Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - Victorian Steampunk Name Generator

Yes, this time it's a name generator, but I really like this one. Victorian Steampunk.  I've tried it out in various configurations and it's come up with some fun and interesting suggestions. Names can be difficult to decide on, give yourself some options.  Have some fun and find the perfect name for your character Victorian, Steampunk or not.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Prepping To Write Your Novel

You're getting ready to write your novel.  You're about to sit down at your computer and face the blank screen.  Your pens and pencils are in a row, there's a note pad beside you to jot down little things as they occure to you (or you have a couple of screens open on your computer, one for your serious work and one for notes and jottings; doesn't work  for me that way, but might for you). 

Everything is set, right? 


But wait, you have to check your Email, the telephone rings, a friend stops by, you have a noisy roommate who starts up with the stereo, you need to research on the web and go surfing off on some interesting page.

What you need is a short list of instructions on what to do before you start and I'm just the one to give them to you.   Pretty basic, but tack them on your wall. 

The lucky 7 to get you started writing your novel.

Here goes.

1.    Let your answering machine get your phone messages.  Don't answer it.  Or, better yet, turn the darn thing off during the time you have to write.  Unless you're expecting a call of great importance, what can't wait?

2.    Talk to family members or room mates. Let them know how important this is to you and while you don't expect them to walk on egg shells, you'd appreciate it if they didn't burst into your writing space and if they'd keep it down in the noise department during the time you write. Be nice, be firm.

3.    Presuming you work on your computer as most of us do, log off the internet and don't allow yourself to check email or surf the web until you're done writing. Doing this removes one possible avenue of procrastination. If you must do some research, log on, focus on what you need to know, keeping yourself firmly in hand and immediately log off again.

4.    If possible, try to write at the same time each day.  This creates a good habit and your brain becomes accustomed to the routine and gets into the groove.  If it's not possible you'll adjust and live with it.

5.    If you're like many writers and have a limited time to dedicate to your writing you might think about putting a timer on your desk, setting it, and not thinking about the time until that little beeper or bell sounds. It'll help you unfocus on 'how little time is left!' and focus on the writing before you. This also helps to keep little kids at bay once they understand they can't interrupt you until the timer goes off.

6.    If you're a lone writer, skip this one.  For those of you who have friends who are writers or perhaps belong to a writing group you could consider creating a challenge to keep yourselves writing - like 90 days to write your novel! Then check in with each other to see how you're doing.  You write what you write all by your lonesome (unless you're the collaborative type), but if you're open to the critical eyes of others and can benefit by an outlet where you can reinforce each other, complain and inspire each other, then go this route.

7.     This may be sacrilege to some, but consider watching a whole lot less TV while you're writing your novel. TV isn't a good place to encourage your brain to generate great ideas.  Books are. A writer reads. A lot.

Few of those who set out to write  novel ever actually finish it. Set yourself up for success.  Be one of the few, the bold, the focused, who actually get the novel in your head out onto computer screen and paper. 

Good luck!


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - Dr. Wicked's Write or Die

Okay folks, this is a fun site and if you need to give yourself a bit of a prod and push with your writing then Dr. Wicked's Write Or Die is definitely for you. You can buy the Desktop edition for $10 or you can use the Write Or Die online version free.  (both of which are on the right hand side) Obviously I recommend you use the free version first to get a feel for the thing.  Go ahead, push yourself - make yourself meet your writing goals.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Not Believable? Dump it!

I'm in the middle of putting together a class on Romance Writing which will be offered on the ground and shortly online and it got me to thinking about all writing since I write in several genres - romance, western, sci-fi/fantasy and screenplays. 

What's one general rule I can talk about that's at the heart of writing your story?

I came up with this simple statement: if it isn't believable, it doesn't belong in your story.  Dump it. 
Your reader's trance and indeed the world you create can be instantly shattered when some element you've created in your story (impossible or not) comes across as unbelievable.

