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Four Things to Do Guest Blog on RMFW

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Guest Post by Samantha Ross: Four Things to Do

I remember when I first started out writing, I’d stumble, slam into a wall, some days I would realize I was clueless, other days it was pointed out. Again and again I heard “Just keep writing.”

I agree with it.

Up to a point.

I will never be a better writer if all I do is write. It means I repeat my weak areas over and over again. Yes, I write, but I have found I need four other things also.

I need to read. Not just my genre, but read craft books. Instead of fumbling around, I read a book on whatever it is I am struggling with. I visit webpages and blogs on writing. If I really want to grow as a writer, I need to educate myself. Honing my writing is a life long lesson.

Classes, events and conferences. These get budgeted in my calendar, and hopefully into my finances. There is incredible information to be had at these. RMFW gives some of the best, usually for free with their monthly events hosting big name authors and agents. I am amazed at the things I have learned, the contacts and friends I have made by going to these. I ask questions, get answers. I surprise myself sometimes that I didn’t need to ask anything, I have conquered that specific weakness. I went to my first conference in Crested Butte, Colorado where I ran into an old friend who pointed me to RMFW. I wouldn’t be writing this blog otherwise.

I joined writing groups. I need to talk shop with someone. I did more than just sign up though, I participate, attend meetings, and volunteer. I need others who understands the lingo of plot, character arc, and deus ex machine. Writing groups come in all shapes and sizes.

Check out he rest of the article here at Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers

Internal and External GMC

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I remembered when I first starting writing, I was clueless on Goal, Motivation, and Conflict.

I started out writing a romance story, so of course the heroine’s goal was:

“Love.”

Her motivation was:

“I want to be loved.”

The conflict was:

Whatever kept them apart. Mainly I was thinking arguments….. disagreements…. maybe some bad guys they had to fight off together…..

Yup, I was clueless.

Let us start with external and internal. Really simple. Don’t overthink it.

External is Tangible. It is physical in some way. It is Outer.

Internal is Intangible. It’s not physical. It’s our thoughts, emotions, guts. It is Inner.

Now let’s move onto GMC.

For starters her goals needs to be specific. She is going to need internal and external ones.

External goal -she wants to get away from her uncle who plans to wed her off to someone of his choice.

Internal goal– she doesn’t want to be like the other unhappily married women she has met.

Motivation has to be both also.

External motivation is that the man her uncle chose only wants her for her dowry that he will split with her uncle.

Her internal motivation is that her parents loved each other and she wants that. That want and all it represented is her motivation.

It is the deeper reason why she does the things she does or doesn’t do. The driving factor of internal can be positive or negative.

It is the inner core, the inner strengths, the inner weaknesses and faults.Our characters usually do not want to admit their internal motivations out loud, or sometimes don’t even recognize them.

It is the thing no one can take away from our characters, the thing they may stray from but always come back to. That thing that no matter what happens, they will choose that path. Until they choose not to choose that path.

As she encounters external and internal conflicts her growth happens. Mad cows, pretty cloths, dream guys, fears, insecurities, rotting corpses will not stop her. She may run from the cow, buy the dress, fool around with the guy, wallow in her fears, but it’s a temporary thing.

She is on a mission! The internal motivation is why she has the guts and strength to reach her external and internal goals and to overcome her conflicts. It is also why she makes huge mistakes, which creates more conflicts she has to deal with. She has to fight the bad guys, and her internal demons too so she can get to the end.

Love is what happens along the way, it is the genre.

GMC at Oak Grove Elementary

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My 4th grade son asked me to hang out with him at Oak Grove Elementary on his birthday. I believe when your ten year old wants to show off his class this says wonderful things about his school and his teacher, Cheri Jackett .

His teacher knows that I write both fiction and nonfiction for a living and asked if I wanted to speak about writing after the PBS show on the Dustbowl. Some of the students were writing historical stories, others were doing a report from a historians point of view. GMC (Goal, Motivation, Conflict) would work for both of her class assignments.

This is what the students came up with for GMC:

Their goal – (what are these people going to do?)

  • move to the plains to grow wheat

Their motivation – (why are they going do this?)

  • free land
  • make money

Their conflicts – (what challenges are they going face?)

  • drought
  • price drops
  • dust storms
  • have to build a house

Good answers!

 

Then we tried another:

Their goal – (what are these people going to do?)

  • go to the Rocky Mountains to find gold

Their motivation – (why are they going do this?)

