Update Day!

Hey all! Today is time for another update to my Big Dreams (call it what you like) bloghop. For those of you who don’t know, the blog hop is about insane, or insanely important goals. We share updates on these goals on the last Friday of every month.

You’re welcome to join! If you’d like to sign up, please go here.

So… Needless to say, February went off the rails in multiple ways for me.

But just to re-cap:

1) I’ll no longer submit to agents.
2) The rewrite that had been the goal went so wrong that I have to draft the entire thing again in order for me to have something to work with. Not only that, but I’ve had to split the draft in two (ES1 and ES2).
3) I’m still waiting for edits to Wo6C2.

But I have written over 30k this month, counting the rewrite until it went awry. (Which I totally do count.)

Goals for this month:

1) I have a mystery project (MP. Creative, eh?) that’s taking the highest priority a draft can take. More on this later. But I actually want to see how far I can get with it in the year. If I finish nothing else, this is the one I want to get done. (With the exception of Wo6C2. Because I want that baby published and soon.)
2) Continue redrafting ES.
3) See if I can actually squeeze in a few words towards my other drafts. I haven’t touched them since November last year.

So now, this is what my current and planned year looks like:

How are your goals coming along?

BEFORE YOU GO! 

I just want to let you know that I joined up with the lovely people at Unicorn Bell. I have the run of the blog this coming week (3-7 March) and I’ll be critting query letters, first chapters and synopses. You can even send me all three, if they’re for the same story. In fact, I quite prefer it. If you’d like a keen eye on your submission package, please contact me unicornbellsubmissions(at)gmail(dot)com. Please not that this isn’t my usual e-mail address.

Have a great weekend all! XX

Advertisements

A lesson in tension from Argo

A few nights ago, I watched Argo.

It’s actually the second way I saw it, so this time round gave me a chance to think about its story in writing terms.

See… there’s actually an awesome lesson in tension in that movie.

It works like this:

Give the main character a shortage of resources. Put him into a very difficult, life altering situation. Then, make sure that even the readers know how tenuous his/her position is.

In Argo, the CIA wants to save six Americans. So you’d think that breaks the resource part of the rule.

Except, things went wrong in Iran so fast that they’re left reeling. And the only way they can save the six is by a very far-fetched plan. They can’t put together anything better together, because they literally don’t have the time.

Why? Because they know the revolutionary guard will find them any moment now, and odds are they’ll all get killed.

So not only do we know the stakes early on in the movie, we also know that beating the stakes and attaining the goal is a long-shot. Because there is no James Bond to swoop in and save the day. There are no super powers. And because it’s set in the 1970’s, there’s no internet, no cell phones, no technology that we’re used to seeing in the movies.

It works the same way in books. If you have the reader invested in the characters and what will happens to them, things go from zero to incredibly tense if you don’t know if they’ll actually make it out of the precarious situation they’re in. And you’ll want them to, more than anything else in the story. And that desire from you vs. all the odds against the desire coming true is where the tension comes from.

In books, a good example it The Hunger Games. We want Katniss to survive, but every single thing is stacked against her. From her own personality to her inexperience, to the government…

Harry Potter is expected to beat Voldemort, but the whole time, you can’t help feeling that he’s ill-prepared for it.

The list goes on, but I’ll leave it to you to to share more examples. 🙂

Oh no you don’t.

Thanks to everyone who left encouraging messages to my previous blogpost! It really did encourage me.

I actually did end up getting some writing done. 1500 words, in fact, which is not bad, given that I’m hand drafting again. 
Still… I kind of feel that I should share what’s on my mind. 
Truth is… I’m getting seriously frustrated with my publishing house. Because I handed in first edits in November. I got the news of my editor quitting in January. About a week later, I had a replacement editor. 
Who let me know the day before yesterday that my book has been put on the back burner and that he’ll look at it again in March. “LOOK AT IT.” In other words, I’ll probably see the bloody thing in April. If I’m lucky.
Which is a problem, given that the book was supposed to be out six months after I handed the book in in November. This is written into my contract. As is the fact that I’m supposed to receive a complete monthly accounting of my sales. Which I am yet to receive. 
I’ve been runaround and pretty much ignored ever since I decided to stay with this publishing house, and I’m tired of it. 
I guess my words were feeding my growing resentment instead. 
So today, I’ve decided to channel my anger and do something about the situation. I sent a warning that they’re toeing the line (or at least partially over the line) of breaching the contract I signed with them. For both books. 
Because yes, I might be small fry, but my work is important to me. And I refuse to have it languishing on some back burner due to something that actually has nothing to do with me or my work ethic. 
I’m. Just. Done.

