Tag: Deep Point of View

Pardon My Language! (Writing Workshops, Part Deux)

Whew! August was a God-awful month, not only was it hotter than Hades over here in Northern VA, but I accidentally signed up for more writing workshops than I could shake my proverbial stick at, and it was a real bitch trying to keep up. Despite that, I learned a TON. So here’s the 411 (And for my previous workshop rundown, click here):

  • Social Networking for Unpublished and Published Authors with Beth Barany – Okay, Beth is awesome, Y’all. I’ve taken a handful of social networking/PR type workshops, and I thought they were all good. Some of them were a little high-level or a little jam-packed though and instead of actually doing any of the stuff suggested, I filed it away and vegged out in front of youtube instead. ūüėõ So Beth keeps the focus primarily on Twitter, Facebook, and Blogging (with a smattering of other stuff like LinkedIn), which of course are the biggies and thereby helps steer us all away from confusion. She helped with specific technical questions, and was infinitely patient with those of us who were all “Umm, where do I click to make that thing do the thing you said it’s supposed to do?”. The workshop had a vast array of experience levels and it seemed like everyone was able to learn something. I, for example, got over my fear of Twitter and discovered its many magical joys (like being able to follow Adam Lambert’s tweets). Ahem…Beth also does creativity coaching for writers and offers tons of services like one-on-one coaching, in-person workshops, and has tons of informative articles on her Writer’s Fun Zone blog (I love the name of her blog, btw – good medicine for those of us who get all angsty and up in our heads about writing). So Beth will probably be hearing from me again, when time and money is available, because she rocks. AND best of all? She’s generous with her time and super sweet! I recently took a workshop from a writer who I will not name, who I felt got a little…harsh with some of us in the workshop, and it made it hard for me to learn and enjoy, so I probably won’t go back to her again for help. I know some authors feel that they should help thicken us pre-pubbed writers’ skin, but I feel like I get enough of that stuff from the agents I query.
  • Public Relations with Marcia James – Apparently I had PR on the brain when I signed up for stuff last month. This was a great workshop, though I admit I was a little overwhelmed by all the material. As a pre-published author I felt like some of it was premature, talking about SWAG and book signings kind of went over my head, but I still felt that this workshop was very worthwhile. First of all, Marcia was great. Funny, nice, very responsive. She was even good enough to check out each participant’s web site and make individual suggestions. There were (I think) something like 16 lectures crammed into a 2 week period, her suggestion was to just print them all and save ’em for later, which is what I did because a few days in my head was spinning. The lectures were all by guest lecturers in the industry though, so I found that the various perspectives were helpful, and as part of the class Marcia offers a 300 page file of various PR options, everything from blogs to visit and where to get cheap business cards to where to get your book reviewed.
  • Prose And Contests: Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Writing Contests But Were Afraid To Ask by Amy Atwell – If you enter writing contests or have been thinking about it, this is a REALLY great course. I entered a couple this year, and I see there being a few really big pluses: you get your work critiqued, you get potential exposure with agents and editors, and potentially something cool to put on your resume. Unfortunately, I felt totally confused so after entering two I stopped, not wanting to waste my time and money on something I was pretty sure I was doing wrong. Some chapters just don’t give much in the way of guidelines, either. Amy’s course went into great detail about contests, everything from how to format your entry to interpreting your scores and all the stuff in-between. She’s teaching the course again next month and then not again until next year (click here for her workshop schedule) so strike while the iron’s hot!
  • Nuts and Bolts of Publishing with Misa Ramirez – Misa teaches a variety of workshops, this one covers the publishing industry in a kind of broad way, but she starts off asking what specific questions the participants had about the industry so she can tailor the material and that was nice. She also covers some helpful topics like web presence, author bios, and was nice enough to critique anyone’s bio who asked.
  • Deep POV with Jill Elizabeth Nelson – Personal opinion, improving your skills with deep POV is one of the best things you can do to make your writing stronger. Jill’s workshop format was old-school to me in a good way. She’d give an example, then homework exercises, then a critique, kind of like back in grade school. A lot of people learn really well with this style and I got a great deal out of the workshop. She also does a critique of a small passage of everyone’s own work at the end. My only issue (and this was ME, not Jill) was that I felt a teensy bit uncomfortable sending samples of my work, salty verbiage and all, to a Christian writer, and I kept feeling the need to apologize for all the bad language. She was extremely gracious about it though. I also took a deep POV workshop with Carrie Lofty and it was great too – different teaching styles, both very good.
  • The Book Factory with Kerri Nelson – This one is all about how to amp up your productivity and produce multiple novels a year. Kerri is a super mom and super writer, plus she does a bunch of other stuff like one-on-one critiquing, with three kids roughly the same age as my own three, so I figured I could learn a lot from her. I was right! I am still having a little trouble implementing her methods but I already feel that I am getting more done, and her teaching style is friendly and straightforward. According to her workshop schedule she’ll be teaching this one again in January. I took Kerri’s pitching workshop earlier this year and loved it as well (and her technique is effective, I got a full submission request from the pitch I developed in her workshop).

