Story Masters: May 11-14, 2017

This lovely workshop came to my attention last year through Jenny Madore, a writer friend. It was put together by Lorin Oberweger and Free Expressions. Jenny sent me a notice last spring, yes, that was waaaay back in March of 2016, with the notification and a special early-bird discount.

The notification? Christopher Vogler, James Scott Bell, and Donald Maass would be coming to Toronto to present their Story Masters workshop. Needless to say, I registered on the spot.

Fast forward to May 10, 2017, and I was on my way to the Crowne Plaza Airport and excited to learn from these three masters of story.

Day one: Christopher Vogler

ChristopherVoglerI’ve read The Writer’s Journey (and Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces, Murdock’s The Heroine’s Journey and The Hero’s Daughter, as well as watching Campbell’s series with Bill Moyer, The Power of Myth), and I was looking forward to meeting Christopher Vogler in person.

One thing I’d forgotten, having read his book years ago, was that Vogler is a screenwriter. He’s been working with the hero’s journey for forty years, since his film school days.

Highlights of the presentation:

  • A knowledge of structure will help you see the bones of a story.
  • The map is not the journey.
  • Get all five senses on the page – Ray Bradbury.
  • They won’t remember your words but they’ll remember how you made them feel – Maya Angelou.
  • Economy of language.
  • Make invisible things visible.
  • Use dissonance.
  • Theme – boil it down to one word.
  • The chakra system can be used to orient where your story comes from. There’s a parallel between the chakras and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
  • Vogler’s rule – the story’s good if two or more organs are leaking fluids. Visceral, but accurate (blood, sweat, tears, vomit, pee—from fear or laughter, and, erm, sexual fluids—it’s true; a well-written sex scene gets the juices flowing, doesn’t it?).
  • A story should be focused, “in alignment with the grid,” a term from dance.
  • How your protagonist/main character enters the story is critical. Classically, protagonist means the first person to struggle. Now, that’s your hero or main character.
  • A story should evoke catharsis. The classical definition of catharsis was vomiting. Now it’s an emotional cleansing.
  • How stories work: want vs. need. Want is generally external or physical. Need is internal or emotional. There are two story questions, one inner and one outer. It creates suspense. There’s always a price.
  • Every world/milieu is polarized. The hero brings synthesis.

Vogler also showed us a number of movie clips to illustrate the 12 stages of the hero’s journey, discussed the two founders of screenwriting, Aristotle and Syd Field, three-act structure and how the hero’s journey works with it, storytelling aesthetics, and his own meeting with Campbell.

Day two: James Scott Bell

I’ve read some of Bell’s writing craft books and followed his collective/blog – Kill Zone. Again, I was looking forward to meeting JamesScottBellsomeone I’d only ever known as a virtual presence.

  • A writer needs to have an edge. What is it? Unforgettable writing. Seductive believability.
  • Write from the middle. The mirror moment. What’s happening to the character at that moment is what the story’s about.
  • The mirror moment can focus on one of two things: 1) Who am I? What have I become? What will I become? [emotional/spiritual struggle] Or, 2) I’m going to die. [Physical] The death can be metaphorical. Both result in the transformation of your character.
  • Once you know what your story’s about, you have your focus, your theme.
  • Pre-story psychology. Does your character have a moral flaw to overcome? Do they change or get their comeuppance? Is your character ordinary? What circumstances force the character to change?
  • Short fiction is about a shattering moment rather than a mirror moment.
  • Bell’s golden triangle: pre-story psychology leads to the mirror moment, which leads to the transformation. It can be applied in an individual novel, or over the course of the series, or both.
  • The shadow story – what’s happening elsewhere?
  • Keep a story journal to keep track.
  • Great characters jump off the page. They’re unpredictable, burning, wounded, complex, resourceful, courageous, noble.
  • Bell’s corollary to Vogler’s rule: you must have a fluid fight inside your character.
  • Ways to develop character: 1) The closet search – what’s the skeleton? 2) Throwing the chair (out the window) – why do they do it? 3) Best day/worst day. 4) What tattoo do they have, where, and why? Or, why would they never get a tattoo? 5) what would they do or think about in jail?
  • Opposition character: you must know what they yearn for, why they deserve it, and then make your closing argument (convince the reader).
  • Cut the boring parts, or, make them interesting.
  • Fear is a continuum. It raises the stakes. Fear of the known. Fear of the unknown.
  • Scene structure: every scene must have an objective, obstacles, and an outcome [yes, but/no, and].
  • SUES = something unexpected in every scene.
  • Every scene has a reaction: time for thought, perception, emotion, backflash (short remembrance), or flashback (full scene – use sparingly).
  • Dialogue: every character has an agenda. If those agendas are conflicting, even better. Dialogue creates conflict/tension, subtext, sets the tone for the scene, and sets the tone for the characters. Specific concerns: vocabulary, expressions, syntax. They should vary between characters. Dialogue should be unpredictable and compressed. Dialogue should reveal character webs, backstory, and theme.
  • Tools: Orchestration, transactional analysis (Google it), curve the language.

