Sunday, December 31, 2006
So I have spent the last three hours doing system restores and running scans and all sorts of wonderful stuff like that - and still I get the error messages. So I will probably spend the rest of the day trying to figure out what is wrong with my *$##!! computer. Sigh.
But my backups are all up to date so no worries there.
And that is my word of advice to all of you on this last day of the year. BACK UP YOUR WORK!!!
I back up every time I change a file. I back up to paper and to my flash drive that I then upload to my laptop computer (or to the desktop if I'm working on the laptop). I know some people who back up to on-line files. But whatever method you use, be sure you use it regularly. Do not leave it to chance.
Do yourself a favor and backup your files now while you're thinking about it. Your new year will then be off to a great start.
Thought for today: "It is best to just remember that sometimes the magic really lasts." - Terry Brooks
Today's teaser: Back up your files and then start a new one that you can use to chart your writing life for the coming year.
Saturday, December 30, 2006
Yesterday I talked about routines. Part of a routine is making a to-do list. This is what I need to get done today. And at the end of the day, you check off what you accomplished that day.
Today is all about setting goals, both short term and long term. It is not really setting a routine – and yet there are aspects of setting goals that you need to incorporate into your daily regimen. If your goal is to lose ten pounds, you need to include exercise and diet into your daily life. If your goal is to write a novel, you need to figure out how many pages a day that will take and find a place somewhere in your day to sit down and actually write.
But setting goals is much more than setting up a routine. A goal can be as simple as “Today, I will write 100 words.” Or it can be as complicated as “This year, I will write a novel and market it to agents and editors and get published.”
The first – 100 words – is easy. You sit down and write a hundred words. This blog so far has a little more than 200 and took me less than ten minutes. But for some people, a hundred words is a challenge and a goal they strive for.
The second goal is a little more nebulous. Writing a novel is quantifiable. A novel is approximately 400 pages. That’s a little more than a page a day. Doable if you are determined. Marketing is also quantifiable. You make a list of the agents and editors who buy your type of work and write your query letters and send them out. But getting published? That may be a dream – but it is not necessarily a goal. Unless you are going the route of self-publishing – which I do NOT recommend for most novelists – getting published is not something you can control. It can be a semi-goal – but only in so much as you work at the craft, learning and improving to the point that an agent or editor will want to buy your writing.
A goal is something that is under your control. You can control how many words/pages you write over a specific period of time. You can control how many query letters you send out. What you cannot control is whether or not an agent or editor will pick up your manuscript and make an offer on it. If we could control that, every writer would be published. We can dream of publication – and that is a good dream to have. But we cannot control it.
Set your goals for the coming year – whether they be daily, weekly, monthly or annual goals – but make sure they are quantifiable. If you’re really organized, set up a spreadsheet that tracks how many words/pages you do a day, how many queries you send out, how much editing you do. Then figure out how to incorporate these goals into your daily routine so you can attain them. But don’t be afraid to stretch yourself. Don’t make them so easy that they are no challenge to meet. Be daring. Be creative.
Today’s thought: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it, you will land among the stars.” – Les Brown
Today’s teaser: Write a list of twenty tips and teasers of your own to stimulate your brain the next time you’re stuck.
Friday, December 29, 2006
This past week has been a shake-up of my routines. Actually, this past year has been that way and it shook me up - sometimes too much. The past week's shaking involved family and gatherings and all the "stuff" that goes with the holidays. I loved having my children home. I loved all the cooking and decorating and hoopla. But I am just as glad to get back to my normal routine.
The past year has been one of major life upheavals with a move from the house where we'd lived for twenty years in a town we'd been in for most of thirty-plus years. That and major health issues for my husband, a broken hip and other problems for my mother-in-law, and other things that go with life. All of these seemed to hit at about the same time. We got through them all, but my routines were completely messed up.
And I survived. Amazing. For the better part of the year, there were no schedules beyond my husband's work schedule. No routines beyond get up when we needed to and go to bed when the day was done. Everything in between was subject to the vagaries of the weather and availability of trucks and friends and other's routines. Yes, I had a few melt-downs. But overall, I believe I came out stronger in the end.
Will I give up my lists and planning ahead? Nope. I am a creature of habit. But I also know that I can get by with little or no planning and that plans are often the first thing to be destroyed in the face of life. Over the next few days, I will be concentrating on setting my goals for the coming year. They will be both personal and professional goals. But they will include room for the unexpected. And when that happens, I will attempt to embrace the change and grow with it.
But for now, I need to get this done so I can go on to the next item on my to do list. :)
Today's thought: "Imagination is more important than knowledge." - Albert Einstein
Today's teaser: As writer's we need to develop a writing process that is flexible, yet provides structure. How can you arrange your schedule to provide both?
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Marketing myself and my books is not something I am comfortable with, but know that I have to do. Like most writers, I am an introvert. Going to conventions where there are crowds of people, sending out mailings, giving talks - all these things make me very uncomfortable. But I also know that if I want the sales numbers, I will have to do these things.
