About you Challenge

Sometimes writers have a hard time talking about themselves. Sometimes they don’t. Either way, feel free to join in the fun. Copy and paste these questions to your own blog (whether you are a professional writer, an aspiring writer, an accountant, a dog trainer or a receptionist, if you have a blog you are a writer) and let the world know a little about you. No pressure, just fun.

  1. What is the last book your read?
  2. Who in your life has inspired you the most?
  3. What do you love to create?
  4. What is your favorite meal?
  5. What song do you play on repeat?
  6. Who do you wish you could meet?
  7. What line or prose or lyrics get stuck in your head?
  8. What challenge have you overcome recently?
  9. Where do you want to be a year from now?
  10. What word or term do you overuse?
  11. What talent do you wish you possessed?
  12. What talent are you grateful for?
  13. What’s something odd you can do?
  14. What do you think is the most interesting thing about you?
  15. Describe your ideal work space.

Have question to add? Please do. See my answers below.

What is the last book your read? “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote

Who in your life has inspired you the most? My mom. My dad. My brother. My husband. Guess I can’t confine it to one person.

What do you love to create? I love renovating my home. I love creating stories with meaning behind them. I love to paint abstracts.

What is your favorite meal? Vodka Penne

What song do you play on repeat? Girl Anachronism – Dresden Dolls, Kodachrome – Paul Simon, Sabotage – Beastie Boys

Who do you wish you could meet? This is a hard one. I’d love to meet my ancestors to learn about where i came from and the way they lived their lives. I wish I could meet Elan Musk even though everything he would say would probably go over my head. It’d be pretty cool to meet Dr. Who also, don’t think i need to explain that one.

What line or prose or lyrics get stuck in your head? Today it’s the Beatles “And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make”

What challenge have you overcome recently? I am still working on this.I know there have been some, but right now it feels like they were just leading up to the one I am facing now.

Where do you want to be a year from now? Healthy. Published or close to it. Happy with my family.

What word or term do you overuse? Definitely. Which is the worst because I also cannot ever spell it right.

What talent do you wish you possessed? Grace

What talent are you grateful for? Creativity

What’s something odd you can do? The question is what do I do that isn’t odd? Of course I can’t think of thing now.

What do you think is the most interesting thing about you? The way my brain works is pretty interesting to me. I love complex philosophies and can easily put myself on either side of an argument.

Describe your ideal work space. A big room with lots of natural light and beautiful views, private from the world, but with an glass door between me and my household so I can look in on them while I work. All my books, a big desk with lots of work space and a drafting table. Lots and lots of cubbies and drawers and shelf space for all my junk. Blue walls. Good light with a dimmer.

 

My best piece of advice when you are feeling low

This doesn’t only apply to writers, but as a writer it applies.

I’m at a stagnant point. Worse actually, because very upsetting news in my personal life has left me really really needing a win with my writing. But it hadn’t arrived yet. Optimism can be hard to come by at time when other things are not so great.

With the personal problems, my current project has also halted. The Muse is a fickle friend. So I’m not working. It’s okay. It’s happened before. But damn, I could use the distraction right now.

I’m not done though. I’m not closing up shop until this shit storm blows over. As with any job when the work load runs low and new projects aren’t coming in, I am trying to focus on other things.

I am reading. The best part of being a writer is you can read, you have to read, and it’s part of your job. How cool is that? Because I love reading, so much that I want to add to that love by giving other people things they would love to read.

But that’s not my advice. My awesome, super wise, really helpful advice.

Now that I’ve sufficiently built it up, are you ready?

When you feel low, build up people around you.

Now, I don’t mean put them on pedestals or build them up to be better than you in your mind or even to their faces. I just mean build them up. Support them. Honestly compliment them and their work. Congratulate them. Celebrate their victories with them and do it knowing that it does not, in the least, detract from your future success.

There is not a finite amount of success in the world.

Why? Because it means the world to those people. Because even from that low point where you are dwelling, you have power, real power to elevate people. And isn’t that amazing?

