RAVENCON 2015

Published May 20, 2015 by ellarite

I plan to attend 3 conventions this year:  RavenCon 2015, World Horror Con 2015 and Scares That Care Weekend 2015.

My goals for con attendance are:

1.  Hone My Writing

2. Network

Of course, the unofficial goal is to ‘have fun’, but I never feel the need to document that particular plan.   Soooo, let’s begin.

RavenCon2015: THE CON OF OPPORTUNITY

A weekend celebrating the genres of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror.

Location:  Midlothian, Virginia

 I’ve attended the following panels…

1. The Business End. The panel focused on the ‘business’ side of the writing career:  monetary advances, royalties and taxes.

Pic courtesy of www.pinterest.com

Pic courtesy of http://www.pinterest.com

I enjoy attending these types of panel.  It sparks my fantasy of sitting in front of my accountant surrounding with piles of receipts while he screams in frustration…”You’re selling too many books”.  Hey, I’m allowed to dream!!!

Bottom line:  Everything dollar   you earn is taxable.  Ensure that you document ALL business transactions.

 

2.Plotting and Pacing a Short Story.

This panel discussed the basic need and structure of short stories.

Common error found in stories from aspiring writers:  Cramming short stories with useless background information, too many subplots and/or characters.

Bottom line:  The basis of a good short story has a unique (interesting) protagonist with one realistic goal and a motivated antagonist with an opposing goal.

shortest horror

3.  The Villain’s Journey. This panel discussed the importance of identifying the ‘real’ antagonist of the story.  It’s useful to have one BoogyMan as the overall bad guy and a dedicated group of local antagonists that work on the head guys orders.

I’m prior military so this idea made a lot of sense.  In essence, the Admiral is the BoogyMan.  The Captain, who is powerful in his own right, acts on direct orders issued from the Admiral.

Pic courtesy of starwars.wikia.com

Pic courtesy of starwars.wikia.com

 

Ex:  In the Star Wars Trilogy (the original, yeah…I’m dating myself)…Darth Vadar acts as the main antagonist.  However, he is merely the Captain acting on orders from the real BoogyMan of the trilogy…The Emperor.

I enjoyed myself and plan to attend RavenCon 2016 in Williamsburg, Virginia.  The great news is that the convention is moving to a hotel closer to me.  Yaayyyy!!!   This following blurb is located on the convention’s website: http://www.ravencon.com.

 RavenCon Moves to Williamsburg

Due to a variety of contractual issues and lack of good function space, we will be moving to Williamsburg in 2016. RavenCon will now be held at the Doubletree, right down the street from Busch Gardens.

Hope to see you to see you there.

Stay tuned for my next blog…I talk about my experience at World Horror Con 2015.

Until next time,

Ella

 

Redefining ‘HARD’

Published April 29, 2015 by ellarite

I’m goal-oriented.  Once I set my sights on something, then nothing, short of hospitalization, prevents achieving said goal.   Throughout my many years on this planet, folks have applied various names to this trait:  ambitious, tenacious, go-getter and focused.

There have been other names, but I choose to focus on the good.

Whatever its’ called, this trait has allowed me to check my own personal boxes of success.  I’ve become a homeowner, obtained a college degree, retired from the US military and raised two boys into college-educated men.  Hell, I even bought my dream car.

Not too shabby for a poor girl from Detroit.

What’s the problem?  This damn writing business!!!  That’s the problem.  It’s damned hard.  So very, very hard.

Don’t get me wrong.  I expected hardships, I expected days of painfully vomiting words onto a page to meet my daily word count. The fact that the quality of my work would send agents, editors and publishers straight to the loony bin did not dissuade me from my goal.    Hey, don’t look at me like that.  I have revision plans. My point is that I started on this journey understanding that…

WRITING IS HARD!!!

To quote Merideth Grey from the TV show “Grey’s Anatomy”…  ‘it’s supposed to be hard, that’s how we weed out the weak’.   It’s about creating realistic characters, with motivation, pet peeves, goals and personality.  The characters should evoke emotion from the reader.   Whether cheered or jeered, your character should feel ‘alive’.  Which is very hard work.  Not impossible, but very hard.

To quote Tom Hanks character from one of my favorite movies, “A League of Their     Own”… ‘the hard is what makes it great’.  (pic) I welcomed ‘the hard’.  Heck, I relished the hard.  I CAN DO HARD!!!

Professional authors who give advice to aspiring writers, like myself, state that the path to a successful writing career is based on a few key steps.   The order of the steps vary depending on the author, but the following bits of wisdom tends to overlap:

1.|Hone your skills…I attend writing workshops.  See previous posts.

