Thursday, September 29, 2011

This Week in Favs…..

Playing on the mp3 player (Zune): “Did I Let You Know” by Red Hot Chili Peppers – since I have a sleeping cat in my lap,  I can’t booty dance in my seat like I want, but nonetheless, this is my current jam (many thanks to my bestie for getting me hooked!).

10) “7 Ways Add Variety to Your Dialogue” by Marcy Kennedy & Lisa Hall-Wilson on Girls with Pens. Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue! THIS is what makes a story. While I enjoy the descriptions and world-building of a great story, what makes it an enjoyable read for me is the dialogue. You learn more about the characters through their interactions with one another. I particularly enjoyed this article because Marcy and Lisa show us how to change up our dialogue so that we’re not using the same technique over, and over, and over….. Get over there and read this and be sure to either print or bookmark this one. I can guarantee you it will come in handy while you’re writing. 

9) “Blogging Tips: Make Your Text POP” by Angela Ackerman on The Bookshelf Muse. I know, I know – this isn’t an article about the craft, but it’s one that I just HAD to highlight this week. Given the fact that there are sooo many writing blogs out there, we could use as many tips as possible to help make our own blog memorable. And Angela hit it out of the ball park with her simple Do’s and Don’ts. Now that I think about it, in regards to the Don’ts: How is my background? Is everyone able to read everything pretty well? Are there are critiques or ideas you have for me that will help improve my blog’s look? Oh! And Angela: the picture of Carrot Top? Eeewwww!!!! LOL! Hehe :0) 

8) “Guest Author Dana Marton: 7 Tips to Improve Your Novel’s Pacing” on The Other Side of the Story with Janice Hardy.  Ah, yes! The importance of pacing in your novel in order to keep the reader interested and not want to put it down to get some sleep although it’s 4am and they have to be at work at 6am <—Yes, a book has done this to me and it was worth every hour of lost sleep. *smile* Dana gives us seven simple key point on how to improve the pacing of our MS’s, and I’m so incredibly thankful for how understandable she has written this out for us all. I’m sure there are loads more tips out there on pacing, but this particular article will be easy to tuck away and pull out when it’s time for some dreaded fun-time editing.

7) “Why Your Should Only Query 6-8 Agents at a Time” by Chuck Sambuchino on Writer Unboxed. I believe we’ve all heard this piece of advice before, but you know me – I like a good reminder every now and then: “If you’re not progressing as you hope, try to identify where you’re going wrong so you can improve on it as quickly as possible. Protect yourself. Give yourself the best chance of success.”

6) “Reading Out Loud – Not Just For Kids” by Laura Harrington on Writer Unboxed. This is the part of the review & read-through process I dread: reading aloud. And here’s why: “…storytelling is a dramatic art, no matter what form is takes. Reading your work aloud is a brutally honest look at your novel and its drama or lack thereof.”  I’ve had many discussions over this with my bestie, and it was decided that it may be best if she and one or two other people take turns and read the entire novel aloud while everyone else, and myself, listen. Why not me? Well, because I know how my sentences/words/rhythms/tones/tempos are supposed to sound. That doesn’t mean that’s how they’re going to come across to the reader. What may make sense to me when I read it aloud may not make sense for a reader who knows nothing about my story. So I like the idea of having others read it aloud while I listen so I can sit there and write down the areas they’re stumbling over – that and it’ll save my voice so I can continue to sing this Red Hot Chili Peppers song at the top of my lungs. :0)

5) “Guest Post: You Must Write High Concept!” by Laura Pauling on Harry Potter for Writers. Just about every book you pick up on the shelf these days is high concept. I honestly don’t think I’ve read a powerful but literary story in a looooong time. Readers want a MC they can latch onto and a world they can escape to. Both of which, in my opinion, can only be found in high concept novels. I liked this particular article by Laura because she simply put it out there: What is it? Do you want to create it? Do you have to? And what about after the idea? <—that’s the BIG one right there. Even with a high concept idea, you still need to have all of the other elements of craft in place in order to make it work.

4) “Engaging the Reader” by Lydia Sharpe on The Sharp Angle. This article sort of goes with the above pacing article from Dana (#8) since pacing is a way that we can keep the reader engaged in our story. Lydia tells us what makes her, as a reader, DNF a book. By doing this, she’s provided a wonderful lesson on what to do in order to keep our readers engaged by taking a look at prose/writing style/voice, cliffhangers vs tension, and making the reader think vs being preachy <—I really really dislike this one as a reader also, so I have definitely made sure that I steer as far as away from sounding preachy as possible!

3) “Can You Really Force a Character to Do What You Want?” by Lisa Gail Green on Paranormal Point of View. “I don’t care if you’re 7” tall & muscular, Rick. You’re got to fit through that doggie door!” Yeah…that wouldn’t work, and neither would asking Rick to do something that is not in his nature in your story. Lisa makes a fantastic point in this article: characters are just like people, and like people, we can’t change everything about them to fit this vision we have in our heads. Maybe you just need to change some small things about them, and that’s okay, but drastic changes? Not so much. I like Lisa’s idea suggestion: “Maybe they weren’t the right character for the situation. Maybe you need someone else.” Hmm…I’m thinking back to my difficult character post and it’s making me wonder if I should try inserting a different character until the stubborn one is ready to open up…….

