Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bon Voyage

I'm off to Europe for two weeks, but wanted to wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving! Eat lots of turkey for me and tons of mashed potatoes. I love me some spuds.

Au revoir.

Monday, November 16, 2009

See. Think. Do.

Not too long ago, a friend and I discussed how to write fictional scenes. I came up with a succinct way to explain how I do it and she encouraged me to share, so here goes:

Characters see things, think things, and do things. Sounds easy, right?

Let me break it down:

See – This is where the movie plays within my mind. The imagination wanders and I begin to construct the setting. At this point, the only sense I’m using is sight. I can see the room, the way light filters through dusty eaves, and the way a person’s face shadows. Light is huge for me. Maybe because I’m obsessed with interior design, but I always have to know how things are lit.

Think – This is what I call, “The Flourish”. Here's where you get to dive into characters’ brains. In my latest project, I’m writing from the 1st person past perspective. I can really delve into why my MC wants something and how she feels about external stimuli. Now the other senses become paramount. For example, how the air smells of rain or how the wind whistles through the trees and how it reminds her of her childhood, first date, etc. She can touch things and taste things. All the while, I’m keeping in mind motivation. The same is true for the other characters, but I can only write down things from her vantage point. There’s a different balance with 3rd person POV, but living inside the head of every character crosses all POVs.

Do – Characters say things and they move around to do what they’re compelled to do. It’s pretty straightforward. A woman can pick up a sword and swing it at her cheating husband. A man can smile and fire a gun. Someone might say a snappy line while they fry in the electric chair. Sorry for the violence, but it’s more fun than listing what people eat or fiddle with. Using what you know from their thoughts, you can create their actions.

I’m sure you have your own theories. Of course, this isn’t the only method for scene construction nor does it have anything to do with developing plot. Plot is its own animal and I would strongly recommend James Scott Bell’s Plot & Structure.

Also, for the record, I do not in any way feel I’m an expert. I just love going to writer blogs and learning something new or at least seeing something in a cool new light.

There are so many parts to the puzzle. I hope this post can give you one small piece. Maybe just an unimportant one from the edge.

Be sure to tell me what you think. I’d love to read your methods and learn from you.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Kumbaya, Writers. Kumbaya.

I'm sure you've all heard this: "I can't believe <insert NYT bestselling author here> ever got published. Their writing sucks!"

Whenever I read / hear something remotely akin to that sentiment, I cringe. Look, we've all been scrutinized and will continue to be no matter what level of success we achieve. Shouldn't we then, as writers, try to support each other?

So what if someone relies too heavily on adverbs?

So what if an author ends sentences with prepositions?

Tom Swifties? Big deal.

People still buy their books. Their stories entertain the masses. Isn't that what it's all about - telling a story that allows a reader to escape?

Most readers won't realize if a writer "breaks the rules". I didn't notice until I tried to write.

And what if by bucking the institutionalized system, more creative freedom trickles down to all of us?

Then there's the personal aspect. Big name authors started out like you and me. They loved their characters and pined over plot, just like we do. I can't tell you how many Facebook and Twitter posts I've seen lately of writers declaring their love for the latest manuscript.

We all make mistakes. There's a flaw in everyone's writing. But just as no one's face is proportionally perfect, beauty still shines on those with a good balance. Yes, even with a crooked nose or a small chin.

All you can do is appreciate other voices and attempt to better your own. Support each other because one day, you'll be the author other writers bitch about.

Okay, rant over. ;)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Imaginary Friends

Hey guys -

I’m back to query letter and synopsis fun. Yuck. Summarizing shouldn't be this difficult. The upside is I’ve already done the bulk of the work for the old version.

Another positive note, I wrote part of Summer’s End yesterday. Pretty exciting stuff. There’s something comforting about reuniting with characters. I know their motivations, speech patterns, mannerisms, etc. It’s like getting together with old buddies – which brings me to my question:

EL Doctorow says, “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia,” but is it really?

My characters live in real life. Before you get all “she’s nuts” on me, here me out. When I’m involved with a project, sponge-mode takes over. I begin to analyze everything for possible use.

For example,

What would Autumn do if confronted with this mean tech at CVS Pharmacy who seriously cannot give me a straight answer on copays?

Or what would Nathan do if stuck behind this friggin’ idiot who keeps stopping for no reason?

Or would Jonah want Jack in a Crack or Tacos Smell?

It’s a litmus test for how well I know my imaginary friends. Do you do that?

Writers have different methods, so it would be interesting to hear yours. Do your characters take a backseat to everyday living? Are you able to hit mute on the “voices in your head”?


PS - I also sent the new (and oh-so improved) version of my book to an agent. Cross your fingers for me.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Another Post on Editing

Hey Awesome People Who Read My Blog!

I’ve missed you guys. What’ve you been up to?

*Hilary grabs a piece of cheese and stuffs it in her mouth while she pretends to care*

Just kidding, I care. No, really I do. I care so much, I’m going to post more editing advice.

*cheers erupt*

Let’s get down to business. Over the past couple of weeks, I slaughtered 15,000 words from my manuscript.

*audience gasps*

Yes, I know it’s a lot, but they were all unnecessary. What deems a word unnecessary, you ask?

Here is a list I found helpful from agent Rachelle Gardner’s site:
→ Adverbs, especially those with “ly” endings.
→ Adjectives. Often people use two or three when one or none is better.
→ Gerunds. Words that end in “ing.”
→ Passive voice: Over-use of words like “was,” "were" and "that" indicate your writing may be too passive. Reconstruct in active voice.
→ Passages that are overly descriptive.
→ Passages that describe characters' thoughts and feelings in too much detail (i.e. long sections of narrative or interior monologue).
→ Passages that tell the reader what they already know.
→ Unnecessary backstory.

Words to watch for. Carefully consider their necessity and effectiveness:
about, actually, almost, like, appears, approximately, basically, close to, even, eventually, exactly, finally, just, just then, kind of, nearly, practically, really, seems, simply, somehow, somewhat, sort of, suddenly, truly, utterly, were.

Also, I participated in a recent #askagent Twitter-fest and received the best advice ever from super-cool agent Colleen Lindsay. And here it is:

ColleenLindsay: @hilaryheskett It's all about 1.) Voice, 2.) Brevity and 3.) Authenticity

I hope this reiteration of stuff you already knew helps your book tightening efforts. Go team writers!

*awkward microphone screech*

At least it’s in one place if you ever need it?

*crickets chirping*


All right. Have a great weekend.