Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Not many people realize that in addition to writing books, he actually started out as a screenwriter. His screenplay "The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer" won the Oscar in 1947. In later years, he switched from the movies to television giving us such wonderful memories as "The Patty Duke Show" and "I Dream of Jeannie".
But it was his books that I knew him best for. Though critics were not kind to him, the public was as his paperbacks became instant best sellers. He knew how to write for public enjoyment. I believe I've read - and enjoyed - almost all of his books. And I know as a tribute to him, I will probably go back and re-read them. I also urge others to read them. He was a master storyteller.
Another author who is long gone, but not forgotten is Zane Grey, who was born on this day in 1872. Though he died in 1932, long before I was born, his works yet live on. I remember sitting with my father and reading Grey's westerns. I've never been a huge fan of westerns - I'm more the fantasy and science fiction type - but I did like Grey's. Maybe it was because of my father. But whatever the reason, he is one author I will always remember.
today's author birthdays: Zane Grey, Norman Mailer
Today's thought: "I must write as though I were a person of importance; and indeed, I am - to myself." - W. Somerset Maugham
Today's teaser: You wake up in a field or other remote area with no clue who you are and no identification on you. What happened? What's the first thing you'll remember? Do you want to go back to your old life - or start a new one? Why?
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
So many people push children and young adults to read "literature" and non-fiction - books that are "good for them." While I agree that this type of reading is important, so are fairy tales and science fiction and fantasy, books of pure imagination. Books that take us to other worlds or explore new ways of looking at the one we live on. They stretch and open minds up to possibilities, allowing children to, if you'll forgive the cliche, "think outside the box".
When we allow this type of thought process, we invite invention and innovation into our children's lives. Without these, our world would be a poor place indeed. We need to encourage our youth to read, to imagine, to create, to go beyond boundaries.
And the way to do that is through reading.
Today's author birthdays: Lloyd Alexander, George Villiers, Walter Landor, Saul Alinsky, Barbara Tuchman, Shirley Hazzard, Richard Brautigan, Michael Dorris
Today's Thought: "First sentences are doors to the world." - Ursula LeGuin
Today's teaser: Create a scene using the following: 'You've been chosen', 'In a lab', splinter, guitar: Once upon a time....
Monday, January 29, 2007
By the end of the first line, we were all singing it. It had stuck in our memories for so long just waiting to burst forth. And now it won't leave me alone! I can hear my son chortling now. I've been humming that darned song for three days!
Some songs are like that. They work their way into your brain and get stuck there. I believe the term is called "mind worm" - but don't quote me on that. There are other songs like that - and no, I'm not going to name any. If I do, I'll probably start humming them! At least the one I'm stuck with is semi-cute.
There are other things that stay long in the memory. Books I read as a child or teen, music heard, snippets of conversations. My husband often accuses me of having too good a memory. Times like this, with this song playing ad nauseum in my brain, I believe he just may be right.
Today's author birthdays: Thomas Paine, Anton Chekhov (yes, I know he was in the other day - his dob depends on which website you look at), Romain Rolland, Vincete Blasco Ibanez, Edward Abbey
Today's thought: "All you need is a blank piece of paper and a pencil." - Seymour Mann (father of Erica Jong)
Today's teaser: This is National Puzzle Day. Puzzles come in all sizes, shapes and formats from easy word searches to building furniture. Imagine you are in the business of creating puzzles. What new type would you come up with? How many pieces would it have? How big is it? Do you need tools to assemble, or a dictionary to solve? Is there a prize for the first solver? Let your imagination puzzle the facts out.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
This is a trick to remember for when you're blocked. Just start writing. About anything. About nothing. If you can't think of anything at all, write that. (I can't think of anything to write.) Pretty soon, other words will come and your creative side will kick in and you'll be off and writing. It's an easy trick to remember, but something so very few of us do. We just sit there and stare at the page. Or we play solitaire or other games. Or we surf the net hoping to find something to spark our imagination. Those things are okay on occasion, but tend to burn up the hours. You set out to play one game and an hour later you're still playing. Or you want to check this website your friend told you about - which leads to another and another, etc.
Why not try just writing? Sometimes the act of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) is all it takes to jumpstart your brain.
And that is all it took me this morning. I now have an idea to work with and will run with it - as soon as I finish this game of solitaire.
Today's author birthdays: Colette, Jose Marti
Today's thought: To write is to be reborn, to affirm the self, the soul and the creative spirit. - Erica Jong
Today's teaser: You've won the lottery - a million dollars. What would you do? Move? Quit your day job? Blow it all in a week? Or save for the future?
Saturday, January 27, 2007
I love it. And especially with these two. They are both so creative. I know neither one has the time or energy to write a full novel. But oh, what a story they could write. My son publishes a (more-or-less) weekly cartoon and his wry wit always has me chuckling (look under "links" for Zoidland). They write skits for their church and are the creative directors for much of what goes on there. This, in addition to working and raising my wonderful grandson.
But back to brainstorming (okay, it's early and my mind tends to wander sometimes) - I've seen this happen any time creative people get together to talk about their stories. Someone throws out an idea and everyone runs with it. You may end up with nothing, but more often than not, you end up with an idea that you hadn't thought of - but it is so good that you have to use it.
