Spring Break

No posts for the next two weeks due to my kids being on Spring Break. Yes, the younger two get two weeks off, while the middle schooler only gets one.

Unfriendly

Due to Trump’s travel ban, the U.S. is viewed by many to be less friendly and inviting. (Of course, I agree with these sentiments. I currently have a friend who’s father is visiting his mother in Iran one last time before she passes. We’re all worried that he The Firebirdwon’t be able to reenter the United States, even though he’s been a citizen since the Iranian Revolution.) We are quickly becoming one of the countries other people refuse to visit. Recently, Susanna Kearsley, who is the Canadian author who pens the well-known Winter Seas series, is refusing to attend several conferences. In her words:

“As many of you know, I have deep roots in the United States. I had five ancestors on the Mayflower, I’ve lived in south Texas, and I have immediate family, many friends, and valued readers scattered from coast to coast, so this has been a very difficult decision for me to make.

But I have become increasingly heartsick while reading the growing accounts of people’s experiences trying to enter a country that, to me, has always been so welcoming. It’s not an easy thing for me to enjoy that welcome when I know that many others will be turned away, through no fault of their own.

I had already booked three conferences this year in the United States, and was as always looking forward to them. I’ve decided, however, to withdraw from two of them—the RT Booklovers’ Convention in Atlanta in May, and RWA’s National Conference in Orlando in July—which for me are both primarily professional development and more for my benefit than anyone else’s.

My involvement with the third—the Historical Novel Society conference in Portland in June—is different in that I’ve promised to teach a workshop there and I won’t go back on that promise. I will be there.”

(If you want to read her whole excerpt, you can find it here.)

Unfortunately, I expect we will see more of this in the future.

 

Plotting

For quite awhile, I’ve been plotting my next WIP. By nature, I’m a pantster, but my last finished manuscript was the first one I plotted out, and the first draft was less of a hot mess than the other ones. So, I’m trying to recreate it. Except, I can’t seem to get past the 66% mark. I’m using K.M. Weiland’s books, Creating Character Arcs, and 5 Secrets of Story Structure. They’re extremely helpful, but all I do is keep adding more detail to the same chapters. It was so bad on Friday that I cleaned my house and did several loads of laundry. My excuse was that it would allow my brain to free think. It didn’t work. So here I am today staring at my notes, and have I added anything? Nope.

5 Secrets of Story Structure by K.M. Weiland

What do you do to get past the plotting block?

Overactive Imagination

At the gym today, I found a flash drive in the parking lot, next to the door of my car. I picked it up, and turned it in, but on the way home, my writer brain wouldn’t shut up with all of the possibilities of what could be on it. Most of them were conspiracy theories that had to deal with death and mayhem. I even came up with the bare bones of a plot, which I might use down the road for a short story. It was a lot of fun, and a good reminder of why I love to write.

Lately, it hasn’t been so fun. Two weeks ago, due to a glitch I lost a hundred pages of edits, and then the next day, lost the whole darn manuscript. Needless, to say I was tad upset and depressed. It took several days of reconstructing it with old drafts, and in one case, a partial found on the C: drive. To stop this from happening again, I’ve taken precautions, and am looking at writing on Google Docs. But the whole situation zapped the joy out of it, but thanks to that flash drive, I’m back to loving it.

Funeral

I’m not sure if I’ve ever posted about my grandpa on here, but about 5 years ago, he moved here. I visited with him almost every Friday. When he was up to it, we’d go to lunch. Recently, he passed away, and I’ll be heading out for his funeral this week. Over 15 years ago, when my grandma died, I helped him pick out his coffin along with my grandmother’s. We also, picked out their burial plots up on a beautiful hill that isn’t too far away from the ocean. For obvious reasons, I can’t say I’m glad to be going back, but I am glad that I’ll be able to pay my respects to my grandmother’s site as well and see some family I haven’t seen in awhile.

Anyway, because of this, I won’t be posting next week.

Depression

I covet my writing time. I don’t answer the phone unless it’s the school or my husband and I try to ignore all social media. However, today, I let go an hour of my time to speak to a friend about depression. This disease runs rampant on my matriarchal side–mother, grandfather, uncles, aunt, cousins, and siblings. I thought I understood it. After all, I had so many family members that I knew the ins and outs of it.

Not so much.

I didn’t understand it until I became depressed with one of my pregnancies and continued to experience it until the child was over a year old. Here are a couple myths that I’d like to bust.

  1. The person experiencing depression knows how bad it is for them. Unfortunately, while in the midst of it, we think we’re handling it–dealing with it. Because of this, we do not understand when we need help. Looking back, I wish my doctor had dug further into what I was experiencing. He trusted me because I’d told him I’d seen it every day of my life for 19 years. It’s different to see it than it is to experience it. I was in over my head and should’ve been on medication.
  2. We can pull ourselves out of it. No matter how hard I tried, I could not force myself to be happy. Oh sure, I faked it for thirty minutes, an hour, even up to 3 hours, but inside I was miserable and anxious. There were so many basic functions that made me freak out–grocery shopping, going out with my friends, or even leaving the house for a walk.
  3.  The person understands that they need help. I didn’t. I needed someone close to me to say that it was a problem. My husband was that one for me. Although, he didn’t realize the severity of it, he understood that I needed support. He provided it in so many ways, but there is one I wished he would’ve insisted upon. I wish he would’ve helped me get medical help. While his support eased some of the triggers, it didn’t help fix the main problem.

