Friday, December 31, 2010
Thursday, December 30, 2010
|A Short Story on Kindle|
Yep, I am experimenting with putting a previously published story up on Kindle. I'm preparing to put a novel up and had heard it recommended to experiment with a short story first so you can work out the tweaks with a much smaller file. Very good advice I might add.
So, that's what I did. I took my short story "Jumping Thoughts" which was originally published in Ride! Magazine in 1997. It has sat on my hard drive since then. Might as well put it to some use now.
Putting something up on Kindle really isn't that hard. I probably spent most of my time working on the cover which I'm sure I'll continue to tweak. The digital file for amazon was very easy to put together and I only needed to fix one thing after the preview. The cover was as I mentioned a little more time consuming as I worked on colors and the lettering. I took an old photo of me jumping one of my horses though I am still looking for a photo of the horse which inspired the story.
I'm getting kind of excited about the prospect of putting some of my other old stuff up. Next item is to play with the Smashwords and PubIt systems to get the story available at Barnes and Noble, Apple, and other ebookstores.
Sunday, December 26, 2010
I personally believe these publishers are ripping off our youth. I am sorry, but those books are not worth $17.99. My daughter should not have to pay $17.99 plus tax to get the next in a series she seriously enjoys.
Shame on you publishers for taking advantage of children on the premise that adults will spend money on their kids which they wouldn't spend on themselves. What you might not be considering is I won't allow her to buy a lot of these books. I can't count the number of times we go to book stores and walk out with nothing because every book she wants to buy is above $15 and is not available in paperback. Guess where my daughter gets her books. The library. Yep, she borrows every book she can, she would and I would happily buy these books if there were priced below $10, but if she can find them in a library we won't be buying them. We occasionally have to bite the bullet when it's a book or series not carried by our library exchange program, but this rarely occurs.
I would love to see more publishers going back to releasing youth books in paperback and stop selling hardcovers to children.
Friday, December 3, 2010
The book I just finished has been a long time coming. It took me a lot longer to finish than I had planned as I allowed myself to be derailed from my original intention. Once I was able to get back to the original vision I was able to get it done.
And today I did get it done. I've spent the last four days doing typo edits and filling in little tiny plot typos and holes. I had one particular scene which was really kicking my butt because it was such an important scene and I was just not happy with it. But I conquered it today and I was so happy when I scanned it and realized I had fixed it. The scene does exactly what I wanted it to do.
So, are you a re-writer or a clean up typo-er?
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
There's a promo for Writing For Dummies on Amazon from November 15-19 to download it free. If you don't have a Kindle you can still download it to your computer. Go here to get your free copy.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
This is a good reminder to all writers to be super careful when it comes time to hire an agent. Don't jump at the first offer without extensive consideration. Don't give control of your money and writing future over to a stranger no matter how much they flatter you or how well "respected" they might be in the industry.
Saturday, October 2, 2010
I haven't been able to really participate that much in my first chapters challenge though I did do it last year. I'm helping to organize my second chapters challenge this year. I've always liked these challenges. They can teach you better writing habits and force you to shove your inner critic aside.
How about you? Do you participate in writing challenges?
Saturday, September 25, 2010
But they already had a book with the title Curses. Too close to my own title.
So, on the title hunt I went. I asked for a little direction from my editor who asked me some excellent questions to consider on what I want to focus on with the title. I then did some brainstorming, but felt stuck. I went to one of my RWA chapters and asked for a little help - posting a blurb on what it was about and about ten titles I had come up with so far. Funnily, someone suggested a title that I had original come up with and later dismissed, but they also came up with a lot of other good suggestions. I then took their suggestions, my list, and the questions my editor asked me and came up with a title I liked almost as much as The Curse. Unfortunately, title was already taken. :-) I re-considered wanting to keep the theme of redemption in the title (a suggestion by my editor).
Drum roll.....The new title is The Beast's Redemption.
How do you all come up with your titles? Sometimes I'm lucky and a title comes to me immediately. Other times I struggle to find the perfect title.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Go to the Publisher Spotlights section of the boards. Angela will be there for a week through Friday, Sept. 24th.
Check out Carina Press's submission guidelines.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
My first book was under my married name. I'd toyed with the idea of a pen name then, but frankly I wanted credit for the book. I had also done some pre-book stuff in the area and felt I could draw upon that audience. So, I was published in non-fiction with a book geared primarily toward teenagers and their parents.
Come to now. My first contracted title is a paranormal romance novella. This book is not intended to be Young Adult and I decided that I wanted to keep my non-fiction works separate from my romance works. Yet, I also didn't want to hide that I am the author of my romance works. I decided on a public pen name. This is fairly common for authors who write in different genres. It allows their fans to know what they are getting when they pick up a particular authors book (no thinking you have a historical and finding it's a paranormal) while also allowing those readers that read multiple genres to know that their favorite historical author writes paranormals under this other name.
I plan to release my paranormal and romantic suspense novels and novellas under the Angie Derek name and will continue to use Angelia Almos for my non-fiction and possibly young adult books since I can tie into my already established base of young adult readers (especially for young adult horsey fiction since I'm published in young adult horsey nonfiction).
How about you? Are you considering using a pen name? Do you publish under a pen name? Is it a public one or secret?
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Sorry, the Lessons from series have been absent for a little while. I haven't watched anything that I felt I could apply to this. Was doing a lot of reading recently and with more obscure writers (at least ones I'd never heard of).
big FAT liar is pure genius. I'm still in the watch and be amazed phase. I've seen this movie so many times that I can recite many of the lines and know the plot like one of my own stories.
I laugh every single time I watch it. According to some research this movie didn't do so well and got panned by many reviewers. I have to admit to being surprised at first, but then I remembered that often the movies and shows that I love generally don't do well either in the general populace or with reviewers (reason why I never base my viewing on any reviews).
So back to the movie itself. big FAT liar is a kid/teen comedy about pathological liars. My favorite parts of this movie are the characters and the running jokes for each one of them. You have to really listen to the dialogue to catch all of them or you'll miss them. The movie may be over the top in many ways, but also has a lot of under the radar humor. Part of what I think makes the movie so good is the soundtrack. Of course, soundtracks isn't something that writers have a lot of say in, but I'd say the music could even be a character of it's own.
Onto the lessons...
