Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tag--I'm It, from Dawn Allen

Dawn Allen has tagged me in the Platform Building Campaign question tag game. Thanks, Dawn! Go forth and visit her blog HERE.

Here are my answers to her questions.

1. Wine or beer?
Beer is just plain blerghy. Yuck. Some wine is okay, sweeter ones. Usually I don't drink alcohol, period, but I do like the taste of Kahlua as well as rum with orange juice.

2. Mountains or the beach?
Tough choice, but I think I love the beach better. The crashing waves, the splashing froth, the shifting sand between the toes. I live 1.5 hours from the beach--but it's an Oregon beach, which means it's rarely warm, usually windy, and the water is always FREEZING! Even in the summer. Someday I'll visit a warm beach…

3. What is your ideal writing spot?
At my computer desk; I compose at the keyboard. I have an "office" of sorts. I share a room with a guest bed, my art supplies, and a bunch of furniture and boxes that my older daughter (25) left behind after she lived here for a few months.

4. What intrigues you more, developing character or developing plot?
Character. I love figuring out names, siblings, parental relationships, friends, fears, goals, etc. I like plot, but the character drives the story--IS the story, basically--so I focus there.

5. Who is your favorite “beach read” author?
I had to double-check what that meant. DEFINITION: "A good beach book is engaging and a quick enough read that you can finish most of it on the beach before your sunscreen wears off. A beach book isn't necessarily literature, but a beach book will entertain."

Click HERE to read the young adult beach read list on About.com Bestsellers.

My answers: THE GHOST AND THE GOTH by Stacey Kade is a good beach read. Also GIMME A CALL by Sarah Mlynowski. Both are lighthearted with a "magical realism" twist.

6. What is your favorite animal?
Fave real animal? Cat. The photo below is of Cookie, the lovely cat I used to have, may she RIP. Fave imaginary animal? Dragon. Hence, my dragon collection (photo of one of my faves at the top of this post).

7. Do you like music when you write or silence or something else?
SILENCE. I have my own rhythm with my words, and I'm admittedly single-minded.

8. What genres do you write?
Light sci-fi (agented novel), magical realism, light fantasy, contemporary…my WIP is my first post-apocalyptic/dystopian, and I'm really enjoying it. Doing revisions now.

9. Do you cross genres in your writing?
I write in a lot of different genres, and I wrote a "magical realism" novel before that genre got a label.

10. If the dream agent walked in one day with the dream deal on your latest novel, how would you react?
Initial shock and numbness, then wild glee! I already have Kelly Sonnack as my dream agent. I'm just waiting for that dream deal (or any decent deal, haha).

11. When you get your book deal, what’s your personal marketing plan?
ARC giveaways, blog tours, local signings, contests, book launch party, etc.

YOUR TURN
Did you know what a "beach read" was? What's YOUR favorite beach read?
Do you write in silence or do you get inspired by music while you write?
What's YOUR favorite animal? How would you answer the other questions?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Thinking About WORDS


Have you heard the following joke about writing?
A writer receives a response in the mail from a publisher: Dear Writer, We really like the words you used in your novel. We were just wondering if you could put them in a different order? Thank you.

Not exactly the kind of letter or revision request we'd like to receive!

Word, Words, Words
Isn't it amazing that all writers have at their disposal the exact same words in the dictionary, yet there is an incredible variety of stories written? They differ in entire structures, tones, and details, down to slight nuances. Even two works using basically the SAME words, strung together differently, can have a totally different effect. I find that fascinating.

Word choice and vocabulary. As a writer, you'd choose very different words for a middle grade novel than you would for a picture book, an adult novel, or even a YA novel. Also, certain words just by their syllables and consonants can create varying moods or "sounds."

Tone and structure. How you string your words and vocabulary together into sentences and phrasings makes a BIG difference in the overall effect. Shorter sentences can indicate a younger audience--or a quicker, tense pace. Just by how you arrange your words, you can sound:

Older…younger…distant…cozy…playful…snarky…comical…intellectual.

Can You Match the Excerpts to the Books?
Consider the following excerpts--their words/vocabulary, tone, structure, and phrasing. All these things come together to make a certain voice, an overall mood or effect (even at a single sentence level). Can you match them to the book they come from?

1. Slowly at first, but with ever-increasing confidence, she launched into a detailed and generally insightful compendium of his group's shortcomings.

2. Now he and his sister were looking at my brothers and me like we were aliens just landed green and mean in their backyard.

3. We are blind to continuity, all breaks down, falls, melts, stops, rots, or runs away.

4. How could he dare to disagree without casting doubt upon himself?

5. Nameless forebodings crept upon him as he sat there in the dark: He tried to resist them, push them away, yet they came at him relentlessly.

A. HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS by JK Rowling
B. STAR WARS: HEIR TO THE EMPIRE by Timothy Zahn
C. SAVVY by Ingrid Law
D. THE DOCTOR'S LADY by Jody Hedlund
E. SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES by Ray Bradbury

YOUR TURN
Have you ever shuffled your words around in your writing and discovered it sounded totally different, even with roughly the SAME words?

