Monday, December 3, 2012

5 Writing Tips from Tana French

You can find the original article here.

I’m still very much in the apprentice stage of writing. I read somewhere that you need to write a million words before you know what you’re doing – so I’m headed that way, but I’m nowhere near there. But, for what they’re worth, here are some of the things I’ve learned along the way.

1. It’s OK to screw up. For me, this was the big revelation when I was writing my first book, In the Woods: I could get it wrong as many times as I needed to. I was coming from theatre, where you need to get it right every night, because this audience will probably never see the show again; it took me a while to realise that, until the book goes into print, it’s still rehearsal, where you can try whatever you need to try. If you rewrite a paragraph fifty times and forty-nine of them are terrible, that’s fine; you only need to get it right once.

2. Your character is always right. No real person thinks they’re being stupid or misguided or bigoted or evil or just plain wrong – so your characters can’t, either. If you’re writing a scene for a character with whom you disagree in every way, you still need to show how that character is absolutely justified in his or her own mind, or the scene will come across as being about the author’s views rather than about the character’s. You can’t make the judgement that your character is wrong; let the readers do that for themselves.

3. There’s no such thing as ‘men’ or ‘women’. There’s only the individual character you’re writing. One guy emailed me asking me how to write women, and I couldn’t answer, because I had no idea which woman he meant: me? Eleanor of Aquitaine? Lady Gaga? If you’re thinking of ‘men’ or ‘women’ as a monolithic group defined primarily by their sex, then you’re not thinking of them as individuals; so your character isn’t going to come out as an individual, but as a collection of stereotypes. Sure, there are differences between men and women on average – but you’re writing an individual, not an average. If your individual character is chatty on the phone or refuses to ask for directions, that needs to be because of who he or she is, not because of what he or she is. Write the person, not the genitalia.

4. Kill the dream sequence. My husband, who’s my first reader and who has a demon eye for sloppiness, says that a dream sequence is almost invariably either a repeat of something that’s already been done within the action, or a lazy way of doing something that should be done within the action. I think he’s let me get away with one dream in four books. At this point I just save us both time and kill them before he gets to them. You may well need to write the dream sequence, to help you towards an understanding of something in the book, but it’s very unlikely that anyone needs to read it.

5. Don’t be scared of ‘said’. Writers sometimes go looking for alternatives because they worry that ‘he said’ and ‘she said’ will feel repetitive if they’re used all the time, but I swear, they won’t. ‘Said’ is the default dialogue tag; readers don’t even notice it, the eye just skims over it. Anything else, on the other hand, does stick out. I read one book where the characters never said anything; instead they spent all their time grunting and bleating and hissing and cooing and growling and chirping and… It was like a menagerie in there. After a while I wasn’t even taking in the rest of the book, because that was all I could see: the dialogue tags. Unless your character is actually doing something specific that needs pointing out – shouting the line, say, or whispering it – it’s almost always a good idea to stick with ‘said’.

Tana French's new novel, Broken Harbor, publishes July 24 from Viking.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Week 4 Pep Talk: Aprilynne Pike

Last weekend I boarded a plane from Maryland to Phoenix with a brand-new deadline for a project I hadn’t anticipated.

A deadline I wasn’t convinced I would be able to make. Why? Because 2000 words a day has been my absolute max for the last couple of months. And now I suddenly had 10,000 words I needed to squeeze in somewhere. During the holidays, of course.

I wrote 6,700 words on that flight.

Which reminded me of two things. One, that you can write anywhere. Anywhere. And secondly—and the point of this email—it’s those days when the words just come that make the rest of the days worth it.

People approach NaNo in a lot of different ways. Some budget each day based on their personal schedules, some people have a minimum requirement and write every day, some people depend on a good, long several-thousand-word session every few days. Whatever your particular approach is, sometime during the month of November, you will have a day when you forget to look at your word count and when you do, you have way more words than you thought.

Being an author takes a lot of discipline, just like NaNo does. But the really wonderful part of writing is those days when the words just flow. That doesn’t mean that the other days aren’t important. Truth be told, they’re probably more important; certainly there are more of them. Most of your NaNo days are going to simply be about pounding your fingertips against the keyboard until you reach your word count and then slumping back in your chair and muttering, “Thank you, God.”