1) Our hero is met up with who he could become as the villain. You have the pathological liar as a child seeing what a pathological liar as an adult can and does do. It's actually kinda deep. Consider when creating your stories, taking an element or key characteristic of your hero and bestowing it on your villain as well. What type of dynamic will you create when something the hero does without thought or is proud of is also something the villain does well?
2) I love the gags. I would like to be able to think of gags like this off the top of my head. Alas, I don't appear to be there yet, but I hope to be able to learn to be as creative as the writers were in this one.
3) Not really a lesson, but Amanda Bynes is a comic genius. Need I say more.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
I was just scanning their catalog as I prepare to fill in my cover artist sheet (descriptions and recommendations for the cover artist) and have been thrilled to see how vivid their covers are. They have so many great examples that I'm having a hard time deciding if I'd rather have a people cover or an object cover. Though the cover artist and the publisher have final say on the cover design it's nice to know that they care enough about the author's opinion to require us to fill in the form. The form is super long and extensive. I'm taking that as a good sign.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
***** Permission to Forward Granted *****
RWA® Online Chapter presents:
PRUNE YOUR PROSE! Ten Tips to Tighten Your Fiction Writing
Instructor: Linnea Sinclair
August 16th – 29th, 2010
Registration Period: August 2-15, 2010
Fee: $15 Non-Chapter members. RWAOL Chapter #136 members; free.
Payment method: PAYPAL is recommended!
It’s safe and fast! Check and money orders also accepted.
Registration: http://www. rwaonlinechapter .org/campus.htm (without the spaces)
NOTE: -Use your real First and Last Name & Choose Pay Option.
ONLY Chapter #136 members choose the Chapter Member option button.
For more information: email@example.com
CLASS DESCRIPTION: As the saying goes, “Close only counts in…hand grenades.” Don’t let your manuscript bomb because of easily overlooked errors, or for lack of sophistication and polish. Learn how to make every chapter count, every scene earn its keep, every main character memorable. Award-winning Bantam Random House author Linnea Sinclair will take you though ten tips (and more!) that will make your story shine, move it out of the slush pile, onto an editor’s desk so that—when on the shelves—it can garner reviews that note: A must-read, by an author who never disappoints!
Attendees should bring sample pages of their work-in-progress (including their first page) and be prepared to share and improve!
BIO: Winner of the prestigious national book award, the RITA, science fiction romance author Linnea Sinclair has become a name synonymous for high-action, emotionally intense, character-driven novels. Reviewers note that Sinclair's novels "have the wow-factor in spades," earning her accolades from both the science fiction and romance communities. Sinclair's current releases are GAMES OF COMMAND (PEARL Award winner and RITA finalist), THE DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES (PEARL Award Honorable Mention), SHADES OF DARK, HOPE’S FOLLY and REBELS & LOVERS.
A former news reporter and retired private detective, Sinclair resides in Naples, Florida (winters) and Columbus, Ohio (summers) along with her husband, Robert Bernadino, and their two thoroughly spoiled cats. Readers can find her perched on the third barstool from the left in her Intergalactic Bar and Grille at www.linneasinclair.com.
FORMAT: Course is conducted via online discussion (bulletin) board on the RWA® Online website. Non-chapter members MUST complete both the workshop registration AND the discussion board login registration for access. Instructions for login are presented after the registration pages (or to return to the login instructions, go to http://www.rwaonline...strationTY.htm. The workshop is available for up to one week after the end date and a downloadable archive of the workshop will be available the week following the workshop.
***** Permission To Forward Granted *****
Monday, August 2, 2010
Logan Echolls the character that stole the show in Veronica Mars. Introduced to us by our heroine as the "obligatory psychotic jackass" that every high school has. He starts the show as the ultimate villain to our plucky heroine. I read somewhere that the character wasn't originally one of the main characters, but after you watch Jason Dohring's performance you can see why he quickly became one of the leads.
Logan starts the show not being the most loving character, but we know he can't be all bad since he was loved by our heroine's best friend before the show started. I am personally under the impression that Logan's evolution of character had a lot to do with the chemistry between Jason and Kristen Bell. They start out as enemies, work to wary allies though sometimes still adversaries, to a crucial episode that pitches their relationship to something more. The scene is below and categories the one thing that Veronica could always count on from Logan. He will always be her white knight and will ride in to protect her from the true bad guys. This is the first time, but definitely not the last.
But true to Joss Whedon's simple analysis of ratings: "Buffy happy ratings go down. Buffy sad ratings go up." In this instance, I seem to think it would be "Logan tortured ratings go up. Logan sweet and happy ratings go down." So, Logan has to return to his bad boy ways more often than we can count. Yet, it's revealed that he isn't "bad", but is truly tortured by an abusive father, and because of his extremely loyal and protective instincts he acts out when things feel wrong to him.
Lesson learned from the bad boy Logan.
1) They can be very bad and still be redeemable.
2) You must have a reason for them to be bad other than it is fun, easy, or you just want a bad boy character.
3) Bad boys that our heroines fall in love with are often tortured in their past. A happy past is not allowed. Happy moments, yes, but there must be some sort of tragedy.
4) They can relapse as long as there is a legitimate reason that messes with their heads.
More of Logan coming to Veronica's rescue or defending her in some way.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Originally the story was a pretty good action-adventure story with some interesting characters that meet and work together for the greater good. But someone decided to make some crucial changes which altered Logan/Wolverine's journey into one which is much more admirable and emotionally gut wrenching. A hero's journey that is executed well will tug on those emotional strings whether it's to make you laugh, cry, cheer, boo, etc. You will walk out of the theater with some sort of emotional reaction.
The one element that was changed for the final version was Rogue and Logan's relationship. Rogue is who pull's Logan into this world, because even though he's the reluctant hero he must defend the innocent. The entire movie is basically wrapped around that premise and his promise to Rogue to protect her. She's a teenage girl and he's an older/wiser/stronger man. They could have gone with romantic love with this relationship and I admit I was expecting it at first. But they didn't. They went with the element from the hero's journey of courtly love or pure love. This choice made their dynamic much stronger and the story more powerful.
As a romance writer I tend to think in terms of romantic love, but I need reminders of the strength of other types of love that can make a story stronger whether it's friend love, buddy love, or pure love.
X-Men hits many other hero's journey points and I recommend you check it out with the hero's journey checklist in front of you to see how it all interweaves together, but in particular look how they set up Rogue and Logan's relationship (the driving force for the entire movie).
