Friday, May 31, 2013

Be My Guest

I used to blog every day. And during April, I always participate in the A to Z Challenge—blogging every day. For some reason, I’ve become lazy, (busy?) and have to force myself to blog. This might be the perfect time to bring guest bloggers onto the scene so here’s the deal: I’ve started a new blog called Be A Real Writer. I realize that doesn’t make much sense but hang with me here; keep reading.
I have a passion for writers. I love them—one and all. I especially like learning how writers write, and that’s what Be A Real Writer is all about.

Be A Real Writer isn't just about blogging or promoting your books; it's about teaching and mentoring others—and promoting YOU. I read recently that we should be promoting our name—not just a title. So, let’s keep that in mind.
When I read a book anymore, I don’t read for the enjoyment. I think I lost that ability when I became a writer. It’s a rare book that makes me forget to study it, or wonder how the author went about pulling it together, how he hid clues so well that I couldn’t figure out whodunit. When I read a short story or poem—I’m curious to know where your idea came from, how many times you rewrote it or how much you concentrated on word choice or symbolism, and if you may have used the three act structure to help you lay it out.

So, how you plot, research, manage your time, construct a short story or poem, overcome procrastination, promote, plan a career, or find a publisher or agent is valuable information—to all of us. Anything that helps you Be A Real Writer will help others. Interested in submitting to me?
Please keep your submissions no longer than 500 words. Make certain your submissions are error free. I won't post without proofing first and will do light editing if I think your submission needs it. Pictures are welcome if you have rights to them. I especially want a pic of you and your title(s). Always include your bio with urls for your blog, website and where readers can purchase your books. At this time, posts will be made Monday, Wednesday and Friday. And until I gain more followers on the Be A Real Writer blog site, your post will be used on both blogs. Fair? Please: No erotica and no profanity.

On Monday, June 3rd, I will introduce you to my first guest blogger: L. Diane Wolf . We'll learn how to put together a nonfiction book.

On Monday, June 10th, you’ll meet Jo Huddleston who will tell us how her Caney Creek series came to be.
As I write this, all other dates are open, so let me hear from you. (And pray I stay organized! I'm a little nervous about this undertaking.)

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to email me: jessyferguson (at) gmail (dot) com.

Last, please follow my blogs:

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Writing Under Pressure

I’ve been racing toward my goals, working on two manuscripts at once. That’s new for me, but it’s working … sort of. I guess.
My first fifty pages of a mystery are ready to send to the Killer Nashville Claymore contest. Deadline is June 1st and thankfully, I can email my pages.

The romance I pitched to Harlequin is sloshing along. I’ll devote more time and intensity to it starting tomorrow. I hope to have it completed within the next two or three weeks. At least, that’s my new goal. I devoted my six hours at the library yesterday to the contest entry. Seems a little weird, doesn’t it, that I wouldn’t devote that valuable time to the novel requested by an editor. All I can say is … my reasoning skills are sometimes skewed.  
We’re constantly under tornado watches here in Oklahoma. I find it difficult to concentrate on much of anything. The local news is filled with profiles of the people from Moore who experienced devastation last week. Depressing but uplifting too. There were a lot of heroes.

Hubby and I went to Half-Price Books over the weekend. Browsing the writing books, I came across an interesting paragraph in Writing Under Pressure, The Quick Writing Process by Sanford Kaye.

Sanford Kaye is head of the writing program at Curry College. He is author of Writing under Pressure and Writing as a Lifelong Skill as well as a contributor on memoir writing to NOW WRITE! He has taught writing at MIT, the Harvard Kennedy School, and the Blue Hills Writing Institute, where he teaches advanced memoir. He was honored for 25 years of teaching at the Extension School in 2005 and received the James E. Conway Excellence in Teaching Writing Award in 1996.

Writing Under Pressure is geared toward writing academic papers and essays.  I suppose much of what Sanford says can be adapted to novel writing too. While a lot of what he proposes is over my head, the following spoke to me, gave me something to think about as I muddle through my novel.

“No amount of planning can make the reader hear the music in your mind, or see the abstract design you perceive as you look out over a cranberry bog coming to fruition in late September.  Writing can convey certain things well, and others not at all.”

Care to comment on the above paragraph? How hard do you work/plan to convey important scenes and settings in your novels or short stories?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Deadly Storms in Oklahoma

By now, you're all watching the horrific results from the tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma yesterday. From watching my Channel 9 weather app on my iPhone, the area had two days of tornados. Thankfully, I was in Louisiana, enjoying our monthly visit and celebrating our daughter's 30th birthday--early.

Yesterday (Monday) we traveled back to Yukon. We always travel Highway 69 out of NE Texas to Gainesville and get on I-35 toward OKC. A couple of months ago, a friend told us about a 'short-cut' turning off I-35 on Hwy. 9 and heading toward Newcastle so that we don't have to drive through Norman or OKC. Traffic is always terrible so we've enjoyed trekking the back roads.

When we came through yesterday, we knew Oklahoma was expecting more horrible weather. Once we got through Ardmore, I turned on my weather app and we listened and saw the tornado hit Moore. We came through Paul's Valley not long BEFORE a tornado was sighted there too. We drove through Newcastle AFTER the tornado hit there.

Living in Oklahoma has been a blessing in many ways: I have many writer friends. We have a wonderful church. It's also been terrifying--especially when you read about its history of tornados, and see what happened in Moore yesterday.

Homes and businesses were destroyed. Schools were hit. Children died. How does one ever recover from losing a child in such a horrific manner?

If you'd like to help people in Moore, Oklahoma, you can text the word FOOD to 32333.  A ten dollar donation will be sent to help the victims and that ten dollars will be added to your cell phone bill. If you'd rather not do that, then pray. That's the best thing you can do for the people who have lost loved ones and everything they own.

