Friday, 29 April 2011
I don't know what it is, exactly, about quotation marks that makes perfectly capable writers suddenly punctuate like they're drunk texting. Here, I'll give you an example:
"I can't believe it." She said.
No! Bad! Rule #1: When using the tag "she said," or for that matter "he said," or "[name] said," use a comma (instead of a period) before the end quotation mark and use lowercase for the dialogue tag. That's because in this case, "she said" is just clarifying that she, in fact, said it. This gives us:
"I can't believe it," she said.
Rule #2: If a sentence ends with a comma or exclamation point, keep that and put the next part in lowercase:
"Do you really believe that?" he said.
"Yes!" she replied.
But wait! There's more. #3: When a sentence describing an action follows the quote, you don't need a comma or lowercase.
"That actually happened!" She started waving her hands in the air to prove her point.
"It totally did not." He said this while looking at the floor.
So, to recoup: comma (or original punctuation for anything but a period) and no caps for just "she said" (or "she rambled" or "she monologued" or anything like that), but continue normally for a regular sentence. This sounds logical but I see new writers flummoxed by this a lot.
Thursday, 28 April 2011
Wednesday, 27 April 2011
Tuesday, 26 April 2011
As the title suggests, I've learned over these past three years that being a journalist has helped me in many areas of life outside of the news office. For anyone wondering what you could possibly do with a degree in English or Communications, here's a good idea of how being in the journalism business can impact your life.
When I first started working for The Express back in 2008, I wasn't quite sold on the idea of being a journalist. I took the internship because yes, I could write decently and no, I wasn't really good anything else. Over the years, my internship has led me on some pretty interesting adventures, introduced me to many wonderful people in the community, and has given me the opportunity to expand hone my writing style and skills...not to mention the behind the scenes access to events, free food, free movie tickets and gift cards from happy people whom I've written favorably about. And I've gotten a lot out of these things.
1. The connections. I know about 15 prominent members of the community that I could ask for letters of recommendation for should I ever need them. They are supportive, interesting and I can learn a lot from them. If I ever need anything around town, I know who to talk to. I know the best places to eat, who works there, and who owns them and the hours and phone numbers of all local businesses. I could pretty much be tour guide: Clinton County PA edition.
2. I can apply things I've learned in the office to other jobs. When I went for an interview to work in the financial aid office at my school, the woman interviewing me stressed the importance of confidentiality and was very concerned with students knowing how important it is. I was please I could tell her, oh yes, I know all about that from working at the newspaper and how important it is to keep sources anonymous who wish to remain so. I got the job. Then, when I moved on to work in the campus writing center I could tell the professor who was considering me that, oh yes, I know how to talk to people, I know how to get people to think critically though asking leading questions...I work at a newspaper. I got the job. Now, one wouldn't think you could apply journalism skills to a restaurant job, but you would be surprised.
Recently, it has come to my attention that I will need a second summer job. My friend works are the best restaurant in town and was able to get me an interview with the boss. She explained that I would need to work fast and deal with attitudes as it could get stressful when there are a lot of customers in the evening. Oh yes, I said, I'm used to working quickly under strict deadlines, I work at a newspaper. Also, everyone is always stressed and grumpy during deadline times at the newspaper. I got the job. (My friend who got me the job now in charge of training me) He went through all the stuff I had to do for the job and expected me to remember, where things were and the names of co-workers the first time he told me the information. Oh yes, I could recite it back to him (in detail) and do the job correctly, I'm used to taking in a lot of information really fast, I work at a newspaper and I have to interview people who talk really fast and remember what they told me.
3. The adventures. I've gotten to fly in an airplane, attend expensive dinners, meet government officials, cover high profile court cases, attend a Hindu wedding ceremony, get a history lesson from people who have lived 100 years and much, much more. Not to mention hear many touching and harrowing stories of people who have suffered great loss or experienced such tragedy and were able to overcome, and make the best of it, like the story of the mission worker who was in Haiti during the earthquake or the 15 year old cheerleader who died of cancer and inspired her team members to fundraise to help others.
4. Writing skills. The ability to convey your point quickly, briefly, clearly and in a way that everyone can understand is pretty much journalism 101. And who wouldn't want to apply this is creative writing as well? In today's day and age, everyone wants everything quickly and not to mention identifying major plot points to grab readers is a skill all writers should strive for anyway. Journalism has helped me master this in my writing of leads for stories and I've applied to my fiction too.
