Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tuesday--Doin' my homework!

When I was a girl, my aunts and cousin could all knit, but I could only crochet. Knitting looked so confusing that I never ventured to do it. I love crocheting, and I made up patterns to make clothes for my Barbie (when she wasn't shooting the rapids--storm-swollen streams in our share of the Tennessee woods)with GI Joe. I also made up a pattern for a cool (read dramatic) sweater with a pointy hood and bell sleeves. Very monk-like, perfect for the teenage girl I was at the time! :-)

I still love crocheting, but I'm not afraid of knitting now. A few weeks ago, I was wandering the square in town with a friend, and we stumbled across a new shop devoted to all things knitting. They had a note in the front window advertising classes so I darted inside before I could change my mind and decide I didn't have time to finally learn to knit.

Might have been a mistake. After two Monday nights of making new friends and laughing through a two-hour class and dreaming of all the lovely new things I can make out of beautiful yarns (fiber, the truly adept seem to call it), I only have time to knit!

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Finally, the rowboats and puppies have stopped flying past our windows. Which means the satellite's working again. Yay!

Critiquing for my buddy today. I feel so lucky that I get to read her books before they go out into the world. Karen Whiddon's a great writer, and I'm delighting in the latest Pack story. Karen's comments always improve my work--and I think reading for her also improves me because I hope I write as well as she does. So many people in this business say we're in the field of storytelling, and I'm afraid I often wonder, what does that mean? But, as I'm admiring the new twists Karen's taking, I find myself thinking, she's a storyteller.

The cool thing about paranormal is the excellent freedom to create your own world. My stories are more family and realism-oriented so when I read a paranormal, I get the joy of wondering--how did she come up with that? And the more casual an author's tone is, the better I like it. It was what I loved best about Harry Potter. I was reading from Harry's point of view--learning about the magical world, but my favorite moments were Harry's excitement at facets of magical life that the other characters took for granted. And then--Arthur Weasley's fascination with all things muggle.

I guess a different life is always seductive.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Do you write in...


To music?

To some other form of background noise?

At first I had to have silence--or at least only the background noise of my family playing and chatting and sometimes arguing--often laughing. Then, I moved on to music. I wrote to movie soundtracks. Anything by James Horner. That man stirs my soul. Seriously. A writer should be embarrassed to write such possibly trite words, but those words are absolutely true. I put on the soundtrack to Glory whenever I want to believe I can be better than I am.

I also loved the Out of Africa and Green Card soundtracks. In fact, I just added the Green Card tracks to my writing playlist. (Back to that in a moment.)

From soundtracks, I moved on to the news channels on TV. I needed voices, but I am a multitasker. If I hear conversation I haven't heard before I have to pay attention while I write. So, I went for movies I've seen a billion times. The comfort of both voices and the familiar.

Inevitably, that kind of wore out, too. :-) Lately, I'm running on a mixture of all my favorite sounds. Depending upon mood, I put in a well-watched DVD or I turn on a rerun on the History Channel (who can live without the History Channel?) Or I glom on to the iPod.

I noticed my iTunes writing playlist is growing lately. I went through a Phil Collins period. His voice just really works for me, and I love the 80s music of my youth! :-)

Anyway, I don't seem to be looking for a mood or a tone these days. The playlist includes Billie Holiday, Simon and Garfunkle, Kanye West, Ne-Yo, the Eagles, Don Henley (by himself), Sting, the Police, Duffy, Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban, Toto, John Mayer--and I recently had to move Chris Brown off. Marvin Gaye is always on there, as are Louis Prima and ohhhhh, Nat King Cole! But I've added the most beautiful piece of music, ever. Meditation on Thais by Massenet. I can't listen to it very often, because I cannot pay attention to anything else when I'm hearing it.

Isn't it amazing how some pieces of music feel as if they were written just to make you feel?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

For fun and a good book...

stuffed with six paranormal shorts, visit Karen Whiddon's blog, and enter the Midnight Cravings contest.

These are great stories under a gorgeous cover!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Meeting friends for lunch today. Writing friends, so we'll catch up on everyone's work and goals. We also like to share any new writing "learnings," (as we used to say in my more corporate job).

In this case it works. I've definitely learned that thing about getting to the point. I was trying to figure out how many words I cut from my revision. Part of the cutting was due to a plot thread that didn't work. (Note to Self: If you can cut without any other editing, it never worked, because a thread is also a braid, and I didn't have to unbraid much on this thread.)

Part of the cutting was just--does anyone ever need to see some configuration of these words again? Repetition and I were close friends, pre-revision.

And part was just--what the heck?

So, I cut about 20,000 words in all. And the good news is, it didn't come up short. It's about the same length as before, because that tricky plot point that I talked over with my editor gave me meat for the conflict, and the story grew when the conflict was right. I had a hard time writing this book first time around. It was the start of my crisis of confidence, but when the conflict was right, the story just felt right. It's that "feel" that I haven't been able to get for the past year or so.

