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Ever wonder what it's like to be in that moment between struggling artist and published author? Read on and find out.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Writing Prod

            This week I will be headed up to the LDStoryMakers conference. Because of that there will be no posts for Wednesday and Friday. (Sorry) However, you can expect to hear about the conference next week.
            My mad push to finish my WIP has paid off and my novel End Times is days away from sending off to the publisher. Boo-yah!

            For this week’s writing prompt I am presenting what I call Mix and Mesh. There’s bound to be a better name for it and feel free to suggest one. The basic premise of this prompt is that you randomly take two stories and mix them together. You find a way to put them together in a way that blends key elements from both stories, but in a way that gives you a finished product that is unique.
            Easier said than done, I suppose.
            Keep in mind that there is a lot to work with in a story; plot, theme, character, setting, mood, conflict, etc. Not only can each of these be meshed together in varying degrees to come up with a nearly endless amount of possibilities, but you can choose to take any literal element from a story and make it figurative, and visa versa.
            Anyone familiar with my blog will probably know that I do a fair amount of these just to be funny. This sort of prompt definitely lends itself to that. However, if you’re serious about it this method of creating a story can be especially effective if you draw from powerful stories to begin with.
            In my mind, the best thing about this sort of prompt is that it can help you create a cross genre tale that could really break through. Just imagine a hero facing Nazi cowboys, or working his way through Zombie space. (Okay, it could just be a matter of me being a little tweaked in the first place that makes this sort of possibility so exciting.)

            For my example I am going to make use of two Oscar winning movies. This will allow me to post a couple of pictures (which I need to do more often) to illustrate my point. Those films are:

Ben Hur (1959)

Titanic (1997)

Sea of Fire – After encountering a powerful religious leader, a fisherman and his family are converted to a faith the preaches peace and tolerance that are at odds with the vicious laws and violent nature of the country in which they live. A long time personal rival uses his position as a judge to falsely accuse the family of treason and they are forced to work as slaves during a barbaric race across the ocean. If they win they will be set free to colonize the newly discovered land. If not, they will remain as slaves or die in one of the many sea-battles that are a normal part of the race.

            As always, if you want to participate write up a small story (100-200 words) or the elevator pitch for a novel / screenplay. Then post it, or a link to it, in the comments section below. I’ve included an example that I made up this morning.

            Okay, I couldn’t help myself. Here’s another example just for laughs.

Gladiator (2000)

Chicago (2002)

I’m Spartacus – Cross Gladiator with Chicago and you get a musical set in the violent, bloodthirsty height of the Roman Empire. Sing along with the cast through rousing numbers such as No, No, I’m Spartacus and When In Rome – Kill the Romans. Follow Spartacus and his band of gladiators as they break out of the Roman prison and fight their way to Broadway where they realize their unspoken dreams and tell the story of their lives on stage. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

This Week In The Blogverse

            Writing a weekly feature about all of the great blogs you’ve discovered carries the risk that you will eventually run out of subject matter. However, the problem I didn’t foresee was that some of the blogs would have multiple points of interest and I would have to make a choice about which one to spotlight first and wonder how soon I should return to discuss the rest.
            Rachael Harrie has created that very conundrum for me this week. I feel that all of her blogging efforts are a gold mine of opportunities for an unpublished author like me.
            This time out I want to focus on the blogging challenges she offers on a regular basis. For April it was the A to Z Blogging Challenge. She painstakingly listed a different challenge for each day of the month. Wow, that had to have been a real brain buster to come up with that many variations on the A to Z theme.
            Kudos to Rachael for giving so much of her time to host these challenges.
            Participating in a well organized blog challenge offers several benefits to the up and coming writer. One of the most important of these being the opportunity for you to network with your fellow authors. Rachael’s challenges receive an excellent level of participation. You will be submitting creative entries along-side other writers in your chosen genre.
            These challenges represent a fertile field for you to harvest new followers. Each entry you post gives readers another reason to fall in love with your writing. It may be the first time they’ve read any of your work or it could be that this time you handled a theme in a way that really won them over. I know that each time I joined in one of Rachael’s challenges I have seen my number of followers grow.
            During the challenges the participants are encouraged to leave comments about the entries. This may give you a chance to receive feedback on your writing from a larger pool of readers than you normally reach. Although, I don’t recommend you use this as a gage of your writing skill, it can be useful in getting a general idea of how the readers are reacting to it.
            The challenges are the prefect time to stretch those writing muscles and try something new. Write outside of your regular genre. Test out an idea you have for a plot. Introduce a character you’re considering using in a novel. Write it and see how it turns out. Maybe you’ll get a few suggestions on how you can change it up or otherwise improve it.  
            And lastly, it’s fun. I don’t recommend forsaking your work-in-progress to do these, but a small break can sometimes be helpful. Rachael is wonderful at providing prizes for participating in the challenges and winning one of them can certainly make your day.

