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  • Good Links, May Edition

    Posted on May 31st, 2009 jean No comments

    Wow, there goes May. Hello, June. Might I say you are looking mighty fine?

    I didn’t spend a lot of time surfing the net this month, but I still came across some great links to share. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

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    Here’s what I found:

    On Writing: Many writers like to use archetypes in their stories or build around a myth. Karen Harbaugh, over on her blog, discusses characterization, plotting, fairy tales and archetypes. It’s an interesting read and a blog I will be checking out regularly.

    Pitching your Work: Camy Tang discusses how to create a strong 50 word elevator pitch (story summary) so you can pitch agents or editors in person. They are also great for query letters. I’m currently taking one of Camy’s online classes and it is fantastic. This writer knows how to simplify a difficult task and even makes writing a synopsis fun! (Really!)

    Building a Query: Former publishing lady and query guru, Molli Nickell, has a new blog called The Query Letter Wizard. She offers tips and exercises on her blog. She also answers questions and helps folks out with their query questions and blues. You can also find her on AgentQuery and on her website.

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    General Writing Interest: So, many you may be like me and live outside the publishing haven known as the United States. Maybe you spell funny, adding in extra ‘u’s here and there. You say “zed” and not “zee”. And your manuscript reflects that. What to do, what to do… Well, thankfully Jessica Faust over at Bookends Litererary addresses grammar and spelling in her post.

    Future of Publishing: On Demand Books. You may have heard of these already, if not, this article is an interesting look at those little machines that print a book as you wait. It is an interesting idea that could become ‘big’. (And possibly save the planet.)

    Marketing: If you are wondering about how popular your blog is, or want to compare some websites or blogs you know, pop them into Market Leap and it will compare these sites for you. You can list one site or up to three for comparison.

    About the Money: Editorial Ass gives the real scoop on writers and money. Everything from royalties to right sales and more.

    And for fun: The “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotations. You got it, it is a blog exhibit of signs people have submitted that use unnecessary quotations.

    It’s All Kid’s Play: This is my website and blog. It contains over 780 activities to do with children that are free or almost free. Feel free to pass it on to your friends or enjoy it yourself. It has everything from crafts, to staycation ideas to game rules, car ride games and much more. Enjoy!

    Best news of May: A buddy on AQ found an agent who LOVES his work. He is now represented, so a huge congratulations to Thrownbones. I am incredibly happy for this writer as he has put in his time, working, working, working. Best of luck!

    I hope May was good to you. :)

  • Mimicry Exercise Experiment #3

    Posted on May 30th, 2009 jean No comments

    (This is the fourth blog post in a series on writer’s voice and style mimicry. Read the exercise explanation, exercise experiment #1 and exercise experiment #2 by following the links.)

    After today’s experiment, I am left wondering, am I not experimenting with work that different enough from my own writing? I keep expecting to get hit with this ah-ha moment. While typing out the pages from other writer’s, I feel the author’s voice, I get where they are going with the characters, scene and story. I see how they are not shying away from using ‘was’, ‘had’, and ‘that’. I see how they are using ‘telling’ effectively. (Obviously, some rules are for breaking.) I see how they are giving us all those internal pieces we need to believe in the character and their actions.

    Today I mimicked Jennifer Weiner’s Little Earthquakes which is in third person, past tense with several character POVs. Okay, I lied. I didn’t mimic. I typed out a full, single-spaced page (and a bit) in Word and then found I had no inkling to pick up the story on my own, imitating the style and voice. It wasn’t the story’s fault, as I love the story. The characters are great. The scene is something I can identify with. Yet, there was no desire to pick up someone else’s story and carry on with it. My muse doesn’t want to work that way. I found this in the other exercises, but managed to push through. However, today, my writing mind said “Enough!”. It didn’t simply apply the brakes, but it applied the emergency brakes too. It was not going there. So we didn’t.

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    Even though I didn’t mimic Jennifer Weiner, I did learn from the expert, so all was not lost. Weiner has a great way of zipping and zapping around back and forth through time and settings. The character is at home in bed, then we are transported to the doctor’s office, then to the delivery room 6 weeks prior, then back the apartment a few days before now, and again, back to the bedroom. All within a page or two as she weaves the story together, giving background, and setting up where the character is coming from psychologically. Very cool. With one simply cue, she has you in a different setting, pulling another important piece from the past, then zips you back to the present. She’s a pro!

    This is the end of my mimicry experiment. While I don’t think I will mimic other writers as a way to improve my own voice–I think I have already found it–I will, from time to time, pick up a book  I admire and type out a page or two as a method for learning how another author has approached zipping around in the past, handled an intense scene, or slipping a little telling into a fast-paced scene.


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    A great chick lit book about motherhood.

  • Mimicry Exercise Experiment #2

    Posted on May 29th, 2009 jean No comments

    Today, I mimiced a page or two of Sophie Kinsella’s The Undomestic Goddess. (See these posts for more info: Mimicry Description, Mimicry Exercise #1.) This story uses first person, present tense and is British. I found this one easy to mimic. I LOVE first person, present tense. It flowed. I also love the heroine and have read this story a few times, making it easier to mimic the voice, thoughts and tone.

