shay_writes: (Default)
( Apr. 8th, 2014 09:47 pm)

After plotting my second novel in less than a year, I have story structure ingrained on my brain.

Inciting incident. check.

First major conflict check.

and so on. If you are a writer, then you know the drill. Even the most die-hard pantser has some idea about the path their story will take. Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle of plotting every detail and letting the story take me where it may.

Yesterday, my grandchildren were watching an old episode of Scooby-Doo and I was reminded of  Saturday mornings spent sitting in front of the television with a bowl of cold cereal balanced precariously on my lap. Back then I didn't  care about the predictably of the cartoon. It was reassuring in a way. I knew by the end of twenty minutes those crazy kids in the funky van would catch the bad guy. Now, I can see the structure of the story telling.

There is an inciting incident.

 Usually the van breaks down in the middle of nowhere near a creepy house, amusement park, movie theater, ect. and a mystery presents itself.

Conflict develops within the group as Shaggy and Scooby uncover a clue and no one takes them seriously. I can understand why they don't, a dog with a weird accent and an obvious stoner aren't exactly to be trusted.

Next, the heroes come up with a plan which usually fails and someone is kidnapped, in danger, ect. The group then splits up to cover more ground.

A chase scene infuses more conflict in the story.

 It is all wrapped up tidy at the end, usually deus ex machina, and the culprit turns out to be the last person anyone would suspect.

Yes, it is predictable, but I watched faithfully, every Saturday. I like to think I was waiting for Fred to break character and sweep Thelma off her feet.

Formula stories don't have to be boring. I think it is possible to follow a structure guide loosely and produce a piece of fiction capable of surprising and thrilling readers. It takes a bit of skill and the art of misdirection, but it can be done. I love those types of stories, the ones that start out and you think you know how it is going to end, but then something different happens to throw you off. Those are the ones I recommend to friends. Those are the ones I want to write.
shay_writes: (Default)
( Apr. 4th, 2014 07:30 pm)

For me, staying in the habit of writing every day is hard. I need a deadline to help me focus and to keep me moving forward. If left to my own devices, I will wile away my days watching bad television and playing video games. This might be why my edit/rewrite of my NaNoWriMo novel is taking so long. I need the accountability of a public forum to stay motivated. 

 I signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo and I'm using the month of April to write the first draft of the next book in the series. Writing another first draft when I have one I need to edit seems like a weird thing to do, but I feel I need to get the entire story out of my head before it disappears. A part of me wishes I started writing the second book back in December when I had a clear idea of where I wanted the plot to go. The partial outline I completed then doesn't seem like enough of a road map. I have fragmented notes, but they are confusing to me. Brain fog is the symptom of fibromyalgia I hate the most. Thoughts, ideas, and memories fall out of my mind so easy. 

When new writers are starting on their journeys, they are encouraged to write every day. The practice of putting words on the page daily sharpens your skills and makes you a better writer. I agree with this idea one hundred percent. But it is easy to let life and other things keep you from following your dreams. Pain, sickness, and just plain procrastination has deterred me from writing on a daily basis. It was only since I lost my job, that I have rediscovered the joy of creating worlds out of words. 

Not writing for a couple of years was a good choice for me. I think I appreciate it more now and I think I am better writer than I was back then. I spent the time reading and thinking about writing. I feel lucky to have a writing group who stood beside me during the times when I wasn't writing. They have become like family to me.
shay_writes: (Default)
( Mar. 31st, 2014 02:03 pm)

When I first started my writing journey, I bought numerous books on the subject. One thing they all agreed on was the concept of "writing what you know." Did this mean I needed to trash my fantasy novel involving parallel universes? I'm not a student of quantum physics and the mechanics of my world were pulled from my warped brain. Was my story less since I was writing about things foreign to me? 

Of course not. I don't believe in "write what you know." I support the idea of "writing from you heart." In other words, write about things you love. In the case of novel writing, you will be working on your project for at least six months to a year, so the subject matter should be something you find interesting and are passionate about or you run the risk of losing interest. For example, someone who loathes world building probably shouldn't write a fantasy novel set in a make believe world. 

