Wednesday, January 9, 2013

I'm Baaaack!

For the past year or so my writing life has been in limbo. For what reason? Many, actually, but I think it's because I've been in a battle with myself over life. See, my family did something this last year that I'm not proud of. We recently moved from the south and I'm not happy about it. At all. I miss it terribly. Now if you've never been south of the Mason-Dixon line, you might not totally understand what I'm saying, but for those who have, well, keep reading.


We moved to a small, university town in 2005 and I spent the first six months convinced that I'd moved to another country. Literally. I had to actually apologize to a few people and tell them that I could not understand a word they were saying. I wanted to smack people who spoke like they were on slow motion. Everything down there was different, not just the accents- food, speed of the people, wildlife everywhere. I grew up in a large city where parks and woods were planned by the city. Not so in the south. Wooded lots were everywhere, which meant so was the wildlife. Coming from Central IL, where the only wildlife I ever saw regularly were rabbits, MS was like living in the woods. Seeing dear dance-run across streets, their little white tails bobbing around, never got old, btw. And the bats at twilight--simply magical.


But the best thing about the south are the people!! Not since high school had I found a wonderful group of amazing people who were just as happy to let me into their lives as I was to let them. It took a little while, but eventually I found myself a core group of fantastic people in the homeschool arena as well as in writing and even some wonderful people I am proud to call neighbors! (We'd never had that before either.) For a long time I felt beyond blessed by the wonderful people in my life.



Then we got word that we were going to be moving and my life just kind of cracked like stepping on a sheet of ice (we're back in the north where's it ridiculously cold!). Now, we've moved with hubby's job enough to know that the saying "out of sight, out of mind" really is true. Not on purpose. Not with any malicious intent on anyone's part (I hope anyway), but lives keep moving forward and soon those closest to you will find someone else to fill your place and visiting just isn't the same as being there with those you love everyday to share everything. Now don't get me wrong, visiting is better than resorting to facebook posts and once a year Christmas cards!


And since this is our third trip into Central IL, I know what to expect, which is normal 'northern'-tude (and CA actually). Don't talk to strangers-or even look them in the eye to smile. Wave to your neighbors but don't expect to be let in. Smile and say hi to people you go to church with on Sunday mornings but that's about all you're going to get.


What does this have to do with my writing? Well, I've let myself be led by my sadness, but that's not healthy or right. It's time to work on putting a bit more cracks into my line of vision to break out of this funk-cocoon of mine. Writing is something I enjoy doing. It lets me have something that is truly mine-and those of you who are stay at home mom's know that nothing is truly just ours, not that I'm complaining, just stating a fact. Will I ever get published? I don't know. Will it become my obsession? Probably not. But I like to write and learn about myself and the art of writing so I'll continue my journey to self discovery by doing something that bares my soul to the world. Strange thing to do for 'fun', I know, but hey, no one ever said I'm not strange. Just ask my kids-and the friends I left down south! ;)


My journey back to happiness begins and ends with me. Period. So I'll keep plugging away at myself and remind myself that life is all about choices. Make one you don't like? Then go back and make another one that you do, because life is too short and once the day is done, it's done. So today do something you like to do.

