Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year! Happy dreaming!

Posted by: Genene Valleau
Current Project: Nine-book series
Status: Steady progress

Lisa's post on Monday touched on something that resonated with me: EVERY member of our RWA chapter is special and unique, as is the role they play in our chapter. 

Some members have the drive and energy to be officers. Others make presentations or offer their thoughts on the blog. Still others come to meetings occasionally and then quietly go back to their lives. 

We all have one thing in common: the dream of writing. 

Yet even the dream of writing takes different forms: New York Times bestseller, a steady income from electronic books, finishing a manuscript, or just trying out the dream of writing to see if it fits.  

The economic upheaval, raising children, family emergencies, full-time jobs or the need to find a  job, as well as a variety of other situations have forced many people to prioritize how they will spend their resources and their time. 

For some chapter members, that may mean writing will play a smaller role in their lives for now. Others have followed different dreams, while some of our members have renewed their commitment to writing and are even more productive. 

At this time of year when many people make resolutions, it occurred to me that perhaps we should make dreams first. 

Some of you may already do this. Do you think about what you want your life to be? Do your goals and resolutions support your dreams?

I think a new storyboard will be added to my wall--one that includes visual reminders of my dreams for the upcoming year. 

Happy New Year! Happy dreaming!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


TIme is ticking away, my friends. The sand in the hour glass grows sparse. Soon it will be New Years and 2009 will gasp its last breath as 2010 fills its lungs for the first time.

What does this mean to Madame Fate? It means it's time for a little crystal ball gazing. Don't try to resist, the rules are few and simple.

A. Find a question from those posted below: In 2010, will I ...

1. Experience an amazing night of passion?
2. Write with sheer abandon and unbridled joy?
3. Hit the bestseller list?
4. Turn a corner and run into my one true love?
5. Win accolades and awards?
6. Cast off the shadows of yesterday and run amok?
7. Have literary agents calling night and day?
8. Be the center of a seven digit bidding war?

B. Pick a number between one and eight. Edit: Between one and NINE (choose nine for a good vibe) That number represents the answer to your question. No fair peeking. No fair discarding it if it isn't what you want to hear! And -- no peeking!

C. Gaze into the crystal ball. Concentrate on your question. Do you hear a faint humming noise? Good. That's the sound of fate spinning your destiny. Loose yourself in the sapphire depths of the crystal ball while the stars align.

D. Repeat your chosen question, remind yourself of the number that will represent destiny's response, scroll down and gasp with amazement as 2010 unrolls in front of your eyes...

1. Patience, Grasshopper. You must wait your turn...
2. No, but you will inherit 43 Pekinese dogs...
3. Anything is possible if you send Madame Fate one thousand dollars...
4. Absolutely (although there will be a little jail time involved...)
5. On the first day of the seventh month after a nice bagel with cream cheese...
6. Yes, if your Sherpa guide is willing...
7. Possibly, but watch where you step, it's knee deep in places...
8. The crystal ball is cloudy. Yes, no, flip a coin. Heads=yes. Tails=no.
9. Yes. You will get your hearts desire. You will live long, be happy, and prosper. You will be a best seller and never lose your girlish good looks. Everyone in the world should be as lucky as you are!

Madame Fate would love knowing how the crystal ball treated you. To avoid alerting potential victims, er, customers, please don't reveal numbers in your responses. Now go forth and make magic!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Word Counts

Current Project: Romantic Suspense
Status: Slow

Well, I didn't get much done in the way of writing this month. Not a big surprise. December is traditionally a bad month for me. Getting ready for the holidays, the kids home from school, and getting prepared for January birthdays really eat into my word count. I can't imagine having a deadline this month. (Elisabeth!) I'd develop an ulcer. That is the one advantage to being unpublished. Writing deadlines are only set by myself.

In the RWR this month, I noticed a couple articles devoted to being productive. I swear I've heard or read every suggestion under the sun for increasing production and staying motivated, but this type of article still catches my eye, and I find myself reading intently, searching for those elusive golden nuggets that will hike my word count.

NaNoWriMo is probably the most widely know number booster. A ton of people take this concept and add new twists. Like 70 Days of Sweat. Write 70,000 words in 70 days and check in on a blog for posting word counts and getting advice. That doesn't sound too bad. 1,000 words a day? No problem. Hopefully the kids won't get sick. Or I won't get sick. (or sepsis) Or someone at work gets sick and I have to cover for them.

How about writing 5,000 words a day until the book is done? No days off. Ack. That suggestion made me stop in the center of the article and get my Haagen-Dazs out of the freezer. That is out of my league...but imagine having a rough draft done in 20 days. Write a book in three weeks. I can see the appeal. And the stress and ulcer would be over in three weeks.

Has anyone tried Write or Die? Three levels of consequences keep you typing. If you stop writing before your preset condtions have been met, there are gentle pop up reminders for the first level, annoying sounds for the second, or during the third level your writing starts unwriting. (!!)

Other suggestions include getting away from the Internet, Twitter, Facebook, cell phones, TV, and family. I've found my most productive hours to be at Starbucks. I like that mine charges for Internet and I'm too cheap to pay. I tune out the bad music and the weekday 11:00 senior citizen gathering and just type. I like a pace of 2,000 words a day. That seems to be where I'm comfortable.

Do I dare ask for New Years goals? Is it too early? How about just tell me what daily word count you're comfortable with and what is the most you've written in one day. I won't mention the author in the RWR who wrote 26,000 in one weekend.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Eternal gratitude

Current Project: Derby book
Status: Coming along

I'll be honest. At first I couldn't think of a single topic for this blog post. I'm taking this week off from work and my focus is on cleaning my apartment, getting rid of stuff - and basically finally getting each room in working order. It's pathetic that hasn't been done yet and I'm approaching a year of living here.

So as I made a list of cleaning supplies to buy, my thoughts were thinking about the chapter. And it dawned on me like a lightening bolt, my last day as President of this fabulous group is Thursday! If I were on AIM instant messenger, I'd insert the emoticon of the face shaking from side to side in surprise. Wow I can't believe how fast this year has gone by!

What started as having no idea what to blog about became the biggest "duh" ever. Since this is my last blog post as El Presidente, I just want to take a moment to thank everyone for making this such a wonderful year. I'd like to particularly thank our officers, who have worked their tushies off to make things run smoothly. From planning online workshop presenters to managing the registration for those to putting out amazing hot sheets to providing advice from being on the Executive Board for years. These ladies have been a tremendous asset to this group. Thank you Elisabeth, Barbara, Debbie and Becky. You are wonderful!

And thank you to each and every member who have made this chapter special, indispensable, and a heck of a lot of fun! This group of amazing writers is what makes volunteering a worthwhile and exciting venture. I'm sure that all of the officers would agree with that :)

This is a short and sweet blog post, but it needed to be posted! Thank you to our members, our bloggers, our blog commenters, our lurkers and our officers for making this chapter great :)

Saturday, December 26, 2009


Current Project: Nothing!
Status: Ack!

