Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Awards



I just won a blog award (above) from Valerie Storey! For this particular award, the requirements are that I share 7 pieces of info about myself and then choose 7 blogs I feel deserve the award too*.
  1. I was born in Columbia, Missouri, which isn't interesting at all, so as a kid, I'd tell people I was born "in Columbia." (And they believed me.)
  2. My bachelor's degree is from St. Louis University, and I majored in both Russian and International Relations.
  3. I am still waiting for the day when my degree applies to my own life.
  4. I spent over two years in a Japanese elementary school as their first foreign student. I read many Nancy Drew books the first six months because my teacher promptly sat me by the window and forgot about me. My next teacher was the one who taught me Japanese.
  5. I can fold tiny, tiny origami cranes. When I was by that window, I used to test myself to see how small I could get them.
  6. I absolutely love rugby and wish I could erase American football and replace it with the better game.
  7. I do not know how to relax unless I am reading or watching a movie. I cannot sit still unless my brain is wholly engaged, and I have a horrible time turning my mind off when it's time for bed.

Okay, enough about me. Now to hand out my awards:

  1. Jacqui Robbins, for always providing deep thoughts and a laugh.
  2. Andrea Eames, for being the best-dressed writer on Earth.
  3. Christina Farley, who recently compared writing to kimchi. And I agree. (And I love kimchi.)
  4. Vijaya Bodach, who may not know she won because she has given up blogs for Lent! (And I'm sure her writing will improve because of it.)
  5. Jonathan Arntson, a new blogger friend of mine, who is in need of YET ANOTHER award, naturally.
  6. Shannon O'Donnell, who is in the same boat as me: writing with little ones running about. Oh, and she seems to know everything that's going on in the kidlit world.
  7. Christine Danek, another new blogger friend, who I just know that if we sat down for coffee together, and managed to keep the kids from running off and wreaking havoc on the world, would be kindred spirits in no time. (This is the second time she gets this award. She must be cool.)

* Doing the requirements for the awards sucks up so much time, I swear it's a design by an evil jinn trying to disrupt the productivity of blogging writers.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Quilt Block

I haven't written any prose since Friday. I wish I could get time during the weekend, but it's "family time." But I did make something yesterday! See?

It's a quilt block. :-) It's about 15'' square. My husband and I took a quilting class yesterday*, and this is what I made. I tried to be as precise as I could, but I go through projects quickly and always make mistakes. (I really should wear a seam-ripper around my neck whilst sewing.) Jim has always wanted to make quilts and I wanted to learn how to be more precise in my sewing. He was the only man there, naturally, but no one seemed to mind. In much the way it is with children's writers gatherings, when a man is about, the women are thrilled to have some diversity. He is hoping to make some sort of mathematical quilt, with fractals, I think**.

Things I learned about quilting that can be applied to writing:
1. Get an idea for the scope of the project first.
2. Don't get discouraged about how much time it might take--do one block at a time.
3. If you are precise every step of the way, the pieces will fit together much better. (This pleases my critical side.)
4. If you rush, you'll probably make a mess that won't fit together. (A bit like NaNoWriMo was for me, really.)
5. Enjoy it.

* What a date, eh?
** Did I mention I married a mathematical freak of nature? Well, I did. Math freaks are hot.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Writing By

My pages aren't exactly flying by, but time is, and I'm doing my best to make the most of it. It's been a rough week.

Now, have you ever heard that a writer writes best under pressure? Or that she must find her muse in order to write her best?

It's all hogwash. And it's all true. Here's a not-so-secret secret: you write your best when you have set aside the time to write and stick to it. But you also write your best when you've tapped into your muse and are calling upon legions of creative ideas. And guess what? You can do both at the same time. (Even if you're writing on a laptop in the dance studio, while your daughter is twirling away.) (Not that I've done that.)

I've noticed something lately. The writing outcome of the days in which I feel engrossed with my story and the days in which I am merely pounding out the words are not that different. I write like I write, no matter the mood or the excitement of doing so. Why is this? I think it's because I've been writing and writing and writing for several years and have found my "ME" in my prose. I've found the little invisible thread that leads me from staring at a blank page to putting somewhat-decent words onto it. It's a novel idea (ha ha) that I can sit down and write and expect the same outcome in quality no matter my mood.

This is not to say that when I'm feeling depressed I can write every time. Or that when I'm tired, or busy, or lost in thought about a novel I've just read, I can jot down more of my story. Not always. It only happens when I commit to writing a scene or a specific number of words. And many times, I just don't commit to it and end up finding something, anything, else to do.

(It's what happened the past few days, actually.)

