Monday, July 25, 2011

Ideas Are One In A Million

Okay, so as writers we come up with an idea. It's the best idea ever! No one has ever thought of this before!

But, recently I've been reading a lot of agent blogs, A LOT! Something I've found is that my ideas probably aren't really all that unique. Don't get me wrong, I hope they are. I'd like to think that every idea that pops into my head is completely, utterly, unique. I hope that no one has ever had that idea before.

This is a tough cookie to swallow for me, but I also learned something else whilst reading these blogs. And, that is that even though there could be someone out there writing a similar book to mine I still shouldn't give up. Maybe I'll get to the agents first, maybe mine is too good to pass up. Whatever the possibilities are I'm not going to stop writing.

There is nothing out there that says someone is definitely writing something similar or not. I can't let that get to me or bring me down. I have to continue to write and continue to forge forward with full gusto.

And, that is exactly what I plan on doing. I will never give up!

Your Turn -> Do you worry that you're idea isn't unique? Have you ever written something that you thought was unique and found a book that was similar already published?

Friday, July 22, 2011

5 Things I liked about "On Writing" by Stephen King

I recently finished reading Stephen King's book On Writing which is part memoir and part about writing. I highly suggest writers read this book. My Dad was the one who had recommended the book to me when I first started reading. I think I should have read it sooner.

After reading this I decided that I wanted to do a quick blog on what I took away from Stephen King on writing.

1) Reading is key to writing. The more you read the better your writing will become. Okay, so I didn't really learn this from him, but I like it coming from him. I actually learned this while going through school to become a teacher. It was drilled into us in almost every education class available.

2) "Write what you like." Somehow I keep stumbling upon advice in the cyberworld about writing that says write what's popular, then when you break into the business write what you like. Uh, no thank you. I'm going to write what I like and go with Stephen King's advice.

3) Plot isn't important (at least not in the beginning). I have found that I like to let my characters take me where they will. After the first draft is written then I worry about fixing the plot and making sense of their story. I was beginning to think this was one of those "you're a beginner" mistakes. It isn't. Stephen King does it too. Yipee!

4) Strunk and White rule! I have this book, but I'm not sure where it disappeared to. I seriously need to find it before I get hacking away at my writing. My Dad and Stephen King are on to something with that book.

5) Adverbs are cluttering. I agree. Too bad I like to use them, a lot. This is one of those things I'll need to look at when I get editing this summer.

Honestly, I could keep going on things I took away from this book, but that would be cheating. Wouldn't it? Then you wouldn't have to read the book. Anyways, I highly recommend this book for writers. You don't have to use King's methods. Just read the book and enjoy learning how one of the most popular authors of our times got to where he is today.

By far my favorite quote from this book is regarding critiques. King sends his manuscripts out to several people before making a final judgement call on his work. If everyone dislikes something, back to the drawing board. If they like it, Score! If it's a mixed review: " baseball, tie goes tot he runner; for the novelist, it goes to the writer."

Your Turn -> What have you learned from Stephen King, if you've read this book?

Monday, July 18, 2011

The ABC's of Writing

I have seen posts before where blog writers will do a post on ABC.... of whatever it is that is on their mind, or even author names that begin with each letter of the alphabet. Anyhow, a thought popped into my head - The ABC's of Writing! So, I sat down and started working on a list that worked with what I wanted. It didn't come easy, at all. In fact, it took me several days of mulling over the alphabet, writing books, and my own blog to come up with a complete list. So, here it is! I hope you enjoy this fun list.

A - Agents

Let's face it, if you want to go the traditional publishing route there is just no easy way around this letter, or name. Agents are a key part to the success of any traditionally published author. Get to know agents, stalk follow them on Twitter, Facebook, the blogosphere. Find out what they represent, what they like, what they are looking for, and if they are even open to unsolicited queries. Don't get too crazy following them, but get acquainted with them enough that you know how to catch their eye with your query letter.