Bell, also from a screenwriting background, showed us clips from Casablanca and Now, Voyager and cited a number of novels (ranging from Gone with the Wind to The Hunger Games) to illustrate his points, linked to Vogler’s hero’s journey, and set us up for Donald Maass’s presentation on the next day.

Day three: Donald Maass

DonaldMaassI think Donald Maass was the story master I was most excited to meet. I’ve bought and read all of his books (except The Emotional Craft of Fiction, which I bought at the event), and I’ve read and shared all of his Writer Unboxed contributions.

I’m such a fan that when I met him in the elevator, I blurted out, “I’m here to see you!” like a total fangirl.

He paused. “Do I know you? You look familiar …”

“We’ve never met in person, but you may have seen me online—the white hair’s distinctive. I share all of your posts. I’m a big fan.” And then, mercifully, we reached the lobby and debarked. I was completely mortified, certain Maass thought I was a stalker.

It reminded me of a recent post by my friend, Kim, who said she becomes so distracted in the presence of a writer that she says the most inappropriate things. Happens to me all the time.

For those of you who haven’t been to a Donald Maass presentation, it’s a bit different from what you might expect. He presents a topic, speaks briefly, and then, he begins to ask questions. The questions are intended to guide you into the heart of your characters, your scenes, your story.

It’s very meditative, very zen. And totally effective.

Unfortunately, after a few hours, the brain stops working and you just write down the questions for future review and examination. At least, that’s what happened to my brain.

I just wanted to give you a flavour of Maass’s style.

Openings

  • Too many novel openings are written objectively despite the prevalence of first and close third person narration.
  • Where does the story truly begin?
  • Story does not equal plot.
  • What’s different and how does your protagonist know things will never be the same? What symbolizes this? What do they do differently? What needs to be explained? What expertise does your protagonist have? What do they know that the reader needs to know? How does the trouble come? Why?

Voice

  • Writers adopt a voice that suits the genre, but not the story.
  • What happens? What’s unique to the setting? What anchors you? What wakes you up to your reality? What’s unique to the character? Name, role/occupation, what task/goal/purpose do they think they have? What’s on the “to do” list of your character?
  • [We then did an exercise in which we rewrote the beginning of our works in progress with three different voices: ironic, academic, and spiritual.]
  • The inner life of the character is the true story.
  • Plot does not equal story.

Emotion

  • You have to write with emotion about emotion in a way that deeply engages readers.
  • What makes you angry?
  • Your protagonist feels a new emotion. Pause. Slow things down. Go deeper. How does that change your protagonist? What will they never do again? What will they never feel again? What will they never feel the same way about again?
  • How do you create the sense of an evolving human being rather than someone to whom stuff happens?
  • Does your character have flaws?
  • My Writer Unboxed colleague Lisa Cron wrote a book called Story Genius that I highly recommend. She states every character has a misbelief that shapes their story. What is your character’s misbelief? Who will be hurt because of their misbelief? What does the character get wrong? What do they believe that will cost them dearly? Who will walk away from them because of the misbelief? What will they lose? What can they do that shows they’ve changed? Is it big? Symbolic? What’s the secret they’ve never told anyone? Is your protagonist concealing something from someone else?
  • What’s the character’s origin story?

Other facets of novel construction

  • Summary. Lorin Oberweger posted on Writer Unboxed about this. When should you use it?
  • Scene structure. Things have changed by the end of the scene. Subvert expectations. Show the inner shift in the novel. Scenes must change either the plot or the character.
  • Enhancing the story world. What’s the environment? What does your protagonist see that no one else sees? What does your antagonist see? Is there a class structure? How does that play out with your characters? What historical events have shaped the world? What are the political structures? What is just not done? Is there a code of honour? How do you make a deal? How do you pay respect?
  • Telling and showing. Both have value.

What do readers want?

  • They want an emotional experience. They want to engage with your protagonist. They want a satisfying payoff. They want aesthetic value. They want a challenge. They want to figure it out. They want a feeling of success.
  • Readers have their own journey.

