Tag Archives: writing tips

What was the Best Writing Class You Ever Took?

Next week, I’ll be attending Debra Dixon’s Book in a Day workshop. I am so excited about this. I’ve read
GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction and found it to be concise and informative. Plus, steamlining my writing process is becoming more and more important as deadlines become tighter.  I’m almost ready to start a new project, so the timing couldn’t be better.

Have you ever been to a writing workshop that changed the way you work?  What was it and what did you learn?

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Writing and Rhythm

I’ve just passed the halfway point in my work-in-process.  From here on out I expect to gather steam.  For me, the beginning of a book is always the hardest part.  My last project, SHE CAN TELL, came out nearly perfect in one draft. I call it my gift book. That will never happen again.

So far, writing MIDNIGHT SACRIFICE had a painful start, which I blogged about here. I tried a book-in-a-week with no success and ended up floundering around for about 8 weeks with few pages to show for my effort.  The fix ended up being the simplest thing of all: just writing. I gave myself a daily word count.  It didn’t matter what I wrote, I had to meet my goal for the day before I went to bed. The first week or so was painful. There were a few very long days and late nights. But, the more I wrote, the easier it got.The story developed flow and rhythm.

I’m happy to report the book is cruising along quite nicely at the moment. <knocking on wood> In the last few week, I’ve upped my daily goal from 1,000 words to 2,000, with my sights set on finishing the draft before the family vacation.  Discipline is a foundation of martial arts, so I thank my studies there for the sheer determination that got me over the hump. When you’re knocked to the ground in the sparring ring, doing nothing isn’t an option. If you want to earn your black belt, you have to get up and defend yourself. Writing takes the same amount of commitment. Deadlines don’t allow the professional writer the luxury of waiting for inspiration to strike.

So, my cure for difficulty with writing is writing, even if it what I’m throwing down on the page feels like monkey poo. Does anyone else have a go-to method to get their book off the ground?

My Scrivener Update

I promised an update on my switch from manual story-boarding to the oh-so-organized Scrivener.  I started my new project on the new software two weeks ago.  And got absolutely nowhere with it.

My lack of progress was only partly due to the software, which has excellent capabilities but felt very cumbersome to me.

Corkboard was awesome. I love the way it interacts with the document.  My story-board and desk are always a complete mess by the time hit the middle of a book. Unfortunately, corkboard was the only thing I liked about Scrivener. Maybe it was the PC version, but the software was annoyingly laggy on both my desktop and my brand new laptop.  I’d type a sentence, but the words wouldn’t appear on the screen for a second or two.  This drove me crazy.

Next, I assumed that sticking the basics wouldn’t involve much of a learning curve, and that only advanced features would be difficult. I was wrong. Doing any sort of formatting was overly complicated.  I’d need to take a course or buy a book and devote several weeks to learning how to use the program. Keep in mind that I’m a geek. I alter the CSS stylesheet of my WordPress website. The formatting difficulties made my document appear messy. This also drove me nuts. Yes, I realize I sound very, uhm, particular, but I like to look at a tidy document. I like a certain font. I like to know exactly how many pages I’ve written, etc. What can I say. I am what I am.

OK, now here’s the weirdest thing. Frankly, I missed my color-coded note cards. I missed scribbling on them. I missed pinning them up on my story-board. The electronic experience just wasn’t the same as shuffling through the cards manually or moving them around on the wall board. Maybe it’s the tactile experience or the movement involved, but the virtual corkboard didn’t prompt my brain activity the same way.

All in all, during the first two weeks of working on my newest book, I wrote very little. Since switching back to my sloppy and seemingly chaotic but actually very organized system, I’ve roughly outlined the first three chapters, from inciting incident to first turning point. I’ve also identified the mid-point and defined much of the resolution. (The book’s climax was always clear.)

So, I know many, many people who LOVE Scrivener, but it’s not for me. I’m back to scribbling on index cards and appreciating them more than ever.

The Ultimate All Show-No Tell Character

What kind of character forces a writer to show every aspect of his personality with action?  Animals.

That’s right, animals can be characters.  Damned good ones, too, as I learned accidentally while writing She Can Run.

Animals have zero internal narrative and, except for the occasional woof or meow, they can’t express their feelings with dialogue.

