Archive for the ‘Craft’Category

Muscle Memory

Muscular-Squirrel

This is disturbing.  Squirrels are disturbing.  We have them in the backyard and they hop from tree to tree, cuss the cat out, and steal the sunflower seeds I put out for the bluejays.  I know bluejays aren’t the nicest birds, but they’re prettier than the domestic tree-rat, so they win.

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Pretty pretty bluejay.  Come to my back deck.

Anyway, I’m here to write about muscle memory.  I think I’ve found mine when it comes to drafting.  It only took 20 years, but hey, it’s something.  I feel like I can whip out a solid 1st draft now.  As solid as it will ever get.  I’ll never be able to nail it the first time because I still shine the brightest during the revision process, but I’ve come a long way.  It’s like a writer’s nirvana.  The internal editor is off, but you’re still doing a decent job with sentence structure and syntax and grammar (though you’d never tell from my awful blogging), and you can forge ahead with story and fun stuff.

As for the book, it’s coming along!  I know I keep saying that, but this isn’t an overnight process.  This has to be solid before I begin making the query rounds. I dropped a POV that wasn’t doing much but adding in peripheral information.  That should help me cut 12-15k.  I changed some major plot points toward the end.  It’s definitely more epic and will require a battle.  That scares the bejesus out of me, but I’ll do my best.  Characters are more defined.  Story shows a definitive arc.  Happy happy, joy joy!

Dancing-Cat-Animated

 

Summer work is going well, too.  Content Analysis is fun!

That’s it, folks.  Signing off.

19

06 2013

Fight Scenes

 

74furies

 

Why are they so dang hard to write?  And write well?  I’m struggling with one now.  Well, actually, I’m revising the hell out of an old one that I struggled with last year, only I’m adding another person and two more bad guys, and yeah . . . it’s stressful.  I’m doing this right now:

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But, I knock out 2 paragraphs a day.  That’s right, 2 paragraphs.  I’m working on other stuff, but as far as this particular fight scene is concerned?  It needs gentle, slow, love.  Barry White love.

My system is a pretty good one, truth be told, but sometimes I overthink or underthink.

1. I map it out.  Like this . . .

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2. I run scenarios this way until I get an idea of how things begin.

3. I write a very rough description of the action.  T moves forward and bashes this guy.  M moves up and does this.  S does that.  Bad guy does this, this and that.

4. Once that’s done, I get into my POV character’s mind (3rd person limited) and decide what that character will see, recognize, note mentally, and understand.  For example, M might not see what T is doing, but she’ll be able to get an eye full of S’s actions.  What is important to HER?

5. I write a longer version of the action.

6. I flesh out.

7. I flesh out some more–adding more details, some internalization, etc.

Sometimes, it takes 10 passes to get it where I need it to be.  But, it works.

Now, I need to find a way to add in new things to an already-written passage.  It’s not easy, but doable.

03

05 2013

Awful Female Stereotypes: The Nag

We’re going to talk about Transformers today.  I know, wuuuuut?  Specifically, we’re going to talk about how the writers of Transformers: The Dark of the Moon perpetuated one of the worst female character stereotypes of our time.  So prevalent in storytelling today that someone should write a how-to book.

How to turn your female characters into useless, one-dimensional, whiny, bitchy, nags.  That works.

Let’s get started.  The main (male) character is climbing that narrative arc.  He’s a superhero.  He’s a government agent.  He’s Sam Witwicky, a brilliant young man who’s saved the world.  Twice.  And, he has a new model girlfriend.  (Let’s not go there in regard to this not being Megan Fox.  That alone is worthy of its own blog.)

Here’s the cliché. The man has to spend time saving the world, or uncovering a conspiracy, or keeping the bad guys from hurting his family.  And his wife/significant other/girlfriend?  Well, she’s sitting at a dinner table, pouting over a dinner that’s gone cold.  Tapered candles have burnt down into nubs.  And she’s pissed.  Downright livid.  The man walks in and BAM!