Be passionate about something!
~Michelle

Friday, October 7, 2011

Feed-the-Writer's Soul Friday- Don't Settle for Anything Less Than Love


Can you imagine your life today without the Mac, ipod, Pixar, iphones? Steve Jobs was an amazing visionary, a man who stuck to his vision, even through adversity.
I have to be honest here. I didn’t know anything about him until this week when many friends posted about him on their facebook pages, especially words from a speech he gave at the graduation ceremony at Stanford in 2005.
So, at the advisement of my seventeen year old son, I looked it up on youtube and made my children listen to it. We sat at the kitchen table together. My son, who is almost ready to venture into the world and make his own path, sat in rapture, a knowing smile on his face. My fifteen year old daughter, however, sighed and asked several times why we were listening to some guy talk. When I told her who he was and what had happened this week, she shrugged. I could tell that nothing he was saying was leaving any lasting insight.
But it touched my heart and by the end, I was almost in tears. What he had to say was so insightful-and deep to the core honest. But that wasn’t the only thing that touched me. Looking around at the college students, my heart just ached. He had so much to say, so much to give and they didn’t seem to be listening, just as my daughter wasn’t listening. They laughed and talked while he was spilling his heart out, telling him of his life, offering them advice from someone who had gone before.
Thankfully, the world has the internet and youtube so that we can listen to it any time we want, as many times as we want.
Since then, I’ve thought about it and have come to two conclusions:
1) Youth really is wasted on the young.
2) Sometimes I think that the only way you can truly listen to and learn from history, is to have lived long enough to have a history of your own.
Steve Jobs went through so much, and still kept going, kept thinking, kept trying new things. He didn’t give up, even when his world came crashing down, first when he was ousted from Apple, a company he helped to create, and then when he was diagnosed with cancer. He is truly inspiration to all of us, young and old, educated or workforce.
I’m closing with words from that speech that we all need to remember and hold close to our hearts, no matter what goal we go after in life, whether it be writing or nursing or engineering.
"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.

If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle."

– Steve Jobs, Stanford speech 2005
So I leave you with this. Love what you do. If you don't love what you do any more than find a way to love it again or do something else. Fight to find your passion, what makes you happy and gives you peace with the world. And whatever you do, don't settle.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Feed-the-Writer's-Soul Friday- Finding Your Voice



I’m hoping y’all can get something out of my disjointed notes. This was a workshop that I went to at Nationals. In the middle of this discussion, the presenters popped up a few pictures of hotties for us. Since I don’t know how to post picts to blogspot yet, I’ll give you names and you can do your own search…Chris Evans, Nathan Fillion, and Kellan Lutz. 

Finding Your Voice-From a workshop entitled Speak Up! Seven Steps to Finding Your Voice
**Nothing you write lacks meaning because meaning is in you. ~Anne Marie O’Connor

What is Voice? It’s you on the page.
Voice is shaped by:
1) Your background
2) Genetics
3) Choices
             -friends
            -lovers
             -kids
             -education goals
            -travel
             -spiritual beliefs
4) Self-image-so it’s important to get to know yourself!

Find an editor/agent who fits YOUR voice.

Sit down and define your writing strengths and weaknesses.

How do you find your voice? 7 Steps:
1) WRITE-as much and as often as you can
            -be organic
            -don’t self edit during the creative process-do that in revisions
            -Read your own work-identify your strengths and weaknesses (see above)
2) Listen:
            -to what your instincts tell you
            -when you leave out voice the writing is flat-you want your work to be SPECIAL
            -give them something new-your voice is UNIQUE
3) Ask:
            -people you trust!
            -ask yourself what you like about your own writing
            -poll your crit partners, beta readers, any readers and ask them to give you 3 words that describe your writing
            Ie: “comical, intelligent, deep”
4) Blog or Journal
            -find topics that interest you
            -pay attention to your tone to see how you handle topics
            -look at your vocabulary
            -look at rhythm-how you break up sentences
5) Let Go
            -give permission to write what you want to write, not what you think you should write
            -let your character be free to say and do the first thing that comes to mind
            -when someone read your work and tells you they can “hear” it, that’s voice
6) Explore/Experiment
            -make the most of your writing
            -push the boundaries and try something new
            -work at your strengths and HONE them-make them sharp and shiny
            -shine first-THEN focus on your weaknesses
7) WRITE some more
            -once you establish what it is that makes your voice unique, hone it
            -write, write and write some more
            -plot stories that will showcase your voice
            -FINISH YOUR STORY


Chris Evans
Nathan Fillion
Kellan Lutz

Friday, August 5, 2011

Feed-the-Writer's-Soul Friday- Michael Hauge's Six Stage Plot Structure-Part 2


Last Friday I shared the first half of my notes from Michael Hauge's Six Stage Plot Structure. This week I finish it off.

