Friday, December 29, 2006
Erotica - Contains explicit sexual content. Anything goes. Sex is the story. The descriptions are frank and the language graphic. Don’t look for a happy ending here.
Erotic Romance - The hero and heroine make love very early on in these books. No Flowery euphemisms in bed, just straight-talking graphic language. There’s a solid plot and the sex scenes are integral to the relationship. Although multiple partners are acceptable, most couples are in a monogamous relationship and there’s a happy ending.
Hot Romance - Sexual tension permeates these books, and the love scenes, although steamy, are not as frank as in erotic romance. The language and descriptions are tamer. They follow a strict romance format: monogamous relationships and happy endings.
I believe Romantic Times' descriptions are excellent.
Now you ask why I am writing about this subject. Well, for one thing, I had a conversation with a friend and she was really confused about the differences between the genres. She wrote a love scene and was really upset with herself about it possibly being erotica. I read it and no it wasn’t, but to her (she’d never written a love scene before) this was a line crossing. She had entered a place that subconsciously she was embarrassed about, which is very common not only with authors but readers also.
As for me, I write romance--Fantasy and Contemporary Romance, and I'm proud of it. Why? Mainly because I love to read it. I also write love scenes in my novels. Why? Because that is the natural flow of what two people in love end up doing. So what is wrong with that? Well, if you’re honest, there’s nothing wrong with two adults in love making love.
I don’t write Erotica or Erotic Romance. I’m not even sure if I ever will but I don’t believe in saying never. That always comes back to bite you. So if one day I do make an attempt at it, I will do so with my eyes open and focused on the story.
Each of these genres has large followings. Each one sells tons of books. It’s up to the reader to choose what they want to read. If you’ve never read any of the above genres, look them up, buy one of the better authors and read it. Then you decide whether or not you like it.
Now, as an author, I feel in my heart that to close the door to an avenue of growth will stunt my ability to write. If I decide to write Erotica one day, does this make me a bad person? No, I don’t believe so. If I end up writing a thriller, I am still the same person I was when I wrote romance. So just as you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover don’t judge an author by her genre.
For those who have never read any of these genres, keep in mind that just because you don’t read them doesn’t place them in the off-limits category because of the sex/love scenes. Just like in Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham, you might like Green Eggs and Ham.
Posted by Speck for Judy, home on vacation with no internet:--)
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
I've been reading Miss Snarks Happy Hooker Crap-o-meter most of the week and had an epiphany early this morning.
One of the things she mentions quite often is why? Why does it matter, why should she care? I know we have to hook the reader, agent, or editor. But I applied this question to my novel and came up something I thought I'd share.
For example...in last year's NaNo novel...Dragons of Jade...I have the bad guy killing dragons. But it hit me this morning as I was snuggled under my covers trying to sleep...why does it matter if the dragons die? I need to have an important reason the killing must stop. Just cause I like dragons doesn't count. Talk about a not so polite way to wake up:--( Sure my dragons have special abilities...but what does that mean to the people in the novel? Why should they care if all the dragons are gone? I've got some pondering to do....sigh.
In a romance, we know the big stakes are the hero/heroine getting together and living happily ever after. Them not being happy is the "why it matters, why we should care". For most romance novels, that is enough.
But...for other stories...we need a powerful "why" to hook the reader.
So....take a day or two if needed. Ponder your work in progress and see if your "why" is powerful enough.
Monday, December 25, 2006
The funny thing about goals is that you have to be realistic when you set them. On the heels of NaNo I posted I would finish "A Shepherd's Journey" this month. Who in the heck was I kidding? I knew how busy this month would be, and I also knew how much research I needed to do to move forward with this project. Yet, I set that lofty goal knowing I had an ice cube's chance in hell of achieving it.
Some might say it's good to push yourself; I would tend to agree. But when you continually set goals which you can't possibly meet, all you do is guarantee failure. And over time, not obtaining your goals will affect how you approach your writing.
Putting together a list of realistic goals takes a while, but I suggest every writer compiles one. Consider what you can honestly dedicate to each item on that list. While it might feel good in the beginning to write out 30 things you wish to accomplish in the next six months, you will soon become bogged down when it is March and you haven't even finished the first 3 items. Just because one person's goals include a dozen writing related projects for the first quarter of 2007, doesn't mean you have to work at the same pace. You are the only one who knows how much time you can dedicate to your writing.
After sitting down to write this blog entry, I thought about my own little list of goals posted in the Elevator section. I think it's time to take my own advice and review it to see if my goals are realistic. I still want to push myself, but I also want to be sure I am able to complete items on my list on a fairly regular basis. If I can't, then those feelings of failure will come creeping around the corner, and I don't have the time to waste in dealing with them. Do you?
Saturday, December 23, 2006
Take the weekend off from everything but enjoying the family. Of course I know some of us will be cooking and such, but put the writing aside along with all the things that can wait. Enjoy the time you have with your kids, grandkids and each other. Time is a precious gift, one that we can't ever get back. When my kids were little, someone gave me a pix with poem. I don't remember it all but part of it was this...
"...cleaning and scrubbing can wait til tomorrow, cause babies grow up we've learned to our sorrow, so quiet down cobwebs dust go to sleep, I'm rocking my baby cause babies don't keep."
Making memories with our family is so important. So, take time this holiday season to make some great family memories.
Monday, December 18, 2006
It is going to be tempting to write a cute story about something that happened to you or someone you know this Christmas. Your muse may even give you a sweet little fiction short that will be perfect for your favorite women’s magazine. But editors don’t run after Christmas stories the way Wal-Mart runs after Christmas sales.
Which isn’t to say you shouldn’t hang onto the story/article, filing it away until next year. It may be a good idea to write the story while the tree is still up, using the visuals to inspire you. The minute the tree comes down though, we should begin to think of stories and articles about summertime. A Fourth of July bar-b-q where the slab of ribs -on closer inspection- looks a little too human for your characters taste. Or friends June wedding that is called off at the last minute because the bride -to -be just caught her maid of honor loving up on the prospective groom. If non-fic is your thing, you might have a great travel article about hiking and camping in the Great Smoky Mountains that you have been meaning to write.
