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September 2013

The Center of Your Voice

I finally got around to seeing Rise of the Guardians last month. It had everything to do with my child now being old enough to appreciate longer movies and nothing to do with my appreciating Chris Pine’s sexy voice through 90% of the movie. Nope, nothing at all. And that is not why I bought the DVD.

*Ahem*

Anyway.

Back in December, EMichels did a post on the center of evil and how the villains in your books need a center instead of just being bad for the sake of badness.

http://www.badgirlzwrite.com/2012/12/the-warm-chocolaty-center-of-eeeeevil/

One of the themes in Rise of the Guardians is every person has a “center.” Deep down, there’s the core of what we bring to the world. Is it fun, wonderment, hope?

North explains his many layers. He’s jolly, mysterious, fearless, and caring – but the core of what makes him Santa is wonderment. He has eyes of wonder. Seeing the world with a childlike view allows him to create the toys, the lights, the spectacle and wonder that is Christmas.

As I watched Jack Frost embark on a quest that helps him discover his center (and was subsequently treated to a very pleasing number of CPine chuckles), it occurred to me how much the metaphor North uses to explain our center relates to our voice as writers. I began to wonder, what is the center of my voice?

Yes, I write with a lot of romance and love and, let’s be honest, lust. It’s why I’m in the romance genre. <insert duh here> I think pretty much every story can be improved with a bit of love and canoodling – even if it’s waaaay off on the side.

I write with humor. It’s prevalent in almost all that I do. I can’t write, or even live, without it.

I write a lot about loyalty and adventure. Bonds built through through sticky situations and shenanigans.

I use a lot of banter in my books.  I may have one or two strong, silent types, but most of my characters lean toward loquacious. It’s just how I roll.

But I realized, the center of my voice…is hope. My characters have been and will go through a lot. Many of them, at the start, have given up any hope of real happiness. They’re struggling in some way, trying to make things work, or plain ole faking it. They either don’t believe in love and happiness or they don’t believe themselves deserving. By the end, though, they have hope.  Hope for a better life. Hope for the love they’ve finally found. Hope for life because they’ve learned it’s about more than just getting by.

I imagine my center is similar to a lot of romance authors. We are writing Happily Ever After after all. 😉

So what’s your center? And what are the many layers wrapped around it?

7 Comments

Why You Should Join WFWA

Just in case you missed the flood of tweets, blogs, and status posts circling the social media world – The Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) officially opened for membership on September 9th.  I highly encourage you to check out the website and see for yourself what it’s all about, but I put together the top 5 reasons I believe every women’s fiction writer should join.

5.  Annual Retreat

The retreats and conferences I’ve attended have all been romance based.  And while I learned a great deal from each of them, I always found myself saying at some point, that doesn’t apply to me.  It will be scary, of course, being that I’ve always had at least one of my bad girlz accompany me on retreats, but it will also be exciting.  I can’t wait!

4.  Education

The majority of workshops are free to members.  That’s right, I said free.  I’ve always been hesitant to register for online workshops because they tend to be Forrest Gumps  – you never know what you’re gonna get.  Since most organizations charge for these little shares of knowledge in addition to yearly dues, I chose to save the cash.  But with WFWA, what are you really out of?  If you tune in and decide it’s not for you, you can sign off without any guilt.

3.  Networking

This business can sometimes be as much about whom you know as what you know.  Do you want your partial sitting at the bottom of a slush pile, or submitted with a recommendation?  Has your publisher asked you to scrounge together some cover blurbs from already established authors?  Do you need to line up a blog tour for your new release?  The ease and probability of these things happening is much greater if you belong to a writer’s organization like WFWA.

2.  Feedback

There are a lot of contests out there with “Women’s Fiction” categories, but not a lot of good ones – at least in my opinion.  Many times this category is judged by non-women’s fiction writers who are used to following a specific set of rules, like Happily Ever Afters and Heroes/Heroines meeting before page 5.  However, these rules do not apply for women’s fiction.  I can’t wait to enter, and hopefully judge, the first WFWA women’s fiction contest.

