Dramaquill's All Things Writing

February 26, 2013

Composing is writing too

I have been feeling uptight about not working on my second suspense novel lately. We all go through those phases where our projects get shelved due to other things taking up our time.

Recently I even had to skip my turn at subbing to my critique group (and I hate missing my turn).

Today, as I sat at my keyboard working on lyrics to the final original song for my murder/mystery, I realized that I was still writing. I was just writing words to a song instead of words in a chapter. Creating is creating – writing is writing

What are you writing today?

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September 18, 2012

Teaching Drama inspired me to get back to writing

As the owner of a performing arts studio, my schedule becomes almost overwhelming from late August through mid September.  It’s both exhilarating and exhausting.

I’ve now entered the phase where all of my classes have begun and I’m re-connecting with former students as well as meeting new ones.  It’s an exciting time at my studio.

Saturday was the first day of classes and as it happens, all of our drama programs are on Saturday.

First up was the 6-10 year old group.  As we all played a fun drama game to learn each other’s names, I saw snippets of creativity begin to emerge.  Even the shy children were eager to say and do something that would make everyone remember them.  The collective energy in the drama room produced an encouraging atmosphere where the students felt themselves trying things outside of their comfort zones and enjoying it.

The second group consisted of the 11-17 year old crowd.  This diverse group ranged from kids with plenty of creative experience to others with absolutely none.  Interestingly enough, as we worked on a variety of group and individual activities, this group definitely had a noticeable split between the “up for anything” creative types and the “shy and guarded” individuals, however, by the end of the class, the split had weakened considerably.

Finally, the last class, a large group of students ages 9-18 entered the studio.  Many of these kids have taken programs with us before, however there was also a handful of newcomers.  One might think that such a mix of ages would result in chaos, but the opposite took place.  Different levels of creativity took shape as we integrated ages and abilities, familiar and unfamiliar.  The creative energy became infectious during the ninety minute session.

You’re probably all wondering what any of this has to do with writing.

Writing alone is great when your creativity flows and the words just spew out of you and on to the page.  But as we all know, there are also times when the complete opposite happens.

Creativity grows when surrounded by creativity.

Join a writing group.

Talk to other writers.

Talk to potential readers.

Read books that aren’t in your comfort zone and see how you feel when you’re done.

Participate in a critique group.

I always feel more inspired and creative after I’ve done any one of these things.  It just took me a day of teaching drama to remember how great it is to interact.

July 17, 2012

Will Anybody Want to Read my Sequel?

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As I continue to struggle with creating any form of decent writing, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the projects I’m currently avoiding.  My biggest avoidance at the moment is the sequel to my first suspense novel.  This is a book that I’m very passionate about finishing.  My characters need me to let them tell the rest of their story.

And yet, as each day goes by, I do not write anything.

The other night I sat down to watch Bunheads, a new Amy Sherman-Palladino series on ABC Spark.  I was drawn to the show for several reasons.  Amy created The Gilmore Girls, one of my  all-time favorite shows.  Amy’s dialogue is snappy and her characters embrace uniqueness.  One of the leads in the series is Fanny, played by Kelly Bishop, formerly Emily Gilmore of Gilmore Girls fame.  The studio that I co-own teaches ballet and pointe and a variety of other dance classes.

I knew I’d love this show.

As of last night, I’ve now seen five episodes of Bunheads.  Much to my surprise, I’m not really loving it.  Although it contains the same type of quirky characters and quippy dialogue, it somehow plays like a poor second cousin to Palladino’s Gilmore Girls.  I’m hoping, with time, that it will find its way into my heart, but it’s going to take work.  I don’t know how much longer I’ll hang in.

That got me to thinking about my sequel.

My first suspense novel, “When Love Won’t Die”, has been very well received.  I’ve had lots of great reviews and just as many inquiries as to the status of the sequel.  Most of my followers can’t wait to get their hands on the next book.

But what if it’s a poor second cousin to the first book?

What if people don’t really like it?

I know what you’re probably thinking.  Bunheads and “When Love Won’t Die” are completely different.  Obviously one’s a TV show and one’s a book.  But they do have something in common.  They are both another product of their creator.  They are both going to be compared to other works by the same author.