Have critiquers ever said your main character sounded older or younger than you intended? Do you think that's partly due to how your words were presented or arranged?

How did you do on the matching quiz? The answers used to be located below my awards, but I'll move them here now that the week is over: 1B, 2C, 3E, 4D, 5A.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

FRESH ADVERBS + Blog Award

I've received the Queen of Quill award from Victoria Lindstrom this past week. Thank you, Victoria! Visit her blog HERE and see the sweet things she said about me, Julie Musil, Kristine Birch, Kriston Johnson, and Tanya Reimer.

Victoria is celebrating her first year of blogging--stop by and follow her!

Let's give her big writerly congrats, and boost her Followers from 19 to…??


FRESH ADVERBS
I love to promote SPUNK & BITE: A writer's guide to bold, contemporary style by Arthur Plotnik. It's such a fun book! It instructs on how to dust off clichés and enliven tired prose. It gives writers ideas about how to make their writing unforgettable. One chapter in this book (chapter 6) is about adverbs. Here's my version/summary of it.

Definition
Adverbs tell us where, when, how, how much, why, etc. Most but not all end in -ly.

Adverbs usually TELL rather than SHOW. They often indicate lazy writing and can be replaced by a more colorful verb or phrase. Commonly overused in romance novels.

Cliché adverb telling: She ran speedily to the door.
Using a more active verb: She dashed to the door. OR She raced to the door.
Rephrasing completely: She reached the door in three seconds flat.

Cliché adverb telling: "Don't do that," Nick said angrily.
Using a more active verb: "Don't do that," Nick bellowed.
Rephrasing (SHOWING anger): "Don't do that." Nick slammed the door in her face.

Smart (-aleck?) locutions
More witty or clever usages of adverbs can be coined. Used this way, they can be humorous, oxymoronic, hyperbolic, ironic, and quite thought-provoking. They add to passages of prose in a non-cliché, informative manner. Here are a few of Mr. Plotnik's examples:

--engagingly demented
--eye-crossingly voluminous
--deliciously horrifying
--minutely entertaining
--woundingly beautiful
--awfully decent
--frightfully rich
--delightfully tacky

In these examples, the total meaning of the verb or sentence would be lost or altered if the adverb wasn't there. Sometimes adverbs ARE necessary and can be fresh! Mr. Plotnik warns, however, not to go overboard. He states: "Locutions that work too hard can grow as tiresome as facile ones." Easy oxymoronic constructions can turn cliché or undesirable in short order.

YOUR TURN
Can you visit or follow Victoria's blog to help celebrate her blog's 1st birthday?
Do you liberally pepper adverbs all over your prose?
Are you afraid to use adverbs, since the writerly community often frowns upon them?
Have you ever thought of using adverbs in a fresh, unique way?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Writers Retreats

The past week I've volunteered to head up a retreat for writer and illustrators near Salem, Oregon. I've been busy thinking of the ten billion details that make up a retreat. Ours will be held October 19-21st. You're welcome to attend! Just let me know in the comments, and I'll send you a registration link in July. The cost will be $185 for 6 meals and 2 nights. For those of you out of state, it would most likely cost you more to fly or drive out here than attend! I wish you all could come so we could meet in person. (Photo: Aldersgate Retreat Center, Turner, Oregon. Likely spot for our 2012 retreat!)

Retreats are often different from conferences. They usually are held in a more informal setting, like the coast or the mountains. We can wear jeans and comfortable shoes! We don't have to cook for ourselves! We can take a hike down a trail or take in the scenery on our breaks! Those are great incentives right there. Retreats can also involve more personal workshops and individual critiques; there is usually a smaller ratio of professionals to writers.

Retreats are meant to inspire and recharge a writer's creative batteries. It's great to interact with others who share our passions in a setting that gets us away from the bustle and demands of everyday life.

Retreats also can encourage us to be more professional with our writing, to take our work to the next higher level. This can turn a writing "hobby" into something more serious. We can be encouraged to try for agent representation or publication.

Our Oregon retreat will feature: local speakers, an open mike session to share our writing, critique group sessions, a Saturday night party (possibly costume), door prizes donated by members, time to unwind and just write, warm-up writing prompts, member book sales, and we're aiming to feature critiques from published authors and agents.

So yeah. Since I was busy organizing this retreat, I didn't have time to write up a "real" blogpost. But I'm curious as to your experiences, to help me plan, so chime in below!

YOUR TURN
Have you ever gone on a retreat? How about a conference?
Do you have any suggestions for things to be sure to include in "my" retreat?
Would you still attend a retreat if it did NOT feature any editor or agent contact?
What is your favorite part of a retreat or a conference--socializing/networking, critiques with other writers, not having to cook for yourself, a chance to pitch to an editor or an agent, etc?