Author Archives: Tara Maya
Dindi is kidnapped to be the bride of a shark... To escape she must untangle a terrible curse caused by a love and magic gone wrong.
This stand-alone novella is set in Faearth, the world of The Unfinished Song. Available here ONLY.
The Unfinished Song - This Young Adult Epic Fantasy series has sold over 70,000 copies and has 1,072 Five Star Ratings on Goodreads.
Author Archives: Tara Maya
This Nanowrimo, I’m going to use a lot of dictation to work on my novel. This isn’t something I started just for Nano. I’ve been training myself to do more writing through dictation for about a year now.
It’s not been easy for me, I’ll be honest. I’m not the kind of person who thinks out loud like an extrovert. On the contrary, as an introvert, I feel both shy and stupid speaking out loud until I have had a long time to gather my thoughts inside the quiet space in my own mind.
Furthermore, I am more of a visual writer then on aural writer. Honestly, I can’t even pronounce half the words in my vocabulary, because I’ve only seen them in writing, and I have no idea how they sound in spoken English. So when I speak out loud, people regularly mock me for sounding like a complete ignoramus.
I also don’t have the money for expensive dictation programs like Dragon, even though I’ve heard really awesome things about them. Now, maybe if I had the cash to toss around like confetti, ahem, I mean invest in my writing, instead of having to waste it on annoying things like boys’ socks, I would try it. But it’s not something I own or plan to own right now.
All of this would seem to indicate that I’m not a good fit for dictation, or dictation is not a good fit for me. But the advantages of dictation have still inveigled me to try.
I don’t use anything fancy. I just use Notes on my iPhone. Now if you don’t have an iPhone, I can see that Dragon might be a good investment. But if you already own an iPhone for other reasons in your life this is a simple and powerful dictation program that you already home. My point is this: look around for the resources you already have at hand, and make the best use you can of them.
For instance, even if you have an old fashioned tape recorder, You could use that to get started.
I walk around my neighborhood, which also gets me out of the house and exercising, talking to my phone. I don’t care if I look like an idiot. Although these days people walking around talking to their phone is pretty normal, so I’m not even sure other people think I look like an idiot. I feel like one anyway, but I ignore that feeling because it doesn’t matter.
The program I use has a little microphone icon down in the keyboard. I tap that and begin to speak. With this particular program it’s really important that you look at the words as you speak. Because sometimes it stops taking down your notation without any warning. Also, sometimes it does not get the words exactly as you see them. So it’s a good idea, I’ve found, To keep an eye on the workflow and make corrections if anything looks too crazy or hard to understand later.
Since I write fantasy and science fiction, I often have many vocabulary words that are completely invented or highly unusual. My name is also tend to be quite exotic. To avoid the crazy way that the dictation program will Try to render such words, I replace uncommon names with common names. Instead of “Dindi”, I just say “Cindy.”
And I will sometimes pause to type in a specific technical or invented term. If I use that term over and over, and I don’t want to keep typing in the middle of my dictation session, I make up another term that is a common word, and use that instead. Instead of “Tavaedi” I will say “Big Baby.” Later it is easy to use find and replace to change the names and special terms back to what they should be.
The other problem I sometimes in counter encounter is that my scene is so complicated, I find it hard to dictate while walking around without any notes. It took me forever to figure out a way around this problem. For a long time I resigned myself to writing these more complicated scenes at my computer with my notes beside me, the way I was used to writing.
When I found a solution it was so obvious I wondered why it had taken me so long to figure out. Instead of walking around, I would gather the notes I needed for that scene or section of the story which I keep in a three ring binder or a notebook, And take all of it with me to a park. At a picnic table, I would consult my notes before writing the scene, then walk around the park dictating as usual. If I needed to go back and look at my notes, I had them right there with me. Sometimes I needed even more of a prompt, so I also always carry 3 x 5 cards with my notebook so I can write down further more further details to literally hold in my hand as I dictate.
