Archive for February, 2011

Characters Count Contest Extended

Today is February 28th. It’s supposed to be the last day of the Characters Count Contest

But guess what?

I’ve decided to extend the Characters Count Contest!

Why?

Well, it’s because I have several new AWESOME FRIENDS (aka Followers) who might be interested in winning some super cool prizes, as well as some old Awesome Friends who might not have had time to  join in the fun.

So for those of you who haven’t heard of the prizes, I’m giving away some fabulously helpful CHARACTER CREATION TOOLS:

Remember those Archetype Cards I was raving about? (You can read about how to use Archetype Cards to create characters here)

archetype cards Characters Count Contest Extended

How about my article on using astrology to create awesome characters? (Read about astrology and characterization here)

For my first ever contest, I am giving away  two super awesome character creation tools:

Prize  for 1st Place Winner: Caroline Myss’s Archetype Cards

archetype cards set1 1024x800 Characters Count Contest Extended

Prize for 2nd Place Winner: Phyllis Vega’s book: What Your Birthday Reveals About You

whatyourbdayrevealsaboutyou Characters Count Contest Extended

Why am I doing this? Well, because I think these are just awesome tools and every writer out there should have the chance to get them for free.

Plus I need more awesome friends (aka followers).

Lynn and Jenn, two of my special writer friends both agreed that the archetype cards would be the perfect prize. Jenn also agrees that contests really do help in attracting new readers. Since I’ve never had a contest on my blog before, I thought this would be the best time to try.

So here are the rules if you’re interested in joining:

  1. The contest will remain open until March 14, 2011.
  2. The Character Counts Contest is based on a point system, which I’m adopting from the awesome Sara B. Larson’s own contests.
  3. Leave a comment on this blog post and on succeeding blog posts. Each comment is worth 1 Point. Just make sure you reference that you are joining the CCC/ Character Counts Contest if you do decide to leave a comment on another blog post.
  4. If you fit any of the following descriptions, give yourself the corresponding points:
    1. If you are already a follower, give yourself  4 Points.
    2. If you are a new follower (You just subscribed to this blog by email or you added yourself to my google friend connect button), give yourself 3 Points
    3. If you refer a new follower to my blog (they must mention that you sent them over in their comments), give yourself 5 Points.
    4. If you tweet/ facebook this contest (Please provide a link), give yourself 2 Points.
    5. If you put this blog post on a sidebar in your blog (please do add a link), give yourself 2 points.
    6. If you blog about this giveaway and add a link to this blogpost, give yourself 6 points.
  5. When you leave a comment, please tell me what you’ve done so far and add up your points for me.
  6. I will continue to count comments until March 14. Remember, one comment equals one point so if you comment on any blog post everyday starting from this blog post,you rack up points to add to your total.
  7. In the case of a tie (or ties), the winners will be chosen by a random generator.

All right, well that about sums up the rules. I hope you join this contest as the prizes are not only fabulous, but awesome tools in creating great story characters. Even if you aren’t a writer, you’ll definitely have endless fun entertaining friends with the archetype cards and birthday book.

Again, here are the points:

+1 for every comment left on any post on this blog (Just make sure you mention that you are part of the CCC/Character Counts Contest)

+4 for already being a follower

+3 for new followers

+5 if you refer a new follower (they must credit you in the comments)

+2 tweeting/FBing contest (please provide link)

+2 for putting it in sidebar on your blog

+6 for dedicating a blog post to the giveaway

These fabulous prizes are waiting to be shipped out, so come and join the fun!

Hero Heroine 206x300 Characters Count Contest Extended


whatyourbdayrevealsaboutyou1 246x300 Characters Count Contest Extended

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On To The Next Chapter

One must make an occasion of life and all its little heartbeats. All great moments need to be celebrated and given its due.

So roll out the red carpets, break out the champagne, and send out the fireworks. We have much to celebrate!

celebration1 On To The Next Chapter

Why?

Because last Tuesday, I finished the seventh and final draft of my first novel.

fireworks On To The Next Chapter

Yes, I finished editing my first serious venture into the world of writing. And though I think there are still  a thousand improvements I can make, and my hand itches to do another round of editing, I have to refrain from doing so.

It’s time for my book to be sent out into the world.

Only one word can describe all the things that need to be done for this to happen–for my book to be read by someone other than supportive family members and friends.

And that word is MARKETING.

The truth is, my journey is far from over. There are still a million and one things to do after finishing a book.

So right after I wrote the words “The End”, I immediately made a list of the things I had to do:

  1. Format my manuscript.
  2. Research on Querying, and on the agents I would like to query.
  3. Write a splendiferous query letter.
  4. Write an exciting synopsis.
  5. Start querying.
  6. Immediately begin writing the next book, so as not to go insane while waiting for query replies.