September is shaping up to be another busy month, more workshops I signed up for and then forgot about, including one on Erotic Novellas (my last MS was 100,000 words so I am VERY excited about this one) so stay tuned!!

Big Guys with Guns (deep point of view and yes, I DO have a staring problem)

Long before I started writing books. I was the type of person who liked to observe others (ever have someone turn and ask nastily in middle school if you have a starting problem?? that happened to me a LOT). I liked to catalog their features and movements, even to make guesses about their personalities. An offshoot of this during my days in the rave scene was when I enjoyed trying to determine what the DJ might be like in bed based on their track selections. *blush* Not that I got to find out…

Moving on…

So in one of my former lives I worked with a lot of guys who carried guns. There were some big, alpha, burly…yummy guys who wore suit jackets in all kinds of weather – probably to cover their shoulder holsters. And it lead me to wonder: they can’t all be the hard-asses they seem to be right, I’m betting they have their vulnerabilities, and their creamy, squishy centers just like the rest of us.

I actually named the hero of King of Darkness, Thad, after a former client. He had the whole alpha male thing down, but  there was a very heavy dose of the whole boyish and handsome thing going on. He was not, to me, your standard caveman stereotype by a long shot. He was flirtatious, intelligent, charming. And I knew that he knew his way around a semi-automatic handgun. Probably lots of kinds of guns. It was hot.

So the point in all of this, is that whole¬†observing/staring (all right, sometimes also eavesdropping – we can’t help ourselves when you talk that loud) is kind of like field research for us writers. Looking at a person and trying to determine what they are like on the inside is often how we flesh out our characters. When writing a character’s point of view, really getting into their heads is important. Even more important, is getting there realistically. Your average male character isn’t going to know the difference between Manolo’s and Louboutin’s, for example. If he does know these things, WHY does he know them?

For me it is a constantly evolving skill, the ability to show all facets of a character so that they are believable, and understandable. So you can say “Ah, he’s not just a jerk, he’s in pain because his wife left him to follow a hunky cowboy in the bull-riding circuit!”

The goal, ultimately, is to understand your characters so well that the reader can get as intimate and cozy with them as the writer. I LOVE when I am reading a novel and my heart breaks right along with the hero when he finds out that his best friend is dying.

The ability to write deep point of view like this is something I don’t think you can spend too much time honing. I’ve actually taken two workshops on deep POV, one by Carrie Lofty and I’m in the midst of one now by Jill Elizabeth Nelson. When I finished Carrie’s online workshop I sat down and overhauled my WIP in a MAJOR way, and I couldn’t believe the things she mentioned that I could do better. This was with a manuscript that I had already polished quite a bit and thought was pretty darn close to finished. I could have paid ten times what the course cost (thank God I didn’t have to), her little tips improved my writing that much. Carrie is also just flat-out awesome, smart, and super nice. She has a list of the online workshops she teaches, including the POV one, on her web site here.

Already I can see that Jill’s workshop will be just as helpful and effective, because there are SO many balls to juggle in your head with deep POV and Jill covers the material in a totally different way. We’re only a week in but already I am learning more new things. Jill doesn’t seem to have an online class listing on her web site but you can contact her to find out more.

To sum up all this rambling, I stare because for me it is a creativity exercise. I can take what I observe and use it later to help describe actions and motions that convey feeling even more effectively. And, because I just like to observe for the sake of my own curiosity. Sometimes I just zone out. And because, yes, I do have a staring problem. Sorry guys.