Stage 3-PROGRESS-from 25% to 50% of movie/story. This is where whatever the H/H outer goal is, they make a plan to accomplish their goal. Whatever the plan is, there are obstacles. The character is emotionally involved and the problem or conflict is what the emotions come from. They pursue their goal and there MUST be obstacles. In movies the emphasis is often on the inner conflict not the romance. You need a second outer motivation other than love and you need obstacles to another goal.

The stage ends with Turning Point #3 POINT OF NO RETURN (PONR) at about 50% of movie/story. The PONR is where the H/H make a commitment to the goal. This is where they burn the bridge and can’t go back. They have to option to quit but they go on until that spot. Example: typically this is where they make love. Have a first date. Declaration with words or actions “I love you.” Shows commitment. Typically once you pass PONR the universe will bring problems or obstacles. The outside world closes in. Ie: forces of nature, other character causes increase in obstacles, someone tries to kill one or both, the ex shows up. This all leads to stage 4.

Stage 4-This stage is called COMPLICATIONS & HIGHER STAKES. It runs about 50%-75% of your story. In this stage it is harder to achieve the goal. There is more at stake. It is progressively more and more difficult. At the end-H/H have a major setback and it seems to the reader that all is lost. Often as a result, the H/H will try to go back to their old life. But it will NOT work. They will make one last push to achieve their goal or die trying. They give all they have. This ends with Turning Point #4 Major Setback.

Stage 5-This stage is called FINAL PUSH and runs about 75%-90-99%. It is where the H/H give all they have to achieve their goal. It ends with Turning Point #5-Climax.
CLIMAX-is the point in which the outer motivation is resolved but the story isn’t over yet. Happens about 90-99%.

Stage 6-This stage is called the AFTER MATH. It runs about 1-10%. This stage is the opposite of the set up. Every day is a NEW Life. The H/H completed the journey. They have a transformed existence. Readers/viewers can see the reward for competing the journey. We get some sense of a new life.

I hope these notes are of some assistance.
Have a fantastic Friday and a wonderful weekend!
~Michelle

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Feed-the-Writer's-Soul Friday- Michael Hauge's Six Stage Plot Structure-Part 1



   Hi everyone! I am posting this Feed-the-Writer's-Soul Friday Blog one day early because we are leaving to New Orleans tomorrow. My son made it into the Junior Olympics for Taekwondo...and I am nervous as heck!!! So, if you think about it, please send up a quick prayer for safety for my son. Full head kicks are completely legal-even KO's. (Urgh! I don't think I can watch...)

Michael Hauge’s Six Stage Plot Structure-Part 1
For articles, upcoming events, and information on consultation, visit www.StoryMastery.com

Michael Hauge is a very engaging speaker. He has worked with many writers and filmmakers as a script consultant. This was a 2 hour lecture on Plot Structure given by Mr. Hauge at RWA Nationals. Please keep in mind that these are just MY notes. And my notes ended up being pretty long (and a bit cryptic-sorry), so I've decided to do this in two parts. I believe this lecture was recorded, so those of you who bought them can use this as a rough outline. If it wasn't recorded...sorry about that. Anyway, I hope that you find this somewhat helpful. He had a great handout that explained this better in diagram than I can do with the written word, but I tried. :)

***The GOAL of a writer must be to elicit EMOTION.***

All stories are based on 3 basic elements-
1) Character
2) Desire
3) Conflict

In Hollywood calls them:
1) Hero-protagonist
2)Outer motivation
3)Outer conflict

Outer motivation—is the desire for something that’s visible, can immediately picture what it looks like ie: win love of another character, stop something, escape something, retrieve something.

