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Author Archives: Rebecca

About Rebecca

Rebecca Fields is a modern gypsy, roaming from place to place in search of... well, she'll let you know when she finds it. Writing has become a way for her to share her adventures, both real and imagined. Along with her on her journey are her son and an assortment of rescued animals.

Hugs and Chocolate

Not the end, but  the possibilities are endless.

Not the end, but the possibilities are endless.

There comes a time in each of our lives when we have to stop and reevaluate our goals and purpose. That time has come for the writers at Hugs and Chocolate. We’re going to take a three month hiatus and decide how we’re going to proceed in the future. We may pick up where we left off, come back with a new direction, or we may decide to continue Hugs and Chocolate in a format other than a blog.

In the year we’ve been blogging, our little community grew from six almost strangers to a large group of people passionate about writing. We’ve celebrated the highs and been there for each other during the lows. It’s been a beautiful year and I don’t think any of us will ever forget it. We’d like to thank each of our readers and let you know how much your friendship and support has meant. We’re excited about the future and hope each and every one of you is there to share it with us. Until then, love, best wishes, and lots of hugs and chocolate!

P.S. The winner of the twenty-five page critique has been chosen and emailed. Keep writing!

 

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rubyblossom/7006036843/sizes/c/in/pool-809956@N25/

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Posted by on February 27, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Perfecting Your Pitch

writers blockWe spend hours, days, months, and sometimes years writing our stories. One idea turns into many and we write them down to create worlds and adventures that allow people to escape and believe anything is possible. After all this work, we’re then asked to shorten our story into a few paragraphs, then one paragraph, and finally, into a single sentence. The one sentence pitch.

Some people find this easy, while for others, this takes a lot of time and thought. I’m one of those for whom it took some time. Instead of telling you how to write yours, I’m going to leave you a map of the sites I utilized to figure out the puzzle.

The first site I found is a blog by Nathan Bransford. He’s a published author and former literary agent. He’s got a great website, full of helpful information: http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2010/05/how-to-write-one-sentence-pitch.html 

The next is a website written by agent, Rachelle Gardner. Her post isn’t very long, but it does give a good overview: http://www.rachellegardner.com/2012/11/writing-a-one-sentence-summary/ 

Querytracker’s blog was another helpful resource: http://querytracker.blogspot.com/2009/02/writing-loglinethe-one-sentence-pitch.html

Here’s another from Writer’s Digest: http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/thrillerfest-2011-pitch

Elana Johnson is an author who wrote a post about this very subject and included several links to help people craft their pitch: http://elanajohnson.blogspot.com/2010/04/one-sentence-pitching.html 

I’ve given five different sites that I used and found helpful. The web is full of information, some of it more useful and true than others. I tend to stick to names I know and recognize when I’m looking for help. I wanted to use links, instead of putting it into my own words, because I can’t give you the magic formula for writing the perfect pitch for your story – only you know your story well enough to narrow it down to a few words.

If you’re feeling up to the challenge, post your one sentence pitch in the comments for critique. Please be sure and identify the genre and myself or one of the other writers will tell you what we think. Good luck and keep writing!

Join us on Wednesday when guest writer, Vaughn Roycroft, will be discussing the technique of using multiple points of view!

 
8 Comments

Posted by on February 18, 2013 in Craft, Critique, Pitch, Uncategorized, Writing

 

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To Great Beginnings!

I just liked this picture. Photo courtesy of:http://www.flickr.com/photos/cloppy/8444077598/

I just liked this picture. Photo courtesy of:http://www.flickr.com/photos/cloppy/8444077598/

Writing the beginning to a story is hard. There are so many things that have to be just right. Are you starting your story in the right place? Will it grab the reader’s attention? Is there too much detail and description or not enough? Is there conflict? But most of all, will your beginning make the reader want to keep reading to chapter two and beyond?

One of the problems a lot of writers run into is where they start their story. Every story and character has a background and the writer knows this world so well and they want to share it, so the reader can experience everything the writer intended. However, too much detail about the setting or character can slow down the story. The reader doesn’t need to know everything the character has done leading up to the starting point, weave it into the story. Too much setting has the same potential to slowing down the story. Give enough setting to make the story come to life and let the reader feel as though they’re with the character. If the first five or so pages consist mainly of describing the school and playground where the main character attended fifteen years prior, that’s a good clue that rewriting may be in the near future.

