Monday, May 28, 2007

Plan of Attack

I've written The End, but now comes the real work--the rewrite. I'll have to tie up loose ends, plug holes, check and eliminate passive voice. I'll also have to get rid of most if not all ing and ly words, and sentences beginning with it or there. I have to make sure I'm showing instead of telling. :)

Even though best selling authors use it and there and ing and ly words all the time, and tell, tell, tell instead of show, show, show, I can't because I'm not a best selling author.

No matter how well we write or how wonderful our story is, if we don't have a track record, we can't break any rules. While reading our story, the editor or agent (or contest judge) should be able to see our characters, hear their accents, and smell the fragrance of the setting. The reader must have all the info she needs to follow our story. That's where it gets tricky. How much info is too much? I don't have a clue. I get very discouraged when I hear that readers don't like prologues, that editors don't want heros or heroines that are artists, singers, or writers. I continue to pick up novels where the heroines are artists, singers, and writers... so I guess that rule is also aimed at the unpublished. But I'm off track here. Back to revising the book.

Everyone knows that the very best thing to do before revising is to put the novel aside for at least three months. I don't know anyone who has the time to do that. I don't, and published writers can't because they're on contract and facing deadlines.

After reading Practical Tips for Writing Popular Fiction by Robyn Carr, I've designed my method of attack. During my first trip through my chapters, I'll be looking at a lot of things.

Index cards. Don't we love them?

I plan to list my characters as they appear in the story. I'll note how they are introduced, what I've written regarding their appearance, names, and primary traits. This will help me keep each character consistent. I don't want Miranda to be blonde at the beginning of the story and brunette in chapter fifteen. :) Miranda talks to God a lot. Since she lives alone, he's her best friend. I've noticed that as the book progressed, Miranda didn't talk to him quite as much. I need to take a look at that.

Another purpose of the cards is to put names to very minor characters I've referred to early in the book. By chapter twelve, I'd forgotten the school secretary's name and didn't want to take the time to look her up so I have some blanks lines to fill in.

Next, I need to draw up a time line as I read. It'll begin as my story begins. The principal is out of the country, but Miranda keeps saying he'll be home next week. The weeks come and go, but he never does come back. I've devised a plan to keep him gone indefinitely since there's no need for his return, but I need to take a close look at this. Really, I have no clue how much time has passed in my story. :( Yikes! I hope I don't find a huge mess.

Next, I need to track my plot. This will include my basic plot line, all subplots, character motivations, the events that occur and any other devices used to move the story along. There can't be any loose ends.

As I read the hard copy, I'll be fleshing out, fixing dialogue, entering descriptive and sensory junk that I truly hate to read and write. Sure seems like there's a lot to do. There's much to be said for revising as we write the story. Unfortunately, I'm not one of those writers.

The work never matches the dream of perfection the artist has to start with. - William Faulkner

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Genesis Finalists

The finalists for the 2007 ACFW Genesis contest!

Contemporary Romance (includes romantic comedy)
Jennifer Lynn Cary
Audra Harders
Catherine Hershberger
Roxanne Sherwood
Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Historical Romance
Linda Fulkerson
Audra Harders
Pam Hillman (double finalist in Historical Romance)
Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Romantic Suspense
Sally Bradley
Marci J. Burke
Dineen Miller
Dani Pettrey
Suzan Robertson

Sally A. Apokedak
Valerie Comer
Rebecca Grabill
Shannon McNear
Chris Mikesell

Historical Fiction (not romance)
Yvonne Anderson
Marcia Gruver
Tina Helmuth
Carla Stewart
Erica Vetsch

Young Adult
Sally Apokedak
Leigh DeLozier
Linda Fulkerson
Charlene Glatkowski
Rachael Phillips

Contemporary Fiction
Michael Ehret
Jennifer Griffith
Kathy Harriss
Myra Johnson
Angie Poole

Women's Fiction
Lynne Gentry
Ane Mulligan
Kristine Pratt
Kathleen Sprout
Ginger Vaughan

