Category Archives: Novels

Is it Planning – or Procrastination?

 

“Life is too short to waste. Dreams are fulfilled only through action, not through endless planning to take action.”  ~ David J. Schwartz, Trainer and Author

“Transformation isn’t a future event, it’s a present activity.” ~ Jillian Michaels, Fitness Guru, Author of “Unlimited”

“Planning is nothing but procrastination in disguise… Failure doesn’t come from poor planning – it comes from the timidity to proceed.” ~ Scott Ginsberg, “The Nametag Guy”

 

These are just a few quotes I reread daily to get my head in check. I am THEE Queen of lists and planning to a fault, I now realize. Overplanning, procrastination, over-responsible, not finishing projects: these are all traits of ACOA’s (Adult Children of Alcoholics) yet I struggle with denial. Anyone else do this?

Once I push past the “preparation” that pulls on every. fiber. in. my. being, I actually get a lot of real work done. For me, this means writing new or revised scenes for my LAKE-RESORT Novel. This Sunday, I sat on my patio in the gorgeous fall weather and wrote long-hand 8 notebook pages of  a pretty tense scene between my teenage protag and her estranged mother. The key for me? Don’t over think it and don’t work on the computer (the internet is called the Web for a reason!)

How will you push past the planning and onto productivity today? Share your tips and tricks!

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Reader Wednesday: CONFLICT

To continue our series….

What I'm reading now

From Beginnings, Middles & Ends, by Nancy Kress, I’ll share the “four elements that make a first scene compelling,” along with how my novel stacks up. The four elements are: CHARACTER, CONFLICT, SPECIFICITY  and CREDIBILITY.

This week: CONFLICT

CONFLICT:  in real life, we avoid it, in fiction we live for it and so does your story and its readers.

CONFLICT doesn’t necessarily mean an argument or a fight scene.  In Beginnings, Middles & Ends author, Nancy Kress, uses Raymond Carver’s short story “Fat” as an example of CONFLICT. The overall theme of Carver’s story is based on a touchy subject. The writer and reader both know that in our society, weight is an emotional issue.

 

 In my novel,  I show CONFLICT in the following ways:

  • ABANDONMENT: Humans thrive on the need to be needed, loved, connected. We learn early on, page one to be exact, that Lily has been abandoned by her mother.
  • ALCOHOLISM: This disease has far-reaching affects, not only on the abuser, but their circle of family and friends. Lily’s mother’s disease effects Lily’s entire outlook on life: past, present and future. It is what drives her need to flee, yet grounds her at home, where she hopes her mom will return for her.
  • GRANDPARENT RAISING GRANDCHILD: As common as this situation is, it comes with its own set of problems. The age gap, the resentment on both the grandparent’s end and the child’s end, anger at the absent parent, yet a need to protect and defend them. Lily struggles with her Nonna’s prudish ways and strict work ethic on their lake resort. She depends on Nonna for being the only stable thing in her life, yet resents when Nonna bad-mouths her mother.
  • FAMILY SECRETS: anytime secrets are kept within a family, something is about to explode. Truth revealed and the reaction to that truth can cause a riptide in the gene pool.  As the new young guest, Frank, confides in Lily about the horrific secret his family is keeping, Lily discovers a buried box, filled with secrets her own family has been keeping from her.

Ask the Question: What is the CONFLICT and how early is it introduced?

Kress says the First line, or at least the first page,should promise CONFLICT and raise questions for the reader.

So, take the first page of your draft and see if  your CONFLICT  makes its grand entrance. Share your findings with us!

Next week we’ll discuss SPECIFICITY

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commit to 3

First, Accountability…

Last week I committed to:

  1. Bake cookies for teachers of KidsClub (deliver Wednesday) - decided against this, since the tray of cookies would be clamored up by 1st-4th graders and that wouldn’t help anyone!
  2. Complete Exercises from Ch 1 of Beginnings, Middles & Ends by Nancy Kress (use as Reader Wednesdays post in the future.) complete! (mostly)
  3. Phone call with (possible) new personal trainer – learn about her plan and rates – make decision (excited, scared!) complete! I’ve signed up for Team Beachbody on-line and will begin my personal training a week from today. Very excited to finally have direction – and accountability!