A lot of craft books talk about creating conflict and showing what’s at stake. That’s something that’s extremely hard to do in the first few pages, because a lot of times, the character doesn’t know enough about their situation to realize what’s at stake, unless you’re writing a crime novel that starts off in the middle of a burglary gone bad. With bullets flying and a police chase, we can all see what’s at stake. However, most other genres don’t have this luxury. The writer has to be creative and come up with ways to integrate it into the beginning without being so blatant. Though, of course, there are exceptions.

Research has shown that if a reader reads through the first paragraph, they’ll read the first page. After reading the first page, if you’ve kept their curiosity  they’ll continue through the first chapter. If the story holds their interest and they want to know what happens to the characters, they’ll read the second chapter and beyond. This is what every writer wants, someone to read their book from start to finish because they genuinely care about the characters and their situation. If large blocks of description interrupt the flow of the story, they’ll skim over it. Use dialogue to interrupt description. Move the story along. Go for emotional impact. Create a connection between your readers and your characters, give the reader a reason to care what happens, particularly in the beginning.

I think we’ve all read books that don’t follow the rules. I know that I tend to skim if there’s more than a few paragraphs of nothing but description without a break. It doesn’t matter what it’s describing; a dress, a new car or a high school. Unless you’ve got a killer description that somehow becomes a character in and of itself, it doesn’t move the story along. It lets the reader see what you see, but you can lose them if you don’t pick the story up again. Remember to show, not tell.

A few little things that you can watch for are:

  • Overuse of adverbs – examples are lazily, slowly, happily, etc. Show in your dialogue instead of telling the reader what and how the character responds. A few adverbs are fine, but if every dialogue tag has one, that may be something to watch for.
  • Pacing and flow – does the pace of your story make sense? Does it flow from one scene to another? Is the reader going to have and stop and go back to see what happened? For example, if your story starts with a daydream, will the reader know when real life comes back into play?
  • Give life to your settings. Make the reader feel a part of the world you’ve created. For example, “it was a small town, like any other.” Umm… I’ve been to lots of small towns and they were all different. Give the reader a little more to go on, weave it into the story with dialogue and action. Keep it moving.
  • Keep your dialogue clear. Show the personalities of your characters. Make sure the readers knows who’s talking. Make them interesting and let them fly.

In doing research for this post, one of the most common things I read was that the first five pages can make or break your manuscript. I guess I’m not surprised considering one of the books I use frequently is Noah Lukeman’s, “The First Five Pages.” He’s a literary agent and his book is quite helpful when zeroing in on problem areas. I’d highly recommend it.

As part of the workshops that we’re offering this month, I’m going to offer critiques of the first 500 words of your novel or work in progress. If you’re up for it, copy and paste the first 500 words (give a take a few, if you need to finish a sentence or paragraph, feel free) in the comments section and myself or one of the other lovely Hugs and Chocolate writers will critique your work. Please tell us your genre and feel free to ask any questions that you may have, we’re here to help you.

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35 Comments

Posted by on February 4, 2013 in Craft, Critique, Writing

 

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I’m Fine.

blackness“I didn’t want my picture taken because I was going to cry. I didn’t know why I was going to cry, but I knew that if anybody spoke to me or looked at me too closely the tears would fly out of my eyes and the sobs would fly out of my throat and I’d cry for a week. I could feel the tears brimming and sloshing in me like water in a glass that is unsteady and too full.”  ― Sylvia Plath

“That’s the thing about depression: A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it’s impossible to ever see the end.”  ― Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation

“Depression is the most unpleasant thing I have ever experienced. . . . It is that absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad. Sad hurts but it’s a healthy feeling. It is a necessary thing to feel. Depression is very different.” -J.K. Rowling

“I am in that temper that if I were under water I would scarcely kick to come to the top.” – John Keats

Writers lead a lonely life. For all the social media in the world, with its cute kitten pictures and funny memes, we live inside our head and sometimes, that’s where the darkest shadows wait. They stay hidden until we’re at our most vulnerable and they pounce, dragging our mind deeper into a void where there is no light, no hope. Just darkness and pure, unadulterated hopelessness. There’s no way out and it slowly smothers you. It drains everything from a person. There’s no desire to get out of the house and be among people. There’s no thought about personal grooming. There’s nothing but the count of each breath and how hard it is to make that effort. Getting out of bed is a monumental task worthy of the highest honor – when and if it’s achieved.

