When Creativity Is Lacking…

I am blessed to find very shareable posts that speak to my heart!

Hope all is well and that Jami Gold’s post for feeding our creative and artistic side is helpful to you too! Her blog is packed with awesome, detailed how-to articles, along with several excellent writer downloads. Finally, if you’re into the paranormal, check out her stories!

Have a great weekend all! Happy Super Bowl Sunday, too!

Joanna

 

 

 

How do you do Point of View?

Happy Cinco de Mayo, folks. Hope those celebrating are doing so in a fun (and safe) fashion! Since tequila makes me sleepy, I’ll indulge in a virtual strawberry daiquiri instead. 😉

Several weeks ago I happened on Tips When Writing Multiple POVs at Writers Helping Writers. This very helpful article got my writer’s-side-of-the-brain’s-synapses snapping, and this post was born. Thanks to Angela Ackerman and her guest blogger, Lisa Gail Green for allowing me to quote directly.

Since I tend to be wordy (No!!! Really???  😉 ), I figured I’d challenge myself to one (or three) sentences for my thoughts on each of the areas—shown in quotations—that Lisa covered in her post:

“Understand each character’s goals, stakes, and pitfalls”: When I don’t overthink, hang in long enough and just write the danged scene(s), the nuances of that POV character’s goals, motivation(s) and conflict (GMC, from here on) begin to reveal themselves. Every round of editing helps me see more.

“Don’t redo the same scene from multiple POVs”: Every now and again there’s a call to do so—in a ‘scene and sequel’ format that SHOULD forward the plot. At ‘big’ moments involving both POV characters, I’ve ended the scene in one character’s POV, but opened up the next chapter picking up (almost) where I left off from the other’s perspective.

“Have a reason a particular chapter is in a particular point of view”: This goes back to the basics: GMC. Often, the character who has more ‘at stake’ in a given scene gets the POV honors. Try working the scene from the other POV character’s perspective if you’re not sure—about to do that with a scene of my own.

“Ground the reader as soon as each switch takes place”: I love Virginia Kantra’s technique of “zooming” the lens deep into one character’s POV, “pulling away” then honing back in deep, but in the other character’s perspective. The Wild Rose Press, who trad-pubbed my debut novel, kept it simple: Jessica thought… or something similar.

“If you’re still unsure whether you should undertake a multiple POV manuscript, try it out and see how it feels”: Trying my hand (for the first time) at four POVs in my current WIP . Wish me luck!

Do you agree with the Lisa’s tips? Is POV a challenge or just come easy for you? Which POV do you like to write in?

For more talk on the topic, here’s a great article on self-editing by Rachel E. Newman at The Book Designer.

Have a great week,

Joanna

©Joanna Aislinn, all rights reserved, 2015.

 

 

 

Fan-Fiction or Handbook to ‘Die For’? BOTH!!!

Hi everyone. I’m keeping busy and getting very excited about some upcoming stuff I’ve been looking forward to. Since I was raised with Italian superstitions, I’ll talk about them after the fact. Hope all of you are well.

SSXpedition FINAL

Those of you who are kind enough to follow and read all my posts are most likely sick of me discussing ‘reviews’ at authors’ blogs. When online author-pal PJ Reece asked me to give his (then pre-) released book a look-see prior to it going live at Amazon, I had to say yes.

Why? B/c I’d already read–and loved and internalized–this book’s predecessor, STORY STRUCTURE TO DIE FOR. I also enjoy PJ’s blog articles, so I had a very strong inkling I was going to get somethin’ real good out of PJ’s latest work.

STORY STRUCTURE EXPEDITION: JOURNEY TO THE HEART OF THE STORY by author PJ Reece is (to me) a fan-fiction based on Joseph Conrad’s classic novel, HEART OF DARKNESS. The author sets himself up as protagonist while his writer takes him through his story journey (i.e., character arc) via a Congo River expedition, based on the events of Conrad’s novel.

I found PJ’s hundred-page essay (as he referred to it) VERY entertaining. Had I paid attention in high school and read Heart of Darkness, I might have related even better to PJ’s work. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed his excellent command of language and writing skills; his wit and humor, as well as the story journey. PJ also challenged and put me in a position to expand my vocabulary: I looked up many words via the electronic dictionary built into Kindle’s app.

