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Horse Sense for Your Characters with @sdwriter: June @OCCRWA Online Class

May 23, 2017 by in category Online Classes tagged as , , , , ,

June’s OCC/RWA Online Class is Horse Sense for Your Characters

with

Shannon Donnelly

June 12 – July 7

June 2017 online class banner

About the Class:

Most folks today have limited experience as mounted riders, even less for side saddle, or driving a carriage, or training a horse for the movements once used by knights. This workshop provides some basic horse sense through the ages so your horses act more like characters who enrich your story and less like cars or other inanimate transportation objects.

We will cover:

  • General Horse Sense – Habit and herds: Horse Personality, Basic gaits, Useful Terms
  • Carriage and Riding Horses – What’s the difference?
  • Quick Trip Through History: Ancient Times, Palfrey/Destrier, The West: Knights of the Plains
  • England: Town and Country – Hunting season, ladies’ mounts, side saddle myths, Rotten Row
  • Basic Transport – Times, distances, and comfort, public transport of the coaching era
  • The Racing World – The sport of Kings; The sport of Queen
  • Special Breeds – Arabian, Lippizan, Akhal-Teke, Fresian, Viking’s Horse: Islandic Ponies

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About the Instructor:

Shannon Donnelly and Drake

Shannon Donnelly and Drake

Shannon Donnelly’s writing has won numerous awards, including a RITA nomination for Best Regency, the Grand Prize in the “Minute Maid Sensational Romance Writer” contest, judged by Nora Roberts, RWA’s Golden Heart, and others. Her writing has repeatedly earned 4½ Star Top Pick reviews from Romantic Times magazine, as well as praise from Booklist and other reviewers, who note: “simply superb”…”wonderfully uplifting”….and “beautifully written.”

Her Regency romances can be found as ebooks on all formats, and with Cool Gus Publishing, and include a series of four novellas.

She also has out the Mackenzie Solomon, Demon/Warders Urban Fantasy series, Burn Baby Burn and Riding in on a Burning Tire, and the Urban Fantasy, Edge Walkers. Her work has been on the top seller list of Amazon.com and includes Paths of Desire, a Historical Regency romance.

She is the author of several young adult horror stories, and computer games. She lives in New Mexico with two horses, two donkeys, two dogs, and only one love of her life. Shannon can be found online at sd-writer.com, facebook.com/sdwriter, and twitter/sdwriter.

Enrollment Information

This is a 4-week online course that uses email and Yahoo Groups. If you do not have a Yahoo ID you will be prompted to create one when you join the class, but the process is not difficult. The class is open to anyone wishing to participate. The cost is $30.00 per person or, if you are a member of OCCRWA, $20.00 per person.

http://occrwa.org/classes/june-online-class/

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Are you a Storyteller?

August 26, 2015 by in category Archives tagged as , , ,

Author Shannon Donnelly is stopping by today to talk about storytelling.

 
There are workshops on dialogue, on character, on marketing your book, and just about everything else to do with writing and stories. But let’s talk about the big picture for a minute—let’s talk about the art of being a story teller.

Edgar Rice Burroughs taught me a lot about being a story teller. He was a prolific writer—he also was not at times a very good writer, but he knew how to spin a yarn as they used to say. I went through a phase where I devoured all of his books, but one stands out in memory as being awful. Truly terrible. But I kept reading…and wondering as I turned the page. The Oakdale Affair is about a bear in a cellar. Really. It’s melodramatic, has stiff dialogue, and you still turn the pages. It keeps pulling you forward. Burroughs was a story teller.

So how to do you learn this art of storytelling? I’m doing a workshop on this that goes into depth, but let’s just cover ten tips here that can help you be a better story teller:

1-Read a lot.Yes, it’s obvious, but most folks don’t give this enough weight. Read across genres. Read cereal boxes—short is harder than long. Read everything—and read with a critical eye. Take apart stories that make you keep turning the page, and take apart ones that don’t. Read to see how a story is spun on a page.