Martha Pope Gorris
Gina Holmes (double finalist in Mystery/Suspense/Thriller)
Janet Robertson
Janet Rubin

Chick/Mom/Hen/Lady Lit
Georgiana Daniels
Annalisa Daughety
Sabrina Fox-Butcher
Carrie Padgett
Jenness Walker

Congratulations to all the 2007 Genesis finalists and especially my critique partner, MARCIA GRUVER!!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Race is On - Create custom images


It is not enough to know what to do, you must do what you know. ~ Dr Robert Anthony

Tomorrow is the day when idlers work, and fools reform. ~ Edward Young

Seize the day, put no trust in tomorrow.
Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today. ~ Benjamin Franklin

In delay there lies no plenty. ~ William Shakespeare

Putting off an easy thing makes it hard. Putting off a hard thing makes it impossible. ~ George Claude Lorimer

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Attitude - It Can Make us or Break us

I found a yellowed sheet of paper on an old bulletin board with the following paragraphs typed on it. I have no idea who gave it me. It's worth reading and remembering.

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our Attitudes.” ~Charles Swindoll

Happy Mother's Day - Create custom images A mother understands what a child does not say. ~Jewish Proverb

For a mother is the only person on earth who can divide her love among ten children and each child still have all her love. ~Anonymous

The doctors told me I would never walk, but my mother told me I would, so I believed my mother. ~ William Rudolph, US track star

A mother's heart is always with her children. ~Proverb

The mother's heart is the child's schoolroom. ~Henry Ward Beecher

Never marry a man who hates his mother, because he'll end up hating you. ~Jill Bennett

If you bungle raising your children, I don't think whatever else you do well matters very much. ~Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

A mother is not a person to lean on, but a person to make leaning unnecessary.
~Dorothy Canfield Fisher

You don't really understand human nature unless you know why a child on a merry-go-round will wave at his parents every time around - and why his parents will always wave back. ~William D. Tammeus

Friday, May 11, 2007

Maureen, We Hardly Knew You

Tonight I was stunned speechless. My favorite character on Close To Home was shot in the head. I thought she was only wounded, but Kimberly Elise was zipped up in a body bag before my very eyes. Did I cry? What do you think?

Kim is best known for her role in the films "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" and "Beloved." I think she's beautiful and I loved her hard-nosed honesty as the Close to Home character Maureen. But what really appealed to me was that touch of loneliness and sadness she portrayed . She quickly became my favorite, and I'm so sorry we didn't get to know her character better.

So I'm asking myself, will I stay with the show? I don't know. Over the past few weeks I've been annoyed with the Annabeth character, but that's another story. Right now, I'm mourning Maureen, and thinking about the loveable old guy I killed off in my book, Reinventing Rita. Do readers forgive us if we make them care for a secondary character only to knock him off? Unfortunately, the answer is . . . if we do it right. If there is good reason. If they can SEE that good reason. I use the word 'unfortunately' because I wonder how we know we've done it right? Usually, it's after the book is in print that we get the honest feedback.

I read the following quote on another blog:

"The important thing in writing is the capacity to astonish. Not shock—shock is a worn-out word—but astonish."~~Terry Southern, novelist and screenwriter

Now, I want to know:
How do we astonish?

How do we KNOW that we astonished?

Who determines if we have the capacity to astonish?

With an apple I will astonish Paris. Paul Cezanne :)

In truth, the only restrictions on our capacity to astonish ourselves and each other are imposed by our own minds. David Blaine

I Fought the Law

One of my characters changed his personality tonight. He didn't act like he usually acts. I've known him for several months and all of a sudden, he's coming across a little too casual and almost goofy. In fact, tonight he reminded me of Keith Mars, Veronica's dad, and I realized that's who he is -- a young Keith Mars.

I wonder what causes characters to change mid-stream. Am I getting to know him a little better, or am I going off on some tangent that'll screw me up and waste my time? I'm nearing the end of my book, just a few more chapters. I can't get tangled up with any more subplots.

