Friday, November 30, 2007

Write On ... or Not to Write On

How do you choose?

After an earlier blog -- whose was that? -- and the discussion following about the number of books and short stories each of us have written, I've given it a lot of thought. Not a lot of thought about the numbers, but thought about writers such as Genene, who rework the same work until they come up with something saleable. Or at least something pleasing or satisfying.

I've thought about Shirley Karr (Man, I hope I spelled her name right). She labored away for more than 10 years on the same book, endlessly writing and rewriting until she finally sold it to Avon in a two-book deal.

It seems reworking the same book is more the exception than the rule. As someone said, take a look at the First Sales column in the RWA mag and count how many books most authors write before they finally sell. Usually many. Does that mean they write a book, try to interest an agent of editor with it, and if that doesn't work, the author moves on to another manuscript? Do you think a writer learns more by starting a new novel, fresh at the drawing board, or going back through an existing work, applying the tools they've learned since they first began writing the manuscript?

Shirley Jump thinks you learn more by starting fresh. When she was the guest author for Askanauthor, I wrote and mentioned my first ms. and rewrites I'd like to do. Her advice was to move on. She wrote six or seven books, I believe, before she sold. Her theory is that when I do sell, I will have a backlist to offer an editor.

But see, I'm not always so good at taking advice. I like to think for myself. Oh, I know, you find that hard to believe, but just ask my family. Ha! Anyway, I cannot let my first book go. Some of the characters in it won't leave me alone. I'm dying to go back, do major rewrites, and turn it into something saleable, like Genene and Shirley did with the books they believed in.

So, I'm curious. How many of you have gone back to an old manuscript or story and done major rewrites? Was it worth it? Did you learn a lot in the process? Or do you just leave finished, unsold work to gather dust in your computer files, chalk it up to experience, and move on to the exciting, fresh voices in your head of brand new characters?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Two chairs, a vase and a flat screen TV

I was going to blog about something deep and soulful, but the more I thought about it the more bored I got. Craft is always exciting so let's go there, shall we? 8^)

Description. I was recently involved in a discussion on another blog about description. One of the authors was saying how much she loathes writing it, and I thought, What? How can that be possible? Writing fiction is almost a hundred percent writing description.

I'm sure she was mostly talking about setting, but even that is integral to storytelling. You can't tell a good story without describing everything from place to dialogue to the emotions of the characters. And that's really my point for this blog about description: It's all about the characters.

We don't describe stuff just for the sake of giving the reader a visual aid. Description utilizes most all of the senses, this is true, but what it really does… its main purpose, as far as I'm concerned… is elicit an emotional response from your viewpoint character. And since story is all about the characters, well, you know where I'm going with this.

Description that doesn't serve to develop characters or move the plot forward does not belong in fiction. If all it says is there's a room with two chairs, a vase and a flat screen TV, who the hell cares? Even if those chairs are red and the vase is holding a bouquet of spring flowers, and there's a newscast on the TV, who the hell cares? It has to do more than that. It has to get an emotional reaction from the character whose viewpoint is used to describe the room, which should result in an emotional response from the reader.

Let's take our boring room with the two chairs in it. Red chairs, whatever. Word choice is important, too, but that's not what I'm talking about here. It's a scene where something will happen, yes. But what kind of emotions will it draw from… Susan, who just walked in after a hard day's work as a receptionist for her brother-in-law, who's a dentist. What does she feel when she's in this room? What does she see? And then what does her sister Marcia, the nurse just getting off a graveyard shift at the hospital, experience when in this room?

I want you to use one of these two characters to write a description of our lovely room with two chairs, a vase and a flat screen TV. What kind of emotion can you drag out of them here? How can you do more than set the stage for the action to come? Can you foreshadow with description? Can you create tension? Absolutely. Now have at it.

Susan dropped her purse on one of the two red chairs shoved so close together they nearly hid the tiny table sandwiched between them. Damn, this room was small. Either that or the chairs were too big. No, it was definitely the room, as evidenced by the growing stack of newspapers on the other chair. She should toss them, but she hadn't read them yet. Like she hadn't looked for a bigger apartment. Like she hadn't changed the long-ago-wilted flowers drooping in her grandmother's vintage vase on the table. The TV, however, was brand spanking new, and quite a space-saver. She should get points for that, right? Wrong. Her priorities were totally out of whack.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

I have been very good this year. I barely yelled when my two-year old spilled red candle wax all over my beige carpet. I only screamed once when he took a marker to our fireplace stones. Each time the five-year old plugged up the toilet I bit my tongue and didn't mention Power Rangers aren't scuba divers. When the eight-year old tormented her brothers just to hear them scream, I may have yelled a little, but not nearly as loud as I could have. And I certainly didn't follow through on the threat to murder the DH in his sleep if he bothered me one more time while I was working.

In exchange for my year of angelic behavior, I'm requesting the following on my Christmas List:

1. For peace and prosperity and all that other crap.

2. For family harmony (I can request it. I know there's not a snowball's chance in hell of this actually happening.)

3. For the skinny aerobics instructors at the gym to each gain 5o lbs.

4. For my RWA chapter members to volunteer willingly for things without rolling their eyes and looking away (you know who you are).

5. For my computer to do what I want when I want it.

6. For days of peace and quiet where I can actually get some work done without hearing, "MOOOOOM!!!!" every five minutes.