Third level emotion

  • Pick a pivotal scene in your novel. What is the character feeling? What else are they feeling (cancel out any similar emotions)? And again, what else (that is like neither of the first two)?
  • Use the third emotion you identify to frame the character in the scene. It seems counterintuitive, but it’s very effective. Readers use cognitive evaluation.

Mythic roles (archetypes)

  • What fairy tale character is your protagonist most like? Shakespearean? Biblical? Greek or Roman mythos? Indigenous or other cultural figure? Urban legend?
  • What symbology have you built around your character?

The four things your story must do

  • The macro level: structure/plot/character arc.
  • Scene level: structure and goals.
  • Microtension: every page, every line. Court cognitive dissonance.
  • Subvert reader expectations.

The big event

  • Think of the event that changes everything for your protagonist and the story world. What causes people to think it’s never going to happen? Think of three reasons why. How do we know it will happen? Think of three reasons.
  • Take out foreshadowing. Include misdirection. Manipulate expectations.
  • Choose a secondary character who is good. Invent a way to create doubt. Cast suspicion.
  • Make the reader wait for the payoff. What are three reasons it might be the wrong thing for your protagonist to do? Build a case for doing something different.
  • Every story has a moral map. Point the reader down the path. What makes a reader care even when nothing is happening? Hope. What is good? What can be saved?

StoryMasters

Day four was an analysis of To Kill a Mockingbird in which all three story masters brought their individual strengths to bear.

My brain was mush by the end, but I brought a lot of awesome back with me and twice as many pages of notes as what I’ve shared with you here.

RobertJSawyerOther writerly goodness: I met Jenny Madore in person, saw writer friends Jeanette Winsor and Sue Reynolds, and hung out with Robert J. Sawyer for a bit. It was comforting to know that someone I consider a story master in his own right is still learning 🙂

I had a fabulous time and suggest you check out the Free Expressions web site if you’re interested in attending one of their workshops.

As always, my friends, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories.

Muse-inks

Advertisements

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Sept 18-24, 2016

You want moar informal writerly learnings, you say?

Here they are!

K.M. Weiland shares the secret to writing dynamic characters: it’s always their fault. Helping writers become authors

Later in the week, Kate returns with more lessons from the MCU: stay true to your characters.

Tonia Marie Harris guest posts on Writer Unboxed: confessions of an intrepid mermaid.

Lisa Cron digs deeper into the response to her last Writer Unboxed post, in which she posited an alternative to the plotter/pantser dichotomy. It’s hard to own what you believe.

Dave King: give your characters roots. Writer Unboxed

Lisa Janice Cohen shares the seven lessons she’s learned over five years and six novels. Writer Unboxed

Dan Blank: share your voice. Writer Unboxed

Chuck Wendig: here’s how to finish that fucking book, you monster. Terribleminds
Later in the week, Chuck posts: it’s art that will help us survive.

Susan Brooks returns to Janice Hardy’s Fiction University: the importance of genre specificity, part two. Then, Janice guests on C.S. Lakin’s Live, write, thrive: are you making these three common revision mistakes?

Megan Hannum shares five apps that will help you revise your manuscript. DIYMFA

Laura Drake: nail that first line. Writers in the Storm

Chris Winkle shares her insights into creating your antagonist’s journey. Mythcreants

W.B. Sullivan shares six ways to cultivate urgency that will captivate readers. The Write Life

Rebecca Smith: what Jane Austin can teach us about building suspense. Literary Hub

Alice Sudlow posts on the proper order of adjectives.* The Write Practice

*It should be noted that I posted about this in past weeks, including Chuck Wendig’s take.

Indigenous or aboriginal, which is correct? CBC

Roz Morris offers her views on writing as a hobby, an art, a profession, a business, or a vocation. Is there a difference and why is it important? Nail your novel

Kimberly Brock embraces her inner weirdos on Writers in the Storm.

Kirsten Oliphant posts on Jane Friedman’s blog: how to leverage the power of someone else’s platform without being smarmy. Later in the week, Andrea Dunlop shares five questions you should ask yourself when you’re getting ready for a book launch.

So this was a thing that happened:

Writescape profiles Jenny Madore.

Leonard Cohen celebrates his birthday with a present to us. Bob Boilen for NPR.

Buzzfeed lists 28 underused words that you should start using.

Jane Friedman offers her annual state of publishing update.

Publishers Weekly shares the results from their publishing industry salary survey. The trends and disparity are still unsettling.

