Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Removing the Scaffolding

Hi all, Today I welcome C.M. Keller. She's here to write about Removing the Scaffolding and to market her new book, Screwing Up Time.

Mark Montgomery is a slacker content with his life. He’s a senior at New Haven Prep, has a great friend, and after graduation he’ll get a brand new sports car from his parents, assuming he stays out of trouble. Then, she comes into his life—Miranda with her I-just-escaped-from-a-Renaissance-Fair clothing. Only, she hasn’t. She has come from Bodiam Castle in the Middle Ages and demands a secret ingredient and a book of recipes for traveling through the treacherous colors of time. Although Mark has never even heard of either before, he must find them, or Miranda will die. To save her, Mark must break into a psych hospital to visit his grandfather who once tried to kill him, pass through the colors of time, take on a medieval alchemist, prevent Miranda’s marriage to a two-timing baron, and keep it all hidden from his parents. The sports car is definitely in trouble.

Screwing Up Time is available on Kindle and Nook

Now, without further ado, here's C.M. Keller on Removing the Scaffolding:

First of all, I’d like to thank Misha for allowing me to guest blog for her today. I hope to share some of what I’ve learned in my years of writing—just because I had to bang my head against the wall of writing ignorance doesn’t mean you have to.

Every writer knows that after we finish the first draft, we need to edit. We have to fill the landslide-sized plot holes, rid our manuscript of characters whose original purpose we’ve forgotten, and murder our darlings. But this post addresses the editing that comes after that. The editing that we sometimes avoid because it’s tedious and because the next novel is already seducing us. (Resist your lust for new plot lines a bit longer.)

These secondary edits are an opportunity to take your writing to the next level. I call this stage “removing the scaffolding.” Think of it this way, when art restorers finish repairing a frescoed ceiling, they have to take down the scaffolding. Otherwise, no one can see the fresco. Similarly, writers need to remove their scaffolding—the words and phrases that supported the first draft. For example, when I’m writing a first draft and can’t think of the perfect word/phrase, I substitute an adequate one. This isn’t bad. In fact, it’s a good thing because it keeps me from getting bogged down and I can get the story on paper while the passion and energy are hot. (If you struggle with this, I’d recommend Stephen King’s book On Writing.) But once the story’s on paper, those supports have to go.

Every writer has his/her own structural supports, but here are some that writers, myself included, often use. For example, to provide the “beats” the dialogue needs, I often have a character make a physical movement. However, by the end of the first draft I have so many shook his/her heads that the characters’ necks should’ve snapped and their skulls ought to be rolling on the ground. I also end up with more look/looked/looking than you’d believe possible. Not to mention the myriads of he/she ran a hand through his/her hair—they do this so often, you’d think every character must have a serious case of eczema or lice. 

If you’re nodding your head and thinking “I do that too,” don’t be discouraged. Remember those supports were important—they were the scaffolding that held the story together as you wrote it. But now, they must be removed. So how do you go about it? One way I’ve seen writers deal with word repetitions is to use synonyms. And “looked” becomes glanced, perused, spied, peeked, peeped, etc., etc. Do NOT do this. All it does is tell the reader that you have a really good thesaurus. The way to a beautiful novel is to replace the adequate beats and repetitions with texture. In other words, the beat must advance the plot or teach the reader more about the character. If not, it’s called a “cheap beat” and says “I’m An Amateur” in blinking neon lights. 

Good beats read like this:

            “You mean you’ve—” Martin swallowed and his necktie climbed his swollen gorge.  

From Beyond the Bedroom Wall by Larry Woiwode, National Book Award finalist. Here we know that not only is Martin surprised and upset, he’s so straight-laced that with a big swallow, his too-tight tie climbs his neck.

            “...He decided one day to join the black horses in the mountains. One night during a terrible storm he was struck by lightning. The lightning burned him all black. He was killed. That is the end of the story.”

            There was silence. Through my open windows came the murmurous sounds of the surf.
            “I don’t like that story,” I said finally.

From Davita’s Harp by Chaim Potok. Here the silence and the sounds give us the melancholy mood and foreshadow the boy’s response.

(Emerson and Amelia are discussing how to preserve a painting.)

            “A solution is precisely what it is. A mixture of weak tapioca and water, brushed on the painting—”

             “You said brushing marred the paint.”

            “I brush it on with my finger.”

             I starred at him with reluctant admiration.