I know. I do it 80% of the time. :)

But sometimes inspiration really does strike, and it’s easy. No, it’s magic. It’s day like these that keep you going on a manuscript you believe in, or pushing through a manuscript you’re sick of looking at, or finishing that last few days of edits that ended up being more extensive than you anticipated. (That has happened to me six times in six books. ;)

One of the reasons I love NaNo is that it’s such a microcosm of an author’s life. I often see the statement go up on Twitter, “NaNoWriMo prepares you for NaNoWriLIFE,” and it’s so true. Although, admittedly, most authors don’t regularly write 50,000 words every month. :) It’s Author Boot Camp. And considering where we are in November, most of you are finding out it’s not easy.

And that doesn’t change.

But keep at it. Because when you’re done, it’s all worth it. To look back and see the book you built one word at a time. The thrill of finishing 50,000 words seriously doesn’t change whether you have written one book, or fifty. And the process is the same too. Every author builds their book one word at a time. One paragraph, one chapter.

Just like you.

And you’re almost there! So get to it! You’ve gone too far to finish the month with only half a book. And may you have a couple really great writing days in there to help you meet your goals!

Good Luck!
 
Aprilynne Pike is the #1 New York Times best-selling author of the recently-concluded WINGS series. In 2013 she will be releasing LIFE AFTER THEFT--a modern-day retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel--and EARTHBOUND--the first book in a new paranormal romance series. When not writing, Aprilynne can usually be found outside running; she also enjoys singing, acting, and (of course!) reading books about magic and kissing. Aprilynne lives in Arizona with her husband and four kids; she is enjoying the sunshine. For more information about Aprilynne, go to www.aprilynnepike.com.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Week 3 Pep Talk: Janette Rallison

One of the most common complaints I hear from new writers is that they keep starting stories but never manage to finish them. I used to be the same way. As a teenager (before the age of personal computers) I bought all sorts of blank books, each time telling myself that this time, I was going to finish a story. I still have those blank books somewhere. Most of them only have a few dozen pages written in them. I don’t remember how I planned on ending any of them—which was probably part of my problem in the first place. I didn’t know where my story was going most of the time.

Writing 200 pages without knowing the basic tenets of your story is like driving 200 miles for a vacation without a map or street signs. You’ll get somewhere, but it may not be where you wanted to end up.

If you’re feeling that your story isn’t going anywhere, ask yourself if you have these basics in your story:

1) Your main character has a big problem.
2) S/he has a goal that s/he is working toward to solve her/his problem.
3) S/he has obstacles to overcome in this quest.
4) Someone or something is acting as an antagonist. (An antagonist isn’t necessarily a villain, just someone or something that opposes your main character’s goal.)
5) Lastly, there is a dire consequence if your character fails to achieve this goal. This could be death but doesn’t need to be so drastic. For a teenage girl, losing a friend is a dire consequence.


If you have these elements in place and still feel like you’re struggling through your story, try writing your scenes out of sequence and see if that solves the problem. For example, when I wrote Blue Eyes and Other Teenage Hazards, I knew there was going to be a scene where the main character was on a disastrous date, and another scene where she was hauled to the police station with a drunken friend. I wrote these high tension scenes first, then filled in what I needed to fill in to get from the beginning to those scenes.

As you write, you’ll sometimes realize that you need to change a major aspect in the story. For example, you might have written your main character as an only child and then realize that no, what you really need for the story to work is a younger sister who died when your character was young. Instead of going back and rewriting the beginning, make a note of your change on a revision list and keep writing as though you’d already made the change. Writing your story this way will keep you moving forward instead of stuck endlessly fixing things.

Keep at it! “The End” isn’t all that far away!

Janette Rallison (who is also sometimes CJ Hill when the mood strikes her) is an award-winning author of 13 young adult novels that have sold over a million copies. Her books have been on the IRA Young Adults’ Choices lists, Popular Picks, and many state reading lists. Most of her books are romantic comedies because hey, there is enough angst in real life, but there’s a drastic shortage of both humor and romance. On her blog, http://janette-rallison.blogspot.com/, she discusses the funny side of being a YA author. She lives in Arizona with her husband, five kids, and enough cats to classify her as eccentric. Her latest book, ERASING TIME, was released August 28th.

