Thursday, September 27, 2007

Your Writing Style



Here's something a little different because it requires your participation. Don't worry - the questions aren't hard at all. :-) I love to read about how other writers work, and I figure that if you're a writer, you might feel the same.

There are twelve random questions about writing below. Ready to play?

What's Your Writing Style?

1. Are you a "pantser" or a "plotter?"

2. Detailed character sketches or "their character will be revealed to me as a I write"?

3. Do you know your characters' goals, motivations, and conflicts before you start writing or is that something else you discover only after you start writing?

4. Books on plotting - useful or harmful?

5. Are you a procrastinator or does the itch to write keep at you until you sit down and work?

6. Do you write in short bursts of creative energy, or can you sit down and write for hours at a time?

7. Are you a morning or afternoon writer?

8. Do you write with music/the noise of children/in a cafe or other public setting, or do you need complete silence to concentrate?

9. Computer or longhand? (or typewriter?)

10. Do you know the ending before you type Chapter One?

11. Does what's selling in the market influence how and what you write?

12. Editing - love it or hate it?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Drawback of Being a Writer


I got into a tiny argument (friendly, of course) with my husband last night about a book he'd recommended. I'd started to read it a few days earlier and found that the author had hooked me. In fact, I planned on having a nice, relaxing evening on the couch, book in hand.

That all changed when the author effectively snapped me out of the world he'd built.

I think I read the "offending" chapter with a mixture of disbelief and cynicism. How, I thought, could this big name author take what I perceived to be the easy way out of the situation in which he'd put his characters? When I told this to my husband, he was baffled.

"This is a great book!" he said.

"It was a great book," I replied. "Until I read that part."

He said I was being too picky, that I needed to keep reading because it would be worth it. But for me, well, the magic was lost.

"I'm a writer," I said. "I notice these things."

And therein lies the drawback of being a writer. It's hard to watch movies or read books without dissecting the plot, watching the character arcs, or looking for symbolism and metaphors. Years ago, I might have read the aforementioned book and kept on reading. But not now. Not after I've studied the craft of writing and become a bit of an expert on pinpointing what goes wrong in a novel. (Now if I could only pinpoint the same problems in my OWN work!)

To an extent, this takes some of the enjoyment out of reading and watching television or movies. I'm constantly looking for things.

But when an author has done his or her job right, really done it right, I don't even notice craft. Instead, I'm completely sucked into the world he/she has created and I'm too wrapped up in the characters to care about how the author crafted them to be in whatever situation they're in.

That is what we need to strive for. And I'm not going to kid myself - I'm not there yet. I know it's going to take a lot of hard work to get to that point. Lots of failed drafts, failed plots, failed character arcs. But that's how we learn.

Here's my goal - to never break the bond I have with my reader. It's a challenging goal, but one well worth pursuing.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Weekend Re-Cap

Great, great weekend. Saturday I took a very long nap, which I credit with helping me feel mucho better with this cold on Sunday. I lounged around in bed all day, worked on my novel, and watched Her Alibi. Remember that old movie with Tom Selleck where he's the mystery novelist looking for a story idea? Great flick.

Sunday my stepson, who is the quarterback for his football team, ran in for two touchdowns. It was awesome. This is the first game they've won this season, and they really whomped the other team. Lots of fun to watch.

And of course, Sunday night I spent sitting in front of the television, something I rarely do, but this time I made an exception - and will likely do so the rest of the week. Ken Burns' The War started last night and it promises to live up to its expectations. It's a no-holds-barred look at World War II, and there were times where I flinched from the barbarity that we human beings have inflicted upon one another.

It's officialy fall, but the temperatures aren't quite reflecting it yet. We're still hovering in the high 80's and low 90's, but I'm hoping that changes soon.

