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AVAILABLE NOW: Humans In My House and the Stars Above It

12 Sep

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Available now in paperback and Kindle.

Meet me and get a signed copy at Authors Invade Columbia

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Convention Schedule 2018

17 Feb

Want a signed copy of Humans In My House? Want to talk writing? Want to adopt a #pocketkitty and join in #Kepler’s fun? Come see me at my upcoming appearances.

2018

APRIL

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JULY

Raleigh Supercon

  • July 27-29, 2018: Raleigh SuperCon, Raleigh Convention Center

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The Convention Circuit

15 Jul

Guys, I’ve been approved for a booth at my first convention of choice!

Visit my info table at AgamaCon 2017, March 3-5, in Aiken, South Carolina to view pre-release copies of my novels, Humans In My House and Acephalous, and chat with me about the writing process (yours or mine!).

I’m hoping to also get tables at Katsucon (should know by the end of August), Florence Comicon, Dragon Con 2017, IchibanCon 8, and XCON 10. I’m waiting for the latter to open applications. My lofty future goals include CatCon LA and Sac-ComiCon, but California is a long way to travel pre-publication.

Regardless, I look forward to traveling and to schmoozing with all of you. If you see me at a convention, stop by and say hi!

 

Some Healthy Competition

13 Jul

Visit Red Ink Enthusiast on Friday, September 2 at Broadway At The Beach from 6 to 9pm for the Coastal Uncorked Mixology Competition. Taste our Red Ink-themed moonshine cocktail entry and learn more about our writing services. Special Red Ink Enthusiast promo swag to the first 200 visitors!

At the 2013 James River Writers Conference: Session 4

29 Nov

NaNoWriMo is over but that doesn’t mean you have to stop writing. Whether you’re looking to continue your WriMo stories or start a new project, these notes on characters can give you a fresh approach to the task. In the All About Characters session at this year’s James River Writers Conference, Philippa Ballantine and Lydia Netzer, led by Lana Krumwiede, used the analogy of an office full of employees (your characters) to illustrate the various issues writers, as the boss, can run into when creating convincing characters that get the job done.

Boss Challenge 1: Motivating your Employees

  • Know what your employees want, what they’re ultimately after, and what they’re comfortable doing.
  • Make your employees work toward a prize/goal line. You may already have something genius in mind for one of your characters to say or do in the near future. Have all of their actions propel them closer to that winner of a line. Make those employees work for you because that line or event could be the aha moment, the turning point, or the profound message your novel depends upon. If any of you are familiar with the FX show “Archer,” you know that its main character, Archer (go figure), always says, “I had something for this!” when something dramatic happens. The ongoing joke is that he many of his actions are simply to get to the moment when he can say the clever comeback he planned. When the time comes, he never remembers. The moral here—make notes of those prize lines so when you finally come around to an appropriate place to write it in, you don’t forget what it was and your characters don’t pull an Archer. (If you go to look up clips of the show, be aware that it’s pretty explicit and NSFW.)
  • Characters can say what you can’t say to people in real life. Treat yourself.

Boss Challenge 2: Setting Goals for your Employees

  • Travel with your character and follow their goals. Rather than constructing what you think that character might want, consider their dreams as if they were a close friend in real life, someone who self-motivates, rather than an extension or creation of your own mind and goals. Rather than asking, “What would I do if x,y, and z happened?” ask, “What would he/she do if x,y, and z happened?” In this manner, your characters lead the adventure and you join the ride (instead of shuffling the characters like pawns).
  • Don’t know too much too soon. Just be with your characters. Characters are not pre-decided automatons. They grow. This will be easier said than done for those of you who are not discovery writers. Even if you like to make plans and outlines before writing, you can still allow your characters to grow outside of the rigid scaffold of your outline. Always remember an outline can change. If the character, as your employee, is not doing the work, change the circumstances or change the character. You’re the boss; it’s OK to change your mind.
  • With the leading characters, the first apparent goal is often not the real goal, meaning the status quo is not always the true desire. Goals can change. For example, it might appear that your female character’s goal is to find a husband (a normal, status quo type of goal to have), but after the events of the novel, your character grows and the goal changes. She realizes that her real goal is to have a means to travel the world, so she dumps the fiancé for his rich, retiree father. Cheesy example aside, you see what I mean.
  • If your employees are stuck in a situation, have them do something counterintuitive. This will give them a chance to get out of the situation, spice up the plot with something unexpected, and maybe even come to the realization of their true goals.

Boss Challenge 3: Delegating Responsibility and Empowering the Employees

  • Step back from the narrative and let the characters run the show. They will start to speak for themselves.
  • Delegate points you want to make as the author to a specific character. That character will say it for you so that author voice does not run the narrative. If your novel is one without a narrator, it is important that you trust the readers and the characters to connect on the important points, morals, symbolism, whatever it is you might put in the plot. If your characters are the only ones speaking in the story, it would be confusing and inconsistent to suddenly inject a narrative voice (your voice) into the mix to point out something that’s going on.

