Reblog: 5 Ways to Save Your Character From A Drowning Story

Hey, gang! I’m down south visiting family in Anchorage Alaska, and getting very little writing done while I instead plan vacations, bake all the things, and hold the tiniest of humans far more than is necessary.  Fortunately, I’ve got the word count buffer to sustain this kind of lifestyle for another few days during this NaNoWriMo adventure. Any of you fellow wrimos- how go the literary hijinks?

This is our last reblog of the month, and then I have to start being thoughtful again. This one comes from Nicole Blades via Writers Digest, and stuck out to me probably because my story kind of stinks this month, haha. It’s nice to know that if the ship sinks, I might at least be able to launch a lifeboat and get my MC to dry land again.

5 Ways to Save Your Character From a Drowning Story

NBladeby Nicole Blades

As writers, we’ve all experienced that moment when it becomes painfully clear that the story we’re working on just isn’t. We’ve tried to twist and bend it this way and that, but then it’s time to finally admit that we’ve come to the end of the rope with the manuscript and will have to let go. It’s next-level kill your darlings, and it’s rarely pleasant or easy. But what if the protagonist or a key character in that sinking story won’t let go of you? What if the character continues to haunt you and you simply cannot give up on them? Is there a way to valiantly rescue a great protagonist from a less than great story? Short answer: Yes! So, move over, Rose; there’s definitely room for Jack on that floating piece of wood.

I’ve lived through this with my latest novel, Have You Met Nora? (Kensington). My main character, Nora Mackenzie, is a young woman with an incredible secret and a heartbreaking but complicated backstory. She is flawed and layered and fascinating to me. However, the initial setting of the book—an all-girls’ Catholic boarding school in Vermont, where a 17-year-old Nora reigned as the queen of Mean Girls—wasn’t connecting. As Dawn Brooks, a character in the revised book would say, “it didn’t curl all the way over.” I had received feedback from agents, writers, and early readers that kind of all said the same thing: she’s too mean. As compelling as Nora’s story was in my eyes, having readers say that they couldn’t relate to her, that they couldn’t find the connection site with the character, meant that they would never care about what happens to her. And that spells The End for the story. Who’s going to want to keep reading when they don’t care about the protagonist? Exactly.

The thing is, this character captivated me, and the heart of the story I was trying to tell was still beating strong. I just needed to strip away everything else around Nora’s foundation and rebuild it using sturdier, more developed bricks. I went about it by first growing Nora up, moving the character out of school and into full-blown adulthood. I had to construct a fresh world around her that included new relationships, experiences, and weighty conflict that served the character and the story. This kind of revise wasn’t a walk in the park; it took years to pull it off, but I did it. (After all, the book is going to released into the wilds come October 31, right?)

I wanted to share what I learned through this experience with others who may be trying to save a character from a burning book before just hitting DELETE on the whole thing. I asked some other author friends to loan me their two cents on the topic, too. So, here are five actionable tips on how to keep the baby when it’s time to dash the bathwater.

Ready to read some more? Head on over to Writers Digest for the full article. And until next week, happy writing!

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Reblog: The Bulletproof Writer

mermaid Hello! It’s another NaNo months! Wahoo! *flings confetti* And with that comes stick figures and reblogs, huzzah!

I know we’re only three days in, but I’m feeling good about this month so far. I spent the first day working on a thriller project that I quickly sacked (probably in large part because I am apparently majorly uncomfortable writing about affairs), and then switched over to a Little Mermaid retelling. I’m really enjoying the switch, and it’s great to be drafting again after so long editing. This being a NaNo month, though, let the blogging laziness begin.

Our first reblog of the month is about dealing with rejection, something that I’ve been working hard to get better at. (As you may recall, I have a rejections goal for the year, which sounds a little insane, but is actually kind of working for me.)  If you haven’t come across Joanna Penn’s blog, The Creative Penn, before, it’s definitely worth checking out.

Here’s a piece from her archive by Michael Alvear, called:

The Bulletproof Writer: How To Deal With Rejection

Rejection is part of the writer’s life, whether that’s from an agent or publisher, a one-star review, or lack of sales. But that doesn’t mean that rejection has to destroy you.

bulletproofHere are some tips from Michael Alvear on how to handle it in a more positive way. 

