Saturday, September 12, 2009

Writing, Books on Writing

I initially planned on making this a much longer post, but to my chagrin (and delight, I'll admit) I've been bitten by the writing bug again. 23 pages (approx. 14k words) in after just a night and morning of writing feels pretty good, I'll admit.

Here's what I'm struggling with... Filler. I don't know about any of you, but when I read books, watch TV, etc., I tend to skim to the "good parts." I'm a sucker for some sweet romance, and since, let's face it, I'm pretty much a young adult romance writer, I don't ever want to write parts that don't have my main two love interests together. 'cause that's the boring stuff, isn't it?

The answer, dear friends, is of course no. It's the stuff that helps round out your characters. You don't just spend all your time with one person, do you? No. And neither should your characters.

I used to be a big, big fan of General Hospital. I'll save you my spiel on why I stopped watching (viva Liason!), but the one thing that keeps you going on soaps is that they constantly tear apart love interests, only to bring them back together. What's happening on the outside of their life moves to bonding them closer together when the love interests talk about it--at length.

I won't say I'm trying to write a soap opera. Not exactly, anyway. But the days where my mains aren't on, I don't watch. I use the same thinking with my writing. If my characters aren't together, I don't care. I read spoilers to catch up on GH so I know why the mains are discussing what they're discussing. But I focus on my two loves, and anything outside that realm is beyond difficult for me to write--it's almost torture.

So you may be surprised to discover that in the middle of writing a scene with my two mains, I set it aside to write this blog. It may seem illogical, but it's really not. If I end a scene of them together, and then try to go back, I'm bored as hell and can't really force myself to keep writing. So I have to pause in what I consider are the exciting scenes so I can get back into it. (This is also advice I extend to any writer.)

Now. Let's discuss books!

I purchased a book called, "Writing Shojo Manga", though I am not a manga artist even a little bit. The information in that book is... indescribable. It perfectly depicts a wonderful way to write, some practices I already did and others I did not, but have tried to incorporate into my writing. My favorite part is the "scene" method of writing.

The advice for "scene" writing is that you literally lay out a bunch of "scenes", answering the questions, "Who, what, where, why, when, and how". Write them all out on a bunch of different pieces of paper, and keep them. When you get stuck for an idea, much like writing prompts, you go back to these scenes and pick one.

There's also deciding on a theme... You write out the answer to the question, "What do I want to write about?" And then create scenes based on this theme. Then order the scenes according to how you think the story should go, and viola! A story outline. I've personally always kept writing journals where I stored my ideas, but this just took it to the next level.

I know, I know, I've said a thousand times that writing outlines doesn't work for me, and it still doesn't. But I'm going to share an example from my writing notebook. (You don't have one and you're a writer? You need to get one. Like, now. Stop reading. Go to the store and get a notebook. This is your writing notebook. Take it everywhere with you.)

At the top of the journal page, I write: "CONCEPT" and then the date that I'm writing. I like to know when I write things. I don't really know why. If I'm just writing a quote or a line from something or a character, at the top of the page I write, "IDEA", "CHARACTER", etc.
The next line has the word "Theme:", which is followed by an answer to the question, "What do I want to write about?"
The next lines have "Who:" "What:" "Where:" "Why:" "When:" and "How:". I often don't fill out all of these lines, but I like to have them there.
Then, on the BACK of that page, I write down my idea of "scenes". Sometimes I add in things I didn't expect, and that keeps it exciting.

So here's my example:

CONCEPT 2009.09.01

Theme: Black Widow
Who: A woman who is fun, charming, exciting, loves to dance and party, and once she lures men in, kills them.
Where: Texas
Why: She is greedy and wants money.
When: Present day
How: Any way necessary


At a bar
Meeting for the first time
First date--maybe amusement park?
She really likes him--does she want to kill this one?
Partner-in-crime: Maybe he can help her
Her back story; why is she like this? She tells him.
Meeting the parents

Can it be any easier than that?

I really, really suggest that you go out and get yourself the "Writing Shojo Manga" book... You don't have to write manga. But it's the best book on writing I've ever read, and I've read a number of them. It doesn't mean this one will work for you, but it's incredibly interesting, especially if you like manga and were ever curious how they put their stories together. AND if you want a nice, easy way to help yourself write.

After all, it worked for me after months of not writing.

Also a huuuuge help of a book that I discovered a while ago and probably talked about on this blog already, is "The Ultimate Guide to Heroes and Heroines." It's fantastic for when you're trying to fill out the "who" above, especially if you only have a theme. The "who" can always help to shape more ideas for your stories.

That's all for me for now... I hear the siren's call of my newest work-in-progress.