IWSG: Time to be encouraging!

October 2, 2014

Well, it’s time for Insecure Writer’s Support Group, (or a day late, hopefully not a dollar short,) and I’m not feeling terribly insecure, even though I procrastinated a little yesterday. So I think it’s time to be encouraging and share some things that might help my insecure writer friends.

First off is this really great comics site my friend Danie shared with me the other day, full of illustrated inspirational messages, lots of them from writers and other creative people: Zen Pencils! At the moment, the home-page comic is based on a commencement speech by Shonda Rhimes, (creator of Grey’s Anatomy etcetera,) and the list of ‘Related Comics’ under it includes a great interpretation of Ira Glass’ advice for beginners, as well as great words of wisdom from Chris Hadfield and Bill Watterson. I haven’t explored the full catalog yet, but I want to.

What else do I have that might be encouraging to an insecure writer? Nanowrimo is on its way, and I think that’s very encouraging. The homepage forums will probably be full of 2014 awesomeness in the next few days. And I think writing classes are very cool. I’m planning on starting Holly Lisle’s How to Write Flash Fiction that Doesn’t Suck course, which Elizabeth Twist has said lots of good things about. And one of the reasons I didn’t get this post up yesterday was the welcome shindig for the Sufficiently Advanced Magic Class, which is going to be a lot of fun! It’s a great group, I can tell already.

So… I dunno, if you’re still insecure, post in the comments, and I’ll see if I can come up with something encouraging just for you!

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L is for Lair of the Lawyer

April 14, 2014

For the A to Z challenge this year, I’m sharing science fiction and fantasy story ideas…

I don’t have much more than this phrase for L: “Lair of the Lawyer.” A lot of the ideas that I’ve posted so far I made up with some free association and looking at words that were on my Holly Lisle ‘Sweet Spot Map’. For L, I saw the lair and ‘lawyered’ (as in the HIMYM catchphrase,) but just thought of the phrase ‘Lair of the Lawyer.’ And then, in my A-Z ideas file, I added “I’m not sure what I can make from this.”

So, where is the lair of the lawyer? Some lonely cave, or a fancy condo on the top floor of a skyscraper? Is he a scoundrel willing to twist the law for the sake of whoever will pay his bills, or a misunderstood man with a good heart?

If you’re interested enough to pick this up and write your own version, feel free; ideas are cheap. And let me know! I’ll be keeping the notions vague enough that lots of different stories might be written from them.

Thanks for visiting!


NaNoEdMo Eve (again?)

February 28, 2014

Well, it’s the last day of February, so tomorrow will be March 1st, and NaNoEdMo is starting all over again. My approach to revision and editing has changed a lot in the last year, (mostly on account of Odyssey,) but I’m still looking forward to getting 50 hours worth of editing in over the month.

So far, my revision possibilities list is fairly brief:

  • The Angel’s Charlie. I started working on the Holly Lisle HTRYN program with this manuscript last March, and then never really got back to it. It’ll be nice to get back to that.
  • “Gotta have that look.” Hopefully I can get the revision of this to a place where I’m happy enough with it to submit it to Team Ambitious by mid-month. (It’ll need to be good, since they all saw a draft back in the summer.) Then maybe I can submit it in the spring, get it working for my Race Score.
  • Expand “Orpheus and the Cameraman” for the Abyss anthology. Since the anthology call is for novellas of at least 10k, and my current draft is just over four thousand words, (from a first draft of 2k,) that’ll be a lot of expansion and new words, but I think the premise has enough to support that, and it’ll be nice to get to write some new scenes while still technically editing for March.

I just finished the last of my modest goals for Feburary, dreaming up some story ideas that I’ll be tossing out when the A to Z challenge starts in April! Of course, I still have to figure out some of the trickiest letters in the alphabet, but there’s time for that.


A Holly Lisle giveaway announcement

July 30, 2013

Okay, big news today! Holly Lisle is unveiling the new version of her “How to Revise your Novel” course with a big giveaway. Everybody who enters gets a copy of a free new lesson, “101 Worst Things That Go Wrong in First Draft.”

