Sunday, December 19, 2010

Getting Ready for a New Year


As the holiday season pummels us... I mean greets us, it is a great time to breathe in the winter air (or summer depending on your hemisphere) and think about what writing means to us.

Many of you participated in NaNo this year and I commend you, at the same time I am hearing a lot of burned out people on the stream. Or maybe you didn't do Nano but wished you had. Or maybe you just fear your book will never, ever get done.

I am hear to tell you, time will fix everything. If Nano spent your energy, take this time to regain it. If you didn't do Nano, set your own goals. Remember if you simply write 3 pages a day in 100 days you will have 300 pages done. That is SO doable!

If you haven't gotten your book done, there truly is only one thing standing in your way. Fear.

You are afraid of being exposed. Most of the time you are afraid of both ends of the spectrum. You are afraid of being exposed as a hack, but also as a success.

I can't believe the number of authors I meet on social media and in real life that are too timid to do an interview or go on our IBC radio show. Um... I know writers aren't talkers, but come on!

If you aren't going to want to shout your book's virtues from the rooftops, then who will?

So I say let's take this whole, time for reflection and look forward.

Pretend your book is already done. How are you going to promote it? What do you want interviewers and reviewers to say about your book?

For some of you this exercise is terrifying. You quake at the thought of approaching strangers to read your book and give a critique. Great! You might as well face the fear now, rather than when your book is out and needs your help!

If the thought of getting out there and talking about your book excites you... Great! Let that feeling invigorate your writing. Let it motivate you to finally sit down and get a writing schedule.

Whatever you feel your shackles are to writing unfettered, spend these next few weeks releasing them. Start the New Year with a New Attitude!

Embrace your writing and it will embrace you back :-)

Obviously for the next few we won't be talking. That doesn't mean we aren't thinking about our writing (at the least!)

Have a fantastic holiday season and see you next year! :-) :-) :-)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Structure - Your Nemesis. Your Friend



This week I kept track of every time I used structure to help a my own writing or that of a client/student's. I lost count after about 107.

With the exception of word selection, structure pretty much informs every single line you write. And if it informs it, it can help it!

Let's say you aren't sure how your Hero is going to get out of a fight with your villain.

Now of course you want to find a super creative way to handle this, however structure can at least get you in the ball park.

Let's say this situation is in the first act. Well, first off we know that the Hero cannot win. Not even close. As a matter of fact, if this event is happening in the first act, this villainous situation is usually going to propel your Hero to take the Opportunity.

If this event happens in the second act I can nearly guarantee you that your Hero is going to fail... miserably. Usually lives will be lost.

The 3rd act is the ONLY place where your Hero really has any shot at all of winning (and even then at a high cost).

Each scenario requires a different set of events to take place to move you along to your next plot point.

Remember everything in your story needs to be moving forward. No event in your work can be suspended in a bubble. If you can get rid of a scene without having to MAJORLY rework your story, that scene needs to be cut.

Your story is a tightrope and structure is well... the tightrope.

Hopefully you can see how structure has helped color your options. Now it is still up to you to figure out the details, but at least knowing where you are in the story (and trust me we can go down much deeper into the sub-acts and come up with some even more fine-tuned advice) helps you to figure out your options.

Here is my challenge...
Either call into the radio show (2pm PST Saturday)or Tweet your question onto my Twitter stream @writingnodrama about a problem you are having with your story and see if I can help you with structure! #game #on

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Writing for an Audience



The main difference between writing for yourself and an audience is well... your ego.

I'm not saying don't like what you write. I mean, we all want to savor the words on the page.

I am saying though, EVEN if we like what we write, if it isn't resonating with your Beta readers, we need to rewrite.

If you are writing to sell, the page is not the place to have a therapy session and exercise your demons. It is a place to entertain.

But, but, but... you say... you told us to dig deep into our personal experiences and put as much of ourselves and our flaws into our work.

Why, yes I did. And I meant it. However when I give advice about using external research or experiences, I always mean for you to put all that information through your Hero's filter.

There is no way your Hero feels exactly the same way you felt after the experience you had. If they do, then you are really writing an autobiography, not fiction.

So even if you have your Hero go through a hold up at a diner, your Hero can be INFORMED by your own experience as a robbery victim, however the words on the page should be about your Hero, not you.

Once you put your ego aside and really roll up your sleeves to write your Hero's story and let that their journey go where it needs to go, even if it was EXACTLY the opposite of what you experienced yourself under the same condition, you are on your first huge step to writing for an audience.

We talk a lot about structure, the Hero's journey, pacing and scene setting. But why? I mean besides the fact we want to grow our craft?

It is because we want the reader to ENJOY reading our work. We don't want them to skim. We don't want them to have to go back and read something over again to understand it (unless of course you just blew their mind with a paradigm shift).

Now you can guess at what the reader's experience is going to be and hope you get it right, or you can understand the modern reader. You can get inside their head and know what their hopes, dreams and expectations are as they read.

Because if you have a good idea of what they want... you have a great chance of fulfilling it!

And a fulfilled, satisfied reader creates a loyal reader. One who will buy your next book. One who will leave good reviews. One who will spread word of mouth. And for an author there is nothing so coveted!

We discussed all of this in-depth on my radio show this past Saturday at 2pm PST.

If you have any questions about this subject or any other, call in to have them answered LIVE! Or if you feel too shy, just submit your questions on my Twitter stream @writingnodrama!

Also don't forget to contact me on Twitter @writingnodrama if you would live any of your work performed by our resident MFA actor Ben Hopkin then critiqued on-air!

Remember you can also subscribe to my show through iTunes and listen to it on your iPod, computer or Mp3 player!

"Talk" to you Saturday 2pm PST!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Your Hero's Journey Starts with a Single Step...

So don't mess it up!

This topic came up after starting to edit a client's manuscript. You see the problem was her Hero was... perfect.

I don't mean just physically perfect, but emotionally perfect. Self-aware. Motivated. Loyal & honest. I kept reading waiting for that veneer to slip, but it only became more gilded.

Um... that's not a Hero or at least not one people are going to connect to.

And I'm not talking simply about the literal definition. I am talking about the bottom line of will readers be satisfied with the novel and give it good reviews and buy your next book.

Heroes MUST be flawed. Yes, I know some people get up in arms when I use the term must and especially when I capitalize it, but it is simply true.

Without an emotionally flawed Hero your story is nothing more than a series of events that happen TO your Hero. If your Hero is not emotionally affected by your story, then how is your reader going to be affected? #howIaskyou :-)

Now you can start with a Hero that seems perfect and let that facade crack as we get deeper into the story until it completely shatters. However I tend to let my Hero's flaws 'all hang out' so to speak. I want that immediate bonding with my reader.

"See. My Hero is just as whacked out as you are."

So take a look at your Hero. Point out at least 3 flaws within the first 10 pages. If you can't... Hmm... you might want to go add some :-)

To listen to Saturday's radio show archive on just this subject click HERE. And while you're at it, set a reminder for next week's episode "Turning Your First Act - A Guide to Getting it Right" Saturday at 2pm PST/5pm EST.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pacing - The Key to Engaging Readers



Pacing is probably one of the least talked about aspects of writing, yet is critical to creating a 'must-read' novel.

There's got to be a rise and fall to your story. At times there should be a sense of urgency and foreboding. At other times, a few quieter moments for reflection or revelations.

The last thing you want is for your story to 'drag,' but nor do you want the opposite and have your story feel 'chaotic' or 'rushed.'

Many writers fall into a common pattern of 'dragging' out the first two acts, then rushing through the climax. Never good #underanycircumstances :-)

I know I was writing a book and I was having trouble landing it. When I finally finished I said "Thank gawd they are dead!" Luckily my writing buddy said... "Um, I don't think that's how your readers are going to feel."

He was right. Just because as I writer I was ready for my Heroes to die, I needed to make their deaths more poignant and meaningful. #duh But sometimes you get so wound up in your process you forget about the reader's experience.

Pacing is not just about how slow or fast your story goes but the weight with which you give certain aspects of your story. In may case the pacing was fine. It is an action packed paranormal romance.

