Monday, September 29, 2008

Tips for Writers: The Reading

I hit The Word on the Street in Kitchener this weekend. Raptures. Books and sunlight and folding chairs on the grass, autumn leaves rappling down the tent roof and the barking of small dogs. Writers and words and writing...and readings. It was a rare opportunity to sit in on one reading after another. As such, it was also a rare opportunity to see what works and what doesn't, in terms of engaging one's audience. So after sitting in on a few readings, here are my tips for a good reading:

1. Remember that the purpose of a reading is, ultimately, to sell books.

2. KYSS: Keep your snips short. Give 'em just enough to whet the appetite. Too much and they'll glaze over and start thinking about what to cook for dinner.

3. Choose your snip carefully. It should be able to stand on its own. It should show off at least one of your characters to good effect. It should be easy to introduce: "Amabel, the MC, has just fallen down a well", versus "Amabel, the MC, has just gone into a hotel for a drink, when in walks the captain of the ship she jumped off of to avoid paying the fare because her purse was stolen while she was asleep; she was pretending to be a man then, and is now dressed as a woman".

4. Practice.

5. Read with feeling.

6. Answer a question with a story. You're a storyteller. Prove it. This may be difficult for you, or it may come as easily as breathing, but when someone asks you a question, they're giving you a chance to sell yourself. Do it. It will help sell books. Remember, you want to sell books.

7. Learn how to deal with crickets. Have a contingency plan for the dreaded silence when the call goes out for questions...and there aren't any. Don't leave them wanting less.

8. Dress for success. You should wear the clothes, the clothes shouldn't wear you. Nothing fussy or distracting. Wear colours that flatter, fabrics that don't wrinkle, and avoid words on your person. Make sure you feel comfortable. And for those with breasts, I can't emphasize enough the importance of a good bra.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Acadian Star Contest

There is only one thing I like better than reading a good book -- and that's WINNING a good book.

Helene Boudreau is launching her new book, Acadian Star, with a contest on her blog. So head on over, and leave a comment with "star" in it for a chance to win your very own copy of Acadian Star. Find all the details (including more ways to win) on Helene's blog here.

Acadian Star hits the bookstores October 1.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Three Little Pigs Plotting Primer

I checked out Helene Boudreau's blog today to see what she had to say about plotting. Plenty of Very Good Ideas, as it turns out. My favourite was her comment about the Three Little Pigs. The lightbulb went on with that one.

So, here's my take on how to plot, using the Three Little Pigs model.

Introduction: Meet the pigs (the protagonists -- you need at least one), who need a place to live, safe from the Big Bad Wolf (the antagonist -- you need one of these). There's conflict between the characters: they can't agree on building materials. (Ordinary stuff to help suspend disbelief) The pigs agree to disagree, and each build their own house, setting the scene for later drama.

Next, we meet the Big Bad Wolf. He's hungry (understandable motivation, which adds depth and subtlety to portrayal of antagonist) Bad Thing #1 happens: the Big Bad Wolf destroys straw house. Subplot: Pig A goes to live with Pig B.

Then, Bad Thing #2 happens: the Big Bad Wolf destroys the stick house . This is worse than Bad Thing #1 (builds tension). The subplot also progresses, as Pig A and Pig B must move in with Pig C.

Finally, the Climax: the Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf have their showdown. The Wolf gets what is coming to him, the brick house stands, and the Pigs resolve their domestic issues (thereby taking care of the subplot) and live happily ever.

1. Introduce conflict early.
2. Give your protagonist and your antagonist realistic motivations for their actions.
3. Make things go from bad to worse before you let them get better.
4. Tie your subplots to your main plot.
5. Make sure everyone gets what they deserve.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Friday, September 12, 2008

Fusion Friday

Fusion Friday...where the copywriter meets the gardener meets the fiction writer...

Got Plot?

Without spreading some conflict, probably not.

In the compost pile I refer to as the first draft of my middle grade novel, my main character, Fred, comes home from school on his birthday. He finds his achingly cool mother vacuuming with uber cool tunes cranked on the stereo. He also finds The One Thing He Wanted Most for His Birthday waiting for him. Fred has no homework, despite turning twelve. Fred has one friend, so important to him that Nick (or Eric, we're not sure of his name) barely merits mention in the MS. He has a sister he likes who is not instrumental to the plot in any way, shape or form. He has a nemesis he grumbles about, but we do not meet her. He likes games. Or so we hear.

No conflict. No colour. No fertilizer. No reason to go on.

So I donned gardening gloves and dug a whole new border. I have the earth turned. I've anchored the planting with a querulous Fred and his competitive rival, Jinny. Jinny can be invasive, so I'll keep an eye on her. Nick provides comic height at the back of the border, and is topped with a showy toque. For a touch of the traditional, I think I'll put in a Fight Over Chores Mother Plant. Add in a few stepping stones to get Fred started on his Hero's Journey (learn more about the Hero's Journey here), and there might just be enough curb appeal to invite readers in.

Failing that, maybe someone knows where I can pick up some Magic Beans, cheap?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Whole Whack of Tips in One Tome

From ideas to query letters, The New Writer's Handbook 2007: A Practical Anthology of Best Advice for Your Craft & Career is chock full of helpful information for fiction and non-fiction writers alike. The anthology of essays and articles is edited by Philip Martin. There's a bio and web info for each contributor, making it a print portal to even more great tips. Best of all, Volume 2 was released in July of this year.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Blog Launch

Welcome to Ink Gleanings!

[drumroll, smattering of applause]

Thanks for coming to my first official blog posting. Please enjoy a slice of cake and some punch (spiked). From here on in, I plan to share tidbits about writing, advertising and gardening.

What does gardening have to do with writing? Plenty. Both need a plot, seeds, time to germinate and grow, and a good set of pruning shears. Above all, both require the shoveling of manure. Often quite a lot of it.