             “You are determined, I’ll say that for you.”

From Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters, New York Times bestselling author. Here we see the repartee both spoken and unspoken between the characters—and we get the sense that they have a unique but happy relationship.

I know what you’re thinking. It’s hard to write like that. Yeah, it is. But you can do it. After all, if you’ve completed a novel, the hardest part is already behind you. Do it. You know you can.

For more information on “scaffold editing,” I highly recommend the book Don’t Sabotage Your Submission by Chris Roerden, a former independent book editor for authors published by St. Martin’s, Midnight Ink, Viking, Intrigue, Rodale, and others. 

Thanks so much for the great post, Connie! Good luck with your sales!

I know that I can sometimes overuse some of my beats. I really have to pay attention to them when I edit. Which beats do you overuse?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My Honorary 250th post: The Lessons I've Learnt.

Wow. Time passes fast.

I wanted to make a special post about writing my 250th... This is my 257th.

Anyway, this is my honorary 250th post.

If memory serves, the last celebratory post involved lots of stats. This time I thought I'd do a list of things I've learnt since I started blogging.

1) The world is bigger than you think. Stretch your mind.
2) There is more than one right way.
3) Platform is good. Hundreds of friends all over the globe is better.
4) Things might look pretty bleak right now, but if you write it down, odds are you'll read it later and wonder what the fuss was about.
5) People love being special. So make a point of making them special.
6) Everyone's connected. If in doubt, find an obscure (to your mind) writing blog and see who's reading it in a week.
7) Reciprocity. Reciprocity. Reciprocity.
8) If you want to get something done. Make it as public as possible that you're doing it. If you don't want to, make the goal impossible.
9) The more of a hill you climb, the less there's left to climb.
10) Keep looking for hills.

So those are my lessons. Wonder what I'll do for my 500th post....

What lessons has blogging taught you?

Monday, August 29, 2011

So close I can feel it.

I took a weekend off from my studies, as I was fluey and unable to concentrate on anything. By Sunday, I felt an old familiar tug, pulling me to Doorways.

Even though I'd already been waking up early every morning, by two o'clock I felt as if I'd go mad if I didn't just look at what I still needed to do. Looking turned into revision of one part, which turned into eight almost straight hours of it.

By 10 PM I'd reached the end. Yay me!

I'm still not quite done, though, because I need to go over it one more time before sending it to my first Crit Partner. I have a sneaking suspicion that there are some bits toward the end that will need a lot more work, because my germ ridden mind can only focus for so long. The only reason why I kept going was because I was going into the story's climax. It kept feeling wrong to stop.

I really want to get to the end, though. I'd rewritten the close to one I really loved, but as I woke up I got this niggling suspicion that became an all consuming thought: It didn't fit the story. It would have been gorgeous if it had, but the entire story sets the characters up in a certain way. One that clashed with the ending I'd written. Sigh...

So now I'm still trying to work out how to close Doorways that makes everyone happy while bringing the point across that this wouldn't be the end...

Anyone else writing writing a series? How did you manage to end the book without ending the story?

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Rude Awakening

Hi all! I just want to apologize for being so neglectful this week. I feel terrible about it, but this was just one of those weeks, ya know? 

Anyway, today I welcome Don Britt to My First Book. For those of you who haven't been lucky enough to bump into him on the blogosphere, he's the insane writer behind That's right... He's writing 24 novels. In. One. Year. Please go check out his blog to find out how he's doing. 

In the mean time, here's his post. 


I’ve been writing for more years than I care to remember. Sometimes it feels like I was born with a pen in my hand. Writing has never been a problem for me. Pitching what I’ve written, on the other hand, has been nothing less than a living nightmare. I’ve been rejected with bludgeoning repetition by more agents and publishers than I care to admit. Oh, alright, darn you. You’ve torn one statistic out of me. One summer saw me garner six hundred rejections. 600 big fat ‘R’s. In less than three months.  

That summer coincided with a milestone in my life. I was 40. I stared long and hard into my coffee on my birthday. I fancied it a portal into an abyss. The abyss has a habit of staring back at you, if you can believe what Nietzsche says. It’s a cocky bastard too. It hasn’t lost a staring contest yet. 

