Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Writing the Old Fashioned Way

I have begun editing chunks of my novel as I ride the train every day - well... almost every day. Now, I have been challenged by Beth to look at my writing goals.

I have been "waiting" to get a laptop PC that I can use on the train in order to begin writing. In fact, I just thought about it again today, because typing a novel on a Blackberry could be quite tedious. However, it occurred to me that lack of a PC certainly does not need to deter me! I can write the way Jane Austen (and countless other authors) did - with pen and paper!

A yellow legal pad will work perfectly! I could challenge myself to write several pages a day, or a story per page, or a character sketch. The possibilities are endless... Now... if only I had the perfect pen. I really like those fine type gel pens that you can get from.....

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Book Review: The Scarlet Pimpernel

No words of wisdom this week. I just finished reading The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orzcy. I liked it pretty well. It's a little too mushy for my taste, so I would not consider it on par with Charles Dickens' Tale of Two Cities or Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, but still a worthwhile read. (How easy it is to critique the words other writers have labored over. I quite realize that I have no books to my name while the Baroness has plenty. I am humbled, but still, my opinion stands that her book was kind of mushy. I liked the movie with Jane Seymour better. The clash of steal against steal is invigorating in the sword fights.)

Now that I have that out of my system, I'm still working on my pirates book in addition to the short stories. (Laura, I think pudding was the best choice for sabotaging shoes of a sibling.) Ah, the world of a writer is filled with many virtual twists and turns. You never know what the day will bring.

: )

Friday, March 26, 2010

Something better to share with you

My lame late night last minute post has been bothering me all week, so I'll share this wonderful post by Kristi Holl with you. It spoke to me. Just hit the link and prepare to be inspired!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Late At Night Is Not a Good Time To Come Up With a Post

It's a little late in the game to knock out a post for The Last Draft, but I hate to miss. If you don't want to read it because it's not inspired, just skip it this time. The sad thing is that I also forgot we have a writing meeting tomorrow until Laura mentioned it in passing. But since I'm not up for a submission this time around, I guess it doesn't matter too much. I've spent the evening studying magazine markets (instead of studying Physics, which is what I should have been doing). There just aren't enough hours in the day sometimes. *Sigh*

I haven't given up on pictures books. I just want to work on some other projects for a break. It's been awhile since I wrote anything for magazines, but I thought it might be fun to throw some short stories out there since they're...well...short. I'm finding their rhythm more like skits. Short and sweet with a good punch line. Picture books are more like concentrated orange juice. You have to cook them down, down, down until they're as strong as they can possibly be. Switching to novels has been hard because they just seem so long and wordy. (That's only when I'm writing them. I find reading them just fine.) But I'm working on my scene cards (thank you James Scott Bell) for one of those too.

I sent out Melba Sue and the Cactus Kid to an agent this time around. All this market research is very informative but extremely time consuming. I despise the thought of ignorantly adding to anyone's slush pile, so there's nothing for it but to do it anyway, even though it's chopping up my writing time. Ho hum. It's late, and just because I can't stand the thought of not submitting to the rest of you, I'm going to send you my rewrite for "Sweet Revenge." Happy reading if you get a chance to get to it before the meeting.

P.S. Do you think it would have been better to use chocolate pudding instead of jell-o?

Friday, March 19, 2010

You Win Some...And You Hope to Win Some Later

I was trying to decide whether I should share this news with you just yet or not. Finally I decided that yes, I should. After all, it's part of the writing process. Are you ready?

I have been rejected.

Sort of.

That is to say, at first, there was the possibility that Magination Press was going to take my picture book. The editor asked me for a rewrite with certain changes in December, and I sent it back to her with changes made. She liked the changes, but I had to wait for the editorial board to approve it at the end of February. February came. February went. Still I waited. I decided that no news was good news, because editors are quick to let you know when they don't want something. It meant they were still thinking.

Yesterday the email came. It was a very nice letter, especially considering how much time editors don't have to spare writing to authors whose books they are not planning to publish. In short, they loved the story, laughed at the story, but could not quite, after much deliberation, actually print the story. Magination Press specifically prints self-help books that equip children to deal with psychological issues, and my book lacked the psychological depth for what they need for their line.

I have to admit, nothing could have been further from my mind than psychological depth when I was writing it, but since the main character deals with sibling issues, I thought it might squeak through anyway.

Still, it's a great story, and it's very encouraging to survive the slush pile and have the first editor who has seen it want to publish it, at least for awhile.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A New Favorite

Upon my never ending search for great author's, I came across a new favorite. Although perhaps that is a bit premature considering I am only 3/4 of a way through my first novel penned by such person.

Julie Klassen is the authoress. The first words on her website hooked me! "If you love romance, English accents, Jane Eyre, or anything by Jane Austen, then you and I are soul sisters and I write for you!"

I have almost completed her second book and am not only enjoying it, but am pleasantly surprised by the feeling of authenticity from an American women residing in the St. Paul area. The romantic interest is unguessable until you are more then half way through. This is refreshing! I have observed in most novels you can surmise the end a quarter of a way through. But with this read I have delighted in the mystery of the unknown.

Klassen has written three novels. The Silent Governess, The Apothecary's Daughter and her most recent, Lady of Milkweed Manor.

If you love Austen as do I, you must dive into Klassen. I believe it will not disappoint!

Disclaimer- I am in no way associated with anyone for any kind of financial gain from this review.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Relationship Changes Everything

As a writer, I have been thinking about the importance of relationship in creating character dynamics and in driving plot. Relationship is defined by Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary as "the state of being related or interrelated; 2. the relation connecting or binding participants in a relationship: as A) kinship or B) a specific instance or type of kinship; 3.a. a state of affairs existing between those having relations or dealings, 3.b. a romantic or passionate attachment.