For my lunch break today, I plan on working on the plot of the novel. Lots of little issues I need to work out before I officially start writing. And then there's the research. Here's what I'm running up against, and it's a mixed blessing. Piemonte, the region in Northern Italy where my novel is set, is not as famous or as much of a tourist attraction as Rome or Tuscany. Thus, it has remained largely untouched as far as tourist traps go. Unfortunately, this also makes it much more difficult to research. For example, I'm looking for information about the hazelnut harvest as it will figure heavily into my novel. But do you think I can find much info on this other than academic articles? There isn't much, that's for sure. But therein lies the challenge.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday Musings


I've caught a cold. Or rather, the cold has caught me! It started Wednesday evening and has steadily progressed. I really, really hate being sick, especially when I have so much stuff to do. Last night I camped in front of the t.v. and watched Hogan's Heroes and had my box of tissue in a handy spot. Went to bed halfway early and according to my husband, snored through the night. Not surprising.

The Novel

Right now, I'm looking for a way to organize my plot. I have it broken down by chapter - roughly - but there are some things I want to add and trying to find a cohesive way to do this is a challenge right now. I think the problem is that I'm at a new job and have too much going on in my brain. I've looked at writing software, but I really don't know if that's the route I want to go. I've found lots of suggestions on the Internet, but I think it's going to be a matter of me finding what works for my style.

Hubby

Hubby's foot is now just fine, and the job hunt has begun. Please pray that he finds something soon!


The Weekend

Husker football is coming up again on Saturday, but I don't know if I'll even bother to watch. Last week's poor performance against USC (even though USC is the number one team in the country) was pretty heartwrenching. It's hard to watch our team do so badly when we were national champions for many years when I was in college and high school. The coaching changes over the past eight years haven't helped.

Nothing else is planned, except for plotting the novel and hopefully taking lots of naps to get over this cold!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Writing Goals

Here's a question for you: Where are you at with your writing goals?

Think about this for a moment. Really think about it. Do you have any goals? Have you taken the time to sit down and map out your writing future? If you like to dabble in writing and aren't at all concerned about any of your words going out to the rest of the world, that's great (I sometimes envy you!). But if you want to be a published author, if it's your burning desire to achieve this above all else, then you need to make sure you're doing all that you can to get there.

I've blogged about this before, but it's something worth repeating. For too long, I hee-hawed around about my writing. This was especially noticeable when I was a stay-at-home mom. I figured I had plenty of time to write. But I squandered that time and worked on the same novel over and over again. I wanted to be published, but I wasn't committed enough to actually do the work and learn my craft and get the novel done. In short, I talked about writing a lot but never did any of it.

I regret those lost years. But everything happens for a reason, and now when I think about how much time I spent doing anything but write, it only makes my resolve that much firmer to not make the same mistake again.

As in everything, however, there needs to be a balance. Will I sacrifice my daughter's nightly bedtime story or my stepson's football games to write? Not a chance. These are moments I won't get back and I want to treasure them. If I have to stay up a little later or take a lunch break at work to write and make up for it, so be it. But I have to stay focused. That's the tough part. Am I always successful at carving out my writing time? Nope. But it's sort of like trying to stay on a diet or as I call it, a "lifestyle change." If you slip up, no big deal. Just get re-focused and go on with life. Don't beat yourself up over it.

Here's your challenge for the day (or week).

Think about what you want from your writing. If it's for personal satisfaction, great. If you want something more, figure out how you will achieve it. Then write it down somewhere.

Here's a trick I do. I write down all my writing goals for the year in the back of my calendar (I have general goals - like finish the novel, send it to an agent by this date, or research the next novel, etc. - it's a lot easier for me to reach these goals than the specific "write 1000 words a day" goals - I never reach those!)) Then I go through each month and on the 15th of every month, I put, "Look at goals." This helps me to remember to look at my list and then evaluate where I'm currently at.

I usually do this at the beginning of the year, but you can modify this to fit your needs. Want monthy goals? Then pick a day every week (maybe Wednesdays) and write, "Look at goals" to help you remember.

