An unselfish wish made on the horn of a unicorn will come true. Our wish? To support the writing community by giving constructive tips and criticism through submissions. Check out the submissions tab for more information. We can survive the crucible of fire together.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Writing Strong

Dialogue Tags.
Assume your reader has an imagination and knows how to use it. Be careful not to pinch that imagination off by explaining every detail.

Examples in Speaker Attributions:

“Why would you say that?” Phil said in amazement.
No need to explain. Phil’s words prove he is amazed.

“That is hilarious,” Alice said laughingly.
Limit ‘ly’ adverbs especially for speaker attributions.

Mom knows I hate ketchup on hamburger. “Mom, you know I don’t like ketchup on my hamburger,” I said.
This is echoing. I call it ‘talking to myself’, an example of what I want the reader to know that oozes from my typing fingers.


In each example, the wrong speaker attribution can jar the reader out of the story. Keep the tag as inconspicuous as possible. Involve the reader. Never explain the obvious.

Feeling like a fool, I said, “You are too close to that car.”
This is an example of an attribution that interrupts the flow of the sentence. Note how the reader must consider the speaker’s inner feelings when the dialogue should be the focus. In addition, a tag that comes before dialogue has no action. It smothers the dialogue and drags the story to a halt.

Doris stumbled back, grabbing her throat. “But I didn’t kill him.”
This is dialogue that shows emotion and action. A mental image forms.
Lastly, good dialogue has beats. It mixes up the tags and action.

“How was your visit?” Collin asked as we walked from the classroom.

I yawned. “It was okay. Boring though.”

“But useful?”

“Sure. Well, not much.”

Collin stopped and frowned. “Really,” he said. “And why?”

“Not much info, dude. That’s what I’m saying.”

You hold the reins. Tug on them to set the bit then turn ‘em loose. Give them a chance to run free with your words as the spur.

November 1st begins our first contest month. Read the submission guidelines and rules, submit, crit, rinse and repeat.

This week send me a dialogue excerpt, 250 – 300 words with a lead in if necessary. And note, the lead in does NOT count toward the total.

Friday, October 28, 2011

win, win



As you may remember, the intention of this blog is to give and get feedback on your work. And while we love having our work critiqued we'd really rather see your work and hear what you think. So, in order to encourage greater participation we thought maybe a prize of some sort might entice you to submit and comment more. And for the month of October one lucky member will receive a first chapter critique of his or her work by all four of us. That's right, Huntress, Charity, Tara, and I will each critique someone's first chapter. Next month we'll do the same for someone else. Rules to follow...*


* don't worry; they're easy :)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Shadow



Here's a sneak peek at an untitled unfinished work...


Shadows are everywhere, and you never give them a second thought. You should. They think about you all the time. love this. But I'd like it as the opening line on a page by itself, like a quote. Chapter one starts with

“Did you see that?” I spun to the left, but saw only trees and rocks. The sun glittered through the baby green leaves dancing in the wind. Shadows flickered in and out of the light in a dance for dominance.

“See what?” Toni continued power walking along the forest trail.

I ran to catch up with her. “Nothing.”

We powered our way through two more miles of green tinted spring before reaching my car. The plan was for me to drive Toni back to her car at the trail head, but, well I don’t know what happened. One moment she stood waiting for me to unlock the door. And then she was gone.This is telling. I want to know what happened in real time from the moment they reach the car. I'm sure you can draw this out. In fact, I'd like it all drawn out more. Let us get to know these two characters a little more before this terrible thing happens. Let us see what good friends they are before one of them disappears. That way we'll like them and want to find out what happens next.

There was no sound, no cry. Nothing.

I spun around, but no one was around. The air was eerily quiet. No birds singing. Even the wind had stopped. And yet the shadows danced.

Toni’s car remained in its spot, but no other trace of her could be found. The police impounded my car. To search for traces of blood or something.This bit, too, could be given more details, depending upon how long you intend the work to be.
Hours. I sat in the police station for hours answering questions, but what could I tell them? They wanted me to confess, but in the end they had to let me go because there was no motive. And no body.

