Monday, April 30, 2012

What Makes A Good Book Good?

"Book-buyers aren't attracted, by and large, by the literary merits of a novel; book-buyers want a good novel to take with them on the airplane, something that will first fascinate them, then pull them in and keep them turning the pages."
~ Stephen King, On Writing


I don't know what that quote says to you, but to me it says:
Writers write so that buyers will buy and then readers can read what they wrote. 


It's a pretty simple formula, really, but the great bugaboo is getting the buyer to buy in the first place. So...what makes a 'good' novel, one that will rivet a buyer? Is it the characters? The plot line? Fresh prose? A snappy voice? These are all crucial elements that can make or break a book, but I suspect it's something deeper. Something primal. A nebulous kind of glue that holds together characters & plot which either strengthens or weakens a book. What is it? Well, I think it can be boiled down to:


A great story hinges on theme.


Whether it's forefront in a reader's mind or floating in the netherworld of the subconscious, everyone wants to read a "feel good" kind of book. Something must happen by the end of the story that makes us want to cheer. In some respect, good must prevail over evil, or at least the hope that good will eventually win out. If this isn't part of a book, then in all likelihood, it's not going to be labeled as great.


Why? Because a great story connects with a reader at an intimate level, taking them on a journey that ends with a truth which resonates in every part of their being.


Those of you armed with can openers, put your weapons down. I'm not opening the whole isn't-truth-relative can of worms. I think that as human beings we can all agree there are viable themes which are universal, whether you're Christian, Muslim, Athiest, or a buck naked Gaya worshipper, themes such as:
Justice
Forgiveness
Sacrifice
Integrity


And those are just a few. Don't get me wrong, though. I'm not saying you whack a reader over the head with your theme club. Remember the #1 rule of writing, show vs tell? Yeah, that applies here. Convey your theme through interesting characters, incredible odds, and stunning settings instead of preaching with know-it-all author intrusion. There's a reason symbolism and theme go hand-in-hand in the classics. Your story will stick with a reader longer if they internalize all the clues that point to your theme and discover it for themselves.


I'm not saying this is easy. In fact, I'm on my 5th manuscript and I've barely scratched the surface of this whole theme idea and how to pull it off. But honestly, that's one of the great things about writing. The more you write, the more you realize you don't know, which spurs you to write better on the next manuscript.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Field Trip: MCBA & The Loft Literary Center

Today on Fun Friday we're taking a field trip to the Minnesota Center for Book Arts and the Loft Literary Center, both in downtown Minneapolis. This center offers classes on literally everything, from writing craft to bindery. Toodle along with me and my writer buddy Terri Thompson.

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Why I Don't Own A Kindle


I’m one of the rare few who don’t have an iPod or iPhone. I don’t even have cable TV or a KitchenAid. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that I don’t have an e-reader.

Yet.

I’d probably enjoy a Kindle (or Nook or Sony or whatever). It would save my back muscles from lugging around books in a huge tote every day. Packing would be a lot easier for my upcoming trip to Seattle. But there are several reasons I don’t own an e-reader, and here are the top 3…

Doesn’t Have The Same Dependability
I just found out last night that for some book formats, Kindle can just zap your book gone. Take it back. Wave a magic wand and suddenly you can’t read it anymore. Not that thugs in jackboots couldn’t come into my house and swipe a book off my shelf, but seriously, I think there’s less likelihood of that happening. For a cited example from the New York Times, click here.

And what if an E Bomb does hit? Whammo. End of reading on that that little electronic device, whereas my hard copies will always be ready to crack open.

Doesn’t Have The Same Feel
I’m tactile. I like to hold a book in my hand, fold over the crisp pages into dog ears, hear the thick squidge of a highlighter dragging across paper. And don't even get me started on pressing down sticky notes and flags...love em! While I realize dog-earring and highlighting are possibilities on an e-reader, it just wouldn't be the same touchy-feely experience.

Doesn’t Have The Same Smell
Maybe if they bottled up the unique smell of ink on paper, put it into aerosol format, then added a little dispenser thingee on the e-reader which could squirt some out (like air fresheners in public restrooms), I’d rethink this point.