Of course, my actual to do list runs far longer than this one (which is great because I love keeping busy). There’s still so much to do before this writer becomes an author.

Sometimes I get impatient and I wish that my book would just get published. But I know that the most important thing is not the destination, but the journey. So I try to savor all the little moments that make up my writing adventure.

I’m closing this chapter of my writing story, but I’m starting a new one.  It’s called “My Quest for the Quintessential Query”

I’ll let you know how that turns out.


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On Writing

December 21, 1999

It’ s been a long time since I last sat down to write, since I felt the fire in my hands.

As I take my pen, a thousand words stream through my mind. I cannot breathe with excitement, my heart pounds wildly in my chest and my fingers ache to write endlessly.

It’s amazing. I’ve so many words in my head and I don’t know where to start. I yearn to write a play, a poem, a story, to weave a fantasy about dragons and princesses and knights in shining armor. I feel the need to pour out my heart into paper– perhaps to write an ode to life , maybe even an elegy.

It has been a long time. I feel a bit rusty. I long to write and yet I seem to have forgotten how to create, to spin endless tales. I have forgotten how it is to be prolific. Even now my attempts seem futile.

And yet something tells me to go on.

Perhaps the words will just come along the way.

————

I wrote those words at age 19.  Eleven years later, I still feel the same excitement whenever I sit down to write, or to do something writing-related.

Maybe all writers are crazy. We have to be–to choose a path that requires a mountain of determination, a sea of courage and an ocean of patience.  We have to be mad to pick a career that pays little to none, insane– to sit down every day at our desks and type away poems and essays and stories  maybe no one will ever read.

Yet we do it day after day because writing has become a drug we cannot live without.  We are so addicted to writing that even when we run out of ideas, our hands find other words to write– song lyrics, wonderful quotes, grocery lists, and to do lists,

Without pen and paper our lives become meaningless wanderings of a mad poet. Writing is our purpose and our goal, our journey and our destination. It is the sun that warms our hearts and the rain that was washes away our sadness.

It is our end all and be all. It is our life.

I could go on forever about writing– there are a million words and ways to describe what it means to me.

Mostly though, I’d like to share what my writing has led to– inevitably bad poems, as well as decent ones, essays read only in class and nowhere else, short stories passed on to friends (because they are nice enough to tell you it’s a good story) and a novel.

A novel that has taken me 6 months to plot, 3 months to write from beginning to end and almost a year to rewrite and edit.

I am three chapters away from finishing the final draft of my first-ever-really-serious-venture book.

I will celebrate when I am done.  For now I find myself reflecting on writing and what it means in my life. Because whether I get published or not I know I will continue to write.

Why?

Marge Piercy explains it best in her poem:

For the young who want to

Talent is what they say
you have after the novel
is published and favorably
reviewed. Beforehand what
you have is a tedious
delusion, a hobby like knitting.

Work is what you have done
after the play is produced
and the audience claps.
Before that friends keep asking
when you are planning to go
out and get a job.

Genius is what they know you
had after the third volume
of remarkable poems. Earlier
they accuse you of withdrawing,
ask why you don’t have a baby,
call you a bum.

The reason people want M.F.A.’s,
take workshops with fancy names
when all you can really
learn is a few techniques,
typing instructions and some-
body else’s mannerisms

is that every artist lacks
a license to hang on the wall
like your optician, your vet
proving you may be a clumsy sadist
whose fillings fall into the stew
but you’re certified a dentist.

The real writer is one
who really writes. Talent
is an invention like phlogiston
after the fact of fire.
Work is its own cure. You have to
like it better than being loved.

Marge Piercy

Copyright 1980, Middlemarsh, Inc.
from THE MOON IS ALWAYS FEMALE
Alfred A. Knopf, New York

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The Mentor Archetype

In order to encourage you to join my character counts contest, and because I did promise to do a series on my favorite archetypes, I now present a blog post on one of the most popular archetypes used in media:

The Mentor

Mentor 704x1024 The Mentor Archetype

Archetypes

Just to refresh your memory, let me define archetypes again. An archetype is an original model of a person, ideal example, or a prototype after which others are copied, patterned, or emulated; a symbol universally recognized by all.

Archetypes are scattered everywhere in media. Many writers use archetypes because they provide a guide for the readers to understand the storyline better. As writers, it’s important that we understand the many archetypes out there. Why? Because when we understand the definition and function of an archetype, we may:

  1. tweak the definition to suit our storyline
  2. break the rules of what a particular archetype is supposed to do to spice up our story
  3. apply a particular perspective to the archetype according to the message of our story. For instance, we may have an anarchist Mentor, a feminist Knight or a Freudian Hero

(If you are so inclined and have time at your disposal, might I suggest that you read or re-read my article on Archetypes and Characters?)

