Monday, December 28, 2009

Never Underestimate the Power of a Good Story

Merry Christmas, a couple days late! I hope your holidays are going well, and you haven't od'd on candy and family. :)

I'm taking it easy, and you should too, but I thought you'd enjoy this video clip.




Again, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and here's wishing you the best of holiday seasons!

Until next time,

Monday, December 14, 2009

'The Fire in Fiction'

Hello, my dear readers!

Today, I'd like to share with you my thoughts on Donald Maass' book, The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose, and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great.

First, I'd like to thank the ladies over at AuthorCulture, since it was they who I received the book from back in August (see this blog entry, Exciting News!)

Anyway, the book.

This book is a how-to guide, and from the blurb, it's to help take your so-so manuscript to a point where readers won't forget it. And, I really think the examples and techniques included in the book are ones that can help improve any novelist's book.

Topics covered include: Characters (both secondary and primary), scenes, world-building, voice, sharing 'impossible' things believably (think monsters, vampires, that kind of thing), hyperreality (think over-the-top situations/characters; humor; satire), and tension. Using examples from best-selling authors like Vince Flynn, Nancy Pickard, Tess Gerritsen, Dean Koontz, among others, Maass helps show the aspiring novelist great techniques to craft their own stories. At the end of each chapter is a mini-workbook with a series of questions to help you analyze and implement changes/additions to your own work in progress.

What I really loved about this book was, frankly, the workbook sections. After having gleaned from the data he was trying to share, Mr. Maass thumbnailed things in such a way that it helped me 'get it'. And, it makes it easy for me to go back and review things later by having four or five questions to refer to in lieu of an entire chapter. Another nice thing about the workbook sections is that they're differentiated visibly--the edges are greyed so you can go straight to the workbook sections only. I'm looking forward to utilizing this book for years to come as I strive to improve my own novels.

There wasn't much I didn't like about this book. Probably the biggest thing was it felt rushed to print. Since this is a Writer's Digest book, I honestly thought they'd get things edited, but I caught several typos throughout the book which drove me nuts. Also, some of the passages did seem lengthy, and he occasionally selected more that two examples for a given section, however, they usually built on one another.

Overall, this is a great book for any aspiring novelist. I would highly recommend adding this book to your reference library--you'll want to keep referring to it again and again.

Until next time,

Monday, November 23, 2009

Balancing Act

Today, I'm pleased to introduce you to one of my encouragers as a mom and writer, Tanya Dennis! Ever since I had my daughter, Tanya's been there via Facebook to encourage me and tell me that yes, this is completely normal for whatever my daughter was doing. She agreed to do a post for me on balancing motherhood and a writing career. So without further ado, take it away!

_____________


In our results-focused society, we like checking things off our to-do lists, balance included. I would love to say balance results from a formulaic pattern of tricks and tips. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Achieving balance requires a lifetime of practice. Rather than a learned skill, it is a discipline. Only by working at it every day will one achieve it.

Be flexible.
As your children grow and change, so will your writing habits. I had no problem balancing writing with motherhood when my kids were toddlers. They napped at regular intervals, so my energies were naturally divided. I wrote when they slept and didn’t when they were awake. Very little conflict existed.

As they grew, however, so did my challenge. Now, at ages four and five, they no longer nap. Either I stop writing, stop sleeping, or learn to divide my attention.

How? I take one day at a time. I utilize every moment. I make outline notes at the doctor’s office, take my laptop to school, write during play-dates and while making dinner. I even hire babysitters when I really need some uninterrupted writing time.

Being flexible maintains sanity, but proper priorities abate guilt.

Remember what’s important.
Some wrongfully assume this means the kids always come first. That’s not true. Don’t get me wrong – raising children is the highest calling anyone could receive. But when writing pays the bills, you may need to give that deadline attention before taking time out for cloud-watching in the back yard.

In her book The Mission of Motherhood (Waterbrook Press, 2003), Sally Clarkson wisely noted that children should not be the center of their parents’ lives. Doing so is a form of idolatry and creates extremely selfish children. She goes on to say “My calling as a mother is the same as any other Christian’s: to fulfill God’s will for our lives and glorify Him.” This means your children must be a high priority, but so must your marriage, your community, and your ministry. Has God called you to write? Then it’s important.

Today your children may take precedence. Tomorrow your manuscript may take the front seat.

When deciding how much time to spend on each, consider a parental pact.

A parental pact is a family agreement about your work schedule: what you must do, what you can do and how everyone can help. Author Mary Byers discusses this in her newest book Making Work at Home Work (Revell, 2009). She encourages freelancers (like writers) to avoid setting vague goals or boundaries. Instead of working “as much as I can,” try to work X number of hours each week or strive to earn X number of dollars each month. This gives clear distinction to work time and home time. Boundaries give freedom. Knowing everyone is on the same page allows you to work and play hard.

Be realistic.
It’s okay to admit we’re human. Holding unrealistic expectations is the surest way to frustration. Sure, you may want to write a book every month, serve as class mom, feed the homeless, and still appear to be Martha Stewart at home. You may be able to do it all, but will you be doing it well? What happens if something interrupts your precisely planned schedule? With kids, it’s always a likely possibility! Don’t overbook yourself. Plan for interruptions.

Maintain accountability.
Set goals and stick to them. Find writing partners who can keep you motivated and challenged. Without them, your writing can easily take permanent residence in a dusty closet.

