Wednesday, April 16, 2014

N is for Noise

I'm blogging my way through the alphabet with many others participating in the 2014 A to Z Challenge. The A to Z Challenge is the brainchild of Arlee Bird at Tossing it Out. We post every day in April except Sundays.

Today we're tackling the letter N and for lack of a better word, I guess I'll choose Noise. Noise has been defined as a sound of any kind. Seems like I always have noise going on in my head. A back and forth dialogue about something or other.

In restaurants I listen to those around me, try to tune in to what they're saying. While driving, I'm plotting stories and imagining my characters talking to each other. Way too often, I'm constructing a response to questions I know are coming. To me, thinking feels like noise. The only time my mind shuts down is when I sleep.


Since we're undergoing massive renovation in our house, I've been hearing a different kind of noise. Scraping. Buzzing. Hammering. Sawing. Boisterous female laughter. Rhythmic Spanish voices. Humming. Even an occasional whistle--from a human. Sometimes a phone.

These new sounds inspire me.

The only noise I can't stand is when someone tries to talk while the TV is blaring. Now, that's unpleasant Noise. I can't understand what all the voices are saying. I feel panicky. My head wants to explode. Figure that one out!

I found a quote I like, and I think I might agree. At any rate, it stirs my imagination.

"People who make no noise are dangerous." Jean de La Fontaine, French Poet

What's your favorite noise?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

M is for Manuscripts (and their Middle)

I'm blogging my way through the alphabet with many others participating in the 2014 A to Z Challenge. The A to Z Challenge is the brainchild of Arlee Bird at Tossing it Out. We post every day in April except Sundays.

Our letter today is M and in my mind, that means Manuscripts. We probably all have many unfinished or first drafts tucked away in a drawer or on a hard-drive. What do we do with them? Why did we give up on them? How many times did we revise them? Are they finished, but were rejected over and over again? When do we know it's time to discard them?

I've read that a lot of authors are bringing their old manuscripts out as ebooks, but honestly, I don't have the courage to do that. My thought is, if a traditional publisher didn't want them, then something has to be wrong with them. I know that's not always the case for rejection but I'm not taking any chances.

All of my manuscripts need rewriting. The Middle--another M word--is what weakens my books. There's something about the middle that's a real challenge for me--even though I know that's where the action is, the heart of the book. I've noticed once I get past chapter three or four, my characters tend to get silly. The scenes seem forced. They can't think of anything to do or say to each other. I have to focus, outline, visualize, put myself in each character's place for the middle of my books to be logical. When I start writing ... I dread getting to the middle!

Some writers construct each scene with such precision. I understand that each scene has a beginning, a middle and end, that it's supposed to further the story, add complications and tension. I think some of this writing stuff we just do naturally. If I work with such precision, I get lost or overwhelmed. But maybe I'm looking at this from the front-side of my manuscript, not the backside. Not after it's written and I'm delving into the layering.

Tell me how you approach the middle of your book. Share any tips you have. Do you outline extensively and know what the middle will bring, or do you sit down and start writing and worry about the middle after the fact? Do you ask yourself any specific questions when you're approaching your middle? Do you recognize when your middle is too easy and unemotional?
Teach me something!

Monday, April 14, 2014

L is for Liar (or Lie)

I'm blogging my way through the alphabet with many others participating in the 2014 A to Z Challenge. The A to Z Challenge is the brainchild of Arlee Bird at Tossing it Out. We post every day in April except Sundays.

Today is L day, and I've chosen the word Liar. I don't like liars. Maybe I should say ... lying is a pet peeve, and I don't trust liars. Unfortunately, we all come in contact with them. We might even have family members who lie. I always feel when I catch someone in a lie, I can never trust him or her again. I'm always suspicious of everything they tell me.

Of course, sometimes we're a little confused about what a lie really is. There are no half-lies. A lie is a lie.  We get into the situational ethics thing, an idea that suggests the end justifies the means when dealing with a crisis; that the law can be set aside if a greater good or lesser evil is served. I really don't think we're going to be able to rationalize or explain ourselves when we stand before God. Isn't that a little scary?

One of my books deals with situational ethics. My main character is forced into a situation where she lies to get a job to save her self and her nephew, and to achieve a dream she had in high school. In her mind, she's justified. Sadly, her actions destroy someone else's dream. It's not your typical happy ending. The book has been rejected by Christian publishers because they don't want a book where the heroine lies. At least that's what they said. Okay, I guess they don't like liars either--even if the main character grows and changes and repents.

Lies and Liars are all around us. We deal with them every day.

When I researched liars in public office, I learned that a congressional investigation several years ago uncovered almost 500 federal employees who had credentials from unaccredited schools giving bogus degrees. This included three individuals with high-level security clearance. That was several years ago ... just think how that number has increased today!

