Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fear Factor 1

DAY 27

Word Count: 17,041

Sentence of the Day: A dull ache loitered at the edge of her hairline--though no more painful than the aftereffects of one of her father's lectures.

FEAR #1: WHAT IF MY WRITING ISN'T GOOD ENOUGH?

First off, your writing is NEVER going to be good enough for some people because writing is subjective (definition: based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes or opinions).

Even if you produced the most brilliant piece ever penned, there would still be a critic to shoot it down. Case in point: The Bible. How many negative hits does God's word take?

Secondly, make sure your writing is good before you shop it around. Use the myriad writing resources out there before you expose your baby to the cruel world. There's a ton of books about writing (believe me...I've read a boatload of them).

My top 3 favorites are:


And don't forget to seek out and apply critiques from other writers. You can always learn something from your peers...even if it's how to gracefully take criticism.

Keep slugging away. Eventually your writing will achieve saleability. Just keep in mind that the timeframe is different for everyone.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Battle of the Brain

DAY 26

Word Count: 16,804

Sentence of the Day: Callouses were the only calling card the fellow needed to prove his identity.

I'm starting to think that 90% of the hard work of writing is really only a mind game. Writing has a way of raising insecurities that I normally store in a lock-box under my bed. Fears like:

What if my writing isn't good enough? What if I'm not good enough?

Who'd want to read what I have to write?

What if I can't think of 500 words to write today? What if those 500 words are a steaming pile of literary manure?

And if I slog through and manage to whip out an entire novel, how will I ever get a publisher to pay any attention to my manuscript?

Can I go home now? I want my mommy!

In the following days, I'll dissect these fears one by one. And if you've got any others you'd like me to tackle, leave them in a comment.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Seriously?

DAY 25

Word Count: 15,572

Sentence of the Day: Figures he'd get the broken-springed coach with the one-armed handler. Blasted luck.

Author Sinclair Lewis was once invited to speak about the craft of writing. Standing in front of a classroom full of students, he asked, "How many of you here are really serious about being writers?"

Hands shot up all over the room.

"Well then," Lewis asked, "why aren't you all home writing?"

And then he walked out the door.

So....what's your excuse? Thanksgiving is over. There's only 4 weeks until Christmas. Does that mean writing should atrophy in the rush of the holidays?

What would Sinclair say?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Wordsmithing in a Turkey Stupor

DAY 24

Word Count: 15,008

Sentence of the Day: May I suggest, sir, that you nick off to Gentleman Jim's if a knuckle bruiser is what you're about, unless intimidating women is the extent of your courage.

Yes, writing can be done even on Black Friday, when my feet hit the mall running at 3:45 a.m. Not saying it's my most productive day, but one hour and a grande soy chai later, I managed to squeak out 493 words....not bad considering my turkey hangover.

If I can do it, you certainly can. But if you're looking for even more inspiration to whip out your laptop today, check out today's post on Novel Rocket.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today I'm nixing writing in favor of family, friends, and gobs of calories...all of which I'm thankful for (though I might not be tomorrow when my pants won't button).

So while you're lazing about in your own turkey-induced coma, here are a few handy dandy blogs for you to visit by none other than my own sweet 17 year old...


So I wonder how productive I'll be tomorrow after waking up at 3:45 a.m. to make it to the mall by 4?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Is There A Policeman in the House?

DAY 22

Word Count: 14,022

Sentence of the Day: He leaned closer, his breath feathering against her forehead like the kiss of a summer sun.

Gotta admit, some days--though it's rare--I just don't feel like writing. Today's one. I've got a million and a half things on my to-do list to get ready for Thanksgiving tomorrow. Still, this NANOWRIMO commitment of 400 words a day is keeping my heels to the fire.

Which says a lot for accountability. If I didn't have to send in a word count at the end of each day, you can bet I'd be whipping up pumpkin pies right now instead of typing. Or at the very least I'd have slept in. So I'm thinking having an accountability partner (which is different from a crit partner) would be good to have no matter the month.

Note to self: Find a Word Count Cop to keep me on the straight and narrow after November.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Organized Chaos

DAY 21

Word Count: 13,375

Sentence of the Day: Her name floated mid-air, like a puff of dandelion seeds.

Doing life in the midst of writing a novel is a challenge. Or would it be writing a novel in the midst life that is more challenging? Hmm.

Honestly, though, how many authors can claim to write non-stop, full-time, without having to see to the necessities of the humdrum? Not many. In fact, most authors I know must slog through a 40 hour work week before, during, and after they squeeze in writing time.

