Saturday, October 30, 2010

NaNoWriMo -- Wicked Trick or Awesome Treat?

Fifty thousand words in thirty days. Writers all over the world are preparing to step up to the challenge that is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Are you one of them?

Last year was my first time, and I fell in love. It's crazy and exciting. It can also be intimidating, so my approach is to do what I can. If I win the challenge, great. If not, well, there's no down side for me.

I love the whole togetherness of it all. Thousands of us burning up our keyboards with the same goal, pushing and encouraging each other.

If you haven't seen these yet, here are some great links for getting prepped:
I'm a planner by nature, so I've plotted and written a loose outline. My index cards are filled out, stacked, and ready to go.

Are you in? If you want to buddy me, I'm at Julie Musil. I hope to see you there, and good luck in November!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Censoring Yourself

Have you ever been in the middle of writing and thought No, I shouldn't write that. Your fingers hovered above the keyboard. It's risky, and so and so might not like it.

We're annoyed at the idea of published books being pulled off the shelves. Would Speak exist without rape? Would The Hunger Games be as powerful without violence? Or would 13 Reasons Why be so gut-wrenching without teen suicide? I'm glad these authors wrote from their heart and nudged the censor out the door.

When I'm writing, sometimes my inner censor watches over my shoulder. She warns me that my idea is stupid, and she whispers in my ear, "Who do you think you're kidding?" At times, she might even say, "This subject shouldn't be brought up."

I try not to listen to the voices. I squelch my inner censor and write my first draft the way I want, knowing revisions will smooth things out. Plus, I remind myself that not everyone will like what I write. Just like I don't read vampire or Harry Potter books (*Gasp!* Please don't throw virtual tomatoes).

Do you struggle with silencing your inner censor? Or do you listen to the censor, hoping it'll steer you down the best path?

photo credit: flickr

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Preacher's Bride

I recently finished THE PREACHER'S BRIDE by Jody Hedlund, and felt like I'd said farewell to a good friend. The story still lingers in my mind.

From the back cover:

No matter the sacrifice,
Elizabeth Whitbread would serve a wounded family.
No matter the danger,
John Costin was determined to speak God's word.
Neither expected to fall in love.
As enemies threaten to silence Costin--and those close to him--will following their hearts cost John and Elizabeth everything?

I was fascinated to read the following in the author's note:

"The Preacher's Bride is inspired by the real-life story of one of history's greatest heroes of the faith, John Bunyan, writer of the classic Pilgrim's Progress. While history gives due laud to John, it fails to recognize the woman who stood by his side and helped shape him into the hero we all know and love."

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, and I loved this book. It was beautifully written and meticulously researched. I felt like I was in that time and place, living in a land where there was no such thing as religious freedom.

Reviews for The Preacher's Bride can be viewed here. Have you read this book yet? What's your opinion?

Be sure to visit Jody's amazing blog where she offers equal doses of encouragement, writing tips, and reality.

photo credit: Amazon

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Red pencil time?

In his book Plot & Structure James Scott Bell suggests we tell ourselves the following before we slash our first draft with a red pencil:
  • Rewriting strategically is only going to strengthen my book.
  • Rewriting strategically is fun because I know what to do for each step.
  • Rewriting is what separates the real pros from the wannabes.
  • I don't wannabe a wannabe. I wanna be a pro. (I love this one! Must be said while stomping your feet.)
Bell suggests we print the manuscript on paper, then find a quiet place to power through the book. He marks up his manuscripts using the following symbols:
  • A checkmark for pages where he feels the story is dragging.
  • Parentheses around incomprehensible sentences. (Huh? I have those? Yep.)
  • A circle in the margin where he thinks material needs to be added.
  • A question mark for material he thinks might need to be cut. (My poor darlings!)
My manuscript is still in cool-down mode, but I've sharpened my red pencil & I'm ready to make the book better.

How about you? What revision tips can you share?

photo credit: flickr

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

It's AJC Day!

Alex J. Cavanaugh day, that is. His book, CassaStar, releases today!

CassaStar is a mixture of science fiction, adventure, and space opera. How awesome is that? You can check out the cool book trailer here.

Library Journal says CassaStar "...calls to mind the youthful focus of Robert Heinlein's early military sf, as well as the excitement of space opera epitomized by the many Star Wars novels. Fast-paced military action and a youthful protagonist make this a good choice for both young adult and adult fans of space wars."

Congratulations, Alex! Your blogging buddies couldn't be happier for you.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Celebrating "The End"

Only those that dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly - Robert F. Kennedy

A few days ago I finished the first draft of my novel. It's time to set it aside for awhile and let it cool, while I collect comments and suggestions from my amazing critique group.

As you all know, finishing a novel is a monumental task. The moment should be savored and appreciated. How did I celebrate this accomplishment? I cleaned my neglected house. Yes, that's how I roll.

