Thursday, July 31, 2008

Plot Grids-- Part One









Yes, they're two separate images. The one on the left is the one most commonly used by the e-published in size. The second is for the ambitious full length novel.

You may recognize both use the Vogler system. I do this for a reason. Why re-invent the wheel? The movie industry has done writers a huge favor by researching, testing and refining this simple system. It gives the reader the emotional rollercoaster they want in a logical order that works. Is it the only method? Of course not.

I've also modified this one a bit for the romance writer. There's more here than Vogler put in because he didn't need to include love scenes. We do. I've only marked one as a true love scene. The rest must fit your characters and your vision. Use this chart to make sure you place your love scenes in a balanced manner.

More later!

Lena

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Writing Lessons-- The Storyboard

HOW TO WRITE: STORYBOARD



Here's how it works. Every book starts out as a nebulous idea. "Hey, what
if..." If you think it through a hair more, it becomes the premise: a character in a situation who wants something, and there stands in the way of that want an antagonist or situation, which will result in some catastrophe if the want is not achieved.

The plot is a mere extension of that. How do you get your characters out of their comfortable mundane existences and give them the conflict so they can arrive at the solution and avoid the catastrophe? That's a plot. Getting them from point A all the way through to point Z.

Somewhere in there, you have a few turning points, a few sex scenes, the infamous Black Moment when all seems lost, the epiphany when they have their revelation, and finally their resolution/HEA.

Lucynda Storey, Lizzie T Leaf and I have been to several classes, some dealing with the Plot W made famous by the movie industry and "The Writer's Journey" by Christopher Vogler. We also went to other classes detailing versions of this, including the so-called plot grids. Each, by themselves, helped. Finally, we made an amalgamate of them in our plot grid I use today. (Lucynda's is a little different. We modified to fit our own particular style of doing things.)

Still, it all comes back to the same old thing you were probably taught in school about creating an outline or list of your plan, which is modifiable right up until you typed "The End" on any given book report or term paper.
I'll upload my fancy grid in the files, but here's the simplified list:

1. Inciting incident for the main POV character. What happened that day/minute when life began to change for them?
2. Inciting incident for main love interest. Same thing.
3. Secondary character's emotional hook. Lucynda and I differ here, and that's okay. I may introduce the villain's POV, I may give the reader a taste of what the love interest is feeling/doing. The point is, make this an emotional chapter with a very strong hook at the end. Give this chapter some punch.
4. New Evidence- this is the chapter where the characters, who have been resisting the change in their lives, get their first hard clue that they must change. The information can come from any source, including a mentor (Paging Master Yoda!) or a simple television news show. Whatever. Make 'em think!
5. Main POV Hook, using the evidence for change. This is your first big chance to put the thumbscrews to your main POV character and make them agonize a little. They know they must change, they still don't like it, but dammit, something's got to give and they know it. This hook is driven usually by the outer conflict.
6. Decision to Act. Force the decision. The characters are still squirming like fish on a hook, but they must do something.
7. Easy challenge. Give 'em a chance to fight a little. A chance to do something.
8. Secondary character's hook- Begin to focus on the inner conflict. Give the reader more than a mere taste that this HURTS the characters. Show a little inner agony. I use this to make sure the reader feels sympathy for some poor bastard besides the main POV character. Maybe the love interest. Maybe the villain is not all that evil, or he has plausible reasons for being the antagonist.
9. Have I made a mistake? Make the characters question all that has happened, their choices, their growing feelings for the love interest, and show that inner conflict. Give all the good reasons, pro and con.
10. Main POV Hook to show inner conflict. Put the thumbscrews back on the main POV character and tighten them down. Make them hurt. Have a fight with their love interest, rack of the tension before they hop in the sack, and make them agonize again.
11. The Innermost Cave- They have the major sex scene, the get the big clue, or they think they've caught the criminal, but give 'em a little happiness. Rest the reader with love, joy, and good nookie.
12. Stop and smell the roses- Have a smoke after the sex scene, take a walk in the garden, and let 'em think life is grand for a little bit.
13. Things begin to go sour/Secondary character hook- Start ratcheting up the tension again, by degrees. Wait, is that new evidence you might have the wrong guy? Hey, stupid characters, you still have to bring the treasure back and it won't be easy, you are NOT resolved.
14. The worst turn so far- the criminal they caught is not the right one, the villain has laid a trap, and things are getting ugly. Ratchet up the tension another notch.
15. Main POV Hook to lead up to the Black Moment- Rut-roh...get ready to drop the characters into hell. At the end of this chapter, they have their first ugly glimpse of just how bad things are. Rip out their guts and twist.
16. Black Moment- All seems lost, and make 'em cry. You've ripped out their guts. Now stomp HARD. If you haven't made the reader weep, scream, and cry by now, then here's where you do it. Your goal is to make misery your friend.
17. Get out of the Black Moment- give them some plausible means to heal the hurts, get out of the torture, and get on with things. You can't cry forever, baby, now get mad. Then, get even. Put the spine back in 'em. Make them shake their fist at the sky like Scarlet O'Hara declaring she will never be hungry again.
18. More Challenges or Secondary Characters' Hook- Make sure the reader knows the antagonist is going to get his just desserts, the big mental epiphany is going to happen, something that says the characters are going to win, if only they can
19. Return with the Elixir- vanquish the villain, get the girl back, and good will triumph. Ratchet it up so the reader is cheering for the triumph.
20. Wrap it all up and tie on the Bow- Tie up any remaining loose ends, show the HEA, and make sure the characters are shown to be happy in their new reality.

Notice it's an emotional roller coaster as much as a journey? It's just a plan, not the story. Things will change. Nevertheless, this just keeps you on track toward the goal, nothing more. Watch for these in movies and TV shows. (They are very clear in Star Wars and the Wizard of Oz, for example.)

Pantsers, this is your list. If you are ever stuck and beating your head against the wall called "writer's block," this is your checklist out. Use the list or the chart to tick off that you have done all you could to/for your characters. You may discover that you've skipped several steps, have an epiphany, and be able to move on with fresh insight. Or not. Sometimes the missing creative spark is not here, but within the characters themselves. Go back and check their POV's, goals, motivations, and conflicts.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Plot Cards the Cheap Way

How to Write: Plot cards the Cheap Way


Yesterday, the post was a plot card for reference. Print one for now, or open a second window so you can look at it.

My cards read as follows on the "printed side":

**********************
Scene description: (My keywords to tell me what the scene was about, ie, "Hero returns", "Loss of Virginity", "Trip to Chicago", etc.)

Objective: (What was the point of this scene in the plot? comic relief? Using Vogler's words "Call to Adventure", whatever...would go here) Alternatively, you may mark here what is the character's objective in this scene. (Convince another character of something? Find something? Do something?)

Omen: (Is it clear to the reader that there's more coming? Make her want to turn the page? Does the scene give a logical next step?) This is a good place to note what you intend to do as a hook at the end, or simply to note a foreshadow of events to come.

Motivation: (Is the motivation of the POV character clear?) Why is the character doing this?

Senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell (I check to make sure I've used at least two, and three is better.)

Day:
Time:
Location/Setting:

POV1:

POV2: (I allow myself only two POV's per scene, otherwise I get confused, and so does the reader.)

For fast reference feel free to use the blank side for notes, keywords, that snazzy bit of dialogue, or whatever notations you may need.

Pantsers: You may use the cards after the scene is written to check yourself and make sure you have achieved the maximum effectiveness and conveyed all the information you wished. Did you make sure you used at least two senses? Did you give the reader that omen (hook) that makes him/her want to turn the page?


