Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Writers Websites Wednesday - Free Online Screenwriting Programs

Into Screenwriting?  Then you might want to check out these online screenwriting programs at 5 Free Online Screenwriting Programs  and let me know what you think.  Some are simply free, some are free to try, then later buy 'pro' version. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

For Writers The Devil Is In The Details

Details, details, details.  As writers we need them, and are told time and again not to overdo them.  Both admonitions are correct.

But, we can be come such masters of our own written work, such orchestrators of our stories that things happen.  Oh, don't get me wrong, many times it's very good things, but there can be others as well, things that simply aren't expected.

As an example, have you written a story where the descriptions of your characters are non-existent or the setting one that simply disappears?  I have. When I was just beginning I wrote a story.  My then helpful Godmother/acting editor pointed out she loved the story.  Had to read it a couple of times in fact to figure out what was wrong.  Turns out she had no idea what my characters looked like.  I'd totally written the story but left out little details like short, tall, fat, skinny, long hair, short, you know, the things that let us identify with characters. 

That same thing can happen with setting. You're telling a story.  The setting is crystal clear in your mind. You, as the writer, see everything perfectly, so perfectly in fact that you forget your reader and kind of presume since you know - they know.

Well, they don't. Give your reader information as you go along. It doesn't have to be, nor should it be a long, drawn out description of where they are, but if you put your characters inside a building, in an office, let your readers know if it's an opulent office or a humble cubicle.  Is there a window or are they across the room beyond the their cubicles?  Is it comfortable or cramped, cluttered or tidy, light or dark, private or in the open with others around to hear conversations. All those details, scattered through your scene gives your readers visual clues to the setting so they don't visualize your story in a hazy, undefined white space like your unattended computer screen with a new document as yet untracked by words and punctuation. It also provides the readers of your novel or short story with opportunity to get to know your character better.

Here's another thing. If we, your readers, can't see the space the characters are moving in, it turns your characters into talking heads and that is deadly when you're writing a story and want to move it forward.

So take the time to read through your writing to see what you've provided your reader in the way of setting. Don't let yours be one of the stories with a vanishing setting - one you begin, but just trail off into nothingness. Take advantage of the opportunity to flesh out the setting to write your story to life and enjoy the opportunity to sidle up to your character and really learn what makes them tick. Read some passages from your favorite books, just pick a few at random and read. Not the different ways different writers create the texture of the background and enhance without turning it into a lengthy exposition.


Here goes -
without description

John stormed into Larry's office and slammed the door.
    "What the hell did you do?" John demanded.
    "Huh, what?"
    "You know what I'm talking about."
    "I do?"
    "The Belmont case, you threw the damn case like a bad wrestler throws a bout."

Okay, a little excitement there, just because of the confrontation.  No details, nothing to let your readers bond with your characters.

So, how about:

John flung the door open to Larry's office, stormed in and slammed it behind him rattling the glass in the door. The heels of his shoes clicked imperiously on tile flooring. "What the hell did you do?" John demanded.

Hunched over his desk Larry peered up at his friend through designer glasses and squinted eyes focusing past the bankers lamp that pooled light on his work. A malfunctioning printer clicked, whirred and stuttered on a misfed sheet behind him. "Huh?  What?"

John strode past the age-patined maple desk to the window that looked out from the 40th floor and stared out of it, not looking at Larry.  "You know what I'm talking about."

"I do?" Larry ticked the pen he held on the desk blotter.

John's shoulders slumped.  He turned and dropped into the leather chair across from Larry.  "The Belmont case, you threw the damn case like a bad wrestler throws a bout."

Okay?  So it isn't the best, but it's a hint.  Not only do you see more of the surroundings, but it brings out a bit more of the character of John and Larry. Be aware of it, play with it. Have fun.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Writers Websites Wednesday - Zoho Writer

Here's a quick one - go check out Zoho Writer.  It's an online word processor that's easy and free.  You can upload documents you want to collaborate on or ones you want to work on on the fly .  Take a look at their Screenshots tour and see if it's a tool you want to add to you collection.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

So How's the Weather, Writers?

We don't think about the weather much usually, it just is, unless it's doing something particularly violent. In fact we don't think about it to the extent that we may not put any of it in a book we're writing.  How many times have you read a book and not even noted the weather? 

Now you say, it's not important really, and in the end, literally, that's probably true, but it can add a very powerful element to your writing, provide sensory texture and contribute to the mood you're creating in a scene. With a bit of practice and a light touch you, the writer, can foreshadow coming events or enhance a character's emotional response.

Weather can be a powerful backdrop to the action in the novel you're writing.  But, that said, caution must be used.  Weather can exert a pressure on your character that is otherwise invisible. It can be used to project symbolism into a scene, and it can add conflict. It can be a natural barrier to your character moving forward or act as an excuse, a delay, an obstacle.

