Friday, March 30, 2012

Fun Friday Postponed

Today's my usual Fun Friday vlog day, but I really should have an emergency vlog post tucked in my back pocket. (Note to self: tuck away an emergency Fun Friday vlog).

Yesterday my mom was in a bad car accident. She was the driver and came away relatively unhurt, but her friend, the passenger, died. Longer version here.

So as I steer my mom through police reports and impound lots and insurance issues today, I'd appreciate any prayers.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sage Advice

Well don't look at me. I don't have any sage advice. But I do know where to find some.

C.S. Lewis is one of my favorite authors, and I'm not just talking Narnia. I was the junior high kid in the back of the bus with my nose shoved into a sci-fi book. Ever read Out of the Silent Planet or Perelandra? Yeah. Good stuff.

But besides fiction, Lewis was proficient with non-fiction. On page 64 of Letters to Children, he offers some great insights into writing...

1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn't mean anything else.

2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don't implement promises, but keep them.

3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean "More people died" don't say "Mortality rose."

4. In writing, don't use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the things you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us the thing is "terrible," describe it so that we'll be terrified. Don't say it was "delightful"; make us say "delightful" when we've read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers "Please, will you do my job for me."

5. Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say "infinitely" when you mean "very"; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about really infinite.

Personally, my biggest bugaboo is #1. It's always clear in my head, but on paper, not so much. How about you? Which number do you need to work on?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sometimes You're Up, Sometimes You're Down

On plenty of days
the writer can write three or four pages
and on plenty of other days
he concludes he must throw them away.

~ Annie Dillard

Writing is a psychotic rollercoaster ride. One minute you're pretty sure you've penned the most brilliant piece of work since War and Peace. The next, you seriously doubt you could sell the thing as birdcage liner.

Currently I'm in the not-fit-for-bird-poop frame of mine in reference to my half-finished manuscript, BUT (and I've always got a big but), I'll press on. How? Great question. Let's dissect it.

Top 3 Ways To Slog Through The Middle-of-the-WIP Doldrums

1. Duct tape up the mouth of that negating inner voice.

Be ready to gag the piehole of that next negative thought telling you your writing stinks. Get proactive and Google right now some affirmative thoughts. My favorite source is the Bible. An example is Psalm 118:8..."It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man." To make it even more personal, I substitute 'my writing' for man:
"It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in my writing."

2. Set a daily word goal--and stick to it by nabbing an accountability partner.

Even something as small as 200 words a day will keep you moving forward, and most often you'll surprise yourself by writing more. Having a buddy check up on you puts the pressure on. The scarier the buddy, the better. Just think what an ex-Delta force special ops accountability partner could do for your consistency.

3. Add in a quirky new character or ramp up the tension with a plot twist.

Sometimes the reason you're in the doldrums is that you're bored. And if the author is bored, what do you think the reader will be?

That's it. Just 3 simple steps. My plan? I've lined up a buddy to put my feet to the fire for the month of May. My daily word goal during that month will be 500. And I'm working out a new plot twist even as I type.

How about you? Remember...if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Misery Loves Company

Contrary to the title, no, I'm not currently miserable. Still, being that it's spring, I thought I'd shine a ray of hope to those who may be lamenting rejection after stinging rejection. Believe it or not, pain is a good sign. It means you're still kicking as a writer.

And you're not alone. Take a stroll down the hall of shame..

C.S. LEWIS received over 800 rejections before he sold his first piece of writing.

MADELINE L'ENGLE's A Wrinkle in Time was refused 26 times before she found a publisher who said yes.

STEPHEN KING's Carrie took 30 tries before someone picked it up.

J.K. ROWLING got Harry Potter turned down a dozen times before someone finally gave it a chance.

MEG CABOT had The Princess Diaries rejected by 17 publishers before one gave it a chance.

These authors aren't super sore about being rejected...but the publishers who rejected them sure are.

Bottom line: hang in there. Polish up that manuscript and send it out yet again. Then let me know when you sell it and I'll add you to the list.

WIP STATS ~ DAY 66

Word Count: 43,266

Sentence of the Day: Whoever wore that tiara would be the queen of the ball--and she'd long since felt she was royalty.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Writer Buddy: Julie Klassen

Question: What do writer buddies do when they get together?

Answer: Eat

Come on...did you seriously think I'd say we focus on plot and character so much that yumminess wasn't a factor? Sheesh.

