Category — How To Writing
I shall begin by stating the obvious. The first chapter is the most important chapter in a book. Think of it like a first date. Ugh, I know. Or, yea, how exciting! First dates can really suck or they can be really great much like first chapters.
Anticipation is high with both. You wear your most flattering clothing (showcase your most polished prose). You take your time with your hair and makeup (lots of pretty words, amazing metaphors, action verbs, etc.). You exhibit good manners and watch your language (nothing crude and rude) and you smile, laugh a lot at his jokes, drop witty comments (introduction of engaging characters and an immediate obstacle) and if you like him, flirt to make sure he KNOWS you’re interested ( you are always interested in the reader wanting to read more). If the first date is a success, then your obvious objective–date number two (chapter two)–should occur shortly thereafter.
In a nutshell, if you are writing chapter one, DON’T be boring, DON’T make it all about back-story, DO introduce an engaging, mysterious, funny, exciting, desperate character who is faced with conflict immediately. Boring people rarely get second dates. Boring first chapters often suffer a similar fate.
March 5, 2013 No Comments
THE TO-DO LIST.
So clever, isn’t it? Here’s the skinny. I craft extensive to-do lists 365 days a year (yep, even when I’m sick or on vacation) and with grim, single-minded focus complete every task on the list including such mundane things as removing a sticky mark off the coffee table (I recommend Goo Be Gone), super gluing (Try Loctite Super Glue Control Gel) a loose piece of stucco on the side of the house, and whitening my teeth (the generic kits work just as well). Plus a hundred of other boring non-fulfilling, who give a rat’s tail, unimportant, unfulfilling tasks.
I do all these stupid things before I allow myself to do what I love (write, in case, you weren’t following along too closely) and of course, by THAT TIME, I’m exhausted and have no energy, no willpower, no vavoom, no nothin’…left in the tank.
Yes, I am my own whipping post. It’s a recipe for failure, sadness, and futility. But, there’s hope because acknowledging you have a problem is the first step! The second step is what will I do to STOP THE MADNESS?
Because it IS madness to deny oneself something oneself loves to do so very, very, much.
State Tune for Part III-Stopping The Maddness of Writer’s Procrastination
December 4, 2012 No Comments
Want to know how to start writing a story? Read the following excerpt from Story by Robert McKee. Afterward, buy his book. I HIGHLY recommend it to every writer of screenplays or books.
Writing From the Inside Out
As the term implies, a step-outline is told in steps. Using one or two sentence statements, the writer simply and clearly describes what happens in each scene, how it builds and how it turns, for example, “He enters expecting to find her home,but instead discovers her note saying she’s left home for good.”
On the back of each card the writer indicates what step in the design of the story he sees this scene fulfilling–at least for the moment. What scenes set up the Inciting Incident? Which is the Inciting Incident? First Act Climax? Perhaps a Mid-Act Climax? Second Act? Third? Fourth? Or more? He does this for Central Plot and subplots alike.
This advice is golden. Sometimes writers think they need to write emotionally or organically minus a game plan when really they need to write logically and orderly according to an outline which of course is a game plan. (Whoa! I used a whole lot of adverbs there.) This process will help avoid many of the common writing pitfalls like a soft middle, a contrived story, a plot riddled with holes, and so on and so on.
Take my advice. Buy Story. Read it and write correctly–from the inside out. By the way, Mr. McKee does indeed discuss the horrors of writing the opposite way– from the outside in– in his book in case you have a perverse curiosity about doing things the wrong way.
There’s always one or two of you out there.
February 26, 2012 No Comments
Create Your Next Book Scene in Front of the Mirror
Remember when you were a teenager and EVERYTHING was a drama? Even if something wasn’t, you’d find a way to make it so. Why? Because a dramatic life is much more exciting, more stimulating, than a chill life.
Chill is well, dull. Chill does not make a good story.
Drama makes a good story. Drama evokes emotion and emotion connects us to the characters–their triumphs and their heartaches.
Think back to when you’d rehearse a scene you planned on creating, say with your boyfriend, in front of the mirror. You’d practice your lines. Anticipate answers and reactions. Use different voices. Study your face for expression. Practice the “right” tone in your voice. You’d run through the scene a couple times trying different approaches, looking for those perfect lines to obtain your specific goal whether it be a civilized break-up or an invite to the prom.
Verbally fleshing out a book scene in front of a mirror forces you to hear your characters as they react to obstacles and as they interact with one another. This exercise can reveal inconsistencies in dialogue and plot. It can answer questions like does he or she sound realistic? Are their answers boring? Is the scene complete?
Most importantly, it can answer one of the VIP questions. Does this scene move your story forward?
If you are not asking and answering this question after every scene you write, you should be.
