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

Questions: Part of the Writer’s Make-Up

Hi all,

Hope all is well with all of you. I’m trying to stay consistent but no promises for now. Life has this loverly way of getting in the way while I make plans. Ever happen to any of you?

The other day I caught up with a post about asking questions from my good friend and author, Stacey Wilk. This article in particular sparked one of my longer-winded comment responses, which I figured would work nicely as a post of my own. Doing so also gave me an opportunity to point those of you interested to check out her li’l corner of the WWW.  She always brings up highly relatable topics of interest, and does better than I keeping her thoughts short and to the point. 🙂

Stacey talked about people misinterpreting the intent behind many of the questions she poses in the many settings she frequents. (Reading her post will give you a bit more background. She definitely got me thinking.)

MHO: asking questions is this writer’s nature. I want to have a first-hand account of information whenever possible, as I believe it lends authenticity to the situation in any story. And yes, people have looked at me strangely, ESPECIALLY when I was so focused on my question I didn’t think ahead to how the recipient might perceive the inquiry…

Case in point: I wanted to know about survivor benefits in the event a police officer is killed in the line of duty. AFTER I introduced myself to our school’s DARE officer as a writer, I went right for it. Don’t remember her answer, just the look on her face.

Another time, I queried a Yahoo! group about a fairly serious pediatric condition relative to one of my novel’s storylines. Not only did I get responses based from medical personnel who did this for a living, someone connected me to his daughter, who’s infant son had lived through this condition. (I’m an east coast girl; she hangs her hat at the Pacific end of the continent.) I spent a good 90 minutes on the phone with her, and took tons of notes. She even offered a photo  of her son from the recovery room, hooked up to tubes galore. Let me tell you, I believe there is authenticity in the related fictional write-up.

I have no plans to stop asking questions or looking up information. Person on the receiving end is free to NOT reply, and I typically preface my inquiry saying so. Nor do I know where my query will lead. I’m a firm believer in “the only stupid question is the one that isn’t asked.”

Anyway, thanks again, Stacey, for inspiring me in more ways than one. And as always, my gratitude to all of you who so kindly scare precious time to stop in, read, comment and/or share.  Words cannot express how appreciative I am.

Take care and have a great day and week,

Joanna

Are We Giving It Away? (Part 3)

Welcome back, you brave souls! Personal matters have been eating up most of my time, so please accept my apologies for having gone missing two weeks or so now.

For those of you catching up, I’ve been spouting off about TV ads running in languages other than English. If you dare, feel free to read those thoughts here and here. (Wonder of wonders, fingers are crossed you’ll return after that! :D)

And back to what annoys me most in all this: responsibility.

Have you any idea how many times I’ll walk into a store—especially in the town where I grew up—and am greeted in non-English? I doubt that happened in my parents’ day. Nor can I tell you how often my mom gets mail; the envelope is stuffed so that the recipient opens it to non-English. On a good day, the same note is printed in English on the reverse side.

As Americans, we’re giving our country away by allowing subtle, seemingly harmless things like advertising and foreign language mailings slip by without a complaint. It’s like we’re too many generations in—the rich kids who inherited the fat of our forefathers (and foremothers) quest for freedom, which we just always assume we’ll have. We don’t appreciate it because we didn’t earn it. We take it for granted and assume it will always be there.

Final case in point then I’ll leave this alone. (Of course we’re open it up to comments.) Hubby worked for a company that was built from the ground up. Senior CEO founded it and grew it into a formidable force in the industry of its type. People worked there for years and retired from it, many satisfied with the work they did and the pensions they earned. (Yes, I realize the economic climate was significantly different ten to twenty years ago.)

Senior’s son, Junior, inherited the company. Hubby often came home with stories that strongly suggested Junior didn’t value the company. He was born into and grew up in wealth already there. I’ll assume that was all he knew.

Long story short, through a set and/or series of not-so-great financial moves, Junior put the company up for sale. (Sounds like he used the inherited conglomerate as collateral and eventually killed the company’s credit rating.) That was almost ten years ago. Those who took over, didn’t do so in a very nice way. And those who might have still been around since Senior’s reign had little choice but to watch and shake their heads in disbelief, each who stayed put in a position to do the work of three people and stories of stress like I’d never heard from hubby before. About six months in, hubby’s department—of which he was supervisor and very happy in his position—was eliminated. He was one of the last to get a good severance package. Those got cut in half starting a few months after he was dismissed.

Some sixth sense tells me Americans aren’t necessarily valuing our homeland. Makes me very sad, to say the least. Scared too, when I see news articles related to key political figures telling college students to not celebrate our country’s birthday; supporting apparently archaic laws towards women, and proposing the notion of imposing fines on companies who hire an American-born citizen over someone who immigrated here illegally, among others.

Anyway, I’m not going there. The purpose of this post wasn’t to point fingers. It was to vent and throw out some awareness of how important it is to protect the America our foreparents fought to create.

Have a great day, friends!

Joanna