Now that you have a good idea of how archetypes can help us writers, let’s get to know the Archetype in today’s spotlight.

What do Yoda, Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother, Merlin and James Bond’s Q have in common? They are all mentors.

Christopher Vogler in his very helpful book The Writer’s Journey, says:

“Mentors provide heroes with motivation, inspiration, guidance, training, and gifts for the journey. Every hero is guided by something, and a story without some acknowledgement of this energy is incomplete. Whether expressed as an actual character or as an internalized code of behavior, the Mentor archetype is a powerful tool at the writer’s command”

If you’re wondering where the word Mentor comes from, look no further than The Odyssey.

odyssey The Mentor Archetype

Telemachus, Odysseus’ son, is helped by a character named Mentor who is actually Athena in disguise.

odyssey mentor 1 The Mentor Archetype

And since Athena is the Goddess of Wisdom, the Mentor Archetype is also typically personified as the “Wise Old Man” or “Wise Old Woman”.

Which is probably why most of the Mentor Archetypes you see in media are wizened old men or women.

yoda ep3 2 The Mentor ArchetypeYoda

346712 sam neill miniseries merlin The Mentor ArchetypeMerlin

q gadgets The Mentor ArchetypeQ

cindygod The Mentor ArchetypeCinderella’s Fairy Godmother

Mentor Functions

The Mentor Archetype has two major functions:

  1. Teaching/Guiding
  2. Gift-giving

Mentors often serve as the hero’s GPS. They are the hero’s conscience and teacher. They motivate the hero to achieve their goals, plant ideas in the hero’s mind that later on the hero draws upon, or initiate the hero into the mysteries of life and love. They also train the hero so that he may have the skills to face dangers he will encounter on his quest. (Example: Yoda training Luke Skywalker)

YodaBackpack The Mentor Archetype

They also invent items which the hero might need along their journey (as in Q’s case) or they bestow the hero with a particular gift to aid them in their quest (as in Merlin giving Arthur Excalibur, or Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother providing her with the pumpkin coach and such to get her to the Ball).

cinderlla pumpkin The Mentor ArchetypeCinderella and her Fairy Godmother, Disney’s Cinderella 1950

According to Christopher Vogler, the Mentor is there to protect the hero and to help him discern between right and wrong. More often than not, the Mentor is teaching the hero lessons he has learned from his own experience. Mentors are often former heroes who have survived the quest and are now passing the lessons they have learned to the hero who is just starting out. Think of Brom, passing down his wisdom to Eragon.

brom and eragon The Mentor ArchetypeBrom(Jeremy Irons)  and Eragon (Ed Speelers) in Eragon Movie 2006

Mentor Types

Although Mentors usually come in the form of wise old men and women, don’t be fooled. There are several types of mentor archetypes which  you can choose from in your own stories.

Comic Mentor

They come in the form of hero sidekicks, giving advice that seems wrong in the beginning but often turn out to be the perfect solution in the end. They are often seen in romantic comedies or stories with elements of comedy in them. Glinda the Good Witch in Wicked is a fun example.

Kristin Chenoweth as Glinda. jpg The Mentor ArchetypeKristin Chenoweth as Glinda the Good Witch, Wicked

Continuing Mentor

These are often recurring characters in a story series. They may be the boss (such as Charlie in Charlie’s Angels), or the butler (Alfred in Batman). Their role is to give assignments or set the plotline in motion.

dark knight michael caine christian bale 011 The Mentor ArchetypeMichael Caine and Christian Bale as Alfred and Batman in Batman Begins 2004

Dark Mentor

They are the anti-hero and represent the inversion of the hero’s values. Often, Dark Mentors mislead the hero (and the audience). They pose as mentors, but in reality, they lure the hero into danger and instead of motivating the hero, they become obstacles to the hero himself. Gordon Gekko (played by Michael Douglas) in Wall Street 2 as he teaches Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf), is a good example.

wall street 2 The Mentor Archetype

Fallen Mentor

These fallen mentors are actually characters who are dealing with issues in their own heroic journey. They are mentors who are experiencing a crisis of faith or who have fallen far from grace. They parallel the hero in his own journey and often serve as a warning to the hero of who not to be. Haymitch in The Hunger Games comes to mind as a great example.

