Saturday, November 29, 2008

Nano is nearly over!

Wow! Look at all those green bars piling up in the word count thingamijig! Go green!

We are awesome.

And we still have approx 36 hours (depending on your time zone) left of Nano to go!

And everyone who participated is awesome, including those who just could not find the time to write because life got in the way, or could not find the words to write, or had a better offer (submissions, anyone? - go Nat!!).

Whatever you end up with at the end of November is okay.

And I want to thank our fellow 50ks bloggers, as you took the pressure off the Topless Tabledancing Tarts. We didn't have to perform so regularly.

So here is the challenge to my fellow bloggers. Post an excerpt from your Nano work on this blog. Good, bad, unedited, ful of Nanoisms. It's your choice. Let's get a taste of what everyone was doing this month.

Here goes (word doc open, searching for something now) - an excerpt from Reality Check:

Dylan placed the drinks on the table and pulled up a chair close to Kirsty. As soon as he’d taken his seat, his mobile started vibrating again. The bitch! It’s as if she knew where he was and who he was with. No-one had warned him that Siobhan was working with the production company and if she was going to keep up this level of harassment then he was tempted to take his project elsewhere. He’d managed to escape her for the last couple of years and it was almost as if it was out of sight, out of mind, but now that she’d spotted him in the meeting today and seized his new business card, she had called him every half hour. He stared at the familiar number flashing up on his screen.

“Sorry, Kirsty, I’ll turn my phone off.”

He hit the end button and turned the mobile off.

Kirsty smiled. “Don’t you need to answer it?”

“It’s nothing vital. I’ll catch up on the messages tomorrow.”

Damn Siobhan! It was over years ago. Why didn’t she get that? Why did she think there’d be another chance for them?

“Are you okay?” Kirsty asked. “You seem a little preoccupied.”

He forced a smile, searching for an excuse. He did not want to bring Siobhan’s name into the conversation, though he was sure that Kirsty would have noticed the tension in the meeting room that morning. He was sure that everyone else in the room had known that he and Siobhan had been a major item for a couple of years. She’d given him his first break, but the relationship had become so controlling that he’d had to break it off, and change his number. There was only one cure to shake the spectre of Siobhan, and that was the delightful young lady who now sat in front of him, waiting for him to speak.

“I’m fine Kirsty. I’m just feeling a little under the gun to come up with the right concept and the right location.”

“I hope that Bilby Creek will be the solution that you need. It’ll be fun to visit again. I haven’t been back there for six months.”

He smiled, a real smile this time. “I’m looking forward to the trip, especially with such a beautiful tour guide. I thought we’d leave early Saturday morning, stay the night and drive back Sunday evening, in time to have you back at work on Monday morning.”

“It’s a shame I have to go back to work on Monday.”

He downed his beer and stared at her. “Don’t you enjoy your job?”

“Being called into the meeting today is the most exciting thing that’s happened in five months on the job. Most of the time it’s just photocopying, typing and filing.”

“I’m happy to have contributed some excitement into your work day.”

Kirsty’s cheeks reddened to a delightful blush.

“So you’re my knight in shining technology come to rescue me from my life of computer files and paperwork?”

He laughed, and reached over to rest his hand on hers. “I’ll see what I can do to rescue you. I might just be in need of a personal assistant for this production. Or even a star for this reality show set in Bilby Creek. The prodigal daughter returns to her home town.”

Kirsty let out a tiny squeal. “Are you serious? You’d put me in the show?”

“If that’s want you want. Of course the network will have to approve it, but I’m sure we can persuade them with a good screen test.”

He swallowed his words. He knew that Kirsty would be magic on the screen, and would probably provide the network with a ratings bonanza, but he was hoping that it wasn’t the only reason she’d agreed to go out with him that evening. Because he liked her. Really really liked her. And he didn’t want to find out that she was just in it for her fifteen minutes of fame like all the other girls had been.

“I’d never thought about doing reality TV before,” Kirsty replied.

“Do give it some thought. It may not be the best thing, especially if you want an acting career. Sure there’s a few reality celebs who have moved past the stigma of their shows, but many of them have just ended up on the C-list, and back at their dull and boring lives within months of their television appearance.”

“I know. I’ve read TV Week. I know how quickly the fame appears and goes away again. I just think it would be an interesting experience.”

“Your whole life would be up there on the screen for everyone to dissect and rake over in internet forums. Your life would no longer be private. Every move you make off camera will be reported back to the press in some form. At least while the show is screening. Are you prepared for that?”

Kirsty shrugged, sweeping her straw around the chunks of ice left in the bottom of the glass. “Not really. But I’ll do whatever it takes. Besides the producers may not want me. I might flunk this screen test.”

“I doubt it. I’ll take a camera down to Bilby Creek with us and you can do a bit of your tour guide on camera. We’ll get enough of an idea whether it’ll work or not from that, and then I can take it back to the production company, as a suggestion.”

