Search This Blog

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It's Time to Improve Our Writing

It certainly is fortuitous for me to be writing the last post of 2013. I love this day, this day when the year ends and the New Year is on the cusp of its beginning. This is the day I think about what I need to do next year. 

"Hold on, there missy," you blurt out with a snarl, stopping me from waxing  poetic about the new year. "Don't you need to look back at what you did and didn't accomplish during the current year of 2013? I mean isn't that what today is about?" 

"Oh ye of the unforgiving nature," I respond, "Shut thy mouth." The reality is that I never like to look back and revisit all of my many (and I do mean many) slip-ups, mistakes, missteps, misspeaks...oh well you catch my drift. Come on ya'll, lets not beat ourselves up for the things we screwed up, it's too late. Time to look forward and once again set our resolutions for a better year. Hope springs eternal and all that.

I always (and I do mean always) start my list with the unachievable. Why set myself up for failure? I don't know, maybe I'm a closet masochist or is sadist? I always get those confused. Anyway, I start with my annual Lose ten pounds (I've lost those same ten pounds so many times, I should weigh in at around fifty pounds-which I do plus...never mind.) After I get that one out of the way, I get down the nitty gritty, and this year the nitty gritty will be all about our (yes, yours and mine) writing. Here we go.

1.Write from our hearts. Make our readers cry, laugh, get angry, whatever. Let's not hold back, lets show our innermost fears, loves, hopes, and dreams in our writing. It's time for us to take be bold.
2. Not take ourselves too seriously. To many of us (including myself) writing is a business and yes paying our bills is serious business. I get all of that, but let's lighten up and quite treating every little comment on our writing as a matter of life or death. It's time to quite whining and moaning and get over ourselves. Let's have some fun.
3. Try writing something different. Let's push ourselves, I bet we'll be surprised with what we can do. (I'm going to try paranormal, but I don't care how growing this exercise is, I will never, ever write about vampires, even in you threaten to stick me with pins.)
4. Write when we don’t feel like it. This is the one I'm currently struggling with. I've got several projects going and do not want to finish any of them. If you're like me, it's time to quite making excuses and get to work.
5. Revise, revise, revise until we can revise no more. None of us are brilliant on the first draft. And the second one kinda sucks, too. That’s okay, because this is a marathon, not a sprint. we won't consider ourselves done until we’ve written at least a few drafts, everything up to that point is merely a prologue.
6. Read widely. Read some masters in our genres as well as books from other genres. It's time for us to absorb as many books as possible from as many different sources. Doing so will enrich us all.
7. Focus on the writing. Get off Twitter or Instagram and spend the majority of our writing time actually writing. It will makes us feel better, and the work will improve (promise).
8. Shake things up: write in an unusual voice, or from an strange POV, or something else that is different from what we usually write. It's time for us to mess with the status quo, and see what happens. It could be good, really good.
9. Finish that project that we keep putting back on the shelf. Who knows it could be the next big thing. And even if it isn't, it's time to get it done and move on.
10. Quit stalling and get writing. Stop reading this post, rechecking your email, or posting on Facebook. It's time for all of us to unplug from the world and just write. It’s the simplest, hardest, scariest thing for any of us to do. Not think about writing or talk about writing, but actually writing. Imagine that.*

Enjoy tonight and get ready for a brand new year.

* A nod to Jeff Goins for providing the basis for most of these.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Searching for Irresistible

Have you ever had a fictional character stay with you long after you finished the book? Most of us had, and as a writer I can tell you that writing a character that lingers is beyond rubies as they say, and something writers aspires to create.

The problem is that thing that makes a character stay with you is nebulous and impossible to define. It’s also subjective. For instance, I could not get enough of Lisbeth Salander, the vulnerable, anti-social bi-sexual girl with a permanent bad-hair-day from Steig Larsson’s Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series.
Lisbeth fascinated me, while she repelled my sister. Ignoring my sister’s hateful whining (something I do on a regular basis) I’ve tried to pinpoint just what it is about Lisbeth that makes her such a compelling character. After much thought (most of it fruitless) I decided that it was her toughness and complete lack of moral compass intertwined with a childlike vulnerability that made her compelling.