7. For the death of my procrastination gene.

8. For an editor to love my writing enough to actually BUY something.

9. For a six figure deal (another pie-in-the-sky wish, but hey, why not add it to the list?)

10. And finally, for the start of a prosperous career (which, in case you can't read between the lines, Santa, means not just one sale, but many more as well).

That's it. Ten measly things. I think I've been good enough to get these. And seriously, none are things your little elves actually have to make up in your workshop, so it should be a piece of cake.

Happy Holidays,

Eli

***

What's on your Christmas List this year?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Before They Were Stars . . .

I'm at the dregs of my TBR pile. The long pregnancy wait, nonexistent library time, and a mother who'd much rather send cute baby clothes than books right now have dried up my incoming sources and sent me scourging my shelves. But, I'd still rather read (now that I have one free hand) than fry my brain with more HGTV, so I've found myself breaking into a stash I had of books written by my favorite authors, but from when they wrote category or before they broke out into the big time.

I found them at garage sales and library sales for a song (and a quarter or two). But, I tend not to read anything more than 10 years out of date if I can help it. But, I decided to put my bias aside and give some of these a shot. And what do you know, the 80's details didn't set me off.

Instead, poor writing has me tossing books aside right and left. If you're a longtime blog reader, you know that I can't STAND to not finish books. Even bad books. But, apparently all this RWA learnin' has paid off in an unexpected way: my standards have raised.

I can't stand backstory. Head hopping makes my stomach hurt. Dragging narrative makes me sleepy. Falling in love too soon makes me yawn. Nonexistent conflict makes 3 a.m. feedings physically painful and sends me wandering the halls with a baby attached for new reading materials.

But, back to my original point. These were written by NYT best-sellers. These aren't some random category or dated books. These are by the best of the best.

Only . . .

They weren't the best yet. They were still developing their voice, learning POV, honing their plot skills, suffering from poor editing, and limited by narrative gaffes. In short, they were making newbie mistakes.

It's easy to be intimidated when we pick up the latest best seller. "My work will never be this good," the green-eyed devil whispers. "They have some gift I lack." "They have the secret." But, they don't. What they have is a lot of hard work, and a pile of manuscripts that led them the to the one that catapulted them to the big time. And after that magical point, they had a backlist worthy of devouring. But, except in rare cases, it wasn't their first book. It wasn't the third. It was years into their journey.

What can we take away from this other than the usual lesson of perseverance?

Finishing a MS isn't enough. Publishing isn't enough. In fact, publishing your way to better writing might not be an option anymore unless we're talking about very small presses. There is a reason why the RWA first sale column bursts with writers selling their fifth manuscript. Their tenth. Their twentieth.

You don't get good right out of the gate. You don't get good when you let early success go to your head. So you won that contest, landed that first sale, got a good critique. It's not enough. You have to keep pushing, keep growing, and most importantly keep writing. You have to finish. One MS isn't enough. But your magic number is out there waiting.

Are you ready to go find it?

Best of luck to those of you finishing NaNoWriMo, Eli's challenge, and other challenges out there. Each MS you finish is one closer to the promised land.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Looking For Guidance


I'm hoping you can help me as we did Genene a few months back when she was looking for help for an upcoming talk she was giving.
Myself and another writer are going to give a talk to the local writer's group about critiquing. I have felt so bad for the people who come to the meetings, read their work, and then get so many differences of opinions about their work. Especially the writers who are just coming out, so to speak, and looking for guidance. They have some great stuff, but no one ever tells them it's great they just hammer on the bad. We want to talk about asking for the specific advice they want-i.e. tone, does it flow, I'm looking for grammar help, is the character sounding too ___ .

And to teach those critiquing not to harp on a word, when it is the writers voice. Not to nitpick the grammar unless it is asked. Some of the people who come to these meetings have little writing experience and some of the people are just writing these stories to be passed down to their children and grandchildren. I can't believe some of the things that others tell them when the story should be in their words and sound like them. I guess in a way you would have to be at one of these to understand where I'm coming from.

But from you today, I'd like you to tell me when has a critique thrown you totally off and why. Also what was something valuable you learned from a critique (if you did).

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Eli's Challenge

Weekend Warrior here. I,607 and a bit of tweaking today. How is everyone else doing on this challenge , their self imposed challenge or any other writing schedule? Or just with a day of writing. It's fun to check in.

Honest.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Drunken War of the Sexes

I'm filling in for Eli's Friday spot. I have some time now, while squirt is sleeping and DH is at work. Forgive me if I'm stepping on your blog toes, Genene.

I may have forwarded this email on to a couple of you -- if so, sorry for the redundancy. This list cracked me up, but that's not the only reason I'm sharing it. I thought it offered a lot of insight into women with alcohol altered minds (besides bringing back a lot of college memories. Ha!) And who hasn't, or won’t at one time or another, write about an alcohol impaired character?

So, read the list, chuckle if you will, then check out the exercise at the bottom of the page.


WHEN GIRLS DRINK TOO MUCH.

1) WE HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHERE OUR PURSE IS.

2) WE BELIEVE THAT DANCING WITH OUR ARMS OVERHEAD AND WIGGLING OUR BUTT WHILE YELLING "WOO-HOO!" IS TRULY THE SEXIEST DANCE MOVE AROUND.

3) WE'VE SUDDENLY DECIDED THAT WE WANT TO KICK SOMEONE'S BUTT AND HONESTLY BELIEVE WE CAN DO IT TOO.

