Friday, April 30, 2010

One Goal Friday: April 30, 2010

April is only hours away from ending. Didn't it just begin? At least we can send it out properly since it's Friday.

How was your week? Mine was busy. Crazy busy. And yes, I'm still jogging. It still hurts.

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 last week was to purchase birthday gifts for my mother and mother-in-law. Mission barely accomplished.

Here are your goals:

Terri: Finish pitch and prepare for conference
Wendy: Get to 38K on WIP
Kelly: Spray paint porch swing (What color?)
CJ: Survive core exercises
Tabitha: Finish rewrites of memoir
Maria: Celebrate 20 years of marriage!!! Congratulations!!
Joanne: Clean up Word files
Georgiana: Finish editing WIP
Karen L: Spend time in the Word and with family
Heather: Edit and rewrite through chapter 40 and run through week 3 of exercise program
Cindy: Sign daughter up for gymnastics, renew ACFW membership, and write 15K words
Keli: Yard work
Paul: Edit based on reader comments
Erica: Survive flood of Genesis entries
Diane J: Write cover letter for article and insert quote in article
Katie: Write hero's backstory
Jennifer S: Organize kitchen cupboards
Julie J: Keep the house clean and meet daily word count
Diane E: Get computer and blog running
Lynn: Meet all deadlines on time
Maria S: Study for biology every day
Quiet Spirit: Work around the house

Again, I'm awed by the sheer amount of determination listed above.

My new goal? Do the first read through of the book I'm revising this month.

What will your goal for this week be?

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!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Beginnings--Bible Style

We've been talking all month about beginnings, in books and in our lives. It made me think about how perfect the beginning of the Bible is.

Genesis 1:1 (NIV Version)

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

Right away, I know when, who, and what. When? In the beginning. Who? God. What? Created the heavens and the earth.

There are no clever use of flashbacks, no meandering details of eternity before God created the heavens and the earth. Not even a disclaimer about why the book is being written. This first line states simple, clear facts, and, trust me, I want to keep reading.

I believe the Bible is God's word, that every word in the Bible is true, and that the Bible was written by divine inspiration by God's apostles. I remember discussing this with a fellow student one day in college and I was shocked and saddened when she claimed not to believe anything "written by a few monks back in the fifteen hundreds."

It's important to be informed. No, monks did not originate the Bible five hundred years ago. The Bible has existed in some form throughout the ages, whether as the ten commandments written on stone, later as individual books or letters on ancient scrolls, or in modern times with all of the books and letters bound together as chapters in one tome. It's a living history, with incredible details of various periods, with moral warnings, proverbs to live by, and promises of an everlasting future.

I repeat my affirmation that I believe every word in the Bible is the true word of God. It gives me hope, brings order to a disordered world, and I can't imagine even a moment without God's love. And this, all because, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."


Monday, April 26, 2010

Beginning a New Phase

Life chugs along. We're in a routine. Maybe we're even a tad bored. Then something happens and kicks the routine over.

A new experience waltzes in. It might be a new job, a baby on the way, the love of our life knocking on our door, or a family member moving out. Emotions flood us--excitement, anticipation, and trepidation. Will we be able to handle this new start? Will this event nourish our hopes of the future or end in failure?

Life proceeds gradually into different phases, and each will bring a fresh set of fears, hopes, and things to learn.

We aren't supposed to know it all. We can't possibly prepare for every scenario. But we can keep a spirit of humility, of wanting to learn, of confidence that we'll be able to handle whatever comes our way.

Are you in the tail end of a tedious phase? At the beginning of an exhilarating journey? Somewhere in between?

Join me on Wednesday for the final post of April's Beginnings topic.

Friday, April 23, 2010

One Goal Friday: April 23, 2010

I'm trying not to blink. The pink, purple, and white blossoms on the trees won't stay long, and I don't want to miss them. My mood's been fantastic, probably because I haven't needed a winter coat in a whole week. Oh, and I'm almost done revising my current book.

On a crueler note, I started jogging. Yeah. Started jogging. The exercising portion of my day is pretty rough. I'm the type of person who appears to be fit, but in reality, am losing muscle tone on an hourly basis due to my penchant for chocolate chunk cookies and sitting on the couch. Hence the lacing up of sneakers, the deep breath of why-am-I-doing-this-again, and the grimace of death as my feet begin to move. It's not pretty. But I can already see results, and that alone makes it worth it.

