Archive for November, 2010

Thursday, November 4th, 2010 by Candace Havens
Shaking Things Up: Part 2

I’ve been talking about how changing your routine can be a good thing when it comes to writing. We all get set in our ways, but it’s a good idea to shake things up now and then. I talked about how a class on themes helped me to lock down something that was wrong with one of my books. Another class taught by a county medical examiner, helped me to realize I had a few things wrong about my murder investigation in another book.

The other day my English professor in my grad school class posted the following from Kurt Vonnegut:

Vonnegut’s 8 Rules for Writing Fiction

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

These are all things a lot of us know. but do we do them? Are me maybe just a little lazy about No. 4? Could we use some work when it comes to 5 and 6? You never know when or how you’re going to have one of those writing epiphanies that can be game changing.

Right now on my Write Workshop loop we are doing a 4000 word challenge. It’s a 16 day challenge meant to kick you in your butt and get the words on the page. While we’re in this phase we don’t really have to worry about what I have above, except I think it helps, even during the creative process, to have a character you can root for, and to throw rocks at them.

I realized as I begin a new project that I don’t have enough conflict for one of my characters so I’ll probably spend a good part of today thinking of ways I can make him miserable. :)

If you’d like to help me brainstorm on ways I can throw rocks, feel free. The set up is he’s a Marine, helping out at the UN, who falls for a fashion designer. They’re from two different worlds and he thinks hers is insane. Feel free to play along here. :)

Or tell me one thing in the past year that you heard that sort of made you stop and think about your writing. You never know, your experience might help someone else, so please share.

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010 by Bob Mayer
How factual should your fiction be?

One question people ask is how factual their stories should be?  Where is the line between realistically portraying something and making things up?  That’s a difficult question to answer.  My science fiction books are only science fiction in that I give a different explanation for things that actually exist.  It is a fact that there are large statues on Easter Island.  The fiction in my book Area 51 comes in when I give my own explanation for why those statues were made.

If you are writing a mystery you can’t be too far off base with your police procedural information.  I think many people are lulled by the inaccuracies portrayed in movies.  Books have to be more accurate for several reasons; one is that the average reader is more on the ball than the average movie goer; second, you can slide something by in a couple of seconds of film but remember the reader can linger over and reread a paragraph again and again.  A reader can also turn back from page 320 to check page 45 where you mentioned the same thing and compare the two.

Some examples where research adds to story.  I was writing a book titled AREA 51 THE SPHINX.  Therefore I did a lot of research on the Great Sphinx.  In one thick tome I was wading my way through there was one sentence that caught my attention.  It said that Sir Richard Francis Burton, a man who’d always fascinated me, visited the Great Sphinx in 1855.  The opening scene of the novel ended up being this visit.

I was wandering the library as I am wont to do, and saw a book titled:  JAPAN’S SECRET WAR.  I picked it up and was quite intrigued at the author’s premise that the Japanese actually developed a working atomic bomb and detonated it in Manchuria in the waning days of World War II.  As a fiction writer, this was a premise I could run with and I took it one step further:  what if there were a second bomb, and it was taken by submarine to San Francisco at the end of the war and left at the base of the Golden Gate bridge?

Incidentally, that book, BLACK OPS: THE GATE has just been republished by my own company:  Who Dares Wins Publishing.  I

I was researching Vikings as one of my Atlantis books had half the storyline set in the year 1,000 AD.  I read about an interesting character named Corpse-Loddin, whose career was to sail out in the spring and recover the bodies of Vikings who were trapped the previous winter by ice and killed.  He would boil the bodies down, strap them to the side of his boat and sail back home to sell the bodies to their families for proper burial.  I found this such a bizarre character that I knew he had to be in my story.

Research helps begin the framework of story.

If you look in the front of many books, you will find a list of acknowledgments where the author thanks those who helped with the book.  For a mystery this might include a police department, the forensics department, the coroner, etc. etc.  This is primary research and can be very useful.

One problem I have found though in talking to experts about their particular field is they are usually more concerned with “getting it right” than telling a story.  As a novelist, telling a story is your priority.  You have to listen carefully to the expert and shift through the mounds of information they are shoveling your way and pick the nuggets of gold that you can use to make your story sparkle.

My recommendation if you have to write about something you are unfamiliar with, is to “cheat”.  Find another fiction book that writes about the same subject and see how that author did it.

In fact, that’s one of the reasons you need to read a lot and watch a lot of film– to add to your toolkit of techniques and information.  Every now and then I read or see something that really strikes me as being different and I file it away in my mind.  You have to do the same thing when researching material for your book.

