Monday, October 31, 2011


Laying in bed while my rested brain ran fast,
An entire plot formed, without being asked!

Two armies face off as they stand toe to toe
One is intimidating; the other decidedly less so
Both sides are determined to take home the prize
They glance at their resources and let out battle cries

A ghost steps forward, covered in a white sheet
A man-sized bag of jelly beans knows he might be beat
The ghost’s smugness changes when the first foam bean flew
And he realizes his non-corporealness just wasn’t true

A witch steps out next, with warts and a green face
A sumo wrestler lumbers away when she gives chase
When she stabs her broom in his back, things go amiss
His massive girth deflates as air escapes with a hiss.

Dracula steps forward with blood dried on his chin
Faces Justin Bieber; his pointy teeth show through his grin
Mouth to neck, an anguished “Plastic teeth can’t cut!” Dracula cries
A flip of JB’s hair and baby, baby, baby, Dracula got it in the eyes

Classic scaries and dress-up cleverness both collide,
On a battlefield where simple props can turn the tide...

*Stretch. Yawn. Smack, smack.*


Okay... it’s entirely possible that plotting just isn’t sane
On Halloween morning, with a post-sugar high brain.

Happy Halloween!                         

P.S. If you would like to join us for NaNoReviMo (where we REVISE for the month of November instead of draft) and you haven't already "signed up," go on over to the Revising? post and let me know.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Quotes and Cookies: No Time to Read

I am totally inspired by how many of your blogs I've read lately where you talk about all the books you've been reading before NaNo starts (or just because you love reading). Between that and the fact that it's almost Halloween, and Stephen King and Halloween go hand-in-hand in my mind, I thought I'd offer this little gem as today's quote:

"If you don't have the time to read, you don't have
the time or the tools to write."

~ Stephen King

Have you ever gone a bit without reading, and find that it is SO MUCH HARDER to be inspired when you're writing? That your sentences just don't sound as well written? That ideas just don't come as easily? That your descriptions just aren't right? I find when I'm struggling like that, it usually means I haven't been reading enough.

Which, really, as far as problems go, fixing that one is fun! How cool is it to be a writer? We get automatic EXTRA EXCUSES to read! What could be better than that?

Photo Credit

Have a wonderful goblin-filled, ghost-spooked, ghoul-packed weekend, everyone!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Suffering from N.E.T.S.

Oh, my gosh. You guys totally killed me in the comments yesterday! You're all a hoot. (See what I did there? A hoot?) Thanks for playing! I absolutely love hearing about the ways we work differently and the ways we work the same. After deciphering the results to the best of my ability, as of posting, there are 14 of us who are Larks, 13 of us who are Night Owls, 4 that are daytime only, and 6 that are neither. And a whole heck of a lot of us who may be one or the other, but tend to write during the middle of the day more. I love the way Lan put it--- Worker Bees. :) And several that are working against their preferred time.  Interesting stuff!

Now on to the serious stuff.

Sadly, it seems I have come down with an severe case of NETS.

No, not that kind of NETS.

No, not that kind, either.

The kind of NETS I'm talking about is Not Enough Time Syndrome. I'm guessing I'm not the only one suffering, either. Probably 99% of us have it from it to one degree or another. As much as I wish this were going to be a post about how to overcome NETS, I'm sad to say it isn't. I haven't quite gotten it figured out myself. In fact, if you looked at this past week alone, I'd say I've THE OPPOSITE OF figured it out.

So what about you? Have you figured out any great ways to be more efficient with your writing? Blogging? Blog visiting? How about tricks to do all those NON-WRITING things we do? What things do you skip when you feel a time crunch?

Give me a suggestion, and I'll love you forever. Wait, what? I already love you forever? Okay, I'll up it: I'll love you forever AND I'll think of you fondly while I'm implementing your great suggestions. Who knows? Maybe I'll even do a post with some tips I thought were particularly helpful and link back to you.

And if you don't have any ideas but want to commiserate, I AM HERE FOR YOU. (But only until tomorrow. At that point, we are going to FIX everything so we no longer have N.E.T.S. Deal?)

Have a great day! And best of luck to everyone in recovering from however badly you're suffering from NETS.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Way We Are: Lark or Owl?

Many thanks, LindaK from Excuse Me While I Note That Down, for the Versatile Blogger award!

