Monday, February 18, 2019

DIY MFA 19 02 18
DIY MFA BookClub
12. Prompt: What was your zero moment?

As I understand it, according to the book DIY MFA, a zero moment is when you go from wanting and planning to do something to actually doing it. Zero is where you start. You have zero followers, zero fans, zero content. You start at zero and build from there. You're free to just create with little or no expectation from others.

My zero moment was sometime in 2005. I went in to my office after clearing up the kitchen, put the TV remote in a drawer and opened a new document on my computer. This is when I started writing seriously. I didn't let the fact that I didn't know a whole lot about writing fiction stop me. I had stories to tell. I didn't stop to study the craft of writing fiction. I just wrote. For a year. I completed one novel and started three more. 

A Daddy for Luke
The next year I wrote in the same way but added some community by joining a publisher-supported writer's forum. The third year I added on-line classes and workshops. The fourth year I joined sponsored on-line editorial pitches and critiques, while still writing. 

At this point I learned how long it can take to get published traditionally. Since I was already 55, I didn't want to spend my golden years waiting for "the call". I studied self-publishing. Since my day job was as a graphic artist I felt I had production and cover design covered, so I looked for an editor. 

In 2012 I published my first novel. I published my second novel in 2013. In 2014 I edited and produced a memoir written by Alec Noble. In 2015 I published my mother's memoir of the family's 200 mile hike on The John Muir Trail in 1959. My mom was 93 at the time of publication and it was a proud moment for her. It was probably the best gift I'd ever given her. She died two years later at 95. 
From 2015 until the present I concentrated on making my mother's last years comfortable, and since her death, redefining my own future. Joining the DIY MFA BookClub is my new zero moment. I want to go back to that first year where all I did was write. I have several nearly manuscripts that want to be freed and let out in to the world. 

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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.

This blog contains affiliate links for your convenience. You pay no more when you follow the link and I earn a small commission. I only list items I think are helpful to others.


Thursday, February 14, 2019

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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. 

This blog contains affiliate links for your convenience. You pay no more when you follow the link and I earn a small commission. I only list items I think are helpful to others.  
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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.  

Friday, February 8, 2019

DIY MFA 19 02 08

8. Prompt: What's your favorite story type, and why?

According to The Seven Basic Plots: Why we tell stories by Christopher Booker there are seven story types that have been carried down through the long history of storytelling.

Story Archetypes:
Overcoming the Monster
Rags to Riches
The Quest
Voyage and Return

Booker Also includes:
Rebellion Against 'The One'

In Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell, Bell uses the term Plot Patterns and says that over the years the number has been as high as 36 and as simple as three.

Plot Patterns:
The Quest
The Chase
One Against
One Apart

In DIY MFA by Gabriela Pereira, she mentions John Gardner who said there are only two plots in all of literature.

You go on a journey
A stranger comes to town, aka A fish out of water

Pereira goes on to suggest that instead of fitting your story into one of the above categories, concentrate on the power struggle at the heart of your story, "This will force you to put the conflict front and center".

To answer the question, what is my favorite story type?

From the lists above, I would say Rags to Riches, ('Riches' can mean things other  besides money.) I don't think every story can be slotted in to one type, I think many are mash-ups of two or more story types.

Most of my reading is contemporary romance; some historical romance and memoirs. I read some history and literary fiction. These are genres, not story types or plot patterns. A romance is not a Love plot pattern because, according to Bell, a Love plot pattern can end happily, sadly, or tragically. Any of the types and patterns above can contain a love story, but in a Romance the ending is always HEA (happily ever after). A HEA leaves the reader with a feeling of completeness and hope. We can all use hope.

I write in the sub genre of Clean Contemporary Romance and I like to work in a bit of the underdog as either the hero or heroine has to overcome a weakness or deficiency to achieve a goal. The protagonist may or may not have the support of the love interest at the beginning of their journey, but will gain or earn it by the end. I explore how people are attracted to each other, how they realize and adjust to the attraction, how they act on it and how they choose to adjust their life to fit the dynamic of letting another person close.

This blog contains affiliate links for your convenience. You pay no more when you follow the link and I earn a small commission. I only list items I think are helpful to others.  


Wednesday, February 6, 2019

DIY MFA 19 02 05

7. Prompt: What's your favorite supporting character archetype, and why?

This was an interesting subject for me. I write contemporary romance with few characters; a Heroine, a Hero, a BFF/Mentor for her and a BFF/Mentor for him. And the various 'towns people' needed to populate a story.

When I first started studying the craft of fiction writing I could never figure out how a romance fit into the protagonist/antagonist framework. The hero isn't the antagonist to the protagonist heroine. So who is he? I just ignored the problem and I guess I made them both protagonists. Not that I'm a stickler for character definitions. 

However, this week Gabriela Pereira explained her theory "

...that every story has one (and only one) protagonist. This means that the job of every other character is to support the main character's development"

I guess I knew this, but I hadn't placed the hero in the supporting character role. I felt he was equal to the heroine. He is, but not in story structure. Now I see him as the "Love Interest" supporting character.

There are five supporting characters: Villain, Love Interest, BFF, Mentor, and Fool. Pereira goes on to say "...not every story needs to include all five of these archetypes. Sometimes you might omit several; other times you can have one character filling multiple different roles." My BFF/Mentors as example.

So, which is my favorite supporting character archetype, and why?

Well, the Love Interest, of course. Without him it wouldn't be a romance and the reader wouldn't be guaranteed a HEA (happy ever after).

Second would be the BFF/Mentor. That covers 3/5ths of the supporting characters. But that's how it works for me.

This has me thinking of ways to edit the opening of my WIP (work in progress), which I have edited several times already. I think I need to switch the scene order to make the hero the supporting character he needs to be. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

DIY MFA 19 02 05

6. Prompt: Have you had a time when resistance served as your creative compass and pointed you toward a particular project?

I've fought resistance all my life. But I've always called it procrastination.

Maybe I need to rethink this resistance/procrastination thing. Gabriela Pereira of DIY MFA, and who is guiding a varied group of writers through the DIY MFABookClub course, has another insight on this.

Of course, I've always known, since I was an adult, that in procrastinating doing something I was resisting doing it. What I didn't allow myself to consider was what was behind my resistance: Fear. Fear of failure, fear of hurt, fear of wasting time on something that wasn't going to pan out because I didn't have the faith in myself that I could complete it or complete it well enough.

I can't think of a time when resistance pointed me toward a particular project, however, it has pointed me to taking this course when I otherwise would have been procrastinating... er... resisting getting back to my WIP (work in progress). I'm sure I will learn something about myself and my writing goals as I go through the course.