Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Name That Novel #11

Let's say adventure. This novel is very, very, very popular. The kind you want to read more than once....and probably have. So, here goes... Title and author, please.

"He walked briskly back to his hole, and stood for a moment listening with a smile to the din in the pavilion and to the sound of merrymaking in other parts of the field. Then he went in. He took off his party clothes, folded up and wrapped in tissue-paper his embroidered silk waistcoat, and put it away. Then he put on quickly some old untidy garments, and fastened round his waist a worn leather belt. On it he hung a short sword in a battered black-leather scabbard. From a locked drawer, smelling of moth-balls, he took out an old cloak and hood. They had been locked up as if they were very precious, but they were so patched and weatherstained that their original colour could hardly be guessed: it might have been dark green. They were rather too large for him. He then went into his study, and from a large strong-box took out a bundle wrapped in old clothes, and a leather-bound manuscript; and also a large bulky envelope...."

Good luck to all!

Congrats to so many of you! Fellowship of the Ring by Tolkien. Give yourselves a Novel Winner Button :-) -- See posting on 9/19 for directions....

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Long and the Short of It

Short or long? As a writer you may often ask yourself if you want to tackle a big fish -- a novel-length project, or stay in shallower waters and write short stories. Some of you might decide to shuffle it around... work on a novel, maybe even complete that novel, and then write short stories or articles here and there. In any case, there are advantages to each side. This time around I will address the positives of short-story writing.

Time: By nature we are impatient beings. The idea of spending months, maybe years, on one endeavor is mind-blowing, isn't it? Of course, the rewards may pay off, IF you sell it to a publisher. However, the sweet success of accomplishment in short-story writing is so satisfying, even if the monetary rewards are small. Say you spend a couple of weeks writing and polishing your story, and when you submit, if you're lucky, another couple weeks with a magazine editor who buys it, well, you've just left one more mark on the world of published writing with your name on it.

Juggling: Of course while you have one story floating out there with a publisher, you've been working on another. Right? If not, you should. Don't let the dust settle. Keep it stirring! There are lots of magazines and ezines with a variety of interests just waiting for the next submission to fill their slots. Thus, a lot more opportunity to be published in the world of magazines compared to book publishing. Don't let these opportunities pass you by; submit, submit, submit!

Credits: Many published authors of novels, some even famous, got their start by selling short stories. As they say, "it looks good on a resume". Well, it helps, too, when you can include such publishing credits in a query letter. Especially it you are a newbie who is peddling your first novel.

Skills: If you are serious about writing, you know it's a constant in your life. You keep writing to improve your craft. Writing short stories and articles gives you an opportunity to hone your skills. In the beginning the writer is raw, making lots of first-time writer mistakes. Much better to practice and improve during those shorter projects. Then when you tackle that monster novel, you'll be equipped and ready. Or at least make fewer mistakes.

Window Shopping: One of the advantages to magazine submissions is the variety -- in fiction the many genres, in non-fiction an infinite number of topics. If you haven't decided where your niche is, this may be the venue in finding out. So, you write a mystery short, or maybe an article on travel, or whatever.... you're window shopping for what fits just right on you. And if you do know what your passion is, your forte, then just keep writing in that area and submitting.

I hope this has given you some food for thought. And the next time I will post tips on short-story writing. If you have any of your own suggestions or comments, drop a line!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Name That Novel #10

From the past to the present, some stories are worth repeating. That is my hint for the following excerpt. Title and author, please.

I will give another hint... it is based on a very well-known children's novel and movie.

"Look, you can see the snow, white as the grace of the Unnamed God," said the novice, remembering her pastoral requirements. "Think on that, and rest, and sleep. Here's a pillow. Here's a stool for your feet. Upstairs we'll be singing and praising the Unnamed God. I'll pray for you."
"Don't--" said the green ghostly guest, then slumped her head against the pillow.
"It's my pleasure to," said the novice, a bit aggressively, and fled, just in time to catch the processional hymn.
For a while the winter salon was still. It was like a fishbowl into which a new acquisition has been dropped. The snow moved as if done by a machine, gently and mesmerizingly, with a soft churr. The blossoms of the marginium plants closed a bit in the strengthening cold of the room. Oil lamps issued their funereal crepe ribbons into the air. On the other side of the garden--hardly visible through the snow and the two windows--a decrepit maunt, with a more precise grasp of the calendar than her sisters, began to hum a saucy old pagan hymn to Lurline.

Once again, good luck to all. And don't forget....the winner can choose to place a novel winner button on his/her blogsite! (See right sidebar for link to button post)

Congrats to Vanessa! You answered correctly with Wicked by Gregory Maguire. Don't forget to grab a winner button to place on your site if you like :-)

For Name That Novel Winners: Here's a Button For You!

I thought I would add a little fun to the Name that Novel game. So, for all you novel winners.... Here is a winner button to post on your blog! Just copy and paste html from box (below the picture) to your site. Go to customize > layout > add a gadget > html and then paste into content box.

I Am a Winner!

winner button

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Character in Your Character

Hero as a label for the main character of a story is somewhat misnomered, or at least overrated in my opinion. The word hero implies someone with outstanding abilities, almost perfect in every way, even someone who doesn't include "mistake" in their vocabulary. "Nonsense!" I say. Who wants a main character with no possibility of error? With no chance of conflict? Or problems? There wouldn't be much of a plot with no conflict, no problems to solve, and no resolution. Besides, I need to relate to the main characters I'm reading about. Human flaws are essential as a part of that. And we as readers develop empathy for these flawed human beings. We cheer them on and hope they overcome their challenges.