2) “Are All Writers Delusional?” by Jami Gold. *raises hand* “Yes, Jami. My name is Melinda and I am a delusional writer who lives in a world full of vampires, lycans, witches, warlocks and sorcerers.” <—Did you see that? Admission is the first step. *grins* I thoroughly enjoyed Jami’s analogy of big fish, small pond (and vice versa). There are times where we *think* we know what we’re talking about and *think* we’re giving the best advice, but guess what? Maybe we’re just small fish in a big pond that need to hop back over into our home pond and gain more knowledge first. When it comes to my writing, I like to think that I’m not delusion by knowing I’ve got a great idea/plot. I also know I’m not delusional by thinking that the MS that comes out of said idea/plot really needs work. This is why I look to others like Jami Gold, Lisa Gail Green, SP Sipal, Tina Moss, Kristen Lamb, Lydia Sharpe, Angela Ackerman, Marcy Kennedy, Lisa Hall-Wilson and others to help me along the way. It’s also why I put this post together every week so that others can learn from the vast knowledge they share with us.

1) “Write What You Love, But Make Sure Only You Can Write It” by Martina Boone on Adventures in Children’s Publishing. I honestly don’t have any words to describe how awesome I thought Martina’s post was this week, so I’ll give you one my favorite lines from this one: “Write what you love. Love what you write. But make sure there is something in the manuscript, on every page of manuscript, that contains an essential truth – a different truth – from what is already being published. If your pages could’ve been written by anyone else, there probably isn’t enough of you on them yet.” ‘Nuff said. Thank you, Martina!! Loves this post! :0) 

And…. here’s something fun for your Friday! I’m going to let my geek flag fly high today by sharing this awesome video with you all – courtesy of my hubby.

A computer programmer made special floppy drives – remember those? – so that when they are being read by the computer, they play a song.

See if you can tell what song this one is…trust me, you’ll enjoy this and I won’t be the only one with their geek flag in the air today. :0)

Happy Reading and Writing!!!


World-Building: It’s Not Just For Kids!

Today’s blog topic came from my 12-year old brother – or rather, the teacher who gave him a world-building assignment. :0)

This week, my brother, Andrew, had a Social Studies project in which he had to ‘create his own world’. Well, I can definitely see how this is something for a Social Studies class, but when I heard ‘create your own world’, I was immediately thrown into ‘writer-mode’ and thought, “Oh, that’s crazy-fun!”

Here’s how the conversation went with my mom when I heard about his project:

Mom: “Andrew has to create his own world. He has to figure out what he would wear, what kind of food he would eat, what holidays he would have…”

Me: “So, he’s basically being asked to be a writer.”

Mom: “Well, no. It’s for his Social Studies class, so it’s about culture.”

Me: “Ah…but he’s being asked to create as a writer does by making himself the character vs. creating one entirely from scratch and having to ask that character what their world is like.” *big smile*

Mom: “Oookay.”

See what happens when step into ‘writer-mode’? I completely turn his simple homework assignment into something BIG that would require more than just an hour or two to complete. Thank goodness I didn’t have this conversation with him because I may not have stopped myself from blowing his 12-year-old-mind! Which reminds me….why didn’t I get this kind of assignment when I was his age?? *crosses arms over chest and pouts*

But my point behind today’s post is to talk a little about world-building and what is we as writers look to discover about our worlds from our characters.

Here is a list of questions that I tend to ask every new character (in an effort to get to know them better, of course):
  1. What year is it in your world?
  2. Is your world somewhere I can find on a map or have will we be taking a trip into fantasy-land (please say fantasy!)?
    1. If so, what type of government is in this world? I love it when I get a totalitarian government to try and overthrow :0)
    2. Are there other creatures besides humans there? If so, can you tell me all about them? If no, then let’s put some in there just to make it fun.
  3. Where does your story begin (location-wise)? Where does it end? Any field trips I should be aware of?
  4. Where do you live (house, apartment, etc)? What kind of car do you drive?
  5. If you were to walk outside right now, what would I see?
  6. What is the weather like (or rather, what season are we in)?
  7. What type of food do you eat?
  8. What is the economy like in your world?
  9. What do you do for fun? Movies? Books? TV?
  10. Do you have any friends? If so, please tell me about them.
  11. Do you have any enemies? If so, once again, please spill!!!
These are just questions that get me started on world-building because, as many of you know, there are many more out there – as well as many other ways to really dive into the world. One suggestion I’ve heard recently is to write out a ‘Day in the Life’ of your main character so you have a better feel for how they have to move around in their world.

What about you? Do you have a list of ‘must ask’ questions for your new characters? If so, please share? If not, what do you do to dive into the world of your characters in order to bring it to life?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Song of the Week: The Promise by In This Moment

Happy Monday everyone!!!

Today's song is one that I haven't been able to stop listening to for the past week! And I must give credit where credit is due: my husband. :)

He found this band after searching for new female-lead rock bands. When he came across this song, he told me that I had to listen to it because it would fuel my writing. And you know what? He was right!!  I'm an urban fantasy and paranormal romance writer, so this song - and the video - was right up my alley!