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 last week was to line edit the first ten chapters of my novel, and yes, I met it. It always surprises me how many changes I make after the first two revision passes. Come on, you'd think I would have caught this stuff. Oh well, that's the beauty of revising.

Here are your goals from last week:

CJ: Buy new athletic shoes
Katie: Write every day between 5:00-6:00am (Gulp!)
J.J.: Rewrite first half of WIP
Amber J: Visit a friend, start advertising small photo biz, and share a writing piece
Kelly: Write for one hour on two nights
Karen L: Get house together
Cindy: Reach 30K words
Paul: See if the book idea will take off
Erica: Finish rewrites and send to cp's
Natalie: Finish two beta reads for friends
Keli G: Clear off desk
Julie J: Write 1K every day
Maria: Post on blog twice and write two devotions
Elana: Get conference presentation done
Kristen T: Prepare for trip
Susan JR: Work on editing book two
Terri: Start revising rough draft
Janna: Continue editing
Heather: Settle into new routine, send three chapters to cp, read through first 150 pages
Quiet Spirit: Get house in order
Niki: Prioritize writing and attend the ACFW Colorado writing retreat
Lisa and Laura: Catch up on blogs
Lynn: Write two hours a day
Nancy: Maybe next week?
Patti: Get back to routine of daily page rate now that book is in editor's hands

Awesome, awesome goals!

My new goal? Buy birthday gifts for my mom and my mother-in-law.

What one goal will enhance your life this week?

Please leave your goal in the comment section. Newcomers are welcome to participate!

Have a terrific weekend!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How My Writing Journey Began

I couldn't have a month's discussion of beginnings without sharing the start of my writing journey. It's not unique or special; in fact, many of you probably had a similar experience.

As a child, I'd created a series of books, and I'd even written my own magazine, but they were products of downtime living in the country. It never occurred to me that I could write as a career. So one day in my twentieth year, I finished reading a disappointing romance novel and chucked it across the room with one thought, I could write a book better than that.

Original, I know! I grabbed a notebook and pen and quickly wrote a whirlwind, conflict-free courtship. The pair had met, dated, and fallen in love in--all in two dozen pages, too short to be a book. How did authors take an idea and make it into a full length novel?

College and work took all of my spare time, but the question ruminated in my brain. A few years passed with no further writing on my part. Then I got married, graduated from college, moved to a new city, and found myself with free time again. I came across a book at the local bookstore called How to Write a Romance and Get it Published by Kathryn Falk. I couldn't believe my luck. Someone had actually written a book that answered questions about my dream! Stifling the urge to hyperventilate, I quickly plunked down ten bucks and rushed home to read it.

The book planted all the seeds necessary to nurture my earlier desire into a full-blown dream. However, other events (okay, I had a few kids) in my life made me sit down and make some tough decisions. My personality verges toward all or nothing. Some women certainly can have it all, but I'm more of the I-can-have-it-all-just-not-at-the-same-time type of gal. So I deferred pursuing my publishing dreams.

While my children grew, I used the time to read. I joined a local writing group. And I wrote down every idea for a book that occurred to me. Once my youngest started Kindergarten full time, I rolled up my sleeves, sat at the computer, and my journey to becoming a published author began.

It's been almost three years, and I haven't yet met my goal of being published, but every day I strive to make that dream come true. And when it happens, I'll enter a new phase, a new room for my next goal of enjoying a career as a multi-published author.

Have you ever put your professional dreams on hold for personal reasons? Vice-versa? If you're a writer, when did the idea of becoming a published writer hit you?

Join me on Friday to set a new goal!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Book Openings Vs. Movie Openings

Do you find it harder to turn a movie off in the first five minutes than it is to shut a book in the opening pages? Movies have an edge over books because they engage our senses. We can see and hear the movie taking place. We can watch the characters speak and pick up clues about their body language. We don't need to be told the film is set in present day New York City because the information blares at us through the screen.

Also, movies have opening credits to gently, or not so gently, draw us in. Filmmakers can get away with sweeping panoramas of the countryside with little or no action happening. Or maybe the main character walks to work during the opening credits. He doesn't even have to talk, and we learn things about him through his clothing, the way he walks, the expression on his face, and how he interacts with those around him.

The tone of the movie can be shown through music, color, landscape, and character action--all without the character uttering a single word.