EDIT: 

Since doing this post, the pub house came back to me and clarified some stuff. So for now, I’m satisfied. So even though it might upset people, I’m glad I came out and spoke about it. That’s why I sent them the mail. I can’t expect the pub house to be up front with me when I’m not being up front with them. 

Hopefully now that we understand each other, we’ll be able to come to a mutual beneficial situation for us both. 🙂

This would have made an awesome IWSG post

It’s strange and wonderful for me to think of all the skills I’ve learned since finishing my first ever rough draft. I guess I always knew I’d improved, but nothing made that improvement as glaringly obvious as working on the second rough draft I ever finished.

Some of you will know from my previous posts that said project fell by the wayside after the rewrite was lost in a back-up disaster. (Yes, I lost the whole thing WHILE backing it up, which meant I lost the back-ups as well.)

Anyway, I reread the rough draft and… well… it wasn’t good. I still really liked the characters, but the tension sagged all over the place.

So I put up a rewrite structure (i.e. I planned what I wanted to do with the rewrite). Things went well for the first three chapters. Until I realized that I’d matured so much as a writer that I wouldn’t actually be able to work with what I had.

*SIIIIIIIGH*

Anyway… I guess it’s a good thing. My muse got me involved enough with the story that I actually want to make it awesome. The less than awesome thing is that I’m now basically drafting on my computer (which I hate), but I’m too deep into the story to start again by hand at well over 20k words. On the other hand…

No.

But…

NO.

I’m committed to getting the story done, and I don’t think doing so by writing an infinite number of first drafts will help me get there.

But really. I seriously – SERIOUSLY – hate rough drafting on the computer. Because the moment I slow down, I have this insane desire to go back and delete every single thing I wrote.

It’s something I always struggled with. It’s the reason why I write in pen. There’s no way to delete thousands of words on impulse if you have it down in ink.

With my computer… the chance is there, and it’s very tempting.

On the other hand, I know hand drafting works, and it works for a reason. And I know I threw out the entire rough draft. So maybe bending my own rules a bit makes sense.

I mean sure, it might set the project back by at least six months, but isn’t that better than getting stuck in my own head and getting delayed as a result in any case?

Thoughts?

Plot and Kevin Bacon

Hey all! Today, I’m welcoming Elizabeth Seckman to my blog. She’s going to tell us what Kevin Bacon taught her about plotting.

Take it away, Elizabeth. 🙂

Thanks for having me over Misha! I feel a little like a kindergartener coming to the high school to share knowledge, but I will try to sound like I know what I’m talking about.

The most critical part of a good tale is the plot. The plot is the bones everything else in the story hangs on. No bones, no book.

And everything I learned about plotting, I got from Kevin Bacon.

Applaud me, Kevin. I am brilliant.

Yes, Kevin Bacon, the actor.

Ever heard of  the game, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon?

Here’s the game, in a nutshell: Link any actor to Kevin Bacon within six connections.

Okay, so here is how it works. Let’s take Madonna. How is she connected to Kevin Bacon? She was married to Sean Penn, who starred with Kevin in Mystic River. So, that’s a quick two degree separation. And the legend is you can link almost anyone in Hollywood to Kevin within six degrees.

Yeah, yeah…fun little party game, but what’s it got to do with plotting?

I say plots MUST also be that tight. Let’s pretend the plot is Kevin Bacon. Everything that happens in that story must, within six degrees, have something to do with the main plot. No tangents. No meandering. No superfluous characters to bog down the reader’s memory. Every conversation and every action move the story along.

For example: let’s say it’s a romance. A single dad and his son. Dad needs a love interest. Now, pick the kid’s sub plot…let’s say he’s learning disabled. Voila! Dad dates the teacher. Need some more conflict? Bring on dad’s ex-wife. Now you have an antagonist who is bringing back story. See? Subplots + Plot are connected.

Keep it tight. Keep it moving.  Kevin will applaud you too.

