Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category
by Sharon Ashwood on June 30th, 2010
Currently working on: retail ghostbusting
One of the odd things about being published is that one ends up spending a lot of time not exactly writing. Currently, I’m setting up one of my characters in her second career.
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by Annette McCleave on June 29th, 2010
My next official writing project is still in the air, so I’ll leave those details alone for the moment. Let’s talk about ideas and how to flesh them out instead.
I get new ideas for stories all the time. Some of them are way out in left field, some are in a genre I don’t currently write, and some fall apart as soon as I start exploring them. The ideas that survive long enough to develop legs and crawl out of the primordial ooze of creativity are the ones I write down. But even those ideas are bare bones.
So, how do I determine if an idea is worth 400 pages of prose? Everyone has their own method for answering that question, but for me, it comes down to conflict. If the conflict isn’t big enough, the idea dies.
I hammer at the conflict by using a template I call Rolling the Ball. I got the idea for the template from an author who did a workshop for my local RWA chapter, but I can’t credit her, because I don’t remember who it was. My sincere apologies to that author. Anyway, she basically said that a story was built on a series of actions and reactions which could be described as one character rolling the ball to another, then that second character catching the ball and rolling it back. Or, to put it an other way, our characters make judgments, decisions and actions which in turn forces other characters to make judgments, decisions and actions.
Joe gets a call from his mother saying his sister has been murdered. Joe believes the murderer is most likely his sister’s creepy, drug-dealing boyfriend, and he hops a plane to Witchita to confront the boyfriend. (He rolls the ball.)
The boyfriend swears he loved the sister, even though she’d taken a restraining order out on him, and points the finger at Joe’s stepfather who recently lost his job for having pornography on his computer. (The boyfriend rolls the ball back.)
Once I have a skeleton of an idea, I roll the ball back and forth between my characters, starting with the inciting incident, or the event that tosses my main character’s life into disarray. If I can’t come up with more than a page of escalating conflict between my two main characters, I know the idea is weak. From there, I can explore ways to strengthen the conflict or drop the idea and move onto something fresh.
How do other writers decide whether to pursue an idea? Anyone?
by KimLenox on June 26th, 2010
STATUS: Writing Chapters Today
HEY! Before you read the following golden words that have spilled forth from my Saturday-inspired-fingertips, be sure to check out Jessa Slade’s post below, for how to win a copy of Ava Gray’s book, SKIN GAME.
As I read through the post by the other Silk & Shadows authors this week, I found so much in common with all of them. ARG! The first draft. Agony. Focus! Nearly impossible!
Years ago, when I first started writing, it wasn’t so difficult. I’d write pages and pages in a sitting, and be so convinced that everything I’d written was clever and interestng and charming. Somewhere along the way, though, I became my biggest critic. When I’m writing, I always have little questions swirling around in my mind: too much plot? Not enough plot? Enough romance? Wait … do the last twenty-three pages I wrote drag? Maybe I should delete them and consider them “brainstorming pages”?
That brings up another difficulty in writing, and that’s the experience of spending a LOT of time with yourself. Your voice, and your thoughts are constantly yammering on when you’re writing, offering helpful hints, encouragement, commentary and criticism. You have to like yourself so you can get through those days when YOU are getting on YOUR every last nerve.
Writers are “internal” people much of the time, staring into a computer screen (another world) with fixed intensity, which can make us sometimes exasperating to people who are “external”. (Like husbands, who try very hard to be patient).
What about you? Are you more of an “internal” person or an “external” person?
by Our Guest on June 24th, 2010
From Jessa: Today we have Elizabeth Darvill with us. I met Elizabeth at the Emerald City Writers Conference in Seattle WA before she sold. So I can say “I knew her when”! Even then, she was walking the talk — and dressing the part! Now her first book LOVE IN A TIME OF STEAM comes out July 15 and is available for preorder here. Congratulations, Elizabeth!
Hello! I am so pleased to be here at Silk and Shadows! I was trying to think of something profound today….but alas that is just not my style….so I thought I would tell you a little confession. It is something I like to do…in public….