Accountability works two ways, first for you, second for your family. What are the rules you have for your kids? Can you teach them to respect you by not interrupting? One writer won’t let her family enter her office until given permission. They must stand silently at the door until she gives the okay. Because I don’t have an office, my kids can’t wait outside a door, but they can hear me typing. They stand next to me and wait (sometimes more patiently than others) until I reach a stopping point. Alternatively, I set a timer. When the kids hear the bell, they know I’m all theirs. Other times, they hear it and know it’s time for me to stop playing and get back to work.

Be flexible. Make choices about what you really want and what is most important to you. Set realistic goals. Enlist friends and family to help you get there.


Tanya Dennis is a wife to one, a mom to two, and a freelance writer and editor. She currently serves as Managing Editor of both Christian Children’s Book Review and Persevering Pens. Her writing has been featured in a number of local and online publications. Her editing clients have seen five of their books published in the past two years. Learn more at www.TanyaDennisBooks.com.


Thank you so much for sharing your insight today, Tanya! Be sure to check out her sites. I especially love reading Christian Children's Book Review to get ideas for my little girl!


Until next time,

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Help Plan Word Wanderings!

Hello, everyone! I hope you're having an eventful November, progressing on your NaNo projects (if you're participating), and enjoying the fall, getting ready for Thanksgiving in a week. (Wow, is it REALLY time for Thanksgiving already? Amazing...)

I'm already thinking about topics for 2010, and would love to have your input! So far, I'm planning a roundtable in January on the topic of self-publishing, and have invited several successful self-published authors to join in this discussion. It's looking quite interesting at this juncture! However, if you're considering the self-publishing route, and you have any questions, I'd love to ask them of our authors. You can leave a note here in the comments, catch me at Twitter @Righter1, or message me on Facebook.

Also, any topics you'd like to see covered in 2010 will be taken under advisement. I've got a few posts planned (some even written!) but would love to know what YOU, my faithful reader, are looking for! Would you like more information on genre? ABA? CBA? Finding an agent? Something else? Let me know! The same methods above are the best ways to catch me.

Coming up next week, a guest post with Tanya Dennis who will share her thoughts on making a writing career and motherhood work together in harmony. You won't want to miss this, even if you're not a mother!

Until next time,






P.S., In case you're curious about my NaNo progress, I'm currently at 33K for the month. I'm ahead by a day or two only, and am hopeful to increase that lead in the next few days to compensate for Thanksgiving hectic-ness (and yes, I'm pretty sure that's NOT a word), and maybe get done before Nov. 30th! :) LS.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Playing God: World Building & the Writer

As writers, an enormous weight is on us to creatively build a world our readers can believe in. It doesn't matter whether it's the town you live in now, a futuristic alien world, on 1920s Chicago, our responsibility is to convey what surrounds our characters and how it affects them.

Personally, I've always found description a difficult thing. I don't like it, so I tend to be a minimalist. However, when I picked up a book not too long ago that took place in MY town (Kansas City), I was almost as interested to read the book for the plot as I was to see how the author (a fellow Kansas Citian) described our fair metropolitan sprawl. This sudden awareness of setting has made me a bit more open to the fact that I need to be more conscious of the world building aspects in my own novels.

While most of my writings have been present day stories set in my own town or region, my recent foray into the world of science fiction has definitely made me aware that there's more to world building than meets the eye. All of a sudden, I'm having to think what life will be like in the 22nd Century--not just hovercraft and other technology, but the political structure of the world, relations between people, slang that could be used, the types of medical procedures that may be done, all kinds of things I wouldn't have thought about otherwise. I can see, too, that the same would be the case in reverse if I were to be writing a historical novel.


Since working on 'Cora's Song', I've come up with some thoughts to help you as a writer more succinctly build your own world--even if it's a place you live right now.

  • Remember all the senses: Smell, Sight, Touch, Taste, Auditory. Don't lack in any of them to help give your reader a better sense of the world they find themselves in.
  • Consider how the climate may be different. If you're dealing with semi-recent history (post 1880s) try to check climatological data to backup the weather your characters experience. If writing in the future, did Al Gore's theory of global 'climate change' really occur, or was it just a bunch of hogwash?
  • Describe how to do something foreign to the reader. Perhaps they've never cleaned a Revolutionary War-era musket. If it's in the future, if teleportation is a viable option, how does that feel to your character?
  • How have laws changed? For the better? For the worse? What makes them different in your story than they are today?
  • What's different about medical technology?
  • How about male/female relations? Race relations?
  • Religion and religious practices.
  • How materials are used. Do the people recycle everything? Are there ways to utilize what we'd now consider trash in the future? In the past, how did people dispose of trash (or WAS there a lot of trash?)
  • Food and drink differences.
  • Fashion.
  • Transportation.
  • Entertainment.
  • Living arrangements.
I'm sure you get the idea. Before I started working on my sci-fi project, I never knew there could be so many possibilities for coming up with things to fill my world! Now moving into the editing process after a few month hiatus, I'm sure I'll be coming up with ways to describe things to my readers in an effective way. I just hope I can make it pop as well as describing Kansas City to someone who's never been here.

Additional reading:

Wordplay:
Good Writers are So Lazy...
Details: Bringing Fiction to Life
Color Me Vivid


Until next time,



P.S., You may remember in one of my last posts, I mentioned I was considering participating in NaNoWriMo. Well, I did decide to join up, and you can track my progress in the column on the left side of the screen! I got a bit behind due to having a virus and being in bed for 2 days (with my brain completely fogged over) but I'm way ahead of the curve still. My project, tentatively titled 'Beyond Dead', is really coming along. If you'd like to read a brief synopsis and excerpt, go to my profile at NaNoWriMo.org and select the 'Novel Info' tab. I'm very excited about this project and where it's taking me! Thanks, L.S.