Once upon a time, there was a girl. We'll call her "Peggy." She hated to go to bed at night. Her kids were all short sleepers, and never seemed to require much more sleep than she did herself. When they all finally lay nestled in her bed at the end of the day, Peggy was SO READY to accomplish all the things she couldn't seem to manage to accomplish during the day.

She became a night owl. In the dark of the night, all things seemed within reach.

Then one day, Peggy became a writer. She traded in all the things she used to get done after her kids went to bed at night for writing.

And all was well.

Until one day when Peggy realized that her brain actually goes into hibernate mode as soon as the kiddies are tucked in. The product of those late nights tended to be worthy only of the virtual trash heap of deleted words.

So Peggy decided that maybe, just maybe, being a night owl wasn't the most effective way to squeeze more time out of the day. So three months ago she decided to give being a Lark a try and started waking up at 5:45 a.m. She found that a fresh brain works much better for her than an end-of-the-day one.

(Now if we could only convince her that she can't be both a Lark AND a Night Owl...)

After sharing a room at a conference with a girl who stayed up writing into the wee hours of the morning while the rest of the hotel roommates slumbered, the girl Peggy wondered about the way writers are. Of course, writers have to grab time from wherever they can find it, but surely there is a time of day when each writer's brain works better and more efficiently than others. And now, she really wonders this question:

When it comes to writing, are you a Night Owl, or a Lark?

As the answer to this great life question has been keeping the girl Peggy awake at night, she'll be grateful to finally have the mystery revealed.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Joss Has a Theory: When It Doesn't Work

Thanks so much Bea Sempere and WilyBCool for the Versatile Blogger award!

Okay. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Joss Whedon is a genius. I learned a great deal from him by listening to his commentaries. Especially because he commentates the episodes HE writes, and the episodes he writes are always fabulous.

Anyway, I learned a theory from him that BLEW ME AWAY.

Aren't they freaking adorable?
It happened on an episode of Angel. The girl in this picture is Amy Acker, and she plays Fred. When Joss caught wind that in real life, Amy had trained as a professional ballet dancer for twelve years, he decided to write an episode around that, where she could actually do ballet. So in the episode, they all went to the ballet, and of course there was an evil curse involved, because this is a show about paranormal stuff, after all. Wesley here, who was secretly in love with Fred, fell asleep mid-ballet and had his own ballet dream. With him and Fred, of course.

Well.... The awesome scene with Fred being an amazing ballet dancer and Wesley wearing tights and being completely awkward never aired.

Why? Because of Joss' theory. Actually, I think he credited a mentor of his, but in my mind, it was ALL JOSS. He said that things were just off. Something wasn't right. The pacing was wrong, the story didn't flow, something didn't jive. He tried and tried to fix it, but no matter what he did, it just wasn't fixing. Then he remembered something his mentor said. His theory, if you will.

If a particular scene (or your book in general) isn't working,

Years ago when I watched this, I wasn't a writer yet, and I still felt the stab of pain in my heart when he said that. It's the one piece of writing advice that has stuck with me the strongest. Probably because it's one of the most painful pieces of writing advice I've ever received! Removing your FAVORITE part?! Ouch.

Yet at the same time, I knew he was completely right. I knew it from a million other things I had done, most of which had nothing to do with writing. It makes sense. If you have ONE PART that you won't touch, everything else has to bend for it. It can't go in the direction it's supposed to go, because it is all being pulled to that one part that you're clinging to. And if everything is all bent and warped, then more than likely things are not going to turn out well.

So by removing your favorite part, everything is free to go the direction it needs to go. It isn't being held back.

What do you think? Is he right? Have you ever tested this theory yourself? If you did, how big of a band-aid did you need to cover the gaping hole it left?

Monday, October 24, 2011


Are you knee-deep in revisions?

Or maybe you dove in and now you're completely submerged?

You know there's an amazing diamond in that rough, and you just need to keep chipping away until it's revealed? Do you want to polish until it gleams so brightly you can see it a mile away?

But do you keep seeing people's posts on NaNoWriMo, and it makes you sad because you really WANT to do it, but you really NEED to get through revisions first and you know that even if it sounds like bucket loads of fun, NaNoWriMo is just out for you?

It kinda gets you RIGHT HERE, doesn't it.