            Drop by Rachael’s blog and say “Howdy.” (Okay, you can just say Hi.)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Writing Prod

            My apologies for not posting Friday and for giving you such an abbreviated post today. I have a deadline to meet and have been focused on finishing my WIP.
            The very first writing prompt I learned was introduced to me as a method of developing games ideas. During that workshop they also demonstrated that the real value of the designer (or writer) is not in the basic element of the idea you’re working with but in the actual execution.
            This prompt involves randomly selecting three to five words and using those as the central themes of the story. As you develop the connections between the random words the elements of your story start to emerge. The human mind is very adept at making connections so this should be no problem for any of us creative types.
            I find that nouns work best, but verbs and adjectives work as long as you keep them to a minimum. One method of randomly selecting the words is to leaf through the newspaper and take the first noun, verb, or adjective you see. You can also flip through the channels of your television of radio and just copy down whichever words that catch your attention.
            Once you have the decided upon number of words you can look them over. If a story idea doesn’t immediately jump out to you select one at a time and consider whether it represents a character, place, motive, or goal in the story. By time you get through assigning all of them their roles in the story you should have some excellent ideas of what it’s all about.

            Here are five random words that I picked by flipping through the television channels: Hunger, Mood, Price, Electronics, and Federal.
            If you want to participate, use those five words to write a small story (100-200 words) or the elevator pitch for a novel or screenplay. As usual, I am including an example of using the prompt to generate a story idea. (I had an idea brewing by the time I had written down the second word.)

Hunger Strike – Joe Carson’s dreams of a daring career in the FBI vanished on the day they assigned him to be a supply clerk in a dead end post. Now the lead investigators in the office have mysteriously eaten themselves to death and Joe is the only person with a lead on what they were investigating when it happened.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Writer Wednesday Bloghop

            This week I decided to participate in the bloghop that Nicole Pyles offers on Wednesdays. She takes an old public domain picture, generates five random words and asks everyone to write something about it.

            The five words are; Ham, Girder, Spike, Parity, Sales. And here’s the picture:


            What I present to you is the dialogue from Sam and Janet Evening.

            “Oh, darling.” Janet batted her eyes. “Isn’t that a delightful buffet table?”

            “I suppose it might be,” Sam responded coolly. “If a person was into such things.”

            “Don’t be that way. This is a party. And you know what that means?”

            “It means that Harold Smithers will be boasting of record-setting sales for his abysmal home furnishing stores. What a colossal bore.”

            “No, silly. A party means – Free Food!!!”

            “There is that as well. With any luck someone will have spiked the punch. That should bring a little parity to the participants. The inebriated and the incompetent will be able to hold conversations on even terms at last.”

            “Pshaw.” Janet waved away the comment. “Be a dear and fetch me a platter full of those ham and cheese h’ordeuvres. They look simply ravishing.”

            “Do you think that is wise?” Sam gave her a sideways glance.

            “No, but I simply must have them.”

            Sam sighed and made his way to the buffet table, muttering under his breath. “I do hope that the girders are up to the task of supporting both my wife and her appetite.”        


