The Imaginary Friend Bloghop is being hosted by Analisa and Kyra.
I had an imaginary friend when I was four years old. I don't remember much about him except that his name was Jo-jo. I think he looked like Rondald McDonald, and he got me in a lot of trouble, like the time he fed my little brother muddy "chocolate milk" in a bottle meant for a doll. :D
Special thanks to my friend Catherine Stine for dropping by to talk about "showing" today. Catherine is a writing instructor as well as a writer.
In my own writing, my students’ writing, and the literature I teach, from Collin’s fabulous Hunger Games to Kafka’s Hunger Artist, I’m always harping on the importance of “showing not telling.” When I was a newbie, if I heard that slogan once, I heard it a zillion times! Does it mean you always have to put the characters in dialog or in action, or that you can’t have exposition? No, and that’s where it gets complicated. So, let me start simply, by showing not telling.
Here are the opening lines from Collin’s Hunger Games: “When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim’s warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress. She must’ve had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course she did. This is the day of the Reaping.”
It’s internal monologue, which is a form of exposition, yet it tells a lot without bludgeoning the reader on the head by being too direct. We infer that they are poor and cold by the rough canvas mattress cover and because they have only one bed that they all sleep in for warmth. We know that her little sister, Prim is about to be involved in a horrid event. And we know it’s called The Reaping.
Thus to show not tell is to infer and evoke these aspects rather than say them directly. A less talented writer would’ve written: “We are horribly poor and have no heat so we all sleep in one bed. My sister’s name got put in the kitty and might be picked today for a very deadly game.”
Here’s an example from Kafka’s story The Hunger Artist, about an extreme performance artist who fasts. He’s a mistrustful character, who stays holed up in his cage 24/7 and doesn’t relate to his audience. There’s no dialog until the end, when he’s on the point of death. And then there’s a long stretch of it, including, these lines spoken to the overseer: “I have to fast, I can’t help it,” said the hunger artist… “And why can’t you help it?” “Because,” said the hunger artist, lifting his head a little and speaking with his lips pursed, as if for a kiss, right into the overseer’s ear so that nothing would be missed, “because I couldn’t find the food I liked…”
What can we infer from this passage? A lot! First of all, this is the only dialog in the entire story, and there’s a big chunk of it. Take note when a story changes in style. Also, note that the hunger artist motivates this interaction. We infer, therefore, that he’s now desperate for human communication. Kafka has a gorgeous action line in here—the HA struggling up though he’s terribly weak, and pursing his lips as if for a kiss, grazing the overseer’s ear. This is Kafka’s way of evoking intimacy through an action and through a metaphor—the kiss.
A less savvy writer would’ve written: The hunger artist was about to die, and felt desperate for someone to talk to. He whispered stuff in the overseer’s ear.
Finally, a passage from my YA thriller, Fireseed One:
I catch myself sneaking peeks at Marisa’s blue boots, a smudge of seabed mud on one from where she scraped it against her suit. It will eat into the boot; I think of brushing it off.
“Don’t make me go downstairs,” she says softly. “Let me see your father’s system; I’m good at curing computer viruses. I can unfreeze the system. This way I can show you the files.”
Femme fatale. I’ve heard of those. Is she luring me in for the attack with her soft voice? “What’s to say you won’t totally kill it?”
“Well, some virus has already done that,” she reasons. “I’ll look for the Fireseed file. The best way to explain it is to show you the video of your father.” She leans in. “Maybe you’ll join our cause. It’s more worthy than any other Ocean Dominion charity.” “Charity!” I burst out. “Fat chance. Your cause, your evil frying cause destroyed what my father spent his whole life working on.”
Dialog is one of the best ways to show not tell! We learn that Varik doesn’t trust Marisa, but that he needs her for information. We learn he’s beginning to see her as a person though he’s resisting that. We learn that maybe Marisa has reason to help him too, but the verdict is still out, which creates tension. All without stating this directly.
Do you have any favorite show don’t tell tips? Which ones do you rely on?
Thanks, Beth for letting me guest post today!