Using this method, I’ve been able to dictate more and more difficult and complicated scenes, involving many characters or actions and battle sequences. These are scenes which I find it difficult to write even sitting at my computer, and now I am getting better at writing them even while walking around a park.
I am switching to this method for several reasons. The primary Reason is time. Even though in Theory I have all day to sit and write, in practice because I am the mother of four active children, my day and work week often get eaten away by other urgent matters. So if I have 10 solid hours to work I feel lucky.
The second reason is that I would like to have a healthier lifestyle, and taking a long hour long walk every day is a great way to get out of the house and off my butt.
The third reason is that I think it’s a good idea to have more than one way to practice my profession in case some kind of a problem arises, for instants carpal tunnel syndrome. I don’t suffer from this and hopefully it won’t happen to. Hey, but if it does I now have a backup method to continue writing, one I will already have been practicing for a long time.
There are several good books on how to train yourself to do dictation and explaining all the valuable reasons for trying. I’ve benefited greatly from these so I highly recommend them to you as well.
And of course for obvious reasons, November is a great month to get started – – although I don’t expect to completely switch to this method right away, so if you still do most of your writing in the manner you are used to, and only try this a bitch don’t be discouraged or come to the conclusion that you will never be able to use this method.
As I said, I’ve been slowly experimenting with using dictation more and more over the course of an entire year and I still go back and forth with other methods. Remember the purpose of this is not to give yourself another task that you can beat yourself up over failing, but to have another tool and skill set at your fingertips, and at your tongue tip, to be useful to you.
We all know that if you’ve never written a novel before, November has become the month to start, thanks to Nanowrimo. But what if you have written a novel before–or at least, already started one? What if you’re already in the middle of writing a novel? Is it useful for you to join in all the fun and gather a group of writing buddies? And even if it’s not really useful, what if you just can’t resist?
I’ve learned the hard way — I didn’t know it was the hard way, but believe me, it was –– that the first thing you might think of is the last thing you should do. If the first thing you think of, that is, is what I thought of, to start an entirely new novel just for November. I’ve done this before, and I won’t say it was a waste of time, because writing a novel is never a waste of time, but it wasn’t what I really should have been doing.
So this year I’m going to resist any new projects. I have multiple projects I need to apply my limited time to completing. And that’s what I’m going to do. But. (Ha ha. You knew there was a ‘but’, right?) That’s right, I am still going to try to join my fellow writers this November–without interrupting the project that I already have in progress!
It’s an experiment, so I’m not making any promises this will work for you or even for me. But I will share my plans in case you wanted to try something similar. We could both see how it turns out together! (If it goes badly, you can blame me; I will blame goblins.)
I already have 25,000 words. This is for a book that I project will be a minimum of 70,000 words and possibly as many as 120,000 words. I’ve had to start over on this particular book several times, because of Outline Issues; it’s not a new project in any sense. So the first thing you can see is that it’s not likely to be finished in one month. But the fact that a book takes you two or three months or even a year to finish doesn’t mean you should not work on it. It certainly doesn’t mean you should ignore or regret if you’ve already put 25,000 words on it.
I am not going to count those 25,000 words for Nanowrimo, however. That wouldn’t be in the spirit of Nano. I’m not going to discard them or ignore them either. I will simply open a file for the next chapter, the one not yet written, and that’s where I will begin my account today–-with whatever writing I finish by the end of today on this new section of the book. From this point forward I count all my wordage exactly as I would count the words for an entirely new project. It’s simple. It’s elegant. Hopefully, it will allow me to accrue all the benefits of Nanowrimo, such as camaraderie and encouragement to-and-fro other authors, while not interrupting my workflow.
I think a similar method could apply for writers who are working on projects shorter than 50,000 words as well. Four instance if I were working on a novella, I would try to finish two or three novellas in the same period, depending on the word length of the novella in question.