  • get rich
  • buy things
  • feed our families

But then we went deeper – motivation is emotional also. Yeah, we want to get rich, feed our families and buy bling- but why do we want to do this? Check out these impressive answers:

  • pride that we could do this or buy this
  • greed because we are jealous of other people who have this
  • becoming famous if you have gold
  • cool factor of having gold or being rich

Their conflicts – (what challenges are they going to face?)

  • no gold
  • the town went bust
  • ran out of money
  • no supplies
  • others stole the gold
  • got lonely
  • want to quit

Not only did they get external conflicts, but also the internal conflicts.

Way to go class!

 

POV Help Me!

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POV

              I have a friend who is having a problem with staying in POV during her scenes.

 

         Let’s focus on first person or close third person. POV refers to only what the character knows through the senses, interaction with other characters, and life experience.

 

Unless she has super powers:

  • She is not going to know what the other characters are thinking or feeling. She can take a guess, but that is all.
  • She does not know what happens when she leaves the scene.
  • If she can not use her senses – she can not know that it is going on.

 

         But my friend says she really wants the reader to know what is going on with the other character. It’s vital to the story.

 

Alright, here is several ways to do this:

 

-Adjust the senses of the character.

              Her back is turned, so she can not know that she has made this guy really angry, unless she has eyes in the back of her head.

         But :

  • She can HEAR the door slam.
  • She can FEEL the breeze across her neck as he leaves.
  • She can turn around and find out he has left, or has picked up the gun to shoot her. Or is crying his eyes out. She can SEE
  • She may not see him move, and shove her into the ground, but she can TASTE

 

-Revelation by other characters in the scene.

               Maybe the main character is oblivious as she tramples all over this guys feeling. The other characters are going to give her dirty looks, cross their arms, or try to give her some other action to shut up.

              Or they can even reprimand her when the guy leaves.

              The character himself might say, “Be careful. You don’t want to piss me off. George did that. I brought cupcakes to his funeral.”

 

-Dialogue

              Have the characters argue, drop information, discuss, or evade what is happening. She can make comments to herself about what happens next, or say them out loud, or say other things out loud.

              Or you can stick her up a tree and let her listen. Now everyone has the information, they may think that only they know it though.

 

-Backstory

              Maybe she has experience already with the guy, before the story started or during the story. She knows how to handle him… or she thinks she knows. The reader knows these things by her thoughts, actions or dialogue.

 

Change the POV to another character.

              Change it to the guys POV in the next chapter. He’s calling his best bud to go the bar because he really needs a beer now. And then they are going to rip on women.

              Or get rid of the previous scene, have him relate and reflect on what just happened as he misses all the balls on the pool table because he is hitting them too hard.

 

How do I tell if I am still in the right POV?

Try this:

              –Change the font or size

              -Read it out loud. Don’t mumble, whisper, mutter, say it under your breath, speed talk. Read it out loud. Pause after every sentence.

              -Have someone else read it to you. This helps also in letting you hear if you have too much or too little of something – action, backstory, info dump, dialogue, details, and numerous other things. If you have a program that converts text to speech, try that. If not, go online and find one. Here is one I randomly tried. http://www.naturalreaders.com

              -Act it out. Do whatever the character is doing and imagine yourself in the scene. Standing here with your back to the guy, can you see this guy making rude gestures at you? Nope.

              But if you think the reader needs to know this you can have her turn around, catch the guy in the act, at the end of the act, suspect the act, or he may just raise his finger to her. Maybe someone walks into the room and tells him to put his finger down. Maybe he just leaves and tells his friends, or tells her later in the story.

 

 

MoWriMo Success or Failure?

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This is the first time I have done MoWriMo, our local version of NaNoWriMo. I set my goal for 5,000 words a day- because this is what I am doing now- writing.

 

Why this number? My big non – mathematical head figured I can easily type 60 wpm, of which I will round down for easier, quicker math to 50 wpm, multiply the easy way of an hour being 50 minutes gets me… 250 words an hour… that’s not right… oh, add another zero. Yeah, I can do 2,500 words in an hour. Piece of cake to do 5,000 in even three hours.

 

I realized I could type this amount in a day. But after a point I sound like a teenager who has had way too much Diet Coke on a celery only diet with fingernail polish fumes in a windowless room. Yes! I can create reams of printed paper that later no amount of polish fumes will make it sound good.

 

This is what I felt like when I tried for 5,000 words a day.

 

Right from the start gate, I realized it wouldn’t work. I was just shooting off unnecessary, unwanted words to get to that goal. Trying to wade through the nonsense and edit it was tedious and confusing. Writing it was almost the same. Would I save any time or my sanity? Would this be productive? No. I wasn’t working any harder or working any smarter.

