Category Archives: learning

NaNoWriMo 11/6 Excuses

Okay, so I didn’t get a chance to write on my camping trip, but we had a wonderful time.

As for Monday and Tuesday…well, very little writing got done as I tried to clean the house– including getting my son’s room straight. Soon, it will be time to sell it so I can get my own house and land.

Today I go to court to get the executor-ship turned over to my brother and I. Please revise your wills once the minors on it reach age. I’m 37 and my brother is 35. I am actually the only child listed by name in the wills. In fact, the appointed executor in the will stopped practicing law 7 years ago… in his late 60’s. It has made things a bit difficult in trying to sell things and pay bills. At least that will be fixed today.

So, as far as writing is concerned–

I WILL write today, and hopefully catch up a bit. My actual goal for this year’s NaNoWriMo is to get back to writing everyday. If I can get 50K done, awesome. I just want to fall back into the habit of writing again. That is the most important thing to me.

So, how are you doing with NaNoWriMo?

What are the challenges you have to push through?

What do you hope to get out of this year’s November?

Always,

Dawn

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Filed under author, conflict, crazy, feeling, growing, learning, NaNoWriMo, novel, White Darkness, work in progress

Character Sketches: Make Them Well-Rounded

Today it will have to be a quick blog as I have to head to work in a few minutes.

Character Sketches.

This is another way to get to know your characters a bit better. Will you use all this information in your MS? Probably not. But it will help you have a well-developed character. This is for all your characters, major and minor, protagonists and antagonists.

This is the sheet I use. It is from First Draft in 30 Days by Karen S. Weisner.

Character Sketch

Character Name:

Nickname:

Birth date/Place:

Character Role:

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTIONS

Age:

Race:

Eye Color:

Hair Color/Style:

Build (Height/Weight):

Skin Tone:

Style of dress:

Characteristics/Mannerisms:

PERSONALITY TRAITS:

BACKGROUND:

INTERNAL CONFLICTS:

EXTERNAL CONFLICTS:

OCCUPATION/EDUCATION:

MISCELLANEOUS NOTES: here I put a picture of my character, whether a sketch or an actual picture.

I think the rest is self-explanatory, if not leave me a message!

Always,

Dawn

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Filed under Character Sketch, character traits, characters, growing, ideas, Karen S. Weisner, learning, novel, story

Pillars of Writing

Okay, so today I want to talk about what makes a good novel, especially a thriller novel.

To begin with, it would help to define what a thriller novel can be.

A Thriller is a moral tale. Yep, you heard me right, a moral tale. Despite the negativity that is often applied to such a term, a moral tale is not a bad thing. The moral does not have to beat you over the head like the last 15 minutes of Happy Feet. It can be far more subtle than that. A good morality story teaches you about morals without you even being aware of it at the time. Let me give you an example. Who here hasn’t read a Harry Potter book? Okay, so most everyone has. Think about it for a minute. All the Harry Potter books urge people to follow in Harry’s (and Hermione’s and Ron’s and Dumbledore’s) footsteps by standing up for what is right and good. Yes, it is a morality tale. And a damn fine one at that. Did you even realize you were getting a message when you read it? I didn’t.

Okay, so a thriller is a moral tale. Great. Now, what kind of books can be thrillers? Well mysteries, horrors, paranormals, science fiction, fantasy. All of these can be counted under the thriller definition I am using here. The most important thing is that it is a moral tale, that’s it.

Now, on to the pillars. (I am using the term pillars because it is the term James N. Frey uses in his How to Write a Damn Good….  series. I recommend How to Write a Damn Good Thriller to anyone writing in a genre listed above.

All of these Pillars help to make a cohesive novel that is interesting and even fun to read. Remember you don’t want to hit people over the head with morality though. This is not Happy Feet. (Yes, i keep using that example, mainly because I loved the movie until the last 15 minutes, where it irritated me, a proud conservationist. if you haven’t seen it, I suggest you just skip over the end when it gets really preachy.)

Okay, without anymore ado, The Pillars.

1.) High Stakes– This is important, though the definition of high stakes can differ. It does not have to be the life and death of all humanity to be high stakes (though it can be). It could just as easily be the survival of a child, the savior of an immortal soul, or something else that is important. In all this is a pretty straight forward pillar. Don’t think about it too hard.

2.) Unity of Opposites– Okay, this sounds complex. It  isn’t. Of course, neither is novel-writing. Hard, definitely, but not complex. Unity of opposites, with everything else stripped away, is basically the reason your hero can’t just pick up and leave. That’s it. What is keeping your hero from saying, “The heck with it!” and getting out of Dodge? it can be morality, or even physically being stuck somewhere. Just make sure the reader isn’t asking why he doesn’t just leave.

