Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Rush, rush, rush to slow way down. Ironic isn't it? I'm only speaking from my own experience, 0f course. I spend the entire month of December in a hyper state only to wonder where all of the time went. The crazy hustle ends, though, and Christmas day is the ultimate day off from it all.

For me, the holiday is about celebrating the birth of Jesus. It's also about sleeping in and heating up a casserole made the day before. It's about enjoying the presents, laughing with family, and sitting around in pajamas all day.

We used to travel every Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but now we reserve our traveling for the weekends surrounding Christmas. That simple change brings joy beyond measure to me.

There's something magical about businesses shutting down for the day. And I love the feeling of "Get Out of Jail Free" when it comes to anything work or chore related.

However you spend your holidays, I wish you a smile, a warm cocoon of joy around your heart, a hug from someone you love, and space to breathe.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Joys of Writing Buddies

The phrase writing buddies brings the warm fuzzies to my heart. Where would I be without the friends who share my passion for writing?

Facedown in the snow with a puddle of drool forming around my mouth?

Hopefully not.

I'll be the first to admit I adore sitting home alone for hours working on my latest manuscript. I fantasize about uninterrupted blocks of time reading, or writing, or both. At some point, however, the need to share a complete and utterly fabulous idea overwhelms me. Or if it's one of those days (you know the ones I'm talking about), a writing buddy will understand the idiotic doubts and gross exaggerations I spout off.

My writing buddies keep me sane.

Who else really understands what writers go through? Only writers. It's true of any industry. That's why co-workers go to lunch and chat by the watercooler. Sharing the trivia of our day keeps us connected.

So, with that in mind, I'm taking a moment to say thank you to all of my writer friends who share my triumphs, my rejections, my ups, my downs, and my need for chocolate. Right back at you! The only thing better than having a writing buddy is being a writing buddy.

Enjoy your week!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Unattractive Quirks

I have a confession to make.

I'm not what you'd call a shopper.

It's not that I dislike stores or looking at lovely trinkets. I've felt the rush of pleasure purchasing something completely enthralling (and non-practical). However, I'm a short-term shopper.


I can only handle very--VERY--short bursts of shopping. I don't care to linger over groceries. I have no intention of smelling every lotion at Bath & Body Works. I can tell in the tiniest of glances if a sweater is right for me or not.

Do I have a point? Well, duh--of course I do.

I realized this morning while I was standing in an extremely long line at Target, and, might I add, surrounded by tens of thousands of other shoppers crammed into extremely long lines, that I have definite unattractive quirks. The thought led me to wondering about my current heroine, who is not a paragon of virtue either.

Just how unattractive are these quirks? Unattractive enough to turn a reader off completely?

Well, I think you need to have an example. Let's look at this morning's offense.

The above-mentioned check-out line just happened to pit me next to an adorable toddler. An adorable, hysterical toddler. Not the hungry or needs a nap kid. I'm talking a future neurotic (maybe the sweetheart will be a writer when she grows up? One can hope...) who every six to seven seconds would scream out "I'm stuck."

I glanced over. Was the tot stuck? Hmm... Her legs were dangling from the cart just fine, arms waving every so often, and she looked as free as a child in a cart could be.

After the sixteenth "I'm stuck," I began gritting my teeth. I can't say I felt sorry for the girl. She might have been stuck--the jury is still out on that one--but I was stuck listening to her scream that she was stuck!

But then I looked at her chubby little face and felt a wave of compassion. Her mom soothed her as best she could. I still wanted to run out of the store and breathe the sweet, cold breath of freedom, but I wasn't a ticking bomb any longer.

Lesson? Heroines can have unattractive quirks as long as they have just as many good traits. My latest heroine would have handled the checkout scenario with more grace than I did.

Maybe I should make an End Year's Resolution? Be more like the heroines in my novels.

Enjoy your week!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Panic Mode

It's December 3, and the pressure is on.

Yes, pressure to write out a gazilion Christmas cards, to bake an array of delicious cookies, to purchase the perfect present for everyone on the list, to get the house decorated and keep it clean (as if!), to write like a fiend and finish the first draft of this novel before Christmas.

And what does all that pressure bring? Stress. A racing pulse. A snippy attitude. A feeling of unworthiness. It depletes the joys of the season.

