Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Way We Are: Writing Spaces

The posts I've written asking about how we do things have been some of my very favorites to hear everyone's responses on! I love to see the things we do things the same and the things we do things differently. And a lot of times in the comments, people say really cool ways to do things that I had never thought of before! So I thought I'd make the Way We Are feature more of a weekly Wednesday one, instead of an occasional Wednesday one.

This week, what I'm curious about is where we write.

For me, I edit best at my desktop computer. I love the big screen, the ergo keyboard, my mouse, and space to spread out notes.

As far as drafting, though, I use my mini laptop, and go anywhere other than my desk. I use my desktop for so many things that when I sit down there, my mind isn't always in write-mode. My mini laptop, though, gets used ONLY for writing. If it's in my hands, I'm ready to go. I write at the kitchen table, in the yard, at a neighborhood mom & pop fast food establishment I've loved since childhood, at the library, at the park, or in some location that reminds me of my WIP's setting.

Curious minds want to know how similar our writing spaces are. Where do you write?

In a nice, organized office space?

On the couch?

In a cluttered office?

In a corner of your house?

With your cat trying to sit on your keyboard?

Child on your lap, trying to press extra keys?

Dog at your feet?

In bed?

At a cafe?

A bookstore?

A restaurant?

In a cozy nook at a library?

In a secret, secluded place?

At the beach?

By a river?

In the mountains?

Or hiding out somewhere, hoping you won't be found?

If I got to choose out of those pictures on the right which place I wanted to write (assuming it was near my house, so I didn't have to spend all my writing time traveling), I'd choose the beach. Or the mountains. Or that cottage all nestled away amongst the trees. Or even the outdoor cafe. Ooo. Or in the big library.

Tell us. Where do you usually write? And if you could choose, where do you WANT to write?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I've Got a Theory: Walk-n-Plots

So I have a theory that goes like this:

A Brain can't focus on just one thing unless it knows well where it's going.

Which I realize totally goes against the "One track mind" theory, but hear me out.

Have you ever sat down to write, but hadn't worked through your next scene (or where your plot is going) or what your next blog post is going to be about, and you get a little distracted? You sit and stare at the screen and think, Uhhhh.... I think I'm going to make my MC's bff find a note she had actually written to.... um.... Oh! I need to go into my online banking to see if that check cleared! Okay, back to writing. Hm.... So when she finds the note, she's going to THINK that it was really to her and.... Oh, my gosh! I was supposed to check to see if SIL posted those pictures on facebook! I almost forgot!

It's because your brain can't just do one thing, unless it knows VERY WELL what it's doing. If you aren't sure where you're going with a scene, your brain is working that out but at the same time it's working on other non-what-you're-trying-to-work-on things.

So how do you solve this problem? It's really simple, actually. You give your brain a task to work on that it DOES know very well. One it could do with its eyes closed. The dishes. Making dinner. Mowing the lawn. Folding clothes. Vacuuming. Once its tied up doing those jobs, the rest of your brain is free to focus on what you're trying to work out. It stops going all ADD on you.

For me, my favorite way is what I like to call a Walk-n-Plot. I head to a canal near my house that has a dirt pathway to the side of it. Really similar to this picture, actually.

The canal road is perfect because there aren't many people on it. Not many people to see that I talk to myself A LOT when I Walk-n-Plot. This is also where the cell phone voice recorder comes in handy. As I come up with one plot puzzle piece, I can record what I figured out instead of trying to hold it in memory while I work on the next puzzle pieces. Plus, whenever a runner comes by, they can just assume that I'm talking on the phone, instead of to myself.

So, once you've Walked-n-Plotted, cleaned house, showered, or whatever else got your brain working on something else so you could figure things out, then your brain is in that category of knowing exactly where it's going. And once you know where you're going, your brain can focus on it entirely.

(Pantsers, I know you may be thinking my theory is bunk at this juncture, but I've pantsed my way through a few things, and I think the theory still holds. When you sit down to write, don't you find yourself getting easily distracted until you get that spark of where to go? Once you get it, the ideas start flowing, and your brain suddenly KNOWS WHERE IT'S GOING. Then the distractions stop.)

What do you do to keep your brain busy enough to let it focus on figuring things out?

Monday, August 29, 2011

The HOW That Got Forgotten

I'm not going to tout the benefits of the S.M.A.R.T. method of goal setting. Whether you call it by this name or not, I think most of us have it engrained into us to some extent.

We know not to set a goal like, "Write more." We set goals like "Write ___ number of words a day/week," or "Write for ___ amount of time every day."

We don't say, "Finish drafting soon," We say "Finish drafting by ____ date."

We don't say, "Blog a lot," we say "Blog ___ days a week."

