ON WRITING

“It’s very easy to quit during the first ten years of writing. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.” Andre Dubus

Monday, 31 October 2011

Elizabeth Mueller's Darkspell launch - October 31 - SPOOKFESTA - "If I had all the magic in the world, I would..."


To celebrate the publication of Elizabeth Mueller's novel, Darkspell, on October 31 (groovy timing!) I'm helping spread the word by joining Elizabeth's Darkspell Launch Spookfesta.


All I have to do is finish a sentence and post a photo:

As Elizabeth says: I'd love to christen Darkspell by brewing up an online "If I had all the magic in the world, I'd ..." spookfesta. On Halloween day and just for fun, post a photograph of *what you'd do with your magic, and share with me what you'd do if you discovered that you had all the magic in the world at your fingertips. Create world peace? Turn the ocean into ice cream? Fly to the moon? The universe is the limit--oops, actually, there are no limits.


So, here is my entry. Well, it's a bit of a no brainer, right? We'd all love a bit of that magic, er, money the often-corrupt 'fat cats' have but use for their own self gratification. We all think we'd be different if we were in their shoes and would actually bring about change, wouldn't we? Well, we'd like to try and today Elizabeth has given us the opportunity to change the world - with magic.

So..."If I had all the magic in the world, I'd...feed all the hungry in the world, give them comfortable homes and pay off everyone's mortgages before the banks reclaim them. Then I'd set up governments that actually practised democracy so we didn't fall down the abyss of shame again. While I was at it, I'd wave my magic wand so all disease would disappear from earth and revive the degraded and poisoned soil and oceans so the world population could enjoy a long and happy life. Because everyone has their needs met, that aggressive gene will be recessed and world peace can be achieved. We will all live in harmony, putting aside our racial, religious and political differences." 

With thanks to FreakinNews.com.
Not that I'm saying it's up to America to feed/change the world,
but this is the best pic I found that says what I want...
Wouldn't that be a strange world? Am I an impossible dreamer?
I'm glad Elizabeth has such a powerful magic wand. I've been waiting such a long time to wave it around! Thanks Elizabeth and may your Darkspell weave its magic over all of us...

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. The same wherever we come from!
  • Even if you're not participating in Elizabeth/s blogfest, in the comments, tell us what you would do if you had all the magic in the world...please...what have I missed out?







Thursday, 27 October 2011

#RomanticFridayWriters challenge - Haunting - My story, 'Love Stories Suck.'


This being the closest posting to Halloween, Romantic Friday Writers chose the theme, Haunting, for stories/poems this week. So if you're into the paranormal, horror, a bit of scary, or just stories of haunting memories, you'll enjoy reading 400 word posts this weekend. Maybe you've still got time to grab an extract from your scary WIP or pen a story or poem especially for the challenge. Linky doesn't close for 3 days.

My story is one I'd started several months ago when I was experimenting with paranormal. For this week's theme, I've re-crafted it as a fun piece. I've deliberately used cliches so don't get upset about that. Occasionally I long to break the 'no cliches' rule, don't you? 

Hope you enjoy 'Love Stories Suck.'


When you’ve lived on this earth for 400+ years you crave excitement. I was done with sleeping all day in a dark room, hiding from the sun, waking up to microwaved blood. What’s a vamp to do all century? Haunt the streets?
I slammed the hotel door and sashayed along Montmarte’s glitter strip, my current Parisian suburb of interest. Next to Moulin Rouge, I saw it: ‘A VENDRE’. My synapses zapped.
I’d accumulated a tidy sum in 400 years. Compound interest compounded, so before you could say ‘I need blood’ I owned a business.
The little bar was perfect, vamp chic – blood-red carpet, black walls, red bar, black furniture. Suited my little black er, heart. The pictures clinched the deal – horror-movie posters.
Now I didn’t have to prowl the mean streets at night.  

