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I don't know about you, but when I have a new idea scrambling around in my brain like this morning's eggs, I grab my fountain pen. This fountain pen, able to ink out the muse, is not just any fountain pen. Oh, no. It's a Pelikan Souveran. A tortoise souveran, to be exact. This pen has been with me through hell and back. And, it has the power to create.

It's scribbled my truth journals, it's been on scary vacations (Disneyland with four kids under thirteen qualifies, don't you think?), it's been in the waiting room with me when my husband decided to freak me out by having open heart surgery - the bastard!, had many quad-shot-breve-lattes with me, and it's even hung around at the beach. I love this pen. It's my precioussssssss. 

So, if anyone, and I mean ANYONE, besides maybe Jesus, comes near this pen of mine, I will give them the stink eye. Why?

Many reasons. 

Namely, it's mine. MINE. But, more than that, it's what it represents. It's my talisman. 

How it became my talisman has been kind of a journey. 

It all started when I had a bit of writer's block. Gaaaawd, I hate those. It's like trying to give birth upside down. Anyway, I was having one of those--a block not a birth, although both the fore-mentioned would qualify as a block, surely--staring at my desktop, fingers plunk plunk plunking at my keys, fairly fast, until they starting going pl-unk, plll-un...k, pl.... Until, damn. I got nothin'. Just a deer in the headlights scenario.

I sat there. Sighed. Sighed some more. And after several days of all that breathiness, I went shopping. Oh, yeah. Of course I got up, took a shower, went pee, ate. I didn't literally spend days staring at my desktop. Well, maybe I did. I just don't want to freak you out too bad. 

Anyway, I went shopping. Yeah, I see your eyes rolling. Hey, whatever - I'm a girl. Shopping cures what ails you. I heard that somewhere...or, maybe it was whiskey cures what ails you, I'm not sure. Pretty fuzzy on that. But I took off to the mall and started walking. Thinking and walking, and I found myself stopping in front of a pen shop. 

Not just any pen shop -- a fountain pen shop.

Here's where I'll back up a bit. I've never cared a fig about what I wrote with. Give me a pencil, a bic pen, a pilot pen, a permanent marker, a damn crayon. I didn't care. Just give it to me so I can write. And paper, too, as far as that goes. I didn't care what kind of freaking paper I used, just hand some over. It could have been a napkin. I really didn't care. So, to fast forward, here I am in front of a fountain pen shop, and honestly, I don't even know what a fountain pen is, they just look so prrreeety.

I'm looking at all the shiny resin and the glittering gold clips and swirly designs, and I'm going bonkers. I have got to go in and take a look-see. I mean, if I was a real writer, wouldn't I possess one of these beauties? These irridium tipped, gold-nibbed instruments of yesteryear's clever and witty wordsmiths. Yes, yes I would...if I were a real writer. And, I didn't have one of these. So there it was. The answer to my problem, the cure to my writer's block.

So what did I do once I was in? Well, I looked to my heart's content and green-eyed envy. Ah, so sweet the memory. Later, after the poor salesperson got sick of wiping up my salivating drivel all over counters, he finally decided to give me the low down on fountain pens, dip pens, and the oh, so naughty step-child (gasp), the rollerball. It hurts to even say the word...rollerball. Pah'leeze, they shouldn't even be allowed to be in the same room with the nib. 

Anyway, what I got out of this random education on the pen was fascinating. I learned right there and then how to fill a piston, how to relieve a couple of drops to release air bubbles, learned the difference between a plunger and a bladder fill, lever, Parker vaccumatic, etc., etc., and then I even got to try them out for myself. Oh! Yum, yum, yummy. The way the nib swept across the paper, glided into velvety soft loops and piercing point... 

For the love of chips and salsa--I was hooked. To say that writing with a fountain pen was as sexy and wickedly pleasurable as having sex in a glass elevator is not an understatement. I fell in love. All I wanted to do was write. It didn't matter what kind of words to string together to make a sentence, I just wanted to write. After fifteen minutes had gone by, the poor salesman had to grab the damn pen out of my hand at the counter. I could have written a novel right then and there. I knew this was it. The CURE. I had to have one of my own.