4) IN OUR LAST TRIP TO PEE, WE REALIZE THAT WE NOW LOOK MORE LIKE HOMELESS HOOKERS THAN THE GODDESSES WE LOOKED LIKE JUST FOUR SHORT HOURS AGO.

5) WE START CRYING AND TELLING EVERYONE WE SEE THAT WE LOVE THEM SOOOOO MUCH.

6) WE GET EXTREMELY EXCITED AND JUMP UP AND DOWN EVERY TIME A NEW SONG PLAYS BECAUSE "OH MY GOD! I LOVE THIS SONG!"

7) WE'VE FOUND A DEEPER/SPIRITUAL SIDE TO THE GEEK SITTING NEXT TO US. AND THOSE HORN-RIMMED GLASSES AND OILY HAIR PARTED ON THE SIDE ACTUALLY SORT OF LOOK GOOD ON HIM.

8) WE'VE SUDDENLY TAKEN UP SMOKING, AND BECOME REALLY GOOD AT IT.

9) WE YELL AT THE BARTENDER, WHO WE BELIEVE CHEATED US BY GIVING US PLAIN LEMONADE, BUT THAT'S ONLY BECAUSE WE CAN NO LONGER TASTE THE VODKA.

10) WE THINK WE ARE IN BED, BUT OUR PILLOW FEELS STRANGELY LIKE THE KITCHEN FLOOR (or the mop?)

11) WE FAIL TO NOTICE THAT THE TOILET LID'S DOWN WHEN WE SIT ON IT.

12) WE TAKE OUR SHOES OFF BECAUSE WE BELIEVE IT'S ALL THEIR FAULT THAT WE'RE HAVING PROBLEMS WALKING STRAIGHT.


I think that pretty well sums up drunken women, especially young, drunken women. However, men don't do these same things when they've had too much to drink, do they? (Except for number three). And as certain as we'll someday write about a drunken woman or two, we may also find ourselves someday in need of some drunken male material. So, let's sit down with a nice toddy or hot-buttered rum and compile our own list of

WHEN GUYS DRINK TOO MUCH:

I'll go first:

1) Guys grow increasingly invincible with each alcoholic beverage they down. As the country song goes, men grow "ten feet tall and bullet proof."

2) Their pickup lines become more and more cliché: "How yoo doin'?" "What's a girl like you doing in a place like this?" Or, my fave, "Hey baby, what's your sign?"

Thursday, November 22, 2007

GIVE THANKS!

To those who celebrate the day -- HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

I'm starting with an easy blog entry: what do you have to be thankful for? List the first five things that pop into your head. Here are mine and why:
1) Heat in my house -- because, man, it's cold tonight!
2) Neighbors -- because they rounded up my dogs when they escaped.
3) Doggies -- because I don't need so many blankets on cold nights!
4) Good food -- because I like to eat. (Thank goodness for Thanksgiving!)
5) Computers -- for instant communication with any number of people from around the entire world.

Now, to take a page from Donald Maass' book, toss out those five things and list five more things that you have to dig deeper for. (We are so blessed in this country that we may have to toss out the first ten or twenty before we get deeply into gratitude.)

OR, dig deeper into the reasons why you are grateful for those first five, which I did below.
1) Heat in my house -- because I actually have a house and, as the temperatures get colder, many homeless people must find shelter or risk frostbite, serious illness or even death from the cold weather.
2) Neighbors -- my dogs could have been lost or injured, or caused injury to someone rather than being safe back inside my house.
3) Doggies -- have been some of my wisest teachers in the lessons I have learned in this life. Each of my dogs reflects an aspect of my personality that I want to change.
4) Good food -- many people don't have food at all, yet I get to choose what I want for each meal.
5) Computers -- that instant communication allows me to stay in touch with friends who have moved out of town (or out of state), lets me research or find an opinion on pretty much any topic I'm interested in, gives me a chuckle or a warm fuzzy, helps me expand my perspective, lets me share my thoughts on this blog -- and much more!

How about you?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

IN THE BEGINNING

The number one question I am asked: "Where do you get your ideas?"

Every book has to start somewhere. Even if that somewhere never makes it into the end product, it's the catalyst, the spark. Can you trace back where your latest idea came from?

For instance, Danita's red-eyed demon dogs. Danita has said she often gets her ideas from dreams. I am curious to know in what form that particular dream appeared. Was it just the dogs? Was it also the demon aspect? How much came with the initial birth of the idea?

And Karen with her urban fantasy and that whole world she's creating with gargoyle masters and all the rest I am afraid to write down because I know I'll get it wrong. Where did that idea originate? What was the beginning thought?

Paty and historicals. Did she read about a stamp mill or grow interested in a geographic place, did the characters come first or did the plot?

Eli's writing a paranormal. Did she read about gods and goddesses, or did an idea pop into her head, or did the concept seem interesting and she built the rest?

And everyone else, of course. I have no idea how Genene originates a book. And Lisa, where did yours start? Did Wavy think of the YA characters first or their situation? I know I am leaving people out, please forgive me.

The idea for my WIP came from a newspaper article about an event. My strongest thought upon reading the article was the "what if?" we all know so well. The book after this one is trickier as it morphed from an idea that came at a NY conference in a blinding moment during someone's workshop. The book itself no longer resembles much of the original idea. The one before this book came from a concept -- revenge. And before that, the general idea of not knowing who you are, where you are, or how you got there. What would happen next?

I haven't been specific with my examples because you've heard them before. Please, be as specific as you like so we can see how your spark ignited and created a book.

