Friday, July 29, 2011

Quotes and Cookies: Waiter or Writer?

“If you wait for inspiration, you're not a writer, but a waiter.”

Lately it feels like I’ve set up my tent and pounded in the stakes in Waiter’s Camp. I’ve been hanging out, sitting in my camp chair, looking longingly across the lake at the Writer’s Camp. Sure, I’ve been revising and blog building, but still. It's nothing like what goes on over there in Writer's Camp!

Even from this far back, I can see that they are having SO MUCH FUN. I remember living there myself and having SO MUCH FUN. I remember the excitement and the drive that makes you want to eek out every second of writing time possible. I remember the thrill of creating something that didn't exist before. I remember being so in love with what was happening in my story that I couldn't stop thinking about it.

I miss it there.

That’s it. I am pulling up stakes and moving back to Writer's Camp. Who’s with me? And who's already there?

I'll bring the cookies.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Early Warning

My parents made us go to bed WAY too early.

Not that I blame them. There were six of us, and the brother just older than me and the one just younger than me were certifiable geniuses / mischievous / full of ideas and energy. I can’t think of many more exhausting-to-parent combinations.

Or one more interesting and fun! Because lemme tell you– my childhood was nothing if not interesting and fun.

So my parents sent us all to bed on weeknights at 8:00. Of course we couldn’t go to SLEEP then. We snuck outside in the snow barefooted to dance in the light of the dining room light where my parents sat working on their own projects, unable to see us through the mirror the window became. Or we snuck into each other’s rooms and created gadgets, or painted things, or played games. All in silence so we wouldn’t get caught. I mean we were GOOD.

But my parents would randomly check on us. When I was in fourth grade and my brother was in sixth, he created an “Early Warning System.” He ran electrical wire along the ceiling the full length of the long hall that lead to all of our rooms, and wired two lights above each of our doors, one red and one green. My brother’s room was right next to the stairs, so he was the first to know if my parents were coming. He'd flip the switch that changed the lights from green to red, and we’d all scramble to our own rooms and fake asleep. (We were good at that, too.) Sometimes he’d hear a creak at the top of the stairs and switch the lights to red and we’d scramble, but it turned out to be nothing— my parents weren’t actually coming. Most of the time, though, there weren’t false alarms.

As writers, we have our own early warning system! We usually call them critique groups or critique partners. When there are things that are going to get us in trouble, they’re the ones who are going to warn us. Sure, there can be false alarms! Especially if we submit to them chapter by chapter, with very much time in between submitting. But for the most part, a great group / partners will let us know that if we continue doing what we’re doing, it’s going to land us into trouble before the end.

My critique group? I consider them lifesavers. There are lots of ways groups can work. We submit a chapter a week and meet together, because that’s what works for us. There are so many times their comments on one chapter tell me I need to tweak the next chapter before I even send it to them.

I think critique groups are invaluable. Irreplaceable. Worth their weight in gold.

How do you feel about critiques? Do you welcome them? Fear them? Have a great group or partners? Wish you had different partners? But more importantly, how do you feel about mischievous geniuses?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

On time, early, or just plain late

There are people who query too soon and there are people that query too late. Let’s face it: both are bad. It’s all about querying at exactly the right time.

For some people, the excitement of the project gets them querying too soon. And how fun is it to rein in that excitement? Psht. Not nearly as fun as letting it roam free!

Others (*cough*ME*cough*) want to be completely prepared before querying. When you make a goal to constantly learn and improve your craft, it kind of also means that you can constantly do another round of revisions and apply what you’ve learned. If YOU are always getting better, you can always make YOUR BOOK better. Same goes with the query and the synopsis. Plus there’s platform. Agents like platform. Maybe you should spend more time on that...

So there’s this little dude on one shoulder. He says, “You don’t want to waste that ONE CHANCE you get to query an agent! What if the agent most perfect for you— the one who would totally get your book and be able to get it into the hands of the perfect editor— passes because even though it was SO CLOSE, it wasn’t all the way there?”

