Posts tagged: Stephen King

Does People-Watching Help Character Development?

By , February 27, 2012 12:00 am

 

Are fictional characters drawn directly from life? Obviously not, at least on a one-to-one basis—you’d better not, unless you want to get sued or shot on your way to the mailbox some fine morning.

~Stephen King, On Writing

 

"Indie Shopping" Cartoon by MMRule

Does people-watching help your character development?  Comment and let us know!

How you will know if your book idea is a good one

By , January 9, 2012 12:00 am

 

Remember Me!

 

Owning an iPhone 4S means that I now have the opportunity to write down every idea that comes to me.  And I come up with a lot of creative ideas.  A lot.

 

I indulged in recording every unformed thought and story fragment for the first few weeks, but I could not feel comfortable with myself.  Every time I groped for my phone after an especially vivid dream or dictated to Siri during my commute, I kept hearing Stephen King scold me.

 

“If you can’t remember it, it was a terrible idea,” he said in The Atlantic (April, 2011), and I couldn’t stop myself from wondering if I was sabotaging my future novels with The List.

 

Writing ideas down feels good.  The List is a safety net there to provide some cushion on that theoretical day when I will find myself soulless and creatively bankrupt.  If and when that day comes, though, perhaps it will make more sense to take a break from writing than to dredge through dozens of “this is sure to be a best seller” gems that I thought of on my way from the shower to my toothbrush.

 

Yes, I do have a few weeks of ideas written, but I doubt I will ever look at them again.  The good ideas are already ingrained in me and are evolving on their own.  The best ones are those that return to me every day and are waiting for me to finish my current project and find time to formally craft them.

 

So, while I cuddle with my current WIP while fantasizing about my next, I’ll take my hat off to Stephen King and hope that I’ll overcome my like of idioms by then.

 

#WouldYouRather: Aspiring Author Edition

By , September 12, 2011 12:00 am

 

It is “Would You Rather” week at The Exception to the Rule.  Have fun considering this list of fun-serious-bizarre scenarios.  Comment by answering any or all of these questions or write your own for us to answer!

"Indie Options" by MMRule

"Indie Options" by MMRule

Would you rather…

♦   Read your biography or write an autobiography?

♦   Edit your novel for a decade or take ten years to write the “perfect” book in one draft?

♦   Be forced to always use contractions or to never use them?

♦   Dominate one genre or write for a variety of audiences?

♦   Write a sequel to The Lord of the Rings or a prequel for Harry Potter?

♦   Listen to one song on repeat while writing or never hear the same song twice?

♦   See your book made fun of on Family Guy or discussed on The View?

♦   Be Stephen King’s wife or his child?

♦   Always write in public or in a silent, soundproof room?

 

Now it’s your turn to answer or to write your own!

What Aspiring Authors Can Learn From Larry David

By , September 5, 2011 12:00 am

 

It is natural for us aspiring authors to seek advice about writing and publishing from those whom we admire most in the industry.  We turn to the Stephen Kings and the Donald Masses to point us in the right direction.  And though they may vary in their styles and querying tips, they share a core mantra:

 

Read a lot and write a lot.  Turn off that rerun of Frasier, stop dreaming about your novel, and get busy crafting your book.

 

All of this reading and writing and studying the industry then turns us on to new authors and publishers who tell us this same common-sense-yet-we-need-to-be-reminded-anyway drone in their own words.  Which is great except for the fact that we live in a world of entertainment where we also enjoy stories that unfold on the big and small screen and not just on the pages of a novel.

"An Indie Education" by MMRule

"An Indie Education" by MMRule

 

We needn’t feel like we are crippling our literary abilities just because we want to unwind in front of the TV instead of pouring over literary fiction.  Isn’t story telling in a novel similar to writing a script, after all?  Don’t we all slave over characterization, pacing, dialogue, setting, conflict, etc.?

 

Can’t we novelists also learn from the Seth MacFarlanes and Larry Davids of writing?

 

Until now comedian-actor-writer Larry David has not been much more than “that Seinfeld creator” to me.  I was young enough during the nine seasons of Seinfeld that I only really saw the show years later during 11 o’clock network reruns.  I then entered a seven year period when I was vaguely aware that a show called Curb Your Enthusiasm existed but didn’t even have a clue as to what channel aired it.

 

My indifference ended when I caught the Larry David TV Guide promo and then came across a few episodes from the current, eighth season of Curb Your Enthusiasm on HBO after my Sunday True Blood fix.  Once I stopped loling, I realized that Larry David is one of the best writing coaches I’ve found.

 

 He Outlines

 Many writers sing ballads of praise regarding the merits of outlining, and they are right to do so.  Outlining before writing helps us understand the beginning, middle, and end of our story and allows us to formulate the major conflicts that propel the action of the story.  Even better, the early organization helps us cut down on our editing time.  But the trick to outlining as we see through Larry David’s example is to use it as the guide it’s meant to be and nothing more.