Can’t wait for feedback?  No problem!  WFWA is in the process of establishing critique groups and will be having a workshop for critique training!

1.  Incredible Resources

Not only will you be surrounded by some of the most talented authors in the business, who are more than willing to let you pick their brains, but the Members section of the website has invaluable information like the list for top WF agents, individualized tool boxes for each stage of your career, newsletters, and industry news posts.

Can’t find what you’re looking for there?  Check out the Hub, or search the many forums and post your question!  In my experience, the folks in WFWA are more than willing to help you out.

To join or get more information, swing by and check out the website.  If you decide to join shoot me a friend request!  Hope to see you on the Hub!

https://womensfictionwriters.org/

 

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Bad Girl For A Day – Robin Weaver

badgirlzintheattic

By Robin Weaver

First, many thanks to the Bad Girlz for having me as a guest blogger. Today, I’m going to talk about letting your subconscious help with the creative process. “The girls in the attic” is an alias for your subconscious (Yes, I took some poetic license with the title—in honor of the Bad Girlz).

Victorian Attic

A writing instructor once insisted the “girls” could resolve any manuscript issue, whether it be a plot gap or a character development dilemma.  Simply put: Got a problem?  Sleep on it.

Why does this work?  While you sleep, your subconscious chugs away, working on life’s issues. Our dreams are one portal to our subconscious.

But what if you could tap into this marvelous resource while awake?

I’ve recently done some research on the subconscious.  Not for a new book, but to improve my writing.  Most experts agree we use less than 10% of our brain.  How much less is up for debate, but writing enthusiasts insist all writing, and thus all creativity, occurs just beneath our conscious.

So how can you take advantage of the other 90% of your mind?  The answer is simple, yet amazingly complex.  You must relinquish control to the subconscious. Sounds easy, but it’s oh so hard.  Letting go takes both practice and Sweet Dreamsdiscipline.  One method to spur your “girls” is via free writing.  Take a blank piece of paper and let the words flow.  Those workshops that recommend completing your first draft without stopping to edit might be on to something.  Get the story on the page.  Don’t worry if it’s good, forget about grammar.  You can always edit when your subconscious, a.k.a. your creative mind, needs a break.

Another method to spur your inner muse is via improvs.  It’s no coincidence that many workshops and retreats begin with a list of words or items (a chalice, a piece of candy, a tube of lipstick) and then require you to write100-200 words.  These items/lists are called improvs.  Improvs work because they remove the pressure of “trying” to be creative.  Improvs let you focus on the fun of writing and help suppress your conscious, critical mind.

Start by identifying three words.  For instance, a monk, Paris Hilton and a stick of bologna.  Okay, get a better list—you didn’t think I could remain serious for an entire article, did you?

Once you generate your word list, write 100 words.  Don’t worry about quality, just write as fast as you can.  If you feel inspired after you finish the exercise, return to your work in progress.  If you are still creatively sluggish, select three words from the page you’ve just written and start again.  Keep going and your imagination will blossom.

Many people believe improvs can alleviate writer’s block.  What do you think?

BlueRidgeFear_CoverThanks again to the Bad Girlz.

Robin Weaver

Author of Blue Ridge Fear and Artifact of Death

 

 

Copyright © 2013 by Robin Weaver

9 Comments

Bad Girl For A Day – Kelly Moran

Bad Girlz Write would like to welcome Kelly Moran to our blog as a Bad Girl For a Day. Welcome!!! 😀

Thanks for having me! I’ll give away one eBook copy of my new release, The Dysfunctional Test, to one commenter at the end of today. XO

What do you write?

I write mostly quirky & heartfelt contemporary romance, though I have branched out and did a romantic suspense. In the past, I’ve written poetry and literature, but that’s no longer my focus.

Who would you cast as the hero/heroine in the movie adaptation of your book?