And you say, “I know, right?”

Then the dude on the other shoulder says, “Come on already! What are you waiting for? The stars to align? All the fear of not being 100% ready to just disappear? Someone to kick you in the hind end? YOU have to kick you in the hind end!”

You sigh and say, “I know, right?”

Have you ever felt that way? Where do you stand— haven’t queried yet, queried early, queried late, or queried right on time?

Got any fears? Gems of wisdom? Please share!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I’ve Got a Theory: What We Call Ourselves

I work at my kids’ school. When I first started a few years ago, I chatted with the principal about writing, and she told me about a couple teachers who also wrote. I already knew about one, but not the other. And she had even been my son’s teacher! I walked into the hall, saw her ahead, and raced up to her.

“Hey, I heard you’re a writer!” I said.

Had she a mouth full of soda, I’d have been wearing it. Since she didn’t, she mostly just choked on her own saliva.

“What?!” she spurted. “No! I mean, I like to write, but I’m not a writer.”

And that’s when I came up with my theory about the hierarchy of how we refer to ourselves.

Level 1: I like to write. This is where you discover that you really do like to create stories! For some people, it happens in kindergarten and never goes away. For others (like me), it might happen somewhere around the time your youngest child starts kindergarten. For others, it might happen when you have a grandkid start kindergarten. (There must be something magical about kindergarten....) This is the stage where you tell yourself and possibly the people close to you that you like to write, but you aren’t about to go around wearing your “I like to write!” pin.

Level 2: I am a writer. You reach this stage the moment you decide you want to take this hobby of yours to a professional level. The moment you decide you want to be published. Whether you announce it to the world, or you haven’t even brought yourself to utter the words to your significant other, you’ve decided you are a writer. Kinda like a job title. Or a Part-of-Who-I-Am title.

Level 3: I am an author. You reach this stage when you get your first book deal or when you self-publish. It’s the stage where you can say, I like to write, I am a writer, and I get paid for it.

(There’s lots of other levels, of course. Things like Best Selling Author, Author of over [insert number here] books, Author with a rabidly loyal fan base, Author with a loyal publisher, Author with over [insert number here] copies in print, New York Times Best Selling Author, New York Times #1 Best Selling Author. Author who can keep up with the laundry. Author with the most wickedly cool hair.)

So what about you? Which level are you on? Are you fine staying right where you’re at, or are you shooting for the next level up?

Monday, July 25, 2011

When Insanity Works

I once heard insanity defined as this:

Insanity is when you do the same thing over and over, and expect different results each time.

Which, if you think about it, is a pretty good definition. Most people would agree if you put a piece of bread in a toaster set to 5 and it burned it, you’d get exactly the same results if you put another piece of bread in a toaster set to 5, right? To expect that it wouldn’t burn the second time (or the third or fourth or twentieth) would be.... well, insane.

Based on this, I have come to an undeniable conclusion:

Writers Are Insane.

Now come on. That doesn’t really surprise you, right? I’m sure we’ve all thought “What am I, insane?” more than once. After all, we beg voices in our heads to talk with us! And then we act like they're real people! And then we torture them!

But face it. When it comes to querying, THAT’S when we really fit the definition of insane.

We research yet another agent, decide this agent is our PERFECT MATCH, and send out a query. We fully expect them to read it, email back within minutes saying they can’t live another second without seeing pages, that they must have the full to find out what happens next before they die, and that they must be our agent.

And when we get a no to our query or our pages or our manuscript, we start all over again. We research again, find the agent that is THE PERFECT MATCH...  and once again, we expect different results.
Insane, right?

Except it’s not. In fact, as writers we don’t even refer to it as insanity, we refer to it as PERSISTENCE.

And that little thing that makes us believe that THIS TIME it’ll be different? That’s called hope. Ironically, it’s also what keeps us SANE.

