Saturday, August 30, 2008
It could be something as "insignificant" as a penny found upon a sidewalk. How did it get there? Who dropped it? And from there you could create a children's picture book about the journey of Pete the Penny. Or that couple in the corner booth, the one arguing with overt animation? Yes, they could be headed toward a relationship disaster, or they could just be expressing their frustration and despair over their ill child's last hospital stay. And there's your next short story premise.
Ideas come from wherever you're willing to see them. Just this morning I spotted a car parked across the road, out from our driveway. It's a stretch of road with few houses, even fewer places to pull over. As I watched the driver move about in her car, arranging this, checking that, my imagination (or perhaps rampant paranoia) took over. Is there a reason she parked in front of my house? Is she secretly taking notes about our overgrown grass, planning to turn us in to Lawn Enforcement? And wait, is that a passenger I see in the car? Maybe the driver is creating a diversion by spitting out the window, so I won't notice her accomplice is stealing our mailbox.
Okay, so in all actuality, the woman probably spilled her coffee and had to sop it up before her seat turned brown and landed her in a pile of life-long poop jokes. But you see how you could turn the most innocent circumstance into something big? It just takes a little imagination (or perhaps rampant paranoia) to weave a great tale.
Tell me about something seemingly insignificant that led to one of your written pieces.
Friday, August 29, 2008
I've mentioned in the not-so-distant past that I'm working on a non-fiction idea and proposal. Though it hasn't been my first "priority," what with querying my novel, I still knew it was something worth pursuing. Especially after this amazing sign.
So last night, after an opportunity presented itself, I felt led to follow the path laid before me and shot an e-mail to an agent. Would you be interested in seeing my proposal? I asked. His response came early this morning, with a request that I "send the proposal and a number of sample chapters." Having let him know in the beginning that I was merely near completion, he agreed to give me until next week. *squee*
I spent the day toiling over my proposal, expecting long, grueling days ahead of me, all-the-while my heart pounding like an energetic jackrabbit. Though I'd already put a lot of work and research into it (referencing this fantastic thread on AW), quite a bit remained. But, man, I worked it out. Each step of the proposal flowed out of me in such an amazing way. Like, in a way that told me this is supposed to be happening right now. It was the plan for me. And tonight my proposal is complete (and fantastic!) at sixteen pages.
The only thing is... after looking into this agent, I've decided to forego submission to him. Why? Because it just doesn't feel right. He's not what I'm after, especially when I want an agent for the duration of my career, for all aspects of my writing. But you know what? That's okay, because if I hadn't had this little blip of communication with him I wouldn't have pounded the proposal out. I wouldn't have dug around for information on him... nor would I have come up with details on an agent who IS perfect for me.
She deals with fiction and non-fiction, a definite bonus. Because I feel my strongest suit right now is this non-fiction book, I plan to send my proposal to her Monday. And, if/when the time comes, if it's a good fit? I'll mention I have a novel ready to go, too. Now of course my thinking she's a perfect fit doesn't mean she'll agree. But my confidence is so strong, so sure and affirmed by my faith in God right now, that I'm going to be okay whatever the outcome. I don't know, I can't explain it sufficiently. But this path I'm on right now is the path I'm to go down. I feel like my writing world is poised to explode, just down there... See it? I do.
I'll keep you posted.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Does it really have to be that hard?
I've never been one for structured outlines, so it goes without saying that I don't lay my characters out on paper before I begin my WIP. Oh, I sort of do it in my head, create their appearance and general state of being. But I "see" my characters so clearly, sometimes (okay, most often) because they're based on people in my life, that their personalities, their mannerisms, how they behave in certain situations, play out in my mind's eye. I don't have to refer to notes or files to understand them.
My goal with this post isn't to say "Look at me, I have it easy" or to knock other writers' habits. I'm just wondering why the perception is that a character has to be so thoroughly sketched out before one can begin. Yes, I get that if your course isn't planned out you may well get lost. But is it a crucial technique for virtually every writer? We all know each writer is different, with varying habits and methods. Our techniques may at times overlap, but who's to say we have to follow the same unwritten rules?