I’ve learned so much from “How to Revise your Novel”, and I’d recommend it to anybody who has a broken first draft and isn’t really sure how to fix it… especially those of us who’ve survived Nanowrimo and then think “Well, now what?”

And there are lots of other great prizes in the giveaway…

  • ONE grand prize winner will receive entrance, free of charge, to all three of Holly’s major courses: How To Think Sideways, How to Revise Your Novel, and How To Write a Series. (Winner may not be a current member of any of those courses.)
  • THREE winners will receive entrance, free of charge, to How To Revise Your Novel. (Winner may not be a current member of HTRYN.)
  • FIVE winners will receive, free of charge, a bundle containing every single ebook in Holly’s store, fiction and nonfiction both (courses not included).
  • FIVE winners will receive, free of charge, a 2-course combo of How To Motivate Yourself and Writing Discipline.
  • TWENTY winners will receive a 25% off coupon, good for any single shopping cart purchase in Holly’s store (not valid for course memberships).

The contest is over at 11:30 a.m. EST on Monday, August 5, but don’t wait. Click here to sign up today.

DISCLOSURE: I may receive compensation for some of the recommendations I make on this site. But I’ve taken this course, and I stand by my recommendation for it.

P.S. If you sign up for one of Holly’s courses while you’re there AND you are one of the winners of that course, your payment will be refunded, so don’t worry about waiting until the prizes are announced before signing up for anything that interest you.


May round-up: Thinking Sideways

May 31, 2013

Well, May is almost over, and one of the things I’m pleased that I tackled, (along with getting ready for Odyssey!) is my ‘How to Think Sideways’ lessons. I’d only just started lesson 1 back in February, never really got back to it through EdMo and Camp Nanowrimo, but I did some gangbuster Thinking Sideways in May!

I’ve even gone through the lesson material… well, maybe not strictly sideways, but I went through and did it my own way, maybe just because I’m too dense to have figured out the right ‘sideways’ path from the start. 🙂 You see, in HTTS Ultra there’s a couple of different elements to each lesson. There’s the lesson itself, in ebook or PDF format, which comes with worksheets to go through the main exercises on. That’s all there was to the old ‘HTTS Direct’ (which has now been discontinued,) which I got for Christmas from my sister and her family.

Since I upgraded to the Ultra course, though, there’s a few other elements to each lesson, like DVD bonus material. First, there’s the walkthrough, which has videos, audio files, and cool graphics; each walkthrough step has a section where Holly shows us what she’s working on with a creative project or two, tying in the same concepts that are in the core lesson, and discussion questions for people who are doing the walkthrough at the same time, and a ‘hotseat’ interview with a student writer who’s volunteered to have Holly help them out with a writing challenge that they face, for the edumacation of us all.

There’s also the Quick Fixes, which are little audio files describing useful techniques and worksheets to use them with, and a few other Ultra video files.

So, I went through the core lessons up to lesson six, where I sortuv ran aground on the ‘Amazon River’ exercise; I understand the description of the technique, but I’m not really sure how to apply it to the stories I’ve been working on this month or anything else I’m doing at the moment. The workgroup forum for Lesson Six had a prominent sticky thread for ‘The Fireside chat’, which was actually part of the lesson through walkthrough, but it took me a lot of exploring in the Ultra classrooms before I found that, and I haven’t actually gotten to it yet. First, I went through all the bonus videos and the Quick Fixes up to #6. Then, I finally found the walkthrough, and I’m still partway through the walkthrough for lesson three. It’s great stuff; I love actually getting to see Holly and hear her voice, after just getting to know her as words on the page in ‘How to Revise your Novel’ and the core HTTS lessons.

I’m not sure how much I’m going to keep tackling HTTS during June. Probably it isn’t wise to put too much time and energy into these lessons while I’m getting ready for Odyssey… but I never said I was wise, did I? 😉 And definitely I’m going to be really busy learning other things about writing once I get to New Hampshire.

I’m definitely going to keep the techniques that I’ve learned from ‘How to Think Sideways’ in mind when it comes to Odyssey, though; especially Calling Down Lightning. That one could certainly come in handy for my Odyssey writing assignments!


