Monday, December 12, 2011

This past week has been a lot of firsts for me...

First flat tire
First time eating at Five Guys restaurant (most awesome burger place ever!)
First time seeing Muppets Christmas Carol
First time editing a first draft from a printed version

I've had first drafts before. I can thank five years of doing NaNoWriMo for that. But this is the draft that has gone further than all other drafts, and so I feel it's a new level of editing for me. It's also the largest first draft I've ever written, which makes the task that much more exciting and daunting.

I outlined this novel for a long time and planned out every process of how I was going to write it. And the planning worked well. But now I'm realizing I have not planned out a single bit of how I'm going to go about making it better.

After doing some research online and listening to some friends' advice, here's my battle plan:

1. Read through casually without making any editing marks, but take notes on my most common mistakes.
2. Come up with a way to remedy those mistakes and write the second draft focusing only on those.

Do any of my readers have experience with editing first drafts? Got any advice for me?

I'll let you know how it goes. Also, even though some people might argue that editing manuscripts is the same on a computer screen as it is on the printed page, if nothing else having my entire novel printed out somehow seems empowering. The words are there, unchangeable. My story is now permanent. Looking at printed pages also enables me to make notes with fancy calligraphy pens. That's something you can't do on a computer screen.

Jo's Finished Manuscript
(This scene from Little Women is what I've always dreamed my manuscript would look like one day)

Monday, December 5, 2011

I'd like the feeling in my bum back, please...

It's been five days after the end of NaNoWriMo, and I think I'm just now recovering. It sure was one exciting month.

There were really two goals I was aiming for: 80k words and finishing the actual story line. I didn't make the second one. There are still three chapters at the end of my plot line that are only outline stubs. I hope to fix that in the coming weeks.

But the first one, I definitely made that goal.

On the last day, I managed to set a new personal record for how many words I have written in a day, at 18,216. That was done at the fabulous write-in at Dunn Bros coffee house in Eden Prairie. It was a LOT of sitting still while drinking caffeine, and having word wars every half hour, and writing straight for about six hours without stopping. In the craziness of it, I didn't bother to switch scenes at all. My characters ended up in a subterranean secret labyrinth navigating their way through using an audio-guided tour that says things like "This tunnel was dug in 1872 just before the Steamclot mining company went bankrupt. Please move to the left to avoid being impaled."
I also made up a mythical creature and put it in the labyrinth, because all labyrinths should have some kind of mythical creature stalking them, right?

Though it gets wacky at times, I am so happy about my book. And proud that I pushed myself this year to go above and beyond what I thought I could do.

My final word count? 102,173!

Thank you to everyone who has cheered me on, supported me this past month while I let things like housekeeping and phone calls slip away from me. This was very important to me and you all got that. I thank you very much for the freedom to do what I love to do with complete abandon one month out of the year. It's not everyone who gets to do that, and YOU made it possible!

Congratulations to all NaNoWriMo participants and winners! Remember, if you didn't make the word count you were hoping for, at least you wrote more words because of NaNo than you otherwise would have written, and that makes you awesome. :)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Battle plan for the last two days:

1. Fill in the missing parts on my outline.
2. Write like crazy and see if I can still make 100k.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Only 3 days left!!!

NaNoWriMo is nearing its end. I had hoped to post more in the past week, but I decided it was much more important to focus on my writing.
As a result, I wrote 10,000 words in one day!!! That was fun. And exhausting.

Up until now, my experimental method of outlining has proved to be incredibly helpful. But I wimped out on the last part of it, and it's not as detailed as I would like it to be. As I've been used to for the entire month. I'm finding that I'm having to make new decisions after all about how certain things are going to fit into the plot, and how they're going to happen. It's really slowing me down.

I now sit at 80,000 and am hoping to reach 100,000 still before midnight on Wednesday. Meaning I will have to write 6,667 words each day. I think I can do it, but even still, wish me luck!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Hi all,

I got Thanksgivinged into nothing but a bump on a couch this past weekend. Part of my family had Thanksgiving early, and my writing time was taken up with preparing some food to bring, the party itself, and recovering from eating so much afterwards.

I've been sluggish and slow. But now that my cat has enjoyed all the cuddles he could get falling asleep on my lap while I sat on the couch, I'm ready to get back at writing, and posting, and hopefully there's enough left in the month to get a significant number of words written.

(He's stuffed.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Terrible Tuesday and Word-War Wednesday

Sorry for missing the post yesterday. Since I hit 50k, I was a little burnt out for writing and took a day to recover. I wrote absolutely nothing yesterday.

Time to get back at it! And what better way to do that than to have a word war?

For this week, let's see how many words we can write in ten minutes again, but with a twist.

Do five sessions of ten minute sprints, then average your word counts. This isn't just a word sprint. It's a challenge to see how well we can write over time. It seems easy enough to crank out words in ten minute intervals. But to do that consistently is another matter.

Have fun!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Method Mondays

I reached 50,000 words!!!!!!!

Thanks to a write-in hosted by my friend Inspie_Girl, I was able to write 4,609 words today, bringing me just 100 words over the top of NaNoWriMo's traditional goal.

I've never hit 50k this early, and other years it's been a struggle to barely get enough words. So why is this year different?


As I've mentioned before, I've been using a combination of the Snowflake method and the Phase Drafting method. I was a little scared that putting so much time into an experimental outlining method without testing it first was risky. What if November came and I started writing, only to realize that my outline wasn't helping me get what I wanted?