"This modern how-to classic by National bestselling and award-winning author Debra Dixon has become a must-have for beginning and experienced writers. The author helps you know if your idea will work, plan a road map to keep your story on track, discover why you scenes aren't working and what to do about it, create characters that editors and readers will care about, and write a dynamite query letter to an editor. Complete with charts and examples from well-known books and movies.
I rarely read craft books. Don't get me wrong, I buy them all the time. I just rarely actually finish them. This is the second craft book I've read cover to cover. The other is "On Writing" and I find this one more helpful. I bought this book at a workshop hosted by Debra Dixon, the author. She explained GMC thoroughly that day, but I find the book more helpful. Partly because you can do it at your own pace, but also because each step is explained in detail. GMC is primarily a plotting tool, but the book explains how you can use it for characterization too. I strongly recommend this book. For a new writer, it's about the same length and as easy to read as "On Writing" which people tend to recommend when you start your writing career. But it offers more actual writing advice. On Writing is more motivational than anything. GMC explains how a plot should work, how conflict should work, and the character's story goal. I do think there are things an experienced writer can gain from GMC as well. While I still prefer the three act structure for plotting, and I've never had to work at characterization, I liked that GMC gave me another way to look at things. Also, I think it's helpful to know because many publishing professionals use GMC. I do think that by thinking about my MC's goal up front I can add a layer to my stories. However, I think this book sales for about $125. That's a lot considering how little writers make, so I recommend buying it from a workshop (RWA cons often sell it for $25) or getting it from a library.
Reminder: I'm in my writing cave. Hope to be around commenting soon.
Last week, I met an awesome writer, Cami who has a few books out, all clean romance. So today, she's given me an excerpt of her book which I'd like to share.
Injured in a debilitating accident at age six, Ethan Searle believes women eye him with a mixture of pity and disdain. He’s tried love before. He won’t again. He meets his match in a precocious two-year old who loves him despite his disability, even while her mother seems bothered by everything about Ethan.
Autumn Reader escaped her abusive marriage with her beautiful daughter and a stack of fear. She can’t make the mistake of trusting a man again. Autumn’s daughter becomes enraptured by Ethan. Despite Autumn’s best intentions, she finds herself following her daughter’s example. When her ex-husband reappears, threatening everyone she loves if she won’t submit to his demands, Autumn has to learn to trust or lose her chance at real love.
“Characters to fall in love with, action to keep you turning pages, and the most adorable little girl ever, The Broken Path is a compelling tale of strength and trust, courage and heart. I truly enjoyed this book.” – Maria Hoagland, Author of Family Size
"The Broken Path is sweet romance with heart, suspense, and plenty of story twists that kept me turning pages. Add in a romantic hero with a cane, a struggling single mom, and an adorable little girl and this book has it all!" --Heather Justesen, author of The Switch
The door swung open. Her heart’s palpitations ceased. Ethan’s attire was simple, Levis and a white V-necked shirt. He’d never looked better.
“Autumn,” his deep voice warmed her more than the summer sun. “You look beautiful.”
She tugged at the hem of her shorts, glad her long legs were tan from playing outside with Brittan.
“You...you...”Autumn stuttered, trying to find the right words to express how he looked.“...look beautiful, too,” she said. She barely caught her hand from smacking her head. What kind of an idiot tells a man he looks beautiful?
Heat crept up her face. “I mean, thank you, um, you look nice, too.”
He opened the door wider, a grin splitting his face. “Thanks. Why don’t you come through this way to the garage?”
They made their way through the large great room toward the garage entry, his braces rhythmically slapping the wood floor.
“I thought we’d drive to Pocatello,” Ethan said. “Is that all right with you?”
“It’s great.” Anything’s all right, as long as you keep smiling like that.
“I told Nancy I’d come pick you up,” Ethan said, “but she insisted you’d come here.”
“It wasn’t a problem to come here.” Autumn looked up at his profile. It wasn’t a problem at all. She’d go anywhere just to look at him.
“Your mom acted really odd about the whole thing.”
“Odd is a nice way of putting it.” Autumn shook her head, grinning. “She was outright rude to me.”
Ethan laughed again. “I thought she’d be happy you asked me out.”