Doesn't matter what kind of story you've written, how far out, how close to home, how extreme the world you've created, your reader comes to that story wanting to believe it. They're not suspending disbelief, they're embracing yours.

Your reader doesn't want to consciously set aside his or her belief, but rather wants to engage in the story you've created, live in the world of your making and believe in everything you, as the writer have created to make  your world real.

With readers ready, eager even, to immerse themselves in deep belief in what you've created your goal is to keep their belief alive throughout the story.

So, consider the world you've created. What are the parameters that define it?

For example, you've created a world that's made up entirely of water.  There's no land - anywhere. You've brought that world to life and your reader accepts that world as being very real - but now you have to remain very consistent. The people who populate your world, living on rafts or in bubbles or above the waves in cloud homes will have to deal with that world as you've created it.  If you suddenly toss in something to make your story a bit easier the consistency is shattered.

If you break the consistency, if you suddenly throw in a chain of islands or change directions and suddenly make it known there was land there all the time, your reader is going to be caught short, probably begin to lose interest and most likely stop reading.

Or, worse, he may become distracted from your story by beginning to look for inconsistencies you've created throughout the book. Not good.  Not good at all.

But another problem that can arrise lies with your character.  If you've kept your world consistent, don't mess it up by allowing your characters to act in unbelievable ways.

Just as your readers are involved in the background, the world of your story, they're greatly interested in the characters. The characters must act naturally, to do what they would do naturally in a situation.

If you force your characters into situations acting in ways that aren't natural to them and believable, either in the way their character was created or to how the story is moving forward, the reader is again jerked off track.  Do this enough and the reader simply puts the book down.

But, you say, there are times when something odd will happen in a book, or a character may behave strangely.  Very true.  But if that is the case then let your characters notice it. Respond to it. Whether a character responds in his thinking or in action or dialog, let the reader in on what's going on.  A simple statement like "I didn't expect that!" or "There's more here than what the first rain revealed," might do the trick.  If you do, rather than confusing and disengaging your reader, you'll draw them even tighter into your story. 

If your character behaves in some way unbelievably give him a good reason, a really good reason, and you'll give your reader even more reason to read on. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - The Bookshelf Muse

Come check out the Bookshelf Muse's Thesaurus Thursday. On the right side of the post she offers great Thesaurus (Thesauri??) that you don't see every day and can be of enormous help.  Check out the Emotion Thesaurus, the Setting Thesaurus and the Symbolism Thesaurus. Don't forget to visit some of her other links as well like those listed as Tender Morsels. Defintely a site worth exploring.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Chasing the Wild Writer's Conference

For many writers, after you've been writing for a while it might occur to you it could be worthwhile attending one or more writers’ conferences. Writing can be lonely. Conferences are a place where writers converge – along with agents, publishers and editors. Sharing time with others of your profession and making contacts. What more could you ask? 

So, the question, bluntly put, is, is it worth attending writing conferences? 

The answer, confusingly, is yes and no. 

Okay, before you give up in disgust and don’t bother reading any more of this post, I’m going to clarify, I promise; give you something to consider and hopefully help you see a bit clearer the drawbacks and pluses of attending writers’ conferences.

First remember this is going to be a challenging endeavor. If you're shy, even more so. If you're going to do this you'll need to cultivate a social manner, take along your 'grit teeth' along with some way to conveniently take names and notes and some money (the amount will totally depend on a whole lot of variables, but you better investigate and plan well). 

For starters, plainly, I'm saying it can be a very good idea. Conferences can provide the opportunity for you to rub shoulders with editors, agents and other writers. Frequently it will be one-on-one and those meetings can result in a contact with the right person. An editor who asks to see your work; another, more experienced writer who’s happy to offer advice; an agent who is willing to accept your submission; all these are the right people. 
Many conferences also provide workshops on various topics that can be extremely informative. And many fast friendships have been formed at conferences. All of this is very good.
The down side? 
It’s going to cost you money. Maybe quite a bit of money if you have to travel some distance and stay in a motel plus pay the attendance fees. Then more money will be needed for many of the workshops and classes and of course your travel, room and board as they're frequently not included in the 'general admission'. A 'special' dinner might be quite expensive. Budget in what will do YOU the most good and skip the rest.