So there you have it folks: my plan. If you’re in the same boat, or a completely different boat, but you would like to buddy me on Nanowrimo this year (2019), you can find me under the handle: taramaya88
I’m currently not blogging, but I am trying to freshen up this website, so the links and images all work. I’ll be cycling through broken links slowly, as I have time.
On Social Media, you can join me on Minds:
I know, I know…a new social media site?! I am still on Twitter and Facebook, but I have not been happy with their policies lately, which seem to include selling off your privacy, while simultaneously demonetizing your content randomly, and censoring points of view they don’t like. For that reason, I have moved to Minds, which has a commitment to free speech as a principle, a method of monetizing content when it’s needed (though my content there is all free, per my choice), and also looks quite nice.
Here’s a blog article by Dragon about the culture shock of moving from Facebook to Minds. It’s not just about privacy or free speech, it’s also a lovely platform for art and video. I’m still adjusting myself, but I expect to do more there in the future–perhaps even migrate or mirror my blog.
I’ve borrowed a meme from that post:
I’d love to see you there.
Some scenes are easy to write. They just flow naturally from the scene before. They seem to pour out of your fingers.You know the kind of scene I mean. It’s easy to write from beginning to end, it has a natural arc, it has a natural conflict.
I love writing scenes like that. I’m sure everybody loves writing scenes like that. But let’s face it—not all scenes flow so easily from our fingers to our pens or from our keyboards to our screens.
There are other scenes that prove more challenging. How can we handle scenes that DON’T flow?
I find it helpful to imagine that I’m setting the stage for a play or video production. This helps me remember to include all the elements of a scene. I can work them in all at once, or I can think about them ahead of time, while I’m outlining, one at a time, then add them into the outline or draft in layers. This makes a tricky, complex scene more manageable to work with.
What are the elements of a scene?
First of all, you can divide them into two categories: The Physical, or outward, elements of the scene and the Motivational, or internal, elements of a scene.
They’re equally important to creating a dynamic scene.
Let’s dig deeper into each of these.
PHYSICAL ELEMENTS OF THE SCENE
Early on in a book, you have a lot of scenes that are setting-rich. Because early on in the book is where description of new places and people must come. If you have a book with traveling, you may need description deeper into the story as well, since any time your characters enter a new environment, you’ll need to richly populate your scene with description. So some scenes, just by the nature of their position in the story or novel will require more description.
At the climax of a scene or book, however, you don’t want a lot of description, because that will slow down your action. To keep the pace from dragging, set up the scenery on your stage early on, so that when the exciting action arrives, the reader can focus on that.
Description is something that can slow me down when I sit to write a scene. It’s something I have to sit there and think about: this place. Where are they?
You don’t want White Room Syndrome, where the characters appear to be floating around in empty space. Unfortunately, this is a mistake I often see in Indie books. It’s impossible to feel rooted in the story without a clear picture in your mind of where, exactly, the characters are. Usually, the reader will fill in a bland background, but it won’t feel alive.
A great way to prepare for writing description is to go through pictures. If you can’t find any pictures exactly like what you have in mind, make your own montage of bits and pieces from different sources. Since you’re writing a novel, not using the pictures anywhere public, it doesn’t matter where you get the pictures, although you should be careful not to make your setting too cliché or so identifiable as to violate copyright of an existing franchise.
Next you need to know who’s going to be in the scene. Again, it may seem obvious, but you need to take the time to set this up. Also, do yourself a favor and limit the number of characters per scene to something memorable and manageable. Don’t have too many characters!
But what if you do have a large ensemble cast? Let’s say you have a large party traveling together. Your scene, in theory, has seven or eight characters. In practice, however, you can par this down by strategic and sequential focus on a few at a time. Imagine a camera zooming in to focus on the conversation between two or three characters at a time, while the rest remain in the background, not directly contributing to the scene. If needed, you can swing the lens of your focus around to another pairing in a following scene.
