Friday, April 29, 2011

A to Z: (Y)ou

Today's post is all about you, the reader! You guys have been so awesome this month and its really hard to believe that tomorrow the blogging challenge comes to an end. I've had a lot of fun doing these post and reading what you guys have wrote. Every day I have given advice and in return have recieved a lot through reading all your blogs, too. It has been awesome.

I'm a little hesitant to give up the constant posting. Granted, I could use a couple days next month to gather my wits and catch up on some much needed sleep, but I have one favor before I do.

Today, I ask you for advice. Being a writer is all about having a support system. We get no where on our own. Without the people we surround ourselves with, we could never get as far as getting published. So, here's what I'm asking today. In the next month, is there anything you would like to see me do? What kinds of things would you like me to blog about? What would you like to see me share? Is there anything you want to know about me?

That's it for today. Again, thanks to everyone who has blogged this month for the challenge, you guys have been awesome and its been really great getting to see your posts and pictures!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A to Z: (X) Marks The Spot

Sounds like a treasure hunt, right? Actually, going with the whole clue based nature of a treasure map, I'm going to talk about mysteries today. More specifically, how to go about creating a mystery that works. The process is really pretty simple.

First of all, you need to think of the mystery that is going to be solved. The best way to create a mystery story is to work your way from solved to the very first clue, moving backwards the whole way. Not necessary writing the whole story from the end to the beginning (wow, that would be interesting and complicated at the same time!), but figuring out what you want to be solved  and the clues that are involved and working backward until your characters are getting ready to start everything.

Vague is the name of the game with mystery. You want your readers to discover everything with your characters so showing is essential. If you tell at any point, you'll ruin the whole experience. It also requires the ability to give very vivid descriptions.

One more element that is almost central to mystery stories is the element of danger. Of course, that danger isn't always a known danger, so you can expect to have (sorry for the acme reference here) anvils dropping from the ceiling often.

I applaud anyone who writes mystery novels for something I have been unable to accomplish. I aspire to be more like those amazing people every day.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A to Z: (W)riting Exercises

What percentage of your writing would you say is for your novels, short stories, poems, etc? What percentage would you say is practice?

When I first started writing seriously (as in to be published someday), all of my writing was for novels. I joined a writing community online and that 100% changed to 85%. I started joining contests to improve my ability. I really enjoyed writing short stories for a horror contest, or the always fun 55 word stories. I have given up the writing community for a few months now (it was taking up a lot of my time) but I haven't given up the writing exercise that it provided me.

It is essential that a person can come up with a story in a matter of moments. That ability to think quickly allows us to write our characters out of corners and continually gives us improvement in our writing.

What kinds of exercises do I do these days? I journal a lot. The more often you write, the easier it becomes and the faster you get. You might start off journaling for ten minutes a day and only filling a page, but in a couple months you'll see your entries double or triple in length. Reading back on some of those entries also gives me ideas for stories. In fact, there is a sci-fi thriller in the works this very moment.

Some other exercises I do are on emotion, dialogue, and descriptions. I like to pick out a specific emotion and write a short story that portrays that emotion using various facial expressions and body language. Dialogue exercises I do usually include trying to use different dialects. Also, what synonyms people use in their speech can say a lot about them. And then descriptions. How often do you use smell, taste, and feel in your stories. We all use sight and sound regularly, but the other three have a tendency to get brushed aside. By pushing to use them more often, they add to the story and pull the reader in more.

If you exercise your muscles, they become stronger over time. If you exercise your mind, it will do the same. So, what kind of writing exercises do you do?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A to Z: (V)oice

Every person is capable of hallucination. We push our minds to see things that aren't there and we call it visualization. Some people close their eyes to do this, other keep them open. I have to leave my eyes open, I need color to see things. Our senses allow us to precieve the world around us and the two strongest are sight and smell (smell can actually trigger some very powerful memories). One that is a little harder for some people to fake are sounds. When I say this, I don't mean impersonations, I mean hearing a voice that isn't there--a hallucination of the auditory sense.

All people hear voices in the wind, things like that, but not all people can hear a disconnected voice of their own making. A persons voice is as unique as their fingerprint and when it comes to writing and finding voices for our characters, this can be especially difficult. Some writers are naturally gifted with what they affectionately call writers schizophrenia. The voice comes to them and the character follows. Some writers don't get that at all.

How can you find that voice then? Try to visualize the character first. Do your character development and try to write it out in a way that the character is filling it out about themselves rather than you filling it out about them. Sure, occasionally, your character will lie about themselves because we all know we don't know ourselves as well as we'd like to believe, but after they have filled it out, make notes about what is accurate for them. After you've visualized them, try turning them into an imaginary friend. Sounds silly. Many people had imaginary friends when they were little, and giving into that may be a bit difficult, but if you can accomplish it, it makes it so much easier to hear that voice.