This is what you’ll be reading: (from PJ’s protagonist’s “writer’s” ‘synopsis’): story fanatic commissions a tin-pot steamer to retrace Marlow’s journey up the Congo into terra incognita. Our protagonist imagines a series of instructive dispatches along the way, scenes that portray the river as a metaphor for every story’s journey to the story heart.

So: Author takes story structure, sets himself as narrator, and becomes the protagonist being thrust into the throws of story structure. He discusses how the writer’s job is to “love her protagonist to death”—death to the protagonist’s belief system and the inexplicable freedom from having “died” to one’s self. (On pp 50-51 you’ll find a lively “discourse” between author and his “writer.” Every now and again, he revisits their ‘relationship,’ typically to question what the heck she’s putting him through.)

Same story structure mechanics told a different way? Perhaps, but PJ puts a spin on it that I related to and seem to be digesting and/or internalizing readily.

IMHO, the brilliance of PJ’s essay is how he nestles simple and straightforward story mechanics into excellent, highly useful tips to writers during his metaphorical expedition. I took copious notes and highlighted like crazy as I read. I hear PJ’s words resonating as I work on my current WIP, nudging and guiding my protagonist toward his own awakening. (Trust me, my  guy has a LOT to learn.  😉

STORY STRUCTURE EXPEDITION: JOURNEY TO THE HEART OF THE STORY is a refreshing companion/follow-up to its predecessor, STORY STRUCTURE TO DIE FOR. I can’t imagine any writer won’t be a better writer after having read either (or both) of these works.

The Last Book I Wasn’t Crazy For But Read Anyway

Welcome to the fourth week of March, everyone. Finally, spring is upon us! I have been ‘snow done’ for a while now; I was definitely done with polar cold before it started, but temps in my area are supposed to hover just above or below freezing all week 😦  ). Give me the dog days of summer anytime over the chilly weather.

Nabby 03-2015 My pretty li’l Mauer McNabb always keeps me company when I’m working in the kitchen.  

Last time, I was inspired to write by suspense/thriller author Carrie Rubin, who was inspired by the ever-awesome Kristen Lamb. The discussion: Should an author publish book reviews?

In my previous post, I referred to a story I had just finished. Because I prefer to keep my ‘thoughts’ on books positive—I don’t refer to them as ‘reviews’ anymore. My ideas and/or issues are pretty subjective, thus making them MHO. One is welcome to take what s/he likes and leave the rest. 😉

Back to MHO on my most recent read. The author’s declared mainstay occupation is NOT writing, but another creative outlet, in which she is reportedly well-established. The story is inspired and built around her ‘day job.’ It pubbed traditionally by a Big-Five publisher in 2010. As an ‘author,’ my snarky side keeps asking, “Why?”

Not sure if the external plot (a.k.a., the ‘story’) or the characters kept me holding on, but something did.

The writing? Eh. Obviously, GCP thought more of it than I did.

I thought about emailing the author my issues. I’ve done so before re: other books—always as gently and kindly as I know how. I’ve never received a response from any author whenever I went there—most recently from someone who offered a book in exchange for a review. I really tried, but I couldn’t finish the book. I wrote the author’s rep and stated my reasons why—exactly what the rep asked me to do if I ran into ‘problems’ that would impact my review. Not even a ‘thank you.’

I realized most authors are not interested in my take on what their book(s) should be.

Guess what? That. Is. Okay. Saves me a lot of time writing emails loaded with editing notes and constructive criticism no one asked for in the first place. 😉

Back to Book-on-the-‘Hot Spot’:

What I liked:

(1) High-energy and fast-paced. With the exception of a back-story/flashback dump (or two), the plot held my interest and moved forward at a decent pace.

(2) Likable, interesting, well-flawed, relatable and highly human characters.

What turned me off to the point I WON’T write a ‘review’:

(1)  The author used a plethora of foreign-language words and didn’t italicize any of them. A minor issue, true, but ‘dems da rules,” right? IDK, it just turned me off, especially for a trad-pubbed, Big-Five novel.

(2) The author’s loose use of point of view (POV). Head-hopping, POVs assigned to whomever was reacting to the goings-on in a given scene, rather than sticking to the three lead characters. At times the author waxed omniscient. (That’s pretty much the exact opposite of deep POV, which I happen to love. The awesome Virginia Kantra has some great articles on POV at her website. Check them out—just scroll down the page.)