I knew it wasn't pretty when I turned off every Christmas song on the radio. I had a feeling it was bad when I hid the boxes of Christmas cards out of sight. This morning when I passed the mountains of laundry, instead of quickly throwing a load in, I glared at the piles and walked right on by.

I avoided the to-do's and enjoyed a steaming cup of sinfully decadent coffee instead. Careful planning is one thing, but all the planning in the world won't put more hours in each day.

This year I'm baking about half the cookies I normally would. The Christmas cards will go out a little later than usual. The first draft of the novel might not be completely finished by Christmas Eve, but it will be close. And I will turn up the Christmas songs and sing my little heart out to combat the Grinch inside me.

Enjoy your week!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

This year I have so much to be thankful for.

I'm going to leave out the obvious and concentrate on the things I'm thankful for in regards to writing.

I'm very thankful for the members of the writing groups I belong to. I've made wonderful friendships with people who "get" me and encourage my writing efforts. What an incredible blessing!

I'm thankful for the rejections I received this year. They were gifts. The first rejection made me face my demons. It also dealt my doubts a death blow. Try saying that five times really fast! The second one motivated me to ramp up my game. I've been studying books on craft, asking advice, and relying on other people's honest criticism of my writing as a result. Another gift.

I'm thankful for the time I have to devote to my writing. I'm thankful for the internet, the library, all of the bookstores, and every other source which I use to research and enlighten my mind.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday. Eat lots of Turkey. Overload on pumpkin pie. Don't get into too many fights with your loud-mouthed uncle. And, at the end of the day, be thankful.

Enjoy your week!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Adapting Sure-Fire Ideas

I'm on fire. My fingers skim the keyboard at the speed of light. The plot of my new book came to me so quickly, I just knew it was a sure-fire idea--until I read an interview with the editor I'm targeting and found out my core idea doesn't sell well in their line.


So what's a girl to do when her perfect idea, her perfect story is deemed unsellable? If that girl is me (and she is), she could be stubborn and write it exactly the way she envisioned it, only to get angry when it gets rejected, or she can adapt.

Adapt. Wow, that's almost a fighting word! I don't know about you, but I adapt the minutiae of my life on a daily basis. I don't always enjoy adapting.

My writing is the only thing I can cling to. It's the only thing I have complete control over. But writing is not my hobby. It is my life. I want to see my books on bookstore shelves. I fantasize about the day I can purchase my own book in a store. So, I adapt.

Decision made, I begin brainstorming ways I can keep the heart of the story but change the circumstances of the characters. And guess what? It takes only a few hours to iron out the details.

And once again--I'm on fire and my fingers skim the keyboard at the speed of light....

Enjoy your week!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Walking Turns the Brain On

I finished the revisions for my latest book and sent it off to a few generous souls who had offered to critique it. While waiting for their comments, I started plotting my new book. You'd think I would focus exclusively on the new one, right?


Oh, I'm doing the necessary research and outlining the plot (it's going to be a blast to write!), but my mind keeps returning to the just-finished manuscript. And, as I try to swish the doubts from my mind, little things pop up, but in a random way, leaving me feeling queasy. Did I wrap up the loose ends? Did I sustain the conflict? Is my grammar horrific? Am I lying to myself--should I just burn the whole thing? (I feel sorry my brain was assigned to me. It could have gotten a normal human, but no, it's stuck with Ms. Neurotic.)

I've found the solution to all the angst: I walk.

On Saturday, I headed outside with my warm coat, ear muffs, gloves, and sneakers. The light drizzle and gray cloud cover didn't stop me. I needed the frigid air, needed the blood in my veins to flow. About halfway through this power walk, I realized I had indeed left a loose end. Did it terrify me? Oh no. Instead, I felt the sweet sense of relief. After all, I can't fix a problem until I know it exists.

That's why I love walking. It somehow alligns my thought process to reveal things I need to know.

If you ever get the crippling doubts or the raging fears, try walking. Just go out and walk. It won't solve all of your problems, but it might just solve one of them.

Enjoy your week!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Author Loyalty

How do you know when an author jumps from your I-think-I'll-read-this list to your I-must-read-this list? Or, to put it another way, how do you know when an author jumps from pretty good to favorite? I know an author has climbed to my list of favorites as soon as a certain pattern emerges.

