Wednesday, July 27, 2011

ROW80 7/27 check in

You know that saying "all good things must come to an end"? Well my goal-kicking streak definitely adhered to that this week. Epic fail all around. I don't want to post goal by goal this week because all of the red will probably depress me.

I only had a chance to write last Wednesday and a little bit on Monday. Thankfully I'm still on target for having Arieties ready for beta readers by the end of ROW80, which is my main goal. Unfortunately it's giving me a ton of issues. I'm going to work on it today for about an hour and if inspiration doesn't strike I'm going to have to set it aside and focus on another story.

In keeping with my weekly tradition, here's some cake:

He's disappointed in my lack of goal crushing this week. Hope everyone else was able to hit their goals!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Creating a Contrast

So I was doing research for a client at work the other day and I stumbled across this article about the creator of Oreos. Now this is a marketing blog, but one part struck me as being extremely pertinent for writing:

"Dynamic novelty is all about creating a contrast between two opposing forces. The opposition creates harmony and by having both, you can stand out."

They're talking about the taste of Oreos in the article, but I am going to apply it to stories. The contrast can be simple: the antagonist vs. protagonist, good vs. evil. Or it can be within a character, like conflicting ideals or the realization that all is not as it seems for a character. No matter what, the conflict has to be there. By going deeper with the opposition (i.e. taking the conflict internally or having multiple opposing forces) you can create an engaging, life-like story line that draws the reader in and makes your story stand out from the masses.

How about you? How do you create dynamic novelty in your story line?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

ROW80 7/20 check in

Another week gone! Unfortunately, my Poconos trip was canceled this past weekend :( but I still went away with a group of friends :) but I didn't get a chance to bring a computer to work on my edits anyway :(

During the week I did well, though! Let's see how it went:

Goal 1. To write at least 500 words in a new story or 1000 words in an existing WIP, 5 days a week
I completely focused on Arieties and got 6000 words written this week, yay me! I am  completely rewriting the ending, so almost all of it is brand new scenes that I love 43280948230x better than what I previously had in my SFD.

Goal 2. To complete (or edit) at least two full scenes a day, 5 days a week

Again focusing on Arieties, in addition to my 6000 new words I also edited 5 existing scenes. I know that's not 2 full scenes a day, but I completed about 7 new scenes so that counts toward it.

Goal 3. To have the draft of my WIP Arieties ready for beta reading by the end of ROW80
I am so happy with myself this week as far as this goal. I have another round of edits before it's even close to ready, but I am way ahead of myself. I'm a little under 20,000 words away from being finished with editing this round. Yay!

Goal 4. To visit at least 2 blogs of my fellow ROW80 participants per day (on days that I have access to internet)
My b. I skipped last Thursday because I just didn't have a chance at work and I did not have a chance to get on my internet connection at home. But, I went way over 2 per day on the other weekdays, so it sort of makes up for it. Maybe? Please forgive me?

For next week I'm going to amend Goal 2 to just focus on editing 2 scenes, since writing 500/1000 words and two scenes seems a little redundant. Other than that I think I'm going to keep my goals this time. Shocking, I know. After this round of edits on Arieties I'm going to demand that I work on other works, specifically some short stories that are half completed/stewing in my mind.

Since the treats went over so well last week, and we're in the middle of a heat wave in NYC, here's some ice cream to cool you off. Enjoy!

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Obligatory Dark Part

How many times have you watched a movie (specifically comedies/romantic comedies) and reached the point where you think "Ugh, I know they're going to get back together, but now they're pretending to hate each other. I hate this part" ?

Love the movie, but come on. If anyone didn't see Kat getting mad that 
Patrick was paid to take her they were not thinking.

There are a lot of movies I like that have this, and I realize that it's necessary to move on to the ending of the story and make for a more satisfying conclusion. Still, it's the part of the movie that I get up to refill my popcorn/drink/etc. Books, likewise, have this part. It looks like the hero is never going to get to his/her goal and yet you know that they'll make it there in the end.

The trick in writing is to make me not want to skip a bunch of pages or to make my butt glued to that couch until the very end. Even if I know that the hero gets the girl, make me question it. Too often, writers get attached to their characters and put them through necessary evils, but by making these evils completely atrocious and painful it often creates a better story.