Happy Thanksgiving. Gobble, gobble.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Decisions, Decisions

Reminder: Join us for our November meeting, tonight at 6:00 p.m. (social hour with brown bag dinner) with the meeting starting at 7:00 p.m. Our speaker is our very own Jim who will be speaking about swords and sword fighting. No stranger to swashbuckling romance, Jim writes with his wife Barbara Ray. Please join us!

I promise to return to reviewing RWA news soon, but today I actually had fodder for a blog-like post, so I decided to go with that.

I was thinking the other day about all the decisions that have gotten me to this point in my life--some big (which college, which boy, which job ), others small (which club, which book, which dinner). They all add up to the person I am now. I tend to revisit certain decisions in my head and wonder what would be different if I had chosen Y instead of X. It's not that I'm unhappy with my life (far from it). I'm just really curious about who I'd be if I'd chosen the other path. More importantly, who would I have needed to be to choose that path? I often wish for a time machine or a movie that would show me the other path but still let me return to my current life.

Then, last night I slapped myself upside the head! Duh! I'm a WRITER. The other path is ALWAYS open to me in my fiction, and I have a front row seat to the movies in my head. Realizing this gave me new insight on character development. A character is the sum of his/her choices. Each choice both reflects and reveals character.

Why did your character order eggs and pancakes instead of oatmeal?
Why did your character drive from Chicago to St. Louis instead of taking the train or flying?
Would your character really show up at that party?
Who would your character be if they worked at a different job, had said yes to that boy in college, went to graduate school?
What type of person would your character have to be to have met her best friend in kindergarten versus last year at a playgroup or five years ago in college?

Let's say you think it would be interesting if your heroine was a chef. You research cooking techinques, maybe interview a chef, and watch several hours of Food Network to ensure that she comes across authentic. This is all good, but if you really want to get inside her head consider her choices:

Who was she before she was a chef? What choices did she make along the way?
What sort of person chooses to go to culinary school versus college?
Why did she choose (or not) to stay at a small bistro versus moving up to an exclusive eatery?
What things has she had to give up to continue being a chef: night-time socializing? holidays? weekends? dieting? friends?

Each choice reveals something about the background of your character, who she is, how she thinks, what her values are. When you get an inconsistent answer, a red flag should go up: she wouldn't choose that. Back up, and reconsider the answer. Are you inserting your own preferences? Are you being true to her previous choices? Is there a reason for her acting outside of her pattern?

Let's say you decide to give your heroine a house in the suburbs while she works at a downtown eatery. Would a chef working 80+ hours a week really choose to commute that far, plus take on the upkeep of a house? If your chef would, why? Is she happy with her choice? Who would she be if you stuck her in a downtown loft instead?

Consider the smaller choices your characters make as well. Are you in a rut? Do all your heroines crave chocolate, hate their mothers, and love Audrey Hepburn. Would this character really make those choices?

Since as writers, the path not taken is always an option, don't fence your characters (or yourself!) in with the first choice that comes to mind. Consider what might happen if your character chose a different option. What if our fictional chef chose to go to college before leaving to become a chef? Who would she be then? What if instead of getting on a plane to go to St. Louis, you stick her on a train instead?

Are you taking advantage of places to reveal character through the motivation for choices. In John Grisham's The Summons, the main character, Ray, ends up eating in a lot of diners. Instead of just having his character order the pancakes, he reflects that he'd rather order cereal and grapefruit, but doesn't feel free to do so. He also notes in conversation why his father wouldn't eat breakfast at an establishment like that. These little details about the choices of Ray and his father reveal a lot about who they are.

As you write today, I challenge you to examine all of the choices your character has to make to bring them to that place in the story. Dig deeper into your back story and learn more about each character. Look for places to reveal motivation for choices.

Any thoughts? Examples?

Pumping out those words

We've got 25 days left in our challenge, folks. The stress of the holidays is upon us. Family coming to visit, kids out of school, food to cook, houses to clean, gifts to buy, people to kick in the shin at the Fred Meyer half-off sock sale on Friday, etc. All in all it's a super busy time of the year and writing is likely not at the top of your list of things to do.

Alas, don't let it slip to the bottom! It may be stressful to try and find time to write, but trust me, you'll thank yourself. Imagine that it's early January and the holidays are over, kids in school, and you sit down to write. It's been over a month since you've really worked on your book. You're not "feeling it" anymore, lost track of where you were going. You are down on yourself because you haven't added any words to it since the middle of November. The stress is overwhelming so you close up the document and don't open it again for a couple of weeks.

I've done this before, a couple of times. It's so hard to get back into the swing of things.

Rather than let this frustration get the best of you, take a few minutes once a day or a few times a week to just read over the last part you wrote - to keep it fresh in your mind. Or add in a few bullet points of what you want to happen next, or things you want to make sure to include. Just something to keep your book brewing in your mind during the holidays.

I'm going to try and practice what I preach. 25 days left people, push through it! You can do it! And remember, if you know you won't meet your 100-day goal, that's ok! Just try and get as close as you can. Don't stop now.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Eli's Challenge

Hi guys. Well, I got my 1,000 words today but goodness, it was like pulling teeth. I hate that kind of writing day and my only hope is that it sets up a better day tomorrow. I am way behind where I wanted to be at this point.

How about everyone else?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Do You Write Funny?

