Monday, August 29, 2011

HUGE Thank You to ‘The Week of the Writer’ Guests..…..And the Song of the Week: Night Air by Jamie Woon


I have to start this post off with a big THANK YOU to my guest writers from last week! 

Each post got other writers thinking about and sharing their own writing processes, tips and ideas, and a fellow writer/blogger, Merry Farmer, decided to join in on the celebration by sharing the ‘whys’ of her writing on her blog, A Writer’s Adventure Through Life.

Needless to say, The Week of the Writer was a HUGE success!

This could not have been achieved without each one of these fabulously talented writers who shared a little more about why they write, what they've learned along the way, and how we can apply it to our own writing. And I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about each one of them through these posts.  

Thank you J.C. Fiske, Jami Gold, Tina Moss, Lisa Gail Green and S.P. Sipal, for celebrating the craft and the writer’s life with everyone!

I’m definitely looking forward doing this again soon! :0)

P.S. In case you missed any of their posts, a link is attached to each name.



Now, for the Song of the Week……

Night Air by Jamie Woon

I have to admit I’ve been wearing this song out the last few days. I’ve been in bed, sick as a dog all weekend, and this song has been playing in the background whenever I was awake. Something about it got me moving, just a little, to either read, write or edit even though my brain didn’t really feel like it at times.

Enjoy!



Happy Reading & Writing everyone!!!

Melinda

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Week of the Writer Guest Post: “Top 10 Tips of Writing I Learned from Studying JK Rowling”



Welcome to the final day of The Week of the Writer!

Buy the book here!
When I first ventured into the blogging and twittering (is that a word?) world, S.P. Sipal was one of the first to make me feel welcome – and she’s a NC native like me :)

Her posts on Harry Potter For Writers leave me speechless every time, without fail. I don’t know how she does it, but she’s able to dive deep into the world of JK Rowling’s creation, Harry Potter, and use the creator’s methods to teach us all how to be better writers. Almost every one of her posts have made it into the notebook of writing tips I’ve picked up from blogs, and I’m sure there’ll be many more to that will captivate, intimidate, render me speechless, and inspire me to be the best writer I can possibly be. And I don’t think I’ve really thanked her enough for that.

Thank you, S.P. Sipal for breaking down the creation and writing of JK Rowling and using it to teach us all how to be better writers!



I confess.  Over the last ten years, I've had an unhealthy obsession with The Boy Who Lived.  I've written editorials, posted comments on fan boards, hunted out clues with the rest of the Potterheads, presented my workshop at conferences, started my own blog, and even published a Kindle book -- all with the goal of unearthing JK Rowling's secrets.
 
But what has been a bit on the obsessive compulsive side for me, is a good thing for you!  Other writers can benefit from my fascination with ferreting out Rowling's tricks.
 
So, here for your amusement or edification, not sure which, are the top ten tips I've learned from studying JK Rowling's phenomenally selling series:
 
10) Plot like you're Hermione about to face her boggart:
 
Hermione's biggest fear was for McGonagall to tell her she'd failed all her exams. And so she always over-studied, ensuring that she was prepared and would never have to face this horror.  J.K. Rowling, Hermione's real-life doppelganger, has stated that she is a heavy plotter, working out the details of each book before she writes, and having plotted out all seven when she was writing the first.
 
Now, I'm not saying that pansters are wrong.  Lots of good stuff comes out of free-flowing writing and it can be a great way to get ideas flowing or even write a first draft.  But before you even consider hitting send on a manuscript, at some point along the way you had better let your inner Hermione get hold of your work!
 
Certain types of books call for more plotting beforehand than others.  Works like Rowling's with their multiple subplots and intricate trail-of-clues mysteries would be very difficult to write by the seat of your pants.  
 
So, know your story and play to your skills.  But keep Hermione close at hand when you need to be sure it all makes sense.
 
9) Quirky gamekeepers can be captivating:
 
Who couldn't love Hagrid?  I mean, what's there not to love about a half-giant who hatches dragons in his fireplace and calls a three-headed monster Fluffy? 
 
Rowling is universally acknowledged for creating some of the most lovable and fun characters.  Fans just can't get enough of them! Which is why they create their own fanfiction and demand more and more details from the author.
 
So, how does Rowling do this? Her techniques for character development are too numerous to detail here, but one way is to create each character with exquisite detail and give each character their own quirky flair.
 
Pomona Sprout always has dirt beneath her fingers.  Sour and sneaky old Filch has an equally sneaky old cat he adores. The twins create candies that make students vomit. Mr. Weasley, who's a Muggle-lover, collects electrical cords.
 
A wizard who collects plugs?  Where does she get these ideas? These rich, interesting details are what make her characters come so alive to the fans. Make sure you've fully envisioned your characters, right down to your batty old cat-lady squib neighbor!
 
8) You've got to have a Snape:
 
And speaking of well-loved characters, there is no character in Potterverse more discussed and dissected than Snape.  Not even Harry.  Harry, the reader knows and understands.  Harry, for the most part, was always on the side of right.  But Snape....
 
Snape was a mystery, an enigma.  And beyond his mystery, he most definitely was a man of ambiguity.  Because the readers could never pin this gray Potions master down for sure, he captivated their attention.
 
Have you written a character who flits between your dark and light sides, whose backstory will not be fully revealed until the end, who is in every way an ambiguous anti-hero?
 
Explore all the depths of your various themes with characters who inhabit all facets of your fabulous shades.  And make sure you've got a gray Snape among the bunch!
 
7) The Dark Lord's in the Detail:
 
Through the 3 points we have discussed so far, and those that are yet to come, one of the recurring themes is the level of detail with which Rowling creates her world. I liken it to pregnancy when women are told to make sure every bite counts because every morsel that goes into your mouth contributes to the health of your growing baby.
 
Likewise with writing, every word you create should provide as powerful an impact as possible. Don't just toss words around.
 
Create your characters down to their leather boots that are the size of small dolphins (Hagrid).  Build your worlds right down to the stuffed gnomes on the Christmas tree (courtesy of Fred and George). Plan your plots right down to the loyalties of wands (the Elder Wand).
 
If you do your job right, you'll have more details than you can realistically work onto the paper.  You'll need these excess details fully fleshed in your mind to make decisions as you go along in crafting your story.  The details you choose to insert should be carefully chosen to carry the greatest amount of impact with the least amount of words. Because, like Voldemort, lack of interesting detail is truly a killer!
 
6) Challenge the reader as if casting your first Patronus:
 
For Harry, learning to cast the Patronus charm, which protected him from the depressing attack of Dementors, was one of the most challenging skills he had to learn.  But he learned it years before most other witches and wizards ever attempted to.  He learned it because he had to, because the dementors had such a terrible effect upon him.
 
If you're writing for young readers, and even if you're not, challenge them to go beyond their years.  Don't ever talk down to them.  J.K. Rowling didn't, and the kids loved her for it.
 
Can you imagine what a critique partner would have said about Order of the Phoenix? -- This will never work.  You can't expect a ten year old to read a 257,000 word book!
 
And yet...they gobbled it up and wanted more.
 
Many of these young readers also latched onto the layers of subtext and social commentary Rowling wove into her work.  She put it there because she believed in children.  She has stated this upfront. She knew they'd get what she was doing.  And they did.
 
Don't underestimate your audience.
 
