Tuesday, September 28, 2010


an·tag·o·nize - to act in opposition to; oppose

I'm rounding the final corner in the first draft of my wip. One of the many things I'll tidy up in revision is my antagonist. Right now he's flat and unexciting, and I doubt I've done a good job fleshing out his reasons for being such a jerk.

Antagonists play a huge role in our novels since their job is to stand in our main character's way. Here are some of the things I've learned about antagonists:
  • They don't have to be evil. They simply need a darn good reason for stopping the Lead.
  • There needs to be something that glues the Lead to the antagonist. Why can't they simply walk away from each other?
  • The antagonist should be as strong or stronger than the Lead.
After my first draft has cooled, I'll revise with the following questions in mind:
  • Is my antagonist interesting?
  • Is he fully realized?
  • Is he justified in his actions?
  • Is he believable?
The Blood-Red Pencil had an excellent post about creating compelling characters. Do you have any advice for me when it comes to antagonists? Please share!

photo credit: google images

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Greener Grass

The grass is always greener on the other side, even in the writing world. We look at other writers and think, I wish I was there already.

Those working on their first drafts wish their wips were polished.
Those with polished manuscripts wish their queries were perfect.
The unagented wish they had agents.
The agented wish they had a book deal.
The published wish they had higher sales.
Best-selling authors wish they had a movie deal.
Round and round it goes.

With the right attitude, this can work in our favor. It gives us something to strive for while we're pecking away on the keyboard. Without the proper perspective, this could bring us down, making us feel as if we don't measure up.

I read somewhere that goals are dreams with deadlines. I think it's okay to look past where we are and work our tails off to get to the other side. As long as we understand there are weeds in that greener grass, because there are. In case you missed it, Nathan Bransford wrote an interesting post about When Dreams Become Expectations.

Am I where I want to be with my writing career? No. But even though the grass I'm standing on has a few weeds here and there, it feels pretty good under my feet. How about you?

photo credit: flickr

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Big Lie

"Writers are born. You either have what it takes or you don't, and if you don't you'll never get it." - James Scott Bell, from Plot & Structure.

Bell calls this The Big Lie. He'd always wanted to write, but didn't think he had what it took. Then he immersed himself in books on craft, putting techniques into practice. He wrote screenplays, which were optioned. He wrote novels, which were published. He proved The Big Lie was just that...a lie.

If we want our writing to break through, Bell offers the following tips for coaching ourselves to publication:
  1. Get motivated. Write an inspirational statement and tape it to the computer. Read books and author bios and imagine your picture on the back cover. Take writing seriously.
  2. Try stuff. Reading about writing won't make us better writers. We grow when we learn how to do something, then actually do it.
  3. Stay loose. When we're anxious about our writing, it shows on the page. We need to loosen up and let our creativity have its way with us.
  4. "First get it written, then get it right." For me, this makes all the difference in the world. Our job with the first draft is to get the story down. Author/Agent Mandy Hubbard wrote a great post about this here.
  5. Set a quota. Bell suggests a word quota instead of a time limit, since minutes can easily tick by while the writer stares at a blank screen. He quotes Peter DeVries who once said, "I only write when I'm inspired, and I make sure I'm inspired every morning at 9 a.m."
  6. Don't give up. We've all heard that the difference between successful and unsuccessful writers is persistence. Bell reminds us to keep writing.
I used to believe The Big Lie, but not anymore. How about you?

Now that you've read Bell's encouraging words, check out why you probably still suck as a writer over at terribleminds.com. Read it all the way to the end...there are some gems in there!

photo credit: flickr

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Just For Fun

Recently, someone on the radio posed this question: what advice would you give your 15-year-0ld self?

Would you offer guidance about peer pressure, bullies, high expectations, or high-waisted jeans?

I'd tell myself to travel a little bit before buying a house. I was 21 when I took on a mortgage, and although it was a sound decision, I think a couple of years of whimsy never hurt anyone...much.

I'd also tell myself to take my writing hobby seriously. I'd suggest digging in to that diary I kept, and turning those nuggets into a piece of fiction. I'd even go so far as to suggest sending that manuscript off to an agent or editor. It's never to late to start, or too early.