Salary:  2 hrs of uninterrupted reading time on Sunday (to catch up on FREE ebooks & workbooks  by Jonathon Mead) Instead, I rewarded myself with 2 solid hours of reading Jillian Michaels’ Unlimited. Fantastic book – highly recommended

How did you do last week? Complete the 3 goals you set for yourself?

This week, I commit to:

  1. Read & provide feedback on crit partner’s 1st chapter & send her latest version of my novel’s Ch 1
  2. 100 crunches 6x and 30 min walk after dinner 5x
  3. Review notes on novel-in-progress, write next scene

Salary:  Practice Lesson 1 of Rosetta Stone- Italian (library loan)

Baby steps, just pick 3. Share them here for accountability. (ha, I’m a poet!)

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Reader Wednesday

This week, I picked another writing book – cause I have a slight problem. With books. And writing. And buying things ; )

What I'm reading now

From Beginnings, Middles & Ends, by Nancy Kress, I’ll share the “four elements that make a first scene compelling,” along with how my novel stacks up. The four elements are: CHARACTER, CONFLICT, SPECIFICITY  and CREDIBILITY.

This week: CHARACTER

CHARACTER:  described by her voice, internal and external dialogue, thoughts, clothing, surroundings and her reaction to them.

In my opening scene I show CHARACTER in the following ways:

  • IN HER ROOM: Piles of mismatched pillows that Lily swiped from the houses of her mom’s long list of “hook-up’s”
  • IN HER SETTING: Lily’s reaction and interaction with the lake, the air, the sun and the island
  • IN HER TASTES: Coffee – no sugar
  • IN HER PHYSICAL APPEARANCE: her complex with her large nose, the scar, her tanned skin, dry chapped feet, long windblown hair, cut-off jeans
  • IN HER DREAMS: culinary school brochures & applications

Ask the Question: What does this promise?

  1. Lily obviously has a problem with theft and possibly her mom’s promiscuity – how will this play into the story?
  2. The Setting of being on a lake and how Lily walks around in that world shows us her skills, her upbringing, her culture and lifestyle. Also may play into conflict later (with weather)
  3. Her tastes and family traditions surrounding coffee and all foods and cooking play a large role in the book
  4. Having a complex about the size of her nose makes her human, relatable. The details of her appearance and clothing pull the reader into Lily’s world – making her believable
  5. Lily’s goal of getting into culinary school is central in the theme of the book. When the Protagonist has a goal, the conflicts stacked up against her are that much more tense. Makes the reader Care!!

So, take the first scene of your draft and see how your CHARACTER stacks up. Share your findings with us!

Next week we’ll discuss CONFLICT

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5 prompt Friday

         Here we go again…

  1. The empty feeling in my stomach spread to my chest and head, threatening to pull me inside out.
  2. How do I say this to you?
  3. On her wrist was a bracelet made from multi-colored paperclips.
  4. His voice crackled through the walkie-talkie, “The Eagle Has Landed.”
  5. Are you ready to do this?

Have a story or prompt to share? Post it here : ) Happy writing!


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WINNER! and Reader Wednesday

Random.org selected commenter # 1 – That’s you, Beth MacKinney!

Congrats! Pls send me (mjwriter”at”comcast.net) your email contact  info and Mari L.McCarthy will send you her ebook: 27 Days of Journaling to Health and Happiness

 

And now back to our scheduled programming….

What I’m reading now

 

From Plot & Structure, by The Great James Scott Bell

Stretching the Physical (tension)

Questions to ask before you write a tense scene involving physical action:

What is the worst thing from the outside that can happen to my character? (This may be in the form of another person, a physical object, or a circumstance outside my character’s control.)