So anyone outside of the writing world? Go ahead and call us insane! We just happen to be masters at internal editing, and we’ll automatically replace the word with persistent. Because we’re cool like that.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Quotes and Cookies: The small thing

We went [scratch, scratch] camping on a family reunion [scratch, scratch] last weekend, and lemme tell you, [scratch, scratch] this quote made me laugh loudly.

“If you think that something small cannot make a difference, try going to sleep with a mosquito in the room.”
Of course there is so much more to the quote than the constant itch of bites that cover every single part of your legs.

The “small thing” the quote referred to can be the details in your story that make it feel like the world and the people actually exist.

It can refer to the small choices your characters make that propel them toward the main conflict.

It can refer to things like sentence structure and grammar that help draw people into your story.

It can refer to the small things you learn along the way that help you perfect your craft to the point that you are publishable or more widely read.

It can refer to the small amounts of time you come across that don’t seem like much, but over time can mean you finish that novel. You finish those revisions. You write that query. You finish researching agents.

It can refer to the things you tell yourself daily that convince you that you can do this. You can work hard, sacrifice, make time, constantly learn, make it work. You want this. You can fight for this.

You will fight for this.

Those small things, added together, mean that WE CAN DO THIS! So grab a cookie, and let’s get going!!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Off to Feed the Monster

So... A couple of days ago, I did a post about how a little monster in your head goes crazy if you don't feed him the Valium that is created when you expend creative energy.

I went to bed last night with my head aching, so I peeked inside. Guess what I saw? A red blur with accompanied by banging and and yelling and things crashing, with random things melted and / or glued together left in it's wake.

I yelled over the noise, "What's going on in there?"

My little monster said in a maniacal, crazy, hyper voice, "I NEED MY VALIUM!"

Now, instead of being cute and green with a hint of mischievousness lying right below the surface, he looks* like this --->

I think I better work on making him better today.

Since I'm not offering anything of any substance today, I thought I'd offer you this, JUST BECAUSE IT LOOKS COOL.

Have a great day, everyone! I hope you all get a chance to give your monster a little Valium.

*And thanks to my husband who, in anticipation of my needing it, made I NEED MY VALIUM monster. Isn't he the best?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Revising is like bedroom closets

I watched the show Hoarders for the first time a few days ago. Have you seen it? Oh my gosh, that show makes me want to cry! And then hyperventilate from the claustrophobia. And then empty my house of every single thing not required to live.

On the show, the lady's house was actually even worse than this one! She had to be pretty close to the ceiling as she was climbing over things.

Doesn't it make you start looking for escape routes? Obviously keeping every cool thing you come across isn't a good idea.

Which brings me to what I'm really talking about. Drafting is like bedroom closets.

When you're drafting, you come across so many cool things! Things you pick up that you want to take home and include in your own manuscript. Like things that happened to your main character. Sure it happened before the story started, but they shaped WHO THE CHARACTER IS. Some are cool things in the setting. Sure they don't move the plot forward, but THEY ARE JUST SO INTERESTING. Sometimes it's a subplot that went in a direction you weren't even expecting, and you ran with it because it was SO MUCH FUN. Sometimes you see a character in a movie or in a book that so enthralled you, you want a character with some of those traits in your book too. Sure, developing them has eaten a lot of words and isn't integral to the plot, but YOU LOVE THEM.

And doing all of that is PERFECTLY FINE. Really. Because during that "bring stuff home" phase, you might discover that element of your story that is the equivalent to the perfect pair of jeans that you don't think your wardrobe could live without.

It's really okay to have a draft that looks like this closet.

But let's face it: it can't stay that way. Readers will start looking for escape routes. That closet needs cleaned and organized.

Which brings me to my actual point. Revising is also like bedroom closets.

Have you ever stood in front of your bedroom closet and thought I have nothing to wear, even though there were tons of clothes in there? Sometimes there is so much STUFF, you can hardly see what's good. If you go through and toss anything that doesn't HAVE to be in there, then suddenly you feel like you can breathe again AND see what you really have to work with. It isn't hidden behind a bunch of stuff that may or may not have been cool, but is nonetheless adding in a positive way to your wardrobe.