Why would I kill my best friend? I couldn’t think of a reason and I’m a writer—I make stuff up all the time. Toni always bailed me out of sticky situations. (reliable or unreliable narrator?) like the time my blind date showed up smelling like formaldehyde and looking every bit like a psychotic serial killer.

I wouldn’t have killed her. But what happened?

This is definitely an intriguing beginning, especially those first lines. I imagine every writer has seen a shadow that looked like something else or moved in a way that creeped them out. I know I have! Anyway, I like it. It has potential and I can see it going either short story or something longer. It just needs to be fleshed out :)

Oh, and you can probably see that I imagine it as a longer work, novel length. But someone else might see this completely differently.

Your turn.



Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Of Oak and Dragons - Urban Fantasy


Then a young, dark-haired man stepped out of the vehicle and stood looking at the house, straight and tall, with the sun behind him, his face in shadow.
    
I froze, staring through the windows at the stranger. Fear knifed through me, leaving an edge of raw panic.

The back door, I thought in near hysteria, I could run now out the door and maybe get to the trees in time. Shoes…did I have time to slip them on or should I take my chances? Mounting panic was beginning to choke me with indecision.

Ohmygodohmygod…run, run, run…insidious terror drained me of any coherent thought or action.

I stopped myself. What in hell was going on? What in the name of heaven was wrong with me? Humming swords, voices cursing at me; now I had such frantic dread that I turned into a quivering mass at the appearance of a strange man?

There was the sound of a soft knock sounded at the door.

Fear pulsed through me again, clutching at me with cold, icy fingers. I felt an intense desire to run, to hide to find a place where I could curl into a ball, whimper with eyes closed tight, hoping that I would not be found or noticed.

I closed my eyes for a moment, pulled in a broken gulp of air, and willed myself into a calm state. I opened my eyes just as the second knock sounded, and stretched out my hand to open the door. I hesitated when I saw that my hand trembled.

Suddenly I was angry, fire-hot mad. With my lips pursed, my teeth clenched, I fisted my hand, digging my nails into my palm. Then, I lifted my shoulders, smoothed my twisted face, and reached again for the doorknob.

Besides, God hates a coward.

I opened the door and opened my life to meet the blazing new sun.


Now, what do you guys think?

Oh, and I will add that I felt my own heart start to beat faster at the ohmygod. I wanted to look around and see what it was! Excellent job instilling fear and tension :)

Monday, October 24, 2011

something spooky

 
This week, in honor of Halloween, I want your spooky stuff. Anything hair raising, heart pounding, scream worthy, shuddery, or grim, please send it to me and put unicorn bell in the subject line so I know it’s from you: marcy@tidewater.net

As an example, Dianne over at In High Spirits has graciously allowed me to use an excerpt from her novel, STRANGE TRUTHS. In this scene, Evie has just meets Mr. Thibaut (a nasty spirit) for the first time. 


Without warning, Mrs. Peters hurled the candlestick across the room.
Evie jumped as it crashed against the opposite wall.   Dropping the apron, she looked first at the candlestick on the floor, and then back at Mrs. Peters.
The woman’s eyes were open now, and she stared at Evie with glittering hostility.  “Elisabelle can’t get anything out of that—try as she might, the poor, fat cow!”
Evie drew in a breath of shock, unable to speak, but Lucy exclaimed angrily, “I hoped we wouldn’t see you today!”
“I’m sure you did, you turnip-faced little hag.”  The voice coming out of Mrs. Peters’ mouth was pitched low and strangely accented, rasping and harsh.  Evie noticed that she had changed her position in the chair and was now sitting forward, with one leg crossed over the other.
Like a man.
A cold, prickling sensation ran up and down Evie’s arms, and she shuddered.
“Introduce me,” the voice demanded of Lucy.
“This is Mr. Thibaut,” Lucy said, her eyes darting between Evie and her mother.  “He is Mother’s spirit control.”
“Are you the little trickster responsible for this nonsense?” Mr. Thibaut asked. 
Evie had the overwhelming impression that she was speaking to some arrogant foreigner who had usurped the body of her kind, pleasant hostess. “I—I don’t know what you mean.”
“A pipe that belongs to a woman, a baby spoon that belongs to an old man, a candlestick that belongs to no one,” he spat.  “These are tricks!  You wanted to fool poor, stupid Elisabelle.”
“I only brought what I was told to bring!” Evie said.  But she thought that he—or she—or whatever this thing was—knew the truth of it.  Nora had sent objects purposely selected for their deceptiveness.
Evie’s eyes darted frantically around the room, looking into the shadows and the corners of the parlor.  She knew what she expected to see. The hair on the back of her neck was standing on end; she had goose bumps and was overcome with shivers.  There was something in this room with them, but Evie couldn’t see anything.  She turned back to Mrs. Peters, bewildered.
The spirit medium regarded her with eyes that had gone cold and malignant. “You’ve never met the likes of me before, have you?” the voice taunted. “And you’ve seen things that would turn other people’s hair white!”  He cackled maniacally, while Evie simply gaped back at him with wide, shocked eyes.  How did he know?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Stuck in the Middle #3

