Saturday, February 25, 2012

Golden Advice: Turn the Page

Hi, folks, another week has rolled by. One big job of the writer is to get the reader to turn the page. My understanding about this is born out of my life long love of reading. I actually read very few books that make me want to turn every page. Today I will write about three lessons I've learned about turning the page from a reader's perspective.

1. A good start but it falls apart -- In this case, the writer really has some compelling characters, knows how to find the moment when everything changes, and understands how to launch the adventure. Then everything falls apart. The characters usually whine and cry a lot and the stakes don't rise, someone other than the main character solves the story problem, and finally there is the dreaded overhanded preachy message. I really moan at this kind of book because, like I said, they had a good start. I need more than a premise to turn the page.

2. A main character I just can't respect -- This happens in some books. The main character will put up with something I just don't believe should be put up with. The main character is abused or abuses in a way that seems unreliable and unsound. Another fatal character flaw is no of emotional roller coaster. It's difficult to really keep turning the page with someone who never laughs, is never angry, is never contemplative or ever worse is always one of these things. A sound character with a believable emotional arc will encourage me to turn the page.

3. Not enough stuff happening -- This happens in a lot of books. I will mention that I don't remember reading a book that I felt too much was happening. No, the real problem is dull stretches in every other book I read. One dull stretch is the endless conversation. The character is jabbering on with someone else and it's usually because the writer doesn't trust me to "get" the main character's motivation. I "get" it. Another dull stretch, I'm waiting for the terrible thing to happen, I know what it is, I'm waiting, and waiting, and waiting. When the terrible thing happens, I can always feel my eyes roll, and the word "finally" pops in my head. Last, I really don't care if there is mocha paint with cherries on the wall, is he going kill his stepfather or not? That's what I'm really into. Long boring descriptions of the setting -- no. I need stuff to happen to turn the page, I really do.

Well, writers, I hope this reader has given you an idea or two about what you should be doing. Keep working on your stories. BTW, I think this advice works for artist storytellers too. Seize the day!

Here is this week's doodle: "Girl"

Quote for the week:

It is not enough to simply teach children to read; we have to give them something worth reading. Something that will stretch their imaginations--something that will help them make sense of their own lives and encourage them to reach out toward people whose lives are quite different from their own.
Katherine Patterson

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Golden Advice: Mining

Hi folks, this is the last weekend to VOTE for THE BIG FUZZY COAT. I appreciate any and all support. :)

For golden advice, I'm going to recommend that you spend some time mining your material to help you create your best possible book. What does that mean? You may have created a book with thick veins of gold running through it, but if you don't mine the gold, your book will be one of those full of good ideas but never quite pulling any of them off.

Mining is about cutting through the layers of inessential that hide the gold. This is about embracing a story length that showcases your story. Yes, it often requires the tossing of reams of wonderful material, but the refinement makes the best parts shine. And that should be the goal of very writer.

Mining also is about making the most of the material available to you. Is there something in your current work-in-progress that is just not being utilized to its full potential? You need to make sure you are making the most of every opportunity. I find the mining often rises out of the quirks and desires of my main character.

Finally mining is about making pathways to the gold. Deep shafts lead to the mineral deposits mines. Other mines strip everything away, leaving minerals exposed and easy to access. One job of the novelist is to make the gold of your story accessible to your readers. There many different ways to make stories approachable: save the cat, make your characters suffer, make your main character lovable, clarify goals, up the stakes, and up them again and again, try pinning that point of no return to the novel's center,get to the story's core.

Dig deep this week! Seize the day! See you next week.

My doodle this week: "Teddy."

Here is a quote to think about.

Mining is like a search-and-destroy mission. Stewart Udall

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Golden Advice: "a time to every purpose under the heaven"

Hi, folks, Please give my little picture book in the left side bar a look. If you click on the book, it will take you a link so you can vote for it in the MeeGenius contest. Kudos to illustrator Anna Myers who did such a fine job of bringing my words to life.