I love to laugh. And I love to make others laugh, often at the risk of embarrassing myself, which I do quite often in the sake of humor. If the cause behind my flaming red cheeks brings on a hearty guffaw from a friend, then, hey, it was worth it, right?

But what about incorporating humor into our writing? Here's what Gloria Kempton, has to say about it in her book, "Dialogue:

"Since humor seems to emerge out of the way certain writers view their worlds, if you're not one of them, you'll probably never write comedic fiction, creating the kind of story that is funny all the way through. But to throw in a funny line of dialogue once in a while goes a long way in holding your reader's attention. Humor hooks readers. They know if a character says something funny once, he most likely will again, and so they're watching for that, waiting for you to surprise them and make them laugh again."

So, to recap: Humor is surprise. I also like the sentence 'humor hooks readers' but then you all know what a sucker I am for a good hook. And, oops, now I have stepped away from the thrust of this blog, so let's step back onto the beaten path of humor shall we?

Okay. That's better. Surprise. Humor is surprise. Let's practice utilizing this theory with a fun little exercise that Ms. Kempton devised and I adjusted a teeny bit to suit our purpose here:

Just For Fun

Your female character is walking late at night on a downtown street of a big city. Suddenly she is accosted by three teenage boys who grab her purse. She yells something at them as they run away. What does she yell? Write one line of dialogue for one (or more) of the types of character below. Try to be as original as you can. The goal is to surprise your reader.

*a mom from the suburbs
*a prostitute
*a businesswoman
*an undercover cop
*Queen Latifah
*a grandmother
*Alice Sharpe
*a drag queen

Okay, I'll go first in the comments section. Thanks for playing along. (And thanks for letting me turn your cheeks red in the sake of making others chuckle, Alice. See, surprise! Bet none of you were expecting to see a member's name on the list -- ha!)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Taking stock

I recently took stock of all my writing projects, which would be the novels I've finished, published, started, been thinking of starting, and of course the work in progress, and let's not forget the short stories. I've been writing fiction for what seems like forever and I have a stockpile to show for it.

Completed novels: 5
Published novels: 3 (one is a novella)
Started novels: 4 (about 100 pages into each, but I plan to finish only 2)
Novel concepts waiting to start: 4
Works in progress: 1
Short Stories: 5

You'd think with all the pages I've wracked up that I'd be making a living at this by now. Ha! I've earned about $1500 total, which comes to around 63 cents a page. That's enough to mail a 2 ounce letter first class! Cool! But that doesn't take into account all my expenses, which would include scads of writers conferences and organization dues, so that puts me in the hole a few thousand bucks. Eh, so what. That's not the point.

Non-writers would think it crazy to want to continue this career quest, saying it isn't worth it. But I can't think of anything more worthwhile. I may not have made much income, but the rewards have been phenomenal. I've made amazing friends, learned about a fascinating business, and stretched my creativity and imagination farther than I'd ever dreamed possible. Through my stories I've visited enchanted islands and vast deserts, I've battled a serial killer and traveled to the astral plane, I've talked to mummies, turned into a gargoyle, suffered a dozen scorpion stings and jelly fish stings, I've killed people, made love to people, and given birth to people. How many non-writers can say that about their jobs?

So have you taken stock of your writing inventory? What have you experienced through the stories you've told?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Fill In Wednesday

These are just for fun...

*****

You Might Be A Writer If . . .
from www.SharonHink.coms

1. You stop random strangers to tell them about your plot ideas.
2. You believe that jail time is an appropriate punishment for misuse of the apostrophe.
3. You participate in four different online critique groups simultaneously
4. You wake in the middle of the night with a brilliant line of dialogue and get up to write it down.
5. People change tables in a restaurant because they notice you writing down their conversations word for word.
6. When you go grocery shopping, you notice things one of your characters would like – and put them in your cart.
7. You write a post-it note to one of your characters and leave it on the kitchen table to remind her of something she needs to do in her next chapter.
8. There is no such thing as a “quick trip” to a bookstore.
9. You wish Channel made a perfume with the scent of printer ink.
10. One minute you’re convinced that every word you write is dreck and the next minute you’re sure your manuscript has the makings of a best seller.
11. Your car is rear-ended and your first thought is what metaphor you would use to describe the sound.
12. You bring a notebook to your child’s piano recital and jot a scene while the other kids are playing.
13. You walk by the book aisle in Target and burst into tears because your heart has such a powerful yearning to see your stories on a book shelf one day.
14. A police car with sirens blaring drives into a scene you’re writing – and you didn't see it coming.
15. You get paid for telling people what the voices in your head are saying.


*****

You Know You're a Professional Writer If...
by Donna M. Chavez, © 2003
Excerpted from The Professional Writer's Starter Kit

1. You know your words have value.
2. You have the grit to pit your work against someone else’s in a fierce marketplace.
3. You have enough self-discipline to write on a regular basis, not just when you feel like it.
4. You have the initiative to shamelessly promote your work and yourself as a writer.
5. You can be thick skinned when it comes to rejection.
6. You believe you can pay the rent by plying your craft.
7. Editors can rely on you to meet deadlines.
8. You simply can’t imagine any other way to make a living…except, of course, maybe flipping burgers on those inevitable bad days.
9. You are as much a businessperson as you are a writer (like it or not).
10. You get paid to write.

