Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Character Quirks or Flaws That Go Awry

"Enough already!"

This is what I said in total exasperation by the time I finished part of the latest edition of a "knitting" mystery. The main character's quirk or flaw is her love of coffee. This is not a problem in itself but the author mentions coffee, caffeine, strong blends, empty mugs, empty thermos, etc, over and over again ad nauseum. It became so frustrating and annoying to read line after line about coffee that it interfered with the enjoyment of the story.
 As a whole, this cozy series is good, gives the reader lots of information about knitting, and the author has developed the other characters very well. However, this obsession by the author to emphasize the main character's love of coffee is ruining the character for me so much so that I don't care if her love life has hit the skids. (My guess is he can't stand her coffee breath and jittery nerves but is afraid to tell her.)

Every writer has heard and read that giving your characters flaws makes them more real and more interesting to the reader. I agree. One of my YA characters wants contacts because her glasses keep sliding down. I've made a note to check the "ad nauseum" factor during revision in the hopes that one day one of my readers won't say, "Enough already!"

What are your thoughts about character quirks or flaws? Have you seen them done to death in novels? How do you know when your reader gets it and no longer needs to be reminded?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Over at Kelly Barwick's blog http://kellybarwick.blogspot.com/ she discusses her experience at the Big Sur Children's Writing Workshop. She makes me want to sign up for the next one!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

I Just Discovered Microsoft OneNote Notebook and I love it!

When I ordered Microsoft Office 2010 it came with an item called Microsoft OneNote. It was never included in an Office package I purchased before so I'm thinking the difference is I ordered the one that included small business. OneNote Notebook is a looseleaf notebook with tabs and pages created for businesses to share between employees and upload on webs. Anyone can add pages or notes when shared. Great for businesses but fabulous for a writer who makes three ring binders for each novel!

I decided to use it to plan a new middle grade mystery. I listed the elements of a book like plot, character, description on the tabs at the top. After that I clicked on Characters. Under the tab I can make pages for each character. Each page is listed on the right so you can click quickly between each one. I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning filling out pages. No more creating pages, printing, punching holes, and including it in the binder. And I can add pictures of the characters I find on the net!

A few minutes ago I created a second notebook entitled "Personal". My first tab is Submissions 2010. I inserted my flash drive and dragged the Submissions Excel file to the notebook page. Now the submission file is on the page. I can add anything else I want to the same page from typing, inserting, or dragging and dropping from other files like diagrams, charts, photos, etc.

Have any of you used this in your writing? Does Mac have anything similar?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Another Good Writing Book

I went to the library the other day and like most writers I like reading "How to" books to get some ideas. I found a copy of First Draft in Thirty Days  by Karen S. Weisner. I didn't really care about a first draft in thirty days (NaNo cured me of that) but it looked like it had some pretty good organizational tips. I was not disappointed.

Weisner calls it the Thirty Day Method and breaks a monthly calendar down to days. What she refers to as a first draft is an outline. But it is so detailed and filled with enrichment that, yes, it will definitely sound like a first draft.

What I appreciated that helped me see what she was talking about is that she used an actual book (The Lovely Bones p.20) and used that work to do a character sketch using one of her worksheets. She continues using other novels as examples to emphasize worksheets throughout the book.

One of the hardest things for me is keeping track of subplots and giving my characters the extra things that give them depth. Organizing and working the way Weisner suggests has already been a real help in that area. The writer starts out doing the basics but as the days pass and the work progresses lots of rich details are added.

When covering plot she talks about understanding story threads, story goal, subplot threads, tension, release, black moment (climax), resolution, and after effects of resolution but she emphasizes:

 "Go into as much detail as possible on your plot sketch, but keep in mind that your first pass will be light on details. Don't worry. Over the next twenty-seven days, it will grow significantly."

With her method, she confidently states that revisions will be much easier because you revise the outline instead of the manuscript. It's an intriguing idea and I have come away with lots of good ideas to put into effect but whether I try the whole thirty day method is still debatable.

Monday, December 6, 2010

I'm Back!

My Dell desktop arrived today, ten days early! It's taking me a little time to set everything up but now I can catch up on all your blogs! I felt so lost. Just this weekend the old computer took a turn for the worst in Safe Mode and had to be unplugged. I wasn't looking forward at all to waiting almost two weeks. What a surpirse when FedEx rang the bell.

The only drawback is that my printer is not supported by Windows 7. So I'll be shopping for a printer this week. But I don't care..I have a computer!!!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Update on My Poor, Pitiful Computer

My computer  was diagnosed as having a bad motherboard and video. I brought the poor thing home and it is limping along in Safe Mode with Networking while I search for its replacement. Luckily, I was able to start it in this mode and back up anything I missed. Now I can shop with no worries or regrets.

Decisions, decisions. Shopping for a computer is mind boggling. There are so many new models and features it's really hard to compare, contrast, and decide but I have at least narrowed it down to a desktop of a specific brand,operating system, keyboard, monitor, and mouse. Tomorrow I promised myself I would focus and make a final decision on the model (not too hard) and (gulp) everything else: memory, optical drive, hard drive, video card, sound, software, modem, speakers... Wish me luck!