Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Book Based Action Plan DIY MFA #3

On Monday, I posted a couple of  reading lists. The most helpful thing I learned all last semester (besides the kick in the butt of a monthly deadline, because some of you know I've been off the bandwagon for a while) was the action plan.

If you scroll down to the "subgenres" list, those books including my self chosen book of Beastly were used to create an action plan in my manuscript. This is how the action plan works. It helps if you can self-evaluate your manuscript before you start reading. What are some weaknesses you need to overcome? Make a note of that. Read 5 books in your genre. (The ones I used are all romance books. If you're a YA writer, you may want to use only YA even though it may still be romance). What do they have in common? That's something the market expects. Did you have a couple of favorites? What are the things those authors did really well? Chances are if it has become of favorite of yours, it has become someone else's favorite too and there is a reason for it. Out of all of this find five steps you can take to improve your WIP. Write them down. Justify to yourself how they will help make your book more marketable. If you're hoping to make a living--or even a royalties check--writing, marketability is the key. It doesn't matter how strong your manuscript is, if no one is willing to buy it.

My action steps were:

  1. Pacing (but if you've read the Peace books, you know I can handle pacing, so my action here was to maintain).
  2. Characterization--The hero has a redemption arc, and is one of the most hated people in history--literally. He's not likable in the opening scenes, but he has to be relateable. I found a couple of specific lines in the first chapter of Beastly that gave me an idea of how to accomplish this.
  3. Setting-- I don't care about this. To me description slows pacing. So by default I'm not good at it. My action here is to add one line of description for each new location. This shouldn't be soo much that it slows pacing.
  4. Showing-- The freakin rock in every writer's shoe. My action here is to find 3 places I can show not tell in each chapter.
  5. Layering- Flowers from the Storm was a beautiful book. It was so long but still one of my favorites and reminded me of Beauty and the Beast. The most important lesson I learned from that book was the art of layering. There was so much going on, so many conflicts, all overlapping it made for a good story. I thought I could layer my story better by adding subplots with similar themes to the main theme.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

DIY MFA #2 :Reading List

In 2016, I'm going to be doing a lot of posts on things I've taken away from my MFA that you can do on your own to improve your writing.

Because Hana asked today I'm giving you a reading list. One thing all MFAs have in common is a substantial amount of reading. Last week, I mentioned Lady X was this session's residency read and said I didn't know why because to me it didn't have cross genre appeal. Hana wanted to know what else we're reading for the MFA. 

Now let me start off by saying my focus is romance. I'll list the classics first, because you're likely to find use in these whether you write romance or not. If I were studying another genre I'd likely have a different list, but here's what I will have worked on from June of last year to June of this year:

Pride and Prejudice
Framely Parsonage
Jane Eyre
Nine Coaches Waiting
Our final project for classics RIG (reading in the genre) will be to find a book of our choice we will believe will become a classic. We are not supposed to select this book until mid semester but I'm leaning toward Twilight because 1)it's my favorite book, but 2)it's half way there. It needs to stay in print for twenty years to be a classic and Twilight has been in print for ten years.

Subgenres of Romance
The Liar-Nora Roberts
The Saint-Tiffany Reisz (seriously erotica; not recommended for fans of sweet/clean romance)
Destiny's Embrace-Beverly Jenkins
Outlander-Diana Gabaldon (genre mash-up, but we like to study how elements of another genre can add to our readership)
Flowers From the Storm-Laura Kinsale (my personal favorite)
Grave Danger-Katy Lee
contemporary book of choice. (I chose Beastly which was a re-read for me.)

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

DIY MFA: Three Weeks with Lady X

So I've been trying to figure out how to get started with the blog again after my extended absence. I've decided I'm going to let you follow along with my MFA. My writer friends will benefit from this without paying the $7100/semester that I am, and readers might find a few things interesting.

My MFA program works like this: every semester starts off with a residency where a lot of writers from different genres (YA, Romance, Horror, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Mystery, and Children's Literature) come together for a week to work intensely on specific elements of craft. That week always begins with a chat about a specific book chosen to hopefully pacify people from different genres. For our January residency the book is Three Weeks with Lady X.

"Having made a fortune, Thorn Dautry, the powerful bastard son of a duke, decides that he needs a wife. But to marry a lady, Thorn must acquire a gleaming, civilized fa├žade, the specialty of Lady Xenobia India.
Exquisite, head-strong, and independent, India vows to make Thorn marriageable in just three weeks.
But neither Thorn nor India anticipate the forbidden passion that explodes between them.
Thorn will stop at nothing to make India his. Failure is not an option. 
But there is only one thing that will make India his—the one thing Thorn can't afford to lose...
His fierce and lawless heart."

My Thoughts
I enjoyed the book, but I can't see why this was chosen for the residency. I don't think it has a lot of cross-genre appeal. It was a historical romance, which was fine for me because I love romance. I love the title. It makes the book sound racier than it actually is, and in the times we live.... 
So when I read it like a romance:
I immediately like the attraction between India and Thorn, and I knew it would go somewhere. I would have liked more emotion from Thorn sooner, and even India a couple of times. They're sneaking around together, and he's still trying to marry this chick and is telling her about it. And once or twice I felt like she should just knock on his door and then when his butler called him, slap him in the face, and leave. *Shrugs* I would have. But when his best friend decides he's interested, Thorn is finally ready to make a commitment. It just might be too late. I thought the author created urgency for me to read on, and I loved both characters as they each had a sympathetic backstory. 

Have you read Three weeks with Lady X? Do you feel it had cross-genre appeal? Did you love the romance?

Sunday, December 13, 2015

42 Days of Fiction

I issued a new policy last week stating that I would be blogging 3 days a week, but I wouldn't state which days or what I would be blogging. I was also going to limit fb and twitter use to Tuesdays only. I failed at both of these! But it's Sunday. It's a new week, and I'm going to try to reaffirm this.

I'm also excited about one other thing. I'm in SHU MFA program and one of my major goals the first semester was to establish a regular writing routine. However, I was also working on a Texas teacher certification through another program and a first year teacher so this didn't happen. To help make sure this happens, I've issued myself a challenge. (Those of you who know me from P-52 know I love a challenge). For the next six weeks I'm writing fiction every day. 42 days of fiction writing. Six weeks is apparently the amount of time it takes to build a habit. And I need a new writing habit. I'm hoping to finish my thesis novel by my January 8th residency and dump 50-60,000 words in my count toward a million. After that, I will focus on short fiction aimed at women's world for a little bit and decide what to do next. The short projects are awesome, because you can see immediate productivity.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

New Policy

So there will be a big change in my life coming soon. It isn't writing related, and it won't be a big deal to any of you. But for me it's huge. It will make a positive difference in my life. And so I am back. I should have time to blog again.

And I've decided to make this first post a policy--a commitment for me--The only day of the week I will be on facebook or twitter from now on is Tuesday, with the exception of linking blog posts. But Beth, you need to network. You have to connect with readers. You need those sales. That's all true, but I did that for years from my blog. I'm aware the world and the social media landscape has changed, but I haven't changed. I love love love connecting with my readers. I think every reader who has ever sent me an email has gotten a prompt personal response back. But those social media interfaces are time sucks. The blogosphere offers me things: craft advice, marketing advice, how-to tips. Facebook offers me political gifs which I may or may not agree with, and really can't do anything about either way. That being said, I do want to stay in touch with the friends I've made on these venues. On Tuesday. Since I'm only going to be on social media on Tuesday, I'm also committing to three posts a week here, but I can't promise which days or what the posts will be about though I'm expecting to see reviews return.