Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Itching to Edit

Last night, I ignored the boxes stacked in the kitchen and the hallway and set up my office. I've claimed a small corner of the basement and despite the view of the unfinished ceiling above my desk and the rather boring gray cement walls, it works just fine (except for my cable internet was NOT working fine last night! GRRRRR). Besides, I have posters to cover the walls. ;-)

I think my manuscript has "simmered" enough and now I need to go in and stir things up. The conference this past weekend with Judith Arnold gave me lots of great self-editing tips. There are two categories of stuff to look for in editing - The Big Stuff and the Little Stuff. :-)

Big Stuff items include:

Making sure all your scenes serve one of the four dramatic elements (or functions)
1) Exposition
2) Characterization
3) Plot
4) Content

When you look at a scene, always ask yourself this question: What dramatic function does this scene serve? And of course, some scenes can serve more than one dramatic function.

Other big stuff items include:
1) Transitions
2) Theme - in editing your book, you can really start to create parallels to your theme by coming up with imagery or metaphors to better illustrate it, enhance your manuscript, and unify your whole story

The Small Stuff includes, well, the small stuff. Spelling, grammar, POV, misplaced modifiers, adverbs, cliches, adjectives, etc.

I really like the idea of using imagery and metaphor to focus on my theme. This is where editing is fun (for me, anyway!). I love to play with the language, to whittle away at the stuff I don't need, to carve an intricate phrase that will say volumes. And now that the office is all set up (well, minus the &%$#&* internet that's not working!) I'm ready!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Some Progress!


Yesterday, I slept in. Oh, how nice it felt - especially when I woke up and realized that it actually wasn't as late as I thought it was due to the time change. After popping to the store for some groceries, I came home and tackled the house. Hubby had to work, so it was just the kids and I, but man, did I get a lot done. The living room is now, well, liveable. And it looks great.

I have a feeling, though, that my office will be the last thing to be set up. I can live with that because if I need to, I can just whip out my laptop and go write on the couch. :-)

The workshop was wonderful. Lots of happy people, which is always a bonus! And the headache was much better Saturday. Of course, hubby was snoring Saturday night, which meant I had to move to the couch and I got another crimp in my neck, leading to another headache. ACK! But I think working all day loosened it up and I feel pretty good this morning. Plus, I found these great icy hot patches that stick to your skin and you can wear them under your clothes and no one is the wiser. It does wonders for my tight muscles. Better than taking lots of drugs, that's for sure. (BTW - thanks for all the sympathy comments - they're appreciated!)

I'm eager to dive back into my manuscript, but it's going to be awhile before I can do that. Need to get the house in shape first!

I'll leave you with some words of wisdom from Judith Arnold on self-editing:

Write from your heart and edit with your brain.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Oh, the Agony! (And the Ecstasy!)

If I didn't visit your blog yesterday, don't feel bad. I didn't visit anyone's blog. The reason? Here's the agony part: .another tension headache - and this one was a doozie. I felt it coming on Thursday at our office Halloween party. My department went as the cast of Napoleon Dynamite and I was Deb. I have a feeling my neck and head did not appreciate the whole side ponytail look. For whatever reason, I woke up and immediately wanted to scream. We're in between insurance right now so I don't have the money to go to the chiropractor and so I just took a hot bath to try and relax my muscles, went back to bed, and then sat on the couch all day. I watched a few movies, including Anchorman which had me momentarily forgetting the pain since I was laughing so hard. (BTW - if you haven't watched Nacho Libre, I highly recommend it.)

What sucks is that I had to go to my chapter's writing workshop Friday night. Since I'm the president and thus, the MC of the event, it was a must. Don't get me wrong - I wanted to go - desperately! Judith Arnold is our guest speaker this year and her workshop Friday night was on self-editing, something I will be doing in the next month on my own novel. But really, all I wanted to do was climb under the covers and cry. Yes, my head hurt that bad.

