Monday, August 31, 2009

Organization Monday: Outlines

Today I want to talk about outlines. I am trying to find the best way to outline a new new WIP (work-in-progress). Sometimes I just start writing; other times I try to outline the plot, note twists and turns, and record unique story points. Have you developed a method of outlining that works for you? Do you outline per chapter or per scene or do you just make an outline and then split it into sections as you write? My outlines generally only make sense to me and don't look like traditional outlines.

Usually my outlines look something like this:

Chapter 1
   A. Character and Location Introduction   
      Establish characters A, B, and E.
      Establish setting.
      Initial interaction between A and C (the kitchen scene).
   B. Show initial conflict between B and her mother
      B gets the letter with the bad news; mother seems unconcerned
      Mother makes the announcement to the family and seems sincerely sad; B knows it is an act
 Chapter 2
   A. Show possible romantic connection between B and E.
       Establish characters C and D
       Show how E responds in the face of B's bad news
       D tries to circumvent E by the thoughtful gift
   B. Reveal tension between C (B's sister) and D
       Argument at the dinner table

Okay, so I'm thinking you get the point. This is not my actual story, but this is my normal outline style. It works well for me but I'm thinking there is something better out there. We all know that outlines change 587 times or more during the writing process, but how do you start out?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tightening It Up

In honor of today's topic, this will be a short post.
Jennifer J. Bennett's post yesterday and Rachelle Gardner's post from two days before were both sending the same message...a valuable one. It is all about tightening up your writing and taking out unnecessary words that don't add to the story. I'm a huge word over-user and I need to learn the valuable skill of tightening. Printing words on a page costs Publishers money and before they publish a book it's probable that they are making sure there aren't 22 extra pages.

22 extra pages (x) a few thousand copies of a book(=) lost money (=) not good, in this economy

The important question for each scene, sentence, and adjective is: does it add to my story? If not, it can go. I have some (but need some more) friends who will be honest with me. It may be tough to hear at times but at least I'll grow.

By they week I am moving to a new format so you'll have to be honest with me and tell me if you like it...more on that later.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Platform + Goals

Hello writers and friends. As we attempt to establish ourselves it is important to build a platform. Many of us are already doing what we can. Working tirelessly to update our blogs, connecting with people on social networking sites and building experience in our genre/area. Today I wanted to share with you some advice I got from another writer: submit short stories and other pieces to literary magazines for publication. In doing this, it gets your name out there and (depending on who publishes it) adds a bullet point on your writer's resume.

There is a contest for the month of August that I thought a few of you might want to submit to. You may already have written something you can use. If not, it shouldn't take too much time to write something up.

Glimmer Train Press, Inc. is holding a short story (of up to 3,000 words) competition with all entries due by August 31. Click here for more details.

The following is directly from their website:
  • 1st place wins $1,200, publication in Glimmer Train Stories, and 20 copies of that issue.
  • 2nd-place: $500
  • 3rd-place:$300
Moving on. I have a question: do you stretch yourself by setting word count or page goals per day, week, or month if at all? Do you think setting goals is imperative to success? Who checks on your goals?

Where I'm at with my goals:
Articles: 3 of 5 down for the month, 2 more submitted- waiting for response
Book: geez, I need help here, where's my motivation?
Blog: posting pretty regularly, want to get to a weekday schedule with optional weekends; reading and writing on blogs has really helped and inspired me of late. Thanks to all of you!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Creative Environment

My working space: it is hard sometimes to decide where I will work for the day. I mean, should I work in the room? There is no extra seating so my only option is to sit on the bed. Our study nook still has so many boxes in it that I can't get back there. I choose the room sometimes (mainly when my husband is watching some or the other program on television which I find very hard not to classify as tripe, but we have slightly different tastes).

Perhaps the living room when no one is home (like now)? The big windows provide lots of natural night and my fingers seem in tune with the keyboard. Harmony.

Perhaps my small office nook? I have so much stuff laying around from my invitation making projects that my space is limited. I need to clean up...again.

What I usually find is that I use a number of different spaces. I transfer from one to the other depending on my environment's changes (i.e. family wants something, sun goes down, etc.). I unplug my MacBook and carry it to the next room, dragging the cord behind me like Linus carries his blanket. I feel like Linus in those moments, a cute little displaced child, carrying their most important possession with them. He was best friend, philosopher and theologian to Charlie Brown. Smart kid. It never seemed to matter to him that people made fun of his blanket. I too have a blanket, it is too valuable to me to let it drag on the ground though. My mother made it for me before I was born, I think. She made it adult sized so I could always use it. There's a good Mom for you.

I think that on the days I don't work, I may need to go up to my office and bring my laptop and try to do some work there. I won't be distracted. It might work. Question: do you all work with music on? I can read with music on (though I don't prefer it) but I've never really tried writing with it on.

My husband is a writer as well...he writes music. He says that whenever he finds himself thinking too hard, he stops writing. He thinks his songs should come out naturally, not forced. I tend to agree with his comment for the most part. My best writing occurs when I don't have a lot of transitional thinking time (like "What should I say next?"). My best writing comes when it all kind of makes sense and just comes out. My brain keeps formulating my feelings into words.

What should I write today?
Options: Book, Articles, Random

I guess book. That is the one that scares me most. I will try today to attack it. Hopefully my brain and heart are on good terms and can create something worthwhile.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

For Aspiring Authors Only: a survey to get you thinking & working

Hey friends of art...I made this survey for you (and me) so that we can take an honest look at where we are right now and make goals to get to where we're going. It has oft been said that we are our own worst enemy, and we've talked this week about fear, procrastination and many other intimidating factors. I encourage you to take this survey and be honest with yourself and change the areas that you know need changing. Good luck.

Click here to take the survey now. The survey was created with survey software.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Average Culprit

There is something lurking beneath our creative exterior as artists. There is a force that seeks to bring us down to ordinary.

The Creative Law of Average states that each individual who is creative by nature will at least occasionally be tempted to succumb to the forces of second-rate.

These forces induce artists to put out "average work". Some artists do art as a part time thing; others have made a career out of their passion. Career artists often lose inspiration to complete things in the excellence they once used to when they did it all for fun. Deadlines, "mean" agents or managers and the pressure to live up to the expectations of many can cause stress and produce substandard work. To combat the Creative Law of Average, may I suggest:

1- Keep a picture, phrase or Bible verse in a place of prominence in your workspace that reminds you of why you started doing what you're doing.

2- Keep in mind who you are, what you are capable of and what standard you want to live up to. Write a mission statement for yourself. When you choose art as a career, you are your own business, and you must treat yourself as such.

3- Find an accountability partner and a mentor. An accountability partner should be someone who will stay on you and check with you on your deadlines and goals. If your publisher has given you a deadline, or you have a performance on a certain date, set goals for yourself (way ahead of actual due date) and start your work early. A mentor should be someone in the same line of business. Build a relationship with someone/people who are at a level you want to reach. You can build these relationships in community organizations or online.

4- Help someone else. No matter where you are as an artist, there is always someone else behind you, waiting to build up to what you have. Help another aspiring artist with their music, or offer to critique their writing (whatever your skill set is). Let them know about a great place to build a free website for themselves ( among others) to help with marketing, or recommend them to your stylist. A little bit of guidance can go a long way.