I won't name names but a university football coach admitted he lied about his academic and athletic background. He claimed to have a masters in education and he claimed the have played football for three years. Neither was true.

An athletic director from another university neglected to correct his resume. He never completed his master's degree yet it was listed there. After exposed, he had to resign.

The president of a very important U.S. committee resigned after it was discovered she didn't receive her bachelor's degree or her doctorate, as claimed.

One politician in Texas was defeated for re-election because she claimed to have a bachelor's degree when she did not.
A CEO of a well-known electronics store resigned because he claimed degrees in theology and psychology from a university.

Needless to say, these people would still hold their positions if they had not been found out. I'm not saying these people weren't qualified or capable of holding down these jobs. The problem is their lies. Actually, lying is akin to theft. They stole these positions from people who actually worked hard in college to get such jobs.

I guess a good question is, why weren't their resumes checked out? Why weren't references called?  But I suppose that's another story.

When we talk about lies and liars, we always revert back to something silly like, "You mean if my wife asks if she looks good in a particular dress, I'm supposed to tell the truth?" Look buddy, just say what my husband says, "I love you, to me, you look good in anything and everything."  If he believes so do I! Lying is a serious thing and we shouldn't be allowed to get away with it.

And if you're a Believer, you probably agree that we won't.

How do you feel about Lies and Liars? Is it a worthy topic or one you don't want to deal with or know about?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

K is for Kit - A Writing Kit

I'm blogging my way through the alphabet with many others participating in the 2014 A to Z Challenge. The A to Z Challenge is the brainchild of Arlee Bird at Tossing it Out. We post every day in April except Sundays.  For me, it really is a challenge because of all that's going on in my life so I need organization, focus and time. And maybe a KIT that I can pull ideas from. Right?

Remember, I told you, hubby says I'm always looking for easy fixes. A writing Kit is one of them. If you could put together your own writing Kit--and, in a way, some writers do, what would you have in it? Just pretend you can reach in to a satchel or briefcase and pull out the questions you need to answer to get your novel or short story all planned out. Below are a few things I've collected from various writers and conferences. They mostly have to do with writing romance but you can tweak any of these things to your own plotting.

One writing course I took asked us to use the bubble method to connect all our characters to our hero and our heroine. That method worked well for me. Here's an article I found on using the bubble method to brainstorm. You might want to add it to your writing Kit.

Now, you may want to make notes on the following for each main character or all of your characters.

External Goals
Internal / Emotional Goal
Lie he/she believes
Emotional Strengths
How will all these things affect hero/heroine's relationships with other characters but also the romantic relationship in the story 

My favorite thing in my writing Kit is this short paragraph:

Write a quick one-sentence summary of the book using: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

When writing a synopsis there are certain things that need to be there. I hate writing synopses, but I believe stream of consciousness or free writing when it comes to creating one can really help you develop the novel. So, why not write the synopsis first. Yeah, I know, most of you will say if you know where you're going and everything that happens, you don't want to write your story. I'm what is known as a safety kid: I like to know where I'm going, how to get there and when I'll get there. Call me boring or paranoid (both fit) but I'm a road map sort of person. I plan my routes to the grocery stores, restaurants and any where else I need to go, and I never turn across the traffic or come out at dangerous intersections that don't have red lights. Maybe paranoid is better than boring. :)

Here are the parts of a synopsis and it all goes back to that favorite paragraph above--the one sentence summary that's really six sentences:

1. Hook
2. Main Character (Once upon a time there was ___), Setting, Set Up 
(Every day, ___), Goal, Motivation
3. Character #2, Set up, Goal, Motivation
4. Conflict between the goals established in #2 & #3.
5. Inciting Incident 
(One day___). 
6. Obstacles that are keeping the character from his or her goal and moving the story forward. (Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___.)
Black moment
8. How the characters have changed
9. Wrap up of spiritual, mystery, and/or romantic elements.
10. Satisfying resolution.

Maybe some of this will end up in your writing Kit or at least, get you started or over a hump, unblocked. I wish you all the best with your projects. We writers need to stick together and encourage each other. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you on Monday with an L-word!

Friday, April 11, 2014

J is for Janie

I'm blogging my way through the alphabet with many others participating in the 2014 A to Z Challenge. For me, it really is a challenge because of all that's going on in my life. I spent today trying to design wedding invitations while painters painted and workers cut granite. I took a short break to run to Lowe's to pick out bathroom faucets.

We've been busy ever since moving back to Louisiana from Oklahoma. I thought retirement meant a lot of free time on our hands. Not so.

