Thursday, December 22, 2011
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room's only window.
The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back. The men talked for hours on end.
They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation. Every afternoon, when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window.
The man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the world outside. The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance.
As the man by the window described all this in exquisite details, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine this picturesque scene. One warm afternoon, the man by the window described a parade passing by. Although the other man could not hear the band, he could see it in his mind’s eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words.
Days, weeks and months passed. One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep. She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away.
As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone. Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the real world outside. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window besides the bed.
It faced a blank wall. The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate who had described such wonderful things outside this window. The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the wall. She said, "Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you."
There is tremendous happiness in making others happy, despite our own situations. If you want to feel rich, just count all the things you have that money can't buy. Today’s gift is your life on earth. That is why it is called “The Present”.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
"If you are having trouble figuring out what your story's temporary triumph should be, remember that it needs to push the main character toward his ultimate goal. Look at where you want that character to be in the end of the story [and ask yourself] how [you can] use the temporary triumph to support that ending" (BIAM, pg 146).
- Our heroine gets the job of her dreams and can now support her family (temporary triumph) Oh no, it was just a scam and she already quit her old crappy job. (reversal)
- The hero found the love of his life and can let himself love again after going through a horrible divorce! (temporary triumph) Wait - she's already married and not interested in anything long-term. (reversal)
- The heroine discovers a cure for baldness! (temporary triumph) Oops - it has horrible side effects and her company is being sued. (reversal)
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
All too soon after we begin this journey, we realize that long-term goal is pretty far down the path . . . almost out of sight. Then we wonder if we are on the right path. That writing
gold ring seems too distant to take seriously. Most quit.”
She points out that we can use our assets or our other talents to improve our writing skills by writing about them. What Hope says is that “we underestimate who we are and what we can do. And we greatly underestimate how those identifying factors and talents factor into who we are as writers.”
- how to write better
- how to find our voice
- how to develop a platform
- how to approach agents and editors
- how to be patient
- how to appreciate good writing
- how to write our dream project better
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
- The Inciting Incident. This is the problem that gets the story rolling. We'll see a bit of "normal" life for the character and then the inciting incident occurs and causes a major disruption to that character's typical flow of activity. In response the character seeks out a solution, which leads us to....
- The Initial Surface Problem. This is the problem which will occupy most of the novel. Although it may seem that this is the issue which must be resolved in order for the story to be complete, the novel's true ending is actually brought about via...
- The Story-Worthy Problem. This problem is less about outside circumstances and more about the changes a character must make within themselves to bring about a satisfying conclusion.
The answer to that is yes.
After all, is it really possible to pile conflicts onto the surface problems without having them influence the story-worthy problems? As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "A [person] is like a tea bag. You never know how strong she is until she gets into hot water."
So even though we'll be combining conflict to the initial surface problem, remember that these added difficulties will also inevitably impact your characters' story-worthy problem; that character should be pretty dang strong by the end of the novel 'cause we're adding some boiling water via the following types of conflict:
- Barriers - a character tries out a new approach for overcoming his problem, but it is ineffective. Schmidt offers the example of a heroine trying to get into the church to stop a wedding but finding locked doors and maybe a couple of goons to keep her out.
- Complications - a new character or situation enters the story and makes the current problem seem even worse. A classic example of this, the misunderstanding, is shown in the fantasy-musical film Enchanted. The hero, Robert, allowed the very innocent Giselle to sleep on his couch because she had no place to stay. When his girlfriend comes over the next morning to find another woman in the house she walks out without giving him time to explain himself. Now his current problem (having homeless girl sleeping on couch) has just been complicated.
- Situations - a new circumstance occurs which moves the story forward and adds tension. Schmidt's example is of a man running for political office who suddenly finds out his sister has been arrested and that his campaign is now in jeopardy.
MY DAY 17: The day itself wasn't terribly productive, but once the hubs and kids were in bed I stayed up and began my writing. I wasn't feeling it at first so I skipped ahead a bit to a scene I was very excited to write - the characters' first kiss. Yep, got so engrossed in that one that I stayed up WAY too late to finish it, but man was it fun. Days like that make me remember why I do any of this in the first place.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Thursday, November 10, 2011
The first time I heard Lady Gaga, I was standing in the grocery store debating if I could substitute couscous for quinoa (you can), when Paparazzi came on over the speakers. I stood there humming the catchy beat when my husband came up behind me and grabbed a box of plain rice.