‘Ya not going to run this place all by yaself, are ya?’
I turned from admiring my Dracula poster and it was like, wow! Flowing black tresses, lush curves poured into a little black dress. Tasty.
‘You offering to help?’
“Ya, moi, who else d’ya see?’
‘You know bar work? You look, like, twelve. ID?’ I was only kidding but she whipped out the plastic.
‘Looks can be deceiving. You look, like, nineteen.’ She winked.
I flipped the ID back to her. Fake as, who cared? I want this girl-child.
‘What d’ya think? I been working bars for many a year. Know some tricks.’
‘It’s not that kind of bar. It’ll be a clean operation.’
‘What’s that?’
‘Drink, tapas, music…’
‘Boring as. But I can be boring if ya want.’
 ‘What’s your name?’ I asked, taking her hand. ‘I’m Drack Kulah.’
‘Really?’
‘Really.’
‘Well I’m Ruby Black, but go by -’
‘Snow White?’
‘Right on. Hilaarrious. So, whatcha think?’
‘You’re hired. No funny business or you’ll be out on your pretty butt.’
‘My butt’s pretty?’ She twirled, black lacy dress flowing like waves, revealing a tantalizing glimpse of shapely snow-white leg and a flash of lacy knickers. Pity she wore Doc Marten’s.
‘You want stilettos, you got stilettos,’ she smirked, ‘but that’s not all I got.’ She sidled up.

Who needs to go hunting? She was mine, right here, right now.
I took her in my steel-like arms, going for the jugular, then…wow! She had no throbbing pulse! That was that. Of course I knew the minute she walked in...

At least one female in the bar's out of temptation’s way.


***

WORD COUNT: 404
Critique: MPA (Minor Points Acceptable) 



Go here for more stories...





Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Haunting - your invitation to write a 400-word story or poem this Friday 28.

Romantic Friday Writers, a weekly on-going blogfest run by L'Aussie and Francine Howarth, has an open challenge to everyone to write a 400-word story or poem on the theme Haunting for Friday 28 October. Well, er, that might just have something to do with Halloween?


What haunts you? Do you have a story or poem in the paranormal genre you could share, do ghosts or zombies inhabit your universe? Or do you have a character who is just plain haunted by what has happened in the past? Release your creative juices and pen a tasty banquet for the feast on Friday. Just remember to have an element of romance present in some form...

How do you enter your story?

  • Click here to go to the Romantic Friday Writers' website
  • Submit your direct story link to the linky (linky is now up here!)
  • Tweet using #RFWer to tell the twitterverse you've posted (optional) or post on facebook etc...
  • Find some time over the Halloween weekend to read other stories. What better way to spend the weekend while you suck on trick or treat candies?
  • If you're a member, your story is automatically up for Featured Writer, Runner Up or an Encouragement Award. If you're not a member, you're welcome to join - it's free! Remember, you don't have to be a member to post this week or any week!
Please join us! We'll have fun!

Happy Writing!

Spread the word! You're welcome to copy/paste this post to your blog! Tweet, facebook it too!






Friday, 21 October 2011

#RomanticFridayWriters challenge no 24 - My story, 'Whispers.'

Romantic Friday Writers is a blogfest every Friday co-ordinated by myself and Francine Howarth. It is a fun event, showcasing the work of many fine writers of romantic flash fiction or poetry under 400 words. Click on the icon in my sidebar or the link at the end of my post to check out others participating today or join the blogfest yourself. You will be most welcome. We are also found on twitter. We are @RFWER A winner is awarded the recognition of being the week's Featured Writer.



When I considered the theme, Whispers, I thought straightaway of the Brisbane floods and the many tragic stories that unfolded. Here is my story. All expressions and words are in Australian English.

