Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Romancing the Blogspot

In the weekly column I write, I run into the same problem I have at this minute -Whatwilliwriteaboutthistime? If I have nothing to rant about, I produce bits and pieces of thoughts and overheards and ideas and try to avoid falling back on a synopsis of my life history. Hence -

Bits And Pieces

Last night, the Prairie Chicks held a MSN Messenger conference and shared a few concerns and ideas about our blogspot. What a great group! We talked for nearly three hours but it was all to the point and came to conclusions logically and without wasting time. Our concern was the Prairie Chicks Write Romance blogspot and how we can improve it (and torture ourselves less with the old whatwilliwriteaboutthistime syndrome). So, there will be a few changes designed to make things even more interesting for you.

Point of View is a challenge for us all. To that end, Janet, an Original Chick (definitely original!) has posted an exercise on Prairie Chicks. Did you try it? In future, we plan to post an exercise once a month on Prairie Chicks. We will all respond to it when our blog day comes up. You are invited to give your version of the exercise in the comments section, or not, as pleases you.

This month's exercise on point of view in our private blogspot has worked miracles for some of us. Here is what you do. Select a scene from your work - preferably one that has given you a POV headache, and rewrite it in the first person. Amazing results!

Once a month, we will talk about our own works-in-progress, hopefully to your delight and edification. Molli, Helena and I will still share Tuesdays, so you will get our inputs on these exercises and wips whenever. The other two or three weeks a month, we will go back to the faithful terror of whatwilliwriteaboutthistime topics and come up with something we hope to heaven will be of interest. It always does. Somehow. Usually. Sigh.

Since I was whining about not having a topic as ususal, Jana suggested I write about being a reporter for a newspaper. Deadlines were almost a blessing then. When the editor was frowning mightily, if not making a nuisance of his/herself, stories flowed because they had no options. Deadlines, aka deathlines, keep a reporter focussed. When I am writing romance now, I have no deadlines and procrastination flies in like a lacksadaisical fury. I can manage to be distracted by taking the garbage out, much less exciting things such as Husband saying we should go out for dinner! (The three little words every wife wants to hear are, "Lets eat out").

Other writers tell me their characters tell them what comes next. I have no such luck. When I was writing a news story, I gathered facts until that moment when everything tumbled into place like a Jacob's Ladder toy and I just sat down and wrote in one take. (Do you remember Jacob's Ladders? They are a string of blocks tied together with a certain pattern of ribbons so that they hang straight down. Tip the top block and the whole row clatters down to make a new row). Once I hit the tipping point by weight of information, I just had to sit down fast and type before it all flew wherever it is all my thoughts fly to and are never found.

The LAW at our newspaper was that all stories had to be no longer than ten column inches, so, when I started trying to write a novel, it was short - very, very short.
But ten inch sections have their place in writing novels. Diana Gabaldon writes in short pieces and then arranges them to make a novel. Since the Outlander series is phenomenally successful....

By the way, we will continue to have guest authors on Saturdays. Anyone you would like to hear from?

Are you a ten inch writer with a sturdy stapler or do your characters lead you?
Have you tried both ways? Do you have some writing exercises you would like to share?
How do you feel about this blogspot? Anything you would like to see here? Or not see here? Any other suggestions?


Janet C. said...

This is fabulous, Connie. I commend you for getting all the information out there is such a condensed manner (I'd be blathering on for probably two blogposts' worth :)

I'm looking forward to hearing what our readers think about our blog and what they'd like to see. After all, we're here for them.

As you can guess - I write long. Ten inch columns would never work for me :)

Silver James said...

I love the Prairie Chicks! I may not always comment, and I may not always get back to check when I do comment, but I always read what is said!

Blogs, like writing, should be organic, not carved in stone. I like the idea of changing and adapting as your goals and the needs of both bloggers and readers solidify. Heh! Mixed that metaphor, didn't I?

I think you ladies are on the right track and I do like the idea of writing exercises, even if I might not participate. It just depends on where I am in my own writing at the moment.

Whatever you do, DON'T GO AWAY! *CLING*

Karyn Good said...

Wonderful post Connie. You summed things up beautifully.

I love the ten inch column idea because I tend to write in scenes. And I always write short and then flesh things out later.

Great bits and pieces!

Jana Richards said...

Hi Connie,
We had a great meeting last night. It's always good to keep things fresh and infuse the blog with new ideas. Even if the idea of writing exercises kind of terrifies me. Yikes!

I tend to write short, at least in the first draft. Then I layer in more descriptive language for setting, and try to amp up the tension. (BTW, after reading Donald Maass's "Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook", my new mantra is "Tension on every page". I haven't reached that lofty goal, but I'm certainly going to strive for it!)