What about you? What's your method for building characters?
And do you think writers make things harder for themselves?
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
I'm pleased to report I made good on my efforts yesterday. I did more agency research and sent my query off to five agents. This means I have 17 queries out - more than I really thought I wanted at one time. But my search needed a little boost. Or maybe I did. Either way, I'll leave that corner of my writing world alone again for awhile.
I (finally) got the beginning of Novel 2 transferred from AlphaSmart files to Word document. Having it on the monitor in front of me, able to look at it again, roused excitement in me. And reading the premise I'd written up reminded me of a few plot points I'd lost sight of. Because of that, I really feel encouraged to pursue the story. Soon it will be naptime for my preschooler, and I plan to pull it up, maybe get a little work done.
I also want to come up with a working title; I'm tiring of referring to it as Novel 2 all the time. Will you help me? Of course, I know in the long run it doesn't matter, since (were it ever to get to that point) a publisher would likely change it anyway, but I like giving my WIPs names. Makes them real, attainable. As a reminder, here's my premise:
A man's world is turned upside-down when his wife reveals well-hidden secrets. But while she exhibits behavior that would end most relationships, he tries to uphold his marriage vows and Christian values, hoping for the day she'll see the error of her ways and return to the life they once had. But how far will his wife's behaviors lead her, and how much will he put up with? What will happen when a new woman, one who's everything his wife is not, enters the picture? How will he choose the path his life should take?
Right now I'm thinkin' about something like For Love or Faith. Or, because of the way he meets the "new woman," Love For Sale. What do you suggest?
12 rejections, 17 out
Oh! And the English Toffee cappuccino isn't too bad. I added some milk to the water it called for and drank it over ice. I'm gonna give it another taste today. ;)
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
So I promised to post pictures. Since I've talked about our remodeling and my new space (Janna's Writing and Reading Nook - just saying it makes me squee!), I thought I'd show you the progress. Here's the space from the top of the stairs. To my left is the master bath, behind me the master bedroom.
And here, at the left side of the balcony, is where my floor lamp and big floofy (yes, floofy) reading chair will go. Maybe, just maybe, in another few weeks I can show you completed pictures. Yippee!
I'm writing the next installment of my column. (For those who may not know, I write a humor column with a motherhood theme. It appears in a local paper, quarterly.) My topic this go round is being an embarrassing mom. You know, the standard stuff, like licking your finger to wipe chocolate from your daughter's cheek. In the middle of her birthday party. When she's surrounded by friends and family. Got any good anecdotes to share? Surely I'm not the only embarrassing mom these days... *
In yesterday's post, I mentioned I would talk about feelin' the burn today. You see, I have this rash-- No, no. Wrong topic. I was going to tell you I've really been feeling that desire to push myself with my writing. I've admittedly slacked off recently, what with the end of summer, and having queries out but not being ready to send another batch. But it's time to move ahead, seeking my goals. I'm going to research more agents today and send another few queries. And I've got to move ahead with the other writing projects I keep talking about. After all, I'm not going to find what I'm looking for if all I do is think about writing. It's got to be about doing.
And that's it, folks. I think I'm gonna go try my new English Toffee cappuccino mix (I have my doubts since it's a mix). I'll let you know how it is.
Have a great day!
* I haven't really done that. Yet.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Tomorrow will be this week's Stuff and Things post and, though I don't want to get your hopes up, I'm looking forward to it. I think I may post some pictures - DUH Duh duh - and plan to talk about feelin' the burn. But, hmm. It's probably not what you're thinking.
Come back tomorrow!