If freelance is your choice, or at least what you want to do with your writing to make some money while writing the next great American novel, learn to be timely. Search out your favorite magazine markets and find out how far in advance they plan their issues. Most e-zines for example layout their issues about a month ahead of publication. You can send them your Christmas story in October. But, if you want to send a Christmas story to Readers Digest, or Good Housekeeping, you want to get it to the editor no later than July. Each magazine differs on deadlines for submitting timely articles so do your research. You don’t want your article rejected by an editor with a note saying they loved the story but you got it to them too late for inclusion in their December 2007 issue. GASP!
While the weather outside is frightful, dream of warmer days ahead. Picture yourself or your characters on a sailboat off the coast of Maine wrestling with the great Atlantic. Or maybe a beach house in the Bahamas, the site of a gruesome murder. If you are like me, warm weather brings to mind gardening and maybe doing an article on healing herbs you can grow in small spaces. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s finished and ready for submission by the end of January.
And don’t despair if you have written a Valentine’s story or an Easter article but haven’t submitted it yet. There are always the e-zines, (and yes, some of them do pay) as well as magazine contests where your story may find a home. And, if nothing else, you can file it away for those same holidays in 2008. I have a filing cabinet with all of my writing stuff in it. Some things are filed by story/article titles, but some are filed chronologically. The stories I write over this holiday season will be filed away under June, for submission then. It’s a good system I learned from studying how the pros of freelance run their businesses. You may want to give it a try.
In June of 2007, while you are sunbathing in the backyard, sipping on a wine cooler and editing your novel think "snow". Then grab your Christmas story and dash to the post office. The goodie that fills your stocking Christmas 2007 may just be a check from Woman’s Day.
Friday, December 15, 2006
Webster's Dictionary meanings:
Show – to cause or permit to be seen, exhibit, reveal, disclose, a demonstrative display, a theatrical presentation.
Tell – narrate, say, to inform.
When I first started to write, I often wondered about the difference between the two. After much research, I realized that the main ingredient for accomplishing showing was missing in my work. I wasn’t including the five senses in each scene. No matter what I describe, I have to add the senses to it. Does the grass tickle your bare feet? Cool the bottoms off, dampen them with the dew? Are birds chirping and flying across the clear blue sky? Is there a strong pang of black coffee in your mouth and the rich aroma of the steam traveling up your nostrils?
I find that when I immerse my whole mind into that of the character’s Point of View that I’m in during the scene, the showing becomes almost second nature. How do you do this? Well, I am an observer in that character’s mind. Every reaction, touch, and thought that he or she has or feels, I share and I put all of this into words. Sure, I don’t use all of what I've writen but sometimes it’s better to have too much than too little. As an author I can go back and review my work and change, delete or add to what I’ve already have in the scene.
For me, my favorite method is to show by pretending I am staring through a telescope. What does that mean? Well, when I am in my character’s Point of View, I take notice of all about me, atmosphere, room, decorations, taste, smell, etc. Not only do I have external aspects to consider but also internal ones also.
In other words, I don’t want to tell a story like I would at the office to a friend. I want to put on paper a black and white movie that will play the story out for the reader. I want them to not only see the beautiful scenes but I want them to feel the anguish and laughter of the characters inside and out. When I do this, I have a longer version of what I want to say. I create a vivid picture in the reader’s mind thus causing them to react to the story. One way that I do this is to replace linking verbs with more active ones. I also use very descriptive adjectives and nouns.
In the end, my story is stronger, fresher and has a wonderful flavor to it.
Practice with the senses. See how this will work with your story. I’m happy I did.
Posted by Speck for Judy
Monday, December 11, 2006
Do you know what was inside that newsletter? My first paid piece.
Wow, does saying that feel good! So now, I am in a euphroic mood because not only am I writer -- I am a paid writer. While I consider all my clips valuable, it somehow feels different to say I got paid for my work. Like it validates the opinions of those who have believed in me since I started my writing career.
I hope I don't embarrass her when I say this, but I owe a tremendous amount of debt to our dear Sassy. She was the first person outside of my family and friends to tell me the articles she saw were good enough to publish. As Editor of Destiny3 Fiction she gave me the confidence to move forward with my ideas and to continue plugging away at my writing when I felt I was headed towards failure.
Thank you Sassy. I will never forget it!
So as I jump up and down, trying to type this little note to you all, let me say one other thing (if I can find the right keys), for all those of you who are still waiting for news of an acceptance -- it will come. If you are determined enough to make it happen -- it will.
For those of you who have already known the joy I am feeling, good for you. Can you remember what it was like when you got that first check? I bet you can, no matter how long ago it was.
And to all of us, as we leave 2006 behind and move into the New Year, let it be with firm resolve that we decide to make 2007 the best year (yet) for our writing careers. With all of our friends at StoryCrafters behind us, we can make it happen.
Saturday, December 09, 2006
I found this quote the other day and just had to save it. For me, writing is an obsession. No matter how often I get discouraged, I still come back to it. I love the "rush" that happens when the words just flow, the way time seems to stand still and everything around me disappears. Everything except the story.
I even like the hard times. Those rejection letters without comments cause me to study my writing and improve my craft. The days when words come hard give me reason to consider the direction I'm trying to go and decide if it really is "right" for the story.
I like the many things that go along with the life of a writer too. The 3 a.m. visits from the plot bunny, the "ah ha" moment in the middle of shampooing my hair, or how that problem scene just seems to come together about the time I hit 75 mph driving down the highway and I have to pull over and make a note.
I like brainstorming ideas with writing buddies. I like just chatting with other writers, knowing they know how it feels to get that form rejection or what's it's like when the words don't want to be put on paper.
One of my favorite writer things to do is just listen to more experienced writers. When I was growing up, my grandmother had a stitched picture of an owl sitting on a limb. The poem under said..."The wise old owl was a wise old bird. The more he heard, the less he spoke. The less he spoke, the more he heard. The wise old owl was a wise old bird."