We've talked about what gets the numbers up. Some like to do book signings - but then admit that their numbers (sales) really don't increase after one. Others do on-line chats and newsletter promotions - again, with mixed results. The conventions seem to work well for most - the quickest way to reach multitudes of readers - but only if you go to the ones in your genre. Magazine ads - the most expensive option - don't seem to have a lot of impact. But reviews - where someone reads your book and gives an opinion either in a magazine or e-format - seem to get the best response, especially if you get a good review. A bad review doesn't necessarily equate to bad sales, but it doesn't help as much as a good review.
I find this interesting on several levels. As a writer, I would be devastated by a bad review. As a reviewer, I've given a couple - but I agonize over each one since I know what it takes to write a book and get it published. If I am reading a book I just do not like, I try to find something - anything - in there that I do like so the review isn't totally negative.
I also know that reviews are nothing more than opinion. I've read books already that I loved - that I've passed on or recommended to others - and they hated them. By the same token, I've read books that others have raved about and sat there wondering when it was going to get good. A review is one person's opinion. But it is an opinion that can make or break sales. I know I will be biting my fingernails until my first reviews come out.
In the meantime, I'll do what I can to market my books. Hmmm - maybe if I gave away a box of chocolates with each book..... ;)
Today's thought: "Always leave enough time in your life to do something that makes you happy, satisfied, even joyous. That has more of an effect on economic well-being than any other single factor." - Paul Hawken
Today's teaser: What makes you buy a book? Is it the cover? The blurb? The first pages? Or the writer's name? If you're a writer - how do you market your work?
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Am I complaining? Not a bit. I love this kind of weather. It uplifts you and soothes the soul. Not to mention, is easier on the heating bills. Plus middle son begins his return drive to Florida tomorrow - another long haul of over a thousand miles. For that, he doesn't need bad weather.
Except for the cat, it's also very quiet. Nobody else is up yet. This is my time of day. I use this quiet time to take care of e-mail, blog, some writing, anything I feel like doing in the quiet of early morning.
I haven't written anything for the past few days - the hectic schedule, relatives, celebrations, etc. have put a crimp in my writing time. But that doesn't mean I haven't been working on my stories. If you read yesterday's blog, you'd know I've been working through the writing in my head. I do that a lot. I work through whatever project I'm embroiled with in my mind and when I get to the "ah ha!" moment, I scribble like crazy to get it all down before I forget. Sometimes I work it out on paper, but many times, I just run through stuff in my brain before it reaches the writing stage. This doesn't work for everyone, but it seems to work for me.
So now I'm going to go ponder the improbabilities of my story and enjoy a nice cup of hot tea and bagel. May you all have as great a day as this one is starting out to be.
Today's thought: "You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm." - Colette
Today's teaser: Imagine you are about to fax your story at $10.00 a word. Now edit.
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
No, the deep thoughts had nothing to do with the holiday and everything to do with the story I'm working on. I do not like the way it's going, but don't know how to change it - yet. *That* is what I've been thinking about. I guess I need to make sure my face doesn't reveal my inner thoughts so vividly.
I've been coming at my story as a romance - with the emphasis on the relationship between the two protagonists. But it just isn't working for me. It seems my muse wants the emphasis to be on the paranormal mystery surrounding them. I also have trouble writing stories where the protagonists are at odds more often than not - which is the way most romance books go. Maybe my marriage and life have been too good for me to write about the angst many people face. If so, thank goodness. I'd rather be living the life I have than the lives some of my characters do!
So this week, I will sit down and take another look at my story - I'm only 150 pages into it so it's not nearly finished - and figure out where I want it to go. Do I continue it as a paranormal romance or change it into something else? Decisions...decisions...
Today's thought: "The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves." - C. G. Jung
Today's teaser: If your character is awakened out of a sound sleep and asked to describe himself in generalities - father, midwesterner, engineer - what words would he blurt out? How can you turn these generalities into descriptions without stereotyping?
Monday, December 25, 2006
Today's blog will be from my father. Dad passed away in 2000, but his words and his legacy live on. The following is from his book "Memories Along the Tuscarora" published in 1991.
I was a young soldier stationed at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, Christmas 1945. The commander had granted holiday leave to anyone who lived close enough to get home and back in three days. The only catch was that if they were scheduled for KP or guard duty, they would have to find someone to replace them. Since there was no way I could get home, I took guard duty for one of my friends Christmas Eve and KP for another on Christmas day and topped it out by taking guard duty for another on Christmas night.
On the Christmas eve guard post that I walked, a part of it looked down on a small hill into a POW stockade. There, I saw the German soldiers who were not repatriated yet celebrating Christmas Eve.
Years later, I wrote this poem to try to sum up my feelings of one of the best Christmas's I ever had. As I recall, I did not receive much as gifts that year, but I found some of the true meaning of Christmas by giving myself.
There once was a young soldier, from his own home far away
Who was posted on guard duty on the the eve before Christmas Day.
He thought of his own home as he paused on his round
And watched the German soldiers in their prison campground.
They had erected a Christmas tree in the center of their yard
And with light of a bonfire - the scene looked like a card.
To the young soldier's amazement, when they started to sing,
The language was foreign, but they were praising the King.
When they sang "Stille Nacht", the message was clear
That Christ was not missing from those who held Him dear.
I was that young soldier who walked on that night
I learned that with Christ, everything would be right.
Today's thought: "The most potent muse of all is our own inner child." - Stephen Nachmanovitch
Today's teaser: Have a wonderful day and enjoy the peace and love this season brings. Make your own Christmas memories and store them for the future.
