Monday, January 30, 2012

ROW80 Check in: What exactly does failure look like??

I'm trying to decide if I've done well or not lately.  I've decided that this check in is a chance for me to get feedback from you all.  Here's what I've accomplished, you let me know what you think.

  • Write 1,000 words on days I have no kids. FAIL!!  I have not made much progress on this exact goal, however I have written out several ideas and structures for new work.  I have toyed with the idea of marrying two of my OLD short stories into a new novel idea.  This has given me lots of hope.  I have also looked into the free trial of Scrivener and am considering a purchase there.  Any thoughts on this product?  I have written some poems and done some actual out of the house life living which is always good for getting the creativity going.
  • Attend Writer's Group on a regular basis. I did miss one this past week because I thought I was going to New Orleans this past weekend and I wanted to spend as much time with my kids as I could before I left for four days,  Turns out I didn't go, so that means I do get to go to writer's group this week.  I missed it so much the one week I didn't get to go.  I did, however exchange a short story with a member from the group and we gave each other feedback before submitting to a publisher.
  • Select/Revise/Submit entries on days I have the boys. This is where I have been very successful!  I have revised a great deal AND I submitted my first piece to Red Fez for their next issue!  I am so excited to hear what they think!  This will be my first experience with anything like this since I started taking my writing more seriously.  Wish me luck!!
  • Blog on Wednesdays. Well, who am I kidding?  I have been working on a blog post for about a week.  I don't know why this one has been so hard to write.  I am working with it a little everyday and intend to finish it today.
  • Read one post on improving craft and develop my platform for an hour everyday. This one I have been putting overtime in on.  Now I know this is fruitless if I don't have anything to share with my social network because I haven't spent enough time writing.  I am obsessed with Twitter and the connecting that is possible there.  I have watched my blog grow in numbers and enjoyed the feedback from supporters.  I have loved reading the work of others and listening to how they stay focused and develop their craft.  I had this personal goal of reaching 1,200 followers by the end of this month (which is harder because I have reached a follow limit and can't follow new people).  I made it and then some with a day to spare!!  I think a goal of 200 new followers a month is something I want to aim for.  I realize that in order to do this, I have to contribute something of value.  So, the pressure to write more and blog regularly is really on now.
So, for real, if you see me hanging out on Twitter or Facebook too much, please ask me how much writing I have done that day.  I think that is where the time suck is.  This past week or so has had me distracted, but I'm not completely disappointed with what I have accomplished.  I just need to sit down for that regular daily writing.  The ideas are there...   

Monday, January 16, 2012

ROW80 Check in and thoughts on Writer's Groups

I'm really doing this!  Wow, what a week I have had.  My blog was nominated for a Versatile Blogger Award and one blog post was picked up and given a shout out by another Tweep.  I have felt motivated and successful this week!  Yes, as Julie said on the ROW80 blog, things are trying to get in my way.  I'm doing my best to stay on track though.  One distraction I can do little about is my puppy.  She has decided she loves to run in the mud, come inside for an hour (so I have to towel her down) and then go back outside and do it again.  She must want me to join her because as she does this over and over all day long, she jumps on me and runs in circles around the table when she comes in!  I wish she would understand that all of this, while wildly fun and entertaining, is disrupting my writing flow.  Alas, she is only 7 months old and a dog, so I think I'm out of luck.  Other than that, I have done well.  With no kids this weekend, it was a big writing time for me.  Much of what I wrote was character development with some progress on my WIP.  I'm just shy of my 2,000 words for the two days I was sans kids, but well set up for Wednesday when I'm at it again.

I went to my writer's group (I'm fairly new to this particular group) and witnessed some critique challenges and writing insecurity.  This is not a pretty thing when you are in a group and can make for some tense moments among the group members.  For this reason, I found this Kristen Lamb's article both timely and thought provoking.  (I loved her book, We Are Not Alone.  If you have not checked out either her blog or her book, I strongly recommend both.)  While I do not believe I will leave the writing group (I need the accountability right now), I do think there is some balance that needs to be had as you consider the value of your particular group as well as your personal reason for attending a group.  Proceed with caution and a clear intent.

One article I would like to find is one about submitting your work to various places and how to decide which is the right place for each piece.  One of my goals is to select.revise and submit entries.  Well, today I looked at various sites that have contests and publication opportunities and I am feeling lost.  I have a few short stories, poems and flash fiction pieces that I would like to submit but have no clue which should go where.  What if I send it to one and it's rejected, but if I had only sent it to another one it would have been accepted?  How do you decide?  Where are the best places for beginning writers to submit their work?

