Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day!

Hope you're kicking back and enjoying this special day. Happy Memorial Day!

American Flag
Photo by kb35

See you on Wednesday!

Friday, May 28, 2010

One Goal Friday: May 28, 2010

Memorial Weekend has arrived! It's the unofficial kick-off of summer. Watermelon, corn-on-the-cob, barbecues, graduations--summer, yes, summer! No more packing school lunches, and the Mom-Shuttle will be closed until fall.

Mom's Watermelon Basket
Photo by mat_the_w

It's Friday, time to set one goal for the upcoming week. It can be related to work, school, home, family, or just something fun, but it should enhance your life.

Last week, my goal was to finish reading The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass. I did not meet that goal, but I'm about two-thirds through the book. I don't feel bad taking my time on this excellent guide.

Here are your goals from last week:

Wendy: Get to 75K on WIP
Terri: Rework chapters to send to crit. partners and critique a few chapters
Georgiana: Prepare for graduation party (Congratulations!!)
CJ: Make graduation party invitations (Congratulations!!)
Keli: Another 5K words
Sharon: Write two chapters, write one nf article, and research educational market
Cindy: 6-10K on new WIP
Elana: Write every day
Beth: 2K words
Kelly: Stick with one-ingredient diet and then create healthy eating plan
Erica: Press on and finish edits
Susan JR: Clean and organize desk
Karen: Spend time in the Word
Jen: Lose one pound, decide on poem, and create index for book
T Anne: Get through edits
Diane: Get back on treadmill 4x's
Lynn: Courage!
Hannah: Try hardest at tennis match (I saw you won! Congrats!)
Jessica: No raw brownie mix! (I had raw cookie dough this week. Bad me.)
CMOM: Finish cleaning before company arrives and write one day this week

How did you do?

My new goal is to be content right where I'm at. Every day, I want to be grateful for what I have--at least for one week!

What about you? What one goal will make your life better this week?

Please leave your goal in the comments section. If you're new to my blog, I'd love to hear your goal too, but if you aren't comfortable, that's okay!

Join me next week for June's topic: The Bliss of Summer.

Have a terrific weekend!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Favorite Authors?

Today's random question is for you.

morning routine
Photo by jazzler

Who are your favorite authors?

What genre books do you gravitate toward?

Have you recently read a book that blew you away?

I've devoured the backlists of my favorite authors. Help! I'm looking for fabulous fiction books to read. Please recommend your favorites. (Thank you, Keli Gwyn, for your help with the inspirational historical market!!) The romance genre is my favorite, but I enjoy any well-written book. Surprise me!

Join me on Friday for one goal!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Where Would We Be Without Friends?

Sneaking in a Tuesday post here, because I was blessed with a few blogger awards and wanted to pass them on.

Emily Ann Benedict at Benedictions awarded the Blogger BFF Award to me. Emily's debut book, Only Angels are Bulletproof recently hit stores. If you haven't stopped by her inspiring and heart-warming blog, do so without delay!




I am passing this adorable award on to:
Julie Jarnigan at Julie Jarnigan: Sweet Romance that Inspires
Lynn at Place to Create
and Kristen Torres-Toro at Write in the Way


Tyrean at Tyrean's Writing Spot bestowed the Soulmates award to me. I feel the same, Tyrean. Please go check out this bright blog full of deep questions and amazing poetry if you haven't already!



I'm passing this snazzy award on to:

Ralene at Faith, Hope, and Suspense
Georgiana at Georgiana Daniels
and Kara at Eskimo Kisses and Air Hugs

If you haven't checked out these amazing bloggers, I hope you'll take a few minutes today! You won't regret it!

Have a fantastic Tuesday!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Why is Your Character There?

Today's random question helps you decide if a scene, or portion of a scene, is necessary.

Thanks for making the bed mom
Photo by rtadlock

Read through the scene and ask yourself, why is this character here? In this scene? Right now? Is it vital for the reader to know what the character is doing?