Friday, November 16, 2012

5 Writing Tips from Laini Taylor

You can find the original article on Publisher's Weekly here.

5 WRITING TIPS FROM LAINI TAYLOR

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a small child, but I was thirty-five before I finished my first novel, because I have issues with perfectionism. It took me a long time to learn to finish what I start, and I’ve developed a lot of tools and tricks for keeping myself moving forward through a story when a big slice of my brain wants nothing so much as to stop and rewrite everything I’ve already written. It can be exhausting, but the upside is that I love to revise. The main thing I’ve learned is that we all have to learn to work with—and appreciate—the brain we’ve been given, and not waste time wishing things were easier.

1. Know what you love. Try imagining the book that would light your heart and mind on fire if you came across it in a bookstore—the one that would quicken your pulse and keep you up all night reading. What would it be? Details, details: when, where, what, who? Think it up, imagine it fully, then bring it forth. That’s the book you should be writing.

2. Never sit staring at a blank page or screen. If you find yourself stuck, write. Write about the scene you’re trying to write. Writing about is easier than writing, and chances are, it will give you your way in. You could try listing ten things that might happen next, or do a timed freewrite—fast, non-precious forward momentum; you don’t even have to read it afterward, but it might give you ideas. Try anything and everything. Never fall still, and don’t be lazy.

3. Eliminate distractions. Eliminate internet access. Find/create a place and time where you won’t be bothered. Noise-canceling headphones are great. Hotel-writing-sprees are even better if you can make that happen every once and a while: total dedicated writing time. During my second draft pass on my last book I made 20,000 words happen in a week, which is practically supernatural for me, and it would never have been possible without three nights in a hotel in my own city. It’s an incredible splurge, and a huge liberation, and you might just deserve it!

4. Get your characters talking. Dialogue is the place that books are most alive and forge the most direct connection with readers. It is also where we as writers discover our characters and allow them to become real. Get them talking. Don’t be precious. Write dialogues. Cultivate the attitude that every word you write need not end up in the book. Some things are just exercises, part of the process of discovery. Be willing to do more work than will show. The end result is all that matters. Be huge and generous and fearless.

5. Be an unstoppable force. Write with an imaginary machete strapped to your thigh. This is not wishy-washy, polite, drinking-tea-with-your-pinkie-sticking-out stuff. It’s who you want to be, your most powerful self. Write your books. Finish them, then make them better. Find the way. No one will make this dream come true for you but you.

Laini Taylor is a New York Times Best-Selling Author. Her book Days of Blood & Starlight (the follow-up to the equally outstanding Daughter of Smoke and Bone) is filled with dazzling writing, not to mention fantasy, suspense, and a page-turning story. You can find her on her blog here

Friday, November 9, 2012

Week 2 Pep Talk: Tom Leveen

Howdy!
 
Okay. It’s week two. The first flush of certainty of finishing this year’s NaNoWriMo has drained from your cramped little fingers, and you’re staring blankly at the wrong end of 50,000, wondering why you shouldn’t just give up and watch Big Bang Theory.
 
(Well, you should, because it’s hysterical, but I digress.)
 
I’ll give you two answers to this frequent NaNo problem: A How, and a Why.
 
Here’s How:
 
Check to see if you have actually presented an obstacle for your protagonist. If you haven’t, now is a dandy time to do so. Or maybe you presented an obstacle and she already solved it. Fine; throw in a new one. (I always suggest a ninja attack.)
 
If you’ve “gone up” on your story – like an actor “goes up” on a line, forgetting absolutely everything and not having a clue what happens next – there’s a good chance you’ve not complicated the life of your protagonist enough. There’s still plenty of time to do it, so get busy. Make this character’s life a living heck.
 
But remember, it’s not just about throwing tragedy at him; that would be literary fiction (BAZINGA!). No, what you what are problems he can and does attempt to overcome. The cat dying is not a plot complication, unless the protagonist needs to get said-dead-cat to N.O.R.A.D. because her ribs are inscribed with secret codes that can prevent the unintentional launch of multiple nuclear warheads. Now see, that’s a complication. (Feel free to use it. With ninjas.)
 
