Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Have we mentioned conferences yet? :)

Funny how Erynn's post Monday was on conferences, because I just finished teaching at one conference last weekend and about to dive into another even bigger one this weekend!

I said this at the conference last Saturday, but it's so true: I don't really get nervous anymore when speaking, and I realized recently its because I'm so overwhelmed by the joy of having a group of people be forced to listen to me speak for 30-45 uninterrupted minutes, that the nerves take a backseat. Ha! Can you tell Little Miss is in an interrupting stage??? It takes me an hour to ask my husband to take out the trash. *not that he minds the delay*

Anyway. Erynn had a great point about conferences and about never giving up, because seriously, we NEED those shredded proposal tips. I know we wish to get the top without having to pay our dues, but that's just not typical. We learn and grow (and get a little thicker skin) with each rejection, each critique, each "what were you thinking", each swallowed-cough-laugh from an editor or agent who stares at you across the table after you pitch your "Harry Potter meets When Harry Met Sally" idea.


So to piggyback on Erynn's fabulous advice - do it. Sign up for conferences. (preferably the one I'm teaching this weekend in Shreveport ::wink::) GO to the conferences. Learn. Absorb. Pitch. Cry. Eat chocolate. Revise. Pitch again. Take more classes. Get more critiques. Attend another conference. Pitch. Rinse and repeat until....CONTRACT :)

I bet most or all of us Scribble Chicks were published or acquired an agent because of conferences, whether it be directly or indirectly. And not just us SC's, but majority of the published authors I know. They MATTER.

But so does having a finished story. So quit reading about me blabbering on and go write! :)

PS - We harp on conferences so much because they matter so much. But they're also FUN. They make you feel like a real writer. It's priceless! (and tax deductible)

PPS - I wrote this with Tangled playing in the background while Little Miss eats Sour Patch Kids from her Lunchable. I had to keep pausing to sing the songs. Fabulous movie. So if anywhere in this post there's a random line of lyrics, I apologize.

"And I'll re-read the books if I have time to spare, I'll paint the walls some more, I'm sure there's room soooomewheeeere...."

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Your Turn!

So here I am with this amazing video post, the first one in which I have ever managed to thin myself out into looking 10 pounds lighter, when whoah, the Internet calls my bluff and won't post it.

So instead of my incredibly thin video, let's do an open forum.

What questions do you have for our three novelists?

What about for our poor token creative non-fiction writer? {She's really thin. She deserves questions.}

What about for Santa Claus? 'Cause he's probably not bringing me anything after reading this post.

Love you ladies. Leave us some comments.

Hi. I'm the Tiny Human. Please forgive my mom's post. She's high on migraine medicine right now. Tomorrow she'll probably realize she put me in bed without a diaper on... but at the moment she's just flying high.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Accepting All Passengers

I think it was my third or fourth writing conference and my third different novel proposal when a wonderful, amazing editor graciously sat down with me and both literally and figuratively ripped my proposal to pieces over the next hour.

I left the meeting, carrying the shredded remains of my proposal with both hands, pushed the button for the elevator with my elbow and solemnly swore to myself in the awkward full length mirror inside the elevator that I would master the art of the proposal even if it contained the last words I ever wrote.

(Side note: Why do hotels put mirrors in the elevator anyway? So you'll notice after you've already left your room that you are wearing a cute cardi, rocking a perfect hairstyle and somehow still wearing your pajama bottoms?)

(Not that that has ever happened to me.)

Anyway, I went home from the conference and started my research. And didn't come up with much in the way of fiction proposals. I found seven hundred million proposal templates for nonfiction, for articles, for cookbooks and for men who didn't have the first clue about carat sizes and whether or not flowers were appropriate, but very little for fiction.

(Anything above a half-carat and yes to the flowers. Just my personal opinion.)

So, I wrote. And I rewrote. And I emailed my dear friends who were either published, in the process of being published or worked for publishers. And I went to more conferences and showed more proposals and left with fewer shredded papers. It got to the point where I would sit down with an editor, hand them my proposal, pull on my bulletproof vest, cover my eyes with both hands and just say, "Please. Just tell me what's wrong with it. Kindly. Gently."

Then, one day, a very nice editor sat across a table from me at yet another conference, picked up the stack of pages I gave him, watched me cover my eyes and said, "This is a great proposal!"

