Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Writer's Space Indoors and Out!

I posed a question to the ACFW loop a couple days ago regarding a writer's personal writing space. I asked for suggestions of how I should set up my 10' X 14' basement room to be both functional and creatively inspiring. Wow, what a great bunch of writers ACFW has. The suggestions and stories shared were very inspiring.

A common theme that I found in the sharing was that a lot of writers love to view the outdoors from their writing nook. But since I won't have that advantage, being stuck in the basement, I decided to bring a little of the outdoors inside my little room. Since I have no natural light, transplanting my many housplants that live upstairs down to my writer's space won't work, so I purchased the above pictured Silk tree with a greenery arrangement in the base for my room. (Sorry, the tree is so tall that I cut the top off in taking the picture. It's just shy of reaching the ceiling.) And I picked up a Rain Garden scented Air Wick for the room as well, to bring that delightful floral aroma into my space. Hmmm, as I take a deep breath in, it's just like sitting next to an open window when my flowers are actually in bloom that is. Right now we're still under a couple feet of the white stuff. Oh, I am so ready for warmer weather.

Below you'll find a summary of the list given to me so far of what to include in my Writer's Haven. I thought it was a great list.

 Floor to ceiling shelves
 A desk with lots of surface space
 Filing area
 Timer to set when appointments need to interrupt writing time
 Decorate so it is visually appealing to your personal taste with photo’s and favorite objects as well
 Good lighting, ie. full-spectrum lamp
 Comfy chair for brainstorming in and for visitors
 Comfortable office desk chair, ie. High-backed lumbar support chair
 Mirror
 Large-faced clock
 Cork board
 White board
 Printer close at hand
 Good sized wall calendar

When I actually get my room completed, I'll try and remember to take some pictures and post them on this blog. I'm looking forward to creating my own inspiring writing nook. It would be nice to see pictures of other writer's spaces. If you've included some pics of yours on your blog or website, please let me know so I can visit.

For some further inspiration you may want to take a look at Donita Paul's website. She has done a fabulous job of getting several authors to send in pictures of their writing space along with their individual stories. I found it very inspiring. And from there you can also get a sneak peek at some of your favorite authors' gardens created by Deb Raney. Oh, what fun, indeed! Gives me the itch for our winter to be over so I can get out and turn up my own soil, too.

Blessings and happy space making indoors and out,


Friday, March 28, 2008

Tweaking your dreams into reality

I'm a dreamer.

I suppose every writer is a dreamer. But does every writer dream of such expensive things as I do? Doubt it.

Lately I've indulged in fantasizing about having a huge office constructed above our garage, just for me and my writing. My husband, on the other hand, dreams about retiring some day. Needless to say, I've had to revise my dream, tweak it, shall we say, to make it doable.

I have a sewing/craft room in the basement that will now become my writing office/sewing/craft room. It lacks daylight, but when I think of it, perhaps that's for the best. As the nicer weather approaches, if I saw the daylight, I would be tempted to wander outside likely, so not seeing it at all may bode better for my writing time, anyway. And being upstairs with all the 'domestic to do's' is quite distracting as well, so I likely need the basement room in the interest of accomplishing words without pulling my hair out while everything around me calls for my attention.

So, now that I've blogged about it, I intend to reorganize that room and create a little writing nook out of it. When I get it done, perhaps I'll take a picture and if I can figure out how to post pictures in these blog posts I'll do just that. Hopefully it will inspire others with limited space to create their own little writing nook too.

Blessings to all,


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Study notes for Scene and Sequel: What are Sequels Made Of?--Installment 3

A sequel is really the POV character's response to the previous scene played out.

Sequels are the components of your story that deliver the emotional response to what happened in the previous scene. As well as revealing your POV character's thoughts, followed by his/her decision making and thus giving us the next goal-oriented action which leads to a smooth transition into the next action-driven scene. That's the four components of a Sequel wrapped up in a nutshell.

