Writing Craft Wednesday: Prepping for a Writer’s Conference

Okay, so today isn’t really Wednesday. Between all the family craziness and trying to get ready for my first national writer’s conference, I forgot to post until Friday this week.

 

Desperate for a quick, easy topic I thought I would share about preparing for a writer’s conference in a question and answer format. Feel free to skim to the question you have and ask any I didn’t answer in the comment section. I will respond as best I can and add to my answers after I get back.

 

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What do you do at a writer’s conference?

I attended the Kentucky Christian Writer’s Conference last year and have been registered for the American Christian Writer’s Conference since early spring. Both of these conferences offered writing workshops on publishing, writing craft, and managing life as a writer. There are also opportunities to meet with editors, agents, publishers, mentors, and other authors, both published and unpublished.

 

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The ACFW Conference also has a Genre Dinner night where you get to dress up as one of your characters or the general period in which you write. This is a picture of the dress I ordered. After the conference, I will write a post that shares my experiences – including me actually dressed up.

 

What do you wear to a conference?

A writer’s conference is a professional gathering of other writers and professionals in the industry. Business casual is expected. You will be doing a lot of sitting and walking, so you want something comfortable.

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For me, that means I am deciding between dress pants and my long skirts. I was going to wear some dresses, but all of them are knee length, and I am not exactly the most lady-like person when sitting. Makeup and jewelry are reserved for professional events like these for me.

 

Conference centers are notorious for subjecting a person to a wide range of temperatures. Dress in layers. I am bringing a couple cute sweaters and my blouses are all short sleeve.

 

What do you bring to a conference?

 

In general, you will want business cards, one-sheets, and a notebook and pen – or tablet/laptop if you prefer, but be aware outlets are limited and there are lots of people vying for them. Depending on what your goals are and who you are meeting, you may also need to bring chapter samples, book proposals, and/or synopses.

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Some odds and ends I would not have thought of are thank you cards, to give those professionals you have met with; folders that will hold a business card, your one-sheet, and chapter samples;  and a briefcase or professional bag instead of a backpack.

So those were my top three big questions and answers? What about you? Are there any questions you have about a writer’s conference? I will answer as best I can and then add to it after I get back in three weeks.

Writing Craft Wednesday:Writing in the Male POV – Part 2

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Thor

 

Two great swoon-worthy heroes, and who doesn’t love a swoon-worthy hero? As a writer, I strive to make my heroes the type that makes you swoon despite their flaws.

 

After learning the devastating truth, that my hero was a girly-man, I sought out to learn how to better craft the male POV in my writing. This sent me on a hunt through dozens of articles written by men, women, published authors, and editors to discover what makes a realistic male POV.

 

Last week I shared what I learned about male dialogue and conversations. Today I am wrapping up with bulleted lists on what I discovered about the male’s inner world.

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The Inner Male

  • Short snippets of inner monologue are best. One or two sentences is a good target.
  • A man always thinks of himself in positive terms, even when he botches things terribly. He will phrase his defeat in terms that make it clear that he was put in an impossible situation or that he was off his game. (Of course, you can still have characters who struggle with self-image, but even then they can still have times of thinking like this.)
  • A man would never describe himself as helpless. EVER. He may be down for a time while he waits for the next opportune moment, but he is not helpless.
  • When a man sets his mind on a target, everything else vanishes from thought until the mission is accomplished.
  • Men aren’t going to agonize over whether or not they should kiss the woman, they do it, then deal with the consequences afterward. Teenage guys might naturally agonize, though.
  • Men are very visual. The way a woman dresses creates visual images a man’s brain that can linger for days, months, or even years.
  • For every problem, there is a solution, but the consequences don’t matter as much as simply solving the issue to begin with. They may just try the direct, brute-force way first.
  • Emotion, except for anger, is usually kept under wraps or repressed altogether.
  • They think about responsibilities, deadlines, family, life, and sometimes there is literally nothing. (Is that seriously possible? I can’t even wrap my head around thinking nothing.)
  • Most guys like to imagine they don’t have feelings. They use the ‘push it deep down’ approach 90% of the time and the remaining 10% of the time, it is bottled up until it eventually bursts.
  • If you push a guy, he’ll get angry; if you break a guy, he’ll cry.
  • Guys understand a woman’s emotions; they just don’t know what to do about it.
  • Most guys only know eleven colors: red, blue, yellow, green, orange, purple, black, brown, gray, white, and pink.
  • Guys do NOT always think about sex. If they do, they are not the type of guy you want being your hero. Real men can and do think about other things.