And, yes. As soon as I had the Benjamins securely pilfered away from my husband's paycheck (sorry babe, but you know I'm worth it) and into my mad money cache, I  surfed on the web, found out who was who in the zoo and purchased the beaut I had my eye on, the Pel tortoise and white.

When it finally arrived, the writer's block, the little SOB, was still there---but not for long. As soon as I inked her up (my new Pel) and glided her across some sweet Clairefontaine vellum paper (which I also had to have - I mean, it's a fountain pen. Hello?) the block cracked. And I mean within the hour. There is just something about wanting to write, rather than knowing you should write. That's seriously all it took. The want. That's it. Plain and simple. At least, it was/is for me. 

Now she's my talisman. My muse. My let's give birth right-side-up. My what's right in the cosmos. 

Anytime I'm stuck, I just grab my fountain pen. I doodle. I mess around with drawing my dream house. I make lists of chores (which I never get around to doing--thank God, how dull). I play around with new story ideas. Whatever. It works to unblock the block everytime.

I now have oodles and oodles of prettily bottled fountain pen ink in all shades, I have a couple more fountain pens that I've picked up along the way just for shits and giggles (not magic), and I have all kinds of spiral paper that works for fountain pens--Apica, Claire, Rhodia, Mnemosyne...to name a few. I have paper in all shapes and sizes, and I stuff one spiral or another in my purse or backside pocket no matter where I go. My Pel usually stays clipped to the front of my shirt--unless I go for a run, then she stays in the car. Because, you know, you never know when you're going to need your talisman.

And if you're wondering where you might take a gander at one of these class acts, you can try Richard Bender's, or Jet Pens, Writers' bloc, or Rhodia. They're all very reputable. Who's got the best pen? Well, it depends on what kind of toothiness you like and your price point. Go out and take one for a spin. Then you tell me if that doesn't do the job. 

Have fun.


 
 
There’s a strange thing that happens when writing about technology or supposition in science fiction-the soft stuff, anyway. It’s a kind of a block…a kind of a hmmmmm, a kind of a 'throw-the-damn-computer-across-the-room, who am I kidding’ event. I know you know what I’m trying to say. It’s when everything is going sooooo damn well and then our fingers stop, poised over our keyboard, our pen (which was going faster than our cramped fingers can keep up with) stops gliding across the page. We look down at what we wrote and we suddenly choke out a laugh. We say, “Dude! There is no way in hell anyone is gonna buy this bullshit.” Buy as in BELIEVE. 

We suddenly realize that we’ve gotten carried away with our own imagination and have gotten sorely away from reality in a very, big big BIG way.

Humph! But isn’t this fiction? Isn’t this the very reason we sci-fi writers write sci-fi? Well, yeah. It is. So then, why, why in God’s great green Earth do we do doubt ourselves, our imagination, our fantastical epiphanies dropped down like angels fluttering wings from above? Why do we care that we’ve gotten away from reality, so far from what could possibly be proved or theorized or have a smidgen of what we’ve just written be anywhere in Popular Science? I mean, we soft sci-fiers/apocalypiciers have got a sort of carte blanche for this sort of imagination inspired scribe, don’t we?

I’ve got the answer. It’s a two-fold answer.

We doubt that creativity is the key to a good read no matter how unbelievable it is; and, we doubt that what the masters can do, so can we do.

Concerning the first point, let’s look at some of the greatest movies of all times. Fifth Element, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Aliens vs. Predators…just to name a few because there are waaay too many to list. 

Wow — can anyone dispute the ridiculous premises and sciences supposed in these freaking, amazingingly entertaining movies? Not a one of us. If any of us are in our right minds, we would scoff at the obsurdity of these jewels and walk straight out of the theater---or out of the room. I mean, seriously, shit spewing out of the Ark of the Covenant? Aliens and kick-ass giant warriors having war games in underground ice temples? A red-headed hot babe being the fifth element for some metallic, roach-looking alien species? Really? Really! 

I loved every minute of these movies. Why? Because of the way it was presented. NOT because it was believable. Who wants believable when you can join Alice on her psychedelic trip down the rabbit hole? Like Alice, a strange thing happens when we’re faced with a supposition: either take the pill that makes you small or take the pill that makes you big. I choose the take-me-away-from-my-boring ass-life pill (By the way, I’d guess that to be the big one. Who knows?). 

