Monday, December 13, 2010

Faith, Learning and NaNo

Have you ever thought about all the ways you have faith?
From all the 'biggies' everyone thinks of, such as belief in God, or Creator or things along those lines. But there's a myriad other ways that faith is presented as well, from belief in self, belief in others, to just belief in who we are and what we are doing.
For instance is there a writer out there that has not at sometime wavered in their belief and faith in themselves? In some way anyway. Wavering in faith along those lines can range anywhere from lack of faith of ever getting published to wondering if you are any good as a writer at all, to just wondering if the current work is worth the amount of work and faith you are putting in it. It just surprised me recently all the ways we have faith. Or how we seem to lose faith. In so many ways. In so many little appearing ways.
It's just interesting when things such as that occur to think about.

Like NaNo. Or officially NaNoWriMo. and yes, I did officially finish it. It was tight and close and a Very mad dash of word slinging. But I did make it. And given all the controversy around the effectiveness or usefulness of NaNo, I have to say I learned an awful lot from it.
Okay, so I really wanted half off the software package price that was being offered. But I gained other things as well. I did. I really did.
Did I gain a novel out of it? Don't know. Maybe. Someday. But that wasn't why I did NaNo. I didn't even read the rules. They weren't paying me or anything so I used it for what I wanted.
And yes, I got badgered into doing NaNo. Probably wouldn't have done it without it. But since I was doing it, and even though it was for getting the price break on the software, it turned out to be a lot more than what I even realized.
And one thing I realized was I got a great character study and great story study out of it. I had no idea what to even take into NaNo, I didn't really want or plan to NaNo, so when I got badgered into it the only thing that occurred to me was a 'minor' character that is minor part of two other books. She's the reason things happen the way they do in the books and why the other character's do and act the way they do but she's not really in the books. I have those books sketched out and even partly done but had never sat and really put down her name or anything about her. I knew I needed to have some information on her. Even though she might not be figuring directly in the books her actions and who she is does have bearing on them, so even indirectly things about her was going to come out. And I didn't even have a name for her let alone any kind of story background.
So that's what I used NaNo for. And I was Really surprised by all the things that came out!

What is there about sitting and writing words out that engages our brain differently than sitting and just thinking things out?
I often sit and just think and puzzle things out.
But one thing NaNo showed me is that might not be a complete substitute for just sitting down and letting your fingers and your brain fly.
Since there were great things that came flowing out that I don't think I would have ever thought of.
It was very interesting.

And instructive, since I never would have spent that kind of time working on this character and seeing if she had a story to tell that even could be or possibly be a book.
It would have felt like a waste of time.
But since I had agreed to do NaNo it wasn't.

A bit convoluted thinking perhaps but makes sense to me. And was worth it for all the things I learned. Which is a Lot more than what was just mentioned here.

Like to work a bit harder on balance. Balance all the things in life that seem to come in and take over and suck up writing time to put more writing time as priority, but also not put off everything else so much that it backs up so dreadfully that there's such a scramble to get everything done. Like now. And the Christmas deadline looms closer! ACK! More deadlines!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thoughts ... and Thanksgiving

So it's that time of year again. The beginning of the mad rush of holiday season. Ho Ho Ho
Given my last post I betcha you are wondering if I have faith in that any more either. I admit there are times it gets to be so hectic and non-pleasurable that it is easier to relate to Scrooge than his nephew, and his nephew's good will.
But the movie I saw keeps coming to mind so I am trying to look for the good, in life, in people.

And how often do we feel like we lead such insular lives that really has no effect on anyone else or anyone else's lives. Yet how many times has an author somehow managed to speak to you somehow through their writing?
Probably a lot more than you realize.

For another perspective on what we say matters --- what we say to others. And just as important what we say to ourselves, even if it's the tiny quiet voice inside that often mocks us, what we do, and what we feel is important.
---- check out Maggie Stiefvater's video of her speech at NASA on her blog post of November 23, Maggie And the Astronauts

Maggie still has her funny wit and humor and all - but surprisingly she has a very serious message that you should check out.
Might make you speak kinder to others - and to yourself. Even if just for this holiday season, that's a start.

Since we all can find things to be thankful for. And I want to thank all of you that are reading this. And all the wonderful people that support me. Or at least think kindly of me. And hopefully will speak well of me, and better to me as well as everyone in their lives.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tiny Respites ....and Losing Faith

So, do you take respites? I’m talking about the little sanity breaks that, well, keep you sane. Mostly. Hopefully. Times where you just ‘check out’ when you don’t have time or money for a ‘real’ vacation and the one you had looong ago, is looong ago.

