Friday, August 30, 2013

Confession Time!

Writers are a little weird. Let's call it like it is, okay? =) Actually, if we're doing that, we'd call writers a LOT weird. But anyway...

I'm getting ready to head to a writing conference and one of the most fun things about that conference is the fact that everyone there is weird in a similar way. We can have conversations about made up people at the things that they do almost without our control. We can say things like "I just can't get my character to have this conversation with so-and-so" without people staring at us blankly, saying "You know you made them up...right?"

Ah, group weirdness. I'm looking forward to it.

Talking about characters like they're real is only one of the weird things we do as writers. Go ahead. Admit it. You've done some weird things too.

My Weird Writer Quirk Confessions:

1. Sometimes I have to act things out before I can write them. Like, I'll say something and then tilt my head like I'm perplexed. Or I'll rub my hand over my face, you know, like you do when you're frustrated, to figure out how to best describe that.

2. I once ordered a magazine subscription (InStyle) ONLY because I was going to write a character who was super into fashion, and my idea of fashion is jeans and a t-shirt. Maybe jeans and a sweater, if it's winter. I needed to read this to get in her head. It totally worked! I also became moderately more style saavy. Side benefit. Haha.

3. I see my characters in different places. A girl with red hair walked into my English class a few years ago who looked JUST LIKE (I mean JUST like--to the point that if that book ever gets contracted I'm going to ask her permission to just give the art department her photo for the cover...) my main character. This was totally mind blowing, and became even cooler (and creepier!) when she started dating another student of mine who I realized looked disturbingly like the guy she would have dated in my story...

So go ahead, y'all, let's have some fun with this. What are some of your weird writer quirks? Can you only write in a certain place, with a certain pen? Do you talk to yourself? How do you get in your character's head? Have you ever ordered the same coffee drink over and over at Starbucks so you'd know why your character liked it so much (what? That's just me? Hm...)?

Confession time! Looking forward to reading yours!

Monday, August 26, 2013

When you need a break

I have been in sessions at writer's conferences where the entire session was all about trying to get the maximum word count every day no matter way. I've heard speakers say that that you MUST write every day to keep your craft up - whether it's nine words or nine thousand.

I both agree and disagree with these thoughts.

YES, I think it's good to write every day. I think it's a good practice to get into making yourself write even when you don't feel like it - sort of a "forced inspiration". It's good to know that you can write something well on a deadline even if all the stars aren't lining up as far as making the best situation for that to happen.

However, I also think that breaks are good and very needed sometimes. There will be days where you are in between deadlines or when life just gets busy or you're sick or someone you love needs you. And it's okay. It's OKAY to take that much needed break.

I worry sometimes that we as writers put far too much pressure on ourselves. We're in constant competition mode with every other writer out there. How many books have THEY sold? When did they get their first contract? How come they got another contract and we didn't? How in the world do they find time to write three million words a day, cook gourmet dinners, dress their kids in trendy clothes and homeschool all at the same time?

I'm calling to an end to the competition. God has gifted each of us differently. Perhaps your friend the mega-bestseller can do everything at once and still have time for Jesus and for herself. But maybe you can't. And that's okay. Cut where you need to cut and take breaks for short periods of time.

Where are you pressuring yourself too much?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Identity in Writing

So this week I had what I'm calling my write-dentity crisis. Like, what should I be writing. What is my voice? I have one of those, right? What's my favorite genre? On and on the questions went. I blame it on too much caffeine (oh for the days when there was no such thing! 27 is just not the same as 18...), the rainy weather here, and pre-conference jitters.

Anyway, I racked my brain for the answer to these questions. I messaged other authors to get their opinions. I relied on Betsy to talk me down off of my WHAT DO I WRITE ledge and let her convince me that my "predicament" isn't such a big deal. And so far, my write-dentity crisis seems to have (mostly) passed.

I just wanted to share that with you today, to remind you that everyone who writes goes through the same things, you know? We all get confused, second guess things, and start to hyperventilate.

At least I hope that's true. Otherwise maybe it's just me. ;)

I also thought it was funny that Erynn posted on Monday and mentioned that she started out writing in a different genre. It just so tied in with the thoughts that had been tangling around in my brain.

