Friday, May 28, 2010

The Plot Thickens: What I've Learned About Writing From TV

Full disclosure: I don't have cable. And because the hubs promised that we had a digital television even though we, in fact, do not, we never got one of those box things for the digital switch, so even the basic channels come in like snow. Which is kind of nice, since I live in Florida. But basically, my access to television is limited. We have Netflix, and the majority of my queue is filled with seasons of shows I've heard great things about (mostly because I can only spare 20, 40 minutes tops a day for TV, so watching movies is really out of the question). If I really love a show, I'll start watching the current episodes online, but other than that, I'll just wait for the new season to come out on DVD.

That being said, I do have to admit that my limited television watching has actually taught me quite a bit about plot devices and unique ways to tell stories. Many of my favorite shows have a unique storytelling style that I admire, and could thoroughly enjoying in a book.

Take, for example, my latest find: How I Met Your Mother. I'm currently at the beginning of the third season of this show, and I think it's pretty hilarious. I mean, come on...NPH? Jason Segel? Yes, please. But aside from the acting talent and the cute story lines, the way the story is told in a very smart way. OK, so you have to majorly suspend your disbelief that two teenagers would sit through their old man's ramblings about nothing related to the story they actually want to hear. And also the fact that dad's voice has totally changed for narrating purposes, but in flash forwards that take place in the same time period, his voice sounds like it did when he was in his 20s. Aside from those obvious errors, the show manages to do something incredible - tease what's coming, and still keep me interested. The best example I can think of is the Robin/Ted relationship. Robin is introduced in the second or third episode, and hilarious antics ensue. At the end of the same episode, the dad says "That's how I met...your Aunt Robin." And from there after, whenever Robin is referred to by the narrator, she's always called "Aunt Robin." And yet, even though I knew these two were never meant to be, I still found myself routing for them as a couple when they did get together. And there are many other times when the show does this - they'll hint that something will or won't work, but you won't find out how exactly it happens until two or three episodes later. (This is definitely another perk to having the DVD - watching multiple episodes in a row.) It's pretty smart storytelling - it sucks me in, because I have to know why, in the end, it turns out that way.  

Another show I love is Arrested Development. Sadly, AD lasted just three short seasons before it was canceled by some short-sighted executives at Fox. But I still think it's probably the best show that's ever been on TV - smart, funny, and rewards you for being a loyal watcher. Throughout the show, the characters make little references to things that happened in earlier seasons. In AD, of course, they're doing it for comedic effect, but a novelist could use this device to lay clues to a mystery, build suspense - or just for comedic effect. The jokes were so well laid-out, and there are so many, that after years and years of watching the episodes, I still find new ones every time I play the DVDs (and trust me, I play them often.) So not only did I enjoy them the first time around, but knowing those little hints were there made we want to re-watch - if you can learn how to use them in your writing, maybe you can make people want to re-read.

Finally, as much as I hate to admit it...LOST had me hooked. Even though I had no clue what was going on half the time, I still had to know how it all came together. Maybe it was the fact that they kept introducing new mysteries, almost right up to the last second. Maybe it's that, just when everything got a little too crazy on the island, they gave us some beautiful off-island stories to keep everything grounded. Maybe it was simply that there was so MUCH story there that I had to dish with my co-workers for an hour everyday after I watched the episode just to figure out what happened. No matter what it was, there was something about that show that got to me, and stuck with me, and made me want to watch. (And that very last few seconds? OMG. Totally perfect way to close, I think. But no spoilers here, since it was less than a week ago and it's totally plausible that people haven't gotten to it yet.)

So now, thanks to HIMYM, AD, LOST, and many other shows, I've learned to take television more critically. I don't simply watch and ignore. I watch and think, "Is this a good plot device? Could I use it somehow?"

What about you? Do you ever learn anything from television (or movies - like Momento!) that help you in your writing? If so, which ones?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Power of Positive Thinking

Last night, I was in my writer chat, spouting off some of my favorite type of humor - the self deprecating kind. While all of my friends were encouraging me to finish my book and put it out there into the universe, I was LOLing and telling them there was no point, because it probably wasn't good enough, and I was probably a big fat failure, and I was probably going to turn out like this guy:

In his defense, it's a lot of pressure being on those shows!