Hg jacket 210 The Mentor Archetype

Inner Mentor

Some characters have no need of or no contact with an actual physical mentor who can act as their teacher. These heroes often carry their own internal mentor in the form of their own conscience or a code of ethics or a code of honor they follow. The inner mentor can also be in the form of a long dead being whose advice still lingers in the mind of the hero. The inner mentor can often be seen in Samurai or warrior movies. Ip Man, and The Last Samurai are examples of movies which show the inner mentor at work.

ip man The Mentor ArchetypeIp Man

imgThe Last Samurai2 The Mentor ArchetypeThe Last Samurai

Multiple Mentors

Sometimes a hero needs more than one mentor as he undergoes several steps of training. Each mentor can focus on a different aspect of the training which a hero must learn. Jackie Chan as Lu Yan , the Drunken Immortal and Jet Li as  the Silent Monk play mentors to Jason Tripitikas  (Michael Angarano) in the movie Forbidden Kingdom.

the forbidden kingdom The Mentor ArchetypeJet Li, Michael Angarano and Jackie Chan in The Forbidden Kingdom, 2008

Shaman

Sometimes all the hero needs is a vision to get him started. The Shaman is a healer who can help the hero by giving her a vision to point him to the next leg of his quest. Monk Gyatso, Aang’s airbending master in Avatar the Last Airbender is an example. Another example would be Guru Pathik, also in the Last Airbender.

250px Monk Gyatso The Mentor ArchetypeMonk Gyatso, The Last Airbender Nickelodeon Series

Aang and Guru Pathik The Mentor ArchetypeAang and Guro Pathik, The Last Airbender Nickelodeon Series

Mentor Mine

Mentors are wonderful archetypes to have in any story.

In my own book, URTH, I make use of Multiple Mentors. I have a Comic Mentor in the form of Will’s best friend Finn, and an Inner Mentor in the form of the lessons Will has learned from his dead father. I also have a Shaman who guides Will on a Spirit Walk, as well as a Continuing Mentor in the form of Terra, the Guardian who teaches Will Urth Magic as well as trains him in the Fighting Art of Urth.

Now that you have been acquainted with the Mentor Archetype, look back at your own story. Do you have a Mentor character? Do you have one mentor or multiple mentors? How does this mentor influence the hero’s journey?

——-

References:

http://adventures-in-creative-writing.blogspot.com/2009/11/archetypes-unveiling-mentor.html

http://www.applewarrior.com/lps/writing/hero/hero_quest_archetypes.pdf

http://members.optusnet.com.au/~mgoodin68/archtype.htm

http://shanna-s.livejournal.com/265009.html

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Characters Count Contest

I am a big fan of character-driven stories. Long after I’ve forgotten the plot or storyline, I remember how a favorite character made me feel, or a line she said.

In my own stories, I try to create characters so real that they almost remind you of yourself–or of a real person you once knew.

There are a great many tools to create the great characters, and two of these tools can be YOURS FOR FREE!

Remember those Archetype Cards I was raving about? (You can read about how to use Archetype Cards to create characters here)

archetype cards Characters Count Contest

How about my article on using astrology to create awesome characters? (Read about astrology and characterization here)

For my first ever contest, I am giving away  two super awesome character creation tools:

Prize  for 1st Place Winner: Caroline Myss’s Archetype Cards

archetype cards set1 1024x800 Characters Count Contest

Prize for 2nd Place Winner: Phyllis Vega’s book: What Your Birthday Reveals About You

whatyourbdayrevealsaboutyou Characters Count Contest

Why am I doing this? Well, because I think these are just awesome tools and every writer out there should have the chance to get them for free.

Plus I need followers.

Lynn and Jenn, two of my special writer friends both agreed that the archetype cards would be the perfect prize. Jenn also agrees that contests really do help in attracting new readers. Since I’ve never had a contest on my blog before, I thought this would be the best time to try.

So here are the rules if you’re interested in joining:

  1. The contest will be open from today February 15, 2011 to the end of the month February 28, 2011.
  2. The Character Counts Contest is based on a point system, which I’m adopting from the awesome Sara B. Larson’s own contests.
  3. Leave a comment on this blog post and on succeeding blog posts. Each comment is worth 1 Point. Just make sure you reference that you are joining the CCC/ Character Counts Contest if you do decide to leave a comment on another blog post.
  4. If you fit any of the following descriptions, give yourself the corresponding points:
    1. If you are already a follower, give yourself  4 Points.
    2. If you are a new follower (You just subscribed to this blog by email or you added yourself to my google friend connect button), give yourself 3 Points
    3. If you refer a new follower to my blog (they must mention that you sent them over in their comments), give yourself 5 Points.
    4. If you tweet/ facebook this contest (Please provide a link), give yourself 2 Points.
    5. If you put this blog post on a sidebar in your blog (please do add a link), give yourself 2 points.
    6. If you blog about this giveaway and add a link to this blogpost, give yourself 6 points.
  5. When you leave a comment, please tell me what you’ve done so far and add up your points for me.
  6. I will continue to count comments until February 28. Remember, one comment equals one point so if you comment on any blog post everyday starting from this blog post, you rack up points to add to your total.

