Wednesday, April 30, 2008
And here's the conclusion I've come to. No matter what I do, my story is always going to change.
I thought I had my GMC's (goals, motivations, conflicts) figured out for my characters in my latest novel. Things were going along swimmingly until I got to about chapter eight and realized that something was wrong. My characters had broken out of the mold I'd put them into (or at least, broken out of what they "told" me about themselves to begin with) and had morphed into different people. Thankfully, it brought the story together much better than I had originally planned.
I had to put these characters into situations and have them feel emotions before I could truly understand them. No amount of character charts or character interviews would do the trick.
While this may increase the time it takes me to finish this novel, that's ok. It's part of my process. And instead of trying to conform to what I "think" my process should be, I have to realize that this is how I work. It took me three novels to figure it out, and I'm sure that every novel will be different, but at least I know what works and what doesn't.
I've been rewriting my first three chapters to reflect my characters' changes and everything flows so much better. And I gotta tell ya - it's then when I love the process. I love to immerse myself in my characters and their world. It makes all the angst and doubt worthwhile. :-)
Monday, April 28, 2008
Well, that's going to change this month. I just started Bluffing Mr. Churchill by John Lawton - and it promises to be a good one - a World War II spy thriller.
I also snagged a copy of Francine Prose's Reading Like a Writer and started that one, as well. Sandra Gulland recommended it, and I've heard lots of other people say good things, so I'm anxious to dive into it.
And finally, I got to pick this month's selection for our book club at work, and I chose The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield.
What are you reading?
Friday, April 25, 2008
Sometimes, you just gotta play. I found a fun website via the Write Now Is Good blog - make your own motivational posters at AutoMotivator. I'm rather pleased with the one I created - took me all of two minutes. :-)
And speaking of playing, I sat on my nifty porch the other evening with my laptop and started writing. It was divine. Ever get that giggly sensation when you write because you're having so much fun and it's going so well that you never want to stop? That was me. And when I looked at what I wrote the next day, I was still pretty pleased with it.
Rainy day today - supposed to do this all weekend. Doesn't bother me a bit since I've got a lot of writing to do.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Close up. Can you believe all the work that went into this?
And here's Charlie. Fresh from chasing not one, but two tomcats away from the front porch.
Ah. And here is the reason the tomcats are probably hanging around. Miss Gretchen is the last cat that needs to be spayed and thus, she is confined to the indoors. But that doesn't stop her from wanting outside!And see what a wonderful reward you get for a job well done, Charlie? The best hug ever!
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
I take issue with that.
Yes, it's a lot easier to debate or argue or demean or praise someone when we can't "see" them. But that doesn't mean there's a robot on the other end. It's a live human being, a person with thoughts and emotions just like you.
I've seen a lot of nastiness on the Internet, nastiness that would never occur in real life. I'm pretty sure that the majority of people would not demean someone in a face-to-face conversation or call them all sorts of petty names because they didn't agree with their opinion. Yet the relative anonymity of the Internet has allowed us to sink into the bog of viciousness. Suddenly, everyone has an opinion on everything and everyone wants to share that opinion - and not always in a healthy manner. Story comments on news sites get downright vile. MySpace messages are the same. Even published authors and writers are getting into the fray. It's so easy to hit "reply", type in your message, and click "send." And wallah! You're part of the conversation.
Bottom line - it's so darn easy to ridicule and slam a person on the 'Net because we can't see their face.
Don't get me wrong - I'm all for a healthy debate. Everyone having different opinions and trying to get the other person to see the merit of their ideas is not wrong, but essential in our society. But there is a right way to debate and a wrong way. The 'Net has allowed us to wallow in the wrong way. And make no mistake about it - just because it's in cyberspace does not mean it's not the real world. The vitriol still affects the person sitting on the other end. It still hurts. And how much more real can you get?
True, I do love the 'Net. I think it's terrific that the Internet has allowed us to connect with each other on a global scale. I've made some terrific friends via the 'Net that I wouldn't trade for anything. I can stay in touch with my family via email, instantly share pictures, book a vacation, find out what my favorite author is writing, check my bank balance, find the meaning of a word, search for my next house, get the latest Snoopy item on ebay, and the list goes on and on. I'd say for me, the Internet has been a much more positive experience than negative. And I'd like to keep it that way.