So do I quit writing the sequel for fear it won’t be as good as the first book?  Will anybody want to read my sequel?

Yes, I really do believe they will.

Why?

Because I’m going to make sure that the writing is even better than the first book.  I’m using many of the same characters, but for those who have read “When Love Won’t Die”, they will see more complex, interweaving sub-plots and lots of character development.

Bunheads isn’t a sequel to the Gilmore Girls.  Unfortunately, many viewers will compare Kelly’s Fanny character to Emily Gilmore and the new young lead, Michelle, to Lorelei.  I know I have. But they shouldn’t.  This is a new series.  It’s not a sequel to anything.  Maybe I don’t really like it because it doesn’t revisit Stars Hollow and all the quirky characters I grew to love during the Gilmore’s seven year run.

So what has all of this taught me?

Once your stuff is out there, you develop a following.  Your readers will be inclined to compare your books to each other.  I don’t want to disappoint them.  Maybe that’s why I haven’t been able to work on my sequel. 

Or maybe, I just have to stop thinking so much and get my butt in the chair and write something…anything.  Finish the darn book! 

Amy Sherman-Palladino isn’t sitting around wondering whether or not she should create another series.  When The Wyoming Project didn’t make it into the 2010-2011 TV schedule, Palladino went on and created Bunheads.

Will anybody want to read my sequel?

I’ll never know if I don’t finish it. 

Do you have a project that you’re avoiding?  Join me and let’s finish them together.

To find out more about Amy Sherman-Palladino, read this article:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amy_Sherman-Palladino

To find out more about her new series, Bunheads,follow this link: http://abcfamily.go.com/shows/bunheads/

To purchase “When Love Won’t Die”, check out the following sites:
http://www.amazon.com/When-Love-Wont-Die-ebook/dp/B004AYD6YE

http://redrosepublishing.com/books/product_info.php?products_id=649
http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/When-Love-Wont-Die/book-p2VHGKHWAE6biZdRsFV_tA/page1.html

March 1, 2012

Writer’s Digest article on Creating Suspense in Fiction

Writer’s Digest offers great advice on all aspects of being a writer and their website has lots of free information.  I just found this excellent article on Creating Suspense in Fiction and wanted to share it with all my readers.  I especially enjoyed the section about withholding information.  I enjoyed using that technique to some degree in my first suspense nove, “When Love Won’t Die”  http://www.amazon.com/When-Love-Wont-Die-ebook/dp/B004AYD6YE

Check out this excellent article:  http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/5-simple-steps-on-creating-suspense-in-fiction?et_mid=540060&rid=2995854

 

January 30, 2012

Visiting the classroom as a Guest Author

I was invited to speak to two classes of children (included 4th, 5th and 6th grade students) for literacy week.  The principal invited local published authors to speak to the kids about what it’s like to be a writer.

I’ve never enjoyed giving a speech.  The thought of being up there alone, and as myself, doesn’t paint a very interesting picture in my mind.  Let me recite a monologue as a fabulous literary character from a great work of fiction, and that excites me.

So how was I going to interest these young minds in two areas that many admitted they didn’t really enjoy doing:  reading and writing.

Instead of giving a speech and trying to figure out how to make them listen to me ramble on about my thoughts on being a writer, I turned the tables to them and started my presentation by asking them some questions:

1.    What makes a book interesting enough for you to want to read it?

2.    What types of characters do you enjoy?

3.    What kinds of stories interest you?

4.    What turns you off in a book?

The enthusiastic hand waving instantly got us talking.  Even those kids who said they really didn’t like to read much had comments on what types of stories they would prefer if they did have to read a book.

Next, I presented them with this question:

Have you ever read a story and wished you could have changed it?

This engaged even more enthusiasm as student after student offered their imaginative ways to improve upon stories they’d read.  They got excited when I told them that being a writer meant that they could make the story be whatever they wanted.  The characters would be designed by their imaginations.  Eager hands raised and creative ideas flowed as students, guest writer and teacher all engaged in the excitement of the writing process.

Finally, I offered a way to prompt them on starting a story.  I asked them all to close their eyes and ask themselves this question…What if? 

