Archive for ‘Wannabe Writers’

June 5th, 2010

Wannabe Writers #19

by Madeleine Rex

Where I am in the Writing Process: I’m currently 11, 250 words into The Lemonites. I’m having so much fun with this project. The main characters are wonderful, and they make me want to laugh all the time. It’s such a magical experience that I asked people if I was doing something wrong.

I did not plot Lemons, besides a relatively detailed synopsis, but I haven’t gotten lost yet. I’m fairly certain of where I’m headed, and I’m learning how to create scenes in my head as I write them instead of taking months to plan an entire book thoroughly.

Here’s the issue with that strategy: You get bored. Real quickly. I still enjoyed writing That Boy in the Shed, but, ultimately, I felt like I’d already spent months writing the same scenes. Not to mention that there were no surprises, not even surprise conversations, and because of that, writing became a bit monotonous.

So, yes, so far, The Lemonites kind of rocks. I can’t wait to finish it and see what other people think!

My Current Problems: None. Well, besides poor That Boy in the Shed sitting sadly in the corner. I can’t work with it until my mom finishes reading, and that may be a few months from now. This summer, it looks like I will be:

  1. Writing The Lemonites
  2. Editing That Boy in the Shed
  3. Plotting Forbidden

I know. Believe me, I know.

The Question this Week: Critique partners? Anyone have a story on where they found a good one? And ways to keep the relationship going?

I found my to-be-critique partners (you see: I have to send them stuff first) online. I think the key is to get out there. Be yourself. Be likable. And, hopefully, those two go hand-in-hand! My critique partners are my closest “writing friends” (although they’re friends in general, too). They’re people with whom I love to spend time. They’re the people who make me laugh hysterically but also have the ability to criticize my writing (with a spoonful of sugar, of course, because good friends are the ones with sugar).

And, fortunately, I’m pretty sure they like me, too! I’m eager to read their writings because I can feel the brilliance seeping through them all the time and I know that, because we have so much in common and find joy in many of the same things, I will find much to appreciate in their books. In addition, I’m not afraid to critique their work. The relationship most certainly needs to be give and take, just as any other. As a friend, I want to help them grow, while encouraging them, and see their writing go wonderful places.

Regan’s been sending me scenes from her current WIP, which, ultimately, is in the first-draft stage. Because she’s working on it right now, I’m reading as a reader. I don’t dig into every sentence and beta as I might when the goal is to improve every detail. I’m sticking to commenting with the reader mindset. For example:

I AM TOTALLY IN LOVE WITH THIS SCENE! HOLY CROW! I WANT MORE AND YOU ARE A STINKIN’ EVIL FRIEND FOR NOT WRITING AT THE SPEED OF LIGHT AND I LOVE YOU!

Naturally, just as readers do, I will mention when things sound awkward, when I’d like to see more emotion coming through character’s actions, etc. I will not, however, disect the scene. I don’t want to distract the writer from the main first-draft goal: to write an engaging book. Finish it.

When it’s time for edits, the goal shifts to: write well-constructed sentences and delete as many adverbs as possible.

At this moment, it’s time for the writer to be a writer and the reader to be a reader. Later, it will be time for us to switch to the editing job.

So, for now, saying something like the above quote is perfect. For now, I am a reader.

As far as betas/critique partners go, I believe there are three crucial parts to play and an order in which to play them…

  1. Friend.
  2. Reader.
  3. Editor.

What has been your experience with critique partners? What’s your opinion on my “Friend. Reader. Editor.” theory?

P.S. I wrote a majority of this post either in a rush or way past my bedtime. So don’t judge!

May 22nd, 2010

Wannabe Writers #17

by Madeleine Rex

Wannabe Writers is a writing group for the un-published and anyone is welcome to join. It’s a place where future authors can ask questions, share stories, and get feedback. Click (here) to find more about how it works.

Where I am in the Writing Process: I’ve been working on the pre-writing parts of The Lemonites. My buddy, Regan, advised me to write scenes that may or may not show up in a book, so that’s exactly what I’ve done. I’m trying to further understand a crucial storyline that belongs to a side-character. In the process, I also found another character whom I love (her name’s Terrence, her nickname’s T-Rex, and she rules)! I’ve also written most of a synopsis. The end is a bit smudgy in my mind.

My mom is sitting next to me, trudging through The Boy in the Shed. This will be my first round of edits, and I’m already feeling worn out before doing anything! I’m afraid I’m going to come down with the editing blues.

My Current Problems: Let’s see:

Laziness.

Plotting:

Confusion regarding what to work on and when.

Apprehension.

I’ve been feeling kind of discouraged recently, although that might have to do with the fact that I’m incredibly tired today. (UPDATE: Pepsi, I love you and your caffeine.)

My most prominent issue is with the editing. I’m not sure how to go about it. Any tips?

The Question this Week: Do you recommend finishing (and polishing) a novel, even if you know the story would never be strong enough for publication?  To finish just for the sake of finishing or to focus your energies on a better project?

Boy, was this question meant for me? This is precisely what I’ve been talking about!

I do recommend finishing a novel.