********************
Okay, print 15 copies, or 15 pages for each book. Keep one of the copies as a master, and mark it with yellow highlighter so it is easily noted as the master, if you need to use a copier to make more. Cut the rest up into "cards". Don't worry about pretty edges or being all the same size. These are yours, for your notes. They are supposed to be ragged, a bit, so you are guilt-free if you waste one. You now have more than enough to do a full single-title. If you need less, print less. Clip together what you don't need and save for next time or additional scenes you may insert later.

Once you have marked the scenes on them, don't forget to number them. As I stated once before, I use Chapter number, scene number. (Example: C3.1 for Chapter 3, scene 1) I don't care if you use 1, 2, 3...ad infinitum. Number them. If you drop your cards or the wind blows them, you are seriously screwed without this.

By using cheap printouts instead of index cards, you relieve yourself of several guilts. 1) Paper is cheaper than index cards. You can throw one away, knowing you've only wasted less than 1/4 a sheet of paper. 2) You can make more at home in a big hurry if you run out. 3) These can be modified to suit your style as often as necessary, and then printed. No more laboriously labeling each one with the same information is necessary.

Finally, I urge you to keep your cards. Put a binder clip on them, or wrap a rubber band around them, and store them with your hard copy of your manuscript. I have blessed my anal-retentive soul several times when my editor asked for a rewrite of a chapter and I was able to flip through the cards to find out what I needed to know: what was I trying to say, and how does what my editor wants change this?

Also, should you decide that the plot chart I talk about next is not for you, these cards become the basis for your synopsis.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Writing Lessons-The Plot Card

You may notice this image is sideways. There's a reason. When you save to your computer for printout, this is how it must print. There are four plot cards to a page.

Some of you may be thinking, "Oh, now this is really anal! A card for each scene?" Yes, and here's why. They are a visual reference, and nothing more. They serve as a reminder what the purpose of the scene is, who's POV you're supposed to be in, and even remind you to include all five senses. I don't care how good you are, you will forget something that could make the reader feel the scene more.

The explanation comes next, so just hang tight. Print just one for now as a reference. If you don't like the idea after it's fully explained, you can delete the picture and I'll never know will I?

Lena

Friday, July 25, 2008

New Reviews for Lena and Tuesday's "Night Critters" series!

For Paws to Heal:

http://bittenbybooks.com/?p=493 4 Tombstones!

Must Love Dogs:

http://bittenbybooks.com/?p=653 4.5 Tombstones!

For Faux Paws:

http://bittenbybooks.com/?p=492 4 Tombstones!

Woohoo! I'm proud! Thank you Bitten By Books!

Lena

My Workbook

As you may have noticed, I'm a plotter. I keep research, maps, character charts, plot plans, premises, and even a special sex scene plot all in one place--the book binder. For me, it's a visual all-in-one reference manual to the story.

However, I also keep a standardized workbook for all stories. A place where my notes on self-editing, my references as to what formats my publishers like, a list of words to replace lazy verbs like "walked", and even a Kama Sutra of sexual information and a BDSM limits list. This is my all-inclusive reference manual. It's not about any one book, but more about the craft of writing in general, geared to my specific needs.

Stop digging around on your desk. Make yourself a workbook. You'll be glad you did, whether you're a plotter or a pantser.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

What's Lena Up To?

What I'm Writing Now:

Well, I'm happy to report I'm nearly done with Spaceport: Time Bomb. It's turned out to be more of an action-adventure than my usual works. In fact, the Muse has held me by the throat and refuses to even let me write the sex scenes so integral to a Changeling Press story! They're there, all notated and ready, but the Muse insisted she wanted the action done first, all the way to the conclusion before she'd allow me to write the intimate details. I sniffled and grabbed tissue while I wrote the Black Moment yesterday, and drew a howl of protest from Dante when he gave it a fast read. "Lena!! How dare you! That's just rotten!" (Hehehehe...I love it when he's disturbed by what I write.)

Coming Very Soon:

I have two stories due for release. Both will be from Changeling Press, so stand by!

1. Night Critters 3: Bad Fur Day -- (Due to release in early August) This was such fun to write! Who'd have thought I could ever make a Foo-Dog into a hero and pair him with one of my quirky were-critter crosses? Well, I did! This wraps the trilogy, but I plan to re-visit this world as soon as I can! It's too much fun!

2. A Peck of Pickles -- Like the title? I loved it. Yes, it's m/m/m. I don't know when this one will be released. It's a Hot Flash, so it's dependent on when M gets a wild hair on and decides she needs to shake things up a bit in the release lineup. It's amazing the secrets people keep in small towns, isn't it? (grin)

What's next?:

I'm on a sexual vacation! Okay, not really. I'm writing a fantasy/paranormal/comedy called The Blue Rose for Aspen Mountain Press. This one has sex a-plenty, but I've wanted to write this novel for years. Yes, I typed years. So, I'm taking a break from pumping out novellas and Hot Flashes to finally get this one done. It's based on "The Inferno" and I'll bet old Dante Alighieri is doing a pinwheel routine in his grave. Not that I blame him. (evil laughter) I can't wait!

World Building Overview

World Building Overview

I’ll get more into world building later, but a quick rundown of some of what you should think about may be wise.

Arts and Entertainment
Calendar and Time Keeping
Crime and the Legal System
Daily Life
Diet
Fashion and Dress
Eating customs
Education
Foreign Relations
Gestures
Government
Greeting and Meeting
Language
Magic and Magicians (if any)
Magic vs. Technology (if any)
Manners
Medicine
People and Customs
Physical and Historical Features of the Settings
Climate and Geography
Natural Resources
General History
Politics
Population
Religion and Philosophy
Rules of Magic (if any)

A few words may suffice, such as “Politics—As corrupt as it gets. The justice you get depends on the size of your wallet.”

At other times, you may wish to get elaborate. For my world-building, I’m not above drawing not only a map of the area, but also a map of the town and sometimes even maps of houses, depending on the need. Having a clear frame of reference can only help you convey that vision to the readers.

Occasionally, humor may also play a part. Let’s say the locals have an odd custom of an elaborate handshake the characters can’t follow well. Their attempts could prove humorous. On the other hand, perhaps you could make a joke out of how the local government’s taxes and graft seems remarkably like the IRS.

Take a few moments to flesh out the world in your own mind so you can consistently flesh it out for the reader with ease.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Writing Lesson-- Verbs, Verbs, Verbs! (LONG)

This was posted in Aspen Mountain Press. Why re-invent the wheel?

1000 Verbs to Write By
Article is site original
© 2004


1000 Verbs to Write By
by Deanna Carlyle




All the writing advice in the world can't replace good tools and lots of practice. This is why I've compiled the following list of over a thousand action verbs. I needed a handy, printable reference tool that didn’t strain my eyes or my wrists. Try it for yourself sometime. It works.

For "walked"
or "ran"
lumbered
plodded
scurried
sidled
slinked/slunk
proceeded
wended
scuttled
went on his way
shuffled
scuffed
scuffled
stumbled
shambled
waddled
wobbled
scooted
slouched
scrambled
scampered
minced
trotted
strolled
sauntered
ambled
marched
stepped
paced
roamed
roved
meandered
shadowed
pursued
trekked
continued on
drifted past/along
strayed
glided along
strode
stalked
stomped
strutted
swished
swaggered
stamped
tramped
trudged
traipsed
trod/treaded/trodden limped
hobbled
lurched
staggered
tripped
crawled
crossed
traversed
inched across
hurtled
galloped
charged
darted
advanced
approached
bushwhacked
chased
climbed
crept along, crept away
sneaked/snuck
tiptoed
stepped lightly
pussyfooted
dashed
danced
pranced
descended
ascended
dodged
edged
eluded
emerged
entered
evacuated
escaped
evaded
fled
flitted
flew
hauled off
groped his way
launched across
scaled
lunged
moved
paraded
passed
patrolled
plowed
prowled
propelled
pursued
raced
sailed
rushed
sidestepped
skidded
skipped
stole
stomped
steered
swerved
veered
listed
trampled
ushered
waded
wandered
hiked
withdrew
ambulated
perambulated
absconded
trailed after
bolted
tore
tore along
made rapid strides
covered ground
sprinted
careered
scudded
hastened
raced
hurried
jogged
cantered
loped
tripped
took flight
decamped
drifted

