Showing posts with label Rebecca Ryals Russell. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rebecca Ryals Russell. Show all posts

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Writing - How Nature can be a Muse


Watching this video of masses of seafoam covering the beaches of an Australian town got to me wondering just how polluted our oceans have become. The foam was caused by the churning of the waters in the Pacific by a cyclone.

Although it seems funny and people were walking through the foam laughing at its uniqueness, I have to think it’s a bad sign and that possibly those people shouldn’t be playing in what could be a toxic substance.

Combine this event with the odd weather patterns seen world-wide, the destruction Sandy caused, the many volcanic eruptions and earthquakes of the past year or two and it’s so obvious this world is going through massive changes (which are apparently cyclic according to studies of climate change).

The only question is this: are we exacerbating those changes through pollution, fracking, draining natural resources?






Would you be brave enough to walk this close to a lava flow and take a sample? I know I wouldn't.





As a writer I imagine several scenarios for possible stories. What do you see when you view these two videos?

Rebecca Ryals Russell
MG/YA Fantasy Author
Fantastical Worlds of Rebecca Ryals Russell



Monday, May 6, 2013

Protagonist’s Backstory PLANNING YOUR NEXT STORY: PART 6



Protagonist’s Backstory   PLANNING YOUR NEXT STORY: PART 6

Other discussions in this series include:


Today we will discuss something related to getting to know your protag and that is learning from them about their background, backstory. We all have one. If you’re alive and have lived at all, even for a minute or two, you have a backstory.


So how do you learn about your protagonist’s? You ask him/her through an interview. Devise a series of questions you might ask anyone you know (real person) or want to know about. Then verbally ask those questions to an empty chair. Although that chair won’t really be empty, because your protag will be sitting there, answering or refusing to answer, your questions. If they refuse, find a way around the question to seek the same answer.


Since you completed a character worksheet last month, you already know the basic stats about your character: hair color, style, length, eye color, etc. What you seek now is more in-depth about their childhood, their parents, siblings, schooling, tauntings or bullyings, special events from their past which helped make them who they are.


Don’t forget to ask WHY or HOW. Ask about any unresolved issues from their past and how they might complicate matters now. What are some catalysts that marked their life? How did they respond/change?

Here are a few questions to include in your interview:

What do people like/dislike about you?

What do YOU like/dislike about yourself?

What are your beliefs? Secrets?

What are your personal demons? Why? What have you done about them?

Are you optimistic or pessimistic? Why? How does this affect your life?

How confident are you?

What is your level of morality?

What would you change about yourself if you could? What’s stopping you?


Do you like your name? 

Who is the most important person in your life? Why?

What would you do if something bad happened to them?

Who were your friends growing up? Now?

Who were your enemies then? Now?


Learn all there is to know about their parents/guardians. I discovered an entirely new side to my story while discussing Rayna’s parents with her. Suddenly the woman who turned her over to the Peacers had a motive and the bully in the Gestortium’s motive matched giving me bookends. Readers LOVE bookends in stories. I’ll talk more about them at a later date. But by learning about Rayna’s mother’s backstory, I discovered she also had a bully growing up (the one who turned in Rayna) and the two bullies’s motivations are the same: now and then for Rayna and her Mum. Without learning about her Mum, I would never have seen that parallel.


Ask about siblings, dead or alive. You’d be surprised how many protags have experienced deaths they don’t like to discuss, but which had an impact on them. Ask about cousins, aunts & uncles, grandparents, neighbors, playmates (again-this became instrumental in my later bully motivation), etc.


Don’t forget to think about all of the characters revolving around your protag. You DO NOT need such in-depth interviews for all of them, but any who play a major role in the story need to be interviewed—if only to get to know them better and not use any of their background in the actual story.


