Monday, July 25, 2011

Banishing Aunt Edna: How to Stop Self Editing

Normally I stay on track pretty well when I'm writing. I know well enough not to go back over what I've written except to familiarize myself with a scene when I begin each morning. Yes, I KNOW better. I know I should just keep typing. Let the words come out uninhibited because once you start looking at them too carefully they'll get scared and start hiding in dark places where they can't be seen.

But lately I've forgotten that a story can be a bit like a shy child and if you start questioning it, start scrutinizing it too closely it'll go hide under the couch or crawl underneath the back patio. And there's no coaxing a story out once it's hidden under the patio.

The problem is that darn self editor. She's like the big scary great aunt with the hairy mole and the bad breath. We'll call her Aunt Edna. Once she starts pinching your poor little story's cheeks she'll scare the bejeezus out of her. And there's no way your story is going to come out again with Aunt Edna standing there staring at her.

This is why I've decided to ban Aunt Edna from my writing. She's kind of difficult to get to leave once she's made herself comfortable in your life, but I have my tricks. For instance, I happen to know that Aunt Edna really likes to look over my shoulder when I'm working on my computer. It's so easy for her to push the backspace key. She loves making me scroll back up and read over my work over and over and again, until it's lost all the magic and all the momentum. She LOVES to start tweeking words. tweek. tweek. tweek.

But for some reason Aunt Edna HATES it when I write long hand. She gets a little perturbed and skulks away pouting about how hard it is to butt in. She knows that I'm much less likely to go back to change things when I'm writing things out on paper. I'll just keep charging ahead, pencil down, until the words are all out of me.

So this week I'm going to try giving Aunt Edna a little break; see if I can't get her to pack her bags and move back home. Then maybe I'll get back on the computer and find that she's not staring over my shoulder any more.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Lights, Camera, Action: Watching What You Write.

So we all have our own writing styles. Some people sit down and the words just start pouring out of them, happy little spigots of inspiration that were just waiting to be turned on the moment fingers hit the keyboard, while other people painstakingly plot out every step, every breath, every turn of the head that their characters make, which will lead them from page one to "the end".

I've tried almost every conceivable way to write and even though I've found that my technique falls somewhere in the middle of completely pantsing it, to having it all plotted out, I have found that one technique works for me every time.


Some people say it's impossible for them to picture what's going to happen to their characters in their head, but for me it's second nature. Maybe it's because I'm such a visual person anyway, or maybe it's because I'm somewhat obsessed with movies, but whatever the reason, it's very, very helpful for me to imagine my scenes before I write them.

I don't know everything that's going to be said, or every movement that will be made, but sitting back and watching my scenes unfold in my imagination makes it so much less intimidating to actually sit down and write.

Usually, after playing a scene out in my mind, I jot down the major events that I want to have unfold in my writing. This sort of an outline relaxes me because I'm not stressing out about what needs to happen and I can focus instead on how things happen.

What works for you?

Monday, July 11, 2011

My First Blog Award

I was just chugging along minding my business as a quiet little blogger when LisaAnn over at Kicked, Cornered, Bitten and Chased decided to be awesome and give me my first blogger award: The Versatile Blogger Award (I hope when it says Versatile it really means slow and lazy because it's taken me two weeks to get to it, but heck, if that's what they're giving awards out for, then I'm happy to oblige).

Here are the rules for accepting this award:

1. Thank and link to the person who nominated you.
2. Pass the award on to five newfound blogging buddies.
3. Share seven random facts about yourself.
4. Contact the winners to congratulate them.

So here are the bloggers that I chose to receive my Versatile Blogger Awards (All chosen because their blogs are both informative and end up putting a smile on my face). Click on their names and check out their awesome blogs:
  1. Becky Taylor
  2. Krystal Wade
  3. Chantele Sedgwick at My Writing Bug
  4. Cheryl Reif at Cheryl's Musings
  5. Barbara Watson at Novel and Nouveau
Now on to seven totally random (yet highly endearing) facts about myself:

  1. The year I turned twelve (I think) I asked for a window for my birthday. Yeah, kind of weird, but we lived in a house that was right next to a creek and the only window I had in my room didn't face the river. So my sweet mom indulged and $500 dollars later (holy cow we didn't expect it to cost that much) I had a tiny little window that overlooked the creek. It was perfect on nights when I could lie right next to the window and listen to the rush of the water.
  2. My Grandma Eydythe used to play the most wonderful game with me as a little girl. It was called Little Neigh Neigh. I was, in fact, Little Neigh Neigh and my grandma was Big Neigh Neigh. I bet you'd never guess what the game involved. Yes, we were horses (my childhood obsession) and would graze on a floral quilt and romp around on all fours. What a kind grandma, huh?
  3. I LOVE all things sour. I have a sweet tooth too, but when you combine it with something sour BAM! My mom used to pack sliced up lemons in my lunch. No apples for me.
  4. My husband and I tried opening a flower shop when we were first married and still very stupid. It was called Morgan's Gardens (named after our daughter) and we mananged to lose lots and lots of money. Once I accidentally locked (I thought) myself in the walk in fridge in the pitch black. I finally realized that I only had to push on the door a little harder, but for a moment there I imagined someone finding my chilled carcass clutching the daisies. That'd be a weird alternative to the saying (pushing up daisies).
  5. I'm probably the biggest scaredy cat in the world. I am afraid of: spiders, bees, ants (let's just narrow it down to anything that crawls), snakes, big dogs that aren't by their owners, heights, the dark, small spaces, big open spaces, being alone (at night), being in the middle of the ocean... I could probably go on and on, but you get the point.
  6. I love to spend money. Sometimes I think that if the government wanted to really get the economy going again they should just give me a bunch of spending money, set me free, and stand back. I would love to be the sort of person who can save, but I'm pretty sure they made up the saying "burning a hole in my pocket" about me.
  7.  I love to imagine what sort of animals people would be if they were one. My husband is definitely a golden eagle, my son is a turtle and my youngest daughter is a cocker spaniel puppy. I also like to categorize people by what fruit they'd be (my mom would be a raspberry) or what flower they would be (my oldest daughter would be a peony). But I'm not sure what I'd be.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Finding a Critique Partner: Your Manuscript's First Date

