Friday, January 29, 2010

Do You Worry About Trends?

I'm sure you can name at least half a dozen books that feature one or more characters that would fall under the vampire, werewolf, wizard, faerie, fallen angel or whatever is hot at the moment category. Sure, it's easy because they all have taken the publishing world by storm. But do you find yourself trying to fit your stories into one of these categories because they are so popular?

I confess, when I was thinking of ideas for my first WIP, I tried to come up with a brilliant faerie idea. But I fell flat. Why? Because even though I have read some faerie books that rocked (Wicked Lovely and Wings), I'm not really that passionate about the subject matter. I mean, give me a good book with a cool premise and I will really dig it, but if it's not something I love, I can't think of anything to write about, much less something new and original.

So I fell back to a genre that I've always loved, no matter what. The good old dystopian (um, that didn't sound right, did it?). Anyways, you know the advice - write what you love, not what's popular. Folks, I started getting into dystopian books when I was in high school. Granted, I had to go to the adult sci/fi section to find them, but I devoured the ones that I could find. (Remember The Handmaid's Tale? Loved it!)

Well, now I've come across a few blogs lately that have said the dystopian novel is, well, hot right now in YA. I think The Hunger Games series is responsible for that. But, sheesh! Here I was thinking I was working on something relatively different and now I have to face the fact that agents are probably being swamped with this type of story. And at the rate I'm writing mine, the whole dystopian craze will most likely be considered yesterday's news by the time I'm ready to submit.

So what about you? Is your current WIP subject matter something that is considered trendy right now? Or is it something completely different? And how did you pick your subject matter?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Another Writing Epiphany

Okay, before the actual blog post I want to give a shout out to a wonderful blog that I've been following for a few months now. Janice Hardy, author of The Shifter, has some awesome advice for writers. I've spend some time checking out her posts and have found very useful tips. She covers a whole range of topics like opening lines, how to plan your book, and the importance of knowing where your characters are emotionally. So check it out - you won't be disappointed!

Sometimes when I'm staring at a blank screen on my laptop, wishing that blinking cursor would quit mocking me, I reach for my handy-dandy writing notebook. It's the one in which I have all of my writerly tips, inspiration and whatnot, secrets for writing the next Harry Potter. (Yeah, I wish!)

Well, last night was one of those I-don't-have-a-freaking-clue-what-to-write-next-I-suck-as-a-writer moments, so I procrastinated via the notebook. And I came across this gem that I had forgotten about.

**Plot is the mechanism by which your protagonist is pushed up against his or her core desires and/or fears. Stories have to be reducible to something concrete - almost always an intense desire or fear. (Courtesy of Writer's Digest Magazine)

And voila, everything made sense again. I am going to have to keep reminding myself on a daily basis what the whole story is about, what my main character wants above all else. That in itself will make it easier to get inside her head and really understand what choices she will make and more importantly why she makes them.

So do you know what your mc's core desires and fears are? Do you find that this knowledge makes it easier to write your story?

Monday, January 25, 2010

What I Learned This Weekend

Way back before Christmas, I purchased The Fire In Fiction by Donald Maass. I had intended to read it before now, but ya know things just got in the way. Anyway I finally started it this weekend and I'm about halfway through now. Can I just say that I'm loving this book! I've learned so much from the first part and I'm itching to finish it. Being the nerd that I am, I keep highlighter pens with me and highlight sentences or sections that I want to remember. And if there's something I really really really want to remember, I'll copy them down in my writing notebook. (I know, you don't have to tell me how weird that is).

One of the things I love about the book is that Maass uses tons of examples from literature to illustrate his points. I've always been one to learn by seeing how others do things, so this really helps me to crystallize the concepts in my mind. If I find a particularly good example, I draw a star next to it. (I did this kind of stuff in my college years. Don't know why, but it helps me when I want to remember something).

But there's one problem. When I hit the chapter about Scenes That Can't Be Cut I had one of those "Aha" moments. See, there was two key points that Maass made in this section that stood out:

1. Every scene needs two turning points - an outer turning point (or what actually happens to change your pov character) and an inner turning point (what the pov character learns and/or realizes).

2. You should identify your goals for each scene and make sure every element in every scene in some way makes the goals more likely or more remote.