What if when I went to sleep tonight…
What if my lunch box was filled with…
What if the teacher could…
What if the stairs at school turned into jello…
What if I could draw something and it would come to life and…

Now the students were really excited and wanted to write their own *what if* story.

I also showed them some of the magazines, anthologies and market books I’ve had work published in and talked to them a little about what it takes to write an entire book and the process required to get it published.  They seemed most impressed with the fact that something that they could create could actually earn them some money as a career someday.

I hope that my visit helped convince many of them to enter the writing contest being held in our city next month.  I do know that I definitely helped them get a jump-start on tapping into their own creative ideas.

But the best part of the visit was watching them get excited about reading and writing. 

As a writer, what do you do to inspire those around you?

November 2, 2011

Nanowrimo…And we’re off

 
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November is Nanowrimo month – a time where published and aspiring novelists vow to write approximately 1600 words/day for the entire month of November.

What’s the payoff?

Fifty-thousand words in a month’s time. This can be a great start to a new novel or the chance to complete a book that’s already been started.

I fell a little short of my goals yesterday with 1,163 words on my suspense novel, Amorous Obsession, but I did a lot of planning/plotting so I’m still happy with my progress.

And…I also wrote a few more pages on my pirate musical (sadly they don’t count in my Nano total LOL)

To participate in all the action:
http://www.nanowrimo.org

Happy writing!

September 20, 2011

You’ve written a play…now what?

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I love my job!  One of my responsibilities is to provide my studio’s drama department with original play scripts for each class. 

For some folks that sounds like a daunting task but I love it!

This semester I’m working on a circus mini musical for the 6-9 yr. olds, a modern day Ms. Scrooge play for the 10-16 yr. olds and a full-length pirate musical, complete with songs and choreography for the 9-18 yr. old class.

I’m lucky!  I know exactly what’s going to happen once I finish my plays.

Each class will begin to work on becoming their characters, blocking and physical movement, memorizing lines, learning songs and choreography and working together on the project. 

I said I was lucky.  Why?  Because I get to be there to watch it all unfold.  I can see how things work that I’ve written and tweak anything that doesn’t seem to be working. 

My writing will come to life right before my very eyes.

Now I realize that I’m very lucky to have access to these groups of kids and teens who are more than willing to act out whatever scripts I bring to class.

Many (or maybe even most) playwrights don’t have instant access to a production like I do, but there are ways to get productions of your scripts.

* Contact local amateur theatre groups/troupes and ask if they are willing to read your script

* Enter contests where the prize is a staged reading or a production (beware: some contests  
   have entry fees.  You have to decide if the fee is worth it for the potential prize)

* Find a local writing group and/or make other connections that may lead to a production

* Contact schools, drama clubs or other groups that may entertain the idea of putting on a
   show

* Organize your own production (more on that later).

For me, getting my plays published means I can reach a wider audience and perhaps won’t have to do ALL of the marketing myself to get my plays out there..but…productions, whether amateur or professional are what it’s all about in the end.

“The Play’s the Thing” 
       Shakespeare

September 14, 2011

Download-file.net SCAM SITE update

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Just an update to my previous post on this site that appears to be illegally offering content for free download.

Several writers have gone to the site and found that their books were indeed posted without their permission.  Many contacted their publishers and also contacted the site.

Some members of my critique group and also some from my publisher decided to search everything from big name authors to complete jibberish and guess what?  Yep – everything and anything searched came back with results.

So fear not, fellow writers.  Although the site makes it appear that your books have been stolen, it’s unlikely that the site has any legitimate content whatsoever.

But here’s the real warning…

In order to download content, one must join the site and pay the introductory trial fee of $4.99.  That means divulging credit card info. 

DON’T DO IT!

I contacted Angela Hoy of writersweekly.com earlier this week and her thoughts were that perhaps the download links are viruses.  So, if you pay to join the trial membership and then click on one of the downloads to see if it’s really your book, you could end up inviting a virus into your computer.

The beauty of the internet is that we are all connected and getting information out is relatively easy and extremely quick.

As far as download-file.net is concerned…DANGER WIL ROBINSON!

September 9, 2011

Writers Beware: Someone may be stealing your book right now!

