"A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings but a cat does not." -Ernest Hemingway

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Countdown to NaNoWrimo!

It’s finally here, my first NaNoWrimo challenge.  Now in case you have never heard of NaNoWrimo it stands for, National Novel Writing Month.  It is hosted by The Office of Letters and Light, a non-profit organization out of California.  Learn more here. 
NaNoWrimo challenges writers from all over the world to come together for one month and write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days.  Wow!  50,000 words in 30 days!  That’s an average of 1,667 words a day.   
You may be asking yourself, how does The Unknown Author write over 1,667 words a day?  My answer being, I have no idea, but I’m about to find out!  Now just because the challenge doesn’t start until midnight tonight, doesn’t mean you couldn’t beforehand set out the structure, just like I’ve recently been talking about. 
My goal is to write the second book of my middle grade series, The Clara Jeane Mysteries, titled Falltime Frights.  The ideas of course have been floating around in my writer’s filing cabinet (my head) for some time now.  So this past month once I made the decision to take part in the challenge, I drew out the road map for Falltime Frights.  In other words, I know what the checkpoints of the hook, the backstory, the trigger, the crisis, the struggle, the epiphany, the plan, the climax, and finally, the end are going to be about. (All to be discussed in future blogs) Now all I have to do is sit down and for the next thirty days fill in all the gaps with scenery, dialogue and hopefully some killer writing!
So for the next thirty days, The Unknown Author, is going to take a break from their regular blogging subjects and instead give little updates as to their progress as a NaNoWrimo.  Then find out if on November 30 The Unknown Author becomes a proud NaNoWrimo winner! 
Only the ticking clock will tell…
Until next time,
Keep on thriving, keep on striving and keep on writing!
T.K. Millin
The Unknown Author

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Act One: How can it help me write the end of my story?

The last time we met I talked about creating a road map to help you along in your journey on becoming an author (click here) I hope you took some time to really think about what drives you to write and, hopefully, wrote it down.  This week we’re going to break down the story structure I talked about and does it really matter if you start from the beginning or the end of your story when sitting down to write? 

Let’s explore:

First, let’s begin by looking into the first element of Act One, the hook.  As all writers know, and if you don’t know I suggest you listen up, you need to establish an opening no longer than a paragraph to hook your reader, or for that matter, an editor.  You have to make them want to know more about your protagonist and what their story has to tell.  Let’s face it, if your main character has nothing to tell why read what they have to say? 

So what does the hook of your story have to do with the ending?  The answer lies in the second element of Act One, the backstory.  This is where all the juicy details of why your protagonist struggles and or anguishes over something are revealed.  Simply stated, what is it that your main character has to overcome in order to win in the end?  I sometimes find at this point in my plotting, or writing, it is very easy to write the ending of my story.  Then it is a matter of hooking the beginning up with the ending. (No pun intended) 

After formulating all the above I find the third element in Act One, the trigger, to be a breeze to write.  For knowing where my story begins, what drives my protagonist crazy and what needs to happen in the end to win reveals what sets everything into motion.  It’s no different than our own lives, (click here) to see what triggered the start of my writing career) what event in your life set something into motion that changed your life forever?  Do you have any techniques you’ve developed that help you discover the end of your story before you start?  Do you spend time plotting the course of your protagonist’s life?  If so, I’d love to hear about it.
Next I’m going to take a break from talking about the structure of writing and have you follow me, The Unknown Author, along on their first journey as a NaNoWrimo participant.  If you’ve never heard about NaNoWrimo, click here) to learn more.  

Until next time,

Keep on striving, keep on thriving and keep on writing!

T.K. Millin
The Unknown Author

Monday, October 18, 2010

Putting pen to paper, metaphorically speaking.

So far I’ve talked about creating a hook for your story, which you’ll find here, writing a premise, click here, and finding your passion; look no further than here.  But I haven’t talked about what it’s actually like to put pen to paper, metaphorically speaking, and write that first manuscript.

For me it wasn’t an unconscious decision, it came after decisively knowing writing was a passion I had to pursue in life.  As discussed in my passion post, in case you missed it above click here, I never obtained the many accolades you associate with being a writer.  So instead, I sought out reputable writing courses taught by published authors.  It changed my world and it can change yours too. 

My first goal in starting out on the road to reinvent myself as an author was to immerse myself into the writing world.  For me it meant finding a writing course that tailored around the genres which interested me the most (mystery, thrillers, sci-fi and horror) so finding a course in fiction writing was ideal.  The first author I studied under was Steven Alcorn, author of A Matter of Justice, Everything in Its Path and Building a Better Mouse:  The Story of The Electronic Imagineers Who Designed Epcot.  In addition to being a published author/teacher, Steve Alcorn designs theme park rides.  

I feel at this point in my story to make it very clear my intent is not to teach Steve Alcorn’s courses.  If you are interested, please find them here (which I highly recommend) to discover his informative and creative teachings.  It is my intent, however, to share with other beginning want to be writers what helped someone in their shoes.

Steve Alcorn’s courses teach the elements of the three act structure and break down the meaning of scene and sequel. (Maybe they taught this in my high school English Lit class or my Drama class, but perhaps I should leave that for another blog!)  So for all you aspiring authors out there who may already know all this you’ll probably want to tune in to a rerun of Dancing with the Stars, but for the rest of you, if you wish, follow along on a journey that turned one want to be writer into The Unknown Author.