Not long after I crashed and burned in that existential stare down I sat down with a piece of paper and a pencil. I drew a line down the middle of the page, forming two columns. At the top of the first column I wrote ‘Overall Quality Of My Work’. Above the second column I wrote ‘Success In Pitching My Work’. I decided to give myself a grade, see, in each of these two essential categories for any aspiring writer.   

I left the page on my desk for a time. For a few days in fact. I took the time to read through a sizeable sample of my work. A couple of novels. A few shorts. Some essays which I thought just splendid when I wrote them. I thought everything was great when I wrote it. Now, with some distance, I realized a hard truth. The stuff wasn’t as good as I thought it was. There was a lot that I liked. But there were also pointless scenes, flat dialogue, and some painfully crafted passages that, on fresh reading, were just that - painful. I put myself in the role of English teacher, and asked myself what grade I would give this work if I didn’t know the writer from Adam. I came up with a B.  

I returned to my piece of paper. Under ‘Overall Quality’ I put down my B. The second column required no reflection at all. At the age of 40 I had yet to earn a single, solitary dollar from anything I had ever written. So under success rate I wrote down the only grade possible. F. I thought about what those two grades combined meant, in terms of my hopes of getting published. Then I wrote an equation on the top of the page: B + F = F 

There’s an old definition of insanity, one you may well know. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again with the expectation of a different result. I had a wake up call when I turned forty. I realized that even the best of my work wasn’t as good as I thought it was. An even harsher truth hit home. If I were working in an agency or publishing house, and was confronted with the material I had just finished reading, I would have responded with one of those big fat Rs too.  

As an old song says, waking up is hard to do. Still I woke up that day. If Misha would be so kind as to have me back sometime I’d be happy to talk about the results of my painful awakening. For now I’ll end with this truth, and with a confession I haven’t heard often in the writing world. I earned my rejections over all those years. I kept submitting material that didn’t demand to be published, stories that didn’t rise up to a standard that simply could not be ignored.  

How about you?

Thanks so much for stopping by, Don. You're more than welcome to do another guest post some time. :-D

Have a great weekend everyone!

Monday, August 22, 2011

More about you...

Well... today I have nothing to say... so I thought I'd get to know you all a little better...

1) What made you want to write?
2) When did you start blogging?
3) Sweet or Savory?
4) What's your big dream?
5) What does your best friend say is your best characteristic?
6) What do you say is your best characteristic?
7) If you know you have one hour left, what would you do in it?
8) Have you ever wanted to do something that you gave up on?
9) What do you want RIGHT NOW?
10) What are you planning for later today?

Have a great day! X

Friday, August 19, 2011

Pushing the Button and Falling Down

Hi all! Welcome to another installment of Guest Post Friday! Today I welcome Alexandra Villasante from Magpie Writes. This is also one of the blogs that I've been following for a long time, possibly even from last year. I just love seeing another writer's journey through life and writing, which always makes Magpie Writes a nice stop.

Pushing the Button and Falling Down

I’ll tell you a secret. I may have made a mistake. I don’t know if my manuscript is perfect. I don’t even know if it’s the best it can be. I don’t know if, given a week, a month, a year, I could improve it to the point where it’s ready.

And even though I don’t know, I still pushed the button.

I emailed an agent who had requested the first 100 pages and hit send.

Was it the right thing to do? Should I have waited? Will I get rejected?

I don’t know. Well, OK, I do know the answer to that last one…

Here’s what I do know:

I worked on the revisions for three months. I worked with my crit group and beta readers. I thought and thought and thought until my puzzler was sore.

And then I felt like I came to a precipice, an edge that I had to confront. Jump off or go back. Stop living in the world of ‘maybe one day’ and walk into ‘today’.
The problem with taking that leap of faith is that you kill off every other potential outcome. You can sit at your desk, like I do, thinking of a million different outcomes to when you finally push the button and submit (yuck. Even the word ‘submit’ has humiliating connotations) your manuscript (or query letter). As long as you don’t hit send, all those outcomes are possible.

Once you hit ‘send’ the choice is entirely out of your hands. There will only be one outcome and you can’t do anything more to influence it. That’s what is so frightening and so exhilarating because you put it out there and there’s a chance.

Until you get slapped in the face with the large, implacable ‘R’ for rejection – like I did this morning.

It’s my first one and it stung. Have you ever gotten stung by a wasp or a bee? At first you’re like, “ow.” Then, once the little bastard’s venom spreads it’s like OWWWWWWW.
Then you’re crying into your cornflakes and vowing never to show another soul your work. Thankfully, that part doesn’t last too long.