But it has paid off. It is SO EASY to write using these methods and here's why I think it works: It separates the decision making process from the actual writing process.

I know not everyone writes using outlines and honestly, sometimes outlining is a pain. But outlining so far in advance this year has made it wonderful.

Good luck in your continued writing adventures! I'm off to write the next 50k! (But not tonight, of course.)

(To be confirmed by the NaNoWriMo word count bots on November 25)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Surplus Sunday

It's quarter to 8 and I've already reached my word goal for the day, and I don't feel like writing anything more.
My husband and I put up our first ever Christmas tree together yesterday and it looks soooo joyful and Christmasy that I'm getting distracted thinking about Christmas.

My husband also bought me a chocolate orange yesterday, just because. (Awwww. :)
To keep myself motivated, I'm going to eat one slice of chocolate orange for every 1,000 words I write. (Also sharing one with the husband, of course!)

I'm going to eat a starter slice first though, just to let my taste buds know what I'm missing as I write.

Ready, set, BURST!

*kitteh is curious about chocolate orange*

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Folly Friday and Something Saturday

Well, yesterday I took a break from writing. I was a little burned out. Sorry about not posting.

But today I was able to recoup my word count. Now I just have to get today's 3,333 words out of the way and I'll be good to go until tomorrow.

We'll see you then once I have more time and don't forget to post! :)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thicken Thursdays

Time to thicken up those plots again!

Last week I added an ottendorf cypher to mine, and I only just got around to writing about it yesterday. I'd say it added about 800 words to my novel (not to mention all the words it will create in the future) and probably %10 intrigue to my plot. I already have a labyrinth, a headless horseman, mountain goats, a dragon, an argyria-stricken cult group, and seven mystical islands. How possibly could I cram anything more in?

This time I'm going to thicken my plot by adding something not quite so fantastical. My main character is going to become one of the villains...without even knowing it. Well, she knows it, but doesn't.
She basically dresses up and passes herself off as the secondary villain character to escape impending doom. But what she doesn't realize is that she's not just playing dress up. People actually take her seriously and carry out her orders. Without meaning to, she kind of throws her fellow servants under the bus while at the same time strengthening and saving her enemies.

I like this twist because my main character has spent her entire life opposing this villain, only to become her. Not only will this thicken the plot, but I needed a way to make my main character simmer down from her revengeful and prideful ways. Becoming the villain kind of makes her start to realize that perhaps revenge is not the best way to deal with her mother's death.

Anyways, I could continue and probably end up spilling my entire plot here if I don't stop. (Before November, my outline was 50k words already so trust me, you don't want to hear the entire plot right now.)

So I challenge you today, if you're writing, to add something in to your story that you didn't plan on having there this morning. It can be a huge plot twist, or it can be a side thing that's small and out of the story again within a few paragraphs. Throwing yourself surprises is one way to keep your story fresh and new.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Word War Wednesdays

Ok, everyone. I'm at a coffee shop and ready to write!

Tonight, I'm going to see how many words I can write in ten minutes. If I feel up to it, I'll try it more than once and attempt to beat my own time.

Good luck, all! Go! Build your wordy worlds!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Trip Tuesday

Sorry, guys. I wasn't able to do location writing at all today.

But I can tell you where I would like to have been writing. This place:

No idea where it is, but isn't it gorgeous?

Word count: 26,848. I'm at the 25k mark! Yay!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Method Monday - four simple words

Hi all.

I'll be quick, but wanted to post about a neat little trick I discovered for boosting word count AND keeping your plot on track.

I was writing according to my outline, when suddenly things took an unplanned turn. I began writing a completely different scene that wasn't in the outline and realized if I was going to continue with it, I would end up down a large rabbit trail that would threaten the continuity of my plot.
So I added these 4 simple words and it fixed everything:
"But that's another story."

It enabled me to keep the couple paragraphs of words I had written, therefore upping my word count, and I was able to get back to my original plans for the story. Plus, it leaves that "other story" wide open for an extra short story I can write later on the side, or incorporate some other time. It adds background to the story, gives the appearance of depth, and shows the reader that there's more to the story than is being told.

Anyways, hope that helps! Got any methods about writing or reaching 50k you'd like to share?

(Edit: Word count at the end of Monday is 23,451. I'm on track for 100k!)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Surplus Sunday

It's 4:07 pm. I have until 5:40 when I have to leave for a church event.
Time to write!

My goal: write a surplus of words, as many as I can. It doesn't matter if a reach a certain goal or meet a certain deadline. I'm already way ahead on my word count so anything I write today will be surplus to tide me over in case I have (will have) lean days.

Wouldn't it be nice if you could go to a surplus store and buy people's extra words? Well, maybe you can't actually buy other people's words, but perusing a surplus store of random things could help to boost your word count by giving you extra inspiration for writing.

I went to one the other day and only had 6 minutes before they closed to pick stuff out. I found a gas mask, a bunch of random electronic parts, and some plastic gears. I didn't buy any of them, but that gas mask is still stuck in my mind. I'm always a softie for biohazard stories, and while I know I'm NOT going to include a biohazard in my story (I've already got a dragon, mind-control, and a subterranean labyrinth), it has sparked my creativity. The fear that a mass break-out of a biohazard causes is similar to the effect I was looking for.

So go out and write those surplus words! Or find them in random objects at a thrift store. Either way works.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Sanctuary Saturday


Yesterday was a long writing sprint for me. For some reason the 7,000 words I wrote on Nov. 2 didn't seem quite as long as the 5,000 words I wrote yesterday. I think that's because I'm getting into the part of the plot that I really care about. You know how writer's often give advice to other writers about taking the first 2 or 3 chapters they right and deleting them completely? I think I might have to do that when I start making my revisions after November. Because the story really starts to pick up in chapter five.