If you’re on a tight budget you better research and figure the expenses accurately or you’ll find yourself financially behind the eight ball. A very bad thing in this already stressed economy. You can shave expenses if you’re lucky enough to have one of these ‘dos’ in your city. So investigate that first. It's a good first choice in any case. 
The other down side is not quite so obvious as cash from pocket. If you happen to be very shy, and many writers are, will you really be able to get your dollar's worth out of such a conference? Think about this seriously. You don't want to spend a substantial amount of money for a conference only to stand in a corner somewhere as the 'wall flower'.

When I began writing I was extremely shy. If that’s the case with you, it’s something you need to work on. You might consider starting with local writer’s groups or attending some classes at a college nearby. Talk to strangers on a bus or at the super market. Talk to yourself in a mirror to see how you appear and work on relaxing. Whatever it takes to help you open up a bit. Writers are generally a friendly lot and I've yet to hear of one who bites (at least in public). But jokes aside, shyness is tough to overcome.
But I have to remind you, part of your professional life as a writer is going to be putting yourself out there. You’ll probably end up giving public talks, perhaps attending book signings, maybe giving interviews on the radio or for print publications.

You cannot be a writer these days, hide in a corner and expect your words will be enough. They won’t.
Find ways to shake yourself loose from that shyness. I took myself to dude ranches when I was young, alone, and got to know people there. At first I simply attended the ‘family style’ meals. I felt awkward and self-conscious, but it didn’t take long to get to know a few people and begin to feel more comfortable. I made it a point to strike up conversations and, no matter how uncomfortable, to put myself out there.

I recommend you do the same (not necessarily at a dude ranch – perhaps at a ball game or a mall or a grocery store or a local writer's group; or perhaps take a speaking class at a local college) – and do it before you decide to attend a conference that’s costing you a lot of money. Unless, of course, you’re feeling very brave and want to toss yourself into the deep end of the pool and learn while you're there. Just remember to push yourself, but be patient with yourself. You CAN work your way through shyness to a better place. I did, other writers I know did. You can to. 

Because when you get to that writer's conference, local or distant, you're going to have to be warm and interested. Not fake interested, but really interested. And, you can only be genuine if you're not terrified! 

One thing that can help is attention to your personal appearance. Before you mingle, dude yourself up a bit (no, you don't have to look like a movie star, just put your best look forward). That will give you confidence to put those kind of thoughts aside and that allows you to be more willing to introduce yourself.
Have simple business cards made up in advance with all your contact information and indicating you are a writer. Much easier than continually writing the information down, much quicker too, when perhaps in a fast-moving social encounter.

One possible balm for your shyness is the fact that you should keep meetings with agents and publishers short unless he or she draws you into a lengthier conversation. Remember they're going to be seeing a lot of people in a short time. So, be pleasant, let them know what you do, hand over a card if the opportunity presents and allow them to move on. 

So, eagerly you may say to me, where do I find these Writer's Conferences? Well, for starters you can Google “Writers Conference” and narrow your search from there. Here are just a handful of samples: 

Check out the site - click on the conference & events button 

A good one - check site for chapters & events.

Over for 2011 - but 2012 approaches. 
Events & conferences 

--and of course there are more - do your research.

Oh, and one last word of advice – don't attend a conference that costs whole lot more than you can afford. Find one fairly local if you can instead. There are a number of them across the country each year. Pick the one(s) best suited to your needs and the budget you can spend. 

And don't forget to pack your comfy shoes!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - Duotrope's Digest

Here's an award winning free writer's resource. Duotrope's Digest.  They offer lots of writer's guidelines with publishers and is updated with amazing frequency. Lots of writers services are offered here.  Take the time to wander the site some and be sure to bookmark it for future reference!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Discover Your Inner Self-Editor

I'm back.  Hope you didn't miss my post too much last week while I was kicking back on vacation and keeping my distance from computers of all stripes -- well, actually maybe I hope you DID miss my posts a whole lot - that'd probably be better. 