“Happy? I asked you?” Autumn stopped and stared at him. “What are you talking about? Youaskedme out.”
“What?” He stopped as well, making a quarter turn with his braces to face her. “Nancy called me and said you were too busy with work so you couldn’t call. She said you wanted to take me to dinner for watching Brit.”
Autumn’s jaw dropped. “Why, that conniving, little...”
Ethan elevated one eyebrow. “I guessyoudidn’t ask me out?”
“No. I sure didn’t. I can’t believe my mother would...” Autumn’s voice faltered. Ethan’s shoulders drooped; his eyes filled with pain. “Not that I wouldn’t have asked you out, and I do owe you for watching Brit, it’s just I didn’t think you would want—”
“You don’t owe me anything,” Ethan interrupted her, his voice soft. “I’m sorry for the misunderstanding. Let me walk you to the door.”
Cami is a part-time author, part-time exercise consultant, part-time housekeeper, full-time wife, and overtime mother of four adorable boys. Sleep and relaxation are fond memories. She's never been happier.
A portion of the proceeds from Cami's books will be donated to The Child & Family Support Center. For more information on this worthy cause, please go to www.cachecfsc.org
First of all, I may not be around for a while because I have to finish the novella I'm working on. As you're reading this I have missed my self imposed deadline.
Today, I want to talk about goal setting. Most writers use a word count goal--words/day, words/week, words/project. I think that this is a good goal. To meet a word count goal, you have to write. Having to write is a good thing since you can be a writer no other way. You can also improve you're writing no other way. But I think word count goals may be better for new writers than the experienced writer trying to push her way into a career.
Word count goals are good to get words on paper. Yes, it's a must for all writers, but it's more of a must for new writers. They need that experience. When you've been writing for a few years, and you're pushing toward publication things change. Having a word count goal is still a good way to make sure you're writing every day. Even if it's a very low word count goal. But I think for someone whose goal is to get published, production goals may be more meaningful and that's something we seldom talk about in the writing world. The truth is whether you want to self publish or get an agent, you can only do so with a finished product. A well written, polished, finish project. So now getting words on paper is still important, but getting the right words on paper is just as important. Production goals are more meaningful for the career writer, because it's the number of finished projects you produce in a year that you can sell, not the number of words. My production goal this year is 4 projects, two short stories and two novels (although the shorts are turning out to be novellas) written, critiqued, revised, edited (by someone else) completed. What's your production goal this year?
I taught a class on blurb writing/plotting this weekend. You see the slash plotting, because my blurb writing class focuses on letting your plot write the blurb for you! Okay, so maybe the plot doesn't actually write the blurb. The blurb is still a lot of work, but the plot helps a whole lot! But this was a big deal for me, not just because it was the first time I've presented a writing workshop, but because a year ago I knew I had a problem plotting. It made me want to cry. I decided to get an MFA to improve my writing, but it would be more than a year before I could start. I wasn't willing to wait that long to improve my writing. I had to get better now, so I could get published. Not knowing what else to do, I started taking books apart on my blog. It became so second nature that the next time I queried, I used my seven plot points to set up my query. And that query went very well. Today, I plot so well that I'm teaching others to use the three act structure to set up their query.
The thing I love about this is that if I can learn to plot, anyone can learn anything. What have you learned over the past year? What are you hoping to learn this year?
Reminder: Today (Friday) is the last day to get Kismet for free, and I'm giving away autographed copies of Forever & Ashes here. Q: Who is your favorite book villain? Warren from Destroy Me, because he is complicated and I think a realistic villain. He's a bad guy, no disputing that but there are reasons for it. He's rounded.
Reminder: Kismet is free at Amazon today and made the best seller list for romantic shorts yesterday. It's still there but has fallen. And I'm giving away books here.
If I ever make a million dollars, I'll pay my student loans off and not give the government a 100% profit. I'll move to Texas and buy a house. And then I will start a writer's room in the city I live. I've heard they have these in New York and California. A place writers can go grab a cubicle and work without interruption. Chicago has something similar, The Story Studio which also teaches writing classes. But even Chicago is two hours from me.