But someone else thought of it - isn't that a problem? Nope. That's the cool thing about brainstorming. All the ideas are out there for anyone to try. And even if multiple people use the same idea, trust me, no two stories will be alike. That happened at a small group meeting I was at one time. There were five of us and we threw out an idea - and came up with five different ways to approach the same thread. It was amazing. None of us came up with the same way and we had a ball looking at each other's solutions.
So if you're stuck and don't know a way to go - get friend or a group of friends and throw out a 'what if' and see what happens.
Today's author birthdays: Lewis Carroll
Today's thought: "Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." - Winston Churchill
Today's teaser: One of your characters keeps something in a box, buried where no one will find it. What is in there? What is the significance of the object or objects? Where is it buried? What will happen if someone ever finds it?
Friday, January 26, 2007
Okay, two days off is more than enough time. I read, I critiqued, I blogged, but I did not work on “my” writing. Today, I will. I have a new project to work on and it’s nagging at me to get to it. That’s the funny thing about writers and stories. I hear this all the time from my writer friends – there’s this story that just won’t leave me alone…. So we jot down notes and maybe write a few pages until we have time to get to it.
I really don’t have the time because there is so much else going on right now, but I will make the time and work on the story. Why? Because that is the fun part of this job. The writing. The creating. Starting out with a world that I set up, I populate with people I want there – even the bad guys. Without conflict, there isn’t much of a story. I write the notes, jot down the plot lines, create the characters, figure out the settings. There is nothing more exciting than starting something new.
And in the meantime, I will work on the rest of the “stuff” that is part and parcel of an author’s life. I will write synopses and send out queries and do promotions – some of which is fun, some of which is not. But it is all good. It means I am an author.
And to me, that is the most exciting thing of all.
Today’s author birthdays: Jules Feiffer
Today’s thought: “What we do in our working hours determines what we have; what we do in our leisure time determines what we are.” – Confucius
Today's teaser: Your character has a tattoo. Does she display it, or hide it from the world? Why? When, where and why did she get it? Does she regret the impulse?
Thursday, January 25, 2007
And it felt great.
In talking with other writer friends, we've noticed that there seems to be a roller coaster effect to our writing. One day, we write 20-30 pages or more and the next, almost nothing. It's as if our brains need that down time to recharge after a heavy creative day.
I've read multiple how to books on writing and all of them agree that after you finish a large project, you need to put it away and do something else. If you want to write, fine, just be sure it's something completely different from what you've just finished. Many people I know use this time to catch up on their reading.
I just know that my mind feels better for not having worked on that manuscript for a day. And since I'll be doing some traveling today, I won't get back to work on writing today either. I will tomorrow, but not that manuscript. I think it needs to sit and settle for a while.
But not for more than a week or so. After all, this is my business and a manuscript sitting in a drawer won't sell itself.
We all need down time now and then. It's critical to our mental well-being. Whether it's from our job - or taking care of family - or anything we do on a regular basis, we need breaks to relax and recharge. Be sure you're doing that for yourself.
Today's author birthdays: Robert Burns, W. Somerset Maugham, Virginia Woolf
Today's thought: "Instead of looking for success in your life, look for the thing that is going to bring you the greatest joy." - Oprah Winfrey
Today's teaser: What do you do to relax and recharge? What gives you the push to keep on going when you can't?
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
The project is such a complete change for me. And a challenge. I normally write either futuristics or medieval fantasy that come in at around 400 pages. This is a contemporary urban fantasy that topped out at 252 pages. I know that will change as I do the edits. Stuff will be dropped, others added but the basics are done. I also did this all in just a couple of months. Oh, I know there are writers out there who can whip out 250 pages in a couple of weeks, but that is usually for a first draft with no editing done. I can't do that. I edit as I go along so this is actually pretty clean copy. One thing I will not do is start on those edits right now. The story will be put in a virtual drawer for a couple of weeks so when I do get back to it, I can look at it with fresh eyes.
So what do I do now? I have two edits to finish for other people and a previous work of my own to edit. Plus marketing to do for my two coming out. Plus the never-ending agent/editor search for what I have. Trust me, I am never without a project to do. Oh, and there's this new story brewing... ;)
But I'm done. For now.
Today's author birthdays: Edith Warton, William Congreve, Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, Desmond Morris
Today's thought: "Finishing your novel doesn't guarantee publication, but not finishing it guarantees no publication. The true test of whether you're a real novelist isn't that you're working on a book. It's that you finished one." - Ryamond Obstfeld (from Handbook of Novel Writing)
Today's teaser: What are the essential tools you need to be a writer? In addition to tangible items like paper and pencil, don't forget intangibles like determination.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
e.g. Stephen King
If you look at these three authors - maybe you know their work, maybe you don't - but the names evoke certain types of writing. Take Stephen King - I've read two of his books. One I liked, one I didn't. I have not read others because I am not a fan of horror. And horror is his brand. When I see the name Stephen King, I immediately think horror. That is his brand. John Grisham is suspense and legal drama. Danielle Steele = romance. Agatha Christie = mystery. These are their brands. Yes, they may write (or wrote) other works, but these are what they are best known for. When a reader sees their name on a book, they have certain expectations and it is important to deliver.
So what is my brand? Good question. I'm going with fantasy mixed with a little science fiction. Yes, I also write straight sf, but most of my work tends to be in the fantasy genre than straight sf. But the jury is still out. Like any new author, I'm a work in progress.
