Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Handwriting Game -- Tagged!

I love looking at the penmanship of fellow bloggers through the Handwriting Game.  Secretly, I've had my fingers crossed that someone would tag me.  Big thanks to RaShelle @ A No. 2 Pencil, Stat! for hearing my silent plea. Thanks for the tag, RaShelle!!

Here goes:
[Click to enlarge :)]

Write down (by hand!) on a piece of paper the following:

1. Name, Blog Name
2. Right handed, left handed, or both? 
3. Favorite letters to write 
4. Least favorite letters to write
5. Write out "the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog"
7. Favorite song lyrics 
8. Tag 7 people
9. Whatever else strikes your fancy 

The seven people I'm tagging are:

I'm going to have another week of scarce blog time.  It's all good, because I've advanced to the next round of a month-long creative writing contest in which there remains just five contestants.  Our challenge this round is to write a speculative fiction short story (due Oct. 3) with this prompt:  Practice is nothing to sneeze at.  Yeah.  Wish me luck!!

In addition, I'm knee-deep in WiP writing and critiques with my lovely and uber-talented crit partner. (*waves to Jess*)  And, there's that other thing...due Thursday.  Soooo, busy week.  I'll read as many blogs as I can get to -- and try to comment on a few too.  Know that I'm thinking of you all, missing our regular interactions, and looking forward to the days ahead when I have a bit more time for the stuff I love.  Until then, ciao!!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Calling all Opinions!! (...on Protags & Antags)

[Photo Source]
The obvious:

The Protagonist is the main character of the novel.  What the protagonist WANTS should be clear from the beginning.

The Antagonist is the character that (usually) represents the PROBLEM of the novel, that which the protagonist must ultimately conquer in order to get what she wants.

Now let's move on to the less obvious.

(For argument sake, let's imagine a hypothetical story where whole chapters are told from the third person POV of either the protagonist or the antagonist.)

The author's job the first time he introduces the protagonist is to make her likable and/or create reader empathy for her, while expressing what she WANTS.  This hooks the reader and makes him want to turn the page.  But, does this mean the first chapter must open with the protagonist?

What if the PROBLEM in the story is the antagonist's mental breakdown, the backlash of which sends him on a collision course with an unsuspecting stranger (the protagonist)?  Can the novel open with the first chapter about the antagonist?

I guess the question I put up for discussion is this:  Do you think it's always better to open the novel by introducing the protagonist; or, does every story need its own formula for success, even if that means opening with the antagonist?

Bonus question:  Can you think of a book you enjoyed that opened with the antagonist?

Can't wait to read your opinions on this topic!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

!00% Satisfaction

The key to satisfaction in life is achieving what you set out to do.  Set goals, and work hard to reach them.  Sounds simple, right?

It can be, if you keep a couple things in mind:

1.  Dream big, but keep your goals realistic.  What can you manage to accomplish in a day, given all the responsibilities you shoulder?  Set goals that will challenge you, but which can be met with hard work and motivation.

2.  Track your goals.  Write them down or create an electronic file where what you 'planned to do' and what you 'did do' are logged.  It is amazing how concrete your progress become when it is "official" and documented.

3.  Turn off FaceBook and Twitter while you work towards your goals.  How can you put 100% of your effort into a task when TweetDeck is chiming a new tweet every 15 to 30 seconds?  Each time your eye strays to the FaceBook tab and you see parenthesis signaling a notification, you disengage from your primary task.  Cell phone and land line should be silenced too.

Working toward your goals means budgeting your time and concentrating all your effort on the task at hand.  Factor in your downtime, when  you will check in with your social media and visit blogs.  Remember to eat and exercise -- those things are important too!

And when you achieve your goals, the sense of satisfaction is immense.  You feel like you're in the driver's seat of your life, in charge, going to that place where you've always pictured yourself.

Go on.  Become that person you dream about.  Get those goals!

