Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Awesome Contests

You must enter this contest. It is for a substantive edit by editor Deborah Halverson. The contest is easy to sign up for and definitely worth trying for. She is celebrating the completion of her bookWRiting Young Adult for Dummies. So go check it out.

Also Nathan Bransford is having his annual first paragraph contest, entries end tomorrow. The prize is a copy of his signed book and a recommendation to his agent.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday Five

1. The plan at the beginning of the school year was to write (for my real job not my novels) every Monday, Wednesday and Friday while my youngest was at school. In theory (remember my previous post about theories), this would mean a lot less guilt free time working, a significant income boost and a more balanced household. I am here to say that three hours is not what I thought it would be. Too many distractions at home, and other time taking obligation out there. But every week I tell myself that this is the week where I actually meet my self-imposed quotas that may or may not be realistic.

2. Cable television is something I grew up without. In fact except for a brief stint in college and a very short period when I was first married, I've not had cable until recently. I also thought it was stupid to pay for television, especially when I hear so many people complaining that nothing they want to watch is on. We recently got cable so that we could have our Internet hooked up for free and avoid the $450.00 charge the company had listed. My husband insisted that we needed the faster Internet the new company provided--I haven't been too impressed, but in retrospect I wished we had just paid for the installation. They also sent us $300.00, so $750.00 and we are coming out even right now. The only shows we really watch are on Network television or available on Hulu anyway. But the thing that keeps me from canceling each month is the DVR. I like watching on our nice television downstairs, the two shows I like on the day I want to. It's really silly, and I know there has to be another solution to the problem, but I don't want to give up my DVR.

3. Talking about college and Cable brought back a truly horrible story from college. The television in the apartment belonged to me, and I hated MTV. So I hid the remote. The basic network channels were preprogrammed into the television, and I didn't care if anyone watched whenever they wanted to, just not MTV. Later a huge roommate fight broke out (I'm sure you've experienced the drama) which ended up with two roommates taking off to California in a big huff, and the hidden remote secret was spilled out in the midst of the horrible screaming about cleaning and other fun girly issues. And I actually had really great roommates through college. I stuck with the same set until I got married, if that tells you anything.

4. My daughter is growing up. She has begin sacrificing comfort for fashion. I don't know how I totally feel about that either. Her sacrifice is that she has begun wearing jeans to school instead of leggings, since jeans are cool. The problem is she didn't get many pairs of jeans this year, because I'd finally believed she wouldn't wear them. And the other issue is finding some that look good on her. Most of the jeans are designed to worn snugly (oh- I really mean skin tight-uggh brings back the 80s), but my little one is so skinny that the tight design just doesn't fit. I may have to go out and find designer jeans. She runs a size or two smaller in skinny than she is in length. Some of her leggings were even baggy on her!

5. The next week brings on the birthday's for my two boys. My youngest was born just six days shy of two years apart from his brother. After the birthdays are over I can breathe a sigh of relief until October hits again. A few birthdays scattered here and there, but nothing like the total chaos that comes starting October. It doesn't help that all of my in-laws are adding birthdays to those months. Seriously--including my husband. We've got a new niece that added a birthday this week too. But it's over in just a few more days!

Happy Writing!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Ice and Snow and Writing

Yesterday was all about anticipation at our house. We sent the kids to school knowing they'd be let out early for the big snow storm. 5-6 inches possible, icy roads, and emergency snacks in their backpacks, just in case they ran into trouble on the way home.

And nothing happened. No snow. Big disappointment. Then we waited, and waited for the ice storm to begin. The kids went to bed without knowing if school would be canceled tomorrow or not. Finally the storm hit, and we listened to the plink of ice on the windows and planned a day at home with the whole family. It's been nice.

But I'm relating this to writing. Anticipation is almost everything. In a story the moment leading up to the big revelation, the first kiss, or that declaration of undying love are just as important as the event itself. The moments that build the tension, really take it up higher on the almost moments--where they almost kiss, he almost confesses his love, but gets interrupted are the ones that make that big event so awesome.

Building tension is an important part of every novel. It makes you care. Lately i've been reading several novels that don't have the right balance between the anticipation/tension and the actual event. Even if I like the characters I'm left wondering so what? When this happens I may skip to the end of the book (I'm notoriously bad about doing this) and if I don't like the end, or if I'm not getting a feeling of excitement along the way, then I just stop reading.

