Thursday, April 28, 2011

Are You Prepared??

Los Angeles County obviously has things under control for the coming zombie Apocalypse. But do YOU? Frankly I think writers are liable to be the most prepared in any strange situation. I mean our lives are about preparedness right? Sometimes we're so prepared that we sit there refreshing our email for hours on end. Or in my case my computer does it for me. :D We have to be prepared for any of the following emergency situations:
  • Rejection - we have lots of chocolate on hand
  • Acceptance - we have ladders at the ready to scream from the rooftops
  • The WIP isn't working - coffee or tea, chocolate, and all the notes, research, and writing exercises you've collected to get those juices flowing.
  • You meet Dream Agent/Editor at a conference - you have your elevator pitch memorized forwards, backwards, and in seven different languages.
  • You receive an editorial letter - you have an oxygen machine at the ready, a stack of chocolate, and a pot of coffee. You know the protocol involves putting it aside to let it sink in, and giving yourself the time you need to address all the issues.
  • Scathing reviews - more chocolate & a padded room for PRIVATE venting if you must
  • Positive reviews - A computer or smart phone on hand to tweet and post
Did I miss any writer emergencies? Have you noticed the one essential tool every one of us should have? No not a towel, though as Ford Prefect would profess it can come in handy. CHOCOLATE.

BTW, I really DID see this car. This is an actual picture from my Iphone. Should I be worried? Good thing I have lots of chocolate...

Monday, April 25, 2011

Plotters Vs. Pantsers The Ultimate Showdown

This is a topic that's been on the forefront of my mind lately. It seems everywhere I look I see people weighing in on whether they are Pansters (seat of your pants, write as you go) or Plotters (outlining, character worksheets, the whole kit and caboodle).

Sometimes it feels like a showdown.

What side am I on? I've always been a Pantser. Here are some pros and cons as I see them:

  • The sense of discovery keeps it interesting and fresh, which in turn keeps it feeling that way for the reader
  • It encourages a creative flow, almost like stream of consciousness writing
  • It's character driven. The characters are more free to make their own decisions, and less likely to be forced into certain actions by the author because of a perceived notion of where the plot is supposed to go
  • It can be messy when you go to revise
  • You could find yourself 70,000 words in and written into a corner you can't escape from (I have around 5 started manuscripts on my hard drive, which I may or may not ever go back to)
  • If you have a complex plot (like I often do) it's hard to keep track of all the threads
Now here's the earth-shattering part of the post. Ready? I don't see why you have to be one or the other, or why you can't change depending on the project.

Recently I started a brand new WIP. I decided to give outlining a try. Nothing major. Just a simple Beatsheet(worksheet) from SAVE THE CAT as recommended in a Twitter conversation with my Tweeps/blogging buddies, Stina and Laura. This particular story also requires quite a bit of research to begin with. I haven't gotten terribly far yet, but I am excited about the possibilities. It's kind of nice having a safety net of sorts, especially knowing where it ultimately should end up.

Will I force it to fit my outline if my characters suddenly take an unexpected turn? Nope. I'll let them explore and see where it leads. It's just who I am. But if I'm lost, I now have a road map of sorts.

A compromise.

I doubt I'll be declaring myself a Plotter anytime soon. But at least I know I'm not allergic to outlines. Just werewolves.

How about you? What's your preference? Did I miss anything on my pros/cons list?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Pay No Attention To the Unicorn In the Corner

Do you have a twist in your book? Something that you want to surprise the reader at a key moment? Have you dropped clues along the way?

"Wait!" you say. "I don't want it to be obvious. I want it to come as a surprise."

Well of course you do, but you can't blindside the reader. Throughout the book you are building a relationship with the reader. You earn her trust, and if you throw it away by pulling something - say a unicorn - out of left field, you'll lose that relationship.

So how do you do it? How do you put a unicorn in the corner, but not let the reader realize they've seen it until the right moment?

The answer is - be a magician. Remember my post on filtering through character? If not you should check it out. This is yet another example of how that can help your manuscript. If your MC doesn't pay attention to the unicorn even though you've made it clear he's there (by say putting glittering hoofprints on the floor in an earlier scene), then chances are your readers will ignore it too.

