Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Always Learning ...

One of the great things . . . and frustrating things . . . and great things about writing is that there's always more to learn. There's no such thing as a book being perfect, there's no such thing as knowing everything there is to know. The writer who understands that and accepts that will be a much happier writer because they will be able to say, "When I wrote my first book, I did my very best with what I knew then. Now, I'm doing the very best with what I know now."

When I'm working, I always have Merriam Webster up on a tab. I check spellings, but also hyphen placement. When you put a word into the site, scroll down and see all the uses. Here's an example from this last week: "stage whisper," when it's a noun, is two words. "She spoke in a stage whisper." However, when you look that up in the dictionary and scroll down to where it shows the verb form, we see that it's hyphenated. "She stage-whispered."

I also keep Google up. Any time I have a question, I just pop that puppy right in and find whatever it is I need to find. You can even type in "do you hyphenate stage whisper," and up will come information. There's no reason not to know the answers.

There are also some great websites that are fabulous resources. I recommend:

Grammar Girl
Purdue Owl
Writer's Digest

And just for fun, you can sign up for daily writing tips here.

Just remember - learning is fun. Knowledge is power. And this journey's exciting.

Happy writing!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

How to Start Writing Your Novel: the Five Main Things

I do a lot of thinking before I start writing
There is much debate about how you should go about writing your novel. I'm a pantser, someone who does not outline, but that does not mean I don't do a lot of planning before I start a book.

What is really needed before you start your first sentence? 
I can't tell you what you'll need, but I can tell you the 5 things I need to know.

1.  Who is the protagonist and who is the antagonist...and most likely, who is the love interest? We all need a little love, right?  This is where my character bible begins. I've started making a file at the end of each of my manuscripts for this. I name it, just like I would a chapter so I can search for it quickly. I add pictures and important information as it comes to me while writing the story. That way I don't forget all the little details

2.  What is the normal world for my protagonist? What is life like for my protagonist before the catalyst comes along? Of course, there must be this catalyst (some call it the inciting incident) or else I have no story, no conflict.

3.  What is the upside down world for my protagonist? What is life like for my protagonist after the catalyst occurs? What is the debate?

4.  What makes my protagonist decide to act? After the catalyst occurs, my character must decide to act or to take matters into his/her own hands. The debate is over.

5.  How my story will end? It should be the opposite of the beginning, the proof, if you will, that my character has changed.

Once I have a basic outline in my mind of these five things, I start my book. The rest shows up as I write and revise.
-Cindy M. Hogan

What do you need in order to start your book? 
Just an idea? An entire outline? Lay it on me.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Life Is Short

by Donna K. Weaver

Since this is St. Patrick's Day, I had been planning to write a post about the holiday. But yesterday, at my day job, I had an opportunity to help a family who was going on a Make A Wish trip. I didn't ask for details. It was none of my business, but as the family (there were many children) interacted I gleaned that the oldest was the reason for the trip. He'd just turned sixteen and was quite proud to have his own drivers license.

Make A Wish is a foundation that grants wishes to children who have life-threatening illnesses.

I haven't been able to get that young man out of my mind. He's a cute kid and the oldest in that large family. I loved watching how he interacted with his parents and younger siblings.

So what does this have to do with writing? I don't know. Except, perhaps, that we want our readers to link with our characters, to make powerful emotional connections with them. Like this boy's story has done to me, so much so that I haven't been able to stop thinking about him and his family all day.

Maybe it's my mind telling me I need to tell a story like his.

What I keep thinking is: Life is too short. So, I'll leave you with a couple of thoughts and encourage you to go make something of the time you have.

Begin doing what you want to do now.
We have only this moment,
sparkling like a star in our hand,
and melting like a snowflake.”
~Marie Ray

“Be patient and understanding.
Life is too short to be vengeful or malicious.”
~Phillips Brooks

“Life is too short to be little.
Man is never so manly as when he feels deeply,
acts boldly,
and expresses himself with frankness and with fervor.”
~Benjamin Disraeli

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Just For a Moment

I've been thinking for a while what I wanted to write about for this post and I've actually written and erased a couple different things (sound familiar? :) ) but I keep coming back to doing your own thing.

When I first started writing, I didn't know anyone who wrote a book or even wrote stories for fun. It was a little thing of my own. As I've written, I've gone to workshops, conferences and retreats and met many of you amazing authors who have helped me refine and redefine my writing skills. I have had amazing critique partners, editors and sprinting buddies, brainstorming sessions and cheering each other on from the sidelines of facebook.

Four years ago when we started iWN we first thought that we wanted a place where the basics of writing were taught and shared, but also a place where everyone is welcome, regardless of religion, level or location. I am so appreciative of all you who have made it a great place to be. The comments, participation, and recommendations are exactly what we hoped we would have when we first started.

Authors are a weird bunch of amazing people. :) We build characters and grow to care about them so much we fret over how best to kill them off, and places that don't exist except in our minds--that we really wish we could go visit. But I'm happy that this tribe has my same weird vibe. :)

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Character Voice

I've been reading a book this week that grabbed me right from the start! I'm a sucker for character voice, and the main character's voice was three dimensional. I settled in for a fun ride!

As more characters were being introduced, I noticed they all had terrific voice, BUT they all had the same voice. I couldn't tell them apart.

Why does that matter? Good voice is good, right?

No. The main character was diluted by an echo of sameness from every other character.

BOO! Everyone was energetic, confident, independent, capable, desirable, helpful, dependable, powerful...(yes, the list goes on and nauseatingly on)

Voice comes from the personality of the character. To have diverse voices, we have to have diverse personalities. Here's some food for thought...think of your own characters, look over the personality traits at the bottom of this post, then come back and consider these questions.

Which traits would you circle for each character? 
Then ask:
• How would those traits show up in their actions and body language?
• How would those traits color their dialogue?
• How would those traits influence their attitudes and self-talk?
• How would those traits intensify problems for them?

Voice is essentially part of "who we are." 
Voice is revealed in the characteristics of each cast member in our stories.
Unique characters = Unique voice
seek stimulation


View Others
seeks others
self reliant

even tempered