Well, guess what? I have the perfect solution!


(The NaNo folks will be okay with me distorting their name and using it for my own purposes, right? They're cool like that, RIGHT?)

Here's the deal: I think we can have it all. NaNo craziness AND revisions.

I think that all of us who plan to really rock the revision scene during the month of November should do it together the way NaNoWriMoers write together! I first got the idea when Carrie Butler left her comment on my NaNo post last Wednesday. We could have a group email and give each other a kick in the pants, inspire one another, and best of all, report our progress!

We could REVISE 50,000 words in November. Or, we could make a different, personalized goal that fits with our needs better. FINISH revising. CUT a certain amount of words. ADD a certain number of words. Work on the revision letter I just got from my agent. :) EDIT a certain number of chapters. Whatever works. We just each decide what our goal is, then WORK LIKE CRAZY TO GET THERE. And have fun while we're doing it!

So who's with me?

Feel free to leave your RSVP or your regrets in the comments.

If you'd like to join, I'll need your email address at some point. You can leave it in the comments if you'd like. If you're weirded out by that and you have it somewhere on your blog, I can click over and find it. If you don't, email me. Peggyeddleman [at] gmail [dot] com.

Let's do this!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Quotes and Cookies: Rising Up

First off, many thanks to Iain at Iainspiration and Cherie at Cherie Writes...for the blog awards! You both made my day. Now, onto the quote!

"Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail."


You hear that? It's okay to fail! It's okay to try something new and be terrible at it. It's okay to sit down at the computer and write a scene that comes out completely wrong. It's all about getting back up and fixing it. Trying again. Not letting it get the best of us. Because every time we rise back up after a fail, we win.

And now, to get us in the mood for the inevitability of ghosts and goblins coming our way soon, meringue ghost cookies!

Photo credit: Secret Life of a Chef's Wife, aka My Favorite Food Site EVER

Have a fabulous weekend!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Critique partners are like your mom. And that's a good thing.

Some eleven year old girls aren't awkward.

Sadly, I wasn't one of them.

My city started their first ever Little Miss City pageant the year I was eleven, and like a kid who likes to do everything, I signed up, having no idea what I was doing. Nor having any idea how itchy being up on stage in front of a gym full of people made you. I am talking full-body itch. Head to toe. The kind you can't just ignore.

I was thrilled when I had finally finished "performing" my talent (in which I had a bunch of pictures I had painted on easels, and walked around talking about them in an unprepared script-less manner while scratching everywhere and saying "um" a lot). Afterward, one of the judges approached me and suggested that I enter my talent in a more appropriate venue. The State Pageant of the Arts.

So I did, and I won. Pretty cool, huh? Except that it meant going to an awards ceremony, which occurred on opening night of the performing part of the Pageant.

Did I mention I was awkward?

My mom told me to wear a dress. I liked wearing a dress as much as I would've liked staying in from recess to scrape gum off the bottoms of desks, so I used every power of persuasion I owned to convince my mom that a dress wasn't needed. I had maroon corduroy pants with a matching vest that was nice. --ish. And the best part was, I was already wearing the pants and the shirt! All I'd have to do was put on the jacket! (I was NOT one of those girls who changed clothes dozens of times a day.)

No matter how hard I tried, though, I didn't convince my mom. She still believed I should wear a dress. (Like that pretty one that I wore to Little Miss City!) I was fairly persistent, though, and eventually I won.

At the ceremony, the organizers led us on stage in front of the biggest crowd I had ever seen, to sit in a long row of fifteen kids-- the other winners from the other age categories. EVERY SINGLE GIRL WORE A DRESS BUT ME. And suddenly I remembered that in addition to my maroon pants that were possibly getting a little too short, I was wearing sky blue socks. I'd never felt more uncomfortable (or awkward!) in all my life. An embarrassment my mom had tried to save me from before I even left the house.

Critique partners and critique groups are like moms. They find all of those things in your manuscript that have the potential to embarrass you. They point out the things that don't match. They show where you are falling a bit short. They call you on places where you're being inappropriate. They don't want your sentences to be awkward.

You might not think they're right. You might fight them with all the persistence you have. When you're inclined to fight them until you win, take a break. Even if it's a lot of work to change, take a moment to see if they may just be right. You'll be glad they were there to make sure that before your manuscript "leaves home," you aren't going to embarrass yourself.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Way We Are: NaNoWriMo

[*Don't know what NaNoWriMo is? Scroll to the bottom.]

