Thursday, March 31, 2011

DO YOU DELVE INTO DETAILED DESCRIPTIONS?

Current Project: Nine-book series
Status: Almost half-way done!

Even with a reminder, I nearly forgot this was my day to blog! The next challenge became something to write about, preferably remotely connected to our topic of descriptions and settings.

So I scanned through the e-mails of Rebecca Lynn's online class on Worldbuilding for inspiration. Wow! I thought I was a detailed plotter and planner of my stories, but she has me beat by miles. During the class, she shared several spreadsheets she uses in her own writing that go from broad brushstrokes of a world to detailed information about each major character. Ms. Lynn says a writer may only use half this information or less in actually writing a story, but knowing this information will give a ring of authenticity to what you do use.


One of the tools Ms. Lynn suggested was drawing a map of the space your character inhabits, from the town to where the heroine's house is located to her upstairs bedroom with a branch of a giant maple tree just outside the window and the screen with a curled edge where the squirrel gets inside to sit on her pillow and eat the nuts the heroine keeps in a plastic Sesame Street bowl on the nightstand. Again, moving from broad brushstrokes to minor details and, in the plotting of these details, you will come to know your character much more intimately.


I've known other authors who get to know their main characters by making a list what that character would carry in their purse or pocket.


I must confess I rarely get to this level of detail before I start writing a story. This usually comes after I've gotten to know a character. For instance, I recently hit a point in a story where the heroine opens the door to her childhood bedroom she left when she was sixteen. I wanted to show the confusion and struggle of that teenaged self symbolized by the details in that room. Though I'd lived with this character several months already, it took a while to come up with that description.


Do you plan the details of your major characters to an intimate degree before you start writing? For instance, do you know what brand of gum your hero chews? Or what candy bar your heroine would select if she walked into a convenience store? Or do these details come out as you write?


Monday, March 28, 2011

Weekly Progress Check-In



This is the Mid-Willamette Valley RWA's weekly check-in.  Every Monday we encourage members and visitors to let us know how their writing is going.

Today is Monday, March 28, 2011.

Are you on track to reach your goals?

There are 278 days left in 2011.

Weekly Calculations:
If you write 1 page per day, you can write 69500 more words by the end of the year.
If you write 2 pages per day, you can write 139000 more words by the end of the year.
If you write 3 pages per day, you can write 208500 more words by the end of the year.
If you write 4 pages per day, you can write 278000 more words by the end of the year.
If you write 5 pages per day, you can write 347500 more words by the end of the year.

So how are you doing?  If you have gotten off track, this is the week you can regain your momentum.  Tell us how you're doing, and set a fresh goal for the upcoming week.  A page a day is a book in a year.  You can do it!

PRIZES:  The best prize is reaching your personal goal and finishing your book.  But if you need an extra little incentive, remember:  any chapter member who reaches her personal goal by the end of the year receives a prize at the year-end party.  Non-members can win, too.  Non-members who show up for at least 20 weekly check-ins will have their names entered in a drawing for a gift card from Powells, the world's largest independent bookstore.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Guest Blogger Kristina McMorris on The Bumpy Ride Toward Publication



It's known across the globe as the "Happiest Place on Earth." Yet one begins to question this self-proclaimed title while standing in a two-hour line at Disneyland, in ninety-degree heat, surrounded by crying children and irritable strangers. I remember pondering this irony years ago, awaiting my very first turn on the popular Thunder Mountain ride. This thing better be worth the trouble, I thought to myself. 

Looking back, I suddenly realize the similarities shared by my journey to publication. Many a time, my query letters, then copies of my manuscript, stood in lengthy queues to reach the eyes of a promising agent or editor—only to learn it didn't reach the required height line. With a pat on the head, I was sent away, encouraged to come back when I had grown enough, or to try a more suitable ride. 

And so, I continued to improve my craft, despite the rejections that streamed in, and I would stand in line after line. Each time that I was told World War II women's fiction would be a tough sell—or worse, that it would never sell—I grew more determined to succeed. 