Hope you enjoy!

Happy Reading & Writing!!!


Friday, September 23, 2011

This Week in Favs……..

10) “Finding the Heart of Your Story: A Tip from Donald Maass” by Martina Boone on Adventure’s in Children’s Publishing. This article was all about finding the theme of your story……the heart. Using a tip from Donald Maass, which is someone I don’t think I’d be able to write without the knowledge and tips we obtain from his books and/or blog posts, Martina shows us how we can look for the heart of our story by picking the one scene that you would never, ever cut from your story. Once you’ve got the scene, you can pull it apart to find what speaks to you. Be it an emotion or an idea that you really want the reader to connect with. Martina even gives us links to other great articles on theme, which made this particular article a winner this week…hands down!

9) “Setting – Adding Dimension to Your Fiction” by Kristen Lamb. Oh….soooo creepy to open this link and have Hannibal Lector’s face as the first thing you see. Kristen did a wonderful job in covering the many things setting can do for your novel and/or scenes. They help your characterization, amplify the mood, and can also symbolize something deeper within your story rather than just being a background for the characters. Kudos, Kristen!

8) “Forcing a Story to Evolve – From First Draft to Finished Draft” by Jami Gold on Writers In The Storm blog. In this article, Jami approached the types of ‘big picture’ revisions that we should be paying attention to as we’re editing. Voice, tone, point of view and theme are just a few types of ‘story evolution’ that she’s basically handed to us on a silver platter. Print this one out or write it down so you can refer to them when you’re in the middle of revisions. If we’re watching for these and ensuring they’re being properly developed, then our polished product is going to be a heck of a lot better when it’s querying time!

7) “Keep Your Dream Alive: Avoiding Despair at a Writer’s Conference” by Barbara Scott on Rachelle Gardner’s blog. I chose this particular article since it served a much-needed reader for all of the unpublished authors out there to continue to strive for the ultimate goal of one day being able to call themselves a published author. It’s a very tough world out there and it’s easy to become overwhelmed and discouraged – whether you’re at a writer’s conference, or in a chat room with other writers. As you can probably imagine, I’ve already printed this one up. Whenever I’m feeling a little down, I’ll be pulling this one out so it’ll turn that mood around OR push me to use those emotions in my writing. 

6) “The Grammar Hokey Pokey” by Ash Krafton on QueryTracker. Hehehe….I love this article. And here’s why: my hubby edits my blog posts and has often referred to me as ‘the comma whore’. LOL! This is only because I overuse commas throughout my writing. I used to pride myself on my grammar in writing and now I see that’s only because I know more than most, but not enough to not require someone to read behind me and make sure I’ve got everything right. Ash’s hokey pokey article is very similar to what me and the hubs are doing while I’m putting together my blog posts, but I’m getting better…I can assure you that :0)  Bottom line after reading this article: learn grammar! If you can’t, find someone who knows it better than you and ask them to do some grammar edits for you – and learn from their edits!

5) “How to Make Deep POV Enrich Your Internal Dialogue” by Lisa Hall-Wilson on Girls with Pens. I was on an author chat the other night, entitled “The Subtle Art of Show, Don’t Tell”, and when it came time for the Q&A portion of the chat, there were about 5 other writers in the chat whose questions were about deep POV: What exactly is it? How does it help? How can I do this? Well, needless to say, I pointed them to this blog with the mention that the Girls with Pens have enough articles about deep POV that you should fully understand the why’s and how’s of this concept. This particular article was wonderful for me because it gives a great list of guidelines on how to use deep POV to your advantage: by pulling the reader closer to the character so they will invest in the character’s story.

4) “Does Your MC Get the Best Lines?” by Jeannie Campbell, The Character Therapist. And here’s the article that really had me thinkin’ this week! I’m loving this line: “When we put our characters on such a high pedestal, we run the risk of not being able to write the very good scenes that show them falling off!” So, as I’m going through my MS one last time before sending to my CP, this is what I’ll be looking for. Our characters need to be relatable to the reader. Not bland. Go check out this article then take a look at your MC’s and secondary characters. Be sure the secondary characters are not stealing the spotlight from your MC with their snarky comments. Save the best possible lines for your MC. 

3) “What Comes After a First Draft” by Jami Gold. Jami hit another home run this week with this post! Like I said, she can always get you to think…even when you don’t really want to. ;o)  Jami brought up something in this article about using Microsoft Word’s Compare function. Hmm…. I didn’t even know there was such a thing. I’m most certainly glad I know now because I’d love to go back and see how my stories have grown since their first draft (after I get over a fear of seeing how ‘green’ my stories were in the beginning). It’s a lot like life: We have to know where we came from in order to not only begin to understand where we’re going, but to also see how far we’ve come when the road begins to get rocky.