I have a confession. I have never participated in NaNoWriMo, even though every year it calls my name. It says, Come on! You know you've always wanted to write that fast. What better excuse do you need to ignore everything and just do it?

But then every year, the timing is just wrong. Like last year. I had just finished drafting Through the Bomb's Breath and I knew that if I let myself get distracted by the shiny new idea, I wouldn't dive into TTBB edits with the ferocity I wanted. This year, it looks like I will once again be knee deep in revisions during November.

How about you? Is NaNoWriMo calling your name so loudly that you're going grab your computer and ideas and head on over to Camp NaNoWriMo? Or does it only whisper your name? Have you ever done it before? Did you come out of it 50,000 words into your novel? Share your NaNo stories! I want to either live vicariously through you, or hang out with you in the [slightly less-populated] Non-NaNoWriMo camp.

[*NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It's when a huge bunch of people all throughout the world put their lives on hold during arguably the third busiest month of the year to write a 50,000 word novel. Pep talks, celebrations, honor, and awards abound.]

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I've Got a Theory: Brain Dudes. Illustrated.

So you know that belief that we only use a portion of our brains? Do you ever wonder why the heck we have brains so large if we don't even use all of them?

I have a theory about that.

Spread out in those unused parts of your brain are miles of corridors. All curvy, of course, because that's just how brains are. And down those corridors are door after door of living quarters for brain dudes. (Don't believe me? Go into those parts of your brain you've never been in before, and you'll see.)

For the most part, the brain dudes live there peacefully. But sometimes they get restless, staring at gray walls and gray matter all day long. Sometimes the monotony gets to them. And, well... Some of them are bad. First the bad ones throw trash in the hallways and before you know it, they're ripping doors off their hinges and banging on the walls. (That's where headaches come from.)

Then there's this one dude. He's extremely charismatic and buff and well.... evil. He riles up all the bad brain dudes and feeds them propaganda for breakfast. He tells them they're in prison! And they shouldn't have to put up with that! They should be able to roam free throughout ALL of the brain, not forced to stay in the unused parts!

And the bad brain dudes are all like "Yeah, we should!"

So the evil leader leads them into battle, and they fight their way into the parts of the brain that you DO use, and THEY ATTACK.
You're all like, "AAAAAAAAAA!!" Because let's face it-- those guys are scary! They've got weapons, angry facial expressions, and a big ole flag they keep waving around like they're trying to spread discouragement and despair throughout your brain with it.

And it works. Those guys really know what they're doing. And they somehow seem to know EXACTLY when to attack. They know when you're most vulnerable.

But do you know what? Those scary dudes aren't the only ones living in those corridors. Miles of them, remember? There are other dudes. Stalwart ones. Brave ones. And they are at the ready anytime you need them. All you have to do is ask.

That is it. You ask, and they show up, flying the banner of Hope and Perseverance. You think the Despair and Discouragement guys are scary? Think of how scary it is to them to see the numberless army backing YOU.

(And when your numberless army shows up, they bang those spears on the ground in unison and rhythmically. To you, it goes in time to your heartbeat, making you feel invincible. (Plus it sounds cool.) To them, it's a deafening battle cry that makes them cower under their skinny little stick arms.)

Sometimes, though, when Despair and Discouragement shows up, it can petrify you. Sometimes it takes a family member, friend, or complete stranger to summon them for you. BUT THE UNBEATABLE ARMY OF HOPE AND PERSEVERANCE ARE THERE, AND THEY WILL COME.


You know... As long as you don't forget they're there, hanging out in the living quarters of the unused portions of your brain.

P.S. I know that most people will tell you that the we-only-use-part-of-our-brain theory is bunk, but I don't want to hear it because it doesn't support MY theory. And like the sign hanging in my dad's office says, "If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts."

Monday, October 17, 2011

Thank You

I am speechless.

Holy cow.

I've known all along you guys are incredibly supportive and encouraging and kind and awesome and sweet and fabulous and thoughtful.

But I was still blown away by the response to my post on Friday.

