Sunday, May 31, 2009

Using Characterization to Deepen POV

I'm reading Love Inspired author Cheryl Wyatt's novel Ready-Made Family. This is a sweet romance with an interesting plot and likeable characters. I'm really enjoying it. If you'd like to read a longer, more creative review, check out Jaime's blog.

One of the things I noticed about the characterization in this book is how the hero, a pararescue jumper, constantly thinks of things in military terms. Here are a few examples:

While they talked, questions popped through his mind like automatic weapon fire.

As if Harker's words hauled a heavy rucksack off Amelia's shoulders, they lifted.

The girl could scramble his brain faster than a missile lock scrambled fighter jet signals.

So, anyone here know the sound of automatic weapon fire? (Maybe Kristen does, lol) Held a heavy rucksack? Seen fighter jet signals get scrambled?

Nope. This is all in the hero's internal narrative, distinctly his POV.

How do you like to show characterization? Have you ever used this technique?

***I forgot to tell you that all commenters will be entered to win this book in a drawing, as well as a cool Cheryl Wyatt pen. :-)***

Friday, May 29, 2009

Do Your Stretches; Don't Cramp Up

Writing is like any other exercise. We can get stuck in the same old routine, writing the same old stuff.

Sometimes we need to just flex our imagination and stretch our schedules. Or our stories. Or whatever should be done to get the blood flowing again.

A few months ago, as I was writing The Bad Boy's Redemption, I noticed a peculiar condition. As soon as I reached 1000 words I'd close the story. Even if I wasn't tired, even if I still had time to write. It was like the way I used to run in track. I never went over three miles.

I never stretched myself past my comfort zone.

Are you cramped in your writing? Have you thought of writing less, more, a different story, something to just stretch your creative muscles and get some juices stirred?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

In The Know: Last Part

The final thing that I think is so important to be in the know about is the publisher you're targeting. Even knowing what the editor likes is important. Pen Pen mentioned reading books and discovering the author's agent through that; the same thing can be done for editors.

When reading a book similar in style to yours, check out if there's an editor acknowledgement. Go online and read editor interviews. Most of the time we only have one chance to submit to an editor so it's important that we pick the one most likely to connect with our writing.

You all know I just got a rejection back on The Bad Boy's Redemption. I learned a very valuable lesson with that story.

Basically, Love Inspired publishes books with plots revolving around small town and family. I've read tons of LI books and I studied the pacing, the length, the setup, but never the plotlines.

My mistake. The editor who rejected me was kind enough to mention stuff I should've already known, if I would've studied the publisher better.

You may have an awesome story, with spine-tingling writing, but if the publisher you submit to doesn't publish that kind of book, then it's a useless submission. The writing and the story won't matter.

Have you ever subbed to the wrong place? Or realized that no publisher is printing the kind of story you write? What's your favorite way to research editors? Or do you leave that up to your agent?

Monday, May 25, 2009

In The Know: Pt. 4

First, Happy Memorial Day! I'm so glad that our country has set aside a day to honor those who've laid down their lives for our protection.

Back to our scheduled post...

When I began to query agents with my manuscript, I went straight down the agent list on the RWA website. After all, if they were RWA approved then I shouldn't have any worries, right?

Wrong. I got a full request from an agent who repped nothing I wrote. Furthermore, that agent had some iffy comments said about her and I only discovered these things after sending her the full manuscript.

It's so incredibly important to be in the know when it comes to agents. I've heard it said a million times (and you probably have too): a bad agent is worse than no agent.

There's a lot of things that can constitute bad. Lack of communication, disorganization, or even worse, someone who isn't really an agent at all. Most of you probably read agent blogs so you're ahead of the game. You know we don't pay agents to read our manuscript. I hope.

Awhile back, I was studying the agents attending a small Christian conference, and I noticed one in particular charges people just for a reading. I had to shake my head because there are many new writers who will attend that conference and think it's normal to pay that agent.