I bookmark the author's website and use it to track the release of her (or his, but usually her) next book. Then, when the book comes out, I have to buy it as soon as it hits the shelves. The current release is never enough, though, so I haunt old bookstores, searching for her backlists. When I've found and read them all, tears well behind my eyes, because I no longer have a stack of juicy morsels to relish.

I don't imagine for a second that I'm alone. You have the same obsession. Admit it.

I have several favorite authors and seem to pick up new ones every month. My pulse races when I see the tell-tale cover of a favorite author in the store--I have to buy it. I used to scurry home and devour the book all in one sitting but disappointment would set in as soon as I finished. Would I really have to wait another six months for the next one?

I've changed. Oh, my pulse still races and I still have to buy the book, but now I tend to wait before devouring it. I save the treasure until I've had a really bad day or feel miserable about something. That's when I need that book the most. And, I'm convinced, the book is even more fabulous.

Don't get me wrong, not all books hit me the same way, even when written by a beloved author. The characters might not blow me over, or the plot might not jump out at me, but it doesn't matter. I'll still read it cover to cover, and I never hold it against the author. She can't please everyone every time.

I'm currently reading the latest from one of my top five. And, yeah, I'm loving every minute of it!

Enjoy your week!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pet words

Revisions, revisions, revisions. I've been talking about them for the past two weeks, but what I haven't mentioned are the great pet words that pop up (over and over) with each book.

Two books ago, my characters were constantly in a "sleek car" for some reason. In my last book, the characters were smiling and grinning so much, I thought they should be on "Hee-Haw." I seriously could hear "Clang-clackin'-clang-clackin'-clang-clackin'-clang-clang-clang" in the background. Maybe even a "Salute!"

I'd thought I'd stopped the amateur hour. Surely, my readers do not need to have every facial expression described to them. They do not need to have every vehicle described as sleek. Does there really need to be that many mention of vehicles at all?

Yes, this book would be different, better.


I accrued a new pet phrase: perked up. She perked up. He perked up. The dog may have even perked up. Every chapter has someone perking up!

Why? Why do I feel the need to repeat these words or phrases constantly? And why is it a new word or phrase every book? It's like a Where's Waldo for the writer--who can spot the pet phrase? Uggh.

There is hope. Maybe my next book will have the magical first draft which is pet phrase free? Until then, I'll keep my eyes open for the offenders.

Enjoy your week!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Chapter-By-Chapter Revisions

Last week I explained my broad revision process. This week I'll describe my nitty-gritty, chapter-by-chapter process. This is the most intense stage of revising for me.

My entire book is printed out. I separate the chapters and put each one in a vanilla folder. Why? It gives me the illusion that the job won't be as enormous as I think. Any way I can trick my mind helps. The red pen comes out of hiding. I grab the vanilla folder marked "Chapter One" and take the stack of papers out. There may be a bit of hyperventilation; there may not be. It really depends on my general state of mind. For this book, I got lucky--no spaz attacks!

I begin reading through the chapter. Chapter One always takes a long time because I analyze my opening. A few questions I ask myself are "Have I started the book at the best place?" and "Is this compelling enough for someone to want to continue reading?" More often than not, I've opened the book at a weak point, or at the very least, not the strongest point. The red pen moves furiously.

Once I've nailed the opening scene (and worried about it, because hey, I thought I'd nailed it before--sometimes several times for the same story!), I read through the chapter with these questions in mind:

1. Do the opening line and paragraph pack a punch?
2. Do they reflect the main reason for the book?
3. Do the closing line and paragraph pack a punch?
4. Does the chapter entice the reader to want to keep reading?
5. Are the characters interesting? Are they necessary? Did I refer to each character by only one name to avoid confusion? Ex: Jane Simmons could be Jane, Mrs. Simmons, Tim's wife, etc...
6. Is the dialogue snappy? Have I eliminated all commonplace dialogue such as greetings and goodbyes?
7. Have I written boring scenes where the character is thinking while eating, or brushing his teeth, or thinking in the shower? All boring, everyday routines can safely be eliminated.
8. How many scenes does the chapter contain?
9. Does each scene have a start and a finish? Does each scene contain a change that moves the story forward? Is each scene written in one time, one place, and from one viewpoint?
10. Are at least one of the five senses engaged in each scene?
11.Does every scene in the chapter belong in the book? Can any be safely cut?
12. Is the setting adequate in each scene? Is the description too short or too tedious?
13. Is the pace appropriate for this point in the book? Is there a point where it feels too fast, too slow? Jarring?
14. Have I avoided cliche's?
15. Have I wrapped up all loose ends? I don't want to throw clues in the book and never address them again.
16. Have I stayed in deep point of view as much as possible?