Her heart pounded at the steady drumbeat on the roof. Sunny had never heard rain like it. She was not given to fear but tonight the sounds unnerved her. The whispers of wet leaves blowing on the wind had become a roaring as the galvanized roof took a pummeling.
She thought of Matt. She wished she’d not been so abrupt when he’d rung.
‘Sunny, get out of there!’
‘I’m not leaving my home for some itty-bitty water. I’ve been through worse. We’ve never been flooded.’
‘Don’t be infantile. I might be thousands of kilometers away but it’s looking pretty grim according to the BBC. I can do the math. Our house will be under by metres!’
‘Darling, you’re such a worry wart. It goes with the territory. Nice of you to be so concerned but last time I looked the river was way down. The weather reports never get it right.’
‘You’re so stubborn. Does that go with the territory? I’m sending Josh over.’
‘Don’t waste your time darling. Josh’s already been. I told him I’m staying. I’m a big girl.’
Was that a catch she heard in Matt’s voice as he spoke his final words to her?
‘I love you Sunny. I can’t live without you. Leave for me and the baby if you won’t do it for you.’
She hadn’t listened. Now it was too late.

Sunny pottered around the kitchen fixing a snack, anything to keep her mind off the now raging water. She was afraid to go too near the windows in case they shattered. She could just make out palm trees straining in the gathering gloom, fronds swiping the ground in long wet trails.She sat at the kitchen table rubbing her stomach, whispering to the little soul inside. 
She shivered in the icy coolness. She pulled her parka over her jeans, leaving it unzipped. Baby, you’re so big…
Snack pushed aside, she huddled in her chair, alert to the river sounds. ‘Matt, my darling, I love you,’ she whispered, ‘I’m sorry.’
Crack! A palm tree speared her kitchen window, shattering shards of skittering glass pinged on the tiles. Rain poured in.
‘Help me God,’ she whispered, clutching her stomach.
The phone. 
‘Run!’ Matt shouted down the line. ‘Get the ladder and climb into the roof!’
Water crashed through the kitchen door and swirled around her feet.
She began to climb as the first pain struck.

***

I hope you enjoyed my story. To read more #RFWer stories go here. 
Word Count: 400
FCA - positive criticism welcomed.

©DeniseCovey2011






Thursday, 13 October 2011

NaNoWriMo Dreaming - Writing Chapter One. Is your writing honest, original, brave?

 Due to a family wedding which lasted for 4 days I've not posted for a week so here I am again. About time eh? Now that the Big Day is over, my thoughts are turning to November which to me and many others means ...

NaNoWriMo is only a few weeks away. How did it sneak up so quickly? My wayward thoughts have been turning to writing Chapter One of my third novel. I'll share some of my research with you today. I've used bits and pieces from here and there and my own experience, but some ideas come from articles gleaned from Writer's Digest, a fabulous writer's magazine. Get it! Online or on paper.

I wrote my first two novels during previous NaNoWriMo's but this time I hope to go in on November 1 with a few more tools in my writer's tool belt.

Agents and editors make us quiver and sweat over Chapter One - 'Grab me from the opening sentence! Don't waste one word! If my attention flags, you've failed! (WD,Jan11).

Lately I've been hearing - don't even start at Chapter One, start somewhere else. You're sure to trash Chapter One somewhere along the way, why not now? I feel this way about Chapter One of my first novel. I just can't get happy with it! Should I send it to the trash basket?

I read that all agents and editors are searching for a story that is honest, original, brave. Can this be you?

I've collated some of my findings on writing Chapter One for you under sub-headings, being the good little teacher that I am.

1.RESIST THE TERROR - get going! - outline
I say don't expect to get it right/perfect the first time, just get it written! To produce work that has those three aspects above, you have to open up room for mistakes and mediocrity. Then tap into your wild, free core. Start with the good and the bad. Get rid of the bad later. What to do about the ugly? Well,definitely in the trash, or maybe not...

Think about your answers to these questions below. Write them down and come back to them when you're in the doldrums (what I call Middle Earth, the middle of the novel.)
  • Why are you writing this book? 
  • What is it about? 
  • What purpose will it serve? 
Look who's talking, me, the Pantser herself, but I'm told - if you haven't outlined, consider doing so. Even the roughest, most rustic framework will give you a sharper eye for your beginning, and again, will help unfetter your mind. Well, my outline is always very rustic and I hardly ever refer to it, but oh well, my mother trained me to do what I was told...