I think my problem is that I have too many genre-loves. 

But I have to quit talking about it or I'll need more talking down (Betsy? Are you there? Helloooooo?). Haha. Have a good weekend, y'all!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

And the winner is...

And the winner of the Poll With a Twist is...


Congrats! Thanks for participating everyone :) Keep up those goals!!!

Tonya, email me your contact info and mailing addy for your prize!  (put something about contest win in the header please!)

A little periwinkle, a little magenta, a little cornflower...

We talk on Scribble Chicks frequently about writer's block and how to cope when our minds seem on burn out from story-producing or story-brainstorming stress. 

Might I suggest crayons?

Think about it. There's something truly magical about this time of year, when the aroma of brand new school supplies linger in the aisles of Target ;)

No really. I have a problem, or maybe a fetish, for school supplies. And office supplies. Sticky notes and polka dotted pencils and highlighters, OH MY! 

Yes, this is my drawer at work after I dropped fifty bucks at Office Depot....

Yes, that's a penguin pencil sharper, owl sticky notes, and little containers for miscellaneous drama. And polka dotted pencils and new pens in orange, purple, pink and blue and heart sticky notes with swirls and tablets ::SWOON::

(and yes, my job rocks because I can wear holey jeans)  ;)

Anyway, my point is, sometimes a little art can go a long way. I'm not saying breaking out the crayons and coloring book is going to magically make your story problems vanish or even cause you to have a great brainstorming session while you take the mental break. It might or it might not. 

But the point is, it's a mental break. 

And we all need those. 

(mamas of the world, can I get an AMEN)

At work the past week, I've been ordered (yes, ordered) to spend large amounts of time coloring a plat map with colored pencils. 


And it's been the most relaxing, stress-reducing, enjoyable time I've had in a while. Just me, the conference room table, a pack of pencils, my penguin sharpener, and my map. The only sound is the air conditioner and the scratching of my pencil against paper. I don't think about ANYTHING when I'm coloring. Not what else I have to do at work. Not about my novel deadlines or the fact that ants have been invading my home. Not about my to-do list that's multiplying like rabbits before my eyes or about my pending divorce or about the fact that my baby just started Kindergarten.

Just aqua and periwinkle and violet and burnt orange and fuchsia.

And hey, my map turned out pretty awesome ;)

I think there's something to letting your over-worked artistic side (writing) breathe and letting your under-worked artistic side (drawing, coloring, painting, sewing, designing, constructing, etc.) shine for a minute.

Hey, even if all you get out of it is a deep breath and a break, you're still coming out ahead :)

And seriously - who doesn't love to color????  

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

One of my favorite printables

This will not come as a shock to you, but I'm a bit of a free-thinker. I think disorganization sometimes goes hand-in-hand with being an artist... but details are important.


This little worksheet has been really helpful for me. There are lots of versions, some I've even created myself--but this one I downloaded to simply help me keep track of blog days and other writing commitments. You can download it here.

What are some of your favorite printables?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Oh for the love of snack foods...

I am seriously needing something to snack on while writing today and I just realized I also seriously need to go to grocery store.

I miss the days of being able to write what we were out of on the white board at my parents' house and having it miraculously show up in the pantry a day or two later. It doesn't work like that at my house for some reason. ;)

Today we are talking style - as in, what style of writing do you naturally have?

I've critiqued quite a few manuscripts and one thing I can always tell - and the reader can always tell - is when you are trying to write in a style that isn't your natural voice. Is that wrong? Not necessarily.

When I first started out trying to become a writer, I wrote mystery/suspense. I thought that's what I wanted to write for the rest of forever. Then, while working on edits to the first suspense novel I wrote, I started writing the beginning of Miss Match - just for fun. Soon, Miss Match took over and the rest is pretty much history. I loved that I could write it exactly like I talked. I loved that I could pretend I was sitting in a coffee shop talking with my dearest friend and have that be exactly how the book sounded.

