Wednesday, January 30, 2013

SF & YA Contest ends tomorrow!

Just a quick last minute blurb for those of you writing SF or YA- there's a very cool contest that ends tomorrow!

And if you don't follow The Guide To Literary Agents blog already- get on over there!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Time to Write


Let’s first look at the concept of time— aka that thing we never seem to have enough of.  How many times have you heard, “You’re a writer?  OH!  I’ve always wanted to be a writer—I just never have the time.”

Hmmm- balderdash.  If they REALLY always wanted to be a writer, they would FIND the time.  They would make it, fight for it, carve it out in five minutes blocks if need be.

But they would DO IT.

And since all of us here are writers, I know all of us are doing that too.  Right?

I seem to hear some muttering in the wings there ;).

Let’s face it, even with the best intentions and the most heartfelt NEED to write, we all often have trouble finding the time for it.

But the fact is we all have the same amount of time as all of those famous scientists, inventors, and yes, novelists.  Very few people are given the chance to have unlimited time to follow their passion (and those folks, believe it or not, often face a new set of issues even with all of that time).  Many of us have to hold Evil Day Jobs (aka EDJ) to pay the bills.  We can’t afford to run off into some cottage and just follow our bliss.  Others may not have to have an EDJ, but have young families they need to take care of.  Nicer than the EDJ, but still a lot of work, and time not spent on writing.

So, how do we do it then?

First, find out where the problem is.  Do you plan out your day?  If not, you may want to, at least until you get a routine down.  Making writing a daily routine is key.  Even if it’s just for 15 minutes- after a month or so of doing it every day, it will just be part of what you do. So grab all of the “must-do’s” in a day.  Things like EDJ, family, food, sleep, writing. Yup. Note how many things aren’t must do’s.  Yes, house work and laundry are important—but put them on a second tier for now.  TV, Facebook, emails, social media belong on a third tier.

Looking at your first tier how much time does this leave you? I work 8 hours a day at an EDJ, so add on a generous hour and a half for dinner and decompression….hmmm, that leaves about 3 hours… THREE HOURS! And yet, I still have “trouble finding time to write”.  I’m confessing to you all in the hopes it will shame me into mending my wastrel ways.

Step two is figuring out just where this missing writing time is being sucked off to.  For many of us (myself included) the vile villain is TV.  I have a stressful EDJ, so I tell myself I deserve the TV time to relax.  Well and good, the trick here is to make writing work with your life, not destroy it.  A TV show won’t kill it—a few shows every night might.

I have realized that I have to be tough on my inner TV addicted child.  She can now watch while eating dinner and can watch one recorded show.  Then writing.  Or even mindlessly starring at nothing (but the brain works when you do that, did you know?).

Computer madness is another draw for many people.  The real and imagined “needs” of social media are seriously becoming a crisis for many people. Again, setting parameters of when and when you will engage will help.  If you are someone who has the freedom to write in the mornings- don’t start with your email.  Get some writing in, then check email, etc.  Gets the brain focused on the right thing.  Also, limit your time.  Use a timer if need be. Disconnect the internet if you need to while writing.

Sometimes time sucks aren’t as much of a problem as time planning.  You have your list of things to do, and where is writing?  Often squished in somewhere where you could fit it.  If you’re not a night person, putting writing in at the end of the day is sort of useless.

Figure out what is the best time of day for you to write-- and put it in your plan at that time.  Block off that time.  If you need to get up an hour early- DO IT.

The saddest writing excuse is, “I don’t have time.” Because, yeah, you do.  You just have to find it and fight for it.

Thanks for coming by!  And please, if you have any of your own time sucks (and solutions!) post them!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Middle Mayhem

Before I launch into today’s blog, I do want to preface a point-- any and all writing advice, suggestions, madcap ideas that you are exposed to here-- are just ONE writer’s way of doing it.

The ideas may work for you – they may be absolute crap for you.  Just wanted to remind folks there is no absolute RIGHT way to write…so don’t break your neck trying to follow all suggestions from all people.

OK, Public Service spot over (prompted by a post I saw from a very confused new writer on another blog!) Now on to today and my current writing issue.


