Monday, May 25, 2009

Writing for Lazy People 101

I confess.

I'm a lazy writer.

I do a lot of talking, but not as much writing as I should. Why, you ask? Well, there is so much to talk about that it's hard to narrow down what to write about. And since I have a captive audience (he he he) I thought I'd share my process with the rest of you. Go ahead and stop reading here if you want to, because the following is really only geared for the lazy writers like me. You've been warned.

Welcome to Writing for Lazy People 101 (you can call it 1010 if you want, since the bigger numbers are all the rage on college and university campuses nowadays, but I'm lazy so I'm sticking with the shorter version). Today's lesson is HOW TO PICK SOMETHING TO WRITE ABOUT.

This is easy. Really.

First, you need to get your BIC. No, this is not your cheap but trusty brand-name pen. This stands for Butt In Chair. Luckily for us lazy people, we happen to prefer sitting down, so this is a fairly simple step. Unfortunately, you can't just sit down anywhere, which is the hard part. You must place your BIC in front of a computer. Or, if you're old school, you will have to place your BIC in front of a Bic (the cheap but trusty brand-name pen) and your Weyerhaeuser (that's paper for those of you who aren't obsessed with the brand names of writing supplies like I am).

Next comes the hard part. You must think. I know, this goes against every lazy grain in your body. But try it. You can think about things you like, such as marshmallows roasting over a fire, or that satisfying slurp you can make when you eat spaghetti without using any good manners, or what it feels like to eat popcorn in front of the TV when you know you're not supposed to take food out of the kitchen/dining room. (NOTE TO SELF: go get a snack before you drive everyone else crazy.)

The most amazing thing happens when you are thinking. Suddenly a RGI will pop into your head. This should not be confused with a RPG, which is a really fun thing to do with all your other lazy friends on a Friday night. RGI stands for Really Great Idea. For me, it usually is a "What If?" scenario that catches my attention, like "What if I was roasting marshmallows over a fire, and I heard noises in the darkness of the forest beyond the fire's light?" or "What if Mr. Smith was slurping his spaghetti and fell over, dead, with a noodle still hanging half out his mouth?" These, of course, may not be the best examples but I'm too lazy to think up really good ones right now.

So, now that you have your RGI, you can pat yourself on the back. Job well done, lazy person. You now have your SOMETHING TO WRITE ABOUT.

Next time we'll discuss what to do with your something-to-write-about. You might want to get a good night's sleep. The next lesson is a doozy.

Trust me.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Different Types of Critiquers

I am always grateful to anyone who offers to critique my work. But have you noticed the different types of critiquers out there?

Here's the ones I've found so far:

First are the Adoring Non-Critquers. These are your friends/family members/adoring fans who can't find anything wrong with your manuscript. These people are perfect for those days when you just need some ego-stroking, but they really aren't helpful at all when it comes to the actual manuscript.

Next are the Line Critiquers. These are the people who find my typos and tell me a period is missing on page 37 or I should have used an em-dash instead of parentheses on page 63. These people are most helpful when I have polished a manuscript and want someone to gloss over it right before I send if off on submissions. They usually are not at all helpful when I'm still working from a first draft. And sometimes I find these people annoying, because they will try to fix any and all grammical "errors," even if I have used the error on purpose for stylistic reasons. They only have eyes for the grammar. They are not at all concerned about the storytelling.

Third are the Research Critiquers. These are the people who check every single reference in your book to make sure they match. They are the ones who tell you on page 12 your MC has red hair but on page 94 the hair color has changed to brown. Or they are the ones that, for example, will tell you that your main character's father could not have been killed while driving a John Deere tractor because John Deere did not sell tractors until three years after the dad's death. These critiquers are concerned about the story only in its plausibility. These people are indespensible, but can also be truly annoying (only because they can unravel your well-constructed manuscript in seconds). I try to get my RCs to read my second draft, which is when the story is coherent but not polished. That way I haven't done a lot of work on something that may need to be changed because it isn't plausible.

Fourth, and by far the most valuable, are the Global Critiquers. These are the people who can see the whole picture and can point out where the story is dragging, or where the characters are a little flat, or where things get a bit muddled and need to be revised for clarity. They are the ones who focus on the storytelling. These are the people I trust with my first draft, and every draft thereafter. And, in my limited experience, this is where the professionals are.

