Threee Thingss Thursdayy

Brenda
Herb and I survived WIFYR, the week-LONG marathon of learning how to improve our writing 10 hours (and more) a day. We’d both been struggling a bit with opening chapters and, as a parting shot, Carol gave Herb an extra assignment: Read the first chapter of 50 books. Read them as a writer, noting what happens, when and how throughout. Then post “reports” on what you found out in each one. I was in a different class, but I thought Carol’s idea was an excellent way to figure out what I was doing wrong in my first chapter. I made a template, of sorts, for myself: the things I should look for or notice in each chapter read.
Here’s the list from my template — please feel free to add items you think might be helpful and post them here for all of us.
1.  Title
2.  Author
3.  World (as shown in chapter)
4.  Main Character  (MC) – how s/he is introduced
5.  What the MC wants
6.  The MC’s main problem (in getting it, or in life)
7.  Introduction of other characters
8.  Plot development (as revealed in just this chapter)
9.  Opening (what we find out in the first few paragraphs and how it’s working — or not)
I also added a few quoted sentences which showed the tension, the created world, and a couple of the outstanding characters. By the time I’ve read 50 chapters like this, those sentences will also be a solid reminder of that specific book.

 

Cheryl
I just watched The Great Gatsby again and I’m wondering  what makes it a classic. It’s not the writing, at least not for me. There are a few brilliant lines in it, but overall, it feels too flowery. The characters aren’t likable either. Each are burdened with flaws that can’t be vindicated. 

I think the genius lies in the fantasy it provides. Everyone can relate to longing for The One Who Got Away. It’s such a romantic idea, to think that someone has been pining for you from afar. And on the other side, we have the quintessential American Dream. A young boy, dirt poor, who managed to rise up to be the greatest and the richest of them all.
And then there is the debate about soulmates. The definition of bravery. The concept of honor. Is it possible, after all, to rectify a mistake made in the past?
What do you think makes it a classic?
Carol
Off to ALA tomorrow.
Going with my little Caitlynne.
Signings on Saturday: at the Zondervan/ HC booth at 10 am and at S&S at 3 pm. Come see me if you’re there.
I won’t be able to write tomorrow  as we’re leaving early in the AM. So here’s a FRIDAY exercise for everyone:
Get a cheap spiral notebook to keep your writing facts in. Save it always. Keep it near so you can add to it, like Brenda has. Ann Dee and I will work with you and this notebook the rest of the year, on Fridays.
To start–begin a collection of first lines and first paragraphs of novels. Write them into your notebook. Add title and author.
Analyze WHY these work or don’t.
How do you feel about the first line? The opening?
Do they fulfill a promise (you know this if you’re rereading)?
Do the first lines grab you?
What’s the tone from just that opening?
Are there wasted words?
Do you know what the book is about? How?
Why did an editor pick up this novel?
Is it successful?
Do this for the rest of the year. Analyze beginnings and why they succeed or don’t.
Remember Richard Peck said you are no better than your first line.
And Heather Flaherty, The Bent Agency, said she gives books three sentences.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

To blog or not to blog

My husband teased my last week because not only did I not get FIVE comments, I didn’t even get ONE comment.

I teased him because he has a mustache and that’s gross.

I  don’t mind not getting comments. I actually don’t mind if nobody reads this (does Carol mind? Maybe. Sorry). For me, blogging forces me to put sentences together. Lately that has not happened in any other forum. I also have a personal blog that I only write on when I am under extreme duress, or I am mad, or I can’t talk to anyone because I’ll start crying–so that blog is a little more regular than this one. Ha ha.

I do however have writing friends who don’t blog because they feel like it wastes writing time and energy.

Or they think no one reads blogs anymore (twitter is the thing).

Or they say it’s actually NOT writing practice because it’s a different type of writing.

Here are the questions:

1. Do you blog?

2. Why do you blog?

3. Is it a writing exercise?

4. Can it be a waste of time?

5. Do you read blogs?

6. Do you think twitter is the thing?

7. Do you find kale to be disgusting?

8. How many times a week do you wash your hair?

9. Do you think all writers should have blogs?

10. Do you think we should stop blogging and move to Hawaii?

That is all for today.

12 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

ALA and A Lot of Colons?

Last week’s Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers revealed some new, cool stuff we’ll do next year:

Practicums, 1-day, 2-day, 3-day workshops, as well as the normal 5-day workshops we have now.

Early registration.

Cute John Cusick.

We’re going to focus even more to help people publish.

And woot woot about that!

We’ll let you all know as the time draws closer.

 

Other things:

My dear friend Kathi Appelt taught about worrying the reader. I love that line. The reader should always be ready and willing to worry for a character.

And Ernest Robertson won the $1000 fellowship.

I had an amazing class. AMAZING. SO much talent in there.

 

Then:

In a couple of days I’m off to ALA and to meet my new Zondervan editor.

