Nancy: Writing Around the Web

Sometimes when writers are neck-deep in our own ideas and stories, we turn to other fiction for a mental reboot. Other times, it’s non-fiction, perhaps craft books. For the past week, I’ve been thumbing through Lisa Cron’s Wired for Story and Story Genius as I continue developing a novel with her brain science technique. For fun, I’ve been reading Stephon Alexander’s The Jazz of Physics. (Yes, that really is what passes for fun in my world.)

When I need a quicker fix, a quick shot of creative inspiration, or just a boost in the will to go on (because some writing days are just So. Damn. Hard.), I like to visit some familiar haunts on the web. A few posts have really struck a chord with me these past few weeks. If you feel yourself needing a boost, check out these articles for yourself, and poke around these sites – there’s so much good stuff to discover!

Arghink. This is the blog of Jennifer Crusie, mentor of the 8LW crew. Jenny’s blog is always chock full of great information, fun, and community, but recently, she’s also been sharing early drafts and revisions of her WIP. And it is as amazing as it sounds. Ever the teacher, Jenny is also sharing the way she approaches revisions. Continue reading

Nancy: Back to Basics: Conflict Lock, With Extras

conflict-lockSometimes basic is best. Getting back to basics. Basic black. Basic humanity.

And so it is with writing. Every now and then, often in one of the revision stages of a story, it’s time to get back to the basics – the point, the goal, and the conflict of a story. That means it’s time to reach into the writer’s basic toolbox and pull out some old favorites to identify festering plot holes, shore up weak conflicts, and fix leaky sinks. Okay, maybe not that last one.

This lesson presented itself to me when I recently found my Harrow’s Finest Five book 1 revision slowly circling the drain (what is it with me and sinks today?). I was dissatisfied with the story stakes. As I read the manuscript, they didn’t seem to be escalating, further complicating heroine Emme’s life, and leading her to an inevitable clash with consequences of her own making.

An author has options at such times. Crying. Chocolate. Booze. Cyring into chocolate and booze. But I’ve heard it can actually be more empowering to use TOOLS. Powerful, writerly tools. In this case, I opted for the tools and pulled the conflict box out of my toolbox to see why my revision had gotten stuck and my story felt flat. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Really Good Sex (Scenes)

Okay, I’ll admit it.  I had absolutely no idea what to write about for today’s blog post, so I decided to do some research (aka “read”) for a while instead while waiting for inspiration to strike.

Fortunately for inspiration’s sake, the book I randomly pulled from my TBR pile turned out to be little more than a series of sex scenes strung together by a barely noticeable plot (thank goodness it was a freebie).

It was disappointing, because I was hoping to get some pointers for the contemporary novel I’m working on, but it got me thinking about the difference between a sex scene that helps move the story along and one that could be removed without any discernible impact.

Naturally my thinking led me Continue reading

Nancy: A Girl Anachronism

"Two Strings to Her Bow" by John Pettie, 1882. From Wikimedia Commons.

“Two Strings to Her Bow” by John Pettie, 1882. From Wikimedia Commons.

This past week, on one of the author loops I read, someone posted about her preference to read historical romances in which heroines either don’t step outside the bounds of the time period’s social structures, or suffer (social) consequences if they do. While I don’t want my 19th-century heroines to read like 21st-century women, I can’t get on board with keeping our heroines from stepping over the lines or cutting off their toes if they do.

During our McDaniel classes, we discussed the need for characters, especially protagonists, to be in some ways larger or better or more interesting in stories than most of us are in real life. A story about ordinary people going about their ordinary lives under ordinary circumstances just isn’t likely to be a very riveting read. One or more of those ‘ordinaries’ need to become extraordinary to make our fictional worlds worth exploring. And I want my historical heroines, whether I’m reading about them or writing about them, to be extraordinary. Continue reading

Justine: Five Weeks Analyzing Common Mistakes. Week 5: Get the F— Out of the Way of Your Story

Four weeks ago, I introduced the five common mistakes writers make in their first few pages, which Chuck Wendig originally posted on his blog, terribleminds. He identified these mistakes after critiquing several writers’ WIPs while at the Pike’s Peak Writers Conference. I then applied

to my current WIP.

This week is the last one…#5: Get The F— Out Of The Way Of Your Story

Chuck sums it up like this: “Get. To. The. Point.”

We’re merely the storytellers. What’s important is the story, so don’t bog the reader down with Continue reading

Nancy: Not Writing, But Thinking About It

Thinking Creative Thoughts

So, do you know what happens when you’re working a lot of hours, not sleeping enough, and haven’t gotten your flu shot for the year? If you’re me, you get the flu. And fast on the heels of that, you might even get a bonus opportunistic sinus infection. I can power through a lot to get words on the page, but some days, rest and healing have to take precedence. And those can be perfect days to spend time absorbing other people’s writing, through books, blogs, movies, and TV shows.

On the surface, it would appear I haven’t gotten very far in my WIP revision over the past week and a half, but as I snuggled under my blankets and watched all sorts of interesting shows and read books that had been teetering on the top of my TBR pile, my writer’s brain was whirring away after all. Today, with the meds finally kicking in and the fog around my mind receding a bit, I took stock of all my forays into other people’s stories, and here’s what I learned. Continue reading

Nancy: Getting Away with Murder Mysteries

sherlock holmes silhouette

When I was in the second grade, I fell in love. The object of my affection? The Mystery of the Silver Spider in the Three Investigators mystery series by Robert Arthur. In the months and years to follow, I read not only every book in that series, but in the Hardy Boys  (Franklin W. Dixon) and Nancy Drew series (Carolyn Keene) as well. Years before I read my first romance or women’s fiction novel or even knew the fantasy genre existed, I discovered mystery novels, and I was hooked. Continue reading