But there's at least a nice ending, if not a happily ever after. And that brings us to the ecstasy part of the equation. Four migraine pills, some yummy desserts, a nice icy hot patch on my neck, and a terrific workshop made the day's misery fade. Being around a bunch of other like-minded individuals - writers - is an awesome feeling.

(Anyone else tired of reading about my headaches? I sure am. I think I'm going to go check into that herb Devon and Tess told me about...)

Today, the workshop continues - all day long. I'll post details about it in the next few days.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Holidays are Looming

I've lost nearly 40 pounds since January. And I love it. I feel better, I look better, and my self-esteem has improved considerably. Of course, I want to lose another 30 pounds or so, but I feel the walls of doom closing in on me with the holiday season approaching.

I love sweets. And according to my dietician, I can have those sweets - but just have to cut out some other carbs from my meals and watch how many sweets I eat. Contrary to what many people thing, some diabetics can have sugar - it's just not a great thing to eat because it results in lots of bad calories, fat, and stuff your body really could do without. Plus it makes your insulin levels go up and that is the thing you want to avoid. But if you want to have a cookie, you have to cut out the bread or another carb at dinner.

There's a tendency for me to just want to say the heck with it and indulge. But I'm scared to death to gain back any weight. Maybe if I just keep up with my exercise program I'll be fine.

One thing is for sure - I haven't bought any Halloween candy nor am I likely to. It's too much of a temptation to have around.

Do you have any surefire methods to avoid the holiday weight gain?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Two Things Outta the Way

Meeting went well last night and so did the job interview. Two things done this week - about ten billion more to go.

It's a cold and cloudy day today, perfect for hunkering down with my laptop on the couch with my pajama pants, a cold can of Diet Pepsi, and a handful of dark chocolate. Instead, I am at work, wearing pantyhose, and mourning the fact that I already drank my Diet Pepsi for the day. Now it's strictly water for the rest of the afternoon.

And besides, I have a hard time finding the couch these days. But the good news is that my office should be set up tonight since the Internet will be hooked up tomorrow. And then I can proceed to make sense out of my life again.

I'm itching to dive into the novel and polish it until it gleams like a newly minted quarter. And hopefully, the coming winter months will let me do just that!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Still Moving...(And Five Cool Things About Me!)

Packed the china set last night, plus drug a few more clothes over to the house. I think hubby is going to finish up the rest today. We're painting my daughter's room, so her stuff will be the last to be brought over.

Can I just say that I need a vacation? And I can't take one for quite awhile. I've got my chapter writing conference this weekend and then next Sunday I'm headed out of town for a work writing conference. I'm looking forward to that, but wish things were a little more spread out. Oh yeah - and throw in Halloween somewhere around there. Fortunately, hubby likes to take the kids trick o' treating. I'll hole up in my house and refuse to answer the doorbell - I've got boxes to go through! ;-)

Sue tagged me for this fun little "People Collection." List five little-known facts about yourself. You never know what might be valuable to a writer. And when you've amassed a big "people collection," you'll have all sorts of resources!

So here are mine:

1) I'm a stepmom of two boys - one lives with his mom, the other with hubby and I. Let me tell you - being a stepmom is an experience all on its own.

2) I know how to scoop ditches and cut weeds out of bean fields with a machete. Neither of these talents is one I wanted to learn.

3) I went back to graduate school after being married and having a baby. I fit the profile of a nontraditional student.

4) I've worked at a bank, a law firm, a newspaper, made pizzas at my cousin's pizza place, shelved books at the library, worked at three different bookstores, and ran a concession stand at the baseball fields during the summer.

5) I got stuck in a processional at Canterbury Cathedral in England and ended up behind a bunch of bishops.

And one more, just for fun:

6) I was smashed against a U.S. Secret Service agent at a Bill Clinton rally before he became president.