Monday, April 16, 2012

Writing Prod

            Today is Monday and that means another Prompt Prod to help you get your creativity on track for the week. As always, please feel free to include what you came up with, or a link to what you came up with, in the comments section below.
            Last week I explored looking at movie titles as a source for writing inspiration. A similar method can be used with songs. Obviously, you can do the exact same thing with song titles that we did with movie titles; anything with titles can be used that way.
            The great thing about using songs for inspiration is that they not only provide words and concepts that ripe for spring-boarding a story, but the music itself gives an emotional direction. For authors that translates into mood and setting.
            Listen to a few songs. If you have a rough idea of what you want in the story you can even pick songs that have a tempo appropriate for it. Since lyrics are interpreted so differently by each individual the chances are good it will lead you to create a unique story line. I think the trick to this method is to think outside the box. Most songs have a message that is easily followed (when you can understand what they’re singing), but ignore that and really stretch your imagination on what it could mean.

            Once again, use the prompt to write a small story (100-200 words) or the elevator pitch for a novel or screenplay. I will include a few excerpts for all of you to work with, but don’t hesitate to use whatever happens to be playing on the radio right now.

1. Children of the Sun by Billy Thorpe

The people of the earth stood waiting
Watching as the ships came one by one
Setting fire to the sky as they landed
Carrying to the world children of the sun, children of the sun

2. My Generation by the Who

Why don't you all f-fade away (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
And don't try to dig what we all s-s-say (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
I'm not trying to cause a big s-s-sensation (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
I'm just talkin' 'bout my g-g-g-generation (Talkin' 'bout my generation)

3. Holiday by Green Day

There's a song sounding out of key
To a hymn called Faith and Misery (Hey!)
A plead, the company lost the war today

I beg to dream and differ from the hollow lies
This is the dawning of the rest of our lives
On holiday

4. Savin’ Me by Nickelback

Heaven's gates won't open up for me
With these broken wings I'm fallin'
And all I see is you

5. The Look by Roxette

She's got the look.
She's got the look.
What in the world can make a brown-eyed girl turn blue.
When everything I'll ever do I'll do for you
and I go: la la la la la

            Here is my take on a couple of the songs:

Based on “My Generation” is a pitch for a YA book. Jerrod may have the coolest parents on the planet. In fact, they may be too cool. How can he get his friends to pay more attention to him than his parents?

(I know it needs some work. Normally I spend more than 15 seconds on my story pitches.)

Based on “Holiday” is a pitch for a dystopian book. After a brutal war, the Holy Voice has brought peace and harmony to the nation as it recovers from near annihilation. But when Sunflower’s parents mysteriously disappear she discovers a diary that chronicles their actions with a secret society intent on overthrowing the government. And that’s when the Holy Voice takes notice of her.


Friday, April 13, 2012

This Week In The Blogverse - Writing With Shelly and Chad

            A little later than I expected, but well worth the wait, here is a look at the blog written by Shelly and Chad. Shelly does a wonderful job promoting the blog and Chad has some chops in the industry due to work writing sketch comedy.
            They do a feature called Teach and Talk Tuesdays that caught my attention. The basic premise is that they invite a guest blogger submit a post about writing. This week that author happened to be me.
            You got to love that Shelly and Chad have found a way to get their blog written by someone else. As my fellow bloggers already know, it can be a challenge to produce content for a blog every week. But this doesn’t work unless you are good a promoting your blog or networking with other authors. I see this as a testament to their skills in this area that they are able to pull this off successfully.
            As for the readers, this is a nice feature. It introduces them to a variety of authors who give their own unique voice to whatever topic is being discussed that week. Not only does that allow for a fresh perspective on the writing craft it gives a chance for their followers to discover a new and interesting voice.
            Obviously, authors and perspective authors have a chance to learn something new. Because the posts tend to be bite-sized nuggets of wisdom they can check it out with a minimal amount of time invested. You can gain the distilled essence of a writing concept without having to read an entire book to get it.
            This is great for the guest bloggers as well. It gives them exposure to a new audience and may result in picking up a few followers. At the very least, appearing on multiple blogs helps to get the word out about the visiting author.
            The aspect I like best about this feature is that it gave me an opportunity to work with a couple of great people in the writing community. Networking is in every industry. The more you reach out to the other authors that you meet the more opportunities are going to come your way.
            Go ahead and cruise on over to Shelly’s and Chad’s place. Check out some of the Teach and Talk posts that have been submitted over the last few weeks; you may learn a thing or two. Feel free to see what they do the rest of the week as well.