One other voice is difficult to find when it comes to writing, as well. The voice of the narrator is a big problem for a lot of people. When you're writing a children's story, you want a voice that is going to speak to children. You don't want to talk to them the way an adult would, so what do you do in that situation? I like to treat the narrator as though they were any other character. Do a character development list for them, even giving them a body to go along with that voice. If I can make them as "real" as my other characters, I can hear their voice and they can tell me the story that they want me to write down.

These techniques may not work for everyone. I can only say what works for me. How do you work on your character's and narrator's voice?

Monday, April 25, 2011

A to Z: (U)se Your Time Wisely

One of the biggest problems today with being a writer is all the distractions you find on your computer. The games are one thing, but what about the rest? Interenet alone comes with tons of them. Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Skype, etc. How can you avoid them?

It can be so hard to get away from all the games, status updates, and social interaction you get from your hot seat, but the more time you spend with those things, the less writing you can get done.

This all goes back to the post I made on writer's block at the beginning of the month. Make time for the writing, try to keep that time consistent on a week-to-week basis, and treat it like a job.

When its time to write, turn of your internet until its break time. Only give yourself a short amount of time to go through email, reply to tweets, and stalk all your facebook friends. Set alarms for yourself to know when its time to start and stop writing.

If you're a gamer (like me) try to wait until writing time is over to start playing. If you have more than once computer, try to keep the writing seperate from the internet and games. After all, you can't give in to the tempation if it isn't there.

Lastly, try to find some way to motivate yourself. A chant, ritual, or note for yourself to keep going. I have post its that tell me I can do it that I look at whenever I'm writing. I also do a word count after I finish writing every night. When I see how many words I've done, it always makes me want to come back to it the next night.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A to Z: (T)alking out Tears

I have mentioned before how I tend to talk to myself when I'm working on dialogue. It is no surprise that the crazy side of me comes out on occasion. Of course, being a writer, I kind of invite the voices into my mind, which is slightly crazier than the people who fight to keep them away. Oh well, sometimes you'll have that.

Anyway... This "technique" works really well when I'm working on those moments that touch something deep in your heart. You know what I'm talking about. The stuff that makes you teary-eyed.

I have tons of books that will bring tears to my eyes at certain scenes. I could probably spend the next five minutes searching through my Comfort Reading List to a few of those that are my favorites (The Harry Potter series did a real number on my tear ducts), but not really prudent at the moment.

These scenes require a lot of work. If the characters aren't believeable and likeable, you'll never get a successful scene. And without the rigght words and feel to the scene, it will be just as ineffective.

So after making sure my characters are up to snuff (the character development questionaire), I start talking my way through the situation. I make notes in shorthand about what I'm saying, and who (in my mind) is saying what. I get myself worked up until I manage to cry (like a little girl, of course). After that, its a simple matter of going through those notes and adding what worked into the story.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A to Z: (S)elf Editing

Today's post is going to be a summary of a topic I have already discussed before. The first time, it showed up in a week long series of posts. You can read them here, here, here, here, and here.

Of all the tings in a writer's skill set, self-editing has to be one of the most difficult and demanding. It requires a lot of time and dedication. If you don't follow through, your story can end up looking worse. Some writers, will skip this part all toghter, opting for a professional editor instead.

After you've finished writing and you pull out that red pen (mine is pink, actually) what do you need to look for? I like to do the whole process in steps to make it more manageable. Here is a look at those steps and what they involve.

Step 1: Put the story down after you've finished writing, and don't pick it up again for at least a couple weeks. If you go straight from writing to editing a story, its too fresh in your mind, and you can't look at it objectively enough to see the mistakes.

Step2: Read your story. Highlight spelling and grammar errors, refrencing errors, telling and POV problems. This the easy part, unless you aren't good with spelling and grammar. You can't necessarily take your word processor's word for it, either. Computers can be confused, too. This is a good place to pull out your notes, drawings, etc. on characters and settings to make sure you haven't moved anything around, or changed anyone's hair color.

Step 3: Read through and look for info dumping. These paragraphs are pretty easy to spot. The only thing you'll find in them is a big plain description. What someone or something looks like all together is a good sign of info dumping.

Step 4: Check your settings. Make sure the one's used more than once are uniform, but described differently, especially if the POV changes.

Step 5: Go through and fix all those mistakes! After that, put the book away for another couple weeks or so. Again with the freshness and objectivity.

Step 6: Read through like you would read any other book. At this point, the only thing you should mark is where the story loses your attention. There is something missing at that point in the story, or the writing is flat. Just mark it and keep going, something in the next few steps may be to blame.