Point 16 means a lot to me. When I've analyzed the chapter for the first 15 points, I go back and read through each scene, mentally replacing third person with first person to make sure I haven't accidentally switched viewpoints. It also helps add the deep point of view so necessary for romance writers to connect with the reader.

I repeat this process for each chapter until the first draft is no longer white but blood red. Then, I type in all of the changes, replace all of the lazy and repetitive words throughout, tighten up all of the writing, and read it aloud as the final step.

So there you have it. It sounds and looks much harder than it is. Many of the chapters have little wrong with them but need more description or tweaks to the deep point of view. I try to revise three to four chapters a day after I've completed the first chapter.

Wish me luck as I continue on the revising trail.

Enjoy your week!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Finished the first draft. Now what?

The first draft is finished! Hurrah! Hurrah!

Elated? Of course!

Not so fast.

Writing the first draft always fills me with joy--but then--reality comes crashing down. When the first draft is finished, it means I have to enter the next stage of the book. Revisions. Blech.

Now, don't get me wrong. Lots of writers love revisions. In fact, many writers I know actually revise as they go. They adore playing with their words, getting each scene just right. Too bad I'm not one of them. It's not that I don't want my story to be polished and wonderful and perfect. It's just that if I revise as I go, I never get very far; I certainly don't finish the book. Instead, I run in circles, chasing my own tail. That's why I write first, revise later.

Even this causes dilemmas. Yes, it's true. Should I print out the whole book and read it straight through first? Or should I find and replace the words on my "generic" list before wasting all that paper? Maybe I shouldn't read the whole book, but revise chapter by chapter. Do I revise it on the computer or on paper?

Do you see why my head spins on the first revision day?

There is a solution. I've devised a revisions checklist with step-by-step instructions for myself. No need to make lengthy decisions about what order to perform the necessary tasks: it's all written out for me. Are you curious to find out my revision process? Of course you aren't, but I'm not going to let that stop me!

The first thing I do is write out the basic theme of the book in about 20 words. It may have changed from my original intention, and now that the book is finished, I want to be clear what the book is about. The second thing I do is write a short blurb about the book, similar to what you would find on the back cover. I've already written one before the first draft, but the final product will have subtle differences. The reason I do these two things is to have the book, in a nutshell, in front of me. This helps me focus when revising.

Now I'm ready to begin. I print out the entire book. The printer usually gives me trouble; today is no exception. At this point I feel like I deserve a caffeine jolt and take a quick break. Next up I face my biggest challenge. Reading the entire book without changing a thing.

Try it. It's next to impossible. Do you know how hard it is to read your own first draft without a pen in hand? Oh, the things I want to change. I can't even describe the difficulty level of this exercise. But I'm not looking for the nitty-gritty at this point; no, I'm looking for the overall tone, pace, characters, theme, plot. I need to analyze the big picture.

So now you know the first steps in my revision process. Next, I'll revise the draft chapter-by-chapter. When that is finished, I'll find and replace all of the generic words on my list and really tweak the writing to shine. Finally, I'll read the entire draft out loud and give it another once over.

By the time I'm finished revising, the entire book swims in my head and I never want to look at it again. Until six months pass, I open the book and get lost in a world of my own creation... Bliss.

Next week, I'll detail my process of chapter-by-chapter revisions.

Enjoy your week!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Bad Writing Week

Having a bad writing week. The more I procrastinate the more I dread adding to my current book. How do I know it's bad? Well...I just filled in a scratch in my cupboard with a wood wax crayon thingy. I've had that crayon for 7 months and hadn't felt the urge to use it until this morning. You do the math.

I know, I know. So what? One little scratch...not so fast. Our good coffee maker broke a few days ago; this morning, I took apart the entire thing and cleaned it--thoroughly. Every dirty dish in the house was scrubbed this morning. Every counter wiped down. Lint was picked up off of the stairs. Here's the worst: I was actually considering cleaning out the cat litter. Or stripping every bed and washing all of the sheets.

