Monday, March 29, 2010
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
As is my routine once or twice a week, I stop by Starbucks on the way to work, the one with the drive-thru window. Convenience. So, they know me pretty well by now since I've been stopping by for a few years. I'm on a first name basis with a few of the baristas. Yes, that's probably a bit sad. In fact, they know my voice so well that they pretty much could prepare my order without asking me what I wanted. Pretty much. Yes, there's a catch.
Lately, I've been switching up my order. My normal coffee is a Grande Cafe Mocha. Now, in the fall I love Grande Pumpkin Spice, and there's nothing better around Christmas than a Grande Peppermint Mocha. Well, lately, I've been changing things up and ordering one of the following three drinks: Grande Cafe Mocha, Grande Dark Cherry Mocha, or Grande Cinnamon Dolce Latte! There is no consistency as to when or how often I order one of these drinks. I like to change things up.
This morning, it was a Grande Cinnamon Dolce Latte and an apple fritter. The dude (well, manager, he's been there a while at the window) was like What, no Dark Cherry Mocha this morning? I laughed and was like Nope, like to keep you guys on your toes. His response You're messing me up, man! Then, he hands me my apple fritter and says Well, this order never changes. My response Nope, gotta have me some apple fritter.
Now, the point of this post is, that as writers we need to change things up. Yes, we can write the same story over and over and over again, change the name of the characters, the location, but in the end it's the same story over and over and over again. It gets boring after a while and a bit predictable. Who wants predictable? Okay, the baristas at Starbucks with my order, but that's a whole other story!
I don't want to write the same thing every single time. I want something new and exciting. Something . . . different, like a Dark Cherry Mocha or a Cinnamon Dolce Latte or . . . something. I don't want the same story over and over and over again.
But . . . oh, c'mon, you knew there was a but in here somewhere. No comments, Robyn!!! But, we also need an apple fritter in our writing. We need a consistency, something that doesn't change, that always stays the same, in our writing. In my Starbucks runs, the apple fritter doesn't change. I don't order any other food item. If they're out of apple fritters, I just get coffee. I'm consistent in my love of apple fritters and absolutely nothing else will do.
In my writing, I change things up by how I format each different project, how many perspectives I use, the situations, the characters, the backgrounds, and what not . . . but, I maintain a consistency of good storytelling, of delving deeply into the psyche of my characters, and, more recently by showing the different sides to a single event. I want my readers to know they can expect something consistent from me, twenty years down the road, when they're still reading my New York Times Best Selling Novel. Hey, a guy can dream! I want them also to know it's not going to be the same character over and over and over again just with a different name, a bigger waist, less hair, and perhaps a woman instead of a man.
You see, there's an author I read who did an absolutely fantastic series. About 15 years later he wrote another book. The characters were absolutely identical to the ones in the fantastic series, down to their personality quirks, and the only thing different was their names and the color of the hair.
So, change things up with your writing projects. Don't get too comfortable - not that it's a bad thing - in what you write so that the only change in each project is the name of the character rather than the character!
Have a great day. I'm off to finish my apple fritter!!
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Then, you can click here and join the community. Go on, it's a source of knowledge, and we need all the knowledge we can get.
Now, a disclaimer - I'm not getting an recompense for promoting this site. I haven't explored the site fully yet. Everything is subjective. I might like the site. You, might not. It's all part of life. Go explore the site and find out for yourself whether or not it fits your needs.
Monday, March 22, 2010
Now, I also began eliminating words. I was at 126,000 words which, no matter which way you look at it, is too many words. I began reading and - zip, zap, zang - I ended up eliminating 500 words in the first (there are three per chapter) section of Chapter One. I realized, if I could delete 500 per section x 24 chapters well, that's 36,000 words. Woo-hoo!
Well, I don't need that many words eliminated. So, I revised my 1500 words to 1,000 words per chapter which should eliminate 24,000 words by the end of the book, which would put me at 102,000 words . . . a totally acceptable number.
Now, I can tell you that the majority of what I eliminated in the first section was repetitive stuff. I don't need to tell my readers - five, six, twelve times - the same thing over and over about the main character. I need to mention it once, maybe twice, and then, well, enough said. So, after the second mention of pertinent information, I eliminated all other repetitive sections. Done!
