I'm really curious about what people are looking for when they visit the Archetype site, so I thought I'd ask. If you often come looking for more than one thing, either pick the thing that is most important to you or write about the other things in the Comments section for this blog entry. Please also leave feedback in the Comments section about whether you find what you need, what you'd like to see, etc.
I felt the site itself was getting a little unwieldy, so I recently reorganized parts of it, including the Real Psychology and Resources areas. I also sorted through and pruned some areas that weren't being used very often. If you find that something you think was really important is now gone, just let me know.
Kate started doing this, and then Elana took up the torch, and then I caught Annie doing it too. So what the heck, right? We'll see what happens.
I usually have several works in progress at any given time. So here's the tally at present:
Contemporary fantasy/paranormal romance (can't decide) that I'm waiting for some friends to finish reading so I can make appropriate changes and send the rewrites out. (Elana, have I mentioned yet today how much your editing helped? ;-)
NaNo Novel is at about 65,000 words, which is obviously much too short. I was feeling pretty apathetic about it. Not sure why. These are the least angst-ridden characters I've ever created. Could that have something to do with it? Or perhaps I was writing so fast during NaNo that I never had the chance to really get the colors and flavors of each scene, and now I'm still having trouble doing that. I did switch the novel over from third person to first person, and that seems to be helping, at least with my feelings of apathy, at least somewhat. I am also hoping that as I get farther into the novel I'll feel more enthused.
Nonfiction project - I've gotten the first drafts of two chapters mostly written. Since writing is harder than editing for me, I'm trying to write several chapters at a time.
Now let me talk about my very serious, very GINORMOUS problem when it comes to my WIPs. The Internet. I knew when the internet went wireless that I was in trouble. Before, I'd sit down with my laptop, play a couple of games of solitaire, and then be good to go. Now I'll get out my WIP. And then I have to check my email. And then I have to check Facebook. And then I have to check RallyStorm. And then I have to check my email again. And then I wonder why I never get anything done.
I need one of these:
Ugh. What do you guys do to deal with the siren call of the internet?
This time's blog chain question was asked by Leah Clifford, who recently accepted representation for her novel Reapers! Kate shared her take on the topic in the post before mine, and Michelle will explore her dark side in the next post. Leah's challenge was:
Show me your dark side...What do you do to amp up the conflict? What pins do you stick in the little voodoo dolls? How do you torture your characters???
Have you ever seen the TV show nip/tuck? It's unusual show, because you're watching along, and they imply that something really edgy is going to happen. A main character is feeling kind of turned on by the super-expensive sex doll modeled after his business partner's ex-girlfriend. A (male) main character is in danger of being raped...by another man. A patient character has threatened to perform her own mastectomy. Most writers would turn away, getting their characters out just in the nick of time. Of the few writers who decided to go all the way, most of them would never show the actual event. In nip/tuck, they Go There. All the way. And they show all of it. The sex with the doll. The rape. The woman who does the mastectomy on herself with an electric carving knife in the doctors' waiting room. And then they show the fallout. These characters never get a break.
Going There is what intrigues me. Not what happens when the hero gets there in the nick of time, but when the worst the hero can possibly imagine happens. And then sometimes...that's not all. Next come a few things the hero couldn't possibly have imagined in his worst nightmares. And then, of course, there's the fallout. Shattered relationships. Grief. Nightmares. Depression. Post-traumatic stress disorder. Suicidality. And the humiliation of having had all those reactions in front of other people.
Maybe it's having been on the frontlines and counseled people who have had things worse than they could ever imagine happen to them. Maybe it's just having lived through a few things in my own life. But I Go There in my fiction. A lot.
I don't see it as torturing my characters. I see it like this: Life can really, truly be that ugly. Human beings do horrible things to other human beings, and sometimes they even do them intentionally. I don't pretend otherwise when I tell a story.
One of the best ways to learn about the dark side of life is to be willing to be open, and to listen. Everyone has suffered indignities, and some have suffered horrors. But those things are invisible unless you're open and willing to other people, including the really nasty, awful bits. Like Mary said, the people who seem the most benign are often the ones who hide the most. Because they've had to learn to seem benign to be accepted by a world too horrified by the realities of their lives.
The same thing is true with your characters. You have to be willing to really listen to them, and if they have to Go There, you need to be brave enough to go with them. Carl Jung talked about how we all have a dark side to our personalities, but only a few of us are willing to confront that side and integrate it into the Self. I've always believed that part of what makes Stephen King so great is that he faces his own shadow and then writes about what he finds.
So how do you do that , avoid giving in to the urge to look away from the dark stuff?
Years ago, when I was learning to write, I came across an article that said the most important word in your story is NO. Whatever your character wants or needs, the answer must always be NO. Once in a while, it may seem that the character is getting a yes, but in reality that yes must ultimately drive them farther from what they want or need. I believe strongly in the NO. It always leads to a better story.
Have you ever seen Cool Hand Luke? No matter how many times they drag Luke back to the chain gang, he always takes off again. He can't seem to help it. After the second time he escapes, the boss makes him dig a trench. Then fill the trench. Then dig the trench. Then fill the trench. Over and over and over, until Luke finally breaks down, half dead, and begs to be allowed to stop. But they keep pushing him. The other inmates turn away, horrified by what's left of this free spirit they all admired.
Still, later in the film, Luke escapes again, this time with another inmate. The friend laughs, crowing that Luke's groveling was so convincing that "They didn't know you was foolin!" And Luke says "Foolin, huh? You can't fool them about somethin like that. They broke me."
