Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Editing Sucks. So Let Blogfests Do Your Editing FOR You!

The infamous Blogfest is a major component of the online writing blog-o-sphere. But how about using Blogfests to help you edit your WIP?

When we enter a Blogfest we have to stay within the host bloggers rules, but also within the unwritten rules. The rules on how to get readers genuinely interested in our entry (beyond just scrolling down to leave a generic comment in the hopes that you'll follow them in return! Shame!)

These are going to be pretty familiar:

1. Hook 'em!

  • You have just a sentence, maybe less, to get a reader to read your piece. So do whatever you need to do, but make us do a double take.
2. Long story short. 
  • Make it not only within the hosts word limit, but within the average persons attention span. Even a phenomenal premise can be dragged out to the point that they'll just sigh and give up. We have posts to write people! General rule of thumb, 400 is in good shape. 1000 words is pushing your luck. A 2000+ word entry needs to sign up for Jenny Craig. 
3. Make 'em want More, More, More! 
  • Sorry, couldn't help it. But that's what you need to do. To get them to follow you, they have to be interested in what you'll write next. (Cliffhanger anyone??)
So, what the hell does this have to do with editing you WIP? 

Everything. 

Try going through, one scene at a time, and think of each one as a blogfest entry. 

What would the theme of the blogfest be? Did I capture that, or go off on a tangent? Did I make the point I was supposed to make?
Do I honestly think this would be a good contender in a Blogfest?
And of course, following the three unwritten rules of blogfesting will put your MS on a crash diet and your plot will end up as tight as Mike "The Situation"s glowing orange abs. 

Plus the inherent benefit of blogfest ready scenes.... they make for insta-entries! Haha! I often use scenes from my WIP when the 'fest is relevant. And that means I get plenty of encouragement and feedback on my WIP! Yay!

So, tell me- Do you use your MS in Blogfests? Do you think you can take on the challenge?? 
And who has Upcoming Blogfests!?? Let me know!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Romance Blogfest Entry! Writing from your other characters POV's is enlightening!

Here's my entry! Enjoy! : )  Go HERE! to sign up yourself!

This is from the POV of Alex, the main characters boyfriend. It's his account of the first time he met her. In their interaction Alex notices some big red flags, but he's too fascinated with her to care. For now anyways.
It was the last final of the fall semester. I should have been psyched, but I couldn’t focus on anything. All I could think about was this shifty little brunette in the back row. Now that class was over I missed the only chance I’d probably ever get. At a school this size, the odds that I would ever have another class with her were slim. I didn't know what her major was. She'd never even talked to me. 
There was an elevator in Philmore Hall, but it was probably seventy years old, so I always took the stairs. But when I walked out of the class she was standing in the rickety elevator, staring right at me. I froze, like a deer in the head lights. Her eyes were electric blue, almost like they were glowing. She reminded me of a hot alien from a sci-fi movie. The type that ends up eating everybody. 
She pressed a button, but instead of closing the doors shuddered and stayed open. When she bit her lip my feet started moving all on their own. She raised an eye brow. The idea of being stuck in the elevator was starting to sound pretty good.Her eyes stayed locked on my face until I was standing next to her in the elevator. She just smirked and looked ahead. A bead of sweat slid down the edge of my jaw. 
She was not at all my usual type, she was tiny – maybe five feet tall – and pale as a sheet. But she was. . . interesting.It was obvious that I wasn't her type either. Most people had heard of her, and they talked. The guy who sat next to me said she scratched 'Fuck You' onto the hood of his friend Carlos’ Mustang. Everything about her said unstable. Girls like that dated musicians or guys who ride motorcycles. Not me. Not the honors student, church on Sundays, Honda Civic owner. 
I fumbled for my keys as we neared the ground floor, twirling them between my fingers. All semester I thought she'd been shooting me glances now and then. I slipped the key ring around my index finger. When the doors opened, I stepped forward and spun the ring. Just as I did, I was able to watch it careen off my finger tip and slide into the thin crevice between the elevator and the floor. Beside me I heard a muted snort. She was laughing at me. Great. 
"Crap." I couldn't help it, I laughed. I ran my hand over my head, calculating how long it would take to walk home from Philmore.She looked up at me, "Got a spare?"
"At home" I said.She smiled again,"Hey, don't worry about it. I got it." 
I just nodded and started behind her. My pulse was racing, it was embarrassing, but at least I had a reason to talk to her.
“Uh, my name's Alex, by the way.” I said as I caught up to her.She grinned wryly, “I know.”

