One Writer’s Journey

February 24, 2017

Writing Challenges: These are both new to me

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:49 am
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writing-challengesAs all of you know, I love a good writing challenge.  Hint:  NaNoWriMo?  Not a good challenge.  Storystorm?  An excellent challenge.

What’s the difference between good and bad?  Do-able while maintaining my sanity.  Here are two challenges that I just discovered.

Reading for Research Month (ReFoReMo).

This one is all about reading picture books as research for writing picture books.  Having just looked at the reading list, I’m trying to decide just how do-able this is.  The first four days list 10-11 books/day.  Now, I have a library card and I can request titles.  But I can only request 25 at a time.  Yeah.

That said, I want to discover how other authors use mentor texts.  I love the idea of mentor texts but I’ve never found it terribly successful.  I think that 95% of the problem is that I want to follow the mentor text too closely as if it was a template.  I’m hoping that this challenge, even if I can’t get every book ahead of time, will help me understand how other author’s use mentor texts and how they can be more helpful in my own writing.

This one starts Monday, February 27.
The Chapter Book Challenge (ChaBooCha).

This one is NaNoWriMo for children’s writers.  In the month of March, you are challenged to write a complete draft of a YA or MG novel, chapter book or early reader.  I’m signing up for this because I want to see what is what and how it differs from NaNoWriMo.  I’m hoping it will be less insanity inducing than NaNoWriMo.

Intelligently enough, they encourage you to start with an outline.  I’m going to work on Iron Mountain.  Of course, I can also get an early reader roughed next month because those don’t take nearly as long as finishing my young adult.  There are blog posts and a Facebook group and I’m looking forward to see what kind of information they put out there.

Hopefully one of these will interest some of you!

–SueBE

 

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November 10, 2016

NoNoNaNo

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 2:22 am
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chrysanthemum-991625_1920What is the saying about the well laid plans of mice and men?  I actually looked it up and found this in the American Heritage Dictionary. 

“No matter how carefully a project is planned, something may still go wrong with it. The saying is adapted from a line in “To a Mouse,” by Robert Burns, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.”

Usually when I approach NaNo, it is all a bit slap dash.  I’ve just come off a deadline and I dash in at the last moment and manage to rough about 8000 words before I lose my way in the story.

This time I actually planned.  I scrapbooked the novel, creating pages for my characters and my setting.  I didn’t get as far as I would have liked on material culture but I got a bit of that done as well.

Just as I was sitting down to work on my outline, I get hit with a rewrite.  It was due two days into NaNo.  No worries.  I could do that and then get the outline done.

Are you laughing yet?

By the time I got the rewrite done, I was a teeny-weeny little bit toasted.  As in completely fried.

Then we had three deaths — a family friend, a friend’s mom, and a friend’s wife.  I guess you could say that at this point I am deep-fried.

For two days I tried to work on my novel.  I managed to outline about 25% of it and wrote two and a half pages.  That’s something like 700 words which is much less than the 1600+ words you are supposed to write each day.  And it is really bad.  Not so bad that I’m going to throw it away because it helped me pull somethings together but it is only a wee bit of what I need to accomplish given that I should be about 15,000 words in.

The killer is that I really want to work on the book.  But right now?  I just don’t have the energy to do it.

Instead of writing, I’m doing some more research on the material culture.  I’ll get more information on how they do things — cooking and the like.  I’m also working on my outline using the Plot Whisperer to nudge me along.  I know I can do it but I am equally certain that I just can’t do it right now.

Does that make me a NaNo failure?  I don’t much care for the world failure.  I think I’ll just consider myself a late bloomer, like a mum.

–SueBE

 

October 28, 2016

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night: Or the Joys of Three Act Structure

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:55 am
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basil-rathbone-402601_1280As I get ready for NaNoWriMo, the last step that I’m confronted with is creating an outline.  There are several different types of outlines that you can create.  Each one is “the only way to do it,” according to one group of writers or another.  Here are two of the most common.

Scene outline.  Some writers outline their novel scene by scene.  This means coming up with a list of events that take place in your story.  It gives some writers the safety net they need.  For others it saps their creativity.

Plot Point Structure.   Other writers create more of a plot point structure.  This is similar to a scene list but makes sure that certain key events are present and accounted for in the most effective order.  This is what I’m creating for Iron Mountain.  The plot points that I need to note are:

Act 1.  (Roughly 25% of the story)

  • The hook:  Pull your reader into the story.  Get the reader to start asking questions.
  • Inciting Event: This event sets the story in motion and leads to …
  • The Key Event: The event that forces the protagonist to take action.
  • 1st Plot Point:  This is either at the end of Act 1 or beginning of Act 2.  There is a change of surroundings.  It is a personal turning point for the protagonist.  From here there is no turning back.  The main character is driven out of her comfort zone and into the world of the story. Some people call this the “Tipping Point.”

