Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Stay on Target...

I've been so scattered lately, I can't seem to stay focused on anything. I find myself clicking on Firefox after five minutes of concentration on my synopsis or my query letter. I have goals, they're not being met. Serious distraction issues. Serious.

I can't help but share my newest addiction. No, I don't mean the Dreyer's lemonade fruit bars. Seriously, people. If you haven't had one of those things, dude. Now. Get the keys now. They are deliciouso. Major good eats.

Anyway, my new online distraction is I Can Has Cheezburger? Freak, if you haven't seen this, you so need to. Here are a couple that made me have some major spewage, like Sprite-out-the-nose spewage. Which burns a little, by the way.

For Harry Potter fans...

I love beavers. Just the word beaver makes me smile. This one is classic beaverdom. Priceless.

More funnies:


And my favorite, which I am not doing. If only I could stay on target...I might meet my goals. But i haz dem. :D

Saturday, September 27, 2008


If I were talking about the little tiles with dots, life would be great. No, I'm announcing my new curse word for writing.

Dominoes! I shout it when I realize that I've tweaked something in chapter three, and now I have to change not only chapter four, but six, eight, thirteen, nineteen, twenty, and argh! Dominoes!

Revisions are really hard. I just made another decision. A big one. Like main character big. It's going to be a long month of D-O-M-I-N-O-E-S aka revising-until-my-eyes-bleed.

Symptoms of Dominoes include, but are not limited to, constant muttering while cooking, showering, driving, or other mundane activities, frantic copying and pasting to compare drafts, frequent distractions (see My Writerly Addictions on the sidebar), insomnia as stewage over a certain scene just won't go away, and staring off into space for long periods of time. Of course, sometimes the occasional curse word escapes, even when things are going well. Dominoes!

This curse word should not be confused with Crickets, a well-known ailment many authors suffer through the querying process. No, the symptoms of Crickets are obsessive email checkage, heart palpitations while opening the mail box, increased patience, major writer's blockage, increased weight gain due to increased chocolate intake, and helium inhalation to keep the spirit from sinking into the depths of rejection.

Both of these diseases are real, people. Do not treat them lightly. Consult your writerly friends if you feel like you are experiencing symptoms of Dominoes or Crickets. Some patients may also experience a need to blog excessively about their experiences. Be kind. Comment. You never know when you'll experience your own case of the Crickets or go through the horrible ordeal that is Dominoes.

That is all.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Back on the Blog Chain


This topic has me beat. I can't think properly. I can't come up with anything intelligent to say. H.L. Dyer started this chain, so if you'd like to start at the beginning and get caught up, go there first. Abi posted just before me, and Terri is up next.

How do you as an author choose or create your story-world and give that setting authenticity?

Yup, that's the question. I think some of those words are English. Seriously, when I read that I was like, "Oh, freak. I'm so not cut out for this. This requires thinking." Luckily, I've been doing a lot of that lately. So here goes.

The real reason I struggled with this so much is because I write speculative fiction, mostly urban fantasy, but I have pounded out a dystopian science fiction novel as well.

For me, I don't call it a story-world. It's called world building, so let's just get the term straight, 'kay? Once I figured out that Heather was really asking about world building, I was like, "Ohhhh, got it. Story-world = world building. I do that. I know how to do that." And then I was gold.

Or so it would seem. I might have been able to pontificate about building a believable magic system, but Archetype did that so brilliantly I'd only embarrass myself if I tried to say anything more. Back to the drawing board.

I don't research. Well, I'll retract that. I research when I have to. I'm certainly not Michelle who lives and breathes just to research. Check out her post for a fantastic example of researching to world build. So strike two for me.

I've been to writing conferences where fabulous fantasy authors give great advice on world building. Someone once said that you need to take a setting and introduce a problem that the setting contributes to or that makes the setting part of the plot instead of just a place the story happens.

So I thought a lot about that.

