Monday, January 21, 2013

Wisdom from a Writers Conference: The Hero's Journey

Annette Lyon presented the hero's journey as a formula for plot that can be applied to any genre (at the LDSStoryMakers Conference:

What I Learned:

The hero's journey has many parts and elements that when utilized as a plotting formula can create a varied set of story lines. Elements of the hero's journey can be find in most any story.

How I Plan to Apply It:

I currently don't have a "formula" that I follow for plotting. But by attending many sessions on plotting I am starting to develop my personal method for plotting. It will probably never follow a formula - but I feel that some day I will be able to quantify my method and apply to all my work.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Rules of Writing Part 3: Personal Preferences

In Part 1 of this series I talked about three categories that the rules of writing fall under. In Part 2 I talked about best practices. In this next installment I would like to talk about personal preference.

We all read different things. We all like different kinds of books and different writing styles. And often we as writers carry that over into our writing. So here is my list of 'writing rules' that I think really are just personal preference.

Personal Preferences

  • Only use 'said' for a dialog tag.
  • Avoid using Prologues
  • Do not use contractions (ie don't) outside of dialog.
  • Open with action.
  • Do not use fancy spelling in dialog to show dialect.
  • The first line has to hook the reader.

I would like to touch briefly on my feelings about each of these.

Personally, I like it when a writer mixes up using 'said' and puts in other things. It makes the writing more interesting and it can convey a lot about tone of voice and attitude in a single word.

I am a big fantasy buff. And in my opinion - in order to be a great fantasy book - you must have a prologue and a map. To be a good fantasy book you must have at least one of the two. Everything else is just so so. I know a lot of people say that people don't read prologues and you should avoid them like the plague. But I think 80 percent of the fantasy books I read have one. And I always read them. So I will continue to use prologues - and epilogues in my writing.

I do not use contractions in my narrative - I only use them in dialog. This is just a personal preference of mine. I think it makes the narrative stand out from the dialog and gives it a more polished feel.

Some really great books don't have any action in them at all. And I find that when a book opens with action and then back tracks to explain it - I get lost and confused. Opening with action can work - as long as the action is the start of the story and no back tracking is required. (In my humble opinion).

With using fancy spelling to show the way a person talks - I like that. Because it helps me understand how the character sounds - gives them a unique voice, and it can also convey a lot without having to slow down the pace to explain.

I remember very few first lines of books. And I give a book until 1/3rd of the way through before I decide to put it down. (Sometimes longer). So I don't feel that the first line has to be a spectacular hook. I just think the first chapter needs to be interesting and well written enough so that I don't want to put it down right away.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. What do you think? What are some of your personal preferences?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Write. Be. - Encouragement

Write. Be.

What gives you encouragement to keep writing?

I write because I enjoy telling stories, dreaming up ideas, creating worlds, building characters, and spinning words. But when things get tough - when finishing something seems so difficult - when I begin to think I will never be published - that is not enough.

Recently I told my mother about my current work in progress. She loved the idea and got really excited about it. That got me excited about it again and I can't wait to start working on it again. So that is one thing that encourages me - the excitement of my supporters.

But if I don't act on that renewed vigor to write right away - it fades. So currently I am in search of the things that make me want to write and keep me writing.

What keeps you writing?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Storybook, A Writing Software Review

Recently I have been trying out some different writing software. I don't want to pay a lot (don't have the budget and have a hard time justifying it when Microsoft Word will do). So I wanted to start with software that was free, or had a free version.

Thus Storybook. There is a pro version, but I only used the free version. Here are my thoughts:

The Good
-I liked how I could put everything into one place - my outline, characters, the actual manuscript text.
-While you are working on your scene, you can always see the description of the chapter - very helpful for keeping on track.
-You can divide your novel into parts, chapters, and scenes.
-You can enter items - something I had never thought about doing.
-You can assign scenes to different chapters - or un-assign them. This is great for keeping deleted scenes.
-There is decent, built in spell checking.

The Bad
-There is no word count feature (that I could find). Which means I had to copy and paste into word to get a word count.
-The free version does not have export options, so again - copy and paste into word.
-There are adds that take up a good chunk of the screen space. They aren't very annoying, just take up space.
-There seemed to be a lot of features I did not use. Maybe if I continued using it I would have explored those.

The next writing software that came on my radar was yWriter. I recently downloaded it and ported everything I had in Storybook over. Personally I am liking yWriter better already. So although Storybook was nice, I probably won't go back to it.

However, if you are looking for a writing software with quite a few nice features - I would give the free version a try and see if it fits your style.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Rules of Writing Part 2: Best Practices

In Part 1 of this series I talked of three area's that I feel the "rule's of writing" fall under. Today I would like to discuss the first of these categories - Best Practices.

Best Practices are a list of guidelines, or rules if you will, that a group of like minded individuals in a given field (aka writing or software development) follow. This is not because they must, but because they all agree it is best all around.

For example, in software development it is a best practice to name your class, functions, and variables something meaningful so that others can understand what they do/are. There is nothing forcing us to do this - we are just being nice to ourselves and others who might read our code.

Writing Rules that are really Best Practices

  1. Use dialog tags (but not too many and not too few - to identify who is speaking.
  2. Do not dump data on your reader, work back story in slowly.
  3. Be careful of when you use pronouns, especially when there is more then one 'he' or 'she' in the scene.
  4. Enter your rules here.

Hmm.. I could only think of a few. Anyway - these rules have something in common: they all help the reader keep track of what is going on. We don't what the reader to be constantly confused, not knowing who is doing or saying what. If they do get confused they won't be able to enjoy the story - in fact they may not finish it.

What do you think? Can you thing of any writing "rules" that could be labeled as best practices?