Saturday, April 26, 2014

Rules and Kites

Post by Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley, co-founder

     I very recently moved from Mexico to the state of Washington. Being who I am, I hated it. I hate change, it's simply who I am. But, with the change came new things, new experiences, and the new experiences brought new views, understanding, and inspiration. This week I went kite flying with my grandma, and I realized how writing is very much like flying, and then I realized that all the arts are like it. Heck, maybe every skill is.

     When flying a kite, you have to wait for a good wind. You can, of course, run to make your own wind, but once you run out of room to run, your kite will fall down again. Running can make a poor winds enough to get up to the higher winds, but in and of itself is not enough. To me, the wind represents luck. But to fly a kite well, you need to understand when to let out string, and when not to. If you let out too much string, your kite will fall, but if you don't let out any, it will stay close to the ground, subject to the fickle near-ground winds that constantly die, pick up, and die again.
     Your hand, your holding of the string, is rules. All the different writing/drawing/painting/poetry rules that exist are represented by your hand. When you hold it down, the kite catches the wind and soars higher. Once it has enough height, you let out more string, the equivalent of trying some things that aren't in the rulebook, and your potential increases.  As you get higher (more skilled), you can let out more string (ignore the rules more).
     The greatest writers ignore the rules, because the important things are natural, and the things that can be bent or broken, they can have the skill to do without. Everyone needs to follow the rules at the beginning, to learn, and as they progress, they can do their own thing more. They are at the point where they would fly highest if they just let go of the kite and let it soar on its own. Of course, in real life we never do that because we like to keep our kites.

     I am an amateur artist when it comes to drawing. I make some pretty good stick figures, and a single, unpaired eye (I can never make them match) but that's really all. Remember when Josie posted that awesome art tutorial? It made me feel empowered, like I could finally draw something well, but instead I left the instructions and ended up failing, because I'm not at that point in my drawing skills. My kite is crashing into the trees because I give it too much string.

     What about you? Are you giving yourself too much string? Too little?

Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley is an aspiring author and poet. To learn more about her, see our About Us page. You can follow her on Twitter here: @ElisabethGTK.

 We have a synopsis contest currently open, which you can find here. Our haiku contest is past the deadline, and we will announce the winner on the first of May both here and in our newsletter, which you can sign up to here.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

What makes a poem? (Catsi's Version)

The difference between prose and poetry is pretty obvious when you’re reading it. It becomes less so when you try to explain it.

“Well, poems rhyme,” says a boy that I know. (He’s not a poetry fan.) Sure, some poems rhyme. But many others don’t. Rhythm? Yes, most poems have a set rhythm. But is that really what a poem is? A rhythm?

I think it’s safe to say that the emotion is different in a book and in a poem. A novel is meant to produce emotion. A poem pretty much is emotion.

The best poems that I’ve written have come from pure emotion. When I’m just so happy, or so lonely, or so bitter, that there’s nothing left to do but put the feeling into a poem. They don’t normally rhyme, and, though I try to stick to a rhythm, it doesn’t always go well.

I think that’s how you write poetry. You put emotion into words.

Of course, that’s a lot easier said than done. Often times when I’m writing a poem, I spend more time chewing on my pencil, or flipping through a thesaurus, or banging my head against the keyboard, than I do actually writing. And, as is the case with all of my writing, I use the backspace key more than anything else.

But don’t worry about stuff like syllable count or rhyming or rhythm right off the bat. When you first sit down to write a poem, just get out your emotion. Don’t spend forever looking for the perfect word for that sentence. Just write.

I could try to tell you about all the different kinds of poems, and how to write each one. I’m not sure that would go too well, though, because the kinds of poems that I know about are Poems That Rhyme and Poems That Don’t Rhyme. (Okay, yeah, I know more than that. I know about haiku and limericks because Elisabeth posted about them.)

Most of the poems that I write are free verse. Meaning, I don’t worry about anything except the emotion going into the poem. They usually have a bit of rhythm to them, but they rarely rhyme. But there’s something about well-written free verse poems that is so beautiful, so emotional. I think it’s that there really is nothing else to the poem but emotion. It’s not the words that are in the spotlight—it’s what the author was feeling while writing it.

There are lots of different emotions you can play in a poem. Some poems are just meant to be funny, to make you laugh out loud. Some are angry poems, and you can actually feel how upset the writer was. And then there are the sad poems. The ones that actually make you tear up.

Be creative, and have fun. Poetry isn’t something to stress about. Your first poem won’t be perfect. Mine wasn’t. Mine still aren’t. But with practice, they’ll get better. And you might find that poetry is the best way for you to get out your emotions.

It’s a funny feeling
knowing that you’re losing

I tried so hard to hold on to
is gone

I’ve lost it all
but somehow
I think I’ve
a new kind of

Found, by Catsi Eceer

Any questions or comments? Just want to chat about poetry? Say something in the comments! I’d love to hear from you. :) (<-- Look, a smiley face. I am a human, see?)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

6 Ways to Spice up that Boring Chapter

I'm sure all of us writers have experienced it before. We're writing along, exciting scenes, developed characters, deep plot, and then, BAM! We're stuck.

Actually, a better word would be, "Bleh," we're stuck.

There is nothing more frustrating for me then going from a scene I'd already planned out in my head that goes almost exactly as it's supposed to, and then hitting that one scene where I still needed to do a bit of work. Or, you know, two or three scenes like that. In a row.

