In Praise of Writer Conferences

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My second writers conference. Four days of learning and encouragement. I focused on craft this year, Character Development, Tension, POV, Dialogue, World Building, Scene Structure, & Editing. Great stuffs, great teachers. The most difficult and most beneficial part was being an introvert among introverts and trying to make personal connection with other writers. I’m not good at it, but did meet a few other writers. It is always good to hear other’s writing process. Some notes here to help me remember what I learned:

  • Character Development – Police Report / Military Report / Psychological Report. Level of report/detail depends on the importance of the character
  • Tension – Suspense – What is going to happen next // Tension – uncomfortable, gritting your teeth, needs reader empath
  • POV – Omniscient is the only reliable narrator (God)
  • Dialogue – I’ve been doing it wrong… 1) Move the story forward, 2) Provide Information, 3) Importance of Unique Character Voice, 4) Subtext where needed
  • World Building – world becomes a character
  • Scene Structure – Mini stories. Establish a desire/need/deprivation, set a goal, action toward that goal, obstacle, resolution and setup
  • Editing – Differences between line/copy and developmental editors. Approximate rates for each.

And, of course, lots more.

If there is a writers conference in your area, I would highly encourage you to attend. Invaluable and cost effective when you consider how much instruction you get.
And, if you are in the Northwest, consider next year’s PNWA conference.

Ty

Writing Process

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chainRecently, I was invited to participate in an author blog chain where I answer a few questions about my book and the way I write. I’m thanking my author coach and fantasy author Lindsay Schopfer for the invitation. (Lindsay’s Amazon page for his two books – Under Two Moon’s and The Beast Hunter). Check out his blog as he discusses his writing, the classes he teaches for the PNWA (Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association), and his service as an author coach. I also highly recommend checking Burnham Wycoff, who preceded Lindsay in the blog chain. Burnham is also a fantasy author.

What are you currently working on?
I am writing my first book, Nuisancer. Nuisancer is a YA dystopian story set on earth toward the end of the twenty-first century. I’ve spent two years writing the story. The story has changed and matured over the past two years. I’ve used a few different titles. I guess that is normal. This is my first real work with prose. I’ve written insult poems, lyrics, regular poetry, and more lyrics over the past 40 years. My experience with verse gives me a love for the taste and meter of language.

Currently I am working with author coach Lindsay Schopfer, and am focusing on exploring the history behind my characters, and world building. I’m ready to work through the third draft of Nuisancer, but need to understand my characters and their world before I can adequately complete this next draft.

How does your work differ from others in your genre?
I’m trying my best to make more of a social statement than a political statement. It is inevitable in dystopian stories to make some statement about governments and social structures. While I have the typical subject of a government system as the antagonist, I’m exploring more of the social impacts between differing people groups. Oh, and one of the characters is a cannibal. Not like a Louis Suarez type of cannibal, but a part-time practicing one. Not sure how that will work out.

I’m sure to be influenced a great deal by the authors I read. I hope to be influenced positively! I read across various genres, not just dystopian. I focus on the way the author tells their story and how they make it interesting enough to encourage me to read the entire book. Some of my favorite authors are: Gaiman, Murakami, Catherine Ryan Hyde, Gillian Welch, Cormac McCarthy, Margaret Atwood, and Chuck Wendig. I also love poets: Theodore Roethke, James Dickey, Sharon Olds, Robert Lowell, Ted Kooser, Peter Wild, and Seamus Heaney.

Why do you write what you do?
My love of language and writing started off with a trip diary from a time my family drove from Wisconsin to California and back. I think I was 9 or 10. When I neared teenage years my friends and I exchanged insult poems, like “You are so smelly, oh it is so terrible!…it smells like your nose was stuck in the shit of a grizzly bear” We wrote over a hundred of those poems which are unfortunately lost to history now. Stupid decisions. I was also the lyric writer for my band in the 70’s, influenced by Neil Peart and Alice Cooper. What a combo. I reluctantly entered college to pursue a business career when the whole rock-n-roll thing didn’t look like a stable career. But, I did take three semesters of poetry from the wonderful Dwayne Rail. He was an awesome teacher and helped my understand why I loved writing, who to read, and how to write better. After marriage, I didn’t write much for years. Over two years ago I took a Berkleemusic distance learning class with Slam poet and coach Caroline Harvey. The class was a real motivator and encouragement. I decided to try my hand at writing a story and seeing if it could turn into a book.

The short of it is, I have to write. Writing clears my head and frees up my emotions. Creating is essential to living and breathing for me. I love music, but I’m not a good enough musician to do much creating there, though I have written some songs. Writing is something I can do on my own. It is work, but it is comfortable.

