Friday, September 30, 2011

Pizza toppings and missing restrooms

          I had the thought the other day about books compared to pizza. I've been reading a book, by an author I usually love, but it is too detailed for me. It's like a piece of pizza with everything, including anchovies, and I want to get rid of those anchovies. I love a good slice of pizza and, even more, a good book. Sometimes, though, a slice of plain cheese pizza is between those slices with everything (except the anchovies).
          On another topic, last night I had a dream where I was in a massive, never-ending building. It included everything from a chapel to a gymnasium to a dentist's office. The only thing it didn't have was restrooms...and that's what I needed. Another comparison popped into my mind. How many times have I had a story in my head, filled with cool locations and characters, but missing an important element... maybe a decent plot or a thought out ending. How many times did I just drop the idea, rather than putting some effort into working it out. (Like as much effort as I put into trying to locate a restroom in my dream--which I almost succeeded at, but then woke up).
          Sometimes it's worth the extra effort to put more time and thought into an idea. When you've already got the crust, sauce and cheese, it's time for some creativity to finish off those toppings. What started out as a twinkling of an idea might become your favorite story.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

That's life

          Do you ever have something happen that just begs to be written down? Some funny incident that must be included, somehow, in a book?
          I have had quite a few lately. I really need to start keeping a file or something. A log of fun ideas and characters that I might be able to use someday.
          Whether it's the oblivious, eclectic woman who has continuous bad luck or the studious little boy who says the funniest things in such an intelligent way...I'm sure I'll find use for some of them.
          As for the irresponsible male babysitter from my dream last night...he won't appear in anything soon, but, you never know, I might have a spot for him one day.
          And, just so there's no confusion, I'm not saying that I would write a carbon copy of a person into a story. One little facet; a personality quirk or redundant wardrobe. (Like the guy who only wears plaid shirts). Then again, maybe fiction will wind up more fascinating than real life and I won't need that file after all. :)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

No revisions allowed

          I spent this morning at my grandma's house, scrapbooking. As I finished some pages, I got to thinking. When I do a scrapbook page, once it is done-it's done. No alterations, no revisions. Some pages I whip through and throw together without much thought or effort. Others, I work harder at and put more effort into. I put in extra details and work hard to make it the best I can.
          It got me thinking about my writing. Sometimes I zip through, not focusing on making it the best I can. Whether it's because I want to get to a better part or just be done...kind of like scrapbooking.
          What if, once I finished a page, or a chapter, I couldn't make any changes to it? What if I put more time, thought and work into making it better the first time through? Luckily, unlike scrapbooking, I can revise my writing as many times as I want or need to.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Making plans

          At a certain point, I get burnt out on a project. Other ideas tumble around inside my head, begging to get out. I have two projects both finished in rough draft form. My goal (but don't hold me to it) is to work on them until the end of the month and then try something I haven't yet. Nanowrimo. Twice.
          I haven't done a middle grade book before, but that's my goal for October. And, for November, a fun idea that's been obsessing my thoughts. A story my teenage daughters (or at least the two who enjoy reading, if I can keep them off the computer and their iPod touches) will love.
          My other goal is to have set times for writing and revising. If I don't make the time, it doesn't always happen. With the kids back in school, it should be easy. Right?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Choosing a book to read

          Two incidents arose this week. The first was a delivery from Amazon. I was super excited, but bummed that I still had 4 library books to read first. Then, as I began to read one, I realized I had already read them. :) So, on to reading about peculiar children. (Funny sister mentioned this book today and said she needed to loan to me...a little late for that).
          Second, my daughter needed to pick a book for English. "It needs to be fiction." Hmmm...shelves and shelves full at our house. I handed her one, she'd read the cover and hand it back. This often coincided with a snappy, "That sounds weird."
          After refusing several books, she finally settled on one. It is one I haven't read yet because I'm waiting for the last 2 books to come out and have plenty to read in the meantime. However, my mom has read them. She stopped by today and was scanning my books. She asked if I had read those particular ones yet and informed me they were 'strange'. So, hopefully my daughter is okay with strange over weird. ;-)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


