form. I also hope they demonstrate the value of risk-taking. Looking back at these from the perspective of the present, knowing what we know, for instance, about the way readers have embraced The Book Thief, it may not seem like Markus Zusak took a risk by casting Death as the book’s narrator. But as he was writing, Zusak couldn’t have known how this break from narrative norms would be received. Fortunately for us as readers, he took a chance.

When a break from traditional structure succeeds, it’s often because the choice complements and magnifies the story and all of its elements – character, setting, theme, etc. When such a choice fails – when it calls attention to itself and distracts the reader – it’s often because it doesn’t add to the story, but instead stands out against it in a false and gimmicky way.

So how do you get it right? How do you ensure that your choice to abandon some narrative norm improves rather than detracts? I would suggest that you consider the following:

  1. Your own personal judgment as a writer – How do you feel about this choice? If you’re passionate about a unique narrative structure for your story, you’re probably onto something. Trust your gut.
  2. The advice of trusted readers and your agent – Your critique partners and beta readers may love your choice… they may hate it. They may fall somewhere in between. Weigh their input. Ask for the basis of any reservations they may have. Remember that critique partners and beta readers want your story to succeed. Of course, if you’re fortunate enough to be working with an agent, he or she will have an opinion, too.
  3. Let the story itself be the ultimate judge – Ask questions like: Is this choice illuminating the story, or getting in its way? If I went with a more traditional form, would the story shine more brightly, or dim from a loss of energy? Why?

All this advice can be reduced to one essential truth: the ultimate goal of a writer is to tell the best story in the best way possible. Serve your story. Use conventions. Take risks. Tell the best story you can.

What are your own feelings about narrative structure? Are you a risk-taker, or do you prefer to follow traditional form? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

~~~

Julie Eshbaugh writes fiction for young adults. She is the author of the upcoming Ivory & Bone (HarperCollins, 2016) which (incidentally) has been described as having “a unique narrative structure.” You can add Julie on Goodreads and follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.

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20. Alternative Endings… for someone else! by Erika Wassall

erikaphoto-45Erika Wassall, the Jersey Farm Scribe here with…

Alternative Endings… for someone else!

One of the greatest pieces of advice I ever received as a writer was so simple.

Write every day.

Every. Single. Day.

It’s not an easy feat. Even if you don’t count Sundays, because… well honestly, because it’s just a good excuse to have a day off… that’s still a LOT of writing.

Whether I’m freelance writing for a catalog or magazine, polishing up a short story, working on a manuscript or even just writing out a letter to a friend, I make every effort to put the pen to paper every day.

And yup, you read that correctly. I write letters to friends. Like actual on paper letters. Stamp. Mailbox. The whole bit. LOL. And I think it counts. It’s writing! It’s stretching and exercising those creative muscles.

So today I thought I’d tell you about my favorite creative exercise that I go to on those days when I don’t have a deadline. Or maybe I only have 20 minutes, and I need to find something I can dive into quickly and easily that will get the creative goo in my mind bubbling. (I see it as a sort of neon blue slime in a cauldron)

Re-write Someone Else’s Work!!

Have you ever watched a movie or TV show and find yourself devastatingly disappointed? They had such a great idea, a really unique and intriguing concept, but they just didn’t come through like you thought they would. And you had SUCH high hopes.

Here’s your chance to fix it!

There’s no need for an explanation or backstory. All that work has already been done for you. All you need to do is jump in on the “good parts”. Re-write the horrible romantic scene from your favorite chick-flick. Give that psychological thriller a twist that you DIDN’T see coming. Write an ending for a Steven King novel that you thought fell flat.

It opens up a lot of doors and can be a really fun exercise. Plus, when I’m watching something and the end really disappoints me, I can tuck it away to fix later that week.

Anyone else watch the sitcom How I Met Your Mother? The series ended a few months ago. Loved the show. Hated the ending. So I decided to fix it.