Because when you know that they heard it, felt it, that they appreciate your support, you won’t feel quite so low anymore. Because you can look at their success as something other than dumb luck or knowing someone and appreciate the hard work they put in toward accomplishing something.

And then you will find you are standing a little taller yourself. And maybe over that next steep hill is your victory. Or maybe it’s still beyond the horizon. But it’s there. And in the mean time, you made someones day, and that is one of the best victories we can claim.

The Classic writers see your writing rules…

I read in spurts. I go months without a book and then read four or five in a short period of time. There is a reason for this. I have kids to take care of, dinner to cook, a house to clean. And when I’m reading I don’t really want to do any of it. A good book sees me on the couch, on the porch, at the dining room table with my eyebrows knitted together as I pour over the story. I can’t put it down.

Recently I’ve been in need of the retreat of reading. Writing is on hold until real life allows for a little more focus, but I still don’t really want to be in real life. Not all the time.

Because I’m a sporadic reader, I frequently forget what’s out and what has looking intriguing over the months between books. I’ll also admit that I’ve never been great at picking books. Growing up (and even now) my mom has acted as my reading agent. She picks up stacks of books from the library and passes her favorites onto me. Often I’ve forgotten to even note the author’s name because I open the book and just go.

So when it’s reading time and I want something new, I tend to fall back on classics, new and old that I haven’t read.

In this recent spurt I’ve been on, I noticed something I’ve always known. The great authors don’t give a crap about your writing rules. Not even a little bit. It explains alot of my bad writing habits because I learned how to write by reading more than anything else.

Show Don’t Tell!

You know who tells alot? Freaking everyone who wrote books before 2000. Okay, not everyone but the writing trend among many great authors was to go through lines and lines of lengthy explanation of the social, political, and personal climate of the story and characters. I’m looking at you Frank Herbert.

But then again, Dune was such an expansive  and alien universe, telling the reader about it allowed the story to proceed, eventually. And it’s a great story.

Don’t change Point of View in the same passage!

Orson Scott Keys, who has just found himself firmly on my list of favorites, author of “Ender’s Game”, keeps his primary character as his primary point of view. But then he arbitrarily jumps to the POV of any other characters around him as well.

Pulling it off.

Start your story with a bang!

One of the great American novels, the one the caused such a stir that they made a movie about the author writing the book, starts with 72 pages of set up. And then when the big event finally happens, you know what, the reader only sees the aftermath through the eyes and POV of multiple witnesses. Frankly, I’m not sure I loved this method. The blunt foreshadowing was just enough to keep me on the hook, but it was also paired with over the top vocabulary and info dumps.

With “In Cold Blood” Truman Capote set out to paint a portrait with words, a portrait of a small Kansas town, a portrait of a perfect American family. A portrait of a gruesome American crime.

Just like an artist he started with the foundation and not the subject itself and the effect is a creeping tale that profoundly disturbed the country and the world.

No Backstory dumps, especially in the beginning

You know who tells us his life story in the first chapters of the book? Victor Frankenstein. In fact, he tells his parents’ life story too, and that of his siblings. The inklings of where the story is going start to reveal themselves, but amidst flowering language, pondering of the narrator and info dumps, Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” gets it all out of the way before the story picks up.

 

Now I’m not saying that because these great authors have ignored the rules, you can too. Not even a little bit. As a reader, I appreciate the beginning hook, the clarity of single POV, the slow revealing of setting and backstory. BUT, is something maybe not lost when we adhere too tightly to the new writing rules?

 

#WQWWC – Writers Quote Wednesday Writing Challenge – Mystery

“When all the details fit in perfectly, something is probably wrong with the story.”
― Charles Baxter

I’ve taken a few weeks off from Writers Quote Wednesdays due to life junk (that’s the worst kind of junk, IMO) but this week I’m back for this week’s theme “mystery”. If you are interested in checking out this challenge check out The Silver Threading and Ronovan Writes

Actually, check them out anyway. Both authors have some great advice, insight and creativity to share.

