GENREALITY

Archive for August, 2011



Friday, August 5th, 2011 by Rosemary
Plot and Process

I’m living in book world right now. What this means (for me) is that I’ve gotten to that sweet spot where I’m either writing about, or thinking about, my book 24 hours a day. I’m picking up the phone to text my heroine a warning. I’m hearing her opinion on everything we see and picking my meals based on her preferences. I’m visualizing car chases and calculating how I can get to Saint Louis from Minneapolis in 8 hours and debating whether someone would stop for breakfast after they’ve stolen a car.

What this also means (for you) is that you shouldn’t count on me for anything, including coherent conversation, and if you’re smart you’ll stay away from anyplace I happen to be driving.

Book World happens because of what I will laughingly call my Process. Certain people near and dear to me give me a hard time because I write more slowly. Some might say… ploddingly. That I have to write 600 pages to end up with a 400 page novel, which IS true. It’s also true that those 200 pages are brilliant–genius, even–but they are unnecessary, and the only way I find that out is when the whole book is done.

So the *actual* truth is that I’m a spectacularly inefficient writer. If it takes me six months to write a book (a number I just made up, by the way, to preserve an air of mystery) then I spend four of them writing the first third of the book and two of them writing the rest.

Except, this isn’t inefficient. It’s what works for me. Creativity basically has five stages:
1) Preparation
2) Frustration
3) Incubation
4) Illumination
5) Translation into Action

This is a repetitive cycle. You don’t get one turn around per book. I sometimes go through this cycle for every paragraph. Or, you know… word. (But it’s a darn good word I pick at the end of it.)

So for four months of my book cycle, I spend the majority of my time in the first three stages, with frequent flashes of 4 that lead to brief bouts of 5. Then the magic happens.

In every book, I hit a point where I’ve laid all the groundwork, I’ve figured out what doesn’t work, and I know what I have to do. I know how my world works, my characters are cast so they’ll stay true, and I know where the clues are laid and where the treasure is, and if I don’t know exactly how they’re going to reach it, the preparation I’ve done lets me just… go along for the ride.

I still have to go through the cycle. But the percentages change. Frustration and Incubation happen while I’m refilling my coffee, or sometimes even in the pause of my fingers on the keyboard, and I spend most of my day trying to type fast enough to translate the illumination into action.

So if you see me in the next month, and I don’t look all there? Cut me a little slack.

And you might want to give me a little extra room on the highway.

Thursday, August 4th, 2011 by Sasha White
Guest Blogger : Tawny Stokes

Alright folks, I’ve invited one of my best friend to guest blog today. Not only is Tawny a talented writer, she’s a truly good person with a strong and loyal heart. I asked her to guest blog because I think she’s smart, and has some cool shit to say.

Tawny Stokes has always been a writer. From an early age, she’d spin tales of serial killers in love, vampires taking over the world, and sometimes about fluffy bunnies turned bunnicidal maniacs. An honour student in high school, with a penchant for math and English, you’d never know it by the foot high blue Mohawk and Doc Martens, which often got her into trouble. No longer a Mohawk wearer, Tawny still enjoys old school punk rock, trance, zombie movies, teen horror films, and fluffy bunnies. She lives in Canada with her fantastical daughter, two cats, and spends most of her time creating new stories for teens. You can visit her at www.tawnystokes.com, but for now.. please, read on, and make her feel welcome here at Genreality

PS: Tawny also writes adult fiction as Vivi Anna www.vivianna.net

From Page to Screen and Back Again
By Tawny Stokes aka Vivi Anna

I actually started my writing career with screenplays back in 2001. I bought some books, read a lot of scripts and started writing. I wrote seven scripts in a year. Then I tried to sell them. It was hard. Really really hard. I got a lot read—I write a mean query letter. I talked to one amazing producer on the phone and he was so awesome. He loved my writing and would’ve bought my script if he hadn’t been moving in a completely different direction. I still email him now and then to catch up. But nothing stuck and I didn’t get the interest that I needed to make a real go of it. So I decided I’d go in the back door to Hollywood and write books. That was in 2003.
So because of that, the way I write books is different. It helped form my process. And why almost all of my books are action-packed fast-paced thrill rides with little to no exposition and probably a lot less emotion then most books, especially in the romance genre.  Just ask any of the wonderful authors I’ve critiqued with over the past. I’d always get the note…more emotion!! What are these people thinking?
Now after seven years, I’ve gone back to writing screenplays and find that my novel writing has totally helped me to write a better, more structured script. Now I get requests all the time, and I’ve secured a manager and have developed a TV show with a producer that is at the networks being read.
There are a lot of similarities between scripts and novels. But there are also key differences that define each medium. Knowing them can help you become a better writer. Also, remember just because you are a great novelist, doesn’t guarantee you’ll be a good screenwriter. And vice versa. You have to work at your craft constantly.
I’ve actually heard in Hollywood that novelists usually make terrible screenwriters because of the tendency to overwrite and the fact that novelists are married to their words. Screenwriting is 90% rewriting and collaboration.

