Saturday, October 30, 2010

Breaking Up Patterns

Posted by Jonene Ficklin

You never know what you’re going to get on Halloween. Well, yes, you’ll probably get trick-or-treaters, but there’s always one in the bunch that you remember.

This year it was an adorable four year old dressed as Woody from Toy Story. His two older sisters nudged him forward. Then he lifted the brim of his hat and said, “Merry Christmas.”

I held it in, but his sisters erupted in peals of laughter, and of course, taught him the traditional blurting of : “Trick-or-Treat.” I think we were his first house, or at least the first one where he spoke.

It's two hours later and I can’t stop laughing. Why? Because it’s different. He’s refreshing.

And keeping it different is what makes writing fresh. A wise instructor told us to look over our writing and watch for patterns, whether in repeated words (we all have our pariahs), beginnings of sentences, beats in phrases, sentence size and structure, etc. Break them up.

So I’ve got a pattern problem tonight. I keep passing by the lovely bowl of Halloween chocolate in my front room. I might just need to break things up and eat one. Or two. It’s not a pattern until you eat three, right?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Submission or Bust

posted by Rebecca J. Carlson

I want to be blissfully drafting my next book.

Instead, I am meticulously checking the punctuation on every line of dialog in my previous book.

(sound of forehead striking keyboard repeatedly)

hyg trf tgfg trf vh iol

P.S. GREAT pass-along story, Leisha! I loved that opening. Fabulous job everyone. Thanks for the laughs. I needed them.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pass-along Story

By Leisha Maw

Today I thought it would be fun to do a pass-along story. You know the kind where each person writes one paragraph and passes it along to the next adventurer to add a bit. In the spirit of Halloween, here it goes. (Just remember, we’re a family friendly site. *Wink*)

Rachel dug through her bag. “Wooden spike, Zombie-be-gone spray, garlic lipstick, Mummy-off, cell phone, fluffy slippers, and sweet pea hand sanitizer.” She zipped the pouch shut and grabbed her keys. “Mom, I’m ready for my date.”

Okay, your turn. Let's see where this story goes.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wanted: Heroes

The cabin girl and I had a little chat the other day. She'd been reading a book, but decided to stop in the middle and not finish.

As a writer, I can't think of a worse insult.

"So what was the problem? Why did you stop?" I asked.

"The main character did something stupid. He gave in to his," she rolled her eyes, "tragic flaw."

"Maybe later in the story he'll get a chance to redeem himself," I said.

"But mom, he's already totally lost my respect. I can't look up to him anymore because he gave in!"

"People in real life give in all the time," I said. I think I'd done it myself a few times already that day.

"But this isn't real life, it's a story. When I read a story I want characters that I can look up to, that are better than people in real life. Sure people give in, but I don't want a story about that. I read for characters that give me a good example to follow."

That made me think back to when I was my daughter's age, searching through the school library for a female protagonist I could look up to, emulate, become. I never found her. At the time, I decided it would be up to me to write her.

I'd forgotten.

My daughter continued, "I don't think characters have to be perfect. They should have weaknesses. And minor characters can give in and betray you, but I don't want the story to be about them. The main character can even have given in to their weakness in the past, but I want a story about not giving in anymore. I want a character that makes the right choice, no matter what."

She went on to say that when she's in pain or facing a hard choice, she often remembers her heroes from books and finds strength in their examples. As a writer, I can't think of a higher honor.

Do young people need story heroes to look up to? What kind of heroes are you giving them?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hi, I'm a Cave-Dwelling Writer

Ahoy mateys!

Ever git that creepin' feelin' that ye can't speak as well as ye write?

I do. All the time.

I can write a beautiful scene. I can write natural dialogue. I can write believable characters.

But when it comes to talking to others in real life, I feel the odd fish out. It's not so surprising. I'm around 4 kids all day long--but for when they are at school (and it's then that I write). A few hours at church, but even at that, I'm with kids, too!!