2-Master technique.You want to get the technical stuff out of the way. If commas baffle you, nail them down and figure them out. Get a copy of Strunk & White’s Elements of Style and make it your bible. Make your sentence clean and clear. Write enough that technique no longer makes your story stumble.

3-Focus on character.Story is character and character is story. There’s a reason Burroughs is remembered for Tarzan—one of the most famous of all fictional characters. Not only did Burroughs exploit Tarzan, he was smart enough as a story teller to know he needed a great character to carry the story. Story is character and character is story. Focus on your characters more than your plots.

4-Figure out your theme. Every story is about something. You will also probably write about the same theme for most of your life. Figure out what it is that is your theme—what makes you hot under the collar or uncomfortable? What gets your blood moving fast? Write about something that matters to you—that will make your story matter, too.

5-Develop your voice.Write a lot. The only way you’ll find your voice is by writing. Write poetry. Write bad poetry. You don’t have to show this to anyone. Get the bad writing out of your system to get to the good stuff. Write in a journal. Write by hand. Write as a habit. Your voice will come out on its own eventually.

6-Learn how to structure. What this means is you need to know how to pace the reader and escalate the tension and conflict. That keeps the reader turning pages. These things come from learning craft—and some technical tricks that really do work. Read a lot and you’ll see other writers using these same techniques. Take apart Dan Brown, Burroughs, and other writers who sell a lot of books. There’s a reason why they do and it all comes back to story and characters—and keeping readers engaged.

7-Dramatize and twist.Stories are bigger than life—they’re dramatized. Learn how to make stories (and that means characters and dialogue) a little more, a little bigger and better than life. This means characters say things we’ve all wanted to say at times, and events happen in ways that we’ve always wanted them to. Surprise your readers—but keep it familiar. That formula has been shown to create hit songs and it works with hit stories, too.

8-Use setting as a character. There’s a reason Tarzan exists in his mythical jungle as “king of the beasts” with his Tarzan call. Tarzan’s setting is part of his story—it’s a main character. Create great settings. Push them to be fantastic, amazing, rich, vibrant, complex. Develop your settings as you would any other character. Use them as metaphors as visual clues to theme as contrasts.

9-Hit the key beats.A story teller knows the audience expects certain beats in a story—just like we all expect certain beats in a song. If you miss these beats, the story seems to stumble, and if it stumbles too much, the reader is thrown out. It takes care and time to master the art of weaving in beats without being obvious—and it takes practice. This is where you read to see the beats in the story, and then you apply that to your stories.

10-Payoff the read.A great story reaches an inevitable and satisfying ending. You want twists and turns, but you don’t want to go so far out there with your story that you lose your readers. Part of this means you write to satisfy yourself, but you also write to satisfy the reader. Keep this in mind. And know that the greater the ordeal for the character, the more time you need to take to bring the reader back down to regular life. Always work toward that satisfying ending—the one that seems so perfect that the story could not end any other way. If you set up that ending in the beginning, you’ll be a great storyteller.

Want to tackle this topic in more depth? OCCRWA’s September online class is Storytelling for Writers, with Shannon Donnelly. For information and to register please visit

http://occrwa.org/classes/sept-class-storytelling-for-writers/

 
ABOUT SHANNON DONNELLY

Shannon Donnelly’s writing has won numerous awards, including a nomination for Romance Writer’s of America’s RITA award, the Grand Prize in the “Minute Maid Sensational Romance Writer” contest, judged by Nora Roberts, and others. Her writing has repeatedly earned 4½ Star Top Pick reviews from Romantic Times magazine, as well as praise from Booklistand other reviewers, who note: “simply superb”…”wonderfully uplifting”….and “beautifully written.”

Her latest Regency romance, Lady Chance, is just out on Amazon.com. In addition to her Regency romances, she is the author of the Mackenzie Solomon, Demon/Warders Urban Fantasy series, Burn Baby Burn and Riding in on a Burning Tire, and the SF/Paranormal, Edge Walkers. Her work has been on the top seller list of Amazon.com and includes the Historical romances, The Cardros Ruby and Paths of Desire.