Ya'll, it was like a light bulb clicked on in my head. All I could think was Have I been doing this so far in my WIP? I couldn't get this out of my head. And on Sunday I decided I couldn't write any new words until I knew for sure (I'm a little obsessive-compulsive about stuff like this). So I got out my notebook and proceeded to write a one page summary of each chapter I have completed so far. Then I tried to identify my goals for each section and the two turning points. Folks, let me tell you this took for-ev-er. Like about three hours to finish. Well, I do have three kids who like my attention:)

But in the end, it was sooooo worth it. I discovered that I was on the right path for some chapters, but I have A LOT to fix. I even remembered I had a character at the beginning of my ms who I haven't even mentioned again. Got to decide if I'm gonna bring her back in some way or just delete her. Then there's the whole info-dump, backstory riddled chapter 1. *turns bright red and cringes* By doing this exercise, I found a few places in which I could sprinkle that backstory to make things more interesting. Now I'm fighting the urge to go back and fix all of those things. I'm afraid if I do that then I'll never finish the first draft. *bangs head against desk*

So for now I'm going to *try* to resist the urge to edit and move forward. Yes, I know I have a lot of crap to fix, but I know it can be done. And the good thing is that I can use these two key points to make sure I do a better job of writing the last half of my WIP.

Alright people, here's the questions. How do you know if you're on the right track in your WIP? Do you use these key points to help you when writing? Do you have any writing resources or tips you would like to share?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

An Hour Of Pure Happiness

So yesterday I had to get out of the house and take my youngest for a checkup. Two hours of sheer hades doing that (which consisted of one hour chasing her around the waiting room and another hour in the back room waiting for the actual exam and shots. Fun times I tell ya.)

As I exited said doctor's office, I thought I need a break before I head back to the house. Now I can't take the kid just anywhere, but where can I go so I can relax while she's with me? Of course, I made a beeline for my happy place. Where is that (you may ask)? Well, let's say it together: BARNES AND NOBLE!

I could feel the tension just melt away as I pulled into the parking lot. People who happened to notice me must have thought I was a bit loopy because of the huge grin plastered on my face. I got the stroller out, plopped my daughter in, and practically flew inside. I don't know about you, but when I first enter the store I stop for a moment and just inhale. I mean, there's nothing like the scent of all those new books surrounding me!

I proceeded to spend the next hour walking around in peace, browsing through the selections. I was in heaven! One, there wasn't a lot of people in there, unlike Saturdays when you can barely move. Two, every single person in the store always behaves in a civilized manner. Have you ever noticed that? No hollering at kids (the few that I saw were very quiet). Even my child behaved:) Come to think of it, I didn't hear any raised voices period. Unlike trips to Wally World, um, Walmart where you may come across God knows what kind of behavior in the customers. Yeah, you know what I'm talking about:)

So, after all that browsing, I decided on three books: The Dark Devine by Bree Despain, Fallen by Lauren Kate, and The Breach by Patrick Lee. I heard about the first two by reading blogs, but I first learned of The Breach on Twitter. A few people who I'm following tweeted last week about how good it was. Now to decide which one to read first.

So have you spent any time at your happy place lately? And have you read any of the books I selected? Which one would you recommend that I read first?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I'm So Happy!

A huge thank you to the wonderful Tricia at Talespinning who awarded me with this Happy Award! Doesn't it make you smile when you look at it? I mean, it has cupcakes and sprinkles. That's enough to put anyone in a great mood:)

So now I'm supposed to share ten things that make me happy. So in no order of preference, I present:

1. My family - I wouldn't be the person I am today without them.

2. Books - My lifelong love of reading is what ultimately led me to the path of writing.

3. Barnes and Noble - My favorite place to go when I'm shopping. Even if I'm stressed (from carrying all of my kids with me), a visit to B & N ALWAYS puts a huge smile on my face.

4. Chocolate - Oh, how I love thee, my precious.! From chocolate bars, to chocolate cakes (and cupcakes), hot cocoa, chocolate covered pretzels, fudge, and many more that I can't think of right now cause I'm drooling too what was I saying? Oh, yeah, I'll never give you up!