After a few minutes of my hilarious antics, my friend Anna told me to shut the heck up already (but in a much nicer, more positive way, because she is awesome). Anna told me that she only wanted to hear wonderful, positive thoughts from me for the rest of the night and, indeed, the rest of my life. I can't guarantee forever, but I told her I would write a blog post dedicated to the power of positive thinking just for her.

Of course, I couldn't mention positive thinking without talking about Dr. Masaru Emoto. Dr. Emoto is a Japanese thinker and scientist who wanted to discover the effect that words and intentions could have on outcome. So he got a high-powered microscope, then froze water and examined and photographed ice crystals that had been exposed to different thoughts and words. And the results were incredible. You can read all about his experiences in his book, The Hidden Messages in Water, but I'll give you a brief run-down here to show you that Anna is absolutely right - positive thinking is important. 

It's not surprising that the crystals in the water looked different when they were exposed to different sounds/words, because each word has a different vibration. But when you look at what the actual crystals look like...well, I'll let the pictures speak for themselves:

Love and appreciation

You make me sick, I will kill you

Mother Teresa

Adolf Hitler

Water, before offering a prayer

Water from the same location, after a prayer

Uhm, wow. So I think it's safe to say that positive thinking - whether it's about love, respect, water, or your book - can get you some pretty beautiful things. So remember, even when you're not feeling so hot about your latest project, and even when you think it's all doom and gloom, try to remember the water crystals - or at least let everything come up puppies and rainbows...

 (That picture's for you, Anna)
What's your go-to story for positive thinking?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday Funday! (27)

Happy Sunday! Today was an especially happy day for me, because my husband officially set a date...for our visit to the Harry Potter theme park!! We're heading over June 25, and I'm upgrading the free passes we got from his mom to an annual pass so I can visit all year long. Sometimes, living two hours away from Orlando has its perks.

Anyway, this was a great week in blogging! Here are some of my very favorite entries:

No one likes the idea of rejection. But every once in awhile, a writer bites back. Check out the most recent example of a writer's rejection of their rejection over at Editorial Ass.

Nathan Bransford discusses how to write the one-sentence pitch! He gives a formula, then tells you how to jazz it up a little. I'm still totally stressed about the idea of my pitch, but this post definitely makes me feel a little less queasy.

One of the biggest pet peeves I have in YA lit is when female characters stay in abusive relationships (be they emotionally or physically abusive - though the emotional abuse is much more rampant than the physical) for no reason. It just seems that some of these characters should be smarter than that. Or maybe not. Fortunately, The Character Therapist has a great post on 10 Reasons why your character might stay in an abusive relationship. As someone who's talked often with her therapist and social-worker friends, I definitely think this list is spot-on. So if your character needs to be (or is) in an abusive relationship, please, please, please, make sure he or she is the type of person who would actually stay in one.

Donna over at the First Novels Club discusses how we deal with jealousy as writers.

There's a new blog on the scene, and it's after my own heart! It's called League of Extraordinary Writers, and it's a blog by debut dystopian authors - a genre I love, and the type of authors I love to support.

What do writing and women in drag have in common? Click here to find out - and work your inner fierceness!

Hope you all had a great day!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Why Home Decorating is Like Writing, Part One

I have a confession: I have another hobby.

I know. It seems totally impossible that someone with no time to sleep actually has time to consider doing something aside from writing in the few waking moments that she has, but, what can I say. I like to torture myself. Anyway, lately I've been getting into decorating and renovating my house. Since I'm on a serious budget (and I mean serious) all of my "new" decor is really stuff I find in thrift stores or consignment shops and fix up to display in my house. And every time I go through the process, I can't help but be reminded of the writing process.