She is the author of several young adult horror stories, and has also written computer games and offers editing and writing workshops, and will be teaching a workshop for OCC on ‘Breaking Down Writers Block’. She lives in New Mexico with two horses, two donkeys, two dogs, and the one love of her life. Shannon can be found online at shannondonnelly.com, facebook.com/sdwriter, and twitter/sdwriter.

 

 
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Show and Tell, OCCRWA’s May Online Class with Shannon Donnelly

April 27, 2014 by in category Archives tagged as , ,

Shannon Donnelly is with us today to talk about her upcoming OCCRWA online class, Show and Tell, an Interactive Workshop. Take it away, Shannon!

Thanks Alina. We’ve all heard “show, don’t tell” and there is value in that advice. If all you do is tell a story, how does the reader participate with his or her imagination? However, a book is not a movie. While a movie requires everything to be shown (or an often awkward voice-over to be added if it’s not showing enough), a book has the luxury of being able to use narrative. And that’s where I usually get folks who are utterly confused.

Narrative seems to have gone out of fashion. It doesn’t seem to be taught, and no one seems to really get what it is. So let’s make it easy.

Merriam-Webster gives us the root for narrative/narrating as the “Latin narratus,past participle of narrare, from Latin gnarus knowing; akin to Latin gnoscere, noscere to know.”

This means it’s basically the author telling the reader the information the author knows, which the reader also needs to know. And now, you ask, what does the reader need to know, and when does the reader need it, and how much does the reader need. This is where narrative becomes an art.

This means any writer of fiction needs not only showing but telling as well. What’s the secret in knowing when to show and when to tell? This is something I’ll be covering in the May workshop, but here are a few tips:

WHAT TO TELL:

– Where are we? (Place and world – the reader needs to be placed into the scene, otherwise it’s confusing to the reader. Do not throw your readers into the deep end without giving them some help.)

– When are we? (What’s the era, the time of the year, the month, the day, the hour? We need everything that helps the reader settle into the scene as if this moment in time really exists.)

– Who is here?(An introduction to the characters, particularly to the main characters for that scene, and for the story.)

– Why are we were? (This doesn’t have to be greatly detailed information, but you need enough details to make a reader care. Think of it this way—too little and you starve the reader’s imagination; too much and the reader quickly fills up and drops the book down.)

All this needs to be woven together, stitched in with careful threads, not dumped on the reader in big clumps. Or, to put it another way, feed the reader your telling—your narrative—with a teaspoon, not a soup bowl.

WHAT TO SHOW:

– Your characters in action—scenes are always stronger when you show a character expressing emotion with physical reactions.

– The world through a character’s senses—we all lean too much on sights and showing what a character sees, but go beyond this to show smells, tastes, touches, and sounds. Use all a character’s senses to not only make the world more vivid for the reader but to also show what your character notices.

– Your character’s emotions through words. Dialogue should never just be there to advance the plot or you end up with a character that seems stiff on the page. Just as you want to show emotions through actions, you also want to show emotion through words—this includes what someone avoids talking about, too.

Showing and telling do not have to be absolutes; mix show, use more show than tell, or use more tell than show; part of the choice is your style, and part is the effect you want to have on the reader.
 
Alina again here.
Thanks Shannon for giving us a taste of your upcoming lessons. This four-week class starts May 12, 2014 and registration is now open here.   
About Shannon Donnelly:
Shannon Donnelly’s writing has won numerous awards, including a RITA nomination for Best Regency, the Grand Prize in the “Minute Maid Sensational Romance Writer” contest, judged by Nora Roberts, RWA’s Golden Heart, and others. Her writing has repeatedly earned 4½ Star Top Pick reviews from Romantic Times magazine, as well as praise from Booklist and other reviewers, who note: “simply superb”…”wonderfully uplifting”….and “beautifully written.”