Did everyone survive Christmas? As the week before New Years begins, are you gearing up to reschedule your time, reopen projects set aside for the holidays, re-commit to writing?

This is the first holiday in years where I haven't had a deadline although there is a book on my desk waiting to be edited even as we speak. The edits are due in NY on Wednesday. I hadn't realized that until just now. Oops, better get to work.

Your turn...

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Oooops . . .

Current Project: NMMNG

Day before Christmas Eve, and all through the blog not a creature was stirring because Bethany forgot. Happy Christmas Eve everyone! We took Tavy to see Santa yesterday, and it made me think about how much I love Christmas stories with children in them. I always reach for the category books this time of year because I can count on them. Any good Christmas reads come your way this year?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Deborah Wright's ProfileCurrent Project: Post NaNo Project
Status: Stalled at the moment (but it's only temporary!)

Good grief! I just realized that today was my day to blog! My apologies for being so very late. I've been distracted for the last two weeks with my husband's knee replacement surgery and subsequent at home recovery. He's doing very well, but I'm about worn to a frazzle. ;-) The good news is that he's able to do more and more for himself every day, including already being able to walk without a crutch while at home (and with a single crutch when outside). The bad news is I've lost all track of days -- Friday is Christmas? Really? Gah!

Since I'm so late, I'll save the fantabulous post I had prepared (sheeyeah right!) for another time. Instead, I'll just say that if you or your loved ones are traveling this holiday season, I wish you safe journeys. My next post won't be until after the New Year, so I'll take this opportunity to say


and I'll see you all on the flip side...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sights and sounds of Christmas

Current Project:Bridled Heart

I'm looking forward to being with our daughters and their families on Christmas day. And the best part we will all be at my oldest daughter's house so I only have to take time this week to make the goodies we'll take. The presents are wrapped, and she'll have to clean her house! LOL

I'm going to piggy back off of Alice's Saturday Checkin post.

What scent, sound, tactile, and taste do you associate with Christmas?

For me it's the tang of evergreen when you drag the tree in the house and it brushes the doorway, furniture, and drops needles on the floor that get stomped on and crushed, making the scent even more vibrant. The sound of ripping gift wrap, squeals and shouts of the kids as they unwrap gifts they've been dreaming of since November. The weight and solidness of my grandmother's rolling pin as I roll out the sugar cookies and gingerbread men. Candy canes and peppermint ice cream are my Christmas indulgences. The sugary, minty combination on my tongue takes me back to childhood Christmases. My mom always had candy canes hanging on the tree and we(she and I) would have one a day and by Christmas morning there were very few left on the tree.

Now take one of your characters either past or present and have them walk into a house or room and experience those four senses.
I'll add my character later today.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Current Project: Same Old, same old
Status: ditto

Do you realize by this time next week, Christmas will be all but over? Presents will be unwrapped and at least a few of us will be standing in line at the return desk of a department store. The refrigerator will be full of left overs, family will be on their way home, a toy or two will be broken or missing parts. We'll have memories we don't have today and the focus will suddenly shift to the new year and resolutions and plans.

How about a Christmas memory from the past? Do you have one to share? Mine is from last year. It was a trying time. The dh and I drove in to Albany to see my mother and got all the way into the nursing home before realizing we'd ignored signs pinned up all over the place that there was a epidemic of flu cases and all visitors were banned from the building. Our visit was cut short. My mother was despondent, we felt guilty, all the family was snowed in up in Portland. We drove home and up into the hills behind Brownsville, looking for snow. We found it and stopped for a walk. As we stood at a gate, we both saw a tiny chipmunk scamper across the snowy, crystallized road and disappear into the bushes. We looked at each other and smiled. That was the most memorable thing about that day and the image is still clear. My point? Memories come at unexpected times and in unexpected wrappings and sometimes even a very small thing can turn the tide of emotions from melancholy to grateful.

I hope your writing projects are filling your life with Ho Ho Ho and that somewhere in all the bustle, a little magic falls.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Current Project: Nine-book series
Status: Flowing nicely :)

In the flow. In the groove. In the zone.

These are all expressions used when everything is going right. For writers, this means when the words are flowing onto the page, the characters are cooperating impeccably, and the plot unfolds in a magical sequence with just the right pacing and enough unexpected twists to create a page-turning story.

I have to admit the flow of my nine-book series has had some calm waters. However, a short discussion with a character or two soon gets words moving again. Since my other books came more slowly, I find this new flow delightful!

More challenging is that I want to work on these stories all the time. However, my kids and grandkids want to see me sometimes, and I occasionally need to sleep, and I have work to do to pay for the kibble in my doggies' bowls. Oh yeah, and Christmas is almost here, with all its preparations.

In spite of the interruptions, I've been able to keep steady forward progress on this series. I would love to have rough outlines of all of the stories done by the end of the year. What a wonderful holiday gift that would be!

How about you? Have you been "in the flow"? Did it last an entire book? How did you deal with interruptions?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Current Project: NONE
Status: QUO

Writing a book is a lot like learning a magic trick. Like levitating the cat or pulling a bunny out of the hat. It's slight of hand, smoke and mirrors, but it's also truth or it should be. When the lights go on, when the last page is read, there should be something left, a takeaway, something that lingers and enriches or amuses or provokes.

That's the real magic.

When I send in a completed manuscript, I also fill out pages or art fact sheets and they include five questions. One of the questions is "What's the takeaway?"

I always ponder this. I write popular fiction, not sweeping human drama or literary masterpieces. If books were paintings and an art gallery was mounting an exhibit, my work would not be on display in its own room, tours would not include it on their agenda. I might actually be one of the pictures in the brochure, toward the back, something to attract would be museum goers by providing bright colors, something to warm them up before they get to the heavy duty important work. And that's okay.

But there's still a takeaway or should be. In addition to bright colors, there should be a certain poignancy hidden in the action, lurking in the swirls, something that brings the picture back to life in an observer's mind long after they've turned the page or lifted their eyes to peruse the masters. I hope I am have not lost you in this art metaphor...

How much thought do you put into this when you write a book? Is it part of the plotting process or is it something you try to find later or do you never give it a single thought? Do you stop to ask yourself -- What is my book about? If you do ask yourself this question and you can come up with an answer, do you then reinforce it throughout the book to make your point?

Current Project: None
Status: Doing Nothing Brilliantly

If you think about it, writing a book is a lot like a magic trick. Like pulling a bunny out of a hat. Like making the Empire Building disappear. It's one part inspiration, one part imagination, ninety parts figuring and thinking and honing. That makes 92 parts, which means there are six parts left and those six parts are magic.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Holiday Traditions

Current Project: Romantic Suspense
Status: bit by bit

I can't write about writing this week. Too much holiday stuff going on. My writing has slowed recently because I have food on the brain. It's normal for this time of year. I start craving turkey dinners with all the accompaniments and cookies. Lots of cookies. Frosted sugar cookies in the shape of snowmen, thick and chewy oatmeal cookies with cranberries and white chocolate chips, sharp ginger cookies rolled in chunky sugar, and lemon bars dusted with powdered sugar. *sigh*

The kids have a list of holiday traditions they don't want to skip. Several cookie recipes of course, Chex mix, the Christmas tree farm with animals to pet, a trip to pick out their 2009 ornaments, toy shopping for Channel 8's toy drive, gold paint hand prints on the tree skirt which I label with names and the year, decorating gingerbread houses, decorating their own little trees in their bedrooms, a new box of Christmas crafts from Oriental Trading, and a trip to The Dollar Tree where I let them choose gifts for each other and family.