How ugly will my revisions be? I don't know yet. I never looked back while I was writing, so draft #2 will be interesting. But as James Michener said, "I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter."

How do you celebrate once you've finished a manuscript? Do you open a bottle of bubbly? Do you dine at a fancy restaurant? Do you imagine the millions you'll earn from the movie rights? Please share so I can live vicariously through my exciting blogger buddies.

Did you read Tahereh's guest post about The Nine Stages of Dating a Novel? From lust to infidelity to love, it's all in there!

photo credit: google images

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Kids and Classics

My 13-year-old son grumbled about his Language Arts teacher. She had told his class,"You must read from this list of classics."

My son loves reading nonfiction: medieval weaponry, The Dangerous Book for Boys, and survival techniques by Bear Grylls from Man vs. Wild. I looked ahead to his eighth grade year as one of frustration, tying him to a chair while he choked down classic literature.

One evening we sat together at the computer--his list in front of us. Last summer we read Old Yeller together, and he loved it. From Renaissance Learning, we found out the word count of Old Yeller (35k, in case you're wondering).

We found several books on his list, similar in length, that my son is excited about reading. He read half of The Outsiders over the weekend, telling me this morning about one of the "sad ironies" of the story (go figure). Next he'll read Fahrenheit 451.

It pained me when my son was upset about having to read, and yet I understood how he felt. I like reading certain genres, but was forced by my English teacher to read To Kill a Mockingbird. I'm thankful, since it remains one of my favorite books.

Fortunately, my son has opened up to reading about subjects other than spears, gladiators, and drinking your own urine. Perhaps one day he might even be glad his teacher gave him the dreaded list.

What's been your experience with kids reading classics? If you're a parent, did your child resist? Or were you a child who resisted?

photo credit: Barnes and Noble

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Leaky Faucet vs. Tidal Wave

Are you the type of writer who sits at the keyboard for hours while the story gushes out of you? Or are you like me, the leaky faucet who drip, drip, drips their way to a finished manuscript?

Some writers literally can't stop themselves when they're writing. I'm not that type of writer. Little by little my wip is dripping its way toward the first draft finish line. It hasn't been a speedy process, but I'm okay with that.

I appreciate the cooling-off time between writing sessions. My brain doesn't work fast enough to pour all that out at once, and I need a little down time in order to refill my creative well.

How about you? Are you a tidal wave writer, a leaky faucet, or somewhere in the middle?

In case you missed it, please read this guest post by Elana Johnson over at Adventures in Children's Publishing. Elana defines perseverance, and I'm always inspired by her story. Elana says,

"Publishing a book is not a race where the winners come in first. It’s not important WHEN you finish, just that you DO. Oh, and one more thing: Your journey is your own. It won’t look or feel like mine. It shouldn’t. Don’t compare journeys. Just be grateful you can take one more step."

photo credit: flickr

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Conquering Writer's Block

Each day, writers are blessed with the opportunity to do what they love. They also leap over hurdles such as doubt, writer's block, and procrastination. The writer might think, I need inspiration, I don't know what I'm doing, or should I stick with this story?

K.M. Weiland just released her cd, "Conquering Writer's Block and Summoning Inspiration." She breaks down topics into bite-sized, easy-to-swallow pieces. She understands our joys, fears and frustrations, and offers practical tips on how we can become better writers.

Some of her other topics are "Daydream or Die," "Why You Should be Writing Scared," and "Why no writer knows what he's doing."

You can purchase K.M.'s series here. And don't forget to stop by her blog, Word Play, any time. There's always useful pieces of information and encouragement floating around on her site.


photo credit: K.M. Weiland

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Capturing Ideas

Bye-bye, Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good ole' boys drinkin' whiskey and rye
Singin' this will be the day that I die...

I love this song. I don't mind if it replays in my mind all day. Other songs, I wish they'd leave my brain. Like the Barney song ("I love you, you love me"), or The Map song from Dora the Explorer ("If there's a place you wanna go, I'm the one you need to know").

Like songs, ideas ping in my head. So many ideas for fiction and nonfiction that I'm sure I'll never be able to write about them all. But I don't want to let those ideas fly out the window while I'm driving. What if I forget it later? What if that idea is "the one?"

I trap those ideas before they escape. I have a large 3-ring binder with several dividers. I've created sections for nonfiction, fiction, characters, setting, sensory details, etc. I have notebook paper scattered throughout my house, and I write the ideas down when they come to me. Then I file them away for future use.

How do you catch your ideas before they disappear? And what songs attach themselves to your brain like mold, refusing to let go?

I wanted to share some good news: I just received an acceptance from Highlights magazine! After many rejections, it was exciting to see an envelope with "contract" stamped on the outside.

photo credit: flickr