My stories tend to be more character driven, with the plot being secondary. In the past, I've abandoned projects when I couldn't love the main character. It is hard to spend time with characters you don't care about and sometimes come to detest. The characters who capture my affection are flawed yet still strong. The main character of the series I'm working on is an angry woman who is searching for the truth. I love the sensitive side of her nature and how it balances with angst she feels. 

The best advice I can give to new writers attempting to write their first novel is to make sure they love their story. Write from your heart. Tap into your feelings and use what you have experienced to bring your characters to life. You don't need to have fought dragons to write about them, but make sure you have tackled adversity and can relate to the emotions involved with slaying monsters.

shay_writes: (Default)
( Mar. 15th, 2014 03:43 pm)

March 24th is my blogging anniversary. I will have officially been splashing my words across the internet for ten years. Ten years. I've been writing with a purpose for ten, long years. For me, writing with a purpose means writing with the intent to sell the finished product. My thoughts about writing have changed since the day I started my journey. As a writer, I have matured. Looking back at my first attempts to compose a first draft make me ill. Then I remember I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for those first mangled pieces of prose.

I've written over 3,600 posts spread across a variety of blog sites. I was regular on Livejournal when it was still cool and Facebook was just for college students. The posts range in content from silly memes to meaningful essays. They are a record of my progress and growth as a writer. Ten years later, I'm still chasing the dream I've had since I was old enough to hold a pencil in my hand. I honestly can not remember a time when I didn't write. 

Whether I publish a book or not, I know in my heart, I am a writer. Writer and Author are not synonymous. Authors are writers who have sold their creations. My dream isn't to be a writer. I am a writer. My lifelong dream is to publish a book and have others read my stories. I want others to join me in my imagination and love the characters I care about.

Ten years later, I don't know if I'm any closer to making my dreams a reality. I do know I'm still writing and ideas are still coming to me. I'm not giving up. I will keep on working toward my dream till I die.
shay_writes: (Default)
( Jan. 12th, 2014 08:00 pm)
Nothing excites a writer more than a new idea. Last night, in the middle of a trip down a wikipedia rabbit hole, a new idea bashed me on the head. It started with "I wonder" and ended with "what if." Scared it might disappear, I added it to my idea file on my smart phone. The list is currently small and there are several items that have me scratching my head. If I have a cool dream, I add the neat elements to the list for future inspiration. (Ribs are light sabers is a good example)

After saving the idea for the future, I texted it to my cousin. I was too excited to sleep and I thought her husband could use it and do it more justice than I could. Her response, even though it was after one in the morning, was positive and she encouraged me to use it myself. I think her words included the phrase "if you aren't going to use it, I will." I decided to tackle it.

Yes, I am in the middle of editing a rough draft. Yes, I have ideas for two more stories in the same world with the same main character. Yes, I have an outline for the next story I planned on writing. But this idea is shiny and completely different than the series I've been working on. It is singing to me the siren's song of new idea happiness. There is a whole world of possibilities and characters to discover. I almost didn't sleep last night. My first instinct was to grab my notebook and start scribbling ideas for characters and setting.

This is tremendous. I went six months or more without having ideas. I was worried I would never have another idea. My creative well was dry. There were times when I thought I would give up writing. The thought of not putting words on the page made me sad. For as long as I can remember, I have been a writer. (note I did not say author, that is a different thing) Ideas for stories have been coming to me and I have been writing them for over 30 years. It is who I am.
In order to be more productive in the coming year, I signed up for a writing challenge. Staying focused and finishing projects have been a problem for me in the past. (this is one reason why I have five or six unfinished novels on my hard drive) Life would often rear its ugly head and get in the way of my writing progress. The coming year shall be different. I am making writing one of my priorities. This explains my eagerness to join a community focused on completing writing goals.

One of the sign up questions stumped me. "Strengths?" The following one, "Weaknesses?", was easy to answer. I sometimes forget to add needed description to my stories. Settings also trip me up. It is as if I just threw my characters in a room and recorded their conversations. Follow through is also a problem for me. I have completed two novels, but have yet to finish a second draft. I loath editing. Did I mention the five or six other half finished projects I have?