I think I could write a book about this topic.
Bottom line - the Internet is a tool. And it can be used for good or for bad. Use it for good.
Monday, April 21, 2008
This chapter was particularly difficult to write and I know it needs a lot more work. But for now, it's gonna work, darn it, until the editing stage comes around. And I am blessedly looking forward to the next chapter, starting off with that white screen in front of me, and the frustration of the last chapter behind me.
Saturday was busy with my stepson's track meet (he got first place in the 400 and set a new record!) and taking my daughter to a birthday party. It was a glorious day in the 70's and everyone was out and about enjoying the weather. I did a bit of shopping, but by 2 p.m., I knew I was in for a long night. My head began to pound and by the time I'd picked up my daughter and came home, I had a full-blown migraine.
Thankfully, my husband was home to take care of things and I went down to our room in the basement where it was wonderfully dark and quiet and lay there in complete misery. Goodness. I slept and slept and woke up at 1:42 a.m. Sunday and still had a headache. After watching an old movie (Boom Town with Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy), I went back to sleep. Hubby made me breakfast Sunday morning and then I took another nap.
I was not happy about all of this - after all, it was the weekend and prime writing time! Sunday afternoon hubby got me out of the house and I went and picked out a new pair of frames for my glasses. They will look much better than the frames I have now, but I didn't like the price. Oh well. A small dent in my vacation fund, but this was a definite "must have" so will have to just deal with it.
And in other good news, I had someone respond to my "ad" for a critique partner and I'm thrilled! I think we'll be a good match for each other. :-) And I'm motivated to get this novel done and polished. I'm making good progress, but this will help me kick it up a notch!
Alright, enough about me. How was your weekend?
Thursday, April 17, 2008
I thought I had it made when I found two like-minded writers who wanted to be critique partners. I say "like-minded" because they wrote in the WW2 era. Unfortunately, I don't think writing and selling a novel was at the top of their list because after one critique, that was it. Done. No more. And really, that's ok because if it doesn't work, better to know now than later.
So! I am in the market for a serious fiction critique partner - one who is driven to write, who will meet deadlines, give me honest, constructive feedback, who has an interest in history, (hopefully knowing a lot about WW2), wants to be a published novelist and is seriously seeking a career as one, OR is already a published novelist. :-)
And one more thing: he or she must not be a beginning or intermediate writer. Why do I say this? Please understand that it's not a question of snobbery, but more because I am not in either category any more. I need someone who has gone beyond the basics and is into the nitty-gritty of the craft - character motivations, plot arcs, GMC's, etc.
What will they get in return? A serious-minded, driven writer who will give honest, constructive feedback, meet deadlines, and wants a career as a published novelist!
Interested parties can get in touch with me via email: melissaamateis at earthlink dot net
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Because we are on a budget, we take a calculator with us. This also lessens the shopping experience. And when you're trying to eat healthy and you see rows and rows of yummy, not-healthy food that you can't buy, that only makes it worse.
And speaking of healthy food, why is it so much more expensive than crap food? We're facing a health-crisis of obesity and diabetes in America, yet eating healthy breaks the checking account. I'm not talking about the so-called "health food" that manufacturers try to force down our throats - sugar free cookies, etc, but simple stuff like whole-wheat pasta and whole-wheat bread. They are always more expensive than white bread or enriched pasta. Same for whole-grain rice. And a myriad of other stuff.
Of course, shopping in Wal-Mart is never a joy, either, because a lot of people who shop there are probably just as upset as I am at having to spend their dollars in a store that already makes a gazilion dollars every year, so we're all a bunch of grumps shoving our carts down the aisles and being rude to each other. I've shopped at other grocery stores in the area and they are so much more expensive that I end up spending more and getting less. Much as I'd like to support the little guy, I just can't with today's prices.
Why the rant today? Because it's time to go grocery shopping again. If I had the money, I would spend $500 at the store and stock up for a month. All I'd have to buy would be milk and fresh fruit and vegetables over that next month, and that would be it.
Ok, end of grumbling.
On a better note...I wrote last night. A weird short story sort of fell out of my head onto the keyboard and we'll see where I go with that, and then I also managed to get a page written on the novel. I still have this cold, still feel like I'm infested with snot (sorry for that visual) and still lug a box of tissue with me wherever I go. But hey, it's all good. The sun is shining, temperatures are supposed to reach 70 degrees today, and spring is here!