And last, though I hate to mention them, are the Non-believers. These are the critiquers who can't find any redeeming value in your book, who think you are wasting your time, and who have nothing postive to say about your work. Luckily you can usually avoid these kinds of people, since they don't normally go around offering to critique manuscripts, but they are out there. They are bitter individuals and I recommend steering clear if you find one. And if you happen to get one, I'm really truly sorry.

Have I missed any? Let me know if you've found any other species of critiquers.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A New Way of Looking at the Library

A few days ago I took Princess to the library. She still can't read, but she LOVES books.
Here's how the visit went.

P: "Mommy, can I go inside with you?"

Me: "Yes, of course!"

P: "Can I pick out princess books?"

Me: "I think you've read them all."

P: *Skips into the library and goes straight to the shelves and pulls one off.* "Do we have this one at home, Mommy? Can I bring it home?"

Me: "That's a good choice."

P: *Randomly pulls books off the shelf and puts them in her pile.*

Me: *Watches P and looks at the pile of books.* "You sure like books with pink on them, don't you!"

P: "Uh-huh!" *beams*

I think she's on to something. Maybe next time I go to the library, I will only check out white books. Or black books. Or purple books. Or green books.

Or maybe I should just work on teaching Princess how to read.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Query Tracker Turns Two!

I love Query Tracker. It was the first place I found when I started the query process. I now have a whole bunch more I use as well, but QT holds a special place in my heart.

So, I wanted to spread the word about QT's 2nd birthday celebration!

They will be holding several contests over the next few weeks, but the best part is the grand prize. One lucky winner will win a custom-designed website by Purple Squirrel Web Design. How awesome is that?! I've always wanted my own website. (Not that I will win or anything, because you all should know by know that I never win these kinds of contests.)

I first heard this from [info]lyon_martin , so check out her post here. You can also see the official QT page here.

I would add their very cool carnival image, but I have no idea how to do that. Yes, I am technology-impaired. Which is so not cool since I'm not very old. I'm totally a non-geek, apparently. (Which, in this case, still makes me a geek since I'm not cool. Weird how that works out.)

Anyway...go check it out! It looks like lots of fun!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Movin' On To the Finals

Have you ever done something, spur of the moment, and thought nothing of it after? Well, that happened to me today.

I entered the Hook Us Contest a few weeks ago, sponsored by [info]thefiverandoms , purely for educational reasons. The contest was for the hook (the blurb you use on the query letter, though mine was revamped and cut down for the purposes of this contest--my query letter is a little bit longer), and they were offering to critique the hooks. Any long-term follower of this blog should know how awful I am at writing queries, so I couldn't pass up the chance. I didn't expect to get any contest attention because most of the entries were for YA paranormal fantasy or something as equally not like my manuscript. And most of the group journal authors write YA paranormal fantasy or something equally not like my manuscript. The agent giving the prize for the winner is not someone I would have imagined liking my manuscript, so I figured it wouldn't get anywhere.

Imagine my surprise when I received an email letting me know I was one of the finalists!

Next week I go on to the First Page round. I can't say I'll win that either, but at least they will be seeing the same 250 words that helped me win the Secret Agent Contest. And honestly I'm just happy to get some attention-any attention-from people who really know what they are doing.

Check it out for yourself here!

Saturday, May 9, 2009


But not in a good way. I'm still sitting right before the climax of my WIP, but I've decided there is no point in finishing the first draft because whatever I write now will be thrown away when I get to the second draft. And I can't figure out yet what will be written without going back and doing some major rewriting and rethinking. I'm not one of those people who can change story mid-stream and keep going. I need to do some serious thinking on this book. I'm not ready to revise yet. I want to sit down and really plan out this book.

So, I've done the next best thing. I've put the novel away for a few months. I plan on writing a first draft of another novel and then, while that book is stewing, I'll come back and revise this one.

I know. You can call me a quitter. I don't care. I'm doing the right thing. I know it.

Besides, remember when I said inspiration struck? Yep. I'm already plotting that book. I want to try a new approach to writing (well, new for me). One that involves an outline.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Day in the Life...

...of a mom who wishes she was a published author but who really should take up Housekeeping instead.

7:30 am-I get the usual whack in the face wake up call from Sweet Pea (the 1yo).

7:34 am-Dude (my 10yo) gets up to help with Sweet Pea. He loves her dearly and loves me enough to let me sleep in a few extra minutes.

8:11am-Dearest (that's my husband) leaves for work with his usual "Get out of bed! I'm leaving!" goodbye.

8:29am-Phone call from Dearest telling me some news or other about work that really doesn't apply to me. I think it's a ruse to see if I'm officially awake.