"Why can’t we just have this?" he asked.
Ignoring him, I asked if he knew who sang the song pumping over the loudspeakers.
"You mean Lady Gaga?" He asked in mild disbelief.
"Lady Gaga," I said, "I think I’ve heard of her."
"Of course you’ve heard of her, Laura! She’s ridiculously famous. She even has a muzac track," he said, pointing to the ceiling. He shook his head and laughed, before grabbing another box of rice.
Later I related this story to my friend Ju, letting her know how I discovered this really good “new” artist named Lady Gaga. Like my husband, she laughed at me, before informing me I was way out of the loop when it came to music. Even she had heard of Lady Gaga.
I give you this example of my own cultural stupidity, because a month ago I received a request from a blogger for my book Founder's, "soundtrack.”
"Soundtrack?" I thought, "What the heck is that?" It turns out most authors, what seems like every author, is inspired by music. They listen to music as they write, and their characters all have their own style of music.
Apparently this should have been an easy thing to do, but all l I could think was,
When did this become a thing?
I did more research. I read blog posts from other authors about their own soundtracks, and I began to feel more than a little overwhelmed.
I don’t think Laurie Berkner was going to cut it for this one (and let's be honest, Laurie Berkner rocks- my kids sing "We are the Dinosaurs" in their sleep). Could I get away with mixing The Bangles, AC/DC, and The Doors? The last album I purchased was the soundtrack to Tangled, which is what I still stand by as, a “new release.”
Even now while I’m typing this, the theme song is pumping from my children’s princess karaoke machine.
I’m simply not inspired by music. I sing (barely). I dance (when necessary). I listen to. . .nothing usually. I like the sound of silence. You really learn to appreciate quiet when you’ve grown up in a huge family and now live with three incredibly rambunctious kids. Don’t get me wrong, I have my favorite songs- I think music can be uplifting or enforce whatever mood I’m in. But I’m much more likely to be caught listening to an audiobook, then listening to some top forty hit.
I began feeling very alone in this feeling, so I called my friend Liz to discuss my problem.
My friend Liz, musical encyclopedia, equally horrified that I had never heard of Lady Gaga.
I handed over my iphone and she filled it with what I needed. Current music in every genre she thinks I would enjoy.
David Guetta, for the gym.
Grace Potter, for my car.
Adele, for my home.
For the next week I felt like I was surrounded in a music bubble, earpiece surgically connected to one ear as I concentrated on my characters and pieced it all together. My head throbbed with lyrics, my iPhone shuffling through different playlists. I visited the land of Pandora and had a brief relationship with Spotify. Then finally, finally I made something up and sent it off. Proud of myself for accomplishing the impossible.
Now I’m back to normal, and I wonder- Am I really so alone? I find the rhythm distracting when I write, especially when my characters need to have their own voices. I don’t understand why anyone would need a soundtrack to their book.
But. . .what do you think? Do you listen to music while you type?
And what do you listen to?
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
"Characters are best revealed by their actions... For instance, if you feel it important to develop your protagonist’s characterization as a skinflint, don’t give some long, drawn-out tale of him pinching pennies as a youngster, or (worse!) tell the reader he’s a miserable miser. Instead, in your opening scene, show him doing something miserly within the context of the inciting incident scene. Show him having to transfer two handfuls of hundred-dollar bills to one hand so he can scoop the inside of the coin return of a candy machine for forgotten nickels."Have you struggled with understanding the "show, don't tell" principle in writing? For those of you who are more experienced writers, do you feel it has become easier as you've practiced it?
Thursday, November 3, 2011
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Unfortunately, my daughter had a flu bug when I got here on Sunday and she was quickly trying to recover. Fortunately, she did recover and they are now on the road to their destination. Unfortunately, I now have this 24-hour flu bug and I'm waiting it out till it is done. Fortunately, I was able to get the two girls to bed by 8pm so I can write this blog and try to recover. Unfortunately, it took them over an hour to settle down and go to sleep. Fortunately, they are now asleep and I can do some writing.
Amazingly enough, I had a weekly column to finish, a public relations article to write about an eagle scout project that happened over the weekend and this blog. I was able to do all three without mistake.....hopefully. But a writer's call comes and writers must do their duty to finish by a dead line; even with two granddaughters and the flu.
