Friday, May 29, 2015

Severn Writing Links -- Volume 78

The best part of a three day weekend (other than the weekend itself) is the shorter work week that comes after it.  Hard to believe it's Friday already.  Of course, the holiday did throw my schedule off a bit.  It wasn't until several hours after I'd uploaded my usual Wednesday post that I realized it was already Thursday.  Whoops.

Was reasonably happy with the writing accomplished over the holiday.  Not as much as I would have liked, but not too shabby considered everything else I had to do.  We'll see if I can make the same kind of progress this weekend.

Have a great weekend and enjoy the links!


6 Major Writing Problems with Avengers: Age of Ultron – Part 2

How to build a solid writer’s platform?

Should authors blog?

Chapters - Beginnings and Ending that Work

Video Games & Storytelling

How to Secure a Traditional Book Deal By Self-Publishing

6 Writing Techniques I Learned at Storymasters

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Should You Let Your Critique Partners Know the Whole Story?

During the past couple of months, several members of my online critique group have decided to go back and rethink their stories. And as part of that rethinking, they’ve submitted their revised story outlines to the group for feedback. This strategy makes sense, since it’s always better to catch fatal flaws in a story before a writer dives too deeply into their manuscript.

I know some of you out there are pantsers who disdain outlines, but I find them a good way of keeping my stories from falling off the rails. Outlines don’t have to be super specific—just enough to remind you where you’re going. I  consider myself a heavy plotter, but experience has taught me my best ideas don’t occur to me until I write, which means I’m constantly going back and revising the outline—even when I'm nearing the final chapters! Whatever works, I suppose.

As far as my crit group is concerned, I’ve resisted the urge to submit any sort of outline. For one thing, my outline is in a continual state of flux, so there’s not much point in having others review it. But more importantly, I prefer my critique partners to read my chapters without any clue about what’s going to happen next. I don’t want their knowledge of the story to color their opinions. 

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from critiques of my early chapters, it’s that when I do a poor job of leading the reader through the story, my critique partners tend to arrive at all sorts of erroneous (and often surprising) conclusions as to what really happened in the scene—conclusions that may not have occurred to them had they already known where the story was heading. In other words, if I'd given them knowledge a first time reader wouldn’t have access to, then I might have missed learning of these problems.

I want—no, I need—my critique partners to work under the same conditions that a first time reader would.

What about you? Do you let your crit partners know where the story is going ahead of time, or do you keep them in the dark as much as possible?


Friday, May 22, 2015

Seven Writing Links -- volume 77

This coming Monday is Memorial Day here in the States, so most of us will be enjoying a three day weekend.  It would seem that this would be the perfect time to get some writing done, but in my case it always seems that these weekends just sort of shoot on by, and before I know it, it's time to head back to work and I haven't gotten any writing accomplished.  And then I'm left with intense feelings of guilt.

I'm tired of the guilt!

So this weekend I'm determined to get some real writing done, whatever it takes.  Sleep is for suckers, right?  Of course, this is also the weekend I'm planting the flowers in our garden.  It's also the weekend for the Civil War enactments at the Henry Ford Greenfield Village.  

Arg! Why does life keep getting in the way of writing?

Enjoy the weekend and be productive!


Maximising Want-To-Know Value

How to Evaluate Hybrid Publishers

Bombing Through It

All Your Editing Questions Answered With Jen Blood

Revision for Pantsers

Let the Main Character Drive the Bus

Four Ways to Prepare for a Book Launch—Even if You Aren’t Published Yet

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Three Things Kingsman Taught Me About Writing

Last weekend I stopped by one of those "second run" theaters and saw Kingsman: The Secret Service again. Reviews were mixed, but if you don’t mind a little over-the-top, gratuitous violence, it was a pretty enjoyable movie. Think Quentin Tarantino meets James Bond. But regardless of what you thought of the movie, there were three aspects of the movie that stood out to me as a writer.

1. Story Structure is important. Hollywood is known for rigorously adhering to standard story structure and this movie was no exception. The First Plot Point, when the hero (Eggsy) makes the decision to join the Kingsman organization, occurred right at the 20% mark. (The FPP should happen somewhere between 20-25% in books and movies) The midpoint reversal appeared at the halfway point of the movie. And the All-Is-Lost moment, which marks the transition into the third and final act, occurred within four minutes of the expected 75% mark. Classic story structure. Do writers have to hit these marks that closely in our books? Probably not, but we should strive to come as close as we can.

