Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Where Do We Go Now?

(google images)

So. The song "Sweet Child of  Mine" by the 80's hairband Guns and Roses is stuck in my head. Specifically the line "Where do we go now? Where do we go?" Over and over it plays threatening to make me CRAZY! What prompted that song? Thinking about my writing plan for the day. So stupid really. So as I sit here making my plan I'm singing "Where do we go now? Where do we go?" Am I getting any work done? OF COURSE NOT! Ironically, I'm not even a G&R fan - well, I was in high school, but not NOW! And it's been a LONG time since I've even heard that song. Crazy.

I found this incredibly awesome blog today. While I'm no where near the marketing phase of anything I was impressed with the creative marketing technique of this author. Check it out. This site also offers pitch critiques!

Another great blog that I've been loving is this one. Such practical and timely writing tips here. And every Wednesday there is a query for critique feature where a reader sends in a query and we readers can comment on them. My query will be on the site next week! I'm nervous just thinking about it!! Anyway, check it out!

So, it is time for me to figure out "Where do we go now?" and get off the distracting internet. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Mocking Screen

We have a Winter Storm Warning posted for today and tonight. Finally. I love a good snowy storm. And as I type this the very first flakes have started to fall. Ah, winter. I do love the beauty of a snow covered landscape. It's all so fresh and clean. The dead, brown grass is hidden from view. The bare tree branches are decorated with a fluffy white coating. And evergreens sag to the ground from the weight of snow on their boughs creating a magical wonderland. We haven't had enough of winter's beauty this year, so I will welcome the impending storm with open arms - and a snow shovel.

While I do love the fresh, clean look of a white landscape, I don't much like the look of a blank, white computer screen. It can be daunting, don't you think? Even when I know what I'd like to write it seems difficult sometimes to fill up the screen with words. Frustrating? - Yes. Stressful? Can be. Nerve wracking? Not too much, I guess. So what to do when the blank, white screen stares at you mocking your every attempt at filling it up? Lace up the boots, put on the mittens, zip up the parka, and get out an enjoy the beauty outside - AWAY from the computer.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

It Wasn't Obvious To Me

Funny how something so obvious managed to slip past me without even a blip on my radar screen. Thanks to an email from a writing friend, I've had a revelation of sorts in my writing world. She was saying how she seemed to be spending gobs of time developing the characters in her first book - a YA novel. She interviews them, writes about them from their POV, and gets to know who they are and how they'll fit in her story. Not only does she guide her created characters into existence, she lets them guide her. Pretty cool, actually.

I've written some non-fiction pieces for magazines and have understood the importance of knowing my characters - but in non-fiction our characters are REAL; we don't have to create them, but we do have to understand and relate to them. I get that part. Here's where the obvious slipped past me -- I think I figured that writing picture book stories didn't require that same 'get to know your character' thing. I know who my characters are and how I want to portray them, but do I really KNOW them? What's their favorite color, ice cream, or game? Do they have siblings or live with Grandma or have a best friend? True that most of these details won't fit into a PB story, but sometimes not only will they fit, they are the difference between mediocrity and excellency in story telling. Yes? I think I will incorporate some of my friends techniques and get inside my MC's head.

I know I'm new to this, and once again I've probably revealed something that every other writer on the planet already figured out, but just in case I'm not alone I thought I'd fill you in ...

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Service Call For My Writing

At our house we subscribe to a satellite television service. We made sure to include the DVR option because it is something we simply can not live without. A week ago the receiver box in the family room wouldn't work. A blue screen with the message "Acquiring Guide Info" is all we saw. It was bad, very bad. Our favorite shows weren't watchable or recordable! After doing the whole reset thing a million times and coming up with the same message I called my husband in to check things out. He checked all the cables - at least he said he did - and determined that it must be something else. Finally I gave in and called the company. After walking me through some receiver box tests she determined that we had to have someone come out to fix it. Ugh. More waiting. Today, a very nice man named Luis came to our house to restore television watching AND recording capabilities. I showed him to the basement where it took him all of ten seconds to determine that a cable wasn't screwed in where it should be. Seriously. You see, my husband moved one of the receiver boxes (the one without DVR) down to the basement so he could watch football. This required rearranging some cables. Seems he didn't re-do after the un-do and we were left without TV in the upstairs family room. Silly, silly man. So, twenty dollars and the shortest service call in history later our TV is back on track and doing what it is supposed to do.

What in the world does this have to do with writing? I was thinking about how much I value my critique group. I don't know about you, but sometimes I get to a point in my writing and revising where if I read through my story one more time I may claw my eyes out! I know it's not working the way that it should, but I've tried all the ways I know to make it better and I can't. Sometimes it's all the fixing that I've tried to do that has messed things up in the story. When I finally turn it over to my crit group it takes them no time to point out what's wrong and offer suggestions to make it better. Submitting my story to them is like a service call for my writing. The piece has a problem, they diagnose what they think is wrong and offer repair options. Then I take the fixes they've offered and get my writing back on track. It's a good thing.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Writing Tip From A Newbie?