Then, I looked more closely at things the characters did . . . reached for a glass and smiled, nodded his head and shrugged, reached for a chip and . . . well, I'm sure you get the picture. So, I eliminated the unnecessary. I mean, do we as readers really need to know that the character nodded his head and shrugged? What if he just nodded his head? Or, just shrugged? Isn't that enough? So, I took out the excess and before I knew it I was down 500 words.
I worked my way through Chapter One yesterday. I have 23 more chapters to go.
Now, as anyone who reads this blog knows, I was struggling with the word elimination a few months ago. I didn't think it was possible to easily eliminate a huge chunk of words. Well, I was wrong. It is possible.
1) Get rid of the words that end in -ly . . . for the most part. Sometimes, people laugh softly or loudly. Hey, it happens in real life and it can happen in fiction.
2) Get rid of words you over use.
3) Get rid of unnecessary words.
4) Get rid of the repetitive stuff.
5) Do what works best for you and your writing.
6) In the end, break the rules you must break.
7) Never, ever, ever, sacrifice the essence of your story, or the brilliance of your writing, to eliminate words. I made this one up, and am sticking to it as I chuckle softly! Ha!
8) Remember that some agents don't give a crap about word counts.
9) Remember that some agents do give a crap about word counts.
10) Remember that no matter how many words you eliminate to reach an acceptable word count, some editor, some where, is going to suggest you eliminate even more.
Okay, with all that said, I'll be diving into the word elimination pool over the course of the next month or so. I'll also be researching agents and working on my query letter. Oh, my family is invading for Easter so that will occupy a bit of my time as well. Oh, and I have a few other writing things I'll be doing as well.
Friday, March 19, 2010
I was lost in the Land of Procrastination! I mean, seriously, people, I only had two chapters to write and . . . I couldn't seem to do it. I did everything but write. I immersed myself in a five book series. Read every last one of the books. I started another new book. I went shopping. I watched tv. I did everything except . . . write the final two chapters in the rough draft of my current work in progress.
I have no clue why I was procrastinating. Perhaps I just didn't want to finish the rough. Perhaps I wanted to linger with these characters for a bit longer. Perhaps . . . well, the excuses are many and the reality is I wasn't unhappy in the Land of Procrastination.
So, why the final chapter yesterday? I have no clue. The words just seemed to erupt - Mt. Vesuvius on a bad day - out of me. I went with the flow. I wrote. Final chapter - DONE!
Now, I have to go back and write the next to the last chapter. I hope to get that done this weekend. Hope. No definite plans, just a bit of hope . . . and, sometimes, dear readers, hope is all we have in this life.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
So, below is my entry. Now, be warned, this is a chapter pulled from a Work in Progress. The rough draft, initial writing phase, no edits, no nothing, nada draft where errors lurk in unlikely, and possibly likely, places as well. No, I didn't polish it up and make it all snazzy so I could post it on my blog. Just consider the below entry as having just stepped out of the shower - unshaven, hair a mess, clothes for the day not picked out and . . . well, you should get the picture. Hopefully, it's not that bad, but you just never know!
The setup: this chapter occurs early on in the novel, not long after the main character Seamus' gran has died. This is only his second visit back to the United States in 20 years time. He hasn't seen any of his family, except his Gran of course, in twenty years, and is really not sure he wants to see them. Yeah, there's a reason why, some of that comes out in this chapter, but not all of it, and you'll just have to wait until the novel is published to read the full story. Sorry, I'm mean that way sometimes.
So, without further adieu (I always wanted to use that phrase in a sentence - woo hoo) . . .
The bar was filled with people dressed in various shades of green. Green streamers hung from the ceiling, green shamrock shaped balloons floated everywhere, and the wait staff all wore green bow ties with flashing lights. Someone had gone overboard with the decorations, and not in a good way.
Seamus shook his head. He should be home in Ireland, and not stuck in the United States bowing to the whims of his Gran. He glanced up as the bartender, with a smile and a wink, slid the drinks toward him. “Dude, the wink is not going to erase the fact that you’re wearing a green bow tie with flashing lights.”
“I can’t believe you’re making fun of my Irish-wear. It is St. Paddy’s Day, after all.”
“That’s not an excuse to shop at the Tackorama.”
“Your Gran picked out these ties.” The bartender reached up and touched his tie.