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
I didn't make it yesterday afternoon. Had to call it a day around 2:30 p.m. and head home where I laid on the couch and moaned. (Oh, for those asking, I do get sick leave, but I've already used it up!). When my daughter came home from school, she immediately came up to me and asked me how I was feeling and showed me what she made me at school to help me feel better. She is so thoughtful!
And speaking of thoughtful, hubby cooked me supper last night and served it to me in bed. What a guy!
Since I couldn't stand the thought of watching anymore t.v., I got out my journal and wrote and wrote. It was silly and goofy and just plain nonsense, but I had so much fun writing that I didn't quit until I had pages and pages of stuff.
So! Today I'm back at work. Hopefully I'll make it through the entire day this time!
Monday, April 14, 2008
Actually, I'm doing better than I thought I would be at this point, meaning that I'm not asleep at my desk and blowing my nose every five minutes (it's more like ten). And surprise, surprise, last night I had a few good thoughts for future scenes in my novel. And I still remember them this morning! Hallelujah!
Sunday, April 13, 2008
So yeah, I got a swift kick. And it's laid me low for two days now. I've watched so much t.v. I want to throw the remote out the window. I don't have any desire to read. I sit there and I stare into space with my mouth open (so I can breathe) and devour M&M's because I can actually taste them.
We'll see how I feel tomorrow. I've got to go to work since I don't have any sick days left, but I have a feeling it's going to be a very loooooong day.
Weirdest thing? Friday night I wanted to write. I booted up the laptop and wrote maybe a paragraph, but couldn't stay focused long enough to do much more.
Ok. I'm going back to the couch. I'm feeling more like reading, so maybe I'll pick up a book or two now.
Friday, April 11, 2008
I've felt a lack of motivation for awhile now. Oh, I'm still writing, don't get me wrong, but I'm not as jazzed about it. I'm also not reading any fiction. I've dabbled with a few novels, but none have held my interest long enough. I started to read the nonfiction bestseller Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert last night (thanks to Maria for getting it for me!) and am enjoying that.
But I am not in the "magic" place. Here is what my magic place is like. I'm constantly thinking about my book. Plot points. Character situations. What happens next. If what happens next will work right.
And the details, the feeling of the time period, are all right there on the surface, and they spill onto the page when I write. I am in the story and the story is in me. And everything around me is crystal clear, almost painfully so. I see the world with a writer's eyes. And it is bliss.
This is my magic place. And right now, I'm not there.
I hate it.
The research books that contain all those wonderful facts are back at the library, having sat on my shelf for more than a week without me so much as cracking a spine. My carefully constructed fictional world feels empty and vacant, like an abandoned motel with broken windows and doors off their hinges.
How to get back to that magic place?
I know it's just a phase. I go through them all the time. But here's a question. Is it logical to think that you can be in that "magic" place all the time (or at least when you're writing the novel)?
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
This one is different from anything I've ever owned, though. It's called The Write Type: Discover Your True Writer's Identity and Create a Customized Writing Plan by Karen E. Peterson, PhD.
Now when I first picked it up, I thought, oh no, another one of those "follow these rules and you'll be a bestselling novelist!" writing books. But no. The first page of the first chapter instantly captured my attention and whisked away that first assumption.
At a book signing, a woman says to the author, "I started writing every day, like you're supposed to, but I couldn't stick with is so I stopped writing. I guess I'm just not a writer." And then later, another person tells her, "I started writing first thing in the morning, like you're supposed to, but I couldn't keep it up so I stopped. I'm not really a writer."
I could definitely identify with the second one. I am not a morning person, period. I cannot get up at 5 a.m. and write for two hours, then get the kids ready for school and go to work. I. Can't. Do. It. Now if you tell me to write at 10 p.m. after everyone is in bed and the house is quiet and it's just me and my kitties, oh, I'm there. Definitely. Can. DO.
What works for one person doesn't work for another. And sometimes we sabotage ourselves by thinking that if we don't do it the way XYZ author does it (who is now a bestselling author), then we are not real writers, are not dedicated or committed enough, and will never be successful. But that's simply not true.
