Changing Mediums

I’ve written on similar topics in the past, about how learning to write for the stage and the screen can sharpen your novel writing skills (and vice versa). I really can’t stress enough how well-rounded it can make you, forcing you to acknowledge setting and action in a new way.

I know as a primarily novel writer, I tend to become complacent with my fictional elements. I think I know all there is to know to establish a scene, enhance the tension, insert more writer-y lingo here. But whenever I feel like my head is getting too big for my story (or if I get incredibly stuck on a particular scene and can’t figure out the best way to play it out), I realize it’s time for a medium change.

pexels-photo-27008And that change in medium is to write it like a movie.

There are some great sites out there that can teach you how to write a screenplay (Adobe Story is one of them). That’s not what this blog is for. This is really to explain the process your mind goes through as you transfer your readers from their imagination to yours.

When you write a screenplay, your action is direct. The actor needs to know exactly how you see them in this scene – crossing to the door, dropping a plate, laughing uncontrollably.

Sometimes as writers we can get lost in the literary clutter. We try too hard sometimes to make things sound fancy when they really just need to be clear. Stripping down your work to the bare bones gives you that chance to find the skeleton of your story. Once you’re there and you know what you want your audience to see then you can spice it up.

Now the dialogue. That’s the hard part in writing a script for me. There’s not really direction tagged with the dialogue in a script, so your writing needs to make it clear to your actor how the character is feeling. They should be able to pick up on the cues of how to act through what you’re having them do.

The same should be true when you write a novel.

Gasping, crying, laughing, shrieking, murmuring – they’re all wonderful words to describe your characters voices. But are you overusing them in place of expressing those same words through other actions? What if instead of crying out, your character clenched her fists in fear? What if instead of smiling, your character felt the warm bubble in his gut that made his words drip like honey?

This is a lesson I’m learning heavily now as I edit Part 1 of my MG novel and begin writing Part 2. My writing had become stale in the last few chapters. Rather than create a detailed work of art, I had created a sketch, a rendering, of what I wanted my audience to see.

That’s not good enough for me.

Practically, I’ve just transferred my work from a Word Doc into Scrivener by scene. As much as it pains me to do, I’m going to go back, scene by scene, and mentally write my story into a script. Break it down to build it back up.

It’s going to be a painful process, and honestly, I’m going to hate most of it – does anyone really love editing? – but if it produces a better story in the end, I believe it will be worth it.

~Taylor

Let’s Talk About Love Triangles

Is it just me, or is it not YA if it doesn’t have a love triangle (or rectangle, or trapezoid if you’re Cassandra Clare)?

I think the first successful love triangle that sparked this whole theme was The Hunger Games trilogy. Since then, almost every YA novel I’ve read has had some version of this. And quite frankly, I’m getting tired of it.

Very few times does it work in favor of the story. Usually it’s just to add tension. But writers, let’s not get lazy. There are other ways to add tension than make the main character have feelings for multiple boys or girls or both with opposing characteristics.

Oh, he’s so sensitive and really understands me. But he’s a rebel and pulls me out of my comfort zone.

Why do we have to define our characters by their relationships when we fight against this so hard in real life? Can’t the main guy or gal go through their story fueled by something else?

Believe me, I’m not downplaying love at all. Love is wonderful. I’m married and I absolutely adore my husband.

But I also didn’t have a boyfriend the first 20-something years of my life and I survived. Quite well, actually. Because you know what I was driven by?

Myself.

My dreams. My goals. My passions.

Can’t our characters have those, too? And can’t they be inspired by something other than a significant other?

I don’t know. Maybe I’m just crazy. Anyone else out there feel this way?

~Taylor

Rejecting Rejection

Life is funny sometimes. I planned out my blog posts at the beginning of January, and for today I wrote:

Life Update
-What’s going on in life (EG Update?)
-Talk about experiencing rejection

I think initially I just wanted to throw down a couple ideas because I was already running out of them (planning blog posts is not my favorite thing, surprisingly), but little did I know those words would mean so much more.