It’s been an emotional roller coaster all day. I dealt with it by designating the Dark & Stormy (recipe here) as my official Rejection drink and by sending out another query. I also ate almost an entire box of Junior Mints.

I don’t regret pushing ‘send.’ I don’t regret jumping off that precipice. Even falling is better then never even trying to fly. Or did I read that in a fortune cookie?

Thanks again, Alex! I hope that your next jump will have you flying to the stars. 

I'm wondering about my bloggy friends that finished their books. Have you come to that precipice yet? What did you do and how did it work out?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

And now, I'm in an interesting predicament...

Today is the only weekday that I have off, so today was the one I picked to start studying for the huge (and hugely important) semester test that's coming up.

Despite not really feeling in the mood, I buckled up and started cruising through today's set of essays. And while I was by no means rushing through, I'm now finished.

Great, yes. But I'm too exhausted to go on, because I didn't let up untill I got through everything. I do this because I know that the moment I do something else, I'm not going to come back to the studies.

Hence, I am left with an entire afternoon stretching out in front of me.

And I don't have a clue as to what I should do with it.

I have a dvd to watch (during which I can perhaps finish my knitted cape) or I can exercise a little, maybe while reading something. I can revise some more, even though I've already gone through four chapters today. Or... I can catch up on blog visits.


What do you do when you're suddenly offered a big block of time off?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I just finished reading On Writing the Block Buster Novel

I've finally finished reading yet another book on writing. It takes me a while because I tend to read bits of it in the fifteen or so minutes that I have to wait for class.

I enjoyed Writing the Block Buster Novel by Albert Zuckerman. It was truly interesting, if somewhat difficult for me to apply.

See, it's clear from Mr. Zuckerman's words that he favors plotting. Which is all very good and well. Except that I can't plot. The few times I tried all ended in failure.

Anyway, the one thing that I am glad for is the fact that I finished drafting Doorways before I started reading this book, because it was full of ways to help me focus what I have written.

That was probably the one thing that I learned from the book. The need to commit the reader to the story with interesting and not wholly unlikeable characters. The need for there to be an over-arching plot question. The need for rhythm in the plot.

And so on. Although I already knew some of those things instinctively, it was nice to actually read someone else's feelings about them in words.

Have you ever read Writing the Block Buster Novel? What did you think of it?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

It's WriteOnCon!

Hi all! First I have some admin to do. I need to pass on yesterday's award. And this prestigious award goes to:


OK now that's done. I just want to share some awesome today. In case you've been living on another planet, I thought I'd remind you that it's WriteOnCon.

Last year I didn't go because I was shy. Stupid, I know. But now I'm not missing it for the world. *except for classes and test prep. There are Ninja-agents, agent chats and more. I'm not going to say no to that. :-)

Who else is attending this year?

Monday, August 15, 2011

I got tagged and awarded at the same time!

Hi all! Just want to say thanks to Michael from SLC Kismet for giving me this award.

I'm not exactly sure what the rules are with this award, so I'll just answer the tag questions instead. ^_^

1) Are you a rutabaga?
Well... at the rate that I'm vegging out, this might be a distinct possibility.

2) Who is your current crush?
It's not so much the who as the what. As in what is crushing me. So far, my economics is trying very hard, but I WILL PREVAIL!

3) Upload a heartwarming picture that makes you smile.

 Can you say: "AAAAAaaaaaw!"

 4) When was the last time you ate a vine-ripened tomato?
... I'm trying to remember, but I can't. Must not have been a memorable tomato.

5) Name one habit that causes other people to plot your demise?
Well, the one habit I have that makes my one friend plot my demise: i type like this when i skype i dont even use punctuation

6) What is the wierdest, most-disgusting job you've ever had to do?
Hmm... not really weird, but I find washing dishes to be utterly disgusting. Even when I'm using gloves. No idea why but I can't shake it. Maybe it's because it's the only disgusting activity that I haven't been able to talk myself out of.

7) Where da muffin top at?
If I told you, I'd have to kill you.

8) What author introduced you to your genre?
C.S. Lewis. In fact he's also the reason why I started writing Doorways. Of course, Doorways veered into a considerably darker path than Chronicles of Narnia.