How is it like for you?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Free ebooks - Are they on to something?

By Kevin

Before I write my post, let me introduce myself!

My name is Kevin Smith. And I'm a writer. I know, sounds somewhat like the introduction to a WA meeting. (writer's anonymous?) This is my first post in the Cove. But worry not, there will be many more! Yay! (I hope I hear the sounds of celebrating... either that or indigestion.)

I'm currently working on a mid-grade sci-fi novel. And... it's almost done! micro-edits! Of course I did just have another idea to add in. Hmm... may take more than a micro-edit...

Ahem. ebooks. Free.

My phone is a Droid X. I love it. It has games, an 8 megapixel camera, 720p HD video recording, and apps. Apps and apps! And one of the best apps? Kindle!

Now I know some of you are thinking to yourself "ugh, give me a nice paper book any day!" I would have agreed but... I can read anywhere, anytime. And do I need to remember to bring my book to do so? Or lug around a large hardback book? (I love hardbacks. However, they tend to be a bit on the large side.) No...

I just need to have my phone with me! I carry my phone everywhere. I'm one of those people who twitch violently when I can't answer my phone to see who it is. I know, kinda silly. Growing up it was like this: The phone rings. All children in the house rush to be the one to answer it, tripping over each other and otherwise causing bruises and beatings. I know there are other homes where all the children stare at each other. "You get it." "No, you, I did last time!"

I twitch then too.

So amazon offers some free books. Many of them are classics, which is fabulous. I now have Frankenstein on my phone! But others are books that are, for whatever reason, discounted to free. Some of them even have 4 1/2 stars! I've come across a few that are the first book in a series. So I do what every free-loving person would do.

I download them all.

I still have a bunch to reach, but have, so far, read approximately 3 of them. And I'm finding myself looking up the rest of the series in the hope that they are free. However, sadly, they are not. But after having read a good first book, how can I not read the rest?

I think more authors should consider this type of advertisement. It is another way to get their series into the hands of those that might otherwise not read it.

Of course, I only see this from my point of view.

What think ye?

Follow me on Twitter! @kevinmichsmith

*Cough* I Lost My Voice

By Rebecca Carlson

A few days ago I came storming out of the cove and flopped myself down on the couch next to my husband. "This paragraph is TERRIBLE!" I said. "Help me figure out what to do with this terrible paragraph."

We picked up our pace and came into the valley just as the sun reached the top of the sky. A black wall of smoke rose from the grasslands, maybe only a mile northeast of the settlement. At the base of the smoke a red streak of flame crawled through the grass. People both on horseback and on foot had spread out along the fire line. It didn’t look like they were fighting the fire, only keeping an eye on it.

"It's a news report. A list of details," my husband said.

"You're right!" I jumped up. Any random objective observer could have said that. It didn't sound like someone who actually cared about what was going on. The point-of-view character isn't a news reporter covering someone else's problems. He's involved! He's invested! He's just come over the mountain and seen that there's a brush fire near his home!

But he's a shy and quiet sort of person. I have to coax him out. "Come on, Nathan, buddy, talk to me. How do you feel about this? What do you think?" I murmured as I went back to my computer.

We picked up our pace and came into the valley just as the sun reached the top of the sky. I relaxed a little when I saw that the black wall of smoke rising from the grasslands wasn’t too close to the settlement. People both on horseback and on foot had spread out along the fire line, shadows in front of the heat shimmer where the red flames crawled through the grass. I couldn’t figure out why they weren’t fighting the fire. It looked like they were only keeping an eye on it.

Yeah, that's a little better. What do you think?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Drafting: The Evolution of a Novel

My writing process continues to evolve, but I'm working on my third novel (one published, one querying, and my WiP) and here's my overall thoughts about the drafting process.