And if you ask the question and the answer is no…
Well I say… yawn.
January 18, 2012 No Comments
I thought about creating a writer’s new year resolution list. I know…you just snickered.
I thought about saying things like, “Stop whining, stop procrastinating, sit down in front of your computer and WRITE!!” Yeah, you want to slap me.
But how many times have we heard this kind of DUH advice? Picture me rolling my eyes like a teenager.
I don’t want to be that person, instead, I’m going be the person who gives you unusual, UNWRITING like advice on how to revitalize your writing in 2012. Picture me winking while giving the thumbs up.
Bathroom Time: Don’t Just Sit There, Write!
This tip is for writers who are short on time. Imagine your characters talking and walking and interacting while you are sitting on the pot. That’s right, create the next scene in your book AND take care of business. What else do you have to do but stare at the hard water deposits on your shower door?
I got this brilliant idea from my youngest child who never goes in empty-handed. Her accomplishments include: memorizing song lyrics, changing doll outfits, and the reading of hundreds of books. Heck, she bought a lap version of the BOP IT game with her own money so she could practice in the bathroom. She did this even though she already owned a regular sized one! This child hates to waste time.
I believe bathroom time is the most under-utilized opportunity for adding precious writing time to your crazed life. Say you’re not the lingering type, you keep things to a minimum–20 minutes tops.
Think of how 20 minutes every single day (hopefully) will add up! That’s as much as 140 minutes a week! With bathroom time, you can create the scene in your head or you can bring in paper and pen or even a tablet to capture your scene.
Bathroom Time could be the answer to the ”where will I find the time to write” prayer.
January 12, 2012 No Comments
Pitches, Hooks, and Loglines, Oh my!
Pitches, Hooks, and Loglines, Oh why!
Because some people have short attention spans.
Because some people want to be intrigued before they commit.
Because some people don’t have the time to read your book, your synopsis, or even your cover letter.
What makes a good pitch, hook, and logline?
Verbs and nouns that pack a punch, conflict, humor, drama, and ununsual but relatable plots aka HIGH CONCEPT plots.
What is a HIGH CONCEPT plot? A story that appeals to a lot of people.
Here are some examples of pitches, hooks, and loglines.
United by a history they cannot discuss, yet starkly alone in their private struggles, father and son confront their demons and one another in a stand-off that will change them both forever. Poles Apart by Audrey RL Wyatt
Long-suffering sports widow is repeatedly thwarted in her unconventional attempts to murder the armchair jock husband she may still love. To Kill An Armchair Husband, a dark comedy by me, Terri Weeding
And . . . here’s my new favorite logline. A rancher tries to stop king-sized, hopped-up carnivorous rabbits as they roar through Arizona. Night of Lepus, movie
Notice the use of strong adjectives like king-sized and hopped-up. And ”roared”, well, can’t get much more powerful than that for a verb.
As for an unusual but relatable plotline . . .
I live in Arizona so I can testify to the existence of giant-sized, hopped-up, carnivorous bunnies.
May 9, 2011 No Comments
Directions for Uninhibited First Draft Writing
1. Plop down in front of your computer and start pounding out words. Who cares if the words sound stupid! If you don’t read them you won’t know they’re stupid. Besides, stupid today can look like genius tomorrow and yeah, well, it works the other way too. The important thing is NEVER EVER read your fragile virgin words immediately after you’ve let them loose.
Helpful Hint: Pretend that you are a court reporter and your job is to report/type the words you hear in your head. You do hear words, people speaking, that kind of think, don’t you? As a court reporter, YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO CHANGE THE WORDS, NOT EVEN ONE TINY WORD, OR YOU WILL BE FIRED! Let me be clear. I mean leave the mistakes. Leave the shoddy punctuation. Leave the angry words and the naughty words and the embarrassing grammar.
2. Write until you reach the goal you set for yourself. Hello! You did set a goal, right? Some writer folk use a time-limit, some like a word count, some a page count. DON’T set an obnoxiously huge goal that will be impossible to attain. There’s a term for this kind of person. Self-Sabatoger!
DO set a baby goal that you can feel good about cause you will be able to accomplish your goal in 20 minutes, no problem. When you are finished hit save and walk away. Walk away. Walk away.
3. I am of the opinion that uninhibited first draft writing requires a chaser to relieve the stress of . . . uninhibited first draft writing. I favor dancing to the funky little tune, ”Get up offa that thing” by James Brown http://www.youtube.com/embed/0ROzGihgCj8
If you’re going to imitate me, remember, absolutely no editing, no analysis, no mirrors for goodness sake! Just feel the music and move it!
April 4, 2011 3 Comments
The classic mother-in-law. Mother Mona, from my novel, To Kill An Armchair Husband, a dark comedy is such a character. Mother Mona is annoying, judgmental, and has overindulged her son from day one.
