Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Camp National Novel Writer's Month.

It's that time again! Nanowrimo is doing another Camp Nanowrimo for the month of July. I have already signed up and am excited to get started. It's strange, I kind of want to start ahead of time but that wouldn't really count toward the word count for the month of July. Besides, I still have to get all my notes in order so I can attack July with a fury! Rawr!

So, who is going to join me? 

Blurb Writing

One of the hardest things for me to write is the blurb section for the back of a book, or just an all around description for the novel in general.

I tend to write long novels. Short stories never remain short. I have trouble writing poetry of any kind because of my "need" to expound. When it comes to the little two or three paragraph condensed explanation of what is going to happen in the novel, I have no clue what to write. I write about a mass of characters of various horror/fantasy genres. I also have many things going on in my novels - battles, training, sexy times, eating, general goofiness. How does a person condense 500 plus pages of hard work into three little blurbs?

I get this way when I try to explain what certain novels are about. In my head the explanation sounds good, but trying to say it out loud makes everything convoluted. There is a reason that I WRITE.

Does anyone else have this problem? How do you go about whittling down your work into the barest terms?

An Update & Possible Genre Change

Tomorrow I leave for my second residency at the Solstice MFA program in Boston.  My first time around left me with a whirlwind of ideas as well as a fantastic bunch of writers to count as friends and comrades.  This time I head back with one semester under my belt, a yearning to catch up with my Boston buddies, and a strong desire to learn as much as I can.

For the first semester I read twelve books and wrote around fifty pages (more than that but fifty semi polished pages) for my Dystopian novel.  This novel does have the potential of being marketed as YA but I'm not going to push that at all.  However, this time around, I have a list of several YA books that I want to read and I am suddenly inspired to work on a very clear cut YA story.  I actually wrote out this story in screenplay format several years back.  I never finished the screenplay but I did chart out the entire ending up to the 'FADE OUT' via long notes.  One reason I'm wanting to rekindle this story is because of the strong female lead (and I don't write many females even though I am one), and another reason is because it's already plotted.  This plot may change here and there but the fact that it is plotted will help me write out scene after scene and also give me a chance to really tackle writing a synopsis. 

In order to work on this however, I would need to change my major from Fiction to Young Adult Fiction.  From what I understand this is totally doable and that it's only in my third semester that I have to decide on what genre to graduate out of - some people switch in their second semester and never go back, but I think I will return to Fiction a better person for having honed another side of my literary interests.  

Amanda LaFantasie (Skoora) 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Vocab: Ostentatious

Definition of OSTENTATIOUS
: marked by or fond of conspicuous or vainglorious and sometimes pretentious display
— os·ten·ta·tious·ly adverb
— os·ten·ta·tious·ness noun
flamboyant, flaring, flashy, garish, glitzy, loud, noisy,gaudy, razzle-dazzle, splashy, swank (or swanky)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Yummy or ick?

Perhaps you'll never mention anything in your story or writings about food. But what if your character is a food critic or a chef. What if they are a waitress or just going out to lunch or dinner. What if another character has a romantic evening planned with tasty things to set the mood or woo someone? What if someone gets knocked to the ground and gets a mouth full of dirt or sand? Or they get smacked or are in an accident and they get blood in their mouth? What if they are a Vampire or other supernatural creature? What does it all taste like? What can you liken what your character tastes to? 

Obviously I am suggesting that you have a day where you taste things, however I don't want you to go anywhere near anything that jeopardizes your health. And if you are a vegetarian, don't go eat meat. Actually don't do anything that makes you uncomfortable or will make you sick. The idea is to get an idea of what things taste like so if you are allergic to certain things or don't want to try it, just ask someone who likes those things and won't be hurt if they eat or have eaten them.

Start simple. You could go to a restaurant and order something new or one of your favorites and take notes about each thing you taste. Or try cooking something at home. Either way simply enjoy the food, feel the textures, concentrate on the spices, and how it makes you feel. 

Expand. Taste things that aren't food, that are safe. Don't go eat a fist full of dirt or sand, and certainly don't do yourself or anyone else any harm. Be safe about it. If you're going to lick a window or a rock, make sure there are no rough edges. BE SAFE! 

Apply what you learn or know to a character in someway. Does your character like TV dinners due to their simplicity because they have a busy life? Do they have any thoughts on if they taste good or if they are simply a means to get by because they don't have the time to go out for food? Are they just too lazy to cook? Do you have a character who only eats organic or maybe they will only eat meals prepared by a chef and don't cook? What if your character can cook and very well, what sorts of things do they like to cook? What if they don't eat food? What would you say a soul tastes like? 

Friday, June 7, 2013


A couple of months ago my Dad sent me an e-mail titled "A free, no frills thing like Scrivener. (looks pretty cool)". Inside was a link to a review done by PCWorld that I found interesting.

YWriter is a distraction-free, free organizing tool for writers.

I've played around with it a little here and there and found it to be really interesting. I think it's going to be really helpful as far as organization goes. At the moment my notes and ideas are scattered about in various small notebooks, documents saved on multiple flash drives, and in no way organized. Even if I happen to have a set of notes all in the same notebook, they aren't in order, and there's a lot of 'oh wait,' on my part and a lot of page flipping.

Anyway, it is not as detailed as Scrivener, can't do everything that Scrivener can, but it does appear to be a good alternative to try. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Retreat! Retreat!