In my Novel-in-progress I’m thinking of a scene in the woods where Lily and Frank are digging up old relics in the dark. They’re found by Frank’s older brother, Vince, who’s been drinking and is belligerent.

What is the worst trouble my character can get into in this scene? (You may come up with an instant answer. Pause a moment and ratchet it up a notch. This may suggest further possibilities.)

Currently, Vince seems like a dangerous physical threat, but Lily fakes him out and she and Frank speed off on the mini-bike, avoiding any real danger. Too boring. Have you ever heard the advice to keep your characters in the room? It’s easy to get them out of trouble quickly and change scenes. But easy doesn’t make for interesting, tense reading. And building trouble, not dodging it, is the key to memorable scenes. So, Vince needs to get closer – be a real threat  – a hint that something terrible could result. Lily, a drunken boy. The dark woods. A scared little brother. Who’s going to be the hero? Will they be too late? How will this scene change the rest of the story? Change the characters?

Have I sufficiently set up the danger for readers before the scene? (Remember, they need to know what’s at stake before they start worrying.)

At this point in the story, Lily is no stranger to verbal abuse, but I don’t show any physical abuse. Perhaps that needs to explored. At this point, we also know that Lily is a tough girl with a sassy mouth, but we haven’t seen her in any confrontations. I think I need to add a few flashbacks of how Lily reacts to her mother’s abuse (cowers from her, folds into herself) to see how she will react to Vince’s threats.  Hm, sounds like I have some re-writing to do!

How can this exercise help your story? Which scene are you working on and what will you do differently to build that physical tension? *Next Week: Building Emotional Tension!

 

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Tuesdays with…Linda K. Hubalek: Writing Fiction Based on Factual Events

author-Linda-Hubalek

Today, please welcome, guest author, Linda K. Hubalek, author of Trail of Thread series, as she explains how to write fiction based on factual events. Linda is also giving away a Kindle edition of her latest book, Trail of Thread to whomever can answer the question correctly. (Scroll to the end of this post for the question. If there are more than two correct answers, the winner will be chosen at random.)

Writing Fiction Based on Factual Events

ByTrail of Thread Series author Linda K. Hubalek

I’ve written ten historical fiction series about ancestors that homesteaded Kansas during the 1850s to the 1860s. While I base my stories on facts or photos I’ve found on my main characters, I still need to expand the story to bring the people and places to life.

Quite often a piece of information will only lead to more questions —which I think is the fun part of researching.

For example, the picture featured with my article is my great-great grandfather John Pieratt and a young woman.

Researching my family tree, John (1817-1868) and his first wife, Deborah (1821-1859) left Kentucky in 1854 to move to the new Territory of Kansas. (Their journey was the basis of my book Trail of Thread, which is a great book to use as a class project about traveling by wagon trains during the 1800s.) They were both listed in the 1850 census of Bath County, Kentucky, but John and his second wife, Nancy (1830-1863) were listed in the 1860 census of Lawrence, Douglas County, Kansas.

Looking at these two people in the photo you see a big age difference between them.That leads me to believe the woman with John was wife number three, Sarah (1846-1914) whom he married in 1865. Notice she is holding a bible in her lap? That gesture was seen in photos of that era if the woman was pregnant.

John & Sarah Pieratt- circa 1866

So, I already know that John lost two wives and was 29 years older than his third wife when this picture was taken, probably in 1866 when Sarah had her first child. Imagine the stories you could write—and the emotions of not only John—but his children of his first marriage that were older than Sarah?

Add stories from newspaper clippings of Lawrence’s problemsduring the Bleeding Kansas era and the Civil War (which are featured in my books Thimble of Soil andStitch of Courage), and it’s easy for me to write fictional accounts of what was going on around their area, and the emotions that had to be felt by my family during that time period.

