Friday, March 25, 2011

Dealing With Raw Emotion

I know I was going to take a break from blogging, but sometimes you just have to.  Each and every one of us is made up of varying emotions that come out when prompted.  Happiness, joy, and pride are obviously the ones we hope to see more of, but then there's sorrow, depression, and anger.  These are emotions we try to keep under wraps.  They can oftentimes, especially anger, lead to spitefulness and grudges.  They're dangerous in that they breakdown character and destroy relationships.  The only way to combat these emotions is to take a breather, collect yourself, and learn to forgive.  Life is too short and too precious to hold grudges.  I make mistakes.  You make mistakes.  It's a fact of life.

I remember when I was in pre-marital counseling with our priest he told us about something he called "snowballing."  It's when, in the middle of a fight, you bring up past offenses that have absolutely nothing to do with the argument at hand.  It does nothing to alleviate the current situation, but instead drives a wedge further into the relationship by hurting the other person's feelings.  Every time I see myself doing this, I imagine that snowball melting.  It's history.  Done.  The past.  Forgiven.  Human nature makes it very difficult to do forgive and to forget.  But if we're to keep our relationships healthy while we're here on earth, it's a necessity.

Now the question remains - what do you do with all this raw emotion?  How do you deal with it without hurting the people around you?  Simple.  We write about it.  Whether it be blogging, like I'm doing now, or writing it into your MS (man, our characters take a beating when we're in a bad mood!), the artistic form is a healthy way to vent.  It could be singing soulfully after a realtionship comes to an end, painting with wild, bold brushstrokes when angry or upset, or working spitefulness into your MC's character after being pushed away when reaching out for forgiveness.  It's a whole lot better than taking it out on those around you or saying something you'll later regret.  Art.   Is.  Therapeutic.

What are some examples of how you've dealt with your raw emotion?  Have you had your MC do something totally cruel just so you don't?  Or maybe you've had something cruel done to them?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Surrounded By Beauty

Today on my way back from the doctor's office, I did some soul searching.  Mainly, did I want to continue to write during this tumultuous phase in my life, and second, why do I write in the first place?  What am I trying to accomplish?  Here's what I've come away with.  It's all about the beauty.  Every aspect in my life is about creating beauty.  Whether it be through singing, painting, making jewelry (shameless plug here... decorating, or writing, I like to create and surround myself with beauty.

I thought about every piece of fiction I've written from picture books to short stories to full length novels, and the one common string that ties them all together is the beautiful heartfelt feeling you get when you read them.  I've been told in the past I'm a "vanilla" writer, and of course my overachieving personality tried to lay claim that my writing can't be labeled like that.  That I could write anything I put my mind to.  However, I have to admit, if your heart's not in the writing, how good would it really be?  So a vanilla writer I am.  Someone whose stories are "nice."  I'm okay with that.  Personally, I like nice stories.  Stories that have you coming away with a smile on your face and a satisfied feeling in your heart.  Stories with characters who are sweet and caring, but either underestimated or misunderstood.  Where the reader feels for them right from the getgo and are rooting for them the entire journey.  I like to write this way because honestly, I have enough chaos and disappointments in my life.  I want to take my characters in a completely different direction, where they actually have hope and a happy ending.  It's a way for me to live through them - to avoid reality.

So back to the physical aspect of writing.  Unfortunately, due to "life unexpected" I may write less, blog less, dream less...  But I will definitely get on here when I can for my whole 5 followers ;) and Tweet about it when I do.

Now let me ask you this:  What do you try to accomplish with your writing?  Is there a message you're trying to send?  Or do you write for the pure enjoyment of storytelling?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

My Character Said What?

Dialogue is an important part of every story.  It adds to the momentum, sets the tone, and allows the reader to step inside the character.  Writers joke about having voices in their head who never shut up.  It's true.  If it weren't, we wouldn't be able to write believeable dialogue.  It's actually one of my favorite parts of writing - probably because it comes the most naturally.  I knew those voices would help me one day!!!  Before I write a scene, I like to close my eyes and imagine it playing out in front of me.  Okay, maybe I don't close my eyes, more like stare off into space as I barely miss a squirrel because I'm not paying attention to the road.  I put myself right into the scene and listen to the voices of the characters.  Once I've got a good grasp on how they'll interact with each other, I'm ready to write.  Now, that's my ideal situation.  It doesn't always happen that way.  Sometimes, I'm pressed for time and am only able to write in the moment.  It's at these times when strange things happen.  When my characters take me in a direction I hadn't thought of before.  They may say "yes" when they'd usually say "no."  Then I'll push myself back from the computer, my finger hovering over the delete key, and ask myself, "Can I work with this or should I ditch it?"  My gut always sides with the character in these instances.  I think I've only deleted something once.    