What danger is to a cop, rejection is to a writer–always hanging in the air dripping with possibility. And drip it does, onto the talented and untalented in almost equal measure.

Actually it doesn’t just drip; it pours.

Rejection has a 360-degree aim — from literary agents who don’t want you as a client, editors who don’t want your manuscript, publishers who give you an insulting advance, bad reviews from literary critics, hate speeches on Amazon, and of course the ultimate rejection—poor sales. Somebody, somewhere at just about every stage of your writing life gives you the finger, a hand and sometimes the whole arm.

Success makes it worse because now you have more to lose. Who do you think suffers more—the newbie who can’t get her first manuscript accepted or the best seller who can’t get his last published because his prior two books tanked? Success, as any best-selling author knows, doesn’t protect you from rejection.

Want to read more? Go check out the full post here! And until next week, happy writing!

Reblog: On Author Responsibility

This month of madness slogs on, now with a new achievement unlocked: Plague! (Oh, wait, haha, this is ME and I unlocked plague a loooong time ago. *weeps*)  But in the light of this month’s craziness, I’ve scheduled a reblog- and lucky you! It’s from Madison Dusome, who is in every way fantastic!  Enjoy!

On Author Responsibility

Months ago now, a reasonably successful fantasy author was accused of (and apologised for) some instances of abuse/manipulation/other bad behaviour.  As a result, he lost readers/followers, sales and other opportunities (some publishers dropped him, some retailers stopped selling his works, etc).

This is something that seems to be happening more and more frequently, possibly because people are more aware of/active against abuse, and/or because authors are increasingly more in the public eye.  Simply put: authors’ behaviour affects the reception of their work, and to become an author is now akin to becoming a celebrity or a politician: people care about what you say, what you do and especially about your scandals.

Why and how much?  Is it right or fair?  Is it possible to avoid?  Let’s discuss!

Want to read more?  Go to Madison’s beautiful blog with this elegantly crafted link!

Reblog: How to Land a Literary Agent

Hi!  I’m sitting in a graphic design shop typing away for the one hour of internet that I’ve had in the last week and have I got a lot of ground to cover.  With that brief excuse, please enjoy this short video by The Book Doctors, Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, while I register my second child for kindergarten.  *sobs*

Reblog: Writer on the Road

I’m still traveling (and this is the first time I’ve had internet in over a week! augh!) and it’s been super de duper hard to find writing time since we left home in May.  This has become extra irksome now that it’s a NaNo month (double augh!).  But at least now that it’s a NaNo month, I can inundate you with reblogs and silly garbage instead of actually working on a somewhat thoughtful post.

Here’s a neat article by Peter Korchnak I read recently at his and his wife’s blog Where Is Your Toothbrush? about writing while traveling- hopefully useful for someone more than just me!

Writer on the Road: How to Write while Traveling

One of my main personal goals for the round-the-world trip was to work on my writing career. By getting away from the daily grind of a commute, a job, and a mortgage I meant to spend more time doing what I love and hone my craft. Before departure I had started building a foundation for an eventual book with the blog American Robotnik and self-published Guerrilla Yardwork: The First-Time Home Owner’s Handbook. On the trip I intended to keep the momentum by

  • writing this blog to develop material for a book about how to feel at home anywhere in the world;
  • writing a memoir of becoming a man in Czechoslovakia during the transition to democracy; and
  • freelancing.

Aside from a growing blog, it didn’t quite work out that way: the memoir is out and a mystery novel in; I’ve concocted a couple of other long-term writing projects; I only managed to land a handful of freelance articles and only had two literary non-fiction pieces published, albeit one as a winning piece of a prestigious contest. The biggest lesson: Writing while traveling is much, much harder than I thought…

Ready for more?  Go read the rest of the article, and tons more, at Where is your Toothbrush?

Reblog: 7 Tips for Using Hands-On Research

internet

I think I’m losing my touch.  I can’t seem to shock my husband quite like I used to, at least when it comes to internet searches.  I had the above Firefox page up when he walked up behind me.  His eyes flared in brief surprise, and then he said, “Oh.  It’s NaNo.”  It wasn’t even a question.  (And I kind of love how I’m searching all this scary stuff and the ad gods decided, “Yeah, you need to read the Bible, lady.  Like now.”)

