Friday, July 31, 2009
Photo by walkadog
Kat's take was that a woman left the roses on the flight because the guy who gave them to her repelled her.
Naturally, I deduced a gentleman accidentally forgot them. He was meeting the woman he met on eHarmony.com and in his nervousness, the flowers completely slipped his mind.
How can someone forget a dozen roses on an airplane?
And even if Kat's theory was correct, wouldn't the woman still want the pretty flowers? Does the giver of them taint them somehow? I don't think so!
What's your theory on the forgotten flowers? I'm dying to hear what your take is!
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Photo by stevenfernandez
Why do we have these strange and uncontrollable actions? What brings them on? And why are they next to impossible to get rid of?
I'm not recommending you give every character a tic. I'm not even recommending giving your main character a tic. But it might be fun to see how your protagonist reacts to someone close to him who has one.
What if the hero's sister has a permanent scab on her arm because she picks it every day. And she scratches it when she's nervous. When he sees her doing this, how does he feel? Does it make him feel sad? Maybe he remembers when it all started twenty years ago. The bully next door teased her about her frizzy hair and she began to pick at her arm whenever in his presence. Soon, it became a nervous habit. The hero wants to reassure her she's perfect the way she is, but he doesn't know how, so when she picks at the scab, he averts his eyes.
Or maybe it disgusts him? He can't understand why she can't control herself. For goodness sakes, her arm bleeds every day. Gross! His mouth clamps shut in a thin line and his fists bunch up when he sees that drop of blood trickling down her forearm. He has to physically stop himself from yelling at her or punching the wall. He has no idea why his reaction is so strong, and he doesn't want to delve into the why's. As a result, he avoids her.
How do your character's react to tics? I'd love to hear from you!
Monday, July 27, 2009
Today we're talking about the swimming factor. When I'm not sure how my character would react, or when she's reacting more like me, the author, than her, the character, I like to go off on a tangent and think of her as if she were a close friend of mine. And that's when I wonder about her swimming preferences.
Photo by deecreation
Does she like to swim? Love to swim? Or is she afraid of the water?
Does she jump in the deep end, fingers pinching her nose, and whooping for joy? Does she dive in gracefully off the diving board? Or does she sit at the side, sloshing her calves in the water, but never venturing into the pool itself?
This leads me to more questions. What kind of bathing suit would she wear? Or is she comfortable wearing one? Maybe she just sits by the pool in shorts and a t-shirt? Or does she flaunt her stuff in a string bikini? Hide her thighs with the skirt suit?
What about her sunglasses? Movie star big or dollar store practical? Her beach towel? Monogrammed or faded Scooby-Doo?
None of this stuff will probably show up in a book, but it can help me get closer to my character. Someone who cannonballs into a pool, wearing a string bikini, will be very different from the monogrammed-towel-toting non-swimmer. And when I get bogged down writing the same old actions (hint: smile, grin, shrug...), it can help me see other actions she does. It also reminds me who she really is: an individual.
For all of you non-romance writers out there, transplant your character to a mental swimming pool and think about how he or she would react. If it's a historical character, would she be appalled at the immodesty of today? Or would she be excited? If it's a vampire slayer, would he long to join the happy families, but has no idea how? No matter what genre, what time period, you can learn something by sticking your character next to a pool.
What tricks do you use to get closer to your characters?
Side note: I forgot to tell all of you inspirational romance writers out there that Steeple Hill Love Inspired is actively looking for new authors. Don't be afraid to send your books! This might be just the right time for you to get published. eHarlequin.com lists the writing guidelines and submission information.
Friday, July 24, 2009
She's an amazing woman. Very classy, very professional, and very down-to-earth. Everything she said helped me. I took eight (eight!!) pages of notes! One of the topics--writing more pages each day--really struck home with me and I'm sharing it with you all.
She encouraged us to do the math with our writing. If we write one page a day, 350 days of the year, we will have one single title book at the end of the year. One page doesn't seem daunting, does it?