Yes, I am well aware of my weaknesses as a writer. They beat me over the head. But when I was asked about my strengths, I drew a complete blank. Being the insecure person I am, I doubted any existed. To remedy the problem, I started calling, messaging, and texting friends who might have read my writing. (I know this is terrible, but I was desperate and needed something to fill the blank on the sign up) The first friend hadn't read anything of mine in such a long time, she couldn't help me. The next one hadn't read any of my prose. I think his writing is elegant and more refined than my own, so I refrained from sharing. My third try insisted I had strengths, everyone does, but when put on the spot couldn't name one. (to be fair she was busy and just answering the phone was a big deal) In the end, I put "plotting" as a strength.

My cousin, my best friend, my conspirator in writing, came through after the sign up was posted. Her response to my query was, "You are imaginative and good at descriptions."I love my cousin. I AM imaginative. If I wasn't, then I wouldn't be making up stories in my head now would I? On the subject of descriptions, I do not think I am strong. Cliches seem to creep into my pieces. I used to spend time at work describing things such as clouds to practice my description techniques. Unique descriptions are tough to create. It is easy to fall back on old standards.

Writers all have things which come naturally to them and others which take hard work and practice to hone. No two writers are the same. It is important to embrace your strengths and your weaknesses equally. They are what makes you distinct. Polish what comes naturally and practice what doesn't. Pretty prose isn't vomited on the page. It is often the result of much thought and elbow grease.
shay_writes: (Default)
( Dec. 6th, 2013 12:36 am)
I have to dedicate this post to my friend, Alex. He achieved the zen we all strive for when we are working on our stories. We all know this moment, when all the elements of the bigger picture start to make sense and fall into place. It is similar to having your back scratched in just the right spot and your insides turn to mush.

Writing a novel, or even a short story for that matter, is akin to completing a jigsaw puzzle. You take a cast of characters, set them on a stage, add glowing description and torture them with copious amounts of conflict, ending with a coherent resolution. Scratch the puzzle analogy. Writing a novel is like baking a cake. The right amount of various ingredients and you have a beautiful and satisfying end product. Too much of one thing and not enough of another results in a culinary disaster.

Knowing how much of each component is the tricky part. Too much description and not enough conflict and your story is boring. Same for not enough action and pages of dialog. If you find the right balance of all the elements, your tale will jump of the page. This concept is one I am still working on.

My first writing efforts were comprised of wordy paragraphs filled with exposition. How proud I was of those pieces. Right up until the moment a good writing friend critiqued them. She taught me the value of white spaces in a piece and varying the lengths of paragraphs to control the pacing. Years after I began my writing journey, I am still learning and trying to grow as a writer. My big blocks of text are a thing of the past, I wish I could say the same for my telling instead of showing.

Back to the original thought behind this rambling post, nothing is quite as satisfying for a writer as when the writing goes well and everything works. Writers, hang on to those moments and remember them for the times when things aren't going as well and you are about to throw in the towel. To bad it is impossible to bottle feelings, because the accomplished feeling of a job well done is one I wish I could savor over and over.
shay_writes: (Default)
( Dec. 4th, 2013 09:29 am)
Due to errands and babysitting, I wasn't able to work on my timeline as planned. By around eight o'clock my body was crying foul and my eyes refused to remain open. Just because I didn't open up the computer doesn't mean I wasn't working on my story. I was thinking about the supernatural elements and how The Order of the Valiant came into being.

People don't just wake up one day with special abilities. (Heroes excluded) These things have to come from somewhere or develop over time. There are no radioactive spiders in my tale, so I need to know where all these powers came from, how they are passed to others, and why the Order banded together in the first place. These things will be not mentioned in detail through blocks of exposition. But as the creator of my world, I need to know how things work in order to write a believable story.