Step 7: Fine tune. Look for repeating words and phrases, flat writing (wordy and dull), empty adverbs (usually end in -ly), "less" "ness" and "ize" suffixes, passive verbs (was, were, be, been, etc.), lists, more telling, and awkward phrasing.

Step 8: Check for possible end changing rewrites.

Step 9: Rewrite! Break everything into manageable chunks of data and center all the revisions around the major conflict. Ask yourself is this something that should happen before or after the climax?

After all that, have someone read through it and see if they find any problems.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A to Z: (R)eact & (R)espond

When you're writing and you're in the zone, you just write. Everything is flowing perfectly. And then it happens... you hit a wall. Where do you go from there? How do you move on to the next scene?

For some, its as easy as taking a break and starting again after eating, or drinking, or taking a walk. Some have more difficulty trying to decide what should happen.

For me, everytime I start a scene I ask myself two simple questions. How are the characters going to react to this? and How will my characters resond?

Everything in a story comes down to actions and reactions. When one character screams "OUCH!" another character asks them why they did that. When one character pushes another, that other character reacts accordingly. Unfortunately, this sometimes means jumping into several different heads in succession. Trust me, it can give you a headache.

You can practice writing this way as well. Make a list of situations--some ordinary, some anything but. After that, get your list of characters and answer each situation with how that character would react or respond to it. It tells you a lot about your characters, not to mention it can help you out later in your story when those situations arise (if they do).

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A to Z: (Q)uerying

Querying begins with a finished story. If you are not done (self or professional editing included) you shouldn't query because it will only be met with rejection.

In my opinion, querying is the easiest part of the submission checklist. After all, the other things in that checklist are having the story finished and writing and polishing the synopsis. After all, the synopsis is basically the cliff notes version of your story, there to make an agent or editor salivate when they read it.

Querying is really very simple once you find a method and format that works for you. There are tons of sites around the interweb that give you tons of helpful advice on how to do this, also.

There are a few things you need to include in your query letter. I'll list them and show you how I write mine. It always helps to see an example.

Your letter needs to have:
Your name (or pen name), address, phone number, and email
The date
Agent's address block and name
the title of you book
the word count
a brief discription of the plot (like what you'd find on the back cover or jacket)
And any experience you have as a writer (and I mean anything.)

So, those are what you need to include, now for my example. It's pretty straightforward and can be tailored to any story and writer. You should also know this was my rough draft. Even the query letter needs to be perfect. (Information I'm not sharing will be changed into asterisks)

Haley ********
3444 ********* St.
********, IA 50***
(123) 456-7890

April 20, 2011 (or 20 April 2011 if you prefer that format)

[Agent's name]
[Agent's address]

Dear Mr./Ms. [Agent's last name]

A Place Called Earth is a completed 65,000 word, plot driven, science fiction novel sit in the United States in present day. It follows the lives of eight individuals. (title, word count, genre)

What does a teacher from New York, a pizza cook from Minneapolis, a musician from Seattle, an accountant from Houston, a sports broadcaster from Orlando, a model from Philadelphia, a student from Portland, and a game designer from Los Angeles have in common? Their lives are about to change drastically, though they have no idea that thier good fortune comes at a cost.

Who could resist the chance of being one of the lucky winners of the new world lottery? Even with all the speculation going around about the world ending, the lottery is on the forefront of everyone's minds. Are the rumors about the impending apocalypse just that, or does the human race have a problem that has no solution? (brief description of the story)

I have been creating stories and journaling for over a decade. In high school, I spent two years in the school's newspaper, contributing to a few articles, but mostly editing others' content for spelling and grammar errors. For a year, I joined an online writing community, There, I learned many new techniques and skills to become better at my craft. Since then, I have finished three manuscripts and started the first in a four or five book series. (writing experience... like I said, ANYTHING)

If you are interested, I will happily send you the first three chapters, or the complete manuscript. I have enclosed a synopsis and a SASE for your reply, or by email, if you prefer. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.


Haley ********

Attached: sysnopsis, SASE

So, there's the example. You don't need to put your email address or blog URL under your name and signature, but it couldn't hurt for them to see it again, not to mention, blogging is a great exercise in writing. You just won't want to show it if there is any questionable content there. When you think about whether or not to add it, ask yourself: Is there anything a potential agent or editor would find offensive or rude? That should tell you whether or not to include it.

Good luck with the querying!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A to Z: (P)eople Watching

In my opinion, people watching is an essential skill for any and every writer to have. By taking some time to watch how other people behave, you gain valuable insight into other people. How they act, their habits, quirks, and a lot of other things.

Try to watch specific things. When you sit at a restaurant and look around, watch expressions. When you're out at the park, watch body language. If you mix them together in long stretches, you end up forgetting a lot of the details that you want to look for.