We managed a couple, sort of, recently. A concert, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, interesting to hear it done with a Lute and a Harpsichord in addition to all the other stringed instruments. Really interesting to see sort of a ‘string-off’ between one of the violins, the lute, and one of the cellos, playing off each other, or to each other. Wasn’t as keen on the ‘American’ Four Seasons that was the second half of the program. Was obvious it was written for the star performer, not that he wasn’t really good, etc...etc... Not a bad thing. Just not my particular ‘cup of tea.’ Not that I don’t mix up my teas occasionally as well. Just have my particular favorites. And when it comes to Baroque music, well, that’s Baroque not broke, so it doesn’t need to be fixed, right? I must admit it was rather amusing to watch the rest of the people on stage just standing around idle - a Lot - while the star played. They did at some point start just looking at their violins, etc... so did I.

But all in all it was a nice step out of time, into a different time.

At some point you have to come back to your own time though.

And unless your life is a Lot different, less hectic, trying, and ...feel free to add all kinds of adjectives here, since I think you get the gist..... What happened to our times? Did everyone always feel this harried and stressed? We just think it is unique to our times of overload? Recently we escaped for a short walk in woods awash with bright leaves and sunshine. Wasn’t the total quiet time I would have liked since wasn’t totally without the distant sound of traffic but was a nice little respite away from our lives. Who gets to determine what is the ‘real’ life? Which has a lot to do with demands others put on our lives perhaps. But there’s still the coming back to whatever life we live on a day to day basis, whether we term it real or not.

Which I guess brings me to the losing faith. Have you ever thought about all the ways we have faith, and can lose it? The biggies of faith, of believing in God, Creator, etc... to others we don’t often think of, like believing in ourselves and our path in life, believing in others... to realizing one day somewhere along the way things have changed. I was watching one of the Christmas movies that are really prevalent this year. Was better than I thought it was going to be. One of the characters had a lot of faith in the people’s ability to change. Which brought up the sudden realization that somewhere along the way I wasn’t sure I had that kind of faith in people any more.

What about you?

What are your respites? Respite places? Do you even take respites - or feel the need?

And do those respites bring on revelations?

Like all the different ways we have faith, or don’t?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Learning from Nano - and Revelation

Well, I am not as far ahead as I had wished to be on NaNo. I am still going to try to catch up and do the whole finish thing on time.

Okay so being able to buy the Scrivener package for half price does have a lot of influence on me really wanting to get to the finish line.

Hey, I like the trial version. Seems like it fits my writing style a lot better than Word does.
Which brings up some of my NaNo learnings.

I had always thought of myself as rather a NaNo writer pretty much all the time, but whether I really was or just sort of thought of myself as such, I'm not quite sure. But one thing I have realized is how freeing this experiment with NaNo is. And how very hard it is to turn off the editor that lives in us, that we battle with all the time. To just write the words as they come, put down the images that fly across the mind, is harder than you might think, while just putting them all there on the page without taking the time to worry over each word, each scene, each paragraph, and try to hone it and pare it down while putting it out there.

Which comes to the Revelation.
Somewhere along the way I think I have fallen into the trap of trying to write like what I read. I'm not talking about style or words or anything like that. I'm talking about the finished product. The finish, polish, and flow.
Like all great writers say to be, I am an avid reader. I'm also an eclectic one and will read pretty much anything that comes into my hand. Just so you know.

But as writers to make ourselves better we are supposed to read great books and learn from them. And that's great advice. But I think I've sort of fallen into trying to write like the books as I am writing. Which means the finished book I see. Not the many messy rough drafts that took them to get there. There's not much we hear or see of that. And if we do hear it, and most writers are very candid about how much work and how many drafts it took them to get to the finished product. But without seeing it for ourselves it's hard to really take that in as pertaining to how we are writing.
Or at least it is for me I guess. Since I think that's what I was trying to do, subconsciously of course, since who in their right mind would put themselves through that? Not that writers are in their right mind most of the time anyway. Especially during NaNo time. When they are behind.
But that's been just a learning, a Revelation if you will, from doing NaNo.

What about you? What are you learning?

I think I'm learning to be free. Perhaps in more than just writing. Maybe.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Well… I never thought of NaNo as something to have so much controversy over. I mean, you like or not, do it or not.

Or you try it and ….well, whatever you do and wherever you get to. It’s all a Good thing Right?

Or so I thought.

I admit this is the first year I have done it ‘officially’ but I have done it unofficially for a few years now. And I can’t say I’ve ever felt a failure for not completing the 50,000 words thing. Even unofficially that wasn’t the draw for me. I feel like getting Any words down, at any time, that’s a win.

I do happen to like the writing energy that is flowing around everywhere each year at NaNo time. Not to mention all the camaraderie and help. Like at no other time of the year I can think of.

Okay so mostly I’m coerced and badgered into it, but still I take it for what I learn and get out of it. And just like everything in our lives I feel it only becomes a waste if we make it that way. That road less traveled might be a lot more scenic and less hectic but sometimes we still have to take that busy fast paced highway to get where we need to go. Does it make either one the Right way – or the Wrong way? Unless the highway department deems it so then it simply becomes our perception of which is the best way for us. Which might, or might not, end up to be true. I believe we can learn valuable lessons no matter which road we are on at the time and it only becomes wasted if we allow it to be.