For some reason, that has stuck with me over the years. And you know what...it's true. It's amazing the things you can learn just by listening. One of these days, I want to be the one new writers are listening to and learning from. So, today I study, I listen to wiser folks and do my best to apply the knowledge.
For me, writing is definitely a disease. It has consumed me. Heart and soul. There is no cure...I've got it bad. And today, I don't mind at all:-)
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
When a writer is cut off from their keyboard and doesn't care for hand-writing, what are they to do? Apparently, they edit. They read, and take time off.
This writer will be enjoying the holidays and editing the first 1/3 of her novel. Using notes from beta's and thoughts that have been nagging in my own head, I will drag out the red pen and move to strike. It's a task that I've been longing for, and afraid of since I started this rewrite. Now knowing where I went wrong, and sometimes still unsure I have to face my fears of finding horrid writing and unleash the internal editor I've kept chained up for six months.
So, here's to food and drink to the unchained internal editor.
Here's to the holidays.
Here's to continuing on our paths to success, however life lets us.
Monday, December 04, 2006
If you want to continue being stuck in the rut of “I’ll do it later”, then close this blog now. But if you want to stop this nonsense and get on with it, then read on.
“Procrastinators are perfectionists.” Linda gave me a minute to let this sink in.
How can that be? Procrastinators are notorious for never accomplishing tasks or putting them off until they must be done then running around like a chicken with our heads cut off trying to finish up. Perfectionists, on the other hand are folks who strive for perfection. They don’t stop until their task is free of imperfections.
“There is no such thing as perfect Sherry. Think about it.”
What happens to a perfectionist when they realize that what they hope to accomplish isn’t turning out perfectly? They quit. They make excuses. They put off the task because it isn’t turning out perfect.
Hmm…sounds much like a procrastinator doesn’t it? That’s because the two go hand in hand.Now that we understand that procrastination/perfectionism is a two edged sword, what do we do about it? The answers are not as hard as you may think.
First, we have to identify which type of P&P we are. There are two types; normal and neurotic. Let’s start with the ‘normal perfectionist’. They set high standards for themselves but drop their standards if the situation requires it. A normal P&P will set high standards that are just beyond their reach, enjoy the process as well as the outcome, and bounce back from failure quickly and with energy. We (I say we here because I have identified myself as this type), keep our failures and fears within bounds. We see mistakes as an opportunity to learn and grow and we react positively to helpful criticism. (If we understand it that is)
Then there is the neurotic perfectionist. They never feel that they have done their job well enough. They are very intolerant of mistakes and extremely self-critical because they set standards beyond reach and reason. They are never satisfied by anything less than perfection and become horribly depressed when they fail. In other words, they set themselves up for failure. They become pre-occupied with failure, see errors as evidence of unworthiness and become overly defensive when criticized.
No matter which type of P&P you have identified yourself as being here are a few ways to kill the beast and get on with a productive, healthy and happy existence. By the way, I don’t know where this list came from originally but Dr. Linda Willett gave it to me.
Tricks to deal with procrastination:
Take advantage of impulsiveness. When you get the urge to start working on that project, start right then. Don't put it off.
Figure out what you need to do first. Then do it. What needs to come next will probably fall into place as you're doing the first step.
Use your imagination. If something seems terribly hard to do, go over it in your mind, imagine doing it, or talk about it aloud with a friend.
Be your own best friend: be positive, not critical, of yourself.
Work in a study group
Ask for help Use your friends. Talk about it with someone; let all your frustrations out in an e-mail to a friend or family member, etc. This may help get a block out of the way. (Don't spend too much time and let this turn into another procrastination technique, though!)
Remember that nobody's perfect. Don't expect your work to be either.
Rewards: give yourself rewards when you complete a task--and really earn it, don't just let yourself have it if you haven't accomplished your goal
Tell people what you're going to do. Be affirmative, direct, and clear. Say "I will ..." (not "I'm going to try to ..." or " I think maybe I'll ..." or ...)
Get off the phone. Yes, you. Delegate when possible. If you're the president of the ScubaSurfing club, you don’t have to do ALL the minor tasks involved in running the organization.Ask others to help you.
Avoid busy-work rationalizations: Your room can in fact be messy.
Relax before you start. This will help deal with fears and perfectionism, which you can handle better when you're relaxed.
"The Secret to conquering procrastination": Start now. Just begin. Don’t agonize, do. It will be much easier to work on it once you’ve begun.
Ask yourself if this is a piano. A what? A piano. Is what you're working on a piano or a barn frame (picture?)? Not everything you do has to be perfect. You can spend less time on the little things and when a piano (or a term paper) comes around, you can spend extra time on the minor details.
I’ll close with this; a parable called The South African Monkey Trap. Dr. Linda says the reason so many P&P’s never change is because we can’t let go of our idea of perfectionism, even when we know our thinking is wrong. I have this parable on my bulletin board next to my puter. See if it helps you as it does me.
The trap was developed by villagers to catch the many small monkeys in that part of the world. It involves a hollowed out coconut shell chained to a stake. The coconut has some rice inside which can be seen through the small hole. The hole is just big enough so that the monkey can put his hand in, but too small for his fist to come out after he grabs hold of the rice.
Tempted by the rice, the monkey reaches in and is trapped. He is unable to see that it’s his own fist that traps him. He rigidly holds onto the rice because he values it. He cannot let go, so he is trapped.
I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be trapped by P&P. I want to succeed in my endeavors so I am learning to open my hand. I hope you will too.
*Posted by Speck for Gwanny cause blogger is being a pain:--)
Saturday, December 02, 2006
Top ten reasons I procrastinate:
You've seen this, right? Okay, I read Speck's entry about writing less during the holidays and not stressing over it. While that is very true, today I had the distinct displeasure of realizing that I am still a procrastination queen. So, while I flitted away another hour in a hot bath, I decided to make a wish list of sorts for this blog. I am a bit early with the New Year's Resolutions and I generally don't make them. I feel like I'm setting myself up for failure that way. Here is a Procrastinator's Wish List for the Coming Year. (Forget about it in December as our illustrious troll has given us permission).
