Friday, April 29, 2011

Jumping to Conclusions

I babysit a little girl three days a week.  She is about three months younger than Truck boy.  Most days they play together well but some days they can't seem to get along at all.  She's soft and meek and my son, who is really kind of a woos, has found that he can push her around a little.  They're two and no I don't allow it but it happens sometimes.  Often they would be playing together nicely, then suddenly the girl would be sobbing huge crocodile tears.  Sometimes I would turn in time to see my son snatch something from her grasp.  Sometimes she would point at his toy and cry.  I always assumed he had stolen it from her.  I gave it back to her and my son had to sit in time out.  Well, one day I watched a little closer.  My son was playing with a toy and she grabbed it from him. when he took it back she started crying.  She had quite the racket going.   I'm sure some of the time he was the instigator but I learned never to jump to conclusions on only partial evidence. 

Sometimes when editing I think I know the problem with a scene.  It's the pov, or the plot, or the underpainting.  And I jump in to fix it, rewriting here, tweaking there, the whole while thinking it will be brilliant, only to find I still didn't fix the problem.  I need to stop jumping to conclusions, sit back and think a little.  If I do I find things I hadn't thought of before and the scene shapes up nicely.  Each day when I'm done with my editing I try to read over the next scene to get an idea of what it needs.  Then I can let it percolate in the back of my mind until my next writing session.  


How about you?  Do you jump in, think exhaustively, or a combination of the two?  

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Characters Part II

I love bread.  White bread fresh out of the oven.  I like to cut the heel off while still warm, cover it in butter which melts right in.  Sometimes The Engineer will come home and find both ends cut off of each loaf of bread.  I can’t help myself, it’s a disease.  But there are other kinds of bread I love, wheat bread, especially if you grind the wheat yourself.  It makes a difference I promise.  The bakery at my grocery store makes an amazing onion rye.  I love Naan, plain, garlic, or onion naan.  There’s cinnamon bread, the kind without raisins because eeeww, cheese biscuits, herb breads, sourdough, and those are just the ones off the top of my head. 

I think you probably all know where I’m going with this.  I’ve been thinking about my characters since my post on Monday.  Writers are people who explore themes, people, situations, emotions.  Obviously there are too many things that exist in this world, let alone other worlds we create, for us to write about all of them, but we don’t need to stick to our own little corner either.  I have written characters with different races, genders, cultural backgrounds.  I’ve written people dealing with cancer, suffering withdrawal, or who are a little mentally unstable.  I’ve done pov from every age group, baby to elderly, animals and even inanimate objects.  Last fall I tried writing from the pov of someone who was pregnant.  I’ve never been pregnant (Truck Boy is adopted) and it was hard.  I had to do a lot of research and talk with women who had been.  But I think I made it work.  There are still areas I haven’t explored and once again I am reminded to step outside my comfort zone. My post on Monday started me thinking of all the things I've never written and now want to.

I don’t think as authors we should thrown in certain things just so we can say we did.  I’m sure you’ve all read stories like that.   I’ve read a lot of YA books that seem to have drug use thrown in as an afterthought.  It doesn’t have anything to do with the plot or characters and it feels tacked on as if the author got to the end and decided to make the book more gritty or edgy.  It didn’t work.  Each author has preferences and things they won’t write.  That’s fine.  I won’t write sex scenes.  Just don’t want to.  But there are other things out there I haven’t written about that I could.

I guess I’m trying to say that we all need to stretch ourselves and think outside the box.  Here’s an assignment for anyone interested.  Obviously your WIP comes first but if you’re stuck and looking for something to get you going again try writing someone you’ve never written before.  Should you choose to accept write about one of these or come up with your own.   A fourteen year old boy who has Celiac disease (a wheat allergy), he can’t eat school lunches, he can’t ever eat over at a friend’s house, he has to bring his own food to scout camp.  Or maybe someone who is dealing with ghost pain from losing a limb.  Maybe your character is a stutterer who is at his first job interview.  If you haven’t written a person of a different cultural background do it.  If you do, and want to post it on your own blog or website go ahead and put a link up in the comments below.  I’d love to see it.  Good luck exploring. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Allergic


As writers we put a lot of effort into making our characters well rounded.  We give them personalities and quirks. Or rather, they have personality and we strive to show it on the paper, to help others know them as we know them.  But a character must be someone the reader can relate to, though I don’t think the reader necessarily has to like the character.  They need to have some good, some bad, they need habits and preferences. 

Allergies have been pretty good this year.  Instead of hijacking my life for a couple months they haven’t been more than a mild inconvenience.  I don’t know why I got off easy this year.  As I was wondering about it I realized I had never written a character with allergies.  Never.  Even though they are something that is a huge part of me and, I believe, I could write very convincingly.  I couldn’t decide if it was because none of my characters had allergies or if I was purposefully avoiding it because they make me so miserable I would hate to relive it in writing.  The Engineer has IBS (I know, too much info) and I don’t think I would do that to a character either.  No one wants to read about it.

