Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Conquering the demon

I write this post amidst a bit of jubilation. Four weeks ago I wrote about Finishing. At that time I said I would complete my novel in four weeks, finishing one of many dreams. Tonight, I did just that.

I faced many demons on this journey. The realities of time, family, and faith all tested me. I had troubles with my health, with my marriage, and worst of all with my children's health. Using each of these to draw strength, and using writing as an escape, I managed to face the biggest demon of all: my own self-doubt.

I've always said that my mother is my toughest critic. I love her, but she is. But she has nothing on the inner demon of self-doubt I hold within myself. I told my husband when I started this journey that even I doubted I could finish it, but I "had to try."

Over the past year I used (and abused) the support of my best friend and my husband to get the novel written. I stumbled and missed days of writing. I fell and missed months. Each time Jess or Erik would help to pick me up, dust me off, and shove me back into the sweathouse.

Tonight when I wrote those final words, and finished them off with a "The End" for good measure, Erik woke up at the exact moment (by coincidence) and gave me a good heart-felt cheer.

I now have two months (by my own deadlines) of editing and ignoring to do, prepping queries and the hook, not to mention the synopsis that I dread. But having completed the novel, conquering my own demons to do it, I have no doubt that I'll get it done.

When I'd told him I finished, Erik asked me - "So does this mean I get my wife back?"

If he only knew how much more work it would take! *LOL*

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Challenge time...

Okay guys...

We all know one of the hardest things for a writer to do is hit the send button or drop that query/manuscript in the mail.'s the challenge. Dust off that story or query you've been holding for so long and send it out. Then, let us all know so we can share in your victory over those shoulder vultures. Let's see how many queries or stories we can get sent out before the end of the month:--)


I've gotten two out this week so far. Y'all need to get busy:--)

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Power of 'What if'

'What if' might be the two most powerful words a writer has at her disposal. My story Betrayal is based upon a newspaper article I read about a woman who was arrested for allegedly trying to hire two separate men to kill her husband after her own suspected attempt did not work. I set the story in Mexico and did some research so I could get the location details right.

But how could I weave the article into a totally fictional account of what might have happened between this husband and wife? Well, let's see, what if...

- the husband was physcially abusive towards his wife, which is why she wanted him dead?

- the wife found out about a large life insurance policy and wanted to cash it in so she could travel?

- the wife was carrying on an extra-marital affair and the husband wouldn't go through with the divorce, so she tries to eliminate the problem?

- the husband was the person having an extra-marital affair and in an angry rage the wife tried to kill him, and when it was unsuccessful she tried hiring someone to do it?

These are just some of the possibilites I thought of within the last few minutes. Maybe you came up with a different 'what if'. We are only limited by our imaginations.

So, next time you hit a stumbling block in your writing, pull out a piece of paper and write out "What if..." Then list all the options you can come up with. Don't be surprised if this sparks some ideas you never thought of before.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

If it looks like a duck...

You know the saying...

"If it looks like a duck and quacks like a's probably a duck..."

Well, it finally smacked me in the arse last week that I needed to apply this to my writing, a LOT. There have been times I've struggled with whole chapters. Sometimes, I've not struggled at all, but afterward thought "But...wait..."

So, my newest writing application is:
"If it feels like filler, and stinks like's probably filler." Very closely related to, "If it smells like crap, and sounds like's probably crap."

When I'm writing now, I know that if it's taking a long time, going very slow, or just not flowing right, I stop. I take a hard look at what I'm writing and determine if I REALLY need it. Is it REALLY moving the plot forward?

I just killed a whole chapter with this thought. I realized that while seeing what happens would be interesting, it could just as well be left to the imagination. It wasn't important enough to keep. I can think of at least one passage now back in the first 9 chapters that can be axed as well.

I'd been given this advice before, but for some reason it didn't stick until I looked at what I had left to write, and then at my deadline. I realized I didn't have time to sit there and struggle with a chapter because I, in my long-winded modus operandi, felt I needed to expound every detail. I realized just then that the chapter I was writing felt like filler.

