Sunday, November 27, 2011

Writing for the Win

WARNING: Philosophical and sociological musings follow. Enter at your own peril.

Recent events have me chewing thoughtfully on a Writer Life problem: When goals are reached, they quickly become standards. Standards become precendents. Precedents aren't exciting. So how do we keep the love alive?

Have you ever considered what you'll do once you've reached your writing goal? Like, seriously. Because I've got a feeling if we have our respective focuses in the wrong place, writing will become just another feather in our caps, rather than the crowns on a satisfying life.

To whit:

A few days ago I 'won' Nanowrimo. But the experience was fairly sad compared to last years.

2010 Aimee wins Nano: Does happy dance, texts writing besties, writes blog post, tweets ad nauseum, etc, etc, etc....

2011 Aimee wins Nano: Thinks "sweet", then does housework.

In fact, the moment was so underwhelming, I didn't even realize I was underwhelmed.

It took having coffee with a writing friend yesterday who asked how my Nano was going. I put my cup down, frowned at her and said "Oh, didn't I tell you? I won a few days ago."

No, I wasn't being facetious. I just wasn't that excited about it.

It got me thinking about other goals I've set and achieved more than once.

For example, earlier this year I set the goal to finish a manuscript I'd been working on by October 6th. And I did. And - don't get me wrong - it felt good. But that wasn't the first manuscript I'd finished. So, while it felt good, it also wasn't SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS material (unlike August 2009 when I finished a manuscript for the first time - when the entire town heard me celebrate).

This isn't snobbery. It's human nature.

The first time we reach a summit, it's a  momentous occasion. But the truth is, that's probably the hardest it's ever going to be to reach that particular goal. We gain skills, strategies and efficiency tips every time we do something. So next time it will be quicker and easier.

It also won't be quite as satisfying.

I started wondering about what would happen when (God willing) I finally nail down my first publishing contract.

I know I'm going to go ballistic that day. I don't care if it's $5,000 or $500,000 worth, the first time someone commits to purchasing my book for money I will have reached a goal I set when I was nine years old (true story). That's a very, very big deal.

And I know the second time it happens I'll be stoked. In fact, I'm sure the twentieth time it happens I'll be excited (YOU: "Getting a little ahead of yourself there, aren't you Aims?", ME: "Did I mention I've also got the songs and program for my funeral mapped out in my head?")

But this Nano win reaction has shown me something about my nature.

If I don't set a different kind of goal - one that moves with me as I achieve more - I'll get bored.

You see, a publishing contract is a great (and possibly unattainable) goal. But once that's done, where to? A second contract? Well, sure. And I guess I could aim to sell it for more, but that's a fairly endless pit of Nothing Good. I'm not doing this for the money. I'm doing it for passion.

So yesterday I started asking myself how to keep the passion alive.

And this is the answer I've come up with:

My goal, every time I write a book, should be to write it better than the one before.

See, money could come and go. Popularity could come and go. But I'll be the first one to say I've still got a long way to go to attain a writing product which is truly magical. That's okay. The only way to get there is to keep studying and learning and trying.

So, I guess, that's my point.

Writing goals are great. Tangible milestones and results are good motivators. But in the end, a good product is where the true satisfaction comes from. And the reason is, it makes me a better person. Stronger, wiser, and hopefully nicer. (NOTE: This is your certified carte-blanch to whack me over the head if I ever become a successful author and turn into a douche. Seriously. QUOTE THIS BACK TO ME).

I get a lot out of writing and one day I hope to add 'earnings' to that list. But until then, I'm seeing myself grow as a person, as a writer and as a human being through the process.

And that has to be the long-term goal. Because if I can finish a manuscript and look back to find I haven't learned about myself, my God, my world... what was the point?

Your Turn: What long-term writing goals have you set? What do you think you'll do once they're achieved?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Life is Good

Happy Thanksgiving! This year I'm thankful for God, for you, and for Flight of the Conchords and their total political incorrectness...


Monday, November 21, 2011

Lets Talk About Blogging - Subtitled: I Am Not the Exception (and Neither Are You)

There's a bunch of conversation bouncing around the superhighway right now about things writers shouldn't blog about. (If you haven't run across it, there's a good post here and another one here).