Components of the sequel can be interspersed within a given scene, such as through internalized thoughts (those portions of your manuscript that you italicize), or a sequel can actually play out as a scene of its own. Such as when you have your POV character dialoguing with another character expressing his/her reaction to what happened in a previous scene. Think of the intent of your scene. If it's to provide the sequel components to a previous scene, then you have completed the required follow-up to that scene within a scene and you're ready to move on to the next big disaster-accomplishing scene.

The sequel components, because of their nature, are generally breathers for the reader. They are slower paced and allow the reader to reflect on past events in the story. Because they slow the pace of the story, you would not want to incorporate them into certain scenes. While in other scenes you may find it necessary to add an element or more from the sequel criteria to it. It's up to you as the author to decide on the pacing of your novel, where you want the story to whiz by and where you want it played out in slow motion.

It's the variations of how you get your sequel components (or not) into your story that keep this whole Scene & Sequel concept from becoming formulaic.

Your story and characters really do dictate the flow. If you have a character who is always thinking, then more often than not when in his/her POV you will likely need to mesh the sequel components in with the scene as it is playing out, to show the characterization properly. But remember, even deep thinkers can find themselves in situations where they have no time to internalize or consider the ramification of their actions or discern their next course of action. For those instances a follow-up sequel will be required when the character is ready to express his/her feelings and tackle the consequences of what happened.

When something is obvious, then of course you'll have no need to create a structured four-component sequel that includes the POV character's emotional response, thought process, decision making, and finally the next goal-oriented action. Perhaps only a couple of those components are required, or perhaps none at all, given the specifics of your well-drafted scene. Sometimes what little is required of the sequel components can be interspersed within the acting scene, depending on how fast you want that scene to play out and the feel your going for.

As noted in Scene & Structure by Jack M. Bickham, when structuring your scenes and sequels always be sure to include all the components in one way or another, though. If a component is obvious, then you needed spell it out. You've already incorporated it into your story in a subliminal way and thus your work has already been done. However, if the elements stated are not obvious, it is your job as the author to incorporate all the necessary components in a logical and understandable ordering, to keep your story flowing and to keep the reader's interest. To do this, it may require you to write a sentence, paragraph or even pages of sequel material following a scene, or it may require none at all before heading into the next big scene. It all depends on the individual circumstances of the action-driven scene and your characters as to what is required.

Have fun experimenting with the multitude of permutations of scene and sequel to make your story the best it can be.

On with the fight to write on,


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Studying Scene and Sequel: Installment 2

To start our exploration of the scene component of the Scene and Sequel method of writing, we should first visit the definition of a scene.

According to Jack M. Bickhman, he states the definition of a scene in Chapter 4 of his book Scene & Structure as:
"It's a segment of a story action, written moment-by-moment, without summary, presented onstage in the story "now." It is not something that goes on inside a character's head; it is physical. It could be put on the theatre stage and acted out."

With that in mind, lets look at the three main components of a scene according to Jack M. Bickham.

1) Goal -- Every scene needs a scene goal and this scene goal must be directly related in some way to the POV character's desired attainment of their overall story goal. It must be specific enough that the character and reader will know for certain by the end of the scene if the goal was met or not. This scene goal forms a scene question in the readers mind which must be answered by the end of the scene.

2) Conflict -- Anyone who has looked at writing fiction knows that conflict is a huge component to keeping the reader interested. So make your moment-by-moment, acting-out-now scenes with external conflict that causes not only the characters but the reader to worry that not only the scene goal will not be accomplished, but also that the story goal seems to be that much less attainable.

3) Disaster -- That would be the final twist in the given scene that provides a new setback to the character achieving their goal. It might be a disaster such that the answer to the scene goal is a simple "No" and thus the character must go in a totally new direction. Or it could be a "Yes, but" answer in which the character has to decide if the new strings attached are acceptable or not. At the very least those "strings" should lead the character into further conflict. Or the disaster could answer the scene goal question with a "No, and furthermore" answer. But in this case, you must be sure to leave enough room with the "furthermore" to not have ended the story right then and there, unless of course, this is your final page of your novel and you want a disastrous ending.

It would be a good exercise to take a look at a novel you're working on and see if you can spot these three elements in any given scene. If you don't, then how could you rewrite it such that they do become evident?

