Friday, April 26, 2013

Friday Five

  1. First, I had planned a blog on procrastination and how I deal with it--well how I sometimes deal with it. But it never got written--cough, cough. I had wonderful examples of how my children procrastinate, with proof of having my kids doing homework at 11:30 at night. Yes they are still in elementary school, which I guess that means I am THAT mom. but oh well, you need to do what you can to survive. (Granted my kids don't get up until around 8:00 most days, and leave for the bus around 8:20. I love that their school starts after 9:00.
  2. Since I've finished Lexy, I've been going back and forth between two book ideas that I want to write. One is about a female terrorist. I really, really like the book. The concept, the characters, the main character is really good, and it is an interesting topic to explore. I'm about 10,000 words into the novel, but looking back at it, I think I need to trash the whole thing and start over. The second I like and have completed plotted out, but I'm not as excited about.
  3. Summer is just around the bend. Yikes. It means my schedule will have to change, and I will have to get used to having children around me all day again. I love my kids. I love having my kids home with me. I don't love when my kids want me to entertain them constantly. But we are going to have a great summer. In my area a convenience store has Roo Cups with free refills on Icees for only a quarter. This is my secret to sanity for the summer.
  4. Jacob, my kindergartner, is having reading issues. He reads pretty well at home to me. Not so well to my darling husband, and not at all to his kindergarten teacher. I don't know what to do about it. I have heard the difference between him reading to me and to my husband, so I don't doubt that he isn't really reading to his teacher. I just don't know why he's doing that. Along with that I've been having a lot early reader books read aloud to me. And there is a definite art to writing these books and making them interesting. I have to hand it to Alyssa Capucilli for the Biscuit books. They are lovely.
  5. Making the time to write and getting back into the writing groove after editing is always going to be challenging. I look back at the days when I would write during my daughter's nap time with fondness. She stopped napping at two, and I've been struggling to find the time since then. But it is so worth it. 
Happy Writing!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Using the Right Tools

Today my son come home from kindergarten with a homework assignment to write an essay on what it is like to be a worm. We went through the essay (five whole sentences). As he came up with the first sentence, he decided to put an exclamation mark after the first word. He didn't know what it was called, but he proudly informed me that it meant that you had to shout what was written.

I convinced him to move it to the end of the sentence, since you can't put it in the middle. He wrote a five sentence essay with enthusiasm. Or shouting. A friend from school had told him about this new tool, and Jacob embraced it wholeheartedly. It made me think back on some basic writing rules, and how much I've been able to grow as I've learned more about writing and the tools I have available.

In addition the exclamation point, which I seldom if ever use, we have adverbs, adjectives, POV, and all other sorts of writing tools that can bring a person closer into the story.  While we have these tools available, I think the thing that sets great writers apart from good writers is knowing just when and how much to use each tool. Finding the perfect balance between description and moving the story forward, and when and how to use dialogue can really change how well you write.

Somehow a cup of water was knocked over on my desk, fortunately, just where I store my writing books and papers. As I scrambling to pull everything out and salvage it so that it can dry and still be useful, I found the first draft of Isis. It's the novel I started writing around the same time as this blog started. It wasn't my first novel, or my second (technically), but it was the first one that I really put out there. It's printed on several different colors of paper. It's marked up and dog eared. This copy never went out to agents. It was seriously revised, and then seriously revised again. A lot of characters disappeared, and along the way the rhythm of the story changed.

Writing that book helped me sharpen my writing tools. It honed my editing skills. It taught me how to plot, and that I'd rather plot than fly by the seat of my pants. And now I'm still working on honing my tools.

What do you to beef up the tools in your writing box?

Monday, April 15, 2013


In high school I never read over a paper after I finished writing it. I simply handed it in. I was an A student, and I didn't take the time to proofread. I remember visiting my AP English teacher, Mr. Bickmore,  over Christmas break and saying how shocked I was because my writing seemed to have gone downhill. I was mixing up my homophones, and everything just felt off. Fortunately, I was catching these mistakes because I would read over my paper once to catch any little mistakes.