If you’re still stuck, try watching one or two of your favorite action movies. Spielberg and Lucas are particularly good for this (whether or not the movies always land well or not). Look at how the protagonist has a goal, keeps going after it, and how everything keeps getting in his way. That’s the backbone of your story. Without that, it really is just words on a page, and may really just be literary. (In my humble, commercial opinion.)
 
Can your story have too many problems? Only in revision, my friend. Only in revision. For now, give that character a goal and make her do everything in her power to reach it. Just make sure she fails every time, until around the last few pages.
 
Here’s Why:
 
If you someday want to publish fiction for a living, you’d better learn. That’s why.
 
All kidding aside, I cannot stress this enough, and won’t stop until every aspiring writer on earth hears it: Writing and publishing books is a business. Whether you shoot for Random House and six-figure advances or e-pubbing via Smashwords (again, perhaps for six figures!), do not doubt for one second that writing fiction is a job, and usually, a full-time job whether you have another one or not.
 
One of the greatest things about NaNo is it forces you to fight through these tough spots, wondering where your characters went, wondering if the plot makes any sense. NaNo teaches the first rule of professional fiction writing: You gotta write the dang book. Period. It may be a stinker – indeed, I’ll wager it is. It’s a first draft, that’s its point! But you have to have a finished manuscript before you can take the next steps. Use November to teach yourself how to do that if you haven’t yet. Worry not about quality; worry about getting a story out. Any story, doesn’t matter, just get it out.
 
Because the day may come (fingers crossed) that you’ll have this same problem with your second, third, or tenth published book. Might as well learn now how to deal with it.
 
Take care, and keep writing!
~ Tom
 
TOM LEVEEN is the author of four young adult novels: PARTY (2010), ZERO (2012), and MANICPIXIEDREAMGIRL (April 24, 2013) with Random House; and MONSTERS (Fall 2013) with Abrams/Amulet. He is a frequent school and group speaker and panelist, having appeared at Phoenix ComiCon, the Romance Writers of America, SCBWI, and many others. He will be teaching at next year’s Desert Nights, Rising Stars conference at ASU, at AZLA later this year, and this November at NCTE. Tom can be reached via his website at www.tomleveen.com for information on presenting to your class or group.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Week 1 Pep Talk: Lisa McMann

So you took the big step and decided to try NaNoWriMo. Maybe it’s your first time, maybe it’s your thirteenth. And it’s a big commitment—one you need a lot of motivation to complete. Like choosing to eat healthy, adopt a puppy, or quit smoking, motivation and commitment are keys to your success. And by choosing to do NaNoWriMo, you’ve made the first step.


How awesome is it that you’re not alone? You’re surrounded by others who are as motivated as you are! And you’re excited, right? All those ideas whirling around your head faster than you can get them down on paper. You can do this! You’re actually DOING THIS! Look at you go!

One of the hardest parts of writing a novel is finding uninterrupted time each day so you can actually get the words on the page while the excitement is still there. This is a time for you to be a little selfish. Lean on friends or family to cover some of the things you normally do. Say no to extra commitments and block off time on your calendar for writing. And cancel or postpone some of the usual commitments you’ve made this first week so you can write while your motivation is strong. If you get stuck, get your butt outside and take a walk. It’s a great way to stimulate your mind and work out the problems you might be running into. Just because you’re not typing constantly doesn’t mean you’re not writing the story in your mind.

The more you can get written this first week, the more invested you will become in your novel, and the easier it will be to continue into next week. Ride the high as long as you can, and don’t forget to enjoy this exhilaration – you’re doing something most people only dream of doing. Think big, write fast, and don’t worry about the mistakes right now. You will have plenty of time to fix them after November. You can do this! I know you can. And I hope you love every minute of it.

Lisa McMann is the New York Times bestselling author of the Wake trilogy (Wake, Fade and Gone), Dead to You, Cryer’s Cross, and the middle-grade dystopian fantasy series The Unwanteds. Watch for her new YA Visions series beginning with CRASH on January 8, 2013. Find Lisa on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

5 Things to Stop Doing (If You Really Want to Finish Writing You Novel)

This article originates from Writer's Digest and the original can be found here. Enjoy!

5 Things to Stop Doing (If You Really Want to Finish Writing You Novel)  
October 26, 2012 | Kevin Kaiser

Your novel isn’t going to write itself (I mean, if it were, it probably would have finished itself a long time ago!). Here are the five things you need to stop doing immediately if you want turn yourself into someone who stops asking questions about how to write a manuscript and starts bragging to friends about how you completed your manuscript.