 

I adjusted down to a more acceptable level- 40,000 words for the month.

 

Did I make it then? No, I didn’t. And I’m okay with that.

 

I wrote what needed to be written- I had some due dates on stuff that happened to all be in various stages from nothing on the paper to final read through. I worked on several projects in progress. Started a few new ones. Edited others. Some of what I wrote was ok to be rough draft, early or middle stages, some if it needed to be written and edited right then. Editing puts me behind on my word count. I didn’t subtract or add as I went. I did a rough grand total that included everything I did that month.

 

Was I happy with the things I did write? YES! I got some great stuff that covered rough drafts to finished pieces. Did I learn many things about my writing? Yes, look at some of the things I learned on this blog.

 

Therefore, I’m not going to look at my 20,000 words as:

  • A Failure
  • I tried
  • I Gave It My Best Shot

 

I saw what works and what doesn’t. I ended up with a broader understanding of my job, and my craft, which will enable me to create better solutions to my problems.

 

So, no. I don’t think I failed.

Spinning Your Plates – How To Do It Correctly

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James Van Pelt, writing, and the old black and white video of a woman in leotards multi tasking her plates, poles, rope, and exercise ball will forever go together in my mind now. James tells us writing is like keeping a bunch of plates spinning on a pole as you jump rope on a big ball, simultaneously making sure none of the plates stop spinning and fall off the poles. It’s taking all the things you have learned about character building, plot structure, dialogue, and putting each on a plate, then spinning those plates into a story that is worthy of you.

He shared many tips on how to do this in his presentation of “A Unified Field Theory of Nearly Everything to Write Stronger Fiction (and how to avoid editorial rejection)” at the Western Slope Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers event in January.

Start with good writing. Editors don’t throw out bad stories, they throw out writing that isn’t professional.That is probably the most important tip.

Here are some more:

     Describe and create action. Don’t do “She stood at the window and looked at the landscape.” Describe the landscape, not just a tree – an aspen. What is she doing, thinking, how is she interacting with the window, the landscape, her thoughts? Where is the action? Action can be both internal and external.

     Where is her “pluck”? That essence of a character that makes them fight to the end while being true to themselves is pluck. What makes you want to stand up and cheer her on? What is it about her that keeps you reading? How does she demonstrate this willpower to keep going when the going gets tough? What makes her your hero?Your character is not a wimp. If she is, she’s going to find her core strength. As readers we don’t root for passive people who are boring, do nothing, feel nothing, think nothing, experience nothing and never change. We need to want to tag along for the wild ride that she is going on.

     Don’t let your dialogue be numbing. Dialogue is narration. Stuff is said, responded to, commented upon, interruptions happen. A great way to reveal character is for her do or think the opposite of what she is saying. Have her change the subject, or not respond. And remember no one talks in perfect sentences.

     Plot is another spinning plate – your plucky character is going to do something, and effects are going to happen, cascades of actions will ripple and have to be reacted to again. The plot is about cause and effect repeating in an upward spiral of tension. With each action/reaction comes conflict. Your character wants something; but of course the story is plotting against her, things stand in her way, she herself stands in her way sometimes, what she wants and what she needs are in conflict. She has to make sacrifices, reach down deep to her center to get to the end of her story.

     Remember that your story is also a circle. Your first pages should reflect the end. Wrap up those loose threads. If your character needs a gun to shoot someone, you need to put the gun in the story before it ends up by magic in her hand. If she doesn’t believe in using guns, we need to know why. What happened to change her mind? How does she change after she fired that gun? Show us the conflict she goes through, the highs and the lows she took to get to this point.

     At the end of all those conflicts is the epiphany- the moral, the theme, the point where the reader nods and gets it. It was sprinkled and shown throughout the story.

Writers don’t write their first drafts at a professional level. Professionalism happens during the editing portion. This is when you keep all your plates spinning. You’ve tightened up your prose, made sure there is no clichés of characters or situations. The sentence length is varied. None of it is vague or redundant with a bunch of linking verbs. You’ve searched for which plate is empty, and which is overflowing, and adjusted them to make this wonderful story into great writing where the editor and reader says to friends “You just have to read this, its incredible!”

Halfway Through MoWriMo

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So, we have made it past the halfway point of MoWriMo – the local version of NaNoWriMo – Montrose Writing Month at the Montrose Colorado Library. How is everyone doing? Freaking out or freaking awesome? Remember this is a goal that you have set. It can be a poem a week, three short stories, x amount of hours, a word count. A goal is a goal no matter how big or small.