To all of you who congratulated, left comments, linked to, tweeted, facebooked, and/or followed, my sincerest thanks go out to you. You made me giddy and teary a million times over. Being a writer is completely worth it, if only because I get to be in a community with people like you.

You all seriously rock my world in a way words can't even express.

I love you guys!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Quotes and Cookies: Agent Announcement

I have a quote today that's a little dearer to my heart than most quotes. Mostly because I heard it from the quotee just three days ago with my own ears, after working nearly four years to hear it.

"I am offering you representation."

~ Sara Crowe
"Sara, you're the one I really want!"

~Peggy Eddleman

Yeah. When Sara called yesterday to get my answer, I'm pretty sure that's actually what I blurted as soon as I heard her voice. It's just that it's Sara Crowe! She's been my dream agent ever since I heard her speak on panels and I pitched THROUGH THE BOMB'S BREATH to her at a conference last May. I love her! I consider myself a million kinds of crazy fortunate to be able to call her my agent.

I'll spare you my happy dance. And my happy song. I did it for 45 minutes straight last night, and I think it might have scarred my kids for life. Instead, have a happy cookie! It's probably less embarrassing for me, anyway.

Have a FABULOUS weekend, everyone!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Dirty Hands Logic

Every year for as long as I can remember, my extended family and I go camping for our family reunion. Two summers ago, I got to be present for this conversation between my five year old niece and my sister, right after breakfast on the second day. You know... that day when you are really feeling the willies that come from living in the wild without showering for two days.

My niece: "Ooo! Can I do your hair?"

My sister: "Oh. Um... no. Sorry-- my hair is really dirty."

My niece: "That's okay! My hands are really dirty!"

Photo credit
Okay, seriously. How can you argue with that kind of logic?

Choosing who to have do your hair is kind of like choosing critique partners. Instead of finding someone whose hands are the same amount dirty as your hair, you've got to find someone whose skill level is close to your skill level to make the partnership really work. To be able to bring each other up to a higher level. If you partner with someone who is well above your skill level, the things they suggest can be overwhelming or even be something you can't pull off. If you partner with someone well below your skill level, you won't benefit as much from critiques.

Ahh. But when you find a critique partner or a critique group whose skills fit well together, magic happens. You rise together. And if you stick together long enough, you'll rise to the level you've been shooting for, and get to find out what lies beyond that.

Finding critique partners that fit with who and where you are pretty much rocks. I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Way We Are: Pantser, Plotter, or Inbetween?

Pantser, or Plotter. That's the question, right?

Do you plot out every aspect of your book before writing, or do you just start, and see where the muse takes you?

I used to think that everyone was either a plotter or a pantser. You hung out over there with the pants, or over there with the plot (where I swore I hung out). Then I realized that it isn't really a one-or-the-other kind of thing. Plotter or Pantser. Really, it's more like this:

And most everyone is probably somewhere in the middle-- not at one end or the other. I would call myself a plotter. I love figuring out things in my head and on paper and on plots and with images, verses figuring them out as I type. I don't usually have every detail mapped out chapter by chapter, but every time I hear of someone doing that, I get wistful, and think about how I'M TOTALLY DOING THAT IN MY NEXT BOOK.

Then I realized that I'm actually somewhere in the middle. Toward the plotting side, definitely, but I don't actually like to figure out everything ahead of time. I figure out the story arc, character arcs, major plot points, all of the beginning, and a good deal about characters. But there's a lot I KNOW I can't figure out until I work it out in the writing. There is some definite pantsing going on from my corner over here.

So how about you? Where do you stand in the Plotter / Pantser continuum?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I've Got a Theory: Director Commentaries

Do you like watching tv and / or movies? Then this theory is for you!

Director / writer commentaries can teach you most everything you need to know about plotting, pacing, and character development.

These guys may write for a different media than us, but they have it going on! The writers and directors of the shows you love really know what they're doing, and if you listen to their commentaries, they will TELL YOU just how they did it.

To entice you to test my theory if you haven't before, I'll share this. Joss Whedon is a genius. (I would've started that sentence with an "I think," but his genius goes well beyond "I think.") I watched a lot of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel and Firefly episodes while they were on tv, but got them on DVD a couple years later. I wasn't a writer at that point, but I still watched every single commentary on the discs because they were fascinating.