All right, well that about sums up the rules. I hope you join this contest as the prizes are not only fabulous, but awesome tools in creating great story characters. Even if you aren’t a writer, you’ll definitely have endless fun entertaining friends with the archetype cards and birthday book.

Again, here are the points:

+1 for every comment left on any post on this blog (Just make sure you mention that you are part of the CCC/Character Counts Contest)

+4 for already being a follower

+3 for new followers

+5 if you refer a new follower (they must credit you in the comments)

+2 tweeting/FBing contest (please provide link)

+2 for putting it in sidebar on your blog

+6 for dedicating a blog post to the giveaway


The winners will be announced on March 3rd.


Good luck and I hope you win one of these fabulous prizes!

Hero Heroine 206x300 Characters Count Contest

whatyourbdayrevealsaboutyou1 246x300 Characters Count Contest

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My Super Aunt Saves the Day

Sometimes it’s good to ask for help. Especially when you just got hit by the biggest flu bug ever and you’re obviously not doing a good job of taking care of yourself.

Ever since my aunt JD found about my 911 experience, she had been calling me every day to see if I needed her to come over and take care of me.  But like any stubborn adult, I insisted that I was big enough to take care of myself.

After three days of eating several cans of soup and drinking useless over the counter drugs, my fever went away. I thought I should force myself to get back to the office since work was already piling up. I oozed into the office on Wednesday, coughing (more like barking) and wheezing like some toxic sludge monster.

I only lasted five hours. My fever had come back along with the body chills and pains, and I had to get myself back home before I was too bad to drive. Before I went home, I called my aunt JD and finally gave in. I needed someone to take care of me because I was doing a very poor job of getting better.

My aunt swept into the house like an angel of mercy. She fed me warm arrozcaldo (Filipino rice porridge), rubbed some herbal vapo-rub all over my back and chest, gave me a breathing treatment with the nebulizer (a  machine that spewed medicated steam) and gave me a whole bunch of antibiotics and cough medicine that knocked me out cold. For the first time in a week, I fell asleep through the night.

arrozcaldo1 My Super Aunt Saves the Dayarrozcaldo


betet 1 300x225 My Super Aunt Saves the DayBetet Green Balm (Asian version of the vapo-rub)


medicines 1 225x300 My Super Aunt Saves the Dayneeded medicine


nebulizer 3 300x225 My Super Aunt Saves the Daynebulizer

The next day, she came to the house again carrying several bags of groceries. She brought me my favorite coconut juice drink, several bottles of cranberry juice, and oranges. Then she cooked some Sinigang (Filipino vegetable and pork stew with a tamarind base soup—yummy!) for lunch, cut some oranges for my snack, gave me my breathing treatment and made sure I drank my medicines. While I was resting, she discovered the mess that was our backyard and proceeded to weed and clean it up.

pork sinigang 300x225 My Super Aunt Saves the DayPork Sinigang

juices 300x225 My Super Aunt Saves the DayCranberry Juice and Calamansi Juice (Philippine Lemon Juice)

sliced oranges 300x225 My Super Aunt Saves the Daysliced oranges

Now it’s Friday. My super aunt came again today and like before, she was a whirlwind of activity. She brought a whole new slew of vitamins to  boost my immune system. After making sure I had taken my meds and done my breathing treatment, she cooked some awesome adobo (Filipino soy-based chicken stew) for lunch. While I rested, she proceeded to start my laundry, and vacuum the house. As I’m typing this, she’s finishing up the backyard weeding/cleanup project she started yesterday.

vitamins 300x225 My Super Aunt Saves the Dayvitamins

adobo chicken 300x225 My Super Aunt Saves the Dayadobo

I’m still coughing and a bit congested but my fever’s finally gone and aside from a little headache, I’m feeling much better than I’ve had all week.

I have my super aunt to thank for this. She burst into my house like a magical Mary Poppins and made me feel like I was seven years old again–which is exactly what my exhausted adult body needed. She gave me all the TLC (and medications) that I required and like the true mom figure that she is, even puttered around the house because she knew that as soon as I felt well enough, I would be tiring myself with house chores again.

Sometimes even adults need to be cared for like a child when they’re sick. I feel like the luckiest kid in the world with my super aunt around to help me get better. I got the VIP treatment –which, let’s face it, we all want when we’re feeling deathly sick. I’m so grateful to have her in my life, along with friends like Lena (who’s been keeping me company at night and feeding me steamed Korean Pears for my cough) and Maiko (who also got sick taking care of me). It’s people like them who make my life so much more bearable when I’m going through the toughest time.

