Saturday, April 30, 2011

What would Jessica Fletcher Do?

Sometimes, just saying this question outloud -- "What would Jessica Fletcher do?" --can be the absolute best way to work through a scene, or maybe in the extreme case, your entire novel.

I know, it totally sounds hokey ... at best. But, it's true!

If you've never watched an episode of Murder She Wrote, or really an episode of almost any crime/drama, then you need to. It can help to focus in on what it is you're trying to explain, reveal, hide or introduce in your story.

In reality, detectives -- or in her case, unofficial detectives -- rarely solve a murder case within the time frame that these shows take place in. However, that's because the show is limited to an hour or two. If it isn't short and quick, our attention wanes, we get up for a snack, or we will change the channel. In our writings, even if things don't move quite this quickly, we too need to move the plot along. Otherwise, no one will want to read our words either!

Watching J. B. Fletcher go through the murder, find the suspect, pick up clues, and of course, exonerate the wrongly accused, is sort of like watching a ball go from point A to point B. We know, as writers, that we want our "ball" to sail through the air from point A, and make it to point B.

However, it is easy to get hung up on back stories, unnecessary chit-chat, or excessive characterization. And our "ball" ends up dropping very short of the goal, hole, or basket. By cluing in (excuse the pun) on what we need to focus on (moving the plot to the climax, or revealing more necessary aspects to the sub-plots), watching a crime/drama unfold, play its part, and close within about 52 minutes, can really exemplify what we should be doing in our stories as well.

Think about how every episode opens up with a problem, how characters flaws and attributes appear in all the suspects, and how at least two subplots appear in the story as well. Watch how the protagonist learns from her mistakes, uses her knowledge and small-town cuteness to keep us entertained and charmed - along with the other characters whom we like just as much.

This, in turn, keeps us watching the show, wanting more (I think), and amazingly enough, thoroughly satisfies us with the quaint and perfect wrap up. We even anticipate the mandatory smile at the end.

Yes, Jessica Fletcher's role, and detective work, remind me how to keep those literary loose ends at bay, and keep the story moving. While the gooey-perfection of the show doesn't have to show up in our work, just thinking about the story aspect to it while watching it on television, can remind us to keep that "ball" moving for our benefit, and the reader.

It also makes me wonder how in the world we live without pantsuits, blue eye shadow, and feathered hair today. Okay ... not really.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Making the Most of Your Vacation

I'll admit it ... the title of this post sounds suspiciously a lot like a travel article, or a top ten to see while you're in Aruba. But this post is more about being writer/reader productive -- without actually feeling like you are working -- while on vacation (or holiday, if you're on the other side of the pond).

Even when I'm on vacation, I still have this infinitesimal -- and sometimes grand -- urge to write. Something. Anything, especially when a postcard doesn't quite cut it as literary work. If this sounds like you, yet you don't want to write too much because heck, you are on vacation, keep a tiny notebook with you.

Jot down story ideas, characters flaws for your hero, write a poem as you watch the ocean, or end that novel with the final two hundred words you were trying so hard to write back at home.

While vacation is just that, vacation, it doesn't mean you have to abandon all creative writing. That's sort of like cutting out your oxygen supply line... not cool.

For my next getaway, I plan on bringing that little journal, have a great time doing nothing -- and everything that's fun -- and taking 10 or 15 minutes a day to write down those notes, or whip out words that are spilling from my head.

It's only right to be a writer, even when you don't need to be a writer. And your next story, poem, or perfectly blockbuster-movie-making-character will be there waiting for you when you come home to reality and put to good use when you are supposed to write -- and when you absolutely need something to write about, while you day-dream about your latest vacation instead.

Please feel free to tell me here what great work you created when you came back from your vacation. I would love to know! Oh, and send a pic or two of you in Aruba too. It's good to see where the inspiration came from.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Awesomeness of AgentQuery

I don't know if any of you are looking to be published, or need a great agent, but if you've tried to find the right agent, it can be grueling. All those requirements, or quirky specifics, and every agent is different. Some are big-timers, and some are small-town folks.

And if you're like me, and you don't feel like shelling out 30 bucks for an agent book -- the kind that list all the agents all of America, along with their info, in really small print -- then you have to check out AgentQuery. They are a database of agents, and yes, I'm warning you, it's overwhelming!  But, really, AgentQuery is like finding a gold mine.

Oh, and did I mention that most of it's free? Jackpot!

I've been casually going to their website for a couple of years now. The agents' info --all thousands and thousands of them --stay relatively current, you can specify to the city what you are looking for in an agent, or an find agent by genre or category; those who specialize in what you want to have published.
They also list whether the agent prefers online queries to snail mail queries.

AgentQuery is a wealth of information and all-around amazing. If you haven't checked them out, then you need to. It could be the difference between wanting to be published or actually being published. And AgentQuery has made it all too easy not to find the agent of your dreams.

Go there today, peruse, shop around. Then, make sure your manuscript is top notch, your query is perfect, and get busy finding an agent!