Next month,

Thanks to K.M. Weiland’s Outlining Your Novel

Rebecca Ryals Russell, a fourth-generation Floridian, was born in Gainesville, grew up in Ft Lauderdale then lived in Orlando and Jacksonville with her Irish husband and four children. Due to the sudden death of Rebecca's mother, they moved to Wellborn, near Lake City, to care for her father, moving into his Victorian home built in 1909. After teaching Middle Graders for fourteen years she retired and began writing the story idea which had been brewing for thirty years.  Within six months she wrote the first three books of each series, YA Seraphym Wars and MG Stardust Warriors. The world she created has generated numerous other story ideas including two current works in progress, SageBorn Chronicles based on various mythologies of the world and aimed at the lower Middle Grade reader and Saving Innocence, another MG series set on Dracwald and involving dragons and Majikals. She is finishing a YA Dystopian Romance which has been a NaNoWriMo project for three years. She loves reading YA Fantasy, Horror and Sci Fi as well as watching movies.  Read more about Rebecca and her WIPs as well as how to buy books in her various series at http://rryalsrussell.com  You may email her at vigorios7@gmail.com



Saturday, April 6, 2013

Protagonist PLANNING YOUR NEXT STORY: PART 5



Protagonist   PLANNING YOUR NEXT STORY: PART 5

Subjects we’ve covered are: PREMISE, the PLOT POINTS andCOMPLICATIONS, SCENES, the MEATY5 (story’s heart).

Today you will discover who your PROTAGONIST is. You may think you know him/her, but when you finish with today’s questions, he/she will feel like your best friend.

For those who might not know, the protagonist (protag) is the one about whom the story is told; he/she/it solves the problem. The protag doesn’t have to be the ‘good guy’. You can have a bad protag, as long as the story is ABOUT that character and they are the one facing and solving the problem (remember, no conflict/problem=no story).

So, you probably have some idea who your protag is at this point in the story development. But you may not know enough INNER DETAIL about him/her to keep them from becoming a flat character. Here are some ways to get to know the character.

Complete a Character Worksheet. There are tons of these available online or you can email me and I’ll send you some I use.

List 10 of the worst things that could happen to the character. How does he/she respond?

For example, Rayna is captured by the Peacers at age 13. She thought she was ‘safe’ from having to go to the Gestortium. But an evil lady turned her in out of revenge. What does Rayna do? She recalls her father always telling her to “Be invisible.” So she goes along, but watches for her chances to escape.


Next list 10 of the best things and how the character responds.

What are the character’s Internal Conflict? We all have it. Sometimes out internal conflict becomes so overwhelming we can hardly function—and some can’t function so they get sent to prison or a mental facility or check out with drugs/alcohol/sex/shopping. So, what conflicts does your character deal with besides the ones thrown at them in the story?

For Rayna:
Who is she?
Why is her hair red, eyes green?
Why are these taboo in society?
Why can’t she love Trae and express that love openly?

Of course, being a young teen, she has many more issues, but you get the idea. Keep brainstorming EVERY POSSIBLE conflict you can think of from all aspects of the character’s life. Some of them may NEVER be used in the story, but it helps you know them better.

Which of the character’s viewpoints change throughout the story and in what way? The protag MUST grow throughout the story or they become flat, like a paperdoll. So, decide what the character is supposed to learn and how and why. It’s called Character Arc and is similar to the Story Arc but for the protag. Ask him/her—let them tell you.

Mine: Rayna starts out quiet, subdued, listening to Da’s “Be invisible” as a result of living with taboo features. But as the bully pushes, she has to begin standing up for herself then her friends. Finally, she is pushed too far and decides that being invisible may not be the best answer for her.
Lastly, answer these questions:

What is his/her greatest weakness? Who is he/she hurting?
What does the character want? Need?
What does he/she know at the beginning? Middle? End?
What is he/she wrong about at the beginning?
What will he/she learn at the end?

Next month, your Protagonist’s Backstory.