Isn’t that what we’re doing when we’re writing as fast as we can with that crazy idea in our heads about some quantum sonic wave travel (my crazy-ass idea) that premises our far future story? Hell, yes. That’s what we’re doing. And then we stop. We stop because the reality bug squirms its ugly head into our brain pan. And then we’re done. We doubt. Here comes the writers’ block. Here comes the angst. We’re screwed for weeks. 

We can’t get past it. We’re even too afraid to bring it up to our writer friends, our family, our secret special readers. We go away licking our metaphorical paws and hide. 

Oh, but our loved ones notice the change in us. And those damn busy bodies pop out with, “Hey, what’s the problem? You stuck?” Sonabitch. I hate being found out. Don’t you?

Which brings me to point two. We doubt that what the master story crafters can do, so can we do. 

Why are we doubting ourselves? If they, the masters, can do it—presuppose some kind of a hell of a malarkey straight from the blarney stone, why can’t we?

Let’s take a look at some of these greats and their “unbelievable” stories.

Frank Herbert’s Dune. Really? Giant sandworms that someone can actually ride in and out of sand dunes? Oh, yeah. I believe

I’ve been riding the great Earth beasts, called horses, all my life and I still have a hell of a time hangin’ on when my little filly is sure that large boulder we’re passing isn’t really a man-sized tiger ready to eat us. I can’t imagine going up and down sand dunes when I can’t even breath because of all the freaking melange. 

David Brin’s Startide Rising. Uplifted dolphin crews and a chimp…uhhh, okay. It gets really sick when you find yourself thinking some of those dolphins are hotties. I still find myself having a staring contest with those smarties when I’m at Sea World with the kids. Unfortunately none of them have ever said, hi.

H.G. Wells’ Time Machine. Time machine? ‘Nough said.

But, oh, how we love these jewels! These masterpieces. Loved every word of them. I could give a martian rat’s ass they won’t hold up to any real scrutiny. But who’s looking? No one. Hugo and Nebula awards are proof of that proverbial pudding. And we’re not writing hard sci-fi, are we? That’s another whole ball of wax. Quite frankly, it doesn’t interest me. I want the glam blam pow sci-fi.

So I guess what it all boils down to is this—believe in yourself and your story. If you believe, so will others. At least long enough to become involved with your characters and your plot and your wickedly constructed settings. The rest is just a kiss of the blarney. The luck o’ the Irish—if that involves luck that falls on the right side of the rainbow. There is that other side of Irish luck—wild mad parties that involve lots and lots of mother’s milk—which, yes, would be GUINNESS—and then the whole story just stays in your head instead of written down somewhere. Oh, enough of my family history. I digress.

Okay, so two points I hope well taken. 

Soft sci-fiers unite in this mantra…I BELIEVE, I BELIEVE, I BELIEVE, AND SO WILL OTHERS.

There is plenty of road blocks in writing, in getting that story out of our squishy, little brains. Let’s not let the reality bug be the stumble.

 
 
To me, journaling isn't worth the ink spent on filling up my Pelikan piston unless I fully intend to rant, rave, and spit the truth out like nails ejected from a pneumatic gun. And to journal without the bitter truth is futile. 

Truth journaling takes no prisoners. It's not flowery words or quippy sayings you'd like to remember. Leave those for napkins and ATM receipts. No, truth journaling is for the brave, the soul that's ready to spill it and spill it honestly in bare to the bones, brutal venting.

The point of a truth journal is to uncover wounds, dissect years of built up walls of protection. It's the catharsis to the end of years of running away from ourselves and to finally start ripping off mental band-aids.

It helps us write believable characters because it forces us to pop out of our imagination bubble and knock down our built up walls, and helps us find our truth--what we really want, really desire, really fear, and where and how we really feel pain. From these epiphanies we are able to take our blinders off,  and then we can breathe true emotion into our characters and find out where are characters are lacking. Only then will we have the courage to breathe reality into our writing. Only then will we be able to see that our "real" MC is only a figment of our imagination and that, actually, upon closer inspection, we've (once again) made a "fictional" character. What we thought was the imperfect character with the dynamic character arc was all along just another phony.