Today's author birthdays: Marie-Henri Beyle Stendhal, Louis Zukofsky, Derek Walcott, John Hancock
Today's thought: "Every creator painfully experiences the chasm between his inner vision and its ultimate expression." - Isaac Bashevis Singer
Today's teaser: When someone sees your name on the spine of a book, or on your website, what do you want them to think? What is your brand?
Monday, January 22, 2007
Last night, in the middle of the night, the solution came to me. Now some people might have gotten up and gone to their computers and typed away. Or some people would have paper and a pen at hand to write everything down. Or even a recorder to tape their notes. But not me. Nope. My paper was in the other room, where I'd foolishly left it. My computer was turned off for the night. And it was cold!
So I crossed my fingers and snuggled down under the covers and repeated the ending over and over until I had it firmly entrenched in my mind. I've done this before - and lost whatever brilliant idea came to me more often than not. But not this time. This time I remembered. So as soon as I finish this blog - and everything else I take care of in the morning - I am going to get to writing.
Won't I forget? Nope. I found my paper and pencil and the notes are safely noted down for later reference. Idiocy does not run in my family. :) And tonight I will make sure the paper and pencil are back where they belong, next to my bed just in case another ah-hah moment decides to declare itself in the middle of the night.
Today's author birthdays: Lord Byron, Francis Bacon
Today's thought: "As I look back on what I have written, I can see that the very persons who have taken my time are those who have given me something to say." - Katherine Paterson
Today's teaser: What do you do for those ah-hah moments? How do you capture that little bit of an idea that will lead to a story or a part of one?
Sunday, January 21, 2007
That may not sound like a lot, but it's pretty good for me. As I keep challenging myself to do more - to be more organized. With organization comes productivity. So overall, it's been a good week.
Now if I could just find my desk.
Today's author birthdays: Wolfgang Kohler
Today's thought: "You may think you're not an artist. You are. Everyone is, or can be, but it all depends on how you deal with your life." - Milton Katselas in "Dreams Into Action"
Today's teaser: Use the following in a scene: taxi, spaceship, blizzard, New Year's Eve
Saturday, January 20, 2007
What is mind boggling is my dad's side of the family. My dad was born in 1926. Nothing special about that. But his father - my grandfather - was born in February 1865 - while Abraham Lincoln was still alive! I mean we're talking ancient history here. My grandmother was born in 1881. There are many cute stories my dad used to tell about his family. Thankfully, before he passed, he recorded them along with the names and birthdates of his siblings.
Those stories are a wealth of information on the past century. Several years ago, I took Dad's recorded notes and transcribed them and made them into books for the family. Stories of growing up on farms during the Depression. Of going to work when he was six to help support the family. Of joining the army and being a part of WWII and the Korean conflict. Of his travels in the Philippines, Japan, France, etc. Of working the railroads and electric lines and being a cop. All of his stories are a part of my history as well as a part of the history of the world. Dad may not have thought they were important - although he certainly told them often enough! - but I do and I hope my children and grandchildren will someday too.
You may think your life isn't fascinating, but to your future, it may be. Do yourself and them a favor and write or record you life for them. Tell them the stories of what life was like when....
Today's author birthdays: Federico Fellini
Today's thought: "Successful writers are not the ones who write the best sentences. They are the ones who keep writing." - Bonnie Friedman
Today's teaser: Pick a room in your house - preferably one you are not in - and describe it in detail - colors, knick-knacks, dust bunnies, everything. Use this description as a setting for a scene.
Friday, January 19, 2007
When I do a critique or an edit, I find it helps me out. I have become a better writer because I am an editor. And I've become a better editor because I am a writer. When I am reading a book, I don't specifically read each and every word or look for punctuation errors or other problems. Yes, I often find them - which really bothers me when reading a "professionally produced" book. But I don't spend a lot of time looking for them. I read to enjoy the book.
When I edit, I am forced to read much more slowly than I do when reading for enjoyment. I have to consider every word - is it the right one for this book? I have to look for periods, commas, quotes that open and close, misspellings and spacing. I have to be aware of consistency and plot lines. It can be a tedious job.
But I know doing this job has made me a better writer. Because I am more aware of these things, I am more aware when I am writing. I watch out for all this stuff. Is my work perfect? Not by a long shot. I watch out for it, but I am not infallible (as my son has so often pointed out in these blogs). And that is what I rely on *my* crit partners for. They will read my stuff and slap my virtual hands when I goof - just as I do theirs.
So do I spend too much time on other's stuff? Not in my mind. When I crit their work, I am learning. And when they return the favor, I learn more. It all balances out in the end. I just need to become better organized at my timing. :) (Gee, get organized? Me? I can hear the universe laughing now since according to my family, I am obsessively organized.)
So today will be more critting, more editing - and maybe even some writing of my own.
Today's author birthdays: Edgar Allen Poe
Today's thought: "A word is not the same with one writer as with another. One tears it from his guts. The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket." - Charles Peguy
Today's teaser: In addition to being National Hot Tea Month, January is also National Oatmeal Month and National Soup Month. Create a menu for your character using these three basics. Would she go for elegant or simple? Eat in a restaurant, diner, or at home? Alone or with someone?