5) Dive deep, like seeking your treasure in the Black Lake:
 
Subtext helps.  You don't have to lay everything on the line when writing a novel, even when writing for children.  As mentioned above, Rowling worked in rich layers of social commentary, clues toward her mysteries, and mythical allusions...all only hinted at above ground, but living like merpeople, rich and full beneath the surface of her work.
 
Death Eaters linked to the Nazis? Rowling did it.  Lupin ostracized like people who suffer from AIDS? Check. Clues as to who was to die next hidden in their names? Yes, she did. Mythical allusions to Horus, the original Boy Who Lived of ancient Egypt? Most definitely.
 
Yes, readers were all over this stuff. Even the youngest of fans. It's what kept them coming back, reading after reading. With each new read, fans could discover a detail, a layer they'd missed the first six times through.
 
Don't just write above the lines. Write all the way through them. You CAN do it!
 
4) Be like Dumbledore -- Withhold your backstory until the very end:
 
J.K. Rowling has said that if you were to put all the multiple drafts of the first chapter of Philosopher's Stone together, you'd have the whole story from the very beginning.  The fact that she got wise and so judiciously cut out all that backstory from the start is a huge reason as to why her novels became the phenomenal success they did.
 
Donald Maass, the great literary agent, says "Backstory is called backstory because it belongs in the back of the story."  J.K. Rowling intuitively aced this lesson.
 
What would Harry Potter fandom be without the search for what actually happened in Godric's Hollow? Who was Snape truly loyal to? And how would Harry defeat the greatest dark wizard who had ever lived?
 
All these questions were dragged out until the end of the series because they all involved backstory which had been withheld until the reader was dying to know.
 
Don't dump it all on your first page, your first chapter. Weave in enough backstory to keep your reader from getting confused, but then withhold it until they are begging for the knowledge only you can give.
 
3) Keep your mysteries hidden, like Pettigrew:
 
This point is similar to the one above, just not limited to backstory.  What happened to your interest after you discovered who shot J.R. Ewing (if you're old enough) or Mr. Burns (if you're not!)? And where did your interest go after Nanny Fine married Mr. Sheffield? Once a mystery is solved or questions answered, the viewer, or reader, quickly loses interest. Wanting to know a secret, to solve a mystery, to answer a question is what keeps the reader glued to the page.
 
Even if your story is not a genre mystery, it still must contain a lure of some sort to keep the reader hanging on.  Plot these threads and the release of information well, so that the reader must...keep...reading…until the very last Elder Wand owner is revealed!
 
2) Engage the Reader...like J.K. Rowling
 
J.K. Rowling so thoroughly engaged her reader that they brag about how many times they've read each book. Not only that, her have birthed several smaller spinoff: fanfiction, fanart, wizard wrock, theme parks (if you can call that small), and of course, we can't forget the movies.
 
Why all this action outside her text? Because in almost every aspect of storytelling JKR gave the reader MORE than they were expecting.  More fascinating characters, more complex plots, more mysteries that threaded throughout the series, more fascinating worlds to explore, more intriguing subtext. And each one of these categories invited the reader in to explore and interact with the story. By giving them more, and challenging their abilities, she engaged their interest.
 
Even outside the book, with her website and interviews, which continue now with Pottermore, JKR never broke form.  Her websites are interactive.  Her interviews were riddled with clues and hinted at mysteries to come.  She alluded to the myths that underlay her series.  All components to make the reader activate themselves in her text.
 
Do whatever you can to make your story interactive and engage your reader's interest, and this starts by giving them more than they are expecting.
 
1) Above all...Have fun like you're Ron (or the Twins)!
 
It is evident on every page of each story that JK Rowling was enjoying herself immensely crafting Harry Potter.  She played with her reader from The Boy Who Lived (1st chapter of Philosopher's Stone) until The Flaw in the Plan (final chapter of Deathly Hallows), and they eagerly joined into her game.
 
I'm sure there were many down times (especially during the lawsuits) for Jo, but the stories stayed exciting and passionate.  Something like that can only come from an author thoroughly immersed in her world and characters.
 
Why are you writing if you're not having fun?  Enjoy yourself!  Take the time to refill your own well so that you will have the water of life to give back into your stories.  Chose your worlds and your people from an imagination full of stories only you can tell and desire passionately to do so.
 
Then do it with every skill and trick you possess!



Published in fiction and nonfiction through articles, short stories, and a novel, SP Sipal is best known as an analyst of the Harry Potter series. She's spoken at numerous fan and writer conferences at the national, international, and online level and published articles dissecting the alchemical and Egyptian mythological allusions running through the series.

She continues to discuss with other writers how to improve our writing with Harry Potter as our guide at her blog at Harry Potter for Writers and
accompanying Twitter feed @HP4Writers.  She has recently started a
Pottermore Wiki and Forum for dissecting the newest fun from JK Rowling
at PottermoreforWriters.com!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Week of the Writer Guest Post: “Knowing Why You Write”

Welcome to day #4 in The Week of the Writer! Today’s guest post comes from Lisa Gail Green of Paranormal Point of View.

Lisa is a writer after my own heart. She’s a super-talented writer who has a way of making you think about your writing while offering a unique ‘point of view’ on characters, plot, POV, blogging, and the magic of writing. Her blog is another that I look forward to reading every week!

Thank you Lisa for visiting with us today and sharing why it is that you write!


When Melinda asked me to write about craft, advice or tricks of the trade, I will admit my mind went blank. I know, I know, I kind of do that twice a week anyhow, right? But then I thought: What is the single most important thing? What rises to the top of the list or sums up all the other stuff? And I found an answer!
Knowing why you write what you do.
Yes it sounds pretty darn simple, but it’s not. The answer is probably very complex. If you’d have asked me a week ago, I would have told you it was because I had to. Well, that still holds true. But it’s so much more than that – I need to remember WHY I have to do it. Let me show you my answer and then I’d love to hear yours.
    1. I must remember WHOM I am writing for. I write for children because I remember how important stories were to me growing up. It’s easy to lose sight of who our audience really is, especially when we are wrapped up in craft and querying and such. But I write for children, and those children (albeit the older group) deserve the same kind of wonderful fantasies that I needed and loved at their age. The ones that helped shape my self-concept.
    2. I must remember the feeling of being thunderstruck by an idea. You know the one! Where you are all consumed by the fire in your belly and the ideas are coming so fast and furious that you can’t even remember who you are talking to (hopefully no one important). Agents and publishing contracts don’t matter when you have that feeling. So try to recapture it as often as possible. Believe me it’s not a once-in-a-lifetime thing.
    3. I must remember that I am an artist and that creative part of me needs a route to self-expression regardless of my emotional state. I know, it’s a bit psychological, but truly, I am not whole without the self-expression that my writing provides. I need to be true to that and allow myself to let go and not worry about the words I put on the page during a rough draft. I can fix it later.
    4. I must remember that it is important to me to do my best and succeed. This is true. I love learning. I do. I want to know as much as possible about my craft and put it into practice. I want to be professional and present myself and my work the correct way. These things are important to me. They are part of who I am and why I write. I have a goal. I want to be published. Okay, I am published, but I’d like to be a published novelist. I intend, despite the ups and downs in this business, to carry through and persevere until I reach my goal.
So there you have it. These four items describe WHY I write and what I have to remind myself of to truly remember the answer. How about you?