Best of luck to all my fellow ROW80ers and #staygroovy

Sunday, January 15, 2012

I'm so Excited: The Versatile Blogger Award

Wait, what?  Hey read this e-mail for me.  Am I reading this correctly?  Are you serious?!?  My infant blog has a nomination?!?!  

I truly struggled to understand how this could have happened while I was still learning about how to create my platform while also working on developing my writing skills.  Then I took a look at the blog of Writing Belle, S.E. Lane and was struck with a kindred connection as we both seem entrenched in the YA world. I have to give a great big thanks to Ms. Lane and I highly recommend her blog as you look for some excellent reviews and great YA reads.

Now on to the rules of response when nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award:1 
1. Nominate 15 fellow bloggers for The Versatile Blogger Award.
2. Add an image of the Versatile Blogger Award.
3. In the same post, thank the blogger who nominated you in a post with a link back to their blog.
4. In the same post, share 7 completely random pieces of information about yourself.
5. In the same post, include this set of rules.
6. Inform each nominated blogger of their nomination by posting a comment on each of their blogs.

In the spirit of versatility, here are my nominees:
1.JaseR75 for his blog, Resurrected Writer
2. Chris Naffzinger for his blog, St. Louis Patina
3. Darrah Michelle for her poetry blog, Darrah Michelle
4. Fake Steph for her blog, The Fake Steph Dot Com
5. A.F. White for his blog, St. Louis Scriber
6. Widow Dyer for her blog, Widow Dyer
7. Dawn for her blog, Absolute Forest of Words
8. Alex for her blog, Diaries
9. JC Piech for her blog, Things Which Burst Out of My Brain
10. Michael K. Rose for his blog, Myriad Spheres
11. Paul Maitrejean for his blog, A Writer's Journal
12. AJ Humpage for her blog, All Write - Fiction Advice
13. Gary Taaffe for his blog, Gary Taaffe
14. Bridget Bowers for her blog, Rants 'N' Ramblings
15. V Furnas for her blog, Life 4 Me by Me

In the spirit of randomness, here are seven things about me.
1. I'm only five foot tall.
2. I'm addicted to fruit snacks.
3. I could sit in an empty grassy field for hours and stare at the sky.
4. I love trance and techno music.
5. I want to vacation in Maine and New York City
6. I love Ewan McGregor and all of his movies.
7. I'm scared and excited every time someone reads my writing.

Once you have your nomination, pass on your own nods of Versatility, it is a great honor.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I'm Making Progress

WOW!  I am so excited about how I am doing on my goals.

  • Write 1,000 words on days I have no kids. --I wrote an 800 word blog post, worked on the my current chapter and revised my 3rd chapter enough that I think I have made this one, today, the first day I had no kids.  I also made a contact that I can interview for character and plot development for my novel.
  • Attend Writer's Group on a regular basis. --I went to WG last night and am planning to go to another one on Saturday.
  • Select/Revise/Submit entries on days I have the boys. --I have a poem selected and a flash fiction as well.  I will be working on these tomorrow and choose where I want to send them.
  • Blog on Wednesdays. --Here is where I have cheated a bit.  I have combined my word count for today with my blog writing.  This, people is why your goals have to be specific.  I implied that my 1,000 words would be work on my novel, but never said it had to be.  Eh, details and loopholes...I'll get there!  I have also done some book reviews on my blog, so those count too!
  • Read one post on improving craft and develop my platform for an hour everyday. --I have slowly watched my Twitter followers increase, it's harder once you hit a follow limit.  Because of this, I have been focusing on building my Facebook platform.  I read a piece by Anne Lamott this week and a few other blog posts from fellow ROW80 writers.  This goal has proven to be the easiest to fulfill so far.  I also believe that my blog post for the week as well as my reviews on the YA books I read, help to establish my platform as a YA author.
Click here to read the Anne Lamott article about making time.

The feedback from everyone at ROW80 is so helpful.  I am trying to get to other participants to comment or at least follow their blogs for support.  Keep it up all!  We can do this!

Create your Pinocchio: Building a Person from Ideas

I don't know if it was because he was a boy or because I was creeped out by his growing nose and foolish mistakes, but as a kid I never liked Pinocchio.  So, I could never understand why Giuseppe would want him to become a real boy.  I mean who wants to deal with a pain in the ass, dishonest little kid who doesn't listen? (Thanks for putting up with me Mom.)  Giuseppe, much like a parent, did see something in Pinocchio; he saw a chance for his ideas to come to life.