PLEASE LEAVE THE FOLLOWING IN ALL ‘PEOPLE COLLECTION’ POSTS:Remember that it isn’t always the sensational stuff that writers are looking for, it can just as easily be something that you take for granted like having raised twins or knowing how to grow beetroot. Mind you, if you know how to fly a helicopter or have worked as a film extra, do feel free to let the rest of us know about it :-)"

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Angst of Moving

Yesterday after church and a lunch that was probably way too fattening for me, we started the "big move." Did I tell you how much I hate moving? Well, yeah, I hate it. Loathe it, in fact. But this time, it really wasn't too bad.

My husband used to be a professional mover in Europe and let me tell you, he works fast. He and my stepson combined were a powerhouse of energy. I didn't have to carry anything out, but just pack boxes. I'd much rather do that, let me tell you! We still have a bit to do - I have a very nice China closet my Dad made that is full of dishes that I still need to pack up, plus my daughter's room. We'll get that taken care of this week.

I can now officially say that hubby and I are back together. A lot has changed over the past eight months and it's all for the good. We're really starting to recognize that marriage takes a lot of work - and no one has a perfect, normal marriage. That doesn't exist. There is no perfect husband and no perfect wife. Our counselor has really helped us see this.

Needless to say, I'm tired on this Monday morning and could have cheerfully slept until noon. But there's that pesky day job to deal with and a house full of boxes to unpack.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Odds and Ends


I've decided to splurge on one thing for myself with the prize money I won for my history article. And I think I've finally narrowed it down to the complete series of As Times Goes By. Yes, Rene, I hear you laughing at me! But I simply adore this show. I've wanted the complete series for some time now, but never had the finances to do. Still, I'm a bit hesitant to shell out the cash because part of me wants to hang onto it. But hey, I should reward myself for a job well done, right? :-)

I was going to have a garage sale this weekend, but since there's a 50% chance of rain, it's looking like that will be the last thing I do. And really, I don't mind. I might just try and get the rest of the stuff packed up and ready to go.

Speaking of packing, I had the unenviable job of going through my daughter's room the last two days. I can't believe how much stuff she has. And it's not even big stuff. No, it's little tiny stuff. Plastic horses and My Little Ponies and dogs, cats, dinosaurs, frogs - you name it, she's got it! Then there's the matchbox cars and crayons and markers and...sigh. The list goes on. I think I finally got everything organized and ready for the move. And to think - when she was born, I thought, "Well, she doesn't have very many toys. I'll have to go shopping." Ha! Talk about the exact opposite happening! She's got too much stuff. Of course, as soon as I unearth something she hasn't seen for months, she wants to play with it.

And then there's the writing. I feel listless walking around without knowing that I should get my butt to the chair and be writing. But I think letting my novel just sit for awhile is a good idea. My mind needs that mental break.

So here's the question of the day. If you could splurge and buy something you've been wanting for a long time, what would it be?

Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Lure of Editing



Despite the tension headache of yesterday (actually, my headaches pretty much never go away as I have chronic tension headaches), I wanted to write last night. It felt strange not to have to work on my novel - as far as writing new pages anyway. I really just wanted to take a break from the novel for a few days, let it sit and gel a little before I tore it apart with my trusty editing tools.

But I couldn't resist tinkering with it. To me, editing is the fun part. This is where I really get to play with the language. I think I've always loved to edit. In fact, I still have a nonfiction piece I wrote in junior high that has extensive pencil marks all over it from my editing process. While I like to think that my writing has evolved enough that I don't need to change every single word, I still love to see how I can mix things up.

Do you like to edit? Or would you rather someone else take the scythe to your work?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Sidelined...

I really really REALLY hate my tension headaches. Stayed home from work today and slept for FIVE HOURS. That is bad.

Time is flying by and when I think I have to get ready for a garage sale this weekend, a RWA chapter meeting next week and our chapter conference, plus move everything out of the apartment, I just want to tear my hair out.

Must. Stay. Strong.

My daughter and I did find her a tiger costume for Halloween, though. I hate paying that much money for something she'll wear to school and trick o-treating, but I have a feeling that since she likes tigers so much, she'll be wearing it a lot more than just those two events.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Let's Celebrate!


