Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Is it what you think it is?

Wow, I feel a lot better today. I've just finished a presentation where I got to teach a 10-minute lesson to the class (last presentation and I feel like a weight has been taken off my back). I decided to do an activity on characterisation, and I gave the students a set of four cards which I created myself that depicted four entirely different characters. The reason for these cards were to get the students to give the characters a role (hero, villain, sidekick or love interest).

I got a lot of great feedback saying that it was a great activity (not that I'm bragging). My aim was that it helped the people think about twisting character roles. So, when creating a story do you always know who the hero will be?

Every story has two different perspectives, but most are only told from the good guy's POV. Wouldn't a story be very different if the story was told from the villain's side, would they actually get the reader to sympathise with them?

By giving the villain a motive and purpose it's helping to create a new depth to the character and story, afterall aren't we, as writers, always trying to come up with new twists and create 3d characters.

So, when working on a novel try to tell the story from the bad guys POV, even if it's only a paragraph. Try and see why he's doing what he's doing (unless he is 100% evil) and I'm sure you'll see the story in a different light.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

For those that love Queries

I know how many people absolutely despise love writing queries. I stumbled upon this contest over at Grab a Pen which will make anyone love writing queries.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Review: The Naughty List

The Naughty List by Suzanne Young

Synopsis (From back cover): Everybody Knows Tessa Crimson is the purrfectly perky captain of the Smitten Kittens cheer squad. What most people don't know is that the Smitten Kittens double as spies-for-hire. Their mission? Catch cheating boyfriends in the act and bring justice to the girls of Washington High. So far, every suspect on their Naughty List has been found 100% guilty!
             Thank goodness Tessa's relationship with basketball captain Aiden is strawberry-smoothie. Or so she thinks.

The Naughty List is the debut book from Suzanne Young, and this is the first in a series. Just after hearing the synopsis I had to read this novel. I thought the idea of cheerleaders doubling as spies to catch cheating boyfriends was a very original idea, and I was not disappointed.

Tessa Crimson is the captain of the Smitten Kittens (also S.O.S the cheating agency) who's dating captain of the basketball team, Aiden. She thinks everything's perfect until she gets an S.O.S text stating that Aiden is suspected of cheating on her. Now she's left with the decision, should she spy on Aiden or trust him?

The Naughty List was a fun little read, and Tessa was a entertaining character to follow (even if her perkiness did bug me a little as the story progressed). I love how Tessa didn't like to use cuss words so used words like "strawberry-smoothie" to show how displeased she is. And, some of her exclamations just made me laugh like "Gingersnaps!"

There are enough twists and turns throughout the story to keep anyone guessing about how it's going to end. I'm looking forward to the next few installments (So many Boys and A Good Boy is Hard to Find are already scheduled for release later this year).

Cover: The cover looks cheeky, like someone standing at the window and capturing this delightful moment. It really sets up the whole mood of the book.

Plot: 4/5 stars
Ending: 4/5 stars
Cover: 4/5 stars
Overall: 4/5 stars
Recommend: Fans of Ally Carter
Debut Author Challenge: #2 of 12

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Wind-down Wednesday

Wow, another Wednesday, and another really good reason to wind-down. So, here's a clip from Family Guy that I know I can relate to, but I'm sure the feeling's mutual for a lot of others as well.

Well, I hope everyone has a great Wednesday.While I'm at it I would like to give a big thanks to Deb Salisbury for giving me:

 Now, all I have to do is pass it on to five people and share ten things about myself. That doesn't sound that hard, does it?

