Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I'm Baaaaccckkk.

When I titled my last post And This Is Where I Stop Writing, I didn't mean to actually jinx myself. I haven't written for two weeks - on my blog (obviously) and on my manuscript (obvious, but only to me).

I blaim it on a quick decision to take the family to Disneyland in six days time. Hello laundry, errands, phone calls to cancel all appointments during said vacation time, packing, cleaning the car, and buying snacks. It was crazy but worth it.

So, writing? Nada.
Reading? Two books, baby!

While packing I listened to Austenland by Shannon Hale. It was really fun and cute. Especially for anyone who loves Pride & Prejudice.

While at Disneyland (or I should say, in the hotel room resting my aching feet. Three days at Disneyland is hard goin') I started Paranormalcy by Kiersten White. It was so FUN! Seriously, this book was a total escape for me. And an awesome one at that.

Paranormal Romance is not my favorite genre. I can be kinda critical of it just because there is so much of it right now. But Paranormalcy was oh s0 cool. Seriously, read it. Especially if you liked the T.V. series Buffy The Vampire Slayer. It was similar, but very different at the same time. And if you are like me - and not too into fantasy - read it anyway. You might just love it like I did. :)

Now to make writing goals. We'll go low - say, 2500 words - to help me get back into the swing of things.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

And This Is Where I Stop Writing...

Ok, not really.

But man, I'm hating it right now. And I know exactly why. It's because the scene I am writing requires research before it can be written. In the rough draft version of my manuscript I just glossed over how I wanted the scene to go. But now I'm writing my first draft and I want the manuscript to be as solid as possible.

Writing about something you have zero experience with and need to research is intimidating.

But there's another glitch in my writing as well.

I've said already that this is the furthest I've ever been with completing a manuscript - an entire rough draft and the beginnings of a first draft. But the urge to sit and edit what I've written in my first draft is eating at me.

In the past I'd get stuck in a neverending edit of the first chapter and never progress anywhere else in the book. The husband would nag me to move on and write more than the first chapter. I knew he was right, but editing is like trying to scratch an itch on that part of your back that is impossible to reach. Always scratching without getting at the itch.

So, here is a compromise for the husband and the itch. 500 NEW and UNEDITED words that are moving the plot forward will be written each day. Then, AND ONLY THEN, will I allow myself to go back to previous chapters and edit.

Weekly Word Goal - 3000
Weekly Reading Goal - The Sisters Grimm: Book 2, Howl's Moving Castle

Friday, February 18, 2011


Life likes to play dirty little tricks. Recently, it has been playing a little game I like to call, The Neverending To Do List. For three or four weeks I put utmost priority on being a Reading Mommy Writer. Yup, that's the official title.

It was wonderful. If my kids didn't need me I was either reading or writing. But there was a little problem. Moms don't just take care of their kids. They -

1. Fix meals

2. Balance checkbook and pay bills

3. Laundry

4. Plan weekly dinner menues

5. Grocery Shop

6. Straighten the house

7. Mop

8. Vaccuum

9. Dust

10. Make Beds


And this was the week that I finally felt the pressure of all I've been neglecting. But guess what? I WANT TO MASTER THE ART OF WRITING A NOVEL! And bygone, I'm going to.

I'm going to stop worring about my dirty bathroom floor. Because I guarentee my 8, 5, and 1 year old boys don't care. And the husband says as long as he can walk through a room without tripping he doesn't care.

I'm learning to prioritize what I want in this life. I really doubt at the end of my life I'll think, "Boy, I'm sure glad I scrubbed my house spotless instead of writing that stupid book."

Though it doesn't help that my book has gotten really hard to write, making the thought of cleaning the dirty bathroom floor sound so much more fun than forcing myself to add depth to my book.

But I've done it. I've written on average 500 words each day this week. Except for yesterday, when I called a psychic for book research. The whole time on the phone with her I just wanted to hear her mystical voice say, "Oh, you're an amazing writer! This book will be glorious. It won't be hard to write. You'll have it completed in six months, sign with the first top selling agent you query, and be a record bestseller!"

But she didn't. Nope. Instead, her answers to my questions have made my book that much harder to write.

That's another one of Life's games. It's called, A Twist.

Not sure I care much for that one either.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

To Kill A Mockingbird. The Harry Potter Series. The Giver. Gone With The Wind. The Outsiders. The Witches. A Wrinkle In Time.

All these book have two things in common - they are on the list for most banned books in the U.S. and I loved each and every one of them.

One of the best things about being human is the opportunity to make something where there was nothing. Whether we are painting, starting a business, building a house, writing a novel, or having children; we are tapping into that part of ourselves that gives each of us joy. Creating.