These past four days I've written in several different places. More than I ever have before. But not once have I sat down at my actual desk to write. I find that kind of odd. It's not that I don't like my desk. In fact, my husband went out and bought me the exact desk I had labeled as my dream desk without me even telling him about it. I've also spent months getting it set up just the way I want to.

So why haven't I written there? Probably because it's messy, but also because it's tucked away in a different room where no one else visits and I would feel very isolated there. Don't get me wrong, I love the isolation for writing. But I'm hesitant to go there because it takes commitment.

If I sequester myself in that room at my desk, it means there are no other distractions, no one else to talk to. It's just me and my book. I have to be pretty committed to only writing my novel while I'm there, and as much as I love writing, that doesn't seem appealing to me right now. I'd almost rather be in a place where I can get distracted because then I can take mini breaks.
But I know the time will come when I need complete isolation, and then I'll go to my desk.

What is your writing sanctuary? How does it work for you? Why did you choose that particular spot?

It could be a regular seat at a coffee shop, a closet you've turned into an office, or the living room couch or kitchen table. I know of one person who writes in the bathtub!

Whatever it is, enjoy it and plan to use it well as we head into week two of NaNoWriMo. Good luck everyone!

Word Count: 17,854

Friday, November 4, 2011

Fast Fridays

I don't work on Fridays. So I was hoping that today I'd spend the entire time writing.

After waking up late, going to work for an hour for some last minute stuff, and getting sidetracked by an estate sale on the way to my writing spot, I'm finally here at Caribou ready to write.

I also have yet to go grocery shopping, which means I only have a few hours to pound out some words. I am going to have to write really fast.

So here goes! Every Friday I'm going to attempt to write double my daily word count. My goal is to reach 100,000 words by the end of November, which means my daily goal is 3,333. By the end of today, I need to have written 6,666 words to make double.

If anyone's joining me on this, good luck!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thicken Thursdays

Sometimes during NaNoWriMo, you end up with a plot that seems to go nowhere. Or you just don't know what's going to happen next.

Or sometimes your plot goes along just fine and it's not a challenge at all and you find yourself wondering what's so interesting about your story anyway.

Throwing a proverbial wrench into the mix can do a lot of things for a story.

I've been outlining my novel for eight months and have everything almost completely decided upon. But, in honor of Thicken Thursdays, I'm going to throw something completely new into my plot to thicken it up: an ottendorf cypher.

I was thinking of National Treasure today, and realized I really liked the code they used on the back of the declaration of independence.

What will you choose to thicken your plot? Or do you have ideas for other people that don't quite fit with your story, but you want to share anyways?

Happy writing!

Word Count: 9,413

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Word-War Wednesdays

I challenge you!

Today, let's see how many words we can each write in, say, an hour. Post your results in the comments below.

I find that word wars are great for the first couple days of NaNoWriMo. I'm usually hesitant when I first start because I haven't gotten into the flow of my novel yet. Forcing myself to pump out words and forget about worrying if they're the right ones or not helps get me in the mood to write the good ones later on.

Feel free to use Write or Die or any other method of timing your words. Good luck! (I'll post my results in the comments as well.)

It's a Word War!
Word Count: 7468

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Trip Tuesday

This morning, and I mean really early this morning, I did my location writing at IHOP near Mall of America.

I joined in with several other NaNoWriMo people and we counted down to midnight, then wrote madly for a twenty minute word war. It was interesting to write in a restaurant surrounded by other people, all typing as fast as possible. It was quite the motivation sound track.

Being in a place I've never been before seemed appropriate for starting a new novel, because I had to put myself inside the main character's shoes, and every scene was new to me. I think it helped me focus on developing the opening scene.

Did you attend a write-in? Where did you start writing at midnight?

I challenge you to find at least one location this week outside of your normal writing routine, just to see what it does for your writing.

Day 1 Word Count: 4,457

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Writing ditty

Write a book through and through
Write a proposal and query too.
Send them out in droves and hordes
To as many agents your pocket affords.

Keep on tweaking, writing, breathing,
Despite the rejection letters' seething.
Don't forget you can always be better.
Keep sending out those query letters!

If no one offers representation,
Consider other modes of publication.
But first, take a good, hard look
At the quality of your much-rejected book.

Audiobooks, Kindles, PDFs,
Do whichever you think is best.
Plan your publicity well and clear.
Work, work, work! Your book is here!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

NaNo Toolbox

NaNoWriMo doesn't have to be planned out. You can write by the seat of your pants (called being a pantster) and sometimes, that's fun.

But I've come to the realization that NaNoWriMo can be more than just fun. It can help writers become more experienced in their craft.

The hardest part about writing a book in a month is that every single word is a decision. That's 50,000 decisions you have to make, 1,667 decisions every day. I find my mind gets tired of making decisions really quick, especially if I also have to decide which way the plot is going in the process. Deciding on a few things before you begin writing will help take away some of the burden during November.

The following tools are things I'm finding help me a lot when I start a new project. You don't have to spend hours on them, but even just thinking about it without making a firm decision will help you discover what you want to write when the time comes.