It got me thinking about ways we go about building our brands, making our marks, trying to get ourselves noticed. And how easy it can be to overlook our own flaws when we're blogging or using social media.

Not sure what I mean? Well, in my head, the conversation went something like this:

Voice #1: These Agents and Authors really know what they're talking about. I agree with gusto! Hear hear! Kudos! And all that jazz!

Voice #2: But it doesn't really solve the problem, does it?

Voice #1: Problem? What problem?! I don't do those things. I'm Awesomesauce.

Voice #2: [Rolls theoretical eyes] What about last year when you told everyone your manuscript was 'ready' and gave all the other writers a pep talk about waiting to submit?

Voice #1: Well... yes... it was a mistake. But at least I-

Voice #2: And what about that time earlier this year when you got all hot under the collar about self-publishing TWO MONTHS before the entire industry turned around and started paying attention to independent authors?

Voice #1: Misguided, maybe, but to be fair even the professionals were-

Voice #2: And what about the relationship you buried with an editor by blogging about expensive services at the same time a professional editor was reviewing your book for free?

Voice #1: Shhhh! I haven't told them about that!

Voice #2: [Stares meaningfully]

Voice #1: [Pouts] So what's your point?

Voice #2: My point is, it's easy to overlook your own mistakes because you see it from your point of view. What you meant as an analysis of the writing industry profit-machine could be taken as a rant. What you meant to be an insightful examination of the process of polishing, could be seen as the blind leading the blind, and so on.

Voice #1: So, I shouldn't blog about anything because it might be misconstrued?

Voice #2: That's not what I said.

Voice #1: Can you clarify then, so I can go back to being Awesomesauce?

Voice #2: [Facepalm]

If you didn't catch it, what I'm trying to say is: Sometimes I get it wrong. And sometimes I don't realize I got it wrong until it's too late. And sometimes I see something someone else wrote and think "Uh oh!" - while that person is merrily tapping away, unable to see that what they're saying is unwise.

We all do it because we're terribly biased about our own stuff - even when we're trying not to be.

So I guess I'm encouraging myself (and you) to put aside our pride and excuses, and admit to ourselves (and our alter-egos) that we might need to think twice about what we're putting out there.

The hard part isn't recognizing when something might be 'iffy'. It's not justifying it in your own head. Because when Voice #1 and Voice #2 are the only ones who get to see the conversation, it really isn't helping anyone.

Your Turn: Has there been a time you've blogged, tweeted / social-media'd something that came back to bite you? What did you learn that all of us could benefit from?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Rejection & Fame

When I decided to do a series on rejection and perserverance, I specifically asked the lovely Anne Riley to do a guest post. Not just because she's lovely and funny and clearly a talented writer. But because I discovered Anne's blog when she wrote this insightful and uniquely awkward post.

I've since become an avid follower. Anne is one of the few bloggers who can intrigue me not only with her writing journey (which has had many ups and downs already - check out her "Journey to Publication" links near the bottom on the right of her blog!), but also with her personal stories about her day to day life.

True to form, Anne's taken an interesting approach to the rejections theme. She's told me all about the rejection of famous authors and books.  I found it insightful (and encouraging) to read. I'm sure you will too:

Dear lovely readers of Aimee’s blog,

I tried to think of something I could tell you about rejection that you haven’t heard before. I wanted to be eloquent, funny, and maybe make you cry just a little. But to be honest? I’ve got nothing. Rejection sucks. Big time. And unfortunately, it’s gonna happen if you’re pursuing publication.

While I can’t find the words I want to say about that, I can show you some facts that might make you feel better. Some of these I gathered from the internet; others I’ve heard directly from the author. So pull up a chair and brace yourself, kids, ‘cause these stats are CRAZY.

William Golding’s LORD OF THE FLIES was rejected by 20 publishers. One publisher called the book “an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.”

Stephen King’s CARRIE was once rejected with this comment: “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.” (Tell that to the YA dystopian bestsellers!)

JK Rowling’s HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE was rejected by a dozen publishing houses, including some of the big ones like Penguin and HarperCollins. Bloomsbury only took it on because the CEO’s 8-year-old daughter begged her father to publish it.

