Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Writer's Resource: Idea Generators

I'm starting a new manuscript in the near future, which means I'm deep in the idea generation phase. I used to get seduced by a shiny new idea and jump in without thinking about it too much. This time, I'm making myself come up with twenty(!) story ideas before I pick one and dive in. It sounds daunting, but I'm enjoying the challenge.

Although many of my ideas are ones that have been rattling around for a while or are inspired by things in my environment, I'm also utilizing online resources to check a few more off my list. Here are some of the story generators I've found particularly useful.

1. One Stop for Writers Idea Generator (note: you will need to create a free account to view the text on this page)
This is one of my favorite new discoveries. The page is divided into sections, like different character traits, emotional wounds, and plot complications. Each time you click, you'll get a few new choices—not enough to overwhelm you, but sometimes just enough to spark an idea.

2. Random Logline Generator
When you don't want to get too specific, this tool is great. It gives you a quick little logline (for example, the one I just got was "During the 1930s, hitwomen form a cult on the sidewalk"). Some are nonsensical, but it's easy enough to push the button and get another. And hey... 1930s hitwomen sound kind of intriguing, don't they?

3. YA Character Generator
This one is fun—you input a few details like age and gender, and it spits out a randomly generated character.

Do you have a favorite idea generator?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Word Count

I'm still in school so capping writing is important.  I don't usually have a word count, but I usually have a page limit.  This summer as I write scholarship and college essays, I've encountered my worst limit of all - the word count.  Sure, as a writer, I've faced that but before, but some of these essays want no more than 250 words.  Ugh!  Good news it really has made me focus on my word choices.  Thus my tip this month if you tend to be wordy is to write essays with a 250 cap.  Once you get used to the pain, it is kind of fun!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

To Novel or To Short Story?

Typewriter with words "What's Your Story"

As long as I can remember, my focus has been on writing the great novel. It started with young adult stories, then adult contemporary and psychological thrillers. Every time I came up with an idea, I was filled with the excitement of starting something new. The old stories left unfinished.

I've critiqued other writers who've written short stories and appreciated their efforts but never thought that it was something I wanted to pursue... until now. 

If you're like me and haven't considered writing short stories, here are a few reasons why they might be worth diving into:

1) They are much shorter and thus take less time

I know - it's an obvious one.

2) You can experiment with writing craft

Have a style you're interested in or a craft element (i.e. metaphors, magical realism) you want to play with? A short story allows you to develop these skills without major investment.

3) Beginnings, middles and ends 

Short stories allow you to practice completing a story and seeing it through the entire arc.

4) Opportunities to be published

Novels (usually) take a long time to complete and once complete, you must go through a significant length of time for submission. Because short stories take less time, you have greater opportunities to send them out to literary journals and have them potentially published, thus building your street cred as you continue to pursue your great novel.

5) Sometimes you just need a break

Sometimes, you might be too engrossed in that one great novel. Short stories allow you to stretch and exercise your mind. Think of things in different points of view and examine ideas and characters you might not have thought about. 

Happy Writing!

Monday, July 10, 2017

YA Book Pick: WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI by Sandhya Menon

Once a month, we choose an outstanding YA book to review. We want to spotlight books of interest to aspiring writers, as well as highlight some of our favorite books and authors!

This month's book pick is When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon.

Synopsis (from Goodreads): Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

First Line: "Dimple couldn't stop smiling." 

This is a good intro to the story, which is, at its core, a romantic comedy. You immediately want to know what's making her smile, right?

Highlights: I'm a rom-com junkie from way back, so I have high expectations for the genre. This book definitely delivered! It managed to be light and funny while tackling some heavier topics (parental expectations vs. following your passion, feminism, first love, etc.). I loved the trope-busting detail that the guy was the one looking for a long-term commitment, not the girl. It's easy to see why this book was a NYT bestseller.

Notes for Writers: This is a great example of a "diverse" book that isn't about diversity—the protagonists happen to be Indian-American, but the themes are universal. One thing I loved, though, was that the author didn't shy away from peppering the story with plenty of interesting details about Indian culture. I was glad I read this book on my Kindle app and could easily click a word or phrase to read more about things that interested me.

A Good Read For: Romantic comedy fans and anyone looking for a light, fun read.

Monday, July 3, 2017

A Little Alliteration Please

I grew up reading Dr. Seuss and of course I loved his stories and his style of writing.  In fact, to this day I love alliteration and have used it many, many times over the years. For me, alliteration is fun and makes me smile.  Unfortunately, the writing world today seems to frown upon the technique which makes me ever so slightly sad.  Why just today, I saw an article that included a list of techniques writers should avoid. Alliteration was at the top of the list.

I can't say that I was shocked since I've read other articles suggesting writers avoid alliteration, but I am still surprised.  I can think of several influential writers (Edgar Allen Poe, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Homer, John Donne,etc.) that have used alliteration in their writing. Okay, Okay. Those writers were poets, but even in their prose they used alliteration and effectively.  See, alliteration captures the readers' attention and when read aloud has a musical quality thus writers like to use alliteration to reach out to their readers.

So, my take away. Alliteration isn't all that bad. Just use it to attract readers and use it subtly.  Happy crafting!