Can you pass me the saw or black moment?

October 26, 2007 at 1:10 pm | Posted in Meg, tool kit | 3 Comments

I almost passed on the topic this week and had Jessica fill in for me. Toolkits…what the hell do I know about them? I couldn’t think of a list of unique resources or websites that we hadn’t already mentioned. Then I thought about the different tools you need for carpentry (I had a brief stint in building a Pottery Barn wall unit knockoff last year) and realized they weren’t so different than what is needed to building a sturdy, functional story.

Measurements or plan– could be spreadsheets, outlines or pantsing, but we all need an idea and notes to keep our writing consistent and on target
Nuts and bolts– your basic grammar lessons (consult an 8th grade textbook if you’ve forgotten them)
Nails– your characters-they hold the story together and need to have strong and concrete qualities so you know them
Screwdriver– POV, preferably deep POV that allows the reader to get into the head of the character
Wrench– those skills that tighten your writing- that horrid self-editing
Hammer– the conflict that drives home the theme and hits or hurts the characters

Saw– Oops!

This is where I realized I might be missing a skill- the climax or the black moment , the point of your story when everything seems lost for the hero and heroine. Do I have this in my current ms? I think so. There is a point in the book when the circumstances force the couple apart and you turn the page to someone else’s story. Literally. You don’t know until the end of the book if the first couple reunite. But is this a fair and accurate black moment or a writer’s manipulation of the ultimate cliffhanger? I don’t know.

So needless to say, I will be doing some homework to learn more about creating the black moment so I can add this to my toolkit. If anyone has any good resources on this skill, I’d love to hear about them!

-Meg

Tool Kit – Do-Over

October 26, 2007 at 9:58 am | Posted in Jessica, tool kit, writing | 3 Comments

Every so often I’ll wish that I could have a do-over with certain things in life. Then again, there are certain other things – as well as people – in my life that I wouldn’t trade for anything, and even the slightest change from my past could alter that precious balance of what I love and hate as my status quo.

But Meg has given me the chance to do one do-over this week . . . to offer up another post about the novel writer’s tool kit.

This time around, I wanted to share a number of resources from what I will call a panel of experts as go-to reference when leaning on the various tools in your tool kit.

VOICE
Wikipedia defines writer’s voice as a literary term used to describe the individual writing style of an author. Voice is a combination of a writer’s use of syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, dialogue, etc., within a given body of text (or across several works). Voice can also be referred to as the specific fingerprint of an author, as every author has a different writing style.

A number of authors have created amazing workshops on voice. Barbara Samuel, Virginia Kantra, and Jane Porter among them. But I recently read an article on Julie Elizabeth Leto’s web site on Writing the Book of Your Voice that spoke about voice in a way I hadn’t heard before.  Check it out!

PLOT
Plot is the rendering and ordering of the events and actions of a story, particularly towards the achievement of some particular artistic or emotional effect.

In RWA circles, most people lump themselves in one or two camps. Are you a plotter or a pantser? Best-selling author Allison Brennan posted a blog entry on No Plotting Allowed, which may be a great comfort to you pantsers out there.

I do like the freedom of being a pantser, but find myself a bit lost at times without a road map. One technique that helped me visualize my book came from Blake Snyder, who developed a Beat Sheet to help “beat out” the basic building blocks when writing a screenplay. I have found that Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet helps me with my fiction outlines as well.

Then there are those who fall somewhere in between, and Lisa Mondello has a great workshop on ‘Meyers Briggs for Writers’ in which she offers another category of plotting – the puzzler . . . one who doesn’t pants and who doesn’t outline, but who creates pieces of her books then fits them all together.

REVISION
I recently read a most excellent article on revision written by Beverly Brandt. I don’t know what else to say about this resource other than to note that I first read this article on Tuesday of this week and it is what prompted me to create my do-over post.

SYNOPSIS
Anyone who has tried writing a synopsis knows there is nothing brief about the dreaded process of effectively putting one together. There are lots of workshops out there on the subject, but there is a series of lectures posted by Lisa Gardner on her web site that provide some of the most helpful and comprehensive advice on the subject. She is excellent.