B - Back-story 

You have memories and so should your characters. Everything that has happened in your life has made you who you are today. The same should apply to your characters. The thing is, you have a chance to allow your readers to see your characters memories. Add them in, bring a new light to why a certain character acts a specific way. This also helps give your characters more depth, as well as your story.

C - Character Arc

Don't let your characters be flat. Make them fight for what they want. Make them challenge themselves and learn from their mistakes.No one gets to where they want without a fight, the same goes for your characters.

D - Dialog

Your characters need to interact with one another. Although, at the same time you don't want to have too much or too little dialog. This is one thing that tends to trip me up. I haven't found a good formula for how much dialog should be in a story or where it's best at. I think if it fits in the scene it just does. It also helps add depth to characters or situations. 

E - Editing

Love it or hate it, it has to be done. I've never heard of a story being written and completed in one draft. Find a way to deal with it and embrace it. You never know, editing could turn into being one of your favorite parts of the writing process. Yes, I have heard other writers say that. Well at least heard it in the sense of reading a blog post or tweet. 

F - Formatting

Yes, this is important. Especially if you are going the route of self publishing. From what I've read on other writer's blogs, who have self published, there is different formating for different outlets. For example Kindle and Nook formatting is different. You don't want your book messy on the reader's end. That could result in lower ratings for the work you sweated over for so long.
Similarly, if you plan to go the traditional publishing route you need to pay attention to the requests of possible agents. They all want your manuscript in specific formats. Some agents like to upload your manuscript to their e-reader so that it's easier for them. You want them to like you!

G - Grammar

I really don't like grammar. To me it just means rules, rules, rules. However, it's a necessary part of writing. You don't want to sound like you left school after the fifth grade. 

H - Hope

We all need to have hope that our book will be amazing and do good. If we didn't have that hope we probably wouldn't even write. So, be a cheerleader for other writers you know on the blogosphere or Twitter and give them hope. We all need a little extra at times.

I - Inciting Incident (or Initiating Incident)

Something has to get the ball rolling on a story. There's a reason to writing the story you are, so what is it? This can occur before the story even begins, as it begins, or just afterwards. You don't want to wait too long, though. Then you may lose readers early on.

J - Justification

It's human nature to justify why we do what we do. But, do we really need to justify why we write? No, we write because we enjoy it. That's that. If you find yourself trying to justify why you are a writer, stop and tell people I write because I enjoy it. That's all the justification anyone should need to hear. We don't need a huge fan base or followers to justify our writing. If you are unpublished such as I am, can you really have a fan base? If you enjoy writing, then you don't need to justify it. 

K - Knowledge 

As a writer we create the worlds in which our characters live in. We need to know as much about it as we can. If we don't have enough knowledge about a subject then we lose readers and credibility. For one thing I don't know anything about the life of a police officer, so I'm not about to write about one. However, if I did decide that I wanted a police officer to be key in a story I would do the research to gain the knowledge. (Research is later on, though.) 

L - Laughing (Readers like a good laugh)

I love to find myself laughing when I'm reading. That said, I find it difficult to add in funny stuff. I really have to sit back and look at my manuscript to see if I could find something funny that could occur. No, it doesn't come naturally for me. I wish it did, though. Instead I have to make sure I add it in. I think a little laughter sprinkled in is a good idea. 

M - Motivation (Someone wants something)

Motivation is key to all stories. It propels the story and the reader along. Without it the story doesn't have anywhere to go, making it pointless.
At the same time as writers we need to get motivated to sit down and write. Thinking about it and not writing is not getting it done. Sometimes we need to get that little extra zing to motivate us to sit down and write.
Either way, motivation is key to all writing.