As for NaNo teaching bad writing habits and bad writing and filled with a bunch of bad words that have to be cut later. Well, bad words are what we deem them to be. My mamma had her version of them, just as your mamma most likely has a bit of a different version. In fact, I’m pretty sure she does.

But as most writers quickly find out, Writing is Editing! And those of us that have been around awhile know about that. The words that are taken out are not bad, they can just perhaps be replaced by better ones, more descriptive, more succinct ones. Or just Less of them. But No Matter HOW they get there, whether by slap dash NaNo slinging or painstaking sweat soaked time intensive way, at some point during the editing process you are going to have to cut some of those words. Seems interesting to me that some that decry the NaNo process as a waste because of having to cut so much word fodder from the NaNo work have talked about how much they had to cut from their work that they had just spent months, or even longer, agonizing over and working on. Did it matter how quick the words went down when they had to be lifted away?

Writing just like any other creative expression is simply a matter of opinion. We all have an opinion of what we think of as good writing and bad writing. And sometimes the publishing industry seems to have a whole different view of that. Silly them. Okay, most likely. Doesn’t really make anyone’s opinion more valid than yours, even when publishing industry pays for bad writing. ;)

And bad writing habit – well, to me the worst writing habit to have is Not writing.

It is so Easy to allow our full, or over full, lives to overflow and take over Everything. Including our writing time. Or time we should, and could, be writing.

While I hate the time of year that NaNo falls, November is just way too busy as it is with family obligations and all, I also realize that it forces us to look at ourselves as writers and what we are really saying to ourselves about writing and its importance to us. Others certainly aren’t going to take our writing as serious if we don’t. And by at least setting aside some time in November to write we have to acknowledge that we can do it at other months in the year as well.

If we manage to write at all and get words down and out of our heads then we win. Regardless of the word count.

If you support someone else, and yourself while doing it, we all win.

What’s bad about that?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Profound Thoughts .... And NaNo

So, NaNo has started. Do you hear the collective NaNo brains feverishly revving all over? The frantic pounding of keys trying to keep pace with the overflow of spilling words?
Okay, so yeah, some. Some are having a slow start. For various intrusions that have inserted themselves unexpectedly into their NaNo writing plans. But don't give up! Still Way too early to even contemplate, or get down on yourself. There's still plenty of time for that later. :::smirk:::
Only half kidding here.
I know that some people see no merit in the seemingly senseless splattering of words out on the page. Eh. Everybody's different. Even at different times of their lives. This may be what you need at this time. Okay so what if you think it isn't. Try it anyway. What have you got to lose? A little time that you've spent on something that you've been wanting to try or do? So do it now. This is the only life we have really. Is Right Now.

So it doesn't work out. So what. Like that's never happened to you before? Or very well might again.
Adapt. Work with it. Whatever 'it' is. Learn about yourself.
If nothing else that's what this exercise in NaNo will teach you. About yourself as a writer.
As a story teller.
Especially about the ones you really tell yourself. And especially what you tell your writer self.

Whoa. Well, this post went totally different than what I thought I was writing. So this is what comes out when you NaNo a blog post. And since there's supposed to be no deleting in NaNo..... at least for now. ;)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Uh Oh NaNo

Uh oh -- and No I'm not talking about the Mork from Ork 'nanoo'
It's Nano.
And it's NaNo time.
Officially it's NaNoWriMo. And officially it's that time again.

So fellow writers and novelists. Or wanna be novelists. If you want to write a novel, this is your time.
This is the best time, since now is when all the creative words are going to be swirling around all over the atmosphere and ether-sphere, and perhaps even blog-o-sphere, cause November starts National Novel Writing Month. Where crazed writers everywhere will start their first word of their new novel on November 1st and call up LOTS and Lots of words, or demand, cry, or curse words up, as they barrel down the NaNo highway directly to the end of November, with a finished work dripping from their fingers.... along with whatever else they have used to keep themselves revived during this mad dash of words to the finish line. Not making judgements or anything, just saying there will probably be a run on chocolate. My and ain't it convenient that the Halloween chocolate candy will be on sale. Just sayin'

AND to give you incentive for that mad-long dash of words. To get / keep you Really motivated - just so happens that the James River Writers last Writing Show of the year is coming up Thursday night. With an Agent!
So you might just want to come check it out. Just in case. And it's pretty cheap. Much Much cheaper than trying to fly to New York to check out an agent - if you can get in. Just something you might want to think about.

Something else to think about, since you're going to be really working hard all November on your novel, is JRWs Best Unpublished Novel contest. Okay, so you probably won't be able to submit your NaNo novel that comes dripping off your fingers at the end of November to it. But if you happen to have one you've completed and edited that's been standing by, then why not take a look. Just a thought.

And since I know you're going to want to -
To join fellow crazed writers for the month of November crazy brilliance that is NaNo -

For more info' on the coming Writing Show - don't forget, Last one of year!
And while you're on the JRW site, go ahead and check out the B.U.N. contest.