2) “How Our Relationship With Our Characters is Like Dating a Vampire” by Lisa Gail Green on Paranormal Point of View. OMG I looooved this one. So, obviously I’m a big vampire fan, but this is something I’d never thought of: comparing our relationship with our characters to dating vampires. Very original, in my opinion, and a wonderful analogy. Genius, Lisa! Thank you for the great post - and for another pic of Damon which I just can’t get enough of either! ;o)

1) Ready for some Friday fun? I hope so because a new Simon’s Cat video has been posted and this one goes out to all my writerly friends who also have cats. I believe we all know how aggravating it is to try and get some writing done with a cat walking all over your keyboard, monitor, lap, mouse, etc. You name it, they’re on it! Am I right? So I really enjoyed seeing this being perfectly depicted by the artist.

Hope you enjoy!

Happy Reading & Writing!


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Getting from Point A to Point Z: The Unruly, Untrusting and Hard-Headed Character

It’s hard to get some characters through your novel with a distinct character arc. Am I right? Or is it just me?
One of the great aspects of reading is seeing a character learn and grow through the conflicts they’re faced with. But what about the characters that never seem to change or want to share more about their journey? You know, the ones you’ve invested so much in that you’re rooting for them to dance on the other side of the story as a stronger person?
Stay with me on here: You’ve got a greatly flawed character you’ve fallen madly in love with from the moment they waltzed onto the page. But even with a clearly defined road map, they don’t want to take that left-hand turn, much less read the signs on the highway that point them in the right direction. Or what about the character that does change a little, but it’s nothing large enough to make you feel as though they’ve truly changed? Sound familiar? Anyone? Bueller?
I’ve recently learned there are some characters that we as writers have to struggle with in order to either A) get them to change and learn more about themselves through their conflict or B) open up enough for the reader – or writer – to clearly see and feel their arc. These are the characters I desperately want to strap down with duck tape until they start telling me what’s going on in that head of theirs.
Based on my experience with a few of these characters, I’ve discovered a few things:
  • Duck tape doesn’t work as well as we’ve been told. Maybe you haven’t spent enough time with the character in order for them to feel comfortable opening up to you. If they’re not comfortable with you in the first place, they most certainly aren’t going to talk when you’re threatening them. You have to give them the freedom to get to you know you while you’re getting to know them at the same time. Patience is a virtue here – though not my greatest attribute I can promise you!

  • You’ve got to dig to find the core. Remember those models in grade school of the earth? The ones with the layers of the earth? You’re characters have those same layers. You’ve got to drill a tiny hole in your character’s heart and mind and slowly work your way down into their core. This means you gotta start from the beginning…their beginning. Take a trip with them down memory lane via a character interview and let them slowly start to tell you about their humble beginnings. Slowly, but surely, they will begin to open up.

  • Road trip buddies and pit stops are required. We each have a friend (or friends) that have a huge influence on our lives, thus a huge influence on our own personal character arc. Don’t just plop your character onto the page and not give him a driving buddy (even the villains have buds, right?). Even if the character is starting to open up to you, they’re going to open up even more with a trusty companion at their side and a place for the two of them to stop, kick back, and rest before moving forward in their journey. At that point, you should take a back seat and watch the layers begin to peel away (with a bag of popcorn of course).

  • Maps, directions and ETAs/mileage are suggestions. Just because you have the story plotted out on paper or in your head, doesn’t mean the characters are going to take the exact streets you’ve mapped out. Detours and road blocks are going to happen. A character can sometimes start to shut down on you when these happen. So what do you do when you’re faced with that bright orange “Road Closed” sign? You back up and find another route (no – you don’t click the ‘alternate route’ button on your GPS). Part of their character arc is finding their voice – not yours – and looking for another way to solve the conflict so they can get into the safe zone as soon as possible. It’s super surprising and amazing when it happens which is why detours should always be welcomed with open arms – in writing, not on the street. Grrr….
Basically, what this all boils down to is time. Your characters may spring up on you overnight, but like all great friendships, it takes time to get there – sometimes months or even a year. Pushing a character to open up and take the path you’ve given them only pushes them farther away, causing you both to be utterly frustrated to the point of not even being able to share their story the way it deserves to be told: with complete and total honesty and compassion.

What about you? Have you comes across an introverted character in the past that had a hard time opening up to you? What did you do to get them to open up and show their core?

Friday, September 16, 2011

This Week in Favs……

10) “The Art of Subplot” by Amy Rose Davis on Fantasy Faction. Okay, so anyone who uses The Princess Bride as the basis for a write-tip article has me at ‘hello’. Plain and simple. What’s better is the fact that Amy has used the Montoya subplot to show how supporting characters and their stories are just as important as the main characters in our writing: they provide foils, reveal information, highlight themes and help drive the main plot. And like she also lists, they do provide some much needed comic relief. This was a great read for me this week and I highly recommend it to all writers…not just those who love The Princess Bride.

