Thursday, September 30, 2010

No Shoes Allowed?????

What's up with that? I don't think I like that rule. I'm sure they'd make an exception for me, right? One of the most frustrating things to me about the writing process is trying to follow all of the many rules. Some come naturally, but others require a lot of thought on my part. As I mentioned in a previous post, I taught two of my kids to drive over the summer. My sixteen-year-old got her license a month or so ago. I rode with her the other day, and despite the fact that her skills have improved, she still has one habitual problem: she's a fanatic when it comes to rules. Don't get me wrong; following the rules of the road is very important. But, what if following the rule is actually for the worse. For example, my daughter thinks she has to drive the speed limit no matter what. Sometimes, the car in front of her is going way slower, and still she tries to maintain the posted speed limit. In this case, isn't it better to break the rule and drive slower? Okay, so point is this: the rules of writing are very important, but sometimes, breaking them might be for the best. In other words, know the rules, but also know when and why to break them. Those are my Thursday Thoughts. What do you think? Should the rules of writing ever be broken? What's your favorite rule to break?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Way Too Many Shoes!

And are all of them usable? Today is Wednesday, and according to my new blog schedule, it's time for me to post about a helpful website I've come across recently. Well, Monday, when I was out blogging around, I read a post that stopped me in my tracks. It was all about how we suffer from information overload, which can cause us to lose our creativity. Jennifer Shirk shared here recent experience with trying to write while processing all the different things she'd read on the Internet. I have felt the exact same way, and instead of me trying to explain it, go read it here. What about you? Have you read so many conflicting opinions that you second guess your writing constantly? So much so that you're stalled? It really isn't a good place to be. I agree with Jennifer's take on the matter: TRUST YOUR GUT!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Under The Bed

That's where every manuscript belongs, at least for a while. My Tuesday Tip for today is this: when you finish a manuscript, stick it under the bed, in the closet, in the attic, or in the basement. Wherever you choose (even if it's in the dark corners of your hard drive), stick it somewhere. It needs to sit for a bit. Until you allow it to do that, you won't be able to see its faults or its strengths. When you come back to it, it will be like seeing that relative you haven't seen in a really long time. He's aged, or she's lost weight, or he's grown, etc. Time and distance make you notice these things. So, while your manuscript is sitting, move on to a new project. Be sure you write every day. How else will you get better? If you need motivation to write every day, go visit my blog friend, Patti Nielson. She's encouraging you to keep track of how much time you spend actually writing every day. I have to admit, I'm not off to a very good start. Yesterday, I spent nill, nada, the big fat zero, absolutely no time writing. How sad is that? Very sad, if you ask me. Today will be better, though! Okay, do you have any old manuscripts hiding under your bed? If so, have you taken a look at them lately? If so, I bet they look a little different than they did before.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Kid's Shoes...

Ah, the innocence of children. Yet, they are so wise in their own way. Because of the almost perfect weather yesterday, all the neighbors were out in the street. A couple of the little children caught my attention as they raced each other from driveway to driveway on their bikes. One of the little boys won every single time, and I could see the frustration on the other boy's face. He kept pedaling faster, but to no avail. Finally, the slow boy stopped the fast boy and asked, "Dude, how do you go so fast?" "I dunno. I just do," the fast boy answered. "Can't really explain it." The slow boy thought long and hard and then pulled his bike in front of the fast boy. "Hey, how about this time, the slowest person wins?" "Okay," the fast boy said. "Last one across the street wins." They both took off at a snail's pace, but the fast boy apparently couldn't stand it and eventually went flying. Fast boy lost, and slow boy finally won. Slow boy knew what it took to win and had the patience to do it. Fast boy didn't. Funny how redefining the goal can make a difference, huh? We all want to get published, and we want it now, right? But what's the harm in getting there slowly? It might even be better. The longer we spend on our craft, the better we will write, and the better our novels will be. So take your time, know what it takes, get there slowly, and you just might win the race. How's that for a little Monday Miscellanea? Anything random you'd like to share?

Friday, September 24, 2010

These are the Shoes of...

Heroes. Is your protagonist a hero? Or is he/she an ordinary person like me and you? Either way, you need to make him or her stand out and grab the reader's attention. How do you do that? Well, right off the bat, give the reader a reason to care about the character. If your protagonist is a hero, make sure he/she has some faults that the reader can relate to. If your protagonist is ordinary, make sure he/she has some strengths that the reader aspires to have. Villains. Creepy, huh? Is your antagonist a villain? If so, is he creepy enough? Try giving him or her some decent human qualities that the reader can sympathize with. Then, when your antagonist is bad, he or she will be that much scarier. Secondary characters. Do they matter? Well, they better! Why else would you include them? You can make these secondary characters stand out by showing how they affect your main character. This is what makes them important to the story. Okay, so, these are my Thursday Thoughts (yeah, I know it's Friday) on Writing Compelling Characters. Now, I'm off to read all the other posts on this topic. If you want to join me, you can click here. We are all sure to learn something. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

An Empty Shoe Box...