[Thanks for reading!  I'd like to recommend your next blog stop:  Vicki Rocho at Rambles & Randomness shared a short, must-see video about a most unexpected brilliant mind.  I promise you, you won't be able to turn it off.  Click here for the link -->  Grab Your Tissues....AMAZING]

Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

She Said What??

I'm tightening up chapter one of my WiP this week.  The opening scene is pretty intense, introducing the main character in the grips of a frightening moment.  I feed the reader glimpses of what's transpired in the twenty minutes leading up to the first sentence, by weaving short, past perfect paragraphs into the action.

During one of these flashes, she has a quick verbal exchange with a woman in the store.  The woman addresses her, MC makes a comment, and the woman responds.  Then on to the action.

It has occurred to me that the MC's comment is important.  Yes, it's just one line of dialog that serves the purpose of establishing her guard is up, that she senses imminent danger, but it's more than that.  It's the first time the reader will hear her speak.

What she says, and how she says it, will leave an impression on the reader.  Her comment must reflect the person she is, and it must have a clever, larger-than-life quality that attracts her to the reading audience.   It's gotta have zing.

Auditioning possible lines has been a great exercise in character development.  When I found the right one, it clicked.  It felt right.  First time readers won't know her intimately after reading her first line, but I hope her comment works on them like a tantalizing smell coming from the oven, promising something delicious is about to be served.

How important to you, or to your story, is your main character's first line of dialog?

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Heroine Within

Artwork by the talented Marsha Maklaut

The protagonist has to be more than the main character of the novel.  She must be the heroine.  She needs to conquer her fears, rise above all adversity, and succeed despite insurmountable odds.  By the end of the novel, the protagonist should contrast significantly with her pre-evolved self, introduced in chapter one.

When the protagonist steps onto the book's stage in her opening scene, she will be riddled with the conflicts upon which the plot is launched.  It's important to present her in a way that makes the reader want to embrace her.

What happens in real life when you meet someone who is depressed?  Or bitter?  Or openly hostile with the world?  Does she make you want to hang out with her, get to know her better?  Probably not.  Unless...you see yourself in her.  If you can identify with her suffering, understand it in a way that generates a sense of camaraderie and puts you in her camp, then a relationship is born.  The same is true in fiction.

Craft the protagonist with at least one heroic characteristic.  No matter how damaged, afraid, prejudiced, or beaten down the character is, plant in her the quality she will need to succeed in the book's ultimate climactic scene.  Find at least one way, in the first chapter, for the protagonist to show a glimmer of this quality.

We want to read about heroes and heroines.  Hell, we want to be heroes and heroines.  Give the readers a main character to cheer on.  Let them see a little of themselves in the protagonist, a little of the hero inside.  Believe me, they will keep turning the page.  

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

How Many Words Does It Take...?

Graph borrowed from Writer Services (dot) com

I'm a firm believer that "everything happens for a reason."  For example, I intended to open my WiP as soon as I got home from the gym this morning.  I was willing to weather my own stink, forgoing a shower while the kids were in school so I could write in a quiet house.  But for some reason, I didn't.

Instead, I started reading the blogs on my blogroll.  Roni at *Fiction Groupie* had posted within the hour.  I clicked.  And there it was, the "reason" I hadn't jumped right into Overcome.  Roni's post, featuring Justine Dell.

It was as if Justine were looking right at me as she spoke.  Her topic on how to write effective back story -- including getting all of it (ALL back story) out of chapter one, couldn't have been more pertinent.  If you haven't read the post, please do.  Here's the link:  That Sneaky Backstory

In her discussion, Justine shared Donald Maas' advice from Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook.  His Number One tip that grabbed me by the shoulders and shook hard was this:  "In the first fifty pages of your novel, find any scene that establishes the setting, brings the players to the stage, sets up a situation, or that is otherwise backstory.  Put brackets around the material, or highlight it in your electronic file.  Cut and paste this material into chapter fifteen. Yes, chapter fifteen."  (The whole post is so good -- I hope you read it!)

Besides being eye-opening advice, for me, this led to several other questions.  For example, how long is fifty pages of a novel?  How long is one page?

