October 02, 2007

Chapter One Woes

My progress so far in novel writing using the 1st Draft in 30 Days by Karen S. Wiesner (modified for procrastinators naturally) has been:

1.  2" 3-ring binder filled with sheets pertaining to Character, Settings, Plot Throughlines, Individual Scenes, Scene-by-Scene Timeline, a growing Things to Research list, Day-by-Day/Scenes-per-Chapter & POV Outline, a general High-Points Outline and a Detailed Outline. (Whew! Yeah I completed all those)

2.  A second 2" 3-ring binder filled with print outs of Dramatica Pro reports about my novel. The reports detail the motivations and changes my Protagonist, Antagonist, and Impact Character exhibit throughout the course of the story; and the Plot and Theme elements of my story. (Sweet!)

At this point, Dramatic Pro is becoming tedious ~ even with the printouts. I’ve found the at-you-fingertips sheets suggested by the 1st Draft method to be a more workable system. Dramatica Pro is database compiled and driven. Both are easy to update and change since both reside inside the computer.

3.  AND, thanks to the 1st Draft method, I now have a completed and polished Chapter 1. (Yipee!  A real coup for me, given my proclivity of being easily distracted.)

Then Kay Patterson called me up to chat.

She congratulated me on my progress.  (She’s working on her own novel and is a chapter or two a head of me. But unlike me, she’s just plain busy.) Anyhow, she then asks me how my Chapter 1 stats stack up. My what? Again she asks how my Readability and Pacing Scores match up to the desired scores of a first chapter with an Opening Hook. Again I’m speechless, struck utterly dumb (dumb as in stupid).

Of course, overseeing mother that she is, Kay explained and enlightened me.

Guess what?

My nice, completed and polished Chapter 1 fell way short of Hook Pacing and Readability Potential. UGH!

At least, Kay was kind enough to listen to me relate the specifics of my opening scenes. Then she graciously instructed me on how I could tweak my sentence structure and opening scenes to heighten the chapter’s Wow factor score. She also admonished me for not noting the nice little sticky-note bookmarks she had so sagely placed in the copy of The Writer’s Little Helper book by James V. Smith, Jr. she sent me two months ago. Bad me. Stupid me.

But now I’m enlightened, and after two evening of tweaking and review the stats, I’m back to having a completed and polished First Chapter ~ with good pacing and a hook!

Thanks Kay. Oh, and be sure to check out Kay’s Blog on AlienSkinMag.com for details on desirable Readability Scores and the Pacing of Scenes.

September 15, 2007

This Decandent Diversion = Handy Naming Tool

In the midst of novel writing ~ alright, alright, chapter 1 writing ~I found myself in a bind. I was deep into describing a scene when I realized I needed of a neat sounding name for an insignificant little hamlet and for a couple of incidental characters. When I flipped to my handy-dandy List of Useable People Names & Useable Place Names (as suggest by 1st Draft in 30 Days) and I faced an empty list. Neat, numbered lines ran the length of a 8 1/2 x 11 page of paper, but no list of place or people names. Of course, at that moment, my brain freezes over and nothing short of a Super Nova was going to melt it into function again. I couldn’t come up with any names whatsoever.

So what did I do?

Naturally, I surfed the Net. What better way is there for a blocked writer to obtain inspiration ~ don’t answer that, I know the Internet is not even on the bottom of the top 20 Ways to Remove Writer’s Block list.

But I surfed and I found a treasure horde of Name Generators!

You’re gonna love these. There are name generators for Being/Alien Species, Organization, Superheroes, Technology, Medieval Street NNames, Eqyptian Names

Check these out:

Seventh Sanctum
Fantasy Name Generator
Fantasy Lands
Squid.org
Serendipity
The Forge

August 18, 2007

Do Mini Research & Add Pizzazz to Your Fiction

Spice Up Your Stories ~ Add Some Foreign Flare

As writers, it is our job to wow our readers and to offer them a respite from their everyday, often very drab, lives by providing them with a new world or moment to explore through our fiction. Novel writing aside (and yes, I've put it aside again to embrace writing more short fiction), it is even more important for us short fiction writers to hone our skills in creating scenarios where our readers can glean a glimpse of what it would be like to live or work someplace else or to be someone else. This means we have to be consciously aware of creating characters outside the norm or the average person. We have to move away from the average setting, the average accouterments of the stereotypical livelihood, residence, family life, etc., and offer readers a new experience.

For instance, if I'm writing for a publication that is mainly sold in the US, I might set my story in Europe, Russia, the Mediterranean, South Africa, Australia. I might write about a character with a profession or problem unique to that local, and I would sprinkle in terminology of that location, to enhance my reader's experience. I'm sure you get the picture.

Unfortunately, as a reader, I most often encounter short stories that might possess a unique plot but feature mundane locales and a typical main character that could be even me.

While these stories are indeed getting published, they lack the wow power for me as a reader. So as a writer, now one who is delving into short works, I've challenged myself to stretch my story ideas into new directions. I spice things up as I mentioned above. While this is proving fun, it is also proving to have its own unique challenge because one can not just fall back on settings and information I've gained from watching movies, TV, or my travel experience to make my 'new settings and characters' come alive to my readers. Nor can I, or any other writer I know, jet right over to the location we want to write about. And there's where the mini research comes in.

being a natural-born and quite avid procrastinator, I've spend not hours but months honing my skill at snooping around the Web for pictures and information on the places or things I want to write about. I've also obtain quite a few Writer's Digest books on Places, Careers, and Lingo.

What's also nice about this compilation of resources I now have at my fingertips and in my 'Favorites' folder is that they are also useful in my novel writing.

For short stories though, you don't need much. You don't want to inundate readers with too much mumbo-jumbo and foreign words, names or places. They'll get distracted from the story and you'll failed to maintain their interest ~ as well as the interest of an editor.

Great References Books Must Haves:

Writer's Guide to Places by Don Prues and Jack Heffron, features places in North America & Canada

Eyewitness Travel Guide to Europe by Dan Colwell, a marvelous inside look at cities and provinces in 20 European countries, with color and aerial photos, maps, etc.

Careers for your Characters by Raymond Obstfeld, features information and jargon of 101 professions from Architecture to Zookeeper.