Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Writing Scenes, Part 1

I was working on a scene right now in my I LEFT MY UNDERWEAR IN SAN FRANCISCO and it was causing a bit of trouble for me. It made me go back and review what I was doing, since I know how to write a scene. I learned how from Dwight Swain in his book, TECHNIQUES OF THE SELLING WRITER, a "must-have" book on writing. In it, you'll learn how to write Scene and Sequel.

Scenes have three parts:
1) Goal
2) Conflict
3) Disaster

Today, we'll discuss "goals.

Every story has a goal.

Your character has an overarching story goal -- the problem he or she has to solve, something he/she wants to achieve. My character, Joetta, wants respect from her family, but she doesn't understand at first that *that* is what she wants. She thinks she wants revenge for all of her twin brothers' pranks. She thinks she wants relief from a younger sister's insistence on imitating her. She thinks she wants her parents to come down heavy-handed on her siblings, while giving her a break. This is what drives her through the story.

Every scene has a goal.

Her brothers continue to prank her, and in the previous scene attacked her with pillows until she screamed for help from her parents, who were unhappy at being awakened. So now she's lying there in the dark in her great-grandmother's home, thinking about how to get them back. She decides to wait until the twins are sound asleep and then write on their foreheads, "dumb" and "dumber." Her goal in this scene is to write on their foreheads without waking up them -- or her parents -- and getting away with it.

Goals create active characters.

Scenes are action. You want your character to be active, not passive. Passive characters react to what happens to them; they seem to allow things to happen. Active characters make things happen, good or bad. They don't wait for something to happen. Not all of their decisions are good, but they do make decisions and ACT. Readers want to read about active characters, because these characters are more interesting, more engaging.

Every scene goal leads eventually to solving the overall story goal.

As your character moves forward, scene by scene, goal by goal, he or she gets closer to solving the problem or achieving a desired outcome. Your character will not only reach the final goal, but will grow in the process. As your character handles each problem presented by each scene, he stretches and grows and is able to make new and better goals.

So give your character a goal in every single scene. It's what moves your story forward.

Tomorrow I'll discuss "Conflict" within each scene.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Dining With Authors on November 11th


"Dining With Authors," a festive evening to meet Greenville's local authors will be held at the Embassy Suites on Thursday evening, November 11.

Enjoy great food, and bid at the Book Lover's Silent Auction.

6:00-7:30 Reception and Silent Auction
7:30-9:00 Dinner
Meet and dine with local authors:
Linda Kelly | Ray Blackston | Melinda Long | Tim Davis | Gene Fehler | Michael P. Gibson | Shirley Twiss | Michael Cogdill | Mindy Friddle | Dot Jackson

Ready 4 Reading provides learning resources and books in homes to help families and children develop preschool reading readiness to improve the Upstate's high school graduation rates and grow the literate workforce. The event will add much needed new family reading programs serving parents with preschoolers in poverty. Parents learn how to share books through Family Fun Events and circulating bookbags. For more information contact Ready 4 Reading at 864-250-8868.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Write Every Day

Do you realize that if you wrote only one page every day for a year, you'd have 365 pages. That equals one adult novel, or one and a half YAs, or two middle-grades, or five chapter books, and a crazy number of picture books and short stories!

And if you took off weekends and holidays, you'd still write over 200 pages.

It's so easy NOT to write, though. That toilet just has to be cleaned the minute I sit down to write. The phone rings and demands to be answered. I have to check Facebook and my email. There are blogs to read. And I almost forgot! I have a coupld of tweets to write -- will that count toward my writing time?

It's a lot easier to write if you have a time to write. During that time segment, sit down at your computer and write. DO NOT go on the internet at all. If you have to do any research that would involve going online or getting up from your chair, put xxx in the place in your manuscript where you need it and then keep writing. You can always go back and fill in what you need. Instead, focus on getting the words down. Get the story written.