Seamus grinned. “My Gran must have been having a serious taste problem that day . . . as in none at all.”
“Seamus, that’s almost sacrilegious. I love it.” His brother’s wife Sofia reached for her drink, raised the glass toward him, and then took a giant gulp. As she started to set the glass down she seemed to notice that her scotch and water was a brilliant green color. She glanced at the bartender. “Please tell me you didn’t violate my scotch with green food coloring.” The bartender grinned and walked away. “Now that,” Sofia pointed at her glass, “is sacrilegious.”
Seamus laughed. His own drink glinted evilly green as well. He picked up his glass and raised it toward her. She did the same with her glass. “Aren’t you afraid someone is going to tell your husband your meeting with a charming, much younger, man?”
Sofia laughed. “You’re full of yourself, aren’t you?”
“Just a bit.”
“Derek used to be that way, but I tamed him long ago.” She took a sip of her drink. “There’s a big dinner at your mother’s house tonight.”
She was persistent, if nothing else. He could avoid referring to them as his family time and again, but she always ignored his evasions and tossed the proverbial ball squarely back at him. “Really? Must be fun.”
“Dreadfully boring. Your youngest brother is an ass.”
“So he hasn’t changed in twenty years? Go figure.” He took a sip of his drink. He and his youngest brother had never gotten along very well. They had tolerated each other. He didn’t think twenty years of not seeing each other would change things much.
Sofia set her glass down on the bar. “Derek’s been talking about you a lot lately.”
“Hey, I thought we had some rules.” He and Sofia agreed not to openly talk about her husband’s family, and not to mention anything Derek might say about him.
“No, you’re not.”
“Truly, I am.”
“Uh, huh.” He exhaled. His life didn’t turn out like he expected. He never expected to walk away from his family and, for the most part, not look back. He never expected to be here, now, days after his grandmother’s funeral, talking to his brother’s wife.
“So, do you expect any surprises from your Gran’s will?” She arched one brow, a half-smile on her face.
“Isn’t your law firm representing her?”
“Yes, but I’ve been kept out of the loop, that whole conflict of interest thingy.” She rolled her shoulders. “Your mother’s seemed quite distant lately.”
“I’m sure she has good reason. Her mother just died, ya know.”
She picked up her glass and raised it toward him. “Ahh, I see you took your clever pill this morning.”
“Two, in fact.” He raised his glass and clinked it against hers.
“It’s more than her mother’s death.”
“Perhaps it is.” He wasn’t about to tell Sofia that he and his mother had talked, and the talk hadn’t gone well. He was still so angry, twenty years notwithstanding. She was his mother, she should have loved him enough to support him. Instead, she let him walk away. He wasn’t sure he could forgive her that transgression, nor the rest of his family. He wasn’t sure why he was even thinking about forgiveness. He had a life far from this place. He was going back to that life as soon as his Gran’s will was read. Her family, his family, needn’t know he ever came back. They could all return to their lives of blissful ignorance.
“So you’re just going to walk away? Run back to Ireland?”
He tilted his head to the right. “I walked, I didn’t run.”
“Doesn’t your family mean anything to you?”
He took a sip of his drink. There was the gist of the situation: try as he might not to care, for them not to have some meaning in his life, they did. He, in some way, perhaps a deep psychological disorder, still cared for the people who turned their backs on him and never said stop, don’t go. He missed – to some extent – the people who had once, still were, been his family.
In all his years away, the decades in Ireland, there was always a sense of something missing from his life.
He met Sofia’s intense gaze. “I’m not sure what they – they’re italics around that word, by the way – mean to me.”
“Then stay and find out.”
“I have a life in Ireland.”
“You have a family here.”
He finished his drink in one gulp. “I have people connected to me by DNA.”
She shook her head. “They’re your family.”
“They stopped being my family a long time ago.” He stood up and reached into his pocket. He pulled out some money, found a twenty, and tossed it on the bar. “It was a pleasure seeing you again, but I have dinner plans myself tonight.” He smiled and started to walk away.
“And what if I tell my husband you’re in town?”
He stopped, but didn’t turn around. “Would your husband even care?” He continued walking. He didn’t want to know the answer to his question. His greatest fear had always been that his family truly didn’t care for him, love him, and that was why it was so easy for them to let him just walk away, and for them not to say stop, don’t go.
Monday, March 15, 2010
But before I go . . .