Are there things you don’t/won’t do to your characters?  I’m not talking about plot or conflict.  Are there personality traits or habits you don’t give them, either because you don’t know anything about them or because you know too much about it and don’t want to write it. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Everybody needs a Friend

I'm working on a scene that was one of the first dozen or so I wrote for this novel. It is filled with telling, pov issues, tense changes and a myriad of other issues.  I'm mortified to remember how in my fresh faced eagerness I popped it up for critique immediately after finishing it.  My only defense is that I was naive and inexperienced in the ways of writing. 

Amazingly enough, everyone who critiqued the scene was very positive.  Oh, they pointed out the problems, they didn't hold back.  They just did it in such a way that I still felt I had potential, that I could make something of my story.  They didn't sugar coat the problems but they let me know how I could be better and encouraged me to try.

I am so grateful for the people who took the time to teach me about writing and pushed me to be better.  It is thanks to them I have grown enough to realize how bad that scene was.  

Where do you find help and support?  Crit groups, spouses, parents, children, friends, strangers, who has or is helping you learn and grow?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Finally!

Yesterday, for the first time in a week, I worked on my novel.  I have written blogs, done a few short crits but it was the first time I’ve really been able to write.  I loved it.  I was uncertain at first feeling distanced from my characters.  But there they were waiting for me and was able to sink right into their lives.  It didn’t stop when I stopped writing either.  As I was trying to drift off to sleep I was still having ideas for how to intensify the conflict or emphasize an emotion.  No wonder I haven’t been feeling right lately.  I NEED writing.  The good news is only two and a half more weeks until life goes back to normal (whatever that is).  


Does anyone else get a little twitchy and feisty if they don't write? 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Queries

As I was perusing a few blogs before my son awoke this morning I found two lists of what not to do on a query.  Apparently a lot of people are making these mistakes.  While I'm not yet working full time on my query revising and tightening my novel has given me some ideas for things to include so I thought it would be time to dust off all my saved query information.

The first blog I found this morning was from Rachelle Gardner
The second was over at BookEnds


Here are a few things I've saved about queries.  Unfortuantly when I saved them I didn't write down who wrote them in the first place.  I'm sorry I can't give links.  And to whoever did write them, please don't sue me.



Things to put into your query:

1. Theme (better that it be implicit than explicit, unless you know specifically that the agent feels otherwise)
2. The through line of your story (this is what we usually think of when we think 'query')
3. Make clear what the story is about.
4. Your credentials, if you have any relevant to the agent (prior publiciations, for example, or specialized knowledge/experience)
5. Request for representation (it's only polite)

The heart of the query is the through line + what the story is about. Key things to cover well:

* Who is this about?
* What is it about?
* Where does it take place?
* What is the problem?
* What is the obstacle to solving the problem?   
 





And


Query template

What does the protagonist want?
What's keeping him from getting it?
What choice/decision does he face?
What terrible thing will happen if he chooses A; what terrible thing will happen if he doesn't.

Here's another form of the same thing:
The main character must decide whether to ________. If s/he decides to do (this), the consequences/outcome/peril s/he faces are______. If s/he decides NOT to do this: the consequences/outcome/peril s/he faces are________.


Hope this is helpful, and if you have any good query links post them in the comments.

ETA I just found this sight with links to 35 blogs about writing the perfect query letter.  

Friday, April 15, 2011

I'm Dreaming...

BookEnds did a post today about dream agents.  First, it's always good to have another reminder that what we say on the internet is permanent and going to be read by A LOT of people.  That's the idea of a blog, right?  Second, do people really post about dream agents?  That's a good idea, I'll post about mine now. 

My dream agent is one who loves my book as much as I do.  There.  Now it's permanent for all to see.  Like most of you I have/am studying agents.  I'm trying to find ones I think I can relate to, cover my genre, or are just misguided enough that I can trick them, I mean convince them to sign me. 

I understand how after reading an agent's blog for years it would be easy to believe I already have a connection with said agent. In reality I can't imagine choosing a dream agent without having at least one conversation with her.  One not on the internet.  Or imagined. I want to find someone who is passionate about my story and has a plan for marketing it.  Someone who is competent, knows what they are doing, and who believes in and trusts me, just like I would them.  Yep, that's my dream agent.  Of course before I can find them I have finish this revision and send out queries.  Be ready agents!  I'm coming for you. 

First Page Crits

Suzie Townsend is offering crits of first pages.  Go here to find out more about it.  DON'T FORGET TO READ THE DIRECTIONS ON THE SIDE BAR!  I heard some people didn't see them.  You know, crazy people, not me or anything.

She's also did a post about first pages in general today, check that out here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

One More Time

Have you ever posted an excerpt for review only to look at it later and see glaring mistakes?  What about giving a crit and you read it the next morning and realize the kind tone you wrote it with didn’t come across and you sound harsh and cruel?  

So much of a writer’s interaction is done long distance and tone can be hard to portray when you don’t have face or voice inflections.  Always, ALWAYS, take a break and re-read what you are going to send/post. 