So I will move to Dallas or Austin and start the coolest writer's room ever. The cubicles will have locking drawers. You will give an attendant your state ID and get the key to the drawer, so that you don't have to pack up your laptop every time you get up to use the restroom. It will have a day care that is either free ran by parent volunteers or charges by the hour with no minimum. You have one hour to write, fine use it and don't pay someone for the week. It will have a gym for people who can put in a whole day and need a good break. Go downstairs and run, have lunch and get started again. It will most likely be ran as a non-profit a good will venture to help books be created. I'll allow someone to lease space and run a cafeteria, so when you're on a roll you don't have to leave for lunch. If it profits at all, it will be from low cost classes.
Kismet made Amazon's best seller list for free short stories today and is free through Friday. To celebrate, I'm giving away a signed hardback copy of Ashes and a signed hardback copy of Forever to one lucky person who tweets/fbs/blogs this. I'm also willing to throw in hard back copies of Shiver and Linger, if you're interested, but I should point out it's been autographed to me. One entry per social media shout out, three entries to anyone who leaves a review on goodreads or amazon. (It doesn't have to be positive. If you don't like my book, I'm big enough to accept that. And as a fellow book blogger I know reviewing takes time).
Are you an author or a writer? What I mean by that is--is this your hobby, or are you hoping to make a career out of it? There is nothing wrong with either option. In fact, hobbyists might have something on me. They can just write! They don't have to worry about the business side.
But if you're going to do this as a career, you can look at it one of two ways: 1) You are your own business. Your name is your brand. 2) You are a freelancer. But freelancers are self employed, so you're really still your own business.
If you had any other kind of business, you would have a business plan. Authors need this as well. I've decided that I've queried for the last time, so I came at this as a self published author. (I'm not planning to release my novel until June, so if I get an offer from one of the fulls I have out, I can change my plan). But I think if I were traditionally published, I could easily alter my plan to accommodate that business model. I'll be producing the same products, the only thing that changes is whom I'm collecting my pay from. I have felt great since I created my plan. Having a realistic production schedule made me realize it might actually be possible to do an extra project this year, or at least start one. And I feel like I'm in control of my career now. I'm no longer waiting on someone else's acceptance. I write quality books. I'll pay for quality editing. I produce them. They may not be bestsellers (that depends on readers), but they get my name out there, they build a platform, and they build a backlist. I strongly recommend if you want to do this professionally, you make a plan. I found a great example of a self published writer's business plan here. It's a three part series, so you can find the other two parts here and here. I was able to use this as a template, but Denise Grover Swank, the plan's writer, was further along in her career when she wrote this than I am now. I had to get creative to make some parts work, but I did it. If you know you need a plan, but feel overwhelmed by this, send me an email. I can send you a copy of my "newbies" plan, or if you have one you're working on, I'm happy to help you work out the problem areas. If you're not interested in self publishing but want a plan, take out the pricing strategy, don't worry about the release date in the production schedule, and use everything else. (You still need the financial plan for things like conferences, business cards, and an editor if you use one before submitting).
If you had asked me two months ago, I would have told you that authors worry too much about branding. That what readers want more than a brand name is a good book. But something happened in December that changed my mind. I read two books I absolutely loved. Still do--I'll probably re-read them. They're that good. I was pretty sure the writer was going to become my new favorite author. She released a third book in December and I waited for it's midnight release and bought it. It was NA where the others had been marketed as YA, but her other books were about college kids too. So I didn't think anything about it. And boy, did I regret that not just because the book was so disturbing to read either(although it was). But because the next time this author who I was coming to love releases a book, I won't be able to buy it. There will be a voice in the back of my mind saying, "What if it's like the last one?" The problem wasn't the jump from YA to NA (and ironically, I think all these books are mislabeled). The first two books were sweet and beautiful. I'm pretty sure the third was basically erotica. For reasons I'm not going to go into, I don't see anything to be gained from reading/writing erotica, but there is a strong market for it. If a a writer thinks it's in their best interest to write erotica, it's none of my concern. But I wish she would have used a pen name. Because the next time she releases a sweet love story, I'd like to be able to grab it on day one. I won't though. I'll wait until I see a review from someone I really trust. Someone who only reviews PG-13 books. If it's positive, I'll buy the book, otherwise I won't.