Lisa Green's publications include numerous short stories and poems, the latest of which are the story IDENTITY CRISIS in the anthology GODS OF JUSTICE from Cliffhanger Books and CURSED in the anthology PLAYTHINGS OF THE GODS available from Drollerie Press. You can find Lisa on Twitter or her blog, Paranormal Point of View. She would definitely have a werewolf for a pet if she weren't allergic.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Week of the Writer Guest Post: “A Writer’s Life: The Art of Saying No”

It’s day #3 here in The Week of the Writer and I am so excited to introduce everyone to the wonderful and amazingly talented Tina Moss!

Just like the rest of the awesome writers we have on the blog this week, I am proud to be able to call Tina my friend. She is incredibly sweet, super-supportive and offers some of the best writing advice out there in the blogosphere. You can find her at her blog, Tina Moss’ Blog – She Won’t Bite but Her Books Might!, and on Twitter.

Thanks Tina for joining us today and giving us writers one of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard in a long time: “Just Say No!” :)


When Melinda asked me to write a guest post for her “Week of the Writer,” I never even considered saying “No”. She is, by far, one of the most amazing and giving writers I’ve had the pleasure to know. So, I was thrilled to say “Yes”! Yet, in today’s post, I’d like to tell you about an instrumental secret that all writer’s need in their toolbox. Are you ready? It’s how to say “No”.
Picture this... It’s 7pm. You’ve had a long arduous day at work, but you slump over to the keyboard to get in your daily word count. Slicing out even this small amount of writing time was nearly impossibly with everything else you had to do. The phone rings. You try to ignore it. You pick up the ling grudgingly and stammer a meager “Hello”. On the other end is...(insert pesky nuisance who won’t let you write loved one)...who asks you to... a) come over right away; b) listen to a problem; c) do anything but write.
Sound familiar? We all have responsibilities of work, family, friends, chores, or that pile of laundry that never goes away. On top of outside bombardment, we have a duty to our writing careers. Being a writer is not “just” writing. Marketing, book promotion, networking, the list goes on and on, but all of it is necessary for a writing career, and yet, none of it is actual writing. Oh, and the number one soul sucker of writing (for me)...social media!
So, how do we get past these endless mountains of everything that blocks our writing time? You guessed it. Learning to say “No”. Ask yourself the following questions...
    1. Does the laundry/vacuuming/dusting/mopping/etc need to be completed this second? Can I spare a fifteen-minute writing jaunt?
    2. Is the latest family or friend drama time sensitive? Will the world implode if I tell my family member or friend that I need to call them back later?
    3. Does that newest blog post need to be complete today?
    4. Do I really need to put up another tweet?
    5. Do I have to go out for lunch or use the whole break to eat?
    6. Will it kill me to ask for help?
If the answers are “No”- and by my oh so subtle questions, I suspect they are – then, you DO have time to write. But, it isn’t easy. Saying “No” can hurt loved one’s feelings or cause you to feel guilty or (fill in the blank). The important part to remember AND to convey to your loved ones is that writing is a serious business. It is NOT something you’re playing at. It is NOT a hobby. If you want to be a writer, then you need to write. The sooner you take this to heart and convey this to friends and family, the easier it will be to say “No”. As Nancy Reagan once said, “Just say no.”


Tina Moss is a writer of urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and historical romance. She lives in NYC with a supportive husband and alpha corgi, though both males hog the bed and refuse to share the covers. When not writing, she enjoys reading across genres, watching cheesy horror flicks, traveling, and karate. As a 5'1" Shotokan black belt, she firmly believes that fierce things come in small packages.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Week of the Writer Guest Post: “Writing Craft: How Do I Love Thee”

Welcome to Day #2 of The Week of the Writer! Everyone please join me in welcoming Jami Gold to the blog! Her blog is one of the few I look forward to reading each week! She offers great writing advice and presents it in a way that is all her own, causing every writer who stops by her blog to stop and think about their own writing from a different angle.

When I thought of how best to introduce her for today’s post, I quickly discovered I couldn’t do it any better than she could, which is one of the reasons why I love her – in a non-creepy way. But I will say this: I love her sense of humor, the way she approaches writing, and the fact that we have so much more in common than our love for the written word. :) 

Thank you Jami for stopping by today and sharing in your love of the craft! And for the reminder that the rules of writing are really more like a guideline! 

“Writing craft” can refer to many different things, the act of writing (drafting), the nitpickiness of editing and grammar, the art of creating sentences that flow, etc. For me, I’ll take “all of the above.”
I’ve never fit into a box very well, so this is nothing new. I’m not quite a plotter or a pantser when it comes to drafting. I’ve written stories that started with strong characters and needed a plot, and other stories that had a strong plot and needed characters. I’ve written stories both chronologically and out of order. In a group of black sheep, I’d be the black sheep among the black sheep.
So when Melinda asked me to share my writing process, I wondered: Do I have a writing process?
I think my answer is that I do whatever works. *smile*
And I’m not trying to be flippant. Some people start as plotters on their first book because they’re excited about this new world they’re about to create, and they want to get all the details right before they dig in. But then for their second book, maybe a character whispers in their ear so loudly they can’t ignore it.
Except maybe they do ignore it. Maybe they’re stuck on being a plotter because that’s what worked for them before, so they tell that character, “I’ll start writing when you give me the plot details.” When the character isn’t interested in hashing it out in advance, the story dies.
Or the reverse might be true. Some people start as pantsers because they’re excited about this new world they’re about to create, and they want to dig in right now, today. But then for their second book, maybe they have an idea for a series, and the convoluted plot threads need to be figured out in advance to make the series work.
Except maybe they don’t figure it out. Maybe they’re stuck on being a pantser because that’s what worked for them before, so they refuse to outline anything for the series’ big picture. Then they write themselves into a corner, and the series dies an early death.
My point is that for much of writing, the rules are more like (in the words of some immortal pirates) guidelines. There’s often no “one right way” to do things.
I know, because I’ve written both from a scene-by-scene outline and from the seat of my pants. I like having ideas for all those turning points the structure people talk about (storyfix.com is a great resource for structure lessons). But I also like not knowing how a scene is going to play out before I write it.
I love that sense of discovery while I’m writing. When my characters surprise me in a scene, that’s a good sign the plot isn’t cliché. But if I were a strict plotter, I wouldn’t let my characters get away with adding a new subplot. And if I were a strict pantser, I wouldn’t be able to see how to tie events together and I’d have to fix it in revisions. The most important thing to me is whether it works.
So at some point, we have to shut out what others say, and even what our own experience says. Just because something worked for us before, doesn’t mean it will work for every situation. If we keep an open mind about every aspect of writing craft, we never know when we’ll find something that works for us.
If we’ve never been good at grammar, we can keep our eyes out for a new resource to make it clear. If we’ve never been good at editing, we can try a different approach. No matter how miserable our past encounters are with an aspect of writing, it doesn’t mean they’ll always be difficult—as long as we’re willing to learn what might work for us.
If you're a plotter, do your characters still surprise you with their actions? If you're a pantser, are you able to see a story's big picture? Are there some aspects of writing you enjoy more than others? Why do you like some aspects less? Does that change from story to story?


