Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Writerly Wednesday: How to Achieve the Big ‘O’…

Photo Credit

Had you goin’ there for a second, didn’t I?

But no, I’m not talking about that – I’m referring to that place of Zen for every writer that is commonly known as Organization!

While there are many ways to get yourself organized in your writing and the journey to become published, I’m only going to address 3 particular aspects of writerly organization today:

1. Research/Outlining: So you’ve got this killer plot – or a killer character – and you’re ready to start banging it all out on the keyboard…but wait, you have to organize your thinking a little before you move any further. Sure, there are those moments where the dialogue is swimming in your head and you absolutely must get a scene out first, but after you’ve done that you’ll want to take a step back and think about the basics. The following three questions are the first ones I ask myself when a new character or plot pops into my head. I answer each of these and save all of the information I’ve compiled into a folder on my desktop (I also print everything out and keep it in a small accordion file in case anything should happen to my trusty computer), and I enter some of the highlights of my research onto the handy little index cards in Scrivener. By answering all of these and doing a little research, you’re able to write the best first draft possible (just remember that it’s still the first draft, so it’s going to be messy regardless, this will keep it ‘less messy’):
    • Where is the story taking place?
      • Is it taking place in Real Town, USA, or is going to be in Fantasy Land? Once you decide where, you can begin to research/create that location. Even if you’re a pantser, feeling as if you know more about where your story is going to take place will help tremendously when you’re writing your way through the first draft. If it’s a fantasy land that your story takes place in, then it may be good to go ahead and set some ground rules before writing any more words (this creates less work for you during the editing process).
    • Who is going to tell this story?
      • Will we be following a single character, or several? Even though I like to mainly consider myself an ‘organic’ writer (that’s a fancy way of saying ‘pantser’), I still like to sit down with my main characters ahead of time and get to know them. Completing a questionnaire on each of your main characters is a great way to get to know them better (and there are some that this does not work for, so be prepared to leave a gaping hole on their stats until you’ve written a few scenes with them in it).
    • How are you going to tell this story?
      • This is an important decision since your voice is what’s going either make or break this novel. And not only should you think about the voice, you should also consider the POV from which this particular adventure should be told. Is it first POV as we follow a single character and her journey, or should it be third POV since there are several characters you’re eager to follow throughout the plot?

2. The Actual Writing: Now that you know the who, what, where, when, how of your story, it’s time to get crackin’ writing! First things first: keep in mind the Three Act Structure as you write – this will save you some headache when you’re revising (Alexandra Sokoloff has some great posts on story structure and the elements)!

Some writers write their entire first draft in a Word doc – start to finish – and this is totally okay as I this is exactly what I used to do. However, I have recently learned a more organized way of getting that first draft down, and I couldn’t be happier now that I’ve found it: Scrivener (or a similar writing program).

Given that most first drafts mainly consist of scene after scene after scene – in which you will go back and add a little ‘fluff’ – I’ve learned that Scrivener is awesome for this process. You’re able write those individual scenes into their own little section for you to go back and flesh out individually if you’d like, or you can compile them all at the end and attack them all at once. Yes, you’re breaking down your work as you truck through it, but you can give each scene a short title in case you ever need to refer back to it later in the novel (who else hates having to scroll through fifty pages to find the one scene you need info from?).

3. Editing/Revising: You either just groaned or said ‘Eh’ when you read this one, and hopefully you’re not groaning because your editing process is disorganized. Before you begin editing, print out your entire MS. Yes, I know that most of ours are going to be 300+ pages (double spaced), but words look and feel completely different in print than they do on the computer scene – trust me! Once you’ve done that, make a plan for how you’re going to attack the editing process. You don’t want to go all out during the first pass – you’ll be way too tuckered out to continue after about a week or so. Here’s a sample of an organized plan:
    • First Pass: Grab your trusty red pen and check for plot holes, flow, and inconsistencies as you read through the entire MS (which will be the first time *hopefully* in at least two weeks). Ask yourself through each scene, “Is this really needed?”, “Does this move the story forward?” If your answer is no to either of these, make a note to cut and paste that scene and save it somewhere safe in case you want to come back to it in the future. If you find plot holes or areas where the words or scene just doesn’t seem to flow, attack each area, one at a time, until you’ve reached a point that you feel as though you can bare leaving it (even if for the time being).
    • Second Pass: Grab your pen again and check for grammar, spelling, missing/confusing dialogue tags, repetitive words, etc. Go ahead and get *most* of that dirty work out of the way. *smiles*
    • Third Pass: Take a break before reprinting your MS with all of the changes you made in passes one and two, then dive back into reading through it – which will be your second or third time out of, oh say, maybe a hundred – once again, checking for plot (remember the Three Act Structure), flow, inconsistencies, etc., etc. This is also a good time to add in some of that ‘fluff’ (i.e.: incredible descriptions and transitions) I referred to earlier, especially now that you’ve worked on or fleshed out most of the scenes. I personally tend to wait until the second or third pass to do this since by that time, I’m a little more comfortable with where the scenes are placed and how the story’s developing.
    • Repeat
    • Repeat
    • Repeat
And so on and so forth – remember I called this a *sample* organized plan. Your story will require you to add many more items to check for as your editing (more than I could really name in what’s supposed to be a blog post and not a novel in itself).

