Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What the Heck is an Elevator Pitch?

This was my first thought when I signed up for the Pitch Fest in this years Emerald City Writers' Conference at the end of the month... well to be more precise, in 3 days.

Apparently an 'Elevator Pitch' is a two to five sentence recap of your novel that, once completed, should also allow you time for your victim... I mean captive audience to ask you any questions they might have about your story.

The one thing I have to say is that I've already practiced narrowing down a description of a story or movie to one sentence, so broadening the field to about 3 sentences will be a breeze, or atleast should be :)

Think of the move Snow White (the G rated one), here is one way to describe it in one sentence:

Escaping from a Stepmother who wants to kill her, Snow White struggles to make a life for herself away from her Stepmothers evil ways.

I'd suggest trying this with other movies. Remember you want to be as broad and general as possible because you want to get the general point across without going into too much detail. You save that for later when they ask you questions or request more information.

So after taking this reduced sentence down of the description of Snow White, lets expand upon it to make it more of an elevator pitch:

Escaping from a Stepmother who wants to kill her, Snow White with the help of seven dwarfs attempts to make a life for herself outside of her Stepmother's evil influences. Her Stepmother won't let her go without out a fight and Snow White and the seven dwarfs must use all their physical and mental skills to keep her Stepmother away.

Now, lets see if I can do this with my novel (it's always harder to do it with things we created :) )

Here's my one sentence:
In love with her neighbor, Beth finally gets the chance of a relationship with James, but his ex isn't done with him yet.

Okay, lets see if I can expand upon it without getting too complicated:
Beth has always been in love with her neighbor, but when she finally gets the chance to build a relationship with him it comes with some unwelcome strings attached. James' latest ex has decided that she's not done with him yet, and will do everything in her power to try and break Beth and James' lives apart.

If you can complete this successfully (and please note, I haven't received any input aside from myself for the above pitch, I won't know how well it works until the conference. Notes to be added below later) this is also a very helpful tool when writing your query letter.

I found this link to 'Kick Butt Elevator Pich' by Kristen Stieffel very helpful.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Story Conversation and Scene Help

Recently someone asked me if I had any suggestions on how to make a scene flow better and how to tell if they got their points across. The scene they were asking about had character conversation in it and was the last chapter of their story.

This can be a tricky, especially with endings or wrap ups in which you strip your characters bare. This advice can be used for any scene in any storyline and can be particularly helpful when you are unsure if you've wrapped up or started any drama in a clear manner.

My suggestion to them was to think about what they want to portray in the scene. What emotions did they want to have their characters feel or cause in each other and write it out. Usually in the big finally where everyone brings everything out in the open and the characters emotions are laid bare, you generally want your characters emotionally raked over coals before coming out better for it on the other end.

Think back to your favorite books. What do the characters feel in that last breath before the end? Dispare, pain, anger, depression? Are they afraid? Do they feel that they could lose everything they've spent the last some odd chapters working towards?

Write the above items down on a piece of paper and if you are trying to get a specific point across in the scene, add that to the list as well. Then, and here is the important part, show the list o a trusted adviser, email them to your critique partners or show it to a random stranger. After that, and I suggest this especially for the characters conversational portion of the story, read it aloud to your friend and that stranger or email it out to your critique partner/s, and have them cross off what points you hit on and which points you didn't. If they're nice, they'll also state where they were having issues following along or will provide suggestions to help it flow better.

The verbal renditioning of your story can also help with sentence flow (character conversations in stories should sound/read like an actual conversation) and will also display how well you are able to convey your points across in the scene.

I hope this helps in your writing endeavor!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Nano Plot Tips: The Index Card Methods and Structure Grid

I've been reading up on this idea and have to say that I might give it a try, especially if I run out or through my plot outline too soon (I tend to do this around 25k thinking it should have lasted till 50k) and start pantsing it. Which has failed to reach me the 50k mark on many a frustrating occasions.

What you need:
Index Cards or post its
Space- perhaps lots of it
and if you're feeling exceptionally rambunctious, a cork board

Every chapter needs to have a climax or reach a critical point to help the story along, usually involving either emotional movement (character development or trauma) or plot line movement. As well as every three chapters or so there should be a central climax or point that happens that moves the plot along at larger intervals until you reach the storyline climax and then the one or two chapters to close everything off. Keep in mind plot climaxes usually proceed the romance climax where the characters conclude that they want to spend the rest of their lives together. Everyone confused? Then I've succeeded :) More on plot line suggestions later.