How do you write your dialogue?  Do you go with the flow, letting the characters speak through your fingers?  Or do you imagine the scene in advance so there are no unexpected surprises?  It's funny because as writers, we have absolute control over everything our characters say and do.  But then why does it seem like half the time they're controlling us?  It truly makes me question my sanity.         

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Teaser Tuesday

Here it is.  My first Teaser Tuesday.  I've done lots of these on my mommy blog, but this is different.  This is a writing blog.  That means other writers are reading it!  *feeling sick*  Laypeople and friends and family read my mommy blog.  They like almost anything I write.  Here's the a comment from my aunt on the last teaser I posted.  "Impressive writing! Sounds like a real book!"  Mm hmm, so you can see why I'm scared to post this where people could critique it just a bit deeper.  And yes, I've had betas, but one at a time isn't so bad in comparison to uh, you know, the world.

I'm thinking there are 3 scenarios that happen when people post a snippet of their work on their blog.  Their readers could: 

A) be in awe of the writing and feel a little out of their league, thus making them squeamish to comment. 
B) see that the writing level is similar to theirs and I think, "Wow, we could totally be writing buddies!"
C) see that the writing stinks and begin to doubt all the "advice" this blogger has given out.

I'm hoping I fall somewhere closer to B.  I think we're all on varying levels of B, and each have our strengths and weaknesses, but I'm sure there are some A and C writers as well.

Disclaimer:  Before I get to the teaser, know that I'm a very "get to the point" person.  I don't dawdle with "how-de-do's" or "nice weather we're having" small talk.  Unfortunately, this quality passes over into my writing.  I give all my attention to the dialogue and action, leaving the description to fend for itself in a little innertube in the ocean.  Painting a picture is just not my strongpoint.  I've been searching for a genre to fit my writing style, and the snippet below is my attempt at middle grade.  Is this my niche?  I have no idea, but it seems to flow pretty naturally for me. 

Now, after the what could and could not happens and the disclaimer, I'll finally get to the darn teaser.  Fingers crossed!  (And I inhaled so many salsa-flavored Sun Chips while writing the above, my jaw literally hurts from chewing.)

The book, tentatively titled "The Bracelet's Call," is about a 13-year old girl who comes across a charmed glowing bracelet and unknowingly makes a wish that causes strange things to happen to her body.  In this scene, Cam is at the dinner table the night after finding the bracelet.

My brother threw a biscuit at me from across the table.  “Earth to Bucky, Mom wants to look at your bracelet.  What are you, deaf?”
“Shut up, Darren.”  I hated when he called me Bucky.  He came up with the nickname last year because my two top teeth stick out.  I grabbed the biscuit and hurtled it back at him, hitting my mother in the forehead instead.   
She gave me an annoyed scowl and placed the biscuit on the side of her plate.  “Can we try to keep the food on the table, please, and the name calling to a minimum?”
Darren snickered then shoved a huge forkful of mashed cauliflower into his mouth.  He made a point of keeping his mouth open as he rolled the white goo around with his tongue, giving me a front seat view.  Yeah, he was going to get a girlfriend soon.
“So let’s see the bracelet,” Mom said again.
I averted my attention from the horror show that was my brother to my mom’s intent gaze.  “Uh, okay.”  Slowly removing my arm from beneath the table, I held it out for her to see.
 “That’s very pretty.  Is there a story behind it?”
I tensed.  What did that mean?  “Uh, I don’t think so.  Why?”
“Oh, well, I just thought since it was Native American it might have a story behind it.  Sometimes the patterns in the beads tell a story.”
“N-no, not this one.”
My mom smiled.  “Okay.  Just asking.”  She pointed to my plate with her fork.  “Now eat.”
I hid my arm back under the table again then realized I had the bracelet on my right wrist.  I don’t think I could manage eating with my left hand.  I had to switch arms.  Fidgeting with the clasp, I tried to get it open.  It wouldn't budge.
“What are you doing, honey,” asked my mom.
“Nothing,” I said, swallowing the lump in my throat.
“You’re chewing on your tongue.  You only do that when you’re concentrating.”
Stupid tongue.  It always gave me away.  Sighing, I said, “I’m just trying to unhook my bracelet and I can’t do it.”
“Ah, Baby Bucky can’t get undressed by herself?” Darren said with a sneer.
“Stop calling me Bucky!”  My fingers clutched the sides of my chair just so I wouldn’t punch him.  I never called him names.  What gave him the right to call me them?  Chad’s face entered my head and the girls rolling their eyes in gym.  It didn’t matter whether I was home or in school.  Everyone made fun of me.  I was sick of it.  I wished they could see what it did to me inside.  Maybe then they’d stop.
“Darren, I told you no more name calling,” my mother scolded.  “Here, Camille, let me help you with it.”
I looked down at my wrist and my throat tightened.  The bracelet was glowing again!  I couldn’t let them see it.  “Uh, I have to go to the bathroom,” I managed to squeak out as I shoved back from the table and dashed out of the room.
I locked the bathroom door behind me and clawed at the bracelet.  I had to get this thing off me!  My fingers dug beneath the clasp, trying to pry it off but it was no use.  It was almost as if the beads had adhered to my wrist.  I couldn’t even fit a finger beneath them and my skin.  What was going on? 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Who Is Your Support System?