One more look at birth and death dates and I realize Sarah gives birth to her second child two days after John dies from blood poisoning.  Oh my! Can you imagine what she went through?!

I just put myself in Sarah’s place and pour her emotions into my words. Is it fact or fiction? It doesn’t matter to the reader at this point because the reader has become a young mother and widow in 1868…

 

For more information about Linda Hubalek and her books, please look at these websites.

Website: www.LindaHubalek.com

Facebook: www.Facebook.com/LindaHubalek

Blog: www.LindaHubalek.com/feed/rss

 

Win this book!

Linda will be giving away a Kindle edition of Trail of Thread to a lucky reader. Please answer this question in the comments box to enter the drawing. What states did John and Deborah Pieratt travel through to get to their new home?

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Short Fiction vs Novels (and a Book Giveaway!)

Short Stories vs. Novels

a guest post by Sybil Baker*

Runners often identify themselves as either sprinters or marathoners. They may do both, but are usually better at one or the other. The same is often true for writers—some like Alice Munroe, Flannery O’Conner, and Donald Barthelme did their best work in the short story form, others like Toni Morrison, Philip Roth, and Cormac McCarthy seem to be particularly suited for the novel. Of course some writers like William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald were gifted enough to write masterpieces in both forms.

Most writing workshops are geared to the short story, and as a result, most aspiring writers start with the short story form. The problem is that writers often think that the short story is just practice for novel writing, and I was no different in suffering from that delusion. The truth is both forms are exacting and demanding, but in different ways.

A short story is a concentrated effort—its energy must work toward what Edgar Allen Poe called a singular emotional effect. Every sentence, every word must count. A story can be deceptively simple and yet must work on many levels and layers.

When I first started trying to write a novel, it was because the idea I had was too large and too complex for a short story. Naively, I thought that if I just wrote more pages, that I would magically have a novel. Instead, what I ended up with was a mess. I knew nothing of a novel’s structure, the importance of plot points or the building blocks of scenes. I also found that the more I wrote, the weaker my writing got—I did not have the sustained energy to make sure each sentence was carefully crafted the way I did with my short stories.

Only when I decided to learn and study the structure of novels did I successfully write one. Novels require stamina—you have to love your characters enough to live with them every day for a year or longer. With short stories, I love my characters but don’t have a desire to learn about them beyond the confines of the world of that one story.

My linked short story collection, Talismans, started off with one story. Years ago I wrote a story about Elise and her mother and thought I was done with them. But then a few years later I found myself writing about a character living in Korea trying to understand her past. To my surprise, that character was Elise. I discovered that Elise was not a one-story character, but rather someone I wanted to learn more about through the short story form. And so I wrote more stories about her, which ended up spanning her childhood to her early thirties. And yet never once did I consider writing a novel about Elise. Her life seemed to be best told through stories—each one separate, with its own arc and singular emotional effect.

With Talismans, I was able to experiment with point of view, voice, tone, and style in a way I did not think would work in a novel. But I was able to follow Elise’s emotional and physical journey not just through each story, but her journey into acceptance and adulthood. Each story allowed me to focus on a different time and aspect of Elise’s life. I was able to write about her childhood in Virginia, her falling in love in South Korea, then traveling through Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar as she tries to understand her past.

Writing a “novel through stories” is not easy. You have to make sure each story stands on its own yet also contributes to the overall themes and narrative arc of the work as a whole. Whether you are a sprinter or a marathon runner, inclined to short stories or novels, its useful to respect the similarities and differences of the forms and to appreciate their own special artistry and beauty.

*Leave a comment or question by midnight tonight (Dec 13) for a chance to win a copy of TALISMANS

Talismans

Win This Book!

by Sybil Baker

Elise understands her father–a Vietnam vet who abandoned her when she was an infant–about as much as she does her church organist mother and the rest of their suburban Virginian town. When even that thin thread of connection is suddenly severed, Elise is flung across the world, to Southeast Asia. Tracing the steps her father took through the war, Elise searches for a connection–with his ghost, with other travelers, with the foreign culture and environment she experiences. In a series of linked short stories, Talismans follows Elise’s journey to learn what she must hold onto, and what she must leave behind.