In my book, Shadows, one of my main characters isn't alive. He's not dead, either. And he doesn’t live on earth. He exists between life and death, in a whole new realm called the realm of Lost Souls. I had to build his entire world, giving it characteristics that he despises to make his desire to return to earth believable. So it's dark there all the time. Even when the sun is up, it's gray. He can touch things, but they're weightless and he can't feel them. No texture, no temperature, no pressure. He can't smell anything. No taste, not that he needs to eat, but still, could you give up the Big Mac? I think not. He can see and hear, that's it. Now, I don't know about you, but I think that would suck. I basically took the five senses and robbed him of three of them. Sure, he has magic, but he can't hold hands and feel it. Can't smell bacon sizzling in the pan. Can't enjoy the said Big Mac. Major suckage, right? Right.

I did this so I could build a world where no one would want to live, to create sympathy for the character, so the reader would know and understand why he just couldn't exist in that dreary realm for one more minute. And so that when he meets the one person who can save him, who shines in bright colors, who he can touch and feel, he'll know what he's missing. So will you. You'll want him to be able to leave the realm of Lost Souls and return to earth, even though he'll have to die—eventually.

See, he'd give up immortality to be able to feel, smell, taste. Wouldn't you? Maybe, maybe not. But the world has to be real enough to evoke that kind of emotion. Thus, the world building has to be done stick by stick, level by level, to make sure you know exactly what it's like to live there. Then you'll understand why he has to leave, why earth is so much better, what drives him to do specific things in the novel.

That all stems from the world building—the setting. It's part of the story, not just where the story happens.

More Wordle Art

I seriously can't get enough of this stupid website. It's just so much fun! My writerly friends have made some cool art for their books, stories, whatever. Check them out.

Michelle McLean
Carolyn Kaufman
Kristal Shaff
and of course, the lovely Heather Dyer, who started this madness.

Wait, maybe it's just me who's gone mad. Either way, I made a couple more wordles. One is for a young adult paranormal novel, and the other is for a young adult dystopian science fiction novel. Since I don't have a synopsis for either one of these, I just used my query letter. I followed Kristal's advice, who said she typed in her MC's name a few extra times so it'd be bigger. Seriously, awesome.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Words, Gotta Love 'Em

Okay, so I think my friend Heather really hates me. She's always finding these cool things that take up my time. I think she knows deep down that she's going to addict me to yet another thing on the Internet...and she's cackling to herself in a deep voice, "Mwa-ha-ha!"

I can just hear her.

Because she posted the coolest thing I've seen in a long time. That may reveal how unexciting my life is, but I'm okay with that.

It's called Wordle. It's awesome. It creates word clouds with blocks of text you paste in. I pasted in my synopsis for my work in progress, once titled Shadows, now re-titled as The Mirror. Or something. I don't really have a title right now, let's just say that.

But, seriously. How cool it this? C-O-O-L, I know. You should try it out, too. Wordle. Create. Play. Post. Awe-some.

You can see a bigger, cleaner version in the Wordle gallery.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


I've been waiting for my turn in the blog chain before I posted again, but it looks like it's going to be a few more days. I'm relieved, actually, because I have nothing of value to add--yet. I keep thinking that something awesome is going to hit me. Hopefully, it will be something about writing, and not something like, I don't know, a car or a bus or something. We'll see.

So I've been thinking a lot this week. More than my usual quota of deep thoughts. :D It's time to revise ye olde manuscript again. Just when you think you've got something good, you realize you really don't. I received a great suggestion this week, something I knew needed addressing, but didn't quite know how to address.

Thus, the thinking. I couldn't work on the revisions, because I didn't know how. So I thought and thought and thought about how I could make the revisions without rewriting everything. I can't. Part of the story is going to be lost, well, at least lost to the reader. Of course, I have the original on my computer. But after all the driving and thinking, eating and thinking, making dinner and thinking, I finally concluded that the suggested revisions are A) necessary, B) worthwhile, and C) an incredible amount of work.