He smiled, gazing at her loveliness, her peaches and cream complexion where the blush had now faded, her beautiful brunette waves framing her face. He felt his stomach lurch as he realised it had been a really stupid suggestion. Ratings-wise, an absolute first-rate choice, but for him, he knew that it would make his life very very complex. Because he had a bad reputation for not keeping his private life and professional life separate and already, just by being out with Kirsty tonight, and longing for much, much more, he was swimming back out into the sea, far beyond the safety of the flags.

This is Dylan:

And this is Kirsty:

Okay, who's next?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Time to Edit

Well, with NaNoWriMo almost at an end there have already been many winners (Congrats to you all), some who are nearly there (good luck and keep at it) and others, like me, who have resigned themsleves to not making it this time but are many words closer to the end.

Oh well, there is always next year.

It is getting closer to the time when all those NaNo words are going to have to be revisited, spell check employed and detective skills used to work out exactly what you meant by the words "Bree felr a trmor of mweces" written at 2am after 8 coffees.

So to ease you on the way I thought I would include something to help you on the editing journey....

Once again my office desk is laden with partial manuscripts I have agreed to judge for a romance writers contest. Reading through each is rewarding and I am constantly astounded at the diversity yet similarity of ideas we writers have. Another thing brought to my attention is the common mistakes made. So ... I want to share a few of these problems and in so doing, help others learn how to search their work, and kick those no-good words out of their script in order to create stronger stories.In no particular order:

It was/there was:

Now every writer needs those simple words, yes I have used them. But when they are splattered across the page - that's called lazy writing. Most times it's not necessary to say "it was." And certainly not several on any given page!

Example: It was an unusual sound to be heard this early in the morning.

Reworked: The sound was unusual this early in the morning.

Most times, with a little effort, the sentence becomes stronger and the reader is given a precise and succlulent image rather than the boring it was statement. When searching out "it was" bloopers, don't read the words on your page, simply scan down each paragraph, circling each one you find. Go through a chapter at a time. And then sit back and evaluate what you have discovered. If your pages are splattered with markings, then you've discovered one of your weak traits. And now you know one of many ways to fix the problem. Good luck!

The He/She sentence structure:

Again, many fall into a routine with sentence structure. The above exercise will help with discovering this problem too. Take the time to simply scan your pages, circling the He/She/They sentence beginnings. I was always told if you have more than three or four sentences starting with He/she, then you have too many. Gotta mix it up, folks. The simplest fix is to rearrange your sentence structure, try putting a phrase before the statement. Perhaps linking a few phrases together would work, thereby eliminating another he/she sentence. Be imaginative! The goal is to make it interesting, intriguing. Similar is boring. Big yawn here.

That word!

I'm not going to say too much, only that that is over-used, abused and should be thrown out if at all possible. If you think you don't have that problem, do the circle test and find out. Good luck!

Same word usuage!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now we're getting into one of my pet peeves. Thesaurus, people. Buy a good, wordy thesaurus and be creative in describing your characters, your setting, your everything!. Every entry I have judged, some dozen in this packet, this is a VERY big problem. I don't understand this concept. Finding new words should be the fun part of writing, finding another word to describe what needs explaining. This lack of imagination is lazy writing. Oops! Did I really write that? Too late now.

Since we're on pet peeves, here's another one: Beautiful

Okay, I'm judging historical romances, yes, she's beautiful! But the reader needs more than the writer's word. Descriptions move the story, show the reader what the character looks like, more importantly what she's like as a person. Details and more details are what is needed. I would love to read a book where beautiful is not mentioned once, but the sense of beauty is in every word about her/him, the inner beauty, the all important beauty, not the physical attributes only. I bet publishers would enjoy seeing such descriptions as well.

Underlining Thoughts:

I must be old-school, because this is driving me batty!!!! The need to underline simple thoughts is not necessary. I don't know what English instructors are doing these days, but this interruption is really distracting. Since I have not attended an English class in some time, I won't say stop doing that, but I will tell you, I've lost interest at wondering if I'm supposed to enphasize those words in my mind, shout them out or something??? Underlined thoughts pull me out of the story. And folks, if it pulls me out, someone who loves to read, it will undoubtedly pull your reader out too. And that, ain't the idea at all!!!!

Paper Characters:

I'm talking about the minor characters not brought to life. Another big problem in the entries I've judged. Each character, no matter how minor, should be real to the reader. Introducing characters is never easy, but let the reader know the relationship between the main character and the new ones. By doing this, the reader grasps the connection, or lack of connection and develops a clearer picture of the plot unfolding. Physical description is crucial too, but it's the relationship between the characters that will bring them to life.

