Saturday, December 21, 2013

Active Reading Part III is here!

Welcome to part III on Active Reading. If you've missed the other two they are here and here

Why do we care about active reading? Because it helps us analyze what we like and emulate it.
When we’re reading something we really like, we should try to glean as much as we can from it. Of course a novel should be entertaining to read, but it can also be a learning experience when we analyze the text. That’s easier said than done. How do we keep from losing ourselves in the story, you ask.

Constantly ask yourself questions. While you’re reading, the trick is to find ways to emulate the author’s success. Did a certain phrase make you smile, or did a group of sentences push you along to read faster? Analyze it and take notes (yes, keep a notebook handy or be prepared to highlight or bookmark your ereader). Do you find yourself mad or sad about a particular character’s action or a scene? That’s a good thing. Analyze why the scene pulled so much emotion from you. Look harder at what works and try to see why it works.

Still afraid you’ll be lost in the story and forgetting to ask those questions? Make a book mark with those questions on it. Every time you turn the page your eyes will go to it, see that list. That’s your time to analyze. If you’re on an ereader, just have a piece of paper for your fingers to fiddle with while you’re reading. On the piece of paper have the word: WHY? Because that’s the true question – why did I like that, why did that give me feels, why didn’t that do it for me as that should have been an emotional moment.

I used to love reading a book in which the characters goal is made clear, and his or her motivations for reaching that goal are obvious and believable. It’s part of the very successful GMC (goal, motivation, conflict) approach. Those three things are key to a successful book, but they can also come off as formulaic when it’s spelled out to the reader. Nowadays, I’m really happy when I come across a novel that has put forth the GMC in a new and exciting way. It challenges me to push harder to come up with an even more unique approach to achieve the GMC. There lies the challenge. Being challenged is a good thing when you’re aspiring to become a better writer. If you’ve read this far, I’m assuming that’s your ultimate goal.

One of your current goals in analyzing published novels should be to note the characters goals, their motivations and the conflict the author throws their way until you’ve mastered the process. When you've learned to spot GMC, writing GMC becomes as easy as tying your shoes, and it'll be easier to come up with different approaches.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Active Reading Part II

One of many reasons for aspiring authors to continue reading novels: To see how they did it

Reading other published works gives you examples of how to (or how not to) write your genre. If you love reading mysteries, and you decide to write mysteries, continue reading them.

But from now on, pay attention to how the authors drop hints and clues, how they lead the reader to the end with foreboding. Have you ever finished a book and said “I knew that was the bad guy.” Did you ask yourself how you knew it was the bad guy? The author dropped hints, of course. Go find those hints, mark them with a pencil or something, and emulate them until it becomes second nature. If you pinpoint what authors are doing right often enough, doing it right yourself will become more of a habit than a conscious thing.

Writing romance? You realize a romance is really dull without constant tension between the two principle characters, but how do authors weave that conflict and romance into one cohesive piece? That’s what you should pay attention to while reading. You read your genre to learn how to best write your genre.

Do you know what your weak points as a writer are? Dialogue? Description? Info dumping? Read and pay attention to how other authors are doing it. If people regularly correct your dialogue tags, read and pay special attention to dialogue tags. Have you ever had someone tell you that your description was pretty but it slowed the pace? Read and pay attention to how authors weave description through activity rather than have blocks of description. Analyzing how authors are doing it right will help you to do it right as well.

Maybe you realize your prologue isn’t a good idea, but you don’t know how to weave the world building or that backstory through the novel in a cohesive and subtle way. Aspiring authors should read published works and pay attention to how they did it. Use a highlighter and note every time you read a passage about the past. Whether it is dialogue or exposition or an internal monologue, experienced authors have perfected info dropping instead of info dumping, and you can learn from them.

Exercise: Choose a book you've already read that's within the genre you write. Read the first three chapters again, this time pinpointing the things you'd like to improve in your own writing. Highlight it, mark it with a pencil. If you're interested in improving your characterization, hone in on the authors word choice in the dialogue. If it's the MC, really dissect the language the author uses in exposition. Mark where the character makes decisions - those are telling of his or her character. Really analyze how the author placed the things you'd like to improve upon. Re-reading a book is sometimes better as it's less for entertainment, and you won't get pulled into the book as much. You'll be able to actually see the words and not the story. When you do this once, perhaps you'll be able to see these things in new novels - no re-reading will be necessary. It's all about training your mind to be discerning. The more you're able to pick up on what authors are doing right, the more you'll be able to emulate their craft.

I’m sorry this second post in the series has taken so long to be put up, but…I’ve been reading. :)
And the next post is here.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Let your outline turn into a guideline

Here's how it works.

I do a loose outline. It keeps me from having scenes in the first 1/4 to 1/2 that don't move the plot forward. I say 1/4 to 1/2 because that's where I'm most likely to go astray. But I'm so much more ignorant of my outline for the latter portion of my book. Or forgiving - put whatever label to that you wish. I found that when I tried too hard for too long to stick to my outline that it put a damper on my creativity. I've only followed my outline to the T one time, and something about that story just lacks...soul? Intrigue?
It's just not my best story, but it's so much better than my first one which I didn't outline at all. That first novel has major issues that I don't know if I will ever fix. I've rewritten it so many times, but I don't know if it'll ever be publishable.