How does your writing process work?
I’m still developing my process. I started this book by writing every day. I wanted to complete 500 to 1000 words per day. I used IA Writer on my iPad, typing on the glass. This was a pain in the… But, I forced myself to learn and coordinate this method so I could write while sitting in the living room with my wife. Her love language is “presence”. In other words, not demanding, but enjoys being near the people she loves. I transitioned to writing on the weekends in my office, when everyone is sleeping, and when I got into the editing phase. I just couldn’t edit on my iPad. Nearly a year ago, I moved to Scrivener and do my writing and editing there. I’ve tried Margie Lawson’s editing technique, and still use that method occasionally.

Now I write directly in Scrivener on my PC. I write a scene at a time and don’t worry about the sequence or chapter orientation until that full draft is complete. So, I don’t write sequentially. I write which ever scene seems exciting to write that day. I do plan my list of scenes, but I don’t really plot or outline. I’m a pantser. An organized pantser. I love letting the story discover itself, and finding out how things turn out for my characters. Much the same reason I like to read. I shoot for 1,500 words per day on the weekend.

I listen to music when I write. Everything from metal to progressive rock/metal, to punk, to bluegrass, to classical. Just depends on the mood.

My favorite writing coach authors are Donald Maass and James Scott Bell. I’ve belonged to writing groups and am looking for another. I’ve had great help from professional editors/creative coaches like Barbara Varanka and Lindsay Schopfer. Input from others shortcuts my flailing about and wrong paths. :)

The Next in Line
I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading a little more of my writing process and why I’m a writer. Be sure to check out James Osiris Baldwin, the next author in the chain. James recently published an intense military science fiction novella Lilium. James is a world traveller, but spends a good part of the year in Seattle.

Balance or Excuse?

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old-typewriterI feel like we live in a world where the extreme achieve their goals. Sometimes I see the wreckage of that extreme focus on the rest of someone’s life, sometimes not. So, I wonder, will I ever really achieve what I want to achieve in writing since I am not following an extreme path? I don’t spend every available moment writing in isolation from my family and friends. I tell myself that I’m trying to achieve a level of balance. Yes, I love to write and believe I can finish the nth draft of my book. I believe I can write a second, third and fourth book.

My next post will describe my writing process in more detail. I’ve been invited to a blog hop about writing process. For now, I’ll say that I write only on the weekends. During the week there is work, spending time with my wife, my friends, and reading. A teacher I had once said that one must live life in order to write about it. I believe living life and reading good books are the best compost and fertilizer for my writing. So, instead of hermiting away during the week, I live life with my family and spend time reading and learning.

The weekends are my writing time. Everyone else sleeps in on Sat/Sun. I get up at my normal time of 5am and do the normal morning things before settling in to write for 3-4 hours. Initially, when I decided to write a book, I wrote every day and blogged about those daily experiences here. I think that was fine, but not sustainable for me right now.

Every writer is different. I’m torn inside because I wonder if I’m pursuing/achieving balance, or just making excuses for not writing every day. I guess it doesn’t matter, but I’m just saying that I do have that internal struggle.

-Ty

Making Progress by not making progress

sisyphus12I’m not progressing on my novel. I’ve been stuck since March. But, I’m progressing greatly on the story, and that’s exciting!

I’ve been ignoring the need to answer questions about the novel. Like “how did the world get this way?”, “what happened?”, “why do the people live like that?”. Now I’m not going to put an orgy of backstory into the novel, but my little glimpses were shallow and weak because I hadn’t fully explored their possibilities. So, I’ve been stuck. Stuck with a rock. Sitting down every weekend to write and just pushing the same rock up a foot higher and having it roll back by Sunday night.

Eureka! I just needed to write about “how the world got this way”. Not for someone to read, but for me to understand. I was reticent to do this work because it feels like a waste of time and I want to get this damn book finished. *sigh* But, I think it might be essential. It got me around the rock and headed up the mountain this weekend. And that’s something.

Write well.
Write often.
Enjoy yourself.

Ty

 

A Wasteland of Plot Holes

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April is the cruelest month. It was true for Eliot then, and true for me now. I’ve been stuck all month writing a Dr. Suess version of the Silmarillion to serve as a reference guide to the history of the world in my WIP. I’ve muddled along for a year and a half without having my world well formed in my mind which means it is not well formed in the book. *sigh*

Lately, with some assistance from my author coach, I’ve been going through scenes looking for plot holes. I’m asking myself, “self, why is that there? why do those people believe that? or, better, what do they believe? why is it a fence here and a wall there? why is that so important to your MC?” etc.