And let me know how you're doing on NaNo. NaNo NaNo

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Writers Wednesday Wisdom

For those out there in need of Writing Wisdom, start making it a point to come to James River Writers casual gathering of writers that is Writers Wednesday. Since it was tonight you obviously missed it for this month, but I'm sure you'll want to put it on your calendar to come next month once you hear some the of witty-isdoms that are uttered, such as tonights....

Most writers have heard the wisdom uttered 'kill your darlings' .... and if you don't know what that is come to next Writers Wednesday and we'll talk about it.

I was talking to Writers Wednesday wonderful coordinator Denise about completely revamping my current work and talking about killing the darlings, etc...
To which she replied, yeah, but just remember that doesn't mean it's supposed to be a massacre!

Wise advice. Thanks Denise.

See you wantta come now don't you?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Post Conference Musings

Does it seem to anyone else like there was more mingling and networking at the JRW Writers Conference, as well as afterwards, this year?

I sure noticed a lot more than I have before. Just me? Or a result of the abundance of social networking things available now?

What do you think?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Came across this today. And combined with all the blank spaces filling this whole blog. Obviously I need to make some changes. With the change in the weather - Finally [altho' did it have to get this chilly so quick!] - perhaps it's time for this change as well.

"To know what you prefer, instead of humbly saying 'Amen' to what the world tells you you ought to prefer, is to keep your soul alive."
~ Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894), Scottish novelist and poet

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Great Writing Advice?

Came across this Great writing advice - What do you think?

"Start writing, no matter about what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on. You can sit and look at a page for a long time and nothing will happen. Start writing and it will." -- Louis L'Amour

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Making Your Writing Life

As mentioned in previous blog post about the book, Making a Literary Life, Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers, by Carolyn See, where she says ‘don’t write what you know, write what you care about.” Which as I mentioned in my post, I’m not sure I, or a lot of writers I know, agree with.

But she does talk about writing 1,000 words a day, every day, 5 days a week, which she says is about 4 pages a day, which is achievable for most people, and pretty easy. So she says. She does caveat that with a few other thoughts, but I’ll leave that to you to read the book. She also talks about writing notes To people too, but you’ll need to read the book and decide on your things yourself.

Basically it’s just getting in the habit of writing. Turning off the awful critic in your head and going with the words that are churning around in there. And probably everywhere else in you if you’re like a lot of writers I know.

Here, Maggie does a great post on it here -

It doesn’t matter what the routine is, just that you make the decision to write, and you do. And then keep it up, even after the flush of that first passion wears off and other insanely better ideas begin waving and offering you skittles. And remember…”

I don’t really like skittles all that much but Maggie does make a great point in what she’s trying to say.

There aren’t too many writers I know that haven’t at some point been lured away from their current amore that they are hard at work writing on, or hopefully hard at work on, to dabble with a new idea or story line. Thinking that this new love is very possibly The one that we should be working on. Instead of that very familiar, possibly stale, one we’ve been living with for awhile, and probably what seems like ages. I think most of us will tell you, don’t fall for it. Don’t fall for the stranger, no matter what candy he’s holding out to you. Maggie’s skittles or not. Didn’t your momma even tell you that?

What seems to work with most of us, again, hopefully, is to jot down that lovely new idea and character thoughts, and then give them a deep meaningful stare and quick kiss, and get back to your long-time, and probably neglected love, hopefully before they know you’ve been gone for any length of time. You’ll be better for it. Perhaps even your story will. And at the very least you don’t have to worry about what you’re going to do when your current love affair with what you are currently writing comes to its inevitable ‘The End’…. You’ll be ready to pick up a new one with that lovely dish that is just waiting in the wings. The waiting makes you both grow stronger you know. Since I know you’ve added thoughts to that file here and there along the way, when you’ve slipped out away from your current. That’s okay as long as you don’t abandon your current for a fling that ends up coming to nothing. Most writers have more than their share of woes there. Stay the course. Finish what you’ve begun. You’ll be glad. Especially since I’m going to give a couple of other things I did like from the book.

Here’s couple of other quotes from the book that I liked - …’Australian Aboriginals say if you don’t “sing your world into being,” no one else will’…. ‘No one else has your information.’

But my favorite from the book – “Roger Simon, a fine mystery writer, once gave a wonderful speech, in which he said: The success of any of your friends is a genuine cause for rejoicing, because it brings you closer to the charmed circle of people who are doing their best work and having a good time.”

That sounds like a good reason for everyone to come and hang out and support all the great people that are James River Writers, doesn’t it?

And if you make plans to do it this Thursday night, August 26th, at the Children’s Museum of Richmond, you can also learn about how to reach out and touch people on the internet as well. Not a bad way to spend an evening, eh?

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Cold Waiting blues

While awaiting knights in their trusty vans to come and rescue me from the cold water blues – literally – and waiting, and waiting…. Yesterday I spent the day waiting by working on a short story, I think it probably is. It’s still in formative, development stage, but it’s funny and touching. And since I was still slapping down scenes and such, it was easy to jump up and run to the window to ‘let my hair down’ to my rescuers when they came. Okay, not. Since my hair got chopped. Everybody probably knows by now, it’s been HOT around here, and hair is Hot. In more ways than one apparently. And they didn’t come.

