Monday, February 28, 2011

But it's hard!

SonA (my five-year-old) is a really good helper... most of the time. But sometimes he'll start a "job" and about halfway through tell me, "I can't do it anymore." I tell him of course he can and he'll respond, "But it's hard!"

Isn't that the truth? With my son, I cheer him on, tell him he can do it, and that most things that are worthwhile are hard. He has to yet to be unable to finish the chore or project he was working on. That is a life lesson that is worth learning young. For most people, most of the time, anything worth having or doing takes work. And usually, it takes hard work.

My mom had a saying growing up that she repeated to us over and over. "A job worth doing, is worth doing well." I hated that phrase when it applied to cleaning my room, or the bathrooms, or whatever chore she was referring to. I was more of the "a job I have to do is only worth doing as well as necessary to make Mom let me go do what I want" mentality. But guess what? She was right after all dangit, and it's a good thing she didn't give up telling us that, because it is true for a whole lot more than housework.

Writing is hard. Trying to get an agent is hard. Trying to get published is hard. But you have to do your part of the job, do it well, and then stick it out.

"But it's hard," you say? Yeah, I know. Trust me, I really, really know. But if it's something you really want, it's worth it, right? So we all keep working at it, and working at it, and we will all make it where we want to go if we don't give up.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

On the road again...

I am going to be gone tomorrow, on a quick 2 day, one night trip with SHH. He's going for work, and I'm tagging along to get a little break alone with him before Baby #3 makes her debut this summer. So, no Friday post this week. But I will be back on Monday. Hope you all have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My thoughts on handling feedback

There were some great responses in the comments on Monday about how you deal with critiques and feedback. I'd suggest going back and reading them if you haven't already.

As for my advice, it's pretty similar. To start, you have to know your story. What is the core of your plot? What are the character traits that are integral to your protagonist? And so on. You have to decide what is vital, so that you can know what you are willing to change (which should be a good portion of the book--this doesn't work if you decide everything you wrote is so important you can't change it). It's good to have multiple trusted CPs, so that you can look for similarities or themes in their feedback. If one person seriously can't stand a part of your book, and another loves it... that's a judgement call on your half. However, if you get multiple people telling you they really don't like something, that's when you know there's a problem that needs addressing. If you get a suggestion that is really difficult to swallow, take a day or two before you respond to it. Let it sink in, let it "simmer." Something that sounds horrible or impossible at first, might end up whipping your book into shape. You might go from thinking "I have no clue how to even fix that" to "Wait! I could do this" with a little bit of time to think it over. Also, it never hurts to try something if there is even one tiny ounce of you that wonders if it would make your manuscript better. You can always change it back.

I could say more, but again, there was already so much great advice on Monday, I think it would be too repetitive. The trick with feedback is to understand that someone is critiquing your writing, not YOU. It is not a personal attack. Someone saw enough value in your work to take the time to tell you what they think. Whether you use their suggestions or not, that is always worthy of gratitude.

If you have any more thoughts or advice about it, feel free to share!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Taking Feedback

One thing you have to learn as a writer is how to take feedback. Getting critiques and edits are a vital and necessary part of the craft. Also, if you ever plan on getting published, you are guaranteed multiple rounds of revisions with your agent and editor(s). The trick is taking the feedback you get and being objective about it. You have to keep the core of you story alive while polishing all those nasty edges until they shine. And you have to maintain your belief in the quality of your writing, no matter how hard the critiques might be to swallow.

One of the most wonderful and hardest parts of being an author is that it is ALL subjective. You may have one person tell you they loved an aspect of your book and another tell you they couldn't stand the exact same thing. So how do you deal with that? Who do you trust? Or what if you get a critique back that tears your book apart? What then? How do you know when to make a change or not?

I'm really curious to hear your thoughts on this today, and then I'll share mine on Wednesday.

You know what rocks though? When your husband comes in after catching up on your current WIP, and freaks out at you because THERE ARE NO MORE PAGES. And he tells you that you must write more RIGHT NOW, he'll wait for you because he can't go to sleep now anyway. That kind of feedback, I have to admit, is kind of fun. He he he...

