Thursday, November 20, 2014

November--National Novel Writing Month



It’s November, which for many of us means it’s … National Novel Writing Month.

Exactly what is National Novel Writing Month? “It’s a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing at the start of November with the goal of writing a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, Nov. 30.” That’s roughly 1, 667 words daily, about 6 to 7 pages a day.

Writing that many words is challenging, even exhilarating, but, at the same time, for people like me, daunting.

There are lots of reasons not to attempt National Novel Writing Month. I play them in my head even as I type my manuscript, but I also have solutions.


Maybe you’re of the same mind and that little voice of doubt nags in your head. With some helpful advice from Chris Baty’s book No Plot, No Problem let’s tackle those concerns.
Chris, incidentally, is the founder of National Novel Writing Month.




1. I don’t know how to begin. I don’t have it all planned out. That’s OK. Sit down at the keyboard and type. "It’s fine just to start.” Footnote: “Making it up as you go along does NOT require you to be a gifted novelist.”

2. I don’t know what I need to start. “What you need to write a novel, of course, is a deadline.”

3. How will a deadline help? “In the artistic realms, deadlines do much more than just get projects finished. They serve as creative midwives, as enthusiastic shepherds adept at plucking the timid inspirations that lurk in the wings of our imaginations and flinging them bodily into the bright light of day.”

4. Is the arduous journey worth the time and effort? "In the 30 or 31 days you spend under (the deadline’s “taskmastering”  thumb, “you’ll discover wild, wonderful parts of yourself and tap into exciting realms of aptitude and achievement you didn't know existed.”

5. How will people react? “You’ll fly and soar and laugh and sing, and [yes] the people who love you will likely worry you've gone crazy.”

6. Oh, no! “Well, actually, that’s OK. The insanity only lasts a month, just long enough to get ‘Write a Novel’ checked off your to-do list.”

7. But I’m not sure I can write all that well, especially when I’m just getting my ideas down. “There is no pressure on you to write a brilliant first draft. No one ever writes a brilliant first draft.”

8. What are the special perils? “The first law of exuberant imperfection is essentially this: The quickest, easiest way to produce something beautiful and lasting is to risk making something horribly crappy.”

9. One reason NOT to try National Novel Writing Month is I’m busy and writing a novel takes a lot of time. It does, but what I’m planning is to discover what 1-2 hours a day for a month [can produce]. If I look at my daily routine, I probably can find activities I can forego for a while. And Chris Baty adds, “When I’m writing a novel, I stop Internet surfing entirely, limit my leisure reading, and spend much less weeknight time with (non-noveling) friends. Other writers use the opportunity to pare back conversations with their in-laws and stop doing yard work.” The point: These suggestions should work for you, too.

10. But what about the people I live with? Will they be able to do without me while I’m off creating this masterpiece? “It’s not so much that you’ll be totally absent for one month as it is that you’ll be exceptionally present for the other 11.”

11. But I like to be around others and I want to have some fun even if I’m working on a novel. Answer: If you’re feeling alone, try writing with buddies. “Writing with a partner (or three or four) helps all parties tap into the pool of competitive energy that forms when several people are working toward the same goal.”

12. Does the ‘team approach’ really work? Yes, indeed. “When ‘noveling’ with someone else, you have a pacer, a motivator and a sympathetic ear for sharing the triumphs and tragedies of your novel. It’s more productive and a lot more fun.”

13. But what if I don’t have a plot for my novel? “If you spend enough time with your characters, plot simply happens. This makes your novel writing, in essence, a literary trapeze act, one where you have to blindly trust that your imagination and intuition will catch you and fling you onward at each stage of your high-flying journey.”

Chris’ advice helps me keep turning out pages. It has me thinking about all the others who are taking the 50K challenge. How about you? What thoughts inspire you to keep writing, blogging or taking part in National Novel Writing Month? Please share with us.