It's also a lot easier to write if you have a special place. That doesn't mean you have to have a fancy desk. You don't even have to have only one place to write. I have a desk; it's not fancy, but it works. I also have a laptop that I can take with me. So I do! I've started taking it to work and writing on my break. That's what my son does, because he works full-time and wants to be able to play with his 19-month-old daughter when he gets home. I was impressed with how much he gets done on his netbook, so I decided to try it for myself.

You don't even have to sit in front of a computer/laptop/netbook/ipad to write. Carry a notebook or notepad with you and write. Sit in the park or in a coffeehouse and write. Write while you're waiting for the doctor or for an appointment. Write while you're in the car line at school, waiting to pick up your kids.

The point is that you should really try hard to write every day. I know there are days when you're sick or your kids are sick, or both. I know there are days when you are so crazy busy that you don't know which end is up. I know there are days when you'd rather prop up your feet on the coffee table and lose yourself in some mindless TV show or movie. Been there, done all of that. But here's the truth: You're a writer, right? Then you need to write. Every day, if at all possible.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Marketing Your Work

You spent a long time writing your manuscript. Now what? Editors and agents aren’t going to come knocking at your door, asking to look through your file drawers. Nor can readers buy something they don’t know exists. So how do you let them know?

This class will concentrate on writing query letters, cover letters , synopses, and proposals, as well as when and where to send them. We will also talk about ways to promote your work before and after you sell it.

I will be teaching this class starting this Thursday at 6:30 at AnAuthor World’s studio (475 Haywood, inside Hargis Art Services & Gallery, next to The Melting Pot restaurant).

You can register online: Go to Course Catalog in the navagation bar and a drop-down menu will appear. Click on 2010 Schedule and Registration. Then click on “Marketing Your Work.” You’ll be taken to a page where you can fill out your information and we’ll hold a spot for you. You can also pay by PayPal. If you want to pay by check or cash, please email me at pam.zollman@gmail.com to let me know that you’ll bringing payment to class on Thursday.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me! Hope to see you Thursday!

Monday, September 6, 2010

More About My Underwear...Book

Well, I didn't get to do all that I wanted to do this week. I was critiquing manuscripts from classes and friends. But I did read over what I'd written eight long years ago. My goal was to read it over and make notes about anything I wanted to change or edit or add. It was hard to do! I'd had on my editor hat all week, and it was hard to take it off when I was reading my own work. My fingers were itching to do a complete rewrite, an overnhaul...but now is not the time. There's actually not many big changes that I'd make, but I still wanted to do it.

The reason I'm resisting doing edits is because now is not the time. I need to get the words down first...make some "word clay." After I've gotten the novel written, then I can go back and edit and revise. If I do it now, then all I'm doing is polishing the first six chapters, instead of finishing my book.

I resisted editing and made notes, so that when I'm ready, I can review my notes and add more. Now I'm ready to write another chapter. I'm going to try to do 1,000 words each day. That's about 4 pages. That feels slow to me, because I'm used to writing much faster. But, right now, I think I'll be doing good to get that much written each day.

Thanks for all the encouragement! I really appreciate it.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

I Left My Underwear in San Francisco

I've decided to get out an old manuscript and work on it. I started it back in 2001 when my life seemed to be on the right course. I had been married 30 years, had one son graduating from high school and another son in college. I'd just come back from New York and meeting with my editor at Holiday House. My book, Don't Bug Me!, would be out in June. I told my editor about another book I was working and she loved it! I had it about half-way done and it was another very funny book. She urged me to finish it and send it to her. It seemed like everything was going great, going in the right direction...until I got home.

Then my world flipped upside-down. My husband decided to become a cliche and run off with his secretary. And I could no longer write "funny." So I put that novel aside and tried to put the fragments of my old life into a new shape. In the meantime, I wrote mostly nonfiction. The fiction I did write didn't have my usual humor -- I just didn't seem to have it in me.

But, now, eight years later, I've decided to try again. I've pulled out that novel, I Left My Underwear in San Francisco, and now I'm in the process of rereading it, trying to get my bearings again in that word sea. So, now I've given myself a deadline to finish it by the end of the year. I'd love to have most of it done by the end of October, but that might be rushing it.