If we write five pages a day, 350 days of the year, we'll have 1750 pages. That's two single title books (700 pages), three category length books (650 pages), and two novellas (300 pages). Can you imagine producing two single titles, three categories, and two novellas in ONE year?
Okay, okay. But I take weekends off. And my life is very busy. Let's do the math. Five pages every weekday yields (5days/week x 50 weeks = 250 days) 1250 pages. That's still two single title books, two category length books, and one novella. Amazing!! And you have two weeks off for vacation with your weekends free.
But how do we write five pages every day? We're busy, right?
Ms. Bond gave tips on how to squeeze in extra pages. She highly recommends purchasing a keyboard simulator, such as the Alpha Smart (around $200). You can slip it in your purse and write on your lunch break. You can write in bed for twenty minutes. She said her Alpha Smart helped her squeeze one extra page out every day and that's one single title book. The great thing about keyboard simulators is you plug them into your computer with a USB port and they download directly to your word processor. How cool is that?
How long does it take you to write one page? You don't need to spend money on an Alpha Smart. Look for ways to sneak in an extra page of writing whenever and however you can.
She also said she writes her books in 20-30 minute chunks. She wrote while working full time until she had several books contracted. She would get up and write 20 minutes before work. Then she'd slip out to her car at lunchtime and write for another 20 minutes. She writes a page before she goes to bed at night. If you can write a page in 20-30 minutes, you can write three pages a day using this method. I'll bet many of you can write a page even faster.
For anyone interested, Stephanie Bond offers articles about writing, business plans, and career issues. You can find them at Amazon Shorts, and you'll receive 3-4 articles for the low price of 49 cents each. Talk about a steal!
Please feel free to ask any questions on this topic and I'll gladly share anything I know.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
The Honest Scrap award was given to me by Wendy of All In a Day's Thought. If you haven't checked out her blog, I urge you to check it out. Inspiring, thought-provoking, it always makes me take a deep breath. And the music! Don't get me started...
So the rules of the Honest Scrap award are to reveal Eight Honest Things about me.
1. I dressed up like Kenny Rogers for my senior high school talent show. My girlfriend was Dolly Parton. We lip-synched "Islands in the Stream" and guess what? We won!
2. I'm deeply connected to nature. I love taking walks, even in the snow, and the sky amazes me every day.
3. UsWeekly magazine brings out my judgmental! But I hop off my high horse pretty quickly. Except when Britney's on the cover, or Jon and Kate Plus 8, or...maybe I need to work on that?
4. I have never met a cat I didn't want to pet.
5. My husband still makes my pulse race, my palms sweat, and he makes me want to be witty and cool and spunky even when I'm not.
6. I check out stacks of books, magazines, DVD's, and CD's every week from the library. It's my favorite place.
7. The inventor of Jamocha Almond Fudge ice cream deserves to win the Nobel Peace Prize. If we all ate a little JAF, the world would be a better place.
8. My bike brakes are so loud, I scare away every animal in the county. SCREECH...
Thanks again for this fun and lovely award! Here are my nominee's for the Honest Scrap Award.
1. Jeanette Levellie over at Audience of One
2. Erica Vetsch over at On the Write Path
3. Kara over at Eskimo Kisses and Air Hugs
4. MaryBeth over at Desperately Searching for My Inner Mary Poppins
5. Ralene over at A Call to Love
And on to the next big award. The Superior Scribbler Award! Woo-hoo!! Thanks Cindy! You are awesome! If you haven't checked out Cindy R. Wilson's blog, do yourself a favor and try it. She's an amazing author and I'm pretty sure she's on her way to becoming a rock star with that fancy new guitar!
1. Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.
2. Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.
3. Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to This Post, which explains The Award.
4. Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we’ll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!
5. Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.
The 5 people I'm passing this award on to are:
1. Danyelle over at Myth-Takes
2. Keli Gwyn over at On the Path to Publication
3. Megan Rebekah over at Megan Rebekah Blogs
4. Jeannie over at Mind Healing Fiction
5. Tess over at Tess Hilmo
There are so many tremendous bloggers out there! Thanks!