QUERY
After conquering the synopsis, there are two equally dreadful tasks ahead. The query letter is one such animal. Fortunately, there are a number of writers willing to share their expertise as to how to assemble the query. One resource that I like comes not from a fellow author, but rather from an agent. Jenny Bent offers a great example of a query that hooked her on her web site. (PLEASE NOTE: Jenny is no longer accepting unsolicited material.)

PITCH
And one other tool for your writing kit: how to structure a pitch. Kristin Nelson has started a series of blog posts on this subject that takes a different slant on what has traditionally been viewed as the way to structure a pitch.

Or take a look at Kathy Carmichael’s pitch generator for some quick brainstorming ideas.

And a post on the blog of the former Miss Snark talks about how to conduct your pitch appointment.

MISC
Stephanie Bond has an entire virtual tool kit on her web site. The information she has assembled and shared is invaluable!

This do-over has been a little like cooking pasta for me – I tossed it all in the pot, let it stew, then threw the stuff at the wall to see what would stick. I hope something sticks for you – that you find some new tools for your respective tool kits in the sources mentioned above.

And to borrow from Bria, maybe one of these ‘famous people’ will unwittingly turn out to be a guardian angel for you.

If you have some go-to tools in your kit, I hope you will share! It was a treat to be here with you this Friday. Have a great weekend!

-Jessica

Famous People as Guardian Angels

October 24, 2007 at 3:35 pm | Posted in Bria, friendship, inspiration, life, tool kit, writing | 5 Comments

You may note that I’ve taken down my blog and reposted for my turn on Wednesday. 

Here’s why: I’m having a horrible week. I’m not going into it because the people who know me MUST be sick of me bitching about this one specific thing. It shall not be mentioned. 

INSTEAD – I’m looking for reader input. A name. A story. An event. Anything to turn the tide of bitterness. Any uplifting story that stays in your emotional toolkit. What famous person (writer/artist/musician/heck, at this point I’ll even take politicians/etc.) has had a Guardian Angel moment with you.  

Anything counts from mentoring to just an encouraging word. Please! I need to hear about the love! Where has it gone, where is the love? 

Uplift me so I don’t feel so overwhelmed J 

Then Go Write
-bria

Novel Writer’s Tool Kit

October 22, 2007 at 8:47 am | Posted in Jessica, tool kit, writing | 1 Comment

A few weeks ago we wrote on dialog and I used Bob Mayer’s The Novel Writer’s Tool Kit to help frame my discussion. Well, here we are talkng about our own tool kits this week and so as not to offer a repeat of something I’ve already discussed, I thought I would instead talk about the things I need in order to survive the down cycles of the ups and downs of my writing life.

After all, by outward appearances one novel writer’s tool kit will look similar to another’s – we should all have our internal characteristics – the fortitude to help us in our calling; our day-to-day coping mechanisms; our ideas; our preparation; our stories, techniques, and finesse; then we have the pieces to our writing business and how we choose to handle each. What may be a sharp instrument for some may be a blunt object for others and vice versa. That’s one of the joys of story-telling – even with the exact same premise, no two stories will be alike due to the variation in the wear, comfort, and ease of use for each of the tools in our respective ‘tool kits’.

But for those off days, I need to dig a little deeper in the bunker than what’s mentioned above. So, in no certain order, here are the ‘tools’ that at any point in time can be found in my “survival kit”:

Peanut M&M’s.

Diet Coke.

Yoga Mat and favorite relaxation cd.

Classical Music. Preferably J.S. Bach.

Inspirational quotations.

A really well written book (to remind me where I want to be).

An extremely poorly written book (to remind me that I can totally do this).

Hugs from my loved ones (I know you are reading this and you know who you are!).

Harvard sweatshirt and flannel pants.

Pictures of loved ones.

My lap top, Stella.

My dvd of Pride and Prejudice.

It’s whatever feeds the need at the time. And while I may not be the perfect ‘boy scout’ – prepared at all times – I at least have some of my go-to comforts to help me find my happy place . . . get me on track . . . and keep me moving forward.

As I mentioned last week, all I need is five minutes.

If you need to break into your survival kit this week, may you only require a quick fix before you get back on track. Happy writing!

-Jessica

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