Saturday, May 30, 2015

Lots O' Links In May!

Lots of links this month!

Inscribe Writers Online - May 15 - Journals for Mental Health
Gelatiscoop - May 14 - Lessons From a Life of Writing
The Word Guild - May 27 - Committed to the Call
Inscribe Professional Blog - May 21 - Take Charge of Your Writing

AND... I was a guest on the G-Zone on May 19

Friday, May 29, 2015

Featuring... JAC Pub

Busy times! I have a show coming up next week and one of the plays my troupe will be performing is a play I wrote several years ago called 'Little Red In the Hood'. So, what better time than to feature all my plays published by JAC Publishing, a theatre publishing and promotional house in New England. To date I've got five plays with JAC Pub.

Dorothy's Road Trip - a fresh, modern parody of the classic Wizard of Oz. You'll love the Wicked Witch.

Little Red In the Hood - Vigilantes in the woods? The caped girl has attitude and Grandma is the coolest old lady around!

Hook's Nemesis - Captain Hook is a neurotic female sailing the seas with her therapist, Dr. Anna Lize. Lots of zany characters and surprises abound! 

Ali and the Magic Lamp - told from the genie's point of view, another gender switch with Ali as a skateboarding teenage girl. Twists and turns keep the audience guessing 

The Western Tale - Shakespeare goes western in this wild west retelling of  the dark comedy 'The Winter's Tale'.

Order directly from JAC Pub for your next play! (Performance royalties apply.) 

See all my plays

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

New Release - Legacy:Renata's Story

The backstory for Renata, one of the characters from the COLONY ZERO series, released last Thursday on the HHP site. LEGACY is just one of COLONY ZERO - 'Series 0' to be releasing soon. The entire set will be available some time later this summer.

As Colony Zero’s chief spiritual leader, Renata always seems to inject just the right amount of wisdom and calm into any situation. It wasn’t always so. From a very young age she had to deal with pain, loss and turmoil, not to mention a passion that was almost her undoing. Read about the trials by fire that shaped Renata into the wise woman she becomes, able to shoulder the burdens of an entire colony of misfits and the misunderstood. Part of the ‘Colony Zero Series 0’ set of character backstories, LEGACY – RENATA’S STORY brings deeper understanding to what makes this dynamic woman tick.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Combining the 'Ps' - Plotting and Pantsing

Plotting versus ‘pantsing’. There is much debate among authors over which works best. There is certainly merit to both methods. Plotting ensures continuity while ‘pantsing’ keeps it fresh. It’s really a matter of personal preference. As long as the final outcome is solid, the methodology really doesn’t matter.

I’ve come to the conclusion that there are no true purists either way. Even die-hard plotters admit that their characters sometimes surprise them with unexpected actions, and at some point the ‘fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants’ writer needs to readjust the storyline to make sure it flows. My mode of operation is definitely a mixture of the two, often switching back and forth between them.

I usually start with a shorthand ‘telling’ version of the storyline as I know it thus far. This will change, but I like to just get it out of my head and onto the computer without too much over analysis. I don’t worry about grammar, sentence structure or whether it even makes sense. I leave out any descriptions or dialogue unless a really brilliant line pops into my head. Obviously, logistical issues or huge gaps in the action pop up during this process. I go back and change what I can, but I don’t stress too much about it since I know the details will likely change anyway once I actually get to the writing process. This basic outline becomes a framework that will evolve with the story.

I am big on creating detailed character sheets. These become very useful during the writing process. It prevents a sudden change in eye colour in the middle of the book, among other things! Besides a physical description, some background information about family etc. helps to establish what motivates each character. I’ve even found it helpful to ask interview questions of the key characters and then respond in his or her voice. It’s a great way to get inside the character’s head and some of these responses can even become dialogue.

I also like to write a description of each specific location. I picture it in my mind and then list as many details as possible, including sounds, smells and any other sensory information beyond the visual. This becomes another useful tool during the writing process.

With these first basic plotting steps in place I switch gears and become more of a pantser. Without exception I have found that once I actually start writing the story my original ideas change. Trying to figure out too many details in advance just doesn’t work for me. Characters say and do unexpected things. Fresh ideas come to mind. Well thought out scenes can come off contrived and wooden. Allowing the creative process to take over for this first draft brings life to the story.

Somewhere around one-third to one-half way through the first draft, I get the urge to go back and plot out the story in a more thorough way. By that time I have a better sense of what the problems are with my original idea, and the characters have had time to speak. At this point I create a few helpful documents. I have found that Scrivener, a popular organizational software for writers, is excellent in this regard.