Boring scenes. I hate them. I've figured out that I can sometimes skip them, and it won't even make a difference to the story. (In fact, some of my exciting scenes are like that too...) However, lots of the time I can't skip. They're necessary to the story. Without it, there will be something not quite right about the transition between the two chapters. But the scene is just plain boring.

So how do you spice it up? How do you get your reader's interest (and, more importantly, your own interest) back into the story?

Here are a few tips that I came up with:

Bring in some necessary details. What are some things that your reader is going to need to know by the climax that you can put in this chapter?

Add some conflict. I don't mean that you need to have your main character fight someone. It doesn't need to be literal. Just make their will clash against someone else's. What do they want in this chapter? Who or what could be against them getting it?

Make them fail. What is the main character trying to accomplish in this chapter? How could they fail?

Introduce a plot twist. What would be an unexpected event that could happen in this chapter?

Leave it out. Is this scene really necessary to the story? Would the story suffer if you left it out?

Think about it from a different character's point of view. What do other characters think about the events of this scene? How could they affect what happens?

And when all else fails, just skip the scene giving you trouble and write something else (such as a blog post on what to do with boring chapters...). Taking a break from the scene will give your brain time to subconsciously figure out the problem and come up with a solution.

What do you do when you get stuck on a scene? Let us know in the comments section! I'd love to hear from you. :)

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Writing a Synopsis

Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley, co-founder

     Ah, the synopsis. Though it seems like writing a little piece of less than 500 words (how long a synopsis is depends on who you ask, but it is usually between 20-100) would be a piece of cake once you've written a novel, it isn't. It is hard to get meaning into a small space, and even harder to make it unique. How can you make your novel intriguing in just a few words? How can you strip a story down to its bare essentials without also making it sound boring?

     The first thing to do is look at any synopsis you can find and study it. What do they show? What do they leave out? Try to see what they did well, and what they did badly. Next, take a book you like, and try to make a synopsis for it. Be sure to decide the number of words you get first. For example, I'll say I get 50 words and I'll do The Hunger Games.

In dystopian USA, Katniss takes the place of her sister in the Hunger Games, where there are twenty-four contestants, and only one survivor.

     This works well as a basic synopsis. It tells you the main character, the setting, the plot, even the stakes. It certainly has danger, but it tells a run-of-the-mill story. How can we make this better? When my uncle, Josh Kelley, took me to a writer's event, he told me to write a short synopsis about my book so that I could tell people about it if they asked, which they probably would. The greatest suggestion he gave me was to find two things: what was different about my story and what the true conflict was. Taking that, I rewrote my synopsis, very similarly to how I'm going to rewrite the one about The Hunger Games.

Forced to take part in the brutal Hunger Games, Katniss must compete against twenty-three others for her life, including Peeta. Losing means death and the starvation of her family, but winning means the death of the boy who saved her life.

     Which sounds more interesting? Which would you rather buy? Publish? How can you replicate it? Well, first notice that the second one focuses more on the personal and psychological than the physical. We more easily relate to a hard decision than death, because we have trouble contemplating death. Also, the decision is one that makes us think, one that forces us to ask the same question, as I talked about in my earlier post. Another thing, which is not evident in the changes I made, is that we would prefer something personal than something ideal-based. We would rather hear the story of the boy who fights to free his family from slavery than the story of the boy fighting to free slaves.
     Why is this? Because the boy will care more for the outcome, and we feel vicariously through the main character. It's all well and good if the knight is willing to sacrifice himself for the city, but we will actually care more if he's fighting for something we can relate to, like his children. It's also a lot easier to write the thought process without making him seem like too much of a goody-goody, but that's off subject.

     The true conflict in The Hunger Games is not her trying to win, but her trying to decide between her family and Peeta. More importantly, it's what the fans truly care about. It makes what was simply a survival story into something more. A bestseller in fact. And so, that is what is important to highlight. So, what is it that you need to highlight about your book?

Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley is an aspiring author and poet. To learn more about her, see our About Us page. You can follow her on Twitter here: @ElisabethGTK. You know you've got the right one if the picture is of a dragon holding a crystal ball.

We have two on-going contests. Our synopsis contest has just started, see the guidelines and how to submit here. Our haiku contest is nearing its deadline. You can see the guidelines here.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Synopsis Contest

This contest is now closed. The results will be announced on June 1st.

     Our first full-on prose contest is up! Your submission must be a 30-word or less synopsis of a book you have written or are planning to write. The most intriguing and well-written synopsis will be the winner and, unless you ask us not to, will be tweeted for the world to see!

Include "Synopsis Contest" in the subject line of your email.

Your submission must be 30 words or less and attached in a doc., docx., or txt. format.

Please do not submit a synopsis for erotica or similar works, as they will be disqualified.

This contest is open to anyone an everyone, of any country or age, though the submission must be in English.

All right remain yours, we only ask to include your submission in the post and newsletter that will announce your winning and to tweet it to give you publicity. However, if you do not want it in our blog and newsletter or for it to be tweeted, tell us, and we will not.

You may include a short author bio as well as your website, Twitter, and similar links. (Twitter is especially recommended so that we can tweet it to you)

Your submission should not have your name or pen name in it, please include that in the body of the email.

Email your submission and any questions to windowtothesoulcontests[at]

The deadline is May 20th. Winners will be announced the first of June.

We have one other contest currently, a haiku contest. Click here to see the guidelines.