Lesson learned. Branding is more important than Beth thought. What I've taken away from this, and what I hope other people do too, is that if you're going to do a huge genre shift use a pen name. I know it sucks to be debut all over again, and not be able to rely on your platform, but in the long run it's probably better than alienating your audience. And if you're not going to produce multiple books in the new genre, ask yourself if it really needs to be published. How does publishing it work into your long term goals.
This wasn't the post I had planned for the day, but I'm frustrated and I think getting it out of my system will help me write. I hope. Back in November I sent out 11 queries (including one to an agent I had a referral for). Pretty quickly, I received two fulls and three rejections. Since then nothing. Not even a form rejection. Monday will mark the eight week mark since things were sent, and I'll assume no response means no. But I haven't heard back on the fulls I have out either, and it's maddening.
On top of this, being home with a seven month old all day (she is adorable) makes it almost impossible to write. I'm going mad writing in twenty minute increments and hoping against all odds an email comes.
The Beginnings Blogfest is being hosted by LG Keltner at Writing Off The Edge in honor of her blogiversary. It's a blogfest about beginnings, so I thought I'd talk about how I started writing.
So I always knew I wanted to write, but it never stuck. When I was in the fourth grade, I asked my teacher to help me get a book published for Christmas. (Totally unrealistic, but I was in the fourth grade). When I dropped out of law school, I started trying to write some overly descriptive bs that I guess would have been literary fiction. Didn't stick. Thank God.
Before I decided to finish law school, I played with short stories (again literary) and thought about doing an MFA. Didn't stick. I gave up on writing and worked hard at my day job organizing evidence. Then my husband rented a vampire movie he heard a lot of girls liked hoping I'd watch it with him--Twilight. I think it stuck a little more than he had planned. I loved it so much, the next day we went to the theater to see New Moon. I loved that so much, I went to the bookstore and bought the other two books. I read them that weekend and loved them so much I bought the first two. Turned out Stephenie Meyer was only an English major who once upon a time had been employed as a receptionist. I was an English major too. If she could write, so could I. Not only was that the beginning of my writing career (I wrote my first PNR within six weeks of watching Twilight), but it was the beginning of my love affair with YA, and in a way the blog. (I started blogging to improve my writing). Where did you begin?
"When he steps into his physics class on the first day of senior year, Quinn Walker is too exhausted from staying up all night with his three-month-old nephew to deal with moral dilemmas. As a devout Mormon who has vowed to wait until marriage for sex, the last thing he needs is a very hot and very sexy Katarina Jackson as his physics partner. Regrettably, he has no choice.
Kat feels invisible in her mansion of a home six months after losing her older brother in a fatal car crash and will do anything to get her parents’ attention. Since her pastor father has no love for Quinn’s “fake” religion and her ex-boyfriend refuses to leave her alone, she makes an impulsive bet with her friends to seduce her holier-than-thou lab partner by Christmas."
So I have to admit this had a slow start, but it's worth reading. I point that out, because if you get deterred in the beginning stick it out. It's worth it. This book gets really good. Quinn is rather selfless almost to a fault and Kat is exactly the opposite. But the character transformation Kat makes by the end of the book is beautiful. This is a beautiful story. One thing I really love about it is the way Quin and Kat communicate--necessary for a relationship and the kind of thing you don't see a lot of in YA. I loved that they were able to put reasonable boundaries on their own relationship with no adult interference. Sure, in the beginning Kat agrees to this hoping to gain his trust and win her bet, but by the end she accepts it. This is the kind of thing, I think should be required reading for young people.
It does get heated at moments, so I have some friends who like clean romance that I'm not sure would like this, but I find it to be completely appropriate with a valuable message.
So yesterday, was the no kiss blogfest and I wasn't prepared.
Here is my no kiss scene:
When we got back to Tiffany’s, he
walked me to the door. He cupped my face in his hand and leaned in inching his
lips closer to mine. I’d never wanted anything so bad. He was so close I could
smell the mint of his breath and feel the heat on my face, when he moved away
from my face and hovered over my ear instead. Geez! What was he doing? Just kiss me already. He brushed my hair
behind my ear and whispered, “I’m sorry. I forgot you asked me to wait until the fifth date.”
