Planning For #NaNoWriMo: Plotting with Tarot

Koscej Nesmrtni by Ivan BilibinThis will be my third adventure into National Novel Writing Month. My first two were “wins” as in I wrote 50,000 words in 30 days, however, they have stayed in their not-quite-fully-realized draft state since their conception and that is not what I hope for this year’s novel.

Like my very first novel, this idea somewhat landed on my doorstep. Well, more like it showed up for my dad in the garage. I’ve been thinking about it for months and it has turned into a twisted saga of super-fun proportions.

Because it has more twists and turns, characters and settings than my previous work, I wanted to approach it in a new way. I have decided to add a little more plotting to my plantser and try something completely out of my element.

Plotting your novel using the Tarot

Before last week, I had never had a Tarot deck; I had no idea what any of the cards meant and I would have never imagined using the cards. However, I was reading Jumpstart Your Novel by Mark Teppo which talked about plotting with the Tarot and my writing buddy was talking about using Mapping the Hero’s Journey With Tarot: 33 Days To Finish Your Book by Arwen Lynch to plan her NaNoWriMo novel, so I came up with an idea.

I found printable color your own tarot cards on Tarot Taxi and decided to create my own tarot deck. I love symbolism and as I go through the month, using the cards to plot my novel, I plan to artistically collage them with my own imagery.

If you’re not interested in coloring and creating your own cards and would like to buy a deck, you may want to look at some of these Tarot cards.

To learn the meanings and interpretations of my cards, I went to Psychic Library.com while I waited for some library books that I put on hold.

Making the cards

Making the hanged man

What I used:

printed black and white card images
scissors
glue sticks
a ruler
a pencil
scrapbook papers
decorative sticker paper

I cut a selection of scrapbook papers to 1/2″ larger than the tarot images on all four sides then cut out and glued the images onto the papers. I let the images choose which paper design worked best with them.

For the laminated backing I chose to cut different portions of Victor Bilibin’s painting of a Knight who hacked off the heads of a three headed dragon. I love the colors and had a bunch of stickers to recycle.

hanged man back

I watched some YouTube videos on learning the meaning of the cards and how to do a reading while I made all the cards. In Jumpstart Your Novel by Mark Teppo it shows how to use the Celtic Cross spread to plot scenes in your novel. Here is my first reading.
My first celtic crossThough it looks like I might not have shuffled by the amount of wands and swords in the reading, I assure you I shuffled a ton. The cards actually make sense for my character and my story. I was pretty impressed.

I’ll be doing both the Celtic Cross readings and The Hero’s Journey reading from Mapping the Hero’s Journey With Tarot: 33 Days To Finish Your Book by Arwen Lynch throughout NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo Inspiration

So what do I have planned to stay motivated this year? All sorts of fun stuff. I learned from #Writober that I like combining lots of different prompts, so every day this month, I’ll be providing visual prompts, word prompts, poetry prompts, a poem, a tarot card reading, writing exercises and everything else that I find inspiring.

This year I donated to NaNoWriMo and received a prompt poster. Many of the prompts are geared more toward short stories, but some of them will make their way into my daily posts. I also bought the Writer Emergency Pack which is a deck of cards with prompts that I’ll be mixing in.

Like #Writober I’ll have specific headings that I’ll repeat every day and a daily poem. Unlike #Writober, the days will not be random. I have a plot-structure method to my madness. Each day will follow the Hero’s Journey and I will also try to map it to the story beats of Save The Cat! and the Simple Tasks of Fast Fiction: A Guide to Outlining and Writing a First-Draft Novel in Thirty Days.

I have pulled out all of my references for this (literally; the house is a mess) and will be pulling inspiration from all my favorite resources. If you like something I’m referencing, it will most likely have come from one of the books in the list below. Click the link, and get yourself a copy to enjoy all year long.

Bibliography:

Books on Writing: These are the books I’ll be using and referencing this month.

Jumpstart Your Novel by Mark Teppo
Mapping the Hero’s Journey With Tarot: 33 Days To Finish Your Book by Arwen Lynch
The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, 3rd Edition by Christopher Vogler
Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need by Blake Snyder
The Hero with a Thousand Faces (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell)
Spellbinding Sentences: A Writer’s Guide to Achieving Excellence and Captivating Readers by Barbara Baig
Fast Fiction: A Guide to Outlining and Writing a First-Draft Novel in Thirty Days by Denise Jaden
Crafting Dynamic Dialogue: The Complete Guide to Speaking, Conversing, Arguing, and Thinking in Fiction (Creative Writing Essentials) from the Editors at Writer’s Digest
Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish by James Scott Bell
Elements of Fiction Writing: Conflict and Suspense by James Scott Bell
Writing for Emotional Impact: Advanced Dramatic Techniques to Attract, Engage, and Fascinate the Reader from Beginning to End by Karl Iglesias
Is Life Like This?: A Guide to Writing Your First Novel in Six Months by John Dufresne
The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master by Martha Anderson
Building Better Plots by Robert Kernen
Writing for Self Discovery: A Personal Approach to Creative Writing by Myra Schneider and John Killick
Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence by Lisa Cron
Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff Vandermeer
This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Mosely