The cool thing? They break down the episode. They talk about every plot decision and why they made it. They talk about character development. They talk about sub-plots. They talked about challenges they faced in the plot and how they overcame them. They talk about the scenes they cut. (Including my favorite cutting advice ever, which I'll share at another time. This is, after all, my theory. It wouldn't be right telling Joss' theory. He needs his own day.)

Joss taught me an incredibly huge amount about writing, and laid the groundwork for me to become a writer. Because of him, a lot of things came by instinct when I started writing.

There are a LOT of really good shows out there, and tons of them have director / writer commentaries. So how do you get to these great commentaries? Good question. I'd say first try googling it to see if there are any online. The more sure bet, though, is to get the show on DVD. So pick one that has been out for more than just this season, get a month subscription to your favorite Netflix-ish provider, and order it on DVD. It's like getting candy, they come with so many special surprises!

Plus, then you can count watching tv as "doing research." You can even bring popcorn! Seriously. Give it a try.

Anyone else a commentary junkie like me? What show have you learned the most from?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Snow, Conferences, and Rooting for a Character

This may still be the view from my front porch:

But at the conference I went to in Park City this weekend, this was the view from the balcony at the cabin we stayed in:

Can you believe all that snow in OCTOBER? The beginning of October, no less? It was crazy. But chilly or not, the conference itself was amazing, as conferences always are. There is nothing like hanging out with a bunch of other people who love writing every bit as much as you do!

One of my favorite parts of the conference was the first night, when John Brown (of Servant of a Dark God fame) did a fabulous presentation right after dinner. (He put up a link to the .pdf of his presentation "Story Lessons from the Hunger Games" on his website, if you want to check it out.)

We all want our characters to be sympathetic, right? Of course the key to making a character sympathetic is to make them likeable, interesting, good, and to give them hardships and danger. It doesn't have to always be physical danger-- danger can be a threat to any kind of happiness.

He said that rooting for a character is more than just having sympathy for a character. They can't just be likeable and interesting and good and have hardships and danger. They have to also be active and have a chance at winning. Sometimes a character only reacts, or waits for others to tell them what to do. We may like the character just fine, but that's not enough to make us really root for them. Our characters have to be proactive. They have to DO things. They have to make choices and act on those choices. Even if they make a wrong choice, even if they lead others into a wrong choice, we root for them if they are actively trying to solve the problem.

My other favorite quote of the night: Your reader doesn't want to know what WILL happen. They want to know and worry about what MIGHT happen.

And he's right! It's the MIGHT happen that gets us every single time.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Quotes and Cookies: Be a Pest

"I think I'd like to be remembered as someone who beat the odds through just plain determination... that I persevered. Because I think that being somewhat of a pest to life, constantly plaguing and pursuing, will bring results."

~Sylvester Stallone
As one of the kings of beating the odds through determination and perseverance, I'd say he's not wrong! Especially when it comes to writing. There is so much to do, so much to learn, so much experience that needs to be gained--- the only way we are going to get there is by being a pest to life. To stay constantly at it. So who's with me? Let's go side with Sly!

Because snow is falling where I'm at and I was still wearing shorts and flip flops just yesterday, making it feel like we MISSED FALL ALTOGETHER, here's the next best thing to fall: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip cookies.

A.k.a. The Best Cookies Ever.
Happy Friday! I hope you are all enjoying whatever season it is where you live.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Rotten eggs: one of the reasons to have a toolbox

Tonight I am headed off to the Heart of the West Writer's Conference in Park City, Utah. (Wait... What? Isn't that a romance writers' conference, Peggy? I thought you didn't write kissy scenes! Yes, yes it is. And you're right-- I don't. Just one of the many reasons why I should go.) Anyone else going?

When my little brother turned six, my grandma gave him a present. All kinds of excited, he opened it right in front of her to find a gift set of soap and talcum powder, with a cowboys and Indians scene playing around the bottle.

My brother looked at it with a what-the-Sam-Hill-do-you-use-talcum-powder-for? look on his face. I knew the look, because I wore it myself. (Actually, typing this, I'm still wearing that look. What IS talcum powder for?) Judging by the look on my brother's face when he smelled it, it was pretty heavily scented, too. Which was funny, since it was for boys.... Maybe it was anti-boy smell.

To my brother's and my mom's credit, he still managed to be gracious to my grandma, then shoved it into a drawer after she left.