9)  “Writing Wednesday: The Handy Book of Villainous Dialogue” by Anime on Anime’s Musings. Ahh, yes. The cliché dialogue of an antagonist that we as writers should stay far away from. Now that I think about it, I may have one or two lines that are little like this. *seriously considers shutting down internet to start editing again* I like how Anime mentions that we really need to think outside the box when it comes to our bad guys. I also like how she expands this article into steering clear of all clichés in our writing, not just the villainous dialogue. The use of the Disney villains’ picture was a great choice also! They’re my favorite, misunderstood characters of all time :0) 

8) “Voice Is Not Everything (but it is vitally important)” by Lydia Sharp on The Sharp Angle. Agreed! Voice definitely is important, but it really isn’t everything. Story is what’s important. Even though I’ve always been able to find the voice of my protagonists, this was still a great article to read and it serves as a reminder: “You cannot have a good voice with no story, just as you cannot have a good story with no voice.” I think we all know this, but it’s always good to be reminded every now and then. Lydia also gave some great resources for those who may either struggle with voice or plot <- which is one of the reasons why I absolutely enjoy reading her blog every week!

7)  “Writers – Develop a Thick Skin!” by Megan DiMaria on WordServe Water Cooler. First off, this is a great blog that started not too long ago by the clients/writers of WordServe Literary agency (Rachelle Gardner’s agency). I think their blog is a brilliant idea and I love how they’re always bringing new and fresh ideas to the table. Okay…back to the article. This was another article that served as a great reminder for every writer out there. We all need to develop thick skin. As much as I would like to believe ‘words will never hurt me’, I’m not there yet. Because they still do, to a certain extent. But I’m slowly getting there and I’m being helped along the way with articles such as this.

6) “Backstory: Where and How Much?” by Lisa Gail Green on Paranormal Point of View. We all know that backstory can either make or break your novel. It has the ability to keep your reader hooked while giving them important information, but if it’s in the wrong place and/or dumped on the reader, then it can bore them into closing the book and putting it back on the shelf (and said book might find its way into a yard sale shortly thereafter). Lisa explains, very simply, where and how the backstory should be introduced to the reader, and she uses an awesome example from Harry Potter. Well done, Lisa!

5) “Frustration: Your Novel’s Best Friend” by Angela Ackerman on The Bookshelf Muse. Hehehe…..frustration is a sinister little thing, isn’t it? But it’s a sinister little thing that I’ve come to appreciate….after the fact! The same can be said about our characters. One thing that makes a story believable are believable and relatable characters. Nobody wants to read a story about a girl and a boy who get together without any problems or issues that threaten to keep them apart. The same can be said about a main character not experiencing frustration somewhere along the way from point A to point B. Angela has written a great article here about what a character might do when they find themselves between a rock and a hard place and she also reminds us to make sure that the reactions match the character! <- That, my friends, is one of the many things that make a character and their story believable.

4) “Where Do You Get Your Ideas?” by Jami Gold. Yay! Jami’s written about the cauldron of ideas that every writer has hiding in their closet! I literally had to stop and think about where my ideas come from. This was just because once I get an idea, I run with it so fast that the original nugget it came from has snowballed into something greater than I ever could’ve imagined. So it’s hard to go back and find the seed among that growth. But alas, I was able to figure out the answer to Jami’s question: my ideas come from dreams and the “What if?” questions and my latest MS actually came from the character herself when she showed up after I finished a book and said, “I think me and that protagonist need to get together and have some coffee.” Hehe….I LOVE it when they sneak up on you like that!

3) “The Art of Avoiding Burn Out” by Danyelle Leafty on Query Tracker’s Blog. If you follow me on Twitter, then you know that I had a big meeting earlier this week. I also had to present in front of 90 people on Tuesday morning, which was sooo nerve wrecking! But anyway, the reason why this particular post caught my eye is because one of the topics I presented about on Tuesday morning went something like this:  “…now is the time to take care of yourself. We’re busier than ever now that we’re in our busiest season of the year and if you don’t take care of yourself when you feel the burn out coming, then it’s only going to get worse!” Danyelle’s article is spot on about how we as writers need to avoid burn out by taking breaks and scheduling in activities that “…allow your creative muscles a chance to relax, to heal, and to rejuvenate.” Similar to the advice that I shared with my sales reps, if you don’t take care, it will get worse, which means your story will not thrive as it should. This is a must read for every writer.

2) “Kate Hart on Dialect and Dialogue” on Adventures in Children’s Publishing, “5 Basics About Dialogue You Need to Know” by Marcy Kennedy on Girls with Pens, and “Say What? – Writing Believable Dialogue” by Megan DiMaria on WordServe Water Cooler. Most of you know that I’m in the middle of a month-long advanced dialogue course, and so I’ve really been wanting to highlight a writing article on dialogue. Well, go figure that there would be at least three awesome posts this week on this very topic! Obviously I couldn’t decide between them all, so you got two bonus links on this one! It never hurts to read up on articles about dialogue since there are so many creative ways that we can show a conversation happening between two people (or a group), and it’s always a great reminder that we should be writing believable dialogue.
*On a side note: I’m looking forward to sharing what I’ve learned in this workshop in October…and it’s quite a lot! We have assignments that are due every Tuesday and Friday, so I’m busier than I thought I’d be with this class, but I wouldn’t trade what I’m learning for the world!

1) Here’s an interesting and funny video for you! My hubby showed this to me this week and I seriously could not stop watching until the video was over.

I’m a Metallica fan, and most of us may have heard this song before: Enter Sandman (if you haven’t here’s a link). These guys are so much fun to watch and I absolutely love their creativity of covering songs by playing the kazoo <- something so simple that not many people would think of doing! And it’s such a dark song that was made light by this creativity. :0)

I hope you enjoy!