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Paranormal is still really huge. Almost every agent wants paranormal. However, I'm going to hone in on the bits and pieces I gleaned from them. (This is only my opinion based on the comments I listened to in workshops.) There's an oversaturation of writers emulating the Twilight series. Agents are getting bombarded with vampire stories, but many of the books aren't original. So yes, keep sending paranormals, but try to set yourself apart with a truly unique idea, and maybe stay away from vampires for a while.
Next wave of the future? STEAM PUNK. I heard this term over and over from agents. They see the next hot trend as steam punk aimed at young adults. Think historical settings with steam-powered modern technology. If you're confused about this, rent Wild Wild West.
Also, post-apocalyptic thrillers, like Cloverfield, seemed to excite a few agents.
For all you inspirational writers out there: do your agent research. Four out of six agents on a panel I listened to specifically said they DO NOT WANT INSPIRATIONAL. It seems to be a hot-button genre. Either the agents want it or they don't. And many agents don't. So please, verify what genres the agent represents before you query. Why waste your time and theirs?
Historical is still hot. Chick-lit is not. If you're writing contemporary romance, you need to have a high concept or "upmarket women's contemporary fiction" to get someone to take a chance on you right now. Upmarket women's fiction is a more literary story. Think Jodi Picoult, not Sophie Kinsella. (Although both are tremendous writers!)
As always, every agent is looking for an extremely well-written book. So don't be afraid to take a chance with a lukewarm genre if your writing is phenomenal. They want fresh ideas and great writing.
If you have any questions about this topic, please ask. I don't know all the answers, but I'll be happy to share anything I learned.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Here are a few conference highlights and lowlights:
I met Stephanie Laurens. I met Stephanie Laurens. Yeah. I did. And I almost cried. I could barely speak. I was a complete idiot, grinning, babbling, and here's a picture of the two of us!! She's one of the coolest, classiest, nicest women I've ever met, and I would have loved to ask her a million questions. Yet, I stood there like an imbecile, just basking in her presence. It was awesome!!
(Funny story. My roomie met her the next day and told her about me. My roomie said, "Stephanie, I'm going to tell Jill you remembered how weird she was," and Stephanie said, "I don't remember anyone being strange. Oh, no, don't tell her that!" Guess what my roomie did? She told me, "Yeah, Stephanie remembered what a spaz you were." I was laughing, yelling, "I know! I was a spaz!" and then she came clean. We laughed so hard!!)
Let's move on. Pitching. Wow. Both of my appointments were on Friday. I woke up with a horrific migraine. I barely made it out of bed, but after a few Motrin tablets and a coffee, I could speak without sounding like a head wound victim. I'm pretty sure my eyes were not focusing properly, though.
My first pitch went well. The agent was professional, friendly, and I was very impressed. I then went straight back to bed with more Motrin and repeated the process later in the afternoon, when I pitched to my target editor. She also was very professional, very honest, and later that evening I processed things both the agent and editor told me. I could see myself working with both women. (And yes, I got two requests for partials, although my book may not work for the editor and she was up front about why, which I appreciated.)
I spent hours in workshops. It's one thing to read guidelines online and another to hear what an editor is looking for from her own mouth. After listening to agents, editors, authors, and publicists speak, I felt like I took a crash course in publishing. I met many warm, inviting, and generous writers. Some were best-selling authors. Some were on the cusp of being published. Some were not entirely certain they want to write for a living. And everyone I met amazed me.
I dare any writer at any level in his or her career to not feel elated and humble in a room of two thousand writers. Talk about inspiring. I can't even express.
What did I take away from the conference?
1. I'm refocusing my energy on what I write best: category inspirational romance (aka: Steeple Hill Love Inspired). I'm not edgy or gritty, and I think targeting suspense is not appropriate for me right now.
2. I can write more. Stephanie Bond gave an incredible workshop on making a living writing romance novels. She broke down how to make money, how to keep your money, how to squeeze out extra pages every day, and how to make annual goals and keep them. If any of you get a chance to take one of her workshops, do it.