Oh, my baby's growing up and wants to start dating. No, not my daughter! My manuscript. Yes, she's still young. In fact, she's only a couple of chapters old, but she keeps telling me that she wants to get to know other people, see the wide world, expand her horizons. She's been all plotted out, she tells me, doesn't that mean she's old enough?

Well, maybe my sweet little baby has a point. Usually when I write, I hold my baby to my chest and don't let her out to see other people until I'm sure that she's mature. But I've been craving the input of other writers. It's a lonely business, this writing, and I've been thinking for a while now that I'd really like to find a critique partner. I get so jealous when I hear other writer's talk about theirs that it brings back all those feelings from junior high when the boy I liked had a crush on some other girl.

I was really lucky a couple of months ago to find a reader who offered to beta read my middle grade novel for me. She was WONDERFUL. She pointed out problems that I'd never noticed because I was too close to the project and she had really great ideas for fixing things. This taste of a critique partner made me crave this sort of feedback all the time. The only problem was that my reader wasn't a writer and I couldn't return the favor. I really wanted to find another writer that would need me as much as I need her.

So last night, during my sleepless 2 a.m. jaunt, I decided to put an ad out for a critique partner on WriteOnCon. I've been married since I was very young, so I've never done the whole internet dating thing, but it sure felt like I was putting myself out there in the same sort of way. What if no one liked me and my manuscript? What if they thought we weren't pretty enough, or smart enough, or funny enough?

Well, I've got my fingers crossed that my manuscript and I are going to find just the right match, and hopefully it will be the beginning of a beautiful friendship (cue schmaltzy music and sunset).

Monday, July 4, 2011

Better Than a Trip Around the World

You've probably all heard of the story "Around the World in 80 Days", but have you ever heard of A Round of Words in 80 Days? Maybe if you're a writer you have.

A Round of Words in 80 days is a writing challenge designed for writers just like me, ie. writers who need to have a list of goals to get any work done lest they spend the whole day playing around on the internet or staring at their belly button (Okay, so I'm not a belly button starer, but I do know how to waste time).

So you all know how much I love lists and goals, and I love mixing the two together whenever I get the chance. Here's my list of goals for the ROW80 challenge:

  1. Write 1000 words a day. (I've tried not to make this goal too huge or else I'll get discouraged and I'll quit after three days. I know myself too well)
  2. Finish revising my YA novel.
  3. Complete the first draft of my new WIP. (I'm excited about this one because I'm still at the point where I'm actually LOVING my story).
That's it. Just three goals and I'll be able to pat myself on the back in 80 days, knowing that what I've accomplished is just as awesome as a trip around the world. (Well, just as awesome to me).

Click here if you want to find out more about a Round of Words in 80 days.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Parable of the White Pants

The parable of the white pants is one I've discussed with some of my closest friends and I want to share it with you now, because it will probably change your life, like all good parables can. I'm not yet sure that I've learned how to harness its full power (Maybe you can help enlighten me).

For those of you who do not yet know of the parable of the white pants, let me now relate it to you.

A few summers ago, when Transformers 2 came out in theatres, my family and I went down to the Gateway Mall and plunked down our seventy five dollars a ticket (or whatever it was they cost back then) and sat down with our ice cold sodas and buckets full of popcorn to watch the movie.

I don't expect too much from my rootin' tootin' knock 'em up blockbusters. I come to be entertained. I'm fine with a straight forward plot and a cheesy love story. These are the things I expect. But there are some things that I just can't stand for. And that's where our white pants come into the story.

Three quarters of the way through the film I knew something was off. Megan Fox's character (who made the poor fashion choice to begin with of wearing white pants on a day when aliens would try to take over the planet) was still sporting clean jeans after countless near death experiences.

At this point I stopped following the story all together and became consumed with those pants. Those glaring white pants. I was obsessed. How was it that Megan Fox could be blown up and chased by transforming aliens and still keep her pants pristine when I couldn't even run to pick up the kids from school without getting a huge chocolate stain on my butt?

Finally in the last scenes of the movie the directors must have noticed the perfect spotlessness of Megan's pants because they grubbied them up, smearing them with dirt so that they looked close (but not quite as bad) to the way I would have looked by dinnertime on a school day.

But by this point in the movie it was too late. I couldn't look past it. The movie was ruined for me.

So what's the moral of the parable of the white pants? Is it to wear dark colors when earth is being invaded? Is it to stay away from big summer blockbusters? or is it something more subtle?

Can you still find value in things even if there's a big glaring mistake staring at you? I hope that the answer is yes. I hope that I can learn not to dismiss everything just because I see some faults. Politics, religion, relationships, couldn't we use the parable of the white pants to learn to understand all these things better? And more importantly, next time I plunk down three hundred dollars to see a movie, maybe I'll learn to let those silly mistakes go and actually watch the film.

What do you think? (And don't tell me not to wear white after labor day. That doesn't count.)