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010 by Sasha White
News and Links…

If you’ve been hanging around here for a bit you probably heard me talk about the Ninc confernce this year and how absolutely fabulous it was. Well, the Ninc board heard what we, the members had to say, and they’re holding the conference next year in the same place! (and let’s face it, being on the beach really did help make it a relaxing conference.

From the Novelists Inc Board…

Circle your calendars!

October 19 – 23, 2011, Ninc rolls out its 22nd annual conference:

New Rules, New Tools: Writers In Charge

Along with the special one-day program (included in the conference fee):
The New Publishing: Welcome To Tomorrow!

Registration opens January 1, 2011.

The fee: $285, payable in one lump sum or as three EZ payments of $95 each before August 31, 2011. Hotel booking information will be provided with your initial payment.

Rooms: $129 plus tax.

Location: Tradewinds Island Grand Resort, St. Pete Beach, Florida. By popular demand, we’re headed back to the beach!

In 2010, we brainstormed the future of publishing.

In 2011, we’re going to get more specific and hands-on, concentrating on the nitty-gritty, the step-by-step directions. How we’re to get where we’re going. How our new options work and how we can best work them; both the mechanics and the art of it all. How to sell, where to sell, and even how to structure our financial records. How to find our sales outlets and our worldwide audience. How better to work with our traditional publishers and the new markets. In short, in long, how we can set ourselves up to be sure we’re part of the future of publishing. And lastly, that ever famous “and more!”

Ninc sunset buffet

For some samples of what I thought/learned at the conference this past October, take a peek at my NINC post, and my NINC 2: Podcasting and more post. To see what others thought of the conference, check out some short video interviews here on my regular blog.
To show you what we enjoyed while working at the last conference, here’s a picture from the sunset buffet on Saturday night.
Now, Novelists Inc is for multipublished authors only, because it focuses more on business needs than craft learning, but I highly recommend it to any author serious about building their writing into a career. (Thats not to say we don’t work on craft as well, but it’s mutli-genre, and not the main focus of the conferences)

And to share more of what I’ve been paying attention to lately, I thought I’d share some of what I’ve been reading on the net lately. Check out the links below.

Faster than A Speeding Bullet-Character Building : A great post that takes the intimidation out of the character building process.

Writer Unboxed is one of my favorite blogs. There’s always something there that inspires me….check out this post on Practical Magic for Writers.

We all get stuck sometimes. I sure do, and I’ve bookmarked this post on Time To Write to help me out simply becasue it makes it seem so…simple. What to do when a scene refuses to come alive.

And one that I just couldn;t resist… How to Lift Your Writing to New heights in Just 10 minutes.

For those of you doing NaNo this month, agent Nathan Brandsford has a post worht reading. NaNoWriMo Bootcamp: Editing as you go.

Monday, November 1st, 2010 by Carrie Vaughn
Writing by Number

Daily word counts are oh so useful.  They give us a goal, inspiring us to write every day, whether it’s 250 words, 500 words, 1000 words, 870 words, or whatever.  On very tight deadlines, they allow those of us who don’t work well under pressure to pace ourselves.  (For example, I’m about 45,000 words into a rough draft that’s due December 1.  I have a month to write another 25,000 words, roughly.  Just under a thousand words a day.  That sounds slightly better.  I can do that.  And if I write 1000 words a day, I’ll have a few extra days to read the manuscript over and make fixes.)

I follow a lot of other writers’ blogs.  I like to see what people are doing, and I like to see the smart things other writers say about writing.  They often validate my own thoughts or give me something new to think about.

But I need to not pay attention to other writers’ daily word counts.  I never measure up and it makes me feel bad.

I’ve noticed something, though:  many writers who post impressive daily word stats (I’m talking in the 3000 words a day range and higher) are actually binge writers.  They’ll bang out a novel in six weeks, posting very high daily word counts during that stretch, then take a break, only working on little projects for days or weeks after.

I am not a binge writer.  I have to get a little bit done every day.  I’ve always been like that.  I was the annoying kid back in school who finished all her papers days in advance.  I need about four to six months to write a first draft.  I may only write a little bit every day, but I do it every day.

Here are my stats:  I can usually write 1000-1200 words a day.  I aim for 800.  500 is my minimum.  Setting such a low bar means I usually exceed it by quite a bit, which makes me feel really good.  Positive reinforcement.  Even 500 words a day — about one page — will get you a 180,000-word novel in a year.  Or two 90,000 word novels.  The Kitty novels average around 75,000 words, just to give you an idea.  Makes it all seem a little more doable, doesn’t it?  I think in the end, the binge writers and I produce the same amount of work.  And it really goes to show that there is no Right Way.  Only the Way that Works for You.

And on that note, I will once again not be participating in NaNoWriMo, which begins today.  I just can’t take the pressure.  For those of you who love it and are participating — start your engines, and good luck!