After dancing with the Devil in the pale moonlight—and accidentally  tripping him—Jami Gold moved to Arizona and decided to become a writer, where she could put her talent for making up stuff to good use. Fortunately, her muse, an arrogant male who delights in making her sound as insane as possible, rewards her with unique and rich story ideas. Fueled by chocolate, she writes paranormal romance and urban fantasy tales that range from dark to humorous, but one thing remains the same: Normal need not apply. Just ask her family—and zombie cat.

Find Jami at her blog, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Goodreads.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Week of the Writer: Why and How I Write: 80% Pantser, 20% Plotter, 100% Heart

Welcome everyone to day #1 of The Week of the Writer!

A little over a month ago, I decided that I wanted to get as many writers together as I could, put them together on one blog – in one week – and ask them to talk about the why and how of their writing. I have to say I was incredibly elated when I got positive responses from the amazing writers I asked to join me this week. Last week, I was on cloud nine each time a new article for this week was in my inbox.

Then I got a little dumbstruck when I realized something: I don’t think I’ve ever really been asked ‘Why do you write?’ Now, I know that my memory isn’t the best – truth be told – but I honestly can’t recall being asked that question point-blank. Not by my parents, my sister or brother, my husband or my closest friends. And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, because it makes me feel like my reasons didn’t have to be explained. Everyone who knows me knows that I have a vivid imagination, an imaginary friend that’s now known to all as my Muse, a deep love of the written word, and an obsession with music. So I guess it seems as though writing wasn’t something out of left field, huh?

Now that I’m actually sitting here and asking myself the same thing I asked from my guest writers, I’m actually at a loss for words since I’ve never truly vocalized my reasons for writing. Similar to my Muse, I have a plethora of thoughts that like to spill out at once, making it hard for anyone who doesn’t really know me to make sense of them.

But here I go anyway….and I hope it makes sense to you all……

Why I Write

  1. I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life. Yes, I have a full-time job that I love and enjoy, but there’s more to life than working 40+ hours a week, coming home, cooking dinner (on most nights), watching TV then going to sleep. There are husbands (or wives for the male-readers out there), family, kids, friends, books, music, movies, etc., all of which inspire me each and every day to a point where I have to use that inspiration in some way, shape or form. Writing allows me to do just that. I can’t imagine not being able to write every day, even for just 10 minutes, for the rest of my life. It just isn’t possible. My heart won’t allow it – much less my Muse.
  2. I love getting lost (and secretly hope I’ll never be found). Back in middle school, we had to read Where the Red Fern Grows. That was the first time I allowed myself to get lost in a book. And I’ve never looked back. I remember trying my hand at writing for the first time a year or two later and getting in trouble when one my teachers caught me editing my story. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t think to save the work on my dad’s computer – afraid he’d read it – and I haven’t seen that story since. But the feeling I had when I was writing and editing that story sixteen years ago has never left my soul. I have that same feeling to this day – it’s just on a larger scale and understood a bit more. I had a rough go at life when I was a child and getting lost seemed to be the only way to make it through everything. So I’m still getting lost to this day and refuse for anyone or anything to anchor me to reality 24/7.
  3. I honestly don’t have a choice. On a regular day, I’ll be sitting at my desk in the office, caught up on all my reporting and waiting for the clock to read 5:00pm. During those down-times, my mind – or Muse – comes alive. I can only guess she figures that I’m not going to use any brain power on finding something to fill my time with then I should just write, right? So until the phone rings or another project comes along (give that the office is already in tip-top shape), I take a small break from the real-world and dive into my land of imagination. Every time I do, there’s a new scene to be written, a new character to discover, or an entirely new story to be told. Lately, things at work have been pretty hectic, so there hasn’t been any down-time at all, which means that when I get home, I’m too tired to do much of anything. But my Muse – gotta love her – will slap me across the face then hold me at gun point until I get the ideas that entered my head throughout the work day either on the computer or in a notebook. So you see, I really don’t have a choice on whether or not I write. Every day I’m writing when I’m not writing – a lot of time, I just don’t know it until I get home and find myself staring down the barrel of a gun.
How I Write

My writing process is completely the opposite of how I live my life. I fly by the seat of my pants when I write, but I plot, plan and prepare in real life. Odd, huh?

When a new idea lodges itself in my brain, I just start writing. I pour every last drop from the kettle until it’s dry. Then I go back, read what I’ve written, and try to figure out where the story’s going. I’ll start the plotting process, but will only allow myself to go so far. I personally believe if you want your reader to be shocked by a twist, the writer should be shocked themselves.

For my latest WIP, I don’t think I stopped to plot anything until I was already 15,000 words into the story. Then I stopped and plotted what I think was the next 10,000. But before I moved onto writing them, I told my husband and best friend about the story and got their feedback on it. They both helped me figure out the ‘grand scheme’ of things and helped me brainstorm possible characters, outcomes, plot twists, endings, 2nd and 3rd books, and so on.

From there, everything flowed. I never stopped and plotted again either. Sure, I talked about where the story was with my husband and bestie, but we never had one of those loooong brainstorming sessions again – at least not until it came to the end of the book and it was time for edits.

Based on this latest story, I’d say I’m 80% pantser and 20% plotter ß I gave myself a little more on plotting because I think there were moments here and there where I was mentally plotting without knowing it. You know, those moments where you’re in the shower thinking about the next scene you’re going to write and you get so excited about it that you jump out of the shower, rush to your computer and type until your hair’s completely dry? No? Fine….the cheese stands alone on that one. :)

Now that I’m on my third round of edits – the next step is to send my MS off to my CP for more edits – I’m going back to write the outline that was supposed to come first. After all, I was being held at gunpoint the entire time, so it’s not like I could’ve stopped to follow the rules.

Now I’d like to hear from you: Why and how do you write?



Even though she still dreams of being a rock star one day, Melinda Collins is an administrative assistant by day, and an avid reader and writer of paranormal romance and urban fantasy by night. She lives in NC with an incredibly supportive husband – also known as ‘Lurch’ – an unruly and entertaining cat named Dusty – who thinks he’s a dog and can get away with almost anything, and a Muse that likes to keep her up all night with stories of Vampyres, Witches, Werewolves and anything else that goes bump in the night. When she’s not writing, she’s either reading, watching TV or movies, surfing the internet, or catching up on the sleep her Muse made her lose the night before.
You can find Melinda here on her blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

The Week of the Writer Guest Post: “How to Shake the World”

 
Welcome to The Week of the Writer!

Please join me in welcoming J.C. Fiske, author of The Renegade Series, to the blog. I’m incredibly happy he was able to join us this week.

In the spirit of The Week of the Writer, he’s chosen to give us a bit of writing advice as well as share a little about his writing process – which reminds me of Stephen King’s ‘boys in the basement’. So, thanks J.C. for visiting with us today and sharing a bit about how you shake the world!  