Literary Agent Donald Maass (@DonMaass) tweets writing prompts designed to make your story better. While I personally don't believe that every single one of the prompts should be included in every story (personal preference) they are all ridiculously useful ways to make a story better. For example: "What’s the emotion or experience you’re most afraid to put your MC through? Go there. Do it. Now."

That prompt (number 29 out of 40-something) acknowledges that it's often the writer that's holding the story back. I'm guilty of it, I know I am. I love making my characters sweat, but I hate actually putting them in the fire. They're my little creations. But think of it this way: if your reader gets as attached to your character as you do, they'll be rooting for him/her even more if they have to overcome enormous odds to succeed. I'd rather watch someone climb a treacherous mountain than skip over a hill.

How do you get past putting your characters through hell?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Thank you, JK Rowling

Pardon any and all ramblings in this post. I'm going on 2 hours of sleep and no caffeine.

I saw the final installment of Harry Potter last night and thus have concluded a 13-year chapter of my life. Sounds dramatic? Well, it kind of is. How many things have you loved consistently, looked forward to consistently, for 13 years? Now, I'm still young. 13 years is over half of my life. That's a whole lot of time for me.

So I'd like to take this post to thank the woman who made it all possible. JK Rowling.

Thank you, JK Rowling, for creating characters that turned into friends that I was fortunate enough to grow up with.

Thank you, JK Rowling, for developing this imaginative, unique, creative world that allowed my imagination to run free as I pictured (and then later watched in the movies) witches and wizards and goblins and unicorns and banshees.

Thank you, JK Rowling, for introducing a story that was so engaging it got some of the most resistant readers to read 400+ page books and then ask for more.

Thank you, JK Rowling, for reminding us that the ends do not always justify the means. That good will triumph over eve. That no matter how dark it might look at one moment, something wonderful could happen the next.

Thank you, JK Rowling, for showing us the power of friendship and love and reminding us that those are the most important things in the world. Power, money, prestige, grades, none of that matters if you cannot love and be loved in return.

Thank you, JK Rowling, for giving us someone to relate to. Whether someone is the jock (Harry), the brains (Hermoine), the loser (Neville), even the bully (Malfoy), everyone has a chance to be a hero, even in the smallest way.

And thank you, JK Rowling, for the countless moments that I couldn't even put into words. The moments where I cried with the characters, laughed with them, cheered for them, even for the moments that I could not stand them (hello book 6 anyone?). Thank you.

Some people might say it's stupid. It's just a story. It's just something out of the mind of one woman who made billions of dollars off of it. Yeah, maybe, but if you look around this past week: in newspapers, magazines, on television, you'll see it. You'll see the people whose lives were forever changed by the orphaned boy wizard who overcame impossible odds to save the wizarding world from evil. Maybe they weren't changed in a big way, but they were changed.

So thank you for the past 13 years, JK Rowling.

Mischief Managed

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

ROW80 Check in - Week 2

So my first week with this challenge is over! I definitely did better since my last check-in. I love the accountability of the whole ROW80 community. Everyone is so supportive and the fact that the participants check up on each other's blogs makes me even more driven to hit my goals each week. I've decided to make my goals more week-to-week than the whole challenge, with only certain goals making it the whole way through so we'll see how this goes. Thank you to everyone who has stopped by this week and good luck with this next week's goals!

And the results of this week:

Goal 1. To write at least 500 words in a new story or 1000 words in an existing WIP, 5 days a week

I'm going to adjust this one because I'm focusing on editing Arieties right now. For this week, I'm going to change it to write 1,000 words a week in a new WIP or in a new scene in an existing WIP. So no editing scenes and counting that toward my total.
So as far as the new goal goes: COMPLETED
I wrote 520 words for PLASTIC and 630 words for my short story Gemma (tent title). Done and done.

Goal 2. To complete (or edit) at least two full scenes a day, 5 days a week

Most of the scenes were for Arieties. I'm now 2/3 of the way through my first round of edits and it's already 10x more solid than my SFD. I did get a chance to edit a scene in my short story LUCY IN THE SKY as well. I'm changing it to 5 days a week mainly because I have a bunch of weekend trips coming up and there's no chance of me bringing a computer to the Pocono Mountains or say A BRITNEY SPEARS CONCERT (sorry I just got a little excited there. DON'T JUDGE ME).