It’s a lot of fun and surprisingly easy to write an over-the-top character like the classic mother-in-law. This is how I did it.
1. I created her personality. Mona is overdramatic, narcasstic, and a martyr. She’s obsessed with her only child, cooking and cleaning, and she waits on her husband, hand and foot. Oh, and no woman could ever be good enough for her baby boy (adult son).
2. When I wrote Mona’s dialogue and actions, I grossly exaggerated her speech, thoughts, movements, actions, reactions…everything.
3. Major characters and major secondary characters should all experience some type of transformation as the story progresses. In keeping with Mona’s dramatic personality, her transformation was extreme as well.
For a taste of Mother Mona, read this excerpt from Chapter 14: Mamma’s Not Happy.
Five years ago, minutes before Charlene walked down the aisle to wed her only child, Mona presented her future daughter-in-law with a laminated copy of her baby boy’s favorite dinners. The comprehensive seven-day meal plan included entrées, corresponding side dishes, and the perfect desserts. On the flip side of document, she included every recipe and the brand name of all the ingredients so that Charlene could duplicate each meal without fail.
What better gift to give a new bride? The ultimate time-saver, one guaranteed to save Charlene hours of trial and error in the kitchen. A gift to please a husband in the most important area — his stomach.
Mona picked up the bucket and carried it to the laundry room. As she dumped out the muddy water, she sighed at the memory of her own generosity. Charlene had never appreciated the gift. To make matters worse, she had resisted every attempt Mona made to guide her in the fine art of homemaking and husband attending. Consequently, Mona felt the need to check on her son’s well-being on a regular basis.
Starting the day Billy and Charlene returned from their honeymoon, Mona called every night at seven o’clock sharp. Her objective was two-fold; to find out if Charlene bothered to make the correct side dish and to discover whether she went the extra, but necessary mile, to produce a dessert.
“No meal is complete without dessert.” It was her favorite line. In her mind, she addressed an audience composed of look-a-like Charlene’s, slender of waist and disdainful of traditional ways.
Much to Mona’s chagrin, in the last few years Charlene stopped making dessert all together. She claimed Billy was overweight. Mona disagreed. Her son was simply big-boned, like his father.
As she rinsed and squeezed the water from the mop, Mona fretted about her son’s deprived stomach. She felt his pain and nightly disappointment. “Oh my poor Billy,” she moaned, imagining her son’s sweet tooth throbbing in agony.
Creating an over-the-top character is a blast. It’s a great writing exercise too, as it will help you to flesh out your character.
I highly recommend it!
October 13, 2010 No Comments
The most accesible and most common humor in the world is family humor.
Think family sitcoms. All in the Family, Leave it to Beaver, Brady Bunch, Everybody Loves Raymond . . . Heck, it’s hard to come up with sitcoms that aren’t centered on a family. Even Friends was about a close-knit group of friends who considered themselves a family.
Check out this great excerpt from Everybody Loves Raymond
Marie: These breadsticks are old.
Frank: You are what you eat.
Marie: Bobby, give your father his helping of Miserable Bastard.
People in close contact will eventually compete with and irritate each other. Husbands compete with wives, in-laws compete with married children, children compete with parents, and entire families compete with relatives and neighbors. The mother-in-law visit is still one of the hundred most common plots on TV. Laughter is created when characters interreact with love, illness, jealousy, prejudice, death, and cream pies. Comedy Writing Secrets by Mel Helitzer
If you write comedy or even if you’re just interested in how it works, I highly recommend Comedy Writing Secrets by Mel Helitzer. Mr. Helitzer’s book breaks down comedy to its core elements. Plus he includes lots of funny excerpts.
Coming next . . . Part II–Mother Mona. The grossly exaggerated mother-in-law sterotype from my novel, To Kill An Armchair Husband, a dark comedy. Read a Mona excerpt and learn how I created this “Monster-in-law.”
October 8, 2010 No Comments
Let’s say you’ve composed something funny.
Your concept, your witty dialogue is cracking you up so much you can barely type the sentences.
You finish stroking the keys, wipe the tears of hilarity from your cheeks and sigh, “Oh man that’s good…”
“How can I tell?”
Unless you do these three things.
1. Let your incredibly amusing work sit a day or two.
2. Read your words out loud. Did you still laugh?
3. Send the words to a couple people (not your mother, spouse, uninterested teenager, or BFF). Better yet, read the section out loud to those chosen few who don’t care about hurting your feelings. I recommend East coasters.
Did anyone crack a smile? Chuckle? Snort?
If yes, good for you.
If no, maybe they didn’t get your humor.
Now at least you know.
September 28, 2010 No Comments