Clean Eating, Dirty Fiction

On the last Sunday of every month, I like to share part of what I have learned in my weight loss journey. To be a better writer, I need to get exercise, plenty of sleep, have good posture, and eat clean food. To me, that means eliminating foods Grandma would not recognize as food. Like Flaming Hot Cheetos ™ or bacon-wrapped Lil’ Smokies ™ Grandma might have enjoyed the bacon wrapped stuff after we explained it to her, but it’s the need to say “This is edible” that is the problem. http://www.thegraciouspantry.com/clean-eating/ Continue reading “Clean Eating, Dirty Fiction”

Many of My BFFs are Writers

If you are a writer and you don’t know any other writers well enough to say, “Let’s go get coffee and talk about the plot,” you have a serious problem. Sure, people you know will talk out the plot with you. They will listen to you rant about the characters, and they will nod knowingly when you talk about publishing. But they have a very slight chance of knowing what the whole world of a writer is about. Continue reading “Many of My BFFs are Writers”

Art Imitates Life

Being chronically obese is something like being a shape changer. I’ve often joked about over-inflating my feet when it’s hot. Just one of the outside influences that impact my shape.

Here are things that contributed to my weight issues:
*Raised in a low-income home
*Raised without a father
*Genetics, mostly from my mother’s side
*Tonsils out at age 2
*Molested, 3 separate incidents
*Spoiled
*Felt unloved
*Afraid of close contact with men

I gave myself permission on my birthday to eat pretty much what I wanted to eat. The next day, I jumped back on the health wagon. Did really good for four hours. Then I had a clear feeling of fighting an entity that wants out, much like a werewolf or wild cat or dragon. Leashing the beast is what my life is all about. Well, that and writing.

My inner-eating-dragon isn’t the only one I battle, either. There’s my inner couch potato, inner sex addict, and inner gaming nerd.

By the way, my inner sex addict is an introvert. Writing about sex is fine, acting it out with my husband is wonderful, but just thinking about doing anything with strangers? Let’s eat some chocolate instead.

Now I have this idea that probably isn’t new, but so many shape shifters belong to packs and families, all of the same animals, all life long. My idea – and I’m cool with sharing it here, there’s no way I will get all my stories written out. So if you resonate with this idea, go for it! – is a shape shifter who is a loner, and can become any of 4 or 5 different beings. And each of those creatures “lives” full time in the person’s brain.

There was a television show some years ago, Manimal, that went with a similar premise. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0085051/ But it was a crime drama and not a lot of attention was paid to how he got that way, were there others like him, etc. Lois McMasters Bujold looked at multiple personalities is an awesome way with Mark Vorkosigan’s disturbing evolution in Mirror Dance. Not about shape shifters, but still exactly what I am thinking of. Ms. Bujold is an amazing writer, and the glimpse of many personalities in one brain is as smooth as silk and eye-opening. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirror_Dance

So I just need some demon bane to be successful at my diet and exercise. I need to fine the valve to deflate strategic areas. And I need some good crowd control moves to keep the brain characters in order. See you on Thursday.

Prompts, Corpses, and Outlines, Oh My!

Prompts can be fun. There is some danger involved, however. When you start out with a couple “throw-away” characters, there’s a chance they will want a longer story, and become part of your mental whirl.

What is a prompt? It’s a tool used to stimulate your creative process. There are many different types of prompts. One is to throw out a word or several words, and write a scene involving those. In Romance writing, I ask that the two lovers discuss the word. Salad turned out to be a great discussion topic.

Other prompts involve setting up a scene, and letting your imagination run wild. I posted a thread on Scribophile titled How I Misspent My Summer Vacation. And that’s where the danger came in for me. I was writing a short piece taking place on the beach at La Jolla Shores, California. The male main character has demanded that I write more of this story. He kept me awake one night telling me his story. But I have too many other projects going on, so he will just have to wait.

Here are a few random prompt generators that might work for you. http://www.creativity-portal.com/prompts/imagination.prompt.html http://www.springhole.net/writing_roleplaying_randomators/plotgens.htm
http://panthermoon.com/generator.php

Another type of prompt is the visual one. At a convention some time ago I attended a writing workshop, and we were handed a stack of prints of various subjects. We picked one, and had 15 minutes to write. I got a pretty good one and an excellent story idea that I may be back to soon.

Here are the visual prompts I have posted at Scribophile. http://www.pinterest.com/pin/369787819376195705/

I love to play games and any game that involves writing something is exactly what I want. I used to go to a group in San Diego called Word Play, an excellent evening of writing exercises and companionship. Sadly, it’s a bit far with the price of gas these days. That’s where I learned about the Exquisite Corpse game. Originally it was a drawing game and or a poetry game. Here’s lots of information from Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exquisite_corpse but the version that I learned involves writing about three lines of a story, with the very last word at the beginning of the 4th line. Then the paper is folded down so that only that last word can be seen. The paper is passed to the next player, who does the same thing, picking up with that last word as the first word of their story. The results are as fun as Mad Libs, and really give a writer a boost in positive energy shared.