We don't say "Write ten chapters a day until book is finished," we set a goal that is actually attainable. (And if writing ten chapters a day is what you consider attainable, HOLY COW. I want you to say so in the comments so I can give you props.)

A writing friend and I have agreed to share our writing goals with each other, and have weekly meetings over the phone to report our progress on our goals and to help each other over struggles, so I've been thinking a lot about goals lately.

And there's one thing S.M.A.R.T. doesn't cover: HOW.

You can make a list of the most fabulous, attainable, specific, measurable, relevant, time bond goals possible for you and what you want to accomplish. However, that list means ABSOLUTELY NOTHING if you don't also figure out a way to make that happen.


So let's say you haven't been writing, and you make a goal to write for an hour every day. That's S.M.A.R.T.! But obviously the mere making of the goal isn't going to cause it to happen. That time has to come from somewhere, so you've got to decide what you're going to sacrifice. A common answer is sleep. But what if all your life responsibilities already have you living off the minimum? You find something else. You look at the things that have a lower priority to you and sacrifice those. If there is nothing that can be sacrificed all the time, make a rotation. Nothing will feel too neglected if it only gets neglected one week out of every four. :)

The point is, you need to have a plan of what is going to change in your life to make the goals you set possible. Or that goal that you made the S.M.A.R.T. way, and wrote down so that it counted as a real goal? It might as well go in here:

And we don't want to do that! Look at what a pained expression he has on his face.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Quotes and Cookies: A Place for Writing

"Becoming a writer means being creative enough to find the time and the place in your life for writing."

~ Heather Sellers

We are writers, and as such, we are expected to create people. To create worlds. To create plots. To create conflict. To create twists and turns. To create friendships. To create enemies. To create places. To create families. To create histories.

Hmm... I guess it isn't too much of a stretch to expect us to create time in our lives for writing, is it? (Although sometimes, it seems so much easier to create people, worlds, plots, conflict, twists and turns, friendships, enemies, places, families and histories...)

Maybe now is a good time to take a step back and evaluate if we can more creatively find the time and place for writing in our lives. And while we're at it, let's create some time to eat a creative cookie!

Happy Friday, everyone!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Spark

You've probably noticed people on writing blogs everywhere sharing their stories of how they got the spark to write. After reading several on Tuesday, I decided I wanted in on the SparkFest. (Do you want in? You still have one more day. Click here to go to Christine Tyler's post.) So, to join the nearly 100 writers blogging about their spark, here's my story.

I loved books and read all the time as a kid. It NEVER gave me the spark to write, though. Not even a little bit. (It did, however, give me the spark to be a book illustrator, and I honestly thought I'd grow up to do that. Many years later, that spark sputtered, fizzled, and eventually died.)

My first inkling of a spark came in 2007, the summer the 7th Harry Potter book came out. I read the series for the first time and got to the point in book 6 where SOMEONE IMPORTANT DIES. I was struck by how powerful a thing it was that J.K. could create someone who didn't exist before, let me get to know the character, love the character, then experience the pain of losing that character. I wanted to do something that powerful! (Not powerful as in I wanted to be the next J.K. I was never that naive. Powerful as in having the ability to create people. And then possibly killing them off. ;))

A couple weeks later, I got my chance. As a group of eight friends, we buy birthday presents for each other, and one friend's birthday was coming up. A friend who is THE WORLDS BIGGEST FIREFLY FAN. I think she has single-handedly gotten more people to watch Firefly than FOX Network themselves did. I talked my friends into getting together to plot and write the previously non-existent episode 15, filling in the space between when the series was canceled and when the movie Serenity picked up.

It was, without a doubt, the most exhilarating thing I had ever done. We breathed life into a character that hadn't existed before! We created places that hadn't existed! We made things happen!

I was forever hooked. I started writing then, and haven't stopped since.

So what gave you your spark? Did you join the Spark Fest? If so, leave your blog address in the comments. I'd love to read it!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How Long to Draft?

I don't know about you guys, but I loved Word Processor Wars. It was so much fun to see the things that we do the same and the things that we do differently. Shall we do it again?

I've been wondering a lot lately about FIRST DRAFTS. It takes me forever to finish a first draft. I can't just get an idea and run with it. I methodically think through everything. I figure out how I'm going to convey each scene completely before I sit down to write it. I need ponder time in between sit-down-and-type time.

I hear of people all the time that finish a book in nine days. Or a week. Or two weeks. Every time I hear that I am blown away! (Seriously. All you who can do that? I bow down to you.)

But it got me wondering. Are those of us who take forever to draft just less vocal about how long it takes? Or am I in the minority? I really want to know.

I have two questions, actually.

How long does it generally take you to write a first draft?