So, there you have it. My reasons for not owning a Kindle, Nook or Sony Reader. Now if someone were to give me one, say for Mother’s Day or a birthday, perhaps (excessive throat clearing for those to whom a small cough holds meaning), I would certainly think about revamping this list into Why I Own A Kindle.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Rose By Any Other Name

Names are important. Think about it. Would you want to be named Benedict Arnold? Immediately brings to mind a traitor, right? Or what about Adolph Hitler? Super villain, hmm? Well, the same holds true for your fictional characters. Choosing names is a huge part of character development.


Charles Dickens is the best of the best when it comes to this technique. What kind of personality do the following names foreshadow when they're first introduced?


Wackford Squeers
Uriah Heap
Charity Pecksniff
Dick Datchery
Kit Nubbles


Personally, I don't think there's a hero in that bunch. Here's a grouping of names taken from my own writing. Who are the heroes?


Clive Witherskim    Ethan Goodwin      Nigel Thorne     Alexander Moore


You got it: Ethan & Alexander. Pretty easy, eh? And all accomplished with 2 little names.


But sometimes it's more complicated than cracking open a baby name book and running your finger down the page. Different genres call for different tactics. For instance, in writing historical, specifically in the regency era, I can't have a character named Zuba Starshine and have it be believable. That would be more of a 1960's hippie kind of name. And what if you're writing a pirate series? How to come up with something more original than Blackbeard?


I came across some great name generating sites for help in situations such as these. Stop by and check them out even if you're not currently looking for character ideas...they're a 'Heap' of fun.


Ethnic Name Generator

Pirate Name Generator

Fantasy Name Generator

Nerd Name Generator

Jedi Name Generator

Hip Hop Name Generator

Celebrity Baby Name Generator

Mafia Name Generator

And those are just a few. Next time you need to name a character, do a little research and give it some meaning. It worked for Dickens (every one of his books is STILL in print). It can work for you.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Umm...The Zombie Ate My Synopsis

Are you prepared for the zombie apocalypse? I'm not. Shoot, I'm not even prepared to make dinner tonight. I've got more important things on my mind, like should I stick to my synopsis or deviate in a whole new direction even though I'm 2/3 of the way finished?! Don't smirk. This is a serious crisis. 


What do you do when you suspect your storyline might be one of the living dead?


First off, don't panic. I never do. Oh, I did on the first 3 or 4 manuscripts, but now I see a pattern. I get bored with my own story. Yeah, I said that out loud. And newsflash: If the author's bored, the reader will be bored. It's a valid reason to stray from your original outline, but there are a few other reasons you might want to consider when deciding if you should revamp or ditch your plan altogether.


You might want to change your synopsis if:


1. You thought of a better idea for an ending.


2. A new character shows up and takes center stage.


3. You realized an angle to turn the story into a series.


4. You came across information that makes your original idea not only implausible but outright impossible. 


Remember, a synopsis written before a story is finished is really more of a guideline than a legal contract. It's okay to change things up, unless you've already got a contract on the piece. Then you'll have to clear it with an editor first.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Random Philosophical Rant


"There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. 

Books are well written, or badly written. That is all."
~ Oscar Wilde


So...what do you think? Agree or disagree? Are there some books that are totally immoral? And if so, is there such a creature as Christian fiction to counter such wicked tomes?


Honestly, I've never understood this argument. Seems like a play on words to me. Fiction can't be 'saved' because it's an inanimate object. End of story. But that doesn't mean I read erotica or any other piece of fiction that doesn't showcase and promote Biblical truth. Why?


Because the heart of the matter is the worldview of the author.


And believe me, worldview WILL show through in a book no matter how much you try to diminish it. Whether you're a staunch Christian writing horror or a flaming Wiccan writing a bonnet book, your belief system will shine through your characters, dialogue, and theme no matter how hard you try to write otherwise.


So as I ponder how to make my writing more 'Christian', more glorfying to God, I can think of no better way than to spend more time with Him. Remember when Moses went up the mountain to hang out with God and came down with a zinger of a glow? So much that he basically had to bag his head to be in public because God's glory was so strong upon him?That God Glow, or lack thereof, permeates everything you write. 


Which leads me to believe that if my relationship with God ever takes a backseat to my writing, I seriously doubt it will sparkle and shine.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Non-Fiction For Fiction Writers

It's show-and-tell on Fun Friday...what one fiction writer has on her non-fiction shelf.


