Nancy: Damn Fine Story Advice: Story Stakes

If you hang out with writers long enough, observe them in their natural habitat, and learn what keeps them up at night, at some point you’re bound to hear a discussion about what writers like/are able/can bring themselves to read when they’re deeply immersed in their own stories. Books inside their writing genre? Outside the genre? No books at all during certain stages o the process?

These days, I’m rarely ‘not writing’ (not to be confused with procrastinating – that I do aplenty!), so a writing-driven reading moratorium won’t work for me. But I tend to read like I write: a little bit of everything and more than story at a time. Lately, I’ve been drawn to non-fiction. Per usual, I’m geeking out on science-for-non-scientists books. But this weekend I put down Stephen Hawking and picked up some Chuck Wendig (with no segue, rhyme, or reason because my mind is a mysterious, scary, mess of a place).

If you’re not familiar with Wendig, you really must check out his blog, where he generously doles out  amazing advice, life observations, movie reviews, and the occasional recipe (although I am not going to try this one). For a more distilled collection of his story-specific guidance, I highly recommend Damn Fine StoryIt made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me…Okay, what it actually did was make me think, but don’t let that scare you away from it – it’s thinking in a fun way! As with all writing advice, he implores his readers to take what they need and leave the rest for another time, place, or writer. And this weekend, what I needed was a deep, thorough look at story stakes. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Ready, Set, NaNo!

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

November, with NaNoWriMo, is a ready-made time to get some words on the page.  Thousands of other people are writing at the same time, there is a tool to track your progress, and there are dozens of individuals, both on the NaNo site and on their own blogs, who are offering advice and encouragement.  As a plus, it’s getting dark earlier and earlier these days, making curling up with a good story (your own, of course), an appealing choice.

Last year, there were 431,626 official NaNoWriMo participants, and since its inception, there have been over 250 traditionally published NaNoWriMo novels plus an unknown number of non-traditionally published ones.

Last week, once I realized that November was right around the corner, I Continue reading

Elizabeth: How Men Talk (in fiction)

talkingThe topic of today’s post was triggered by a couple of things I’ve heard/read in the past few days.

First was a recently released tape of a conversation by one of our presidential candidates which, if you haven’t been living under a rock or staying away from the news, you’re probably familiar with.  The tape has generated a lot of discussion about men (how they talk and what they do) including a very thoughtful piece on Chuck Wendig’s blog about locker room talk.

The “too long/didn’t read” gist of the post is:

“No, it’s not all men.

No, it’s not all ‘locker rooms.’

But it’s some of them. It’s more than we’d like.”

Chuck’s post and several others discussions I read about how men talk and are perceived got me to thinking about how men are portrayed in the books I read

I don’t remember ever encountering a misogynistic sexist male in a romance, unless it was an antagonist or some other character who received his comeuppance or an “attitude adjustment” by the story’s end.  I certainly don’t recall ever encountering a hero who would ever be described that way. Continue reading

Justine: Fiction Fundamentals…Writing Great Characters

bunch of charactersWelcome to Part 3 of Fiction Fundamentals. When I approached the topic of writing great characters, I didn’t realize how much information you, New Writer, should know about what really makes them sizzle until I went back and looked at the pages of notes I’d collected and the long list of bookmarks in my browser. I’ve been absorbing this for over three years, between classes at McDaniel, blog posts I’ve read, conference lectures I’ve attended, and web classes I’ve taken.

Rather than write a 10K word blog post (because really, I could, there’s so much great info about writing good characters), I’m going to Continue reading

Elizabeth: This is Your Story

IMG_0673In Jilly’s Sunday post, we had a great discussion about what catches your attention when reading about a new book and what causes you to say thanks-but-no-thanks.

In the name of research (I couldn’t possibly have been looking for more books to add to my TBR pile), I logged on to BookBub and read the blurbs for a vast number of books trying to clearly identify my try-this-book triggers. I’m still trying to nail that down because I got distracted along the way by the basic plots that I saw over and over.

I started keeping track (in a spreadsheet, of course).

Of the 100+ titles I read through, these plots were the most popular: Continue reading

Elizabeth: Gifts for Writers

2008 - Xmas DSC_0498Justine is already thinking about New Year’s resolutions, but I am still in the holiday gift frame of mind, so I thought I’d throw out some random ideas for those looking for a great gift for the writer in their life.

Books

Reading is an important part of a writer’s life and those “important tips for writer’s” lists almost always include “read a lot” at or near the top. What better way to get your writer reading than with a gift-certificate for a local bookstore, an eReader, or some actual books. Need some help selecting the right book? Michille’s recent post is chock-full of book recommendations or you might consider one of the newly released titles below: Continue reading

Nancy: Short Fiction Round-Up, and a Story!

Red Rain by Stefano Corso, courtesy of Creative Commons

Red Rain by Stefano Corso, courtesy of Creative Commons

For the past few weeks, I’ve talked about short fiction – about writing it, about ideas for using it as part of series and marketing campaigns, and about all its different forms. Each Friday here at 8LW, our own Elizabeth provides word lists we can use for writing sprints, which are really short-fiction warm-ups. (We even have a serial story going in the comments, thanks to Penny H! Check out the comments sections here, here, and here to get caught up on the sad fate of Timothy James Bartleby.)

If you really love short fiction challenges, either writing or reading them, you might want to check out Chuck Wendig‘s Friday blog posts for his flash fiction Friday prompts. You can also pop by Writer Unboxed, where they run monthly short fiction (really short, like 250 words short!) contests. The WU December contest is their Grand Finale, and is limited to the previous winners of the monthly contests.

This year, the WU monthly finalists were asked to write one more story, this one based on the image I’ve re-posted at the top of this post. As soon as I saw that picture, a story started forming in my mind. The bad news: I can’t participate in the challenge, not having finaled (or participated) in previous contests. The good news: since I wasn’t competing, I could make up my own rules. Hence, my Red Rain-inspired short story is 1000 words long. The protagonist is the main character from a future mystery book or series set in Copenhagen, which I will write someday in the (possibly distant) future. If you’d like to write a story or vignette about this photo, feel free to post it in the comments! In the meantime, I give you …

Copenhagen Blues Continue reading