Slow it Down Workshop: A Fair to Remember

Peeps, Lucy Clark and I will be presenting a workshop at A Fair to Remember in a few weeks on Slowing Down your writing so you catch an editor’s eye. In other lives, we both edit for online publishers and we have found most manuscripts could greatly benefit from slowing down, lingering on the characters, the emotion and the situation so the work packs a huge emotional punch. We’ll be offering hints and tips on how to do this, so come on by if you’re in Adelaide!

There are lots of other great authors and workshops, so it’s well worth the cover charge. Also, there’s a pretty nifty quiz night – I’ll be there! I love me a quiz night!

Hope you see you all there

Cassandra
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AFairToRememberFlyer
 
 

“The Avengers” retains the awesome!

Oh my god, you guys, I saw The Avengers again today and it was just as good as the first time!!! This time, I thought I would take notes on why it was so awesome (and also to learn a bit at the movie knee of Joss) but that kind of stopped about twenty minutes into the movie. Because I got distracted. BY THE AWESOME.

So, I’m going to detail my twenty minutes worth of notes below the jump. Potential spoilers, peeps. Click away ONLY if you’ve ALREADY SUCCUMBED TO THE AWESOME

Continue reading

Excellent writing advice from C.S. Lewis

In my travels across the interwebs, I came across the below advice from C. S. Lewis. In response to fan letter from a young Narnia fan, Joan Lancaster, Lewis wrote the following:
 

1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.

2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keep them.

3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”

4. In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.”

5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

source: io9

I was a big, BIG fan of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and from this gateway book grew to love the whole Chronicles of Narnia series. To read advice like this from an author I loved as a kid is infinitely inspiring.

It’s totally research…promise

So, research. It’s a massive part of the job. Who decided writers have to sound like they know what they’re talking about?  That just sounds like crazy talk to me 🙂

However, even though you do all this research, you may have heard people say before 99% of what the author knows never appears on the page. Bummer! Oh well, it has to be done and some of it can be extremely interest.  However, how do you go about researching?

For me, because I am lazy-no, no, it’s efficient. EFFICIENT-I like to watch movies or tv shows with similar subject matter to the story I’m writing. There are so many benefits to this. One, you are absorbing the way the writers have written the show, the way the directors and producers have interpreted the writing and, above all, the dialogue. Watching people talking can only help you improve your own dialogue skills, no matter if the show be good or bad. Second, the researchers and set designers have done ALL THE WORK FOR YOU.

Currently, I’m watching Rome. I watched this show a few years ago but recently I’ve purchased the dvd box sets and my wordy, is it great for research! The production design unit has busted their, uh, backs to make the show look like Rome at the creation of the Empire. This is invaluable. You can read all the books in the world describing what a patrician’s house looked like but a 30 second scene from Rome set within a patrician’s villa makes an impression no book could every hope to.  For me, visual research is great when used in conjunction with the written.

These shows spend AGES making sure they get things right, or at least that they adhere to the agreed version of history.  For example, it’s doubtful the regency period was like what we as readers accept is regency, but we all agree it’s like that and thus it becomes truth. It’s the same with any historical period.  Historians, anthropologies and archeologists are constantly discovering new information, and occasionally this information contradicts all that has gone before.  Therefore, history is a fluid beast and mostly, it is what we all agree to be true.

Hmm.  I think I got off topic here.

Anyway, watching tv is good for your writing.  Totally.  You can take that to the bank!

An Interview with Lucy Clark

Hi all!

We have a very special treat today – an interview with Lucy Clark!  Besides being an awesome and prolific author for Mills and Boon, Lucy Clark is my awesome and prolific Critique Partner (makes sense, right?)

Without further ado, here’s Lucy!

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Cassandra Dean: Lucy, thank you for joining us. First up, how do you develop your ideas into novels?
Lucy Clark: As I write as part of a team, we usually just start discussing an initial concept. This concept can come from something we’ve heard or read etc. As an example, I got lost on a Doctor Who site one day – clicking from one thing to the next and came across an old interview Michael Parkinson did with Billie Piper – who of course played “Rose” on Doctor Who. Michael asked her about the anorexia she’d suffered as a teenager and why she’d starved herself. She’d said that back then, as a pop star, her entire life had been controlled and that the only thing she’d had control over was what went into her body. This started us thinking about control issues and how something like this can seriously affect a person’s life. Then we start with the usual expanders of What, Who, Why, When, Where and How. From this, the clay-idea starts to take form beneath the masterful talent of the serious artiste!