A few months later, we were playing outside with neighbor kids and found an abandoned bird egg on the ground. Some of the boys decided that they better open the egg. You know-- in case there was still a baby bird inside that needed to get out.

There wasn't.

Instead, it contained THE FOULEST SMELL I have  smelled in my entire life. To date. And it spread fast. As everyone pulled their shirts over their noses amid choking and gagging, I saw inspiration light up my brother's face. He ran away, and returned a couple minutes later with the carton of talcum powder in his hand and a look of victory on his face. He had finally figured out what it was for!

Writing is all about solving problems. From ones dealing with sentence structure to plot to characters to setting to organization to pacing to figuring out how to get your characters back out of the tree. One of my favorite writing teachers always said that you need to put lots of things into your writing toolbox, because as a writer you will have to fix LOTS of problems. The more things you have in your writing toolbox, the better equipped you'll be to deal with those problems.

We read things that help us become better writers ALL THE TIME, right? The next time you read something and get that What-the-Sam-Hill-will-I-ever-use-this-for? look on your face, don't dismiss the idea. Graciously place it in your toolbox. Someday you just might run into the problem that it is the perfect fix for.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Way We Are: Your First Novel

You hear all the time "Your first novel is for practice," and "Don't expect to sell your first novel." But the funny thing is, once we decide we want to get published, we fully expect that first novel to do it. There's something inside of us that says But this one is different. The rules don't apply to it / me.

If you ask me, that kind of thinking is actually hugely important. It's what makes us work as hard as we can. And do you know what? A lot of people actually get their first novel published.

So that's my question for the day. What's the status your first novel?

Still writing it?
Haven't started it?
Revising it?
Querying it?
Saving it for posterity?
Shoved it in a drawer to revise sometime later?
Plan on it never seeing the light of day?
Published it?
Burned it?

I want to hear all about it in the comments!

As for me: My first novel had an intended audience of two. I wasn't even thinking writing for real at that point. The writing for real started two months later, and you can bet that publishing it was in the back of my mind the whole time! It was a story I wrote with my kids as the main characters, and I figured that I'd just change them a bit during revisions. I wrote it purely off instinct. Then came my REAL first book. The one with an intended audience of thousands and thousands. :) I jumped off the diving board very deep into the writing world. I took incredible writing classes, went to lots of conferences, read every blog and book on writing I could get my hands on, and worked on writing every spare moment.

The problem was... when I got to the end of the book, I realized I had improved SO MUCH from when I started the book. Revisions were daunting, to say the least. (I kind of felt like this guy here.) Plus, there was this fabulous NEW idea calling my name. Someday I might pilfer ideas from the story, because the concept was great, but I wouldn't revise it. I'd be so much easier to start from scratch.

So what about you?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

I've Got a Theory: An Untested Name Tag Theory

You know when you go to some kind of function where everyone is not very likely to know your name, they have those little "Hello, my name is" stickers?

I cannot seem to grab the marker and write my ACTUAL name. Maybe a crazy version of my name, but not my name itself. And if it's a type of thing where it's of great importance to actually have my real name there and I manage to write it, I can barely manage to wear it.

My theory is that it's a writer thing.

But I've never actually tested my theory, since the only place I usually hang out with authors in hordes is at writing conferences-- the one place where I actually LIKE my name tag to say the correct name. So other than at writing conferences, any of you guys have this same problem? Is it a writer thing, or is it just a me thing?

(Side note: I've always wanted to go to a function with a group of people who were all on board with the changing-of-the-names thing, and have our names be Aie, Bea, Cici, Dede, Effie, Gigi, etc.)

(And did this post remind anyone else of that one Buffy episode the year after they all turned into their costumes? They all worried the same thing would happen again, so they dressed in costumes of much more capable people than they did the last Halloween. Xander dressed as 007. Willow dressed as Joan of Arc because "I figured we had a lot in common, seeing as how I was almost burned at the stake. Plus she has that close relationship with God." Then they asked her boyfriend Oz who he was, and he moved his jacket away so you could see his name tag. It read "God." If you were worried you'd get turned into your costumes, yet still have to fight baddies, I can't say that was a bad choice. :))

OKAY. A couple of tangents later, let's get back to the question. When you see that blank name tag, what are you likely to write in the blank?