And before I continue let me be clear. I in no way support someone telling someone else what they can or cannot create. Or someone telling a parent what is acceptable for their child to read.

However, I had to ask myself some questions when I opened the book Cracked Up To Be last night. Remember, this book is written for teens, meaning publishers are marketing it for the 14 to 18 year old demographic. Caution - it is vulgar and crude and I don't enjoy putting it on my blog but I also think a lot of parents are unaware of what is being sold to their minor children under the name of Young Adult literature.

Here is the opening page of Cracked Up To Be.

Imagine four years.

Four years, two suicides, one death, one rape, two pregnancies (one abortion), three overdoses, countless drunken antics, pantsings, spilled food, theft, fights, broken lims, turf wars - every day a turf war - six months until graduation and no one gets a medal when they get out. But everything you do here counts.

High School.

"No, seriously, Jules, just feel around in there and tell me if you have one-"

"Fuck off, Chris-"

"And tell me where it is, the exact location."

"You're disgusting!"

"Hey, Parker!"

He reaches out and grabs me by the shoulder. I shrug, shrug, shrug him off.

"Fuck off, Christ."

He's been on about the G-spot for, like, a week.

"Don't fail me now, Parker. Where is it?"

"Cosmo, December '94. The Sex Issue. Came with a map and everything."


I gave up hoping the content would clear up by the third chapter. Skimming instead to the last scene. The 'F' word caught my sight at least one to three times every couple of pages. There was also no shortage of sexual conversation/scenes.

And trust me, this isn't the only "R rated" book available in the Young Adult section at a book store or library.

So this is my question - does it seem off to anyone else that an unassuming 14 year old girl could pick up this book and buy it without a problem but she wouldn't be able to buy a movie ticket to see a movie with similar content?

Banning books? No. But why isn't there a rating system for books being sold to minors?

As an author, I believe I am accountable for my manuscripts. Authors and publishers have a responsiblity to bring awareness to parents of a book's content. And parents have the right and responisiblity to decide if that book is acceptable for their child.

I think it's a wonderful thing that books can be used as a discussion tool between parents and children. But I also think it's unrealistic to assume that a parent is going to proof read every book their child brings home.

The MPAA (Movie Pictures Association of America) helps parents know what their kids may be watching in a movie.

Books don't.

(Please don't think I have anything against the YA market or issue books. There are many clean YA books - Matched, by Ally Condie for example. And Speak, a book about rape, is a tough read but one that I believe is beneficial for teens.)

I'd really like thoughts about this. A discussion between authors and readers.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Help

My fridge was literally bare. Seriously. A half a loaf of bread. A cucumber. A few carrots.
Ummm... Ranch Dressing (maybe?).

But there were some Honey Nut Cheerios in the pantry. Oh, wait - that's right - no milk.

I took a three day vacation; soaking up every word in Kathryn Stockett's, The Help.

What children? You're Hungry? Go mooch off the neighbors.

What's that husband? You'd like some clean clothes? Just rub the baby food off one of the dirty shirts. See? Good as clean.

Yes. It was that good.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Bachelor vs. Writing

Confession - I LOVE watching The Bachelor.

I mean, seriously. The cheesy shots of Brad Womack showing off his abs. The psycho
hairstylist - whose really an actress - from Utah. The sweetheart Barbie from the South. Really, she looks like Barbie. (I'd like to look like Barbie..... *sigh*)

If you've never watched it - don't. Its addicting.

Unless you want a mindless, guilty pleasure. Then watch it. Watch it. Watch it.

So last night I really wanted to watch it. But I hadn't written for the day.

Making it harder was the fact that I'm now working on my first draft. And its hard. Its hard for me to make up a whole life for a person. Create their world.

My rough draft was really just covering all the main plot points. It was really bare. The whole draft being just under 17,000 words. That's an itty bitty thing.

I knew I had a lot to add. And I was nervous. I'm still nervous. Can I actually create a whole other world?

Think of a puzzle. But, before you put the pieces together you have to decide what the picture is on your puzzle. A lighthouse? Two girls playing in a field of daisies? A dog show competition?

Right now I have the picture of a lighthouse drawn but I still need to add the rough ocean, the orange sunset, and the jagged rocks to make it a puzzle worthy picture.

So - anyway - back to The Bachelor. I didn't watch it. I wrote 733 words in two hours. Two hours, people!!! Only three double spaced pages. It was that hard for me.

But at the end of it, I was so happy. So very happy.

Considering how long it took me to write such few words I'm lowering my word goal for this week.