Research! Read their blogs. See what they've represented.

Any advice on choosing the right agent? Have you had a good experience thus far?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

In the Know: Pt. 3

Once we're on our way, it doesn't hurt to study our craft a bit.

Telling a story is an art, and every art has tricks to make it better. I took a painting class once and learned all sorts of cool stuff about how to mix paint to create certain colors, depths and light. And shadows. My teacher taught us the most interesting things about how to create a life-like shadow.

So it is with our writing.

There are tricks, rules, that make it better. Sometimes we know these things instinctively. Sometimes we don't.

It doesn't hurt to study the craft of writing and use all the tools available to forge the most awesome story in the world!

When did you first realize you needed to learn more about writing? What's your favorite technique?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

In The Know: Pt. 2

Once you know why you're writing, and what you're pursuing, then it's time to take a look outward. At your audience.

Know your audience.

If you're writing to be published, then this is essential. What do they expect? Your book will be placed on a shelf someday in a marked aisle/section. Who are the people perusing that aisle? What do they like?

This is similar to knowing your genre and the expectations inherent in it. Even knowing the necessary word count of your genre is important.

As writers seeking publication, we answer to more than just ourselves (as many of you said in last post's comments).

Are you "in the know" when it comes to your audience? Fill in the blank. A satisfied reader equals....?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

In The Know: Pt 1

Writing is both craft and expression, both art and business.

When we begin this journey, I think it's important to know what our purpose is in writing. Most of us probably started writing in some form at young ages. Journals, essays, poetry. We poured ourselves into our words.

One of the most important things we must ask ourselves is why are we writing? Artistic expression or with the goal of being published? It will make a huge impact on the level and focus of our writing. Being "in the know" about the heart of our writing will shape our futures.

Do you know your purpose in writing? When or how did you discover your goals?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

In The Know: Intro

My pastor is fond of encouraging Christians to be "In The Know" when it comes to our faith and beliefs.

He's a smart guy.

Being "In the Know" is good for more than just understanding why we hold certain values. It works for all parts of our lives.

I have a teeny little series planned about how we should be "In The Know" when it comes to our writing.

In the meantime, have you ever done something and then later wished you would have waited until you knew more info?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Writers and Toddlers: We're More Alike than You Think

The other night I decided to brave putting my three year old and twenty month old to bed together. I figured they'd play, etc. Ten minutes later I heard the three year old crying. I ran in and found him standing by the side of his little brother's crib, crying his little heart out. I scooped him up and asked what was wrong.

Sniffling, voice quavering, he said, "Sean's throwing toys at me."

The poor thing! I pulled him close and gave him lots of kisses, but I couldn't help but giggle too.

Nate could have moved at any time to avoid toy bombs. Instead of taking stock of his situation and making the logical choice to step away from the crib, he stayed and got pelted. Repeatedly.

This reminded me of some contest entries I'm going through for a previous manuscript which was rejected largely for characterization issues.

Before I'd ever subbed the manuscript, I had the judged scores. Little toy missiles aimed my way. As I went through these scoresheets the other day, I felt like slapping myself in the forehead.

Over and over, the judges (of different contests) pointed out flaws in my characterization. Lack of motivation, lack of empathy for the hero, concern over not enough info.

This was something I could have fixed. I should have fixed. If only I'd seen it.

But like Nate, I didn't see the logical course at the time and in the end got konked in the head with a rejection.

I know some of you have entered contests. Some of you have finaled recently (woohoo Eileen and Jody!).

How do you plan on dealing with your comments? Do you have a certain way of figuring out what's sound advice and what's subjective?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Percolating

You may have noticed my word counter hasn't moved.

That's because I'm percolating.

Remember Bad Boy's Redemption? It got rejected, but no worries, I'm looking forward to sharing what I've learned from that.

Now I'm thinking about where I should go from here. Should I keep targeting Love Inspired? Or should I go Single Title?

And so I percolate.

