I'm a sick puppy

Writing my own novel has changed many things in my life.  My housekeeping habits.  The amount of money I shell out for five-dollar footlongs.  My relationship with my throw pillows.

Hello, handsome.

I used to be one of those people who could sit back and enjoy a movie or a book without thinking too much.  I liked to veg.  Now, I'm analyzing.  "Why is that potted plant significant?  What dual purpose does this dialogue serve?  Where is she going with that slice of watermelon?"  And so forth.

Another unexpected side-effect is the way I deal with pain, sickness, uncomfortable situations, etc.  If I'm upset, I take a moment to go through a mental checklist:  How do I feel physically?  What do I look like when I'm crying?  What are a few words that could describe my thoughts?

Because, you know, this is all good stuff to remember for when one of my characters is feeling the same way.
I hit a new low last night, though.  I've had a stomach bug (*GINORMOUS NOTE TO FAMILY AND FRIENDS: THIS IS NOT A PREGNANCY ANNOUNCEMENT.  OKAY?) for about two weeks now.  It's been relatively tame, as far as stomach bugs go, but it thinks it's funny to randomly pick days where we can focus on puke.  And focus I must.

Now, I'm no stranger to barfing.  Four kids+morning sickness=lots of quality time with my porcelain friend.  But last night, as I was "in position", all I could think was, "Take notes."  I have hurling in my story, and as much as I've done it in the past, unless it's fresh on your mind, it's hard to write down.

I'll spare you the details.  Let's just say, that scene in my book is about to get a lot more descriptive.  Because I remember! Ohhh, do I. 

My friend Julie has a hilarious post about the same thing here.

So, Julie and I want to know...we're not crazy, right?  When is the most random moment that you've taken notes for the good of your writing?


Inspirational Lovely

I listen to a lot of music while I write.  Every so often, I come across a song that works so well that when I listen to it, the scene practically writes itself.



I was distracted by the woman who sings the song, on the video that showed her singing.  So, I've picked one with a nice, neutral picture.  After staring at this face for three minutes, I've decided to name her Avery.   

I love this song.  It's best when mixed with a hammock and some softly lapping water.  That's all I'm sayin.

What songs inspire your story?


The truth about first drafts.

Next time I start the first draft of a story, this is going to be my opening line:

Dear Jeigh,

Because I've noticed that a lot of the things that I write seem to be more a conversation between me and my characters, or me and my voice (aauugghh, the vooooices!) as we pound out this story.  I can almost picture myself lounging in the sand with A and T, and T is like, "Oh, remember how this is a theme throughout the story?  So I'll just mention it here so we remember."

(And A is like, "T, you're so dang hot."  Because A can never concentrate when T is around.)

When I start to revise my first draft, I read these reminder things and think to myself, "T would never talk like that.  Or think about that in such a conscious way.  Let's make that more subtle, shalllll we?"

And there's always the stuff that's just thrown in at the end, because I remember how I wanted this really cool element or that sparkling prose, but really it just looks like I threw it in there offhandedly.  Which I did.  But move it over here, and oooh, look how that opens everything up!

So remember, first drafts are for writing notes to yourself, and letting your characters grow into themselves and add their input.  Then you can go back and see what really needs to be there.

And A, you're not looking too bad yourself.  Just sayin.


Book Contest, Baby

It was a cool contest, cool book contest, la la la la. 

I'm probably the one who knows the song I'm referencing, yes?  Bonus points if you can name it.

My awesomesauce crit buddy, Christine, is having a giveaway on her blog. You should go check it out. 

It probably won't take you long to notice her blog is much more informative than mine.  I'm pretty sure she wrote the encyclopedia, because she knows everything!  (I mean that in a nice, admiring way, not an, "Oooh, you know everything, don't you??"

Anyhow, once you fill your brain with knowledge on her site, please come back to me.

I'll be waiting.  Right. here.  *waving creepy fingers at you*


Critique Partners

So, you've finished your first draft, eh?  Ready to send it to agents, you think?  Because it's free of grammatical errors?  Eh?  Should I write this entire post in questions?  No?

Fine.  But one more question...

What is the next step after you've written a whole, entire book?

If you haven't already, find some critique partners.  Seriously.  And in fact, if this is the point you're at, you should go to Natalie Whipple's excellent blog, where she's organizing a sort of critique partner classifieds.  Hurry, though, because she's only accepting applicants through Saturday!

Now, I've heard many people balk at the idea of finding critique partners online.  I get that.  There is a certain creep-factor to it.  How do you know who you're really talking to?  Can you trust someone else to read your work without pirating it?  Leaking it?  Laughing at it??

Slow down, champ.  You can.

First off, I would start by checking out other people who are reading and commenting on the same blogs as you.  Read comments.  See if something they say resonates with you, if they take the words out of you mouth, or seem like a cool person.  Most people checking out writing blogs have their own blog, and you can usually click on over and check them out.  This is how I found my first crit buddy.  My second crit buddy found me the same way.

