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Pen Vs. Computer; Which Do you Prefer?

My son and I are feeling better, but still not great. Plus, it’s cold and snowing, and the bad weather is killing my daffodils. It’s more a tea-with-honey and lay under the blankets morning then a write a post morning, so I’m going to repost one of my older posts today. Hope you enjoy it!

Writers are a superstitious lot and many I know are firmly set in their writing ways. Many have to follow the same routine everyday before they can begin to write, but I think there is some merit in changing it up every now and then.

The thing I find most helpful to change regularly is what I write with. Sometimes I write longhand with pen and paper, and sometimes I use my laptop. I’ve found that there are certain aspects of writing that work better with one or the other

Right now, I‘m using a pen to write this article. I feel the slower pace helps me consider each word, making my writing more clear and in need of fewer revisions. However, it makes my sentences longer, more lyrical, which isn’t great for action scenes or ones that need to have a fast pace.

If I feel like I’m starting to be blocked, or am unsure where I want to go with a scene, I know I need to write it on a computer. Often, the slower pace of writing by hand can make me stall completely as I get caught up in making sure each word is just right. Using the computer can help you bang out the writing, getting the words on the page. You can’t revise a blank page.

A notebook is portable, enabling you to write in places where you can’t take a laptop. But then there is the biggest drawback of writing by hand: typing up page after page of your own semi-legible handwriting.

How to Build a Character

We still have the whole not-sleeping-well thing going on here. My husband started a new job, which is great. The only downfall is that he’s working a LOT of hours. I think my son is going through some sort of separation anxiety thing and is desperately afraid that I, too, will disappear, hence the waking up all night long. So, due to lack of sleep, here is an oldie of mine from way back! Enjoy!

I was told by Johanna Raisanen, an associate editor at Harlequin, that I have very strong characters, so I thought I would write a how-to article on how to build a character.

No matter what I’m writing, whether it’s young adult, contemporary or historical romance, or fantasy, I always start with the characters first. Sometimes, my “character profiles” are each five pages long. It’s really important to know the characters as well as you know yourself. You might never tell the reader all the facts that you’ve discovered about your hero/heroine, but it’s important for you to know all this information so that your characters have the proper motivation. If you’ve ever read a story and scoffed at a character’s actions as unbelievable, then the author of that story didn’t provide the proper motivation for that character.

To help you build the best possible characters I’ve included the list of questions I go through for each main character before I start writing.

 

1. Basics- age, location, gender, job, education, name

2. Looks- and how they have affected the character’s life

3. Personality- optimist or pessimist, sarcastic, kind, quiet, outgoing, etc. Try to make this as detailed as possible and include information on how it has affected their life.

4. The story of their life up until that moment- Here I make sure I know all the important events that shaped her/him. Examples: what their relationship with their parents was like, romantic history, any tragic or joyful events, etc.

5. What does the character want most at the start of the story (and answer this again at the end as it will have probably changed).

 

Then, if the story is a romance, or has a romantic subplot, I go on to answer these questions:

1. Why are the hero and heroine perfect for each other?

2. Why are they the worst possible match for each other?

3. What will be the conflict between them? This doesn’t mean he’s sarcastic and she’s irritated by it. This is the big conflict, the thing that is going to make a happy ending for them seem impossible.

4. How will they resolve the conflict?

 

Once you have answered these questions you’re ready to start writing! Good luck, and have fun!

Partial Request of my Manuscript!!

Sorry folks, the query letter series will have to wait one more day, because yesterday I got my first partial request for my new manuscript! WHOO HOOO! I totally wasn’t expecting it either, because I’ve only sent my query out to a select few agents. I was SHOCKED to see it in my inbox yesterday!

Okay, okay, I know I shouldn’t get my knickers in a knot. I’m trying not to get my hopes up too much, because then they’ll have so much farther to fall. But I will say this. This partial request couldn’t have come at a better time. If you follow my blog at all, you know how discouraged I’ve been lately. A small part of me was even wondering if I should throw in the towel, while a much larger (and much louder) part of me was yelling at the smaller part. This yelling was mostly made up of unsavory names, such as “quitter” and “dream crusher,” among other, much worse names I can’t repeat on this blog.

Anyway, this was exactly the boost I needed to get back to work. My sprits are lifted and hope has sprung eternal once again.