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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Feeling Like A Loser

The Christy nominees are out. The Genesis nominees are published. The 2011 INSPY Award winners have been made public. Is your name on any of these lists?

Or are you curled into the fetal position weeping like a baby?

Part of the writing game is losing or, at least, feeling like a loser. There are contests you don't win. Agents you don't attract. Contracts that pass you by. And all that after you've poured your heart and soul into a story that bares part of who you are.

It's hard not to take it personally. Nah, make that impossible. What to do?

You can try putting on your big girl and/or boy pants and sucking it up. You can stick your nose in the air and pretend it really doesn't matter. You can take your writing ball and go home by quitting writing altogether.

But none of those choices will heal your heart. You'll still be an angry, walking, purple bruise. So allow me to introduce you to the only 1 sure way to keep from falling apart when you take a direct hit...

Hang out in God's word. The Bible. It's the best way I know of to directly hear God's voice and His opinion of me, which is the only opinion that ultimately counts. Here are a few of my favorite verses when I visit the land of I'm-such-a-loser-ville.

"I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:9,10

"The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing." Zephaniah 3:17

"You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you." Song of Solomon 4:7

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." Philippians 4:8

The bottom line is this:
If your name is on God's list, you've won the biggest prize of all.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tag...I'm it!

Yesterday my blog was tagged at Serving Through Words for a Teaser Test of 7. I was skeptical at first because...well...I'm always skeptical. I wanted to make sure I wasn't required to swing any cats by the tail at midnight under a full moon or run naked through a grove of Rowen trees. Not that  I'm averse to swinging cats or have a thing against Rowen trees. But I checked it out. It's all good. So here we go.


The Teaser Test of "7"s

1. Go to the 77th page of your book or current WIP.
2. Count down 7 lines.
3. Copy the 7 sentences that follow and post them.
4. Tag 7 other authors.


In honor of the sweet sale going on over at Amazon, here are 7 sentences from page 77 of UNDERCURRENT (only $10 but not for long)...


     "Torolf has cast the evil eye on me for speaking up in the assembly." Steinn's foot swung back and kicked a spray of gravel, then stilled. His eyes held challenge as he met Ragnar's gaze. "I fear for my life."
     The veracity of his words raised bumps on Ragnar's flesh. "You? Fear? You are proven in battle time and again. I have yet to see you run from a fight."


Want to find out if Steinn runs or not? You can at AmazonOkay, enough with my shameless self promotion. Let's see what 7 other authors have in their latest release and/or WIP. I'm tagging:
Yvonne Anderson
Lisa T. Bergren
MaryLu Tyndall
Elizabeth Ludwig
Ane Mulligan
Jill Williamson
Heather Day Gilbert

And while I'm at it, I haven't posted about my WIP in a long time. I kind of lost track of my writing days. Not lost as in they're laying in a gutter somewhere, but lost meaning I've still been writing but forgot to write down what day I'm on. Middle age is cruel. So...


WIP STATS for BRENTWOOD'S WARD ~ DAY ??? (probably lower 70's)
Word Count: 49,113
Sentence of the Day: Drip by drip, Nash's life wept onto the warehouse floor.
If you click on the title, the link will bring you to my WIP's Pinterest storyboard page.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Best Laid Plans

It's been awhile since I talked about time management. Sure, I can offer tips and tricks. Management and/or organization is one of my sick hobbies. Case in point: this past weekend I spring cleaned and re-organized my vegan recipe collection. Need some recipes? Shoot me an email. I know right where they are.


Organizing your schedule to allow time for writing is a fantabulous idea, but even the best laid plans can go to Hulubulu Land if other people in your life throw hand grenades at you. Don't panic, though, because that's exactly what this post is all about.

3 Tips For When Your Writing Plans Go Awry

Go with the flow.
Fighting against valid time interrupters* is like arguing with a mugger. Just hand over the wallet and cut your losses. Sometimes things come up that are unexpected. Instead of getting all bent out of shape about it, remember that the opposite can be true as well. You might have an event planned to attend that gets cancelled...which frees up some writing time.
*(Pinterest, Facebook & Twitter are NOT valid time interrupters).