Happy Monday! (And for all my friends in the U.S., Happy President's Day!)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday Five

1. My left eye kept twitching yesterday, for hours. I was told by numerous people it was probably because I am tired. Tired? Why would I be tired?

2. I've started getting up at 6 am to write in the mornings, because my other part-time job keeps stealing writing time from me at night. But this new WIP needs to be written, and I don't know when else to do it. 6 might not be early for some of you, but for an exhausted mommy every hour of sleep is precious.

3. Nesting instinct is kicking in a bit, I get these spurts of energy to clean. (Which, if you know me well, is rare.) Like yesterday, when I decided to go through this huge pile of papers, homework, pictures, Christmas letters/cards, etc. that was stacked in a corner of our house. I got it done, feeling pretty good about myself only to hear a strange ripping sound from the family room. Realizing SonB was no longer in his room playing with toys, I hurried out just in time to see him dumping a box of mac and cheese all over the floor. He'd torn it apart, and my dog was going to town eating dry noodles. Unfortunately my nesting instinct had disappeared by this point, but I had no choice except to keep cleaning. Bummer.

4. I love baby girl clothes. I could go broke on all the things I want to buy our baby. I have to hold myself back A LOT, because we don't have a money tree in the backyard. (Do any of you know where I can find one?) I've been making bows (I know, shocking right?! ME, being crafty??), and other things. I'm so excited for her to come this summer. Random side note, but yoga seems to get harder the bigger your baby gets. Some of those positions are a bit difficult with a bulging baby bump. Also running, and many other forms of exercising, seem to be increasing in difficulty. Just in case you weren't sure. But I'm determined to continue working out through the whole pregnancy. Even though chances are I'm going to swell up like the Goodyear Blimp once it gets hot, and no one will be able to tell anyway. Oh well.

5. Okay, so I might be a little bit tired.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

In honor of L-O-V-E

So, since Monday was V-day, and this week is all about the love... I'm curious, what are your favorite "love-inspired" scenes from a book (or books)? Nothing R rated please, but I'd love to find out what the best kisses are in your opinions. For me, the romance in a book makes or breaks it (usually). I am a sucker for romance. I love falling in love with new characters. I love experiencing their first kisses, their first loves, their first kiss after they both finally admit they're in love. You get the idea.

Somehow I missed out on the big kissing blogfest that a bunch of authors participated in (posting kissing scenes from their books). That was so much fun to read people's posts! So, this is my way of joining in on the fun.

So tell me, what are your favorites? (and if you want to include movies/TV shows too, that's fine. I mean, I did in this post, so...) ;)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Falling in love...

Happy Valentine's Day everyone! Any romantic plans for today/tonight?

I am very lucky to have an amazing hubby to celebrate V-day with, and two adorable little boys. We're going to have our "official" ultrasound this morning to see our baby girl again. Very exciting! I am in love with all of them--all the people I am lucky enough to call my family. We're just planning on having a family dinner, and celebrating together at home. Pretty low key, but hopefully will be fun.

I'm also in love with my new WIP. I got this idea the end of last week, and started writing. I have one document full of notes about the plot and characters, and the actual document, which is already 6,000+ words. (In less than five hours total of writing--despite my excitement level, I had to curtail my writing time over the weekend. SHH got home from Mexico Saturday morning, and I figured it wouldn't be too nice to say "Welcome home! See ya, I'm going to go write!") But even with the lack of writing time, I'm pleased with how much I got done. Not too shabby! It's been a long time since I've been able to feel this excited about my writing, or that I've written something new this fast. Yes, I usually do write quickly, but recently my self-doubt has been a hindrance. Words have been painfully slow, plots hard to decipher, characters kept slipping through my fingers. This new WIP has been flying out, and I LOVE it. I am definitely in the infatuation stage. I'm hoping it lasts long enough to bust out a first draft. Then we can move on to the "figuring out what your flaws are" stage, where I can hopefully continue to cultivate my love for this project, despite it's inevitable problems.