The distance between two people can say a lot about how they feel. If two people are standing within a foot of eachother, they are very familiar with each other. Perhaps lifelong friends or romantic partners. A couple feet usually indicates that the people involved know each other, but won't feel comfortable being too close. When that personal bubble is crossed by one party, you can usually see the discomfort on the other's face.
And distance futher than a couple feet is reserved for aquaintences.

The direction people face when talking to each other also gives indication of their feelings, though slightly more subtle than the space between them. Side by side and face to face mean completely different things. When one person is leaning outward from the other, it usually means they aren't interested in the conversation.

Expressions can give you a lot of insight as to how a person is feeling. How does a person's eyes, mouth, ears, cheeks move when they are feeling certain emotions. Eyebrows usually come together when they don't understand something. They move down in the middle when someone is mad and down at the outsides when someone is sad. When a person is happy (really happy) they get creases at the edges of their eyes, their eyebrows raise slightly, their ears move back, and their cheeks lift. Paying attention to these details and using them in your writing allows you to convey emotions without having to tell the reader what the character is feeling.

When you watch people and you see how they are feeling and acting, try to come up with little stories about why they are acting the way they are. Just try not to be too obvious. It makes things more interesting and it can give you ideas when you are writing.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A to Z: (O)ccupation

Don't quit your day job. As a writer/author, the money you are making from your books now is probably not enough to support you completely. And, if it is, congrats. Any advice you can give the rest of us is completely welcomed. The point I'm trying to make today is: We all need a steady paycheck, and writing may not give us that. Let's face it, many of us have families, and we all have bills that need paid.

Even as a successful author, royalties may not be enough. Anyone familiar with Dorchester Publishing will know what I mean. Author Brian Keene is all too familiar with this problem, and you can read more about it here if you are interested in learning more about the Dorchester Boycott.

Realistically, your characters should have jobs, too. Though characters are not the main point of my post today, I would like to point out that anything I aim toward writers and people can be aimed at writing and characters, as well. No matter you books setting and time frame, there is always a way to incorperate work. You can find interesting ways to put it in there, too. For instance, you may have a story that takes place on a train, and a man may end up playing an intrigal role in the story because he's a dentist. Why? Well, I don't know, but it would be really neat if it had nothing to do with dentistry.

In the real world, we all take inspiration where we find it. Write what you know is drilled into our heads. Being someone that has had several different jobs, it helps me to think about the differences in all those jobs. What have I had to do in each job? How have I interacted with my co-workers, and customers (if there are any)? How have I felt about my job and does that change on a day-to-day or shift-to-shift basis?

Every little thing can help your writing, but the best thing is to make sure that you are helping yourself. Be it that you take classes to better your writing skills or work a 9 to 5 to afford the utility bills.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A to Z: (N)ight Owls

Some of us just prefer living our lives in the dark. Speaking as a certifiable night owl, I've seen more sunrises before going to sleep than I've seen sunsets!

Why would I rather be awake at night? Along with 21 year olds with nothing better to do than drink the night away and vampires, the night offers a wide variety of oddities you just don't get during the day. The animals are different, the people are different. Have you ever walked through Wal-mart at 1am? You can see some pretty crazy things...

What does it have to do with writing, though? The same as usual. It adds diversity to your characters and the situations they find themselves in. Sometime, you should try it. Pick a night where you don't have to be up super early, and don't have anything in particular going on. Find yourself a good place that stays open late at night, or someplace busy enough to people watch, and stay up late. You may see some pretty unusal things.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A to Z: (M)yths

Myths surround us. The idea that there are things in our lives that we can't locate or prove is amazing, especially in this day and age. Whole genres of writing are dedicated to myths along with a couple divisions of science.

How do myths fit inot writing? Research is key here. Every great myth I can think of has an amazing and rich history. Involving that history into your story not only adds depth to it, but it teaches your readers something they may not have known.

Not all stories about myths are true. You can absolutely create a myth in the realm of your story. Make sure the myth you are creating has a great back story with lots of accounts and an air of mystery. Think about the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot here. No one has a picture of them that is in focus, yet so many have sworn they have seen these two creatures. All encounters have very similar elements like details about the creatures themselves, or the locations, or the times they are seen.

Go full scale with your myth if you can. Give your creation roots in the real world. Before you know it, your creature may become the next dracula.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A to Z: (L)earn Your Weakness

I remember the first time I read the book "Thinner." Stephen King is just this amazing author who knows how to use the English language to creep you out. Truth be told, when I first seriously realized I wanted to become an author, it was because of him. I idolized him and wanted to be just like him.

Not that it wouldn't be fantastic to put out an amazing novel every year and earn the royalties that go along with it (I'm sure that doesn't even factor into it...), in reality, I ddon't pace my stories well and my venacular is lacking. I'll never be an amazing horror author like Mr. King. But I know that, and it saves me a lot of heartache down the road.