It was during one of his courses a light bulb turned on inside my head.  I was taking his Advanced Fiction Writing course and halfway through I suddenly realized I didn’t have to be a major league college graduate to write a book. (Hey I had an epiphany!)  I already had everything I needed . . . a great story to tell and the passion to tell it!  What I was lacking were the techniques writers use to structure their stories.  Once I understood them I finally found my "one day I’m going to write a book about that."  (See my post on passion here)  Soon after completing the course I started drafting my first middle grade mystery, Summertime Chills. 
From that point on I haven’t looked back because you see I already had the passion to write and something to write about, all I needed were the tools!  Sure I spend many hours, days and even months polishing that baby, but isn’t that what writers do? 

I want to challenge all my unpublished blog friends out there to sit down and write a passion statement.  In other words, what inside you drives you to write?  Then draw a road map of what it will take to get you out of your crossroad of dreaming of being an author and actually becoming one.  When finished fire up your most valuable author tool, besides your imagination, your computer, and seek a writing course which meets all your needs, desires and of course budget.  Then read your passion statement again and never look back.  It can change your world . . . trust me, I know.

Next week, I'll talk about the beginning and the end; does it really matter where you start?  Knowing what's in Act One can help answer that question!

Until next time,

Keep on striving, keep on thriving and keep on writing!

T.K. Millin
The Unknown Author

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What's your passion?

Many words can be found to describe passion, for example, desire.  There are times we desire something we don’t have or have a sudden urge to change our circumstances.  For us writers, passion is what drives us.  It’s a desire that never seems to be fulfilled. 
For many years I always had this urge to be a writer, but I never knew how to become one.  I assumed if you didn’t go to college and get a degree in fine arts or literature, you could never become a writer.  So being that I never achieved any of those accolades, I thought I was destined to become someone who just thought about being a writer.  Through all those lost years I continued to have a deep seeded passion that never left my conscious.  What I didn’t realize at the time was seeing a pattern developing in my life . . . a pattern that every time I experienced tragic, I had a deep down desire to write about it. 
It wasn’t until the death of my mother and grandmother, less than 24 hours apart, that the pattern started to take shape.  As usual, upon that tragic day, I felt this overwhelming need to somehow tell the story of how they influenced my life.  I suppose I’m like many writers out there who write because of pain, however, my pain was long in the making.  You see my mother and grandmother were there for me the day I almost died.  How’s that for a hook?  See my post about a hook here.  You see I’m one of the lucky few who have survived a severely broken neck and continue to walk and talk about it. 
Why is it when we’re young we think we are invincible and that the relatives before us never learned their lessons the hard way?  Are we just being naive or is it more than that?  Perhaps our inexperience is part of our destiny, which becomes our journey . . . our passion.

I clearly remember my grandmother praying over me as I lay upon the stark white sheets of my hospital bed and my mother never, and I mean never, leaving the hospital while I struggled to survive.  It has taken 27 years from that fateful moment and nine years since saying goodbye to the most influential women in my life to finally discover my passion in life; the passion to write.

What's behind your passion to write?   Every life has a story . . . what’s yours?

Next week I'll talk about how finding my passion led to finally putting pen to paper.

Until next time,

Keep on striving, keep on thriving and keep on writing!

T.K. Millin
The Unknown Author        

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

So you wrote a premise, now what?

When I sat down to muse over what to write about for this week’s subject title, I asked myself, “Now, if I’m The Unknown Author, why in the blog world do I think anyone out there would care about my advice?”  Which got me thinking, why not write a premise for this week’s subject. 
 What if an unknown author, who sets out on a soul searching journey to share their writing experiences with other aspiring writers, discovers the true meaning behind putting off their next great story? 
After celebrating my success in creating a premise I neatly tucked it away in my “great ideas for a story” file, allowing me to put off having to actually sit down and turn it into something.  Why is it when we writers get a great story idea, or for any of you non-writers out there who just enjoy reading my collection of words this could apply to any of your great ideas, we tend to put off the really hard work of actually turning it into something?   I once read a long time ago procrastination is a trademark of geniuses.  Now I hardly consider myself a genius but for the sake of argument {fade in} classical music blaring in background, the unknown author sits upon an old rickety chair pounding away on the next big seller {fade out} 

Okay so the truth of the matter is I believe the real culprit is not procrastination, but fear.  Yes, I’m willing to share my inner conflict; the fear of failure.  As I said, I don’t think of myself as a genius, but I do consider myself a perfectionist and that is where my inner conflict comes in.  It seems to only arise at times when I want to be the best I can and that pesky little voice of my co-author in life, better known as my subconscious, says to me, “What if it’s not good enough?”  Do you have a co-author like that too?  If so, how do you overcome and achieve? 

Now that we have established a clue as to why some of us put off until tomorrow, or maybe even the next day, in writing the next great story let’s follow the clue and see where it leads us. . .  (For me, creating a relaxed atmosphere helps to drown out my pesky co-author’s voice.  So I set the digital station on my satellite to classical, burn my favorite scented candle, dim the lights and power up the laptop.  Do you have any ritual that helps you to get into the writing zone?) 

 I reach into my "great ideas for a story" file and pull out this week’s premise.  Okay, I know what I’m going to write about but something seems to be missing.  Now is a good time to think back about our clue.  But what does the fear of failure have to do with . . . wait I get it, what is my story going to be about?!  In other words, what’s the theme?  All good stories have a theme as a foundation.  Some examples are love, jealousy, trust, revenge . . . you get the picture.   So the theme for my premise is the fear of failure.  How did I come up with that theme?  It came from my inner conflict.  I find when I take some time and do some real soul searching my co-author is pretty good at creating good writing material. 
Finding my inner voice is crucial to survival in the life of an author.  It’s what keeps me driven, and it’s what drives my stories.  It’s also what has driven me to next week’s subject . . . passion.
Until next time,
Keep on striving, keep on thriving and keep on writing!

T.K. Millin
The Unknown Author