Welcome another submission! We take this portion from late in the author's WIP.

Title: Sendek
Genre: Science Fantasy

Lead in: Landry just caught Talia drinking the sunsrise and it has sparked this conversation. Talia wonders again about Landry's blue eyes (most of their planet are brown eyed--like 99%) and asks when he was born.
My question: Is this too much in one "dump".


“When I visited Gneledar, to check your background, the midwife claimed that the first period is a time of highly concentrated magic. Do you think that’s possible?”
“I don’t know, but everyone I’ve met that was born during the first period has one thing in common—anomalous (would Talia use this word? It slowed me down to pronounce it) eye color. None of them hinted at anything else, but then again neither did I. What if everyone born during the first period has some secret talent similar to ours?”
Landry hesitated before answering. “I think it’s a stretch. If people born during the first period had magical abilities it would be common place. There would be people all over the place working magic and you wouldn’t have to search them out.”
“They’re hiding like I was.” Talia squeezed his hand tighter without realizing it.
“Think about it logically. Why have you hidden your talents?”
Talia frowned but didn’t give up. “Because when I talked about the dreams as a child everyone shunned me. By the age of five I was marked as the freak girl. Five. And it was the adults who taught their children that I was different. That’s where it started, but as I grew up I knew that scientists in the medical field would kill to be able to do what I can do. What kind of life would I have had led if everyone know knew about the sunsrise? (I understand your point here, it’s just tough to read. Needs smoothing out)
“Yes, but if everyone born in the first period had these talents, more people would know about the sunsrise. There would be others with healing talents. There would be no need to cut them up and study them because it would be common place. The best doctors available would be these gifted individuals.”
“But if magic has never been a way of life, maybe those with the abilities are afraid of themselves.” Talia pulled her hand from his and turned away. “I refuse to think I’m the only freak on Sendek.” (Poor Talia, she’s reaching. You do a great job making us feel for her. But I’d change one of the “freak”s)
Landry reached out and turned her face back toward him. “Hey, looks like I’m a freak too. I’m not saying you’re wrong. I’m just saying it doesn’t make sense.”


Not much to tweak that I can see. I think this is a great example of how to stealthily add back story – in a heated discussion. It’s not an “As you know, Bob” lecture. The dialog keeps the tempo moving and it doesn’t feel forced. Thanks for that peek into Talia’s story! She’s an interesting, spunky girl! I'd like to know more about her world.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Stuck in the Middle #2

A bold volunteer supplies us with nourishing words. Mmmm.

Title: The Magic Withheld
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Lead in: Sable is a mage, a female wizard (NOT a witch-grrrr love the voice!). This is the middle of the fourth chapter and continues for approximately another 250 more words, two pages of backstory.

