5.05.2011

PSA

Hello, Internet! Hope things are going well! I interrupt the regularly scheduled static of this blog for a public service announcement. 

*Ahem* For those of you who have put time, effort, and quite a bit of caffeine into files found solely on your computers, it is wise to invest in a memory card/stick/drive/key-chain/adapter thingy. Do not be made to learn your lesson twice, like me. 

Target has good ones. As does every other store.

Okay! I shall come back when I have actual THINGS to talk about.

2.19.2011

catharsis (and a song)

It is SO hard to make Super Shiny Idea go away when it comes around. This monster battles stories in progress for a writer's sparkly attention, and all the attempted ignoring can get to be kind of tedious. And when I say "kind of" I mean "super-extra-holy-kjajkncku."

What do YOU do when an idea catches your attention? Do you stop your current project "just for now" and move on to that freaking idea that JUST WON'T GO AWAY? Or do you keep writing the first story until it comes to its victorious end, knowing there WILL come a time when you can *edit* all of that distracted rubbish you just wrote?

Okay, now I feel better.

And just so this post wasn't completely useless, here's an Inspiration Song, complete with VH1 pop-ups:



You're welcome. Especially for that delightful screen-cap you get before pushing play. So hit play and MAKE IT GO AWAY.

2.17.2011

avoidance redux

You may be thinking: Is there a legit reason glittery platform heels are the icon for this post? Yes, there is! (But first. Hi, there! It's been a while!)

The avoidance of the day: voiceless over-detailing.

Let's take . . . a pair of high heels, for example.

One character might see the above shoes as "sparkly blue platforms" while another might see them as "hooker shoes" or "Snow White slippers on crack." One character might simply think someone "towers" in the heels and another might think: "If that girl falls on her face in the next two minutes, I won't be surprised." Another character wouldn't even notice the shoes. Descriptions are quite a bit more interesting if they're coming out of the voice of the character – what that particular character would ACTUALLY notice and HOW they'd notice it.

There's also: "eyesore," "adorable," and "how can this girl care about the glittery quality of her shoes and the leg-elongating ratio of the heel height when the rain forest is being desiccated like a downed zombie after the apocalypse?" Okay. That last one packed a rambling punch, but whatever. Now what about: "Her lace eyelet mini-dress perfectly complemented her glittery dark blue heels, which held her aloft from the ground by three inches. . ." Zzz.

*You could say my skills in writing are of the "wannabe professional" type, so do what you will with my "tips" and feel free to leave some of your own in the comments. :)

2.05.2011

to outline or not to outline

A typical drafting occurrence:

Writer: Who needs an outline? I don't. Obviously.

Draft: Really. Outlines are SO lame.

W: You are so smart, Draft! You know just where I need to –

*draft withers*

*writer gapes*

W: Why you gotta be so difficult, Draft? Way to blow yourself up. I can't have a story with nothing but body parts, can I?

D: CAN YOU?

*writer grabs hair*

W: Didn't I have an AWESOME idea last night? One that magically made you come together, Draft? Didn't I? WHY DON'T I REMEMBER IT?

*writer knocks brain against surfaces*

W: I have to write an outline, don't I?

*writer takes chocolate break*

W: You look so pretty, Draft. Did you do something with your hair this morning?

*draft stares*

W: What? Flattery WON'T get you to write yourself?

*writer sips tea* *reads book* *darts glances at Haughty Draft*

W: I am writing the CRAP out of you, Outline. You will BOW to me.

*maniacal tapping sounds*

*outline cowers* *mutters*

W: I'M not a Crazy Writer. YOU are.

*writer sips* *hits keys* *uses many Kanye caps*

W: Wow, Outline. You were so effortless. Why didn't I do this earlier?

*outline stares*

W: You're bullet-pointed, Outline. I'll come back to you tomorrow.

*writer stares* *sips*

W: I have to write you out NOW, don't I?

Repeat 'til finished.

2.01.2011

there's no place like a non-static setting

Something to be conscious of while writing: setting is more than where a story is set.

The arc of any good story is intertwined with its setting. In fantasy, setting is like another character. It should grow and change and adapt just like the people-shaped characters. Even contemporary stories make use of adaptable setting; it can be as simple as the main character developing new views on their unfamiliar location and its traditions.

(A much more informative post on the most important elements of setting can be found here! Read it!)

Examples:
For Harry Potter, at first Hogwarts and the wizarding world (which has its own set of rules and customs) is strange and unknown, but it quickly becomes his home.
In Anna & the French Kiss, Anna grew into Paris as the story progressed, and she might just have fallen in love with the city a little, too.
As Katniss & Peeta work their way around the country on their Hunger Games victory tour, the secret revolution in the Districts becomes even more turbulent.

So what do you think? Is it ever okay for the setting of a story to remain static?

Okay. Now I’m off to make my fantastical setting even more menacing and moody!

1.25.2011

mid-manuscript crisis

I've been tripping over agent submission guidelines and Twitter-Agent discussions lately that say "No more mythology" or "Mythology is WAY PAST done."