1. A genre. (Pick one or make up your own.)

2. A main character. (Even better if you know what motivates your main character.)

3. A single sentence describing the most important part of your plot.

4. A villain or antagonist.

5. A setting. (Time & place)

6. Minor characters

7. A detailed outline of your plot.

8. Any research you might need about your setting or characters.

9. What the denouement (climax) of the story will look like.

10. Passion about what you're writing. (And yes, this is a decision/choice.)

With these ten things prepared beforehand, I can almost guarantee you'll have lots of fun writing an entire book in 30 days.

This year I decide to go for the uber outline. I've been preparing this story for eight months and have gotten it to the point where I could almost hand over my notes to a seven year old and they'd be able to write it. I certainly should be able to!

Good luck in getting ready for a writing marathon! See you November 1st! I can hardly wait...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


It's the time of year when the leaves fall, and when I greatly anticipate the start of November. Next month is a time of literary abandon through the program NaNoWriMo. I'm so excited. I've been outlining what I'm going to write for six months and my fingers are itching to type.

During November, I plan to have a short post for EVERY DAY of the month, mostly pertaining to writing, of course. The schedule is as follows:

Surplus Sundays: Encourage writers to write more than their daily goal to build up a surplus of words going into the week.

Method Mondays: Talk about methods we use during NaNoWriMo or anytime of the year to get the writing done.

Trip Tuesdays: All about location writing. What are some favorite places to write? The most convenient? Every Tuesday I will purpose to write somewhere I've never written before.

Word-war Wednesdays: Kind of self-explanatory, but I'll be challenging writers to see how many words they can write in an hour, then post their results in the comments.

Thick Thursdays: Challenge writers to thicken their plots. I will offer a choice of ways to do this, but it's entirely up to you! I will also post how I chose to thicken my plot.

Fast Fridays: I will attempt to write double my daily word count goal every Friday. Watch those fingers fly! If you want to join in the challenge, awesome! Post how many words you got done in the comments.

Sanctuary Saturday: We'll talk about writers and their writing spaces, how to protect your writing time and space, and what are some good ideas for setting up that perfect ambiance of inspiration.

See you on November 1st with Trip Tuesday, my first location writing exercise! I'm off to the NaNoWriMo forums!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

To picture or not to picture

Sometimes I read other blogs because the picture they embed at the top of their post is interesting. It draws me in.

Other times, I see the picture, but then don't read the text because the first few sentences are boring and I'm already looking for a quick and easy intake of information...the picture sets me up for that. I want the post to be just as entertaining as the picture or else I won't read it.

In short, putting pictures before every post on a blog is a great way to draw people in. But if your post doesn't live up to the expectation you create by giving your readers a picture first, then they'll likely drop you like a hot potato.

Kinda like publishing. The first chapter (or prologue if you must) is a promise to your readers of what they can expect. If your first chapter rocks, but the rest of the book is slow, they'll most likely stop reading, frustrated with a story that doesn't stay true to what that first chapter promised.

Of course there are other things that catch the readers' eyes before the first chapter that also act as promises: cover art, what section of the bookstore it's in, what they've heard about the book online, the reviews they've read, which of their friends recommended it, the blurbs and summary on the jacket cover, etc. But these things you don't necessarily have control over if you seek traditional publishing.

It's kind of sad, in a way, that the very first promise I'm going to make to my beloved future readers whom I've dreamed about writing for for years isn't even in my control. The cover art could be completely misrepresentative of the book inside. The blurbs could promise my book will make the readers' hair stand on end, when all I really wanted to do was make the reader feel warm and cozy. Sounds a little awkward, doesn't it? Having to fulfill the promises your publisher and editor have made for you by designing your publishing package?

And yet, maybe we do have control over those things as well. Our publishers and editors are people, too. In fact, they are our very first readers. If we can't communicate the vision of the book to them, the excitement and passion we poured into it, then maybe they won't know how to present it to readers in the way we envisioned.

My pastor (who's also my boss) talks a lot about vision. He says it needs to be clear, it needs to be inspiring, and it needs to be portable: you have to be able to transfer the vision to someone else. And not just to one other person through a ton of thoughtful explaining. You need to be able to port your vision to lots of people, and be able to do that with a simple summary of your book.
Can you sum up your book in an inspiring, single sentence that draws people in?  Can you talk about your book with passion, excitement, and longing? Is your passion about what you're doing catchy?

To picture or not to picture...

Do we present the reader with something that draws them in all easy like and promises great content with little effort on their part? Or do we draw them in slowly, telling them upfront that this book will take a lot of clever thinking to keep up with it, that it will challenge them?

Maybe I should put a picture in at the end. Kind of like an easter egg in a DVD, or a reward for reading all the way through. I know I will never walk out of a movie theater again until the credits have completely played through. I did that once, with an X-men movie, and didn't get to see Magneeto playing chess without his powers. I now expect and even hope for that last picture at the end. Maybe building a reputation that way would draw people in, knowing your work is solid all the way through? Have a picture. :)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Food for the Writer's Soul

I was thinking about NaNoWriMo today and wondered, what goodies should I stock-pile as incentives during November?

Chocolates? Maybe.
White tea? Definitely.

But mostly, I love rewarding myself by spending money on ingredients for a fancy meal. Today, I discovered a meal that doesn't cost a lot and is easy to make. And I wish I could eat it continuously without getting full, it's that good.

Cumin-Spiced Chicken with Chunky Tomato Sauce
served with
Creamy Squash Risotto

I used Cub brand cooked squash 'cause I couldn't find frozen butternut squash and it still tasted good. I also used 5-minute pre-cooked rice so it didn't take me as long to heat things up in the microwave.