I am quite a fan of mysteries, but more than anything I love ones with a potentially supernatural element to them, so I think I will tell you a true story, my own mystery, the moving tequila bottle.

It was not a dark and stormy night. Well, i think it was dark, but I’d just finished up a rough work week and it was Friday and I was pretty relieved to be home and getting a start of the weekend. My husband was due home in an hour. We were renovating our new house, slowly but surely, a few years from having children and still young and fun.

So I started the evening with Cuervo. In my orange 1960’s kitchen, I sliced the limes, got out the salt shaker and had myself a shot. Then I wandered downstairs to see what was on television, savoring the warmth that ebbed away at my work worries.

A commercial later, I returned to the kitchen for another. The limes were there, the shot glass, the salt, but the tequila was not.

Now I certainly am not always the most organized person, in my actions or in my head so I assumed I put it away. I had not. I checked the refrigerator, the sink, the other cabinets. I went downstairs to see if I had carried the bottle down with me without thinking. Checked the shelves in the living room, the dining room, everywhere I had been. The bottle was no where to be seen.

Frustrated and thirsty, I took a step back, trying to determine where my well earned stress relief could have vanished to. Gazing around the room, at last I saw.

Our poorly designed kitchen cabinets hung against the wall with a 4 foot space above them to the cathedral ceiling. We, of course took full advantage of this space by piling every box of kitchen products and wine glasses we never used but didn’t want to throw away on top.

There, resting in front of the glass tea set was a bottle of Jose Cuervo, 3 feet above my head.

Now you can say, well, you’ve already admitted to being disorganized. You checked the bookshelves for goodness sake. And you are correct, but I would counter by pointing out that my scatterbrained habits of sticking items anywhere, generally had much more to do with laziness than complete irrationality. And it took some effort to stand on my toes and reached up to the tops of those cabinets to retrieve the bottle. I am quite sure I would recall placing it there in the first place.

So if I rule out a memory lapse or brief bout of insanity, which i prefer to do, how did that bottle get there? And did it have anything to do with the voice my husband would occasionally hear calling him “honey” when I was not home?

I wonder if perhaps, a former resident of our home thought that drinking tequila was not fitting of a proper young wife. But I suppose that is something I will never know. A mystery forever.

 

Pushing myself

My last manuscript came so easily I know the time has come to push past what I know I can do. I’ve always enjoyed strong themes, subtle fantasy and literary elements in my stories, but how do I challenge myself to build upon that?

The idea came to me in a dream, believe it or not, and the first thing I thought upon waking is “how the hell do I pull this one off?”

I had no concept of the plot, minimal knowledge of the subject and an epic theme to somehow incorporate into all this lack. But I really wanted to do it. If I can pull it off, it will be something really stellar.

So I expect I will be drawing on all my experience and discipline in the coming months as well as seeking help and insight for improvement. I’d appreciate any advice you have to give too. Right now my biggest questions are this?

When you’re working the framing format of a character telling a story- how do you keep the transition smooth and how do you “show, don’t tell” the story being told?

How have you found experts to help you with research?

How do you keep readers on the hook when the main character is unrelateable and hard to like?

Researching your Book: Is the internet enough?

Oh we have it so easy today, don’t we? Instead of spending hours in the reference section of the library, we have wikipedia and google. We can literally type any question we want into a search engine and get the most direct answer out there. If we need a book we can get it without leaving our couch on our kindle. When it comes to researching projects we have the option to just do it as we go along, and it truly is liberating.

But is there something we lose when we drop research as a process, as a necessary step to prepare ourselves to write?

In my last post I mentioned I had an idea that hadn’t yet formed into a full concept. I have been spending my writing time pouring over articles online, following threads and links on wikipedia.

I’ve always been intimidated by writing about an actual historical period because I don’t have much tolerance for historical inaccuracies. As fiction writers we certainly have some wiggle room with the truth, but for a period piece, I believe remaining withing the constraints of fact we can provide more credence to the fantastic aspects of our story. Otherwise, just build your own world with your own rules. That’s always been my preference.