If you find someone who seems like they might be on the same page as you, or in the same stage of writing as you, speak up!  Leave a comment on their blog.  Contact them via email.  You don't have to send a sample of your work, and in fact, I wouldn't.  Get to know them.  See if it would be a good fit.  You should be able to tell after a conversation.  If not, you still have a new writerly friend, and those are important, too.

If you both agree to try critiquing, send a sample of your writing and a summary of your plot.  This is important, to make sure you feel a connection with their book.  You don't have to fall completely, head-over-heels in love with the sample, but if all you think is, "Meh." then you probably won't be able to give them the kind of feedback they need.  At this point, if things don't work out and one of you wants to back out, don't take it personally.  There's lots of different genres for a reason.  Not everyone likes to read the same things. 

So, if things work out and you have a new, shiny crit buddy, what should you look for in a critique?  That can vary, depending on what kind of critique you're looking for, but I'll share what I look for.  I feel it's possible to get a tough critique that doesn't leave you feeling terrible about yourself.

In the first crit I got, my crit buddy actually hated my main character by the end of the chapter!  She told me as much, but then she gave me very specific reasons and pointed out that it wasn't so much the character as it was her reactions to certain things.  In my quest to make her seem flawed, I went a tad overboard, to say the least, and it didn't translate well.  My crit partner didn't tell me what to change.  She just showed me what wasn't working and trusted that I would know what to do about it.  It was hard to swallow.  I liked the character.  I still like her.  But seeing someone else's perspective on it was eye-opening, and now the character is better for it.

Also important is that they point out what does work.  We all like to hear that the sentence we love to read over and over is as awesome as we thought, right?  Or that certain character traits, subplots, plot twists, etc., are smashing?  Crit buddies don't just have to be critical.  They can ego boost, too.

I mentioned that my crit buddies point out what isn't working and trust me to know how to fix it.  This is big.  If you get a crit partner who tells you exactly how you should change your story and has a tantrum if you don't do it their way, run.

On the other hand, take their suggestions seriously.  They like your story, but they didn't birth it, so they're able to give you a more objective point of view.  And they can read it with fresh eyes, as someone who doesn't have the rest of the plot stuffed in their brain.  If your crit partners are invested in your story, their feedback will be for the good of your story.  

So, go!  Find some critique partners!  Your first draft will thank you.


Confessions I should probably keep to myself #1

I need Amanda Hugnkiss.  (hahaha!  Funniest prank name EVER!  Okay, fine, I'll leave the middle school slumber party and come back to my mature life.  *sigh*)

Seriously, though, I do.  

Not a girl named Amanda.  Or a man to hug and kiss.  Because I already have one of those (hubba hubba!).

But this is the thing:  I write most of my romance-y stuff late at night.  Reason #1- late at night is when brilliance starts sprouting from my brain uninhibited.  Reason #2- late at night I'm not constantly bombarded with "Mommommommommommomcrackercrackercrackertattletattletattletattlepoopoopoopoo!!!"  (Because those four words make up kids and their needs in a nutshell, you know.) 

Reason #3- I blush like a maniac when I write mushy stuff.  If you know me personally, you'll understand that the blushing thing isn't that extraordinary.  I'm a career blusher.  I turn red even for the sake of other people's embarrassments. My nickname in junior high was The Devil.  Yeah.

So one night, Rex was doing homework on the couch and I was typing away and he happened to look up at me and was like, "What are you writing?"  

And I was like, "Huh, what?" *blinking in a foggy haze of romance*  Then I had to admit that I was writing a kissing part, which is no big deal, right?  Because people kiss.  And it was just kissing, not even lusty kissing, really really sweet kissing actually, but I was bright red anyway.

Rex gave me his supportive you weirdo look and went on with life.  I save my mushy stuff for when he's not around, though.

Now, it should be pointed out that the romance in my stories is not racy by any stretch of the imagination.  It focuses mostly on the romantic tension leading up to The First Kiss, and here is where my struggle comes.

Rex is in bed.  The house is quiet.  And I'm trying to write about two people sitting next to each other, and I need to know if their hands would even actually be able to brush if they're sitting the way they're sitting, or I need to see how an entire sequence would play out and if it would come across as romantic or creepy and awkward. 

What's a girl to do?  The way I picture it in my mind isn't enough!  I want to see it at work!  I need proximity!  So, I use my throw pillow.  I prop it up next to me on the couch, let it's arm casually bump against mine.  I let it come 90% and wait as I slowly inch closer...and closer...and closer...

For the record, I've never actually kissed the pillow.  Because it's allll about what happens just before, remember?  But still, yes, I'm hitting on a pillow.  And letting it bust a move on me.

So, I'm curious.  What lengths do you go to in making sure your scenes are realistic?