You see, I didn't write my first novel, LETTERS FROM HOME, to fit neatly into the marketplace. Truth be told, I was barely a reader when I discovered my grandparents' wartime courtship letters, which inspired the premise of my story. Instead, I transcribed the vision of a movie that played out in my head, and always I did my best to write from the heart. 

Eventually, I made it to the front of that daunting line again, though this time, to my delight, I was invited to board. An official contract was offered with my name on it. Since then, uncertainty and excitement have continued to swirl through the clickety-clack, two-year climb to reach my book's launch date. The past few weeks, following the release, have passed in a blur. Twists and turns and an almost constant adrenaline rush have often overpowered what I had foreseen to be a blissful feat. 

At last, however, life has begun to settle to a comfortable speed. And this week, I actually had the chance to sit back and savor the moment. The ride has hardly been free of bumps, but as I stood in the Costco aisle, staring at my pleasantly shocking stack of books—of a novel, mind you, that was never supposed to sell—I couldn't help but smile. 

Was it worth all the trouble? I asked myself. 

Absolutely. 

-----

Kristina McMorris's first novel, Letters From Home, was released in February.  You can learn more about her writing and her journey to publication at her website: http://kristinamcmorris.com

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Setting Inspiration





Current Project: The Perfect Beau
Status: Pre-Writing, Worldbuilding



I spotted this shallow cave at Young’s Falls in Oregon and just had to put it in my story!

Deb’s post earlier this week about travel and setting got me thinking about what inspired me to choose certain settings for my stories. I realized that each story had different setting inspirations. In the first, setting was almost another character.

That book is set in small-town Iowa. I had lived in Iowa for nearly twenty years when I began Love Unleashed. The setting was as familiar as my own back yard. I love Iowa, Iowans, and small towns. I modeled my fictional town after the real towns of Independence and Mount Vernon, but it ‘feels’ like Mount Vernon, a quintessential Iowa college/farm town of about four thousand souls. Some scenes take place in Iowa City, which really exists. In this story, the setting is almost a character in itself.


The sequel to that story, which I’ve planned in detail, has the same small town as the starting point for a road trip to Portland, Oregon, where a daughter searches for the truth about her father’s disappearance. I still lived in Iowa. Why Oregon? Because my mom lives in Bend, Oregon, and I figured I could deduct a trip out on my taxes. And Oregon was a land far, far away, which forced my characters to spend several days together cooped up in a truck with the hero’s mother and her dog.


My next story, an unrelated paranormal romance with a suspense plot, is set on a fictional dormant volcano in southeast Washington State. I began this story after my husband was unexpectedly transferred to Portland. (Life, thy name is Irony!) I prefer to use settings I have actually visited. Since I wanted to try my hand at a chase-through-the-wilderness plot, I needed a remote location, surrounded by wilderness, but a short helicopter flight from a major city for my drug lord’s compound. Mount Saint Helens inspired my fictional Mount Astor. The Lava Cast Forest on Mount Saint Helens’ flank inspired the lava casts in my story. The tiny, remote town of Puma on Mount Astor was modeled after the real town of Cougar on Mount Saint Helens.


Currently, I’m worldbuilding a Steampunk YA set in 1870s Portland. This story is way out of my comfort zone, setting-wise, because so much about the city now has changed from the Victorian Era. I’m taking MWVRWA’s online Worldbuilding class taught by Rebecca Lynne, and it’s a lifeline I really need!


How did you choose the setting for your current WIP?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Quote of the Day

Today's quote is from Lewis Carroll:

When you are describing,
A shape, or sound, or tint;
Don't state the matter plainly,
But put it in a hint;
And learn to look at all things,
With a sort of mental squint.

I need to take this advice much more often.  I find myself over-describing, throwing in every detail of the setting far-too often.

The books I love take me into a world and let me discover it.  They don't pound me over the head with page after page of detail.  It's the little hints, the offhand comments that convey the most in a story, I think.

Yet I find myself doing the info-dump over and over.  It's like I don't trust the reader enough to leave something to the imagination.