Monday, November 02, 2009

And the winner is...

Louis!!!

Congratulations! I'll be getting in touch with you (since I know who you are) to get your address and get your book in the mail to you.

Louis became a follower of Word Wanderings during the time-frame of our giveaway, and as such, automatically became entered to win a copy of C. Maggie Woychik's 'I Run to the Hills'.

I had hoped to have a review up with this entry of Maggie's book, however, with preparations for NaNoWriMo (which I have started!) I've been a bit negligent in my duties. I will say this much: you need to get a copy! I am thoroughly enjoying Maggie's reflections and natural story-telling abilities very much, and the points behind her allegorical tale are poignant. (More when I get it finished, or I'll put a link up to my Amazon.com review.)


The next blog post will be next Monday, when I'll begin to get on a every-2nd-and-4th-Monday schedule here. Be sure to check back in for 'Playing God'. :)

Until next time,


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Author Interview: C. Maggie Woychik


Note as of June 20, 2011: Ms. Woychik has informed me that the book discussed here is no longer available, and will likely not be made available again. However, she did say I could leave this interview up. Thanks! --Liberty Speidel


Today I'm pleased to welcome cyber-writing buddy C. Maggie Woychik to the bits and bytes here at Word Wanderings! Please join me in making her feel at home.

Liberty Speidel: Thank you for agreeing to this interview! I'm pleased to have you here at Word Wanderings! First, how long have you been writing and when was your first book published?
Maggie Woychik: Well, first off let me say what a privilege it is to be here, Liberty! I enjoy your site and am honored you asked me to contribute. I've been writing for publication (primarily magazine articles) for 15 years. This will be my first published compilation (book).

LS: Tell us about your latest book.
MW: As the back cover states: "Thirty-nine rich reflections to savor during quiet times. I Run to the Hills is both a journey and a resting place - a collection of faith-musings draped in traveling garb."

LS: Why did you choose to write this book?
MW: It's based on my own spiritual pilgrimage. I think everyone seeks to make sense of their life, their world, and writers especially. Being a writer, I did what I felt I must.

LS: What would you like readers to take away from your book?
MW: I hope each reader will walk away with a clarity and strengthening of their own journey with Jesus Christ.

LS: What did you learn while writing this book?
MW: I learned that writing a book is hard work! We drain off a bit of our soul each time we finish a chapter, I think.



LS: How do you reach new readers?
MW: The best way in today's world is through the marvelous connections available on the internet: forums, blogs, networking sites (facebook, twitter, etc.). Of course, word of mouth is always very effective.


LS: What are three things you wish you’d known before you reached where you are now?
MW: Well, the thought has crossed my mind that if I had started writing earlier in life, say, my early 20's, I would have more credentials to show-- but then I wouldn't know what I know now and I don't think I would have been happy with my writing, if that makes sense. Beyond that, I'm actually very happy with how things have progressed. I'm just where I want to be in space and time right now.

LS: What advice or tips do you have for writers who are just getting started?
MW: I love helping emerging authors! My advice would be: master the English language (assuming you're writing in English), don't just trifle with it; live life fully, but be disciplined at the same time; hew out a solid foundation of faith and continue to build on it/Him throughout your life.

LS: Which books on writing have been the most helpful to you and why?
MW: I learn best by example, so I've adopted a "read good literature" attitude. Good literature rubs off! The author who has probably influenced me most is Annie Dillard. For sheer writing prowess and brilliance, she is incomparable.


LS: What is a typical writing day like for you?
MW: I generally file through my Post-It-Notes from the day before, then hit "THE Notebook" - you know, the one that holds most of a writer's grey matter; the thing that once lost would send their spirits to the Land of Despondency and Despair. :) I network throughout the day with family and friends via email, facebook, and twitter. And in between all that I live life! I do farm chores and house chores and shopping, cleaning, and cooking. The realities of life keep my writing in balance.

LS: What kind of planning do you do before writing a novel, article or book?
MW: I usually don't spend hours in research, but I do tend to think things through a lot before putting down seed thoughts on paper. When I feel the seeds are plentiful enough, I begin to hoe, plant, and water. Hopefully the emerging vegetation is both fodder for the soul and beauty for the eyes. If not, I plow it under and start again.


LS: Do you edit as you go or wait until completing the first draft?
MW: Editing is the life blood of every worthy piece of writing. I do it continually and with abandon.


LS: What do you have within reach as you write?
MW: Always - a cup of water or tea. A notebook and pen.


LS: What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?
MW: I never try to sell anyone on writing -- BUT -- if I can get them to enjoy some genre of reading, then I've won, and more likely than not he or she will begin at some point to think about writing.


LS: Can you give us one “do” and one “don’t” for those aspiring to be a writer?
MW: DO begin. DON'T wait. Also, if you can find a writing mentor, DO it.



If you'd like to enter to win a signed copy of Maggie's book, please leave a comment or become a follower of this blog between now and Sunday, November 1 at 6 PM Central Time. A winner will be announced on Monday, November 2nd! Thanks, and good luck!