Authors cannot devote five minutes, or the equivalent of several pages, on a sweeping landscape or a character walking to work without any dialogue or thought. Readers need to be plunged into the story immediately, on page one, or they might not read further. Writers need to insert enough sensory details into the opening page to let the reader draw his own visual picture without overwhelming the scene.

While we all read different messages in movies, we physically see and hear the same images as every other movie goer. Books allow readers to create their own vision of the characters, the setting, and the soundtrack, and I believe books offer a personal freedom to readers, a way to tap into their imaginations in ways movies cannot.

I love movies and books, but each offers a unique sensory experience. Authors can emulate some techniques from films such as snappy dialogue, great pace, taut tension, and a general lack of unnecessary scenes. Also, it's good practice to analyze the story arcs in movies.

When you watch a movie and think it's terrific, spend time considering why. If at all possible, brainstorm ways to incorporate these reasons into your writing.

Do you enjoy movies? What type of movie do you love the best?

Join me on Wednesday when I'll share the beginning of my writing journey.

Friday, April 16, 2010

One Goal Friday: April 16, 2010

Whew, we made it through another week. I'm referring to it as a brownie week. Do you ever have days where you need a brownie every day of the week? (That's just me? Whoops!)

Every Friday we set one goal for the upcoming week. It can be related to work, home, family, or anything at all. This goal should be something that will enhance your life not make it harder. What one thing can you accomplish this week that will make you feel terrific?

Before we go further with goals, I want to congratulate Patrice for finalling in the 2010 Winter Rose contest with her romantic suspense Die Run Hide. Congratulations!!

I met last week's goal of finishing the second pass of revisions of my current book. It took a river of coffee, but I did it. How about you? Did you meet your goal?

Here's the list of last week's goals:

Lynn: Write two hours/day
CJ: Finish drawing and painting the dragon
Joanne: Immerse into a new writing project
Wendy: Buy a netbook (I know Wendy met this goal and I wish we lived closer so I could check it out!)
Kelly: Use first regularly scheduled kid-free time (Woo-hoo! Congrats on making this milestone!) to write
Janna: Keep editing
Diane: Read Bible daily
Keli: Walk at least twice and take a break from the computer
Julie J: Less procrastinating on the Internet
Georgiana: Finish first draft of WIP!!
Paul: Flesh out the idea for new project
Sallyo: Clean kitchen--and wait for happy new grandbaby news! (Hope you had a nice surprise!)
Erica: Edit/rewrite two chapters
Angie M: Read daily
Patti: Finish proposal and have fun at women's retreat (Have a great time!)
T. Anne: Cautiously enter 70K (Wow!!)
Melissa: Soak up the sun with daughter at the lake
Emily: Continue steady process of edits
Karen L: Spend time in the Word
Lisa and Laura: Have five perfect chapters written
Katie: Get back on track with schedule
Patrice: Keep editing with excitement
Susan M: Decide which project to work on next
Nancy: Be cheerful because it's a busy week
CMOM: Write each day
Tess: (Technically not your goal, but I'm adding it anyway--stealing the idea of hot cross buns!)
Ralene: Finish going through boxes

You all have lofty goals and reading through them gets me pumped up to meet my own.

I'm entering the final stages of revision for my book. My goal this week is to get down and dirty with the first ten chapters. I might not make this goal, but I want to aim high.

What's your goal?

Please leave your goal in the comment section. New to my blog? I'd love to hear your goal, but if you're not comfortable, feel free to lurk. Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Opening Lines


Opening lines make me want to tear my hair out. I can't tell you how many cups of coffee and bags of M&M's it takes for me to produce a good opening line.

Writing a great opening line may be an art form. Oh, most of us can come up with a clever string of words, but often the sentence doesn't truly fit our book. We may even try to change the book to match the line, because we love it so much. For this reason, it's important to avoid growing a distorted attachment to an opening line.

After being blessed with the opportunity to read many first lines by fellow unpublished authors, I'm going to share with you a little secret I've discovered.

Often, a writer's best line will not be the opening line or even be on the first page. It's usually buried in a paragraph somewhere on the first or second page. Why do I know this? Because the line jumps out at me. I instantly think, now this is the opener.

Why can't we see this for ourselves? I think it boils down to being too close to our story. We think we've found the perfect sentence, but we're wrong, oh, how wrong! An outside pair of eyes can be crucial to making sure the best line for our book shows up front and center.