It’s true that sometimes you’ll wan a truly “Big Scene,” involving multiple characters all speaking and interacting with one another at the same time. Since those are a special case, we’ll deal with them another time.
Blocking is what we call the action on stage. Who does what, to whom, with what, when. Action is critical. And I admit, I often forget this element, important as it is…with the result that I have a scene of nothing but Talking Heads. Unless your characters are news anchors, try to add movement to your scene.
Action scenes that involve specific activities, such as battles, romantic courtship, horse riding, etc. are important enough to merit much more extended discussion, so we’ll just leave it here for now.
There is a special kind of action however, that is a little different than what we’d think of as an “action” and merits its’ own term.
You know how when you’re writing dialogue and you want to avoid writing nothing but: “he said, she said, he said, she said,” over and over? So instead, you’ve learned to write a “beat.” A beat is a small action accompanying dialogue. Busywork is the term I use for the kind of actions that supply us our beats. It’s a good idea to come up with a few possibilities in advance, while writing your outline, so that when it comes to writing the scene, your mind doesn’t just go blank.
Once you’ve richly furnished the environment around your characters, the busywork should come a little more easily. Your characters only need to do whatever they would naturally be doing in such a place, with such objects as are at hand. If they’re walking between the trees, they can avoid branches, or pause to pluck a ripe fruit. If they are inside, perhaps there’s a loom where one of them is weaving. And so on.
Busywork can do more than supply beats to conversation. Busywork can actually become the overt topic of the conversation…while under the surface, the dialogue is really about something else entirely. Sublimate the conflict between your characters into a seemingly trivial conversation about tennis or gardening or sorting bills, and you can create a much more subtle scene.
MOTIVATIONAL ELEMENTS OF THE SCENE
Your main character needs a goal for the overall story arc of your novel. But it’s just as important that your character needs a goal in every single scene.
Every character needs a goal, in every scene their in. When characters have opposing goals, or the same goals but different motives, the conflict you need for your scene arises naturally.
It makes no sense for your characters to have goals if they don’t have strong motives driving them to achieve their goals. And once again, this is critical not simply for the overall story arc of your novel, but for every scene in the book.
Every. Single. Scene.
Your character’s goal and motive has to be his OWN goal and motive. Not the author’s. The author’s goal for a scene may be to convey important information about what something looks like or to introduce a new character or even to show a nifty new gadget or system of magic that lies at the heart of the entire plot. But unless the characters in the scene have a reason to look around, meet someone or take interest in the gadget or magic, the scene will fall flat.
If there is no conflict in your scene, go back to Goal and Motive and look again. If you have two or more characters in the scene, they should not have identical goals or motives. (If they do, you may have too many characters! Or you haven’t individualized their motivations and personalities sufficiently to make them stand out from one another.) If two people have divergent goals or different reasons for cooperating to achieve the same goal, they will have conflict.
The conflict could be obvious, like a life and death struggle with an alligator. Or the conflict could be subtle. It doesn’t have to be overt, and it doesn’t have to be acknowledged, and the characters themselves might not even be aware of it, but it should be there.
What if there is only once character in the scene? This is a good opportunity to showcase the conflict inside the character.
The more levels of conflict there are in a scene, generally the more riveting it is.
Every scene is a miniature story, with an arc from one state to another. Every scene must show change. It might not be “progress,” if that means taking the hero closer to his goal; it may be that the purpose of the scene is disclose a new obstacle, which takes the hero farther from his goal. But one way or another, something changes.
THE NINTH ELEMENT
What about dialogue?! Not every scene needs dialogue. An action scene, or a lovemaking scene or a scene that summarizes a passage of some kind might have no dialogue.
When there is dialogue in a scene, it often dominates the attention of the reader—and even the writer.
In fact, when I outline my novels, I may begin with nothing but a dialogue, shorn of tags or description. I might have no idea where it takes place, and sometimes, I don’t even know who is involved! (I may know it involves my protagonist, for instance, but not be sure yet who is on the other side of the argument.) Only in later drafts do I figure out what setting would be the most dramatic backdrop for this conversation.