Last week I met author Julie Klassen for lunch, and if you don't know her yet, you will by the end of this post.

Julie writes historical fiction set during the Regency era. Think Jane Austen. Yeah, she's that good. She writes full-time now, but formerly was an editor with Bethany, so she's seen both sides of the writerly road.

With this wealth of knowledge, I asked her what she thought was one of the most important skills a writer should hone in order to get published. You'll never guess what she said...

Keep your butt in your chair.

Granted, she said it much more eloquently than that, but y'all know what I'm talking about. Grandiose ideas and half-finished manuscripts are
not going to get you published. You've got to roll up your sleeves, sit down, and do the hard work of typing word after word. And believe me, I'm preaching to myself as much as to anyone out there in blogland.

This method is a winning formula for Julie. She's put out a book a year for the past 5 years. I love all her stories, but her recent release happens to be my favorite...


Pampered Margaret Macy flees London in disguise to escape pressure to marry a dishonorable man. With no money and nowhere else to go, she takes a position as a housemaid in the home of Nathaniel Upchurch, a suitor she once rejected in hopes of winning his dashing brother. Praying no one will recognize her, Margaret fumbles through the first real work of her life. If she can last until her next birthday, she will gain an inheritance from a spinster aunt--and sweet independence. But can she remain hidden as a servant even when prying eyes visit Fairbourne Hall?

You'll have to pick yourself up a copy to find out!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Games Writers Play

Is there life after Words With Friends? Tune in for a few new ideas.


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Thursday, March 22, 2012

5 Burning Writing Tips

Currently my favorite TV show is Burn Notice...which is quite a feat since I don't have a TV.

It all started when we visited friends over Christmas break. The guys watched the show upstairs while the girls worked on crafts downstairs. When we got home, my hubby was hooked enough to watch more episodes on his iPhone via Netflix before going to sleep. My eyes were drawn to the little screen and I got sucked into the drama...big time.

Even though Burn Notice is a boy show with guns and explosions and geeky secret agent kinds of gadgets, I can't wait for the new season to begin. Which is really weird. You couldn't pay me to watch a James Bond movie. So if it's not the genre that reeled me in, then what?

After much thought, I realized that Matt Nix, the writer of Burn Notice, consistently applies some principals that can benefit any genre of story...

Be clear about what your protagonist wants so that the reader knows exactly when that goal is slapped out of reach.

All hero Michael Westen wants to find out is who burned him and why. Episode after episode, this goal isn't necessarily front stage, but it is present. Always.

Keep your hero's goal as an underlying thrum in your story, the ol' carrot dangling in front of his face. That way when that goal is threatened, your reader will understand how devastating the consequences will be if that goal isn't reached.

Create mini-conflicts that increase the protag's problems.

Michael Westen is always taking on side jobs, usually justice related, while he works to discover who burned him. And often when he's in the middle of one of these dangerous jobs, he'll get a call to meet with a lead for his burn notice. What will he do? Drop his current crucial mission for the overall big picture of getting another piece in the whodunnit puzzle?

Don't give your hero an easy life. Ramp up the tension in your story by throwing in road blocks. And not just pansy white plastic roadblocks. I'm talking big teethy dangerous roadblocks...not necessarily the blood and guts type. Emotional roadblocks can stop a hero flat in his tracks just as well.

Mislead the reader.

Just when we think Carla is the head of "Management," the entity who issued the burn notice, we find out she's merely a cog. Just when we think Strickler can get Michael his old job back, he turns out to be a schmuck. Yada, yada.

On your route to solving your hero's main conflict, add in a few rabbit trails to throw the reader off track, otherwise your story will become too predictable. Too many yawns are a deal breaker.

Make your antagonist Satan incarnate.

That white headed dude who's the face of Management? Yeah. Let's just say that if I ever came face to face with him in real life, I'd slap him into tomorrow, he's that evil.

Which makes for a great example: the darker the villain, the more your hero will shine. Your hero will have a chance to show off his great strength of character if he's pitted against a devious slimeball.

Create a sympathetic character for your hero to protect.

There's no doubt about it...Michael Westen loves his mom. She's not a sissy girl, but she is vulnerable. His care for her tugs at the heart strings.

And that's exactly what you need to do. Doesn't have to be a person. You can create the same effect with an animal, though that's a bit trickier. Showing your hero concerned for the well being of a 'weaker' character is admirable and attractive...traits every great hero should have.