With revealed truth as our weapon, we see that our MC has just the right amount of flaws, tattoos, irritating attitude, mental hang-ups, and tragic back story that all other MCs have today. We realize we've, expertly, yes, but nonetheless have designed a phony, a fake "cardboard" template of the up-to-date, in-style hero of our time.

Oh, yeah. He/she is good. He/she is juicy. We've got a lot of meat there for a good story, but is he birthed from reality? Hell, no. He's our band-aid. He's just another way to hide ourselves.

All of us writers are internally wounded creatures. We're hiders. We hide from what's really chasing us: our past, our dashed hopes and dreams, our family tragedies or psychoses, but mostly, ourselves. That's why we are always staring off into space, creating new worlds, new possibilities, new hopes and dreams for someone else, our characters, who somehow, always, in one book or it's sequel, see their goals fulfilled.

And, okay, that in itself, isn't bad. It sure gets a cheer from the audience. But a truly great master story teller is able to pull out his soul and breathe life into his words and on to the paper, creating for us things that inspire us, question our paradigms, leave us with his essence, a truthful and guileless insight of himself. He leaves us with more of ourselves than what we started with. He's added to our character merely by meeting his, forged by imagination but created in truth. 

How can we become that wickedly and divinely artful? By journaling the truth. It all starts there.

This may entail telling our muse to shut up and take a back seat for a while, at least long enough to get a good journal of hard truth going. And truth is hard work. It's scary and its enlightening and its freedom.

Journaling truth is not: "Today I'm excited because I'm going to go buy a new bathing suit with Husband and go to lunch. Woot hoo. Yay, me! It'll be so fun. Husband is so generous. Always thinking of me."

Nay, journaling truth goes something like this: Today Husband comes up to me, in that 'oh so cool' attitude he gets whenever he's going to sling me a dig, and says while looking at me in hardly disguised disgust, "You know, sweet pea, I got an extra couple hundred on this check. Why don't we go buy you a new suit?" And, I say, "Great!" Why didn't I just say that the one I was wearing was new. He just bought it for me a month ago and I know he's just saying I'm still twenty pounds overweight! And as much as I want to all of a sudden by-blinking-my-fucking-eyes-like-the-chick-on-Bewitched lose this final twenty, it's going to take a little longer. And who the hell is he talking to anyway? I should have said, "Look in the mirror yourself, fat ass." 

Now, that is some mud-slingin' truth. But truth, nevertheless. And, no. This is not an excerpt of my truth journal. Just giving an example of what may be. I happen to be skinny. But that opens the door for all kinds of gel bras and augmentation jokes. 

Okay, back to the above examples, there is some hiding from the truth and some glaring, open sore truth. Our characters will only benefit from exposure--our exposure--to what lies beneath our surface. When we uncover, our characters uncover. Find real motivations for your characters by finding your own. Real hopes and dreams and fears, with your own real hopes and dreams and fears. Simple, right?

So journal away. But, beware. Keep your journal safe. 

Keep a private burn box to stow your journals or, at least, put them under lock and key and entrust someone with the journal's secret stash whereabouts--someone you trust to throw the damn thing in the flames upon your death. I know, it all sounds so clandestine, but what you are going to write in these journals is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. 

And, remember Jack Nicholson's character Col. Jessup in a Few Good Men, when he chews up and spits out the infamous line, 'You can't handle the truth!' No one can handle the truth unless they come to it themselves. When someone else gives them a load of it, they fling it back like a turd in a punchbowl. If it's ever found, there's gonna be a shit storm swirling around those left in its wake, and that is certainly not the truth journal's objective. 

Be brave, be honest, be free, and may your newly developed characters reign supreme, forever.

 

Waiting

05/26/2012

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Well, it's coming down to the wire on IGMS for my sub, The Bet. Love that mag. It should be the rumored ninety days plus ten on the 29th. I'm hoping it passes that date and continues on in the slush. I do love this one. It's cute. So different from my usual blood and guts and tormented souls story. We shall see.

June 8: Ah. 110 days and counting. Okay, I need to stop staring at my email box and finish my latest blog entry. 
 
 
"Yeah, I've heard about that 'trim the fat' thing. You know," you say, "I don't really thinks that applies to me."  ::insert smiley::

Really???? 