Dwight Swain, author of Creating Characters , How to Build Story People, wrote: As a matter of fact, a character either in life or in fiction, may, for his own personal reasons, intentionally convey a false impression.

And I say, "Be careful, Sheriff. I won't let some off-the-wall lawman slow me down. "

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Please Mr. Postman . . .

If you ask me to name ten things I love, my mail box will be on the list. In fact, I can almost guarantee that if you show this picture to my daughter and ask her who it reminds her of, she'll point to her mother. ;-) I've always had an enormous affection for my mail box.
Mailing manuscripts and receiving checks or rejection slips was a joy to me, and I miss those days. Email just doesn't seem the same. I press the send button, and there it goes into a deep, dark hole. Who knows if the article, poem, proposal reaches its destination? What's worse, I believe email simplifies rejections. Hit reply, type "no thanks, doesn't fit our needs," and Ms. Editor is finished with me. Ever accidentally delete something? Oh, yeah, that'll work to someones advantage. Wonder whose?
Shhhhhh, let's just pretend we never received this crummy query.
This rant isn't an attack on editors or agents or even email. It's an attack on progress. I don't like it. I want to slow down this world. I want anonymity -- not just for myself, but for every agent, editor and author out there. I don't like knowing my favorite author has a snarly side, but I often see it on writing loops. I don't like learning that some agents are slackers or that they put their own writing before their business of being an agent, or that they're on another cruise or that they attend writers' conferences for the sole purpose of meeting with their clients, or that they're just downright mean. I don't like hearing that a favorite author has a radical, political side, or that she curses like a sailor.
The Internet makes sure I know all these things.
My daughter is right. I should have been a postal worker.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Something To Think About

All things make sense; you just have to fathom how they make sense.
~Piers Anthony

I started writing to please myself, a story I would like to read, and that is still true. ~Jean M. Auel

I don't write about things that I have the answers to or things that are very close to home. It just wouldn't be any adventure. It wouldn't have any vitality. ~Ann Beattie

A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others. ~Ayn Rand

It's never too late - in fiction or in life - to revise. ~Nancy Thayer

You have to have a tremendous drive and belief in yourself and you have to live with many, many years of rejection. ~Leon Uris

You were made by God and for God, and until you understand that, life will never make sense. ~Rick Warren

Monday, May 7, 2007

Conference Cacophony

cacophony: a harsh and discordant sound

Yep, that could describe our emotional rumblings when we think about conferences.

Should I go? Do I really want to go? Should I invest the money? Should I sacrifice the money? Will it be worth my while? Am I ready? Do I really know how to write? Will I know anyone there? Will anyone talk to me?

I've attended many writers' conferences, but one stands out in my memory. The Golden Triangle Writer's Conference in Beaumont, Texas. Editors and agents from New York were to be in attendance, as well as big name authors, all willing to share everything they knew about writing that best seller. My friend Barbara and I planned to squeeze right into the mix. All we needed was just the right look—no wide-eyed naïve gawking from us. We’d honed our pitch and hoped to exhibit just the right amount of charisma because everyone knows important people are drawn to charisma.

Personally, I’ve always been short on charisma. That’s something that’s eluded me from the beginning. I tend to stand back and listen because I was taught that one learns more from listening than speaking. After meeting Barbara I doubted that was true.

Barbara and I met at a writer’s meeting in Lafayette, Louisiana. She was boldly attractive with very short red/blond/brown hair combed straight up. That should have been a sign. She wore a huge heavy bracelet on one wrist, gaudy necklace and earrings, and she had the liveliest eyes I'd ever seen.

“Hi, I understand you know everything there is to know about writing,” she challenged.

That alone made me want to scurry out the door. I did know about writing, but I’d taught myself by reading the trade magazines, and even though I'd had some nonfiction published, I wasn’t exactly secure in my little bit of knowledge. Before I could respond, Barbara moved on to her next thought.

“Why don’t I come over to your house tomorrow and you can look at some of my work and tell me what you think.”

