Thursday, March 28, 2013

March Madness Day 28 Check-In: What's in a Name?

With Spring Break in full swing for me, I've been bogged down with cleaning, re-organizing, building shelves, running errands...everything but writing. Putting words to paper, that is. I've continued to compose and deconstruct in my brain no matter what the rest of my body is doing.  But let's start with another March Madness winner:

Charlie Holmberg

YAY! You can check out the list of prizes HERE and then email Denise at d(at)denisejaden(dot)com

Now, back to the madness. A quick bit of musing over that ever elusive piece of perfection—naming your characters. I have written mostly historical fiction, so I often research popular names of the era in which I am writing to keep it authentic. There also has to be a certain rhythm and sense to the name. It must carry a kind of affective quality that elicits the right emotion or sense of connection.

I don't go the Charles Dickens route and choose names that literally sound like some quality of the character—Mr. Bounderby from Hard Times comes to mind—but I do look for that little something that reflects the overall reaction I would like my readers to have. You know, that gut reaction that leaves a certain taste in your mouth, especially when it comes to the antagonist. I recently tweeted a question for my writing tweeps and got some great feedback on a potential nickname for a character in my current book. I shared some description of the character and his interests and got some excellent, thanks all of those who offered some help! Candiflyte Candi, I'm using one of yours :-).

My question for all you wipsters today is, how do you choose your character names?

By the way..."Marty is a nice name!"

Thursday, March 21, 2013

March Madness Check-in Day 21 — The Devil's Reject?

Wow, Wipsters! We have already hit the official start of spring and we're 9 days from the end of this month's madness. Are you patting yourself on the back yet?  Well, let's start with a prize, then.

Today's winner is:

Congratulations! You can choose from the fabulous list of prizes HERE. Then email Denise at d(at)denisejaden(dot)com and let her know your choice. 

Okay. So, I just can't help myself. I have to continue with our Back to the Future theme and share this little gem—the rejected pitch:

We get a little taste of rejection and the hell that is summing up your story in a way that sells it just enough but not too much. Some of you may have been subjected to my recent rants on the evil synopsis as I banged out my application for the SCBWI WIP Grant. It does seem a little psychotic to write the synopsis before I finish the story...or does it? I have to say that every time I put myself through this hell, I do end up with a better understanding of where my story could go and how it might be interpreted.

I say could because the WIP synopsis and the MS synopsis are two completely different critters. One you write because you are a masochist...okay, maybe you write it so you can win a grant or something..., the other you write so you can get a book contract.  Usually the second looks almost nothing like the first by the time you emerge from the flames.

When it comes to the evil synopsis, I usually commit one of two sins. 1) I spend all of my time creating atmosphere and emotional arcs, or 2) I summarize too many details of the plot.  So what is the magic formula? Like everything else in writing, it's about balance and honesty. Easier said than done, right?

In my google mania, I found a few sources that had some good advice to offer:

  • Where the Map Ends offers a great preamble about what a synopsis is NOT and then clarifies what it is. Jeff tends to be more script oriented, but it is a good sketch of things in general and he describes a few different kinds of story structures.
  • Writer's Digest's Chuck Sambuchino offers a fabulous list of sample synopses from films.
  • Cristy Burne gives us more general advice and a sample of her own process.
  • Glen Strathy lists the basic elements and suggests a notecard approach that allows you to organize your pieces in a hands-on way before you even start the draft.

But if you want a really no nonsense guide to writing your synopsis, check out Cynthea Liu's Anatomy of a Synopsis. She really takes the "dreaded" out of "synopsis" and boils it down to the basics.

One bonus to writing the synopsis before I finish the book is the string of epiphanies that line up as I force myself to put the pieces together. There they are...little nuggets of revelation that have got to make a better book. And a trail of blood to the finish!

Wherever you are in the process, just remember to look for the breadcrumbs (aka drops of blood) that might reveal a brave new path for your book. Speaking of GPS locations (wink, wink) is the madness today, wipsters?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

March Madness Check-in Day 14 — Are you a Control Freak?

