Sunday, January 30, 2011

I think its about time for an update, don't you?


I really haven't been posting updates about myself lately.  Oh, there are things to update... but I thought it would be nice to post fun thoughts and tips/tricks instead of my usual "here is what has been happening" posts.

But, the time for an update has finally come.

Ok.  (Trying to focus.  My mind is everywhere today and I am hoping that forcing myself to write this post will help to at least reign it in a bit... I apologize in advance for any ramblings that may come of this...)

I have been working this last week on my opening scene for PN.  After fixing it up, I sent it out to a few close friends, and forced my husband to listen to me as I read it aloud.  Everyone came back with almost the same comments, which I found interesting.  There was one section that all of us just felt awkward about, but couldn't seem to fix it right.

Then I sat and had a lovely online chat with one of my best childhood friends, Jessie, and she finally woke my mind up (after sending me the scene back bleeding with red...)  So I sat down at about 11:30 pm a few nights ago and busted out some word-age... and now I am happy.  I ended up adding almost 700 words to it, creating a new chapter, and changing what was once a small awkward flashback into a much stronger, establishing scene.

Yay for brains awakening!

This week in class we are going to be focusing on Act 1 of our novels... that means about 9 more chapters for me to wade through.  I have to admit: I am not going at this as gung-ho as I know I should be.  Its daunting.  And I am too self-critical.

I love PN.  It really means a ton to me, and I am proud of it.  I am in that stage that I need to remind myself that I write for me, not everyone else.  Still, at the end of the day, you do hope and dream that everyone else will love it as much as you do.

On more side notes, I have started following (stalking...) agents.  I figure its never too early to start building your dream list, and watching their every blogging move in the hopes that someday it will open a door for you.  Its another very daunting task.  Just the thought of writing out my query letter and sending it to these awesome people sends my stomach a-butterflying.  (No doubt an entire post about query letters will be coming in no time...)

__________

Oh!  I just have to make a shout out to Alyson Greene, who just picked up representation from Jim McCarthy from Dystel & Goderich Literary Management (the very same agent who represents  Carrie Ryan, author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth ).  VERY exciting times for you Ashley.  CONGRATS!

__________
 
Class in in a few hours.  I think I will go surf some internet, tickle my kiddos, and think about editing my novel.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Better Writing Habits - Toxic Words

I subscribe to this awesome little program called the Better Writing Habits Challenge.  Each day for a month they email out another tip, trick, or hurrah that helps to form better writing habits and confidence.  I love getting the new email every day.  A bunch of them have really been helping me, and I plan to go back an reread them often.

Today's email was about toxic words.  Due to my confidence lacking-ness (yes, that's a word.  I say so) in the last few days, I have noticed that I have been using these words more and more often.  I will post a real update about my writing world... soon.  For now though, I wanted to share this article.

Enjoy!


There is an icky, creepy bug that may be surrounding your daily life, seeping into everything you do. Without you even realizing it.
That bug is toxic language. And once it gets a hold of you, it slowly begins to destroy, attacking your confidence, your outlook and your writing.

What Is Toxic Language?

Toxic language is anything negative that you tell yourself, especially when it comes to your writing.
It’s words like “can’t” and “should” and phrases like “have to” that make up the toxicity. Words like these take your power away.
When you use toxic language all the time, you are programming yourself to believe it (even subconsciously) and that will start to take a toll on your self esteem.
Using language like this allows the words to control you, instead of you controlling the words.

The Toxic Words That Make Up the Language

There are many toxic words that make up the negative phrases you tell yourself. Here are some to look out for:
  • Can’t–”I can’t do it;” “It can’t be done;” “I can’t be a writer;” “I can’t write this novel;” “I can’t do this, that or the other.”
  • Should–”I should be writing right now;” “I should finish that novel;” “I should write today;” “I should be writing right now.”
  • Have to–”I have to write today;” “I have to finish that novel;” “I have to be a writer.”
  • Impossible–”It’s impossible;” “Being a writer is impossible;” “It’s not possible to get published.”
  • Need to–”I need to write today;” “I need to finish that novel;” “I need to be a writer.”

Breaking Down the Toxic Phrases

The toxic words mentioned above make up the negative phrases you tell yourself. Here’s a breakdown of why these phrases are toxic:
Saying “can’t” kills off all possibilities. The word “can’t” limits you and holds you back.
When you tell yourself you “should” do something or you “have to” do something, you feel pressured to do it. You feel like you don’t have a choice. And that makes you not want to do it.
Same thing with telling yourself you “have to” do something. It makes you want to avoid it.
Impossible is another possibility killer.
And “need to”  causes avoidance because you feel like you don’t have a choice.
The truth is, you do have a choice. It’s your choice to write or not write. And when you start looking at it from that angle, you’ll start to see all the possibilities that exist for you. No more feeling guilty.