Oh' kaaaay. Well, you know that 400 page novel you're wondering what to do with now because all your friends and family are saying it's great and your gut wrenches each time they say it, but have no idea why it wrenches?  You know,  the one sitting on your desk right now? Oh, it's so pretty. All typed out and looking at you whispering sweet little nothings, like...look at me, you did this, you're so wonderful, look at how many words you wrote, aren't you the writer! Yeah. Sorry. But, uh. You're gonna have to cut half of that shit out and start over. 

Gasp!  I know.

But, so true.

This is the deal. Half of what we write is total crap. No, really. It really is. I'll tell you why. Because it's word garbage. It's just stuff that spews out of our pea brains like lava from a volcano. 

But it's so good you think. No, it's not. It's crap. Hemingway? Okay, maybe. He may live. But the rest of us. Come on. Take a real good look at it. It's fat!!!

Half of that garbage is fat. It can be cut, cut, and cut again. Even after its massaged, it can be cut. And, honestly you don't want to massage anything before you make the first trim, anyway. Your hands will get all greasy for no reason. Trust me. I've tried it.

Okay, if you don't believe me, take the first fifty pages of your wonderful, genius, literary diamond and sit it on your desk right in front of you. Let's read....

La, la, la, la, la (I'm letting you read, here)...done?

Okay. Good. What'cha got? No, don't answer. I'll tell you what'cha got. Here goes (you may circle yes or no if you are so inclined):

Every other sentence has an ly word. Misuse of adverbs/weak at that:  Yes / No 

Every other sentence is explaining the sentence you just read. Regurgitation: Yes / No  

A little high and mighty on the lecturing of our own world and religious views, are we? Narrator interrupts: Yes / No

Simile, simile, simile, and simile again? Hellooo, one sunset looking like the stroke of a painter's brush is enough. Overuse of simile, metaphor, etc. (try poetry): Yes / No

Uh, oh shit. Who is that character? Failure to tie up LOOSE threads (more to the point...forgetting about a character): Yes / No

Where is the bad guy? Is he in your first fifty pages? Shame on you. Failure to introduce main characters in the first quarter of your story: Yes / No

Every sentence has the same structure as the last. There are eight different sentence patterns/structures. No sentence variation: Yes / No

Every other sentence is using the passive voice; in other words, the active/responsible party is not apparent. 
Passive voice: Yes / No  
                                Examples: (from The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation by Jane Strauss -- highly recommended.)
                                Active: Barry hit the ball.
                                Passive: The ball was hit.

Your punctuation sucks! Run-ons, fragments, lack of parallelism, verb and subject disagreements, split infinitives... Go back to school! No, really. Most punctuation errors are caused by vague thoughts. If you don't really know what you want to say, then you're not going to say it clearly no matter how many words you splat up there on the word processor. Sentences lacks clarity: Yes / No

Paragraphs lack clarity (as above only worse): Yes / No

Carrying on about the color of a room or desk or ocean or potted plant for so long that you--and everyone else--has lost the point. I see you. You are rolling your eyes. Okay, look it. The only one that can get away with this kind of creative license is William Faulkner; otherwise it's simply digression. Failure to get to the point and move the story forward: Yes / No

Writing what doesn't matter within the scene. This is fat in its purest sense. Every word has to be there for a reason. If it's just words, cut it. Verbose writing: Yes / No

Okay. This is enough for you to chew on (ha, double entendre). I could keep on running with the list, but then you might have a Hemmingway moment. And no one wants that. 

A good book is a clear and to the damn point book. Within its pages, whether one hundred or a thousand, is a clear and distinct voice. The words you wrote jump off the pages to the reader's ears as if you are there speaking directly to him. 

If you can honestly give your volumnous precious a serious look with a sharp knife and trim away this garbage of needless crap then I bet your gut won't wrench the next time someone says, "I love it." You'll say, "I know, right?"

You'll know. After you trim the fat, you'll know you're that damn good.

Good luck to you, I'm off to the metaphorical kitchen for a Kin blade. 
 