Goal 3. To have the draft of my WIP Arieties ready for beta reading by the end of ROW80
On target for completion.
Like I said, I'm 2/3 of the way through my first round edits. I'd like to get another complete round in by the end of the challenge so I should be doing okay.

Goal 4. To visit at least 2 blogs of my fellow ROW80 participants per day (on days that I have access to the internet)
I've been doing this anyway but I don't want to fall off as the challenge goes on so I'm going to make it official. 

So there it is. Yay me! As a treat I'm giving myself some virtual cookies and sharing them with you guys. Mmmm kisses. Enjoy!


Monday, July 11, 2011

Did I really write that? A guide to metaphors and similes

Okay, it's not looking good for Sunday check-ins for ROW80 so I think I'm just going to stick to Wednesday updates instead. Now, on to my Monday post:

Last Thursday former literary agent/current author Nathan Bransford critiqued a writer's page with his main takeaway being "Avoid being writerly. "

As he explains it: "When you're being writerly, your writing is making things less clear with clever word play."

Now, as a part of an online critique group, I find that I can pick out the "writerly" and point it out to other writers. Surely I am not guilty of this, right?


I was editing a story that I'd written and found this line:

She ducked her head, her hair catching on a rusted nail that stuck out from the wood like a fishing pole over the ocean, trying to catch...

Guess where that sentence ended up

Apparently I'd stopped there and continued, I'm guessing because even while writing it my subconscious was trying to get my attention and pull me from that train of thought. Seriously, a fishing pole over the ocean? What the heck?

I don't remember writing this, but I know that I did and I can even guess at my train of thought. It probably had something to do with "Oh, this scene doesn't have enough descriptive imagery" or "I sound too telly, I need to do some more showing." Blech.

Metaphors and similies definitely add to writing, but are a main symptoms to the "writerly" disease.  So how do you self-diagnose? There are a few things that I do while editing:

1. Look at the similes, metaphors, and descriptions in your work and ask yourself if they are necessary. In my example, I was just describing a nail. Totally inconsequential and never mentioned again in the story. The "fishing rod over the ocean" doesn't convey any more imagery than "nail jutting out from the wood" would. The MC didn't even see the nail until after the fact, so the description is totally and completely unnecessary. Similes and metaphors are important descriptive tools when you can make them work.

2. Look at the frequency of similies, metaphors, and descriptions in your work. If you have a metaphor appearing every two lines, chances are high that the reader is going to notice them and become more distant from the story. The metaphors should flow within the words so that you barely notice them while you read instead of feeling like a forced writerly tool.

3. Look at the length of your similies, metaphors, and descriptions. My example could work if I adjusted it a bit and the MC had some knowledge of fishing rods over the ocean. However, it is getting too long. Part of the reason I probably cut it off was because it was just trailing along with no end in sight. 

Here's an example of a simile done well:

From The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

"The ride was actually over in six and a half minutes, and I had no choice but to hobble like an off-balance giraffe on my one flat, one four-inch heel arrangement."

The simile describes how the protagonist looks so that the reader can envision the scene (1) and is short and to the point (3).  

How do you self-diagnose writing ailments?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

This whole bloggy thing

So as a dedicated participant of ROW80 and even more dedicated procrastinator, I have been visiting the blogs of my fellow challengees (that should be a word) and noticed something of note:

There are some seriously talented bloggers out there.

I'm not talking about just the writing, I expected decent posts by people who were participating in a writing challenge, but the designs overall. Some use the blogger/wordpress/livejournal-created designs, like yours truly, and others... well others blow my mind clear into space.  As I've mentioned before, I'm a virgo, just coming into my virgo-hood and the organization of some of these pages amazes me.

Which brings me to my page. I am a blogging newbie. I have no idea what I'm doing on this thing and, frankly, I prefer to learn as I go anyway. So I've decided to set some rules for myself to try and make this less of a teenager's closet and more of a color-coordinated celebrity shoe collection (if you've ever seen Mariah Carey's "Cribs" episode you know what I mean).

1. Post Schedule
I will post every Monday with my check-in posts for ROW80 on Wednesday(definitely) and Sunday(probably). Wednesday will be more of a commentary of where I'm at with my writing while Sunday I'm probably just going to throw up my check-ins just to keep myself on schedule (if I even make it on Sundays, I'm a busy girl!).

