The Fancy Deep

Thursday, November 3, 2011

What would you do if you weren't afraid?

Writing has been a journey that has stretched me in many ways.

Letting go of my own fears has been the MOST difficult part. Sometimes it has felt like those deep-seated little buggers had to be surgically removed.

In a commencement speech for Barnard College, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, asked that question and it has helped me take an offensive position in the war against my own writing fears. I began asking myself if my limitations were real, or imagined (fear).

What would you do if you weren't afraid? Tell me.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The 3-Word Story . . . on a Freeway Overpass

The other day I drove under an overpass (on I-215) and saw a common local phenomena - overpass cup messaging.

I don't usually take much notice of this new form of text messaging because it most often deals with someone's prom or a welcome home for a person I don't know.

This time was different. Above me stretched a three-word message that yanked at my heart--spelled out in red cups were the words, "Dan don't go."

I started asking: Who's Dan? Where is he going? Who loves him so much that they're publicly pleading with him to stay? Immediately, both my mind and heart was pulled into the "story" of Dan, in just three words. This short sentence delivered great emotional punch, suspense and instant conflict = Great storytelling! On an overpass!

Have you ever heard of/read/or written a story in just a few words? Can you create a story in just three? Two? One? Share!

Friday, August 26, 2011

You're a Bad Parent

You may or may not know that I've been revising (and re-revising) my novel The Fancy Deep with my agent Scott to prep it for submission to publishers. So here I am on the cusp of submission (*crossing fingers*) and am wondering "How could I have done this quicker." The answer came through loud and clear . . .

Be a better parent.

You see halfway through the revision process, I lost my main character. I was negligent. She wandered off during an edit and I never called the police. On my watch, she had become (my agents words) "generic" and "wishy-washy" and seemed to "swing from one emotion to another." Amazingly, when I lost my MC everything else seem to crumble around her - the plot, the setting, the suspense, the dialogue all stopped working. Pieces that were once engaging felt far-fetched and even my cool tech elements stopped supporting the emotional thread . . . wait, did I still have an emotional thread?

BIG LEARNING == Your story is ALL About your main character. Be a good parent! Make sure you know what she wants and how she changes in your story. Her world, and your story-telling ability, revolves around that change.

PAYOFF == Faster writing, better stories, LESS REVISING. : )

Have you been a bad parent? Share.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

How to Revise & Keep Revising w/o Downing a Whole Bottle of Pills

Revising is hard for me. I'm the right-brained kind of writer. Moving into my left-brain is painful. But I MUST do it!

If revising is hard for you, here are some things I have learned that help keep me sane after many, many revisions.

1) Content First - Changes to plot, setting, character, technology, etc. always come first for me. If it's too overwhelming, I make a list and use that old "Search" feature to find areas that I know are relevant to the change. THEN, once the list is checked off, I go back through and make sure I've tied up all loose ends.

2) Emotion Next - This pass I try to read straight through looking for the emotional path (including peaks and valleys) of the book. I'll notch it back in some places and heighten in others. This needs to happen in a few days (can't set it down in between for long) so I try to block out time before starting.

3) Then Imagery
- The next pass I take is looking at HOW I've described each nugget in my book. I pay special attention to areas where I'm wordy or the image I've selected isn't strong enough.

4) Grammar & Such - This is the really painful one for me. And takes the longest. I make two passes here. I'm a little dyslexic and always miss things on the first pass (and sometimes on the second and third). I have to print it out on this round and I read it OUT LOUD! There is no substitute. Take the time to do it, or you will double or triple your work when it hits an agent or editor.

LAST TIP - Break it up:
The task of revising anything as long as a novel can stop you in your tracks. The secret: Break it up! A friend of mine does 50 pages at a time. I break mine up into the major acts, then rework that section before moving onto the next. This helps me see the emotional peaks and valleys and keeps me from becoming overwhelmed.

Find the best way to break yours up so you feel like you can attack it, not just stack it.

Have revision tips? Please share!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Don't Believe Them - Mythbusting About Becoming a Writer

So, when you set out to become a writer you will hear a lot of crap, junk, folderal, Sheena, shiz about making that choice. Most, if not all, of the advice you get will be myth, legend, hearsay.

Do NOT let that stop you because there are a million and one ways to become a writer and you may have one all your own.

Examples of myths that got in my way:

1. "If there is anything else you can imagine yourself doing, don't be a writer."
Malarcky. In fact, I think that doing other things in your life (even having other careers) makes you a better writer - gives you more to draw on, makes you more balanced and productive.

2. "It's best if you have an English degree."
Okay, this might be half true. You will find it easier to edit and polish your stuff if you took classes in doing just that . . . and having a wide knowledge of literature will give you a lot to draw from. BUT, it's NOT mandatory. I know lots of writers who didn't major in English in college and are great storytellers. Take a look around, you'll find them.

3. "It's all who you know."

Nope. At some point maybe (like when you get a good agent), but you can still break into the publishing industry the old-fashioned way - one word, one comma, one query letter at a time.

4. "Getting published is like winning the lottery - all luck."
Okay, so this one really got in my way until I thought about how many people I personally knew that actually make a living at writing (and just books mind you, not journalists). At the time, (before I'd begun digging into the writing community where I live), I counted six. One was a multi-millionare from his books (Stephen R. Covey). Now I know many, many writers that make a living at peddling their own words. Myth - busted!!

What myths are you hanging onto? How will you bust them up?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Futuristic Friday - In the Future I Hope There Is . . .

As a sci fi writer, my mind is always thinking about what would be cool to have in the future. Here are some things that I want:

1) Robotic closet that packs FOR me before a trip.

2) Anti-gravity Dr. Scholls when my feet are really tired, they actually take the pressure off - literally.

3) NO calorie chocolate cake. Okay, so I can dream a little.

4) The disc thing from Tron.

5) K. It's old school, but I still want a jet-pack. Maybe one studded with crystals?

6) Mr. Fusion from Back to the Future.

7) A household robot that's proud of their profession (That is does NOT feel oppressed, therefore making it susceptible to lashing out at it's employer and subsequently turning evil... and violent.)

8) Ice that never melts in my drink.

9) My own Oompah Loompa (hey it could happen). : )

What do you wish for in YOUR future? SHARE!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Slanging Hash!

One element that adds a lot to a character’s voice is the slang they use.

The MC in The Fancy Deep comes from a part-Japanese mother and an Irish Dad. Using Japanese and Irish slang, I created her own series of words that include mashed-up expletives, personal pronouns and adjectives. She’s also a gem-cutter & jeweler, so I use some of the jargon from her trade as part of the “Aysia-speak.”

While working on the novel, I listened carefully to my friends and family, even myself, to try and discover some unique slang in my real world.

Here are some of the frequent “isms” of friends & family and some of my own:

  1. “What in America?” (This is mine)
  2. “Awesomesauce” (Elana Johnson)
  3. “Frawesomesauce” (Ditto)
  4. “Sheena Easton!” (Instead of the “Sh—“ word.) (Mine again).
  5. “Gotta jet” (Some guy in the cubicle next to my office says this every few minutes. Yet he never does . . . jet, I mean.)
  6. “Burgess Meredith!” (Expletive by John Cusick from my lit agency – love this one)
  7. “Preciate cha’” (Utahns the world over).
  8. “Shushi” (Mikko, our CTO says “sushi” with a Finnish accent. As a result, our entire office calls it “shushi” now).
  9. “Ping me” (All the programmers I work with). : )
What are some of your “isms?” Share!