Monday, July 19, 2010
What I find interesting is if you read the script (I'm not sure what version it is, but it isn't the shooting script) the romance between Rick and Evy is much more of your traditional action-adventure forced relationship. It doesn't have any sparkle to it. They antagonize each other yet seem to kinda like each other. The movie gets it right. Whether these changes were made in subsequent drafts or after Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz were cast I have no idea.
For those interested in writing an action-adventure with a touch of romance I highly recommend that you study The Mummy as an example of how to get it right. It isn't an instant romance, but one that builds between the two of them as they get to know each other. They fight, they banter, they flirt, they have sweet moments and hot moments, but the point is the romance flows. A lot of that flow can be credited to the chemistry between Brendan and Rachel, and like most of my analyzing I would love to know how much was written in with them in mind, improvisation, etc. It's the beat of the romance that builds throughout the entire movie that make it work. If you wish to include a romance in your action-adventure don't forget that the beats of the romance are just as important as the beats to your adventure. If you're really good those beats are often combined and mingled together allowing you to build the story and romance as one.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
1) What author do you own the most books by? I purged my books about a year ago this would have been a very different answer then, but now, Jayne Ann Krentz/Jayne Castle/Amanda Quick with Linda Howard a close second.
2) What book do you own the most copies of? I generally don't own multiple copies on purpose (though it does happen on accident). Probably a tie between my own book Horse Schools and a box of family Bibles we have.
3) Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions? Nope, didn't even notice.
4) What fictional character are you secretly in love with? Jason Bourne. :-)
5) What book have you read the most times in your life (excluding picture books read to children; i.e., Goodnight Moon does not count)? Probably, To Die For by Linda Howard.
6) What was your favorite book when you were ten years old? Long time ago, but I think I was into Sweet valley Twins and The Saddle Club when I was ten.
7) What is the worst book you've read in the past year? Hmm, I usually don't finish them, and then I don't remember.
9) If you could force everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be? Mine. :-)
10) Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for Literature? No clue.
11) What book would you most like to see made into a movie? I'd like to see The Last Unicorn made into a live action flick. I'd also love to see the series The Secret of the Unicorn Queen made into a mini-series.
12) What book would you least like to see made into a movie? I can't think of anything off the top of my head. I think most books I've read could be, if done correctly, so many books will not transfer straight over to film well.
13) Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character. Hmmm, I can't think of any, possible I've had one, but just don't remember.
14) What is the most lowbrow book you've read as an adult? Lowbrow??? What the heck is that? I don't believe in lowbrow.
15) What is the most difficult book you've ever read? Hamlet.
16) What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you've seen? Only read Hamlet. Never seen Shakespeare on stage though have seen a few movies.
17) Do you prefer the French or the Russians? Who the heck knows.
18) Roth or Updike? Um, don't think I've read either of them.
19) David Sedaris or Dave Eggers? Who?
20) Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer? Okay I know I've read Shakespeare and the other two sound familiar, but have no idea.
21) Austen or Eliot? Are we talking T.S. Eliot? That one is hard. Jane is brilliant, but Eliot did create the poems that inspired Cats.
22) What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading? Anything considered literature now and yesterday.
23) What is your favorite novel? I don't really have a favorite, but two of my tops are To Die For and An Accidental Goddess.
24) Play? Cats
25) Poem? The poems that Cats was based on are pretty cool.
26) Essay? I have blocked out all essays I was required to read in college.
27) Short story? Same as above.
28) Work of nonfiction? Mine of course, LOL. The Year of Living Biblically was pretty darn good.
29) Who is your favorite writer? List: Jayne Ann Krentz, Linda Howard, Linnea Sinclair, Suzanne Brockmann, and Kay Hooper.
30) Who is the most overrated writer alive today? I think that's more jealousy talking than reality. If you sell you're big, simple as that.
31) What is your desert island book? Some sort of guide on surviving on a desert island.
32) And ... what are you reading right now? Nothing.
Friday, July 2, 2010
Now to the movie. I think it's good. I'm not sure I can say great, but I don't know if that's because I was analyzing it so much or because it is just good. Which is why I want to see it again. Not sure if you have to see it in 3D. It does make the various bending elements look cool, but not sure if it is so different from watching it in 2D.
I have to say, though I'm probably in the minority, that I think M. Night did a pretty good job of condensing 7-8 hours into 1 1/2. The biggest complaint I have heard is where is that character, that character, that character, which I get, we all have our favorite secondary characters, but they all can't make an appearance. The focus of the first movie is on the Water kingdom so M. Night did gloss over a lot of their journey of the Earth kingdom, because, hello, there wouldn't have been any time spent in the Water kingdom if he had included all those characters. I know we all love cabbage guy, but maybe cabbage guy will show up in the second movie when the focus is on the Earth kingdom. So, I was okay with that though he does include a crucial scene in the Earth kingdom so it isn't entirely in the Water kingdom. As to Suki not making an appearance, here is my reading of it and I could be completely wrong, Sokka has two romances in season 1 of the cartoon, if he had two romances in the movie (remember hour and a half) he would have seemed like a womanizer and it would have diminished his grief for Princess Yue and her sacrifice.
My own and only complaint since the bulk of the time was spent in the Water kingdom was that he chose not to show Katara having to earn the right to learn water bending because she's a girl. I think the time showing her and Aang practicing could have covered that and would have added more depth to the story (as in no particular nation is all good or all bad, it had good people and bad people).
Complaints from the kiddos were:
Sokka isn't funny. I will agree that they made him more serious than slapstick. Though I noticed that M. Night did contain one element of each of the running gags throughout season 1. So there is one slapstick moment and one goofy joke, but just one.
Uncle Iroh isn't funny. Again, he was more of the zen master. Which he was in the show, but in the cartoon he'd be zen like and then do something outrageous. The running tea joke was again mentioned once in the movie.
Katara wasn't stubborn. I'll agree here. M. Night seemed to want to focus on Katara's softer side. Most of her scenes had to do with Aang and Katara was often her softest in her scenes with Aang in the cartoon. And yes, M. Night did not have her fighting with her brother all the time (or at all as far as I remember) in the movie like she does in the cartoon.
Probably can't write about this without mentioning casting. And I'm sure I'll get some, you don't know what you're talking about comments, I think the casting was brilliant. Look at it as this huge fantasy world with different races/cultures. That's what M. Night does and I have to say it is one of the most diverse casts I think I have ever seen on screen (I'd love to hear of other movies if you can recommend them).