Yippee!!!!

Not sure which of my girls is going with. Perhaps I’ll go alone.

When I get back will my house have another new coat of paint somewhere? We’re in a place we can paint as we want. And Laura painted the dining room and nearly all the living room over the course of two or three weeks. While Nina was gone to Girls Camp, Laura and I painted her room. And while I was at WIFYR, Laura and Nina painted my room. SO COOL. This place has been melon-colored and icky-green for a million years.

So: no more posts from me (including 3 Thing Thursday) as I will be gone.

 

But next week, we’re starting again: writing and reading and loving and talking and being writers together.

:)

 

Leave a comment

Filed under CLW

Poor Carol

I have become the most unreliable blog partner. Carol and hopefully most of you are at WIFYR right now, one of my favorite places.

I am NOT at WiFYR, sadly.

Instead, I’m wiping down walls and stepping on spiders and trying to get my house ready to sell. Would you like to buy my house?

Here are a few things to think about this week–if you’re not at WIFYR. If you are at WIFYR, you will have plenty to do.

1. Listen to this podcast on fathers from This American Life. Different parts of this podcast jumped out at me.  One segment in particular, about a boy losing his father and seeing him in his casket (he used the word coffin which is a whole lesson on diction and how it can change a piece completely) made me think a lot about my own experience with bodies. And death. And parents. And how we are “supposed to” react to tragic events in our lives but yet things are so much more complicated than they seem.

Writing Prompt: Listen to this podcast and then write about your own dad. Write about he did or didn’t attempt to show you how he loved you. Did he say it out loud? Did he cook you breakfast every morning? Did he hug you and write you notes in your lunch? Did he dress up every day and wave to the bus? This could turn into a first chapter. It could be a short story. Or better yet, it could be a letter to your own dad, telling him how you love him.

2. Here are some summer reading programs to motivate your kids. Now we all need to think of some summer reading programs to motivate each other. How many books will you read these next few months? Why can’t i finish a novel? Why do my toes ache.

Writing Prompt: Make a list of books you’ve always wanted to read. Make another list of books you’ve heard about and possibly will read. Now make a list of books that are sitting on your side-table that you should read. Make a reading goal. The more you read, the better you write. Now tell me what to read.

3. Watch this show. Pay particular attention to the story-telling, the narration, the character development, the rising and falling action of each episode. This is based on a memoir. Are you keeping a journal? If someone was going to make a show of your life, what would the episodes be? What would have to change (to keep viewers interested), what could stay the same? A lot of times people will write stories and they will be unbelievable. I’ll tell them this. Then they’ll tell me that IT HAPPENED LIKE THAT IN THEIR REAL LIFE! And I’ll tell them: Sorry. It’s still unbelievable.

Life really is stranger than fiction. But we can use our life to make our fiction more rich. We just have to finesse it a bit.

Writing Prompt: Write a short episode–complete with hook, middle/climbing action, climax and ending–all based on an incident in your life. A small incident. Maybe something that happened today. While you were trying to cross your sweet child’s room to get a shirt and stepped on a lego and fell down on more legos and screamed out in pain and then someone called the ambulance and you were fine but you pretended you weren’t fine. You crossed your arms across your chest and waited for the men to come and put you in the back of the truck and people would be screaming and you’d be very very still and your kids would be worried so should you wake up? Or should you keep still. And let them learn about life and how sometimes people get hurt when they step on Legos. Write a story like that. Only different. And better.

That’s all for today. I think if I get five comments, I’ll give you more assignments tomorrow. If I don’t, I’ll know you’re all networking and laughing and singing and eating at WIFYR without me and definitely not reading this blog and I’ll just go back to acting like I’m going to paint walls WHICH I HATE.

The end.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Brenda:

“Returning to the Elements,” an article written by Jack Smith in last February’s THE WRITER, gave a review of several authors’ ideas about several of the basics of writing all of us are familiar with: Creating Your Protagonist, Managing Plot, Handling Point of View, Developing Setting, and Creating Dialogue.  Personally, he has written several books, including WRITE AND REVISE FOR PUBLICATION, and two satirical novels: HOG TO HOG and ICON.
He gathered ideas from several other authors, Catherine Ryan Hyde (of PAY IT FORWARD and 24 other novels) who led off the discussion on Protagonists.  She believes compelling protagonists “share two chief traits”: first, he or she needs to be someone with a strong enough “will to move forward through adversity,” and, second, needs to be “someone readers can relate to.”  It doesn’t harm to have your “relatable” character show some vulnerability either.  “We’re all vulnerable on the inside so our hearts go out to anyone enduring struggles we understand,” she says.
Oddly enough, she also points out protagonists “don’t necessarily have to be likeable or sympathetic,” though they do need “to be human.”  And how do we show the humanity?  “[G]et inside your character’s head” because that’s when the “humanity will begin to shine through.”
Is your protagonist . . .
moving with strength through adversity?  CHECK!
Relatable?  CHECK!
Likeable or not?  Doesn’t matter (though you should probably know).
Human?  CHECK!
And you know this by getting into his/her head?  CHECK!
GOOD JOB ! ! !
Cheryl:

When it comes to writing, I am a perfectionist.  Nothing is ever good enough. The sentences are never tight enough, the structure is never solid enough, the pace is never steady enough. I have been known to spend an entire week on one paragraph.

