Thursday, May 28, 2009

Writing Without an Outline

I've found writing my latest attempt at a novel to be a strange experience. Not that I've tried my hand at many novels--short stories have been my forte so far--but when I have, it has been with an outline. This newest one, however, I just took an idea and ran with it. I sort of tricked myself into getting going on it. I've tried writing a novel without an outline before, but I always bog down, thinking I'm just going to mess things up for later since I don't know where anything is going. But this time I just told myself that it was a writing practice exercise, and it's seemed to work so far.

I write all my short stories without outlines. Almost every time I set out to write one, I just have a vague idea, and I make it happen. Occasionally I'll know exactly what's happening and where everything is going, but that's pretty rare. That's why I really wanted to write a novel without an outline. Novels and short stories are two different beasts, but I thought I could probably make it work. It's still a work in progress, but I'm pretty happy so far.

As I'm writing, I decided that I'd make a separate word file with revision ideas. I can see things that I'd rather do, but instead of stopping momentum by going back and fixing it right away, I can do so in the revision process when the first draft is done. I also have a file with about ten pages or so of a few scenes that were taking the story in the wrong direction. Instead of just erasing it all, I decided to save it in case I can fish out some good ideas from it during revision. I doubt I will, but why not keep it around just in case?

Writers work in many different ways. I'm still not certain how I'm going to go about writing the novel after this one. If this process continues going well, I may just write it from the seat of my pants again. I doubt I will write a full outline, as I find that my writing doesn't have any room to have fun to flesh out unknown parts of the story, but I my write a partial outline. I'll see what I decide to do when this project is done. Until next time, keep reading and/or writing!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Writing for Children

When I write my stories for adults, I don't really have any interest in writing anything that doesn't have some sort of genre twist, be it horror/paranormal/fantasy/science fiction/or whatnot. You get the idea. I don't like to read straight literary or contemporary work (there are exceptions, of course, but usually not), so therefore I don't like to write stories in non-genre categories. It just doesn't interest me.

I'm finding, however, that when I right for kids, I have no problem leaving out the fantastical element. Depending on the age group--usually the very young--normal everyday things can have the air of the fantastic. A simple story about hats can be a fun thing for me to write--which just so happens to be what I'm working on now. I've sent out two children stories to publishers so far, and one is a picture book/young reader about a brother and sister on a fun treasure hunt that their mother designed, and the other is a very short story about a child looking in a mirror. Neither have my normal genre twists, yet both were quite fun for me to write.

I'm finding that for older children, my genre preference is still shining through. I'm working on a middle grade novel that has plenty of paranormal activity and elements of the fantastic. It's a blast to write. It's much different from the genre stuff I can write for adults because I really have to censor my word usage/visual images. Don't want blood and guts to be flowing all over the place in a story for 10 year olds, while that would be fine in a book for adults. It's a nice new challenge for me.

So I guess the point of my post today is to try something new when you're writing. It'll free up your mind in ways that will create fun new challenges for you. Until next time, keep reading and/or writing.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Weird Happenings

If you've been following my other blog, Weird Happenings, which is a ghost story told in blog format, you might be interested to know I'm wrapping it up. For now. I envision at least two more posts, possibly more, in order to tell the ending. When I'm done, feel free to let me know what you think. It's very possible (probable, even) that I'll have some more in the future, but for now I'm going to stick with what's there. It'll be the same main character, but different adventures. If you haven't yet read it, go on and catch up. There are 16 posts so far.

My writing tip for the week is to make sure you always have finished work out making the rounds in the marketplace. Right now I have a dozen or so short stories for adults, one short story for young children, one short story for young adults, and a picture book manuscript out in the world looking for homes. Once they are gone, I just forget about them until I hear back from the editors and then ship 'em out again. This way I can focus on new stuff instead of the old. If something keeps getting rejected, and the comments on it aren't favorable, I'll consider retiring it, but I have so many other works that one casualty doesn't bother me very much. Other than that, they keep going out. I recently placed a short story that I wrote over ten years ago, so if I really believe in a certain work, I'll keep sending it out. That's all for this week. Until next time, keep reading and/or writing.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Words to Watch

I've noticed too often lately words being used incorrectly. It happens all the time on message boards, Twitter, blogs, and other places where people write (obviously). I'm not going to take too much time to go over this today, as I've seen this topic in other blogs, but it still happens, so I want to just take a post to go over it. I'm just going to take a few simple ones that should be the easiest to avoid.

One such pair of words is its and it's. This one is easy enough with just a bit of memorization. If you remember that it only gets an apostrophe as a contraction, you're good to go. It's is the equivalent of it is. If you want the possessive, there is no apostrophe.

Problems with your and you're also seem to be popping up all over the Internet. This one is even easier than its and it's in my opinion. The contraction, you're, is the same as saying you are. The apostrophe is simply taking the place of the "a" in are and the space between the words. The simplest way to describe your, however, is to call it the possessive form of you. Instead of the apostrophe used to show possessive with you, your is used instead. For example, we wouldn't say you's jacket, we'd say your jacket.

One more I want to cover is actually a trifecta: their, there, and they're. Their is the possessive form of they. For example: It is their lunch. They're is a contraction for they are. The apostrophe takes the place of the a in are and the space between the two words. There is a bit more tricky to explain. It can be an adverb, pronoun, noun, adjective, or interjection. You can click here to see its many uses. Basically, since I'm keeping it real simple today (we can go into more depth in the comments or via email if you want to get deeper into this subject), just know you're pretty safe using "there" if the word you're looking for is not a contraction or the possessive form of they. Obviously it's more in depth than that, but for quick first-draft type writings, that'll get you through just fine.

I still often type the wrong words when I'm trying to get through something quickly. Usually when you do that, it's fine to just wait for your revision before you fix it. But if you're doing something like a blog, twitter, or message board post where your first draft is your final draft, follow these simple rules to help yourself with these sometimes tricky words. There are plenty of other tricky words that I've notice causing problems out in cyberspace, as well, but remember these three for now. Until next time, keep reading and/or writing.