Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The chaotic life of a writer

Life is chaos. Anyone who tells you different is either extremely organized and living alone, or that person is the luckiest person in the world.  For the rest of us, chaos reigns. Between jobs, relationships, children and trying to give ourselves some entertainment it’s hard to give a little extra time to do what we writers love, and that is to create with words.  The great part is we do find time.  We pluck a half hour when the kids nap, or during our break time at work.  We sneak away for a few moments to write down that next idea when everyone goes to sleep.  We grow our ideas into stories, but the chaos doesn’t stop there. Once we feel the story is ready to share we send them to our critique partners, where the story is picked apart, line by line. All the mistakes are shown in red and writers have a moment to reflect that we are not as good as we thought. Then we rewrite and edit some more. Over and over the carousel of writing goes.  So where do we start and where do we end?  I'm going to be focusing on the parts of writing and the process in the weeks of February. Have a few of my writer friends add some of their thoughts and as always post a few short stories for fun. 

If you have any thoughts to what you would like to read here, or want to do a post on my blog, comment.  I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Plotter or Pantster by: D. C. Rich

Oh look, it's a guest, on my blog.  Wait... when did that happen?  Um, now?  

I'd like to welcome Dean C. Rich to the Realm. I met him at AQC. He's part of the Speculative Fiction group I joined several months ago, where he does critiques for fellow members, and adds to the helpful silliness that makes me love the group. He has a blog called The Write Time where he has advice for us writers and several guests from AQC and beyond. You can also find him on twitter as @DeanCRich 

And so without further ado and with now more delay I give you dum dum duuummm ...

Plotter or Pantster

I once saw a sports commentator inside the football locker room showing the offensive line’s lockers. Everything was nice and tidy. The jersey’s were hung up neatly, the cleats were lined up. It looked like Monk’s closet.

Then the commentators went over to the defensive line’s lockers. Those looked like tornados had ripped through them. They laughed and said this was typical. The offensive players always have a plan. They study the defense, and put together a way to beat them. 
The defense on the other hand react to what the offense is doing. 

Thus the lockers reflect planning vs. reacting. 

Professionally I have done a lot of planning. I changed jobs and ended up dealing with chaos, but I found that even with everything going crazy there was a rhythm. So we made plans and put things in place to bring order to chaos. It worked, now my new job is much easier.

Writers come in two flavors as well, neat and tidy with a plot outline complete with full characters bios and pedigrees. The other has an idea and jumps on their laptop and pounds out a novel by, well, the seat of their pants. The pantster.

Both methods work. I am not in a position to say which is better. Believe it or not I use both methods. I start off with an idea and write until I can’t go further. Then I think things through and start to build outlines and character bios. I’ve also gone the other way and started out with outlines and start writing and the outline goes out the window.

I had planned on making the queen a puppet ruler. The big scene came up and as I was writing my young queen took charge of the situation and turned the council of regents on its collective ear. My carefully crafted plot flew out the window at that moment. It was a neat moment for me as a writer, my character took on a life of her own and became the queen. 

So, yes I’ll be a fence sitter with this debate, planner or pantster which is better. I think you need to be able to do both. A balance that works, at least it has worked for me.

Which are you? Why does that method work for you?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The First Sentence

I've been doing some research on this, since lets face it, any and all writers who want to go the traditional route of publishing or publish themselves need to have a strong first sentence. You want to grab the reader by the mind, heart and spirit at first glance.  You want your book to be that sexy blond haired blue eyed girl that everyone looks at, right till she walks out of the room.  The grabber of attention.  To any writer, your story is a child, a brain child that you want people to notice.  However, attention spans are not what they used to be.  There was a time when a reader would accept the long winded description of scenes and the characters in them before anything happened. That is just not the case anymore.  The reader wants to use their own imagination implant their own ideas of what things look like, not to be pushed into viewing something else.  They want that first line to be one of those lines that tells them everything and nothing.  So, how do you do that?  Well it's the easiest, and hardest thing to do as a writer, and when accomplished, one of the most rewarding.

Let's take a look at what is expected of the first line.
Narrator's voice, character, setting and the most anticipated, some sort of conflict. Some of these things can't fit into every first sentence.  There are times where you need to pick and choose what would grab the reader most, and follow up the rest of the needed elements in the rest of the first paragraph. Making not just the first sentence the hook, but the first paragraph.

