Monday, August 25, 2014

The Big Finish

Most of us have been there... those final few pages needed to finish the manuscript. The pressure is on and you have to tie up all the loose ends and somehow bring everything together to a satisfying conclusion. Should be easy, right?

I'm at that point with my current WIP, the third part of a trilogy. So the pressure is really on. Not only must I bring the book to a good conclusion in this final chapter or two, but the entire trilogy. Lots of plot threads running through all three books that have to be stitched up and sealed with a kiss.

So the question is - how do you do it? There are varying schools of thought on this process. Some people wing it. That used to work for me when I was writing the first books in a series or shorter works, but it doesn't cut it now where I have casts of thousands and lots of moving parts all over the story line.

Some of you are plotters. You do that sticky-note thing or storyboards or whatever works for you. Sadly, I don't work well that way. If I think every single thing through too far in advance, I no longer have any enthusiasm for writing the book. I do a basic plot and then see where it leads me. No offense to all you plotters out there, but that's what works best for me - and now, after having written and published over 50 works, I finally know what my process looks like. Everyone's is different.

So what do I do? Well... it's a little confused and somewhat complicated, but it works. Now that I'm down to the final few scenes, I make a hand-written list of all the characters who need to appear in the final scenes with little notes if they have to do something in particular to tie up any of my loose plot points.

At this point, my loose outline tightens up. I try to make a bulleted list that outlines all the small details I need to cover. At that point, I just work the list and write all the little pieces I need to fill in the blanks.

In the case of my most recent WIP, there's a final climactic battle scene where large groups of paranormal creatures and humans are up against an evil enemy. The trick is to not lose track of any of the combatants, since they all should play some role in the battle.

I counted it up and I have at least 35 different characters who have been named at different points in the trilogy who are all involved in the battle in different ways. I have to come up with convincing tasks for each of them, splitting them up into groups in most cases, but a few will deal with very specific threats in the battle. It's like choreographing a ballet, in a way. Only the ballet takes place completely on paper (or your ereader screen, as the case may be).

In addition to those 35 named characters, there is a supporting cast - the chorus, if you will. They have to be kept busy too, in support roles. It's challenging, but a hugely satisfying thing when it all comes together into a believable dance - in this case, a battle.

One of the key things to remember is that you can't ignore any special abilities the named characters may have already established. If you ignore something that could have been a simple solution in order to give your protagonists the spotlight, you're going to have to explain it. So, for example, if you have a demolitions expert in your supporting cast of named characters and something needs to be blown up, you either let him/her do it, or you come up with a reason why they can't and someone else - usually your lead character - has to do it.

As I said, I'm in the middle of doing this right now for my upcoming release. It's fun, but really intense and is best done all at once - or as close as you can get. In my case, I'm dedicating this week to working on this particular part of the book. I'll be reading and re-reading everything multiple times to make sure I don't miss anything obvious and I'll be putting in long hours writing the new parts each day.

If action/adventure isn't quite your thing, I can see this sort of strategy working in other genres as well. Start by making a list of all the characters you need to use in your final scenes and anything they need to do to tie up loose ends of your plot. Then use that list to make a bulleted list of scenes you need to include and work your way through them until you finally get to those ultra-satisfying final words: The End.

Good luck!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Apology


                         I Apologize
for our R rated post Mo' sex please. It wasn't suppose to published since we try to keep to loosely G rated subjects.  If we have offended anyone, again I apologize. I take full responsibility for the the content since I'm administrator of this blog.

Thank you for understanding how mistakes can happen.
Sincerely,
Donna

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Poke, Poke – 10+ Writing Prompts to Spur Your Imagination

                         


I just finished the thriller, FEAR THE WORST, by Linwood Barclay. It’s about a man whose daughter is missing. When he questions the people where she said she was working, they tell him they’ve never seen her before.  Then it really ratchets up from there.  I highly recommend it if you’re into that genre and you like Harlan Coben. I do and read the book in one day.  But I digress. Where do you think he got this premise from? Well,  at the end of the acknowledgements, he gave a special thanks to Paige for asking him at breakfast, “Suppose you came to pick me up at my job, and found out I never worked there?”  I thought, “Oh my gosh – that’s great.”  

