Thursday, September 30, 2010

My Writing Inspiration

There's nothing quite like the ocean (my hubby and I's feet are stamped into the sand by the mighty Pacific in Santa Barbara, California) to inspire, and if there was any way I could take my laptop to the beach and write without my sun blocking my screen, I'd be in!

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea—e.e. cummings

On a complete sidenote, still trying to figure what's up with my foot on the left. There's no way my size 10 feet are that small.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Holiday fun...for writing...

So I'm a little brain-dead tonight (I pre-post typically for my Wednesday blogs because of my hectic schedule) I've spent a full day out of town in a tiny little courthouse running title and standing on my feet (well, my 4 inch wedges) all day then picked up Little Miss and ran home just in time for Hubby to meet me and we turn around and go to Wal-Mart, where we grocery shopped (at dinner time! Not smart) and bought a million dollars worth of stuff and spent about the same. Ugh. But we're good for another month. Whew.
I digress. Anyway, I'm tired, so I'm going to have fun and throw a quiz at ya. This is a holiday quiz - The Wrapping Paper Test.
Take it HERE.

My results:
You Are Considerate and Mature

You approach the holidays with responsibility and cooperation. You'll do your part to make sure that everyone else has a happy holiday. You aren't particularly picky or high maintenance during the holidays. You're happy to be in the company of people you love, and you're willing to "go with the flow." Of all the types, you are the most likely to give someone exactly what they want. You're also the most likely to wrap all your presents well - to prevent peeking!
What'd you get?
I wanted to link to this our writing by asking if you ever go into full detail with your characters. Most of us don't have the time to spend researching our character's personalities to the extent of taking online quizzes for them over every area of their lives, but sometimes I wonder if when we get stuck, have writer's block, or feel as if our character isn't speaking to us, if it might help!
So keep this handy trick in mind. Which wrapping paper would your character have chosen? Your hero, your heroine...and why? Maybe these little details can reveal new aspects of their lives and back stories you didn't know before.
Hey, it's fun to try it =)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What's Your Inspiration?

I missed last week's post because Typhoid Mary gave me the plague. This week I'm no longer ill, I just look like I am because of the dark circles under my eyes labeled  "deadline one" and "deadline two"...

So I thought it would be fun if you posted a link to a photo that inspires you to write. This one is near the beach in Connecticut, where my boy grew up every summer. I like to think of him wandering through the marshes...

Your turn!

Monday, September 27, 2010

What's In A Name?

I can see Shakespeare's point, but really, I need to disagree that names mean nothing and words would sound differently if we'd been raised with them meaning something totally opposite of what they are (wow - was that a run-on sentence, or was that a run-on sentence?). :) Some words and names just sound horrible - regardless of what they mean.

Consider with me the following words:

Pus
Puke
Mold
Gaping
Amputate
Slobber
Pap Smear

I'm fairly certain that should "puke" refer to Willy Wonka's magical chocolate river, we still wouldn't find the word so appealing.

Same goes for names. "How do you solve a problem like Debbie?" doesn't quite have the same ring to it as "how do you solve a problem like Maria?" And we've all heard the story about how Cary Grant's manager made him change his name from Archibald Leach (good move, Mr. Manager!).

So, how do you come up with appropriate names for your characters?

I've always heard that the hard c sound is a clue that the character might be a troubled one. One example? Mr. Collins vs. Mr. Darcy. Or, Doc Ock from Spider-Man. What comes to your mind when you hear the name "Victor"?

Not good things, I imagine.

Does that mean that every person in your novel who has the slightest bent to their character needs a choppy name? Of course not - surprise your audience with a non-traditional name. But be careful with that. As much as the audience loves surprises, they also don't love finding out that Bambi was the one who murdered his mother after all. ;)

Stuck trying to come up with names? One great source for finding names is baby names books - 99% of the characters in my books had their names originate there. Flip through and think about the character you are going to write about. Are they funny? Loud? Subdued? Careful? I really do believe that the character makes the name - BUT the name also makes the character (Eeyore, anybody?).