 

First of all, I would like to thank Ms. Melinda Collins for giving me the honor of writing for this event! Now, let’s get down to writing about writing.
I think, as the rest of my bunch will tell you, we really have no idea what drives us. Possibly, it may be an undiagnosed mental disorder but even if the mystery were solved, we could never explain what gave us the motivation to sit down on our ass one day and write in the first place. To that I’d ask, why bother explaining anyway? Things that are mysterious are usually beautiful or magical. As soon as things are explained, the magic leaves so I say lets look beyond and just accept.
For those of you who think you could be a writer or want to be, I’ll give you this advice: Don’t you ever, and I mean ever, write what’s popular just to make a name for yourself.
Instead, write about what makes you come alive more than anything. Look at what you’re reading right now and it will give you a hint on where to start. It could be a fantasy book, a young adult series, a crime thriller, etc. Chances are that you probably know a good deal about the genre you’re reading about, which is great, because now you’ll be able to know firsthand what’s been done before and what hasn’t. There is a market for everything out there and whether you choose to self-publish like myself or go the route of an agent, do what you would most enjoy! I love the fact of doing everything on my own and can be a bit of a control freak when it comes to my creative works so I can’t see myself doing anything other than self-publish, but you might be different!
As for what I do to write?
There are many ways to go about this. It is best to find what works best for you. Some people like sitting in a dark room and blaring music while they write. I’m one of these people. I just do better work in the basement. One of my literary professors worked the same way and he told me that only those who work underground can shake the earth with their writing. Neat, huh? Also, in the dark I have less distractions and the music, the louder the better, surrounds me and makes me forget about the outside world for the time being. Luckily I don’t write horror. If you do, I probably wouldn’t recommend this. That is just one way I write but there is another. It’s always good to mix it up and sometimes however, this just doesn’t do it for me because my thoughts keep wandering to my Xbox upstairs. When this happens, I pack up and drive to my local Starbucks and Barnes and Nobles. By doing this, in my head I’ve found the resolve to get my lazy ass out of my house and now that I’m here, it’s time to work! Plus I find that coffee is a great motivator, especially while iced so you can drink it fast. Then, look out world!
Anyway, if you have any questions I’d love to hear from you! I myself write in the area of Young Adult Fantasy and I have my debut novel listed on my blog site, http://www.jcfiske.com/, along with other heartfelt blog entries.
Thank you for taking the time to read through this and best of luck to all of you!

J.C. Fiske is an American author born in Manchester, New Hampshire. He is an avid reader, martial artist, and metal fan. He received his Bachelor of Arts Degree from Southern New Hampshire University in 2008. The first book in his Young Adult Fantasy series, Renegade Rising, was published through Tenacity Books in 2011.

Currently, he resides in New Hampshire and will be putting the final touches on the next book in the Renegade series due out early 2012.

You can order a copy of his book, Renegade Rising, at Amazon and Barnes and Noble and follow him on his blog, JCFiske.com, and on Twitter.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Week in Favs…..


10. “10 Secrets to a Perfect Synopsis” by Stacy Green. Let’s start with some fun, shall we? Last week I highlighted Roni Loren’s post on synopsis….this week I’d like to highlight this hilarious post ‘cause I could not stop laughing. I think everyone in the Dr.’s office thought I was crazy when I cracked up in the waiting area. Wait – maybe I am a little crazy. That’s a good thing, right?

9. “Writing Rules are Just Tools” by Rachelle Gardner. Hold the phone! You’re telling me there are rules out there I can actually break?!? Yessss!!!!! J/K everyone! I know the rules of writing aren’t set in stone. I just like to be reminded of that every now and then…..and I’m sure you like to be reminded as well. :0)

8. “New Experiences? Use Them in Your Writing” by Beth Hill on The Editor’s Blog. I enjoyed reading Beth’s fresh take on the old ‘writing while you’re not writing’ advice. She experienced something new and used it in a way to help us imagine ourselves in a new place. Then she asks us to put our character there. How will they act? What are they feeling? What is going to happen in this new setting? Beth even tells us what to look for when we’re in these situations. This was another post for the writing notebook!

7. “Yes, Reading About Edward Cullen Will Make You Sparkle” by Livia Blackburne on A Brain Scientist’s Take on Writing. How can you not read an article with this title? Based on experimental evidence, reading assimilation – a term I hadn’t heard before – is the idea that reading a story causes readers to assimilate into the characters described in a book. Interesting, huh? I highly suggest you get over there and read this article. You’ll feel just a little more intellectual when you’re done! 

6. “What Does Your Author Bio Say about You?” by Jami Gold. My author bio is something that has been on my to-do list for a while, but I’ve always ended up banging my head on my desk whenever I attempt to mark it off. With Jami’s help, my poor desk has been rescued and I have been stewing over my bio for the past few days. *evil grin* Thank you Jami, for breakin’ it down for us, providing informational links and making this a fun experience for everyone! You’ll get to see which crazy idea I choose on Monday.

5. The final So You Think You Can Dance goodie of the year. The moment I saw this Season 8 montage, I knew it was what I wanted to post this week. But…I couldn’t find it anywhere online! So what did the hubs do when he heard my disappointment? Extracted it from the final episode for me to upload on YouTube myself. *smiles*

This montage had me crying! It highlights most of the highs and lows of the season. Hope you all enjoy! :0)


4. “Deadly Sin of Writing #4 – Beware the Bog of Back Story” by Kristen Lamb. This particular article is in addition to another one that was done earlier this month: “The Devil is in the Details – 3 Ways to Make Your Writing Shine”. I have to say that I am absolutely lovin’ these posts by Kristen! The sins thus far are ‘was clusters’, overuse of “ing”, modifier overload, and bog of back story. I know there are more deadly sins that she has yet to cover, but I’m still cringing from the first four she’s listed already. I especially cringe over #4 since this is something I am personally struggling with at the moment. We all love our characters and know their history like our own, so we want to share as much as we can so the reader will love – or hate – the character as much as we do, but we have to be careful with this. Kristen hits the nail on the head on why we must tread carefully. Yet another one for the writing notebook. Gawd….this thing’s getting’ full!

3. “Deep Characters for Plot-First Writers” by Suzanne Johnson – guest post on Roni Loren’s Writing Blog: Fiction Groupie. I enjoyed this article because of the different take Suzanne had on the whole plotter/pantser definition: Plot-first writer or Character-first writer? It doesn’t sound as fun, but it definitely sounds more interesting! I’ve always said that I’m a mix between the two, but I enjoy looking at it from this angle….especially since she used one of my favorite book series’, The Black Dagger Brotherhood, to show how a story can be a great mixture of both plot and character.

2. It’s a two-for-one special! “To Plot or Not To Plot” by Terri Giuliano Long on iwritereadrate and “To Plot or Not to Plot?” by Melissa Donovan on The Bookshelf Muse. How incredible is it to find two articles posted in the same week with the same title? And both of them offer different opinions on whether or not it’s better to plot or let the writing flow organically from your fingertips like a true pantser. I put both of these articles here, along with #3’s choice, because I think it’s good to continue to read and share our opinions on this topic. After all, that is one of the things I love about the writing community!

1. “Kathryn Stockett’s ‘The Help’ Turned Down 60 Times Before Becoming a Best Seller” by MORE Magazine. Are you in need of some inspiration today? Read this article and be inspired! Yes, it was originally posted last week, but I discovered it this week and I can’t stop thinking about it. Kathryn received 60 rejections! 60! Can you imagine what would’ve happened if she’d given up after 5? 10? Or 20? The world would’ve missed out on her story. I can’t imagine not getting my stories out there for the world to read and this article is what’s going to inspire me to keep going when and if the rejection letters start to come in.

**BONUS**

I couldn’t let you miss out on this video from Veronica Roth. This is her fulfillment of a promise she made on her blog back in March. It looks like so much fun that I think I may actually try and convince my bestie to try it this weekend. Haha!