Taking criticism is still tough…

May 24, 2013

The revised version of “Won’t somebody think of the Children”, the one that I spent nearly sixteen months slaving over, (with a few breaks to work on other projects,) is still working its way through the critters.org critique queue. Chapter 4 got sent out for critiques on Wednesday, and I’ve gotten one full critique back of the entire novel by a dedicated reader and I’m waiting on a few others.

The results certainly haven’t been universally encouraging. I really think that the story is much stronger than it was in the first draft, and I’ve gotten some encouraging validation from some readers, but there have also been a few responses that took some wind from my sails. One of the critiques I got from chapter four said that there was no conflict, nothing at stake; and offered three different rewriting techniques for improving a scene. I was disheartened when I first received that, and then twelve hours later, I got a short commenting on my colon use, with four paragraphs of praise and apologizing for not having more negative feedback. 😉

I guess I’m going to have to organize all my critiques, including the feedback from the dedicated readers who haven’t gotten back to me yet, and evaluate it all like a big pot of soup without paying too much attention to any one piece. And always bear in mind that the first revision I did was based off my own impressions of the book, and there are dozens of tools from the Holly Lisle revision course that I can still turn to and use to fix the problems that I never saw, once a critter has pointed out that they’re there.

It may be a tough job, but a writer’s gotta do it at some point!


Surprising news about my Muse!

May 15, 2013

Over the weekend, I started working on How to Think Sideways lesson three, which involves a really cool brainstorming exercise, “Calling down Lightning”, and talks a lot about getting to know your muse better. The brainstorming went really well; I came up with two good ideas over a few waking hours and one night of sleep on the weekend, and I think I’ve got another today that I’m going to start this evening for a short fiction contest.

But I was definitely startled by some of the things I learned about my muse. For one thing, I found out that it wants to be able to communicate by talking to me out loud. I’ve suggested a few ground rules on that so that I don’t blurt out a story idea in a situation where it would be awkward to explain what I was blathering on about, but in general I liked the concept.

I was wondering about a picture for my muse too, and at first I didn’t come up with anything but the old standby I’ve told you about before, and I got the sense that my muse wasn’t really wild about looking like Liz Parker, but didn’t suggest anything different over the weekend. At some point yesterday or the day before, I walked into the living room, noticed some of my stuffed animals sitting on the stereo, and idly remarked, “Maybe some of you guys  could be the face of my muse.”

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To which Ember, the golden owl with the smart black bow tie, shot back, (with my voice,) “Who says that isn’t what we’ve been all along?”

That really got me thinking. I know that a lot of people, writers or no, might think of having stuffed animals around, talking to them, and having them talk back, as something childish that should be stopped before you enter your teen years. My mother and I definitely wouldn’t agree with that sentiment. She has some beloved teddy bears of her own, and while I don’t know how much she talks to them while I’m not around, she usually doesn’t mind chatting with them if I do.

We even have two small stuffed bears who have become a package deal; Almond was mine and Praline Mom’s, but now they shuffle back and forth between our homes, seldom splitting up. They look fairly similar, maybe six inches long or so with brownish coats, but lying on their bellies in a sortuv polar-bear-like pose. And there have been a few moments when I wonder if Almond and Praline are ship-teasing us, dropping hints that their relationship is a teddy bear romance and not just a close friendship, but never admitting anything straight out. 🙂

I never really thought of stuffed animals in terms of my muse or my inspiration before, but considering the fact that my muse wanted to speak to me out loud, and that since I was little I’ve been speaking for teddy bears and other stuffed animals with my own voice, there’s probably a deep connection there. And big thanks to my parents, for never telling me that that spark of imagination, that suspension of disbelief, that can give a teddy bear or stuffed cat a personality of its own is something I have to give up in order to grow up. I’m sure that spending all this time with them has helped me keep my creative edge in ways that I never guessed.


How to Draw your SSM

May 10, 2013

No, not that SSM. After a few false starts, I’m finally making progress on my new Holly Lisle ‘How to Think Sideways’ lessons. I asked my family for this course for Christmas, and my sister’s side came through, paying for my first eight lessons! Thanks, sis.