Draft 1: JOY Enamored with my shiny new idea, I'm off to the races: outlining, researching, and quickly sitting down to write. I write until I run into a plot barricade, then stop for a quick pit stop of research and more outlining, and then off on another no-holds-barred sprint of drafting. There's also character and voice development, but the first draft is primarily about PLOT. What happens in this story? And a mad head-long rush to THE END. Each week, I'll polish up one or more chapters to send to my awesome crit group. They keep me hyped and moving forward, as well as pointing out pitfalls along the way.

Draft 2: PAIN Starting over, I rewrite the beginning, usually dramatically. The ending usually needs a serious rewrite as well. The story has evolved as I've written it, so I painstakingly march through the entire MS, finding craft, plot, and character issues. Sometimes entire sections have to be rewritten or cut. Sometimes a character is deleted, or a new one added. I'm shaping and molding the story as a whole. I fold in all the crits from my crit group, as well as various other crits I've collected along the way. Then I send it off for a whole novel critique (or two) from a trusted crit partner.

Interlude: WAIT Research something else. Draft something else. Remove the WiP completely from my brain for a month. Maybe two.

Draft 3: GOING DEEPER Hopefully I'll have feedback which will help point out some basic flaws in story or characters. I'll incorporate those, and then look in-depth at several key aspects of the novel to see if I can take the story to a higher level. For my current WiP, this includes things like:

  • does my MC's internal and external conflicts get resolved in a satisfying way?
  • do my secondary characters all have meaningful stories of their own that deepen their characters?
  • does the story tension keep rising throughout, or are there places where the story sags?
  • are the stakes high enough? Do my characters have high human worth?
  • have I plumbed the depths of the world I've created, to make it rich in detail and movement through history?
  • do my characters interact with the setting in a way that shows their development through the story?
At this point I will read a couple books that are similar to my WiP and try to draw lessons from them that can be applied to my own work. I may get a couple more crits along the way.

Draft 4: POLISH
  • Add/remove slang, cliches, descriptive phrases
  • Check chapter beginnings and endings for drama and clarity
  • Check overall voice
  • Tighten up the beginning some more
  • Check high frequency words
At this point I will read through the MS once or twice very quickly, maybe reading aloud to catch typos and missing words, or read silently for a quick overall check of plot holes and missing information.

Although these are labeled DRAFTS they are more accurately STAGES. A DRAFT is not a simple once-through the manuscript, but more a stage in the evolution of the novel. It took me a long time, and many revisions, before I was finally ready for Draft 4 on the MS I am now querying. I'm still in Draft 2 for the current novel, but I can see the stages ahead, waiting for me. 

What does your process look like?

Being too nice to both characters and cockroaches

Posted by: Cabin Girl Amber Carlson

Now, I'm going to tell you two stories. Please note the similarities between them.

Cockroach Gets a Free Ride

Today, at the end of science, I reached down to pick up my backpack and happened to notice the cockroach that scuttled under it. "Ok," I said, "But don't expect to be able to hide under that for long."

Yes, I actually said that. No, I'm not insane. I just talk to cockroaches.

When I picked up the backpack, the cockroach was gone. I shrugged, put my backpack on and walked to my next class.

The next time I opened my backpack I was surprised to see the cockroach sitting smugly on my folder. Of course, the moment it saw me, it scrambled deeper into the backpack. Once again, I shrugged, turning back to the teacher.

By the time I got home, the cockroach was gone. Oh, well, I thought. I hope it didn't get stepped on. If you think my worry about the cockroach was strange, you aren't alone. I told a friend about the cockroach on the bus home from school. She pretended to call the insane asylum.

Anyway, the moral of this story is don't be nice to bugs or people will put you in insane asylums. Just kidding.

Character Gets a Free Ride

I was writing a story. It was going well. The main character was going on an epic quest or something like that and my plot was looking fine. Then this other character popped randomly into a minor plot I was writing between the chapters. She completely took my story over. I just let her do it. She saved her kingdom, overthrew a corrupt ruler, and then turned back to me. "Ok, your turn."

