Monday, November 28, 2016

Why Books are the Perfect Gift

Fireplaces crackle. Marshmallows melt in steaming cups of hot cocoa. Holiday music tickles our ears everywhere we go. Ahh. 'Tis the find the perfect gift for family, friends, coworkers, and your Scrooge neighbor whose heart needs a little melting.

If you're bad at shopping or just can't seem to think of the perfect gift for that one person, there's a gift that works for everyone. 


Yes, it's true! Even Cousin Billy who hasn't picked up a book since he was forced to in high school (and even then, he only used the book as a coaster while he looked up SparkNotes.) The trick is in finding the book match made in book heaven. 


If Cousin Billy hated reading in high school, it's a safe bet he's not a fan of the classics. So that narrows down your list. What does he like? If Cousin Billy dresses up in time period appropriate Renaissance garb and uses words like "hither" and "perchance" everytime the Ren Faire is in town, look up a non fiction book about the Renaissance. Or get him an action-packed fiction novel set in that time. Nerdome not his thing? Maybe Cousin Billy watches Master Chef religiously and then causes the smoke alarm to go off while he tries to recreate the recipes from memory. Help the guy out and buy his favorite Master Chef's cookbook. Is he super into origami? There are books for that. Whatever Cousin Billy's thing is, there's a book or there for said thing. 

And a book is perfect because:
A) Books keep giving. They can be enjoyed over and over.
B) This is a gift that says, "I notice what you love." So thoughtful.
C) Buying a book means you're supporting the arts. 
D) This gift works for your budget. Buy new or explore the dusty used bookstore down the street. 

So what do you say? Will you give the gift of books this Christmas? Are you going to receive some books? (Hey, today is Cyber Monday, so while you're shopping for Cousin Billy's perfect book, treat yourself to an e-book with Amazon Kindle's 85% off sale! Because you're awesome and thoughtful.)

Happy shopping and Happy Holidays! 


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Character Tension - Part 3 - Love and Romance

Welcome to the third and final part of the tension mini-series! If you haven't been here from the start, go back and check out the previous two parts in order to get up to speed. We're discussing tension in characters and how you can use them to build the tension in your book!

Okay, so this week we're looking at love and romance, and woah boy, there is a whole load of tension you can create there, so let's get started.


First - the first thing you want to do is create barriers and obstacles between your two lovers. This can be anything from other people standing in the way to physical obstacles. Are there other lovers in the way? Family standing against them? Are they in opposite locations? Give them a physical task to do that means they might never get there. Think about disaster movies where the two star crossed lovers have to battle their way across a devastated city in order to find each other. You might not have to go that far, but think about what you could do to make things harder for them.

Second - what are their biggest, darkest secrets that can push the other lover away? Have they done something almost unforgivable? Do they know something about the other person that could shatter both their worlds? Are they enemies who just happen to be in love? Give them an almost insurmountable task and it will make the HEA even sweeter when they finally get there.

Third - then you have the big stuff: abuse, neglect, competition, affairs, divorce, custody battles, substance abuse and persecution from others. All of these things give a great natural conflict, and thus, great natural tension. What happens if this hits the lovers (or family) and they are blindsided? What if they have lived with it for years? How would each of these elements impact them on their daily and long term life?

As you can see, there are a whole host of things you can do to up the ante against your lovers and raise the tension in your novel!

So, that's the end of the tension mini series that looks at character. There are lots more things you can do to up your character tension, as well as the tension in other elements in your book, but hopefully this series will get you started!

Good luck and keep writing! 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

My Experience with NaNoWriMo (And Why I May Never Do it Again)

In 2014, I did NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, which is November). I didn’t officially sign up, probably because I’m just not a joiner, but I started November 1 with a manuscript I’d mostly plotted in September and October. I wrote Monday thru Friday, taking weekends off out of respect for my family, and three weeks later, I was finished. Over 70,000 words in fifteen writing days.
Since November 2014, I’ve applied the concept of NaNo—taking a month to focus on writing a novel—two more times. In May 2015, I wrote a manuscript in just under four weeks, and last month, I took a week to focus on my WIP, which sat at 35,000 words, and in seven days added 44,000 words, bringing it to completion.
So, I suppose you could say I’m a fan of NaNoWriMo, and I recommend everyone try NaNo at some point. The effort required to succeed will teach you skills that can be useful when you write any time of the year. Here is my list of skills you may learn:
  1. Discipline. How to sit at your computer and write, even when the words aren’t flowing. The muse may not visit you daily, but what happens when you are a contracted author, working on a deadline? Then you won’t be able sit back and let the muse show up when she will. So learning to write even when you’re not feeling particularly creative is a valuable skill. After forcing yourself to take the time to write, even if you’d rather play games on your phone or catch up on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, you’ll learn that even when you aren’t feeling in the mood, you can start the words flowing if you just start writing.
  2. Plotting. I know, for some, the word “Plotting” is evil. But it doesn’t have to be. I’m not suggesting that everyone (or anyone, for that matter) needs to outline the entire manuscript before writing—though you may want to give it a try at least once—because for many, that is death of the creativity and the story. But plotting doesn’t have to be an outline or a synopsis of the entire, unwritten story. Simply thinking ahead before you write on a daily basis can be helpful, especially if you struggle with a muse who takes unexpected and extended vacations. By “thinking ahead,” I mean spend a little time—5-10 minutes—looking over the previous writing and scribbling out ideas about what you envision happening next. You don’t have to follow this mini scene or chapter outline, but spending some time brainstorming will get you into the story a little quicker.
  3. Scheduling. Some things can’t be removed from your daily, weekly, or monthly schedule, but others can be. Like a monthly hair appointment. Stretch the style an extra week or two. Move your dentist appointment. Skip book club. Cut back on workouts (but don’t cut OUT workouts). But with all the things you take out of your schedule, please remember that an occasional shower is necessary. At least one a week. Besides, showers are great places to brainstorm, so really, showering is as important to your creativity as to your socially acceptable-ness.
  4. Balance. Actually, I think balance is impossible if you seek balance daily between all your responsibilities. You can’t do it all or be it all every single day. Without considering writing, some days your schedule is so full of errands, appointments, and/or kids’ activities that you can’t cook a meal or get the laundry done. So why shouldn’t writing be—temporarily—the thing that leaves those tasks undone or delegated to another family member? There’s nothing wrong with asking the kids or your spouse to help with meals or laundry. Maybe you eat out a little more—or the rest of the family eats out while you eat at your computer, furiously typing. It’s only temporary. This is easier when the kids are old enough to help and the spouse is willing to assist. If that’s not possible, make a list of daily or weekly chores that you could ignore for a couple of weeks. Or make one day “chore day” and do as much meal prep and laundry as possible. If your kids are too young for you to do much writing during their waking hours, find a babysitter or exchange favors with a mom-friend. Or this might be a nice time for grandma to make a lengthy visit, if grandma is a helpful guest, not a needy one. And if your spouse is helpful (and even if your spouse isn’t helpful, because it’s good for a marriage), remember to thank him or her. You can always go back to the computer after expressing your gratitude ;-)

Despite the success I’ve had, I may never do NaNoWriMo again, because November is not always the best month for me to take time off and focus on writing. Other months may work better. But November isn’t the only month when a writer can write! If you can’t participate in NaNo this year, schedule your own during a month or a block of 4-5 weeks where you CAN focus on writing. The skills practiced and learned during a writing marathon will help in the future when you only have a week or a few days to devote to your manuscript.