*****

How many of these are true for you? Any that aren't?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

To-Do Tuesday: Writing Raffle

At least I remembered it was Tuesday before 10 p.m. That's got to count for something. As no one has emailed me with "NEWS" in the subject header (hint, hint, hint), I'm not going to feel too guilty for having less news and more exercise yet again. The tiny dictator doesn't value computer time as much as bouncing and dancing time.

Paty just posted a neat raffle sponsored by the Valley Forge chapter on our loop--they are offering expenses paid trip to Nationals 2008. How totally awesome! This got me thinking about why we gamble and enter raffles--you have to really want the prize. The more you want the prize, the more tickets you'll buy. In fact, sometimes we'll spend more on tickets than the dollar value of the item. Is it because we want to "win" something rather than make it happen ourselves? I'm not sure, but I'm sure we all daydream about winning certain raffles.

The truly interesting question is which raffles do you daydream about? Imagine for second that I've handed you $50 that you can spend on any writing related raffle you choose. Publication and NYT bestseller status aren't on the table, but anything else is. What do you want to win? Your dream critique group? An hour with Deb Dixon? Synopsis help? Conference? New laptop?What writing related thing do YOU want to win? Dig deep into your heart here, and share your surprising answers with us.

Now let's take this one step further. The main character from your WIP also has $50 to spend in any raffle. What does he/she most want to win?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Two Wolves

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, "My son, the battle is between two "wolves" inside us all.
One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other is Good. It i s joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The grand son thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."


I believe this is true not only of "good" and "evil" but also of what you can accomplish in other ways. If you "feed" your writing and your muse you will end up with a better written book. To feed is to learn all you can about the writing process, listen to advice with an open mind, and be willing to take chances when writing. Don't always play it save with scenes and characters.

You will hinder the writing process if you feed the doubts and insecurities. Always feed the positive thoughts and let the negative ones starve. It isn't always easy to stay positive in a world where rejection is more the norm, but if you want to succeed as a writer, you have to grow a tough skin and remember to feed the right wolf.

Which are you, a cup is half empty or a cup is half full kind of person? And how does that affect your writing?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Eli's Challenge

At the risk of irritating everyone, I'm posting again. It's Sunday. I just finished chapter three of the second book so this proposal is ready to go. 1471 words today. I'll read it through tomorrow just to make sure it makes sense and send it on Tuesday. Now it's time to try to get a thousand words back in the first book.

Is anyone out there keeping me company or are you all, once again, having an actual life?

Still have company, Paty? Are they leaving tomorrow?

Hi, Genene.

Yoo Hoo, she whose name graces our word count banner, what are you up to?

Anyone???

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Eli's Challenge

Hey everyone, hope the weekend is going well. Genene asked how my word count was doing, so I will share the question with the rest of you. How are you coming?

As for me, I have just waved off my mid week company and am settling down to write. Had to stop the WIP to write half a chapter and change a few details in a synopsis for the second book in the contract I signed a few weeks ago. It's due in about five days which means I need to write 10-15 pages between today and tomorrow to finish chapter three and send it on.

Then it's back to the other book.

So for today, nothing so far, though by tonight, there should be something. I'll check back in but meanwhile, Genene, how are you doing? And Danita and Paty and Karen and Eli -- who I have a feeling is suffering from another cold -- and Lisa and Lori and anyone else who has been toying around with word counts of one kind or another. It doesn't have to be Eli's 1,000 words a day, we're all interested in and draw inspiration from those people working away at a goal.

So, share!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Thinking Cap Time

Okay, girlies. This is all in fun. To get your brains working and your fingers flying. Consider this your warm-up exercise for the day.

Directions are simple: Read what I've posted, read each of the comments before yours (if any) and add to the story. Sort of a "choose your own adventure" exercise. LOL. Can't wait to see how this turns out. If you feel the desire to add again during the day, go for it!!

***************

Antoinette stared down at the package in her hands and choked back the urge to hurl the whole thing at the hunky UPS man on her doorstep. She had a whole list of things brown could do for her today but none included the mystery box she was currently holding.

"You'll have to sign for that, ma'am." Mr. Hunk-and-a-half flashed her a sparkling grin as he handed over the electronic contraption and stylus.

Ma'am. Holy crap. He'd just called her ma'am! Sure, she'd answered the door with a towel wrapped around her head and the rest of her hidden behind her biggest, pinkest, fluffiest bathrobe but that didn't grant her ma'am status. She was thirty-three for crying out loud, not eighty!

With a frown she didn't try to hide, she took the stylus and scribbled her signature across the screen, hopefully in the wrong spot. Okay, the hunk-o-meter arrow had just dropped significantly into the mildly attractive category, bordering on jackass. There went all those late night delivery fantasies. How much crappier could her day get?

"Thanks." He winked then turned and headed off for his ugly truck like he hadn't just committed the most heinous sin of all.

Antoinette shot him one last withering glare, stepped back into the house and flicked the door shut with her bare foot. Her black cat, Hades, slinked around her feet as she moved. Only when she was alone in her foyer did she remember the package in her hand. She looked down and glowered. No return address but she knew exactly who it was from.

She'd been wrong. Her day could definitely get crappier.

"Meeeowwrr??"

"My thoughts exactly, Hades. I'm going to kill him for this." Jaw clenched, she stalked into the kitchen with Hades tight on her heels. The tiny bell around his neck tinkled as he moved. He jumped from floor to chair to tabletop with barely a sound as she set the package on the wooden surface. With both eyes closed she took one deep breath and ripped the package open. She fumbled with the cardboard ends and only when she had the box open did she pry one eyelid free so she could peer inside.