I'm continuing my series on golden advice this week. This week I'm going to write about how this little quote from Ecclesiastes, "a time to every purpose under the heaven," helps me write. Is the timing working? Does this chapter/sentence have a purpose? I really do think about this in every chapter, even sentences and words, I write.

Writing is about finding the essential of a story and putting it on the page. I don't always feel like I'm in control of the storytelling. Storytelling is something that people have been doing for ages. As a writer, I'm forging new ground but I'm doing it at the end of long rows that stretch out through time, long before anyone had the thought to write down the first word. This is comforting to me.

So how do you know you've got the timing right and, heck, assurance every chapter has a purpose? Well, at first you don't know. You write a lot of absolute drivel. I believe you must write drivel to find the essential. Once you have a sprawling first draft that has plot holes the size of the Grand Canyon and numerous trips to nowhere riddle through it, you have to start sifting through it to find you novel. The good news, it's probably in there!

I start by looking for numerous chapters with the same purpose, chapters that are so well written they make me want to cry but they have nothing to do with my novel really, chapters that are 30 pages long, chapters that are less than six pages long. I suppose it not to difficult to figure out what to do with all this drivel. I fix it all and then my draft seems more solid.

After, I revise all the glaring disaster chapters. I move on to writing a list of all the chapters and then I write a little paragraph to myself pleading the chapter's purpose in the book. I find after have done this I usually have a boatload of good ideas to move toward my essential story...I also know what to boot out.

There is plenty more to say, but I will save that for another time. I hope this taste of my thoughts about getting to the essentials of my story has helped you. Seize the day!

Here is my doodle: "Jess at 3."

A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting. Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Golden Advice: Season with Imagery

Hi friends, I hope you take a minute to check out the link in the sidebar to my e-picture book THE BIG FUZZY COAT. I'm a finalist in the MeeGenius! Author Challenge and if you are on Facebook I would appreciate your vote. Also check out this stunning graphic novel sample created from an excerpt of Holly Cupala's novel DON'T BREATHE A WORD. I had the great honor of serving as the adaptation author. Realm Lovejoy is the brilliant illustrator.

This month I'm offering golden advice about the craft of writing. I'm diving into the depths of imagery. Imagery is not description, mere stage stuff that literally paints the picture of story but does nothing to propel it forward. Imagery is high-octane description, multi-purpose scenery, and the magic behind the mental images. Imagery engages readers by moving forward your plot and characters. It is the emotional woof or welt weaving in and out the warp of your story.

One way to create fab imagery is by substitution. Yes, you can engage the senses with specific word choices -- crisp nouns and lively verbs, but you can do so much more. For example: She swam in a green lake. Now I will use more specific word choice and slide in substitution: With each stroke, she sliced through the Coke-bottle colored mirror without cracking the surface.

"She swam" tells us nothing about "she". It gives us no sense of what this character is about. "With every stroke, she sliced ..." The writing gives a sense of control the woman is exhibiting; she 's moving forward and hardly disturbing the reflective world around her. The substitution of mirror for water sharpens the experience for the reader. The substitution adds depth and flavor to your story. It is a seasoning so use it sparingly.

A good way to improve you imagery skill is to rewrite an crucial scene in you work without dialogue. Use the sensory descriptions of the scene to convey all the emotion and depth of your scene. Ditch all the linking verbs. Engage every sense. Here's the common: sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. Here are the uncommon: perception of temperature, the kinesthetic sense or the sense of where you are in relation to rest of the world, the perception of pain/pleasure, the sense of balance and finally the sense of acceleration.

Yes, weave every sense into this important scene and communicate your story. Be sure to season with substitution. Make it all work to reveal your literary dream world. Infuse your writing with the dark matter of perception. Use imagery to bring your story dreams to life.

I will be back next week with more golden advice. Thank you for dropping by.

This week's doodle, it's from my son Jesse Blaisdell. I pulled this one out of a box in the closet: "Lighthouse".

Here is your quote for the week. Let it soak in your soul.

“The sun had become a light yellow yolk and was walking with red legs across the sky.”
― Zora Neale Hurston, Seraph on the Suwanee