5. The free stuff...well this speaks for itself. Its good stuff, and I don't have to pay for it. What's not to love? Plus, there is always food in the office that I can eat for free. A lot of people bring in goodies for us as a sign of appreciation.
So to anyone out there considering journalism, go for it! You won't be disappointed.
Monday, 25 April 2011
Saturday, 23 April 2011
Friday, 22 April 2011
Yet many of the Top 100 bestsellers on Amazon are priced at 99 cents to $2.99 for indie authors. So although many people may not admit it, a low price will move copies. Currently, I've priced my book at $3.95, and nobody's balked at the price, and some people have told me it's too low. After all, people shell out $4.20 for a coffee that will last an afternoon; why not more for a book that will last many hours? So I may bump up the price, and debut my next book somewhere along the lines of $4.99 - $5.99, especially since I'm planning for it to be a little longer.
So far, these look like reasonable guidelines:
99 cents to $1.99: novella or short story collection (under 150 pages)
$2.99 and up: novel, or collection of novellas and short stories ranging about 150+ pages
But of course, it depends on genre. In romance, 99 cents seems to be popular. Romance novels are written to be read and enjoyed quickly, and readers buy many of them, so keeping the price low makes sense. For a sci-fi novel that ranges 400+ pages and might take many hours to read, $5.99 might seem like a fairer price.
I'd like to conduct experiments and surveys as to what the best price is, but even retailers vary on prices. A paperback might be anywhere from $10 to $17. Hardcover can be a wild card. $18.99? $24.99?
I'm really interested in what the "upper limit" of prices are, though--at what point will a reader look at an ebook's price and say, "No way"? For me, it's about $5. Any higher than that, and I'll usually grab the paperback.
Thursday, 21 April 2011
Wednesday, 20 April 2011
Once they have these things, how do they decide between two courses of action?
Obviously, the first factor is deciding if their choice helps them with their goal or not. But what about choosing between two likely paths?
Tuesday, 19 April 2011
As somebody who is struggling to get back into writing, I'd like to point out that my experience has been that blogging is an effective tool to get you off of your ass, and actually putting words onto paper. This is in large part because you can get feedback from real people, and it doesn't always feel like you are doing everything alone. I know that sometimes, I can feel really lost without somebody there helping me.
Take for example, this collaborative. I know that each and every one of my "blogmates" is also a member of a huge, longstanding support network. For sure, if I had a question, and I posted it here, they would do their honest best to help me figure out the answer. I know that this would be true even if my question wasn't about writing. If I didn't have a blog, I don't know that I could organize all the answers from the people I most care about, let alone having them in the same place.
Its also an attitude/motivation thing. If I am already writing two or three blog posts in one day, I might as well commit at least a few paragraphs to some creative writing. I wouldn't write at all if it wasn't for blogging. I know this, because before I blogged, I didn't. Months would go by, and I hadn't written a single word, except for maybe letters to friends. Certainly though, nothing creative or even intelligible.
Blogging helps me stay motivated, and furthermore, it is something that I enjoy. I go out with my camera sometimes with the expressed intent of taking photos to put up on my blog(s). Blogging, you know that nobody is going to assign you a grade at the end, giving you a pass or a fail. When I can pick the topics that I want to talk about, and go where I want to with them, the world is my oyster. Blogging can be freedom to be absolutely creative, and just write to your heart's content.
In a nutshell, if you are somebody like me, who just needs a little motivation to get writing... Try keeping a blog, and invite your friends to read it. Its habit forming, and writing is a habit we want to form, right? Pretty soon, you'll be writing stories and poems, maybe even a novel. Why? Because you were writing anyway, and because it feels sooooo good.
Monday, 18 April 2011
Saturday, 16 April 2011
Last week I mentioned eight rules that Kurt Vonnegut wrote for fictioneers. One of my favorite of these is number three, which states:
"Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water."
While definitely not the kind of advice that can help you craft characters to steal hearts and sell books with, it is definitely something to keep in mind during character design. Most writers know to give their main characters goals and aspirations, but it is important to remember that every character, even those who fall in the 'everybody else' category, need to have goals and motivations and reasons to do whatever it is that they do. For your focal characters, you need to make sure that these motivations make sense and are consistent with their actions. A desire to bring honor to your family rarely involves kicking in doors and waving a sword, and greed doesn't make characters leap to block bullets. It's also important to realize that a character's goals affect more than just their general actions, it bleeds into their personality, their relationships, their appearance, everything.