I miss Oklahoma. I especially miss my friend Janie who met me at the library for a writing day two or three times a month. She drove about 45 minutes one way for our writing day. We'd meet at 9:00 a.m. and at noon, we'd break for lunch. I'd usually take apple and cheese but Janie packed a real lunch of tuna or chicken salad. After lunch, we'd write for another hour or two. Here are a couple of pics I snapped of Janie while she focused on her manuscript. I guess you know if I'm snapping pics with my iPhone, I'm not focused on writing. I'm people-watching.

Janie used to live in Cameron, Louisiana but after her husband died, she moved to Oklahoma to be near sisters and was there to welcome me when hubby's work took us there. What a treat to have a writing pal, a brainstorming buddy ... someone who is fun, smart, loves to read and loves to laugh. That's Janie, fearless Janie, I-can-do-anything-I-put-my-mind-to Janie. What an encourager! I wrote my novella at the Mustang Library in Oklahoma with Janie sitting across from me ... just like in these pictures. If we were still there, I'd have another book finished. I have no doubt!

Janie and I keep in touch by email, but it's definitely not the same as sitting across the table from each other. I can't see her crazy expressions or hear her wild laughter. I miss that.

Do you have a special pal that cheers you on when you've been rejected way too many times? Someone who'll read over your work, and tell you honestly if it is good, if a scene works, if there are plot holes? Janie wrote a little mystery short story that I had the pleasure of critiquing for her. She targeted Women's World Magazine. We were so excited when they offered her a contract. A Safe Bet came out in March. I felt like Janie's success was my success too.

Tell me about your writer friends. Anyone special?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I is for Inconvenience

Definition of inconvenience (n)

  • in·con·ven·ience
  • [ ìnkən véenyənss ]
lack of convenience: the quality or fact of being inconvenient or causing discomfort, difficulty, or annoyance
annoyance: something that causes difficulties or annoyance
cause difficulty to somebody: to cause somebody difficulties, especially relatively minor or unnecessary ones, or ones involving unwanted extra effort, work, or trouble

As some of you know, hubby recently retired after working 47+ years for the same company. We've looked forward to renovating our home, getting wood floors, ceramic tile in the bathrooms and kitchen, new appliances and kitchen cabinets and tearing out a totally useless wet bar to make bookshelves. Wet bar to the right.

We've been under construction (demolition) since March 6th. What an INCONVENIENCE. I almost feel as if this
is self-inflicted pain. I know once everything is completed, we'll be thrilled, but until then ... I'm not able to put my mind in writing mode. Or maybe I should say rewriting mode since that's what I'd hoped to do during this time. We have two more bedrooms to move stuff out of, but there's no place to put their contents until we get some floors down. Our garage is full.

Here are a few pics so you'll understand what I'm going through and if anyone has questions about how and what they should do to "prepare" for such a renovation, just ask. I have a few answers. Hubby is standing in what used to be our kitchen, playing with his iPhone. Twitter keeps him sane. To the right is the bathroom. Very INCONVENIENT when they decide to tear up both bathrooms at the same time! The other night we took a shower is our smaller bathroom by flashlight. Wow, new experience!

Renovation is a lot like tearing a novel apart and putting it back together again--correctly--or maybe the new way you see it in your mind. What do you think?

To the right is in my office. The path leads to my desk. We stored most of our books and breakables here because renovation is NOT happening in this room. I can only take so much ... INCONVENIENCE!

Do you have any tales of inconvenience? Do you think you could write while this is going on? Have you renovated before? Maybe I could learn a few things from you. Share!

I'm blogging my way through the alphabet with more than a thousand others who are doing the same. Please support the bloggers of the #AtoZchallenge by visiting, sharing or commenting.  It's fun! Certainly more fun than this INCONVENIENCE!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

H is for Hand-marking a Hard copy

For those who don't know, I'm blogging my way through the alphabet with more than a thousand others who are doing the same. Please support the bloggers of the #AtoZchallenge by visiting, sharing or commenting.  It's fun! 
Today, we're blogging an H word and I've chosen Hand-marking a Hard copy. That's when I go through the pages of my manuscript and mark it up, edit, flesh it out. I critique myself. I wish I didn't need a Hard copy because sometimes I'm away from home (like this past week) with no way to print out an article or short story for revising, and I find myself in a pickle--especially if I'm on deadline. I wonder if needing a Hard-copy to Hand-mark is a bad habit I acquired years ago. Or if it's common practice.
I'm curious to know what you all do. Do you edit on your laptop. I can do that to a point, but I prefer a print copy so I can move away from my work area to a clear, comfortable place to read, proof, absorb. If I need to cut pages and paragraphs, I just slash through it and write myself a little note. If I need to fill in with description or introspection, it's easy to do. Here's a picture of a book I'm working on. I put it in a three ring binder then give it a read-thru, making changes until I feel I can get back to the computer to do final edits. 
Is there an easier way?  If so, share with me so I can quit killing trees!