Maggie has over 70 published articles and poems in magazines including War Cry, Wesleyan Life, Christian Home and School, Woman’s Touch (Leadership Edition), Young Salvationist, Purpose, Christian Women Today e-zine, Seek, Women Alive!, Evangel, Cross & Quill, and others.

She has been a staff writer for GotQuestions.org, one of the most visited Christian sites on the internet with well over a million hits a month; has written dozens of teen and adult Bible studies; led a Christian writers group; and won a Roaring Lambs Award from the Amy Foundation.

Her first book, “I Run to the Hills: Reflections on the Christian Journey”, was released Fall, 2009.

Again, thanks for sharing with us, Maggie!


Until next time,


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What on Earth is NaNo?

For the uninitiated, you're probably wondering what on earth NaNo is, so we'd better start with that. NaNo is shorthand for National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo (to be referred to as simply NaNo for the remainder of this post) occurs every November. Per the organizations website NaNoWriMo.org:

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.
Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.
This will be the 10th year for NaNo. I first learned of the contest when I joined ChristianWriters.com back in 2006. I was too late to join the fray, but was enthusiastic enough that I attempted to do the same thing the following January. Due to a variety of circumstances, I was unable to meet the 50K goal, but I came close. I know several authors who have participated, successfully, in NaNo, and love it, and will be participating this November.

With NaNo, you write to help chase away writer's block. You don't edit. You just write. Every day. In order to write 50,000 words in 30 days, you must commit to writing 1,666.67 words a day. If you decide to take one day off for worship a week, than number jumps to 1,923.07 words a day.


Oh my gosh,
you're thinking. That's crazy! I can't do that!

Oh, yes you can. All you need to do is put your mind to it, tell yourself you WILL write X number of words a day. Start an outline, do a few character sketches. Read other novels (or even writing prompt books) for inspiration. What matters is that you put the effort in. You may not make it. But, as long as you try and honestly put the effort into it, it really doesn't matter if you write 10,000 words or 100,000. You still tried. You're that much closer to having your novel done!

As for your faithful hostess, I haven't decided yet if I'll participate this year. I want to. Desperately. But, with a toddler in the house, I kind of need both baby and daddy's cooperation in the matter. But, in preparation, I've begun an outline for my next project, and I know quite a bit about my main characters already. As the days dwindle down, I'll make my decision, and who knows? Maybe I'll try to fit 2,000 words in during naps. (I don't think I'm motivated enough to get up at 4 AM, and hubby probably won't let me stay up 'til 1 AM--heck, I don't even know if I could stay up that late if I wanted to--not without lots of caffeine and a nap!)

If you do decide to participate, leave a comment here and let me know what your handle is over at NaNoWriMo.org. That way we can connect and help keep each other accountable. If not, be sure to check in here throughout the month. If I do decide to participate, I'll post periodic updates on how my novel is progressing, my word count, etc. (In other words, come here to cheer me on!!! I'll need it!)

To assist in making your decision, I've included the following links from NaNoWriMo.org I think may be helpful to you.

How NaNo Works
FAQ
Using an outline
NaNoWriMo Blog


Until next time,



Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Author Interview: K.M. Weiland, Part 2

Welcome back to our interview with author K.M. Weiland! Be sure to check out her new release, Behold the Dawn!

And without further ado, here's the second installment of our interview.

_______________

Liberty Speidel: Do you have any rituals when you write?

K.M. Weiland: Yes, I’m actually very ritualistic. My normal pre-writing routine goes
something like this: pray, scribble in my writing journal, outlining the scene I’m writing and addressing any possible stumbling blocks; read an article on the craft; proofread what I wrote the day before; glance over my notes from the character interviews I wrote in the outlining stage; and watch a thematically related music video on YouTube. Oh, and I eat craisins!


LS: What are your next projects?

KMW: I continue to edit my fantasy Dreamers Come, preparing it for publication. And I’m currently outlining another historical called The Deepest Breath, set during World War I in such far-flung settings as London, France, and Kenya. A writing buddy and I are also having fun with a story that answers the question, “What would happen if Robin Hood met Sleeping Beauty?”


LS: Do you have a trusted friend(s) who looks over your first (or second or third) draft for you?

KMW: I’m fussy about letting anyone read my work before I finish the first draft. Somehow, letting someone see or have any input on a story before it’s “finished” takes away some of the magic. However, once my first draft is completed, I have two very reliable critters, Linda Yezak and Adrie Ashford, who get to mark up all my mistakes. I rely on other people as well, but these two always get first whack at anything I write.



LS: How do you determine when a story is 'done' and you're ready to send it off to the publisher?

KMW: For whatever reason, I inevitably find that it takes me the time to complete a whole new project before I’m able to look at Project #1 with objectivity. So once I’ve finished a story, I toss the manuscript into the closet and let it sit there for the next couple years, while I’m working on something new. I’ll pull it out to edit it occasionally and run it past test readers. But not until Project #2 is safely finished will I pull the first one out and start buckling down to the task of discovering its worth as a
publishable piece of work.


LS: Growing up, did you always know you wanted to be a writer?


KMW: I started writing when I was twelve because I didn’t want to
forget the stories I told myself. But I never really considered it as a calling until much later. For most of my childhood and teen years, I was certain I wanted to train horses and barrel race.


LS: Who have been the person or persons who have influenced you most along your path?

KMW: Writing has always been a deep inner calling. I don’t think I could have helped but follow it, even if no had ever encouraged me. But my father was probably my most constructive guide. And, of course, everyone who ever took the time to encourage me is responsible for pushing me one step farther down the writing path.