John Grisham’s A TIME TO KILL was rejected by 16 agents and a dozen publishing houses before it was finally bought and printed.

Kiersten White, author of the NYT bestselling PARANORMALCY series, wasn’t able to sell the first book she went on submission with . . . at all.

One of Rudyard Kipling’s short stories was rejected with this comment by an editor: “I’m sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.”

Madeleine L’Engle’s A WRINKLE IN TIME was rejected by 26 publishers before going into print.

Margaret Mitchell’s GONE WITH THE WIND was rejected 38 times before being published.

Judy Blume has said that she received “nothing but rejections for two years.” In fact, here’s how the process went in her own words: “I would go to sleep at night feeling that I'd never be published. But I'd wake up in the morning convinced I would be. Each time I sent a story or book off to a publisher, I would sit down and begin something new. I was learning more with each effort. I was determined. Determination and hard work are as important as talent.”

Meg Cabot’s THE PRINCESS DIARIES was rejected by 17 publishers.

Beth Revis, author of the NYT bestseller ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, wrote ten books in ten years—none of which sold. ATU was her final attempt.

And finally, Kathryn Stockett, author of THE HELP, says that she stopped counting after 60 agent rejections.

Now. If THEY can do it, why can’t you?

Anne Riley is an author of young adult fiction disguised as a high school Spanish teacher. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama with her very attractive husband (some say he resembles Matt Damon) and her small, giggly daughter (otherwise known as "Baby Girl").

Her first book THE CLEARING is available in paperback here, on Kindle here and several other platforms linked from here.

Anne's Website:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Believe It: Rejections are a Measure of Your Success

When I talked to you guys about guest posting, I never imagined the response I'd get! Thanks to everyone who came forward (I've kept the list so those who didn't get a shot this time can drop in another time).

Today is the first guest post in my Rejections and Perserverance series. Her name's Margaret and she's got some interesting things to say about how that pile of query rejections in your drawer can be a gauge of your success as a writer. I think she's absolutely right. So take note!

Your Rejections Are a Measure of Your Success
By Margaret Telsch-Williams

Rejections come from everywhere: they arrive in the mailbox, they shoot into our inboxes when we aren’t looking and when we’re checking it every five minutes. They span contests and grants, book publishers and magazines. We’re writers. We get rejections.

By now we should be used to it, right? We should shrug these things off, tack them on a nail on the wall a la Stephen King, or shout to someone in the next room, “I got another one. I’m getting closer.”

But we don’t. Instead we feel depressed, sometimes we cry, or we may consider throwing in the writing towel. We read those words over and over which often include a variety of letting-you-down-easys: a pleasure reading your work, thanks for submitting, not for us at this time, came close, I regret to inform you, and unfortunately because of the volume of submissions, blah, blah, blah.

If you’re lucky some vastly attractive person is sitting nearby to rub your shoulders, bring you coffee or wine, and tell you, “It’s okay.” I used to let the rejection simmer inside of me for a day before I even mentioned it, and for what?

The problem is that we’re programmed to believe rejections of our work are somehow also rejections of ourselves, but this simply isn’t true. The “yes” or “no” we receive is a black and white reflection of our work, but the rejection itself carries the gray area of information for us. In this gray area, you have the ability to swim endlessly and believe it or not, rejections are a measure of your success.

Yeah, maybe it isn’t that story’s time or maybe that story isn’t what they want, but the rejection can lead you forward even when it seems like it’s jamming on the brakes. Rejections show you your place on the scale between amateur and genius. There are better writers out there than you and there are worse writers out there, and your rejections hopefully say you fall in the middle.

The middle, by the way, is filled with great company.

Although you may want to trash every rejection that comes your way, keep your rejections in the order they arrive. If there’s no date, add it. If there’s no title of the piece you sent to get the rejection, put it in. Make each rejection tell you as much as possible about the submission and store them in a folder either real or virtual in the order they came to you. Rejections are not, I repeat, are not absolute and permanent banishment into the writer dungeon. Don’t obsess about this folder!

Now, you dust that story/novel/query off, you give it a read through, fix errors, make changes, do a line edit, etc., and submit the piece somewhere else. Continue this process, over and over, and keep the rejections (and acceptances) coming.

