Friday, September 27, 2013

Liebster Award

Hurray! I have been nominated for an award! I haven't won anything since I was nine and I guessed how many marbles were in a fish tank. It was something like 10,000 and because I guessed closest I got to keep all the marbles. My mother must have been so happy:)
Thanks to Argyle Doll and Andrea Reads and Reviews for nominating me!

Because two people nominated me I'm putting in a hard days work and answering all 20 questions. Try not to be too impressed.
1. What are you favorite alpha male characters?
Actually I dig the heroines mostly. I love any female protagonist who is not a whining pansy.  
2. What good books have you read lately?
It's not fiction, but I just finished Crazy Sexy Diet. I'm not vegan...yet. And I'm not eating raw, but I needed a good dose of nutritional information to help reign in my appetite for junk food. 
3. Digital or Print?
Print. All the way! 
4. What section of the book store are you magnetically drawn too? 
Books on how to write books.
5. What authors do you look up to?
Love Joe Hill. To have the guts to write when your father is already so famous for writing! Admirable.
6. Have you ever gotten so mad that you literally threw a book across the room?
You don't even want to know! 
7. Books that you dislike and why?
That's a tough one. If I read a bad book, I still love it because I think, "Surely I can do better than THAT!" 
8. If you could meet one character who would it be?
 I guess I would have to say Dracula in Bram Stoker's Dracula. He's so in love, but such a sicko. Curious combo.
9. Do you take shame in reading erotica in public? Especially if people know what you are reading?
Uh..yeah. I do not want to have to explain certain things to my nine year old daughter:)
10. What is it about reading that keeps you going back to purchasing more books?
Books make me feel like a smarty pants and I like that!

Next ten questions...

What is your favorite font?
Absolutely no idea:) 
What is the first book you remember reading?
      Dr. Seuss, Red Fish Blue Fish. At the same time my twin sister was reading 
      The Hobbit! 
      So irritating! 

What is the first book you fell in love with and never wanted to end?
James and the Giant Peach. Love me some Roald Dahl.

How much time do you spend on the computer a day for work?
Not enough. I'm supposed to write for four hours a day, but lunch calls after around two hours of work.

How much time do you spend on the computer a day for other reasons?
Not much. I usually try to get out of the house. There's no food at my house!

Do you have an animal companion? What type of animal and name?
I have four wonderful pups, yes four:) Texas, Georgia, Rocky, and Tobie.

What is the motto of your life?
Be nice to yourself and others. It's really that simple!!

What do you want for Christmas?
Beauty products! Anything from Sephora or Ulta will do. I may never use it, but I want it.

Do you like cheese? (Really, I just wanted to ask something silly).
I DO like cheese. My husband is vegan and the book I just read, Crazy Sexy Diet, says cheese is BAD!! But how can ya not love pizza!! With cheese!!

Name one person you admire.
My husband. He works so hard to take care of his family. I'm not sure what I'd do without him...probably eat more CHEESE:)

Did anybody read all that!? Anyway, if I nominated you then here are the rules:

·         Link back to the blogger that tagged you.
·         Nominate 10 other and answer the questions of the one who tagged you.
·         Ask 10 questions for the bloggers you nominate.
      ·         Let your nominees know of their award.
My questions..hmm.

1. If you had an extra $10,000, what charity would you want to give it to?
2. Cat person or dog person?
3. Regular soda or diet...or (gasp) water?
4. Best vacation destination?
5. All time favorite movie? Favorite book?
6. Do you eat enough vegetables?
7. Do you believe in love at first sight?
8. If you're house went up in flames and you could only take three things, what would you take?

9. What's your best feature?
10. What is the most peaceful spot on earth?


Monday, September 23, 2013

Building a Mystery

If you read my last post you know I haven't been writing. I've been making excuse after excuse and I'm sure I'll fall back on that every now and again. In fact, at this very moment I feel like I'm going to throw up, but I'm not going to use it as an excuse today.
No, today I want to talk about writing. I want to tell you that I've figured out what my problem is...or was.
I knew there was something wrong with my book, but I couldn't figure out what it was.
I'm writing what I would call a paranormal fantasy for YA, but it turns out it's not that simple.
The problem, the reason I've been neglecting it for so many weeks, is that I didn't realize it was also a mystery.
We all know how a mystery works, right!? There has to be a red herring, clues dropped like breadcrumbs so that the reader can decide what's going to happen. Or better yet, not know what's going to happen, but then in the end have that "Aha! moment" where it all makes sense.
None of this is revolutionary, but that is the very reason I had to blog about it. By simply changing the definition of what I've been writing, it suddenly seems to make more sense.  Why is that?
I'll tell you why. Because we have to know where we're going to know how to get there.
It's because our sneaky, perhaps out of shape, brains like order. Chaos does not generally build a novel. Our mind wants a map, or at least an arrow pointing out the right direction.
And the best news, and if you read my blog you won't be surprised by this, is that I've actually read a book on how to write a mystery:)
Now that I have defined the fact that I need to "lay out the breadcrumbs" so to speak, it's going to be so much easier to move past this hurdle.
No, this is not the king of all writing advice. And yes, it may seem very obvious to you (give me a break here, I think I have the bird flu), but it was news to me. And it's helped me see my novel with fresh eyes.
So, if you're stuck in your current novel maybe try looking at things differently. Maybe what you're writing isn't chiklit after all. Or if the drama you're writing is actually turning out to be kind of funny. Don't make yourself crazy trying to fit it into it's original packaging, change things up. Look at it in a new light. It might make all the difference!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Nonproductive Writing Days