So Carroll's quote is the latest one to go up on the bulletin board over my desk.  Perhaps, with enough reminding, I finally will learn to not "state the matter plainly, but put it in a hint."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Setting Inspiration

It's rather serendipitous that our suggested blog topic for this month is Descriptions and Settings. I just got back from escaping the cold and wet by spending ten days cruising the Caribbean soaking up rays and, not incidentally, some fabulous potential settings.

One of the reasons we chose this particular cruise was because it stopped at several islands we hadn't visited yet, along with one old favorite. Visiting new places really kick starts my imagination and this trip was no exception. I found myself thinking about my current writing project constantly -- not in the "oh, no, I should be writing!" way, but in the much better, "hey, I could use this in my story!" kind of way. I even found myself dreaming about the characters in new settings and that's a sure sign that something's going right.

Each island left its own unique impression. In Bequia, I felt like I was visiting the Caribbean as it might have been about ten to fifteen years ago, before cruising became such a huge business and all the mega-ships were so prevalent (our ship had about 290 passengers and 500 people total). Bequia was a sleepy little place, but that might have been because we were there on Sunday and it seemed that nearly everyone was either in church or going to church and most of the businesses were closed.

Dominica was beautiful and a great source of inspiration. The vast majority of Dominica is unspoiled tropical rain forest--an UNESCO World Heritage Site. We took an aerial tram tour of the rain forest that was one of the most incredible things I've ever experienced. Take a look at the first picture on the blog--that's the tram we rode (in the front seat, no less; our guide sat in the rear). The tram is a converted ski lift from Vancouver, B.C. that was installed about seven years ago. Minimal cutting of the rain forest was done during the installation. The tram is very nearly silent and when our guide would pause in his narration, all we could hear were the birds, the light breeze through the trees, and the river far below. It was like floating through the forest. Oh, and the picture of the suspension bridge? We walked across that as part of the tour. The bridge is about a person and a half wide.


On St. Kitts we took a ferry to the island of Nevis and toured an incredible private botanical garden. The garden grounds were beautiful, but my favorite parts were the water features. Sounds so simple--water feature--like something you'd put in your backyard. Hah! I walked down the steps from the upper garden, turned around, and was face-to-face with a two-story high waterfall wall that looked like it belonged in an Indiana Jones movie. Talk about getting the imagination going!


On St. Barths we wandered around the town of Gustavia. This is the island where the rich and famous come to play and the upscale (really upscale) duty free shops reflect that. We had fun looking at all the giat yachts and sailboats and imagining what life might be like on board them.

We visited a few other islands, but these were the ones that provided the most fodder for my imagination. I may never use the towns or places specifically as setting, but the bits and pieces, like the feeling of floating through the forest, or suddenly coming upon an ancient sculptured wall above a waterfall pool, or the giant wooden water pipe, or how it felt to walk across a narrow suspension bridge several hundred feet above the ground--those are the things that will make it into my writing at some point.

How about you? Do you prefer to research your settings in person? Or would you rather stay closer to home and get setting details through the internet and books? It isn't always practical or necessary to visit places in person before writing about them. Traveling, though, can stir your imagination in ways you never expected. Sometimes it's as simple a matter as seeing the sky on fire as the sun sets on the ocean.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Weekly Progress Check-In



This is the Mid-Willamette Valley RWA's weekly check-in.  Every Monday we encourage members and visitors to let us know how their writing is going.

Today is Monday, March 21, 2011.

Are you on track to reach your goals?

There are 285 days left in 2011.

Weekly Calculations:
If you write 1 page per day, you can write 71250 more words by the end of the year.
If you write 2 pages per day, you can write 142500 more words by the end of the year.
If you write 3 pages per day, you can write 213750 more words by the end of the year.
If you write 4 pages per day, you can write 285000 more words by the end of the year.
If you write 5 pages per day, you can write 356250 more words by the end of the year.

So how are you doing?  If you have gotten off track, this is the week you can regain your momentum.  Tell us how you're doing, and set a fresh goal for the upcoming week.  A page a day is a book in a year.  You can do it!