Her Regency Historical Romance, Paths of Desire, can be found as an ebooks on Kindle, Nook and at Smashwords, along with her Regency romances.

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Why Enter the Orange Rose Costest?

March 18, 2011 by in category Archives tagged as ,

by Shannon Donnelly

This question could be asked—why enter any writing contest? What can it do for you—and what won’t it do. And should you even think about entering? Let’s start with some basics, as in what can any contest do for you.

Contests can:

  • Get you seen by editors, faster than through the slush pile
  • Get you feedback so you can better identify your weaknesses and strengths
  • Help you cut and polish your pages
  • If you final, get you enough notice to land an agent
  • If you win, give you a marketing advantage—a way to have your book stand out from others because your book has already won praise

What it can’t do for you:

  • Cannot guarantee a sale
  • Cannot guarantee a successful writing career

That’s a lot going for what a contest can give to you. But how do you know if you’re ready? And why enter the Orange Rose contest specifically?

Things to think about before you enter:

  • Do you have the opening couple of chapters finished
  • Do you know the ending of your book (helps you write a synopsis)?
  • Do you have an issue with the first pages that you don’t know how to fix?
  • Do you have trouble figuring out how to market your book?
  • Do you need feedback beyond your immediate family (who loves everything you do, or who has never seen anything you’ve written)?
  • Do you wonder if you’ve started the book in the right place?
  • Do you put off getting your pages finished?
  • Do you have a synopsis that is over ten pages?
  • Do you wonder if your core conflict is weak or on target?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, you might be ready for the Orange Rose contest. If you’ve answered yes to three or more of the questions, you should think about entering. If you’ve answered yes to more than seven of them, it’s definitely time to enter.

Contests aren’t just about winning—they are also a way to track your own progress as a writer. This actually used to be a lot more possible to do with submissions and rejections, but these days it’s too easy for good work to get rejections. Contests help fill that gap, give you better feedback, and they give you deadlines so you can start to see if you can actually make a writing career work.

But why the Orange Rose?

There are several excellent reasons. But let’s start with the best one—the feedback in the Orange Rose comes from published authors.

Now, all judging is subjective. That means some folks like oranges better than apples, and an opinion is an opinion. But a published author has learned what works—the hard way. There is an experience here that does help in that every published author knows one thing: flawed writing will sell. Every story has its strengths—and its weaknesses. But a published author has learned how to accent one and cover up the other. That’s knowledge those authors can pass along.

The next best reason is fifty-five pages—same as the Golden Heart. You may have a brilliant first couple of pages. Or your brilliance may shine at page thirty. But you won’t know which is which in the Golden Heart, which just gives you back a number. The Orange Rose is still one of the best contests around which can tell you if you’re ready for the Golden Heart, and gets you feedback in time to make revisions.

There’s also the excellent reason of money—cash awards! And while writing may not just be about the money for you, there’s nothing quite like stepping up into the category of a writer who is becoming a professional—you’re getting paid to write. That’s pretty heady stuff.

Finally, it’s your chapter contest. When I was still unpublished and struggling, the Orange Rose was a measure of my own success. It was also a contest I always wanted to win—I never managed a win, but I was a finalist several times, and I always got the best feedback. And recognition from my peers.

If you use it right, the Orange Rose can teach you how to set goals and reach them.

It can be another tool that you can use to help you become published—it’s not the only path there, but it is a path. More than 45 finalists—that’s finalists, not just winners—have gone on to become published authors. That’s quite a track record.

The Orange Rose can be a touchstone of progress. It can give you a big picture look at how you are doing in going up against lots of other writers–the same way that you have to go up against those writers in the slush pile.

And a vote of encouragement from other authors can be just the thing you need to hold onto and use in your darker days to light your path to writing your next book.

To enter the Orange Rose, visit occrwa.org  or http://www.occrwa.org/orangerosecontest/ and enter before April 9, 2011.

Published in the March 2011 issue of the Orange Country RWA Orange Blossom newsletter.

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