2. DECIDE ON TENSE AND POV

All readers care about is the story, they're not thinking about the tense and POV as they nose into your novel, but uh oh, they'll notice if you mix tenses or head hop or change POV with no markers. I'm told that young readers like first person present. Interesting? I quite like it myself, but my Internet Age is pretty adolescent!

3. WHERE TO START? CHOOSE A NATURAL STARTING POINT

Write your way into the story. Think about real life. any significant episode in your own life did not spring whole from nothing, things happened beforehand that shaped it, and things happened afterwards as a result.

In your novel, your characters have pasts and futures, places do too. Every oral storyteller jumps into his story midstream.

Pay attention to the best-selling authors. Do they clog up Chapter One with lots of backstory? I think not as a general rule. Get into the action, leaving backstory to be filled in later. I've been deconstructing some of my favourite books, taking notes on just this. They usually mix it up!

4. PRESENT A STRONG CHARACTER RIGHT AWAY

In Chapter One, establish your main character's situation. What do they know at the beginning? What will they learn going forward? What does their world mean to them?

Who is the strongest character in your story? Sometimes major characters get taken over by minor characters. This is the fun of writing. Sometimes it feels like you're trailing behind your characters jotting down the things they do and think. Maybe they sneak up on you from around a corner and catch you by surprise. They can both alarm you and surprise you, but make sure they're never dull.

5. BE SPARING OF SETTING

Don't set in too much depth at the beginning of your story. Some marvellous best-selling authors like Pat Conroy can get away with pages of descriptions of cities such as Atlanta, but Conroy always interjects an interesting character within the setting. His descriptions are never boring, well, anyway, not to me. We lesser mortals need a cursory intro but it can still be poignant like Conroy's. We can fill in gaps later. Just give your readers a basic feel for the setting at the start of your novel.

But like Conroy, show how the character feels about the setting.

6. USE CAREFULLY CHOSEN DETAIL TO CREATE IMMEDIACY

Move your story along economically but don't be vague, not ever. On the other hand, if the details serve the story you can't have too much. You know the oldie - if it's not moving the story along, why do you need it?

7. GIVE IT A MINI PLOT

Every chapter has its own plot. I like to map out a beginning, middle and ending for each chapter, more like writing in scenes.

Here are some Points on Plot within Chapter One. You may not find all applicable to your novel, but you may take away one or two:
  • Make trouble. 
  • Put in a lot of conflict early. 
  • Pick your trouble and make it big, then bigger. Create an ominous atmosphere.
  • Focus on action - bring action forward, get it going quick smart!
  • Start your story in the middle
  • Put backstory to the back, give juicy right away.
  • Violence works
  • Give complexity, layers, surprise shifts
  • Be decisive - make characters take decisive actions, don't waffle about.
  • End Chapter One with some closure that becomes deliciously false.
8. BE BOLD (and honest, original, brave...)
  • Put your best material out there.
  • Present with flourish. 
  • Don't hold back. 
  • Set your tone and own it. 
  • Create a great appetiser for your readers and follow up well.
Happy writing of Chapter One, whether for NaNoWriMo or at your own pace...

  • Do you have any hints for us as we begin Chapter One?
  • Do you have any suggestions on how to tackle Middle Earth syndrome?




Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Insecure Writers Support Group. Are you caught up in a frenzy of editing? Here are some common mistakes not to make....


Instead of being a sniveller, I thought I might write something helpful this month. I aimed this post at mainly newbie writers as the rest of us know all there is about editing, right? Right!

If you get to the end of the first draft you've already done what many others only talk about doing - you've written a novel! 
(Jessica Strawser, ed. Writer's Digest)
A lot of us are using the 'I'm busy editing' line to duck blogfests, avoid cooking meals or loading the dishwasher and myriad other demands on our writing time, but there are many beginning writers out there who must wonder what all this 'editing' is about. As one who is busy 'editing' my first and second novels and working on collating a short story collection before I begin writing my third novel during NaNoWriMo, I've picked up a few hints from Critique Partners and how-to books that I'd like to share with the new kids on the block, er, blog, like an quick Editing 101 course.

