Thursday, November 30, 2006
But alas, that's not in the cards right now. It's a goal I'm working toward, though.
I figured out what was wrong in regards to editing my novel. I want to work on it - but I felt overwhelmed by it. Why? Because instead of breaking it into small chunks, I felt like I had this huge, mammoth project that I had to fix all at once. Not true, of course. I can work on it chapter by chapter - and that's exactly what I'm going to do.
Why this took me so long to realize, I'll never know. My last novel was such a mess - and I'd looked at it so much - that I didn't have any type of editing process in place. I just dived in, held my breath, and hoped I wouldn't drown. Unfortunately, that novel is languishing on my hard drive and I doubt it will see the light of day. It's got a lot of potential and I love my characters, but it's not there yet. Maybe someday I'll drag it out again.
Devon said something in the comments yesterday that stayed with me the rest of the day. "If you push the edits too soon "just to send it out", it won't be in good enough shape to make a hit with agents or editors." That's exactly what I've been doing - wanting to get the novel done ASAP so I can send it out. I suppose that's normal, but the novel won't be nearly as good if I focus solely on that goal.
Instead, I should be focusing on making my story the best it can be so that readers will enjoy it, will have a book that they can't put down, will have a story that will stay in their brains long after they've read it. That should be my goal - and I lost track of it.
Sometimes, I need a swift kick. And I think I just got it.
I constantly have to remind myself why I'm writing. It's not for the money (but that would be nice) or the glory or fame (which I really don't want) - but to tell a story, simple as that. We can get so caught up in the whole publishing game that we forget. I know that I need a gentle reminder every so often to get me back on track again.
What about you? Do you feel like you lose track of why you started writing in the first place?
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Now for a fun tag...
1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
I love hot chocolate! In fact, I had a cup for my morning breakfast and had some Monday night while curled under a blanket with a good book.
2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
With our kids, Santa wraps the presents. Hubby even goes so far as to get different wrapping paper so it looks like it came from Santa. Our daughter still believes in Santa, but the stepson's been "wise" for a few years now.
3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
We usually do the white icicle lights on the house but we did have blue lights one year. Haven't put them on yet for this season. On the tree, it depends.
4. Do you hang mistletoe?
5. When do you put your decorations up?
I always make myself wait until after Thanksgiving. Strangely enough, I haven't been inspired yet to decorate, so the tree isn't up yet and neither is anything else.
6. What is your favorite holiday dish?
Homemade raviolis and butterball soup (the first dish is Italian, the second is German-from Russia). If anyone doesn't know what a butterball is, don't feel bad. It's a rather obscure food. But it's absolutely YUMMY.
7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child:
Way too many! But here's one: Going to church as a child and listening to a lady sing "Oh Holy Night." It was a gorgeous rendition of the carol and I still think of it after all these years. I also love when we sing "Silent Night", the church is dark, and we're all holding candles.
8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
Hmm...y'know, I don't think I ever truly believed in him. How sad is that?
9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
Yes - at Grandma Lucy's house. Every. Single. Year. Part of our holidays tradition!
10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree?
The last few years, I've tried to color-coordinate it. One year I had blue and silver, and last year I had burgundy and gold. I'll probably stick with that theme again this year. I also include all of my ornaments from my childhood and those my children have made.
11. Snow! Love it or Dread it?
Love to look at it- hate to drive in it.
12. Can you ice skate?
Barely. I tried it once when I was in junior high. I remember falling a lot.
13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
I've had lots of favorite gifts over the years. I think a big one was the Cabbage Patch kid.
14. What’s the most important thing about the Holidays for you?
I love celebrating Jesus' birth, spending time with my family, the decorations, the spirit of giving - basically, and the whole atmosphere!
15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
Ooh, tough one. I'd have to say frosted sugar cookies and a mug of cocoa.
16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
I watch classic Christmas movies - a favorite one is Christmas in Connecticut with Barbara Stanwyck. But another favorite tradition is reading a book, cuddled under a blanket with a sugar cookie and a cup of cocoa, surrounded by all the Christmas lights and decorations, and listening to my traditional Christmas carols.
17. What tops your tree?
18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving?
The whole receiving part has sort of waned through the years. I love to see the joy and anticipation when people open my presents to them.
19. What is your favorite Christmas Song?
This one is tough. I have lots of favorite Christmas songs. So I'll narrow it down to a few:
O Holy Night
God Rest Thee Merry Gentleman
I'll Be Home for Christmas
20. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum?
Yuck! Never did like them, but we'll usually put them on the tree.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
I should have been downstairs in my office editing my novel.