I know it may seem like I'm breaking my own rule by posting this on a Thursday, but I will reserve Thursdays and Fridays (whichever is the end of my work week, since we are doing Summer Fridays) for random postings if I feel that they are needed.

2. Layout
I will work on my layout on my non-posting days until I am satisfied, which knowing myself will be forever. I will try and incorporate at least one relevant picture in each post, since I've found that posts with pictures tend to be much more visually appealing.

I promise the pictures will be better than this.

3. Post content
Monday will be a post about writing. I am going to try to be really strict about this and I think I've done pretty well so far. The random Thursday/Friday posts can be about anything, but will hopefully relate to writing somehow. I might use Wednesday to share interesting links to other blog posts that I enjoyed, but we'll see how that goes. Book reviews may be added at a later date.

So there it is. Welcome to the new dawn of By any other name...

What things do you love about your favorite blogs?  

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

First check-in for ROW80

I am not off to a good start. In all fairness, we did get extremely busy at work yesterday and then I basically dropped into a dead sleep once I got home. Still, not a good start. To the check-in, shall we?

Goal 1. To write at least 500 words, 5 days a week
Tuesday: 510 words - JUST MADE IT!
Wednesday: 213 words - yeesh not too hot

Goal 2. To complete (or edit) at least two full scenes a day
Tuesday: Edited 3 full scenes from Arieties
Wednesday: Edited 1 scene from Arieties

Goal 3. To have the draft of my WIP Arieties ready for beta reading by the end of ROW80
Working on it

I'm thinking of adding a new goal for next week, but I'm going to let that idea marinate for a while before jumping in, especially since I couldn't accomplish the two that I set myself up for. I'll just have to do better next time. My personal goal for next week is to make up for the things I've missed this week. So I'm short 287 words from today (which is still not over, so I could still make it) and one scene. I can do this.

I hope everyone else did better with their goals then I did!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Universal Experiences

While watching the fireworks this Fourth of July, I began thinking about how readers can connect to characters through experiences where they connect with complete strangers, if only for a moment.

For example, I was on a high school football field with over 100 other people, just waiting for it to be dark enough to watch things explode, when the national anthem began to play. Everyone stood up and turned to face the flag. There were people of every background, age, and race class around me and for that one minute (or however long it takes someone to sing the national anthem) we were all just celebrating America.

Is there anything more American?
In writing, there are hundreds of things people will tell you to do in order to connect to your readers, but I'd say universal experiences are probably one of the best things. And I'm not saying that you have to have a scene where the hero hears the anthem of his or her state/country/villiage/etc. and get's overly emotional and goes on a vengeance mission to help his fellow man (or dwarf/elf/vampire/etc.)

For example, in the popular series (and current personal obsession) The Hunger Games, there is a scene, I believe in the second book Catching Fire, where the MC, Katniss, witnesses a crowd of people who whistle a meaningful tune. The crowd is clearly united and in support of the MC. The author doesn't need to spell out the feeling that the MC gets, or even the expression on the faces of the crowd. My mind immediately connected with the experience, even though I don't live in an oppressed district and I don't know anyone who has ever been killed in the name of entertainment. I still got it.

It would be the same if a writer described watching fireworks with a friend. You can't put on paper the unequaled amazement of a child watching the colorful explosions high above her head, or the beauty of the golden strands that trail down to earth after the initial color has faded from the sky. But writing a brief description like that would bring any reader (who has been fortunate enough to see fireworks) back to a time when they enjoyed the simple entertainment of a fireworks display, whether they were a child or an adult.
It's the little scenes that help connect the reader to the characters in a story. Think of your favorite book, I'll bet there's at least one moment that you identified with the MC or a supporting character, whether you realized it while reading or not.

Late to the ROW80 Party

I am perpetually late. I blame my father who suffers from the same lack-of-time-itis (although my condition is not as chronic as his).

A Round of Words in 80 Days began yesterday but I'm starting today, which is totally acceptable since I have a doctor's note for my aforementioned condition. So here goes:

My goals:

1. To write at least 500 words, 5 days a week
2. To complete (or edit) at least two full scenes a day
3. To have the draft of my WIP Arieties ready for beta reading by the end of ROW80

I'm probably going to add a few goals as I go because I really want to push myself this summer. GO ME!