Same goes for manuscripts. If there is so much extra stuff in it, regardless of how awesome it is, it can make it hard to see the plot. It clutters the story. It hides the truly good parts.

And then when all of the extra is gone, you can take a good look at the closet and think, No wonder I felt like I had nothing to wear. I only have two skirts! I don't have many dress shirts! I need a new pair of pants!

And just as easily, when you look at a manuscript without any clutter, you can see I need more description here! This plot turn would be stronger if I built up the opposite emotion right before it! My character just did something he/she had no motivation to do! You'll actually be able to SEE what changes need to be made.

And in the end you'll be left with a manuscript that the equivalent of a closet you can't stop staring at because everything in it's so darn perfect.

Happy revising everyone!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I’ve Got a Theory: Expending Creative Energy

My theory can be summed up in a single sentence. Are you ready for it? Here goes.

If you don’t expend creative energy, BAD THINGS HAPPEN.

Mark my words. BAD. THINGS.

Of course creative energy can be expended in a million different ways. Writing, drawing, photography, graphic design, creating things with your hands. Heck, even finding solutions to organization problems or coming up with really cool math problems. (Oh my gosh. I did technical support for spreadsheet software for a few years and I wrote some paragraph-long formulas that had the power to make me float for days. DAYS, I tell you!)

It wasn’t until I cashed in every single one of my creative outlets for writing that I realized the full effect of creative energy expenditure. You know, sometimes life gets busy. And you don’t have time to write (or whatever your favorite method is). And that’s when the bad things happen.

You see, there’s this thing that lives in your brain. He’s a maniacal, crazy, hyper little monster, and doing creative things is like Valium to him. When he doesn't get his Valium, he goes wild. Wild like a nine year old ADHD kid hopped up on mass amounts of sugar, Dr. Pepper, and red dye #40. He runs around your brain and beats on the walls and yells and jumps and throws things, and it takes EVERY OUNCE OF PATIENCE TO HANDLE THE CHAOS ENSUING.

And the thing is, you don't even realize it's going on. You don't realize that you have spent every bit of your patience until something else comes along. Any tiny little thing, really. And suddenly you can't handle it. And you don't even know why, because it's such a teeny little thing. Of course you should be able to handle it just fine! But you don't.

See? These are very bad things.

I swear to you, if you ever feel this way, you can look back and say, "Wow. When was the last time I did something creative?"

And you'll hear the answer in a maniacal, crazy, hyper voice. "Forever ago! I NEED MY VALIUM!"

If you go and expend ANY kind of creative energy (but preferably the kind you've been most craving), then the BAD THINGS DISAPPEAR. Like magic.

So go be creative! Write! Draw! Make cool math problems! Then everything will come up roses again. I promise.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Quotes and Chocolate Frogs: Amuse Yourself

Happy Harry Potter Day!

Because today is the opening day of the final Harry Potter movie, it only seems right to have a quote from J.K. Rowling! This is so simple, yet can be applied most universally to writing.

“I just write what I wanted to write. I write what amuses me. It’s totally for myself.”

~J. K. Rowling

If you don’t love what you write, the masses aren’t likely to either. Plus, if it amuses you, you get the added bonus of having a blast writing! And people will have a blast reading. Unless, of course, you’re very easily amused. Then uh.... I don’t know. Maybe don’t be amused so easily?

And since it’s J.K., we can have a second quote, right? Of course we can! We’ll do this one just because it’s SO DARN FUNNY.

“Death’s got an Invisibility Cloak?” Harry interrupted again.
“So he can sneak up on people,” said Ron.
“Sometimes he gets bored of running at them, flapping his arms and shrieking...”

~J. K. Rowling (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)

And because it’s only appropriate, instead of having cookies today, how about we share a chocolate frog?

So have you been to see Harry Potter yet? Hubby and I and a bunch of friends went to the 12:30am showing, so I crawled into bed at about three am. I’m [yawn] wow. A little tired this morning. But IT WAS TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY WORTH IT!!