For some reason, I'm having a terrible time diving into those edits. I didn't start out that way, though. Remember the phrase "I'm having a blast editing my novel"? Wonder where that enthusiasm went.
Part of me is just plain tired from working all day (and writing and editing all day, since that is my dayjob) and then coming home and forcing myself to go work at the computer. It's hard, but I'm usually pretty successful at making the time. Last night, though, I just wanted to veg on the couch.
But it wasn't just the need to relax for an evening with a good book and a cup of hot chocolate - it was a deep reluctance to open the Word file and start slicing and dicing. I think I'm still close to the book to want to ruthlessly cut and chop the words that don't belong. But I've got to get out of that mode because I really want to get the novel edited, polished, and finished so I can start on the next one.
So, oh wise bloggers, do you have any words of wisdom?
Monday, November 27, 2006
Ate some great food - the raviolis were superb!- had great conversation and even went to see Casino Royale again with my two brothers, my niece, and my dad. They didn't like it as well as me, but ah well, can't win 'em all.
I even managed to sit down with my manuscript and edit a bit while the kids were playing. My niece and nephew and my daughter had a great time playing together, and I really wish we lived closer than we do.
Right now, I'm trying to recover from that really really long drive. Thank goodness my brother came back with me - he drove the entire way. It's a 450 mile trip and it's pretty much a straight line down the interstate.
How was your Thanksgiving?
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
On the left is my Grandma Lucy before she was married. She looks like quite the spitfire, doesn't she? :-)
We're headed to her house for Thanksgiving today. I'm taking off a little early (using a bit of vacation time) so that I can make the most of our time together. Most of my family still lives in western Nebraska and I anticipate we'll have lots of great visiting time ahead.
In our family, we have lots of great traditions and they usually involve food. My grandfather is 100% Italian and my grandmother is 100% German (from Russia). So we've had some interesting dishes over the years. But by far the most scrumptious and enduring tradition is the homemade raviolis. Since we also make our own Italian salami, we use that in our raviolis. Even after all these years, Grandma rolls out the dough, stuffs them with the yummy salami, and then takes the time to cook them. I actually cannot imagine Christmas Dinner or Thanksgiving without raviolis. I've had them since I was old enough to eat solid food!
Have a wonderful, safe Thanksgiving!
Monday, November 20, 2006
A few highlights from this weekend...
--Went to see Casino Royale and loved it. See the post below for just how much I loved it. (Daniel Craig is amazing. Had to say that again.)
--Got a clean bill of health from the eye doctor. Since diabetes really affects the eyes, I want to make sure I stay on top of it. No problems so far and my eyes have even improved - got me two new pair of glasses, though I wish they were contacts. Can't afford that right now, especially since I have to get a special kind since I'm allergic to the daily wear ones.
--My best friend came for a visit for the afternoon and we had a great time catching up. I only get to see her maybe once or twice a year, but it's just like we saw each other yesterday.
Now, on to the writing.
In the December issue of Writer's Digest, I found a kernel of golden wisdom from Elizabeth Sims who writes the Lillian Byrd Crime Stories. If you're having trouble starting a story or maybe even a chapter, go to your bookshelf, close your eyes and pick a book at random. Doesn't matter if it's fiction or non-fiction. Open the book to a random page, then open your eyes. Read the first sentence you see and make that sentence the basis of what you write next.
Intriguing, isn't it?
Saturday, November 18, 2006
In one word, Daniel Craig is brilliant. Casino Royale is perhaps the most perfect James Bond movie I have yet to see. Not for its action or its story, but for its in-depth portrayal of the character of James Bond. I found myself continually amazed last night in the theater as I watched Craig reveal more of Bond's character, digging deep into the man that has always come across the screen in various ways by the other Bond actors as comedic, cold-blooded, cool, at times silly, and polished, and has added an entirely different dimension to him.
Ian Fleming would be proud.
The theater was packed last night - no seats left. And as the ending credits rolled, people applauded. Yes, my friends, it was that good.
Daniel Craig has now firmly moved to my top two position as the Second Best Bond Ever. Sean Connery will always hold the top role, but I gotta tell you - I was wrestling with that particular designation all night. Craig just does an absolutely amazing job in portraying this character. He takes it to a level no other Bond-actor has ever done - including Connery.
Bold words? Perhaps. But if you're a Bond fan, go see the movie and judge for yourself.
Craig has my respect and my thanks for taking the Bond movies into an entirely different realm. I'm anxious to see the next installment.
Friday, November 17, 2006
Casino Royale opens today.