For "reacted"
reeled back
rocked back
flushed
blanched
blushed
scowled
nodded her consent
nodded his agreement
smiled
grinned
grimaced
fell silent
shrugged and said
admitted with a nod
shook his head
beamed
smirked
simpered
listed
tilted
swayed
keeled over
flinched
shivered
sniffed
blinked
retracted
sighed
exhaled
inhaled
flicked
flung
reclined
shifted
relaxed
swallowed
pouted
looked + adj.
yielded
hesitated
made no attempt to
frowned
made no answer
fell silent
paused
stared
gasped
started
startled
slackened
reclined
drew back
stepped back
stiffened
resisted
retreated
raised an eyebrow
cocked her head to one side
put her head to one side
tilted her head
chuckled
yawned
laughed
snickered
giggled
stifled a yawn
stifled a laugh
took a deep breath
glanced off
glared
shrugged
devoid of emotion
grinned
sneered

For "said"
uttered
mumbled
drawled
parroted
echoed
said half-aloud
snarled
blurted
moaned
muttered
murmured
cooed
whispered
crooned
hollered
shrilled
sassed
prompted
questioned
demanded
queried
replied
suggested
responded
sang out
scoffed
screamed
yelled
yelped
shouted
inquired
chirped
squealed
squeaked
asked herself
asked
assured
commanded
cried out
exclaimed
advised
announced
growled
stuttered
stammered
instructed
told
jeered
scolded
lamented
mocked
objected
questioned
roared
speculated
snapped
spat
stated
whined
jabbered
prated
prattled
gibbered
cackled
gabbled
sputtered
blathered
rambled on
rattled on
maundered
digressed
sermonized
preached
came out with
declaimed
pontificated
harangued
ranted
rhapsodized
gushed
spouted
let slip
enlightened him
pointed out
chatted
revealed
boasted
crowed
vaunted
bragged
disparaged
belittled
notified
addressed
blabbed
nattered
bantered
yakked
whispered
wondered aloud
rejoined
retorted
replied
recited
repeated
remarked
came out with
conveyed
declared
summoned
imparted
mentioned
added
put before
revealed
let out
divulged
disclosed
made known
vented
aired
breathed
betrayed
recited
predicted
advanced
averred
avowed
avouched
assumed
imagined
professed
claimed
purported
insinuated
cited
named
offered
proposed
pleaded
imputed
implied
asserted
expressed
pledged
ascribed
affirmed
professed
admitted
For "jumped"
vaulted
leapt/leaped
pounced
startled
flinched
sprang
lunged
launched
jerked
jolted
erupted
exploded
shot from

For "took"
drew
withdrew
pulled out a
picked
selected
chose
plucked
removed
snatched out
scooped up
rooted out
snatched
trapped
took up
raised
picked up
hoisted
set upright
elevated
seized
prized open
wrenched
wrested
produced
extracted
extricated
accepted
fetched
grabbed
snitched
took hold of
jimmied
gathered
grasped
gripped
fingered
nabbed
packed
ransacked
appropriated
swiped
snared
dragged
acquired
obtained
gained
procured
garnered
gleaned
pilfered
lowered
took down
tore down
swapped

For "pulled"
pulled out
removed
took out
extracted
produced
tugged
extricated
lugged
drew
dragged
yanked

For "pushed"
propelled
ballasted
set in motion
drove
trundled
shoved
thrust
pressed forward
made one's way
squeezed through
roused
prompted
forged ahead

For "put"
stashed
placed
posed
posited
plunked down
mounted
positioned
stationed
set before
dropped
crammed
stuffed
stuck
lodged
plopped
plunked
parked
stationed
planted
perched
inserted
lay
set
set upright
stood on end
upended
deposited
consigned
relegated
strapped
tossed
threw
flung
lobbed
hurled
heaved
cast
slapped onto
draped
dunked
eased
shifted
interposed
installed

For "looked, saw"
glared
glanced off
regarded
made out
descried
remarked
had in sight
glowered
squinted
shot him a look
fixed her with a stare
sighted
ogled
cast a glance
his eyes begged her to amplify
gazed
gaped
spotted
surveyed
turned an eye on
looked upon
distinguished
fixed her gaze on
noted
recognized
identified
took a look
took a glance
stared
leered
scowled
scanned
peered
squinted
gaped
noticed
observed
considered
watched
viewed
took in
studied
examined
inspected
scrutinized
perused
sized up
took stock of
skimmed
glanced through
flipped through
perceived
discerned
beheld
watched for
looked on
eyed
detected
contemplated
kept in sight
held in view
stood guard
kept watch
monitored

For "thought, remembered"
wondered
asked herself
pondered
noticed
reflected
struck her as
entertained the notion
held in one's mind
It occurred to her
It came to her
realized
knew
she considered.
she considered this.
he was tempted to
brought to mind
he was taken with the idea that
she reasoned
understood
considered
went over
reviewed
pictured
featured
imagined
pretended
hoped
feared
envisioned
deliberated
envisaged
called up
conjured up
conceived of
fancied
allowed the conceit
judged
suspected
intended
expected
planned
concentrated
mused
ruminated
recalled
mulled over
brooded over
projected
anticipated
concluded
esteemed
took heed
kept in mind
guessed
supposed
formed an image of
conjured
hatched
fabricated
fashioned
formulated
concocted
reasoned that
turned it over in her mind
flirted with the idea
recollected
bore in mind
deduced
inferred
thought back to
put her in mind of
called to mind
reminded her of
acknowledged
weighed
reconsidered
thought better of

For "felt, seemed, showed, looked like"
sensed
had the impression
understood
detected
seemed
appeared
betrayed
indicated
betokened
foretokened
revealed
bespoke
suggested
signified
connoted
hinted at
alluded to
implied
intimated
presaged
portended
forewarned
disclosed
displayed
lay open
made manifest
exposed
bared
struck her as
looked as if
looked like
had the look of
had every appearance of
had the earmarks of
resembled
sounded like
exhibited
evidenced
showed
manifested
emblematic of
For "touched"
clutched
pawed
gripped
grasped
took hold of
adjusted
felt
manipulated
maneuvered
twiddled
palpated
palmed
handled
thumbed
rummaged through
caressed
fondled
stroked
grazed
rubbed
tugged
squeezed
scratched
pinched
patted
tapped
tamped
rapped
brushed
bedaubed
dappled
dabbed
swept across
scraped
glanced
alighted
pressed
wrung
kneaded
shoved
gouged
grazed
prodded
ticked
trapped
jabbed
poked
pressed
probed
goaded
twisted
wedged
pried
prized open
pry/pried
pulled
pushed
primped
preened
rattled
pumped
mangled
massaged
felt
flattened
smoothed
scooped up
flicked
flipped
flogged
fondled
groped
handled
held
knifed
mauled
tapped
drummed
wiggled
worked
stubbed
scoured
scrubbed

For "had, held"
bore
exhibited
showed
displayed
betrayed
wielded
carried
was furnished with
contained
wore
sported
spanned
suspended
grasped
gripped
clutched
contained
toted
possessed
retained
embraced
evinced

For "hit"
beat
socked
bumped
clapped
thumped
lashed
pummeled
punched
rammed
crashed
thwacked
slapped
smacked
pumped
impacted
attacked
hacked
swiped
swung
trounced
tackled

For "was, were"
stood
sat
took up
perched
lay
hung
took place
contained
spanned
loomed
occupied
remained
stayed
persisted
befell (happened)
bechanced
occurred
happened