Take, for example, the lamp I recently found at my local Salvation Army. I'd been looking for a good lamp for weeks, ever since I refurbished an adorable end table and decided it needed a lamp to sit on top of it. I wanted one with a nice, interesting shape, but also one that wasn't totally huge. Finally on my third weekly visit to the store, I found the perfect lamp. It was just like searching for the perfect idea for your next novel - I didn't know what I was looking for, in particular, but as soon as I saw it I knew it was the one.

I really wish I'd taken a before picture, because this thing was pretty hideous. Much like the first draft of a WIP, it had great bones, but it was speckled with awful brown spots, almost sponge-painted on. Just terrible, classic thrift-store tacky. But after some primer, a can of yellow spray paint, and an incredibly adorable (and possibly too girly for my husband's tastes) shade from Ikea, I transformed my thrift store find into this:

It's so cute I want to die a little.  And it just took a little bit of revision, and the ability to look beyond the hot mess of what the lamp was and see what it could be. (If that doesn't remind you of the writing process, I don't know what does.)

But then, as I was putting the final touches (literally, the very last spray) on my lamp, disaster struck. I got a little overzealous, came a bit too close with the paint can and bam! Drip city. Oh noes! What to do? Hm...what would a writer do when there's a plot problem that seems a little bumpy? Research! So I did a Google search for "Removing spray paint runs" and found some useful information. Since my runs currently look like this:

It's obvious I have a little more sanding, then some painting to do before I can finally display my lamp for all the world to see. But if writing's taught me anything, it's that revisions are a long and painful process, so waiting a week to show off my adorable lamp hardly seems difficult.

The best part about doing all these little paint jobs (including a totally botched dresser and nightstand set, which may make up part two of this post) is that painting really lets me clear my head and think - and whenever I'm thinking, my brain always turns to my WIP. Some of my best ideas have come to me while I'm refurbishing something, or browsing the aisles of the thrift store. So even if this new decorating craze has taken some time away from my writing here and there, in a way it's also helped me connect to it again. 

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Art of the Multi-Dimensional Villain

Everyone loves to hate a villain. They're evil. They're miserable. They're always running about mucking up everyone's lives. In books where the villain wins, you want to cry and throw things a little, and the times when the hero is vindicated, you can feel your heart swelling.

Still, just because a villain is technically the bad guy doesn't mean he or she should be all bad. In fact, you need to find a way to give your villain some depth, otherwise they'll fall totally flat and will be unbelievable. Even the big historical villains had a hard time somewhere along the way - and that often turned them into the person they became. Hitler, for example, had a troubled relationship with his father, who beat him and sent him to a technical school, even though young Adolf wanted to attend a school for artists. Serial killer Ted Bundy struggled with depression, and found out as an adult that the parents who raised him were really his grandparents, and his "older sister" was actually his mom. Another serial killer, Charles Manson, also had family and abandonment issues; apparently, Manson's mother once sold baby Charles to a childless waitress for a pitcher of beer. An uncle rescued him a few days later. Although these stories certainly don't excuse what the men would eventually become, they do make you feel just a little sorry for who these men are and what they had to go through - a crucial element in the art of villain creation.

Until recently, I had a villain who was all evil, no sorrow. Then I chatted it out with my writer-friends (who are awesome), and now he has some neurosis that fit his character oh-so perfectly (I just have to write them into the MS. Don't you love revisions?) Since talking about my character will make no sense - you don't know him or my story, I thought I would share some of my favorite, well-known, multi-layered villains with you. (Please note that the character discussions obviously have some spoilers for their back-story, so if you're not familiar with the story but plan on being one day, perhaps you want to skip over that character and move on to the next. They're not too bad, but maybe you'll hate me if you read them. I don't know, but I do know that I don't want you to hate me if you don't like spoilers without warning, so...You've been warned.)

Exhibit A: Sue Sylvester
Quote: "I will go to the animal shelter and get you a kitty cat. I will let you fall in love with that kitty cat. And then, on some dark, cold night I will steal away into your home and punch you in the FACE."