Susanne Althoff looks at The Bestseller Code and how algorithms could save publishing but ruin novels. Wired

Viet Thanh Nguyen unpacks the complicated issue of diversity in publishing. The Library Journal

Alyssa Wong, Alice Sola Kim, Cat Valente, and Seth Dickenson discuss diversity in science fiction. Leah Schnelbach for Tor.com.

The Fantasy Faction presents part five of their gender and stereotyping in fantasy series: bisexual characters.

Emily V. Gordon says that television writers are doing a better job at portraying characters with mental illness. The New York Times

Keri Walsh: the taming of the bard. Public Books

Watch the PBS trailer for their documentary, Maya Angelou: And still I Rise. The Vulture

More sadness: Terry Jones diagnosed with dementia 😦 The Telegraph

Cinephelia & Beyond takes an in-depth look at Alan Parker’s Angel Heart.

A Nigerian comics startup is creating African superheroes. Lily Kuo for Quartz.

Sarah Gailey posits that Hermione Granger is more than just a sidekick. Tor.com

Watch the Stranger Things kids warm up the Emmy audience with their version of “Uptown Funk.” Entertainment Weekly

And now, I’m a little exhausted.

See you Thursday!

Tipsday

Review of Ursa Unearthed by JL Madore

Ursa Unearthed

What Amazon says:

Mika’s life has never been normal, but it’s hers.
After being told by the Great Spirit that her destiny is to stand up for the Earth Mother’s children and “save the great species from extinction,” she buries herself in an investigative journalism career hunting down poachers and exposing illegal trade in wildlife exotics. A survivor by nature, she would rather fight injustice than maneuver the hassles and heartache of relationships.
When danger suddenly finds her unprepared, Mika’s perception of her life is shattered and she’s hurled into a realm of magic and murder she does not understand. Seduced by Bruin, the powerful warrior who saves her life, Mika is catapulted into a world where Were-creatures and Scourge assassins threaten not only her life but her heart as well.
With the boundary between worlds crumbling, Mika realizes that committing to save the great species of Weres will draw her deeper into a reality more terrifying to her than anything she’s faced before.
Trusting in love.


 

My thoughts:

I read and reviewed Blaze Ignites a year or so ago, because Jenny and I had worked together in a critique group and I was itching to find out what the finished product was like. When Jenny offered me a review copy of Ursa Unearthed, the second novel in her Scourge Survivor Series, I again jumped at the chance.

I love to see my writer friends grow and mature in their craft.

I’m happy to say I lurved Ursa Unearthed.

Jenny writes in a bare (dare I say, naked) style. Not a word is wasted. Action and hot sex propel the reader through the book. I actually finished reading it the week before last. At my reading rate, I burned through it.

My critical eye caught a few, very minor, editing gaffes, but by and large, my only critical comment on the story itself is that Mika’s “lie,” the thing that prevents her from committing to Bruin until things become so dire she has no choice, is not well developed at the outset. I occasionally found myself irritated with Jenny’s protagonist for her failure to get over her bad self, spank that inner moppet, put on her big girl panties, and deal.

Developing her trauma would have given this reader something to hang that irritation on. There would be a reason beyond being transported into a world of magic and danger to prevent her from accepting her altered circumstances.

Given that Mika is Native North American, has a spiritual connection with the Earth Mother, which grants her supernatural insights, and her main support, her grandfather, accompanies her to Haven, Mika shouldn’t have been so resistant.

Having said that, I think Ursa Unearthed is a fabulous book. The characters are otherwise well-drawn and Jenny has a knack for making you care about them.

And yes, you read that correctly earlier, there is lots of hot sex in the novel and Jenny writes this well, too. You’ll tingle in all the wrong naughty right places 😉

The story is standalone, but readers of Blaze Ignites will recognize many familiar faces in the cast. They don’t detract from Mika and Bruin’s character arcs, though. The spotlight remains where it should, on Mika and her bear.

My rating:

Four out of five stars.


 

About the author:JL Madore

JL Madore didn’t find writing so much as it found her. Waking each morning with a vivid cast of characters tangled in chaos in her head, it seemed essential to capture them on the page. With Blaze Ignites and Ursa Unearthed published and receiving rave reviews, she’s turning her attention to Watcher Untethered, an unpublished paranormal/erotic romance manuscript which just won 4th place in the Toronto Romance Writers – The Catherine. Aside from spinning tales of elves, weres, demons and fallen angels, she’s also Vice President of the Writers’ Community of Durham Region, a 300 member writing organization just outside of Toronto. http://www.jlmadore.ca/

The Writing Process Blog Hop

Yes, it’s actually happening!