2.  Keep writing…I have 3 novels in various stages of completion and 14 completed short stories.

3.  Network/Connect with other writers…I’ve joined the Horror Writers Association, 2 local writing critique groups and have a monthly dinner with a group of girls I met in a writing class.  I have a twitter account and a facebook page. (Admittedly, I not social media savvy.  I treat my online accounts like a bear trap …I only visit to see if an unsuspecting victim got caught and need help bandaging their wounds.)

I’ve learned the art of the cover page, the elevator pitch and the succinct author’s bio. The result:  I have more rejection letters than I have stories.

To be fair, some rejections contain warm & fuzzy comments like… ‘well-written, but not for us’ or ‘interesting story, but we’ll have to pass at this time’.  I even have a few ‘we hope you submit again’.

My favorite magazine sent my manuscript back to me in the stamped, self-address envelope that I provided:  No comment, no ink on the pages, nothing.  I took it as “here’s the stupid story you submitted.  Do us a favor and burn it.”

 The folks who define the writing career as ‘hard’ have pulled the wool over our eyes.

They’re giggling behind our backs.   Why?  Because they know the secret.

 The definition of hard is significantly different

when describing a writing career.

 Depending on the dictionary, the definition of hard varies from ‘not easily penetrated’ to  ‘demanding the exertion of physical effort’. For writers, the real definition is as follows:

 Hard (verb):

Eye-bleeding, finger-throbbing, mind-numbing, soul-crushing, solitary activity

required of writers who seek success.   Activity may take years.

Maybe that’s our golden ticket:  the piece of knowledge that allows us to embrace our fears of failure and continue on the quest. I was mistaken.  I didn’t really know hard…but now I do.  My quest will continue!!!

Until next time,

Ella

Story Structure

Published May 10, 2014 by ellarite

I’ve spent the past few weeks in study mode. I get that way when I’m inspired. So what grabbed my attention for so long, you ask? (Even if you didn’t ask, I’ll tell you anyway.)

In two words: Heather Hildenbrand.
In two more words: Story Structure.

Heather Hildenbrand, author of the “Dirty Blood” series of YA books and founder of Elephantine Publishing, taught a workshop entitled “Plotting or Pantsing”.

The main objective of her lecture was to inform us that “every story needs structure”.

I can hear the collective sighs and multiple ‘duhs’ from all of you, but stay with me. Heather explained that each writer should plan the critical elements of their story.

For example: The first quarter of your story must include the following: Character introduction, Normal Life, Opening Hook, Inciting Incident and the first major plot point (your character decides to leave, act, search, etc.). The first plot point concludes the first quarter of the story and opens the proverbial door to ACT 2.

Heather recommended that all aspiring writers read the book:

“Story Engineering: Mastering the 6 Core Competencies of Successful Writing” by Larry Brooks.

I drove straight to Barnes and Nobles and purchased the book. I bought other books, but I won’t bore you with my personal addiction.

Anyway, I’ve learned so much from Mr. Brooks, that I spent the last few weeks going through my ‘trunk stories’ and ‘rejected submissions’. Boy, did I find problems. Some stories lacked a proper concept. Other stories lacked structure.

In fact, most of my stories were a series of well-written vignettes, vice a well-structured story.  For example:

I have a futuristic post-apocalypse story about a government with only 3 leaders. They’re eating dinner while waiting for their possible execution. Don’t laugh, it looked good in my head.
* The problem: the reader doesn’t know what’s going on or why? The reader can’t empathize with any of my characters because of poor set up on my part. Mr. Brooks explain that empathy is one of the critical elements of your story. (Oops, my bad.) I won’t bother you with the other issues in this story.

I’ve decided to revamp, re-polish and resubmit my old stories using the 6 Core Competencies. I’ll let you know if I’m successful or not. It worked for Heather Hildenbrand and she was kind enough to share, so I’m hoping it works for me.

Until I write again,
Ella

Resources

Published April 13, 2014 by ellarite

Writers need a supply of resources that allow them to enhance their stories. Stephen King, my personal icon, suggests that

“Writers build a metaphorical toolbox.  The top of the toolbox should hold important items like vocabulary and grammar, while other portions contain items such as elements of style.”  (King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, 114 – 129)

The toolbox analogy is too confusing for me. Don’t laugh. I’ve accepted my limitations. My mind won’t equate a screwdriver for a verb or a hammer with an adjective.

My resources appear as a metal filing cabinet.

I’ve held various administrative jobs, so the analogy is perfect for me. A file cabinet contains information, divided into headings and subheadings. The information stays ready for retrieval at a moments’ notice.

What resource do writers need?

A tricky question, but at the very least all writers should have a dictionary, a thesaurus and a quick reference guide. My reference guide contain info like ‘grammar basics’, ‘commonly misspelled words’ and the various forms of documentation (APA, CM, CSE, etc.)