Aang - if you've seen the cartoon, he's white, I'm sorry, but look at the cartoon, the character is colored white. I think the actor cast actually looks more Asian that the cartoon character.
Katara and Sokka - yep, they be white in this movie, and they sure aren't white in this cartoon. But I don't think they are Asian in the cartoon. I was always under the impression they were supposed to be Inuits or Native Americans.
Zuko - is Indian in the movie, I'm guessing he's Asian in the cartoon. M. Night does discuss part of his casting here.
Based on the first movie it looks like M. Night has divided the nations based on race as:
Water Nation - Caucasian
Air Nomads - many races - I thought this was interesting. There isn't anyone with "black" skin in the cartoon, but M. Night cast an african/american actor as a priest and all of the children were of different races. I liked this choice.
Earth Nation - Asian
Fire Nation - Indian
So, there are some of my thoughts on the new movie. I think a lot of the boycotting is sad since I think they are missing the chance for a truly culturally diverse cast. I've read several articles on the boycott and those that I've read have basically said the entire cast should have been Asian which wouldn't be a racially or culturally diverse cast.
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
So, on to my not getting it. Do people really act that way? Seriously. I know these shows cast for the highest possibility of conflict, but still these people come from somewhere - they don't hatch out of a TV camera. They have families, friends, etc. and they act in a way that totally boggles my mind. And then I begin to think - am I so out of touch that to me a "reality" show - as set up as they are - feels to me like a really bad and overacted movie.
Then I begin to think that it wasn't that long ago these "adults" were teenagers and would be the age of my readers for my ya novels. But my characters don't act anything like the cast of Jersey Shore (or a couple other TV shows that came on while packing). I don't remember any of my friends behaving remotely like the cast. I do recall a few individuals that seemed to always be in the heart of some sort of drama. The teens I know now don't act like that - at least not in front of me.
I don't understand the desire to act as is portrayed on these shows. So, am I completely out of touch with reality?
Monday, June 28, 2010
I went to enter a scene idea in a script I haven't worked on in a while. I'm paging through and I get to a 30 page section that I don't recall at ALL! Have I really reached that point where I don't remember writing that big of a chunk. It's not unusual for me to forget something here or there - something small. But to have no recollection of those 30 pages is kinda freaking me out.
I've heard other writers talk about having to go back and reread a past book before writing a sequel because they forget and now I'm wondering if they are really talking about forgetting the big stuff not the little stuff like eye color, dates, etc.
Have you had this happen to you? And of course a side affect of forgetting this entire giant section is I don't think my new idea will fit in with the plot now. LOL
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
I pulled out a romantic suspense that I had actually written around the same time as my ya fantasy. I'd done full paper edits, but had only gotten about half way through entering them back into the computer before deciding my attention was too splintered and I needed to focus all my energy on my ya fantasy. Back to the romantic suspense. Imagine my surprise in reading it and my edits that, it needs so much WORK. Argh. In the process of critiquing and editing my ya fantasy I actually learned and have become a better writer.
I suppose I should be happy my skills have improved (though I know I still have a lot to learn), but instead I feel like wailing. It's gonna take a lot more work to get this romantic suspense up to where I'm comfortable having someone else read it than I had thought it would.
I am happy my skills are improving. I am happy my skills are improving. I am happy my skills are improving.
Do you think if I tell myself that enough times I'll start believing it?
P.S. Big thanks to my critique partners for helping me get better. :-)
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Harlequin's Book in Three Months Challenge
The idea behind this is can you write a book as quickly as one of their professional writers which is write it in two months and edit it in one? They will be posting informational and inspirational articles every Monday. The challenge started on June 1st so they are already one week in, but I bet you can catch up!
Candace Havens Writing Game Challenge
Starting June 7th you can join her yahoo group to participate in the Writing Game Challenge. Each day she will draw two numbers, a word count number and a page count number. If you're writing a first draft, you would write the number of words for that day. If you're working on revisions, you will revise that number of pages. If you haven't participate in her Fast Draft or Revision Hell workshops, Candace has some great advice and can help you with those elusive disciplined work habits that so many writers struggle with.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
"There's always gonna be another mountain. I'm always gonna want to make it move. Always gonna be an uphill battle. Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose. It ain't about how fast I get there. Ain't about what's waiting on the other side. It's the climb." - The Climb
I find the lyrics to be spot in for anything worth going for. When I think back to my horse show days. The moments I enjoyed the most were the training for the shows not the shows themselves. It wasn't about the destination of competing and winning at the show. It was the training and working toward the show that was the most rewarding.
Can you recommend any songs that are great for inspiration?
Thursday, June 3, 2010
- Wrote and submitted Red Hot Fairy Tale by Feb. 1st.
- Did not finish space opera by March 1st. Don't even have a finished rough draft. Boo on me.
- Finish up edits on mafia romantic suspense by March 1st. A resounding NO. Though I did do a little bit of work on this, I shelved it to work on other stuff.
- Submit ya fantasy to publishers by mid-Feb. I have submitted ya fantasy, but in May not mid-Feb. :-)
- Launch HorseSchoolsOnline.com by March. Site was successfully launched and all information from 3rd edition of book has been entered.
Short term goals was to write 1,000 words a day (five days a week). Not doing as well with this. Still following my usual schedule of cramming in a lot of work in a short period of time and then doing hardly any writing for a stretch of time. I would really like to get into a more consistent schedule on this and have no one to blame but myself. I know I'm capable of doing the 1,000 words a day because I can be a pretty fast writer, but I don't sit down and do it. That's where I need to become more disciplined.
How are you on your writing/creating goals? Are you still working toward them or have you given up?
Monday, May 31, 2010
I was watching Push with the commentary and was fascinated when the director noted that Cassie never fires a weapon (there's a lot of gun fire in this movie) and that he did it on purpose, because in his view Cassie is still a child and he didn't want her running around shooting people. The first time she has a gun in her hand, she throws it at the villain instead of firing it. The second time we see her with the gun, she's protecting someone else by pulling the gun, but it shakes in her hand emphasizing her discomfort with the weapon.
Avatar: The Last Airbender has a similar thread near the end. For the entire three seasons, Aang is told and prepared to battle the Fire Lord to death. As the Avatar it is his responsibility and destiny to kill the Fire Lord and restore balance to the world. But Aang (a 12 year old boy raised as a monk) battles this destiny in his head. He can't come to terms with the idea that he has to take another person's life to restore balance. I don't want to spoil the ending in case you haven't seen it yet and are watching it, but this thread through the third season touched me because it made so much sense. Everyone expected this 12 year old boy (or maybe he's thirteen by the time he faces the Fire Lord) even his own ancestors (the previous Avatars) to go against his entire life philosophy and do what must be done.