Weekly Words Written Goal - 3,000
Words Written So Far - 733

The Help - on page 126 of 451

As soon as the baby goes to sleep, I'll be folding my laundry and watching *drumroll* THE BACHELOR!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Sisters Grimm: The Fairy Tale Detectives

I loved The Sisters Grimm: The Fairy-tale Detectives. There was humor. There was action. And there was growth for the main character, Sabrina Grimm.

While reading it I kept thinking, "I need to add the agent for this book on my To Query list for when I finish my book." So I was bummed when I googled the author, Michael Buckley, and read his publishing story.

He has no agent.

The Sisters Grimm was published in 2005.

That was the year that I went to my first Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference. Back when large publishing houses still accepted unsolicitated (non-agented) manuscripts. And contracting with an agent was more of a "if you want to go for it, but you might not need one" thought.

That's not the case now. At least from what I've seen.

You first have to sell an agent on your manuscript. And then the agent will (hopefully) sell it to a publishing house.

Oh well. I guess I'll just have to add Abrams (The Sisters Grimm publishing house) to my list of dream publishers.

Next book up for reading - The Help. I'm giving myself a week to finish this one since its a bigger book. At least compared to what I have been reading.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Sweet Beans - I Did It!!!

My very rough draft is complete! Please note that 'very' is italisized. There's a reason for that, trust me.

There are still a lot of words to be found & written. One, possibly two, subplots waiting to be woven. And boney characters that need some meat on their personalities. Not to mention the multiple rewrites that authors do to their manuscripts.

But I've discovered some things about my author self.

1. I have to be able to hear the main character's voice before I can begin writing. There are a couple of ways I have done this in the past- character interviews and freewrites. In crazy author lingo - I have to be able to feel the main character.

2. I need to have come up with three main scenes. One for the opening, one for the messy middle, and one for the end. However, if the character decides that they don't want to go down the path that would lead them to the next oultined scene I don't force them.

3. I write very short and bare in my rough draft. As I was writing I had scenes where I knew I needed deeper exploration. But I let it be. Instead, leaving myself notes of thoughts I had.

Writing the climax of my novel was fun and surprising for me. Because of my vague outline I thought I knew who my bad guy was and who my good guy was. But - SURPRISE! - my bad guy was actually the good guy and the good guy was actually the bad guy. It was a fun twist that I hadn't expected.

Do your characters ever surprise you? Do you like it when they do or would you rather they just did what you'd outlined?

Weekly Word Goal was - 4800
Words I Wrote - 5211

This post feels lame to me. I'm chalking it up to brain deadness and sleep deprivation. Sorry.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Avidly Reading

If you read my journal from Jr. High (and no, that is so not an offer) you'd think I'd done nothing but read. Every daily post talks about the book I'd just finished. I vividly remember my English teacher in 8th grade asking us to list the books we'd read over the summer, and I taking such pride in having the longest list.

I'll admit, I don't read like I used to. A mom of three boys doesn't have time to read a book a day.

However, when I do have spare time, I find myself flipping through my email, Facebook, and People.com like I would with the channels on T.V.

Such wasted time.

Linda Sue Park, awarding winning author of A Single Shard and A Long Walk To Water, has said to think of doctors, lawyers, and plumbers. Think how long they've trained for their profession. How many hours they've put into studying.

Reading, is an authors way of studying. Park credits her hours of reading to let her know when she's written a mediocre sentence.

So, I'm making another goal. To read two books a week. Unless, of coarse, its an exceptionally long book. Then it'll just be one book a week.

Goodbye obsessive checking of email, Facebook, and People.com. (I really love People.com)

Weekly Manuscript Writing Goal - 4800 words
Current Words Written - 3483
Reading Goal - finish The Sisters Grimm (Book 1) by Saturday night

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Meeting My Characters

Meeting new people is not my forte. I get all insecure and even making small talk becomes as difficult as say - I don't know - holding my breath for three minutes.

Maybe that's why interviewing my characters is so much fun. I can skip the small talk and go straight for the hard questions.

Me - "So (insert character's name here), tell me about some of your childhood issues."

Character - "When I was nine I invited a bunch of girls over to have a sleepover. My parents had just bought a new VCR. Well, one of the girls (who I didn't like very much anyway. I don't know why I invited her) stuck a popcorn kernal inside the VCR. My parents were furious and got mad at the girl. I felt bad that she had ruined the VCR. But more than that I was embarrassed that my parents got mad at her. So now, years later, I don't like to have people over to hang out. I mean, you never know what could happen."

Me - "Wow. Umm, don't you think that's a little weird that you still don't like to have people over. I really doubt a 16 year old is going to shove popcorn into your VCR."

Character - *whispering* "You never know..."

Yeah, interviewing characters is much more fun. Especially paranoid ones.

What do you do to get to know your charaters better?