 
I already wrote this article about a half hour ago, and guess what? I accidentally deleted it. Oh, yeah. I do that a lot. It was really good. Very insightful. So, now, I'm sitting here. Still fuming. New cup of coffee on my desk, though. Another cigarette lit (yes, I'm a bad girl). And I'm thinking about all those great words of wisdom I had in my brain, and they're all mushed up and scattered, so I'm going to start over. New article, same idea.

The truth in writing--what does that mean? Do you ever read a story, short or novel length that just sticks in your brain like gum in your hair? I have. I do. I read them not all the time, but sometimes. And those sometimes are what I live for. The truly great stories are ones that leave you with a take-away message. That message, that answer to one of life's questions, one of the universe's mysteries are what propel me forward in life. It's like food. I eat it up, I meditate on it, the message changes my world view, forever. 

I love these kinds of stories. I love them so much I decided to investigate how they are accomplished, these tiny jewels, these words strung together just right, just so poignantly that we bow our heads, slip them about our neck and wear them till we die.

So, I googled. I scoured the net. I spent hours on blogs, agent's websites, stared off in the distance. I went the whole nine yards to find out what makes a great story a great story. This is what I came up with...tell the truth.

Tell the truth in your story and you have weaved a tale with a take-away message that people can't forget. 

What kind of truth? Your truth. What do you believe in wholeheartedly? What is in the core of your being? What can you see that no one else can see? What belief keeps that blood pumping in your veins? Find out what it is and write it. It can be cloaked, it can be metaphorical, it can be hinted at over and over as a motif in your work. Whatever and whichever way you do it, do it. That's the whole secret to great fiction writing. Giving the reader the secrets of your self. There is no greater or lesser (for that matter) mystery to a great story than that.

If you're like me, you've got a ton of unfinished tales stuffed away in your desk drawer. Those little stories that get half way completed and then dropped like last weeks left-overs hiding in the back of your fridge (okay, well, maybe some of you throw out your medical experiments, so feel free to use whatever analogy you want here). How about those short stories that are so great you wonder why, why, why, bloody hell, why is no one buying them? Bring those puppies out and take another look at them. Give them a real scrutiny while looking for the words you never said. Those words you thought someone would laugh at or roll their eyes at. I bet you, I just bet you those were words of truth and needed to be said. 

All writers write because they have something to say, but more often than not we don't ever say them. Fear, our inner critic, our parents, our siblings, our spouses all hang over our poised pen in spirit form whispering, "don't write that, people will know". Whatever. Someone out there needs to know. Someone out there needs that take-away message, your take-away message. Who are we writing for anyway? We write for them. The reader. The person who gets us. That person needs to hear your truth. 

So go ahead and write, and write truly.


 
 
Most everyone knows that a short story must have a beginning, middle, and an end. That the story must also frame itself around one main character (usually), must have the conflict set up straightaway, and must have a definite resolution. But then, you ask, as I ask myself this question about my stories, as well...why is no one buying them?  

Well, it could be that they suck. However, let's assume they don't suck (I don't think mine suck), and that the stories are tightly written, that the characters interesting, and that the main character has a real issue that keeps them from obtaining their goal and that in the end the character achieves their goal.  Let's also assume that the story itself shows style, is fast paced, the dialogue real, the setting visual, and the punctuation, spot on. If all these things are there, then there must be something else that's lacking.

After a lot of research and reading shorts, and re-reading shorts that have been published, I've noticed the great stories all have one of these: 
EMA -- Epiphany, Metamorphosis, Alter course.

If what happens to your main character (the character that is trying to achieve a goal) in the story doesn't also produce either an epiphany, a metamorphosis, or causes your MC to alter their present course, then this could be the reason.

With an epiphany, the character has been through hell and back, during which they have an epiphany. Their world view has changed forever. The character is different now. He/she no longer sees things in the same way. He/she will never go about things in the same fashion again. Their whole paradigm of life has changed. 

With a metamorphosis, the character has been through hell and back and now they are a different person. They could have been evil and now they are good. They could have been selfish and now they are giving. They could have hated their world and now they see the beauty in that world.

Sometimes your character will be so changed that they after they achieve their goal they will alter their present course. And sometimes your character will be so changed through their circumstances that they see the error of their ways before achieving their goal and then alter their course. The resolution will take on new meaning. 