Mr. Bickmore calmly told me that my writing was getting any worse, I was simply starting to care more. He was right. college upped the anti, and I really wanted to get good grades. It was tougher, and I knew the grading standard was higher, so I was taking the extra time to make sure because it mattered to me.

Editing is the magic time when you take your manuscript and you polish it to make it shine.

Some of it is in the grammar--and commas are going to be the death of me. Partly because the rules on commas have changed.  And making sure you used the right homophone and spelled everything correctly.

But an entirely different part of it is highlighting this action, bringing this idea forward in the story, strengthening that relationship, foreshadowing this event, bringing your theme forward so it shines.

Most of the real work comes in editing. It's hard work, but it is worth it. The drafting, the work, the moving things around and fleshing out characters are all things that need to be done if you want your book to be as good as possible.

What are your best editing tips?

Happy Editing!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Finding the Time to Write

I always thought that I'd magically have more time to write or to really do anything once my children started school full time. In September, my youngest started kindergarten. I am not the weepy type that cries when my children start school each year, but I had a hard time with this. I think because my identity was shifting. It is one thing to be a stay-at-home mom that works a bit from home, while you have kids at home, and another to begin working from home full-time.

So the last year I have been struggling to find the balance of keeping the house clean, the kids fed and happy, and working. Finding the time to write has gotten harder not easier. But at the same time I have more purpose in my writing. Each minute I get to spend on writing is precious to me, so I make sure that the time I spend writing is used well.

I finished up my second complete novel after many starts, and rewrites over the last year. I plotted this book out chapter by chapter, and I'm really glad that I did. It helped me to solidify the character arc and other things that I struggled so much with when I wrote Isis.

I love it when first lines, and last lines mirror the theme of the story and help the ready come full circle. I think Sarah Dessen's book "The Truth About Forever" really does this well. So very well.

I went back in and looked at my last line, and my first line. I tweaked the first line and opening scenes to better mirror the book.

This is my first line: The men in the clearing look lost, far away from home knowing they will never go back

This is my last line: I finally belong somewhere. I have finally found my way home.

What do you think? Is it full circle enough? Too obvious?

Also you can check out my first 250 words, and query at the agent contest over at  Mother. Write. Repeat. I'm entry number 24.

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Beauty of Critique Groups

I realized that I have been seriously working to become a novelist for about five years. In some ways this feels like forever, but at the same time the last five years have flown by, and I have a hard time figuring out where all of the time has gone. There have been times when I have been stuck as a writer, or i have been distracted by other more pressing matters, like being a parent or doing my "other writing" (my job), and my critique group has helped me stay on track and stay focused on my bigger goal.

I started out with a small in-person critique group back when I was just a few chapters into my first novel. I can remember physically shaking as I went to the first meeting. We were all friendly, new writers. These people were people I conversed with anyway, not complete strangers. And the group helped. it was great to get together, talk seriously about writing and to share our stories with each other. The goals for the writers in this group were different, and eventually I felt like it was time to move on.

Around that time, I began to think about finding another critique group, and I found one online. This has been a great group of writers. Members have moved in and out of it, but right now, we have a group of seven serious writers that are pursuing publication. I really feel that the writers this group are focused and each is going to make it the ultimate goal of publication.

A critique group should give  you solid critiques. They need to help you see the areas you need to change, the problems with your story, with your grammar (admittedly I need help here), and pacing issues. A critique group should offer honest feedback, and cheer you on as you make the changes that you need to your story.

But your critique group is a also a place to commiserate as you navigate the writing process. A safe place to moan about your frustrations about getting published, or getting another rejection. They should also be your cheerleaders as you navigate through the world of writing.

While drafting your novel is often a solitary process, getting it ready for publication is not. Before you land an agent, or get an editor, your critique group or partner will be one of the ways that you can improve your writing, and take it to the next level. If you are serious about writing, you should belong to a writer's group that has similar goals to yours.

What's the best thing that you've found about your critique group?

Image courtesy of Ambro /