Tag Archives: writing

Expat Blog Awards….

This is kind of exciting.

I’ve been nominated for the Expat Blog Awards for my writing about living in India.

If you have a second, please vote for me by leaving a comment here…
http://www.expatsblog.com/blogs/466/a-reason-to-write

Thanks!

Let the writing begin – NaNoWriMo

Participant 180x180 (2)November is the month when many novelists commit to writing at least 1,667 words per day – every single day of the month. It’s called National Novel Writing Month – yes, we writers are a creative bunch coming up with such a clever title as that. The acronym is NaNoWriMo – which doesn’t make us look so clever . (Seriously – I’m not even sure how you say that.) Most people just shorten it to NaNo.

I’m taking on this challenge – so please wish me luck! If you are interested in participating, you can sign up to record your progress and connect with the other 300,000 authors doing the same thing at the website www.nanowrimo.org. If you meet the challenge of writing 1,667 words per day, at the end of the month, you will have written 50,000 words – nearly a novel.

Today my journey begins. This morning I got up, got the kids out the door, and took a shower. I even got dressed like a normal person who leaves the house every day. I figured if I got dressed as if I were going to work, I might actually work. Then I even put on makeup and proceeded to spill lipgloss on the sweet little ruffle on my fancy cream-colored shirt. Fabulous. ergh.

Then I went to the potty – and got some snacks ready – and turned off Twitter and Facebook . Now I have no excuses for getting up from this chair.

The famous “they” say that the biggest key to being successful this month is to just write – no editing – just writing. (“They” also say that December is the time for editing.) This will be a super huge challenge for me because I have a hard time leaving a chapter.

The posts here might be even more infrequent than usual – but that will be a good thing because it will mean I am writing The Alligator Purse. Yippeeee!


 

There’s more to it than writing………

Platform, pictures, bios, blogging… jeez louise, writers are responsible for a lot.

Most of the time, we should be writing for sure. But there are some other things writers should be thinking about.

A mug shot is one of them. I should say – a mug shot we are happy with.

For a long time, this was the picture I was using for just about everything.

And it was fine. But it looked like I took a picture that I was happy enough with and cropped it way too small and said, “done.” Because – that is exactly what I did.

Well, it so happens that I was taking a photography class – from a real, live professional photographer. And we spent about 6 hours together.

So, I asked her to take a few “professionalish” pictures for me.

And this is what I got…

Uhmmm. Yes, that is a lot better.

So, if you think you might want to publish something, someday, take some time and have a good picture taken. I pinky swear you will be very glad you did!

How to find comparable titles for your story…..

Now that I am trying to figure out how
to capture the attention of a literary
agent for The Alligator Purse, I am learning a lot about the whole query/submission process.

One of the things I keep hearing over and over is that writers must be able to compare their story to another book that has done well in the same genre.

This proves that writers understand the market they are writing for and that they understand their genre. Kinda important stuff.

My first inclination was to pick Jeannette Wall’s wonderful story The Glass Castle. The main problem with that would be that the Glass Castle is a memoir. My story is fiction. Ahem.

Thank goodness someone explained to me that is a super huge no-no. I would have looked like a baffoon.

But then who? A friend mine suggested I look at Anna Quindlen’s work. I nearly fell over. But okay. Then I thought really, I am supposed to claim that I am as fabulous as say Anna Quindlen?

Well, probably not.

Actually…
absolutely not.

But what writers should be able to say is that “audiences who love the Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards would also be interested in The Alligator Purse.”

See how’s that’s different? I might not be as amazing as Kim Edwards but we at least appeal to the same readers.

But that’s tricky too because the Memory Keeper’s Daughter was wildly popular. Heck, they even made a movie out of the story.

So, a lot of other writers might be comparing their writing to Kim Edwards.

And, agents might be thinking, “Oh sure, your writing is just like Kim Edwards. You gotta bridge to go with that manuscript?”

I have been told (by someone who would really know) that audiences who buy Pieces of My Sister’s Life by Elizabeth Joy Arnold would very likely be interested in The Alligator Purse.

So, yea for me, someone who reads a lot knew a great example for my story.