Keep in mind that everything I’ve listed is just a guideline as there’s still so much more you can do to obtain that ‘Big O’ within your writing journey – such as being organized with receiving and incorporating your critiques, being organized when you’re about to start querying agents, organizing your rejection letters partial or full requests….
Have you achieved your writerly place of Zen? How do you manage to stay organized through the chaos (also known as the writing life)? Do you have a process that you’d like to share?

Monday, November 28, 2011

NaNoWriMo Check-In & The Song of the Week: Glycerine by Bush

Hello and 'Happy Monday' dear friends!  With two days left of NaNoWriMo I can *officially* say that I have surpassed the 50,000 wordcount goal with 51,130 words - and it has been validated!  *throws confetti*  Now I just have another 40,000 or so words to go before this draft is officially completed and ready to be run through the ringer - otherwise known as the editing process. *smile* *bites nails* *tries to smile again*

Without further ado, I can officially say that the 'Song of the Week' weekly post is back up and running!

This week's song comes from a little band called Bush.  You've heard of them I gather? Good, 'cuz this has been on constant loop all morning as I added another 3,000 words to my WIP this morning. 

Hope you enjoy this week's song and be sure to come back on Wednesday for a new day of weekly postings that will be starting this week - Writerly Wednesday - where I will share either what I've learned or am learning within my own writing.

Happy Reading & Writing Everyone!!! 


Friday, November 25, 2011

Due to the holiday week and the overall craziness here at casa de Collins, 'This Week in Favs' will continue on its regular schedule (Fridays) beginning next week and it will include posts from this week and next.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and that each and every one of you are keeping safe and warm today :) 

Happy Reading & Writing!


Friday, November 18, 2011

This Week in Favs…..

Playing on the Zune: Feel It In My Bones by Tiesto, feat. Teagan & Sara

10) “The Power of the Past” by Becca Puglisi on Sherry Soule’s Fiction Writing Tools blog. Ah, backstory! It can be incredibly hard to decide on which scenes/information you should divulge/detail and which ones you shouldn’t. Becca gives some really great advice here to assist you with those sometimes-difficult decisions, which I’m sure that we can all say we will be forever grateful for.  :0) 

9) “What Rejection Can Teach You” by Shelli Johnson. This particular post is actually from 2 weeks ago – and somehow I missed it! But now that I have found it and feel a little better about rejection and how it should be looked at, I just have to share it to ensure that we each look at rejection as a lesson instead of failure.

8) “Imitation as Inspiration: An Exercise for Writers” by Sarah Baughman on Write It Sideways. What a great and interesting exercise Sarah has put forth here: writing in the style of another author as a way to either break through writer’s block and/or build on your own personal style and/or voice. Check this out then put this exercise on your to-do list – or save it for when you have a bout with the ‘block’-that-shall-not-be-named!

7) “The Five Levels of Procrastination” by Alivia Anders. *snicker* All of these levels sound pretty familiar, don’t they? I enjoyed Alivia’s take on this – it felt fresh and different from other articles/posts I’ve read in the past….and the Harry Potter fan video she’s shared truly amazing!

6) “Stop That Fighting! Conflicts Aren’t All About the Punches” by Janice Hardy. Who doesn’t love conflict? Well, if you’re a writer and we’re talking about your story, then yes (otherwise I’m sure that all of us could do without some conflict in our personal lives, right?). I enjoyed Janice’s breakdown of the different types of conflicts that force our characters to act. I also especially enjoyed the questions she’s given in regards to looking at your scenes to find where you might be able to add some conflict to improve them.