But that's a learning I can't pass on to my friends because first, I don't want to see them in the same spot I've been, worrying over every word, every turn of plot, every piece of characterization. Second, it's almost like wishing my bad Karma on someone else to bring it up. And last, if I could intimate what that feeling is, I probably wound have found my way back to it before now.

I will say, though I've been groping in the dark on these proposals I'm polishing, they feel pretty right, too. So, despite the crisis and no confidence, I kept writing and the stories are there.

Oh--a learning--don't give up! Sounds trite, but even when you're fighting yourself, don't stop. This year, for the first time in my life, I looked giving up on writing in the eye. It wasn't working--I was plying word after word that didn't work--and I had to keep starting over because I just couldn't wrestle even these proposals into a workable story. There are 24 files in one proposal folder, and 23 in the other. That means I've tried that many times to get a chapter and a synopsis on each idea.

So, this is what I've learned. Don't give up.

That works in any job. But isn't it easier advised than done?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Things You Learn in Class

Like getting to the point.

I'm giving the neverending proposals a final polish, but at the same time, I'm distilling them through the excellent information I'm garnering from the Discovering Story Magic class. There are grids to fill out that help when you're putting the story together. (I love filling out grids. I get why writers are attracted to new pens, fresh paper, stationery in general, but why do we all love a nice, unmarked form?)

Anyway, there I was rambling away in my attempt to fill out this grid. (There it is, over on the right!) I went back to the lecture post to see what came next, and the instructor offered her grid info. One line. One line? This is why I'm forced to cull. I never feel I've covered a subject until I've anviled the reader over the head.

Fortunately, it's a flaw I know well, so I'm trying to rein it in. My previous editor would just write "clarity" in the margin and I knew that meant to stop whirling all around the point and get to it. Which is, frankly, easier said than done!

But, it's Monday in a whole new week, and I'm almost finished with polishing the first proposal. I hope the next one is as much fun to work with as this one has turned out to be.

And I hope your work is as joyful as mine feels right now.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Storms in the area today so I'd better post early. Actually, I'm writing this by lightning, and I woke because of thunder (and a nervous Kitty who felt his fear of storms might be relieved by the application of kibble). So, I'd better post fast!

Post-deadline, I'm catching up on life. I've cleaned the house--a bit. It needs more.

My friend called to ask if I was celebrating on Tuesday because she knew I was sending the book; I celebrated big time. Stopped at the grocery store because we literally had nothing to eat in the house.

Yesterday, I had to buy a dress for a dinner with the beloved. I hate to shop, but Belk is having an amazing sale. I enjoyed shopping--an out-of-body experience, which I'm still not sure was my own!

I've tidied the book files, updated backups, started a Dear Reader letter and a dedication.

Today, I have to pick up this month's Kitty meds. Not necessarily a moment in the writing life, but I need to keep reminding myself! Still suffering deadline dementia-induced thought-scatter. And who hasn't suffered from that? :-) No matter what the job, we all have deadlines that sap the brain strength!

I'm also culling email. What a mess. Writers live so much in their own worlds that many of us belong to email loops, which can be like stopping to chat with our work-buddies in the surrounding cubicles. At deadline times, all that email stacks up. Plus, I have an email address that I don't really use any more due to our Internet access troubles/options. When I'm expecting something that doesn't show up, eventually I realize it's time to visit that address. And--even though I don't use it, there were 254 emails to sort (that included the info I missed).

Finally, I like to catch up on education as I'm finishing deadlines/starting new projects. I mentioned Discovering Story Magic. That class starts today, and I'm also reading Blake Snyder's Save the Cat. I'm loving STC. Can't wait for the first Story Magic lecture. (Oh, no. That'll come by email.)

Yikes--big thunder--better post.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Hello, Internet? Bye-bye, Deadline!

With rain, we lose access, but that's okay. We need rain.

However, I had a post all posted when the satellite ducked and covered. (Or whatever process it follows when it doesn't work.)

Anyway, enough bellyaching re: technology vs. nature. I finished my revision and met my deadline. Yay!

Now it's time to set some goals and meet them. I must finish the proposals I've been tweaking for months. Literally. Months. What working writer does that? Those babies are going out of here. I'll allow one week to polish each, but that's it. Which does not mean they're going out unready to be seen by my editor's eye. It means I'm going to make them eye-ready. (Have you noticed how meeting a deadline makes a struggling-for-a-year writer arrogant?)

Then, while I wait for line edits on A Conflict of Interest and answers on the proposals, I'm starting two new projects, both in areas I haven't attempted before. I'm excited. I used to have this skill for multitasking which I took for granted. I have a feeling I'll have to coax it back into being with a timer and a friend to crack the whip, but maybe I can be my own friend. I met my deadline!