Books on Tarot

The Creative Tarot: A Modern Guide to an Inspired Life by Jessa Crispin
The Tarot Handbook: Practical Applications of Ancient Visual Symbols by Angeles Arrien
Mary K. Greer’s 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card by Mary K. Greer
Tarot Beyond the Basics: Gain a Deeper Understanding of the Meanings Behind the Cards by Anthony Louis

Reference Books

The Elements of Style 4th edition with revisions by William Stunk Jr. and E. B. White
The Wrong Word Dictionary: 2,000 Most Commonly Confused Words by Dave Dowling
The Longman Handbook for Writers and Readers (6th Edition) by Chris M. Anson
A Writer’s Reference by Diana Hacker and Robert A. Schwegler

Fiction: Don’t forget to pick out some good books to read in November! I picked:

A Man Called Ove by Frederic Backman
Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story by Linda Sue Park
The Hiding Place by David Bell

Happy Reading and Writing!

I hope you’ll join me and find lots of inspiration here at Experience Writing!

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October Pairings (#OctPairs): Halloween Candy and Books

When I was young, one of my favorite things to do on a cool, usually rainy, Fall day was grab a big bag of M&M’s(click on that and check out the weird M&M options on amazon. Coffee and nut, what?), a nice warm blanket and a good book. So for our second installment of October Pairings, I’m going to pair up Halloween candy with great Halloween-ish books.

This should be helpful for any of you still looking for books to read for #RIPXII Peril the First, Second or Third.

cover of Gwendy's Button Box by Stephen King and Richard ChizmarThe first book I read for the Readers Imbibing Peril challenge was Gwendy’s Button Box Halloween chocolates from Hotel Chocolatby Stephen King and Richard Chizmar.
In the story, the button box gives Gwendy small detailed chocolate animals. I think these chocolates from Hotel Chocolat look like what the button box might spit out for Halloween. But if I were to choose a Halloween candy from my local drugstore, I would go with some special holiday M&Ms let’s see the offerings for this year:

fall mnmfall mnm2fall mnm3fall mnm5Okay, I wish I had nfall mnm4ever seen any of these. I thought I would find a nice bag of regular M&M’s with leaves, ghosts and jack-o-lanterns. These days you can go to  mymms.com and design your own. That’s looking like a good option.

The next book I’m reading for #RIPXII’s Peril of the group read.

slade house Slade House by David Mitchell is a series of stories related to the house, so I think it calls for a candy assortment. I will pair it with MARS Chocolate Fall Harvest Minis Size Candy Bars Variety Mix 45.8-Ounce Bag or this cute  HERSHEY’S Halloween Hershey's Halloween assortment bowl shaped like a pumpkinAssortment Pumpkin Bowl (50.2-Ounce)

Let’s turn to a classic ghost story, The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. Written in 1859, Cover of Wilkie Collin's gothic horror novelit is considered to be one of the first mystery novels and also a gothic horror. I absolutely loved reading it and enjoyed what I thought was the modern film adaptation The Lady in White by MGM (Video & DVD) when it came out in 1988. Imdb says the writer based it on an urban legend. An urban legend based on the book from the 1800’s. I say yes.
The 1997 TV movie The Woman in White included one Andrew Lincoln. That’s right! Mr. Walking Dead’s Rick Grimes himself.
After you read the book you may want to watch the movies for RIPXII’s Peril on the Screen.

I like white chocolate, so I would pair it with REESE’S White Peanut Butter Snack Size Ghostsreese's ghosts
If you’re not into white chocolate or looking for a “healthier” treat, how about Yogurt Covered Raisins ?

yogurt-covered-raisins-1-pound-bag-3

Another great candy to enjoy while reading is Lifesavers I especially enjoy Wintogreen and Butter Rum.
What books would make good pairs with those?

I think I’ll pair Butter Rum with Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. One of my very favorite books. I’m thinking the butter on popcorn one might snack on at their mutant freak-show. geek love

I would pair the Wintogreen Lifesavers with Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. This book is on my to read list. Goodreads says “Snow Crash is a mind-altering romp through a future America so bizarre, so outrageous…you’ll recognize it immediately.” Sounds like a great pairing with Wintogreen Lifesavers to me.     Snow Crash

This was really fun. I’m enjoying October Pairings. I hope you’ll join me on Twitter at #OctPairs and share your favorite October Pairings.