Changing the Negative to Positive

These negative phrases do nothing but hold you back and limit you. But you can reprogram your self-talk to no longer include these negative phrases. Here are the positive phrases you can replace them with:
Use “Can” Instead of “Can’t”–You can do anything you want to do. You can do anything you set your mind to do. It’s been proven over and over and over again. So say “can.” “I can be a writer” and “I can write this novel.”
Use “Want to” Instead of “Should” “Have to” or “Need to”–When you use the phrase “want to” you’re making a choice. It’s no longer being forced on you, you are choosing it. There is power in the phrase “want to” because it shows you have a desire to do something. So say “I want to be a writer” and “I want to write this novel.”
What toxic phrases are your removing from your self-talk? What are you replacing them with?
Today’s Challenge: Listen to the language you use as you speak about your writing. Make a list of all the toxic phrases you hear yourself saying. Next, cross each word off and write a positive replacement word next to it. For example, if you use the toxic phrase, “I can’t do it,” turn that around to, “I want to do it” or “I can do it.”
About the Author: Jennifer Blanchard is the founder of Procrastinating Writers, a blog that offers guidance for writers who struggle to get started. She is co-founder of the Better Writing Habits challenge.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Writing and Sex - A Good Chuckle

A fellow blogger who I openly stalk, Brad Jaeger, recently posted this on his blog.  It managed to make me laugh, even after a stressful day of crazy children and updating my photography website.  So, I thought it was only fair to share it with all of you!


Seven Ways Sex and Writing are Alike

1. Many years pass before you have it, but once you've experienced it it's hard to go back to Saturday afternoons of Scrabble.

2. Those who claim to be the best at it are usually disappointing in reality.

3. Both require skill, dexterity, endurance, creativity, patience and practice to perfect.

4. There is no plateau; you can always do better.

5. While there are jobs to found in either market, those who truly love it would do it for free.

6. If it's going badly you may find yourself thinking about something else.

7. Either done right will end with a spectacular finish, while leaving room for a sequel.

Come on... don't tell me that you didn't at least chuckle and nod your head to some or most of these!
Happy writing!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

To Write, or not to Write... What a stupid question


This won't be a long post at all.  I just finished week two of my Revision class.  This week we are focusing on fine tuning our Opening Scenes... making them set that Jaws music.  I am at odds with what I think of that... I really do like my opening scene, though I know I have a few things to go add in.  Hopefully the *dun dun dun* music will commence with it.

Now I have to gather myself together and head up to have scones with the family.  Yummy scones...

Before I leave though, I just have to post a quote from Lani that she said in today's class.  As most of you know, if you have read my blog in the past, though I do highly respect Shakespeare (I am theatre raised... I have no choice!) I honestly cannot say I am a fan of his.  More on that can be saved for its own post.  The one thing that does bug me though is that most people, both in the acting world and in the writing universe, always seem to base things off of Shakespeare.  Here is something Lani said that really struck home with me:

"Nothing is Shakespeare but Shakespeare.  Shakespeare has been dead for 400 years... If everything was Shakespeare, we would all hate Shakespeare."

I am original.  I am allowed to follow my own paths... and I am for sure not Shakespeare.  Thank you Lani!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Big Picture Pass: DONE

Today I finished the first read-thru (aka the Big Picture Pass) of PN.  It felt pretty awesome to pin up the last notecard on my wall and see my entire novel before my eyes.

Totals: 
1 novel
4 Acts
7 Anchor scenes
22 Chapters
65 Scenes

1 busy busy me

It was nice to sit down and read the entire thing with *ahem* minimal editing.  (Sorry Lani!  I couldn't resist a few dire editing moments... but most of the time I bit back and just took notes, I promise!)

There are definitely things that need major editing.  And there are places that I absolutely love and want to read over and over again.  That's a good balance, right? 

Now I believe I have earned a night off.  Our Netlix movie arrived today, so we will sit and watch Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (If you don't know... I am very into weird movies, giving most every movie a shot even if others say it sucks.  Hence me liking stories that most people steer totally clear of.)  Class is on sunday, and I think I will give myself tomorrow off to do things like... relax.

Total side note, but wanted to make a shout out to Keary, who finished her first draft of her book Eden today.  She blogged about it on her blog here.  This is book number four she has finished now... Keary, if I could be a smidge as awesome as you, I would be set!  I can't wait to read it!