So while I got a few positive reviews for my suspense, I discovered that I really loved writing contemporary fiction. I've thought about going back to suspense someday, but right now I'm having too much fun writing in first person. ;)

What is your natural leaning? Do you tend more toward a contemporary, first-person style? Third person historical? Mystery and suspense? Sci-fi? And would you ever dabble in anything outside of your comfort zone?

I'm off to go make some popcorn. ;)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Pete the Pterodactyl

Most of us have done it. You look back at something that you've written, and those carefully crafted words, the ones you spun like honey (right? Don't you spin honey? Or something...?) to create beautiful prose and realize...

It's bad. Like, really, really bad.

Have you been there?

I'm thinking of this because today I was at my parents house and I noticed the "All About Me" book I'd written when I was six and pulled down a book of creative writing that had been next to it and my husband, parents, and I spent the next half hour laughing hysterically at me. First of all, I can't spell. Apparently I never could, as my favorite pets were my dog and my "hapster." There were fascinating stories in this book, like the one about coming to Georgia with James Oglethorpe in 1733 to settle the colony (I'm guessing it was a school assignment...? I hope....?), or the one about Pete the Pterodactyl, who was apparently my pet and personal alarm clock in one story.

Yeah. *ahem* About that.

So looking back on those tonight, I was glad to see that I've improved, at least a little, as a writer over the last twenty years or so.

I've looked back at manuscripts and felt the same way, that I'd improved so much since I'd written those. Some of them are okay, they just need polishing. And some of them are just...bad.

I doubt any of yours are as bad as mine. =) But probably at some point you've looked at something you've written and realized it wasn't quite as perfect as you thought it was.

But that's okay. For three reasons.

1. You wrote something. You get credit for that, because you're doing something you love and working to make a dream a reality. Even in your "early" days as a writer, that counts.

2. It's nice to see how far you've come. It can be encouraging.

3. As I realized tonight--it can be good confirmation. You can look back at something you've written and see the spelling errors, the grammar mistakes, the gaping holes in your plotline (like, what did Pete the Pterodactyl eat in my story...?) and still see that you had, even then, some small glimmer of talent at writing. Add that in to the effort you're putting in to learning about things like craft, and there's hope for all of us that we'll become "real" writers one day. However we're defining that. ;) Personally, I think we're all "real" writers now...

So don't be afraid when you come across old printed stories you've written, files on your computer where the characters are so stereotypical that it makes you snicker, because there are things you can learn from them. Ways they could encourage you. I really think every. single. word. we write matters. Are all of them meant to be published? No. Some of them are meant just for us. Look back and see what some of yours can teach you.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Video: How to avoid burnout

Monday, August 12, 2013

"But I don't want to be a pirate!"

Props to whoever can name that TV show quote. ;)

Today is going to be all about want vs. need. And specifically, want vs. need when it comes to our "ideal writing situation". You know the one I'm talking about. The perfect day where it's a drizzling rain all day, the kids are somewhere else, you've got unlimited coffee brewing in a coffeemaker, you're wearing your favorite fuzzy slippers and you just bust out in this huge burst of inspiration that lands you a 15K word count by the end of the day.

Or whatever your perfect scenario is.

Sometimes I get so caught up in what is lacking to make my writing productive that I don't pay attention to what I already have. So today, I'm going to make a list of what I really NEED to write. And then a list of what are just wants. Feel free to add your own!

A laptop
Time where child is distracted/playing/resting/napping

Clean House
Long stretches of time
No distractions

See what I mean? All of a sudden, my day is looking to be much more productive just because now I'm realizing that I CAN write - even though my house is a wreck, my son keeps interrupting me, I have no idea what I'm making for dinner and I'm not totally certain what I'm going to be writing today.

But I've been given these minutes - these five, maybe ten minutes - and I know that if I use them wisely, God can make the most of them.

So. What are your needs and wants? And how many of them could you potentially sacrifice today?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Follow-up to Poll....with a twist....

I'm nabbin' Thursday's slot since Sarah doesn't post until Friday :)

Here's a follow up to my poll from yesterday.

If you took the poll, this is now your homework. If you haven't taken the poll, go take it from yesterday, report it, and get your homework assignment.