All writers, great and unkown, have different weaknesses and when we start off, we don't see them. The truth is, we need someone else to point them out, and even when its done as nicely as possible, its not always nice to hear. Eventually, we learn to accept those weaknesses, and work on them.

The sooner you find your limitations, the sooner you can start working to correct them, or ignore them. (Depending on the situation) If your weakness is grammar, you'll need to refine your skills in language and sentence structure. You may need to work extra hard to avoid cetain words (We all have those words we fall back on, too. Mine are as and that.), or learn comma usage. These take time. And when I say ignore, I don't mean act like it isn't a problem. I mean, if you can't effectively write in a specific genre or subgenre, you should pretend that genre doesn't even exist in your writer mind. (Say your technicalogically challenged, sci-fi may not be for you)

How can you do this, though?

There is no such thing as a perfect writer (take a deep breath)--everyone has to work hard to make their published dreams come true. The best things I can suggest are: working with other people to make your work perfect, take classes on language and composition, and avoid genres you aren't comfortable with, or don't know a lot about.

Also, these things can change over time. The more often I avoid using those words I use as a crutch, the more often I have to search for other words that I use too much. This can happen with your work as a whole, too. The more I write, the better my writing gets. I may have a great middle and ending, but my beginnings are always bad in a lot of ways. They require more attention when editing, which is why I tend to edit a story from end to beginning.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A to Z: (K)arma

If you look up karma online, you'll find several similar definitions. Actions determining future state, the law of cause and effect. You'd also find synonyms of destiny, fate, kismet, and predestination.

The idea behind karma is that for everything you do--it will be met with a reward or punishment for the universe. For example, someone winning the lottery may have ran into a burning building to save a buch of children (PLEASE for my sake, do not try this to win the lottery. I do not want to be held responsible for the death of anyone.).

Another, less crazy, example of karma is the show, My Name is Earl. The show is completely dedicated to the idea of karma. Earl, a not so good guy when the show starts, wins the lottery and is promptly looses his ticket. When he gets it back, a series of events happen making him realize he doesn't deserve the money he has won. He makes a list of all the bad things he's done in his life, and goes through trying to make up for them. Eventually he become a very likeable guy and is rewarded by the universe for his good deeds.

Karma would work well in a story about a hero, an epic especially. The character would be forced to make their decisions based on how they would be rewarded in the future. It could be used in a very long term way, or even short term. Passing up an opportunity to help someone in need, the hero may find himself lost. Not completing a quest, may eventually lead to them not getting to spend the rest of their life with their soul mate. And so on and so forth. Karma can have a very powerful effect.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A to Z: (J)okes

Jokes are great, aren't they? My first blogfest dealt with the joking nature we all have in us. Everyone has a friend that can tell a great joke and make us laugh, so why shouldn't we all have that one character who can do the same?

Jokes add levity to a serious situation, but can be inappropriate as well. Sometimes, you find yourself in a situation with a few people where they are having a "my horse is bigger than your horse" situation. Everything is going great, people are laughing, and then BOOM! Someone says something that one person finds offensive and its all over.

Writing jokes for your characters can do the same thing. You can use jokes in any situation but you should remember a few things while you do this:

1) How will the readers take the joke?
2) How will the other characters take it?

Another way to incorporate jokes into your story is to have a character that is lousy with them. I, for instance, love to tell jokes, but until I get them down, I usually stumble through, use the punch line too early and lose the interest of the people I'm telling them too. Granted, that alone can be hilarious to someone else. I've had people laugh at my expense for failing a joke, and that can happen to a character too. How would they react to that? Depends on their personality.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A to Z: (I)njuries

People get hurt. It happens. Such is life. No one gets very far without pain. Scars make you who you are.

There are so many great (sorry) things about injuries in the written world. How did it happen? When did it happen? How is the recovery going physically? Emotionally?

To give you a quick example: I have this huge scar on my knee cap. I've had it for about 8 years now. How did I get it? Well... One day (in high school) me and a few friends were goofing off in the parking lot. I decided to climb onto the running board of my girl friend's bronco while she was driving around. She was moving slow, but she turned and I couldn't hold on. So, I flew off and hit the ground. My head bounced. The blacktop ripped away the knee in my jeans along with the skin, nearly down to my bone. She freaked out because she thought she ran me over. It was interesting, and for the rest of my life, when someone sees that scar, that is the story I get to tell them.

Everyone has a scar like that. When we get drunk we like to compare our battle trophies. Its how we behave. In some sense, its a bit of a my-horse-is-bigger-than-your-horse thing. Regardless, why shouldn't our characters do it too?

Injuries and scars run deep emotionally, too. How does a character recover from things like hurt feelings, wounded pride, or a broken heart? These are all things you should answer when you're working on your character development.