Seeing how these writers worked on these issues helped me to feel much more confident in how my own heroine handled her own violent encounters.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
I've been thinking a lot about his back and forth. How he lets his anger get in his own way. How his strong sense of honor often leads him to do the right thing even if he wants to do the "wrong" thing. How he refuses to give up on his "quest" of capturing the Avatar to regain his father's approval even when faced with great obstacles (mental and physical). How he gets tempted so easily to the dark side when the path to do good has fewer obstacles than being bad. How he holds firmly to the "truth" even when it is shown to be a lie. How he fails miserably in his attempts to be a teenager. He is a sixteen year old working toward becoming a man and embodies all of the conflicts that one faces when reaching adulthood. Zuko's transformation into a hero isn't an easy path and he hurts others on his journey. Of course, his path toward redemption includes opportunities for him to make amends so he can fully realize his potential as one of the heroes.
Sometimes we need our characters to say or do things we don't like. Sometimes we have to put them through hell for them to grow and get to where we need them to be. Poor Zuko, those writers literally put him through the wringer over and over again, but which character has captured my imagination, you guessed it, Zuko.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
On to the lesson I've learned from this animated series. If you haven't seen the show, the Avatar is a person that possesses the abilities of all four nations - air, water, earth, and fire. Other characters may have the ability to manipulate a single element, but not all four. What is interesting about this show is you have a young boy (they show him as being a preteen) who is the next Avatar and has to work to control all four elements before any other Avatar was required to because of a war. A child being thrust into a massive quest isn't new, but what Avatar: TLA does so well is they don't forget that Aang (the Avatar) is still a child and his traveling companions are teenagers, Katara and Sukka. Aang is constantly getting into trouble of his own making whether he's goofing off or has made a bad decision. This makes him much more believable. Katara and Sukka are thrust into the roles of adults due to the war and protecting Aang, and they also make mistakes based on their inexperience in life.
This is a good lesson for anyone who wishes to create characters who are teenagers or children that will be tasked with "great" things in your story. Don't forget that they are teenagers or children. They are going to make mistakes based on immaturity and inexperience. They are going to want to have fun. They are going to be self-centered at times.
This doesn't mean that your characters don't exhibit traits of greatness whether it is in supernatural powers, intelligence, and leadership, but remember that they aren't miniature adults. Part of their journey should be them growing into their abilities and "growing up."
Avatar: The Last Airbender never forgets that it's stars are children of various ages. Through each episode we watch them grow and mature, and stumble and take a step back in their maturity, and then grow some more from their mistakes. I'm curious to see how the live action film will show this arc or will they skip it altogether (having three seasons to grow your characters vs. 2 hours will prove challenging to the film makers).
Sunday, May 16, 2010
My dilemma: it is a rom-com class and I have absolutely no idea what to write about. It isn't that I don't like rom-coms. Some of my favorite movies are rom-coms and I admire their cleverness. Being a romance writer I generally prefer movies that have some sort of romance (as long as it isn't forced in). But I have no flipping clue of an idea of what to do in this class. I know that Jacque can be very flexible in you coming in to one of her classes with just a basic idea, and outline, a part of a script, or a completely written script. But I don't even have a basic idea waiting to be told. I find comedy challenging.
So, I think, maybe I should try a new instructor and genre, something I haven't done yet, learn something new. I check out the one hour drama class. This is something I haven't done. Would like to learn how to do. The catch, you have to pick two new to newish one hour dramas to pitch ideas for and work on throughout the class. The problem, I have no clue what is on TV. One of the things I cut out to get more writing time is TV watching. I only catch a few select shows here or there and the ones I have been watching are old shows like NCIS and Criminal Minds. You can't just pull a show out of your hat as you need to at least understand the basics of the characters and arcs to be able to know what you are talking about in pitching a show. So, I'm looking through a current TV show lists to see if there is anything that I haven't been watching that I might like to watch.
That's my dilemma. And then a little voice in my head says, hey, those Kindles look awfully cool, why don't you just get one of those and skip the whole class thing?
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Sunday, May 9, 2010
I'm one of those writers that casts actors in the roles of my character so I can visualize what they look like when I'm writing. I'll print up a headshot of a picture that I think suits the character and put it on my bulletin board to help me get back into character if I'm struggling. Often watching the role that made me think they would be good as my character can also help when I'm having a hard time. I know plenty of other writers that pick people they know or random people of the street. Other writers flip through magazines and cut out pictures that interest them: real people, actors, models, other public figures.
I have a hard time visualizing real people as my characters as I get too stuck into what the real person would do. For me, an actor, acts, so whomever I cast in the part then becomes the character in my head. Sometimes I fall on the correct person right away while other times I struggle with casting a different actor over and over (feel like I'm casting a movie at that point). But I need that image in my head or their voice feels false.
Steve Martin is the type of actor that I'd like to cast. He has a certain "type" of character he plays so if I have a character like that he would automatically pop into my head, but he also has the talent that he could play any type of character so if my character starts to veer away from that "type" I'd have no problem keeping the image of Steve Martin in my head.
What about you? How do you come up with or cast the characters so you can visualize them?
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
The two main lessons I learned from this interview are:
1) She wrote with little children underfoot and grabbed five minutes here and there to write whenever she could and that is how she wrote her books. I know this in theory, but rarely do it in practice. I tend to focus on getting large chunks of time to accomplish anything, but I wonder if I grabbed the five minutes here and there as she did if I would get a lot more done than waiting for a large chunk to come.
2) Wrinkle was rejected by publishers over and over, but Madeleine believed in it and kept sending it out until a publisher was "brave" enough to put it out there. It really was a ground breaking book at it's time. Especially since the hero was a girl. A good lesson in believing in your work and following Heinlein's rule of keep sending it out until someone buys it.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
Just re-watched Push (twice) to see what lessons I can learn from this extremely complicated movie. Another one that people either love or hate. Go figure. As I was thinking about taking lessons from this movie I realized that the last three movies have all had opening narrations. Hmmm. What is that telling me? Should I open all my stories with a narrator? LOL
One lesson from Push is how to do an extremely complicated back story and world building. A reviewer mentioned that this is one of the few movies of this genre released recently that isn't based on a comic book series. So, the makers couldn't assume that people would understand the basics of the world and how everything works. Therefor it all had to be explained. The basics are told via Dakota Fanning's narration during the opening credits. We now know the basics of the psychic warriors and how the Division was created and why our heroes are running from them. The rest is interspersed through the actual plot. Our characters are also knee-deep into their world so they aren't going to be explaining a lot to each other as no one is a newbie. Some minor details are revealed this way as one character knows something a different character doesn't. And yes, it is one of those movies that you need to watch twice to really understand everything that has happened.