Why drag out an old novel? Why not just start a new one? I'm not sure, except that I've always really liked this book. And I think I want to prove to myself that I can do this, that I can finish this book. It's something that I've wanted to do for a long time. And now I plan on doing it.

I'll let you know my progress on this novel...and you can keep me accountable.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Apples and Oranges and Kiwis

Comparing ourselves, and especially our writing, to others is an exercise in futility. Why? Because it's like comparing apples and oranges and kiwis. Yes, we're all fruit...I mean writers...but that's where the comparison ends. I'm an apple, you're an orange, and you -- yes, you, over there -- you're a kiwi. Our life experiences may be similiar, but they're not identical, so we each bring something different to our writing. I can't write your story and you can't write mine.

Instead of comparing our writing to each other or trying to compete with each other, we should try to improve our own writing every day. We should compare our writing today to what we wrote last year and the year before that. Has it noticeably improved? If not, why not? We should only compete with ourselves, striving to write more than we did last year and the year before.

And since we're all fruit...I mean writers...that means we're all in this publishing world together. The normal world doesn't understand us writers, so we need to support each other, lift each other up, help each other.

One way to do this is to take part in Darcy Pattison's Random Acts of Publicity, a week (September 7-10) where we take the time to post reviews of our friends' books (actually they don't even have to be someone you know). You can join on Facebook -- Random Acts of Publicity or go to Darcy's blog (which is wonderful, by the way) at www.darcypattison.com.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Laptop or Pen and Paper?

When you go to a writers conference, do you prefer to use a laptop or old-fashioned pen and paper to take notes?

I type faster than I can write, but sometimes a laptop is harder to tote around. I may have to invest in one of those cute little netbooks. My son loves his.

So if I don't take a laptop, I use notebooks. Some people like to use loose-leaf paper and then collect their notes in a binder.

What do you do?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Thought for the Day

Are you writing? Remember, a writer writes. Make a goal of writing at least a page a day. A page is 20-22 lines and between 250-300 words. That's all. That's not much to ask of a writer.

Just think! In a year of only writing one page a day, you'll have 365 pages. It's true that this will be a first draft. But until you put it on paper, you won't have anything.

So make that your goal: At least a page a day.

Saturday, June 5, 2010


Ages: 6-12

Dates: June 21-25 & July 26-30

Time: 10 a.m. - 12 noon

Location: Michael's, 20 Haywood Road (corner of Haywood and Laurens), Greenville, SC

Cost: $60 for one week

Camp MyOwnBook will teach the process of how stories are written. Each child will illustrate his or her own storis and bind them in a book. Camp instructors will also read stories to the children, both as entertainment and as inspiration for their own stories. Other activities will include learning how to draw hidden pictures, making bookmarks, and pesonalizing book bags.

Camp Instructors:

PAM ZOLLMAN is an award-winning author of 40 children's books and former editor at Highlights for Children Magazine. For more than 15 years, she has been speaking at schools and writers conferences, sharing her tips on how to write stories. She's been teaching writing classes for both adults and children for the past ten years in Houston, Scranton, and now in Greenville. She is the co-founder of AnAuthor World with Tim Davis.

CAROLINE ESCHENBERG is a published writer and taught elementary school for 14 years at Pelham Road Elementary School. She has a MA in elementary education and tutors children when she's not working on her middle-grade fantasy.

TIM DAVIS is a published author and professional illustrator. His hidden pictures often appear in Highlights Magazine, and his art is featured on the cover of the June Highlights. He's also a regular instructor of continuing education courses in writing and illustrating at Greenville Technical College and Furman University.

To hold your place for Camp MyOwnBook, email me at pam.zollman@gmail.com or register online at http://www.anauthorworld.com/. Please tell me your children's names and ages and which week you'd like them to attend.

AnAuthor World

475 Haywood Road, Sutite 8

Greenville, SC 29607