So, you’re probably thinking, “Eureka, you’ve found it, If you want to create an irresistible character simply make her vulnerable.”

To which I respond, (brilliantly I might add) “Huh. How?” Because that is the problem: planned vulnerability in a story is usually easily spotted, creating a character that comes off as fake or forced and not the irresistible character a writer aims for. It’s the unplanned that is needed and you can’t plan for the unplanned. Hence my dilemma.

Let’s move on to another compelling character: Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. For this, I’m talking only about the Katniss in the first book, by the time I got to the third novel, I found her temper tantrums so annoying, I prayed for Suzanne Collins to kill her off. The only reason I kept reading was to see which guy she was going to go for. I was hoping for Gale because I have a weakness for bad boys. Handsome bad boys….

Whoops sorry, time to quit dreaming and get back on track. What was I saying? Oh, yes, how to capture the intangible thing that makes your character someone readers care about. I don’t have an answer and as I create character after character in my novels, I struggle to find it, that quicksilver, that wonderful, terrible, impossible thing that will make at least one of them compelling, intriguing and oh so irresistible.

If you have any suggestions, send me a line. All I know at this point is that creating such a magical character is something worth struggling for because the idea of someone thinking about my characters long after the book is closed is something writers hope to achieve and readers hope to find.

Speaking of irresistible, I thought you might enjoy this link to One Direction’s song Irresistible, so click the link and enjoy. One Direction's Irresistible. They're cute, but  not in the least bad. I do wonder about their hair, it seems a bit much to me.

Forever searching for all things irresistible. Gabriella

Friday, November 15, 2013

Midnight Confession

Okay, it's time for me to confess to all of you who truly write to feed your soul, or your heart, or whatever body part forces you to write, I don't write to feed my soul. I don't even know what that means. Shocking, I know, but it's the truth. 

My revelation begs the question: than why do I write? Why do I put myself through the emotional ups and downs of writing? I wish I knew. Most of my friends don't write and love me despite my canceling lunches and dinners with them because I'm right in the middle of a revision that I know will excite one and all, and agents anxious to represent me will fall at my feet and plead with me to choose them. 
We love your book.

I know, I know. My fancy has wandered down that impossible primrose path from which all of us who write traipse along. Always hoping, hoping, hoping that this time it will be real, it will be perfect, and it will sell. I'm lucky enough to have two books being published - one under my name (Turned On) and one under a pen name not to be revealed here.

So, for all of you who wax poetically about how writing feeds your soul - I commend you even though I am not one of you. And for all of you who, like me, don't experience such uplifting and noble needs to write, those of you, who like me, aren't exactly sure why you write, but think it's because you want others to read your stuff - I feel your pain. We can't clutch our hearts and sigh and be all noble. Nay, all we can do is smile and admit the truth. 

The cold, unvarnished, inescapable truth - we write with the hopes others will read it and enjoy it. We write because deep inside we yearn to transport our readers to other worlds just like so many of our favorite books have done to us. I want someone to read my book and for a little moment forget where he or she currently is, forget the problems, the kids, the work, the everything and simply become a part of the world I've spent months or years setting down for them.

That is all. And that is why I write. And that is why most of you write. Which is enough. 

As I thought about confessing, I ran across this song. I hope you take a minute and enjoy this old song. I did.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Revision and Revision and Revision

Excuse me Will, but I've got my own spin on this soliloquy
A Shameless Rewrite

Revision, and revision, and revision,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of my YA novel;
And all my earlier work has lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, bad sentence!
A writer’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his angst upon the page,
And then is read no more. It is a tale
Writ by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

With apologies to Shakespeare for my bastardization of Macbeth’s haunting soliloquy (only Shakespeare could make repetition sound so gorgeous) as a way to express most writers’ gloomy attitude as they begin their revisions. Even those of us who feel energized by revision (I include myself in this disgustingly cheerful bunch) can’t help but sigh at the amount of work they must do as they start on page 1 of their 300 page manuscript.