Working the other way around can be powerful too, however. If you start with a dramatic setting, and let your characters react to it from the core of their hopes and fears, the conflict between them can bloom organically…and the dialogue that results can flow from your fingers effortlessly, easily, wonderfully.
That’s the best feeling… When you’ve attacked the hardest scene, the one that eluded you for ages, and learned it so well inside and out that it becomes the smoothest and most delicious scene of all to write.
I love writing scenes like that.
I’m back from maternity leave and I’ll be popping up on my blog and on YouTube. I’m writing full time again…YAY! I’m so excited and pleased to be back in the saddle.
In a fit of enthusiasm, I vowed to start vlogging every day, and, indeed, recorded a week’s worth of material in the first week. However, even without recording in a studio or doing anything fancy whatsoever, I discovered that actually EDITING the videos will take longer. Furthermore, I’d like to have some written posts as well, here on my blog. Even if my written and video posts are the same essay in different formats, the transfer from one medium to another takes time and effort. So I may be looking toward a weekly publication across a couple different media rather than a daily outpouring.
The important thing is that I write first thing in the morning, so come hell or highwater, I’m back on track for bring you Book 8 of The Unfinished Song series, along with whatever else I may be working on concurrently. (In one of my vlogs, recorded already but not yet published as of this blog post writing, I explain why I like working on two different projects at the same time.)
Occasionally, I’ll also touch base just through my good ole’ fashioned blog.
Around the time that my daughter was born–gosh, more than six months ago now–my blog went KABLOOIE! And I haven’t blogged since. But, never fear, I’m back.
As usual, my blog posts will be occasional, squeezed in between making sure my six-month-old doesn’t swallow arsenic and trying to work on Book 8 of The Unfinished Song and editing the works of other Misque Press authors. To help me out, I have a new guest blogger, Lara. She’s a freelance writer, blogger, artist and anime fan, and she’ll be not only be writing posts and reviews, but also, I hope, prettying up the blog with some of her lovely artwork. She is the one who painted the watercolor portrait of me, making me look much cuter than in real life–exactly how I enjoy my fiction. 🙂
Staurt Horwitz in his book Book Architecture makes the case for using Reiterations to create structure for a novel without tying yourself to a linear outline. Especially if you’re writing a literary book, a book with multiple viewpoint characters or multiple timelines, this method is gold.
Horwitz is weak on one point where Coyne is strong, however: Genre specific advice.
But how about if one combined Coyne’s and Horwitz’s methods?
I’m going to take my list of Obligatory Scenes for Romance, inspired by Coyne, and mash it up with Horwitz’s Reiteration method. Let’s see what happens!
First, here’s a re-cap of Obligatory Scenes for Romance.
First of all, notice Points 9 and 10. The larger Theme, and the outcome that proves that Theme, for all Genre Romance (as opposed to Women’s Fiction or literary novels with a love story) must be “Love Conquers All” and a Happily Ever After (HEA). This is part of the Genre. If you don’t like it, don’t write Genre Romance. That’s pretty simple.
That doesn’t let you off the hook from developing your own Theme, however. This will be a variation of Love Conquers All, a specific example of what kind of problem Love Conquers. For instance, in 50 Shades of Grey it would be: Love is stronger than sexual sadism. The theme of Pride and Prejudice would be: Love is stronger than social prejudice. Another book might have the theme: Love is stronger than greed. One of my favorites is the HEA version of Romeo and Juliet: Love is stronger than enmity.
So far, that’s just Romance 101.
Here’s where it gets interesting. In my list of Obligatory Scenes, there were three that bugged me, the scenes I labeled 2-4 on the list: the External Problem, the Internal Problem, and the Draw. They weren’t quite right—because they weren’t Obligatory Scenes, as such, but rather ongoing elements necessary to drive the Romance. These elements might go into every scene, in fact!