Don’t forget to stop by every day next week and check out the posts from an amazing line-up of writers in The Week of the Writer.

Happy Reading and Writing Everyone!!

Melinda

Thursday, August 18, 2011

“The Week of the Writer” is Headin’ This Way!!!

Before we head into today’s post, I need to announce the winners of last week’s book giveaway:

Congratulations go to……..

Jami Gold – MARKED by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast *throws confetti*
and
Amber West – THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins *throws more confetti*

Shoot me an email with your mailing address to MelindaCollins82 (at) hotmail (dot) com and I’ll drop your books in the mail on/by Monday! :)

Now…..onto today’s post!

Today is an exceptionally awesome day as I am ‘officially’ announcing that next week is “The Week of the Writer” here on Muse, Rant, Rave!!! *throws even more confetti and dreads cleaning it up*

So….just what is “The Week of the Writer” and why is it so special?

Great question!! *smiles*

“The Week of the Writer” is a week where we celebrate…..
  • The Writer!
  • The Craft!
  • The Process!
  • The Hunger to continuously learn about the craft!
  • Our nature as writers to share what we’ve learned!
And much, much, much more!


Week of the Writer Pic

Beginning on Monday, five fantastically talented writers and bloggers will join us here on Muse, Rant, Rave to share their own love of the craft and sharing with us their own writing process, giving their best advice and/or tips to fellow writers, reminding us why we write, and telling us how to just say no.
Here are the fabulous writers who have joined me in celebrating The Week of the Writer:

Monday: JC Fiske
  J.C. Fiske, author of Renegade Rising: “How to Shake the World”





Tuesday:
Jami_Picture_200_x_300





Wednesday:
TINA MOSS Picture




Thursday:
LGG Picture





Friday:



S.P. Sipal, of Harry Potter for Writers: “Top 10 Tips of Writing I Learned from Studying JK Rowling”







ATT00007

I will also be joining in on the fun with a post on Monday: “Why and How I Write: 80% Pantser, 20% Plotter, 100% Heart”





Be sure to come back every day next week to join the celebration and share your love of the craft!

Melinda

Thursday, August 11, 2011

This Week In Favs……….


10) “8 Pieces of Advice About Writing Worth Listening To” by Lisa Hall-Wilson on Girls with Pens. We’ve all heard this advice before, but we can always use a reminder of the best writing tips out there – ex: Keep Writing and Show Don’t Tell. I’ll be the first to admit that I keep a list similar to this on the wall behind my writing desk. Do you?

9) “The Art of Stringing ‘Em Along” by Katie Ganshert. As writers, we have characters or backstories that we want to get out there. We want to share all we can about them with the readers. This article reminds writers to hold back because holding back = hooking the reader. In other words….. avoid the info dump! I always find that when I start a re-write I’m deleting a TON of words, placing them in a separate word doc entitled ‘Excerpts for Elsewhere’, then weaving those details one by one back into the story to string along the reader.  

8) “Changing Scale: Looking at Your Story From Different Angles” by Janice Hardy. This is HUGE. I don’t know about you, but I’m so inside my own head that I fail to approach my story from a different angle. Sometimes I’m all about the micro, and other times, I’m all about the macro….and this varies from scene to scene, chapter to chapter. In other words, my focus flip-flops. I’m a pantser, so it’s not like I have the entire story plotted before I begin, so after reading this, I will focus on one at a time as I work through my WIP….as a whole and not chapter by chapter.  

7) “8 Ways to Write Better Characters” by Elizabeth Sims on Writer’s Digest. Ahhh….. I’ve been working on something a bit similar to these tips so I had to share this article with everyone. I’ve been working on getting to know my characters better. When we first meet our characters, we know nothing more than what they’re willing to share with us. I’ve been doing some character interviewing lately and I’ve been absolutely surprised by the many personalities screaming from within my head. They’re definitely making sure I hear their opinions, which in turn, means I have a much better understanding of each one and I can weave in a few of those discoveries as I edit.

6) “Sub-plots, Main Plots, and Digressions” by Beth Hill. This article is one of the best I’ve found in reference to plotting – a must-share. Please get over there and read this article. Other than Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell, I feel I have close to all the information I need to create a successful main plot – and sub-plot…..but then again, as writers, we’re constantly learning so it may be too soon for me to say that, huh?

5) The next-to-last So You Think You Can Dance goodie! **Spoiler Alert** This week was the finale and congratulations go out to Melanie for winning the competition this season. She was my favorite from the beginning and is such a beautiful inspiration to watch on stage.
I’m so sad and don’t know what I’m going to do without my weekly dance fix. *tears up* But next week will be the last week I’ll post any SYTYCD clips, which will be from last night’s finale. This means I need to fill this space with another type of video. I’m thinking TOSH.0 clips?!? I don’t know….we’ll have to see what comes to mind. Until then, I’m open to your ideas :)

This week’s TOP performance – and it was hard to choose since we’re down to the BEST dancers in the bunch – comes from Marko (contestant) and Lauren (an All Star and last season’s winner). This is what happens when great dance meets beautiful music:



4) “10 Things I Believe About Writing” by Jordan Dane on The Kill Zone. Um….I’m a little late to the party on this blog since I’m just now discovering it, but that just means I have a lot of catching up to do and I don’t mind that. Especially not with the list of amazing writers this blog has! Similar to #10 this week, this is another list of advice that writers should listen to. The one that hit me the hardest was #7: “Trust Your Talent".” We ALL need to be reminded of this. Like Jordan said, we’re human beings and we’re going to have self-doubt, but we need to trust our talent!

3) “How Do You Deal with Difficult Characters?” by Jami Gold. I have to say something first: Thank you, Jami! As I mentioned above, I’m in the middle of interviewing my characters. I’m stuck on two characters in particular. Strapping these two guys down and torturing them will not open them up so I’m just frustrated with them. I knew they were going to be this way since they’re both incredibly evil and manipulative. This was a well-timed article. Now, I ‘m just going to either ask another character to interview them, or ask other characters to share what they know about these two stubborn-and-withholding characters. Who knows….maybe I’ll dream about them both tonight and wake up in a cold sweat with the answers.  

2) “The (Not So) Dreaded Synopsis – 5 Tips To Set You Free” by Roni Loren. FINALLY!!!!! A break down on writing a synopsis that’s not intimidating or overwhelming!!! The last synopsis ‘how-to’ I read left my head spinning, but this one? This one leaves me feeling pretty darn confident to where I‘m ready to sit down and face the beast. Thank you, Roni!

1) “Afterthoughts on the Epilogue” by S.P. Sipal. I translated this article into sort of a ‘How to Write an Epilogue’. It made me think on my own idea I’ve been tossing around for a while: adding an epilogue to both give a peek-in-the-box of my character’s future lives and to leave the story with an option to re-visit in the future. Which makes me wonder….will JKR re-visit the world of magic in the future?

Don’t forget to check out yesterday’s post, “First Sentences…..And a Giveaway”. Please be sure to leave a comment and enter for the giveaway!

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!!

Happy Reading & Writing!
Melinda

First Sentences……And a Giveaway!


According to some, it’s dangerous for my brain to start turning……

Regardless of what they say, I did start thinking. This week it was about first sentences…..mainly due to an article posted last week on Writer Unboxed (and #2 in “My Week in Favs” post last Friday): “The First Sentence as an Amuse-Bouche.”

