As writers we are always honing our skill and learning new styles and types of writing aid our creativity. I attended two workshops on 29th February, both gave me the opportunity to improve my writing.
As an author, we welcome constructive critique of our work, it is how we grow. So a group of local authors and I spend the first few months of each new year working on our current work in progress. Some are the result of our NaNoWriMo participation, while others are whatever story/novel/project we are working on currently. The premise of these monthly workshops is to read a certain number of chapters each month of each others work, then using track changes edit, suggest and comment on the plot arc, continuity, premise etc. Having a number of different reader’s feedback allows us to identify any inconsistencies and correct them. Obviously, we do not have to take every suggestion, it is after all our work but if there is a consensus of opinion throughout on a specific part, then we can revise and improve them. This allows us to create the best story possible prior to publication.
My project is my steampunk novel, The Commodore’s Gift. Currently 75,102 words, 201 pages, 39 chapters and epilogue. Publishing date September 2020.
The second workshop, I attended was a poetry workshop held by The Writers Foundation of Strathcona County in anticipation of Poetry Month in April. I have to admit that poetry is not my forte, so it did stretch my creativity a bit! We covered several types of poetry: monorhyme, enclosed rhyme, simple 4-line rhyme, coupled rhyme, chain rhyme and alternative rhyme. After an explanation of each style, we then had five minutes to create a rhyme in that style using randomly selected words. The words chosen for the chain rhyme were: after, banana, crafter, panorama, would, bandanna, could, dessert, should. Yes rather a mixed bag and it had everyone struggling, but that’s the point – we cannot learn without effort. I managed this:
Alice’s happy thought was about the contest after
As she ate her second banana
Her final piece as a genius crafter
Showed a glorious textured panorama
Comments from friends confirmed she would
Win the coveted bandanna
Her gumption knew she could
A promised reward when she won – a dessert
Even though her diet negated she should
I even managed to include the ‘extra’ point words of happy, genius & gumption in that one.
What workshop have you recently attended. What did you learn about your writing?
The idea for The Inquirer came to me in line at the grocery store where the tabloids and gossip magazines are on display. I wondered what the featured celebrities thought of the headlines. What would my neighbors and I think if our local newspaper was publishing sensationalized articles about our love lives, blunders, and appearances? In The Inquirer, a mysterious tabloid starts airing the dirty laundry of a small town here in Alberta, and Amiah Williams becomes an unsuspecting feature.
How did you come up with the title?
The Inquirer struck me as the perfect title. It brings to mind the National Enquirer, which is the type of newspaper I want readers to imagine. And it represents Amiah, the protagonist, who is forced to dig into the twisted truth behind the tabloid and her past.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I hope The Inquirer entertains readers. On a deeper level, it explores different types and levels of stereotyping and gossip. Perhaps some readers will question what happens behind closed doors or think twice about when to speak up and when best to be quiet.
How much of the book is realistic?
It hasn’t happened, but it could, if that’s what you mean. I was surprised by how often I would come up with what I thought was an outrageous headline for the fictional tabloid and then something similar would happen in real life! Most often, I would then change the headline for fear that people would think it was based on them.
Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
The Inquirer is fiction, but I feel like the characters are familiar and I have had readers say they have known similar sets of characters in their lives.
Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog?
Readers can connect with me on Twitter (@readjaclyndawn), on Facebook (@authorjaclyndawn), and at jaclyndawn.com.
Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone?
I recently started putting on paper an idea for another stand-alone, fiction novel that has been percolating for some time. I don’t have an elevator speech quite ready yet, though.
Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?
I really like Ray Williams, Amiah’s dad in The Inquirer. He doesn’t fit his stereotype, buy into stereotypes, or give stereotypes all that much thought. I has a quirky sense of humour, and I wish I could feel as comfortable in my own skin as he does his.
Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one?
I dabble in many genres as a writer and a reader. NeWest has called The Inquirer genre-bending but primarily markets it as literary fiction; it is located in the general fiction section of the library. I enjoy writing children’s stories, but so far that has been reserved for entertaining my son.
Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?
My story ideas have to percolate for a while. If I try to write or discuss them too early, the ideas fall flat. I have a general idea of what will happen before I start writing and will jot down notes I don’t want to forget, but the characters tend to take over and connect the dots from there.
What is your best marketing tip?
Embrace the digital age, including finding social media that suits you and your readers, connecting with fellow writers online, and participating in blog interviews like this!
Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance?
Social media can help you reach a lot of potential readers and connect with fellow writers, but it can also be distracting and disheartening.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
For me, writing is cathartic and entertaining. It is a way to explore topics. I find myself asking the same two questions in most of my writing: Why do people do what they do? And, what if?
What age did you start writing stories/poems?
I have been writing stories for as long as I can remember, and telling them even longer according to my parents. You would probably be rich if you got paid a dollar for every time you’ve gotten a variation of that answer!
Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager?
I consider myself lucky that this is a difficult question to answer. However, to keep it brief, I will just mention the two I live with: my husband and son. Logan makes sure when I get too grounded that I get my head back in the clouds and write. And Seth’s teachers and coaches knew about The Inquirer before the publisher’s catalogue even came out.
Where is your favorite writing space?