The question I can see floating in your thought bubble right now is “Yeah, good for you, but what about me? How do I find titles to compare my story too?”

I’m so glad you asked that.

You read a lot of books in your genre.

Now your thought bubble is screaming, “How do I know what books? There are so many out there?”

Another good question dear thought bubble.

Check out the website called All Readers.

You can put in selection criteria that will narrow suggestions to a manageable number.

And now you are wondering why I am so so smart. Ha. I have an answer for that too. I am taking a class from Caitlin Alexander thru Media Bistro. She was an editor at Random House for over a decade so she knows a little somthin, somthin.

And then I can only say good luck – it ain’t easy. But it is critical.

When I’m not writing…..

artwork from clipart.com

Which should be never. But, alas, when I’m not writing, I am usually reading something.

As for books, I write book reviews over at A Reason To Read. So many of my book choices are not my own.

But I am a big ole lover of magazines. And I have subscriptions to several. They are…

Readers Digest – I love how quickly I can read through this magazine and I love the jokes!

Writers Digest – author interviews, prompts, advice, contests – really just a little bit of everything.

Obscura Journal – this only comes out twice a year – but it couples beautiful photography with storytelling.

Poets & Writers – lots of info on contests, grants, and seminars.

The Writer – they tout themselves as having “advice and inspiration” for writers – that’s pretty much sums it up. Oh and some pretty wonderful author interviews and articles by top notch editors/agents.

The Sun – this is a lovely mix of interviews, non-fiction, fiction, and poetry. Truly something for everyone – except the advertisers. This fun little gem has no ads.

The New Yorker – because there is something very old school in me that believes if you want to be a writer worth your weight in ink, you must at least know what’s on the front cover of this magazine.

And, yes, I have them all come to me in hard copy right to my mailbox. That way I am getting something besides bills. And, I can stick it in my purse in case I am stuck waiting somewhere, which almost always never happens. 😎

Did I leave anything off the list? What are you reading when you aren’t writing?

Another contest I didn’t win……….

Obscura Journal hosts a short-story contest where they provide two pictures and you bridge the gap between those photos.

I entered once before and did not win.

Well, I am nothing if not consistent. I didn’t win again. 😎

But I don’t want my short little story to go to waste. So, I will share it with you.

Click here first to see the pictures (oh and I guess you can read the actual winner’s story if you must) …. then read on for my  interpretation of how those pictures make sense together.

Help Me

Thomas stumbled toward Ryan’s bed, leaned down, and shook his brother to wake him in the wee hours of a misty September morning. He raised his pointer finger toward his mouth and slowly uncurled it. Ryan started to speak but Thomas stopped him with his other hand, which reeked of marijuana smoke and cough medicine.

Ryan stretched his arms above his head and looked toward the retired milk crate next to his bed.  The hands on his grandfather’s watch revealed it was only 3:00 am. Ryan tilted his head, listening for the familiar sounds of sirens that often filled the night air. But this night was absent the common warning screech and Thomas’ urgency lost its logic. Ryan rubbed his eyes as Thomas searched for his brother’s shoes.  On the way out the front door, Thomas grabbed their sweatshirts and a crumpled brown grocery bag. Ryan grabbed his Rubik’s cube.

They marched through the hazy mist with Ryan leaning back into Thomas’ left-handed push. The older brother was agitated and frantic. As keys jangled in his free hand, he mumbled to himself something about “money, a lot of money” and “how was he going to get it”. He stopped twice under streetlights to look more closely at the keys on the large brass ring, refusing to answer questions or even look at Ryan.

Thomas only let go of his brother’s shoulder when they reached the doors to the library. After a quick scan of the area, Thomas unlocked the glass doors. He returned his grip on Ryan and ushered him over to the olive green couch in the empty reading room. Then he motioned for Ryan to sit down and threw the brown bag onto Ryan’s lap. Thomas immediately started pacing and Ryan nervously worked to solve the puzzle in his hands and in his thoughts.

He knew too well that nothing good ever came from Thomas’ pacing.

Behind them, a man in a striped suit with his jacket tightly buttoned flung the doors open and rushed toward Thomas. But Thomas stopped him just inside the threshold and whispered, “Not yet. Let me leave first.”