I had a bit of a false start back in April when Gemma Hawdon originally tagged me, and now that Claudette Young, A.K.A. Claudsy has tagged me for a second time, I actually found a couple of fellow bloggers who hadn’t already done it 🙂

First, I must thank my nominators:

Gemma Hawdon and familyGemma Hawdon lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and two children. She writes articles, short stories and web content for clients. She’s just completed the first book in a two-part children’s fantasy series and writes a blog http://topoftheslushpile.com/ about – funnily enough – trying to get to the top of the slush pile. She loves hot coffee, long walks and sneaking off to the movies when everyone else is at work.

Public Contact Details:
Twitter: @gemmaleehawdon
Facebook: facebook.com/topoftheslushpile
Email: gemmaleehawdon@gmail.com


 

Claudette J. Young began writing seriously in 2008 and continues to write in multiple Claudette J. Younggenres. She strives to learn something new each day—a new poetry form, new writing technique, new foreign word, or whatever strikes her fancy. Her primary genres are poetry, science fiction/fantasy, flash fiction, children’s literature, women’s fiction, along with creative non-fiction, essay, and memoir. She tries to cover all of her bases by writing for audiences that range from young children to senior citizens.

Claudette has been published in numerous online publications for poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, as well as print magazines and two international poetry anthologies. She continues to hone her craft by working on multiple projects, including book-length ones. Her regular work can be viewed on her collaborative website and blogs at: http://2voices1song.com/ as well as www.claudettejyoung.com/


 

Now for the hard part

I have to answer four questions all about—you guessed it—my WIPs and process. I’ll apologize to my followers, for whom some of this will be a repeat of my Next Chapter posts, but I hope there will be some new, tasty stuff in the mix for you too.

What am I working on?

Several projects. This year, I decided, inspired in part by Rochelle (one of my nominees – see below) to attempt working on multiple projects at once.

First is my epic fantasy, Initiate of Stone.

An aspirant mage is betrayed by those she trusts most, but when war razes her village, she loses family, friends, and the possibility of initiation. The secrets kept from her may be the keys to stopping the mad god intent on enslaving her world and her quest for power leads to a confrontation with the man who tore her life apart.

Yeah, still needs work.

It’s currently out with betas. I have a couple who are very thorough/detail oriented, and that’s just fine with me, because I’ve been able to use the time to make some major decisions about the novel, remap it, make editing notes, a beat sheet, and reverse engineer the plot. When I hear back from my peeps, I’ll be ready for one more massive rewrite, and then it’s onto querying.

Second is a young adult urban fantasy titled, Figments.

Her father’s murder sends a girl spiralling into depression, and, she fears, delusion. As her figments turn out to be real, she learns that everything else she thought she knew is a lie, opening the door to the terrifying possibility that her father was a modern-day Frankenstein, and she is his apocalyptic monster.

Figments was last year’s NaNoWriMo project and I am currently mapping it out, then I’ll get to the beat sheet, edit notes, and reverse engineering. This one has a few revisions ahead.

My third project is Gerod and the Lions, a middle grade, traditional fantasy.

A boy’s father sells his little sister to the Child Merchants and he sets off, alone, to rescue her. Clever, but small, he fails his first attempt and finds shelter in a circus where he discovers a talent for talking to lions and allies who help him track the Child Merchants to the capital, where a royal encounter and a daring rescue bring the boy face to face with his sister and her new owners.

I’m still drafting this one, but I expect to be finished by the end of this year.

Finally, there’s Apprentice of Wind, the second book in my epic fantasy series.

She’s come into her power through an act of murder and now a rogue sourceress (it’s not a typo), in the company of the half-brother she never knew and the avatar of the goddess, must defend the king’s city and then race to battle the mad god. If she can’t become powerful enough to defeat him, her life and her world will be destroyed.

The draft has been assembled and mapped, but will require substantial rewriting because of the revisions to IoS.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

What’s that saying? There’s nothing new under the sun.

The only thing that distinguishes my work from other fantasy novels being written and published is me. It’s my writing and my voice that will set them apart.

The epic series is pretty standard fare, but I have what I hope is a truly strong heroine who drives the plot and some compelling secondary characters all of whom I torture mercilessly. None of the characters is purely good or evil—except the mad god, he’s just psychotic—so it’s complex and dark and unrelenting. And there’s a lot of vomiting, or so I’ve been told by at least one reader 😉

The YA novel features a gargoyle, but I think in the search for “original” beasties, this ground has already been trod, as has the Frankenstein angle, but not, perhaps, in the way I have approached it.

The MG might be fairly original, a young lion tamer who takes down a child slavery ring? I might have something there.