Window washing entered my mind. I stopped to get an oil change this morning, but drove away when they quoted me an outrageous price. Even toyed with returning a few items to Walmart. I'm on my second ginormous cup of coffee--usually a writing help. Not today. Can I just go take a seven hour nap? No? Fine.

I will write. But it won't be pretty.

So there.

Enjoy your week!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Brainstorming with Other Writers

Have you ever brainstormed ideas with other writers? I just spent a weekend devoted to brainstorming and was it ever fun! In a roundtable discussion, we took turns giving a brief outline of the book idea we were working on, and everyone pitched in to add to it. We set rules, naturally, such as the ideas for each novel are the property of the writer, and there was a rule about being respectful of everyone's ideas.

In the right atmosphere, brainstorming can be insightful, entertaining, and downright fun. Even when someone throws out an idea that you don't necessarily see as being right for your book, someone else may jump on that idea and tweak it to make it perfect. It happened again and again.

Some books plotted pretty quickly. Other books proved more difficult; we all scratched our heads and threw thoughts out until something clicked. It's amazing how fast problems can get solved between six or seven authors compared to one person banging her head against the wall for three days straight!

Other benefits of group brainstorming: being around people with different thought processes than your own, trusting other writers to help you with your work, finding out insider tips you may not have known about, and bonding with other writers. For the extremely sensitive person, it can help develop a thicker skin. At no point did anyone say "this idea is ridiculous," but, because we are a tongue-in-cheek bunch, we all poked fun of each other when appropriate. No one's feelings were hurt, and no one went away empty handed.

I will always treasure the brainstorming weekend I just had. It wasn't my first dip in group brainstorming, but it was my first weekend devoted to it. If you ever have a chance to participate in one, I would suggest you sign right up!

Enjoy your week.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Stereotypical characters

After wrapping up my heroine's conflict with her former best friend, it hit me: is her so-called best friend a stereotype? Are all characters, deep down, stereotypes?

Look at the novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. The first chapters draw you in with an unjust situation. A wicked aunt, bratty cousins, and no way out for the quiet, yet spirited Jane. The aunt could easily be considered a stereotype, but her character didn't turn me off to reading further. I understood why she acted the way she did. She seemed real to me--mean and nasty--but real. However, I wasn't reading the Aunt's story; I was reading Jane's. Jane's reaction to her was what kept me reading.

Pick up any fiction book. Why do you keep reading past the first page? What is it that draws you into this alternative universe? The characters are completely undeveloped until you read further, so why do you care about their world? I can't answer for you, but I know I read because the main character intrigues me.

I think the main characters cannot be stereotypes. Secondary characters can have stereotypical qualities, but only if the hero or heroine interacts with them realistically. If a character is drawn to be evil incarnate, well, then there needs to be a compelling reason for the main characters to be dealing with such all-encompassing evil.

Main characters can fit in a mold, but should be written as unique individuals. No one wants to read about a character with no flaws, or on the flip side, with no redeeming qualities. Especially in romance! Readers have to believe the hero and heroine are falling in love. I constantly ask myself if I would fall in love with this person. The answer has to be yes every time.

Since I'm still working on the first draft, I will not worry too much about the best friend being a stereotype. In a few weeks, when I begin revising, I'll be studying and analyzing the character in depth.

Lesson to self: just get it down in the first draft; you can always fix it later.

Enjoy your week!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Ah. Football. The season has just started, yet, it seems to take over the airwaves. Saturdays are devoted to college football (in our house, University of Michigan--go blue!), while Sundays and Mondays feature NFL football.

I didn't always love football. Oh, I loved going to games in high school, but that was because all my friends were there and there was a concession stand--not to mention cute boys in football uniforms. Now, I watch football with my husband, and I can honestly say I love it!

Last night, while we were watching an NFL game, I was struck at how intense these guys play. It fascinated me. Maybe it's because I dreaded team sports as a kid, or because I am in awe of the sheer force of will that permeates the players, but I couldn't help analyzing what prompts men to want to play football for a living.

The obvious reasons: fame, money, talent, love of the game, entered my head immediately. But why are some people drawn to a team work atmosphere, while others crave the self-employed solitary road? The lifestyle of a football player differs immensely from the lifestyle of a romance novelist.

I know what you're thinking. Duh. Playing football is different than writing romance novels? Gee, brilliant observation!