Husband, friends, and family: If you want to make my day, cook me this. :)
I'm going to use it as word-count motivator during November as a reward for reaching a certain word goal.

If you have a favorite way of rewarding yourself for making your goals during NaNoWriMo, or for writing in general, share in the comments! I'd love to hear them.

Looking forward to tomorrow's lunch of leftovers! :)

Monday, July 18, 2011

World Building - tougher than it sounds?

Every time I sit down to world build, I get frustrated: All I want to do is rush off and work on the PLOT of the story. I know how things are imagined in MY head. Why not let the reader imagine things for themselves, too?

I had planned to spend all of July building up the setting of my work in progress, and suddenly found myself almost two thirds of the way through the month without having done much. I finally gave up and decided I was going to rush ahead and make up the plot.

Within the first five minutes of plotting, I wanted to write a scene where one of my characters exclaims "By Jove!"

While I never intended to leave the word Jove in my novel, it did raise a question.
Jove is a derivative form of swearing by god's name. I asked myself, "What would my characters swear by? What would they bless by? Would they do the traditional Christian thing and say 'Thank Goodness!' even though they're on an alternate version of Earth?"

Suddenly I was world building and didn't even realize it. Funny how the right question will unlock a wealth of information.

I went from making up swear words and friendly exclamations to inventing what sorts of religions these people might follow. Soon after that I was drawing a map of my world just so I could point out to myself where all the religious places were.
Then I felt compelled to name all the new countries I had just drawn (or at least name them something other than colors of the rainbow which I had temporarily bestowed upon them).
Coming up with names for countries led me to realize that country names in our world today are from ancient words meaning things like "Horse people" or "People of the white mountain" (this is my simplification of it).
So I came up with a general genetics map of who has black hair, red hair, white hair and where they live, and which areas are more mixed than others. I also named the countries after things that they're known for, like industry, desert-land, and bountiful harvests. Plugging these words into Google translator and choosing a different language until I got something I liked was tons of fun.

By the end of the first day of me "giving up" on world building, I had a map of my entire world, names for all my countries, some slang words and their etymologies, I knew where everyone lived, what they believe and how they practice it, and, of course, which gods they swear by. I knew the political tensions between the countries, what certain places war over, what the weather is like in different parts on my map, and I had even created three different mythologies which a few characters in my story will draw upon.

I don't know how I could have ever found World Building hard before. Before I started asking questions, (ok, so just the one question) I wasn't interested. I didn't think there was enough to my world to talk about. I didn't want to bore my readers. But now, because I got curious and asked a question, I have a wealth of information.
Not all of it, or even most of it, will make it into my book, but it IS useful. It helps me imagine what I need to in order to build the world around my main character.

So here's to being curious, even about imaginary places!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Vacations! And how they make you feel...

Last week my husband took me to a water park on spur of the moment. It was Wednesday, and within half an hour of leaving work, I was standing at the top of a water slide, looking out over the highway at all the rush hour traffic I was missing and thinking to myself, "This doesn't feel like a Wednesday."

For Independence Day weekend, we had a blast, camped out on my in-laws' lawn, kayaked on their lake and talked with my lovely in-law uncles and grandma and grandpa. We didn't have our phones, our wallets, our computers or anything with us the entire time. Just the clothes on our backs. It was....odd. And wonderful.

I didn't do any writing. But when we got back to our normal, city apartment life, there was a difference in how I wrote. I had new visions of things to come in my book and my imagination was infused with real-life experiences that can't possibly be put into words.

It's important for writing to make life great. Even if I wasn't a writer, it'd be important, but especially because I am. A picture is worth a thousand words, but an experience is priceless and can't be bought with words on a page.

Maybe that's why being a writer is so attractive to so many people. You kind of have to have a thrilling life full of adventure, mishaps, explorations, and interesting things that happen in order to write. If you can find an author who led a boring life, tell me and I'll correct myself.

It's summer! Go out and take a walk. Discover new places. Go on a bike ride down a new trail. Go camping. Cook something you've never cooked before (I'm experimenting with something called a Poblano pepper and Butternut squash tonight). Strand yourself somewhere with nothing to do, no cell phone, or computer, and see what your mind comes up with to do. I've noticed that there are all kinds of ignored corners and fascinations we miss because we're busy with other things.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Are writer's selfish?

I recently had two conversations with people I know are writers. The first one was a new acquaintance and someone mentioned to me they were a writer. So I decided to probe and find out how serious of a writer they were. I asked them what their book was about and this person gave me a single sentence, succinct summary. I was pleasantly astonished and continued to ask questions. I found out they were a serious writer, had paid to take a few writing courses online, and hoped to be published someday.
Knowing how avid writers usually are about networking, I thought for sure this person would ask me about my novel, or at least ask if I've ever been published.
But apparently not. They were quite content to go on talking about their own novel and philosophy on writing, and even acted like they were better than me for having taken an online writing course. I quickly lost interest and stopped asking questions.

I also had a phone conversation with another writer I know. This person I've known for years and we've talked about writing before. Every time we talk, they sit on the other end of the telephone waiting for me to ask questions. It's like pulling teeth to have a conversation. This person also acts as if his writing is some sacred jewel of information that should be leaked out slowly and only to those who prove they really want to know.

So what is it about writers that make us such bad conversationalists about our own craft?
Are we selfish and use awkward silences to force others into asking us about our books? Or are we just scared people will steal our ideas? Should we be?

