Friday, March 28, 2014

Friday Links -- Volume 23

It's been a busy week.  Melissa Maygrove has been holding a contest all week to celebrate her upcoming cover release in three days.

If you haven't been participating, you've still got time to get on over there and enter.  What are you waiting for?

Also I have a review up today for Wish You Weren't by Sherrie Petersen over at the Sher A Hart blog.  It's a MG fantasy about a 13-year-old boy who makes a wish on a star that his little brother would disappear--and then gets his wish.  Follow his adventures as he tries to get his brother back.  Touching.

And it's going to be even more hectic next week when I help co-host Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group. Who knows?  I might even get around to doing some writing. :)

You'll find that three of today's links are supplied by Janice Hardy.  If you ever have any questions about writing, I suggest searching her website.  It's a treasure trove of information and I always look forward to her posts. Have a great weekend!

Will They or Won’t They? Plotting With Yes or No Questions

What Changes in Your Scenes?

What Killed It For Me #3: Too Much Going On

Fix Showing vs. Telling with Macros & Word Lists


How to Turn That Shiny New Idea Into a Novel

The Secret to Crafting High Stakes

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Too Much Time To Write?

I don’t have a lot of time for writing. Work and family take the lion’s share of my time, so I have to make a conscious effort to squeeze in my writing. Ten minutes here, twenty minutes there. Whatever I can find. Whenever I can find it.  Unfortunately, since it usually requires several minutes for me to get into the necessary creative state of mind, these short snippets of time don’t always result in productive writing. So you can imagine how excited I get when I manage to snag a large block of guilt-free writing time. Woohoo!

The funny thing is, when that block of time arrives, I’ll immediately begin procrastinating. I may have spent the last hour fantasizing about all the pages I plan to write, but the moment I sit down in front of the computer, I’ll feel the need to get a drink of water, or  to check my emails, or I’ll decide that maybe I should work on a blog post instead of my manuscript. What’s my problem?

It’s as if the idea of spending several hours on my manuscript frightens me. Perhaps I’m afraid I won’t get anything accomplished. Maybe I’m so excited by the prospect of having all this time available, I can’t force myself to focus. I don't know.  It’s like I enjoy the idea of having time to write more than doing the writing itself. Weird.

Of course, once I force myself to type those first couple of words, then all is well. You can’t drag me away from the computer. But that initial reluctance to get down to business still leaves me scratching my head.

I don’t suppose any of you suffer from the same malady, do you?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Melissa Maygrove's Cover Release Contest!

It's Spring is here in Michigan.  Supposedly.  It may actually hit 32 degrees today, but I'm not holding my breath.

Anyway, here's the REAL news.

Melissa Maygrove will be revealing the cover for her new book on March 31st, and to celebrate the event she'll be hosting a contest over the course of the next week.  So hop on over to Melissa's blog and enter.  

Friday, March 21, 2014

Friday Links -- Volume 22

It's been a strange week here in Michigan.  We're finally beginning to see grass in our yards as the glaciers recede, although there's no sign of chlorophyll yet.  We're also in the process of mapping out all the potholes that have blossomed  like mushrooms in the roads around our house.

On the writing front, I made a major decision this week.  For almost a year, I've been working on a MG fantasy, complete with castles and magic, but progress has been excruciatingly slow and I've come to the realization I need a better handle on the story before I spend any more time on it.  So I'm going to let it stew on the backburner while I move on to another story that's been begging to be written for the last several months.  The MC will be older (college age), but there'll still be plenty of paranormal stuff going on, as well as a mystery for her to solve.  And probably a castle or two.  And of course, there'll be humor.  I wouldn't be able to write a story without it.  Wish me luck.

Anyway, here are this week's writing links.  Have a great weekend!

Put Up Your Dukes: Writing a Fight Scene

Double Dipping Tension

Creating Conflict with a Purpose

Finding Your Perfect Editor and Editing Level

Groundhog Day: Full Story Structure Breakdown

Stephen Leigh, on Seven Strategies for Characterization, part I

When The Old Ways Work (Discoverability Part 13)

Killing the Top Ten Sacred Cows of Indie Publishing: #1… Can’t Get Indie Books into Bookstores

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Handling Logic Flaws In Your Stories

It’s fun creating our own worlds. We spend months (or years) developing them, designing intricate rules for how the characters live, how the system of magic/science/steampunk operates, how the government works, and best of all, how everything interconnects. We write a story based on that world, using as many of those rules as possible, constantly on the lookout for any logical flaws that might derail the story. Finally, filled with the flush of victory, we present out baby to our critique partners, expecting its awesomeness to knock them off their feet. 

And then, of course, our CPs point out a glaring logical inconsistency that somehow escaped our notice. Arg! Even worse, this flaw often turns out to be a necessary component of the storyline and can’t be removed without gutting the story. Double Arg!