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!!

Happy Reading & Writing!


Thursday, September 15, 2011

CHALLENGE: Finding Similarities Between Writers & Famous Literary Characters

 I’ve written a guest post over at Susan Sipal’s blog, Harry Potter for Writers, entitled ‘Every Writer Has a Bit of Harry Inside ‘Em.’ It addresses what we as writers have in common with one of the most famous literary characters of all time: Harry Potter.

This got me thinking though….. what other famous literary characters out there have similarities with today’s writers?

I’ve picked my character, chosen 5 similarities, and explained how writers have so much more in common with the boy who lived than we may realize. Now, I’d like to hear from all of you! 

Here’s my challenge to you:
  1. Pick a character from the below list.
  2. In the comments, tell us who you’ve chosen and name one example of how that character is similar to today’s writer.
There won’t be a prize or anything like that. Instead, you’ll be showcasing your general awesomeness of knowing you share a characteristic with a famous character that lives forever inside the hearts and minds of readers across the world!!

Here’s the list of characters that landed in my brain the moment this question hit me (no book titles needed since I think we all know who these peeps are):

Huckleberry Finn
Tom Sawyer
Romeo and/or Juliet
Elizabeth Bennett
Jo March
Holden Caulfield
Sherlock Holmes and/or Dr. Watson
Anne of Green Gables
Sir Lancelot and/or King Arthur
Dracula and/or Lestat
Tom Ripley
Hannibal Lecter
Bella Swan and/or Edward Cullen and/or Jacob Black
Harry Potter
Katniss Everdeen

*You can pick more than one character if you like

Are you ready? Are you sure??

Let the challenge begin!!

**Note: I’m traveling again for work today, but I promise to pop in and check out everyone’s answers as often as I can. I can’t wait to read what everyone comes up with!   :0)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

This Week in Favs……

10) “Read Like a Writer” by Lisa Gail Green on Paranormal Point of View. Ah, yes!!! Someone finally said it. Once again, Lisa gets you thinking and I couldn’t agree with her more on this point. When I read, I read for the enjoyment of reading and getting lost in another world. If I start to dissect a book, then I’m never going to get past certain chapters. Then I’ll end up closing the book and never picking it up again.      BUT <—here’s my but on this one: If the novel was that good, then I’ll read it again, but the 2nd time will be as a writer, not as a reader. That is because I want to know what kept me so enthralled, what structured their story and its subplots, and mostly, I really just want to learn how that author managed to keep me up all night!

9) “Is Fear Holding You Back?” by Ava Jae, a guest post on Harry Potter for Writers. My answer: “Why yes it is…at times…” This is a great piece and I have to say that I wasn’t ready to face my fears again and I haven’t really had too many of them since I started my blog and met some wonderful and talented writers. But now I’m back at the crossroads of fear since my current WIP is almost finished with its last round of edits – which means I’m about to pass it onto my CP…and that in itself scares me half to death, though I really don’t know why. After reading this particular article, I feel a lot better about it and can’t wait to get some feedback! :0)

8) “When Rules are Meant to be Broken: The List” and “When Rules are Meant to be Broken: The Whole Story” by Tina Moss (2nd article is a guest post on Yelena Casale’s blog). I love it when I can break the rules!!! We all know the standard rules of writing that are floating around out there, right? Well, Tina lists just a few for us this week – crossing my fingers that we may see more from her – and what she says truly holds true for all writers: “Do what works for your story.” As an example: if what works for your story are short, choppy sentences that flow incredibly well, then do it! Your beta readers and CP will tell you if they’re working or not, but don’t be afraid to bend or break the rules every now and then. Write, learn, break or bend the rules sometimes. It’s completely okay…it isn’t going to kill anyone.

7) “What Your Character’s Favorite Fairy Tale Says About Them” by Jeannie Campbell, The Character Therapist. Now this was a great post! I’d never thought of this before, but by finding out what your character’s favorite fairy tale is, you get to know them a whole lost better. It gives you a window into what their life script is. I have a whole new perspective on a few of my characters now that I know what their favorite fairy tales are. Get over there and read this, learn it and give it a try on your own characters. You’ll enjoy the process…trust me!

6) “You Got My Attention, But Where’s the Action?” by Beth Hill on The Editor’s Blog. Here’s a little lesson on action in stories – from opening with action, to writing it into the middle of the story and the actions that give personality to characters. The article is a little long, but it definitely holds some great lessons within its words, so it has been printed and placed in my notebook for future reference. These are the types of posts that I enjoy perusing through and learning from, and it’s one of the many reasons I started this Friday round-up to begin with. There is no shortage of information on the craft within the blogosphere…especially not on this blog.