What are some of the names that come to your mind when you want to write about an evil character? How about a good character? How about one stuck in between?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Write Like You're Ten

Remember when you were a kid? How books were enchanting treasures to be savored page by page. The library was your safe haven and empty notebooks were to be revered. That's the way it was for me. I didn't think anything of enjoying reading and spending my Saturday searching for new treasures on the library shelves. An empty page or a blinking cursor (on my dad's word processor that I called the computer) was the start of a new adventure. I didn't think about who would read the stories. Or even what anyone thought of them. Editors were non-existent in my world (unless you count my teacher, who was also my mom!). I wrote for the sheer joy of it. Granted, I wasn't prolific. I wrote when the muse struck, and if she didn't I found something else to do.

But what I'd like to encourage you to do is remember that childhood joy you once had. Even if you've forgotten some of that now as an adult, it's not too late to go back. Writing can be a joy again. Here are a few tips on how you can do this:

1. DO NOT EDIT ... until you're done. Give yourself the freedom to just explore.

2. Write whatever YOU would want to read. Not what you think the market needs, an editor wants, or what your friends expect of you.

3. Take time to enjoy life too. Your hobbies and other interests will provide the best inspiration.

4. Thank the Lord for what you do have, not what you don't.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Little Encouragement Courtesy of Madeleine L'Engle

I don't know about you, but sometimes, I wonder if I can actually make a difference with my measly attempts at putting words together into semi-logical sentences.

And I've been a professional writer for 10 years now.

But after reading C.J.'s brilliant reminder of how God really does care about each and every aspect of our lives (and yes, that includes our writing, too), I was encouraged. After all, if He's the giver of the gift, He's going to give us the means to use it, right? So I just have to keep being faithful and write, write, write away. In fact, it sort of reminded me (yes, I have odd trains of thought...I think all creative types do) of what author Madeleine L'Engle said:

"Our truest response to the irrationality of the world is to paint or sing or write, for only in such response do we find truth."
Madeleine L'Engle

I want to find truth, how about you, Scribble Chicks readers?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lessons from the Beach

Last week, I spent a few days in Gulf Shores, Alabama with my parents and Little Miss. (hence why I missed my post last week! OOPS!) We were able to share a condo for super cheap, and my parents graciously paid for my part of the gas and groceries. Hubby had to stay behind and work, he has a job right now that's temporary but going really well and didn't want to mess it up or lose pay. My sacrificial hero! =)


We had a good trip, I blogged about it Monday on my blog at http://www.betsy-ann.blogspot.com/ Check it out for highlights and pictures! Little Miss was TOO cute on the beach! She did great, despite being taken out of her comfort zone and adjusting to a totally new environment and schedule. She's 2 yrs and 2 months, and I just wasn't sure if this vacation would be more stressful than fun. But she did GREAT in so many ways and really surprised me even on the 9 hour drive there and back!





It made me think about our writing life and how sometimes change is scary but it can often be just what we need. Little Miss thrives on her routine at home but had absolutely no problem temporarily adjusting to a new "home", a new bed, a new sleep routine (me and her had to share a bed for the first time in her life, EVER!!) different cartoons, different clothes (bathing suits and cover ups and sunhats and sunglasses) etc.

She also had NO problem adjusting back into her old routine, with zero protest. I feared she might not want to sleep in her crib alone after sleeping with me in a bed for 4 nights. But there were no issues at all! Same with the beach. She loved going but put up few protests about going back home. Such a trooper.

Which made me think...

Are we troopers with the change in our life? Are we afraid to branch out and try new things with our writing? Try writing a suspense instead of a historical? Try writing category instead of traditional? Try writing a novella instead of a full-length? Try pitching to a small press instead of a mainstream publisher? Try joining a new critique group or taking that creative writing course at the local college?