 

But He Doesn’t Outline to Death

Ever stick to an outline so closely that you stunted the growth of your characters and the development of your plot?  The solution is improvisation!  Larry David clues actors in to the outline of a scene and then sets them forth into the scenario.  They speak how they want and respond to events as they happen.  The result is that the audience sees people in unusual (or unusually comical) scenarios acting as they normally would.  And the end product is successfully devoid of stilted writing and poorly delivered lines.

 

Larry David achieves what we want for our novels–characters that act naturally and believably in a fictional world.  Let your characters do as they please.  Leave your forced, premeditated characterizations of them aside and have them speak for themselves based on the conflicts they encounter and the world they are forced to reconcile.  Have them dictate the pacing of your scenes and talk when they want to talk!  You’ll likely find that they enrich your novel and create new dimensions of conflict that you never could have imagined ahead of time.


He Has Fun

Does Larry David really act?  According to him he doesn’t; he instead behaves like himself.  Next time you are writing, ask yourself if you are putting words down with the intent to write like a bestselling novelist.  If you are, I bet that your book is filled with needless flowery prose and littered with little gems of wisdom that you think sound great but that detract from the action.  Have some fun with your characters.  Ask yourself, “What Would Larry David Do?”  Start letting your characters react and stop trying so damn hard to be great.  You’ll be surprised by how quickly your work develops a pulse of its own.

 

Name your nontraditional writing guide in the comments section.  And let me know if you are also not ashamed to watch TV even if you do love to write!

Eleven Signs That You Don’t Spend Enough Time on Your Work in Progress

By , August 29, 2011 12:00 am

 

I try to remain very cooled headed when it comes to querying and waiting for a response.  I expect nothing but the fact that I did my best, that I will always try to improve, and that an agent’s/assistant’s having to read thousands of unsolicited queries is a terrible experience.

 

"Indie Naivete" by MMRule

"Indie Naivete" by MMRule

Fighting the Vortex of Insanity

Designing a literary cupcake after Bransford’s book, however, gave me some jitters.  Bransford is active on Twitter, Facebook, his blog, etc.  Unlike when I write about Stephen King or send out a query letter, I heard Disneyesque birds singing all around me that the person whose opinion matters most very well could see my work and like it.  (For the record he did!)

 

Life Must Continue

The experience made me wonder what would happen if I were able to sit in front of a computer all day with my imagination fueling me.  Fortunately I don’t own a smart phone and have errands and work related responsibilities to complete every day, so it was easy for me to continue living my life while I waited to see if Bransford would notice my post.  But my mind still went to dark places that day.  So many places, in fact, that I surpassed a “top 10″ list!

 

The Exception to the Rule presents Eleven Signs That You Don’t Spend Enough Time on Your Work in Progress.  I’ll let you guess if I’m guilty of any of them!  I admit to nothing and I do not believe that it takes one to know one!  Seriously.

 

11 Signs That You Don’t Spend Enough Time on Your Work in Progress

11.  You read that form rejection letter so many times that you convince yourself that it really was personalized in some way.

 

10.  You bought a smart phone so you can access your email 24/7—just in case an agent asks for a partial.

 

9.  You follow agents on Twitter and keep @mentioning them so they will notice you and realize that you should be represented!

 

8.  You think that having common interests with an agent means that he/she will definitely want to represent you.  (Yes, Stacia Decker, I agree that people should take care of their teeth! I can tell you’ll love my novel!)

 

7.  You dream daily about the movie version of your book and pay no attention to the fact that Dakota Fanning has aged five very formative years since you realized that she is the perfect embodiment of your protagonist.

 

6.  You think you’re friends with your dream agent’s assistant because his/her name appears on your gchat sidebar ever since you received that emailed rejection.  You don’t care that you two have never chatted!

 

5.  You keep track of when agents tweet so you have insight into their work ethic and can guess when they might respond to your query.

 

4.  You have a tab open in your web browser that shows a clock for every time zone where you are querying.  (Come on.  What will that accomplish?)

 

3.  You believe that there is a need for a site that provides more information than querytracker.net

 

2.  You founded querytracker.net (Sorry, Patrick McDonald!)

 

1.  You are only interested in learning about agents, querying response rates, etc. because you have that writing thing DOWN!

 

Now it’s time for your thoughts!

Comment by adding your additions to the list. 

Or reveal which numbers on the list sound a little too much like you!

#TeamFollowBack and the Curse of Low Self-Esteem

By , August 15, 2011 12:00 am

 

I follow back!  Like me and I’ll like you!  Buy my e-book and I’ll buy yours!

