Friday, July 29, 2011

Character Soup

We often read about creating the perfect character.  A character that will live, breathe and connect with our readers.  That’s one of our goals as authors. 

One character I have seen that seems to meet that goal is Jo March from Little Women.  I hear people, ok  women, comparing themselves to her all the time.  People who have absolutely nothing in common with her claim to be Jo March.  Even the people who pretend the last half of the book doesn’t exist because they think she should have married Laurie (That would have been soooooo wrong) have some sort of connection to her.  I also hear of many people who assume they are character A, B or C from a friend or family member’s novel. 

 We want to create characters that everyone can relate to.  That’s what keeps them coming back, and creates the word of mouth marketing we long for.  Our characters are very dear to us, yet to create the characters that live beyond the pages of the novel we need to let go of them.  We know that readers will interpret the book with their own experiences and they will view the characters in their own way and understanding.  I think it would be hard to let go, hard to listen to fans who just didn’t understand.  Anyone have experience with this?    What do you think about relatable characters.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Expanding Vocab


I mentally wrote my blog post while vacuuming today.  Several two year old tantrums later I finally sat at the computer to write it out and couldn’t remember a single word.  Not even the subject.  I was quite sad because, of course, it was a brilliant post.  You’ll have to take my word on it. 

Here is a link to a fun vocabulary test pointed out by Deniz.  It's not hard and I learned some new words.  Have fun.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Pet Phrases

I've read blog posts about pet phrases or words.  Some authors use "just" a lot.  Others "that".  I often wondered what my pet phrase was but couldn't think of anything.  During my current round of revisions I have found my pet phrase.  I didn't realize how often I used the phrase "he/she knew".  Apparently he and she already knew about a lot of things. So many that I wonder why I'm even writing this book.  It's been quite frustrating, though luckily it's an easy fix.  In most cases I can just delete that phrase and the sentence is fine.  Still it's been an eye opener to me. 

Do you have pet phrases?  How do you keep from using them?  Or do you just ignore them and clean it up in revisions?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Goals


I’m not the kind of person who makes New Year’s resolutions.  I don’t so much have goals in my life as I know where I want to end up and work towards it.  But I have started making writing goals.  Mostly I make them over at CompuServe writer’scommunities where we have a goals thread each month.  When I first started joining in I felt quite foolish.  Goals are lame.  They were only for people who didn’t know where they wanted to end up or couldn’t get there on their own.  WRONG.

 I found that setting writing goals helped motivate me.  The kind of goal I set changes, it may be a word count, if I’m in a mad drafting stage, it may be an amount of pages revised, it might be finishing a section, or just working through a problem or character blockage.  My goals change as my needs change.  I try to make them challenging and since they’re there for motivational purposes as long as I’ve worked towards them and improved I don’t get upset at not actually completing them.   One thing I’ve found is that I need to make goals appropriate.  If I know I’m going to have a crazy month I make the goals smaller, less demanding, because I have found sometimes if I fall too far behind I start to stress.  Then I have to take a big breath and figure out why I’m not reaching my goal.  Am I lazy?  Or is whatever that is interfering more important?  If it’s the first I get to work, if it’s the latter I let the goal go.  Maybe because I’m not a big goal setter in the rest of my life it’s easy for me to set a goal aside if it just isn’t working. 

Goals are another tool in the writer’s toolbox.  It may work in some situations but rarely all and it’s there for my benefit. 

How do you feel about goals?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Journeys

Doesn’t it feel great when you have your whole life planned?  You know exactly how everything will go, career, family, finances, novel plot.  It’s a nice feeling to have it all lined up in front of you.

It’s not always a nice feeling when that all falls apart. I’m a firm believer that things happen for a reason.  I know Heavenly Father sees more than we do and gives us what we need rather than what we think is the best plan.  Though, sometimes I wish he’d tell us first.  The funny thing is no matter how stressful that change in plans is I often find out it really is for the best. 

Same with my novel.  Sometimes I have it all plotted out perfectly. Then I get some feedback or a crazy idea shows up while I’m in the shower.  I fret and fume and say “I can’t do that, it’s crazy, and I have it all planned”.  But when I sit down and find out where this thought leads it’s usually to a better place.  While I’m a big planner and organizer (not an outliner though) I sometimes have to learn to let go of my list and just take a journey, even if I don’t like the destination I will have learned a lot.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Question

I've had a reader comment that a few seconds after opening my blog the picture of the ferns at the top disappears, leaving a blank space.  Does this happen to anyone else?  I want to make my blog a positive viewing experience (and I really like the ferns) so if you're not seeing them or they are fading in and out let me know so I can try to fix it.  Thanks.

Author Review

Terry Pratchett is one of my favorite authors.  If you haven’t read him I highly recommend him.  He sold his first story when he was thirteen years old. Thirteen!  What was I doing when I was thirteen?  Oh yea, nothing.  He has written at least 38 novels, most of which are fantasy and take place in a mythical world called Discworld.  In 1990 he co-authored the book Good Omens with Neil Gaiman. 

Pratchett is a satirical author and has a dry, British, sense of humor.  Even better, he has an understanding of words that takes my breath away.  Sometimes I come across a turn of phrase or a character description and my jaw will drop with the beauty, simplicity and accuracy of his words.  He makes it look effortless.  His characters are fun, multidimensional and entertaining and I consider many of them my friends. 