Ok all, I am signing out now.  Time to turn off my writer brain, eat some chinese, and watch a flick.
Life can be good.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mid-Novel Speedbump


I have now read through half of my lovely manuscript.  While the first nine chapters pulled me along in their flow, I am now slowing and having to push myself through.  This middle part, without a doubt, is in dire need of some major TLC. 

To be honest, it is slightly disheartening.  I know:  Its a rough draft.  It is supposed to suck.  That is why I am now going over this, to polish it and make it shine.  I guess I am just realizing that I do have more work ahead of me... but it will get done!  There have been moments I have read that I completely love.  Those are what are keeping me reading.

I know some of you are hoping I will talk more about what Lani is teaching in my Revisions class.  Now, as I may quote some things and mention things here and there, I need to let you know that I won't share all the lessons.  If you want to know more, then sign up for the next class!  Taking a good class, or reading a good instruction book, is very much worth it my friends.

As of right now, I have index cards finally appearing on my wall, scenes and Acts growing, and a much better idea of what this thing is that I call my first novel.  Now I just need to convince my confidence to stay...

My question:  How do you chase away the writer blues and doubts that still battle against you, no matter how much you remind yourself you ARE awesome?

Monday, January 17, 2011

StoryWonk: Class has begun


Yesterday was the first day of class.  For those of you who don't know, or just don't remember, I am taking an online Revision class through StoryWonk.com.  I won it through a raffle held by NaNoWriMo, and am very very excited.

The first class was awesome.  Our teacher, Lani Diane Rich, is amazing.  Very sociable, very bubbly, and very well trained on the her teaching skills.  I have a good feeling that I am really going to like this class.  I took about two pages of personal notes (and yes, the image with today's post is a shot from the notes I scribbled) during her one hour lecture yesterday. And I even got some extra ideas for some of the add-ins I still need to do for PN.  Yay for inspiration!

Week one is focusing mainly on the Big Picture Pass, and dividing my lovely manuscript into the 4 acts, then into smaller scenes.  I grew up in theatre, even having it as a job for a few years when I was the co-director and sub-teacher for the middle school program where I used to live.  So this method that Lani teaches is PERFECT for me.  We are not supposed to edit too much, if at all, this week.  Instead, we are just supposed to focus on getting the overall picture of what our novel is, and then divide it all up. 

I am about half done. 

Notecards are being labeled, scribbled upon, and taped to the wall.  I have already discovered places that I could start a new chapter, enhance, potentially delete... this is awesome!  Thank you NaNo Gods for knowing exactly what I was needing.  And Lani... you rock.  I cannot wait for the next five weeks of this class!

To wrap up today's post, I just gotta post a summary of a quote of something Lani said.  When you hear her talk, you know without a doubt how much she loves the art of writing.  And she inspires me.

"People are going to line up 10-deep to tell you that you are a horrible writer.  Don't beat them to it.  You are capable.  You are amazing.  Say it:  I AM A GREAT WRITER!"

Monday, January 10, 2011

Raffle Awesomeness


I never have luck with winning things.  Pick a  number, and I pick the wrong one.  Musical chairs and I am out on the first round.  Rock paper scissors and... you get the idea.  Probability just doesn't like me most times!

Well, at the wrap of NaNoWriMo 2010 we were asked to take a survey about our wrimo-ing experience.  I was going to anyway, just for the ability to help out the awesome OLL workers.  Then they share that two lucky winners will win a spot in an upcoming online writing course.  I was like "Ok, cool, that would be neat.  Fat chance though." but still filled out the waiting survey.

I bet you already know what I am getting at now.

I won!

I just got an email today from Lindsey Grant that I am one of the two winners.  About 15,000 surveys turned in... and I some how am one of the winners.  How totally awesome is this?  Yeah, I have been on cloud nine pretty much the rest of day since reading the email.

The class is through a site called StoryWonk.  They provide writing courses such as revising and discovery.  The class is a 6 week online course, which usually costs $180. 

If you know me at all, you know how much I have been dying to take writing courses again.  But, if you know me, you also know that I am a mommy and a wife on a very tight income, so taking classes for myself just doesn't happen.  The fact that I just won this... oh man I am bubbly.

I will be taking the Revision class, which is just what I need right now.  I am looking forward to learning a bit more about novel editing and polishing PN to a better shine.  The class starts this sunday... and yes, I will of course keep you all updated.  I wouldn't be Jenni if I didnt!

Wish me luck!

Editing Mama

Let me tell you about my morning:

Keary and I have set up to meet up and write/edit like mad.  So, today marked day one.  6 AM was the meet up time, thank you good old online messenger.