For those of you that are struggling- look at what you have done already. It’s probably more than what you have done in the past. Maybe you have bitten off more than you can chew, that’s ok; spit out half and finish the rest. You know what is NOT working for you, and that in itself is a huge achievement. If it’s not working for you, change it. Keep writing and you will find what works for you.

For those of you who are sailing through this – keep going. Pay attention to what is making this work for you. Is it the space you are writing in, what you are writing on or the software you are using, time of day, closing your door, music, striving to meet the goal, enjoying the ride? Maybe you picked something new to write about, or maybe you revisited an old project with new insight. Whatever it is keeping you on track- go with it.

No matter if you are struggling or sailing you are going to learn from this.

Here is what I have learned:

  • If I have a game plan of what I am going to write about before I write, I get more words.
  • If I remember I can toss it all out- I get more words, I don’t care so much about what I am writing. It doesn’t even have to make sense! How liberating is that?????
  • If my story is not going where I want it go, I simply hit the enter button a few times and start from where I want it to be. I no longer spend time trying to get from Point C to Point H or trying to fix it – which was so frustrating because it stalled me up. Now I just go to Point H. I can figure out how to get there later or decide to just start at Point H. This revelation has been a HUGE turning point for me. I like heavy metal sometimes, but I HATE head banging! Much less head banging going on now.
  • If I fail for the day- so what? I don’t have to be prefect everyday. And on those days when the words aren’t coming, and something else is more pressing and occupying my mind- I just go deal with whatever it is, and reschedule more writing time later- and you know what? I end up with double the word count in less time because I could focus on the writing. And the writing was better. I didn’t have to think/worry/remember or anything else about the errand that was wasn’t done (which always made me feel like my time management skills sucked, which of course translated into I suck- which is untrue, but it still felt sucky!!).
  • This is not the end piece, it’s not about the editing and being final, it’s just about being.

There is one thing I think is non-negotiable of any goal achievement – it is support. Support from inside yourself is just as important as outside support. You need them both.

Meg Nagel has set up writing space for us. Click here for the times and dates. Remember it’s not late to sign up for the goal.

Start writing.

Keep what is working, change it up if it is not. See you at the library “For the Love of Words” party at 6:30 pm on Wednesday, February 4 and get your Rhinoceros for reaching your goal.

Bad Cop of MoWriMo

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The Bad Cop of MoNoWriMo

MoNo…. What? MoWriMo is the local version for NaNoWriMo which stands for National Novel Writing Month, check it out here – http://nanowrimo.org.

During NaNoWriMo which takes place in November, people accept the challenge of writing 50,000 words of a novel in a month. That’s 1,613 words a day for 31 days.

Not interested in writing a novel? That’s not a problem. Here in Montrose the goal is to challenge yourself and write. For some people this is four poems for the month, some want 50,000 words, others are writing memoirs, some are just writing for a certain amount of time every day. It’s a challenge- whatever that means for you.

It is for anyone who wants to participate, doesn’t matter if you are published, unpublished, newbi to writing or an old hat.

Why do this? Danielle Kemper, a life coach and psychotherapist came to the library to help us out, and to share some of the benefits and insights she discovered when she challenged herself to NaNoWriMo in November. Here is what she discovered:

  • it will change how you write
  • how you view your craft
  • your daily life
  • makes you disciplined in your writing

All of which means you don’t have to wait for your muse to find you, you find your muse.

Danielle has appointed herself the “Bad Cop” of MoNoWriMo, for when we need tough encouragement to get through this and offered insights to help us succeed in our goals.

“Busy people get more done. Push yourself!” She gave us the following tips:

  • Make a schedule for your writing time
  • Get support- tell your friends what you are doing, your fellow writers
  • Make yourself accountable
  • Find a space to write
  • This is not about the perfect novel, it is getting it all on paper, edit it later. For now you want the word count-and that means that yes, you can use the two little words “the end.”
  • “Through discipline you find your muse,” Danielle told us

It’s a huge challenge, you are going beyond what you normally write. Meg Nogle at the Montrose Colorado library helps out with the schedule and a place to write. She has dedicated us time and a space to write at the library. No need to RSVP, just show up.

Convinced you can do this now? Great! Sign up with Meg, the good cop. She has pledge sheets and a Rhino for you to put on the MoNoWriNo map; complete with The Yellow Brick Road, The Juicy Plot Jungle, Lake Long Ago, and many other places that you may hang out or avoid completely. You can apply it to whatever you are working on.

On February 4th the open mic night, you can get your reward- a rhino (food NOT included, neither are batteries). And the feeling of success.

Good things come to people who wait, but better things come to those who go out and get them. ~Anonymous