3.) Seemingly Impossible Odds– The hero may not make it against the odds, and definitely for a period of time the reader doesn’t think he can. Usually, however, the hero does eventually overcome the odds. Usually, not always.

4.) Moral Struggle– Easy enough. There is a good side and a bad side. Your hero is on the good side. Think Luke Skywalker in Star Wars. The movies would have been completely different if told from Darth Vader’s point of view. (Notice I said Vader, not Anakin).

5.) Ticking Clock– There has to be a deadline for the hero’s actions. This is über important for the thriller to have a sense of urgency. I mean if there is no deadline, there is no reason for the hero to try to solve the problem and defeat the villain.

6.) Menace– Simply put, your hero and other sympathetic characters are in danger through most of the story.

7.) Thriller-type Characters– Your characters, hero and villain alike, must be clever and resourceful as well as larger than life. Think about Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker again. Although both are believable characters (in the Star Wars universe) they are both bigger than life, and incredibly clever. Same with Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort (yes, I said his name).

Incorporating all these Pillars into your novel will make it stronger and a far more interesting read. If you leave even one out, you run the risk of losing your readers, and we all know that is not a good thing.

Remember a thriller can be just about any type of novel, not just a murder-mystery or a zombie book.

Good luck, good writing!

Always,

Dawn

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Filed under author, character traits, characters, conflict, feeling, growing, ideas, learning, novel, paranormal, rules, story, thinking process, Thriller, voice, Writer, writing, Writing a Paranormal Novel, writing novels, writing process

Character Journals

… and we’re back!

Okay, so I have been reading quite a bit recently about writing books. I know I mentioned in an earlier post how a writer should always keep learning and that books on the craft are a great way to do so.

Well here is one of the best ideas I have learned.

Sounds crazy. Well maybe not to you, but it did to me.

Write a journal entry for each of your major characters.

Crazy right? Actually, no.

A lot of authors get discouraged at their inability to find an agent or a publisher (if they are going the direct to publish route). They have no idea why their book(s) fail to engage someone else.

Has this happened to you? Don’t despair. I may have the reason right here, and if not in this post hopefully in one of the ones coming up in this series.

Many, many, many times, a writer makes their characters (especially their antagonist) too one-dimensional.

Makes sense if you think about it, though. I mean, the bad guy is supposed to be really bad, right?

Well yes, and no.

Agents and readers want an antagonist who is bad/evil/manipulative/etc, but he/she/it has to also be well-rounded. In other words, the character needs to live and breathe, have flesh.

Yikes! How?

The journal. It has helped me get deeper into my characters’ heads than anything else.

For instance, my bad guy is pretty bad. He wants to do a blood sacrifice on a child. He is evil, manipulative, larger than life.

He also had a very messed up life before the thing which changed him into a thing. (that is as specific as I am going with that, so deal with it!) 🙂

I had no idea before I wrote his journal that he had a wife who killed herself after their daughter died, or that he was blamed for a number of things out of his control, or that the reason he went to the place that changed him was to get spiritual guidance to take back with him to his people.

Wow. I really didn’t know my antagonist at all!

The journal helps.

One thing that I do is to use a different font for each character. I go through Microsoft’s fonts in Word and find the one that looks like the character’s writing. Then I just write away (*grin*) in that character’s perspective about his or her life up until the moment the story takes place. I suppose you could do it for the whole story too, but that is enough for me to know my character and understand what motivates him.

Will you put this journal in your story? No.

Will you use everything you learned about your character in the story (i.e. that his wife died)? probably not.

This is a tool for you, as the writer, to get to know your characters. Afterward you can see how they would react to certain situations because you know their deeper motivations.

So, what are you waiting for? Write those journals!

Always,

Dawn

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Filed under author, character traits, characters, conflict, crazy, editing, feeling, growing, ideas, learning, novel, paranormal, story, thinking process, voice, Writer, writing, Writing a Paranormal Novel, writing novels, writing process

Interview With Kacey Vanderkarr @kacimari

This Friday we have the fabulous Kacey Vanderkarr….a fabulous writer and a beautiful person all the way through. Take it away kaci!!

1)   What genre(s) do you write? And why?

 I write YA.  I can’t imagine a more interesting or dynamic period in someone’s life than the teenage years.  It’s fun as an adult to put yourself in their shoes and then pull all the strings.  With YA, it’s all about the drama.  Relationships, emotions, and hormones are all elevated.  It’s acceptable to go on murderous rages, to scream, kick and fight.  You can love with your whole heart and hurt with your entire being. The beauty is in the intensity of it all. Let the crazy begin!

 

2)   Tell us about your latest project. This is your chance to crow about being published, agented, or winning a contest.