I ADORE writing my sex scenes in public places! Yes, it is a bit juvenile, but it makes it decadently naughty and never fails to inspire! I highly suggest it if you are dreading a sex scene or are just feeling as if it doesn’t have enough spark. It is very much like any relationship. You have to be a little juvenile and naughty and try new things to keep the energy and passion alive. So doing it at your desk, table, couch wherever you “normally” write those steamy pages, day after day, will get a little monotonous. So, go to a coffee shop, go to the library, sometimes doing it while a nice clean activity(church, chess club, etc) is happening at the table next to you, makes it extra fun! Be creative! Secretly knowing you are writing steamy action while others mill about is a thrill. Do it…I dare you!
Comment with ways you like to write (Editor’s note: Or read!) your sex scenes! One commenter will win a fun promo packet!
Have a lovely, naughty day!
Love in a Time of Steam - Blurb
Ashlyn hasn’t seen Gray her former lover in five long years. Not since the day he
believed her to be a traitor to the military cause they both served.
Now as the volatile nature of their planet is reaching a fevered pitch, and the war
over water to run their steam-powered technology is threatening all beings, she must face him once more.
Despite her intense hatred towards Gray, Ashlyn can’t let the father of her child
be murdered by General Dagnus, the leader of the opposing army. Risking her life, Ashlyn lays everything on the line to save the man that betrayed her once. As they
work together to survive, will they be able to rekindle the passion they once shared?
by Sharon Ashwood on June 23rd, 2010
The writing task I always put off is Chapter 3.
Chapter 1 is easy. It’s a fresh idea, a fresh start, a fling with some new characters. It’s like sneaking out of your bedroom window at night and creeping off for some unauthorized fun. It’s the attraction of the unknown, crammed with possibilities.
Chapter 2 is the counterpoint, a response, the chance to provide the answering viewpoint, the villain’s machinations, or the Big Thing that raises the stakes to a nerve-shattering pitch.
Chapter 3 is where the author has to get past the fanfare and start providing actual story. If the fireworks in the first two chapters were nothing but a lot of light and sound, this is where the shaky foundation becomes apparent. Cue sound of fizzling. Cue sound of author whistling as they stroll away, pretending they didn’t like that dumb story anyway.
I hate chapter 3. If we make it past that danger point, chapter 5 is nearly as bad, because that’s where the author has to have another trick in her bag to crank up the volume. It has to be something fresh that the reader hasn’t seen coming, yet not so outlandish that your editor suspects you’re using a plotting version of Mr. Potato Head.
I love chapter 10, because if I make it that far I know my book has a chance to survive infancy. Nevertheless, there are still dangerous waters ahead. I have a tendency to suddenly start hallucinating around chapter 13 that I have far too many pages to fill, and that I’d better drag in a third and fourth plot just to fill it up—which is how I have been known to exceed my allotted word count by, oh, 60,000 words. Sagging middles have never been my literary foe. Knowing when to back away from the keyboard is.
If I can avoid the “gee, I guess I’d better throw in a revolt by the trolls” trap, I finish in good order. The second half of the book will go twice as fast as the first, because all my lovely setup is unwinding just like it’s supposed to. Biff! Bam! Dragons! Holy batwings, Dracula!
The problem is that I have to get past chapter 3 to get there. All the decisions are yet to be made. All the slog up the hill of rising tension has yet to begin. Chapter 3 is what tests not just your inspiration, but your resolve, your toolkit, and your devious plan. It’s where the real authors come out to play, fully prepared to make their characters’ lives sheer hell. Hear us roar!
Or mew. Sometimes ideas aren’t quite ready for the world. After all, who doesn’t have a few started-but-never-got-traction projects stored away on hard drives, in closets, or in craft cupboards?
by Sharon Ashwood on June 16th, 2010
Summertime can be when I get my best writing done. I think this is a hangover from being in school—I expect to have more time and energy to spare, so I associate warm nights and hanging out in the garden with creative thought and, more specifically, experimental writing.