Let a few months go by, maybe a year, as you work until you have a good stack going. Then look through them. There are different levels of rejections from dreaded pre-printed form letters, to decent form letters with small notes written on them, to amazing personalized rejections and rose scented rejections which encourage you to submit again.

These rejection levels are your measurements. Compare the dates of your rejections, the submissions you used, and over time you should be able to see a healthy trend which climbs the ladder. The longer you stay in the game, the more small notes and personalized rejections you should start to see which eventually lead to acceptance.

If you’re not getting anything but form letters time after time, then your rejections are telling you to work a little harder, revise more, change your cover letter, or research where you’re sending your work better to make sure you’re sending to the right places.

To make the rejection ruler work for you, you collect your rejections, you see where you stand, and you work harder. The more your rejections climb, the more successes you can expect in the future.

(FYI: If you're not interested in working harder, then you might as well step into another profession, like neurosurgery.)

Hard work is what writing is about. Rejection is what it's about. Your rejections are trying to tell you if you’re getting better or not, so you’d better listen to what they have to say.

Margaret is a freelance writer by day and a fiction writer by night. When she’snot writing home & garden or entertainment information, she’s murderingfictional people, tearing families apart, and casting spells. She has anundergraduate degree in taking the comma out, and a graduate degree in puttingthe comma back in.

You can find her at:


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hallelujah for a Voice of Reason!

I love Bob Mayer's blog because he's been on both sides of the publishing coin, and successful in both business models. He's got a unique perspective because he doesn't RANT about traditional publishing, merely analyzes what he thought he could do better. He started his own independent publisher and is doing very well. (VERY well, by all accounts).

But is he all up in his own nether-regions? No.

I wrote a post about this a while ago, but Bob's done it better because he's got a fuller history. And now he's made a call to arms for writes to stop slagging each other, regardless of which publishing model they're pursuing.

Read it. No matter which side of the coin you're on, his wisdom applies:

Bob Mayer's Voice of Reason (Warning: includes occasional use of *language* as examples).

Then come back here and tell me what you think because, frankly, isn't it better for us all to help each other, advise each other, raise points for consideration thoughtfully, than to just run each other into the proverbial?

Your Turn: Which side of the publishing coin are you aiming for, and why? (Let's not focus on what others are doing wrong, but on what you believe you're doing right, okay?)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Critical Plot Elements by Genre: Fantasy

As promised, I've finally had the chance to apply the critical plot elements structure to genre. Today I'll outline Fantasy. If you work in another genre and would like to see some ideas about that, let me know and I'll do a follow up post.

All the critical plot elements posts can be found as a list of links in order here. If you aren't familiar with them, it's worth a quick read-through before considering the genre applications.

So here we go!


Beginnings #1 - Writing the Rule Book (World Building) - occurs simultaneously with the following elements:

Nola is a Changeling. But she's poor in magic and heart. She's shunned by most of the other Changelings and rarely uses magic because she's embarrassed by how weak it is.

During the opening pages she's shown walking through a forest with tools at her belt that imply a medieval-type environment (little or no technology). The language she uses is also peppered with 'old school' words and phrasing.  Throughout the book, every building we see is made of stone, wood and thatch.

Nola tells the reader her magic is slow and small compared to most of her peers. She's forced to use her human form much more often than them, and do tasks manually, rather than changing form to suit whichever tasks she's doing. She's an outcast. But she finds solace in her unusually strong connection with the Guides - sometimes she can even hear them from her home!

When faced with the inciting incident, Nola reveals she can only change into an animal that is close by, which limits her options for obvious reasons and will become important later in the book.

When the inciting incident has passed, she spends some time considering who can help her (the other Changelings and any Guides who might be visiting), and who they will be working against (the Razors - a group of pure-human sorcerers and their spiritual animal advisors). Details of the ongoing battle between these two groups are often dropped in throughout the first fifty pages, but small details will be revealed later.

Beginnings #2 - The Inciting Incident

During her walk in the forest Nola is disturbed by the silence. As a changeling her hearing is very sharp. But she's having trouble hearing any animals at all - until the sound of horse-hooves ahead. Knowing that only humans and Razors ride horses and a Changeling is unlikely to become one for this reason, she locates an animal with some difficult and changes into the drowzy squirrel she has identified, hides in the underbrush.