New Experiences

I’m taking a day out from the series on querying agents to talk about new experiences. Tomorrow, we will resume the series by talking about the actual query letter.

I spent almost all of yesterday sitting on the floor of the bathroom while my son learned to use the potty. He did it!!! He peed and pooped in his potty. Of course, now he’s obsessed with using it, and wants to try all the time. So much for leisurely potty training sessions.

As my son gets older, I think about how all these “firsts” are passing me by; his first tooth, his first word, his first steps, the first time he used his spoon alone, and now the first time he used his potty. He’s growing up so fast, and while I want nothing more than for him to be a healthy, happy little boy, a part of me is achingly sad knowing my time with him is limited, that someday, he’ll leave and I’ll be lucky to see him several times a year. It makes my heart break a little every time I think about it.

I hear you, though. You’re wondering, what does this have to do with writing? Well, I’ve been trying to cheer myself up by thinking of all the “first” writing experiences I hopefully have ahead of me; the first time an agent wants to represent me, the first time I sign with an agent, the first submission to a publisher, etc. All of these firsts, both with my son and with writing, are hard to imagine until they happen. The sheer joy of each experience has been, and hopefully will continue to be, a radiant burst of fireworks coloring an otherwise pretty, but ordinary sky. My “ordinary sky” fills me with contentment and happiness, but those bursts of sizzling fire provide the excitement that helps one to truly savor life.

Recharging your Writing Batteries

If you follow my blog, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been feeling a little discouraged with my writing lately. I don’t know if it’s a combination of working too hard, gloomy gray weather, and my son’s bad sleeping phase, but I’ve been feeling very reluctant to start on my next novel. I’ve got a great idea (maybe the best one I’ve ever had) and yet I continue to put it off, finding a million things I “have” to do instead; cleaning, helping my husband put up a backsplash in the kitchen, exercising, reading, watching movies…

I think, for me anyway, that when I feel like this, it’s a message that I need to slow down and relax. I have a sort of type-A personality. I like to have answers to all my questions, I need to have everything planned out, and I need to stay busy. Sometimes, I even feel guilty if I sit down and read for a while.

Even though I haven’t brought in any income with my writing yet, I still regard it as my career. I work hard, everyday, busting my butt to try to make it work. I know I only have until my son (and our future kid(s)-fingers crossed) leave for kindergarten to get my writing career off the ground. At that point, I will probably go back to school, finish up my last year or so, and get my Bachelor’s degree in teaching or nursing. And so I work, getting up hours before my son, working during every naptime, staying up after everyone else has gone to bed. I put in the hours, collect the rejections, and try to make it work. So far, it’s been for nothing, and that can be discouraging. I’ve said it before here on my blog; yeah, it’s nice hobby to write, but I’m really writing because I want my stories to be read, to have people fall in love with them. It’s kind of hard for that to happen if they’re tucked away in my hard drive. Plus, if I just wanted a hobby, I’d knit.

So, the best thing for me to do right now is to recharge my writing batteries; try new things, go to museums, watch educational specials on PBS, read great books, watch great movies, go for long hikes (or snowshoes), cook new recipes, play with my son, spend time with my husband. I know it might feel like you’re not doing anything, but you are. You’re feeding the big idea center in your brain. It all goes into one big pot on the stove, and someday soon, you’ll turn on the heat, simmer it well, and have a delicious pot of stew (or a novel!).

Writing and Parenting: the Same Skill Set

Before I get into my post, I wanted to thank you all, my loyal readers. Yesterday, The Literary Mom broke the 1,000 view mark! Not too shabby for a little over two months. It’s nice to know that I”m helping someone, or at least providing  interesting reading material. Thank you, everyone. Now, on to my post.

You know, when I got pregnant, I never thought that being a parent would help me be a better writer but it has. It turns out that writing and parenting require many of the same skills and virtues.

Can’t get your baby to stop crying and go to sleep even though it’s one o’clock in the morning? That same patience will help you wait while editors or agents have your manuscript. Feel like you can’t write unless you get a good nights sleep? Just wait until you have a baby. You’ll be able to write anywhere, at anytime. Turns out, once you have a baby, you don’t have a choice when, where , or even with what, you write. By the way, don’t try to write with a crayon while in your pediatrician’s office. It’s embarrassing when your pediatrician feels bad for you and offers you a pen. Cooking healthy, delicious meals for your family helps you build a good plot. How? You take your ingredients, put them in the bowl in the correct order, add a touch of spice, and mix it all together and hope it comes out all right. At least with writing, you can revise. If you make a meal that tastes like crap, one that even the dog won’t eat; let me tell you, there’s no revising that (or living it down either).