Sources

http://nanowrimo.org/

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Taking Apart the Hot Premise


By Elizabeth MS Flynn, w/a Eilis Flynn
We’ve all had that experience of stepping into an elevator or other confined space, realizing you’re in there with an editor or an agent, and en lieu of pointless small talk, he or she asks you what you’re working on. As you stammer out your longwinded answer, the moment ends (i.e., the elevator door opens) and said editor or agent goes on his or her way. Could you have made use of that opportunity by blurting out the hot premise version of your synopsis? You betcha!

This is for everyone who’s been asked to boil down their story idea into one sentence, ten words or less. This is for everyone who’s had a hard time boiling their stories down into the simplest terms, a necessity in today’s short-attention-span era.

First of all, what’s a hot premise, anyway? You’ve heard of the term “high concept.” It’s the term that Hollywood types are known to use to mean a movie or TV show idea that can be summed up in just a few words. It’s a premise (a hot one!) that can impart as much as a paragraph or even a book could, but just hitting the highlights that take people aback and make ‘em blink (Hollywood types not being known for their enjoyment of reading more than a few words at a time. Are they literate? One wonders).

That “what-if” thing is the very essence of fiction, but in the case of the hot premise, it’s everything. In just a few words, it has to intrigue and inspire, and most challenging, no matter how old the idea, it has to be made fresh. The idea could be an old one, but it has to be translated for the modern age. The best way to be able to do this is to know your own plot and story very, very well and give it a twist that rejuvenates it.

Okay, by now you might have gotten the idea about what a hot premise is and how you can go about boiling down your story idea into a few words. One of the most frustrating things you may have learned in school is that too often teachers don’t want short and simple, they want complex and high-falutin’. So instead of the simple answer you were about to give, you find yourself having to make it sound way more complicated than you think it needs to be. This sticks to you through school, through college, through graduate school and your doctoral dissertation…but it doesn’t work when you’re trying to sell your story. Because people who’re going to be buying your story don’t care about how high-falutin’ you can make it, they care about how your story makes them feel. And that’s as basic as you’re going to get.

Now look at your story. Can you tell people what it is in ten words or fewer, using a twist you want your readers to focus on?

I’m breaking this all down into its basic elements for an online workshop for Futuristic Fantasy & Paranormal this December. Cross your fingers I’ll be succinct enough!

Elizabeth MS Flynn has written fiction in the form of comic book stories, romantic fantasies, urban fantasies, historical fantasies and short stories, a young adult novel, and a graphic novella (most published under the name of Eilis Flynn). She’s also a professional editor and has been for more than 35 years, working with academia, technology, and finance nonfiction, and romance fiction. If you’re looking for an editor, she can be found editing at emsflynn.com and reached at emsflynn@aol.com. If you’re curious about her books, check out eilisflynn.com. In any case, she can be reached at eilisflynn@aol.com.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Thirteen Plus Photos of the Night of Romance.

On Thursday, October 9 from 6:30-8:30pm
at the West Allis Public Library, I and some of the Wisconsin Romance Writers’ very best authors attended A Night of Romance

The Wisconsin Romance Writer Panel

Here are thirteen pictures of the fun event.

 
S. C. Mitchell talks about writing.

L. J. Kentowski  and her books

A book winner

A. Y. Stratton



Exciting times-Liz Czukas and  S.C. Mitchell share a joke.


Gina Maxwell shares her books


Kat de Falla and Rachel Green


So many wonderful books to choose
Liz and Carla trying to listen while I snap pictures.


Tempste O'Riley

Sarah J.  Bradley talks writing

Tricia Quinnes and Carla Luna Cullen
Kathryn Albright and Cheryl Yeko


Fans


The authors shared their writing experiences and their books.  If you’re looking for a good read, consider trying one of their stories.


