Saturday, April 27, 2013

Guided Prompts

So I have a fun idea to get away from the blank page syndrome (a.k.a. writer's block, a.k.a. I-dunno-how-to-start-this-really-cool-idea).  Looking back at my writing history I realize that I write better (or at least more profusely) when working off a prompt.  This is why Role Play story writing is so successful.  Each time you interchange with a partner, it is essentially them giving you a prompt.  For any of you out there that might not know what Role Play (RP) writing is, it is just as the name suggests.  You write (in third person) the experiences and thoughts of a single character performing an act or a series of acts and then you have a writing partner have their character react to what you wrote.  It's a fun back and forth that is not only great writing practice but wonderful at helping you build and develop characters.  One of the reason's it's so fun and so successful is because you are kept wondering what your partner will write because that is your next prompt.

Back when Yahoo!360 was an active site (may it rest in peace), I used to write a few short segments based on prompts I found on sites like Writer's Digest.  One such story was about a person receiving a text from an unknown number.  I pumped out a generous amount for such a tiny prompt and had thoughts to even take it further.  Now, when I say 'prompt' it doesn't necessarily have to be 'It was a dark and stormy night when Mrs. Winters went outside to look for Pooky and found...' like that.  I mean even a self prompt like 'what would I do if I won the lottery.'  Things like that to get the juices going.  And this brings me to the point of this blog post: guided prompts.  If you have an idea and you want to write about it but aren't sure how to get started, try prompting yourself into scenes.

I have an android piece that I am itching to work on and so far I have about five different beginnings, all of which I despise and I know that it's because I'm putting too much pressure on myself to make it 'perfect' and I'm not letting myself just relax and write (which is kind of the point of writing, right?).  So what I'm going to do is give myself specific prompts.

Idea: Dystopian Android Tribe

Prompt: Leader of Android Tribe comes across a dead human.  What does he do?

Prompt: Androids find a baby and attempt to raise it.

Prompt: Androids think of themselves as 'living,' how do they react when someone tells them they have no value and are just pieces of machinery?

Prompt: Show the androids breaking or following the three laws of Robotics.

Prompt: Do androids really dream of electric sheep?

Prompt: It was a dark and stormy night... wait... no, I meant: one of the androids falls into disrepair, how do the androids react to the 'death' of one of their own?

These are all scenes that could potentially work themselves into the book, but the real purpose of these prompts is to get me somewhere in character and plot development and, ultimately, to get words on the page.  I will most likely be answering some of these tomorrow and posting them on my Gurgle Burp blog.   I know that the idea as I've written it is very vague (trust me I do have a bit more of a plan in mind than just that), but if you have any prompts for that idea, please post them and I will attempt to answer them as well!  Prompts are fun, dang it.  They shouldn't just be used to generate ideas, they can also be employed to fuel ideas that are already hatched and eager for development.

Amanda LaFantasie (Skoora) © April 2013

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Editing: The Saga Continues

Editing. That is what I have been doing for the past couple of months. A necessary evil, but ultimately worth the trouble.

And for this one I really needed it. I didn't have too many issues with grammar or tense. A few issues with word choice: but & and & well. (I blame my love of Doctor Who for that.)

My two main problems: character that disappear in the middle of the book and a character that I originally had alive but then killed off.

The first one is not difficult to deal with. Go in and find where you left off with them, and see if they fit in any other place. If not, give them a rousing exit. The second one though, wow. I obviously missed chunks of this character. The reason I had the character alive to begin with was to show a couple of things. I write urban fantasy, so with the characters I am dealing with run the gamut from demon to elf to Elementals. Long story short: I had two Elementals kidnapped by demons, leaving behind their two year old daughter that saw everything. Now, some 300 years after the fact, the daughter is looking for her parents. When I first wrote about the parents, this is 300 yrs later, I had both of them still alive. Then I thought that was too clean, too easy, so I decided that I should kill the mother. Not a problem. Until you miss scenes in the rewriting process, keeping her alive.