I’m a big proponent of research.  Love me some research!  Knowing the right smells and feels and words can make the difference between a believable, immersive world, and a flat, boring one.  And while internet research is amazingly easy these days (as well as being super distracting), nothing beats hands-on, boots-on-the-ground research- and it’s mega-fun too!

That said, here’s this week’s reblog, from Delilah S. Dalton via Writer’s Digest: 7 Tips for Using Hands-On Research to Enrich Your Writing.  Enjoy!

 

7 Tips for Using Hands-On Research to Enrich Your Writing

They say, “Write what you know,” which is why my next book is about killing monsters in 1800s Texas. Not that I’ve ever killed anything bigger than a wolf spider, but I know what it’s like to spend a long, painful day in the saddle. When you’re writing about a new world, your readers will have an easier time making the jump from reality to fantasy if you can use telling details to win their trust. And that means that you should travel to new places and seek experiences and local culture that will enrich your writing. The key? Using all your senses.


1. See the place.

Traveling allows you to soak up the visual backdrop of a new place. If you grew up in the country, it’ll be hard to write a big city since you’ve never looked up at a looming skyscraper. Visiting the place you’re writing about will inform you of what the people wear, what they hang on the walls, what sidewalk vendors sell, what colors the mountains are in the distance. I’m from Georgia, and I’ll never forget what it felt like to see the Alps for the first time, to climb the stairs of the Duomo in Milan, or to take a ferry to Santorini. Mountains are so much bigger than I’d imagined, and the Mediterranean is such a specific crystal blue. The mental photographs you’ll take while traveling will make your descriptions richer and more specific.

2. Taste the food.

Even if you’re not writing Game of Thrones-style banquet orgies, place-specific food still plays a big part in any story…

Ready to read some more? Pop over to Writer’s Digest for the full article!  Happy writing!

Reblog: 10 Lessons Learned Behind the Scenes

Hey! I totally forgot to warn everyone last week, but it’s another month of Camp NaNoWriMo! *cheers* And that means that I get to basically ignore the blog for the month!*cheers*

But fear not, O darling readers.  While I’m busy turning Irene Adler into a shape-shifting single mom, we’ll still be having a fun month here of reblogs, silly comics, and who knows what else. To kick things off, have some Writer’s Digest wisdom from Jessica Stawser!

A few short months ago, I wrote about my path to getting an agent and a publisher, and promised to share my experiences leading up to the publication of my debut novel, ALMOST MISSED YOU, due out in 2017 from St. Martin’s Press.

You might think that as the editor of Writer’s Digest magazine—and given my earlier years spent editing nonfiction books—I would know more or less what to expect from the process. But I discovered that there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes on the author’s side—emotions to navigate, new steps to take—that I haven’t seen discussed much elsewhere (perhaps even more so with a “Big 5” publisher).

So let’s take a look at what I’ve learned in my early months as a debut novelist-in-progress—and how it might help you know what to expect and how to position yourself for success. I’ve outlined 10 lessons overall, and will be delivering them in two installments—5 today, and 5 more on Monday. Let’s start at the beginning.

1. Once you’re offered a book contract, it takes awhile to get the, well, contract.

It was right around eight weeks for me, which my agent indicated was typical. I wasn’t really bothered by this, but my husband, who works in finance and insurance where nobody touches anything until signatures are in place, was a bit white-knuckled. He could not believe that my editor, agent and I were all already working on various things for and with each other with nothing signed.

What if it falls through in the negotiating stages? Think of having an offer accepted on a house. You do inspections, loan approvals, packing, storing and more in good faith that the closing will go through. All the while, your real estate agent (there’s that word again!) is doing even more work behind the scenes on your behalf, and you have to trust him or her. Are there a few horror stories out there about things falling apart? Sure. But most of the time you walk away with the keys.

So, if you’re cut from the same cloth as my husband (and what a handsome cloth it is), know that this is more or less the norm. As long as you have a reputable agent and publisher, try to trust that things will work out.

Ready to read the rest?  Head on over to Writer’s Digest to read the full article: 10 Lessons Learned Behind the Scenes of a Book Deal.