Smarty pants.

Back to my train of thought. Football players rely on other people to meet their goals. Each player is assigned a certain position on the team and, for the most part, that is the only position that person will play. One player might be the best player in history, but if his teammate fumbles the ball and subsequently loses the game, the whole team loses. Sure, individuals shine in the sport, but individuals can't go to the Superbowl--only teams can. Because of this, players feel pressure to not let their teammates down. They train together every day. Travel together every week. Share the wins, share the losses.

Writers, not just romance novelists, have a very different working environment. Writers can write whatever they want. They aren't pigeonholed into one position, but, like football players, it can be in their best interests to concentrate on one position, one genre. Writers rely on themselves to produce good work. Yes, other people are important to their job, namely agents, and editors, but writers only have themselves to blame if their book falls flat. A writer gets all the glory when published, but also feels all of the pain when rejected.

Can you imagine if 12 people wrote a book? It would be a gibberish mess! But 12 football players work smoothly to produce the goal. I can't speak for other writers, but the thought of handing over my manuscript to let 11 other people write it to completion makes me feel slightly nauseous. I have the luxury of being in complete control of my books; football players cannot be control freaks--they have to rely on other people.

And physically, football and writing are at opposite ends of the spectrum, but mentally, they are similar. Just as football players do everything in their power to get that first down, so writers push themselves to write another chapter. Grit and determination prevail in both.

I'm sure most football players have no desire to sit and write books everyday, just as I have no desire to physically push myself to the limits and get tackled on a daily basis. But I'll continue to watch them and be in awe of what they do. After all, we're both in the entertainment business--hey, we're more similar than I thought.

Enjoy your week!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Random Acts of Romance

Last week, I went to the beach on a most gorgeous, sunshine-filled day. The waves leapt with joy as children frolicked in them. Up and down the beach, couples reclined on blankets and lawn chairs with coolers nearby. The smell of barbecue mingled with the fresh sea air. Seagulls circled above, lurking for that stray potato chip which might suddenly appear.

The atmosphere simultaneously felt laid-back and festive. As I scanned the faces of strangers, I detected no tension, only happiness. Sunshine will do that to you.

A couple lie facing each other on a blanket about 20 feet away from me. Maybe it's not polite to stare at strangers, but in this instance, I couldn't help myself. They were just too cute. I'd guess they were in their late sixties, and they seemed so much in love.

The man kept carressing the woman's shoulder. They talked the entire time I watched them, and I couldn't help but notice the love shining in the woman's eyes. Everything he said lit up her eyes bringing crinkles into the corners. They seemed genuinely happy and content on their small blanket, touching each other, talking to each other.

And I have to say, my heart always sings at romance and I can't really relate to the Grinch, but even I understood how the Grinch felt when his heart grew. When you see people so obviously in love, you're hard pressed not to feel your own heart expand.

If I had to define romance, I would say it's the connection between two people who deeply care about each other. It isn't flowers, candy, a backrub, a special dinner--all of these things are great--but the desire to make your loved one's day a little better. The enjoyment of sharing special moments is what romance is all about.

Because I can tell you right now, there is nothing more romantic than sharing a blanket on the beach, looking in each other's eyes, and listening to each other. What a lovely example to follow.

Enjoy your week.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Labor Day Recovery

Why did I decide to start writing my book the week before Labor Day weekend? I'll plead temporary insanity. Just when I got in my groove and was reveling in my awesome characters, the busy weekend--make that three day weekend--jumped up and caught me in its web.

I struggled to get the chores necessary for survival finished Tuesday morning so I could get back into writing. Sounds easy, right? Wrong.

The empty refrigerator and pantry signalled a massive grocery shopping adventure. And to bundle chores together, I threw the many boxes earmarked for Goodwill in the back of my van. (I'd like to claim I did this to help the environment, but I can't lie. I'm lazy. The thought of making a separate trip made me want to vomit.) Then I remembered I needed to return an item to another store. Three hours later, I forced myself home and could only think of chocolate, coffee, and a soft blanket to wrap up in (never mind the ninety degrees heat!).

Afterwards, the laptop stood open, staring at me. But instead of the excitement I'd expected to feel, I felt pressure. Would I be able to get any pages written before the next appointment of the day? Would my characters still be as awesome as I remembered?