So, to recap:
A writer can expect the outcome in quality to be the same whether she is in "the mood" to write or not, as long as she sets aside the time for it and commits to the doing of it.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Snowflake Pro

Earlier this week I was googling for help with novel plotting because I was stuck. I wanted some way to organize everything, keep my characters lined up, and figure out what the core of my novel really was. I knew, sort of, what I wanted, but it was all nebulous. Which is why I kept writing and re-writing the first 50 pages. I was pretty happy with what I've written this past month (about a hundred pages), but I still didn't know if it was good enough. I didn't know if it made sense, or if the plot was too cliche, or too confusing, or too....crappy. Plus, I was stuck.

Well, while I was googling, I came across a site describing the Snowflake Method. I read it, liked it, and then discovered that the man who came up with is also a physicist (awesome!) and a computer software developer, not to mention a novelist. So I took a look at his program he had for sale, and after the initial sticker shock, ordered it. (He offers a 50% discount if you buy his Novel Writing for Dummies book.) Yes, it was expensive. Yes, my husband looked at me like that when I told him. But but but! It seems to be working! I have organized my novel already! I have written a one-liner that gets right to the core of my novel. I have written a short synopsis that makes describing the novel to random strangers much easier (have you ever had the deer in the headlights look when someone asks you what your novel is about??). I have expanded that into a page-long synopsis detailing the novel. I have figured out the point of each character (what he/she wants, what is their downfall, what is their saving grace, what they are like) and then described the story from each point of view (which was amazingly helpful and I wish I'd thought of it sooner). I am just about to expand my page-long synopsis into a four-page synopsis. Next, I will outline each scene.

You could do all of this without the software, of course, but it's just so cool. Used in conjunction with Scrivener, I will be banging this thing out in no time, and when I'm done, it'll make sense.

By the way, I was able to see Tamora Pierce speak at a fundraiser in my neighborhood this weekend, and she was fabulous. There were only about twenty people there, including Bruce Coville, who is always nice each time I see him. (I run into him in public places here! It's like living in Hollywood, except that it's Syracuse and he's not an actor!) Tamora Pierce spoke about how, like a buckaneer, she pillages the great works of the ancients, the ideas that have been passed down, and all she sees around her to build her worlds and stories. She is an awesome, talented writer!

Bruce Coville made my day because at first he didn't recognize me (we've only met twice before, so I wasn't expecting him to recognize me anyway) and then he said he thought I was one of the high school students. (Gasp! Squee!) I'm sure he was just being nice, but it sure made me feel great for the rest of the day. And the next day. And today. :-)

Having these two brilliant authors for neighbors is wonderful. I hope I'll be able to tell them I've sold a book the next time I see them!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I love my monster child, I do

Here's a video taken in my home at approximately 4:25 a.m. this morning. For your viewing pleasure:

video

It's now a quarter to eight, and she is STILL AWAKE and thrilled than she can now write her numbers. I couldn't be less thrilled at the moment. Really.

My husband left just after the video to go to school/work. I was thrilled about that, too.

Henry got back to sleep about 20 minutes later, after some crying. I slept a little bit, but she woke up me in 15-minute increments telling me various things, like: she wanted to play a computer game ("No!"), or that she wasn't tired ("Well, I am!"), or that she wanted me to go downstairs with her ("Go by yourself!") or that downstairs was scary ("Then stay in your room!"). (See a pattern?)

Now it's time to get us all dressed and take her to preschool. I have a feeling she might take a nap today. (That will shock her teacher.)

Please don't tell me your little, adorable, kind children sleep in until 8 every morning, or that you have to wake them up to go to school. It just might push me over the edge.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Busy Busy

Can I just say that this past week was full of, well, stuff? Both kids were sick, as was I, and when my 3 year old is home from school, the schedule comes to a grinding halt. So, forgive me for not finishing up the last post! I never did assign any awards to anyone...and I'm not going to. Not now, not a week later. That would just be lame. So, here's a special award: anyone who reads this post between now and 12 p.m. EST on February 2nd gets a Gold Star sticker. Let me know, and I will mail you one. ;-)

Good news for last week was that I wrote a particularly difficult scene. I actually wrote it three times until I got it "good enough" to press on. And then I had to write the next scene, which was just as difficult. It wasn't as pivotal, but deciding what was going to happen, exactly, took some time. I have come into a sort of rhythm, lately. When I'm stuck, I write out a description of the scene, including the participants, the weather, the mood, and the events. As I do this, the scene comes more-or-less to life in my head, and when I open up Scrivener to write it all down, it comes out gushing (or at least in a steady flow).

Then the weekend happened, in which I got zero time to write. Truly. Unless I sacrificed one of my 6 hours of sleep, I was not going to get free time.

Well, this post was rather long*. You get two stars for making it this far!

Now, tell me, what's the book you're currently reading? I'm reading Sara's Key, sort of. It's actually so sad, that I have to balance it out with a Nancy Drew novel. I am not sure I can finish this book.

* I just deleted three paragraphs that were too personal. Muahaha.