BUT, and you'll notice that was a big but, the weather shouldn't become a 'central character' in your book unless it is a very unusual book indeed. You don't want the weather to overtly tell emotion with weather cliches like a raging storm above a fight between lovers or the old cryin' in the rain cliche.

And remember there's lots of weather for you as the writer to play with - not just rain.  There's heat and cold and wind and sleet and snow and ice and sun and cloud and tornado and blizzard and hurricane...well you get it. If it can add color and life to your story, use it, just be sure you bring it along and don't just stick it in where you think it would be cool. A well-written story is intricately woven, you can't just stick things in willy nilly.

So, as one example, what can weather add to your story?  Well, what are the possibilities?  Let's say a storm is approaching. 

Rain is likely, but there's a lot more.

There's lightening.  The sight of it can be amazing, forking and branching, or a single bolt hitting the ground.  It can travel amongst the clouds.  It can be a single strike or it can be repeated with strikes hitting nearly one after another seeming nearly continuous.

But there's more.  There can be smells associated with rain.  The freshness of it falling on grass and trees, the electrical/ozone smell and burning that can accompany a lightening strike.  The heat a nearby strike can generate. Lightening can kill or stun a person it strikes, drop him or her like a rock or toss them a great distance.  It can splinter a tree, burn a patch in the grass or sizzle overhead like a passing UFO.

Rain itself can be gentle or pounding, slashing or drumming. It can pool and flow or it can sprinkle and soak into the earth.

Thunder can roll, howl or sing through the trees. Or a breeze and the gently falling rain can quietly rustle the leaves of the trees and patter on the ground at their feet.
All of this can contribute to the mood of your characters and test the writer abilities in you.  Some people fear storms.  Some are exhilarated by them. Lightening is insanely fast and often fills people with a sense of impending doom or fear or awe.
Think about the weather next time you write.  Don't hesitate to use it to add contrast to your story. It can add color, flavor and tension. Think about it. A dark mood for a character could be made to appear more intense when contrasted with a beautiful sunny day, perhaps especially with one where the sun sparkles off the snow on the ground as it does outside my window right now. Or the opposite, a feeling of joy can be damped down by a frigid wind or darkly overcast day spitting icy slush. And that can foreshadow a dark day to come.

Think about the weather, play with it when you write.  Don't make it your star (again, unless you're writing a very unusual tale), but let it pose as backdrop, emphasize emotion, contrast with what your characters are going through.  Trust me, it'll add a lot to your stories.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Writers Websites Wednesday - The Writer's Resource Directory

The Writer's Resource Directory is just that ~ a resource.  Now I'm not going to say it offers everything, but it does offer a bit of everything.  Information on writing, conferences, associations, articles, agents and more.  Definitely a Resource worth exploring.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Writer's Path - Help & Resources

As writers our strengths and weaknesses are many.  We tend to put on a good show in an effort to let the world know we're ready for anything (whether we actually are or not).  We all learn a lot along our writing path and as a result tend to think we know a lot, our learning process having created an aura of blissful ignorance about just how much we do know.  Until one day, comes the realization that we actually have a huge amount that we don't know. 

That's the dark, scary place to be.

You might feel frustrated, angered, shocked, even feel like giving up writing altogether.  In fact, many do.  And for some that isn't a a bad thing.  If it isn't for you, it simply isn't.  There's nothing bad about that.  In fact it could be  good, discovering what you don't want to do and have no interest in learning. You tried it, you don't like it. Time to move on.

Because, being a writer is a life-long learning experience. If you're in, time to take that next step forward.

How can we turn our weaknesses into strengths?  How can we stare down the dragon and continue on that writing path?

All right, we all want to minimize our weaknesses, perhaps to not even admit them to ourselves, but that's not the way to move forward. Drag it out, examine it, learn from it and keep moving forward. There are lots of places to ask for help and/or to seek it out.

There are two distinctive types of writers (there are undoubtedly more nuances and sub groups, but two main groups).  There are those who are very solitary and those who can benefit greatly from interaction with other writers.  I don't know which you are, but you do.

If you can benefit from critique groups, writer's groups, if exchanging ideas with other writers and hearing their criticisms of your work is something that will help you, then seek them out. 

There are many online. You can check out Absolute Write  or Backspace or Critique Circle try Ladies Who Critique to find a partner, or google up some more.  Or, if you're more of a face-to-face, hands-on sort, you might try to track down a local writer's group who meet on a regular basis giving you 'deadlines' by which you read others' works and they read yours.  Check library bulletin boards, the local paper, groups like women's clubs, etc.