In the next installment we'll take a look at the elements of sequels.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Scene and Sequel Analysis: Installment 1

The thought of formulaic writing has always disturbed me and so my first job at visiting this scene and sequel process was to prove to myself that it isn't a rigid formulaic way of writing. Reading Jack M. Bickham's writing resource, Scene & Structure has helped me to get a better understanding of the Scene and Sequel method of writing. I recommend you pick up a copy of Jack M. Bickham's book or borrow one from a friend or your local library to study yourself.

As a disclaimer, please remember, these posts are just my understanding of this method, so please feel free to comment if you have a differing opinion. I'm all for further clarification and learning.

My current understanding is that Scene and Sequel is more representative of a logical way of making your story flow naturally so that the reader can experience the story at an optimal level, conducive to how people naturally think and process things.

The basic structure of Scene and Sequel encompasses all the needed criteria to help the reader feel for the characters, understand the dilemma's, and provides inspiration for the reader to want to read on. It's a compilation of basic elements to be included in your plotting and story telling that can or cannot be revealed in classic order, depending on the needs of the individual story and it's parts.

That's what keeps if from becoming a rigid formulaic writing process. There are so many permutations of how to write and place your scenes and sequels that your story will dictate the actual word count, flow, and even existence of each of those parts.

In the next installment of my Scene and Sequel blog postings I'll tackle deciphering what the Scene sections basically entail.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Scene & Structure by Jack M. Bickham

This is the book I'm currently studying all over again. Trying to get my head around scene and sequel is like studying for my fourth year algebra final. Not fun!

I keep thinking of recent novels I've read and can't seem to remember any scene goals popping out at me, but yet, I still wanted to read on. How did the author do it then, without spelling out those scene goals, or at least not making them stand out?

As I work through learning this structure of writing, I think I'll use this blog to summarize what I've discovered through my reading of Jack M. Bickham's writing resource, Scene & Structure. Hopefully it will help many of us grasp the concepts of Scene and Sequel writing.

Blessings to all,


Friday, March 14, 2008

Internet Help for the Writer

Free sites abound on the internet. Google up on writing related topics and you’ll see the wealth of information authors and educators have shared of their own free will and time. Many authors have blogs and/or websites they update with writing tools, courses, and references for the writer-in-training to learn from.

I’ve come to believe that authors are some of the most giving and helpful people God has created, especially inspirational Christian writers. They show no limits in sharing their knowledge and offering support and encouragement to those of us struggling to learn the craft.

If you’ve read a good book, check to see if the author has a website or blog. Chances are that they do. You’ll learn more about them through it, and you might just discover that they are a great resource to your learning the craft, as well.

The internet is also a great source for researching for your novel's specific needs. It's an encyclopedia, really. Just be sure to check several sources to confirm the accuracy of the articles you're referencing.

Happy Googling, Everyone.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Writer's Library

You can tell a writer by their bookshelf.

If it’s stacked with writing manuals such as Breathing Life into your Characters, it’s a good indicator that they’re serious about learning the craft. I always have at least two books on the go, a writing manual that teaches me something new about this art and a novel to enjoy and critique at the same time.

There is an endless supply of self-help books on the craft of fiction writing alone, and authors and educators continue to produce new books that are invaluable to learning how to write for publication and even how to make that first sale or attract a good agent or editor.

Check out the Writing and Publication section in your local book store and start your collection of invaluable resources. Each provides a mini course of its own.

Happy Book Shopping, Everyone!


Monday, March 10, 2008

Reading Requirement

One of the greatest benefits of being a writer is that reading in and out of your chosen genre is a definite requirement.

How many people can say that the mystery or romance novel they’re enjoying is work related—a learning tool, in fact? I love it!

Of course, with all good things, there are some downfalls. I find it more difficult to get fully engrossed in a novel now that I naturally gravitate to critiquing it as I read.

Yes, I grow in my writing craft with each additional book I devour, but sometimes I long for the days when a book was solely entertainment to me. I know it’s a really good book when I need to take a second read to figure out the author’s writing techniques.

Read for pleasure and learning--it's the best of both worlds!

