Friday, November 30, 2012

Grammar Corner: Analogy and Metaphor

In the literary world, analogy is like duct tape while metaphor is a fun house mirror.  These are the rudimentary tools used to engage the reader.  In an analogy, you compare one thing to another thing and in so doing, add to and enhance the meaning of the first thing.

ex) My writing is like a river filled with sharks.
ex) Her pregnant belly was as a big as a beach ball.

The key to analogy is comparison.  Metaphor, on the other hand, foregoes comparison and ups the ante.  In a metaphor a thing is called something else entirely and the desired effect is to create vivid imagery and give the reader greater insight into the scene, character, or theme.

ex) My brain is a broken computer.
ex) The dog was the master of the house, lording over his human subjects.

Amanda LaFantasie (Skoora) © 2012

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Weekly vocab word


  [mal-fee-zuhns]  Show IPA
noun Law .
the performance by a public official of an act that is legally unjustified, harmful, or contrary to law; wrongdoing (used especially of an act in violation of a public trust). Compare misfeasance def. 2 nonfeasance.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

PROMPT - Take it outside: Scene Exercise

(all images used are free domain)

One of the hardest challenges for writers is capturing landscape.  Because landscape is so much more than just trees and hills. Landscape has shape, colors, facets, and smells. Landscape has atmosphere. You can take as much from the landscape as you can a character, and you can use that landscape to characterize said character.  So I come with a challenge for all of you.

Take it outside. This can be either figuratively or literally.  If you don't want to go outside, because I know it's cold with winter looming, find a photograph and just look at it for five or ten minutes. Take in the way the light filters through leaves and branches, or how the breeze seems to have lifted the leaves even though you can't feel it. How does the grass sway. Is there a path? How does it look? Mountains, are they jagged and covered in snow? Or are they smooth and dusty? Once you find a landscape that pulls to you, start writing, write anything, anywhere, but make sure you have a character. Use the land to characterize said character.  How does your character feel in the landscape, how does he/she walk or move within the land. What do they look like within the land? Does the land compliment them or distress them?

If you can, because I'm not a stickler for literary fiction, bring mythological or magical elements in. How does the land itself accept this character. Are there challenges keeping the character out, or is it trying to bring her/him in? The point is, use the land in a way you might not usually. Make the land your primary focus in this scene. Let the land build your character rather than the other way around.

Most importantly though, have fun with it!

I am going to do this prompt later today, and in the near future I shall share my results.

Some keywords to get you started: Towering, light, rainbow, silhouette, wispy, shadow, darkness, frail, firm, stagnant, glistening.

Helpful hints: If you can, use metaphor to build your landscape, or even personification. Make the land a character in itself. 

~ Beth

Monday, November 5, 2012

Homework Update: Back it Up, Baby

     One of the things I have trouble with is backing up my work. I tell myself to do it every time I write, but then distraction takes over and I forget. Again and again.

     But this year for NaNoWriMo, I am the backup queen. I have been emailing my book to myself, as well as having my work on two hard drives and a jump drive.

     I just got my baby laptop back. The hard drive went caput on me. Two hard drives have taken my work from me. And I am bound and determined not to let that happen again.

     So join me in the backing up of your work, no matter what it is. It takes little time to do it, and it will save you a lot of heartache if something dreadful does happen.

STOP! NaNoWriMo Time!

     So many people I know are pulling their hair out already, and I have to wonder why. For those of you that are not a member of the self torture club known as NaNoWriMo, let me explain. The goal is to write at least 50,000 words in a month. No, it can't be the same word 50,000 times. The purpose of this month of writing abandon is to make yourself write. To turn off the inner editor and get the words out on paper, or in most cases, the hard drive. You can write whatever you want: fiction, short stories, non fiction, exceedingly long poems.

     Many of my friends sign up to do this year after year. For me, this is my fifth year, and I have won every year. I have never had a problem with just sitting with the laptop and letting my fingers tell a story. I have a rough idea and I let it take me where it wants to go. So why are my friends having so much trouble?