            And I would be happy to do more guest blog posts on writing tips I’ve picked up from Hollywood (or any other topic). If that interests you just drop me a line.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Kreativ Blogger Award

            In my household, KB used to stand for Killer Bunnies (a card game that I hate and my children love), but now it stands for Kreativ Blogger. That’s because it was awarded to me by Nicole Pyles on her blog.

            Let’s take a moment to look at it. Isn’t it pretty? Go ahead, you can touch it.

            According to the rules associated with the award I have to share seven facts about myself and then pass it along to seven other bloggers. First the facts and then the victims. Sorry, I meant nominees.

1. My family had lunch (Bar-B-Q) compliments of the famous actor, John Wayne.

2. I know how to shoe a horse and participated in the rodeo when I was younger.

3. I am the oldest of four children and look nothing like the others.

4. I am totally into genealogy and love searching for anyone’s ancestors.

5. I scream for Ice Cream all the time.

6. I married the most wonderful woman in the world.

7. I have designed over 50 card and board games. (But only published 4.)

            And here are the seven bloggers who deserve the Kreativ Blogger award.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Writing Prod

The First Prod

            As previously promised, here is my first writing prompt feature. Please feel free to provide me with feedback as to how you like it and whether I should continue it as a weekly feature.

            Think of “Prompt Prod” as a jump start on your creativity for the week. If you feel up to the task use the prompt to write a small 100-200 word story and post a link to it here in the comments section. Then once you’ve warmed up your writing muscles you’ll be ready to jump right back in to your WIP.

            A second reason for doing this is to take a look at various story generating methods. My wife has pointed out that I turn everything into a story. It’s true. Commercials, songs on the radio, a trip to the grocery store are all grist for my daily stories that I tell her when she asks how my day went. More importantly for this feature is the fact that they can provide any writer with the basic plot for a short-story or novel and over the weeks ahead we will delve into that concept.

            Today, we are going to look at generating stories from movie titles. That is how I discovered the idea for my first novel. As a beginning author I had worried about running out of ideas for stories. (Silly me.) Just to see how hard it would be to generate more I took out a book that reviewed older movies and scanned through the titles. Whenever a title caught my attention I wrote it down. Once I reached a goodly number of titles I closed the book and took a closer look at what I had. As it turned out Death Race 2000 was in that list and it got me wondering what it would be like to have a race for dead people. And that is how I came up with the idea for Hellathon.

            We are going to do the same thing today. I am going to list ten movie titles and anyone who wants to participate can write a short story, first page of a story, a story segment, or even the elevator pitch for a novel based on what comes to mind when you think about that title.

            Here are the ten titles. I hope you have fun with it.

            1. They Might Be Giants

            2. The Long Goodbye

            3. They Were Expendable

            4. Thunder Road

            5. Angels Die Hard

            6. You Only Live Twice

            7. Keeper of the Flame

            8. A Song Is Born

            9. A New Life

            10. Walk, Don’t Run

            While I was looking for titles to include it occurred to me that I should probably participate in the exercise myself. It helped that several ideas jumped out at me when I looked at the titles. I’m going to include two elevator pitches for stories as my contribution to the exercise.

Based on “They Might Be Giants” is a pitch for a children’s book: Jared and Sally have been asked by their father to take a pair of shoes to a customer in the next town. They are the most enormous shoes either of them have ever scene. Could it be that the people living there are giants? And if so, what will happen to the children when they arrive?

Based on “The Long Goodbye” is a pitch for romantic screenplay: Rob and Sarah have one last weekend together before he ships off to war.

Friday, April 6, 2012

This Week In The Blogverse

            Last week I announced that today I would be looking at the blog run by Shelly and Chad. They have a great feature over there that I want to point out to everyone, but I think the timing will be better if I cover it next week. Sorry to have mislead all of you.