N - Names (It's all in a name)

I think it's funny how people look like their names. It's the same thing for books. I have characters that if I ever had to change their names they just wouldn't be the same to me. Although, who knows. I've never actually had to do this before.
I am guilty of sitting down with a baby names book and flipping through until I found the perfect name for a character. I also sit down and go through databases of surnames to find the perfect name for a character. One of my stories is placed in New Jersey, therefore there are more Italian names in it. In yet another one I have recently started working on there are more German names since it takes place in the heart of Texas, in Austin. They do make a difference, believe it or not.

O - Organization

I have said it before and I'll say it again. I am the binder queen. I have a binder for each and every one of the stories I am working on or planning to write in the near future. They include outlines, character interrogations, notes, and numerous other important information pertaining to each one. I find it helps me to stay organized and then I don't have to fish around through notes wondering where I mentioned something for one story or another. Everything is at my fingertips. 

P - Plot

Well, without a good plot we don't have a story at all. It can take a while to create a good plot. In fact, my current manuscript has a totally different ending from the rough draft as a result of working on the plot. Changes needed to be made to make it work, and to give me the opportunity to have a follow up story.
Then there are also the plots within the main plot. Oh how tricky it can get. Either way a good plot can drag in any reader.

Q - Query Letter

If you plan on going the traditional publishing route this is a HUGE chunk of your stress. It doesn't matter how great your writing is, or your plotting. If you don't have a catchy query letter you may never get an agent. That's a scary thing if you think about it. I've seen tons of blog posts mentioning that if you don't have a good query agents won't even bother with your work. Think about it, the query letter needs to represent the work itself and you as a writer. You need to have the best possible representation there is. Get opinions, ask for help, read other query letters. Surprisingly there is a lot of help out there. I've seen other writers, and agents, who have put up lots of advice on how to do this.

R - Research

Research goes along with knowledge. If you do enough research on a subject then your chances of writing about it are greatly increased. For example I have a main character in one of my stories who sees peoples auras. As a result I have checked out numerous books from the library and researched a lot on auras. I still don't think I know much, but I'm learning. I have more to go, but I can write the story and go back in later to tweak it based on new knowledge. However, I'd like to know as much as I can before I really get into that part of the writing on that manuscript. 

S - Setting

The perfect setting goes a long ways. I tend to believe that if you know the region you can write about it. If you don't, at least visit. I have read numerous authors who base their settings for all of their work in the state in which they live or a neighboring one. I for one am guilty of this too. As a result, I have manuscripts based in New Jersey and in Texas. I even have one based in Utah, where my extended family lives. I love it there and plan on going back in the near future. I need a refresher course on all things Utah. I have also read books that authors have based in places they have only visited. Either way, know your setting. 

T - Telling vs. Showing

This is a big one. I have a tendency to forget about this until I sit down and start editing. I'm still getting used to the idea that both have their ups and downs. In some spots I want to tell rather than show, but mostly I want to show. I don't like the telling as much. I think it adds depth to show rather than tell. Yet, there are places in the story that I don't want to get tied up doing too much showing. Those spots need the telling. 

U - Understanding your readers

I for one enjoy reading and writing young adult novels, but do I really understand the age group? That's one I strive to achieve every day. When I am out and about I tend to find myself watching teens and eavesdropping. I also steel my daughter's magazines to see what is hot and what is not. I have even gone so far as to ask her what different expressions mean that she says. I want to have this in my writing. I don't want to sound old. Teens these days don't say "far out, dude!" I love to watch television shows and movies that have something to do with teenagers. Therefore, I try to know my audience as best as I can.

V - Viewpoint (1st vs. 3rd)

I like to write in first person, that said there are advantages to third person as well. I have even written in first person only to change it to third and then go back again and change it back to first person. I have two current works in progress that I like for first person and a third that I'm mentally working on right now that I plan to be in third person. I really would like to give that a chance. Either way, I think that each story is different and requires a different perspective. I like to read both, maybe I'll find that I like to write both as well. 

W - Write! Write! Write! 