Let's just say the rest of the story didn't pull itself back up to where it ought to have been.

I don't know what exactly I'm trying to say with this. One thing I know is that I tend to give things a free ride. And that's not always a good thing. I like cockroaches, and I like my character that took over, but there are places they belong, and places they don't. Neither belongs in my backpack. And neither ought to be messing up my story.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Alligators and Imagination

Posted by Jonene Ficklin

“Mom! Mom! Come here quick. There’s an alligator in my egg.”

Okay, what's your first impression when you read that? (You get invisible bonus points if you write it down in the comment box : )

So here’s what really happened:

My eleven-year-old son came home from scouts and announced that he had to cook three meals all by himself. Also, they had to be things that he would eat if he were camping. Now he can make a killer PB&J, but that’s the limit of his cooking expertise. So we start with the basics. Fried eggs. A camping favorite.

I stay in the kitchen, but keep a safe distance, ready to save the day if he starts a fire or something.

He’s happy as a clam over at the stove, cracking eggs onto our big camp griddle. And then he says the alligator thing.

What??? I’m four steps away and he’s blocking the view.

Have you ever noticed how the curious mind – not satisfied with waiting to see – goes right to work? It builds wild and crazy explanations in an effort to make sense where there is none.

So as I’m crossing the room, the ideas begin flowing:

Hypothesis 1: Somehow an alligator egg got mixed into my egg carton and I’m going to find its sizzling embryo curled up on the stove.

Hypothesis 2: My son said the wrong word. What might he have meant? Elevator? Calculator?

Hypothesis 3: The egg is spoiled and green.

Hypothesis 4: I have no idea what he means and these are the longest four steps I’ve taken since he was two and ran out in front of a car. (He didn’t get hit. I was the only one traumatized).

By this time, I reach him and look. As it so happens, it was none of the above. Here is a photo we took. I’m sure you can see the alligator on the left side, trying to eat the egg on the right.

Now it makes perfect sense. But my imagination is on fire and tingling. It’s awesome! I can’t help thinking about my new story. (I haven’t written a word yet. I’m not letting myself until I finish the final polishing of my current WIP, which is mere days away.)

Still, I’m neck deep in the thinking stages, and it’s marvelous! I love the rush of the initial idea, the clip of story ready to blossom into something big. I love getting to meet and then know the heroes and villains, envision the adventures, concoct the heartbreaks, the big reveals, the glorious, perfect (I hope) ending.

And if I don’t like it, I can change it . . . just like that. (Evil laugh here.) There’s an awful lot of power involved in the thinking process. I can barely wait to get to work.

And if I get writer’s block, I know just what to do to get the ideas flowing. I’ll let my son cook again. But this time, I’ll stay SIX steps away.

Snoozing Your Writing

By Leisha Maw

This morning I woke up to a cat fight. Again. I then lay in bed for forty-five minutes avoiding the day. The alarm started going off. I snoozed it. It went off for thirty minutes. I snoozed it every three minutes. Pathetic? Yup.

As I lay there--arms crossed, frown marring my face--I had a thought. Now, to those of you who know me this in and of it self may be quite surprising, but yes I had a thought, and it turned into a conversation with me.

Me 1: I do this with my writing!

Me 2: Do what?

Me1: Snooze it.

Me 2: Say what? You need more sleep. Turn off the alarm. Again.

Me 1: No. Listen to me. I've been snoozing my writing all week. It's Friday, and I haven't made any progress.

Me 2: You deserved a break.

Me 1: For a week?

Me 2: Sure.

Me 1: Pshha! Whatever. Get out of bed right now and get to work! Don't make me make you!

Me 2: All right. Sheesh. Get ornery and everything.