Of course, injuries can be used in writing as comedic relief, too. Slapstick comedy has worked forever! How long have the Three Stooges been popular?

A big thing to think about when your character gets injured is how others are going to react to the injury. Some people (like me) don't deal well with blood. Some think the gore is awesome. Sometimes, when someone gets hurt, their significant other can't handle the burden of having to take care of them. As well as the physical side of this, remember that emotional baggage can have a huge impact. Past injuries can temper our future actions.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Winners Are...

Thanks again to everyone who follows A Journey Through the Mind. The people who entered had their names thrown into the hat (so to speak). The first winner, choosing Room: A Novel, The Princess Bride, and the ARC is...

Sam Dancer! Congrats to you, Sam, your books will be on their way tomorrow!

That leaves How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, and the person winning that is...

Dawn Embers! Congrats and your book will be on its way tomorrow!

Thanks again for following and being awesome!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A to Z: (H)appy Endings

Who doesn't love a happy ending? When you pick up a book (especially a romance) you expect your main characters to find exactly what they need by the time you read the last page. It gives you hope. Hope that there is still a happy ending for yourself out there.

Happy endings aren't always what they're cracked up to be. If every story ended happily ever after, all of them would lose their appeal. What you want to give your readers is the most memorable ending possible. Sometimes it's happy, sometimes, not so much. Nicholas Sparks is the master of the tragic happy ending. Even when one of the main characters die, you still feel good about reading the story (and lets face it, everyone has read one of his books or seen an adaption).

The main thing about ending your story is making sure all the questions are answered. After all the crap your characters had to muck through, did everything get answered? Live or die, happy or sad, good or evil--do your readers want more without asking why this happened or how it was resolved. If you can answer yes, then you do have a happy ending.

Aside from the story itself, as a writer, you're looking for one more happy ending (and yes, this one does have to be happy, or what the heck has all the work been for?). As the person who wrote every precious word, wracked their brains over the character development, plotline, query letter, synopsis, etc. etc.-- you have to be happy with what you wrote. And that's the only happy ending that really matters.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The giveaway is here!

Whether you've been reading these posts for a week or since I started this crazy blog--I just want to say, Thank You! I never imagined I would have 50 people following my blog. You guys are awesome.

Now, down to business... I have posted a couple things about this very event before, so you knew it was coming, and I'm sure you've been wondering what the prizes are. I'll get to that. First, the rules.

If you would like a chance at the prizes, you need to fill out the form below. In order to fill out the form below, you need to be a follower of the blog. It's that simple. So, if you're reading this and you aren't a follower, but would love a chance at those prizes, all you have to do is hit the follow button! Go ahead and go to the form and see what you can do to get extra chances at winning the prize. If you do everything, you get something like 14 extra chances to win. That's a lot! ( I went a little crazy with the extra points...)

The form will be open for 48 hours (actually it will be open longer than that, but I'll only accept entries from that timeframe) for you to fill it out and then I will draw a couple names at random. On the form, there is one question with boxes next to it that you need to fill out. It is which of the prizes you would like. You can choose one, or all of them. If you don't choose all, the rest of the prize will go to a runner up.

That's it for the rules, now the prizes.

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe: A Novel
How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu
In paperback or ebook

The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure
The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure by William Goldman
Paperback only


Room: A Novel
Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue
In Hardcover or ebook

An ARC of A Place Called Earth by H.J. Johnston
(Sorry, the cover is still not finished...)

So, those are the prizes you can choose from! Hope you enjoy them. Good luck to everyone!

To go to the form, please click here! Again, thanks for following! We'll see you at the next giveaway!

A to Z: (G)ifts

Who doesn't love getting a gift? Tearing off the wrapping paper, opening the box, finding out what's inside. It's awesome!

Well... not always. Some people really don't like getting gifts because they feel they need to return the favor, or they hate surprises.

That's what today's post is about.

Characters giving and recieving gifts can give great insight to who they are. How do they react to recieving the gift? Do they like the gift they get?

Keep in mind, not all gifts are appreciated. Or maybe it isn't the recieving of the gift, but the present itself they don't like. I can tell you that I love candles, but if I get one more as a gift, I might tear my hair out.

The act of giving can be an interesting story in and of itself. How much did the character agonize over finding that perfect present, and who is it for? Can you imagine your lead guy going to a langerie shop to find some new "wrapping paper" for his mistress and having his wife find it instead? Think of the reactions from all parties involved and how he felt while he was wondering aimlessly through the store.

The occasion for the gift will also add significance. Was it for a birthday or a holiday? Or was it just because. Keep in mind that some people like to surprise their loved ones with random gifts. Although, the recieving party may not see it that way.

