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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Field Trips

Remember field trips? The joy of chugging away from school with our sack lunches in hand? I loved field trips, especially ones that involved nature or history.

Polydamas Swallowtail (Battus polydamus) photographed at the Butterfly Alive Exhibit at the Santa Barbarba Museum of Natural History
Photo by kevcole

Here's my little secret. I still take field trips. Every few months I'll drop everything and spend a few hours at the art museum, or I'll walk through one of our nature preserves. I might decide to tour a small town not far away. Sometimes I even pack a sack lunch.


These trips can make me feel guilty. I could have, should have, would have written more, caught up on blogs, laundry, and such. But whenever I slip away, I come back refreshed.

Do you ever sneak off on your own field trip? Where do you go? Where would you go?

Join me on Friday to set one goal!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Is Your Main Character Acting Like a Little Kid?

We couldn't have a discussion of the inner child without applying it to our writing, now could we?

Lomo School Bus - Stop Whining
Photo by ella_marie

So here's the question.

Is your main character acting like a little kid? Be honest with yourself.

Our main characters need to grow, but they shouldn't start out so stunted they come across as unlikable. This is especially true in mainstream fiction. Readers need to connect to the characters. They need to like them and understand why they act the way they do. From page one, the main characters should show redeeming qualities to make the reader care.

Donald Maass describes it perfectly in his book The Fire in Fiction. "Whether they are public figures or just ordinary in profile, our heroes and heroines are people whose actions inspire us."

Later he continues, "Demonstrating a character quality that is inspiring does cause readers to open their hearts."

If your main character needs major growth, you'll need to come up with ways to counterbalance his negative aspects. Don't wait until chapter three to start showing your hero's good qualities.

Think about your friends and family. What makes you love them? Are they perfect? Of course, not! But if you can inject reasons for the reader to love your hero or heroine, you won't have to worry that your characters are acting like immature children.

What traits do you find attractive in a hero or heroine?

Join me on Wednesday for the final post on the inner child--field trips!

Friday, September 24, 2010

One Goal Friday: September 24, 2010

Can you smell it? Apple pie, earthy and crispy leaves, cinnamon candles--those are what I smell this week. Mm-mm. What a wonderful time of the year!

Apple Pie
Photo by whitneychicago

It's Friday! Time to set and review one goal.

My goal last week was to finish choreographing our school's cheerleading dance routine. I did it, and it was fun! There are a few kinks to work out once we have the squad together, but the majority of the routine is finished.

Here are your goals.
Tabitha: Rewrite first two chapters of memoir
CJ: Keep working on Letter projects
Karen L: Continue progress on projects
Wendy: Write synopsis of finished book, plot and synopsis new book, and plot and outline another (!)
Joanne: Return to blogging
Paul: Finish first draft and run marathon (congrats on the marathon!)
Susan M: Continue getting organized
Jen: Send the Guideposts article and work on yard
Amy: Exercise every day
Susan JR: Work on manuscript
Quiet Spirit: Study script for Christmas presentation and edit skit scripts
Sharon: Blog and be a homemaker (so glad your house will be finished!)

How did you do? It's so refreshing for me to review your goals each week. I love what you're accomplishing!

My goal this week is to organize my brainstorming notes for my next novel, and begin typing up the pre-plotting worksheets.

What about you? What one goal will enhance your life this week?

Please leave your goal in the comment section. Newcomers are welcome to participate, and don't worry if you can't stop by every Friday--my blog's goal isn't to add stress but to be a place of support.

Have a splendid weekend!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Waiting for Direction

Most kids do not take on tasks that haven't been specifically assigned to them. They wait for a parent or teacher to give them direction.

Open your spelling books. Unload the dishwasher. Did you do your homework? It's time to go to bed.

Girl Cleaning Up With Broom and Trash Bags
Photo by pinksherbet

If doing dishes isn't a normal chore for Susie, she won't look at the counter and think, yes, I will do the dishes. Entire families will walk past an overflowing trash bag, but not one individual will take out the trash. A toilet paper roll will perch empty, sad on its little bar, but no one will replace it.

As a writer, I can't wait for someone to give me direction. No one will say, open your laptop and write a thousand words. No one is going to pop their head in and remind me to send out queries or revise another chapter. There is no boss breathing down my neck for me to get going on my next project.