9) Describe yourself using obscure Latin words.
Aliquanto insolitus , aliquantulus distraho quod valde partum. Fidelis , curiosus , validus mos si is est in meus penitus. Plerumque familiaris , tamen should nunquam exsisto exertus. Ardor , tamen validus derideo facile.

I'll pass on the award tonight! X

Friday, August 12, 2011

In Need of Inspiration

Hi all! Welcome to yet another Guest Post  Friday! Carolyn was kind enough to add a bio today, so I'll just skip on the intro. Instead, I just want to point out that there is now exactly one GPF slot open for this year, so you better jump fast if you want it. Please contact me at mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com if you're interested. Have a great weekend everyone!

In Need of Inspiration

As writers we possess the drive, and determination to see a project through to completion, but what keeps us going?  Is not part of it inspiration?

Inspiration is an external influence that activates our imagination, stimulates our emotions, intellect and curiosity.  It works like fuel to our ambition.  As a fire needs to be fed, so too does our creativity.  Without inspiration that spark would extinguish.  After all, didn’t inspiration give us the story to start with?  It fired us with zeal to pursue it, to foster it, to refine it.  Inspiration made our stories ones that must be told.

And the best thing about inspiration is that it strikes when we least expect it.  Sometimes the timing may find us in the middle of a movie, or jolted from our sleep in the wee hours.  But when those moments of inspiration strike as epiphanies, it’s like a high.  They move us to action immediately.  We scramble for something on which to record the thought so it doesn’t disappear.  At that time nothing else much matters.  I love those moments.

So what inspires you?

Maybe the answer is hard to pinpoint, or it’s difficult to choose just one.  You could ask a thousand writers and they could all provide a different answer.  And depending on the day, that same writer could say something else.  Inspiration is ever changing – as it should be.

Inspiration doesn’t always give you the full story.  Sometimes a new character tugs on your curiosity and pulls you in before you even know where the story’s going, but this is a fantastic place to start.  After all, without characters our books wouldn’t exist.

But what if you’re not feeling inspired?

Remember this:  Inspiration can’t be forced, but it can be fostered.

No matter how much we may try manipulating inspiration like a type of mystical power, the more it will fight against us.  Inspiration can be stubborn as if it were its own entity.

Maybe consider your last spark of inspiration.  Where did it originate from?  Did it strike out of the seeming middle of nowhere?  Did it hit you while out for a walk?  Did it happen while you were sitting still or moving?

While realizing the fact we can’t force inspiration, we can most certainly avail ourselves to it. 

Where can we find inspiration?

The internet
There is so much information on the internet, the possibilities of inspiration ignition are endless.

This helps clear the mind which can transfer it from the logical to the creative side of things.

People watching
Human observation cannot be underestimated.  Conversations, interactions, reactions can trigger a new character that needs his/her story told.

Books, movies, television, music
I’m not talking plagiarism.  But maybe you would have taken things a different way.  This spark of inspiration can lead you down an original path.

The news
You don’t just have to be a mystery, thriller or suspense writer to utilize this resource.

The Discovery Channel
It opens your mind, and lets you see places or things you may never otherwise.

Try something new
I recently went to my first airshow and found myself wondering what the lives of those pilots would be like. 

My closing words:  Remember inspiration can strike at any time, so be ready for it!

Brief Bio
Carolyn Arnold is the author of several novels in the mystery, thriller and suspense genres.  TIES THAT BIND, the first in a police procedural mystery series surrounding Detective Madison Knight is now available for purchase.

Carolyn was born in 1976 in the rural town of Picton, Ontario, and her passion for writing dates back to her teen years.  Although, her first completed novel wasn’t until 2008, her drive to complete one has since turned into several.  She lives with her husband of fifteen years and her two beagles in Southwestern Ontario.

Connect with Carolyn online:





Cover Blurb

Detective Madison Knight concluded the case of a strangled woman an isolated incident. But when another woman’s body is found in a park killed by the same line of neckties, she realizes they’re dealing with something more serious.

Despite mounting pressure from the Sergeant and Chief to close the case even if it means putting an innocent man behind bars, and a partner who is more interested in saving his marriage than stopping a potential serial killer, Madison may have to go it alone if there's not going to be another victim.

Amazon                Barnes & Noble               Smashwords

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Hi all! As you might notice, I've changed my comment form recently after it was suggested that the embedded form was the reason why some of my readers couldn't comment.