Withholding important information:

Don't confuse intrigue with insightful information. The reader needs to know why your character doesn't believe in love anymore, or why she can't go back home. A long explanation is not needed, but a hint of past problems, conflict enriches the story. It's not giving anything away, it's pulling the reader into the story. If some explanation is not given in a timely fashion, the reader becomes frustrated and may set the book aside. Not good. This confusion over delving out information when appropriate is another VERY big problem. My suggestion is to read, read, read, how others do it and then follow what you learned from them.

Too Many Questions:

When the main character continually poses questions to no one but themselves, it becomes distracting. Most times, turning questions into statements or thoughts serve the reader better, even if another sentence has to follow to make it clear. Let your reader pose the questions, not you, the writer.

Example: Could one so fair-haired and benign be John's brother?

Reworked: One so fair-haired and benign couldn't be John's brother.

I hope these common bloopers I've mentioned will help you tighten up your manuscript. Mentioning them is meant to help others from making the same mistakes. Finding a publisher is not easy, and they are a tough crowd to please. I know I only mentioned a smattering of solutions to you, but sometimes fixing the problem is the easy part, finding the mistake in the first place is the biggest hurdle.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

All sorts of sexy!

Men in Uniform....

Now ladies we've had a week of men in uniform, and yes some of them are definitely inspiring enough to write whole reams of stories about. But I think there's one type of uniform we're missing and some of the most romantic men don't carry guns or fire hoses. They're honest, dependable, true and chaste, with a simmering sensuality that according to Cleo magazine puts them in at No.3 of sexiest men on earth. Yes we're talking about ...... preachers.

I just want to say when I served as a missionary we had some guys hotter than this one to my left. But I never did see them without their shirts off. Damn but it was all very chaste. And they really are nice guys with hearts of gold.

I've been scouring the internet for pictures of other faith's sexy men of the cloth, um apart from Buddhist monks, there's not that many out there. But I did find this guy and thought oh my he could give me a sermon anyday.... lol

So why not use that pent up sensuality in a story. These are men who have just as many hormones as others but they have a commitment to themselves and a higher power to follow their heart. Wow. And how sexy would it be to see what simmers beneath the surface.
The passion, the forbidden love. Okay going to calm down now.

These pictures are from Men on a Mission calendar and a Catholic Priest calendar celebrating the good looking men of the cloth. Apparently there are no Anglican or Pentacostal versions available. Ah well maybe next time.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wednesday's Wipeout!

Okay, so I'm supposed to be full of wisdom and helpful info for the slide down to the finish line. Ah, yeah, well I'm full of stuff but it's not wisdom. Nope, for those keeping up my back is still out, I'm still popping pills and now I've got the migraine to end all migraines and don't you just love those? So I'm giving you this guy to look at, maybe it's my doped up state but I look in those eyes and just float away.
Keep going on your Nano word count even if you don't think you're gonna make it. I am, at 4am this morning I know I got up and write in my trusty little bedside notebook. Whether it's any good is another thing but then that's okay, I can edit it out later. After I pass the finish line.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tuesday's Tale

So here we are into our final week of NaNo and not a moment too soon for some of us. This can be the hardest week of the lot, mostly because if you still have ways to go it is so easy to say ‘hang it I’m not doing anymore’. Oh, wait a minute I’ve been saying that for the four weeks. LOL.

Honestly though, this is a hard week. It’s a week where you have to keep pushing yourself or get your friends to help push you just that little bit more. If you are at the point of no return it doesn’t mean you failed. How can you fail something if you have tried your hardest? Let’s face it life gets in the way at times. That can’t be helped. We have kids get sick, we get sick, holidays need to be taken. Lord I’m going to need a holiday after this month. But if you have taken every opportunity you can to write than you are a winner.

Has anyone else struggled with their stories this month? Has anyone just struggled with a story at anytime? Have you ever sat down to write the novel you’ve been wanting to write for months, years even only to find out that it is a heap of CRAP? How do you get past that? How do you learn to love this one story as much as you love the others? I mean your stories are like your children, they are a part of you and you don’t love one child more than another, so shouldn’t your stories be the same?

I’m hoping to reach the 50k mark today and I know there are others in the same boat. To those that have already finished huge congratulation. To those that will be writing right up until the end, just know we will be there to cheer you on no matter what word count you end up with.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Monday’s Military Men

Apologies for the late posting of this entry to the blog. Hubby and I had a little disagreement, and he thought it would be funny to block my internet usage. I couldn’t connect for a while (men!).

Anyway, please enjoy my military meat… err… men for Monday. Maybe you’ll find them a great source of inspiration, like I have!

Found a fabulous website There was a great article about character diversity which was really relevant to my NaNo story. Maybe it will help you too.