Thanks, and as always I appreciate you stopping by. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Talking about Fear: Thirteen Visceral Signals


How is a crime-solving detective like a successful gambler?  They both look for tells, those small physiological responses a human exhibits when he experiences emotion. Avid readers look for these signs, too and as authors it’s our job to make sure they find them. We’re told to show not tell.
Sometimes that’s hard to do, but I’ll help you out.
Since this is October, the month of frights, let’s start with a quick study in fear responses.
Instead of saying a character like Marcia is afraid something might have happened to Haley writers are supposed to give evidence. Here’s how Harlan Coben shows the growing lump Marcia’s fear created in her throat.

“And that was when Marcia started to feel a small rock form in her chest. There were no clothes in the hamper.
The rock in her chest grew when Marcia checked Haley’s toothbrush, then the sink and shower.
All bone-dry.
The rock grew when she called out to Ted, trying to keep the panic out of her voice. It grew when they drove to captain’s practice and found out that Haley had never showed. It grew when she called Haley’s friends while Ted sent out an e-mail blast—and no one knew where Haley was. It grew when they called the local police, who, despite Marcia’s and Ted’s protestations, believed that Haley was a runaway, a kid blowing off some steam. It grew when forty-eight hours later, the FBI was brought in. It grew when there was still no sign of Haley after a week.
It was as if the earth had swallowed her whole. A month passed. Nothing. Then two. Still no word. And then finally, during the third month, word came—and the rock that had grown in Marcia’s chest, the one that wouldn't let her breathe and kept her up nights, stopped growing.”

From Caught, by Harlan Coben

That old lump-in-the-throat feeling is just one of the visceral symptoms of fright. Here are thirteen more.
  1. Heart racing, skipping or beating loudly.
  2. Labored breathing
  3. Eyes widening
  4. Body trembling
  5. Upset stomach
  6. Sweating
  7. Numbness in toes or fingers
  8. Face blushing
  9. Tingling in hands, scalp or feet
  10. Swaying as if dizzy
  11. Tightness in the chest
  12. Cramps-the urge to use the bathroom
  13. Twitches or jerky movements
I’m sure I've left out lots of fear responses that can be shown. Help me out if you’d like and add to my list in the comments. Thanks.


Sources



Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Beware the Info Dump, My Child


By Elizabeth MS Flynn, w/a Eilis Flynn

Say you’re starting work on your latest story. You’ve just done a ton of research on it to get all the details right, down to the outer ridge of your heroine’s boot, manufactured in Kokomo, Indiana, having a distinctive triangular pattern as a post-modern variation of a 15th-century Native American design from the Humptulips, WA, region. You are proud of what you’ve done, and who could blame you? Inspired, you want to bring the reader into the story and you want him or her to be as fascinated and intrigued by it as you are. But you make a small tactical error. Just a small one. You dump all this stuff at the beginning of your story so they can get started on the wonderfulness that is your story…

And you are left scratching your head when the readers don’t come, or they read the first couple of pages…and wander away, choosing not to continue. What happened? Why weren’t they fascinated? What’s wrong with them?!

Here’s the thing. You gave them too MUCH. You didn’t give them a little of the wonderfulness at a time. You scared them away! How did they not find that triangular pattern on your heroine’s boot to be the most fascinating thing in the world? How in the world could they not want to know how that works into the complex comedy of errors plot? How could they not want to know more with that flood of interesting minutia?

This musing came about when my friend Heather Hiestand and I started to talk about the imparting of information and how too much makes our potential reader wander off, bored, especially in today’s short-attention-span society. That’s the problem with info dumps. It’s too much, too soon, and our eyes, used to tidbits about the Kardashians and the latest about Lindsay Lohan, go blind with actual, useful information.