Which reminds me of a quote by author Cory Doctorow:

"Write even when the world is chaotic, You don't need a
cigarette, silence, music, a comfortable chair, or inner
peace to write. You just need ten minutes and a
writing implement."

Monday, November 21, 2011

Just the Facts, Ma'am

DAY 20

Word Count:
12,937

Sentence of the Day: Rule three is never, ever fall in love with me.

Remember when I said how much I love research? Yeah, well there's a razor-edged line between love and hate. Today's one of those dang-it-I-need-to-know-such-and-such-before-I-can-write-my-scene kind of days.

So just in case you're writing a Regency and wondered if your heroine could actually see the hero's face inside the carriage while tooling down a London Street in the evening, the answer is probably yes. Not clearly. Somewhat shadowed, but there were indeed oil streetlights with reflectors that made traveling to and from the entertainment of choice possible.

Here's a link to one of my sources and is indeed a fantastic Regency site with tons o' juicy tidbits (and not just about lighting):

Friday, November 18, 2011

Staying in the Black

DAY 19

Word Count: 12344

Sentence of the Day: The tilt of her head was their mother's...one if not heeded, often earned him the switch.

Why is writing at home so hard?! Even when kids and hubby are gone, I'm just flat-out not as productive. I suppose it could be the piles of laundry. The dishes in the sink. The dogs who need to go out plus the ringing of the phone.

All that to say, I only wrote 24 words on my manuscript today. Yep, that's not a typo. A measly 24...on the actual document, that is. But in the wonder world of my little brain, I finally figured out some key plot points and mapped them out, revamping the synopsis.

And speaking of points...here's mine. When writing a first draft, don't be so rigid that you can't change your mind on the direction of the story. If you find yourself zigging when you should be zagging, cut off the dead weight and fly at a different altitude.

Of course I wish I'd written more today, but on the upside, at least the ol' word count didn't go in the red.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Of Lollipops, Rainbows, and Fluff

DAY 18

Word Count: 12320

Sentence of the Day: Her tongue darted over her lips after she said the name, tasting of it as she might a sugared date.

Must uplifting always have to equal fluffy? I don't think so. God's encouraged me through some of the ugliest situations in my life. And if fiction is to mimic the human condition, it makes sense to me that the darker side of humanity must lurk in its pages as well.

I understand that women (it's a fact...females make up the bulk of fiction readers) are looking for an escape from reality. But does that mean I should only write of lollipops and rainbows?

I can't. It's just not in me. Life sucks sometimes. I don't want to encourage a flock of ostriches by writing pap.

Does that limit my market? You bet. And that's precisely the tribe I want to reach. Readers who are crunchy on the outside and soft on the in...exactly how I imagine the Apostle Paul, a man who lived a gritty life while anchoring his hope in Jesus.

2 Corinthians 4:8-10
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.

There. Considering that truth nugget, see if you can go write a fluffy scene.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Chew With Your Mouth Shut

DAY 17

Word Count: 11,303

Sentence of the Day: He might've slipped in last night when I was dodging pinches and running pints, but he ain't shown his beak today.

On Wednesdays I get about 30 minutes to write. That's a half hour spent in the company of ravenous teenagers chowing down on pizza, generally while talking. Not a pretty picture.

But (and I've always got a big but) in the midst of the chaos, I pull out my trusty laptop and write. Not much. But I write.

And I'm in good company. Here's a quote by Joyce Carol Oats:

"I have forced myself to begin writing when I've been
utterly exhausted, when I've felt my soul as thin as a
playing card, when nothing has seemed worth enduring
for another five minutes...and somehow the activity
of writing changes everything. Or appears to do so."

True, that...but it sure doesn't stop pizza flecks from flying out of teenagers' mouths.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Do These Lion Tamer Pants Make My Butt Look Big?

DAY 16

Word Count: 11,032

Sentence of the Day: Silence stretched, like a thread to be snapped--and once broken, might fray beyond repair.

You'd think by now I wouldn't be creeped out every morning when I flip open my laptop. I mean....why freak out when I'm living my dream, writing for hours on end several days a week, hot beverage of choice at my elbow (currently darjeeling with honey), and have a happy tummy full of pumpkin muffins?

I came across a quote by Annie Dillard that pretty much sums my irrational fear...

"A work in progress quickly becomes feral. It reverts to a wild state
overnight... it is a lion growing in strength. You must visit it
every day and reassert your mastery over it. If you skip a day,
you are, quite rightly, afraid to open the door to its room.
You enter its room with bravura, holding a chair at the thing
and shouting, "Simba!"