Who knew the stages of writing/revising could be so applicable to real relationships? Ooh, except for this stage: the "I've figured out what your flaws/trouble-spots are and now... I'm going to fix them all" stage. In real life, you love someone in spite of their flaws (or maybe because of them). In writing--you find the flaws and you grind them out. You whip your WIP into shape, and make it perfect. Or as close as possible, anyway. But for now, I'm just focusing on having fun and enjoying being in love.

Lots of love for me to be happy about today. How about you?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday Five

1. I'm beginning to think that groundhog might not be able to predict the weather. It's shocking to say the least. But the evidence is what it is. That elusive, oh-so-desperately wanted season called Spring? So hasn't shown up yet. Not even a hint. It was in the single digits this morning, my car frozen solid yet again. Argh. Pux-a-whatever-your-name-is, you better make it warm up soon, or I'm coming for vengeance!

2. Sometimes, you need to start a new project to clear your mind. Sometimes, you feel like your writing is just utter crap, and playing with a new idea helps you remember why you love writing. I'm not saying that I am flirting with a SNI (Shiny New Idea), just that sometimes, for some people, it can actually be a good thing.

3. Scraping off a frozen car sucks even more when you know your husband is basking in the heat and sun in Mexico. For "work."

4. Really interesting characters are multi-faceted. They're complicated. They're light and dark. I read someone's review today that said they were kind of bored with a book because the "hero" was SO good. Real people have flaws. We often find these flaws annoying in real life (oh come on, you know you do). But fictional characters without any flaws or failings or problems of some sort tend to be... well, boring. I wonder if that would be the same in real people. Do our flaws and foibles give us depth? Make us interesting? Would be boring if we were perfect? I guess we'll never know...

5. Taking your two-year-old to the movies might not be a good idea. Just sayin'. The five-year-old loved it, watched the whole thing. The two-year-old? Enthralled... for about ten minutes. Short movies are 90 minutes long. Popcorn bought me ten more minutes. Candy lasted only as long as he took to chew it. You do the math. From what I got to see of it, Megamind was an interesting example of multi-faceted characters. So are my kids.

How's that for a mix of profound and inane on this Friday morning? Pretty much sums up my week. All over the place. What's on your mind today?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

One of those days

You know those days when you start it off by dragging your pregnant self to the gym, and then promptly hit your head on a metal appendage of one of the machines? (Because you were bending down to put your phone where you can see it on the floor, because if you miss the call back from your dr.'s office, you can guarantee not to hear from them again that day...) And your music was up so loud you're not really sure just how loudly you yelled "Ow!" But based on the strange stares, it must have been pretty loud. Then you get home to find out one of your boys has left the Hershey's chocolate syrup open on its side in the fridge, creating a lake of thick chocolate mess all over your entire fridge, food, and floor? And then you drop your son's hot ham and cheese sandwich face down on the floor... and then and then and then... Yeah. Yesterday was one of those days.

Which means I didn't get my blog post put together for today. Whoops.

So, um, maybe you should just read my last post again and call it good. Or else check back Friday. Hoping for a better day today...

Monday, February 7, 2011

In pursuit of Happiness

I don't know if anyone else is like me, thinking "when I get here" or "when I accomplish this goal" or "when this happens," THEN I will be so happy, I'll hardly be able to stand it. But then those things don't happen when we think or hope. What then? Rather than achieving the happiness we assumed we'd have, we suddenly feel deflated, lost, hopeless maybe--decidedly unhappy.

I don't want to waste my life waiting for the next "big dream" to come true to be happy. I am good at staying positive and focusing on right now, being happy with where I am... most of the time. But I slip up. Things don't go the way I'd hoped, or planned. Doubts creep in. My "failures" loom and sometimes overshadow the blessings of my days.