Why is depression so common among writers and other creative types? Sylvia Plath, Agatha Christie, Edgar Degas, T.S. Eliot, William Faulkner, Paul Gauguin, Ernest Hemingway, John Keats, Mozart, Edgar Allan Poe, J.K. Rowling, J.D. Salinger, Amy Tan, Vincent Van Gogh… these are just a few of the names that represent some of our great artistic works and yet they all have something in common – depression. Why is this? I’m not saying I’m great or putting myself into this illustrious category, but I’m a writer and I deal with depression – like so many others. When people ask how you are, you tell them you’re good, you’re fine – anything to stop the suspicion of darkness that has taken hold. Did you know that Rowling’s experience with depression is what inspired her idea for dementors? How horrible, yet perfect, a hell is that?

When I talk about depression, I’m not talking about the Facebook statuses like “I’m so depressed.” No. I’m talking about the ones who never say a word about it, because they’ve learned better. There are some who’ve turned their illness into a kind of joke, but it’s only a means of survival. True depression is something I’d never wish on anyone. It’s 11:35 at night right now. I haven’t gotten out of my pajamas from last night. I don’t care right now. Getting laundry done is right up there with running a 100 mile marathon. In other words, it’s not going to happen.

I used to have a friend who could talk me to the point where I could see the glimmer of daylight, but not anymore, I’m on my own. My son is the only reason I get up in the morning and plaster on a smile, but even he can see through it. He knows. I’ve told him about it. It’s frustrating for him to not be able to help, but he also sees that I’m trying, because I talk about it. We talk about it a lot, because I don’t ever want to lie to him. He’s too precious to me.

For all the people who say they’re there, if you need them. Are they really? How often do you vent to people about the darkness swirling inside your head? You don’t. You have to be careful and you learn that quickly. The deeper you sink, the more you keep it to yourself. It’s only at the surface do you reach out and ask for help – as ambiguous as it may be.

Right now, I’m hanging onto the anchor that is my son and the story I’ve written. I love it so much, but I’m stuck. I’m not sure what my next step is. I was so happy when I was writing it, but now that it’s done (though it needs work), I’m drifting. My mind is full of the next adventure to go on, but I have to finish this one first. I keep reminding myself to have faith that this one is really and truly good enough, but that’s when doubt creeps in.

Why do I find the only time I feel normal is when I’m writing? Why does the real world feel like a passing irritation and my made up world feel like home? Perhaps the made-up world is under my control while the real world keeps dishing heartache and hurt.

It’s not fun having a depressed friend. I don’t ask more from my friends, because it’s up to me and me alone to find the light. It’s just me and my mind. Why is it like this? I ask myself so many questions. I wonder why my mind sabotages me like this. I don’t know. I’ll survive, just like always. I’ll be here in two weeks posting, just like always. No need to worry or start suggesting the help available. I know. I’ve been down that road. However, for those who find themselves sinking into the black oblivion, please know you’re not alone. I don’t know how to help, but sometimes it just feels a little better to know there are others like you. Don’t stop reaching out. Don’t stop trying. Find something that gives you hope. Seek out your anchor and hold on tight. It’s there. When you’re sure of your grip, start following the rope until you reach the surface – no matter how many times you slide back down and have to start again. You can do it.

 
17 Comments

Posted by on January 21, 2013 in Depression, Writing

 

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The End or The Beginning?

A friend of mine, April Snellings, took this in Toronto. I had no idea anyone else knew about this word I dreamed, but they did!

A friend of mine, April Snellings, took this in Toronto. I had no idea anyone else knew about this word I dreamed, but they did!

Those are beautiful words, aren’t they? I finished my story on December 30, because I didn’t want to drag it into the New Year. I was so excited and I emailed my friends, posted it on Facebook and had a little celebration. I know, seems kind of overboard, but I started this story three years ago and it’s finally done. The next morning when I woke, panic set in. Now what?