Or perhaps so few people ask us about our work that we're just not used to coming up with words to describe it. Maybe we're just afraid the other person won't understand our writerly jargon, or will think we're nuts for trying out rubbish ideas.

Still, I don't think any of the above are good reasons to hide what you've put your heart and soul into. A writer survives by building publicity these days and mouth to mouth is the most powerful way of spreading your fame.
But not only is your one sentence book idea spread easily between mouths, your attitude is as well. Be kind. Reciprocate to us poor souls who are more interested in you as a person than in your story. We want to have a two way conversation, not just have you perform for us by talking endlessly about your novel. Don't get me wrong, I love a good story. But I'd rather have you as a friend than an entertainer.

Friday, May 13, 2011

New direction for the blog

I'm tired of coming up with writerly things when I don't feel like I'm an expert. I'm not published yet. Don't come here to read about publishing. (These blogs do so much better than me!)

You can expect to find on this blog the following:

Things I find interesting.
Things that blow my mind that I want to share with you to make life more enjoyable.
The few and far between but still potent insights I have about writing. Yes, I will still talk about writing. Just not as much.

With that out of the way, here's what has fascinated me today:

I'm attempting to make this out of paper. It's proving to be a LOT of fun! :)

Enjoy life, readers.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Flushing out the Questions

Bouncing like rubber balls around in the hollow spaces of any writer's brain are thoughts about their craft, doubts, and questions. And I know a lot of times we try to ignore them, afraid if we acknowledge one, the rest will pour out like a deluge and extinguish our passion for what we do.

But my thought for today is, how bad can it really be to acknowledge them? Wouldn't it feel better to get those bouncy balls out of your thoughts so you can think more clearly? Here's my go at it...

Is it worth it in the end?
Will getting published make me feel like I've finally fulfilled my writing dream?
How do I know if I have that edge to my story that makes it stand out?
Will people really like what I write?
Does anyone even read anymore?
What's the best format to pursue? Online ebooks or traditional?
Should I even bother looking for an agent or just go straight to e-pubbing?
Does my novel have enough oomph?
Are my characters flat and uninteresting?
Is my story all plot and no characterization?
Am I too much in love with what I write to see its flaws?

As writers, I think we re-evaluate our craft, our ideas, and ourselves every time we sit down to write. Perhaps that's why a blank page is so intimidating to some.

Now with all those questions out, I can focus on the reason I started writing in the first place: Because I love it passionately. With that view firmly in mind with no bouncy balls to knock it out of its place, I can write clear and focused.

I'm going to write a list of questions like this every time I sit down to write, just to flush them out of my thoughts and allow myself to get focused.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

April is Poetry Month!

It kind of snuck up on me.
The last two years I've been gun-ho excited to participate but for some reason this year I didn't even realize it was poetry month until a few days in!

Because my head is very much into fiction at the moment, I'm finding it hard to think about poetry as well. For sure, I will still be writing poetry. I want to at least attempt to write one poem per day. (I need to catch up!) But I won't be posting them here. I figured since my head isn't in the game, I'd spare everyone from having to read my less than stellar poetry.

But by all means, head over to Robert Brewer's Poetic Asides blog to check out his poetry prompts for each day, to read hundreds of poems his readers have posted, and to participate yourself.

Have fun!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The War Continues

Every time I sit down to write now, I end up splitting my time between my two novels. It usually goes like this:

Sit down, drink tea, open project 1.

Smile at my darling novel, begin writing.

Get frustrated, close project 1, realize my dreams of being a writer are unrealistic.

Drink tea, open project 2.

Smile at the novel that's better than the other one, begin writing.

Get frustrated, drink tea, pet cat, get hugs from hubby, sit down, open project 1.

You see my dilemma? Oh, you don't see it? It's right there in between the fact that I'm managing to write something every day.

The truth is, I kind of like this. Even though I feel like I'm not getting anywhere, I am writing. And I'm writing even in the midst of getting frustrated at a project.

This is just more evidence that writer's block doesn't have to exist. All you need are several other writing projects to go to when you get stuck on one. That way, you'll always be writing no matter what.

Hang in there if you're frustrated or impatient for your novel to get done. And maybe go drink some tea.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Compulsive Beginnings

It turns out Unsubscribe day is more like unsubscribe week. Some places take ten days to unsubscribe you from their system. I don't like it, but I guess that's the way it is. Hopefully by next week I will have a much slimmer Inbox.

Which is important because I just started my new job and every week I get about 40 e-mails from my fellow co-workers. :D I love it. It makes me feel like I'm needed.

With the start of my new job, I haven't done anything with my WIP for three weeks. Which felt strange because that's the longest I've ever gone without working on it since I started almost two years ago.

But for the past three weeks, I was writing. I didn't have a chunk of time I needed to devote to my WIP to get past a major barrier, so instead I started a different novel, one that I could add to in bits and pieces a few minutes at a time.

Now I have a pleasant conundrum. I'm still in love with my WIP, but am really excited about my newest novel. Which do I work on?

It reminds me of when I used to play Civilizations and Age of Empires. They fascinated me and were a ton of fun, but I found myself addicted to fresh, new beginnings. It was rare I ever finished a game because every time I'd sit down, I would want to start something new. A blank slate with no mistakes on it with all the possibilities of becoming a successful game.

My WIP is almost done (done? Is there such a thing?) so I'll probably stick with it until I reach that next satisfactory step. But I have no doubt I'll continue to grow my newest story here and there, squeezing it in around my schedule.

Have you ever had more than one significant story going at the same time? How many? Are you a compulsive starter of stories? Or does a blank page scare you?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Unsubscribe Day

Today I designate as Unsubscribe day.

