Friday, February 15, 2019

DIY MFA 19 02 15

11. Prompt: My writing space

Gabriela Pereira asked those in the DIY MFA BookClub Facebook group to share their writing spaces if they liked. Since I recently went through a January Room Declutter/Makeover, and my desk is relatively clean, I decided to share.

I'm lucky that my house was designed with a 12x24ft room behind the garage. This is my writing, art, and get-a-way room. 

 My writing space is in the middle facing a window with a view of my backyard including spruce, cottonwood trees and mountains that ring the rural valley I live in. 4750'. No fences. One of our state mottoes is: Don't fence me in. As I write this, big fluffy snow flakes are falling. But rain is expected, so it will be washed away. 

My desk is a large, oak, 1923 editor's desk, which I purchased from the newspaper where I worked when we moved to a new building with built in desks. My laptop is set up beside a larger monitor and I use an ergonomic keyboard. 

Behind me is a short bookcase with my printer, scanner, writing craft books, research books and office supplies. 
To the right of my desk are a green velvet love seat and a vintage green brocade easy chair with a faux cowhide pouf as a footstool. This is where I can sit and read my DIY MFA book! Or sneak a nap.

To my left is my art and craft table and left of that is a door with window and side lights that leads to the side yard.

 Because the room was built off the garage it has a cement floor and 9 ft. ceiling. It's a wonderful room and very conducive to writing and creating. It's only drawbacks are that it is a bit isolated from the rest of the house and I have to walk through a corner of the garage to get to it.  

Buddy likes to stay close and be my muse.

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Thursday, February 14, 2019

DIY MFA 19 02 14

10. Prompt: What's on your reading list?

This topic is about "reading like a writer". Gabriela Pereira, author of DIY MFA and moderator of the DIY MFABookClub, asks in the Facebook group,

What's on your to-be-read (TBR) list? Which books are your essentials and what are your go-to "read like a writer" resources? Also, have you put together a reading list using the categories above? [see below] If so, which books have you included on that list?"

My TBR pile is kinda big and kinda neglected. I tend to find a new book to download on my iPad Mini and forget the paperbacks languishing on the shelf. I also tend to buy more than I can read. Go figure. This year I've decided to alternate between paperbacks and e-books, 2 to 1.

My Resources: (I include links in case you are interested)

Some resources for writing I turn to are: The thesauruses published by Angela Ackerman &Becca Puglisi, GMC: Goal, Motivation & Conflict The Building Blocks of Good Fiction by Debra Dixon, Random House Word Menu by Stephen Glazier. I also read books on human behavior, relationships, and interactions (see my previous blog for more details on these books). I enjoy memoirs because they show how other people live, what kind of situations they find themselves in, and the consequences of their decisions. These last books can spark situations for your story.

I have quite a few writers craft books on the shelf behind me. Sometimes it's easier to grab a book you're familiar with to find your answer, other times it's easier to Google.  
My DIY MFA category reading list: (I include links if you are interested, but I haven't read these books so I can't honestly recommend them)

Competitive (Comp) Titles:
Books in the same genre or age group category as your own. They could also be books in other genres/categories but that focus on a similar theme or subject matter as your book. Imagine a reader who loves your book asks a librarian for other books like it. Which books would those be?
Contextual Books:
Anything you read that helps to put your own writing into context. Contextual materials include books or articles you read for research, as well as any other multimedia materials such as films, music, magazine articles, etc. You may also want to look at books that use a similar storytelling technique to what you're using in your own work, like a particular point of view or literary device.
Contemporary Books:
You should have a working knowledge of whatever is new in your genre or category. By "new" I mean books published within the last three years. Given how quickly our industry changes, anything older than three years is not "contemporary" any more.
Yes, you also need to read the classics, but just because they are classic doesn't mean these books need to be boring... or old. Remember the art of DNF (Do Not Finish). If you're reading a book and it doesn't resonate with you, put it down. There are plenty of other wonderful classics out there and you will find one that you love. No need to waste time reading a book that drives you crazy.
  • The Best Short Stories of Jack London (Earliest copyright is 1900. In my TBR pile.)
  • The Red Pony by John Steinbeck (1937. In my TBR pile.)
  • Plays by Oscar Wilde (Earliest copyright is 1893. In my TBR pile.)
  • Essential Muir: A selection of John Muir's best writings (copyrights 1894-1916. In my TBR pile.)
The BookClub discussions will probably be done long before I read all these books, but that's not the point. We're just to make the list and work on it as we can. 

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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

DIY MFA 19 02 13

9. Prompt: Try a new-to-you technique from the DIY MFA book.

In the DIY MFA book there are several story-building techniques. The plotting chapter starts off with a test to see if you are a plotter or a pantser.

I hit right in the middle. I usually have a general plot in mind, but I'm open to the story revealing surprises. And I've had some surprises that baffle me. As example, I wrote a very early scene that I thought was a bit of fluff and would probable be cut, but near the end of the book that scene held evidence that pointed to the heroine as a major suspect in a crime. I had no idea that's where the story would go when I wrote that first scene. I was not writing a crime story or a mystery. Did my subconscious already know where the story wanted to go? Yeah, I'm a pantser.

Some techniques explained in the book to help you plot (or not plot):  

Scene Cards

Mind Maps

Story Sketch

Story Map

Mood Boards

I have used all five of these techniques in one way or another and reading this chapter has given me more ideas. 

I use Scrivener and it has a feature for building Scene Cards. They even look like index cards, which makes my visual creator happy. Scrivener's sister app, Sacpple, is a good tool for making Mind Maps. It also works for making Story Maps. Of course paper and pen work just as well. 

The Story Sketch in DIY MFA is a little different from others I've used. These are usually forms you fill out with your story's short synopsis and descriptions of characters and settings. I'll add this form to my arsenal of fact collecting guides.

The Story Map is similar to the Hero's Journey Map I'm used to using. The info on how the use a Story May is good and I'll be referring to it in the future, too.

I've made Mood Boards, too, only I didn't have a name for them. I'd love to make a paper and paste mood board, but I'm trying to cut down on paper clutter by doing these things on my computer.

Here is a Mood Board I made for my WIP (work in progress). I open it on my lap top screen as I write on a larger monitor next to it. In addition to Mood Boards I like to make playlists of music that puts me in the mood of the story. The music helps me get back "into" the story after an absence from it. 

There are a lot of tools to choose from in this chapter of DIY MFA.  

In other parts of the book there are some story-building techniques I haven't tried.

The Character Compass

The Ending Matrix

The Point of View Cheat Sheet

The Revision Pyramid

I will be studying these tools as I get further into the book.