How long do you generally spend revising?

I'll update these handy dandy graphs throughout the next couple of days as comments come in. But first off, my answers. It takes about nine months for me to write a first draft, and about six months to revise.

Now don't be shy about answering how long it takes to draft AND how long it takes to revise! You're answer will either inspire us, or make us suddenly feel less in the minority.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I've Got a Theory: Brain Storage System -I even illustrated!-

So I have this theory about how our brains hold everything. Since a picture says a thousand words, and I know you don't want to read a several-thousand-word post, I decided to illustrate my point. Literally.

As you are going throughout your day, everything you experience and learn goes right in here:
It's not a huge container-- it fits exactly a day's worth of stuff. If there is anything you learned during the day, or any memories you really want to keep, you've got to pull them out of this bin and stick them into your brain storage system. Because while you are sleeping at night, the night clean-up crew comes along, preparing for the next day, and dumps it all into this:

This is a much larger container. It can fit a LOT of days' worth of memories. So if you forget to put something into your brain storage system that you really wanted to keep, you can go dumpster-diving in here and get it back.

You need to be aware of two things, though. First, your memory of that-blog-post-that-filled-in-the-missing-piece-to-the-scene-you-were-working-on might have gotten the memory of the-one-piece-jumper-suit-you-saw-someone-wearing-and-made-you-fear-they-might-be-coming-back-in-style spilled all over it. Second, all those new memories that get poured into this bin every night fall on top of all the other memories there, pushing everything down a bit. The ones at the very bottom get pushed out that tube, and fall right out of your brain. So you don't want to wait too long to go dumpster diving, or it'll be lost forever.

Okay, so once you pull out a memory you want to keep, you need to store it. Different people have different ways of storing this information. There are shelves lining the entire perimeter of your brain that you can store stuff on. Some people put all their memories into nice, organized boxes, with labels on the front so that when they need to pull out a memory of, say, when is the correct time to use laid, lain, or lay, they can go right to the correct box and pull it out.

When some people have memories they want to save, they sometimes grab the nearest container and stick it in there. Most of the time, that's perfectly fine, too. Other people don't use containers at all-- they just stick the memories all willy-nilly on the shelves themselves, and their brains resemble a hoarder's house. AVOID THIS AT ALL COSTS. Seriously, people. Using a plastic grocery bag is a million times better than just shoving the memories on the shelf.

Of course some memory containers are better than others. Take the laundry basket, for instance.

Sure, you can put lots of stuff in it, but when you're not looking, memories can slip out through those giant holes and fall right to the floor. Even the nice, neat, cardboard boxes can be an issue.

If you're not paying much attention to what's in that box, it can get water damaged. Or nibbled on by mice. Or torn. And memories can fall right out. (Yeah, I'm looking at you, rotted Trigonometry box.)

And if you don't notice that the memories have fallen out, the night crew sweeps them up and dumps them right back into here.

So make sure you label your boxes well, and keep checking on those ones that are really important! Otherwise you have to rely on being perceptive enough to know when to go dumpster diving, or those things you learned / experienced / loved might just be pushed out.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Squeezing Time

School starts tomorrow (which is why my kids and I have gone crazy trying to squeeze several weeks' worth of activities into last week). Since I work at my kids' school, that means I'm headed back to school too. As busy as summer gets, it's even harder to
squeeze everything in during the school year. Even if kids heading to school means you're heading into your less busy time, or if your busy times are more constant, LIFE HAPPENS. Plans change. Sometimes circumstances make it really hard to fit in writing time. Or editing time. Or querying time. Or blogging time. Or even reading time. Everyone has times when it's harder to fit it all in than at other time.

And we all have tricks. Those things we do that help us to squeeze every bit of time from a day. So how about this: I share mine, you share yours, and we all figure out ways to get it all done!

Okay, here's mine.
  1. I plot in small chunks. Sure, it's easier to get a lot of plotting done when I have a big hunk of time on my hands, but most my plotting happens when I'm driving down the street, thinking as I fall asleep at night, for those first few minutes after the alarm goes off in the morning before I crawl out of bed, when I'm making dinner, folding clothes, or making sure kids don't treat the playground equipment as a high wire they need to walk across at recess. Those little chunks of time make it so I can work through my next scene. Or figure out what to do with this character. Or figure out how to fix that plot problem.
  2. I take my kids fun places. We go somewhere they'll have fun, like to a park, and I take my laptop with me. That way they're having a blast, and I can find a shady place to delve into another world while still keeping an eye on this one.
  3. I made the best investment ever: a netbook. Her name is P.A.M. (it stands for Peggy's Awesome Mini). She's the greatest thing ever. Check her out: she's the size of a hardback book! I can take PAM everywhere (and I usually do). If there's ever a chance I'll be waiting, she joins me so that time can be well spent.
  4. I utilize my phone's voice recorder and notepad. There are definitely places you find yourself with unplanned brain-wandering time. If I'm in a place where it'd be inappropriate to talk, I use my phone's notepad to jot down whatever idea came to me. If I am somewhere less inappropriate to talk, I use my phone's voice recorder. Especially when I've finally figured out how to word something, or if it's long enough that I don't want to type so much on such a teeny device. The bonus part of using the phone voice recorder? You can talk to yourself, and EVERYONE ASSUMES YOU'RE TALKING TO A REAL PERSON. Handy thing, that.
Okay, so there's mine. What tricks do you use to squeeze the most out of each day? I'm really going to need them.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Quotes and Cookies: All the Richer