CD: What was your inspiration for choosing romance as your writing genre?
LC: I’m a sucker for a happy ending. That’s it, in a nutshell!

CD: As you’ve already said, Lucy Clark is a partnership of husband and wife – how do you go about working in a partnership? What are the advantages and difficulties?
LC: The partnership is great, especially when the ideas are new. It’s fun to discuss and formulate and plan and mould. It’s great when I’m not sure where next to take the characters or how to accurately convey an emotion because I have someone who knows as much as I do about the story to just talk things over with. I think the most difficult part is when we disagree. This usually happens when my “right-brainedness” clashes with his “left-brainedness” and it can take us quite some time to find the correct path for the characters to take. In the end, whether we agree or disagree, it’s the path that’s going to tell the best story that wins. Usually, if we can’t agree, we’ll throw it to our editor and let her decide but for the most part, the partnership is quite smooth. We’re able to separate work and private life so that’s good, too.

CD: What would you say is the most important aspect of a successful story?
LC: Characterisation. Good, well rounded, three dimensional characters. You can have the best plot in the world, the best setting, the best grasp of the English language but if your characters don’t come to life, then all you’re left with is typeface on a piece of paper.

CD: How do you inspire yourself to keep writing when the Evil Spectre of Procrastination raises its head?
LC: Coffee. Berocca. Vanilla Coke. Loud music. If none of them help – get out of Dodge or in other words, leave the house, meet a friend for coffee, change the scenery and refresh the mind. Bum-glue helps too.

CD: As I understand it, you are totally obsessed by Doctor Who and Buffy! What is about these shows that fascinates you? Also, what is it about the writing of the showrunners (Doctor Who – Russell T Davies and later Steven Moffat; Buffy – Joss Whedon) that particularly draws you?
LC: Obsessed? Hmm… I don’t know if I’d say I’m “obsessed”! Oh hang on a second, if you mean thinking about it, watching it, analysing it, buying the merchandise etc etc… then well yes, I guess I’d use the word “obsessed”. Basically, it’s brilliant writing. It all starts with the writing. The writers for these shows work incredibly hard (as do all writers of course) and they’re 100% committed to making the best show possible. I love the way they don’t take the easy road with their characters, that they take time to delve into the emotions that are important in creating three dimensional characters, that they understand their demographic and don’t pander to the studio execs who are usually only interested in making money. For a writer – a true writer – story is key. These writers understand that and apply it to the shows they write/direct/produce.

CD: What advice would you give about writing?
LC: Keep writing. Every day. Even if it’s just a shopping list. Be creative.

CD: Would you tell us about your next release?
LC: The next release is a Medical Romance Duo – two stories in one volume, out in UK and NA in August 2011, Australasia and France in August/September 2011. The first title is: “Wedding on the Baby Ward” – which is a story about Janessa and Miles. Both are neonatologists and are involved in caring for and separating conjoined twins, Ellie and Sarah Woodcombe. Oh and Janessa flies a bi-plane. Good stuff. And the second title is: “Special Care: Baby Miracle” – which is a story about Sheena and Will. Sheena is the mother of conjoined twins, Ellie and Sarah, and Will is an old flame who’s come back into Sheena’s life right when she needs him the most.

Thanks, Cassandra, for the opportunity to chat. It’s been superfun as always.

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And thank you, Lucy, for a wonderful, informative interview!

Please check out Lucy’s website and purchase her latest release!

The big let down

You’ve finally finished your big project. You’ve worked on it and loved it and you’ve spent every waking minute thinking about it. You’ve been sat in front of a computer feverishly typing away, adhering to a deadline you may have established or your publisher has established or you are going away on that holiday to Thailand and you really, really have to get it finished-

Any-the-hoo, you’ve been working away like a busy little bee, and then it’s finished-over-and you wonder what on earth you’re supposed to do now.