The new season of Burn Notice starts this June. Diligent blogger that I am, I suppose I'll force myself to watch every episode just to see if I can pick up any more writing tips.

Right. Who am I kidding?

WIP STATS ~ Day 65

Word Count:
41,021

Sentence of the Day: Her friend Bella collected shoes, Millie men, but bonnets? Ahh. She'd take a new bonnet any day and every day had she enough space to store them.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What To Keep On Your Desk

The older I get, the more I forget. My theory is that as you add years to your life, you also accumulate a lot of clutter in your brain, kind of like all the boxes of junk upstairs in my garage.


There are lots of tricks for remembering. There's the traditional string around the finger thing, though I never understood how you'd remember why you put the string there in the first place. I skip that step and go right for writing a note on the back of my hand. But with so many things to remember about writing, that could turn into a full body tattoo.


So I've come up with some handy dandy reminders to stick on my desk--and I'm not talking 3M Post-its. Too traditional. Go for tangible items.


Disclaimer: I don't recommend you put all these trinkets on the ol' desktop at one time. You wouldn't have any space for your computer. So put them in a drawer and pull one out daily for a fresh memory jogging experience.


Keep a bottle of Drano on your desk to remind yourself that if you don't write daily, the words will clog up in your head ... which has been documented to cause a nasty case of writer's block.

BONUS: If/when the cleaning mood hits you, you'll be prepared and/or ready to commit suicide.


Keep a small, stuffed elephant on your desk to remind yourself that writing a novel is just one bite at a time. Sitting down with a simple task of writing 1,000 words gives you a whole different perspective than slumping in your chair with 90k hanging over your head.

BONUS: If a small child interrupts you while you're writing, you've got an instant diversion to sidetrack the kid.


Keep a mousetrap on your desk to remind yourself to write snappy dialogue. No one likes to read boring conversations. Keep the reader guessing what in the world will come out of your characters' mouths next.

BONUS: You'll be ready for a tiny mammal invasion of your writing space.


Keep a rock on your desk to remind yourself that even a particularly scathing critique and/or review probably has at least one nugget of truth in it.

BONUS: You can chuck said rock through a window and feel instant gratification (but only if it's your neighbor's window, not your own).



Keep a Bible on your desk to remind yourself that God is still--and always will be--in control ... even when no one answers your e-mails, even when when those answers aren't what you hoped for, and yes, even when you finally land a whoppin' big contract.

BONUS: Crack open the cover and you'll find relief from the most devastating rejections--plus forgiveness for breaking your neighbor's window.


Keep a supply of dark chocolate on your desk because...well...just because.

So...what do you keep on your desk?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tweaking Around

Today is the first day of spring. What will you do to celebrate? I'm living large and revamping the ol' blog. HUGE change. Drum roll, please....

I'm moving my WIP stats to the bottom of each post instead of the top.

Put down your pitchfork. I hear you..."But Michelle, that's not a radical move! It's just a tweak, you big idiot."

And therein lies the topic of today: One man's tweak is another man's mind-blowing paradigm shift.

Let's apply this to writing, critiques specifically. When you're critiquing someone else's piece, there are a few guidelines to follow so that you don't rock the writer's world completely off its axis and send the poor writer whimpering into the fetal position. (Caveat: Unless you know the writer super well and they think it's hilarious when you go viral on them)

CRITIQUE GUIDELINES

1. Don't just point out the bad stuff, mention the good.
Is their dialogue particularly snappy and entertaining? Say so. Is there a turn of phrase that makes you go whoa-I-wish-I'd-written-that? Tell them. Everyone needs encouragement.

2. Add in suggestions.
If you find a sentence that's worded like a Jenga stack about to tip over, suggest a way to re-word it.

3. Highlight repeat words.
You don't need to beat the writer over the head. Just a simple highlight will point out redundancy.

4. EA (Employ acronyms)
When you're deleting a sentence or two--or even an entire paragraph--it's helpful to let the writer know why. This can be done without a lot of explanation or fanfare; just use some handy dandy acronyms. The two most common are:
RUE = resist the urge to explain
GWS = goes without saying

5. Point out logic glitches.
If something doesn't make sense, you don't have to sugar coat it, but keep in mind that it makes perfect sense in the writer's head. That means they probably won't understand why you don't get it. So the trick is to mention exactly what it is that doesn't click in your brain. Example: How did Joe end up outside when he was just sitting on the couch? Or I thought this story was a Regency, so how could the hero 'jet' over to Paris?