For "sat"
slumped
eased into
lowered himself
sank into
sat himself
was seated
plopped down
crouched
squatted
hunkered down
roosted
perched
settled
straddled
sat astride
sat bestride
reposed
leaned
reclined
lolled
lounged
sprawled
lodged

For "stood"
got to his feet
jumped up
rose
rose to his feet
got up
remained upright
held herself erect
stationed herself

For "smelled"
got scent of
sensed
sniffed
detected
snuffled
snorted
inhaled
scented
snuffed
breathed in
savored
perceived
discerned
reeked
stunk
assaulted the nostrils

For "tasted, drank"
savored
relished
nibbled at
tried
sipped
gulped
took a deep swallow
chewed
ingested
ruminated
sampled
sank his teeth into
bit into
crunched
melted
licked
slurped
chugged
smacked
suckled
sucked
swigged
swilled
chomped
ground
munched
gnawed
rended
quaffed
imbibed
tippled
nipped
supped
drained
washed down
swilled down
guzzled down
lapped up
soused
quenched

For "heard"
overheard
caught
detected
picked up
perceived
apprehended
eavesdropped
listened
listened in
gathered
heard tell of
strained her ears
harked
harkened
attended to
took heed of
took in
gave audience to
gave an ear to
lent an ear to
heard him out
within earshot
out of earshot

For "lie down, lay"
reclined
eased onto
flopped onto
lay prone
lolled
luxuriated
lay prostrate
lay recumbent
lay back
rested
reposed
lazed
sprawled
lounged
slouched
slumped

For "entered"
stepped inside
went in
came in
sailed in
burst in
set foot in/on
broke in
forced her way in
intruded
penetrated
passed into

For "left, exited"
ran off
walked off
went out
departed
retreated
decamped
deserted
repaired
retired
withdrew
quit
took off
fled
sallied forth
bowed her way out

For "turned"
wheeled around
twisted to one side
whirled about
rotated
spun on her heels
pivoted
revolved
swiveled
reeled
trundled
circled
eddied
swirled
sheered
veered
shifted
divagated
angled off
shunted


Essential Tools for the Wordsmith

The Describer's Dictionary by David Grambs. What my list does for verbs, Grambs' does for adjectives. And how! 400 pages’ worth.

The Oxford-Duden Pictorial English Dictionary. Do you know what it looks like but not what it's called? Nearly 1000 pages organized by domain. Includes extensive index.

The Facts on File Visual Dictionary, by Jean-Claude Corbeil. Similar to the Oxford-Duden but with fewer, more detailed entries.

The Macmillan Visual Dictionary. Similar to the Oxford-Duden but with fewer, more detailed entries. In color.

Copyright 2004 by Deanna Carlyle at deannacarlyle.com

Feel free to share 1000 Verbs to Write By, but please include credit where credit is due. Thanks.
http://www.deannacarlyle.com/articles/verb.html


deannacarlyle.com

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Writing Lessons- Villains and Villainesses

Male Villains

1. The Tyrant- in it for the power. May not have a personal relationship with the protagonists. Often has minions to do his dirty work. Examples: Voldemort from Harry Potter, Khan from Mulan, Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. Evil version of the Chief Hero Archetype.
2. The Bastard- dispossessed in some way from what he feels he deserves. Likely to have a personal relationship with protagonists. Bad Boy Hero gone to the dark side. He proudly announces his intentions. He wants something specific. Examples: Commodus from “Gladiator”, Lore from Star Trek NG, and the twins in “The Man in the Iron Mask”
3. The Devil- the charming fiend and master manipulator who uses people’s weaknesses. Persuades to get the goodies. Examples: Dracula, Tom Ripley- The Talented Mr. Ripley, Jack Nicholson’s character in “Witches of Eastwick”, JR Ewing
4. The Traitor- The double agent, the betrayer. He plots secretly. Has a personal relationship with the protagonists. Examples: hero’s best friend in “Ghost”, the Dr. in “The Fugitive”, Ned Beatty’s character in “The Big Easy”.
5. The Outcast- very similar to Lost Soul Hero Archetype. Often used to set up the reader to believe he is the villain, when he may or may not be the true villain. He wants desperately to belong, and is willing to sacrifice anything to be accepted and acceptable. Often portrayed as freakish, deformed, or socially unacceptable. This character is the most redeemable of the villains. Examples include Phantom of the Opera, the Grinch, Scrooge, the Beast from Beauty and the Beast, Columbine killers, Kent in “Real Genius”, vampire Lestat, Hitler
6. The Evil Genius- motivation is always to prove himself smarter. Will tell his elaborate plans. Intellectual inferiors are contemptible. Rigs the game in his favor. Opposite of the Professor Hero. Examples: Dr. Lovelace in “Wild, Wild West”, Dogbert, Pinky and the Brain, Hannibal Lechter.
7. The Sadist- Predator, in it for the thrill and his own pleasure. Dark version of Swashbuckler hero. Can be in lesser form the man who never grew up, blows the rent, stays out with the boys, and can’t keep a job. Puts pleasure before responsibility. Examples: “Natural Born Killers”, Caligula, Hugh Grant’s character in “Bridget Jones Diary”, Biff in “Back to the Future”.
8. The Terrorist- most convinced of his own righteousness, following a dark code of honor. Believes in his own virtue, but judges others. The ends always justify the means. Dark version of Warrior Hero. Examples include any Mr. By-the-Book, the minister in “Footloose”.









Female Villains

1. The Bitch- Dark side of The Boss. Female version of the Tyrant. Wants power, and leaves heel marks on the backs of others in her climb to the top. The evil Queen who wants power for its own sake. Examples: Maleficent in “Sleeping Beauty”, Leona Helmsley
2. The Black Widow- She mates, then she kills. Uses sex often. Her motivation is her vanity. She is the Seductress Heroine gone bad. She can be what any man wants her to be, and is an expert in seduction of all varieties. Examples: “Body Heat”, Becky Sharpe, Delilah, and Salome. Catwoman. The old girlfriend trying anything to get the hero back.
3. The Backstabber- The female traitor, the two-faced friend. She loves secrets to feather her nest. May not be truly evil, but a team player determined to maintain the status quo or loyal to the group at all costs. Motivation: achieve the plan. Examples: Mimi- “Drew Carey show”, the wife in “Total Recall”, Victoria Tenant- “All of Me”
4. The Lunatic- often used in comedy situations. Dark version of the Free Spirit Heroine. Whatever fits her world, marches to a different drum that is missing a few beats. Can be truly insane, or obsessed. Lesser version includes the perpetual screw-up, interrupts, and is obstructive without intent to harm. Examples: Aunt Clara- “Bewitched”, the German companion in “Men in Tights”.
5. The Parasite- She collaborates for her own comfort. She sees herself as a victim with no choice and blames others for her crimes. She is the Waif Heroine gone dark. The moll, the arm candy who doesn’t want to lose her meal ticket and will do anything to protect her meal ticket. Goes along to get along. Examples: Hamlet’s mother, Bonnie Parker, Eva Braun, Harlequin-“Batman”.
6. The Schemer- Female version of the Evil Genius, and dark version of Librarian Heroine. Motivation is to demonstrate her smarts and get validation. Always has complex plans. Examples: Morgana Le Fey, “Dangerous Liaisons”, the Borg Queen-STNG.
7. The Fanatic- Dark version of Crusader Heroine, and the female Terrorist. Vengeful, and sees the need for Justice. The uncompromising extremist, she does wrong in the name of good, and shrugs at collateral damage. Examples: The Church Lady, “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle”.
8. The Matriarch- the motherly oppressor, she smothers with love. Dark side of the Nurturer Heroine. She knows what is best, and will do all in her power for their own good. A classing enabler, she sees no fault with whatever she loves. Will do anything to protect what she loves. The classic mother-in-law, the “Texas Cheerleader Mom”, “Serial Mom”, Cinderella’s stepmother, “Ordinary People”, “Misery”.