So I rolled up my sleeves and tackled the project. The first thing I did was make a spreadsheet where I could write in word counts, POV, and a snippet of the plot for each chapter. I methodically went through the manuscript filling out the sheet with title chapters (yes, they change and I don't fix it), word count for each chapter, each point of view character, and the plot and sub-plots. I could immediately see why the revisions were suggested. I could see places to cut, things that weren't necessary. But I still didn't know how to do what needed to be done.

Several hours of stewage later, I decided that the only way to make the manuscript better was to rip it apart and attempt to put it back together again. And it hurt. A lot. I started yesterday and each scene gets copied and pasted into a new document. Analyzed. More thinking. Stewage over a grape soda or a popsicle, depending on my mood. Then some rewriting. Major rewriting.

I made it to chapter three. Whew, only thirty-three more to go. If I can keep up the pace, this should only take me eleven days...yeah, right. It took me five just to get started, so I'm sure it will be a lot longer than that. Hopefully, every minute will be worth it in the end.

Reading: SABRIEL by Garth Nix.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Freed Up To Write

Finding time to write is one of the things that I think all writers struggle with.  For me, it's been pretty easy--until now.  I have a three-day weekend every weekend, I don't work in the summer, and my husband pretty much lets me do what I want.  So since I started writing, I've been glued to the laptop.  But I've realized that writing can't be the only thing I ever do. So I've been managing my time a little better, and keeping my house cleaner, and making dinner more.  
All of which cuts into the time I used to spend writing or editing. I've come up with some solutions that don't take away from my responsibilities as a wife and mother.  

1.  I write during my 30-minute lunch. I may only get in a few paragraphs, but at least it's something.

2.  I check my email and chat boards as soon as I get home.  My son isn't home from school yet, and my daughter can usually eat a snack and watch a cartoon during this time.  Once my son is home, the computer goes away so I can spend time with the kids.

3.  I write/edit/whatever after my kids go to bed.  That's around 9, and by 10 or so I'm dead tired.  I force myself to stay up a little bit if I have a good vibe, but I pay for it the next day.

4. I haven't volunteered to read someone else's work for about a month.  The time I spend reading and critiquing their work is time away from mine--and from my family. So I've cut down on that.  I still have a couple from a long time ago that need to be done, but they'll have to be in bits and pieces.  I have to keep up on my critique groups and I sometimes do those during lunch, too.

So all in all, I've cut my computer time by several hours each day, but I think I've managed to find a balance between writing and real life.  I haven't been able to meet my goal of 1000 words a day for quite a while, but in the long run, it doesn't matter. I'm still writing every day and that's what counts. 

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Critique Groups

So I figured out how to insert Yahoo! emoticons into blogger. Gah. It took me a couple of hours, but it's sweet!


And yes, now you all know how big of a geek I am. nerd

<---And this is for the troops all over the world working to keep the disaster that happened seven years ago from happening again. To my email buddy, Sergeant Joshua Hammerling, currently stationed in the Philippines, thank you.

That aside, I've been thinking a lot about critique groups lately. Are they worth it? What if the advice isn't that good? Does my work really need to be critiqued?

I've been in a "live" critique group for five months now. We meet every other Thursday and critique the next segment in our novels. It's fun. I have a good time. And when two or three of them say the same thing, I know I have some work to do. I appreciate their insight, their fresh eyes. And we've become friends over the five months.

I've also been a member of online critique groups. My first one brought me down, and my heart would pound every time I posted. I just knew it was going to be ridiculed and torn to shreds. I ended up leaving, but it taught me one thing--how to have a thick skin. And that's essential in the publishing world. So I thank them for that.

I'm still in an online critique group. The people are fabulous, a couple of them actually write in my genre and their advice is invaluable. The best part: they're honest without being snarky about it. So I've come to the conclusion that critique groups are good--if you can find one that is filled with like-minded people. To me, that's people who care about good writing, helping others without expecting anything in return, and improving their own craft as well as yours.

My live crit group is fantastic. I love them all. My online crit group have become my support through good writing, not-so-good writing, personal drama, and most of all they make being in a critique group worthwhile.

Crit on!