She gritted her teeth, stifling the magic that stroked her skin with the surge of anger. Her emotions would get the best of her yet if she didn’t control herself.
Magic, the curse of her Sable’s life, and after the discovery of her small talents, it (moved below) had given her nothing but trouble since she was a teen. (insert example here? how? or why?)
The memory of her parents and their cold faces as they explained her ‘gift’ chafed the familiar sore spot in her heart. Finding out she was little more than a product of selective breeding had turned her life into a farce. Bonded, her parents had said. The leftovers from that nightmarish event never left her. (I’d like to know about that event! I assume you tell us about it later)
To humans, magic didn’t exist except in books and fables. After the discovery of her small talents, Sable … (something that shows how she feels about it.)

(Now, move on. What happens next? Why does she resist magic? Is it rebellion from her parents forcing magic on her? Continue! I want to hear more!)
(You can insert the following portion of back story info when we are introduced to the secret society.)
The secret society of wizards laughed at the fairy tales but the basics of the stories revealed the secret world of magic. The harsh politics of the Imperium functioned in similar ways to humankind, with its power struggles and cruelties. It ran in the background of human history, unknown and quiet.
The realm of magic operated and functioned without human interference, run by the strongest mage. Their goal was to gather potential wizards into the fold to keep their power base.
Sable was one of their targets.
The Imperium tagged her as a child.

I really like this story! Great verbage and voice. I’m curious what happened just prior to make her mad? As it stands, it all seems very relevant; it just needs to be broken up, especially if there is more. My purple is just suggestions. I have many questions, meaning I want to read on!

Thanks so much for letting us see! Now you all feel free to disagree or add your own input!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Better way to Info Dump

I'm still waiting for more volunteers to send me pieces. Don't be shy, we all have areas we need to work on. And to show you what I mean, I found a portion I haven't gotten to yet that my lovely beta reader pointed out as an info dump.

Setup: My MC just met this woman and wants to know more about her so he "Yaggled" her (in the future, Yahoo & Google merge =) My own corrections are in purple (purple is nicer than red)


“Geraldine Louise Harper,” Cooper announced read from the card she had given him. The screen brought up several articles to choose from. He found an article about her opened an interview of Geri's father, Dr. Joseph Lee Harper. It was an interview with him about his philanthropic He seemed to be a philanthropist, worked with inner city children,. He was a retired pediatrician, and. He was also a board member of the Historical Preservation Society of Georgia. Apparently his only family left was In the article he talked about his lovely daughter. She was born and raised a true his Southern Belle daughter, whose in honor of her mother, Celia, who died when Geri was young. Cooper felt a pang for her. He understood loss. 
Cooper opened another article, about Geri. She briefly attended Emory University and participated in a couple of protests against the Smart Car Revolution. Interesting. A real rebel. Dawson wouldn’t like that, he thought with a chuckle.
He opened another article about modern day debutantes. It said The article described Geri Harper was as a modern day debutante, whatever that was. a respectable Southern woman with many ambitions and a positive influence in the community. She was a member of belonged to a long list of women's groups and children's organizations, soft hearted like her father. the League of Women Voters, the Atlanta Women’s Club and the Georgia Historical Society. She instituted the Celia B. Harper Foundation in support of orphans and single parent families. The article commended her. It said she didn’t let her divorce slow her down. She stayed active in her volunteer work and had gone back to school to further her education. She was currently enrolled at Georgia State University as an interior design major. He finished reading and smiled. Impressive resume, Cooper mused. Maybe he would look her up again when this mess was resolved.

So that was fun. I didn't need all those details. My MC's opinion of her is what needs to be shown. We get to know enough about her and more about him at the same time. (And I got a little editing done, thanks!) What do you think?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Stuck in the Middle

Greetings Friends!
So glad to be here! Thanks for joining me in my first post at Unicorn Bell. As a fellow writer, but more importantly as a reader and book purchaser, I love a good book! Don’t you? So let’s see how we can make ours better!

The best place to start is at the beginning. We excite the reader with a great hook, maybe an incident or intriguing characters, a problem arises, tension, relationship possibilities… go go go!