Those are just a few ideas to keep in mind when critting someone else's work. When the proverbial shoe is on the other foot and your jaw is dropping over all the suggestions/changes/comments a critter has made on your WIP, there's just one tip for you...

Think of it as tweaking.

WIP STATS ~ DAY 64

Word Count: 40,517

Sentence of the Day: Standing under a tree for the better part of the morning, soaking up drizzle like a giant fungus, surely he couldn't be enjoying himself.

Monday, March 19, 2012

What kind of reader are you?

DAY 63

Word Count: 40,008

Sentence of the Day: The overpowering stench of mackerel and bloaters punched him in the nose.

When I crack open the cover of a new book, unless it's a super stinker, I'm going to read it word-for-word until the very end. Yep, I'm one of those kinds of readers. I don't skim over things. If an author's taken the painstaking time to write and order words on a page, then I feel obligated to read each of those words.

Does that make me a slow reader?

I wondered about that, so I took an online reading speed test. It was fun and easy, so I thought you might enjoy discovering your own reading speed.

Here's the LINK.

And just in case you're curious how your numbers stack up against mine, here's my score:

316 wpm
82% comprehension

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Writer's Bookshelf

It's Show & Tell on this week's edition of Fun Friday.

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Hitting the Wall

DAY 62

Word Count: 39,063

Sentence of the Day: On deck, a few hands stowed ropes and tightened fittings, and on the gangplank, a leather-cheeked sailor descended--so raw-boned and angular, it hurt to look at him.

The half-way blues are clubbing me upside the head a tad early. 45k is technically when I should hit the wall. I'm only at 39k, but writing isn't math.

Thank God.

Since it's my youngest's spring break, I had all these grandiose plans to forge ahead this week, wear out the ol' keyboard with frantic typing and such. Yeah. That didn't happen.

Why is it that a writer is most productive when there's the least amount of time to write? Is that some maxim of Murphy's Law that I didn't study? Because that would be science, and writing isn't science.

Thank God, again.

So after pondering the situation, it dawned on me, not a brilliantly orange thought, like when the sun peeks over a slate-blue ocean, but more of a slow realization, like how an overcast sky changes from charcoal to iron to pewter gray.

Even in the midst of a non-productive slew of writing days,
I can and should thank God.

Why? Because He's the one who gave me those days in the first place.

Try it yourself. Thanking God does wonders for perspective. Removing your eyeballs from yourself, redirecting your focus onto the Creator of creativity, has a freakish way of regenerating inspiration to write.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Journal By Any Other Name

"I am a writer, and there comes a time when that which I write belongs to me, has to be written alone and in silence, no one telling me a better way to write it. It doesn't have to be great writing, it doesn't even have to be terribly good. It just has to be mine."
~ Raymond Chandler
"A Qualified Farewell"

Yeah, I know. How often do I share "do this" lists or "don't do that" warnings here on this site?Posting this quote seems almost hypocritical.

But it's not.

You see, I've got a pile of writing on my shelf that's exactly what this quote is talking about, and you should too. I call it the yearnings-of-my-heart notebook. It's my go-to place to purge my cluttered thoughts and emotions. Most people call it a journal, but that sounds a little too clinical for me.

Call it what you will, but have one. Have a safe place to write whatever you feel like, however you want to, and let it be completely yours.

Not every piece of writing must be marketed and sold.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Spring Clean Your Manuscript

DAY 61

Word Count: 38,673

Sentence of the Day: He'd rather take a bullet to the head than traipse around Bond Street today--or any day, for that matter.

Take a deep breath. Smell that? Lemony fresh with a chaser of Pine-Sol. Yep, it's that cleaning time of year. Time to de-clutter and spruce up the shabby areas...of your WIP.

Throw out exclamation points.
Don't use punctuation marks to get your point across. Replace them with powerful verbs. No, I'm not saying you have to ditch them all, just make sure to use them appropriately. Try limiting exclamations to interjections.

Pack up your darlings and send them off to Goodwill.
Do a search for pet words such as just, really, back, up, down, very, knew and my personal bugaboo...so. Get rid of 99% of them and your sentences will be stronger.

And while you're doing a search for words, don't forget to look for 'it'. More often than not, you should define what that 'it' is. Makes it a lot easier for your reader, and believe me, if your reader has to work hard, they'll set down the book.

