Monday, September 8, 2014

Sharing My Secrets...

Lately, I've been sharing my secrets on a friend of mine's blog. Ingrid's Notes  is a great blog with lots of writing tips run by Ingrid Sundberg [@IngridSundberg]. I don't know why, by writing for someone else's blog just seems more professional somehow. More like a job and less like 'hey, look at me!'

My most recent blog was: How to Up Your Word Count and Write Like a Boss -- you can find it here.

It's a two-parter, so be sure to check out both parts. I'd love to hear what you think. Find me on twitter at @Scarbo_author.

In addition to finishing a first draft, I have -- on the advice of many of the authors I interviewed for the Up Your Word Count blog -- purchased Scrivener and I will be giving this software a wringing out and then I will review it.

I'll let you know where.


Monday, April 21, 2014

The My Writing Process Blog Tour…

When I was a teenager I had a lot of questions.

For one, I didn’t meet my father until I was 17. I knew his name and I knew that I looked like him. But I knew almost nothing else.

There was a drawer in our dining room where the family photos were kept, including two or three photos of him. He was a lighting director, so the photos were either headshots or “on the set” shots. These photos didn’t tell me anything about who he was or what he was like. More importantly, they didn’t tell me who I was to him. It turns out – in my case, at least -- that how your parents regard you has a huge impact on how you regard yourself.

Looking back, I probably could have asked my mother questions about my father and his family, but at the time it didn’t feel like something I should do. Maybe because he wasn't in the picture and there were no photos of my mother and him together that I just knew talking about him wasn't going to be easy. At any rate, I spent years fantasizing about the various ways I could find out about him and even meet him without my mother knowing anything about it.

As a teenager I kept a lot of secrets. Everything really, including things that didn’t need to be a secret. To this day, I clearly remember the weight of all those secrets and how much I craved someone I could trust to share my burden. 

This is my Why-I-Write-What-I-Write contribution to the Writing Process Blog Tour. I was tagged by Laura Cook, the writer behind Ellar Out Loud. Laura is one of my fiercely talented Dystropian Classmates (VCFA, Jan. 13, can I get a hell-yeah?)  Laura was tagged by other VCFA people and when I’m done here, I’ll be tagging even MORE VCFA people.

Are you wondering if the VCFA connection is pertinent? I say hell-yes! One of the very best things about the Vermont College of Fine Arts experience was the diversity not only ethnically and culturally but most especially the diverse writing perspectives. Check out Laura's blog and the others on the tour and I’m sure you’ll see what I mean.

So… anyway, back to my writing process.

Even though it took me a lot of years to figure this out, I now realize that nearly everything I write is/was informed by my early childhood father situation. Before I turned to writing YA novels, I wrote for children’s TV. My stories always included a missing parent, an adoption or a family cobbled together by love, not by blood or birth. And questions my protagonists are always seeking the answers to secrets. The families in my stories labor under lots of secrets.  
In my first book: a 16 year-old girl, named Erin, keeps a lot of secrets in her quest to learn three things: 1. Who killed her mother, 2. Who is her father and 3. That the answer to question 1 and 2 are not the same!  
In my second book: a 15 year-old girl, named Xiomara, just wants what basically every American teenager has… high school, dates, movies, the Prom… and she will ultimately get that, but first she, along with her father and brother, will have to survive the Zombie apocalypse that she somehow started. 
In my third book – what I’m working on now – 12 year-old Valorie is tired – I mean really tired – of being the youngest in a family of wimps. She, her 15 year old brother, Ben and her mother are all victims of bullies… until Valorie manages to manifest a strong protector from another realm into their lives.
Notice the theme? Incomplete family + typical problem = atypical secretive solution.

Well, that’s all I have to say about my process which means it’s time to reveal my tag-ees:  Peter Langella and Joe McGee. These two are definitely authors to keep an eye on as they will be bringing a much-needed "guy perspective" to their craft. They will be blogging about their Writing Process, on their own blogs, next Monday, April 28. 

Peter Patrick Langella: Works as a high school librarian and has a particular interest in what makes boys continue to love reading past middle school. He's a former ice hockey player who enjoys hiking, showshoeing, movies and public radio. He holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and  he lives in Vermont with his wife and two cats. He calls his blog Smokeless Fire.

Joe McGee: Teaches writing at Rowan University… will graduate with an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts this July… and is the father of three incredible sons. His first picture book, PEANUT BUTTER & BRAINS is forthcoming from Abrams in 2015. He's repp'ed by Linda Epstein of the Jennifer DeChiara agency and he blogs for Project Mayhem, a middle school blog spot. He can also be found on his personal blog

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Top 10 Uses for an Action Scene


I'm blogging today on my friend, Laura Cook's blog Ellar Out Loud because she's awesome… and she asked me to. And, some how I find it easier not to disappoint someone else by not finishing and posting a blog on time. Because as you can see, I'm apparently willing to disappoint myself for months… maybe even years. (p.s. follow her blog because she really is awesome!)

My blog for Ellar -- Top 10 Uses for an Action Scene began as thoughts/notes for my grad lecture but  another favorite topic of mine, 3-Act Structure ended up in lecture first place. Not wanting a good set of notes to go to waste I saved them for a future blog. And since Laura asked, I got busy and wrote it.

Coming into a graduate level writing program off of a career of writing for television gave me an interesting perspective. There were things I needed to unlearn about writing for TV in order to properly learn how to write fiction well. Thank God for grad school! Now, with some distance and perspective from both, I see how many of those tricks of the TV trade can be applied to fiction. In fact, many of my favorite authors were doing it all along.

If you'd like some tips on how to pump some adrenaline into your manuscript, check out my post -- Top 10 Uses for an Action Scene.