Don’t you wish thoughts like that popped into your head?  Well, if you’re anything like me, you need help in that category, so here are some prompts to hopefully get you started.

http://www.reddit.com/r/WritingPrompts/.

1) An old man tells the story of his superpower, and the reason he never used it. (Darkmoon 000)

2) Your clone is trying to take over your life. With apparent identical memories, you now start suspecting you might be the clone. (Dr-L)

http://www.writingforward.com/category/writing-prompts

3) It all started in an old, abandoned movie theater.

4) A group of young adults gets together to rent a cabin for a weekend. They drink and party, and the next morning one of them is found murdered. In the months that follow, the friends suspect each other and question themselves. Who did it? Will they figure it out before the police do?
(My twist on this is what if it’s the ghosts of the young adults trying to figure out which one of them killed the others?)

5) An old man or woman confesses a lifetime of secrets—many of which involve violence, torture, and murder. (My addition - Did he/she really do these horrible acts or is he/she living in the killer's mind or are the thoughts of the killer being projected into this/her mind?)

7) Two best friends make a pact. When they get to junior high, they grow apart, but the pact haunts them. Will they fulfill the pact they made as children?

http://www.litbridge.com/creative-writing-prompts/creative-writing-prompts-for-fiction/

8) Spend a couple of weeks collecting photos and short phrases that you find interesting.  Keep them in a folder and use them to help you write a story (My twist -Spread out the pictures and phrases in two groups. Close your eyes and pick one from each group. Write a scene or story using the two.)

http://matthewdellar.com/200-fantasy-writing-prompts/

9) A fantasy in which mind-control magic is so prevalent that at any given second, any given person is probably being controlled by someone else.

10) Your protagonist doesn’t get stronger with every battle, but weaker as his or her injuries pile up.

The July/August issue of WRITER’S DIGEST has an article, 50 Writing Prompts for Every Part of Your Brain which I found interesting.

There are numerous sights for using photos as prompts, here are two of them: http://writingprompts.tumblr.com/ and http://visualwritingprompts.wordpress.com/ 


Okay, I did my part. Now it’s your turn.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Stir me up



I took a break from romance writing this month to hit the local art scene. Now and then I read a newspaper article about a controversial work. The "legs" statue in my hometown caused quite the debate. Click Here! 

A 9-11 tribute, depicting women in the poses they assumed when they heard their loved ones were killed, was generously donated, but declined due to the nudity of the figures. Click Here! 

It is an old debate. What is true art? Or what is palpable art for the mainstream?

When I hear the age old debate, I think of the writing world. Is romance or entertainment writing"real writing"? Is Erotica, like the nude form, something to be hidden? What does the literary world think of romance writers?

In a 1991 interview with Publisher's Weekly, Stephen King said, "I hear it in the voice of people from the literary journals where somebody will start by saying, 'I don't read Stephen King' and they are really saying, 'I don't lower myself."

I've heard similar complaints from fellow romance writers.

I don't have the answers, though I do have my opinions. Statistics shows that without extremes, we wouldn't know what "the norm" is. We wouldn't understand what it means to "push the envelope." Everything would be staid and standard. Without provocative art and writing, I wouldn't know that I had feelings that could be provoked.

Perhaps a piece of literature or art that has the power to stir our emotions is greater than we know.





Monday, July 21, 2014

Conference 101

So, you're going to the annual RWA conference...now what?

If you're like me, signing up for a conference is a double-edged sword. You want to go network and learn, but the overwhelming urge to stay home nags at the soul.

Over the years and the dozen of conferences I've attended - both small and large, I've come away with a few things that keep me sane.

1. Leave the big, everyday pocketbook at home! At every conference I've attended they give you a totebag - you don't need your pocketbook too. Bring a small bag that you can tuck inside the totebag with a few essentials. Trust me, you don't need a whole lot. You'll be going from early morning to late at night, you don't need the extra bag!

2.  Bring a few of your favorite snacks. Conference food is (a) not always good and (b) not abundant. You don't get a choice...and at one conference at few years ago, over the four days and several lunches and dinners, the conference hotel served the exact same chicken at every meal only smothered with a different color sauce each time. YUCK. That gets old FAST. It's also unlikely you'll have the time to eat off-site for every meal. So when those midnight munchies hit, you want to be prepared with a few snacks in your room.