This can be difficult, but if you are a writer and want to be published then you need to write. And I mean WRITE. Don't talk about it, think about it, dream about it. Actually DO IT! Find the time, or make it, and sit down to write. Some writers find it necessary to schedule writing time. If that's what works best, then do it. You'll never finish writing that story or publish it if you don't sit down and write it. 

X - X it out!

Don't be afraid to cut out something that doesn't fit. Even if you like it, cut it for the stories sake. It's all about editing, crossing things out, and adding new things in. Embrace the big X. When I printed out my rough draft a couple months back I found myself putting huge X's on paragraphs that didn't fit. 

Y - Your Goals

What are your goals? Do you want to be published?  Do you want to go the traditional publishing route or self publish? Why? Sit down and figure out the answers to these questions. With your goals in mind you can better focus your writing time and manage your writing better. Focus on those goals when you plan your writing. 

Z - Zest!

Okay, so there are few words I could think of that started with Z. Zebra didn't fit, so I decided to go with Zest! Zest for writing. You need to love what you do. The minute your writing becomes a chore or a job that you don't enjoy is the moment you stop writing with zest and your readers will notice. Don't lose your zest!

Okay, so there are my ABC's of writing.

Your Turn -> What are some ABC's you would use?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Character Interrogation vs. The Sequel

Going with the theme of Monday's post about character interrogations versus my outline I decided to look at what these character interrogations have meant for my sequel. I had been fighting for some time to figure out what was going to happen in the second book. I knew what needed to happen, but the how was escaping me. It wasn't until I sat down and started looking at other minor characters in a different light that I realized there is a group of characters I barely even deal with in the first book that can become a huge integral force in the sequel.

Of course, I can't just suddenly have them helping out in the second book, out of the blue. So, as a result I have had to fix these characters in the outline of my original manuscript. They are going to have a bigger part in that story as to help push the second story along. That way my readers aren't blindsided by these new people. They don't suddenly spring up out of no where.

Then again, they could, but I don't want them to. Especially since most of their work is done "off set" in the second story.

It's complicated.

Your Turn -> Have you ever realized that you needed to tweak the first story to help propel the second?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Character Interrogation vs. The Outline

Well, as you know I have recently been working on interrogating my characters to create more depth to them in my writing. In doing so, I realized that there were major edits to be done.

For example, I have one particular character who sits on the sidelines and doesn't seem to do much. Through interrogating her I found that she really doesn't like her best friend. In fact she is jealous of her, jealous enough of her that she will make different moves and influence the story in a new way. For this reason I have had to change everything about her throughout the story. I have been going through the story using an outline and working on each chapter, with each character, to find out what they will do differently.

My seemingly nice outline that I've been using has now become intricate, detailed, and long. I look at what happens in the back ground, events that take place "off set" so to speak. There is so much going on now that the reader doesn't read, but gets a chance to see based on how the other characters act or react.

It seems that it might be difficult and too much, but it's actually fun reworking the outline based on the new knowledge I have of my characters. I can't wait to see the results.

Your Turn -> Have you ever noticed one character in a different light while editing?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Summer Reading Bookshelf

I'm on vacation right now visiting family and wanted a simple blog post to have up. I decided to give you a taste of all the books I have planned to read this summer. Will I get them all read? Probably not. My list is a little bit overwhelming. Especially since I'm visiting family out of state and I have major edits to do.

I decided that I would only allow myself to bring my Kindle on vacation. Not that bringing my Kindle will cut down in the number of books, but rather it helps with packing light.

Misfit by Jon Skovron

Wisdom's Kiss by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Deviant by Adrian McKinty

Flyaway by Helen Landalf

The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

Die For Me by Amy Plum

The Lost Saint by Bree Despain

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Falling Under by Gwen Hayes

Clarity by Kim Harrington

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Solstice by P.J. Hoover

Like I said, those are all on my Kindle. Yes, there are plenty more on my Kindle awaiting my attention, but these are at the top of the list right now.

I do think that this list is a bit much.

