Thursday, February 23, 2012

how i learned to treat my novel like a house

*have you read my campaign entry yet? if you haven't, you can find it here, along with all the links to like it if you choose. :)

man, i have got to get better about scheduling these things... anyway, i discovered something recently that's really helped me with my current wip. i don't remember who wrote the original post i saw (sad face), but i remember most of the information anyway. i'll put my own spin on it. :)

so the original poster talked about how it's easier to draft scenes when you build them from the ground up. she said she starts with a mini inspiration board, something with images or feelings or music or things the scene needs to accomplish. then she writes a bare bones version of the scene, which basically serves to plot out the action of the scene. "so-and-so did this, and then they said this, and this is what they saw." then she goes back in and embellishes more, putting in all that poetic language we all love so well. once that's complete, she goes back a third, or fourth, or even fifth time to make sure that all the necessary themes/foreshadowing/whatever-else-is-subtle are there. and i realized something.

writing a novel is like building a house.

you have to start with the foundation and the framework. you can't very well decide what color you're going to paint the living room if you don't have a wall in the first place. the first stage is like this. you're writing out the action, telling yourself what's happening and who moves where/says what, building your foundation and framing the walls.

then you go back to the house, and you put up the walls, and add windows and doors, maybe some built-in shelves or a hidden staircase (because i would totally do that if i were building a house). the second stage of scene-writing (according to this author) is like this. you're finding the descriptive phrases that best convey the mood of your story. you're adding smells and tastes and sensations, so that your reader is transported, and the house is starting to look pretty good.

you go back again, and this time you're painting the walls, and moving in the furniture, putting artwork up, throwing down the most gorgeous oriental rug in front of your couch. the scene is getting its emotional layers, or having the book's theme woven in, or foreshadowing some big event that's happening three chapters later. you stand back and admire your handiwork.

maybe you go back one more time, to move that funky lamp from the office to the family room, where it'll get a little more attention, or to straighten the duvet cover on the bed. you're tightening sentences, finding better word choices, rearranging events so that the scene flows more smoothly. by the end of it, you have something you want to show your friends, something you can be proud of.

i've been trying this method with my current wip, and i kid you not, it's really helping. i'm finding it easier to just sit down and write, because i know my first pass is just going to be the foundation. i can always go back and make it prettier later. i'm finally starting to get my writing groove back, and it feels wonderful! :)

found any neat tricks to help with your writing lately?


ps if you feel so inclined, give this a listen. it's a recent acquire, and it may end up on repeat for the foreseeable future... :P

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

the garden

this post is for the first challenge in the fourth platform building campaign. my piece satisfies all the requirements (it's exactly 200 words, the beginning and ending phrases were used, it contains the word "orange," and it's written in my normal genre), but i'll be posting it with capital letters, mainly because it's being judged and i don't want to cause any confusion for judges who may not follow this blog. so...enjoy!

Shadows crept across the wall of the garden. Alani saw them in her peripheral vision and cursed. Without the moon, a torch was necessary in the black shroud of night. But if the shadows caught her eye, they would surely draw the attention of anyone who glanced into the garden. The torch had to go.
                Alani gave her eyes a few moments to adjust to the dim starlight before heaving herself up and over the stone wall. She landed with a soft thud, rose to her feet, and surveyed the garden.
                The orange tree stood in the center, its leaves rustling in the breeze. It seemed to be whispering to her. Alani wasn’t sure what was so special about these particular oranges, but the man in the tavern had promised a rich reward if she could pilfer a few.
                As she crept closer to the tree, the sweet scent of citrus gripped her. The aroma was intoxicating, and she quickened her pace, desperate to reach the fruit. She snatched an orange from a lower bough. Her fingernails shredded the peel, baring the juicy flesh within. Alani lifted the fruit to her mouth. As the orange touched her tongue, everything faded.

if you enjoyed my piece, you can "like" it here. i'm number 120. :)

ps: i found this song on an old mix cd the other day, and have fallen in love with it all over again. don't you love it when that happens? happy listening!