You feel like you should be working but there’s nothing to work on. You feel like you should be starting the new story but you are too burned out. There is a constant feeling the other shoe is about to drop and you wonder what is wrong with you that you feel this way.

I felt like this after finishing big university assignments and of course, recently, after finishing Enslaved. In regards to Enslaved, I was working away like a mad thing, trying to finish before my self-imposed deadline of 28 February. Every weekend I worked, in the evenings, at odd moments during the day. I spent my downtime thinking about Enslaved and was generally consumed by the story for a few weeks. Then, I handed it in to my editor…and I was at a complete loss.

I felt like I needed to do…something. Didn’t I have a manuscript I needed to work on? Was I supposed to be editing? There was an extra scene I needed to write, surely. I should be in front of my computer, tap-tap-tapping away at the keyboard, but, of course, I had no manuscript to work on. I had finished. Finished, I tells ya!

So how did I combat it? I talked about how I felt ‘let down’ with my friends. I discussed it with my critique partner. I tried to start the next project. It’s a strange feeling when you think you should be doing something even though you know you have finished. Your head is saying one thing and your heart (for want of a better term) is saying another and you just can’t reconcile the two. You tell yourself to have a break but you’ve been working so hard for so long, surely you should be continuing with that?

Next question – how successful was I? Well, I’m still trying to discover that. I think the only way to combat the big let down is to allow time to pass. I think you need time to adjust back to normal, to find your creativity again and be able to shift into the new story. There’s no point writing a historical romp through Romania in 1845 when you’re still mired in an operatic space drama set in Galactic Space Zone Trifixidoria, Quadrant Alpha-Numrea G7.

I guess what I’m saying is it’s okay to do nothing. To relax. Wind down. Learn how to be calm and collection again Have a glass of wine, eat that chocolate, enjoy a walk along the beach. You need time to recharge so you can tackle the next big project and go through the whole process again!

– originally written for the newsletter of Society of Women Writers South Australia Inc.

Researching fun

I’m on a bit of a Roman kick at the moment.   Obviously, with Enslaved and its sequel (name pending – currently nicknamed Roman Man) Rome is a major feature.  I’m having a ball learning lots of neato stuff, rewatching tv shows featuring Rome and revisiting my own photos of the city itself and its influence on Europe.  I’ve also been researching via children’s reference books.

Please don’t back away like that, you heard me right!  Children’s reference books.  They are grand!  All the info distilled into easy to understand language, with pictures to boot.  What’s not to love?  I ordered this beauty from the Book Depository:

Neato, hey?   I also ordered a box set of Horrible Histories.

Of course, I will do further research but I find these a great overview of history, allowing me to pick out the bits I think are important or I want to use in my work.

Anyhoo, I guess it’s back to it!  All that research won’t do itself…unfortunately.

Writer’s Block

I’ve been working hard on edits for Enslaved (soon to be released by Decadent Publishing). Enslaved is also known as the work in progress that WILL NOT DIE!!!! Ahem. My issue.

I have been working away at the edit and I’m finding it harder and harder to soldier on. These edits are taking f o r e v e r and it’s not hard to know why – I’ve lost my oomph. I’ve been working on Enslaved for over five months and I can’t see the forest for the trees. I’m getting lost in the details, in the minutia of words and sentences, and I can’t stand back to see the story these sentences comprise. I’m not so much stuck for ideas as stuck for inspiration, that is, I know what I have to write but I’m stumped if I can express it on a page. This state of affairs is extremely frustrating and I just can’t see any way out of it.

Unfortunately, the only way I have found to cure this is to just force yourself to work. Stare at that blank page until you go all cross-eyed and feel sure a headache is coming on. Force yourself to hold your fingers over your keyboard, write words that you know you will change, just get back into the flow of it.

So what to do about the lack of inspiration? Unfortunately, writing is work and just like any work, it’s hard. You have your bad days and I think the main thing is not to beat yourself up if the words aren’t flowing. This happens to everyone and the best thing to do is soldier through it. It’s so hard and it’s demoralizing and you just want to tear your hair out but there’s nothing for it. We must soldier on.

So I will take my bat and ball and stumble to the crease once more. Enslaved must be finished and I’m just the person to tackle it.

By the way, if anyone has any suggestions as to other methods of curing this, I’d love to hear them.