My problem was I did not give enough 'weight' to their deaths. Think of the number of words as having a physical weight or emphasis. If the weight is too light, people will feel gypped.

So what to do with my example. I need a fast paced, taut ending, but I also need to make people feel satisfied.

Therefore I keep my pace, fairly quick sentences with lots of action, I simply extended the scene. I popped around my POVs to keep the tension up. I threw in another surprise. Basically I spiced it up without losing my original vision of the ending conflict.

Want to hear more about pacing? Then check out my last radio show episode HERE plus set a reminder for next week's episode "Your Hero's Journey starts with a single step... So Don't Screw it up!"

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Your Opening Line...



Does it knock readers socks off?

Many people lament that so much emphasis is put on to these first few words. But why shouldn't they be weighted heavily. After all first impressions truly are lasting.

On Saturday's radio show (click HERE to listen to the archive) we discussed the many facets of this first, crucial set of words you present to your reader.

But here are a few pointers...

You must gain reader's trust... NOW. Think of this from the readers stand point. Why should they shell out their hard earned money if you don't excite them with this first sentence? Why should they trust that you will pull out the stops later, when you aren't clear in this first line?

Be SPECIFIC. If ever there was a time to conjure up your best description, it is now. This does not mean spend seven sentences elaborating on the color of the bathroom tile. However it does mean if you mention the bathroom tile, let me know why this detail is important. Is it stained? Squeaky clean? Smeared with blood? Let the reader know you know what you are doing and give them a taste of the goods to come.

Let your GENRE shine through. Again, if ever there was a time to let your reader know what genre they are reading, it is now! If I am going to read a paranormal romance, I better get some paranormal or some romance (or a whiff of love on the horizon) NOW. gain my trust by showing me you know my genre and how to pull it off.

SURPRISE me. No, not the 'boo' I jumped out at you surprise. I mean legitimately show off a little and make me either smile, cringe, or laugh (whatever is appropriate to your genre).

Make this sentence COUNT. Now, if you bookend your story, this line will need to be referenced in the last few pages of your novel, but even if you don't plan on book-ending, then this sentence MUST have some relevance to your story and your hero. Even if you write a prologue a century and two continents apart, you've gotta make it relevant.

Alright, if you want more of this, click HERE to listen to Saturday's radio show (2pm PST). Plus while you are there, set a reminder for next week's show "Pacing - The KEY to engaging readers!" (Sat Nov 20th @ 2pm PST/5pm EST). "Talk" to you then! :-)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Dynamic Dialogue



or a.k.a. how not to sound lame... :-)

Dialogue is possibly the hardest aspect of writing fiction to really nail.

Because let's face it, everyone hears people speak all the time, so they know what it should 'sound' like.

The problem is, if you were to write dialogue EXACTLY how we speak, it feels muddled, confusing or worse stilted.

Why? Because we get so many more clues in tone and inflection when we speak. Even when signing, the attitude and hand motions add layer upon layer of depth to the words themselves.

Just imagine the difference between trying to convey a really painful memory to a friend when you are in person, then if you were trying to do it on the phone (less visual information), or in an email.

How many times have you written an email which you thought was perfectly clear (and how many words did you elaborate in) only to have the recipient scratching their head.

Now try to be clear, evoke emotion and do so in a dialogue exchange.

Which doesn't mean it can't be done. Now everyone has heard the advice to listen to how people speak and I completely agree with that, however seldom does anyone talk about how to take that info and pack it into punchy dialogue.

While we will talk about this at length on my radio show the single best advice I can give you is, especially for an important scene to write your dialogue, get what you need to say out, then go back and gut it.

Figure out what you REALLY need to say. In a break-up scene it may not be about her leaving him so much as her having too much trouble dealing with her previous abuse. Or the Hero may say he can't go fight the villain but he is just too scared to fail #usually #again

Now make whatever is the single most IMPORTANT fact they need to get across a secret. Have them do everything in their power to NOT talk about what they really want to say.

Even if you don't use this new dialogue, just creating this tension and friction between truth and secret will help you ground your writing and come up with some taut dialogue.

Listen to the archive of my radio show for an hour of dynamic discussion about how to make your dialogue jump off the page!

Also remember to set a reminder HERE for Saturdays a 2pm PST so you don't miss my show on "Your Opening Line... is it knocking the socks off your readers????"

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Reinventing the Wheel...



I love getting feedback on my Twitter stream. It helps me know what you guys are needing and how I can help.

The only time I cock my head and go 'huh?' is when I get negative feedback about structure.

I mean, structure? Some people even say they don't 'believe' in story structure.

Um... ok, #awkward. Story has structure. Whether you wish to use it as a guideline is up to you!

Now what I think these people are trying to tell me is that they fear I am somehow hampering or squashing their own creative input.

That somehow I want to take away their creative license and flatten their story into a cookie cutter novel.

Not true!

First off if you are doing great, then ignore my tips. Most of my tweets are aimed at people struggling to write and need as many tools in their toolbox as possible to help them when they get stuck.

Second of all... I would respectfully ask you to simply think about whether or not you would like to reinvent the wheel.

Archetypes and the mechanism of the Hero's Journey are what makes a story universal. They are simply the underpinnings of EVERY great story. But the underpinnings only. The rest is up to you.

Simply when I was struggling with writing and writing every day and then writing well every day, I found structure to have my back. Even now, if I feel stuck, I simply look to where I am in the story, trace my archtypes and go 'Oh! Crap, I got lost in the plot and forgot about story.' This usually gets me back on track immediately.

So feel free to ignore my advice about story structure and archtypes. No hard feelings :-)
However, if in the dark of night you simply run out of gas and can't figure out how to get your Hero from the Tentpole to the Climax... go ahead and read my blogs about Act I, Act II, and Act III.

Don't worry. I won't tell anyone :-)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

You are hosting a WHAT?



Yep, that's right. I have decided to take our relationship to the next level...

Radio!

While I love the quick tips I am able to give out over the twitter stream, I have so much to say about so many subjects (as you could probably imagine).

So after we went live with the @indiebookibc radio show on marketing (if you have a blog and/or book - and everyone #should - check out the #IBC show as well for tips and tricks on how to sell your book), I thought, how perfect would a radio show be for my writing stream!

Our first show will air October 30th (this upcoming Saturday) at 2PM PST (you can sign up for an automated reminder for the show here). I figure what a great way to get everyone motivated and ready for their new writing week than on Sunday to get their booties kicked - I mean to hear some tough love... no, I mean to be embraced by warmth and light #ok #fine #Iammoreofawhipcrackingkindofgirl

Want to talk about your Hero? Great!
Need help with a plot point? That's what a call-in radio show is ALL about!

I am telling you if you like our tweets and our blog you are going to LOVE the radio show!

So click here to 'follow' the show and don't forget to sign up for Blog Talk Radio's automated reminder so you don't miss a word!

Can't wait to actually 'talk' to everyone!

#now #gowrite #Imaybeexcited #butIhaven'tlostmymind :-)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Another Year...



Another novel?

Unless you can answer yes to that, then go on with your day.

However, if you bow your head in shame and mumble 'no', you need to meet me at camera 3 (or if you don't watch Jon Stewart you can just read the rest of this blog).

Did you have hopes and dreams and aspirations of getting your first (or second or fifteen) novel written?

What happened? #no #seriously What?

Writing a novel is no big deal. I know, I know I can hear the wailing from here, but really if the task itself didn't seem so epic and your very soul did not hang in the balance, the actual physical act of writing a book is no big deal.

On average you need 350 pages (more or less for each genre). There are 52 weeks in the year. Just the simple math means that you just needed to write 6.7 pages per WEEK. Not day. Not hour. Per week.

That breaks down to less than a page per day.

I mean, come on. I know we get busy and life is hectic but less than a page per day?

Not that, that is doable.

As I have stated before, consistency is the key. Writing every day. Thinking, plotting, and editing becomes a routine part of your life. There is no more 'carving' out of time.

Why did I write this blog now? You know rather than Dec 31st?