Writing Workshops – The Good, The Bad, and How to Ditch Dead Bodies

When I started on this journey to become a published romance writer, I shied away from writing workshops. I read a fantastic book on writing by Elizabeth Berg (Read it!), in which she suggested that while writing classes and workshops were helpful, they could also undermine one’s confidence. I figured, that made sense, and I have you know, “low self-esteem” like many of us do, so I avoided any and all writing workshops.

But then…

I was prowling around the RWA Web Site one day and checking out the vast array of resources that were available to help one’s writing career. One of said resources was a yahoo group devoted to announcing workshops. I figured what the hey, can’t hurt to check it out, right? Turns out, WRITERS are good at coming up with catchy names for the workshops they teach that make ’em sound super interesting to take!

…so I took one…and I liked it.

My “first time” was with mystery author Wendy Lyn Watson who has a fantastic series of novels in the works that manage, quite fantastically, to combine murder and ice cream. The first, I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM, is available now, and it’s freaking hilarious. There are some limitations that I have to acknowledge having as a writer, and the inability to use the word “gazongas” as effortlessly as she does in a sentence, is one of them. It makes me sad.

Wendy’s Workshop, on the other hand actually made me quite happy. It was called “Write Naked” and it turned out to be a really good first workshop to take because it was all about finding your voice as a writer. Too many times I will read a novel and LOVE the writers voice so much I find myself trying to channel their writing style. Problem is, it’s a little like finding that author’s home and trying to fit into their pants. In one way or another, it’s going to land you in some trouble.

I have taken the following other workshops thus far, all of them were well worth the time and money:
– Mauled Men, Drowned Dames and Crispy Critters; a Body Disposal Primer for Writers by Jeanne Adams. If you ever have to kill a character and want to make sure you do it right, this is the workshop for you!

– The Warrior Writer by Bob Mayer. This was one of my favorites because his approach is so unique, he is a former Green Beret and brings that experience into his teaching. He focuses more on strategy than art, which is very important. He also has an excellent book out called Who Dares Wins that is a worthwhile read.

– Effective use of POV by Carrie Lofty. This workshop, REALLY helped me to improve the overall quality of my writing. If you want to write deep point of view, this is a fantastic workshop. She really gets into the psychology of your characters and how to make sure they aren’t seeing/experiencing things that aren’t realistic. For example, men aren’t just women with penises. This was a HUGE mistake that I made many times over in my writing. I mean I knew that, but I didn’t KNOW it, you know?

– Loglines, Queries, and Synopsis by Elle James and Delilah Devlin. I found this workshop to be quite painful, but in a good way. None of us want (none of us who are sane, anyway) to write all the other stuff that is required to help us sell our books. They have a great formula that they have put together though, and this is a very worthwhile workshop.

– Pitch Perfect by Kerri Nelson. Kerri also does private online tutoring for creating pitches, synopsis, etc and I can say that her pitch method is DEFINITELY effective because I just got a request for a full manuscript after using the pitch I developed in her workshop!! My old pitch was just God awful, so I can’t thank Kerri enough.

– Marketing for Introverts by Tina Gallagher. As Bob Mayer points out, the writer personality type is the exact opposite of the promoter personality type, and to get your name out there, you’ve got to promote. Tina tells you exactly where to go and what to do!!

So these workshops are great, what’s BAD about them?? Now maybe it’s just me, but I found it EXTREMELY easy to get overwhelmed. I made the rookie mistake of signing up for every damn workshop that looked interesting and there are lots of ’em. Like I said before, writers are good at making their courses look interesting. Thing is, I have found that as a stay at home mom with two kids still in diapers, finding the time to write, maintain my blog and web site, etc. already is a struggle for me. Add in a couple of workshops (many of which have actual ASSIGNMENTS) is quite hard. Then there’s the fact that these workshops are offered by a variety of RWA subchapters, so when you’re tooling around on the interweb signing up work workshops willy-nilly, you can run into some problems. For example, I am signed up for four in August. FOUR.

Previously I determined that two is about all I can handle at a time. I just forgot which ones I had already signed up for.

Also, I was notified by a very polite treasurer with the Low Country RWA subchapter (they have a fantastic course offering btw) that I signed up for the same workshop twice. Twice. As in, I signed up for two workshops twice accidentally. Probably this won’t happen to you, unless you have been running on 4 hours of sleep a night like I do.

So don’t pull a ME and get in over your head with the workshops, be judicious in determining which ones are most important to you, and writing workshops are, in my view, a fabulous way to enhance your craft, your understanding of the industry, and of course your career.