I’m sure glad my aunt JD won that Wheel of Fortune. She’ll get to go to Hawaii and be pampered just like she deserves. People like her are one in a million and I’m lucky to have her in my life.

Do you have your own super aunt who cares for you when you’re sick?

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My first (and hopefully last) 911 Experience

It all started last Saturday with a simple scratchy throat. As the day progressed, the throat went from bad to worse. Scratchy became sore, and by nightfall a galactic dry hacking cough had joined in the fun.

Sunday was the worst. Body chills and aches had crept in and I had a high fever all throughout the day.  At around ten, I started feeling nauseated. I got up to go to the bathroom–and collapsed.

Sufficed to say, the family had to call 911.  Apparently my eyes were rolling around in their sockets all exorcist-like and I wasn’t responding to anything.

When I came to, I was sweating profusely on the bathroom floor. I could hear Maiko on the phone talking to the operator, and sirens wailing in the distance.

I finally got up and told them I didn’t want the ambulance to come, but two minutes later the biggest firetruck and two ambulances arrived. Two paramedics got me out of bed and helped me downstairs. I told them it was just the flu and I didn’t want to go to the hospital.

They kept insisting I go and offered to take me there or at least put me in the car and have someone else drive me.  Apparently I looked pale and quite unstable. I was too tired to feel insulted so I let it go.

They took my blood pressure, registered my blood sugar and asked me test questions which I passed with flying colors.  Well, okay, they had to make sure I was sane enough to know what year it was, and what my name and address was. Then they made me sign some papers and said to call them again in case things got worse.

As soon as they left, I crawled onto the couch, too weak to climb upstairs to bed, and fell into a fitful sleep.

All I could think of as I was falling asleep was that my editing schedule was now ruined because of this stupid flu virus.

Yup. Even when we’re sick, a writer’s work is never done. It follows us into fevered dreams and aching nightmares.

That’s it for now. My cough is starting up again. I’m going to crawl back into bed and try to get well.

gordon bill gives high sound for voip 911 28 My first (and hopefully last) 911 Experience

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Gong Xi Fa Cai! (Kung Hei Fat Choi)!

Translated that means Happy (Chinese) New Year!

Today, February 3rd, 2011, marks the first day of the Chinese New Year. Chinese families gather together to celebrate this important holiday. They exchange gifts, enjoy festive decorations and eat symbolic foods to bring them good luck for the new year.

I’m not Chinese myself, but I pay attention to holidays such as these. Aside from the fact that the Chinese New Year is a great excuse to eat mooncake, it also is a great opportunity to learn about a different culture.

One of the great things about writing, is that we can gain inspiration from anything and everything around us. Festivals and holidays such as the Chinese New Year are one such source of inspiration.

So today, I took the time to research a little bit more about the Chinese New Year, and the Chinese Zodiac.

I also looked up Chinese astrological forecasts for 2011, the Year of the Rabbit.

Lop Eared Rabbit The Year of the Rabbit – Astrology and Characterization

In case you’re interested, Chinese astrologers say that the focus of this year leans towards reviving the arts and culture, getting finances in order, cultivating intimate relationships, and building family and community. They base their predictions on certain elemental energies, as well as planetary alignments.

Apparently, this year will be great for Metal Monkeys such as myself.

I don’t follow astrology all that much, but aside from being entertaining, astrology is also a great resource for creating Characters.

When I first started writing my story, I realized I needed to flesh my characters further. Sure I have their archetypes all set (hero, mentor, etc), but in order to make my characters come alive, I needed to give them certain sets of personality traits.

One of the things I found helpful was astrology. I researched on personology and found books such as these:

secretlanguage of birthdays The Year of the Rabbit – Astrology and CharacterizationThe Secret Language of Birthays


the power of birthdays The Year of the Rabbit – Astrology and CharacterizationThe Power of Birthdays, Stars & Numbers


I picked several birthdays, then looked up the personality traits listed for persons born on those day. It was the thing I needed to jumpstart my characters. Now I not only had a set list of traits, I also had my character’s birthdays!  (Of course I didn’t stop there. I also gave my characters certain quirks, and gave them the three most important things for any character to have: goals, motivations and conflict).