Then frowned.

"Oh, he's definitely going to pay for this," she muttered.

Fishnet stockings, four-inch stilettos, pink fuzz-covered handcuffs and a tiny tube of lipstick which was anything but what it resembled. Just once she'd like to see him dress up in all this garbage while she sat back and watched from the shadows. Why did having boobs automatically volunteer her for every lousy assignment on the planet?

"I'm not doing it. No way, no how. He can't make me."

She slammed the cardboard lid closed and was just about to toss the whole thing into the garbage pail when a harsh knock sounded at her back kitchen door.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

RE-CHARGE IT!

How do you recharge?

The idea for this blog came after reading about Eli's birthday weekend, which sounded heavenly, by the way.

I spent a good part of last weekend cleaning the top layer of "stuff" in my house, which was also a way to re-charge for me. Though I do like my house to be clean, I don't usually enjoy the cleaning itself. However, this time it felt good for one main reason. I haven't had the time to do this for months and the clutter was closing in. So this session of house cleaning was symbolic of finishing several large projects and entering a period of less commitment to "stuff and things" in my life.

Then I started thinking about what else recharges me.

A couple mornings ago I stepped outside to let my dogs out and stood on the deck for a few minutes. Mist was hanging among trees vibrant with color. The air was chilly and fresh. It was a perfect fall morning and I felt wonderful! Was it any different than the other mornings when I shivered and hurried back inside? Or was my perspective simply different? Either way, I felt emotionally recharged.

When it comes to writing, workshops and conferences always leave me eager to get back to the keyboard. So does starting a new story. Those new ideas and new projects are ways to recharge.

What recharges you? A change of scenery away from your usual world? Perhaps reading a book, watching a movie, or spending a day spent being pampered? Conversely, maybe a day of hard physical activity recharges you.

Do any of you schedule time to recharge during the holidays or do you simply hope to survive? This holiday season I'm going to plan some relaxation and recharging time. Maybe I'll use some of your ideas!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

GETTING TO KNOW YOU

Every once and awhile I receive an email forwarded by a friend called Getting to Know You or something similar. Flattered anyone wants to get to know me better, I always answer them. But I am often puzzled by some of the questions. For instance, what does my favorite color have to do with anything? I mean, does it say something about me that I like pink more than red? Or that I prefer jammies over nightgowns?

I don't get it.

So here's my survey. Hopefully, it will reveal something more interesting about each of us than what we wear to bed…

1. What was the VERY FIRST thing you ever wrote (besides your name and the ABCs) and does a copy of it still exist?

2. Who was the VERY FIRST person who gave you the feeling your writing talent was special?

3. If everyone and everything left you alone, how many hours (be honest) a day do you think you would devote to writing?

4. If you subtracted your pre-writing weight from your WIP weight, divided the difference by three, added the number of children in your extended family and still came up with a number exceeding the speed of light, would you continue saying writers need chocolate?

5. When you write your breakout best seller and become so famous Hollywood wants to make a movie about your life, who would you cast to play the part of You?

6. Who would you like to play your significant other(s)?

7. I've heard Sue Grafton's motivation for writing her first novel was the lust to kill off her newly divorced husband. Who would you like to write into a book and then torture, maim, or lock in a closet for fifty years (no names need be given) if no one would ever be the wiser?

8. Have you personally engaged in all the sexual acts you write about and this includes location, etc…?

9. If you could spend one day in one of your books (either finished or partially done) which would it be and why?

10. What would you be if you couldn't be a writer but could be anything else in the world?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

To-Do Tuesday: Doing More with Less

First off, this isn't REALLY a to-do Tuesday column. I'm slowly sifting through my market updates and loops to get back up to speed. To help me have a REAL column next Tuesday, please e-mail me your latest brag-worthy tidbits--I know some of you have new books out, have editor requests, are kicking butt on Eli's challenge, etc. Send me an email with NEWS in the header!

Now, what I do have for you is an exercise. Lisa's post yesterday focused on writing MORE in a shorter length of time. But what about when your life is lived in 10 minute increments or your brain power is stuck on empty (not that I would know about either of these things)? Sometimes, you can't jump in and out of a novel length work. Heck, some days even a paragraph is asking too much.

But a sentence? We can all do a sentence. Trying to tell a story in a single sentence allows us to hone our hook skills with the added benefit of distance from our WIP. It also allows us to focus on what's really necessary for the reader. Try to tell your story with as few words as possible.

EXAMPLE: It was a five outfit morning.

Now, this is a hook for sure, but it's also a story. If you've ever been a new mother, you know that that line IS the story. If you've had a job interview or a first date, you fill in your own story.

It's your turn! Since I'm still getting caught up on all the news, why not focus on your day or your life right now. Tell me a story in one sentence increments. Feel free to tell me MANY stories!

Enjoy! And send me your news!

Monday, November 05, 2007

NaNoWriMo

Is anyone taking part in NaNoWriMo this year? For those who don't know what it is, it's basically an organized effort to have people write 50,000 words in the month of November, or 1667 words per day.

If you're falling behind on our 100-day challenge, this may be a great way to get caught up and meet the deadline of Dec. 13. It's very intense, but the nice thing is there's a forum at the NaNoWriMo site where you can ask questions on anything from help with a plot to what types of helmets were worn in 15th Century England to scenery help of Thailand. My first time at NaNoWriMo, I was writing a book that took place in Edinburgh, Scotland. So I went to the thread for Scotland and asked the locals for scenery help. It was very beneficial.