For those who know the show: in my ending, Robin and Barney ended up secretly together. Not “dating” so much. But let’s just say more than friends. This gave me a chance to play with elaborate-scheme concepts and their dynamic personalities without what I saw as the show’s weak effort at sudden “deep realizations”.

Lilly and Marshall: Happy ever after. You just don’t mess with some things.

And Ted? Ted and their mother got divorced and he became a very successful architect. Single. And happy. His big character change became realizing that not everyone has to be in love to be happy!!!

And in all honesty, to me… that’s how it happened. So instead of it ending with me rolling my eyes and shaking my head, I was able to get the bad taste out of my mouth and settle into an ending that mades me both laugh and smile.

My favorite thing about this exercise is that my brain starts to automatically do it when I watch TV. I’ll be sitting on the couch, and I’ll say to myself… ech… that scene could have been better! And instead of just criticizing it, I immediately start daydreaming about how I could make it better.

It makes me less lazy!

Instead of being disappointed, I get creative! Here’s some other movies or TV shows that I’ve created alternative scenes or endings to:

LOST

The Cell

Vanilla Sky

The Little Mermaid – (my favorite character was Ursula. So she wins in my version)

Got any endings you think you could do better, or scenes that really left you wanting more? Scribble down some notes when you’re watching. And then give the exercise a try sometime when you’re stuck or looking for something different to do.

Did reading this make you think of an ending that’s always disappointed you? Let us know what it is! It’s always fun to hear what other people are thinking, and helps us spark our own ideas.

The creativity and written word this can inspire can indirectly breathe life into your manuscripts. And you know how strongly I believe that they are worth it!

____________________________________________________________________

Erika Wassall is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. She is a member of SCBWI and a proud Mad Scientist, bringing science experiments right into children’s classrooms, and hearts. She has a small farm in New Jersey with sheep, chickens, pigs and vegetables. Check out her new website at www.TheJerseyFarmScribe.com where as a first generation farmer, she often takes the long way, learning the tricks of the trade on The Farm. On her website is also The Shop page with tips and a free Q/A from her husband’s mechanic shop, and The Writer page where she shares stories, experiences and characters from the heart. Follow her on Twitter at @NJFarmScribe. She’d love to hear from you!

Thank you Erika for another great post. Lauren Oliver says she did this for many books and it helped her improve her writing skills. It is referred to as Fan Fiction. I know there have been a lot of books I threw down in disgust after reading their unsatisfying ending.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: article, inspiration, revisions, writing Tagged: Erika Wassall, Fan fiction, Re-write, Re-writing a published book

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21. Even Tiny Action Steps Can Produce Huge Results

"Someone is sitting in the shade today because  someone planted a tree a long time ago." This Warren Buffet quote inspires me. It 's simple, yet so amazingly powerful.  1. A tiny seed can create something as massive as a tree, even a sequoia tree.  Think of the giant sequoia tree in California, USA. It averages around 26 feet in diameter, weighs around 4,189,000 lbs. and reaches

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22. The Christmas Owl Hardback Giveaway

OwlCover_Kindle_optimized

You can enter to win a signed hardback copy of The Christmas Owl December 4 – December 12. Two lucky winners will receive a copy of these beautiful keepsake books and the hardbacks are only available here. Visit a Rafflecopter giveaway to get your entries in.

Also, during 12/4 -12/6 our Christmas Owl kindle book will be discounted to $.99 on Amazon (reg $3.50).  Happy Holidays from 4EYESBOOKS!

 

Christmas_Pine_Cones_PNG_Clipart


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23. Art and commerce - by Cecilia Busby

Like most published writers, I spend much of my time wondering why I'm not paid more than I am. I'm not sure I signed up for this, I think, as I contemplate my meagre royalty cheques. Of course, it's wonderful to have your books out there, but 'out there' is a bit of a vague designation, encompassing as it does a range from the cramming of multiple copies into every branch of Waterstones to the presence of one lonely copy in an independent bookshop in your home town. And if the surveys are to be believed, more of us find ourselves in the latter position than the former.