"There is only one way to happiness, and that is to cease worrying things which are beyond the power of our will." - Epictetus

I know I need to stop worrying about the things that are outside the power of my will, or my ability to do anything about. Some days I'm good about it, some days not so much. My children are young right now, and I don't want to miss these years of their lives, dreaming of what the future holds. I want to hold on to them, to cherish them. I want to cherish where my life is right now. Have I met all the dreams and goals I thought and hoped I would by February of 2011? No. But were they all in my control? No. Have I done the best I can do, made all the effort I can to reach those goals? Yes, I have. The ones in my power, I have reached. So I need to learn to be happy with that knowledge. And someday, maybe those dreams that aren't in my power, that I hope to have come true, will become reality. I certainly hope so. But for now, I need to remember to find joy in the dreams that have come true -- a wonderful husband, two amazing sons, a beautiful daughter on the way, shelter, food, cars that run.

What do you do to stay happy when things don't go the way you hope or planned?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Weathering the storm

With the snowpocalypse attacking at least half of our nation (and also ice and freezing cold temperatures and just crazy winter weather hitting at least another third of it), it got me thinking. Not just about how much I wish Spring were here (as you could tell by my previous post), but about our characters. You know, the ones in the books we're writing. (Well, I'm assuming most of the people who read my blog are writing/have written books.)

What do these horrible storms have to do with our characters? Everything. Sort of. Okay, hang in there with me and I'll try to explain.

I asked you on Monday: what makes you love a book? For some it is the characters. For others it's really good writing, or a great, fast-paced plot. No matter what facet of a book makes you fall in love with it, I'd say (and hopefully you'll agree), that any book is only as good as its snowpocalypse. Huh? What is she rambling about now... ? And how are you supposed to add a blizzard to you book, when you're writing a story set in a tropical climate where it doesn't snow? I'm not talking about adding an actual storm to your book. I'm talking about that thing that nearly every great book has--the ultimate, shocking, horrifying, unexpected, gut-twisting "storm" the MC has to get through or overcome or survive and grow stronger from to reach the conclusion of the book. Is my strange, meandering thought process becoming clearer now? I'm talking about the trial or catastrophe or test or whatever you want to call it that gives the book it's driving force. In Harry Potter, every book had a huge confrontation at the end, usually ending up in someone's death. They tended to get progressively more intense, more powerful, and more all-encompassing as the series went on. The stakes were raised higher and higher. And every time you raise those stakes higher, (make the obstacle/trial/whatever it is harder and more unbelievably difficult to survive) the more the reader is going to care about what happens.

If your MC is trying to drive home in a mild blizzard, and is somewhat nervous, but hey, the roads are salted and it's not too bad... well, eh. That's okay and all, I guess. Kind of a yawn-fest. But if your MC is caught in the worst blizzard in decades, that covers half a country, and strands thousands on a major highway with snow drifts burying their cars in a matter of a few hours... Whoa. Now that's going to grab your attention and keep it. See what I mean? Make your characters have to weather some storms -- and if possible, make those storms snowpocalypses.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Early Spring... oh please, yes!

So that groundhog didn't see his shadow, predicting an early spring. I, for one, am hoping that a groundhog really can predict the weather, because this so-cold-you-can't-breathe-and-your-hands-get-frostbite-just-from-holding-the-steering-wheel weather we're having? I'm soooo over it. I hope all my friends in the midwest are surviving that blizzard okay! What a crazy winter we've had. Sheesh. I'm ready for some good ole sunshine and warm breezes. (And all you California/Arizona/warm climate dwellers can just keep your smirks to yourself. I'm looking at you Kiersten "I almost couldn't wear capris-pocolypse" White! he he...)

Anyway, the only bright side to it being this cold outside is that I'm perfectly content curled up in my sweatshirt, blankets, and a computer to work on my revision or my WIP. Oh, but wait, I have kids. And I have to go volunteer at KidA's class today, which means I have to drag KidB out to our car (which is frozen solid right now) and brave the air that is so cold there are little crystalline bits of frost just floating around. Fun. Ah, well, the things we do for our kids.

Maybe I'll get to curl up, warm up, and get writing again tonight. One can dream big, right? Time to write and an early spring? That would be heaven right now.

Do you think a groundhog can predict the weather?