5) “A Checklist for Deep POV (in 1st or 3rd person!)” by Julie Wade on TalkToYoUniverse. Now I don’t know about you, but I do enjoy a good checklist every now and then, and this one is no exception. Sometimes when you’re writing, you’re already inside the character’s head, knowing what they’re thinking, feeling, etc., so having a Deep POV checklist is very handy to help ensure that you’re conveying that onto the page for the reader. Julie even gives examples of each tip in case, which is always helpful when/if your brain feels like mush.  ;0)

4) “What You Have to (Un)Learn to be a Writer” by James Killick. I’ve never thought of this before, but James really has some great points here. And some of them are things in which I have finally started to unlearn a *little*. James shares with us the advice that he would’ve told his younger self – beginning first with the items he should’ve unlearned and the ones he should’ve learned from the get-go. Go check this one out and see if you agree with these then share if you have a bit more advice that you would’ve told yourself way back when.

3) “Character Beauty in Imperfection” by Ava Jae on Writability. Imperfections: we all have them, and they’re beautiful. They’re what makes us different, unique. So why should our characters be any different? Ava makes a wonderful point here by stating that: “The most memorable characters to me…by and large are the ones with imperfections.” <—And she’s absolutely correct. Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy are prime examples of memorable characters that were imperfect, but their story lives on in the hearts of millions of readers. Great post!

2) “Writing Out of Order” by Veronica Roth. Now, I’m one of those OCD writers that *used* to believe that I should be writing my story in order. However I have learned, fairly recently, that this is a habit worth breaking, and Veronica illustrates exactly why it’s OK to write scenes out of order. This is great advice for all writers and I highly suggest checking her post out then giving it a try for yourself. ;0)

1) “Story Climax: The Whole Point” by Victoria Mixon on Jami Gold’s blog. I do believe I scared my cat when I read this post – cause I jumped a little and said ‘Oh. My. God.’ before slamming my head against the desk. Needless to say he jetted out of the room, but he did come back…eventually. Now back to this post in which I have to say that this is a must read for every writer! Then, after you read this post, be sure to not only follow Victoria’s blog, but also check out her new book – which I have just purchased and cannot wait to devour!!

In case you’ve missed it (and if not, I’m sure you’ll want to see it again, and again, and again):

An ‘Official’ Hunger Games Trailer (not another teaser, thank goodness) was released earlier this week! Squee!!! Now we just have to wait another 3.5 months for the movie to be released! *tries to smile*

Happy Reading & Writing!!! 


Friday, November 11, 2011

This Week in Favs….

**It’s nearing the end of Week #2 in NaNoWriMo – I do hope that everyone’s pounding away on their keyboards (or making their wrists hurt with all that writing)!  Speaking of which, I’m a little behind, so this will be extra short and sweet today!

Keep it up, everyone! We’re *almost* half-way there!! :0)

Playing on the Zune: Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve.

10) “A Dangerous Side Effect of Becoming a Writer” by Roni Loren. When I started writing, there should’ve been a site that listed the side effects of becoming a writer. Side-effects that include: becoming introverted and partially isolated, spending way more time at home than usual, and thought intrusion by characters who need to stay locked up during day job hours. Roni’s pinpointed a major bad side effect here, which is why it’s extremely important that we make time to enjoy and immerse ourselves in a book – at least once or twice a week (more than that when we’re not in the middle of first drafts). You can’t be the best writer you can be without making the time to read.

9) “Writing When You’re Sick, Tired, or Just Hate the World” by Daniel Swensen on SurlyMuse. Daniel’s put together some great advice on how to make sure you’re writing…even when you really don’t want to. We’ve all had days where we didn’t even want to look at a computer, but the most important thing we can learn and instill in ourselves about our writing is that we must write everyday no matter what! Even if it’s just 500 words, we need to learn how to do it even when it feels like our world is falling apart. Great post, Daniel!

8) “How to Use Allusion Like Taylor Swift” by Joe Bunting on The Write Practice. This was an incredibly interesting article that I discovered this week – even more so because I never knew this about Taylor Swift’s writing skills. I just thought this one was rather interesting and it does make you want to dig a little deeper with your own writing.