Each writer should obtain references based on their needs. I like ‘all things scary’, so I tend to lurk around the Horror Writers’ websites. I print nuggets of info and file it away for later.

Where to find resources?

Everywhere and nowhere, how’s that for simplicity? Finding the resource that is helpful to your personal style of writing can feel like a separate journey. Here’s how I obtains some of my resources:

1. “Element of Style” by Strunk and White: printed from internet.
2. “The Writer’s Compass” by Nancy Ellen Dodd: purchased from Barnes and Noble.
3. “The Writer’s Chronicle” (magazine from the AWP-Association of Writers and Writing Programs): receive monthly from writing group.

My cabinet is full of tidbits that I’ve collected and filed through my journey. I have documentation of Carl Jung’s 16 Personality Types to Constance Hale’s New York Times column entitled “Make-or-Break Verbs” (http://opinionator.globs.nytimes.com/2012/04/16/make-or-break…, retrieved 23Apr2013).

I seek resources which provide
knowledge and enhance my craft.

We won’t talk about the third drawer in my cabinet. It’s haunted. That’s where I place my story ideas. The screams of half-finished characters fill the room whenever I approach my desk.

I’m thankful to Stephen King for sharing his knowledge. In fact, his book “On Writing” is my most valuable resource. One may not think so if they’ve seen my dog-eared copy with highlighter graffiti, marginal doodles and broken spine.

I’m sure he’ll understand. It’s how I show my love.

What resources make you a better writer?

Until next week,

Ella

Hone Your Craft

Published March 30, 2014 by ellarite

So there I was, bopping down the path that leads to my writing career.  I’d created my writing area and carved out a fraction of time dedicated to creating stories. Out of nowhere, my Type-A personality marched from behind a tree and blocked my path.

Dressed like an efficiency executive in a grey pin-striped pant suit, with white shirt, red ankle boots and tie.  She held pages of my story in her manicured fingers, quirked her strawberry-colored lips and said, “You can do better.”  Then BAM…

…a crossroad appeared on the path

Did I mention that my Type-A Muse is a hussy?  Sure, she gets stuff done, but sometimes I yearn to smack her.  But she had a point.  I needed to do better, but which path to choose?

A wooden pole erected in the middle of my crossroads, held three directional planks that corresponded to a path:

1.  Self-help,  2. MFA Program,  3. Writers’ Workshop.

PATH #1:  Self-help:

Obtain information from the library, bookstores and websites.  Find what successful writers did and apply to my work. As I examined the road, my muse went into action.

  • She marched down the path with her shoulders back and head held high.  She’d enter the various libraries, bookstores or cyber sites that appeared on either side of the path. At 10 paces, she lost her boots.  She reached twenty paces on her knees with a big head, slumped shoulders and a track suit.  At 30 paces, my living room couch appeared in the middle of the path.  My muse threw her half-naked body across the overstuffed cushions, summoned a pint of chunky monkey ice cream and a television remote control and just sat, ate and stared.  I cleared my throat to remind her that I was watching.  She gave me the finger.

PATH #2: College:   

Return to college for a MFA degree.  An advanced degree could hone my skills with the added benefit of increasing my opportunities in the labor market if my writing career didn’t pan out.   My muse appeared at my side and I directed her down this secondary path.

  • She hit this path at a dead sprint.  At 40 paces, a chalkboard appeared next to the path and she began to write.  Students gathered at her feet taking notes.  Suddenly, a diner appeared opposite her chalkboard and she jumped over her students, transformed into a middle-aged waitress and began taking dinner orders.  She bounced back and forth from diner to school until I said, “Hey, what about my writing.”  She laughed and pointed to the chalkboard. In big red block letters, someone had written “YOU OWE $70,000.00 IN STUDENT LOANS”. Okay, I was NOT going down that road.

PATH #3:   Writing Workshop:

Writing classes geared to help aspiring writers. I could attend courses proctored by local writers within the community.  Not as strict as an MFA program, it’s also not as expensive.  I raised my eyebrows and motioned my muse down this path.

  • She started slow, like crossing the threshold to a haunted house.  Within 10 paces, her hair fell loose from its’ bun, a t-shirt and blue jeans replaced the suit and a backpack hung from one shoulder.  People waving sheets of paper appeared along the roadside.  My muse swapped the pages in the backpack with these strangers and together they walked down the path. At 20 paces, my writing nook appeared and my stopped long enough to place information in the file cabinets, or type more pages. Once done, she’d stand, throw the pack over her shoulder and continue.  I soon learned the routine: learn skill, write better, share story.  Okay, message received.

I chose to hone my craft via writing workshops, specifically, the Muse Writers’ Center.  I chose courses based on my writing deficiencies.  So far, I’ve not regretted the decision. I’ve shared classes with other aspiring writers like Jenn Falls and Sylvia Liu.  I’ve learned how to build fictional worlds from Leona WisokerLydia Netzer taught me how to plot, create dilemmas and provided motivational support through her NaNoWriMo course.