3. Steeple Hill authors are genuine, welcoming, and extremely inviting. They went out of their way to include me and I am very thankful to them all.
4. I will not even dream about sight-seeing when I go to another conference. There simply isn't time!
5. Free Books!! I bought tons of books at the Literacy Signing (proceeds go to charity) but I also got plenty of free books. In a few days, two boxes of fresh books will arrive and I can't wait to touch them all.
Again, thank you all for your comments, prayers, and thoughts while I was away. I can't wait to catch up with you all and see what I missed.
Have a wonderful Monday!
Friday, July 17, 2009
Photo by sunlightontheporch
But what if I start talking and a little spittle flies out of my mouth and lands on her arm? Or I don't realize it but toilet paper is stuck to my shoe? Or, horror of all horrors, my dress gets caught up in my pantyhose, revealing a lot more than I planned?
And what if I freeze up and can't even remember the names of my characters? Or other pertinent information? Or worse, what if I start talking and don't let her get a word in edgewise?
I used to work as a professional. I've given presentations and enjoyed intelligent conversations with company heads. Those days are long past.
Tonight, I'll celebrate my bravery, but until then, I'll be a nervous train wreck waiting to happen. Wish me luck. I won't be able to check your comments until I get back, but please leave one and say a little prayer for my nerves! Thanks so much!!
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Photo by stuckincustoms
Will I make a fool of myself at some point this week? You betcha! I don't look for ways to embarrass myself; it's inevitable.
But who cares? I'll be in the same room as Stephanie Laurens tonight! She writes historical romance. Her Cynster series is so good, I've read several of the books more than once. She'll be at the literacy signing and I'll wait in line for hours if need be to get her autograph. I wonder if I'll be rendered speechless with my mouth flapping in the wind or will I babble incoherently? Hmm? The other option is that I'll be poised and cool and fabulous, but that's just crazy talk.
Have any of you watched Notting Hill? Do you remember when Hugh Grant's little sister meets Julia Roberts? She says something like, "this is one of those moments when I have a chance to be really cool and I'm going to blow it 100%."
Yep. I'm going to blow it 100%.
Have a terrific Wednesday!! I won't be able to check comments until I get back, but please leave one because I love, love, love hearing from you!
Monday, July 13, 2009
Photo by sco (Wow! He's a cutie! Thank you Flickr Creative Commons!)
I'm not a telephone talker, unless the caller is my sister, mother, mother-in-law, or sister-in-law. Or of course my gorgeous hubby. Everyone else I prefer to e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, even write an old-fashioned letter or card.
I think I have a deep-seated fear of miscommunication. When I write, I typically get my point across, but when I talk on the phone, I inevitably talk over or around the person, and struggle to pick up the correct clues. Or I pick up the right clues but interpret them wrong. Stressful!
But phone talkers are typically extroverts, so that might be a factor also. I'm socially successful but an introvert to the core.
Why think about your character's preference? Because it will color every reaction they have. Let's look at an extreme case.
If Donna's a social butterfly, her cell phone will be ringing left and right. Or if it's you write historical, Donna will have plenty of callers, and she won't turn any of them away.
Then there's poor Hank. He likes to text Donna, or e-mail her, or if in the case of a historical, write her letters. He gets frustrated at the constant activity around her. Plus, she never shuts up.
Maybe Hank enjoys listening to her. Maybe her chatter at warp speed distracts him? Does he have a hard time keeping up? Does he feel tired after an hour in her company?
And what about Donna? She likes conversation, not just talking. She loves the give and take, the spurts of giggles, the analyzing of every detail. Hank's so quiet, she has to fill in for him.
Maybe she finishes his sentences? Maybe she throws a fork at his head because he doesn't contribute? Maybe she thinks Hank is the perfect guy, if only he'd open up to her.
Think about this issue when your characters speak. Donna's words will tumble over each other and she'll have a lot to say. Hank will choose each word carefully, and he'll be concise.
