Thursday, June 28, 2012

Foibles of Plot Straightening

This weekend I finally did what I kept meaning to do (months ago). I upload my trilogy into Scrivener. Yes, they are now all in the “Book with Parts” template. I did this because I’ve become very aware that my plot needs work. Book 1 doesn’t really contribute much to the overall story and no one gets anywhere near death...

(Okay I do kill off one of Phoenix’s scouts and one of Griffon’s scouts, but Sarah didn’t witness it because she was out for the count. Still, it’s more romance than action/adventure while the other two are a much better mixture.)

Anyway, once I had the three books all in one place, I began to split apart the chapters. I did this for Book 1, since it has so few and then I went looking at Book 2. Splitting off the beginning of Book 2 and adding it to Book 1 does an amazing remedy for the lack luster plot. Now there’s a climactic fight scene, in which a villain dies after mortally wounding the Heroine. Of course I’ll need to edit it a bit, since it needs make you want to read the next book, not the next chapter.

So, I moved on to Book 2 and stopped to ponder something. No villain dies in this one, though our Heroes manage to save the Royal family. I read some place that a villain, even if he’s not the main boss, should die. So do I make up a villain to die in it, or make it seem like the villain is dying? Or leave it as is?  I’ll have to come back to that question later*, since the ideas is to get down what I have, not what I will have. I did decide that leaving the book off with our Heroes in a coma wasn’t nice, so I move some of the beginning bits from Book 3 over.

I haven’t started on Book 3 yet, aside from moving the beginning bit over, but I know one thing for sure; the climax doesn’t happen as close to the end as it should. There’s a lot of winding down the killing of the Master mind Villain to the marriage of our Heroes. I’m contemplating turning that into Bonus Book 4, for those who really want to see them happily wed and bed (and no I don’t go into details, thank you very much). *giggle*

One of the things I’ve suddenly realized. Having looked at all this – my Phoenixes of Vervell Trilogy need a lot of work. And I’m suddenly wondering:
  • Should I consider them to be my practice novels and shelve them for eternity? (Be still my beating heart! Breathe my hyperventilating lungs!)
  • Should I shelve them for now, until I’ve learned more about plot and structure? (But it’s already been at least five years since I wrote the first book!)

No matter what option I go with, and I lean toward the second for I love Sarah and Hasón and their tale, I’ve come to realize:
  • I’ve gotten pretty good at creating characters. I’m not an expert, but the ones I have been working with for a while are living beings in my head.
  • I could use a hand with plot and structure, perhaps with some practice in pre-plotting given how discombobulated last year’s NaNovel went. (Not that I’ve bothered to read it since then)

NaNo! Why that’s only four months away *gulp* and I plan on participating *double gulp* But I think I know what I’m going to do...
  • Buy “Save the Cat” and read it – several people have said it’s great for helping pantsers plot
  • Pick a story to plot - Alethia’s Lament? Rainbow Island? Another story off my hard drive? Something completely new? – yikes, this’ll be the hardest bit!
  • Tell you all about it! (So erm... what would you like to know about my process leading up to NaNo?)

:} Cathryn
P.S. And what would you think if I slowed down my posting rate - this posting weekly is taking too much precious writing time at the moment. *sigh*

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Two Books in One Week? It’s a Mystery!

I had the rare opportunity this month to read two books. Even stranger I got to read them both in the span of a week. And each one only took two days. Yes, I can be a fast reader when I have the chance.

The first book was “Dragons in the Water” by Madeleine L’Engle. The opportunity to read this book came as bitter sweet. Fiona was sick, and I read while snuggling her and watching her sleep in case she threw up. She only did once, but I read until 1 am that night just to be on the safe side.

The book was a nice return to the world of Madeleine L’Engle. I haven’t read all of her books, but certainly more than most non biliblophiles. “Dragons in the Water” was about a boy, just into his teen years, having set to sail to South America with his newly acquainted middle-aged cousin. They travel by freighter and Simon meets Mr. O’Keefe and his two eldest children, Poly and Charles.

The children amuse themselves upon the boat as only children with vivid imaginations can, until things begin to happen, including the murder of Simon’s cousin. The incident snowballs them all into a loop lies, deceit and corrupt policemen when they arrive at the Port of Dragons, Venezuela.

As a young adult mystery, I found “Dragons in the Waters” very enjoyable. Not to mention it’s renewed my vow to purchase, or at least read, more of Madeleine L’Engle’s tales. Especially since my favorite odd ball couple, Megan and Calvin O;Keefe and their family feature is a few of them (like this one)!