I've only ever been on one 'official' retreat in my life.  It was back when I was just barely a teenager.  The youth chapter of my church decided we needed to go out on a youth retreat to help us find ourselves and find God.   I remember a few things from the retreat: firstly, we were out in the middle of no where and the stars were amazing!  Secondly, when one of the popular boys fell asleep, the others wrote all over him in marker and taped a naked 'Little Red Riding Hood' doll to his hand.  It was charming.  But back to the stars.  The environment was very peaceful and exhilarating.  There was an even amount of physical exertion (hikes during the day and during the night) interspersed with quiet times (hours set aside for meditation and prayer) that it became like a nice tonic to one's sense of self.  The creative soul needs these things as well.

I want to spend a moment talking about the importance of a retreat where the only expectations put on you are the ones you've put upon yourself.  Your goals are all that matter and it is up to you to complete something, polish something, begin something new, or write a million drabbles that make you feel like a complete human being.  A writer's retreat is a place where you don't have to worry about dishes or about vacuuming or about who's coming over to dinner tonight or how your hair looks.  It's a place where you focus on your writing and on the things that awaken creativity.  An ideal retreat, in my opinion, would begin with everyone coming together for some sort of physical exercise (a swim in a nearby lake, playing the human knot game until you finally untangle, red-light/green-light, or even just a nice long hike in the outdoors).  Then we would move into something soothing like meditation (guided or personal) and go through a series of long stretches.  No matter the person's artistic preference, it is through our hands, our minds, our senses, our bodies that we receive and interpret and create and it is good to keep these things fine tuned.

We would break off then to get to work.  It would be for the individual after all.  We would make our own schedules and keep them accordingly.  I would have meal times listed - that or we would rough it and each fend for ourselves - and we could come together for fellowship and re-invigoration.  It would not be a test, competition, or race.  Everyone should come with their own goals and work toward them and revise them as they see fit.  There may be a communal activity once or twice a day (most likely something physical again and then something more mental).  At the end of how ever many days (hours) that we hold the retreat, I think there should be an opportunity to showcase a piece of what we worked so hard on.  We could have a reading or we could pass out a packet to look over.  This retreat would not have to be limited to writing, though I would suggest special emphasis in this area.

We've had a few ideas thrown around on this site for workshopping and other communal efforts to encourage ourselves and each other to continue working on our goals.  I propose a small writer's retreat as a way to generate lots of new material without the distractions of the everyday world.  There could even be a workshopping segment of the retreat to help authors who want to polish up their material.  What are some thoughts on this?  Of course  cost is something to keep in mind, but if this were to be something we could do in the summer months, it would be feasible to do a sort of camp out.  There are places that have rec rooms with electricity for us to use.  Or we could even do a two day retreat and rent out public park spaces such as the one at Kiwanis park where electricity is available.  You don't need a large group to have a retreat - it is more than practical to have a retreat of just one.  If you can't meet up with fellow writers, you can always pick up some goodies and lock yourself away in a hotel somewhere for the night.

The most important thing of all in these retreats however, is that you have privacy and can remain relatively untouched by the troubles of the real world.  This is definitely something I want to look into having.  For further information on some already established retreats visit here and here!  Or check out this guidebook: here.  These are just a few things about retreats, the internet is full of them and with such boundless reference material at our fingertips, it seems a darn shame not to take advantage of having a retreat all our own.  Or at least all on one's one.

Amanda LaFantasie (Skoora)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Conundrum of Sorts

What do you do when you have a really good idea, one that has been constantly jumping to the forefront of your mind whenever you sit down to write, but you have already written something similar?

This is what I am going through right now. The first book I wrote for NaNoWriMo was a post apocalyptic/population reducing novel with supernatural elements - vampires, fae, were-critters. When I wrote it, the story took on a life of its own. I had something else in mind, but the characters decided to do their own thing. However, the original idea I had is roaring at me. The finished book is the first in a series, because I have a ton of characters and have written half of the second book.

So the question is this: Do I write the original idea? Would it be weird if I wrote another post apocalyptic series that has similar elements to the one I have already done, or should I forget it? The original idea was darker than what I eventually wrote, and honestly, I think I took the easy road for that book since it was my first foray into NaNoWriMo. But that story is good. It's finished and there are so many possibilities for future books.

I am going to give my original idea a whirl. I am going to attempt to do the July session of Camp NaNo and flush out the idea and not let the characters run rampant as they usually do. I want to see where this idea takes me. I believe that this will be a good exercise for me; to write something close to what I have done already, but make it different.

So, what would you do? Would you scrap the original idea, or the one that took its place? Would you do what I am going to attempt and see where that idea could have taken you?

It's a conundrum. Really one that only the author can decide. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Weekly Vocabulary

a·mal·gam (-mlgm)   n.

1. Any of various alloys of mercury with other metals, especially:
  • a. An alloy of mercury and silver used in dental fillings.
  • b. An alloy of mercury and tin used in silvering mirrors.
2. A combination of diverse elements; a mixture: an amalgam of strength, reputation, and commitment to ethical principles. See Synonyms at mixture.

My note: (In writing and in reading we see use of this word - the second definition - used quite frequently)

troi·ka (troik)  n.

1.a. A Russian carriage drawn by a team of three horses abreast. b. A team of three horses abreast.
2. See triumvirate.

My note: (I have seen this used in a writing books to describe sets of three. It's a might bit more creative than trio.)

Amanda LaFantasie (Skoora) © June 2013