Sue is a great villain. She is mean to everyone - everyone - the students, the teachers, even herself, at times. Her intentions are always clear and never waver, and even when she seems to have a last-minute change of heart, in the end we see it's all about getting rid of the Glee club and getting the funding for her Cheerios back. She's selfish, obnoxious, arrogant, and hilarious. But then, about halfway through the first season, she did something that seemed so heinous that even I was appalled - she invited a girl with Down syndrome to join the cheerleading team (a very un-Sue move). Of course, people were suspicious, and Sue pushed the girl hard to keep up at practice. When her behavior was questioned, Sue just said she's not going to treat the girl any differently because of her handicap. At the end of the episode, we saw Sue visiting her sister at a nursing facility. Her sister has Down syndrome, and our evil villain was so sweet and caring that I almost cried. In fact, every time Sue visits her sister and shares this little glimpse at her softer side, I get a little choked up. I love the softer side of Sue, and it's almost enough to make me forget that she's totally sabotaging everyone in the Glee club - almost. 

Exhibit B: Mrs. Coulter from His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman 
Quote: “Oh, there is more suffering to come. We have a thousand years of experience in this Church of ours. We can draw out your suffering endlessly.”

(Excuse my use of the movie Mrs. Coulter for the picture. Nicole Kidman was creepy, but the movie totally missed the mark in every way, and made the first book way less awesome than it really was.) Mrs. Coulter is one of the most terrifying women in literature, in my opinion. She comes off so sweet and innocent, like she really wants to protect and help young Lyra. She takes Lyra under her wing, and Lyra is ensnared by her beauty and grace. Of course, we find out soon enough that Mrs. Coulter and her evil little golden monkey are actually up to no good, and are in fact responsible for ordering the separation of children from their souls. Mrs. Coulter is evil, definitely, but she also has a complicated past that wraps her up even further in the mysteries of the book. I won't spoil the past here, though, because I'm hoping you pick up the book (maybe even order the series from The Book Depository for just $19! For three amazing books!) and find out for yourself what makes Mrs. Coulter multi-dimensional - and whether or not she redeems herself.  

Exhibit C: Lord Voldemort from Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling 
Quote:  "There is nothing worse than death, Dumbledore!"
Voldemort is probably my favorite example of the sympathetic, multi-dimensional baddie. We hated him through five books, our hate only growing more passionate with each one, then, suddenly, we read Half-Blood Prince, and we started to feel just a little sorry for him. Obviously, the kid was still totally creepy. But you could see exactly where he got his Muggle/half-blood hatred from, even through he himself has a Muggle father. And the situation with his orphanage, where he got almost no personal attention, and had no idea who he was or how to control his evil urges and power, was obviously not ideal. If only he'd been raised by someone who cared, then maybe none of this would have happened. If only Tom Riddle Sr. had really loved Merope enough to stick around. If only Merope had been strong enough to get herself together, run a comb through her hair, and be a badass single mother. If only Marvolo Gaunt wasn't such a misogynist jerk to his only daughter, then maybe she could have been strong and independent all along. But none of those things happened, and instead Voldemort turned into, well, Voldemort. Raised in circumstances much like Harry's, he became something very, very different - and of course, this comparison to our hero only further heightens the complexity and sadness we feel for our lonely villain, who uses power to get friends he's never had. Is it possible to cry through snake-like nostrils? I'm sure lonely Lord Voldemort can tell us it is. Then he blows the head off another Muggle, and we forget we ever felt sorry for him at all.

There are a ton of excellent villains with many layers - layers like onions. (Yes, shameless Shrek reference there. Which, hey, there's another villain with issues! Not Shrek, but Lord Farquaad, who is so short he's self-conscious about it and tries to overcompensate by being a raging jerk.) So, you tell me...who's your favorite multi-dimensional villain? 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sunday Funday! (26)

Happy Sunday everyone! I literally went dancing in the rain today (OK, it was in my bathing suit, but still.) I also spray painted a lamp and went to an arts and crafts show, and did some writing stuff. Earlier this week, I read some awesome blog entries around the Interwebz. Entries like....