Tami herself stated that she believes that the villain archetypes are best using but one type at a time. After all, most villains aren't supposed to have too many layers or have an epiphany of change. I've always wondered why not.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Writing Lessons: Heroines

Well, the Author's Studio http://authorsstudio.blogspot.com/ has saved me a great deal of work. As of this date (July 10), they're giving all the archetypes of heroines and some lovely explanations! (Thank you, ladies!) They used the same source I did, so let's just give them some lovely applause.

Lena

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Writing Lessons: Hero and Heroine Archetypes

What is an archetype:

n.
1. An original model or type after which other similar things are patterned; a prototype: “‘Frankenstein’ . . . ‘Dracula’ . . . ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ . . . the archetypes that have influenced all subsequent horror stories” (New York Times).
2. An ideal example of a type; quintessence: an archetype of the successful entrepreneur.
3. In Jungian psychology, an inherited pattern of thought or symbolic imagery derived from the past collective experience and present in the individual unconscious.

[Latin archetypum, from Greek arkhetupon, from neuter of arkhetupos, original : arkhe-, arkhi-, archi- + tupos, model, stamp.]archetypal ar'che·typ'al (-tī'pəl) or ar'che·typ'ic (-tĭp'ĭk) or ar'che·typ'i·cal adj.archetypically ar'che·typ'i·cal·ly adv.

USAGE NOTE The ch in archetype, and in other English words of Greek origin such as architect and chorus, represents a transliteration of Greek X (chi), and is usually pronounced like (k). In a recent survey, 94 percent of the Usage Panel indicated that they pronounce archetype (är'kĭ-tīp'), with a (k) sound, while 6 percent preferred the pronunciation (är'chĭ-tīp'), with a (ch) sound. Of those who preferred the traditional (k) pronunciation, 10 percent noted that the (ch) pronunciation was also acceptable. Only the traditional pronunciation is widely accepted as standard, however.

Obviously, we use definition #1. Characters often fall into patterns of behavior based on certain archetypes. By consciously choosing an archetype, you can not only create a character that is recognizable to the reader's psyche, you can also choose how his or her conflict epiphany will change them to fit your story.

HERO

THE CHIEF
Virtues: Goal Oriented, Decisive, and Responsible
Flaws: Stubborn, Unsympathetic, and Dominating

THE BAD BOY
Virtues: Charismatic, Street smart and Intuitive
Flaws: Pessimistic, Bitter and Volatile

THE BEST FRIEND
Virtues: Stable, Supportive, and Tolerant
Flaws: Complacent, Myopic and Unassertive

THE CHARMER
Virtues: Creative, Witty, and Smooth
Flaws: Manipulative, Irresponsible and Elusive

THE LOST SOUL
Virtues: Devoted, Vulnerable, and Discerning
Flaws: Brooding, Unforgiving and Fatalistic

THE PROFESSOR
Virtues: Expert, Analytical, and Genuine
Flaws: Insular, Inhibited, and Inflexible

THE SWASHBUCKLER
Virtues: Fearless, Exciting and Capable
Flaws: Unreliable, Foolhardy, and Selfish

THE WARRIOR
Virtues: Tenacious, Principled, and Noble
Flaws: Self-righteous, Relentless, and Merciless










HEROINE

THE BOSS
Virtues: Confident, Dynamic, and Competitive
Flaws: Blunt, Workaholic, and Arrogant

THE SEDUCTRESS
Virtues: Assertive, Strong and Clever
Flaws: Cynical, Driven, and Manipulative

THE SPUNKY KID
Virtues: Sense of Humor, Reliable, and Supportive
Flaws: Sarcastic, Unassuming and Skeptical

THE FREE SPIRIT
Virtues: Sincere, Upbeat, and Imaginative
Flaws: Impulsive, Meddling and Undisciplined

THE WAIF
Virtues: Pure, Trusting, and Kind
Flaws: Impressionable, Passive, and Insecure

THE LIBRARIAN
Virtues: Efficient, Serious, and Dependable
Flaws: Rigid, Repressed, and Perfectionist


THE CRUSADER
Virtues: Courageous, Resolute, and Persuasive
Flaws: Obstinate, Rash and Opinionated

THE NURTURER
Virtues: Altruistic, Optimistic and Capable
Flaws: Idealistic, Self-sacrificing, and Compromising

We'll go into each of these in the coming posts. If you wish to read more about archetypes in writing, I highly suggest going to www.tamicowden.com and purchasing her book, "The Writer's Guide to Sixteen Master Archetypes." Her thorough explanation will give greater depth to all your characters.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

More Four Hearts from Love Romances!

I didn't realize it, but Love Romances and More had reviewed all three of my Dragon's Egg series!


http://loveromancesandmore.blogspot.com/search/label/Lena%20Austin

That's all of them! Wow, aren't they sweeties? Please leave comments so they know you looked.

Lena

Writing Lessons: Internal and External Goals

Yesterday, we hit on the GMC chart. Now we're going to get specific. There are two types of goals, motivations, and conflicts for each character. Both are important because one drives the story, and one drives the character. Pull out your Character Chart again and look at the middle column, labeled External.

External conflicts are what drive the story. My example yesterday of the movie Mulan was the external GMC. Mulan joined the army in place of her father to protect him, knowing it would be her death if she were caught. This is the conflict the world would see, but shows nothing of her inner thoughts.

You could write a perfectly acceptable story based solely on the External GMC. Many authors do this. It's what readers notice first. Ah, but here's the trick: to "flesh out" the characters and make them become living, plausible, and sympathetic beings, you should give them an inner conflict.

The Internal GMC column is your character's heart and soul. Everyone has an inner weakness and drive they would rather not reveal to the world. Not necessarily a flaw, but what drives them personally.

To use a cliché, let's use a simple Internal GMC we are all familiar with. We've seen it used thousands of times.

Goal: To show disapproving/indifferent parent that they can be someone.
Motivation: To bolster their morale or prove themselves worthy of love and respect
Conflict: Low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy/self-hatred

I purposely tried to muddy the waters yesterday using the movie VanHelsing. MB presented the External Conflict, and I "innocently" tried to point out the Internal conflict of the hero. Quite rightly, MB stated her confusion. Bless you, MB, for putting up with me.

The simplest way to remember the two types of GMC and differentiate between them is that one conflict is easily seen by the "world" around the character, and one cannot. VanHelsing was a vampire hunter ridding the world of evil, but he was also an immortal seeking his own past despite amnesia.

This can be --and IMHO should be-- done with all primary characters and, depending on length of book and how in-depth you're going, even your secondary characters. In a novella (under 30K by e-pub standards) where there is no space to develop secondary characters, this may be unnecessary, but I urge you to do it for yourself.

Now, for the final trick that makes good characters into great ones: The Idiosyncrasies. We all have them. The gestures and "tells" that define our moods. Rubbing a worry stone, biting nails, addiction to coffee, fiddling with objects, hobbies, sexual fetishes, and regrets. You intend to put your characters under stress, so give them a stress habit. (worry stones, snapping gum, rubbing two fingers together, etc.) One of my characters had a tendency to get lost in thought until his cigarette burned down enough that ash fell in his lap constantly.

Give them a sense of humor trait, and/or a pet. One of my most recent characters has a love of weird coffee mugs to go with his addiction to herbal tea. Another character never had time to mess with her hair, so she constantly blew it out of her face instead of securing it with clips. Look at your friends, pets and family for inspiration.

Last but not least, at least with your main characters, give them sexual preferences. Some people are more oral than others. Some people like certain toys or whatever. Is this a BDSM story? Well, someone has to be the submissive and someone the Dominant. A ménage? This had better be someone's fantasy. Give them a reason to want to play. Even virgins have "sensitive spots." The e-book business is rarely about the lily-white virgin who never had an impure thought in their life.