“Hey Ryan, I’ll be right back,” Thomas yelled over his left shoulder, as the man escorted him out with the same pushing motion that landed Ryan in the library’s lobby.

Ryan set aside his cube and squinted at the books on the wall. They were all so thick with lots of letters in their titles. Without his glasses he couldn’t be sure but he imagined there wouldn’t be a single picture among their dense pages. He wished he had brought his comic book. Curious, he turned his focus to the bag’s contents – a piece of charcoal, a sketch pad, and a soft green apple.

Thomas knew Ryan loved to draw. He even complimented his work when he wasn’t too busy pacing. Just as Ryan opened the pad and positioned the charcoal, an older man came in through the doors. He walked slowly over and joined Ryan on the couch. As the man started talking about the big wall of books, his dusty scent distracted Ryan and tickled his nose.

Just after Ryan sneezed, the old man pulled out a handkerchief. He covered Ryan’s face with it and Ryan fell asleep gripping the piece of charcoal. His sketchpad dropped easily to the floor.

When Ryan woke up, he found himself on at least the second floor of an abandoned building. He noticed the charcoal was beginning to stain his sweaty palms. In his imagination, the air smelled like home and he hoped it was close by. He scanned the opening to the room below hoping for Thomas but heard only mumbling from beneath the rickety staircase. Out of the corner of his eye, Ryan saw a rat scatter away with his apple. He dropped the charcoal as he screeched.

Instantly, heavy footsteps pounded on the staircase until a shadow appeared over Ryan. His shoulders curled as he scooted into the corner.

The man in the striped suit fanned a stack of money at Ryan’s face.

“Your brother’s a real hero. He owes us cash and he gives us you instead. Turns out you might be worth more anyhow.”

Ryan could barely breathe as the man crushed the charcoal with the toe of his black shoe. Then, chuckling, the man lowered his pudgy finger into the dust and mockingly wrote “Help Me” on the wall and turned to go back downstairs.

Laughter erupted when he returned to the older man below. Smoke rose through the holes in the stairs and Ryan grew increasingly nauseous. The morning sun shone through the slits in the dilapidated walls and shed light on the true horror of his situation.

The rusty hinges on the front door groaned and Ryan heard Thomas’ shaky voice declare, “I have the money. Give me back my brother.”

“Oh thank God,” Ryan thought, grateful that the worst possible truth might not be real and that his older brother could still be his hero.

And then he heard a crack, as the man in the striped suit bent Thomas’ arm backwards to prevent him from reaching the stairs, “No, actually the boy is better. We’re keeping him. Someone’s coming over in a few to check him out.”

Thomas stammered, “No. A deal’s a deal. I have the money.”

“That’s right,” the man agreed, “but you have a lot to learn about the rules. When you’re late, there’s hell to pay.”

The jovial tone of the men shifted when Thomas clicked the hammer on his freshly polished 45.

“Whoa, there. We outnumber you. Don’t do anything stupid.”

“This will fix the stupid that’s already been done.”

Ryan fainted when the third gunshot echoed up the stairs. He collapsed just a second too soon to hear his brother’s footsteps on the stairs and the man in the striped suit pleading, “Don’t just leave me here, man. Help me.”

Focus on the writing……..

This is a classic case of “do what I say, not what I do.” 

Those who have been following along on my writing journey know that I have been busy with the work of becoming an author.

I have already talked with two literary agents about my novel. This one gave me tons of advice.

My title is decided – The Alligator Purse.

I have artwork.

I have fabulous beta readers.

My synopsis is done – the long and short version.

And I have all of three and a half chapters written. Yes, I agree. That is not enough to call it a “book” yet.

Unfortunately, all of the other stuff has just been putting the pencil before the eraser. Because even after my story is “done”, I will need to edit and edit and edit some more.

But right now I still have tons of basic stuff to do. Like, I dunno, write the rest of the story. 😉

If you aren’t writing your work in progress (known as WIP), you don’t really need a fabulous title, cover art, agents, or even an audience.

I have been struggling with building a platform and making connections and have forgotten why I started all of this in the first place.

So back to the grind. Arse in Seat here I come….

Oh my, I didn’t expect that I needed a disclaimer…….