5. Dr Pepper - I drink way too much of this late at night to keep me awake so I can write.

6. Vacations - Whether we're heading to the mountains of North Carolina/Tennessee or going to the beaches of South Carolina, I loooooove getting away for a few days. It's always nice to have a change of scenery:)

7. Lost - I can't wait for the new season to start!

8. The Weekends - Cause I get to sleep in late.

9. Date Nights - I don't get to have date nights with my husband too much (very difficult to find a babysitter for three kids). But when we do it's fabulous. We get to eat supper and watch a movie with no whining, crying, or fighting. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE my kids but sometimes a girl needs a break:)

10. My Blogging Friends - It's such a great feeling to have friends who share the same passion for writing that I have. You guys get me (and I get you too)! I can talk about things with ya'll that cause most people to smile and nod politely while the glazed-over look appears in their eyes. So you guys ROCK!

Now to pass this award on to some blogs that always make me happy. Feel free to pass this along or not - it's up to you.

**Carol at Carol's Prints
**Kristi Faith at Random Acts of Writing
**Elle Strauss
**Elana Johnson
**Amber at Musings of Amber Murphy

Okay, I hope everyone has a very happy day!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

How Characters Change

I've been reading a lot lately about how agents/editors want to see how your characters grow or change over time. So I've been going back over what I've written so far in my WIP to see if I've started doing this. Now I'm smack dab in the middle of my book, so the overall growth isn't apparent yet. But I am a little concerned because I've figured out that my mc has not changed very much since the beginning. *sighs*

So I went back to a book that I read over the summer called Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card. I flipped through and read some of the parts that I highlighted and found a chapter about transformations. Card said that there are three themes when it comes to characters in fiction.

**Your stories can include characters who do not change over the course of your story.

**Your stories can have characters who appear to change but in reality are just being true to themselves (before they were pretending to be one thing or they did not have the opportunity to reveal their true selves).

**Your stories could be about people who cannot change until they figure out their true nature (when they figure this out they change their outward lives to reflect their newly discovered inner self).

**Characters in your stories can change because of their drives and desires .

**Characters change because of the way they're treated by other characters.

**Characters can change themselves because of an act of will.

Now at first glance I thought my mc would have to change the most because of the second theme. She has a lot of external factors forcing her hand right now and I think I can play this up more. But the third theme is one that I want to explore with her. I think this will really help readers click more with her on a personal level. But the next thing I have to consider is how to justify these changes. And that's for another post:)

So what do you think about the themes for character change that Card has given? Do you think they could really help in making your characters more believable and sympathetic?

Friday, January 15, 2010

What's Your Genre?

One of my New Year's goals was to post my weekly word count for you. Didn't do that last week because I kept hitting the delete button. But this week I can report that I have 2,745 new words. Yeah, not a lot but it's better than nothing. Must learn to curb this blogging addiction I have:)

Lately, I've been curious about sticking to one genre when writing. I've mentioned before that my current WIP is a YA dystopian. But I have other ideas and they all seem to fall under the speculative fiction umbrella. And they are all YA. I even have a notebook in which I write ideas as they come to me. As I was looking through it the other day , I found something a little different. It was from a dream I had last year (yeah I occasionally dream about something that I actually remember in the morning). But this one had nothing to do with teenagers. In fact I would say that it would be more of a comedy. Now that's weird for me because I am not that funny when writing. I can crack a joke here and there when I'm talking to someone, but I've discovered my writing voice is more serious. So where am I going with this? Well, I'm not sure. I guess I'm trying to figure out if this could be something I could develop later on.

I've heard of some authors sticking to one genre when they first start out, but then they use a pseudonym when they branch out to different things. One author that comes to mind is Nora Roberts. I've read a lot of her romance books, but I know that she has a totally different series that she writes using a different name (I think it's J.D. Robb).

What about you? Do all of your writing projects stay within the same genre? Or do you write under a wide variety of topics?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

On Staying Positive (Plus Some More Great Contests!)

There are contests everywhere! I found two more since my last post. The first one is by Roni at Fiction Groupie. Two winners will receive their choice of a first ten page critique or a query critique. The contest closes on January 15 and winners will be announced on Monday.