I like this. A lot of movie watchers didn't; a strong reason for some of the bad reviews. It is also one of those movies you gotta watch - no multi-tasking allowed.
What I enjoyed best was the relationship between Cassie (Dakota Fanning) and Nick (Chris Evans). So many movies focus on the romantic love interest when you have the male and female co-stars. Yet, there is an element of the hero's journey that is strictly on the "courtly love" end of things. Also, known as friendship love, family love, or brother/sister type love. This type of relationship was also shown very well in X-Men with Logan and Rogue. As a romance writer, I get stuck on the romantic type of relationships and sometimes forget the power of friendship relationships between male-female characters.
If you're looking to see a successful example of this type of relationship/characters I highly recommend you check out Push and X-Men and focus your attentions to the interactions between Cassie/Nick and Logan/Rogue.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
I'm trying not to bug you...but I'm just so darn excited! The auction starts in THREE days. And there's a lot I need to tell you!
1. There will be prizes! Each day I will draw a name of at least one shopper who has placed a bid that day and give him/her something fun.
2. The person who places the most bids during the first week will win an Apple iPad, an autographed Advanced Reading Copy of my new book, WHITE HEAT (which won't be out until July 27th), and a VIP invite to my cyber launch party.
3. To celebrate the auction, I'm currently giving away a trip for two to Curacoa on my web site. The prize includes air transportation from any major airport inside the US and a four-night stay at the brand new Hyatt Regency Curacao Golf Resort, Spa and Marina in the luxurious Santa Barbara Plantation between natural harbor Spanish Water and the romantic Caribbean. Enjoy beautiful white-sand beaches and spectacular sunsets, gourmet dining and a full service spa. Drawing will be held July 1st and winner will be notified by email. Enter at www.brendanovak.com
4. I'm currently the featured author at a new and wonderful site called Books On The House. I tell you this because I'm giving away two $25 gift certificates to the auction. It's just a simple drawing, no need to comment on a blog or anything. Visit www.booksonthehouse.com. Misa Ramirez, one of our fabulous category captains here at the auction, is giving away a $25 gift certificate via a sister site for kids www.booksonthehouse.com/kids
5. Please make sure you’re registered with the auction only once and that your shipping information is up to date. We don’t want to send your goodies to a previous address (which happened to someone last year).
6. To make sure everyone gets their items in a more timely fashion we’re limiting payment options to Paypal and credit card. But I consider you all my friends, so I’ll do my best to accommodate you if you must pay by check. Just let me know before the auction closes so I can make a note of it.
7. On the raffle tickets, billing will work a bit differently from last year. We will be invoicing for raffle tickets once a week and processing payment for them every Friday.
8. The One Day Auction category has been stocked, but please keep an eye on this category as we will be adding more items all the time. There was some confusion about this category last year because it's different from all the others. This is the only category where items go up for auction and close ON THE SAME DAY. You can’t bid on something in this category until it opens and you should be ready when it closes to make sure you take it home. You will be billed for these items at the end of the auction along with the regular items.
9. If you referred a friend who registered for the auction, and they put your name in the blank so that we have a way of tracking it, we owe you a $10 gift certificate. I’ve made a list of these go-getters. After the auction is over, if you think you should have a g.c. coming, just check with Anna. She’ll refer to the list and deduct that amount from your invoice. This offer is still good, by the way. So encourage your friends to join the fun.
10. And last…if you have any questions or problems, please do not hesitate to email us. My assistant Anna can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. If she can’t help you (and I’m betting she can because she’s pretty darn good at problem solving) I’ll jump in.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
The dialogue in this movie is great. No word is wasted. Every word reveals character. Oh, to be able to write like that is something I aim for.
I remember in one of my screenwriting classes we had to evaluate a movie on the dialogue alone. Watch the movie and read the script. How was it that the writer's were able to convey so much information and character to the viewer in the opening sequence through dialogue. I picked American Outlaws while the rest of my classmates picked Oscar winners. Yes, my rebel behavior tends to turn up wherever I go. It's been several years (shoot probably over 5) since I did that assignment. But I still remember the basics of the assignment. I believe you were supposed to evaluate the first five or so minutes of dialogue and see how the writers reveal back story, character information, and world information through dialogue alone. American Outlaws taught me a lot.
Soldier: Get me the James boy.
Second Soldier: Jesse?
Soldier: No, the one that can shoot.
Did you catch it? We have just been told that Jesse is not the one that can shoot. We also know that both Jesse and Frank (the one that can shoot) are in the military and in the middle of a conflict when this opens. A super cool cowboy/soldier scene follows revealing that though Frank is the one that can shoot Jesse is the one that will take the outrageous chances and will live to tell the tale. The rest of the dialogue reveals just as much as those three short lines, but I'm afraid they are no longer branded into my memory.
Want to learn how to write good dialogue? Check out some movies that do dialogue really well. Not wasting a single word. Check out How To Train Your Dragon and listen to Hiccup's dialogue with those in his tribe.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
This year I'm offering something new at my online auction for diabetes research (which starts in less than two weeks!). It's a writing contest, the winner of which will win a six-month mentorship with me, including guaranteed reads from my agent and editor. The entries will be judged by national bestselling authors, including Barbara Freethy, Dianna Love, Susan Mallery, Karen Rose, Karin Tabke, and Debra Webb. I'll read the finalists and select the winner based on who I think I can do the most for. So it's a fabulous
opportunity for the price of a contest entry. Check it out and register for the auction at http://brendanovak.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
One of my favorite hobbies, I guess you could call it, is to watch a movie, read the book, and read the script. It's a great tool to teach you basic storytelling and to see what is changed and what is the same. If the movie isn't based on a book try to read the original screenplay and see what has changed between the written word and what made it on screen.
Back to Big Trouble, the first half of the movie is pretty close to the book, but it's as you head into the second half that the smaller changes from the first half really begin to show. One being making one character more of a smart ass, making villains more stupid-scary than scary-stupid, turning two small roles into one larger role, giving the movie a central protagonist to play the part of the narrator from the book, and giving an overall theme that wasn't in the book.