Anywho, after I finished arguing with myself, I did get up, and I'd like to think it was more than slipping out from under the covers and trudging downstairs to get kids ready for school. I think it was a wake-up call for my writing. I didn't consciously realise how I'd been snoozing it. I found other things that seemed important. Now, some were honest things and did need my attention, like my family and breathing, but I don't think I really needed to watch Superhumans last night. Or NCIS, or check my email 8,000 times. I don't think I even needed to run those extra virus scans. I just wanted distractions to make me feel like I was working, when I was snoozing my writing.

So, I vow to kill the snooze button. I will write. And after I write, I just might take a nap. *Grumbles under breath about cat.*

What do you do to snooze your writing?

Leisha Maw

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Revisions, Why Art Thou So Hard?

Posted by Susan Kaye Quinn.

I'm working on Draft 2 of the WiP, and just realized that a whole section of my plot is, shall we say, weak.

I'm staring at the character motivation, sequence of events, and general logic of about 10k of prose and thinking, You know, that really doesn't make any sense at all.


I know this is what revisions are for. I also know I'm capable of plotting a better story between word 25,000 and word 35,000 - especially since that's a critical launching off point for the rest of the book. All it will take is time, effort, and possibly a few bad words. I'm even considering hauling out a giant piece of butcher paper and outlining the darn thing. Which I've never done (my outlines are always digital), so you know it's bad.

But first, I'm going to have a cup of tea and think a bit about it.

What's your approach when facing a rewrite that's a lot more than tracking down errant adverbs or getting rid of cliches?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Life After the Phone Call

by Rebecca J. Carlson

We're all waiting for it, like a lookout in the crow's nest a yearnin' to sight land. Someday that phone will ring and someone will say, "I want to be your agent."

Today I've invited my good friend and upcoming debut author Beth Revis to tell you a little bit about what it's like once that happens.

Beth, you found your literary agent nearly a year ago, and your first book will be coming out next January. Go ahead, rant a while about how thrilled you are.

DUDE. It is so AWESOME. Last November, I was at the point where I was almost ready to give up writing. This November, I'm already thinking about how long my prayer will be at Thanksgiving. My turkey is going to get cold, I've got so much to be thankful for! 

What was it like to get an offer of representation?

Nerve-wracking. Not the answer you'd expect, huh? I thought it would be joyous, jumping-up-and-down excited, but I was so worried about everything--was I making the right choice, was this really going to be it, what if she changed her mind and doesn't want me anymore...?

Once the actual paper contract came, though, it finally hit me: this is real. *That's* when the joyous, jumping-up-and-down excitement came!

Do you spend more time on writing now than you did a year ago?

Yes, absolutely. Well, partly this is because my book deal enabled me to quit my job of being a teacher. I *loved* teaching, but teaching absorbs your life, you know? If you're a teacher, you can't quit being a teacher at 3:30--you carry the job home with you, you think about it constantly. The problem was, you do that with writing, too--if you're focused on your writing, you constantly think about it, new scenes, new characters, new plots. I couldn't focus on both. My mind isn't big enough for that! So, quitting the teaching job enabled me to focus more on my writing. 

What’s something that surprised you, something you didn’t expect, about being an upcoming debut author?

I always felt that being published would mean that I was suddenly validated. I think a lot of us are looking for validation. We need a reason to excuse the hours of time we neglect our families to write, a valid purpose for the money we spend on books or conferences or writing memberships, an excuse for how much we pour into something that potentially has no reward. I'd been writing for ten years--*ten years*--before I signed with my agent. And I was starting to feel as if there was no point. Here I was, giving away my time, my energy, my health (that's my excuse for not exercising), and had nothing to show for it except piles of paper that no one wanted to read. So, I always thought that publication = validation. But honestly? Now that I'm on this side of the fence, I feel no different from before. Which means, of course, that my validation lay in all those piles of paper. The creation of a written work is as much a validation as publication. This isn't something I thought would be true, but it is. 

Is there anything you’d like to go back one year and tell yourself?

Probably just that: to take pride in the creation of written work, not regret the lack of publication.

