So maybe it’s just me, but have you ever encountered something like a vexing email, something on the news, something in a blog post that just rubbed you the wrong way? And after it starts to bother you, and work on you, did you for some reason keep it around?
I write this since I recently read a blog post that really rubbed me the wrong way. It felt discouraging, a bit arrogant, and frankly made me feel lousy most of the day. And the silliest bit – aside from letting something else influence how I felt when that’s up to me – was that I didn’t immediately just read and then delete it from my email account. So next time I opened the account, there was this item, off to irritate me all over again.
Now certainly it could be that my skin is feeling a bit thin, or maybe I was looking for something to be irritated about. But actually, I suspect the post bothered me not in its fallacy or attitude, but because I saw some part of it that confirmed a truth I didn’t want to believe, that it stated something I couldn’t believe because it would, in small part, murder hope.
Thus of course, my reaction was less to the post, and more to my own reaction, this confirmation of the bogey-man. (And frankly, I’d much rather some days he just stayed hidden in the shadows and left me alone, thanks.)
So why then keep something that inspired those negative feelings?
Maybe because I still needed to think about it. Maybe I needed to assess for myself my beliefs on the topic, and decide if I believed it or not. And, because maybe I wanted to poke at the wound and hope that with enough salt, the pain would be numbed and couldn’t hurt me anymore.
Now it’s your turn: have you ever received something that annoyed you and for some reason kept it? How do you react to such encounters with the burr that gets beneath your skin?
Okay, so FINALLY I’m ready to share about my favorite workshop, Art Journaling 101 put on by Nancy Robards Thompson and Katherine Garbera. My favorite workshop because it was something new, and because any day I get to combine my love of crafting AND writing, is a good day.
The first thing to remember, and what was stressed in the workshop was that you don’t have to be a great artist to like art journaling. No one ever has to see your work. And if things turn out really bad, you always have the option of gluing the pages together and hiding it forever. 😉
It’s also about patience and layers, which is the part I had trouble with, but if you think about it, that’s a lot like writing. We often have to go back and layer in or consider different layers in our writing. Same thing with art journals. You can start with an image or quote to get you started on the page, or just start playing.
Techniques and ideas:
start by collaging different images. You can use either a gluestick, or something like Mod Podge, which is kind of like really thin glue that you use for collage.
use a single image as the focal point, and then paint over it, making a new image.
Zen doodle (LOTS more about that later).
Spray inks, stamping, lots of techniques and tools used in scrap booking, or even the kid’s craft box.
While you can buy journals to bash, consider making your own, or recycling books / guides and turning them into journals. I’ve used the 2014 RWA Conference guide as my first journal.
As I’ve been exploring art journaling, I found three primary ways it was helpful to me as a writer. And which I thought I’d share. Please be gentle, these are some of my early attempts. I’ll share below websites of experienced journalists.
First, Zen Doodling, sometimes known by the name brand of “Zen Tangle.” Essentially, you use a pen and draw a general design (or specific picture) and fill it in with different shapes and designs. The object is not the finished picture (although those often look really cool), but rather focus on the art of the design, and the almost entrancing, meditative state this creates. That’s why I enjoyed it as a writer. It’s a way for me to unwind, or just think about something else and let my mind wander, whether in front of the TV, or somewhere quiet.
Second: Emotional Pages.Let’s face it, as writers, the entire process can be a bit of an emotional rollar-coaster, especially if we let ourselves into the traps like comparing ourselves to other writers, or get frustrated with our journey toward publication. Journaling can be a way to express and thus release some of that energy and emotion, whether negative or positive.
Third: Character discovery. In my new WIP, the hero is being a pain, and not talking. So, I looked up some images (using two different actors) who remind me of what the character looks like, and in images / poses that spoke to me about my character. Then, in the spaces in between I used words in an unusual fashion asking my character questions, working out some of the issues I have, and doing a tiny form of character journaling. The limited space seemed to help, since my character “opened up” a bit. 😉
Fourth: Images about setting. This one I haven’t completed yet, but essentially I’m creating a map of my imaginary “town” where my story is set, both as a reference to help me remember where I’ve “placed” stuff, along with images of real places to give my imagination a good kick in the behind when necessary. 😉
So in short, that’s art journaling for writers at it’s most simplistic. I’m definitely just getting started.