So, here are the five I'll pass it on to:
1. Annie from Dutch Hill News
2. Michelle Mclean
3. Ali Cross
4. Alison from Adventures of a Cautionary Tale
5. Mireyah Wolfe

And, now for the ten things I need to share. Now, where do I start?
1. I have been in five car accidents and have walked away from all of them (not a statistic I like to think about because I think cars hate me).
2. I never liked English class during High School because my English teacher made it seem so boring, it was only after I finished that I got serious with writing (woah, that's eleven years ago, seems like forever).
3. I absolutely love Disney and animations (they always have a good story to cheer me up when I've had a really bad day).
4. I played the flute all the way through Primary and High School (I'm pretty sure that's Middle, Junior and High School for the US).
5. I'm rather impulsive (if I see something that I want I pretty much get it... that could explain why most of my library consists of books I've still got to read, and I'm currently trying to get through three at once)... but, shopping is another way to relax, don't you agree?
6. The only coffee I drink is White Chocolate Mocha's from Starbucks (which I absolutely love).
7. Call me a big geek, but I love Anime's (and am eager to attend the convention in April where I'll actually be entering a karaoke contest and singing an entire song in Japanese... well, the worst I can do is trip over the words and totally embarrass myself but that's not much).
8. I am related to a famous Australian Singer (but would rather not know because I didn't know he was a distant cousin until he was in the finals of Australian Idol... I haven't even met the guy).
9. I love horror stories, movies, anything pretty much that terrifies (I was desensitised as a child when I was six and my cousins left me at the entrance of the haunted house ride at a fair... hey, this is a pitch black room where you can't see where you're going... I guess being traumatised has it's advantages).
10. I hate clowns (It's not that I'm scared of them, I just don't believe anyone can be that happy all the time, and fitting that many people into a small car is just wrong).

Well, that's me for another Wednesday. Thanks Deb (go and check her out, she has links to wonderful resources for writers) once again for the award, and I hope I didn't lose any respect for the ten things I shared.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Who creates the words you write?

Last night I said, without thinking, something that I've been reading around on the blogosphere for a while now in response to something my brother said (he said he wanted to hit me over the back of the head for that one). What was this mischievous word? "Awesomesauce". A word that I first learnt from reading the fantastic Elana Johnson's blog, but have seen it around on so many blogs ever since.

What does it mean? Well, doing a random Google search (you gotta love Google, everything under the tips of your finger) I came upon the definition in Urban Dictionary:

Something or someone truly amazing. Usually: more awesome than the word "awesome" can describe.

This made me think where do the words come from (and do the people who create them actually get any credit)? You've got to admit it, someone had to be behind creating slang terms and catch phrases. There's IM, 1337 (pronounced as Leet) and even Vulcan (I have to hand it to the fans for creating an entire language out of snippets from a tv show).

These words and new languages have been used in many stories, and sometimes they even change meaning due to the person and generation they're speaking to. Hey, when LOL became popular it took me a while to figure that it stood for "Laugh Out Loud". Now I hear you laughing, but I could've sworn that it meant "Lots of Love" which was it's previous meaning.

When you write do you use any catchphrases or slang to show the characters age and relate to the readers of the now? Do you stay away from such trends so that there will be no communication breakdown? Or, do you just not think about the words/slang you write and just write?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Can you hear it: Selecting the soundtrack

Everyone has their own ideal setting for writing, or just relaxing in general. Some can only work if there is total silence, some need chaos (like that from a coffee shop or busy restaurant) to get the creative juices flowing. What about me? Well, I need some kind of background noise, and usually in the same tempo/genre/mood of what I'm writing.

I've read a lot of authors websites that mention having a soundtrack for the novel, and I've found this technique a very handy tool to get into the right frame of mind for writing, and it's also a fun way to procrastinate think about the story.

For haven, my soundtrack consists of:
1. Down with the Sickness by Disturbed
2. 7 Days to the Wolves by Nightwish
3. Monsters by Matchbook Romance
4. The Curse by Disturbed
5. Rest in Peace by James Masters, aka Spike (see above, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
6. Disturbia by Rhianna
7. It's the Fear by Within Temptation
8. Somebody Help Me by Full Blown Rose
9. Vampires will never hurt You by My Chemical Romance
10. Whisper by Evanescence

So, do you have a soundtrack to the story you're working on (if you don't, then why not)?

P.S. that's my kind of vampire. Spike from Buffy, bad boy all the way, and he's actually coming down under in 2 weeks...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

An ode to rejections...