Bwa ha ha ha. Hm… For my book, The Dysfunctional Test, I’d cast Ryan Reynolds as my hero Troy and Alexis Bledel as my heroine Camryn.

What authors are on your auto-buy/borrow list?

Oh, that’s easy. Roxanne St. Claire, Caridad Pineiro, Jill Shalvis, Kristan Higgins, Robin Wells, Nora Roberts, Carla Neggers… You know what? All of them. If they wrote one romance and I liked it, I’d auto-buy more.

 What’s your signature drink?

Coffee. Preferably intravenously.
What movie scares the bejeezus out of you?

Stephen King’s ‘It’. Effing clowns! The only good clown is a dead clown!

What movie makes you bawl?

Finding Neverland or Atonement.

What song do you have to dance/sing along to whenever it comes on?

Pour Some Sugar on Me, Def Leopard

 

Here’s the trailer for my book!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JzxndhLbD60&w=420&h=315

You are cordially challenged to a test of true love…

Thanks to her large, crazy Serbian family, Camryn Covic is an expert at shutting down her emotions in order to maintain her sanity. But when she loses her apartment, her job and her boyfriend all in one day, she hits her breaking point. Worse, if her family finds out she’s single again, her sister’s upcoming wedding will be a disaster. The bride-to-be has a plan, though. A plan that involves an old friend, a pretend relationship… and the probability of ending up in a padded cell. Troy Lanske agrees to the crazy plan only because Camryn was once his lifeline as a foster child. But she isn’t the idealistic girl he remembers. She’s become so jaded that she doesn’t even believe in love anymore. He sets out to restore her faith in happily-ever-afters, but his plan backfires when the fake relationship begins to feel all too real. Falling for the one woman he can’t have could mean losing more than just his honorary family. He could lose everything.

Where to find Kelly: www.authorkellymoran.com

facebook.com/authorkellymoran, @AuthorKMoran, pinterest.com/authorkmoran, myspace.com/authorkellymoran, kellymoranauthor.blogspot.com, goodreads.com/authorkellymoran, youtube.com/authorkellymoran

20 Comments

Man Candy Monday: Adam Levine

Today’s man candy honoree is Maroon 5 front man…Adam Levine.  Whether you like their music or not, you’ve got to admit…there’s just something about this guy that makes your mouth water a bit (Hey!  I’m a poet and didn’t know it!  You can use that in a song anytime, Adam!)

adam-singing

I’ve always liked a scruffy man, but I never thought of myself as a tattoo girl.  Until I came across Adam and realized it was because I hadn’t found a guy who could wear them to my satisfaction!  I mean, how could you not want to read these?  I’m kinda wishing they came in braille.  Am I right?  AM I RIGHT?

adam-tattoo       adam-tattoo2Adam-girl

Guy next door or Mr. GQ Smooth…you can’t go wrong.  Not many guys can pull off the skinny jeans, but he sure as hell can.  Just looking at Adam makes it Harder to Breathe (see what I did there?)

adam-everydayadam-skinny

adam-GQ

 

 

And he’s not just pretty ladies, he’s smart too.  I bet he’s thinking about how to solve world hunger, or bring peace to the Middle East.  At least that’s what I tell myself.  He could be thinking about how he’s going to get his fine ass out of his skinny jeans.  But let’s face it….do we really care?

adam-thinking

And DAMN, the man can wear a t-shirt.

adam t-shirt     adam-tshirt2adam-tshirt3

 

Or not.

Adam-shirtless

We salute you, Mr. Levine! You’ve inspired more than one of my characters!

Cheers!

3 Comments

Saturday Shoe Parade: Bad Ass Boots Edition

There are few things in this world that I lust after more than a pair of bad-ass shoes that look like they could do some damage and survive an apocalypse. If they’re sexy as hell, too? All the better.

Case in point: these new boots from Prabal Gurung’s Fall 2013 collection.

Prabal Gurung boots fall 2013 1 Prabal Gurung boots fall 2013 2

What do you think? And what shoes are on your wishlist this Saturday?