So I was way behind on Shannon's blog, apparently. Who knew? As I was catching up, I found this juicy tidbit about going with your gut in revisions. It's a great lesson in writing and in life.

A lot of us are headed to writer's conferences in the next few months, which means (if you're anything like me) you're totally freaking out about your pitch, and wondering how to make it perfect. Never fear, Rachelle Gardner has your back! She gives some tips for the perfect pitch. 

Linking Nathan Bransford blog is really NBD - pretty much everyone is doing it. But I couldn't resist sharing this awesome post on crafting voice.

Heather over at Secret Adventures of Writer Girl shared a wonderful list of ways not to raise a reader - it's fun and there's so much truth in it.

Have you been rejected? I haven't been rejected in the writing world yet (only because I haven't queried), but I certainly expect to be rejected one day. And when I am, I will have this list of famous authors who were rejected repeatedly - and sometimes rudely - before they finally found a publisher handy. This is my favorite kind of motivation.

And finally, this is totally not writing related at all...but this kid is freaking amazing. He's only in 6th grade! This is some seriously awesome motivation to keep practicing your skill when talent like this exists in the world. (OK, I know a lot of you might have seen this video already. And the kid was on Ellen. But I added the link at the beginning of the week. Anyway, what you might not have seen yet is the two songs this kid wrote himself....seriously. Click here to see him perform his song, Broken Hearts, and here for Stars. So, Greyson...where can I buy the album?)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Contest Winner!

The FORGIVE MY FINS and GOTH GIRL RISING (plus extra swag) contest is closed!

I came this close to 200 followers, but never quite got there, so sadly that third book I was going to give away will remain in my possession (for now anyway...*evil laugh*). But don't be sad, because we have a winner!

I let do the picking for me. And out of 156 entries, liked number 22 the best. And number 22 is...

Elizabeth Briggs!!!

Congratulations, Elizabeth! I'm sending you an email in about 2.5 seconds. If I don't hear from you in 72 hours, I'll be forced to pick a new winner. And that's not good for anyone (except maybe the new winner).

Have a great day everyone!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

More proof that Outstanding Writers Have No Rules

We all know there are rules that writers are never, ever, ever supposed to break. Don't use adverbs. Don't start with your character alone in a room. Don't use dream scenes, flashbacks, or prologues. Seriously, the list goes on and on (and on and on). But the truth is, writing rules were made to be broken - as long as you do it well, and are awesome.  

Rule: Don't Start Your Story With the Weather!!
Broken in: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
The hottest day of the summer so far was drawing to a close and a drowsy silence lay over the large, square houses of Privet Drive. Cars that were usually gleaming stood dusty in their drives and lawns that were emerald green lay parched and yellowing; the use of hosepipes had been banned due to drought. Deprived of their usual car-washing and lawn-mowing pursuits, the inhabitants of Privet Drive had retreated into the shade of their cool houses, windows thrown wide in the hope of tempting in a nonexistent breeze. The only person left outdoors was a teenage boy who was lying flat on his back in a flower bed outside number four. 
Why it works: Aside from the fact that this is J.K. Rowling who we're talking about, the references to the weather are intermingled with other excellent descriptions of parched lawns and the like. What's more, Rowling makes the outdoors sound so unappealing that you instantly wonder why anyone - including Harry - would bother staying outside in such heat. She also manages to let the misery of the intro reflect the misery that's to come in the rest of the book. This definitely isn't a perfect execution of the weather-as-opener, but in general it does what weather openers need to do - have a character interact somehow with the weather.

Rule: Don't start your story with dialogue!!
Broken in: Don't Let's Go to The Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller
Mum says, "Don't come creeping into our room at night." 
They sleep with loaded guns beside them on the bedside rugs. 
She says, "Don't startle us when we're sleeping." 
"Why not?" 
"We might shoot you." 
"By mistake." 
"Okay." As it is, there seems a good enough chance of getting shot on purpose. "Okay, I won't."
Why it works: The reason you may have heard people say not to start with dialogue is because there's no context. It's hard to establish who is talking (narrating), where they are, or what their situation is if you open with just dialogue. But here, even though I didn't give you the next line (which is brilliant, but it mentions spiders, which I don't talk about on this blog), you know that the narrator is a child, probably living somewhere rural or lawless, and the voice is fabulous. Don't you want to keep reading? I do.