I remember I took a stab at lesson one back in February sometime, downloading the worksheets before going off to Williams for a write-in with Elizabeth and Nixy, and I got through at least one exercise that day, the shadow room, which is a lot of fun. I think I did my first visual clustering exercise back in February, or maybe squeezed it into May when I was sick and tired of editing. But my attempts to get some Thinking Sideways done during April were completely squeezed out by Camp Nano. (Getting to 50k in a month is never as easy as I think it’ll be.)

But I’ve been going a little gangbusters on HTTS since May started, finishing lesson 1 in a few days, (where you’re introduced to four fearsome villains of the mind: Safe, Perfect, Victim, and Feel–doing battle with each in an introductory exercise.) On Sunday afternoon,  I touched based with Elizabeth about her own experiences with the first few lessons in the course, and read through lesson 2. The next day, I started the lesson 2 homework: a giant six-page cluster of free association that Holly calls a Sweet Spot Map, or SSM for short.

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My first SSM is almost complete now. There’s a starting ‘node’ on each of the pages: Things I love, things I fear, things that make me shiver, and so on. From these six starting places, you just let your brain free-wheel and draw your own things to connect, creating a big cluster of things, names, and concepts that make sense in your own inscrutable brain. It’s a lot of fun.

I’m not quite sure what I do with this map now. That’s in lesson 3. 🙂

 


Walking through the Despair of revision

March 19, 2013

Well, I’m on my way. This week, I have started my second Holly Lisle novel revision. This time, I’m editing my 2010 modern paranormal romance/adventure manuscript, “The Angel’s Charlie.” And I’m looking forward to the revision process… mostly. I know that it’ll take a lot of time and effort, but I’m excited at the prospect of turning a first draft that I love into a much better story.

Right now I’m nearly two thirds of the way through the first read-through of my current draft, filling out the worksheet that Holly named ‘Despair’. (Possibly with a bit of tongue in cheek.)

For me, the process has been a little harsh and grueling, and I can’t keep at it for that long without taking a break. As you read, you make notes on where your book falls into five different categories; places where the story falls apart, character elements that add to the story or detract from them, world detail that either works well or doesn’t, places where you catch yourself skimming as you read, and places where the story is really what you hoped it could be. And it’s fun to dream just a little, as I work, of the places my book could go if it turns out to be that good all the way through when it grows up. 🙂


I sold somebody on How To Think Sideways – and bought into it myself

March 15, 2013

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Cheerfully,
Holly

That’s the email that came through around 4 pm this afternoon. If you bought something from my links to the Holly Lisle sale from a few days ago… thanks so much! I hope you get a lot of benefit out of the course. And I’d love to hear from you in the comments (or privately at chriskelworth at gmail dot com if you’d prefer.)

Myself, I’d been wavering up until this morning, but I finally signed up to the How to Think Sideways ‘Bring your own lessons’ plan: This means that it doesn’t include the original 29 lessons, which you can buy a la carte on Holly’s side, or through Amazon or Nook stores through her HTTS Direct program. My sister and her family got me the first 8 HTTS Direct lessons for Christmas. But the ‘Ultra Bring your own lessons’ package includes all the extra stuff beyond the basic lesson handouts – permanent passes to the HTTS student forums, examples of the process from Holly’s own books, audio and video materials, and bonus lessons.

I hadn’t been sure if I needed that, but decided to dive on in. I also scored a bunch of HTTS Direct courses – from nine through twenty-four, which seemed like a good place to stop for today because lesson twenty-five was quick revision stuff, and as you know, I’ve already been through Holly’s big revision course. 😀

So I’ve got lots of course stuff to go through, when I find the time of course. What else? Oh, I’ve officially starting my victory lap for ‘How to Revise Your Novel’ – while “Children” is out with critiquers, I’ve begun going through lesson 1 with “The Angel’s Charlie”, a very different kind of book, but one that I have high hopes for revising.

Lots of cool Holly Lisle-ish stuff goin’ on.


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