That Boy in the Shed does not appear to be “strong enough for publication,” and I can’t easily imagine a way to give it the sufficient strength. However, I believe that the plotting, writing, and eventually the editing will be valuable experiences. The second book will be better simply because I know what’s needed and what the writing and polishing of a book entails.

At the same time, I am dividing my focus and working on another project. I don’t want to lag behind on my writing schedule, and I don’t want to lose the chance to work on the stories that seem more exciting to me at the moment.

So, as of now, I’m editing That Boy in the Shed (said too-weak novel), fiddling with/plotting The Lemonites, and preparing to plot Forbidden.

I suppose I’m a multitasker at heart.

May 15th, 2010

Wannabe Writers #16

by Madeleine Rex

Wannabe Writers is a fantastic weekly meme hosted by Sarah at Confessions of the Un-Published!

Where I am in the Writing Process: Still in the deep, dark abyss of break-time. However, my editing shall begin next Saturday, so I’ll be plunging into a different deep, dark abyss. Nice to have a change of seen, though, right?

I really fiddled with some new ideas this week. I tried creating a Seven-Step-Story-Outline for The Lemonites, but I’m really at a loss without Character Analyses. The book is so character driven. I actually tried plotting twice with the same outcome, so I intend to tackle a few analyses this week, if I have time. Thursday, I’m going on a mini-road trip, and we’re driving back on Friday, so I should have some extra writing opportunities.

I came up with a random idea while in the PE locker room. I was talking to Regan on Skype and she encouraged me to write the scene, although I had little to no idea where it was going. So, I did. And it felt wonderful. I was surprised how vividly the POV character’s voice spoke to me and ended up writing 2,000 words late last night. Writer’s bliss.

My Current Problems: Plotting. Why are all the difficult things in life necessary? Exercise, school, etc. I am the plot monster (fear me!). I plot very deeply. It took three months of working a strict schedule to plot That Boy in the Shed, which is insane, considering how simple the plot is. I already mentioned that I’m in dire need of character analyses. The impending plotting process for Forbidden can be spotted on the horizon. Forbidden is forty times more complicated than my other plots, due to the fantasy-elements and the fact that I see it as a more-than-one-book-project. Plotting for that one is going to take a whole lot of energy. It’s moments like this that I’m thankful to be fourteen.

As I said in my post on creative messes, my plotting, though systematic, is not entirely organized. I used my giant pad of paper and markers last night for the first time when plotting a bit of The Lemonites, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I made it through most of the papers before I finish plotting Forbidden.

The Question this Week: How to start a story. I’ve never been very good at writing hooks. Any suggestions? How did you start your story? (Dialogue, description, action, etc.)

I love hooks – particularly the very first lines of novels. I like mine to not only catch the reader’s eye, but to induce thoughts of the “is she nuts?” sort. In my case, constructing the first sentence of the story is one of the most enjoyable tasks. I also love last lines. Last lines should be just as phenomenal and eye-catching as the first.

I don’t oppose any of the options mentioned. The use of dialogue as a hook is one I’ve heard debated often. I don’t see much harm in it, as long as it serves the same purpose and has the same eye-catching affect. However, all my story ideas so far have begun with thought.

For example, That Boy in the Shed began with:

You have to pee before you can zip up your pants.

See? I sound certifiably nuts, which is exactly what I was going for. The story I began writing yesterday began with:

I could see her feet under the stall.

Although that one isn’t quite as insane, I think it will make people wonder what the heck I’m talking about and keep reading. Your first line needs to 1) grab attention and threaten to never, ever let it go and 2) induce questions. The last sentence above more obviously performs the latter. What stall? Are they in a bathroom? What the heck is going on? Who’s “her“?

One of my favorite first lines is from Audrey Niffenegger’s Her Fearful Symmetry. It taught me so much and inspired me to try harder to write wonderful hooks…

Elspeth died while Robert was standing in front of a vending machine watching tea shoot into a small plastic cup.

I clearly remember snorting in the middle of Best Buy when I read that. Niffenegger goes on in the second sentence to really put the cherry on top…

Later he would remember walking down the hospital corridor with the cup of horrible tea in his hand…

It’s the underlying irony of the entire situation that hooks you. I thought, She’s brilliant. She’s so brilliant. If you’d like to take a more classic approach, see Pride and Prejudice:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

More brilliance, this time, from a legend. I think the the key is cleverness. Show the reader, right from the beginning, that you can be brilliant. Don’t be modest. Flaunt your smarts.

In the case of action, it might be more difficult to be clever, per se. This is were the grab attention and threaten to never, ever let it go comes in. I don’t condone beginning with bombs dropping and people bleeding (unless your book is primarily about war or set in a war zone, then it might be easier to pull off). Don’t be overly active. But make sure that the reader feels the intensity of the moment.

If you’re unsure, betas and critique partners will be able to tell you if your first line is strong enough. Regan had a friend read the first bit of her new WIP, and was advised to move one brilliant and clever line from the second paragraph to the very beginning.

I couldn’t imagine how a dead man in a casket would make people hungry, but whatever.

See what I mean?