Let’s see. I’m holding steady at 80k words, which is good for a YA novel. I know for sure that I have two semi-major scenes to rewrite. Then I have to go back and clean it up and do lots of revising. Right now I’m working with one critique partner and will have to start looking for a couple more. Then, after I make additional corrections I need to send it out to beta readers and get a feel for their reaction. Oh. But I also need to write a one sentence pitch and I have to write the synopsis and query. Ugh. I’d much prefer just to write. But this has to be done. I love my story and want others to see it as I do – which does not include me telling the person what I meant to say here or was trying to get across there. My story has to be above and beyond. No story is ever perfect, I know, but I don’t want to have to make make excuses for my writing. Yes, I know not every story is liked by everyone, but I just want to be able to tell this story as best I can. And as you can probably see from this paragraph, I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to storytelling.

So, I’m going to do something that I have a hard time doing. I’m going to ask for your help. I want you to tell me what you think and how you feel about the idea for my story. This is also to get a feel for the upcoming workshops we’re going to be offering. By “exposing” myself like this, I want to show you that we not only want to help each other, we want to help all writers. I’m trusting you, my friends, to not laugh at me or tell me I’m a complete nutter. This is really hard for me to do, but I want you to know that you can trust us with your beautiful stories also. Here goes…

The working title of my story is LUMA. This is NOT my one sentence synopsis, but just an idea of what the story is about: Two seventeen year old best friends are given a gift by a down on his luck, tired superhero.

Need more? Yeah… I thought so. Deep breath. Okay. This is NOT my synopsis, but just a general idea of my story: Seventeen year old Abbey is a party girl. When she hears about an underground club being held at an abandoned amusement park, she has to go. She loves the club scene and everything to do with it. This is the world where she feels she belongs, but one kiss changes everything. A stranger hits on her and after seeing her best friend, Callie, is occupied with her jerk boyfriend, Abbey kisses the stranger. To her, it’s nothing but a hope that he finds her beautiful, but to someone watching, it’s a death warrant – for her. Callie interrupts their moment and tells Abbey they have to leave. Abbey gives the stranger her number and she and Callie leave, but instead of finding their way home, they find themselves trapped in the amusement park. After being hunted through the park, they find themselves in the basement of the old theater. There, they find a man shackled to the wall. After saving his life. he gives them a gift. A gift that only a superhero can give – strength, power, abilities and many things in between. As their abilities grow, so does the danger around them. Someone wants this gift they’ve been given and will stop at nothing to get it (cliche, I know). Abbey and Callie have to decide not only what’s worth fighting for, but who is worth fighting for.

Sucky, I know. But, that’s part of my problem. I don’t know how much to give away and when to keep my cards hidden. I know I’m not the only one with this problem, which is why I’ve posted my issue. So, tell me, is this something that would interest you? What else do you want to know? What questions do you have? I know I’m not the only person with this question, so feel free to post your story summaries in the comments and I’ll see if we can help you. Synopses are hard. They have to be perfect. I want you to see that I’m struggling with mine and though my story is finished – I’m really having a hard time.

I work on my story everyday. Right now, it’s labeled as a YA dark urban fantasy, but it sneaks into so many other genres. I have to incorporate them all somehow. What problems do you have? Let’s work it out together and make sure we help each other reach our goals. I’ve taken a huge step by trusting you, what leap of faith will you take for your story?

 
11 Comments

Posted by on January 7, 2013 in Critique, Motivation, Revision, Support, synopsis, Writing

 

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Reading as a Writer

medium_302558059I read a book not too long ago. It wasn’t a good one. I don’t say that often, but I had to make myself finish this one. When I was done, I closed it and sat and thought about the what had made it almost unreadable. The plot was confusing. After the first chapter, I thought it was about a girl who was looking for her dream guy, but then the main character stated how happy she was being by herself. Her relatives thought she needed to meet someone. Okay, that could be fun, except we never met the family. The reader was told about a phone call.

I kept reading, thinking I missed something and the plot would be clear later on. I was wrong. The ideas were there, but it wasn’t pulled together. I tried to relate to the character, hoping that would keep me interested in the story. However, it’s hard to relate to a woman who’s drop dead, supermodel gorgeous and only wears designer clothes. The name dropping through the book got annoying. She was wealthy and drove a luxury SUV that one of her many admirers bought for her. She had several stunningly handsome boyfriends that she rotated between. Yes, the main character and I had a major disconnect.

The ending was anti-climactic. The main character finally succumbed to alleged familial pressure and went out on a date with the man her family had chosen. She fell madly in love and married him that weekend. There was no drama, other than when the main character had to tell her other boyfriends that she’d met someone else. There was no danger, no risk and by the time I got to the end, I wanted to throw the book across the room. So why am I telling you all this? Because the germ of a good idea was there. When I read the synopsis, I was picturing a My Big Fat Greek Wedding type story, but the author didn’t follow through. What could have been done differently?