Among many blogs and comments on making a living from writing, I found one recently from Emma Darwin which gave me pause for thought. The median income from professional writing - that is, for those who spend the majority of their time writing - is down, according to the ALCS, from £15,450 in 2005 to £11,000 a year in 2013.

That's people who spend the majority of their time writing. Even if they spent only half their working hours writing, that's the equivalent of an annual wage of £22,000, and the likelihood is that they spend less than half not writing, so their annual wage is likely to be nearer £15-20,000. Currently, the UK median wage for full-time workers is £27,000. Advances, as Darwin notes, have steadily fallen over the last ten years, and royalties are squeezed by the sheer number of published and self-published books competing in the marketplace, as well as discounters like Amazon, whose sales result in mere pennies per book for the writer.

So what made it easier to make a living from writing ten or twenty years ago? In trying to fathom out the economics of publishing, I have been haunted by a quote from Andrew Wylie - the jackal of literary agents - who once said that if one of his writers got paid royalties, he hadn't done his job properly. The implication was that he aimed to get such a high advance from the publishers that the book couldn't possibly earn out. Ever.

What makes that an attractive proposition for publishers? It can surely only be the prestige of publishing a well-known and highly respected literary writer. Well, I imagine the commissioning editor saying as he joins his fellow publishing mates for a drink, we've got the latest Martin Amis. And they all turn green with envy while rapidly increasing their offer to Ian McEwan.

Is that how it works? Or worked?

It implies a goal, for publishers, that is not necessarily that of making a profit. Rather it's something to do with having a part in producing the most respected art. (I leave aside whether you think Amis or McEwan represent the highest pinnacles of writing - but undeniably there are literary critics who would claim this to be so...) Certainly, however inflated the big-names' advances got, there was a willingness to support the middle tier of good but less commercially successful writers that argues a focus on quality writing rather than solely on profit.

At some point in the recent past, Amazon (and perhaps Harper-Collins) changed all that. A recent book (One Click: The Rise of Jeff Bezos) on Amazon had some fascinating things to say about Bezos's attitude to the publishing industry. Basically, as the slick young tech-geeks of Amazon started to investigate publishing they realised that the industry was run by editors, who were primarily interested in the writing and didn't pay a great deal of attention to the money. Art trumped commerce.

As a consequence, Amazon started to take them down - and lo and behold, ten or fifteen years later, publishers have had to respond. Now, generally, commerce is starting to trump art - something Ursula le Guin has criticised fiercely in this wonderful recent speech at the National Book Awards.

As le Guin points out, "the profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art", and when profit (sales and marketing) starts to rule what will and will not be published, then literature suffers. But how to counter this? Can what le Guin calls "responsible book publishing" exist any more in an era where market profit appears to have triumphed over every other measure of worth?

I think it still does, in little niches here and there and in the efforts of editors to circumvent sales and marketing and still get great books published. I think there are still stupendous works of art being produced out there.  But undeniably this is at the expense of authors, who are holding fast to their principles but being paid less and less for what they do.

So what can we do, as writers, in a society that does not value the art of writing?

We can give up writing - and some of us will simply have to, because we can't pay the bills. Or we can try and play the game, and aim our writing closer and closer to what le Guin calls "the production of a market commodity". Or we can carry on being artists, knowing that what we do, interrogating received truths, challenging people's beliefs, encouraging the imagination, has immense value for many people. But not for enough people to pay us a living wage.

There is, however, another kind of perspective on what is happening in publishing.

Some would dispute that the sort of distinction between art and commerce that le Guin posits is valid. Notions of art, in this view, are not universal, they are culture-bound and generally elitist. The upper strata supports 'art' that it enjoys and appreciates (opera) while denigrating commercial art (soap opera), yet commercial art exists precisely because it is the favoured art of the majority. Thus it would be fundamentally wrong and undemocratic to claim elite art as somehow of greater worth or value. From this perspective the actions of sales and marketing teams who refuse to cross-subsidise experimental or literary fiction with the profits from mass-market romance are fundamentally democratic. Money is the arbiter of worth. "Currency", as Lord Cutler Beckett says in the second Pirates of the Caribbean film, "is the currency of the realm."