I’m not talking about just any first sentence like those that begin a new chapter – though I personally believe the first and last sentence of every chapter should be grand and enticing. That’s for another post.

I’m talking about the very first sentence of a book.

Whether in the prologue or the first chapter, a first sentence should catch the reader’s attention. Yeah, yeah…most readers give us an entire page before they’re putting the book back on the shelf, but……

…what if one sentence was all you had?

For the sake of ‘research’, my sister, Elizabeth, and I took a trip to Barnes and Noble this week. We spent around 3 hours perusing through several different genres.

Based on the covers – since we know that a lot of readers tend to pick up or ignore books based on their covers – we methodically picked 4 books from each genre and wrote down their first sentence (some were covers we liked, others not so much). We even made it a point to not read the back cover blurbs until after we read the first sentence (I know, a little backwards, but a lot of fun).

So let’s take a look at these first sentences, shall we?

There were 28 books in total, but I’ll shave it down to 14 for you:

*Note: Each first sentence will be followed by the first comment that was made by either Elizabeth or myself.


“Blue planet Earth and its seven billion beings lay 440,000 kilometers below – or, given the arbitrary terminology of orientation in space, off to one side.” - Heaven’s Shadow by David S. Goyer & Michael Cassutt
*”A little too science-ey for me, but alright. I think you may have me a bit longer.” – Me

“Francesca Thayer sat at her desk until the figures started to blur before her eyes.” - 44 Charles Street by Danielle Steele
*”I’ve done that before.” – Elizabeth

“”You’re my lucky piece,” Grandma says.” - The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow
*”Hmmmm…..I need more on that one.” – Me

”Graf Milieu, my fiancé, stands in the sunlight filtering through sheers of the bedroom window.” - Bones of a Feather by Carolyn Haines
*”Oooookay……” – Elizabeth

“We came home because we were failures.” - The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown
*Me: “Is she writing about us?” Elizabeth: “It sounds like it, huh?”

“Jack Holloway set the skimmer to HOVER, swiveled his seat around, and looked at Carl.” – Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi
*silence….more silence…. *Elizabeth closes the book and silently puts it back on the shelf*

“I’ll say one thing about walking around with a rubber band up your asscrack – it helps you train for torture.”The Deadliest Bite by Jennifer Rardin
*”Amen to that….wait – what torture?” – Me

“My life fell apart when I was sixteen.” - Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
*”More please.” – Elizabeth

“Only three people were left under the red and white awning of the grease joint: Grady, me and the fry cook.”Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
*”I wanna know what you were doing there.” – Me

“Everyone has a secret.”The Tudor Secret by C.W. Gortner
*”And I wanna know yours.” – Me

“I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.”Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
*”That sounds interesting…..” – Elizabeth

“Jimmy Cornett, the leader of Black Briar, paced the length of the room, eleven strides before turning and making the return trip.” Honeyed Words by J.A. Pitts
*”Uh-oh….it’s the second book in a series and I don’t know who Jimmy is.” – Me

“French is a sexy language.”The Whole Package by Cynthia Ellingsen
*”Yes it is!” – Elizabeth

“The shovel has to meet certain requirements.” Bad Things Happen by Harry Doland
*”I must know more.” – Me

**BONUS FIRST SENTENCE**

“I am Josephine Darly, and I intend to live forever.” - Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton
*”Now THAT is awesome….it’s the first sentence and literally the first chapter.” – Me

**Note: These were our opinions as readers. They’re not intended to offend any of the wonderful authors or their work.

I bet you can guess which books I *may* have walked out with that night or added to my TBR list, huh?

Bottom line:

First sentences are important. There was a chance for me, as a reader, to buy – or add to my TBR list – 28 books. Instead, I only decided upon 15. It makes me wonder if some of those first sentences that failed to intrigue were the original first sentences that kicked off the first draft?

HOWEVER…..

Just because there’s a great first sentence, doesn’t mean the book lives up to its intriguing promise. This means that as writers we should:
  • Concentrate on finishing the story and editing and polishing it up FIRST.
  • Once the story’s written: Put it on a shelf for a bit then you can go forth and do some editing. Sometime during the editing process, first lines will flow through your brain. I can almost guarantee it! At times, the first sentence will come to you the moment you finished the first draft!
  • Take the idea of your first sentence and sit on it for a few days. If several possibilities popped into your head, write them all down then come back to them every once in a while over the course of a few days. Remember: the best possible first sentence for your story takes time. Let is stew while you enjoy a new book or something.
    • Why do that? Because you want to make sure you don’t fly a bunch of people over to Jurassic Park and promise they’ll *see* dinosaurs only to either have the exhibits pull a no-show on you or have your guests eaten alive by the carnivores. You want a happy medium in your first sentence that will entice and deliver.
  • Take that fabulously awesome first sentence and build it into the beginning of your MS. Re-work the first chapter if needed. Re-writing is *almost* as fun as writing that first draft (for me it’s a little more fun than editing also).
And the research continues……


Giveaway Details:

I will be giving away 2 books this week. One has a great first sentence and lived up to its promise. The other didn’t have *too* great of a first sentence, but the story completely blew me away and left me craving more – and ton of other readers felt the same throughout the world:

Marked (House of Night Series #1) by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast


Marked (House of Night Series #1) by P. C. Cast: Book Cover 

&


The Hunger Games (Hunger Games Series #1) by Suzanne Collins: Book Cover
 

How to Enter:

Crack open a book on your shelf – doesn’t matter if you’ve read it or not – and leave a comment that includes the title, author, the first sentence of that book, your name and your email address.

Then, answer one of the following questions ß Remember, this is for research :)


1. How important is the first sentence to you?

2. Does your purchasing a book hinge on that first sentence OR is it a combo of the back cover blurb and the first sentence (or the first page)?

3. If you’re a writer, what is your process for writing and/or selecting the perfect first sentence?

Get your comments entered by 8pm on Wednesday, August 17th …..please :)

*You must have at least listed a book title, the author, the first sentence and your email address in order to be entered. You can also specify which book you would *prefer* to receive. 

Two winners will be selected by drawing names out of a hat – yeah, we’re goin’ old school on this one – and announced in next Thursday’s post (8/18/11).
**Contest is open for US residents only**


Happy Reading and Writing Everyone!!!!

Melinda

Friday, August 5, 2011

This Week In Favs……….

10) “On Distractions” by Nathan Bransford. “You can’t write if you don’t live.” <—This is some of the *best* writing advice I’ve ever heard! As writers, we set schedules for our writing so as to ensure we’re writing everyday to get something on the page – myself included. But Nathan’s post runs right along with the schedule I set forth for myself last week in taking 30 minutes during the work week to write while using the other free-time to spend time with my hubby, sister, work-out, and/or read. My weekends have a bit more time allotted for writing, but I still carve out time to spend with my friends who are always a source of inspiration for me. Okay, so yes, when we’re deep in the writing we want to grab onto it while the Muse is singin’ loud and proud, but what happens after the Muse’s song is over? LIFE!!! That’s what happens. A chance to recharge your battery so you can come back to your Muse when they’re ready, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and recharged to take down the next part of the story.