Well because NaNoWriMo is coming up in November. It is an event where you write a book in a month. While it is not my cup of tea, it has helped jump start people by getting huge chunks of a book or a complete book done.

But what about it you can't throw your life to the wind for an entire month?

Just remember that 0.96 pages per day will get you a book in a year. 0.96 #totallydoable

Do you really want to be here next October having to hang your head in shame saying that yet another year has gone by without your book done (or marketed, but for advice on that head on over to @indiebookibc).

So for anyone not participating in NaNoWriMo this year, how about you accept a different challenge?

My 0.96 pages per day challenge.

For accountability please make a pledge down below in a comment. I will have a blog once a month to see how our 28.7 pages per month are going.

Don't let another year slip by! #duh

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Embrace the Journey

I am here to tell you a fact...

You will ALWAYS wish you wrote better. It doesn't matter at what level of success you are. Award winning. NYT Bestselling. Your childhood sweetheart finds you because of your book and falls madly in love.

You will ALWAYS wish... Damn, I wish I had turned that phrase better. Or I wish my characters had more depth. Or that final battle could have been more dynamic. Or my dialogue in that scene could have been crisper.

I have heard all those concerns from writers at every stage. No one is immune to introspection. And nor should we be. If we do ever get to the point where every word we write is golden... well... you know those authors and how badly their writing declines. #dontbuyyourownhype

My point though is, most writers feel that somehow they will reach a point in their writing where 'everything will be alright.' That somehow a magical moment will occur and everything you write you will be thrilled with (not to be confused with the truly magical moment you cross the 1,000,000 word threshold - check out my blog on that truly special moment).

So why not embrace the journey? Why not relish every moment you get to write? Whether you get to write well, poorly, or absolute crap? Why not just hug your inner writer and say 'job well done!'

Because it was a job well done (even if you delete every single character and then do a wipe of your hard drive to eliminate any trace those words were ever typed). You wrote. And the only way to become award-winning or best-selling is to write (check out my other blog "Writing Through It" for more help if you are struggling).

Every day you get to write is a great day. How about we all start to act like it????? :-) :-) :-) #notetoself

Sunday, October 3, 2010

If you are getting 100% Rejection Notices...



I hate to be the one to tell you, but it is guaranteed your query letter and first 3 chapters aren't strong enough.

I know, I know, there are some that are going to rail against such a notion, but as writers we must put aside our ego and our love for our project. We must listen to our audience and in this case our audience is the 50 agents you sent out to then subsequently rejected your work.

Now, your writing may be fine. It could be that you are sending out to the wrong agents. Your query may not 'sell' your project as much as you like. Or your writing just isn't 'there' yet.

No matter the reason for the rejections, you received them for a reason.

It is now for you to decide why.

Before we get much deeper into the causes I want to remind you I am on YOUR side. I want you to succeed. I believe in you. And I am here to tell you that rejection letters truly are a gift.

They cause us to reevaluate and really look at our work with fresh eyes.

The first place I want you to look is your query letter. A great query letter should get you about 10% response back to read the entire manuscript, or at the very least a nice note that they liked the work but it just wasn't there thing.

If you aren't getting 10% or more requests for more pages, then your query could be your problem.

Is it dynamic enough? Have you excited someone enough to read more? Are you knowledgeable enough of the market? Are you realistic enough that your work belongs in this agent's hands?

Your query letter is a MARKETING document. It needs to sizzle. It needs to excite. Workshop your query. With people who know your work (to make sure the letter is representative of your story) and people who are not. Did they 'get' it from a cold read.

Take in those notes from people. Punch the query up. Don't send a single one out until you are just blowing people's minds with your query letter.

Now let's say your query is rocking the house and you are pretty sure people are reading those first 3 chapters (and yes, I recommend you send them if they say they don't want them. Especially with digital queries, there is no wasted paper etc).

Again, this query/1st 3 chapters should get you about 10% requests for the whole manuscript.

So now you need to workshop those three chapters. Especially the first 3 pages. If you can't hook an agent, you won't be able to hook a book buyer or the public.

You need to let go of your 'baby' and get honest, constructive criticism. Are these pages not just publishable but do they scream 'buy me.'

Unless the answer is 'yes.' You are going to be waiting for that phone to ring... for a very long time.

Now what about the final category of people. Those that do get 10% or more requests for the full novel but then still get a final rejection (no matter how nice)?

Well, it depends on the reason. If you are getting specific notes back in your rejections that sound similar, then it is worth a re-write. If however the agent's notes are all different or you get back 'great work I just can't take you on right now," then you might want to look into self-publishing.

The number of books that actually get printed versus the number of great books out there is just a fraction. Digital eBooks are making up the difference.

Head over to @indiebookIBC if you are even entertaining

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Rejection Letters are...



GREAT!

I know, that wasn't the answer you were hoping for, but they are.

Recently I saw a tweet by @agentgame "A rejection is not an invitation to debate the merits of your book" They are an agent's assistant so you can imagine how many nasty calls, emails, and letters they get after sending out rejection notices.

My advice to anyone hot under the collar at a rejection notice? Um... How do I say this... GET OVER YOURSELF!

Maybe your novel is the next Da Vinci Code (remember, that wasn't Dan Brown's first book even). Ok, so it is awesome. That doesn't mean this agent likes it. And if the agent doesn't like it, they can't sell it.

Remember even if the agent likes it, they have to consider (in the current economic times/trends/movement of the industry) if they can sell it.

Remember agents get told "NO!" all day long, all week long, all day long. Especially with new writers. The industry has simply moved away from 'developing' talent.

These days for an agent to take on an unknown author they would have to be INSANELY in love with your novel and basically be willing to do a bunch of pro bono work, knowing they might not see a sale, and even if they did it would be for pennies on the dollar.

So give agents a break. They are doing the best they can and have a right to have an opinion which may be that they are not the one to represent your work.

Therefore the rejection may have everything to do with the quality of your writing, or nothing to do with your writing.

Now the question becomes how can you tell the difference?

Writing groups for one. Share you work with your peers, find out if there is any way to improve the writing and... dare I say it... make it more commercial.

There are also services to evaluate your work and get it publish ready.

And lastly if you feel your work is the true opus you think it is... go Indie, baby. If you think you can sell 5,000 copies, get out there and sell 5,000 copies.

If you are thinking of going Indie, then you really need to check out @indiebookIBC a stream devoted to all things indie (writing, publishing, marketing) :-)

Next blog we will discuss the nuts and bolts of evaluating your query letter and 'package' to up your chances of NOT getting that rejection letter (now that you are all Zen with it :-)

Until next week!

As many of you know, I have gone indie myself with my pen name, @cristynwest's Plain Jane. You should click here to read 50 pages of this Patterson-style thriller with a dash of Silence of Lambs thrown in to freak you out. Find out why indie doesn't have to mean bottom of the slush pile :-)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Consistency



There is something magical that happens when you write consistently. The words flow more easily. The ideas are sharper. Life is simply better.

Then why don't we ALWAYS write consistently?

That is a good question.

I think sometimes when we get into that groove it scares us. I know I have written the best I have ever written then found some excuse, any excuse to not go back to the keyboard for days or even weeks.

It is almost like we fear we can never live up to that again. That giving ourselves permission to suck goes out the window. "But, but, but, I just wrote WELL! Don't make me go back to the salt mines of despair."

Why can't we simply be happy for that golden moment and then write daily until we experience it again?

I think because as writers we are superstitious. By thinking 'that was good.' Or 'that was easy,' we just doomed ourselves to never repeat it.

I am here to tell you that is NOT true. There was nothing magical or jinxing about feeling good about your writing.

It is also an exact moment in time you can NOT recreate. Whatever next good writing experience you have will NOT be exactly like you one you had.

And that is okay. It is okay to keep sucking and getting pages done because you WILL hit your stride again. The clouds will part and the heavens will smile down upon you.

As a matter of fact I find the more I simply embrace sucking and get my pages in for the day, the more frequently the skies above are clear. Actually the better I feel about sitting down to write, the better I actually write.