This is where a REALLY good reader/editor/person that won't hold back come in handy. I sent my novel to a friend to read. She is brilliant, and caught what I did wrong and offered suggestions. She knows these characters, because she has read everything I have written about them. She pointed out the glaring mistake, and then said that she liked the character I killed off.

Hmmm. What to do? After months of thinking, I figured it out. I will keep her alive, but have her separated from her husband. Thereby leading to more angst and motivation for various characters. Problem solved, more avenues to pursue, more headaches...

Editing, though a pain in the butt, can be very rewarding. And having someone you trust give you feedback is very important. The point, no matter what you write, be it UF, SciFi, mystery, non fiction, find someone that knows how you write and what you write. That alone makes a world of difference along the editing path.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Progress Report for Skoora

I'm over the halfway mark on my first semester in the Solstice MFA program.  I have about ten books left to read (I'm behind, unfortunately) and I have five craft analyses under my belt, one pedagogical response finished, three cover letters, one artists statement, and somewhere in the neighborhood of fifty pages toward my novel.  There are more pages than that, but those are incomplete scenes and chunks of notes.  On the whole I have to say that distance learning with a mentor has really worked well for me.  It was new and I was unsure at the beginning but I enjoy the back and forth of the cover letter and have found Steve Huff's comments to be incredibly helpful.  His critiques are honest but not rude.  He doesn't skirt around issues and, when necessary, he offers reasons behind his assessments.  It's been a wonderful journey so far and I'm a little sad that I only have two more packets to exchange with him.  That being said, I need to get my rear in gear because I want to share brand new writing with him on this next packet as well as really start putting into practice the things that he's touched upon in his responses to my packets.

One thing that we discussed is narrative authority.  I tend to write 'somehow' and 'perhaps' when writing in observant third person and not writing directly from the characters experience.  This makes it sound as if I, the god-like narrator, does not know how or why something happens.  The character does not know these things, but the narrator definitely does.  This is something I definitely want to work on because a vast majority of the stories I want to write will depend greatly upon the credibility of the observer narrator.

This month is a Camp NaNoWriMo month and I am signed up with a 20,000 word goal.  Usually I try and crank out the 50K but since the majority of what I am writing right now is coming to me slowly and with much revision and polishing, I figured a smaller goal would be less stressful and much more feasible.  I'm curious about my fellow contributors: are any of you participating in NaNoWriMo this month and if so what kind of projects are you undertaking?  I am working on my dystopian novel as well as a few short stories that may be lead ins to future novel projects.  

© Amanda LaFantasie (Skoora) 2013

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Hello from your 2nd Administrator.

Hey guys, I was recently made an admin so I could move some things around as we post them. Dani has been caught up in life and, for the moment, is unable to tend to the blog as she would like. So with that said, I have a brief update and a few small requests to make.

1. I've put the weekly vocab words on the vocab page, formatted it as best as I am able, some things still look a little off, but I am working on it. Eventually I will have the page set in alphabetical order. 

2. If you've done a writing prompt, in the past would you be so kind as to make sure you've labeled the post. This makes it easier for me to make sure that I can get all of the prompts to the right page. 

3. I heard mention of a Grammar corner page. I'd like to go ahead and make a page for that and thus need the same labeling from everyone who had made such a post. 

4. For those of us still interested in a writing workshop via Google hangouts, I'd like to post pone that until summer so our student contributors can get through midterms, finals, and Camp Nanowrimo this month if they are participating.

5. I have a question for the Contributors Page, do we want to post our pictures beside our profile descriptions? 

6. Finally, I am going to speak to Dani about possibly changing the appearance of the blog. If any of you have any suggestions or ideas of that you'd like the blog to look like, please let me know. I general tend to use free blog formats I find on the internet since I'm not an HTML wiz (I remember some things from my HTML class but not enough). So if there is a particular color scheme or theme you think would work nicely, let me know. But remember, I still need to get the okay from Dani.


Edit: I've Cleaned up and put together the Grammar Corner Page. I have also spoke with Dani and she's given the okay to change up the appearance of the blog. So any suggestions are welcome.