I'm a huge proponent of outlining. And I'm a huge proponent of being lenient with it. Lenient not for the sake of writing scenes that sound fun even if they don't progress the plot, but to let your character guide you. Sometimes what you have your character choosing in order to hit those plot points isn't what your character wants to do. That sounds crazy, but maybe your character is already on his/her path to a character arc. S/he wouldn't choose to vandalize a billboard because of peer pressure anymore. But there's something else s/he can to do keep that plot point rolling...fake the vandalism?

So, my advice is to write the outline so you'll know what is supposed to happen and you don't  have a bunch of random scenes that sounded great at the time. Now you won't have to figure out which of your darlings you're going to have to kill. But be flexible for growing characters. Let your outline turn into a guideline.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Active Reading

The first time I heard that term I thought it was all some sort of writer secret society code. I've since uncovered the code and ding ding ding I can even advise people on it. You've heard the advice before: a writer should read. You've heard the term, active reading. And you've heard that writers should stay in the loop.

I'm going to break down the mystery of active reading in a series of blogs. However, I can't do that without explaining why active reading is so important.

Why should writers read? Because not reading is like working for an environmental awareness organization and not recycling
Reading connects you to people who are you. You’re a writer, be supportive of other writers by reading their books, published and unpublished. Writers are basically your co-workers. By appreciating and utilizing their work, you’re keeping your industry alive. What happens when we stop buying each other’s books? How can we not support the industry in which we hope to be in?
A writer who doesn’t have time to read is going to be as effective as a scientist who doesn’t like to research, a party planner who doesn’t like to plan, a chef who’d rather drink protein shakes than eat. Reading and writing just goes hand in hand. If you don’t read, a writer is in the dark.

Read to stay in the loop
Have you ever had a reader tell you: that’s a cliché phrase, your character is cliché, your plot was slightly predictable? Reading could alert you to phrases that have been used so many times that it’s eyerolling: stiff as a board, black as night, weight of the world on her shoulders.

Being an avid reader could tune you in to character traits that are being used often in published books. Readers might be tiring of cheerleaders who are misunderstood, girls who are really pretty but don't know it, the sensitive badboy...okay, maybe not the last one.

Reading could also alert you to scenes from published books that are too popular to be used in your own writing. And don't mistake watching the movie as covering your bases. How could you know that having the mayor's daughter give your character a pin with an animal on it before sending her off to fight for her life would automatically bring to mind the beginning of Hunger Games? You won't know that if you haven't read the book.

By reading published books you'll know about commonly (and currently) used plot points. I’m all for making the plot your own, and doing a better job at it than the previous author, or even sure it’s the same premise but my characters are aliens instead of werewolves. But the point is to at least be knowledgeable about what’s currently being written…and how it’s being written. You won’t know what you’re dealing with unless you’re reading.

So there’s the why. The next question is—how should we read? What should we look for? What does active reading mean? Tune in for the next post, and I'll try to answer those questions for you.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Time for another trip

Okay, I took another trip recently and oh my God, my life will never be the same. Here's the gist of it.

Oh, wait. I want you to take the trip this time. I'll insert "you" here instead of me.

You are a fanciful girl by the name of Emilie, and you live in Alexandria, Virginia. You're fearful of bad luck and excited about rabbit's feet and lucky earrings. But for a year now someone big is missing from your life. What to do? Uh...make a wish for him to come back? Tossing a coin into a fountain behind an arena at 11:11 on November 11 seems like a good idea. And you do it again the next year, same time - same place.

But someone was watching this time. Emilie, you're going to freak when it tell you this, but Scottish rocker Julian McLane watched you last year and decides to say something to you this time. He says a lot of something because (YAY!) we get to hear everything he's thinking [author insertion, the story is in his point-of-view. Author exit]. What girl doesn't want to hear what's going on in her love interest's head? Yeah, I thought you'd like that. But hold on. There's no happily after until we find out who is killing off the band's fans. Yup, you heard me. You have to help solve the mystery too, since you're actually part of the North American Tour now.

You. Love. It!

Being on tour with a bunch of nineteen-year-old gymnast rock stars is heaps of fun when they're just a group of huggable, prank-loving, mischievous-yet-sweet boys. You love them so much that you want to help them take out the psycho serial killer of fans. Actually, you need to solve the mystery or else you're next. I know, I know, I'm sorry for bursting your bubble. But, hey, you have a Scottish gymnast rockstar who wants you. Julian is freaking hot. Just take care of the pesky serial killer who's closer to home than you ever expected, and everything will be fine and dandy.

Moment(s), a young adult romantic suspense, available now!

Hey, a big shout out to @shelle0712 for her help in naming Julian. You could even go surprise her by saying something on Twitter. People's reactions are always funny.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Take a trip with me

I love trips! Obviously, I love the fun things we always do, but what's also fun is looking at the sub-divisions, trailer parks, apartment complexes and imagining the lives of the people living there. The cute guy mowing the grass, the girl locking her front door with a skateboard in her hand. What are their lives like?