After spending so much time yesterday thinking about my story, I dreamed about it last night. During the dreams, I think another book idea was formed. The result was I woke up excited and eager to capture the remnants of the dream in text so it doesn't disappear forever. I'm stepping back from the timeline today and devoting my writing time to creating a plausible back story for the series. Correction, a more detailed back story than the one I currently have.
shay_writes: (<3)
( Jun. 6th, 2012 06:03 am)
It's been two weeks and I'm still writing!

I'm on my way to developing a habit. This sounds weird to me in a way, since there was a time in my life when writing was as easy as breathing. It wasn't something I needed to remind myself to do. Illness and life experiences eroded my habits and writing hasn't been a major part of my life for almost three years now. I've thought about it often and have written things here and there, mostly in November (scoff gently please) But now it feels like it is time. Time to either shit or get off the pot. (though I can't imagine not creating stories)

To help cement my new writing goal of creating something daily, I am working on a new project. It is mainly for fun, and I don't see it leading anywhere. A query for it would make agents laugh and tell their friends. But it's my golden ticket. It is my entry way back to the world I love. It is helping me to move back to doing what I want to do with my life and not just existing. I vow to finish my silly little story with it's flat characters and far fetched plot. Then I will go on to edit a few of my more serious works, that have potential to be more than they currently are.

(talking about the silly story, there were a few sentences of dialog I was proud off, talking about the boundaries between black and white and the existence of gray areas)
While my brain is processing a potential new story idea, I'm re-hashing the novels of writing days passed. Novel number one is a complete mess, so it shall not ever see the light of day. (except maybe an excerpt in one of those funny writing memes so you can poke fun at it) Novel number two might be resurrected with the appropriate amount of mouth to mouth. It has a complete awesome outline with many plot points. The prose needs to be spit shined a bit, but with the right amount of attention, it might be query worthy. (OMG, I used the "Q" word)

I won't bore you with novels three through seven. They will see their day in the sun eventually. I'm going to play with each one to see if I can breath new life into them. I think it would be a shame for all those words to just lie dormant on a hard drive, never having the chance to spread their wings and soar.

My writing goal for this year is to spend at least a hour a day writing. (if possible two hours) So far, I've been slacking, blowing my word wad on Twitter. (how I love it so!) This weekend I am taking positive steps toward my goal. Novel two has been printed and I'm going to search my many notebooks for the original outline. After I get Nate calmed down and in bed, I shall read novel two and take notes. (Novel two is Edge of a Dream, formerly Open Vein)

How many old novels do you have in your closet? :P
The job change threw me off my game and I haven't written more than 300 words this past week. Between the stress of the new schedule and the physical nature of my new assignment, I've been a puddle of pain. Swollen hands make typing a bitch. Today I am leaping back on the proverbial horse and exercising my writing muscles.

When I last visited my characters, they were discussing a porn their dead friend starred in close to the end of her marriage. I've sure there is a poorly written flashback involved. My brain was unraveling close to the end of the retreat. The proof is in the pirates and zombies I added to a woman's fiction novel.


The fact this depressing novel filled with drug addiction, suicide, and rape was written while listening to Fall Out Boy amuses me. My novel is more depressing than it's soundtrack. :P

Yes, I'm still obsessed. I am convinced there isn't a situation that Fall Out Boy doesn't have a song for. (I'm starting to wonder if my obsession isn't about the music and is more about the boys playing the music. I am a freak.)

and lastly, my past has caught up with me via Facebook. An old friend found and added me. This of course created the avalanche of "if you know this person you might also know this one." My current life and my previous one are merging. I'm not sure how I feel about this. It is a bit strange.
My fingers are itching to get to work on my new writing project. The genre is woman's fiction. It is a bit of a departure from my usual urban fantasy. There are no demons unless you count the ones residing within the souls of my characters.

After having a honest conversation about PoC in fiction with a friend, I am considering writing a character who is not white. This worries me a bit. I don't want to head off into stereotypical land. But she assured me that's what beta readers are for, so I will write it and see what the betas say.

The story is set in Southern Louisiana/New Orleans. The characters meet in high school and manage to kill a classmate. The story is about their lives after the death. It is more complicated, but I'm afraid to write too much about it, lest I fall out of love before November begins.