I once read in a parenting magazine that it is important to make a big deal out of the holidays for kids. I repeat this mantra in my head several times a year. At Easter when I'm cleaning up egg dye, on the Fourth of July when my youngest is moaning about sore feet from walking to the parade, and of course at Christmas when I'm wrestling with yards and yards of garland and lights. Sometimes I just want to throw up my hands, forget the traditions, and pour a stiff drink.

But all the hassle and mess has a purpose. My chest gets tight as I watch them decorate the tree and with each ornament they pull out of the box someone exclaims, "Remember this one?!" I fight to keep my eyes from watering as I watch them smile as they dump the new toys they chose into the donation bin. They're good kids and I pray I'm raising them right. I hope they cherish these years and create traditions with their own children in memory of their childhood.

Time to share traditions. Doesn't have to be Christmas, any holiday will do. And what do you fondly remember from your childhood holidays?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Castle + Nathan Fillion = Hour Well Spent

Current Project: Derby book
Status: First draft

I'm sorry this post is late. I'm home sick today and my calendar reminder to blog is on my work computer. Well, my cell phone too, but (I know, you're going to be shocked) I haven't really touched my cell phone yet today. I must be sick! :)

Like most people (I assume), sick days are filled with an excessive amount of television watching. I already watch too much TV, but sick days are even worse. Today, I'm going to finish catching up on this season's episodes of Castle. I bet you were wondering what TV had to do with writing! ;) For those of you who don't know, Castle is a television series about a NY Times bestselling mystery writer who decides to base a new series on a New York City detective. So he follows her around on cases, there's sexual tension, great banter, and hilarious antics. Nathan Fillion plays the writer, Richard Castle.

This show is hilarious. He helps solve their cases by bringing a fresh perspective. He steps back and thinks as a writer. What would make a better story? He often proposes crazy twists and turns in what may have happened in a case, and he is often right. This show is great for all writers, not just mystery writers. It's funny to watch the glimpses of the publishing industry and the writing process. He even has a weekly poker game with actual big-name authors like James Patterson. Those scenes are quite funny.

Watching this show has been a good reminder to step back and think about what would make a better story. Catching the killer red-handed isn't as interesting as someone being framed for the killing and finding out there's a secret love-child and a missing trust fund. These are the plot twists that writers toil over to make our books great. It's just interesting and funny to see this on a television show. I really recommend you watch Castle, it's hilarious!

Has anyone seen it? Any other shows or movies you like because how it portrays authors? I always think back to that Roseanne Barr movie where her husband leaves her for a romance author with a pink house.

Okay, time to kick my dog off my couch. I'm not sick or anything, I didn't plan on spending the day laying on the couch, trying to rest. Oy! So spoiled! :D

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Current Project: still thinking
Status: ready to work

This check-in is a lot easier to write when I'm actually working. Without a project, ticking off the weeks seems fruitless. So, muse, wherever you are, come on back to me. Lest you think you're the only one giving any ground, I'm willing to meet you halfway. Name your price. More freedom to stretch your wings? Done. Less whining from me when the fruits of your imagination land us actual work? You got it. An apology for past transgressions? Consider it offered

Until such time as the muse deems I've suffered enough and comes home, I'm trying to enjoy the free time. I haven't wrapped Xmas gifts yet, but I've bought most of them, in fact it's a rare day where I don't go somewhere on some mission or the other. Despite the cold, the puppy from hell still needs walks. I've also watch daytime TV for the first time in quite awhile. Won't be sorry to give that up. Ditto house cleaning and laundry and all the rest. Why does idle time seem such an attractive commodity until you actually have it?

How are you doing?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Current Project: ENTWINED
Status: Climax

The holidays have got me by the throat. Between Christmas shopping, Christmas cards, Christmas decorating (which my kids are upset I haven't gotten to yet) and Christmas parties, I think I'm behind on everything else. So...apologies for this being late.

Since this post IS so late, instead of a normal blog I'm just going to remind those of you in the chapter that tonight is our annual Christmas Party & Awards Meeting. 6 PM at Becky's house. If you need directions, check the chapter loop. I'm bringing yummy lasagna and the BEST white elephant gift. (Ya'll will be praying you get my gift.)

For the rest of you...don't you wish you were part of our chapter? There's always time to join.

Happy Partying!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Let's Blow Something Up!

Current Project:NMMNG
Status: 40 pages and counting!

I had an epiphany a few weeks ago. I both love and hate when this happens--it is lovely, but darn it, it always, ALWAYS means more work for me. Pacing has always been a bugaboo of mine, and I realized that a big part of the problem is that I have too many scenes of people standing around talking with nothing external happening to increase the tension or provide interest. Sure, I provide plenty of witty dialogue and some internal angst, but I'm guilty of using too many scenes just to convey information and set up future scenes. This is different from information dumping--it's not backstory and the scene has a clear purpose and place in the storyline. However, it is a sin nevertheless because it lacks that little extra oomph needed to ensure that the reader not only wants to keep reading but NEEDS to do so.

Now, I'm NOT writing a "suspense" book by any means--this is a YA romantic comedy with a twist. However, I have come to realize that EVERY book on my keeper shelf has very few standing around talking scenes. Something else is always going on--both internally: a subtle subtext because the point of view character knows or does not know some critical piece of information that the other character (and reader) does, a hidden agenda, a major realization or conflict revealed, or externally: danger, complications, thwarted intentions, things to work through in the course of the conversation, external influences creating havoc, etc. In one of her reader/writer guides, Suzanne Brockmann gives the example of a needed conversation--should it take place in a hotel room or should it take place in the middle of a power outage in a subway? The subway wins every time because it adds the elements of if the needed information will be conveyed and how the characters will resolve the external complication. Of course, her books still have a certain percentage of "hotel room" scenes, but there is almost always something else going on in the background that takes them out of the ordinary and raises the stakes.

"Raise the stakes" is my personal motto for this book. My last book had the motto "Go deeper. Deeper. DEEPER." It was a turning point in how I treat point-of-view, and while the book itself will probably spend forever under my bed, it was a success from that standpoint. So, I know that this motto is exactly what I need at this point in time. Of course, this means more work for me. I can't just place my characters in a room and let them talk all the time. I have to have other stuff happening, and frankly, that other stuff is exhausting and way more challenging than dialogue.

So I've been blowing stuff up--both literally and figuratively, and it IS fun. And of course, I want you to try it too. For those of you who have a work in progress, go right now and find a conversation that doesn't have much else happening. Blow something up. Give it something more. Report back, preferably posting your handiwork. For those who are between projects, I give you this very blah, yet vital dialogue. Blow something up. Raise the stakes. Give it that edge.