But I'm okay with that. I'm self-motivated. I see the dishes on the counter, and I clean them. I walk by the overflowing trash bag, and I take it out. I shake my head at the empty toilet paper tube, and I replace it.

Writers can't wait for direction. We're the ones who empty the cat litter. We're on top of things. We don't need someone telling us to write. It's just who we are.

Are you waiting for someone to direct you?

Join me on Friday to set one goal!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Childlike Tantrums

Tantrums? Me? Never!

Maybe I rarely throw physical tantrums like stamping my feet and wailing, but I have been known to throw an inner tantrum or two.

Coffee, Bonnington Cafe
Photo by richardsummers

An unscheduled appointment interrupts my writing time? My inner whiner comes out.

My trusty mini-van becomes untrustworthy? Drat, drat, drat.

Yes, I will admit I sometimes throw emotional tantrums when things don't go my way.

It's hard, well, maybe impossible to always see the good in whatever happens to us, but life moves on and before we know it, the incident has passed.

I probably should say something like "don't waste your time throwing a tantrum on trivial things." But then I'd be a hypocrite. I have a feeling I'll always throw an inner hissy fit when my car acts up or I lose out on writing time. (No, I'm not having car problems. This is hypothetical. But if I wake up tomorrow and my van is having issues, I'm going to freak out.)

Do you ever throw emotional tantrums?

Join me on Wednesday when we discuss waiting for direction.

Friday, September 17, 2010

One Goal Friday: September 17, 2010

Didn't make it the ACFW Conference this year? Well, stop here for a while. We're having virtual ice cream and setting a goal for the next week.


Ice cream in the sun.
Photo by adactio

Two of my fabulous critique partners are at the conference, and I get all jittery and excited thinking they will be pitching their projects, meeting each other and our friends for the first time, and leaving their families for a few days of much needed writer time. Good luck, girls!!

My other critique partner and I are home--on opposite ends of the country--sighing and wishing we were at conference too. Maybe next year?

So if you aren't at conference and a tiny piece of you wishes you were, pull up a spoon and pick a flavor. I'm embibing in Jamocha Almond Fudge. Mmm...

Also, welcome to the new goal setters. I'm very glad you joined the Friday fun, and I look forward to learning more about you.

My goal last week was to add another 8000 words to my novel. I am set to hit that goal this afternoon. Woo-hoo!

Here are your goals.
Julie J: Finish YA synopsis
Tabitha: Keep thoughts positive
Terri: Revise one chapter a day
CJ: Catch up on Letter A Week project
Diane: Finish second children's book (Congrats!)
Wendy: Get ready for conference (have an amazing time!)
Kristi: Push through revisions up to chapter 9
Beth Mann: Revising ms
Wendy: Start plotting (Congrats on finishing your revisions!)
Tyrean: Keep writing daily
Patti: Work on Lily, have fun with family, and get ready for Indy (have a great time!)
Jeanette: Finish humor article and start an article for Guideposts
Erica: Get ready for Indy (have a splendid time!)
Karen: Make major headway on project
Susan M: Get organized
Lynn: Keep recovering from injury (you're in my prayers)
Susan JR: Not get distracted from working on manuscript
Niki: Work on last year's Nanowrimo
T. Anne: Write two *gasp* synopses (Congrats on finishing your book!)
David De: Keep writing daily
Georgiana: Make requested changes to manuscript to pitch at conference (have an awesome time!)
Sherrinda: Work on character sketches
Sharon: Be prepared for conference and enjoy it (have a spectacular time!)
Nancy: Clean out two drawers and plan vacay to New England
Kittie: Get more done
Quiet Spirit: Start working on newsletter and study costumes for Christmas presentation

How did you do? It always energizes me to read your goals. I hope you met them!

My goal for this week is to finish choreographing a dance routine for our school's cheerleading squad. Yes, I busted out some 80's moves, checked YouTube for current dance sequences, and realized it's been a while since I've danced. I hope the girls like it. It's been so much fun!

What about you? What one goal will enhance your life this week?

Please leave your goal in the comment section. Newcomers are welcome to participate, and don't worry if you can't stop by every Friday--my blog's goal isn't to add stress but to be a place of support.

Have a terrific weekend!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Inner Child: When You Need a Hug

One of the greatest things about toddlers is their need for affection. They throw themselves in your arms when they're happy, tired, sad, or for no reason at all. They love hugs and aren't afraid to show it.