To say I'm excited would be an understatement.
I've been a Bond fan since I started watching the movies with my Dad in elementary school. Of course, I think Sean Connery will always be the Bond, but I've been pretty pleased with the other actors who've played Bond. I'd have to say that my list is as follows:
1) Sean Connery
2) Pierce Brosnan
3) Timothy Dalton
4) George Lazenby
5) Roger Moore
6) David Niven (I haven't seen the original Casino Royale, so that's why I'm putting David Niven at the bottom).
Why is Daniel Craig not on the list yet? Because I have yet to judge how he does in Casino Royale. Do I think he's in the running for the number two spot? You bet.
In the movie trailer, Craig looks like he's got the angst that Bond needs. Of course, Casino Royale is the "first" in the Bond adventures - Bond is just starting out in this 007 business. I'm anxious to see how Craig plays him.
The James Bond movies probably got me interested in the whole spy business. I love the gadgets and the undercover work. Of course it's glamorized, but hey, it IS Hollywood.
I think I'm overwhelming myself with the editing process. There are so many things that the "experts" tell me I need to look for that I'm about ready to throw my hands up in disgust. No passive voice...theme...no excess -ly words...character development...ending the chapter with a hook...beginning the chapter with a hook...making sure I have conflict on every page...and on and on and on.
While some of these things I can catch pretty well, others are a bit more complicated. Hubby finished reading one of Vince Flynn's books last night and told me it was "amazing." I wondered, will my books ever be amazing? Will someone pick it up and not be able to put it down? I sure hope so. But self-doubt started to creep in last night. Then I had to smack myself (figuratively, not literally!). Vince Flynn is a NYTimes Bestseller and has several books under his belt. If I try to compare my writing to his, I'll worry so much that my creativity will cower under the bed.
So here's my question to you. Do you have any great self-editing techniques? And more importantly, do you like James Bond? ;-)
Thursday, November 16, 2006
If you'll remember a few months ago, I blogged about my fears over my daughter's reading skills. She really struggled for awhile. But thanks to wonderful teachers and the Reading Recovery program, she is doing much, much better. In fact, tonight she picked a book off her shelf and said that she wanted to read it to me. How awesome is that?
In Writing News
I'm in the midst of the Great Agent Quest and have sent out several queries over the past week. We'll see if anything comes of them. I'm editing and trying to remember to have fun with the language. With that kind of perspective, it really makes a difference in my attitude. I'm hopeful that I can dive into the manuscript this weekend and really get to the nitty gritty of things. I'd love to take a day off, but unfortunately, we're short-staffed at work at the moment and I would feel too guilty about leaving. But I am taking an extra day's vacation for Thanksgiving, so maybe I'll get some writing done then.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Now I'm faced with moving the books from that shelf over to the new one. Not a very daunting task, of course, but I'm wondering if I really need all those paperbacks. I can justify my history books by saying, "I'll need one of those for research someday" and that has happened on more than one occasion. But for all those paperbacks, I just have to wonder - will I ever read them all? Or would it be better to release them to the world?
I'm thinking I'm going to do some serious weeding over the next few days. Let's face it - there are books on that shelf that I am never going to read. Why keep them around? I think a used bookstore in town is going to be very happy with me in a few weeks.
Monday, November 13, 2006
I love to edit. I love to play with the language and come up with new, compelling phrases and imagery. I also am excited to try out some of the techniques in Between the Lines: Master the Subtle Elements of Fiction Writing that I bought while in Chicago.
In Other News...
I bought a pair of jeans in yet another smaller size yesterday - woo hooo!!! There's nothing like buying a pair of jeans a size smaller than you normally wear. I can't wait to go to Curves tonight and step on the scale. I haven't been there in over a week, so I'm hopeful I've lost at least another pound or two.
Also picked up a copy of Jeff Shaara's latest novel, The Rising Tide: A Novel of World War II - this is the first in a three-book series. I caved and bought it in hardback since I didn't have the patience to wait for it to come out in paperback.
All in all, a good weekend. And you?
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Today, I thank the veterans in my life:
- My husband, who served in the U.S. Army
-My cousins and great-uncles who served in the U.S. Army
If you know a veteran or see a veteran while you're out and about today, take a moment to say "thank you." They'll appreciate it more than you know.