7) “A polishing Till it Shines Checklist from Mia Marlow” on Roni Loren’s Writing Blog, Fiction Groupie. Ah…a much needed checklist for every writer. And this will be even more important for all of the NaNo-ers out there when it comes time for editing those fast drafts within the coming weeks.

6) “Using 12 Stages of Physical Intimacy to Build Tension in Your Novel” by Jenny HansenI loved these tips – ‘nuff said! :0)

5) “Can You ‘Fast Draft’?” and “What Makes a Story Feel Unrealistic” by Jami Gold. I had never heard of Candace Havens – much less the “Fast Draft” method – until I read this post from Jami (which is one of the reasons why her blog is a must-read – I always learn something new from her). Jami has summed up ‘fast drafting’ so good here that I’m honestly thinking about signing up for one of Candace’s workshops so I can learn how to silence the inner editor while getting down that first draft. Another great article that Jami posted this week – which is something I feel is very important to get down either before or during the first draft – is making sure your story feels real, that it’s something others can not only relate to but something they can believe in.

4) “Cliché’s…Safe to Use?” by Angela Ackerman on The Bookshelf Muse. This is a great take on the cliché argument: instead of going after the fact that we shouldn’t be using cliché’s, Angela focuses on when it’s actually okay to use them. This is extremely helpful for those moments where you’re torn between using the cliché or being original – bookmark it!

3) “On Your Mark: Marketing Your Novel (Part One & Part Two)” by Janice Hardy, guest post on The Bookshelf Muse. This is exactly why I love and enjoy Janice’s blog – her posts are straight-forward and extremely helpful to her fellow writers. Marketing is one of the most important tasks we will all undertake (sooner or later – the contract must come first), and I think that no matter what stage you’re in – querying, represented, awaiting that offer – this post will help to open your eyes and give you a good direction in marketing your work.

2) “A Love Affair… With Index Cards” by Julie Musil. I love Julie’s reasons as to why she uses index cards! It’s been a while since I’ve pulled the index cards, but you can bet I’ve started making friends with them again this week. If you don’t have one already, will you begin an affair after reading this? 

1) “Be a More Confident Writer: 5 Choices That Might Be Hurting Instead of Helping” by Annie Neugebauer, guest post on Writer Unboxed. Wow….. this was an absolutely fabulous and inspiring post from Annie. All 5 choices that were listed as hurting us rather than helping us are spot-on – and one or two can really hit home for some of us. Thank you for this great article, Annie!

**Bonus Link**
This was posted last week on The Huffington Post: NaNoWriMo: “Advise from the Fastest Writers Ever”

Seeing as how most of us have been engulfed in getting those words on the pages, I’m sure that some of us have missed seeing this post – and hearing the encouraging advice from these amazing writers.

Happy Reading & Writing!!


Monday, November 7, 2011

NaNoWriMo Song of the Week: Spotlight by Mutemath

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting several fellow NaNo participants at a write-in. Now, for those of you who know me know that I have a weekend routine that I like to stick to – part of that being the fact that I prefer to stay home on Sundays and write while doing the laundry. But I figured, what the hell….I’ll be going for three hours and will be doing exactly the same thing I’d be doing if I was home (minus the laundry), so why not go and see what it’s like.

Well, we met at this café called The Green Bean, and I have to say, it was a great experience! The café itself was great, very hipster (as my sister called it) and low-key with an awesome selection of tunes. I enjoyed the location just enough to where I might actually decide to make some trips there on my own so I can write away from the house for a couple of hours.

When I walked in the door, ‘Spotlight’ by Mutemath was playing. This song in itself set the tone for my time there which is why I wanted to share it with all of you.

For fans of the Twilight movies, you might recognize this particular song since it was on the first movie’s soundtrack.

Hope you enjoy!

Happy Reading and Writing!!!


Friday, November 4, 2011

This Week in Favs……

**Due to NaNoWriMo, my Friday round-up posts are going to be fairly short, sweet and to the point – at least until December 2nd. To all my fellow NaNoWriMo participants:

Photo Credit

Playing on the Zune (MP3): In My Head by No Doubt <— Lurve this song!

10) “Guest Author Cheryl Rainfield: Bringing Tension and Conflict to Your Novels” on The Other Side of the Story with Janice Hardy. For newbies and veterans alike, it’s always good to be reminded to start your story with some tension and ensure that you not only have conflict, but good conflict that will keep the reader until the end. I rather enjoyed reading Cheryl’s tips for creating both within your writing. 