Rule: Don't start with your MC falling asleep or waking up!!
Broken in: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim's warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress. She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course she did. This is the day of the reaping. 
Why it works: Mostly because The Hunger Games brings the awesome. It's really the last sentence of that paragraph that works, and knowing that Prim had bad dreams. What's going to happen today that would cause bad dreams? I want to know, so I keep reading. (For two days straight, right through two books, bringing them with me to meals and the movies and thoroughly irritating my husband...until he gets the sense to read it, too. Now we're arguing over who gets to read our copy of Mockingjay first when it comes in.)  

Can you think of any examples of writing rules that were broken well? (Or not well?) Share them in the comments!

Monday, May 10, 2010

(Monday) Funday! (25)

It's Monday, not Sunday, but I'm still posting my links because there is a lot of amazing stuff happening in the writing world and I need to share them! But I spent yesterday driving to and from Orlando, and unfortunately my car doesn't have Internets. Oh well.

Here are some awesome links from around the blogging world!

OMG FRANKIE HAS AN AGENT!!! AND SHE'S EPICALLY AWESOME!!! AND WE SHOULD ALL SQUEE FOR HER BECAUSE THIS NEWS IS AMAZING!!!!!! And also because her deal with the universe is EPIC. Yay Frankie!!! I can't wait to read your book one day and have you sign it and grovel at your feet. I've said it before, but stories like this are so inspiring. Frankie is someone I (kind of) know! (through the Internet) And great things are happening for her! Which means they could happen for me! And for you! And I use too many exclamation points!

Speaking of Frankie and her agent, she's giving away a (mostly) SIGNED Hunger Games trilogy to celebrate! Head on over to her blog to enter, and please for the love of all things chocolaty, tell her I sent you!

I must have a lot of love for Frankie today...because Frankie is part of The First Novels' Club, which happens to be another one of my favorite blogs. They created a list of helpful writing advice on dialogue, plotting, character, and even one on blogging, all from other writers.

If you haven't heard about Do the Write Thing for Nashville by now, you might want to head over the blog and check out the auctions they've got going on. Amazing ARCs, query and MS critiques (with agents, editors, and authors), signed books, phone calls with agents and much, much more are all up for auction, with proceeds to benefit the Nashville flood.

Fans of Maggie Stiefvater probably know that she's a gifted artist and musician as well as writer. She created a beautiful trailer for Shiver, and recently released the following breathtaking follow-up for Linger. Uhm, wow. Just wow.

And comes my shameless plug. I'm having a giveaway! Win an ARC of Forgive my Fins and a signed copy of Goth Girl Rising. Enter here! And if I get 10 more followers (to keep this mathematically accurate even after people start realizing that I bring the awesome and clicking "Follow," I just have to hit 200) I'll add another prize! 

Have a great week, everyone!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Are You an Evie or a Millie?

Blog readers, meet Evie:

 She is obviously adorable.

Although when Evie plays she totally spazzes out and makes me a little scared for her intelligence, for the most part Evie is extremely methodical. She chews her food carefully. She burrows into the covers for hours on end until she finds the right amount of coverage. She nudges and prods me over and over, minute after minute, while I'm trying to write and get important blog posting done, and it drives me totally insane and then I yell at her and scare her and she runs away, but since she's obviously adorable I feel terrible so I call her back and tell her I'm sorry, and the whole thing starts all over again, until she finds just the right spot by my supple body to snuggle. She's a planner.

Now, blog readers, meet Millie:
 She is also obviously adorable. And yes she's wearing a t-shirt. We are so Those People.

Millie scarfs down her food in about two seconds. She gets under the blanket with one swift nudge of her nose. She moves right in next to me because she knows exactly where she wants to sit - no planning required. 