1. Nix the excuses.
We get it, life is busy and writing is hard work sometimes. Still, excuses never changed anything, never inspired anybody, and never made any dreams a reality. Goals like writing a novel don’t die on their own. We suffocate them with our excuses.

2. Stop trying.
Your novel needs less “trying” and more “doing” from you. Like Yoda said, Do or do not. There is no try.

3. Stop the Inner Critic’s crazy rants.
Shut it down. Duct tape its mouth. Stand on its neck. Whatever you do, don’t let the Inner Critic make you doubt yourself. There’s no reason to. This is open range and there are no rules, no right and wrong. You can do Whatever. You. Want.

4. Don’t overdose on caffeine.
Seriously. I’m sorry, but it has to be said. Call it tough love if you want, but more writers go stark raving mad in espresso-fueled rages than any other artists (with the exception of polka musicians, for obvious reasons).

Trust me on this. You don’t want your neighbors finding you crawling through their pet door at 3am in search of more coffee because you ran out at your house two hours earlier. Not that that’s happened to me. I’ve just heard stories.

5. Stop thinking it should be easier.
That’s like hoping gravity will get less gravity … er … ish. Less gravity like. OK, poor choice of words. You know what I mean. Bottom line: writing is what it is. Sometimes it’s easier than at other times. Expect it to be work and you’ll be thrilled when it doesn’t feel that way.

Guest column by Kevin Kaiser, who is the author of @WriMo: A 30-Day Survival Guide for Writers, the profits of which go to support the future of NaNoWriMo. He blogs about how to write for a living without losing your soul. Follow @KevinSKaiser on Twitter.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Nano Mascot!

Thanks to the wonderful and talented Gillian (you can find her as "Koneku" here on the Nano website), we have a mascot this year! Check out her crocheted ninja plot bunnies - aren't they awesome?!



I'll be giving two of them away as special prizes this year - if you want one, be sure to watch for hints just when on our Twitter feed @evalwriters!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Seven-Point Story Structure

At the Q&A Panel I mentioned the Seven-Point Story Structure by Dan Wells. Below are the seven points (aka my notes from the Writing Excuses Podcast), as well as a link to the podcast and the five-part video for the structure.

  • Hook: Set up who the characters are and what their starting state is; this should be the opposite state of the Resolution.
  • Plot Turn I: The call to adventure; kicks off the story.
  • Pinch I: Put pressure on the characters; exert pressure to force action.
  • Midpoint: The characters move from reaction to action; the characters are sick of running and make a plan.
  • Pinch II: Really put the pressure on the characters; make the situation as dire as possible.
  • Plot Turn II: Where the characters get the last piece of info they need to save the day.
  • Resolution: The characters go and do, resolving the story (either with a win or loss).

These won't be the only key points in your story, but it's a start to help you get down your major plot points.

You can find the 19-minute Writing Excuses Podcast here, and below is the first of the five-part videos on YouTube. Enjoy and happy plotting!


Friday, October 12, 2012

Writing the Male Point of View

I rediscovered this article today (the original is from Writer's Digest and can be found here). These are some great tips for females struggling to write realistic male characters (and it wouldn't hurt you males to read it either. ;) Enjoy!

Writing the Male Point of View by Lynn Rush (September 13, 2011)

I’ve got a release coming out in September called Wasteland. It’s written in first person, male point of view.
You might be thinking, But you’re a chick, how can you write male point of view? I guess we’ll find out if you think I can write the male point of view effectively after my book releases, won’t we? ☺

But seriously, I didn’t go into it blindly. The key is research. That can come from daily living, reading, internet, people watching, etc. For me, it came from all of those and more.

I have a Master’s Degree in mental health therapy, and while I’m no longer using it in a clinical setting, what I learned through six years of school comes in handy when writing characters. I’ve taken classes on how to understand men—specifically marital classes, too. I love the concept of men looking through blue glasses whereas girls look through pink glasses. (Love and Respect)

But how do you write that? Here are a few things I kept in mind while writing Wasteland:

– I’ve read stats that women say 20,000 words per day compared to men speaking only 7,000 per day. Just because they’re not talking out loud, doesn’t mean things are silent inside. So, there’s a bit more introspection with male leads. Though, you need to make sure it comes in short bursts, but that’s a whole ‘nother post.