          I find myself proof-reading everything these days-books I read, my kids homework, my husband's emails...I can forgive typos, but I had to nicely point out to my daughter that: "Joe said, "Who is that? She's super cute," he thought," just doesn't cut it...which is exactly what she needed to do-cut one of them, and before posting it online. :) I'm hoping she went with thought.
          My favorite, though, is when I have no critical points to make. When I can read and enjoy a book without thinking, "a kid that age would NOT do that," or "too many details...boring me to death," or other negative things.
          Something I've been noticing a lot lately is the extensive detailed parts. It's interesting how one author can do it and I hate it and scan through it quickly while another author does it and I think, "Wow! How did they manage to write a whole page on that and keep it interesting?"
          That's my new goal; to read through my manuscripts and find places where I can add details and strive to do it well.  Wish me luck!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The importance of reading

          I was thinking about this last night. I have always loved to read. I taught myself to read at age 4 by listening to my sister, who is 2 years older than me, and watching her finger move under the words as she sounded them out. In first grade, my teacher brought out a basket of paperbacks that only I was allowed to read--because I was the only one that far advanced. I remember picking out a Little House on the Prairie book. By the time I hit junior high I was often zipping through a book a day.
          Fast forward to my children. I have one who shares my obsession with books, one who I have to fight with to even get her to read mandatory books for school, and three that fall somewhere in between.
          It got me thinking about other family members and friends and how those who love to read, and read often, succeed(ed) better in school. They strive harder. This may not be applicable to everyone, but it's pretty accurate for those I thought about.
          My next thought was-"How do I get my less than enthusiastic kids to read more?" The obvious answer is to find books they enjoy. I get library books for my two youngest. Sometimes they are a big hit (Araminta Spookie) and sometimes they aren't. I encourage them to read beyond what is required for school. If that means reading a graphic novel, Lego magazine or the sunday comics, at least they are reading and doing so by choice.
          The daughter who hates reading I think really just hates taking the time to actually get through a book. If she finds something she likes (Twilight series-but no other vampire/werewolf/etc. books, Hush, Hush, or--pat on my back--the novel I wrote) then she will read it late into the night and sometimes more than once. :) It's getting her to pick a book and giving it a chance that's the struggle.
          It is my oldest daughter who reads almost as much as I do. She also writes and is creative and artistic. She has come up with amazing storylines. Now if I could just get her to finish one.
          My love of books is obvious from the overflowing bookshelves throughout our house. Hopefully their presence will influence my kids to grab one and curl up with it, unable to put it down even when they are supposed to be going to sleep. Whether it be Sir Farts-a-lot, Harry Potter or mythical creatures...I want them to love stories.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Write it down

          I learned early on not to trust my memory--especially if it was something that came to me late at night as I was trying to fall asleep.
          I've jotted ideas down on receipts, napkins and kids spelling lists. When I am in the zone and spending a lot of time thinking of ideas they often come to me at inconvenient moments. If I don't write them down, I don't always remember them. (Even when it is a book title that I will never use just because of a ficticious storyline I made up to tease a friend).
          Another handy tool for me is a notebook. I don't have a laptop, so a notebook is useful when I'm sitting in the school parking lot or waiting for kids at the orthodontist. Then I just have to fight with them to get on the computer to transfer my work.
          Even if it's an idea I might not get around to finishing anytime soon, or not at all, it's nice to have reference other than my memory which ain't what it used to be. ;-)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Critique Groups

          First, you need tough skin. This was a particular challenge for me since I struggle with selective mutism. On the other hand, it has been a huge boost in helping me overcome it. Second, YOU are the author and you don't have to use every suggestion people make. Example:  Grandma went to the movie with me and Susie. When someone tells you that it should be 'Susie and I' they are wrong. You know your characters and where your story is heading. If you aren't sure about changing something-hold off. Give it some thought. Have a few readers read through the entire book and give their recommendations. Preferably readers who often read and enjoy your genre.
         It is beneficial to receive feedback from multiple people and fun to give feedback to others. It is, however, frustrating that it takes so long to get through an entire manuscript at 5ish pages a week. This is another reason why it's good to find people who can go through it quicker and give an overall critique as well as page by page.
         Most important of all-have fun! When it gets to be a chore, take a break or move on to something else. Sometimes just writing for my own enjoyment and that of my teenage daughters is the most fun of all.