It may take only a few seconds to delete that annoying newsletter you signed up for because they gave you a free pizza.
You might think you'll order something from that e-zine in the future when you have more time for hobbies.

But those few seconds add up. Especially if you managed to get a free pizza, free pen, 10% off at a dozen places and a few free books for signing up, like me. This morning I had 60 e-mails in my inbox that were not personal or work related. And I just checked it yesterday. (Note that this is the e-mail address I keep for such purposes. Anything that sounds risky or spammy, I use my alternate e-mail.)

I'm of the opinion that it's ok to sign up for free e-zines and stuff, especially if there's a promotion for doing so (i.e. free stuff). But today, I'm unsubscribing from all the regular e-mails I never read. That includes things like my subscription to the Origami e-zine. Sure, I'll probably order more Origami paper from them in the future, but when I do, I won't need their e-zine to do it. And no amount of sales or special offers from them will make me place an order until I have the time to actually fold Origami.

So here's to more time for writing. More time for living. More brain space for the e-mails that actually matter.

Happy Unsubscribe Day!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Writing on hold

Sorry, guys. I've been putting all my writing on hold until I finish training in at my new job. It's bee a busy couple of weeks, but I hope that once things settle down at work I'll get right back into the blogosphere/write-o-sphere.

Hope you all are having a good time!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

This Week

Started a new job this week, so I'll be busy as a bee learning new things. Real blog posts to resume next week. ;)

Monday, February 21, 2011

I am the Voice

When I first learned about Pandora radio, I looked up a station that had one song consistently in its playlist. The song was called "The Voice" and was very repetitive musically. It also made no sense. The entirety of the lyrics can be summed up in four words "I am the voice".
There's no setting to show us where the voice is coming from, or to whom the voice is speaking. Why is the voice speaking? We don't know. Why is this voice important and how can it be the voice of everything, and does it matter?

It was a classic case of stringing together words that sound nice but don't make any sense. The writer of the song clearly thought they were saying something profound, when they were really just feeling profound.

So when I hear writers talk about voice, I can't help thinking of that song and saying to myself "The voice needs context in order to become important."

This past week I've been exploring what it means to discover and write a consistent voice in my work. I thought I'd try writing the first paragraph of my novel in four different ways to see if a different voice emerged and if I liked one of them best.
But when I clicked back to my first paragraph, I realized it already had voice without me knowing it. I thought I had left the first paragraph a flat, murky string of words with no real feeling. I was pleasantly surprised to find, though it contained flaws and clear inconsistencies in the voice and flow of the story, it had something.

I've never heard voice defined in any satisfactory manner, (which might be why I think of that song: they're both ambiguous,) but I saw it in my first paragraph. I can't explain it, but it felt right. I could see where I had written with complete authority and been in control. And now I remember how I eeked out that first paragraph. I did two things: got inside my character's head and knew before I started writing what I wanted to emphasize.

The character was my villain. I already had his character nailed down so I knew what he would do if he was reluctant. I knew how he would act and along what lines he would generally think if he was uncomfortable or undecided about something.

In the scene, I knew I wanted to show he was reluctant to go into a building. I could have shown it in many different ways. But the way I chose was consistent with his character. That in itself is not voice. That's characterization.
However, the reason I call it voice is because when I went back to read it, I was totally drawn in to what was going to happen next and I found myself feeling sorry for the villain, (the effect I intended to produce).

If I, a writer bent on red-pen-editing-destruction of a story, can go back to my first paragraph and NOT analyze it to death for narrator flaws because I was distracted by the character and setting, I have to think the voice was done correctly. I successfully removed myself from the audiences' view.

I'm quite sure I'll discover there's more to voice than that. But it was a nice surprise. Now if only I could duplicate that magical alignment of the stars that made correct voice appear (or rather disappear) in my first paragraph, I'd have a pretty good book on my hands.
For now, I'll just keep using my red-pen-of-death to ex out sentences that are just nice words strung together.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

First Rejection Letter!

Hi all.

I received my first rejection letter this past week. Of course, I would rather have been asked to send in my full manuscript, but a first rejection letter is what I was expecting.

Woohoo! I've taken another step in my writing career and have officially entered the query phase! :D

The rejection letter was from Dragon Moon Press. Form letter. Very polite. They even apologized in the form letter for sending a form letter. I thought that was kind of cute.

Anyways, onward and upward. I thought I would feel devastated when I got my first rejection letter, but I don't. Thank you to all you publishers and agents and writers who blog about these things, otherwise I would not have known what to expect.

Update on experiment:
I tried writing 'til it hurt my brain, pushing past my normal 'I want to stop' moment. Conclusion: I hurt my brain.
But I did get some writing done and I think there's a good focus that comes from the other side of the push. I'll continue the experiment this week.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

How much is too much?

When I write, I find I'm only good for about two and a half hours at a time, and it's pushing it to do more than one session of two and a half hours.
For whatever reason, I always reach a magical point at which it gets significantly harder to think of words to put down.

In the past I've always stepped away from my computer and said "That's good. I just wrote for two and a half hours and I have something to show for it. Time for mindless distraction!"
But I've recently started wondering if I should push through it and force myself to write beyond that point.

So this week I'm going to try an experiment. I will write until I come to my finishing point, and then attempt to write some more. Next week I'll examine my writing and see if writing past my finishing point makes me write better or worse.
Also, I'll see if there's a golden valley of muse-inspired words after I push myself past that point. Maybe there's a second wind that comes if I push myself.

