• #PitMad

    Happy #PitMad day! 

    PitMad is a twitter pitch party where you get three opportunities to pitch your unpublished novel to various agents and editors who may be scrolling through looking for new work. 

    I believe the party takes place a few different times throughout the year. 

    It was challenging to distill my entire novel down to three different 140 character pitches. I tried to focus on a different angle of the novel in each one. 

    You can read my pitches on my Twitter account @JenCaloyeras (but don't favorite them! That's for the agents and editors to do if they're interested!) 

    Want to participate in the next #PitMad? Click here for more information! 

  • Pitch Wars!

    Have you heard of pitch wars?

    Well, it's my first time entering the online battle. Writers submit their finished manuscript's first chapter and a query letter to four participating agents / writers / publishers / editors. If selected, the writer would then work with said professional to buff up their manuscript for two months in anticipation of November's Twitter pitch war, where writers pitch their novel through Twitter and agents and editors are on the prowl for new projects. 

    Last year, more than 50 author participants were offered representation / publication!

    So I figured, why not!

    I brushed up my young adult nanowrimo project from a few years back and sent it off. 

    Thinking of sending something in? There's still time! The window for mentors closes tomorrow, August 6th, but if you miss that, you can always jump right back in in November. 

    Check out this page for more information or search #pitchwars on Twitter. 

    Happy Writing!

  • El Segundo Public Library Author Fair: Sunday, June 12th

    Bring the kids to the El Segundo Public Library Author Fair this Sunday, June 12th from 11:30 - 4:30. I will be signing books. There will be many children and young adult authors as well as musicians, photo booth and prizes. 

    Here's a nice article about the event in the Manhattan Beach Sun

  • Plot Development

    it is a cool foggy day in Los Angeles - my favorite kind of day to drink tea and write!

    I am reposting my post on Plot from my time as artist-in-residence at the Annenberg Beach House this winter. 

    A few days ago I had the great pleasure of visiting the new Broad Museum downtown and it got me thinking about the connection between perspective and plot. I was staring at these colorful orbs by Jeff Koons, appreciating how abstract they were. 

    But when I walked around to the other side of the exhibit, I realized they weren’t abstract at all, they were tulips. It completely changed the way I looked at the work of art. 

    I think this related to novel writing, in the sense that when it comes time to plot out your writing, you need to know your own perspective. What are you ultimately trying to say in your work? Once you figure out what you are trying to say as a writer, you can move on to what your characters are trying to say. Are they reinforcing what you’re trying to say? Opposing it? Saying it in a different way? Once you figure out your perspective, you’re ready to plot. 

    In last week’s blog entry, I talked a bit about the importance of characterization in writing. Today, I’m going to focus on plot. 

    I have to say, that something has changed in the way I approach plot with my new project compared to how I’ve written novels in the past. 

    Previously, I’ve done a very organized job of plotting out my entire novel before I begin writing. It’s not to say that this plan won’t change once I begin writing (it always changes) but I have a linear sense of how it will all take shape. This time around and for the first time, I’m writing more towards the energy of the story. That is to say, I’m following the characters and writing in a nonlinear fashion. As I’m doing this, I’m piecing together these plot points into a linear fashion. 

    No matter which method you use to write, when it’s all said and done, you will have a story with a beginning, a middle and an end (the middle is always the muddiest bit to write.)

    In its most simplistic terms, plot is rising action that leads to a climax and then is followed by falling action. (Think in terms of the shape of a triangle, the apex being the moment of climax) but when you’re writing something 200, 300, 400 + pages, getting this action to up the ante with each chapter can be challenging. 

    I like to think of plot as a bunch of mini plot triangles, strung together, all with their own moments of rising action, climax and falling action. 

    If your story is essentially about one character, this can be easier to organize. My current novel explores three different characters, with distinct story lines, so I have to stay vigilant about how I keep track of their information and with what happens to them in each chapter. 

    Even though I didn’t complete the draft of my novel in a linear fashion, I did spend a long time plotting everything out ahead of time. For me, I write faster when I know where I’m going. 

    There are many methods one can use in order to plot out their work. I would argue they all have one thing in common – the notion of starting a novel with an idea and expanding outward. So how can this help you with your work?

    1. In one sentence, write down what your novel is about. 
    2. Expand this into three well-crafted sentences. 
    3. Expand this into one paragraph. 
    4. Expand this into one full page adding important plot details. 
    5. You can keep expanding outward, perhaps writing a full page per chapter on your book. 