Plot. I know plotting can be difficult. I don’t read a lot of romances and it’s usually a struggle to get through a story that doesn’t have a chase scene or unsolved murder in it, or, better yet, strange creatures wreaking havoc. Anyway. This story had none of those, but I was looking for something to read that didn’t require any thought and would just let me escape for a few hours. This story required more thought because I was constantly trying to fill in the blanks about what happened. The plot could have been as simple as: girl is looking for Mr. Right and after a series of humorous mishaps, finds him. Instead, it was: girl has perfect life and is perfectly content, but out of implied pressure, finds Mr. Perfect with no problem. Give your reader some drama. Life isn’t this easy. No, we don’t want all the gory details, but let us relate to what the character is going through.

Characters. The main character was so one dimensional it was hard to like her, much less, read an entire story about her. She had everything – unlimited money, successful business, the clothes, the shoes, the designer sunglasses, cars, apartments, vacation house, men begging for her attention, friends who adored her every move. It was unrealistic. I’m not saying this doesn’t happen, but if you want your reader to pull for your character, give her something to lose and something to work toward. Put obstacles in her way and let the reader see who she is by how she deals with these situations. Everyone has a weakness or two, characters should also. Dig deep into your character and find out who they are. All the stuff I described above was just the surface. I still don’t know who the character was and what drove her. Perhaps she wasn’t as happy with her life as she let on, but even though it was first person pov, there was nothing to indicate she wanted anything to change. Imagine going out to lunch with your character. What would you talk about? Would you want to be friends with them? What about them interests you? Show as many layers to your character as you possibly can.

Setting. The setting from this story ranged from an office, to a luxurious apartment, a glamorous party, a vacation home and then a honeymoon suite. I know that because that’s what I was told. I never got lost in the setting or pictured it in my head. Take your reader on a journey and make them feel like they’re watching from the same room or wherever they may be.

Writing sounds like the easiest job in the world. You sit down at your computer or pick up a pen and paper and write. Except it’s not that easy. All things you see and hear in your head have to come out and sometimes that’s harder than you can imagine. A reader can’t get inside your head, you have to show and tell us. Outline a clear plot and then write it. You don’t have to follow the outline exactly, but know where your story is going. Give your characters depth. Even if the reader isn’t supposed to like the character, show us why. If you find yourself with flat characters, reconsider their importance to the story. Take the reader somewhere they’ve never been before, even if it’s just a strange living room. Make them feel like they’re there.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sis/302558059/”>Sister72</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

 
5 Comments

Posted by on December 17, 2012 in Books, Characters, Plot, Setting, Uncategorized

 

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Help!

008NaNoWriMo is done for another year. How did you all do? I didn’t participate, but had fun watching the updates fly by. Congratulations to all the winners!!

This is going to be a short post this week, because I need feedback – from you. I’ve asked the other Hugs and Chocolate writers if this is something they’d be interested in doing and the majority of the response has been extremely positive and exciting. I’m going to list a few questions and would look forward to reading your answers. We’ll discuss them and see what we can do to best help you.

Now that NaNo is over, we know you’ve got a ton of words, but it may not be ready for publication. However, we also know that it’s December, which means it’s crazy busy with Christmas and New Year’s coming up and you probably don’t have a lot of time to devote to writing this month. So…

1. If the Hugs and Chocolate writers were to offer workshops and critiques via the website, would you be interested in participating?

2. What subjects would you like to see covered? Revisions and editing are difficult. Some of us have done them or are doing them as I write this. What, in particular, would you like to know more about?

3. We were thinking of offering a critique workshop also. Would you be willing to submit the first 500 words of your story in a comment and have it critiqued? Or perhaps your one sentence description? Tell us what you need and how we can best help you.

4. Are you in need of a critique partner? Perhaps, via comments, you can find someone else who’s looking.

5. Timing. Because December is so busy for everyone, when would you like to see this happen? We want to create a community that helps you succeed and we’re looking for feedback about what our readers want and need.

 

 
18 Comments

Posted by on December 3, 2012 in Critique, Editing, Feedback, First Lines, NaNoWriMo, Revision

 

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