Index cards are one of the more effective story planning tools because they allow you to write your scenes out and then easily move things around when you need to. I've tried to do this on a computer and it can get a bit frustrating to go back and forth between pages to try and figure out what's happening or what a character looks like. Plus think of it as literally holding your story in your hands. Think of all the colorful creations you could make, that or the time you'll spend procrastinating writing your story as you design the cards.

I do hate to say it, but I still tend to write out a basic plot line on paper or computer and then transfer everything to the note cards. The plus side, if I had some ideas about what could happen in the plot but couldn't figure out how to write it in, I'd add it a note card to have on hand in case I want to shuffle plot points around or add more complexity to the story, or just plain run out of items to fill a plot section. Then I place my cards out on a surface and start putting them in planned chapter order to see how the scenes play out and get a general idea on the flow of the story. I can then mix, match, shuffle, toss and include any other cards when needed.

What I tend to include on my note cards:
Character descriptions, each on their own, including the villain
Basic chapter outlines, not initially labeled unless I want a bunch of black marks crossing out chapter identifications
About 10 additional cards with random plot events that I may want to experiment with
A death card, that will have a list of names and moments when they were killed, just to keep everything in order
A introduction card, to help me keep track of when I introduced characters, so I don't introduce them twice
And a couple challenge cards

What is a challenge card you ask? A challenge card/s is something you either decide to play around with yourself with your story, or you decide to take up from a fellow nano'er post on the whole challenge idea. I recently read one where you have a character turn blue or purple in your storyline due to a chemical reaction and you later have to use this your benefit in your story. Another was help another character get married, and another was having them consume a really greasy food. You could have someone fall in love with an AI, a really harry man or just waltz in the background of a scene. Challenges can be hard, easy, fun, frustrating or just plain crazy, but they can also help you move your plot along if you've run out of previously planned plot points or just need filler till you reach your next scene.

Challenges can be found on Nanowrimo Forums.

Will you be using note cards this year? Or were you planning on using a different form of plotting assistance. If so, please share!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Nanowrimo and Much Much More!

Wow, this years Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) is coming up this November. For those of you who don't know what that is, its a solid thirty days, that's right three-zero, that you have to start and finish a book that is at least 50 THOUSAND words long.

You cannot start the writing of this novel until November 1st and the last day you have to finish this challenge is November 30th.

I've attempted this challenge several times, we won't go into how many, and only succeeded once. I've come close, within a few thousand words a couple times as well. I felt wonderful when I crossed that 50K word count mark. Like I've finally accomplished a major goal in my life. I'm going to attempt it again this year and still haven't quiet decided what I'm going to write about. This 50K mark can be hard to meet with Thanksgiving and other family obligations floating around this month (at least for those who are in US). It's easy to fall be hind and somewhat daunting to try and catch up.

I don't do so well pantsing a story line this long that has to be written in such a short length of time. Pantsing for those of you who don't know, is where you attempt to write a story where you have no idea where you are going, what is going to happen or even how it might end. It can be a fun to write a free flowing story where you discover new things about yourself and your characters or it can be a story from hell where you end up burning your computer and smashing your USB into pieces as you just can't take the constant road blocks and unhelpful characters anymore.

Personally I prefer plotting to pantsing in this short length of time. I have this desire to know exactly where my story is going. Some might say this stems from my at times over controlling nature, but I don't believe them. I plot mainly so I don't end up pulling all the hair out of my head while I try to figure out just what the hell is happening in my story and to my characters. The problem I have with plotting is that I tend to plot out the chapters and by the time I've finished writing the plot points I end up with only half a length of story. This is when I tend to pants it and end up not reaching the 50K mark.

This might be because I don't add enough details into my plot points so I just kind of skip along from one action to another without adding enough random events to fill in the spaces. I'll have to try harder to plan those smaller plot movers/markers this year. And people say I don't let me characters have enough free space.

This year I'll also be attending my first writer's conference and I can't be more excited! I'll be sitting in on several conferences for tips on writing police/investigation novels with believable characters and plot lines (I have several stories already started that I want to be more realistic with). I'll get tips on publishing and just a generally bumping elbows with those other writers in my community. I cannot wait!

I'm hoping that I'll also be able to met my first submission goal this year (this has been one of my new years goals for the last two years) and actual submit a novel to publishing houses to see what comes back. I can't wait! Even if they're rejection letters, I'm still supper physicked that I even got this far :)

I'll be posting book reviews soon. So many to catch up :)

Also, if there are any you'd like me to review, leave a comment and I'll get on it!