And I said, "I'm not sure you got the right one. My name is E-R-Y--"

"Right. Got the right one." Then he read the synopsis. And he actually laughed. Then he read the first chapter. And he kept laughing. Then he handed me his business card and said, "I'm taking this to committee. I'll email you."

If there were ever a more perfect place for those three guys sucking down helium and singing "You Fill Up My Senses" on My Best Friend's Wedding to be at, this was it. Not because the editor filled up my senses. Or even the place we were meeting actually.

(Actually, that might not be the best song choice for that moment.)

(I should never be in charge of creating soundtracks for movies.)

But I left the meeting, clutching not a shredded proposal but a business card with both hands and about the happiest I'd ever been.

That publisher didn't end up publishing my proposal about a girl who loved to match-make and annoyed all of her friends.

But, six months later, I met with a another editor who had already read my proposal. And liked it. So much that they wanted to publish it.

So, the moral of my story is...

Keep writing. Keep rewriting. Keep gathering up the shards of your work and carrying the battle-scarred pages home. No one ever said this was an easy career.

(Actually, a lot of people have said that. But not those who are actually writing for a career.)

(I have used the word actually far too many times in this post.)

You can do it. You can make it. You just have to keep trying.

The Little Engine That Could had to have been a passenger train. That's my opinion, anyway. Who's on board with me?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Resist the Urge: Don't Be TOO Nice to Your Protagonist

Ok, it's confession time...

As much as I love a scintillating (to borrow Bekah's word from her last post) story with plenty of conflict, I often hated being too mean to my own protagonist.

Yes, I found it very, very challenging to give my protagonist, the illustrious Sydney Alexander from my first two novels, too many hardships or characters impediments. But as I read through my first draft for the 1,356th time before submitting it to my publisher, I realized I was taking it way, way too easy on my girl.

And she was actually becoming borderline boring as a result.

Just like me and you, nobody, even the potential Mother Teresa you're dreaming up for your work in progress, is perfect—and that's a GOOD thing.

So make sure you're giving your leading ladies and men all kinds of flaws and sticky situations to deal with. Your readers will enjoy the ride and will be able to relate to your characters so much better.

Take it from me, conflict (when it comes to novel-writing, anyway) is a good, good thing. Especially if it's not contrived.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

If writing was like cooking...

...then I'd be screwed.

Just kidding! But no, really. I can't cook. Can you?

Sometimes I joke about how I write because I can't do anything else. Craft stuff - nada. Cooking - haha. Art - LOL! Sewing/knitting/crocheting - in my dreams. Anything involving coordination? Well let's just say my husband teases me that one day I'll fail a drunk driving test while dead sober, because I can't walk a straight line in the first place.

So I can't cook great, though I do at least try (and I won't talk about the time I was newly married and made "beef stew" that was actually a crockpot full of water, veggies and boiled hamburger meat, or the Lemon Square Disaster of 2005, or the Sugar Cookie Meltdown of 2010)

But what if writing was like cooking?

Maybe it already is, in some ways.

A recipe is like a synopis, right? We hate that part but its necessary for creating a satisfying end product, and keeping us on track along the way so we don't go totally overboard on the seasonings and spices.

Then there's the ingredients, which is sort of like the rules we follow when writing. We need some suspense, but not too much. We need a lot of conflict, but only in good taste. We can't headhop in the same scene, or drop eggshells in the batter. We can't change tenses halfway through the story, nor can we change what we're cooking halfway through the recipe. (unless you're Rachel on Friends, and make half a Shepherd's pie and half a dessert the same bowl. HAHAHAHAHAHA. That show gives me such hope!)

There's rules in everything we do, and while the best chefs and the best authors know that sometimes rules CAN be bent or broken...there's generally good sense in following them.

After all, someone had to do it wrong first (probably me) to give the better, opposite advice ;)

If writing was like cooking, would you be with me in my pathetic, overflowing, meat-floating crockpot? Or would you Boss of the kitchen and dominate? :)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Apologies, etc.

Welcome to Scintillating Scribble Chicks on Tuesday. My name is Bekah, and this is the part of the show where I come out and say something scintillating.