 

Happy Reading and Snacking!

#Writober Update

 

 

I wanted to add a few things to the line-up for #Writober. While reading Slade House: A Novel by David Mitchell for #RIPXII’s Peril of the group read, I had another idea of how to use the #Writober 2 pinterest board. Each image could be a scene in a continuous story. You might end up outlining your @NaNoWriMo novel.

Just discovered #Writober and feel like you’re too late, or feel like you can’t participate because you don’t have enough time? No worries. I stumbled upon the challenge late last year and wrote most of my stories in one weekend. The only limits to the #Writober challenge are the ones you creatively place upon yourself to get your stories written.

The way I did #Writober last year (and I’m doing it again), was I created an Open Office (Word) document and named it #Writober. I then typed a number for each day/image and for the images I had story ideas for, I wrote a title and notes, or just started the story. That way I could jump around whenever inspiration struck. I’m a non-linear thinker and this works for me. I look forward to hearing how the #Writober challenge works for you.

October Pairings: #OctPairs

I had another idea that I thought would be fun for #Writober: October Pairings. Every Wednesday this month, I’ll be posting about things that combine well, like Halloween candy and scary books, or Halloween movies and hot beverages.

I hope you’ll post your ideas for good October Pairings on twitter with #OctPairs.

 

trick-or-treat-book-blog-hop-banner_5_orig

If you have written a scary book and would like to promote it by giving it away on Halloween, head over to Trick-or-Treat Reads.

If you haven’t written that book yet, but love to read scary stories, don’t forget to Trick-or-Treat for books on Halloween.

Have you planned your costume yet? What are you dressing as this year? In the past, I have had my costumes inspire my stories and my stories inspire my costumes. I hope #Writober inspires you.

Happy Writing and Reading!

What are you planning for #Writober?

#Writober – a writing and reading extravaganza leading to Halloween

September is flying by too quickly. I haven’t even posted my giant Summer reading review yet, but it’s already time to start looking toward October. October is a great time for writing, especially creepy fantasy and horror challenges. I’ve decided to use J.S. Nagy’s challenge name from last year #Writober to describe the whole month, because of all of the fun writing and reading challenges I’ve found to enjoy. I hope you’ll join me for a spooktacularly productive #Writober.

The Pinterest Board #Writober 2

Last year, I happened upon a great writing challenge called #Writober. The organizer, J.S. Nagy a.k.a @BrassGoblin, created a pinterest board and challenged himself to write a 101 word story inspired by one picture each day. He asked other writers to join him and read each other’s stories on Wattpad. Though I did not post my stories, I did read the other stories. I didn’t end up writing a story for each image and I collected some images of my own, but the stories inspired by the challenge were fun. One of them was even published!

This year, I got excited to add some of my own images to the #Writober board, so I contacted J.S. Nagy to see if he had started planning #Writober for this year. Sadly, for me, not him, he is headed to Japan and does not have time for it this year. So I have taken on #Writober 2 and hope you will join me. Here’s the #Writober 2 pinterest board. I have numbered each image in its description and hope you find inspiration for each day in the array of images I collected.

You don’t have to use the images to inspire daily 101 word stories as @BrassGoblin suggested. Last year, I used the images as inspiration for flash fiction of any length under 1,000 words. I also used them to inspire tweet length #microstories (#vss – very short story). This year, I plan to add poetry, a twitter flash fiction group, a reading challenge and #pessimisticmoustache to the mix.

Poetry

I took a CalArts poetry workshop online through coursera.org last month and got a lot out of it. I thought it would be fun to challenge myself to continue writing poetry with a daily poetry writing challenge. This will be the 6th year of #OctPoWriMo  poetry challenge. They have a poetry prompt for inspiration on the website every day. I wonder how my #Writober 2 images will interact with their inspirational prompts. Could be interesting. I’ll be posting my poems here on Experience Writing.

#FlashFicHive

FlashFicHive

This is a group challenge that comes up every two months. I’m glad it corresponds with #Writober. I’m hoping they will doubly inspire me to write flash fiction every day.

R.I.P. – Readers Imbibing Peril

This is the twelfth year of  Readers Imbibing Peril #RIPXII. This reading challenge has lots of different perils to choose from. It began the 1st of September, but I arrived late to the party and plan to participate for October. I’m planning to be in a lot of peril, including:

In peril the first:

The four books I want to read are:
What the Dead Know: A Novel – Thriller
Small Town: A Novel (Block, Lawrence) – Mystery
Gwendy’s Button Box – Horror
and a surprise that I’ll tell you about in about a week. I’ll be reviewing a book that isn’t released yet.