But I wonder sometimes if my perfectionism is really just insecurity.  It’s a good line, saying that I’m a perfectionist when someone asks why I haven’t published yet.  It’s true that I’ve met with a few agents and editors and I’ve never actually been rejected, just asked to revise and resubmit.  But that revision…I can’t ever get it to a place where I can actually say I’m proud of it. I’ve never reached the point where I can say, “This is it.  This is as good as I can make it.” It’s always, “Something is wrong. I don’t know what it is, but something isn’t right.  I can’t show this yet, it needs work.” Then I spend months, no, at this point I’ve spent years trying to figure out what it is that’s wrong.

However, if I could be brave…if I could just be brave enough to show my writing to others as is…maybe they could help. Maybe these things that having me panicking could be fixed with a couple of sentences by someone much more talented than myself.

This is why a good critique group is so important. Finding those that can help, inspire, and keep you on a deadline is vital to success for people like me. If you’ve been struggling, a good critique group could be exactly what you need. And if you’re lucky enough to be heading to WIFYR this year (I’m so jealous!) then be on the lookout. Many phenomenal groups have been formed there.

Me:
FYI–I won’t be around next week. Not sure in Ann Dee will fill in or not.
So! I’m off to the conference!
Hope to see you there.
:)

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

One Week to WIFYR!

It’s so weird how time flies. Just two days ago I had six months till the conference started.

And now this!

With these last minutes for preparation, I find myself running around like a crazy person.

Okay, a crazier person.

Still, I need to do one thing for me: my writing.

My goal this week is write an hour each day. I have two books to work on–the one with Ann Dee and a mid-grade that my agent thinks needs to be older. Both need rewriting.

I’m  going to get up earlier each day, go to bed earlier each night and practice the last day of the conference song. Yup! I’ve chosen one.

And it’s an octave too high for me.

This is gonna be good!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under CLW

Three Things Thursday

Cheryl:

It’s been a long time since I have  attempted any writing exercises, so this past week I tried writing a “six word story.” Here are a few of my attempts:
“Sorry, no discount on child-sized coffins.”
Home from fighting, not from war.
Like a turtle, she sheltered herself.
They’re harder than you might imagine. I’ve found that the most difficult thing is that each can be interpreted in so many different ways. I feel I’m not effectively translating the story in my head to that of you, the reader. And after all, that transfer is what good writing is all about, right?
Try it! Post your results in the comments, I’d love to see what others came up with.

 

 

 

Brenda:

Trying to think of an idea for today’s blog, I looked at the oldest item in my “To Read” file — mostly old copies of Writers Digest Online saved for later inspiration. My oldest (which SHOULD have been a journal entry) included a note from Staci, real estate agent and friend, trying to sell my condo so I could move back to SLC. The memories it brought back made me laugh — besides, now it’s June!
Dec 12, 2009
Staci: I would like to show your home please at 10 am Tuesday . . . Let me know if this is ok. . . . Thanks!
Brenda: Tuesday would be fine EXCEPT. . . (then I listed details like):
. . . in my 4th day of frozen pipes — absolutely NO water
. . . unable to do laundry
. . . dishes (hidden in dishwasher — mostly eating out)
. . . run to the club house to use the bathroom
. . . signed up for a seven-day trial at a fitness place so I can take a shower
. . . cleaning lady scheduled Monday
. . . if water’s still frozen, I’ll tell her to wait
. . . guy from (condo) Management came tonight (thanks to neighbor)
. . . put a space heater up in garage ceiling where pipes are
. . . last time, I think it took a couple days to thaw out after space heater installed
. . . later, they added more insulation
. . . extreme cold this week: it evidently isn’t enough
. . . call me late tomorrow — I’ll possibly know more
. . . this would NOT be a good “selling point”
You MUST have similar “nightmare” memories? What are they? How could you put them into your novel? How would your characters react? Will it be an angst-ridden scene in your book, or will it be comic? Any one? AnnDee?

 

Me:

Change is afoot at Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers (www.wifyr.com). An announcement about Things To Come will occur on the last day of the conference. I’m overwhelmed. No, wait! I’m excited about what we’ll soon be offering with this conference to help people be better writers. And get published!

Shhh! Don’t say you heard it here! I’m letting the cat out of the bag a little early.

:)

 

PS Yahoo for cliches!

1 Comment

Filed under CLW, three thing thursday