Unfortunately, sometimes it isn't important the reader know what the character is doing right then. If it shows your character's daily routine, you can probably cut the information.

Example:

You write three pages describing the heroine waking up, popping a few slices of bread in the toaster for breakfast, flipping on the Today show, and walking past a rumpled bedspread on the way to her closet.

Why would the reader need to know this? The heroine goes through these motions every day. This information isn't new, it isn't revealing, and it isn't moving the story forward. Now, if she normally shoots out of bed, skips breakfast, and rushes out the door, but you're showing an upset in her normal routine that is vital to the plot--leave the information in. Otherwise, cut it.

The character should always have a reason for acting out the scene. A routine is not a reason because she'd be doing it anyway.

However, sometimes your character will be mentally working out the events in a previous scene--this is called a sequel--and you might not want an action-packed setting for this. Try to show the character's mental state through his actions as he's mentally wrestling what to do. I think it's a good idea to avoid lengthy routines even in sequels. Occasionally, you can pick one "comfort" habit and work the thoughts around it. This gives more bang for the buck.

Let's use the previous scenario. In the previous scene, the heroine found out her father may or may not be cheating on her mother. The heroine is a neat-freak. Instead of walking through her morning routine while she's trying to decide if she should confront her father or not, consider having all of the thoughts take place while she makes her bed. Be specific about the exact way she smooths the sheets. Her precision with folding the blanket just so. The way she uses two hands to place each sham and how she tilts the accent pillow to a ninety-degree angle.

This uses the setting to show her need to be in control. She's comforting herself through her confusing thoughts by rendering precision to something she can control. Also, this grounds the reader in the time and place as she thinks. The act of making a bed can become important if you approach it with care.

Have you been guilty of writing "the boring parts" of your characters' lives? (I have!) How hard is it for you to cut instances where she's brushing her teeth, sipping a cup of tea, or deciding which pajamas to wear?

Join me on Wednesday for another random question, this time for you!

Friday, May 21, 2010

One Goal Friday: May 21, 2010

How was your week? My routine went away this week, and I didn't mind waving bye-bye to it. It felt good to fix a problem chapter and to let the plot for my new novel burrow around in the tunnels of my brain.

lilacs at window
Photo by calliope

I'm still jogging. But we made brownies this week. And blueberry streusel coffee cake. That's not counterproductive, is it? I didn't think so.

It's time to set one goal for the upcoming week. It can be related to work, family, fun, or anything at all, as long as it will enhance your life.

My goal last week? Based on my critique partner's suggestions, to rework the first chapter of the book I just revised. Mission accomplished!

Here are your goals:

Heather S: Rework end of story, about 2000 words a day
Tabitha: Have fun and relax
Terri: Rework an old romance to send to publisher
Wendy: Get author pictures
CJ: Send invitations for The Young One's graduation party (Congratulations!!)
Joanne: Write and schedule a few blog posts
Lynn: Edit inspirational romance short
Erica: Finish incorporating edits on ms and send it to publisher
Julie J: Start editing YA novel
Tyrean: 5000 words
Kara: Research Christian book market
Elana: Write a little every day and bake 150 cupcakes (!)
Keli: Forge ahead with rewrite and add 5000 words
Cindy: Finish plotting the new WIP, the scrapbook, and begin new workout routine
Kelly: Camping--regardless of weather
Jennifer S: Put Disney trip photos in album
T.Anne: Get through edits and start working on new WIP
Maria: Stay sane through daughter's graduation (Congratulations!!)
Sharon: Query two publishing houses and write two chapters on WIP
Susan M: Finish rewrites
Tess: Stay on one-chapter-a-day editing session
Jeanette: Decide to enter (or not) poem into Writer's Digest contest (I think you should go for it!!), stop worrying, and lose a pound
CMOM: Get 100% healthy! Do some writing and crafting

Excellent goals! You all set the bar high--and inspire me to set it high too. Hope you met your goals!