Imagine the possibilities! You can envision whatever shoe you want. It's kind of like a blank piece of paper, or in these times, a blank word document on the computer screen. Either way, it's like a fresh new start... a fresh new story... a fresh new cast of characters. Yes, today is supposed to be Thursday's Thoughts, but because I'm participating in the whole Great Blogging Experiment about Writing Compelling Characters tomorrow, I thought I'd flip flop the days. So, pretend it's Friday today and Thursday tomorrow. (Did that even make any sense?) I warned you this could happen from time to time. So, today, instead of offering my thoughts on a topic, I'm fluffing feathers by encouraging you to take a moment to appreciate all the possibilities that your writing has to offer. Your shoe box may seem empty, but just think of what you can fill it with? What are you filling your shoe box with?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Getting from here to there...

Do we need to know every detail in between? No, of course not! It's been drilled into our writer heads how bad telling is, but is it always such a bad thing? I think not. And, instead of me trying to explain it, I thought I'd point you in the direction of a great post that does just that. My blogger friend, Laura Pauling, outlined the difference between "bad" telling and "good" telling in her post here. I couldn't have summed it up better, so please go check it out. It might make a difference in how you "tell" your story. Even better, she's going to be talking about backstory today. Also, guess what... my friend Erica is having a 200 followers drawing over at her place here. Go pay her a visit! Okay, those are my Wednesday's websites. Any good ones you'd like to share?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Uh-Oh! There's a Problem!

How did this woman's heel break? I don't know. Do I care? Well, I might later, but I don't right now. I'm more concerned with where she's going and how she's going to fix it before she gets there. The rest would be unwanted back story at this point. I'm reading a popular novel right now (I won't mention the name or author) in which the entire first chapter is back story. I'm sorry, but I got bored and almost tossed the book to the side. I persevered, and as it turns out, it's a great book. Had it been written by an unknown, would I have kept reading? I doubt it. My tip for this Tuesday is to eliminate all back story from the first half of your manuscript. If you can't do that, at least eliminate it from the first third. I personally was hesitant about this with my own manuscript, but I finally did it, and guess what... it reads so much better. Some of what I thought was important information turned out to be not so crucial for the reader, and the stuff that was, well, my readers could have figured it out without me telling them. It's one of those pesky little rules, but I get the point. And, unless you are already published, don't risk it. So, read any books with too much back story lately? Written any? Go back and check. You'll be glad you did. Where do you suppose that woman was off to anyway?

Monday, September 20, 2010

It's Like Christmas Around Here!

I mean, really, with the awesome drawing over at The Bookshelf Muse. Angela Ackerman is offering three months worth of mentoring. What could be cooler than that? You can go enter if you want, but it might be a waste of time. Don't get your hopes up or anything, cause I'm going to win, you know? Also, in case you haven't heard, my blogger friend, Tere Kirkland signed with an agent. That's the third one this month! See, I told you it was like Christmas around here. Okay, that's it for Monday's Miscellanea. Anything you'd like to share? Have a great Monday, and tune in tomorrow for Tuesday's Tip.

Friday, September 17, 2010

It's time for a little fluffy inspiration!

Okay, so I was out with my friends from high school last night, and I realized something. We are all at different stages of life. Our night out ended early because of several reasons. One friend had to get home to make sure her seventeen-year-old wasn't up to no good. My other friend had to get home to put her eight-year-old in bed, and I had to get home to help my twelve-year-old study for a test. You see, we are all in different stages of life, yet we all have a common goal: to raise our kids to be the best people they possibly can be. Same holds true with my writing journey. I've made a lot of friends, some will be published soon, some have signed with agents, and some are just starting out. No matter where we are, we all have a common goal: get our work in the hands of readers. My friend with the eight-year-old commented at dinner that she couldn't wait until her kids were older because they were such a pain in the you-know-what, and I have to admit, I got a little teary-eyed. Sometimes, I wish my kids were still little. I'd love to go back and relive that part of my journey. Other times, though, I'm happy to say that I've been there, done that, and I survived. I don't want to look back on my writing journey and view the hard times as a bad thing. I want to look back at every stage as a blessing, as a necessary part of growing stronger. I want to look back and get teary-eyed because that part of my journey is over, but know that I've been there, done that, and survived. So, my point (and you know I always have one) is this: embrace where you are now and soak up everything. You can never go back to this stage of your writing journey. If you don't pay attention, you just might miss something. Okay, now, go and fluff your own feathers, no matter where you are, because, no doubt, it's a good place to be. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