So forget a little spilled milk, a few broken eggs. For me the real question is...what does it take to break your character, and what happens to him after he's broken?
Although the book is ostensibly geared toward the corporate professional, Andrea talks a lot about choosing to have a positive attitude about your work and finding ways to make sure that work is noticed, even in an economy in recession. Though writers might appreciate the book's advice to help them keep (and even move up in) their day jobs, they can also benefit from her advice with regards to their writing careers.
A lot of writers feel depressed or pissed off when they receive yet another rejection, especially in light of a struggling publishing market. Andrea argues that some changes in the way you approach things --putting yourself out there, knowing your strengths, and deciding not to be a victim of a bad economy-- can make all the difference between failure and success.
I do have a bias about the book, since I'm quoted in it and because I often work with Andrea, but I was really inspired by her talk on Wednesday, and wanted to pass along some hope that you do have power over your destiny as a writer. Check the book out on Amazon or the next time you visit your local bookseller. If you happen to be living in Dayton, Ohio, you can catch her talk next week at Books & Co. at the Greene:
New Q&A: Domestic Violence: How would a psychological professional respond to a woman who goaded an ex-boyfriend into hitting her?
Query Letters: Ten Ways to Hook a Literary Agent by Lisa Silverman
Here are ten query letter tips--some dos, some don'ts--to get you on track toward the representation and publication of your manuscript.
Holly Lisle's Bring Your Novel to Life article series:
You've read through what you've written, and you've discovered that your words don't move you. They don't make you want to keep reading. They don't make you laugh or cry. This series will help you fix that.
- Bring Your Novel to Life: Does Your Novel Have A Heartbeat? (part 1)
- Bring Your Novel to Life: How To Find Your Novel's Pulse (part 2)
- Bring Your Novel to Life: Burying Your Novel's Message (part 3)
- Bring Your Novel to Life: Playing Chicken with Your Story (part 4)
- Bring Your Novel to Life: Dig Deeper With Your Novel's Subthemes (part 5)
- Bring Your Novel to Life: Interweaving Your Novel's Themes And Subthemes (part 6)
- Bring Your Novel to Life: Planning A Heart-Stopping Story (part 7)
- Bring Your Novel to Life: Life, Passion... Deadline (part 8)
Yep, it's blog chain time again. Terri asked a question similar -- yet different -- from Elana's question about getting out of a writing funk. While some of the other blog chainers are tackling that question, I'm going to go with the alternative one:
Do you brainstorm with a friend when you are plotting, or do you prefer to be the only one who knows what your characters are going to do?
It's kind of funny the way Terri worded her question: "...do you prefer to be the only one who knows what your characters are going to do?" I generally don't know what my characters are going to do until they do it -- that's the problem! *grin*
I only recently discovered the magic of brainstorming with buddies. (Or...most likely in all actuality torturing said buddies with my confusion and indecision.)
It's hard for me to talk about where I'm going with a novel, because if I talk in any detail about something I haven't written yet, I can't write it. The magic is just...gone. But I tried writing up to the point at which I got stuck and then hurling myself on my friends' mercy during NaNoWriMo, and it was helpful. My favorite was when people would just start extrapolating from what had happened so far in my novel. "What if this happened next?" "What if that got in the way?" Anything that forces me out of my mental set (ie my normal way of thinking) is welcome. In fact, I kept wishing people would extrapolate more wildly and really jar me.
I view being stuck as an inability to see options for my story when options always exist. Thanks to my thinking patterns (which normally work for me), I have trouble seeing alternatives for my characters -- perhaps because many of those alternatives are actions that I, personally, might never take. I see brainstorming buddies as people with different perspectives and approaches and blind spots, and my hope is that they will show me different possibilities and open my eyes to fresh alternatives. Once I've been pushed out of my mental set, the wheels usually start turning.
I'm curious, dear reader -- what kinds of things do your brainstorming buddies do to jar you out of your stuckness? What is most helpful to you?
Just a reminder that submissions for ABNA begin tomorrow, February 2nd, and will only be open for a week. Here's ABNA's cheat sheet on what, when, and where.
Recently, Amazon.com and Penguin Group (USA) announced the second annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA), an international competition seeking fresh new writing voices. One Grand Prize winner will receive a full publishing contract with Penguin including a $25,000 advance. Contest details are listed below, and further information and official rules can be found at www.amazon.com/abna.
What is the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award?
The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award is an opportunity for emerging fiction writers to join a community of authors on Amazon.com, showcase their work and compete for a chance to get published. Sponsored in partnership with Penguin Group (USA) and CreateSpace, the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award first launched in October 2007 and received more than 5,000 initial entries. In the inaugural contest, Amazon customers voted and named Bill Loehfelm the winner with his novel, “Fresh Kills.” Several of the other Top 10 finalists also received publishing deals with Penguin.
What is the grand prize?
A full publishing contract with Penguin to market and distribute the Grand Prize winner's winning manuscript as a published book, including promotion for the book on Amazon.com and a $25,000 advance.
How do interested authors enter?
Contest submission period begins February 2nd, 2009 at 12:01 a.m. (U.S. Eastern Standard Time) and ends February 8th, 2009 at 11:59 p.m. (U.S. Eastern Standard Time), or when the first 10,000 entries have been received, whichever is earlier.
How do interested authors get more information about the contest?
Visit www.amazon.com/abna to sign up to receive contest updates, get tips on how to enter, participate on the ABNA message boards as well as find full contest rules.