(2) The author infused a contemporary story with her love of movies. She referenced them in EACH character’s point of view (POV). Why is that an issue? I’m a product of the era of those movies, and I’m thinking the author is too. Her characters were far too young to think of themselves relative to the comparisons she used. Also would every one of them think in terms of movies? Far as I’ve learned, POV is supposed to distinguish one character’s voice from another.

(3) The author used the movie references repeatedly, typically as one “like” simile after another. Either I got more sensitive to it or she added more and more of them as the story progressed. Not only did it get old and gimmicky and sounded like “telling”, it got to the point where the similes felt random and not connected to the story. (NCIS’s “Tony DiNozzo,”—played by Michael Weatherly who looks the part of a classic movie star—is a movie buff. Tony is rarely sans a ready movie reference, but it always connects to his character AND the episode’s plot.)

(4) Lastly, I think I started paying less attention towards the end of the book, but I believe the author started introducing quotes, characters and themes at the “finale.” Forgive my snobbish attitude, but I’ve learned (via Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering) that adding new information after the second plot point and/or climax is a bit of a no-no.

Do I sound resentful b/c this writer got a big opportunity from a big-name publisher? I suppose I do, but considering I haven’t submitted anything in several years makes me think that’s not the case. (I like the indie idea better anyway.) IDK, but all the things that turned me off make me wonder why a Big-Five pubbed novel wasn’t held to a much higher standard. Just sayin’.

Have I become a reading snob? Maybe, but I’m older. My attention span and tolerance ain’t what they were eleven years ago, when I started on my writer’s journey. I’ve read a lot—I still read quite a bit. I am also more educated and experienced in writing and editing, which kills my tolerance for this kind of stuff that much more.  Sad that a really good—but not necessarily established—indie writer might not get the chance the author/celebrity of nameless book got.

So what’s my point in these long-winded pages? Maybe sharing what makes me crazy in a book can help someone else refine their skills on their authors’ journeys. Maybe I just felt like complaining about the book without bashing the author and making her or myself look bad. IDK—what say you?

Enjoy the week!

Joanna

This Reader’s Pet Peeves

Welcome to November, folks. How does every year seem to go faster and faster?

Hope those who celebrate enjoyed a fun Halloween. ‘Trunk or Treat’ delayed our candy-seekers, but we wound up with a good turnout nonetheless. I was also thrilled when a former co-worker rang the bell; she wound up informing me she and a neighbor—a widower whose wife unexpectedly passed of an undetected aneurysm late last year—were ‘together.’ I’ve been praying for that man since September, 2013. So grateful and happy for him and his very young boys, and for her. Far as I know, he’s a great guy, a firefighter who writes–or has written–on the sly. That’s got to be good, right? 😉

To everyone taking on the NaNoWriMo challenge, I applaud you and wish you all the best. As much as I can churn out a report or a blog post under pressure, I can’t seem to generate the heart that kind of undertaking warrants. You’re an amazing group who inspire me.

NaNoWriMo--persistandwin

Image credit: From CommuniCATE Resources For Writers 

Lately, I feel my attention span is more and more compromised. Even reading, a life-long passion that helped spur me into the writer-world, has been suffering. Maybe it’s age, too much to do, life, internet-spawned attention deficit—all of the above. My tolerance isn’t what it was, either. Having learned first-hand some of the tricks of this trade messed with my reader side. I can rarely push myself to swallow content that doesn’t grab me right away or gets my pet peeves coming out in full force.

I’m not pointing at only indie works either. A few years ago, a well-established author released a long-awaited new work. I’d read at least two of her previous compositions and thoroughly loved them. The Big-Five publisher that backed her put out a LOT of fan-fare (and $$$) to promote her book.

Hate to admit it, but I never downloaded more than the sample. The style of writing was dated. Exposition went on and on. (Very 80s, I guess?) Don’t think I made it past page 20. So there’s pet peeve #1.

#2: A poorly-developed, contrite or dragged-out story. I’m not implying every story should have block-buster style action pouring off every page. Readers who’ve been around a while know every story has been done. PLEASE, authors! Give me a story I want to believe, and move it along at a forward pace that feels like it’s on some kind of continuum.

#3: Repetition: I’m forcing myself to read a romance that somehow found its way onto my Nook app. It’s okay, but if one more person ‘snorts’ I might decide how the author got to the HEA isn’t worth knowing.

#4: Crappy editing: Good service is pricey. I’ve looked into it (and hoping this post, or a future release, doesn’t haunt me one day). Heck, I’ve heard authors mention their editor this, or their editor that.