There are also the less tangible things that come along with being a parent; love, understanding, and mental and emotional growth. It makes your life and writing much richer and more varied. Even though it can be super hard to be a parent sometimes, and even though it definitely wrecks havoc with your life, I wouldn’t change it for the world. In fact, it IS my world.

Kreative Blogger Award!!

Wow! A Kreative Blogger Award! What an honor! Thanks, Ayesha Schroeder! And thanks for the kind words on your blog. It’s so heartwarming to know that my words aren’t just going out into a void, that someone actually cares about and appreciates my blog.

Kreative blogger award:

The rules: 1. Share 10 things about yourself that readers might find interesting.
2. Pass the award onto 6 other bloggers (be sure to leave a comment on each of the blogs to let them know).

Here are the six blogs I’ve nominated, in no particular order:

1. My Writing Challenge– Sandra has such helpful information and tips, and lost of inspiration. I highly recommend it!

2. Frugal Feeding: wonderful recipes that don’t cost a lot to make. Great for a big, hungry family.

3. Navigating the Slush Pile–  A blog by a real live literary agent. Invaluable tips and advice, as well as Wednesday Reads, a wonderful resource for new books to devour!

4. YA Confidential– A blog all about YA writing with interviews and posts by ACTUAL TEENS! What great insight!

5. Michelle Styles: Warm, Witty and Intimate Historical Romance This is a blog by a published author. I love the behind the scenes look at what the writing life is like!

6. Jenny Keller Ford: the Dreamweaver’s Cottage Tons of neat stuff! YA book reviews, listings of agent’s blogs, the occasional recipe, and she’s a mom! What’s not to like?

 

Ten things about myself:

1. I have a twin sister who looks nothing like me!

2. I live in a snow belt area. The average snowfall here is 200 inches per winter.

3. I did three years toward a bachelor’s degree, double major creative writing and art (painting).

4. I worked briefly as a kennel attendant at a veterinarian’s office. One Saturday night, a woman came in with her dog. She had had a few beers and tried to groom him herself. Long story short, she cut off his tail. I had to assist in surgery as there was no one else at the vet’s office. I quite the next day.

5. My hair started losing its pigment when I was nine years old. 80% of it is pure white now. I dye it, of course.

6. I love reading and movies. I love the stories more than anything. That’s why I wanted to write.

7. I love animals. We have a yellow Labrador Retriever and two cats I rescued from the shelter.

8. I have a weird phobia about having my nostrils pinched together. I can only go a few seconds before I jerk away in some kind of fight or flight response.

9. I’m interested in EVERYTHING. My head is filled with weird, useless trivia. Well, it’s only useless until I go on Jeopardy.

10. My favorite book series of all time is the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. My mom read it aloud to me as a child and I still reread it every winter.

 

Writing: A Leap of Faith

“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” – E.L. Doctorow

 

Writing involves a huge leap of faith for me. Every time I sit down to start a new project, I’m assailed with doubts. I think, “What am I doing? What makes you think anyone will want this one? Nobody has wanted any of the others. Why waste your time? You should be doing something else while your son sleeps, like cooking supper, or knitting. This is going to be so much work, and for what?”

 

While I haven’t sold anything yet, I imagine that I would still feel the same way had I sold ten novels, or twenty novels, although my train of thoughts might be a little different. Still, it’s understandable; you’re sitting down, investing HUGE quantities of your time, in this labor of love that no one else might ever want. And it’s scary. But I do it anyway. And each time, I have to truly believe that this story will be better then the last (and they always are), that this story will finally find a home with an agent or publisher who loves it. And I have to repeat this mantra to myself every single day until I’m done writing. Then, while it makes the rounds, I immediately get started on the next, telling myself that THIS will be the one.

 

While a large part of me believes that if I just keep plugging away, writing and sending out novel after novel, I’ll eventually get published, another part of me wonders; will I really, though? What about you? What do you do to get through the doubts?