Have you seen the last Harry Potter yet? If not, do you have tickets?

And if you’ve already seen it, WHAT DID YOU THINK?! What was your favorite part? I’m dying to know.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Wasn’t that the bell?

Kind of like this boy. Although I wasn't a boy. I'm still not a boy.
Normally I loved school. But one day I sat in my fifth grade classroom with my mind a million miles away, thoroughly unable to concentrate. Maybe I had spring fever. Or ants in my pants. Or just sick-of-school-itis. Whatever it was, I didn't think I could stay in my seat for another second, and that's when the bell finally rang.

Ahh. I had made it! I ran to the coat racks, yanked my backpack off the hook, and nearly ran outside. (Except I didn't run because running is against the rules!) On the way out, my friend Amber said, “Hey, do you want to play a game of four square?”

I thought two things. First, No way! I am so done with this day! I’m outta here! Second, How is she going to have time to play? She rides the bus home! I muttered a “No, thanks,” and headed to the nearest door outside, which was also the door to the playground.

What I saw when I pushed the door open baffled me. I stood and stared as not only my class, but the entire fifth and sixth grade was playing! Why weren’t they going home?! Was there some kind of planned after school event that I had somehow missed hearing about? Was it just THAT nice of a day that everyone felt like they just HAD to stay and play longer?

It took a minute to realize that the bell I thought meant school was out was really just the bell to go to recess. I thought I’d finally finished, but I STILL HAD MORE SCHOOL DAY AHEAD OF ME. As I stood there holding my backpack, ready to bolt for the exit, I wasn’t sure I could handle walking back into school when recess was over.

Tell me you've done that before. Us confused recess kids have to stick together! What? Some of you haven't had to explain why you took your backpack out to recess? Oh. Did you do like I did and just hid your backpack in an alcove and waited until school was actually over to retrieve it? Good thinking.

I thought I was done with my last book. Completely ready to query and send off to any agent who asked for it. I mean I had gone through nine full revisions! It had been beta read by so many great people! I felt like it really rocked! Then a few things happened at nearly the same time, involving a really tough critique, several “how did I not realize that before!” suggestions, and me finally figuring out how to incorporate those first few chapter descriptions more effectively.

I realized that for my book the bell hadn’t rung to go home! I still had work to do! My book was really good.... but it wasn’t great yet. And if I want the absolute best chances of getting published, I have to go for great, even if it means heading back in again.

Heading back into school in fifth grade didn’t exactly KILL me, even if I thought it might. I mean I actually made it through the rest of the day unscathed! I know. It surprised me, too. So I guess if that didn't kill me, then this won't, either.

So what do you do when you need to talk yourself into facing work you thought was already done?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A THANK YOU Blog(k) Party

Today is my four-week blog-iversary. And it happens to fall on the exact very middle of summer vacation. We should have a block party!

Er-- I mean "blogk" party.

Not because of the anniversary or the middle of summer thing, though. It's because I want to say,


Thank you so much to everyone who reads, comments, and/or follows my blog, and those who have linked to my blog. You guys all seriously rock my world!

When I rub the sleep out of my eyes, click on this blog, and see all your smiling faces over there --->  it totally makes my day.

So come on over and grab a balloon!

Eat some cotton candy! Come on. You know you want to. Everybody's doing it. Plus, it makes you feel young again!

Have some candy! If for no other reason than because THEY ARE SO DARN COOL LOOKING. And um good tasting. Yes. I'm sure they taste every bit as good as they look. How could they not when they went to so much trouble as to put the little Lego logo on the top of each little poker-up?

And have some pizza to attempt to counteract the sugar high!

Then hang out and watch the jugglers. Trust me-- they're amazing.

And then accept the sincerest thank you from the very bottom of my heart. I love you guys!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I’ve Got a Theory: Everything you need to know about becoming better at something, you can learn at the skate park.

I took my nine-year-old daughter to the skate park on Friday. She’s not a very experienced skateboarder, but as I watched her summon her courage and skate with 30 boys who were way bigger and way more experienced than her, I realized how skateboarding is pretty much like everything else you try— mental or physical.