Boss Challenge 4: Keep the Door Open for your Employees

  • Talk problems out with the employee. Yes, talk to your characters. Out loud or in print, talk it out. It’s not crazy. You’ll get used to the phrase, “Oh, don’t mind her. She’s a writer.” If the character isn’t performing, rework their tasks to come to a solution. If you try out the new route and the character is still not working for you, fire him.
  • Have characters do your bidding until they’re substantial enough to make their own paths. If you treat your characters like babies that you must guide in the beginning, taking them on your path at first, and then letting them become more self-sufficient as they grow, you will end with a character you can easily think about as if they are a separate and real person like I mentioned earlier. As the boss, you have to train them to do the job, but they don’t need to be shadowed forever.

Boss Challenge 5: Embracing Egalitarianism

  • Don’t short-change characters that are less like you personally. We all inject a little of ourselves into the characters we create. However, it’s necessary for variety that some characters have less of the author in them than others. For those characters that are less like you, give them special attention. Don’t ignore them. Instead, try choosing traits from a group of other people you know in real life so that they remain realistic and at the forefront even if you can’t use your own experiences in their actions. Don’t mistake this tip as one saying that each character should be written directly from a person you know. Your character Jim shouldn’t be your ex-boyfriend, Craig, verbatim; and your character Lindsay can’t be your real-life aunt trait-by-trait. However, your heroine’s best friend can be your ex-boyfriend’s impulsivity, your aunt’s humor, and your high school math teacher’s odd sense of style. Then, treat this best friend as equally important to the plot as the heroine. She is her best friend for a reason. If there is no reason, no purpose behind you including her in the story, she shouldn’t be there at all. Each character has a purpose.

This session was one of the most helpful I attended, and I hope you can get some use out of the tips as well. Feel free to tell me your favorite tip or an aha moment you’ve had about creating authentic and self-sufficient characters in the comments below. Good luck wrapping up with NaNoWriMo and with the projects that develop through the coming holidays. Holiday time with family and friends always provides great material.

As always, happy writing!

–Amanda Marsico

Editor, Proofreader, Red Ink Enthusiast

marsicoam@gmail.com

www.facebook.com/marsicowritesite

https://twitter.com/MarsWriteSite

www.linkedin.com/pub/amanda-marsico/7b/ab8/b/

http://pinterest.com/wordsnsounds/

At the 2013 James River Writers Conference: Session 3

8 Nov

Essay-writing season is dwindling down and there are only four more weeks of classes left which means I get to share another set of tips and insights from the 2013 James River Writers Conference. In the third session I attended, Kathryn Erskine, Elizabeth Huergo, and Dean King, led by moderator Gigi Amateau, discussed creating settings. Here are the key points about making a vital and purposeful setting in fiction writing:

  • Setting is a character. It says, “I am the place where something has occurred.” It can be sparse in physical description while rich in other senses. It can have a personality of sorts that incites a certain type of reaction from human characters, and can even be the driving force behind  characters’ motivations. For example, a setting at a movie theater might act as an instigator for protagonist girl X and antagonist guy Y to get a little close in the dark. Maybe the plot changes here and he’s not really such a bad guy after all. Maybe that first kiss during credits is messing with her head and he IS a bad guy. What if the setting is coastal and a hurricane blows through? That beach or ocean could take on almost human characteristics, rolling, recoiling, breaking to the storm. How does this make characters move? Do the characters show sympathy to the land for the beating it takes? You get my point.
  • Literature that feels familiar across cultures and nationalities can still be respectful of each when the setting is appropriately described. Avoid generalizations. Do real research. Get feedback on your description of certain people and places from readers in that demographic, people who know from first-hand, real-life experience what you’re trying to describe. Have them tell you if you’re wrong or offensive, or if you’ve gotten it right.
  • Present Absence is just as profound as a physical setting. I’m aware of how much an oxymoron that is. Think of it this way: Present Absence is the permeating sense of something missing. A setting that’s missing can have a huge impact on a character’s life. Maybe the character is living in a foster home. The nagging presence of a setting that is actually absent—a home, a family, a bedroom all her own—can alter the way your character thinks, feels, interacts with others, etc. This missing setting is no less a setting because the character has not attained it. Often it’s this missing place that is one of the character’s main goals and motivations which drives the plot.
  • Just as setting can be something absent, it can be intangible. Setting is not just place, but time. Think about the narrative structure around longing, waiting, forgetting, remembering. Time is what makes all of these concepts exist. Sure, the character involved in these things will likely be in a physical space as well, unless you happen to be writing some type of space-time-continuum story where the characters exist outside of that. But, it’s ok for there to be time AND place. No one said writers had to pick one setting and stick to it. Very few novels successfully occur in one place for the entire story.
  • Place/setting evokes memory which is an easy way to get characters and readers to connect.
  • If you’re writing specifics of a location, get maps. Also, if you plan to travel for research, decide what you’re looking for and what you’re hoping to learn before you go. It sounds like common sense, but you wouldn’t want to get caught up in irrelevant details (and that’s easy to do if you’re touring a new and beautiful location). The best suggestion given in the session in regards to travel was to take a manuscript and any previously completed formal research with you. Refer to spots in the manuscript that are missing that something and write in details directly where they belong in the story as you learn them. It was also suggested to find a travel sponsor to help with the trip. You may be able to do documentary-type travel writing with the info you gather, cover your travel costs, and still get that info for your novel.
  • Understand your setting from your character’s point of view, not your own.