Why do I write what I do?

The main reason is that fantasy and science fiction were what I started reading: C.S. Lewis, Lloyd Alexander, Susan Cooper, Madeline L’engle, Ursula K. Le Guin. It was also what I started watching: Doctor Who, Star Wars, Star Trek, etc.

As I read or watched, I imagined myself as a character in the story. Sometimes I’d even dream about it. These derivative, or fan-based, works were some of my earlier stories. When I grew older, I understood that I wanted to help other people feel what I felt as the consumer of these creative works.

How does my writing process work?

Sweet Jebus.

The thing about my process is that it is . . . a process. It’s what happens between my head and the page. The two words I might choose to characterize my writing process are organic and evolving.

I generally shoot from the hip. I write first and ask questions later, but I’m also addicted to learning. With every writing craft book or blog post I read, or workshop I take, I learn something, and I incorporate bits and pieces of everything into my process. How do I choose which bits and pieces? It feels good or right. It fits.

I’m an unapologetic pantser, but I generally outline after the first draft, and even though I may not have a formal outline to write by, I always know where my story is going. I know the end and major events before I begin. I may even have sketched out scenes and characters before I get to the actual drafting. I do a lot of preliminary work in my head (read, incubating).

According to some coaches, that’s a form of outlining. *bats eyelashes endearingly*

I’ve tried alpha readers (who read an early draft), beta readers (who read later drafts), professional editors, reviews of the first X pages, first act (some of this done with Jenny – see nominees, below) . . . I generally give everything a try once and decide by the results I get whether I’ll do it the same way next time or not.

In this moment, here’s how my process works:

Ideas:

Ideas emerge from dreams. I, like many writers, dream in story. It may be a bit surreal, but they’re full-colour movies, sometimes even in three acts. This used to happen a lot when I was a kid, but now, I might get one or two story dreams a year. Still, that’s a fair backlog of ideas.

Ideas emerge from journaling. I started keeping a journal in university when knowledge from different disciplines kept colliding in my skull. Now, I find that my curation is taking the place of journaling. I share the articles and posts that make me think or feel and that becomes a kind of record. I also use Evernote.

Ideas emerge from reading. I’m a “clip-rat.” If I read something physical that makes me think, I clip it, or make a copy and save it in my idea file.

Ideas emerge from exercises or prompts. This is not as frequent as I’m not keen on exercises and prompts, but on a few occasions, it’s worked. Gerod and the Lions resulted from a Natalie Goldberg prompt.

Drafting:

I used to draft long hand because that was the tool I had most easily available to me. The idea that became Initiate of Stone filled two large spiral-bound notebooks.

Then, I started to type.

That gave way to word processing when I got my first computer. Those were the DOS days of black screens and orange text.

Now, I rely mostly on Word, and though I have purchased Scrivener, I’ve found that the process of importing and formatting is a bit cumbersome. I’d rather be writing. But I have enrolled in a course, so that may change.

Revisions:

After drafting, I let things sit for a while and move onto other projects, or work on short stories, or do something completely unrelated like home renovation or gardening.

I print out my draft as economically as possible and read it through.

I “map” my novels out. It’s an outline of sorts and I can easily rearrange, cut, and rewrite based on my map. Mapping is done long hand and then transcribed into a computer document.

Beat sheets and edit notes are generally long hand as well. I usually relocate to the living room or some other place than my office to make these notes.

Once I have all my structural work and edit notes completed, I’ll launch into editing the draft, copying each chapter into a new document and rewriting/editing it fully before moving on to the next.

This process repeats until I’m satisfied.

Alpha or beta readers, or editors might come in around the third or fourth version.

And that’s pretty much how it’s gone to this point.

My process is continually subject to change.

And finally, my nominoms (da-doo-da-do-doo – yes, I’m a Muppet at heart).

Jenny Madore (writing as JL Madore)

JL MadoreJL Madore didn’t find writing so much as it found her. Waking each morning with a vivid cast of characters tangled in chaos in her head, it seemed essential to capture them on the page. With Blaze Ignites and Ursa Unearthed published and receiving rave reviews, she’s turning her attention to Watcher Untethered, an unpublished paranormal/erotic romance manuscript which just won 4th place in the Toronto Romance Writers – The Catherine. Aside from spinning tales of elves, weres, demons and fallen angels, she’s also Vice President of the Writers’ Community of Durham Region, a 300 member writing organization just outside of Toronto. www.jlmadore.ca


 

Rochelle Sharpe (writing as R.L. Sharpe)

I’m many things: A reader; a writer; a mother of 2; a wife of 1; Christian; Australian.Rochelle Sharpe

I’ve been telling stories since I could talk and started writing them down when I was 8. It will take an awful lot to stop me – like death. Some say I’m a dreamer, and I have my head in the clouds, but I say that’s better than having two feet planted firmly on the ground.