When I started telling people I am trying to write a novel, most people were very excited for me. They ask the story line. They congratulate me on being brave enough to tackle writing a book. Some even offer to read chapters for me.

It’s all very fun.

But then, just the other day, a neighbor asked me, “soooooo, are the characters based on anyone I know?”

I was actually startled by the question. The Alligator Purse is most assuredly fiction. Neighbors, friends, and relatives need not worry.

But I guess this is something that all writers should consider when working on their books. People will start to get nervous that you might uncover some deep dark secret about them and reveal it to the world. Or that you will exaggerate their quirks for a laugh.

I personally cannot imagine writing a “tell-all” type book. That tabloid mentality does not appeal to me.

But that doesn’t make this t-shirt any less funny. 😎 You can get it on Amazon.

So, if you know me, don’t worry. You won’t be in my book. At least not on purpose. 😉

Insert (Your Passion Here)…….

This blog has had a writing tilt lately. Most of what I am writing about applies to everything I want to accomplish as a writer. But truly, you can insert your own passion here.

Today I am focused on being focused. It’s hard. To commit to anything. And make it a habit.

I have a friend who was in a position of tremendous influence and a lot of people were asking a lot of things of her. She is a kind, generous, and enthusiastic person. She doesn’t like saying no. She loves making a difference.

I asked her how she picked.

She said she simply established five priorities and if the requests didn’t fall into one of those categories, she had to say no.

Did I mention that she is also wise? There really is only so much you can do.

So this morning I am going to establish my priority list.

Family/Close Friends
Writing a Novel and this blog
Living Faithfully/Responding with love
Being Healthier
Not saying yes to things that don’t fit this list

This isn’t to say that I wouldn’t love to do some things that aren’t on this list. I would and I will do some things that aren’t on this list. But I have to focus. And limit those distractions that don’t lead me where I want to be. And I have to do it Right Now.

I have a tremendous opportunity to submit a synopsis to a literary agent this week. And I am psyching myself out of it. I have started it four times and never get out of paragraph one. So I need to limit my distractions, believe I can do it, and just simply get it done.

Wish me luck – pretty please!

Thesaurus in hand……….

As I chronicle this writing journey of mine, I am trying to remember the little things that are making a big difference for me.

Making the most of my words is a very important part of my writing experience.

I keep a thesaurus right beside my computer. I am kickin’ it Old School and keep a real hand-held copy at the ready at. all. times. The computer has one – but I like leaving my words to rest on the screen, while I search for their companions. That way I can easily scan between the sentence on the screen and the options on the page.

Personally, I am not brave enough to delve into big words that I cannot spell and don’t really understand anyway, so with my Thesaurus I rarely need a dictionary. (Just ignore the ‘dictionary title’ part of this graphic – it was all I could find.)

As a child, I wrote a lot of (really bad) poetry. In poetry, you have to be concise. It’s best if the words you use portray exactly what you mean. So if you struggle with this concept, just try writing some poetry. Try describing something in five words or fewer without using the object’s name. Spoon for example – that sterling silver soup server . It’s not great writing – but you get the point, right?

And yes, sometimes, a simple spoon is simply a spoon and it’s perfectly fine to say that.

However, when you are writing a novel, you are going to have to express some ideas over and over again and it will be tempting to rely on familiar words. But that will get boring to your reader. A Thesaurus will help you make your writing more interesting.

But it will also help you pinpoint exactly what you are trying to say. Let’s just say that Sally is a detective and she has to walk into a lot of rooms to do  her investigating. I am sure you can appreciate why you don’t always want to say, “Sally walked into a room.” Consider these options…..

Sally walked into the room.
(Sally is boring)

Sally danced into the room.
(Sally is graceful and probably happy. She might even have good news.)

Sally marched into the room.
(Sally has a purpose or is mad.)

Sally crawled into the room.
(Sally is a baby or doesn’t want anyone to see her. She is possibly hungover or sick.)

Sally tip-toed into the room.
(Sally is sneaky – I like Sally.)

Sally got tired of being an example and huffed out of the room.
(Sally is a brat.)

See the difference a word can make? What do you do when you get stuck on finding just what you are trying to say?