Tuesday, May 25

Keeping Motivated in the Shadow of Greatness....

Keeping motivated after seeing tons of great books, by even greater authors, come out seems to be one of my biggest challenges. The covers are sexy, their words brilliant, and here I am editing what - I'm sure in other peoples mind - would amount to a comment of "you want to be a writer?" followed by disguised snickers.


Not to mention summer vacation is officially here... which is great for the camping trips and family fun we have planned, but what does that mean for my writing.

Yep, you guessed it. Havoc and chaos.

So how do you do it? How do you stay motivated in the shadow of greatness? Or in the bright light of being a mother and writer? When you're a perfectionist, at that? Which I am... :( What prompts you to keep writing when you already have tons of discarded manuscripts saved on files, in notebooks, and scattered around your house?

It's not easy, I can tell you that. There are moments when I truly think to myself, "Am I nuts? Do I really believe I can write something that someone other then family or friends will want to read?" Those thoughts are usually followed by more positive thoughts.

Though sometimes it may take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. Generally about the time I start actually "seeing" myself not writing. Not planning a story. Not thinking and plotting and developing.

Then it dawns on me. I can't not be a writer. I don't know how. I breathe, therefore I write. Or plan. Or plot. Or develop.

And the crazy thing about it all? When I pick up a book and start reading, especially great books that keep my nose in them from beginning to end, I start to get excited about getting back to my WIP's. They motivate me to try harder.

So, in a sense, what terrifies me also motivates me.

I'd love to hear your thoughts. Do you suffer from moments of doubt? What prompts your doubts? How to you get past them?

Monday, May 24

Scene vs Sequel: How to Build Conflict.

How do you build conflict and keep it going throughout your entire manuscript? How can you keep your readers turning those pages?

Allow me to introduce Scenes and Sequels

So what is a "Scene"? It's a moment of conflict, lived through by the character (and reader) in a consistent flow of time. Every scene should have two functions: provide interest and move your story forward.

Every "Scene" should have three things: (Explained in the most basic way)

* Goal - What the Character(s) hope to accomplish in this scene.
* Conflict – The thing that stands in the way of Character(s) goal.
* Disaster - Character(s) NOT accomplishing their goal. (Or better know as Hooks*)

Even if your central Goal for your manuscript is to clear your Hero's name from the double murder of his brother and sister-in-law, each scene will need an additional goal (that way each scene has its own conflict and disaster to contend with, therefore hooking your reader).

Now, what is a "Sequel"? Sequel’s connects two Scenes together. Each Sequel provides three functions to your story: to turn your previous disaster into a new goal, to telescope reality, and to control the tempo of your story.

Every "Sequel" should have three things, as well:

* Reaction (to disaster)
* Dilemma (to path of new goal)
* Decision (to embark on new path)

Now, what exactly does all that mean?

I'll give you an example (a very simplified idea borrowed from My Best Friends Wedding)

Example of a Scene:

After years of friendship, Janet realizes that she is madly in love with Cory. She rushes to his house to express her feelings (Goal). When she arrives, she finds another woman there with Cory (conflict). Cory introduces the new woman as his fiancée, Rachel (disaster).

Example of a Sequel:
Janet is crushed (reaction). Should she accept that it wasn't meant to be or do everything she can to break up the wedding (dilemma)? Cory claimed to love her years ago, she would not stand by and let him marry some other woman (decision).

Which, in turn, leads to her next goal... breaking up the wedding (and as a smaller goal in the next scene she plans to screw up the wedding invitations by mixing up addresses)...

Once you master the technique of scenes and sequels you're well on your way to writing a story.

Breath Life into Your Characters

Without realistic, believable characters, a plot - no matter how original or well thought out - will fall on its proverbial ass.

So, how do we take an idea of "someone" and turn them into a realistic individual that readers can believe in?

The first step is to make them care.

Whether it's a heroine who cares about earning enough money to buy that two-story brick home she's dreamed of since she was a child or the villain who only cares about turning a serious profit in his human-trafficking business.

Even the smaller characters need something to care about. Allow me to explain (please forgive my rather crude, fresh attempt at this:

Mrs. Shook, who's lived down the street from Heroine, cares about her prize Rose bush - which explains why she sits on her porch from sunrise to sunset. Keeping diligent watch over her yard to make sure no one tromps through her yard. One day, as the sun was set, say she witnesses a man skulking around the heroine yard. She promptly calls the police.

Of course, Ms. Shook couldn't have known that the hero was the heroine's husband and was running from crooked cops. Unbeknown to her, she's set the killers on his trail and made his wife (heroine) a prime target as well...