Sunday, August 24, 2008
1. Belch directly into the mouthpiece; then tell your dog it should be ashamed.
2. Make up a charge-card name. Ask if they accept it.
3. When they repeat your order, say “Again, with a little more OOMPH this time.”
4. Order a Big Mac Extra Value Meal.
5. Terminate the call with, "Remember, we never had this conversation."
6. Tell the order taker a rival pizza place is on the other line and you're going with the lowest bidder.
7. When they ask for your phone # give them theirs and see if they notice.
8. Answer their questions with questions.
9. Tell them to put the crust on top this time.
10. Sing all your words like your life is a musical.
11. Do not name the toppings you want. Rather, spell them out.
12. Stutter on the letter "p."
14. Put an extra edge in your voice when you say "crazy bread."
15. Change your accent every three seconds.
16. Ask if you get to keep the pizza box. When they say yes, heave a sigh of relief.
18. Move the mouthpiece farther and farther from your lips as you speak. When the call ends, jerk the mouthpiece back into place and scream goodbye at the top of your lungs.
19. Say hello, act stunned for five seconds, then behave as if they called you.
20. Say "Are you sure this is (Pizza Place)? When they say yes, say "Well, so is this! You've got some explaining to do!" See how they respond.
21. Tell the order taker you're depressed. Get him/her to cheer you up.
22. Imitate the order taker's voice.
23. Tell them to double-check to make sure your pizza is, in fact, dead.
24. Order 52 pepperoni slices prepared in a fractal pattern as follows from an equation you are about to dictate. Ask if they need paper.
25. Act like you know the order taker from somewhere. Say "Bed-Wetters' Camp, right?"
27. If they repeat the order to make sure they have it right, say "OK. That'll be $10.99; please pull up to the first window."
29. Order a steamed pizza.
31. Ask to see a menu.
35. If using a touch-tone, press random numbers while ordering. Ask person taking the order to stop doing that.
36. Order a slice, not a whole pizza.
37. Doze off in the middle of the order, catch yourself, and say "Where was I? Who are you?"
40. Order two toppings, then say, "No, they'll start fighting."
42. If he/she suggests anything, adamantly declare, "I shall not be swayed by your sweet words."
43. Wonder aloud if you should trim those nose hairs.
44. Try to talk while drinking something.
45. Start the conversation with "My Call to (Pizza Place), Take 1, and. . . action!"
46. Ask if the pizza is organically grown.
48. Be vague in your order.
49. Use CB lingo where applicable.
50. If using a touch-tone press 9-1-1 every 5 seconds throughout the order.
51. After ordering, say "I wonder what THIS button on the phone does." Simulate a cutoff.
52. Start the conversation by reciting today's date and saying, "This may be my last entry."
54. Learn to properly pronounce the ingredients of a Twinkie. Ask that these be included in the pizza.
55. Ask if they're familiar with the term "spanking a pizza." Make up a description to go with the term. Ask that this be done to your pizza.
56. Say "Kssssssssssssssht" rather loudly into the phone. Ask if they felt that.
57. When listing toppings you want on your pizza, include another pizza.
59. Put them on hold.
60. Teach the order taker a secret code. Use the code on all subsequent orders.
61. Mumble, "There's a bomb under your seat." When asked to repeat that, say "I said 'sauce smothered with meat'."
62. Make the first topping you order mushrooms. Make the last thing you say "No mushrooms, please." Hang up before they have a chance to respond.
63. When the order is repeated, change it slightly. When it is repeated again, change it again. On the third time, say "You just don't get it, do you?"
64. When you've given the price, say "Ooooooo, that sounds complicated. I hate math."
66. Order a one-inch pizza.
68. When they say "Will that be all?", snicker and say "We'll find out, won't we?"
69. Ask how many dolphins were killed to make that pizza.
70. While on the phone, fake entering puberty. Fluctuate pitch often; act embarrassed.
71. Dance all around the word "pizza." Avoid saying it at all costs. If he/she says it, say "Please don't mention that word."
72. Have a movie with a good car chase scene playing loudly in the background. Yell "OW!" when a bullet is fired.
73. If he/she suggests a side order, ask why he/she is punishing you.
74. Ask if the pizza has had its shots.
75. Say it's your anniversary and you'd appreciate if the deliverer hid behind some furniture waiting for your spouse to arrive so you can surprise him/her.