Another side of the same problem is when the event doesn't happen. Like the snowstorm that didn't happen yesterday, you are left feeling disappointed, and wondering why the author chose to end it the way she did. I can think of some very prominent books I would have ended differently, especially since the tension was built up to the event, and then nothing happened. Very disappointing.

As a writer, I really try to build the tension up in a plot. Those almost moments are so key for the stories to work out. For me the idea is to keep the reader wanting to turn pages. When that doesn't happen, then your books isn't working.

Happy Writing!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Friday Five: Starting New Habits

1. So far this year my new year's resolutions have been completely shot. I meant to blog three times this week, and it slipped my mind on Wednesday. I'll do better next week. But that's not the only resolution that hasn't gotten done. I've got a cold, a nasty one, and so my new exercise plan has not started yet. But it will next week. Writing is going, but not as much as I wanted it to. Again the cold is really getting me down. So I've got an excuse, but I'm not going to let it stop me. Next week is my new year.

2. Writer's groups. I'm in two separate writer's groups, an online and an in person group. It's been interesting to here totally different perspectives, and a different dynamic from each of the groups. I like the way my online group works, where we submit on a schedule, read and critique two pieces a week and submit every three weeks. I feel like I get the time to really pay attention to the pieces, and look for ways to improve and better yet pick up great techniques. The in person critique group is nice because of the friendships I've formed, and the in person discussion of specific techniques each month. I think everyone needs to find a good group.

3. Beta readers. This is something I don't have, and need to find. I need a new pair of eyes to look over my story. It's going through my groups, but I need someone who isn't attached to the story and isn't afraid to tell me like it is. And of course I'd return the favor. I haven't really started the search yet, but I'm about to.

4. I've started a new novel, and it's the strongest thing I've written from a first draft. I know that I'm still in love with it, but finally all the techniques I've been studying are really coming together. It's satisfying to look back at the first drafts I used to write, and compare them to this. I'm not saying I won't have to revise this book when it's finished--because of course I will, but I'm going to be starting the revision from a much better place!

5. Batman lives at my house. My almost four year old is dressed as Batman nearly every day. He's gone on errands as Batman. He jumps off of things and responds to crime, particularly at night. He knows his secret identity is Bruce Wayne, millionaire playboy, which he will tell you if he asks. If you need help Batman can save the day!

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year, New Plan or Putting Theory Into Practice

2010 was not my best year ever. I said it. It feels good to admit that I got lost somewhere along the way in 2010. Writing went meh, reading went meh and nothing worked the way I wanted it to. But that's okay, because we started over three days ago. At least that's what I think.

Last week I was at the grocery store, and thinking about my habits. In theory I consider myself a fairly green person. I recycle a lot. We fill up our recycling bin faster than our trash can, and I've worked to reduce the amount of stuff we buy in the boxes and cans. And I've bought the reusable grocery bags to take with me on every trip to the store. This is where my theory falls shorts of being reality. Even though the bags are always in my trunk, they sit there and I get plastic (not even paper ugh!) bags at the grocery store. My mother-in-law on the other hand grabs her bags every time she goes shopping. It's not hard and she's put the theory into practice.

As I was thinking about the last year writing wise I realized I had a lot of theory that did not quite make it into practice. A lot of it came from doubting myself. Like this blog for instance. Will I have something worth saying? There are so many funny, well-written, helpful writing blogs out there. So what am I doing trying to put this out there for the world to see? Am I a funny person? I don't know if I'd list that as one of my strengths. But I'm committing to put my blogging theory into practice this year. Three blogs a week. Hopefully on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Another theory I haven't put into practice this last year is actually finishing a stinking book. I have my book that I've revised, and revised, and revised out on submission. But I haven't finished any of the four other books I've started. Why? Ask me why. The truth is I've not been putting my butt in my chair enough and actually writing for me. I write online to supplement my family's income and it makes me tired, so that's my excuse. But writing for me (meaning my stories) makes me happy. This year I will finish at least two possibly three of those books. I may completely scrap the fourth or I may not. They may not be submission ready by the end of the year. But they will be finished.

My major focus is putting my theories into practice. Other than that look forward to book reviews, random thoughts and my general outlook on things. Happy Writing!