Friday, July 21, 2017
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Please enjoy this video of John Branyon reciting the tale of the Three Little Pigs.
One of the honors of being in a circle of authors is the opportunity to beta-read for each other. Writers bare their souls, sharing their precious stories -- sometimes in raw, unpolished format -- in hopes of receiving feedback that will help them improve their craft. And, in exchange, they will read your own hatchling tales and provide constructive criticism for you.
My husband was not familiar with this process. To be honest, I only learned about it when I started a blog and heard about it from other bloggers. But the value is real.
It's so easy to be wrapped up in your own head when you read your own story. You overlook misspellings. You fan-girl over something clever that you wrote on page 9. You weep over the scene on page 14 because it was a scene you promised your grandmother that you would someday write. And you think everything you have written makes perfect sense because you understand what you wrote.
But someone else might see your story in a completely different light. And if you are planning to be published, you need to write for the world and not just for yourself. Which means you need to learn how to hone your craft. A fresh pair of eyes will see flaws in your story, gaps in your narrative, holes in your plots, incongruencies in your characters, lack of logic in your motives, and complete boring flatness in your most exciting scenes.
But you need to know those things so you can go back and make your story say what you really intended it to say. Did you want this scene to be exciting -- How can you make it more so? Were Sherlock's motives meant to be logical -- What clarifiers can you add to show that to the world? Had you envisioned Juliet slowly falling in love with Romeo -- Could you add more scenes to build the progression of her affection?
Don't get too narrow of a view, though. Beta-reader feedback doesn't always instigate painful corrections. Sometimes a beta-reader merely wants to express their faith in your story. Does that mean your story is flawless and will never need editing? No. It just means that your writing so captivated that reader that she truly believes in the merit of the tale. Raw and unpolished as your story may be, there was something more powerful than grammar and sentence order that captured the reader's attention and made her know that your story has great potential and that nothing fundamental needs to be changed.
And that has value, too. As artists, we are often tough on ourselves. We know that we are partial to our stories, but we doubt that anyone else will be. Or we read the story so often that it no longer sounds interesting, not even to us. To have a fresh pair of eyes read it and recognize its potential will send us back to the story with renewed vigor. Possibly with tears of joy in our eyes.
I recently had the opportunity to beta-read the first chapter for one of the Rooglewood contestants. It was indeed an honor and a privilege. And let me tell you, folks...I was totally captivated. I love her writing style, and I like the creative twist she put on this tale. If the rest of the entries for this contest are like this one, you guys are going to love this next collection.
I'm gearing up the courage to send my first chapter out for beta-readers. I want to make this story the best that it can be, and the best way to do that is to have a little constructive criticism. If you are interested in beta-reading for me, let me know in the comments below.
Have fun with your writing! And if you get a chance to swap beta-reading with someone, take the opportunity!
Friday, July 14, 2017
The sound of a mannish dwarf song began to filter through the forest. Several voices raised in chorus, marching toward them through the forest. Snow White’s face lit up with eager welcome. Moriah’s thoughts spun and she reached into her pocket for the sleeping potion.
Friday, July 7, 2017
I found it very interesting in the original Snow White tale that the honest mirror proclaimed the queen to be the fairest in the land.
The mirror is supposed to tell only the truth -- a fact that is demonstrated by the fact that it switches to Snow White as she grows in beauty. It was not swayed by the queen's position or power. And I like that about the mirror. Apparently the queen did, too, or she would have smashed it.
But here is where I am confused. Who is to say what beauty is? Isn't beauty in the eye of the beholder?
How do we define beauty? Is it a set of physical features? Is it that attractive quality in a person? Is it measured by inner goodness? What is beauty?
If it is physical features, who dictates what those features are? Haven't the ideas of "ideal beauty" changed through the centuries and various cultures? For me, I look at each of these pictures that I have posted in this entry, and I see great physical beauty in all of them. But do they all look the same? No! I love all hair colors and lengths. I like thick eyebrows and thin ones. I like Anne noses and Tzeitel noses and every other nose. I like mild facial features and bold ones. Pretty much every girl that I see, everywhere I go, is gorgeous.
