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Showing posts from March, 2013

Yoga for Writers - Pigeon Pose

This simple posture is excellent for releasing tension in the hips and relieving back pain. Try the level that best suits your flexibility.  

What's Your Favorite Fantasy Flavor?

Last month’s posting , I speculated that the appeal of Fantasy literature resides in its orientation toward hope.  The nature of this hope is possibly vested in the fact that fantasy fiction externalizes the trials of the human spirit, and affirms the value of the individual.  Over the decades, various sub-genres have emerged.  Like ice-cream, there’s a flavor to suit every taste.  Below are some of the favorites. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings established the template for Epic Fantasy . Heroic in scope and simple in its conventions, Epic Fantasy takes place in a fully realized imaginary setting, complete with its own geography, history, languages, races, and powers.  The plot is linear, often involving a long and dangerous journey over great distances.  Action is either episodic (featuring a series of mini-adventures) or heroic (featuring large-scale battles between rival armies).  The cast often includes non-human characters (elves, dwarves, etc.), and the principle char

Readers, Writers, and Pressing the Flesh

Writing tends to be a solitary profession. It's just you and your manuscript. But sometimes it's good to get out and mingle with people other than your characters. When I started writing, it was all about learning the craft. I hooked up with a critique group, joined my local chapter of Romance Writers of America (even though I didn't think I was writing a romance—people recommended the organization because it covers all aspects of writing), and kept writing. And submitting. My critique group encouraged me to attend a local conference for writers, and although they practically had to drag me along, I found these gatherings of writers were wonderful places to exchange ideas and learn more about the craft. There was a kind of "relief" to see so many people in the same situation as I was. Kind of like when I attended my first "Mothers of Twins" meeting and found out I wasn't alone. Fast-forward a few years, and I had a few published books to my name. N

Author Visits that Impress and Inspire

Image: schoollibraryjournal.com No two authors are exactly the same, so it makes sense to realize that no two author presentations are going to be the same either. However, there are certain hopes and expectations that the author visit will be good, that it will be relevant , and that above all, it will be inspiring, regardless of whether the visit is in-person in the classroom, or virtual via a web module like Skype . As a teacher, I have the benefit of being able to understand both sides of an author visit. In today's economic environment where schools have tighter budgets and fewer teaching days, providing an author visit that meets and exceeds expectations is more crucial than ever before, especially if you'd like to garner additional visits. It's not enough to simply think that carrying the title of "I’m an author," and waving your books is all you'll need to bring your audience to their knees in rapt attention. In today's multi-media, multi-

The Top Five Things My Editor Taught Me

Have you ever felt damned by a cold inward stare as you try to write to the  tsk, tsk tsk of your inner critic? Time and time again we hear that working with a developmental editor can replace that destructive little devil with a constructive inner guru. Here's testimony from one such client. Please welcome guest author Donna Galanti ! We may write alone, but we can’t get published alone. A developmental editor can help you see the power in your story as well as improve your own self-editing. Here are the top five things my editor has taught me: 1. Backstory’s purpose is to motivate your characters for the story they are in now. Weave it into your story organically by slipping through portals like sense memories, pictures, setting, or unique phrases. Include only backstory that deepens the character’s story goal and/or reveals character. Continuity words like  never, always, still,  and  another  suggest your character's world before the opening of this story. Example:  M

Making a Thriller

We continue with our story seed featuring Dick, love interest Sally, bossy Jane, jealous Ted, and the meteor streaking toward earth. If we select the Thriller and Suspense skeleton, the overall story problem becomes the catastrophic danger that must be averted: the meteor. Dick’s rivalry with Ted, pressure from Jane, and relationship with Sally create interpersonal and antagonistic obstacles to solving the overall story problem of the meteor. The meteor itself is not an effective antagonist. A member of the cast, perhaps Ted or Jane, serves  as the person standing in the way of Dick’s successful resolution. If we choose the Conspiracy Thriller, Dick fears there is a powerful group behind the meteor strike. Dick navigates the maze of conflicting information until he ends the threat to his world. Meanwhile, Ted and Jane make this difficult while Sally either helps or hinders. If we choose the Crime Thriller, there is an element of mystery that Dick must solve. There is a crim

Yoga for the Hands

A very simple yet challenging exercise to increase circulation and flexibility in the hands. Terrific for writers!