How about you try it for a week? Write consistently, every day. I don't care if it just 10 minutes, but write. Embrace the fact you are a writer.

ENJOY the process, not the perfect pages it may or may not create.

That is how I finished Plain Jane in 2 months. Simple, deliberate, day by day writing.

Want to see the result? Read 50 pages for FREE here and if you decide to buy, here is a 50% off coupon: RH88E

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Announcing the Indie Book Collective



If you are an author, either traditional publishing house or indie digital, you need to join the Collective!

Why? Because, let's face it; it's hard out there for an author (whether or not you have a publishing house behind you).

Sure you can write the book yourself and in theory even edit and then publish it all by your lonesome, but selling that puppy?

That takes a village. Or a collective :-)

Basically, we are a group of like-minded authors who are promoting our books through a combination of social media platforms and brick and mortar book stores.

How does it work? Well, I will refer you to our website for the entire down-low, but in a blog nutshell, the collective was formed to sell books through cross promotion.

If someone likes your book, they may like mine and vice verse. Do this over dozens or hundreds of authors and you've got yourself and marketing platform that you simply could not reach by yourself.

The core group of the collective have years of experience in indie publishing and marketing and are more than happy to share that with anyone who is willing to listen so you don't have to go through the 'growing pains' of the Indie life :-)

So check out @indiebookIBC and click here for the website!

Let me know what you think!

In the spirit of cross-promotion, I would love to do some cross-promotion for Plain Jane with anyone who has a mystery/thriller! Let me know by leaving a comment in the box below :-)

Even if you don't have a novel in my genre, I would love for you to read Plain Jane and give it a review! Click here to read 50 pages for free before you buy! #Iamagiverlikethat

Sunday, August 29, 2010

3-Dimensional Characters



We hear that term all the time and I think there is an unspoken rule that we are supposed to create them or our work is 'pedestrian.'

I am going to say it is IMPOSSIBLE to write a 3-D character in any piece of work. Including film. It is a completely unattainable standard, and a standard that can freak people out enough to stop writing altogether.

Does that mean we should trot out cardboard characters and be happy with it? No, of course not. I want my characters (and yours) to have depth and feel organic. However, this lofty 3-D goal is simply silly.

Sure, on your fifth NTY Top Ten Best Selling novel, when you have a yacht and a winter home in the Caribbean, I give you permission to toil and fret about finally creating the world's first fully 3-D character...

Until then? How about we go with the characters we have and get a book written?

And yes, I do read a lot of genre material that is not known for its character work, but I have read the fine literary works as well. You know, the ones with real 3-D characters. But sorry, even in the best of hands, the character is still... a character.

There is no way in the space and time allotted within a work of fiction to bring every subtle nuance and quirk that makes up a human being. We can add depth, just not to the point of creating a flesh and blood person on the page.

Why do I bring this up? Because I see author after author lament their character work and keep going back and fiddling with it so hard and so long they give up on the project entirely.

So, I am here to give you permission to write the best characters you can write, RIGHT NOW. Then put them through your writing group (don't have one? check out next week's blog) and do a rewrite based on those notes or take a class on character, but then move on with the story.

At some point you must accept you are the author that you are for now... with room for improvement.

Your assignment this week is to check in and see if you are hung up on your characters. Do you spend an inordinate amount of time tinkering with them? If the answer is yes, then STOP for goodness sake.

Go look at the Bestsellers on the shelf. I can almost guarantee you that none of them have fully realized 3-D characters. So just because you don't have them, why should that stop you from finishing your work (and learning along the way ;-0

Want to check how fully realized (or not) my characters in Plain Jane are? Click here to read 50 pages free and here is a 50% off coupon: RH88E

Until next week!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

When I write poorly I...

Tend to have a lot of words with the ending 'ly'

I also tend to throw in a lot of 'buts,' as well as start out my paragraphs with prepositions.

Luckily I know this and scan for these frequently.

Now, of course, if I am having a bad day and am struggling just to get words on the page, I write all the adverb, conjoining, run-on sentences I want. I go to town. Let 'em rip.

But at some point I need to make my work, you know, enjoyable to read.

So over the course of a decade, I have learned my bad habits. I know where I go when I am not in the zone. I can easily identify when I wrote at not-quite-the-level I would like.

Let's be clear there are times when I think I DID write well. Then see all those 'badly,' 'hungrily,' 'angrily,' entries and go wow, I wrote 'crapily.' :-)

For me, this makes any re-write so much easier. I know where I screwed up and since I have had to fix it so many times, I have gotten pretty good at it.

So my assignment to you this week?
Figure out your 3 worst bad habits when you are not writing in the zone. Now go back to a section you are not happy with. Check for the big three. What can you do to 'fix' them?


Now how about you head over to Plain Jane here and see if I managed to recover from my addition to conjunctions :-)
If you decide to read the entire novel, here is a 50% off coupon: RH88E

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Stakes - Make 'Em Big or... well... your story will suck



And not in the good way! :-)

I can't tell you how many people I coach/critique that when I ask them what their stakes are in the first act and they look at me funny.

Well, ok, that happens frequently, but they also clearly do not know what I am talking about.

Everyone seems to have a vague sense of what stakes are; events that worsen the situation for your Hero, except they are so much more than that.

A good example is that in Act 1 your finger is being threatened to be cut off. In Act II, your arm is at risk. In Act III your head is on the chopping block.

Many times in action books the sequence of escalation is the Hero's life is in danger. Then the Hero's loved ones. Then the community or world is imperiled.

This not only applies to action novels, but even dramas/literary works. Usually the escalation for those genres is: The Hero's pride is in jeopardy, then his heart, then his soul.

You should be able to point to specific characters/forces/situations in each Act that acts as an escalator. If you can't, then more than likely there isn't enough threat in your story.

Remember the stakes must go UP each act. Each act's stakes must grind the Hero down a little bit more. Make it seem more impossible for your Hero to ever see the light of day.

Now, instinctively most people do this at the darkest hour. And most even up their game at the Tentpole.

It is the first Act, and most importantly the first chapter, that many don't make sure they have clearly defined stakes.

Look at your own work. What are the stakes in your first chapter? What risk is your Hero in? Where is the source of tension?

Now, the only caveat to this advice is that sometimes you have to build you Hero up before you bring him down so this first chapter may have him: win the lottery, get a juicy assignment, sleep with the girl.

This is one of those the higher they are, the harder they fall type situations.

But remember, that is building up process is done with a purpose and rapidly the stakes (taking away not only everything they just 'won' but everything else near and dear to them is at risk) must be escalated.

So either you need to be building your Hero up for a fall or putting the screws to him IN THE 1st ACT! If you aren't; you've got a problem (fixed by stakes luckily :-)


Want to see how I ratcheted up the stakes in Plain Jane?

Click here to read 50 pages for FREE (that way you can see if I followed my own 'first chapter' advice)

And if you wish to purchase the thriller, here is a 50% off coupon: RH88E

Thanks again and see you next week!!!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Don't Be Afraid to be Bold.



Which is of course a follow up to my "Don't be afraid to suck' blog.

Why is this the subject of this week's blog?

Well, I got reminded of this as I have been hired to do a page 1 rewrite.

I kept trying to 'honor' the original work(which was deemed by the editor as unpublishable so a little lapse in logic there) and I would quell my own instincts and try to write within the framework of the first draft.

Um, while that all is true, really what it came down to was the fact I was afraid to be bold on this new project.

How did I figure out, that once again, fear was the culprit?

I had a bold instinct. I did not act on it.

I turned in a scene. I got a note back from the editor "I know the scene works but what about if we switched the POV to the child?"

Urg! I could have kicked myself. I not only wanted to do just that but I wanted to ditch the stupid villain involved in the scene.

So I wrote back and relayed I agreed and suggested we ditch the villian.

She wrote back, "That's what I was thinking too!"

Now here I am having to rewrite (again) five pages because I didn't trust my instincts. I was so worried about putting together a decent draft that I forgot to write well.

I am being paid basically to write boldly.

Now, if you are having trouble writing consistently, don't worry about boldness. Just write daily.