 My latest project is also technically my first.  I’ve written a series of four books without looking back or doing much editing.  When I got to the end and realized that I wanted to get them published, reality hit—hard.  I’ve spent the last few months trimming my first manuscript, Stepping Stones, a YA Fantasy Romance, from 125,000 words to 80,000.  I expect to start querying by the end of August, if everything goes as planned.  Of course, nothing ever does, but I’m hopeful!

 

3)   Other than writing, how do you like to spend your time?

 I pretty much live four lives at any given time.  First off, I’m a mother and wife.  My husband actually complains about the amount of time I spend writing.  It’s a good thing he’s not in my head—because he’d really hate how much I think about it!  Aside from that, I coach a winterguard team at my local high school.  From October to April, I immerse myself in teenage drama.  It’s awesome!  I love coaching.  It really gives you the opportunity to change someone’s life.  My third life is Ultrasound.  I work at a hospital in the Diagnostic Imaging Department.  I know that most people think that ultrasound is just for pregnant women, but that’s not the case.  We pretty much do it all—abdomens, thyroids, veins, arteries, testicles…well, you get the picture.  My fourth life is my writing—enough said.

 

 4)   Do you have any tattoo’s, if so where? If not, do you want any?

 I have five tattoos with detailed plans for a sixth.  I have the Pure Romance heart on my foot.  Yes, that’s right.  I used to sell sex toys.  It was one of the most exciting jobs I’ve ever had, not to mention the most fun.  I have a nautical star on each hip.  On my back I have a star with a tribal design.  On my left shoulder I have a matching cat tattoo with my sister.  My plans for the sixth are pretty intense.  It’s going to be a naked tree with visible roots.  Skeleton keys will hang from the branches.  It will also have a crow or a raven sitting in it.  Above the tree will be stars, below it will be the quote “Without the dark we’d never see the stars.”  Kudos if you know where the quote comes from. 

 5)   What is the last book you read? Did you like it?

 The last book I read was Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger.  I enjoyed it to an extent, but overall was disappointed.  I absolutely loved The Time Traveler’s Wife, so I expected it to capture me just as much.  However, after 300 pages of waiting for something to happen, it didn’t.  The book did have a lot of creepiness, intricate characters, and some not to subtle maliciousness.  Long story short, I probably won’t read it again.

 6)   What is your advice to those who want to be authors? (I know, it’s a crummy one, but needs to be asked)

 Get as much information as possible BEFORE you start writing.  Sadly, in the end, writing is the easy part.  The editing, the late nights spent crying over cut scenes, and the harsh critiques are NOT the easy part.  Find a support network.  Meet new people and use their advice.  We are all human and we all react differently to things.  There is a wealth of knowledge, information, and opinions in others.  Use it!  Also, believe in yourself.  A lot of people are going to cut your work down and say things you don’t like.  But if you have a story to tell, you have a right to not listen!  You are your best advocate and worst enemy.  Trust yourself.

 7)   Tell us one thing no one knows about you

 I have a teddy bear.  I’ve had him for 24 years.  I can’t part with him.  I keep telling my husband that I’d settle for a small pillow, but it hasn’t happened yet.  Gah!  I can’t believe I’m telling this to the world.  At least it’s not a crack addiction. 🙂

 Follow me on Twitter:   http://twitter.com/#!/kacimari

            Blog: http://kacimari.blogspot.com/

 Like me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Kacey-Vanderkarr/128956043852072

Isn’t it great to know more abot your favorite people?

OKay guys, I don’t know how next week is going to go, we are expecting a lot of downed power lines in the area this weekend from Hurricane Irene. I will try and keep up the blog, but without power it will be difficult!

Always,

Dawn

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Filed under Agent Query Connect, author, characters, crazy, feeling, growing, ideas, inspiration, interview, learning, novel, Writer, writing, writing novels, writing process

Interview with Jennifer Merritt

Here is another wonderful author who was so kind as to let me interview her! Thanks Jennifer!

1)   What genre(s) do you write? And why?

I write science fiction romance. I love books that take place in our

world with one difference. It’s easier to believe the fantastical if

everything else is familiar. I like fast, fun, quirky stories, and I

write what I like to read. I also work as a freelance journalist for an

agriculture newspaper. Playing with aliens is a nice foil to the cows

and chickens. Although when you look at the world it isn’t hard to

imagine that the aliens are already here. All you have to do is spend

some time watching the sloths at the zoo to believe.

 

2) Tell us about your latest project. This is your chance to crow about being published, agented, or winning a contest.

My current work in progress, Electric Impulses, is about woman named

Stella Morgan. When Stella gets upset she emits electrical pulses

strong enough to fry small appliances. She hasn’t had a working coffee

maker in years. Stella has to choose between her yummy neighbor and her

ruggedly handsome boss only one of whom is human. At the same time

she’s dodging unwanted advances from a race of particularly nasty

aliens. She’ll be lucky to avoid alien abduction and a broken heart.