Have you ever needed to reconsider your goals? Do you jump right into a new direction? Or do you have to sit on your feelings for awhile?

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Virgin Writer

First, Thank you everyone who commented while I was gone, sent well-wishes and turned green with envy. :-) I had an awesome time in the Keys, and am now browner, blonder, and more freckled. :-)



So, we've all had a first manuscript. Have we all made the same mistakes with it?

My first, unfinished manuscript lays forlorn on my computer drive. Over the course of two years I refined this 30,00-word plotless morass of backstory.

How I loved my first story! (that I wrote as an adult)

But eventually, as I fumbled through it, I realized that it was directionless, that something was seriously wrong.

Now I know that my attempt at writing a full length novel failed for obvious reasons. The story has no genre (think YA, women's fiction, romantic suspense, LOL), it's filled with backstory and meaningless conversations. And yet, I feel like I learned so much just from sitting down and daring to dream a story.

What does your first attempt at writing look like? What did it teach you?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Book Review

I'm still soaking sun in the Keys, but here's the review of a book I recently read.

Higher Hope by Robert Whitlow delves into the murky waters of slander. A preacher known to "know" things accuses a businessman of corrupt actions. Is this slander? If something is the truth, then can it be labeled as slander?
The story is told mostly in first person, through the eyes of a ultra-conservative Christian woman who is working in a law office, trying to make it to associate level. First person is tricky. I had trouble relating to her, not because of her beliefs, but because there was so little internal narrative.
I have to wonder if that's because the book was written by a male? Okay, okay, no one get upset. LOL The author did use third person with the preacher and he did a great job with her.

Whitlow is a solid writer whose intriguing premise kept me reading the story. I almost stopped because this is the second in the series and the first hundred pages were devoted to meeting the heroine's parents and love interest. Whitlow's skill as an author hooked me in though. He was smart to include snippets of the main premise so that I'd be eager to keep reading.

While I didn't form much of an emotional connection to the main character, I still enjoyed this book for the interesting religious angles and great writing.

What are you reading right now? What's your favorite genre?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Going to the Keys

That's what I'm doing right now. Driving down the interstate, high with adrenaline, ready for fun. :-)

But if you're reading this after noon, then I'm already there and am lathering the boys with 50 spf, chasing them around the tiny condo where we stay. And there's no internet there. Sad sigh.

LOL

I won't be back until Saturday so I'm going to miss all of your wonderful posts. I hope all of you have a lovely week!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Conference Faux Pas

Once upon a time, I was a newbie.

I went to my first conference in 2007, armed with an unfinished manuscript and a bad case of nerves. I'd done a lot of research, knew that newbies shouldn't chase agents into the bathroom or badger editors.

I still messed up.

The kind agent who met with me gave me tons of valuable advice about my manuscript but didn't request to see more. That fact went over my giddy head. The last night of the conference I saw him in the lobby and said in a perky, nauseating voice, "I'll be sending that to you right away!"

He just smiled and waved, ever kind. I sent it to him, the word requested on the envelope, and received a form rejection.

The tone of my voice when I talked to him in the lobby still haunts me. I'm so afraid I'll see him at another conference and he'll remember me as the annoying pregnant girl who sent him a partial he never asked for. Eek.

Are you planning on going to a conference this year? Have you ever committed a faux pas at a conference? What is your greatest fear about conferences?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Boys Will be Boys

The other day I was sunning myself on the back porch as my children played in the sandbox.

My three boys, to be exact. I like to listen to them and hear what they say to eachother. That day, however, I noticed a strange thing. Almost alien.

Although they were definitely playing together, building some sort of fort with toys, all their communication was nonverbal.

Translation: Grunt, Giggle, Scream, Giggle

This made me think of my heroes and how I write them. Do they sound girly? Are they talking too much? Asking too many questions? The best advice I ever read was that men don't ask, they state.

How do you masculinize your heroes without turning them into a stereotype? What author, in your opinion, writes great men?