Your Turn -> What is on your summer read list?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Reading as a Writer

I love to read. I love to read for fun. Somewhere along the way that reading turned into learning for me as well. I read books and think to myself about what I liked or didn't like. However, it wasn't until recently that I realized I know read differently than I used to.

Yes, I knew that it was bound to happen. I just didn't realize that it would be this drastic of a change.

It all started when my daughter's Girl Scout troop was working on a reading badge. They all had to come in and recommend a book they had recently read. Since I love YA they asked me for a recommendation as well. I had just finished reading the first three novels in The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare. So, naturally loving the series so much I recommended them.

One of the other moms in the troop enjoys reading YA as well and she ran out and bought the first book in the series, City of Bones. I had hoped that she would fall in love with the book as much as I did. Unfortunately she saw it differently. When we discussed it I was surprised that she didn't like it. I took all her points and thought about them. Why didn't she like it as much as I did? I kept asking myself this question over and over.

Every answer I had pointed to one thing. I read it from a writer standpoint and she didn't. She didn't like all the subplots or directions it was going in. Yes, that can be confusing. Every issue she had was with the story itself. For me, everything I liked was in the writing. The plot, the characters, the setting, her writing.... I could go on, but I won't.

I realized that I read the book from the standpoint of a fellow writer, not for joy. I wondered about this some more. And came to the realization that my reading has definitely changed. Before I got serious about my writing I read The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. It is a long book, adult, and very intricate. I liked the book, but found that it was going in too many directions. At the time that's what I thought. However, now looking back, maybe it wasn't so tedious. I just thought it was. I realize that maybe this is how the other mom is reading, and seeing, City of Bones.

My reading has changed. I read as a writer, not a reader. I can't pinpoint when exactly I started doing that, but it has happened. And, no, I am not sorry that has happened. I feel I have learned more by changing my reading style. 

Your Turn -> Have you noticed differences in your reading?

Friday, July 1, 2011

First Drafts

First drafts are always a lot of fun to write. I love the feeling of exploring the characters and their world. I revel in getting to know my characters better. Finishing a first draft is always something to celebrate.

That said I have taken a huge project on. You see for some time now I've been hard at work on Midnight Raynne and editing it. I have even written the sequel, Spring Raynne. Yet for some time now I haven't been able to get a few other stories out of my head. I finally got my mind around two stories that have been driving me mad for some time now. I feel that I really need to get them written. The urge to write their first drafts is nearly driving me mad at the moment.

If you follow me on Twitter you have surely seen me tweeting that I am hard at work on the rough draft of a WIP. Just which one is hard to tell since I have several.

Augusta -> I love this Augusta character and she's managed to change a lot over the past year that I've been thinking of her. Her world, family, and path have changed many times, but she is still there and ever present in my mind. I finally sat down and worked on her Beat Sheet. After finishing I was ridiculously excited. I wanted to start right away, but I was still in the throws of writing the rough draft of Spring Raynne.

Barely There -> I started Phoebe's story in October, then shelved it for NaNoWriMo. In February I picked it back up only to shelve it again for Midnight Raynne. This summer I will be in Texas and since this story takes place in San Angelo, Texas I am planning to take a quick trip the 3-1/2 hours there from Austin. I honestly can't wait. I'm sure to be blogging about this trip in the near future. I am planning to pick back up on this rough draft and have it finished by September.

Chloe -> She's a lot like Raynne in that she popped into my head and I can't get her to leave me alone. She's very persistent. I still have to get my hands around this story. I don't have a story line yet at all. I don't have her world or other characters figured out at all. All I know so far is the very first chapter of her story, what Chloe is like herself, the fact that she lives in Austin, Texas, and a little about another character, Dade. Other than that I don't know much. I'm planning to run all over Austin looking for clues about Chloe and her story while there this summer.

So as you can see I have a lot of rough drafts to be completed.

Your Turn -> Do you focus on one story from start to finish at a time? Or, do you move between projects?