And that, my friend, is exactly how I feel every morning when I sit down to write. Maybe if I toodle over to Amazon, I can find me a sweet deal on a bullwhip.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bad vs. Nonexistent

DAY 15

Word Count: 9507

Sentence of the Day: Comfrey and mugwort lay heavy in the air, the words on Emily's tongue even thicker.

Monday morning it's hard enough to get my eyelids to cooperate, and let me tell you, squint writing makes for a lot of typos. Even worse, I've got the angst of not having written over the weekend. All this anxious fatigue adds up to a steaming pile of "Ack! I can't do this!"

It's days like this I look to the sage advice of other authors who've been there and not only bought the tee-shirt but already donated it to Goodwill. So this morning I'm leaning against the solid post of author Jennifer Egan's sage advice, permitting me to write badly...

[Be] willing to write really badly. It won't hurt you to do that. I think there is this fear of writing badly, something primal about it, like: "This bad stuff is coming out of me…" Forget it! Let it float away and the good stuff follows. For me, the bad beginning is just something to build on. It's no big deal. You have to give yourself permission to do that because you can't expect to write regularly and always write well. That's when people get into the habit of waiting for the good moments, and that is where I think writer's block comes from. Like: It's not happening. Well, maybe good writing isn't happening, but let some bad writing happen... When I was writing "The Keep," my writing was so terrible. It was God-awful. My working title for that first draft was, A Short Bad Novel. I thought: "How can I disappoint?"

Today my writing might be bad, but hey...isn't that better than saying my writing is nonexistent?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Keeping Secrets

DAY 14

Word Count: 7953

Sentence of the Day: Sunlight slanted through the sheer window coverings in the dining room, high enough in the sky to agree with Brentwood's cold toast that the morning was well spent.

So I'm writing along, la-de-dah, when all of a sudden my hero pulls out his pocketwatch, flips open the lid, and rubs his finger over a single engraved word. What in the world? What's the word? Where'd he get that watch? Why does reading it tense his gut, his shoulders, his soul?

Which brings us to yet another plot whisper...

A secret often provides plot twists in the story. (pg. 86 / The Plot Whisperer)

To which I wholeheartedly agree. Telling everything up front in a story makes it a yawner. My favorite books are the ones where I slap myself on the forehead and go, "Whoa...didn't see that one coming!"

But sometimes it knocks me off balance when one of my own characters is hiding a secret from me.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Acquiring a Taste for Elephant

DAY 13

Word Count: 7494

Sentence of the Day: The woman was deadly--on more levels than he'd care to descend.

It always amazes me that writer buddies of mine can slap out thousands of words at a sitting. Not me. 1k feels like a victory. Still, even at 500 measly words a day, a feat even my creative writing students could undertake, an entire novel could be written in 5 months.

5 months!

Perseverance, then, is key. Which means the ol' maxim of eating an elephant a spoonful at a time proves true. Hmm...

Wonder if that tastes like chicken?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cats On Parade

DAY 12

Word Count: 6072

Sentence of the Day: She spit out his name as if it were an olive pit.

Wednesday means I teach. Translation: little time for writing, though I did manage to pencil in quite a dialogue between the hero and heroine early this morning.

All that to say, today I'll impart someone else's wisdom. Here's another tidbit from The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson.

Without cause and effect, there is no plot.

"In scene one, a character emotionally responds to an event. In scene two, we see the outcome of that emotional response, which, in turn, becomes cause for another effect. Each scene is organic; seeds planted in the first scene create the effect in the next." (pg. 177)

So...does that mean that when I sit down to write, I map out cause and effect in pen and ink? No way. Remember those nationally normed tests way back when that used to have questions about cause and effect? Stellar student that I am, I always bombed that section.

Nevertheless, I totally agree with Martha's premise and strive to accomplish the goal of cause/effect in each scene. How do I do it?

At the beginning of each scene, I fill out these staple items...

POV: (what character's head the scene is in)

SCENE: (what's going on physically, what the eye can see)

PURPOSE: (Bingo! We have a winner. This is where I write down the emotional point of the scene, what the reader's takeaway value should be. Technically, this is where I lay out the cause and effect though I don't think of it in that terminology)

CLIFFHANGER: (give the reader a reason to read on to the next scene)

There you have it. Michelle Griep's method. Not exactly as catchy a title as the Snowflake Method, but you know me and titles. Hey, maybe this is where I could throw in Cats on Parade, eh?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Don't Worry Louie

DAY 11

Word Count: 5462

Sentence of the Day: A shadow lined his jaw, as if he’d not shaven earlier, yet it favored his rugged style.