Luckily for me, the dryer chose that moment to stop. Saved! I threw in another load of laundry and delayed the inevitable. But first I brewed a pot of coffee, broke out the Hershey's Miniatures, and lounged on my couch for fifteen minutes. I called it Labor Day recovery and was sorry I didn't think of it sooner. Note to self: next Labor Day, plan a Labor Day recovery period.

Enjoy your week!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

First Draft

I've been waiting for it with breathless anticipation and a slight dread that the words will not come. I call it First-Draft-Land--my happy, happy place. I'm sure not every author loves writing the first draft as much as I do, but every author must tackle that first draft, nonetheless.

There are a million ways to approach a new book. I am a self-described organized writer. Before I even think about firing up that laptop, I spend time researching my characters, the setting, the plot twists; I cannot imagine writing a single word without having a brief outline in front of me. It's like mapping out the journey before a long trip--some find it necessary, others do better winging it.

Even though I'd finished gathering background information a few weeks ago and had dreamt about this week for quite a while, I wasn't ready to take the plunge and start writing. Why wasn't I ready? Good question. Well, the best answer is that sometimes the planets need to align and other miracles of the universe need to occur before I'm ready to face the first blank page.

On Monday, I opened the laptop (after grocery shopping, cleaning cat litter, and sorting laundry--bleh! Was I procrastinating? Hmm...), and my cat decided to hoist herself onto the desk and use my open laptop as her napping spot. Since I'd never seen her do this before, I could have taken it as a bad sign, but I reminded myself that the planets had aligned and other miracles of the universe had occurred and Monday was definitely the day to start writing.

The words, "Chapter One," stared at me for a long time. The blinking cursor lulled me into some sort of trance. Breaking my gaze free, I went downstairs to make a grilled cheese sandwich. On the way back up, I threw in another load of laundry. I sat back down. Cat meowed incessantly as my fingers, poised to begin typing, hovered above the keyboard.


But then...I just forced myself. The opening line of my first draft is always, and I mean ALWAYS, horrific. Only in the revision stages does the first line remotely shine. But the pressure to build a great opening line haunted me, so I tinkered with it for far too long before telling myself to move on already!

Do you know how great it feels to be writing another book? It's magnificent! There may be something slightly off in my brain, because I truly love deleting my ridiculous first line over and over to come up with a sassy opening. Joy fills me as my characters come to life and dictate the scene. The book was a shadow in my mind but now is filling with color, and nothing could tear me away from writing every day. Not even my gigantic, meddling cat.

Wish me luck as the draft takes shape. I've gotten over my worst first draft hurdle: writing the first line. I wonder what other authors' worst hurdles are? Hmm...I'll have to start asking around. Enjoy your week!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sick of Summer?

I have a confession to make. Is it controversial? No. Does it make me nervous? Yes. Why? Because it feels naughty. Oh, now I've got your attention. Well, I might just as well admit it.

I am sick of summer.


I know, I know. Terrible, but true. My productivity is inversely related to the heat/humidity index. Sure, there are superhuman people out there who thrive in humid, fire-like temperatures (my hats off to you!), but I'm just not one of them. I get cranky, and whiney, and I turn to ice cream for relief. My body's internal temperature feels on par with the inside of a turkey roaster, and my writing goals have officially taken a backseat to last-minute summer plans.

Every Memorial weekend, my heart sings for joy at the thought of watermelon, beach days, sundresses, and endless hours of sunshine. June, July, and the first weeks of August come and go with me basking in the season. Mid-August hits. I get itchy--no, silly, I don't get a rash!--I just start to feel restless. Suddenly, the watermelon begins to taste ho-hum. The wonderful sun feels irritatingly hot, and I get tired of squeezing into shorts destined never to fit.

And that's when it hits: fall fever. I begin dreaming of red, orange, and yellow leaves. I irrationally get excited to wear jeans (also destined never to fit). Warm sweaters, apple pie, and football games race through my mind. I have visions of writing for hours on end, always with a satisfied smile on my face. Bliss!

Inevitably, November rolls around; I tire of fall and my mind races with visions of perfect holidays and dresses. (You guessed it: destined never to fit.) Can you see the viscious cycle?

I will hang in there. Productivity and normal body temperatures will return in a matter of weeks. Maybe I'll even fit into those jeans this fall. Hey, a girl can dream.

Enjoy the final days of summer!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

If romance writing were an Olympic sport...