I will set a schedule and stick to it.
I will learn to say no to things that are unnecessary.
I will learn to say no when I do not have the ability to help and quit trying to find every solution under the sun.
I will hide my MSN profile more often.
I will wake up early enough to exercise so that the body is fit as well as the mind.
I will find new ways to organize my thoughts and writing life.
I will stick to my commitments and not whimp out.
I will continue to reach for my goals, and when I reach them, I will set new ones.
I will love much, laugh often, and enjoy life at its finest.
and Sassy's own personal goal (I will earn my tattoo in 2007).
Maybe your list isn't as long as mine, or maybe it is longer. Either way, December will soon be over -- yes, I know it just got here-- and The Elevators will begin in earnest. Now is the time to take an evaluation of your career goals for 2007 and break them into reasonable time periods. Don't overload yourself but at the same time, make it a challenge to rise to the top. I'm sure you will agree that the sweetest victory comes through struggle.
Be careful on the roads now. Holiday shopping can be vicious!
Friday, December 01, 2006
Actually, why not? Christmas, or whatever December holiday you celebrate, is a general time of giving. We give to charities, friends, family and who knows how many others. But what do we give ourselves?
How about permission to write a little less during this holiday season. There are so many things going on and who needs the guilt.
And of course more time with the family. I say enjoy them while you can. The kids only stay small so long. You will always have dishes to wash, laundry to do and things to dust.
But don't forget to take time for yourself. Get that hot bubble bath, quiet alone time or bite of chocolate you've been wanting. If you don't take care of yourself, you won't be able to get all the things you need to do done.
Oh...when someone asks what you'd like for Christmas, tell them. My favorite gift is that gift card from Books a Million. That lets me get the books I want, whether it be another writing book or just something to read for pleasure.
Now...if I can just find the dogs barking Jingle Bells cd:--)
Monday, November 27, 2006
So let's see, I can do one of two things. I can sulk about it. This would include beating myself up over not being a better writer or not being dedicated enough to my career to have met my goal. There would also be a heavy dose of self-doubt included because then I would wonder if I am cut out for this business or if I really can write anything worthy of publication.
I'm really not liking this option very much because I do believe I am a good writer who is dedicated to her career. I know I am cut out for this business because writing is all I want to do with my life at this point, and I know I can write something worthy of publication.
I guess that leaves me with the second option. I can write as much as I physically am able to over the next few days until NaNo ends. Then I can pat myself on the back for writing a large portion of this book in a much shorter time frame than it took me to write six chapters of my first one. I will need to reassess my goals for the rest of the year and see if they might have to change to make room for me to finish my NaNo project by then. And finally, I will congratulate myself on a job well done because when NaNo ends on November 30th, I will still have more words down on paper - technically on my hard drive - than I did on November 1st. I did not allow my internal editor to strike down every sentence I thought was less than perfect, and I did not give up when real life turned me down a different path than I intended to go.
No matter what your final word count is on November 30th, I hope you too will take pride in your accomplishments. Being a writer is not an easy gig, and the fact that you have the determination and motivation to break in or continue in this business, is worthy of respect and praise.
I think it all started about a week ago when I read Deborah LeBlanc's first book Family Inheritance. It isn't often I sit and read until I'm finished with a book. In fact, I have two started that I haven't picked up in weeks. They just don't do "it" for me...whatever "it" is. Then Thursday I read Deborah's second book, Grave Intent and became quite unhappy with my writing.
When I finished the book, I had several questions. For example, how did she weave plot, setting, narrative, dialogue and all the other bits and pieces together so well? How did she make me forget about the real world and join her characters in theirs? I'm a very quick reader...yet at times I couldn't read the pages fast enough. Most importantly, I wanted to know how to do those things in my writing. There must be some secret I don't know about right?
In chat last night, Mary happened to mention that comparing your writing to another's was asking for writer's block. And that is exactly what I've done. I've looked so much at the negative in my writing this past week or so that the joy is gone. So now what do I do?
First, I look back and see how far I've come and how much I've improved. I'm going to read the last couple rejection letters I've gotten with personal comments and invitations to send more to them. Then, I'm going to plant myself in front of the puter and write.
I think the last is most important. Writing is what makes us better writers. Just as my son gets better the more he practices the piano, I get better by writing.
I'm also going to get Deborah's third book. And I'm going to read and enjoy her mastery of the craft. Then I'm going to go write some more and one of these days my readers will lose themselves in my character's world too.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
Turning Real Life into Fiction
Uncle Jimmy popped the videotape from Christmas Eve into the VCR. The family all gathered around to watch video of Aunt Louise singing while drunk on egg nog. Nobody told her it was the spiked one! Mixed with Aunt Louise’s completely original rendition of We Wish You a Merry Christmas, the whole family heard Aunt Pam’s high pitched laughter and Mom Reese’s scolding.
Now, here is a story waiting to happen. But, not in its present form. Can anyone see where you could go? What if Aunt Pam and Mom Reese were talking about the new addition to the family - Cousin Jennie’s new husband who everyone thinks is a bit dense and only after her newfound lottery money? And, Cousin Jennie has a front row seat in front of the television. Cousin Jennie already dislikes Aunt Pam because of past holiday experiences. Really, this story could go anywhere. You could take this into a humorous piece or even murder plotting.
Who says you can’t take boring real life stories and make it profitable? Not me! In fact, I’m banking on it. So, pull out your memories and begin to play. Change names to protect the guilty. Turn dismal relationship endings into enduring love. The past is yours to change, even if only in writing.
Can’t think of anything that you find interesting? Then scan the newspaper for unusual human interest stories and begin to ask "what if?" From one such article, I created my story "Fine Print." The story about Andy Fischer selling his forehead to Snore Stop as a billboard got me to thinking about temporary tattoos and the consequences of having the wrong message on your forehead. So, I created the rebellious son having money woes. He got his comeuppance through a round about way. Try wearing "Valtrex, It works on my Herpies" on your forehead while meeting your girlfriend’s father-in-law and rich business associates.