"If you have other things in your life - family, friends, good productive day work - these can interact with your writing and the sum will be all the richer."

~David Brin

We've kind of had an immerse-yourself-in-this-writing-community theme this week, and I think that we can all agree that interacting with each other will make our writing all the richer. And I think we pretty much all know that our writing will also be all the richer when we spend time having fun with family and friends. Here's to enjoying the last bits of summer with those we love!

Oooo! And speaking of "all the richer," check out these cookies! Go ahead and grab one and enjoy it's richness while you're making your life-- and your writing-- all the richer.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Math, Star Wars, and the Only One

In sixth grade, my grade mixed with the fifth grade to form math classes based on skill. Each class went for four to six weeks, then we took a test. If we passed that class, we moved onto the next highest one. If we failed, we stayed in the same class.

Since math was my favorite subject EVER, I always went to the top math class. And that class was always taught by the same teacher— one who also managed a local movie theater / arts center. If you passed his class, he gave you free movie tickets.

The last class of the year was one they had never taught at our elementary school before because it was HARD. And because it was so unbelievably hard, he dangled an unbelievable award in front of us. A special showing for the theater employees of ALL THREE STAR WARS MOVIES! Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi, one right after another. It was a never-been-done-before epic event. And since it was a special showing, you couldn't buy tickets. They had to be given to you. I wiped away the drool and decided right then those tickets were mine.

At its core, math is all about rules. I’m a rule follower. Math and I love each other. We spent a lot of quality time alone together during those six weeks.

At the end, I took the test with all the confidence of someone hanging out with their bff, and passed! On the Saturday morning of the showing, my mom dropped me off at the theater for nearly seven hours of movie watching bliss. I walked in and realized I was the only one in my class who had passed.

Seven hours of movie watching.... alone.

Had I been a wise girl, I would've realized that as a group, we had the power to get every single one of us there if we had helped each other out. If we had used our strengths to help pull up the group, and let other people's strengths help us pull up our own weaknesses. Not only would we have had more fun during the preparing, we'd have had so much fun AT THE MOVIE.

For all of us who have ever had aspirations of being published, we've looked at that elusive book deal, wiped away the drool and decided right then that a book deal was ours.

Writing can be a lonely profession. Most of the time, we write alone. We read books and blogs about the craft alone. We sit in dark rooms or go on walks or do the dishes while plotting and working through scenes alone. But if we work and work and work and finally make it, do we really want to sit in that victory seat all alone?

I’m guessing no.

Which is why it's so great that we have the power to rise together. To use our strengths to pull others up, and to use the strength of others to pull us up from our own weaknesses. Not only does being a part of this amazing writing community help each of us to reach our goals, but makes the journey SO MUCH FUN.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Twitter Scares Me

Since we've got an immerse-yourself-in-this-writing-community theme going, see this cute little bird? He's so darn approachable! Just by looking at him, he makes you want to pat his cute little head and chat with him in 140 characters or less. Doesn't he? I mean, isn't he just beyond adorable?

Yeah. He scares me.

I joined twitter a couple of weeks ago, tweeted my first tweet before I had a single follower, and since then I've done almost nothing. Since I'll have a cool new social icon over there in my sidebar later today where anyone can click to follow me on twitter, the pressure is on to finally figure it out.

Facebook wasn't scary to me! Blogging wasn't scary to me! What does twitter have that strikes the fear of posting in me every time I look at it?