What are your characters' preferences? If you have a hero who's glued to his job, you could add him constantly taking calls on his cell phone even though he's supposed to be on vacation. Or if your heroine dislikes conversing, you could show this by her clipped speech along with her penchant for spending hours in her room, writing letters.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Do you have an idea of her personality? Just by reading what she wears?
Photo by sassybydesign
We instantly judge someone based on our visual impression of them. We take in the mohawk, piercings, and jet-black clothing and decide who the person is, or at least who we think the person is.
Clothes reflect our character's personalities. But we all know too much clothing description can bog the story down. So how do we use clothing in an effective way?
As with all physical details, whether the character's surroundings or clothes, it's a good idea to make them do double duty. I shouldn't only learn that the hero is wearing blue jeans, I should also learn what impression it makes on the viewpoint character.
Let's take an example.
Sheila walked to Jake. He wore cargo shorts with a faded gray t-shirt.
Sheila walked to Jake. Leave it to him to wear cargo shorts and a faded gray t-shirt.
Both examples tell what Jake is wearing, but the second shows Sheila's reaction and gives insight into both their characters. Sheila isn't pleased--or maybe she's amused?--by his attire. And Jake obviously has worn the wrong thing, because he's clueless or doesn't care. Double duty! Plus, the reader takes an impression away too. His attire points to laid-back and rugged instead of formal and rigid.
Of course, I'd expand on the above to include the setting and why his outfit is inappropriate. And I'd show Jake's response to her reaction or lack thereof. Maybe Sheila doesn't mention his clothes, but he expects her to? Maybe she makes a snide remark to him? Maybe she's hidden an appropriate change of clothes behind her back because she knew he'd wear the wrong thing?
How do you use your character's clothing to reveal their personality? I'd love to hear from you!
Enjoy your weekend!
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
How well do you know your characters? I mean, really know your characters. It's time to go to an ugly place and get dirty.
Does your main character pick his nose?
Photo by photonoob
No? Well, has he ever picked his nose? When he was a child, did he dig up in there? Did he ever eat what came out? Did he get teased and decide right then and there he'd never pick it again?
Or is the answer yes? Is he discreet? Does he fling the contents? Wipe them, or (please tell me no) eat them? Does he ever unearth goodies from his nostrils in public?
Has anyone caught him recently? How would he feel if he looked over, mid-pick, and saw someone watching him? Would it bother him? Or would he shake it off with a laugh?
Hey, this stuff is important. If your character picks his nose in public, you know he's not only confident but doesn't care a fig for other's opinions. His co-workers avoid him and maybe grimace when he walks by. If he has a girlfriend, she's probably either completely grossed out and actively trying to change him, or she's just as obnoxious as he is.
If he's a sneaky picker, you can go full out on his reasons why. My goodness--the possibilities! Why does he feel the need to pick and why does he need to hide it?
On a similar note, do any of your characters adjust their undergarments? Scratch themselves? Sniff their armpits?
Will any of these actions show up in a book? Probably not. But knowing your character's dirty little habits provides insight into their character and motivation for their actions.
Join me on Friday when we'll talk about character's clothing.
Monday, July 6, 2009
We all know the guy who loathes animals. He shifts away when a dog comes up to sniff him. He grimaces, mumbling something about wet-dog smell, before glaring at the unfortunate pet owner.
Then there are the people who love all animals. They might enjoy cats, dogs, rabbits, chickens, ponies, etc... They squeal in delight at every animal they see. They are the hand-clappers, the swooners, the must-pet-it-now people.
Everyone else boils down to cats and dogs. They favor one over the other without exception. And they have their own unique take on life.
Photo by qole
Lets call our cat lover Muffy. Muffy visibly melts when a cat struts by. She oohs and ahhs at the adorable creature even as it snaps its haughty tail in the air. She adores cats, scoops them up and crushes them to her when they get too close. She also understands their independence and patiently gives them the space they need. Does it hurt her feelings when Fluffykins ignores her? Nope. If a dog walks by, she may pat it quickly, but she's not going to faint over it like she would a cat.