So if all facial features are actually beautiful, what else can define beauty? Is it that attractive quality? Somebody that you admire and want to be around?
We've all seen the perfectly painted girl who was no fun to be around. She is so caught up in herself or in her own insecurities or in her lack of consideration for the needs of others that any elements of physical beauty fade away and you no longer find her attractive.
By the same token, we've all met people who didn't look like the current supermodel standard, but they were so fun or so caring or so happy or so confident that you couldn't help but admire them.
These kinds of beauty are the most attractive to me, partly because they don't fade with age or circumstance. I could look at a pretty painting all day long, but if I'm going to hang out with the subject I want her to be pleasant and kind. I'd rather have the homeliest friend in the world if she was happy and confident and truly cared about me.
So maybe beauty is measured by goodness? We've all read tales of some plain-faced old woman who was so good and self-less and kind that, by the end of the story, someone pronounces her the most beautiful woman they have ever met.
And, I know I've been talking mostly about girls, but let me say something about the menfolk, too. Do you know what attracts me to a guy? His attitude and demeanor. Does he stand tall and carry himself with confidence? Or does he slink in like a whipped puppy (or a slimy eel, for that matter)? Will he look me in the eye? Or do his eyes shift around? Does he stand up for what he believes in? Or will he just go with the flow? Does he treat people with respect or does he belittle them? Is he at ease or is he full of insecurities? Does he look out for others? Or can he think only of himself?My idea of a real man -- the sort I respect and admire (and the type that I am glad I married) -- has nothing to do with how suave his hair looks and whether his jawline resembles my favorite music artist.
And the same applies to my idea of a real woman. I think beauty is a combination of all these things: physical features, attitude, demeanor, values, heart. And I don't think it can be achieved by only one person at a time.
Tuesday, July 4, 2017
I hear writers complaining about their stories being too long or too short. Particularly when you are writing for a contest or a specific genre that has a required wordcount, this can be a big deal.
But the funny thing is: some writers find it easier to lengthen from their first draft and others prefer to shorten.
For me, I find it easier to make a short story longer. I think I'm a little bare-bones of a writer in my first draft, plus there is a lot of filler that happens in my brain and doesn't make it onto the paper. In other words, I know the motives and scenes and backgrounds so well that I forget that my reader doesn't. So when I send my stories out to betas, they tend to be caught off guard by how quickly a relationship buds or completely confused over why my king decided to go to war. So I come back through and fill in the missing development and, voila, I have a decent story.
Taking my long story and making it shorter is agony. If you think I skimmed over the plot threads too quickly in my draft, you're really going to be lost in my shortened, edited version. The only solution is to cut characters and the extra pieces of the plot that tie in at the end. And that is no fun at all. I honestly don't think I'm very good at it.
But I have heard other writers say that they would rather write a super long draft and then polish it down to a nice story. It brings to mind some nice collection of beautiful data, all written out and waiting for you. Then you can simply look it all over and fit together the best pieces and, voila, you have a polished, streamlined, dazzling tale.
I just have never had that happen so neatly for me in real life. It goes so much more smoothly in my imagination.
So which are you? Do you prefer to lengthen a short story or shorten a long one? And, if you like to shorten a long one, how does it work and why does it seem easier to you? Everybody's writing brain is a little different, and I'd like to hear about yours!
Friday, June 30, 2017
The Rooglewood contest Facebook page had a fun activity today. Anne Elisabeth Stengl asked us to post our first few sentences from this week of writing and our last few sentences of the same.
Here are mine:
Where I started:
Moriah sniffed the air. Brews hung heavy on the mist. She was almost there.
The herbalist's cottage nestled so cozily into the trees that it almost appeared to be one of them. Moriah wrapped her cloak close around her for security, but it was more out of habit than from any feeling of doom. On the contrary, there was something about this old place that made her feel more at home than any castle.
Where I ended:
Tripping over her own feet, she staggered out of the cottage and fled into the forest. As she reached is safety, she heard cackling far behind her.
It sounded like the fourth dwarf.