Yin and Yang and Story Balance

I am unbelievably gifted to know Lisa Kessler through my local chapter of RWA. She’s amazing. A talented speaker, knowledgeable teacher, and willing mentor, her workshop on Black Moments gave me some much needed directions for my works in progress.

One would think writers know these things, but until that workshop, I never got it that your Happily Ever After is only as sweet as the Black Moment is horrible. You need a BIG moment when all is lost, and there had to be indications that it would happen from the beginning of the story. Continue reading “Yin and Yang and Story Balance”

Back to the Book List

I advertise this as the list of books from the California Dreaming’ Writers Convention, but I am dipping in to all the workshops I attended as well. It’s very hard to separate them. And I am a total noob at conventions like this. Put me in a science fiction fantasy horror steampunk anime convention, and I know the ropes. But, well, things were in the brochure that were invitation only. One had to win a place in the sessions at the drawing held that morning. One event caught my eye, and even though it was scheduled late in the day, I went to the suite to hear M.A. Taylor sharing Cop Tales. Oh,yeah, this lady is who I want to be when I grow up! I crashed the event, but luckily someone who had actually won a ticket could not make it, so I was allowed to stay. I am not likely to ever write a cop story, but I may have a detective wander into a story. The most important thing I learned was that the San Bernadino International Airport is favored over LAX by many celebrities and sports teams. Continue reading “Back to the Book List”

Conventional Wisdom

Yes, I had such a blast at the California Dreamin’ Writers Convention put on this last weekend by four local chapters of Romance Writers of America (RWA). I am thrilled that I had the opportunity to stay at the Embassy Suites for two nights, so that I didn’t miss anything. I made lots of rookie mistakes, but I will be so ready for next time. Continue reading “Conventional Wisdom”

Now, I Are One

Back around the dawn of creation, a certain institute of learning ran a commercial about getting certified in a field that you couldn’t spell until you signed up with them. The joke version went, “Two years ago I could not spell college student. Now, I are one.”

I know the feeling. I am scratching this out long hand, pen and paper, while waiting for the beginning of a workshop I’m running at a local convention. No big deal as I have run this workshop before at past conventions. I have another workshop scheduled for Sunday, as well, and also one I have done before.

What astonishes me is that I am speaking on two panels. As a published author. Like a real writer and stuff. The first one is “You got Monsters in My Romance.” Okay, I can talk to that subject. I am dabbling in a shape-shifter romance, as I have discussed on here before. And if we define “monster” as supernatural, my Greek god in the Bowman’s Inn anthologies qualifies.

The second panel is “Self-Publishing: What Really Happens.” I guess I can tell everyone not to do what I did. Don’t wait almost a year to get the second book out. Don’t skimp on self-promotion. And don’t trust a loved one who isn’t quite as in to the process with a critical job. Maybe I will just sit at the end and not say much. Smile and wave.

Now I have transcribed this onto my computer and I have survived one workshop and one panel. The workshop was not advertised, so no one really knew what it was and one person showed up. She was a fun geeky young woman, and we had fun.

The panel was fun, not only did I get a few laughs, I got names of books to look into. I shared favorite movies and we talked about the problems with immortals falling in love with mortals. Why would a vampire want to keep as a mate one of its herd, its food source? I love fans, they think of these things as if the answers are very important. And the other panelist, Doug Welch, is a pleasure to work with. I can’t wait to find his books, and anticipate his Monster Romance one coming soon, Watcher’s Demon.

The best part of this weekend is the feeling of being a successful writer, a good teacher, and an entertaining speaker. Don’t know if those were my life goals, but I won’t complain. Achievement Unlocked. Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Thursday, maybe with an update on the last day of the convention.

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.