Taking holiday spirit to a new low

I love this time of year because everyone seems to be focusing on being nice to each other. The holiday spirit is right in front of you…

Like the woman at Walmart who knocked over a 100-year-old lady, or the crowd that trampled a man running into a Target on Black Friday. What the hell is wrong with these people? I like to think that for the most part, we are all trying to be nice to each other. I also think that these assholes would be this way whether it was the holiday season or not, right? But seriously, do we need a holiday to tell us to be nice to each other? (Ok, these people do, but they clearly are not getting the message and probably need a kick in the ass.)

I don’t want to get sappy, and anyone who knows me can testify that I don’t do it often. But seriously, people! Was that cheap stereo or half-price jacket worth the blood and broken bones? Can’t we all just get along? (Jeez, I sound like a pre-school teacher breaking up a toddler fight)

Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas or Kwanzaa, it doesn’t matter. They all focus on being thankful and caring and nice to others. This should be a year-round message. Take the time to think about being nice to someone. No presents needed, no chocolate required (ok, just one piece). Get into the holiday spirit, it’s infectious. Just don’t knock anyone over on your way.


What if that scene just doesn’t work?

I’m doing something unpleasant today…rewriting a scene I am in love with. I have loved it since I wrote it last year, and although I will always love it, I have come to realize that it just doesn’t work where I have it. Since writing the scene, I have changed some of the characters and their motivations. I know I have to do it, but why is it so hard?

I nurtured it, developed it and sculpted it. Now I must kill it. It’s as simple as that. And the lesson here is that I can be connected to my story and its characters, but I should not get too attached to any part of the book. Once it goes to a publisher/editor, I know there will be more changes suggested. I’m priming myself for that time, even though I know it will be difficult.

Right now my focus is on making the replacement something that rocks even more. Something that moves the story along, develops the plot and makes the reader understand the MC even more. Can that be done? Oh yeah…but scene #1, I’ll never forget you…



How to write a bad novel

I signed on this weekend to do a quick edit on a novel. I was hired to do a read-through/clean-up job as quickly as possible. It’s a long story on why I had such a short time to work, and where it came from, but the bottom line is this…it was really bad. How bad, you ask? Courtesy of this book, I now know how to write a bad novel as follows:

1. Use a cliché for your plot, something you could find in a Lifetime Movie. Make sure it has very little action and plods along slowly with just a hint of what’s to come in the story. Give cliché dialogue to your characters.

2. Do not put any action into the book until at least halfway through the book. Why excite people? Instead, spend this time pointing out uninteresting facts and giving your characters dialogue and conversations that go nowhere and serve no purpose.

3. Make sure your descriptions don’t go too deep, just keep it surface and boring.

4. Do not spend too much time on your character development, just make sure we know they are very good-looking and what kind of hair and what color eyes they have. Make sure those eyes are glaring, sparkling, angry, cautious, and of course, sultry.

5. Try to stay away from the word “said.” Instead, use phrases such as, he glared, he grinned, she laughed, she lamented, he growled, she whispered softly, he barked, she cried, she squealed, she cried, etc. You get the picture.

6. Leave plenty of plot holes in your story so the readers have to conjure up their own ideas and insert their own explanations. Make them think, damn it! Don’t check into any real facts either, just make them up. Even medical facts, what the hell! Make it up, who’s gonna’ know?

As I read and edited as best I could, I realized just how easy it is to write a bad novel and how much work it takes to create something exciting, suspenseful and interesting. I learned that I need to get my own project ready for publication and although I know for a fact it’s much better than the above-mentioned novel, it still needs work. I would love to thank the writer of the “bad novel” above for giving me such insight into my own writing and what I need to be successful, but that wouldn’t really be nice, would it?

So, I’ll say it here…Thanks Bad Writer. Thanks for showing me how much I need to work on my own project. Thanks for pointing out how important it is to keep a story moving with action, tension and character development. Thanks for keeping me from sending out something that is not ready for publication. And thanks for paying me for this realization.

(Just for the record, I am anonymous in my editing since I was doing a favor and finishing a job for another editor. The writer will never know I was involved and I would never bash someone publicly. I provided copious notes on my opinion and recommendations for improving the novel, which will be passed on to the writer.)


Taking the day off

I’m not writing about writing today. I’m not writing today, I’m not even reading today (gasp!) I spent the morning (early, wayyyyy early) at a charity yard sale with the teen/tween kids in our homeschool group. It was a long day of overseeing the kids, drinking coffee and trading my junk for other people’s junk.