But now it seems that the new form isn't helping, because I'm just getting new people who are saying that they have a problem. So if you have a problem with the new form but not the old form, would you please let me know? And if you had a problem with the old form and not the new form, please let me know too. I'm trying to figure out the lesser of two evils. I'll love you forever if you mail me. mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com.

OK... now admin is done and I get to the real meat of today's post.

Today as I was preparing to drive around with my family (today is my day off), my muse dangled this little string in front of me. Curious being that I am, I took it and decided to see where it went. And... now I sort of have another major Doorways related project on the to-do list.

Projects, you might ask. Well, I still have to draw more detailed maps of my countries. I still want to draw the important places in my book. I especially still want to write out a significant portion of  two languages.

And now... I have to get the history down. Before book two. Doorways is mainly about events being triggered, but for that to be the case, something must have happened before.

I thought that the current situation was started in the previous generation, but now I'm starting to see that it wasn't.

Except for that, there are some aspects of the culture that could really do with me knowing exactly what caused them.

Fun, but I can see how that will be time consuming.

But fun. I'm actually thinking about starting either in the current situation and working my way back. On the other hand, it might be a lot more natural to just start at a point in the past and working my way to the present.

Of course, the latter method can be a study on its own...

Anyone else discover the need to write out the history of the places and cultures in your books? How did you go about it?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

To revise or not to revise...

Today is Woman's Day, so first thing that I want to do is paid tribute to all you lovely ladies out there. May you be blessed. :-)

Woman's Day is a public holiday in my country, so I put in some extra time yesterday so that I could have the whole day off today.

The plan was to revise thirty pages of Doorways, or to read. Instead, I'm typing this from in front of the t.v. For some reason, I just don't feel like doing anything more consuming than that.

Usually I don't feel all that guilty, but today I do. I mean, I made time to write. Why aren't I writing?

I'm thinking that I'll push myself to do some revisions later, although I'm not sure if I'll be able to get anything productive done.

What do you do when you just don't feel like writing/revising, even when you planned to do it?

Monday, August 8, 2011

I'm posting elsewhere today.

Hi all, just want to let you know that' I'm at Ellen Brickley's blog, so please feel free to come and say hello.


Friday, August 5, 2011

Writing Influences

Hi all! Welcome to another GPF. Today I welcome Theresa Milstein from Substitute Teacher's Saga.

She's also one of my older bloggy friends, so please go say hi for me. :-)

Writing Influences

Two weeks ago, I wrote a post “Reverence for Rowling” that discusses why the Harry Potter series made me become a writer.  Certain influences came together to start my story.

1.  The whimsy of Harry’s magical world in comparison with the darker fantasy books of my childhood, made fantasy much more appealing.

2.  I’d seen the author Melissa Glenn Haber speak.   She mentioned that many fantasy protagonists are orphans or somehow the parents are absent.  I thought it would be nice to have a fantasy book that dealt with the relationships between children and their parents in the realm of a fantasy book. 

3.  I used the quirks of the place where I grew up as a setting.

Thus, my first manuscript was born.  I’ll admit the story borrows a little too heavily from the Harry Potter world.  But it got me writing. 

Each of the stories we write are inspired by several factors.  They can be books, songs, overheard fragments of conversation, a NEWS story, or something from our personal lives.

My most recent short story, “My Moment”, which will be included in the Tiny Dancer anthology in October, had a number of inspirations.  It’s boggling that so many influences could’ve come together in a short story.  

1.  I had just watched an episode of “Toddlers and Tiaras”.  One mother admonished her daughter for dancing like a stripper.  That horrifying line stuck in my brain. 

2.  Then I got the opportunity to write a speculative fiction piece.  I read the back of the book, Like Mandarin, by Kirsten Hubbard, which mentions child pageants. 

3.  I recalled XVI by Julia Karr, where she created a society based on the sexual availability of girls ages 16 and over. 

What if I wrote a story 200 years in the future where beauty pageants were a way for poor girls who couldn’t afford college to find well-off husbands?   A story was born.

Writers, will you share you story influences?

Thanks so much for stopping by, Theresa

If anyone still wants to guest post before the end of the year, you better move quickly. I only have two more Fridays left. Contact me at mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com if you're interested.  

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Juggling Act (This is NOT an announcement of a hiatus.)

Hi all! As you can see, I haven't done a TCoML in almost a week. Not because I didn't want to, but rather because I couldn't. I've just been too busy with everything.