Please note that I've not said you must do all this first. I do recommend that you at least have the external plots noted, since you will most likely need it first to plot, but sometimes the internal conflict may not be clear in the beginning. Don't be afraid to write in pencil, modify, and add in things as you go.

Characters sometimes reveal themselves in stages. You may know a little backstory, or have a few traits clear when you start, but that's it. Then, as you write, suddenly the hero has a dog he adores, the heroine seems to always have gum in her purse, and the meddling boss chomps on a cigar he forgets to light. Write these things down. The dog's name, the brand/type of gum, and the fact that the cigar is cheap or Cuban. The back of the sheet is blank for a reason. The notes section at the bottom is good for noting the hero has BLUE eyes and BROWN hair, not green and blonde.

The muse is a fickle creature with a severe memory issue. Use this paper to remember.

Friday, July 18, 2008

4 Heart Review for Dragon's Egg

New Review - DRAGON'S EGG - Lena Austin
Four Hearts from Love, Romances & More

Ms. Austin's wicked sense of humor ends up making you giggle as you sigh over the romance and squirm at the scorching sex scenes. a roller coaster of a ride.

http://loveromancesandmore.com/reviews/0408/dragonegg1_dawn.htm

Oooh! I have a "wicked" sense of humor, huh? That's enough to make a girl sit up proudly!

Thanks, Dawn!

Writing Lessons: No Cardboard Characters

Let's go over the "Character Chart Explained" doc. (You might want to print it for reference.) Now, obviously, I didn't talk to the original author about what he meant by the story, The Wizard of Oz. I went by the movie, since almost everyone has seen the thing sometime in his or her lives.

Let's start in the upper left corner, where it says Name, Adjective, Job. We are talking about one character here, Dorothy. Naming characters is a whole 'nother topic, so we'll just go with the fact that the author chose that name.

"Lost" is a fair adjective for her, since she has no clue where she is other than the name of the land, Oz. All she has is the order, "follow the yellow brick road." Not a lot to go on, there. Only a kid would obey such a blanket order, but that's unimportant. Choose a good adjective for your character. Don't get lazy and say words like, "lonely", "arrogant," or "angst-ridden." Those are no-brainer words. You're writing a story where the characters are supposed to be lonely and angst-ridden, or this wouldn't be a romance. Your hero is supposed to be arrogant. Choose words that are descriptive like "angry," "by the book," "secretive," or "rebellious."

Job Description can be more mundane. Dorothy doesn't have a job per se, but she could also be described as "farm girl." I chose "teenager" to remind me of all the hormone-driven angst teens go through. This reflects her inner conflict slightly.

Put them together and you have a few words that describe your character, suitable for later use in a short blurb or logline. "By the book cop" describes Lucynda Storey's character Case Roberts, in Simply Irresistible. "Vanilla schoolteacher" describes her heroine, Maggie. Six little words, and you can see already some of the character issues.

Let's go straight down that same column and look at those next three categories: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. This is the meat of the famous GMC chart by Ms. Dixon. It's not as complicated as you might think.

A goal is simply what it says. The objective to be achieved. Even if the character never openly states their goal (and they really should!) it must be clear to the reader. "I want to go home!" is a very clear goal. In The Princess Bride, a character states his goal often. "You killed my parents. Prepare to die!" is his constant refrain. Clearly, his goal is to find the person responsible for his parents' death and kill them.

Motivation is simply why they want that goal. It can be one word. Montoya's goal in Princess Bride comes down to one word: revenge. Their reasons don't have to make sense, in all truthfulness, except to them. Sometimes our reasons for wanting to do a thing are dumb, let's be realistic. "I want to be thin because that will make me beautiful, and then the whole world will be my apple." (Yeah, right, sweetie. Keep believing that.) Wrongheaded reasons can make good characters. Most people want love and acceptance in their lives. How they go about it can be wrong, but that's what makes us human. So, give your character a "Why." Right or Wrong.

Conflict is the why not. Why can't they achieve their goal? What's standing in their way? This is the author's goal. Give them the obstacles that cause them heartache, challenge them, and make them into better people. It can be a villain, a character flaw, or something inherent to the story like the very geography or climate. Make it a good one, or even more than one.

It is my firm belief that it is the author's job not to make things easy on the characters, but rather to make things difficult. Rip their hearts out and dissect them until they are bleeding almost beyond repair. Make them fight, struggle, and challenge them until they have no choice but to grow.

Even your villain(s) should have these three things. Surprise! Your job is the same for them. Make them work for it, rip their hearts out so the reader sees why, and understands --perhaps even sympathizes-- with the villain. They don't have to agree with the villain, but if his/her motivations are clear, then the reader will have that understanding. Never create cardboard villains. Give them reasons for their existence.

If you have done your job well, your readers will cry with your characters, rage with them, and cheer when they win in the end. They want to close that book with a satisfied sigh, feeling as if they themselves have walked with your characters through their journey and won with them.

I don't care if you use this chart or not. Think about this. Your characters will love you, you will love them, and so will your readers.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Writing Lessons: Character Chart


This is the character chart I use. Click on the picture to get a better view. I'll explain it in the next post. Anyone who's familiar with Goal, Motivation, and Conflict will already understand a large portion of this.
Lena


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A 5-Star JERR Review for Faux Paws!

I can't ask for any better than this...

Title: Night Critters 2: Faux Paws
Author: Lena Austin and Tuesday Richards
Publisher: Changeling Press
Publisher URL: www.changelingpress.com
Reviewer: Marcy Arbitman
Rating: 5 Stars
Heat level: H

Faux Paws was a delightful story!... and Charm have HOT sex. I enjoyed both characters and their sexual encounters immensely. Ms. Austin, with whose work I am acquainted, and Ms. Richards have developed a laugh out loud world and I hope that they continue their stories in this world.

Marcy Arbitman
Just Erotic Romance Reviews

The Premise Statement Worksheet

While Morgan Hawke gives an excellent lesson for this in her book, The Cheater's Guide to Writing Erotic Romance http://www.darkerotica.net/CheatersGuide.html and I cannot recommend this book enough, writing the premise statement as part of your blurb can be a challenge. I use the following worksheet. WARNING! You will not understand this without Morgan's book. Get it. It'll be the best money you spend on your career this year.

Premise Statement Worksheet

1. Premise (what vs. what):
2. Reverse of Premise (Theme):
3. Concept (How premise is explained)

The Characters:
1. Represents the Issue/Driven by Emotion, Action, Motive/Explain how:

2. Represents the Reverse/Driven by?/Explain how:

Premise Statement: Vice/Virtue + Movement + Dramatic Issue = (leads to) Fulfillment

1.

2.

Motto (Condensed from Premise Statement):

Monday, July 14, 2008

Fiery Ember by Celia Kyle

Cover can be found attached or at: http://celiakyle.com/images/news/fieryember.jpg

Blurb:
Ember Ellason is a darned good secretary. True, she'd like to be more, but since her father's passing, her step-mother has taken over as CEO of Ellason Advertising, and Clementine Ellason feels Ember is only good enough to fetch coffee… barely. But when Clementine and her horrid daughters fail to show up for the meeting with the biggest client they could ever land, Ember saves the day by impersonating her step-mother.

Paul Ashe needs a new ad campaign and he's found the perfect company with the perfect proposal in Ellason Advertising. Too bad his body is a little too interested in the voluptuous CEO with her fiery red hair and blazing green eyes. Then he can't seem to find the elusive woman after their first intimate tryst, and is left with only a pair of panties to remember her by.
Will this Cinderella tale end in happily ever after? Or will Ember be separated from her panties—and her prince—for ever more?