Then we have to stop and wait for the elevator. We have reached the tough middle. Hold on while I tell you some background and explain things and here’s an info dump, zzz to the easy listening muzak. We have lost momentum. (think Blues Brothers)

When I’m reading, if the beginning was awesome I might plow through the dull parts to see how it ends. But if I can predict it, I don’t bother since it seems I’ve already read the good parts. Could an agent think this too? Oh no! We don’t want that!

So how do we keep the reader turning pages, anxious to see what’s next?
  1. Is it imperative to the story? I love my back story. I know why my characters act the way they do, where they are from, their past training and experiences, but does the reader need this info? Most likely not. If the info has nothing to do with what is happening, cut it.
  2. Yes, it is. Fine. Keep it. And here is some advice I'm passing on as to how:
    • Spread it around – dole it out in smaller portions, no big long narrations
    • Avoid Bob – heard of “as you know, Bob?” this is where a character explains something to another character that they both already know, but the writer wants to tell the reader…don’t do it. This is telling - show it!
    • Make it smooth – we may want to tell the reader back story right away, but wait for the opportune moment. Don’t force it. The trick is to sprinkle it into the action so the reader has no idea they are being educated.
  3. Keep the engine revved. Most importantly, have enough action between slow spots by adding incidents or surprises. We want to keep the reader on her toes! Vroom, vroom!
Now it's your turn! Got more advice? Share it! And we would love to see some submissions! Do you have a section you think needs a boost? Not sure if your back story is necessary? Send me your stuff! You don’t have to be done with your MS. Just send a 200-300 word sample to me: taratylertalks * at * gmail * dot * com and we’ll see what we can do! (I will post my example, too. I’m a rambler)

Here is some more advice for keeping a reader hooked from Charity. And this just in, Abby wrote a post about putting problems into our story, on purpose!

Write on!
Tara

Friday, October 14, 2011

Questions You Should Be Prepared For

Pitching your story to agents should be a pleasant and exciting thing. We all know it shouldn't be like this...
Now, shut up and listen while I tell you about my story.
H.G. Wells, Warehouse 13.

But sometimes we come across this way because we worry over our pitches (or queries if you never pitch) all the time. Take a deep breath and relax. Remember that the agent wants to hear about your story. Pretend you're talking to your best friend about your book, but be more concise and stick to just the main plot. The agent/publisher needs to know what's at stake and why they should care.

But what happens after you give your pitch?

If you've done your job crafting and practicing the pitch, there should be a couple of minutes for the agent to ask questions about your story or you. This is a great opportunity to show your professionalism and level of preparation.

Here are some of the questions commonly asked:

What makes your book different from others?

What is your favorite part of the story?

Why did you choose _____? (the names you chose, a certain plot device, age of the character, you can fill in the blank here with hundreds of things. Why Sendek?<--That's the question that took me by surprise last week. My lame answer was, "I don't remember really. I picked it eight years ago.")

What is it about your MC that you love the most?

What published books are like yours?

Who is your audience?

Do you have a marketing plan? What is it?

Do you see this as a stand alone, or as part of a larger series?

Do you have any questions about (our agency/publishing house)?

Why did you choose to query me?

Do you have an online presence? Tell me about it.

What other questions have you been asked?



Thursday, October 13, 2011

Senses #3

The pit of his gut roiled.  He rubbed his rain-soaked sleeve across his mouth.  The rain sent the tart odor of half-digested food down the nearby drain but hadn’t rid his palette of the taste of copper and bile.  His teeth chattered, mists of air rising from his tremulous lips, one particularly pained from the air bag’s deployment.  

His baby, his pride and joy hugged the lamppost, crunched metal accordioned around the base in a fit of desperation.  He flipped his collar and yanked it high to shield against the pelting drops turning his hair into a straggling veil over his eyes.  Dudes with muscle cars weren’t supposed to cry so he passed his sniffles off as the rain and cold settling into his bones like a thousand needles burrowing deep for marrow and the blur of his vision rested squarely on nature’s shoulder.  Worst of all, he couldn’t see the umbrella-wielding unicyclist that jumped off the curb into his path, landing him in this wet situation.  If he was going to pass off anything, first would be his fist across the unicyclist’s jaw, if he could ever find him.