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Internet Inspiration: Syd’s Super Setting (Not-so) Secret!

One of my favorite parts of starting a new story is the research. I’m all about immersing myself in the setting: time, place, clothes, food, everything—I want to live and breathe the world of my story, and I want to take my readers there, too. If the setting is somewhere I’ve traveled, I add in details that only come from being there. There is no substitute for personal experience. Which sucks, since I’m not made of money (though “research” is one of the finest motives for travel, IMHO). So that brings us to the topic of the day, virtual research.

Right about now, you might be thinking, “Syd, you are not seriously going to spend an entire blog post telling me to use the internet for research!” Now, before you re-christen me Mrs. Obvious, let me clarify. It’s all in the way you use it that takes a website from being just information to the next best thing to being there. So bear with me and I’ll share my esoteric knowledge!

My Number One Super- Secret Website: Google Maps

If you aren’t aware of Google Maps, you must live under a rock (even though Google Maps has probably at least documented the upper side of said rock). Street View is the best thing ever for exploring a setting, worldwide. I use it in a variety of ways. First, it’s a snapshot of the real, candid, caught-in-time view of your real setting, un-posed and authentic. The actual businesses, the architecture, the vibe. Most of the time, they’re not pretty, just real. Power lines, check cashing places, delivery vans. But that’s real life. Here’s a screen shot of the Promenade in Blackpool, U.K. just as an example.

Blackpool

I’ve got the beach at the far left, and the brown-gray color of the sea, the kitsch of the tourist attractions, and the quality of the sunlight in the morning. I’ve also got images of passing people, bundled up against the wind (this is October). I can take all of these details and build them into a setting. The map part itself is valuable just to establish directions in my narrative and to add a little authenticity to something that might be entirely from my imagination, otherwise. Google Maps are great for exploring those everyday side streets you might not get to see, even if you were able to travel there. Think about it: maybe your heroine is a college graduate who has just moved to Manhattan, and you’ve been to NYC. But realistically, is she going to live in a neighborhood near Times Square and the other places on every tourist’s must-see list? What does her building look like? What would she see when looking out of her window? Google Maps will help. I’ll travel down the streets of my novel’s setting, looking this way and that, looking for buildings I like, places my characters might shop, restaurants where they might eat.  I don’t dump all of this in, but a judicious name-drop of a street or a shop adds a touch of authenticity.

One caution, though: this can be a real time suck. I’ve logged so many hours on Street View that when I’ve actually visited in real life, I’ve been able to walk around like a native. Yeah, I’m obsessed. So I don’t use this when I’m actively writing a draft. All it takes is for me to wonder how far a character lives from his office, and I’m off stalking the streets for office buildings……and now it’s dark outside, I’ve got a Word document with a blinking cursor and I’m on the receiving end of some very pointed questions regarding dinner. But for that glorious time when the spark of your story is new, put on your imaginary traveling shoes, get to clicking, and explore!

Happy writing,

Syd

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Plotting for Pantsers

As anyone who’s ever talked to me knows, I’m a pantser. I’ve spoken at length about how I learn about my characters while writing them, and how improvisation is key to how my stories develop. I’m actually probably really annoyingly stubborn about it.

But, as it turns out, even I can take a hint sometimes, when the universe smacks me over the head with it enough times.

Last year, I had some personal situations that rocked my mojo. Badly. I never stopped writing in the last six months of 2012, but I started stories and got distracted and didn’t know what came next, and I gave up and started new manuscripts. I kid you not: I wrote the first ten to thirty thousand words on no fewer than four different stories. I was miserable and lost and plowing ahead without a rudder, an engine, or even a goddamn map, because writing was the only part of my life I felt like I had any control over. It was a mess.

I vowed to change my ways and just finish something already at the beginning of 2013, and I did that. I hated the manuscript I ended up with. I’m still fumbling through edits on it.

And in the meantime, I accidentally ended up in three different workshops on plotting.