It's awfully hard to produce a change in the heart and soul of a character in five to twenty pages. Personally, I have a real hard time with this, myself.  I think this is easier to do with a novel. You have soooooo many pages to get that done. But if you're like me, staring down at my stories after the fifth rejection, or the twentieth rejection, shaking your head, balling up your fists at the sky, then using EMA might be worth a try. Truth be told, not one of my shorts have this. I've got a lot of re-writing to do.
     



 
 
I moderate a little writers' group and I got a question the other day about when and how to use index cards for cork boarding.

I had to give it some thought. I didn't start out by using index cards (for me, writing started with stage plays), but now I'm writing novels and use the process all the time.  In fact, I can't really live without those pastel colored wee jewels. If I can't look up at my ginormous board stuck up on my wall or look at my split editor in Scrivener, my heart starts to skip beats and I begin to panic. So, after giving it a moment, this is what I came up with:

When a story first makes its way into my tiny pea brain, I jot all the gobbly gook down on any piece of paper (napkin, toilet paper, bank receipt, bubble gum wrapper, your kid's "make better choices" tattle tell note from their teacher) I can get my hands on. Then I sit on that for a while and let the ideas float around in all that empty space until it takes hold in whatever gray matter I have left--after seven kids, ten horses, a husband, a bigger house than I can manage, etc., etc.

When I've got a first scene and a middle scene and an end, then I grab out three different colored, lined index cards from my drawer.  disclaimer: This is what I do, every writer has a different way of going. Take it with a grain. At any rate, then I go about denoting said colored cards in my brain--Beginning (blue), Middle (green), End (yellow). Then I jot down the scenes I've got pinging around and still trying to find their place in my noggin. I use short and sweet sentences outlining each scene. It may go something like this~
Blue
Beckman on the bridge of starship and fights bad alien mo' fos.
Phoenix wakes in laboratory. p.s. Is she on Earth or Mars or ?
Baby is captured. p.s. Who is baby?
Green
Beckman and Phoenix enter tunnel and find the quantum cube.
The team lands on the Seventh Star and meet up with command.
The Atpheran come in full battle force and attack the Star.
Phoenix cures the remnant.
Yellow
The new ship is retrofitted and command strikes into the heart of hell.
Huge battle in space.
Captives are freed.

Okay, you get the picture. It's all very vague, but has enough to jog my memory and help facilitate me in fleshing out my story.

I pin these cards up on my board in vertical columns and start pinning more up as the story unfolds. When I see a real story in front of my face, I begin to move the cards around until I like the way the scenes are ordered. Then, and you're gonna love this, I pull them all down and re-do them all by P.O.V., and this time I arrange them horizontally. I might have ten different colors up there. I'm always so proud of myself at this point. I stare up at the board and see a real story. And, really, if nothing else, it looks pretty. 

But in all seriousness, this gives me a visual I need. I really do need  to see something.  My brain just isn't that organized to remember where I put this scene and that scene and which character is the main character for this scene vs. that scene. I just have to look up at the color and I've got it. This method also helps to keep me from going off on rabbit trails and tangents because I've got a small synopsis up there on each card. 

Right now, on my board, I have seventy-two cards pinned up. Am I going to use all these scenes? Probably not. I'm going to cut a lot of them out by the time I'm finished with my final editing. And that's okay. I'll take what I end up not using to start another novel. Good idea, huh? 

By the way, I use the same method in my Scrivener; so even if I'm writing over at Starbucks I've got my corkboard with me. 

Check out  Literature and Latte. It's a great word processor. There are some slick word processors and writer's tools out there, but these guys are my personal faves.

 





 

Aliens

03/12/2012

3 Comments

 
I just know I'm not the only one that thinks aliens: supposed aliens: are just us but from the future. What a concept. And I also would go out on a limb to say that there are good "us's" and bad "us's". Ummm. Definite creepiness.
 

New Goal

03/11/2012

0 Comments

 
Working on The Prophecy this week. Bound and determined to edit three chapters a week. With this pace I just might make my target date of .... oh, yeah -- 8/29/12. Wish me luck. Editing (rather, even re-reading) my unpolished drafts makes me cringe.
 

    Sydney Wright

    Apocalyptic sci-fi writer, mother, wife, designer, and seeker of wisdom and truth.

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