Hangin' with David-- Get Outside Yourself to Write a Deeper Book

May 28, 2012

Today, I'm hanging out over at David Powers King's cosmic laire, talking about a random road trip and how getting outside yourself can help you write deeper books. Come say hi!

When shiny new ideas lose their shiny-- What to do when you're not sure what to write next

May 22, 2012

I've finished major revisions on TUGL, yay! I'm currently doing line edits, which I typically do by reading out loud. This takes forever, but man, is it worth it. Helps me find all those tiny problem areas I tend to skip when I skim through.

ANYWAY, because I'm so close to being finished, my brain is salivating to play with a brand new shiny idea. Throughout the last year, I've had about four ideas that now have folders on my desktop. My process for dealing with shiny new ideas when writing another book is to take a few hours to brainstorm ideas, find pictures that go with that idea, and basically flesh it out a bit to see which direction it wants to go. Then I let it sit, usually for months, and when the time comes to write something new, I have multiple simmering ideas to pick from.

This is not working this time around.

Several of these ideas are cool. They would be fun to write. But I've found as I let myself play with them over the months and weeks, none of the are working out quite right. The deeper I get into them, the more I lose my enthusiasm. They all have PIECES I love and think are awesome, but none of them is coming together with the "WOW, I have to write this book, I can't leave this concept alone!" feeling I need to pick one and start writing.

So now what?

Step 1: Let yourself feel frustrated.
I mostly had to put this one in here so I feel justified in being frustrated. I mean...ARGH! Why aren't any of these as cool as they started out? Why can't I have a stroke of genius on one of them, or on a new idea, that will make it "the one?" It's okay. Let those feelings out.

Step 2: Fill your creative well.
Read new books. Watch new movies. Take walks in a new place. Eavesdrop on people's conversations at the mall. Read the news. Draw a cool picture. Knit something. Whatever you do to fill up on creativity and ideas, or even just to create something different, do it. Let crazy ideas come to you, or even just chillax, be creative, and try to forget that nagging feeling that DANG IT I NEED A STORY TO WRITE.

Step 3: Play.
If, like me, you have pieces from multiple stories that you love, but the story itself is a little blah, play with that. Pull pieces from different ideas together. Go back to shelved manuscripts or short stories and rip them up to find the good bits and see if they can fit into a puzzle with the other shiny ideas. Let that creative well you just filled come up with hair-brained ideas that would NEVER work, but sound fun anyway. Just let your brain play.

Step 4: If all else fails, pick one and write.
If you still can't come up with a new shiny that is "the one," don't sweat it. I haven't either. So I've picked my favorite of the ideas (a mash-up that came from step 3), and even though it doesn't feel perfect to me right now, I'm going to start writing it. And I'm giving myself full permission to do two things: 1) Fall in love with it again, and 2) Scrap it if it isn't working and something better comes along. Because the thing is, you're never so creative as when you're actually writing.

So, my friends, have you ever had a shiny new idea lose its shiny? Ever had a hard time deciding what to write next? 

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Writing is Not a Solitary Activity

May 17, 2012

I'm really late in the game on this, but I LOVE the Random Acts of Kindness blitz from The Bookshelf Muse. I've come to realize that writing is very much not a solitary activity. At least, good writing isn't. We all need the support, critiques, guidance, and motivational kicks-in-the-pants that come from those around us. I wanted to say thank you to a few people who have been a particular help. My amazing critique group: Chersti, Rachel, Karen (not pictured because she sadly lives away from us now), Kevin, his wife Deborah, and Joel!

I've been a part of the group for over 2 years now. My writing has improved immensely with their help. Not only that, but it's wonderful to have people to rely on when the days are tough and to celebrate with you when the days are great. They are amazing friends as well as fab critique partners!

I'm also feeling grateful for all of you-- my blogging buddies. I have felt so much support and kindness from all of you over the last few years that I really feel like part of a community. You are all amazing! I'll be holding a giveaway in the next few weeks just to say THANK YOU.

So, my friends, thanks for being my friends!

5 Steps to Writing a Synopsis for your Book with as Little Pain as Possible

May 15, 2012

I'm wrapping up what I hope will be my final major rewrite this week before querying. Since I'm prepping to query, I'm also putting together my "query package." This includes the hateful synopsis. I mean, writing the query is painful enough, right? But in a synopsis, you have to boil down all the details of the ENTIRE BOOK into just a single-spaced page or two. Preferably without being overly boring.

Okay, let's face it. It's probably going to be sorta boring.