    Before you know it, you’ll have a complete and detailed outline of what you want to happen in the novel. Here’s where you can see where the holes are, what questions need to be answered, what concepts need research, where your characters perhaps lie flat. 

    There are many online tools that can help you plot your novel. Feel free to check them out!

    Try this Plotting Worksheet from Annie Neugebauer  

    How to Plot in 5 Steps 

    Creative writing templates to kick off your novel

    There’s an endless supply of books for writers all geared around how to plot a novel. My favorite of these books is actually geared towards screenwriters, but can certainly be applied to a novel. It’s Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat, which takes you step by step through plotting out your story. 

  • Character Development

    I'm going to repost some of my blog entries from my time as writer-in-residence at the Annenberg Beach House in Santa Monica. 

    To read the introductory post, click here. 

    It’s no secret that plot and character development are the keys to writing great fiction. Today, I wanted to focus on character.

    There’s an arc that needs to happen with the characters you write, whether your writing a 400-page novel or a ten-page short story. The character has to change. This doesn’t mean they have to become better or learn something (although this can be satisfying for a reader)  but they do have to begin one way and end another way. 

    (An example of how a character can start on a high note but end on a low note can be found in my short story, Plush, originally published in Booth Literary in February, 2014. Here, the main character goes from being full of pride, boasting that he ranked as the number one cuddler at his job to feeling defeated by the end of the story, when he realizes how immobile his life really is.)

    One great tip that is oft repeated is to make sure your likeable characters have an unlikeable trait and that your antagonists have something we can all relate to. This ensure that you are writing well-rounded characters. 

    But where does one get the inspiration for their characters? The answer is simple: all around us. 

    Writing can be a primarily private exercise. This is why I have loved my time at the Annenberg. It has transformed the privatization of my writing life into a public engagement. I am used to being at my home office, sometimes in pajamas, shutting out the the rest of the world, so that I can better enter the world in my head. But you can’t write in a bubble forever. And I think that one of the best strategies to overcome writer’s block is to get out into the world and observe. Writers are like ornithologists tracking birds - like Jane Goodall following primates. We are the recorders of human behavior in all of its grit and glory. 

    I spend a good amount of my time here on the veranda overlooking the beach. People pass by the beach path on bike, segway (the non self-igniting kind), roller skates and on foot. Each person I see could easily turn into a character if I took the time to flesh them out. One woman that particularly struck me the other day was dancing her way down the bike path. Dancing! I had to know more. 

    What kind of music was she listening to?

    Did she dance around all the time or just on this bike path?

    Did anyone ever tell her to stop?

    Did she do this often or was today the first day she was inspired to dance?

    Had she been formally trained as a dancer?

    It doesn’t matter what the real answers are to these questions. I am a fiction writer. I get to fill in the lines. She is someone who will stick with me for a long time and should you find a woman dancing through life in the pages of my next book – you’ll know who inspired it. 

    In the meantime, here are some tools for writing memorable characters:

    11 points from Writer’s Digest 

    25 things a great character needs from Terrible Minds 

    12 character writing from Writing Forward  tips

    dynamic characters

    Oodles more resources here for writing characters fromNanowriMo including character questionnaires and online ways to catalogue and keep track of your characters.  

  • New York!

    It's been a crazy busy 2016 so far, so excuse the lack of blog posts. 

    I am a little over halfway through my tenure as writer in residence at the Annenberg Community Beach House. It has been a wonderful experience so far and you can read some of my blog entries on the City of Santa Monica's website. I'll be posting them to this blog over the next few weeks. 

    And, I've just returned from New York City where I was nominated for a DWAA Pat Santi Memorial Friends of Rescue Award. I didn't win, but I "won" in so many other ways on this trip!

    The awards ceremony was being held at the Hotel Pennsylvania where all the dogs were gathered for the Westminster Dog Show. There were so many dogs in the lobby! This big cutie was my favorite:

    Best of all, I got to meet Jackie Skole, author of Dogland, who is also published by Ashland Creek Press (my publisher)

    My family took in some fabulous shows:

    We watched the Kings beat the Rangers in a very dramatic hockey game at Madison Square Garden

    And enjoyed some rare snow for this Californian!

    I came home inspired, exhausted and greeted by a very joyful blossoming peach tree!