When I was thinking about the vast differences in my two dogs today, it occurred to me that their personalities perfectly mirror the two kinds of writers. And if I were to talk about this on my blog, I would be able to post pictures of my dogs. Who are obviously adorable.

Some writers outline. They work through their plot scene-by-scene, thinking what will happen when and to whom, so that when they start writing they have a plan. They might even exchange the outline with a trusted crit partner to see if the book has a leg to stand on before they start writing. These are the Evies of the world.

Other writers don't outline. They just open up the Word document or their Pages (I'm a Mac user now, remember) and start typing. Of course, they have an idea in their head, and I'm sure they have a line or two written out, and a general sense of where they're going. But for the most part they just find of write, and let the story grow organically and see where it takes them. These are the Millies of the world.

When I started writing my current project, I didn't outline. I definitely knew where I wanted the story to go, but I didn't write it out. I think I had too many bad memories of writing outlines from school - and I'd never outlined in school, either. (Here's a confession, in case any of my former English teachers are reading this: I used to write the rough drafts before the outlines. Then I'd turn in the outlines as if I'd written it first. I just liked it better that way. Go ahead, revoke my diploma.) Not outlining kind of worked for me. Two of my most vibrant characters (and ones that my crit partners have loved) popped up as I was writing, and were totally, completely unplanned. I'm not sure if that could have happened if I had an outline.  
But now that I'm starting to think more and more about my next project (even though, don't get me wrong, I am still no where near done revising this one), I think I'm going to give outlining a try. I'm not going to go all crazy and snowflake or anything - that's intense. (Plus I live in Florida. So obviously I'm not a fan of snowflakes.*) But I will try to write out the major scenes, characters, that kind of thing. I definitely see the merit in it, and how it might help me identify some of the weaker scenes in the book before I waste the time writing them. Of course my rough draft might still be a mess, but as someone who's new to novel writing, I think it can't hurt to try something new.

So...are you an Evie (a planner) or a Millie (a non-planner)? Why? 

Or, are you a little of both?
This is an old picture, since my hair is long and that's my crappy old Dell and not my awesome new MacBook. Also it's not a very good picture. But apparently I'm not a good dog mom because there are approximately 0 other pictures with both dogs in them. Oh well.

*Actually, that's a lie. I effing love snowflakes.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

That Thing You're Not Supposed to Write About

It's in all of our WIPs. We know it's there, lurking in chapter three, hiding out at the end of chapter 17, waiting to pounce on unsuspecting readers. All of us have it, but many of us leave it in there anyway, at least in early drafts.

What is this? It's the Plot Device You Know Isn't Working, and it has to go. (PDYKIW for short. I tried to come up with a catchy, hilarious nickname that would go viral and ultimately earn me fame and fortune in the online writing world, but my brain is off today.)

But does it have to go?

I had a PDYKIW. When I first came up with it, I thought, "This is kind of cool!" Then I came up with a host of issues.
  1. Is this even technological possible?
  2. My presentation is way too abrupt. (I believe the exact words I thought were "dues ex machina." I even described it to the hubs, and asked whether he thought it was. He did. And he hardly reads fiction.)
  3. People (in the world of the book) would have realized this already. No one is that stupid. 
  4. Etc.
But despite my reservations, I left my PDYKIW in. Why? Because I was hoping to see my crit partners' reactions. No, I didn't think they would say, "Wow, Heather!! You're a GENIUS!!!" (OK, maybe a teeny, tiny, part of me was hoping that my view of the flaws in the PDYKIW was all in my head, and that the CPs could smooth that all over for me. Which so didn't happen.) Actually, what I was hoping is that they would say, "This is stupid and isn't working and you FAIL." (Which isn't what they said either, because they are awesome. One of them even said "This is too dues ex machina." OMG we were obviously made for each other.)

And why would I ever want my CPs to tell me something isn't working? Because then they can help me figure out what will work.