Here’s a sample of what you’ll find if you open up a book on Chinese astrology:

HARE:
January 29, 1903 to February 15, 1904 (water)
February 14, 1915 to February 2, 1916 (wood)
February 2, 1927 to January 22, 1928 (fire)
February 19, 1939 to February 7, 1940 (earth)
February 1951 to January 26 1952 (metal)
January 25, 19673 to February 12, 1964 (water)
February 11, 1975 to January 30, 1976 (wood)
January 29, 1987 to February 16, 1988 (fire)
February 16, 1999 to February 4, 2000 (earth)

Celebrities include:
Michelangelo – Napoleon – Albert Einstein – Walt Whitman – Marie Curie

Hares (rabbits) are happiest when with friends and safely inside of social circles. They are often meek and withdrawn among groups of strangers. They seldom like to argue and enjoy quiet, peaceful lives. A Hare is cautious and will weigh the pros and cons from every angle before moving ahead.

A lover of good conversation, reading, and intellectual discussions, the hare is sincere and are often gifted healers, herbalists, and doctors. Traditionally associated with clear-sightedness, the Hare is an excellent judge of character and has a certain ability to recognize when others are lying. A Hare’s home is typically a beautiful one, and they take great care and expend a lot of energy making it comfortable. You will find a lot of expensive and precious items in the home of a Hare personality.

The Chinese have many strange legends about the Hare, one of them is that they inhabit the moon, together with three-legged frogs. Another legend has it that the Hare possesses the secret recipe for the elixir of immortality.

As writers, we should make use of anything that can spark our creativity (which is basically everything). So whether we are believers or not, we can make use of Astrology to help us flesh out our characters.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the Chinese Zodiac and the personality traits associated with them, here are some articles that you might find helpful:

www.chinesezodiac.com

www.qi-journal.com

www.life123.com

And while you’re at it, check out articles on Chinese New Year traditions or on the Chinese culture in general. You might find a story idea or two in the process.

Gong Xi Fa Cai! (Kung Hei Fat Choi)! May the Year of the Rabbit be a great year for everyone!




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January 29, 2011 (7th meetup): Rewriting Your Manuscript

Last Saturday, January 29th, our writing group met up again at Borders Torrance. We had three new faces join us for the meetup on “Rewriting Your Manuscript.”

A usual, we started our meeting with introductions. After stating our names, current projects and answering a strange but creative question from the box, we proceeded to the next activity.

I like to start our meetups with a hopeful, positive note, so before diving into our main topic, I had everybody join in an activity inspired by the recent SCBWI-LA Westside schmooze.

In that schmooze, Rita told us about her Illustrator friend whose instructor required his students to spend 15 minutes illustrating three dreams or goals that they wanted to achieve. They put this illustration in an envelope and forgot about it until a year later. When they opened their illustration, they realized that all the dreams they had illustrated had come true.

I explained to the group, that though it seems like magic, the principle behind this activity is the same principle behind the Harvard study: In 1964, all members of the Harvard Business School graduating class said that they had clear goals they wanted to achieve. However, only 5% of them took the time to write these goals down. A follow up study 20 years later revealed that 95% of those who wrote down their goals were able to achieve all of them. Among the other half of the class who said they had goals but didn’t write them down, only 5% reached their expected goals.

The truth is when we write down our goals, it becomes a written contract to ourselves. It sparks personal motivation within us to achieve these goals. And since we’ve written down exactly what we want to achieve, we see our goals more clearly, and our brain starts seeing innovative ways to achieve them.

I then handed out pieces of blank paper. I instructed them to write down their writing-related dreams and goals for 5 minutes straight. I encouraged them to write down all the details they could think of– the name of the agent who is going to them back and say “I’d like to represent you”, the name of the publishing house who is going to give them a six-book deal, the color of the dress they’re going to wear when they accept the Newbery medal,etc.

The activity helped us get into a positive and hopeful mindset. We were now ready to tackle the topic of Rewriting.

I gave out handout1 which described the four types of editing: Proofreading/Copyediting, Line Editing , Content/Developmental Editing, and Heavy/Substantive Editing.

We discussed the difference between rewriting and editing, the four kinds of editing, and the different processes of writing, just to get a clearer picture of what rewriting means.

We agreed that there are generally four stages to writing a novel:

Stage 1: Writing the First Draft

Stage 2: Rewriting

Stage 3: Editing

Stage 4: Copyediting/Proofreading

Ideally when we write the first draft, we don’t stop to edit ourselves. Grammar, punctuation, spelling and all the nitty gritty things don’t matter at this stage.

What matters is that our stories have a beginning, middle and end, and that it gets finished.

Once we are done with our first draft, we move into the second stage of writing, which is rewriting/revising our work. In this stage, we go through our first (or 2nd or 3rd) draft with a creative eye.  This means that spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors shouldn’t distract us from polishing and tightening our stories.

Instead, our focus is to fix the story itself—character, plot, setting, etc. Before we even begin to actually rewrite our story, we must do some content editing. This means we have to look at the flow and the structure of our story.