PRIZES:  The best prize is reaching your personal goal and finishing your book.  But if you need an extra little incentive, remember:  any chapter member who reaches her personal goal by the end of the year receives a prize at the year-end party.  Non-members can win, too.  Non-members who show up for at least 20 weekly check-ins will have their names entered in a drawing for a gift card from Powells, the world's largest independent bookstore.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Epiphany


Current Project: April Fools Novella
Status:First sentence written
Spring break…
Ten weeks one and one half days until…
The big R!!!!!

I've been looking on the blog trying to get an idea but my mind still seemed a bit brain dead until this morning. Of course if I were a normal person, I would be sleeping in but I'm not. Instead I'm lying in bed writing my April Fools novella and thinking about my blog.

It's an epiphany! Well maybe not but I did get an idea for both in progress pieces.

Walking down the street eyes glued to her touch phone… How many times, as an editor, a reader, and an author have I read this? What a horrific thought—eyes glued to something? Whoa…hold on for dear life. What about—her eyes flew across the room? Were they ripped from their sockets? Did they sprout wings? Did they shoot there as if they were blown from a cannon? Or did they dance lazily, dipping and soaring on the air currents?

Hmmm. Is this food for thought? Maybe not. What crazy things have you read? Can you add to my short list? Since I now have an "almost" opening sentence, I need to get back to work before my mind retires again. Happy writing and to all of you out there who have a spring break…Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

HOLIDAYS AS SETTINGS

Current Project: A ST. PATRICK'S DAY TALE
Status: Booksigning on March 17!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!


As you are reading this, I'm probably double-checking to be sure all is ready for a booksigning tonight to celebrate the release of A ST. PATRICK'S DAY TALE, written by Christine Young, C.L. Kraemer and me.


Our setting: a pub that is bringing a St. Patrick's Day celebration to Salem, Oregon.


Let me describe that setting using all the senses:

The sights: the wearing of the green.

The scents: corned beef and cabbage.

The sounds: a band following our booksigning.

The taste: green beer.

The feel: hopefully not hung over the following morning!


Using holidays as settings is nothing new for writers. Valentine's Day is perhaps the most stereotyped holiday for romance writers, as is Halloween for horror or paranormal genres. Christmas is also a much-used setting for writers and, of course, this year I am one of the authors using St. Patrick's Day as a setting.


In researching settings for this tale, I found some interesting trivia. Though the first St. Patrick's Day parade in the United States was in 1762; Ireland's celebration of St. Patrick was a religious observance until the mid 1990s, when festivities were organized as a draw for tourists.


The U.S. also seems to have originated the tradition of green beer, and a number of cities dye rivers or fountains green as part of their festivities. On the West Coast, San Francisco has had a St. Patrick's Day parade since 1852, and Seattle was recognized by CNN in 2009 as one of the "five places to get your green on" in America.


Whatever the reason to recognize St. Patrick's Day, it provided a rich setting for the three parts in our ST. PATRICK'S DAY TALE. The first part visits Ireland in the early 1800s, when feuds were common between Protestants and Catholics, and one of the major conflicts keeping two young lovers apart. The second part of this tale drops us into a war between good and pagan fae people, who were a large part of the folk lore of Ireland. A time machine links all three parts of the story together, spinning from historic Ireland to the Irish living in more modern days.


Holidays as settings also comes into play in the series I'm writing. It's a saga of a large family, so in addition to explosions and weddings and bringing villains to justice, how holidays are celebrated gives me many opportunities for conflict and character growth.


Obviously, I've discovered using holidays as settings is one more tool for writers. I know many of you have also used holidays in your stories.


But rather than share what holidays you've already written about, is there a holiday you haven't yet included in a story, but are really itching to try? Or, to open up even more possibilities, have you made up a holiday to include in a story?


P.S. If you want a listening or viewing treat, Google "Irish Tenors" or "Irish Dance" and take your pick of YouTube videos to enjoy. I have become a fan of Irish music!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Spring is in the Air

Current Project:Spirit of the Sky
Status: midway


The lengthening days and bright green tips of plants poking out of the warming earth are my favorite things about spring.

