Monday, January 27, 2014

Imagination is Awesome

I’m someone who can sit for hours people watching. See that guy? His name is Eduardo. Eduardo keeps studying his watch, his bushy eyebrows knitted together. He pulls out his cell phone, punches a few buttons and scowls before jamming it back into his pocket. Is he a Federal Agent? - a hit man? Or maybe I notice a giant truck driven by a very old woman wearing a knitted cap. When she sees me looking at her, she veers down the first side street. Is she in disguise? Or has an injured criminal forced her to drive his getaway vehicle?

My imagination has driven me nuts for most of my life. I found early on, if I wrote down the silly notions that entered my head, the fog would lift and I could feel normal. For a while at least. But later in life as a full-time mom, wife and employee, I didn't have time to doodle in notebooks. So I stowed away my ramblings hoping the stories bred from every day living would leave me be. It was pointless. With age the problem worsened. Characters would whisper in my ear in the dead of night.

Sound familiar? Perhaps this is why most writers typically get along fabulously with other writers. We understand poor eye contact, spaced-out looks and seemingly short attention spans. We know if another writer has drool dribbling down their chin they aren't having a seizure. They’re probably riding a giant winged-horse in a sky with two suns.

So yes, I will settle it once and for all. Writers are weird. And if you’re reading this? Weirdo! (Or you know one and are hoping this is a helpful guide on how to deal with them.) Well worry no more. The solution is quite simple. Write! Give those pesky characters their voice. Give up TV, sleep and socializing. For me, I started cutting coupons, feeding my family beanie-weenie and went part-time. 

Okay. So I’m fortunate that my husband isn't a picky eater. The bottom line is a writer must write so don't view it as a curse but as a rare gift. Embrace your Eduardos knowing most people will see only a Bob.

photo credit: shannonkringen via photopin cc

Monday, January 20, 2014

Music + Manuscript = True Love

I’ve emerged from my revision cave. I AM ALIVE. Barely, but I'm done with first-round edits, y'all.

In early December, I received my first edit letter for PLAY ON. In one of my earlier posts, you may have seen me say that I love revising. And I still do, but this time? Things were different. Because this was a big revision. Big. BIG, big.

From the time that I started querying this book until I dove back into the story, seven months had passed. In that time, I wrote and revised a different manuscript, so my brain was pretty detached from this book's world. I was beyond excited to start the revisions on this one, but once I opened up the document? In the words of my MC:

I got nothin’.

But rest assured, things did start coming, slowly but surely. How did that happen? I had the right song. Seriously. Go with me here.

Pretty much every writer I know either drafts or edits to some sort of music. Many even have a designated playlist for each manuscript. I do. I had a carefully constructed playlist that I listened to while drafting PLAY ON. So naturally, when it came time to edit this bad boy, I broke out the playlist. The problem was that it just didn't fit the vision or the tone I was trying to achieve with this revision. It frustrated the heck out of me.

But then I heard it. THE song--the one that matched the tone of my story perfectly. Then, I heard another one. And ANOTHER. After that? I was golden. Revisions were still rough, but it helped to have those songs that I could always go back to. They kind of programmed my brain, I guess you could say. They set me on the right track when my characters tried to get all out of whack. The best thing? It's when you find an artist whose voice sounds exactly how you’d imagine your character’s voice. The BEST, I say.

The TL;DR version: my advice is to find at least one song that “defines” your manuscript, so to speak. It’ll help get your head in the right place at the right time. Pavlov's dog, and all that jazz.  

I’ll share one of my songs below (it’s country. It’s twangy. You’ve been warned.). Do you have a song that matches your manuscript? 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Perspective Is Everything

I have an amazing friend who I’ve known since junior high school. She’s the type of friend that I know will always be there, no matter if we haven’t spoken in weeks (or possibly even months when life gets really crazy). As Grey’s Anatomy’s Meredith and Yang would put it, she’s my person, and that means sometimes she has to tell me things I don’t want to hear.

One of those things stuck with me for a long time. It’s also something that, after giving it a test drive myself, I realized how relevant it is to my character’s lives, too.

Whenever I complained about different types of stress in my life, she’d say something like, “If you can’t change the situation, change your perspective.”