Thursday, January 18, 2007
For me, choosing a character name is nearly as important as the story itself. I have trouble writing the story unless my protagonists and antagonists have their names and it can't be a place marker type of name. Having my characters ready to go is one of the bigger parts of writing for me.
In addition to their names, I have to have their backgrounds. Sometimes, I write a diary for them or interview them, like I would a person I'm doing a newspaper article on. After all, the story is their story to tell. For my book Akashan'te (coming out next month!!!), my interview with Rowyn, the heroine, was nearly twenty pages. I didn't use everything in there, but it gave me the basis for the book - sort of an outline if you will. It worked well for me. When I got bogged down in the story, I referred to the interview and knew exactly where I needed to go next.
Some people say the plot drives the story, others say it's the characters. For me, it's both.
I loved brainstorming with my D-I-L yesterday. Wonder what kind of characters we could talk about today? Nah. She's busy with my grandson and her own work. But what fun bouncing ideas off of someone else.
Today's author birthdays: A.A. Milne, Peter Roget
Today's thought: "To convince readers that what you're writing about can - or has - happened, you're going to need characters who not only move the plot along, but also are real enough to get readers believing." - W.C. Stroby (from "Handbook of Novel Writing")
Today's teaser: This is Winnie the Pooh Day. If you could be a character in a Winnie the Pooh story, who would you be and why?
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
And that's okay. It happens. So I re-assess, rearrange, and reset my goals. I will get the files done, hopefully this week, but if it doesn't happen, it's not the end of the world.
When you set a goal, it is something you aim for. Something you want to get done. If you work for a company where you have a task to do, your goal is to get that job done. In that world, you are under constraints to get it done since your paycheck often depends on your accomplishments. If you set a personal goal, such as my wanting to get my files organized, the impetus is not as critical. I don't have someone standing over my head holding a paycheck out as a carrot. But I must work around the constraints that I do have. Due to family needs, I don't have exclusive access to the computer which limits the time I have to get my work done. And that is what happened. An unexpected need by another person to use the computer limited my time and my ability to reach my goal.
So I re-evaluate. I still have the goal, but my timeline is now more flexible. In the meantime, I have other goals that I am working on that are on schedule. And yes, you can have more than one goal at a time. Just don't overwhelm yourself that you end up getting nothing done, or only pieces of each. Make goals and then rate them as to importance and the amount of time each will take. Once you have them worked out, go to work on them. Do any of them require building on others? If so, you want to get the other ones done first. Or the ones that take the least amount of time.
A goal is something to aim for. You control it. Don't let it control you.
Today's author birthdays: Anton Chekhov
Today's thought: "A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people." - Thomas Mann
Today's teaser: Describe a person or place using on one sense - e.g. a kitchen using only the sense of smell.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
So today will be a day of organizing. Mostly computer files. My paper files are in good shape. It's the computer that's a mess. I've got files spread over the desktop, laptop and Dana (word processor). While they are loosely organized into folders, I need to weed out the ones that are no longer relevant and re-group the others to make them more useful.
The worst of the lot are my e-mails. I receive several hundred a day and save a bunch of them, meaning to read them more closely and do something with them. Hah. Rarely happens. So that is my goal for today. Organize my computer files. I'll let you know tomorrow how it goes. :)
Today's author birthdays: Susan Sontag, Andre Michelin
Today's thought: "Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going." - Jim Ryun
Today's teaser: Select five words at random from the dictionary and use them in a scene.
Monday, January 15, 2007
So what is the problem? Most people I know aren't quite as mobile as others and some aren't technologically inclined. Yes, they enter their manuscripts on the computer and even do e-mail, but that's about it. They still live in the paper world. Even I, who love my machines and would go into withdraw without my electronics, keep paper backups of everything. I've had technology fail one too many times for my comfort. I know I've railed at you before to keep backups, but the message is a good one. Back up everything and if it's really important, keep a paper copy as well.
But having that idea box/file/binder is also a good idea because of its portability. Yes, I know people carry laptops and PDAs and other electronics, but they aren't always practical. If you're in a restaurant or watching a movie, you can't very well whip out your laptop and take notes. But you can pull out a 3x5 card or a small notebook or even a napkin (paper please - no taking notes on fancy linen) and jot down some quick notes. Just a few words or lines to jog your memory later is all it takes.
Yes, definitely set up files on your computer or PDA or whatever device you use. But don't turn your nose up at a simple card or paper file. Sometimes simple works better.
Today's author birthdays: Moliere, Robert Silverberg
Today's thought: "The story begins when things change. The adventure begins when things go wrong." - Dennis McKiernan (from a workshop)
Today's teaser: Using the words fog, almond, skull - finish this: I'd never been so lost....
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Yesterday, I talked about ideas. I'm going to continue this thread today by suggesting ways to remember those ideas.
One of the workshops I do for various groups is on how to get organized, especially in your writing life - basic how-to's on setting up files, ledgers, etc. to make the business part of your life easier to handle. Over the next few days, I'm going to do a mini-workshop for you here and I'm going to start with the idea file.
There are many things you can do to set up an idea file. As each person is different and unique, so too will be his or her file. Pick any one of the suggestions below - or more than one if that works for you. The trick is, as in any organization project, to find one that works for you, that you will use consistently, and that doesn't bog you down.