– originally written for the newsletter of Society of Women Writers South Australia Inc.

Hello, dear reader

It’s been quite some time since my last post. In fact, Happy New Year!

The radio silence has come about due to the joys of editing – my cap which I use to undertake Teh Edit is firmly in place and I’m working my little tush off (as an aside, the Cap of Teh Edit is sparkly and tassled. It’s really quite stunning).

Unfortunately, all this editing means I don’t have much time for the blog 🙁  Once I have the WIP all finished (I have it on good authority that edits do, at some stage, finish!) I’ll be a more frequent visitor here. In the meantime, here is a half-baked effort at a blog post in which I shall leave the content of this blog to others who have way more considered posts (and are generally quite awesome).

Sarah Rees Brennan has some quite amazing posts.  I highly recommend you check out her blog:

Getting Published in Three Simple Steps

Ilona Andrews also has some great advice for those wishing to enter the writing caper:

Five Mistakes of a Beginning Novelist – Part 1

Writer Myths

Yet More About Reviews

Jeaniene Frost has a great post on The Publishing Rollercoaster

Ever had writer’s block?  Here’s a scientific paper on it!

Nasty Case of Writer’s Block creates the Most Brilliant Scientific Paper Ever

So You Want to Write a Romance Novel?

via KatieBabs

Inspiration

There are so many things that inspire the creative in us.  What, exactly, is that trigger that brings about the kernel of an idea? I thought I’d write about a few that inspire me.

 Pretty pictures
A lovely picture can inspire so much.  The book and subsequent movie, Girl with a Pearl Earring, was inspired by the painting of the same name by Johannes Vermeer, and detailed a fictionalised account of how the painting came to be created.  I often see a pretty picture and imagine a whole world surrounding it.  Recently, I saw a painting of a couple dancing the tango and I immediately pictured the scenario around them.  A hot, humid night.  Passion and desire arcing between them.  Though the room is over-crowded, each only has awareness of the other and they dip and sway and dance until the first blush of dawn colours the horizon.

*sigh*  I love that painting.


Words
Sometimes, I will hear a random phrase or a snippet of conversation and this will spark a whole story in me.  Sometimes, a word that strikes my fancy, one I think is beautiful or interesting and will take me on a tangent I hadn’t anticipated.  Sometimes, I will incorporate a phrase I love or think is funny just as an in-joke to myself and people who also know the reference.


TV shows
My novella, Enslaved (coming soon from Decadent Publishing – shameless plug!) first was inspired by the television show, Spartacus: Blood and Sand.  I was watching all the pretty boys run around in not much at all and a scenario popped into my head, one where a daughter of the trainer of the gladiators/slaves was in love with the champion of the school.  The show did not feature a daughter as a character, so that was complete fiction, but the scenario I imagined, where the slave who hated his master fell in love with his daughter and she with a man so far beneath her status, I found rich with dramatic appeal.  Needless to say, I jumped upon it and three days later I had the bones of the story.  Now, my little story inspired by a TV show is about to be published.  Not too shabby, me thinks!


Rewriting a story
There are two ways of looking at this.

Way the first – taking a novel and re-imagining it with vampires/zombies/seamonsters.
This is an extremely popular option at the moment. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith appeared to be the first to gain notoriety in this trend.  The author took the original material and tweaked it so that zombies now appear in Elizabeth and Mr Darcy’s world.  The Bennet girls become Zombie Hunters, and the whole gentle comedy of errors becomes a bloody comedy/horror extravaganza!  The popularity of this novel has led to several other incarnations of popular books, where the original characters and situations are tweaked to contain, usually, horror tropes.

Way the second – being inspired by a story to write an alternative, but using only the theme/structure/feel of the book
This happens in probably 85% of all genre writing.  You see a book in the genre you love and think “That could have been much better”.  So, you knuckle down and write your own version, with your characters and your situations, retaining the feel of the book that inspired you but making the story wholly your own.  I know I have had many a situation where I’ve read a book and thought it should have gone in a different way *cough*twilight*cough*.  My first novel, Teach Me, arose out of my love for reading about two common themes: the reformed rake and the educational, where one character is a tutor for another.

So there you go, some of the things that inspire me!  What inspires you?