BTW -- I did actually write a blog on 3-Act Structure for another friend's blog -- Ingrid's Notes. If you're interested, you can find: How to Get a Pair of Spanx for Your Novel here!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Taming the CV...

It’s been FOREVER and my blog needs some serious dustbusting. The lag in posts couldn’t be helped, I was busy getting my MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts, which could also be called the greatest experience of my life. So, for the last two years all reading had to meet bibliography requirements (suck it, 50 Shades of Grey) and all writing was focused on the critical and creative theses (sorry, blog!)

Graduation was January 19, 2013. I came away with my diploma and a finished manuscript. The last two months have been spent revising and polishing that manuscript (sleep was seriously over-rated anyway). It’s now ready to go out into the world and have its day. But it can’t go alone. It needs a query letter and in my case, a CV. Here’s the nutshell of my background as contained in my blog profile.
For MONEY I have written: TV series, cartoons, comic books, graphic novels, magazine articles, Business Plans, Direct Music Marketing letters (as Mariah Carey, MC Hammer and others), Corporate Newsletters, Mens Style (online) Magazine (as managing editor), screenplays (well, okay maybe not so much about the money there) and Restaurant and theater reviews (for free food and theater tickets) Now... I am writing for love and what I LOVE are YA mystery/thriller novels.
It’s catchy… but it needs to be organized into a professional, easy to peruse list and I should mention some specific titles, too. So, I decided to put it to Google and check out what the new mandates and guidelines recommend for a writer's CV.  While I was at it, I thought I’d share these helpful online resources with you.

Bang2Write – nice, clear, straight forward info. Easy to follow. Makes sense. – as long as we’re being scholarly, why not?

And finally, CV consultants -- if you're thinking of hiring someone to do it for you. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the off-shore approach to the writers I know because all of you can probably write circles around these guys.That’s not to say there isn’t valuable info contained in this article. The specific points and qualifications that make these guys desirable consultants will tell you a lot about things you should include (or not include) in your CV… I call it a great background resource. (Plus, I stole their photo, so they should get something out of it, right?) 

If you have any suggestions for how to organize a colorful -- but snarly -- serpant of a writing career into a kick-ass CV, I'm open to suggestions. 

In the next few days I’ll be back with a look at the dreaded query letter. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

So... about that MFA, why am I here?

Why an MFA program... why now?  It's true, I'm not the typical candidate. But then I've never been the typical anything. I started writing for children's television in animation and at that time, there were less than 5 women animation writers. It was the boys' club stronghold in TV. This is probably because most (not all) but most animation writers were card-carrying geeks. They were conversant in comic books from day one... they were cartoon-o-philes... they were gag-specialists. And listen, I mean no disrespect. They were GOOD. I was just someone who wanted to write. I don't know why they let me in -- less than 5 women -- but they did. I never really learned comics inside and out, nor did I become a cartoon expert. But I did learn to write.

When I wrote my first YA novel I realized this was what I should have been writing all along. Then when I tried to sell that novel, I realized there's a difference between TV and fiction. I spent a couple of years working on my craft. I went to workshops, retreats. I read books, joined critique groups. I got my manuscript to the best point possible, given what I had to work with. And still I knew it wasn't good enough. It didn't stack up against the other books out there being pushed by the pubs. It didn't transcend the genre. I wanted to do better I just didn't know how.

Then my friend Beverley BevenFlorez started her semester at VCFA. When she got her first packet response back from her faculty advisor (who happened to be Jane Kurtz) she wrote me a long email telling me why I had to do this, too. I had been searching for something advanced to up the ante on my skills. I could tell this was it. I took a leap of faith, applied and was accepted.

Now I'm just a little over a month away from being at the half-way mark. It went by so fast. And it is working so well. More about what I've learned in coming blogs. Suffice to say, I found my muse in the form of an MFA.

Friday, October 21, 2011

MFA Survival -- A.B.R.

There is a saying among sales people -- A.B.C. or always be closing. Survival in an MFA program equates to A.B.R or always be reading.

Currently, my survival is three books going at once. An audiobook, Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater which I listen to while working out. The good news is that guarantees 5 or 6 workouts because I don't spend that much time in the car.

Then I always have a book that I'm reading on my Kindle -- these days I'm checking them out from the library which is so easy and useful. Currently it's The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dressen -- which is excellent. It's a push, but I try to read 25% of my Kindle book per DAY. It's the only way I can stay on track.

Finally, I'm also reading The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, in absolutely true, actual book form. The actual book form books I try to savor, as much as possible given the schedule -- 10 books in approx. 3 weeks.

Last year I strived to read 50 books in a year. This year no strive... I will read 100 books this year. I'm already at 70. How much I have learned. Reading with a focus on how other authors get it right is just about the best thing a writer can do to improve her craft. Join me... and mention fave reads here.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Litotes: the Not Un-handy Literary Trope

Litotes is a figure of speech in which the description
of something is achieved by negating its opposite.

Ever wonder what the opposite of hyperbole is? Me neither! I was always too easily distracted by, well, the hyperbole. But, as long as we're here, let's, go ahead and put a finer point on it. Litotes, the opposite of hyperbole, occurs by negating the opposite of its meaning. If hyperbole is overstating something by a ton (heh!) then litotes shine by tarnishing the opposite. (I know, the 'S' is confusing, but it belongs there, and not in a plural way)

Example: the comment "not bad" (meaning good) is litotes-ic (I'm pretty sure I just made up the word litotes-ic.)

I know what you're thinking -- I'll never use a lito-whatsit word-thing, figure of speech. But chances are you already have. Example: have you ever said (or written) something along the lines of: he's not the sharpest tool in the shed? She's a couple of tacos short of a combination plate. That movie seriously didn't suck.  

Uh huh. Yep. All litotes.  If you think of more, post 'em to the comments. It could be fun.