So I’m behind in posting … again. This is becoming a bad habit. This week, since I’m still not ready for the post on art journals (I know, more bad habits!), I thought I’d give you the highlights from another workshop I attended.
This one was “The Happy Hooker: Hook the Reader with High Concept” by Vicky Dreiling.
So essentially, she talked about a few ways you could hook your reader and reel them in.
your cover as hook (often in the visuals, using strongly appealing visuals)
using tropes as hooks
The latter was of particular interest to me, since she provided the most complete list of romance tropes I’ve ever seen … and which I didn’t have time to completely copy down (my bad, I know.) Essentially, the idea was to use some of the familiar romance tropes – which the genre is often labeled “formulaic” for – but give them a new twist.
the bad boy (or bad girl)
marriage of convenience
marry a millionaire
Also don’t forget the importance of character hooks, that is, playing on character archetypes which are already familiar in your readers mind, and helps automatically connect you with readers which – you guessed it – you can give a unique and new twist.
From there, once you know your unique “hooks” that will make your story – and possibly your entire author brand – stand out, make it easy for readers to find you.
link up with other authors
distill your premise down to 1-3 sentences that sell
position the next books to match the first without feeling too derivative.
give yourself a “hook” with a short, snappy bio.
And, hopefully soon, I plan to provide you with my favorite part of the workshop, or at least a link to it, of all those classic romance tropes. Just getting to play with those sounded like a ton of fun! 🙂
So today was supposed to be about possibly my favorite workshop (or at least the most addictive – art journaling.) However, since I have yet to complete a full-page of an art journal, I’ll work on getting that ready for next week.
Which leaves this week on writing a series. Now, I’ve attended quite a lot of these type of workshops, because I like writing series books. This time I attended one by Joan Johnston, “Writing a Series that Sells Forever” and found information that still fascinated me.
So first question: why a series?
readers are used to TV, which is also often in series format. The idea is that readers will get invested in the characters – no matter which book of the series they pick up – and will want to read more (ie: look up the back list or future books.)
can help to propel sales.
can give you “the next book” to work on.
it can be easier to sell a book that’s part of a series and not an “orphan” disconnected from the rest of your books.
How to connect your series? This is one of the questions that inevitably comes up, and so I’ll probably add from other workshops as well:
connected family members. The downside, of course, is that once they’re all married off, you can move to children / grandchildren, and you need to start with a very large family. Advantage: if you enjoy writing in different periods, this does allow you to tell the stories of a family across generations, as Joan Johnston has with her series.
connected locale. It can be real or fake, but often it might be safer to do the research on a real locale, then place your fictional one in the same place. That way, you don’t run into issues of change in the town, or possible legal difficulties (especially if you did write that shopkeeper you despised into the story). 😉
a single character that may join together all the books, or help to create an overarching story-plot.
individual plot vs overarching plot – the whole series often has an overarching plot (though not always), BUT each book generally gets its own individual plot (ie: the romance for that couple is complete, but the overall story for the family isn’t). This can help to propel sales if the reader is anticipating the next book.
my note: you can also do series where the same characters connect the books, like the J.D. Robb books, or Katie MacAlister’s dragon series. Some writers (and readers) love continuing with the same character and a longer arch. Some really don’t, so consider carefully.
Disadvantages to a series:
if the first book isn’t strong enough, no one will want to buy any of the others.
if you want / need to switch publishing houses, this can be difficult mid-series.
you can get caught in a rut. If readers love your series SO much, they may not want to read anything else you write except for the series.
General tips and advice:
if you’re considering a series, make sure you LOVE your characters and locale enough that you could write it for years, because you might end up doing so.
keep your own name on everything, since it might be your voice that readers fall in love with, and you want it to be easy for the to find you!
on your website, list the series in chronological order, making it easy for readers to figure out what book to read next.
consider having two villains: a “good” villain, and “bad” villain. The good villain is an antagonist to the protagonist, but isn’t evil. The “bad” villain is actually the bad guy, possible criminal, etc.
if you have a huge cast, don’t introduce them all at once, and they can only be in the book if they are necessary to move the plot forward. Otherwise, no random visitations please. 😉
if working with agents or publishers, protect your work, and watch out for contract phrases where the publisher or agent “owns” the characters or series. Speak up if you’re concerned. 🙂
So that’s essentially my notes from the workshop.
What about you? Did you attend any other series workshops? Have I missed something important in my notes?