Well, since it's already 4:30 on Thursday here I guess I've missed Wind-down Wednesday (don't feel bad, I'm feeling great because I took my singing and guitar lesson and that really helped relax me).

My guitar teacher is also a collaborator with some original songs that I write. Instead of doing my usual depressing gothic style music (hey, I love that dark and emotional packed music) I chose to write an upbeat, happy song based around what we all know. I thought it would be good to share with you all, it's titled "Jump".

A single voice above the noise,
A single thought of not enough.
That inch of doubt that holds you back,
Are you good or will you fall?

Facing the bumpy road that life reveals.
Jumping all the hurdles, stumbling for a few.
Feeling like the light's switched off,
Fumbling for a match.

You always second guess yourself
Over and over, facing doubt.
Never be afraid. Don't just stand there
When you can jump, jump, jump.
You'll hit the ground running if you jump.

When all you get is pain, and the ground is approaching fast
All you need is one little smile, think about that yes.
Is all the work worth the trouble?
You'll never know if you quit.

Isn't life a bumpy road, never knowing where it leads.
Having your eye on something far, watching the sun slowly set.
Taking the road less travelled isn't that hard,
Taking that chance against all the bets.

You always second guess yourself
Over and over, facing doubt.
Never be afraid. Don't just stand there
When you can jump, jump, jump.
You'll hit the ground running if you jump.

Is it worth the trouble?
Can you see the goal?
Push yourself forward,
Take that chance.
You'll never know
If you don't jump.

It's just a work in progress, and stay tuned because soon there'll be actual music for it (yes, it will even contain my voice singing... oh the horror). Just writing this really helped lift my spirits, so I hope it can do the same for some of you too.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Backward Mapping: Arriving at the destination before the journey

'But all endings are also beginnings. We just don't know it at the time.'
Mitch Albom, The Five People You Meet In Heaven, pg. 1 line 3-4 

Wow, I've actually learnt something from uni (and it's not just that adlibbing a presentation/debate probably isn't the best sollution to getting the best marks... and yes, that's exactly what I did today. Surprisingly I passed).

In class we discussed how one should design a lesson plan for a class and the tutor pointed out that it's very hard to know where to begin if you haven't figured out where you want to be. The same can be said about writing, especially that notorious novel.

If we know where we want to be, isn't it a lot easier getting there if you have no idea where "there" is? Even if you don't like planning and prefer to be spontanious, do you have any idea what the novel is going to look like? I know that before I start writing I like to know where I'm heading (mainly because I hate middles and can never plot out what I want to happen, but at least I know how I want that "fill in the blank" to end).

So, plotting a novel from back to front could be beneficial. Each goal and motivation should be listed and they won't seem to be mere consequence because you've actually thought about why the thing happened before you've actually written it.

Wow, I must actually be paying some form of attention in class. So, how do you plan your novel? Do you know the ending before you start writing, or does it just come from the writing?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Blank Page Syndrome

'You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair at the sense that you can never completely put on the page what's in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.'
Stephen King: On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, 2000

You've got to just love Stephen King. This quote is exactly how I'm feeling at the moment, a little nervous and excited, but mostly I'm staring at the blank page.

Starting a new novel might seem all well and good, after all, don't I have a story and a character? Hey, I even have a title for the novel (and for me, that's probably the hardest thing I've got to decide on). But, how do I start the story? 

The beginning has to jump off the page and grab the reader's attention. I don't know which is harder, the beginning or the ending, both have to leave an impression with the reader or they will give up (I've known several books that I've started to read but lost interest by chapter three... I'm going to get around to finishing them sometime).

The best time I've been given about beginnings is that the story is best told in the midst of the action, even if you have to write and then cut a couple of chapters before chapter one actually starts. There is only one thing that helps when it comes to beginning a novel, and that's to start. Hey, a novel will never be written unless you put words on that blank page and get started. 

So, how do you approach starting a new novel? 

I guess I'm going to approach mine by writing it.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

And another contest

In conjunction with Elana's contest, Bethany Wiggins and Suzzette Saxton is holding a contest with an agent critique from Suzie Townsend up at stake

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Contest Alert...