But here I am, with this strong idea for a fantasy based on real myths and legends and taking place on Earth during the Golden Age of Greece.

What did the Ancient Greeks eat for breakfast? What were their homes called? How and during what time in their empire did they interact with various other cultures? When was Athens founded in respect to the Trojan War and Alexander the Great?

I can find a wealth of information on the internet, sure, but when you start getting specific, you start running into a little trouble. If you find the information, frequently it’s not quite for the exact time you are looking for. Things change alot in fifty years and empires last hundreds. Who’s reading the internet article about the daily life of a Greek slave girl? Why would anyone write it?

I studied English and Journalism in a time when the internet was a new resource and considered unreliable by most professors. Frequently I was banned from using any internet sources for my papers, but even by the time I graduated I was limited to two or three websites as sources. I had to go to the library. I had to use Lexus Nexus and other periodical resources. I had to call experts at time (that sucked for an introvert, by the way, one of the reasons I never actually fully pursued journalism).

And I’m glad I learned that. I can go to the library and look up the dusty old text everyone’s forgotten about that actually covers this stuff, year by year, the stats and facts of each war, each city, each culture. With no links in the text to take you to more information, just footnotes and back page references to other dusty old texts.

Looking up documentaries, or even (gasp) contacting an expert with questions, all these skills are mandatory for a book that relies heavily on anything you don’t already know about.

Do you have to? Nope. There is plenty of sloppy work out there. And we do ask our readers to suspend their disbelief.

But have you ever watched about movie or read a book about your profession, your hometown, your passion and they got it wrong? I recall watching a movie one about a fiction writer and about fifteen minutes in it was obvious the screenwriter and director had no idea how the industry worked. It ruined the movie for me.

Don’t give your readers a reason to put down your book. Don’t give a publisher a reason to reject it. Immerse yourself in the world you are writing about, whether it is the daily life of a professional dog walker or the court of Henry VIII. Facts are flexible, but they are also the foundation of fiction. And you don’t want your foundation to crumble.

How do you research? What works best for you? Where do you find your best resources?

The unformed idea

The majority of my work languishes on my hard drive. I’ll never delete it but if I’m honest with myself, I’ll probably never complete it either. A great deal of it is unworthy of completion. Ridiculously contrived premises based on books or movies or just my own young frustrations.

My first and only screenplay (written and submitted to a critique sight when I was nineteen or twenty) got this comment: Now that the writer has gotten that out of her system, she could go on to write something really good.

I think this applies to alot of my old work.

Alot but certainly not all of it.

There are beautifully complex characters that will never live out their stories.

There are massive fantasy worlds that wait to be populated.

Ghosts who remain in shadows and wars that are forever impending.

The problem isn’t that the idea was juvenile. It’s that it is unformed. Whatever spark that compelled me to set it to text, never spread to the kindling. A plot never formed. A conflict never rose up. An ending never presented itself.

It’s disappointing, to say the least, when I go back and revisit these files and find they still have all the potential they had at the beginning, and I still have no idea where to take them.

One such unformed idea is bouncing around my head right now. I know I should be preparing for edits on “Summer’s Circle” but it is so damned good.

I’m resisting the urge to start it though. Experience taught me that if I don’t have the bare bones mapped out in my head when I put those first lines into word, the chances are I will never have them.

So I am researching. I am risking losing the inspiration and passion for the project until I know just what the novel is going to look like.

I know now that I am capable of fleshing it out and getting it done. Although I just finished a feverish nighttime schedule of writing, I long to start it up all over again.

But I am waiting, urging the idea along, trying to get it to present itself to me in it’s entirety. Otherwise, it could be doomed.

Help me out! Can you finish a manuscript that starts on an incomplete idea? What do you do to make it whole?

84,500 words. 1 Month. Done. Bam

I started “Summer’s Circle” on March 11th. I finished just before 2 am this morning. I know many writers participate in NaNoWriMo and can accomplish the month deadline but for me this is definitely a new record.