Whether the hobby/talent/sport/interest you have is purely for fun and enjoyment, or if you’re doing it with the goal of rising to a professional level, you still have to start at the beginning, learn lots, and make a lot of mistakes.

So here you go. My list of universal truths learned at the skate park:

  • It takes guts to run with the big boys. A lot of guts. You can totally feel like a poser. Like you’ve got no business being there when you aren’t as good as everyone else. But guess what? Those are the people you learn the most from.
  • You can’t stay down on the ground when you fall. You have to pick yourself up a lot, because you WILL find yourself down on the ground a lot.
  • The bigger the risk the higher chance of getting hurt when you fall. Also, the bigger chance of doing something really cool.
  • If you finally stop watching at the sidelines and actually start to DO, you have so much more fun. And then you’ll want to keep doing it again and again.
  • You’ll probably get hurt. Expect to, and expect that you’ll handle it fine, and you will.
  • There’s a community there.
  • Even when you master something you’ve been working hard on, there are still a million more things to master.
  • Ten year old girls should NOT wear heavy black eyeliner.
  • When you stop to notice, you’ll see that EVERYONE crashes and burns– even the people who look like pros. And it makes your crashes and burns less painful.

And another little gem from my daughter herself:

Daughter: “I don’t think I’m experienced enough to do that.”
Me: “And how do you get experienced enough?”
Daughter: “You fall down a lot. I think I need to go fall down some more.”

Happy Tuesday! And may all your crashes and burns be ones you can pick yourself up from.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sorry, kids. You can’t be ANYTHING you want to be.

Did you know they just launched the space shuttle for the LAST TIME EVER? Isn’t that about the saddest thing you’ve ever heard? When I read the news, I turned to my kids and said, “Sorry. You can’t be an astronaut when you grow up. President, sure. But astronaut? Nope.”

I read and read and read the article before I found out the reason why. (Seriously? You put the reason why 1,019 words into the story? We don’t all watch the news and know this stuff already. Some of us rely on interesting / important bits to show up on msn’s home page. Just sayin.’)

If you don’t watch the news either, I’ll fill you in. (And only 127 words into this post, because I’m cool like that.) They decided to stop spending money on space shuttles, because they are putting it all toward spaceSHIPS. As in explore-beyond-Earth-orbit vehicles. No longer will we be sending man to the moon; we’ll be SENDING MAN TO MARS. Not kidding! Sadly, there won’t be any astronauts going into space for 14 or so years, but kids will eventually get to be astronauts again! In OUTER outer space!

I love science fiction. I love that back in the day of the original Star Trek, we saw Spock talking into something like a a flip phone. Fast forward 25 years, and BAM! You could see Spock talking into a flip phone in real life. (Well, assuming you were somewhere Spock was. And that he had need to call someone right then.)

Or that you could see a movie where someone picked up an unbelievably flat screen, and accessed the computer by touching the screen and moving things around with their fingers and BAM! We have iPads.

The way technology and science fiction mingle always amazes me. How does that work? I want to know what you think.

Are a) science fiction writers just THAT good at predicting future technology?

Or b) do science fiction writers inspire future technology?

But more importantly, are you as excited as I am that there will be a future generation of astronauts that will actually step foot on ANOTHER PLANET?!

Photos courtesy


Friday, July 8, 2011

Quotes and Cookies: Achievement and Success

“My mother drew a distinction between achievement and success. She said that achievement is the knowledge that you have studied and worked hard and done the best that is in you. Success is being praised by others, and that's nice, too, but not as important or satisfying. Always aim for achievement and forget about success.”

~Helen Hayes

I love this, because you have a lot more control over achievements than you do success. It largely depends on how much you want something, how focused you are, and how hard you are willing to work toward it.

Helen Hayes was an actress with a 70 year career. And she was one of only twelve people ever (!) to win an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony. So I say if she kept everything in perspective by keeping her focus on achievements instead of success, then it must work pretty darn well.