You’re late!  We were going to go to a movie!  Spend some time together!  Pout pout.  Stomp feet.  Throw napkin.  Start cleaning table, ANGRILY.

The male character: Sorry honey, I was trying to save the world.  I’ll make it up to you.

Really? Are you kidding me?

Model chick from Transformers gets angry at Witwicky because (get this), he can’t attend a cocktail party with her.  It’s not like he’s trying to uncover a decepticon-related conspiracy.  So, she goes with that bloke from Grey’s Anatomy instead.

“Sam, you’re just a big meanie.  I have important things to do.”

Let’s all hang our heads and mourn Megan Fox again.  Can you see her bitching about the cocktail party thing?  Hellz no.  Jennifer’s Body, people.  Watch it.  That’s my girl.

It’s so predictable now that I can sniff out the nag-character in a matter of seconds.  A “look” by the wife/girlfriend, her body language. Uh oh, here it comes. As common in movies and television shows as that loaf of French bread sticking out of a paper bag.

What’s even worse is that this stereotype sets the female up for (wait for it), the DAMSEL IN DISTRESS stereotype later in movie.  Another one of my favorites.

Woman nags.  “You never spend time with me.  I’m leaving.  We need a break.”

Approximately 45 minutes later, she’s being held at gunpoint by the bad guy’s cronie, or the bad guy himself, and Mr. Man has to swoop in and save the day.  Or, if we’re getting super ridiculous, she talks Megatron out of his deep, heart-felt depression and saves the day.  Pick which one sucks more.

This is what rocks about being a writer.  I don’t have to write this shit.  I can write a woman who doesn’t act like an effing ass-canoe in the face of danger.

“What’s that, honey?  You need help?  Where do I fuggin’ sign up?  You got some body armor that will fit me?  How about a gun? A katana?  A chainsaw?”  Then, when our superhero has that moment of truth (will he live, will he die?) here comes the Mrs., covered in a sweaty sheen that would make Ripley from Aliens get all tinglie in her girlie parts.  And she goes Rambo.

That’s what I’m talking about.

So, here’s my advice folks.  Stop writing the nag.  She’s more one-dimensional and overused than the mute kid in sci-fi stories.  You know the kind I mean.  Can’t talk because he’s too traumatized, but shouts out at the last minute to save the world.  I’ll tackle that one next.

Anyway, have a drink on me. Not a wine spritzer or a margarita or a fancy, purple martini, but a beer.  A dark, lovely, brown beer that only a non-cliché, nagless femme can provide.

Cheers!

Archived from: 9/24/2012

26

12 2012

POV Rant

2nd Person POV.  Why all the hate, folks?  It amazes me whenever I visit a writing message board/internet forum and read a bunch of weirdos flap their arms and start peeing themselves about the 2nd person.

Don’t you DARE TRY IT.

I can’t read it so YOU SHOULD NOT READ IT.

It is a sign of the apocalypse.  Behold there was a story written in 2nd person and from the sky rained frogs and locusts.

Get over it.

Seriously.

I’ve come to realize that people who bitch about 2nd person can’t write it.  Can’t read it and by poo-poo’ing it, they inevitably feel better about their lack of writerly mojo.  It’s the only explanation I can think of.

If you can’t shut your trap about how it’s “not okay to write in 2nd person,” do me a favor and stop writing . Stop reading.  Just watch Survival or Grey’s Anatomy or whatever it is that 2nd person POV haters watch, because it’s not the cool shows I dig.  Only cool people watch those.

Anyway, rant over.

Archived from: 1/28/2012

26

12 2012

Character VS Plot and Saving the Cat

I picked up a great little book via Kindle called Plot Versus Character, by Jeff Gerke.  Right now, I’m in the middle of rewriting and this book is a Godsend.

The first question posed:

Are you a character-writer or a plot-writer?