This book is a mixture of psychology and writing, which is why I find it so fascinating. Peterson has several small exercises to help you figure out which "type" of writer you are. For example, in throughout the book, she asks you to answer questions with first your dominant hand (if you're a lefty or righty) and then with your non-dominant hand. This is to help separate the left side (logic) of your brain from the right side (creative). The results can be quite fascinating.
I'm only beginning to scratch the surface of this book, but I think it will help me move past the whole "should" committee. For instance, "I 'should' write for two hours every day" or "I 'should' use my lunch hour at work to write." are some of the 'shoulds' I struggle with. I may only write an hour one day, and three hours the next. And writing on my lunch break is hard because for me, I have to downshift from "day-job work" to "my" work. It's not that easy for me.
Maybe I should have this whole writing routine, how-I-write business figured out by now. After all, I've written two novels and am working on my third. But I don't have it figured out. I think I tend to get frustrated and fit my "square peg" writing routine into a "round" hole just because there is so much writing advice out there. Bottom line - you have to do what works for you. Maybe what you're doing isn't working for you. And I'd fit myself into that particular category. I don't think I'm focused enough right now, and it would be interesting to open the door into the psychological aspects of why.
Monday, April 07, 2008
Eureka! Green! And, since I have my handy dandy camera (I almost said handy dandy notebook - a relic of my daughter's Blue's Clues days...) I had to snap a few shots.
Saturday was D-Day - Direct TV Day. Hubby wanted to watch Animal Planet and ok, I said I wouldn't mind watching Turner Classic Movies and the History Channel, so we decided to order it. In our defense, we have not had cable for FOUR years. All we've done is watch DVD's and old VHS tapes. So I think we did pretty darn good for as long as we did!
The very nice technician came to our house Saturday and set us up - we have it downstairs in our bedroom and upstairs in the living room. Of course, the first thing my daughter wanted to do was watch Spongebob and the first thing I wanted to do was watch Cary Grant in I Was a Male War Bride. And then, of course, my stepson wanted to watch football. If my husband had been home, I'm sure he would have wanted to watch some nature show!
Fortunately, it was so nice outside that after they'd watched an episode or two of Spongebob, I kicked them out of the house. This t.v. is not going to be on 24-7.
I confess, I watched a bit too much over the weekend, but I was in a very lethargic mood and couldn't resist watching a show on the Russian Czars on the History International channel, a Bette Davis biography on Turner Classic Movies, and er, a few movies, too, one of them being The Big Sleep with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Hubby and I watched Animal Planet Sunday and did you know that a hippopotamus can beat a crocodile in a fight to the death? Neither did I. And neither did I know that a crocodile can hold its breath underwater for AN HOUR.
So, ok, I indulged A LOT, but after the busy-ness of last weekend's trip home, I didn't mind just lounging around. Got the laundry done, dishes, cleaned the house, and also got in a work-out Sunday night. All in all, a good, relaxing weekend.
Thing is, I think I will have a love-hate relationship with the new t.v. system. I have to limit it at our house and that includes myself. I was actually tired of watching it by Saturday night, so I shut it off. I have to remind myself that there is a bunch of crap on that I could get sucked into (VH1's Pop Up Video or Greatest Songs of the '80s being two that I succumed to for a bit) but that I don't really need to watch. They are time wasters.
On the other hand, I consider watching history shows or animal shows educational. And, of course, since I'm a student of 1940's and WW2 history, watching classic movies gives me a great chance to look at all the styles of the time, down to interior decorating and slang.
Ok, ok, I'll admit - there are times when I know I'll plop down in front of the t.v. and watch any old thing that's on because I'm bored. But I really hope to make those times very, very few. I have a novel to write, after all!
Time to fess up. How many hours a night do you watch t.v.?
Friday, April 04, 2008
If I had only one book left to read, I went into panic mode and had to beg my mom to take me to the library. I couldn't stand being left for the weekend or even one night without a book by my side. I love books so much that I have worked at one library and three bookstores in my lifetime. Moving is a major hassle because I have boxes and boxes of books. And since my husband loves books, that's only added to the load!
Sometimes I'll buy a book and won't read it for years. It will sit on my shelf, waiting for the appropriate time for me to pick it up and delve into its world. Sometimes I will buy a nonfiction book thinking that I can use it at some point in my research, even though it has nothing to do with the current topic I'm working on. I have several that I have already used, and I know that there are others that I will need in the future.
