Definition of Dramedy, part one

My short story and novel – and the series that they’re a part of – supernatural dramedy, is fairly new to fiction (although technically Janet Evanovich does it in all but name), but it has a long history on television.

The word ‘dramedy’is a combination of ‘drama’ and ‘comedy’. As a genre, it combines them too: the subject matter is dramatic, with moments of humor mixed in.

English: Joss Whedon at the 2010 Comic Con in ...

English: Joss Whedon at the 2010 Comic Con in San Diego (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Joss Whedon has made his career in this genre; see Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, and more… but there were other series before them.

One of the most popular (although there were others) was LA Law. It ran from Sept. 15, 1986, to May 19, 1994.

 

David E. Kelley was showrunner until the end of the fifth season of the show, and it also gave new life to the career of actor Susan Day (Laurie Partridge on The Partridge Family) as Grace von Owen.

The series was set in the fictional law firm McKenzie, Brackman, Chaney, and Kuzak.

What makes this an example of dramedy: the show deals with serious issues (AIDS, LGTBQ issues,racism,domestic violence, etc.) but wrapped around the issues were running gags and other bits of humor.

For example partner Chaney dies of a heart attack in the opening of the first episode, but at first, nobody knows because all we see is his hand clutching a tax manual. At his funeral, we learn that the secretary he last hired is transgender and that they met originally at a gay bar (this revelation comes to his wife just now). He paid for the secretary’s surgery, and the hire was meant to be the first real world test. One of the surviving partners fires her immediately due to his transphobia.

(This was in the late 1980s, and the firing character was an over-sexed womanizer. Regardless, I don’t find that funny now.)

This series was co-created by Steven Bochco, and it had a large ensemble cast. Rigger, Mortiz and Shivver doesn’t have as big a cast, but there is an ensemble nonetheless.

I’ll continue this in my next post.

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My Way to Get in a Writing Mood

Not everyone does this, so I’m not making this concrete advice — but you may find it helpful…

To get into the mindset for writing fiction, this may seem redundant but try freewriting.

Here’s the Wikipedia entry on what it is.

Doing it is not hard:

icon for notepad

icon for notepad (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

      • Open up a simple Notepad (On a computer is good for this).
      • Set a timer for 10 minutes.
      • Just write for all of  that time , whatever comes to your mind. No edits. Don’t worry about making sense.
      • Don’t save it.
      • When time is over, close the Notepad (or the paper if  you wrote by hand.

The purpose is just to get your mental pathways open to writing after. It’s  a warmup process.

I made a PDF of tools for this on Windows, Linux or Mac OSX. Join my list and I’ll send it to you. Update: it’s now a Checklist.

 

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List of Robert Heinlein’s Juvenile Novels

With my last post about Heinlein‘s juveniles, a list of  them made sense. So, here they are:

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Robert Heinlein, SF YA Precursor

When I researched this on Wikipedia I found that I’m not the only person to make that link. 

Robert A. Heinlein, with Ginny Heinlein Robert...

Robert A. Heinlein, with Ginny Heinlein Robert and Ginny Heinlein in Tahiti 1980 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Robert A. Heinlein was   one of the three people seen as pillars of the Golden Age of science fiction (that’s another post). He wrote many books and short stories, but a period of his novels are considered as the start of YA, although he didn’t consider them as such.

Books by Robert A. Heinlein

The books that I’m referring to are his juveniles.

Between 1947 and 1958e had 12 such novels published by Scribner, with another (Starship Troopers) published by Putnam instead (Scribner rejected it) and another novel (Podcayne of Mars) listed as a juvenile, though he didn’t consider it one.

Heinlein didn’t consider these books as juveniles, at least not by nature. They were written for younger readers, but Heinlein had great respect for these younger readers, so he tried to write more challenging fare for them. In fact, this got him into hot water with his editors at Scribner, and often,  after he brought guns into his novels, starting with Red Planet.

He also wrote 2 short stories in Boy Scout magazine, Boy’s Life. He created them after his tours in WW II, trying to diversify his writing from only pulp SF magazines. These stories were serialized.

Not only focussed on boys, he took a challenge to write for girls too, which led to 3 Maureen “Puddin'” stories in Calling All Girls magazine. He liked the character so much that he lowered her weight and relocated her to Mars for Podkayne of Mars.

I have to re-read this book. The original ending was hated by fans, so Heinlein rewrote it, then had it published with both endings. I don’t remember what they were. It’s been  more than 3 decades since I read it.