So, I first looked at what my heart said "Keep it in. Look at THAT scene!!"
Logic interrupted and said, "But is it NEEDED?"
My heart said, " shows their interaction...and it's so precious..."
Again logic, far more stern, "But is it NEEDED?"
Heart: "But..."
Logic: "Can you find a way to work it in without a WHOLE chapter?"
Heart: "Ummmm..."

Logic won out. I realized that what I wanted to write wasn't necessary. Part of me still hurts over losing one little scene in a big long chapter of nothing...but I also know that the upcoming scenes MORE than make up for that one brief moment that did nothing for the plot. It was mere background noise.

As much as it kills my heart...I'll be listening to my logic a bit more often. I'm so much more happier with my current result with the missing chapter to ignore it any longer. The heart of the novel is still there...even without that silly scene!!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Whatever It Takes

I cannot believe it’s the third Wednesday of the month already. I’m behind on everything including this post. Sorry folks, I haven’t finished reading “How To Write Killer Fiction.” So, you’ll have to wait for my next blog entry to find out what Carolyn Wheat has to say about writing the suspense story.

Why am I so behind? It’s the old adage of over scheduling. I started out this month with a clean slate. Then the old super human syndrome took over and said yes to everything anyone wanted. Ahhh, but the joys of spring are in the air so all is well. I’m clearing my slate and moving on.

This morning I read a couple of blog entries about writer’s confidence. Most would agree that writers need a certain amount of confidence in order to continue to strive toward publication. But, too much confidence is like adding too much starch to your ironing. You don't want to be known as so stiff no one can work with you. There is no doubt that Editors and agents are looking for writers who have excellent writing abilities. They also look to work with writers who understand that editing is part of the process and it will improve their writing. Flexibility is the key here. We all fall in love with the things we write, but we need to temper that love with the logical thinking. If an editor or agent wants some changes made, chances are, they know the market better than we do. Before throwing a fit, think about those changes for a bit. Take a walk, and get some air.

I’ve been zeroing in and listening to what published authors are saying. Many say they rewrite, rewrite, and rewrite until their manuscript sparkles. Then they submit it knowing full well that the editor or agent will still ask for changes and most of the time those changes will make the manuscript better.

How about it? Are you willing to allow a knowledgeable editor help turn your writing into something incredible?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Antholoy Seeking Submissions

Words & Images of Belonging

Foreword by Dr. Gretchen Legler, nonfiction author and professor, University of Maine at Farmington, Creative Writing.

Contributions that address legacies, generations (especially that of grandparents and grandchildren), family, a sense of home and identity ( i.e. the pull between home and work, leaving your childhood home to start your own home or a sense of place within oneself).

Reflections may be poems, short stories, songs, diary entries, essays, letters, creative nonfiction, or other forms as well as artwork. Combinations of forms are encouraged, up to approximately 4,000 words per contributor. If accepted, contributors will receive a complimentary copy upon publication and a contributor's discount on additional copies.

No previously published or simultaneously submitted material. Please send work in an attachment; use 12-point Courier. Include a 50-60 word bio to appear in contributor's notes section of BELONGING if your work is accepted. (Writing credits/current position/where you're from and personal highlights are invited.) Please e-mail by August 30, 2007 with BELONGING as the subject line.

For artwork, use BELONGING as the subject line; send in PDF by e-mail. If you would like to send artwork by regular mail, send B&W or color PHOTOCOPIES ONLY (ABSOLUTELY NO ORIGINALS) to:

Cynthia Brackett-Vincent
P. O. Box 187
Farmington, ME 04938


If your artwork is accepted AND ONCE WE HAVE SECURED A PUBLISHER, we will request originals if necessary. If you'd like photocopies returned, include an SASE. If you would like to know your photocopies have been received, include a self-addressed stamped postcard. Please include all your contact information (including e-mail address) in submissions.Send e-mail to Cynthia at or to Carol at

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Stomp Those Grapes

All y'all who have seen the movie "A Walk in the Clouds" raise your hands. Remember somewhere about the middle of the movie when they harvest the grapes? Remember when Keanu dropped a bunch and the father picked them up, cleaned them off and gently placed them in the box? Go back a bit.