Sunday, December 24, 2006
Someone asked me the other day what my favorite Christmas memory was. There are so many, it was hard to pick, but I believe there are three that stand out for me the most. The first is Christmas 1972 - finals week in college. I was sick with bronchitis and not looking forward to my exams and so ready to be home. My boyfriend was supposed to meet me for dinner, but was late. I later found out why. He had driven the hundred mile round trip to see my parents and ask my dad if he could marry me. Once he had their blessing, he came back and asked me. That was actually Dec. 7th, but we didn't tell the rest of the family until Christmas. Thirty-three years later, we're still laughing, loving, and putting up with each other. Oh, and my exams? I aced them all.
The second Christmas that stands out for me was 1975 as I held my firstborn son in my arms. He was just shy of two months old. As I looked down on him, I knew what Mary must have been feeling as she beheld her first-born. Each Christmas with my children was special, but that one holds the strongest memory.
The third memory is actually from last year. We had just moved to our new house and had very little furniture in as yet. We slept on air mattresses on the floor, sat on lawn chairs and ate from the cooking dishes instead of serving bowls. Since I had none of my Christmas boxes yet, I bought a huge roll of wrapping paper decorated with pictures of holly. I cut it out in the shape of a Christmas tree and taped it to my wall and put the presents "under" it. Everybody loved my tree and we had a ball. Who says you have to have lots of 'stuff' to enjoy Christmas?
So, Happy Christmas Eve to everyone out there, even those who don't believe. May you have peace in your heart and may it continue throughout the coming year.
Today's thought: Joy increases as you give it, and diminishes as you try to keep it for yourself. In giving it, you will accumulate a deposit of joy greater than you ever believed possible. - Norman Vincent Peale
Today's teaser: What's your most potent holiday memory?
Saturday, December 23, 2006
That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Unlike most people, I get to live my dream. As a writer, I can let my imagination run wild and make up stories to my heart's content. I get to watch people and steal little bits of their personalities, quirks, actions, and characteristics to build my own characters. The universe is my playground to explore and use. And I get to do it all because I want to.
I love the life I have and the freedom I enjoy to follow my chosen profession. The lives of artists - whether they be writers, painters, sculptors, musicians, actors, or any creative endeavor - are full of hills and valleys. Often we face more valleys than not. The creative life is not an easy one, but it is an exciting one. And it is my belief that an artist does not choose this profession, it chooses him or her. If you are a writer, you will find a way to write. If you are a musician, music will be in your life somehow, somewhere. An artist? You will find a way to paint. And we will climb from those valleys.
My wish for the coming year is for all of us to enjoy more hilltops.
Today's thought: "Indulge yourself when you write - but not when you rewrite." - J. Martin
Today's teaser: More than half the population has been changed to were-animals, but you are immune to the virus. What do you do during a full moon?
Friday, December 22, 2006
I know enough about coding to be a danger to those with any sense of style in web design. I can do the basics - mostly text - but ask me to do graphics or anything remotely interesting and I'm at a total loss. I just don't have the knowledge - or the interest in spending hours learning - how to do web design. My websites tend to be boring with little color, cut 'n' paste graphics, and very little spacial interest.
Thank goodness there are those out there who do have the talent and interest. Yes, it is costing me - a cost I really can't afford. But at the same time, I can justify the expense with knowing that the coming site is so much better than anything I could have ever done, even in my wildest dreams.
We each have our own strengths and weaknesses. My strength is organization and writing - not web design. And I will be the first to admit that.
So, to Stonecreek Media, my hat is off to you. Thank you. Your fee is well-earned and I feel my money is well-spent.
For anyone reading this, keep an eye out for the new http://www.vickyburkholder.com coming soon to a website near you.
Today's thought: "You can write anything you want to - a six-act blank verse, symbolic tragedy or a vulgar short, short story. Just so that you write it with honesty and gusto, and do not try to make somebody believe that you are smarter than you are. What's the use? You can never be smarter than you are." - Brenda Ueland
Today's teaser: You buy an antique desk. While cleaning it, you find a hidden cache containing an old letter and a map. The name on the letter is a family you recognize. What do you do?
Thursday, December 21, 2006
They, like me, have dreams. What they do to achieve those dreams is up to each of them. They must live their lives as they choose.
My dream was always to be a writer. It is only in the past few years that I have been able to follow that dream. I was too busy living my life. But I do not look on those years as a waste. I look on them as a privilege for raising a family who believe that service to others is important. That it is important to make their world a better place. I have done my job. So now it is time to follow my dream.
Will my dream ever come true? It already has. I am a writer. So what do I do now? I up the ante and keep dreaming. For it is when we quit dreaming that we truly quit living.
Happy birthday to my children.
Today's thought: "Dream no small dreams for they shall not have the power to move men." - Goethe
Today's teaser: What are your dreams? Write them down. Believe in them. Make them real.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
This week, our leader gave us a free pass. With the holidays, illnesses, several of us with family birthdays to get through - there is just too much going on in our lives to steadily write. We may grab five minutes here and there, but huge blocks of time just don't exist so we are taking a break.