Open your eyes.
When unavoidable monkey wrenches are thrown into your schedule, look for opportunities to redeem that time for writing advantages. Example: I'd planned on an afternoon of writing yesterday when I had to run down to the impound lot and retrieve my mom's smashed up car. Wow. Talk about a goldmine! I picked up some great mannerisms and speech patterns that will make memorable secondary characters (there weren't any heroes in the bunch).


Live in the moment.
Don't keep fretting about lost time. In fact, the only 'lost' time is that wasted in bitterness and regrets. Instead, live wherever you happen to be. Soak in every 'unplanned' sensation. Who knows...you might acquire a whole new perspective for your current WIP.


The bottom line is no one likes a cranky writer. Next time your schedule takes a direct hit, suck it up and move on. The most important thing to plan is to plan to have a good attitude.


And don't forget...


"Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana."
~ Groucho Marx

Monday, April 16, 2012

Griep-o-nomics

The highest concentration of writers live in these states: 
New York, California, Texas, Illinois, Florida.

Median wage for a writer: $55,000
Info taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

How do you measure up? Personally, I don't live in one of those states, and last quarter I came closer to the $55 part of that salary figure instead of the three zeros. Obviously I'm not in the writing game for the real estate or money. Which begs the question...

Why do writers write?

I can't speak for all writers, but there are a few basic reasons that drive a person to toil over a keyboard without any hope of fair compensation.

It's a vacation.
I can go to foreign lands and meet exotic characters, all without having some up close and personal time with a rubber-gloved TSA agent.

It's a mild sedative.
Writing is way for me to unwind. I can't write if I'm focused on current problems in my life, so I  package them up and set them down for awhile to focus on my characters' issues. It's amazing how trivial my current concerns are compared to extortion, disease, and murder.

It's cheaper than therapy.
There are stories in my head, begging to be released. I need to find out how those stories end, so I write them down. There's always a party in my gray matter. A psychiatrist would have a field day exploring the nooks and crannies of my mind. 

It's a loan-free education.
Besides English, history is my favorite course of study. Writing a new scene involves research. I figure that by keeping my mind sharp in this way, I ought to stave off alzheimer's for at least another year or two.

Wait a minute...I see a few dots that just might be able to be connected. If I were to give a monetary value to all the listed reasons and add them up, I suspect I really would be making $55k a year. 

Huh. Maybe I should go ahead and move to Laguna Beach after all.

Friday, April 13, 2012

A Blast of Air for Saggy Sails

Don't sit there dead in the water. Here are some tips for what to do when your muse suddenly jumps ship.

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Don't Let Your First Line Be Your Last

I teach a high school creative writing class plus I'm still in the midst of judging contest entries. Because of this, my senses are heightened toward first sentences. You know, like when you buy a lime green Fiat and then suddenly notice lime green Fiats on every street and in each parking lot? Yeah. That.


I can honestly say from recent experience...there's NOTHING worse than a first sentence turn-off.


Here are some horrendous examples. Before your undies bunch, innocence will be maintained. I'm making these up based on stinkers I've read, not using actual excerpts.


Once there was a girl.
Really? Of course there was a girl. Newsflash: girls have been around for centuries. Who cares?
Takeaway value: avoid stating the obvious.


The sky billowed with activated-charcoal colored clouds, matching the thick, heavy, depressed feeling that weighed like an anvil on Jane's soul.
After I stopped wondering what the difference was between activated charcoal and regular charcoal, then I had to re-read the line. The second time through, I wondered which word I'd have used to describe how she felt, because thick, heavy, and depressed infer the same thing. The third time, a cartoon bubble popped up in my head and I saw an anvil land on Jane like a scene from Wile E. Coyote & the Roadrunner...probably not a picture the writer intended to invoke.
Takeaway value: sprinkle in description like salt--too much makes it unpalatable


Detective Simpkin stopped dead in his tracks, avoiding part of a severed body lying on the sidewalk.
Which part? A leg? A ribcage? And most importantly, was the head still attached? Okay, so the thoughts running through my head might be a bit more graphic than yours, but didn't you stop and wonder what part of the body he saw? It's always a bad idea to pull the reader out of the story for a long period of time. I won't even mention the cliche, though I suppose that counts as mentioning it, eh?
Takeaway value: Don't get rid of too much description, some is needed


Now that we've looked at some humdingers (and if you'd like to see more, here's a fun website), there's a single question that begs to be asked.