Pundits call it a juvenile, but Heinlein himself did not. His involvement with Scribner and the juveniles line ended when they rejected Starship Troopers. As an aside, I don’t see a novel about interstellar wars as a book for young people, it was just not a great book to me.

What made the juveniles a step toward YA: youths are the protagonists of the stories. Not bad, considering they were written nearly 80  years ago.

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My changed view on NaNoWriMo

I’ve done NaNo since 2003 and tried Camp NaNoWriMo this past July. The

Things Have Changed

Things Have Changed (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

first four times I ‘won’ the 50 K challenge, but didn’t achieve it ever since, and didn’t achieve the goal for Camp either. I didn’t even get halfway there.

My Changed View

What I’ve come to realize is that I’m now putting too much pressure on myself to complete the marathon, to the point that I’m stalled to actually do so.

So, I’ll plan to try a different approach and see how it works for me:  from now on I’ll use the start of a NaNo event to spur me to start a project (a novel in November, something else for Camp) but I won’t concern myself with completing the target by the deadline date.

Maybe by not pressuring myself I’ll succeed at it more often again. I want to always finish the book that I start, instead of leaving it to be forgotten when the event is over. Some of my past projects I already plan to revisit, some of them I need to rewrite from scratch because I no  longer have my backups. Just as well, as the new versions won’t feel as clunky.

An Important Caveat

Note that I’m not bashing NaNoWriMo in the least. I’ve been a part of it since nearly its start (I think there were three before I began) and it can help an author to get the words out of their head – and  my view may change yet again, many times in fact– but for now this is what I’ll try, and see how it works.

“Don’t Get it Right. Just Get it Written.” James Thurber

Blog

 

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YA: Today’s Buzzword

That’s an abbreviation for young adult fiction. It is also a descriptor because it can fit into nearly any genre. There is YA science fiction, YA Dystopian, YA fantasy, and so on. What makes it YA is just that the protagonist(s) is/are teenager(s). The main goal of this literary genre is that it gives young people more reason to read.

There are many subset genres of YA

There are many examples of this field, some of which I’ll cover more in  other posts on this blog, but they  include the Harry Potter  book series, the Divergent one, and the current big hit, The Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games (film, YA hit)

The Hunger Games (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I wrote one my third NaNoWriMo titled Introvert. It was my most successful to date, writing the most words per day and completing it in record time for me.

The one rule that I’ve seen to all YA fiction that I’ve seen is a rule that makes sense:

“No sex”

This doesn’t mean that all teenagers don’t; although frowned on, some teens do, even though they aren’t all mentally ready.

What I mean is that as a rule, you don’t describe it in detail (or at all). Doing so risks making your fiction seem to be child pornography, and put you at legal risk.

The field for this fiction (so long as you follow the rules) is huge, with the potential for the books to become films. It’s also a field that I have ideas for… I have to locate my file for Introvert because I have an idea for a sequel.

Photo by {Guerrilla Futures | Jason Tester}

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Preparing for NaNoWriMo

The setup for NaNoWriMo at home, if I need to ...

The setup for NaNoWriMo at home, if I need to be portable. Long exposure lit by sweeping aLED flashlight over the scene. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 (I began this post before this event; I’ll state what I didn’t do.)

… or Camp NaNoWriMo, which I’m doing right now… which is why I haven’t updated this site in a week.

Camp scene, preparing for dinner, by Buell, O....

Camp scene, preparing for dinner, by Buell, O. B., 1844-1910 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here are some tips to achieve your word goal in the month (50, 000 for NaNo, variable for Camp – I’m writing a 20, 000-word project, for example):

1. Avoid distractions

Scrivener can do distraction-free writing via its full-screen mode. The text editor part  is all that you see. You don’t see the Binder, or the menus,  or anything else. All you have to focus on is writing.

Scrivener (software)

Scrivener (software) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are more distractions that you should avoid. Avoid e-mail, Twitter, and (especially) Facebook; most of it is flashy graphics that draw your attention away.

Twitter

Twitter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I failed on most of this. My blog subject list is in Drive, so I was usually in Gmail. I had my Twitter feed open at all times and kept it open to check on. As to Facebook… there’s a good reason that it has the nickname ‘Wastebook’… I was on it constantly.

2. Word-Padding is Your Friend

Always write full character names. Don’t use contractions; spell each word. Your fingers accidentally space words out? Leave them in. You don’t need the word ‘that’ in a sentence? put it in anyway. Adverbs slow a sentence down? Doesn’t matter. Use them anyways.

For NaNo / Camp NaNo quantity is your goal, not quality. The next point will talk about that fact.