I define myself as a storyteller. Writing is my life. Through writing I get to record all the worlds I have been blessed with discovering, worlds I would love to share with you fully one day, as soon as I can convince a publisher my worlds are worth sharing 🙂

I spend most of my time in fantastical worlds with fantastical people, both I have created and those created by others, and there is no other way I’d rather spend my time.

I work hard on making my dreams come true. And I believe in myself, because if I don’t, who else will?

http://rlsharpe.wordpress.com/

Writing Process Blog Hop

Review of Blaze Ignites by JL Madore

As I mentioned in our interview, I’d worked with Jenny in an online critique group.  I was so pleased to hear that she moved ahead with her novel and was eager to read the results.

The Amazon blurb:

BLAZE IGNITES blends strong, clever women and tough, sexy men in a fast paced, Blaze full page covervolatile cocktail of action, seduction, and wicked humour.

“Destiny my ass.” Jade Glaster refuses to believe the Fates rule her life. Orphaned after an attack by Scourge soldiers, a young Jade vows never to be powerless again. Once grown and strong, wielding the affinities of fire and healing, Jade protects innocents as an enforcer for her world’s elite policing agency—The Talon.

When an emissary mission to reinstate a race of exiled Elves brings Galan into her life, Jade finds herself overwhelmed by new passions, some welcome, some not. Although Galan’s antiquated views on women offend her to her heated core, when the Scourge attack his family, she helps him navigate the outside worlds he knows nothing about—the magical Realm of the Fair and, stranger still…the modern streets of Toronto.

Through their sensually charged pursuit of justice, Jade discovers that when dealing with the Fates—destiny is never random.

______________________________________________________________________

My thoughts:

Jade Glaster doesn’t think much of fate.  Her life has been a literal shit storm to this point (in fact, the series was originally called the Shit Storm Survivors, which I now note has been tactfully changed to Scourge Survivors) and if this was fate’s doing, Jade wants none of it.

Her Talon code name is Blaze because of her red hair and fiery temper, which often results in the unleashing of a literal blaze of power.

One of Jade’s laments at the outset of the novel (aside from the Scourge murdering her parents), is her apparent frigidity. When her duties for Castain, chief of the Fae gods, bring her face to face (and crotch to crotch—had to be said) with Galen, however, Jade’s problem ceases to be one of not reacting to men, but of her overwhelming reaction to Galen.

This is not what she needs right now. She has a mission to complete.

The writing is taut and gives the reader Jade’s attitude with both barrels. I like the ‘tude and the sexy bits, which are well-done. I only have a few issues with Blaze Ignites, and most of those are matters of personal taste (word choice, creative decisions) which other readers will likely not cavil at.

Events begin with a bar fight involving an Otterkie that is never mentioned again. Readers often expect details like this to have a pay off somewhere later in the novel. It’s a loose thread that should be woven in.

Though conflict, physical and otherwise, abounds, the novel takes a while to pick up the pace. When things swing into high gear, the author keeps them at a high pitch with few exceptions.

I have to point out, for a supposedly “kick-ass” heroine, Jade gets her ass kicked more often than not.  This I did have a bit of a problem with, especially given the denouement of the novel (which I will not give away).

It just seemed to me that Jade shouldn’t have had her ass handed her or to be in need of rescue as often as she did. Yes, Galen needs a maiden in distress, but there might have been another way around this.

Blaze Ignites is a solid contender in the paranormal romance and urban fantasy sub-genres and suitable for fans of Laurel K. Hamilton and Sherrilyn Kenyon. Readers of Charles de Lint will find Madore’s work enjoyable as well.

A good first novel in a new series that I’m sure we’ll see more of in the future.

My rating: four out of five stars.

______________________________________________________________________

About the author:

JL MadoreJL Madore, lover of family, animals and chocolate, spends her days writing fantasy romance and paranormal erotica. Strangely enough, she hadn’t considered being a writer until her writing muse found her lying in a hammock in a Panamanian rainforest.Blaze Ignites, the first installment in the five novel Scourge Survivor Series, was born out of that tropical haven. Though she didn’t actually see any Elves or Weres running through the trees or swimming in the waterfall grottos their voices came to her there and had a story to tell.