Outer conflict— is what’s visible that’s getting in the way-whatever the H/H are pursuing that creates VISIBLE obstacles in order to over come them.

Often the inner journey is heavier than the outer journey. The story is stronger if there are obstacles in place that the audience/readers can see.

In the outer journey the H/H can pursue 2 different goals ie: break up a wedding and win love.

The inner journey creates the outer journey because it leads the characters actions-that are outwardly visible.

H/H outer journey defines the plot. The plot is the sequence of events that cause the maximum emotional element.

H/H inner journey is not visible, it’s their individual goal. It’s the inner journey that causes the TRANSFORMATION=the change on the inside. The H/H becomes different person from the beginning of the story to the end. For example, living in fear to living courageously.

For readers to understand the inner journey they must understand the outer journey --because the inner journey comes from the outer journey. SO-a stronger outer journey leads to a stronger inner journey. Basically, a character's outer journey is the visible choices a character makes to satisfy or obtain their inner desire.

There are 6 Basic Stages of a story-that are defined by 5 key turning points. These steps are always the same and occur in the same sequence. They occur at exactly the same place in the story and in every story.

Stage 1-SETUP-takes about 0%-10% of the movie/book. This section is all about setting the stage and giving the readers/viewers a connection with the story’s character’s full identity.

1) It introduces the H/H separately. 
2)It creates empathy with character so the audience connects. You do this by
      a) creating sympathy-feel sorry for them if you make them a victim.
      b) Put the character in jeopardy or danger. It can be physical jeopardy or danger that      person will lose something-job, competition, anything.
      c) Make the character likable-generous. Or show as well liked by other people.
3) Shows characters living their every day life before the journey begins because a story is before and after the journey. We must see how start out to see how it finishes. The over all change.
It ends with Turning Point=OPPORTUNITY at about 10% of the movie/story. This is where something happens to H/H that has never happened before. Something will create a desire (goal) but is not the story goal. It’s the goal to move to stage 2 and a new situation. The character is either forced to move-often times to a new location at OPPORTUNITY but not always.

Stage 2-NEW SITUATION-takes about 10%-25% of movie/book. This is the stage when character finds out what’s going on and finds out the rules. Something new occurs that has never happened before. The H/H now has a NEW DESIRE-New outer motivation. Whatever route the H/H do take-they do not pursue to fill. Pursue the VISIBLE GOAL. **Build up to pursuit. Circumstance brings things together.
This ends with Turning Point #2 CHANGE OF PLANS @ 25% of the move/story.

Tune in next week for Part 2...
Until next time,
~Michelle

Friday, July 22, 2011

Feed-the-Writer's-Soul Friday- How to Mend A Broken Scene


The Basics of How to Mend a Broken Scene
From a workshop presented by Roxanne St. Claire at RWA Nationals 2011

            This workshop was one of the most beneficial workshops I had the privilege of taking  at Nationals this year. If this had been the only workshop I had taken, it would have been worth the price of admission. Not only was Ms. St. Claire gracious enough to share with us several examples of her first draft MS to her finished product, she also provided some invaluable information and check lists to go over when mending your raw work. This workshop was not recorded because she didn’t want examples of her early work floating around, so I can’t share those with you. I have been given permission to share with you a summary of her lists.

What makes an effective healthy scene?
*The character goal is clear.
*There is tension regarding THAT goal (and others)
* An arc is completed: beginning, middle, and end
*Story is furthered and complicated
*Reader has more information than they had before

How to recognize your broken scene
* Character goal is not clear
* Scene is full of action, but nothing happens
* Characters are flat, untrue, clich├ęd, uninvolved, distant
* No identifiable plot point
* Massive amounts of backstory
* Forced, unnatural dialogue
* Huge, unbroken paragraphs of description
* Noticeable lack of emotion, humor, sexual tension or conflict
* Emotion is kept in check when it shouldn’t be
* Scene starts too early or ends too soon
                               
ASK THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS:
* What does the character want when the scene starts & how are things getting worse?
* Is there a much stronger reason/plot point for a scene?
* Can I make it unforgettable?
* How can the plot be turned on its head to SHOCK the reader or character?
* Can I show the character’s true nature…and the conflict?
* Is the scene as “ier” as it can be (funnier, sexier, scarier, wrenching-ier)?