"Mick, I have something to tell you."
"Well . . ."
"Come on, out with it."
"You're not going to like this."
"I'm a little busy here. Can you just spit it out already."
"I'm pregnant."
"I'm pregnant."
"Congratulations. Who's the father?"

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

And Now For Something Completely Different...

Deborah Wright's ProfileCurrent Project: Post NaNo Project
Status: Just getting started!

In searching for a topic for today's blog post, I started thinking about the characters we create as writers. I'll do you all a favor and avoid describing the long, convoluted and somewhat tortuous path that led me here (though you might guess Monty Python was in there somewhere). And where is here, you ask? Why, it's Writing Characters Who Are Not Like Us, whether that means a different ethnicity, nationality, social class, sexual orientation or something else.

This can be a touchy subject, so don't worry, this isn't going to be a lecture about what writers should or shouldn't do (as if I'd presume!). Mostly, I'm wondering how other writers approach creating characters "not like them?" No one wants to create a character who comes across as a stereotype. So, if you don't know a Real Live Human Being (tm) of a similar background to your character, what do you do? Do you treat this as any other unknown factor in your story and do research? Or do you find yourself backing away from writing such characters out of fear of criticism?

I'll admit creating characters with backgrounds that differ wildly from what I know (i.e. from my own) can seem incredibly daunting at times. Seems a bit silly, though, when I remember that I write male POV all the time and I don't thnk twice about the fact that I am not now, nor have I ever been, a man. Yes, I know that's different, but isn't it somewhat similar? After all, I think nothing of researching the "guy" point of view to try to make my male characters as real as possible. Isn't that same approach valid for other characters, as well?

And now, for a quiz! Relax, it'll be fun (I hope). I'm always impressed by American writers who write British characters (and who do it well) in a British setting. Elizabeth George, Deborah Crombie and Martha Grimes are a few that come to mind. Of course, I wouldn't know if they got some of the details wrong, but these three seem to get high marks from British reviewers. Sometimes though, their characters will use an idiom or a bit of British slang that I'm unfamiliar with and stops me in my tracks until I look it up (and don't even get me started on Cockney rhyming slang). You can see what's coming, can't you? Yep, time to test your knowledge of British English!

Match the numbered word or phrase with the lettered definition. If you feel like it, post your guesses in the comments. I'll post the answers later tonight so you can see how you did. All of the words/phrases and definitions come from the book: Understanding British English, by Margaret E. Moore.

1. Braces
2. Near the knuckle
3. Parkin
4. Parson's nose
5. Swan
6. Davenport
7. Shop

a. drop-front desk with drawers
b. gingerbread made with oatmeal and molasses
c. suspenders
d. drift around idly
e. off color, somewhat indecent
f. betray, turn in to police
g. tail of a cooked fowl

Extra credit! Match the numbered Cockney rhyming slang with it's lettered English translation.

8. Adam and Eve
9. Mariah Carey
10. Nat King Cole
11. Butcher's Hook
12. Burt and Ernie

h. Journey
i. Dole (Welfare)
j. Look
k. Believe
l. Scary

Monday, December 07, 2009

Amusement Park Ride

Current Project:Bridled Hearts
Status: Revisions

A writer is on a continual roller coaster.

There are the days when you ride on a euphoric cloud of the words spilling from your brain and fingertips in melodic harmony. Stretching the characters, moving your emotions, and enriching the story. Then there are the days when you are lucky to get a page written whether from outside forces or your own internal locked creativity. Those days and sometimes weeks you struggle with self doubt, fear, and mock your stupidity at thinking you could be a writer let alone a published author.

Then something sparks within again, or someone hands you the key to unlock your doubts and fears. And you're riding on that amazing carpet that takes you to another world and lets you bring that world to life for others.

This past week reminds me of when I was thirteen and my younger brother dared me to get on an amusement ride with him. I don't have a constitution that deals well with things that whirl and twirl. But I wasn't going to back down and let my younger brother prove he was right. So we climbed on the ride, and about three spins in, I was feeling a bit green. I looked at my brother. He was pale, green, and looking ready to hurl. I yelled, "Sing a song." He started singing, "Baloney, baloney how I like baloney." I started laughing and we ended the ride neither one of us losing all the cotton candy and junk we'd eaten. And feeling triumphant.

Last week I sent a story to someone I'd never met to "beta read" my half of the sisters story. It was the other author's usual reader which I thought well and good they would see if the two stories mixed well. In all my years of writing and entering judged contests, I've never received so many scathing remarks, nor had my work so slashed apart. I was in shock before my CP's slapped me around. This came two days after I'd been notified that Miner in Petticoats was up for Western book of the year at Love Western Romances. Then on Saturday, I received a comment on my blog that a reader loved Perfectly Good Nanny and was thrilled I was able to find a place that would publish it.

I trashed the "beta reader" comments. Then I went back through the sisters story, making sure it was the best I could write, and shipped it to the other author today to incorporate with hers and send to the publisher who requested it.

If you don’t believe in yourself, you can't expect others to believe in you. Keep writing!

Saturday, December 05, 2009


Current Project:none
Status: quo

Another week has passed. It's been a strange week for me, all things considered. Today I'm getting a new lap top -- it's on the FedEx truck even as I type. I'm looking forward to it with trepidation as I'll have to figure out how to get it up and running myself.

A few ideas have been rambling round in my head so the cogitation continues.

How about you?

Thursday, December 03, 2009

With or Without You

I just got off the phone with Genene. Her Internet is down and the service team isn't scheduled to come to her house to take a look-see until at least tomorrow. Contrary to the picture, she DID say she's being quite productive without the Internet distracting her. But she is going through withdrawls.

I know Kendra was recently without Internet, too. Paty routinely goes to eastern Oregon where she has no service. When my DSL goes down you'd think the world ended. So I'm curious...what CAN'T you live without? Imagine you are stranded on a desert island. What MUST you have in order to stay sane?

I'll start...

1. My laptop - When it's in the shop (my backup computer recently died), I feel lost. (And yeah, on MY desert island there are plug-ins!)
2. Internet - 'nuff said.
3. Tweezers - What can I say? I'm part Hungarian. We of the bushy-eyebrow people love our tweezers.
4. Books - I would die without something to read.
5. Diet Coke - yes, I've transferred my coffee addiction to a diet coke addiction. (Becky...shush!)

There's not much else I can't survive without. What about you?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


Current Project:None
Status: thinking

There are a bunch of cats up there because the only thing I can think to write about after the last very eventful and very trying week is observation. It seems to me that's what a cat does. How often have I seen one of mine perched on some impossible ledge, just watching the world go by?

Novelists and other artistic types observe people and things and reinterpret them in their work. Even in the worst of times, part of us takes mental notes. I found myself doing this over and over. The details caught me, especially if when they were unique. I would sit there and wonder if I would have thought of all these things if I'd been writing this scene. Would I have understood the feelings correctly and portrayed them honestly? I committed them to memory without consciously deciding to do so.