I want you guys to take this seriously, because I feel it will help you make progress or get out of a rut, okay? Work with me here :)

If you answered the poll or are about to answer the poll, take your answer (#1, 2 or 3) and think of ONE action step (just one, though there are probably several!!) that you could do to conquer your number. To overcome it. To make it null and void.

One action step.

Report in the comments. Everyone who takes this seriously, thinks it out, and leaves a legit comment with their action step that they are ready to commit to in order to move forward in their career will be entered in a drawing for a $10 Starbucks gift card and a book of their choice from my collection. (Her Family Wish, Fireman Dad, The Rancher Next Door or Addison Blakely, Confessions of a PK)

Remember, if you haven't answered the poll yet, it's not too late. You can do both at once in the comments on this post. If you answered the poll yesterday, just leave your comment of action step here.

GO! :)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A poll for you

Let's take a poll today!

What's the main thing that keeps you from being successful in your writing?

A. Time management / Distractions (I need to write this chapter. I'm going to write this chapter...after I do the dishes. And watch Dora with my toddler. And rearrange the furniture and wash my car and clean out my closet and play 59048594 games of Candy Crush...)

B. Fear (Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of not being good enough, fear of being laughed at, fear of not being understood, etc. The regular writer's haunted-house full of fears!)

C. Lack of knowledge (You have the story in mind, etc., you just aren't entirely sure you understand how to go about the actual craft of writing or have too many craft questions hanging you up)

D. Shortage of chocolate chip cookies, aka brain food (Just kidding. You can't choose this one!)

Own up in the comments, and let's discuss this :)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Giveaway, etc.

I just spent 48 hours in a hotel with 750 other women. Somehow we managed not to burn the place down with our curling irons, or blow (all) the fuses with our hair dryers.

Let me explain the real reason we were there: cookies larger than my hand. Also, cheesecake and chocolate pecan pies.

Actually, it was a "business" meeting. These 750 women were all on the same mission: gaining thirty pounds. No wait, that was just an after-effect. We were actually trying to further our careers.

I came away stronger. And more tired. And more confused as to how to balance these crazy world travels with the fact that my heart walks around outside my body every single day while asking, "Mama--play?"

The world travels can wait. The baby? Not so much. And the chocolate chip cookie I have wrapped in my suitcase...

Join Bekah with your own fistful of chocolate chip cookies for her FREE online study of The Bare Naked Truth: Dating, Waiting & God's Purity Plan. (Also, by joining, you register to possibly win a $100 gift card and 12 free books for you and your favorite friends.)

Friday, August 2, 2013

A Second Set of Eyes

It's always good to have a second set of eyes to look over what you're writing. And it's good to take suggestions from people you trust. =)

At long last (haha!) I got the edits back for the novel I have going through the publication process right now. This is all new to me. I, um, kind of thought that after I turned in my revisions we'd change a word here or there, maybe add in a comma if I'd forgotten it, and then they'd sing the praises of my story and send it off to publication months early.




Feel free to join me in my naive laughter. =)

Instead, I've learned that there are several (and maybe more!) rounds of edits to go through. And the thing is, I know some people get grumpy about these, but honestly? I'm kind of enjoying it! It's so fun to have someone go through my story and point out ways I could make it better.

So that's what I'm working on these days. I just wanted to give you a little insight into what this process looks like, at least for me.

For your own writing inspiration purposes, here are some of the things, in general, that I am having to work on.

1. Subplots (as Betsy just talked about!) HAVE to carry through your whole story. Don't forget they're there. If you add them in later in your story, make sure you go back to the beginning and weave them there too.

2. Conflict. Make sure there's a TON. Your heart wants your hero and heroine to get together, but you Must. Keep. Them. Apart. Rub your hands together and yell "mwahahaha!" if that makes it easier for you to keep them from falling in love too easily.

3. Tiny details. Anything you notice that seems off, or that doesn't make sense to you, an editor (or a good crit partner!) is going to notice it. Stop and fix those things now. =)

Any questions about the editing process? About how it feel to have someone make changes to your literary "baby?" About what kind of coffee is my favorite?

Have a happy weekend!