Update Day

Well. Short story is that I haven’t done a single thing towards my writing/editing goals this month. Shoes are controlling my life! So much so that I’m literally stealing a few minutes just so I can post this update.

Still, this won’t be going on.

First thing I want to do: Finish Critiquing Alex.
Second Thing: Finish edits to The Heir’s Choice. 
Third Thing: Survive the next month on both edits and the shoes.

How did your August go?

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C. Lee McKenzie on The Seven Don’ts of Storytelling

I’ve made long lists of “What Not To Do” that I use to help me when I’m writing/rewriting a manuscript. Some items are easy to track down and fix; others take some time and possibly a keen-eyed, critical reader. Here are seven DONT’S that I think are very important.

1. Don’t use twenty words when ten will do.

Poor writing is caused when writers don’t use effective sentence structures that have been proven to produce excellent prose.

V.

Not using effective sentence structures produces poor writing.

A lot of that poor sentence structure (what readers often diagnose as “awkward” prose) is the use of passive voice. That means you’ve buried the subject of the sentence at the end, put the object in the subject position, and used the BE Verb + the past participle instead of a strong active verb. Arrrg! It works in academic prose (I think to impress) or legalese (I’m sure to confuse), but not in fiction.

2. Don’t make your reader guess who this story is going to be about and why s/he should care about them. Make those characters want or need something as soon as possible.

Make it clear that Hildegarde Pink is the MC and she wants to climb that mountain. Or that Dirk Brainwave is the hero and he’s on the way to rescue his true love.

Then drop the bomb. Hildegarde is crippled and can’t walk. Dirk’s in jail and there’s no way he’ll get out in time to save that girl.

3. Don’t focus on minor characters just get the backstory in, especially at the beginning of your book. The start should always be about forward movement.

4. Don’t write dialogue that doesn’t have a purpose. Dialogue should

• reveal something about the character(s)

• move the story forward

• create tension

5. Don’t start your story in humdrum places with humdrum situations. These I’ve listed have been so overused that unless you’re doing a parody of bad starts, avoid them:

• in front of a mirror

• waking from a dream

• dressing for a night out, school whatever

6. Don’t let your middle sag.

This is not personal. This is about writing, and this is a difficult part. Even if your characters are amazing and your plot stunning, you’ve got to keep the pacing up. If you’ve got a ticking clock, shorten the time, delay the hero. If you’ve got your quest underway and all is going smoothly, send in the super villain and mess things up.

7. Don’t fall into the “and then” trap.

“I glanced at the clock and my teacher scowled. Then I pretended to be doing the assignment. After that I turned in my paper and left.” We need to know what people do in the story, but not in this flat, linear, uncreative way. Besides, what did all of that glancing, scowling, turning in, and leaving do to reveal more about the character or create interest in the story?

I’m sure you all have your own checklist. What do you think is important to keep track of when you’re trying to decide what’s wrong with a story?”

C. Lee McKenzie is a native Californian who grew up in a lot of different places; then landed in the Santa Cruz Mountains where she lives with her family and miscellaneous pets. She writes most of the time, gardens and hikes and does yoga a lot, and then travels whenever she can. 

She takes on modern issues that today’s teens face in their daily lives. Her first young adult novel, Sliding on the Edge, which dealt with cutting and suicide was published in 2009. Her second, titled The Princess of Las Pulgas, dealing with a family who loses everything and must rebuild their lives came out in 2010. Her short story,Premeditated Cat, appears in the anthology, The First Time, and her Into the Sea of Dew is part of a collection, Twoand Twenty Dark Tales. In 2012, her first middle grade novel, Alligators Overhead, came out. Double Negative is her third young adult novel.

Ian Bott on The Shifting Sands of Blogdom

When I entered the blogging world six years ago, first as a lurker and occasional commenter, then with a blog of my own, I was looking for information and advice. I lapped up posts on the writing craft. I devoured advice on querying and looking for agents and publishers. I followed endless numbers of blogs by big name agents, and then started hanging out with other writers.

The blogging world was alive with posts, comments, awards, tags, and blogfests. Then, maybe two or three years ago, I noticed things started changing. Once-vibrant well-known sites like Query Shark, The Public Query Slushpile, The Intern, and Flogging the Quill, are either dormant or very quiet. Many writers’ blogs I follow that used to be hives of activity have either slowed or died.
I’ve seen a spate of posts recently about this topic, so I don’t want to rehash old news. I’m looking for hope and positive thoughts in all of this and I’d love to hear your collective wisdom in the comments.
First off, I know my own relationship with blogging has changed over time.