Next up on my reading list was Anne R. Allen’s second* Camilla Randell adult mystery, “Ghost Writers in the Sky”. I started this one under happier circumstances. I began it while waiting outside for my husband to pick me up from work. I finished it sitting in my backyard on our half day Fridays**.

Poor Camilla is having a rough time of it again, as we move twenty years forward in her life (she’s now older than me *giggles*). A marriage gone to hell, an alienated best friend, and once more not a penny to her name. Oh, and slander about her in the papers (again). Camilla just seems to be a trouble magnet, poor thing. But, like in the last book, she faces her problems with aplomb, drawing upon her ‘inner great aunt’ for strength.

In the hope of escaping the paparazzi, Camilla travels to California to attend a writers conference, and do a talk, for a no show celebrity. I’m not going to go into all that happens, though. Suffice to say, it’s a whirl wind of craziness on a dude ranch gone wine, with a rising body count. Is it one murderer or two? It couldn’t be her friend Plant, could it? Or the sexy widower cowboy Camilla has the hots for? And what is with the Camilla doppelganger, she keeps seeing?

Don’t worry the mystery gets solved by then end, though it seems impossible given the sheer number of loose ends. Anne does it, and does it well. I definitelyy enjoyed this read. I even remembered that the end would be at 66% of the way through the trilogy. *grin*

How did she manage to write them so similar in length?

*Second chronologically, but I think it was the first one she wrote. (Hoping Anne will stop by and correct me if I’m wrong.) :}

**My day has given us a very nice summer perk of letting us leave the office at 12:30 pm every Friday from June 1 to August 31. So far, I’m loving it.

:} Cathryn Leigh

P.S. I'll be moving my posting date to Thursday or Friday, due to the fact that, at least for the summer, Wednesday night is mine and I'm dedicating it to my writing tasks.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Two Days Late and ... 200 Dollars Short?

Tuesday marked the official end of my class with GothamWriters Workshop. I took the Creative Writing 101 class that lasted for six weeks. Our teacher was great and my fellow students were interesting, especially the ones who participated in the discussions. In fact, we might even form a writers group out of it. We’ll see. I already feel as though I’m in too many. But the question is:

Was it worth the money I paid for it?

Well, many of the lessons, echoed or were echoed by the recent book I bought, “My First Novel”, which I was reading while taking the class. A lot of it seemed to be stuff that I’ve been picking up by osmosis and practice. However, the lesson on show versus tell was a good one, especially the exercise that went with it.

I wrote about  (and shared) 
Princess Cristalina. I drew this
when I first imagined Rainbow
Island, back when I was 10.
In fact, I think the exercises were the best part. It was like Marc’s Daily Writing Practice blog, only done weekly and requiring more words (but no more than 500). Unlike the exercises in the book, there was a teacher on the other side, who gave encouraging feedback, while pointing out weaknesses. One of mine is that I’m not good at writing short stories. I might think I am writing one, but it always seems to turn into an excerpt form a novel.

As to the class structure, it worked out well. The class was conducted on-line, but rather than totally self paced, it had deadlines and discussion with the teacher following each lesson.  And I can now print the lessons, the discussions AND my work with teacher and student comments (you could share your last piece with whole class). Very useful to me since I didn’t take notes.

The virtual classroom also had a live chat feature. It wasn't used too much. Only two of us caught the teacher at one of the scheduled times (as far as I know). It’s just hard to coordinate a international group. Besides, our teacher was running  the class while nursing and infant, traveling, and getting so sick she had to be hospitalized (she’s better now, thank goodness).

 So was it worth it?

Yes, I think so. It wasn’t that much more than other classes I’ve heard about (it actually cost around $300 something). I also wanted to make sure I didn’t jump the gun and launch into one of Gotham’s genre specific classes without verifying I had the basics covered. Still, I might be able to get just as much form a slightly cheaper cost. I know a fellow NaNo Marylander is taking one soon. I'll be checking with her once it's over. 

Still Gotham does have a few things going for it:
  • They call themselves Gotham and are located in the major metropolis of New York City, which gives them major cool points
  • Their on-line class structure was very easy to navigate, even we didn't use the live chat much.
  • The instructor was very nice and approachable (though I couldn't ask for clarification to her comments on my work)
  • According to a classmate, if the teacher drops the ball they are willing to transfer you to a new class with a better teacher (that’s how she came to be a student in my class).
  • They offer genre specific classes, as well as some geared towards the business side of publishing. (My plan is to take the Fantasy/Sci-Fi class next).
  • Technical help was quick to respond to me and fix the issue I was having.