Senses #2

Agony wars with my despair. Alone, except for the red-barred snake that makes lazy s-curves toward me from one slope of the ravine. I twist away but pain in my shin explodes. My scream smothers the sound of the bones grating in my broken leg. Dust hangs in the air, stirred from my fall. The grit tastes like ashes on my tongue. Like regret.

Senses #1

Crap.

It was totaled. Completely and utterly totaled. The whole front fender was
crumpled in on itself, broken bits of headlight scattered across the road,
blinking and sparkling under the street lamp. Glass glittered from where
both the back rear and passenger side front, which had blown out on impact.
The sound of it still rang in my ears, that horrible crashing grinding
hitting bashing noise.

It was still raining lightly so that everything glistened from the silver
blue hood of my car to the grass and the slick black road beneath my fee. It
looked like a snake with a yellow stripe twisting away in either direction.

I reached up to wipe the blood away. It dripped from my forehead and nose
steadily, onto the wet pavement. My arm hurt. And my left calf had a good
two-inch gash in it. But I was walking, thinking, not fatally injured.

I heard a noise then, a human noise, and it reminded me. I looked through
the blood and rain across the double line to where the guard rail twisted
away. I could hear the sound of a radio, someone's voice, and a loud hiss as
I got closer.

It hurt to walk and it occurred to me maybe I was hurt worse than I thought
but I limped across the street and peered down into the darkness. The other
car lay on its roof in the gully below. I could smell gasoline and oil and
antifreeze. And as I looked closer I could see there was someone inside.

They were trying to get out.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Engaging Your Senses in Your Writing

It's our job as writers to help the reader escape the world they live in. That's why people read fiction. That's why I read fiction anyway. I want to be transported to some other time or somewhere else.

In order to fully immerse our readers in the story, they need to see, hear, smell, feel, and taste the worlds we create.

I know this is one area I can improve in. It's easy to show/tell what our characters see, and we are generally good at hearing. But do we try and work the other senses in? And what about the emotions that often go along with the senses?

Now, I think there is a fine line here that we need to remember. We don't need to use every sense in every description. That's called over writing. Just like everything else, we have to find balance. Use the sense that means something at that moment. The sense that contributes to the story line and moves things forward.

But where can we add senses to enrich the story? (Summarized from Muse Con workshop taught by Patricia C. Lee.)

In the setting.
Workshop assignment: A field lay before Monica’s eyes. Mountains rose in the distance. The mid-afternoon sun shone down. It was getting late. If she didn’t hurry, she wouldn’t make it by nightfall.

My take:
The autumn grass swayed in the breeze before Monica's eyes. She paused for a moment to inhale the sweet mustiness of the decaying flora. Her skin warmed as the mid-afternoon sun shone down and a bead of sweat formed on her nose. Monica swiped it away while gauging the distance across the field. She would need to hurry if she wanted to make the mountains by nightfall. Inwardly, she groaned, but forced her body into a slow run. Her legs felt heavy as the ground passed unevenly beneath her, but eventually she fell into comfortable rhythm.

Which style would you rather read for 400 pages? Yeah, me too.

In your characters.
In the workshop we were challenged to write down how our body reacts to certain emotions and situations. Keep a journal of them so you can use it in your writing. Then I chose to write about this prompt.

Your character is attending a church wedding of the first boy she ever kissed and the minister just pronounced the couple as husband and wife.

My take:
The light from the stained glass window painted the couple gold and red. A hush fell over the wedding guests as the groom lifted the veil. My heart pounded and I gripped the edge of the pew, every creak and rustle from the room squeezed my heart tighter.

I wished for someone say something, but we were past the objections.

He cupped her face and bent to kiss his bride.

My lips tingled with the memory of our first kiss. A kiss that had led to many more so long ago, but we moved on. I had moved on.

Until last night when he had kissed me again. One kiss that led to more.

Now my heart ached, but my hands curled into fists. I had one comfort. He didn't know how miserable I was going to make him.

Here are a few more examples, not great but you get the idea.