However if you've got the giving yourself permission to write poorly thing down and are writing consistently, think BOLD.

The #1 thing that bugs me is if a writer just writes stuff that we've 'seen before.' When they take the safe route. When they give me the most obvious choice.

We talk all the time about 'digging' deeper. Most of the time your first thought is the easiest option. Most of the time the first 2 or 3 thoughts are your brain just skimming your creative waters.

Your creativity runs deeper than that. Utilize it!

Whether on the first draft or the third draft, stop and for every scene think "How is this bold?"

Now don't think I mean bold to mean stupid. I am not telling you to just throw everything and the kitchen sink into the mix.

What I mean is choose an unexpected POV. Commit to your descriptions. Be specific and somewhere along the way surprise us.

Your assignment? Go to a scene that you just aren't happy with. Imagine you had no rules to follow (internal logic, word count, suspension of disbelief). How would you 'fix' this scene? Think bold first, then make the solution follow the rules. #inthatorder ;-)

And if you would like to see how 'bold' I was with "Plain Jane" (so far most people are shocked I 'went there' so I feel like I fulfilled my boldness pledge) here's a link to read 50 pages for FREE.

If you decide to read the entire thing and find out EXACTLY how far I went (I am warning you, I went further than most consider acceptable), here is a 50% off coupon code: RH88E
Just use it at check out, then let me know what you think! :-)

Until next week!!!!!!!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Advanced Dialogue Stuff :-)



I am telling you, dialogue is the downfall of even the biggest NYT sellers.

Seriously, read the stuff out loud. Yikes! Then start going down mid-list and below and it can become downright painful.

Why? Because most of the time authors subconsciously use dialogue to their own purpose.

I need my Hero to say that he used to live in New York. Now, unless you are sitting around a new work or on a date, you not going to casually mention that you used to live in New York.

It is going to come up as part of a conversation:

"Wow, I really love this pizza." "Oh no, clearly you have never been to New York then because this crust is way too thick."

Ok, that was lame too, but at least it made sense that New York came up as a topic.

A better way to hide this important plot item would be in what your Hero DOESN'T say. Everyone else is reminiscing about New York and your Hero stays quiet. Someone, of course, notices this and probe into the subject.

Anything you can do to not blatantly state "Hey, I lived in New York" is best.

Another way to make your dialogue crackle is to have the two people in the conversation in conflict. Whether it is an all out fight or simply them arguing over where they are going to dinner, is up to you.

Also 'dragging' the info out of someone is better than blurting it out. Have your Hero duck, dive, and dodge the subject.

How important the information is to the plot, the harder it should be to get out of him.

Now my favorite way (no surprise here) is to relay critical information during a car chase or defusing a bomb, or some other incredibly awkward time to have a 'chat.'

Why do I love this technique so much? Well, besides the fact I get to write action?

I like this because it automatically fragments the conversation. Even my instinct is to have a conversation flow in a logical manner to a neat resolve.

But if the bullets are flying? If they are running for their lives? Having to whisper since the bad guy is approaching.

It forces me as an author to figure out what is truly pertinent. It forces me to find unique, interesting ways to put the information out there.

Plus it makes sense to cut off dialogue before it wanders into cliche-land if you've got ricochets to worry about.

Let's say you aren't writing a piece with physical action. That doesn't mean you can't use external circumstances to 'goose' your dialogue along.

Children, pets, crowds, mother-in-laws, meddling neighbors can all act as a 'distraction' away from a straight forward conversation.

Whenever you are up against having to use dialogue to impart vital information think, "What is the most dynamic way to say this?"

What makes this conversation interesting... besides the words coming out of my Hero's mouth?

Alright, that's it for this week.

Your assignment? Find an important plot point that is revealed in dialogue that you aren't happy with.

Experiment with one of the techniques listed above to 'freshen' it up!

And if you would like to see a real life example of my dialogue, hop on over to:
Plain Jane and either read the first 50 pages for free or use this 50% off coupon code: RH88E

Then leave a comment below on what you thought :-)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

I Give You Permission To SUCK



Yep. My blog topic for the week is... suckage.

And how, as writers, we should embrace it.

Now before everyone gets up in arms thinking I am saying they DO suck. I am not.

First off, I am just talking about your writing, not you. And secondly, I have no idea if your writing sucks or is amazing.

What I am here to say is that I DON'T CARE if it sucks. I still INSIST that you write.

I can't tell you all the writers I talk to on the stream, in DMs, and in life that are petrified and paralyzed by the concept their writing may suck.

So you can imagine the shock and horror of when I way... Um, okay, let's say that it does suck, why is that stopping you from writing?

I mean, I write crap sometimes. Do I want that to end up in the final product, no. Does it sometimes, yep, probably.

Think about it. Who are your FAVORITE authors? Is everything between those covers a sterling piece of work? No. Some of it... wait for it... sucks.

Ok, maybe your absolutely favorite authors don't suck, but go into the bookstore and pick up a random bestseller. I can guarantee you that there is some suckage in there. And even the mighty literary giants have written some really sucky stuff.

What distinguishes an 'aspiring' or struggling writer from a true author is that an author accepts the fact they may SUCK yet KEEPS WRITING.

No one can help you with the story that is stuck in your head. I know it seems all perfect and cozy locked away in there, but it is miserable. Your story wants to come out and play.

And I am hear to tell you that your story would rather be out on paper with major suckage, rather than confined to a life sentence in your brain.

Why? Because even the utterly worst writing in the world... can be improved. Once it is on the page it can be fixed. You can apply structure and style. You can develop your voice. Eventually your writing... won't suck.

Writing has a learning curve that unless you write, you will never complete.

So, accept the fact your writing may suck. Also accept the fact that EVERY other writer in the history of writing has sucked.

Join our illustrious ranks! And WRITE :-)

Ok, I've got to wrap this up... I have writing to do... that may suck. #Iamdownwiththat

Until next week!

P.S. Yes, I wrote crap while writing Plain Jane, and the 7 other books I have written. And yes, some people that read it may feel some of that suckage still exists on the page.

Okay, um #awkward, but I'm not going to let that effect how I promote the thriller or in writing the sequel.

Writers, write and in writing, they improve :-)

If you want to sample 50 pages of Plain Jane for free to witness the ratio of suckage to absolute brilliance, click here!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Re-Writing: A Second Chance



As we know, I love writing, but for me I love re-writing even more.

Even though I don't find the blank page scary at all, I do feel a certain pressure to get the story out. To figure out all those stupid, you know, facts that have to go into the plot.

Like if my Hero is in Bulgaria, how long will it take him to fly to Paris. You know stuff like that. I have to be sure that is my Love Interest is a pilot she uses, oh I don't know aeronautical terms.

So for me, that is a little stressful. I want to make sure that my tentpole really is a tentpole, standing in the middle of my story with enough intrigue and action to carry the reader into the second half of Act 2.

This first draft is the nuts and bolts of the story. I have to get my Hero from point A to point B and have it not only make sense, but have it come out organic.

However for the re-write? Ah, all those pesky facts are hopefully taken care of. All the major angst over how I am going to break the laws of physics and still have the story make sense are over.

Now, I just get to play. For me, this second draft is the most fun. This is when I dig into character. When I find the super cool way to solve sticky situations. When I can concentrate on turning that phrase just right.

The backbone is laid in and now I get to flesh out the story.

I know so many writers that groan at re-writing, but I really can't see it. The work of grinding out that first draft is over and while the tedium of line edits is on the horizon, it isn't here yet.

So enjoy this golden time for your story. When you take it from a draft to a full grown book! :-)

Your Assignment: Take a small section of your book that's been bugging you and do a re-write... with JOY! I don't care how dark and twisted your work, that doesn't mean that you can't embrace the rewriting process and make it work for your story!

And don't forget, my novel under my pen name @CristynWest is available in so many formats it will blow you mind! #seriouslyitwill

So hop on over to Smashwords: http://bit.ly/b60jVe And just for being so awesome and reading this blog, here is a 50% off coupon: RH88E

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Trust Your Reader



I have been reading a lot of new fiction lately (like 10 books in the last week).