The space in our house that the previous owners called a dining room is my library, with shelves of books and memorabilia that has more personal than monetary value and the writing desk my husband refinished for me for one of my birthdays. I call this my writing hub because I come and go with my notebooks, scraps of paper used when inspiration hits at inopportune times, and laptop. I find myself writing for snippets of time everywhere I go. If I was limited to a traditional work space, my creativity, efficiency, health (migraines), and – I admit it – mood would all suffer.
Do you see writing as a career?
With a Bachelor of Applied Communications from MacEwan University and a Master of Creative Writing from Manchester Metropolitan University, I have made a career of a combination of writing. I taught at MacEwan and NAIT, work with my Scriptorium team, and am now also fulfilling my childhood dream of seeing a book of my own in the bookstore and library.
Do you belong to a writing group? If so which one?
The Inquirer was originally my MA dissertation, and involved being part of a writing group. Otherwise, I am not part of a formal group but have a growing and much appreciated network of fellow writers.
Do you nibble as you write? If so what’s your favorite snack food?
My writing times and locations vary, but I will never turn down popcorn.
Jaclyn Dawn grew up in a tabloid-free small town in Alberta. With a communications degree and creative writing masters, she works as a freelance writer and instructor. She now lives somewhere between city and country outside Edmonton with her husband and son. The Inquirer is her debut novel.
Without characters our stories would have no real impact on our readers. We write to engage and intrigue them and hopefully make our protagonist the character our reader cares about. If your experience is anything like mine, there is usually one, or possibly two characters, that make their presence known in no uncertain terms. They want the starring role in our narrative. These characters are usually more defined in our minds and are ‘easier’ to relate to, whether because of a personality trait or that they are more fun to write. When creating the protagonist and antagonist in our stories, we give each opposing views and/or values. This is the basis of the conflict that carries our readers along their journey. Each character, whether major or minor, needs to have flaws and redeeming features, motivations, expectations, loyalties and deterrents.
This leaves us with the problem of developing our supporting characters with as much attention to detail as the main antagonist and protagonist. When creating characters we must remember to ensure that each character acts and responds true to their given personality. Character profiles are a good way of ‘getting to know’ our characters, this can be achieve mainly by utilizing character’s names, personality traits, appearance and their motivations. A name is a vital part of creating a mental image of our character for readers. The right name can give them a quick visualization of our character’s age, ethnicity, gender, and even location, and if we are writing a period piece, even the era. For example if I say the girl was called Britney, you would probably picture a young girl because of the association with Britney Spears. However, if a female character were called Edith or Edna, you would imagine someone born several decades ago. So you see a name is not just a name.
A burly man would be called something like Butch but not Shirley, unless of course you are going to tell the story of his struggle throughout childhood to overcome the name. There are plenty of web sites available, which list the most common names for each decade and locations around the world. These are great resources for writers, who require particular names for period stories or want to stay true to a certain decade.
The use of a nickname will also give your character an identity, be it an unkind one given by a bully or one of respect or fear for the bully. You would expect Big Al to be just that, a large person, however, Little Mikey would be the exact opposite. Nicknames, or sobriquet’s can work very well in defining an ethnicity as well but care must be taken not to offend a person of color. Obviously there are certain words that were in common usage decades ago that are not politically correct now, so we need to be diligent in their use.
We should also consider giving our characters a conscience. Will the hero question his actions if they are extreme to his morals? Does the villain have a deep-seated angst? What motivates them? Some flawed characters can be difficult to write on occasion as they are far removed from our own personality (well I certainly hope so!) but with care we can accomplish a believable character.
How do you set about building a character?
Do you write out a full description of your characters?
Have you based a character on someone you know, a famous personality or mixed up several people’s traits to make a new one?
It took some time to decide whether I would participate in NaNoWriMo this year. I have participated ten times in all and each time have created novel or novella length manuscripts. Most have been revised and edited over the following year or so to become published books. Some quicker than others it must be said. My very first NaNo in 2009 resulted in a work not published until last September! Yep 9 years. This was due to it being my first full length manuscript, my novice writing and self doubt that it was worthy of publishing. I revised and edited almost every year until I took the plunge, finally satisfied it was finalized.
However, in regard to this year’s NaNo, my first stumbling block was the two draft novels I have pending, which are previous year’s NaNoWriMo manuscripts. Again I know they need revisions and editing prior to submission to a publisher. My struggle was should I work on these manuscripts rather than create another one?
Secondly, I have several events to attend during November, which will take me away from the vital writing time needed for NaNo. As we all know every minute counts during November. Will I have enough time to succeed?
Thirdly, although I browsed the multitude of saved short stories in my laptop folders, I was not convinced any of them were novel length material. Or maybe it was my Muse not being excited enough about them – who knows? So I pondered what ‘new’ story I could write. Nothing I thought of seemed the elusive ‘it’ until just as I was drifting off to sleep an idea burst into my mind. It gave me a rough timeline, one character and the inkling of a plot. Knowing that relying on memory is a writer’s mistake when ideas pop up, I got up and wrote it all down. Subsequently, I have managed to decide on my two main characters, their location, some backstory and a timeline.
So I am as ready as I can be for 1st November. If you would like to connect on the NaNoWriMo site I’m MandyB.