2. Foreshadowing. This movie was chock full of it. There was scarcely a line of dialogue, sight gag, or event that occurred in the first three quarters of the movie that wasn't a setup for something else that happened later. I’m not going to give away any spoilers, but almost everything in this movie was doing double (or triple) duty. You thought a particular line of dialogue was added because it was funny? Think again. That bit of dialogue will come in handy later. Did you think having one of the secondary characters being afraid of heights was done only to make one scene in the middle of the movie more intense? Sorry. Expect that fear to play an even bigger role later when the stakes are higher.

3. Make it personal. When the protagonist is busy saving the world during the story's climax, the goals can often feel a bit distant. Almost impersonal at times. Sure, we know the world’s going to blow up if the hero/heroine doesn’t get to the switch in time, and of course we're rooting for him/her to succeed, but how much do we really care? We don't know any of the hundreds of millions of people who are going to die if he/she fails. So writers often look for ways to make the final battle extra personal for both the protagonist and the audience.

During the final climatic scene in Kingsman, when Eggsy is racing against the clock to stop the bad guy’s plan to destroy the world as we know it, the movie keeps cutting away to scenes of the outside world, showing how it’s collapsing into chaos. The point is clear—millions of people will die if Eggsy fails. But that’s just not personal enough. As we near the final seconds in the countdown, the movie starts showing us glimpses of his baby sister back in London and the imminent danger she'll be in if Eggsy fails. She’s just one more life out of the millions expected to die, but suddenly we’re much more invested in the movie’s outcome because she’s important to Eggsy. Mission accomplished.

I never thought about these kinds of things before I started writing.  Now I can't help but notice them whenever I go to a movie. And when I come home from a movie that's done good job with these techniques, it always fires me up to make my story the best it can be.

How about you?


Monday, May 18, 2015

Blood, Boobs, and Carnage Bloghop

It's Monday the 18th, and that means it's time for Alex and Heather's Blood, Boobs, and Carnage bloghop!!!!!

To participate in this blogfest, all that is required is that we post about a movie, television show, or book that falls under the BBC category.

And my entry is an oldie, but a goodie.

The Abominable Dr. Phibes


I'll admit my entry didn't really have all that much blood, and I'm pretty sure there weren't any boobs.  And to be honest, the carnage was pretty sedate compared to the kinds of things you see these days.  But The Abominable Dr. Phibes was the first horror film I ever saw at a theater, and it left a lasting impression on my youth.

I watched this movie, along with its sequel, Dr. Phibes Rises Again, at our local theater--an old run down building situated on the main street of a small town.  As you can imagine, the ambiance was perfect for this sort of film.

It probably wasn't Vincent Prices' finest movie.  Heck, back then I probably didn't even know who Vincent Price was.  But these movies still hold a special place in my heart.  Because you never forget your first time.


Friday, May 15, 2015

Seven Writing Links -- volume 76

I read my latest chapter to my local critique group last night.  I'd already extensively revised it once before in order to add more conflict to the scene, but after listening to the comments from my CPs, it's apparent I'm still going too easy on my protagonist.  So this weekend, I'm going to add even more conflict to the scene.

Question:  What's the best way to make myself so angry that it will feel good to dump more problems on my protagonist?

Have a great weekend and enjoy the links.


6 Major Writing Problems with Avengers: Age of Ultron – Part 1

The Art of the Book Blurb

Advice for Getting Author Photos You Love

Author Websites Q & A: How To Create An Effective, Mobile-Friendly Website

The Top Five Dumbest Business Practices in Publishing

Stuck on a Scene? Just Say No.

Author Websites, Blogs, and Book Sales Pages

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

How Gripping Does A First Chapter Have To Be, Anyway?

A couple of weeks ago I read a post over at Moody Writing that got me thinking. It was one of his Chapter One Analyses where he breaks down the first chapters of popular books, explaining what he thought worked and what didn’t. His latest entry was Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and while I don’t want to duplicate the post here, I was struck by how many so-called rules of writing the author broke.