5) “Surprise!” by Donald Maass on Writer Unboxed. I love learning from Mr. Maass and this article was no exception! In this article, he teaches us to bring the surprise to our stories. If the reader sees a plot twist coming from a mile away, then how are we going to keep them interested in our story?!? Well, one way to avoid that is by doing the following: “Appoint yourself God. Survey your story from on high. This story of yours has grown complacent. It’s taking you for granted. It’s not thankful enough. It needs to be humbled. Think of a nasty disaster to throw at it. Toss it down like a bolt of lighting. Take that! Ha! Teach it a lesson.” Yeah! That’s what I’m talking about! Oops – sorry, but you get the point. Go check this one over the weekend. You’ll be rubbing your hands together with an evil grin on your face as you think of the many ways you can teach your MS a lesson.

4) “Internal Dialogue: The Voices in Your Head” by Lisa Hall-Wilson on Girls with Pens. I don’t know about you, but I personally love a little internal dialogue within my stories. I enjoy diving into a character’s thought process every now and then to find out what is motivating them to make some of their decisions. And sometimes, the internal thoughts are hilarious! Lisa breaks it down a little on the what/how of internal dialogue, and even as a writer that is very familiar with it, I still enjoyed hearing what she had to say on the subject. I even took away a great tip or two that I plan on implementing in the near future.  ;0)

3) “Family Stories” by S.P. Sipal on Harry Potter for Writers. Wow! Not only did I thoroughly enjoy getting to know Susan a little better through this article, but I felt a slam as I reached the end and read the following words: “Because from one culture to another, from one age to the new, from my family to yours, Story is what unites us. Story is the power of meaning that flows eternally through human blood.” Do you want your weekly dose of inspiration? Get over there and read this article. You will not be disappointed. 

2) “Have You Given Yourself Permission?” by Jami Gold. Well…. I’m a touch OCD – if you know what I mean. There…I said it! So no, I have not been giving myself permission like I should. This week especially, I’ve been beating myself up over not spending time writing even though things with my day job have been insanely busy, therefore leaving me with almost zero time to do anything when I get home from work. With that said, I think I’ll forgive myself for being MIA this week in the blogging world and on Twitter, and more importantly, for not spending time with my Muse <- who has been pretty lonely all week and is now punishing me by not showing up when I have a scene that must be written for a workshop I’m taking. Grrr……But anyway, this was a beautifully timed article for me this week, and I highly recommend writers read this so they can also begin to forgive themselves for lying low for a bit….or for not giving themselves some time away from keyboard.

1) Considering the kind of week I’ve had (two weeks to be honest), I’m more than happy that the weekend is finally here! So, to celebrate, I’m going to do a little jig when I leave the office at 5pm and sing the following tune at the top of my lungs in the car all the way home (it’s one of my favorite moments from one of my favorite TV shows, Family Guy). I hope you enjoy!

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!!

Happy Reading & Writing!

Friday, September 2, 2011

This Week in Favs……

What a week!! I started this week out with some stress from the weekend and lemme tell ya…the days decided they were gonna speed down some super-bumpy roads and they did not care whether or not I had a helmet on! Good news is that I’m at home today and will be spending the entire day doing nothing but writing and editing (I was supposed to do this yesterday also, but Thursday was one of those days that decided it was going to really take me for a ride!).

Now onto the Top Ten – er, fifteen – this week since we missed last Friday due to The Week of the Writer  :0)

15) “A Method in the Madness: Outlining As You Write” by Jody Hedlund. I love learning about the process of other writers. I enjoyed reading about how Jody approaches her writing – from research, brainstorming, plotting, character worksheets then writing (she even shares her character worksheet if you’re interested in case you don’t have one yet). THIS is just one of the many things I love about the writing and blogging world – writers are more than willing to put themselves out there and share what they know, what they do, and how they do it for others to learn from.

14) “Do You Write for Yourself or Your Readers?” by Jami Gold. Hmmm…..what a great question!! This particular post actually got me to think back on who I’m writing for. At first, I think we all write for ourselves, but when it comes down to editing, re-writes, revisions, etc., our focus begins to shift from ‘writing for ourselves’ to ‘writing for the readers’. This was a great post by Jami and I love how posts like this get you to dive into yourself to find the answer since sometimes, the answers are not right there on the surface.

13) “Setting Goals” by Lisa Gail Green on Paranormal Point of View. When’s the last you really sat down and thought long and hard about what it is you really want? When’s the last time you looked at yourself in the mirror and told yourself that you could accomplish those goals? I asked myself these questions while reading Lisa’s post, which was a wonderful reminder to think about the goals you may or may not have set for yourself, and how you plan on getting there. A week later, Lisa followed this post up with “Is Your Writing Cup Half Empty or Half Full?”, which I think goes hand in hand in with goal setting – especially when you’re looking at that goal list and feeling overwhelmed about how you’re going to meet them.

12) ”No Fear, No Envy, No Meanness” by James Scott Bell on The Kill Zone. Want a bit of inspiration? THIS post was inspiring to me (mainly in the first section). In this post, Mr. Bell takes a quote from Liam Clancy to Bob Dylan, “Remember Bobby, no fear, no envy, no meanness” and explains “That is a trinity of sound advice for writers, too.” I won’t spoil the article anymore than that for you, so I suggest you click on over there and read this article.