The second is given by Jenn Johansson. She's reached 100 followers on her blog, so she's going to let the winner of her contest choose any author who will be attending the Life, the Universe, and Everything conference (LTUE) and she will get their book and have it autographed. Sweet deal! The winner will be announced on Monday, January 18. So hurry and enter both!

For my post today, I want to discuss ways to stay positive when you hit a slump. Since I went through one of these recently, I've had the opportunity to try several different things. Some of the ones that I tried that did help are as follows:

1. Get out of the house. Staying inside and dwelling on the negative will just make things seem so much worse than they really are.

2. Read a book. It's true. When you can lose yourself in someone else's adventures/loves/woes, you can forget about your own problems for a while.

3. Watch a great movie/t.v. program. Much like reading a book, you can immerse yourself in someone else's life or even learn something new. (Got an idea to help me with my current WIP by doing this, too)

4. Visit writing-related blogs. Perhaps I did this too much, but visiting blogs of fellow writers always makes me feel better. I can get inspiration, advice, or even a good laugh from ya'll.

5. Spend time with family and friends. It's tempting to want to sit and think about your WIP all of the time when you're in a slump, but sometimes you just need to step away and live your life. And nobody knows you better than your family and friends, so go out and interact with them. And who knows, you may pick up just the right snippet of conversation or observe something brilliant that will get the creative juices flowing again.

These are just a few things I've tried, but there are many more out there. What have you done to stay positive during a slump?

Monday, January 11, 2010

The History Channel Rocks!

So on my last blog post, I admitted to being stuck. Not just "Oh, I don't know what to write next" kind of stuck. I'm talking "HOLY STINKING COW I DON'T HAVE A CLUE WHAT TO DO NEXT AND I HAVEN'T WRITTEN A THING IN WEEKS" kind of stuck. Folks, I was on the verge of throwing in the towel. Putting my ms away and working on something new. And I was riddled with the "You're never gonna write anything worthwhile so why are you wasting time even trying to do this" paranoia that sometimes hits us all. **And before I write one more word, a ginormous THANK YOU to everybody who commented and gave me such fabulous advice. You guys are the best!!!!!**

So on Friday, after the kids and husband were sent to bed, I had a few hours to write. But I didn't. The thought of sitting in front of the computer and staring at the last few pages I did write was making me feel sort of pukey. So I decided to channel surf. I know, bad writer. Last thing you should do. But it turned out to be the BEST thing I could have done. I got to the History Channel and saw one of those programs for dealing with what you should do after a disaster (or in this case, an apocalypse). And something clicked. I thought Hey, You're writing a dystopian novel. Maybe you should check this out. And man, oh, man I struck gold. Not only did I get a great idea for how to get my characters to where they need to go next, I also jotted down some other facts. (Yeah, I ran and got my notebook and took notes, people. I'm a dork like that). So there you have it. Chapter 13 is almost complete. Just a little more tweaking and I can finally send it to my crit group. *Pumps fist in the air*

So has there been any time that you watched a program on t.v. or a movie and had a breakthrough with your ms? Or did the initial idea for one of your books come from something you watched? I'd love to know:)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Official No-Kiss Blogfest!

Wow, it seems like I was just posting a scene for the Kissing Day Blogfest. I don't know about you, but I had a blast reading everyone's entries. So I've been looking forward to the No-Kiss Blogfest ever since I first heard about it:) A huge shout out to Frankie for hosting it! And it's definitely not too late to join the fun. Just pop over to her blog and sign your name to the Mr. Linky so everyone can find your scene.

Now on to my contribution. I have exactly two kissing scenes in my WIP so far, but no almost- kisses. Therefore, I had to write this one just for today's festivities. I decided to include my mc Eden and a new guy named Lucas (who I have not even introduced yet in my WIP). Lucas is a mystery to Eden. She knows very little about him, other than the fact that he wants to protect her. To set up the scene, Eden and Lucas are hiding out in a forest. She's on the run from the group who controls the walled city in which she used to live, and she has been separated from her younger sister Noren and her boyfriend David.

Despite the fact that Lucas and I have been walking most of the day, sleep continues to elude me. Dreams filled with images of Noren's capture always see to that . It's been several weeks since she was taken, but I can still hear her frightened screams piercing the air. And I remember David's promise that he would bring her back.