75/365 Hugs are Healing
Photo by ganesha_isis

Somewhere along the way to adulthood, it becomes unacceptable to throw yourself in someone's arms for any old reason. If you tried it on a stranger, you wouldn't expect to be received with smiles or affection. You may even be shoved away.

Even with our own families, we might have dampened our affectionate side. How many times when you're disappointed about something do you shrug it off or tell yourself it's no big deal? Would a toddler do that? Of course not! But toddlers are egocentric, adorable hug magnets, so we can't really compare.

If you're feeling down, go hug someone close to you. I'll bet your mood improves.

If you can tell someone close to you is feeling down, go hug them. I'll bet you improve their mood.

If you're feeling happy, go ahead and hug someone close to you. Happiness is contagious!

Do you shrug off your hard days? Are there times a hug would make you feel better? Do you throw yourself in a loved one's arms when you're happy?

Join me on Friday to set one goal!

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Inner Child: Oh, the Possibilities!

Every Thanksgiving, after the turkey had been eaten, the dishes washed, and the second piece of pie devoured, I would snag my grandmother's JCPenney's and Sears' catalogs. Then I would spend an hour or two scrutinizing each page in the toy sections to determine the top items on my Christmas wish list. Sure, I knew I wouldn't get most of the things I wanted, but I found the process mesmerizing and delightful. For one whole month, the possibilities were endless.

LaGuardia's Shooting Stars
Photo by midweekpost

Many children have a built in reverence for the possibility of an extraordinary outcome. They see NFL football players and picture themselves running the ball. They watch a child play the role of Annie on film and think they could be a movie star someday. Even if they know their parents can't afford an American Girl doll for Christmas, they cling to the hope that somehow the doll will show up under the tree.

Many of you are on a writing path. You may have started with high hopes or low expectations, but along the way, you're bound to find unexpected gifts and to experience painful disappointments.

When something wonderful happens, it can be easy to brush off, or, on the flip side, expect the rest of your journey to be equally wonderful. Don't brush it off. Reflect on it, be grateful for it, and let it enhance your belief that your dream will come true. But also, don't put too much faith in it. Not every step on our path will lead to another equally upward one.

When you experience crushing disappointment, you might wonder if it's worth continuing or if anything nice will happen again. This is when it is vital to excavate that childlike quality.

No matter where we're at on our journey, we can cling to the inner child who believes in the impossible.

Do you find it hard to capture that childlike anticipation? Or is your world still full of possibility?

Friday, September 10, 2010

One Goal Friday: September 10, 2010

How was your week? Did the weather surprise you? And who else is thrilled it's Friday?

Fall colours in the vineyards
Photo by arcticpuppy

It turned cooler with high winds, but the sun stayed out all week, so I'm not complaining.

It's time to set one goal for the week!

My goal for the week was to figure out an exercise routine that fit into my new schedule. So far, so good. I'm walking the dog for fifteen minutes at lunch, and moving for an additional fifteen minutes each evening. It's nice to know what I'm doing and not have any reason to feel guilty. Fifteen minutes twice a day is easy for me to achieve.

Here are your goals.
Terri: Loosen up with writing and not take everything to heart
Em: Enjoy life
Paul: Be more aware of amazing people in life
Lynn: Start writing blog again
Erica: Finish content edits
Patti: Get rid of sore throat (I'm sorry, hope you feel better!)
Tyrean: Enjoy the final weekend before school and write daily
Susan JR: Resume work on novel three
Katie: Get solid handle on verbal pitch
Tamika: Finish revising chapter five
Maria: Get girl settled in college then write, write, write (congrats!)
CJ: Get back on schedule
Robyn: Write every day
Nancy: Start getting organized
Sharon: Prepare for the SCBWI conference
Quiet Spirit: Study a script and get another refined for ministry group

How did you do? I know many blogger friends are preparing to attend the ACFW conference, and I'm sending those attending, energy to prepare and calmness to enjoy. Have fun! Everyone else, you can hang out with me and cheer our friends on!

My new goal for the week is to add 8,000 words to my new novel.

What about you? What one goal will enhance your life this week?

Please leave your goal in the comment section. Newcomers are welcome to participate, and don't worry if you can't stop by every Friday--my blog's goal isn't to add stress but to be a place of support.

Have a terrific weekend!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Learning Spirit in Childhood

As a child, I often felt my sole reason for living was to learn. Each year I learned new subjects in school, and my teachers didn't expect me to know beyond my grade level. When I joined a sport, my coach did not expect me to be an expert. Even at home, my parents taught me new skills, not expecting me to know how to do something I'd never done before.