You should take a trip with me.

We're going to the oldest town, St Augustine, Florida. Believe me, it's an insanely fun trip. Insane...yeah. So here's the catch. You have to take the trip as a manic seventeen-year-old girl who would fit in with the roaring twenties crowd better than the crowd of today. Don't be scared - the wardrobe is great. Whispy (you) revels in the idea of a game of Truth or Dare with Teddy and Flic, except there are no truths and the Dares are like cupids arrows coated in steroids. Whoa. You and your friends might be in for a world of hurt. Yeah, you're right to be worried. Maybe you should hold onto that arrow too - you never know when you might have to defend yourself. Good luck, Whispy. I hope you come out of this okay.

Spin the Love, a young adult psychological thriller, coming soon.

Wait, wait. Don't leave yet. My twitter friends are a huge help with naming characters. @celery named Whispy's frenemy Flic. Do me a favor and catch @celery totally by surprise by saying something about her name choice. The response is always funny. Do you mind tagging me in that so I can see it too?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

How-to guide if you're friends with a writer

* Don't intrude when she is arguing with her characters, and you certainly should never choose a side.
* Don't ask her why she continues to write a book when it only depresses her. She doesn't know that answer either.
* If she bursts into tears in the middle of a restaurant without any previous signs of sadness, just leave her be. She will dry it up soon and laugh at herself. On a side note: Perhaps it's best to shield that laughter from other restaurant-goers as they'll consider her insane.
* Don't ask her how her writing is going unless you have plenty of time (and patience) to listen. Seriously, give yourself at least an hour.
* Never, ever say: "Maybe you're drinking too much coffee." And never come in between her and her coffee (or tea).
* You don't have to offer to read her chapters. But if you say you're going to read them, do it.
Good comment: I really like this, Lisa. Better comment: Your character is aggravating, and I don't like the flashbacks.

As time goes on, I'm sure this short list that I've compiled will double. Check back to see how to stay on your writer friend's good side.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

I want to thank Daniel Kaye for asking me to take part in The Next Big Thing.

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop is a chance for authors around the world to tell you what they’re working on. The author answers 10 questions about their current project, and tags the person who first tagged them, plus two other authors.

Dec completed his blog hop last week, you can learn more about him on his blog where he answered the set of questions and tagged me.

Here's mine!

1) What is the title (or working title) of your next book?

I'm in the wee morning stages of my newest book, meaning I'm plotting and developing characters. It's called  Spin the Love, and it's about three upper middle class bored teens playing emotional games they have no business playing. It's dark and psychological.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

I was sitting outside when I saw a fender bender - an accident. Stuff happens often that messes with our heads and we have to deal with it, some times we deal better than others. But what if we caused our own mental anguish just to see if we could handle it? Just because we're bored and think nothing can shock us anymore.

3) What genre does your project fall under?

Young adult psychological drama (Maybe I'll change the drama to thriller - it depends on where my characters take me)

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Saoirse Ronan (Whispy-main character - but she has to dye her hair black since my character does), Emma Stone (Flic - Whispy's frenemy), and Jason Dolley (Teddy - Whispy's best friend).

5) What is a one sentence synopsis of your work?

It's so new I haven't totally wrapped my head around an elevator pitch. I'll give it a go though.
Three teens think they can't handle the boredom, and they find out they can't handle their new love game either.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

An agency.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I'm not even in the nitty gritty of it yet, but my projects usually take six to nine months to write.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
 Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Dangerous Liaisons), by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos is the only thing I can think of to compare it to right now. Maybe I'll see similarities to other titles as I continue to write.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My daughter for some reason likes to read books that have an insane asylum in them. My older daughter, who's off the reading bandwagon at the moment, likes to watch American Horror story which is set in an asylum. Basically I decided to write about a teen going crazy because my daughters enjoy that sort of thing. And I  wanted to write it because of what I spoke of earlier:  What if a character's downfall has nothing to do with an accident or an act of passion, but it's her own intentional activity that sends her into a mental spiral?

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
My main character is obsessed with her Great-Aunt Whispy (deceased) who was into the roaring twenties scene, for whom my character was named. Whispy wears dresses that look like they might have fit in with the 20s and reads her aunt's journal repeatedly.

So here are my two tags:

Jenna Lehne

Katherine Amabel

You're it!

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Joys of the Internet

I've been attending a sort of internet writing conference this week. It's been so very helpful. I suppose I should go ahead and apologize to my customers and employees for my inattentiveness. Nah, I'll wait until the week is over - more apologies might be needed.

But all this learning was perfect on the heals of my mini vaca-Ahem, research trip. We took a trip to Cape San Blas (yes, it's a real location and yes, it's in my book White Star), and St. George Island. Let me tell ya, that place is gorgeous and the lighthouse was so adorable and quaint. But the most surprising little discovery was Apalachicola. I had no idea it was so beautiful. I thought it was going to be the typical briny, rough-around-the-edges port city. Not even. The downtown is so pretty and it's so rich in history. The natives take so much pride it in also. My sister and I will be going back soon. Gibson Inn, here we come!

(pictured St. George Island Lighthouse)