     I think one of the problems people have is the anticipation for the game to start. They have their notebook or flashcards filled to the brim with ideas and characters and amazing plot lines. They get 5,000 words or so in and BAM. Roadblock. And they don't know how to back up and go another direction.

     I admit that I get stuck occasionally. I write myself into a corner and have to stop and wonder what I just did. And sometimes that happens at 3 in the morning. So I hit "enter" a few times and get going again. I go with another character or a situation. I keep moving forward with the story, even if I now have to take the dirt road with all the bumps and dips. I'll still get to point "B," I've just decided to take the scenic route.

     The point is to not get discouraged and throw in the towel. There are 30 days in the month. Plenty of time to get back on track. And don't let the word count of others bother you. If you can only manage 2,000 words a day, you're still above the daily average. I am a person who writes at a fast pace and finish with my 50,000 words pretty early in the month. But I still keep going along with the story. I can't leave my little babies hanging. And if I can help others that are struggling, all the better.

     Just keep going and don't get discouraged. Before you know it you will cross the finish line and will have a goofy grin on your face. And then you will sleep soundly, knowing that you did something that not many people can do. You will have created something that came from your own imagination, your own experiences, and your own knowledge. And that is something to be very proud of.

The Adventure of NaNoWriMo

And isn't it an adventure? Every year I try Nanowrimo I learn a little something different, about myself as a writer and about my writing style. I learn what I like. What I dislike. I learn more about craft. More about where I want to go. More about myself in general, but the most important lesson - at least in my opinion - that I've learned is, don't force it.  I've noticed a lot of people having trouble with Nanowrimo this year.  I've watched as they've struggled to write a novel, to find a topic, a genre, a style. Wanting to play with new styles, tenses, etc (myself included). I've also noticed that this struggle and desire to find something new has been holding them (again myself included) back from their ultimate goal. So in the spirit of Nanowrimo and a pep talk, I have advice for all my nanowing friends and cohorts, and myself included. Please take it with a grain of salt, and feel free to share your own ideas and advice, or even disagree with me entirely.

Don't force your novel. Don't try and push yourself into a genre that only causes you frustration. Just go with it. I know from experience I write best when working with others. Co-writing has been the key to getting thousands of pages of story out for me and my friends.  I have been taking advantage of this technique in nano, and less than five days in I am well over a quarter of the way there. I also have learned that just writing as the words come to me is key to success. The most words I've ever gotten was when I was in the mood and just feeling what I was writing. I wasn't caring about rather I was going to get published or rather others enjoyed it. I wasn't caring that it wasn't going the way I'd originally planned, but rather had taken wings and gone in it's own direction. Those are my best pages I've ever written.

Write what you like. This may seem counter intuitive, or even counter productive to the statement I just made, but really its not. Here is what I mean. You enjoy something, be it romance, be it literary fiction, horror, or just plain smut. Well then if you're struggling for words, write what you enjoy. The phrase, "Don't fix what's not broken," seems to fit in very well here.  If you enjoy writing something, are confident in writing something, why fix it? You can always learn from what you already know and expound and expand upon that knowledge with new knowledge. Right?

I myself was going to write in a third person, present tense story for the November challenge. That was my goal for Nanowrimo. It was a goal at which I have failed utterly, and for which I will continue to fail. I am comfortable with first person, past, or third person, past. I find I am fairly talented with those as well.  So that is what I'll write.  I wanted to challenge myself, but in that desire I ended up hindering myself, so I quickly gave up. And the words have been flowing naturally since. I haven't felt drained, I haven't felt angry or impatient. Letting my writing come naturally has been allowing me the most satisfaction as a writer.