Save the Cat Beat Sheet Cheat Spreadsheet

This post first ran on Friday, March 22, 2013. I've been making use of Elizabeth Davis's spreadsheet for nine months now and have found it extremely useful and effective. If you haven't explored this tool yet, give it a go as you edit your NaNo novel. Save the Cat by Blake Snyder is one of the quintessential writing craft books used not only by screenwriters, for whom it was written, but by fiction writers of all flavours and varieties. Snyder's system of working a screenplay into specific story beats has been a particularly useful tool for screenwriters. Elizabeth Davis has kindly done the necessary calculations to convert the screenplay beat sheet into a beat sheet for novels, available as an Excel spreadsheet (don't be put off by that - it is the easiest spreadsheet you'll ever use: you type in one number and hit Enter). You can download a copy of Elizabeth's Save the Cat Beat Sheet for Novels here . Jami Gold has written an excellent post on

Reaching Out

Nowadays, being a writer means spending so much time on the periphery of writing that it's hard to remember the only way to sell books is to write books. We're expected to maintain an Internet presence, interact with readers, and keep our names in front of people. And, I'll confess, often it's fun to spend a little time tweeting, or seeing what our friends are doing on Facebook. Unless you're disciplined and set a timer, it's easy to look up at the clock and see you've frittered away an hour. Or three. Word With Friends is not even "pseudo" writing time. One approach many writers have taken is to band together to help expand their reach. And it is about reach , not sales. If your goal is solely to sell books, you're likely to be frustrated. Unless you're a Big Name Author whose next release is highly anticipated, makes the best-seller list before it's even released, and have a publisher that markets you and your book, odds are, v

What Makes One A Writer

Anybody can write a book, no? Sure, anybody can type enough words to fill up a standard-sized bound set of pages.    But as anyone who has stuck it out can second, the initial inspiration is just the place from which you start.   The psychological aspects of writing are such that most people who continue on in the process are probably garden-variety crazy.   I mean, here’s a job description for you. Wanted, worker who will: 1). Set grandiose goals, with some insane notion of actually realizing them 2). Work all hours, especially those in the dark of night when some idiosyncratic character quirk wakes one from a peaceful and much-needed sleep, demanding to be immediately jotted down or risk the horror of being forgotten 3). Remains willing to work in complete obscurity for long periods (months into years) before anyone sees the first word 4). Can tolerate an even much-longer time frame before said product is introduced to the public 5). Answers all

What's Common Isn't Always Good

Hello again, lovies! Having paid exorbitant fees for produce this weekend, I’ve been inspired to try comparing apples to oranges. Figuratively speaking, that is. I once had the ghastly misfortune to work with a newspaper editor who insisted on mixing up words like affect and effect , or whoever and whomever in various stories. He claimed that it was perfectly fine, because “people talk like that.” I speculated (silently) that he was descended from cave slugs. Common usage doesn’t always mean proper usage. Leggings and crinolines might be all the rage in 8o’s music videos, but don’t even think about sporting such attire at a formal gathering. The CMOS offers a lengthy list of words and phrases that can send even the most prolific writers thumbing through a dictionary. Shall we try a little quiz? Like a bad hat, take the answers straight from the top of your head. Given a choice between abjure and adjure , which word would you choose to denote renunciation under oath

Tricking the Block

Here’s a tip I got from Natalie Goldberg about what to do when you stare at the blank screen or paper and can’t think of anything to write. Write for five minutes, or two pages, or whatever metric appeals to you, and start every sentence with “I want to write about …” and let your hand fill in the rest. She recommends you do this exercise in longhand, so that’s what I do. Trust me, your mind hates sentences with subjects and no predicates. It will fill something in, and then you too will know. Here’s what I wrote the last time this happened to me: I want to write about big meaningful stuff that shouts “Wisdom! Wisdom! Get Your Red Hot Wisdom Here!” I want to write about how we’re all swamped by our own loneliness and how joy and fear co-exist, living together in a too-small overstuffed apartment in my head. I want to write about how life calls for courage, we have no choice but to be courageous or die. I want to write about my cat using the couch as a scratching post even though she