A huge congratulations to our fearless leader Denise Jaden on her fabulous triumvirate! Read all about it and don't forget to check in at her blog tomorrow for more madness!

And another winner for some March Madness Swag:

Melissa Grey
Go to the Prize Post to select your prize from that fabulous list of goodies and email Denise at  d(at)denisejaden(dot)com with your choice. Keep rocking the madness!

Speaking of madness, this business is a tough place for those who like to be in control of their own destiny. To carry the Back to the Future metaphor a little further, I feel like George McFly sometimes, waiting for something to come to me and always questioning whether I'm worthy of it. Do I have the guts to get out there and claim my "density?"

I guess I do have the guts, since I'm on my 4th novel and I've survived the Everest of rejection that is my filing cabinet. But how do you handle that unbearable anticipation? What do you do with the emotion once you have subbed your baby to an agent or editor or even your crit partners?

Many of you have already described what you DO with your time while you are waiting, like working on a new project, cleaning the house, digging a ditch to bury the bodies in... (ahem, that's just me). But what is your emotional journey really like? Can you pack it away in a drawer and forget about it until it comes and finds you?

I obsess. Can you imagine? Me? No! Yes...

Once that baby leaves my outbox, the clock in my head starts ticking like a rabid beetle. My mind wanders between delusions of grand success and visions of abject failure. I see the book deals racking up on PubLunch and note that not one of them is mine. I feel the walls closing in as if I will smother from lack of oxygen that can come only from a response, no matter what the news.

I can be in the middle of a project or working my day job and suddenly my stomach tightens around those spastic little butterflies and I hear the ticking again just because a random thought about my submission crept into my consciousness. It takes huge restraint not to air my blow-by-blow lament on social media or compose raving emails to any possible target. At least the mailman is safe from that potential retribution.

Of course, waiting is only one part of the control issue. One of these days, I'll meet my "density" and then I'll have to battle for control with an editor, a marketing department, and who knows what else. But you know what? I can handle that...

Thursday, March 07, 2013

March Madness Check-in Day 7: Nice to Meet You

For those of you who are new, WELCOME TO THE MADNESS! If you are just joining this crazy wagon, pop over to Denise Jaden's blog to share your list of goals for the month, no matter how big or small, dark or daffy.  There will be prizes and lots of cheering as we head through a month of madness and write our socks off!

To follow up on my latest quandary, I'm exploring new introductions to a completed ms. Not to the story, but to my characters. Has your main character ever played hard-to-get? You think you know her, but she's keeping you at arms length and you can't quite figure out why? Never mind liking her, I think in some ways, I'm a little intimidated by mine.

To be fair, my main character is a historical figure, so it's kind of like walking up to the most popular kid in school and saying, "Hey! Will you be my friend?" Meanwhile, I'm dressed in hand-me-downs and a bad haircut that scream NERD. "Oh yeah, and I really want to break into your diary and share every last detail with a million people."

Okay. So there it is. I am just not cool enough to hang with my main character. I'm a walking adolescent cliché!

Hang on...maybe that's not it. Maybe it's the "Oh yeah, and I really want to break into your diary and share every last detail with a million people" part.

And why would that be a problem? Because those are my secrets. My insecurities. Every character we write has something of ourselves in them, right? Why is this one so different?

I'm not sure if I can answer that, but I think I might be putting too much pressure on her to be perfect. Poor girl. I always say every character needs her flaws, but perhaps I'm holding this ragged teen to an unreasonable standard. She holds the weight of my world on her tiny, fictional shoulders and I'm scared to let her stumble. So what do I do? Avert my eyes and hold my breath and toss her out there to fend for herself with nothing more than a cardboard shield.

My goal for this month is to get to know her and let her really tell her story. That might mean changing an entire 3rd person novel to a 1st person novel, but if that's what she needs to tell her story...

How are you getting along with your MC?

Don't forget to check in on Denise Jaden's blog tomorrow for the next leap into March Madness!