My alarm went off at 5:30 AM.  And, thanks to the wonderful invention of the snooze alarm, mixed with just being tired, I slept in.  At about 6:30 I climbed out of bed, careful to not wake up my little boy who was snuggled against me.  I was late.  Dang it.

Well, I tripped.  Yup, full out toe stub, followed by a crash to the ground.  My husband woke up long enough to ask if I was alright, then fell back asleep.  I limped out of the room, only to find my clutzy crash had woken up my other little kiddo.  He demanded breakfast.

So, off to the kitchen I go.  I punch on my computer as I pass, then set to work getting him his cereal, turning on his cartoons, and rubbing my aching foot.  Have you ever noticed that computers boot up a heck of a lot slower when you are running late?

Kid settled.  Cartoons playing.  I sit down and click open my Facebook to find Keary.  But she isn't there.  I grumble once again at my snooze alarm.  Then I remember MSN Messenger.  Yes, that does still exist.  And some of us who won't let it go do still use it.

So, I go to log in, only to find I must be typing in the wrong password.  Oy.  Time to reset, which means logging into another one of my emails to retrieve the password reset option... Yay, it is finally reset!  Only now... Keary is on Facebook.  Ha, oh man.

I grab some cereal and drink, then settle down onto my computer.  We are so ready to go.  Oh, wait... I need to open my word doc, silly me. 

I dive in and start to read and do my rough first edit.  Then in comes hubby with kiddo number 2.  I guess everyone in the family decided it was awake time now.  Which would be fine and dandy... if my hubby had stayed awake.  Instead, he conks back out on the couch and here I am, almost 7 AM, trying to finally edit my novel with my two year old and 7 month old hanging all over me.

I can do this.

The boys finally get distracted with each other and I work to accomplish the challenge Keary gave me: 6 more pages edited.  Just as I round the last bend, baby wants mommy and I find myself typing single handed while feeding his cuteness.

And there we go... I am about done with 7 pages of morning editing!  Kids are back in the living room, hubby has disappeared to prep for work... when I hear gagging.  Yup, baby had found something small and decided to put it in his mouth, then tried to retrieve it with his fingers and... GAG!  Throw up everywhere.  Delightful.

Clean up done, baby happy, older kiddo laughing... I finish editing page 7 of the morning and now its time for hubby to leave.  I will call it good for now.  Maybe this afternoon I will snag a quiet moment and edit some more.  Maybe.

Let me tell you though, aside from all the shenanigans of the morning, I do like this.  I am thinking I may try to do it again... I am far from a morning person, but it has been nice to start my day with my novel. 


Stats: 
I added about 350 words.  Edited 7 pages.  
Word count is now at 66,581.  

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Re-Casting for my MC

If you remember, long ago (oh so long ago... ok, not really, but man does it feel like forever!) I posted my "cast list" for PN.  Granted, about half the people I posted there are now not even in the novel...

Anyway, I have been talking to my two younger sister in laws alot, and thinking alot, and well, the actress I had chosen to represent who I picture as my MC Millie just wasn't working.  So, I have been on a re-casting search.

I was recently cuddling on the couch with my hubby, watching Zombieland (FUNNY movie!) and couldn't take my eyes off of the lead actress in the movie.  I finally realized... she is Millie.  At least, as close to Millie as I have been able to find yet.  Hello Emma Stone, you have been cast (Sorry Emily Browning... I know being cut sucks, but that's show biz!)

In light of my new casting, I will re-post pics of my "cast" as it stands now. 


I realized that my cast is one female vs. four males.  (Don't worry, its not some crazy love... pentagon.  In fact, there isn't even a triangle)  There are other females in the novel, I promise you.  They just either are minor, or I just haven't spent the time to find their celebrity look-a-like... yet.

And, just for fun, I made this little banner too.  The images are kinda blurry, and I am just not as skilled as this photo manip thing as my sister in laws are.  Kinda hoping they get the urge to make some for me... hint hint. ;) 
But still, it was fun.
Thinking I need to fix the font... or beg someone else too just make it better...
Hope you enjoy!

(Click on the image to see it larger)

Weekly Update


I finally have started to edit Prison Nation.  Yesterday I was able to edit about 4 chapters.  I have a feeling it will be a slower process, that is until Keary kicks my butt into editing with our editing fests.  Let's do this thing, Keary! 

Right now my focus is just going through, reading what I wrote, adding in pieces I have listed to add and fixing things that I feel like fixing at this moment.  I am not focusing on grammar and those oh-so-fun things.  That will come in some other round... later.  Much later. 