Some people get their crits from their partners, read them, and accept or reject changes based on their whimsy. I'm not one of those people. I annoy the heck out of my partners. I send them emails at 2am that might say things like, "I had a dream last night that Kaia should have a purple, mustache-sporting elephant for a sidekick. Thoughts?" (OK, that's extreme. But the 2am emails are real. And they are looooong.) I also use them to help me work through the PDYKIW. Because after 25 1,000 word emails (OMG, that's half a book! I'll call it "Letters to My Crit Partners"), the Plot Device You Know Isn't Working turns into the Plot Device of AWESOME. (Which is also a way better acronym.)

So don't be afraid of the PDYKIW. Leave it in, and let your crit partner read it. Or just email them about it (though I think reading it in context is sometimes more effective then trying to describe everything...just my opinion.) Because you might have something AWESOME hidden underneath it.

P.S. I apologize for the over-use of parenthesis in this post. I can't even begin to focus tonight.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The "Just Because" Contest!

I have stuff to give away. And there's no point in keeping it in any longer.

I was going to wait until I hit 200, but...meh. I like you people too much. And, let's face it, I've been neglecting you lately. There's no sense in my whole world revolving around me and my blog. That's just silly. It should be about you and what you want. And I know you want these books.

How do I know that?

Because they are awesome.

An ARC of Forgive My Fins by Tera Lynn Childs!!!!
OMG, the cover is so gorgeous it makes me squee.

A signed hardcover copy of Goth Girl Rising by Barry Lyga (donated by the author)!!!
A creeptastically perfect use of more blue lipstick.

MISC. BOOK-RELATED ITEM 3: Bookmarks, swag, notebooks, etc. Including something that I whittled. (No, really! OK, I won't whittle it, but I will hand-make it.)

And, if I hit 200 followers during the contest, I'll add another book...but you won't find out what it is unless I have to give it away! (Hint: It's by a debut author. It was released this year. And it's awesome. But that doesn't really narrow it down, does it?)

Want to enter? It's simple! Just click here to fill out the form! (Or scroll to the bottom of the post and fill out the embedded one. But it looks kind of wonky because it doesn't fit in blogger's frame.)

You must be a follower to win! Giveaway closes at midnight on Wednesday, May 12. Winner announced on Thursday May 13 (chosen using

Good luck! 

Embedded form:

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sunday Funday (24)

Happy Sunday Funday! You might have noticed (even if you didn't care...which means you probably didn't notice) that I didn't post a Sunday Funday last week. That's because I fail at life. (Or because I picked up a shift last week at my part-time job. Whichever.) Which is why I took some time today to create a schedule for myself. Which makes me officially a lame adult. It literally says things like "6:30-7pm: eat dinner." Wow, my life is exciting. But I did it in the hopes that I would stick to the schedule, which includes exercising, and obviously more time for writing and blogging. (Which means hanging out with you guys! Woot!)

Anyway, none of that is important, except to say that this week I'll be back full-force with my usual blogging schedule. And also that, even though I wasn't writing posts, I was still reading yours. So here are some highlights from the last TWO weeks! (It's like a super fun bonus Sunday Funday!)

I can't even tell you how amazing Call me Tahereh's blog is. Seriously. The whole thing is just totally awesome. For your consideration, I present "How to Tell Your Parents You're Pregnant a Writer" and a cover of a new magazine - Querypolitan!

The First Novels Club has a phenomenal series going on where they highlight various archetypes in YA lit - the BFF, the parent, etc. Their most recent post highlights the ones we love to hate - the villains! 

Steph Su tells us why she loves the YA community.

The YA-5 asked a group of teens which authors they would most like to meet - and I was definitely surprised by the answers.

The soon-to-be-published Lori Roy tells a story of how she has to read her book again and again before submitting the final to the publisher.

As Elana Johnson notes, us writers are always telling non-writers what they need to know about us. But what do writers need to know about non-writers? Elana fills us in.

Are you ready for the YA-SAT? It's the biggest standardized test for YA-aficionados! Head on over to the YA Highway and find out if you know your stuff.

Hope everyone had a great day!
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See Heather Write
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