I know some authors feel shame for not being able to get out of their comfort zone, but most, if not all of us are still aspiring authors.  But I will gander to say, there is no shame in writing what we know. We are still building on our craft, still learning as we go. In fact, Nanowrimo is a challenge to help us do just that. So in the spirit of a pep talk, just have fun! I know that's what I'm doing, and even when I'm frustrated and not getting words out as quickly as I would like, enjoying what I'm writing is helping me. If you are one of those who is able to take something new and reign it in by the horns, FANTASTIC! That is marvelous.  And you should keep doing that, but I think one of the dangers - a trap that many of us fall into - is thinking that we need/have to do something that is outside of our comfort zone or even skill sect, and in the end that just causes anger and frustration.  If Nanowrimo, or writing is not enjoyable, then why are we doing it in the first place!

So now I ask for your responses. Many of you were going to leave your comfort zones and try something new as a writer. How is that going for you? Are you finding success in your endeavors or did you take the same path I did, returning to what I know and enjoy. Are you using a combination of the two? Did you go into a whole different realm entirely? What have you been doing to counteract the stress of writing so many words? And what advice do you have for other's who are participating in Nanowrimo?

To leave off, I think my greatest piece of advice is, have fun, because if you aren't having fun, then what's the point?


Vocab word of the week


  [im-pech-oo-uhs]  Show IPA
of, pertaining to, or characterized by sudden or rash action,emotion, etc.; impulsive: an impetuous decisionan impetuousperson.
having great impetus moving with great forceviolent: theimpetuous winds.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Publishing Companies and Editors

I recently read a book that I was surprised was even published...

It is important to note that I am not too upset with the author. I think this was an interesting story. However, I was a little unnerved by how many typos were present. One or two typos in a book is fine, I know editors aren't perfect and don't catch everything. But there were so many! Some words were not in the right order, there was a place where a word that didn't even belong in the sentence was present, and other little issues. And if I, the grammar idiot, am catching them, then you know it's bad.

Clearly this is a case where the publishing company demands quantity rather than quality and pushed this author into pumping out a book in a very limited amount of time, shoved it through a once over by an editor who didn't try to catch everything, and sent it on to the press to be printed and put on the shelves. And you have no idea how much that rakes my coals. I feel like this book could have been much richer, deeper even, and clearly the author had to have some talent to get published in the beginning so why force her to be an Assembly line, over worked, underpaid, and stomping down her light? You know, turning what could have been or once was a fantastic author into a mediocre one. Frankly when I sit and read a book and think, "Damn if this got published, then I'm pretty sure my stuff could too," and I think my stuff isn't good (that could be my usual self-debasement at work), then obviously something is wrong. 

So what can be done about this? I don't know other than to keep improving yourself and your personal craft and research the hell out of the publishing companies and editors you send your work into. Check out their authors, see how many books they crank out a year, look at their early work and compare it to their current work. Look at the quality of work the publishing company is putting out. And, even though you're internally screaming with intense desire to be published, don't settle and don't let an editor or pub co make impossible demands.  

NaNoWriMo Update

It's the third day of NaNoWriMo and I haven't officially started on a set novel.  At this point I am asking my fellow Detangled Writers and any of our readers to throw out ideas.  Normally I am rife with them but having started a new job and with my mind all abuzz about starting an MFA program in January, I am absolutely stumped.  I am going to visit the forum on NaNo for the 'adopt a' options wherein various contributors put forth fun ideas for characters, plots, twists, bizarre traits, complications, etc.  But I'm very curious as to what you all might recommend to get my juices going.  I'm a completely open book.  My goal was to work within the Horror/Erotic Horror genre but at this point all I can think of is an extensive journal chronicling my adventures in the Bra Store where I have just been employed.  I don't necessarily want to write a 'how I learned to use a cash register' memoir, and that's why I'm here and pleading.

I'm particularly excited to get started on a/many projects because there are many write-ins happening in my local area and I would like to support the writing community by taking part in some of them.  My zeal would increase greatly if I had something to pluck out during these events. The other option is, of course, to revisit some of my earlier ideas which are only half formed and consist of about two to five pages of actualization.  But I would like something fun and something purely NaNo to help me ride out this month.  Any suggestions would be very appreciated.  

Amanda LaFantasie (Skoora) © 2012