I was trying to use a linear sequence, but what I needed was a set of parallel sequences—a grid. First let’s leave only the real scenes in our list:
What happened to 2-4 and 9? They are still there, but along a different axis. Let’s look again at that list once we’ve turned it into a Reiteration Grid:
The Grid allows us to see that Reiterations can (potentially) iterate in every scene. (They don’t have to but they could.) This is critical, because touching on these narrative events is key to making a romance romantic. Each Obligatory Scene, as well as the other scenes in the book, will combine more than one Reiteration Arc.
Let’s take the Cute Meet. Looking at the Grid, we can see a there are several elements that might go into that scene. First there’s an iteration of Draw—the reason they are meeting and will continue to meet. Instantly, they are attracted to one another, though at this point it might be purely physical attraction. There may be an iteration of the External problem already evident. And even at this point, we should see the first iteration of the Heroine’s secret and the Hero’s secret, though the hint might be so well disguised we don’t recognize it as the first iteration of that Reiteration Arc until we’ve seen further iterations.
Least it seem the Grid is too, dare I say it, formulaic, let me emphasize that each individual story will have a different palette of Reiterations flowing into scenes. The Heroine and Hero might meet for the first time before they know that something is going to continue to work together, so there may be no Draw iteration in Cute Meet. Or they may meet, be attracted and go right to the First Kiss scene before an External antagonist pulls them away and stirs up the doubts that become an Internal Problem for one or both of them.
It’s not always necessary for the Heroine and Hero to both have a secret/internal issue. Sometimes it’s just one or the other. In Twilight, Bella is a normal girl; Edward has a secret. But in the subplot romance of Bella and Jacob, both Bella and Jacob have an internal issue. Jacob has a secret identity. Bella’s issue is that she’s still in love with Edward. In the Bella/Edward romance, they are able to overcome their external and internal problems, whereas Bella/Jacob are not. (Obviously the Bella/Jacob love story could not stand alone and still have the required HEA, but as a subplot, it works. Romances can have bittersweet, unhappy for now, or even unhappily ever after subplots for the third wheel. Usually, though a HEA is implied even for the loser of a love triangle, unless the rival was a Baddie.)
This Grid is solely for Obligatory Scenes. It could easily be expanded along the y-axis to include all the beats of a standard Narrative Arc. Several of the Obligatory Scenes are also usually broken up into successive scenes in a standard length novel.
The First Kiss can be extended into a sequence in either direction: The First Look, the First Touch, the First Time to First Base, the First Time Making Love, the Second Time Making Love…and so on. In Romantic Erotica, the first sex scene might occur about two seconds after the Cute Meet. A Sweet Romance might replace the First Kiss scene with a gentle holding-hands gesture, and the couple might not kiss until the final scene when the preacher says: “You may kiss the bride!”
A Romance trilogy that follows the same couple may extend the later beats, such as Kiss, Fight, Commitment and Betrayal, several times, with a new arc in each book. The true HEA is withheld until the last book in the series.
Kate Walker’s 12-Point Guide to Writing Romance orients aspiring Romance writers toward Mills & Boon’s guidelines for their numerous “lines” of subgenera. This might make it a strange book for me to recommend, since I encourage up-and-coming writers–especially for Romance–to consider going Indie.
Nonetheless, studying Publisher Guidelines for Romance Subgenera is a wise move, especially if you’re just starting out. One of the problems Indie writers run into is a failure to refine their focus to win a particular readership. They make basic mistakes that would have their manuscripts tossed into a Reject pile by any acquiring editor… but in this case, the Readers throw the books into the Reject pile.
To avoid that, the wise writer will not scorn the high standards of the “Gatekeepers,” but learn their secrets. After mastering a genre and associated subgenres, of course, the writer can knowingly (not ignorantly) choose to bend or merge them from a position of strength.
Buy Kate Walker’s 12-Point Guide to Writing Romance by Kate Walker.