So I was eager to see them first thing this morning. And eager and eager. And waiting and waiting. I decided my mind wouldn’t be ‘calm’ enough to work on thrashing around with characters – and thinking about thrashing errant not-showing-up-knights - so I picked up a book I’d checked out from the library on someone’s blog recommendation – so if it’s you, stop and say ‘hey’ – the book, Making a Literary Life, Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers, by Carolyn See, is interesting. Didn’t get it finished before I was Finally rescued and could go luxuriate in a hot shower. I like hot water. Even in Hot summer, I like Hot water. It’s very nice having it. I like it. A Lot.

But back to the book. It was interesting. I didn’t finish it but made it over half way through before the errant knights found their way past trolls or whatever – by that time I didn’t really care what they had to slay to get to my rescue.

One of the interesting comments she makes in the book was just posted about in lovely Lexie’s recent blog post,

about writers, especially beginning writers, are always told to write what you know. Lexie disagrees. Carolyn See disagrees. As do I really. In her book, Carolyn See says “Don’t write what you know, write what you care about.”

I found that interesting. And interesting to mull on.

But I still think I heard it put best like this – Don’t write what you know – write about what you Want to know.

And do the research to get you there.

Sortta similar to what she says. But feels different to me somehow. What do you think?

As she goes into in her book, like most writing students, if we just write about what we know….well, I mean really, who wants to read about sitting around waiting for guys to come bring you a new hot water heater so you can shower. Not all that important or interesting to read about, except to me, and probably the people around me perhaps. I have hot water, I have hot water……

But I’m probably stretching your patience even writing about it here, huh.

So I still like mine best. ;) I don’t remember where / who I picked it up from but it has stuck with me.

So what do you think? Better question – What do you do? Do you write what you know?

Only what you know?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Pick Up Lines and Firsts

I’m actually talking about first lines of books and queries to pick up an agent. It seems to be coming up a lot lately. From things that seem to keep appearing to read, to a brief discussion with another writer.

In Noah Lukeman’s book, The First Five Pages, A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile. He says right at the beginning of the book that really it should have been called The First Five Sentences. Since they are so critical in getting your audience hooked in, especially first hooking an agent.

As those of us who have attended the James River Writers Conferences – coming up in October if you want to check it out and come see us all – and sat through the First Pages session, aka American Idol of Writing session. Well, it doesn’t take long to realize how Critical that first page is. And according to Lukeman, how critical those first five sentences are.

And, gulp, according to something I read recently, how critical the first line is!

The First Line.

Yes, you read that correctly. Yes, it did leave me blinking a little blankly. Then I think a bit of terror set in. Then I went racing to current works-in-progress….yes, I have a couple going right now, the YA is ‘main’ one but when that gets a bit tough for me there I go over and look at couple of short stories or whatever they turn out to be, and dabble a bit on them. Whatever I can write on that will keep some kind of flow of words going. It’s been a very hot and dry summer.

I mean, like I said, from going to the James River Writers Conferences and doing a lot of research and all, I ‘knew’ the first few pages were important. Well, technically, All the pages are important, the first couple, Critical. But as you’re mired in the grit of slapping down words and trying to get them to stick to the paper….it just helps to have a remind sometimes of how important each word is. Especially when you are just starting out. Both as a writer, And your first pages / first sentences.

So, how are your first sentences going? Need to take another look at them perhaps?

And once you get your sentences in your manuscripts tight, then there’s comes the honing of the pitch line.

So, Kris, this one’s for you. ;)

Selling Books in One Line or Less

Elizabeth Bluemle

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Growing as Writers - Mingling and Meeting

It's Late, I'm in a Hurry. I admit it.
I'm still trying to figure out where all the time is going, let alone that White Rabbit. Maybe he's taking it.....hmmmm.....
But that's for another time. When there is more time. dratted Rabbit.

But one thing Everyone should spend their time on - is the gathering of yourselves together. Does anyone Ever feel comfortable being alone All the time?
I don't think that's how most people are made. Or sewn up anyway.

And one thing a Writer can be doing for themselves is mingling with other writers. As agent Chip MacGregor gives advice below. If you notice #2, #3, and even a bit of #5 if Kris and others manage to talk you into doing NaNo in November, can all be covered by being a part of James River Writers. And coming out and meeting and mingling all the great people, great writers, at Writers Wednesday, Wednesday, August 11, 2010 - that's today by the way. Later this evening but today none the less.

And while you're at it, put down the Writing Show on Thursday, August 26, 2010. Will be talking about using social media. And since that's probably not a lot of mainly-mingle-with-made-up-characters writer's strengths, thought I'd mention so you can get it on your calendar in time.

Not to mention the great James River Writers Conference, in October. So you have lots of opportunities to take the advice below, and mingle up with us.
And add to your growth as a writer.