LS: Which author(s) do you admire most and why?

KMW: Patrick O’Brian, Orson Scott Card, and Kristen Heitzmann top the list, for various reasons. O’Brian for his magic combination of subtlety, realism, and research. He’s one of those few and special authors who writes so seamlessly that you can’t even see through the cracks to discern his methods. Card gets props for his themes, his grit, and his fantastic afterwords, in which he explains his process in more depth than I usually dare to hope for. And Heitzmann continues to blow me way with her detailed prose. She’s a master of the “telling detail.”


LS: Is your family supportive of your writing career?

KMW: None of them are writers, or even necessarily readers of fiction, which makes me all the more blessed that they’ve never faltered in their support of my work. Even when they don’t understand all my crazy quirks, they still put up with me, love me, encourage me.


LS: When you're not writing, what do you enjoy doing?

KMW: You mean not writing is an option? I love being outside, taking walks with my black Lab, reading, horseback riding…


LS: What's the best piece of writing advice anyone's ever given you?

KMW: It’s not specific to writing and it wasn’t specifically aimed at me, but a Frank Wilczek quote jumps to mind: “If you don’t make mistakes, you’re not working on hard enough problems.”


LS: What kind of advice would you offer to new writers?

KMW: First and foremost: Just write! I see so many people wanting to put the cart before the horse. But revising, marketing, soliciting agents… practicing your autograph—none of that matters if you’re not consistently putting words on paper. I always encourage people to put aside a set amount of time (even if it’s only fifteen minutes) every day for their writing. And once you’ve set it aside, stick to it! What makes good writers isn’t talent so much as perseverance.






Thank you again for sharing with Word Wanderings! For all my readers, be sure to order a copy of K.M.'s books, Behold the Dawn and A Man Called Outlaw! I'm sure you'll enjoy both reads.


Until next time,


Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Author Interview: K.M. Weiland, Part 1

Today, I'm very pleased to welcome my good online-writing buddy, K.M. Weiland. I frequently link to K.M.'s blogsite, Wordplay, so she's not a stranger to Word Wanderings. Please join me in welcoming her! We'll be having a two-part interview, and trust me, you won't want to miss any of it, so be sure to come back on the 14th for the second part! First, we'll be discussing her latest release, Behold the Dawn.

_____________

Liberty Speidel: Thank you for visiting Word Wanderings today, K.M. It's a joy to have you here! First off, please share a little bit about Behold the Dawn.

K.M. Weiland: Behold is an epic story of war, revenge, unexpected love, and the haunting secrets of a knight’s past. I think it has a little something for everyone, especially those who enjoy gritty medieval stories.


LS: Can you elaborate a bit on the characters?

KMW: The protagonist, a knight named Marcus Annan, is a sixteen-year veteran of the tourneys. After partaking in a tragic internecine war at an abbey where he was paying penance for the accidental deaths of his sister-in-law and her unborn twins, he retreats to the one thing he knew best: warfare. For the last sixteen years, right up until the story opens, he’s been on the run from his past, trying to blot it out in the violence and glory of the tourney fields. Along the way he becomes one of the most famous and feared tourneyers in Europe.

He’s a man who walks his own solitary path, and his only companion is a smart-mouthed, headstrong Scottish lad named Peregrine Marek, who became indentured to Annan after Annan saved him from prison and paid off a shopkeeper from whom Marek had been stealing. Marek was one of those characters that just popped off the page. He became a perfect foil for Annan’s grumpiness. I had lots of fun with their dialogue exchanges!

On his journey to and through the Holy Land, Annan also encounters a mysterious monk named the Baptist, who has both reform and revenge on the brain; Lady Mairead of Keaton, who is entrusted to Annan’s care after the death of her husband, one of Annan’s only friends; a Knight Templar named Warin, torn between his conscience and his duty; a very nasty Norman named Hugh de Guerrant; and Bishop Roderic of Devonshire, who was the abbot at the monastery Annan ran from sixteen years earlier.


LS: You set Behold the Dawn during the Third Crusade. What made you decide to set a book during this time frame?

KMW: Any story gets better when you put swords in it! Actually, the story was inspired by William Marshall, who is known as “the greatest knight who ever lived.” What originally caught my attention was his participation in the tourneys—the huge mock battles that were the predecessors of the slightly more civilized jousting tournaments. Tourneys originated in late 11th-century France as a form of heavy cavalry training and quickly evolved into a dangerous and hugely popular sport. It was surprisingly gladiatorial. I was intrigued by the violence and its effect on the men who participated. As I delved deeper into my research, I realized the Third Crusade would be at the story’s heart, since it would no doubt have attracted many of these tourneyers because of the Church’s promised of absolution to anyone who fought as a Crusader.


LS: Did you find it difficult to write a tourney scene? How did you go about trying to make it as authentic as possible?

KMW: I loved writing the tourney scenes, and I dearly wish I could have stuck more of them into the story. The book opens in the middle of a tournament in southern Italy, so I got to dive right into the strange world of the tourneyer. I researched tactics, setting, and such. I find it all so fascinating that it was hard to rein myself in!


LS: In doing research, what was one of or a few of the more surprising things you learned about this era?

KMW: I’m deeply fascinated by medieval history, so I found pretty much everything I discovered interesting. Perhaps what stuck with me most, however, was the general spiritual degradation of the period. Christianity, as a whole, was in one of the most benighted states in its history. Ignorance and superstition reigned among the people, while corruption and confusion undermined the Church. It was a very dark time, really.