Thanks to K.M. Weiland’s Outlining Your Novel

Rebecca Ryals Russell, a fourth-generation Floridian, was born in Gainesville, grew up in Ft Lauderdale then lived in Orlando and Jacksonville with her Irish husband and four children. Due to the sudden death of Rebecca's mother, they moved to Wellborn, near Lake City, to care for her father, moving into his Victorian home built in 1909. After teaching Middle Graders for fourteen years she retired and began writing the story idea which had been brewing for thirty years.  Within six months she wrote the first three books of each series, YA Seraphym Wars and MG Stardust Warriors. The world she created has generated numerous other story ideas including two current works in progress, SageBorn Chronicles based on various mythologies of the world and aimed at the lower Middle Grade reader and Saving Innocence, another MG series set on Dracwald and involving dragons and Majikals. She is finishing a YA Dystopian Romance which has been a NaNoWriMo project for three years. She loves reading YA Fantasy, Horror and Sci Fi as well as watching movies.  Read more about Rebecca and her WIPs as well as how to buy books in her various series at http://rryalsrussell.com  You may email her at vigorios7@gmail.com



Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Meaty 5 PLANNING YOUR NEXT STORY: PART 4



The Meaty 5   PLANNING YOUR NEXT STORY: PART 4

So far, we’ve discussed your PREMISE, the PLOT POINTS and COMPLICATIONS, and SCENES.


Today let’s talk about determining the meat of the story which will help define what the story is about, who the protagonist is, what he/she wants/needs, who your audience is. Without answers to these questions, your story might be a great idea, but will it develop into a readable story?

These 5 points were the hardest for me to define. I had the most trouble with the THEME. It changed about fifteen times before I realized what it was.

First, let’s look at MOTIVE. This is not your protag’s motive, but that of the story. Here’s mine:

Tell a story set in the far future about how a strong female deals with an oppressive, male-dominated society.

Pretty straightforward. 

Next is DESIRE. This does apply to the protag. What is his/her biggest desire in the story? What must they accomplish or die trying?

Mine: to be left alone to live her own life her way, to meet her birth mother, her twin sister and be with the boy she loves without government interference.

GOAL. Every character in the story must have a goal. Even the antag has a goal. But here we are concerned with the protag’s goal. What drives your character?

Mine:  to get through this horrific experience, required by the government of all girls her age but escape if she sees a chance.

CONFLICT. I know you’ve heard this before, but it bears repeating: You don’t have a story without conflict. There should be LOTS and LOTS of conflict in a good story. We’re talking here about the MAIN conflict of the story and maybe one or two SUB conflicts.

Mine: Shawna’s bullying (jealous); government’s Generational Program which is inflicted on every girl age 12-20; internal conflict about who she is.

THEME. Like I said, this was the hardest for me. I read through list after list of possible themes looking for the one which fit my story. I found several, but they never seemed just right. For example, knowing who you truly are can make you strong enough to deal with adversity. While this is true of my character, it is not the theme of the entire story.  Information can lead to knowledge. Oppression leads to rebellion. By losing everything, sometimes you gain a true sense of self. While all of these held a glimmer of what the story is about, none were complete.

Then I thought of this one: Sometimes, it’s only by staring into the abyss one finds the courage to jump across.

This fit my story in many ways, which I listed in my notes and was pleased to see how well it fit. So don’t try on just one or two, keep looking for the right idea until you find the one that fits.

Another interesting way of getting the theme across is the use of Symbolism. What are some symbols you can use to establish the theme in the reader’s mind?

Mine: Rayna’s view out the window beside her top bunk is of a narrow street and the front of another tall building. The street is so narrow she imagines getting a running start down the central dorm aisle between the beds and launching herself to freedom across the chasm of the street, landing on the roof of the next building.

In the Exercise Yard, where they all go for one hour every day, Rayna presses so hard against the chainlink fence while staring down her street to freedom, that she become imprinted by the links on her cheeks, forehead, shoulders and hands.

Next month, getting to know your Protagonist.

For an in-depth discussion of these points be sure to read K.M. Weiland's Outlining Your Novel



Rebecca Ryals Russell, a fourth-generation Floridian, was born in Gainesville, grew up in Ft Lauderdale then lived in Orlando and Jacksonville with her Irish husband and four children. Due to the sudden death of Rebecca's mother, they moved to Wellborn, near Lake City, to care for her father, moving into his Victorian home built in 1909. After teaching Middle Graders for fourteen years she retired and began writing the story idea which had been brewing for thirty years.  Within six months she wrote the first three books of each series, YA Seraphym Wars and MG Stardust Warriors. The world she created has generated numerous other story ideas including two current works in progress, SageBorn Chronicles based on various mythologies of the world and aimed at the lower Middle Grade reader and Saving Innocence, another MG series set on Dracwald and involving dragons and Majikals. She is finishing a YA Dystopian Romance which has been a NaNoWriMo project for three years. She loves reading YA Fantasy, Horror and Sci Fi as well as watching movies.  Read more about Rebecca and her WIPs as well as how to buy books in her various series at http://rryalsrussell.com  You may email her at vigorios7@gmail.com