And what has struck me most is how little newer writers trust their reader.

I had forgotten how much this single factor affects readability.

As writers we ask every reader to suspend disbelief. They need to let go of their preconceptions and the 'rules' of their reality and enter ours.

However, it is our job as writers to honor their surrender and help them sustain it.

The less you trust that reader to follow along, the more frequently you state the obvious, or repeat key phrases, the hard it is for them to stay in this holy pocket of 'suspended disbelief.'

She drove up in a Caddie with a rock on her finger. She's rich. We get it. You really don't have to go into her Sax 5th Ave shoes. Or her Vera Wang dress. We GOT it.

Now I'm not saying you can't sprinkle those items later. Or if you are writing a character who is fascinated by fashion and those descriptions help define your character that you couldn't go into a whole laundry list.

I am just saying, do it with PURPOSE. Don't just keep going on and on because you, as the writer, are uncertain if you got your point across.

Remember the reader WANTS to go along on this journey with you. And the VAST majority of your readers have... oh I don't know... read a book before.

You can slip into a sort of fiction 'short-hand.' Trust the reader is getting what you are putting out. Make sure every bit of description has a point and a purpose. Cut out anything that seems to belabor an idea or is 'over-written.'

Less truly is more.

The more you trust the reader. The less you have to write! Simple #buttrue!

Your assignment? Randomly pick 3 pages from each act. Read them aloud to someone unfamiliar with your story. Ask them when they got 'it' (the central idea of the scene) and when did you keep writing past that point.

Then, you know what to do next. Rewrite if needed! #duh



Now I am sure by now you know I've got a book out #unlessyouhavebeenlivinginacave :-)

I am getting a ton of great reviews and I would love to hear your opinion if I 'practice what I preach' :-)

Read up to 50 pages of Plain Jane for free here: http://bit.ly/60jVe and here is a 50% off coupon code if you decide to read the entire thriller: RH88E

Any review posted on Smashwords or GoodReads will be featured on this stream and my pen name's @cristynwest. And if it is totally kick-a** I will promo it on my personal account @craftycmc

Thanks again!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sticking Points, Oh Sorry, I Meant Plot Points



You have to have plot points. Well, I mean if you want to have a plot that is.

There are just points along the way where you HAVE to have something happen.

Let's say you started the story with your Hero HAVING to get to Los Angeles. So we are heading to Los Angeles.

However your big climax happens to occur in the French Quarter.

Ok, we have to at some point take a left turn and go down to Louisiana, right?

YOU as the writer has to make that left turn because gosh darn it, you want to get New Orleans.

However, the reader should NEVER know that you HAVE to get to Mardi Gras.

This 'turn,' this plot point that must be executed, however we want to 'cover' this fact up.

We want this plot point to feel organic and a part of your story and not feel the author's 'hand.'

But how to do that?

Seeding things helps.

I like to reference Lord of the Rings here. Clearly Tolkien needed to get Frodo into Mordor. Equally clearly he needed to make that journey intimate.

However the thrust of the plot was to get to the GATES of Mordor. But ultimately Tolkien knew he was going to go the 'secret' back way.

Luckily he seeded this. Gollum had suggested it. Sam, who has been WELL established to not trust Gollum, shot him down. Only by being in peril and the impossibility of scaling the main gate, do they finally decide to go the 'secret' way.

This was a massive plot point that could have stuck out like a sore thumb, but instead felt organic and you felt as desperate as the characters to have to take this perilous journey.

The lesson here is that if you have a major plot point coming, seed it. Mention and discard the idea. Put up resistance to the Mardi Gras. New Orleans simply is NOT an option.

Then when you get to the plot point you need to make Los Angeles simply unattainable. Whatever they feared about Louisiana becomes so much less than the disastrous conditions in California.

Or they are forced to Mardi Gras. Someone has been kidnapped. A vital piece of information or item has been moved to New Orleans.

Whatever it is, it must MAKE sense. It must feel motivated by the story, the characters, and the environment.

Your Assignment: Find a major plot point in your story. Does it feel like a major plot point? #RutRo

Find at least 1 way to 'soften' and camouflage this point.

Now do it to the rest of them :-)

Until next time!

Don't forget that "Plain Jane" (a Patterson, "Kiss the Girls" style thriller) is out!
Read 50 pages for free at Smashwords: http://bit.ly/b60jVe
To sweeten the pot here's a 50% off coupon: RH88E

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Scene Setting... So Simple...

Yet so hard.

Even though I love writing with every breath I take, setting a scene or the 'travelogue' portion of the novel is probably my least favorite.

I want to get to the action, damn it! LOL :-)

But scene setting is essential to any great story. We, as the reader, needs to be oriented to the environment.

Scene setting is also a place to allow your writing to shine. This is a place where you generally have enough room to turn some phrases and get away with a few more descriptors.

However, beware. Too much of a good thing is still too much. Narrative drive must always be maintained.

Even while standing perfectly still on a snowy field under a lone tree, your story must be moving forward.

But how to keep the momentum going forward when you want to pause and sit a while under the tree.

Luckily you can do both. The trick is to allow us insight into the character setting the scene (looking around, smelling, feeling, tasting their surroundings).

Each character in your story would look at that winter scape completely differently. (If that isn't the case, then you have bigger problems then scene setting).



One might look at the stark scene and consider it harsh and barren. Another might find the meeting of the white of the snow and the blue of the sky on the horizon as beautiful and yet another might notice the tiny droplets of dew falling from the branches, creating tiny crystalline pools in the snow.

Each are describing the same basic physical landscape but HOW each is describing the scene gives us incredible insight into not only their character by their word choice (intelligence, education level, etc), but also their current state of mind.

Perhaps at the beginning of Act 2 our Hero hates the snowy field. But by the end of Act 2 he would die to defend it.

Test your scene setting skills.

Read a section of scene setting a loud.

Do you have WAY too many descriptors? Did you not give us vital information (like the tree has mistletoe in its bare branches that is later important)? Can you tell EXACTLY to character and even the Act in which that scene was described?

If not... you know the drill. #Rewrite!

Also, I would love some feedback.

Could you head over to smashwords.com: http://bit.ly/b60jVe

You can read the first 25% of my new novel Plain Jane for free there. Take a peek then leave a comment here and let me know if I practiced what I preached about scene setting!

Now if you have to happen to fall in love with Plain Jane and want to read the whole thing, here is a 50% off coupon (TF93S)which makes it only $1.99 to purchase the entire novel!

Also if you are on GoodReads, please 'friend' or 'fan' me and I will return the favor!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Why do we write?

Just stop for a second and ask yourself that question... "Why do I write?"

For me, I write because I have to.

The stories inside of me are quite persistent. Trust me, I have wanted to stuff them down and ignore them, but they would come out while I was driving or in my sleep or simply pester me every time I sat down at a keyboard.

I was a born a storyteller. My guess is if you are reading this blog, you are to.

So the next question becomes... If I love writing so much why aren't I doing it more often?

Usually because well... we love it... almost to much.

What we put on paper feels so much like a part of our soul, that it is hard to send our stories out into the harsh world to be criticized. So a part of us feels 'we can't write it otherwise it will be judged.'

And do you know the one thing that I realized that help me get over that and put my stuff out there?

My stories are tough little boogers. They aren't flail little things that will faint at the first whiff of critique. They are hardy and hail.

It turns out they are far stronger than I am!

My stories would rather be out in the world, strutting their stuff and taking their lumps rather than being cooped up inside my head.

Of course work on your craft so that you can tell your stories better, but take it from me folks, your story is going to do just fine out in the big bad world.

So WRITE ALREADY!

And don't forget my book "Plain Jane" is out. Below is the book trailer. Also you can read more than 25% of the book for FREE at SmashWords: http://bit.ly/b60jVe

Plus of course email me at writingnodrama(at)aol(dot)com for workshops on... you know... craft stuff!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Self-Publishing Is Where It's At!


The stigma is gone, guys. #finally

Thank God!

