Thursday, July 24, 2014

My Setting Worksheet

Tuesday I shared my scene worksheet, so I thought I'd share my setting worksheet today. This is something else I've realized I really need to work on before getting started on my revisions. While I can see my setting clearly in my head, I don't always portray it well on paper. That is where this worksheet comes in handy.

The first few lines are very self explanatory and mostly there just to ground me. I'll list what that setting is, the chapter, the scene, the day and week (I keep track of this on a spreadsheet, too), time of day, and time of year. It's important to know what day of the week it is, and sometimes I need that little reminder of how many weeks into the story we are. Also, I find it important to list what time of day / year it is simply because that helps focus while I fill out the rest of the worksheet.

Next I pinpoint how my protagonist feels about this setting. There are always events occurring that will change how any protagonist sees or feels about a particular setting. Weather, time of day or year, and people all affect a setting, and they are constantly in flux.

Just as a reminder to myself to include what a setting looks like I'll jot down the physical details. In my current manuscript my protagonist finds herself in a total of four living rooms, all in different homes, belonging to different families. They are all drastically different from each other. These are the details that I include. I'll add in the size of the room, color, furniture, anything that I feel is important to note.

Our sensory details are important also. In my first chapter my protagonist visits two separate settings that are both extremely well cleaned. One is a place of business government run and the other a private residence. Adding in that the government run facility smells like bleach and that the private residence is filled with a scent of artificial flowers illicit very different visions to a reader. For that reason I list how it smells, the temperature (humid or hot, but dry), degree of light (can sometimes be determined by time of day and whether or not the setting is inside or outside), sounds within the setting, and taste. Yes, taste. You know how sometimes you can taste a nasty smell in the back of your throat (bleach) or the flavor of a food rings to mind when you smell a wonderful smell (food).

Not all of my settings are outside. A good many of them are inside. But I can't forget about the outside environment. There is a fire station in my neighborhood. As a result I can be in my house, but I will inevitably hear the fire trucks as they race away from the neighborhood. It's the same with weather. On sunny days I can hear birds chirping out my windows. And on nasty days I can hear the rain pelting the windows.

The next one I like. Sometimes it's fun to have something in a setting trip up a character. Something could be out of place. Or there's something off, but the character can't put his/her finger on it. Or there could be something obvious different, but the character doesn't feel it's his/her place to ask about it.

The next two are similar, but I like to separate them. I like to see if the setting can intrude upon the action of the scene. For example, a branch could fall into the path of characters walking. Or a picture frame of a long dead relative believed to be haunting a house could just fall off the wall, adding to suspense, even though it just simply broke.

On the flip side I like to ask myself if my characters could interact with the setting. In one scene my protagonist is jittery about a conversation that is happening next to her while she's cleaning up the kitchen after dinner. She knows more than she can let on and despite her best efforts she's a disaster. She drops a glass, shattering it on very expensive and fragile tile. Then she cuts her hand cleaning that mess up. She's the one interacting with the setting, instead of the setting intruding into her space.

Finally, I like to list anything else about the setting that I can think of. At one point one family is preparing for an upcoming social evening, it's not for a couple of chapters, but things are beginning to pile up. Even if those things are on the periphery, it doesn't hurt to note it and possibly make a quick mention of those items piling up. That way when the party occurs it isn't completely out of the blue for the reader.

Feel free to print or download a copy of this worksheet for your own use. Or pick and choose what you want to use and create your own.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Between Blog Tour: Megan Whitmer Interview and Giveaway!

I had the pleasure of interviewing Megan Whitmer about her upcoming debut, Between, for today's post.

I love the idea of mythical creatures being real. I really do love a fun conspiracy theory to cover them up, too. I mean seriously, unicorns have to be real. Right? Can you tell us little about the inspiration behind writing Between?

The way that certain urban legends continue to pop up has always fascinated me. There are people who are absolutely convinced that the Loch Ness Monster is real, that mermaids are out there, that Bigfoot is going to be found - no matter how much evidence there is to say otherwise, people keep "seeing" these things that supposedly don't exist. Every time there's a new sighting or new evidence of some sort, I wonder about it - couldn't it be real? And if it's real, how is it that we can't prove (or apparently disprove) it? That's where the Fellowship came from. They hide these things from us.

What mythical creature is your favorite? (Mine is pretty much a tie between a Pegasus and a unicorn.)

That's because you have excellent taste. Unicorns are definitely near the top of my list. Picking a favorite is really tough. I think I'd have to go with pixies.

I've found that sometimes my favorite characters to write are not the protagonist. Which was your favorite character to write in Between?

Oh my gosh, that changed daily. And even now, as I'm writing the second book of the Between trilogy, I'm changing opinions about some of the characters from Between! If I have to pick a favorite character from Between TODAY, I'll go with Alexander. He's the last of the Fellowship's founders living in Ellauria, and he's determined to keep the Fellowship intact at any cost. He's generally sort of a jerk, but he has moments of tenderness that I love. He's been a bit of a mystery, even to me. I enjoy writing him because it's fun to try and figure him out.