For more information on the Writing Show, and Writers Wednesday, as well as the Conference, check out the James River Writers site -

And do check out this great advice that you should be taking ;) -

March 20, 2010

Sue wrote to me and asked, "What is the one thing I can do that would most help me grow as a writer?"

May I offer more than ONE thing, Sue?

1. Write a lot. Most writers are really wannabes -- they talk about writing a lot more than they actually write. But if you wanted to be a better pianist, would you TALK about playing the piano, or would you sit and PRACTICE? The same goes for dance, or painting, or singing, or baseball. Or writing. The best thing you can do to improve is to write more. (You want real-world advice? Set a goal of 1000 words a day, 5000 words a week, and get busy.)

2. Find experienced writers. For some, that means joining a writing group, in which you all write something and share it with each other every month. The critiques of others will hurt, but they will often help you improve. For others, that means finding a mentor -- someone who may not have hit the bestseller lists yet, but he or she is a bit further down the path than you are. A mentor can offer advice, perspective, and wisdom to help you grow. For still others, it means simply making friends with a writer who is more or less on your own level and asking him or her to be your accountability partner, reader, and sometime counselor/shrink/psychic/motivational speaker.

3. Hang out with writers. We all get better by spending time with a diverse group of people who share our interests. Here's a suggestion: If you're a novelist, consider signing up for the ACFW conference in Indianapolis this September. ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) offers some of the best training in craft outside of personal coaching or college classrooms, and spending a week with them is a great investment. If you're a nonfiction writer, consider going to one of the big summer conferences like Write to Publish at Wheaton College. You'll find good instruction, lots of friends who share your passion for writing, and one of the few remaining chances to be face-to-face with editors and agents. (And while I've taught at both of those conferences, they're not paying me anything to plug them.)

4. Read widely. Don't settle for the same stuff all the time. Introduce yourself to new, young writers. Check out a bestseller. Pick up classic books. Try your hand at Twain or Dickens or Austen. If you're a fiction writer, read a great nonfiction book (try Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm or John Krakauer's Into Thin Air). If you're a nonfiction writer, buy yourself a great novel and dig into another genre (have you read Lisa Samson's Quaker Summer yet?). Stretch your reading boundaries this summer.

5. Do one thing to improve your craft. Buy a book on writing and try the exercises. Take an online class, or sign up for a writing workshop at your local community college. Check out one of the software programs designed to help you get going on your novel. Enter a contest. Give yourself an assignment to write an article for your local paper. (If you need suggestions for books on craft, I recommend Carolyn See's Making a Literary Life, Patricia O'Connor's Words Fail Me, and Les Edgerton's Finding Your Voice.) And yes...I've recommended all of these books in the past. I'll start recommending new things tomorrow!

So get thee to a James River Writers gathering. While there's still time.

And there goes that Rabbit scurrying off with my time again......

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Hitching Down the Internet Road

The internet is an amazing thing, isn’t it? Especially for a writer. All that information right there at your tapping fingertips.

Course it’s easy to get sucked into the roaming lifestyle and just keep on truckin’ down that road. Oh look, I must stop there and take in a few of the sites. And then it becomes, oh look they are quoting interesting sites and know such interesting places, perhaps I can take just a slight detour.....

And even while you’re doing it you can hear your mamma in your head going ‘No! No! Stay away from the road! Keep away from that moving fast trucker. Or that beguiling dude in the smart looking vehicle.’ And yet, we are still tempted to take just a little peek. Or just a little minute…..

And next thing you know you’ve been alien abducted and thrown out on your computer chair hours later with no recollection of all the time loss and probably with very little memory left – but hopefully without any actually probe stuff happening. Ick. Unless you are into that sort of thing. And, uh, not that I have a prejudice thing going, but I really don’t think I wanna hear about that okay.

As a writer I have a lot of interests and things that catch my eye. Also being a woman, I am also caught by ‘oooo pretty’ ….whether from and their whimsically wonderful jewelry and accessories, to the pretty pretty wonderful shades of mineral makeup of Heather at Go over and be inspired by her new site, and her wonderful colors. They really are Amazing! You won’t believe them when you see in ‘real’ life rather than on the ‘internet road.’ And just the names she gives them will make you grin. *grin* Really [and she’s got an eye shadow clearance going on right now at $1.50 a jar!!! Amazing! I’m tellin’ you!]

If any of you have read any of my blog at all you probably notice I mention Maggie Stiefvater and her blog a whole awful lot. Well, since her recent book ‘Linger’ debuted at #1 on NYT bestseller list! If I can learn anything from her and her blog, which I always do in some form or another, then I figure it’s well spent time.

As for the other travelings ….well, let’s just say I’m trying to stay in camp for awhile and finish the YA [young adult, for those non-writers out there] novel that I am currently working on.

But if you have any great sites to see that I Really should…..then Do let me know! Maybe I can buzz over and pick you up on the way. And if we drive real fast we can maybe be back before anyone misses us…. sitting right in our own little chairs innocently working on our works-in-progress just writing away. If not maybe we’ll pass each other along the way. I’ll probably be the one wildly looking around trying not to miss anything.