Blessings to us all,


Thursday, March 6, 2008

Using beats to Show

When writing dialogue, try mixing up your use of beats with speaker attributions. When you just have to define the speaker, be creative, take it as an opportunity to show us readers something more about your character.

Instead of:
"I have to go, now." Lily said.

What about this:
"I have to go." Lily fluttered her hands while turning to leave. Over her shoulder, she added, "Sorry, duty calls."

The second one gives me a sense of Lily's frustration and urgency, along with a visual action that gives some characterization as well.

What do you think? Is it better, or is there even a better way?

Pressing onward,


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Snow Days & Personal Space in a Family Home

In our part of southern Ontario, my three girls are on their ninth snow day this school year. Imagine that. They've essentially had nearly two extra weeks of vacation this year and the snow and ice aren't finished with us yet. They say there are only two weeks until spring, but looking out at our snowbanks and more than a foot of snow in the low spots, I have to wonder. Actually, I have to pray. Because if this white stuff thaws in a short span of time, then my septic bed will need all the help it can get.

Each year I look forward to the initial snow days. They provide a wonderful opportunity to rest and just spend time with my girls, not to mention the three less lunches I need to scramble to create in the wee hours of the morning, but too much of a good thing can quickly become cumbersome. Which reminds me of my heart's desire to have my own personal four walls with a functional door of which to call my very own in our family home.

Remember the Brady Bunch? Didn't the father have an office just off the steps that the kids knew to keep out of unless invited. That's what I want. A place to dream and create and write, blocking me from the rest of world for those precious hours of writing time. If my kids never entered the room, then I'd be sure to keep it neat and tidy, and if I could close the door then the rest of our home's upheaval could be forgotten for just a little while. Might clear the cobwebs out of my brain, helping my creative juices to flow more readily. Do you think?

What nooks have you created in your home to provide a comfortable, for-the-most-part uninterrupted writing space? And how did you get your kids to respect that space?

On our last snow day (just two days ago!) I took the girls to a tack shop for an outing. My oldest is shopping around for a new saddle. But looking at the blowing snow, I think our quality time will be spent in the warmth of our home today. Maybe I'll take a few lessons on chess and continue to build my characters and story scenarios in my head.

Pressing on,

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Writing Tip--Backstory, how to use it.

If you're a seat of the pants writer like me, you may find that you end up with a lot of backstory in your initial drafts. My advice is to cut, cut, cut as you edit your manuscript, but keep all that informative information in the back of your mind or even better, in a character profile document, to help you understand your characters better. Knowing their backstory will help you create multi-dimensional and realistic characters, but your readership will only need to know the smallest portion of that backstory to understand and believe the current story being told.

Keep cutting that backstory until it's down to bare bones, take a break from it, and then read it over again. You can always add back in another detail or two if need be, but you'll never know if the story could have done without it if you don't strip it out to begin with.

Does a Clean House go with Writing?

I have to ask: How does a writer with a family keep their house clean? Is it a sin to have a messy house, if you're busy with other matters you believe are His will?

If it is, then I think I'm getting mixed signals on my call to write. Because I can't seem to consistently write and keep a tidy and clean house. If I attempt to keep the housework up, then I never seem to get to my writing needs, and if I put my attention toward writing, then there's never time to clean and organize before the next wave of furry comes running through my doors--usually at 3:20 when the bus drops them off.

Oh, how amazing it would be to write in a home that was tidy for the majority of the time.

I looked up 'clean' in my Bible's concordance. There are 25 references to the word and varying forms of it. Of them, I found one that referred to cleaning items, and interestingly enough it placed it in low importance compared to keeping a clean heart, etc. Here it is: Mt. 23:25 Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.
But then I think of how our body is a temple and to keep it strong and healthy for God to use accordingly we must protect ourselves from falling ill where possible. Germs, etc. from a messy house, especially one with pets, as mine is, is therefore a concern.

So, here I am again, wondering how I can balance these two needs? If I'm called to write and to keep my house in order, how do I manage to do both satisfactorily? I'm open to guidance--anyone feel called to help?

Pressing onward,