In peril of the short story:

I recommend looking for stories to read and linking your stories to #Writober.

There are also great stories at:

The Evening Theatre, Twisted Sister Lit Mag, Sick Lit Mag, Five on The Fifth, Fictional Pairings, and many, many more great online literary magazines.

Peril on the screen:

For this peril, I thought I would watch Horns based on the Joe Hill novel and that made me think of Swiss Army Man which I also haven’t seen.

And Peril of the group read:

I already have my copy of Slade House by David Mitchell

#PessimisticMoustache

I created a creative description game based on a great line from Agatha Christie. Author Diana Rose Wilson and I play it sporadically on twitter. We post pictures and GIFs and challenge ourselves to come up with an ism to describe a feature. For #Movember it’s full of mustaches, and December was full of creepy Santas, but for #Writober, I’m thinking of using the images from the pinterest board. Here are the rules of play with links to lists of isms. I hope you’ll head over to Twitter and join us. Last year we had a lot of fun through November and December as well.

Enjoy #Writober!

So there you have it. A selection of fun writing and reading events I plan to enjoy this October. From experience, I know life will get in the way, and some days, I might just run out of time, but my #Writober is all about inspiration and creation, so I hope you’ll join me in any way that works for you. Please check back here at Experience Writing for my daily poems and flash fiction ideas and I hope you like the #Writober 2 pinterest board. I look forward to hearing about how you will be spending #Writober.

Summer Book Bingo 2: Adventures with A Good Book

In my last post, I told you about all the fun squares/book choices of the Seattle Summer Book Bingo. One of those squares said to get a recommendation from an independent bookseller, so I headed over to A Good Book in Sumner, WA to see what they could recommend.

Recommendations

When I mentioned to the dark-haired, bespectacled young man behind the counter what I was up to, he motioned toward the woman behind him who was the proprietor of the establishment, Evelyn Nicholas. They were both quick to point out the books that were next to the cash register.

Campfire Bookclub

The first book they showed me was A Darker Shade of Magic: A Novel (Shades of Magic) by V. E. Schwab. This is the book selection for their June Campfire Bookclub. You are welcome to join in a discussion of the book around a campfire with a drink and marshmallows on June 28th from 7-9pm. The book is part of a trilogy and Evelyn told me that her customers who read the first book rush back in for the second,  A Gathering of Shadows: A Novel (Shades of Magic). The third book in the series is A Conjuring of Light: A Novel (Shades of Magic).

Though this sounded interesting, and the bookclub sounds fun, I was curious to see what else they would recommend.

MC The great train robbery 75

The Great Train Robbery

The second book near the register that they recommended was a 2014 re-release of the 1975 novel by Michael Crichton. I had heard of the film and didn’t know it was based on a Michael Crichton book. I have read most of his books and found this tempting, but it wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for.

Evelyn said, “and we also have used books,” and took me into the other half of the shop. This reminded me that I had read on their website that they buy used books, so I asked her about their buy-back policy. Turns out they do a one-to-one exchange, meaning for every book you bring in, you get a discount on a purchase. I’ll definitely be taking her up on that, next time I visit.

Since I recently enjoyed Pest Control and The Exterminators (Assassin Bug Thrillers) by Bill Fitzhugh and I’ve enjoyed every book by Carl Hiaasen, I asked her if she had any recommendations in that vein.

Evelyn said, “You like funny,” and took me to another section of the shop. She told me about a couple of books then grabbed Hidden Palms: A Butch Bliss Novel by hidden palms coverHarry Bryant. The plot, as she described it, sounded like something Mr. Hiaasen might have conjured and I really liked the cover. Then she directed me over to another area of the store while she explained that Harry Bryant is a new nom de plume of an author that works at the store. I was pretty sure I knew who she was speaking of because I had met him and as I looked over what she called his “darker titles” I saw I was right.

Harry Bryant is the “more light-hearted and funny” persona of Mark Teppo who I met at an authors’ talk at the Sumner library and again when I went to a NaNoWriMo write-in at this bookstore. I haven’t read any of his books yet, so this was a perfect recommendation. SOLD.

While back at the register, where my adventure began, I saw that they, too, have a Summer Book Bingo. I excitedly got my first BUY A BOOK square stamped in the top

A Good Book Summer Bingo Card

row, though I was given a choice, so I recommend reading through and seeing where it will be most advantageous for you to fill a row.

