I have been studying a ton about writing over the last several months. It started out when my local library had a "Writers' Month" -- an idea I was totally on board with. I got to attend a panel with published authors who shared great advice -- even to me when I told them I love writing fanfiction but have trouble coming up with original ideas I like as much as I love these darn robbits. (The advice was that you can make anything original if you just have a different take on it. They pointed me to the previews of Pacific Rim, a very TF-esque-yet-totally-not-TF movie as an example.)
While this Writers' Month was going, they had all kinds of Writin' Buuks out on display tables. The first How To Write More Gooder book I ever picked up and studied in my life was Self-Editing for Fiction Writers : how to edit yourself into print
by Renni Browne and Dave King. [link]
My brain exploded from the piled-in knowledge, and I was hooked. I recommend the HECK out of that book, if you write or want to write.
Over the next while, I plowed through the library's writing section, bringing armloads of books home to pore over. Some were great! Some were meh. I want to pass on the ones which gave me so much USEFUL help (and were organized in such a way that the info was easy to find and extract). Along with the one listed above, these are the books I liked and referenced so often that I finally just bought them off of Amazon. I needed to have the readily available at a moment's notice, because you never know when you'll get stuck or need to go back for something. Plot & Structure: (Techniques And Exercises For Crafting A Plot That Grips Readers From Start To Finish)
by James Scott Bell. [link] -- just good, sensible, how-to-plot stories moar gooder, laid out in easy-to-grok fashion.
Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need
by Blake Snyder[link]
-- a dissection of the major story types, because knowing what you're writing helps you stay focused on the important bits; and also including a very useful "beat sheet" -- a listing and how-to of the major story beats in most stories, and how to make them work for you. SO HELPFUL.
The story I am writing now is a good old-fashioned romance. Being a tomboy "girly-book" hater all my life, I am challenging myself to learn to write this kind of story -- one that revolves around a core couple's journey to True Love. I have a rotten attitude about the genre, but I readily acknowledge that good things can be done in it. I aim to try. But I knew nothing. So I went to the library again. And I raided the "How To Write Romance Moar Better" section. (It was huge.) And you'd have laughed to see the way I grabbed "respectable" books for the outside of my stack, and slunk out of the library. On Writing Romance: How to Craft a Novel That Sells
by Leigh Michaels [link]
a ton of good info in it -- again, well-organized for quick and easy retrieval. I am not going to buy it, because this one is good enough being available at the library. But boy, was there some good stuff in there! If nothing else, the section on how men and women talk differently, and what specific tendencies to watch for when you're writing for the opposite gender from your own was embarrassing (I knew I write Prime like a girl; I just didn't know what I was doing wrong till I read that list) but IMMENSELY HELPFUL. All these books are wonderful because they give such specific examples.
I absorbed all I could from these and other books. I put into my Embarrassing Red Notebook all the things I had learned, because The Notebook is the one thing I bring with me when I come to the computer to write. (It's embarrassing because it is full of so many notes and half-ideas in the blunt and silly stages... and the seeds of all my occasional "DARNIT, MEGS!!" drabbles. Now you know.) I did more pre-plotting and thinking-out-of-story-arcs than I've ever done before this. I tried to plan out at least the bare bones of the outline, rather than start out at Point A and head off to Point E with only a vague idea of what I'd find along the way and a hope that my characters would show me.
I sat down at the computer, and began to write.
I got a little way in, and stumbled. It was all wrong: more telling than showing, and a passive main character. I went up to my room and re-read (OK -- re-skimmed) all of my trusty books again, taking more notes. I got my head around it better, and saw what I'd been doing wrong. I scrapped it all, and started over from the top.
And I wrote out a TON of REALLY GOOD STUFF,
and ALL IN ONE NIGHT.
I feel like I'm on a roll now. And it. Is AWESOME.
I'm determined to write this one quickly, so as not to get bogged down like I did on Evolution.
I plan on holding myself to a more rigid structure than I usually do, to see what I can learn from doing something like that. If the story and/or characters demand it, I am willing to deviate. But I want to try living by the rules of this genre first. Sometimes, rules make us free.
I write with joy, and hope for some good things.
Until then, here's a teeny taste of the first section of the first draft:Rainbowsparkle
and the Courtship of Megatron
It was past sunset. I was driving down an unfamiliar stretch of road, in an area of the city I had never seen, on wheels I'd only mastered earlier this morning. No one knew where I was. And by 'no one,' I mean I was repeating, "I am absolutely not lost" over and over to myself.
I refused to admit that this trip might have been a mistake. I would spend the night in a doorway before I'd call home to ask my fathers for a rescue. Even if I never found the Tarn Registry Building, I'd end as I'd begun: insisting on doing things by myself, come Pit or the Inferno. I ground my gears, rounded another deserted street-corner, and started looking for a likely doorway to shut down in.
This crazy night had started, as most of my troubles do, with a question.
"Who's that?" I'd asked Sunstreaker. "You never told me I had a brother."
"You don't," he'd said, not even pausing. "Thundercracker and I never made any mechs."
"Are you sure?" I asked, before realizing how silly that sounded. He stopped then, and gave me a look.
I glanced quickly back across the square, but the mech in question had disappeared. "He just-- He had this--" I raised splayed fingers in an abortive gesture. Such a showy head-crest had to be a product of my creators' for-lack-of-a-better-word 'inventiveness,' didn't it? I'd been so sure I had found a one-and-only brother. "Never mind," I shrugged. "He's gone."
But I'd been determined to find out. I mean, none of the other war-borns I had seen had any gimmicks as flamboyant as that crazy corona. Back in war-times, I gather, it was all, "waste not, want not," and no bells or whistles. So he had to be a newling like me, right? This evening, after dinner, I'd set off to find out not-my-brother's origin myself.
Now here I was, lost on my way from our apartment to the city library. A three-day newling on her own is far less capable than I'd like to admit. The only thing I had going for me was that I would know on sight if a strange bot was trustworthy or not. That is, if I could find anyone at all on these deserted backstreets.
The roar of a jet-engine above me distracted me from the road, so that I almost careened into a yellow speedster parked directly across my lane. I slewed to a stop just before I committed the ultimate sin and scratched Sunstreaker's paint. "Hi, Dad," I said. I turned as TC landed behind me, and sighed. "Hi, Dad."