Its interesting to go back and read what I did write.  There are whole sections that I wrote that I had forgotten about, and it was fun to rediscover them now.  I've let a couple close friends read chapter one, and aside from them stating the obvious "this still needs grammar editing bad" they seemed to like it.  Which is encouraging. 

I was talking to one of my sister in laws the other day.  She was telling me how one of the reasons that she tends to not like 1st person is because the main character always seems... bland.  Boring.  Blah.  I can't say I disagree.  Now I am hoping that Millie doesn't seem totally flat.  That is my goal: Make her alive.

The photo I posted with this post today is a shot of my desk while I was editing yesterday.  Yes, that was my editing sustenance.  Water, and a chocolate orange.  We had our Within Temptation station on Pandora playing.  I was in a slight groove... and it felt awesome. 

I need to get to the store and get more editing sustenance.  Maybe less chocolate...  Though that would almost seem like a sin.

Well, that's my writing update.  Chocolate, editing, and flat characters. 
Sounds like a writer's world to me!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Pick a Point of View


As a challenge with my NaNoWriMo project this year, I decided to write in 1st person.  I have rarely done that before.  Many times I would stop and realize that the entire paragraph I had just punched out was accidentally written in 3rd, and would have to go back and change it into the correct point of view.

I have realized I do like writing in 1st person.  It gives a different feel to the novel, and lets you dive further into who the character is.  Although, I can't say I am completely won over by it.  I have always written in 3rd person, and have a feeling that that is what I will always turn to when the typing gets going. 

Still though, it is good to try new things.  And to push yourself out of that oh-so-comfy comfort zone you have gladly settled into.  In fact, the short story I am busting out just for fun right now is in 1st person.  But it only makes sense to make that one in that POV... you will see...

So now I pose my question:

What POV do you prefer 
when reading a good story?

1st person (I-Me-We)
or
3rd person (He-She-They)

2nd person is just strange and hard to do, unless you are writing a Goosebumps Choose-You-Own-Path book... so we just won't go there. 

Now, comment away and let me know which, and why!  I really am curious.  As for me... decision has yet to be made.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

A photo I took on the island.  Beautiful.

Happy New Year my awesome blogger readers!  I hope you all had a chance to ring it in in whatever manner best suits you.  And now, a new year has begun.  Welcome 2011!

I am currently up visiting my family on the island I grew up on. Oh my, it is gorgeous up here.  Snow blanketing the ground, waves crashing on shores.  I miss the inspiration that this island just breathes.  I could easily pack my netbook, hide away at one of the many beaches or forest paths, crack open a Mt. Dew White Out, and be set for the entire day.  I miss this...

For New Years we took it easy, spending time with my brothers, their wives and kiddos, and my Dad.  My mom had to work, sadly, but we will get to see her today.  By midnight one sister-in-law and my hubby were dead asleep, my dad had disappeared for his on-call duty for the EMS, and the remaining of us casually said "Happy New Year" then went back to recalling childhood memories about crazy friends, chocolate syrup, monsters in the attic... the list goes on.  It was a good one.  I am happy... and very, very tired.

Do you set a New Years Resolution?  I never really have... it almost seems more like a lame excuse to make a goal, one that you will most likely not even keep come February.  I think if you want to set a goal, truly, you don't need January 1's beckoning call.  Just do it!

None the less... I do believe it is time to set some goals.  Ever since I finished NaNoWriMo, I have been kind of floating around, occasionally plunking words here and there, but never actually doing anything. I need to set another deadline of some sort...badly.

1.  EDIT PN!  Dang it Jenni, just do it!  This thing won't edit itself.  I am wanting to send it to some friends to read, but I need to finish (er... start) this first round before 'I can do that.  So, how do I set a goal to accomplish this?  Keary has challenged me to some editing fests, so that will help.  I can't wait!  Aside from that... I guess it is time once again to block StumbleUpon, lessen Facebook, and set aside my paperback I have been dying to read.  DO IT

2.  Kimmel and I have been dinking with an idea of writing a bunch of short stories, then compiling them and self-publishing the collection on Amazon, mostly just for ourselves, and for fun.  I really want to do this!  I am almost done with my zombie story, then need to think up a few new ideas to scribble out! 

3.  Totally not writing related... but this year I want to learn to make bread.  Real bread.  I need to stop being a yeast murderer, and make some delicious bread already! 

Alright.  All of the cousins are out playing in the snow and my kiddo is dying to join them.  I hope you have an awesome start to the New Year.  Go do something fun.. then write about it!  Now, I am off to walk in a winter wonderland.

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