One way I like to check the realism/believability value of my characters is to compare them to real people. Hopefully you aren't going to find your characters real-world counterpart, but you should still be able to draw parallels. "My friend George likes computers, went to school to be a programmer, but dropped out and plays video games instead," can have lots of parallels with, "My character, Eli, is a humble servant to the house of Wobblestein, but when faced with a hearty bribe, happily abandoned his allegiance and pocketed seven hundred pieces of silver." You can also try to draw parallels in history, theology, and even other literature. If you can't find anything remotely similar to your clinically depressed medieval soldier who decides that a path of revenge and womanizing is the way to solve his problems, that's not a hint that your character is original, it's usually a hint that he is not a well-designed character.
A lot of this may sound similar to Pat's "Economic Fiction" series of posts, mostly because it is. In order to avoid the Idiot Plot, characters need to have motivations that drive actions and make economic sense. Not everyone can get everything they want, so it is up to you, the author, to decide who will place what value upon what. Only after that decision is made can you begin to write something of any value or plot.
Friday, 15 April 2011
A magic user can use magic to do absolutely anything they can imagine, provided that they have the magical energy required to do so.
As promised, today I will be discussing one of the implications. So before you get too far into that sentence looking for something to discuss, I'm going to stop you at the third word. Those first three words there, "A magic user," mean a lot.
Specifically, you need to define who can even use magic in your story. And while to a degree I'm discussing just amongst your characters, I'm also discussing the world at large. Is it possible that everyone can use magic in your story? That's for you to decide. It's equally possible that only some people can. Or even that everyone can, but not everyone can use all kinds of it.
Even with that, you still need to decide who actually uses it (which in some cases, but not all, means who knows how to). For instance, in my current story-in-progress, Phoenix Mage, one type of magic user is a mage, which I define in the story as someone with magical energy as an essential part of them. All mages are, of course, capable of using magic. Not all of them, however, actually do. Most of them don't even know they are mages. And to show that you don't need to know how to use magic to actually do so, not all of my mages that do use magic know they're using magic of even have any control over it. Plenty of them use it on instinct without even noticing.
Furthermore, you don't need to limit yourself to one type of magic user. My story also defines another group of magic users called shamans as people who manipulate and use magic that is naturally found in the environment. A notable difference, however, is that logic itself will dictate that shamans MUST know that they use magic and they MUST know how to do so. Which of course doesn't even mention that you have to use magic to be a shaman.
This of course, leads to my next point. Once you've decided who can use magic and why they can use it, you need to let logic take it's course. If the only access to magic in your world is through having sex, you can expect that no one who can use magic in your world is a virgin. In fact, you'd probably expect them all to be sexual deviants who have sex at the drop of a dime (depending on how much they like magic and/or sex). The way someone accesses magic WILL affect the way they act. The sex magician is much more likely to try and seduce someone to get their way, for instance, than the magic user who gets their power from respecting nature or something like that.
This doesn't set hard and fast rules (unless your story calls for it), but it is something to keep in mind as far as suspension of disbelief goes. If the magic user who gets their power from nature sets fire to a forest, I expect a damn good reason for it, and so will your readers.
Got it? If so, good. If not, drop a comment and I can try to clarify. That's it for this week, I'll see you again in another couple weeks with Part III.
Thursday, 14 April 2011
Wednesday, 13 April 2011
We begin with behavior. Have you ever done anything completely randomly? If you said yes, I'd question you.
'Well, I went to the movie just because I felt like it!'
Of course. You felt like it. It wasn't random, even if it wasn't preplanned.
Tuesday, 12 April 2011
You are extremely excited and rush to the movie theater the day it comes out...but somewhere between the opening scene and end credits your face screws up into a frown of disgust and you are left wondering: “what the hell did I just see?” What you thought was going to be your favorite book portrayed in all its glorious detail was some poor excuse for a film where the plot does not match anything you remember reading and the only resemblance the character bare to the book are their names.
More often than not, this happens with book to movie adaptions. Many book loyalist are left wondering why…or WHY!?! The answer is simple. 1. The author of the book often has little to no say in how the movie is produced. They hardly ever have any input in the script or direction. 2. Hollywood makes no promise that they will be true to the book and escape charges of thinly veiled plagiarism by the addition of: “Based on the book by (author name goes here)” usually appearing in the opening credits.
Does it fail, yes? Is there anything we can do about it? Not really.
However, some authors hold out until they are approached by, or can find a producer who is willing to compromise. One of my literary heroes, Anne Rice, for example, will not sign any movie deals unless her vision of her characters and plots are upheld. The lady who does not even allow fanfiction of her work, is particularly sensitive when it comes to her characters. After the film adaption of her book “Queen of the Damned” was a failure…and nothing like the original text…she is very wary of movie deals.
