Thursday, May 30, 2013

Temporarily Unavailable

I'm a bit stuck in my writing and a bit busy in life. The next regularly scheduled post may be a couple weeks in coming. I hope to be back soon. Meanwhile, read a good book and analyze it. :-)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Writer’s Guide to the Military

For years, I have been doing research into military and military training programs, just to get ideas as I formulate my own military. I haven’t done any primary research--it’s all been secondary (see April 22's post to learn why ;-) ), and I have been quite disappointed. The encyclopedia, non-fiction library books, and kids informative books have all lacked the information for which I searched. The Internet was even worse. I just wanted to know what basic training is like, what recruits learn, basic command structure, etc. The best books I found were written for those young people considering joining the military, but even they were somewhat lacking.

Then I stumbled on this book: <em>A Civilian‘s Guide to the U.S. Military</em>. That sounded promising. Flipping through, I discovered pretty much everything I had wanted to know, including a day-by-day summary of boot camp for the US Army. The book had been written as the author had me in mind! Then I noticed the publisher and realized the author <em>did</em> have me in mind--the publisher is Writer’s Digest.

So if any of you are looking for secondary source information on the U.S. Military, I would recommend this book. I can’t vouch for the accuracy as I have never been in the military, but since I’m making up my own military, accuracy isn’t a big deal for me. :-)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Suddenly . . .

In one of my writer’s workshops, a colleague pointed out a paragraph I began with the word “suddenly”. She cautioned usage of that word. Whenever it popped up in her writing, it usually meant she had neglected writing details in the previous paragraphs. I looked, and sure enough, she was right. I try to be conscious of that word now. Is it really necessary or would other details work as well? If something startles the POV character, I don’t need to spell out “suddenly” for the reader.

So when I was rereading my high school draft for fun the other day, I couldn’t help laughing my head off at these lines:

“Suddenly and without warning,”--what does “suddenly” mean if not “without warning”?

“He was very startled and staggered in bewilderment.”--ah, my fourth semester mentor would cringe. What does being startled or bewildered feel like?

Hope I brightened your life! Happy writing!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Save What You Wrote: Teenagers

I’m pretty sure my neighbors yesterday thought I had gone crazy, I was laughing so hard. For fun, I pulled out my old drafts to read. I had realized that my characters were acting entirely too serious. They weren’t like teenagers anymore, so I decided to read the drafts I wrote when I was actually around teenage boys regularly. I about laughed my head off. All of my character’s friends teased him so badly! They were so mean, but that is how teenagers are. I laughed until I cried.

I also enjoyed how my characters morph. Here’s another favorite cut line from the original draft: “Autographs after the show, boys, please,” from an overconfident, large boned, stunt performer at SeaWorld. That character morphed into a girl less than five feet tall who speaks in a timid yet refined British accent. How did that happen?

I about died reading the scene when three of the characters sneak the health nut’s low-fat ice cream from his padlocked freezer (a padlocked freezer???). I think I have some reworking to do. My characters should be teenagers and carefree. They can get serious after they go into battle.

This is a lesson in save what you wrote. If you don’t save the things you write, how can you go back and remember what being a certain age or at a certain place of life is like? I need to pull out my teenage journals, too. Don’t worry, they’re mostly fictional. :-)

Happy Writing!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Place Holders

Sometimes, we can get on a roll with writing, work up a momentum. Stopping to look up a particular word or to write a detailed description can interrupt the momentum for me. So I use place holders. For words I am unsure of, I use underlining with a ?.

Since I’m on a draft 542 (it feels like) of my work in progress, some things I have already described. Five hundred and forty-two times. After all of that, I did not want to describe the military base one more time. In typing my rough draft last week, I came across this place holder that made me smile: (in the margins) “insert description from another draft” (in the body) “He ascended the front steps and opened the great doors. (mess of cubicles, soldiers bustling about).”

I think I’ve mentioned before the placeholder for the description I just was not in the mood to write: “She had her first real view of the city. It was very large.”

:-) So don’t be afraid to stick in place holders when you need to go back over something or don’t want to interrupt your momentum.

One word of advice: be consistent. In one draft, I used an * for everything I had a question about or needed to go back over. When I was in revision mode, I just did a ‘find’ option with my word processor. For my current draft, I’ve been using (?). I just search for ‘?)’ and find all of my questions!

Another example:
“Before he could answer, the door opened and three soldiers came out.
(description of commander)
ruddy beard, well-built and muscled (in spite of age?) air of authority”

Happy Writing!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Changing Meanings

In one of my workshops, we were happily going over a friend’s excerpt, commenting on this and that when our faculty leader drew our attention to the first page. The time was predawn, the setting a city street. A gaggle of girls stood on the corner twittering. The sentences the author had written evoked such imagery, with the girls taking the place of dawn birds to greet the morning. Until our faculty leader said that he had thought all the girls were on their cell phones. Twittering.

Language has a way of morphing, which is good. Cultures grow and change and language should change with them, but sometimes the change is frustrating. Words we once enjoyed and loved can suddenly take on new meaning that isn’t always pleasant or destroys the word for its old meaning.

I noticed yesterday a phrase in my story. The characters were “writing on tablets of paper.” I thought, “My goodness, it’s a good thing I specified paper!” Writing on tablets has new meaning since the emergence of those tiny clipboard-sized computers.

So when you are doing revisionary work, remember to check your phrases and words to make sure they mean what you intend them to mean.

Happy Writing!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Circumstances vs. Relationships

I’ve mentioned before that I’m using two alternating POVs for my Epic Novel, Book One. When I first started writing the secondary POV, I had so much fun! Everything just flowed and came so easy. The character was mysterious, and that made him fun to write. However, the longer I wrote from his POV (and the more the reader got to know him), the more difficult time I had. I found myself floundering around for scenes to tell from his POV. What was going on?

My primary POV character, while daunting at times, has definite scenes and steady movement. The various trials he goes through during his military training move the story, show his growth, and set up future plot elements.

Since that worked so well for POV One, I decided to try it with POV Two. Except that it didn’t work. Every time I sat down to write, instead of marksmanship or marching or combat training, POV Two spent a scene during personal time to share a moment with his small group of friends. BORING. Or wait--is it?

You know those light bulb moments? I had one of those. And a flashback. (woah, light bulb and flashback at the same time!) I flashbacked to Lit class in college and those phrases:

     --Man vs. Man
     --Man vs. Nature
     --Man vs. Machine
     --Man vs. God

(my notes are in a box somewhere, so I’m just writing from memory.)

I realized that POV One’s character arc follows his circumstances. The situations in which he finds himself stretch and mold him; they move the story and show his growth. However, POV Two’s movement is more internal, more emotionally driven. Much of his growth happens within his own head based on the relationships he has. Ohhhh, personal time with friends. Relationships.

POV One’s character arc is circumstantial.
POV Two’s character arc is relational.

Ta da! Wish I could say problem solved, but as I have very little experience in relational character arcs, I may have to do some research. Too bad all those books and notes are in boxes as well . . .

Happy writing!