This bingo card is a clever way to inspire me to come back and buy books. The squares aren’t only types of books to read, but calls to action as well. Not only do you get a stamp for buying books, but also:

Read a media tie-in – Okay, this isn’t a call to action. Turns out it’s a genre. The call to action is, I had to look this up. I thought it would be reading articles or essays about books, but it’s not. It’s a genre all its own and, actually, will help me out with my “Genre that is new to you” square on my Seattle Summer Book Bingo card. Media tie-ins are books made from TV or movies. Things like Star Wars and Star Trek books. I really enjoyed the TV shows Monk and Castle, so I will probably read one of the books made as extensions of those series.

Attend an event – I’m not sure, but I would think that attending the Fireside Bookclub would get stamps for an event and a book discussion. Another event at A Good Book that I think sounds interesting is A Good Talk Salon where local people give talks on subjects other than their profession. The only problem being I would have to sign up to give a talk. I hope they have another one soon.

Have a book discussion – It’ll be interesting to see how I prove some of these things for my stamp. I have book discussions all the time.

Show them your library card – I should have gotten this stamp while I was there. I always have it on me.

Review a book – this is something I have been working on. Reviews are so important to authors these days. If you like a book, you should quickly head over to Amazon and Goodreads and let everyone know.

and Gift a book – I’m always excited when I find a book that I think is just right for a friend or family member.

Supporting Local Authors

Evelyn told me, as the only bookstore in town, she really wants to help local authors. She showed me a Free Books in return for review shelf at the front of the store that she hopes to fill with local authors. These are the books I took.

Wedgie & Gizmo- This will be my “Gift a book” bingo square. I plan to give it to my niece and can picture her reading it to her little brother. I’ve already posted my review on Goodreads.

The Fallen Star: The Nocturnals Book 3- Not a local author, but I’m hoping this will be a nice birthday gift for my niece. I better read and review it quickly as she’s an independence day baby.

The Best of Talebones-I was excited to see this on the free-for-review shelf. I met Patrick Swenson at the same author talk at the Sumner library as Mark Teppo. I got a signed copy of The Ultra Thin Man: A Science Fiction Novel and enjoyed it. Though the sequel, The Ultra Big Sleep

was on the shelf, I left it for another reader, for now, and grabbed the collection of short stories from Patrick Swenson‘s previous magazine. As a short story writer, I’m always looking for interesting short story collections.

Another way that A Good Book is supporting local authors is by inviting local authors to sell their books in front of the shop during the Rhubarb Days weekend. Evelyn offered me a spot on Sunday, July 16th and I am very excited to bring Gator McBumpypants to my local community. I’ll talk more about it soon.

I want to thank Evelyn and A Good Book Bookstore for her time, great book recommendations and her work for local authors. I had no idea that trying to fill one square on my Summer Book Bingo Card could be such a great adventure. Goes to show how important independent bookstores are to a community. I hope this inspires you to venture to your local independent bookseller and ask for a recommendation. I would love to hear about your local bookstore and the latest book you bought there.

Happy Reading and Writing!

More Fun Discoveries – #LitMag+ The Sequel

 

I received another acceptance letter this morning! The story I submitted to Speculative 66 called “The Scout” will be published April 6th. As I mentioned in previous posts, I enjoy writing challenges and having to write a story in such a small and specific word count is a great exercise.

The story they are publishing is a pared down version of a story I wrote a while back that a friend from my critique  group really likes. I thought of her while I reworked each word because I wanted to make sure she will still feel the same when she reads it.

After I submitted, I looked through my writing and found two more short pieces I had created through a writing exercise. I was in the mood and thought I would submit again in the future, so I worked them to fit the 66 word format. What made the exercise even more enlightening was that it was easier to edit the word count down than to build it back up once I had gotten to the core of the story.

ink-blot-logo Today, while enjoying the Wednesday Twitter chats: #writerslifechat, #creaturechat, and #storysocial, Allison Maruska was happy that she had a story up at The Drabble.

The Drabble publishes stories of 100 words of less. They have a great page that defines Drabble and they choose strong, interesting stories. I hope it will become a home for one of my very short stories. If you love  microstories, give them a try.

 

 

 

Great News! The new Gator McBumpypants adventure is now available!

cover-gdsgTreat the children in your life to the newest Gator McBumpypants adventure Gator McBumpypants Doesn’t Say Goodbye.

In this (the fourth) Gator McBumpypants picture book, Dee Dee invites Gator McBumpypants and Herman on a grand adventure. They spend a wonderful day exploring, but Dee Dee hasn’t only planned a day of fun. She has something she needs to tell them. Why did Dee Dee plan a special day? And what big secret is she keeping for the end?