Oh, and join the RWA, because they are your best bet for finding out about workshops, either via their yahoo distribution list or in the back of their Romance Writers Report.

Deep Point of View Homework

I’ve been taking some online writing workshops, for those of you who are looking to beef up your abilities or perhaps learn more about the business of writing I highly recommend this. In particular, if you ever have the chance to take a class on POV from the AWESOME Carrie Lofty, DO IT!! I’ve taken a lot of workshops and many have been helpful, but her perspective has caused me to look at my work in an entirely new way. She’s wicked smart, her books rock, and she makes a mean Apple Brown Betty (Okay, I have no clue about that last part, I just wanted to indulge in the momentary fantasy of being invited over for dessert by someone so awesome. I also dream nightly about making hamburger helper with JR Ward while we watch old episodes of Six Feet Under).

Anyhoo, the passage below is my crack at a young heroine who was a survivor of rape, first when she meets a man who will later be her love interest, and later when he declares his love for her:

——–

Nellie’s eyes flicked around the restaurant, hastily roving over the gaggle of dreadlocked hippies, past the geeks and nerdlingers, before lighting oh-so casually on the table of rugby players who sat across from her. Intensely dark eyes met hers from across the way, and hot embarrassment crept up the back of her neck as she watched his hand brush a stray lock of ebony hair from his forehead. Oh God, did he know she was looking? She couldn’t help but chance another peek moments later, and the loveliest mouth she had ever seen was curled into an amused smile and seemed to be aimed in her direction along with its partners in crime up above. Yikes.

Her friend Bryan nudged with her toe, a movement she barely registered because she was busy wondering if the guy’s skin had that same smooth chai latte color up close. “I think he’s checking you out,” her friend whispered. Nellie’s heart skittered in her chest, jack-rabbit style, but she shook her head and bent with renewed interest over her tofu scramble. “Nuh-uh, probably checking our waitress out.” she gestured vaguely behind herself. Ah, but yet…hunk ho! He has risen from his table and was striding towards them, that cute little smile still perched upon his face, all rippling biceps and casually slung Diesel jeans which seemed -if she were being honest with herself- to be heading right her way. “Hey there,” he said with a voice that was clear and husky all at the same time. A smoker maybe? She glanced up tentatively at those dark eyes, that now seemed to smolder and dance, and the lips parted to show off a set of pearly whites that would make any dentist proud. The thin cotton of his t-shirt strained and stretched under the movement of a marvelously sculpted bicep as he reached into his back pocket for…a bright orange flyer. “You like Weezer?”

Ah, he was a party promoter. The breath she didn’t realize she had been holding wheeshed out of Nellie in a long stream, taking some of her nervous energy with it. The frenetic pace of her heart slowed down. She indulged in one final glance at those crazy-sexy eyes before smiling and taking the flyer from his long fingers. Turned out his skin did look just as smooth up close.

——-

Rick poised on the brink of entering her. Hovering, he seemed to float effortlessly, but she could see a slight tremor in those biceps she loved so much. Hands that were calloused from his summer construction job caressed her face, dragging one dark, reassuring finger across her jaw in an almost reverent manner. He had been biting his nails again, she would have fo ask him why later.

He brought his face close, as if studying her, and she did the same, focusing carefully on his deep chocolate eyes. The little flecks of green and gold around his iris glittered in the dim lamplight, shining from what looked to be a little sheen of extra moisture. Nellie had never seen him so emotional. Running her hands up his arms and across his back, she absorbed the detail in each ripple of muscle, the straining stretch of his traps while he fought to stay poised on this precipice they were preparing to jump over.

“God, I love you,” he breathed raggedly, as he slid home, and Nellie’s heart hammered. Her entire body trembled like crazy. Her fingers gripped tight to his shoulders, she focused on the movement of his muscles as he made love to her, never letting her eyes leave his face. Memorizing the fall of dark hair that dipped over his nose, his perpetual five-o-clock shadow…those glittering eyes. Everything that made Rick, Rick. She thought inanely about that ¬†afternoon’s engineering lecture on aerostatic flutter, the vibrational force that caused the collapse of that huge bridge in the forties. Jesus, there was love and passion all over his face as he moved in and out of her, and all she could think about was hoping that she didn’t break apart just like that bridge.