My new goal for the week is to finish reading Donald Maass's Fire in Fiction. A gem!

What one goal will you set this week?

Please leave your goal in the comments section. If you are new to my blog, I'd love to read your goal too, but if you aren't comfortable, feel free to lurk!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What Basic Need Can I Withhold From the Character?

Often in our writing, we know what needs to happen in a scene so we write it. But what if the information being conveyed is on the boring side? It needs to be written in order for the book to make sense, but the material is a bit dry? I recommend a combination of things to spice up these scenes.

Spices from Gujarat
Photo by sudhamshu

First, brainstorm a plausible way for the information to be given through dialogue.
Second, withhold a basic need from the character who is on the receiving end of the information.

For example: (Genre: Historical romantic suspense) You need to give information to the reader about the weapons that just arrived on a ship. They'll play a key role in your plot later on, but for now, you need to plant them and their purpose in the hero's mind. His uncle is filling him in on the affair.

Write the scene from the hero's point of view. Let his uncle start spouting off about the weapons. Now, a reader is going to get bored of weapon talk pretty quickly, so this is where the fun random question comes in. What basic need is our hero lacking right now?

Is he hungry? Thirsty? Exhausted? Winded? Any of these qualities will distract him--and the reader--from the boring information, while allowing the information to still come out. Make sense? With each morsel of information, break into the hero's focus on his own needs. Have him barely listening to his uncle because he will fall down if he doesn't have a drink/sandwich/bed immediately.

"The Brittania set shore earlier," Uncle Bart said.

"You don't say?" Robert's stomach growled. He hoped Uncle Bart wasn't going
to be long-winded but knew the hope was in vain. Maybe he could summon
Jeeves with a tray of biscuits?

"The navvies pulled in the usual, but one pallet interested me. I had my
boy check it out. Guns. Guns like I've never seen before..."

Every other week Uncle Bart found something unusual on one of the
ships. Robert licked his lips, the idea of roast beef and potatoes gelling in
his mind. If he didn't get something to eat soon--

"...and strange markings on the barrels..."


How do you sneak boring information into your books?

Join me on Friday for One Goal!

Monday, May 17, 2010

What Does the Town Busy-Body Think?

You're writing a revealing scene, trying to convey the urgency in the conversation your characters are sharing, but are you nailing it?

eavesdrops
Photo by laurenventriello

Chances are--yes--you are nailing it, but if you want to double-check, step back and view the scene from another point of view.

Pretend you're the town busy-body. You're strolling along, minding your own business (with one ear, okay, both ears open) when you notice a hushed conversation between two people. You slow, scan the area for a convenient bush to hide behind, and sidle as close as you dare to eavesdrop. Luck is on your side since the bush has a hole just big enough for you to view the entire exchange.

What do you see?
What do you hear?
What are the whisperers conveying with their body language?

This exercise can help you determine if you need more action beats dispersed in your dialogue. This is also a great way to "show instead of tell" the reader what a character is feeling. The character isn't going to say "I'm devastated," but her slumped shoulders and the way she's aimlessly tracing her finger along the tiles of the table will.

Do you ever approach a scene as if you're eavesdropping on it? What are your secrets to "show not tell"? And please, someone slap me upside the head to stop using the same, tired actions? Every time I revise, I'm bombarded with the characters smiling, shrugging, and sighing. You'd think I'd learn...

Join me on Wednesday for another random question.

Friday, May 14, 2010

One Goal Friday: May 14, 2010

We made it to another Friday! Sometimes that fact amazes me. Time is a pretty fascinating concept. How many Fridays have we enjoyed throughout our life?

friday.get.out
Photo by eye of einstein

Now some of you may be feeling a little blue today. The 2010 Genesis Contest (through ACFW) finalists were announced yesterday. I only recognized one name--Jeannie Campbell.(Congratulations Jeannie!!) So I know many of you feel the sting of disappointment. On a turning-lemons-into-lemonade note, it gave me a terrific excuse to make cupcake batter. Life becomes better when I'm munching on baked goods.

