I learned a new literary term this week. At first, I thought my mentor was snarking at my poor use of description, but I looked it up and it’s actually a real thing. I’ve seen it hundreds of times, but like so many other things I had no idea there was an actual title for it.
Pathetic Fallacy – A literary term for the attributing of human emotion and conduct to all aspects within nature. It is a kind of personification that is found in poetic writing when, for example, clouds seem sullen, when leaves dance, when dogs laugh, or when rocks seem indifferent. Continue reading
I recently finished my 4th residency for my master’s program and I’ve had some time to reflect on my progress as a writer. I’ve enjoyed every residency but each has its own flavor. After the first one, I wasn’t really sure that the Seton Hill Writing Popular Fiction program was going to work out. I’d spent several years prior to starting the program trying to improve my skill and my knowledge-base about writing as a profession and I felt like I wasn’t learning anything new. My opinion on that changed after the second residency, but looking back now, I can see the cumulative effects of the program.
After each semester I’d taken stock of how much my writing skill had increased, if at all. After the semester that ended last winter, I felt I’d reached a new plateau, but after spending a full semester with Timons Esaias as my mentor, my skill seems to have gone up an order of magnitude, instead of incrementally. I more easily recognize patterns in writing that I couldn’t see before. Common mistakes that a lot of writers make, especially on the first draft, stand out like a strobing beacon. Continue reading
Every writer should read this book. It has great insight into how the brain and the written word interface and the avenue is via story. Fantastic learning tool for writers of all ability levels.
I was turned on to Wired for Story through an interview Chuck Wendig did with Lisa Cron in July 2012 for his blog Terribleminds. She gave us her views on developing story. Lisa has a very fresh take on the importance of STORY and how it relates to the human brain. She is a producer for Showtime and Court TV, a writer, and also teaches a writing course at UCLA, but spent the last ten years researching the connection between neuroscience and how the brain relates to stories. It’s quite fascinating and illuminating, allowing us to learn techniques that will make our story click with the reader. They can’t help themselves, the brain is hard wired for receiving stories and if we can strike the right chord it will resonate within the readers mind. Continue reading
The idea for my new novel was birthed back in November. It started out as an idea that I was noodling around with and I’d put it on the back burner until January, when I decided to use the idea to craft my thesis novel. After a false start, I retooled and decided to try my hand at turning it into a Sci Fi Mystery novel. I’d never attempted anything remotely like a mystery before, so I did a little research on how the genre is approached and did my best to stay within those bounds. It was hard for me. First of all there is no dead body at the beginning. Bad stuff happens, but it doesn’t start with a murder. I still thought I had enough to get there, but the further along I got the more it seemed to veer away from the mystery tropes. It was confounding me, but now I have clarity. I am writing a Thriller, not a Who Dunnit? Continue reading
I’m happy to give the podium to one of Seton Hill’s finest. The prolific Victoria Thompson is an instructor and Mentor in the Writing Popular Fiction Master’s program at Seton Hill University, in Greensburg, PA. Vicky also happens to be an Edgar nominated mystery writer, specializing in Historical Mysteries. Her Gaslight Mystery Series are centered around New York City at the turn of the Twentieth Century. Her first book, Murder on Astor Place was released in 2009, and the latest book for that series (number 15) is about to be released on May 7th. It’s called Murder in Chelsea. Vicky has published thirty-five novels so far and I don’t see her slowing down.
Today, she is going to give writers a few tips on what to do when we feel like we don’t know where to take the story…
So this is how a fellow writer rescued me, saving me from the wrath of frustrated readers! You can see how he did it by reading MURDER IN CHELSEA, a May 2013 hardcover release from Berkley Prime Crime. It’s also available in all electronic formats. Please let me know if you like the solution by contacting me though my website, www.victoriathompson.com or liking me on Facebook at Victoria Thompson Author or following me on Twitter @gaslightvt.
NaNoWriMo is merely three days away, and in the spirit of preparation I revamped my Writing Rules again. This time when I went back to review them I realized that they were a hodgepodge of thoughts with no form. So I organized them and revamped them and added some new content. As always I am open to suggestion if you see something wrong or something that needs clarified or plain just doesn’t make sense.
This is kind of long and I have it posted as it’s own page here.
Put your novel through CreateSpace in trade paperback form in POD. That gets it to Amazon. Cost: Free (or $39.00 if you want better distribution into all stores.)
Put your novel through LighteningSource in trade paperback form in POD. That gets it to Ingram. Cost: around $100.00
I was listening to the Writing Excuses Podcast the other day in my car, when I came across this fantastic nugget of advice about how to do chapters/scenes. How do you move forward from one chapter to the next? You need to know how to develop the connective tissue and keep driving the story forward. This simple trick will take you a long way to developing a story that has momentum. You simply ask a question, is the protagonist going to accomplish his/her goal in this chapter? You have two answers obviously, Yes or No. The trick is thus: Yes, But and No, And. Every chapter/scene needs to have a reason to exist other than you thought up some really cool world building stuff that you want to show off. The Yes, but will allow you to finish minor story arcs but keep propelling the story forward. For example, your group needs to cross a bridge in this chapter. Will they make it across? Yes, but on the other side they encounter a group of ruffians.