Perhaps a smell sparks a memory.
She sank her nose deep into the buds and inhaled the sweet honey scent. An image of her mother standing in the yard came to mind.

A taste brings about an unexpected reaction.
I watched in horror as our hand brought the blood to our lips. My stomach twisted, but her tongue savored the sweetness.

The blast of hot air might carry the smell of rotting meat, especially if coming from a dragon's mouth. :)

The whole point is to combine the senses to draw the reader in. Make them see, hear, feel, smell, and taste the story as your MC experiences it.

Okay, it's your turn.

Pick one from the selection below and describe what your character is feeling, seeing, sensing, and maybe even tasting within the setting. Try to use your setting as the foundation of what your character is experiencing.
1. Your character is standing off to the side on a rain-slicked road after he has just crashed his first car.
2. Your character is attending a church wedding of the first boy she ever kissed and the minister just pronounced the couple as husband and wife.
3. Your character is lying alone in a ravine with a broken leg and a snake has slithered over to him/her.
Email them to charity.bradford@gmail.com and put Unicorn Bell: Senses in the subject line. I'll post them tomorrow for commenting.

Resource Links:
The Bookshelf Muse--you know how much I love this one.
List of Adjective Words--adjective are good when used appropriately.
10 Universities Offering Free Online Writing Courses

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Getting Organized

If you are like me, you have notes on your book scattered all over the place. Any time I get an idea, or figure out how/why something works or takes place, I scribble it down so I don't forget. That's why there are notebooks in the car, van, kitchen, under my bed, in my purse, etc. There is one problem with this method.
What if you can't find that one note you NEED?

For instance, a couple of months ago, I wrote the BEST back jacket cover for my shiny new idea EVER. It was truly perfect in every way. I remember writing it in a yellow notebook (all my notebooks are yellow to differentiate from my daughters' notebooks). I remember going to put it on my blog page for shiny new idea and then chickening out because "what if someone takes this and writes it before I do?"

Now, I'm ready to write said shiny idea and I Can't. Find. The. Notes.

I've tried to recreate that perfect book cover and it keeps falling flat. I'm devestated.

I don't want this to happen ever again so I'm creating an electronic and a physical Story Bible for each of my story ideas. 

I got this idea from Marne Ann Kirk, author of “The Fae Dragon Chronicles: Love Chosen” coming Soon from Crescent Moon Press.

This is going to keep me organized and it has the added bonus of keeping the little threads/items/places/info/ etc accurate in my story. No more wondering, "when did she loose the locket?" I can look in the story bible and find the answer.

For the electronic version, I'll be using Scrivener (because it's so lovely shiny and easy to use.) There are lots of other programs out there and I've used yWriter (which is free). You can also just use the folder system and save everything on your computer.

However, since I'm very much a visual and tangible type person, I'm going to print out everything I type up and put them in a binder for each story. (I like flipping through pages.) Sendek will obviously be the largest as a series binder. It will have dividers for the different books in the series as well.
You can put anything you want in this Bible. Here are some basic suggestions:
  • Synopsis
  • Outline
  • Back Jacket Blurb
  • Query letter
  • List of Characters
  • Individual character sheets
  • List of Settings
  • List of Creatures
  • Important vocabulary (especially if you are writing a novel that involves technical terms: medical, military, science based, etc)
  • Rules/Laws (How things work in your world. Great for dystopian, magic, etc.)
  • List of important Items you need to keep track of in the story
  • Time line of events
  • Story-Board
  • Scene by scene list of characters--I'm doing this to make sure I'm not spending too much time with one character while the reader might be wondering, "What happened to so-and-so?"
  • Map of your world, city, etc
  • List of subplots, whose involved and how they relate to the main plot
  • Plot Tent
  • Pictures of actors that remind you of your characters
  • Scene collages
  • Sketches
  • Any research you do to make your story believable
What else can you think of? Does this help? Do you have any questions?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Upward and Onward

Lately I've been feeling stuck. Well, more like this...
The voices in my head compete with my real life responsibilities. On top of that, as I learn more about the craft of writing, my sense of story competes with the "right way" to write. It makes me want to bang my head against the desk repeatedly.