I'm sorry I can't credit the creator of this list. If anyone knows where it originated, let us know, wouldja?
Saturday, August 23, 2008
for which I have no understanding.
Does it have rhyme? No. Reason? I'd better guess yes.
But maybe I'm dense, or just not
to follow the winding paths laid by poets.
They seem to meander as a child would
from innocent thought to inspired imagination,
the end result a tale few comprehend.
Even my ironic attempt at poetry here seems two things at once: Thrown together so sloppily it laughs in my amateur face; and, conversely, presented in such a flowy, pretentious, truth-of-the-matter way that it works.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to degrade poetry or poets; it's simply that I don't know enough about it to fully understand it. Plus I have to admit, I really don't read (or enjoy) poetry often, and I know that gives me little credible reason to discuss it.
But what about you? What do you think of poetry?
Thursday, August 21, 2008
I wrote a really difficult letter last night. It had to be tactful, respectful, while to-the-point and here's-how-it's-going-to-be-with-me-from-now-on. I had to convey knowledge with one thing, my distaste with another, and offer support for future standings. 'Twas not easy.
It was as I continued to tweak and retweak a portion here, a segment there, that I compared the process with writing my query; it's such a seemingly delicate art.
I wasn't satisfied until everything was just.right. I'd omit something just to bring it back. I'd use words of over-reaction, then return to them and pull it back a notch. Or I'd stumble upon the best phrase for the point I was trying make and replace seven words with three, making the whole thing less clunky.
Finally, as with my query, I got to the point where I could say, "Okay, Janna. Enough." The end result with last night's letter left me confident and comfortable with what I'd written. I knew I'd represented myself well, to the best of my ability. And that's how it sits with my query. I realize that though my query may need rehab down the line, depending upon how it's continually received, I've approached it the right way as a writer - by saying what's best, and saying it in the best way.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
As for the other part of my post title... I've been thinking a lot about writers' conferences lately, and how much I'd like to attend one. I realize writers' magazines often announce and advertise them, but how else does one find information? Is there a site online? How do I research dates and locations, to best find one in my region?
Likewise, I've been thinking about writers' groups. Is there a site that would tell me if there's one local to me? I think joining one would benefit me greatly, but I'm unsure as to how to find one.
I realize I could probably use a search engine for both of these things, but I wondered if there are any direct links or resources. Anyone have ideas or advice?
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Today's stuff and things?
My daughter had to get the last of her immunizations this morning. It was my job--through all FOUR shots--to trap her legs between mine, crush one arm behind me as a vice grip would, and immobilize the other with my weak hand. Her tears were almost unbearable, but the reward of colorful band-aids and Goldfish crackers brightened her world once again.
I'm cheap. I know this because I can smell a clearance rack from aisles away, or spot neon-colored sale tags before I've darkened the doorway of my favorite store. When my eyes shift and dart back-and-forth, making me look as though I'm up to no good? It's simply that I'm afraid I'll miss a good deal, and one must be alert to such things. Always. And I most often refuse to pay full price for anything. Today we visited one of our local discount stores. There I got five new shirts for the school girl, a new shirt for myself, two notebooks and a plate. For $24 and some change. AWESOME. Then I very nearly split my lid when I spent the same amount at another store, on two pairs of leggings and a Koosh ball. NOT AWESOME. See? I'm cheap.
I've been able to expound upon the idea for my non-fiction book. I did some tweaking to my concept, which opened the possibilities for content. To give you a basic, at-its-most-general hint, the topic is motherhood. It will incorporate humor and the voice I use for my motherhood-themed column, with essays and anecdotes, and an extra special something. But that's all I'm giving you now. I've still got some research and brainstorming and compiling to do.
As for Novel 2 (I've decided not to deny myself progress on one book while I work on the other - I'll do both!), it still sits, lonely and with no recent updates. Thus far, the only work I've done has been on my AlphaSmart 3000, Sally, so I plan to transfer the files to word document soon. I'll be able to look at it with fresh perspective, I think, and that will allow me to move forward just a bit.