I'm attending our first annual Yeti's writing retreat next weekend. I'm looking forward to spending a weekend writing in a cabin in the woods. We have a tentative schedule and a bit of free time planned as well. It should be fun and productive.
shay_writes: (Default)
( Oct. 7th, 2009 11:28 am)
I decided that I liked Liquid Story Binder enough to own it. So last night at writing group, I began making dossiers of my characters. I haven't had time to play with the mind mapping, but I can foresee a full test drive in the near future. There will be play lists created as well as a time line.

My geekiness is starting to show a bit. I'm getting excited about working on a new project. I'm hoping the momentum will carry forth past November and inspire me to edit old projects. My words are coming back and it feels good.

I'm also slowly unlocking certain entries on my personal journal. I guess I'm leaning toward semi-private. I would make the switch to total DW, but so many of the people I know at LJ wouldn't follow me. (maybe I should think about cross-posting)


I like having a space where I can geek about writing and not feel compelled to share every aspect of my life. :)
shay_writes: (ML badge)
( Oct. 6th, 2009 06:02 pm)
This is my sixth year to participate in NaNoWriMo and my third (or fourth) as a ML. I have five crappy little novels to show for it. My first was a disaster. I was switching POVs like a mad woman and had an antagonist who was way over the top. The MCs gallivanted around a detailed world I created without a plot in sight.

I feel like I've come a long way since that first effort. I now know how to stay with one POV and how to plot. My dialog doesn't sound contrived and stiff anymore. Some might think six years on a journey without an end is a serious waste of time. But I think it has been beneficial to me. My writing has improved with practice and age. I have forged friendships with other writers and received valuable feedback. I have learned publishing is hard and most published writers have to keep their day jobs.

The road has been bumpy and I've thought more than once I should pack it in. But if I did, then I wouuldn't be me. Regardless of whether or not my name ever graces a bookshelf, I am a writer. I will tell my stories till I die and participate in NaNoWriMo as long as I'm able.

Good luck to all those other crazy writers who have signed up for the November madness. You are in good company.
shay_writes: (Default)
( Sep. 26th, 2009 10:01 pm)
I still exist!

There was no writing happening all summer, so no entries.

Actually, I haven't had enough to time to keep up with this blog and my LJ. It is true that I haven't worked on anything all summer long. But the good news is, I have a new idea in the works and the words will be back shortly.

Barb, a member of my writing group, introduced us to novel bashing, which is plot brainstorming. I offered my idea to The Yetis and we bashed so there is a workable plot and some character development. This new idea is woman's fiction and doesn't contain any paranormal elements. It feels weird, yet at the same time "right." I do believe it is possible to write well in several genres and I don't think we pick the stories we tell.

The next two months are going to be busy, with NaNo prep and a writing retreat. I volunteered to Co-ML again. (probably my last year) I'm more excited about the retreat. Two days in a cabin in the woods doing nothing but writing. Bliss! (I'm sure there will be a bit of drinking and merry making since it is a Yeti sponsored event)

Thanks to everyone who stuck with me through the long silence. I promise to not wait so long in the future.
shay_writes: (cassette heart)
( Jun. 15th, 2009 09:07 pm)
My latest obsession is podcasts. (duh! As if anyone reading my journal didn't know that by now!) I've been trying to listen to a multitude of different ones and then report back which ones are good and which aren't worth the space used on the media player. This quest is failing because I can't get past my obsession with TBTL. (Too Beautiful To Live) If you haven't listened to it, go find it on iTunes and check it out. I will bet you will become as smitten as I have.

The Sushi Trial of '09 went well. I didn't gag and vomit all over the table. But I didn't try the raw stuff. I went for the tame tempura shrimp roll. It was a new taste. My take was that I didn't love sushi, but I didn't hate it either. I will eat sushi again and now I know a bit of what to expect. I've been told this means I like sushi. :)

I'm still reading A Spell of a Revolution by C.C. Finlay. It's a great book. I would be finished by now, but I've been slack in my reading. I'm going through a stress/anxiety thing right now and reading has been pushed to the side. So far, I've enjoyed it. I love the pacing, it draws you into the story. I can not recommend this series enough. If you love history and the paranormal, this series is a perfect marriage of them both.