The challenge for the writer is to make the animal into a real character, not just a filler or a device to make your hero more likeable, which was my intention when I started She Can Run.

In She Can Run, the hero’s police dog reject developed his own character arc, entirely through action. I’d like to say I planned this from the beginning, but the truth of the matter is that Henry wrote his own script as the book progressed.  What started out as a device became more and more important to the plot every day. During the course of the story, Henry grew to love the heroine as much as my hero.

And love changed Henry.

But the tricky part was showing Henry change. After all, he couldn’t profess his love verbally. Tail wags just didn’t seem adequate.  I won’t give away just how I accomplished this because it would be a major spoiler, but Henry became a hero.

Writers, have you ever written an animal as a character?  Readers, have you ever fallen in love with an animal character?

The Best Piece of Advice

anyone ever gave me came from the wise and experienced authors at Liberty States Fiction Writers. I’ve filed this advice in my brain right next to wear clean underwear in case I’m in an accident.

DO NOT ENGAGE

No, they weren’t talking about the thrusters on the Enterprise. They were referring to people who review your books. Goodreads, Amazon, professional bloggers, whatever. I was reminded of this for two reasons. One, my debut book, She Can Run, has garnered enough reviews now to have a few unfavorable ones. Two, I read a post on a loop recently from an author who contacted a reviewer to complain about a review. An ugly back-and-forth ensured. Which was exactly what I’d been warned would happen by those wise and experienced authors.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Liberty States Fiction Writers for saving ME this embarrassment.

This was the precious advice I received. It doesn’t matter if the reviewer has valid points about your book, is just being mean, wants to prove to the world he’s smarter than you, says things that aren’t true, or is flat-out insulting. None of that matters. No good can come of a writer complaining about a review. You will look like you can’t take criticism. You will look unprofessional. You will will look like a whiny bitch. Worst of all, you will draw even more attention to the review.

I’d tell you not to read reviews, but we all know that’s harder to do than it sounds. Writers are insecure. We MUST know what everyone thinks of our babies- er -books. Plus, reviews are as addictive as potato chips. You can’t stop after just one. But the next time someone posts a terrible review about your book, call a good friend and get all the complaining out of your system (sorry, Rayna!) Shut off the computer, go to the gym, and work off your frustration there. Not everyone will like your book. Just get over that now and move on. But above all,

DO NOT ENGAGE.

Does anyone else have a priceless piece of advice from a fellow writer that you’d like to share?

Living the Book by Angela Knight

One of the pleasures of being a writer is the moment when the story comes alive. The scene bursts into my brain, shimmering images flowing through my consciousness as my hero and heroine argue, make love, and fight for their lives against some overwhelming force.

I love to read – the walls of my house are lined with bookcases stacked three deep with books.  Yet as much as I enjoy other people’s stories, they never make me fly the way my own do.

It’s not that I consider myself better than those other writers. In fact, I’m a rabid fangirl when it comes to my favorite authors.

Yet not even Nora Robberts or Lois McMaster Bujold or Tanya Huff has ever given me the soaring high I feel when I watch my own stories unfold.

Those moments are why I write.

It’s not the money, though God knows cash is always welcome, especially in this economy. But if you want to know the truth, I’d write even if I wasn’t getting paid for it. In fact, that’s what I did for years before I got published.

I caught the writing bug when I was just nine years old. Even as a child, I loved the way characters bloomed in my mind like bright flowers – the talking mice, the superheroes, the horses running free across landscapes I’d never seen.

I felt driven to put those images on paper, first with a pencil, then with my mother’s electric typewriter. (Yes, dinosaurs do roam the earth. Arrrrrr!)

I was seventeen the first time I got the courage to start submitting my work. Unfortunately, it takes a great deal of practice to learn how to write, and I hadn’t yet mastered my craft. For years, every story I wrote was rejected.

When I turned twenty, my bewildered father asked me why I kept torturing myself.

“Why do you keep sending those things out? You’re never going to get published.” He wasn’t being cruel. He just hated seeing my crushed disappointment every time I opened a rejection letter.

For once, I had no idea how to put what I felt into words. “I’ve just got to, Dad. I need to.”

He shook his head and turned away.

How could I explain my addiction to the glittering people in my head? How could I make him understand what it felt like to craft the perfect sentence that captured what I saw in my waking dreams?