Time to set one goal for the week! It can be related to work, family, fun or anything at all.

My goal last week was to enjoy a few hours of alone-time in a park or at a museum. I did not meet this goal for a variety of reasons, including chaperoning a field trip, my van getting repaired from last week's accident, and a nasty migraine yesterday. Excuses, excuses, I know!

Here are your goals from last week.
Tabitha: Have fun!
Heather: Meet the previous week's goal
Wendy: Read the Bible
Lynn: Have an artist date to colour the sky
Diane: Bless five mothers
Jaime: Finish revising first 1/4 of ms and lose three pounds
Tyrean: Start new story with 5,000 words
Maria: Clean the house
Keli: Enjoy daughter's visit
Cindy: Scrapbook, critique (thank you!), and research
Erica: Finish galley proofs on ms
Julie J: 1,000 words a day
CJ: Move the "dorm room" from the living room
Paul: Three yoga sessions
Kelly: Three yoga sessions (congrats on your fast run!)
Katie: Plot out seven scenes
Nancy: Reevaluate a few things
Beth: Write 5,000 words
Patti: Pack for China!
Shannon: Finish revisions
Empi: Complete current chapter, plot next novel, stop and smell the roses
Quiet Spirit: Continue getting house in order
Maria S: Be friend with ex (good luck with that!)

How'd did you do?

My new goal? Rework chapter one based on critique partner's suggestions.

Have a fantastic weekend!

Please leave your goal in the comments section. If you are new to my blog, I'd love to read your goal too, but if you aren't comfortable, feel free to lurk!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What Would Grandpa Think?

The random question for today is what would grandpa think? This question adds internal conflict for your characters and keeps them likable during a scene where they're either behaving badly or need to make a tough decision.

175/366: Grandpa
Photo by cefeida

Now, most of you instinctively know how your character will react to any given question, but sometimes we want our characters to surprise us. Not act out of character--just surprise us.

Let's use Monday's scenario except we'll switch the point of view from Tessa to John.
Setting: John's farmhouse, Saturday 11:00am, springtime
Players: Tessa and John
Scene Question: Will John agree to attend a wedding with Tessa?
Set up: John is anti-social and Tessa is nervous Nelly, desperate to have a date to a co-worker's wedding. And for some reason John is the only person on the planet she can ask.

So John doesn't want to go the wedding. He's gruff with her and tries to dismiss her, but she wedges her black heel into the door frame and won't be dismissed. He's getting panicky, which means he's not the nicest person. To keep John from being a complete jerk, this is a good idea to ask "What would John's grandpa think about the way he's treating Tessa?"

Hs grandpa treated his grandma like a prize rose. Now John has to let her in and hear her out. He lowers his voice, tries to find a kind way to let her down. And ultimately, he agrees to attend the wedding. Grandpa taught him right.

This works wonders at provoking a guilty conscience. You could also go the other way and have his grandpa be a worthless bum. No matter, your character will be affected by memories of him.

I realize these light questions won't cure everything, but they're a fun way to clear up confusion on how and why your character will react in a scene.

Don't you love sloshing guilt on your characters?

Join me on Friday to review and set one goal!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mentally Switch from Day to Night

Today's random question can help the tone of a scene. If you're in the middle of your first draft and worried the scene you're writing resembles an earlier scene, imagine the current action taking place twelve hours later. If the scene takes place at noon, imagine it playing out at midnight or vice-versa.

night + day or day + night?
Photo by skittzitilby

The time of day affects our moods. Things can seem darker, heavier at night or they can glimmer with excitement in a way they wouldn't during the day. Mentally switching times can add a little sparkle to a blah chapter. Of course, you're not rewriting the scene, you're just imagining how it would play out.