What makes a great first line? 


Unfortunately, there's not one magic formula I can impart. Different ingredients can mix up a winner. Here are some items to consider putting on your stunning first line shopping list.


A dash of the shock factor.
"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen."
What?! Clocks don't strike thirteen. Yeah, makes me want to read on, and you can in George Orwell's 1984.


A heaping of controversy. 
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."
There's a whole lot of feminists who would take issue with this. In fact, it kind of makes every man cringe on the inside just a little. And if you can't name the book this winner comes from, you really ought to buy it here.


A box of questions.
"Call me Ishmael."
Just the name implies so many emotions, that I'm immediately sucked in to finding out why someone would want to identify with that figure. And if you're wondering, check out Moby Dick.


A serving of foreshadowing.
"A screaming comes across the sky."
Yikes. That can't be good. What the heck is it and do I need to duck? Find out in Gravity's Rainbow.


A can of familiarity.
"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
Trust me. Everyone thinks they come from an unhappy family and that their situation is unique. Every reader on the planet will relate to this line, taken from Tolstoy's Anna Karenina.


Those are just a few. You can read the top 100 first lines here.


First lines are important. It's where you'll make or break the deal with your readers. Don't get all bent ouf of shape on your first draft of your manuscript, but when you think you're ready to send it out, take the time BEFORE you send it to really spit shine those crucial first words.
After all, you don't want to end up on the worst-in-history first line list, do you?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ferreting Out Facts

When I first started writing historical fiction, I didn't have a clue that research was important. I mean, come on...it's fiction, for crying out loud! Can't I make up what I don't know? And if I do a good enough job with my descriptions, painting a vivid picture in my readers' head, isn't that kosher?


In a word...no. Why not? Great question.


You can't actually write what you don't know--especially if you don't know anything. Makes for a whole lot of mindless drivel on the page.


Plus, readers know when they're being scammed. It's a freakish fact that historical fiction readers often know more than the author. 


And I won't even mention that other authors in your genre will flay your flesh. Oops. Did I mention that?


At any rate, now I use all sorts of resources when I'm working on a story. Here are my favorite Top 5.


Non-fiction Historical Books
I know. Pretty obvious. A hot date for me is when hubby takes me to a used book store. Sad and slightly pathetic, but true.


The WWW
The internet is a wealth of information. Beware, though. Just like TV, not everything you see is true. A good rule of thumb is to find the information in at least 3 places before you accept it. And don't forget to document your sites.


Historical Writer Groups
There's some great historical fiction writer groups that meet both in person and via cyberspace where you can pick the brain of another author whose done research in a particular area.


Real (as opposed to fake) People
I've gleaned info from archeologists, linguistic professors, boat building experts, even police detectives. Don't be afraid to ask. Sure, you might earn a few strange looks, and be careful what you ask a cop, but it's so worth it. This can be done in person, or my favorite medium is e-mail.


Life Experience
While a time machine would be a pretty sweet ride, it's not likely you'll get any hands-on research using this technique. However, newsflash: horses haven't changed that much in the past, oh, let's say thousands of years or so. Riding a horse in 2012 is pretty much like riding a horse in 1807. Sometimes research is as simple as booking a trail ride.


There's a gazillion other outlets for fact finding, but these 5 are a solid foundation. What are some of your favorite research haunts?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Judgment Day

Smack in the middle of life, I volunteered to be a judge for a writing contest. Yeah, right. Who am I kidding? Coerced is more like it...though I did manage to wheel and deal a few concessions in exchange for my time from said coercer.


So with a looming deadline (this weekend), I figured I should pull out these contest entries and start judging away. Wow. What a can of worms that opened emotionally. Who am I to judge? What if I scar these vulnerable little author-wannabes? Is it wrong to want to beat someone over the head with a grammar book?


I've entered exactly two writing contests in my life. Each time I was sure I'd win. I bundled off my baby and mailed it in, expecting some well-known, advanced and highly experienced author and/or editor would read my entry and be wowed. In the end, no one offered me a contract. I didn't win the contest. I was depressed. So bummed, that for a time, I set aside my writing.