    Really, there isn’t much to say about this one, except: I want to write all first person, present tense all the time!

    I did notice there was a lot of self-talk. I think that is one of the things that really makes first person work. There has to be a lot of self-talk–a lot of inner dialogue going on which is important to the story and adds that extra layer to the  characters.


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  • Mimicry Exercise Experiment #1

    Posted on May 27th, 2009 jean No comments

    Today is day 1 of giving the mimicry exercises a go.

    I chose Marian Keyes’ Anybody Out There? which is written in first person, past tense. (It’s a great book. I’ll do a book review on it next week.)

    Basically, I typed out a page and a half in Word (single spaced) straight from the book. I got a feel for how she interspersed action with telling. The telling was great, by the way. Just a few sentences here or there, nothing drawn out. Enough to let the reader know what was going on and getting us from point A to point B in fast form. BUT there were also these wonderful tiny details. Such as:

    At lunchtime I tried to get my nails done, but when I took off the bandages and revealed them to the manicurist she went green and said they were far too short for acrylic ones to be fitted. When I returned with the bad news Lauryn behaved as if I was lying.

    The fact that the manicurist turned green and Lauryn behaved as though the character was lying, is great. Those are small details, yet they take those two ‘telling’ recap sentences memorable. They show us about her nails–they really are nasty and not all the way grown out yet (she lost them). It also shows us a bit of Lauryn’s character and what she values. (Lauryn is her boss.)

    In past tense telling, I had been fearing the use of ‘was’. Even though the class I just finished on showing and telling with Shannon Donnelly where she demonstrated there is a time and place for telling, I still fear ‘was’ and ‘had’ appearing in my work–in case I overuse them. Strangely, I have also felt as though I am unable to use first person with past tense. (It could just be my story where first person and past tense don’t work together.) However, Keyes does it well and provides an excellent example of it working well. In fact, I can’t imagine this story being in anything but as the reader needs that closeness to the heroine.

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    So, that is what I learned from Keyes’ pages. The next step was to continue on, imitating her style and voice. It was really cool because it just flowed. Her style. It felt easy. Except for the whole ‘where the heck should the plot go?’. That was hard. What to write? The style was there, ready for me to play with–I was grooving in first person, past tense–but where should I go with it? Ack!

    Having a pro ‘guide me’ through the switch ups between action, telling and dialogue was wonderful. Playing with those switch ups is something I am going to practice. (It doesn’t have to be big and scary!)

    The other thing that felt good while mimicking Keyes, was allowing that closeness of the heroine’s thoughts and feelings into the story. Bam. Right there on the page. No held punches. And in past tense. I liked it.

    Tomorrow, another mimicry. Stay tuned.


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    A great chick lit book about loss and getting your life back together.

  • Mimicry Exercises

    Posted on May 26th, 2009 jean No comments

    Something that keeps coming up as a way to strengthen one’s writing voice is mimicry. I resisted the idea for some time, then tried it out. Sort of. I wrote out a page or two of a favourite writer to get a feel for how she was handling things. I discovered all sorts of things I hadn’t picked up as a reader or as a reader reading as a writer looking for clues. It was a valuable exercise. However, I haven’t tried true mimicry. It seems like it would be really, really difficult.

    However, the universe seems to have a different idea. It keeps bringing mimicry up. I can’t ignore it any longer. That would just be rude. Plus, a piano could fall from the sky.

    Here’s what literary consultant Jeffrey Moores had to say about it during his April 29th AQ chat. He said:

    Mimicry is one of the best exercises in writing — read three pages of Alice Sebold, then write one page in Alice Sebold’s voice. Do this daily with a different writer, and see how your prose is affected in the long-run. Don’t try to write blindly. “Feel” others writing and emulate in order to explore.

    At the time, I sort of shrugged it off, as yes, I tried typing out a few pages of my favourite chick lit writer, it was good, imitating someone’s style seems too difficult. Take too much time. Lots to do…balh, blah, blah.

    Then the universe hit me again. This time through James N. Frey and his book “How to Write a Damn Good Mystery”. Here’s how he sells the exercise:

    Every day when you sit down to work, you take a good prose a writer’s work and you copy it. That’s right, you type it out, word for word. Do two or three pages: You will not only get a feeling for how good stylists use words, you will feel the timing and rhythm of their prose and the snap, crackle, pop of their dialogue. Next, write a page or so in imitation of what you’ve just typed. That’s right. If you’ve just typed an outdoor scene with a lot of action, you write an outdoor scene with a lot of action, trying your best to write it in the style of the piece of writing you’ve just copied. After a while you will find you can imitate this style at will; now try another author and another, until you can imitate various styles and voices any time you like…And soon you will find your own distinctive voice.

    This week, I’m going to give it a whirl. I’ll keep you posted on what I discover. Want to try it too?