LS: The history of the church in this area is also fascinating to me: to know where it came from to see it fall to the point it did. Do you have a favored resource or two you'd like to recommend for others interested in learning more about the era?

KMW: I highly recommend Jonathan Sumption’s The Age of Pilgrimage. Also Ermengard of Narbonne and the World of the Troubadours by Fredric Cheyette, The Crusades by Zoé Oldenbourg, The Story of Christianity by Justo L. González, and The Mediaeval Mind by Henry Osborn Taylor.


LS: Was there any point while you were writing this book that you really felt it wasn't going to come together? If so, how did you handle this quandary?

KMW: Oh, yes! I think I have this feeling in every story I write. The first fifty pages are always murder. I struggled with my beginning chapters for quite a while on this one, fiddling with story elements, throwing things out, only to drag them back in. I wish I had a magic pill for this, but the only solution I’ve found is simply to keep writing. Eventually, I always work my way out of the rut, and things start falling together.


LS: Do you budget your writing time? If so, how so?

KMW: I set aside two hours a day, five days a week for my fiction writing. It’s something I’m very religious about maintaining. If I don’t force myself to write every day, then nobody else is going to do it for me. I truly believe in the importance of regular writing. You have to treat it as a job and make a point of showing up on time every day. The really neat thing about this is that once you get in the habit of writing at a specific time every day, your brain accustoms itself to being creative—and procrastination and writer’s block are beaten before they even get out of the gates most days!


LS: How much research do you put into your books before you begin to write them?

KMW: Unlike many authors, I’m very regimented in the way I approach each story. I start by spending several months (or however long it takes) sketching my rough ideas, answering my “what if” questions, and filling plot holes as best I can. Then I interview my POV characters. Then I write an in-depth outline (usually at least one notebook’s worth). By that time, the story has pretty much taken shape, and I know what questions I’m going to need to answer in my research. I collect all the material I find and spend the next three months reading, taking notes, and filing my findings.


LS: You're primarily a historical novelist. So far, do you have a favorite era?

KMW: I’m admittedly a bit of a Mexican jumping bean when it comes to subject matter. I have so many things I want to explore that I have no intention of boxing myself into a particular genre or era. So far I’ve written about the 19th century Wyoming Territory (A Man Called Outlaw), the Third Crusade (Behold the Dawn), and a fantasy novel with a contemporary setting (Dreamers Come, yet to be published). But, all that said, I do have to admit to a special fondness for the Middle Ages. Its strange juxtaposition of nonchalant brutality and fairy-tale romance fascinates me endlessly. I’m sure I’ll write at least one more medieval story before I’m through!


LS: How about an era you would like to set a story in?

KMW: Asking me that is like turning a kid loose in a candy shop and telling him to pick just one sweet! However, I do have some tentative story ideas set, respectively in the early 20th century during the Dawn of Aviation, a contemporary time-travel fantasy, and a superhero story set roundabout the Regency era.



Thank you, K.M., for sharing today! Be sure to come back next week on the 14th for the second installment of our interview.

Until next time,

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Raising the Stakes

*** Schedule Note: As the author of Word Wanderings, I've decided to put the blog on a more regimented schedule where posts are concerned. Unless we're having a special guest interview or blogger, Word Wanderings posts will begin to appear on the 2nd and 4th Mondays of the month. And now, back to your regularly scheduled blog. ***


When I have readers critique my work, one thing I'm typically complimented on is my pacing. I'm not bragging, it's the truth, and I honestly don't know how I've managed it. Since I know I have many areas of weakness in my writing, I'm grateful to know what I'm doing well. At least it's one less thing to worry about!


But, that's gotten me to think about what makes a story that's paced well enough that it'll keep the reader hooked.

Personally, I think the biggest thing is to keep raising the stakes on your characters. They have to have some reason to keep moving forward, or your story's just not going to keep that reader hooked. It doesn't matter if you're writing a western, a romance, or a mystery. Raise the stakes

 


In J.R.R. Tolkien's 'The Fellowship of the Ring', everything is just going along peachy for Frodo. Then he gets the ring. (Raising the stake #1.) The ring has mysterious powers and is very dangerous to The Shire, so he has to get it out of there. (#2.) His stakes rise further when Sam, then Merry and Pippin, join his party, and he has to be concerned about their well being. Having to avoid the Ring Wraiths, then getting stabbed by one takes it up another notch. When he's healed--and you think he can go back to The Shire--Frodo does something unexpected, and takes on the burden of carrying the ring to Mordor to destroy it.

Insert dramatic music here.

Just in the first half of the movie (or book for you purists), Tolkien has raised the stakes a minimum of five times--probably more if you really want to get specific about it. Each time makes it less likely you as the reader will want to tear yourself away and stop reading (or watching.)

So, how's your story coming along where raising the stakes are concerned? Do you need to add a body on page 47, after your P.I. discovered the first one on page 32? Or maybe your cowboy needs to get kidnapped--or worse--shot! Maybe your leading lady is too focused on her intended, and needs to have a few irons in the fire to burn through--an ex-girlfriend wanting to get back with her old flame could be waiting in the wings for your Mr. Right.

As for me, I'm going to check my stories and make sure my characters have a few more hoops to jump through before they reach the end.