I always thought I did a little of both, but after reading this, I’m firmly on the character side.  Although the discovery doesn’t surprise me, it concerns me a bit, given that I want to write fantasy epic and a solid plot will make or break me here.

After a great conversation with Jake D. last night, I got through a rather nasty snag in one particular character arc.  Reading this book today has shed even more light on my plot issues (again, this is one character giving me issues, and one that I honestly never thought I had problems with).

So, today’s about plot and individual character arcs and how they merge and relate to the overall theme of the book/series.

How to bring it all together?

Step 1: Save the Cat.  Thanks to Trai Cartwright, I purchased a copy of this book (about screenwriting) and attended Trai’s workshop on what film can teach the novelist–offered through Northern Colorado Writers.

Amazing advice (both from Trai and the book).  Great templates and ideas to keep your characters on track.

Step 2: Beat sheet. For me this meant using the film convention to keep my characters on track.  Last night I filled out a “beat sheet” for each of my main POV characters.  A copy of Blake Snyder’s beat sheet can be found HERE.

I found that I was “close” on all of my characters. They had a nice arc: catalyst, conflict, dark night of the soul, resolution, final image, etc.  All except for one.  Poor Tivik.  My main man.  What in the world?

Step 3: Apply to story. Tivik has been my project today and he’s coming along nicely with the help of Gerke’s book and the beat sheet (and Jake Dunnegan asking all the right questions last night).

It really is amazing what film and plotting can do for a character-driven gal like me.  It’s a new playground to play in.  Gerke’s advice is matter-of-fact, pragmatic, and so helpful for writers like me who struggle with action and plotting.

Exciting stuff!

Archived from: 12/12/2011

26

12 2012

More Genre Whinery

Is “whinery” a word?  WordPress doesn’t seem to like it.

Anyway, there’s a great little piece over at I09:

Why Science Fiction Writers are Like Porn Stars

Guess what?  Someone is blathering on about genre being a “lesser” form of art again.  Yeah.  That.

Instead of pontificating about the invincible ignorance of the high-falootin’ literary types (not all of them, but some), I figure I’d just repost the article along with a few comments from I09’ers.  Enjoy.

By Charlie Jane Anders
I didn’t want to write about Glen Duncan’s nerd-baiting book review in last Sunday’s New York Times. The one that starts, “A literary novelist writing a genre novel is like an intellectual dating a porn star.” And just goes downhill from there.

The whole thing grossed me out, and felt like such a cheap shot that the only proper response was a sort of inchoate rage — the very response, I felt sure, that Duncan was counting on to prove his point. So I figured I’d interview Duncan about it, find out what the hell he was thinking, but he never got back to me. Here are the questions I wanted to ask him.

Images via Richard Kadrey/Kaos Beauty Klinik

Q: Have you ever dated a porn star? How did it go?

Q: Are you aware that “porn star” is a job, not a class of person?

Q: You say in your review that literary authors are “hard-wired or self-schooled to avoid the clichéd, the formulaic, the rote.” Are you aware that most literary fiction is full of cliches? Elsewhere, you’ve written of your admiration for John Updike’s Rabbit tetralogy — are you aware how many cliches those books have spawned?

Q: There’s an undercurrent, in your Times review, of frustration with the readers of your werewolf book, The Last Werewolf. Have you actually had exasperating interactions with genre fans who felt that your work included too much reality? What form did these interactions take?

Q: Have you read DhalgrenThe Female ManHouse of LeavesThe Wasp FactoryThe DispossessedAir? In what way do you feel these books failed to show readers “the strangeness of the familiar and the familiarity of the strange”? (Something that you seem to feel genre readers will be unable to cope with.)

Q: The heart of your discontent with genre fiction seems to be that it doesn’t allow writers to tackle all of reality — just the parts of it that are fantastical. That there’s a certain psychological complexity, or texture, that gets lost in the fixation on monsters or whiz-bang gadgets. (William Gibson voiced a similar complaint about the state of the genre when he wrote Neuromancer the other day.) But wouldn’t you agree that there’s more than one way to write about “reality”?