This afternoon, I’m getting ready for a party I’ll be throwing tomorrow. This means I’m cutting cheese squares, skewering little tomatoes, basil leaves and the cheese and lining them nicely on a tray. (Tomorrow, we use the new tray I got at the yard sale!) I’m also bringing wine, crackers, olives, etc. No, I’m not taking a break to read, and this is my only jump on to the Internet and the computer for the day.

Taking the day off, away from the computer, writing, books, etc. can be quite peaceful.  I don’t feel as if I’m missing something because I gave myself permission. OK, I did get a few books at the yard sale including Pride & Prejudice, Once and Future King and Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. I couldn’t help myself, the price was right. But I’m not going to read them today.

Do you ever take the day off? Give yourself permission to take time to yourself, do what you want to do and don’t worry about not getting any work done? It will still be there tomorrow. (If you’re right in the throes of nanowrimo, get some writing done in the morning and then walk away for the rest of the day.)

I’ll be back tomorrow!

Does Nanowrimo Cause Weight Gain?

What’s your poison? For a few days now I’ve been joking with my fellow Tweeters about the chocolate stash one must have in order to take part in nanowrimo. Except it’s not really joking, is it people? Some of them are eating chocolate I’ve never heard of  before in countries I only dream about visiting. But the universal fact I’ve come to believe is that chocolate does make nanowrimo easier.

Last year I completed nanowrimo while munching on numerous bowls of M&Ms as I wrote. I went through a good amount of 1/2-price Halloween M&Ms during the month of November and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Of course, that wasn’t good for my waistline or health judging by the extra pounds I packed on my ass, but I think it was quite good for my creativity.

This year, although not participating in nanowrimo, I am editing and working and therefore have stocked up at See’s Candy. But this year, it’s a little different…one per day, that’s all I’m giving myself. The result so far? Not so good. My motivation is way down…I’m just not feelin’ it. Now, this could be from many factors, but I have to wonder if it has to do with the lack of M&Ms. Why not? My lack of sugar rush and chocolate fix could be holding me back. And who am I to deprive my creativity? I’m breaking down, people!

What keeps you going? Twizzlers, M&Ms, Twinkies? Of course, it could be carrots sticks and tea for some of you, but then that would just be crazy and I simply don’t want to hear about it. It’s just not natural.


Do your homework after nanowrimo

OK, so you’re writing your Nanowrimo novel and skipping the research. Why take the time to look something up right now? Good move, just add a note there and keep going…get that word count in for today.

But what about when the writing is over? Now it’s time to go back and read what you wrote (if you can handle it). Sure, you’re gonna’ have tons of edits and rewrites, but we’ll get to that later. For right now, let’s talk about what proper research can do for your book.

I recently read two wonderful books that were based on historical fact. And what made them so great was that each author took the time to research their respective historical facts. Each book transported me back to a mysterious time where I could smell and feel what it must have been like to live so many years ago. This made it more interesting, more compelling and most importantly, more marketable. There’s nothing more frustrating than made-up facts that skew your thinking about a time in history.

For instance, if you’re writing about George Washington and decide to write about his Chinese mistress, make sure your story is based on some facts about him, the time he lived, what he wore, what he ate, etc. That way, your story has more power, it makes more sense. Maybe the Chinese mistress won’t be fact, but if it’s steeped in fact, it’s easier to swallow. If all the facts are changed, it takes away from the story.

The books? The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe, which is set during the Salem witch trials in 1692 and the present time, and Rebecca Cantrell’s A Trace of Smoke, which takes place just before Hitler took control of Germany.  Both are wonderful examples of historical fiction with compelling main characters and excellent research into the time period.

So do your homework when Nanowrimo is over, your work is just beginning!


Nanowrimo, I just can’t quit you!

OK, we did break up yesterday, but nano is still courting me. I’m getting the e-mails and listening to everyone on Twitter chatter on about their word counts and snacks and such, as if they are all dating the guy I dumped. So, I just can’t let go.

No, I’m not going to go back to the competition, but since I do remember what it was like to date, er I mean, participate with nanowrimo, I’m still offering up my tips and ideas when I find them.

Tips from fellow writers on Twitter provided some great advice:

@CrayonWrangler had a few great tips…

1. “Be flexible to your own instinct and be consistent and realistic with your goals.”
2. “Don’t focus so much on the finer points of writing…TELL YOUR STORY and let it flow. You can revisit and revamp later.”
3.  “Also recognize that there ARE 30 days in which to create your novel. Plug it out but remember that polishing comes later.”

@pamstucky said her “best #nanowrimo advice: Shut down Twitter and TweetDeck! :)”

@dolly612 reminded everyone to “take it in your own stride. It’s not a competition.”

Great advice for any writing endeavor, not just a 30-day challenge. Keep it up everyone, I’m watching with jealousy as you hang out at my ex’s place.