Sweep away the ho-hum.
Does each chapter end with a hook? The last sentence should make a reader drool and flip the page to find out what happens. Check on each ending line and if it's not drool-worthy, rewrite.

Scrub off the adverbs.
Not all of them, mind you. Comb through your manuscript for 'ly' words and erase half of them, then go back and look at what you've got. Keep only the adverbs you're willing to fight for.

By completing these 4 easy cleaning tasks, even if your house isn't tidy, at least your manuscript will sparkle.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Too Many Plots Spoil the Soup

DAY 60

Word Count: 38,179

Sentence of the Day: She stiffened, hating the uncanny way he always made her feel like a half-wit.

One of my readers brought up a great point the other day, one that's worthy of an entire entry. The question is:

What if my plot is just like a story that's already out on the market, but it's set in a different era? Is that kosher or not?

Short answer: don't worry about it.

Long answer: don't worry about it and here's why...

There are only so many basic plots to choose from. In fact, people smarter than me argue all the time over what that magic number is. Some scholars say there's only 1 basic plot. Set-up / Conflict / Resolution. Strip away the glitz from any story and yeah, that's what you're left with.

Then there's the 3 plot school of thought (taken from The Basic Patterns of Plot).

Plot 1: happy ending, results when the central character makes a sacrifice for the sake of another.

Plot 2: unhappy ending, when the central character fails to make the needed sacrifice.

Plot 3: literary plot, one that doesn't hinge on decision but upon fate, the critical event takes place at the beginning of the story rather than the end and what follows is inevitable and often tragic.

And let's not forget the 7 Basic Plots we all learned in second grade:
1. man vs. nature
2. man vs. man
3. man vs. the environment
4. man vs. machines/technology
5. man vs. the supernatural
6. man vs. self
7. man vs. god/religion

I've got a book on my shelf that says there are 20 basic plots. In fact, sometimes I look at it for inspiration before I begin a new piece. Check out 20 Master Plots, which goes more in-depth on the following:

1. Quest
2. Adventure
3. Pursuit
4. Rescue
5. Escape
6. Revenge
7. The Riddle
8. Rivalry
9. Underdog
10. Temptation
11. Metamorphosis
12. Transformation
13. Maturation
14. Love
15. Forbidden Love
16. Sacrifice
17. Discovery
18. Wretched Excess
19. Ascension
20. Descension

And for those of you who are really list crazy, check out The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations, wherein you'll find...wait for it...yes...36 different plots.

So, what's my point with all this? I'm going to side with King Solomon. There's nothing new under the sun. Your story may very well be 'just like' another one on the market. Notice, however, that I didn't say identical. Even if I gave 10 writers the exact same plot line with the exact same characters (which I do in my creative writing class), I'll end up reading 10 very different stories. What makes the difference?

VOICE!

God created each of us uniquely. No matter what story you're writing, it's going to sound like you. So go ahead and write with wild abandon the story that's on your heart. Even if one like it has been published before, yours hasn't.

And if God wants it out there, believe me, it will be.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Guilty As Charged

Writer's carry a lot of guilt baggage...except for when it comes to one thing.

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Magic Paragraph

DAY 59

Word Count: 37,550

Sentence of the Day: She lifted her chin, a more ladylike approach instead of lifting her palm and slapping the smirk off his face--though not nearly as satisfying.

Have you ever started reading a chapter and found yourself a bit bewildered? You read on, mostly because you just shelled out $15 for the book and you WILL finish the thing or die trying, and eventually you find out 3 paragraphs later that you're in the hero's POV. 2 paragraphs more and you discover he's in an abandoned warehouse. And it isn't until paragraph 7 that you find out what he thinks about the situation.

Whew. That was a lot of work to figure out.

And that's exactly what you DON'T want to do to a reader. Never fear, though, for I've got a handy dandy magic bullet to ward off this particular bugaboo...wait a minute...make that a magic paragraph.

Disclaimer: The Magic Paragraph isn't my invention. It's gleaned from Ron Benrey's The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing Christian Fiction.

Whenever you're starting a new chapter, the first paragraph is crucial. You've got to connect in several ways with your reader or they'll be confused, either outright or subliminally. So here's what you need to do every time you open a new scene:

#1. Signal whose head to enter.
Let your reader know up front which character's POV that they're in. Don't get cute and make them wonder. It's not cute and readers don't have time to wonder.