To learn more, you can follow her at:
http://www.jlmadore.ca
http://www.twitter.com/jlmadore

Six questions with JL Madore

JL MadoreJL Madore is the writer of fast paced, sexy fantasy and paranormal romance series with heat levels ranging from sizzle to erotic. She is the winner of the Writing Fairy Scholarship for New Writers 2012, a board member of WCDR – the Writers’ Community of Durham Region (a 300+ member writers group focused on developing authors in all aspects of writing), a member of two writing critique groups and a two time student of ‘A Novel Approach’, a yearlong workshop to study the craft of writing novels and hone ideas into working manuscripts.

You can find her at www.jlmadore.ca and on Twitter @jlmadore

____________________________________________________________________________

Welcome to Writerly Goodness, Jenny 🙂

After working together for a short time on an online critique group, I lost touch with Jenny.  I’m so happy that the publication of her novel, Blaze Ignites, was what connected us again.  Congratulations!

WG: When did you first start writing, and when did you know that writing was what you wanted to do, long term?

JLM: Writing actually snuck up on me. I often read about authors who say they ‘knew since they were a kid’ or ‘have been jotting down stories since they could hold a crayon’, but that wasn’t me. My interest actually came about when my husband and I got fed up with the day-to-day and moved our family to Central America for a year. From September 2008 to August 2009 we lived in Llano Grande, Panama. No jobs. No school. Nothing but the four of us on a stunning tropical rainforest property for a solid 12 months. It was during those quiet afternoons, lying in a hammock, reading the one and only novel we brought with us–my daughter’s copy of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight–that I started to imagine different ways the story could have gone. That lit the fire.

WG: How did Jade’s story first occur to you, and how long did it take you to write your first draft?

JLM: Well, I’ve always been a huge lover of Elves. As a pre-teen I devoured the Elf Quest graphic novels and who isn’t in love with Legolas Greenleaf from Lord of the Rings? I mean, really. When we returned to Ontario in the fall of 2009, I decided to get the story out of my head. Casting Galan was easy and I knew I wanted the protagonist to be a kick-ass female, so Jade had to be able to hold her own. The first draft was written in six months, the only problem was I didn’t know how to write well. I recognized that if I wanted the novel to be any good, I needed to study the craft of writing. After three years of courses, critiques and revisions, Blaze Ignites is ready to hit the public eye.

WG: Are you a pantser, or plotter?  How does that play into your revision and editing process?

JLM: Most definitely a plotter, but not too tightly bound. I write linearly with a general story and loose outline and let the characters adjust things as they go. The funny thing for me was that I saw the big picture story arc for the Survivor Series and kept writing. Before I went back to finalize Blaze, and while I was learning the craft, I’d written the first drafts of the following three books. After that, the editing and revisions just seemed to fall in place.

WG: You’ve gone the self-publishing route.  Were you always set on self-publishing, or did you try for a traditional deal first?  Why did you ultimately choose Lulu?

JLM: I queried traditional agents and publishers over 2012 and although it sounds funny, during that year I received some genuinely supportive rejections. It seemed the industry opinion was that though they liked the story and many commented positively on the voice and humour, ‘Elves won’t sell. The market won’t support a fantasy love story with Elves’.  I disagree. And if I’m wrong, so be it. Galan is an Elf. Decision made, self-publishing it is.

Lulu seemed the most user friendly for a launching platform for me and where I am right now. I’m currently working on uploading to Createspace and others, as well as talking to a printer, but life gets in the way sometimes and it is slow going at the moment.

WG: When did you start building an online platform and how is that supporting your work as a writer?

JLM: My online presence is definitely a work-in-progress. I’m not technically inclined in the slightest, so that side of my writing career is a struggle. I think I probably did everything backwards, but my website, www.jlmadore.ca is only recently up and I tweet when I think I have something worth saying. It’s too early in the game to say how it’s working, but I’m on board for the long haul.

WG: What’s coming up for JL Madore and Jade Glaster?

JLM: The survivors at Haven have many sexy adventures ahead of them: Book 2 – Bruin’s story and Book 3 – Lexi’s story, are being reviewed by critique groups and beta readers, Blaze full page coverwhile Book 4 – Lia’s story is almost finished and waiting in the wings. Currently I have a paranormal erotic/romance series that’s been getting interest from the traditional publishing world, so I’m working on that. I’d love to have a hybrid publishing approach and span both worlds. Fingers crossed.

Thank you for sharing your time and experience with us, Jenny!  Break a pencil with your future writing endeavours 🙂

My pleasure, thank you so much for the opportunity and my best to all your readers.