My reaction was pretty much

Here's the thing, I had it stuck in my head that if I was stressed out, it was because the situation was stressful. I was more or less trapped in it. I felt powerless to change it and that created more stress. “I’m stressed out because I care so much!” I’d say, and believed that changing my perspective meant I’d have to stop caring.

Well at some point, I decided to try it. Instead of getting worked up, I focused on what I could reasonably do to change the issue and feel good about my effort, whehter it was successful or not. And you know what? It actually worked, and I found out that being a stress-ball did not make me work any harder or change the situation. All it did was make me miserable, which in turn affected the people around me. I had to let go of the stress and focus on what was in my control and what was not, and I’m a happier person for it.

Yes, sometimes it is easier said than done, but seriously, accepting that freaking out over something wasn’t going fix/solve/change anything, allowed me to change my perspective. (It’s all very circular and Zen-like) J

So how does this relate to writing?


Your POV character’s perspective affects the tone of your scene, word choice, decisions/actions, expectations, and pretty much anything else you can think of, including what the reader takes from the story.

Every time something feels off with a scene I’m writing, the character’s perspective is the now one of the first things I look at. Where is his or her head at in the scene? Are they thinking/feeling/speaking/acting accordingly?  

Keep the character’s mood in mind throughout every scene. Are they happy, excited, scared, sad, hurt, angry, or any combination thereof? Once you sync up with their head space, look at the description, dialogue, body language, internal thoughts, etc. It should all be colored by that character’s perspective. Many times that off feeling comes about when something doesn’t match up with how the POV character sees or experiences the world you’ve put them in.

If your character just had her heart broken, how does she view the other characters around her? Would an angry/hurt character describe a boy and girl holding hands as cute? Probably not. She’d more likely think about pulling them apart and encouraging the girl to run while her heart is still intact.

If the sky is blue and the sun is shining, would this same girl describe the day as beautiful, or would it be hot and oppressive? What would she notice about her surroundings? It all depends on her perspective.

Do you consciously think about your character’s perspective while writing a first draft or is it something you work on during revisions? Have you ever tried to change your own perspective?

Happy writing!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Revolutionize Your Resolutions!

snapshot of my hub's Warrior Dash t-shirt!

Since we are Revision Warriors, I’m going to share some tips on writing resolutions, but really, this would work for anything. :) When we make resolutions, we really are making a decision to make or break habits. As writers, writing should be a habit, but things get in the way. Sometimes those are good things and sometimes we're just dreading sitting down for the fear we will have nothing to write!

So...think about what is important to you. And then, what you HAVE to do. When making a goal you need two things: time and determination!!

I’m a list maker, but if you’re not, just take the time to go over your normal day. When you wake up, what you do next, work schedule, etc.... And don't forget weekends! Plan for those crazy days!
After you find those bits of time, really think about what time is best for you! For instance, I'm a night owl and wrote for NaNo mostly after 10pm. But you might be an early bird and waking up at 4 or 5am might sound like heaven to you. (I'd die!) Or, you might only have time to write during your lunch break. But find that time!

Next, think about realistic goals for your writing. It might be that you just want to outline a novel or do some character interviews. Maybe 500 words is all you need to get started in your writing habit. Think about how you can accomplish something. Don't set yourself up for failure. If you only have 30 minutes a day, don't try to write 1,500 words in that time.

Discouragement can be a habit breaker! Watch out and don't be too hard on yourself if you miss your goal for one day. During NaNoWriMo there were days that I couldn't write because of a sick kid or I had a headache. There were days that my brain just couldn't create, so I read a book or watched some TV. I got out in the world and experienced stuff to feed my creative side because I'd been pouring out a story and not putting anything in!

Another great way to motivate yourself is to find people to join your goal! Ask your writer friends, or just friends, or partner to keep you accountable. Share your goals so that people know you want to accomplish something. Get them involved! Share your story with them or talk to them about the characters you love in your story and the characters you hope readers will love to hate! ;)

Believe in yourself!! Make realistic goals, and give yourself some wiggle room to take a day off or week every now and again so you don't burn out!

My writer resolutions for 2014 are to query my YA novel before summer and polish up my NaNo book for Beta readers before November! Because I want to write another NaNo novel. :)

What are your resolutions, goals, or new habits you want to make for 2014?