Buy link: http://www.resplendencepublishing.com/m8_view_item.html?m8:item=47-201-101-426-1

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Writing Lessons- Premise and Theme

PREMISE AND THEME

Every book starts with an idea. Nothing more that a nebulous thought that could be two stick figures in a setting performing certain actions. I've even spoken with authors for whom a catchphrase or book title popped into their head and it was from that point that they began. By whatever method the inspiration arrived, to get a book written you start with a premise.

Let's define a premise and its sister, the theme, first.

A premise is a short description of the events of the story that includes character, situation, and conflict.

A theme is the overall "moral" or idea you are trying to convey. "And the moral of the story is..." or perhaps a simple lesson learned. Many authors use their catchphrase here, or a quote from Bartlett's.

If you are familiar with the GMC chart so prevalent in the industry at the time of this writing, then the Premise is the condensed External Conflict, and the Theme is the condensed Internal Conflict of your main POV character.

To use the example of the movie, The Wizard of Oz, the premise was: A tornado brought Dorothy to the magical Land of Oz. She must travel to the wizard to ask to be sent home, but the witch wants the ruby slippers off Dorothy's feet, even if she must kill Dorothy to get them. The theme was that Dorothy had to find happiness and acceptance within herself.

I highly recommend using these five steps, provided to me by author Sharon Mignerey, to create a coherent premise:

1) A character 2) in a situation 3) wants something- a goal, desire, or objective 4) and there stands in the way of that "want" an obstacle- a villain, a situation, or antagonist 5) which can result in some sort of catastrophe if the "want" is not achieved.

The theme is discovered when you, the author, decide what the character must learn while they achieve their desires. During any given conflict, large or small, something is learned and the person grows in spirit.

As a last resort, if you cannot think of something, pull out any good quotation book from the library. My quotation book is labeled by category. I turn to the appropriate categories and read until I find something that fits my still-nebulous character's desires. I post that quotation on the bottom of my monitor to remind me of the overall learning process so that I incorporate that lesson as I go along.

Fill out the Theme and Premise below, to remind you.
1) Character- ________________________________________________

2) Situation- ________________________________________________

3) Want- ___________________________________________________

4) Obstacle- _________________________________________________

5) Catastrophe- ______________________________________________

Theme:

_____________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________


Remember that you do not need a name, only a character. I recommend using a descriptive such as a job, gender, race, or any other clear noun, coupled with an adjective. Examples could be: "Lonely vampire," "orphaned thief," "outcast teen," or "curious ex-cop." Keep it simple at this time, and remember you may always revise as you get a clearer idea of the story.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Writing Lessons- The Manuscript Binder

THE MANUSCRIPT BINDER

I’m going to assume you read the posts on motivation and color coding. If not, go back and read them. I’m not going to repeat myself, and you don’t want to be saying “Huh?” a lot.
Your color-coded binder’s dividers are labeled as follows, and I’ll now go into what each category is for.
1. Premise/Research- Everyone starts with an idea. Often it is nothing more than, “Hey, what would happen if…” Write it down. Your notes on where you want to go could keep you on track later. Also, unless you are an expert on a given setting, time period, occupation, whatever, you will need to do a bit of research. I’m a fairly good scuba diver, but I did make a few notes on the latest equipment and a few other things like how to calculate how long you could stay underwater at a certain depth. Sure as you breathe, some authenticity maven will hammer you if you aren’t sure of your data.

2. Characters- I’ll deal with this more in depth during the Character section of my lessons. Suffice it to say you will need a place to record all the obscure things about your characters. It’s best to name their dog, their favorite food, and all other data as you think of it.

3. Plot- I'll be teaching a compromise between the anal-retentive plotting I personally do, and having no plan at all. There will be at least two worksheets in here.

4. Chapters- As I mentioned, this is where you can put the chapters. I used extra dividers, labeled for each chapter number for easy reference.

5. Synopsis- If you've done what I suggest, The Dreaded Synopsis is a thing of the past. It practically writes itself! One worksheet, plus room for your copies of the three most common synopses.

6. Promotions- Chats, Contests, and all your notes on promotions go here. It's not nice to forget you promised to participate with another author in a recipe promo on her website, or forget where you promised to give away that cool prize. Keep track! When you have a long lead time before release, ideas come and go. Write them down.


Now, I don't care if you use a hanging file folder with manila folders inside, or any other sort of paper-holding device as long as you use one and it is color-coded. This is important! Even hanging file folders and manila files can be bought in colors or labeled with a dot.

Let's assume that you've decided that, since this is a vampire story, you wish to use red as the color code because red makes you think of blood. Go buy a red binder, red smiley and star stickers, a red permanent marker such as Sharpie, and red dots to color code files as well as anything else you can't buy as red.

Use the label maker and label everything. I do mean everything. There's nothing worse than finding a piece of paper buried under your papers and not know what all those notes are for! It wastes time, and possibly means lost data. Each worksheet can even have a red dot to make sure you know where it goes.

Now you are set to write, and you won't lose anything. You are now ready.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Writing Lessons: The Plot Card

Right click with your mouse and Save As. That way, you can print your own. We'll go into detail what all this stuff is later.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Writing Lessons: Organized Writing for the Terminally Disorganized

Okay, let’s get a few things straight, right in the beginning. First and foremost, I’m assuming you are looking at this page because you want to be published and professional. You’ve probably had ideas for stories or articles since adolescence you’ve kept hidden from the public like a secret vice. Go dig them out. You’ll be needing them shortly.

I’m also assuming a certain skill with MS Word and other word processing programs. If you are not a touch typist, don’t go and get a hair shirt, okay? Just go buy one of the Dummies or Idiot’s books for your particular software program and actually read it. My Idiot’s Guide of MS Office is still my best friend. While you are at the bookstore, go get a good dictionary and a thesaurus. (You knew that was coming, didn’t you?)

I’m also assuming you are willing to clean up and get organized. Yes, I’ll be asking you to spend some money. Your wallet won’t do more than squeak, unless you decide to spend more than I recommend is necessary. Think cheap, for now. You can get fancy later. Here’s a short shopping list. I’ll explain some of the weirder items later.

1. A shoe organizer. The kind that hangs on the back of the door, with pockets for shoes. Go as cheap as possible, but make sure it has at least ten pockets. This is for your tax deduction receipts. Ask your tax consultant for a list of the deductions you may claim.
2. At least one 3” ring binder, and eight dividers for each story you want to tell, plus one set for your educational materials.
3. Stickers- I myself use iridescent colored happy faces and stars. Use what trips your trigger, but keep the sizes reasonable. These must fit on your calendar.
4. Calendar. I use the large wipe-off wall calendars made by At-A-Glance. My schedule is flexible, so wipe-off is necessary. Just be aware that you will be writing on your calendar, and you must be able to read it in a hurry.
5. Bell timer
6. Printout of the plot cards (I'll make a scanned jpg of mine and put it in the next post.)
7. Binder clips in small, medium, and large. Optional for now, but you will need them when your manuscript is done.
8. Small labeling machine. I use the Brother P-Touch, but you can even go with the hand-held labeling gun if your budget won’t allow for more. A labeling machine will save you a lot of frustration. Don’t skip this.
9. A pack of colored sharpies and a pack of colored wipe-off markers. Try to use the primary and secondary colors, no matter how tempted you are to get all those cool colors. Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple, and Black will do. Don't go overboard, here.

Motivation is perhaps the most difficult things a writer must do. Whether you’ve quit your day job and write full-time, or pound keyboard after a hard day at the office, it takes motivation to put your butt in the chair and type. BICHOK, some authors call it. Butt In Chair, Hands on Keyboard. It’s true. There are several methods, including gunpoint, to get you in the chair. Simply, it comes down to finding out what time of day you write best in, setting that bell timer, and typing for at least one hour a day, even if what comes out of your fingertips is the worst drivel you’ve ever seen. You got the idea down, and saved it from being lost in the ether of your dreams that never came true. You can turn it into pretty words later.