 

 

Writing Books

After looking at my last post, I realized that I’m reading a lot of writing books. It must be the new year and the desire to write better. Except it might not be that as I’m always looking for ways to improve. My latest read is Donald Maass’ The Emotional Craft Of Fiction: How To Write The Story Beneath The Surface.

 

The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write the Story Beneath the Surface by [Maass, Donald]

I had the pleasure of meeting him when I sat at his dinner table during my first writer’s conference. He’s a very nice man and I cold-pitched my first manuscript without realizing I had until he called me out on it. Needless to say I was embarrassed and elated after he requested fifty pages. Ultimately, he passed on it, and rightly so, but his letter is one I’ve kept over the years because he was so honest with me about why he rejected my manuscript. Two paragraphs of all the things he did not like with one sentence of what he liked. Did I cry? You bet, but his remarks were accurate. Isn’t 20/20 hindsight awesome.

At the same conference, I also attended a workshop where he spoke about putting the fire in the fiction. It was helpful and insightful. Since then, I’ve always bought his books because I want his guidance still, even if it is only in the written form. His most recent one is about putting emotion in the story and I think anyone can benefit from it.

Here are a few of my favorite tidbits:

“Great storytellers…make the emotional life of characters the focus rather than the sideshow. They make familiar emotions fresh and small feelings large.”

“True emotional engagement happens when a reader isn’t just enjoying a character’s patter, but when she cannot avoid self reflection, whether she’s aware of it happening or not.”

“Skillful authors play against expected feelings. They go down several emotional layers in order to bring up emotions that will catch readers by surprise.”

“What gets readers going are feelings that are fresh and unexpected.”

“The first is to report what characters are feeling so effectively that readers feel something too. This is inner mode, the telling of emotions….The second is to provoke in readers what characters may be feeling by implying their inner state through external action. This is outer mode, the showing of emotions….The third method is to cause readers to feel something that a story’s characters do not themselves feel. This is the other mode, an emotional dialogue between author and reader.”

Aren’t they wonderful? I’m sure if you read it, you’ll find even more helpful tips and writing exercises.

 

Creating Character Arcs

Once a month, my critique partner and I meet up to talk about our lives and all things writing. It’s a ton of fun to spend time with someone who “gets”me in a way that non-writers don’t. I’d planned on sharing with her a book that I discovered two months ago and have been referencing at least twice a day. As usual, we were chattering along and I forgot. She brought up this book about creating character arcs she’d ordered from Amazon that she’d heard good things about. I asked her if it was Creating Character Arcs:  The Masterful Author’s Guide to Uniting Story Structure, Plot, and Character Development by K.M. Weiland? Turns out it was. Of course, then I had to gush about it.

Image result for creating character arcs by K.M Weiland

It’s an excellent book and here’s why I think that every writer needs it. Almost all writing advice about characters says a writer has to make them flawed to make them sympathetic. Then you have to have them overcome said flaw or make some improvement to it by the end of the book. Sounds easy, right? Not for me. I’ve tried this and floundered through too many manuscripts to count. This is where this insightful book comes to the rescue. It breaks down how to write a flawed character in a step-by-step process. It even provides the way to do it for a positive character arc, a flat character arc, and a negative character arc. In my opinion, K.M. Weiland is brilliant, but her help doesn’t stop there. She even helps you identify how to make the characters flawed, along with points during your story where your character should make choices or react or start to change. The book walks you through the three acts and pinpoints certain areas where the arc needs to do something. Like the title says it even helps guide the plot. Every writer should keep a copy close by to reference, whether a panster or a plotter.

Objective Correlatives

As usual, last week I went to visit my grandpa at the nursing home. They had a huge sign that warned the unit was sick with Gastroenteritis and to not visit unless absolutely necessary. I turned to go away, but one of the staff stopped me to ask me about something my grandpa received. Against my better judgement, I followed them onto the unit, solved the problem, and decided since I was already there to go ahead and visit my grandpa. Bad decision! I ended up sick for three days and passed it on to my six-year-old daughter, who was also ill for three days. Knock on wood, so far we’re the only two out of the family that came down with this horrible bug.

There are things you don’t want to share, like the nasty disease above and then there are things you do want to share. Cindy Baldwin’s blog is something I found that has been helpful while I’m plotting my next manuscript and that is something I want to share. She doesn’t write often, but she has several nuggets of helpful writing advice in between her personal stories. My favorite is the topic of objective correlatives. If you’re like me and clueless as to what that means, Cindy does an excellent job of explaining it in detail here. Basically, it’s a “grand-scale metaphor” that is throughout a story. The Phoenix in Harry Potter is an example–that I swiped from her post–and she explains it in detail if your curious about it. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.jpgSo, long story short, I’m trying to figure out how to get this into my next WIP.

Have you heard of this? If so, have you used it in your writing or have you read it in a novel?

*cover art original U.K. edition