What? Glittering hoofprints and the MC didn't notice? Maybe she was too distracted by the dragon at the time. The dragon who we find out in another scene has talons, not hoofs. Yes, the reader MAY still see what's happening. But if you are careful enough with your slight of hand/distraction techniques, they may be more invested in whether your MC will figure it out on time. And at least to this writer that's a better alternative than breaking the reader's trust.

Monday, April 18, 2011


First a few things worth pointing out in the blogosphere:
  1. My dear friend/Critique partner Julie Musil has an agent!!! Congrats to one of the nicest, most talented people I know. We started this journey together, and we will continue it together as well.
  2. Ebony McKenna's Books (of which I had the pleasure of interviewing her characters here) are NOW AVAILABLE IN THE US THROUGH PURCHASE ON YOUR KINDLE. Here's the link for The Summer of Shambles and The Autumn Palace.
  3. Martina from Adventures in Children's Publishing blog and I are doing a first five pages workshop each month. If you visit the first Saturday of the month, you will have an opportunity to be one of the first five to get in five pages you'd like critiqued, and each weekend we will post your revisions until, hopefully, you get it just right. :D Come down and see what it's like, and comment on others work as well. We all help each other out, right? Just be COURTEOUS, but I know you all are!
  4. Finally, I'm sure you all know, but registration is open for SCBWI LA!!!

Mistakes. Without them, our characters would be a bit too perfect, no? But what about us as writers? When should we be extra careful not to listen to that little devil on our shoulder? What mistakes should we take care to avoid?
  1. Hitting Send too quickly. Don't be trigger happy, make sure you've got it right first, because you only get one shot with an agent or editor for each manuscript.
  2. NOT hitting send! Ha, I am so confusing, aren't I? If you've done all the work, revised, gotten critiques, revised again, and you keep changing the word "cry" to "sob" you probably are just scared. But if you never try, how will you ever succeed?
  3. Losing it. You don't want to say anything you'll regret later. Period. If you say something online, it does not disappear. And those things we wish we hadn't said have a way of going viral. Not to mention this is a small community, where agents, editors and authors know each other and talk. So if you are rude to someone, chances are she won't be the only one to be offended.
  4. Being afraid to jump in. I've said it a hundred times, but this is the most amazingly supportive community I've ever seen. Don't be intimidated. Speak up! Ask questions! Get involved. Chances are you won't be disappointed in the response. But if you never try...
What other mistakes do we make, and how can we avoid them?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Poetry In Writing Books

First I've been receiving some wonderful awards from so many of you I want to pause and thank you. Please go visit these wonderful people: Wub2Write, Nutschell, Margo Kelly, Misty Provencher, and the ever lovely Susan Kaye Quinn who celebrated my niceittude on her blog with several others. *Blushes*

Now! On to the meat of the post. Let's talk about poetry today. Why is poetry important? First check out the amazing C. Lee McKenzie's post on the subject that inspired me.

I won't restate Lee's post. What I will do, is apply it in my own way. I've always loved writing poetry. At times in my life when I've been besieged with emotion, I've put pen to paper and let the words flow.

How does this effect my prose? Of course I do my best to follow rules, and pay attention to things like plot and character arcs, etc. But truth be told in that first draft (remember I'm traditionally a pantser people) I write mostly by feel.* I just let it all bleed out. Then I can revise. But honestly, I believe the heart of my work comes when I am in this state.

What does this have to do with you? Especially if you're a plotter and write differently than I do? Easy. It's a gentle reminder not to forget the art in what we do. I keep hammering in the point on this blog that this is both art and business. But it is so important not to lose that drive - that LOVE - that makes us do this in the first place.

So do me a favor in honor of national poetry month. Go write something from your heart. Let the words fall onto the page without any internal or external editor standing guard. Allow them to spring from that fountain inside of you that made you start on this journey in the first place. It can be a poem, or a short story, or an entire novel. I don't care. Then cherish those words that came from your soul. Give them a hug. And remember your creative spirit.