Genre: Literary Fiction/Short Story Collection
Trade Paperback: 181 pages
Publisher: C&R Press (December 2010)
ISBN: 1936196034

Talismans is available through C&R Press, SPD (Small Press Distribution), and forthcoming on Amazon.

http://www.tucsonweekly.com/tucson/santas-book-list/Content?oid=2348874

http://wutcana.wordpress.com/


Sybil BakerBIO: Sybil Baker grew up in Northern Virginia and graduated from Virginia Tech where she was the features editor and humor columnist of the student newspaper, The Collegiate Times. After a few years working around Virginia, she moved to Boulder (Colorado) where she earned her MA degree in English from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

After five years in Colorado she moved back to Virginia and worked there as a technical editor before moving to South Korea in 1995. For the next twelve years she lived and taught English in South Korea and traveled extensively around the world, especially in Asia. So far she’s been to more than thirty countries, including Mongolia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Cambodia, Indonesia, Peru, and Turkey.

During her travels, she became increasingly interested in the allure and alienation ofAmerican travelers and expatriates, and this has heavily influenced her writing. Her novel, The Life Plan, was published by Casperian Books in spring 2009. Her short story collection, Talismans, was just published by C&R Press this month, December 2010.

Sybil Baker’s fiction and essays have appeared in numerous journals including Transnational Literature, Upstreet and Segue. Her essay on American expatriate literature appeared in AWP’s Writer’s Chronicle in September 2005. In 2005, Sybil completed her MFA in Writing from The Vermont College of Fine Arts, and in 2008 moved to back to the States to teach creative writing at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga where she is an Assistant Professor of English. She currently lives with her husband, Rowan Johnson, in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Sybil Baker’s website: www.sybilbaker.com
Sybil’s Blog: An Ex-expatriate’s Musings on Writing, Teaching, and Travel

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NaNoWriMo: Day 29

Um, Hi. I’m filling in for Mary Jo. See, NaNo seems to have melted her brain and her alter ego “Marge” is blogging for her at the moment. I kinda like this blogging thing. Feels powerful. ; )

But, back to the NaNo update. Mary Jo went into the looong holiday weekend with such high hopes. Silly Girl.

She did manage to write 8,013 words this weekend. Enthusiastic of her, but alas, it did her in.

To date, she has a total word count of: 34,984 and 15,016 to meet the goal before midnight on Tuesday. (tomorrow)

Only a miracle can save her now. But if the Christmas Spirit, NaNo Faeries or Writing Wizards are too bogged down, no worries. Mary Jo is a drooling, babbling mess rocking in the corner and probably won’t even know she has lost.

Until she recovers – I sincerely hope you all are doing well in your little writing thing. Cheers!

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NaNoWriMo: Half-Way Point!

When I was a kid and we’d make the 2.5 drive from Chicago to Dowagiac, MI for weekend getaways, the whole car load of us would “hoot” when he passed the half-way point. Think of old school Arsenio Hall’s “woot-woot-woot!” with the fist in the air.

So, my fellow NaNo’ers – lets’ Woot Woot Woot! even if you’re not at the desired 25,005 word count, you’ve made it through 15 days of NaNo Mania!

And, for my wager on words yesterday:

Yesterday’s Word Count: 3,297 !!! just shy of the 4,000 goal I had, per Liz ; )

cumulative: 17,770

Mood: Delighted, hopeful, loving the mess that is my novel again! Till next time…

Check in: How are all of you doing? Anyone make it to th half point intact? Are there any NaNo’ers out there who’ve already “won?”

P.S. I’m Super Stoked about getting to meet one of my fav YA authors tonight: Laurie Halse-Anderson. Hoping to get SPEAK and WINTERGIRLS signed :)

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