Don't forget the Drunk at First Sight Blogfest. Crap, I knew there was something I was supposed to do. I guess I know what I'm doing tonight. Check back here Wednesday for my entry!
New Look - I confused poor Robyn. It's really not that hard to do, she is a Dolphins fan after all . . . .HA! . . . with the new look of the blog. I was bored, people, and just started experimenting with the templates. Who knew poor Robyn would think she landed on somebody else's blog??
Other stuff - immersing back into writing after reading five books in the last two weeks, and starting a sixth this past weekend. More on that book in a later post, maybe today, maybe tomorrow, or maybe not until next week when I'm officially plugged back in. Officially is the key word.
Have a great week!
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Monday, March 8, 2010
So, I have to do a synopsis at some point, in the very near future. Woo-hoo, for me!!! No, I didn't believe that line either, but it was worth a try. The margarita glass is always half-full after all!
Now, what would a blog post be without some useful links . . . but you'll have to wait a bit for those. First, a good example of a synopsis, two in fact, can be found at the beginning of Tad William's Shadowrise (the third book in his most recent epic fantasy series). So, go to the library, check out the book, and check out the synopsis (both) in the front. Sorry, don't know the plural for synopsis. Ha! I've read both previous books in the series and I can tell you the synopsisi (???) cover all the bases. They run in length from 3 to 4 pages for some very big books.
And, while I'm talking about Tad Williams, Shadowrise was supposed to be the last book in the series except . . . he ended up with 1500 pages. Yes, he did. He wrote an apology to his readers that starts out this book explaining what he did, and that the last volume of the series (Shadowheart) would come out in a few months. It will come out in November. Woo-hoo! Now this, dear readers, is the way to maintain your reading audience, unlike another author who wrote too big a book, badly split it in two and . . . . four years later still hasn't put out the next book. : )
But, back to synopsi (???) . . .
Natalie Whipple at Between Fact and Fiction did a post about how to write a synopsis. Lady Glamis at The Innocent Flower and The Literary Lab was nice enough to pass this on to me.
Nathan Bransford did a post called how to write a synopsis.
Over at BookEnds, LLC - A Literary Agency there's a post called the synopsis.
And, with careful searching of the links on agent blogs, you can find even more information. In fact, I have a whole folder at the house filled with printouts on how to write a synopsis. Now, had I been uber prepared, I would have had all those links available. Unfortunately, I wasn't in uber-prepared mode today, so you just have the above links. But . . . I have faith in the research abilities of my followers. If you have any great synopsis (or synopsi) links, please post them in the comments section. Thanks.
Friday, March 5, 2010
We, as readers, suspend our disbelief as we immerse ourselves in these fantastical and fabulous, sometimes quite ordinary, worlds created by some of the great writers of our time, times well before our own, and times yet to come. We, while immersed in the words of these writers, believe in telepathic dragons, magic rings, and boy wizards.
I also believe there is a fine line between suspension of disbelief and out and out what the heck moments. I'm not sure it is a line writers should cross, unless the book is totally tongue in cheek.
As with the conflict appearing on Page 141 of the book I just finished reading on Wednesday, there were quite a few moments where my suspension of disbelief just didn't hold. There were things the main character did that, well, uh, just didn't make sense. No person of that age - at least no person I've known or read about - would do what this person did. At that point, I disconnected a bit from the story.
I don't think we need to disconnect from the stories we are reading and we certainly don't want our future readers to disconnect from the stories we are writing. The immersion into our brilliance needs to be as complete as possible without suddenly jarring moments that disconnect the reader.
So, if I'm reading an epic fantasy novel and one of the main characters is a 7 year old, well, I want that character to act like a 7 year old and not a 27 year old. Yes, I've read a book like that where the thoughts and actions of a 7 year old were, well, far too adult. There was a disconnect. 7 year olds, at least the ones I've known, were not capable of what the 7 year old in this book was capable of doing. D-I-S-C-O-N-N-E-C-T!
As writers we need to remember that suspension of disbelief only goes so far. We must not, so I believe, cross the line so that the readers can no longer suspend their disbelief.
Question: have you ever been disconnected from a story because of the actions of a character? Has a character every done something that just didn't make sense? Do you just blithely ignore these disconnects? Do you - like me - pause for a moment, furrow your brow, and then continue reading? Am I the only one inspired by these disconnects, the break in suspension of disbelief, to write a blog post devoted to the subject?