At first, I didn’t  fully embrace this. I tried to correct my typos. I got out of it eventually.

3. This is the First Draft

Cleaning up what Ernest Hemmingway said about first drafts, they are not pretty.

Feel free to write scenes that you will cut in later drafts. They will add words now; you can cut them in later drafts.

I did this one. I wrote some scenes that I know I’ll cut later.

4. Ignore Your Inner Editor

As you write you’ll hear a voice in your head correcting your words and critiquing your scenes. Ignore it.

It’s the voice of your Inner Editor trying to slow you down. It will stall you  if you let it.

I didn’t.

** update **

Here's a tip that some people use, but I don't:

Some people count the words that they write for other projects in this one. I'd consider doing this cheating myself.

conclusion

Use these tricks and (unlike me) you might win.

 

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Camp NaNoWriMo 2016 – How Did I Do?

Not as good as I’d like, but still good. Let me explain:

My final word tally was 9015 words out of a goal of 20, 000. That’s   the part not so good.

The setup for NaNoWriMo at home, if I need to ...

The setup for NaNoWriMo at home, if I need to be portable. Long exposure lit by sweeping an LED flashlight over the scene. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I didn’t have my story outline done, so I lost valuable time ‘pantsing‘. Regular readers of this blog know I’m not effective at that.

Another problem is that I didn’t really get into my writing groove until the last week. If it had happened sooner I might have a different post here now!

How it’s still good: I realized that my story would be less than 20, 000 words. I wanted to revise my goal down, but I came to that realization 5 days too late to do it.

I’ll take 3 days off, then get back to it. I intended it for people to opt-in to my mailing list, and I still have that intention.

 

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Using a Blog to Attract Readers

Camp NaNoWriMo is still taking up my free time, so another guest post

By Autumn Birt

Start a Blog. It is one of the first pieces of advice given to aspiring authors. And it ends there like those three words provide all possible information on what you should do with said blog. It is like saying “build a rocket” without mentioning target, trajectory, size, fuel, or range!

When I first heard that advice, I was still trying to figure out how to write a book, much less how to format, e-publish, and market. I didn’t even know enough to ask “What should I do with a blog?” Much less the far more important question, “How do I use it to attract readers?” Starting a blog was something on the to-do list, checked off without much thought.

Over five years later and I’ve learned a few things. And one of them is what the heck to do with a blog, especially how it might help you attract new readers. Here are some quick tips to help you out!

1.Have Focus

By this, I mean everything from post topics to photo scheme. Someone landing on your blog page should know within 20 seconds that you are a writer and in what genre. Use that banner image well! Have it showcase an awesome photo related to your stories or mock-ups of your books. If you have free stories you are giving away, they should be front and center. Don’t leave someone landing on your site wondering what you do and if you are serious about it. Be serious about it.

And the focus does go for post topics too. Your mindset for every post should be “I am trying to attract readers.” So what attracts readers? It might be cooking, but I think there are better topics. Like: what the characters in your story might be cooking. Do they eat dragon? Hydroponic vegetables are grown in zero gravity? Or classic recipes from 1792?

2. Share the Story

One of the biggest mistakes I see new author-bloggers make is they talk only of the writing journey. Which is definitely important. Readers should know this is hard work and a tremendous effort to produce a novel. But you need to share what is going on in the story too!

Readers need to know more than how many months it took you and how many times you almost quit. It doesn’t say anything about what you are actually writing. Share the work you’ve done on creating a synopsis. Get opinions! Share excerpts from the novel, short stories from each of the characters, world building, and research. You spend months creating the background and minutiae of details that end up comprising a whole sentence in the finished novel. Want to know a great place to put all those bits that create the solid framework of the novel without really being visible to the reader? Your blog.

Don’t just tell readers that it took a long time and a lot of work to write a novel. Let them be part of the experience. Show, don’t tell holds true in blogging too.

3. Don’t Make it All About You

No one likes to hear incessantly about someone as if they are a narcissist in a room of mirrors. And that holds true about your blog and your stories. Have posts looking for feedback. Better yet, take that other piece of new writer advice to “read a lot of books” to heart and write book reviews! What better way is there to attract readers than to help them find new books?

Network with other authors. Offer guest posts and interview fellow writers. And don’t forget to reply to comments and thank people for stopping by. If you don’t know where to find other authors to network with … well this is probably a better use of social media than spamming potential readers about a new release. Look for authors in your genre on Twitter under the correct hashtag. Join a writer’s group on Facebook (I have two if you are looking!). The good news is meeting other authors is easier than tracking down new readers.