My conclusion today is that the lawn of my story has brown spots because I’ve been careless with the gophers. There’re too many holes in the lawn for the story to be healthy and green. Now, everytime I answer a question related to a plot hole, it’s like pulling a gopher trap out of a hole with a rigor’d body in the pincers. This is a relief; nasty, but a relief. I’ve been tossing seed on the lawn the last 18 mos and the brown spots were just increasing. I need to spend the time necessary to trap the gophers in my WIP, fill up the holes and then get back to seeding and fertilizing.

Oh, you might have guessed, I did yard work today. :)

5 Deadlines That Show Up In Every Bestseller: The Resource Deadline

tyroper:

Great information for your WIP.

Originally posted on Christopher Kokoski:

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There are 5 deadlines, or  ticking clocks, that consistently show up in bestselling novels. 

In the last post, we talked about the Story Deadline. If you haven’t read that  one, I strongly encourage you to go check it out. Today, I’d like to focus on another deadline common in bestsellers – the Resource Deadline

Before we dive in, here’s a quick review of all 5 Deadlines:

5 Deadlines That Show Up in Every Bestseller

  • Story Deadline
  • Resource Deadline
  • Character Deadline (life and death)
  • Chase Deadline
  • Disaster Deadline

Ok, now back to the Resource Deadline. Like all deadlines, the Resource Deadline consists of a time limit (the deadline) and consequences (threat to the character, goal, story). Both elements must be present to maximize reader impact. While the Resource Deadline can be blended with the overall story deadline to encompass the entire narrative, this deadline (as with the other remaining…

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Back Story

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I don’t really care about my back story. Sure it’s ‘history’ and ‘history’ is exciting, right? History is exciting to me because it repeats itself repeats itself. And no, my back story is not about a back, not even a muscular back. I guess I need to weave my back story into the novel. Little strips of fish here and there vs a large pile of it barfed up in the beginning. This way the reader can dip the backstory into the tartar sauce of current events and action in the story. If I heat up the fish strips well enough the back story will be tasty and not too filling. Fish is good for us, right. And I’m not giving the reader sushi, so no risk there.

But I must go fishing first. I’ve got to spend time getting seasick in front of my computer waiting for my net to strain. I’ve done ok so far. I have tomorrow and next weekend to fish, then I should be ready to get back to writing. It’s been a good excursion. I had so many holes in the story that could only be explained by writing out the back story and getting the timeline straight in my head. And, importantly, I had to document my character’s motivations. I needed to understand what made them risk their lives, love, hate, eat fish sticks, whatever. I’m feeling better about the whole exercise now. Sometimes pausing like this and just thinking about the story has helped me. But, I can’t wait to get back to writing. See you on the page.

-Ty

Plodding

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For me:
Feedback is fabulous.
Author coaches are awesome.
Rewriting is repetitious and
Plotting is muddy.

Main character – switch. World – build or destroy. Character motivation - change.

Ah, being a newb writer. I’m thankful for good feedback. This time around it means plodding through some new plotting. My secondary character is more interesting and less controversial. So, she becomes the main. Big points on the “more interesting”.  I’ve been holding her back since the second draft because I could feel her stealing the story. *sigh* It’s all good. I should have just recognized it. Fortunately she stole most of the story while I thought my old main was carrying it. That means some scenes don’t need to be rewritten. +1. Most of the boring scenes only include my old main character, so they can be ash-canned.

Overall I’ve had a good weekend of plotting. It was muddy inside and out. Stupid rain. Over 9 inches this March for us in the Pacific Northwest. Sheesh. But, I slogged through the mud of my old story, slid around in the mud of it, and have gotten to the other side with some dry earth under my feet now. Time to rebuild.

So yes, I have an author coach. And yes, he is helping me out. The book will be that much better now. I also joined a new group of writers. We meet via Hangouts. I think it will be good. I’m in two writer groups now.

Feedback is fabulous.

Keep writing!
I know I will.

My Other Job: Reading

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I’m a writer, not an author, yet. I have four jobs. Husband/Father, Day job, writer, and reader. Today, I’m gonna focus on the reader job.

I realized that reading is an important part of my writing life. Essential. So I have made it a job. A fun job. I set aside time for reading just like I set aside time for writing. I have reading goals. I read books I wouldn’t normally read because I’m trying to learn something.

I focused on reading just three years ago. I identified it as one of my jobs last fall. It’s a great job! I like the discovery of reading just like I like discovering the details of a story when I write.

I’m not saying anything new. The majority of writers I know are readers first. Their love for writing came from their love of reading.

That’s all. I need to go clock in. :)

Ty

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