3. Bring a sweater. The conference rooms are usually set to FREEZING.

4. Have a bottle of water in your bag. Along with the freezing conference rooms, the dry air has a habit of making us dehydrated.

5. Get over the idea you have to attend every workshop, every party, every meal, etc. You DON'T! The national conference is four days of non-stop networking and learning and putting faces with the names you see everyday on the loops - but it can be overwhelming. There is nothing wrong with taking a break. Sneak in an afternoon nap, take a few hours to walk around the host city and enjoy where you are. Taking time for yourself will give you the opportunity to sit back and recharge - important for all us.

Sadly, the conference wasn't in my budget this year, so I won't be there. I'll be there in spirit and can't wait for all the blogs to come. If you are going, ENJOY!




Monday, July 14, 2014

RWA Nationals - Cause for Controversy?

Wow. Some strangeness has been happening in the blogosphere surrounding RWA nationals and the choice of content for the workshops. Now, I've never been to nationals before, but I am a somewhat seasoned con-goer and I want to set the record - at least from my perspective - straight...

First, I can hear you all exclaiming. "Bianca D'Arc has never been to nationals, you say?" Yeah, that's right. I've been hiding under my desk every July, recovering from RT and assorted other conventions, and have been too wiped out to go to nationals before this year.

I actually took this year off from RT and decided to try nationals, even though I'm afraid of it. Why? Well, San Antonio was a big draw for me. I've been to TX many times, but never to San Antonio. I'd like to see it. Also, I feel the climate at RWA has changed in recent years. With new voices in positions of power, new attitudes toward non-traditional publishing avenues have become a little more accepted and we can have discussions like:

Is There a Case for Traditional Publishers and Agents?

The speaker is Dr. Dana Beth Weinberg, an LI RWA chapter member. I've also volunteered to moderate her session, so all of you who have your pitchforks sharpened and ready after some recent blogs about how "she's not an industry insider" and "how dare she talk about numbers and facts?" etc, can just check your weapons at the door, okay? ;-)

Here's the blurb for her workshop for those of you still interested in learning something:

Join a sociologist for an inside look at the evidence for and against the importance of publishers and agents, using industry data typically only available to publishers and their market research departments, including a look at the market performance of traditionally published and self-published authors.

I know Dana, and I know she's a level-headed professional with no particular ax to grind. Give her a chance. You might learn something. *gasp!*

And then there's my own panel discussion on Saturday afternoon:

Clause and Effect: Understanding Your Contracts and Terms of Service Agreements

Speakers: Bianca D’Arc, Crissy Brashear, Treva Harte, and Caridad Piñeiro Scordato

Whether negotiating an agency contract, representing yourself in publisher negotiations, or selecting “I Agree” on a self-publishing terms of service agreement, understanding what you’re signing and knowing the potential pitfalls are crucial. A panel of publishing professionals and author/attorneys will provide a balanced, accessible look at what to watch for in various publishing agreements.

Three of us on this panel are also lawyers. Two of the panelists are also small press publishers with years of experience. We did a similar panel at RT two years ago and it was really fantastic. I encourage you all to come and discuss both agency and publishing contracts with us!

Now I need to clarify something I said earlier. I said I was "afraid" of nationals, and yes, darnit, I am. Why? Because over the many years I've been a member of RWA, I've experienced many varying responses from other writers to my choices. First, I was small press published and I was looked down on for that. Then I got my first "NY" contract and suddenly everyone was counting my sales numbers. Then my mother died and I didn't write for years. Now I'm back and I've pretty much gotten on the indie bandwagon - though I pass no judgment on people who've chosen other paths.

I've been published every which way and I've never sought PAN membership. Maybe I will. *shrug* Or maybe I'm still on the fence because I'm still worried about how I'm going to be treated. Frankly, I dislike the way some in our profession feel entitled to sit in judgment of others who have made different choices.

Personally, I've been dissed, dismissed and downright trod on in the past by the attitudes of a few of my fellow writers. I know that those few don't speak for all, but I'm - understandably, I think - wary. I'm being bluntly honest when I say that, and perhaps others will be surprised by my candor.

That said, my local chapter-mates are fantastic! We are a supportive, inclusive group. We encourage each other regardless of what path we individually decide to take to publication. (Do I sound like Pollyanna yet?) I'm proud to call the members of LI RWA my friends and colleagues.