Not knowing how to gracefully turn down this aggressive, fearless wannabe, I mumbled something that she mistook for okay. Barbara showed up bringing a sack lunch and eighty-five pages of her novel. That was the beginning of a very special friendship.

So, standing in the luxurious Atrium of the Holiday Inn in Beaumont, Texas, we two unpublished novelists looked at each other and grinned as if we had the world by the tail.

“The Golden Triangle Writers’ Conference,” I whispered in awe. “We’re here.”

“The crème de la crème of conferences,” she answered, then suddenly got that look in her eyes. “You know, if I just had a set of long nails, I could do anything! You’d think I clawed wood or something the way these things look.” She held up her hands to prove her point. They looked okay to me but off to Wal-Mart we hurried to visit the Sally Hansen aisle and find Barbara just the right length of confidence. As if she needed one ounce more.

The conference seminars were to begin early the next morning, but there was a mixer that night where we would have the opportunity to mingle as we juggled a plate of finger foods and a glass of punch. Barbara and I had practiced telling each other about our novels in twenty five words or less, being sure to get the goal, motivation and conflict in there somewhere. In our rooms, we primped and giggled and imagined what we would do once we became famous writers, and then Barbara read the program just one more time.

"Hey, there's a theme. We're supposed to dress Hawaiian! Where are we supposed to get our hands on grass skirts and coconut bras?” she shouted. She looked around our hotel room as if some might materialize.

I held up my dress. “Hawaiian enough?”

“Absolutely not. You'll look like you came in from Mexico or Cuba – maybe even Haiti.”

She was right. I had brought an odd little number that looked suspiciously like I should be doing the Mexican Hat Dance.

“But mine isn’t much better.” Barbara held up a dreary, dark blue dress. It didn’t fit her charismatic personality at all.

“My mother made it for me. It doesn’t even feel right.”

Suddenly, right before my eyes, Barbara ripped her dress. The sleeves flew across the room. The bodice sailed into the air. I wondered if she thought our chances of getting an agent had been destroyed because we wouldn’t be wearing grass skirts and coconut bras, but that wasn’t the case at all. Barbara was creating a dress more compatible with her personality.

We laughed ourselves into a stupor while getting dressed. I wore my red, white, black and yellow Mexican/Haitian/Cuban dress that fell into three tiers and flared at the bottom, and some of Barbara’s flamboyant jewelry. Totally not me. Barbara wore the bottom of her blue dress with a colorful blouse. One long sleeve was tied around her waist like a cummerbund. She wrapped the other around her head. Outrageous earrings dangled from her ears and both arms were adorned with wild bracelets. She looked as if she needed a platter of fruit on her head.

We left our hotel room and entered the elevator. Down, down, down we went where we would enter the Atrium filled with important people. The hotel doors opened and together Barbara and I made our grand entrance. But wait. No grass skirts. No coconut bras. Not one Hawaiian shirt in the crowd.

I wanted to scurry back to our room, but Barbara didn’t seem to notice that we were the only ones in costume. With her head held high, chin jutting, she made her way to the banquet table of finger foods. I followed but my head wasn’t held as high and my chin didn’t jut an inch. Barbara proceeded to fill her plate and talk as if she wore sleeves on her head every day, while mingling with the rich and famous. We were back to the original plan.

All we needed was just the right look—no wide-eyed naïve gawking from us. We would act and sound just as professional as anyone there, and we planned to exhibit just the right amount of charisma.

We didn’t get agents that night, but many years later, Barbara and I are still laughing about our favorite writers’ conference. None have been as special or as much fun as the one in Beaumont, Texas. And no one has taught me as much about creativity as my friend Barbara did when she ripped the sleeves off that ugly blue dress and wore them on her head.