How Your Blog Network Will Help Your Kickstarter Succeed

Interested in raising money for your next self-publishing or under-funded traditional publishing project? You should definitely look into using the new sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo that allow you to raise money from potential readers. However, contrary to popular belief, you can't just throw a page up on a crowdfunding platform and watch the funds roll in. There are several reasons that having an established network of bloggers will help your project succeed. They’ll Let You Guest Post If you’re going to do a crowdfunding project, you have to get ready to write. A lot! Sure, as an author you know what it’s like to chain yourself to the keyboard, but you’ll most likely have to put your own literary endeavors aside as you promote yourself with guest posts across the blogosphere. Before you launch your project, you’ll want to make sure that you have a collection of unique ideas that you can write up for the bloggers on your list. New takes on the art of writing

Putting Yourself into Your Book

Everyone knows that if you write fiction, then you write fiction. You don't put yourself into your book. And, yet, most of us do just that. We put ourselves into our books. Think of the lawyers who write legal thrillers. They put bits and pieces of themselves in their book. They write from their experience and knowledge. What they know goes into the story. They may even base their protagonist on themselves or on friends or acquaintances. I'm an ex-mermaid who wrote a book, Angel Sometimes , with a protagonist who is a mermaid. The character, Angel, is very different from me. But the things she does as a mermaid -- ballet moves under water, picnicking underwater -- those things are from me. In effect, I taught her how to do those things. I taught her how to eat and drink underwater, how to do synchronize ballet. On the other hand, there are a lot of differences between us. I swam at a resort, Aquarena Springs. Angel swims at a bar/restaurant. I was in an open environment. Sh

Time Out For a Little Fun

Mid-month seems like a good time to stop and have some fun here at The Blood-Red Pencil. First for today are some recent comic strips that made me laugh, or made me think, or both. From One Big Happy : Nick and Rose, Ruthie's grandparents, are sitting on the couch watching TV. Nick asks, "What channel is this?" "A & E, Arts and Entertainment." Nick adjusts his glasses as if he can't believe what he is seeing. "For the past hour we've been watching a deranged woman living in a cluttered, rat-infested house." Then he turns to Rose and asks, "So, is this art or entertainment?" Of course she has no answer. This one from Zits was cute: Jeremy is at school and at 10a.m. he has a history test. "Easy," he thinks. At 1p.m. he has a calculus quiz which he considers "No sweat." His 2:45 English test is a "Piece of cake." At 4p.m. he meets his girlfriend, Sara, who has a "How well do you

Two Simple Ways to Give Your Stories Sparkle

Horror! The last typewriter factory in Britain has just closed its doors. This month, without a clatter of protest, the west has succumbed to Microsoft Word. Courtesy of MorgueFile How can this fateful event help us to write better stories? Please allow me a moment to digress... With the demise of IBM Selectrics and their manual predecessors, we must finally say goodbye to those days when our every ms was as finely worked as a medieval palimpsest. Do you remember that era? Our pages were weighted down by correction fluid, stained by coffee and smudged by erasers. (Grey ones for top sheets, pink ones for carbon copies.) Fast forward to the present day. The typewriter is dead. So what? Its demise is not just a trivial footnote in history. It marks a radical change in the way you and I think. Up to the 20th century, writers had a tangible and direct relationship with their work. Everything came out of the tip of a pen. Writing was a sensual experience. Typesetters went bl

Writing in 140: Get Out Of Your Story's Way

“Let the story tell itself.” – Author Tim O’Brien Want to write a great story? Get out of its way. Your story isn’t about you. Characters might share facets of your personality. Issues you care about might be woven throughout the story. However, the story is about your characters and their conflicts, obstacles, drama, decisions. Give your story center stage. Show, don’t tell: avoid adding comments and clarifications and over-explaining setting and characters’ thoughts and actions. Develop unique metaphors and similes that tie into your story: the setting, characters. Let the story unfold as it needs for the characters present – not how you want it to unfold. Readers don’t want coincidences; they want consequences authentic to the story being told. Focus on the story , and it will be told – not your version of it. ----- Writing in 140 is my attempt to say something somewhat relevant about writing in 140 words or less. Shon Bacon is an author, doctoral candidate, e

Yoga for Your Aching Back

If you spend too many hours hunched over your writing, this is a good pose to practice daily.  