9:04am-Dude tells me he has a stuffy nose and stiff neck. He really does. I can tell. His words come out all...well...stuffy.

9:12am-Call school to let them know we are sick. (Ours is a parent-partner school, so I have to stay on campus with my kids. If one is sick, we all can't go.) The fifth phone call in a month. Did I mention we only attend twice a week? You do the math on that one to see how poor our attendance has been recently.

9:26am-Dude and Sweet Pea have already eaten, but the others, Buddy (7), Kiddo (6 in three days), and Princess (4), dig in. They are surprisingly self-sufficient. They each choose a bowl of sugared cereal and cold milk. At least this milk made it back into the fridge. There is another 1/4 gallon on the table that has been sitting out all night. Oops.

9:26am-I sit down the the computer. First things first. Check writing email. Nope. No sign of Agent response. Dang.

9:27am-Sweet Pea climbs on my lap and signs "food." Never-mind that she has already devoured a whole banana and a bowl full of oatmeal.

9:27am-Sweet Pea doesn't take offered food but settles into cuddle position on my lap. I figure since I'm stuck, I might as well get some computer work done. Check other email, reply to a few about scout activity I am running tonight (I volunteer as Cubmaster for Dude's scout pack), then log in to Verla Kay's blueboards.

10:34am-Still surfing the blueboards. Wonder if I should stop and get started on my WIP instead. Shrug and keep surfing. Sweet Pea has fallen asleep on lap.

10:37am-Buddy and Kiddo start fighting over a toy. I shrug again. It's better than what would normally happen--me fighting with them to get dressed for school. Sweet Pea sleeps through it all.

10:42am-Dude tries to take Sweet Pea off my lap. She, of course, wakes up and cries. Nice try, but no luck. Sweet Pea back in my arms and I am still stuck in the chair. Might as well do some more surfing.

11:46am-Dude asks if he can go online and play video games. I make him get out his writing book instead. I'm so mean.

11:57am-Dude asks if he can take a break for lunch. I tell him no.

11:58am-Dude asks if he can now take a break for lunch. I say no again.

12:01pm-Dude says it is now lunch time and time for a break. I laugh in his face and tell him to finish his writing assignment and then do his math.

12:48pm-I start lunch. I tell Buddy to go down to the freezer in the garage and get some hot dogs so I can make Beanie Weenies for lunch. He disappears downstairs.

12:54pm-I stare at the sink full of dirty dishes and realize it will take me longer to clean a pot to cook the Beanie Weenies in than it would to break out the sandwich makin's. I wonder where Buddy is with the hot dogs, anyway.

1:12pm-Sandwiches are passed all around. Buddy reappears, complaining about not getting his fave Beanie Weenies (but, remarkably, he forgets he was the one in charge of retrieving the Weenies). Sweet Pea tosses the bread onto the floor and devours the cheese and deli meat. I look into the front room and realize the kids have been busy while I've been making lunch. The floor is covered with books, toys, pillows and blankets. There's nowhere left to walk.

2:26pm-Front room is still a mess. Now Buddy and Kiddo have really pushed each other's buttons and a shouting/slapping match has begun. Sweet Pea, playing innocently on the floor, gets runover by angry big bros. A stern talking to ensues. They don't listen.

3:52pm-Another fighting/shouting match between Buddy and Kiddo, but Kiddo is mad enough now to take on a hornet's nest and win. I send entire troup to bedrooms for some quiet time. Dude needs it, stuffy nose has quickly worn him out. Princess too--she was crying in the hallway because Dude beat her to the pile of diapers I had asked someone to fetch for me.

4:04pm--Kids are finally quiet in beds. Front room still looks like a tornodo struck. I am exhasted, so I sit down with Sweet Pea and cuddle. The computer is close by, however. I have a great idea for a post on my blog. I get to work.

4:18pm--Every child escapes from bedroom for a "snack." The snack ends up being as much as they ate for lunch. Sweet Pea has fallen asleep in my arms (again) so I am helpless to stop the sandwich makin festivities. I do the only thing I can, I threaten no dinner. They shrug and make the sandwiches anyway. I guess I won't be cooking tonight.

4:20pm--I have just finished typing up this post. I'm sure there will be more to come. But soon we will be heading out to set up for Scouts, then we will get home in time for complaints about the lack of dinner (mostly from Dearest, but the others will chime in once he does) and then more arguments as bedtime approaches. Then I will get some alone time to write, but I will probably squander this time by checking for emails from agents (in vain because it will be long after they have gone home for the day) and staring at the still messy front room.