– Men are more sight driven. Yep, what they see sticks in their minds. So, when writing a male POV, you’re going to be seeing a lot more. Come on, though, there are still feelings and thoughts going on, too, but most are stimulated by the sight of something.

– Details are not a male’s best friend. For the most part, men are not detail oriented. They tend to think big picture. That’s important to keep in mind when writing a male character. They aren’t going to detail how many inches above the girl’s knees her skirt is or what brand it is, only that he sees miles of sexy, long legs. It can help create some interesting situations, right?

– If you’re a female reading this, has there ever been a time when you were sharing a heartache or hardship with the male in your life, and he just wanted to fix it when all you wanted was a hug and to be told how special you are? Instead he started giving suggestions on how to remedy the situation … Did that just bug you to no end? Well, that’s part of how men tick. They’re more logically driven. Want to fix things.

– Then there’s the whole sex thing—You know I had to bring it up since I write romance novels, right? *grin* Men connect more with physical touch whereas woman connect better emotionally. That opens the door to a plethora of interesting situations throughout a story.

I could go on, but those are a few things to keep in mind when writing a male character. 

What suggestions do you have that might help write a stronger, more accurate male character?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

5 Writing Tips from Chelsea Cain

This article was just so good I had to share it with all of you! The original can be found here on Publisher's Weekly, and you can find the amazing (and colorful) bestselling author Chelsea Cain here.

5 Writing Tips from Chelsea Cain

Writing tips are like mini skirts. Sometimes they fit perfectly, sometimes they make you cry, and sometimes you can reuse the material and sew yourself a pillow or something.  Maybe a few of these will work for you. I hope so. Personally I think you’d look very nice in a mini-skirt.

1. You won’t make a living writing until you learn to write when you don’t want to. A lot of writers wait for the muse to seize them. These writers don’t get much done. Here’s a secret: writing is not always fun. If it is, you’re doing it wrong. I love to write just about more than anything, but there are times I have to force myself to sit down and work. I want to play with my daughter, or watch a movie with my husband, or go outside on the nicest day of the year. But if writing is going to be your job, you have to treat it like a job. And that means that you don’t get to take the day off just because you’re “not feeling it.” This is what separates the writers who make it from the writers who don’t. Get your butt in your chair, and make yourself write. Do it every day. 

2. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Don’t be afraid of clich├ęs. Write the book you want to write. If you want to write about an alcoholic cop with an ex-wife and an insubordination problem, do it. If you want to write about a haunted hotel, or a woman who finds herself through a journey, or a teenage amateur sleuth – well, awesome. Your book will be different because you’re the one writing it.  

3. Always remember that you are the boss. Don’t let your characters tell you what to do.  They can be pushy. Some writers say that they create characters and then just sort of follow them around through the narrative. I think that these writers are out of their minds. I tried this for years. I would create characters based loosely on people that I knew, and before long that character would be talking back to me. “I’m not sure Stacey would do that,” Stacey would say, when I tried to convince her to go into the scary basement alone. And she’d be right. Stacey wouldn’t do that. No one would, really. I didn’t bloom as a fiction writer until I figured out how to make up characters out of whole cloth (not based on anyone), and I stopped worrying about what they’d do in real life. My characters have to do what I tell them. And if I need Stacey to go into that scary basement, then that’s what she’s going to do.

4. Write the stuff that makes you feel nervous. Sometimes, when you’re writing, you will get to a scene that makes you feel profoundly uncomfortable.  You will think you’ve gone too far. You will imagine your relatives reading this scene and your face will get hot and you will clear your throat a few times and you will be very, very tempted to delete that scene. Don’t do it. Finish writing it. Leave it in. Tell yourself that you can always cut it out later. Because I promise you – that scene -- it will be the best scene in the book. When writing feels dangerous, that’s when you know that you’re doing something right. 