When I was in university, my focus was on late eighteenth and early nineteenth century English poets, aka the Byronic crowd. One of their buddies was a novelist named Matthew “Monk” Lewis, who wrote what we’d now call horror fiction. One summer I applied myself to his works. Mostly I was fascinated by the claim that he had locked himself up for a long weekend with a case of wine and deli take-out and written the first draft of The Monk. It’s a substantial pile o’ prose (and not a bad read, if you like gothic). Me, I would take a long weekend to write a synopsis, and only if I were stone cold sober.
Nonetheless, the result of my Monk-ish fascination resulted in a complete manuscript written that summer. Rereading it now, I wish I had the excuse of alcohol abuse for the sword-waving histrionics contained therein. One takes things far too seriously at that age.
Now, since what I write is mostly about brooding monster guys (thanks so much, Mr. Lewis), my summer escapes tend to be light and fluffy adventure stories. I actually started writing one, just to clear the dust and spiderwebs of the Castle out of my soul for a bit. I’ll bet you a quarter that if all I ever wrote was light and fluffy, I’d be looking for something dark and broody. That’s just the way holidays work—we want the opposite of our normal lives so that we can go back and appreciate what we have day to day.
On a parallel note, I’m leaving the chilly northern rainforest (okay, it’s sunny and gorgeous out, but go with me here) for the tropical steam of Orlando in July. If that’s not a reversal of my typical habitat, well, vampires don’t have coffin hair in the morning.
Okay, all you paranormal readers—what bookshelf do you visit to change things up?
by Annette McCleave on June 15th, 2010
Summer is full of hot sun, vivid visuals, boisterous noises, mouth-watering tastes, and heavenly scents. I love the lush gardens, the sounds of kids giggling and shrieking in the water park, and the smell of hot dust lifting off the pavement with every fat drop of rain from a summer shower. I adore fresh fruit, cold ice cream, and the feel of beach sand under my bare feet.
I write early in the morning and in the winter it’s usually dark and cold when I get up. Now, as we near the summer solstice, the sun is already beginning to rise when I roll out of bed. The horizon is a lovely shade of periwinkle with a hint of gold.
Summer is good for me as a writer. It reminds me that life is not just seen, it is experienced on a host of different levels. My windows are open every moment they can be. The breeze tugs at my curtains, filling my office with the romantic scent of blooming tea roses and the intermittent squawk of mallard ducks in the pond. It’s a constant reminder to invoke the five senses as I write.
Sight, smell, touch, sound, and taste.
Sometimes I forget that my characters experience life on those levels, too. I’m so busy trying to get the images I see in my mind onto the written page that I forget those all important details that make a scene come alive.
Not during the summer, though.
My favorite summer sensory memory is learning to sail in Summerside harbor when I was thirteen: the sun beating down from a clear blue sky, the seagulls screaming overhead, the wooden bench of the skiff grinding into my butt with every wave, the braided rope of the halyard rasping in my hands, the wind stinging on my cheeks, the awkward stuffing of my life jacket pressing on my neck, and then the sudden mouthful of cold, salty water as a gust catches my sails, tips my little boat and I fall into the sea.
Anyone else have a favorite memory of summer they want to share?
by KimLenox on June 13th, 2010
STATUS: Should be writing, but I’m sucked into a book…
My cleverist writing moments usually come flying out of no where. When I’m TRYING really hard to be clever, I usually end up with … blah. My clever usually makes an appearance when I’ve written myself into a terrible corner, and I can’t find my way out. But then, I do!
Like Annette, many of my epiphanies come when I’m dozing off at night. Lots of times they come when I’m in the shower. I keep stacks of blank note cards stashed around the house, and scribble out a few reminder words so I’ll remember the thought when I wake up, or for my next writing session. I also get ideas when I’m driving, and surprisingly, at work. (Ugh. Work!) My purse is full of those cards with scribbled phrases that would make no sense to anyone else.
I think it’s interesting that at those times, my writer self is usually turned off or at least into the “low” setting. I’m usually not thinking too much about my story, but it’s like my mind relaxes and my subconscious throws out just what I need to polish off a troublesome scene or an idea to take an existing scene up another level.