I don't want to do that to some hopeful soul, but the writing in a few of the entries I'm currently reading is...well...let's just say my creative writing high school students have a better grasp of basic writing elements than a few of the contestants.

Now that I've been on both sides of the contest fence, I've got a few things to say.



Top 3 Nuggets of Advice For Those Entering A Writing Contest


1. Grow up first.
Don't enter too soon in your writing career. Newbie writers pretty much all make the same mistakes. Save yourself hours of weeping by learning what those bugaboos are and work them out of your system. 


2. Put on your big girl/boy pants before you get your results.
The feedback you'll receive from a time constrained judge isn't going to be fluffy and pretty, at least it shouldn't be. It should be honest. Before you enter a contest, self-evaluate your confidence level. Are you ready for criticism? Not that a judge should rake you over the literary coals, but if they're trying to help you as a writer, they'll point out bloopers.


3. Understand that your final score isn't a judgment from God.
There are 3 possible outcomes. You'll rack up some fan-freaking-tastic points, you'll be lumped in with the mediocre middle crowd, or your total will be better off as a golf score. Whichever scenario plays out for your contest entry, realize that judges are human. Contests are subjective. Don't get a big head or slump into the dumps based on your scores.


Whether you're an entrant or a judge, there's one more tidbit of advice that applies to all (and penned by one more learned than me)...



"It is impossible to discourage the real writers ~ 
they don't give a damn what you say, they're going to write."
Sinclair Lewis

Monday, April 9, 2012

CAC: Crazy Acronyms for Critiquers

Writers use acronyms all the time...POV (point of view), WIP (work in progress), IM (internal monologue), etc (etcetera). 


But writers especially use acronyms when critiquing another author's work. There's the usual GWS (goes without saying) and RUE (resist the urge to explain), but why stop there? Here are some handy dandy abbreviations to perk up your next crit session.


STS

Send to Shredder. A not-so-kind way of saying delete. This is the big gun you want to pull out for never-ending paragraphs of purple prose.


HGS

No, not short for hugs. This means did you Hit a Good Sale? Used when a writer obviously got a great deal on a particular word and uses that word to the point of overkill.


JPP

Just Peed my Pants. This is a variation on LOL. Think of it as a high-five for a well-written humorous scene.


MBH

My Brain Hurts. This should be used when there's a logic error in the flow of the story and it's twisting your grey matter figuring out what the writer is trying to explain.


WTF

Well That's Fantastic. Yes, I think we should redeem this maligned set of letters and use it for good instead of evil...though you might want to clue in the buddy you're critiquing first.


BGB

Buy a Grammar Book. Are you finding commas everywhere? Are semi-colons running rampant throughout the chapter? Might be time to stop using punctuation like a salt shaker.


WHAWI

Whose Head Are We In. Spot a POV error or wondering who's POV you're even in? Go for WHAWI.


SCN

Send Chocolate Now. Personally, I like to end all my critiques with this one.


How about you? Got any favorite acronyms to share?


Friday, April 6, 2012

The Big Secret

Grab a cup of java, put up your feet for a few minutes, and reflect on the miracle of Easter via story...


video


Okay, so I'm no actress. But if you know one who'd like this in monologue format, check out this Easter resource for churches: Traveling Calvary's Road.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

45k Wingding

Woo-hooo! It's half-way party time! I hit 45,264 words on my WIP. A round of Starbucks and chocolate cake for everyone...on the house!

Caveat: you'll have to toodle over to my house to claim said java and treat.

Nevertheless, hitting mid-point on a manuscript is a big deal for any writer. Why?

CONFIDENCE

The task ahead doesn't seem quite as daunting now that half the story has been captured on paper. If you were able to make it this far, for sure you'll be able to finish. The pressure of wondering if-I-can suddenly morphs into I-can-do-this. It's all downhill from here.

FAMILIARITY

Knowledge is power, and by now you really know your characters. They've become your friends, which makes it easier to predict how they'll react to any given situation. Most of the personality decisions have already been made so there's less brain power involved in fleshing out your protag and antag.

EXHILARATION

You're closer to the climax, which is the most fun to write. All the writerly juggling balls are up in the air...it's pretty, it's intense, and it's fun to watch. It's time to throw your literary hands in the air and howl on the ride down.