Act 2.  (Roughly 50% of the story)

  • Strong Reaction:  The character has a strong response to the 1st plot point.
  • First Pinch point:  Sometimes called a “Stress point.”  This is where the antagonist makes his reach and power known.  He does something that narrows the protagonist’s choices.
  • Turning Point/Second Plot Point:  This marks the midpoint of the novel.  It should be about halfway through the story. There should be a change of direction for the characters.  This is where your protagonist quits reacting and starts acting.  She takes charge.
  • Strong Action: This new direction and stepping out on the part of the Protagonist is expressed through a strong action.
  • Second Pinch Point:  Sometimes called a stress point.  Once again the antagonist makes his power known and he again narrows the protagonist’s choices.
  • Third Plot Point.  This comes at the end of the 2nd act, beginning of the 3rd act.  Things are set forward leading to the climax.  This is a low point for the protagonist.  Perhaps she has been confronted again by the antagonist and lost.  There could be a betrayal.  Her confidence is shaken.

Act 3:  This is where the pace picks up as we move toward the climax.  (Roughly 25% of the story)

  • Plan.  Your character has taken some time to regroup and now has a new plan of action.
  • Climatic Moment.  This point is the highest point in the drama of the story.  It fulfills the dramatic promise.
  • Wrap up.  Wait!  Things aren’t over yet.  Here’s where the reader finds out what happens next for your characters.

Some people start with the plot point outline and then move into a scene outline.  That’s what I’m going to try to do.  Wish me luck!

–SueBE

October 24, 2016

An Interesting Life Feeds Makes for Interesting Writing

cabin-and-truck“An Interesting Life Feeds Makes for Interesting Writing.”  When you saw that title, whose life did you think that I meant?

Maybe you first thought of the character’s life.  Certainly a character with an interesting life will be more fun to write (and read) about than a character who sits on the sofa, plays video games and eats chips.  Snore!

What I actually meant was that when a writer has an interesting life, it makes for interesting stories.

Lately, I’ve been doing the prep-work for NaNoWriMo.  I’ve finished half of my character interviews and I’ve scrapbooked the characters and settings.  This means that I’ve been doing a lot of research.

Google Image is my friend.  I’ve collected photos of historic iron mines, miners cabins, ghost towns, and a deserted mansion.  There are photos of Lon Sanders canyon, iron ore and old timey mercantile stores.  All of these things came into the story intentionally.

But as I was searching cabins (my main character has to live someplace!), I had an epiphany.  I needed exterior dairyimages but I needed to know the layout as well.  A number of interior artifacts would also be useful.  Where oh where could I find these things together.  Then it hit me.  My father-in-law has helped restored a log cabin.  In is now set up as a museum complete with wood burning stoves, a spinning wheel, and a kitchen.  Seriously, I can be so dense at times.  That’s a photo of the cabin and our truck, both restored by my father-in-law. Thank goodness I have such interesting people in my life!

Then something completely unexpected crept into the story.  What do they grow on this farm?  Originally, the farm where this cabin stands, included tobacco fields.  We know this because there is a tobacco barn.  My mother died of lung cancer and my father has COPD.  Yeah, I already really like this character and she is not going to grow tobacco.  Besides, I’ve moved the cabin to slightly different geography that is far too rocky for tobacco but there are cattle aplenty.

Guess where my family went this weekend? The photo to the right is my son drinking a soda in a calf barn.  We went to a local organic creamery.  Now, in my story, the Wilkersons keep dairy cattle and, by the end of the book, will be working towards having a full-fledged dairy.  I so did not see that coming and will have to go back to the real dairy (oh woe is me!), take the official tour and do some delicious research.

Spend time with interesting people.  Go interesting places.  Do interesting things.  They will find their way into your stories.

–SueBE

 

October 18, 2016

Characterization: Prewriting to the Extreme

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:18 am
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When author K.M. Weiland interviews her characters, she asks them a wide variety of questions including the name of their favorite book. As I started doing this for my main character, Clem, my first thought was that she wouldn’t have a favorite book.  She is definitely working class and poor.  She doesn’t have much time for things like books.

Then I started to wonder if I was taking the easy way out.  My grandfather graduated with a degree in Mining Engineering just as many of the mines in the US were playing out.  Because of this, he took any job he could find.  Sometimes he was head mining engineer for the mercury mines in Terlingua, Texas.  Other times he ran a filling station.  My grandmother used chicken feed sacks to make clothing.  Pretty sacks became dresses focrisscrossing-the-galaxyr the girls.  Ugly sacks were destined to be underwear.  They were definitely foundation-stonesworking class and poor but they had books.

So what kind of books would kids on a mining planet have access to?  Especially working class kids? What would there be and what would they want?