Still no word of any kind from agents. I'm not growing impatient at all, I just feel like I'm not doing all I can to be proactive. Which is silly, because what else can I do but wait on them? I'm not quite ready to send another batch of queries out, but may revisit that idea in another few weeks. We'll see what happens between now and then.
11 rejections, 13 out
Monday, August 18, 2008
On Wednesday I'll post a new one. *sniffle*
Saturday, August 16, 2008
1: One or two sentences about your 0-10 year old daughter. Example for a three month old, "My daughter did not transition well from bassinet to crib until we started playing a CD with ocean sounds." That sort of thing.
2: A one or two paragraph "this is what I experienced with my [insert age] daughter during this [insert event, activity, or milestone]" type of description that I can pull quotes or other reference material from.
This book is a guide for dads, but it doesn't necessarily have to be quoted by dads or first-person stories from dads. It's meant to serve as a go-to guide when things come up that confuse, frustrate, or perplex dads while raising their daughters alone, or with a co-parent.
Jenn has asked that some of us from AW spread the word. If you'd like to contribute to her research, if you have that perfect story or tip to share, clink on this AW link or visit her blog (link in her name above). I know she'd really appreciate it.
Friday, August 15, 2008
Thursday, August 14, 2008
I admit, I'm a stickler about grammar. Grammar and spelling. I imagine that's more common than not with writers. Agree?
Getting it all correct when writing is easy enough, but sometimes I hear poor grammar come out of my mouth and I cRiNgE. The offenses are harmless enough, like
There's two in the refrigerator, when in fact, we would not say There is two in the refrigerator.
You can go downstairs when me and Sister do. But if you were to take Sister out of the equation, you'd not say You can go downstairs when me do.
I do think these are common mistakes, but why doesn't proper grammar flow in my speech as well as it does in my writing? It makes me feel less validated as a writer. Like people are going to hear me talking and think She's a writer? But she doesn't even speak properly!
Do you have similar trouble?
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
My mom has been the most enduring supporter of my writing, since I was in school and she'd say, in response to well-received English papers, "You should be a writer, Janna." And back several months ago, after someone she and her brothers grew up with published a book, she made me promise I'd finish mine and do all I could to get it in print.
My dad, too, serves up great helpings of encouragement. I have a couple aunts who beam with pride whenever I talk about my career, some cousins and extendeds who believe in me relentlessly. Some of my closest friends listen to my progress with eager ears, with firm conviction I'll be published. And then, of course, the network of writers I've connected with never cease to offer both support and encouragement.
There are those in my life who seem not to give a flyin' flip. (And that's fine.) Some family members, though only a few, have no interest whatsoever. Maybe they don't understand I'm serious about it, or think I'm talented enough. Maybe they're waiting for something huge to happen, so I've proven myself. Who knows? Likewise, I have friends who aren't impressed or excited. One friend in particular gives empty encouragement, support not sincere in the least. Pfft.
But it's those who do support my dreams and encourage my success that push me forward. They serve to light my fire again and again, planting thoughts that I can do this. In a way, it's for them that I write.
What about you? Tell me about your support system.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
I did start on my non-fiction project. I've looked high and low for how one goes about it, and all signs point to doing your idea and market research first, gathering all the data into your proposal (and writing an overview, etc.) before writing the book itself. So I've taken those initial steps, started down that path. Though the whole kit and kaboodle is something I've never done before, I've found it a worthwhile challenge. And the brainstorming continues.
Likewise, my second novel has still been tugging at my brainwaves. And I love it. I love that there's potential in more than one project; that there are ideas which could take me different directions, depending upon my daily mood and goal. We shall see where they take me.