I roll over expecting to see Lucas stretched out next to me, but he's nowhere in sight. My heart starts to race, and I frantically sit up. Where is he?

Moonlight filters through the trees, bathing the area in a soft glow. I scan the area, trying to figure out where he has gone. The sound of a twig snapping startles me, and my head whips around, searching for any threat.

A small sigh escapes me when I see Lucas emerging from the shadows.

"Where have you been?" I hiss. "You scared me to death."

A half-smile plays across his lips as he strolls toward me. He stops just in front of me, hands on hips, and says, "Why? Did you miss me?"

I scowl at him as he sits next to me. He flashes a huge grin at me now, one that always lights up his whole face. My pulse starts to quicken again, but this time not in fear. I close my eyes and take a few deep breaths, trying to steady myself. What's wrong with me? Why am I feeling like this?

I open my eyes to find Lucas staring at me with an intensity that almost causes me to forget how to breathe.

"Are you all right?" he asks.

"Yes, I was scared, that's all. I woke up and you were gone."

He reaches over and gently puts his hand over mine. His touch sends an electric jolt up my arm and throughout my whole body. I shiver slightly, but it's enough for Lucas to notice. He slides closer and puts an arm around me, drawing me into his warmth.

"I thought I heard something so I went to check it out," he whispers. His face is just a few inches away from mine.

"Oh, okay," I manage to choke out.

"Eden, there's something you need to know."

My brow furrows in confusion as I look up at him. He picks my hand up and places it against his chest. Expecting to feel the steady rhythm of his heart, I'm startled to feel it pounding against my palm.

"I don't understand," I say.

"You do this to me. I even felt like this when we first met."

My breathing quickens as he leans in even closer. He traces a finger down the side of my cheek and across my lips. But just as he is about to kiss me, an image fills my mind. David.

A sinking feeling takes root in my chest, dousing the desire I feel. Shaking my head, I pull back and jump to my feet. "I'm sorry. I can't do this."

Well, what do you think? Sorry for any excessive -ly words that may be in here, but I wrote this yesterday. Like I said, this scene uses characters from my WIP, but I don't know if it will actually be used. Only time will tell:)

Friday, January 1, 2010

So Glad You're Here, 2010!

Before I forget to mention this, don't forget to sign up for the Official No-Kiss Blogfest over at Frankie's blog. Put your name in the Mr. Linky so we can all check out your fabulous almost kissing scene. *Smacks self on forehead because I just realized that I don't have an almost kiss scene in my WIP so I've got to write one today*

Moving on...I'm so glad that 2010 is finally here. Not that 2009 was a bad year. Really, it wasn't. After all, it's the year I started writing:) But there's something about the promise a new year brings. So many things we can dream about and potentially do because this chapter of our lives is still unwritten.

So in honor of the awesomeness that 2010 is sure to bring, I am going to officially declare my goals. To keep things simple, I'm going to divide mine into two categories.

Things That I Can Control

*I will try to write every day. Every. Single. Day. I'm not gonna put a word count on it because some days I'm doing good to get 500 words, so will leave it at that.
*I will post my total word count once a week on this blog (ya know, the accountability thing).
*Finish my WIP before March. (I sooo wish I could do this by the end of January, but I've discovered that I'm NOT a fast writer).
*Have revisions complete by June (keeps fingers crossed on this one).
*Make sure my WIP is the best it can possible be before I even THINK about querying it.
*Learn how to write a query letter and a synopsis.
*If I feel that my WIP is good enough (ie. not a trunk novel), I will query agents (again, not gonna put a time frame on this one, sometime this year is good enough).
*I will start another book and try to have it complete before the year ends.
*Save, save, save, and save some more money so I can attend a writer's conference. (Would really LOVE to go to the SCBWI conference this summer).

Things That I REALLY Want To Happen ( Or Things I Have No Control Over)

*Snag the most awesome agent ever (Who could that be?)
*Have a huge bidding war over my book (and the two unwritten sequels)
*Get a ginormous advance for my series.
*Sell movie rights to my book and have major Hollywood actors/actresses fighting to get a part in it.

Okay, now that you've had your laugh for the day, what do you wish could happen in 2010? And are you up for the No-Kiss Blogfest?