More Fun From Inkygirl Comics

More great comics from Debbie Ridpath Ohi. Check her out at

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5 Things Writers Can Learn from the World Cup

The recent international soccer game in Jacksonville got me thinking about the World Cup games, the consuming passion for them around the world, and what we – as writers – can learn from it.

How World Cup Soccer is like a Great Book: (simply replace team with protagonist)

  1. You’re totally in love with your team (as in, enough to paint yourself blue).
  2. Your team has a clear goal and the stakes can’t get any higher.
  3. Your team is working their butts off to win the game, willing to do whatever it takes (even the occasional red card in the goalie box).
  4. The other team is just as committed to see your team lose.
  5. There’s no way you’re going to leave before the final whistle. And in the end, you’ll glow with happiness or cry in defeat along with your team.
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Summer 2012 Interactive Lectures on Writing

Bring new life to your story this summer at these interactive lectures!

Look what people are saying about the June 27th talks.

  • June 27: Character and Conflict: Creating the Perfect Match
  • July 11: High Stakes & Rising Tension: How to Keep Your Reader Up All Night
  • July 25: Premises and Promises: What Belongs in Your Opening Pages

Tallahassee Area Writers Groups: Schedule any one of these talks for your next meeting at your location. Customized classes and requested topics also available on request. Contact me to discuss topics, pricing, location, and dates.

Learn more now.

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Words of Wisdom from editor Kate Sullivan

While decluttering my laptop today, I found an unpublished blog post from last fall that was too valuable not to share, so here it is:


Last fall, I attended a talk with brilliant editor Kate Sullivan (Little Brown) at Southern Breeze’s wik 2010 conference in Birmingham, AL. Ms. Sullivan had the following piece of advice for new authors (paraphrased here):

Think of your plot like building blocks, little LEGOs of story that can be picked up and moved around to best serve the purpose of your story.

Well, there I was sitting in the front row at the conference, nodding as I made a note of her words. But I didn’t believe them.

After all, when you write a novel, one thing leads to the next and then the next. How can you pick up a scene and move it when every action in your plot is supposed to be cause and effect leading to the next scene? The character’s knowledge, experiences, motivations will all be different. In short, I was sure her idea was impossible.

That said though, I also was sure that I had a serious problem with my manuscript. Because  Ms. Sullivan insisted that the inciting moment in any YA novel needed to come by page 20.

I tried reassuring myself that I had an inciting moment in the first 20 pages. But it wasn’t the BIG inciting moment.

When I mentioned this to my writing buddy Laura, she said, “She’s right you know, you need to get that scene earlier.”

But I was sure that certain things had to come first, that the plot was a whole, not a series of parts. So I set about to disprove the lego block theory of plotting.

I rearranged my scenes and combined others. I was confident the idea would fail.

Two days of plot revisions later… and guess what? It worked. I was able to use the scenes in a different order with stronger effect – and all it took was some tweaking of dialogue and motivations.

So now I write, freed from my old dogmatic ideas on choosing the perfect plot sequence, knowing that the scenes aren’t set in stone and can always be rearranged later to strengthen the story.

Thank you, Kate Sullivan.

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Comic Relief for the Writer

Real life – just like stories – sometimes need a little comic relief. If your writing muse is feeling drained, a few minutes spent with the clever and hilarious comics of Debbie Ridpath, the creative force behind, is sure to do the trick.

One warning though. Set the timer before you visit the site… or risk using up all your writing time.

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#1 Break free from past drafts with a plot outline

Writers often use plot outlines when planning a story, but this week I discovered how they can help in revising an existing manuscript.

My YA novel is currently in its third draft. With each version, I had gone through the manuscript cutting and reworking scenes to make significant plot and character changes. The changes were good, so the outcome would be good, right?

Wrong. I ended up with an inconsistent plot, based on a conglomerate of old and new ideas.

So this time I tried something new.

I stuck my manuscript in a drawer, took several sheets of old desk calendar and pinned it to the wall – blank sides out. Then I began outlining my story – not the story I had already, but the story I wanted it to be.

This was so liberating.

Could I see the perfect line on p.49 that I fought so hard to keep in? No. What about my favorite scene on pg 132? If it wasn’t on my plot outline, then it had to go.

By paring the story down to the bare bones on my plot outline, I was better able to see what I really needed: what actually advanced the plot vs. the hangers-on from a previous draft.