When did you make the switch in your mind to looking at yourself as a professional author?

That's another thing--I thought as soon as I signed with an agent, I'd feel like a professional. Then I thought as soon as I signed a book contract. Then I thought as soon as I saw my ARC. But you know what? I've quit waiting to feel like a professional. Because I realized, I'd been treating writing as a profession for a long time. I was a professional long before the contract because I'd been treating writing like my profession. Professional authorship is an attitude, not a contract.

Is there anything you miss about the pre-agented stage of the writing game?

No deadlines! Before, I could spend as long as I wanted on a work, tweak it to death, slowly meander through revisions. But now I don't have that luxury--I've *got* to write on a certain schedule, there are people relying on me to finish my next work on time. It's like the difference between reading JANE EYRE because you love it, or reading it for a class assignment.

What’s the most fun and exciting moment SINCE you got word that your book would be published? Was it seeing the cover for the first time?

Oh, seeing the cover was brilliant. And getting the ARCs in the mail. But actually, I think it's been seeing the response people have had to the book online. People are emailing me and tweeting me and facebooking me about how much they want the book, or, if they have an ARC, how much they liked it. It means more than I can say that there are people in the world who want to read (or re-read) my book! And some of the responses have been very creative, like this one!

Got plans for launch parties, book signings, etcetera?

Oh, YES. Yesyesyes. Of course! It's a celebration of ten years of work, all rolled into one event! A lot of things are still up in the air right now about it, but one thing that's going to happen is a book party at the school where I used to work. The students and my fellow teachers have been planning the event since they found out about my book deal!

THANK YOU so much, Beth. We’ll let you get back to working on your next book.

Beth's science fiction debut, Across the Universe, will launch on 1-11-11. Visit Beth's website to learn more.

Spaceship Illustration by Manning Leonard Krull

Monday, October 18, 2010

Contest Winners announced!

Thanks to all for entering our first contest here at the Scribbler's Cove! Rebecca's super smart husband did some complicated spreadsheet, since he's a smart mathemetician like that, so this contest would have total randomness. And now for the winners

[drum roll please]

1st place Elizabeth Mueller
2nd place K. Marie Criddle
3rd place Shannon O'Donnell
4th place Kristina Barnes

Congrats!! We also decided to add an extra prize for the First Place winner and so we signed her on as part of the crew! [Welcome Elizabeth!]

All winners: Please email your address to so we can send you your prize!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Woman Overboard!

My kind captain, Rebecca, has taken so kindly in rescuing me hide from a-drowning.
Now I be part of The Scribblers Cove. It be a grand paradise here doing nothing more than sipping coconut milk and counting them screamin’ gulls.
Well, nearly akin to it. I’m thrilled to be a part of such a dynamic group of wonderful friend writers—my kinda people.
Hi, my name is Elizabeth Mueller, I am an award-winning aspiring author and I love to write.
I write clean reads in the high fantasy, contemporary, paranormal and historical genres. My target audience is young adults with a potential crossover for adults. I’ve also written children’s picture books. All unpublished, but for a few poems.
I’ve started writing poetry in 4th grade, short stories in 6th, and both in high school. It wasn’t until I was 17 that I started and completed my first epic fantasy novel ten years later.
I’ve finished 7 more novels since and am currently working on Rock Star edits like crazy (I’ll post on that another time). I’m on chapter 8. It’s slow-going with my 4 kidlets running amuck, but I manage while they are in school and in bed.
Rock star Moggie suffers a tragic loss and falls in love with Beth who is dying of cancer, but she feels love with him isn’t possible and pushes him away.
That’s my elevator spiel for now. I know it’ll get better once I put more thought into it.
What are you working on—can you sum it up in one sentence?
P.S. It’s nice meeting you!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

This is My Writing Career

Yes, there it is. That's it. My writing career.

I planted the seeds a long time ago, in a nice pot with good soil. I water them nearly every day.