The process of analyzing other writer's opening lines has made me adept at finding my own buried best line.

And while we're on the subject of first lines, I have to share my misguided idea of writing the opening line to my fifth book. My first four books were written in quick succession without the help of a single craft book. (Nothing to be proud of, my friends.) These beauties reside in my closet where they belong. But after I received my first, and might I add deserved, rejection, I realized for book five I needed to learn this pesky thing called the writing craft.

Did I get overzealous and try to cram too much in?

Yep. So book five needed a spectacular opener, one that would employ all of the splendid craft techniques I'd picked up over the year. When I finished,the line could definitely be described as memorable, after all, I'd thrown enough words in to create an entire paragraph. Lesson learned? Longer doesn't equal better.

Turns out, the shorter sentences I'd used pre-learning-the-craft proved a good judgment call!

What makes an opening line jump out at you? Do you have any opening line pet peeves?

Join me on Friday to set one goal!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Book Beginnings: Hard or Easy?

For all of you fiction writers out there, I'd love to hear your opinion on this one. Do you consider writing the beginning easy or hard? Why?

I find them HARD. I know where the book should start and can see the scene in my head, but it's painful to find the perfect words to show it. I can't tell you how many times I revise it to get just the right wording. Also, my first draft often morphs into a deeper story or the characters surprise me and reveal themselves in a different way by the end. This means I need to match their motivations and personalities from the beginning with the end result.

So what should a good beginning do? The short answer?

Make the reader want to keep reading!

Simple, right?

Not so much.

I didn't put as much thought into the opening pages when I started writing, but I spend skads of time on them now. Here's a short list of things I consider.

- Does the opening match the tone of the genre book I'm writing? A suspense should convey a sense of urgency. A contemporary novel should match the tone I'm setting, whether it's light, funny, dark, heavy, or breezy. A historical novel should reflect the time period to immediately clue the reader as to where and when it takes place. A fantasy should alert the reader to the nuances of the book's world.

- Is there enough non-character information to ground the reader without boring the reader? Pertinent questions should be answered right away, including a hint or more of where the book takes place, the time period, the season, and so forth.

- Is the main character's primary external goal clearly stated? For example: Maybe the main character wants to open a coffee shop and, in pursuing this dream, meets her future husband along the way. The character's desire to open a coffee shop is the primary external goal and needs to be clear in the opening pages.

- Who is the main character and why should the reader care?

The last question proves the most important for me. I write romances, and readers need to connect with the main character to want to keep reading. Hint at the conflict--why the external goal might not come easily.

In addition to the external goal, give one big emotional reason the goal will be difficult to achieve, something inside her that's holding her back. Maybe her father told her women don't run businesses, or she helped run a coffee shop with her ex-fiance only to be left penniless when he swindled her out of her share. It's your book; go with it!

The main characters should brim with characteristics that will help the reader like them. Maybe it's as subtle as being friendly to a stranger, generous to a grandmother, petting a dog, or smiling at a small child.

I've been guilty of creating characters who are very hard to like in the beginning. Sure, these characters grow and become upstanding citizens, but readers will be turned off by someone they don't like. If the reader is turned off, they probably won't continue to read.

What do you think? Beginnings--easy or hard?

Join me on Wednesday when we'll discuss opening lines.

Friday, April 9, 2010

April 9, 2010: One Goal Friday

Fridays. Yum! Fifty-two each year, and I love them all.

It's 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 enjoy my family since we had a vacation from school and work. Easy! Of course I met it.
Here are your goals from last week:

Jessica: Finish reading WIP and print pictures
Terri: Write more
CJ: Make Hot Cross Buns and enjoy them with daughter home from college
Wendy: Laugh hard
Kelly: Enjoy Easter without blowing diet
Ralene: Finish going through boxes to donate
Joanne: Finish cooking for Easter (lasagna, yum...)
Julie J: Write 1000 words every day
Katie: Eat one healthy item each day
Lynn: Write a new scripture verse in prayer journal each day
Kristen T: Complete first three months of p90x!!
Maria M: Make memories with daughter who is home on spring break
Erica: Finish reading book for review
Danyelle: Finish entering edits into ms
Kara: Pack for trip and prepare clothes for consignment sale
Susan M: Catch up on sleep
Tamika: Write 500 words per day
Nancy: Enjoy birthday and daughter's birthday, which are shared (Happy Birthday!!)
Patti: Write two chapters of Reclaiming Lily and start proposal for Strung Out
Angie M: Write daily
Jaime: Reclaim morning exercise habit
Linda: Finish rewrites of chapters eight and nine
College Student: Study, study, study!
Jennifer S: Bake and cook for daughter's birthday party
Lisa and Laura: Prep first 20K words and create an outline

My new goal is to finish the second pass of revisions of my work in progress.