And really, that's okay. Agents get how hard it is to write a synopsis, and the point of one is for them to see that your story itself doesn't fall apart after the first spectacular chapter. Which means the synopsis IS important, so you should give it the time it needs to shine. And fortunately, there are ways to make the synopsis-writing a little less painful.

1. Whether or not you plotted out your story, you can start with 7 simple sentences that hit the 7 key points of your book.
You may not have planned this out ahead of time, or even known about it, but odds are basic story structure is so embedded in you after seeing many movies and reading many books, that you have these points in your story. I HIGHLY recommend you watch Dan Wells' 7 Point Story Structure presentation on YouTube. But here are the basic points you want to hit in your synopsis.

Hook: what draws the reader in; sets your character in a position opposite of where they'll be at the end.
Plot Turn 1: the call to adventure-- the story really beings and there's no turning back for the character
Pinch 1: stakes heat up; more danger/pressure introduced
Midpoint: character discovers something new that allows them to move from reaction to action against the antagonist.
Pinch 2: stakes heat up again; often, something big is lost
Plot Turn 2: character learns the final information to destroy antagonist, often at great personal cost
Resolution: protag saves the day

Just a simple sentence that captures the essence of these points gives you a (probably way too short) synopsis!

2. Fill in the blanks
You want to make sure that you connect those seven points. Things happen between them, and if you don't give some explanation, it will make your story feel disjointed. So find those connecting elements that make the story make sense, and fill in the blanks. This is where you'll likely make your synopsis way too long. Don't sweat that.

3. Cut the extra characters and subplots you added in step 2.
This is a tough one. Sometimes, I'm adamant that a certain character or big subplot is essential to the synopsis. I hate to tell you-- it's not. Focus on THE MAIN STORY LINE. Obviously, all of your subplots and characters tie together with the main story line, but there is simply not room for them in a 1-2 page synopsis. Chop. Even if you have to fill them in to make yourself feel better, go back in and see what you can cut while still having the synopsis make sense.

4. Read it out loud.
Odds are, you're still might need to trim the synopsis down a bit, especially if you're doing a one-pager. And even if you don't, you always want to make sure you show your top writing skills. So read it out loud. Find those awkward spots, the places you can reword and tighten. Chop out the weak writing. Chop, chop, chop.

5. Send it to crit partners.
Yup, just like anything else. They can help you fine-tune what you've already done, and give you that outside opinion that will help you capture your story in as non-boring a way as possible.

And here's a bonus tip for the next time around. When I write my books, starting with my very first draft, I give every chapter/scene a heading that briefly describes what happens in that chapter. Not only does this help me stay organized while I write, but when I do my synopsis, I can pull my seven key plot points and pretty much every other point straight from those headings. It makes the synopsis first draft a cut-and-paste, piece of cake kinda deal.

So, my friends, have you written a synopsis before? Do you hate them? Do you have tips to share?

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Seizing Opportunities to Become a Better Writer

May 8, 2012

As always, the Storymakers conference was A-MA-ZING. And as always, I managed to leave my camera in my bag almost the entire time. I did get a few pics with Shelly Brown and Melanie Fowler, though I hung out with lots of other awesome peeps.

The classes were incredible, and my pitch session went really well. Conferences always recharge my writer batteries, and give wonderful opportunities to expand my writing circle and knowledge.

At the keynote speech from prolific writer Kevin J. Anderson, he said one of the most important things as a writer is to be open to the opportunities presented to you-- and to use your imagination to create more opportunities. He would know; he's had the opportunity to work on his own books, as well as other projects like Star Wars and X-files. He's had over 50 novels on best-seller lists!

Opportunities to expand your writing-- and yourself--can happen anywhere. Seize opportunities to attend conferences, take classes online, or simply read new writing books. Seize opportunities to meet new people, published and unpublished, and help each other out. Seize opportunities to travel, or to take a walk somewhere new, or to go to a place in your own town you've never been, or learn a new skill. Let your writer side grow, and let the other parts of you grow too. The more you grow, the more opportunities you'll find that will open the future to you.

So, my friends, what opportunities have you seized lately? How have you grown as writer, and as a person?


May 1, 2012

Yup, I'll continue to be missing in action this week.

I have a sick kiddo.

I am doing my darndest to keep my pregnant, anemic immune system from getting sick too.

And Friday and Saturday is the Storymakers Conference! Woot!

So I'll see ya'll around next week. In the meantime, you can party with the Doctor.

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