The early morning sun peeking out and spreading a fresh glow through my bedroom window before the alarm goes off makes waking easier. Six o'clock comes early enough, but when it's in the dark during the winter I have to drag myself out of bed. Yet, come summer time when it's light at five a.m., I can get up before six and head out to change the irrigation water with a light heart and spring in my step. The sun hanging lazy in the sky past dinner, allows more time to putter around the yard, sprucing things up for the new spring arrivals.

The first signs of spring; the Mountain Bluebird fluttering around the fields and the flowers peeking through the mulch lighten my mood. The bright green of Daffodil stems pushing out from their winter hiding flashes hope that winter was a fleeting thing and the land will soon be alive with color. The new buds on the barberry bushes and the maroon shoots of the peony all add to the colorful palate nature reveals after coating the land in shades of gray and white all winter.

Are you getting itchy for spring reading this? Then my job is done. Happy setting!

Paty Jager
www.patyjager.net

Monday, March 14, 2011

Weekly Progress Check-In




This is the Mid-Willamette Valley RWA's weekly check-in.  Every Monday we encourage members and visitors to let us know how their writing is going.


Today is Monday, March 14, 2011.

Are you on track to reach your goals?

There are 292 days left in 2011.

Weekly Calculations:
If you write 1 page per day, you can write 73000 more words by the end of the year.
If you write 2 pages per day, you can write 146000 more words by the end of the year.
If you write 3 pages per day, you can write 219000 more words by the end of the year.
If you write 4 pages per day, you can write 292000 more words by the end of the year.
If you write 5 pages per day, you can write 365000 more words by the end of the year.

So how are you doing?  If you have gotten off track, this is the week you can regain your momentum.  Tell us how you're doing, and set a fresh goal for the upcoming week.  A page a day is a book in a year.  You can do it!

PRIZES:  The best prize is reaching your personal goal and finishing your book.  But if you need an extra little incentive, remember:  any chapter member who reaches her personal goal by the end of the year receives a prize at the year-end party.  Non-members can win, too.  Non-members who show up for at least 20 weekly check-ins will have their names entered in a drawing for a gift card from Powells, the world's largest independent bookstore.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Confessions of a Setting Wimp


Current Project: Blindsight, Romantic Suspense
Status: Inching along near end of first draft
(I tried to write an educational limerick about setting and/or description in honor of St. Paddy’s Day, but the rhyme turned to drivel—something about mimes and shrines and York. Drivelly-er than ordinary limericks. Extremely drivelous. So I will leave it off this blog post.)

I have a confession to make. I don’t like to write about places I’ve never been. The challenge of writing authentic description under those circumstances nearly paralyzes me. Why should I risk antagonizing readers? Or the postman who must deliver tons of helpful and/or angry letters from readers compelled to correct my mistakes?

Instead, I cheat. I find a real setting that I know well enough to feel comfortable with, then rename it and alter it slightly or combine it with another similar setting. As Queen of my story world, I can plant a fictional place on the map and avoid many of those kind and/or indignant letters.

Or I go visit the place.

I also like to write alternate history stories. If anyone calls me on a Jersey cow when everyone knows all the cows in that area at that time were Holsteins, I smile and make something up. “Swine flu spread to cows in the 1850’s, and only Jerseys were immune. By 1861, all the Holsteins had been replaced with Jerseys.”
Both historically-accurate stories and alternate histories require extensive research and world building. With alternate history, a writer has some wiggle room.

With historicals, not so much. If I ever write an accurate historical, maybe I’ll choose a culture or time period that is mostly a mystery to archeologists and historians.

What tricks related to setting are hidden in your writing process?

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Quote of the Day


Today's quote is from John Cheever:

For me, a page of good prose is where one hears the rain and the noise of battle.

But how to do this?  I run to the same, tired phrases over and over.  I use one cliche after another, and then kick myself because I'm not expressing the scene I imagine in my head.  It seems all the original descriptions have been used, and I'm left with drivel.