Why do we need to celebrate? Because last night, I typed
THE END
on my novel.
WOO HOOO!!!
Let the party begin! (And don't forget the chocolate!)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Happy Dance!

What a great writing weekend! I managed to write a little over 5,000 words on Saturday and Sunday. My novel is this close to being finished. I think one more night and it will be done.

Yippee!!!

Hubby also came Sunday morning and grabbed all the boxes I had packed. That made me feel a lot better knowing that I already have stuff out of the way and over at the house. The apartment is starting to look a little bare, but that's ok - that means I'm making progress.

I've also got a pretty good idea of what my next novel is going to be about - and I'm very excited. I'll probably just let ideas float around in my mind for awhile before I start working on the plotting in earnest. I've got to get this novel finished and edited first - although I will probably do editing and brainstorming at the same time.

In Other News...

I updated my Best of World War II blog. And coming soon - a review of a new book called Thanks for the Memories: Love, Sex, and World War II by Jane Leder. It promises to be a fascinating read.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Boxes and Books

I made an executive decision this weekend. In the midst of packing, I realized that most of my boxes contained my extensive book collection. And if I'm honest with myself, I haven't cracked open some of those books for years - literally. But my whole argument with myself has been, You might need it someday.

Well, after moving them from place to place for too many times to count, I've decided to get rid of some of them. Of course, this only means I'm making room for new books, right? ;-)

My apartment is a complete disaster right now - boxes stacked by the front door, a path made in between all the stuff waiting to be packed, and just general disarray. I hate living like this, but I guess there's nothing to be done about it but endure and get through it.

I did take a four hour nap today - not what I wanted to do on a Saturday afternoon, but maybe that means I'll be able to stay up a little later and work on my novel. I need to get it finished - maybe I can accomplish that this weekend.

The weather is finally staying cool - no more 80's and 90's temps for us, thank goodness. I do get tired of that. I'd much rather have the 50's and 60's like we're having now.

Hope you're all having a relaxing weekend. :-)

Friday, October 13, 2006

It's Not the Destination, But the Journey

Great responses to my post yesterday. I think I need to take a different attitude to getting published. Yes, I want it very badly. But I need to be realistic about it. The hard work of writing isn't going to go away. In fact, I will have more things to worry about than before.

Perhaps that's why I haven't been published yet - because I'm not yet mentally ready for it and that is being reflected in my writing - as in I'm having a hard time finishing the book or making excuses not to write, etc., etc. So I think I need to sit down and really think about being published and what that means to me. Above all, I do not want to take away the joy in my writing. I do not want to make being a published author my sole goal in writing. It can't be. Instead, that must be the end goal and certainly not the most important. Writing is what I do, and a writer is who I am. That cannot change just because I have a book in print.

This needs to be tacked on my computer: It's not the destination, but the journey.

An old, but very wise saying that we should all adhere to.

Oh yeah - TGIF!!!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Can You Handle It?


When I started to think about why I was reluctant to finish my novel, one thought struck me in particular. If I finish this novel and if it sells, my whole world will change. No longer will I be an "unpubbed" author - I will be a published author. And that is an entirely different world than an "unpubbed."

There are similarities, of course. You still have to write the book. You still suffer angst and doubt and tear your hair out when the words refuse to appear. But when you're published, you suddenly have an editor and a deadline, your name is going to be out there, and marketing and publicity will suddenly become a big part of your life.

Does the fear of success keep me from reaching my potential?

Maybe. But then again...I've finished one book and had it requested for partials and fulls by a number of agents. The fact that they all ultimately rejected it doesn't bother me too much because hey, it's my first novel and I can still see lots of things wrong with it.

I'm inclined to think that the fear of success isn't what's holding me back when I write...but rather the fear that I can't continue to write well enough to satisfy myself and my future potential readers. Does that make sense?

There's a certain pressure to writing, the pressure to always be better than the last book. And when you're a published writer and it's your career, that's quite a lot of pressure. The question is, can I handle it?