These Shoes Just Don't Seem Ready

Of course, the person wearing them doesn't seem to notice that they have no toe. I think we writers sometimes fall into the same lack of awareness when it comes to our own work. On Tuesday, I posted about how the hardest lesson I've learned in my journey to publication was that you shouldn't query too soon. So many of you commented something like this: "Yeah, but how do you really know when your work is ready?" Well, I can't answer that, but I can tell you when it isn't ready. Below, you will find my list of the top three reasons not to query yet. (I had it up to 10, but that would have made for a really long post, and you all know how I feel about those.) Anyway, here is how you know you aren't ready to query: #3: It's the first thing you've ever written or even attempted to write, and the version you are about to query is almost identical to your first draft. Don't get me wrong; first novels can be successful, but not first drafts. I could be wrong here, but I doubt that even Stephen King himself submits a first draft for publication. REVISE. REVISE. REVISE. #2: You've never taken a writing course, read a book on the craft, or followed any agent/publisher blogs. A lot is to be said for knowledge. Not even the best athlete goes into a game without training. Practice the craft, learn the business, and then do it all again several times. #1: Your mom, husband, sister, daughter, dog, whatever, thinks your manuscript is the best thing ever written, but no one else has ever laid eyes on it. These people are great, but they are biased and some might even be afraid to be honest with you. Unless you've had a professional editor and/or awesome crit partners read your work, don't query! Okay, so these are my Thursday's Thoughts. I'd love to hear what you think. Do you know when your work is ready? If so, please share. If not, then please tell us how you know when it's not ready.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

That's a lot of shoes!

Why try to pick the cutest when someone else already has? Today is my first Wednesday's Website post, and I had a few ideas for ones I'd like to share with you. But, you see, one kept coming to mind because she does such a great job of sharing super helpful links every week. I could never top that. So, without further ado, please go visit Stina Lindenblatt here. And be sure to stop by there every Friday for more helpful links. Her photography tips on other days are pretty cool too. On a secondary topic, my post yesterday seemed to create a lot of buzz. Maybe I should have saved it for Thursday's Thoughts, but never fear, I'll abandon my original subject for tomorrow and address some of your questions instead. I'm no expert, but I'll be sure to tell you my opinion and hope that you will all weigh in as well. What about you? Any good websites to share this week?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

There's a Place for Trash

And it isn't with an agent or publisher. So many of you probably already know this, and I wish I had figured it out before I made the mistake, but I didn't. I queried trash. Yes, trash. My mom recently returned to me the first draft of my last project. I sat down on the floor of my study and giggled as I read. It was truly awful. This is the same awful I queried eighteen months ago. Seriously, what was I thinking?????? This is my first installment of Tuesday's Tips, and I figured why not start with the hardest and biggest lesson I've learned during my journey. I'm sure you've heard it said before, but it warrants repeating. DO NOT QUERY TOO SOON! It's really no surprise that I never found an agent after querying what I did. It stank! And by stank, I mean that it had no business ever being published. It was partly because of my writing, which was underdeveloped and mediocre at best, and partly because I didn't have a clue what I was doing. My Tuesday's Tip this week is to make sure you are 100% ready to query before you contact any agent or publisher. It would be better to wait years for a chance at publication than to blow your chances by submitting to soon. So, as cliche as it might seem, it's still the most important thing I've learned during my walk in the publishing industry. Throw the trash away to make room for the brilliance. So, have any of you ever queried your work before it was ready? If so, wouldn't you say that it's one of the biggest mistakes you made on the road to publication?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Now this is an interesting shoe!