You may remember we're remodeling our house. It's an A-frame and, along with many other changes and improvements, we've extended the balcony off the Master loft. This new, bigger space will be my writing/reading nook, and I can't tell you how excited I am to get myself set up there. It's still probably a month out, what with everything else we still have to do, but once I'm all settled and decorated, I'll post pictures. It'll be my "special place." Did I tell you how excited I am? (Plus I get to go shopping for a few new pieces to fill it!)
I've been reading voraciously the last few weeks. I've always loved reading, and done it often, but I've been in a particularly good mood to sit down, paperback in hand, these days. Usually I prefer reading just one book at a time, though I've got three going now. The first is Freezing Point by Karen Dionne. She's the aunt of my friend Melanie [I decided today, Melanie, that calling you my "writing buddy" isn't sufficient anymore ;)], and is touted as "the new Michael Crichton." How totally cool is that? I've taken part in Ms. Dionne's virtual book tour. Here's my picture, taken in the chicken house at the Missouri State Fair, five-dollar hat to boot. Yee haw!
I've also begun Anne Lamott's bird by bird. So many people have recommended it, particularly once they've found out I write, and so far it's not the least bit disappointing. I have yet to finish Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, which I started months ago. I've loved it so far, but fell out of the mood for it, and it's really just a matter of picking it up again.
And my last stuff (or thing, if you're keeping track), is that I haven't heard word from any agent in almost two weeks. (I say this not to whine, just to state the fact.) So, the count remains...
11 rejections, 13 queries out
Friday, August 8, 2008
Versatility, and how it works for writers, is something I've often wondered about. And now talk of a foray into non-fiction has made me wonder if one writer can try too much? I ask because I've done essays, columns, fiction, children's (my picture book has 6 publisher rejections, though I haven't revisited it in years), and now I want to try non-fic. But can a writer only think they have talent to pull off so many kinds of writing? Or it is common that writers dabble in lots of things? I heard awhile back that a good writer should be able to write anything. Is it true?
Here's where I ask you to remember my post yesterday, where I was trying to determine what path to take with my writing. And I mentioned I was looking for a sign from God about the right direction.
Okay, now on to what I'm so amazingly blown away by. Are you ready? I sat down here at my computer, minutes ago, having typed versatility into the blog post title box. It's not uncommon for me to pull Merriam-Webster.com up, even when I know a word, to give myself a concrete basis for the concept whirring in my brain. So I did that with versatility. Here's what came up, example sentence exactly as it appeared online, bolding mine for emphasis.
Really? I felt a small prick at my soul and continued with my post. And then I came to the word foray. Another instance where I know the word, have used it many times, but wanted to see what Merriam-Webster had to say.
(the novelist's foray into nonfiction)
Oh, holy goodness, are you kidding me?! THIS is the answer I was looking for. THIS is God winking at me. I'm blown away, stunned, humbled. Amazed. Wow.
Can I just say it again? Wow. How's that for a sign?
Thursday, August 7, 2008
*I should point out I'm one who believes in signs, and I'm looking for guidance from above... I'll keep you posted.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
I didn't have anything pertinent waiting in my inbox when I returned, rejection or otherwise. What I want to know is, when days pass with no reply, does it mean A) they've not had the time to look at my query yet, period B) they didn't like it and have moved on to other stuff, without letting me know or C) they think they kinda like my storyline and they're stewing over whether or not to request more from me? Yeah, I know it could be any of these things. But it's the not knowing that's toughest.
I do feel a renewed surge over Novel 2. I haven't touched it in a few weeks, but at last sit-down I'd made my way through part of the second chapter. I need to revisit it and get to work, so as not to fritter any time away. I think it would work to my advantage if, once an agent expresses interest in working with me, I can say I've conceptualized and begun work on a second book.
What about you? What's big for you? What are you working on right now?
Friday, August 1, 2008
We're off for a weekend with Hubby's siblings and their families. This time I'll likely not have internet access at all, so I'm taking an official break from all things cyberspace. I'll return Tuesday, hopefully to something other than rejection waiting in my inbox.
Have a great weekend! And good luck with all your endeavors, writing and otherwise.