So how much research is just right? What’s the tidbit to work in, what isn’t? Here are some tricks and tips to keep in mind when it comes to making the best use of your research, along with some examples.

info dumps that work
Gone with the Wind:
Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were. In her face were too sharply blended the delicate features of her mother, a Coast aristocrat of French descent, and the heavy ones of her florid Irish father. But it was an arresting face, pointed of chin, square of jaw. Her eyes were pale green without a touch of hazel, starred with bristly black lashes and slightly tilted at the ends. Above them, her thick black brows slanted upward, cutting a startling oblique line in her magnolia-white skin—that skin so prized by Southern women and so carefully guarded with bonnets, veils and mittens against hot Georgia suns.
***

Now you may ask, how the heck did Margaret Mitchell get away with THAT? Talk about a classic info dump!

Why’s it work?
Only with the second paragraph do we find out where the scene is set, in the Georgian country plantation where the family lives. So we learn not only does Scarlett get what she wants, she considers herself beautiful, and she has the world at her fingertips. This opener of Mitchell’s is famous because it is so infamously cumbersome. Whether or not you’re a fan, the introduction shows the reader that the story of Scarlett O’Hara is a story about Americans, a mixture of this and that and resulting in a character who’s flawed and foolish and conniving but strong enough to survive. So this is a case of an info dump that sets up the protagonist.

Then there’s the classic opening for
Rebecca:
Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.
It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive, and for a while I could not enter, for the way was barred to me. There was a padlock and a chain upon the gate. I called in my dream to the lodge-keeper, and had no answer, and peering closer through the rusted spokes of the gate I saw that the lodge was uninhabited.
***

Does it work?
This is an example of an opener that could work for you, or could not. Aside from the introductory sentence, the details that follow sets the scene, but depending on what you’re expecting to find, it can be considered intriguing or boring. And from what I’ve heard commented, the interest can also be split into forms of fiction you’re interested in, and even gender (behold the modern man, whose interest in classic suspense seems to be at an all-time low unless there’s blood or gore described).

What to describe? Describe the clothing, the surroundings, the setting only as it moves the story. Author Jacquie Rogers, who writes Westerns, has told me from time to time that she tends to skip over details in her stories, to the point that all her characters might as well be naked. Or “nekkid,” her word. That’s the other extreme. Research is lovely, research is glorious, but if it doesn’t further your story, it’s just a lump o’ words. AVOID LUMP O’ WORDS! They stop your story COLD.

Heather and I are presenting this information as a workshop for Emerald City Writers’ Conference in a couple of weeks. Let’s hope that we’re succinct and don’t go into info dumps!

Elizabeth MS Flynn has written fiction in the form of comic book stories, romantic fantasies, urban fantasies, historical fantasies and short stories, a young adult novel, and a graphic novella (most published under the name of Eilis Flynn). She’s also a professional editor and has been for more than 35 years, working with academia, technology, and finance nonfiction, and romance fiction. If you’re looking for an editor, she can be found editing at emsflynn.com and reached at emsflynn@aol.com. If you’re curious about her books, check out eilisflynn.com. In any case, she can be reached at eilisflynn@aol.com.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

In Celebration of Writing—Thirteen Great Minds Weigh In

Ever think about this writing thing we authors spend our time doing? Ever wonder what others make of this craft? Here are thirteen thoughts to inspire you.



  1. One thing that helps is to give myself permission to write badly. I tell myself that I’m going to do my five or 10 pages no matter what, and that I can always tear them up the following morning if I want. I’ll have lost nothing—writing and tearing up five pages would leave me no further behind than if I took the day off.~ Lawrence Block 
  2. There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. ~ Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
  3. Writers live twice.~ Natalie Goldberg
  4. Write while the heat is in you. … The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with. ~ Henry David Thoreau
  5. Anyone who is going to be a writer knows enough at 15 to write several novels. ~ May Sarton
  6. Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers. ~ Ray Bradbury
  7. I think all writing is a disease. You can’t stop it. ~ William Carlos Williams
  8. We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master. ~ Ernest Hemingway
  9. To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard. ~ Allen Ginsberg
  10. The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress. ~ Philip Roth
  11. Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read. I know of no shortcuts. ~ Larry L. King
  12. When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done. ~ Stephen King
  13. When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing. ~ George Orwell

Do you write? Do you have a favorite quote about the process? Please share.