Throughout the blogosphere I see undeniable support in the writing community.  Between the "Keep your chin up" comments to the "Go, writer, go!" comments, writers look out for other writers.  But what about at home?  I'm curious to know what kind of support system each of you receive from family, friends, children, etc.  I can tell you in my house, my husband has zero interest - doesn't care as long as I'm not hogging the computer too long.  My children complain because I'm ignoring them.  And my mother is my worst critic.  Because of this, I don't let her read anything I write. 

I've read some blogs where husbands actually read drafts for their wives.  Which do you think is better?  A husband who's standoffish or one who's supportive?  Obviously, you may be upset that your spouse doesn't share your passion for writing, but then again we all know what it's like to get a bad critique and want to go hide under our covers and never come out - imagine living with that person!  If you don't have support at home, do you belong to a writing group?  How does that work for you?  Or do you rely solely on virtual writers for your support?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Why We Need Critters

No, I'm not talking about the creepy crawlies, although those are very important to our ecosystem.  I'm talking about critique partners.  Critters are trained eyes that help us see things in our manuscripts we don't see ourselves.  When I first started writing, my critters were friends and family.  Now, I know they meant well, and they thought their comments were helpful, but my work wasn't the better for it.  You really need someone with a writing background who knows why something isn't working and can suggest another way to do it.  Whether this be changing it from third person to first, taking out an unimportant chapter, starting the book in another spot, or pinpointing places lacking internal thought and description.  Critters are like filters for our manuscripts.  You wouldn't give an agent a glass of dirty water, would you?  So why give them an unpolished manuscript? 

The ideal situation is to have a critter read as you write.  This allows them to provide that much needed motivation, help you get past writer's block, or to offer a fresh perspective on an old idea.  Here's a good example.  The first book I ever wrote was "supposed" to be about small-town romance.  You know, a cozy, happy-feely kind of book.  I gave the first chapter to a co-worker (scene featured the MC's dog falling in a well) and you know what she came back with?  Are they going to find a body in there?!!  I was like huh?  This is a romance.  There's no dead bodies anywhere!  But as I got thinking about it, I liked the dead body.  So my laid back romance became a mystery with neighbor feuds and family secrets.  Her one simple question changed the entire feel and content of my book.  I'm just glad she suggested it only a chapter in!

What do you look for in a critter?  Someone good with grammar to polish up your sentences?  Someone logical who can find your plot holes or character inconsistencies?  Or someone whimsical who looks at the story as a whole and can target places you've strayed from your theme?

p.s.  Have you virtual hugged your critter today?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Technological Age

November 2010 started a new era in my life.  The era of the Smartphone.  I never realized how wonderful this device would be as a writer.  Pre-Smartphone I checked my email about once a day.  Because of that I wasn't always reachable by my writing partner which would bog down momentum.  And don't even get me started on query time.  The minute I'd walk in the front door with the kids I'd drop everything on the steps, rush to the computer, and wait an endlessly long 5 minutes while it booted up, my teeth practically drawing blood from my lower lip.  This was the routine day in and day out for 2 years.  And blogging was even tougher.  I wouldn't get comments until the evening unless I snuck a peek at work.  But now everything's changed.  I feel like I have the whole world at my fingertips.  I can Twitter, Facebook, email, blog, and surf at any given time.  (By the way, can you imagine what someone from the 50's would think if you spewed those terms at them?)  Owning a Smartphone has made it much easier to be a networked writer.  And my family is now very grateful I'm not tripping over them as I stumble up the stairs. 

