Friday, July 31, 2009

Smart Stuff

Jennifer Crusie always has smart things to say about writing. This week on her blog she has notes from a speech she gave about Turning Points at the Romance Writers of America Conference in Washington DC last week.

Crusie defines turning points as the "events in the action of the plot where something happens that turns the story around in a new direction, raising the stakes and creating a new, more difficult struggle for the protagonist and, in turn, for the antagonist."

Even if you don't use her structure to help build your plots or analyze the ones your working with, it's an interesting discussion of what keeps readers engaged in a story.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Who Do You Tell?

A writer acquaintance recently expressed dismay because she had told her husband about a bright, shiny new story idea, only to have him nod blankly, say "that's nice, dear," and move on to "what's for dinner?" The writer felt slighted and deflated, as if her great story had been rejected before it was even written. This story made me think about when we share our ideas and with whom. I am lucky to have a spouse who shares my love of fantasy, and particularly YA, and who is pretty easily sucked into my story ideas. But I still find that I have to be careful about when I share my story ideas because telling an idea before it has time to grow sometimes seems to stunt it. It's as if I've already let it out into the world and I no longer feel that burning urge to write it, whereas if I had kept mum I would have been desperate to get it down on the page. And telling a story idea before at least a scene or two are down on paper feels risky somehow, like telling someone that you are pregnant as soon as you get the test. So much can still go wrong! I almost feel superstitious about it. And yet, once those few scenes are down it can feel great to tell someone all about it, particularly other writers and critique group members who know when it is too early to critique, when it is time to just say "Sounds super. Go write."

So what about you? Who do you share your story ideas with? When? How much does their reaction matter?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Quote for the Day

"The rules are simple: start on dry land, finish on dry land."
--Mike Read, on swimming the English Channel

Okay, haven't set foot on the dry land on the other side of my novel yet, but sometimes think I can just make out the beach in the distance...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Buttefly

The Butterfly

(text by author unknown) taken from: boho mag, issue 4, summer 2009 p. 35

There was once a man who found a cocoon for a butterfly.
One day, a small opening appeared. The man sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body though the little hole.

Then, the butterfly seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and could go no farther. So the man decided to help the butterfly.

He took a pair of scissors and snipped the remaining bit of cocoon open.
It looked as if the butterfly was finally relieved of its struggle.

But something was wrong. The butterfly emerged with a swollen body and shriveled wings. The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time. However, that never happened.

For the of that butterfly’s life, it was never able to fly.

What the man thought he had done in kindness was actually a disruption of what helps the butterfly spread its wings and fly. For what happens in that very difficult stage of life; the struggle, the pressure and the pain, is actually what causes the butterfly to emerge from a simple little caterpillar into a gorgeous colorful winger freedom flyer.

Sometimes we like to bypass our own struggles, yet they are exactly what we need. Problems in life are not God-sent but they are God-used. The strength and knowledge that arises in adversity is what gives us wings.

For the only way for anyone to emerge into a butterfly is not cut short our time in the cocoon. Instead, recognize it’s exactly what we need to grow those glorious wings and start to fly.

I really believe that stories are formed in the same way, they run their own course, on their own schedule. You cannot force a story if it is not ready to be born. All you can do is keep writing and trying, it will come.