            The featured blog for this week is Why Is My Book Not Selling run by Victorine Lieske. The title feature is the only one on the blog; Victorine has another blog that discusses writing topics, but it’s been awhile since she last posted there.
            Just as the title states, this features looks at the reasons why a book isn’t selling. Self-published authors submit information about their book that includes the title, genre, how long it has been available for purchase, the total sold so far, a link that shows the cover, and the first 300 words of the story. Victorine posts that information along with suggestions on what can be improved and then invites everyone to leave helpful comments for the author.
            The obvious great thing about this feature is that it provides a place for self-published authors to get help in marketing their book. Victorine offers some great advice on how to change the cover and the first page of the book to better attract more readers. This pairs nicely with the comments left by the readers which can give the author a feel for the reaction the book is getting in the market.
            This is an excellent free resource. If you are a self-published author take advantage of it to improve the sales of your book. It also serves as a perfect example of a basic principle in blogging; give your readers something of value. When you make it worth the reader’s time and effort to visit your blog they will continue to return and may even tell their friends about it. And no matter what your reason is for starting a blog the ultimate goal is to gain a readership and then grow it.
            Even if you don’t have a published book to submit this is a great feature. In my mind it’s the equivalent of an on-line workshop. You can sharpen your own writing skills by looking at the featured book and figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Post your comments and see what the other writers had to say about the book. Do this enough and you will start to develop a keener eye for spotting fatal flaws in the presentation of your own stories.
            Sooner or later a book will be featured that has similarities to your WIP. This gives you a chance to receive feedback when it helps you the most. Take a look at the comments with an eye on how they apply to your own writing and this becomes a valuable stop each week during your blog-browsing.

            Why Is My Book Not Selling has become a regular habit for me. I recommend that you make a couple of visits yourself and see if it can help your book marketing efforts.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Blog-Lift

            It’s done.
            My family is moved into the new house and a majority (at least 51%) of the boxes are unpacked. As promised, it is time for me to get back on track with my writing and that includes this blog.
            When I started this blog my vision was to share the knowledge of experienced authors with unpublished writers like myself. That and to post bits of random silliness of my own devising. Along the way I’ve learned a few things.
            Nearly every successful blog that I’ve encountered has at least one regular feature. During almost a year of bumbling along I’ve banged my head against the keyboard coming up with spontaneous ideas for columns. I don’t know why it took me so long to notice and act on that observation, but format for the blog will be changing.
            A regular feature does a couple of wonderful things for a blog. The first, and most important for me, it gives the author a focus on what they will write. Posting interviews with published authors fell into that category and those posts have been the most successful for me. The author still needs to come up with something to fill the slot each week, but they have a starting point.
            Another benefit of a standard weekly feature is that the readers know what to expect. If you have movie reviews on a Monday, then those followers who want to find out about the latest cinema offerings will be sure to stop by the blog at the beginning of the week.
            It doesn’t hurt to have a schedule. If you post on Mondays, Wednesday s, and Fridays your fans will know they can show up on those days and be treated to a dose of whatever it is you provide. That should eliminate the disappointed feeling of visiting a blog only to find an old post waiting for you.
            I suspect that this is not true for blogs which rely on posting of the daily thoughts and events of the author. They target the unsuspected occurrences that a person encounters. If that is the kind of blog you write just ignore most of what you just read.
            Now, on to the changes.

            My ambitions may get the better of me, but I plan to post Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I added a post on Monday’s because I expect that to be relatively short and easy. And this is what I have planned:

            Monday will have Prompt Prod. This will be a short feature designed to give writers a little exercise to start their creative juices flowing for the week. It’ll include a few comments about the type of prompt being used and then the prompt itself. Anyone wanting to participate can post a link to their short – 100 to 250 word – creation in the comments section. (If I can find an affordable way to generate some prizes I may start awarding a prize each week.)

            Wednesday will be more of what I’ve been doing; movie reviews, bits of silliness, and random writing topics. Not much else to say about that.

            Friday will have This Week In The Blogverse. (Do you think “Blogverse Tour” sounds better?) I already posted my first installment of that last Friday. With this feature I attend to discuss which blog really caught my attention during the week and what made it stand out. This is a chance to give some kudos to my fellow writers who are doing an outstanding job with their blog and give all of you some ideas for your own.

            So, what do you think? Is this an improvement? Is there anything I’ve missed?