It might be three things. (If you're scared of twitter for other reasons, say so! Maybe there is help for us. Fingers crossed.)
  1. It isn't totally obvious how things work, including what is socially normal. (If you're here with me on this one, we need not be at a total loss for what to do-- Nathan Bransford is totally looking out for us. He's covered a lot of it in these two posts: How to use twitter, and How to use the twitter @reply.)
  2. I don't think in tweets. I'm convinced that even if it isn't a natural thing, it can still be a learned thing if you're willing to spend the time and effort. And I want to, I swear. It's just so many of you are so clever with your 140 characters! How do you get to be so darn clever? (That wasn't rhetorical. ;))
  3. I'm afraid of another time suck! There are so many responsibilities that you have to creatively work writing time around, as well as so many distractions that you have to keep yourself away from. I worry that twitter is one of those things you have to either keep at a distance or get completely sucked in.
Where do you stand with twitter? Are you as afraid of it as I am, or is it old hat to you? If you know what you're doing, I want to hear your best twitter advice! I promise I'll make good use of it, and so will anyone else who reads your comment. Then you can go to bed tonight, warm with the knowledge that you did some great community service today.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I've Got a Theory: You're Only GREAT at One Type of Social Media

As writers, we're supposed to have a strong online presence, and we've got so many choices. (I'm pretty sure there are about a million more types of social media than there are types of word processors!) Although online presence can mean a lot of things, for most of us it probably includes some combination of a blog, twitter, facebook, and possibly google plus. (It feels weird to type their names lowercase. About as weird as it feels to write them uppercase. Since their logos are lowercase, we're SUPPOSED to write it lowercase, right?)

Let's get one thing out of the way. We can't be good at everything. Your talents might lie in the areas of social media, so everything you do is fabulous. Your talents might lie in other areas, and every bit of social media is hard work for you.

Regardless of that, though, I stick with my theory-- You are only great at one type of social media.

Why? Because blogging uses an entirely different way of thinking than things like facebook and twitter use. Orson Scott Card said, "Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don't see any." I think you could very easily change this to read, "Everybody walks past a thousand blog ideas every day." Or "Everybody walks past a thousand tweet / status update ideas every day." And we, the social media savants that we are, :) have trained ourselves to notice those ideas.

So I guess it all comes down to this: When you walk past those thousand ideas, do they come to you in the form of a tweet or status update, or do they come to you in the form of an idea for a blog post?

It's likely the form it comes to you in is the type of social media you gravitate toward. The one you are quicker to update. The one you are more religious about checking. The one you work harder at to get followers.The one that comes to mind first when you think "Social Media" or "Online Platform."

Is this a bad thing? Certainly not!  And I'm not saying to only go with the one you're best at. I am saying it's a good thing to put the most effort into the one that works best for you. IT'S ALL ABOUT WORKING YOUR STRENGTHS.

For me? I can't even pretend that facebook and twitter are where my strengths lie. How about you? Which is you favorite? Where do your strengths lie?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Blogiversary and a huge THANK YOU Party

This is Jessie Humphries. Maybe you know her. She's a fabulous writer, incredibly fun blogger, and every bit as beautiful in real life as she is in her picture. I'm not even kidding. She also happens to be my blogging bff.

For everyone who blogs: I highly recommend having an awesome blogging bff. I think that every blogger runs into a really frustrating time when it feels like no one reads your blog. That all the work is for nothing. Jessie and I started blogging at the same time, so we ran into the same struggles and frustrations and successes at the same time. We talk about goals, give each other advice on handling unexpected things, comment on each other's blogs and cheer each other on. We both reached 100 followers on the exact same day. She had a big celebration thanking everyone on her blog. I had.... Quotes and Cookies. And well, okay, I'll admit: every day you have cookies is a celebration. But it definitely wasn't enough to thank you guys! Since I didn't on that day, I decided to wait for my blogiversary.

I entered the blogging world really late in the game. For a very long time I knew I needed a writing blog, but I kept procrastinating. I'd been blogging on a personal blog for years, so I had no misconceptions on how much time, effort, and stress it would take, or on how much writing time it would eat. Committing to it for me meant committing to do it full out-- five posts a week, along with putting every bit of effort into it that it required. I did not come into this blind. I knew exactly what to expect.

What I didn't expect was how much I would love it! What I didn't expect was YOU GUYS. I'd been lurking and commenting on writing blogs for years, so I already knew that the writing community was a great one. I mean, you guys are my people! We have so many of the same hopes, desires, dreams, struggles, frustrations, and successes. It wasn't until I plopped myself right down in the middle of the writing blog world, though, that I realized exactly HOW GREAT it is. How great my people are. How much I love getting to know you through reading your blogs and reading your comments on my blog. It doesn't matter that we live all over the world-- it feels like you all live right here.

So, to everyone who reads, comments, follows, links to, and / or lurks on my blog, THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart.You guys have made this worth every single second.

Okay, I think I've been up here, babbling and holding my fancy stemmed cup of sparkling cider, waiting to clink glasses long enough. Cheers! Now let's get to the party! Last time, we had a traditional block party, so I figured we'd go Chinese this time.