Also, it must be mentioned that some movie producers and directors are respectful to the text. Peter Jackson with his adaption of “The Lord of the Rings” comes to mind. Love it or hate it, one has to admit, that it is pretty close to the gospel of Tolkien with only a few alterations (mostly in “The Two Towers”) and omissions for time’s sake.
But what about those annoying little details that readers and fans love that movie producers skim over? One of the most popular criticisms: Harry Potter’s eyes, for example. In the books, I’m fairly certain it was mentioned on the first 3 pages that he has green eyes and is repeated throughout the series, probably no fewer than 20 times. In the movies: blue eyes. In the most recent film adaption of one of my personal favorite stories, “The Picture of Dorian Gray” Oscar Wilde tells us that Dorian is blond, and once again, this is repeated at least 20 times through the book. In the movie, he has dark brown/black hair. These things I really don’t understand. They can sink the bloody Titanic, successfully reenact epic battles and space shuttle launches and make dinosaurs walk the earth again, but they can’t get a character’s hair and eye color right? I’m at a loss with this one.
Monday, 11 April 2011
Friday, 8 April 2011
This post originally appeared on A Writer's Notes.
Thursday, 7 April 2011
Y'all might or might not have heard, but she died recently.
She's been one of my favorite authors for years. I have all of the Chrestomanci books, and have loved and reread them many times. I was stoked when I heard they were making Howl's Moving Castle into a movie. (And I've read and own the sequel too. Awesome.) I got a kick out of The Dark Lord of Derkhelm, and Deep Secret made me all nostalgic for the one convention I've been to (LosCon, 2005) even if I didn't like the book so much.
And her writing book The Tough Guide to Fantasyland is a must read for any aspiring fantasy writer out there. It's high/mid fantasy, not urban, but even if you don't write it you'll get a hoot if you read fantasy, because you'll be going "Yes! That's always bugged me too!"
The tragedy is that even though she's been a prolific and influential fantasy writer, I learned about her death a day after it happened, and someone else learned even later than I did. It just wasn't publicized that much. And that is a shame. A damn shame. She deserved better than that. She was an amazing writer, and helped mold some of the contemporary fantasy authors of our generation (did you know that she and Neil Gaiman were friends and fans of each other's work?).
Shine on, sweet princess, and sleep well.
Hints About Writing A Story: an article by Diana Wynne Jones
Wednesday, 6 April 2011
One subject I took for my business degree is economics, and I can't even begin to describe how useful that class is. Seriously, if you've never taken economics courses, you should try them! But you don't have to take my word on it, I'll give you a quick introduction to using economic principles in fiction.
Tuesday, 5 April 2011
Before I do that, let me share a little about my history with writing. I was one of those typical angsty teenagers, writing about all the trials of high school. I can remember some particularly dark pieces coming shortly after I broke up with my first serious boyfriend. Of course, it was all ridiculous. There was always this burning thought though, that if I just pushed myself, I could write something great. Still, I never tried.
Then, something got in the way. Suddenly, not just writing, but all creativity was something that I didn't "have time" for. My life was overtaken by social interaction and at best, reading. It was great for a few years, but this hunger to write is creeping up on me, and I don't know how long I can go without satisfying it. So, lets get some ideas on paper, shall we?
I’d like to write a series of short stories, exploring the seven deadly sins. This idea has been done to death by writers everywhere, but still, it seems like it would be fun, especially if I could make it happen in 5000 words or less each time. If I could get these finished by the time seven months is up, I would be happy.
I’d like to write a poem every day for 30 days. Largely just to get me writing again, but also because I think poetry is the best way to get your most basic thoughts on paper, because there often isn’t any room to beat around the bush. I will do this starting the day after the half marathon, and maybe use the same blog, I’m not sure yet.
I want to write an erotica novel. Plain and simple. I want to do this by the end of the year. I don't know how realistic this one is.
Eventually, I want to write a book about my opinions on the current situation, and future of Canadian Politics, and also what we should do about it. This goal is probably my most serious, but also the furthest away. If I do follow my goal to get a PhD,I am going to have to write a thesis, so maybe… Maybe, this is the answer.
I am learning very slowly about myself that I need to write these things down and set hard deadlines, or they will never be finished. I just want to get writing again, but it is terrifying. I am afraid that nothing I write will be any good, and I am afraid that nobody will like them.