This book is a nice companion piece to Gator McBumpypants in Dee Dee Makes Three. In that book Herman makes a new friend while out flying. Her name is Dee Dee and she is a duck. Dee Dee is special because she can fly like Herman and swim like Gator McBumpypants. The book is about finding ways to play together even when you are different and have different abilities. 

cover of third book in Gator McBumpypants and Friends series

 

I really enjoy how the visual contrast of the two books matches the differences in the stories. Dee Dee Makes Three takes place at the beginning of the summer. The majority of the photo-illustrations are in bright, direct light and the characters are presented in close, tight shots. It’s about the joy of making new friends and getting to know them. The new story Gator McBumpypants Doesn’t Say Goodbye takes place at the end of the summer and is about adventuring out from home. The photo-illustrations reflect this with long shots in slanted light and warm fall colors.

So treat yourself to a mini-escape  and join Gator McBumpypants and his friends on a fun adventure.

 

Happy Gator McBumpypants Day!

Be Outrageous! Guest Post from Author Diana Rose Wilson

picture of cover of Blood Feathers by Diana Rose Wilson

Today’s guest post is from author Diana Rose Wilson. The book release party for Blood Feathers (Forbidden Secrets), her new book in the Forbidden Secrets series is September 28th from 6pm-7pm PST. Join the festivities on facebook or at spiritbeast.org.

 

I began writing believing that authors flexed their fingers and the stories flowed fully formed from their brains into their novels. From: ‘Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.’ To: ‘I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art. And this is the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita.’ –Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955)Nabokov: Novels 1955-1962: Lolita / Pnin / Pale Fire (Library of America).

In 3rd grade, after reading Watership Down / Richard Adams, I decided I wanted to be a writer. I mucked through my masterpiece and my story came out in one start-to-finish jumble of awesome. No one explained with compassion that it should have sucked as a first draft and a first try. I tossed out hundreds of pages and started a completely new story. Results did not vary.

Years later I started again but my process was much different. Here is the important part to remember: a story doesn’t need to be delivered fully formed from A to Z.

When you begin, you don’t need to know every breath and every move your character will make.

The key is to keep things moving, and here are some ideas that I hope will work for you.

Start

Start where you want. Anywhere you want. Start with the description of his eyes and then go from there. Throw yourself into the middle or the end but just go. The important thing is starting.

This goes for every day you write. If you sit and stare at the screen and don’t know what to do, pick up a conversation between some random characters. Characters in your story or those from the last book you read or movie you watched or even a conversation you overheard. Once you get going, your muse will guide you around to what is important.

Eventually you will have some bones and you can weave your scenes around and those can be strung together.

Respect the Muse

Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED Talk ‘Your Elusive Creative Genius’ changed my thought process about writing and creating.

Part of my return to writing started when I watched that video and put a persona behind my muse. Besides, it’s fun having a character for my creative process. He needs a whole blog post of his own, so here I only encourage you to think about the concept. Embrace that muse.

Be Ugly

Watch Bob Ross. His canvas begins as globs of color and only slowly transforms into beauty. Go ahead and be ugly!

I live in wine country, and during crush season it stinks. Literally. Someday it will be lovely wine but it begins as fruits, stems, seeds and skin all fermenting in tanks. It is allowed to smell nasty and you should allow your first draft to be too.

Accept it is okay to be really gnarly old vines. Just throw it in there.

Don’t know what color Mister Perfect will wear? Just type blue, highlight that sucker and move on. Mister Perfect might not be who you think he is when you get to the end. He might need a leather jacket instead of a suit. Don’t stress the small stuff.

This goes for spelling and grammar. Just throw it all in there. Stems, seeds, skins and all.

Be Extraordinary

Have you ever sat down to write the scene you’ve been brooding over for weeks and suddenly the mind yanks the wheel away from the muse? You know the thoughts: ‘could/would that really happen?

Since we’re talking about first draft, it doesn’t matter during this part of the process.

For example; the hero is trapped behind a booth in the donut shop with the entire police force there ready for a shootout. Hero must get away to move the plot forward.

How? Mind: should/could/would/can he really do <whatever your mind comes up with>?

It is a great question to ask and for the finished product you will need to make sure your story is believable, but not today. Besides, when your Hero is a vampire/superhero/alien/ex-marine-fireman/super-sexy-smart-and-also-rich-babe, we left reality a few miles back.

Write your character out of that scene.

Have Hero leap over the seat and throat-chop the douchebag ex-partner. Then throw the DEA agent into the DA who just walked in. Toss in an eye poke or two before Hero takes a bullet. Sliding out the door on both knees, Hero flips double birds as she vanishes into a blast of sunlight.

Phew!

Through!

We’re through! *victory lap*.

Crazy? Meh. Sure. But hero sipping coffee for ten pages while you’re pulling out your hair unable to push forward is worse.

Right?

Now you can write the next scene, or write another way for Hero to get out. (Maybe she gets caught. Maybe her lady comes and save her butt. Maybe her new partner flies the helicopter in and zooms her out of there.)