Friday, November 10, 2006
This is my daughter's contribution to her How to Make Dad Stop Smoking campaign. Apparently she made this poster at school one day and brought it home for her dad. And y'know what? It's worked. Hubby has felt so guilty about smoking that he's been smoke-free for three days now. :-) My daughter has been quite happy and eagerly told me the news yesterday when I went to pick her up at daycare. Hubby has tried to stop smoking several times now, but the nicotine habit is a hard one to break. I also happen to think my daughter is pretty darn talented at drawing - she's only six. And although she doesn't have all the words spelled right (the saying on the shirt is supposed to read "I like my family"), she got her point across.
I hope to tackle the manuscript this weekend. When I looked over my first chapter, I had a "d'oh!" moment. How could I not realize how none of it moved the story forward? Ah well, I think Tess is right - it's part of the process.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Why is it that you can spot errors in another person's work a mile away, but can't see the errors in your own work?
That's why we have proofreaders, editors, copyeditors, and critique partners in this world. And God bless 'em all. But God bless Rene today for pointing out that my first chapter was almost entirely backstory. I had an inkling that it didn't start exactly where I wanted it to, but wasn't sure.
The thing is, it's not like I had paragraph after paragraph of solid narrative. I had action, I had dialogue, I had the character's thoughts and feelings. But backstory isn't necessarily paragraphs of narrative that reveal the character's life story. It can be told through lots of other devices. And that's exactly what I did.
But starting my story with chapter two will work perfectly. Now I have to come up with a great first line...
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
I went to Chicago for my business trip. We left on Sunday and got back late Tuesday night. The picture to the left is the view from my hotel room - and yes, it was a foggy morning Tuesday morning, one that delayed flights at the airport which is probably why we were a little delayed getting home.
My two co-workers and I hit the Windy City for a copywriting workshop. While I learned a ton at the workshop, I'd have to say I enjoyed the sightseeing more.
We walked down the famous Michigan Avenue with all the prestigious shops (and we mostly just looked, believe me!) and of course, I had to hit the four-story Borders and fell in love with their WW2 section. (But I only bought two books!)
But by far, I think the best highlight was going to the top of the Hancock Building, sitting in the bar with a glass of sparkling water, and looking at the amazing view from the 96th floor. It was rather creepy to watch the planes go by, but we tried to put that out of our minds as we looked at the absolutely breathtaking view. Wow. We got there just as the sun was starting to set, so we were able to look at the city in the daylight and at night. Amazing. And of course, I didn't bring my camera! But my coworkers did and I hope they got a few good pics.
One thing is for sure - I couldn't drive in the city. I'd be a mass-transit kind of girl or walk everywhere. And we did plenty of walking. I hope that somehow counteracted all the food we ate 'cuz I tell ya what - I didn't care what I ate while I was there! I visited the Hershey store and the Ghiradeli chocolate store (and I probably spelled that wrong), but the best food by far was the deep dish Chicago pizza at Giordano's off Michigan Ave. Yum.
The thing I noticed the most about Chicago was the diverse ethnicity. But it still has the Midwest mentality because almost everyone -except angry drivers - were pretty darn nice.
I definitely want to go back. There was a lot we didn't get to do and I really wish we would have had time to go see the King Tut exhibit at the museum. But guess I'll save that for another time.
Now I'm ready to settle back into life and start working on my novel. And I'm also ready to apply my newly-learned techniques to my job. :-)
Saturday, November 04, 2006
Nothing deep or meaningful for this post today. I've been packing for my business trip and chatting with hubby tonight, so profound thoughts have not made their way into my brain yet.
I'm not a cat lover and I cater more to the canine species, but our feline, Katie, has somehow stolen my heart. Here's a pic of her I couldn't resist sharing (Stop snickering, Rene!). I also took my dog for a ride today in the car - he hasn't done that in awhile. He was thrilled to stick his head out the window and feel the wind in his face. :-) You can see pics of all our pets on this page of my terribly generic website.
Had a nice weekend. Friday night I went over to my mom's and we had supper with my brother and his family(who came from Western Nebraska for the Husker game), plus my other brother. My mom graciously agreed to let my two kids stay the night so they could play with their cousins since they don't get to see them very often, so hubby and I had the night to ourselves.
This afternoon I watched our Huskers win their Homecoming game over Missouri (woo hooo!) and put away all the dishes in my china cabinet. That was an accomplishment in itself since I wrapped everything in newspaper when I moved. Then my daughter and I went shopping with my mom and niece and we found some great bargains. And, of course, I didn't do any relaxing at all like I wanted to and I'm starting to wonder if I remember how to relax.
I'm leaving Sunday for a business trip and will be gone until Wednesday. To tell you the truth, I'd rather stay home. Yeah, it'll be fun to get out of town and go somewhere I've never been, but with all the running around I've been doing the last month, I'd like to just take a day off instead!