Now I have made a lot of money off my writing. The only problem is I can't tell you how. As a writer, my life is bound by confidentiality agreements. So iron clad are they that I can't even tell a new agent about them.

Which found me in an awkward spot this year. I had to let my agent go last fall. I really can't blame her for not being able to pimp my work since she can't point to anything on the shelf to claim my sales track record.

And I wasn't satisfied with a five or heaven forbid 4 figure advance. Not out of arrogance, but because I know how the house handles publicity and marketing if the advance isn't in the 6 figures.

Um, basically they don't do anything! Nothing. Nada. Sure your book is out. A few thousand copies, buried on the shelf, spine out.

I knew unless I got a hefty advance, they would be no help. I also knew if I sold the book to a house that little bit of money, forfeited my creative freedom. They would want to wash out my voice to bring it into their imprint's 'fold.'

Great, I give up creative control and basically get nothing back for it.

And for years self-publishing has been such a taboo. A taint have you. That no publishing house would ever touch that book let alone anything else by you if you dared publish something yourself (without permission from the publishing gods).

Which I always thought was retarded. Remember, I came up from the screenwriting side where Indie Film is huge. And a major source of fresh material for studios locked into their 'fold' mentality.

Ah, then came along Amazon.com. And Kindle. And now Indie Publishing has gained the stature it deserves.

To the point where houses are now looking for you to have a following and sales record before they risk throwing down some cash.

Like I said #finally

So I present to you, "Plain Jane" A thriller in the "Kiss the Girls," "Hannibal," and "Along Came A Spider" genre.

You can either head over to Amazon.com for the print version (and, of course, leave a glowing review) at http://amzn.to/aV16Z9

Or read an entire 25% of the book before buying the ebook at www.smashbook.com: http://bit.ly/b60jVe

It is gritty, shocking, and #strangely funny.

Also, if you have a self-published book or one published through a house, but isn't getting any support, go follow my marketing alter ego @zerotosold where we are forming an Indie Book Marketing Collective!

And then, of course, GO WRITE 2 PAGES :-) #sorry #hadtogetthatinthere

Friday, May 21, 2010

Writing Without The Drama Workshops



I wasn't planning on giving workshops until the fall, but I've had a bunch of requests, so... carpe diem!

There are stories to be helped so I say damn the torpedoes! #actuallyIsaythatalot #butthatisawholeotherstory

The basic structure #youknowhowIlovestructure of these workshops is...

General writing workshops:
2 hrs long

Everyone participates, but no guarantee that your work will be chosen to discuss specifically. In these workshops, only small snippets of work will be reviewed to use as an example to the group. These excerpts are NOT submitted nor reviewed before the workshop.

You do NOT need to volunteer your work for review. You can simply soak up the knowledge :-)

These are 'drop in' workshops. While I prefer pre-registration at least 48 hours in advance, you can sign up and pay for these sessions until 15 minutes before the workshop.

Topics will vary based on participant's needs (I like to focus on what the group as a whole needs in the moment rather than pre-plan a topic #Iamadventuresomelikethat).

No more than 10 students in a session

Normally $25/workshop, Right now, I'm offering them at $10/workshop #jumponitnow #maygoupatanytime :-)



Semi-private workshops:
2 hrs long

Each person gets at least 20 minutes on their work therefore your writing sample (up to 10 pages) must be submitted 48 hours before the workshop for review by me and any other participants.

Since we are going more in-depth into critiquing during these sessions, everyone must have some 'skin' in the game i.e. have their work up for review (I find this keeps people's critiques more gentle knowing theirs is coming up next).

These are NOT 'drop in' sessions. Registration must occur 48 hours before the workshop so we have time to review the material.

These workshops are a hands-on critique/evaluation/re-writing session, really digging into how your work can be improved with the eye to publication

No more than 5 students in a session

Normally $50/workshop, Right now, I'm offering them at $25/workshop #jumponitnow #maygoupatanytime


Private consultations:
2 hrs long

Um, I think this one is self-explanatory #allyou #allthetime

Normally $200/workshop, I'm offering private coaching at $100/workshop #jumponitnow #maygoupatanytime

2hrs is about the time it takes to really go in depth, however for private consultations we can discuss a 1 hour session for 1/2 off. #again #ifIaminagoodmood :-)

I will also be adding more lecture style classes to cover the major aspects of writing such as: Outlining/preparing for a story, world-building, re-writing, preparing book proposals for non-fiction, prepping your manuscript for agents/publisher review, the ins and outs of self-publishing, and MARKETING for authors!

Please feel free to leave comments below if you are interested in any of these topics or add some topics that interest you!

I promise a warm, fun, informative time for one and all!

Now to be fair, I want everyone to realize despite the above, I am going to still say "Shut Up and Write" #alot #really #Iamnotjoking

Remember my allegiance is to your story so I am only interested in participants who are really dedicated to improving their craft AND getting their story out there!

You have been warned :-) :-) :-)

If you're really ready to take your writing to a whole new level of dedication and craft, please email me at writingnodrama@aol.com and we'll hook you up :-)

P.S. Payment is through PayPal so please have an account ready. Also the sessions will be hosted on a web conference site so either you can phone into the workshop (standard rates apply) or use the microphone on your computer. We will be sharing my desktop/screen, but no one will not be able see yours so no need to panic about privacy :-)

Any questions, don't hesitate to email me!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Hero's Arc or a.k.a. What It's ALLLLL About!


No matter your cool plot devices or statement about the human condition, your story really boils down to your Hero's Arc.

It is the overwhelming driving force in your story. All plot points hinge on it. Whether or not you hook your reader is much dependent upon how well you fulfill this arc.

The arc is the meat that lies over the bones of story structure. Without the arc fully completed your story will feel 'light' and bony (ok, I just made that up to fit with my imagery, but roll with me here!)

Many people bandy about the term "Hero's Arc" but don't fully understand it.

Simply put, your Hero starts in one emotional place and lands in a COMPLETELY different emotional space.

One way to test an arc is to ask your Hero the same question at the beginning of the story and again at the end.

For ex: Neo from the Matrix.
"Would you risk everything, including your life, for the greater good?
Act 1 Answer: Duh, of course not.
Act 3 Answer: Duh, of course!

Another good question for him:
"Do you believe in true love"
Again the first answer is NOOOOO, the Act 3 answer is an emphatic Yes.

Usually the question revolves around self-sacrifice, feeling their worth as a Hero or their ability to love or be loved.

The closer the question comes to identifying his inner wound, the better.

Questions like:
Can you ride a skateboard?
Are not really what we're talking about.

The greater the difference in their answer, the steeper the arc. The more poignant the question, the deeper the arc.

Assignment:
Test your Hero. Ask him a question regarding his inner wound. What are his answers in Act 1 and Act 3?

Leave them in the comment box below and I will randomly answer back how steep I think his arc is! :-)

Next Blog: What's a Hero Gotta do to get some respect?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Wrapping up 7 Acts... in 1 Blog!


Yep, that's pretty much how I roll.

I thought it might be nice to tie this all up with a little schematic for you to refer to when looking at your underlying structure #andbecauseitwasfunformetomakeit

The 7 Acts are broken down by dividing Act 1 into 2 sections, Act 2 into 3 sections, and Act 3 into 2 sections as follows:

Act 1
First Section is 10% of total pages - Snapshot of Hero's old life
Second Section is 15% of total pages - Hero resisting the Opportunity

Act 2
First Section is about 12.5% of total pages - Hero learning about his new life
Second Section is about 25% of total pages - Building up to Tentpole, Tentpole and aftermath
Third Section is 12.5% of total pages - Building towards Climax

Alright, hope this has been helpful!

Assignment:
Check your work against these numbers. Are you within 5% for each act section?

If not, make sure your story has narrative drive!

Next week's series... The Hero's Journey or a.k.a. How he kicks ass and takes names :-)

Act 3
First Section is 20% of total pages - the Climax/Resolution of all plot points
Second Section is about 5% of total pages (or less) - The Denouement, tying up loose ends.

The End... Of This Story that is #alwaysleaveroomforasequel


The second half of the 3rd Act.