Elana Johnson is holding a Fabulous Follower Giveaway over at her blog. There's plenty of fantastic prizes up for grabs.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Wind-down Wednesday

Here I am trying not to have a stress attack over the work load of uni, I totally need a stress-free day (which won't come until tonight unfortunately).

So, here's another lovely clip I discovered on YouTube. It's said that everyone sells out once in their career, who knew it happens to cartoon stars as well (you've got to love the Simpsons)

I'm about to totally rush off to uni, but later tonight I'm going to allow myself a night of not thinking about what's due, what I've got to do and what I haven't gotten around to yet and geek out with Final Fantasy XIII (which I just totally bought about ten minutes before doing this post), and then also catch up on some needed reading (also geeking out with just receiving Hex Hall from Amazon)...

Ok, I'm finished acting like a geek at this very moment. Hope everyone's Wednesday is going a lot smoother than mine.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Trivia Tuesday

Well, it's another Tuesday and that means another lot of trivia. I love learning useless trivia and here's some more that most wouldn't know (and probably wouldn't even care about):

  • The Guinness Book of Records holds the record for being the book most often stolen from public libraries.
  • The average person's left hand does 56% of the typing.

And on a side note piece of trivia I'm pretty sure all of my posts starts with either "So" or "Well"... maybe I'll make it a challenge not to use those words through an entire post.

So,   what other pieces of trivia do you know, or what are some habits that you've noticed about your writing that seems to crop up in everything you write?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Rose by any other name would smells as sweet...

I beg to differ with the quote from Shakespear's Romeo and Juliet (No offense Shakespeare), but even if it did smell as sweet would you even want to go near one and see if it was named something like "Dank"?

Names and titles play a big thing, especially for novels. You might have a great big hit on your hands but no one would even want to look at your story because you've created some lame title (hey, I've been there... my first one which is now burried deep away was called "Warriors of Destiny").

I'm now planning my new story idea, which I've discovered the title I was planning on using has already been used, so I'm trying to think of something (anything), and all I'm left with is silly/lame names that I'm pretty sure not even I would want to pick up in a book store.

You've got to be careful with the title you give your novel. You don't want to find out that there's already one of the same/similar name written by a best-selling author, or there's already plenty out there with that title. You need one which will jump out at the reader, making them want to pick it up. So, creating a title is an easy thing... yeah right, for me it probably takes more time thinking up the title than it does planning the story.

Even popular authors have had to change their titles before publication... Would you have picked up a book with the title "Forks?" and what would you have thought it was about? Whereas the title "Twilight" does a much better job at catching the readers attention.

How hard is it for you to create titles? And, what's the worst or best titles you've seen?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Organised Chaos vs. Just a Mess

Well, Uni's definitely in full swing, my first assignment was due in yesterday (why do I want to be a teacher?) and I had to submit it via the internet. That's all well and good, but the uni's servers crashed and it took them two days to fix. Lucky the website came back online before I had to go to work so I could submit it.

With every assignment I've got, class reading, work schedule and everything else that's going on I'm starting to realise the true value of being organised (I guess my theory of organised chaos isn't working out so well at the moment).

I have uni work laying all over the place, as well as notes for my novel I'm starting to plan and pages of scribbled rewrites for Haven. Surrounded by all this mess I have learned that it is nearly impossible to think straight and get any proper work done. And, how can one write a novel when one can't focus on what the characters should be doing rather than on finding a pen to jot down something? It probably also doesn't help that my computer/study/writing room is also in our combined kitchen/dining/living room... that's what I get for living in a small town house.

So, how does everyone get organised? Do you have a room dedicated to the computer or writing? Or, can you write anywhere and under any circumstance?

Friday, March 5, 2010

The importance of criticism

 I've just recently started singing lessons and at the end of the lesson my teacher apologised for stopping me and correcting all the little things I was doing wrong. She explained that she thought I was good, and that meant she had to push me to do my best.