Learning to Walk
Photo by tela chhe

As an adult, I often feel I'm expected to have it all figured out. After all, years of experience has taught me many skills. But what about the chances we take as adults? Do we expect our learning curve to be tiny, even non-existent?

Personally, I'm learning every day. I'm learning how to communicate with my growing children. I'm learning how to write not just a novel, but a good novel. I'm learning new recipes, new exercises, and new ways to deal with old issues. Sometimes I get frustrated when I try something new and it doesn't come easily. Those are the days I remind myself to foster that learning spirit I had throughout childhood. It's okay if we don't catch on to something in five seconds. Becoming proficient at anything takes time.


Do you get frustrated when it takes you a long time to learn something new?

Join me on Friday to set one goal!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Happy Labor Day!

Wishing you all a relaxing, food-filled, sun-filled, fun-filled day!

Dog running on the wet sand during an ultra-low -1.7' tide before sunset on Morro Strand State Beach
Photo by mikebaird

Happy Labor Day!

Friday, September 3, 2010

One Goal Friday: September 3, 2010

Happy Friday! A holiday weekend and the start of college football? Bring on the pizza! Oh, and I started writing my new book. For me, there's nothing like the beginning of fall.

Apple Planet
Photo by italintheheart

On the down side, the unbearable heat and humidity this week did not feel very fall-like. I'm getting up about an hour earlier than before, and with more on my plate, my exercising routine has begun to slip.

It's Friday! Time to review and set one goal!

My goal last week was to make a new schedule and set goals for the next two months. I'm relieved to say I met this goal. It's reassuring to know what I have to do each day.

Here are your goals.
CJ: Touch up outer door and paint living room door
Kelly: Make outline
Diane: Pray about possibly going back to work
Wendy: Edit more of both novels
Em: Unclutter everything!
Lynn: Pick out photos for Mya's book and call software expert
Heather: Go through five chapters of edits
Julie J: Start preparing for ACFW Conference
Loree H: Finish reading book for flow
Abby: Continue work on resume
Paul: Get rid of cold :(
Erica: Get proposal off to crit. girls
Jen: Get started on brochure for speaking
Katie: Be close to or finished polishing
Susan JR: Congrats on sending the full!
Patti: Fix issues with Rhythm of Secrets
Sharon: 2 elevator pitches, work on YA novel, no stressing about basement renovations!
Nancy: Try hard to be patient and enjoy the ride
Karen: Start fresh on Monday
Robyn: Start cleaning basement, devote more time to WIP, spend more time in prayer

Love these!! I thought of all of you often this week. I hope you were able to accomplish what you set out to do. You inspire me!

My goal for the upcoming week is to figure out a new exercise routine that fits in my schedule and isn't ridiculous. You know, like a few fifteen minute spurts each day.

What about you? What one goal will enhance your life this week?

Please leave your goal in the comment section. Newcomers are welcome to participate, and don't worry if you can't stop by every Friday--my blog's goal isn't to add stress but to be a place of support.

Have a fantastic weekend!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Childhood's Wide Open Spaces

My childhood ran at a slow pace. I had plenty of room to run, but even if I had grown up in an apartment in the city, I know I would have had the same feeling of wide open spaces. It's because of the gift of time.

Daisy
Photo by bigtallguy

Often, I thought I was bored. Those moments forced me to nurture my creativity. I remember building my own Japanese dollhouse out of stuff around the house after I read a book about a Japanese family. Even the tiny details fascinated me--the tea, the beds, the screens.

We had a long, gravel driveway and an enormous tree out front. The simple act of getting the mail became a welcome diversion by waltzing up the driveway and checking out the wild daisies and milkweed that grew along it. Crimson ladybugs lived in the tree one month each summer, and my sister and I would play with them. When you're a kid, you notice this stuff. I couldn't tell you if any of my current trees have an annual ladybug gathering, and getting the mail is a ten step jaunt now.

I don't miss being a child. Grown-ups get to make their own decisions. However, I do miss that sense of infinite time. I miss dawdling up a gravel driveway with nothing better to do than check out weeds. The wide open spaces I miss are the mental ones.

Did you have wide open spaces as a child? Were they more mental than physical? Do you enjoy wide open spaces now?

Join me on Friday to set one goal!