So this week I bring you a general post-book-completion, general editing cheerleading rant.

If you've just finished your novel you're no doubt sitting back and congratulating yourself.  Well I'll add mine - congratulations you've just accomplished what most don't.  You've actually finished it. Way to go - pat on the back - cheers from the bleechers.

Okay, now that we've done that it's time for editing.  What, you say, editing?  But I just know the story is great, my work is perfect, wonderful, ready to go. 

Ummm, no.

Here's the thing, Editors are great; amazing editors are, well, amazing, but you still need to have your work in the best condition it can be and that means YOU have to do some serious editing up front even before it perhaps goes elsewhere for that final polish or you submit to a publisher and their editor has a go at it. And just wait until you go through that wringer!  It is usually a good experience, but a tough one.

So, for starters, to get your work ready to debut here are a few tips for looking at your novel after the fact of typing "The End".

For starters, put your work aside for a few days, maybe a week or two before you begin your rereading and editing.  I know, I know, you're no doubt eager to get at it and have done with that part of the writing process already, but believe me, waiting a bit will give you a whole new perspective and make it much easier for you to pick out the problem areas (and don't tell me you don't have any) and come up with some really cool new ideas.

Now that you're ready ask yourself if you've given your main character more than one problem. If you create the main plot problem and also give your character some sort of personal problem the personal problem can add a lot of juice as to how your 'hero/heroine' deals with the complexities of the plot problem.  You can even have the two intertwine and diverge as needed to create even more complications. If you've accomplished this on your fist go-round, way to go! If you haven't, no problem, now is the time to do it.

Over the time you waited to begin revisions and during the revision process I've no doubt your brain has been/will be doing overtime and you'll be thinking about and working on your story at the strangest times, so it's a good idea to keep something handy as a way to take notes - your phone if you can talk to it, some electronic device that can take notes, or just a good old pen and paper. Make sure you can get those ideas down or you'll lose them. And I mean keep track of every idea you get - you can decide if it's worth or not later when you sit back down to the actual editing.

When you're reading through your story are you finding your characters have taken actions that are baseless? They can't do things just because you want your characters to do them then you know.  They have to have a reason to act the way they do, some motivation that spurs them into action.  Consider the human condition and what pushes us all: passion, past wounds to the psyche, greed, duty, love, get it.  Make sure your characters are doing what they do because they have reason to.

Is your story maybe a bit light in the character deparment?  Did you think the hero was really enough along with the villain?  If so you might want to add a character to the mix.  If  you do add one, make sure that new character is important to the plot.
He might be for the heroine or for the bad guys, but whatever you do, make sure the new character in involved and not just skirting the edges.  Create some backstory to include him or her in.

If you find your story feeling a bit stale as you read through it even though you love many of the elements you might consider changing the setting.  This could be a major rewrite considering what you did originally to set things up, but it might be worth it if you can come up with some fresh, imaginative new place to put your story. 

If you don't want to shift the whole setting, try changing the locals of some of the scenes within your story. You know, the old making love on the beach instead of a bedroom - but better than that.  Maybe do it with a sense of humor in the midst of drama like a beach love scene with sand getting everywhere, a kid showing up with his dog, crabs coming in with the tide to nibble toes, incredible sunburn - whatever.

Use your imagination - take the overly familiar, like bedroom, kitchen, car or  quickie mart and do something with it to make it different - or just move it altogether.  This is a trick that can be used frequently or just occasionally - either way it'll pick things up and you'll pat yourself on the back - again.

So, in general the questions you need to ask yourself are pretty straight forward. Are things in your story forced because you make things happen that aren't natural to the characters? Is there any point along the way where your reader may decide to just put the book down? Are your characters doing things, interacting, or are they talking heads?

Oh, and don't forget to edit your spelling (more than just using your spell check), grammar and watch those repetative words along the way!

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