By holding on to our fears of change, we could be robbing ourselves of the blessings of new.

What came to mind when you read the above ? I'm guessing that's what you need to be praying about doing this week.

We might just surprise ourselves! And I happen to know God is a big fan of surprises. He loves blessing His children...just like I love treating Little Miss to Dippin' Dots and stuffed turtle toys on the beach. =)

Monday, September 20, 2010

But what about my campaign manager?

When I first decided to seriously pursue writing, I had all these grand ideas of what publishing a book would be like. I figured it would come out in hardback first, it would be shelved in all of my favorite bookstores and Wal-Mart and then, of course, it would fly off of those shelves because my amazing publicist would score these huge booksignings and people would wrap around the block to get their copies. Meanwhile, I would sit back, sign the books and smile.

My sixth book is releasing in October and here's what I have to say about the above paragraph:

Heh heh.

All of my grand ideas? Not one of them happened like I thought it would. There was no hardback copy, finding the books in a bookstore was more like a game of hide and seek, and booksignings? Only when I arranged them (and by I, I mean my mom).

Marketing my books does not come naturally to me. And actually, unless you've known me for a little while, most of the time you won't even know I'm a writer. I'm that bad at it. So, instead of giving you tips on how to be a great marketierest (not a word. I know. We're writers, we can make them up), I'm going to give you tips on how to be a really bad one.

Do with them what you will.

How To Not Market Your Book

1. Don't tell anyone that you're a writer or that you have books out that they could potentially buy.
2. Don't send people to your website.
3. Don't write a blog frequently. And when - of if - you do write one, don't advertise that you've written one.
4. Don't grow a fan base by responding to emails from readers.
5. Don't visit local bookstores and introduce yourself as a local author.
6. Don't do giveaways.
And finally...
7. Complain to your publisher about the apparent lack of work on their part while you sit on the couch with your computer and hide from humanity.

Got any more tips to add?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Does God care about your writing?

Hello fellow scribblers!

I've been thinking about what to write here for longer than normal. I keep staring at the screen wondering what I could say that would encourage, how I could share something that would lift you up.

Did you know that God cares about your writing?

See, sometimes we separate God from our lives and put him in a box that could never contain Him. As if all He's interested in is when we sit in a pew or chair at church, or sing a hymn, or are reading our Bibles.

God cares about every aspect of your life. Do you think He would have given you a desire to scribble if it weren't something He wanted you to do? But it's so easy to write off (no pun intended) the things that inspire us because we don't think God could possibly want anything to do with something we're actually into.

Far from it.

In case you think I'm getting on a soap box, this post is as much for me as it is for you. Honestly, I still wonder sometimes if I'm supposed to be a writer. And this is after being published. How could God want me to do something that seems so ... ordinary. Boring. Unmeaningful. Wouldn't he prefer I get up behind some pulpit somewhere and preach to the masses? Or go to a foreign country and pass out food to the poor. Those seem like worthwhile things.

But then I have to remind myself that He actually chose to put down his words in book form. If there had been a media more powerful, don't you think He would have chosen it?

See where I'm going with this? If you feel thoughts like this, you're not alone. I feel them. The other Scribble Chicks feel them. They're normal. But they're not necessarily from God. He doesn't fill our minds with doubts. His thoughts are peace. He leads by peace.

That's good news, don't you think?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Because We All Need A Little Grace.

OK -- first of all, you guys have some creative minds. Great job on the continuing story -- now someone needs to wrap it up. Any takers? (I'd love to see how it ends!)

Secondly...

I started a class.

Taking it, that is.

(Or is it taking me?)

I thought it would be an easy way to fight the guilt I felt in my gut. Actually, I thought it would be an easy way to fight my gut. (10 lbs. increase in two months = not okay.)

I mean – if I was the only person under 75 years old – how “aerobic” could “water aerobics” be?

I was not prepared for the level of condescendingness. (See? I had to create a new word to even describe it.)