There was one day last year when I wrote for nine hours straight. But that was for NaNoWriMo when I turned myself into a strict word machine. This experiment pertains more to the entire writing process: not only adding to my word count, but editing, contemplating, researching, and doing all the little things that go into a polished novel.

Check back next week to see what happens!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I am not a brand

They say to market yourself as a writer, you need to turn yourself into a brand.
I get where they're coming from, but honestly, I'm not a brand. I'm a person.

That's all I hope my readers ever see me as, and all I ever hope to convey to them. To me, 'brand' sounds like I'm something other people mindlessly consume without paying attention or thinking for themselves about what they want.

When I reach for a more expensive brand of a product instead of the cheaper thing, it's because I've been taught brand loyalty and I expect a certain quality from the brand name. So it DOES make sense that readers should come to expect a certain quality of writing from a book with my name on it.

But I still can't stomach the fact of marketing myself as a brand. I don't want people to mindlessly  consume what I write. I don't want to come off as some super famous writer who deserves their attention. I just want them to see my book, take it off the shelf, and enjoy an afternoon because they read something that made them satisfied. The attention should be on the book, not on me.

Making myself into a brand makes it seem like I'm conditioning readers to come to me and give to me, when really all I want to do is give to my readers.

I have no doubt that in the future I will end up marketing myself as a brand. It's part of the publishing game. But I hope it doesn't come off as commercialized, cheapened, or like I have some kind of angle I'm working. I just want to make people happy through what they read. I hope it comes off more as "I loved her voice in her last book so I'm going to buy her next book too."

Monday, January 24, 2011

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

For anyone who has a completed manuscript and likes to enter contests, Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award might be of interest to you.

The contest started last night at midnight and will run until Feb. 6th OR until they receive 5,000 entries in each of the two categories.

I have no idea if those 5,000 will fill up quick, but I wouldn't risk it if I were you and had a finished novel you thought had a decent chance. The prize is awesome. I haven't decided yet if I'm entering. I feel I need a bit more time to work on my novel but then again, don't we all?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Tunnel Vision

Sometimes imaginative people display behavior similar to that of people with ADD. I know I do. I'm easily distracted by something that has 'scope for the imagination' (as Anne of Green Gables would say).

But I've realized recently writers can often get the opposite of ADD, and it's because of their creativity: tunnel vision.

Tunnel vision is like looking through a paper-towel tube: you don't see anything on the sides. You only see what's right in front of you. For focus, that's a good thing. Focus on our writing is great. It keeps us going and helps drag us through writer's block, writer's angst and those I-has-a-dumb days.

But extra super focus on writing happens often as well. As Sara King put it on her blog, the opposite of ADD: Interrupt Me And Receive A Spoon Through The Eye.

Life is what we write about. We need to live it.
Tunnel vision is great for focusing on something that needs to get done. But make sure you have someone around to snap you out of it.

Someone once asked me "So what do you like to do other than writing?" and I hadn't a clue. That's when I realized I needed to put away my writing more often and get out.
It almost seems like there should be an annual holiday when writer's abstain from writing anything, even e-mails. *shudder* That sounds impossible challenging.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Story Bible

Some writers like to keep track of the information and ideas behind the scenes of their novel in a story bible.

A story bible can consist of anything relevant to the story. Maps drawn on napkins, outlines, chapter bullet points, character charts and art, a to-do list of everything that each chapter needs to accomplish, etc.

I've been trying for awhile now to search for ideas of how other people put their story bibles together. But due to the generic nature of the words 'story bible' it's time consuming to wade through all the entries of 'Children's Story Bible' and such.

But I was finally able to find some good posts on story bibles and what works.


From the Write Thing
From Nathan Bransford
From Catherine, Caffeinated

Have any other cool links about story bibles? Post 'em in the comments!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Different Hats

I was reading a book last night. It was one of the many books I have about the craft of writing and I hadn't picked it up in awhile. When I started reading, I was surprised to find I had not even read it yet. So I hunkered down in my big bowl chair with the cat and was surprised even further: this book was about how to write non-fiction.

When did I buy a book about non-fiction? All I write is fiction. Non-fiction is my day job as a technical writer.

But for some odd reason I kept reading. I even read the introduction. It was then I realized this book was great advice for writers of all genres.
It's called "Thinking Like Your Editor". I found it useful to me in a way that other writing books about how to write fiction have not been: it focuses on the business side of writing.

Sure, I've read fiction advice books that give some aspect of the business side of writing. But none of them seem to be so applicable and have the edge that this one does. So I read on.

It seemed like every page was saying something like "When I worked as an editor for x number of years..." or "When I was an agent for x number of years..." It sounded like this person had worn every hat in the publishing business. She even talked about how she envies bookstore workers (the one thing she hasn't done) for getting to work so closely with the reading community.

I realized there are so many different ways to get involved in the publishing industry, and no one has to be limited to just one thing. Writers can become agents, agents can become writers, editors can become writers, etc.

And I finally felt like I was allowed to dare to think that perhaps someday I might be more than just a writer as well. I've always thought it would be awesome to be an agent. Or an editor. Or maybe even a bookstore owner. To me, all those jobs sound like they're the same thing: Get paid to read books. How could that not be awesome?

Just for fun, pretend you have your pick of any job in the publishing industry. What would you be? Do you ever dream of owning your own bookstore? Of being an agent? Of being an assistant to someone in the publishing business? Or is becoming a published writer enough of an ambition right now?