5. Details are not created equally. Writing teachers go on and on about the importance of using details to flesh out a scene. But not all details are created equally. When you write thrillers like I do, and suddenly your main character is running for his life from a serial killer who is chasing him through the woods, slowing down the action with a bunch of descriptions seems counterintuitive. Why would the main character be noticing the pine needles on the ground when he has a killer on his heels? But I’ll tell you a secret, the more detail that I unpack about that woods, the night air, the sky, the sounds of his footsteps, the more tense that scene becomes. I read a study recently. Some professor wanted to look into the experience that time slows in life or death situations and he tied some graduate students to Bungee cords and pushed them off a ledge, and studied the results. His conclusion? In normal circumstances our brain culls details. In tense situations our mind stops culling – it notices everything – because you don’t know what detail is going to save your life. This is what creates the experience of time slowing—lots of details. The next time you’re writing a tension filled scene – maybe there’s a serial killer in it, maybe your character is asking someone out to prom  – remember to stop culling. Notice everything. The acne on her forehead. The buttons on her shirt. It all becomes important. It’s the ordinary moments that fly by. With those, the brain does cull details, so the details that your character does notice become all the more important and revealing. An object accrues more significance every time it’s mentioned. Notice the vase on the table once in a scene, and it’s a detail in the room. Notice the vase on the table three times and it means something to your character. It becomes a prop you can use. It starts to tell a story.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Paranormal vs. Supernatural

Q. What is the difference between the Paranormal and Supernatural genres?

A. Before Paranormal became the genre, Supernatural was the go-to genre name for out of the ordinary creatures and mysterious powers. While I personally feel the two should be separate, most consider them interchangeable. Below is the basic description for both Paranormal and Supernatural from Wikipedia, to give you a better idea of how they are different - and alike.


Paranormal is a general term that designates experiences that lie outside "the range of normal experience or scientific explanation," or that indicates phenomena understood to be outside of science's current ability to explain or measure. Paranormal phenomena are distinct from certain hypothetical entities, such as dark matter and dark energy, only insofar as paranormal phenomena are inconsistent with the world as already understood through empirical observation coupled with scientific methodology.

Thousands of stories relating to paranormal phenomena are found in popular culture, folklore, and the recollections of individual subjects. In contrast, the scientific community, as referenced in statements made by organizations such as the United States National Science Foundation, maintains that scientific evidence does not support a variety of beliefs that have been characterized as paranormal.

What I believe falls under Paranormal: vampires, werewolves, fairies, monsters, aliens, zombies, ghosts, spirits, parapsychology

The supernatural is that which is not subject to the laws of nature, or more figuratively, that which is said to exist above and beyond nature.

With neoplatonic and medieval scholastic origins, the metaphysical considerations can be difficult to approach as an exercise in philosophy or theology because any dependencies on its antithesis, the natural, will ultimately have to be inverted or rejected. In popular culture and fiction, the supernatural is whimsically associated with the paranormal and the occult, this differs from traditional concepts in some religions, such as Catholicism, where divine miracles are considered supernatural.

What I believe falls under Supernatural: anything "religious" - angels, demons, ghosts, spirits

Conclusion: they are pretty much interchangeable, but can be separated.

What do you think?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Ninja Hunt!

The East Valley Region's theme this year is Ninjas, and I need your help!

While you are out shopping around the East Valley, be on the lookout for anything ninja-esque (prizes, decorations, whathaveyou - but inexpensive stuff only, please). Spot something awesome? Send me an email (evalwriters@gmail.com) or Tweet me (@evalwriters) where and what it is (and if possible, a pic).

Also, if you spot any awesome ninja-esque how-to crafts or decorations online, send me the link!

More to come. Let's make this the best Nano yet!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Purpose and Salutations!

Greetings, writers!

During the five short years the NaNoWriMo East Valley Region has been serving local writers, I've had quite a few of my Wrimos email me with questions about writing, the NaNoWriMo website, whathaveyou. I love answering them, but I've always thought: Wouldn't it be great if everyone could benefit from this question as well?

So I started this blog! Got a writing or Nanowrimo question? Email it to evalwriters[at]gmail[dot]com, Subject: Burning Question. No question too simple or silly! I'll post some of the questions and my answers right here on the blog, so everyone can learn from them. And who knows - your question may be answered by a professional local author!

I also have plans for special NaNoWriMo posts during November, and maybe even a contest or two (especially if we get a lot of Followers)!

So what are you waiting for? Follow us right now. And send us your burning questions!

Keep on writing!
Skye