Women half my height and twice my age said things to me like, “Hello little girl. Are you sure you can handle this?”

Ten minutes into the class they said things like, “Are you drowning? Blow bubbles if you need to.” (In the words of Dave Barry, “I am not making this up”.)

And the sad part is… I needed to. Blow bubbles, that is.

It's been six weeks and the old ladies and I have come to an arrangement… they don’t bother me, and I get the spot in two feet of water (which sounds so much less condescending than the words “kiddie pool”. And yes – I was making that last sentence up.)

Seriously, though, if I keep drowning at this rate the ladies will just offer me the puddle by the side of the pool to exercise in.

I say all this to make a point – things aren’t always as easy as they seem at first glance.

Several years ago I contacted an editor about a piece I really wanted to publish with his magazine. When we talked his answers were short and almost annoyed – to the point of rude. He showed no interest in my pitch.

I was put out. Polite. But silently angry.

A few weeks later I found out the editor's mom was dying. The day we talked.

Major jerk alert... and I'm not talking about the editor.

So guys, it's true. You never know what someone's going through. Whether it's in the publishing world or every-day life...

I’d rather be blowing bubbles in the deep end of grace than standing in the puddle of unforgiveness any day.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Taking Advantage of Breaks

Lately, I seem to have a partner with me whenever it's time for me to get some writing done.

As you can see, he tends to be better at spitting up on my laptop instead of actually helping. :) And because of this, my writing time has been pretty much nonexistent up until about a week ago.

Then I discovered that I can write, eat, email and clean up my house all at the same time. Or at least attempt to do all that. Sometimes the writing gets done, sometimes the house actually gets vacuumed (shock! awe!).

I'm one of those people who likes to complain about the lack of time that I have. "If only I had TWO extra hours! Just two - I could get SO MUCH done!"

But I've also been noticing lately that I do have time - I just don't take advantage of it. Naps are a good example - all together, I've got probably four or so hours of free time whenever the Nater Tot goes down for a nap. The question is how I use that free time. Facebooking? Cleaning? Making desserts that I don't need?

So, I'm making a resolution and I'm writing it here so you guys can help keep me accountable. I'm going to work on my writing every day - whether that means ten pages or ten sentences. And I'm going to do it before I do any cleaning, snacking or mindless internet wandering.

How about you guys? How do you (or do you not) take advantage of the writing time that you have?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Back to Square (or Page) One

Now that I'm finally settled into my new home office, I had a rather shocking epiphany while opening my friend Microsoft Word the other day: It's been a little more than TWO years since my last novel, Blessed Are the Meddlers, hit store shelves.

And when I started processing that, all I could think was "Wow, time really does fly" because it really doesn't feel all that long ago.

In fact, those 14 hours days of writing and writing and writing to meet my manuscript deadline are still pretty fresh in my memory, which I'm guessing is why I probably haven't made all that much progress on my third novel yet. It's not that I'm afraid of the work, mind you, but I've needed some time away to figure out what I want to invest all of that time in. Writing two books in a year will do that to you, trust me.

After all, it's not merely enough to crank something respectable out. When you're dedicating that many hours to something, you want to make sure it's absolutely, positively worth it. And for me, I couldn't figure out if that was going to be the third and final book in the "Sydney Alexander" series or something new altogether.

In case you're curious, I've opted for the latter and am excited beyond belief—especially after watching one of my favorite writing movies, Miss Potter, the other night. In the opening voiceover, Miss Potter (played by ReneĆ© Zellweger) says, "There's something delicious about writing those first few words of a story. You can never quite tell where they will take you. Mine took me here, where I belong."

And as I've been hammering out the first line of my new novel, tentatively titled Tuesday Nights in Italia, I know exactly what she's talking about because the process has been nothing short of glorious. I must say that it's so much fun being back in the novel-writing groove, and I can't wait to see where the journey takes me, and eventually, when the time is right, my readers.