The votes are in. Okay, so the single vote is in...the one from my agent extraordinaire. Here are the official working titles of the Bow Street Runners series. Drum roll, if you please, maestro.

BRENTWOOD'S WARD
MOORE'S MAIDEN
LORD ABERLEY'S LADY


Don't get too attached, though. If/when a publisher scoops up this NYT Bestselling trilogy, the odds are those titles will be changed. But hey, if they pay me an advance, they can call it Cats on Parade for all I care.

Did I mention I hate cats (except, perhaps, for Auntie Ardie's)?

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Title By Any Other Name

DAY 10

Word Count: 4655

Sentence of the Day: The door opened to a flint-faced housekeeper that he might've served next to in the sixth regiment of the black dragoons.

I didn't write one word over the weekend--one word on a manuscript, that is. I did, however, brainstorm titles. According to my agent extraordinaire, titles are apparently very important things, even working titles that will likely get changed. Whoda thunk?

Too bad I stink at titles as much as I do at writing a synopsis. So what's a girl to do?

Email some writing buddies and noodle over titles together, for both my already finished manuscript (the opium addict/mad brother piece I'd tentatively titled Fallacy) and for my new Bow Street Runners trilogy, I came up with a list for each. Feel free to vote on your favorites.

For the Bow Street Runners Trilogy:

Book 1: Brentwood's Charge
Book 2: Moore's Maiden
Book 3: Thatcher's Lady

Book 1: Unwilling Heart
Book 2: Undercover Heart
Book 3: Unbridled Heart

Book 1: The Guardian's Runaway
Book 2: The Lawman's lady
Book 3: The Captain's Charge

For the finished historical about the opium addict:

A Lie Once Believed
Heart of the Deceived
A Truth Once Hidden
Of Saints and Sanity
A Truth Denied
Fallacy of the Heart
A Heart Once Deceived
Saints and Sinners

A huge thank you to MaryLu, Ane and Lisa for sharing their precious brain cells with me.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Sewer Scrutiny

DAY 9

Word Count: 3781

Sentence of the Day: Her eyes shot to his, gunmetal grey and sparking.

There we have it. The first week of NANOWRIMO is in the can...leastwise as far as I'm concerned. Weekends are generally family time, not writing time.

But I didn't say it wasn't research time.

I've always got my nose stuck in some kind of history book. For the rest of today, I'll have my nose pressed against the front window waiting for the ol' UPS truck to roll up with my copy of London Under: The Secret History Beneath the Streets. Just think...pages upon pages of sewer lore.

Which ought to make for some interesting twists in my plot.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Anyone Got A Pooper Scooper?

DAY 8

Word Count: 3004

Sentence of the Day: The chair held his weight, his mind a thousand questions.

Though I've finished the first chapter of my future New York Times Bestseller, and my manuscript is up to 3k, I'm pretty sure each and every word is a steaming pile of manure. But I always feel like that, so no worries.

Before I toodle off to exercise my chair-cramped behind and/or throw in another load of laundry, here's a plot whisper of the day that I can sure use...one you'll want to tuck away for the days when you feel like your writing is doggy doo-doo.

"One of the greatest benefits of writing a truly awful, lousy, no good first draft is that it can only get better from there."
The Plot Whisperer, pg. 16


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Inglorious Reality

DAY 7

Word Count: 1570

Sentence of the Day: He eyed him as he might a piece of horseflesh to be bought.

Squeaking in a spare 1/2 hours worth of writing time today was challenging...which is exactly why I set my NANOWRIMO goal at 10k words for the month instead of 50k. Wednesdays I teach Creative Writing, Civics and Health. And if that's not a full enough day, throw in spending a few hours at my mom's taking her shopping and doling out meds. The fun never stops, I tell ya.

Still, 387 words isn't a bad accomplishment considering I wrote in a room full of hormone-crazed adolescents eating pizza.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

In The Beginning

DAY 6

Word Count: 1183

Sentence of the Day: Through the crack in the magistrate’s door, he slid in sideways and breathless.

Yeehaw! What a ride. The adventure finally begins, and here's where it starts (see photo).

Granted, it's not some cozy little nook in a swanky coffee shop. Nor is it a cozy corner in my house with ambient lighting and soft background music.

It's just one in a herd of chairs in a study area at Hennepin Technical College. That's where I toodle off to on Monday-Thursday to sit and wait for 17 who's currently enrolled in culinary arts. So while I'm pounding away at the keyboard, she's whipping up lunch. Win win, I tell ya.
 
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