All in all, it was a good experience. So I’ll be back, if I have the funds for it. The family extracurricular activities are looking as though they may be a bit more expensive this coming school year.
:} Cathryn Leigh

Thursday, June 7, 2012

This Delinquent Blog Brought to you by...


So even though I had this post already to go my brain wanted to do some coloring. But now on to our regularly scheduled programing... No wait Look it’s another random blog award!

The Kreativ Blogger Award has given to me by Miriam Joy. She claims it’s because I’m creative, but I secretly suspect it’s also because of my occasional kreativ spellings. And what tasks have been assigned to me via this award? Hm...
  • Answer 9 questions – That doesn’t sound too hard.
  • Provide 10 facts – I think I can manage that.
  • Pass it on to 7 people – No, I’m not going to. Sorry, but I’m playing dead end.

Okay, now on to the questions and facts.

  1. What is your favorite song?  - Step-by-Step by John McCutcheon has a lot songs I love, but Step-by-step is my anthem. It reminds me that things will get done, one step at a time and to ask for help when needed, because you can’t always do it alone. *grin*
  2. What is your favorite dessert? – That’s a tough question, but I’m going to go with an ooey gooy hot fudge brownie topped with mint chocolate chip ice cream, whip cream and a cherry. *drools*
  3. What ticks you off? – When my kids don’t listen to me or do what I ask them to do (really anyone who doesn’t listen when I’m trying to tell them to stop doing something). Sadly it’s tears before anger so when Daddy asks, “And why should you listen to Mommy?”, Fiona answers “So that she doesn’t cry.” *sigh*
  4. When you’re upset, what do you do? – I tend to hide and cry. I’ve got a lot of tears and it seems to be the best way to let out my upset... crying coupled with chocolate and a good book to escape into, works wonders. Though more often,  it’s sleep that I really need. *zzzz*
  5. What is your favorite pet? – My husband... he counts right? If not then, currently I have to say my kitty Dusteen (RIP). She was a rescue kitten we adopted shortly after my mother kicked her mental x-bf out of the house. Dusteen may have been prone to wobbling, flopping and thunding on stairs, but she was full of purrs for me. I miss falling asleep to her lullabies. *sniffles*.
  6. Which do you prefer: black or white? – I consider them equal, though white tends to show a lot more of my life with kids and the black puppy. *grin*
  7. What is your attitude? – I can be sarcastic or serious, but in general I prefer to be lighthearted. *giggles*
  8. What is perfection? – I don’t know. I’ll tell you when I find out. *grin*
  9. What is your guilty pleasure? – Writing pure teenage romance. The kind that plays out my dream of what I wish high school might have ended as if my outcast self met the cool, secretly geeky, jock. Reading romances makes me feel a little guilty, too.
  1. I seriously dislike making random lists. Unless it has a direction (like a grocery list, or to do list) I find it very hard, therefore the remainder of this list will be facts from my university days.
  2. I applied to two universities, one in Kansas (near my grandparents) and one near home (that my boyfriend went to). I got into both, but choose to go to the latter.
  3. The day I went to my orientation was the day I decided to go from Liberal Arts Undecided to a Bachelor of Science in Textile Chemistry; however, they wouldn’t let me switch my major until a week after school started.
  4. The boyfriend mentioned above and I broke up on my mom’s birthday my first semester at the university.
  5. About four months later I started hanging out with a new guy, whom I haven’t been able to get rid of (as if I’d want to *giggles and grins*).
  6. I found out I could have tested out of Physics, after I’d taken the second semester.
  7. My chemistry teacher (whom I had for five semesters plus) was always telling me I should be a straight Chemistry major
  8. I tutored Chemistry five hours a week in my last two years University, and loved it (especially when I had students to tutor).
  9. There was only one Textile Chemistry major who graduated with me, yet I knew the Chemistry Majors in my year better.
  10. I have two diplomas, one says magna cum laude, the other summa cum laude. The later was sent as a correction to the former after the graduation ceremony. 

Next week I’ll try to be a bit more serious. Any suggestions for topics? I’ve been thinking about starting that world building. I’ve already done a post on Maps. (See look I’ve sort of completed mine.) *grins*

:} Cathryn Leigh