1. Idea Jar: The bigger the jar or container the better. This is where you can keep strips of paper on which you jot down a sentence or two for your idea. Then when you need inspiration, you reach in, pull something out and go with it. Note, this only works if you can be succinct and convey the idea in as few words as possible - and then remember what they mean when you pull it out at a later date.
2. File folder: A manila folder that you keep somewhere accessible, preferably in a sorter on your desk. Into this you can toss those slips of paper, napkins, or whatever you wrote your idea on. It's easier than a jar because it will hold larger pieces of paper, but can still become a mess after time if you don't separate things. This has the advantage in that, if you have a file cabinet or other container for files, it is easily expanded and sorted and will accommodate all sorts of trash - uh, notepaper.
3. Three ring binder: Nice, neat, easy to use, easy to store, easy to sort, inexpensive. But you have to write all the stuff on binder paper or use pages that will hold odd papers.
4. Note cards: (This is my favorite) 3x5 note cards are compact, easy to file, easy to stick in a pocket or purse or anywhere you travel. You jot your notes on them, then file them in a card box. You can even purchase or make separators for the box and sort it into characters, plot lines, settings, etc. It will even hold odd slips of paper, but nothing large. So again, you have to be succinct. If you want, you can even use larger note cards - 4x6 or 5x8 and the appropriate sized boxes - these give you more options on what you can toss in there. You can even start a separate box for agents and editors, finished manuscripts, etc.
So the first thing you're going to do to get organized this year is start an idea file. Pick one of the ones above or figure out something else that works for you. Find a clear spot on your desk and put it there so you can - and will - use it. It doesn't belong under the car seat with the lost crayons or stale donut nor does it belong stuffed in a closet behind the pile of dirty laundry. Put it someplace you will use it - then do.
Today's author birthdays: Hugh Lofting, John dos Passos
Today's thought: "I believe the force is within you, so force yourself." - Harrison Ford (in Barbara Walters interview)
Today's teaser: Get a time, set it for fifteen minutes and write. Anything. Everything. Do not think about it. Do not answer the phone (unless it's a publisher calling with a contract), do not do anything else. Just write.
Saturday, January 13, 2007
Okay, those of you who know me best can stop laughing any time now.
The rest of you, read that first sentence again. According to my dictionary, a thought is defined as the act or process of thinking; the power of reasoning, intellect, imagination; an idea. The definition of an idea is: a mental conception or image; a plan, scheme, intention; a hazy perception.
Most times, that is all a writer starts out with - a thought. An idea. What you do with that idea depends on the type of writer you are. Take for instance the words "weather anomaly". If you are a non-fiction writer, you are going to do research and interviews and try to explain the unexplainable, the causes and effects and how to cope with the problem. If you are a fiction writer, you are going to do research and interviews and explain the unexplainable, the causes and effects and how to cope with the problem. Both use the same techniques, but the outcomes are exceedingly different.
For the non-fiction writer, the book or article will deal with what is - with facts and figures, with quantifiable information. For the fiction writer, the story may not even deal with something that is real - but the ways the characters deal with the anomaly should be as realistic as possible. Okay, so we don't know how we would deal with a huge comet coming crashing into Earth, but we do know how real people deal with real emergencies like tsunamis or hurricanes. It is how you write about these emotions and actions that determines the type of writer you are.
The contrasts between fiction and non-fiction are wide, but so too are the distinctions within the fiction realm. A horror writer will deal with the problem in a vastly different way than a science fiction writer, a literary writer, or a romance writer. Give a group of five writers an idea, and you will get five unique ways of dealing with it.
One of the worst questions you can ask a writer is "Where do you get your ideas?" Ideas come from everywhere. They come from headlines, news stories, a snippet of a conversation overheard, a dream, a song, another story. They come from living our lives. For a writer, everything in life can lead to a thought. Though we tend to be insular, we don't ignore anything. If we did, we might miss that gem that leads to our next story or article. There is nothing more exciting to a writer than the words -
I have an idea.
Today's author birthdays: Horatio Alger
Today's thought: "Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do." - Goethe (also paraphrased: "Do or do not. There is no try." - Master Yoda)
Today's teaser: Your character is building a new house. What does it look like? Where is it? How will it be furnished? Be specific. Details are important.
Friday, January 12, 2007
She is computer illiterate, relying on her son and daughter to take care of her e-mail and other computer issues. She used an electric typewriter to produce her 700 page novel - a modern retelling of a Greek myth. A couple of years ago, I took on the job of typing it into the computer for her and formatting the thing. It was an okay story, but not great and at that many pages, it is in need of some serious editing. But she won't hear that. All she knows is she's written this wonderful book and can't understand why the entire world isn't beating a path to her door to buy it.
And that is the one thing I like about her. She believes in herself; in her work. She has absolute faith that this is a wonderful story and that it will sell. Those of us who have seen the work all agree that, in its present state, it will not. But she doesn't hear us. She ignores advice, even from an agent who took the time to write her a personal note telling her what was wrong. For this woman, her words are gold and they will sell as is.
I have some major problems with her attitude - but not with her belief. I wish more of us had that kind of confidence. I wish I did. This woman will never be my friend and will always be an irritant to the majority of the group, but I have to admire this aspect of her.
And that is something we can all use more of.