Didn't do too much more with my novel's timeline, but it's been stewing in the back of my mind all weekend. I hope to work on it after my trip. Hope the rest of your weekend is great and the beginning of your week is wonderful!
Friday, November 03, 2006
Since my novel is a historical and takes place during World War II, I need to make sure my dates correspond with what's going on in the world. In fact, lots of my story revolves around those important dates. So even though I would write, "Two weeks later..." in my story, I discovered last night that I really need to know exactly what date two weeks later would bring me to.
Thankfully, the wonders of the Internet supplied me with a calendar from 1945. Now I can plot each and every date I need and know that it is historically accurate.
Do you use a timeline to plot your characters' lives?
Thursday, November 02, 2006
To say I've been busy would be an extreme understatement. If I stop and think a minute about everything I had to do in October, I think it would send me screaming for extra large doses of chocolate. And even though finishing the novel was the highlight of the month, I'm hopeful that November will be slightly less crazy. A little bit of "busy" can go an extremely long way.
So for this blog post, I'm going to clear my head of the junk that's been crowding into every single corner in hopes that I will be able to relax a bit more and start focusing on my novel edits.
The Top Ten (Or So) Things on Melissa's Mind
1) The internet is fixed. Turns out it had nothing to do with my computer, my modem, or user error. Instead, it was the cable lines outside on the pole - they were corroded and basically, needed to be replaced.
2) Hubby's snoring has got to stop. I say this with the greatest affection possible, but after numerous nights of subtle kicks and pushes on any part of his body my feet will reach, I'm ready for an undisturbed night of rest.
3) My daughter's room looks like a giant Toys R Us reject room. If that makes little sense, you know exactly what the room looks like.
4) Pepsi One is not nearly as good as Diet Pepsi, a.k.a. the Hard Stuff, but it doesn't have the aspartame in it. I've heard mixed reviews of this partiular ingredient and I've decided to try and steer from it as much as possible.
5) I went and worked out last night and lost another pound. Yay! Yeah, yeah, it's only ONE pound, but I didn't lose 40 pounds by not taking it one pound at a time.
6) I love, love, LOVE the fall colors. Our street is lined with golds, reds, and dark yellows. The squirrels scamper among the leaves and our dogs like to lay in them. My two kids made a big leaf pile the other day and jumped into it. As my thirteen-year-old stepson told me, "It was like I was a kindergartener again." That's always a good thing to hear.
7) Dove Dark Chocolate might possibly be in the running against Godiva Dark Chocolate as Best Dark Chocolate Ever. The jury is still out.
8) I am starting to miss the world of eighteenth and nineteenth century England. My foray into WW2 hasn't left a lot of room for me to indulge in that particular passion. I get frustrated with not being able to equally dwell in both worlds.
9) I really, really, REALLY want to edit my novel. I feel, however, that my life must be a semblance of some sort of order before I dive into trying to get something else in order. My living room is done, but my kitchen, basement, and daughter's room is in serious need of arrangement. I can only ignore the mess for so long.
10) I am a big fan of Jared Hess's work. He's the director of Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre. I couldn't resist buying Nacho yesterday (it was on sale, of course) and we all watched it last night. Two words for this movie: stretchy pants. And if that doesn't intrigue you enough to go watch the movie, well, watch it anyway. ;-)
11) I am dreadfully homesick. Thanksgiving is a few weeks away, but I can't wait. I miss my grandma and grandpa, my brother and his wife and kids, my dad, the family farm...sigh. I wish I had a personal jet to take me the 450 miles. Strange that I wanted to get out of that area (Western Nebraska) so badly, but every 3-4 months I have to go back, otherwise I get terribly homesick. It's mostly my family that I miss, but on the other hand, that area has a way of making me regroup and reevaluate.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
And now, Melissa breathes a big, giant, HUGE sigh of relief.
Of course, now my house is a disaster again since hubby finished moving everything else out of the apartment yesterday. My daughter's room was the last to be moved and now her new room is stuffed to the gizzards.
Halloween wasn't too spectacular since I was cleaning, but my daughter did get some good candy and my stepson won Best Costume at the party he went to.
The weekend promises to be a good one, though. My brother and his family are coming down for a Husker game and then I fly out of town for a writing convention for work on Sunday. Nothing like an all-expenses paid trip to learn more about writing!!!
Internet still isn't working at home, but I plan to hopefully have that fixed tonight by calling my tech support guy. Might just open my manuscript and get to work!
I've got a new home on the web - stop by if you get a chance! www.melissamarsh.net
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