While these 3 points are true, I'm not saying the rest is entirely a piece of cake (yes, I'm still thinking of cake). There will still be days when you get stumped over a plot point or a character who acts...well...out of character. But the end is in sight, which makes the next 45k (or whatever your projected halfway mark is) a lower hurdle to jump.

Writing is hard work.

Take every opportunity you can to celebrate small victories.

And let me know when you hit your halfway mark...I'll be sure to eat some chocolate in your honor.

WIP STATS ~ DAY 68

Word Count: 45,264

Sentence of the Day: Whispers rustled in the corners of the room, like dead leaves skittering across cobbles.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

How Green is Your Grass?

I'm not a geek, but I married one. I mean that in the best sense possible...and no, it's not Seth Godin.

Occasionally hubby sends me links to techie sites. Sometimes they're funny, other times thought provoking. But there's one site he turned me on to that's a gem no matter what business you happen to be in.

Seth Godin has a lot to say about marketing and life in general, but more often than not, what he posts directly relates to writing. Here's an excerpt from one of his latest entries:

"If your happiness
is based on always getting a little more than you've got...

then you've handed control over your happiness to the gatekeepers, built a system that doesn't scale and prevented yourself from the brave work that leads to a quantum leap."

Think about it.

Do you honestly think you'll be happier when you land an agent?

Will it be the best day ever when an editor takes your manuscript to a pub board?

Does signing a contract with a major publisher mean you've 'arrived'?

Is Nirvana a 3-book deal?

As a writer, there's always going to be a carrot dangling in front of your face. But you know what? If you're focused on the carrot, it's really hard to see your computer screen, making writing a problem.

So my challenge for you today is to take delight in your current WIP, your crit partners, even your blogger buddies. Happiness isn't an event. It's a journey. Enjoy the ride.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

On Writing

I did it. Finally. I forked out the cash for Stephen King's On Writing. And since I paid full price, I decided I'd read every word. I didn't even make it past the forward(s)...there are 3...before I started underlining.

This read is going to be well worth the moolah.

So today, I've got 3 insights into writing from the 3 forwards of this how-to write classic...

"What made me think I had anything worth saying?"

Stephen Mega-zillion-bucks King struggles with self doubt?! Not only is that mind boggling but oddly comforting as well. In fact, if you don't have qualms about your writing, perhaps writing isn't the game for you to play.

"Fiction writers, present company included, don't understand very much about what they do--not why it works when it's good, not why it doesn't when it's bad."

Oh, we like to think we know (especially when we've got a blog about writing). But beyond the basic building blocks of writing, I think it comes down to voice. Either your voice resonates with others, or it doesn't. And voice isn't something that can be taught. But that's a whole other posting in and of itself.

"To write is human, to edit is divine."

Yes! I love editing. Editing is the spit shine, the polishing to a fine sheen of a roughed-out framework of words. It's like the Saturday of creation, all a-flurry with tweaking and cutting and arranging, then wham! It's Sunday. When you're finished editing a manuscript, you can finally sit back and say, "It is good." (note: I did NOT say it is perfect)

Stay tuned for more insights from the master author as I slowly read through On Writing.

WIP STATS ~ DAY 67

Word Count: 44,443

Sentence of the Day: Millie's lips tightened into a thin line, not nearly as pretty as one of Emily's pouting poses--and for some reason, that pleased him.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Baseball and Monkey Wrenches

Obviously I didn't get a whole lot of writing done last week...physically, that is. But my mind never shut off.

I discovered a thousand stories in the corners of an ER waiting room, in the gentle handshake of a hospital chaplain, in the ringtone of a police officer's cell phone (theme from The Good, The Bad & The Ugly). I also discovered people have passionate opinions about whether a 91 year-old should be driving and that body language is sometimes more hurtful than words.

My word count didn't go up, but my life experiences increased exponentially...something I suspect will add a flavor boost to my current WIP.

Lesson learned?

When life throws a curveball into your planned writing schedule, snatch that ball and run with it.

Instead of fretting about "lost time" when a monkey-wrench fouls up the cogs of your writing plans, live in the moment. Soak in every experience (good and bad). Be there for the people you love.

When you do get back to your regularly scheduled programming, your writing will be all the richer for it.
 
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