If you're a published author, how do you handle that pressure? If you're unpubbed, do you feel the pressure to outdo yourself? Does it cause you to look at your words with a cynical eye?

Here's how I've decided to handle my dilemma. I just write. I poured out 1200 words the night that I didn't think I could write even one. That little nagging voice of "this isn't good enough" kept chiming in, but I squelched it and kept on going. Are those words the greatest to ever come out of my brain? Not a chance. Are they useable? You bet.

Bottom line is that as writers, we all have pressures of a different sort that are strictly to do with our writing - not the pressures of outside life because we all have those, too. And those writing pressures affect us on a daily basis. How we choose to deal with the pressure is perhaps what determines whether we are a success or not.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Nearing the End


Here's a somewhat baffling event. I am nearing completion of my novel - and I'd say I really only have about a week's worth left to do on it and the first draft will be finished.

Then why am I having a terrible time forcing myself to write those last few pages? You'd think I'd be ecstatic to type The End and then dive right into the next project.

Maybe that's the problem. I don't yet know what my next project is. I've got several ideas swimming around in my brain, but haven't pinpointed one in particular as being The Next Novel.

Perhaps if I figured that out, I'd be ready to finish my current WIP. Or maybe it's because I feel overwhelmed with everything going on this month - moving out of this apartment is big on the list. But you'd think I'd want to finish the novel so I could have the satisfaction of having it done by the time I have to move. It could be that my brain feels I should be packing instead of writing, though... There's really no solution for it but to just buckle down and write. Even if I churn out drivel, I can fix drivel.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Nothing Too Terribly Important

Utterly Random Thoughts

I feel icky. Hurt-all-over, achy, tired icky. I sneezed up a storm at work on Monday and I'm sure I went through half a box of tissue. After work, I went to the grocery store and picked up a can of tomato soup (soup and cold weather go together, y'know!) and some sugar free Pillsbury chocolate chip cookies. I figured out the secret to making them taste good - take them out of the oven before they're fully cooked and leave a nice, chewy, middle. Almost as good as the "hard" stuff. Boy, I sure do miss being able to eat all those yummy things...but then I think about all the weight I've lost and I guess it's not so bad after all.

I had planned to write all evening long, but ended up watching Toy Story 2 (a classic!) with my daughter, helping her with her reading, doing the dishes and a few loads of laundry. I didn't want to do the last two, believe me - but it's always a good thing to have clean clothes in the morning. But my body wasn't too happy with me afterward.

Halfway Focused Thoughts

Some of the members of my local writing group are doing NaNoWriMo. I've thought about it, but not too seriously. I've tried it a few times before and bombed big time. Of course, I was in grad school at the time...

For some reason, I don't think I do too well with things like that. I always start out strong, but sort of run out of steam somewhere in the middle. I guess I work at my own pace and if it gets the novel done, then I suppose I'm doing ok. Which is why I'm incredibly frustrated at being sick right now. I want to be writing. There are those who say you should write even when you're sick, but I don't know that I agree. There's a reason you're sick - your body has had enough and needs to slow down and rest. Fighting that compulsion to rest only makes things worse - at least it does for me.

But then again...if the urge to write is strong, why resist?

Not My Thought At All

"The best writing advice I've ever heard: Don't write like you went to college." ~Alice Kahn

Monday, October 09, 2006

Recap


Wow. What a busy few days!

The awards luncheon on Friday was wonderful. Three other people also won awards and everyone was so gracious. I really want to start doing more for my state historical society - hopefully I'll be able to explore some opportunities in the future.

Saturday, my local RWA chapter went to the Nebraska Book Festival and had a great time. The picture to the left is of our display that my daughter and I put together. Nothing fancy, but it's something we'll be able to use over and over again.