So have you made the upgrade to a Smartphone?  If so, how has it helped you with your writing?  Do you use the calendar feature to schedule out self-imposed due dates?  Are there any useful apps you'd like to share (Droid or otherwise)? 

Also, I apologize if my blog post from yesterday offended anyone.  Call it naivete on my part or maybe it's just my kids who become zombified when a movie's popped in..  :)  Regardless, I hope I didn't hurt anyone's feelings.  I know motherhood is a full-time job.         

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Working and Writing

Probably my greatest challenge as a writer is balancing and organizing my life in such a way that I have time to actually write!  That's because I have a full-time job.  I know a handful of writers who are stay-at-home moms and I envy them that extra time they have.  Now, I'm not going to start a debate on how hard it is to be a SAHM.  Trust me.  I know.  I've got the kids full-time on weekends and I often can't wait for Monday.  However, SAHM's do have the ability to fill up the sippy cups, grab the blankies, and pop a movie into the DVR then slip away quietly to their laptops and hammer away at their MS.  That's obviously not an option for career women (although picturing my boss with a pacifier in his mouth is pretty funny).  So my question for you is this.  If you have a full-time job, when do you have time to write?  Do you write only on weekends?  Do you make the fam eat cereal for dinner and lock yourself away with your laptop?  Do you stay up until the wee hours of the night or get up at the crack of dawn to get some writing in before work?  I'd love to hear what works for you!

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Lego Lesson

I've heard people say to "write what you love."  It sounds easy, right?  Yeah, except what you love may not necessarily be what editors are loving.  And then there's the other camp that says to "follow trends."  The problem with this is two-fold.  One, because you're not writing what you love, it may not be your best work and two, you may be behind the game by the time it goes on submission.  Publishing is a very slooooow business.  It seems like a constant tug of war, with us writers doubting our work at every bend on the road to publication.  It takes the fun out of writing.

This Christmas I bought my 8-year old generic Legos.  The one size does not fit all kind.  As his buildings fell apart with the slightest bump, I've watched his frustration grow from growling to throwing his blocks across the room.  The problem was, he was trying to follow the instruction booklet to a T and the pieces just wouldn't fit right.  Stupid cheap Santa!  What was sh-he thinking?  But then today things took a different turn.  I noticed a very relaxed child, taking his time, and using his imagination.  He was ignoring the instructions and building what he wanted.  Yes, it wasn't going to come out exactly like the fire station in the manual, but he didn't seem to mind.  In fact, he didn't even make a fire station.  He built something that interested him.  A tornado chaser truck!  Did it fall apart, causing him to chuck it across the room?  Nope.  All the pieces fit together perfectly.  He says it's the best thing he's ever built and he's been carrying it proudly around all day. 

With all the advice out there that people have to give, sometimes it's best to just observe the daily happenings in your own life and learn from them.  Rules were meant to be broken.  Trends will come and go.  But only you can be true to yourself.  And really, that's the only person you ever need to keep happy.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A New Beginning

Sometimes things don't turn out the way you'd hoped.  You put an entire year into a project and a co-author, and it morphs into something as messy as the cat puke I cleaned up this morning.  So I began this writing blog to start fresh and to keep me accountable for my writing and my sanity.  I'm currently in the process of re-evaluating what I truly want to write.  Do I want to continue writing YA?  I'm thinking no.  I like to write "sweetheart" YA, something that pales in comparison to the edgy YA teens are in demand for.  And if teens don't want it, agents don't want it.  That leaves me with MG or adult.  My voice has always been on the young side and I've actually started an MG paranormal.  Problem is, I haven't read much MG.  Don't kill me, but I tried reading Harry Potter and I couldn't get past the first few pages.  It just didn't hold my interest.  And I wasn't the only one.  My son was looking at me glassy-eyed too.  So how well can you write a genre you haven't read much of?  Then there's adult...  I already have a couple adult paranormals under my belt, and I'm working on a third, but I'm almost not mature enough to do a bang-up job in this genre.  Am I the only one who feels like a 14-year old in a 34-year old body? 

I guess I'm just going to take it one day at a time.  Work on both and see which I think about the most on my commutes back and forth to work and at night while I'm lying in bed, my brain set in overdrive.  How did you decide "what" to write?  Do you write YA because you have teens in the house?  Do you write adult because that's what you enjoy to read?  Or do you write MG and picture books because you're an elementary school teacher and surrounded by kids all day?  Ha!  That's another genre I've tried...picture books.  I've got four of them just sitting on my hard drive.  I wonder if there's an agent out there who'd take on such a confused *cough* multi-talented client like me?