After developmental editing, usually comes substantive editing—which means we reorganize paragraphs, sections, or chapters for overall clarity or readability.

Elements of style such as punctuation, spelling, word usage, grammar and sentence construction fall under the third stage.

Copyediting/Proofreading is the final stage before we send off our manuscripts. Here is where we check that everything is totally correct—there are no typos, the format is perfect and the manuscript is ready for an agent’s eyes.

Content editing is basically what we do when we revise for Story. Substantive or Heavy editing is similar to revising for Structure,  since this is the part of rewriting where we rearrange our scenes, chapters (and even paragraphs) so that our story can flow smoothly.

Before we can Revise for Story or Structure, however, there are certain steps we must take in order to prepare for a major rewrite.

James Scott Bell in his book REVISION & SELF-EDITING lists down 6 Steps to follow before rewriting. I added my own tips, as well as other authors’ tips I found while researching the topic, and shared this with the group.

1. The Cool-Down Phaserevisionandselfediting January 29, 2011 (7th meetup): Rewriting Your Manuscript

2. The Preparation Phase

3. Print Out and Prepare a Fresh Copy

4. Get Ready to Read

5. Read

6. Analyze

*** You can check out James Scott Bell’s article  here:




Once we’ve done all these things, we’re ready to do some actual rewriting based on the many notes we made.

The next thing we need to do is gather all our needed materials:

  • Manuscript copy
  • Favorite editing pens
  • Notebook/pad where we jotted down possible revision notes
  • Other notes that we created while working on the book, plus maps, charts, diagrams, character descriptions, etc, which we used while writing the novel.

Robert J. Ray, in his book The Weekend Novelist Rewrites the Manuscript, says that there are three important elements to consider when rewriting: Story, Structure and Style. When you rewrite, always rewrite for structure and story first When story hums and structure runs smooth, work on Style.

Revising for Story

Freelance editor Victory Crayne says the following things:

  • Content is King. Your story may have technically correct English, but still fail to sell.
  • The first draft is often for you, the writer. Now go back and rewrite it for your readers.
  • Writing to entertain is much harder than writing perfect English. Writing to entertain so well that hundreds of thousands of readers can’t wait until your next book comes out requires a whole lot more. It requires two critical ingredients: (1) a great storyline and (2) excellence in storytelling. Just writing perfect English won’t get you there.

It’s important that we know what our story is really about before we even try to rewrite entire paragraphs or chapters.

Revising for Story, also known as content editing, can save us a lot of time and trouble.

As a basis for our discussion on rewriting for Story, I used author Holly Lisle’s awesome article on One-Pass Manuscript Revision: From First Draft to Last in One Cycle.

You can read the whole thing here:

In this article, she recommends going through the process of discovery in order to get your story right.  She suggests activities for figuring out our manuscripts’ themes, sub-themes and story arc.

Revising for Structure

Every story has a three act structure, also known as the beginning, middle and end. Knowing our story’s structure, allows us to understand what’s supposed to happen within each part.

For instance, in the Beginning, we’re supposed to introduce the reader to the setting, the characters and the situation or conflict they find themselves in, as well as their goals.  When we revise our manuscript, we must figure out if we have accomplished this or not.

Peder Hill’s article on Conflict and Character within Story Structure was a great jumping off point for our discussion on revising for structure.

Afterward, we discussed some techniques for revising structure. I suggested that the use of index cards was a great way for figuring out the flow of a story.

In the index cards, we write down the title of our scene/chapter, along with a scene/chapter description. We can even assign a particular index card color to each of our major characters/major storylines.

colored index cards January 29, 2011 (7th meetup): Rewriting Your Manuscript

Once we’ve finished our index cards, we lay them out on a big table or on the floor, and figure out if our story is flowing smoothly based on the scene descriptions. If not, we rearrange the index cards until the story does flow.

index card mapping January 29, 2011 (7th meetup): Rewriting Your ManuscriptPicture from Chris Bell’s blogpost on Manuscript Mapping.

Check out her article here.

I also suggested the use of the software program Anthemion Café Writers Storylines, as this is similar to the index card technique.

wcscreen01 January 29, 2011 (7th meetup): Rewriting Your Manuscript

Holly Lisle’s article: One-Pass Manuscript Revision: From First Draft to Last in One Cycle, once more came in handy.  In the final part of our meetup, we discussed steps to take in the actual rewriting of our manuscripts.

Towards the end of our meetup, I gave out a list of writing books which I found helpful in my own process of manuscript revision.  Other members also suggested books they found useful.

Our heads were buzzing with a boatload of information by the time we ended the meetup. All of us had our minds set on rewriting our  manuscripts based on what he had learned and shared with each other that day.

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