Fate Intended is the third book in the Coulter Men Series.  Trip is the last of the Coulter sons to find
love. He’s a handsome man with all the skills a young spy needs to succeed. But when it comes to love, he misses the target. Jane is a sweet beauty who may or may not be wanted for murder. She’s hiding out as a cleaning lady when chance brings her and Trip together. It looks like a happily ever after is in the cross hairs until reality tries to destroy what fate has intended.

Elizabeth Seckman is a simple chick with a simple dream…to write stories people want to read.

photo credit: titi- via photopin cc

Why I NEVER insist on writers learning technique first.

Hey all! I’m finally back. Would have posted sooner, but the power was out all day.

Incidentally: Not the best thing ever to happen during a heat wave.

So anyway… remember what I said about me blogging about topics that leap out at me? Well, this is one of them.

I’d like to know from you, two things:

1) Did you decide to learn writing skills before starting to write?
2) Have you actually finished a book yet? (Even if it’s a first draft.)

And now, on to the actual post:

On of my website meanderings, a new writer asked if it’s cliche to alternate points of view with every new chapter.

I said something along the lines of it not being a question of cliche, but of flow, and that if she thought the flow worked, she needed to have the guts to follow through with it.

Which led to someone insisting that a writer HAS to learn the skills and technique first instead of guts. And me being me, I tried to be nice and admitted that yes, skills and technique were necessary to a writer. But that one needed guts to actively write first before learning them.

Comment from her: 

No.  You need technical skill before you can develop your voice and style.  Dancers don’t start off with as choreographers; musicians don’t start of as conductors.

Me: 

But writing is neither dancing nor music. And as a person who does all three, I know that approaching all three activities the same way would be pretty dang stupid. 

Point is that writers who focus on learning “all the technical skills” before they actually start writing, almost never finish their projects. 

Because the one thing writing, dancing and music have in common is that learning skills is a never-ending process. So if you don’t start writing first and learning as you go, it basically comes down to an interesting form of procrastination.


That said, I don’t particularly believe in insisting there’s only one way of getting this writing thing done. So more power to anyone who does learn writing the other way around. I just haven’t seen it happen among any of my writing acquaintances. 

(Which is where my questions came from. I haven’t seen this happen, but it could have and I missed it. And me being me, I’d really like to know if I’m wrong, and by how much.)

Her

Wow.  Sorry you feel so defensive about it.

Me: 

I’m not defensive per se. But as I said, I’ve had contact with over a thousand writers since 2010, and none that I could think of actually finished a book after “learning the trade” first. 

I actually think it’s because there’s so much knowledge, some of it contradicting, that writers lose their inherent style and voice because they have too many people “telling” them what to do and how. 

And as I said, one never stops learning in any of the arts. So a writer who’s postponing writing until sufficient knowledge and skill is gained, almost never actually gets to the writing bit. 

So truly, I’m not so defensive in the sense that I think my way is the only way. But I try very hard to foster an enjoyment of writing within new writers. And that’s hard when people (no matter how well-meaning) insist on “rules” and “methods” and “skills” that – if taken too far – will actually set a writer back rather than help him/her. 

What I mean by this is that I’ve been writing for almost thirteen years now. I had the fortune of starting before I had access to the internet and all of its information. I say this because it meant I could find my own voice, style etc first, and adapt the rules, technique etc to suit what I wanted to do, instead of vice versa. 

With the shoe on the other foot, (people who wanted to learn the technique) I’ve seen person on person, new writer after new writer postpone their (often excellent) projects because they felt their technique lacking, or because their books broke too many rules. And you know what? They almost never start again.  

It’s a pity, really. A great one. And it’s the reason why I might come across as defensive. Because I’m defending a new writer’s right to enjoy writing, even if their writing SUCKS! I’m defending their right to explore, to make mistakes and to learn for themselves. So that they can see in the end why techniques work, and which rules can stand bending. 

And if I can be very naughty, I’m going to use your previous analogy. 

Dancers don’t become dancers to become choreographers. They dance because they love it. They become choreographers because they love dance first. 

Same with musicians and composers. The love and passion for music comes first. 

Writers need to have that love and passion fostered within them. And if that means me being a seeming anarchist to say: “Go on!!! Try it! No one will kill you!” I’ll do it every time. 

Because in the end, the most amazing things in art come from people who had the guts to try something.

That said, I do believe skill and technique has its time and place. Namely: Revisions and edits. If you don’t at least understand rules and why they exist, and if you don’t know writing craft, improving on what has been written (an incredibly important aspect to producing a readable novel) would be impossible.