Until next time,



As an aside, I just wanted to make note of the fact that one year ago today, at 2:06 PM, my little girl was born. While I actually wrote this several weeks ago, anticipating I'd be a teensy bit swamped, I would be remiss as a mother if I didn't acknowledge this. One day, I hope she'll see Mommy's blog and know I thought so much of her to note this for her special day. So, Happy Birthday, Sweetie. I know you can't read this now, but one day, you will. Love you.

For more information on the topic of creating tension, please refer to the following blogs:
Wordplay:
The Art of Frustration
The Necessity of Conflict

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Quick Note re: A Giveaway!

If you're not already a follower of the AuthorCulture blog, now's the time to join! The first 100 followers will be entered in a drawing for a book of your choice by one of the authors of the blog! Better act quick--they were at 90 when I looked a few minutes ago!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Plan or Not To Plan -- That is the Question

Okay, I'll admit it. I hate to outline a book before I begin writing it. My normal process is that I'll get a rough idea--usually, someone kills someone else, and an idea of a few of the characters--and as soon as it's solidified enough in my brain, I'll begin writing. Sometimes this works well; sometimes not so much.

But, I had something odd happen last year when I began working on Cora's Song. I came up with the premise. I came up with the characters. I came up with a title--which was a first. And, I came up with an outline. This wasn't just X happens in act 1, Y happens in act 2, and Z happens in act 3. I'm talking a full-out, point by point outline. It took me three days to write it--and I was newly pregnant at the time! When I finally typed the thing up this year, single-spaced, it went on for six pages. Yikes!

In the process of writing an outline and utilizing it, I've discovered a few things about not only myself, but the writing process. While having an outline has proven useful to me, my writing process has slowed. In the past, I've written first drafts in just a few months--usually under six months, rarely less than two. And while, yes, I did have a baby during the writing of this book, I worked on the first draft for a year and a half. I could blame the baby, but I know part of it's been me. I was derelict in finishing the draft just because, well, I've got this outline! It's sort of done... right?

I've learned that having an outline doesn't mean a writer doesn't get stuck, either. I had many times where I'd stare at my paper and go, "Gee, I know where I am, and I know where I need to go, but how on earth do I make that leap to get there?"

And, my outline has been fluid. Different forces were working on me (namely pregnancy hormones!) when I wrote the outline. When I finally transcribed it, I realized some things had changed in the story, adjusted for that, and even re-did the ending a bit.

In the past, my first draft always had loose ends that I had to go back and figure out how to tie them up later. While I'm going to have some things to do on this draft, it'll mostly be checking for consistency and world-building descriptions. Truthfully, I think this draft will be ready for publication more quickly than the mystery novel I've been working on for about three years. That's kind of scary!

What's been nice about having an outline, in addition to everything I've said, is that I can see at a glance where I've been already and where I need to go. And, if I need to go looking for a detail, I can approximate where in the story it is, so it does save me some time (although this is still reliant on my own brain, so it's no guarantee I'll find it quickly!) For a non-organized person like myself, this is definitely proof that messy-types can learn to improve their organizational skills, at least minutely.

Now, the weighty part. I'm already beginning to contemplate what will be my next project after I wrap up Cora's Song and Homebody. Will I outline that novel? While I'm not certain--I may fall into my old habits and just have at it--having this outline has definitely helped me. I can finally see the benefits of having an outline. I may not outline as drastically as I did in this project. But if I know where I'm going from start to finish, I think it'll help keep me on task.

And, with a toddler running around the house, I need all the help I can get.

Until next time,



For more information on this topic, check out the following blogs:

Wordplay:
Benefits of Outlining
yWriter Software Tutorial

Word Sharpeners:
Planning, Outlining, and Organizing Your Novel -- Or Not!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Winner of 'Rocky Mountain Oasis' Giveaway!!!!

I'm pleased to announce that the winner of the giveaway of Lynnette Bonner's Rocky Mountain Oasis is........



LORNA POSTON!!!!!!!!



Congratulations! Lynnette will be in contact with you on how to redeem your prize!!!

Thank you to everyone who entered. I'm planning to have some more giveaways in the future, so be sure to stay tuned.


___________________


Be sure to come back next week when our topic will be on whether or not you should outline your novel.

Until next time,

Monday, September 07, 2009

Guest Blogger: Lynnette Bonner!

Please join me today in welcoming today's guest blogger, Lynnette Bonner! Lynnette is the author of the newly released book, Rocky Mountain Oasis. You can purchase a copy through Amazon or CBD. To get it for free, check out the guidelines for an e-copy at the end of the post! Welcome, Lynnette!

The Importance of a Good Critique Group

First I want to say thanks to Liberty for allowing me to guest post here today. What a privilege.

Jumping right into our topic…. I’d like to address the importance of good critique partners today.

Let’s face it. As writers, we are surrounded by people who often don’t get the process of writing. Many people think you write a book, send it to your editor, (who promptly writes you a 6 figure check – ha! wouldn’t THAT be nice) and then it gets published a couple weeks later. Right? When I tell people that it took me 10 years to finally get my book published, they angle me “that” look – the one that says, “Is she any good if it took her that long to get published?”

This is the first reason why it is important to surround yourself with good critique partners. As writers, we are all in the same boat and can understand and sympathize with each other. I can’t tell you the number of times that my crit partners have been an encouragement to me to keep pressing forward.

The second reason is, of course, for technical errors, grammatical errors, spelling errors, etc. – all that editing junk we need to do. My two biggest areas of weakness are spelling and grammar, but I have several critique partners who are strong in those areas. I recommend you surround yourself with people who are strong in areas where you are weak.