And I wait.

Sometimes I want to give up. Sometimes I want to scream "WELL GROW ALREADY!!!" And sometimes I'm so tempted to dig up the seeds and see if they are doing anything.

But I don't. I keep watering.

Someday, something marvelous is going to grow in this pot. I may need to put in new seeds, I may need to wait a long time, but something beautiful is coming. I know it.

Just wait and see.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Please Vote for Me!

Posted by Susan Kaye Quinn:
Here's a summary of my WIP, a young adult paranormal novel called OPEN MINDS:

Although everyone now reads minds, sixteen-year-old Kira Moore can't and never will. When she almost kills her best friend by accident, she discovers she can control the minds of others and is torn between passing for normal and exposing the hidden pushers of her world.

I've submitted OPEN MINDS to a query contest on YAlitchat (a great gathering place for YA writers). Voting is open to the public and will determine who makes it to the Top 10 round to be judged by agents and editors. The winners will receive critiques, manuscript submissions, and agent consults.

Those prizes are like gold! But I need votes to get into the Top 10!

Please Vote Here for my entry by clicking the VOTE tab for OPEN MINDS!

You don't have to be a member of YAlitchat to vote - you can just click on the VOTE tab by OPEN MINDS and you're done! Voting ends October 31st, but unlike Chicago politics, you are only allowed to vote once!

Thanks so much!!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How To Write a Book or More a Year

At a recent writing conference, a prolific writer offered her advice on how to get a book written in a scandalously short amount of time.

And here’s the magic answer.

Know your weaknesses.

Do you accidentally surf the net? Go shopping? Polish the hardware? Check out the software?

What is it that stops and sidetracks you? Well stop THAT and take notes on your weaknesses. Make a plan to counteract each one. Make a plan that works to keep YOU writing. (Everyone will have a different plan.)

I like that. I know my problem now. I’m actually sidetracking because Scribbler’s Cove is one of my weaknesses.

My plan? Post this and get back to work. See you when I’ve met my writing goals!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Perfect Climax

As I hash out the outline for my next project, I'm struggling to come up with the perfect climax.

My favorite climax in a book, ever, has to be from "Ella Enchanted." It was so good that as soon as I got to the last page I turned back a couple chapters to read it again.

See, Ella has three problems. She has this curse that forces her to do whatever someone tells her to do. And she has a prince she's madly in love with who wants to marry her, but if she says yes then she knows someone will figure out how to use her curse to hurt him. This brings us to the third problem - the whole kingdom will be in danger if their new queen has this curse on her.

And then, the prince says, "Ella, say you'll marry me."

I won't tell you what happens next, but all these problems, the internal conflict, the interpersonal conflict, and the great big epic conflict come together and BAM! We have an amazing climax.

Something similar happens in Lord of the Rings. Frodo has three main problems. He's got this internal struggle against the Ring that is trying to turn him to evil. Then he's got Gollum after him. And then he's got the problem that if he fails the whole world is going to go down in flames.

At the climax, it looks like the first two problems get the better of Frodo, and we fear the third is soon to follow. But then chance steps in, Gollum goes over the cliff, and the world is saved.

I liked Ella's climax better. In that one, she does all her own fighting.

There's any number of ways these layers of conflict can play off each other at a climax. Sometimes one gets resolved earlier in the story, sometimes there's mixed wins and losses. But I think my favorite kind of climax requires a character to overcome an internal conflict, which in turn allows the character to overcome the interpersonal conflict and the broader conflict.

I know this is only one of many ways to look at a climax. What are your favorite ways to look at it? How do you create the perfect bang at the peak of your plot?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

How NOT To Pitch To An Editor

Hey everyone, our contest it still going. Click here to see the details about winning awesome prizes including free books, amazing art, and a Barnes and Nobel gift certificate. Now on to the post.