There are new books in the Shay household. We visited Borders during the Hill play date. I couldn't leave without buying books. I've been looking for Caitlin Kittredge's book Night Life and when I saw it on the shelves I had to have it. I also bought Pure Blood and Street Magic. I wanted to buy Second Skin and her superhero book too, but then sanity crept in. I'll buy them later. ;)

I actually did pick up Second Skin, but then put it back so I could buy Mark Del Franco's latest addition to the Conner Grey series, Unfallen Dead. I love Del Franco's writing and I can't wait to crack it open. (he was also super nice to meet in person, as was Caitlin)

Speaking about books, I need to round up a ton of them and take them to the used book store. My shelves are running over. My TBR pile is growing, until I shrink the stack, I'm not allowed to purchase more. If I had the money to mail books I'd offer my cast off on Book Mooch. The tightening of the economy and my aversion to work have shrunk my coffers. (the aversion is a result of anxiety and pain)

Nasty Girls is still banging around in my head. I'm almost to the point of sitting down to write a brief outline, synopsis, and character sketches. My mind takes ideas and bangs them around a bit before settling down to start seriously working on them. I think it's a process I've developed to test whether or not I'll stick with a story. If I don't like the idea after several weeks of mulling, then I discard it and move on. If the idea still excites me after a few weeks, then the research begins. I might just spend the summer doing research and setting the ground work for my next project. (which might be an edgy chick lit piece without a demon)

P.S. There is some crazy noise that won't leave me alone. I can't figure out what the heck it is!
shay_writes: (heart words)
( May. 20th, 2009 04:11 pm)
I missed writing group last night due parental obligations. I missed the first editing "class." Sara is awesome and agreed to meet with me today for an impromptu make-up class so I won't too terribly far behind the others. She is basically outlining a technique for editing. I'm curious because I loathe editing and anything to help make it easier or more enjoyable is a plus.

I have two or three pieces I can practice one. I'm not sure which one I want to use.

Demons vs. Ghosts
shay_writes: (heart words)
( May. 17th, 2009 06:36 pm)
Tuesday is the beginning of Editing 101 at writing group. Unfortunately, I'm going to miss the first lesson. The kids have their end of the year choir concert Tuesday. I asked Sara if she could email me the lesson so I can do it on my own. I don't want to get behind.

It's exciting to be doing something at writing group instead of just socializing. It's great to hang with other writers, but I like to feel productive too. I read a bit of "The Demons Next Door" last week. They didn't hate it. :)

My main problem is sticking with a schedule. Life gets busy and I get tired, then I stop writing. It's a vicious cycle.

This week I'm reading Dakota Cassidy's latest book. I'm not sure I like her style.

My writing goal for this week is to complete Sara's editing lesson one. :)
shay_writes: (Default)
( May. 11th, 2009 09:04 am)
I found time to edit at work this weekend. YaY! I working on the demon story. I like it better than Everyday Angels. There is tons of good in it. I was wondering why I quit working on it.

Writing goal this week

Finish editing demon story

Write a outline for second draft of demon story

I'll report back with my progress!

I also plan on going to writing group this week. Sarah will be back! YaY!!!
shay_writes: (Default)
( May. 6th, 2009 05:52 pm)
I went to writing group last night for the first time in a long time. We had refreshments in celebration of Cinco de Mayo. We also did Box'o'Doom stories. Mine sucked but it was original. Nick wrote a story too. The kids love going to writing group. I don't think I'm going to take them next time. I want some time away for me.

I'm still editing Everyday Angels. I had an idea the other day to edit all my half novels and polish them up. (I was sleep deprived at the time) My novels are all of various genres. I have a few mainstream, one horror, and two fantasy novels. I tend to write whatever story seduces me at the moment. I'm not strictly a one genre writer. (or reader)

Most of today was spent reading Hungry Woman in Paris. I loved it.


shay_writes: (Default)


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