9) “Stop, Collaborate and Listen: Plot Building for the Character Driven Writer by Ashley March” on Roni Loren’s Writing Blog, Fiction Groupie. Ice ice baby too cool, too cool…. okay seriously, every time I’ve looked at the title of this blog, I couldn’t help but sing a little Vanilla Ice. These are some of the best tips I’ve come across for the character-driven writer. But these can also be good for the plot-driven writer – for example: “…listen for ideas from your characters for scenes you might want to include. If you come up with a great idea for a twist of the ending, be prepared to ditch it if the characters don’t lead you down that route.” <—This is incredibly true for the plot-driven writer because who’s to say that you’re characters won’t start dictating your plot once you’ve gotten to know them better?

8) “Scaring Your Readers” by Lisa Hall-Wilson on Girls with Pens. Even if you don’t write horror (and there are some UF & PNR novels with a small element of horror in them), you could still learn a little from this post. Regardless of the fiction genre, your plot might could do with a little scare for the readers, especially if you just want to make sure they’re really paying attention. ;0) But in all seriousness, when I’m reading a book, what scares me the most is the honesty, and the fact that what I consider to be the worst possible thing that could ever happen is happening to this character that I’ve come to know and love.  Go forth and read this one and realize that it’s okay to scare your reader a little…or a lot!

7) “Bad Dialogue – Bad, Bad Dialogue” by Beth Hill on The Editor’s Blog. Want some examples of what not to do in dialogue? Well, here you go! Some of these had me snickering a little since I totally got busted doing one or two of them in my own dialogue. :P

6) “The Publishing Biz: Will it Break You?” by Rebecca L. Boschee on WordServe Water Cooler. I’ll let the following quote from this post do the talking: “You can be paralyzed by the changes of today and uncertainty of tomorrow, or you can refuse to dwell on the reasons ‘why not’ and learn what works and what does from trial and error and from those working alongside you – those who keep putting themselves out there so others can keep dreaming.” ‘Nuff said? Go read it then decide that you won’t let it break you.

5) “Backstory: A Lesser Known Reason Why Not to Dump it Upfront” by Jeannie Campbell on The Character Therapist. What a great, real-life example of why it’s best not to have the backstory up front and center! “It can be off-putting or color the reader’s entire perception of the character.”

4) “Writing: Mastering the Balance” by Ava Jae on Writability. I rather enjoyed this post about balance…mainly because it didn’t talk about the balance of the day-job, home life, family life, blogging and writing – instead, Ava addressed the tricky balance of the author having a voice while allowing the characters to have their individual personalities. In other words, finding the sweet spot where you don’t have the wicked author intrusion. 

3) “When You’re Too Close to the Book” by Lisa Gail Green on Paranormal Point of View. Grrr…… this is something I still have a hard time doing: putting the novel in a drawer for a few weeks. But you know what, Lisa is 100% correct when it comes to why we absolutely, positively put the novel away for a bit! I think I’ve found the best way to ensure I put it away though – pass it onto my CP or Beta Reader and busy myself with their work instead. ;0)

2) “How Deep if Your Department of Mysteries?” by SP Sipal on Harry Potter for Writers. Need some tips or questions to get you thinking about the world of your WIP? SP Sipal selects a great excerpt from the Harry Potter Series to show exactly how world-building can be weaved into your story in a way that doesn’t take away from your plot but at the same time, adds to your story by allowing you to see through the character’s eyes. Once you start answering these questions, the weaving will become easier to execute.

1) “Five Ways to Stay Motivated While Writing a Novel” by Nathan Bransford. Just last night, in my Facebook NaNo group, someone was saying that they not only had writer’s block already (2 days into NaNoWriMo), but they were de-motivated. Well, Nathan has some perfect timing if you ask me! As soon as I read this, I posted it on our group page as a not-so-subtle-way to remind everyone how to stay motivated, especially when we’re working on a deadline such as NaNoWriMo!

And here’s our giggle for the week:

This Simon’s Cat cartoon came out about 2 years ago, but it’s still pretty funny. Can’t you just imagine your pet doing something like this to your computer or notebook when you step away? Makes you wish you could never want to walk away when you’re in the middle of writing, huh?

Happy Reading & Writing!!

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