Sources

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Thirteen Tips to Launching a Debut Release

Hi Readers, 
Have I got a treat for you! The author of the contest-winning story Must Love Breeches Angela Quarles wants to share her tips on launching her novel.



Angela Quarles is a geek girl romance writer whose works includes Must Love Breeches, a time travel romance, and Beer & Groping in Las Vegas, a geek romantic comedy in novelette form. She has a B.A. in Anthropology and International Studies with a minor in German from Emory University, and a Masters in Heritage Preservation from Georgia State University. She currently resides in a historic house in the beautiful and quirky town of Mobile, AL.




Here's 13 Things I Learned about Launching a Debut Release

1. I use OneNote to organize everything related to my book, outside of the actual manuscript. It's so nice to have everything (links, tour stops, bios, blurbs, formatting) in one easily accessible spot.
2. Have a street team, no matter how small. I started out with only 3 but by the release, it's seven and they've been a great help
3. Do a Goodreads giveaway early on. My book released yesterday, and I have over 350 people who've added it to their TBR pile and a significant portion of that came from the Goodreads giveaway. Mine was for 2 and a half months.
3. Take advantage of Amazon's preorder ability. They've opened it up now to everyone. Consistency of sales is key with Amazon's algorithm and so I think it's going to help that I've had sales spread out leading up to my launch.
4. Start your social networking before you're published. I started blogging on hanging on Twitter in 2011 and so the friendships I forged by participating in discussions since then paid dividends this week. Everyone's been supportive and they're doing most of the promo for me as they're happy to see my book out too.
5. Add contacts you make along the way no matter how far out you are to publishing. Anytime a contest judge or someone else said they wanted to know when the book would be out, I added them to my Gmail contacts. Then, over the course of this summer, I reached out individually to each one.
6. Start a mailing list. And then treat them like gold. But don't add names to your list unless they opted in. I also didn't try to build mine artificially by running contests. I don't want people on there unless they're genuinely interested in learning about new releases from me, etc. I just make the link accessible on my website and let them accrue organically.
7. Hire a good cover artist! I used Kim Killion with hotdamndesigns.com
8. Make sure you have a compelling blurb
9. Create a Media Kit on your website. I wish I'd done mine sooner, but I finally knuckled down two weeks ago and did it. For ideas, visit mine: http://angelaquarles.com/media-kit/ Anyway, immediately after mine was up, I was getting hits, since I had review copies out with people and up on NetGalley. That week, one reviewer, on her own, mined that page and put up my image quotes and all sorts of stuff.
10. Which leads me to, see if you can rent NetGalley coop slot. I put out a call on some writer loops that I was looking to rent (and I put out that call several months before I needed the slot) and snagged one for a month for a very reasonable fee. I'm already getting reviews now from that.
11. Join writer loops to keep up with the latest indie news. I heard about the day they opened up Amazon preorders on the day it happened and so was quickly able to take advantage of that.
12. Stagger your announcements so that you're not spiking your sales all at once. Amazon now rewards consistency, as noted above. Even though it's hard, I've held off notifying friends and family via email, and staggered other announcements too.
13. Relax and try to focus on other projects too! Thought it's really hard not to keep checking stats!
Thanks for stopping by and reading this post. I had the pleasure of reading some of the super scenes in Must Love Breeches and I’m guessing you’ll like this story, too. Here’s the blurb, which I hope will entice you.

She's finally met the man of her dreams. There's only one problem: he lives in a different century.

"A fresh, charming new voice" – New York Times bestselling author Tessa Dare

HOW FAR WOULD YOU TRAVEL FOR LOVE?

A mysterious artifact zaps Isabelle Rochon to pre-Victorian England, but before she understands the card case’s significance a thief steals it. Now she must find the artifact, navigate the pitfalls of a stiffly polite London, keep her time-traveling origins a secret, and resist her growing attraction to Lord Montagu, the Vicious Viscount so hot, he curls her toes.