11) “Creating Strong Female Characters” by Sierra Godfrey on Roni Loren’s Writing Blog: Fiction Groupie. I enjoyed this particular article because I’m editing and working on some characteristics of my female characters. This helped me to ensure that I’m injecting all of the aspects of a strong female into these characters – there was one or two that I missed between the three females I’m working on. Now? I’ve got this article’s main points imprinted into my membrane so I’ll never forget!

10) “On the Internet There is No Such Thing as a Brand. There is Only You.” by Nathan Bransford. Let me quote Nathan here for a sec: ”My advice for people who are trying to carve out their own space in social media is not to think about what you think your blog or your Twitter presence should be, but rather embrace who you really are. Be yourself.”  ‘Nuff said! Go read the rest. LOVED this!

9) “Consistent or Confusion? Keeping Your Story Details Straight” by Janice Hardy. Now this is exactly why writers write everything down! I keep one notebook (or accordion file)  per story and it contains all of the research I’ve done, as well as the details of the characters, the world and its rules, pictures of the locations, etc. With everything that’s in our heads – especially when there’s more than two or three stories in there at a time – it’s hard to keep the details straight. This was a particularly great article as it actually related to the little details that can change in the middle of revisions or major re-writes. Keeping an eye out for consistency is the key to making sure your MS is fluid and doesn’t confuse the reader….especially when you’ve got them invested in the story. Nothing’s worse than finding an inconsistency in a character or the world and getting confused right when you’re just getting into it.

8) “Making Characters Multi-Dimensional” by Jeannie Campbell, The Character Therapist. A-ha! This is exactly what I needed today and I’m so glad I found it…so naturally, I wanted to share with you all!  :0)  This particular article is about dominance and submission and finding the balance for your characters…meaning that one character may be dominant in her home, but get her out and she’s submissive and maybe a little uncomfortable. It adds much-needed dimension – because, as you know, we all act differently depending on where we are and what company we’re keeping at the time.

7) “Nouns and Verbs” by Kim Pearson on The Blood-Red Pencil. Here’s a writing exercise that I actually enjoyed doing last week. If you’re like me, age is only making my brain a little slower when it comes to finding and using the right words. This is why I try to keep myself sharp by playing Scrabble and Words with Friends. And now I can add this exercise to the pile of ‘How to Keep Melinda’s Brain Sharp’. Give it a try and see how it works for you! :0)

6) “Never Trust a Character! (If You Want to Find a Clue)” by S.P. Sipal on Harry Potter for Writers. This article is part of the mystery plotting series and I loved this one in particular because I have a sneaky character that I, as the author, don’t really trust. And if I don’t trust him, I sure hope my readers won’t – at least not until he does something worthy of it. As I’m going back through with editing, I can see a clue here or there of how he may turn out to be in the end (which could be 1-2 books before we actually experience it). Susan’s lines toward the end of this post are what will stick in my head while I’m writing the first draft of the next two books: “As writers, we need to always remember that our characters do not always tell the truth, whether from telling an outright lie to believing untruths. But there’s a very fine line between an unfair lie and a well-played twist.”

5) Here’s a little treat from Simon’s Cat: “Hidden Treasure”

4) “Cover Me, I’m Going Back: Writing Flashbacks” by Janice Hardy. I know we’ve all read about this topic before. Am I right? I’ll admit that whenever I get to a point where a flashback was called for, I get nervous. Just a little bit. Then it grows a little. To me, flashbacks don’t necessarily have to be handled delicately, but they only work when they’re in the right place at the right time, are completely relevant to the story – in that moment – and are also something that you, as a reader vs. the author, would want to know if you were reading your story. Janice gives great advice here on how to handle writing good flashbacks.

3) “Are All Distractions Bad?” by Jami Gold. I am sooo glad that I’m not the only one out there who feels like hitting herself in the head if she’s spending time reading a book or articles about the craft, or participating in online workshops, or typing out blog posts instead of just writing the story during every available minute of the day. Jami breaks down these distractions into what’s considered good/necessary or bad/evil. This is exactly what I think other writers need to hear in order to keep from beating themselves up when it comes to the necessary distractions that actually further our careers in writing when you take a look at the bigger picture.

2) “Revision – It’s the Little Things” by Lisa Gail Green on Paranormal Point of View. Ah…yes! The editing process that I really do enjoy! :0)  But I will be the first to admit that tackling the list of revisions that I’m getting back from the second round of edits can be quite overwhelming at times. Especially when you find you’ve confused your reader with a sentence that contradicts (see #9) what they already know to be true from your story thus far. Lisa’s advice here is spot on – especially when it comes to looking at the writing and seeing that maybe a major rewrite isn’t needed. Maybe the reason why something isn’t working is because of a sentence or two? Believe it or not, those little things can really throw the entire page (or scene) off. For me, when they’re corrected, I feel as if a fifty-pound weight has been lifted off my shoulders and this is one of the reasons why I love the editing process.

1) “6 Tips for Your Final Edit” by Marcy Kennedy on Girls With Pens. Speaking of editing! Here is a must-have list of the items every writer should have in their back pocket when it comes to the final editing process. I would like to give Marcy a big THANK YOU for posting this. Go over there, read it, print it out, and use it. :0)

Hope everyone has a happy & safe Labor Day weekend!

Happy Reading & Writing!!

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