Also, often I get so close to the story that I miss technical details that either should be included or should be excluded. Or I can’t tell if I’ve made my point clearly enough and I rely on my critique partners to let me know if I’ve come across clearly, or if I need to say more on that particular subject. Having another person’s perspective on my story is invaluable to me.

If you aren’t in a critique group and you want to be a serious writer you need to get into one right away. Larger cities often have critique groups that meet monthly. And if yours doesn’t have one that you think would work for you, why not start one? Some of you may live in small towns where you are the only writer for miles around. For you, there are lots of online critique groups you can join. ChristianWriters is a free one that has a lot of wonderful resources. There are others like ACFW that cost some to join but have lots of helpful classes and information by email. You can find people through the blogosphere and email your critiques back and forth to each other. There really are no excuses for not having a critique partner.

Let me quickly mention my book because I’m offering a free e-copy to a lucky winner drawn from the commenters on this post. Rocky Mountain Oasis is a Christian historical romance. To read more about it and see the first few chapters you can go to lynnettebonner.com. If it sounds interesting to you, leave a comment and Liberty and I will put your name into the hat for the drawing.

So, what is your critique group like? How often do you meet? What do you do at your meetings?


Lynnette Bonner ~ Inspirational Romance Author



Thanks, Lynnette!


As she said, we're giving away a free copy to one lucky person. The winner will be announced on Monday, September 14th! Please leave a comment on this post to register, or if you become a follower of Word Wanderings between now and Sunday, September 13th (cutoff time 6 PM, Central Time), you will also be entered. If you leave a comment
and become a follower, you'll get your name put in the drawing twice! Good luck to everyone!


Until next time,

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Who Are You Again?

***Author's Note: I am pleased to announce that we will have a special guest blogger, Lynnette Bonner, on September 7th. Lynnette is the author of the newly released 'Rocky Mountain Oasis'. I hope you'll join me in welcoming Lynnette!

Also, I wanted to let you know that our first interviewee, K.M. Weiland, has just released the book trailer for her next release, 'Behold the Dawn'. Please go check out the trailer at her site, Wordplay. I'm sure you'll be as excited about the book as I am after seeing it. I can't wait to share her interview with you on October 6th & 14th!

And now, back to your regularly scheduled blog...***


How can you ensure that you'll get readers coming back time and time again?

Create memorable characters, of course!

While plotting is essential--you can't do anything without a good, well planned plot--I feel that having characters that make an impact on you are as important as plotting.

Most writers and readers have their own ideas on how you go about creating memorable characters. But, what exactly makes a character you just can't get out of your head?

In order to keep this brief, I'm going to focus on the protagonist(s). While a great antagonist must counter-balance the protagonist, I feel that in order to analyze both antagonists & protagonists may take more time and space than I've allowed here.

I'm sure you can name a few leading men or ladies in any of the books (or movies) you've read that make you want more of them. This is usually a good sign. For today's examples, I'm actually going to go to my second entertainment love, movies, specifically, Star Wars, the original trilogy. Your examples may come from something else, but next tim
e you read a book or watch a TV show or movie, I challenge you to analyze why you like a character or you don't.

Since I always kind of had a yen to be Han Solo,
I'm going to pick on him today. Putting aside the actor who played him, Harrison Ford, what makes him memorable? First, I'd say his cocky attitude. While not necessarily likable, it sets him apart from Luke's borderline navïeté or Leia's spunk. His self-centeredness, smart mouth, and disbelief of 'The Force' also comes to mind. ("I've flown from one side of this galaxy to the other. I've seen a lot of strange stuff, but I've never seen anything that could make me believe there's one 'all powerful force' controlling everything. There's no mystical energy field controlling my destiny.") I also love the moment of jealousy he experiences at the end of Episode VI when he makes the mistake of assuming that Leia loves Luke romantically.

Bad stuff aside, what I like about Han that would be considered redeeming characteristics are the loyalty he shows to his friends. (Coming back to help Luke out at the end of Episode IV; tracking down Luke when he was out in the midst of a blizzard on
Hoth in Episode V; despite being blinded, trying to keep Lando out of the pit in Episode VI, as well as assuring Leia that he didn't think Luke was on the Death Star when it exploded at the end of the same film.)

I also like the romantic lead position that George Lucas placed him in. I, for one, am a bit of a romantic and love to have at least a hint of romance in any movie or book I read. The interplay between Han & Leia, while subtle, is priceless.

His creativity and ingenuity also leaves a lasting impression: hiding in the smuggling holds, hiding (again!) in an asteroid, protecting Luke from the cold by opening up the carcass of the beast he'd ridden and stuffing Luke inside, coming up with an assault plan to invade the Imperial station on
Endor.

When you put everything together, and add back in the acting talents of Harrison Ford, my feeling is that you get a character that leaves a lasting impression on almost everyone, whether those impressions come from his character flaws or character strengths.

I'd love to hear your feedback! Please share about the characters you love and why, or anything else that strikes you.

Until next time,



P.S.-- For more information on creating characters, I highly recommend the following books & blogs:
'Getting Into Character' by Brandilyn Collins
'Writers Guide to Character Traits' by Linda Edelstein
'The Fire in Fiction' by Donald Maass

'Character Takeover' at the Sheepish Scribe
'Strong Characters' at Writing Advice and Good Books
At Wordplay:
Likeability is Overrated
Describing Characters
Naming Characters
Theme and Character Progression
Interviewing Your Characters

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