Sometimes this tendency to observe life, even my own, from a distancing lens is a little disconcerting. Is this common to writers? Is it a protective device? Are you like this, too?

I'm suddenly in a kind of strange place. The responsibility for my mother's well being is over and I'm between books. It's like standing in the eye of a hurricane because my editor asked me to think about writing a series of three or four interconnected books for my next project. This is very exciting in a pleasant and almost distant way but soon enough an idea will sweep into my head and I'll be off again. Right now, I'm like a cat. Watching.

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Writer's Christmas List

Current Project: Untitled RS
Status: Slow

Just a few things from my list this year...

Ergonomic chair that feels like I'm sitting on down cushions.

Magic potion to avoid "writer's spread" from countless hours in chair.

On call, cheap, amazing childcare

Ability to function normally on four hours of sleep

Desire to exercise

Free enthusiastic research assistant

On call computer genius who has English as a first language and understands my problem on the first explanation. Also makes free house calls and looks like George Clooney.

Quarterly writing getaways. Preferably a week long on a beach with several writing buddies.

Writing studio with big windows, view, constant calorie free pastries and great coffee, overstuffed furniture and a fireplace.

What's on your magic wish list?

New approach on goals

Current Project: Derby book
Status: Slow going

So NaNoWriMo was a total fail for me, but that's okay! I'm thinking of doing my own NaNoWriMo in December. I respect the fact that November is a busy month and if you can write 50,000 words then - wow you're a superstar!! That's a great intent with the program. But, I just couldn't do it. And that's okay - I made a choice to put classes and work above my writing in November. But, classes are basically done this week and I'm taking a week of vacation this month, so I think it's a good time to do it. I had hoped to have a first draft of a book by the end of the year, it's not too late to nearly reach that goal.

I've also been thinking about long-term goals, particularly for next year. I've done major goal setting a couple of times, just never really stuck to the goals. I want to give it a valliant effort this year. I recently bought this awesome planner that has sections for charts and goal setting and other things that would make most sane people want to run for the hills. That will allow me to see my goals each week and chart progress toward them. So we'll see!

Typically when I set writing goals, I go overboard and it feels overwhelming. I'll make goals about how many queries to do, how many books to write/draft, etc. I spread myself too thin and get overwhelmed. But 2010 will not be that way.

Here are my goals:
1) Write every day. Even if it's just a sentence.
2) Get a polished book that I can query.
3) Begin querying.

That's it. Broad goals, not too specific. Enough to keep writing a focus in my life and move toward a career in it. I've noticed that I'm trying to move away from too much planning and plotting in my writing, and it seems to be carrying over to how I think about my writing. Maybe that's a good thing :)

Do you have any goals for next year?

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Posted by: Genene Valleau
Current Project: Nine-book series
Status: Making steady progress

Hi, all! It's unusual that I'm the first at Saturday check-in--especially since it's evening. Must be a busy day or long weekend for all of you. Hope it has been a good one!

How are you all doing on your writing? How about those who are doing NaNoWriMo? Are you where you wanted to be when you started almost a month ago?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Authors beware

Current Project:For the Love of a Sister
Status: Synopsis

I haven't been receiving e-mail from my website e-mail account. I couldn't figure out what was wrong. My daughter thought I must have deleted something in my Thunderbird but when I went to my host site, there wasn't any e-mail in the box. I went to another one of my e-mails that I had routed through that e-mail and they were all bouncing back.

I called my host and they said I never paid the renewal on my domain name.WUWT? I know I received an e-mail about the renewal and I followed their directions, but there is no record of the renewal and I can either wait two weeks when the domain is up for grabs again and pay $9.95 or I can get a whole new website and domain name for $160 today. It looks like I'm going without a website and e-mail for two weeks because I am not paying $160 for their screw up.

So be aware those of you with domain names. DON'T let them lapse! It's a nightmare.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

In lieu of the holiday, I'm not going to drone on and on. (I know that breaks your heart!) I simply want to wish you all a happy and healthy holiday. May you eat gobs of unhealthy foods, drink to excess and remember all the wonderful gifts that you have to be thankful for.

And if you feel so inclined - and have the time - how about sharing what writing gifts YOU are thankful for this year?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Count Your Blessings, Character Style

Current Project:NMMNG
Status: The tortoise approaches the threshold

Tomorrow countless blogs, facebook posts, and relatives sitting around the table will recount their blessings, and this is all well and good. And I'm sure there will be more than a handful of posts talking about our blessings as writers, so I'll leave that territory for those more reflective than I. Instead, I want to talk about our characters and how they celebrate the holiday. Christmas books are a long time staple of the romance world, but Thanksgiving books and scenes are a little more rare. I love when they appear though because they reveal so much about the character and his or her family dynamic, values, beliefs, and preferences.

Now whether or not you are planning a Thanksgiving scene in your WIP, choose one of your characters (pick the trickiest one you were complaining about yesterday for a challenge) and give him or her a typical Thanksgiving prior to the start of your story. Who is there? Who is he or she happy to see? Not? What foods does he or she like? Dislike? If he or she is without family, what might he or she do instead? Now when he or she was a child, what sort of Thanksgiving was celebrated? How did these memories shape your present character? Finally, what sort of Thanksgiving future would you like to give your character at the close of your book?

I'll be back to put up my own answers later. Have fun!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

NaNo Day Twenty-Something, "Motivate Me!"

Deborah Wright's ProfileCurrent Project: NaNoWriMo 2009
Status: 13,258 words

Don't panic! That isn't me asking for your help (although, now that you mention it...wait, what?). Ahem, as I was saying, that's not me asking for your help. Oh, no. That's the sound of the characters in my head yelling at me.

In the past few days my characters have turned into whiny method actors, nitpicking every scene. Now it's, "What's my motivation here?", and "My character wouldn't do that!" I mean, really, you get boxed in a corner and throw in one lousy exploding llama* and it's all, "Now you're just making stuff up!".

You think they'd be grateful for their shot at starring in a novel. But are they? Nope, not them. I can hear them whispering in the back of my head. Occasionally a word or phrase will be clear: "...want script approval...too much coincidence...go on strike..." It's a nasty business.


I'll admit I've struggled with a couple of problem areas. The first is having too many things happen by coincidence. I don't want to write one of those books. You know the kind of book I'm talking about, where things happen just when they need to. Not as a natural consequence of a character's actions, but just because, well, the author needed something to happen and, hey, coincidences occur all the time, don't they? Not in my book, they won't! Unfortunately, that's easier said than done. It's so alluring, you know? When you've written yourself into a corner and there's an easy way out--why not take it? I now understand that temptation.

The second area I've struggled with is, yes, character motivation--the smaller, scene by scene motivations, not the big, this is my character's inner conflict motivation stuff. I mean, I tried to get my heroine to voluntarily walk through the interdimensional portal to an unknown fate, I really did. I told her her father was probably trapped on the other side somewhere. She didn't buy it. Said she was too smart to just assume stuff like that without a lot more proof and some hint of what she'd face--oh, and a means of, you know, returning! Fine, I said, I'll just have the damn device overload while you're fiddling with it and toss you across the portal (if you won't go voluntarily...). We bickered back and forth about the difference between an inciting incident and one huge coincidence (and somewhere in there is where the llama exploded). It wasn't pretty.