Fortunately, I collect old books, snatching them up whenever I see them at a yard sale, rummage sale or book sale.  I was able to base these two books on actual texts in my collection.  One is my character’s favorite book because her older brother read it to her.  The other is the kind of book her step father wants her to read.  It should be pretty obvious which is which.

I’m not going to be able to put this much effort into every crumb of material culture but having put the effort into creating these “books,” even if I really only made the covers, I feel like I know my characters a bit better.

I better hustle though so that I’ll be ready to start working on the novel in two weeks.  Fingers crossed!

–SueBE

 

 

 

 

October 17, 2016

Novel Writing: What to Know Before You Start

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 3:26 am
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prewritingWhen I came across this checklist, it was billed as NaNoWriMo prep.  “Do these things and you’ll be ready to rock.”  Admittedly, that’s why I’m doing them right now but if they are good prep for NaNoWriMo then they are good prep to write a novel.  Period.  So what is on this amazing checklist? I’m going to just touch on each of these points and then go into detail in other posts.

  1. Write your premise sentence.  The premise is a summary of what your novel is about.  It goes beyond the bare bones concept to include a bit about the protagonist, their general situation and what they are working on before they get sucked into whatever your story is about. As if all of that wasn’t enough, you have to include your protagonist, what disaster gets the plot moving and the conflict between these two characters.  I’ve already blogged about the premise here.
  2. Work with your characters.  I’ve already started this in my scrapbook.  I know how they look and how they dress. I know some of what they like.  I have some backstory.  I did not do detailed interviews.  I should address that and I’ll write another post on characters when I do.  I also need to consider the character arc for each one.
  3. Work with your plot.  You are going to have to make sure you’ve addressed any plot holes, added a few twists so that your story isn’t business and usual and identified all of your plot points from the inciting incident to the climax.
  4. Details your plot.  It isn’t enough to know vaguely what is going on.  Before you start writing, you will need an outline composed of all of the scenes that get your from one plot point to another.  Yep.  Scenes.  You may need 3 scenes to address one plot point.
  5. Explore your settings. When we plow through a novel manuscript, it is easy to slight the setting and leave your characters wondering around some place that is a bit gray and amorphous.  Avoid this by exploring your setting ahead of time  Some writers create setting folders.  I’m doing this in my scrapbook, colleting images for each setting.

It sure looks like a lot of work, doesn’t it?  But I’m fairly confident that once it is done, I will be ready to write that novel.

–SueBE

 

October 11, 2016

Prepping Your Premise

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:21 am
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watch-1267417_1920As I work on my NaNoWriMo prewriting tasks, I find myself doing a bit of this and a bit of that on my book.  No, I’m not writing. I’m figuring things out.  One of the things that I need to figure out is my premise.  Not sure what a premise is?  The concept is the most basic take on the story.  My concept is  a girl waits for her brother to come home from the war.  A premise begins to fill in the details.  You can read up on that in an excellent post by K.M. Weiland on the difference between a premise and a concept.

Any-who, for my premise, I need to know the following:

Protagonist:  12 year-old Clem

Situation: Clem is working hard, running errands and acting as a local messenger.

Objective:  She needs to maintain things, specifically her older brother’s a-tee (think speeder) until he comes home from the war.

Opponent:  Evil step-father (ESF).  Yes, this could be cliché but he has a compelling back story.

Disaster: ESF tries to take the a-tee to sell it.  He’s convinced the brother is not coming home.  Maybe dead.

Conflict: She has to find a way to keep him from selling it and hold on.

Let’s see how all of this folds together into a premise:  Clem is running errands and messages to earn the money she needs to maintain her brother’s a-tee. She’s the youngest pilot in the area but she takes care of the vehicle, determined to have it looking good-as-new when her brother comes home from the war.  Then her step-father tries to sell it without saying anything to her.  He’s convinced her brother isn’t coming home but Clem doesn’t believe him.  She’s determined that if she keeps the a-tee safe, her brother will come home.

Premise?  Check.  I’m going to be working on setting and material culture but I also have to . . . hesitant pause . . . make an outline.

–SueBE

 

October 10, 2016

Characters: Getting to know them inside and out

fiddleAs part of the pre-writing that I need to get done for NaNoWriMo, I spent some time last week scrapbooking my characters.  This is definitely an exercise that I’d recommend if you’ve never done it before.

Before I did this exercise, I’d given some thought to my characters.  For my main character and three main secondary characters, I knew what they liked and what they valued but I hadn’t nailed down their appearances.  Now I have coloring, general height and  build for each of them.  I even have a pretty good idea what one character’s tatoo looks like.  The funny thing?  Before I did this, I didn’t know he had a tatoo.

I knew some of the baggage that he brought with him into the story.  It’s the baggage that makes him such a mystery, but I didn’t know about the ink.  As I was doing a variety of searches in Google Image, up popped a full back tattoo of a fallen angel.  Oh.  Wow.  Absolute perfection.