Examples of first sentences.

Delta Pi by Andrew Bert:
Kinsey Stafford noticed it—or, rather, the effect of it—in his office at the Center for Mathematical Studies, CambridgeEngland.

Andrew Bert shows in his first sentence the character: Kinsey Stafford.  We can  picture where Kinsey is, just by knowing he's in an office. It also shows voice in the way that Andrew Bert words his first sentence.We do not see conflict yet, but it gives the the presence of the main character.   

His chest tightened and he hung his head in grief. His program to calculate the deep digits of pi had suddenly crashed.  In a race against time to save his career, he'd just lost precious months' work

With the rest of the paragraph not only do we find the conflict, but the provoking conflict that will drive the entire story.

The Watchtower by Darke Conteur:
Napoleon Bonaparte once said that there were two motivation to move men; inspiration and fear, but for Martin Cunningham, starvation was a damn good means of motivation too.

Darke shows in this one sentence a powerful drive of voice, character, and conflict.  A good mix to keep the reader going.

I challenge you to pick up your favorite book.  Does it have a good opening line, one filled with character, voice, setting and conflict? If not, does the rest of the paragraph lend a hand in this.  Perhaps the rest of the chapter?  Sift through your library and check book after book. Sometimes it only takes one line to grab you till the end pages.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

It's Your Choice

Time flies by on wings unseen.
Words flow to page as if they were already written
but there is not enough time
to write
to dream.
When you wake will you still see what was written behind your eyes?
Will you see the beauty of imagination's first kiss
last kiss
Walk in the shadows of light
walk on the clouds of thought.
it is your dream
you desire
your choice to remember
and write the story
share with the world the depths in which imagination can flow
It's your choice.

Sorry if you weren't expecting poetry.  It comes and goes, I haven't shared mine in almost 10years.  I apologize if it seems a bit off.  I'm rusty at it, but the poetry has been hovering over my shoulder for the past few days and ran through me when I started to write.  Kind-of how my characters are at times in the story I'm writing.  

The question I wanted to ask, is how many of us create our stories out of a dream?

I could say that mine was created out of a dream, that Nemune's rampaging murders were part of my subconscious wanting to off every Jack A** I've met. However, I think, for the most part, I'd be telling a bit of a fib.  Yes, I've dreamed of Nemune hacking and slashing away, but she was created far before I had even started dating.  Granted at that time she was sweet, yet commanding, blond with blue eyes and loved by all. Most of my story was created after reading the Chronicals of the Lance.  After I read about Tanis, Tass and all those wonderful characters I couldn't help but brainstorm my own world.  What would it be like? Would the gods play a part? Would there be some war involved? Magic? Oh yes, my brain baby was growing in my mind for years. Not to actually make it to paper for several more.  Yet, it was always just notes, never really writing the story.  Little blurbs of action of her killings.  If you have ever worked at an amusement park working the games booths, you know there is lots of time to do nothing, so I wrote the adventures on the back of a ledger.  It's were the passion of writing was truly born in me, and has been growing ever since.

So where did you get your ideas? Did you hold on to them for years, like I did? Or did you write them down as soon as they started nudging your grey matter?

I'd love to hear what made you write, or what attracts you to those who do.
Thanks for reading. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year

This is the day when each of us looks at what we have done, and what we want, whether it be in ourselves, about ourselves, or how to make things better. Ultimately it's a selfish day, but there are times where selfish can be the healthiest way to feel.  All things in moderation of course.

So what is your Resolution?
What do you want to do or gain that will bring you happiness?
Will you still be happy if you do not achieve your goal?

My Resolution is to research Literary Agents this year.  It would be great to get representation, but I want to know my investors as much as they will in turn need to know me.  A writer can spend years, even decades perfecting the craft, and only give a glance at those out there who would invest in their work.  Would it not be prudent to also work hard on finding the perfect match for your talent.  I think so.
Finding an agent would bring me a thrilling joy.  I will still be happy even if I don't get one this year.  All things take time and there is always a learning curve.
So as I search, I will work, I will write and write, I will do what I can to make my craft better. I will work on that blasted query letter... shudder shudder.

Wish me luck! In turn I hope everyone has a great 2012 and finds good fortune and good times.