Is this good? Yes and no. We all need the break. Several of us are at the "breaking" point. But just because we aren't setting insane goals (ten pages today), doesn't mean we will stop reaching for that brass ring. We may not sit down an write for an hour or more, but we will be writing. That will not change. What we have done is given ourselves permission to make other things - like family - our priority for a while. And that's good. Maybe we'll take this time to stand back and look at our goals for the coming year - figure out where we're going and how to get there.
And after the holidays, we'll come back with renewed spirits and enthusiasm for our writing.
Or not. :)
Today's thought: "Write out of love, write out of instinct, write out of reason. But always for money." - Louis Untermeyer
Today's teaser: Your character is involved in a car accident. How does s/he deal with it? Whose fault was it? What happens next?
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
But I will do it. Why? Funny you should ask. My writing friends asked me that the other day when I was complaining about the new edit. First of all, I've worked with this writer before. He writes a pretty clean copy so I know the work will go fast. But the main reason is a sense of obligation. The owner of the company recently lost an editor to cancer and the other one and I are the only ones left. So why don't I leave? Because I feel a sense of obligation to this woman. No, she's never published anything of mine. I write science fiction and fantasy and she publishes mostly westerns, historicals and inspirationals. But she took me on as an editor when I was new to the business and has been a friend.
It's like that with many of my other writing friends. Remember that list I talked about yesterday? Several items on that list are work for other people - critiques, edits, help and tips - things to help them as writers. But I also know I have to learn to put my own writing first.
And that's not easy for me. I'm the kind of person who tends to put other people first. That's not bad - but it does mean my needs are often left till last. And that has to change.
Yeah, I know - good advice. Now if I would just listen to myself.
Today's thought: "Writing isn't a crapshoot. Publishing, yes - but not writing. Writing is a craft." - Terry Brooks
Today's teaser: In "A Picture of Dorian Gray", the picture ages while the man does not. If offered the chance for immortality, would you take it? Why or why not? What if immortality meant you would continue to age - but never die?
Monday, December 18, 2006
We have a dream - an idea, a setting, a character, a plot line - that won't let us alone so we write it down. At first, it may be just a few words - not even a sentence. But those few words grow. Soon we have a paragraph, then a page, then a chapter. For those of us who feel the passion, we don't stop until we have a book. It may take months - or years, but we follow the dream. We don't stop writing because we cannot not write.
But what of those of us who lose our way? Who get tired of the rejections and the frustrations? Look inside yourself and find the dream. Is it still there? Still trying to get out? Still beating within you? Or did it get buried by the onus of day-to-day life?
If you are having trouble finding the dream again, look at what you do. Make a list of tasks that must be done this day. Where does writing fit in on that page. I did this the other day and found that writing fell last on my lengthy page of chores. I need to change that. If I - and you - are to make this dream of ours come true, then writing must be at, or at the very least near, the top of that list. Dreams don't happen unless you work to make them happen.
Don't lose the dream. Make it happen.
Thought for today: "First when there's nothing, But a slow glowing dream, That your fear seems to hide, Deep inside your mind.... Take your passion And make it happen." (From the theme song to "Flashdance", 1983 "What A Feeling", sung by Irene Cara)
Today's Teaser: Get a sheet of paper and write down what your dream is. Now write down what you have to do to make that dream come true. Be specific.
Now do it.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
We all agree that we are writers - all of us have been published in one form or another, either with books or articles. Yes, we are all working towards book publication - of the five of us, three have books out, one of us has e-books and the other is still grabbing for the brass ring. We kick each other, hug each other, and support each other. We yell for help when our plots are working out and offer help when another is in trouble.
But mostly our monthly lunches are ways for us to recharge our batteries. We leave the group with a renewed sense of purpose. We know that we are not in this alone. That there are others out there who struggle with the pains of day-to-day living while trying to make it as a writer. We have bills, families, problems - some heavier than others. But we have each other. And that is huge.
Do yourself a favor, find a writing support group that works for you and hang onto them. They are invaluable.
Today's thought: "Write while the heat is in you...The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with. He cannot inflame the minds of his audience." - Henry David Thoreau
Today's teaser: On December 17th, the Wright Brothers took their first flight at Kittyhawk. You are there. Describe your feelings. What is the weather like? Are you excited? Or expecting failure? Why are you there?
Saturday, December 16, 2006
How do I know this? Because those of us she touched are much more aware of our natural surroundings. Before I met Terrie, I knew about birds - but not much more than the basics. They were feathered creatures who nested in the trees and left messes on my cars. But thanks to Terrie, I know so much more now. I put out feeders with specific seeds to entice specific birds and we watch them as they enjoy their repast. They bring color and life to our little backyard.
I am also more aware of what goes on outside my window. Thanks to Terrie's life, I have become more observant - and that makes me a better writer. I can add more detail to my writing because I see more detail. And not just in nature. I have learned to be more observant overall.
So Thank you, Terrie, for helping me become a better writer.
Today's thought: "I suppose most editors are failed writers - but so are most writers." - T.S. Eliot
Today's teaser: You wake up one morning, same as usual, and look around. You're in a strange bed, in a strange room, in a strange city with no memory of how you got there. What happened?