Heck, I’ve started this blog based on information received from Jess Horton’s class “Blogging from the Ground Up”.

The best benefit of workshop attendance is, (old English accent):  I GOT BETTER.

I’ve learned terms like ‘filter words’ (words that separate the reader from the story like “I saw” or “he knew”) and ‘psychic distance’ (denotes how far a reader is from the character or action). I revise my stories as I learn.

It’s been almost 2 years and I’m still bouncing along the path with my muse at my side.  I make her hold the backpack.

How are you honing your craft?

Until next time,

Ella

Write Now!!!

Published March 21, 2014 by ellarite

You have your plan, your mission and your vision.  So what’s next?!

Writing Your Story!!!

It’s time to document your fantastic story.  Grab your laptop and get to typing.  If you’re old school, grab your pen and pad and get to writing.

I recommend starting small.   You’re not going to pen a 500 page manuscript in one sitting.  If you can do that, please call me.  I could use some pointers.  However, if you’re anything like me, your story starts with an idea.

What’s your idea?  Do you daydream about giant mice attacking Louisiana?  Maybe you dream of catching stars in a giant butterfly net.   Write it down.  Transcribe those images from your mind into a story.  It doesn’t matter if your idea makes sense.  You can change your story later.  There’s even a term for that:  revision.

Write Now: Revise Later

That’s right.  Don’t worry about spelling, grammar or punctuation.  Don’t bog yourself down with “the perfect setting” or the name of a character.  Open your imagination and write.

I’ll share my first attempt at writing.  A year ago, I wrote this wonderful passage:

“During the month of July, temperatures in Alabama were notoriously brutal, but not nearly as bad as the smothering humidity that threatened to drown him with every breath.”

Now, I look at that sentence and see unnecessary adverbs, misplaced modifiers and overall wordiness.  Whew!  This is ugly.  On the bright side, I have something to work with.  During the writing process, I wanted to convey the miserable weather.   I’ll say it better during the edit and revision process.

Every Sentence Counts

Only you can write your story, so you may as well begin.  Start now.  Don’t wait.  The first step in any marathon gets you closer to the finish line.  Some people recommend writing 1,000 words a day while other folks recommend setting a timer and write until you hear a ding.  What worked for me was a simple sentence.  That’s right, I said it.  (Okay, I wrote it.)

I found that adding sentences gets me closer to the end of my book.  Today I may write 20 sentences, tomorrow I may write a hundred.  It doesn’t matter as long as I move forward.

The goal is to complete your story.  You can be the tortoise or the hare, the job is to finish the race.

Good Luck and Happy Writing,

Ella

State Your Vision

Published March 14, 2014 by ellarite

The Vision

One of the mind tricks I use to stay focused on writing is to imagine success.  I see my future self at a local bookstore signing copies of my book for devoted fans.   I also envision myself typing vigorously as a giant calendar hovers over my head, rapidly counting down the days to a deadline (circled in giant red marker).

                  My imagination changes with my mood.

 Flawless writing revealed a future of book signings, literary awards and a sports car.   Writer’s block brought images of sitting in dark alleys surrounded by crumpled wads of my manuscript pages.

 I needed to cement the successful image in my mind.

 Enter the “Vision Statement”.  A vision statement is a ‘one-sentence’ declaration of future goals.  Vision statements are specific and concrete.

To create a vision statement, answer the following questions as specifically as you can.  I’ve added my answers.

  1. What is the basic job you hope to have?       Author
  2. How do you envision yourself in this job?   Respected, prolific, financially successful
  3. What is the focus of this job?                                   Horror, mystery, science fiction, fantasy
  4. Start your vision statement with these words:        “I strive to become a”.

Now reword using the sentences in this order: 4,2,1,3.  For example, my vision statement is:

(4) I strive to become a

(2) respected, prolific, financially successful

(1) author  (of)

(3) horror, mystery, science fiction, fantasy.

The next step is to write your personal statement.  My statement reads:

“I strive to become a respected, prolific, financially successful author of horror, mystery, science fiction and fantasy.”

How did the vision statement help me?

I take the ‘bad prose days’ as easily as I accept the great writing days.    In fact, I find myself exploring the reason for my bad days:  Am I hungry?  Is my child sick?  Is my checking account overdrawn?  Once I figure out the issue, I make steps to rectify it quickly so that I can get back to writing well.

I’ve printed and framed my mission and vision statements.

They hang in my writing nook over my computer.

The Vision Statement motivates my forward momentum and strengthens my focus.  I see the finish line, who cares that I knocked down some hurdles?

Until next time,

Ella