If you were to get a gift for no apparent reason, and it wasn't already a habit, the recieving end may beome suspicious as to why they're getting gift.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A to Z: (F)ights

So, I'm starting a little late this morning. I've been doing really good about getting them all done for 9 AM, but not today. I'll be back on time tomorrow, though!

Fighting and fights are a normal part of life and should be included in a story. Not necessarily all out brawls, but arguments, disagreements, spats, and bickering are good ways to add tension to a tale and depth to a character.

There are different kinds of fighting and who starts (instigates) and how each character involved behaves in the situation is great for making them real. When two characters are having an argument, depending on the topic, others around them may try to ignore it, or join in if they feel strongly about the topic. If three characters are having a disagreement about who should take possession of an item, someone may step in to be a referee of sorts. If five characters are having a physical fight, many others may rush in to help those they consider friends, or hold others back from trying to make it unfair, or ignore it all toghther. You may even end up with many spectators just watching as everything goes down.

Some people (or characters) are very nonconfrontational. They will do anything to avoid even the smallest dispute at any cost. Some have long fuses and will snap at odd moments for seemingly small things, while others with shorter fuses may blow up often. Some will manipulate any situation to their advantage to cause conflict--pushing buttons or playing both sides against the middle (kids have a tendancy to do this unintentionally, especially in situations where their parents have split up).

Something to consider is background. Certain heritages are famous/infamous for their ability to keep their cool or lose it. Its little things like those that can really add to a character, and it may give you some ideas as to what the character will look like.

Don't forget that everyone has a different fuse and different buttons that set them off. Someone that is typically a peaceful person, but is afraid of the dark would become more snippy in a situation where they would have to confront that fear.

The use of drugs and alcohol also need to come into consideration. When we use those substances, it changes our behavior and therefore, the way we react. Also, quitting a substance. Always try to find an interesting reason that someone is fighting.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A to Z: (E)quality

All men are created equal, and so too, should your characters. That's my opinion anyway.

Sure, some of your characters don't have as much to say or as important a role as others, but (for you anyway) they're all people. They all deserve to be heard. You've spent the time working on your plot line and what's supposed to happen in your book (let's all face it, not everything goes according to plan), why would you skimp on your characters.

What happens when you give one character two days of your time and half a notebook for their thoughts and personality, and the next gets two minutes? First of all, WTH? How is that fair? If you're like me, and the characters are voices in your head the second you think their name, they complain and gripe, a lot. But it gets worse! That second character whom you've devoted little to no time to becomes flat and boring.

If you think that's bad--there's more. If you don't take the time to listen to each character, you end up with a cookie cutter version of the first. Every character you create from then on may look different and have a different voice, but aside from one or two traits, they are the same person. All of them become flat, bland, and completely unremarkable.

Now to step off my soapbox, I have the sudden urge to say, "And this has been a public service announcement." *sigh*

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A to Z: (D)raw Things Out

So, you're doing a scene in this house with your two main characters and the hard wood floor suddenly changes to blue, plush carpet and a chair bursts out of existence on one side of the room and back into existence on the other. Am I the only one who saw that? They don't seem surprised at all. What do you mean this story has nothing to do with magic or hauntings?

Sometimes it's hard to keep track of the details. We leave a setting and come back to it later, and it has some changes in it that we missed. Most of the time, the readers won't think anything of it, but when you make an unforgettable setting, it stands out when things change.

A little trick I picked up after my first story was drawing out my settings. Honestly, I'm a lousy artist, but as rudimentary as the drawings are, they still help.

Draw out a floor plan for all rooms/houses/buildings you'll use. You can even draw a makeshift outdoor setting (or use real pictures) you need. Color them, or write out what color/material is used. Don't forget about furniture or decorations. After all, that stick figure painting on the wall might catch someone's eye.

When you draw out your outdoor settings, make sure to point out the paths your characters take, and places where they stop. You'll want to add extra details the characters may notice in these places.

Lastly, this can be something fun to do with your stories. It also gives you a great excuse to procrastinate on the actual writing a little longer.

Now, before I go, I want to show you one of the drawings. This is from A Place Called Earth.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A to Z: (C)reation

*Warning* No offense is intended with this post.

Today's A to Z post deals with creation. The creation of worlds, the creation of characters. Every writer is involved with creation in some form or another. By making up a character and placing them in this world is creating, or by making up a whole new place for all your characters to live.

Believe it or not, anyone can create something magnificent with the right dedication. It could take years to find the right medium (a canvas, clay, marble, or paper) but anyone can do it.

Writing is the ultimate form of creation. You aren't limited to space like someone who creates music, or to a small square for painting or drawing. As a writer, you have the opportunity to make something unforgettable.