One of my duties as caretaker of the two girls is to keep a watchful eye over my daughter's four chickens that just started to lay. There are only two of them that have laid eggs so far which is an interesting phenomenon but I think I figured out why the other two haven't laid yet....... they are both roosters. A rooster expert ( a friend of theirs) came by to help me reprogram the entertainment center since I really messed it up. She took one look at them and said "those two are roosters". I suppose that solves that mystery.
Now all I need is to not puke and keep from messing up the entertainment center again.. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day, I still have five days left.......
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Oh writers guilt. My WIP. Don’t you love those initials? A little too close to RIP, if you know what I mean. I haven’t touched mine in over two weeks. . . Okay, maybe three. The guilt is starting to nag, and normally I wouldn’t harbor any of it. But lately it’s starting to grow a little heavy on my shoulders.
While I was growing up my mother would receive letters from her mother. She called them her guilt letters. In my teenage years she began sharing them with me (once I could understand what sarcasm was). They were fIlled with the “you never visits,” and, “I never hear from you’s.” But not so obviously that you could spot them easily. They had to be read out loud with my Mom’s affected voice and little jabs. We would all laugh and then my mother would feel obligated to call my grandmother and force us on the phone to speak with her. You may think I’m being terrible, but my grandmother was not a nice lady, and these conversations were pure torture to us. Her letters might have been funny, but her conversation verged on down right mean.
We would get off the phone and my mom would have us discuss what we talked about. She would diffuse any ill feelings toward my grandmother with laughs, and manage to turn it all into a big joke for us. I look back on these conversations in amazement, my mom turned what should have been guilt, into something funny. She turned what should have been hurtful, into something we could laugh about. She taught me a valuable lesson with those letters. What we do, can be enough, and what we don’t do, can be enough too.
But sometimes it feels as if it’s never enough, what we do. Especially as Moms. Especially as Writers.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this as what Ranee affectionately calls NaNo Momo is approaching. I have never participated because I find the whole idea guilt inducing. I don’t write well under pressure. I set time aside when I can, to let the ideas form and flow organically. I can look at other writers and appreciate that they can do this. That they can participate in something so challenging. I will not feel guilty about not being able to join them. My first draft of my second WIP is almost done and then I begin the edits.
Maybe I can NaNo the edits.
With my first book I remember the point where I had to decide to publish. My arrow hovered over the Amazon button. Excitement may have been at the forefront of my consciousness, but guilt colored the edges. At some point you have to look at a manuscript and say, “It’s enough. I’ve done enough.”
I studied fine art in college, and it’s the same in painting, there comes a certain point where you have to stop creating. If you continue to work on a painting after it should be complete, it crosses the line into bad. There’s no going back in art, so at least in writing you can backspace, you can “undo.” There was a manuscript I was asked to crit for a friend, which has never been published and is probably languishing under a bed somewhere. She is a very talented writer, but she had disguised the plot with too much. Too much description, too much language. I began writing strip all over the pages until I began feeling dirty. Part of your job as a writer is to allow your reader to imagine the situation for themselves. You give them just enough to put them there, so they can draw from their own experiences to finish the scene. I believe wholeheartedly in allowing a reader to use their imagination. It’s why movies never quite live up to our expectations. We’ve already interpreted the book with our own imaginations. My Harry Potter is different from your Harry Potter because his image is influenced by my own influences. So in balancing our life as writers and as mothers, it’s okay to do just enough. Sometimes too much is bad, sometimes the people and the writing in your life, need space. You don’t have to give 100% all the time. Release the guilt, allow others to pick up some of the slack. I have to remember that even if I’m giving 100% of my time to my children, I’m still not going to live up to the idea of what I think a perfect mother should be. So while I’m writing, I can give them my minimum- and they will be okay. And when I’m being a mommy, I can put my writing on the back-burner, and it will be okay too. I can say that it is enough, what I have done. Because I have to accept the things I can not change. I will accept the things I don’t want to change.
And I don’t have to feel guilty about it.
Good luck my Nano-momo gals, I look forward to the updates!