Unless I’m lost and just wandering along the road. Then please stop and at least point me in the right direction. I’ve helped you out a few times here on this blog after all. At least I’ve not left you mired in your rut of writing but tried to offer assistance where I could. Turn about’s just fair play right?

See ya around somewhere? ::::hitches pants up and moseys off chewing a toothpick::: ….just kidding, I’m off to post this on my own hitching-post site. Wait, I just went from cars to horses. Figures. No wonder my site’s been in the slow lane. Ah, well, keeps us from all getting whiplash, huh?

So if you can, sit a spell, and tell me where your travels have taken you recently. I can tell you Maggie’s site is always entertaining, and often enlightening about a Lot of things – including ham-sandwich publishing.

Like I said, the road has all kinds of things.
Let me know what you find out there…..

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Improving Your Words

To go along with the ‘Tasting your words’ post, being all about improving your words and thus your writing.

Since there’s always room to improve, especially as a writer. Writer’s Digest has interesting articles Free online, such as this one on genres, and combining genres. But in the end it says, as most of us ‘seasoned’ writers, whether we are actually published right now or not, it comes down to writing a good story.

Interesting thoughts on genre and mixing genres –

The Dos & Don'ts of Combining Genres

…..what matters most: a good story…….

And if you haven’t checked out the James River Writers website lately, the annual Conference is up in detail, and accepting payment.

Some Great writers, and agents, will be there, including Jeff Vandermeer. Which if you haven’t checked out his book, Booklife - Strategies and Survival Tips for the 21st-Century Writer then you Definitely Should, there’s Great thoughts, tips, suggestions, and more.

And then come to the Conference and see what other gems he puts out there to hear.

Jeff Vandermeer - Booklife - Strategies and Survival Tips for the 21st-Century Writer

Page 201 - ….’If you’re stuck on a creative project, it might have nothing to do with having written yourself into a corner. Instead, you might need to change your process…..”

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Tasting your words

As a writer we are supposed to engage all the senses in a reader. To make the words drip from their minds as honey from their tongues, and make them feel and see, hear and taste, along with us the rich environment we are creating along with our characters.
In McKillip's book, Winter Rose, she does a pretty good job of that. I felt more engaged visually than with any of the other senses but that's okay since she did a really good job with that. I did get lost a bit sometimes in what was really, actually, going on, but it was still a good beacon to light my writing and make as many words as I can evocative and useful, in the best of ways possible. Not a bad thing, huh?
So Denise, until I can get to some of more cheerful ditty files, this one's for you. ;)

From Winter Rose by Patricia A. McKillip –

….at the end of a breathless day when the air seemed so heavy and full of molten light, everyone sweated drops of gold instead of brine…

…each evening the clouds on the horizon turned the color of bruises, or overripe plums; the air seemed to listen, as we did, for rain….

…The sky was still cloudless, but its blue had darkened; twilight rode hard behind the wind.

Summer ended between one breath and another, it seemed. One morning the first golden leaves appeared among the green. Then a tree flamed into crimson. The fields were stubbled gold, morning mists hanging over them, burned away slowly by the sun. Hot, blue summer sky slowly turned the deeper blue of autumn, as if it reflected, from another country, cold northern lakes and storms that did not touch us yet. I found great cobwebs everywhere, hung like chandeliers with prisms of dew…. Two weeks later, we stood..…while trees burned all around us against a clear sky that held within it all the shadowy blues of winter…

…Clouds of gold and red and brown sailed along the wind….

…As fast as I moved, dusk raced me there. Night’s season had begun; the days took what light was left them….

“The winter nights grow old and thin and threadbare very fast, when you’re alone.”

…This village, like the hall, echoed with past. He had come to change an echo. ….

…Outside Anis’ thick window panes the distorted sky hung low and dove’s wing-grey; the intermittent rains felt icy, and the wind had a sharp, testy mutter to it. …

…cold snow…. He molted snow as he stood at the fire…

…I found my father chewing memories and his unlit pipe beside the fire….

Friday, July 16, 2010

Hot Descriptions, Maggie Stiefvater and Fountain Bookstore

Got your attention huh.

Okay…so it’s been awhile. Haven’t had a lot of rainy thoughts, just brutally hot days. That have drained the ‘little grey’ cells down to no color at all, from all the glaring hotness out here.

And what few were perhaps hiding in some corner of shade got diluted I think from all the sweat everyone is generating these days.

It’s just hot, people! Forget the fried egg thing, what about our poor little brains!

So I’ve probably written some. But nothing I felt I could post since I depressed poor Denise with my last post she requested something cheerful. I’m not very cheerful when it’s this hot. And I figured no one really wanted to read ‘It’s hot. Damn HOT’ over and over so I have kept myself as still as possible so I wouldn’t be generating more heat. Which meant no typing. You buying that? Sigh. Yeah. So. I’ve been slacking. As far as working a whole bunch on my current YA novel in progress. I’ve written more depressing ‘ditties’ than should be posted. Or ones dealing with all the hot weather. And being depressed about it.