I just woke up from one of the scariest dreams I've ever had--and that's saying a lot. I've lived through gruesome explosions, backed over my own child, and killed my best friend with my bare hands. (I may be a little disturbed, just saying.) But this dream was one of the worst. It went something like this.

I drove to the office of a famous editor to pitch my book. Why? because that is so how it's done, right? You just decide to drop by and tell them about your amazing story. Yeah, sure. Anywho, I sauntered into the office and stared at the mountains of slush piled everywhere. It was like I had stumbled onto the set of Hoarders, but worse somehow, because these manuscripts weren't empty pizza boxes, they were the life-time works of wanna-be writers. They were people's souls trapped in slush piles. (And yes, I can be dramatic, it's a dream.)

So, as I stood there, lost amidst the slush, the editor walked out and saw me. At fist she thought I worked for the post office. At least she did until I introduced myself and the purpose behind my visit, then she acted surprised. Weird, huh? But being a professional, she called her assistant and asked him to find my submission.

Now, this surprised me, because I hadn't submitted anything. I was going to pitch in person and make an awesome first impression. Right? Wrong. Oh so very wrong.

The assistant came out in about five seconds carrying a folder with my name on it. My name. I got excited. Somehow they knew about me! This was good right? You guessed it, wrong. Again. Are you sensing a pattern here? I am.

The editor opened the folder, and there, nestled inside, lay my submission. I stared. I think I even started to cry. Why? Was it my finished novel all professional and beautiful...and finished? No. It was my torn and battered first brainstorming notes ripped from a spiral notebook with the little hanging chad things flapping in the breeze from the air conditioning vents.

If it's possible to die in a dream and have it kill you in real life this would have done it. I stammered, then I stammered again. Then she started to read--out loud--from my "novel". I figuratively died again. It was bad. Oh so very, very bad. And the whole time, I just stood there and thought, How did you get this? How did my notes fall into your evil hands?

Then she turned the page and showed me the drawings. Little sketches of big scenes in the book. It was like some demented kindergarten teacher reading the world's freakiest horror book, because it was the death of my future. I knew deep inside that this one submission had blackballed me in the writing world. They all knew who I was. I looked down and saw, written beside my name on the folder tab, LEISHA MAW--THE CRAZY ONE.

I tried to leave, but my family showed up--all the kids, the hubby, the cats. They all came to tell the editor how much they loved my book, and that's why they'd sent in a copy without telling me. Only they sent the wrong one. Ha ha. Funny joke.

The editor sicked her dog on us. We tried to flee, but the stacks of slush toppled on us and buried us alive.

So, when you pitch to an editor, don't do that, and don't die. That's about all the wisdom I can share with you. Use it wisely.

Leisha Maw--The Crazy One.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Snoring Imagination

During this morning’s frenzy to get the kids up and off to school, I happened to see my son sprawled on the couch, arm folded over his eyes, snoring. As in ‘sawing a log’. He had some volume going there. Pretty impressive.

Now this might not seem abnormal, except for the fact that not ten seconds earlier, he was bouncing around like a super-ball on Red Bull. This kid was NOT asleep.

So, intelligent mother that I am, I asked, “What are you doing?”

He sat up grinning and said, “I just wanted to know what it felt like to snore.”

That cracked me up.

And then I stopped and thought about it. You know what? I don’t know what it feels like either. I don’t think any of us really know.

Yes, we may snore. Yes, we may live in the same house with some one who snores (or if you’re lucky enough – multiple some ones), but we really don’t know what it feels like. After all, the second you wake up, the snoring is over.

Is it a belly tingling rumble that shakes walls? An ear piercing mosquito whine? A painful, racking buzz? A sputtering death rattle? What does that feel like?

All right, all right. I know I’m going waaaaaaaaay out in left field here, but that’s what writers do. We try to imagine everything—snoring included—and then translate the sights, sounds, sensations and smells into the written word.

So, I have a question for you. Do you REALLY know what it feels like to snore?