 

If you interact with any writers on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc., then you see messages like these on most days.  When I first joined Twitter, I ignored them because I was too busy creating my content to worry about people’s caring that I exist.  Once I started blogging and had a FB fan page, however, I suddenly felt the sweaty palms and clammy skin of writer’s panic.

“Indie Hate” by MMRule

What to Do?

 

I wondered what I would do if no one liked me.  And as every second of my despair continued, I kept getting those messages from my peers saying, “Like me and I’ll like you!”

 

Stand Proud!

 

An online presence should exude confidence and professionalism.  Twitter, FB, blogging, etc. are social, yes.  But for us writers it is more than that.  It is our chance to create a public image.  Are we the sniveling new kid with too short pants who tries to sit at the cool lunch table?  Or are we the one person at the party who can look cool wearing sunglasses after dusk?

 

Give Back on Your Terms

 

I want to give back.  I really do.  But I don’t want to contribute a series of meaningless gestures.  I prefer to give my thoughts, creativity, and sweat to the online writing world.  Likewise, when I share a blog or recommend an author, I want people to know that my opinion is worthwhile.  Because I don’t like everything!

 

Automatic liking back and following shows a lack of confidence in yourself and will only give you an artificial sense of your success.  Rejoice in those who love what you are doing, and continue to create a product that will draw in an audience.  If no one cares about what you do, try delivering something new!

 

Are you part of #TeamFollowBack and hate when you don’t see others doing for you what you do for them?  Or if you don’t follow back, what methods do you use to inspire people to like you?  Start the discussion under the comments for this post!

Advice from Stephen King that Writers Can Live Without

By , August 1, 2011 12:00 am

 

It is a well known fact at The Exception to the Rule that I long ago named Stephen King as my literary idol.  I love him so much in fact, that when I was a teenager, I pooh-poohed reading The Poisonwood Bible because I had just picked up a copy of Cujo.  How I could resist the allure of Oprah’s Book Club sticker is beyond me!  (And yes, that is about as rebellious as I was in high school.)

 

It was also during my high school years that King wrote On Writing.  My Christmas list that year included On Writing, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Bonne Bell lip gloss, and the Backstreet Boys “Black & Blue” album.  My dad dutifully typed the list into his Palm Vx for safe keeping, and I received everything I wanted.

 

"Indie Angst" by MMRule

 

Naturally on Christmas Day, with Bonne Bell on my lips and the Backstreet Boys flowing out of my Discman, I sat down and started reading On Writing by tree light.  I was going to be an author, goshdarnit, and Stephen King was going to tell me how.

 

Now that over a decade has passed since that Christmas, I have a novel+ under my belt and am getting my feet wet in the querying kiddie pool.  I have also realized that I am not Stephen King, and not everything he told me is going to work.

 

2nd Draft = 1st Draft – 10%

 

King didn’t come up with this equation by himself.  It is advice that an editor wrote on the bottom of a rejection slip during his early days, and it in part helped his writing evolve to legendary status.  But as of today that advice has not helped me, and it likely will also not help you.

 

Why?

 

Super star blogger Nathan Bransford mentions in this post on word count that many aspiring novelists produce staggering drafts that pass 100,000 words and keep going.  I, on the other hand, am not alone in completing a draft at 70,000+, fearing that I didn’t write everything I should have.

 

Subtracting 10% of your draft isn’t going to help your work in progress if you struggle with these length issues, or if you have an appropriate amount of words but wrote 50% action and 50% boring backstory that no one but you cares to read.  I suggest a different approach to the equation.

 

2nd draft =

1st draft – Everything that isn’t Important + Everything Important You Forgot to Include

(Repeat until your draft is an appropriate word count for a debut novel in your genre.)

 

Is this formula too vague for you?  It should be vague!  King’s advice works best for someone who can already tell a damn near perfect story, but who at times includes too much detail.  However, that is not my problem, and it likely isn’t yours.  Part of the work that distinguishes a writer from an author is the ability to self diagnose.  To critically think about a work in progress and keep pushing it until it stands alone.  Being an author means that you write something that has a backbone because you built it from your labor and desire to improve.

 

Stephen King found the editing method that worked for him, and now it is your turn to tear through your work in progress and find what works for you!  Plug those plot holes, evolve your characters, and have the courage to write your own equation for success.

 

Help get the conversation started at The Exception to the Rule by posting your equation for the perfect 2nd draft as a comment for this article.  Happy writing!

 

Carrie White “eats shit,” but you don’t have to!

By , July 11, 2011 12:30 am

 

Graffiti scratched on a desk in Chamberlain Junior High School:

Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet, but Carrie White eats shit.

-Carrie, Stephen King

The Exception to the Rule debuts with a homage to my favorite author through this fiery, blood inspired cupcake recipe that will motivate you to pick up a copy of Carrie. Stephen King fans enjoy!