Friday, December 15, 2006
From places, we moved to what we listen to when writing. I don't write well in complete silence. I have to have something in the background, whether it's TV or the stereo, I have to have something. When I'm listening to music, though, I prefer it to be instrumental rather than vocal. If there are words, especially if it's a song I know, I tend to sing along and that disturbs the flow of the writing.
Some of my friends pick specific music depending on what they're writing. If they're writing a scene that is dark and mysterious, they choose music that is dark and heavy. For a lighter, more romantic scene, light, romantic music. For me, "New Age" or soft jazz works best. I save the loud music with a beat for housecleaning. Jimmy Buffet is great to paint rooms by. For housecleaning, give me something I can sing to and move to. But for writing - make it quiet and calming.
Although none of us has the same writing habits, all of us agree on one thing, we search for whatever works for us and then work with it. Oh, on occasion, we may break out of the mold and change our venue, but for us to be really productive, we tend to build habits that stick.
Today's thought: F. Scott Fitzgerald pinned the 122 rejections he had accumulated in a frieze of the walls of his room. Muriel Rukeyser made wastebaskets out of her letters of rejection. Stephen King put them on his dartboard and threw darts at them.
Today's teaser: What do you listen to when writing? And how do you deal with rejection?
Thursday, December 14, 2006
One thing my son and his wife have done is to instill a love of books in my grandson and for that, I am eternally grateful to them. This child will grow up loving the written word, whether it is on paper or pixels generated by some kind of energy. Because they both have a strong background in writing, I also know he will grow up knowing how to spell and use words correctly. I cringe when I see some of the things that come across my desk or computer these days. Business e-mails where misspellings and misuse of words are more common than not. Published books that contain so many errors, they couldn't have seen an editor who knew grammar anywhere along the process.
I weep for the loss of literacy in our time. I can point a finger at many spots and say this is to blame or that is at fault, but the truth is, the fault lies within each of us. We do not strive to better ourselves in our daily lives. Once we have received the piece of paper that says we are educated, we cease our struggles to stretch our consciousness. If it's not going to be on the test, why bother?
We should bother because learning is the stuff of life and writing is one way to reach out to the world and teach others about ourselves. When we write, we should put forth our best efforts. Other's opinions are formed from what we write. Whether you are a fiction or non-fiction writer, you words have the power to move people. Your words are an inroad to learning and you are the teacher. Look to the future and use your words wisely and well.
Today's thought: "Writing is habit forming. It is addictive. You get caught up in the challenge of the storytelling process. You become enchanted with the worlds and characters you create." - Terry Brooks
Today's teaser: December 14th is celebrated as the birthday of Nostradamus. What do you predict for yourself for the coming year?
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
The first one had tried multiple times to post to my blog but could not. I am using the beta version of the new Google blog and she was having trouble logging in. And it wasn't just my blog she was having trouble with. I know she was frustrated because she wrote me to tell me about it. To her, my apologies. I know there isn't anything I can do about the issue, but if anyone else has trouble, go to my current website (scootersbooks) and pick up my e-mail address there.
The other frustrated person is an acquaintance from a writer's group. Her children's book had been picked up by a small publisher and was going to be published next year. Two days ago she received a notice from them that they were closing down shop and would not be publishing her book after all.
Frustration. Two very different kinds, but both upsetting. For one, it was the loss of a chance to connect with other writers about setting writing goals and what she does to keep writing while living life. For the second, it was a loss of a dream - a dream that will have to now be rearranged and begun again.
That is, unfortunately, what the writing life is all about. We sit down to write and face a blank page. If nothing comes, frustration sets in. Or we finish the piece and send it out with high hopes - and receive nothing but rejections. Or it gets accepted, then is canceled for one reason or another. Or gets published and receives poor reviews or sales.
This occupation - the job of writing - is not an easy one. There are many ups and downs - and, unfortunately, far more downs than ups. We all get frustrated. But the trick is not to let the lows keep you down. When you feel the worst is when you should write. This is when your emotions are the rawest. So write about it. Be truthful. Be honest. Be a writer. Rejections and setbacks are a part of this life we've chosen. What makes a true writer is how you deal with them. Do you quit? Or do you pick up your pen and get back to work. If the latter, then you are a writer.
Today's thought: "You have to set goals that are almost out of reach. If you set a goal that is attainable without much work or thought, your are stuck with something below your true talent and potential." - Steve Garvey
Today's tip: Plot is a series of events that make up a story. Think of it as a map that a drive follows from one point to another. There should be a sense of building. Check your story. Do the scenes map out a logical route - or are there detours that lead to dead-ends?
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Yes, I know, some people would set their goals so low as to be always in the drawing but that is not the case here. We really do attempt to challenge ourselves. For some, that may be as little as a page a day, for others, five pages or an article or chapters. Each goal is personal and we do not look down on those who set small goals. Even the small ones are important - and sometimes as difficult to achieve as the lofty ones.
The point of setting the goals is to challenge ourselves. My goal for November was to write the equivalent of two pages a day. (Note, I said "the equivalent" - I don't always get to write every day so writing nothing one day and four pages the next gives me the same goal. Oh, we're a sneaky group.) Anyway, I know the goal was reachable for me so for December, I upped the ante. I opted for the equivalent of five pages a day. I don't know if I will make it or not - the last two days have been horrible for writing, with barely a page each. But I know I am going to strive to make my goal. And I know my friends will be right there with me - cheering me on or kicking my butt to get the work done. As I will them.