None of these changes were bad, in fact they made for a better movie, because often what reads well does not translate to screen well. Very rarely does a book have what it takes to translate directly to screen and often times it actually isn't very good when they try to do that. I've analyzed each of the changes I noticed in Big Trouble and figured out why "I" think the screenwriters made the choices they did, but I realized shortly after trying to write this post yesterday that it would take pages and pages of writing to explain each change and why it made the movie more cohesive.
I highly recommend this exercise to anyone that wants to understand what works and what doesn't. One of my favorites is, watch the X-men movie (the first one) and then read the original screenplay. Check out the changes that were made. Do you think they made the movie better or weaker? What do you notice about the changes (hint, the hero's journey)? I freely admit that I haven't read many x-men comics so can't comment on the difference between the comics to the screenplay to the movie, but just the movie/screenplay combo is a great lesson on how small changes can really change the tone of a movie and make a reluctant hero more heroic.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
One instructor, wish I could remember who so I could give credit, referred to it as that line in the TV Guide that describes what the movie or show is about. In fact, as I recall, our homework was to go study the TV Guide to figure out how a logline works.
My ya fantasy's logline is a sheltered princess discovers her remarkable gifts with horses on a dangerous quest to find her father’s murderer.
My space opera's logline is a space pirate almost loses everything she cares about when she’s blackmailed into running a dangerous mission for the military.
I am trying to work up a logline for my paranormal novella and it is not wanting to come. Interestingly the 3 sentence pitch came easy with this one and usually it's the reverse. I struggle with the 3 sentence pitch (well, maybe not struggle but spend a lot of time rearranging and moving words around) and the logline seems to just come mostly formed from that pitch. But not this one.
So, how about you? Do loglines comes easy or hard?
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Monday, March 15, 2010
12 Results from my RWA contests experiment!
Friday, March 12, 2010
Now on to why I'm talking about Script Frenzy. I got the email and a part of me went "I want to do it! Let's do it!". I've attempted Script Frenzy before and got about 40 pages in before I let life get in the way. It was fun while I was doing it. But another part of me said, "oh no, you're supposed to be in a new screenwriting course on April 14. Do you really want to try to work on two scripts at the same time? Not to mention HorseSchoolsOnline and my determination to have my young adult fantasy submitted by then."
I have a pattern and habit of stacking on too much stuff at once and then becoming overwhelmed. One of my goals for writing this year was to not allow myself to tackle too many projects at one time. So, I won't be doing Script Frenzy this year. I wish lots of luck to all of my friends who will be doing it and know that I'll be cheering you on.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
But the online ones from the schools that focus on teaching you the craft of writing so you can sell. Those are the best. I was going strong on getting a certificate in Feature Film Writing from UCLA until 2009 rolled around. Like many others we had to cut our expenses and classes were one of the first things to go for me. It also seemed to correspond with when I decided to put Horse Schools online and had decided that I needed to focus on my first draft novels. Horse Schools is now http://www.horseschoolsonline.com and I am well on track on my 2010 goals for my novels. I've been putting money aside for my writing each month and actually not spending it. LOL
I'm thinking I just might be putting that money toward finishing up that certificate. My fave UCLA teacher is going to be teaching a class this summer (though not in the spring, boo hoo). I only have three classes to do to complete my certificate and if I take one in the spring, summer and fall. I will be all done in time for 2011. Another possible goal to add and check off for my 2010 writing goals?
So, my readers, what do you think of writing classes/courses/workshops? Do you pick them up here or there? Are you not taking any or plan to take any? Are you currently in one that you are enjoying?
In answer to my last question, I am in a Synopsis class through RWA Online Chapter right now and I just got feedback on my query that I think is going to make it really stand out now. So, I'm excited about that.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
You Tube After the War
She's the little girl in overalls in the beginning and very end of the movie.
And here she is in her first commercial
Northern Nevada Dairymen
She is also on their home page as part of the banner/logo.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
I'm currently debating between my paranormal novella and my romantic suspense novel. Both are pretty close to being finished. Need some scenes filled in here or there and have already been through a paper edit. So, I need to do a final polish on both of them. I've decided on possible publishers for them both that I think would be a good match. And I think that is what is making it a hard decision, they are both so close to being ready. If only one of them was that close it would be easy to go with that one.
So, do I work on my paranormal novella or my romantic suspense novel?
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Write What Your Heart Desires
Write What Inspires You
Dean Wesley Smith (I think he'd find it very amusing to be nominated for a kindhearted award since he considers himself a realist and very blunt, but the fact that he spends the time educating newbies is why I've listed him)
Kristine Kathryn Rusch (same as above though she isn't quite as blunt :-))
Monday, March 1, 2010
I'm happy to announce that HorseSchoolsOnline.com is now up and running. I've been working on this site for several months (I think it might almost be a year, wow!). As with any large project a lot of that time was spent in trying to decide and testing different platforms to see what ones would best showcase the information this site has and then came the long journey of data entry. All of the information that was in the book version of Horse Schools had to be put into the website. Thankfully I had the assistance of a computer programmer and another volunteer who offered to assist with me all the data entry (it was a lot). If I'd done it all on my own I think it would probably be another year until I was making this announcement.
Due to the nature of the site I will always be updating and adding more information, but we were able to set it up so schools can update and add their own information which is great for those of you looking for schools. A school will have the capability to immediately update their information whenever they have a new program or a change.
For those of you that prefer the paper or book form, Horse Schools the third edition is still available to purchase.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
In doing some basic market research I found about 19 publishers so far that take the genre that I've written. Out of those 19, seven of them say they only accept submissions from agents. Not bad. And this was only after looking through one market guide. I went to order the new Writer's Market for novels and was disappointed to see the bad reviews for it. Anyway, have the current edition? Is it as riddled with mistakes as the reviews state? Trying to decide if I should wait for the 2011 edition on that one.
I've been perusing various websites with publisher lists. Do you have any favorites?
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
What do you think of writing contests? I've entered several myself. All of them have been RWA contests from one chapter or another. I know writers that enter contests all of the time and others that have never entered a single contest. Some will only enter contests that have no entry fee while others stick to a certain selection of contests they like.