These three things will get you started. If I had a final piece of advice it would be that readers don’t come overnight. Expecting huge results of new followers and fans to your new blog would be an anomaly. Don’t get frustrated. Just like writing a novel, perseverance will create outcomes. You know very well that giving up produces zero results.

And take it from someone whose fifth blog post hit the front page of Freshly Pressed, fast, early exposure is sometimes not the best thing. I hadn’t found my voice or topic when that happened. I ended up with over a 1000 new followers and absolutely no clue what to say to them. Because I’d randomly started a blog because I was working on a book and I was blogging about every odd and random thing that popped into my head. The post that made it big? It was on Work/Life Balance. Not writing. I don’t think I even mentioned I was a writer in it! Oh to go back now…

I can’t, but hopefully I can give you some advice to get it right! And if you are a writer with a blog, I’d love to see it. I’m looking for a few writing blogs to go over and feature in my next course: Blogging for Authors. So if you don’t mind exposing your website to a critical eye and getting some feedback on things to tweak, leave a comment with your website in the notes below!

Best of luck and happy blogging AND writing!

Autumn is a best-selling author in fantasy, epic fantasy, and war – not all of the same series, though! She is the author of the epic fantasy, adventure trilogy on elemental magic, the Rise of the Fifth Order. Her newest series is Friends of my Enemy, a military dystopian/ dark fantasy tale laced with romance. Friends of my Enemy which was released in full in 2015. Meanwhile, she is working on a new epic fantasy trilogy, Games of Fire, set in the same world as the Rise of the Fifth Order. If she stops goofing off and enjoying hobbies such as hiking, motorcycling, and kayaking, she may even be able to release all the books in 2016. Book 1, Sparks of Defiance, was released in March!

Stop by her website and blog to learn more about the worlds of her books and to pick up writing tips, workbooks, and courses at www.AutumnWriting.com. You can also find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Author.Autumn.Birt or more frequently on twitter @Weifarer.

 

fifth order

friends of my enemy

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Pat Flewelling, on alternative plotting

It’s quid pro quo time.. over a year ago I posted on Pat’s blog (here‘s a link to the blog), now she’s returning the favor.

With me writing for Camp NaNoWriMo right now, this is an appropriate post.

I’m not as prolific, but few people are!

At last count, I’ve written 59 novel-length manuscripts since 1993, and I’ve just come back from a weekend-long novel writing marathon with the better half of # 60. Some have been completely pre-planned. Some were written off the cuff. Most haven’t been published, because they just haven’t been solid enough.

When I thoroughly plotted the story in advance, one of two things would always

The Marathon

The Marathon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

happen: either I would deviate wildly off course, or I would get so bored that I’d just stop writing altogether. I often mistook a tangent as some kind of award-winning plot-twist, and having to delete 10-15% of the manuscript was a real killer to my motivation. And sometimes, I was just bored, because there was no sense of discovery left over, no room to play around. I was choking my own creativity.

At the other extreme, stories that had no predestination took longer to finish. I’d often spend hours staring slightly cross-eyed at the ceiling, trying to remember where I was taking that last thought. I’d also ended up spending countless hours editing after the fact, removing tens of pages of verbal dross.

But for this year’s novel writing marathon, I decided to try something new. I planned only so much, but I also left major plot points blank.

I thought of it like a vacation itinerary. Let’s say that I knew I was leaving Montreal on a Monday at 7:00 a.m., and that I had to be in Toronto by Saturday at noon. Let’s say, furthermore, that I also wanted to visit Ottawa, Brockville, Kingston, and Oshawa, before finally heading into the Big Smoke. As long as I got to Ottawa by 4:00 p.m., I could take any route I wanted. I could take the back roads and enjoy a longer drive through the country, or I could stick to the highways and get there sooner, then park the car and stroll around on foot before leaving at 4:00. I wouldn’t decide which route to take to Ottawa until I was in the car with the radio on and a coffee in hand.

During the marathon, I discovered not only that I actually stuck to the plan, but I wrote in an unforeseen major character, who made the plot more engaging and resolved a lot of plot holes. I finally had a planner that would direct my story toward a fun and logical conclusion, but one that left plenty of opportunities to make stuff up as I went along. Most surprisingly of all, because I had a known destination and unknown roads, I found my narrative pacing became the strongest it’s ever been.

But, after this many novels, I know that what works for one project doesn’t necessarily work for another. Likewise, what works for me may not work for you. All I can suggest is that you keep experimenting until you find what works best, and have fun with it along the way.

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