First, I make a list of each specific scene so I can get a sense of the ebb and flow of the story. I note the location, the main action, and whether there is a change in point of view. If you are using Scrivener, you can even note the word count for each scene. This list of scenes is especially necessary if your story contains multiple sub-plots. It highlights any imbalances at a glance, preventing too much weight on one sub-plot at the expense of others.

Next I take the information from the scene lists and translate it into a plot diagram. The English teacher in me rises up and I usually just do a hand written copy using the good old triangular shaped model. I look to make sure I have a clear inciting force, rising action, climax and so forth. Multiple sub-plots mean there will be multiple climaxes, but there should be one overarching goal that is achieved by the end of the story, as well as character growth. Ask yourself how the main character will change or grow over the course of the story.

I also create a timeline as a final document, again using old fashioned pen and paper. Making a timeline is a brilliant idea I found in Rachel Aaron’s book 2k to 10k - Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love. Plot out what all the characters are doing on the timeline even if they are ‘off camera’. Sometimes we leave our characters to twiddle their thumbs when they would probably be doing something important. I have found this to be an excellent way to work out all those logistical problems that crop up.

After this, I go back and forth between writing and adjusting my plotting documents. Sometime during the writing and revising process, I analyze each separate scene as well. Each scene needs to serve a purpose. It must advance the story, pull the reader forward, and reveal new information. Some writers even go so far as to create mini-plot diagrams for each scene. I don’t bother with that, but if the scene doesn’t serve a purpose, cut it, no matter how eloquently written it might be. Keep the story moving.

Angela Hunt’s book The Plot Skeleton is another wonderful resource for those writers looking to hone their plotting skills. Most of what I have outlined here is directly related to writing fiction, but I use a similar back and forth system for non-fiction as well. In the end, don’t be intimidated by what the ‘experts’ say. Do what feels natural and what works best for you. The final product will hopefully be something worth marketing and certainly something to be proud of.

This post originally appeared on Inscribe's Professional blog in April of 2015. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Featuring... NEIGHBORS

I had such fun writing the NEIGHBORS series of nine short stories which came together in a full length novel. Thanks to Helping Hands Press for taking a chance on me and this series.

Each instalment is available separately or you can get the entire series in ebook or paperback format. Here's the back clover blurb for # 1 'New In the Neighborhood'

  • Lester Tibbett has to leave his farm in Southern Alberta for the big city. It means starting over in an unfamiliar environment - a heavy burden for the guardian of a teenage sister full of angst. The apartment complex to which they relocate is a far cry from their spacious farmhouse and offers little anonymity for a man used to doing things his own way. During the process, he pushes his own loneliness aside in favor of looking after his sister. As Lester struggles to find a church that will meet both their spiritual needs, he quickly learns that neighbors come in many forms, some of them quite meddlesome. Still, he is happy to accept help from an overtly friendly neighbor named Jed who also happens to work for the same construction company. The two soon become friends, despite Jed’s habit of trying to set Lester up with every available single female, and end up frequenting a local pub where Lester is surprised to discover an ‘old school’ mechanical bull just waiting to be ridden. The former rodeo cowboy in him rises up, but not before he meets a mysterious woman who is out of his reach. 

Check out the link for more on the entire series as well as all the buying options!

Audio book

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

On the G-zone...

I was on the 'G-Zone' yesterday, a blogtalkradio podcast hosted by Giovanni Gelati. On the show i talked about writing plays, the Colony Zero project, the writing process, a bit about 'Neighbors', and even some football! Tune in. (Apologies for the poor quality... there was some audio feedback for some reason yesterday.)

Check Out Books Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with GelatisScoop on BlogTalkRadio

Monday, May 18, 2015

Why Notebooks Still Rock

In a world of technological overload, a very simple tool stands out as one of the best ways to cultivate one’s writing muse.  May I introduce the humble coil bound notebook?

Here are some of the reasons coil bound notebooks rock:

-  - You can (and should) take it anywhere
-  - Not reliant on a power source, internet connection, or any other ‘strings’
-  - Useful for lists, random thoughts, journaling, conversations between characters, inspirational ideas, snips of dialogue, notes, research… basically everything!
-  - The coil bound format makes it handy and easy to write in
-  - It’s versatile. Rough drafts can be torn out, meeting minutes can be put in a three ring binder, notes can be tacked on a bulletin board

-  - There is something about the physical act of writing on paper that is inspiring in itself

Here's to the humble notebook!