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Scenes PLANNING YOUR NEXT STORY: PART 3



Scenes   PLANNING YOUR NEXT STORY: PART 3

So far we’ve discussed discovering the PREMISE for your story. Then you explored the BIG MOMENTS (turning points or plot points) and how they complicated your character’s life then how that affected them, ending with some major problems your character must deal with.

Today we’ll start imagining some scenes in the book.



Every book is similar to a screenplay in that it consists of scenes which move the story along. The scenes must be cohesive, sequential (unless there’s a flashback or flashforward, foreshadowing), essential to the plot movement and end on an upnote to keep the reader wanting more. Generally, a chapter is a scene. 

Sometimes you can have several scenes within one chapter, if they all relate. Just remember to end on a cliffhanger. Keep the reader guessing and intrigued. That’s why a chapter should end with someone about to be in trouble of some sort, or solving something big in the plotline—but in the next chapter.

Just think about the end of every serial show on television—they always show what’s coming next week to keep you coming back. And how do they ALL end for the season? On a cliffhanger, of course.

So, looking at your list of BIG MOMENTS from last month, start with any moment (turning point/plot point) and imagine what scenes might occur within that time-frame of the story. Make sure you cover the and thens and affects you thought of earlier and any more you might come up with.

I always work sequentially, but that’s just me. You can start with any plot point you find interesting or have ideas for and work out from there. It's sometimes helpful to begin at the end and work forward--especially if you know your ending.

Don’t worry about whether or not you will actually USE the scene. Write down just enough to remember the basics of it and move as fast as you can through each plot point. The scenes don’t have to be in any order yet, either. You’re just brainstorming at this point.

Here are my first five scenes when I brainstormed:
1.      Rayna is helping sell bolts of fabric when Peacers arrive and chase her through bazaar. She’s thrown into wagon with other girls. Woman who turned her in is smashed when wagon turns around. (This actually became my entire first chapter with many changes and additions)
2.      Rayna meets Deena and Renee on wagon
3.      Given Suzy’s (name changed) bunk in Gestortium. She has to chase away other ghosts when they realize she can see/hear them
4.      First night Rayna can’t sleep—some girls crying, moaning, snoring
5.      Fascinated by History lessons because never had schooling while others all bored—heard it all growing up normally

I even included flashbacks and premonitions/visions/foreshadowings in my scene brainstorming. I ended up with about twenty written pages of notes.

Next you type them onto a Word document with spaces between. Print them out and cut them up. Finally, you will arrange and rearrange these scenes as you build you chapters. You might even throw some out (I did) or add others as needed (I did).

Once you have them organized, paperclip each stack with sticky notes denoting the chapter number and put them into order.

Next month, the heart, liver, kidneys and brain of the story: Motive, Desire, Goal, Conflict, Theme.

Thanks to K.M. Weiland’s Outlining Your Novel

Rebecca Ryals Russell, a fourth-generation Floridian, was born in Gainesville, grew up in Ft Lauderdale then lived in Orlando and Jacksonville with her Irish husband and four children. Due to the sudden death of Rebecca's mother, they moved to Wellborn, near Lake City, to care for her father, moving into his Victorian home built in 1909. After teaching Middle Graders for fourteen years she retired and began writing the story idea which had been brewing for thirty years.  Within six months she wrote the first three books of each series, YA Seraphym Wars and MG Stardust Warriors. The world she created has generated numerous other story ideas including two current works in progress, SageBorn Chronicles based on various mythologies of the world and aimed at the lower Middle Grade reader and Saving Innocence, another MG series set on Dracwald and involving dragons and Majikals. She is finishing a YA Dystopian Romance which has been a NaNoWriMo project for three years. She loves reading YA Fantasy, Horror and Sci Fi as well as watching movies.  Read more about Rebecca and her WIPs as well as how to buy books in her various series at http://rryalsrussell.com  You may email her at vigorios7@gmail.com



Sunday, January 6, 2013

Planning Your Story: Part 2 Big Plot Moments



Planning Your Story: Part 2 Big Plot Moments

Last month I talked about answering questions in order to establish the PREMISE of your new story. Without knowing WHERE you are headed, you might not ever get there.