Update: on my work in progress, as of Wednesday evening (I'm pre-writing this post), I only have one chapter left to finish. Woo-hoo!!!
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
My question: how do you do it (as in writing)?
My problem: wait, let's get back to this in just a sec.
My Writing To Do List for the Immediate Future:
- Finish current work in progress
- Write fabulous query letter
- Find Agent with Fabulous Query Letter
- Revise next project I want to query
- Revise endless other projects
- Work on new projects
- Have a life
My problem - yes, now we get to the crux (perhaps conflict (ha!!)) of this post - is quite simple: I have three new folders in Word that contain ideas for new projects. Okay, two of them aren't that recent, well, they were created in 2010, but one of them was just created Monday night. I have three potential works ready to progress just screaming at me for attention. If anyone has very young children, you'll know what I mean. If not, just try putting your overweight cat on a diet and see how she reacts. Squeak, squeak, squeaky, squeakity-squeakity-squeak-squeak-squeak . . . at 1 AM, 2 AM, etc. Arrrrgghhhhh!!!!
Anyhow, I have a ton of other things to do - yes, I know all about balance - but all I really want to do is write the new projects. I want to immerse myself in the characters and situations. I want to lose myself in my writing.
The words don't always flow, people, and the ideas are often few and far between. Oh, the struggles I've gone through when trying to come up with a new idea. The struggles, I tell you, the struggles. So, here and now, I have a project I'm about to finish and three eager little projects waiting in the wings (well, four if you count the one that will probably take me a few more years to finish because of the emotional intensity of the project).
I want to write these projects. I need to write a query. I want to write these projects. I need to revise a different project. I. Want. To. Write. This. Project. Arrrrrrrrrrggggggggggghhhhhh!!!
So, I'll find balance at some point, in some way, just divide up my nights a little bit more than they are now, but . . .
. . . how do you do it when you have new, eager little ideas just waiting to explode onto paper, and you have many other steps (query, revise, wait eagerly for dream agent to contact you, etc.?) in the writing process to complete as well????
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
Knit the Season by Kate Jacobs (Friday Night Knitting Club and Knit Two).
Mystery Book by unnamed author where the conflict doesn't appear until Page 141!
Yes, I'm reading three books at the same time. I'm a serious multi-tasker!!
Here's what should arrive in the mail this week . . .
Shadowrise: Volume Three of Shadowmarch by Tad Williams. This is Epic Fantasy. Now, as most people know, Epic Fantasy barely exists anymore. Tad Williams is one of the few authors that dares to write Epic Fantasy . . . and does a fantastic job. I love his stuff, whether it is a stand alone novel (The War of the Flowers), a novella (Caliban's Hour), or one of his many series.
Here's what should arrive on my Kindle next week . . .
Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman. Her books are always a joy to read because she interweaves two stories, past and present, in every book. Oh, and they're mysteries to boot. My favorite of all time is The Ghost Orchid. Fantastic book. Her books, in order of appearance . . . The Lake of Dead Languages, The Seduction of Water, The Drowning Tree, The Ghost Orchid, The Sonnet Lover, and The Night Villa. In each novel she explores the present, and ties in the past, which ties in to the mystery of the present.
So, what are you reading right now or in the near future??
Monday, March 1, 2010
This, dear readers, made me pause and go huh???? Shouldn't I have known about the conflict a bit earlier in the novel? Shouldn't I have had some clue about the major conflict, the force that will propel the main character forward into action just a wee bit sooner?
So, my thought was get there already, with the there being the introduction of the conflict.
Don't get me wrong. I love the book. I understand characters have to have their introductions, but . . . Page 141.
The question for the day: at what point should the conflict (insert big, echoing, computer generated voice repeating the word endlessly) be introduced? Does the reader need to know the conflict early, middle, or late in the book? Does the place (i.e., beginning, middle, end) of introduction matter as long as interesting stuff is happening up to the introduction of conflict?
As for me, I normally introduce the conflict early so that the readers know what the main character is struggling for, pretty much from the beginning. I don't wait until Page 141. I'm not sure why - again, not dissing the book, love the book, just wondering why - the author waited this long to say: here's the conflict, here's what the MC must do to . . .