I didn't intend for this blog to be a downer. Blame it on the rain, the cold, the early hour... or just my frustration with the way my current WIP is going (for those who don't know - WIP means work in progress). Today, I will work on my story and I will work on promotions for my books that I have coming out and I will find that place down inside me where hope lives.
And I will believe.
Today's author birthdays: Jack London
Today's thought: "A writer is like a bag lady going through life with a sack and and a pointed stick collecting stuff" - Tony Hillerman
Today's teaser: Create a new creature for a fantasy world. What does it look like? Large or small? Furry, scaled, hairy? Legs? Wings? Would it be of use to humans? What does it eat? Let your imagination run wild.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
When I was growing up, I always had my nose in a book. I vividly remember my grandmother having a problem with that and my father arguing with her about it. My grandmother did not believe reading was good for a person and the only book she had on her table was the Bible. I don't know why she was so against reading, but thank goodness my father wasn't. When my children were young, my mother-in-law had similar issues. She complained that they read too much. Thank goodness my husband nixed that they read too much. In our house, books and magazines lined tables, shelves and even the floor. Oh, they had other toys and electronics and even sports stuff to play with, but books were important in our home.
Today, I look at my grandson, playing with his letters, asking me to read him this book (even though I just read the same one at least a half dozen times) and I gratefully indulge him. His parents put importance in books and learning and I know he will grow up enjoying the written word.
And that is what is truly important. Foster the love of books at a young age will keep children reading and learning and allow minds to be opened and accepting of new and different things. And that is what life is all about.
Today is the birthday of Alan Paton
Today's thought: "You're a writer. And that's something better than being a millionaire. Because it's something holy." - Harlan Ellison
Today's teaser: Your character has been kidnapped and is being held in a small room. Describe how s/he gets out using any of the following items found in the room: plastic comb, stone, rusty nail, bottle cap
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
What is continuity? It is having a hero start out with blue eyes and black hair and end up with blue eyes and black hair - not green eyes and blond hair. It is starting the story out on Tuesday, going through a week and not ending up on Thursday. It is ending up with the same character names you started out with. If you make note cards or even a spreadsheet - one card or column for each character - that lists physical characteristics, name, etc. It will help you keep track of who is who in your story.
What about accuracy? Check your facts. I had a writer once who was attempting to read a map by his headlights in full dark. Okay, so what's wrong with that? Nothing except it was July, he was in northern Texas, and it was only 8 p.m. That would be evening - near sunset - but not yet full dark.
This may sound like a small thing, and in the greater scope of a full novel, it is, but it is also a red flag. You may say most readers wouldn't catch something like that and you may be right. But it is for those who do catch these things that you have to be as accurate as possible. Believe me, they will let other readers know if you've messed up. Yes, writers and editors aren't going to catch everything. I've got multiple books on my shelves where something was missed in the final edit - from large houses and small, big name writers and newbies. I make enough of my own just writing these blogs. But just because these mistakes slip through doesn't mean you shouldn't do all you can to catch them before the book - or blog - hits the shelves.
Today's author birthday: Tolstoy
Today's thought: "Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man." - Francis Bacon
Today's teaser: (Insert name), You've just won ten million dollars! What are you going to do now?
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Yesterday, I thought I had a good day. I critiqued four chapters for a writing friend and edited 50 pages of my own stuff, then wrote five new pages. Not too bad for a couple of hours of work. Then one of my writing partners wrote in what she had done. She critted the same four chapters I did, plus another 300 pages, plus wrote 10 pages of her own. All this while bundled up in blankets and hats as the heat in her house had quit working. And she feels like a slacker!
If anyone is the slacker, it is me. Her accomplishment under trying circumstances challenges me. I have good working conditions. I have heat. I can do better than this.
So today I will do better. And I will post the results tomorrow. We'll see what happens. The challenge? All the errands I have to do today cutting into my time. But those are excuses. Check in tomorrow to see the results.
Today's author birthdays: Karel Capek, Simone de Beauvoir, Judith Krantz
Today's thought: "True ease in writing comes from art, not chance." - Alexander Pope
Today's teaser: Complete this sentence: The world would be a better place if only.....
Monday, January 08, 2007
But even if you don't like fantasy stories, pick up his book "Sometimes the Magic Works", a non-fiction book of insights into the writing life and a guide on how to write. It is an incredible piece of work that belongs on every writer's shelf. In it, he talks about hooks, beginnings and endings, the writer's life in general. And his little bits of wisdom can get you through the roughest spots in your manuscript - and your life.
Terry's book is full of reality - and encouragement. And that is something we all need now and then. The writer's groups I belong to are all about encouragement. Yes, we are technically competing against each other, but in what other business is a competitor going to cheer with you on your success (and even purchase your product and ask for an autograph) and commiserate with your rejections? Every writer's group I belong to is rife with people who will pat you on the back when you need it - or kick you in the butt when you need that.
Do we get jealous when another makes it big? Yep. In my one group, one woman just made a multi-book deal with a large publishing house. She has made it. And she was at the meeting on Saturday encouraging the rest of us to keep trying and willing to help the rest of us "make it" big someday too. It is writers like her that give the business a good name. And I've found most writers are the same way. They are encouraging and helpful. Send them a fan letter, and they respond in kind. They know what it's like to be struggling and they enjoy knowing someone reads their work and likes it.