The more introverted writer may do better with an online group or not at all.  Your choice.

Reading can be a great help to the new or aspiring writer as well as the established professional.  There are lots and lots of articles out there, newsletters too where you can pick up tips on strong writing techniques.  You can visit my little bookstore that grows nearly daily as I find great books and other materials on writing for writers at Writer's Emporium   Get what you need there or peruse,  make a list and head out for your local library.

The trick is to locate your materials and dive in, avoiding too much time lost online when you could be reading or writing. It's easy to get lost online and fun too - so watch it.

One thing that is good, even for us introvert types, is attending the occasional conference.  Got a favorite genre?  You can find a conference for that! There are lists of them online and a bit of googling should turn up some near or far that would be just the thing for you to attend. And you'll be able to mingle with other writers, editors, agents, publishers and more. Work at being less of a wall flower and plunge in. 

Oh, and don't forget to network on such sites as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.  Introvert types can be a little less out there using that media and still make connections.

Write, rewrite, read and learn.  That's what it's all about.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Writers Websites Wednesday

The Market List, the original electronic writers market resource, was started in 1994 as an online Ezine. It offered the first fully comprehensive writers market guidelines index online from its inception. Resources to help aspiring and professional writers find markets for their fiction. It's been around a while - Check it out.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

It's Writing Time

How many times have you heard fellow writers say, "I just can't find the time to write" or how many times have you, yourself, said or thought, "my writing is suffering, I can't get time to do it?" How frustrated are you in trying to carve out the time to write what you want to write? 

Unless you're living on a trust fund and never have to hold down a job and don't have a family to distract you, you're in the same boat as most writers. Trying to work writing into a life you already have.

Now I don't want to get trite or sarcastic, well maybe a little sarcastic, but it's really is one of those life situations where you either will or you won't - that simple.

Now don't whine at me, "you don't understand" because I do. I've held full time jobs and published novels, I've been just married, taken care of an ailing mother and held a full time job AND optioned a screenplay - more than one. So I've been there. I know all the distractions and excuses.

So, what is the solution? It's pretty basic. First, do you want to write? I mean do you REALLY want to write? Is there a story inside burning, bumping and nagging to get out? Are you desperate to get it out? Do you want to write so badly you can hardly think of anything else?

Okay, if that's true, then there are ways to work writing in and admittedly there are some sacrifices you'll probably have to make to achieve your writing goals. No, not probably. There ARE sacrifices. If you're not up to that, then go back to the paragraph above and reevaluate.

There was a period of several years when I watched no TV at all. Each evening after work (where lunch hours were dedicated to errands or reading writing publications) I went straight home, ate dinner, did what had to be done, then locked myself away for about two or three hours of writing. Oh, I spent time Saturday morning writing as well. Then I spent some quality time with friends and relatives on weekends. Now I'm not saying that schedule was never broken, at times it was, but it was what I expected of myself and I published my writing over the years with Doubleday, Harlequin, Five Star, Pinnacle Books and others.

At other times in my life my writing was done on lunch hours and breaks... and evenings. I wrote during entire vacations from my day job, read writing publications when I minded a cash register at a book store between customers.

You can find jobs that fit in with your writing. You can work things out with your family. Perhaps after you publish and generate some income from your writing you can change to a part time job which is another thing I did; and then jealously guard those precious hours for your writing. You'll discover as you carve out more time for your writing, more people will think you're not working at all and it's okay to interrupt or suggest an outing for that time or want to call you and chat or constantly text you. Do what you must to guard against intrusion with firmness and diplomacy or you'll find that writing income drying up and soon you'll be back at square one.

Other writing friends have told me how they write on buses or trains on the way to work, on lunch hours tucked away in a corner somewhere, long into the night or if a stay at home parent, when the kids are at school or watching Sesame Street. Dinner becomes an adventure in tracking down 15 minute recipes that are actually good for you and taste good.

Be creative, search your life for those bits of time when you can put them to good use writing what you want to get out. One person's way may not be yours, but with some thought and planning you can carve out some writing time in your life. It's a matter of priority. There's no right or wrong answer, no write (right) or wrong way to strive for your goals. If writing isn't a high priority then give yourself a break, let it go. If it is important to you, explore your life and realistically find the way to work the amount of writing time in that is comfortable for you.

As Yoda would say - "Do or do not, there is no try."

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Writers Websites Wednesday - Rachel Abbott Writer

I like Rachel's blog, Rachel Abbott-Writer.  For starters, she provides lots of info on twitter in three parts to help the new/indi writer learn the ins and outs of twitter.  She reveals some great info and  helpful tools.  All in all a good site; a blog worth following to see where it goes next.

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