This makes me go: :O

Mythology is the basis of my WIP. I haven't read anything YA mirroring my exact premise (or even comprising characters with the same Creature Affiliations), but still. Agents may have. That's worrying. But it's also a great push. I can just go at my word document and my outlines and FINISH the story! The sooner it's finished, the sooner I can make it shiny.

I'm thinking as long as the story grabs the reader, it doesn't matter so much if it's a "trend" topic. But that opens up a whole new set of questions. Which I won't go into, because of that "oh my gosh kafjkblnfjlzx ralxdnjda" face.

Does anyone else have trouble with trends? Do you write what your brain feels the need to write even if the market is saturated with efforts on similar topics? Or do you scrap it or set it aside and write something that you haven't yet heard of? Like, I don't know, Centaur Nymph Ninja Princesses who skip off to save the Loch Ness Satyr Prince from, um. . . Has that been written? Has everything been written? What hasn't been written??

Yep. Did I mention I'm having a mid-manuscript crisis? :)

1.20.2011

well hello, antagonism

One thing I’ve finally realized: I must stay far away from my sub-genre during the frustrating middle of drafting.

I LOVE paranormal/fantastical YA, but when I’m writing it, I can’t read it. Even if the book being read would be perfectly fine any other time, I feel the urge to edit the plot or the prose or the voice in the context of MY main character’s world. I’m completely antagonistic toward the story, and this doesn't exactly make for fun reading. Is this just me, or is this a normal writerly happening?

Now back to reading and writing! Oh, and tea-drinking. Can't forget all that tea.

1.10.2011

avoidance de jour

Oh exposition. (Nope, you don't get a “Dear.”) You’re the guaranteed blah of stories, but it’s not completely your fault. Sometimes we writers load up our first few drafts with you. This is fine, because this is how we get to know our stories and see where they're headed. Yes, we USE you. And then we must cut you; I’m sorry. Actually I’m not sorry. Whenever I read you my brain goes a little fuzzy. If you had a face, I'd punch it. Sincerely; etc.

Exposition – which is explained background information – is boring. See; I just explained what exposition was. Wasn't that boring? Readers want to be entertained, not bored, so treat explanations and background information like . . . salt. (Also, treat clich├ęs – like this salt one that is happening right now – like salt.) Sprinkle them throughout the story, otherwise “info-dumps” can happen, and those are NEVER fun. Especially in the beginning, when readers should be pulled in. And a heap of blah doesn't make for a great hook.

If you still find yourself going super exposition-y in later drafts, have a character SAY what you’re trying to explain instead. Twist an explanation into something more entertaining. Cut the explanation in half and see if it still makes sense. Give it personality. Save half of it for a later point in the story; intrigue is good. Succinctness is good. Exposition is not so good.

*Tip: Don’t make anyone read your very first draft. Just don’t. I’m pretty sure I owe my sister a kidney for making her read the Monstrosity of Terrible Writing that was my first draft (and, okay, the second one too). DON’T OWE ANYONE A KIDNEY. Or just give your first draft readers drinks and chocolate truffles and Chipotle and apologies. Whatever.

1.03.2011

"no one SAYS that, okay?"

Much writing is happening lately, so since I've got nothing WIP-related to go on about, I shall share writing tips. Just think of me as a (mediocre) Writerly Professor Person. . . Or not.

When we start writing, our dialogue can come out overly stiff or unrealistic. Along with: awkward, sappy, cheesy, cliche, cringe-worthy, terrible. . . If your character would really say "gonna" or "would've" or "settin'," LET THEM. Many people conjunct and speak informally in real life. I promise. Pay attention to the differences of the voices in your head (. . . yeah, I went there) so your characters don't all sound the same. Good dialogue stands out!

Here's an example from my OWN first draft of LAYLA AND THE HALF BLOOD HARPIES that I can ninja-kick apart. *flips through first draft* OH, THE EXPOSITION. (Tip: avoid exposition in anything you want people to read EVER.) Anyway. Snippet:
"Um, it's fine. Sort of."
He smiles a fraction at my lack of conviction. "Sort of, huh?" He thinks for a second. "Not a day goes by where I miss that."
I raise my eyebrows, and jealousy colors my voice. "Lucky you."
One: don't explain WHY characters are doing what they're doing.
Two: what the characters say and do should eliminate the NEED for any explaining.

Possible fix:
"It's . . . fine."
"You sound so convinced." His lips twist. "Can't say I miss any of that."
My eyes narrow. "You suck."
(Okay. That's still not awesome. My first draft is un-salvageable, I'm thinking.)

*Tip: Next time you're out, LISTEN to the conversations around you. No brainer, right? Yeah. Except it took me until a month into a creative writing class to do that actively.

*Always Tip: Read. A lot. You'll find out for yourself what's "good" and what makes you wanna smack yourself in the brain-region.

And First Draft will find it's way back into the dark, spidery file cabinet for now. Back to writing!