A group of four Razor's ride past, clearly trying to stay out of sight and quietly discussing something that sounds like an attack on the Changeling commune. They discuss the effectiveness of the spell they used to put all the nearby animals to sleep and whether the Changelings will notice before it's too late.

Beginnings #3 - The Plot Mirror

Convinced that the Razors are about to kill everyone she cares about, Nola returns to her natural form (which is human in appearance) and uses what little magic she has to put them to sleep so she can run ahead and warn everyone.

But the Razors catch and block her magic, sending it back to her. They think she's dead, so ride on. Nola sinks into unconsciousness aware that she's just failed in saving everyone she cares about.

Beginnings #4 - End of the Beginning - The Decision to Fight

Nola wakes in the evening very frightened. She runs home and discovers her entire village destroyed. Her mother is dead and the Changeling she was betrothed to has disappeared. Only a few Changelings escaped the carnage and they are packing what little supplies they can find and heading for The Mountain. They tell Nola to leave or stay, they don't care. But they're going and taking their magic with them.

Nola is livid they have given up so easily. Using the little bit of magic she has, she binds herself to a vow to find the Razors who are responsible, defeat them and bring home the Changeling children they've abducted.

Middles #1 - Schematics

Nola gathers what provisions she can find and sets off after the Razors. During the walk she considers the situation, what she knows of the war between the Changelings and the Razors and what she will do about it:

She decides the Razors are probably trying to get to the Guides, whose magic far outstrips the Razor's. That means they'll have caught those young Changelings to torture them into teaching the Changeling magic. If a Razor demonstrate Changeling magic, they'll be accepted as a Changeling by the Guides. Then the Guides will share their secrets. The Changelings will lose all protection since the Razors will be able to identify a Changeling in animal form. 

She'll have to either save the young Changelings or reach the Guides and raise the alarm before they give up their secrets to the Razors by accident.

Soon she realizes she'll never catch them on foot and finds a young bird, just waking from the spell the Razors put on all the animals. She turns into a bird and flies until she locates the Razors.

Middles #2 - Raising the Stakes

Nola follows the Razors overhead for days, catching snippets of their conversation. She learns they have ten Changeling children tied up in the carts their horses are pulling, and they have arrangements to meet a Guide in the Great Valley.

One night Nola turns into a possum and perches in the tree over their camp. The Changeling children are brought out and tortured. One of them is killed. Nola realizes the Razors have brought so many because they know it will take several deaths to scare the others into sharing their magic.

Middles #3 - Catastrophe and the Missing Link

Nola turns into a mouse and sneaks onto one of the carts while the Razors are sleeping. She's going to eat through the children's bindings and lead them out of the camp.

But one of the children wakes while she's working on the bindings of another. He's delirious and paranoid and thinks Nola is a trick. He wakes the entire camp and throws a spell at Nola to force her back to her human appearance.

The Razors witness the spell. it's a breakthrough for them and the first piece of magic they've gleaned. They also find Nola with the children and bind her too. As an adult, she has the ability to call the Guides. They tell her they'll keep her alive to do that - unless she tries to free the children again. Then they'll kill her in front of the children. If she escapes, they will kill the children one by one until she returns.

With a Changeling's heart for the value of life, Nola will not do anything to risk the deaths of others. She complies.

Middles #4 - The Almost Lull

Nola spends several days talking to the Changeling children, keeping their spirits up, and considering their options. She devises a plan to delay actually calling the Guides and gives the children signals for the Guides when they do eventually appear, by teaching the children certain words which will alarm the Guides. This risk is that the Guides will help one of the Razors before she or the Children have the chance to get the message through to them.

Every evening the children are removed from the carts and Nola is taken to the campfire to call the Guides. Nola explains that it can take days to reach them, but she undertakes the 'ritual' every night. Secretly she's trying to send the Guides a message, but her magic is so weak, she's afraid they'll misunderstand and come to her to clarify her needs.

Every night she goes back to the cart and sometimes the children don't all return. Nola is sickened by the destruction. She determines that if she can't get the children away, she will at least find a way to minimise their suffering.