I have written reports and all that kind of stuff though so I haven’t slacked with any of those important duties. Well, mostly. I think I got behind on couple of emails. But they got buried in my inbox. I certainly mean to answer things in timely manner. Did I mention I don’t do all that well in this kind of heat?

I did do a small bit of reading. Yes, totally unlike ‘normal’ me, since I’m usually a ‘rabid reader’ and have to have at least one, or usually more, books going at once. So yes, I have been very affected by the heat.

I picked up a book that Katharine – with an A – recommended, from her favorite author, Patricia McKillip. [yeah, right, she’s got A favorite author like I do. snort. So it’s got to be One of her faves.] and I was taken away by the descriptions…. From Winter Rose by Patricia A. McKillip –
….at the end of a breathless day when the air seemed so heavy and full of molten light, everyone sweated drops of gold instead of brine…

Sounds a whole lot better than my, It’s hot fool Hot, huh. Well around here I don’t think I’ve even thought of anyone sweating drops of gold instead of brine but it’s a great description to aspire to huh. Writerly or not. Uh, I’m not sure I want to know any more details than that really. But check out the book for some great descriptions. I’ll have to do another post of the great descriptions that caught my eye in the book. And post them for Denise. Since I think that might be as cheerful as I’m going to get right now. Did I mention the heat?

Oh, and if you are looking for a Wonderfully written, almost lyrical, book, do Not skip Maggie Stiefvater’s book Shiver….ooo and a lot of it takes place in winter. I obviously need to read it again. But the 2nd book in that series is now out as well – Very recently. That Maggie was at Fountain Books in Richmond, Va. today personally signing and doodling in for anyone / everyone that want Maggie originals! For those who won’t be able to see the Magnifi’ Maggie in person! Maggie’s official kickoff for Linger, which is name of said 2nd book, next Tuesday the 20th in Williamsburg. But for those that aren’t lucky to see her, definitely order from Fountain Books. Haven’t gotten my copy of Linger quite yet, launch next Tues. remember, altho' I was so tempted by Fountain's Maggie visit and doodling today, so can't vouch for how cool worthy it is in any sense of cool, but I can tell you Shiver is definitely worth it. Especially if you are a writer. And it’s not set in Virginia. In summer. In this kind of miserable heat. I figured by now you know it’s Hot here in central Virginia right?

And because it’s so hot I’m doing work for you, see how nice I am.

Here’s Maggie’s site:

If you are a writer you Should also check out Maggie’s blog, Terrific info’ there!

And here’s Fountain Books: Be sure to tell Kelly ‘Hi’ They are all a great bunch of people in there they are. Not to mention most people think Kelly's hot any time of the year. ;)

Ooooo and I just noticed they are having a buy a book get a couple of galleys free this coming Sat. July 17….. Hmmm, wonder how hot it’s going to be…. Forget that, wonder if I can sneak down there, or talk patient loving husband into vicinity….. he doesn’t mind the heat anyway.

And there's Maggie doodles in books waiting...just waiting..... Uh, her books only I presume. But given her uber talent and skills I'm betting even her doodles are Magnfi' !

hmmmmm, off to plot and scheme...and fan....

Monday, June 14, 2010

Rainy thoughts and brutal days

Rainy moments on a brutal hot day

Should refresh us

Should remind us of all that is good

In the world. In our world.

But do rainy thoughts really work that way

Or just remind us of how parched we are

In a beautifully cruel sun struck way

Leave us awaiting the dark cool days that come our way

And appreciating them for what they are

Perhaps some days

Perhaps some day

[sc 6.14.2010]

Can you bleed to death from paper cuts?

The ones that have cut at your soul

Ones that have cut into your heart more than you can possibly know

Then one day you see something that presses at the wound again

And you begin to bleed, all over again.

[sc 6.13.2010]

The rain beats upon the earth

Shattering the drops with force

Tearing at the cracks

Forced upon the world

Arid and dry

Beat upon

By relentless sun

But does being what it is

Doing what it does

Make it cruel

Make it more than what it is

[sc 6.10.2010]

The rain falls hard against the window

Lashing against the world it falls

Lashing against my world

Tell me, can you withstand the force it brings

Without getting wet

Without getting soaked

Without the crashing at your heart and soul

We know the sun always comes at some point

Tell me, is it enough

To dry the deluge that’s fallen

Is it enough

Is it ever enough

[sc 6.12.2010]

The moments of our lives

Spread out as pearls in our hand

Silken knots holding them together

As heartbeats hold our days.

More fragile, tenuous, and precious

Than our busy lives comprehend

Or want to face perhaps

Until a knot unspools or breaks

Leaving jewels spilling thro’ our hands

Unable to grasp them back

Not realizing the preciousness

Until they were spread out around us and rolling away

[sc 6.10.2010]