I hate when a book starts out decently edited, then slides down a steady decline. (Kind of dealing in that with those ‘snorting’ characters, among other complaints.)  I once read a supposedly edited book where love scenes were repeated for 5-page stretches every time they occurred. IDK, but that’s overkill and cause to skip the scenes or even give up on the story. And don’t get me started on head-hopping. (BTW, I have no problem with POV shifts within a scene and use them myself. But those authors whose books sell simply b/c their names grace the covers, while POVs shift from head to head within the same paragraph??? Nah, I’ll read someone else’s stories, thank you very much.)

There are beta readers, critique groups, online and in-person workshops. Translation: We shouldn’t be lacking for a way—via use of cash, barter or someone’s kind-hearted donation of services—that any book should be lacking in quality.

Any thoughts on this? How patient are (or were) you as reader? Do you have pet peeves about the stories that come your way? I’d love to read about them. Are you doing NaNoWriMo?

Residents of the USA, if you can, get out there and vote. (MHO: it’s become far too important to do so.)

Have a great day,

Joanna

Guests Bloggers at The Write Practice Inspire!

Happy Tuesday, everyone,

And a happy birthday shout-out to my daughter-from-another-mother. Older Son’s girlfriend turned the big 1-7 yesterday. (This post was supposed to go live on Monday, but I forgot to click the SCHEDULE button after I set the date.)  She’s been around four years already, something I still can’t believe sometimes. Luckily, she’s a very nice young lady and there is no real drama between them.

I’m always  a bit sad watching an Olympic flame go down. Being a lover of athletic ability in so many forms—especially since God did not put superstar status coordination into this writer girl—I  so enjoy living vicariously watching the grace and power of those who are. (I get to the tennis courts whenever I can. Luckily, I can hit a few good flat shots–I so can’t do any spin on the ball–and let’s not talk serve.)

I will NOT  miss listening to the rather biased coverage and talk involving American-Russian rivalry re: medal counts, hockey games, etc. That’s just not me, and the Olympics is a place where the world supposedly comes together, right? (Just sayin’…)

Sochiolympicflame

Image credit: Flickr via Wikimedia Commons (Pretty sure I did this properly. Feel free to let me know in the comments or privately if I didn’t. Thnx!)

Having my life back from the TV is always nice (barring Law & Order SVU re-runs—those suck me in almost every time; Modern Family is starting to get me too and I just walked away from auditions for The Voice). Indian Wells, the ‘fifth slam’ of tennis starts March 6th…Dancing with the Stars is about four weeks away… There goes Monday night…again.

Back on track: I haven’t written about writing for a while, nor do I plan to now. What???

I did, however, come across a couple of great posts from The Write Practice, to whose posts I subscribe. I recently moved from lurker to commenter/participant and am finding a very supportive community. (Writers can be like that, cheering each other on, helping each other out, paying it forward…you know.)

In lieu of musings by me, I figured I’d share an exercise prompted by this post, Let Me Be Your Muse. Writer/blogger Joy Collado of the Phillipines suggests I do nothing but write in response to what my character(s) have to say about their feelings relative to me and getting their stories into some kind of existence. Let me tell you, some of mine are pretty dang frustrated, lol. Here is a very short excerpt of the fruits of that effort:

These are one of my POV character’s thoughts. She’s a tad annoyed waiting for me to get it together, to find a direction for her story, and to get things right between her and her hubby.

“So you’re letting me be the muse, huh? It’s about time you stopped trying to figure out my story and started committing to putting down something concrete about it.”

From there my character pretty much outlined her story and gave me a great framework to draw upon. My next step is to do the same with the other POV characters. I’m hoping I don’t choke myself (again!) with all the ideas that come from this kind of brainstorming. That’s what happens: I get overwhelmed with all the info and can’t seem to find a start point to make functional use of it.

Becca Puglisi‘s guest postPurging Your Writing Fear spoke to me too. From that I was inspired to jot down two key affirmations. Those are on my nightstand. I’m seriously considering fancying them up a bit and framing them, so that they’re that much more visible to me on the day to day.

Here is one of them: I am can and will make _____ and _____’s story into a viable suspense/romantic novel. (It’s that suspense part messing with me. New territory.)

So, what are your thoughts on these topics? Have you tried Joy’s technique or written down affirmations/goals the way Becca suggests? Do you feel it’s been helpful? If so, how and/or why?

Thanks and have a great day!

Joanna