It's an argument with merits. For the French sociologist Bourdieu, the upper echelons prefer 'high' to 'low' art because of the way class acts as a 'learned' practice, rather than because of any universally valid aesthetics. There is certainly something very elitist about the state subsidising opera when 90% of the population would consider it nothing but caterwauling in costumes. Equally, should the government fund grants for small touring theatre companies whose audiences are in their hundreds?

The debate is not dissimilar to the one we recently had on ABBA about children's reading. Is it right to censure children for reading commercial pap, to see the mere act of reading as not in itself enough, or is this elitist? Should we instead respect the idea that many children prefer undemanding commercial fiction and that it has as great a worth as more carefully crafted children's books? In the money world of Amazon, popular commercial books clearly have inherently greater worth than that those that sell less well, regardless of any judgements of the quality of the writing.


Well, to continue the Pirates of the Caribbean theme, let me nail my colours to the mast.

I believe some writing has more merit than others. Writing as art aims to interrogate the status quo, to provoke questions, to encourage readers to think about the world they live in. It draws on carefully honed craft and on a deep and wide imagination. I believe the more people that are encouraged to read or have access to this kind of writing, the better for society as a whole. I believe commercial considerations do not always favour writing as art, because it is often challenging, unsettling, difficult and it takes time to get right - but it changes readers, and inspires them, and once they 'get' it they will seek out more of that kind of art in all areas. They will be more questioning in their daily lives, more open, more imaginative, and they are more likely to challenge received wisdoms. This is a good thing.

Let me just make it clear though - when I say writing as art, I am not upholding the 'high'/'low' art distinction, which would see le Guin's science fiction/fantasy novels as a poor second to literary fiction. I am not condemning you all to reading Kafka or Joyce! (Excellent as both authors are). What I would consider 'art' in writing is intelligent, thoughtful, honed writing, aiming to be the best it can be, whether that's the best sort of comic book story or the best fantasy or the best romance. Writing that aims to make its readers engage completely in the world it presents and hence inevitably reflect on the world they live in. Malorie Blackman's Noughts and Crosses is a good example; but also less overtly political books that just give free reign to the imagination - Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines, or Diana Wynne Jones's Hexwood. Luckily, in children's fiction there are some great examples that are both commercially successful and works of art - but it's still the case that the rewards for that great writing are not as high as they were.

So, in the end, maybe we writers have to accept that we are not going to be top earners under the conditions of global financial capitalism. But we can contribute to sowing the seeds of imagination, thoughtfulness, empathy and a questioning intelligence in our readers that will hopefully one day contribute to undermining the dominance of that economic system.

As le Guin points out in her speech,  market-driven capitalism seems triumphant and unassailable. But so did the Divine Right of Kings, once.



Cecilia Busby writes humorous fantasy for children of 7 upwards. Her latest book, Dragon Amber, was published in September by Templar.



www.cjbusby.co.uk

@ceciliabusby

"Great fun - made me chortle!" (Diana Wynne Jones on Frogspell)

"A rift-hoping romp with great wit, charm and pace" (Frances Hardinge on Deep Amber)







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24. Gifts: Keep the faith

Hi, folks,  


I try to be honest on my blog and also keep things upbeat.  Here at the year end, I know this to be one of my most challenging years as a writer. I've tried things and found many that don't work. I haven't found many that do. I yearn with the depths of  myself to say something that useful that will be of great help to many. I haven't found success. I wonder if this is what is like to wander in the desert? I hope that I find an oasis soon. I'm keeping the faith. 

I have been grateful for my routine during this season of wandering. I cling to it. Write every day. Read every day. Take a walk every day. Do your chores. Do the shopping. Answer the emails. Cuddle the cats. Look for the moon. Watch the weather. There is something so beautiful and comforting to me about routine of my days. The sum of these moments are my life. 