Play around with it and have fun while you get the ideas out of your brain and onto the page.

Be Extreme

You probably don’t read books because the hero is a normal person who goes to an average job and does average things.

It’s okay to write things that are over the top. Chip it out later if it doesn’t fit. If you’re stuck, don’t let reality hold you back. Let the hero be so smart she could shame Sherlock Holmes and beautiful and rich and she only works her dead end job because she enjoys talking to people at the call center.

None of this is set in stone. Even the best crafted, based in reality character isn’t necessarily going to survive the creation process unchanged. Your good guys may become bad guys, and your bad girl might become your hero. Allow some over the top characters and then when you edit, pull out those wild stems.

Same goes for scenes. Write situations as dangerous and unbelievable as you can imagine. If it doesn’t fit into the story, just tuck it aside or turn down the volume.

Be Flexible

You might have your plot scripted from start to finish, but allow yourself to write a scene differently to test the waters. Try that side door and discover it leads to a back alley where a character can overhear an important secret. Maybe it will be useful, otherwise tuck it away.

If a scene fizzles, explore it at a different angle. Maybe you don’t have to kill that two-faced friend. Or maybe that cow has to go! You can find out a lot about a character when you put them in unexpected situations. Even if the scene is clipped, you have more information about how to detail your character.

Be Uncomfortable

Put Hero into a situation that really sucks. She has to go into the boss’s office and explain why she was using company time/money for her personal research project. Have hero get hit by that car and be physically/emotionally changed. Force the hero to face a fear to save someone important to your plot, but maybe not important to them.

Put yourself in the hot seat too. Try writing something outside your comfort zone. Drop your characters into a genre you’ve never tested. Maybe the serious story that has you stuck would loosen up in a different setting. You never have to show any of this, it’s just practice.

Don’t Fuss

You finished that story/novel/novella! Now, leave it alone. Set a time limit of a week or a few months and do not look! No poking or overthinking about it. Continue to write but move onto something different. Create some blog posts or try another genre.

Do not uncork that baby until it has some cellar time.

Then, if you sample it and it tastes like vinegar, review what went wrong. The part about writing that you don’t get in wine making is that if you don’t like it you don’t need to start over from scratch. Don’t be afraid to make adjustments. Or, snip the pieces you like and put them into a new story.

Regardless of what happens with that story you will learn what no amount of coaching can teach you; the technique that works for YOU.

Try/GET Scivener

(https://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php)

I don’t have any affiliations to this company/product and this is only my own opinion but this software is a great tool. It is easy to use. It allows you to break your story into acts and scenes and scenes within scenes. You can easily shuffle whole acts/scenes like they are index cards. There is also easily accessible pages to keep your characters/places and research.

It also allows you to strain out the scenes that didn’t work and keep them away from the real product.

 

I hope this was helpful. Just keep in mind, everything you write is practice so even if no one sees it but you, it’s not a waste of time.

 

bio pic of Diana Rose WilsonDiana Rose Wilson grew up under the shadow of the Mayacamas Mountains, raised by outlaws and bikers. She has been involved in the lifestyle since 1989 including working at a high end adult boutique specializing in fetish, BDSM and LGBT merchandise. Her debut book is Wicked Masquerade, first in the Forbidden Secrets series. She has also been published in Finesse, a publication for the Thomas Keller Restaurant group.

Currently Diana lives in wine country with her husband where she enjoys good wine, better food, loud Harleys, 3-day eventing and the delights of deviant erotica. She is a member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, Redwood Writers, Snoopy Writers and CFTW Writer’s Block.

I did it! #BookBingoNW2016 I blacked out my summer book bingo card!

A scanned image of my completed seattle public library bingo card with little images of each book cover in each space.Last post I mentioned that I took on the challenge of Seattle Public Library’s Summer Book Bingo. It took some serious binge reading, but I finished and read an eclectic array of books that I am excited to tell you about.

The books and their categories

(starting top left of image and moving across rows)

Recommended by a librarian  Secondhand Souls: A Novel by Christopher Moore – this is a fun, imaginative read. You do not need to have read A Dirty Job: A Novel to enjoy it.

Cookbook or Food Memoir Green Smoothie Recipes For Weight Loss and Detox Book by Jenny Allan

You’ve been meaning to read  Lexicon: A Novel by Max Barry

#We need diverse books Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan- this book has a lot of interesting information about Myanmar (Burma)

Collection of short stories Wild Child: And Other Stories by T.C. BOYLE

From your childhood Freckle Juice by Judy Blume

Prize-winner  The Paying Guests Sarah Waters- this book was an Amazon Best Book of 2014

Set in a place you’ve always wanted to visit Night Train to Lisbon: A Novel by Pascal Mercier

Recommended by an independent bookstore The Ultra Thin Man: A Science Fiction Novel by Patrick Swenson- I met Patrick Swenson at an author talk at the Sumner library. At first, I found the chapters switching from third person to first person confusing, but once I got used to it and got into the story, I really enjoyed this space adventure.