I remember last year when I was at University with a lot more subjects than just economics and I managed to post almost every day since August. But then, my life was pretty much in shambles and I was able to add blogging to only studying and writing.

Now, I have to study, to work, to sing, to dance, to edit, to write and to be a leader for my church youth. AND that blog I started in August (incidentally a year ago yesterday) now has 606 readers and I'm still posting (except for yesterday) five days a week. My book is done and I have to edit. I still want to get it done by next year.

And then there are the up and coming projects.

So yes, as my life grew, so did my workload to the point where I struggle to schedule anything.

The last time that happened was in my A-level year. Now I'm going to do now what I did then. I'm not going to schedule. I know what I have to do. I have my priority list (as it is right now):

1) Study and attend class
2) Work, editing, Youth, reading and writing
3) Singing, dancing and blogging
4) Drawing

Armed with that, I know what I should choose when I have time. Didn't sit down to study yet? OK then. My blogging has to move. Unfortunately, that means that I won't be able to always post (although I will try). It also means that I definitely can't visit as many of you as I do usually. As much as I'd love to.

That is and always was the secret to my life: It isn't a balancing act. It's a juggling act and sometimes I need to know when I have too many balls in the air. That's when I start putting some of them in my pocket for later.

But it will only be for ten more weeks. Then ball number one will be gone forever and the rest of my life will begin.

And that will be when I'll be back with a vengeance and in the long run, everything will get done. I just can't do everything at the same time.

In the mean time, I want to ask you to please think of me or pray for me as I go slaying one of the big giants in my life.

What about you? What do you do when your time gets limited? Do you juggle or balance? 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Novel Films Blogfest Part 2: What makes a good adaption?

For today, I decided to go a little off the beaten track with the Novel Films Blogfest. I love reading and watching movies, pretty much equally. So one would think that I would enjoy adaptions.


More often than not, I don't.

And this blogfest got me wondering why.

And this is what I came up with:

1) I generally don't like focus shifts. So if we move away from the story for some big budget special effects, I will hate the movie. I'm looking at you Harry Potter franchise.

2) If the movie veers from the story, but still manages to keep the essence (or my sense of it), I'll love it. For example, Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr.

3) I don't care if the actors are famous or unknowns, but I care when they can't carry the role. Probably why Julius Caesar with Marlon Brando as Marc Anthony is still one of my favorite movies. Also, it pretty much stuck to the plot.

4) I don't care if the book is a bestseller, if the entire story hinges on a massive plot twist, putting it on film might not be a good idea. Because if the ending is changed, I'll probably hate it. If it isn't, I'll spend about two hours bored. Except if the actors are brilliant. And even then I probably won't care. Tom Hanks and Ewan McGregor in one movie. Should be a winner, right? Not if everyone who read the Da Vinci Code decided to read the book before it. And not if the real villain is named in every publication out there. Think about it. It could be possible that fantasy novels and sci fi adapt because of this. I mean, sure there are twists (and I'm building up to a big one), but when it comes to epic, the twists sort of aren't the point.

5) And finally, books with either very minimal description (where the visual is open to interpretation) or where everything and everyone is described almost exactly adapt better. Because then people who read the book first won't have a "huh?!" moment. That's why I think that Chronicles of Narnia adapts well. C.S. Lewis style fosters it. Readers know of everything that's there, but not in such detail that seeing something in the movie is jarring. Also it's pretty hard to miss the essence of what Lewis wanted to say. Even in adaption.

That's my take on it, anyway. What's your opinion? Am I writing nonsense or did I miss something else? And yes, I am aware that I'm being very controversial about the HP franchise. But that's only my example, not necessarily the point I'm trying to make...

P.S. Sorry if the picture appear on the right. Wasn't in the plan. But alas the words "Align Left" mean nothing to Blogger. :-/

Why Your Characters Are Smarter Than You

Hello all! Today I have the honor of hosting Angeline on My First Book. In case you're staring at the screen with a slightly confused expression, I am still taking part in the Novel Films Blogfest and will be posting tonight.

In the mean time, more on Angeline.

Angeline Trevena is a writer based in rural Devon, UK. She has been writing her entire life and is a published poet, short story writer and journalist. She has completed NaNoWriMo twice and is currently taking part in the summer version; Camp NaNoWriMo.

You can find her at her website or follow her on her blog.

Alrighty then. Take it away, Angeline.