As for my annual goal, I already made that. So next year, I need to up the ante. Challenge myself to do better. I'm not sure what that will be yet. I have a couple of weeks to figure it out.
Today's thought: "Confidence is the result of hours and days and weeks and years of constant work and dedication." - Roger Staubach
Today's teaser: So how are you coming with your goals for this year? Do you even set goals? Try it. Challenge yourself. And if you want to post them here, I'll keep after you to meet them. :)
Monday, December 11, 2006
So what does this have to do with writing? Everything. We should all look at the world as a young child does. They experience new things everyday and face each day with joy. Agreed, they don't have the worries that an adult does, but neither do they have the pessimistic outlook that many of us grow into. To them, everything is an adventure.
One thing I am grateful for is that my grandson loves books, as do my children. Books are a huge part of our lives and sitting down to read a story - even if it's one you've read a hundred times before (usually that same day), is the greatest gift you can give a child. With a book, you open up new worlds for the child to explore and teach him that words have power. And maybe the lesson will stick and the child will grow up to use words in a positive way for the betterment of the world.
But even if that doesn't happen, I will still be spending time with my grandson - and what can be better than that?
Today's thought: "It's how you deal with failure that determines how you achieve success." - David Feherty
Today's teaser: This is an exercise to show character development. Your character is with a friend in a store. He steals something and gets away while s/he gets caught. Does your character give the friend's name and address to security? Why or why not?
Sunday, December 10, 2006
As for the DaVinci Code, first of all, let me say that I have not yet read the book nor seen the movie. But after seeing the making of, I definitely want to do both. Why haven't I read it? It's on my "To Be Read" pile, along with approximately 150 other books. It's on the list, but I haven't gotten to it yet. I will, just not yet. And now, not until after I see the movie.
I've often found that reading a book first, then seeing the movie often ruins the movie for me - mostly because so much has to be cut from a book to make the movie fit the time span allowed for viewing. In many cases, that's all right because nothing really important has been cut, but in a lot of cases, I watch the movie and come away disappointed because something I deemed essential to the plot was deleted or so muddled that it might as well not have been there. This has happened so many times that I cringe when a book I really liked comes out as a movie.
Oh, there are exceptions - I enjoyed The Lord of the Rings movies a whole lot more than I liked the books. And I can watch the Harry Potter movies without too much dismay at what is left out - but I like the HP books much better. But these are the exceptions to the rule.
What I do enjoy is watching the movie before I read the book and seeing what the director left in and cut out and how well he matched actors to the characters. Seeing it first does not ruin the book for me, but often enhances it. If the actors have been chosen carefully with a view to the true character, I remember them and picture them in my mind as I read. It puts a real face to the character and makes the reading experience more realistic. What hurts is when the director has caved in and used the wrong actor for the character and cut too much of the book to make his or her "vision" of the book and not what the author wrote. I find it interesting that those movies are usually the ones that don't do well in the box office and are ultimately forgotten very quickly.
Any good movie has a basis in good writing. If you have a good story and a good director who knows the book and the characters, and stays true to the author's vision, you will probably have a decent movie. But first, you must have a good story.
Today's thought: "By starving emotions, we become humorless, rigid and stereotyped; by repressing them, we become literal, reformatory and holier than thou; encouraged, they perfume life; discouraged, they poison it." - Joseph Collins
Today's teaser: December 10th is the day the Nobel Prizes are awarded. You are going to receive one. Why? What will you do with the money?
Saturday, December 09, 2006
I am a cat lover - 99.99% of the time - but there are times when my cat drives me nuts. First of all, though I am the person who feeds her and keeps fresh water out, I am low man on the totem pole when it comes to people. My hubby is her preferred person. If she needs a lap, mine is only good enough when he's not around. Let him lie down on the sofa, and she's immediately there to curl up on top of him. Let me lie down and she either ignores me or meows until I move and give her space next to her blanket.
In the mornings, if I get up at 6:30, she's sitting at the end of the hallway waiting for me. If it's closer to 7, she's half-way up the hallway and gets upset if I head anywhere except the kitchen first. If it's after 7, like this morning, she comes to the door and starts meowing - loudly - until I get up and feed her. If I choose to remain in bed, she climbs onto the bed and paces until I get up.
Then there's the door to the sunroom. Attached to our house is a beautiful sunroom accessed by a door in the kitchen. We choose not to heat it in the winter unless we're going to have company so we keep the door shut. Unfortunately, that does not sit well with Pixel. After she finishes her breakfast, she wants out. Then in. Then out. Then in. Then out...etc. ad nauseum every five to ten minutes. I guess I could look at it as she's making me get my exercise.
But I love the big furball. Even if she doesn't like to let me sleep in.
Today's Thought: Anxiety is the space between the "now" and the "then" - Fritz Perls
Today's Teaser: We've all read directions that come with "some assembly required" projects. Most are terrible. Find something you've done and write a step-by-step brochure on how to do it.
Friday, December 08, 2006
I do not like to be scared. I don't like horror books or movies mostly because I cannot handle gore. When I was a young teen, I read Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood" - decades later, I still have nightmares about that one. Maybe that's why I have problems. I was way too young to read that book and it likely affected me on some deep level.