Carrie Cupcake

Photo by R.T. Jae

 

Red Velvet and Cayenne Pepper Cupcake

 

Vanilla Pudding Filling

 

Cream Cheese and Candied, Cayenne Pepper Bacon Frosting

 

Candied, Cayenne Pepper Bacon “Prom Dress” Garnish

 

(Click for larger image)

 

 

Red Velvet and Cayenne Pepper Cupcake

There isn’t anything sweet about the plot of Carrie. Even Sue Snell’s actions don’t leave the reader with a “we’re all in this together,” High School Musical feeling. So, I chose red velvet cake for its flavorful but not overly sweet taste and its obvious color bonus. A hint of cayenne pepper gives the cake a subtle kick of heat to lend it worthy of a prom on fire.

Vanilla Pudding Filling

To cool off your taste buds from the cayenne fire, I included a rich vanilla pudding filling. Not just because Carrie is a “big dumb pudding” for not knowing what her period is, but because we all saw that shine of normalcy in her that made us think that she really could be like everyone else if her circumstances changed. She tried so hard that she even bought a “special brassiere” for the prom, gosh darn it! Vanilla adds the touch of mainstream taste that this cupcake needs.

Cream Cheese and Candied, Cayenne Pepper Bacon Frosting

“Prom Dress” Garnish

I took a traditional cream cheese frosting and mixed it with bacon candied with light brown sugar and cayenne pepper. The sweet and spicy taste of the bacon complements the cream cheese and gives a nod to the book’s dark humor. After all, as Billy Nolan observes, “Pig blood for a pig.”

 

What You’ll Need

For the Cake

  • Red cupcake liners
  • 1 18.25 oz. plain white cake mix (not one with pudding added)
  • 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (use ¾ teaspoon if you are sensitive to hot pepper)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 stick melted unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 oz. bottle red food coloring

 

For the Filling

  • 3 oz. vanilla cook and serve pudding mix
  • 2 cups whole milk

 

For the Candied Bacon “Prom Dress” Garnish

I followed this recipe for Cayenne-Candied Bacon from the Food Network with one pound of bacon.

Once the bacon is prepared and hot but safe to handle, use kitchen scissors to cut out a simple dress shape. Cooled bacon is too crumbly to cut and shape. Experiment with a one inch hourglass shape and snip in a v-neck.  You will need 24 bacon dresses.

The extra bacon and bits left over from the garnish will go into the frosting.

 

For the Frosting

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 8 oz. brick cream cheese
  • 3 cups powered sugar (more if desired for consistency or sweetness)
  • 1-1 ½ cups of finely pulsed candied bacon (use all bacon and scraps left after making the garnish)

 

Directions

  1. Follow the directions for the candied bacon and make the garnish first.
  2. Preheat your oven to 350° or 325° for dark or nonstick pans.
  3. Line two 12 cup cupcake pans with red cupcake liners. (This recipe makes 24 cupcakes.)
  4. Combine all of the ingredients for the cake in a medium bowl. (Be careful when handling the red food coloring to avoid stains on your skin, clothing, countertops, etc.) Beat on low speed for 30 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl and finish beating the mix on medium speed for two minutes.
  5. Use an ice cream scoop like this one to evenly scoop batter into the cupcake holders.
  6. Bake for 12-17 minutes or until cake springs to your touch.
  7. While cupcakes bake, follow the manufacturer’s directions for the pudding mix and set aside to cool. Make sure to use whole milk since reduced or fat free milk will make the pudding too thin and watery.
  8. When cupcakes are finished baking, let them cool until they are safe to touch, and transfer them to a firm surface. Use an apple corer like this to remove the middle of the cupcake. Center the corer on the surface of the cupcake and press straight down to the cupcake liner. Lift the corer out and discard the center. If the cake core does not come out, then reinsert the corer and gently twist back and forth before lifting.
  9. Use a piping bag or teaspoon to fill the cupcakes with warm or cooled pudding. It is ok if there is a little excess pudding at the top of the cupcake.
  10. In a medium bowl, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed to begin the frosting. Beat in the powdered sugar until frosting is smooth.
  11. Pulse the candied bacon in a food processor for 30 seconds to a minute or until bacon is finely ground.
  12. Mix the pulsed bacon into the cream cheese frosting. Transfer frosting into a piping bag, and starting at the outside edge of the cupcake, pipe in a circular motion toward the center. If you prefer, you may pipe the frosting using a plastic zip-seal bag. Spoon the frosting into the bag, press out any air, seal it, and cut one edge off the bag with kitchen scissors, so you can pipe through a nickel sized hole.
  13. Garnish each cupcake with a bacon “dress.”
  14. Serve immediately or cover and store in the refrigerator for up to three days.

 

This recipe is inspired by The Cake Mix Doctor. Check out her book for delicious and simple cake ideas!

The products I suggest are the ones I use in my kitchen.

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