Just for fun, what would you tell yourself at that age? If you turned down Bill Gates when he asked you to the junior prom, that definitely counts!

photo credit: flickr

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Unlikable Characters

Have you ever read a book where you disliked the main character? That's how I felt when I began reading BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver. Samantha Kingston was a horrible person, and I didn't care if she lived or died.

Lauren Oliver wrote an amazing story with an unforgettable character arc. By the end of the book, I did care whether or not Samantha survived. As she lived her own Groundhog Day experience, I found myself wishing for a happy ending for Samantha. This was an excellent book, and if you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend it.

In Plot & Structure, James Scott Bell states, "What makes a plot truly memorable is not all of the action, but what the action does to the character. We respond to the character who changes, who endures the crucible of the story only to emerge a different person at the end."

Love 'em or hate 'em, when we're passionate about a character it means the writer did a great job of developing a pretend person that feels real and stirs up strong emotions.

Do you remember a character you didn't like, but who won your heart by the final chapter?

photo credits: Barnes & Noble

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Next Generation Remembers 9/11

Today our sons were among a group of scouts who planted flags in honor of the victims of 9/11. Even after we explained the reason for this memorial, I doubt our sons truly understood why they were there. After the flags were planted, they couldn't wait to untuck their shirts and play in the dirt.

Maybe it's impossible to comprehend something horrible unless you were there, or witnessed the events unfold on television. The bombing of Pearl Harbor, the assassination of JFK, and 9/11--if you were around when these events happened, it's likely you remember exactly where you were when you first heard the news.

On September 11, 2001 I was home with our three sons. The boys who planted flags today were only 19 months old and our oldest was 4. My husband, a firefighter, called from his Los Angeles fire station and told me the shocking news. I'll never forget it.

Do you remember where you were when you first learned about the attack? And did you know any of the victims? Please share your story.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

When Writers Remember

Today our three boys started school. As a mom, I did the usual things such as cut the tags off their new shoes and laced them up, wrote their names in backpacks and on lunch pails, and took photos of their first morning.

For kids, their first day includes completely different rituals. They meet up with friends they didn't see all summer, jockey for position within their new classes, and size up their teachers.

A few months back I attended a writer's day, where Libba Bray was one of the speakers. Something she said stuck with me: as writers, we should remember what it was like when we were younger. What was it like on the first day of 5th, 8th, or 12th grade?

I remember scuff-free shoes, new pee-chee folders and sharp pencils. I remember hideous haircuts, short boys and tall girls. I remember friends who had gotten new braces over the summer, and girls who had increased cup sizes in just a couple of months.

Memories can be exciting, embarrassing, or painful. But when we remember, and pour those emotions on the page, it makes us better writers.

What memories jump out at you from first days of school? Please share the good, the bad, and the ugly!

photo credit: google images

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Distractions, distractions ... SQUIRREL!

How do you handle distractions?

Do you power through them without glancing away from your screen? Do your fingers fly across the keyboard while the world races around you?


Do you stop writing to answer the phone? Do you read new emails the moment they arrive? Do you glance at each tweet as it pops up on your screen, and click on the awesome linkage?

Me, I'm in the second category. I'm a bit like Doug from the movie UP. I'm easily tempted to lose focus and move on to whatever dangles in front of me.

Ooh! A new email!

Where was I? Oh yes, distractions.

Thanks to Christine Fonseca, I learned about Dr. Wicked and his amazing Write or Die program. Am I the last writer in the world to hear about this?

I used it yesterday and fell in love. Before signing on, I planned where I was going with my story (for me, a crucial step). I shut down my email and Twitter pages. I entered my word count goal, set the timer, and clicked write. What a rush! Watching the screen turn from pink to red when I lingered too long was a great motivator. It's the perfect cure for my short attention span.

Would this work well for revisions? I don't think so. But for a first draft, it was perfect.

Do you struggle with distractions? And if you've used Write or Die, what's your opinion?

photo credit: google.com/images