That took me back to the definition of relation, which has some very different and interesting meanings. Remember President Clinton who said, "I did not have relations with that woman?"

Here are a few of the more pertinent definitions: 1. the act of telling or recounting; 2. an aspect or quality (as resemblance) that connects two or more things or parts as being or belonging or working together or as being of the same kind; 3. the referring by a legal fiction of an act to a prior date as the time of its taking effect – usually used with back; 4.a. a person connected by consanguinity or affinity, 4.b. relationship by consanguinity or affinity - kinship; ...6. the attitude or stance which two or more persons or groups assume toward one another (e.g. race relations); 7.a. the state of being mutually or reciprocally interested in (as in social or commercial matters) b.1. dealings, intercourse, b.2. sexual intercourse.

Really, with that list of definitions, a writer cannot afford to ignore the power of relationship. And, here is the Laura Knoerr definition: the state of connection between two persons or groups of people. For instance, by my definition, two people could be related and have no relationship.

Worth pondering. More on this...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Lighten the Load!

I'll never forget the summer than I stayed with my brother and his wife in Michigan. For a kid from the farm, it was quite an adventure. I rode home with them after they had come for a visit and then spent about two weeks at their house. I took everything with me in an enormous hard gold suitcase, a carry over from the 70's when that kind of thing was actually popular. I even packed my roller skates (remember those?) because my brother lived not too far from a rink and I had high hopes of skating while I was there.

The only bad thing about that suitcase is that once I got everything in it, it weighed a ton. This didn't matter until I was on the way home and had to change trains in Chicago, where I'd never been before. Also our train was running late. Really late. So it was a dash to make the switch in Chicago or be left behind. I do not recommend carrying an enormous gold suitcase when trying to sprint for a connection. At that point, I regretted the roller skates. I was scared I wouldn't make it and I'd be stranded in Chicago. Fortunately, in spite of my baggage, I made it.

Writing can be challenging under good circumstances, which rarely exist. Normal distractions take the form of kids yelling, babies crying, the Fed Ex man delivering, and guests dropping by. Most of these can be written through. They only interrupt the stream of thought of the moment. They're annoying, but they can be shut out eventually. For half of them, I can just plug in the headphones and make them go away.

Not so when the disturbance is on the inside. It's like a heavy suitcase that I'm dragging around. It weighs me down and makes me feel like I'll never get a word down on paper. In order to write, I have to do something about the baggage that is weighing me down.

So what's the solution? Unpack your bag.

1. Deal with anxieties. Perspective is everything. Most things are not as bad as they first appear, but if you change your vantage point, they will look even smaller. If you're looking at things from God's perspective rather than your own, problems will diminish.

2. Decide not to be stressed or anxious. Your brain does not function on cruise-control. You have a choice whether or not to take those thoughts captive and direct your thought life elsewhere.

3. Stir up some happiness. This may sound hard, but sometimes you just have to fake it till you make it. The joy of the Lord is your strength. Stir up that joy, and it will naturally overcome the glummies.

4. Make writing a matter of habit. Don't wait until you feel anything to get to work. For example, I don't wait until my hand feels like holding a toothbrush to brush my teeth. I do it when it's time to brush. Regularly. I never consult my feelings on the matter. I can't be led around by my emotions. They are selfish critters and do not have my best interests at heart.

When it comes to writing, lightening the load will benefit you in the long run. Without that baggage, you'll actually be able to go the distance.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Purple Prose Amputation (Won't Hurt a Bit)

Ever heard of purple prose? For a writer, it is a fatal disease, the true way to kill a sale.

Purple prose happens when a writer tries to make his writing sound more writerly by using fancy words. The result is that the reader hits a speed bump in the reading road and is yanked up short because the words draw attention to themselves rather than telling the story.

It ain't pretty.

Words should never get in the way of the story we're trying to tell. This little poem has been attributed to either anonymous or Madelaine L'Engle. (Either she wrote it or quoted it from an anonymous source.) It doesn't really matter who said it first; it's the best medicine for the purple prose bug:

The written word
Should be clean as a bone,
Clear as light,
Firm as stone.
Two words are not
So good as one.

The problem with purple prose is that it is not any of these things. When a writer thinks that he's going to juice up the fancy end of his writing a bit so the can impress a publisher or agent, he's probably got the heinous sin of purple prose in mind. Don't try to sound like a writer. Just tell the story in as clear a way as you can, using your own words, simple may they be.

There's a line I like from the movie, The Rocketeer, that can be applied: "Acting is acting like you're not acting. So act!" That's also true about writing. Writing isn't supposed to sound like you're writing. If the reader feels written to, something is wrong, and it's quite possible that your purple prose is showing.

The right words are important. As Samuel Clemens said, it's either the lightning or the lightning bug. Take your pick. Purple prose is the lightning bug that needs to be squashed.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Art of War for Writers

Having finished Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell (it took about two months because I took a ton of notes) I am so excited because I was able to get The Art of War for Writers, also by James Scott Bell. So far I am loving it!

The book is divided into Reconnaissance, Tactics, and Strategy, with each section giving priceless information to writers. As I read, I was amazed. If you ever wanted to have a professional writer (or two or three) sit down and give you a heart-to-heart talk about what it means to be a writer, what it takes to keep being a writer, and what will cause you to succeed as a writer, this book is the closest thing I've ever found to it.

Now it's time for a subliminal message: YOU WON'T BE HAPPY UNTIL YOU READ THIS BOOK!

Glad to have that out of my system.

Disclaimer: No one paid me to say great things about Mr. Bell's book. I just couldn't help myself!