Ya know, I don’t think I have ever met an author who openly admitted to liking the middle portion of their book.  At least not while IN the middle of it.  Whether plotter, pantser, or somewhere in-between—it seems that middles are a pain for a majority of writers.

Either there’s too much mayhem going on, or not enough. 

Beginnings are great, the excitement of a new world, new characters, and new adventures.  Endings are thrilling, even in a series, you’re finishing up something big, a story arc is coming home to roost.

Middles are just…there.

Middles can go one of two ways (well, three really, but the third way is when they do exactly what they are supposed to do—more about that later).

The two ways they can go wrong is to putter out or explode. Puttering out is probably more common for pantsers. You’re steaming along, things are getting interesting, then you hit a “then what happens” moment. Problem is, when you’re telling the story if you don’t know, then who does?

One way I’ve come up with the help get by this is to have a nice conversation with my main characters. I ask them at this exact moment in time- what would be the thing they would want the absolute most. What would bring them untold happiness and joy. Really detail it out.

Then do the opposite.

At that precise moment in time- what is the worst thing that could happen (something I’m sure we always are asking- but a muddled middle sometimes means we lost that). Do that worst thing and go with it. Try and pull your characters apart. Give them crappy weather. Have the damn break. Wash out a road or two.  Destroy the dilthium crystals. Whatever it is- do it.

I don’t always keep all of my middle worst case events in (I aim to go over the top)- but it gets me moving.

After that, I look at my end goal. Where do they need to be by end of Act 3. How many other things could go wrong before they get there? This usually gets me past the muddled middle and solidly into the final act.

The other way middles can go wonkie (and sadly, these sometimes end up in books too) is mayhem middle. Too much is going on and the reader (and I’m thinking the writer) kinda gets lost. Could be a case of applying the worst case scenarios without editing them back in a later draft.

My suggestion would be to really take those middle scenes apart and pull out the main line. What do you need to make the scene do what it needs to do. Then slowly add a few bits at a time so it’s not so naked, but hopefully no longer as gaudy ;)>.

Which leaves us with what middles should do.  They need to pull the character deeper into their “new world” and the reader right along with them.  They need to raise the stakes, and have the character move solidly into the point of no return. They also need to make a logical path for the character arc from beginning to end, as well as one for a twisty, turny (but still logical) plot.

Those are my views on middles—what about you?  Major problems?  Ways you’ve beaten them into submission?  Please share!


Friday, January 11, 2013

Injured Characters


First off, sorry this blog has been awol the last two weeks, but the reason leads into today’s blog post J.

On New year’s Eve, completely sober and of sound state of mind, I fell off the front steps of my home (for no reason that I can tell) and did a nasty sprain to my right ankle.

The good news is I didn’t break anything, and while painful, I have not missed a day of work (my day job).  However, this injury has affected me.

I haven’t been writing because pretty much by the time I come home from work, I’m wiped out and simply eat then crash into bed.  I haven’t kept up my blog for the same reason.

But wait- you say as you read this- it’s your FOOT.  Whyever would that mean you can’t write?

Good point- but that injury is making me far more tired than I would be if I could just stay home off of my foot. And mentally there may be a bit of a pity party going on too.  I’m glad it’s not busted, but I really want to be able to walk normally again- NOW!

This impacts my writing and other aspects of my health.

And it’s something writers need to keep in mind while they are damaging their characters.  We all love to mess our folks up (physically, mentally, emotionally) but are we making sure that we’re changing our characters behavior to suit the damage?

Their injury, whatever it is, may have repercussions far beyond the immediate location of the damage.  It could affect many aspects of their day to day life, causing chronic stressors, and a whole new level of issues.

In the recent Star Trek movie, old Spock, tells young Kirk, that even though young Spock may not seem emotionally compromised- they just witnessed the death of their world- they ARE emotionally compromised.  Old Spock tells young Kirk this, so young Kirk can use that injury (young Spock’s) to get him to step down from command.

That’s another point- when your character is “compromised” how is it affecting their interaction with others?  Is there a new weakness that an enemy can exploit?

I’m not suggesting you mention the injury all the time, but if you know the affects it will cause, you can subtly add that realism to your book.  And any time we can pull in something that resonates as “real” to a reader, we pull that reader deeper into our world J.


Have a great day and try not to fall over anything !