After writing and selling eight books, my friend Barbara is no longer writing, but she's still marching to her own beat. She's a flea market dealer. Of course, she calls herself a treasure hunter. I'm sure you probably know after reading this true story, my friend Barbara is the treasure. :)

My conference wish for each of you is this: Make it what you want it to be. Don't take yourself too seriously, laugh a lot, enjoy every minute with every person you meet, have fun, and learn. Don't go home disappointed. There's always another conference right around the corner.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Organize Thyself . . .?

I would love to be organized. And I should be. Any one who salivates over pastel colored index cards should definitely have the gift of organization. Unfortunately, a place for everything and everything in its place doesn't apply to my life. My filing system leaves much to be desired. Most of the time, I use the stacking system: stack it on the bookshelf, stack it on the file cabinet, stack it on the floor. My file cabinets are full--all three of them. Don't ask me what they contain because I don't have a clue. I've been writing for 100 years. Okay, slight exaggeration, but I got my first file cabinet (a gift from my husband) 25 years ago. We were so sure I would fill it with great manuscripts and book contracts. I can't remember where the second 4-drawer file cabinet came from, but a few years ago I happened upon the third one at a Goodwill Store. I was so excited you'd have thought I'd found a brand new moss green cashmere Donna Karan jacket ($3500) with a 100 dollar bill in the pocket. :) It doesn't take much to thrill me--just mention office supplies and I twitch.
So, why am I not organized?
Your guess is every bit as good as mine, and if you have a guess--share it with me.

Something to Think About

"Make room for the new you. You may not have totally determined who the new you is going to be, but you probably have decided that there are some things about the current you, that you want to change. Well while you are working on what the new you will be, start 'cleaning out a room' for the new you to live in. Get rid of the junk in your life both physical and mental that doesn't fit you anymore. Take things out of your schedule that are taking your time away from finding out what you want to do. By making room for the new you, you will create a vacuum that the new you will rush in to fill and you will be on your
way to the top."-- Edward W. Smith,
Sixty Seconds To Success

"Once you have a clear picture of your priorities- that is values, goals, and high leverage activities- organize around them."-- Stephen Covey

And my very favorite

How great it is to reinvent yourself. . . Suzanne Somers

Saturday, May 5, 2007

I've Been Tagged by Missy T.

Okay, I'm sitting here quietly minding my own business, just enjoying my anonymity, when all of a sudden, I'm tagged by MISSY T. Needless to say, Missy is now . . . on the run.

Since this is a first for me, we'll see what happens:

Here Are The Rules

1. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.

2. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.

3. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.

4. Don't forget to leave them a comment telling them they're tagged, and to read your blog.

Eight Random Facts About Me

1) When I shop I spend hours gathering things I love, then I think and I wonder and I doubt, and end up putting everything back. You do not want to go shopping with me.

2. I turned 35 right after my one and only child was born; I went through natural childbirth--as if I had good sense. Precious baby was colicky beyond control. My sweet husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday and I said a vasectomy. And he is very sweet. :)

3. I still love Elvis. I wish the rumors were true and he'd return from that secret island he's living on. I got tears in my eyes when he walked out on the American Idol stage with Celine. I had an opportunity to see him once--FREE ticket, and turned it down. :( Guess I didn't love him enough.

4. If I had to trade my writing talent for any other talent, I would trade it for a beautiful, jazzy voice. I'm sorry to say I sound like a frog.

5. My best writer friends are no longer writers. I'm very sad about that.

6. My favorite dessert is ice cream--plain old vanilla. I can do exciting things with plain old vanilla. Yum yum.

7. When I watch HGTV where they're cleaning, organizing, and FORCING participants to sell their treasures in a garage sale, I hyperventilate. I'm a packrat and I love my junk. Trouble is. . . I love everyone elses' junk too.

8. I don't have a clue what to do with a comma. The way I see it I have two choices: ignore them completely or sprinkle them randomly. It all depends on my mood.

Okay, I'm tagging the following friends and hope they don't mind.

Lisa Jessica Mary Louisa

Nancy Winter Martha Pam

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Great Advice from Award Winning Writer

I came across an interesting article the other day. Rather than paraphrase what specifically spoke to me, I've pulled points from Pulitzer winner Doug Wright's keynote speech for the Backspace Writer's Conference. Please go to to read Mr. Wright's speech in its entirety.