And I think Helen Hayes’ mother must’ve been one smart lady.

Hm. I say we eat Banana Walnut Chocolate Chip cookies today, if for no other reason than they are making my mouth water! Raise yours high into the air-- here’s to recognizing the distinction between achievement and success!

Happy Friday, everyone.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The bane that is the girly-girl dress

I have never been a girly-girl. Despite that, my mom took me shopping for a dress as a Christmas present one year, and I fell head-over-heels in love with a girly-girl dress with lots of fluffy layers. The kind that was gathered so much at the waist that when you spun in circles, IT WENT STRAIGHT OUT.

Not long after Christmas, my sixth grade teacher announced that we were going on a field trip to watch the symphony, and that we’d all have to wear our Sunday best. Yes!! Everyone would get to see my fabulous dress!

We went to the symphony and I felt like a princess. It felt weird and not entirely like me, but kinda nice, too.

Then we came back for a regular last-half of the school day. I sat down at my desk, and the the blasted layers grabbed hold of the top of the chair and stayed there! Unbeknownst to me, as I sat down, my unders showed through the cutout in the back of the chair. A little window to display things not meant to be displayed.

To make matters worse, the kid behind me passed around a note.

The note made it through three rows of kids before my bff wadded it up and left her seat without permission to come tell me I had exposed myself to the class.

In high school, I didn’t write. I was too afraid of being exposed to the world. Afraid that someone would read it, think that I was really writing about myself, and judge ME accordingly. Just like with the unders, I worried that even when I didn’t mean to, I’d expose things about myself I didn’t want exposed.

I don’t know when that changed for me. Maybe after reading enough books, especially different books by the same author, and saw how different the characters were from each other. Or maybe I realized that writers write main characters they LOVE, but not necessarily ones they ARE or ones they are dying to BE. Or maybe I just got more comfortable with who I am.

Either way, the I'm going to be exposed! feeling isn't there anymore. Sure, whatever I write will show my tastes, and the good characters will have traits that I love in people, but I guess those just aren’t underwear exposing kinds of things to me.

So what about you? Does being scared hold you back from things? (I mean being scared of the figurative "being exposed," not the literal. I totally understand about the literal.) Has it ever? Or how did you get over it?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wise, Wiser, Wiser Still

Last SATURDAY, my niece's facebook status said something like this:

I walked to the high school to watch the fireworks and took my keys out because they were hurting my butt, and I just left them there. I didn't realize it until I walked all the way back to my car!                           Also, I'm super cool.

(Okay, that last sentence I may have added.)

So... guess what I did on MONDAY.

Gosh, you're a good guesser.

I walked with my family to the junior high to watch the fireworks (and ooh-ed and aah-ed like crazy because the lights were so pretty!), took my keys out of my pocket so I wouldn't have to sit on them, and LEFT THEM IN THE GRASS. Then, we walked ALL the way back to the car (and let me tell you. It was an ALL THE WAY kind of walk.) before I realized my keys were still back on the dark hillside, hiding in the grass.

How does that quote go? Something like: A wise man learns from his mistakes, but a wiser man learns from the mistakes of others.

So I guess I'm not a wiser man. But I also came out of the experience not feeling like a particularly wise man, either.

Plus, I think there should be more added to that quote.

“And wiser still is the one who learns not only from mistakes, but from what others DO WELL."

You know how it is— when you’re reading someone else’s book, it’s easy to see what they did wrong. Where they could have changed to make it better / stronger / more interesting. Especially when you are in edit mode yourself! Heck, you can even see how they could have worded individual lines better.

But it takes a lot more work to slow down and think, “Wow. That was an excellent description,” and then to look at it more closely to see what about it made it so great. Or to notice when a new character stepped onto the page, and you got who they were in just a couple of lines. Or when you feel like you were just transported into that setting so effectively and completely. It might mean reading a lot more slowly. Getting through less books.

But becoming wiser still by learning from what others do well is much more effective than learning from your own mistakes.