Congratulate yourself, and take one of the stickers. It may seem terribly childish, but giving yourself a sticker to put on today’s date on the calendar gives you a visual reminder of what you have accomplished. You’ll soon see you have a pattern develop of what days you work best on. For me, it is weekday mornings. The family has gone off on their own pursuits by 9 AM, and I’ve luxurious hours alone with my keyboard. Oh, and stick that calendar right where you can see it every day. When you see that calendar festooned with bright stickers, you can’t help but be cheered and motivated. I took it a step further, but you don’t have to do this. I mark The Black X’s of Shame on the days where I accomplish nothing. Weekends don’t count. For me, Guilt Works.

And now for that binder. Let me state up front that I’m one of those anal-retentive types with AADD (Adult Attention Deficit Disorder). If I don’t keep things this organized, I’ll go off on tangents. My favorite tangent is another story than the one I’m supposed to be working on! Therefore, I have my binders (and everything associated with one story) color coded. The binder, stickers, -literally everything!- must match. But that’s purely optional.

What’s not optional is good labeling. Unless your handwriting would impress the Queen, use a labeling machine. These handy devices are worth their weight in gold. Label everything! Every disk, every binder, and every binder divider. Here are the divider labels I use, however you are welcome to come up with your own.
1. Premise/Research
2. Characters
3. Plot
4. Chapters (these may be subdivided with more divider inserts, numbered according to chapters, but this is optional)
5. Synopsis
6. Promotions- Ideas come and go, but some will be specific to the story. Write down where you found those cool Egyptian pens, seven for $20. Another author wants to share a recipe promo with you, and there's a contest coming up you'd like to play in.


I’ll go into each one of the categories in another document, and what they are for.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Writing Lessons: How to Be Prolific

Someone asked me the "secret" of how I write so much, and get it published. I'll tell you my "secret". It's no secret, really. It all starts with the simple joke, "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!"

I make myself write at least 1000 words a day, every weekday. Think about it. If you assume there are about 20 weekdays in a month, it is theoretically possible to write 20K or more a month. Now, it doesn't work out like that, but it comes reasonably close.

Don't have a heart attack, now. The reason I can write 1000 words a day is simple: planning. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a pantser. I'm a plotter. I have a plot plan and a wipe-off storyboard. Until I can tell you the story, scene by scene, off my storyboard, I don't sit down at the keyboard.

Here's how it goes: Let's say I have this nebulous idea following Sharon Mignerey's (http://www.sharonmignerey.com/) 5 steps: A character, in a situation, who wants something, and there's something that stands in their way of achieving that want, which will result in a catastrophe if the want is not achieved. Okay, got that. That's my premise.

Another method is Morgan Hawke's system. (http://darkerotica.net) That's just as effective, but a bit harder to learn. I like it because it is geared specifically to writing erotic romance. We'll go over it later, but suffice it to say I do plan my plot, step by step, to guarantee the biggest emotional roller coaster ride I can provide.

Now I take that sheet of paper and go to my big wipe-off storyboard. This is a simple, cardboard-backed wipe-off display board you can buy in OfficeMax. I grab up my collection of colored wipe-off markers and take the thing out to the dining room table. I divided it up into 25 squares long ago, using permanent Sharpies, so I have a max of 25 main scenes, to match the Plot list. I fill in the blanks off my Plot Planner in black wipe-off marker.

Now, whose scene is it? His? Hers? Both? Who has the most angst, the most to lose? For instance, in the Black Moment, the heroine is dying and the hero must get her to medical care. Obviously, it's his scene. I pick up the blue wipe off marker, and circle that notation in blue. If it were hers, it would be circled in red. After all the main scenes are marked, I look for color balance. Too much blue? Well, go back and add some notes for her thoughts, feelings, etc. How about my love scenes? I circle the whole scene box in pink. Hey, waitaminit.... there's 3 or 4 chapters where there seems to be no pink. Not good! Make a note to add some tenderness/sex/fantasy in there. Note locations/settings in green. Hey! How did I get them from that picturesque French village into the local Abbey? Note to make a bridge scene.

My crit partners and I will often get together at this point. If I can go over the whole story with them, scene by scene, we usually find plot twists or bad judgment on my part. (Hey, Lena! It's HER scene, not his! She's the one panicky, right?) Erase, change. Now it's perfect.

Now, here's where things change. I'm published and established. I make my synopsis off the storyboard and send it to my editor for approval. If they have any changes or suggestions, I want them now. You can make your synopsis now, or wait. Note there's no "dreaded synopsis" syndrome.

After my editor has had her say, I make my plot cards. I've created my own set, mostly based off what Tami Cowden taught in her class, "Anatomy of a Scene". I've changed a few things to suit my style, but the basic stuff remains the same. What's going on, what do they have to overcome to get through the scene, why, day/date, time, location, whose POV, (and my own addition) a list of the five senses. (I always forget smell or something!) They get numbered like so: Chapter 3, scene 1 is marked as C3.1. I've dropped my cards before, and that was a mess!

All this planning and preparation can take up to a week. However, for me, it works. When I finally sit down to type or use Dragon NaturallySpeaking, I'm now ready. The story, start to finish, is firmly planted in my mind. I know what I have to do, and when. I may have remembered a cute or sassy phrasing, and that's on the plot card. The rest, I have to now write. It's a plan, like a roadmap. I can deviate, if the characters "tell" me to, but if I want to get from Denver to Dallas, I'll get back on the main road eventually.

I'm not prolific. I'm a plotter. I don't have writer's block, because I have a plan. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. That's how I write. One bite at a time.

All you have to do is set your "bites" to what you can chew. You have a day job. Maybe 1000 words a weekday is too much for you. Okay, so make it 500, 250, or 100. You know what you can reasonably accomplish in a day. Plan, then plant your butt in the chair, and do it, every day. Those bites add up. Even at 250 words a day, 5000 words a month, you can write a full-length novel of 60K or more in a year. Double that to 500 words a weekday, and you can write two full-length novels in a year. Think about it. That's an average of 2-3 pages a day. I write about 5 pages a day.

That's it. That's my secret. It's no secret. I'm going to go over my steps, one bite at a time. A process which ensures as little writers block and stress as possible, because you build a solid foundation, one building block at a time.

I'm not going to lie. Very few people have the over-organized system I do. That's fine. Feel free to modify. However, I urge you to do each step at least once. Try it. If you don't want to use a binder, try a simple manila file folder, for instance.

Throughout lessons, you will find certain rules highlighted with colored text. Red signifies the unbreakable rules. They will be explained, and I'll give examples.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Lena's AWOL



I'm scrambling to finish my Spaceport contribution, Time Bomb. I've just turned in the first round of edits for a Hot Flash called Peck of Pickles, and I just turned in the proofs for Bad Fur Day. Oh, and I also got the cover for Bad Fur Day late last night.



We had to do this cover. Just had to, otherwise no one would understand what a Foo Dog looked like.

Bad Fur Day releases in early August, so I'm getting excited.

Lena

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Recipe-- Sausage and Summer Squash



When even my husband, Mr. Meat and Potatoes, chugs down three helpings and is disappointed when there's no more in the pan, you know it's good.

Lena

New Recipe-- Chicken and Vegetable Dinner



Wow! I was surprised at how delicious this and the next recipe are! Not nearly as difficult as one might think.


Lena

Welcome to my Blog!

Thanks for popping by! Don't sit on the whipping horse unless you want to find out how it's used. I speak my mind and annoy many people, but all of it is meant in good spirit. Feel free to argue with me. I like it.

Best way to reach me is by email: voiceomt2002@yahoo.com

Lena