As a blogger, I’ve always mixed in life and hobbies alongside writing-related topics. The latter has tailed off as I concluded that the world will survive without yet another post on the correct use of the apostrophe. 
As a blog reader, I barely touch blogs by industry professionals any longer. I will occasionally read posts on the craft of writing, but these days they have to be offering some new perspective to make me sit up and take notice.
But that’s just me. One small drop in a very large pond. It doesn’t explain the overall slowdown. Or is that slowdown just an illusion? Maybe it’s just that the group of writers I connected with in the early days have moved on as a group. Maybe there are other hives of activity out there beyond my horizon, where people are beginning the cycle all over again. 
What do you think? Is the slowdown widespread, or just patchy? Or am I imagining it all?
Blogging remains my chosen social media outlet. I shudder at the thought of FaceBook and Twitter. But in order to keep blogging fresh and alive, people need to be posting things that other people want to read.
So…

What attracts you to a blog? When you follow a blog, what enticed you return to it? What do you look for, and how has that changed over the years?

Ian Bott is a science fiction writer who successfully evaded the writing bug until it bit him, late in life, by means of a sneak stealth attack. As a software developer he rebelled against narcolepsy-inducing software specifications and resolved to write technical documents fit for ordinary human consumption. From there, it was a small step to speculative fiction.

He lives in beautiful British Columbia with his wife, two children, and a steadily expanding menagerie of pets.

Ghosts of Innocence is his first novel. See details on his website: http://www.iansbott.com/

Or connect with Ian on his blog: http://www.thebaldpatch.blogspot.ca/

A brief break from my hiatus

So… seems I just can’t stay away from blogging. Yep. Officially, this blog is still on hiatus, but I’m sitting here on a Saturday night, writing this blog post.

Why?

Not sure. Really, that’s what I am right now. Unsure. I’ve set everything aside temporarily in order to get my new business off the ground, and I feel like that’s going well. And yet…

I’m coming to that point where everything feels out of whack. I know why. I’m a writer. Writers write. When they’re not writing, they’re thinking of what they’re going to write. Except… my business hasn’t afforded me that luxury since the middle of July.

And it’s starting to make me feel crummy.

Yet, to me it’s not currently just a matter of opening a notebook/document and writing and/or editing. No, because truthfully, I’m addicted to writing. Right now, I’m starting to go into withdrawals.

That’s why I’m writing this. Because I know if I start working on some of my fiction, it’s going to consume my thoughts and right now, my thoughts and creativity have to go into making my business work. Because this business will fund all my publishing plans if it works. So a short term sacrifice of writing time is worth it.

But at the same time, my muse seems to be singing a siren’s song, calling me to work on something, anything that involves crafting a story.

At the same time, putting my thoughts and feelings into words is so gratifying that I can’t help wanting to do more and more of it. Which is making me realize that I have to find a way to get some writing or editing time into my schedule.

But how to do it without completely burning myself out?

Shelley Sly on Writing With a Chronic Illness

Writing isn’t easy when you’re sick or in pain all the time. As someone who suffers from chronic migraines and fibromyalgia, I’ve had to find ways to remain productive even when I’m feeling sick for weeks at a time.

Some things that have worked for me:

1) Working While Resting

When I have a headache that feels like someone’s stabbing my eyes, or I’m leaning over a trash can about to vomit, I’m obviously not able to get anything done. But if I’m just feeling drowsy from medicine, or feeling too achy to move but not so sick that I’m about to pass out, I try to use my time wisely.

I keep a pencil and Post-Its by my bed, so while I’m resting, I can take notes on future story ideas or jot down ways to improve my current manuscript. If I can tolerate a bright screen, I’ll sometimes email myself story notes on my phone. If I’m too sick to write or email, sometimes I’ll just let my mind wander and see what kind of story ideas I come up with. (And with the migraine meds I take, sometimes I come up with really weird stuff!)

Resting and recovering is the absolute priority, but there’s no harm in doing a lot of thinking during that time.

2) Utilizing Waiting Time

While people with chronic illness frequently lose time in their day from feeling sick, they also lose time because of doctor appointments. I, personally, spend a ton of time in waiting rooms. But I bring a notebook with me and use this time to get writing done.

Now, I’m not the type to write by hand, so this means I prepare my notebook ahead of time with some information from my current WIP’s Word document. Usually just a few notes that tell me what just happened in that scene.

Other ways I’ve used waiting room time wisely include reading books on the craft of writing, reading other books in my genre, and bringing a printed out manuscript and going over it with a red pen. (I only did this once, and it was a time when I had to wait over an hour in a waiting room. It was fabulous.)

Being chronically ill can be a pain—literally—but I don’t let it take away too much of my writing time.

Thanks, Misha, for letting me share my experiences!

Shelley Sly lives in the Washington, D.C. area with her husband and their chocolate lab mix. Her debut middle grade novel, Wishing for Washington, is available on Amazon.com and BN.com. You can find her at www.shelleysly.com.