He became more vertical and
dropped his hands around my waist pulling me to him. Locked in his arms, I felt
so safe. “Forget I asked you to wait.” I
“No ma’am. I have to think you
asked me that for a reason, and my girl needs to know I respect her.”
“Fine. But last night was a date…
Did you say I’m your girl?”
Thanks to my friend at Hope Love & Happy Endings I stumbled on to this awesome contest Bringing YA to You. The winner will be able to bring a tour stop of five YA authors to their hometown, and I need your help--the teens of Milwaukee need your help. I'm not being overly dramatic with that last statement it's just true. We rarely get author stops here, and I can only think of one time a well known YA writer was here. I don't know of any non well known YA writers who have been through either. I make it a point to get out and support those people. I don't know what the current statistic is, but I know when we first moved here from Texas, I expected things to be better. After all, you always hear about how antiquated the south is. So I was surprised to learn that at least then, Milwaukee had one of the lowest literacy rates and high school graduation rates in the country. In the country.
The attitude here is that education and literacy aren't important. You can survive without it. Survive, yes. Thrive no. I think that if more writers did come here, if books were pushed better here, if word got out that reading is fun and exciting then things would change. So help me. Please. Go here and give Milwaukee referrals.
So what an I insecure about? This short story I was supposed to have finished two months ago. I fear the middle is sagging and it's just a short. Geez. My new blog project on this blog and my new blog, both of which you can find out about here. (If you have something to promote this year, I recommend you check out that post). Then there are the queries and fulls I have out, and the grad applications that have not yet been answered. So much uncertainty.
And God I hope this short story turns out decent to good-ish. Okay, back to writing.
This blog has always been a learning tool for me, and in 2012 I realized that the thing I need to learn the most right now is how to build and maintain relationships. I'm not shy exactly, but I have a hard time talking to people I don't know. I'm not likely to approach someone, and that's been a real hindrance in promoting myself whether it be a book or the blog.
So I've decided I'm going to learn to approach people this year, and to help me with this my new year's resolution is to promote you! That's right. I'll publish your guest post, reveal your cover, interview your MC, anything you think will help your book sale. The only catch is that fiction must be PG-13 and nonfiction is limited to books on craft and/or marketing. (It doesn't even have to be marketing for writers, if you can make it apply). I hope you take me up on this offer!
Also, Wed will be query critique day. As long as I have willing participants, I will post your query with my critique at the bottom and allow other critiques in the comments. This way you will at the very least get my critique, and I'm teaching query classes this spring. But I've found critiques on this blog very helpful when querying and I'm sure you will too.
I've started a new blog, Health Blasts That Last. My husband and I are learning ballroom dancing this year to help us get in shape, and I've been forced against my will to get off sugar. Rather than boring readers who may not care about health issues, I've created a new blog for healthy living. If you are remotely interested, I'd appreciate if you checked it out. I'm getting healthy because I have to, not because I want to, and that is scary. Support is appreciated.
Before I list off my goals for the year, I'm going to check in for December's Goals. I find that being accountable for my goals on the blog helps me meet them, so you're always welcome to join in. If people are interested, I'll even make a linky. I do goals the first day of every month.
1. Send remaining grad applicationDone 12/5 2. Write 9 book reviews. (In other words complete P-52)!!!
3. Lose 4 lbs.This did not happen 4. Write proposal to teach online classDone & someone has booked my online class & another group booked a modified version for a live workshop 5. Write Demir It's Nadir. I got the title of my own story wrong and I'm 24 pages in but not done.
6. Work out 3 times/week. This only happened weeks I felt good. 7. Check into costs of blog toursDone & I actually won a 25 stop blog tour for $80 at an auction
8. Drink 6 cups of water/day This did not happen Goals for 2013
Read a craft book
Do a 6 week series on GMC or the Hero's Journey (these will be analysis)
Do a 6 week series on showing versus telling (these will be analysis)