Countdown to a Book 6: From Writer to Author

During the twelve years I’ve been preparing to publish my fiction, I have not spent every waking hour mooning over what publication may hold in my future. Instead, around the theme of writing, I created a rich, fulfilling life that has fed me in so many ways. Too many ways, it would seem, to fit my current circumstance. I have arrived at the threshold of my dream; all is about to unfold. photo credit:  DavidTurnbull  via  photopin   cc And I can’t find the time to write. Oops. Now that I finally have a book deal, I haven’t been able to maintain focus on my work-in-progress for more than a day or two at a time for months now. Editing jobs I've promised in two weeks are stretching to three+. I’m not keeping up. I live in fear of letting someone—especially myself—down. Here were the components of my life pre-book deal. All are still in full swing, in demand, and not ready to release their grip on my life: writing developmental editing for clients leading

Dressing Up Your Romance

We continue with our story about Dick, love-interest Sally, bossy Jane, jealous Ted, and the meteor streaking toward Earth. If we select the Romance skeleton, the focus is on Dick meeting, possessing, or losing the object of his affection: Sally. The meteor, Jane, and Ted present obstacles to this goal. Let’s look at different ways to dress up your plot skeleton. You can add the Contemporary Romance jacket. This is defined by the time period. The obstacles to their love occur post World War II to modern day. It is often combined with, or related to, the term women’s fiction . Ted wants Sally, or Jane wants Sally. Jealousy and rivalry keep Dick from achieving his goal. The impending meteor strike adds an element of anxiety. At the final turning point, Dick saves the day and wins Sally's heart forever. Sally and/or Jane saves the day if you want to add a feminist touch. If you add the Historical Romance mantle, it means that the obstacles to love occurred prior to World War

10 Signs You're *Not* in The Zone

Every writer dreams of being in The Zone - that magical place where words and ideas flow. There's a reason it's a dream because for many of us (myself most definitely included), our visits there are too few and far too fleeting. Here are ten signs that you too, my sister (or brother), are most assuredly not in The Zone: 10. Just one more game of Solitaire (or Free cell or Angry Birds or...). Just one. Oops, where did that hour go? 9. Notice you've used the word 'pretty' twice. Not in the same paragraph; the same sentence . 8. (If you write mysteries) your sleuth is about to have his/her big 'aha' moment. This is when you realize there is no logical way they could have leaped to the solution. 7. Realize your fingers are cramping because they've been frozen over the keyboard for such a long time. 6. It's been so long since you've looked at your WIP that when you actually open up the document you have to spend  considerable time  re-re

What's In a Name - Blog Name Characteristics

Continuing on with the theme of What's in a Name, today let's explore Blog Names. To attract readers, a blog name might contain some or all of these characteristics: 1. Be catchy  2. Be easy to remember 3. Convey at least a hint of the blog's purpose 4. Be part of the url  Let's examine three of my blogs to see how they stack up: Sweet Not Spicy ,  Make Mine Mystery  and  Spunky Senior Authors and Talents . I'll also indicate how I handled the placing of the names. (The Sweet Not Spicy blog header contains the name of the blog as part of the header.) Catchiness is somewhat subjective, but I personally like alliteration. I've used it in Sweet Not Spicy and Make Mine Mystery  as one way to make the names seem catchy. Since the names are short, they should be easy enough to remember.  (You can't tell here, but the Make Mine Mystery blog name is in Blogger's white font interposed over the header picture, and not part of the picture itself.) By gla