Monday, November 28, 2011

A Bonus Book Review?

  I didn't do so well on my revision goals last week. Sickness, holiday with family visitors--need I say more? It was too ambitious for me to revise 75,000 words in a month with all the going-ons so I'm going to give it another month, and I'm not going to feel badly about it. I'll just keep chipping away . . . Did you make your nanowrimo goals? How do you feel about it?
  I did make time to read *smiling* Maria Hoagland's debut novel, Nourish and Strengthen. First, the back cover blurb:
Nourish & Strengthen After losing forty pounds, Chloe Taylor is finally happy with her body. What she doesn't realize is that she's not the one in control. When Chloe is called as the Primary president, she discovers that managing the highs and lows of a chronic illness may be easier than the ups and downs associated with family, friends, and church callings. Consumed by her won challenges, Chloe fails to recognize the issues her friends are facing and is in danger of losing their friendship. As Chloe sstrives to develop Christ-like love for herself and those around her, she learns that outer appearances are fare less important than inner peace and spiritual strength. But is she strong enough to face her most difficult trial yet?
  This LDS women's fiction novel was different from my typical reading choice so I had to gear myself into the mode of women with real-life issues and the fact that Chloe was going to talk about diabetes over and over again. It's an easy enough transition if you allow it. Hoagland could have been writing an auto-biography for all I know, with the detail and day-to-day reality in first-person. I thought she did an excellent job at keeping the scenes succinct and using nice description. Once the point was made, Hoagland moved on. She adds nice touches of description that do double duty to paint emotion into her visuals. And, of course, I learned a lot more about diabetes. There was even an aha moment when Chloe made me recognize something in myself that could have remained undiscovered. I got a bonus in the form of some self-helps to put into practice. Thanks, Maria, and good job! Even if others don't gain what I did, it's a thought-provoking read.
  You can find out more about Maria or order her book at one of the following:
Createspace for paperback:
Smashwords for all eBook:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Plotting 101: The "Secret" Formula

  So, you’ve got an idea for a story you want to write. Now what? Do you need an organized, detailed outline or can you write by the seat of your pants? It’s been successfully done in both extremes and points in between. The answer is yes—as long as you know the formula. There are many who will tell you methods they’ve devised or used, and searching these out proves beneficial to many. At the least, you’re armed with more information. At the most, you may find one that fits you perfectly. The main thing is to get it all out on paper. Revisions will come later and there is much to learn to turn your work into the kind of quality of which to be proud. Now back to this not so secret formula.
   In any good piece of fiction, certain elements must exist that the reader expects in order not to be disappointed. What it boils down to is having a main character with a goal and high stakes. That’s the formula. Of course, this includes a few obstacles placed between the MC and his/her goal and high enough stakes to make that character do what it takes to succeed, but we often wonder if he/she will because the danger is real.
  Each scene has a structure similar to the above and should be a story in its own right, according to Kirt Hickman in Revising Fiction. A scene should contain: 1) A hook that draws the reader into the scene, 2) A goal for the characters to accomplish, 3) An obstacle between the characters and their goal, 4) Action performed by the characters to overcome the obstacle, 5) Some reaction in response to the characters’ action, and 6) A problem leading into the next scene.
  Ingermanson's Snowflake Method works from a one sentence summary of the novel in fifteen words or less and expands from there.  This concise summary is similar to a query letter that reveals what the MC's goal is, what stands in his way, and what will happen if he doesn't succeed (motivation). Same formula.
  Okay, that should get you started. I’d love to hear how your work in progress is coming along. Happy writing.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Book Review and Goal Update

My Nanowrimo goal is to carefully revise my novel, The Seventh City. Seven chapters/22,000 words are completed at this point. 30% there. Gotta step it up.

Here’s my reflection on Stephanie Black’s latest LDS Suspense, Rearview MirrorBack cover blurb:
On a rainy night eight years ago, Fiona Claridge lost control of her car and crashed, injuring herself and killing her roommate, Mia Hardy. Now, she strives to keep the painful past at bay by staying burrowed beneath the demands of her job as a college professor in a small New England town. But when someone starts leaving her gift-wrapped boxes containing malicious remainders of Mia's death, Fiona's guilt and grief come flooding back.
She assumes her stalker is Kimberly Bailey, a disgruntled student, and enlists the help of fellow professor James Hampton. But when Fiona encounters the angry wife of an old flame, it becomes clear her student isn't the only one with an eye for revenge. Cruel messages escalate to danger, then murder. As past and present become horribly entangled, Fiona struggles to unravel the truth about a determined killer--before she becomes the next victim.
What I thought:
  Black delivers the suspense from page one via the lives of interesting, imperfect characters—enough to keep you guessing who-dunnit. As details unfold, each character reveals reasons for targeting or protecting Fiona in a must read on manner. An exciting climax fulfilled my expectations (even though the title implied to me that the worst would happen in her car). A hint of romance rounded out the story, but the love interest seemed overly cautious. Even Fiona had her own understandably neurotic behavior, giving me the feeling that every character could have been in a soap-opera. I had to push that feeling aside occasionally and just let the suspense build. 
  I liked how most characters’s involvement, great or small, led to other choices that ultimately caught up to them. What goes around comes around and nobody’s secrets remain hidden forever. Another good book to put on your wish list. Click on BOOKS I'VE READ on my sidebar to see my Goodreads ratings and previous reads. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Getting Started Writing

  A friend asked for advice about getting started writing. Whew—where to begin. So much to learn, yet so many helps. This topic seems appropriate for National Novel Writing Month. Many are frantically setting their fingers to keyboards in efforts to reach 50,000 words in a month. They deserve applause and encouragement, but don’t forget they each had to start somewhere. My personal NaNoWriMo goal is to completely revise my novel. Now back to my friend and other beginners. I’m offering a few starter tips:
  1. Write. Set aside (find doesn’t work) time to write every day (if possible) or weekends. Anything worth doing takes practice. It can be in a journal or scene by scene toward your future masterpiece.
  2. Read with a writer’s eye. Mark or analyze passages you love or hate, figuring out why. Notice the effects of using dialogue or narrative, or why you became emotionally invested in a character.
  3. Join a critique group. The right group can give you motivation, new ideas for where your story might go, and instruction along the way. My group trained me until I became an equal. They were my single biggest push toward improvement. Connect with a non-relative or group that will show you the ropes and give helpful feedback. Seek a happy medium with both praise and specific suggestions/constructive criticism.
  4. Learn. After some experience, you’ll likely benefit from classes, conferences, or how-to books. You’ll either know what specific areas need your focus or you’ll enjoy soaking up anything and everything to make you a better writer.
  Please check back for more writing tips. Next Monday I’m posting a book review for Stephanie Black’s latest book Rearview Mirror. The week after that I’ll feature beginning plot ideas. There are some necessary elements all beginners should know so don’t miss out!