First, check out the parade with the awesome dragons!

Then we'll set off fancy lanterns into the night sky, because it is the greatest idea EVER.

Then we'll watch some Chinese fireworks!

And because a party just isn't a party without cookies and because I LOVE fortune cookies in the hugest way possible, for refreshments we are definitely having this classic.

Have a great day, everyone! And may all your fortunes say that fantastic things are about to happen to you.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Quotes and Cookies: Gift of Fantasy

 "When I examine myself and my methods of thought I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing knowledge."

~Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein said that. ALBERT EINSTEIN, people! He was one of the most knowledgeable people ever. So why did he value the gift of fantasy over his talent for absorbing knowledge? [Not fantasy as a genre, of course-- fantasy as the ability to picture things that don't currently exist.] I suppose he said it because having all the practical knowledge in the world gets you nowhere if you don't have the imagination to create something with it. How to imagine it being put to use in different ways.

Just like having all the book knowledge on how to write means very little if you don't use it to create something new. Something you haven't thought of before. Imagine things in different ways.

So grab a cookie! Then let your imagination go and dream fabulous things.

Don't they look tasty? Fellow writer / blogger / frequent commenter, Scrivener-lover and cookie baker Leigh Ann Kopans made these! Don't you just want to pick one up and eat it? Because you could. In the Word Processor Wars comments, she said that she would ship cookies to the first person who was willing to give Scrivener an earnest try. What better incentive could you have than cookies?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Circus Tent

First off, make sure you check out the current standings for Word Processor Wars (the post below this one). And if you haven't thrown in your vote yet for which word processor you use, get on down there! (Especially if your vote is for WordPerfect. I'm just sayin'.) Everyone's comments were killing me. You guys are hilarious!

Secondly, sometime today, my blog will get a new look! And an ACTUAL NAME. No, really. (Up until the time it goes live, I'll take guesses on the name. :)) I've been waiting in line for my turn for a few months, and I'm so excited I'll get to show you soon!

Okay, now on to the actual post.

Every single year, my sixth grade teacher hung hundreds and hundreds of really long strips of crepe paper from the ceiling in the exact center of our classroom. He then took each strip and attached it to the wall, only a couple inches from the previous, letting it hang down a bit in the middle. The end result made it look like we were inside a circus tent.

I can't even imagine the time it took. And he re-did it every year, choosing different colors.

So, what did it accomplish? Well, school had to happen. We had to go learn about integers and symbiosis and homonyms and lost civilizations. Those things were inevitable. You couldn't progress to the seventh grade without them. Even with a fabulous teacher, learning all that stuff could very well have been mind-numbingly boring. But let me tell you-- those things are SO much funner to learn when you feel like you are learning them in a circus tent! When you can just imagine that you are in the center of fun things going on, it truly made a difference.

When we write, there are dialogue scenes that have to happen. They're inevitable. Things couldn't progress in the plot if these scenes didn't happen when they need to happen. But they have the potential to be boring. Even with really great dialogue!

And that's where the circus tent comes in. When your dialogue scenes happen in interesting locations with interesting things going on, it truly makes a difference. If the dialogue happens while racing through back alleys, or crouched hiding in a dank cave, or in the middle of a blinding snowstorm, or backstage in a play as the characters wait their turn to go on, or floating in the middle of the ocean with fish nibbling at your characters' toes, it makes it more fun.

Not only does it add excitement, but it adds another layer to the conversation. Extra stressors. Extra distractions. Extra difficulties. And that can turn a boring scene into one of your favorites in the entire manuscript!

So what kind of cool locations have you used in dialogue? Or what locations have you WANTED to use?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Word Processor Wars

I went to a writing experiment a week ago (involving a bunch of writers, a bunch of laptops, random word pairings, a really hot house, and 60 minutes). When we sat down to write, my writing friend / critique partner leaned over and said, “How do you set it to double space?”

Okay, she is a WRITER, mind you. I looked at her, baffled, and said, “Um... Don’t you use Word like all the time?

Nope. She uses Scrivener.

At the risk of being called narrow minded, I’ll admit: I figured everyone in the writing world used Word or Open Office. (I mean, I don't. But I figured everyone else did.) Seriously? People use other programs? This is news to me.

It got me wondering if there are OTHER programs people use. Are there some better than others? Some more conducive to writing? Do you have one you absolutely love and couldn’t live without? We need to know!

So without further ado, I officially welcome you to [drum roll, please]:

Here’s the deal. Leave in the comments what program you use to write. I’ll check in several times throughout the next couple of days to update which is winning. You can either leave a single word (or two or three) comment, such as “Word” or “Open Office,” or you can use the comments as your soap box. Convince us all why the word processor you use is the best! Keep it friendly, of course.