Sunday we went to church and after we had lunch, I sort of wandered around the house, wondering what to do with myself. Then I got the hair-brained notion to go and weed the flower bed up front. Weeds were choking it, small trees had sprouted, and it generally looked a mess. I didn't plan on spending three hours on it, but that's exactly what I did. I also hung up a few Halloween and fall decorations on the front porch and I'm rather pleased with how it looks. Unfortunately, it also just wiped me out physically, leaving not much enthusiasm to write. But I did get my exercise and that's always a good thing, right? ;-)

This week should be quieter than last week and I hope to put a lot of focus on my novel. The weather changed radically, too, and it's nice and chilly outside. Of course, I celebrated the chilly weather on Sunday night with a nice bowl of chili - unfortunately, I had to pass on the cinnamon rolls. ;-)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

It's Official!


I have a little sign that I bought at Barnes & Noble years ago that hangs on the door to my office. It says, "Future Award-Winning Author At Work."

Now, I can officially say that it's no longer "future" but just "Award-Winning Author At Work."

Last Friday, I received some WONDERFUL news. I had an article published in an issue of Nebraska History magazine last year, the quarterly journal for the Nebraska State Historical Society. The article focused on the Fort Robinson German POW Camp in Nebraska during World War II. The society gives an annual award for the "best" article of the year.

Annually the Nebraska State Historical Society awards a cash prize and plaque to the author of the Nebraska History article judged best by an independent panel of judges. The award is named for James L. Sellers (1881-1966), professor of history at the University of Nebraska and for twenty years a member of the Society's governing board.

I won this award!

The award luncheon will be this Friday at a snazzy hotel here in town and I also get a hefty cash prize. Talk about surprise! But I was also very humbled at being chosen. It truly is an honor.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Mood Indigo


Mood Indigo is one of my all-time favorite Frank Sinatra songs. Unfortunately, it is also the only song on my CD of his, In the Wee Small Hours, that skips.

And that's exactly what my writing was doing to me today. Skipping. Stuttering. Tripping.

I even noticed it at work. I'm a copywriter, for goodness sake, and I couldn't write today. I tried. I stared at the copy and tried to relax, tried to get my brain to come up with something brilliant.

Nothing. (And I think I looked exactly like this picture my daughter drew when she was 2 1/2).

Tonight, I had the night off - my daughter stayed with her dad while I got the evening to myself. So I ordered take-out, finished watching Decision Before Dawn (a World War II movie nominated for Best Picture in 1951), and did a little reading. When 8 p.m. rolled around, I thought, ok. I've got two hours before I need to go to bed. Perfect time to write!

I put in my Frank Sinatra CD, lit a couple of candles, and sat down to write. I wanted to write - I honestly did. But nothing but rubbish came out. And I do mean rubbish. I don't think any of this stuff is fixable.

I was so completely frustrated! I tried to write through it, tried to focus and breathe and pray and just envision what my characters were doing, but it didn't help. And that to me signified that it was time for a break.

I guess writers can have "off" days just like athletes. But it sure would be nice if those "off" days would coincide with the days when I really don't want to write!

Monday, October 02, 2006

A la Peanut Butter Sandwiches!

My daughter and I thoroughly enjoyed watching clips of Sesame Street over the weekend. I'd forgotten about Mumford the Magician and his "magic words." Unfortunately, I've never liked peanut butter sandwiches. *grin*

Had a rather relaxing weekend. Writing was half-way productive, too. My local RWA chapter did a BIAW challenge and I managed to come in under just 7,000 words for the whole week. Not too bad! Also watched Charlotte Gray with Cate Blanchett and Billy Crudup. Can I just say one thing about this movie?

AMAZING.

WONDERFUL.

Okay, that's TWO things, but it deserves it. I don't know why I didn't hear of this movie when it was released. And in this instance, I can say that it was much better than the book. I tried to read the book that the movie was based on before I watched the movie, but I honestly couldn't get through it. But there comes a time when you have to look at your to-be-read pile and decide not to waste your time on a book that isn't holding your interest.

But the movie...ah, yes, the movie. The plot for this movie is the same kind of plot I want to write in my books. Very well done, IMO. And yes, it's a World War II flick. ;-)

Has there ever been an instance where you liked the movie better than the book?