My dad used to help me with my algebra and geometry in high school. Sometimes, when we had a really difficult problem that he couldn’t figure out, he’d sleep on it. The next morning he’d wake up, and tell me, “Let me show you how to work that problem out.” What about you? Does your mind tend to work out problems when you’re near sleep, distracted or relaxing? Or are you more of a direct, active, attack the problem head on type problem solver?
by Sharon Ashwood on June 9th, 2010
“Clever” is a relative term, especially when it comes to the creative arts. From a purely practical standpoint, my most clever writing moment was probably whatever got me published. But then someone else might think that exact same passage was drek, because they would have preferred reading about naked space aliens doing the Macarena and spraying each other with Antarean massage oil. You just never know.
I used to review books for a local paper. Most of it was what is fondly referred to here as Canlit—Canadian literature often produced by a small press, usually serious, often filled with despair, weighty allusions, and landscapes that devour people via snow, bears, an excess of wheat, or the CBC. I enjoyed some of it, was puzzled by some of it, and sincerely disliked the balance. While we do have some brilliant humorists in the Canlit field, none of them sent their books to me (either that or my arts page editor kept all the good stuff).
But just because I didn’t like those stories, that didn’t make them bad. A lot of them set out to achieve their story goal and, while they might have depressed the bejeezes out of me, I had to give them credit for doing a good job. A lot of them were, in a word, clever—just not very warm and fuzzy.
In fact, I think the very cleverness of some of them put me off. I like to be surprised, and I don’t even mind knowing that the author is trying to surprise me. I just don’t like to be aware of it all the time, because then the whole act of reading becomes a strictly intellectual exercise with me trying to anticipate the author. I can’t relax into the story world but kind of skulk around in it jumping at shadows. (Example: The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop. By Robert Coover. I forgive this book because it really is a genius piece of fiction.)
What I like is a book that sucks me in so completely that I forget I’m reading and leaves me ready to stake anyone who interrupts the trance. This requires a combination of intellectual pleasure and emotional pull. Clever, but with the gears and cogs hidden well enough that I don’t see them from chapters away.
So, do I ever write that well? I like to think I manage it once in a while—but everything is so subjective, I’ll never have a cut and dried answer. When I hear from a reader that I hit the right chord for them, I’ve received the best external validation possible.
What’s the cleverest thing I ever wrote? Whatever it was that made someone buy the next book.
by Sharon Ashwood on June 2nd, 2010
The fun and the pain in building the world of the Dark Forgotten is that I had a wide-open slate to bring various species onstage. Some, like vampires, would be more like us (after all, they started out human) and others, like the fey, might sometimes look human but have completely different value systems. How these various creatures viewed the world, interacted, built their economies and belief systems, rapidly became a fascinating playground.
And that didn’t cover all the fun things like looking into the various pursuits my human(ish) characters had: police detectives, radio announcers, and eighteenth century cavalry officers. Who doesn’t want to spend an afternoon sitting in the booth during a talk show, or scour the Internet for engravings that showed the proper uniform the hero wore in his misspent youth?
Yup, my weakness is remembering which story I want to write. A fascinating something flutters by, and my natural instinct is to chase it.
It doesn’t just happen with world building, either. I’ll be writing along and think, “Whoa! Wouldn’t THAT plot twist be cool??” and I’m off. The trick is knowing which of these winged messengers are actually memos from the muse and which are demons in disguise—because every time a new layer of complexity is introduced, each and every character will be impacted. Sometimes that opens up a fruitful vein of characterization, and sometimes it’s just a big old can o’worms.
Put another way, one can end up with a book badly in need of pruning and shaping. Annette’s post yesterday about editing is very true. What makes a book is the ability to see the book under the butterflies (by now no more than splotches on the plot development windshield), weird outgrowths, and scraggly patches. What I love is seeing the finished product and seeing how the unexpected bits of inspiration that I keep have changed the original concept into something new and surprising.
Of course that same butterfly-chasing urge can strike in other ways, too. I’m always fascinated by what I carry out of the bookstore. I always go in to buy JUST ONE book . . .