I’ll start us off.

I’m a true-blue WordPerfect lover. I realize not many people in the world use WordPerfect, but I swear that everything is easier in it. Years and years ago, I worked for WordPerfect as technical support. I talked people through how to use every feature of the program, so I KNOW how awesome it is. I couldn’t live without it. Since WordPerfect is THE BEST PROGRAM EVER, it used to be the king of word processors. Then, of course, Microsoft took over the world and booted WP off its well-deserved throne. (Grr, Microsoft. Because of that, I’m totally okay that it's now Google taking over the world. Why? Because they aren’t you. Plus, they put cool pictures that spell Google at Impress me visually, and I’ll love you forever. (I just won’t use a word processor from you, because I already have the best one ever.)) Even without the throne, in my mind WordPerfect will always remain King.

Now it’s your turn! Toss your favorite program in the ring, I'll add a little red person next to your word processor for each person's vote, and we’ll see which one comes out on top!

*Of course, in my narrow-minded approach to word processing, I'm sure I don’t have all of the possibilities listed here. Rest assured, though, that if you mention one in the comments that I didn’t list, I will put it with the rest as soon as humanly possible.

Let the battle commence!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I've Got a Theory: Music and Pictures

I've read a LOT of blog posts about music and how it affects writing. How songs can inspire plot lines. How music from a certain band can inspire the whole mood of a book.
How having a playlist for the book and songs for specific scenes can instantly transport you to the mind frame you need to be in to write. How some people map out their entire book through songs.

There's even a cool website called Stereomood where you can select an emotion, and it will play music to help you feel that emotion.

Logically, I GET IT. It makes perfect sense. It sounds like a fabulous way of writing! I read those posts, and want to map out my book in song. I wonder why I haven't ever done it before.

Then I finally realized why I never do that. It just plain doesn't work for me. I don't listen to music when I write. For every scene I write, there is not a song tied to it. I don't have a band that inspires my MS. Music does not play a huge part in writing for me.

Assuming I'm not the only one, I came up with a theory.

Strong audio people are crazy inspired by music; 
strong visual people are crazy inspired by images.

I have read a LOT of blog posts about images, too. Some of us search through picture after picture of actors to find one that represents our MC before we even start writing.

Some of us find pictures of our setting, and other times the setting pictures reside only in our heads, because there doesn't exist a picture that could do it justice, and we lack the drawing/painting skills to put the image to paper.

Some of us draw their characters. (Not me, but I am totally jealous of those who have the skill.)

Some of us draw out a scene, placing everyone where they should be, no matter how unprofessional the scratches on paper are.

Some of us map out our book with images-- either drawn or by finding images through Google, making a storyboard of sorts.

Sometimes an image of scenery can spawn an idea for an entire book.

When I work through my story, I think it would go so much better if I could just get a really long piece of paper and visually plot out the book! I haven't quite figured out the perfect way to do it, but when I do, it will be epic. And when I find my epic method, I'll be sure to share with all my fellow visually-inspired writers. (If you've already figured this out, you'll share your secret with me, right?)

So there's my theory. Either we're strongly inspired by what we hear, or we're strongly inspired by what we see. Or possibly we're somewhere near the middle and use a combination of the two. Where do you stand?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Home from Vacation to do some Claiming!

This past weekend, I headed out into some fairly majestic mountains for camping and an awesome family reunion, where the fact that everyone smelled like campfire, river water and bug spray meant that it was okay I did, too. We got to hang out in surroundings like this:

And play and laugh and reminisce. And I came home to some fabulous blog awards from some fabulous bloggers!

First off, Cherie at Ready. Write. Go. gave me this award. --> (Sorry I didn't get this posted sooner, Cherie!) And really, what could be cuter than that puppy? Thanks, Cherie!

Then I got the Liebster award, which spotlights up and coming bloggers who currently have less than 200 followers. I found out from CherylAnne Ham that it means "friend" in German. How appropriate!

I would like to thank Jessie at B-Word for first giving me the award. (And apologize for it taking me a full week to post about it!) I'd also like to thank CherylAnne Ham at CherylAnne Ham, TaraNator at More Than Fiction, Leah at Leah Writes Pretty Fierce, and Carrie Butler at So, You're a Writer...

Thanks you guys! You're the best!

The rules of the award are:

1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
2. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
4. Have faith that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.
5. And most of all - have bloggity-blog fun!

I love that in the writing community, everyone supports everyone so well! Here's my picks to receive the Liebster Award. Go check 'em out!

1. Lani Wendt Young at Sleepless in Samoa. Ohmygosh. This lady is HILARIOUS. I actually laugh out loud at some point in every single one of her posts. I absolutely love every second spent on her blog. (And while you're there, check out her Rejected. By a Sandwich. post on her sidebar.)