What was the hardest thing about writing Between?

It was originally a standalone and we turned it into a trilogy,, so it went through so many incarnations that it was hard to remember what actually happened at times. Characters who died in the original book don't die anymore. Motivations changed because of the plot changes. It was a challenge to keep everything straight in my head. I made lots and lots of notes all over the place.

I might be a minority in the writing community where I actually enjoy both the drafting phase and the repeated rounds of editing. Which part of the writing process is your favorite and why?

Editing. I hate drafting with a deep, deep fiery passion. I have to force myself to keep moving forward during the drafting phase, or else I would sit and rewrite the same few sentences over and over. I love editing because you can take that shape of a story you drafted and turn it into something awesome.

Because I have a small son I'm trying to keep an eye on I tend to write at the table in the dining room or in the living room. Where is your favorite place to write?

I love my office, but when I write in there I end up doing a lot of business-y stuff like answering emails and making to-do lists. If I write in my bed, I get way too comfortable and want to go to sleep. So I've learned that when I need to focus on writing my book, I need to go to the kitchen table. It's weird, because that's the least isolated spot in the house, but it works for me.

I have a tendency to write when I get a chance, but others have a set schedule. What is your writing schedule like?

During the school year, I write when the girls are in school and then after they've gone to bed. During the summer, it's much harder because there's not much structure to my day. I try to write whenever I get the free time, but that's much harder for me. I like to have a good chunk of time to settle into writing.

Is there anything unexpected that you learned about the publishing process?

I was completely unprepared for how much work Between would require even after my editor said "It's finished." In my head, I wrote that book and went through all the edits and finished it, and then it was time to move on to the next book. But that isn't really what happens. You get and ARC proof. You get ARCs. You make promotion plans. You organize giveaways and write guest posts and complete interviews and set up Skype calls and do a million other little things that have nothing at all to do with writing that book. It's wonderful, and I love it, but I had never thought of the business side of writing before.

What project are you currently working on, if you can divulge that information?

Book two of the Between trilogy! Yay!

Because I'm a huge reader and constantly looking for more books to devour, what are you currently reading?

I was lucky enough to snag an ARC of Blackfin Sky by Kat Ellis, and I reward myself with it when I reach certain word count goals. It's soooo gooooood.

And that's why I ask about books. I haven't heard of Blackfin Sky before and now it's on my to-read list. Score!

Available July 29, 2014

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You can find out more about Megan Whitmer on her social media sites and preorder Between at the following locations.


Waiting on Wednesday #22

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event spotlighting upcoming releases that we readers are eagerly anticipating and is hosted by Breaking the Spine.
Six Feet Over It
by Jennifer Longo

Publication Date: August 26, 2014

From Goodreads:  

Home is where the bodies are buried.

Darkly humorous and heart-wrenchingly beautiful, Jennifer Longo’s YA debut about a girl stuck living in a cemetery will change the way you look at life, death, and love.

Leigh sells graves for her family-owned cemetery because her father is too lazy to look farther than the dinner table when searching for employees. Working the literal graveyard shift, she meets two kinds of customers:

Pre-Need: They know what’s up. They bought their graves a long time ago, before they needed them.

At Need: They are in shock, mourning a loved one’s unexpected death. Leigh avoids sponging their agony by focusing on things like guessing the headstone choice (mostly granite).

Sarcastic and smart, Leigh should be able to stand up to her family and quit. But her world’s been turned upside down by the sudden loss of her best friend and the appearance of Dario, the slightly-too-old-for-her grave digger. Surrounded by death, can Leigh move on, if moving on means it’s time to get a life?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

My Scene Worksheet

I thought this round of edits would go quickly. Not so. Instead I realized I needed to dig deeper before continuing. I'm getting closer to the point where I will sit down and go chapter by chapter and revise the heck out of everything. And hopefully it will be ready for beta readers at that point.

One of the things I have done is create a couple worksheets based on information I've picked up here and there and tweaked to suit my needs. I thought I'd go through what I use and upload my worksheet in case anyone wants to use my version. But if you are like me, you'll print it out, find it doesn't fit, and alter it. That's pretty much my experience every single time I find a great worksheet or new information.

I list the best and worst possible scene outcomes. This helps me to keep my story from working out absolutely perfect for my protagonist. I don't want her getting exactly what she wants every time. And if you subscribe to certain schools of thought you probably want to veer closer to the worst possible outcome. As an added bonus I am forced to rethink the scene. What could happen. What should happen. A lot of what ifs pop up when answering this.

Next I look at the mood of the scene. It should ideally change from beginning to end, scene by scene. By defining this I'm also locking myself into how I need to look at the chapter when revising. I want to make sure that I'm hitting those moods correctly. Mostly this helps keep me on track.