The 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics are in full swing, and I'm caught up in the excitement. Besides living vicariously through the superstar athletes, I'm also getting a glimpse of Beijing from my couch. The city's architecture is stunning, but I'm more captivated by the rural beauty outside the city limits. At times the countryside looks magical with dark trees rising up in the background, mists weaving around their tips. My remote control will not be switching channels for the next few weeks.

The many events of the Olympics got me thinking: what if there were a romance writing event? What would it look like? How would it go down? My brain began stringing things together and here is what I came up with.

"Welcome to the final round of Romance Writing, women's division. I'm Rowdy Bones, and this is Skeeter Done. We are broadcasting live from the Cave."

"Thanks Rowdy. We've got an exciting line-up today. Eight contestants worldwide will compete for the gold medal. For those of you new to the sport, each finalist is equipped with one student desk, a laptop, a printer, printer paper, notebooks, pens, and pencils. Their goal? To write the ultimate query, synopsis, and partial manuscript."

"A big job, Skeeter. Are these ladies up to the challenge?"

"That they are. However, since this is the first time romance writing is being included in the Olympics, none of the writers are aware of the obstacles that will be thrown their way."

"No kidding. What kind of obstacles are we talking about, Skeeter?"

"Each desk has a phone in its drawer. That phone is going to ring off and on throughout the day. Also, the printers are designed to malfunction. Expect a power outage mid-competition. I hope those ladies save their work! And finally, the biggest obstacle of all: hyper pre-schoolers."

"Wow! Given those challenges, I'm not sure we'll see any finalist on the podium!"

"Hold on, Rowdy. The competition is about to begin."

A bullhorn is sounded. The contestants fire up their laptops and furiously begin scribbling on their notepads.

"Look at the French competitor. She's already typing!"

"Amazing. I don't know if you're aware of this, Rowdy, but none of these ladies have coaches."

"No coaches?! How do they stay on track? How do they keep moving forward?"

"Sheer willpower."

Thirty minutes elapse. "Things have been progressing smoothly up to this point, Skeeter. The writers brushed off the ringing phones with ease. Most of the contestants simply turned off the ringer, but one actually picked up the phone and began speaking into it, listing her plot even though no one was on the other line."

"Yes, I saw that Rowdy. And I have to say that I've never seen Olympians helping their competitors. As soon as the German contestant figured out how to un-jam the printer, she sent a note to each of the writers with instructions! Phenomenal!"

Several hours elapse. "Skeeter, the contestants are about to face their biggest hurdle: out-of-control pre-schoolers. Let's see how they handle it."

Screaming children run wildly into the stadium. The American finalist reaches into her duffel bag.

"What's she doing Rowdy?"

"I'm not sure, but it looks as if she's--yes! She's pulling out a box of fruit snacks. She's throwing the snacks into the air like a fountain! And wait--she's launching candy bars to the other competitors! Unprecedented! Look, all of the children are clutching their treats and are leaving the stadium!! Now that's sportsmanship!"

Thank you for letting me get that out! That's how I see other writers: gifted, able to work through impossible circumstances, and always generous.

Enjoy the rest of the Olympics. I know I will!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The journey begins...

Welcome! I'm thrilled you stopped by.

A journey. A beginning. But not quite. I've been writing contemporary romance novels for two years. Since I adore reading Harlequin Romance novels, I wrote four manuscripts targeted for that line. I've received rejections for two of the books, and in the meantime have gotten feedback on my writing from other authors and contest results. So why do I say I'm beginning my journey?

The last two years have prepared me for the real saga. Until I got honest feedback about my work, I was destined to repeat the same mistakes over and over. So I decided to devote the summer of 2008 to study the craft of writing before starting my fifth manuscript this fall. It's been an emotional ride. The more I learn, the less I know. But I just keep moving forward.

Designing my website and starting this blog were huge goals. If any of you are like me, I had NO idea where to begin! I decided to check out all of my favorite author's websites: a fun job! Then I went a step further and checked out many of the Harlequin author's sites. It's easy to get sucked into their amazing worlds.

Yeah, I got sidetracked, but forced myself back on my own path.

So now you know where I'm at. This is probably the most serious post you'll read, because I tend to view the world through silly, sassy glasses.

Thanks for stopping by and come back each week as I post my musings.