I applied to the Elizabeth George Grant for New Writers (that’s the EG Update reference above) last June. Since, I’ve made it to the second round, have spoken with some lady in their office, emailed with Elizabeth George herself (I assume it was her, anyway), and have waited patiently for the snail mail process they insist on using. You could ask for any amount of money through this grant, though of course you have to show writing samples and defend your request for x number of dollars.

pexels-photo-209641Remember when you applied for college (or watched nearly any movie where the character applies for college), and you knew before you opened the envelope if you got in or not? Skinny envelope equaled rejection, fat envelope equaled acceptance.

Last Friday I got a skinny envelope.

To say I was crushed would be an understatement. After I cried for an unseemly amount of time, I remember laying on the floor, staring at the wall while my dog snuck kisses in an attempt to cheer me up.

I’ll be honest, I thought I was going to get it. If not the “it” I requested, at least some of it. I mean, I at least assumed I’d make the $25 back I spent applying to the competition.

But alas, the $25 and who knows how much I spent in postage was never to be repaid.

If you’ve ever experienced rejection as a writer, you know how crippling it can be. While the letter or email or phone call may just be a simple “no,” writers hear

You aren’t good enough. black-and-white-person-woman-girl

You’re not right for this.

Do something else with your time.

Or much worse.

I know all that and more ran through my head Friday evening.

But then my husband reminded me of something. Sometimes the plan we make is not the story that’s being written. Don’t get me wrong, I would have LOVED having graduate school paid for. I mean seriously, no debt? Yes, please!

When I write a story, my goal is to make my character’s desires as hard to achieve as possible. What is a story without conflict? What is life without a little rejection? You have to experience the downs in order to appreciate the ups.

And boy did I have an up today.

It was a small up to most people, but huge to me.

I’ve been emailing my professors (I just finished graduate school you guys!) for letters of recommendation, when I received a response from my favorite professor to date. In short, his words were that I beat him to the punch. He had already written me a letter of recommendation before I even asked and said that he is sure I will find success in both writing and teaching.

I think my heart exploded in that moment.

I did not receive a glowing email from Elizabeth George asking me how many zeros to put on my check. I did not make back my $25 and change. I did not get to write an overly excited blog post to you all about how they renamed the Elizabeth George Grant after me.

But what I do have is a champion in my corner. I have people who believe in me. I have people who know without a doubt that I am a writer, grant money or not.

I can’t tell you how important it is to reject rejection. Maybe the rejection leads you to revision, and that’s totally cool. It’s quite normal, actually. Rejecting rejection is not allowing it to keep you on the floor, paralyzed while your dog licks your face. Rejecting rejection is saying “Okay, thank you for your time,” picking up your things, and moving on.

Because no one can stop you but you.

~Tay

 

Short Stories Are My Kryptonite

Oh, short stories. How I loathe thee.

I don’t like to write them. I usually don’t like to read them (I can count the short stories I actually enjoy on one hand). And yet, somehow, I have to publish them in order to get this thing called a “following” in order to get this thing called an “agent” in order to get this thing called a “book deal.”

So if you’re anything like me and don’t want to touch short stories with a ten foot pole, here are some ways around writing them.

pen_and_paper

Write Flash Fiction
I’ll be covering this in more detail next week. But here’s the beauty of flash fiction: where a novel is a cross-country drive and a short story is a day trip, flash fiction is like a high speed car chase that zooms past you and is gone. It’s wonderful. Try it.

Write Backstory for Your Characters
You get to write a short story AND work on character development all in one! You’re welcome.

Take it From Concept to Concrete
This is just about the only way I can write a short story. First, I think of the concept I want to drive home with my readers (ex: heartbreak, illness, love vs. power, etc.). And then I let my mind drift. Whatever it happens to land upon, I try to make it work into a story. If it doesn’t, then I lather, rinse, repeat, until I get it right. This method is not for those in a time crunch. Sometimes I’ll spend a week on a concept just to toss it out the window in vain.

The main thing to remember as you struggle with your short story (because struggle you will) is that there is no harm in scrapping the whole dang thing and starting over. That doesn’t make you a bad writer. That makes you a bad short story writer.