So, the next time you undergo revision, turn off that computer, put your manuscript under the mattress, and pull out some blank paper.

What’s that? Afraid you might forget a scene? Then you probably didn’t need it in the first place.

Next up in Heather’s Revision is Tough Love series: Use scene analysis to make a stronger, better integrated plot.

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Books on Writing

Here are some books on writing that I have found especially helpful.

General Fiction:

The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman,

How to Write a Breakout Novel by Donald Maas

How to Write Science-Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card

Plot & Structure: (Techniques And Exercises For Crafting A Plot That Grips Readers From Start To Finish) by James Scott Bell

Elements of Fiction Writing – Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card

Writing for kids

The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children by Nancy Lamb

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_ Set in the future, The Adoration of Jenna Fox is about 17 year-old Jenna who is recovering from a serious car accident. Watched over by a protective mother and a cold, distant grandmother, she struggles to piece together bits of her past, pieces of which are missing and which her adoring parents are determined to keep her from learning. But Jenna, who is quickly learning the skill of disobedience, is determined to learn the truth. And it is only after she has that she realizes her real struggle has just begun.

The narration, interspersed by poems, is lyrical and introspective yet remains focused; the setting and premise are provocative; and the plot is wholly engaging. My one reservation is that I found the epilogue to be a bit anti-climatic and unnecessary.

This haunting story stayed with me for some days afterward. Not just because of the story, but because of the questions it raised within me about what lines should and should not be crossed in the attempts to save human life as our medical technology becomes more and more advanced. I read it two months ago and I still haven’t decided. Now that’s a book that stays with you.

Thanks to several folks at the Southern Breeze wik 2010 workshop who recommended this book to me back in October.

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CANDOR by Pam Bachorz

Wouldn’t life be great if it was easy to make the “right” choices? If you had everything you needed and everyone was always happy? If crime was non-existent and the streets litter-free?

That’s life in the town of Candor, from the book CANDOR by first-time novelist Pam Bachorz.

The catch? Your thoughts aren’t your own. They are sent to you via messages broadcast non-stop at a frequency only your sub-conscious can detect.

Oscar Fairbanks, son of the town’s Founder, is the only person who’s figured out how to trick the system. That’s because Oscar creates his own messages, which he listens to every night to battle the town’s broadcasted ones. And he’ll sell these special messages, along with a chance at escape, to new teens coming in who aren’t yet indoctrinated.

That is, if they have enough money.

Friendless, with only Candor’s teen look-alikes in their button-up shirts and khakis for company, Oscar meets newly-arrived Nia. Her brazen and rebellious nature fascinates him, and soon the attraction he feels for her, unlike the sway of the messages, is something he can’t resist. Now Oscar is presented with his greatest dilemma: should he help Nia to escape and lose her forever, or try to keep her safe in Candor, but risk losing her in a different way?

Bachorz has created a stunning debut novel, both provocative and compelling. The façade of the “utopian” town, the fast-paced, tension-filled narration, and the engaging voice combine to draw the reader in, making us care about Oscar—even as he uses the people around him as if they were no more than the puppets they’ve become. But will his fight against the messages be enough to save Nia from Candor?

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Heather’s Road to Revision Part 1: Writer’s Block & Scene Analyses

Ever hit a brick wall when trying to revise the opening of a story?

This is just what happened to me recently and the following is how I discovered the underlying problem for my “writer’s block” and what I’m doing to conquer the problem.

The “block” began when I tried to come up with a new opening to my story. I had a general idea of how I wanted it to go, but as hard as I tried, the words just wouldn’t come to me. After staring at the screen one morning without success, I turned to some internet articles on writing fiction at the site

That’s when I realized my problem: I was stuck because I was trying to force my opening conflict and exposition  without really asking myself what the true purpose of the scene was.

Luckily, I found some good articles on scene analysis. Remember that topic from your “The Craft of Writing Fiction” books? Well, I’d done some scene analyses during the writing process – but that was back before my story took its countless twists and turns from its original outline.

So my plan now is to evaluate each scene (notice I didn’t say chapter) to see how it propels the plot, develops characterization, and doles out bits of exposition. I’m hoping this will help me overcome my writer’s block during the revision process, as well as make it easier to see which sentences, paragraphs, scenes aren’t needed.

Now I’m off to work. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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