I had the pleasure of moderating a writing workshop at the San Diego Gaslight Gathering a couple years back and taught the attendees to play the game. We managed about three rounds. Here are the results of the first one:

“The bells from Henly Tower woke the town as usual. Annie rubbed sleep out of her eyes and swung out of bed. Below, scents are a powerful aphrodisiac for the weak at heart. It would be better to have touch with a hint of power and fear. For a beauty of a dead fingernails clung from the drapes as she walked by and chewed on the tongue of a bat. Yes, it was the perfect night for a trip on the dirigible. Who knew feathers continued to haunt him. Why did he kill the chicken? He didn’t actually even eat the meat. IT just never shut up. “Bwaak,” it said, and then died. He plucked it and filled the pillows. The garbage disposal got the rest. Feet, feet are kicking me as I resentfully become awake. My wife continues to th4rash back and forth in bed. I look over at unfamiliar surrounding, up at the sky, overcast, chilly, and I wonder, really is it gonna really rain leaked through the edges of his hat, defeating its purpose entirely. He felt badly for the pointless nature of his protection, and politely ignored the trickle of water sneaking behind his ear. He put on the most miserable face he could muster. He ruminated the lady. Why, she wondered, was it so difficult to find a decent mad scientist in London? Perhaps Monsieur Fabre would be sufficiently insane as the crow flies. He sat in the morgue wondering what lingered in the casket, what evil was in there? He brought up his lit candle to the edge of the room, looking high, low, inside, outside. She wouldn’t grasp her emotions any longer.”

These exercises, it is to be hoped, have given you an idea for a novel. Now what do you do? If you are a pantser, or one who writes by the seat of their pants, you just start. If you are an outliner, you jot down point A and point Z, and sketch in all the in-between points. I am a mutant hybrid of those extremes. I can start out with the idea and nothing else, but at some point the possibilities of how the story might go must be put onto paper so they aren’t lost. Here are some excellent ideas about outlining.
http://www.creative-writing-now.com/novel-outline.html
http://annieneugebauer.com/the-organized-writer-2/novel-plotting-worksheets/
http://selfpublishingteam.com/6-writing-outline-templates-and-3-reasons-to-use-them/ (Love this one)

I hope you had fun and learned something to take away into your creative space. I’ll be back on Sunday.

Formula Stories for the Win

Tropes and formulas are a part of the Romance world. Searching Google will give you lots of plots and arcs and Very Important Elements for any romance novel. Using these formulas might just earn you some criticism about tropes and writing the same story over and over.

You can blithely ignore those critics. At the Romance Writers of America (RWA) meeting I attended yesterday, those of us who were not lucky enough to go to the National convention in San Antonio just last month were treated so some Publisher Spotlight notes that not only made us more jealous of those who went, but gave us lots of important information. And I am going to share some of it with you today.

Harlequin single title lines are not easy to break into, but the Harlequin series, under the Spotlight title, is a little more understanding of both authors and readers. And they insist on the formula. Not the same story over and over, but the same elements. Think of it like a foot race. All the entrants have to hit the same marks to meet the race requirements, but they can do it at their own time, in their own way.

The readers drive the desire for these same elements. A tortured hero, a flawed heroine, a reason for them to work together, a reason they shouldn’t fall in love, and a way to overcome all of that for the Happy Ever After (HEA). Here is Harlequin’s “format” for the perfect story: http://www.harlequin.com/articlepage.html?articleId=1425&chapter=0

Larry Brooks, the Storyfixer, wrote a great blog a couple years back on discovering that Romance writers are as competent and motivated as any other writers, and maybe more dedicated than most.
http://storyfix.com/what-i-just-learned-from-a-room-full-of-romance-writers And I am going to buy a copy of his book, Warm Hugs for Writers, to give to all my Scribophile friends when they doubt themselves.

Shoshanna Evers posted this Secret Formula in 2009, and now is a published author. Wait, can it be a secret if you post it on the Internet? http://www.thewriterschallenge.com/2009/09/secret-formula-of-most-romance-novels.html

At the RWA meeting, we discussed a lot of what is hot and what is fading from view in subgenres. Personally, I am just going to keep writing what I want to write, and I will find my readers through good stories. But the next wave is Historical Romance, particularly medieval. And paranormal is on the way out, apparently. I am sure there are more readers like me who just realized the wealth of books out there about Alpha Male Wolf heros that make me a little melty. And even a lion shapeshifter has caught my attention, in Dark Age Dawning #3, Daybreak by Ellen Connor (who turns out to be two talented women!).

About Dark Age Dawning, I picked up a copy of the third book, and started reading it without the slightest intent of looking for the first two novels. Not only has that changed a few chapters in, I am going to find everything they ever wrote and read it. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8397035-daybreak

Dystopia worlds have been a big deal for a while, where magic makes everything dangerous and beautiful. The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones are big reasons for this trend. But the genre has been around for a long time. Animal Farm being one of the earliest, and The Handmaid’s Tale one of the best. Here is Julia Gandrud’s 8 Point Dystopian Plot Formula. http://writingreadingandlife.com/2013/11/29/guest-post-8-point-dystopian-plot-formula-julia-gandrud/

Think you need a little more help getting this formula under your belt? Look for your local RWA chapter and find out which workshops are available. You can take some of the on-line workshops from any chapter, if it suits your needs. There are also many other sources of learning, from community college creative writing to Scribophile forums, but some of those are not exactly Romance friendly. But here’s a great plot mapping idea from Tracey Montana and Adrienne Giordano at the Romance University (whose motto is R U Ready? Love it). http://romanceuniversity.org/2009/10/19/do-all-roads-lead-to-plot-mapping/

Like Adrienne says at the end of the blog, I’d love to hear how you use the formula, and how you map your plot! Maybe you’d like to write a guest post for me on the subject! Maybe we can trade posts! I know if I followed through on half the ideas I come up with, I’d be rich and have all the time in the world to write. See you on Thursday.