Universe? Yes, I hear you. I feel that sharp thumping on the back of my cranium. I get that you’re trying to tell me something.

The first workshop I went to was one led by Anna DeStefano at a retreat in May. Over and over again, she hammered home the point that you need to know at the outset of your story who your characters are, what their goals are, and what’s keeping them from their goals. It was the kind of stuff I usually at least have an inkling of before I start writing, but presented in a more formalized way. While I figured I didn’t really need that kind of structure, I listened. I took notes. In the back of my mind, the gears began to turn.

The second workshop was actually one on synopsis-writing, led by Jean C. Gordon. What threw me for a loop at her presentation was her insistence that the best time to write a synopsis is when you’re about three chapters into writing your manuscript. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard that suggestion, but it was the first time I really stopped to think about it. Over and over, she emphasized developing your conflict and deciding what obstacles were standing in your characters’ way. I took the new manuscript that I just so happened to be about three chapters into writing and tried sketchily mapping it out the way she’d suggested. It didn’t change much about my ideas for the story, but it did reveal to me that I needed a little more going on in one of my characters’ arcs if I wanted him to stand on his own.

Thirdly and finally, I had a free block of time during RWA and decided to check out a seminar by Jessica Brody on Save The Cat.

You go to enough chapter meetings and enough panel discussions, and you eventually hear the names of pretty much all the big craft books. Save The Cat was one I definitely recognized the title of, but I really had no idea what it was about. Turns out, it was written as a guide for screenwriters on the major plot points / scenes that make up a typical, well-rounded Holywood style story. It’s like Mad Libs for plotters: these are the basic beats you need to hit; now fill in the blanks with the particulars of your story.

What I took away from it was that in fifteen sentences or less, you could basically throw together the skeleton for your story.

On the plane ride home, I started plotting.

The next book I wrote was one I not only finished, but felt happy with by the time I was done.

Now mind you, I’m not really changing my ways. Writing is still how I figure out my characters’ voices. Writing is still how I discover the imagery and themes that will make my book unique. But sailing along without any real plan at all was leaving me stranded, so I’ve started working on outlines that, without precluding the chance for discovery or improvisation, give me a basic structure and a map for how to get from the first scene to the last scene. Our very own Heather McGovern refers to this level of balance between pantsing and plotting at “plotsing”, and I’m starting to think it might be a better style of working for me. I doubt I’ll ever buy notecards or highlighters, or make a storyboard, or compose an outline that’s over three pages long. But I’m starting to think I may never go into a manuscript completely blind again, either.

It’s all still new to me at this point. I’ll let you know how it goes.

8 Comments

Co-Authoring: It Ain’t For Sissies – Part Two

coauthor pic

Now for the nitty gritty of how to co-author.

In order to co-author, you need some sort of operating agreement, be it written or un-written.  You should agree on the levels of commitment. Agree on how you’ll handle the process. Agree to communicate. Then, touch base with this agreement regularly. Are things still working? If not, why? Be honest with each other without fear of animosity.  

More to that point, just talk! Be friendly and supportive. Your co-author will need to hug you when you feel like your writing sucks and kick your a$$ when you’re slacking.  In turn, you should do the same. Brit and I have written together, for fun then profit, for almost 4 years now. You go through a lot in 4 yrs. Co-authors have to be understanding, but sometimes firm. If your co-author is a friend, it helps ease communication and smoothes out the edges.

So, what are the basic steps to co-authoring? Ours look something like this:

Step 1: One of us emails the other with an idea in the form of something like, “What if we had two characters that ___, who  are ____, and their problems are ____?”

Step 2: A LOT of back and forth brainstorming and spit balling. This is our favorite part. We talk out character sketch, motivations, back story, conflict, etc.  We email, we text, we skype call and flail like fools. This part is only slightly less time consuming than drafting. It’s vital that we are both on the same page before we begin. We develop our characters fully and creativity flows. We have word documents on each character for referral.