I hope this gave you some ideas! Now get writing.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
But, while everyone is on the couch after that last piece of pie, let's think about some of the things we are truly thankful for.
I'll start us off...
Our families...sure we may not get along all the time but they are "our" family, quirks and all.
Our friends...I'd like to give a big Texas shout out to Sassy and Judy in Louisana and Mary up in Oregon. Having friends who understand what it is like to be a writer is a wonderful thing and at StoryCrafters there are some great friends. Some I'd be proud to call family.
Our freedom...to get together, to make complete fools of ourselves, to come and go when and where we please. We take so many of these freedoms for granted so take a moment to think about them and say thanks.
Here are a few more things I'm thankful for...hubby that supports my writing and believes in me, reliable transportation (hate those car payments though), puters and the internet:--), thick socks, hot cocoa, milk chocolate and chocolate milk, kids that enjoy reading, finding escaped hamsters before the snake does, instant messaging, Long Ridge, StoryCrafters, pecan pie, bar-b-que and all the fixings...
I could go on and on...but you get the idea.
Tell us some of your favorite things and share the joy. Then go back for that second or third piece of pie:--)
Monday, November 20, 2006
I doubt that any two writers have the same approach to gearing themselves up for a few hours spent in solitude, grinding out a story. One writer I know walks the dog at 5 am, clearing his mind for the day. Another writer friend takes an hour in the hot tub relaxing and giving rise to her imagination. My brother in law, a songwriter has a worry stone he rubs during his compositions. He claims that without it he can’t write a single line.
I remember reading a creative writing self- help book that said if you don’t get up every morning and immediately write for one solid hour, then you ought to pack it in; you aren’t a writer. Desiring to be a writer I began to arise each morning and without benefit of Imus or iced tea, started to scribble away. This lasted about a week. I kept falling back to sleep before the hour had lapsed. Initially I became discouraged, telling myself that I must not be a writer after all. This time of discouragement did not last however, for as we know a writer must write just as we must breathe. I soon returned to my routine and was once again writing away.
The experience caused me to wonder just how other writers, the ones who became famous that is, begin their writing day. What I discovered is that each writer has his or her own specific way of doing it. Some are sensible, while others made me downright uncomfortable. All of them were fascinating however, so I decided it might be fun to share them with you. If you think that rubbing your miniature pigs belly before starting up, or talking to your now dead grandmother is strange, just take a look at these famous writers.
*Gustave Flaubert kept his lover’s slippers and mittens in his desk drawer.
*Alexandre Dumas, the elder, ate an apple at 7 a.m. each morning under the Arc de Triomphe. *Anne Rivers Siddons’ husband reports that she makes a nest of papers, like a mouse getting ready for winter, then she starts walking into walls just before she begins a new novel.
*Elena Castedo, author of Paradise repeats these numbers; 30,53,57. There are 30 years between Homers Odyssey and The Illiad,; 53 between Henry Roths first and second books, and 57 is the age of Cervantes when he wrote his first and greatest piece of literature.
* Alice Hoffman, author of Here on Earth gets up at 4:45 am, drinks lots of strong coffee and writes until someone else wakes up.
*Stephen King goes through these motions when he sits down to write; “I have a glass of water or I have a cup of tea. I have my vitamin pill I have my music; I have my same seat; and the papers are all arranged in the same places.”
*Gertrude Stein scribbled her poems on odd scraps of paper in her Ford, “Godiva,” parked at the curb. She had discovered her lofty position in the driver’s seat was an inspiring spot in which to write.
*It is alleged that Henry David Thoreau could swallow his nose. He also talked with forest animals. “I talked to [the woodchuck] in quasi forest lingo, baby talk, at any rate in a conciliatory tone, and thought that I had some influence on him.”
*Charles Dickens walked twenty to thirty miles a day. He also placed objects on his desk in exactly the same position, always set his bed in north/south directions, and touched certain objects three times for luck.
*Hans Christian Andersen put a sign next to his bed that read “I am not really dead.”
*Saint-Pol-Roux hung the inscription “The Poet Is Working” from his door while he slept. *Emily Dickinson wouldn’t see her dressmaker, go out of the house, or expose her handwriting. Her sister addressed all her letters.
And a few citing of sartorial eccentricities:
Edgar Allen Poe always wore black.
Emily Dickinson only white.
Mark Twain also attired himself in white, with shirts he personally designed that buttoned down the back.
Carl Sandburg sported a green eyeshade when he worked.
E. B. White tied on a surgical mask in public to protect himself from contagious diseases.
John Cheever donned his only suit of clothes when he went to his studio in the morning. He hung it up while he worked in his underwear, then dressed and returned home.
Allan Gurganus said he wears a moving man’s zip-up uniform because “I perspire so freely that I sweat my way through the fiction.”
Forest McDonald is said to write history on his rural Alabama porch - naked.
Unless you live way out in the country I don’t think sitting on your porch naked is such a good idea. But if that is the habit you adopt in order to write the next great American novel, then I say go for it. The point is that creating a ritual is vital for most writers, however strange or alarming these habits may seem to others.
Posted by Speck for Gwanny:--)
Thursday, November 16, 2006
I could be Freudian and blame it on my parents. I could blame it on years of school-age trauma. I’m sure I could dig into my past and find a wealth of things to blame it on, but I won’t. Why? Because it doesn’t matter what caused it, I have it.
Most recently I’ve been ignoring it when it came ot my writing. I ‘know’ I can write. I believe I’m talented in it. So the writing itself hasn’t been the cause. No, instead I’ve been traveling the web on my breaks. I’ve spent time at blogs of Agents and their assistants. I’ve read about ‘nitwittery’ and ‘auto-no’s’.
Hey, who needs to doubt the writing, when you can doubt your ability to find an agent and/or publisher, right? After reading one particular post about some auto-no’s I started doubting how to do my novel.