Today, I want to discuss how to establish your BIG PLOT MOMENTS.

Think hard about what the major events in your story MIGHT be—remember none of this is set in stone and can and will change as you write. This is a GUIDE to get you started. So, what is the first big thing your protagonist will face? What will happen then? And next? And so on.

Once you have this list of BIG MOMENTS, list 2 complications for each of those moments.  Beneath each complication, describe how this will affect your character.

Here’s how I handled this task:

BIG PLOT MOMENT
Rayna meets her twin at Summer Festival but doesn’t know it.

And then?
1.      She is seen talking with a red-haired girl by the antag who uses this as ammo
2.      Rayna begins to question who she is because they look so much alike
Now, obviously I had more than one big moment, but if I gave them all away here, you wouldn’t need to read my book. I think you can get the idea from this example.

So what?
1.      Rayna becomes the object of the bully/antag
2.      Rayna questions who her parents were, why she has red hair and they don’t, why is it taboo

As I hope you can see, by doing this exercise for EACH of your BIG MOMENTS in the story, you will begin to see it unfold and blossom like a summer rose.

Next month, setting the scenes.

Thanks to K.M. Weiland’s Outlining Your Novel

Rebecca Ryals Russell, a fourth-generation Floridian, was born in Gainesville, grew up in Ft Lauderdale then lived in Orlando and Jacksonville with her Irish husband and four children. Due to the sudden death of Rebecca's mother, they moved to Wellborn, near Lake City, to care for her father, moving into his Victorian home built in 1909. After teaching Middle Graders for fourteen years she retired and began writing the story idea which had been brewing for thirty years.  Within six months she wrote the first three books of each series, YA Seraphym Wars and MG Stardust Warriors. The world she created has generated numerous other story ideas including two current works in progress, SageBorn Chronicles based on various mythologies of the world and aimed at the lower Middle Grade reader and Saving Innocence, another MG series set on Dracwald and involving dragons and Majikals. She is finishing a YA Dystopian Romance which has been a NaNoWriMo project for three years. She loves reading YA Fantasy, Horror and Sci Fi as well as watching movies.  Read more about Rebecca and her WIPs as well as how to buy books in her various series at http://rryalsrussell.com  You may email her at vigorios7@gmail.com

Thursday, December 6, 2012

PLANNING YOUR STORY: PART 1


PLANNING YOUR STORY: PART 1

You think you have an idea for a story or book. But it’s nebulous, fuzzy and feels just out of reach. You stare at the blank screen or paper, depending on how you plan or write. Nothing happens.
We’ve all been there.

As I contemplated Nanowrimo this year I sat inside those shoes. This was the third year I’d be working on the same story concept. Each attempt had evolved into a different story. But none were the right one. None had that spark. In fact, I couldn’t even finish any I’d started so far.

So I sought help. I read books and blogs and thought hard.

Then the story began to coalesce into a real plotline with protag and antag and all of the turning points and climax and and and. I got excited. Finally the story was writing itself, almost, but at least all of the necessary elements were there.

Now that I’ve finished my Nanowrimo with over 50,000 words by November 25th, and I’m into the climax of the story, I’m finally pleased and excited to begin editing and polishing. I finally think I got a good thing written that others will enjoy reading.

Isn’t that the reason we’re in this business?

So now you’re asking, “What did you ask yourself to attain such magnificence?”

I’ll give you some questions to ask yourself in the planning stages. These should guide your thinking and start the ball rolling. They did for me.

PREMISE-This gives you a clear idea of what the story is about:
·         What if?
·         What is expected?
·         What’s unexpected?