2. Kelley Gerschke at Between the Bookends. Kelley recently made the transition between writing for fun and writing because she wants to be published. Her posts are always interesting and fun, and her excitement toward writing is infectious!

3. David Powers King at The Cosmic Laire of Science Fiction and Fantasy. David has a great writing voice that makes his blog fun to read. His posts are helpful and enjoyable. And psst! If you become a follower on his blog, he'll do a shout-out to you and link to your blog!

4. Barbara Kloss at The Adventures of a Writer. Whenever I go to Barbara's blog, I just stare at it for a while before I get to reading. Her blog is so pretty! (And not just because we have an affinity for the same fonts.) Her writing voice is AWESOME. She has fabulous writing posts and great book reviews.

5. Leigh Ann Kopans at The Naptime Novelist. I love the title of her blog! Leigh Ann does fabulous posts on writing, and has a wonderful writing voice.  And she gives great comments.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Quotes and Cookies: The Hardest Way

Before we get to the quotes or the cookies, I have to share something. I don't normally do links to contests, but I HAD to on this one. My friend K. Marie Criddle is moving to Japan. JAPAN, people! As a parting gift, she's giving away some really great stuff. But lemme tell you: the way to really win big is by following her blog! I read her blog for a year or two before we became friends, and I can tell you that not only is she one of the most awesome people in the entire writing world, but her blog seriously rocks beyond the telling of it. If I had to choose only one writing blog to read, it'd be hers. Yeah, it's that good. She is hilarious and she HAND DRAWS HER POSTS.

I'm serious about checking it out. Just click on this link. It'll open it in a new tab, so you can click on it now, and still finish reading this post. C'MERE: K. Marie Criddle's blog You'll thank me.

Now, on to the quotes and cookies!

I thought I'd end bravery week, such as it was, with a quote to validate all the bravery writers have to exhibit.

“Writing is the hardest way of earning a living, with the possible exception of wrestling alligators.”

~Olin Miller

So go forth! Be brave! Write! Eat a cookie! And do it with the knowledge that what you are doing is impressively hard.

Thus endeth bravery week.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Just Jump

Have I mentioned before that my brothers were crazy daredevils?

So on Friday nights when my parents went on dates, we'd party down. Because that's what you're supposed to do when you're parents are gone, right? We lived in a split-level house. (If you're unfamiliar with a split-level, you walk in the front door and are immediately faced with a half-flight of stairs leading up, and a half-flight of stairs leading down.) One of our favorite things to do was to gather every couch cushion and pillow from the whole house (with eight of us, it amassed to a decent amount), and pile them at the bottom of the lower flight of stairs.

We didn't have a railing between the upper flight of stairs and the lower--- instead, we had a half-height wall. And lemme tell you, that wall was way easier to climb on top of than any railing would've been. (I think my parents might've planned on our eventual antics when they designed the house. That's as good as permission, isn't it?)

So, with an easy to climb half-wall, we had no choice. We had to climb on it. And we had to jump ten feet down to the huge pile of pillows.

Just because we grew up in a family of daredevils didn't make that first jump each week easy, though. Every single time it was scary. It was SO HIGH. And it was hard to tell if we had fluffed and stacked and prepared the pillows well enough. And there was the possibility of not landing on our feet and getting hurt. (And actually, there was the possibility that if we sat crouched on the wall long enough, contemplating the jump, someone would "help" us make the decision to jump.) And there was the heart-clenching fear when we free-fell to the bottom.

And yes, there was the exhilaration of it all.

Because do you know what? Our ordinary life was just ordinary. Sure, things happened all the time like they do to everyone, but our Friday night jumps were something WE controlled. A craziness to our life that we chose (except in instances where we were "helped" to choose).

Jumping off that wall is kind of like jumping into a huge story line. Jumping into that larger-than-life, huge conflict / consequences story is scary every single time. You prepare by practicing and reading all about plotting, but you never know if you prepared enough until you jump in. Sometimes you may not want the huge story line, but your characters themselves will "help" you make the decision to jump. After all, they like to be in control of the jump! There will be heart-clenching fear. And there's a possibility that you'll not land on your feet. You might get hurt.

But do you know what? Without that hugeness to your plot, your story is just ordinary.

And along with the huge story line comes the exhilaration of it all. For you and your readers.

And that's what it's really all about.

I'll admit. Of all the things that require bravery that I mentioned on Monday, this one might be my hardest. I have to amp up my conflict with each round of revisions, because it is never huge enough at the beginning. Do you ever have that problem? If you don't, how do you push beyond the limits to come up with a huge storyline from the beginning?