Just kidding. I think I was supposed to end that last one with human.

2-chocolate20chip20cookies-anne20peterson-flickr

Regardless, I don’t know of any writer who can whip out short stories like place and bake cookies. So what if it takes you longer than most. The end result is still the same. (Side note: you’re welcome for the cookie pic. Now you’re craving some, amiright?)

What short story are you currently working on? I’d love to read/critique any. Just give me a shout in the comments below!

~Tay

 

2017 Goals

new-year-new-goals

Like every other slacker in the blogosphere, 2017 equals a new me, which means more organization, more success, and more blog posts. Yay for you!

I wanted to kick off this new year with something totally unique – my writing/blogging goals.

Really the main reason I’m telling you this is so you can perhaps come up with something similar and *key word here* achievable. And let’s be real, maybe, just maybe, if I write it down and make it public I’ll actually stick to it.

So without further ado…

Blog Goals
-Consistently write two posts a week. The beginning of the month I will outline ALL blog posts for that month. (Guess who’s starting out strong? This girl!)
-Teach myself ways to increase blog traffic through other social media outlets and actually keep up with it. (Today I started learning how to utilize Pinterest to direct traffic back to my blog. Quick revelation: all social media exists to point Internet users to other social media. What happened to just having MySpace?)
-Don’t try so hard to please everyone.

Writing Goals
-Submit two new short stories to at least ten potential literary journals each month. (I’m about a quarter of the way to this goal for January already!)
-Find an agent for my current almost-finished middle-grade novel, The Gatekeepers. (This goal has several sub goals that I won’t bore you with. They include finishing editing, beta readers, more editing, etc.)

I usually hate committing to goals (I don’t like the saying “New Year’s Resolutions), but since I’m about to graduate with my masters (YASSSS January 9th!!) I think it’s time to stop resisting and get serious about my writing career. Who’s with me! What are your goals for this year?

~Liz

NaNoWriMo 2016: Day 1

First off, no, I am not going to write a blog post every day. Sorry not sorry, ain’t nobody got time for that.

But I will be writing every day, I’ve just decided. Whether I work on my thesis novel or a short story, I will get some words down on digital paper.

That being said, what are your goals for NaNoWriMo? I’m a big fan of writing down your goals and breaking them down into bite sized, achievable chunks. So while I’ve only just decided to participate in NaNoWriMo in some facet, here are my improvised goals for you to hold me accountable on:

  1. Write at least 500 words a day. – Reward: a feeling of accomplishment and maybe one of those mini Reese’s in the fridge.
  2. Write at least 2 blog posts per week. – Reward: nothing, because I should already be doing this.
  3. Write at least 3 short stories this month. – Reward: buy a book I’ve been wanting, because short stories are the worst and I need to entice myself to write them.

I’ve written before about rewarding yourself, so make sure you do that this month as you type or scribble away furiously.

And for a little inspiration, here are a few NaNoWriMo authors like yourself who got their work published:

  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  • Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  • Wool by Hugh Howey
  • The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough
  • CinderScarlet, and Cress by Marissa Meyer

If you want to read more about these books, click here.

Have fun this month, friends, and break a pencil!

~Liz

A Faerie Tale

Of all the things I’m about to tell you, only one is a lie. I can’t tell you which, because 1) that wouldn’t be fun, and 2) that’s the whole point of a lie, you’re not supposed to recognize it. See, you don’t even know me and already I have a winning personality. Okay, here goes:

I was ten years old when my parents were murdered. I was also ten years old when everyone thought I did it. Everyone includes my grandma (who I’ve since learned has never liked me, by the way), my psychologist, my social worker, and my attorney. Yes, even my attorney thought I was guilty. That’s probably why we lost the case and I’m in solitary confinement for the rest of my life. But this isn’t news to you.

Still, you’re probably thinking a few things right now, like How can all of those people be wrong? and Is that even legal? Well, to answer your questions, I don’t know, but they are, and I don’t know, but I’m here.