I haven’t yet read all of his books and I haven’t read them in order but each one is a delight.  If you haven’t read any of his books I suggest you start immediately.  I recommend starting with his YA series. 
Wee Free Men
A Hat Full of Sky
The Wintersmith
I Shall Wear Midnight
This series details the adventures of Tiffany Aching and the Nac Mac Feegles who are blue, Scottish, and only six inches high.  They are some of my favorite literary characters and Truck Boy is going to be one for Halloween.  (What?  A pirate you say?  I’m sorry son you don’t get to decide) If you have read this series but haven’t listened to it on audio you should.  The reading of the Nac Mac Feegles is superb.  I was listening to A Hat Full of Sky and almost drove off the road.  Twice.  I was laughing so hard I was crying and couldn’t see the road.  I had to take it out of the car and just listen to it at home.  I’m giggling right now just thinking about it.

Some of my other favorite books are Making Money, Night Watch, and Nation.  Nation is not a Discworld book but a standalone novel that, while a little darker than his other novels, was most excellent.  If you want a good book about Christmas read The Hogfather, and in Soul Music Death joins the foreign legion.  (last Halloween The Engineer went as Death and Truck Boy went as the Death of Rats.) 

I guess I should stop now as this post is quite long.  I hope that I have been able to introduce you to a new author and that you enjoy him. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Making Sense of Life


Nathan Bransford had a post that I knew I had to read just because of the title, Stories Are How We Make Sense of Life.   It’s true.  I think most of you as writers use your writing as a way to process what you see, think, or feel.  Am I the only one like that?

In one paragraph Nathan says   Life is too complicated to hold in your head and relationships are too immense and multi-faceted to easily comprehend. So we write and tell stories to make sense of our relationships and existence.

Not too long ago I used writing to get over my anger at someone who had hurt me.  These feelings had existed between me and the person for over a year and I was tired of being angry, guilty, hurt and sad.  I had tried to get over my feelings for some time but hadn’t been able to.  Until I sat down and wrote everything out, what I felt, why I felt that way, what I was sorry about, how she was a mean nasty person and how she was a wonderful caring person.  After about five pages I was able to close the notebook and start fresh in our relationship.  I’ve never gone back to read what I wrote.  I don’t remember most of it, but along with the ink I bled my emotions onto the paper.  They were too much to handle but getting them out helped me to move on.   

Some of you know that Truck Boy is adopted.  He came into our family after eight years of infertility treatments and three years trying to adopt.  I wrote out a lot of my sorrow during those years and I think that is the only reason I managed to stay so well adjusted.  I use that term loosely.  (we are trying to adopt again if anyone knows of a child who needs a home.  We’re nice people I promise.)

Anyway, my point is that I agree with Nathan, life is complicated and writing helps me deal with it. It is not the only thing that helps, but it is an important part. Not everything I write to make sense of life goes into stories.  Not all the stories I write are about what I personally am dealing with. But dealing with the emotions in my writing helps me focus and understand my own.   How about you?


FYI there are some pretty interesting discussions in the comments section of Nathan's post if you want some weekend reading or need some way to procrastinate writing.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Define Yourself

I don’t know if any of you follow Amanda Hocking’s blog, if not I encourage you to take a look.  It’s a fun blog and she has a great voice, her personality really shows through.  Anyway, on a blog post a little bit ago she said this,

When I was in high school, I got really sad about the idea of being a writer. I mean, I wanted to be a writer, but everything I knew about writers made them seem boring and stodgy, or they were older men and alcoholics and depressed. I didn't want to be any of those things. I wanted to have fun and be silly, like a rock star.

But now that I'm older, I realize I can be whatever writer I want to be. That's an important truth. Or at least is to me. You live your life on your terms. Don't let anybody else's definitions rule you. Define yourself.

I really liked the last paragraph.  I’m sure many of us had preconceived notions of what an author is or should be.  We see “rules” all the time of how to be, or not be, an author.  But part of writing is finding your voice and that involves letting who you are shine through, or at least who you want to be. 

Be who you want to be, write what you want to write and don’t let anyone else’s definitions rule you.


Monday, July 11, 2011

I'm Back


I’m finally back from vacation, the car is unpacked though the suitcases aren’t.  Why do that when I could be on the computer?  I learned a few things on vacation.

I am addicted to the computer/internet.  No really.  Can’t. Get. Enough.

We had hamburgers 8 times in two weeks.  I don’t ever want to see another one.

I didn’t realize it until I took a break but I have been so wrapped up in my WIP I haven’t been seeing things.  After letting my mind lie fallow I started seeing stories in everything around me again.  I missed that.  

Letting my mind wander also gave me some great surprise insights into my WIP.  They just popped up out of nowhere.

IT was so much fun  to see Truck boy play with all his cousins.  I wish we lived closer to them.  

The humidity is killing me.  It only took two weeks in the west to undo five years of living in Georgia.  Which only proves my husband’s point, you really can’t get used to humidity.

I loved our vacation.  Even driving 2000 miles in three days (twice) wasn’t so bad, but I’m glad to be home.

I’ll have a proper writerly post on Wednesday, and I plan to spend some time catching up on blogs.  I missed everyone.  Hope you all have a good Monday.