Non-setting advice from the session:

  • Distinguish between drafting, revision, and editing. Try your hardest to avoid editing while you’re drafting. The wonderful part of drafting is the freedom to get your thoughts out. If you stop to edit every paragraph, those thoughts could float away before they’ve been written.
  • Narrative should speed up toward the end because you’re building to a culmination. You’re also finished describing things that you’ve already described at the beginning, so the attention can be placed on action and emotion rather than imagery.
  • We make legends because history gets stale. Make the legend seem like a real historical account with detailed and convincing visuals.

Hope you all are making progress on any projects you’ve started, and that these insights are as useful to you as they were to me. If you like these tips, be sure to check out the first two installments here and here, the first of which has also been published by the Penmen Review, here. Thanks for reading and, as always,

Happy writing!

–Amanda Marsico

Editor, Proofreader, Red Ink Enthusiast

marsicoam@gmail.com

www.facebook.com/marsicowritesite

https://twitter.com/MarsWriteSite

www.linkedin.com/pub/amanda-marsico/7b/ab8/b/

http://pinterest.com/wordsnsounds/

At the 2013 James River Writers Conference: Session 2

24 Oct

As promised, I’m here with installment two of the JWRC13 sessions review. The second session I attended was led by the 2013 finalists in fiction for the Library of Virginia Literary Awards: Gigi Amateau, Clifford Garstang, Robert Goolrick, Lydia Netzer, and Kevin Powers, moderated by Peggy J. Bagget. They graciously shared insights into their personal processes of writing fiction novels and answered audience questions about craft and publication. Here is what I learned based on their extensive experience and advice.

  • Very little of the original writing ends up in your final version of the manuscript, and then in the published product, but each iteration is necessary work. Be a fearless writer and a ruthless editor. It’s the process of tossing out the boring characters, over-description, nonsense, and inconsistencies that creates a polished narrative.
  • As the writer, or even as the narrator, ask yourself, “What right do I have to tell this story?” Examine and acknowledge biases, and then embrace or erase them depending on whether they serve the plot or not.
  • Characters, settings, or ideas that beg to be revisited can sometimes develop into a collection of short, related stories. No one said a novel HAS to be one long plot-line.
  • In a collection of short, related stories, use the first chapter as an outline for the entire novel by introducing the protagonists of each chapter/short story (this way each section to follow will fit in with the collective narrative even when the focus switches to a different person).
  • For writing realistic lows in a character’s life, ask yourself what loss looks like in that character. Don’t just tell the reader that he was so sad that he felt like crying for three days inside his closet. Show the reader what that loss and grief looks like on his face, in his posture, in his reactions towards others’ sympathies. Has he changed his clothes lately? Are his eyes bloodshot, glassy, or shadowed with blue? Is he eating? And when he finally goes to leave his house, do his hands shake as they reach for the doorknob? You get it.
  • Whether you’re a planner or a discovery writer, take a moment to outline in the middle of the drafting process as a way to take inventory of the novel. This is in contrast to outlining at the beginning of the novel where there’s nothing definite to take stock of. Additionally, outlining at onset, though a helpful tool for some, tend to make it harder to let go of ideas that just aren’t working once implemented. It’s never too late in a draft to hit that backspace button or break open a pack of erasers.
  • Notice how you feel while writing and editing. If you’re bored, irritated, or frustrated at the same spot in your story every time, that spot likely has a problem. Feeling stuck doesn’t necessarily mean that you are having a writer’s block. It might mean that the plot point or character itself is the block. Try shuffling its sequence, mood, or totally removing it to see if the block is relieved. Are you still bored, angry, blank? No? Good!
  • Lastly, most importantly, and easier said than done: Practice, practice, practice. Write every day. Write without an agenda. There is a definite plan in mind when writing for a major project like a novel, collection, or upcoming submission deadline. For personal practice and enrichment, there should be no pressure, no agenda. Just like the thematic song line in Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge advises, let “come what may.” There might even be a new novel in there somewhere.

 

It was wonderful to hear such useful tips from award-winning authors—outliners and discovery writers alike. I hope there’s a gem of inspiration that suits each of your needs and methods no matter how you go about planning and completing the arduous task that is fiction writing. Stay tuned for the third installment on creating setting, coming soon.

Happy writing,

 

–Amanda Marsico

Editor, Proofreader, Red Ink Enthusiast

marsicoam@gmail.com

www.facebook.com/marsicowritesite

https://twitter.com/MarsWriteSite

www.linkedin.com/pub/amanda-marsico/7b/ab8/b/

http://pinterest.com/wordsnsounds/

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