Now, I am no longer the cute ten-year-old chubby kid with glasses who supposedly hacked his parents up, Lizzie Borden style. Granted I apparently used garden shears instead of an axe, but I don’t have access to an axe, and I don’t think Lizzie had access to garden shears. We child murderers have to use what we can, am I right? Sorry, that wasn’t funny.

Now, I am a scruffy, still overweight (but it’s no longer cute), shaggy haired twenty-four year old, who has been such a gem in solitary confinement that they are considering, considering, letting me play with the big boys. That is, I might have a roommate and bars instead of a toilet and solid walls. But you don’t really care about that, do you?

You’re probably also wondering how I got in this huge mess to begin with. It’s all rather stupid, really, and it’s all because of the faeries.

Now you know why no one believed me.

Research faeries in folklore. You’ll realize that NONE of them are Tinkerbell and ALL of them are assholes. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

*          *          *

            Done? Okay, glad you agree. So these dumb faeries can only be seen by children. I’ve explained who they are and how they work in my testimony, which I’m sure you’ve already listened to, considering the circumstances. But I want to tell you more.

They used to follow me all the time as a kid. Taunting me, making me trip, knocking off my glasses, because it wasn’t enough for just the kids at school to be real asses. I had to be terrorized by European folklore, too. Oh, by the way, I’m British, but I live in America. Long story. Maybe you know it already.

Anyway, faeries don’t look like they do in the cartoons and whatever. They look like normal people, but with red eyes, and no, they don’t have wings. If you’re thinking, man, that sounds kind of like a demon, then I would say, where the hell were you at my trial fourteen years ago? Maybe a straight headed person like yourself would have voted no on the whole “prison for life” sentence.

So, imagine a ten-year-old loner, who most definitely got picked last for gym every damn day, being followed around by a squad of demon faeries. Not exactly the ideal life.

You would probably assume that this kid told someone, right? I mean, he’s scared all the time, he can’t sleep at night, can’t eat (how was I so chubby then? I inherited a shitty metabolism.), surely he shared his fears. You’re damn right I did, sane or not. I told my grandma, but it turns out that she’s so deaf she didn’t hear a word I said. The conversation went something like this:

“Hey grandma, can I talk to you?”

“What?” (I realize now she was saying What? like, What I can’t hear you? Instead of What do you want you annoying brat?)

“I think I’m being haunted.”

“Oh, that sounds nice dear.”

“No, grandma. HAUNTED. I’m scared.”

“Is this from a…what do you kids call them? A TEE-VEE show?”

“No grandma, I’m serious.”

“Well, okay honey, whatever you want.”

So I told her my story and I thought to myself, Hey, this could work. Grandma doesn’t think I’m crazy. And so I went on my merry way only to realize after she testified against me that she thought I was a lunatic, and whatever story she heard is NOWHERE near the one I told her. In her version I admitted to being the spawn of Satan (pretty sure I said the “faeries be hatin,’” but who knows), along with other things that NO TEN YEAR OLD would ever do.

Sorry for the all caps, I’m just really emotional.

But even though I couldn’t talk to my parents about this little faerie dilemma, I couldn’t totally rag on them. (Mostly, sure.) They did eventually realize something was wrong. I wasn’t the best kid. I had…have ADD. I once painted a mural across our living room wall just because I was bored and mum and dad were too busy to entertain my six-year-old self. And there was one other time, but I swear it was just the once, where I streaked naked across the front yard. I made it halfway to my neighbor’s house before my dad tackled me and took me screaming inside. My reasoning then was that I was hot, and the only way to cool down was to be in the buff and run around like a madman to force the stale air into a sort of wind. These didn’t exactly play into my favor with the “I can see faeries and I swear I didn’t do it” argument. And apparently saying “I swear” repeatedly in court as a ten-year-old doesn’t make my testimony iron clad.

