Saturday, April 30, 2011

Try to be alive

I stumbled on a great website for author inspiration today. It's http://advicetowriters.com. I've only given it a quick once over so far. A Mark Twain quote about caring for characters really spoke to me, like Mark Twain quotes tend to do, but my favorite quote so far is this one, by William Saroyan.
The most solid advice . . . for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.

--WILLIAM SAROYAN
Any other writers find favorites there? 

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Dozen Dialogue Tips

For Earth Day, I'm recycling one of my most popular writing tip posts, things to keep in mind when writing dialogue.

A Dozen Dialogue Tips

Writing effective dialogue isn't as easy as you'd think. When characters in your story or novel speak, their conversation must flow as easily and naturally as a conversation you hear on the street--only better. Here are a dozen dialogue tips.

1.  Be natural. Most people use contractions and sentence fragments when they speak. If your characters don't, they may sound stiff.

2.  Dialogue is more than words. A lifted eyebrow or forced smile can convey more meaning than a spoken sentence. Non-verbal responses can add nuance or completely change the meaning of spoken words.
a) "Sounds great." He slapped Jim's back and whistled on his way out the door.
b) "Sounds great," he said, but he frowned and looked at his feet.
c) "Sounds great." She rolled her eyes and snickered.
Gestures can also replace spoken words and make a scene feel more realistic. Picture a father and son building a fort. Here are some options for a line of dialogue:
a) "Would you hand me that hammer beside your knee, son?" Dad asked.
b) Dad nodded at the hammer beside Billy's knee. "Hand me that, would you?"
c) Dad extended his hand, palm up, like a surgeon awaiting an instrument. "Hammer." 
3.  Characters don't all sound alike. Dialogue can help make your characters unique and distinctive, but a little dialect goes a long way. The same goes for speech quirks. In real life, someone might stammer or say "uh" every other sentence, but

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Mimic the Saguaro

I took a day off from writing on the new novel yesterday to enjoy a beautiful morning hiking Ventana Canyon just outside of Tucson. Perfect day, incredible views, great hike. I figured, though away from the computer, I'd plot as I plod, but my mind even took the day off from the novel. Can you blame it with views like these?


But I did find inspiration...in a cactus. There are many, many saguaros in Ventana Canyon, and I love them all, but I did find two favorites.


The first picture is a saguaro that caught my eye because it had so many arms. I don't recall seeing one with so many before. Keep in mind saguaros grow slowly. They can take up to 75 years to develop their first arm. The second picture is another cactus that has really hung in there. Apparently the ledge it was growing on fell out from under it, but it had enough anchor remaining to stay in place. And grow. What determination and perseverance. I do believe these saguaros could make it as a writers.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Pitch & 250 novel contest at Ebysswriter BLOG

Novelists, here's an interesting contest over at a fellow bloggers site. Ebyss is running a contest that's taking entries from now (actually yesterday) through Sunday, April 17th. All prizes feature critiques from Gina Panettieri, president of Talcott Notch Literary Agency. You can find out more about Gina and her interests in this recent interview with Ebyss. First Place wins a full novel critique from Gina and signed copies of novels by two of Gina's clients. Second through Fourth place prizes are critiques of progressively smaller writing samples from your novel.

Entering is quick and easy, providing you find coming up with a tweet-sized pitch of your full-sized novel easy. Sheesh. That's right, you have 140 characters to pitch your novel. And I mean CHARACTERS, not words. And remember, a space between words counts as a character. Here's what I came up with for my novel Daeva.
Sharon upsets a demon's plan to influence mankind
and becomes the key to its success. Her death will
either empower the demon or destroy it.
140 characters exactly.

Then you include the first 250 words of your novel. That part really is easy, just use the word counter on your word processing program to find the stopping point.

Here's the link to the site where you enter the contest ==> Ebyss's Pitch & 250 Contest. All the details you'll need to enter are there. Good luck to all who enter. Let me know if you do. We can root for each other.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Cracking the whip (in isolation) on the WIP

The hardest time for me to blog is when I'm writing first draft. Go figure. It's all writing, right? I'm already cranking out words. Why not spend a few of them here? But when I sit down to type, guess what document I open? Yep, the work in progress (WIP).

Complicating matters, I'm one of those writers who won't discuss my WIP. Today proved how sincere I am about keeping it all in. I've written a decent sized chunk on the new novel. I remain excited about the story, I love the characters, and it's something I'm excited to pursue. But today I realized I have too much backstory (stuff that happened before my novel opens) to include without some drastic measure. This problem arose when writing STRUCK too. In that novel, I came up with a device to incorporate a huge chuck of backstory in a single section mid-novel. It worked very well for STRUCK, but that method ain't going to work twice, at least not on this novel.

So I've been scratching my head, and, for the first time, thinking about who I could turn to for input. I have wonderfully talented writer friends who are as generous as they are gifted, and I know they'd be willing to shell out the energy to help me through this if I asked. But then I'd have to reveal my story, my dilemma, all this stuff so safely tucked away in my mind and my computer. I clinched at the thought.

It's not that I think anyone's going to steal my idea or my story or my characters. New writers endure that paranoia openly, but we get over that phase sometime during our first novel, which we later "trunk" as trash before moving on to a novel that has some commercial promise. No, it's just that I don't want input. This novel is mine and mine alone until I'm ready to share it. I don't really know why that's important, but it is.

Isolation is one of the hard parts of writing a novel. Yeah, plotting is difficult; research is time-consuming; writing first draft takes great perseverance and dedication; editing requires concentrated effort, time, and attention to every detail.... But believe it or not, it's the isolation that's the most trying sometimes. It's like keeping a big secret that you're very excited about for a year or more. Every day provides at least one opportunity to share that secret, but somewhere inside you, you believe sharing it will diminish it. So you don't. And I didn't. And I'm glad.

I think I've found a new track for tomorrow, a solution to my latest problem. With luck, this solution will take me well into next week before I need to rethink things again, face renewed temptation to seek input, which I'll decide against, and find another solution to some big problem.

So having said all that, here's my detailed report on my WIP. It's going well.