I think that routine is what I love about writing. Writing is walking an ancient path. I'm searching for the touchstones of story. There is magic in this journey. I rejoice when I find a touchstone. The first touchstone is the moment everything changes.  My hands shake and my stomach does flip flops when I find this moment. It doesn't matter if I wrote the story or if someone else did. 

Finding the touchstones of story is like skipping across a creek from stone to stone. I looking for the call to adventure, the turning point, the darkest moment and the climax and all the wonderful touchstone in between. These are the defining stones of who we are and what we want. It is my desire to find a pathway that connects with readers. So much I cry when I think about it.  I don't know how to describe this ache within me. Many believe that I will find my way. I have no words for my gratefulness for the support. 

As I journey on, I keep in mind that each sucky moment is what leads to lovely ones.  Wherever you are on your creative journey, keep going.  This unseen place that feel is ahead, you will find it. This story that is brewing within, it will appear. Just don't stop. 

I will be back next week with more Gifts. 

Here is the doodle. Tossing out my Star Wars: "Patience, you must have." 



Life is like an onion. You peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep. Carl Sandburg

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25. No Fee Short Story Writing Contest Seeking Boy Adventure

lidiasnow in the park

The snowy illustration above was sent in by Lidia Gurling-Mielcarek to help us celebrate this time of year that brings in the cold. Brrr! 

Lidia is an freelance illustrator from Poland. She works in traditional and digital medias and loves to create children’s illustrations.

Call for:

Kudos for Friday post

Holiday Illustrations (at least 500 pixels wide)

Christmas Poems

Hanukkah Poems

New Year Poems

Send to Kathy.temean(at)gmail.com Put December Illustration or December Poem in subject area. Thanks!

Last week I pointed out that the 7 Point Story Structure System could work even with short Stories. Here is an opportunity to try it out with this no fee short story contest. Here are the details:

2014 NIGHTLIGHT READING WRITERS CONTEST

Nightlight Reading is requesting submissions for our 2014 Nightlight Readings Short Story Writers Contest that is geared to at-risk boys in the 10-12 year age group who often stop reading for pleasure.  Nightlight Reading’s goal is to fund and promote literature that appeals to boys and keeps them engaged and reading.

  • The 2014 CONTEST THEME is ADVENTURE.
  • The written piece should be considered a SHORT STORY with a MAXIMUM COUNT of 5,000 WORDS.

JUDGING
The 2014 contest entries will be pre-screened and read by a jury panel who may be scholars, librarians, teachers, and special guests who will decide on 10 semi-finalists.  Then, a jury of young readers selected from our target readers will read all 10 entries and vote on the winners.

PRIZES
Prizes will be awarded for First, Second, and Third Place as follows:

  • First Prize: $1,000 award plus certificate and publication of the story.
  • Second Prize: $500 award plus certificate and publication of the story.
  • Third Prize: $300 award plus certificate and publication of the story.

All award winners will be publicized nationally by Nightlight Reading.

OWNERSHIP
The authors will retain ownership of the stories, but Nightlight Reading will have the right to publish and distribute the story without compensation and in ways consistent with its mission for up to 2 years from the date of the awards are announced.

RULES
The Nightlight Reading Writers Contest is open to anyone who loves to write stories for boys, and may be a professional writer, student or budding writer.

Submissions must not have been previously published or won any other writing contest.  However, simultaneous submissions to other contests are acceptable.

DEADLINE
Deadline for submission for the 2014 contest is December 31, 2014.

Use this link to enter: http://www.nightlightreading.org/contest-entry-form/ Good luck!
Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Contests, opportunity, Places to Submit, Win, writing Tagged: Lidia Gurling-Mielcarek, Nightlight Reading, Publication, Short Story Writing Contest

1 Comments on No Fee Short Story Writing Contest Seeking Boy Adventure, last added: 12/7/2014
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