Just Kiss Already Blog Fest & Show Me the Love Blog Fest entries!

So here is the set up, Rocky took off the night before to avoid talking about commitment and now she is coming back home. She and Alex have a bit of an awkward silence, but then he breaks the tension:
“Did you really jump out of a window?” It was not actually question, he was laughing.     Taken off guard by the shift in tone, I could not hide my smile or prevent myself from snorting. “Hey, it's a balcony, not a window.”He shook his head and laughed again. We were good.I got up off the couch and walked over to the bathroom. The door ajar, it would be easy to see the tub from the sofa. And I knew exactly what I was doing. I shot one cocky glance over my shoulder and leaned in to turn on the shower. Just as the water began to run, two warm arms wrapped around my waist.Heat shot down my neck, his mouth against my skin. Alex crossed his hands over my hips and turned me around. Leaning back for a moment, he looked down at me, trying to read me. I stretched on my tip toes to reach his face again, but he lifted me off my feet, setting me on the edge of the sink, we were eye to eye. Our breathing was ragged. He leaned in but I the guilt was killing me, “I'm sorry.”His face turned slightly so that his mouth grazed my ear, “Don't be,” he touched my cheek, “I love you.”     The corners of my eyes ached and my throat felt heavy, “I love you too.” But I can't make you happy, I thought.  

So there you have it = ) Let me know what you think! Sorry it's up late!

And for the Show Me the Love Fest from The Writers Cocoon:
1-- What is the most romantic thing anyone has ever done for you?

Well, just yesterday Justin and I were watching a documentary about evolution from NOVA (a topic we completely disagree on) and after poking fun at each others views he laughed and said, "We're so different, I don't even know how you even like me." I said, "I don't know how you like me!" But then I listed a few things I really do love about him and asked him sheepishly, "Why do you like me?" He said, "Well, I guess because - most of the time- I think you're perfect." He said it so matter-of-fact-ly, it was like he was commenting on my hair color or something. He's not a sappy person, he's an eye roller, so when he said that I just about burst into tears : ) 
2- What is your favorite love song?
Monica's "Angel of Mine"
3- Do you have a favorite romantic movie or book?
Favorite movies have to be Romeo + Juliet and Crazy/Beautiful
4- Do you have any romantic plans for Valentine's Day this year?
I made risotto for the first time (terrifying!)
5- What's your favorite romantic treat? (candy, chocolate, edible body paint, etc...)
Anything I can eat when I'm curled up with him is my favorite treat. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Ever Notice How Bizarre Fairy Tales Are? Lessons In Originality From The Classics

Writing about love is not easy. We have our own experiences or our childhood to draw on. And fairy tales have infused themselves into who we are, even after we're all grown up. But what can we learn from these stories in our writing?

At first glance, not much. They are the epitome of archetypes, right? How can we possibly get something fresh from 400 year old classics?

A lot. Consider this, if we're tempted to write about our own love stories, what are some of the usual ingredients?

- Mutual friends
- Restaurants
- Movie theaters 
- Merging your furniture 

Yawn. 

But fairy tales are bizarre, if you really pay attention to them. Take yourself out of the cultural fish bowl that taught you to expect these stories and follow me into the weird world of our childhood fairy tales.