However, it is only through revision that we can make our writing shine. I wish I could compose an amazing piece of fiction first draft, but I can’t. If you are one of those, please know that I hate you and want to knock you severely about the head and shoulders, because I, unfortunately, am not that talented.

You wrote that in one sitting? Take that, you show off.

And because of my lack of initial brilliance, I have become quite the master of revision, hence this post. If you, like me, dump everything into your first draft then you, too, must revise. The key to this process (described below) is to separate yourself from your manuscript; doing so allows you to return to it with fresh eyes and new ideas on how to improve. At least that’s my hope with my latest editor setback. Ah well, enough of my never-ending writing angst, let’s get to work.

When I finish my first draft, I set it aside for anywhere from a few days to a few months in order to let it stew, and perhaps for me to get stewed a time or two. Anyway, after giving both my manuscript and myself a breather, I begin rereading and revising. I rinse and repeat this step until I think the thing is ready for an outside opinion. At this point, I give my manuscript to a couple of friends that read a lot. The first time I did this, they were way too gentle, but now they are more outspoken, which is a great help. After I do this a few gazillion times, I spend the money for a professional critique. Good ones are expensive, but they are worth it. Professional editors help you pinpoint the problems so you can either once again revise or toss the whole thing out and start on something new.

My current novel is in that final stage–do I go on or just chuck the thing in a drawer and move on? As I ponder what I’m going to do, think about what Will would think about this whole blogging thing.

Hey Will, make up your mind already.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Searching for Clarity in an Advice-Filled World

Okay, the good news (for me anyway) is that my first erotica novella, Turned On, is published and available at all e-book outlets. Hooray for that.

Now on to today's topic - Learning to separate the wheat from the chaff as a writer. If you're like me, you've enrolled in many of the seemingly endless array of writer blogs and websites. And if you're also like me (which for your sake, I desperately hope you're not because I'm somewhat hopeless) you've enrolled in way too many. So many, in fact, that checking emails means selecting all and deleting hundreds of emails daily, and the only the thing that keeps you from unsubscribing is the fear that the second you do the blog or product or advertisement that will solve all of your problems and provide complete clarity (like a one step, totally free website set up - oh how I dream of such a miraculous thing) will arrive via email from one of them. A ridiculous hope I realize, still you can't blame a girl for dreaming.

Anyway this blog is supposed to serve as a help in learning to thresh out the truly bad or utterly useless blogs and websites, I'm just not sure if I know how to do that.
I don't even know what this quote means. Of course, it was written by Albert Einstein, the smartest man in the universe so it's no wonder his words confuse me.

Whoops, I have, once again, swerved off track. Back to my advice (because this should have some useful information contained in it somewhere), you know a website is bogus and deserves the axe if their emails, posts, newsletters, etc. are written in bold or caps, or, worst of all, both. Don't wait another second, scroll down to the bottom and hit that unsubscribe button as fast as you can.

"But wait," you cry, "perhaps it's in bold or all caps BECAUSE IT IS TOO GOOD TO BE MISSED."

To which I calmly and quietly explain, "Hah! People that do things like that aren't able to show their usefulness in good writing so they rely on the bloggers equivalent of the f-word--shock the reader into paying attention." Treat these cheap shot advertisers to what they deserve: unsubscribe from them in all caps and bold.

Another way to tell the site is a waste of your time is when every post is an advertisement for their amazing services. I'm guessing these are the same people that tweet continuously about their books, their services, their whatever. I've un-followed them and their constant bombardment of self-promotion. Why would they ever think sending hourly tweets about their new books would encourage anyone to buy them?

There are some good sites and blogs and if I can figure out how to add them to this site, I'll do so. Until then...keep searching for that miracle website set up and if you find it, send me a line.
Oh and if you hankering for a little titillating reading, check out my Turned On.