Monday, May 25, 2015

Page-Turning Heroes and Villains

 
"Not every plot is designed to be a page-turner." I appreciated hearing that statement from Jennifer A. Nielsen at the LDStorymakers conference, where I took her class about Crafting the Page-Turner. There are varying types of emotional rides for different kinds of books. We want the reader to want to read on, but not every scene has to be high on the excitement Richter scale. Phew! Glad to recognize that important detail. Every scene should be a fight scene (not a battle), in that someone struggles to get something they want.
 
Jennifer spoke about the necessary elements of a page-turner, plotting, heroes and villains, the writing part, and questions to ask about your story. All good stuff. Since I can only give you a tease about the class (it's her material for paying attendees, after all), today I'm sharing a few things about page-turning heroes and villains. These characters are more important than the plot.
 
A villain can be a non-person, like a shark, earthquake, or illness. This Antagonist should be more likely to win; it gives us that worry factor. The villain's motivation needs to be stronger than simply because he is crazy or evil for evil's sake. Give her a real motivation where she is more equipped to triumph than the hero.

The hero needs a clear and desperate goal. He wants something and how badly he wants it needs to show. Your hero needs to be smart and proactive. Give her unexpected qualities rather than stereotypical or common ones. Don't make them perfect.

Nielsen says to be cruel to the characters you love--mentally, physically, etc. Beat them up or force them to make tough choices so they can grow. Hmm. Do you think that means the villain should grow along with the hero? Who are some favorite heroes and villains you have enjoyed?


Monday, May 18, 2015

Keynote Adress at Storymakers 2015 - Martine Leavitt

Just got back from my favorite Writer's Conference--LDStorymakers. Loved the classes, seeing friends, and getting inspired. For me, the keynote address by Martine Leavitt was one of those inspiring moments. She shared her own personal journey to success and how we need to believe in ourselves.

Martine compared herself to her talented sisters. In trying to find her own area to excel, she turned to writing since she loved to read. Trying held as much frustration as satisfaction. Finally the day came that she didn't throw away what she wrote the previous day. She sent off several articles, which were rejected. What was with that? Did she have to do more than convey a meaning? Maybe it should be interesting, original. Maybe she should think of the reader. Martine learned humility.

Craving more time to write, Martine made tough choices while raising a family and serving in her church. She remained true to a commitment to write every day, even if for a few minutes. It made her happy, but also taught the value of each word. "Write each word as if it is special," she said. "A parent who is happy because she writes is worth a lot."

Life threw some curves Martine's way. She became a single parent, remarried, had a large family, new job, etc. She learned that the way you live matters. Service gave her a new type of love to be a better writer. We need to hear the hearts of others. We need to believe in ourselves and be humble. We need the influence of the best books, children in our lives, and learning to love.

What I write shouldn't be determined by others. There are those that think Mormon writing is filled with too much sunshine. Gray areas are not as interesting as darkness where light breaks through. The world hungers for the types of books we can write. Make a work of art of ourselves and believe.

A couple of her thoughts on talent:
Talent can be dangerous because you might believe you don't have to work hard.
Believing you have a talent gives a responsibility to it. Believe.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Right Brain/Left Brain Writers

In celebration of passing 250 blog posts and more than 20,000 page views, today I am reposting the first blog post I ever wrote (from September 2010). It keeps getting views because of the search engine keywords. Fun food for thought. Enjoy!

I followed some writers’ comments showing great variance in their answers to such questions as “Do you listen to music when you write?” or “How do you get the creative juices to flow?” Someone may give a tip that I really like, but another time I think I would never try that. We are all so different and that is a beautiful thing. We need to find out what works and doesn’t work for us and balance that with a willingness to try something new that could potentially enhance our craft.

This got me to thinking that maybe there is no right way to write. Maybe it’s a Right Brain/Left Brain thing.

I keep hearing that a first draft should just flow and let whatever you are thinking come as fast as it can. The edit and cleanup comes later. Just get it down. Okay. Am I doing that when I type a couple paragraphs that seem to flow, but then I stop and reread them before I can go on with the next flowing sequence? I may not be spending time figuring out a better word but if something glares at me I will fix it right then. It feels creative to me to make it better. Then I get to the end of reading the section I've written and I’m ready to go again. But only for a section. I don’t understand how someone can write the whole thing from start to finish without going back over what they've written. It’s as if my left brain's organization and structure wants to keep inserting herself into my right brain’s creative flow. Is this normal? Perhaps it is for me. Perhaps it’s only lack of experience.