#2. Twang an appropriate sense, emotion or mental faculty.
Your reader is living vicariously through the POV character. What is that character experiencing at the moment? Share it. The best way is to show it via one of the 5 senses instead of telling by means of heavy internal monologue.

#3. Show an appropriate action or response to #2.
Cause and effect. That's what I'm talking about. For example, let's say we open in your hero's POV and you show him shivering at a bus stop. What's his response? Maybe he looks at his watch and curses out public transportation for being late. Or perhaps he tugs his coat tighter, the seam at his shoulder rips, and he's glad it happened now instead of when he was in the job interview he'd just left.

Then simply repeat 1-3 as needed and/or desired.

Savvy?

Here's an example from my current WIP. See if you can spot the steps.

Nicholas focused on the remaining daylight pooling on the floor in the magistrate’s office. He ought lift his head, show a measure of respect, but the cold wooden planks were preferable to the fire in Ford’s eyes. He sucked in a breath and held it, the tightness in his chest matching his nerves. Would this day never end? Keeping a foolish woman from harm, comforting his dying sister, finding his employer dead, and now this. Not that he’d never been dressed down by the magistrate before, but with fatigue fraying his tightly woven resolve, this time the man’s censure nipped particularly deep.

There. Did you see it? The first sentence let's you know you're in Nicholas's head(1). He feels guilty for staring at the floor but not shamed enough to lift his head(2)...which makes him uncomfortable so he sucks in a breath(3).

That's the Magic Paragraph in a nutshell. Give it a whirl. It's a great hare to pull out of your writerly hat, and after using it awhile, it will turn into a good rabbit, I mean habit.

Wow. Do I need a cup of coffee or what?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

When Your Muse Takes a Vacation...Without You

DAY 58

Word Count: 37,262

Sentence of the Day: His green eyes searched her face like waves lapping against a shore, wearing away the sand grain by grain.

Can you track with this situation...

Your week is slammed--chock full of appointments and meetings and pulling together tax documents that you don't want to pull together in the first place. But, dutiful writer that you are, you realize you must make time to write or it's not going to happen. So you whip out a crowbar and pry open a block of precious hours to work on your bestseller. It's hopeful. It's a handhold on your rockslide of a schedule and you're looking forward to it.

Fast forward. The blessed time has arrived for you to lose yourself in the muse and surge ahead in your WIP. Java in one hand, laptop in the other, you cozy up in your favorite chair, ready to write and...

Apparently your Muse didn't get the memo. Your mind is blank and you are exhausted. Panic sets in. This is your only chance to write for the week and you don't want to blow it. So you sit there with a crazed look on your face, whimpering.

Yeah. I hear you. I've been there. Frequently. Take a few deep breaths and read on because I've got a few tricks in my bag that often are helpful.

Say what?
Close your eyes for a moment and listen to your characters. Just listen. Then open your eyes and write down what they're saying. That's right...I'm giving you permission to simply write dialogue. Don't worry about attributes. You can go back and do that later. Simply start typing in a conversation between two of your characters (any two) and something cool will happen. You'll get lost in the dialogue and pretty soon your word count will sky rocket.

Show & Tell
Open up to your collection of pictures that inspire your particular story. And if you don't have any, then use this time to get some. What am I talking about? Well, I now keep my pictures here on Pinterest. You don't have to use that site, but you can look at my board and it will give you an idea of what I'm talking about. Pre-Pinterest days I simply opened a Word file and kept them there. Pre-laptop days I cut out pictures and tossed them into a file folder. Sometimes all it takes to get you writing is to physically look into your hero or heroine's eyes.

Slash & Burn
Go back to a previous chapter and edit. Even if your muse doesn't happen to show up during that entire block of time, at least you'll be making some kind of headway on your WIP and you'll feel a lot better about it.

Mind Game
Release the pressure by telling yourself it's quality not quantity. Focus on writing a single paragraph of description, either describing a character, a setting, an object...whatever. Make it a game by throwing out convention and using prose that's crazy and one of two things will happen. It will either spur you into a creative new bent for the scene and you'll move on in your story, or you'll wonder what kind of drugs you're on and snap out of it.

Chocolate
Honestly, is there any situation that chocolate doesn't make better? Go for the biggest brownie in the batch and see if that doesn't put you in a different frame of mind.

There you have it. Try one. Try all. Or go ahead and share with me surefire ways you've tried to plead with your muse to pack up the suntan lotion and get home.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Bumps in the Night

DAY 57

Word Count: 36,047

Sentence of the Day: How would he explain to a maid why he crouched like an overgrown bird behind his employer's desk while clutching the man's strongbox?