Then I define the scene driver at the beginning and ending of the scene. Someone or something has to drive the scene. If I can't define the scene driver, then I need to look at the scene more and see if it's really necessary to the plot. There must be someone or something driving the story forward.

Now I get to the good stuff. The stakes. My protagonist must have something at stake. Not only do I look at my protagonists stakes, I also look to the other characters in this scene. What are their stakes? I write all of this here.

Every scene needs a turning point. Some place where information or circumstances change some aspect of the game for my protagonist. I force myself to define this point, and during revisions I'll make sure this turning point is clear.

A result of that turning point is that new obstacles arise. I list these for each of the characters in my scene. There must be something new that my characters understand, want, or need. Knowing this helps me to figure out why this scene is necessary and what I need to fix within it, and the upcoming scenes.

And finally, I've added a behind the scenes section. I had to do this for my current manuscript. I am writing it from one POV, but I know things are going  on with the other characters. Things that I need to keep straight in my head. Things that don't fit on my little calendar I've created to keep track of the scenes and chapters on. And things characters not involved in that scene are doing. So I added this section as a bonus for organization.

Feel free to print or download a copy of this worksheet for your own use. Or pick and choose what you want to use and create your own.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Cover Reveal: PLAY ON by Michelle Smith

Title: Play On
Author: Michelle Smith
Release Date: April 2015
Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary


In the small town of Lewis Creek, baseball is everything. Especially for all-star pitcher Austin Braxton, who has a one-way ticket out of town with his scholarship to a top university. All that stands between him and a new start is one final season. But when Austin starts flunking Chemistry, his picture-perfect future is in jeopardy. A failing grade means zero playing time, and zero playing time means no scholarship. 

Enter Marisa Marlow, the new girl in town who ges a job at his momma's flower shop. Not only is Marisa some home-schooled super-genius; she's also a baseball fanatic and more than willing to help Austin study. As the two grow closer, there's something about Marisa that makes Austin want more than just baseball and out of Lewis Creek -- he wants a future with her. But Marisa has a past that still haunts her, one that she ran all the way to South Carolina to escape. 

As Austin starts to peel back the layers of Marisa's pain, it forces him to look beyond the facade of himself and everyone he thought he knew in his town. What he sees instead is that in a small town like Lewis Creek, maybe baseball isn't everything -- maybe it is just the thing that ties them all together.

About Michelle Smith:

Michelle Smith writes books for teens (and adults who aren't ashamed of their love for YA). She's a lover of all things happy, laughs way too much, and is a complete sap. She advocates for mental health awareness, and is a strong supporter of The Trevor Project, Love is Louder, and To Write Love on Her Arms. 

Michelle lives in North Carolina with her family.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday #21

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event spotlighting upcoming releases that we readers are eagerly anticipating and is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

Forget Me
by K.A. Harrington

Publication Date: August 14, 2014

From Goodreads: 

An edge-of-your seat psychological thriller with a romantic twist

On the three-month anniversary of her boyfriend Flynn’s death, Morgan uploads her only photo of him to FriendShare to get some closure—but she’s shocked when the facial recognition software suggests she tag him as "Evan Murphy." She’s never heard of Evan, but a quick search tells her that he lives in a nearby town and looks exactly like Flynn. Only this boy is very much alive.
Digging through layers of secrets and lies, Morgan is left questioning everything she thought she knew about her boyfriend, her town, and even her parents' involvement in this massive web of lies.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Great Coffee Fumble of 2014

The only way I can describe what happened last Friday is just what the title says, The Great Coffee Fumble of 2014. It was awful!

There I was working on edit notes, drinking coffee, and then BOOM! I dropped my coffee carafe and it spilled. Right. On. My. Laptop!

I'm always really careful with my coffee around my computer, but lost it. Quickly, I slammed a paper towel on my keyboard, shut down everything and cleaned the heck out of my keyboard. I left it alone for 24 hours.

Then I tried to turn it back on, checking for damage.

I'm one of the lucky ones. It wasn't a lot of coffee and I cleaned it up really good.

But, that didn't stop the damage. My keyboard was, and I'm quoting the Staples EZ Tech guy here, "Your keyboard is jacked and we can't order a new one through our supplier." So I called Dell and would you believe my Dad bought me the BEST warranty ever when he ordered my computer as a surprise Christmas gift. My laptop is around 3-4 years old, and still under warranty. They sent a tech out and fixed it within 48 hours of calling in the claim.

I'm back in business today!!!!

The worst part of the whole ordeal was that I had not done a back up recently at all. I was freaking out for that first 24 hours while I waited on everything to dry before turning it back on. I don't know what I would have done if the spill was worse and I had lost everything.

So, lessons learned.

1) Back up my computer often!!!!!

2) Be super careful when drinking my much needed coffee near my even more important computer.

I hope you don't ever have this issue. Take it from me, not fun.