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I’ve made it a habit to google myself and my book title monthly.  Usually I’m pleasantly surprised at the new sites that have picked up my book and offered it for sale in their online stores or new reviews from new readers. 

That wasn’t the case this month.

In fact, I found illegal copies of my book in numerous digital formats all offered for download at the following site:

http://download-file.net

They DO NOT have permission to offer my book for download, free or otherwise.

They DID NOT contact my publisher or myself.

They ARE STEALING from me and from my publisher.

My editor contacted them and so did I.  I got back a bogus link to click that apparently was the tracking page to this incident.  It was given a fancy incident number and everything.  But the page doesn’t exist.

I found someone else who’s had the same problem.  They also have tried numerous ways to contact the site owners but never get any response.

Isn’t it difficult enough for new writers to make it in this biz without the unscrupulous thieves who choose to steal from someone else in order to make money.

How do they make money?

If you want to download anything from their site, you pay $4.99 for a one month trial membership.  Otherwise, if you’re a non-paid member, you can’t download anything.

Writers Beward:  Download-file.net may be stealing a copy of your book right now!

April 29, 2011

Your play: published or produced?

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As the resident playwright for Slightly off Broadway triple threat studio, I create 6-8 new scripts every school year.  There was a time when I believed that I really hadn’t done justice to my plays unless I managed to get them published or in an anthology collection.

As the years went by, I realized that the greatest pleasure I get from writing my plays and musicals is watching them unfold during the rehearsal process and then seeing the final product up on the stage during the performances.  After all, plays are meant to be seen and heard, not just read.  This is what makes plays different from all other forms of fiction writing.

I know several playwrights who have developed their own publishing companies solely for the purpose of self-publishing their plays.  That way, they don’t have to share royalties when they sell copies to schools and drama clubs. 

Over the years I’ve ordered sample copies of plays from several different publishers.  Some produce a fine product but many others create an amateur looking cardstock cover folded over and stapled to the printed sheets.  I can make copies that look better by doing it myself.  Also, if I have them published with someone else, then I have to share revenue on each sale.  So I understand why so many playwrights choose to create their own company and their own product.

But for me, publication isn’t the forerunner for my plays.  It’s the productions that I crave.  Besides the Slightly off Broadway performances, I have sold copies of my plays to school drama clubs and organizers of summer drama camps.  Knowing that something I have created can be shared with performers and audiences all over the globe is far more satisfying to me than having my play listed in a catalogue.  That’s not to say I wouldn’t love to be listed with the likes of someone like Samuel French – who wouldn’t? 

So how do I get the word out that I have plays available?

I advertise on the Slightly off Broadway website.  I read ezines and forums that pertain to playwriting.  I talk to teachers who are looking for new material.  I do my own networking.

Am I getting rich selling copies of my plays for productions?

Nope.

Am I satisfied knowing that every single one I have written to date has had at least one production?

Absolutely.

Publication or Production…you decide.

http://www.slightlyoffbroadway.com

http://www.samuelfrench.com

http://www.stageplays.com

April 18, 2011

How writing plays helps me write better dialogue

 
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I’ve been writing plays for kids and teens to perform for about fifteen years now.  Usually, in a typical school year, I write between six and eight new one act playscripts. 

The most enjoyable aspect of being a playwright for a drama department is that not only do I get to write plays and then within a couple of months, see them come to life on the stage, but I also get to work with a wide variety of individuals between the ages of four and eighteen.

Being around such a diverse age group offers up a variety of personalities and also allows me to observe children at so many different stages of development.  Watching the children use their imaginations to create the many types of characters found within my plays inspires me to continue to find new ways to allow them to develop and grow their own creativity.

If one considers that plays are basically made up of dialogue coupled with physical actions performed by different characters, it’s no wonder I can hear the voices of my novel characters speaking as if they were indeed real people.  I attribute this ability to write dialogue that sounds like real people to my playwriting.  Without characters delivering believable dialogue, a play is doomed.  But that goes without saying for novels and short stories, too.

How do I approach writing dialogue?

I also listen to real individuals and try to find something unique about the way they speak.  I’m sure you have friends and colleagues that are known for certain expressions or ways of saying something that immediately differentiates them from others that you know.

I try to hear my characters speaking as real people when I’m writing their dialogue.  What is that particular character’s distinct way of speaking?