Try this for fun: Clasp your hands together with fingers interlocking. Which thumb is on top? Now fold your arms. Which arm crosses on top? Chances are they are the same. Right thumb or arm on top leans toward being left brained and vice versa. I should say here that everyone uses both sides of the brain but that we have a tendency toward favoring one side to some degree. The amount of favoring can change, especially before adulthood.

Out of curiosity, I took a couple online brain quizzes. The shortest one pegged me as right-brained. Laugh out loud! I really do enjoy the editing process as much as the writing, music distracts me, and I look at a scene sequentially in parts that make up a whole. Very left-brained. Another had me almost totally left-brained and another put me as 58% left to 42% right. Go figure.

In reality, it takes a mixture of left- and right-brained thinking to be a writer. Upfront, one can see the imagination it takes to dream up the story. Underneath, logic is used to figure out the path a character would take or which word is best. The trick is to play our strengths and become a more balanced thinker in the weak areas while we use our whole brains to write. That is when what we write becomes truly satisfying.

Do you agree? So, which side dominates for you and how does it affect your writing?

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Power of a Writer's Message--What's Mine?

What message do I want to send with the books I write or with the website I set up? What word or words should be associated with my author name? What is my author brand? These are all questions I am thinking about, thanks to a helpful video message about messages, presented by Yen Ooi.

First of all, an author's message has to be more than wanting everyone to like her book just because she thinks it's fabulous. Yen Ooi says, "A good message will build a bond between the book and the reader." That message is often found first in a book blurb, review heading, or website focal point. Ooi identifies three characteristics of an impactful message:
1. Easily identifiable.
2. Memorable.
3. Relevance (to the reader).

A book's message will include different things than a brand or website message. It's more specific and tells more. In either application, Ooi suggests that you brainstorm messages, creating a bank of them. Use them, experiment, and narrow down/pick one. Then you can consider who is the best target for this message, what medium best reaches this audience, develop it further and set it free. Repeat with another message that you liked. Once you have seen what people like and what is successful, you might be prepared to invest into paid advertising. Don't invest before its test.

In my writing journey thus far, I have worked on a scripture-based fictional story, it's sequel, and two inspirational narrative non-fiction stories. I can generalize them all into the "Inspirational" genre for the LDS audience. Too boring if you are looking for a spunky female character in a clean romance. After brainstorming for a brand slogan, "Feel-good inspiration that you can use today in your life" translated into "Light for Life". Identifiable, memorable, and relevant? I hope so. First message chosen. Check.

Now its on to considering my target audience and the best medium to reach them? Until I figure that out, an easy place to start is with this blog post and a Facebook post. As usual, your suggestions are always welcome! Happy message-writing.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Secret to Author Success = Hard Work

Nobody is perfect, but sometimes we use too many excuses for delaying/not finishing a project. My goal of getting Missionary Stories submitted to my publisher by now has come and gone. Again. My other WIP (work in progress) took priority because it has critique group deadlines and is more fun to work on. That's because the stage I'm at is one of organizing, copying permissions, and filling out submission forms instead of creating. So close.  

Are you achieving your goals? What is preventing your success? Here's a little "tough love" list from Jim F. Kukral of the Author Marketing Institute. He gives 13 reasons we aren't as successful an author as we should be, which I have summarized or you can view the webinar. Rather than beat yourself up and suffer writer's guilt, pick one thing to improve/correct over the next month. You won't regret it!

1. Laziness. Examine how you think and act.
2. Entitlement. Nobody owes you anything; get to work!
3. Fear. Authors take many risks. Imagine what you can do when you stop the fear excuses.
4. Negativity. Surround yourself with successful, positive people.
5. Stop Thinking. Don't analyze, do instead of think.
6. No Goals. Plan, rather than play it by ear. Write them down and keep them with you.
7. "They". Forget everyone else. You alone control your success.
8. No "X" factor. It doesn't matter how outgoing or beautiful you are. Just work hard.
9. Time Wasters. Unproductive work that doesn't achieve your goals. Are you busy doing the right things?
10. Social BS. Too much time spent on social media.
11. Thinking Too Small. Think long-term. Lead rather than follow.
12. Don't Want It. Fight negative internal messages. Believe instead of dream.
13. Don't Believe. Ignore messages that say only a few succeed. It's hard work that wins, not luck.

As for me, I have a plan now to quit analyzing things and do the actual work. In one month's time, I expect to have this submission behind me. It's public now; got to do it. Just saying.