So, what does all this mean to you as a writer? Well, during that constructive stage of your story, when you begin to mold your characters --who they are and what they will attempt to do, you should also think about what makes him or her human. It might be a weakness that's physical or emotional. Or perhaps it is something that has happened in his or her life that leaves the character frightened or conflicted. As the character moves through events in the story, trying to achieve his or her goal and confronting the conflict presented by the antagonist, the one with human flaws will have a greater challenge. Without flaws, the "perfect hero" would find the road ahead simple to travel. But we don't want the journey to be simple. That would be like watching our favorite team play their biggest rival, and the game ends up being a total blowout. No excitement in that, is there?

Remember: fiction portrays life and life is made up of humans. So, characters, in order to be human, should be flawed. It makes sense to me. I hope it makes sense to you.

This posting is brief, but it seemed worth stating. And if anyone has anything to add, I welcome your comments and words of wisdom :-)

P.S. A bit of advice I just picked up over on Coffee Shop discussion board from John....use your own flaws as a starting point. They are the ones you are most familiar with and might help create some pretty fantastic characters!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Name That Novel #9

Let's try this one on for's current, it's hot, it's popular in more ways than one. (That's as much of a hint as I can give.) Title and author, please

"The library is cool and smells like carpet cleaner, although all I can see is marble. I sign the Visitors' Log: Clare Abshire, 11:15 10-26-91 Special Collections. I have never been in the Newberry Library before, and now that I've gotten past the dark, foreboding entrance I am excited....
I am speechless. Here is Henry, calm, clothed, younger than I have ever seen him. Henry is working at the Newberry Library, standing in front of me, in the present. Here and now. I am jubilant. Henry is looking at me patiently, uncertain but polite."

I think I'd have to say the clues are in the content of the quote. Not the style.

Okay, have at it and good luck :-)

We have a winner :-) Liz called it --- Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Where'd You Get That Idea?

As a writer you are probably always thinking of great ideas for your next story. Right? No? Well, then here is a list that may help. There are many resources and places you can tap into for that next story. Just remember: There are no original ideas. However, once you find your style, your voice, your unique way of writing, then it is possible to take any idea and make it your own. So, let's take a look at the places you can go to get those ideas:

1. Newspaper articles
2. The television news
3. Personal events
4. Observations -- such as in public places: the mall, a park, a restaurant, etc.
5. Television shows/ Movies
6. The Internet -- google a topic or subject and see what comes up
7. People! -- find them, talk to them, get them to tell stories about their jobs
8. Visuals -- photographs, paintings, billboards, magazine ads, greeting cards
9. Music -- lyrics
10. Personal items -- go through your memorabilia, those keepsake items
11. Bookstores or libraries -- cruise the titles, look at the book covers
12. Read!
13. Websites on writing, of course :-)
14. Dictionaries -- pick a few words at random, use them in a freewrite; then revise into a story

Those are just few. I'm sure you can come up with more. If you would be willing to share, please post a comment.

And of course, as you come up with your ideas add them to an idea journal. Always keep paper and pen with you to jot down your ideas (can't always trust your busy mind to recall them later!)

There are so many ideas around you just waiting to be discovered. So, happy idea hunting to all of you!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Tip or Two...

Monica Wood in her book, Description, has some final thoughts at the end. She advises writers with a tip or two. I thought it would be nice to share some with you. And perhaps throw in a couple of my own.

Tip One: Colors. Think outside the crayon box. There's more to life than basic red, blue, green, and so on. What about russet when describing the leaves? Or even giving other descriptive words to naming your colors, like storm-colored or mustard-colored? Be creative and unique.

Tip Two: Adverbs. Many are guilty of tipping the scales when it comes to adverb usage. The author suggests circling them, or perhaps you can highlight them (use the highlighting feature in Microsoft Word if you are doing this on computer). Such an approach will make them obvious to you. Then you can begin the process of tossing them out where needed! One of the situations where writers tend to use adverbs too much is tacking them onto "he said" "she said". Example: "he said loudly" or "she said angrily". Stop it. Stop being so lazy and try harder to be creative.

Tip Three: Adjectives. Do it, highlight. You want description, of course. But let's not overdo. The broad, green, leafy tree shadowed the skinny, brown-haired, freckle-faced, tired boy. Oh, boy. Stop it. Again, it's too much, too overpowering. Sometimes less really is more. And while you're at it, quit grabbing for the thesaurus or clicking on that shift +F7 every chance you get. Sometimes plain words work just fine. They seem more realistic, for instance, in dialog. After all, do you have a thesaurus in your hand while you talk? I hope not. :-)

Tip Four: Dialog with a smattering of description. When your characters speak, they can be doing other things, too. Nothing wrong with a little multi-tasking. Plus it will break the monotony of lengthy, back-and-forth conversation. Example: "Have you heard from your mom?" Jane glanced up from the table to see Mary's reaction. "You haven't mentioned anything about her recently." Or something like that. Readers can then "see" what's going on with the characters as well as hear what they have to say.

Tip Five: Read aloud. This is one of mine. I've written this before, but it doesn't hurt repeating. When you write, especially dialog, read it back to yourself, but out loud. This will help you decide if it makes sense, sounds realistic, or if you need to polish it up.

Tip Six: Names. Okay, this one may seem trivial, but I'm going to throw it out there anyway. I think it wise to give considerable thought to the choice of names for your characters. I think some names just sound too over the top. Or they don't seem to fit the character. Try getting to know your characters, and then give them names. Again, this may not seem very important, but as a reader as well as writer, I've often wondered about name choices.

Okay, I think that's enough for this time. I hope they help. Give me feedback. If there are others you would like to share? Drop a comment or two :-)