Only I feel like cr*p, and I didn't pull a Betsy and brilliantly think ahead that I might feel like cr*p and therefore pre-post, so I guess this one's a shameless plea for get-well wishes and a great night of sleep.

I'll wish the same for you.

Hello, Thanks for reading my mom's post. I'm the Tiny Human, and I know what I want when I want it. And right now I want you to visit my mom's blog, The Bare Naked Truth about Waiting. Thanks. I'll see ya next week.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Making Your Characters Real

Happy President's Day, everyone!! :)

Today we're going to do a little experiment. On a scratch piece of paper or a Word document, think about one of your siblings or a best friend. Now, set a timer and for three minutes, write down every single thing that comes to your mind when you think of that person - memories, personality quirks, funny things they do or say, etc.

Okay. Look over your list. What do you have? Mostly memories? Mostly personality traits?

Get another scratch paper now and do the same thing with your main character from your work in progress - using ONLY what you've already written in your story.

Now look at this list and compare it to your list you made of your real life sibling/friend. What are the similarities? What are the things missing from your character that you noticed about your friend?

Honestly, this is how I do a lot of my characters. My characters are a jumble of a bunch of different friends I have - their personalities, their quirks, their high points and their flaws. I think about the things I love best about them and the things that make me crazy. I think about the things that make them THEM - their goals, their dreams, their favorites, their hobbies, their convictions, etc. Then I take different qualities from each person I know and smush them all together into a brand new character. I give them a name and a hair color and send them onto the page.

It's the best way I know how to make sure that my character sound like real people. If they are based on a composite of real people, the odds are good that they'll ring true.

How about you? How do you create your characters?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Value in Being Your Own Audiobook

As much as I love my current work in progress, there are days when I get stuck. With a capital s.

While I'm sure the idea I'm working on is pure genius, something about just seems a little bit off. So like any writer worth her salt, I agonize. I micro-edit. I move a comma here, I change an adjective there, and then it hits me...

It's still all wrong.

So in these situations, what I've found that helps immensely is being my own audiobook. Or to put it another way, I close my office door (even though nobody is home, why I do this is a giant mystery to me, too), channel my inner Morgan Freeman and start reading my manuscript.


And the funny thing is, about 99% of the time, I can identify immediately what's missing, what needs to be fixed and what lines need to be chucked altogether.

Just thought I'd pass that case it helps. And if it doesn't, well, at least the picture on my post is cute, right? Ha ha.

Have a great weekend and happy writing,

P.S. In response to Betsy's post yesterday, my "element" is Barnes & Noble, too, especially when someone is having a juicy conversation. I don't know why, but having all those books around me is always so inspiring.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


I hope everyone had a good Valentine's Day!

I'm in my element - currently sitting at Barnes & Noble, with a cranberry orange scone, a skinny white chocolate mocha, and a list of things to write including my workshop for an uncoming conference I'm teaching on the 25th, a Forum article for the newspaper and editing the sample chapters on my new proposal.

Ahhhh. :)

What's your element? Where are you the most inspired to write and create? I wonder if B&N helps me so much because I can't get here all the time, at most once or twice a week. And that's stretching it. There's just something about the mochas and the reassuring sound of coffee grinders behind me and the occasional heartfelt convos around the smell of BOOKS!

Where do you do most of your writing and where do you WISH you could do most of your writing? (because they are probably not the same place!!)

PS - Speaking of convos...I'm trying really, really hard not to listen to the convo of the two men across the room. Because it's starting to freak me out. Yikes.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Twisted Minds Unite

Every writer needs a slightly twisted mind in order to make the whole words thing work.

I found a group of writers who are almost as twisted as I am, and we meet every Tuesday night (when the Tiny Human lets me go that is) and speed-write.

(Steve -- I know you're reading this. And it IS speed-writing, no matter what you say. :))

Anyway, I love this group of folks already.

They keep me smiling and they keep me writing stuff like this. In fifteen minute increments. Yikes.

It's like NanoWrimo on steroids.

So what are ya waiting for? Go find someone who loves the characters in their head just as much as you love yours!

Bekah Hamrick Martin is the editor of Real Teen Faith and the author of The Bare Naked Truth About Waiting, to release in 2013.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Characterization and Such

First off, so very sorry for missing my post last week. My 18-month-old had a HORRENDOUS day last week and I was completely frazzled the whole rest of the day. :(

So, I wanted to talk about characterizations. How do you create a realistic character? Someone who your readers feel like they know?