The word count is going to be very high, that can be considered an auto-no. Okay, I could cut the novel in half and end it in the middle. It’s a very good, if a tad bit upsetting ending to those invested in the characters.
If I cut the novel in half, I have to consider the fact that I’d really want to present it as a series then. Oops, wait. Those are auto-no’s too. Either way, this book is a series in my heart, so I’m still facing that.
I know I can’t write a query letter to save my arse. That’s not self-doubt, that’s fact. But, I also know I have help in that area. Of course there’s the “Can I get the novel done in time? I set a goal for *this date*, but will it be accomplished?”
Then, this Monday I was forced to face my own self-doubt when the admins opened the Elevator. In the elevator I would have to announce, for all to see, my goals. I would be expected to meet them. Checked up on.
I’ll tell you what, my biggest flaw is lack of follow- through. I’ve wanted to write a novel for years and never gotten past the first few pages. I make commitments for so many things that I’ve never followed through on. My ‘dreams’ always seem to fly away on the wind. Here, at Storycrafter’s, the whole ‘world’ I’ve found could see my imminent failure if I posted those goals.
Yesterday I made that commitment post with shaking hands. I stared at the screen for two hours before I hit ‘submit’. My own self-doubt almost prevented me from making a solid commitment to something I believe in with all my heart, my novel.
I won’t tell you that I ‘got over’ my doubt, because I didn’t. I still stare at my post and say, “What have I done?” But, I’ll tell you how I did manage to hit submit after two hours of debate.
I closed my eyes.
Looking for a profound statement? Sorry, none here. I was scared out of my wits to make a commitment not only to my novel, but to writing quarterly ‘other’ items to submit. I’d HAVE to finish that article on FTT. Not only that, but I’d have to come up with others.
I wish I could say I did it because I’d had an epiphany. It simply isn’t true. The same facts were present when I hit submit as when I was waiting. I still knew my husband, though he didn’t understand, supported me. I still knew that I had capable reader’s to assist me. I still knew that I’d have the support of Storycrafter’s. Those were never in doubt.
What happened was I faced the fact. The same one that made me finally audition for local theatre shows five years ago after years of dreaming of being onstage. A simple sentence told to me by a performer I met and still admire.
Nearly six years ago I told him of my doubts of being able to audition. Standing there, at the stage door on Broadway, he reminded me he hadn’t started dancing until he was twenty. Despite that, he was standing there in the most intensive dance show ever. Then he said the one thing I’ll remember forever.
“If you do it and fail, you’ll have at least done it. If you don’t do it, you’ll never know what it felt like. You’ll always wonder what could have happened.”
He was as right about my performance dreams as he is now about my writing dreams.
It’s not an epiphany. It’s a leap. Not a leap of faith, a leap into the pits of self-doubt. I dare say I became successful in performance. Now it’s time to focus on this leap.
At least I know I’m not alone.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Monday, November 13, 2006
Let's see, the first thing was to stop procrastinating. I knew my story would take a fair amount of research, and while I did complete some, I could have done more if I didn't waste time surfing the Internet, and writing fan fiction stories so my friends could stroke my ego by telling me what a great writer I am. Note to self for next year's NaNo: Be prepared.
Then there was that little bit about character interview sheets and questionnaires. I've always kind of thought these things were dreamed up by writers who wanted to sound intelligent. They made good paper airplanes if you printed them out, and some of the questions could be down right interesting if I answered them myself - which I think I might still do. But with this story I finally bit the bullet and used the ones posted at the StoryCrafters forum, and I won't create another story without them. On numerous occasions I have referred to them to bring depth to my characters. In those character sheets I had posted specific details about my main character which have helped me to create a good picture of who he is. And because I filled these out early in the process, I knew what areas I needed to research before NaNo started. Next note to self: Never try to write a story without finding out who your characters are first.
So what else have I learned from my NaNo experience. I can write if I set tangible goals. I am more committed to my writing when I feel a little bit of pressure to get it done. Writing with a group of people is much more fun than doing it on my own. And, it's okay if my first draft is crappy, because that's what revisions are for. Last note to self: Make sure to sign up for NaNo every year.
Good luck everyone. I enjoy sharing NaNo with you.
Sassy and I decided we just can't wait any longer. We're going to open "The Elevator" section of StoryCrafters before originally scheduled. We came back from the conference so eager to get busy we just had to share our excitement.
So, the goal of The Elevator section is to get everyone to consider what they want to accomplish with their writing, when they want to get it accomplished and then make plans to get them where they want to go.
Also, by joining The Elevator, you are commiting to sending out an article or short story every 3 months. Yeap, even those of you just wanting to write novels. Because, those short stories will get you published and publishing clips look good in your agent query letters.
There are articles posted that deal with goal setting so give them a good read. Also, take a couple days to ponder what you really, really, really want to do with your writing. Do you just want a book with your name on it or do you want the brass ring and all that entails? And consider what you are willing to do or give up to accomplish those goals.
I'll be looking for you there!
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
I finally got my ducks in a row to come and say hello here. Many know of the recent computer issues I've had recently. Let me just stress the importance of backup copies and printed copies. I still have not recovered all I lost but I've gotten back into working condition. Yet still another solution is to take advantage of all the free email accounts out there and email all your versions to yourself. Tedious at best I'm sure but better safe than sorry. At any rate, I will blog more when I get to a better place with NaNo. Here's to all those writers who have jumped off the NaNo ledge and are still looking for that foothold! Have a good write!
Sassy Candela Martinez
Thursday, November 02, 2006
I hate the phrase “treat it like a job”. Not because it isn’t true, but because in my life, it’s nearly impossible. I know the realities of having to run and switch out the laundry so that the piles of clothes don’t take over your house. The reality of three kids all needing my attention at once. A husband who is just as needy, as well as my own needs and sanity. It simply isn’t reality that I will sit down eight hours a day and write.
