Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Eating for Writers

As I type, I'm sitting here with a plate of scrambled eggs cooked in coconut oil on a bed of fresh spinach and a few marinated artichokes. Two years ago, I would have been sitting here with a sack of gummy peach rings and a Cherry Coke. A pretty big difference, huh?

This isn't to say that I'm a perfect angel all the time. I have my moments. Er, hours. But I've learned something pretty important. See, I used sugar and caffeine to keep me going when I had huge projects to finish up, but they were stripping my brain and actually making it harder for me to concentrate. Then I'd have a hard time sleeping because of all that sugar and caffeine. 

When you sit down to write, think about the parts of your body that are going to be taxed the most. Your brain, definitely. That's where the coconut oil comes in - it's a healthy fat, and because your brain is made of fat, it needs good fat to nourish it. The spinach is also a brain food. The eggs are protein for stamina. And the artichokes are just for deliciousness.

I'm not saying you have to eat this meal exactly. But what I'm suggesting is that you experiment with eating brain food and protein the next time you have a writing session. See if that helps you be more productive. I know it does me, and plus, what I'm eating right now won't lead to weight gain, which is another thing writers can struggle with.

Write healthy!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

iWriteNetwork Summer Workshop - Class Report

by Donna K. Weaver

On Saturday we got to hear from the awesome Nancy Campbell Allen. The class was about outlining, and I'm a pantser. Nancy talked about bringing elements of both approaches. It's something she called being a Hybrid. I love her ideas!

Following are my notes from the class.

Outlining Can Be Fun

Hybrid (features of outlining while leaving some discovery writing of the pantser)
  • organized
  • clear vision
  • Avoid paralysis
  • still maintain a sense of creativity
  • Make the process your own

Where to begin
  • binder or file (this can be digital, but Nancy uses a physical binder that she creates)

Outlining Your Novel

1. Brainstorming
  • character idea
  • setting
  • cool job
  • what if questions
  • this section is utilized to the very end of the writing
  • Think of 4 or 5 things that could happen in the books and 2 things that can complicate things
  • What settings will the complications demand?
  • Which character will be the protagonist for that complication?
  • Once you're done highlight the things you decide to use

2. ICA - Individual Character Analysis
  • physical stats
  • family and origin including birth order
  • personality traits
  • strengths and weaknesses
  • goals in life
  • most treasured possession
  • motivations
  • how would they react to any given situation

3. Outline - can be a first draft
  • What is your theme?
  • Make a list of things you need to happen
  • Think in specifics
  • Allow yourself to sink into the story
  • If the story strays...either the story will come back to your outline or you can adjust your outline. The theme should have stayed the same

4. Scene Maps
  • This keeps you from staring at the blinking cursor
  • Determine your scene goal
  • Lists scenes sequentially
  • These are your "Next Time Notes"

5. Running Edit

When you change something as you're writing, have of list of things you will need to change to the beginning.  Like if on page 50 you decide it's better to have a different profession, note the page and say XXX is a wedding planner from here to the end.

6. Research Questions

Make a list of questions as you go--things you need to find out and answer later. Don't get sidetracked! UNLESS you're stuck.

7. Sources

Maintaining a list -- Pinterest (suggested by Amber Argyle)

8. Tracking Sheet

List Chapter, pages x - x, word count for chapter, brief summary

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Writing a Novel

      Is this the first book you've ever written? Are you wondering where to start or what to do? You've come to the right place. Writing a book can take over your life, and possibly make you crazy. Talking to characters in your head, mumbling to yourself, crying while typing that last tender kiss before sending the hero off to war. This is all normal. For writers at least.
       To write a novel you must actually finish the story, type the highs and lows and the climax all the way to The End. The point is to actually finish. Pay no attention to making it perfect, ignore the voice that tells you to polish the scene you wrote last night before starting on new scenes. Get through that first draft. It'll be ugly and if you are like me you'll leave not so helpful notes to yourself like Put exciting fight here, and Stuff that adds emotion here. 
      You now have a first draft? Great, congrats you've accomplished something many people do not. Go read a few books as a reward. :) Now lets polish. Go back through and fill in those holes. Put in emotion, exciting fight scenes round out those character and plot arcs. Now put it away for at least a week or so, once that week is over read it through, did you make sense? Was that the story you wanted to tell? If not, rework chapters, characters, verbs even. Think you're ready? Almost!
      If you read my last post you've learned about accepting critiques. You'll need to be ready because now you need some. Find a friend who likes to read, or another writer, maybe an acquaintance who's great at English, ask then to objectively read and send you feedback. Sometimes it helps to guide them, What did you like best in this chapter, what made you laugh, what questions do you have about the story, how would you rate this book. . .
You are free to rewrite and rewrite as you please, polish that baby and make it shine. But know when enough is enough. Don't get stuck here. If you are unsure, put the book away for a while and work on another, later pull it out and reread. what do you think? How does it feel? You can rewrite again, send to a freelance editor or prep for a query letter and synopsis of the novel, but those are entirely different beasts. :)

For extra help I recommend attending conferences. Wouldn't you know, we are having a hands-on, two day workshop this coming weekend, more info on the right side bar.

Best of Luck to Y'all

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Opposites Attract

A book I like is called "Inside Out and Upside Down. It's a chick-lit romance where instead of having the couple meet early on in the book they don't meet until the middle. As the reader learns about each character, the characters keep almost meeting but not quite. For example, they are both in the airport and it seems like they have to meet this time, but one turns just before the other reaches that same spot.

Yes, I kept reading and reading and reading to see how they would finally meet.

So I started thinking about how opposites play a key role in writing novels. Sometimes the two main characters themselves are opposites rich-poor, outgoing-shy, powerful-weak, angry-calm.

Another opposite that is very satisfying is when the main character is in an opposite position at the end of the books as they were at the beginning. There are opposites within characters themselves too. The hero needs a flaw and the villain needs a redeeming quality. Or like when the fool says something really brilliant--it may only last a moment but it's a powerful moment.

Many times, it's the tension derived from opposites that makes things happen in the story, and we are pulled apart and attracted at the same time.