This may not work for everyone, but it's something I do that works fairly well.

Now it's your turn. What do you want from your writing? Have you set goals? Is there something stopping you from achieving those goals?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Productivity

I've been a bit MIA from the blogging world. Learning the ropes of the new job has taken up a lot of my time, but over the weekend, I finally felt like I was ready to tackle my fiction again. And to that end, I looked at a short story I've been working on, made a few more changes, and found two more markets to send it to. Also found another market for a personal essay I wrote a few months ago, and got that in the mail, as well.

Next up is a bit of research. I'm a bit worried about accurately portraying Italy - especially the Piedmont region which isn't as well known as say, Tuscany. But that's the challenge.

I think my blog has become a bit boring lately...will have to look into changing that. :-) Stay tuned for what I come up with!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Back to Reality

Well, vacations can only last so long. Reality has to intrude at some point, and it did today - my first day back into the workforce. I met a lot of people, will undoubtedly forget nearly all of their names, and was elated to be assigned a cubicle with a window. My co-workers are quite nice and the job is interesting and fun. Sure, there will be challenges, but all in all, I'm looking forward to it.

Now that the first day of the new job is over, the vacation past, and life starting to resemble some semblance of "normal" (what is normal in my world, BTW?), I can now return to my fiction writing.

Next up - the Italian Duet novel.

And to get me inspired to write this novel, here are some pictures of my Italian relatives that I acquired over the weekend. Specifically, my great-grandparents - Pietro and Domenica Amateis from Volpiano, Italy. The picture above was taken at the christening of their first child, John.


Above: Domenica (we call her "Nona") either on or right before her wedding day. Not long after they were married, they traveled from Italy to Le Havre, France, and set sail for New York City and a new life.


My great-grandfather, Pietro, is the one on the far left in this pic. Isn't he dashing?
Don't you love this last picture? It's rather rare to find my great-grandparents in such a jovial pose. Life was hard when they came to America. They had nine children. I grew up on the farm they homesteaded and my brother now farms the land. I hope to explore some of the immigrant experience in my novel, and I have no doubt that I'll turn to my roots for inspiration. :-)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Mission Accomplished

It was exactly what I needed.

Lots of relaxing. Visiting with family. Eating good food. Watching my niece and nephew play volleyball and football, respectively. Flying kites. Listening to the breeze rustle the corn field. Gazing endlessly at the wide, impossibly blue sky. Laughing. Hugging. Cherishing.

There's something about going home that somehow makes everything right again in my life. It grounds me, makes me refocus on what really matters. I don't know if it's the slower pace (I swear, even the gas pumps move slower!) or just the fact that I'm surrounded by my loved ones that does this, but I know that when I need to regroup or find my balance, home is the place to do it.

I feel rejuvenated. Ready to tackle life again. The new job, the next novel, my health, and something new: I'm officially the family historian.

I have a cousin in Italy that I'll be contacting as soon as I can write a letter and get it sent via aerea (airmail) as the Italians call it. My great aunt was in touch with her a few years ago and a little sleuthing on the internet on my part showed that this particular family member is still at the same address. Now maybe I'll be able to put some pieces together for our family history. I'm really looking forward to it.

The long drive home also afforded me the opportunity to do a lot of thinking on the next novel, and before long I'll be able to start it. Can't wait.

So tell me. How have you been? I missed all of you and look forward to catching up with everyone!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Notes From the Prairie

I am relaxing. Completely and totally. I've lounged around in my PJ's, watched really bad Lifetime movies, and even ate some not-good-for-me candy.

The grandparents are good, as is my Dad and my brother and his family.

I'm trying not to think about the new job or anything else. In fact, my mind is not too busy at all. A bit of mush, really. And that's exactly what I need.

It's Time

I've had this blog for over 10 years. But I'm finding that I go to it less and less. Maybe it's the death of blogging that broug...