As a relative newbie to the world of writers I have a very limited number of tips to offer. And quite frankly, the tips I do have have no doubt already been offered by someone else. But, I'll give it a go anyway. You see yesterday I sat at my  desk determined to be productive. After a couple of hours of writing, deleting, writing, and deleting I looked very much like the poor fellow in the picture here. Frustrated does not adequately describe how I felt. It's one thing to sit in front of the computer intending to work, only to be distracted by e-mail, and Facebook, and Twitter. On those occasions I have no one but myself to blame for my lack of productivity. But, to sit down with what I thought was a great story idea, and NOT BE ABLE TO WRITE IT, well, that just STINKS! The words just weren't there. Every which way I tried to get it out of my head just wouldn't work.
So, what did I do? Here's where the tip comes in. I switched gears. I put some music on - LOUD music. Then I made a list of the writing related goals I have for this week. After a little while on that I printed out the critiques of my most recent submission to my wonderful crit group so I could prepare to revise that story. And as a non-published picture book writer I need to spend time on submitting my work - it really is the only way to get published from what I hear. So more researching agents for a couple of stories I have ready, and writing cover letters is on the agenda as well. Switching gears allows me to stay in the creative zone and avoid being overwhelmed by frustration.

Keeping my mind busy with writing related stuff is a good way to get those creative juices flowing. Maybe I'll need to avoid the story that's stuck in my head for a couple of days. I'll let it roll around in there, but I won't consciously try to force it out. When the time is right to tackle writing it again, I'll be ready...

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Ignorance Can Be Blissful

 I snapped this picture on the ski trails the other day. It is the sign I came across the afternoon of my great Ant Hill adventure. I ended up on Ant Hill  because this sign made me AFRAID so I went the opposite direction AWAY from the sign - which landed me on Ant Hill. Go figure.

Do I face my writing life the same way - avoiding signs that tell me the road ahead won't be easy? Is it better to expect difficulty and hope for the best? Or to expect the best, but know that difficulty comes with the territory? I'll go with the latter. I don't need signs (or people) to clue me in on the trials of the road to being published. I already know it's a tricky journey. Fill me with hope, encourage me, guide me, but don't make me AFRAID or I'll run the other way! Ignorance can be blissful you know.  When I made it to the bottom of Ant Hill I was actually glad that I had no idea how difficult it would be. I think my writing journey will be just the same... 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Little More Inspiration

This is Allison. My baby.  Everything needs to be experienced fully for her. As a toddler she'd ride in a shopping cart or stroller with her arms extended out hoping to grab hold of whatever her pudgy arms could reach. We inadvertently shoplifted more stuff than I care to admit thanks to my little monkey. She also had a chap stick fetish. She'd smooth it over her lips again and again until her lips were caked with waxy build up. Sometimes she ate it - but it grosses me out to even think about that so we'll move on. Now that she's in school this need to experience things to their fullest is in overdrive. We can't just read about the solar system, we have to get telescope, go to a planetarium, book some sort of space trip with NASA! I'm kidding of course, but I think you get the point.

My baby also has the most amazing way of describing and explaining things. She uses simile and metaphor like a pro! I learn much from her. The other night I was explaining my latest writing project to her. It'll be a Picture Book for the 4 - 7 set and I was stuck on a particular scene. With not a moment of hesitation she spouted off the perfect scene. And detailed! More details than I knew what to do with. If she becomes a writer of Picture Books herself one day I fear she may have trouble keeping her word count under control with the amount of detail she imagines!

It is this imagination of hers that inspires me. As I write my stories I think about what it's like to experience it as a reader? Does my imagination take me to the place I'm describing? Is it real to me - can I feel it, smell it, taste it? Will my readers get into it this way? Will Allison? She's a great sounding board, and a pretty good representative of what most children are like. Hopefully this translates into a published book -or two or twenty!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

From Inspiration to Publication

You've no doubt seen something somewhere in the writing world with that title, haven't you. I actually have a book on my shelf with that title, and I've read most of it. I don't seem to have trouble with the 'inspiration' part. Inspiration is all around us, all day, everyday.

The other day I found myself skiing on a trail marked DIFFICULT. I'm not a great skier and 'difficult' makes me want to pee my pants! But, the wrong turn I took left me with two choices - DIFFICULT or CAUTION!. The lesser of two evils seemed to be difficult so off I went. The trail was windy and not tracked for classic skiing, which is the only kind of skiing I know how to do, but nothing tremendously scary lurked before me. Until the hill. I stopped at the top of it and took it in. A couple of skiers were chugging their way up the hill so I watched and waited for them to reach the top. They were older than me and doing a darn good job of getting to the top. Then I heard voices behind me and so I continued to watch and wait as three more skiers approached the hill, this time going down. This I had to see. Each of them zoomed down that hill like nobody's business and even made it look kind of fun! The first two were young, fit looking types that probably downhill ski off of cliffs. But the third was an older woman - like older than my mom - with the coolest pink fuzzy hat you've ever seen, and bright pink lipstick to match. She owned that hill! Maybe she didn't zoom quite as fast as the 'ski off of cliffs' couple, but she wasted no time getting down. After she was out of sight I gave myself a pep talk. By George, if she could ski down that hill, then so could I! When I was sure that no one else was coming from either direction I began my descent. Slowly, in my snowplow position, I slid down, gaining speed as I went. BOOM down on my butt. Yeah, that hurt. But, I got up and tried again, this time making it safely to the bottom. When I reached the bottom I noticed the sign with the trail name on it. "Ant Hill." Good gracious! I had been warned by my ski racing daughter that going down Ant Hill would lead to my certain death and here I had DONE IT - unknowingly, of course, but I still did it!

As a writer inspiration is about the things around me that tug and pull a story out of my head and onto the page. But, in everyday life it isn't always about that. The pink hatted lady inspired me to try something I didn't think I could do. That feeling of accomplishment was pretty cool.

What inspires you?