For me, it meant: What if Rayna didn’t have red hair? (the cause of all her problems); What if she wasn’t a twin? (another serious issue she faces) and so. What is expected? Rayna will hate the restrictions of living in the Gestortium. Her red hair will cause problems. What is unexpected? (this is harder to predict and I didn’t know until I started writing the story)

So what became the PREMISE for my story after all of my thinking? This:
Hidden away from society for her protection, Rayna is forced into her societally expected role under duress and endangered by the very reasons she was hidden while discovering the truth of her birth, who she is and what her future holds.


Next month, determining your BIG PLOT MOMENTS, aka turning or plot points.

Thanks to K.M. Weiland’s Outlining Your Novel

Rebecca Ryals Russell, a fourth-generation Floridian, was born in Gainesville, grew up in Ft Lauderdale then lived in Orlando and Jacksonville with her Irish husband and four children. Due to the sudden death of Rebecca's mother, they moved to Wellborn, near Lake City, to care for her father, moving into his Victorian home built in 1909. After teaching Middle Graders for fourteen years she retired and began writing the story idea which had been brewing for thirty years.  Within six months she wrote the first three books of each series, YA Seraphym Wars and MG Stardust Warriors. The world she created has generated numerous other story ideas including two current works in progress, SageBorn Chronicles based on various mythologies of the world and aimed at the lower Middle Grade reader and Saving Innocence, another MG series set on Dracwald and involving dragons and Majikals. She is finishing a YA Dystopian Romance which has been a NaNoWriMo project for three years. She loves reading YA Fantasy, Horror and Sci Fi as well as watching movies.  Read more about Rebecca and her WIPs as well as how to buy books in her various series at http://rryalsrussell.com  You may email her at vigorios7@gmail.com

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Learning the Craft of Writing


I was contemplating my NaNoWriMo efforts of the past 3 years and what I have planned this year and it struck me that although I’ve ‘writing’ since childhood, have had things ‘published’ over the years and now make this a full-time endeavor, I still know so little about the craft of writing.


That’s really what writing is all about—learning the craft. And that is what takes so long—because you must practice and read other examples of good writing from which to role model.

I’ve been doing a lot of both lately. I’ve read several really awesome YA books, like The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch (amazing writing)  and, of course, any of Cassandra Clare’s books. I’m currently rereading Divergent by Veronica Roth and Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke.

All of this reading slapped me in the face with how these authors handled many of the obvious mistakes my own work contains and why I haven’t been pleased with any of it. But recognizing this fact and fixing it are two different issues.
When I wrote Odessa and several of the others in my two early series, I just sat down and let the story pour out of me then said, “Done.” But as I reread these books I’m disappointed in myself for the lackluster writing and poor flow. Does that mean I could write it any better now? Maybe somewhat better, but not as well as I’d like, yet.

So I went shopping on Amazon and found several books on craft that have made a WORLD of difference in my thought process and organizing the ideas I had but couldn’t get together. These books were: Outlining Your Novel by K.M. Weiland and Writing Great Books for Young Adults by Regina Brooks.

What does all of this have to do with NaNo? I spent last month plotting and planning, revising characters and plotline for the manuscript I’ve struggled with over for the past 3 NaNos. And I must say, I’m excited to get started writing. I like this plot and character much better and I think I may have nailed it. We’ll see by the end of the month.

I also decided to start over with a brand new manuscript, rather than trying to piece the old with the new like a worn-out quilt.

Here’s the premise for Sunshine Colony:2525

In the year 2525 the world has collapsed and rebuilt itself into linked, self-governed villages called Colonies. 13-year-old Rayna Darwin was born into Seaside Village, Sunshine Colony the usual way--for those times. But her circumstances were far from usual--a red-haired twin was the most taboo birth possible. Her twin sold to Slavers and birth mother exiled, Rayna was rescued and given away to be raised in the Underground Black Market by loving Barren parents who dyed her hair brown and hid her true identity. She played with other kids when their parents came to shop, fell in love with one of them and never knew danger. That is, until a woman so jealous of Rayna's mother's good fortune and loving life she could no longer control herself turned Rayna over to the Peacers. Taken away to live with the other 12-20 year old girls in the government-run population control center called the Gestortium, Rayna's life takes a turn for the dangerous when she is recognized by a sadistic previous playmate who is so jealous of Rayna's loving home and life she formulates a plan to kill her. After all, she's done it before...     
                           