I'm probably one of the few people whose kids censor what I watch or read - and have been since they were in high school. They'll tell me things like "Mom, don't watch this part." Or "Mom, you'll like this story, but only during the day with Dad around." I watch a lot of movies and TV that way.
Unfortunately, I don't always get a choice. One publisher I worked for sent me a horror story to edit. I was losing my stomach - and I do mean that literally - by the second chapter. I ended up sending it back to the senior editor telling him I had to pass on it. I simply could not work on it. I wasn't the first editor to do that. I don't know if the book was ever published as the publisher closed down shortly after that. In my mind, I hope not. Yes, a few nasty scenes in a book are okay - Stephen King does it all the time - but not the entire book. Page after page of nothing but gore is a bit much. Somewhere in there, a writer should have a story.
And that is what writing is all about - the story. Back to my friend - she writes really good stories that a person can relate to.
But she still scares the ***** out of me.
Today's thought: "Emotion is the surest arbiter of a poetic choice, and it is the priest of all supreme unions in the mind." - Max Eastman
Today's Teaser: What are you afraid of? What makes you cringe and pull the covers up over your head? What will you not read or watch because of the way it makes you feel? Why?
Thursday, December 07, 2006
This is a huge no-no for those of us trying to get published. So why does she? Is it only because of the strength of her name? Yes, I enjoyed the stories as much as I could while trying to figure out who was talking, but I would never read them again or recommend them to anyone else.
I know, names sell books. Plaster the name Nora Roberts on a book and it will sell. But not to me. And I know others will argue that her other books are much better. And I will agree to some extent. I have read others of hers and enjoyed them. But these three so turned me off that I will probably not purchase any more by her.
And that's okay. I've got other authors I adore who do tell me a good story and who do pay attention to the techniques of good writing. Authors like Sandra Hill, Anne McCaffrey, A.C. Crispin, Susan Grant, Sarah Zettle, Catherine Asaro, Mercedes Lackey, Linnea Sinclair - and many, many more. These authors keep me coming back for more and I will oblige. To them, I give my thanks - and I do that by buying their books. And to their publishers, my kudos for going with what is a good read and not just the name.
Today's thought: "Besides pride, loyalty, discipline, heart and mind, confidence is the key to all the locks." - Joe Paterno
Today's tip: When making major changes to a manuscript, keep a copy of the original in case you need to go back. And always back up everything.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
For anyone who doesn't know me, this is not a surprise. I absolutely hate shopping (unless it's for books or electronics). The internet has been a huge boon for me since all I have to do is point and click, but I didn't do that this year. This year, I actually physically went shopping. And it was okay. Why? Because I went early in the week, in the mid-morning when most people are at work. While I don't like shopping, I dislike crowds even more, so the holidays are often a huge stress-maker for those two reasons alone. My kids used to chide me for having my shopping done by Halloween (as I usually did). The reasons were two-fold - I could spread the cost out over several months and I didn't have to face crowded stores in the winter. Don't get me wrong - I love Christmas. It's the shopping I hate. And that's all year.
I don't know why I dislike it so much. My mother and sister aren't like this. Neither is my daughter. Guess I'm the weird one in the family. Mom loves to spend hours just wandering aimlessly through shops, not necessarily buying anything - though she usually does - but just "window shopping." For me, I have a list, go in and get what's on my list and get out as soon as possible. There is no point in lingering.
But all bets are off if you put me in a book store. I could stay there for hours. Unfortunately, I always find something I want - usually several somethings. I cannot leave a bookstore without a book in hand. But even for that, I probably won't go into one this time of year unless it's during a time when I know they won't be crowded.
Give me a book and I'm happy. Give me a gift card to buy books and I'm ecstatic. Let me loose in a bookstore and I'm in heaven.
Today's thought: Do or do not. There is no try. - Jedi Master Yoda (Star Wars)
Today's teaser: Finish the following using: personal ad, eightball, velvet cape: There she stood at the door to the cabin, all my dreams and nightmares rolled up into one...
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
I find this interesting. Though I no longer work in a library, I consider myself a librarian. I know how to find information, know how to catalog and organize that info into a way that others may find useful, and how to help others find information. But a librarian is only as good as her sources. Yes, she (and I'm using this generically since I know there are both men and women who work in libraries) tries to use original or quality sources as much as possible, but you still have to take what you find at face value. Librarians are not infallible, especially today when so many library schools have closed down. Many libraries today are staffed not by degree-holding librarians, but by people hired to work the desk or shelve the books. If the library has a reference desk, that may or may not be staffed by a "librarian". Depending on the budget of the library, there may only be one actual librarian on staff - usually the head of the place. That's what it was like at the small public library where I worked for several years. There were only two of us who held degrees. I was the cataloger and the other librarian was the director. When centralized cataloging came to the county, my job was ended. There are around a dozen people who work at that library - only one of whom is a librarian and you never see her because her job is not to work the desk, but to go out and try to raise funds to keep the place going, order the books, and take care of the building.
So who is answering the questions? People who have no more training than the average person on the street, high school kids, and, once in a great while, the librarian. Yes, they know the books in that library, but they may be no more knowledgeable than you in doing a search. So choose your sources carefully.