To Lord Montagu nothing makes more sense than keeping his distance from the strange but lovely Colonial. However, when his scheme for revenge reaches a stalemate, he convinces Isabelle to masquerade as his fiancée. What he did not bargain on is being drawn to her intellectually as well as physically.

Lord Montagu’s now constant presence overthrows her equilibrium and her common sense. Isabelle thought all she wanted was to return home, but as passion flares between them, she must decide when her true home—as well as her heart—lies.



If you’d like to get in touch with Angela or find out more about Must Love Breeches, here’s her contact information—
Join my mailing list: http://bit.ly/1sde3Qi
Paranormal Unbound, the group blog I belong to: http://bit.ly/1sdaIRa

And we’d love to hear from you. Feel free to leave a comment. Thanks.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Philadelphia Story Experiment


Watching classics with a modern eye

By Elizabeth MS Flynn, w/a Eilis Flynn
Recently, we checked out a classic to see how it had stood the test of time. So we watched The Philadelphia Story again after many, many years. If you haven't seen it, it stars Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Jimmy Stewart, with Hepburn starring as a Philadelphia blueblood socialite divorcee who is on the verge of remarrying, this time to a decent man of means who's worked his way up, when who should show up but her ex-husband, played by Cary Grant, who wants her back. Add to that mix Stewart, who's a reporter after a story, and who also falls in love with her. Oh, what's a girl to do? 

I was reminded that I didn't like this movie when I first saw it, and I really didn't like it after not having seen it for forty years or so. And considering I've always adored Hepburn, who played strong women, that I wanted to kick her character into the pool and keep her there surprised me. The character, Tracy Lord, is a pampered, privileged  prig who doesn't learn and grow after the events of the movie, remaining pampered, privileged and gets everything she wants. Worst of all, she's the classic Mary Sue, who's got three men in love with her. What to do? What to do?

And this was a HUGE movie when it came out, based on a smash success Broadway play. It was Hepburn’s comeback after being deemed box office poison for a while, and it did the job. If nothing else proves that society has changed, this movie does it. Likable? No. The working-class types represented by Jimmy Stewart and his photographer sidekick weren't all that likable, either. The only likable character was the kid sister, played by a young actress named Virginia Weidler, who stood out like a beacon and whose rendition of "Lydia the Tattooed Lady" was charming.

Cultural norm changes aside, as a writer this story annoyed me. I found I didn't CARE about the characters, except to hope they were thrown into a lion's cage and torn into pieces. They had money and privilege but they had little humanity, not connecting with the rest of the world. Not even the representation of the rest of the world, in the form of the working-class fiance and the reporter and the photographer, gave it much depth. They had it all, and they knew it, and screw the rest, classic "I've got mine, so who cares about you" sneer. 

Hey, I get enough of that when I read the newspaper. The last thing I want is to have that attitude shoved in my face by people I'm supposed to be cheering for. 

Could the story be updated for today's stars? No doubt. It was redone as a musical, High Society, in the 1950s, starring Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby, and Frank Sinatra (Kelly's last movie before she went off to become a princess). I haven't seen that, if at all, so maybe I'll do so to see if I like that version any better.

We’ll have to check out other classic movies. It’s an interesting experiment, seeing classics from a modern perspective.

Elizabeth MS Flynn has written fiction in the form of comic book stories, romantic fantasies, urban fantasies, historical fantasies and short stories, a young adult novel, and a graphic novella (most published under the name of Eilis Flynn). She’s also a professional editor and has been for more than 35 years, working with academia, technology, and finance nonfiction, and romance fiction. If you’re looking for an editor, she can be found editing at emsflynn.com and reached at emsflynn@aol.com. If you’re curious about her books, check out eilisflynn.com. In any case, she can be reached at eilisflynn@aol.com.
 
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