My father isn’t a writer. He couldn’t understand what it felt like to spill a river of words on the page strong enough to sweep a reader into another world.

Writing is my addiction, my demanding lover, my obsession. Its hold on me is so strong, I never doubted I’d one day be published.

So I kept writing, though I knew exactly how long the odds against me were. I didn’t give a damn about the odds.

The only thing I cared about was the people in my head – watching them live and love and fight…and sometimes die.

No wonder people say writers are crazy. They’re right. We’ve just figured out how to use borderline schizophrenia for fun and profit.

At last my stubborn dream came true. Berkley editor Cindy Hwang called and asked if I’d like to write erotic paranormal romance for her.

Hell yes!

But as I finally realized my ambition of becoming a full-time writer, I also discovered what it’s like to write 100,000 words with a deadline looming over my head like a legal tsunami.

Contracts have a way of turning creation into a job. Unfortunately, muses don’t like to punch a time clock.

Even so, there are times my dreams become vivid enough to drive all thoughts of contracts and editors right out of my head. I often had such moments with Master of Shadows.

I watched Belle Coeur pick her way through the ruins of a burned house, searching for the seared fragments of a young werewolf’s spell book. Sparks danced over the ashes as her blonde hair shimmered in the morning sunlight.

I saw Tristan battle the Beast, his sword catching the moonlight as he dodged the bearlike creature’s raking claws and snapping fangs. Powerful muscle rolled beneath his magical armor, blade sweeping in great arcs with all his legendary skill.

My heart pounded almost as fast as the keys I hit as I worked to capture each flash of the blade and surging heave of the monster’s brawn.

When Tristan and Belle finally gave in to their mutual desire, I felt the heat of the knight’s touch, the rise of Belle’s answering magic, the sweet, burning trail of Tristan’s tongue drawing patterns on smooth, pale skin.

I felt each rolling thrust of his powerful body and the answering hungry rock of her hips. I heard her cry of delight and his roar of pleasure.

I also felt their anger and despair as they confronted the ghost that haunted Tristan – Isolde, the legendary lover who’d betrayed and tried to kill him. Though long dead, she stood between them like a cold stone wall, making Tristan distrust both himself and Belle.

When the Magekind marched to meet the Direkind, I loved the cool glint of moonlight on armor, the flash of swords, the rippling snarl of attacking wolves. I saw dragons take to the air as the witches of Avalon formed a shield wall of golden magic against the werewolf wizard’s furious blasts.

But sometimes those beautiful images failed to form, and I was left pacing the floor and struggling to find the key to unlock my dreams.

I’ve never written a book without getting a case of writer’s block somewhere in the process. Hours, even days, are often lost as I wrack my brain for that missing scene, that flash of inspiration that will let me see the rest of the story.

I always take long walks and longer baths, staring into lit candles like one of my witches, looking for the future in the leap of the flame.

In desperation, I often spill the plot out to my patient husband or one of my critique partners, hoping they will make some brilliant observation that will send the story spilling through my brain.

That happened with Master of Shadows one night as my husband worked on dinner. (Cooking is not among my talents.)

I spent a half hour ranting about my frustration as he worked. Suddenly Mike looked up and said something. I have no idea what, because my brain was instantly flooded with the story his words triggered.

I envy the people who deny the existence of writer’s block. I firmly believe those lucky bastards don’t get blocked because there’s something different about the way their brains create a story.

Still, to deny the existence of writer’s block because you don’t get it makes about as much sense as a color blind man saying there’s no such thing as red.

I simply can’t write the story until it’s in my head. Until it is, I’m locked in mute frustration, pacing and muttering and watching bad movies, hoping that something, anything, will make my creative subconscious yark up the next scene. And with it, my next fix of images, emotion and words.

As I write this, I’ve just started work on my next novel, Master of Darkness. I’m looking forward to it. I can already tell it’s going to be one of those fabulously vivid dreams as my werewolf couple battles the wizard determined to destroy the Magekind.

Yet even in the midst of all that conflict, love will still manage to bloom between Justice and Miranda, all velvet petals and raking thorns.

Unfortunately, the details of the story haven’t solidified yet. Until they do, I can’t start writing. But they’ll come. They always do — and I can’t wait.

I need my next fix.

Best,

Angela Knight

For more information about my books, check out my website at www.angelasknights.com