And if anyone ever asks me, “Why does it take you so long to read a book?” that’s totally the reason I’m going to give.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I've Got a Theory: Super Powers

I have a theory that EVERYONE has at least one Super Power.

And there are about a billion different super powers. I know people with Super Powers like being a baby whisperer, or having a massive aura of happiness, or magically making everything clean and organized, or to combine colors beautifully, or to remember everything read, or to STOP TIME. (I know. Jealous.) I even have a friend that has a Super Power for developing talents.

My point? There are LOTS of different kinds of Super Powers, and they are POWERFUL. (Otherwise, they wouldn't be called Super Powers. They'd be called LTICD. Lame Things I Can Do.)

My other point? That it's important to recognize your Super Power(s) and to appreciate them. Because if you're not grateful... Well, I have this other theory that says they'll go away.

Oh, and my other point is to use them. That's why you have them.

Have I ever mentioned how much I love fortune cookies? No?! Let's just say I don't think I could ever tire of reading fortune cookie fortunes. Super Powers are like that, too. I'LL NEVER TIRE OF HEARING ABOUT THEM. 

So... I'll tell you my Super Power if you tell me yours! I'll even illustrate mine. But you don't have to illustrate yours, because that's kinda hard to do in the comments.

Okay. So, everyone has this switch in their brain. When it's time to go to bed, you turn the switch off, and you go to sleep, right?

Easy as pie.
Except for one problem. The switch is at the VERY BACK of your brain.
And there's all this STUFF in the way. Things that you've stuck in your brain to worry about, and it's blocking your path. Family stuff, weeds in the flower beds, the leaky faucet, the to-do list, work / school, money issues, that book you've been reading, and that book you've been writing that you can't figure out / can't stop thinking about.

And that switch seems SO FAR AWAY. So you stop at each thing, and say in your most soothing voice, "Shh. Quiet down. It's time to go to bed now."

Except those little things are like two-year-olds, and they are anything BUT good at quieting down and going to bed. And there's always one or two that have eaten MORE SUGAR than a two-year-old should EVER have, so it's running around, jumping up and down, yelling "PAY ATTENTION TO ME!" and it keeps getting between you and the switch, and hours later, you're exhausted and hoarse, and you think you might die if the sugar high doesn't wear off soon. 

Deep breath.

Here's where my Super Power comes in. I have incredible leaping abilities! I'm even graceful. (See picture below for proof.) With my leaping powers, I can leap over all thoughts vying for my attention, and land RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE SWITCH.

And I can turn it off in under TWO MINUTES. I'm not kidding. See that little space under your desk? Give me a pillow and two minutes, and I can fall asleep even there. 

Pretty powerful, right?
Unless I'm trying to stay awake for a bit to work out the next scene I need to write, I love my Super Power.

So now it's your turn! Tell me. What's your Super Power?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy F6 on the Fourth!


6 Fs on the fourth!
Gosh, I love Independence Day.
And I love my country.
And I am so grateful to all those who have kept us free in the past, and those who keep us free today. Thank you, thank you!!

I was going to leave you with a picture of some fantastic fireworks, but instead I'm going to show you something EVEN MORE INCREDIBLE. Isn't this seriuosly the coolest Fourth of July cake you've EVER seen?
Happy Independence Day, everyone!! I hope your day totally rocks.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Quotes and Cookies: Excellent Rewriter

The first time I read this quote, I was in love. 

"I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter."

~James Michener

I love that it gives you permission to not try to make the first draft perfect.

And I love it because I LOVE revising. It's my favorite part of writing, because it can turn an okay story into a good story. The next round of revisions, can turn it from good to great. Another pass, and it can go from great to superb. Another and it can go to exceptional. Every single time through gets more and more exciting, because the story gets more and more exciting!

Ahh. Revising is my bff. I love it.

In honor of revising, let's have cookies! Nice crispy outside, squishy inside cookies. Cheers!
How about you? Do you love revising, or are you an excellent writer to start with?