Then there's the library. I can go there and get lost in the all the stacks. My arms are usually overflowing with them and it's a precarious walk between the library and my car. If I see a book that captures my interest, I don't want to wait until the next trip to read it - I want it now! Unfortunately, checking out this many books also leads to big fines if I don't make it back to the library in time!
Which leads to my next point. There are some books that I have been checking out of the library again and again, to the point where I can justify buying it. And besides, there's something so darn nice about having it right there on my shelf to pick up whenever I want.
Someday, in our next house, I will have a library. It will have wall to wall bookcases made of cherry wood or oak or maple. There will be plush carpet underneath my feet, a fireplace, and a comfortable couch and chairs to snuggle in. This will be my refuge. And when I look at the walls lined with books, with all their stories and characters and information, I will smile in utter contentment.
Thursday, April 03, 2008
An antique piece of equipment. Darned if I know what it's used for. Will have to ask my brother on that one.
Ahhh...wide open spaces. Now you know why I get claustrophobic if I'm around mountains. I remember going to Estes Park, Colorado, one time and getting absolutely freaked out because when I looked up at the sky, all I could see was a tiny patch surrounded by huge mountains. Wide open spaces for me!
Monstrous tractor tire.
My brother in action. He's one of the hardest working guys I know - and incredibly smart. Plus I think that it's really cool that he wanted to be the fourth generation to farm this place. Me, I wanted to get out and explore the world and have adventures! Well, I haven't done nearly as much as I thought I would. But I always want to come back home.
Doesn't she look contemplative?
This is actually an antique tractor that is still in use today and works just as good as it did when it first came to the farm.
Hay bales. Now what farm would be complete without hay bales?
Me trying to be a tiny bit creative with the camera, and probably failing miserably.
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
Those of us in Generation X face unique challenges in the world - but especially in our marriages. But don't despair! Tricia Goyer has the perfect solution - Generation NeXt Marriage: The Couple's Guide to Keeping It Together.
When my review copy arrived, I eagerly thumbed through the pages because like many other Gen Xers, my marriage has a lot of difficulties. My parents are divorced, my husband's parents are divorced, and we're trying to learn how to not make the mistakes they did. It's not easy!
What I love about Tricia's book is her breezy, honest, and humorous tone. She discusses great topics in a way that makes you feel like you're chatting with her in your living room. Here's just a few she explores:
- Revisiting Your Relationship Role Models
- Finding Balance
- Everyday Stuff of Life
- Romancing Your Spouse
- Growing in God
This is a fun, deeply insightful book on marriage for our generation.
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
This is the farmhouse. It originally started out fairly small, but has expanded with each generation. I remember my parents actually put in a new basement, and also added on a new porch, office, a remodeled bathroom, laundry room, and a redwood deck. A few years later they put in new windows. My brother and his wife have already done some remodeling and are planning to do some more in the coming months, so who knows what it will look like in a few years?
This is the view looking out the front window of the house. Isn't the sky gorgeous? We had a thunderstorm rolling in that day and the horizon looked absolutely amazing. And with any farm, you've got to have farm equipment, thus the two tractors, both used for different purposes. (Oh, and you also need a swing set!)
And to the right of the farmhouse, not more than 100 feet away, are the corrals. And what do we have in those corrals? Why, cows, of course! And since calving season is almost done, there are lots of baby calves to look at. These cows are the new mamas, cows that are having their very first calf, and thus get the priviledge of being close to the house so my brother can keep an eye on them.
The rest of the cows are out in the corn stalks, eating and having a merry ol' time.
(I told her to smile for the camera, but she didn't look too pleased with me.)
And of course, the modern farmer doesn't always use horses to herd the cows. Thus, there are two options below:
The ever-popular "farm truck" which is never clean, always full of shovels or irrigation tubes, and barbed wire for fixing fence. Every farm needs one.
And, of course, the four-wheeler. When I was growing up, we had a three-wheeler. But it turns out those things weren't so safe (as my little brother proved a few times) and they liked to tip easily. Still, I raced around the farm many, many hours on that three-wheeler.
And of course, what farm would be complete without a farm cat?
Ah, yes. The good life. I go to the farm to relax and rest and find peace. I can only stay so long, however, because the energy of the city calls me back. But when I want to go home, I go here.
I've got a new home on the web - stop by if you get a chance! www.melissamarsh.net
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