 

What do you think? Are there any things that could be added to this list? Any things which should be removed? Leave your comments below and come back next week for my final installment with Male Behavior.

Writing Craft Wednesday: Writing in the Male POV – Part 1

 

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“So God created man in His own image;

He created him in the image of God;

He created them male and female.”

– Genesis 1:27

 

And boy did he create the differently. Ever heard of the boosolar-system-566537_640k Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus? I personally have never read the book, but I can relate to the feeling that men seem to be from a different planet. (And I am sure there are probably at least a few men who feel the same about women.)

 

One of my favorite things about reading and writing romantic fiction is the perspective of the story from both sexes. Reading it is easy. Writing it? Not so much.

 

In fact, in my first draft of my work in progress, my critique partners gently revealed to me that my hero was a whiny, wimpy, girly-man (my words, not theirs). I may be married to a man, but I certainly couldn’t write or think like a man. Boy, was I thankful to discover that early into my writing!

 

So I set my manuscript aside and decided to dive into the world of male point of view. I looked at suggested articles and sought more out on my own. What I discovered, from both the male and female writers of these articles, was a pattern.

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Men are pretty straightforward creatures with specific tendencies in their speech, inner thoughts, and behavior.

 

Over the next couple weeks, I will give a bulleted list of what I have learned. Keep in mind that these bullets are just patterns that I found. There are always exceptions.

 

Male Dialogue

  • They rarely end sentences with questions or say things like “I’m not sure.”
  • They do not use expressive adjectives (wonderful, gorgeous, etc. unless being sarcastic). Usually, “it’s okay” or “it looks good” are about what you get.
  • They are rarely heard saying “May I? Could I? Should I?”
  • They rarely use words like darling, honey, or sweetheart except during times of intimacy or moment of extreme stress.
  • Make dialogue to the point.

 

Male Conversation

  • Conversations are a means to relay information not build relationships.
  • Conversations are typically on a non-important topic until everything dies away
  • Guy conversations generally involve the least amount of words possible.
  • Generally, guys only have two or three things in common with other – sports, work, music, games, food. Gossip is off the table.
  • If two guys disagree on something, expect some flaring tensions and arguments.
  • Talking with girls varies. Some are very shy, some of full of confidence and swagger. Some try to be amicable and get a laugh out of you whether you’re guy or a girl.
  • If men are embarrassed they usually try to laugh it off.
  • If men are hurt they get quiet and try not to get mad.

 

Men…

  • Prefer direct action to talk.
  • Are problem solvers. They rarely listen without giving advice.
  • Rarely ask for advice.
  • Rarely admit to being wrong and their apologies tend to be gruff and unpolished.
  • Rarely respond to a direct command unless they are outranked.
  • Say what they think. They don’t use euphemisms.
  • Use very black-and-white talk – it is what it is; a spade is a spade.
  • Don’t do small talk.
  • Rarely punctuate speakers with agreeing noises.
  • Mostly repress emotions except anger.
  • Are a lot less likely to share their feelings. Feelings are private, which are none of your business.

 

 

What do you think? Is anything off base? Is there anything you would add? Share it in the comments below and then come back next week when I tackle male thought patterns and behaviors.

Writing Craft Wednesday: Said is a Zombie – The Art of Dialogue

Do you remember those days in school where your teacher made you come up with all these ridiculous synonyms for said? As a fifth grade teacher, I taught my students that said was a boring word. We even had a funeral for said.

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“Said is dead!” he cried.

“He is no more,”  she whispered.

 

We had a whole funeral script written, and we did this for all the overused words, like asked, went, good, and nice. Our classroom ceiling was littered with the tombstones of forbidden words.

 

When I first began writing my novels, I was the queen of synonyms. Never could you claim to find one of those dead words in my books! No way! No, sir! My characters screamed, interrogated, and cheered. I was proud of my vast use of dialogue tags.