Then there's Chet. He automatically bends to ruffle a dog's fur whenever one trots up. He enjoys the companionship and loyalty of a dog. He'll play catch with the dog and he expects its devotion. Chet's never lonely because old Rover's always there, waiting to be petted. Cats don't rate in his book. He doesn't trust them. He may think one's cute, but he's never going to feel for it the way he feels for a dog.
How does this translate into character quirks? Anyway you want!
I like to pretend the characters' reactions to cats and dogs are similar to their reactions to the opposite sex. But you could study your character's gestures when reacting to an animal and use them in other situations.
Let's see how I would translate Muffy and Chet as a couple. She appreciates him , ladles him with praise and hugs, but doesn't expect him to spend every minute with her. He's very physical and affectionate, but Muffy questions this, not quite sure how to respond to such exuberance. She's used to giving affection but has a hard time being on the receiving end.
Chet likes relationships easy. He'll enjoy a dinner out with her, but he'll misunderstand Muffy's acceptance of his alone time and think she's not interested. He won't like that she's busy living her own life instead of waiting by the phone for him to call. And her hesitation to his affection will confuse him.
Any question you ask your character will provide insight into the way they act and why. When you're stuck, confused how they would react to a situation, apply the old cat or dog trick. It might not work every time, but it's fun!
Friday, July 3, 2009
Thud. Heavy stuff. Too heavy for July! We'll save it for a later month, a serious month.
So what are we talking about instead? Character quirks. Don't yawn. It'll be fun and light and silly because it's summer--easy-breezy time!
We all have favorite parts of writing. Some love to describe details, others love to come up with a killer plot, or an original hook. But I'm guessing we all love developing our characters. I know I do.
My current manuscript features a hot-headed hero (aka: kind of jerky). How can I describe the joy I had in creating this character? Chocolate-fountain good. I rubbed my hands together in glee as he revealed his cluelessness. I laughed as the heroine put him in his place. My heart squeezed when he decided he wasn't worthy, and it rejoiced when he realized he wanted to be a man of integrity. I fell in love with him, even with all his faults. He became the man my heroine deserved.
One thing I wrestle with in my books is how to reveal less-than-likable traits in a character the reader needs to root for? I haven't always succeeded. It's tough to balance likable with needs-to-grow. I've learned a few things along the way and I'm hoping you can share your techniques and tips this month too.
So join me this month as we look at ways we can develop our characters and make them relatable and likable without sacrificing their faults.
Enjoy your weekend!
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Writers don't move much. The job requires long lengths of time parked in a chair.
Photo by erinoconnor
How do you feel about your physical state right now?
Two weeks ago I threw my hands in the air, let out a squeal of frustration, and announced I'd had it. I was going back to my yoga regimen. As soon as I said it, I wanted to take it back. There were no double fist pumps in the air at the thought of "the yoga regimen."
Why? The DVD I use is hard. Turn your legs to jelly hard. Make you want to vomit hard. Fifty minutes of intense poses designed to either kill you or make you wish you were dead. So why would I want to put myself through that?
Well, let's just say the thighs have grown jiggly and quarters don't bounce off my stomach, they get lost, like in a bubblegum machine. Am I overweight? No. Have I lost much of my hard-earned muscle tone? Yes.
I don't like it. Not one bit.
I've always been active. I inherited a whole lotta energy from my mom. (Thanks Mom!) Time and the computer chair have eroded my athleticism, and I miss it. I like fitting into the clothes in my closet. I don't like squeezing into them, or worse, busting out of them. (Sorry jeans. You had a rough winter.)
And my back needs to be strong to type all day. My body needs the physical exertion to balance the mental workout. I sleep better when I'm active. I feel better when I'm moving. I even eat better!
I'm proud to say I'm still doing the yoga DVD. Not every day--that would be cruel. And I'm sneaking in more walks, bike rides and swims too.
What do you do to stay healthy? Do you have a workout routine? Or did you abandon it like I did? How does it affect your writing? Does your back ache after a certain amount of time? Do you feel uncomfortable in your clothes? What can you do to feel healthier?
Have a great day!