Posts from November, 2013

Taking Risks, Telling the Story

riskWhat does it mean to take more risks with your writing?

Do you ever feel that need to branch out, dive deep, and search the inner recesses of your psyche…?  To want to create stories that have purpose, writing that has meaning, ideas that comb the murky depths and make readers gasp in horror, awe, delight, and disbelief? I don’t know about you, but I want readers to think, “how could she write something like that?” while being compelled to turn the next page.

We’ve all read books like that. Those are the stories that we read and wonder how an author could put those words on the page without crumbling into a million pieces, or without falling prey to the dark void. The plot twists are unimaginable, the villains are truly evil, and the situations, setting, and action are all reflective of a realistic, very human, very harsh, very scrutinous look at the world.

But how does a person revert to that darker, riskier way of looking at the world? How can an author make conflict real, how can they make their villains real, without it?

I found an article about risk-taking in writing by Judy Reeve, posted on her website, and I encourage you to head over there and read the whole thing (along with plenty more useful articles on the writing process!)—but for now, here are a few paragraphs that really spoke to this concept:

“If you’re not willing to take risks, chances are your writing will be bland, shallow and boring. Even to yourself.

So, what does it mean, taking risks in your writing?

This is where you move out of safe, familiar territory, into something that feels a little dangerous. Risk-taking differs from individual to individual, so it’s difficult to say exactly what “taking risks” means. One writer’s risk is another’s walk in the woods. And another writer’s walk in the woods feels damned risky to a third.

Following are some of the ways it might feel when you are taking risks in your writing: Maybe your hands tremble and your handwriting gets a little out of control. Maybe while you’re writing, your breathing becomes shallow. Or you stop breathing completely. Sometimes you can tell when you’re taking risks because this is where the censor will step in: “Hey, you can’t write that.” Or the critic: “That’s certainly not a nice thing to write.” Or the editor: “You might want to be a little less specific there, maybe use words that aren’t quite so… well, graphic.” Hearing these voices can almost guarantee you’re working in risky territory.

You may stop writing what you’re working on, or it may deviate off into some safer territory, meaningless details or worse, generalities. You may feel restless and want something – a cup of coffee, a cigarette (and you don’t even smoke), something to eat, anything to alter the direction of the writing and the way you feel.

Taking risks means telling the truth, whatever your truth is.”

risk2

Point to Consider: How do you take risks in your daily writing? How do you find the strength to “tell the truth”, and how does it make you feel during the process?

(A version of this blog post first appeared on Literary Coldcuts on Toasty Buns in June 2009.)

IMAX-ing Your Story

imaxRemember the last time you saw a movie in IMAX? What was your reason for choosing to go out of your way to see it on the screen in, say, Hamilton or Kitchener instead of the theatre in town?

I’m betting: BIG screen = EXCELLENT picture quality = BEST way to watch action scenes (Marvel’s Avengers, anyone?).

On a screen like that, you see the big picture even better than on a typical theatre screen. But at the same time, a giant screen allows you to see the details better than you otherwise could. You can notice the little things, the smaller touches the filmmaker inserted to make the story that much more realistic and immersive for the viewer.

I think we need to look at our manuscripts in a similar way, particularly during the editing process—a stage which you may come to this December or January.

It’s very important to be able to see the big picture as clearly as possible: Theme, Tone, Voice, Overarching Character and Plot Development. Those things must pervade the entire story and jump out at the reader just like an amazing explosion on a Big Screen.

But at the same time, a Big Picture perspective on our manuscript also allows us to add those little touches that make the story even more exciting for the reader… details in the setting, the clothing, accurate & plausible action (ie. fight scenes or battle scenes in particular), correct description & technical elements of specialty interests (ie. how long a horse can actually gallop for, or the correct pay grade of a field  archaeologist).

Those touches make the story that much richer, that much more exciting and believable for the reader. Without them—and without a clear Big Picture to contain the details in—you might as well be writing a standard theatre screen story. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But I’m pretty sure you’d rather have it in IMAX. :)

classic-imax-documentaries

(A version of this post originally appeared on Literary Coldcuts on Toasty Buns in April 2011.)

It’s Time For… 10K Friday!

NaNo 2013 has been amazing… Wrimosaurs in our region have been smashing through personal records all over the place, and we’ve raised a record amount of donation cash for both the region and NaNo HQ, to help support the continuation of NaNoWriMo in 2014!

Naturally, the end of the month can sometimes be a bit sad — it’s hard to say goodbye! — so we’re going to end this month with a BANG!