One of the big reasons for this accomplishment is because I finally followed my own advice. Maybe not all of it, but a lot of the articles I’ve written helped me focus in on the goal and helped me realize I didn’t have to float around in writing limbo.

Here’s what helped me the most:

  1. I resisted editing as I went. No edits. I just powered through. If i realized something wasn’t working, i made a note of it and continued you.
  2. I kept a notes document. When I was stuck on the content, or unsure how something would play out, I made notes. I kept names of characters and places so I wouldn’t have to scan 100 some pages if they came up again. I wrote out theories, ideas and endings, as well as a running list of things I know I will have to fix when its time to edit.
  3. I didn’t let the inspiration run out on me. When I became clear that I was going strong with this story, i kept the momentum going. I wrote every night.
  4. I pushed through when it started to slow down and figured out how to get to the next exciting part.
  5. I started with an outline. I knew where the story was going and the major points it hit along the way.
  6. I didn’t let the outline rule me. Alot of interesting twists showed up in the story that I didn’t plan for.
  7. When things got slow in the story, I moved onto the next action point. It kept me interested in writing.
  8. I avoided TV and books until I was done (Mostly. Daredevil did get me eventually, but I would only allow myself to watch after I wrote two chapters each night).
  9.  I gave myself some breaks. Nights out with friends. Mental Health nights. Strict rules and schedules suck the joy out of things for me and writing a first draft should be a joy.
  10. I wrote knowing I would need lots of edits. Lots and lots of edits. It was liberating. Instead of wincing over my overuse of passive verbs, i just wrote.What I have now is not my best work. It will become so through edits.

So there you go. Maybe it will work for you too on your next project. And if you want to know a little more about “Summer’s Circle” check back in later this week.

 

Don’t waste your valuable time while you wait

You finished, you edited, you polished, you submitted your first manuscript. Now all your eggs are in a big basket while you wait weeks or months to hear from an agent. You refresh your email every minute for a few weeks before you start to get discouraged.

Maybe some requests for partials come in. Maybe some kindly worded rejections with suggestions for improvement. More often form rejections or nothing at all.

Most published writers will tell you that as much as they loved and believed in their first novels, in retrospect, they were not publishable. Well doesn’t that just blow? How many novels did they have to write? Four to six until they had something good.

Instead of getting discouraged, consider how much you want to be a published writer. Enough to put in the work? Enough to consider the above process a necessary learning period? Self imposed schooling for novelists?

If the answer is yes, than here is the most important, best piece of advice I can give anyone.

Don’t put all your eggs in one slush pile basket. As soon as you click send on that first query, start writing your next novel. Instead of focusing all your energy, hopes and fears on whatever you sent out into the world, focus it on something new. That first manuscript will either come back to you with achievements or it will come back to you needing more work, but if you have something else in the works, you are not only continuing to improve your craft, you are also building up your inventory.

No one, in any profession is at their best when they first start their job. Every project is an opportunity for growth, so keep taking on projects. Set challenges for yourself. Read! You will find with each novel that you are more aware of your writing, that it comes easier for you to finish the first draft, that you are becoming an expert.

Don’t waste your time waiting or worrying. Keep writing. Always.

When things are at their worst, Make them laugh

L.C.W. Allingham

A few years ago my best friend’s husband died.

This is real life.Featured image

It was awful. Real life awful. Literally freaking awful.

After the funeral we all sat around at the dining room table, drinking too much wine and laughing our asses off.

Not because we were awful people. Because we were so incredibly sad we had no where else to go at that very moment.

We told jokes. Really tasteless disgusting jokes. We mercilessly teased each other, including the widow. We probably resorted to fart noises, anything really to keep us from falling into a bottomless pit of despair. Anything to help my best friend continue to function in the face of horrific loss.

Now, novels are usually not real life, but they do frequently act as a catharsis for readers. If you have done a good job as a writer, your reader will be invested in your characters…

View original post 253 more words