As I write this, it's hailing here--thundering and getting dark. We're expecting storms all this week. 
All prayers welcome.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Blogger or Worpress?

Today I blogged at the Scrimshaw Doll site. You can read Life Outside the Book here, and please, leave a comment. Blog posts get pretty lonely without comments. No comments make the blogger feel as if no one liked what they had to say.

I have to conjure up a good amount of patience to post on Wordpress. For sure, it challenges me! I agree with most of you--Wordpress blogs look wonderful, very professional, but give me simple any day of the week. Maybe I'm just used to my home here. I can breeze right through arranging my posts with pics and urls. Days later, if I spot a typo or want to rearrange a sentence, cut or add, I can do it over and over with no problems. I have no idea how that affects people who automatically get my posts in their emailbox. (Anyone out there?) Do they get multiple copies? The first with errors?

I have friends who have moved their blogging home to Wordpress. That seems like desertion to me. Guess I'm too sentimental.

If you've started over with your blogging after failed attempts or ... just because ... tell us about it. Why does one choose Wordpress over Blogger? Why does one leave one or the other after years of blogging to start anew?

Friday, May 10, 2013

Do You Have a Writing Plan?

I'm so behind in blogging that I should really do my own A to Z just to keep myself on track. Here's what I've been doing:

Reading the galleys to The Last Daughter. I think if I have to read this story one more time, I'll tear my hair out. I love my characters and the story, but I'm ready to move on. I can't read through a manuscript (even a published book) without wanting to make changes! I believe I still have one more read-through after these galleys. Arghh!

Revising the first fifty pages for my Killer Nashville contest entry. Deadline is June 1st. I may not make it! If you'd like to enter the Claymore contest (you do NOT have to attend the conference to enter) check it out.

Every Thursday I have a Beth Moore Bible study on Daniel. If you're familiar with Beth Moore, you know there's daily homework. This is my second time to take the Daniel course. It's fabulous. Of course, all her studies are.

Now, for my big news: some of you know I pitched to a Harlequin editor on Wednesday. This was the Happily Ever After pitch in a chat room, much like speed dating. We read the bios of three editors and had to choose the one we thought would be interested in our story. That alone was tricky! Then, we perfected a pitch in 100 words or less. There was no chit chat or questions asked in the chat room. Response from the editor would be one of the following:

Check one: __I’ll cry if you don’t send me your manuscript (requested full)
__I’d like to get to know your manuscript better (requested proposal)
__I’m not sure if there’s a spark between your manuscript and me, but I’m willing to give it a chance to convince me (requested synopsis)
__There’s just no connection between your manuscript and me (no request, but isn’t it great to know the idea won’t work before you spend time writing it?)

The editor I chose responded to my pitch with "I'll cry if you don't send me your manuscript." She requested the FULL and said the story sounded unique.

When we signed up for this event, we had to specify how much of our novel was finished.  I said I had a 36,000 word very rough draft completed. Okay, so now that I've lived with this rough draft for awhile, and worked on a synopsis, I better know the direction I want to go with the book. Thankfully, I tailored the pitch in the right direction and pinpointed the conflict but I feel panicked about revising it FAST.

Common sense tells me to get the manuscript finished and to the editor as soon as possible. I have 36,000 words. I need 55,000 words at the minimum. Each chapter (with the exception of the first two) has to be rewritten--revised, fleshed out, some chapters even have to be completely changed. Here's a picture of my rough draft with Love Inspired guidelines visible so I can refer to them often. 

I need some direction: Suggest a workable writing plan and/or some tips that will help me finish this book. My weaknesses are: setting, description, deep editing so any help you can give me in these three areas will be appreciated. If I use any of your suggestions, I'll dedicate the book to you--if it sells.

I'm sloshing through but I'm working at the pace of a sick snail so if you want to share a writing plan, feel free! And give me a deadline too. I love deadlines!

Friday, May 3, 2013

A to Z Challenge Reflections

As you can see, I took a few days to recuperate from the A to Z Challenge. While participating, I let a lot of things slide. I think I've proved to myself that I'm one of those people who have trouble walking and chewing gum at the same time. Maybe not that bad, but I tend to over-focus at times--especially when it comes to A to Z.

I lived and breathed A to Z this year. Probably because I shared so much of myself and my family. I didn't intend to focus on my quirky memoirs but once I chose that first word--Ancestor--that was it. I was hooked. I began to get bored with my own postings when repetition crept in. If you were bored too, I apologize.

My first post was written the night before posting; the second one was too. After that I wrote each the morning of. I put myself through the proverbial wringer, forcing myself to think and write fast. Why? Because I tend to do the opposite: slow-mo. I take too much time to think and plan.

I've always envied newspaper reporters from the old movies. They get a story, rush to the newsroom and crank it out. I loved how they two-finger-typed it then yanked it out of the old fashioned Underwood without even ripping the paper. So... that was in my head. Write the story (the blog post) fast.

The A to Z Challenge is an excellent opportunity to grow our followers, but it's much more than that. We have an opportunity to learn, and train ourselves in a number of areas: writing fast, research, networking, socializing and making friends, meeting deadlines, self-discovery, self-discipline ... and learning from others.

For me, the real challenge is hopping around visiting the blogs of others. I got behind and never fully caught up. My apologies to all my A to Z friends.

I treasure the A to Z Challenge. I'm already looking forward to next year! Much love and laughter forever to Arlee Bird for such a brilliant April party.  

Can you tell me what you learned or discovered about yourself during this 2013 A to Z Challenge? Why did you sign up to participate? Share!