Elizabeth: Back to Basics – First Draft, Now What?

Stories Yet To Be WrittenAt some point, if you are serious about writing and persistent, you will finish the first draft of a story. It may have plot holes you could drive a truck through, or be littered with notes like “something needs to happen here,” but the draft will be done. Whether you’ve ended up with a polished first draft (color me envious if you have) or a hot-mess (that would be me), you’ve taken a story from an idea in your head to actual words on the page. You’ve gone from staring at that blank page in a brand new empty document to typing “The End.”

That is something to celebrate.

*Cue the confetti and balloons*

The world is filled with people who think they will write a book “one day.” With a finished draft, you’ve moved from the “I might” group to the “I have.” That’s a great feeling. Once the “I’ve finished it” happy dance is done and you’ve basked in the glow of “The End” for a while, it’s time to think about what to do next. Continue reading

Justine: Ranking Pixar’s Best (and Not)

Pixar and the Pixar Light (c) Walt Disney Studios.

Pixar and Luxo (c) Disney Pixar Animation

This past weekend, my husband and I took our children to see The Good Dinosaur, Pixar’s latest movie. On the way home, hubby started rattling off a variety of different rankings of the 16 Pixar movies, and surprisingly, none of them aligned with what I thought were the best. I think it goes without saying that opinions are subjective. Take the rankings from three different sites:

  • TV Guide (which did not have The Good Dinosaur ranked yet)
  • IGN (a movie, TV, and video game review and discussion site)
  • Rotten Tomatoes (the Tomatometer is the “go-to” for published TV/movie critic opinions of good/bad, shown as a percentage of positive reviews)

The rankings are all different. Not even the #1 movie is the same! All the movies below are ranked from worst to best. Continue reading

Nancy: The End Is Near…Or Maybe Not

NaNoIt’s Monday and my brain hurts.

Some of you might have the same malady today. Those of you who’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo 2015 are staring down the finish line, some from up close and others (like yours truly) from far, far away. To those of you who have made or will make it to 50k words by midnight tonight, congratulations! To my fellow stragglers, also-rans, and just-couldn’t-quite-do-it writers like myself, I share your pain and disappointment. This wasn’t our year. And as I know you know by now, that’s okay. Sometimes it really is the journey that matters. We’ll get to the destination of a completed first draft eventually.

I’ve already documented some of my own roadblocks to NaNo success. I finished my novella (woot!), then had a hell of a time switching gears to jump into the next novel-length story. My time was much more limited than I’d hoped, and like other American participants, I had the distractions of the Thanksgiving holiday. And just when I thought I was ready for an all-out sprint that might have at least gotten another 10k words on the page, I received an in-depth critique on a different novel, which sent me tripping and stumbling off the track.

That’s right. I broke one of the cardinal rules of NaNoWriMo: Thou shalt not think about revisions during the month of November. Continue reading

Jilly: Switching Off

Digital detoxHolidays are hard work, and the season is upon us. Before the partying starts, there are days and weeks of purchasing, scheduling, decorating, catering, and negotiating, usually fitted around the day job or other regular responsibilities. A traditional holiday celebration requires no small amount of planning and effort, so it is with some trepidation that I suggest an addition to your seasonal check-list: build in a digital time-out.

The idea isn’t a new one. There are companies that offer tech-free holiday retreats. Type the phrase ‘digital detox’ into the search engine of your choice and you’ll find page after page listing the many benefits of taking a break from today’s super-connected world. The irony of that (and of this post, for that matter) isn’t lost on me, but I’m not suggesting you give away your laptop and disconnect your phone. It’s just that the holidays, a time of year when normal routines are suspended anyway, offer the perfect opportunity to experiment with digital down-time. Not really a detox, more of a de-stress.

Below are my strictly unofficial, unscientific thoughts on why Continue reading

Michaeline: Evita’s Structure and Conflict

Official portrait of the Perons in evening dress looking very happy.

Eva Peron doesn’t look like an action hero with agency, but oh, how she hustled. She moved half a continent by the time she died. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

This week, I’ve been plowing through snowstorms in the car while listening to the soundtrack of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, Evita. It’s perfect music for when you are crawling along at 35 km per hour (what is that in miles? I’m not sure, but I’m afraid it’ll sound even more dreadfully slow). There’s a warm Latin beat, and the white-hot chronic anger of the heroine fueling various project. It makes me feel cozy in my little rolling deathtrap.

I don’t think anyone would deny that Evita works. According to the Internet Broadway Database, it’s been performed 1,567 times, and according to Wikipedia, it took award after award in 1978 and 1980. And I love it. But the heroine’s goal is a little fuzzy, and there isn’t a single overarching conflict lock that unites the story.

Evita is the story of a young Argentinian girl who goes to the capital at the age of fifteen, then proceeds to get modelling jobs, movie jobs, radio serials and finally the heart of a military man and through him, the reins to control the country. And then she dies, because . . . Continue reading

Jeanne: Critiquing Beginning Writers

I’ve been doing a lot of critiques for friends in my various writers’ groups lately. Some of them are still fairly early in their writing careers, and it occurred to me that the feedback I give to beginning writers is very different from what I share with seasoned veterans of the Writing War. Here are a few tips:

  • Stay positive. I read somewhere once that, when providing criticism, you should offer two items of positive reinforcements/praise for every bit of negative feedback.To be honest, I can’t usually pull that off, but I do shoot for a 1:1 ratio of positive to negative.

Continue reading

Michille: NaNo Not So Much (so Happy Thanksgiving Instead)

turkeybuttonfinalNational Novel Writing Month is winding down. And mine wound up an abysmal failure. I didn’t get to even half of what I wanted to accomplish. I had wanted to have my story to the point that I could submit for the Golden Heart. That didn’t happen, but I did spend more time on my story this month than I had for a while. Yeah, me. I’m not going to admit to my pitiful word count and I intend to get some writing done between today and Monday. I won’t hit 50,000 words, but it will be words on the page. Continue reading