Let's throw a quick scenario out there.
Setting: John's farmhouse, Saturday 11:00am, springtime
Players: Tessa and John
Scene Question: Will Tessa convince John to attend a wedding with her?
Set-up: John is anti-social while Tessa is a nervous Nelly, desperate to have a date to a co-worker's wedding. And for some reason John is the only person on the planet she can ask.

The time, 11:00am, evokes thoughts of sunshine and innocence. Maybe a breeze plays through her hair as she waits for him to answer the door. Butterflies flutter. She's a bundle of nerves, but it's sunny and there's a bunny hopping nearby, so she'll be fine. Happy times, right?

Switch it to 11:00pm. The front porch looms in darkness. The sound of owls and possibly coyotes taunt her as she waits. The wind lashes at her hair. Her gaze falls on a huge, ugly spider, and she shivers as she waits for him to answer the door.

The entire mood of the scene shifts when you use this exercise. Maybe the first scenario fits your book best, but if you're worried your scenes are becoming one-note in the tone or mood, try this. You might be surprised at the depth it adds.

Do your middle scenes ever seem repetitive because of their tone?

Join me on Wednesday for another random question!

Friday, May 7, 2010

One Goal Friday: May 7, 2010

This week...whew...it was a doozy. Monday started it off with a minor car accident (no injuries to either party--thank goodness!) and a subsequent bag of M&M's. A big bag, if you know what I mean.

M&M's
Photo by briser50

Later, while revising, I plugged my problem words into the Find/Replace function. It got ugly. I mean, how many times can these characters "smile," "walk," or "look"? Don't get me started on how often they "suddenly" did something or "usually" acted a certain way. And "really," are they the "only" two people who have ever "sigh"-ed? (By the way, I have an unnatural attachment to a few of these words and there are still too many of them in my WIP. I didn't have the heart to cut them all.)

If you aren't familiar with the Find/Replace function in Microsoft Word, I recommend you give it a whirl. Simply type a word in, then click on "highlight all." It will calculate the number of times the word shows up in the manuscript, and you can skip to each instance. Also, if you're on the lookout for pesky "ly" adverbs, you can type in "ly" and it will find every word featuring that combination of letters. Not every "ly" word will be an adverb, but it's good to check anyhow.

It's Friday! Time to set one goal for the upcoming week, one goal that will bring you closer to your dream or will enhance your life. It can be related to work, family, fun, or anything at all.

My goal was to do the first read through of the new book I'm revising. Did I meet this goal?

Nope. Nada. Not even close. No worries--I know I'll read it this week. And I feel good because I did finish revising my last book. Woo-hoo!

Here are your goals from last week.

CJ: Finish the piece you're working on and have it framed (it's gorgeous, by the way!)
Heather: Rewrite and edit 50K words
Jessica: Start jogging and start querying
Wendy: Get to 48K by the end of the week
JenniferinJupiter: Maintain jogging regimen
Lynn: Take a long walk every second day
Keli: Complete macro read of cp's entire manuscript
Nancy: Continue Blogging for Dummies and start exercising
Paul: Polishing WIP to send to agent
Patti: Get the revised proposal to Natasha
Erica: Critique a manuscript for friend
Cindy: Editing, continuing scrapbook for church, and critiquing an ms for cp
Maria: Complete two devotions and plan daughter's graduation party
Katie: Figure out hero's internal flaw, inner beliefs, and mannerisms
Karen: Work on articles and organize office
Terri: Pack, go to conference, and PITCH!!
Tyrean: Revise short story and write a poem a day
DianeJ: Get that dryer running again
QuietSpirit: Catch up on laundry and find storage area for books and such

Lofty, wonderful goals!

My new goal? Go somewhere special by myself, maybe the art museum or a pretty park, and relax for a few hours.

What one goal would enhance your life this week?

Please leave your goal in the comment section. If you're new to my blog, I'd love to see your goal too, but if you aren't comfortable, that's okay!

(I will be out of the house today. Track meet time! But I can't wait to read all of your goals this weekend.)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Add a Monkey

Some scenes practically jump out of our minds onto the page. They're written quickly and we glow with satisfaction when finished. Other scenes confuse us, stall us, make us wonder if we're headed in the right direction or veering off course.