Do I mean you should not go to libraries? Absolutely not. They are the best places in the world to go. Not only can you check out books, but also videos, DVDs, CDs, games and toys. You can find information on the past, present and future. You can participate in classes and attend programs. Libraries are an invaluable source for information and should be one of the first places you go. I'm just cautioning you to use what you learn carefully. Like all sources of information, what you find is only as good as the provider.
Go to a library. Look around. Who knows? You may find something worth writing about.
Today's thought: Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle or it will starve. It doesn't matter whether you're a lion or a gazelle - when the sun comes up, you'd better be running. (Anonymous)
Today's teaser: Take any holiday song and expand it into a short story. Most of them are already stories to some extent. Try one that isn't and see what you can do.
Monday, December 04, 2006
There were other gifts at the party - some that I nixed as useless for me, but that others would enjoy, others that I drooled over. Our price limit is ten dollars. It is amazing what you can get for such a little amount. My kids asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I was at a loss as to what to tell them. My husband and I don't really need anything and the few things we want are more expensive than I want my kids to buy. But the party gave me some great ideas, some of which I'm going to list here. Feel free to add to the list.
Gifts for writer's:
subscriptions to writer's magazines (okay, this is closer to twenty dollars, but is still a good bargain)
pens, pencils, other writing implements
paper for printers (we go through a lot of that)
gift certificates to bookstores and office stores
calendars for keeping track of our submissions
binder clips and paper clips
large tyvek envelopes for mailing our manuscripts
Actually, go to any stationery store or store with a stationery department and just pick things out. Most writers will appreciate anything that helps them get through the day. Other friends appreciate things like wine, food, gift certificates to restaurants or fast food joints, bath salts, etc. (Long story - but none of these things really works well for me).
There is no need to spend a lot of money. Even a couple of new pencils and a sharpener works. A writer can write anywhere with them.
Today's thought: "To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift." - Steve Prefontaine
Today's teaser: What is on your writer's wish list?
Sunday, December 03, 2006
I can't imagine traveling this road without them. We are there to support each other, cheer for each other, and offer help and tips on everything from raising kids to what makes a character work. The range of experience is huge - from multi-published to newbies who've yet to write more than a few sentences, yet we are all there for each other. Our lives are vastly different too, running from young single women who support themselves to those of us in a more mature state of life whose families are grown and off on their own. We are teachers, secretaries, nurses, salespersons, and court reporters. But mostly, we are all writers.
That is the thread that draws us all together. I love this group that I'm in and know I would not be as far as I am without them. So, to CPRW, I thank you and can't wait to see what the new year brings us.
Today's thought: "One cannot consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar." - Helen Keller
Today's teaser: Looking for a holiday gift to give a writer friend? Buy a new journal and use the first page to write a paragraph or two on why you value their friendship so much.
To blog: Where do you go when you need support? Do you have a writer's group you depend on?
Saturday, December 02, 2006
But they are too busy with life to write full time. As I was when I was their age. Now I am older, wiser, and have the time to spend on my writing. And I wish I had even a modicum of their talent to tell a story. I am technically a good writer. I know grammar; I can create an imaginary world - the background and setting - that is realistic enough that I've been asked to teach workshops on how to build a world; I can create characters that are realistic. What I have trouble with is the story itself. The plotting. I've been told by editors and agents - and my son - that I write vignettes - even if it's 400 pages. I need to build more angst into my stories. I need more practice in telling a story.
My dad was an incredible storyteller. Unfortunately, his repertoire was limited so he tended to tell the same stories dozens (if not hundreds) of times. They were stories of his life - which was full and incredibly interesting. He did not know grammar and couldn't parse a sentence if his life depended on it, but he could tell a story.
So that is what I need to work on. The plotting aspect of my stories. I need to make that stronger. There is always something for us writers to work on and that is what makes this profession so much fun - and so frustrating. It is a never ending climb with steep steps along the way that let us know we have so far to go - and yet have come far already.
Today's thought: "Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself." - William Faulkner
Today's Teaser: Describe a late December day in the northeast without using the words December, snow, or holiday.
Friday, December 01, 2006
What writer hasn't been asked this question. So what's your answer? A simple one is "Everywhere." The more complicated one is "Everywhere."
For a writer, ideas may come to them from a snippet of conversation overheard, from a headline in the news, from a dream, from reading the back of a cereal box. There is no book, no reference work or website (okay, there may be - but I haven't looked) where we go to get our ideas. Ideas come from our daily lives. Remember my friend with the bandaged ankle? She may very well show up in one of my stories as a part of a character who is having a nasty day and ends up hurting her ankle. Another friend is an ex-cop, ex-city council member, and now writes computer security manuals - she'll probably end up in one of my stories somewhere. Not her exactly - I would never do that to anyone - but parts of her.
We writer's are thieves. We steal personalities, styles, houses, looks, everything and anything and throw them in a bag, mix them up, and come out with characters and settings that are uniquely ours.
The trick is to keep them around so we'll have them when we need them. For me, I keep notes on both the computer and in a huge three-ring binder. When I need a story idea, I've got dozens there just waiting for me.
Today's Thought: "We will go to the moon. We will go to the moon and do other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard." - John F. Kennedy
Today's Teaser: Where do you get your ideas? And once you have them, how do you keep them so you can use them at a future date?