I'm a novice novelist, so I know lots of you writer-readers are shouting the answer at me through your screens.  You've already been down this stretch of the path.  Since it's my first time, I'll share what I learned.

According to the first five websites Google suggested, industry standard preferred length is 250 words per page. Just to test this, I grabbed a recent book acquisition off the to-read pile, opened to a random page, and typed.  I found there were 247 words on that page.  Cool.

However, the text only covered ½ of the page.  You see, my preferred font has always been Calibri, size 11, with line spacing at 1.5.  I only double space between paragraphs.

When I changed the document to Times New Roman, 12 pt., double-spaced throughout, the text covered the page, exactly.

Now, I have a better idea how to gauge how far into my MS I am, and I can think more specifically about where the backstory, and other plot elements, should go.  I'm excited about the insight!

Here are some interesting articles regarding this topic:
William Shunn -- (Short Story Guidelines, but still applicable)

I know submitted manuscripts should follow each agent or publisher's specific guidelines.  But I'd love to know how you work with your manuscripts.  What font and size do you write your drafts in?  Do you reformat when sending your work to critique partners, for easier edit inserts?

Thanks, in advance, for sharing with me!


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Cyber BFFs in REAL life -- and a Blog Hop

Me, DL, and Summer

I had the enormous pleasure in meeting up with DL Hammons (Cruising Altitude) and Summer (...and this time concentrate!) for brunch on Saturday.  Summer and I had met once before, a couple weeks ago, but this was our first time meeting DL in person.  I was sooooo excited -- and we had a great time together!

Each of our significant others joined the party.  I hope Kim, Evan and Christian don't mind me putting their pics up.  (Call or email me, quick, if they do!)

Evan and Summer -- such a great couple
DL and Kim -- In town for the LSU game.  Sooo glad they proposed we get together while they were in ATL!
Christian and me -- I took this...we have a LOT of pics like this, taken of us, by us :P

We talked writing, about our lives, our kids, our jobs.  We shared many laughs.  I was so happy to be there, with them.  What a day!  And, DL gave me a copy of his MS, bound with a hardcover and awesome cover art.  I'm a chapter in already and loving it.  What an amazing souvenir for the day!

If you are new to my blog, or haven't met DL or Summer yet, please shoot over and follow them.  I've known both are talented writers, having read excerpts of their work on their blogs.  Now I know they are wonderful people, too!  Here are their links again:  DL's blog  and  Summer's blog

Can't wait until we get together again!!

Psst!  Do you know about Karen Gowen's blog hop this weekend?  If you've come here today by way of her blog, hello!  Welcome!  Anyone else, click HERE to get in on the action!

Happy Labor Day, everyone!!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Paranormalcy Conest Entry & Book Recs Galore!

[My entry for Kiersten White's At Home with Paranormalcy Contest is at the bottom of this post!]

Last night as I was cooking dinner, I realized it was September 2nd.  Normally, I know the date earlier in the day!  But this has been another busy week that's left me reeling in its wake.  (That's my story, at least, and I'm sticking to it.)  So why was I suddenly excited, as September 2nd seeped into my overloaded brain?  That's the date Amazon said my order would arrive.  I rushed out to the mailbox.

And there they were.  Not just a box from Amazon, but also an envelop from Shannon Messenger!

In Shannon's envelop was the ARC of Kathy Reichs' newest book, Virals, with a release date of November 2010.  I won this in one of Shannon's recent contests, which totally rocked my world -- and I didn't even know at the time that it was SIGNED.  Yes!  I'm a big Kathy Reichs fan, so having this ARC is sooo cool.  Thanks, Shannon!!!!

In the Amazon box was Nightshade City, by the lovely Hilary Wagner.  I have been anxiously awaiting this book.  Hilary is the kindest blogger/writer out there, and her artistic energy is evident in everything she writes.  As many of you know, Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series endorsed this book with a praising testimonial on the back cover.  How exciting for a debut author!!!  Way to go, Hilary, and I can't wait to read you book!