Hope to see many of you in San Antonio! :)

Monday, June 30, 2014


Five lessons a Ferret taught me about writing and life.

                Some people said that she was a baby substitute.  We were newly married and having a ball being just married without little nose miners running around.  So when I walked into the pet store on the South shore and from (here comes the cliché) across a crowded room, I saw a little ferret, much smaller than the others, trying to hop over her glass enclosure, I was smitten.  There were at least ten inches of glass above her that she needed to scale in order to affect her great adventure but it did not sway her from her quest – the challenge only made her more resourceful.

                 I watched her as she pushed wood shavings against the glass to make a hill which she'd scramble up and promptly roll down, paws and tail akimbo.  She wasn't dismayed, she'd get back up and try again.

Lesson One: Don't let obstacles, no matter what they are, hobble your dreams.  Take inspired action.

                It wasn't until she started to push a rolly plastic tubey thing with about a six inch diameter toward her hill that I thought to look around me and wonder if anyone else was watching this precocious little creature.  I also wondered what would happen when she finally flew the coup.  Funny how I just knew she'd manage it.  Apparently she shared my confidence, or rather, inspired mine with her keep-at-it attitude.   I moved closer.  Of course, the rolly tubey thing kept rolling off the hill she'd made from the wood shavings.  It even rolled over her once before she realized she had to dig away the hill and move the tubey thing in its place. 

                Lesson two: Obstacles are usually of our own design and tend to be lessons for us to learn from.  Take what you need from them, they are a gift, then sweep away what doesn't work anymore.  Then all your Rolly Tubey things will stay put.

                 Tube thing in place she was now a few inches higher.  She jumped on her hind legs trying to use her 'hands' to grab the top of the wall. 

                Lesson three: Nothing is out of reach if you keep striving for it – with or without little rolly tubey things. Keep learning, keep adapting, keep trying.

                I grinned when she started pushing another tube toward the first one and I started thinking that maybe this creature was an architect in one of her alternate lives.  Needless to say the second tube wouldn't stay atop the first - minor miscalculation – which sent the second tube rolling over her head.  Alright, so maybe she wasn't a great architect in that alternate life – but I had to give her snaps for working her theory.   

                By this time I knew this critter was going home with me.  I settled in to watch what she'd do next.  She clambered up the tube again too enthusiastically, lost her balance and went spout over teakettle onto her back.  Because ferrets have long sinewy bodies – my mother calls them hotdogs with hair - she twisted in a flash and was back on her feet chuffing and squeaking as if she were laughing, with her back end dancing back and forth while her front end stayed put.  She was a cartoon caricature of herself and she looked like she was having the time of her life.  I found myself laughing out loud at her antics.

                Lesson four: Amuse yourself.  The ability to laugh even when things or circumstances are falling on or around you is a rare gift.  Indulging in it keeps your gumption up, entertains your innate funny bone and may make someone else smile too, and spreading joy is always a good thing.  

                Out of nowhere someone who worked at the store came along and picked Madison Valentine (I'd named her by then) and took her off the tube and put it back in the middle of the display.  The store clerk smiled.  "She's a cutie isn't she?" 

She sure was!

                As if she was waiting for the coast to clear, Madison went back to work the moment the clerk walked away.  She rolled the tube back in place and resumed her comical jumping.  I was pulling for her.  I moved closer.  She hunkered down again, I could have sworn I saw a determined little tongue peek out of the side of her mouth, she pushed as hard as she could and flew upwards.  Her little paws latched onto the top edge of the glass enclosure. 

                She hung there for a second, in one of those now-what moments and then tried to gain purchase with her back paws, which of course, slipped ineffectually against the smooth surface.  I chuckled and took pity.  The little thing had worked so hard to make it as far as she did.  I reached in and carefully picked her up.  She chuffed and squeaked and looked at me with those soul-deep brown eyes in that bandit stripe across her face.  Then she bumped her head into my chin.  She had my unswerving devotion from that moment on.

                Lesson five: When you find someone to encourage and lift you up and set you back on your feet again, chuff and squeak and bump their chins and make sure they know how much you appreciate their friendship.  Show them the same unswerving devotion they show you and your great adventure in this life will be all the sweeter for it.

 

Dedicated to Madison Valentine.
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