Snow White:

 These are the ingredients for that story (without factoring in magic):


  •  Homicidal step parents with low self esteem
  •  Little people
  •  Attempted murder, by fruit
  •  A stranger groping a coma patient in the woods 


Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not interested in bashing the story (though it's an easy target). What I'm saying is, look at how freakin' weird it is! And yet it's a classic. Why? Because it's so freakin' weird.

Other fairy tales have an odd collection of common features:

  • Marrying a man she literally just met (Something that 90's sitcom Dharma & Greg worked into a hit!)
  • Men kissing unconscious girls they don't know. . . and it's the antidote to comas??
  • Killer step mothers! (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White. . .)
  • The story cuts off as soon as they get hitched
  • Children who run away from home and break into peoples houses (Snow White, Goldy Locks, Hansel & Gretel)
These are far from the only weird features in our classic stories. But it's a start. Now how do you utilize these quirky factors to improve your own work? Here are the lessons:

  1. Be WEIRDER!
    •  Take it up a notch and stop being so damn normal. And I'm not talking to the fantasy writers, I'm talking to writers of the magic-free manuscripts. It needs to be new. Weird is new.
  2. Be TABOO!
    • Don't just play with taboos, laugh in their faces and show them off. Raised eyebrows are page turning eye brows.
  3. Take it and RUN!
    • Take these stories and twist them, turn them, reinvent them! Take the basic elements of Hansel and Gretel and put it in Central Park today and BAM you have a super creepy thriller/horror story. Or pick up where sleeping beauty left off, but watch their marriage deteriorate into a messy divorce. It can be as a short story, a creativity exercise, or a whole MS. 
SO you tell me, what could you do with these stories? Which one do you think is just off the wall? 


Monday, February 7, 2011

5 Curve Balls You Can Throw at That "Sagging Middle"

So, you have a great beginning and a great ending. But what about the journey from start to finish? Do you have the dreaded sagging middle?

I think we've all hit that wall where we say, "Holy crap! How the hell do I fill this 6 month gap? Where did this even come from?"

Oh yeah, I've sooooo been there. But instead of letting it drag down my plot, I threw a curve ball at the main characters sister. I knocked her up!

Some events are package deals, with tons of extra scenes included. Here are some good ones:

Getting Married:
This event doesn't have to be a joyous occasion. It could be the characters father marrying a gold-digging tramp half his age. Or maybe it is a good thing, perhaps your MC's parents fall back in love after years of divorce.  
  1. The Proposal 
  2. Dress shopping (for female characters)
  3. Stag and Hen Parties
  4. The Wedding day
  5. The Honeymoon

Death:
This event is generally always a bad thing, but hey it's bound to be eventful. 
  1. The COD (cause of death)
  2. Trying to save/revive the character
  3. The emotional fall out
  4. The funeral

Pregnancy:
Like a wedding, this is not always a happy occasion. One mans bundle of joy is another mans bundle of poop.
  1. Conception
  2. Missing her period
  3. The pregnancy test
  4. Announcing the news 
  5. Nine whole months of potential disasters! (And a miscarriage is pretty dramatic too.)
  6. The Birth, of course!
  7. Parenthood
Divorce:
The MC's best friend? Mom and Dad? Brother? Bitchy boss who totally had it coming?
  1. The problems that lead up to it
  2. Breaking the news to the spouse
  3. Telling friends and family
  4. The awkward period before the move
  5. Moving out
  6. The court battles 
Affairs:
Now this could be it's own book, but it could also be that little spicy element you need to punch up your story. 
  1. The red flags
  2. The deteriorating relationship
  3. The discovery
  4. The confrontation or confession
  5. The fall out (make up or break up)
  6. How things turn out with the "other man/woman"
Now, these are huge events that might not work into your main characters path. But to have a secondary character go through it is eventful enough to keep the plot moving without throwing your story off track.

However...
 It's a very fine line. Adding a new story line should move the main plot forward, not lead you off on a tangent. I chose to knock up my MC's baby sister because it was the catalyst I was looking for.

So tell me, what kinds of events have you used to spice it up? Are you struggling with a sagging middle?
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