I'm looking forward to hearing suggestions from readers as well. We aim to please!


Helena said...

Thanks for your concise take on our rambling (tho efficient) meeting. Is that an oxymoron? Not when it's a Chicks meeting!!

Always the journalist, Connie -- able to get the salient points in a ten inch column that makes sense. I thought of a journalism career once upon a time -- the discipline probably would have been very helpful, since my style is to write long in the first draft, tho not all the necessary elements will be there. That's why I am so aware of the need for self-editing; lots to be removed or refined, but also, much detail to be layered in.

Wow, I admire what you can do when you are writing to a deadline.

Thanks for the vote of confidence, Silver. I can assure you, we aren't going anywhere. This all came about from some panic, yes, but mostly the desire to keep Prairie Chicks fresh and relevant.

connie said...

Good morning - sort of - Janet.
I slept till noon.
I hope our readers like our ideas and I really hope we get lots of feedback.
The trouble with bits and pieces is that the little beasts hide out when the time to paste and staple arrives. Since you don't lke clutter, you would be able to find them. I must send you a picture of my 'office'. Nobody could even find a skunk in here.
Off to Surrey!

connie said...

Hi Silver James
Wow! What a vote of confidence! I know we all appreciate your comment today.
For all our complaints about suffering the whatwilliwritetoday syndrome, we all love doing this and we do want to please our readers
Thank you for faithfully commenting on the blogs of us all.
Never fear. We cling like cloth. Remember that one?

connie said...

Thanks Karen, I hoped I hadn't misunderstood or forgotten anything from last night's heckitwasfun meeting.
I guess I didn't explain the 10 inch column very well. At the newspaper, we couldn't write more than 10 inches per story. I always dreaded the idea of covering the end of the world in 10 column inches - but then I remembered we wouldn't be publishing the next day.
However, you and Janet have made me think. I am going to try writing bits and pieces 10 inches long. It might be easier to lengthen, shorten or toss than facing revision of the whole book from front to back.

connie said...

Dear Jana
Yes. Writing exercises are scary things to present in public, however, Molli, Helena and I will not have to do those very often. I don't want to look at the calendar and see how often.
Layering after the first draft is an excellent idea. Then we can up the ante as Maass suggests.
I am tense with every page but the tension is all mine. My characters get to relax quite a lot at the moment

connie said...

Hi Helena,
Thanks again for aid and assistance last night.
I did a lot of self-editing news stories but it was the editors who ruined every inch of my precious prose - rotten socks that they are. (kidding)
I find it nearly impossible to wade into the ice cold lake of revisions of stories though. I can procrastinate like nobody's business.
A friend once told me not to say 'procrastinate' but to say I work best under pressure.
See you in Surrey! I can hardly wait although I will have a lot of work to do the night before - synopsis - one liner - editing....

Hayley E. Lavik said...

Like the others, Connie, I'm impressed with your succinct style. I don't tend to be that brief (as my comments will attest) although I can't seem to write short stories longer than 1000-ish words. For most writing, my characters lead, or they do in the sense that I do what's worst for them. I think larger scale (stories that need 100k words to wrap up) but I tend to write smaller chunks at a time, and move from condense scene to scene. I can't really go out of order, but I figure things out one scene at a time, and often have scenes waiting to be written that are fully fleshed out.

As for the blog, I'd love to see a wider variety of sub-genres come up for discussion. I've enjoyed the posts now and then on paranormal romance, suspense, and the like, and I think it'd be great to branch out now and then and touch on some of the techniques for the subgenres. Perhaps it might be an interesting challenge if each Chick does a bit of research on a subgenre out of their usual comfort zone? :) Just a thought.

connie said...

I agree re the sub genres. I don't, for example, know much about your's and Muriel is writing romantic suspense.
Trust the other chicks note your comment.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Connie,
What an interesting thought. "Have the Chicks do research on genre outside of their comfort zone". I'm going to have to think on that one.


connie said...

Hi Jana,
Yes, Hayley has a good thought there. We have been ignoring other sub genres.
What do you think Chicks? Shall we give it a whirl? Maybe we could ask Hayley and Muriel (suspense) to talk about why they chose those two sub genres.
Anyone game to do a little reading and tackle these two sub genres as a challenge?

Hayley E. Lavik said...

Wandering back late, so I'm not sure if anyone will notice this. Another small suggestion I have... I was thinking with another whole year of excellent guest blogs every Saturday, the list on the side bar is going to get massive. Perhaps it might be a good idea to add a link in the sidebar and create a post listing each guest blogger with the website and a link to their post here?

Janet said...

Hey, Hayley (and others who come back to read this). We're thinking of starting a website for the Chicks and one of the pages will be dedicated to Guest Bloggers :)

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