With your work, you are God (or whatever higher power you believe in). You must think of everything. What do your characters eat and drink? What do they wear? Do they worship? Where and when and how often? Do they live on earth? When does the story take place? It is all vital information.

When creating, try to keep your methods of development uniform. If you have a ten page questionaire for your characters, use it every time you come up with a new character. If you have something specific you want to add in that isn't in the questionnaire, make sure to write it down somewhere you'll remember it.

Maybe you like to start your stories with the plot line or the synopsis. Maybe you like to start with your characters or a setting. Whatever it is, always try to start the same way. Personally, I like to start with a specific scene, that usually involves the main characters, a setting, and bit of the plot line.

Be Thurough. Treat all of it as though it were real. You want to see, feel, smell, taste, and hear your world. By thinking of all these things, you give your reader a world they can fall into and love (or fear). When you write your story, its easier to add these things in if you had them in mind beforehand. Make sure you add them appropriately, though. You don't want to lump them all together. Let your characters guide you (and the readers) through the world you've created. Give them the free will we all have, and have faith that they will do it for you and these (albeit imaginary) creations will impress you.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A to Z: (B)locks

Back today with the letter B! Today I'm bringing you some tips and tricks to cure and prevent writer's block.

First of all, I would like to point out that I am no expert. Also, everyone's mind works differently, therefore there is no one way that will help everyone.

In my opinion, the best way to keep from getting stumped is to set yourself up for success. Think of this as a job. Make sure that friends and family understand that you are serious about your writing. If they take it seriously, so should you. Set aside an alotted amount of time each week for writing. You can make it a set time of the day (or every other day) or schedule it around your other responsibilities. Don't neglect your other job for this one. Remember, even some successful authors have a day job. Try not to deviate from your writing time. If you must, try to make it up in the same week.

Your environment also has a lot to do with how well you work. I'm not saying that you must keep your writing space neat and tidy, some of us just don't do well without a little chaos. So long as it is organized chaos. My desk may have heaps of papers and various other things stacked around me, but if you ask me for a red pen, or fingernail clippers, I don't have to search for more than a couple seconds. Same goes for a blank piece of paper or my notes for whatever story I'm working on. Drinks, snacks, and light music are also good to have in your "office." You may be working long hours and having to get up for a glass of water or some crackers will only hurt you.

Don't be afraid to take breaks from the writing, but don't take too many. Also, go a little further than just avoiding the distractions. Twitter and facebook addicts may want to unplug while they're writing. Writers with kids may want to schedule their writing time while the munchkins are at school or in bed. Stay away from televisions. So on and so forth.

If all else fails, walk away from the story for the day. Take a walk, listen to music, go out with friends, play with the kids, do something else you consider fun. Get the writing completely out of your mind. It can be difficult, but make it happen. When you come back to it, you'll find everything comes easier.

Well, that's all I got! Yesterday, I didn't invite you to leave a comment. It was completely inadvertant, and I'm sorry about that. Today, I would love some thoughts from all of you. What do you do to break the block?

Friday, April 1, 2011

A to Z: (A)ntagonist

Today's letter is the letter A! As promised when I joined the A to Z Challenge, all these posts will be about writing. Today's topic is about the antagonist.

In liturature, the antagonist is described as anyone or anything that tries to prevent the protagonist from their goals. With that said, what kind of antagonists are there?

Most articles you read say this is a person (the bad guy), but it could be anything. Some examples could include a cliff, a herd of wildabeasts, a relative with good intentions, a storm, the news, or even the protagonist themself. The point is, if it gets in the way of the protagonist's (your MC) goals, it is considered a antagonist. Easy, right!

Generally the antagonist(s) is broken down into four groups: Character, Society, Nature, and Self. For Character you'll find your antagonist in the nemisis, the friend giving bad advice, and the evil stepmother. They are very obvious examples of the antagonist and will provide the most conflict and distraction. Society is a great antagonist and follows closely with the group Self. Society also works well when writing a historical romance as women were under such social contraints compared to today. Nature is anything you would find in the wild (a fallen tree, an animal, storm, etc.) that could throw your MC for a loop. And Self is the battle within. The desire to do something other than what is needed from embarassment or the inability due to physical limitations.

Something else to consider with your antagonist is that this is not always a bad person. Think of it in regards to your main character (the protagonist) being an evil genius. Come up with a list of antagonists for him or her. The cops? A superhero? The economic recession? These all work against him/her, therefore being considered an antagonist.

The last thing I would like to leave with you for this post is this: a good antagonist will make or break a story. You want riveting and interesting? Invest in your antagonist as much as you do your protagonist. Also remember that the best antagonists (in regard to the bad guys) don't think that what they are doing is wrong. You wouldn't question the tornado for it to tell you, "Oh, I popped down here simply because I felt like screwing with this guy." Just something to think about.