 

Imagine my surprise and shock when I discovered this was the mark of an amateur. Let me tell you, friends, everything we have been taught and graded on in elementary through high school is wrong! (And it isn’t your teachers’ fault, they were taught this is correct, too!)

 

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Writing fiction- whether a short story, novella, or novel – is a completely different beast than the works we were forced to draft in school. The truth for authors is this. Dialogue tags should be kept to a minimum, and when they must be used, simple words like said and asked are best. Why? Because they create the least amount of author intrusion.

 

Therefore, it is time to resurrect said and asked from the dead. But beware! You want as few of these zombies as possible roaming through your stories.

 

Controlling Your New Zombie Friends  tux-161365_640

 

The more zombies you have in your story, the more danger you are in. So how do you keep their numbers to a minimum?

 

Use descriptive beats. You know? Those statements around the dialogue which let you know what the speaker is doing?

 

Examine the two examples below. Which one draws you in and helps you understand the characters emotions?

 

“I understand, Father. I will abide by your wishes,” Amelia said.

or

Amelia twisted the napkin in her lap as she stared at the tablecloth. “I understand, Father. I will abide by your wishes.”

 

In both examples, Amelia is saying the exact same thing. Not a word of the dialogue has changed, but notice how the depth of understanding changes with the dialogue beat. I don’t know about you, but I for one can hear Amelia’s tone of voice and see her reserved submission.

 

Check out your favorite contemporary author, I bet you will find even more examples of how the author pulled you deeper into the story with the simple use of dialogue beats.

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Are you up for a little zombie slaying? Here is a conversation below where the zombies have taken over. Use your imagination and change the dialogue tags into dialogue beats. Share your results in the comments section.

“I don’t think this is a good idea, Jamie,” Henry said.

“Why not? What could go wrong?” Jamie asked.

“I can think of about a dozen things,” he said.

“If you are chicken, you can always head back to the car. I can do this by myself and probably quieter, too,” she said.

“But what if you get caught?” he asked.

“Me? Get caught? I don’t think you have to worry about that. Old Man Pinkerton is deaf as a bat,” she said.

“Bats aren’t deaf. They actually have amazing hearing,” he said.

“Whatever,” she said.

 

Happy writing! I look forward to reading your zombie slaying skills,

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Writing Craft Wednesday: Conflict – Make It Worse

I took a couple weeks off doing only writing prompts while I figured out my new schedule for my blog. My new goal is to alternate between Writing Prompt Wednesday with Writing Craft Wednesday. So today marks the first Writing Craft Wednesday!

Today I am going to finish up our look at GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. Here is a list of the previous GMC posts:

 

Conflict: The Heat of the Story

So what is conflict? If goal is the “what” and motivation is the “why,” then conflict is the “why not.” Conflict is what your character must face in order to achieve their goal.

 

 

External conflict often comes in the form of a physical being, usually the villain. The villain causes problem after problem for the hero or heroine. All five senses are engaged when dealing with this maniacal menace. You can smell them, see them, feel them, hear them, and depending one what is going on… taste the blood they draw.

 

Internal conflict is more subtle. Whatever keeps the hero or heroine from learning their life lesson, that is your internal conflict. Just like anything else internal, it is emotional. Perhaps it is the self-conscious voice which keeps them from seeing their worth. Perhaps it is the guilt of not being there for a loved one when they were needed most. Whatever it is, it evades the five senses.

 

 

Why include conflict?

Readers like to see characters tested, run through the wringer, and facing their worst fears. Anticipating an explosion of conflict is what keeps the reader turning the pages.

Besides the excitement conflict brings to a story, it also brings depth and complexity to the characters. It is through conflict characters learn to dig withing themselves, grow and rise to the challenge. Through conflict they become a hero.

 

Think something is bad? Make it worse.

So how do you make the conflict engaging and page turning? Strife, tension, dissension, and opposition are key elements in creating conflict. Start with making a list of bad things which could stand in your character’s way.

 

Found one? Good. Now make it worse. Worse? YES! WORSE!

 

For one of my characters she is potentially losing her house. Initially, I started with the loan belonging to the bank, but then I applied the above principle. How did I make it worse? The loan belonged to a vicious loan shark who will get his money one way or another. Does that create more problems and stronger conflict? You betcha!

 

The stronger your conflict, the stronger your book.

 

Think your character has it bad?

 

Make it worse.

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