Do you ever feel like that?

Luckily, I attended a great online conference last week. Although it contributed to the above feeling, it also gave me tools to make things better. I want to share some of them with you this week. Because of copyright issues, my summaries won't be nearly as awesome as the conference, but hopefully it will spark some great ideas for you.

The goal? To take our writing level upward and onward!

Topics I'd like to cover this week:
  • Creating a reference resource for your story (An encyclopedia of sorts to help you keep every thing in order.)
  • Using all of our senses to enrich the story
  • Common questions an agent might ask during a pitch session
What other topics are you dying to learn more about? Tell us now so we can research and bring you the info you crave.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

LOL Dialogue

Do you have what it takes to give your readers a laugh? Or at least make ‘em smile.


Submit an excerpt of your WIP or completed manuscript. Send 250 to 300 words to beccoff(at) nwmo (dot) net with a lead in for our group.





Title: Of Oak and Dragons
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Finish college or accept an inheritance. This is Leah Sterling’s quandary, a decision with life-altering consequences when she discovers a relic from her unknown benefactor, a snarky rapier with delusions of grandeur. It warns of one the creatures masquerading as a human who is converging on her location.

“Not infatuated, just interested, and checking out the enemy, all that stuff. This is a…reconnaissance mission...yeah, that’s it, I’m looking for information,” I answered firmly, checking the empty lane for cars. “Besides, I want to meet this dealer. I love this stuff.”

Sullen, the blade was quiet for a moment.

Oh, by the way, you have to take me.

My eyes snapped to the rapier on the mantel.

See, you cannot leave without me for any significant time. We are bonded and it would result in a painful experience for both of us if you leave me behind now.

When I speculated on hiding a four-foot sword, the rapier snarled, PAY ATTENTION! I DISAPPEAR UNTIL YOU NEED ME!

The rapier cursed vehemently.

“Hey, hey, none of that buddy. Don’t be projecting that in my head.” I picked up the rapier and held it to the light. “Okay. So disappear already.”

A growling, Bite Me broke into my mind.

At that moment, I heard a car door slam.

Oops...then I was holding an empty hand in the air. Hastily I dropped my arm and turned to the door. I was aware of my racing heart.

Be careful, came a trailing thought, I will appear if you need me and the rapier was gone.

A gentle rap at the door and I opened it. He had been looking at the stone walk, when I opened the door, his eyes came up to mine and he smiled. His mouth smiled, that is. I couldn’t see it in his eyes, only the stygian black was under those eyebrows.

He stepped back so I could pass by and lock the door.

Neither of us said a word.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Need a Beta?


At the beginning of my writing career, my ego said I could write a novel without help. After I faced facts, that I could not become a published author without aid, I asked for betas. I found something more than like-minded writers wanting to improve their skill. I found a fantastic community.

Betas spoke the truth I didn’t want to hear; that my MS stank like spoiled milk.

Thank heavens for them and their honesty. And their friendship.

Find a beta, someone who clicks with your style. Their advice is priceless. Critique groups like Unicorn Bell are a part of the process. Use them. 

Check our archives for the survey Charity posted at our startup. It gives guidelines that help to match a critique partner or beta.

I’ve noticed one thing, that folks who do not read fantasy, cannot critique fantasy. They have no patience with the genre. To that end, I highly recommend that fantasy lovers (whoa. That sounds vaguely pornographic) segregate from mere fiction lovers. The marriage does not work.

Different skill level can cause a breakup also. A lady once told me in the nicest way that she was light years beyond me and needed to find someone closer to her abilities. Yeouch. But she was right. She might help me but I was not helping her. It wasn’t an even trade.

Here are some questions for a potential critique partner:

What genre do you write?

Are you comfortable critiquing in a different genre than you write?

At what stage is your writing?

  • Beginner-no completed manuscripts or agent submissions.
  • Intermediate-several completed novels with extensive research, Unpublished.
  • Advanced – Published, agented, or with a successful E-pub track record.

In comment section of today’s post, I will submit my answers to the above questions and encourage others to do the same.