Come to think of it, maybe it's just one problem--too much coincidence!

We've come to a tentative agreement, my characters and I. I've promised to examine the motivation I give them in every scene and they've promised to stop yelling at me, at least until we get to revision. However, they've made it clear that if I throw in one more exploding llama* they won't be responsible for their actions.

How about you? Do you ever find yourself tempted to let something happen by coincidence in your plot? How do you resist?

*No llamas were exploded in the process of writing this post.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Brainstorming a Title

Current Project: Spirit of the Mountain/ Cowboy Story
Status: reading pregalley/working on revisions

I missed the meeting last week and I am in need of some brainstorming for a title for my contemporary western about a bareback bronc rider and an ER nurse. My editor said it needs more emotion because it is an emotion driven book two thirds of the way until there is some suspense toward the end. And she wants me to come up with a new title.

This is my little spiel: A celibate ER nurse with plans to build a camp for sexually abused children finds herself drawn to a rodeo cowboy and his art. Their passions bring them together, their pasts wedge them apart.

The heroine was a victim of incest as a child, she overcame a promiscuous teen age years to vow to be celibate and help abused children through her love of music. The hero is a bareback bronc rider whose younger sister was a victim of abuse by his stepfather. But he didn't realize it until after his sister committed suicide. He feels he let her down.

The hero is intrigued by her walls and her beautiful music. She is intrigued by his art and his tenaciousness to befriend her. It is a slow building of trust. Then as she is admitting her feelings for him, a crazy fan causes trouble.

A friend said I need to have words like: Trust, Hope, in the title. I'm open to any thoughts to help me figure this out.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Current Project: None
Status: Thinking

It's official, I am out of work, unemployed, and wondering what comes next. This is always an odd time for me. Half my brain is whispering, "Relax, enjoy being blank. You're like a field where corn is grown year after year. You have to add some soil restoritives or rotate the crops. Lie farrow for awhile, stay open for the next seed that blows into your consciousness and sends down roots." The other half of my brain is saying, "You'll never write again. It's over." Have you ever noticed how bipolar writers are?

How about you? How goes Nano or your own personal goals?

Friday, November 20, 2009


Current Project:Between projects
Status: holding...

How has your week been? I've had better. I've also had worse. Hope yours was fulfilling and that you will chime in here to report.

The book is gone and in New York, so that's good news.

Your turn.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Posted by: Genene Valleau
Current Project: Nine-book series
Status: Developing nicely!

My sincere apologies for this late blog post and I will also apologize if it seems rambling. Both of my older doggies are going through some tough times right now and my sleep has been sporadic at best. 

However, I have a ready topic thanks to Harlequin's announcement that it is establishing a vanity publishing arm and RWA's decision to remove Harlequin from its list of eligible publishers.

Many of the loops I am on are jumping with opinions on this topic. If you'd like to share your thoughts about this please, as always on our loop, be respectful of the feelings and opinions of others. 

I'm going to toss out some thoughts that I haven't seen expressed (but I haven't read the loops yet today). I'm sure there will be more news about this in the days to come.

THESE ARE MY THOUGHTS ONLY and don't reflect the any stance the chapter may wish to take. I've tried to keep these as thoughts only and not make a judgment on what's right or wrong or somewhere in between. Here we go:

For decades, RWA has done an excellent job of teaching people how to write as well as inspiring those same people to follow their dream of being published. 

Yet the number of RWA members has long exceeded the number of romance books published per year. 

So if only one out of every five or ten (or whatever the number is) RWA members become published by a traditional print publisher, what happens to the dreams of those writers who aren't yet published? 

Sure, some of their work isn't up to the standard we'd like to think all published books should be. Though we've probably all read or tried to read published books while wondering how in the world it ever got published.

I think we all know writers whose work is excellent and they haven't been published. 

Electronic book companies have filled the desire to be published for many authors. Stories that don't fit the mold of print publishers have found a happy home as e-books. Yes, early e-books got a reputation of not being "as good" as printed books. However, I think their quality has steadily improved--as has their market share. 

Of course, print publishers have noticed that market share of e-books, especially as they have experienced losses for many months (or years?). How are they going to stay in business? Perhaps by tapping into e-books and, ohbytheway, have you seen what vanity publishers are doing? People are actually paying to have their books printed. For a business whose priority is making money, I can see where this would be quite a temptation. 

If a print publisher goes out of business, where would all their established authors find a home for their stories?

I'm going to stop there as I need to dash off for a couple hours. I'm looking forward to reading your thoughts when I return.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Current Project: PRINCESS BOOK
Status: page 0

Today I would like to ask for your help. I'm in the beginning plotting phase for a book about a heroine who becomes a princess for a few days. As I write RS, it won't turn out to be the best day in the world to make this change and mayhem will ensue.

Do you have a fantasy about royalty? If your fairy godmother showed up while you were asleep and transformed you into a princess of a medium sized realm and you could do nothing but go along with it, what would you want to do? Would it involve the jewels, the luxury, the palace, the people, power, what? What would be the first thing you would do when you got out of your impossibly feathery/downy/silky bed and stood in the middle of your 2000 square foot bedroom with your very own servants hovering nearby, anxious to meet your every desire? I'm talking fantasy, and remember, you don't have a choice about being in this position and no, you can't go effect world peace and I'm pretty sure you can't buy Gerald Butler.

I can't wait to see what you come up with. I'm going to put mine down later so I don't step on anyone's toes. Think like a princess! Think big! (Help me out....)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Current Project: Untitled RS
Status: Plodding along

I don't know if it is a lack of respect or simply a lack of industry education that makes an aspiring author strike out at others in publishing. Last week on the BookEnds blog, Jessica wrote about an email that had been sent to hundreds of publishing professionals. I read her blog with my jaw on the floor, and I imagine she looked the same way when she first read the email. And then laughed. The letter ranted against agents, editors, and authors.

Yes, this is a hard industry. Hard to get in, hard to stay in, and hard to be successful. But why lash out at the people who can help? Publishing needs gatekeepers (agents, editors) to filter out the crap. Does good work get skipped over sometimes? Yes. But if it is truly good, I firmly believe it will be recognized. A writer needs to simply find the right gatekeeper while improving their craft.

The letter was anonymous and made me wonder what the writer had experienced. Had she been querying for years and developed a folder with a hundred rejections? Had she written a dozen manuscripts only to find no one wants them? Or had she written one, queried a few agents, and gone into shock at the rejection. (I strongly suspect the last.) Whatever her experience, it pushed her off some sort of ledge.

My favorite bit was about how it is a crime for hard working people to spend years writing a manuscript only to get it rejected. I'm trying to image a world where every manuscript is published. With the internet anything can be published in some form, but imagine all those manuscipts with covers in a book store. I cringe to imagine my early work where people can see it. I was proud of it at the time; I'd finished a book. But did that mean I had the right to demand someone pay to publish it?