TEN WAYS TO FIX ANY SCENE:
1)      Replace internal monologue to dialogue-if they can say it, it’s stronger
2)      Be sure characters are true-stay IN the character’s head
3)      Know your character’s goal-both story goal and scene goal
4)      Add sexual tension
5)      Increase conflict
6)      Ass senses and imagery-draw out emotion
7)      Don’t back away too soon-dig deep to get the scene completed
8)      Draw out emotion
9)      Gracefully drop in backstory and description-no dumping
10)  Strengthen the hook-at beginning/end of both story and chapter

Miscellaneous notes from Q & A:
- Sometimes fixing a scene means fixing the book.
- Don’t fear rewrites.
- Convey conflict on the scene level.
- Don’t imply sexual tension-SHOW it.
- Dig into the emotional quality of the setting.

Roxanne St. Claire is a New York Times bestselling author of twenty-seven novels of suspense and romance from multiple publishers.  Her books have won numerous awards, including the RITA, the National Reader's Choice Award, Booksellers Best, Book Buyers Best, and many others. She can be reached via her website, www.roxannestclaire.com or through her fan page at www.facebook.com/roxannestclaire.  You can follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/roxannestclaire
           

Friday, July 15, 2011

Feed-the-Writer's-Soul Friday- Worth the Work


Feed-the-Writer’s Soul Friday: Worth the Work
Swimming is in my blood. I learned to swim when I was young and haven’t stopped since. For me, the feel of floating, of being weightless is a powerful feeling. It’s one of my most favorite things about summer. If we had to swim everywhere instead of walk, I would be in heaven.

Because I love swimming so much, I took my kids to the pool from the time they were both very young. As a result, both of them spent time on competitive swim teams-and both did well. (But that’s neither here, nor there.)

For the past three summers I have given swim lessons, mostly to my friend’s kids. What I now take for granted, they have to learn, one small step at a time. There is so much to keep in mind when you swim. The most important, and initially the hardest thing to teach, is holding your breath under water. Once that is mastered, the real works begins. You have to learn how to get your body to float and to keep your body parallel to the water, to keep your legs moving in the water with just the right amount of bending, arm rotation just right, hip rotation, then the big one comes--breathing to the side during the stroke. And this is just freestyle! There are three other swim strokes.

I have kids that are at all spectrums of development. Some are learning to hold their breath and to not be afraid to put their heads under water, others can go under water but when they try to “swim” they don’t go anywhere, and others are moving and are now ready to learn to breath to the side (which is an advanced skill and not an easy one to learn-or teach, I’m finding out:).

There are a lot of correlations between swimming and writing. Just like in swimming, there is so much for a beginner to keep in mind as we move through our story: keeping the dialogue fresh, developing conflict, figuring out the POV the scene is going to be in, writing actively and not passively, show vs. tell, and the list goes on. As a new writer, all of this can be overwhelming, and it seems the more we learn, the more we have to learn.

But learning is part of any process. Just like in everything we have learned to do along our lifetime-walking, reading, riding a bike, driving- it takes time and lots and lots of practice. In the end though, it’s always been worth the work. I’m glad I struggled through learning to walk, talk, read, write, swim, drive. Without these abilities, my life would be so empty. 

So, the moral of it all is-keep working and improving yourself, whatever your passion is. We are all better because of it.
~Till next time!
Michelle

PS-At the end of last month through early this month I went to RWA Nationals in NYC. I went to many workshops and learned SO much. Over the course of the next several Fridays I hope to share with you some of my notes from those workshops.