Q: You also quote from Susan Sontag saying “Whatever is happening, something else is always going on.” Which actually contradicts the thrust of your review — since you seem to think that in genre fiction, whatever is happening is all that’s happening. Don’t you think you missed the point of the Sontag quote?

So now I’ve posted my questions, and maybe Duncan will take the time to respond to them. Meanwhile, there doesn’t seem to be much point in writing an outraged screed about Duncan’s “genre slumming” piece — it really feels like we’re mostly past that by now, when places like the Atlantic are celebrating the trend that Duncan decries. You’re always going to have your Margaret Atwoods and Glen Duncans, because humans love hierarchy and status.

So instead of condemning Duncan, I’ll close it out with a list of reasons why genre writers are like porn stars:

Genre writers and porn stars come from all sorts of backgrounds and social classes. Some have PhDs, others never finished high school.

There’s underground porn and indy porn and vegan porn as well as huge mainstream porn — likewise, genre writers have a lot of underground imprints focusing on weird fiction that would make your hair curl, as well as big mainstream publishers.

Porn stars and genre writers work fucking hard, and sometimes get screwed over.

Porn stars and genre writers are both trying, in very different ways, to satisfy a basic human need for a transcendent experience, something that takes you out of yourself. People — who feel imprisoned in these bodies, these lives, these surroundings — crave escapism and fantasy, but also a feeling of connection to a world where implausible things happen. (For most people, having sex with an actual porn star probably counts as “implausible.”)

There is a lot of terrible porn and a lot of really godawful science fiction. (Just like there’s a lot of bad literary fiction. As we’ve noted before, “literary” is not a synonym for “good.”)

Porn stars and science fiction writers don’t really care what you think of them.

(SOME I09 Comments)

By CoreyHaim8MyDog: Also, it’s important to realize that literary fiction is just another genre with it’s own tropes, cliches and plot devices — inscrutable endings, attempts at being profound, desultory plotting, references to MFA programs…. Pretty much what comes out of Iowa.

Archived from: 11/4/2011

26

12 2012

Workshops and Writing Groups

I was inspired to write a quick post in response to Jason M. Hough’s entry about writing groups.

Check his blog out HERE.

This quote stuck out: “Why are there no “plot & strategize” groups?  How about getting together with smart, diverse people and brainstorming your ideas, honing your structure, pace and scenes.  Then start writing?”

I find this notion very interesting.  I sent the link to my writing group.  While we do spend some time offering up ideas and talking about plots and strategizing, we don’t really focus on it before a story begins.

Could it be that some people do like to write as they go?  Excavate the story (a’la Stephen King?)

I don’t know.  I do find myself thinking about Mr. Hough’s comment, though, and wondering what such a strategy session might look like.  My current work in progress would have benefitted mightily from this kind of session as I am in the process of reworking and therefore dealing with the “ripples” that are created from that change in the aftermath.

Why is plot such a dirty word sometimes? Especially in MFA programs?

Food for thought.  Not sure I have answers, but I’m contemplating.

Archived from: 11/1/2011

26

12 2012

To Prologue or not to Prologue…

prologue

That is the question, isn’t it?

I’m going back and forth on this prologue thing.  My original prologue had a little punch.  I liked it.  It received fair praise from my writing group.  But, because I’ve layered my conflict a bit more on this revision, I’m realizing the original prologue isn’t working (scope-wise or content-wise).

I get that people don’t like a bunch of info-dumpy/heavy-handed world-building. But, mine will actually be relatively short (2-3 pages tops). It will include a small bit of dialogue then the witnessing of an event that will serve as a catalyst to a whole bunch of plot goodness.

Here’s the issue . . .

I’m reading on some of my targeted agencies/publishers that prologues are the red-headed stepchild from Hell’s abyss right now. It’s “so last decade.”  Think zubaz and parachute pants.