A small monkey
Photo by suneko

For the head-scratching scenes, I sometimes ask myself random questions to unlock an unexpected response.

Today's question:

What if a monkey enters the scene but only one character can see it?

This works wonders for a serious scene. I don't know why. Maybe it's because I know it has to be serious, but a monkey just swung in.

Since I write romance, it's important to string the main character's feelings out. The heroine cannot realize and declare her love for the hero in chapter one. If either character is in danger of falling too fast, the other character's reaction to a monkey in the room can mislead the other.

Betsy wanted to believe the promise in John's eye, but maybe she was fooling herself, the way she had with Sam. After all, John treated her like one of the guys. She needed to stop reading into his actions. So he'd put his arm around her yesterday and whispered a compliment. Big deal.

"Do you have a minute?" John asked. His lazy grin should have set her at ease, but
the slight clench in his jaw made her pull her shoulders back. "Let's grab a coffee so we can talk."

"Okay." Betsy fell in beside him as he started walking along the sidewalk. What could he want to talk about? Did he realize she liked him? Maybe he was going to let her down easy. Why hadn't she hidden her feelings better?

(Enter the monkey. Only John can see it. He really likes Betsy, but he's a nervous wreck--a far cry from his normal flirty self. Betsy hasn't given any indication she likes him, but he's ready to take a chance.)

She followed him into the cafe. After ordering coffees, they sat a table near the window, and she gave him a shaky smile. "What did you want to talk about?"

His forehead crinkled as he stared beyond her shoulder. She turned to see what captured his attention but didn't notice anything unusual, which could mean
only one thing. He knew she liked him and was trying to let her down gently.

"I think I know why we're here." She lowered her eyes and wrapped both hands around her cup.

"What? You do?" His distracted tone didn't bolster her courage. When she glanced at
him, his eyes wouldn't meet hers. And she didn't know what to make of his strange expression. Boy, she must have really embarrassed him.

He kept peering over her shoulder, and although she didn't want to, she couldn't stop herself from taking another peek. A cute blonde sat at a table behind her. Great. Now she had not doubt why he brought her here. Well, she didn't have to put up with it another minute.

"Okay, John. I got it. I'll leave you alone."

Since John can't get serious and mushy yet, because both characters still have a long way to go before they can act on their feelings, it helped to give him a distraction. This mislead Betsy and solidified her earlier reasoning. Of course she's wrong, and the reader knows it, but isn't that the fun of reading about love? Later, in a sequel, John would ruminate on why he'd chickened out in the cafe, and we'd learn his true motivation.

Join me on Friday to set one goal.

Monday, May 3, 2010

May: A Month of Random Questions

As I brainstormed possible topics for this month, I kept getting stuck. Nurturing ideas? I've touched on that subject before. Celebrations? Not feeling it.

vector_landscape
Photo by Brent Nelson

For the last few weeks, I've had the most random thoughts. I'll be smelling the apple blossoms in the park and think what if Darcy thinks she's acting out of compassion, but in reality she's acting out of desperation? (Darcy is the main character in the book I just finished revising.)

Now, this happens to me a lot, and if you're a writer, it surely happens to you too. You can't turn off the book you're writing. Little bits and pieces come to you at inconvenient times, like when you're in the shower or stopped at a traffic light. And some of the stuff that comes to you seems out of place. Maybe you're trying to figure out why your hero just freaked out about something, when you realize a secondary character acted incorrectly a few chapters back.

It's puzzling trying to figure out if I've nailed a scene. Some I know I did, and others I wonder about. For the troubling scenes, I find it helps if I unlock the worry grip and ask myself random questions about the scene, characters or plot. If I can look at what's happening from a silly or foreign perspective, I can narrow down the correct way for the scene to flow.

Join me all month for random questions to help push you through tough scenes.