I’m hoping the book and its sequel will be available in the fall.

 

3)   Other than writing, how do you like to spend your time?

I love to read, paint and throw pottery ( the malleable clay kind not

the shattered plate kind.) I also like to garden, but given the current

weed infestation I’m embarrassed to mention it.

 

4)   Do you have any tattoo’s, if so where? If not, do you want any?

Boy howdy, I wish I did. I would be so much cooler with a tattoo. I

flirted with the idea a couple of decades ago, but I’m too scared of

needles.

5)   What is the last book you read? Did you like it?

Smokin’ Seventeen by Janet Evanovich I love Stephanie, Morelli and Ranger, and Grandma Mazur and Lulu make me laugh out loud. I enjoyed the book, but without giving too much away, the sex scenes were disappointing.

6)   What is your advice to those who want to be authors? (I know, it’s a crummy one, but needs to be asked)

Write a lot and never ever stop reading. I think the best writers are readers, too.

 

7)Tell us one thing no one knows about you.

I really like to go to the movies by myself.

 

I am a freelance writer and the often harried mother of three young boys. I live in southwest Virginia with a smattering of animals who have me well-trained.  I blog at http://thedemeterdiaries.blogspot.com/ and tweet at @jenwmerritt

Awesome huh? Yeah, she’s great, thanks again Jennifer

Always

Dawn

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Filed under author, characters, crazy, feeling, growing, inspiration, interview, learning, novel, story, thinking process, voice, Writer, writing, writing novels

Interview with J. Lea Lopez @JLeaLopez

J. Lea is a wonderful writer with a very positive attitude. She has a lovely little dog that I absolutely adore and a heart as big as all outdoors! Take the ride with me as I interview her!

J. Lea’s blog URL is http://jlealopez.blogspot.com and her Twitter page is http://twitter.com/#!/JLeaLopez

J. Lea Lopez has been writing since those angsty teenage years, though she and her writing have both matured since then. At least a little bit. She currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and dog-child. In addition to jello, her blog Jello World also discusses life and writing. Follow her on Twitter for a little bit of nonsense, a little bit of writing-related info, and a little bit of stuff to make you blush.

1)   What genre(s) do you write? And why?

I write women’s fiction and erotica. The women’s fiction is just how most stories come out of my head. Female-centric, stories of relationships and life struggles, drama, the occasional tear. I’ve never had the head to spin fantastic tales. I’ve always imagined potential real-life what-ifs and stories sprung up from there. The erotica came later. I’m all for being more open and frank about sex and sexuality, and when a writer friend whom I respect immensely told me my sex scenes were good, I decided to take the plunge (ahem) and try erotica.

2)   Tell us about your latest project. This is your chance to crow about being published, agented, or winning a contest.

 With the exception of a few short pieces (you can find links on my blog) I don’t have any major publishing credits. One day… *sigh*. My current WIP is commercial women’s fiction, about a young woman whose fiancé dies just weeks before the wedding, and in the midst of her grief she finds herself falling in love with his brother. During this time of crisis, her faith – or lack thereof – is challenged, leading her to begin a series of conversations with a Catholic priest debating the existence of God, the purpose of suffering, and the boundaries of love.

3)   Other than writing, how do you like to spend your time?

I like creative things in general. Listening to music (anything I can sing along to is great), sewing, reading, watching TV and playing video games.

4)   Do you have any tattoo’s, if so where? If not, do you want any?

I do not currently have any tattoos, but I think I’d like to get a simple one of the Zelda triforce symbol. (Yes, I’m a bit of a geek.)

5)   What is the last book you read? Did you like it?

I’m currently in the process of reading a couple different books. But the last one I finished was… now don’t laugh… and don’t jump to conclusions… Swinging for Beginners: And Introduction to the Lifestyle – Revised Edition, by Kaye Bellemeade. It was interesting and informative, with the exception of one glaring health-related error that made me cringe.

6)   What is your advice to those who want to be authors? (I know, it’s a crummy one, but needs to be asked)

It is never too soon to start learning about the industry. Multi-tasking is your friend. While you write and polish your novel, you can also be doing 15 minutes of research a day for however many months it takes you to write your book. And research can be as simple as reading agent blogs. By the time you’re ready to query, you’ll actually know what a good query letter looks like and how the process works.

7)Tell us one thing no one knows about you.

Well if I tell you, then everyone will know 😉 But seriously, I’m a pretty open book. Ask and I shall answer for the most part. I don’t know that there’s much that people don’t know about me.

Please follow both her blog and her Tweets!

Always,

Dawn

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Filed under Agent Query Connect, author, characters, growing, ideas, interview, learning, novel, voice, Women's Fiction, Writer, writing, writing process