10k Friday is a 24-hour virtual event, beginning at 12:01am, running until 11:59pm on Friday night. For more info on the why/how/what, read the thread in our forum here.

But to get you pumped for this upcoming writing challenge (in just a few hours!), here’s a brief overview of tomorrow’s schedule!

You might want to set a few alarms on your phone, because you’re not going to want to miss the Scheduled Word Wars… we have prizes! They’ll be distributed at Saturday’s write-in / at the TGIO / mailed out, so everyone is welcome to participate! Images of what’s up for grabs will be posted approximately 15m before the Word War begins, so you’ll learn what you’re playing for!

PRIZE RULES: One prize win per participant for event duration… if you win, you may choose to pass on receiving the prize and offer it to the next person, and remain eligible for an upcoming Word War prize. If no one chooses to accept the prize, it will go back in the “pot” and be added to the next Word War!

And of course, we’ll be running sprints throughout the day as Wrimos are available, so be sure to post on the forum thread and the Facebook group when you’re sitting down to write for a few minutes — someone might join you!

If you’re on Twitter, use the hashtag #10kFriday (and select “people you follow”) to connect with other Wrimosaurs throughout the day!

10K Friday Virtual Event Schedule

dino write12:01am: Scheduled Word War – 15m

7:30am: Scheduled Word War — 15m

8am: Twitter Prompt

9am: Scheduled Word War – 30m

10am: Scheduled Word War — 15m

11am: Twitter Prompt

12noon: Scheduled Word War – 15m (join us on your lunch break!)

2pm: Scheduled Word War – 30m

3pm: Check out a blog post on our website!

4pm: Twitter Prompt

5pm: Scheduled Word War – 30m

7pm: Twitter Prompt

8pm: Scheduled Word War – 15m

9pm: Check out a blog post on our website!

10pm: Scheduled Word War – 30m

11pm: Twitter Prompt

11:59pm: Congratulations! You made it!!! Post your day’s total word count in the forum!

writing compy

Have a Party with Your Bear Day!
This bear is happy to meet you.

(This bear is happy to meet you!)

Every day is a “something” day, but not many days are as important or under-recognized as International “Have a Party with Your Bear” Day.

Oftentimes, bears get a bad rap. They’re considered “dangerous” and “wild,” and humans tend to be warned to lock up their food overnight when camping, lest a hungry bear make its way into camp looking for a midnight snack.

Well, tomorrow at Coffee Culture, we want to celebrate our bears… have a party with them, if you will. (And if you won’t, well… I don’t want to be the one to tell your bear that you don’t care about it, is all I’m sayin’…!)

All Wrimos are encouraged to bring their bear to the write-in, using whatever interpretation of the theme you’d like. Perhaps it’s a bear shirt. A “teddy bear”, or variations on that theme. Maybe you cheer for the Chicago Bears and have a jersey. Or perhaps you’re best friends with a live bear, and until now, haven’t been sure just how to show your appreciation for his friendship.

(Also, don’t tell Wrimona. She has no idea, and we want to keep it that way, just in case… )

Come on out at 2pm tomorrow, and let’s PARTY (ie. write a lot) with our bears!

Bear can't wait for the write-in!

(This bear can't wait for the write-in!)

PSA: Please ensure all live bears are brushed before visiting Coffee Culture, lest other patrons become disturbed by shed bear fur in their drinks.

The War is On!

South-African-FlagAs you may already know (and if you don’t… welcome to NaNo! you may have stumbled across the wrong website…), we’re in the midst of a furious word war battle with Pretoria, South Africa.

Currently, their average Words per Wrimo is a little higher than ours, but the good news is… we’re in this for the long game! Let the Pretorians wear themselves out early. We’re here for the long haul, and we’ll keep plugging away. Right, my Wrimosaurs? (”Yes, ma’am!”) Good.

Now, here’s the less exciting news… if we lose… and that’s a big “if”, the way I see it… there is a price to pay.

Yes, they’ll be doing the same if they lose to us, but here’s the thing. We have two official languages. Just two. Which is more than a lot of countries can say, I know, but it’s still just two.

Compare that to the eleven official languages of South Africa, five of which are found in the South African national anthem, and… uh… heh. Yeah, that’s right, Five. That’s one more than I thought it had. AHHHH!!!!

That’s right. Whichever region loses the war, the other region will make a valiant attempt to “sing” the National Anthem of the winning region.

If you want to get a head start on not-learning the anthem (because, obviously, we’re going to win this thing), here’s a convenient YouTube clip:

South African National Anthem

All I can say is… get writing, Wrimos!!!