I believe this person will never succeed in the business. She may feel better after her rant, but it won't change the rules. I have an image of this writer crossing her arms and stamping her feet as she scowls at Stephenie Meyer or JK Rowling. That's not going to help. Here's the formula I think will help: Buckle down, study the industry, ask for help, show respect for professionals, and grow a thick skin. A little prayer might help, too.

Keeping it anonymous, has anyone met an aspiring writer or published author like this? And what would you add to my formula?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Constructing scenes

Current Project: Derby book
Status: First draft

I have a question for you all - how do you come up with your scenes? Do you plot major points of the book and brainstorm what it takes to get you there? Do you write a scene at a time and think to yourself, how would my character react, then write the next scene off of that reaction?

I used to be a full-fledged plotter. I would brainstorm the major points of the book, then come up with the scenes to take me to that point. I've talked about it some here already, but that clearly hasn't been working for me. The plot only takes me so far, then I realize my characters fall flat because I didn't develop them enough.

So now I've made a point of focusing on characters. I'm not forgetting the plot by any means, I know the main points and where I want it to go, just not scene by scene. I thought I'd try allowing my characters and their actions and reactions to take me from scene to scene.

That's tough!

I'm having a heck of a time coming up with scene ideas. The amazing and wonderful Eli helped me brainstorm some plotting things late last week that has helped make the conflict stronger and more interesting throughout the book. I've been able to think of scenes for the next couple of chapters so I'm working on writing those, then I'll see what I can come up with next. But I could really use your ideas on how you come up with your scenes. Do you ask yourself a certain question? Post an issue? Or they just come to you?

Thanks for the tips! On an unrelated note, I'm trying to pick a roller derby name. I made a poll - if you have an opinion on any of them (or ideas for another one), I'd love your vote! I tried to think of a spoof on a famous romance author that the general public would know, like Nora Roberts, but couldn't think of anything. If you have other ideas, please leave them in the comments! Grazie!

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Current Project:The Baby's Bodyguard
Status: cutting, revising, trying to find a resolution I like...

Another week has flown by. The book should have left the house yesterday, but alas, it did not. My editor graciously said I could send it Monday which means it's crunch time. I spent most of yesterday working on a final read through and cutting extravaganza. About half done with that, so second half today, then it's time to wrap her up.

And then will come the plot another book phase, but hopefully, also some goof off time and some of that better include a little house cleaning because it's hard lately to find the house under all the clutter and dirt. The dh does an admirable job covering for me, but he's more an "event" cleaner (aren't most men?) Please tell me why our houses are not made out of cement with giant drains in the middle of every slightly sloping floor and a fire hose in every room.

So, how are you doing on your goals?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Low Down Gritty Truth

Current Project: Entwined
Status: 80,000+ words

We've talked about process several times. Plotting vs. panstering, character sheets vs. mulling things over in our heads. The act of writing is similar for each of us, regardless of the steps we take along the way. The only way to write a book is to sit at the computer and type. Or sit at a desk and hand write. Put words on paper. One page after another. That's the goal. That's what has to be done to get to 'The End'. But what about the mental game? Is that the same for me and you? Is it different if you're published or unpublished? When you're on deadline and when you're not? When you write for a NY pub or an epub? If you write novellas vs. novel length books? If you write category vs. single title?

My guess is no. But I'm curious to see if I'm right. A few years ago (three to be exact), I wrote out my mental process and posted it on my blog. Then I was unpublished and not working on deadline. Now I am. It was fun to look at what I wrote then and see how/if it has changed. To my surprise, not a whole lot has changed. My mental process when I'm writing a book is pretty much the same. The difference now - when I'm under deadline - is it's amplified. A lot.


Stage One - The Proposal
Chapter One - My shiny new idea isn't quite so shiny anymore. I forgot how much I hate writing first chapters. Hook? Hook? Gah! I hate hooks. I'm clearly hook-illiterate.
Chapter Two - Okay, maybe this isn't quite so bad. New POV, the setting works, I'm getting into the story. And wow, I sorta like my characters. Gonna have to go back and make some changes in chapter one, but I think this just might fly.
Chapter Three - Zip, zip, zip through the first three chapters. My agent is going to love this.
Synopsis - Pause to work on suckopsis. Pull hair out by the roots. Whine and complain on IM to anyone who happens to be online. Finally get it done and badda-bing...send away.
Wait - And Wait. And Wait. At this point I should be used to waiting. But you know what? Not so much.

Stage Two - The Reality
Chapter Four - Okay, now what? It sold? Oh, boy. Now I have to write it. The idea made sense in the synopsis. But that was months ago. I haven't looked at this thing since my agent sent it off. Oy. I think I'm in trouble here...
Chapter Five - Getting into the groove. I actually like this. This story might just work. Sure, characters are angsty, but they're fun.
Chapter Six - I am the best writer on the planet! This is going to be a NY Times Best Seller! Maybe I should take a break and think about writing my RITA speech.

Stage Three - The Middle
Chapter Seven - (Right around the 125 pg mark). OMG. What was I thinking?! This is the most contrived piece of drivel that was ever written! I'll have to PAY people to read it. And melodramatic? Argh. Sounds like a bad version of Days Of Our Lives. I'll probably get sued.
Chapter Eight - I'm too far in to give up. I will not give up. I will NOT! I have a contract. People are counting on me. Push through, push through, just keep pushing...
Chapters Nine through Eleven - Okay, if nothing else, I like my characters. I don't have a clue where the plot is going, but the characters are strong. That's something at least.
Chapter Twelve - The hero's getting on my nerves. He needs sex. At this point though I have NO idea where I'm going to fit that in. But seriously? If he doesn't quit pestering me I'm going to slit my wrists.
Chapter Thirteen - Oh, crap. I've passed the halfway mark and I STILL have all these plot points to get through. I'm going over my target word count, there's no way I'll get all this in here in 100K words. No way. I'm doomed.
Chapter Fourteen - Need chocolate. Must. Have. Chocolate. These two are driving me nuts. My editor isn't going to give a rip about these two. And the plot? Holy Crapoli. How will I ever tie this all together?
Chapter Fifteen - Building. Slowly. But still so much to get through. *big sigh* Okay, refocus. Time to get serious. I can do this. Really, I can. I might lose all my eyebrows in the process, but I can do this.

Part Four - The Beginning of the End
Chapter Sixteen - Tension, angst, black moment foreshadowing (and that's mostly for me, not the book)
Chapter Seventeen - Here it comes. Climax build up. Black Moment. Yes, hero, I know you hate me. Hang on with me. I won't leave you out to dry, I promise.
Chapter Eighteen - BAM. Black Moment. UGH. I'm emotionally drained. I need coffee. Or chocolate. Or coconut cream pie. Mmm...wonder if Shari's is still open...
Chapter Nineteen - Climax. My shoulders are tight. I feel like crawling out of my skin. Maybe I should kill someone just for the fun of it to ease all this stress?
Chapter Twenty - Resolution. Wrap up all the loose ends. Surprisingly, I did it! Kissy-face moment. Slobber, slobber, pant, drool all over each other. Man, I write pure sap. But it's not half-bad sap. ;)

Type T-H-E E-N-D.