Sometimes we get tired of going over the same scene again and again.  Our beautiful well written story becomes something we can’t stand the sight of.  You think you probably ought to go over it one more time but you can’t stand to look at it and hit post just to end the misery.  DON’T.  Go over it one more time.  It will save you in the end. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Blogging and Writing

Usually by the time I sit down to blog I have a pretty good idea of what I'm going to say.  Today I didn't.  So I did a little internet surfing while trying to gather my thoughts.  Pretty soon I was stressing because I felt as if I was wasting my limited writing time.  (Though I did find some cool wall hangings for my son's room.)  I started to wonder how others do their blogging.  As you know I'm fairly new to this having only been here a couple months.  So, inquiring minds (me) want to know, how do you get blogging ideas?  And do you find it easier or harder to blog than write? 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Seasons

 It's strawberry season.  I love strawberries.  There's one month during the year when they're abundant and large, fresh and cheap. 
Strawberries come up several times in my WIP.  They pick them in the spring then preserve them to eat year round.  They're one of my MC's favorite food.  But I have had to be careful in what form I put them in the book during which seasons. 

Have you ever read a book that has people picking cherries in April?  Or maybe people are eating fruits that don't grow in that climate in a time period that doesn't have mass transportation?  I have.  It detracts from the legitimacy of the writing.  So watch your seasons, climates and hemispheres.  If you are making up a world what are the growing climates there?  Or is it a world where everything is instantly available?  Making sure you have such details correct will add authenticity to the writing and create a place readers will want to return to. 



But how can I concentrate on writing with one of these in the kitchen?
Mmmmm, strawberry pie.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Author Extraordinaire

All right, I haven't actually read any of her books.  (I'll get to them next I promise)  I don't often delve into her genre but Joanna Bourne is insanely knowledgeable in the craft of writing.  I highly advise browsing her blog.   On the sidebar, in her what this blog is about section, go to any of the sections that seem interesting; drafting and plotting, selling and publication, process of writing.  I have not made it through all the sections but the ones I have were invaluable.  I finally know what is wrong with chapters two and three.  I've rewritten, tweaked, prayed, struggled but nothing worked.  I've gotten closer to where it needs to be and forward movement is good but know I know how to tighten it up and fix the problems I couldn't define before.  Thank you Joanna.  Now I'm off to apply what I learned. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Five Minute Fiction

Leah Peterson over at Write Me! has a weekly Five Minute Fiction challenge.  Every Tuesday at 1:30pm EST she posts a prompt and you have five minutes to write a flash fiction piece which you then post in the comments.  The past month Five Minute Fiction has been doing a blog tour.  Today it was at Future; nostalgic. 

I have participated the past few weeks because, hey, it gave me a break from editing.  Also I thought it was a good exercise in jumping in, finding a story and writing quickly.  Imagine my surprise when I made it to the final five today!  There are lots of fun posts in the comment sections here.  So if you’re interested go have a read and if you really like one go ahead and vote for it.  

See you next week at Five Minute Fiction.

Monday, April 4, 2011

What d' u meen I hve to spell?

Over at Compuserve there has been a little discussion on spelling and grammar.  Did you know experts now say spelling is genetic?  It was new to me. 

I'm sure you've noticed on my blog that I struggle with spelling and grammar.  I don't understand it.  No matter how much I've studied and memorized "rules" it doesn't make sense to me. 

While it is nice to have something to blame my struggles on it doesn't get me off the hook, nor is it an excuse to stop trying.  While some people may find spelling and grammar easy anyone can learn it.  I can put together a coherent sentence.  Most days.  I just have to work harder at it than others who are talented that way.  It's the same for any skill or talent, some will be good at it, others will have to work harder, but that doesn't mean they can't do it. 

Spelling and grammar are very important to writers.  They are the building blocks of our sentences and thus our stories.  It's not right or professional to believe that editors will clean it up for us.  That's not their job.  It's our job to make it the best we can and that includes spelling and grammar. 

Do you think these are skills writers need to know?

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Art of Guilt

I'm sure everyone has heard that a writer is someone who applies the seat of their pants to the seat of the chair.  We have all heard the advice, just sit down and do it, in one form or another.  This is something I believe in.  To an extent.  Most days when I think I don't want to write I'm just being lazy and as soon as I sit down I get swallowed up in my story and have a great time.  But there are times when sitting down and writing are no good. 

Some days I know I don't have the compassion, the intelligence or the stamina to write.  When I have tried to write on those days it ends up being the worst thing paper (or a computer screen) has ever been forced to endure.  I always end up destroying it and being even more depressed because I'm a horrible writer and I don't know why I try, and I'll never be any good, and where's the ice cream. 

That's why I think it's important for a writer to know themselves.  Know when you're being lazy and bust yourself for it.  Put yourself in that chair and sternly tell yourself to get to work.  Or know when it's no good and it would be better for you just to read a book or take a nap.  That's where I'm at today.  I give myself permission to laze it up for half an hour.  And not feel guilty about it.  If at the end of half an hour I feel rested I may start on the revisions I had lined up for today.  If not, I still won't feel guilty.