This is like writing (in some twisted, far-stretched way). No one likes getting criticism, especially that of the negative variety, but why would someone go to the trouble of pointing out any areas that might be a bit flat (sorry about the singing pun, I couldn't help myself)?

Lets face it, if they didn't feel the work was good, they wouldn't want to waste the time to read and critique the work (especially 2,000 word chapters and 80,000 word novels). So, it's good to think of critiques in a positive way. They're just trying to push your story (and you) from being good to being great.

How do you look at criticism? Do you accept it and try to initiate the changes suggested? Or, are you scared of letting others get a hold of your work in case they say some negative things you don't want to hear?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Wind-down Wednesday

I've survived yet another Wednesday and really need another relaxer (hey, I've got an assignment next week I was the luck one to draw a slot for a presentation in two weeks, I've got two essays due that I need to get on top of... and that's only to do with uni).

So, I've scoured the internet once again for anything that is random and something to encourage procrastination. The first I thought would be a good stop since I highlighted Twilight - The Musical, here's the sequel: "New Moon - The Musical".

And, here's an article that's definitely worth reading: The 24,504 Worst Pieces of Advice Ever Published... it's a crack up about a woman who's got a book published called "14,000 reasons why to be happy", it's (the article not the book) definitely worth the read... seriously, I managed to find the book and the author has things like hot dogs and puddles as reasons.

If you like that sort of humor, Cracked is definitely worth checking out.

Well, that's my Wednesday over. Hope your weeks are a bit less stressful than mine.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Trivia Tuesday

I was listening to the radio the other day and they had a segment called "Bottle cap trivia" and I thought that there's so many useless information out there that people absorb on a daily basis, and for some reason people love learning new tidbits of trivia. So, I'll be dedicating Tuesdays to scouring the globe (well, actually the internet) in search of new pieces of juicy information.

Today's trivia is dedicated to writing... I just thought that would be something interesting.

So,  did you find any of these interesting? What other pieces of trivia would you like to find out? I'm sure with the magical means of Google I can find out anything.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Can you see it too? POV conundrum

I was watching Make it or Break it the other night... the standard teen soap opera and one scene came on where the boyfriend of one (who's happened to sleep with best friend of girlfriend while the two friends were fighting, but now they've made up again and doesn't want to tell her about the incident) enters the room and the girlfriend flings herself into his arms and starts kissing him. I found it interesting watching the subtle movements, like his eyes wandering from girlfriend to other girl, his guilty expression and even the friend's envious looks.

The next thing that happened just tells me I'm either a writer or a tad loony (or probably both). I started thinking about how the scene could be written to convey the same emotions that were being displayed on the screen (hey, don't laugh at me... admit it, you've done this too).

The hardest things about rewriting a scene is trying to figure out the POV. Who's going to tell the story? And, let's face it. There was three stories going on in the one scene: The boyfriend, girlfriend and best friend (aka, other girl), there was also a fourth girl present at the time as well. Each person is going to have a different perspective whether it's envy, guilt, lust or even an unbiased outlook of the whole situation, and every person will know a little bit more or less information than the others.

Before I started to take my writing seriously I thought there could be only one perspective... the hero/heroine (but that was also around the time that scenes jumped to show every angle, both good and bad). Now, I've realised that there are many stories to tell.

Just try to imagine what other stories would be like if they were shown from a different POV. Would you feel sorry for Voldemort (from Harry Potter for those who don't know) if you heard his inner thoughts? What about an impartial view from one of the other Cullens on Twilight (especially Rosalie).

I believe (and I can be on my own here) that emotions and attitudes towards an event/character can change based on how the POV of a novel reflects the situation, both favourable or not. So, here's a challenge, either try to think of a novel from the villains POV or your next story think about how the reader would react to the bad guy if they heard some of his thoughts... why is he doing what he's doing? you might find out he thinks it's for the best (in some twisted way).

And, a here's final question, how do you go about choosing which character will be your MC? Is it always a simple choice or do you have many characters auditioning for the lead in your play?
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