You've shot your wad on your climax #sotospeak

Your Hero is healed.

What more is there to do and say?

Lots. Well, at least 1-2% of your entire story that is.

This section is called the denouement.

It is where we get to see your Hero fully integrated into his new life.

Is he happy? Is he in a living hell? That is your call, but we do need to see where he is and how he is feeling.

Did he get the girl? Has the magician returned?

How tormented or dead is the Villain?

Is there any room for a sequel? Any wiggle room at all?

This is where you put that all out.

As you can see this section needs to be short and to the point, but it is ever so essential.

Our audience needs this section to feel the story is wrapped up. That there are no loose ends.

That doesn't mean "pat" answers or full resolution, but closure.

Alright, next blog is an overview of the 7 Act Structure then next week we go deep into the Hero's Arc!

Have a great #writing week!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Your Climax... Literarilly speaking of course


Act 3 is what is all about.

All that hard work. All that writing. All that setting up.

Is going to come to fruition... but only if you execute it properly.

How many books or movies have fallen flat or worse been ANTI-climactic?

You do not want an audience to invest all that time and energy in your work than have an *epic fail*

So how do we avoid disappointing them? Well, first read all the blogs about Acts 1 & 2. I can guarantee you if you haven't done your job there, there is no salvaging Act 3.

Again, if the underlying structure isn't sound, this is where your story will crumble.

Again, we are breaking down this act into 2 sections.

This first section is where the Hero has just put on his very powerful mantle of Heroism: Hope.

He kicks some serious ass. I mean, crowd is on its feet cheering kind of ass kicking.

But, shockingly he begins to fail. He might even completely fail.

What? But how could this happen? How could he put on the mantle and still not have what it takes to win?

It is because he needs help.

Realizing he is a Hero isn't enough, he must learn humility as well. He must bow his head and realize he can't save the world...well, at least not alone.

Once he accepts the help (with open arms), then and ONLY then can he finally vanquish the villain.

This moment of accepting help is the moment when his wound is healed.

Because, you see, the only reason you need a villain is to actually poke the Hero in his wound to remind him that it is there. Once it is healed, the villain can adios.

Within this climax, the moment the Hero knocks the villain down and he doesn't get back up needs to be... well... exciting.

If you have done your character and scene work up and to this point, he can go hog wild on the action, tension, and suspense.

The rest of your book was winding the rubber band, tighter and tighter and tighter and then released it in controlled chaos.

You should be surprised, but not shocked. Anything and everything that happens here MUST be set up before.

Your Hero cannot suddenly FLY if we have never heard of him flying before, that kind of stuff.

Well, that's all the room I have right now, but I will hit up this act in later blogs since it is so CRUCIAL to the success of your story!

Leave a comment below to be entered in a drawing for a Free "Climax Evaluation." That's right, people I am putting on some performance pressure :-0

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Darkest Hour


The last section of Act 2

Last blog we got our Hero out of the Tentpole, barely.

The group is shaken. Disheartened. The Hero many times has gone off to pout.. I mean go it alone. Of course to protect his friends, not because he's scared (never that :-)

The Hallmark of this section is that the Hero FINALLY realizes either the world or his soul (or both) is truly at stake.

He may still try to go it alone, run to draw off the villain, or commit to the fight, however he still refuses the Hero's mantle.

He doesn't see its use.

So we go into the final battle with the Hero's loin girded, however this isn't enough.

The battle is epic, and the hero loses. Badly.

He is truly broken. Striped down. Bare. Hopeless.

The Villain has the knife dangling above his head...

But takes one last kick to the groin.

Instead of shattering the Hero though, this last insult galvanizes the Hero.

He isn't going to take it any more.

He stands and he... FIGHTS, only this time with his Hero's mantle on.

And that mantle he has been rejecting for 2 acts has some pretty amazing powers.

It gives him HOPE.

And therein lies the turn of Act 2.

Don't forget to leave a comment to be entered to win a free "Turn of Act 1 Evaluation" :-)

The Tentpole or as I like to call it... Your mini-climax


Because that is what it should feel like.

As you move into that long 125 pages of the middle of Act 2 it can feel dry and barren, yet this section needs to be anything but!

If anything, the Tentpole (which whose action should fall right about smack dab in the middle of your book) needs to look and feel like the 'final showdown.'

But let's back up to the beginning (of the middle :-)

As we learned last blog, your Hero has been properly introduced to his new world thanks of the Opportunity and um... well... hates it.

but too bad, he still has to learn the rules and spend some time whining about how he isn't a hero at all.

However, we need to get this party started so the villain very conveniently increases the threat and menace.

What characterizes the move into the second section of Act 2 is the Hero's realization that the villain is in fact, dangerous.

Our Hero begrudgingly admits something is rotten in Denmark and agrees to do something about it.

Of course, that does NOT include him accepting the Hero's mantle. He's just a guy with a set of skills that might be able to help. That's it. Don't count on him.

Now, occasionally your Hero's arc will have arrogance be a major part of his character, in this case, he wants everyone to COUNT on him, but he can't lose... You can see how well that's going to go.

So your Hero and his band of misfits knows the final days are here and gear up for battle --> Your Tentpole

Even if you are writing literary fiction, there is a battle. It may be to win the hearts and minds of men. It may be for their soul, but it is a fight.

Everyone MUST believe that this is life or death. That this battle will define the conflict.

It does NOT. But it needs to FEEL like it is going to. Do NOT hold back here so that your climax is better.

NO! Throw everything you have into this Tentpole. Every clever idea. Every trick. Everything.

But what does that leave for your climax? It leaves you to dig deeper, be more clever. Find a few more tricks up your sleeve that are better and more ingenious.

Your Hero must not only lose this battle but get schooled in the process. He MUST be bloody and bruised.

Everyone (ok, maybe not a everyone since somebody usually dies here to increase the stakes) escapes by the hair on their chinny-chin-chin.

This proves to our Hero definitively that he was never meant to be a Hero. Did you not see how he just failed ever so miserably?

He is usually pissed off at the group for dragging him into this mess and many times will separate himself from the pack.

The world feels in limbo.

But because of this here is where you have a little more room again to do scene setting (many times the Hero is hounded out of familiar territory) and more character work (how he handles defeat is HUGE to who he is and what his inner wound is) so use these pages wisely :-)

Next Blog, finishing out Act 2... in style!

Assignment:
Is your Tentpole exciting enough? Is there true threat? Does your reader really believe the world could come undone? If not, crank up the stakes!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And again, leave a comment to be in the drawing for a free turn of Act 1 evaluation! :-)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Act 2 Part 1 - A Brave New World


Yes, that is what this first section of Act 2 consists of...

Your Hero's new world with new rules, new players, and of course, new pain.

This section should take up about 62 pages or so.

And trust me, you are going to need every last one.

Also remember your Hero's 'taking' of the Opportunity is a big deal, usually with some action, so right at the beginning of Act 2, you have a little room to 'breathe.'

A little time to scene set, after all you just dumped your Hero in a completely different world (sometimes literally if we are talking sci fi or fantasy). You need to orient us to this new landscape.

And you have some time to go deeper into your Hero's character because how he responds to this new world provides a ton of very valuable insight.

However, you can't linger or lose narrative drive since you also need to be building towards the Tentpole.

Your villain has to be dogging your Hero. Your Magician, Love Interest and/or SideKick need to be building him up, prodding him to become the Hero he is meant to be.

And of course, your Hero must be declining the mantle of Heroism over and over again, coming up with lamer and lamer excuses, yet revealing his inner wound, more and more.

In this section of Act 2 he can even be in denial that there is a problem at all. He may minimize the Villain's power or influence. He may even try to return to his old life, but the universe simply won't let him.

See? What did I say, those 62 pages are hardly enough to do all of this!

Your assignment:
If you ran long in Act 1, take a look at your character work with your Hero. How much of it can you pull down from Act 1 and move to this section?

Unless the character work was SPECIFIC to his old life, you should be able to easily move it :-)

And again, leave a comment to be in the drawing for a free turn of Act 1 evaluation! :-)