I’m pretty sure this happens to all writers. Just think of all the mistakes you’ve spotted in television shows and movies. Visit sites like How It Should Have Ended or Cinema Sins (both highly recommended) and you’ll see what I mean. The question isn’t how it happens. The real question is what do you do after your critique partner has left and you’ve finished off that stiff drink resting in your hand.

Well, you can ignore the problem and hope your critique partner is the only reader who’ll ever catch it. Probably not a good bet. Established authors sometimes get away with this, but only because their readers often give them the benefit of the doubt. But new authors and self-published authors rarely enjoy that kind of consideration, and once a reader spots one mistake, he’ll start looking for others (even if only subconsciously).

Another option is to create new rules to explain away the inconsistency, but this path has its own problems. If the new rules are too convoluted, you risk confusing the reader or slowing the story down while you explain. Another downside is that if the new rules are somewhat cheesy or artificial, you’ve just aimed a giant spotlight on a problem you hoped no one would notice in the first place.

So if you can’t ignore the problem and you can’t/don’t want to explain it either, what’s the solution? Simple. Just have the MC, or one of the other characters, remark on the inconsistency and move on.

Consider the following example. In Brandon Sanderson’s Alloy of Law, the MC has the ability to mentally Push against anything containing iron, and one of his many tricks is to Push outward from his whole body, creating a sort of defensive bubble that helps deflect bullets headed his way. The problem with this trick, of course, is that it should also knock the gun out of the MC’s own hand. But instead of trying to explain why this doesn’t happen, Sanderson simply lets the MC ponder on it for a second.

“He wasn’t even certain how he did it; Allomancy was often an instinctive thing for him. Somehow he even managed to exempt the metal he carried, and didn’t Push his own gun from his hands.”

See how simple that was? By letting the MC (and therefore the author) acknowledge the inconsistency, the reader now accepts that this is the way the story world works without any further explanation. Readers appreciate all the time you’ve spent creating your world, and they’ll let you get away with quite a lot as long as they know you know about the problem. Try watching shows like Agents of Shield or Almost Human. It’s hard to write an hour long science fiction show every week without some running into a few logic flaws here and there, which is why you’ll often find one of the show's characters mention the logical flaw(s) themselves in the first five or ten minutes of the show. Because once that’s done and over with, the writers can get on with the story.

What's your favorite logical flaw from a book or movie?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Why I Don't Have A Playlist For Writing

Ipod 5th Generation white It’s not unusual to see authors posting their playlists. Music often helps them get into the proper mood for writing. Some writers have different playlists for each of their manuscripts. Some even use a different list for each chapter. I, however, don’t even have one playlist. For me, music and writing just don’t mix well.

It’s not that I don’t like music, but when I write, I zone out completely. Readers enter a fictive dream when they read, but when I write, I enter a fictive world every bit as deep. And once I enter that world, I’m oblivious to everything around me. I often don’t notice other people entering the room and I’ll jump at any reasonably loud noise.

Anything that pulls me out of that fictive world slows down my writing, and music does that to me. I tried writing to music years ago, but quickly found that if I liked a song well enough to put it into my playlist, my mind would focus on the music instead of the words in front of me. I’ve tried listening to soft, ambient channels on Pandora, but it seemed like every time a new song would play, my brain would forget about what the MC should be doing and concentrate on whether I should be giving the song a thumbs up or thumbs down. Arg!

Apparently, the only music I can listen to while writing is music I don’t like, which kind of defeats the purpose. I do occasionally listen to Anugama (very, VERY ambient), although mostly while driving to and from work, when I spend the time running scenes over and over again in my head. And sometimes I listen to recordings of thunderstorms when I write.

But real songs? No way!

 Do any of you have a similar problem? What kind of music do you listen to?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Insecure Writer and Ignoring Insecurities

Today is March's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Because I don’t know what the future holds for me as a writer.

Will I get faster at writing?
Will I finally decide whether my book should be in 1st or 3rd person?
Will I learn enough to write a good book?
What will the book market be like in five years?
Will there be so many quality books available that only known authors or authors with good social media/marketing skills be read?
Will I find an agent or will I self-publish?
Will I find I'll never cut it as a writer, no matter how much time I devote to the craft?
Will I ever hit #30 on Alex’s IWSG link list? (Watch out Donna!)

Whew! That’s a lot of insecurities.

Fortunately, I have a tool in my writer’s toolbox more powerful than any of these insecurities. What is it, you ask? I’m blessed with an almost child-like ability to ignore future problems. (Okay, my wife might not consider it a blessing) Every time I read a post explaining some facet of writing I didn’t even know existed, or run across an article about how only fast writers will be successful in the future, or stare blankly for hours at my mess of a manuscript, the insecurities seep into me like winter air under our front door. But then I go to bed and the next day I’ll wake just as naively optimistic as ever, sure everything will work out in the end. Crazy, right?  But it works for me.

So far.

Sometimes, though, I wish Madame Trelawney would just tell me how it’s all going to turn out.

So how do you cope with your writing insecurities?