I actually had a little down time in there while I was waiting for the exam to be graded. I was initially expecting four weeks of waiting but it only took four days. At any rate, I had time to do some revision on the first few chapters after feedback from my alpha readers and I actually feel like I have enough distance now to see it like someone else wrote it. I was able to make big cuts and move some stuff around and really focus the POV. Getting that distance is key. I got some great advice and some great feedback from my alphas, thank you!
When people tell you to put your manuscript in the drawer for a month or two and let it ferment, they aren’t kidding. I did some preliminary editing after only a few days, but I was really having trouble seeing the errors. Stacy can tell you I went off the reservation with the word “just”. It was laughable how many times I used that word in one chapter alone.
As the creator you can often have a hard time detaching yourself from your own POV. You already know everything that happened and all the background details and motivations, so when you go in to start your revisions you can’t divorce yourself from yourself (Austin Powers anyone?) without giving yourself enough time after the manuscript is finished. Completing the manuscript is a huge thing. A lot of writers never get there, so I’ve heard. And I know I was excited, not because I finished the manuscript, but because I was one step closer to being published, and I wanted to get on with the revisions. I’m here to tell you that you have to wait a bit before you take that next step.
The manuscript is near and dear to your heart. You’ve invested a lot of energy and time getting to “The End”. Carving up your baby is simply not feasible at that point. Any believe me, it needs to be carved up and have great chunks removed and tossed in the waste bin. (Boneyard) It’s like a grotesque turkey that has too many legs and wings and parts sticking out and it needs to be prepped and oiled and baked to perfection still. But before you can do any of that you need to stick it somewhere dark, where you will leave it alone, and let it fester for a few months. When you put it away it looked like a bright shiny baby, when it comes out it will look like Chucky, and you can stab it and carve it up. I must be hungry. Enough of the carving analogies. You get the idea.
When you get it back out you will be able to see it as a work of literary fiction instead of “your precious”. You can see the POV errors and the extra background that really isn’t germane to the story. You can see the bad dialogue tags and the dreaded adverbs and poor word choices. You can see the poorly written sentences, and maybe there are chapters that really don’t even need to be there. At the very least they need to be massively trimmed and combined with another part somewhere else. It is eye opening … really. Put that sucker away! Don’t touch it! Ah..I see you going back to look at it, I said leave it alone.
Anyway, as an aside, I’m also in the process of applying for a Master’s program in writing, so I had to put some finishing touches on some writing and then write a Letter of Intent. It was kinda fun actually. I’m shooting for the Seton Hill University Master of Fine Arts in Writing Popular Fiction degree. It is a distance learning program that will only require me to spend 5 days each semester on campus. That works great for my busy lifestyle. The cool thing is it is designed for you to have a publishable novel length book at the end of the program. I’m very excited about it and have my fingers crossed to get in. It’s a small Catholic university near Pittsburg, so it’s also driving distance, at least until I move.
I hope you are all having great fortune in your writing and reading!
NaNoWriMo is never a waste of time in my humble opinion. I’m not going to hit the target this year of 50k words in 30 days, but the endeavor has its own rewards.
Last year I had a great idea and I think it will become my Master’s thesis and I had no trouble moving along. It was a simple idea but very open and I knew where it was going ultimately. I‘ve got stuff on the back burner and a backlog of ideas I want to explore but for this year I decided to try my hand at something completely outside of my comfort zone. The original idea was to try my hand at a YA tie- in to my current novel. But once I conceived of the idea it started to develop its own life. I thought it was just going to be in the same vein as my adult fiction, just from a different perspective, but as the idea started to coalesce it began to morph into more of a substantial piece, and basically even though the setting is several hundred years in the future it is not classic SF. It’s actually literary fiction, which is a completely different animal.
What I learned this year is that literary fiction is harder. It requires a lot of introspection and for me at least, has been a lot slower to develop. The story arc for literary fiction is intended to be an internal arc, to see a character mature or change their beliefs in some fundamental way. That is the overarching plot, and of course you can add in lots of small plot-lines that will move the story along.
I can see a lot of potential with this, but it’s not what I thought it was going to be. I love that these things are like a living flame that can be stoked into life, just add a little more kindling, a breath of air, bigger sticks and the thing grows. You have to pay very close attention though or the flame can die. But even as they can grow, it helps to know where you’re going. This story is developing but I’m still not sure where I’m going with it and that is the biggest hurdle. I like the characters, and I like the ideas that are developing, but the elephant in the room with me right now is time.
I have several projects competing for my time and some have real deadlines. Some are self-induced, but one is outside my control. I seriously want to finish my adult novel and get it out there. I have a series of tests that I need to study for, that are incredible time eaters. Time keeps marching on and as it does my stress level is slowly creeping up.
I like the idea that I have something that will challenge me and my skills and it’s something that might actually have something to say and not just entertain. But right now I’m not sure it fits in with my agenda. Ideas are funny things, some are very finite and some are lofty and undefined. This one feels more like the latter, even though I have some concrete concepts developing it has a long way to go to really gel.
All this to say I think I am going to put this one back on the rear of the stove again and let it simmer some more. I like knocking things off my to-do list and I have some low hanging fruit that I can take care of if I just focus my energy. The one good thing about stress is that I tend to get more motivated. The stress has reached a point where I need to act and this is the first step. Epic NaNo Fail, but ultimately a victory in my pursuit of happiness. Good luck to the rest of you working toward your 50k goal!