Since committing to the transformation of my writing from hobby to career, I am beginning to understand Giuseppe better and wish Pinocchio could be truly real.  Because if he could be real, then my Kaitlin and Gracie could be real and we could hang out and talk just once.  I spend so much time developing them in my head and on my computer it's as if they are my children.  As I write, I can hear their voices and see through Kaitlin's eyes.  I feel their emotions and understand their thoughts.  Now, there is the chance that my meds quit working again, but I like to think I have gotten good at developing my characters.  At least that's what the people in my writing group let me believe (and that has nothing to do with the fact that they are with me in a small room at the end of a long hallway as they critique my work).

Last night, at writer's group, I was asked what I do to develop my characters.  I tried to answer this on the spot, but I was drowning in the flattery and really couldn't think about my process clearly enough to explain.  It seems I remember reading an article or chapter about character development that talked about interviewing your characters.  I am sure that works great...if you are good at asking questions.  I am not.

I tend to work more on intuition and this character sketch lesson I have taught to my 7th graders.  What are the habits of my characters?  Habits you wouldn’t explicitly write into the book, but that make them more human.  My character, Kaitlin, for example, is a Diet Coke addict.  It's a little thing, but anytime food is mentioned, you know she will have a Diet Coke--just like you know what your best friend would have to drink.  These little habits help readers connect to the characters more and brings fictional people to life.

Another way character can be developed is by writing notes on their back story and items they own.  My character, Kaitlin, was abandoned at the age of four, yet we know her birthday.  How is that?  I was going to brush it off as YA literary magic and hope my readers never wondered.  This deception kept me awake and I decided to ask the question myself.  Immediately, I found myself jotting notes about the items found with her in a backpack.  There is information in these items that give us her birth date.  However, these items also began to tell me who Kaitlin's parents were and in turn who she is.  Suddenly, I could see her as well as my own kids.

Finally, I think about what the characters look like and then I watch people when I am out.  I still haven't "seen" Kaitlin, but her adoptive mother I have seen.  I was sitting in a class one Saturday morning when instructor came in and it was clear, she was Gracie.  I knew it as soon as I saw her.  I don't think I could tell you much of what I learned in this class, but I have copious notes about her mannerisms and belief systems.

When building your characters, the best thing you can do is spend time with them.  Look for them in your day to day interactions.  During typical encounters ask yourself, what would my character do in this situation?  Then, weave these mundane daily actions and habits into the fabric of your fiction to add depth to who your character truly is.  Create your Pinocchio.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Book Review: Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Hush, Hush (Hush, Hush, #1)
Something as simple as a change in seating charts and a new Biology lab partner, sends Nora's average teenage life into a confusing spiral as she tries to determine what is real and what is imagined.  She can no longer trust her feelings or her actions, especially where Patch is concerned.  Will she get a handle on her life, or is she perfectly sane and truly being followed by a violent psychopath?  Fast paced snappy dialogue drives the reader through this supernatural romantic drama. Experience the frustration of the protagonist as she tries to figure out why this new biology lab partner sends her senses for such a mental loop!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

ROW 80: What keeps you on track?

So...ummmm...yeah...slight fail on these goals already.  It's just the adjustment back into real world from vacation world.  I have been faithful about the connecting and contributing to the fabric of social networking.  Learning from others around me is so important to me.  The writing and reading will be back on track as my schedule gets back to normal on Monday.  Kids in school, visitation with their dad back on schedule, writer's groups back up from holiday breaks and routine in place. I think I need that to write.  Lots of writing in my head though.  Ready to let it out, let it explode!  What do you need to keep writing?  How do you focus on one piece when shorter, unrelated pieces keep cropping up in your head?

Monday, January 2, 2012

ROW80: Round 1 Goals

I have my goals for the year, but to achieve those, I have to break them down.  I am ready to meet this challenge head on, armed with a renewed sense of self and direction.  With my new marital status, I am also finding myself with peaceful visitation days.  I love my boys, but those days they are visiting their dad make for a silence I haven't had in a lifetime.  I plan to capitalize on the opportunity this gives me during this round.

Round 1 Goals:
Write 1,000 words on the days I have no kids.
Attend one of my Writer's Groups on a regular basis.
Select/ Revise/Submit entries on days I have the boys.
Blog on Wednesdays
Read one post on improving my craft and Connect on Twitter/Facebook/Goodreads for an hour everyday.

Breaking my bigger goals down should enable me to reach my larger goals that I have set for the year.  Cheer me on!