Endings #1 - Crisis

On the fifth night when the children are taken from the cart, Nola is worried the Razors will stop believing her delaying tactics. The one who's been torturing the kids threatens her. He is able to change now, so they don't need the children anymore. If Nola wants any of them alive, she'll connect with the Guides.

Nola tells the Razors there's a cleansing ritual she can do, which might help her successfully call the Guides. She's removed from the cart at the same time as the children and taken to the apocathary's tent to get the things she needs.

The apocathary is an old woman - simply human, not a Razor. She tells the Razors to leave Nola with her and guard the tent from the outside, that no man should witness a female cleansing ritual. The guards station themselves at the four sides of the tent.

Nola starts making up a complex combination of herbs and spiritual essences, and the old woman plays along, muttering about the uses of each and how powerful this magic must be. In truth, Nola is creating a tincture for the Children - something to numb their senses. She'll give it to them the next night, so that if things go wrong, they won't feel the pain or stress of the events.

But though she waits hours and hears a lot of noise and screaming, etc. The children are never returned to the cart. Nola isn't told what has happened, she doesn't know if they're dead, or just being kept from her.

Should she continue with her original plan? Or, if the children are dead, should she sacrifice herself to keep the rest of the Changelings and the Guides safe?

Nola is convinced the Razors have killed all the children. But if the children are dead, there is nothing to stop Nola from killing herself to save the Guides and thwart the Razors.

In the early morning hours, just as she's decided to go ahead with the new plan, one of the Razors pulls her out of the cart. The old apocathery is there, insisting that one of the herbs was old and bad. Nola's magic won't work if she relies on the ritual she did the previous evening. At first Nola is too depressed to take her seriously, but the old woman makes it clear to her that she's got a plan. So Nola plays along and returns to the tent with the guards.

Inside the apocathery's tent one of the children is huddled in a corner. The woman casually mentions the children have been spread around the camp to stop them from planning or working together to warn the Guides. Nola is very relieved and thanks the old woman. She gives the child enough of the tincture to send him to sleep, makes more with the 'good' herbs, then returns to her cart.

Endings #2 - Climax

The following evening, Nola is instructed this is her last chance to call the Guides. If she isn't successful, the children will be killed one by one until she is.  The children are gathered, each held at knifepoint by a guard.

Nola begins a 'dance' which takes her around the circle. She administers the tincture to each child, along with a word for each one - the word they're to use with the Guides if they have the chance.

Then Nola begins the actual magic to call the Guides. She tries to add a flavor to it - something to warn the Guides - but she can't be sure they'll understand. The connection is weak because of Nola's stress. The Guides answer her though and the entire camp hears their voices rise out of the fire "We come!"

Then the flames on the bonfire flare and a spiritual being leaps out of the flames, calling Nola's name.

Nola comes forward, trying to give the Guide an indication something is wrong. but it's odd that one of them has come alone, and so quickly.

She introduces herself and the Guide calls himself Baen. Baen greets Nola, then turns to the Razors. One of the Razors - the one who has been torturing the Children - steps forward and turns himself into dog. His magic is rough and Nola can see the holes in it - it's hard for the Razor to keep the form - but the Guide is delighted and tells the Razor he will be entered into the books.

He's about to give the Razor the spell to call the Guides when Nola realizes he hasn't spoken to the children, hasn't gone through any of the rituals. He isn't a real Guide. So what is he?

The Razors are entranced by the Guide, giddy that they're being given magic. They forget the children and Nola and gather around Baen. Nola creeps closer to the fire and sends a very tiny spell to the Guides, an alarm, asking for their help and to identify Baen.

The voices whisper back that they've heard her cry. Her magic is old, but strong. She's to gather the children away from the Razors.

Nola brings all the children together in a huddle - difficult because they're sedated - then watches Baen draw in the Razors.

At the last possible moment, one of the Razors gets suspicious and a fight ensues. The Guides haven't shown up yet, and the Razors are coming after Nola.

She turns into an eagle and strikes at their eyes. She turns into a hyena and bites their legs. She turns into a horse and kicks at them.

The children try to flee, but their legs are heavy because of the drugs and Nola watches as first one, then the other is captured. She can't save them all because they're spread too far, and Baen has been taken down by the Razors.