And the second book in my Amazon box was Kiersten White's breakout novel, Paranormalcy.  The buzz surrounding this book across the blogosphere and in major bookstores is incredible.  I read four pages of chapter one as I cooked dinner, and I was immediately hooked by main character Evie's voice.  She's funny, confident, bold, and exactly the kind of heroine I want to get behind and root for to the end.  I can't wait to read this one, as well!

Kiersten is having a contest on her blog (you can enter, too. HERE's the link).  In her words: "...until September 12th, you can enter the At Home with Paranormalcy contest! It's pretty simple. Buy Paranormalcy, take it home, and take a picture of yourself doing something with the book."  (And she gives hilarious examples to help inspire you)

So, here is my entry for Kiersten's contest! 

Me, cooking dinner with Paranormalcy!

And, don't miss out on the great prizes in these contest:

Theresa Milstein at Substitute Teachers Saga is giving away a SIGNED copy of Mockingjay!!  Seriously!  How awesome is she to share the spoils of her two-hour wait in line and let us help her celebrate her first blogging anniversary with this awesome contest??  CLICK HERE to enter before September 6th!

Jamie Burch at Dancing Down Serendipity Street is hosting the Moon Chasers Contest, with a prize package you won't want to miss (it includes chocolate, fyi).  CLICK HERE to enter before September 7th!

And Sarah Ahiers at Falen Formulates Fiction is celebrating her 200+ followers with a contest offering beautiful handmade journals for prizes.  Enter a poem for extra entries!  CLICK HERE for details before September 17th!

Do you know any contests I haven't mentioned?  Pimp them in the comment section.  Thanks in advance!

Happy Labor Day weekend, y'all!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Tick, Tock, Write a Lot

Just when I think life can't get any busier, I succumb to the urges of my sisters' long-standing, near-failed campaign to get me on FaceBook.  Reconnecting with my family at last week's funeral and baptism melted my resolve like ice cream in Georgia sun, and I can't seem to get enough of them.  Plus, I'm finding my college sorority sisters, who I haven't chatted with since before my Peace Corps years.  Okay, I admit it: I'm loving FB.  (Let the ridicule begin.)

It's never been more important than now to schedule my time, so that the writing rope I've been swinging on doesn't fray and snap.  Jessica Bell (The Alliterative Allomorph) to the rescue!  Jessica and I are newly formed critique partners, and I'm ecstatic about our partnership.  I've read some of her fiction and her poetry, and I "get" her. Probably because I write like her.  Our styles are similar, our preferred genres are in the same family, and our positions along our journeys are comparable.  (Except she's "more published" than I am :D)

We've discussed how much we can read/critique at a time and set up a regular schedule when we'll swap chapters.  This is good for me on so many levels.  First, it gives me much-needed deadlines.  I've always worked most efficiently and effectively with a looming deadline.  Second, it propels me into the revision stage with the chapters I've written, while pushing me to write the chapters I've outlined but haven't reached yet.  Since this is my first experience with a writing project of this magnitude, I've tried to listen to the advice of many successful authors and pen the entire first draft, before beginning the revision process.  But in all honesty, I don't think that's the best approach, for me.  I reach a certain point and just can't seem to move forward, for want of revising the early plot and character groundwork that isn't right (enough) for later chapters.

And, did I mention how excited I am to start reading Jessica's book??  I know the premise and have read excerpts.  Her characters are authentic and people I want to cheer on, my kind of people with tormenting inner conflicts and a support system that contributes to their problems more than helps them through.  She's brilliant, and if you don't follow her blog yet, here's the link again *wink* --->  The Alliterative Allomorph

In addition to my new writing schedule, I'm going to schedule time in every day for social networking and housework (in that order, LOL).  Otherwise, I'll sit here and converse on FB and tweet and read blogs, all day long.  Which I'd love to do, of course, but Overcome isn't going to write itself, is it?

What about you?  How do you schedule your time?  Do your writing/crit partners play a role in how you manage your time?