Reading: STORM FRONT by Jim Butcher (The man can

Sunday, September 7, 2008

On The Blog Chain - How Real Are Your Characters?

It's time for the blog chain again. It's my turn in the rotation. I'm pretty late in the round and you can follow the chain from the beginning by going to Leah's blog. The Astute Abi posted just before me, and the Creative Cole is next. All of the amazing blog chain gang links can be found in my sidebar.

The topic for this chain is: How real do your characters become? Are your characters real people to you? How much do you really know about them?

I had an interesting conversation with my sister-in-law early in the writing process of my first novel. I was telling her about the main character, and I suppose I was a little over-excited about him. She interrupted me and said, "You act like this person is real."

I didn't know what to say. I was shocked she didn't realize he was real. At least to me. And I'm hoping that he will become real to others as they read the book, too. I think that's the ultimate goal as an author—to create characters readers can't stop thinking about. And to do that, you have to evoke an inner emotion. So I start with the inside of my characters, and work my way out.

As I think about the story I want to write, a character develops in order to grow and change during the tale. I know how they would react to other characters, situations, and dilemmas. I know their past and future, even if they don't. I know what they want, even if I don't always give it to them. I understand why their story is being told, their deepest desires, and their heartache when they can't have what they desire most. I may not know if they enjoy snow skiing, but I know why they need to tell their story, and what drives them to do the things they do.

So much of what I know about my characters doesn't even make it into the story, but has formed them into the character they are. If there's something I need to know about a character at a particular place and time, I think about what I already know about that character, and make sure whatever I invent for them is consistent with who they are.

When I write, I watch the story like a movie, the characters telling me what they feel, want, and need. Just as in movies—or real life—my characters don't always know everything about each other. But I do. I feed the reader, and the other characters, little bits of information they need at the moment to move the story along.

To sum it up, I know my characters from the inside out. In the beginning it doesn't matter what they look like, their favorite food, or if they wear glasses. I start with characters that need something, want something so badly they're willing to die for it, or just have a deep desire to love fiercely. I believe those inner feelings and desires are what make characters real. To me, and to everyone who loves to read.

Don't forget! Cole is next! Check out her thoughts on characters.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Movies From Books

Status of my Life: In Between. Really. That's a city in my WiP.

I love Harry Potter. I really do. I was super excited for the movie to come out right around Thanksgiving. And now it's been moved. *sigh* I guess I can wait until next summer to see the next installment. But, man I was disappointed.

My only consolation is that Twilight was moved up in it's release date. Although my birthday is on December 11, and it would have been wicked cool to see the movie the next day as my present. *double sigh* But seeing it just before Thanksgiving will be good, too.

There are a couple of other movies-made-from-books I'm looking forward to. The Tale of Despereaux comes out on December 19, and Inkheart starring Brendan Fraser comes out on January 9. So I guess I have something to keep me entertained while I pine for Harry. :D

Reading: A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY by Libba Bray. Still. It's great, but the reading time's been on the low end for a while.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Buying Books

There's nothing better than buying books. Nothing.

My husband and I went to the BYU bookstore today and bought four new books! I love getting new books. We bought the second book in the Cronus Chronicles by Anne Ursu, The Siren Song. I'm going to start that one first. A lover of anything Nancy Farmer writes, I bought The House of the Scorpion. My husband's already claimed that one. The next two will be brand new for both of us. Quantum Prophecy: The Awakening by Michael Carroll and The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch by Joseph Delaney. They are both the first in a series and I'll see if I like them enough to buy the next in the series.

There were so many more books I wanted. Like Libba Bray's Rebel Angels, the sequel to A Great and Terrible Beauty. But I decided I better finish the first one before I buy the second one. I wanted Ninth Grade Slays by Heather Brewer, but they didn't have it. Nor did they have Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr. Oh, and The Final Warning by James Patterson. They had that one, but it was hardback, and expensive, and I already had four I was dying to have...so I didn't get that one either.

Reading: THE SIREN SONG by Anne Ursu

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