At the last minute, with three of the children about to be killed, she reverts to her human form, calls the Guides with an alarm that sounds across the land. There is a rumble, then animals burst into the camp, all attacking the Razors. Guides jump from the fire and defend the children.

Nola grabs the Razor that has been torturing the children, grasps his face and says "Take my magic, coward!" She turns into a cougar her fingers clawing down his cheeks as she changes. But he stabs her with a knife before she can finish him off and she loses consciousness.

Endings #3 - Ribbons & Bows (Resolution)

Nola wakes on a swaying bed. A Guide Female leans over her, ministering to her. The Guide explains that many of the children were lost, but more were saved - because of Nola's bravery and her magic. Nola insists that her magic is weak and she shoudl have been able to save more of them, but the Guide explains she's an old heart. She has been trying to use the new magic, when her's is an old tongue.

The Guide teaches Nola how to tap into her true strengths. She is assigned as the wise-woman for the new village the Guides are starting up, close the Great Valley. Nola's old home is deserted, but the other changelings will be found and told what happened.

When the new stories are written, Nola's name will become synonymous with bravery and strength.

That's it folks! Now, obviously that's a pretty rough plot, but you see the point. Each plot-point is simply applied to the world and characters you've created.

Your Turn: If you have any questions about the plot points, ask them in the comments. Or if there's another genre you'd like me to explore, let me know!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Suffering Nano Jitters? This Might Help

If you're staring at the calendar and chewing your fingernails to stubs, you aren't alone. But no one paints a better picture of the nanowrimo experience than my very talented writer friend who we'll just call "NH". She's done me the honor of providing a guest post to mark the occasion. This is her first foray into blogging, so please join me in telling her *Huzzah!*

A Nanowrimo Tale: ‘Tis Nearly Christmas
As I contemplate pushing the boat out into Lake Nanowrimo, I ponder... What have I learnt after my last attempt?

Initially I am filled with virginal-like expectation, nervous jitters. What will be brought forth?

I love this about Nano - picking which one, joyful inspiration will conquer all, whilst gleefully burying that little cautionary writer voice. She’s all dressed up like some prim Austen/Helen Keller type, sagely advising me in a shrill tone, “Does this have enough backbone?” (I have a drawer full of invertebrate type stories, all limply reminiscing about their flash in the pan moment.)

I brood as if I were a Victorian medium, a seance type extraction, speaking to characters long dead, channeled straight into my head. “Come into the light dear friends...speak” Hmmm....who should I choose.

And what, in fact, did I learn last time?
Perhaps you know? Perhaps you have already discovered the little X-marks-the-spot of writers’ treasure? Kudos to you.
It took me a while (approximately 63,000 words and a week into Dec 2010) to discover...wait for it....
OUTLINE. (Cough).

Don’t underestimate the outline - especially when you don't have one. It’s like having all the tinsel shine and no line to thread it. (Just so you smug word profilers out there can comprehend what it’s like for us pansters).

I got burned last Nano. Bad.

And what did I learn?

The slouchy Grandma inside me perks up like a drunken meerkat, scanning for the elusive cup of wisdom. She sits up, brushing words off her ample chest like cookie crumbs, asking “What did you say, Dear?”

She’s heard the Ghost of Nano Past. (Cue jangle of clunky chains). He comes to whisper in my ear, “Outline…Outline. Cough. Cough”

“Oh ____”


You see, for me, Nano went really well – for the first two thirds of my book. Then, rather quickly - after the 50,000 assured certificate point - I got cut off at the knees by The Ghost of Nano Present. (She’s prim and stuffy, pencil stuck behind the ear and wielding her letter opener like Excalibur).

“Thats not a very satisfactory ending for the reader,” she smirks, tutting and scribbling “No outline. Fail...Fail.

My fingers poised at the keyboard, I slump in shame. She’s right. I got completely lost on the way. 

I look around for the Ghost of Nano Future. She’ll be blindingly glorious, I expect - all futurist, minimalistic, in a savvy, Margaret Atwood manner. Surely the mere crumbs of her wordsmith editing would gather up into a Booker Prize!

She will wave her thesaurus  and bibbitey-bobbity-boo,  Nano 2011 will be my coup de gras.

So, I’ll just get comfy on my couch while I await her......