Similarities:
There’s a beginning, a middle and an end, following the three Act structure
Follow a story arc – inciting incident, rising action, black moment, denouement
Character arcs – each character starts as one thing and ends up as another at the end

Differences:
Length obviously – feature scripts are in a range from 90-120 pages, novels can be anywhere from 250-500 pgs or more if you are JK Rowling or Stephen King
Scripts are heavily structured, and have a format that has to be followed, using screenwriting software is a must
There is little to no exposition in a script, only write down what can be visually conveyed
In a script what the character looks like and is wearing is irrelevant, unless it is part of their character
Describing the setting in detail is irrelevant as well, unless it is important to the plot and or character
There is no introspective in a script, it is about what the characters say and do, not what they think
With a script the idea is paramount, with a novel it’s the writing

Writing both is a challenge. I have to constantly switch mindsets. But I believe my work on each has strengthened my ability to tell a story regardless of the medium. And Story is what really matters.
Advice I’d give to novelists, especially to better their dialogue, is to read a ton of scripts and really study the dialogue, read it out loud. Then sit down and write a script. Use the story you’re already working on for your book. You’ll totally see where you are failing in your story arc and in your dialogue. Punch those up and you’ll have an amazing addition to your books.

Tawny’s latest release: Static
During the summer before her senior year, 17 year old band groupie, Salem Vale, has been following her favorite punk rockers, Malice, from gig to gig hoping that one night she might get backstage and meet the sinisterly sexy guys. She’s been saving her virginity for the lead singer Thane. One fateful evening she gets her wish. It’s a dream come true.

Except the dream turns to a nightmare when she wakes up in a dumpster, tossed away like yesterday’s trash, with no memory of what happened the night before. She feels strange, different, as if something is trying to get out. Soon she realizes she’s changing…turning into something not quite human.

Now a hunger deep inside claws at her to feed, to siphon energy from those around her. Before she can do just that, Trevor, the band’s roadie shows up and stops her from killing. With his help she learns to control the hunger inside, because he’s just like her. And in return he wants her help to do one little thing…

Help him kill the members of Malice.

Amazon Kindle * Smashwords

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011 by Bob Mayer
Rule Breaking and a Career Plan for Writers

This is an excerpt from my newly updated and published book:  Write It Forward: From Writer to Successful Author

Rule Breaking

To be successful, you are going to have to break some rules. If you do the same as everyone else, you’re the same as everyone else. In Special Forces our unofficial motto was If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.

But beware you don’t break the three rules of Rule Breaking:

The paradoxical rules of rule breaking.

  1. 1. Know the rule (breaking a rule because you don’t know or understand it, is just being dumb)
  2. 2. Have a good reason for breaking the rule (I ask WHY a lot in my workshops. I don’t believe there are any rules of writing—you just need a good reason why you are doing something)
  3. 3. Accept the consequences of breaking the rule (if it worked, you’re a genius. If it didn’t, figure out what went wrong, reboot and restart)

background A Career Plan

A while ago I asked Susan Wiggs for some career advice. We’d taught together for seven straight years at the Maui Writers Retreat and Conference. She also lives one island south of me. I noticed the other day while driving through the rain, and then when I looked south, the sun was shining on her island for some reason. A conspiracy perhaps.

Anyway, she emailed me back within 20 minutes of my query with a very detailed explanation of the route she followed for success.

First, Susan said she studied successful authors in her genre. This is the author dissection we discussed earlier. She looked for the patterns.

Second, what she came up with was a plan to write three books. Since they were romances, she couldn’t use the same protagonist in every book; so she looked at a unifying concept. She decided on a fictional town. Suzanne Brockman uses a Navy SEAL team. This gives reader continuity. I’m using West Point as my unifying concept in my current series.

Third, you need a unifying theme. In romance, well, it’s usually some form of romance. I’m using the theme of loyalty versus honor. I’m applying that theme on two levels: personal for the characters; and also in the big picture because my focus is on the Civil War.