*I hope you understand that I am not intimating that poets don't revise. That's not my intention. But to me, poetry is closer to that part of us because there is more freedom in terms of format and style.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Filtering Through Character

If you filter everything through your character you:
  • Build voice. If your character were to walk into the room right now, what would he notice? What wouldn't he? How would HE describe it? What does that say about him?
  • Keep things fresh. If your character isn't cliche (which he better not be) then the way he views the world won't be either.
  • Won't meander. If it doesn't effect your MC or his struggle in some way, it probably shouldn't be in there.
Let's look at an example, shall we?

Suppose we have a... oh I don't know... GHOST. And let's say our ghost is a jealous girlfriend watching her ex go to prom with someone else. Now let's see what happens when he arrives to pick up the new girl. (Off the top of my head so my apologies if it's not perfect)

Non-filtered paragraph:

I watched with baited breath, unsure if I'd be able to stop from interfering as promised. Erik clutched the corsage as he walked in the door. His date made her grand entrance from the living room, stumbling toward him a little, unused to such high heels. She tugged at her black velvet gown, revealing another inch of cleavage. The dim light from the chandelier above cast a romantic glow on the happy couple.

Filtered paragraph:

The second the skank walked in the room I knew I'd never be able to keep my promise not to interfere. She might as well have shoved her boobs right in Erik's face. Could she have picked a tighter dress? And those heels - she looked drunk. She couldn't even walk a straight line.

See a difference? Which is better? What else is accomplished through filtering through character?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Things I Know and Things I Don't

These are some things I know about writing and what that means to all of us:
  • It makes me happy. (So we should continue to do it)
  • It's self-expression and creativity, but it's also a business and must be approached that way. (So we should learn and do what we can to give ourselves the best chance of success)
  • That doesn't mean it can't be fun. (I focus on what I enjoy like this blog and Twitter, and you should find your own passions)
  • It's something that CAN be learned and improved upon by practice and education. (So we should take advantage of every opportunity to further our education and experience such as conferences)
  • I've made some of the best friends of my life since I started doing this. (So we should be open to others and not be afraid to jump in the conversation)
These are some things I DON'T know about writing, and what that means to all of us:
  • Who is going to get the next deal or call. (So we shouldn't obsess over it. Enjoy the ride, people)
  • What the next big trend is going to be. (NEVER write to a trend, friends. Write what you love or it will not be your best and it's hard enough to get published when you're at your best)
  • Whether tomorrow will bring a rejection or acceptance. (So we should take what comes in stride and not dwell on rejection, take what information we can from it to make what we have better, and then move on)
And these are some things I know about Vampires:
  • I talk about them a lot (because it's fun)
  • I think Damon is swoon worthy
  • They don't sparkle (no offense to Ms. Meyer)
  • Turning into bats has gone out of style

Monday, April 4, 2011


Today I want to talk about rules. Writing rules of course. There are so many, and they can be a bit overwhelming when you're learning the ropes. But without rules there is chaos and anarchy. Okay maybe it's not that bad, but your manuscript COULD end up riddled with adverbial dialogue tags.

There are reasons behind the rules. And yet many say you can ignore the rules, it's okay. Myself included!! Confused yet? Let me try to clarify.


If you don't understand that you're breaking accepted norms you run the risk of:
  • Putting off agents and editors who may take it as a sign that you haven't bothered to do your homework and really learn about this business. They will then pass on your book in favor of one of the many from authors that do follow the rules.
  • Never growing at your craft! If you don't bother to understand WHY we don't use so many adverbs (it's the lazy man's way of telling not showing and doesn't typically - see I break rules too - add to the book), you won't get that extra oomph of using them at the RIGHT times. And you'll have a weaker manuscript.
  • Missing out. You MIGHT actually learn something useful if you try things a new way. A light bulb may just go on and a new idea or approach may surprise you.
  • Not being a whole writer. What does that mean? Well, writing is an art, but it's also a business. If you don't acknowledge that there are rules, then you are not acknowledging that you are taking this endeavor seriously, and that you are willing to put in the extreme effort it takes to succeed.
So learn all the rules. Then as long as you have a darn good reason, you have my blessing to break them!