I have to be honest. I have been a little unproductive lately. School started in late August and I had big plans to finish this novel, asap.
I didn't get much done that first week of school because I just needed a break. Or at least that's what I told myself.
Then the second week rolled around and what do you know? Another unproductive week.  I didn't need a break anymore, but damn, there seemed to be a lot to do around the house. It turned out my kids didn't have comforters for their beds. How could I function one more day without them? I couldn't!
Picking out your child's comforter is a very important job and it cut deeply into my writing time.
I don't even remember week three, but I seem to recall something about trying to get into better shape.
But this week, week four, I would definitely get it in gear.
This morning I ran all my errands, cleaned the house, and painted my nails. This was not procrastinating people, I really needed to paint my nails. I bought a new Essie color almost a week ago and hadn't even used it yet!!
Anyway, after all that it was much too late to head to the library.  So I made myself comfortable on the couch with my laptop on lap.
After a few minutes I realized the keyboard was really too low to be comfortable for an afternoon of writing. I got up and pulled a pillow off my bed and put it underneath the laptop to raise it up a little.
Much better! Then it got a little cold in the house so I got a blanket and put that over my legs.
Then, of course, I got down to business. The task for the day was to read the bulk of act two. There is something wrong with act two, but I'm not sure what it is. I started reading my manuscript looking for the problem and I may have found it. It may just be a tad boring.
How do I know this? Because I fell dead asleep while reading it. I woke up almost two hours later, laptop askew, dogs fighting for space on the pillow.
I was fully tucked in, up to my shoulders, and I had barely done thirty minutes of work.
The kids were going to be home in twenty minutes and it was time to start switching gears from writing (aka napping) to making dinner and greeting the kids after their long day of school.
Incidentally, I did not even cook dinner, but picked up fast food. What a loser!!
Why am I telling you this? Because despite my lack of productivity the last few weeks I still consider myself a writer. I still know that I'll finish this book, albeit not as quickly as I thought I would. And I also know that I could be writing a lot more often.
The bottom line is, if you haven't looked at your manuscript in a week, a month, or even a year it doesn't mean you're not a writer. If you have a book in you that you're trying to make the time to write, you're a writer. And good for you! Writing a book is not an easy thing. If it was, I wouldn't be looking for excuses not to do it.
Don't beat yourself up if you're not writing as much as you think you should. We all have days when we just need to paint our nails and take a nap.
Tomorrow will be a better, more productive day. If it's not...I QUIT!!
Happy writing.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Three Act Structure

Oh the three act structure. Boy did I resist learning this in the beginning. I thought the three act structure was some sort of cheat to writing a novel. It's not a cheat people, it's the map! And now that I know it I can't live without it!
Knowing the elements of the three act structure (and using them) can really help you build a better plot. What is the three act structure? It's simply a way to divide a novel into sections. Act one is the set up, act two the confrontation, and act three is the resolution.
You don't need to follow the structure exactly, but just knowing what goes into each section is an easy way to help build a better plot.

Act One
Act one makes up the first quarter of your book and is usually the easiest to write.
It should include:

1. An introduction to the character and her world BEFORE the real story begins. How will the reader know how shocked, excited, confused, be if she doesn't see the protagonist's normal first?

2. Show the characters "knot". This is essentially the pain that your protagonist is feeling that forces her to live apart from her true destiny. It can be a secret she's keeping, pain from the past, or even just a personality trait. Maybe by the end of your book the main character will be a super star and her "knot" at the beginning of the story is simply that she's shy.

3. Establish the tone of the book. Let the reader know what kind of story they're about to read.
For example: For a love story the writing would be flowery and romantic. For a thriller the mood would be darker, the sentences might be shorter. Make sure you get the reader "in the mood" for the story they're about to read. In other words-set the tone!

4. Let the reader know why they should care. Otherwise known as the "save the cat" scene. What redeeming or heroic quality does your main character have that you can show your readers right up front. Even if your main character is deeply flawed, show her redeeming qualities or make the reader feel empathy for her.

5. The inciting incident.This is the change that occurs in the main character's life that starts the story in motion. For example: A mysterious new girl moves into town. Your main character grows a tail. Whatever it is, it should get your reader's attention.