So like I was saying, when my parents realized that there was something more going on with me than being a hyperactive little shit, they sent me to a shrink (think of the person you hate most, now imagine that person giving you life advice), and bumped up my medication. Have you ever seen an ADD kid on twice the amount of medication normally prescribed to him? They have a name for those kids, and it’s “zombie.” I was in a daze. Could barely lift a pencil to write let alone some gardening utensils to murder my full-grown parents. But according to the prosecutor or whatever his name was, I quit taking my meds days before the incident. Not true. I may have forgotten once or twice, but I promise you that the second the light came back on in my little squinty eyeballs, my mum and dad were shoving more pills down my throat. I can’t blame them. I shouldn’t blame them. Okay, maybe I do blame them, just a little bit. But I didn’t want them to die. That would be drastic.

Back to my story… None of it worked, of course (the shrink and medication, I’m off my meds now and am trying the holistic route. Eating more veggies and taking my vitamins, but I don’t think it’s working.). There was this incident. The defining incident, I think, when my parents contemplated putting me in a nuthouse. I remember eating a bowl of oatmeal one morning while my parents were sitting at the table with me. One of the faeries came up behind me and shoved my face right into the bowl. I picked oatmeal from my nose for days. What did my parents do? Cleaned off my face and sat me in a corner to think about what I did. What I did. What I did? You see the injustice here, don’t you? Meanwhile that asshole faerie just sat in my seat and laughed. I just tried not to cry (tried being the key word here). I heard them whispering later while I was washing the mush off my face that they were this close, this close, to giving up. It didn’t feel the best, I’ll tell you that. But they’re my parents. Were my parents. I have to love them, right?

It wasn’t long after that the faeries started to get violent. Like really violent. Like occasionally suffocating me in my sleep type of violent. But on the bright side of being the only one to see them, they couldn’t kill me. They could bring me close to it, sure, but they couldn’t push me over the edge. Perks of being a child.

I guess that’s why they went for my parents instead.

Look, let me pause here to say that I don’t expect you to believe me. I just kind of hoped you of all people would at least understand me, even if you don’t believe me. I just need someone to understand. I didn’t do it. I mean, you had to have heard crazier stories than this, right?

But on the other hand, if you’re wondering why the faeries suddenly went from pranksters to murderers, I can explain that quite easily. Now, I was only ten, mind you, so don’t judge me or anything. I was pretty desperate at this point. I went to a public library and found some books on witchcraft, the art of the séance, that type of stuff. Obviously I didn’t check any of it out, because who in their right mind would let a ten-year-old do that? But I read all the books and took notes. A librarian caught me hiding in a back corner once. She thought I was up to something bad, which I guess I was. She saw what I was reading and took the books away and made me go home. That librarian later testified against me in court as a demonic little brat who ruined the Dewey decimal system. So I guess that actually backs up grandma’s “spawn of Satan” crap.

But by that point I knew enough to get started. I referenced my notes, lit my candles, and tried to summon some sort of spirit to take control of the faeries. Of course it didn’t work. Not even a little bit. But, it did piss off some already uptight red-eyed freaks. This is when they decided to kill my parents (granted, this is an assumption, but it happened the next day so I feel pretty confident about it).

I feel like I need to repeat myself here for clarification. I won’t be surprised or upset or really feel anything at all if you don’t believe me. I just know you’ve helped some other people out in similar situations. If they were willing to try me again in court, I wouldn’t mind it. I’d welcome it, actually. I’m kind of hoping that if you write my story for my point of view, the full story, not the bits and pieces most journalists print, they might take up my case again.

So while you’re sitting there in your morning meeting, accepting assignments on the rising price of gas and the teacher strike at Ashburger Elementary, think about the opportunity I’m offering you. You. No one else.

And if that’s not enough to convince you, let me ask you this: Do you know what it’s like to wake up holding a pair of bloody garden shears, your fingerprints clearly visible, and a faerie hovering over your head, a red-stained finger to its lips? Do you know what it’s like to stumble, sleepy and shivering, to your parents bedroom and see them hacked to pieces? Pieces. Did you get that? You don’t know what it’s like. Just as you don’t know what it’s like to wake up every day to four white walls, knowing you are innocent but unable to prove it. (Look at that, I already wrote your first paragraph for you. It’s catchy, isn’t it?)

I digress. So what do you say? Will you help me out?