I myself have mixed feelings about contests. Contests can get you in front of an editor or agent in a short period of time. Plenty of writers have landed a publishing contract or agent via these types of contests. But plenty of people having nothing to show for all the contests they enter. I remember one contest where the contest winner did not get a request from the editor/agent, but several of the runners up did. The contest winner was trying not be upset, but you could see his/her confusion. If their entry was good enough to win why wasn't it good enough to at least get a partial request? She/he might have a point. But also, as someone pointed out, could be the agent/editor already had a book in the works too close to her entry or some other particular reason that agent/editor didn't think the book was the right match for them even if he/she felt it was the best entry in the category.
The few contests that I've entered have had me scratching my own head. Mostly because you'll get such a wide reaction on exactly the same words from different judges. One judge will give you a near perfect score while another will hate it and score you accordingly. Maybe I'll feel different when I win a contest (notice the positive thinking LOL), but at this point I'm not real sure what I think of all the contest hoopla.
What about you? What do you think of writing contests?
Monday, February 22, 2010
This is the perfect time to reassess your goals if you started working on them at the beginning of January. You've had well over a month to see how your goals fit into the daily stream of your life and how your creativity flows. Check out this blog post on Goals and Dreams by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.
So, onto my own goal setting. At the beginning of the year I printed up a calendar and wrote deadlines on the days and my goals for that month. I did not reach all of them, but enough to feel good about the progress I made. I also realized more about my working style that will help me reassess my goals to ones that I can reach more of them.
In January, my goals were to edit eight pages of my ya fantasy a day, write 1,000 words of my paranormal novella, write 1,000 words of space opera, and work on my online nonfiction book project.
What I actually did: 2,000 words a day on paranormal novella (followed by 2 weeks of editing, revising, and critiques), about two chapters edited total on ya fantasy, and work on online nonfiction book project.
What I learned: I do better if I am only actively editing/writing one project. I like having a backup one sitting in the wings to switch too if I hit a wall, but I need to focus on editing/writing that world alone so I am not distracted.
What I'm doing now: Instead of having multiple projects going at once. I am focusing on one at a time with a backup in the wings should I need it. I've rewritten my goals to reflect that. I plan to meet my two goals by the end of this month. Online nonfiction book going live to the public and ya fantasy edited to send out to publishers. March will bring new goals to work on.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
I got a couple of rejections this week that knocked me down for a little bit and it got me to thinking about what is the best way to handle submissions and the possibility of rejections. Generally speaking, I've gotten pretty good at shrugging off rejections. I file them away and send off the next batch or to the next market depending on what the submission is for. But ever so often I'll get one where I can't just shrug it off and move on, and it got me to thinking, what is it about that particular rejection that got to me?
And I think I figured it out, I was putting more weight on that submission. Practicing what people like to call positive thinking when sending it out, etc. I was trying out the idea that positive thinking brings back positive rewards. But as we all know in the writing game - rejection is a massive part of the submission process.
If I send something off and not think positively or hopefully toward that particular submission, I am much more able to shrug off the rejection and go on to the next one. It reminds me of something a horse trainer told me once. She always went in expecting to get last place so she would be surprised and happy when it didn't happen. But, I thought, aren't we supposed to go in visualizing the perfect run and performing flawlessly, because our demeanor and thinking going in can cause an outcome. If you expect to do badly - you will do badly.
I'm not sure I know the answer to my own question. Which is, should you send something off positively, visualizing the acceptance, etc? Or should you send something off with a "so what, it's just another submission" attitude?
So, what do you do?
Sunday, February 14, 2010
You can find a lot of inspiration from studying other writers. Kristine Kathryne Rusch has a great post on Role Models. You can have different types of role models. It can be someone who has mapped a career you admire, someone with a writing style you aspire to, a professional who behaves in a certain way, etc. I mentioned Nora Roberts, Linda Howard, and Jayne Ann Krentz as a couple of writers whom I admire. I actually met Jayne, in an elevator, and saw both her and Nora in seminars that they conducted at a writer's conference. I also met many other writers that I admire or enjoy reading at said writer's conference. If you're interested in meeting one of your role models - conferences can be a place to listen to them speak and perhaps have some one on one time. Though note Kristine's Role Models post on being disappointed by a role model and whether you are willing to risk your illusions about this person being dashed. We are actually very lucky to be writing right now as it is fairly easy to find articles, blogs, and interviews with our favorite authors.
You can also find inspiration with your peer writers. Kristine also wrote about Professional Jealousy which you should go and read to help you recognize it in yourself and recognize it in others when it is directed at you. Peers are wonderful in that they share our triumphs and disasters with us. They understand as many of our loved ones don't the highs and lows that our creations give us. They can help inspire you through the rough times and you in turn can help them through their lows.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
We all have our favorite authors that we come to again and again. Sometimes these authors stay with us for years, other times we grow out of their style/genre/voice, and other times their style/genre/voice changes to something that doesn't resonate with us.
One of the biggest pieces of advice you'll ever hear if you want to be a writer is to read, and read, and read, and read some more. Read within the genre you wish to write and read outside that genre.
Unfortunately in making time to write many writers often schedule out reading forgetting how crucial that part of studying the craft is. You must make time to read as well. For different writers the amount you need to read can vary. But you have to read. Whether you're opening an old favorite, a new book by a favorite author, or reading something entirely new. Just read.
You can study the books you are reading. I know many writers that actively critique and break down books that they think our great to see how does the writer do it. How did this writer craft such a compelling story?
But I'm gonna cover more of the inspiration side of things. For me, you need to read to see what it is you like. How do you like your heroes/heroines? What type of plots do you like? What type of settings? What type of narration?
You can use the story lines, story devices, etc. to help you with your own plot/character/arc problems. Maybe you notice in a book how one author used a sub-plot to resolve the issue in the main plot. Perhaps you could use that same technique in your own book. Struggling with a certain type of scene: description, narration, back and forth dialogue, dialogue between four characters, intimate scenes, highly emotional scenes, etc. Read and look at how other authors do it. This is not stealing (unless, you actually copy the scene, then yes, you are stealing), but seeing how another author uses words, sentence structure, paragraph lengths, POV, etc. could help you figure out your own scene.
Learn about the authors that write these books. Hear them speak if you can or read a blog they are on. I take great comfort in the fact that Nora Roberts "vomits out" her first draft. Jayne Ann Krentz hates writing narrative/description. Linda Howard said, I'm paraphrasing, that the books she writes never live up to the ones in her head, but she keeps trying because maybe one day she'll get it right.