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Since writing this posting I have begun writing and am about 7 chapters into the new story. I read the opening chapter to my college-aged son and his highschool girlfriend—both picky readers…They were impressed and wanted to know the rest of the story. SUCCESS! Now to keep up that level of tension.


Rebecca Ryals Russell, a fourth-generation Floridian, was born in Gainesville, grew up in Ft Lauderdale then lived in Orlando and Jacksonville with her Irish husband and four children. Due to the sudden death of Rebecca's mother, they moved to Wellborn, near Lake City, to care for her father, moving into his Victorian home built in 1909. After teaching Middle Graders for fourteen years she retired and began writing the story idea which had been brewing for thirty years.  Within six months she wrote the first three books of each series, YA Seraphym Wars and MG Stardust Warriors. The world she created has generated numerous other story ideas including two current works in progress, SageBorn Chronicles based on various mythologies of the world and aimed at the lower Middle Grade reader and Saving Innocence, another MG series set on Dracwald and involving dragons and Majikals. She is finishing a YA Dystopian Romance which has been a NaNoWriMo project for three years. She loves reading YA Fantasy, Horror and Sci Fi as well as watching movies.  Read more about Rebecca and her WIPs as well as how to buy books in her various series at http://rryalsrussell.com  You may email her at vigorios7@gmail.com

Monday, August 6, 2012

Basic Writing : From Pre-Writing to Editing



Basic Writing : From Pre-Writing to Editing


Pre-Writing
Concept/Idea (Brainstorm about chosen idea. Write everything that comes to mind.)

Conflict/Problem (Without a problem there is no story. Be sure the problem is solvable.)
            Possible Conflicts: man vs man, man vs nature, man vs self, man vs society, man vs circumstances

Characters (No more than 7 main; the story becomes unmanageable and readers lose track.
 Devise: Names, Personalities, Relationships, Appearances, What makes them special.)

Plot (Devise 3 attempts to solve the problem. Then figure out why they won't work?)

Solution/Climax (How does the main character solve the problem? Is it reasonable as you’ve written her/him?)

Conclusion (Wrap up loose ends with all of the characters.)

Also Pre-Writing
Opening-be sure your beginning snatches the reader’s attention (pull action from within the story then go back and begin at the beginning to catch the reader up)

1st Plot Point-main character discovers there is a problem

2nd Plot Point-main character feels threatened but unsure what to do

3rd Plot Point-problem is at its worst and seems hopeless THEN main character figures out what to do

Climax-problem or antagonist pulls out all the stops to ‘get’ main character

Denouement-main character about to give-in then finds courage and knowledge to solve the problem

Resolution-main character ends the problem for good then wraps up loose ends with other characters

Writing
There are two main types of writers, although many of us fall into combo categories:  Planners and Pantsers.

Planners don’t write until they have a basic outline of how the story will unravel. Some even outline each chapter. Planning doesn’t mean you can’t change something, or add more while writing a chapter. It simply helps you remember everything you wanted to include in the story. (This is how I write.)

            Pantsers (writing by the seat of your pants) begin writing and don’t stop until the story is told. This technique is very popular but requires extreme editing and revising. It also allows for free flow of imagination and creativity. (This is how Odessa came out and why it needed (and still needs) so much revising/editing.)

New paragraph for each new thought or idea or speaker.

Use quotation marks around the “words” spoken by the character. Instead of dialogue tags (he said, she remarked) use action. (His gaze flicked away from her face. Her voice dropped so low he could barely hear her.)
Each speaker requires a new paragraph.

Watch verb tenses: if you start in the past keep all of your verbs past tense; if you write in the present tense make sure they are all present tense verbs.

            Right-He ran down the road then stopped at the intersection.
            Wrong-He ran down the road then stops at the intersection.