There are INFINITE ways to do this, so I'll highlight what I've noticed in my talks with other writers to be the top three (and fellow Scribble Chickers, please feel free to fill in the gaps!!):

1. The Highly Caffeinated Version

This is the one where you sit down and for three weeks you do nothing but craft this person's entire life history. Where were they born? What was their first word? Did they have a blanket with the tabbie things or with silk? Where they attached to said blanket? And on and on until you know more about this character than you know about yourself. I've seen a lot of people who scour magazines and cut out pictures of what this character could potentially look like. I've even met people who write childhood journals for their characters before even getting to writing the story they're hoping to write. It's very, very thorough.

2. The Half-Caf Version

This is one that I've played with a little bit. Basically, you have a long running list of facts about your character - height, weight, hair color, eye color, hair style, favorite drink, pet peeves, etc. Then, as you're writing, you can reference your list or add to it. Say you're writing a scene and you discover that your character hates pickles. Write it down. I've heard of people cutting out magazine pictures for this as well and just gluing it to the back of the list. (And, just because I heart you guys, I've written up a list of a few common things to want to know about your character and saved it as a PDF file here. Happy Valentine's Day! ;) )

3. The Decaf Version

Honestly, this is my favorite way of characterizing. I sit down with a basic thought of who I want to write about and I start writing. I find out things as I go along. So, a lot of times, I'll be in the middle of the book before I even know what color eyes my character has or that they have a fear of feather comforters because they were attacked by a duck as a young child. This version is by far the easiest and that's probably why I like it. I enjoy learning about my character as I go along - I get bored easily if I already know everything about them.

And there you have it! The three most common ways to characterize. How do you create your characters? What method do you prefer/practice?

Next week, I'll get a little more into the nitty gritty of writing characters - how do you make them "sound" real??

Have a great Valentine's Day tomorrow!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

How Are Those Writing Habits of Yours?

I don't know about you, but some of my writing habits are rather abysmal—and that's coming from someone who writes every single day for her job.

I started feeling even worse when I read this
article from one of my favorite authors, Megan Crane.

But then as I started reading a little further down, I actually started feeling encouraged. As writers, there is no one specific way to make it work. In fact, it may look a little different for all of us—some will type diligently from 9-5, while others will get something down when inspiration strikes. Either way, it's all about making progress and not slumping into bad habits, particularly like not moving forward at all.

What resonates most with you from Megan's article? Do you need to indulge the muse a little? Read more? Channel your inner disciplinarian and set a few specific goals? For me, I'm thinking a combination of all three should do the trick. :)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Lessons from the Toddler

So my Little Miss lately has been going through this stage where she takes a one or two syllable word and somehow makes it into four or five. Our favorite right now that she does on cue, without realizing why its funny, is "How 'bout that?" Because it sounds like "How 'bout 'daaaaat."

She's definitely a little southern girl, as evidenced by how often she asks to ride "the formula" meaning "the four wheeler" and how she likes to sit outside in the yard and pour dirt right onto the tops of her jeans and bury her legs in it. Then she'll see ONE ant or get dirt on her HANDS, and freak out and ask for a bath. Torn between girlie girl and tomboy, that one. ;)

She's also in a stage right now where she's 3 1/2 going on about 13. We are having Terrible Three's moments like crazy lately, but then they're followed by such sweetness and wisdom and profoundness of heart that I'm convinced the former was in my imagination.

Until about 15 minutes later when I ask her to put away her toys.

This is why when people ask "oh when are you having your next kid?" I say "uhhh when I forget what this one was like at 3". ha.

The main thing she's reminding me of lately is grace. Grace that God gives us, and that I should give her. It's easy to demand and have high expectations of our kids and get upset too quickly and hold grudges when they mess up.

But God doesn't do that to us. Can you imagine if He did? We still get punished and we still need and get discipline, just like we do for our children (because ohhhh my, can you imagine if He/we didn't?!?)

But there's always grace in the mix.