Reeeeeeeeeeelief. I should get a medal or something. Too bad no one in the house will care that I finally finished. Wonder if there's champagne somewhere...

Hit "send".

Stare at blinking cursor.

Feel something funny. What is that? Oh yeah. I recognize that flutter in my belly. It's angst. Not over writing the book but over the fact I finished. Was the book crap or was it really good? Now I'm just not sure! And I have to wait to hear from my editor to find out the answer. (There go the eyebrows for sure...)

*smacks hand against forehead* Why do I do this again?


On to the next proposal...


How about you? What are the steps you go through when you sit down to start "Chapter One". Share your process!

And before I forget...this is for our dear friend, Alice:

(You gotta change that last word to "Alice")

Happy Birthday, Alice!!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What I'm NOT Doing

Current Project: NMMNG
Status: Page 30

Sorry for the late posting! What is the longest stretch you have ever gone without reading a novel? Back in college and graduate school, I would routinely go the 3-4 months of the term without being able to read fiction of my own choosing. I would then spend the breaks gorging on fiction. One of my favorite rituals was the day-after-finals library run. In the last six (GULP!) years though, I have become really spoiled. As you all well know, I am a voracious reader, and my book-every-other-day habit has sustained me through job changes, pregnancy, and early motherhood. For the past several years, I have known that if I truly want to write more, I should read less--it *should* be one of the easier things to let go. However, reading is my main form of stress relief, and I just haven't wanted to make that sacrifice. In the last two weeks, however, I have not finished a book. Instead, bedtime finds me with my book light still in hand, but with a yellow legal pad across my knees as I use the time for writing.

In the past, many of our speakers have lamented the fact that they are no longer readers with any great regularity, and I have secretly vowed to myself that that I would *always* sustain my reading pace, but in addition to simply *wanting* it more, something else has happened in the last year or so: I enjoy reading less. GASP. I found myself chucking more books against the wall, reading more like a writer--dissecting scenes and cliches, and really searching for the gems that let me truly escape. I found myself obsessed with nonfiction narratives about mothering and was stymied as to why until my best friend told me, "Duh! Bethany! Your mind wants you to give birth to and nurture a new book."

A light bulb went on and stayed brightly lit as I plotted this new book. The spark of wanting IT--the golden ring of success--grew and grew until I was willing to make some new sacrifices, and reading time was chief among them.

This worked awesome for about a week and half and the point of this blog was going to be about how the no-reading diet was working wonders for me, but like Debbie, I hit a wall writing wise and other stressors crept in and the NEED TO READ was this palpable beast following me around. I get discouraged that my paragraph by paragraph, page by page progress really isn't that much, and I get ahead of myself thinking about a tough winter term I have and if I will even be able to finish this book. Deep breath. And I need to read to escape those voices in my head. So I have played games with the need to read--I can read read after I write at least a paragraph which often leads to pages as I hit the momentum again. I carry my yellow pad and plotting book around with me the way I do my knitting, and word by word I am getting there.

Do you read less now than when you started writing? Has the trade off been worth it for you? If you read less, what other ways do you reduce stress? By reading less, do you enjoy it more when you do get a chance to read?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

NaNo Day 9, Goals and Motivation Revisited

Deborah Wright's ProfileCurrent Project: NaNoWriMo 2009
Status: 7816 / 50,000 words

I've been blogging daily about my NaNoWriMo experience in my personal blog. Yesterday's post (NaNo Day 8, On Which I Hatch A Cunning Plan) was about trying to figure out why, at 7427 words, I suddenly experienced the dreaded "now what?" syndrome. While the post was meant to be a bit tongue-in-cheek, the topic was serious. (And I wasn't lying about the directed dreaming--I really did that.)

You see, I'd been chugging along writing scenes, getting to know my characters beyond descriptions on a worksheet, thinking we were all having fun, when wham! I came to a wall. A blank wall, at that. What the heck was wrong? I'd worked on plot (boy, had I worked on plot!). So why couldn't I figure out what came next?

Over the course of the day--spent mostly away from the computer--I came to realize that while my characters had strong personalities, their goals were weak and their motivations, tepid. I'd made the fatal mistake of confusing the huge world building of the story (i.e. the setting/framework for the story) with the, actual, you know, story of the story. Confused? Yeah, me too.

The "world" of my story is huge. It's set in the "multiverse" (an infinite number of alternate universes) -- and you can't get much bigger than that. But the story itself, I think, needs to be more intimate, at least, the story that I want to tell does. The problem is, I made it too small. Small enough to be resolved in a chapter, maybe two chapters if I dragged things out. Thus, the wall I hit.

Part of the problem is my inexperience. I know that I'm still learning and until I actually complete a book, I'll continue to grope my way along. I understand that, tough as it is for me to admit ("I've been voraciously reading books all my life. You'd think I'd just know how to put one together!"). But another part of the problem is my personality. I dislike conflict in real life and I go out of my way to avoid it when possible. I like the characters I've created and I've discovered a blind spot I didn't know I had. I have a tough time making their lives difficult. Who knew?

My advice to myself? Get over it!

What I did on NaNo Day 9 was go back to the character drawing board and really examine character goals and motivation. I'm not quite done with that. I'd say I've raised the motivation temperature from tepid to warm and put a little pudding into the jello of their goals (ew! I really need to come up with a better visual for that!). Still, it was a realization worth having and changes worth making.

What about you? Do you (or did you) ever find yourself making things too easy on your characters? How did you get over it/solve that problem? A newbie (really!) wants to know.

Monday, November 09, 2009


Current Project:For A Sister's Love
Status: 80 pages

I've been working on a project with another author. She approached me several months ago with an idea of two sisters who crossed the plains in a wagon train and their parents were killed. The girls were adopted by different families and our book takes place with the journey of the two young women trying to find one another. She is writing the journey of the younger sister, and I'm writing the journey of the oldest sister. Her thought was the sisters were different to start with and then being raised differently the stories should be told differently.

Anyway, after the initial, "yeah, this sounds like fun", we instant messaged three times, discussing the family background of the girls, what each girl would be like and the heroes that they would encounter on their journeys. After each discussion we'd both think about our story and characters and then we'd get together again and do more brainstorming.

What I've found interesting in this process, is the other author started her story first. The catalyst that starts that sister looking for her sister has to do with the hero my sister encounters. And what she writes about that character I have to know to make my story work with hers. So in a way, I'm writing to a synopsis in that I have to make sure the information that she imparts is incorporated into my story. Very little of what I write pertains to her story, until I write the epilogue when they find one another. (the other author wrote the prologue about how they became adopted)

I'm finding I like this corroboration. It makes me think ahead more in my writing and gives me more points I have to make work in my story. I'm finding it challenging and fun. I hope our efforts pay off.

Could you work with another writer on a project that is interconnected? Do you think it would be fun or hard?