I must find a way to make the rain (which we've all felt running down our faces) feel as new and fresh and alive as it does when I picture the scene in my mind.

Maybe the secret is to stop writing the story--instead, let the characters tell it.  It's not me editorializing about what the weather is like.  It's my character expressing what's happening in the setting.

There's a big difference between Gene Kelly joyfully Singin' in the Rain, and the Battle of Helm's Deep in The Two Towers.  Rain can be a symbol of happiness or despair, depending on what the characters are going through at the time.

I think that's it.  Keep my nose out of the story and let the characters tell their own story.  Next time I find myself running to the thesaurus looking for another way to say "rain," I'll try to stop, and instead think of how my character feels about it.  Let her tell me how she feels about the raindrops falling down her cheeks, and go on from there.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Weekly Progress Check-In




This is the Mid-Willamette Valley RWA's weekly check-in.  Every Monday we encourage members and visitors to let us know how their writing is going.


Today is Monday, March 7, 2011.

Are you on track to reach your goals?

There are 299 days left in 2011.

Weekly Calculations:
If you write 1 page per day, you can write 74750 more words by the end of the year.
If you write 2 pages per day, you can write 149500 more words by the end of the year.
If you write 3 pages per day, you can write 224250 more words by the end of the year.
If you write 4 pages per day, you can write 299000 more words by the end of the year.
If you write 5 pages per day, you can write 373750 more words by the end of the year.

So how are you doing?  If you have gotten off track, this is the week you can regain your momentum.  Tell us how you're doing, and set a fresh goal for the upcoming week.  A page a day is a book in a year.  You can do it!

PRIZES:  The best prize is reaching your personal goal and finishing your book.  But if you need an extra little incentive, remember:  any chapter member who reaches her personal goal by the end of the year receives a prize at the year-end party.  Non-members can win, too.  Non-members who show up for at least 20 weekly check-ins will have their names entered in a drawing for a gift card from Powells, the world's largest independent bookstore.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Current Project: Release of A St. Patrick's Day Tale
Status: Book signing on March 17, hope to see everyone there.

I’m late, I’m late, I’m late for a very important date—again. My apologies ladies, Friday is very hard for me. No excuses, I just forgot (even with the nice reminder).

I’m not sure I have any words of wisdom on this topic. I’m trying very hard not to feel brain dead. I looked at all of the wonderful postings and it didn’t help stir the vacant recesses of my mind. I’m looking forward to taking all of the delightful on line classes offered by the MWVRWA, but just don’t have the time right now.

Looking at word building, yes it is wonderful and the descriptions are so enhanced when an author’s creativity shines through. But as with anything else, this magnificent technique can be overdone. There is always a fine line between pleasing and dragging on and on and on forever. I understand that some readers enjoy long descriptions. But we must all remember that the descriptions as with everything else must move the story forward. A description, no matter how brilliant, may be a bunch of marvelous words on a piece of paper and might not serve a function.
I like to see descriptions from the POV of the character. What does your character see when he/she enters a room for the first time? What pops into the head when the heroine is seen by the hero for the first time—and vice versa? These are incredibly important and deserve time in the book. How they are perceived by the other will most likely change as their relationship progresses.

What descriptions are important to you? And what is not?

Thursday, March 03, 2011

WHERE DOES WORLD BUILDING STOP?

Current Project: promoting A ST. PATRICK'S DAY TALE, released March 1
Status: Preparing for a booksigning on March 17

Our suggested blog topic for this month is descriptions and settings. Fits right in with MWV's online world-building class taught by Rebecca Lynn. (Good choice by our Prez, don't you think?)


The class is off to a good start, with a lot of discussion by participants and the instructor, and I'm looking forward to learning a lot. So my blog posts today and on March 17 will probably reflect a "before class" and "almost through class" comparison.


The instructor said she is going to take us through the process of building worlds a couple ways: lots of planning before writing the story and uncovering the world as the story unfolds. (She recommends planning your world before writing the story.)