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
- the ticking clock - dire consequences come if the hero doesn't accomplish a goal by a certain time
- the hasty decision - a character is about to make a major decision without being aware of all the facts (obviously in this scenario the reader will either need all of the facts or must at least strongly suspect a truth which the hero is oblivious to)
- the interruption - the hero is about to discover something new but is delayed by something or someone. (Avoid using ringing phones and tea kettles as these are too cliche).
- the unexpected problem - things seem to be working well for the hero; he seems about to achieve his goal when a sudden problem arises and keeps the reader wondering if he will ever reach his goal
- Plot Brainstorm (scroll to page 265)
- Character Brainstorm (scroll to page 266)
- Setting Brainstorm (scroll to page 268)
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Thursday, October 13, 2011
I am in the middle of a full swing blog tour right now. Somehow, in the minds of all that know me, this equates to selling thousands of books. I almost titled this blog post misconceptions of the indie kind, because basically that’s what this is.
A funny thing happens when you put a book out there for the world to see.
Everyone suddenly believes that you are instantaneously, and without any effort, famous.
And of course if I’m famous, I’m obviously suddenly wealthy as well.
I’m an indie author, self published, but I have to believe this happens to anyone who has every published a book. Traditionally or otherwise. It can’t just be my friends and acquaintances, that are this misguided and silly.
Inevitably I respond to their question with a question of my own, “Well. . . have you read my book?
This is generally followed by stuttering, a sheepish look, and barely coherent muttering to the tune of, “I’ve been meaning to get to it. . . .”
“So if you haven't read my book, and you are my friend, what could possibly give you the impression that anyone else has read it?”
Mind you, this probably isn’t the nicest response to someone who honestly means well, and wishes me all the success in the world. But it makes me want to scream.
Every. Single. Time.
"I am not famous! I barely make enough each month to cover date nights with my husband! This is some gosh darn hard work!"
So please, bite your tongue next time you feel like asking me if I'm famous yet.
I’m pushing a giant boulder up a mighty big hill.
A mountain really, with a peak I can’t even see.
How do you really think it’s going?
I'm not famous, but I’m surviving, I’m pushing, I’m struggling, and I’m writing.
So I guess you could say it’s going well enough.
(Shameless plug here, but if you'd like to follow my blog tour you can connect through my website at www.lmlong.net)
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Thursday, September 29, 2011
I was cleaning my bookshelf the other day and I found something.
And you know you all have one.
A book that’s missing it’s cover and all of chapter nineteen.
Because you’ve read it so many times.
And it’s not War and Peace we’re talking about.
It’s the book that embarrasses you. That trashy novel sandwiched amongst the Jane Eyre’s, the tomes of Dostoevsky, the Herman Melville. You placed it there in the hopes of great literature elevating the commercialism of the tiny paperback squished in between them.
Okay, not really. It’s hidden there because not one person has touched that collection of Shakespeare since sophomore year of college.
So no one will notice it.
The embarrassing book.
I found mine last week and immediately sat on my rump and started reading. I thought this experience might be different. I thought I would have a different perspective. A more mature perspective. I’m so different from the person who once loved this book.
I read it in one sitting.
I can tell you it’s not long, and it really is missing all of chapter nineteen, but those are excuses for why I really couldn’t put it down. The real answer lies in what I did after I finished the last sentence. I closed the worn out paperback pages and sighed. It was every bit as good as I remembered. As trashy and fantastic and romantic, as I remembered. Then I wondered.
What does reading (and don’t forget enjoying) this book say about me?
I’m thirty plus years old now. I have three kids. I aspire to read better things. Enlightening, open my eyes to the world, make myself a better person, things.
I recently read a great article about reading what you write here.
Did you click the link? I never click the link, so instead I’ll sum it up for you. Basically Julie Cross makes the argument for reading the genre you’re writing for. It was great and I completely agree with her. I read a lot of Young Adult. Not simply because I write Young Adult, but because I LOVE Young Adult. My embarrassing book is a Young Adult novel. It transports me to a place in my life that was full of possibilities. I had so many adventures, and fresh eyes that greeted each day with excitement. The whole world was opening up to me with endless decisions, and angst, and ideas. When I read my embarrassing book, it’s like reclaiming a little bit of myself back. It’s remembering that the sometimes drudgery of being a mother is only temporary. It's remembering deep inside me there is this fun loving, every moment life living, person still existing. This isn’t saying I would want to go back to my late teens, or early twenties. I love being a mom, and I love how the experiences of my teens and twenties have influenced the person I am today. But I love writing the Young Adult genre. I love being reminded of who I once was, and what is still within me.