Writing is scary. It's baring your soul to the world, and as a result, opening yourself up to criticism that can sting. But isn't every monumental task scary at first?

Here's what blogger Seth Godin has to say:

"If you're afraid of something, of putting yourself out there,
of creating a kind of connection or a promise,
that's a clue that you're on the right track.
Go, do that."

And you know what? He's absolutely right. That being said, now's the time to do a self inventory about what creeps you out the most in the writing world. Is it submitting a proposal? Starting a blog? Joining a new social media site? Speaking at a writer's group?

Yes, there is a chance you might fail, and fail spectacularly, but does failure always mean defeat? Nope. I suggest that the definition of failure (lack of success) should be changed to an opportunity to try again.

Fear is debilitating. It will cripple you faster than a high dive onto cement pavement. But guess what? It's a handicap that's completely avoidable as long as you tuck this verse in your back pocket and whip it out every time you feel a shiver skittering up your spine...

"Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you.
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
Isaiah 41:10

So go for it. Whatever fear that's keeping you hiding under the covers just isn't worth the sweat it creates.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Rocks I Hide Under

Think of this as a friendly public service announcement, minus the annoying music. I've been asked where I can be found...other than here, that is...so here's a few links:

This place is crack for middle-aged women. It's a great place to keep my storyboards, though (at least that's what I tell my husband).

Seriously, who's not on Facebook?

I'm still a relatively new tweeterista so I haven't quite hit my stride there yet. I mean, do I pop in to say I'm currently eating a garbanzo bean roll-up and then post active updates on the result of said bean extravaganza, or is that just wrong?

Generally I'm on my best behavior here, being it's for professionals. Hmm. Wonder who looked the other way when I slipped in?

This is where all the little hipsters hang out. Not that I'm little, or hip, come to think of it, but there I am in all my glory. So far I've just uploaded vlogs but I think I'll start throwing in a bit of poetry now and then just to spice it up a bit.

The first & third Saturdays on Novel Rocket.
This is a shop talk kind of site, all about writing and publishing. You can rub elbows with some biggies in the publishing industry if you check in frequently.

The 25th of each month at The Barn Door.
Honestly, I wouldn't know a barn from a silo. I'm a city girl. But for some odd reason, the crew at Barn Door asked me to join, so I did. Maybe I'm their Midwest urban explorer. Hey! Great idea for my next post!

And whenever I feel like it, you can find me at the WordServe Water Cooler.
This is my newest venture. Definitely everything you wanted to know about writing and publishing. Two thumbs up (and not just because I'm there).

Oh yeah, last but not least, I can also be found on my own website.
If I'm going to be speaking or signing, this is the site that keeps track of my whereabouts.

There you have it. I encourage you to check out these sites not just because my ego is the size of Brazil, but because each place is unique in the aspects that it covers.

And if you've got a favorite haunt that you think I should know about, share the love via a comment.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Writer vs Wild

The writer's world can be brutal...but if you know what to look out for, you'll survive.


video

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Waiting Room

DAY 56

Word Count: 35,143

Sentence of the Day:
The grey light filtering in suited his soul.

"I am sure God keeps no one waiting unless
He sees that it is good for him to wait."
~ CS Lewis

Seems like everyone is waiting for something...to hear back from a query, an agent, a publisher, or waiting to hear from the Big One--God.

Waiting to meet with an IRS agent isn't so difficult, nor is waiting for a colonoscopy. But ask me to wait for a new book to be released from a favorite author and you'll find me with my nose against the glass of the bookstore's front door hours before they open. Today I even offered up my firstborn in hopes of trading him for a Kindle so I could download Lisa Bergren's newest novel (Bourne) because I can't wait to read it.

Why is waiting for something we want so hard?

I suspect it's pride. Whatever it is that we want, deep down we feel we deserve it. Now. That we shouldn't have to wait, to be deprived, because doggone it...we worked hard for X, Y or Z.

Whenever a goal becomes all about us instead of God, it's time to take a step back, breathe deeply for awhile, and reconsider not only who's in charge, but who ought to be in charge.

Either God is sovereign or He isn't.

Ponder that one for awhile. Chew on it and see what kind of taste it leaves in your mouth.

And guess what, while you're mulling that over, your focus will be off whatever it is you're waiting for and time will fly by.
 
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