1. The book starts with the main character waking up in the morning.
2. The first chapter has lots of backstory.
3. The characters are unappealing.

As Mooderino puts it, “So nothing much happens in this opening chapter. It’s more about tone and introduction.”

And after a little more analysis, he concludes:

“What it does tell you is that readers aren’t all that bothered about how a story starts if they have a reasonable expectation that good things are coming. You just have to find a way to give them that expectation.”

And that got my attention. Because deep down inside my writer’s soul—despite all the blog posts and writing articles I've read that say if your opening chapter isn’t hitting the ground moving, you might as well not bother publishing it—I believe Mooderino is right.

I’ve enjoyed many, many books that began with what I would consider slow moving first chapters. Books that also received great reviews from other readers. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do everything you can to make your first chapter great, but in my opinion, most of the time all you need is a first chapter that lays the foundation for the story and hints at conflicts to come. The experts would argue that in today’s fast paced society, people don’t give you much time to capture their attention, so you've got to hit them hard and fast. That may be true to some extent, but how many of those people read books anyway? I suspect that our real audience—the people who would actually consider buying a book—will give us more leeway than that.

This doesn’t mean I'll stop rewriting my first chapters to make them stronger, but it does mean I'll be more open as to how I write them.   Because giving readers the expectation that good things are coming may well be the most important attribute of a good first chapter.

What's your opinion on first chapters?


Friday, May 8, 2015

Seven Writing Links -- Volume 75

Jumped to the next chapter in my story this week, but as I began working through the pages, doubts started creeping in.  Does this scene work?  Am I wasting my time here?  Will this drag down the rest of the story?  It's making me rethink the whole story. Shudders.

The solution?  Move on to something else for a while until the feelings pass and I can return to the chapter with a fresh eye.

In the meantime, we've set a new record here in the Friday links.  Four of today's links come from Janice Hardy's blog.  If there was ever a writing blog that you should visit on a regular basis, Janice's blog is definitely it.

Have a great weekend!


Form Fitting: Using Story Structure to Your Advantage

When Your Scene is Dragging: 6 Ways to Add Tension

Why One Note is One-Derful for Writers

Description: Getting to the Heart of the Matter

Updating Your Ebook After Publication

The Best Way for Writers to Use Amazon’s Preorder Feature

Three Writing Tips From The Avengers: Age of Ultron

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Insecure Writer and Calendars

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

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month? 

Because of that darned calendar sitting on my desk.

It's May, and the goals I set for myself back in January suddenly appear much more daunting than they did back at the beginning of the year. Sometimes I wonder where all my time goes. I spent the first four months of the year feeling I was making good progress, but every once in a while I hit a rough patch and the writing ground to a halt while I worked out the kinks. And before I knew it, another month had passed and I was still on the same chapter.

I've come to the realization that this is how my writing process works and it's never going to change. Perhaps my pace will quicken over time, but I'm never going to be the kind of writer that bangs out a book in six months. Probably not even once a year. The only way I'd ever have a chance to meet those goals would be to quit my day job, and I'm not that delusional.

Still, I'm doing better than last year, and that's something to be thankful for.  Wait, am I allowed to be positive during an IWSG post?  Better not tell Alex.

BTW, I salute those of you who were able to rise to the A to Z challenge. It probably would have killed me. I may try it next year--I've already chosen the theme--but we'll see how it goes.


Friday, May 1, 2015

Seven Writing Links -- Volume 74

Nothing too special happened this week, other than the fact I made significant progress on my one of my chapters.  Woohoo!  But what's even more important is that the family and I are going to see the new Avengers movie later today.  Now that's something to celebrate!

Question: After you guys see a good movie, do you go home all pumped up about writing that story of yours?  I sure do.

Have a great weekend and enjoy the links!


Marketing and the Small Press

Story Climax: Forcing Characters to Move Forward

Author swag and how to swing it

How to format your novel for Smashwords in ONE DAY

An Agents Instruction on Query Letters

Character Cue: Whose Line is it Anyway? An Easy Exercise to Strengthen Voice

7 Ways Writers Can Rock WattPad