So I moved my embarrassing book to a place where it would feel more comfortable, nestled between the Ally Condie's and the Shannon Hale's. I won’t be embarrassed by it anymore, because I was that person. I am that person.
And I can own it.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
"When I started using this method I found I was not only writing better first drafts of scenes, but I was doing it about three times faster."
Step 1: The Scene Outline
In order to outline your scene you need to understand a few things about the purpose of a scene. First, that each one is a little story in which there is a beginning, a middle, and an end. The beginning will present some sort of goal (either for the character or for the plot), the middle will ratchet up the conflict, and the end ought to leave readers hanging, dangling on your untied strings and eager for the next portion of the story. Second, your scene must simultaneously have an objective and move the action along at a steady pace. The objective may be as simple as "introduce character," but knowing the scene's purpose should help you focus on where you intend to take it.
When writing your scene outline you do not need to go into much detail. A paragraph summary should be enough to cover the essential points of your scene: goal, conflict, and what is left unresolved. Your summary can (and probably should) include the emotional events of the scene as well as the physical ones. For example "John rips up the love note" would be physical, but equally worth mentioning would be Sarah's emotional response, "Sarah's heart is broken." To see some more specific examples of scene outlining as well as the following principles I highly suggest getting a copy of Whitcomb's book Novel Shortcuts.
Step Two: The Dialogue
In this portion of the exercise you will be typing out what type of conversation you think your characters will have in the scene. The dialogue does not need to be perfect, (the perfection will come in step four when we work on "distillation"), but it should convey all that generally needs to be communicated in the scene. To move through this quickly use only the character's initials to specify who is talking. Avoid using quotation marks and "he said, she said" as well, as those will only serve to slow down your creative flow.
Step Three: The Heartstorm
I'm going to be honest, I'm not a big fan of the term "heartstorm," but since I didn't come up with it I don't get to name it. So, what is a "heartstorm"? Much like a brainstorm you will be using ten minutes to ponder over the scene and spew out everything (literally everything, no censoring) that comes to mind. Unlike a brainstorm these ten minutes should be focused on the imagery and poetry of the scene. This little baby right here is the reason I LOVE the "Shortcut to Scene" method. I'm a very straightforward writer, often eschewing the beauty of prose for the utility of it, but the heartstorm opened up a new avenue of creativity for me. For ten minutes I envisioned my scene in colors and moods and symbols instead of actions and dialogue and when I used the heartstorm in my first draft it was much more brilliant and alive than any scenes before it.
Step Four: Putting it all Together
To more easily differentiate the three sections of the exercise Whitcomb suggests using different font for each: for section one regular font, section two bolded font, and section three italicized font. Review each section adding ideas or making small edits where necessary. In section two focus on taking the lines of dialogue and "distilling" them to be more concise. To give a wonderful example from Novel Shortcuts, the before:
"Boss: I have a job for you. Take this package to Stephano's.The After:
Henchman: What is it?
Boss: Why? You getting particular? Did you grow a conscience all of a sudden?
Henchman: I didn't say I wouldn't do it.
Boss: You make a thousand a week for a couple hours' work. You got a problem with that?
Henchman: I'm not complaining.
Boss: You didn't used to care what you were delivering.
Henchman: Gimme the package. I'll do it. Gotta pay my wife's credit card bills."
"Boss: Take this package to Stephano's. What? You got a problem making money now?In this example Whitcomb has taken a long, wordy passage and made it tighter and more interesting to read. Instead of getting lost in the endless back and forth of dialogue we see a quick exchange that conveys the same message and with just as much character.
Henchman: Baby always needs a new pair of shoes."
Now review section three, bolding any specific phrases or descriptions that particularly stand out to you. Once you've finished, print off the page and set it beside you as you type out your first draft. Refer to it much as you would a menu, selecting segments from each section to create a delectible scene.
MY DAY 14: Having divided out my days and scenes I knew how many scenes I had to accomplish per day in order to complete the manuscript on time. Unfortunately I only completed one scene on this day with high hopes to do more in the next week and make up for lost scenes on the weekends.