I don't know anything about growing grapes but I do know about gardens. They take time, effort, sweat, and when you get right down to it, part of ourselves. To get the type grapes usable for wine making, there was a lot of effort put into it. And they took care while harvesting the grapes not to injure them. Once harvested though, they dumped them in this huge vat and people started jumping on them and squishing all the juice out of about a change in attitude!

What's this got to do with writing you ask? Well...

Our words are like the grapes. During the growing process we put them on paper, nurture them. Their care consumes us. We save, back up and resave them. (or at least we should) When our story is finished, it's just like the harvest. Our words/grapes have been gathered.

Then comes the change in attitude. We take our words and change them. We cut out weak verbs, add stronger ones. We change the abstract into the concrete, telling is gotten rid of and changed into show. This process is hard on the words just as all the stomping is on the grapes. Ahhh...but once finished, we have a product ready to be packaged and sold.

Again, the comparison continues. Not everyone is going to like the wine, just as not everyone will like our stories. But for those of who continue sending our stories out, we will find someone who loves them.

So...what is my point from all this? Just that just as it takes a lot of work to get wine from grapes, it takes a lot of work to get a story from a bunch of words. Don't be afraid to take your words and work with them to get the best from them.

Today, harvest some words...make them into a story:-) Stomp 'em if ya' have to.


And...if you haven't seen the movie, go rent it. You'll love it!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Where does the time go?

When I began my blog, I titled it The Life of a Wife, Mother, and Aspiring Author. I'm not sure which role is more exciting or demanding. Sometimes it's being a wife--making sure my domestically challenged husband has freshly ironed shirts for work, a nice filling lunch every day in his bag, and a clean house to come home to. But other times it's motherhood. Just this week, I've learned that my son is planning to move out at the end of the month. I worry about him since he has pretty much written off college and has some unrealistic picture of what he and his girlfriend can accomplish on their combined salaries. And don't even get me started on my strong-willed five-year-old daughter.

But lately, it's writing that seems to demand the most attention. Well, not my own writing--the writing of others. I've turned my blog into a place to connect authors and prospective readers. Every month I interview at least two authors in the hopes that the readers of my blog will find something interesting and pick up a book from one of these talented people.

Every once in a while though, I ask myself where the time to enjoy life went. My days are a mix of mothering, trying to accomplish enough writing related stuff to make me believe I am a writer, and playing Susie homemaker. There are days that I feel like the mother who brought her newborn home from the hospital, and then made the mistake of blinking too quickly and finds he has graduated from college.

So, this is just my friendly little reminder to all of us, to take the time to get off the roller coaster known as daily life and experience what is truly important--the love of friends and family, the beauty of nature, and the joy of a simple smile.


Thursday, May 03, 2007


In approximately 4 weeks I will do something I’ve never done before. I will complete a dream. I will finish (sans editing) my first original novel.

I’ve had many dreams in my life. Many lofty goals. I’ve never finished, or accomplished, any of them, outside of being a wife and mother. That dream is important in its own right, but this isn’t about that.

I have wanted to be a dance teacher since I was three. The closest I came was when I was at a dance school at the age of 10. The owners picked me and two other advanced students to be TA’s. We helped teach the youngest students on Saturday morning’s. We were left alone with the classes to teach basics, but we never choreographed their recital numbers, and we were always in a group.

Another goal I’ve had since that young age was to perform onstage. When I was three, I wanted to be Ginger Rogers. As I grew up, it became a dream of Broadway. But, in high school I let an idiot choir teacher wreck my confidence and let him influence my faith in my voice. 4 years ago I came the closest to this dream I ever will, I performed in local theatres in 4 musicals, doing both dancing and (*gasp*) vocal leads! It was close, but still not my dream.