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

can't buy me love

i'm taking a little break from yatt for valentine's day. not that it's a big deal or anything in our house, because it's not. but i have some things to say about this holiday (i know i missed the morning window, but...hopefully some people will still read this).

first of all, i've never really been a fan of valentine's day. as a teenager, i chose not to date, so most valentine's days were spent with my friends, celebrating the fact that we weren't tethered to boys. in college, i wanted a boyfriend but didn't have the time to devote myself to a relationship (plus, let's face it, i hadn't learned how to love myself yet), so the day passed as another mundane day-in-the-life-of-studious-me. now that i've been in a relationship for almost three years, the holiday still goes largely uncelebrated. why?

because we make time to tell (and show) each other that we love each other. every day.

this holiday has become such a commercialized beast. it's a lot of "have these chocolates-that-make-you-fat/flowers-that-die/stuffed-animal-you-won't-play-with because i LOVE you!" it's battling crowds and paying far too much at restaurants. it's lots and lots of red and pink. everywhere. it's all these things that on the exterior, look like love, but underneath are a little hokey.

what it should be is a husband spending a couple hours in the afternoon painting a picture he knows his wife will love. it should be a wife choosing to read on the floor in the office, even though it's uncomfortable, just because she knows it'll make him happy. it should be making dinner together, and snuggling on the couch while you talk for hours, and little kisses in the morning while the other person is still sleeping, so they wake up with the fading imprint of your love on their cheek.

i hope all of you find that one day. :)


ps a song for lovers...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

new formatting changes (and also, some writing news)

so i've decided. i'm going to write in all lowercase for a little while, just to see if i like it. it's how i write when i'm talking to my friends on instant messenger, or texting, and there's something very satisfying about defying the rules of capitalization. :) so...we'll see how this goes.

in other news, i'm making progress! i started outlining my wip recently, since i realized that i needed a map of all this new uncharted territory, and i've made lots of really great discoveries. my characters are clamoring to be heard, and it's all i can do to take notes fast enough. i can't wait for this part of the process to be done so that i can actually get to the good part...writing!

how's your week going?


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Every Girl Wishes She Lived in a Disney Movie

Join in!

I was having a discussion with my friend Julie last week. We were discussing YA, and some of the problems we have with the genre (it's a thing we do). One of the things that came up was this: the idea that every teenager is going to have some great, sweep-you-off-your-feet romance at the age of 16. Don't get me wrong...teenagers are smart, and they're not going to assume that the things that happen in books are going to happen to them. But seriously, you guys, almost every teenager (the majority of the girls anyway) think that these life-changing romances are going to happen to them. I was one of those girls. 

I pride myself on being a level-headed, logical person. I think with my brain more often than my heart. That's not to say that I'm not a romantic, or that I don't have emotions, but I like to weigh all my options before making decisions. That being said, I was crushed when my Prince Charming failed to show up while I was 16. I had been fed a steady diet of Disney movies as a little girl, and all the princesses in those movies? They find their princes at 16. I then moved on to YA novels, the majority of which were fantasy, but still YA novels nonetheless. All the girls in those books? They find the loves of their lives at 16 (sometimes 17, but usually 16). 16 was this magical age, and for me (a painfully shy bookworm who had read lots of ugly duckling stories), reaching the end of that year with nothing extraordinary happening was devastating.

Why are YA stories written this way? It's something I've never understood, and I still don't. The romances in a lot of popular YA novels are unhealthy representations of love, and whether the readers realize it or not, they ARE being influenced (even if it's only a tiny bit). Books like Twilight and Fallen and Hush, Hush show girls chasing after boys who are clearly no good for them, to the point of becoming obsessed with said boys, and this isn't how love should feel. I understand that for teenagers, everything feels about a billion times more intense than it actually is, but why can't there be a story that shows a normal relationship?

If I could say one thing to the teenage girls gobbling up the paranormal romance, it's this: You don't have to find your soulmate at 16. You don't have to find them at 18, or 20, or even 25. You just have to be yourself, and love will sneak up on you. It'll happen when you least expect it. You'll turn to look at someone, and they'll seem so different, and you'll wonder why you never truly saw them before. And it will be magical, just like in the stories. But it doesn't have to happen in high school. :)