Why Your Characters Are Smarter Than You

I admit it, I'm not a planner. I start a novel or a short story with two things in my head; the beginning and the ending. I have a vague idea of how I'll get from one to the other, but that's always open to change. And why this haphazard approach? Because I know that my characters are smarter than me.

Everyone will agree that you need to know your characters. Every single thing your character does, whether it's leaving their husband or having jam on their toast, every decision they make is motivated by what has happened before. This might be what has happened in the book, or pre-scenic action.

Before you even write one word of the story you must know you character as well as you know yourself. Beyond the basics of their age, occupation and physical appearance, you need to know if they ever broke a bone as a child, or if they prefer orange juice with bits in it, or which wrist they wear their watch on. All of these things shape their future and are, in turn, shaped by their past, however insignificant they may seem. If your character broke their ankle as a child, it may still give them pain on cold, damp evenings. They may prefer bits in their orange juice because their Grandfather owned an orangeree and that's how he made it. They might wear their watch on their right arm because they are trying to cover scars with it. If you aren't going to plan your novel, it's even more important to know your characters inside out.

As you start writing you will hit a point when your character does something that surprises you. Don't panic, just go with it. In fact, you should celebrate this moment; if your characters are starting to make their own decisions it means you've written them well enough for them to be real.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation when you had to make an instant decision? When you really had to improvise and think on your feet? And did you react in exactly the way you thought you would? Probably not. We can always surprise ourselves, and your characters won't always do what you expect them to either.

It can be scary to feel like you're losing control, but sometimes you just have to sit back and enjoy the ride. As long as you keep your end goal focused in your head, then it's no bad thing to let your character wander, let them explore the world around them and the world inside them too. Afterall, you have the entire editing process, and that's your domain, that's where you can put your foot down and pull your characters into line.

If you have to force your characters to do something, then it's probably not right. You don't want to alienate your readers by leaving them thinking "Why did he do that?" or "She would never have said that."

I have often found that my characters have much better ideas than me. They kiss people I hadn't thought they would, they say things I didn't expect, they introduce characters I didn't outline and sometimes they change the entire story, and more often than not their ideas make for a much more exciting, engaging, full and believable story. They're living it, they're breathing it, and they have an insight into their lives that is only settled somewhere in your subconscious. Your characters are just the instrument you use to unlock that.

Never worry about losing control in the first draft: let your characters breathe, let them stretch themselves, let them experiment. You can take back control in the second draft; brandishing your big red editing pen like an unforgiving sword.

Thanks so much for this great post! Sounds like I could have written it. My characters also hijack my writing, leading me faaaaaaar away from what I thought was possible.

What about you ladies and gents? Ever have a character take over the run of the story? Do you ever manage to go back to where you thought your story should go, or do you just let the character have full control?  

Monday, August 1, 2011

Novel Films Blogfest Part 1

Hi all! After being rushed off my feet, I finally managed to sit still long enough to go draw up a list. Unforstunately it isn't all that refined (as I am once again late on the way somewhere else), but it's the best I can do.

To think I was being clever when I signed up when the dates clash with classes. > .<

Aaaaanyway. Here's the list, I'll probably expand on it later, once I have time.

The Bone Collector by Jeffery Deaver

Chocolat by Joanne Harris

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Heidi by Johanna Spyri

C.S. Lewis

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Prince Caspian

Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

The Lord of Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

Stephenie Meyer


New Moon


Angels and Demons by Dan Brown

Arthur Conan Doyle

The Hound of the Baskervilles

Sherlock Holmes (based on the premise and characters of the Sherlock Holmes book series)

Charles Dickens 
A Christmas Carol

Oliver Twist

Alexandre Dumas 
The Count of Monte Cristo
The Man in the Iron Mask
The Three Musketeers

The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope

Robert Ludlum 
The Bourne Identity
The Bourne Supremacy

Animal Farm by George Orwell

J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (aka Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkabahn
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Mark Twain

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

What was your favorite book to movie addaption?

Blog Fest Admin

Hi all! Just want to let you know that I'm being hosted by Christina Dos Santos with a post about cliches. So please head over and say hi. ^_^

Also, I will be doing the blog fest post later today (along with the explanation of what said fest entails). I'd do the whole thing now, but I have a ton of work, so I need to graft right now. Alas, the life of the economics student...

Anyway, I'll be back later! X