Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Structuring Your Novel: A Review

As a "pantser" writer, me and structure/outlining don't necessarily go together naturally. Oil and water, we are.

However, every writer should continue to learn about her craft, and that's where K.M. Weiland's new book, Structuring Your Novel, comes into play. I was absolutely delighted, I must say, when K.M. asked me to be an early reader, as I was for her last nonfiction book, Outlining Your Novel. Even so, being in a bit of a hectic time of life, I'm getting to the actual reviewing a bit late. But, that old adage is true: better late than never.

Being a pantser means I don't usually pay attention to structure, whether it's outlining or otherwise. I've only actually ever used an outline with success once, and that was for NaNoWriMo back in 2009. Yet, K.M.'s previous non-fiction book left me thinking, and while I'm still not an outliner, I can honestly say I recognize the merits of outlining, and when I'm stuck, will sit down and outline the next few chapters to get me going again.

I approached Structuring in much the same way. I'm a pantser: what can this book do for me?

Well, a lot, I'll say that. Not so much a "how to" book, more a "these are the qualities of a strong book" book, Structuring Your Novel uses examples from familiar books and movies to describe fundamentally how all successful stories are arranged, what readers and viewers expect. Surprisingly enough, if you've read enough quality books or watched solid movies, you probably intuitively know a lot about story structure. But, K.M. lays it out perfunctorily so you can understand why you need to do XYZ by a set point in the story, for instance, having all your major characters introduced by the first plot point, around the 25% mark in your story.

What I learned most: I don't have to outline my novels, but I should sit down and at least figure out if my drafts are in line with what typically happens in a book. Is my first plot point too early? Too late? What can I do to adjust its timing?

Additionally, I really enjoyed the second and third parts: Part Two is on Scene Structure, and Part Three is a short piece on Sentence Structure. Some of "Scene Structure" will be familiar if you've been following K.M.'s blog, Helping Writers Become Authors, but it's nice to have the refresher in an easy-to-snag spot on my Kindle. Sentence Structure really is a crash course in many do's and don't's common in early novels: repetitiveness, ambiguity, pompous words, etc.

Who needs this book: Every fiction writer who wants to get a better handle on the elements of storytelling, outliner and pantser alike. While newbies especially would benefit, those of us who are old-hands at story (whether published or not) can use the refresher, and gain new insights into how to tell a superb story. Maybe we will realize we need to move some bodies around in our stories because of Structuring. (That's a little murder mystery writer humor!)

Structuring Your Novel is available through Amazon.com (and other booksellers) for $2.99 for Kindle presently, however, the list price is $12.75. Paperbacks cost $10.42, also at the same list price. Whichever version you pick up, it is well worth the cost. Getting a solid grasp on structure--even if you're a pantser like me--will help make you a better writer, and in the end, isn't that what all of us writers want?

Until next time,

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Face-Palm Moment

You know, when I picked up writing again on this blog a couple weeks ago, I joked I may be sharing my cooking disasters here.

It really was meant to be a joke. Truly, it was.

Unfortunately, barely a week had passed when I did it.

Normally, I don't have full-out disasters in the kitchen. I'm really a pretty good cook. I will, occasionally, choose recipes that don't go over well. I will experiment, and things won't be as flavorful  as they could be. Or, I'll be absent an ingredient and will substitute something that really shouldn't be in there. Like... cilantro instead of basil.

My husband has decided I should not be grilling any longer. Unfortunately, his hours require me to grill if we're going to be grilling on a weeknight or it could be 9 PM before we eat dinner.

Enter a bad combination of events last week.

  • I was grilling.
  • I was grilling mule deer ribs.
  • I wanted to watch the season finale of A&E's "Longmire" before it expired on my iPhone app.
  • I decided doing all of these at the same time was a good idea.

iPhone in hand, I began grilling our mule deer ribs after having properly thawed them for 2 days in my fridge. I'd seasoned them lightly, and as I watched Walt Longmire's TV portrayal, went inside to get my side dishes going, and wash and set the table. My kids were being a little needy... I probably should have sent them to their rooms.

I get a little engrossed in the show, but go out to flip the ribs. They're looking pretty good, and I turn down the heat, mostly because I'd gotten a text from my adorable husband that he would be a little late. No big  deal, I do this all the time with the grill.

Mistake #1: Pushing the ribs to the back of the grill.

Mistake #2: Not turning off a burner.

I come back out 10 - 15 minutes later... and the thermometer on the top of the grill immediately tells me something is definitely wrong. 600°?!?! How the heck is it 600°!

Robert Taylor on A&E's "Longmire"
Opening the lid, I find my ribs a charred mess, and mostly ablaze. It had gotten so hot, some of the rib bones had turned to ash, I discover once the fire is mostly out.