Banned  The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Collection of poetry  Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude (Pitt Poetry Series) by Ross Gay

Young adult book  No Use For A Name by Penelope Wright – I met Penelope Wright at the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Conference. I enjoyed this book, but would have enjoyed it more if I wasn’t concerned for young readers reading this subject matter. I wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing it with teens I know.

Translated from another language Hurramabad by Andrei Volos

Non-fiction  Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story by Ursula K. Le Guin- For anyone looking for good writing exercises, or ideas for your writing critique group, I recommend this book.

Novel  The End Game (A Brit in the FBI) by Catherine Coulter

Local Author { [ THE ISLAND ] } Ely, Marian ( AUTHOR ) Jun-24-2013 Paperback by Marian Ely

Written by a SAL speaker  Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Reread  The Hollow by Agatha Christie

You finish reading in a day  The New Neighbor: A Novel by Leah Stewart

Read out loud Big Trouble by Dave Barry- this was a fun read on a car trip to California. I am a big fan of Carl Hiaasen and his influence is very apparent.

Out of your comfort zone Midnight in Ruby Bayou by Elizabeth Lowell- this was more romance than I usually read.

Memoir  I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai. My thoughts on this book, Kim and Hurramabad can be found in my last post.

Written more than 100 years ago  Kim (Macmillan Collector’s Library) by Rudyard Kipling

Recommended by a friend My Sister’s Grave (The Tracy Crosswhite Series) by Robert Dugoni- Robert Dugoni was the featured speaker at PNWA16. He was a moving speaker and I really liked this book.

For my FREE space, I am supposed to recommend a book to a friend, so to all of you I recommend The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. If you have already had the pleasure of reading it, I recommend Night Train to Lisbon: A Novel by Pascal Mercier.

I hope you get a chance to enjoy some of these books. This list has a little bit of everything.

Happy Reading.

Why would a writer or a reader not want to learn new words?

The pages of a dictionary partially in shadow

Learning new words can be like discovering a new tool that makes a tedious task simple, or tasting a delicious flavor never sampled before.

I love to learn new words. When I come across a new word I enjoy or relate to, I collect it in my writing notebook in One Note and when I update my website, mbercreations.com, I include a new word on my inspiration page. I follow a couple of great word blogs here on wordpress.Sesquiotica by James Harbeck and WordBowl by Ms. Charlie Schroder.

A new vocabulary writing exercise:

A while back, when I was reading House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, I collected many words and brought my finds to my writing group. We decided to do a writing exercise in which we incorporated our favorite new words from my list into a short piece of fiction. I had been mulling around an idea for a sci-fi story for a while and decided to use it for this exercise. Just for fun, I used all of the words from the list that I could and found some more to create a short beginning to that story. I really enjoyed the exercise, but my piece was most definitely over the top and I put it aside while working on other things.

Revision: Deciding what to keep and what to change.

Recently, I decided to revisit this story for a class assignment hoping to continue to develop it, perhaps finish it, during the class. I expected to simply go through the less familiar words and replace them, but a number of them turned out to be the strongest choice. I didn’t find better words than tessellated and protean to describe parts of my monster rising from the sea and tenebrific truly describes the quality of its shadow. So some of the words I learned from the exercise stayed, and in my opinion began to define the voice of the narrator.

Disappointing feedback gets me thinking.

Imagine my disappointment when the feedback from my peers (three reviews) came to one consensus: they did not appreciate my word choice. The most complimentary said the words were too “technical” and another stated he did not like to look things up in a dictionary while reading. If not while reading, when?

The course is online. The readers are online while reading. How hard is it to split-screen with dictionary.com? Learning new words is easier than ever and people taking a writing class acted as if using a word that was unknown to them was some sort of personal affront. Pareidolia is a great word. If I saw it for the first time, I would be excited to look it up.

The words I used are not archaic or abandoned. They have unique meanings that clearly state what I mean to say.  Should a writer be expected to limit her vocabulary? Why shouldn’t she expect her readers to rise to the challenge? Why would a writer limit his joy of language in fear that his reader doesn’t know the same words he does and won’t pick up a dictionary?

How could anyone who wants to write fiction not want to explore every word and its many uses? Isn’t limiting one’s vocabulary to fit an imagined understanding, condemning readers to a  truncated experience? Isn’t it wiser to assume a love of language and use all of the tools and weapons at hand?