9) “How to Be a Better Writer: Today” by Angela Kulig at Angela WRITE Now. This is a new series by Angela that focuses on how you can be a better writer TODAY – or as Angela put it: “…how you can be more gooder!” :0) Angela left us with five points on how you can make yourself a better writer and each one holds a nugget of truth on what we as writers should do. My fav? #2 ‘Learn a new word that means the same thing as another word you already use too much.’ I’ve been trying to use different words in my WIP lately. Thesaurus.com has become my best friend. This even made me start thinking about how I use the word ‘awesome’ too much in my daily life and don’t realize until the hubs says something. My new word to replace that one? ‘Stupendous’! <—I can’t take credit for finding it though…he did the legwork for me. :0)

8) “How to Write a Query Letter” by Rachelle Gardner. Ah! The ever important query letter that stands between you and obtaining representation. I have to admit that I haven’t even thought about my query letter yet. I’m still in the editing process, and frankly, it’s a little daunting. If you’ve read the posts on QueryShark, then you may understand why I say that. Countless books have been written about how to write a query letter (I have two sitting on my bookshelf), but I rather enjoyed reading Rachelle’s quick and easy tips for a great query. Somehow, they’re not as intimidating to me anymore, which means that I may just start writing one as soon as this next round of editing is over. **Rachelle has more posts on Query letters and they can all be found right here. 

7) “Why Prologues Don’t Work” by Kristin Nelson. This struck a chord with me because I’ve been thinking about turning the first chapter of my WIP into a prologue. After reading these points from Kristin, I am definitely re-thinking that idea. While I’m still *considering* the idea, I now know what definitely doesn’t work so I can aspire to write a prologue that does. This is a list I believe every writer should have saved somewhere just in case their story calls for one. Ya never know…by having these tips handy, you could be the one to break the mold by writing a fabulous prologue one day!

6) “Conflict vs. Tension” by Becca Puglisi on The Bookshelf Muse. I love reading about other writers’ epiphanies! Becca’s is especially important as it points out the difference between conflict and tension. You may have conflict written all-over your MS, but that doesn’t mean the page-turning tension is there, does it?? Nope, not one bit! Becca’s tips for writing a MS full of tension are spot-on: Conflict in every scene, primal stakes, and clear emotional responses. This is yet another post that made it into my ‘book of knowledge’ (aka: three-ring binder full of printed blog posts with tips and tricks for a writer about the craft).

5) You guessed it! Another So You Think You Can Dance goodie! I bet you’re wondering why I chose to include these dances on my list. Here’s why:
Inspiration can be found in many different ways, people, songs, books, etc. For me, inspiration can be found in both music and dance. The young dancers of So You Think You Can Dance are 100% purely inspirational to me. Their dedication, their ease of movements and their infectious personalities all inspire my writing in some way, shape of form. Most Wednesdays, it’s a new song to add to my writing playlist because of how it was expressed on stage, but other times, it’s the emotion that the dance evoked inside my heart.

Ok, enough of that…bring on the dancing!

After seeing Sasha dance the 2nd routine of the night with All Star Kent – last year’s runner-up – the show was O-V-E-R for me. I was just absolutely….done! This dance was all about two people and the wall their relationship has hit and all the emotions they feel as they’re fighting to get to the other side of that wall. Tyce Diorio, the choreographer, is another one of my favorites and I just…I just love his work to pieces. I really really hope you enjoy this routine:

BUT! Another something-magical happened! The very last dance of the night featured contestants Caitlyn and Marko and WOW! If you remember, the song, “Heavy In Your Arms” was one of the Songs of the Week here on the blog. The interpretation of that song here was AMAZING!! Here’s the premise: Marko is an over-bearing, controlling man and Caitlyn is trying to escape him so she can find her own voice. I’ll let their dance tell you the rest:


4) “Things I Never Considered About Being a Writer” by Lisa Gail Green on Paranormal Point of View. Learning from other writers is one of the many things I LOVE to do and Lisa’s post hits all the other highlights of why I enjoy being a writer (other than the magic of writing). Everyone is so open and willing to share their knowledge: my family and friends are behind me 100%, I welcome constructive criticism and/or rejections and strive to learn from them, and the people I’ve met and connected with are absolutely amazing at what they do.  I’m proud to have been able to interact, learn from, and call them a ‘writer friend’. In regards to learning, there’s a similarity in writing and practicing yoga: you’re always learning, always a student. You may be able to teach others about a few things along the way, but there’s always room for us as writers to grow and learn from one another.  

3) ”The Flaw in JKR’s (Brilliant) Plan” by S.P. Sipal at Harry Potter for Writers. So….I guess there’s hope for me? LOL! Seriously though, when it comes down to it, I agree with Susan here: “…noting these mistakes JKR made gives me hope. It reminds me as a writer that I don’t have to be perfect (though that is no excuse to not strive for excellence). What is absolutely required, however, is to thrill my reader as JK Rowling did that these imperfections just make the work sparkle more brilliantly.” Nobody and no story is going to be perfect….but we sure can try and rest easy at the end of the day if it isn’t. Don’t you agree??

2) “The First Sentence as an Amuse-Bouche” by Therese Walsh on Writer Unboxed. We’ve all experienced and dealt with the pressure of trying to come up with that amazing first sentence. One that’ll hook the reader from the get-go and never let them go. But, unfortunately, sometimes we stare at a blank page and watch the cursor while we try to think of how to start our next WIP. My advice? Scrap thinking about how you’re going to start the next project. Just start it! Once you’ve reached the end, that perfect first sentence will come to you and hint at the fabulous character arc the reader is about to experience. The first sentence of my WIP didn’t come to me until the moment I typed The End: “Today was the day I wish I had the immortal gifts of my characters.” <—Is it making you go ‘hmmmm’?

1) “Meta-Emotion: How We Feel About Feelings, and How it Can Affect Our Writing” by Sarah Fine on The Strangest Situation. This post was a wonderful insight into how we as writers feel about feelings and how it leaps into our writing. This is one of the many reasons why I feel like I have to become my characters when I’m writing them. I’m pulled into their minds and feelings, leaving my own on the door step as I take a walk in their shoes for a day and witness a vastly different set of emotions and thoughts. If I didn’t, there would be a whole lotta author intrusion going on and that’s just not attractive. No one feels the same way or handles situations the same way I do. Not my family, not the reader, and most certainly not my characters. This post reminded me of that.

**Bonus Link!!**
Here’s a little humor to start your weekend off with. It’s a ‘Public Service Announcement’ that gave me a fit of giggles while I was reading it though mostly that was because I was nodding my head as I read through most of Patti’s signals of the condition.
I’m on the road to recovery. :0)

Here are a few updates to go along with this week’s favs:
Off the Blog: Overall, this was actually a great week! On Monday, I went back to work (after a 7 work-day vacation) and I wasn’t nearly as overwhelmed by emails like I thought I would be. I’m still behind on a few things, but they’ll get done sooner rather than later. I even started my new ‘Finding the Balance’ schedule and so far, so good there!
On the Blog: It was an awesome week for writing. I had a hard time picking a ‘Top Ten' – or top nine if you remove a space for a SYTYCD clip. I even had a stroke of inspiration this week and wrote a post on writing with multiple POV’s. I’m crossing my fingers that this will happen again over the weekend so I’ll be all set on posts next week! :0)

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!!

Happy Reading & Writing!
Melinda
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