Needless to say, none of us were thrilled. We couldn't find much edible meat, though enough for a few bites a piece. Hubby and I were still hungry after we put the kids to bed (late) and had to share a bowl of popcorn.


On the plus side, the "Longmire" season finale made me wish it wasn't a summer show. Thirteen episodes a year are not nearly enough. I can't wait to find out what happens next!


Until next time,

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

On Meeting "Strangers"

While I was in Seattle, and even on the way there, I was able to meet some "strangers". All of them were WRITERS!

Honestly, one of the highlights of my five-and-a-half months in Seattle was being able to meet some pretty cool people I've known online, some for upwards of seven years, a few of which are familiar commenters around these parts!

Today's post is more of a "travelogue" as I'm just going to share some pictures of yours truly with those I was finally able to meet in person.

Author K.M. Weiland & Liberty Speidel
It was a very brisk March night when we
met over cheesecake.



Five Christian writers gathered at Starbucks
Left side, front to rear: Lynnette Bonner, DeWayne
Ruggles, Steve Mathisen
Right side, front to rear: Janalyn Voigt, Liberty Speidel


Liberty Speidel & Kristina Seleshanko
I was so grateful that she & her family opened their
home up to my son and me for a day!


In addition to the writers, we also met a bunch of fellow Shwachman Diamond parents and patients... too bad I didn't get any pictures that I can post to here!

Until next time,

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Welcome Back! -- an Update and a Re-Evaluation

Tap, tap, tap! Does this thing still work??

Ahem.

Yes, I'm back after a much extended break. So, let me catch you up on what's happened in since I did a serious post back in January.

My little man +121 after transplant, feeling great!
In early February, we were told that we were ready for transplant, and March 1 found my husband and I driving from Kansas City to Seattle, WA, where we proceeded with my son's bone marrow transplant. It  was slated to happen the last week in March, but he got a virus (which he wasn't symptomatic for!) and forced a delay until May 1. From May 1 until July 23, we were outpatient for only 2 weeks, 14 hours! My little boy kept getting sick for various reasons, so we never got more than a week and a few hours out the two times we were outpatient.

However.

He has done AMAZINGLY well, and we were able to leave on his day +101 to come home!! We arrived home on August 12, which ended up being a bit of a whirlwind for us. We got home at 12:45 AM, rushed to make an appointment with our KC BMT doctor, then went to see my grandmother who was dying... and who passed away while we were with her.

I am so glad I got to come home and see her one last time.

___________


So, whirlwind 5 1/2 months means no writing, right? 

Nope. 

While I didn't do near as much writing as I'd hoped to do in those five and a half months, I did more than I think many people expected I would. I finished the third draft on my suspense-in-the-future book, Reprisal, and moved further along with the first draft of my police procedural with a Sci-Fi-y twist, Dead Before Arrival. I also began drafting a short story that will be a prequel to Beyond Dead and Dead Before Arrival--and am actively brainstorming ideas for a series of shorts that could very well lead up to the publication of both books, plus the third book in the trilogy, which I've yet to name or do more with than have a few ideas for scenes that could or should happen in them. 

Which brings me to the re-evaluation phase of this post.

Something in me snapped last fall where publishing is concerned. Most of you who regularly read this blog will remember I've said repeatedly that I'm only interested in getting an agent and going the traditional route. I'm not sure what changed, but something has. Maybe it's watching so many of my friends succeed in self-publishing, maybe it's the further success of e-books, or the fact they're now outselling physical books, but I've been re-evaluating what my desires are for publishing.

Over the last several months, I've been listening to podcasts like Self-Publishing Podcast and Joanna Penn's The Creative Penn with regularity--maybe even being on the brink of being a bit obsessive about it.  In the many hours of listening while driving or doing house chores, the things the hosts and their guests have said struck a chord with me, and I'm beginning to see how it's possible for lil' ol' me to be successful in self-publishing. I've got a few hang-ups I'm working through, but thankfully, I've got friends whom I can pick the brains of. 

Currently, I'm formulating a plan to begin publishing in the next 18 months--maybe even sooner. We'll have to see how that goes. I'm starting to chomp at the bit in order to make this happen, so if I can keep up that level of enthusiasm and have things come together, you may be seeing my name in print very soon!

As for this blog, I'm going to keep trying to plug away at it, though as I think I've said in the past, it's going to encompass more of what interests me besides writing, so you may hear about kitchen disasters, anecdotes about my kids, or whatever else floats my boat. I'm also considering doing a non-fiction book about my experiences during transplant, although I'm not really sure about the direction of the project yet.

Until next time,

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