Some of the things I’ve found are:

  • expressions/slang
  • sentence length
  • level of intelligence and word usage
  • speed of delivery
  • body language/animated movements
  • an accent
  • specific words that they use frequently
  • vocal tone

Sometimes, I even start developing a new character by writing a sort of monologue first, in that character’s voice.  For example, when I created my villain in my first suspense novel, I wrote an opening speech (BTW, this was an exercise only and never actually made it into the book) letting him vent about his situation.  Just listening to him in my head helped me see a physical being whose details only began to take shape after I’d written this monologue in his voice.

Do you have to write plays to write good dialogue?

NO – of course not!

But it my case, it certainly helped me become a more observant listener and it definitely strengthened my ability to write dialogue.

If you don’t have access to a lot of different people, go and sit in a coffee shop with a newspaper and just listen to the conversations of the people around you or head to the mall’s food court to have a listen. 

Remember – real people rarely worry about speaking in gramatically correct sentences.

March 22, 2011

Finding your author’s voice

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I belong to a wonderful online critique group.  From time to time, our group engages in workshops as a way to share information, ask and answer questions, and apply what we’ve learned to our writing.

Recently, thanks to one member’s suggestion, we decided to embark on a week-long discovery of author’s voice.  What is it?  How do you find it?

At first, because none of us felt that we were experts on this subject, we wondered if we would be able to teach ourselves anything of value.  As it turned out, we all discovered ways to find our unique voice and make our writing stand out as our own.

What is your voice?

The easiest way for me to explain it is this:  you write like you speak.

If I call someone I know on the phone and start talking to them, they immediately know it’s me.  If I’m having lunch with friends, I’m certain that if you asked them, they would be able to tell you things about the way I communicate that makes me different from each of them.

We all have our own unique personality and if we can find a way to bring that out in everything we write, then we are well on our way to constructing our own unique voice.

In our workshop, we first gathered bits of writing from different authors and discussed what made each example’s own voice unqiue.  For some, it was the way the author used description.  For others, it was the way the POV shaped characters that jumped off the page as real, three dimensional beings. 

We also discovered that finding the right genre definitely contributed to stronger voice.  If you’re not comfortable writing YA romance novels, perhaps it’s because your unique voice isn’t a good match to that genre.  Maybe you’re more suited to adult suspense or MG adventure.

So how do you know which genre(s) to try?

Read…read…read.

Read authors you love but also try new ones.  Try genres you haven’t read before.  You need to find a real connection to what excites you as a reader so that you can translate that into your author’s voice as a writer.

With so much competition to find a publisher and/or a literary agent, writers must present their absolute best writing every time they submit.  If you feel you’ve done that and you’re still getting rejection after rejection, perhaps you haven’t quite nailed your author’s voice yet.  Many blogs and online articles say that a great portion of their rejections do in fact stem from writing that just doesn’t have a stand-out voice.

Once we had discussed the examples of other writers, members of our group look at their own writing, picking something that they felt lacked that “unique” quality and rewriting it with voice in mind.  In was amazing to see the new results.  Writing that was fine became writing that jumped off the page.  Characters that were bland embodied new life.  Everyone’s writing definitely improved.

We also made some self-discoveries along the way.  Some of us really figured out our ideal genre.  Others unveiled new ways to use POV as a way to develop a more unique voice.   We also found situations where expanding the original brought more voice into it and other situations where cutting certain words and phrases actually brought the voice out better.

We all learned how to make our characters’ voices better and get “inside their heads” on a deeper level.

No one can give you a list of magic steps that will result in finding your own author’s voice but through reading, writing, comparing and learning from others, you will become more aware of how and what you write.

October 5, 2010

Dear Blog – forgive me for deserting you

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As I replied to a recent comment on my blog, it was with complete shock that I saw the date of my last post!  How did I let so much time pass without updating my blog. 

Dear Blog:  Can you ever forgive me?

Perhaps this is a good lesson in discipline.  As freelance writers, we don’t have someone (a boss) breathing down our necks when we’re creating a new novel or writing a new play.  We are completely and totally responsible for getting our butts in our chairs and our fingers on the keyboard if we hope to ever create a completed manuscript.