Present tense is seldom used. I find present tense confusing and disarming. You are telling a story that occurred in the past, so use past tense verbs.
Watch out for point of view (POV).

            POV confuses a lot of beginning writers. It means knowing what a character is thinking or planning. Knowing their viewpoint.

            Many MG stories are generally told in third person while many YA books these days are in first person. HOWEVER, there is no rule about this. Write the story in whoever's point of view you wish--just keep it balanced.

 If writing in the first person (I, me, my , we, our) you CANNOT know what others are thinking or planning.  It takes a lot of dialogue to understand others’ thoughts or desires.

·        The only way to know what everyone is thinking is to use third person omniscient.
·        But be careful because even that gets tricky.
·        If you switch POV, be sure to designate it with a space or asterisks *****.
·        Never change POV inside the same paragraph (called mind hopping, it becomes very confusing).

Beware of ‘Purple Prose’. This is highly descriptive writing that may sound awesome but sometimes does nothing to promote the story. You should have some description so the reader can visualize what the character is sensing, just don’t go overboard.

Every word, action or dialogue should propel the story forward. If you have chapters or even paragraphs for character development alone, remove them. Chapters with too much description of surroundings or too much backstory/history get boring and readers will skip ahead anyway so edit down to only what is necessary to tell the story.

Don’t tell too much of the story up front. Let out the line slowly, keep most of the story as a mystery with clues until the climax when you can reveal more. Too much too soon and the reader loses interest in the story.

Revising
Don’t be afraid to revise, revise, revise. Get feedback from others and make changes to your story that YOU think will improve it. NO ONE writes the perfect story the first time.

My first book, Odessa, was revised about 8 times and even after publication I'm itching to revise it again because by five books later my writing has improved so much I'm no longer happy with Odessa.

Let your story sit on a shelf for several weeks or a month. Work on another project. Then reread the story and errors, misspellings, weak characters, weak plot lines, etc will jump out at you.

Editing
Once you have the story to a level you are happy with it is time to edit.
Remove as many adverbs as possible and replace them with stronger verbs. To locate adverbs easily, highlight them using the ‘replace’ box in the ‘editing’ box of MS Word. Highlight –ly and most adverbs will appear. Read through and eliminate as many as you can.

Highlight the following words in the entire manuscript then go through removing or replacing them with more powerful words/phrases:
AND
THAT
SAID (or ANY speech tags-replace with action)
any word you see repeated often

Remove as many adjectives as you can. Do not use duplicate adjectives such as “very beautiful”. If something is beautiful that is enough. Very becomes redundant. Better yet, describe HOW it is beautiful without using the word. Beauty is subjective.

WEAK: The river was beautiful that morning.
BETTER: Sun rays leaking through the early morning mist, lent the river a mystic quality.

Use Spell Check and look-up words that are misspelled.
Pay attention to punctuation. If you’re not sure about its usage this website will help  http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/566/01 .

Probably MOST IMPORTANTLY--learn from your editor. My first book, Odessa, looked like a dying warrior after a lengthy battle with dragons--it was covered with red gashes. My latest book, ending edits now and soon to be released (Harpies Book Two of Seraphym Wars Series) looked as though it had taken a short walk through nice woods--a couple of little scratches! Even my editor was surprised and happy with my writing progress. So the bottom line is this--make notes of your mistakes then PRE-EDIT after your final revision. You'll save your editor a lot of time and frustration and yourself money and embarrassment. 

Here's a little blurb about Harpies. Watch my website for its release: Under the Hat of MG/YA Dark Fantasy Author Rebecca Ryals Russell



Transported to a planet he'd never heard of was the least of fifteen-year-old Griffen's problems. Learning to control his suddenly increasing strength and new ability to pull lightning from the sky takes some getting used to.  Angry preteen Seth joins the quest; meanwhile discovering his combusting ability as a fire-starter. Driven to find the last Vigorio, a young girl able to experience others' emotions, they journey together toward their destinies as warriors against Narciss, Ruler of Tartarus and his Legio of demon-dragons. Narciss’s Harpy henchmen have other ideas, however.


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