This isn’t the only character that I learned about.  My main character has a surprising hobby.  Yes, it is something a lot of girls do but it isn’t something you usually associate with a tom boy.

The surprise that’s going to make the most work for me came in the form of a pair of fiddles.  Two of my characters saw fit to let me in on the fact that they both play the fiddle.  That’s awesome for the story but what I know about fiddles would fit in the case alongside the bow and the fiddle itself.

But the character that I learned the most about is my villain.  All this time, I didn’t realize that I had never named him.  I just called him Stepfather.  Yes, it may be a bit cliché that the stepfather is the villain and because of that I’d let this character slide.  But now that he has a name and a face and even a motivation . . . I can’t say that I like him any better than I did before but now I know why he does the jerky things that he does.

This was definitely a worthwhile exercise.  This week I’ll be scrapbooking my settings.  I’m sure I’ll learn a few things in the process.

–SueBE

September 22, 2016

No No NaNo or Am I In?

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:44 am
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nanowrimoYesterday I spotted a blog post about NaNoWriMo.  “Sioux,” I thought.  “What is up?  NaNo isn’t until November!”

But Sioux is right.  If you are going to do NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), now is the time to plan.  Ugh.

For those of you who don’t recognize the abbreviation, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month.  What it amounts to is this — in the month of November, participants promise to draft a novel.  One of my problems with this is that I write for children.  The NaNoWriMo goal is 50,000 words.  By about the midpoint it becomes clear that I’m not going to make that word count so I just kind of drift away.

The other problem is that November always seems to sneak up on me.  If I decide to do NaNoWriMo, it is always a spur of the moment decision.  I don’t do any prep work and attempt to jump into my story.  It goes okay for a while but sooner or later I come to a stop, brought up short by something that might not have been a problem with a bit of prep work.

What that means is that if I’m going to do it, I need to start working in it now.  Maybe not writing but prewriting.  I want to finish drafting my middle grade fantasy, Iron Mountain.  I need to spend a bit more time with the characters.  I need to decide if I’m turning the stepfather into a true blue antagonist.  That had been my plan but then I softened him which meant that the last 3rd of my plot outline was off.  I need to think a bit more about the world and the culture.

Yep, I’ve got plenty to do before November.  If I’m going to NaNo.  Do I or don’t I?

My inclination is to say “do it,” because I want to have a finished draft.  So I guess I better get to work and start muddling through a few things.

–SueBE

October 22, 2014

NaNoWriMo: Possible or Insanity

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:48 am
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NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo

I have to admit, I have attempted NaNoWriMo only once.

For those of you who have somehow missed the phenomenon that is NaNoWriMo, it stands for National Novel Writing Month.  During the month of November, each participant commits to drafting a 50,000 word novel.  No, you can’t rewrite something you’ve already written.  No, this isn’t the time to finish up something you’ve started.  When you sign up, you are committing to draft at least 50,000 words of a NEW novel.

If you’re a children’s writer, this looks like a lofty goal.  Yes, many young adult novels are this long but a lot of what we write is much shorter.  The nonfiction books I write for Red Line Editorial are 14,500 words, less than half this length.  In fact, the longest single manuscript I have in my files is 35,000 words.  Maybe that’s why when I did give it a whirl I didn’t commit as seriously as I might have.

A lot of my friends do it so I commited to give it a try.  Yep.  That’s a ringing endorsement and sounds like something a teen character might say.  “Well, my friends were all doing it officer.”  Ah, well.  Dip that I am, a few years ago I decided to give it a shot.  I’d love to say that I did wonderfully and finished a full draft, but it isn’t true.  I fizzled out about half way through the month.

Part of the problem was that I have never done anything long enough fast enough to make me believe it is possible.  Yeah, I was giving it a try but I wasn’t entirely sold on the idea.  When things got tough, it wasn’t all that hard to derail me.

In addition to not commiting emotionally, I was also coming off several major deadlines.  I got everything done that was due in October and another deadline for November. By November 1, I had the month clear to work on my project.  But I hadn’t done any prep work.  I don’t do a lot of outlining with fiction so this didn’t worry me, but it also meant that I didn’t really have a plan.

Now, that I’m working on my second book for Red Line, I know better.  I will get this book done in 8 weeks.  That includes research, outlining, writing and two or three rewrites.  Yes, it’s only 14,500 words but this is finished copy.  NaNoWriMo is a rough draft.  I can take this project from start to finish because, before I fall into writing, I do my prepwork.  I know what I’m writing about.  I’ve got a plan.  I can write and write hard because I know where I’m going.  I finish a full draft in less than two weeks.

That,in my opinion, is the key to a successful NaNoWriMo.  For more on what this writing plan entails, see my post for tomorrow at the Muffin.

–SueBE

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