Whether or not you're doing NaNoWriMo, you're likely doing the 100-day challenge and having to do some speed writing. So let's talk about speed writing techniques.

First of all, I don't edit as a I go. That would take me forever and I'd never move on from anything. Second, I tend to write primarily dialogue when I'm writing on a first draft. That comes naturally to me, it's adding the description, backstory and internals that stalls me on the clock. Other than that I don't really have any speed writing strategies.

What do you do to speed write? Any tricks or tips?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Eli's Challenge

Hi everyone.
About 2,000 words today. Anyone else work on this nice Sunday or were you smart enough to take a blasted day off? How's it going?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Eli's Challenge

Well, Eli is no doubt off partying seeing as it's her birthday, but the rest of us little worker bees have to plod along. Or not. It is Saturday, afterall.

How is everyone doing on their 1,000 word a day challenge? I looked back at my log for the week and saw that I averaged 1,000 words a day for the past seven days. That's not fast enough for the deadline since I have another deadline for the completed partial of the second book due in less than two weeks. That's what writing is, right? Deadlines, copyedits, new proposals, ideas out of the blue -- juggling.

My word count will pick up as I start the last one hundred pages which will come after a thorough read through tomorrow.

How about you? Please share!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Sudoku, The Puzzle Sensation That's Sweeping the Nation

Hi. My name's Danita and I'm a Sudoku junkie.

It started out innocent enough. I tried one of the number puzzles here, another there. I couldn't solve a single one. I hated all nine of those blasted little 3 X 3 squares. I wadded up each newspaper in turn and threw it across the room in disgust. No solved puzzle, therefore no problem.

I think you can guess where this story is headed.

That's right, just last week, I solved one. The whole thing. Without looking at the cheat sheet. All 81 of those glorious little squares contained a number, in the right magical order.

And now, well, you already know the rest of my story -- I can't get enough. My husband had to buy me two Sudoku books because the one-a-day newspaper puzzles were no longer enough to satisfy my cravings.

I started wasting precious writing time, quit cleaning my house, I even refused to take time out to eat. Okay, maybe I'm stretching the truth a bit, and yeah, yeah, that last one is an out-and-out bald-face lie, but you get my point:

Sudoku might be sweeping the nation, but it's not lifting a finger to sweep my floors. And it's not helping me get my writing done either.


So, do you Sudoko, or do you have another favorite time waster?

What do you think, do we need to start a twelve-step online program just for writers? Ha!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Scene Play

Scene planning is one of my favorite parts of writing fiction. Characters are the heart of your story, and scenes make the heart beat.

I don't do any kind of detailed plotting ahead of time, but I know who my characters are and I have a general sense of the story, at least enough of it to write a short blurb like what you might see on a book jacket. So my scenes come to me one at a time, as they happen, though I do plan them thoroughly in my head before touching my keyboard.

We all know the basic structure of a scene: goal, conflict, disaster. To make the scene work, we set the character up to fail, or if she doesn't fail, some new complication is introduced to make her life more miserable than it already is. Donald Maas instructs us to come up worst case scenarios, but what if you were to come up with the best case scenario first? Let me explain:

I'm a big fan of the double ending, the first one coming just before the black moment. You give the character everything she wants, then slap her hands and send the hearts and flowers flying every which way but in her favor. Now think about doing this for each one of your scenes, only don't write it down. It's just for brain storming purposes. Come up with the best that can happen, think it all the way through, then take it away. You may find, as I do, that the emotional charge you get from stomping on your character's hopes and dreams is more intense than "what-iffing" how she might feel when disaster strikes. This method makes the disaster more real. If you already do this, great. I think it works extremely well.

Here's a for-instance for a scene I'm about to write in my WIP that I've only thought through via the planning method described above. My main character, Chalice, met this great guy a couple of chapters ago. He's a thief like her, and he's also bonded to a gargoyle just like she is. Talk about having something in common. Anyway, she just learned he was a Turkish warrior in the Crusades, which makes him almost a thousand years old. She's okay with that, but not with the fact he'd bargained with a demon for his immortality, plus he's a member of the magical society that has enslaved her. And the bargain he'd made marks him as a coward. The scene that just ended had him helping her survive an event that almost killed her, and now I'm in the sequel where the two of them are alone for the first time after Chalice learned about his deal with the devil. It will segue into a scene where her goal is to learn the truth from him, which she hopes will redeem him of his cowardice.

The best that can happen is that he'll tell her what she'd been told was all a lie, that he's not a member of the Vyantara (the magical society) and his immortality actually made him a hero. At last there's someone on her side, someone she can trust and believe in after years of pain and torture, corruption, hubris, trickery and cruelty. He's the one who will help free her of her bond to the vicious gargoyle she depends on to keep herself human. He's the one who will bring her the compassion and joy she'd known while growing up in the monastery. She finally has the bliss she deserves.

But as I set out to write the scene, I take away her success at reaching her goal. She learns that what she's heard is true, and her hopes are dashed again. And even more troubling news of his duplicitous nature comes to the fore, and he expects her to be okay with it? The devastation is more real now that I know, and experienced for myself, what she could have had.

This method is a twist on the traditional, and some of you may already use it, but if you haven't, give it a try. And if you have another technique, please share. Do you apply the traditional GCD (goal, conflict, disaster) to your scenes, and if not, what do you do instead?