I have found my own ways around this, as we all do. Have children? Nap time or school time are wonderful periods to write. If you’re an early riser, set your alarm clock one hour earlier and hop out of bed and write. If you’re a night owl, stay up an hour later then everyone in your house. Find one, two or three hours that work for you.
Keep in mind, these hours do not need to be concurrent. One hour in the morning, one in the evening. Finding a schedule that works for you, that your mind isn’t wandering to what you need to do around the house, with the family, out on an errand run.
The next, and most wonderful, tip I have ever received is this - Don’t force out an hours worth of work straight. I am an internet junkie (aren’t we all?). I find myself switching windows and surfing instead of writing. So, instead of forcing myself to write for an hour straight and getting antsy for the internet, I break it up. I have downloaded a minute timer (you could even use an egg timer) for Windows. I set it for ten minutes. For that ten minutes I am required to focus on writing. No wandering to the internet, no glancing at the TV, nothing but Word and me.
Once the ten minutes are up, I’m allowed a break. The timer is reset for two minutes (yes, only two). For that two minutes I’m allowed the freedom of surfing my heart out, watching that TV, grabbing my sweets to snack on. Then it’s back to my ten minutes.
To make it more enjoyable, I’ve even turned it into a game with another writer friend. We use an old childhood game for this, and call it “Red light, green light”. We challenge each other, set the timer and say ‘green light’. When we hit the red light break we must first post our word count to see what we accomplished. We do this to keep each other accountable. When she's at work and knows it's my time to work, she emails me to make sure I've been writing. Accountability keeps me going.
The best, and only tips, I’ve found that work are these three. In case they got lost in the story, I’ll shorten them up for you:
1. Find a schedule that works for you. Set it. Keep it.
2. Break your time up. Allow a little play time in with the work. It keeps you sane.
3. Keep yourself accountable. Find a friend, your S/O, a daily log to make sure you're still writing, no matter how much, or how little.
Don’t change your entire lifestyle, don’t ‘declutter’ so you don’t have to think so much. Don’t get the self-help books on time management. Only you know you. You know what works for you. Find a flow, and use it. Use your own weaknesses to your advantage to give yourself ‘rewards’. The important thing to remember is, at the end of the day, it’s your words that you have to face. We love them, we hate them…but they are a part of us. We have to make time for them like we do any other member of our family.
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
I'm not sure when I'll start. Guess it sorta depends on how I feel later. I must say though, I'm so ready!!! I hope you're ready too. However, if you're not...so what. Go for it anyway. Remember, the motto of NaNoWriMo is "No Plot, No Problem."
If you do want to do some last minute plotting check out the NaNo Planning Thread at StoryCrafters. There's a lot of good info. Remember too, you don't have to have the whole novel plotted out. You can start and see where your characters take you.
Why do NaNo though? For me, it is the freedom to let the muse run wild without my internal editor looking over her shoulder pointing out mistakes or better ways to say something. Also, there is a major confidence surge when you actually realize you can write a novel first draft in a month. Sure it is a rough first draft but that's fine. It can be fixed later.
If you haven't decided to join us in our Nov. madness, I want to encourage you to do so. Even if you don't reach the goal of 50,000 words you will be farther along than when you started. Check out all the NaNo info here.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
This weekend, I join Miss Snark and Kristen Nelson in the war against scam agents and agencies. The International Independent Literary Agents Association is an association of agents (and I really don't think they deserve to be called agents) to be aware of and stay away from. The agents that make up this association are on the Worst Agents List. This list was put together by WRITERS BEWARE which is sponsored by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America organization. Here is their take on this.
The point to all this is...DO YOUR HOMEWORK!!! Don't let your dream of being published get squashed by all the bad guys out there. Check out potential agents at Writer's Beware, Preditors & Editors, Agent Query and most importantly (IMO) The Association of Artists' Representatives.
I know agents are hard to catch. But the better informed you are, the less mistakes you will make during the hunt:-)And to start you off...here are a couple signs of agents to stay away from.
* They charge money before selling your book. No matter what they call it, you never pay an agent. They don't get paid until they sell your book, then they are the ones that pay you:-) Remember...money flows to the author, to away from.
* They have no sales listed. If they have no sales or list sales to vanity presses then stay away.
* They refer you to an editor/editorial service. Again, this is a no no.
All in all...when it comes right down to it...getting published is a business with snakes just like every other business. We have to be aware of those snakes or we'll get eaten. Don't let that happen to you and your dreams.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
She will be posting more details as the time gets closer. She has also posted a couple examples. If you are seriously interested in getting a great hook, check back through her archives for the last Crap-o-meter and read the query letters and why or why not she'd ask for more.
Good luck y'all.
Now...off to work on my hook some:--)
From that, and other comments I've come to the conclusion as a writer I have to catch the interest of the reader as soon as possible. But how do we do this?
Many "experts" advise starting right in the middle of the action. I'm not so sure about this. Sometimes it just doesn't work. Sometimes we need a little more info to get settled in the story.
For myself, I like an opening that causes the reader to ask questions. If the reader is wanting to know more about the story then there is a good chance they will continue reading. And that is a good thing.
At StoryCrafters we have a thread for our members to post their opening lines. Stop by, add your opening hook and check out the others already there. And be sure to let us know which openings actually hook you and have you wanting to read more.
Monday, October 23, 2006
A day after my workstation was audited, Maintenance had come in and lowered my writing surfaces and installed a keyboard tray. They adjusted my office chair and purchased a footrest. I felt the effects almost immediately.
We don't all have the resources to make such changes, but as writers we know the importance of taking care of our bodies so they can keep up with our creative minds. Here are some ways to keep your body healthy while your mind spins a good yarn:
- Use a writing surface that is 30 inches off the ground for long-hand and 26 inches off the ground for keyboarding.
- Adjust your office chair so your elbows are at a 90-degree angle when your arms are resting on the work surface.
- Your bottom should be against the back of your chair and there should be a cushion which causes your lower back to arch slightly to avoid slumping forward or slouching down.
- Your computer monitor should be placed in front of you at a distance of at least 20 inches away.
- Use a wrist rest to reduce injury.