Fourth, the goal is then to sell the heck out of the first book and get a commitment from the publisher to push the numbers on the three books. Now that is out of your control. Both Susan and I have experienced publishers that didn’t push a series.

I think though, if you approach agents and publishers with a plan, you have a much better success of the plan working than not having a plan.

In fact, I was on an agent panel at Pacific Northwest Writers (no idea why I was on panel—guess because my agent was sitting next to me). And I mentioned the idea of having a plan. After the panel was over, one of the agents told me in all the years he’d been agenting, no one had ever approached him with a plan. He said he’d love it if writers had one.

I think that is the Catch-22 that a lot of agents and editors can’t get past, they would love a new author to have a plan, but they don’t have the time or energy to teach you how to develop one. So we’re still working on the throw 100 new books against the wall and hope 1 sticks paradigm. I really think we need to get smarter.

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011 by Sasha White
Giggles

How many science fiction writers does it take to change a light bulb?

Two, but it’s actually the same person doing it. He went back in time and met himself in the doorway and then the first one sat on the other one’s shoulder so that they were able to reach it. Then a major time paradox occurred and the entire room, light bulb, changer and all was blown out of existence. They co-existed in a parallel universe, though.

_________________________________________________________________

Q. How many mystery writers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A. Two. One to screw it almost all the way in, and the other to give it a surprising twist at the end.

_________________________________________________________________

Q. How many screenwriters does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A. Why does it *have* to be changed?

_________________________________________________________________

Q. How many cover blurb writers does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A. A VAST AND TEEMING HORDE STRETCHING FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA!!!!

Monday, August 1st, 2011 by Carrie Vaughn
Taking Notes on Captain America

**Spoilers Ahoy!**

I loved the movie, and I’ve been loving hearing people talk about it.  Everyone has a favorite moment or three, and what’s fascinating to me is that the favorite moments are almost all quiet character moments.  Or a small action that reveals character.  The film is chock full of them.  When Dr. Erskine asks, “Do you want to kill Nazis?” and Steve says, “I don’t want to kill anyone, I just don’t like bullies.”  When Steve throws himself on the grenade at boot camp.  When everyone keeps telling pre-super serum Steve that he can’t fight, he isn’t strong enough, and he’ll die if he goes to fight, and they’re full of pity and compassion.  The trick with the flagpole.  The conversation Erskine and Steve have the night before the procedure, when Erskine explains that he wanted a test subject who would understand the value of strength, and compassion (that’s my own personal favorite scene).  Then that heartbreaking, terrible, poignant moment right before the credits roll.  A single line of dialog, so full of emotion.

These are the moments people remember.  These are what can make a story great.  The whole movie could have been so cliché and ridiculous, but it was played with so much heart and honesty.  They — the filmmakers, actors — kept it simple and to the point.  Show the audience who Steve Rogers is, so they’ll cheer for the Captain later.  We won’t remember the action sequences, we’ll remember the character.  At least, that’s how it should be.

It’s making me think about my own work.  What are the strong character moments?  Are they the right ones?  Are they memorable or redundant?  Does the dialog pop as strongly as it could?  Have I simplified?  Am I showing the essence of the scene, or am I cluttering it up with extraneous details?

Another thing I loved about the movie:  I thought I knew where the story would end.  I knew the Captain America story enough to make a guess:  he’d be found in the ice, frozen but alive.  I thought we’d end there, roll credits.  But the film went a scene further, to show Steve waking up in a fake hospital room.  And again, there’s a character moment that shows us exactly who he is — he’s got brains, he’s going to use them, and he’s going to fight as hard as he has to to figure things out.  I love that his super strength is a tool, and not his identity.  Then we get the scene I didn’t know I wanted:  Steve Rogers realizing he’s traveled 70 years into the future, and that his whole world has changed.  It was gorgeous, and I wasn’t expecting it.

I keep playing the before and after of that moment out in my mind, and I think that’s the sign of a great scene.  It’s so powerful and true to the story, it implies whole stretches of action around it.  But I think the filmmakers showed us only exactly what we needed.  They got in late and got out early, cut out everything that wasn’t necessary.  So while I’m to the point where I could watch these characters eating pancakes and be happy just spending time with them, the film did the right thing — first by going a scene further than I expected, then getting out quickly.

So a couple of lessons here:  show the scene that may be hard to pull off, that your audience isn’t expecting.  But do it quickly, and don’t show any more than you need to.