Ok, Scribble Chicks readers, I'm curious: How do you get your groove back after finishing a novel? And when you've finished, do you already know what's next? Or do you not think that far when you're writing?



Wednesday, September 8, 2010

New beginnings

So my Little Miss starts her first day of Mother's Day Out today. I feel like I'm sending her off to school! She's two, and I wanted her to do this one day a week so preschool won't be such a shock to her clingy, shy little self next year. I have to bring a rest mat and pack her a lunch like a big girl... oh! Pray for both for us!

Thankfully I'll miss the tears-part, because my mom is taking her while I work.. so Nana will be the "mother with the break" today. :)

Sometimes we all experience the joy and pain of being new. Of first days. New ventures. Many of you might be on the verge of that now and attending your first conference. I highly recommend the ACFW conference in Indianapolis, though I will miss it this year. Look for me in 2011 though!! Maybe you aren't attending your first conference (which is a lot like the first day of school in some respects! lol) but maybe you're about to send your first proposal. Query your first agent. Send your first critiqe of your own precious baby to a fellow writer friend's eager red pen.

Whatever the case, you aren't alone. Just like Little Miss will make new friends and be well taken care of, so you will. By your friends, your mentors, your prayer buddies, your family, and of course, your Lord.

Share with us today. Any big firsts coming up?? :)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Your Turn... Scribble Chicks Activity

The rope was thin beneath his feet...

In the spirit of writing, the Scribble Chicks invite you to join us in this continuing story.

Your turn. Add a sentence to this story in the comments, and someone will add a sentence after you. (Be serious or humorous.)

Feel free to return and add another.

I can't wait to see how this turns out!

 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

True Confession Part 2

Inspired by the illustrious Betsy's post yesterday, I, too, shall reveal my favorite manuscript "oops" moments.

I also am a big, big fan of the word "definitely." And I must confess that "decidedly," "amazing," "voracious" and "well" as in "Well, she thought blah, blah blah" are also favorites of mine, though, I'm determined to kick the habit.

I can also be a little too snarky for my own good, which is fine in small doses tone-wise, but it's certainly not something you want to overuse. Overkill=bad, after all. Just then I resisted my urge to insert "definitely" instead of "certainly." At least I'm cognizant of it, right? That's half the battle.

Sometimes when I'm writing, I can get so caught up in the story that I lose track of time, which majorly messes with the story's timeline. While it may seem obvious, it's easy to do and something you'll want to keep track of. For instance, you can't have a character out doing some major shopping on a Monday unless you explain that she's self-employed or on vacation or something. Those little details count, and that's where a good editor (you and your trusty developmental editor who'll guide you through the process) really counts.

I'm also an obsessive editor as I go along, which many writing pros advise against. I must get something exactly right (wording-wise anyway) before I can move on to the next section. While some might not consider this an "oops," I'll admit that sometimes I'd probably make more headway if I wasn't this way. But it's a Christa trait all the same, so what's a girl gonna do?

Ok, Betsy dished. I've dished. What other writing "oops" do we need to know about?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

'Fess up...

Okay, it's time for a little true confession.

No, no, no, this will be fun, I promise. (And it's only truth, so don't try to take the "dare" option and streak your neighbhorhood instead...)

What are your manuscript boo-boo's?

That's what I like to call repeated mistakes. Do you have a heroine in your story that bites her lip in so many tags that she should be a bloody mess by now? Does your hero run his fingers through his hair so much he's probably in dire need of Head & Shoulders? Do you overuse the word "definitely" or "really"? Do you perform a "find" search in your Word document and come up with the word "just" about 1500 times per manuscript?

Oh wait. Those are my confessions... lol

What are yours? What are your critique partners constantly hounding - err, reminding - you about? Everyone has their quirks in writing, their "oops" habits they just can't seem to kick. So 'fess up. Let's break out the highlighter and do some group editing!!