I think it would have been very beneficial for me to have taken this class before I wrote my part of A ST. PATRICK'S DAY TALE (released March 1). Though most of the characters came from a previous novella, adding a time machine took me to worlds outside my normal expertise: history and science. So some of this world building unfolded as the story did--and as my critique partners pointed out places that needed editing. (Thanks, ladies!)


Fortunately, the series I'm currently writing keeps me pretty firmly in contemporary settings where I'm comfortable. I also made up a small town and had a lot of fun doing that. Most of this "world" was developed before I did much writing, although I am tweaking things as the stories develop.


What about world building beyond our books? Well, the three of us who wrote A ST. PATRICK'S DAY TALE are planning a booksigning with a very Irish feel. It will be on St. Patrick's Day (March 17) at a local pub, Your Place (3165 River Road N, Salem) that will be serving traditional Irish foods such as corned beef and cabbage. Don't know if they will have green beer, but we'll be wearing our wings to encourage the fae people--and their human friends--to join us from 5-7 p.m.


I also plan to incorporate the suggestions I learn from the world building class into updates I'm planning to my Web site to make these stories an interactive experience with audio, video and perhaps a game based on the books.


So where does world building end? Perhaps it doesn't! To paraphrase an earlier post, perhaps the worlds we create for our stories become more "real" than what passes for real life. After all, we do spend a lot of time with our stories and characters...


To close, I'm going to ask a couple questions our instructor asked us: How do you build the world in your story? Lots of planning before writing or do you let the world unfold as the story progresses and the character grows? And one more from me: Do you build a world beyond your story (such as on your Web site?) or have plans to do that?





Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Pages of Prose or Action

Current Project:Spirit of the Sky
Status: Slowly perking along

Staring out my window trying to figure out what to write about for this post, I noticed the wheel line bouncing. Now I could say: The irrigation wheel line was bouncing in the cold winter air.
You kind of get the picture. But what if I said:

The frigid barely above zero air not only stung my cheeks and froze my lungs when I inhaled, it caused the aluminum pipe suspended between five foot aluminum wheels to vibrate. The bouncing aluminum blurred like heat vapors on hot blacktop, another one of nature's jokes.

The second one gives a better description of the wheel line and it helps you "feel" the cold.

When writing a story the first draft through it will be more like the first line then with each pass over I fine tune the descriptions and try to make them come to life in the eyes of the character whose POV I'm in.

Once in a while the first time through it is so vivid in my mind I can put down exactly what I'm seeing and it only needs minor tinkering.

But at the same time I don't go on and on for a whole paragraph about a description. I don't like reading long flowing descriptions and will skip them. But if there is a short well written description that brings me deeper into the story- I love it.

What about you? Do you like the long descriptions or do you prefer ones concise and to the point so you can move on to the action?

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

How is your pacing?

Current Project: Ghost Girl

Most recent read: Eragon, by Christopher Paolini

Current read: Eldest, by Christopher Paolini

Planned next read: Brisingr, by Christopher Paolini

One of the questions I frequently ask myself as I write is, "How is the pacing?" By this I mean, am I giving the reader enough information? Too much information? Feeding out new information too quickly? Not fast enough? Is the information too oblique? Does the reader have to work at figuring out what is going to happen, or am I handfeeding them the plot?

I am a student of my environment. Whatever I see, whatever I am currently reading, I am studying. I recently finished reading, for the first time, Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol. As I tore through this book, I found I was studying his pacing and feeding of information to the reader. And one thing I noticed was that each individual scene fed teasers to the reader. Each scene left me with more questions than answers, which drove me to *ahem*push my bedtime out, because who could possible sleep with all those unresolved questions?! It wasn't until you got most of the way to the end of the book that questions finally began to be answered. Until then, key relationships between the characters were hazy at best, and completely obscured at the worst (which I loved! Kept me guessing...).

Some books, you can see the entire book within the first few pages or chapter - where it will end, how relationships will evolve, who will easily get their Happily Ever After and who will have to wait for a later book in the series. When you first sit down to write a new book or story, how do you picture feeding the information to your reader? Are you going to make it easy for them, so they don't have to think too hard? Or do you plan on keeping them guessing right up until the very end?