Where in the heck did the designer come up with the idea? Acid trip? Sleep deprived stupor? What was he thinking? No, I'm only kidding. (Well, sort of...) Anyway, the idea, good or bad, came from somewhere, right? On Friday, my fellow blogger Sherrie blogged about the topic of where writers get their ideas. You can read the post here. I commented about how my good friend gave me my latest idea. I had encouraged said friend to write about it herself, but she claimed that she couldn't even write a grocery list, let alone an entire novel. So, I decided I'd take the topic on. Well, I ran into all kinds of problems. The topic itself was not necessarily unique, but the situation was. This made it worth pursuing, but I couldn't quite come up with a believable motivation for the main character. That is until I witnessed some bizarre behavior from my neighbors across the street. I won't go into any details, but let's just say that the behavior was the perfect motivation for my character to end up in the story line my friend envisioned. So, what is my point? Well, it's this: our ideas may be born in one light, but could come to fruition in another. We have to get out there and witness what goes on in the world around us before we can write about it. It's so easy for us writers to get wrapped up in our stories and forget that there are all kinds of things going on outside of our manuscripts. Taking a break and living life is just as important as honing our craft. Oh, and a little discreet people watching doesn't hurt either. Okay, okay, call it spying if you must, but still... Thanks for joining me for the first ever Monday's Miscellanea post. So, what do you think? Do you people watch? Do you soak up every detail of the world around you? How important do you think that is to writing?

Friday, September 10, 2010

There's A Time For Everything

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know this is a picture repeat, but that's me trying to maximize time and minimize stress. So, back to the title of this post--There's A Time For Everything. You know what time it is for me? Well, it's time to get organized. My writing time is sporadic, my workspace is a disaster, and my blogging is, at best, occasional. This isn't like me. I'm normally more on top of things. That being said, my goal this weekend is to get organized in all aspects. I plan on blocking out writing time, doing a complete overhaul of my workspace, and initiate a new blogging schedule. I'm thinking of a wordplay thing like this: Monday's Miscellanea--a day when you never know what you're going to hear from me, but it certainly will be interesting (I hope). Tuesday's Tips--a day when I will share with you something I've learned on my journey thus far. Wednesday's Websites--a day when I will share an interesting/helpful website or blog I've come across recently. Thursday's Thoughts--a friendly day of debate where I will share my thoughts on a timely topic and ask for your feedback. Friday's Fluffs--a day of fluffy inspiration. (We all need that, don't we?) I thought I'd give this a try as I attempt to get back into a regular blogging routine. Please keep in mind that this is all subject to change, but for now, this is my plan. So, what do you think? I'd love your feedback (good or bad). On another note, my aunt passed away Wednesday after a long battle with Alzheimer's. All of us who loved her are both saddened and thankful that she is now in a better place. Please keep my family in your thoughts and prayers as we lay this wonderful women to rest. We will do so with a mixture of tears and smiles. And, now, on a happier note, have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My Husband's Work Boots

Well, this isn't really his boot because I can't find my camera, but he wears something similar while he works fifteen hour days on the farm to support our family. Sure, his are muddier than this one, and that mud usually ends up on my kitchen floor. I gotta hand it to him, though. He does work hard so that I don't have to. Don't get me wrong; it's not like I sit around and do nothing. I spend my time writing. Some of you will remember when my blogger name was Lazy Writer. I chose this name not because I'm lazy when it comes to my writing, but because my writing makes me lazy when it comes to other areas of my life--cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. I changed this name because I decided it might give the wrong impression. I wouldn't want anyone to assume that I wrote in a lazy fashion, would I? Anyway, my point is this: my husband has suffered many injustices so that I can chase my dream. There was the time he walked into a house full of smoke because I burned the pasta while revising a paragraph. He simply shook his head and went and got take-out. Then, there are the times when he wears two different socks because there are no clean matching ones. He just shrugs and says, "No one can see my socks anyway." Let's not forget the time he cleaned the house himself after a long day in the icy cold so that he could have his buddies over to watch a football game. Yes, it's safe to say that he puts up with a lot because of my writing, and I think it's about time I thanked him for it. Because of him, I get to do what I love most. What about you? Is there someone out there who you should thank? I'll bet there is. So what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I've Been On The Road

And my computer has been on the fritz. Neither make for good blogging. First, we went on a little mini vacation and had no access to the internet at the cabin we stayed in. Then, while we were away, our house was hit by lightning. Apparently, that isn't good for computers, even if they are turned off. My ethernet port was shot, and our router was blown. We found a temporary solution, but we were only able to get on the internet for moments at a time until yesterday. I'm happy to say that it is now permanently fixed, and I can't wait to get around to all of your blogs. During my forced blogging break, I taught two teenagers how to drive (yikes), finished the revisions on my manuscript (finally), sent my second child to high school and my third to middle school (boo-hoo), suffered from a ten day head cold (yuck), and turned forty (I hear it's the new 30). So, what have you all been up to? I'll be around visiting over the next couple of days and plan on getting back to a regular blogging schedule next week. I hope you all have had a fantastic summer, and I can't wait to catch up on all I have missed. Oh, if you haven't heard, one of my awesome crit buddies signed with an agent. Go by and congratulate K.M. Walton. I couldn't be happier for her.