Monday, January 31, 2011

Reckless, by Cornelia Funke

I was dreaming I was an Egyptian slave (wearing Cleopatra eyeliner) washing my husband's underclothes on a 19th century washboard, when William woke up for his 4:45 morning bottle.

Now I can't go back to sleep. I blaim the washboard. I liked the eyeliner. It was hot.

Instead, thoughts about the current book I'm reading filled my sleepless mind.

Reckless, by Cornelia Funke.

Picking up this book based solely on reviews from Goodreads, I was excited when I brought it home from the library. Then I realized it was by the same author that wrote Inkheart, a book I had a very hard time getting into.

It made me hesitant to read Reckless.

So I was pleasantly surprised when from the first chapter I was hooked. Funke's opening paragraph is simply poetic.

The night breathed through the apartment like a dark animal. The ticking of a clock. The groan of a floorboard as he slipped out of his room. All was drowned by its silence. But Jacob loved the night. He felt it on his skin like a promise. Like a cloak woven from freedom and danger.


The heavy conflict and action is immediate. It sucked me right in.

But having such immediate, dramatic conflict and action can be a double edge sword.

Now I'm to the middle. And although I'm still enjoying it, I am not at all attached to the characters. Which is making the middle drag.

Even with a plot's conflict rising, if a reader isn't emotionly invested in the characters there is only so far the stakes can go. And frankly, I feel the same way about the protagonist as I do the antagonist. Blah.

Will I stop reading? No. I'm still enjoying the story.
Will this book stick with me after reading? Probably not.

But that's the best thing about being an author. Experimenting. Playing with plot. Playing with the structure of a story. Playing with the characters. And that's what Funke did. She made the story how she wanted it. Bravo.

"Read - and be curious. And if somebody says to you - 'Things are this way. You can't change it.' - don't believe a word."
- Cornilia Funke

Now, maybe I can go back to sleep. If not, I'll play with my black eyeliner instead.

Words written last week - 4580
Word Goal this week - 4800

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Writing By Candlelight

I'll admit, tonight when I finally had time to write I wasn't looking forward to it. It felt like another thing to get checked off my day's To Do list.

So I decided to try something different. Taking candles from our fireplace, I locked myself in my dark bedroom and let the small flames transport me to my characters' world.

One stubborn flame kept flickering, nagging at me. Just like all the holes I'm seeing in my manuscript's plot as I'm writing the rough draft.

But the steady flames, from the other five candles, burned steady; pushing me to plow through this messy middle. And leave the holes for revision.

I think I'll write by candlelight more often.

Weekly Word Goal - 3500
Words Written So Far - 3072

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Becoming An Author Each Day

"We become what we want to be by consistently being what we want to become each day."

-Richard G. Scott

Yeah, I kinda suck at that. You know, the whole actually doing what we need to so we become what we want to EACH day.

Wow, that felt very irreverent to put the word 'suck' in the same post as a Richard G. Scott quote. But there's no other word that I can think of to describe just how horrible I am at doing something EACH day.

I know of published writers who consistently write each day (weekends, holidays, and birthdays included). And then there are others that write in large spurts after seasons of drouts. Obviously, it works both ways.

With me I've noticed that if I write every day I think about my book more throughout the day, and I'm excited to write again the next day. But if I don't write every day then writing becomes a chore.

Jeni, in my critique group, gave me the great idea of having a weekly word goal. So, on those crazy days when you only have time to maybe write a paragraph (and that's pushing it) you are still reaching for a goal that week.

My goal this week is 3500. I have 1482 already written.

What are your goals that you are working on (writing or not). And how do you work at attaining them?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

My Life As A Writer

For the past five years I've dabbled in writing.

Here and there I'd write a partial manuscript, only to give up when it became too frustrating.

I'd attend a writer's conference, feed off the energy and resolve to write more. But of coarse, the conference energy would fizzle and die, right along with my writing goals.

But then the best thing happened. It took four and a half years, but I found a constructive writers group that literally meets a mile from my home. Who would think finding a good writers group would be difficult? But it is. To find writers who have the same goals and inspire you by their determination is a lot harder than most would think.

Once a month we meet. We critique each others manuscripts, talk about books we've read, and encourage each other. And each month I am rejuvenated in my goal to write.

Except for last night. As I read everyone else's manscripts my frustration in my own writing grew. I've learned so much, but connecting what I've learned into my writing is extremely difficult. And I know its because I've spent more time learning and not enough time doing.

So this blog will mark the beginning my journey of self discovery as an author. I hesitate to call myself that. An AUTHOR. Who am I to call myself that? And then, like Gaylene quoting Martine Leavitt last night, "I'm a Child of God." And because I know that, I know I can do anything I want if I put in the time and the work. And I want to be an author.