6. The call to action (or plot point one). This is often confused with the inciting incident, but the difference is that the call to action is where your character makes a choice and cannot go back.
For example: In The Hunger Games it is where Katniss volunteers for the games in place of her sister. Not to be confused with the inciting incident which is the drawing of Primrose Everdeen's name.

Act Two
Act two makes up the second and third quarter of the book. In the midsection of your novel you must:

1. Have a series of battles or confrontations. There are usually three and even if the protagonist wins a few of these battles, things should be getting steadily worse for your main character.

2. Deepen characters and their relationships with one another. The middle of your book is where subplots can really get going.

3. Midpoint. Some big news or a major reversal. This is where the protagonist truly takes control and begins to actively attack the antagonist. Before this point she is simply reacting to the situation or learning about her new world, but after the midpoint she's really ready for a fight.

4. Moment of despair. This is the low point for our protagonist. Even though we all thought she was going to win, it now looks like she's going to lose. Not only that, but we have really dragged her through the mud at this point. She is almost broken.

5. Moment of truth (or plot point two). This is the last piece of new information that the reader is going to get. With this new information the reader can now see what the ending is going to look like and the protagonist is about to take some big action steps towards the final battle. This is usually the thing that the protagonist wanted to do the least and after making this choice there is no going back.

Act Three
This is the last quarter of the book and will include:

1. The climactic battle.Your protagonist must take an active role in this battle. Don't let the antagonist be a weakling. You're main character really has to kick ass in the climax of the book.

2. Unravel your protagonists "knot" or tie three more. This means that you should have resolved the character's knot, or inner turmoil. For example: If she was painfully shy in the beginning, you should have helped your protagonist work through her issues throughout act two. In the end she is who she was always meant to be. OR if she decides to live apart from her destiny, (In other words stays painfully shy and can't take that starring role) you need to show the reader how truly horrible her life is going to be now. One would be a happy ending, the other a tragedy.

3. Denouement. This is where you tie up all the loose ends. Every character and subplot needs to be put to bed so the reader feels satisfied that you've answered all the questions you posed in your book.
This is also where you show the protagonist's new normal. How is it different than it was at the beginning of the story?

4. Resonance. Try to make sure your readers are thinking about your book long after they have read the words "the end".

There you have it, a quick description of the three act structure. If it's not making sense to you here, there are a ton of great books out there to help you.  "Plot & Structure" by James Scot Bell is a great one, but I hope this is at least a little helpful with your writing.
Good luck and happy writing.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Writing Tip That's Simple, Useful, and Kind of Fun

While I was at the library the other day I took a break from writing and started reading a magazine. Hold on now! It wasn't Glamour or Allure or anything like that. Although I really could use the fashion advice.
But no. It was Writer's Digest.
I've never actually picked up a copy of this magazine before, but I probably should have. It's got all sorts of interesting and helpful articles.

One article in particular really spoke to me. It was by Kip Langello entitled "One in a Million".
The point of this article was that, as writers, we can't please everyone. We can't successfully write for every reader. This is probably not new advice, but the suggestion he gives is an original one.
He recommends that you write for just one reader. Not just any reader, but one specific reader. A completely fictional one. A person you simply make up.

I write YA so my fictional reader is sixteen. Her name is Cecelia Kalvass. She has light blue eyes and long, straight brown hair that she keeps neatly combed. She's pretty, but she doesn't know it.
Too cliche? Who cares, she's not gonna be IN the book. She's just the audience.
Cece, as she'd like to be called (but nobody calls her that), is an only child. Her parents are both professors at a local college and have high expectations for their daughter. Her room is neat. Her grades are A's. And she secretly wants to be popular. I know, I know...cliche!
Anyway, she wants a boyfriend, a gentleman to sweep her off her teenage feet, but she isn't interested in any of the boys at school. She reads in her spare time, which she has a lot of. Right now she's reading the first draft of a pretty terrible novel, but I'm going to make sure she falls in love with it.

Langello's advice is to write your book with this one reader in mind. What will she (or he) love? What will make her laugh? Cry? What will inspire her? Write everything to please this one imaginary reader.

It sounds too easy, but before I made up Cece I was having trouble with one of my main characters. I needed to make a change, but I wasn't sure what. After reading Langello's article I now know what I need to do to make my novel better for Cece.

Will it work? Will it make my novel better? I guess I won't know until I'm finished. But listen to this. Langello wrote nine books. All of them rejected. Then he wrote book number ten for his fictional reader, "Peggy", and it was published with a hefty advance.
We could argue that it was the work he put into nine books that got number ten published, but Langello seems certain it was because he wrote with his fictional reader in mind.

"Entertain and enlighten and move that one reader. The single-mindedness that results from this technique is what makes the difference."Langello says.

I'll try anything once. And when it comes to writing I'll probably try it until it works:)
Tell me about your fictional reader. Cliches acceptable!

Good luck! And happy writing!