I wanted to finish college. My first attempt was a very sad failure. My own fault. In one semester I was kicked out with a 0.0 GPA. I never went to class. My second attempt was more successful. I went for a Dance Education major. Halfway through the first semester my ballet teacher bumped me to the 200 class. I ended the semester on a 3.8 GPA. I was so proud. But, then I became pregnant, and would have been 8 months pregnant at finals. With a dance major, it was a no-go…so I let that dream go (though not permanently, I still carry it.).

I have viewed my life as a series of failures. A disappointment to my parents, especially since I was the ‘smart’ one of their kids. The one they were sure would finish college. Turns out, my brother did that before me thanks to 10 years of military service. Every time I’ve had a ‘great idea’ it’s fizzled, and they know it.

When I set out to write this novel, it was with great fear. I’ve never finished anything I’ve said I would. Even small things get lost in the mix. My friends convinced me that the story was too good not to make into something better.

A year ago my husband and I went to dinner, and during the salad course I decided to tell him what I was going to try. With a nervous knot in my stomach I told him that I wanted to take this thing that I’d been writing and make it…real. I wanted to try to write it and finish it, and sell it.

I waited for his answer in fear. I heard my mother’s voice in my head telling me I was being a fool. I was being just like my aunt who went through, and still goes through ‘phases’ in her life. Something is her dream, her passion, and then it’s gone in the wind. That’s what I was doing…again.

But he didn’t say anything like that. From that day forward he’s been so supportive. He hasn’t read it yet (Historical Fic/Romance isn’t his cup of tea), but he’s promised to. He asks me how it’s going. He doesn’t push me when it’s not going at all. He’s excited for me, and scared for me. His support, along with the support of my best friend, have been what have gotten me through. I never knew having someone believe in you made all the difference. Now I do…

And so I face the coming weeks with trepidation. Will I truly succeed where I’ve always failed? Will I finish something I set out to do? In a years time, no less? I believe, for the first time, that I will. This year has been plagued with self-doubt. Now I’m filled with hope, and fear. Because beyond the success of my first completed dream comes the obstacle that I have little control over…the selling of my dream. But I now know that completing it was the true goal. Selling it is just the gravy. And it feels good to know it will happen. Once it does, I’ll have faith that anything can, and will, happen.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A Mystery Or A Suspense Novel?

Funhouse mirrors and rollercoaster rides! Those are the keys to understanding the difference between a good mystery novel and a suspense novel. I’m referring to Carolyn Wheat’s book, How To Write Killer Fiction.

First, Carolyn Wheat explains that a mystery novel is like entering a funhouse at a carnival where everything is distorted. In one mirror your tall and skinny, and in the next short and fat. You make false starts based upon what you see and you go down many dead end alleys. Then she illustrates how the suspense novel is more like a rollercoaster ride where you hang on tight and hold your breath. It’s fast paced making quick twist and turns.

I haven’t finished reading this book yet but I am enjoying the first part where it breaks down the mystery novel. It touches on everything from the history of writing mysteries to how to plant clues and then cover them up.

If you are a mystery writer, keep in mind that your reader is always two steps behind your sleuth. Mystery fans expect to receive the same clues as your main character and they enjoy trying to solve the puzzle before the MC can.

The construction of a mystery novel takes some forethought and if you have a detective, a police officer or coroner then the study of procedures comes into play. If your writing a murder mystery, no killer wants to be caught so what does yours do to cover it up? Lie, plant evidence, or point to someone else?

One satisfying ending is where your reader slaps her forehead and says, “Of course, how did I miss that!” However, this book shows that there are several ways to a satisfying end and it explains why certain endings fail.

This book has a whole lot more to explore than what I’ve covered here, and I’d recommend it for anyone who wants to write well organized and satisfying mysteries. Next blog I’ll cover what Carolyn Wheat has to say about the suspense novel.

Meanwhile write what excites you!