It is also important to understand your body isn't meant to sit for extended periods of time. Get up and walk around for at least a minute every half an hour.
The links below contain additional information about ergonomics. Stay healthy and keep writing!
I love the feel of being published. And while I've been published quite a few time on the web, this is my second "paper" publication. The first was a nonfiction article and all I was able to see was a couple of pages torn out from the magazine with my article on them.
But this...is much, much cooler. Right there, on page 173 "Secret Santa" by Jean Lauzier. Even cooler is the thought that somewhere out there in reader land, someone is reading my story. And possibly years down the road, someone might find a copy of this anthology and read it.
My son asked if I was taking the book to church Wednesday night to show everyone? What a silly question, I want the whole world to see it:--)
Another thing I love about this book is how it helps a great cause. All the proceeds go to Toys for Tots to help make Christmas better for those in need. So...for all you mystery/suspense readers, order your copy today. This also makes a great Christmas gift for the those on your gift list:-)
You can order here.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
I found a new agent blog I like this week. I haven't read all her posts yet (I'll cruise the archives one of these days.) but I really like her. Jenny Rappaport is an agent at the L. Perkins Agency. Stop by and check her out when you get a chance.
I also try to read Evil Editor at least once a day. At his blog, writers can send in their first 150 words. Not only will they get reader feedback he also lets his readers (evil minions) write a short continuation for the start. Some continuations are funny, some are scary:--) Also, writers can send in their query letters for his comments. Again, there is lots of interesting reader feedback. While I don't take everything there to heart, some of the reader insight is helpful.
Anna Louise Genoese is an editor at TOR. Her blog has a LOT of personal things along with work related posts. She is very much into fanfic so if you are interested in that, you might enjoy her blog.
In Other News...
Thursday evening we had a great forum/interview with Tony Burton of Wolfmont Publishing He really gave us a LOT of info on how the publishing business works. Wolfmont publishes mystery and suspense work. However he has an imprint called Honey Locust Press which is geared toward the more family friendly writing. If you are considering publishing with a small press, I can think of no better place to start.
And if you like mystery/suspense stories...check out his ezine Crime and Suspense. It is free so sign up and support your local editor:--)
Have a great weekend y'all!!!
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
I think the thing to keep in mind is who the reader is. Not just who they are as a person but who they are as far as a writer/editor and just what they know about writing in general.
For example: At StoryCrafters we have many different levels of craft among our members. And that's great. We have beginners just starting their writing journey along with members that are not quite so new and are starting to feel confident enough to send out their stories and articles. Plus, we have a few writers who are more experienced, have some publishing credits to their name and are much farther along in their career.
The problem comes when we expect a new writer to critique like a professional. As much as they would like to, they just don't have the knowledge and experience to do so. But, we shouldn't look down on their critiques because of that. As readers they can tell us what they liked, what seemed wrong though they may not know why and what didn't work for them. It is nice to have a reader that isn't going to get so caught up in craft issues and ignore the story.
Another problem arises when a professional critiques a beginning writer's work as if they were professionals with publishing credits and a thorough knowledge of the craft of writing. Many new writers just can't handle the fact that they have lots to learn. As writers we are so close and in love with our writing we just can't see the flaws.
All of that to say...at StoryCrafters, everyone should take part in critiquing. Not only do you learn to see flaws in other's material, it teaches you to recognize it in your own. No one should feel bad for not knowing as much as someone else.
Also, no one should be afraid to post their work and ask for a critique. The goal of every critique should be to make the piece better. Not to change it to how we would write it or what we think would be a better story. We need to keep that in mind.
You know something though...the more critiques you do, the better you get at them. So, if you have access to the Snack Table, get yourself to StoryCrafters.
Do that critique to the best of your ability and help a fellow writer out:--)
Monday, October 16, 2006
"Bust Through the Holiday Stress and Keep on Writing" sold to Writer2Writer. Cheryl says she isn't sure when it will be out but I'm betting soon. I'll add a link soon as I know.
The December issue of Long Story Short will feature the writing of two StoryCrafters members. Lorib sold them "Jason's Christmas Gift" and gwanny sent them Momma Peed the Bed Last Night.
Congrats to the three of you. And if anyone else sells...be sure to let us know so we can all applaude.
And don't forget to purchase your copy of "By the Chimney with Care". This is a very cool Christmas crime anthology filled with great stories. All the proceeds go to Toys for Tots so not only are you getting a great book, you are helping kids have a better Christmas. My contribution is called "Secret Santa".
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Also, many of the agent blogs I regularly read post things they've seen in their slush pile, things they don't want to see or things they would love to see. Nothing like getting a bit of a insight that might give me an edge in the slush pile.
Here's my favorite posts for the week.
At Miss Snark she gives us a view into her slush pile. On that day, she opened 20 queries. Ten got an immediate no. One was a referral from a trusted source so was put aside to be read later. That left nine...five got a no and four got a 'to be' read. These weren't partials, they were just the query letter. Sorta reaffirms the importance of a great query letter doesn't it.
Jennifer Jackson has an interesting discussion about e-queries. The comment thread makes good reading too. I really like this blog. Personally, I much rather spend the money to send a query the old fashioned paper way. I'm glad she likes them too.
Kristin Nelson likes her queries to arrive by email. This week she posted about referrals and recommendations. Very interesting couple of posts.
Rachel Vater posted a discussion on personal writing styles I found quite interesting. Also, she shared the good news of an auction that ended with a three book deal for one of her client's "first" book. This was encouraging...it goes to show that good writing really does trump all.
Have a great weekend y'all!
Link fixed:--) Thanks. Guess I should check them before I post. Sigh.
Friday, October 13, 2006
While pondering by the moat, I thought of a couple things we could try here. Guest bloggers of course. I'll have to see who I can invite but I'll ponder some more on that. Also, since I tend to read several very informative industry blogs, I thought maybe a "weekly highlight" type post. Probably on Saturdays:--)
If you have any other ideas you'd like to see here, post them to the comment section and we'll see what we can do.