What one goal will make your life better this week?

Please leave your goal in the comment section. Welcome, any newcomers! I hope you participate, too, but if you'd rather not, that's okay!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Nothing New Under the Sun

I'll bet you're familiar with the saying there's nothing new under the sun? It's true, of course, but that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of things new to me. I constantly come across something I haven't seen before.

Have you ever rearranged your furniture, stood back, and felt a wave of shock? The old furniture you wanted to burn suddenly appeals to you and seems new and exciting. We don't have to throw out our entire life when the doldrums hit; we need to move our day around to avoid the pitfalls of familiarity.

We're blessed that in many aspects of our lives we can claim a sense of wonder and awe even in tasks we've been doing for years. The secret is in our approach. Routines help speed up our process, but sometimes we need to turn them upside down, shake them a few times, and be willing to lose some of our precision, or they'll feel routine.

Take cleaning, my least favorite duty. I don't mind dishes or laundry, but sweeping and mopping? Uggh. A few years ago, I decided to experiment to make the process nicer. I tried sweeping and mopping at different times of the day. Morning clearly worked best. Then, I experimented with the environment. When I popped in a soundtrack of a foreign movie, preferably upbeat and French, I danced while I cleaned. Since I adore dancing, the task flew by quickly.

I have a point, I promise. By approaching my least favorite chore in a new way, I was able to determine that I perform best when I sweep and mop in the morning to festive music. The old task felt new.

What tasks do you loathe doing? Can you think of a way you could approach them differently to make them less loathsome?

Join me on Friday to check in on your goals!

I will be in and out the rest of this week. I love reading your comments, so please leave one!

Monday, April 5, 2010

April: A New Beginning

With the warmer weather, I watch the variety of birds return home. New buds perch on the ends of the tree branches, waiting for the proper time to unfurl. The dead, yellow grass gets pushed up by green blades. People walk with a bounce in their step instead of stooping in protection from the bitter cold. Spring is a welcome beginning to another season of outdoor life after being cooped up for months.

When I brainstormed possible topics for this month’s blog, the obvious correlation between spring and beginnings occurred, but the term “new beginning” seemed an oxymoron. Aren’t all beginnings new?

Well, no. Some don't feel new. It’s easy to slip into routines and habits and let the freshness of life become stale. Some beginnings simply feel as if we’ve been there, done that. They may introduce heavy layers of responsibilities. When aspects of our life feel repetitive and boring, we can approach them in a new way.

Join me all month as we discuss a variety of methods to bring the "new" back to our beginnings, whether in our novels or our routine daily tasks. Let's view each day as a new beginning—the start of a fulfilled life.

I’m celebrating this new beginning—the return of spring--with a vase of flowers.

How will you celebrate the beginning of April?

Friday, April 2, 2010

One Goal Friday: April 2, 2010

Today we celebrate Good Friday, the day Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins. On Sunday, we'll celebrate his victory over death. Easter makes me smile. It signifies so many things to me--God's gracious love, the beginning of spring, pretty pastel colors, bunnies, and of course, chocolate.

But since it is Friday, it's time to list one goal. 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.

Last week, my goal was to organize the huge pile of clothes in my closet and drop them off at the donation center. Guess who put it off until this morning? That would be me. On a side note, I made fantastic progress on my revisions! Yay!

How did you do this week?

Jennifer S.: Plan daughter's birthday party
Lynn: Write one story and edit two others
Susan D.M.: Plan kids' summer activities
Emily B: Find a new Bible Study to attend with sister
Kelly: Help son with alphabet book project
Angie: Write daily
Susan J.R.: Finish this revising task
Tess: Get back in groove with manuscript
Lisa and Laura: Write two chapters each
Common Household Mom: Survive in-law's visit with humor and grace

Since my family is on vacation this week, my goal is to relax and enjoy them.

What one goal can you set this week?

Any newcomers, please feel free to list a goal in the comments. Feel free to lurk if you're not comfortable with commenting. Thanks for joining us!

Have a blessed Good Friday and Easter!