"Finding Drama Amid all the White Noise" By Doug Wright
2. Write for readers who are smarter than you. If you're writing a medical thriller, assume it will be read by Harvard neurosurgeons. If you're scribing a historical romance, set against the backdrop of the Civil War, presume that Doris Kearns Goodwin and Ken Burns are among your readership. The moment your audience sniffs condescension, you've lost them forever.

5. Dismiss that woefully misguided maxim "Write What You Know." Instead, and I emphatically believe this, write what you don't know. Write about what confuses, enrages, haunts and confounds you. The writer who has the answers is penning propaganda; the writer on a quest for them is the one I'd rather read.

7. Never be afraid to humiliate yourself. Arthur Miller said we haven't truly done our work if our writing fails to cut so deeply, so close to the bone, that we're vaguely embarrassed by it. When you write, don't be limited by your sense of shame.

8. Every time you start a book, assume it will never be published. The opportunity to revel in your subject, to drink it in, to obsess over it, should be enough. That way, even if your masterpiece never makes it to Barnes and Noble, by its completion, you'll still be the world's expert on the indigenous Eskimos of Greenland. For two, six, or twelve glorious years, you'll have walked in their snowshoes, and, book or no book--you'll be richer for it.

Just a Helping Hand

Nothing, not love, not greed, not passion or hatred, is stronger than a writer's need to change another writer's copy.
- Arthur Evans - Create custom images

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Up For Grabs - Create custom images
Where do they come from?
How do we develop them?
How do we know if they're really any good?
I have more ideas than I know what to do with. Some of them are probably lousy but on the whole, I'm sure I could do something with any one of them. I pick up novels and read the blurbs on the back, and most sound like movies I've seen. Are authors reading movie guides and getting ideas from them? Sure. Why not? There's no such thing as an original idea.

Let's take a look at my 1993 Movies on TV and Videocassette guide. Yeah, I've confessed to being a packrat and I wasn't lying. :)

Here's a blurb. It's our job to grow it into a book.

A horse breeder is determined to raise three sons and achieve financial success at the same time.
How many times have we read (or watched) this scenario? The name of that movie is Danger Down Under (MTV 1988) starring Lee Majors, Rebecca Gilling, and Martin Vaughan. My guide states: The Australian scenery is the best part of this humdrum telepic. (Poor Lee. He must have been desperate.)

Why don't we change horse breeder to attorney or veterinarian or landscaper. Now give him three little girls instead of boys. Men don't know much about little girls so we'd have ample opportunity for humor. And of course, this is where the heroine comes in. Who could she be? A wealthy heiress who's grounds he landscapes? A woman who's show dog is ill if he's the vet or she could flat run him off the highway if he's the attorney. Maybe she could be a nanny or a pediatrician. The most difficult part of writing for me is developing conflict, so I won't attempt that here. :)

Let's go back to the movie guide.

A terminally ill mom decides to find a woman who will be a good mother to her children and a good wife to her husband.
This has been done a number of times on the big screen. How about in a book? Turn it around and use a terminally ill dad who wants to leave his family in the right hands. By the way, this comes from Who Will Love My Children? (MTV 1983) starring Ann-Margret.

Dance hall girl with a past tries to prove she really loves a temperamental musician.
This movie is called Dancers in the Dark (1932) starring Miriam Hopkins and Jack Oakie. To make it ours, what if we say . . . A temperamental musician who left his bride at the altar returns home. Now he has to prove his love. Can jilted bride ever trust him? Should she? Will he leave her again to chase his dream?

The point is we should never be without an idea. And, with the millions of books hitting the stands every day, who cares if the idea is a good one. Write it. If we know our craft, I think our voice and our storytelling skills can make a mediocre idea a winner.

Of course, I do have a way of simplifying things, but why make life difficult?

Now grab that Movie Guide and start looking for a book to write.