7 Steps Toward Character Diversity

One problem than plagues most writers is creating characters that are too similar -- too much like themselves. If I had it my way, my stories would be full of middle-age fat bald guys. Hey, it might not be interesting be it’d be easy for me to “get into their brains.” Okay – not a good idea. How then shall we create characters? Here are seven ideas you can use to populate your story with diverse characters.
1. Make characters physically different. I took a Disney animation course once where animators discussed how they chose a “cast.” According to them, the ideal cast consists of a diverse group of characters. The starting point is physical characteristics. Select characters where some are tall, some short, some overweight, some skinny, some beautiful, some not so much. On another occasion I sat in on the decision about casting the move “Closure: The Problem with Money.” The director talked about the importance of selecting a supporting cast only after the key players are in place. This is obvious when some characters are supposed to be children of the others – but it is also important for the cast to have a “look” – not that they all had to be similar kind of people – but that the group form an interesting ensemble of people. So it is in any story – select cast members that are physically different from each other – to tell them apart and to bring diversity to the story.

2. Select characters that are emotionally and culturally different. Marge is a whiner. She’s best friends with Kathy who is an optimist. George is a staunch God-fearing Republican whose house backs up to his neighbors Buffy and Hank the nudists who like to take midnight skinny dips. Abu the Hindu gets stuck in the elevator for 11 hours with Donna the voluptuous Pentecostal gospel singer. And they both have to pee. Diverse people make interesting things happen. Of course, sometimes people who are too similar make things happen as well. What about the two feisty red-headed teenagers who both want to be the head cheerleader – they are similar in many ways but you’ve still got to find something that makes them different so they will take a different route to achieving the same goal.
3. Create characters with different sounding names. There are twenty-six letters in the alphabet. Use them generously when selecting names. Readers or viewers easily get confused when Mary the detective is after Merriam the hitchhiker because she’s suspected of killing Martha the heiress. Carefully select each name to be different from others. Rarely create characters with names that begin with the same letter – unless there is a reason. You might have triplets named Larry, Luke, and Leonard… if you do have such a situation -- you need to give each one of them some unique characteristic that separates them in your story, otherwise your audience will get confused.
4. Give characters different voices. Authors tend to write dialog using their own voice. Don’t do it. It is a sure killer for any story. Listen to other people speak. Choose what makes their choice of words different – don’t depend on different accents -- an Irish brogue versus a southern drawl. Let choice of words, length of phrases, level of formality, intelligence and other aspects of language define your characters. Sit in a public place and listen to people talking. Write down phrases you hear. Develop an ear for each character so you can hear them talk – and then write down what they say.
5. Give characters differing life goals. People react to situations because of their beliefs or life goals. Two people find an envelope on a city street. It contains $500 and no other identification. A person who gambles, cheats on his income tax or who needs to buy cocaine will react differently than a honest-as-the-day-is-long janitor or a Sunday School teacher (we hope.) Specifically pick out, write down, know by heart, the core beliefs of each of your characters. That way when they are put in challenging situations, you will know how they might act. Plus – make sure the reader has an inkling of that character’s belief system so when they do act, it is not “out of character.” If your character does something unexpected – make sure there was some seed planted earlier (and maybe not fully revealed until later) to explain the behavior.
6. Use character tags. We don’t like to pigeon-hole people or make them one-dimensional, but tags do help define a character. Do you want your banquet dinner prepared by the cigar-chewing short order cook with a pack of cigarettes rolled up in his sleeves? How about by the fastidious blue-ribbon chef who takes the temperature of every pot at precise thirty minute intervals and insists that the floor is kept squeaky clean? Tags can define quick aspects of a character – but it doesn’t have to limiting them. The fastidious chef may NASCAR fan and the short-order cook might also train seeing-eye dogs because his kid sister is blind. By all means never create a character that is a perfect representation of a tag.

7. Give characters different but specific purposes within the story. Most characters are included in a story for a specific reason. A wise-cracking brother-in-law might give your story some levity. If he does – let him do his wise-cracking job throughout the story – don’t change him (without reason) into a sullen pessimist half-way though – unless that’s necessary for your story. Create specific characters to do certain tasks within your story. Your hero, for example – will have redeeming qualities that make him or her able to face up to some dire circumstance that the story will provide. Your hero may have an ally – someone who is a helper (Sam in Lord of the Rings comes to mind.) He may have a mentor, an opponent, a love interest, and so on – each one with a specific task to do in moving the story forward. Of course there are also shadow or changeling characters who start off as one type of character (an ally) and are later revealed to be something else (they are really a mole for the enemy.)Look back at these items – they have to do with creating an interesting ensemble of diverse characters who will be able to carry your story. Your homework is to make a list of characters in your current or proposed story. For each character write down how they meet each one of these seven criteria. Use this as a start to then flesh out other biographical characteristics of each character – get to know them as unique individuals.

(c) Alan C. Elliott, 2008
Hope you found it useful!
Love, hugs and all that mushy stuff,
:-) Mon