Not a pretty picture is it?

The thing is . . . can I sneak it in? I’m not numbering my chapters but rather giving them titles.

Each chapter is one of 6 rotating POVs.  But the prologue will not be one of those rotating POVs. If I don’t dub it “sir Prologue” but give it a title like I do the other chapters will it fly?

Or do you think I will commit heresy and forever be burned into the minds of all as a dirty, rotten, SNEAKY prologuer?

We shall see . . .

Archived from: 10/2/2011

26

12 2012

Character Progression and Update

I had quite an eye opener yesterday.  I decided to write out each of my character arcs in the book, each relevant chapter.

Wow, I found a lot of issues.

Aldeshar

Aldeshar’s character arc is, by far, the most erratic and weakest.  I cut an entire chapter, split another.  He wasn’t making a whole lot of choices in the end, not doing a lot of “showing through action.”  So, I beefed up his first chapter with more action, gave one of his chapters to another character’s POV (still have to finish that one), and made other tweaks and adjustments.

Overall, I’m so much happier. I’m still not finished, but I know where I’m going with him now and what I’ll be presenting in the first book.

Tivik

And then there’s Tivik.  Only 5 chapters in this first book.  Whaaaaat?  So, he got one of Aldeshar’s (it made sense given the plot) and will more than likely add another somewhere.

Maura

Maura’s arc showed me where I can tinker with a secondary character to round him out.

Ez’

E’zreal’s was also a mess, but an easier mess to clean up than old Alde’s.  Combine two chapters (a full rewrite on that) and some rearranging.  My timeline is going to shift drastically.

Others

Wen and Sarithel are better than I thought.

Ulryck (of all people) – non POV character

He’s rounding out.  I’m finally “getting” him.  He’s too one-dimensional in the first draft.  I’m having fun changing that up.  It will help give weight to a plot turn further in.

Interesting exercise.  I highly recommend it.  It gave me some new direction for the next editorial pass.

Wish me luck!

Archived from: 9/11/2011

26

12 2012

Storming the Beach

Sumter_-_Storming_the_Beach

250 Things You Should Know About Writing
By Chuck Wendig

I got it from amazon for 99 cents. Quite possibly, the best 99 cents I’ve ever spent.

Here are a couple of pearls from the chapter titled, ‘25 Things You Should Know About Writing A Novel.’

3. The First Draft Is The Beach-Storming Draft

It’s you and hundreds of other soldier-penmonkeys clawing their way up the enemy beach of the People’s Republic Of Novelsvainya. Most of those other poor sots are going to take a stitching of bullets to the chest and neck and drop dead in the sand, flopping around like a fish, their bowels evacuating. Your only goal is to get up that beach. Crawl through mud, blood, sand, shit, corpses. It doesn’t matter if you get up that beach all pretty-like. Or in record time. Nobody cares how your hair looks. Your first draft can and should look like a fucking warzone. That’s okay. Don’t sweat it, because you survived. Put differently, that first draft of yours has permission to suck. Go forth and care not.

4. Be Like The Dog Who Cloaks Himself In Stink 
Find joy and liberation in writing a first draft without caring, without giving one whittled whit. It’s like pouring paint on the floor or taking a sledgehammer to some kitchen counters. Get messy. Let it all hang out. Suck wantonly and without regard to others. Let that free you. Have fun. Don’t give a rat’s roasted rectum. You’ll think that all you’re doing is upending a garbage can on the page, but later, trust in the fact you’ll find pearls secreted away in the heaps of trash and piles of junk.


Now, it’s not that I felt like I needed confirmation on my own writing process, but, well, it kind of felt good.  I know so many people who try to write “all purty” on the first draft and end up stalling out.  “Storming the Beach” has worked wonders for me.

For other writers out there, what’s your approach?  Polish as you go, or the “cloaking yourself in stink” method?  Something in between?

Archived from: 8/31/2011

26

12 2012