Step 3: We work out a plot. Oddly, it’s not necessarily that detailed. Some scenes are very detailed, others…eh. We know each other well enough that we can put down the main plot points and let whoever tackles that scene first, play around with it. Our Big Black Moment is often a point that just says, “Big Black Moment that touches on this, this and this as their issues we’ve already brought up…and it rips their hearts out.” We’ve also worked on plot and had it further develop each character (as per usual in the creative process.

Step 4: We decide who will write what scene first OR we write back and forth via email, tackling the same scene a few paragraphs at a time. Pivotal scenes we handle this way, like the BBM. We know what would crush each character. We’ve worked up to this moment, so we chat about it and then write back and forth, letting the painful moment fly, and feeding off what the other is writing as well. Then we copy and paste these paragraphs onto the manuscript and tweak it as needed so it flows and works in well with the pacing.

Step 5: We each go over what the other person has written. First a chapter or scene at a time, and then again at the end, both taking a read through of the full manuscript to make sure it’s as seamless as possible.

Step 6: Edits and Work from publisher is tackled together. We each take a crack at edits. For any big changes, we collaborate. For smaller, line edits and fixes, we split the book up to be fair. For blurbs and marketing, we work on those forms together. It’s actually a lot more fun to do publisher homework and write a synopsis with a friend.

That is how we co-write! It’s not rocket surgery, but you definitely want a partner you know and trust and a plan.  Finally, if you do decide to co-author a project, don’t forget to have fun! Those “Eureka!” moments are twice as awesome with a friend. As a matter of fact, we had one last night in regards to plot and character. It was maaaagic!Also, hilarious things can happen when you co-write. There’s a story about a pair of shoes our hero wore before a particularly smoking hot sex scene. I wrote him slipping off the shoes as they got frisky in the kitchen. Brit wrote them coming off again, later, when they got nakies in the bedroom.  The shoes were off, the shoes were on, and then they were off again. They were the mysterious reappearing sex shoes and we laugh about it to this day.

Writing can be isolating, especially when all the people around you are fictional. Co-authoring, even if just on the side, is another way to keep connected, continue to stretch your writing muscle, and have fun.

Write on!

6 Comments

The Waiting Game

The past few weeks, I’ve been doing a lot of waiting.

Waiting in lines at Disney World.  Waiting at the mobile phone store, because the sales people take entirely way too long to activate phones.  Waiting in traffic, because a contractor decided to shut down lanes during rush hour on the only route I can take to work.  Waiting in the car rider line on the first day of school, because the new principal decided to change procedures without informing us parents.

Waiting, waiting, waiting.

I try not to complain about things I can’t really change.  I mean, what’s the point?  Bitching about traffic doesn’t make it go away.  Instead, I spend a lot of time and effort making sure I avoid these situations so that my life runs smoothly.  I leave a half hour early for work to avoid the school rush, get to the car rider line forty-five minutes before dismissal so I can be first in line and get my kids to practice on time, and I know exactly what I want when I go into an electronics store to avoid all the sales mumbo jumbo.

But there are just some things, no matter how hard I try, that throw a wrench into my perfect little plans.

Like take, for instance, this whole writing thing.  What happened to my plan?  I should be published by now, or represented at the very least.  I should be finishing up my sixth book and planning for my seventh, talking to Lifetime about making my third movie, and writing cover blurbs for all my bad girlz, because they should all be published too.  Instead, I’m waiting.

Yeah.  Those perfect little plans.

But I don’t get discouraged.  I keep researching, because things are constantly changing.  I keep networking, because the more people you know the more chances you’ll have.  I keep writing, because when I do get the call I want to be ahead of the game.  I keep planning, even if my plans haven’t worked out thus far, because it gives me something to keep moving toward.

So if you’re just starting out, here’s my advice to you.  Set your goals, but know that they may have to change.  Do the best you can to stay on track, but expect the wrenches that will get thrown your way.  And always be ready to get the call tomorrow, but don’t get discouraged if it takes a while.

It will all be worth it one day, I promise.

How do you stay sane and keep yourself on track?

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