When Little Miss is told no or asked to do something that is not in her immediate plan, she will often scrunch that adorable face up into a pout and cross those skinny arms and stomp that little foot - and remind me that's exactly how we look to God when He tries to lead us in a direction we didn't want to go. Rejection from an agent? Major revisions from our publisher? The loss of writing time because of a sick child or husband who forgot the plan? Yeah. We're guilty. We're guilty of demanding our own way like a toddler, forgetting that Daddy knows best.

Today, I'm going to try to remember that despite the stress and burdens and chaos of the daily grind, Daddy knows best. I'm going to strive to seek His will and timing for my life, and not get so overcome with demanding my own way that I pitch a fit in the face of the One who loves me and wants the very best for my ultimate good and more importantly--for His glory.

What about you?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Come On Tuesday... Make My Day.

Y'all. It's Tuesday. And you know what that means.

You're hitting the Tuesday slump, which is almost as bad as the Monday slump, because Tuesday isn't even directly after the weekend, nor is it directly in front of the weekend.

It's just... Tuesday.

Admit it. You've thought about writing. But you're surfing the Internet instead.

Don't get me wrong. I appreciate that you're taking the time to read this post.

But do me a favor. Turn off that little switch on your router and open your word processor.

Now. Write.

I think I'll go take my own advice...

The Tiny Human (T.H.) says hello and invites you to visit her mommy's new Bare Naked blog, which is officially up and running. But please deny her royal cuteness and open your word processor instead. I mean it. But don't forget to come back and say hello later...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Recharging Your Batteries

Sometimes the best way to recharge your writing batteries is to step away from the computer.

So that's exactly what I'm doing since this adorableness, my three-and-a-half-year-old niece Miss Adelyn Grace, is visiting.

I already see another pillow fight in our future. That's what happened when this picture was taken, hence her rather "windblown" hair...

Now how about you? What's your favorite way to recharge your batteries when inspiration is seeming, a little, well, limited...?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

It really is okay....

We talk a lot here on Scribble Chicks on what inspires us, and where we get that inspiration. Do you ever have days where you know all the answers, and you know what to do, but just can't seem to do it? Maybe it's not from lack of desire or motivation, but from sheer forces of nature?

I love the clause in my novel contracts that essentially says (paraphrased) "If an act of God occurs we can't be held responsible for not publishing this story". Cracks me up because man, isn't that every day in some form? ;)

I realize mass tragedy and tornados and fire and earthquakes and hurricanes and tidal waves don't happen every day to keep me from writing, but emotionally and mentally, they're actually quite common.

You know the days. You have 3 appointments and 2 deadlines and a husband who wants a decent supper and a sick kid with 2 overlapping viruses who's crying about missing school and you're crying because she can't GO to school and let you get stuff done. And you just burned dinner and your deadlines aren't ignoring you as you're ignoring them, and you just want to cover your ears and scream but can't because your throat already hurts because you're picking up the same virus your kid has?

Yeah those days!

What about you? How do you handle them? Do you beat yourself up for not meeting a goal or for not accomplishing what you'd hoped to in a given day? Or are you super laid back on yourself? I think healthy is somewhere in the middle. I tend to stray to the far extreme of "I'm the worst person/writer/mother in the world because of X".

Which, um, by the way, doesn't do much for the motivation.

You know what DOES work?

Endorphins. (working out)
Baking. (do this AFTER working out)
Laughing with my toddler and reprioritizing life.
Realizing that I truly am just ONE person and a busy one at that.
Accepting the fact that "poo happens" and I can't control the world or even necessarily my own day.
Letting go and giving myself permission to FAIL.


Such an ugly word. But someones a useful one.

I just took a personality test recently that revealed to me how hard I am on myself. This is great for being productive and earning nicknames like "the synopsis queen" and managing to do 950485948509 things at once and meet deadlines.....

But when burnout strikes, I crash. And as a result, everyone else crashes around me. Not a good point to get to. I'd rather have slight stumbles more frequently than dramatic, end-all crashes every now and then. Wouldn't you?

So join me today in taking steps to TRYING HARD, but realizing it's okay to STEP BACK. Join me in SETTING GOALS but ALLOWING YOURSELF TO MISS THE MARK. The important thing is to try again afterward. If you said you'd write 1000 words today and you only wrote 19 - don't think "fail". Think "try again".

You go first. I'm right behind ya ;)