Giving your characters something to care about gives you the power to use it to your advantage - to further your plot or simply create conflict by dangling what they care about just out of their reach.

Let's not forget that character grow can change what they care about as the book progresses. Allowing you to add more layers of conflict… bonus!!

Also, among your characters list of positive traits (Brave, strong, sexy, loyal....yada, yada, yada) give them something(s) that’s not so positive. An oddity, pet peeve, or a quirk that sets them apart from the characters that everyone is thinking of as well.

You must know their past and what gives them all these traits (loyal, nurturing, murderous...)

If your heroine is a brainy recluse who prefers the company of characters in novels over real-life people you must understand why she is this way. Maybe her brother was the family favorite. While he spent his life getting in trouble and she found the only way to get attention was to put her nose in books and get good grades. As a result, she found that she preferred the fantasy world to the real world.

Think of the people around you. Each person is different and unique. Observe them. Of course you can't figure out all there is to know about a person walking down the street but you can make quick assumptions about them. Use that for your characters. Assumptions, mannerism, speech... all these things will help breath life into your fictional characters.

Sunday, May 23

Writer's Block...

Is there a writer out there that hasn't wrestled with the demon known as "Writer's Block"? When your muse is out playing, how do you overcome such a daunting task?

Early in my writing career I'd slam head first into that concrete wall. Sometimes I'd learn to out smart it (momentarily), but most often I'd just ditch my manuscript for a new "fresh" idea. I never really grasped the reason I continued to get Writer's Block.

Obviously a writer can never ditch this demon for good. She'll always be lurking, waiting for you to miss a step, and attack just as your confidence is growing.

At least that's how it's been for me.

But - thankfully - I've learned several tricks that can keep her deep in the shadows where she belongs. And, on those few occasions when she does show her depressing head, I've learned a few tips to send her howling back in the corners.

I'll share what I've learned. Every writer is different. Some of this tips may help you, some may not. Hell, none may help you. But, hopefully at the very least, it'll spark something in your mind that will help you battle your own Writer's Block Demon...

Quick Tips:

1.) Read the paragraph leading up to you're blockage out loud. Sometimes it's a simple thing that your brain is telling you isn't right. Once you make this simple fix, things will continue smoothly afterwards.

2.) PLOT, PLOT, PLOT - Be prepared.
I'm sure this goes without saying. But since I taught myself (mainly through trail and error) the craft of writing, it took me a good little while to figure out that most of my "Blocks" came from a major lapse in Plot. It was either missing something or had something that didn't fit. Either way, since I've learned (still learning, as well) the art of Plotting... my own personal WBD shows her head less and less.

3.) Resort to old school writing: a piece of paper and a pencil.
Since a simple piece of paper and a pencil is how I began writing (before the dawn of computers) I sometimes find that is where I'm at my most creative. When I've hit a creative Block you can always find me with a notebook and a half-chewed pencil.

4.) Sleep on it.
If all else fails... your plot is strong and your creativity is spot on, and you still can't seem to get past that tumble of dialogue or action to move your manuscript forward. Give your self time to "not" think about it. More then once I've been in the middle of breakfast and had to scramble for my ever-ready pencil and notepad to write down the "solution". Or I've been laid down in bed, ready to call it a night and sit straight up in bed cause the "solution" came to me. Once you give your mind permission to not think about it, sometimes that's when the solution will come.

Welcome to my bloggy world....

I've had the urge to write flowing through my veins for as long as I can remember... but this blogger business? It's new and scary.

What does one write about? What, about my life, could be entertaining to someone else? Do I write about my "writers" life? My real life? Or a clever mixture of both?

My real life is filled with changing diapers, breaking up bickering boys, cleaning house, cooking dinner, and writing or editing my manuscript (MS) every spare chance I get. And now, on the eve of school being out for the summer, I decide to start a blog?

What can I say? I'm a rebel. :-| Or insane (that's more likely).

I love trying new things, especially new things that are tied to writing. My cyber-social life is none existent. I have no clue how to make friends when you're hidden behind a monitor and can't interact on a more personal level. Things that I say that would make a someone laugh in person may just fall short hidden behind emotion-less words typed on a screen....

Then it dawned on me...

This blogging can actually
help me as a writer. If I can't get my emotions across on a blog, how can I expect publishers, and eventually readers, to feel the emotions my characters are feeling? Of course, characters are easier to deal with. You have the witty actions to fit the charming dialogue to mix for a perfect combination of emotions. Here I simply have a blog and my words.

That should prove every interesting. And educational.

So, bring on the blogging....