For myself, I can't wait to have my first books out there. I'm nervous and excited and scared... but I know my friends will be behind me, holding me up through this exciting time and even purchasing a book or two. Because that's what writers do. We are first and foremost readers. And hopefully, that is something we will never forget. To create a story that someone else wants to read, that will transport them to other worlds, teach them something new, or just let them escape for a few minutes is the greatest gift we writers can give.
Today's thought: "Talent is never enough in any field; it must be coupled with perseverance and the need for recognition." - Rod McKuen
Today's teaser: You've lived in the north all your life. You know January means snow, ice and freezing temperatures. Describe this month somewhere else - a tropical island or the deep south (if you're from the south, describe a northern winter). Pick some place you don't know and do the research and work out a scene in that new area.
Sunday, January 07, 2007
I am a person who likes schedules. Oh, not to the point where every minute is accounted for. But I like knowing what I'm going to be doing in general from day to day and when something upsets that schedule, things tend to get forgotten. For instance, every morning I feed the cat, let her out onto the sun porch, then sit down at the computer and read my e-mail. Then I blog. I didn't do that yesterday. I took care of the cat, then took meds for my pounding head and didn't get to the rest until much later - too late to do much more than glance at e-mail. Thus the forgetfulness.
But one thing I didn't forget was my writer's meeting. Yes, I could have skipped it yesterday. But I was presenting an award to a friend of mine and I didn't want to give that honor to someone else. I wanted to be there to see her face (she didn't know about the award) and to enjoy her surprise and happiness. That to me was more important than blogs or headaches. And the trip was worth it.
We all make choices every day - most of them minor ones that affect very little. Right now, I have two novels on my computer to critique for other people and a third on the way. But my goal for this month is to finish the novel I'm working on - I'm about 200 pages from doing that. So, do I critique my friend's work, knowing it is taking away time for me to work on my own stuff? Or do I skip it and do my own? Knowing me, I'll probably do a little of both. An hour of critiquing, an hour or two of writing. Both will get done. Somehow. Mostly because I will schedule time for both. I know the work is there so I will manage to get it all done. That's who I am.
Someone once said "If you want something done, give it to a busy person." I am that person. I find that the busier I am, the more I get done.
But I want it on my schedule. :)
Today's thought: "You say what you have to say. But you learn to say it in such a way that the reader can see what you mean." - Kurt Vonnegut
Today's teaser: Start a reading and writing journal. What does writing mean to you and why do you write? Note the last five books you've read and what you liked or disliked about them. Keep track of everything you do that is writing related in the journal.
Friday, January 05, 2007
One thing that I'm having trouble with, though, is the names one of the authors came up with. They are so strange that I can't wrap my mind process around them. So that is what I'm going to talk about today. Character names.
In any book, the names should be memorable, but not so hard to figure out that the reader has to stop and study the name. If the reader has to do that, then you've lost the reader. At that point, they can be tempted to put the book down and go do something else. Not good.
In science fiction and fantasy, writers tend to use more odd names than in other genres of fiction. That's fine, but don't make the name overly difficult. Just because the story takes place on another planet, with other cultures or includes other creatures doesn't mean the names have to be exotic. I sometimes feel like a contestant on "Wheel of Fortune" - I'd like to buy a vowel please.
Make the character names readable. Exotic, yes, but readable and understandable.
Today's thought: "I have to go where the book wants to. To start, you need a structure, something to hang it on, but if it wants to change, you have to listen and let it change." - Madeleine L'Engle.
Today's teaser: Come up with a list of names for hero and/or heroine and villain for a variety of genres - historical, science fiction, fantasy, romance, contemporary, etc. and why you chose those names.
Thursday, January 04, 2007
But one thing the stories did have was lasting power. They live today - yes, the less gory ones, but the essence of the story is there. Like any classic - Shakespeare, Cervantes, Swift, etc. - there is a certain "something" about them that makes them timeless. Is it the writing? The storytelling? Or is it only because they were the first to be written down? The themes they embody have been copied endlessly because they speak to the heart of humanity.
Cinderella - the rags to riches story; Romeo and Juliet - love between warring factions; The Man of La Mancha - fighting against great odds for what you believe in -- all of these have been done by other authors, but is the originals that endure.
Someone once said that there are no new stories to be told. I don't believe that. If I did, I wouldn't be a writer. Yes, the "themes" may be retreads, but the stories themselves are new. Each author brings his or her own slant on life to a story and it is that unique viewpoint that breathes new life into an old theme. It is why we keep buying books and reading stories. We don't care that it may only be a "good vs. evil" story once more. We care that it is new and exciting and a good read.
No matter the theme, I can't wait to open a new book and read the story within. It is the writer's words that move me, not the basis of the story. (Although, yes, there has to be a plot and other skills of good writing involved). And maybe that is why the originals endure. The authors knew how to tell a good story - and make it last.
Today's thought: "Fiction and poetry have a common goal. They should touch you, move you, grab you." - Jean Auel
Today's teaser: Imagine that you found a treasure box. What does it look like? You're dying to open it. Should you? Why or why not? If you do, what is inside? What does it mean? Where is it from? If you don't, why not? And what do you do with it now?