Although I pride myself on my time management skills when running my performing arts business, I have let down my blog readers by not using those same skills to keep my blog updated. 

September, in particular, is one of the busiest months for my business.  Registering students for new classes, setting up schedules, doing the massive amounts of paperwork and writing new drama playscripts for fall semester classes all demand a huge chunk of my time.  Couple that with working on the final edits of my ebook (more about that soon) and suddenly, an entire month has slipped by and it’s October.

On a happy note, however, I have been writing:

So dear Blog, please forgive me for deserting you.  I promise to make you a priority once again.

Blog on, everyone.

August 24, 2010

Short on cash? FREE online writing courses.

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Do you want to try your hand at writing and don’t know how to start?

Are you finding it hard to justify paying for a writing program until you see whether or not writing is really something you want to do?

Have you written a rough draft of a book or screenplay and want to know if you’re on the right track?

Here are some FREE online writing courses that may help those who are struggling to decide whether or not they want to pursue a career in writing.   This is just a list and none of the courses are endorsed by me nor do I have any relationships to any of the websites/teachers/programs etc.

Check them out – you never know what you might learn.

 http://storymind.com/channels/writerschannel/
Each lesson is in streaming video & audio.

http://www.lifewrite.com/html/class.htm
Free screenwriting course taught by a former UCLA professor

http://education-portal.com/articles/10_Universities_Offering_Free_Writing_Courses_Online.html
Free online writing courses from 10 different universities

http://www.collegedegree.com/library/college-life/50-Open-courseware-writing-classes
50+ free online writing courses (mostly MIT)

These sites seem to be a good place to start and also actually have free lessons.  Many search results lead to sites that don’t so hopefully you’ll find something of interest here.

Another amazing online resource is free articles.  They can be found absolutely everywhere.  Google your genre and you’ll find blogs and websites filled with free information and advice, much of it from professionals already successful in the writing biz.

So if you don’t have the money to take writing classes, don’t let that stop you from following your muse into the world of writing.

June 3, 2010

Character Interviews Part I – Eleanor

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I got this great idea from some of the authors at my new publishing company and have decided to post interviews of my first suspense novel’s characters in the hopes that you will want to read more about them by buying the book when it comes out.

ELEANOR  (heroine of novel “When Love Won’t Die”)

1.    What made you start writing suspense novels?

Believe it or not, I never really thought I would become a writer as my career.  I initially used writing, in journal form, to deal with some circumstances in my past that continued to haunt me years later.  Who knew I’d get three best sellers out of random journal diddling.

2.    Do you believe in happy endings?

I think a happy ending is all in the perspective of who is looking at it and how it affects them.  I don’t know if any ending is ever completely happy, but when circumstances that affect me cause me to be happy, I would definitely call that a happy ending.

3.    What are your deepest fears?

I have one fear, but other fears stem from that.  My deepest fear is that my past will destroy my present.

4.    Do you consider yourself an honest person?

I do for the most part, however, I know a few people who would disagree with me.  I think, on a rare occasion, sometimes the truth just isn’t appropriate.  But be prepared for the fallout if a lie ever catches up with you.

5.    Are you a forgiving person?

I try to be, but unfortunately there is one person I truly don’t think I can ever forgive.  I wish that person didn’t have that power over me.

6.    Would your life make an interesting movie?

Yes, I’m afraid it would, but that doesn’t make me happy.

7.    How do you feel about children?

If I had one regret in my life it would be that I was never able to have any children.  I guess it wasn’t in the plan and I don’t know why.  My husband and I did try several times but we kept having miscarriages.  I don’t like to think about the emptiness that I feel when I think about not being able to have any children.

8.    If you could be someone else, who would you be?

I was someone else a long time ago.  I can’t imagine being anyone but who I am now…Eleanor Marie Bennett.

9.    If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I’m not big on world travel.  As long as I’m surrounded by family and friends, that’s home to me and that’s where I want to be.

10.   What do you think your future holds?

In all honesty I hope my future is quiet, calm and uneventful (laughs).  No really, I mean that wholeheartedly.  I’ve had more than enough (clears throat) excitement, if that’s what you want to call it, to last me ten lifetimes.

 

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