REVISION AND SELF-EDITING (hey, try these before you send your little darlings off to your Beta Readers and Critique Partners...)

1.  Please don't use two words if one will do. I have a penchant, a tendency to do this:
                 Example: Lexie stared at the horrible, slithering mass of snakes.
                 Try: Lexie stared at the writhing mass of snakes.

2. Use Active Voice (this drives your prose like a Formula One machine.) I have an overwhelming preference for Passive Voice, a pedestrian crime I must discontinue.
                  Example: There were a great number of dead bodies lying on the ground.
                  Try: Dead bodies littered the ground.

3.  Be careful of Parallel Construction - making sure your verb tenses, uniting phrases and whatnot are aligned. Don't forget the Rule of Three (well, that excellent on-going blogfest too!.)
                   Example: The vampire bared his teeth and then, raising his claws to sharpen them, he stood licking his chops.  'Gotcha!' he said with a grin.
                   Try: The vampire bared his teeth, sharpened his claws and licked his chops*. 'Gotcha!" he said with a grin. (*Nice use of Rule of Three.)

4.  Replace adjectives and adverbs with vivid nouns and active verbs (strong verbs, concrete nouns)
                    Example: Since the day Merrie met the werewolf, she felt very scared and frightened.
                    Try: Since the day she met the werewolf, terror haunted Merrie's heart.

5.  Adverbs (someone's always complaining about adverbs but you'll find them in bestsellers constantly, lol.)
                     Example: Daisy looked longingly and lovingly at the chocolate.
                     Try: Daisy looked at the chocolate with longing and love, or:
                            Daisy's eyes consumed the chocolate. (I like this one!)

6.  Don't explain. Leave something to the reader's imagination. (I've had to edit this type of editorialising out of whole mss. I wouldn't like anyone to miss my little clues...)
                      Example: 'I'm sorry,' Peter said consolingly.
                      Use: 'I'm sorry,' Peter said. ('Said' is practically invisible.Use it a lot, I say.)

7. Don't overuse punctuation marks, especially exclamation marks!!! You can do a search through your document to highlight all your exclamation marks (or whatever is your favourite demon - maybe you like to show off by using semi-colons occasionally or a lot!), take a look then delete most of them. Your writing will flow much better.) That said, I get breathless reading when there's too few commas!

8.  Don't keep using your characters' names when they are in conversation with each other. We don't do this in everyday conversation my friend and your dialogue must be realistic my friend. Your friend would be irritated if you spoke like this:
                       'Hi Angelique, how are you today? Well Angelique I'm having a terrible day. What have you been doing Angelique?' and so on. Hello, are we afraid we'll forget her name or something? 
I confess my first Critique Partner picked up my tendency to do just this, erk! Using the character's name can be a good way to avoid having to use so many 'he saids,' 'she saids,' but it gets irritating.                

9.  Write like Twentieth Century Fox - think visually, creatively. (Treat your book like a movie with scenes. I wrote a post on this in another life. Those guys/gals in Hollywood and beyond know a thang or two or three.)

                       A quote from Eddy Peters on this: Not only does the English language borrow words from other languages, it sometimes chases them down dark alleys, hits them over the head and goes through their pockets. (Remind you of Stephen King's writing?)

10. Remember if your first line, first paragraph or first page doesn't catch an editor's attention, you're wasting your time revising, so check that:

                        - The first line of your novel immediately creates questions for your reader and puts something at stake - your hook.
                         - Your protagonist must make choices. Create conflict.
                         - Try to save backstory for later. Don't interrupt your opening scenes with backstory.
  • I hope you gleaned something new from what are quite common writing 'mistakes.' Just keep an open mind. Remember thought, when it comes to English, rules are made to be broken
  • Can you share any editing helps with our new kids in the blogosphere?.Please share in the comments.
Click here to read more posts for Insecure Writers Support Group, brainchild of Alex J Cavanaugh. The members post the first Wednesday of every month and you might find questions you can answer or help for your particular problem.