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
Most writers have other jobs - either part time or full time - outside the home. No, it is not easy raising a large family and working at another job and trying to write, but it can be done. The problem is, getting her family to understand that they need to pitch in and help so she can continue to follow her dream. Failure comes only if she allows the dream to die.
And I and her other writing buddies will not allow that to happen. She is too good. Her stories are emotional, dark, and scary, but with the HEA (Happily Ever After) endings that leave me satisfied. So why hasn't she sold? Who knows. This is a difficult business to be in. I was at a conference once where a top agent was speaking. According to him, less than 1/2 of 1 percent of all writers will ever be published. Those are distressing odds.
And yet we keep writing. If you are a writer, you cannot *not* write. Even if it's only a few words a day, if you have a story to tell, you will. And I believe my friend has many stories to tell. I also believe that she will be picked up someday by some publisher smart enough to recognize good work.
But in the meantime, she needs to earn a living so she will go to work. And we, her friends, will be at her back supporting her no matter what she does - unless she quits. In that case, we will be at her back kicking her butt.
Today's thought: "The world needs writers. We will always be necessary. There are few professions that can claim that distinction." - Rod McKuen
Today's teaser: Write a scene as your character's journal or diary. What would she write about?
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
And today is when the real new year begins. Up until yesterday, we were still in holiday mode. We were still celebrating, enjoying the last vestiges of all the hoopla. Today, reality sets in.
But that is not a bad thing. Yes, I know, for many this is a really blue time of year. The days are short, the sunlight minimal, the weather nasty - but try to look at the positive side of things.
Short days and lack of sunshine = enforced indoor activity = more writing time. This is a time when you can take advantage of being inside. Go to a mall or coffee shop and study the people. Note how they differ from just a few weeks ago. Take your writing materials along and make notes, or just write. While you're at it, if you are at a mall or someplace like that, take a walk - not to shop - but to get the blood flowing in your body. Exercising your body helps keep the creative juices flowing as well. Take a walk, then get to writing. In the summer, when the weather is beautiful and the days are long, we don't want to be cooped up inside. So use this time to be more productive.
Holiday blues - everything looks so blah with the decorations down. So redecorate. No, I'm not talking about buying new furniture or anything like that. Use your imagination, not your pocketbook. Put up some pretty candles or bring in fresh flowers to brighten up your surroundings - if you can't afford to buy fresh flowers, get or make some fabric ones. Or even clip some forsythia or other flowering hedge and bring it inside where it will bloom. Force some bulbs to bloom. Allergic (as I am?), then be creative with material, paints, or other crafts. The idea is to do something that will brighten your surroundings and help you feel better.
Journal. I'm not huge on this, but I know a lot of people who are. Start a journal and just write. It doesn't have to be about anything specific - it doesn't even have to be a story. The trick here is to just put pen to paper (or cursor to screen) and let your mind go where it wants. Pour everything out until your system is purged and you are at peace. You can either keep what you write, or burn it and let the wind take the ashes of your angst away. It doesn't even matter if you write in it everyday. Use the journal to take care of you.
Exercise. Okay, while my family laughs their heads off, I can be academic about this. I know that exercise is good for you - in more ways than one. As writers, we exercise our brains everyday, but we rarely move our bodies. We sit at the computer and type away for hours. So set a timer. Every hour (or whatever interval you choose), get up and move for at least five minutes. Walk, stretch, swing your arms, roll your shoulders, jump up and down - do whatever you can to get the blood flowing and your joints loose. If you try, so will I.
So don't let these days get you down. Use that imagination of yours and find ways to make the darkness light. Exercise both your mind and your body for a great start to the new year and make this time work for you.
Today's thought: "Every moment of life demands a choice...The important choices of your life are often the minor ones." - Milton Katselas (from his book "Dreams into Actions")
Today's teaser: Write down your dream. Now write down ten things you need to do to make that dream come true.
Monday, January 01, 2007
Happy New Year.
Today, I thought I’d outline my writing goals for the coming year. I want to do more than I did last year. A goal should be something that stretches you – makes you work. So in order to figure out my goals for the coming year, I need to delineate what I accomplished this past year.
Pages written (new novel work): 558
Blog pages: 123 (every day for 123 days)
Articles written (magazine and/or newsletter): 9
Reviews written: 14
Novels edited for Treble Heart Books: 5
Full edits of my own novels: 2 (total of approx. 800 pages)
Partial edits of my own novels: 4 (total of approx. 1200 pages)
Novel critiques for others (full): 11 (full length novels)
Partial critiques (synopses, shorts, etc.): 7
Contests: judge for 3 – 5-6 entries each contest, 25-50 pages each entry
Other writing: 2 children’s books, 2 non-fiction books
Queries sent: 43
Novel Sales: 2!!!!!!!!!!
So for the coming year, I want to write at least one page more, send out more queries (and receive fewer rejections), work on marketing and sales.
My writing goal is to write every day – something I don’t do now. Even if it’s only my blog – I want to make it a point to write something every day.
Today’s thought: "A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself." - Abraham MaslowToday's teaser: It's the beginning of a new year. Take a look at last year's goals. Did you meet them? Why or why not? What could you have done differently? Did you set the bar too high? Or too low? Did obligations get in the way? What can you do to rearrange things to get more writing time? This is the time to reflect on the past and make plans for the future.