Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
So when other writers would reference his book On Writing, "a memoir of the craft," I'd think to myself Really? The master of horror? A non-fiction book? But so many raved of its perfection, I thought I'd give it a try. He's successful. Many, many times over. 50+ WORLDWIDE bestsellers. Kinda tells me he might have something worth sayin'.
Boy, does he. He's straightforward, courteous, funny, very personable. I enjoy his approach, and I find inspiration at every page turn. Motivation is oozing from his words into my core. Corny? Yeah. But true.
Here's the first nugget worth sharing. Relish. Digest. Apply.
Let's get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn't to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.
Monday, December 29, 2008
Saturday, December 27, 2008
I've been taking it easy in regards to blogging this week, as many have, given the Christmas holiday, during which I hope you all found yourselves among loved ones, overloaded with blessings. But I'm gearing up for a full schedule. Coming this week: Posts about the writing-related stuff I got for Christmas (how fun? SO fun!), a promise I made my mom not too long ago, and my writerly goals for 2009.
Have a great weekend!
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
So I sat in the auditorium of my niece's high school, waiting impatiently for her concert to begin. Merry people talked in excited circles around me, trapping me in my stiff third-row seat. Who makes this kind of seating anyway? It's so uncomf--
I felt a dull jab in my side.
"Meggie, what's the deal?" my sister asked.
I shrugged but kept my mouth closed, knowing not to unleash a torrent of complaints.
"Well, perk up! It's a Christmas concert."
Right, I grumbled to myself. Don't get me wrong - I love the vocal concerts; hearing the holiday music, soaking up the youthful talent. It was just a really bad night for me. And I wasn't feeling much Christmas spirit.
I really was heartbroken that Jacob would be traveling to see his family. We'd had plans to be together Christmas Eve - and I'd been hoping, after eight years together, he'd finally propose - but he'd sprung the news he and his siblings were all going home. And no invitation had been extended to me. I had--
The house lights went black, a sure sign things were underway, and a chorus of oohs joined a smattering of gasps.
As all eyes focused on the dark stage, a small boy's voice called out. "Mama! There's somebody back there!"
Heads began to turn to the rear of the auditorium. Choir members, in black robes, were slipping through the doors, and goosebumps rose on my arms as I realized each one held a candlestick. The small dancing flames lit the carriers' faces, the sound of their a capella voices rising with the room's acoustics. As they progressed toward the stage, the pace of their single-file lines matched the unrushed tempo of the first song.
O come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant...
I saw my niece, Jem, whose strong alto voice I heard melt into the hymn's harmony. The slightest of smiles appeared in the flicker from her candle, and my heart warmed.
O come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem...
The rich voices - amazing, they were coming from teenagers - enveloped me, and I felt comforted by the lyrics.
Come and behold Him...
And suddenly my brain, that little part that affects my mood, flipped as a switch, and I felt full of love and contentment. In that small instance, gone were my grumpies. They were replaced by... by... the Spirit.
Who cared about a root beer stain, really? And work was work; I'd no reason to dwell on one day. Jacob? Well, I'd tell him I wanted to go on the trip with him. If he had some problem with that, well, then I'd stay with my own family, and reassess my relationship with him later.
Born the King of angels...
It was Christmas, after all. I should be happy, focused on my many God-given blessings.
I reached for my sister's hand and gave it a squeeze. She smiled and brushed a tear from her eye.
"I feel it, too," I whispered. "I feel it, too."
A post of Ang's got me thinking of my own high school choir experiences at Christmastime (which spawned this piece). Our A Capella Choir (juniors and seniors) did this very thing at winter concerts, encroaching upon the audience with candlelight, our unaccompanied voices filling the auditorium with the words from O Come All Ye Faithful. That was one of my favorite experiences, and I wish I could relive it.
I wish everyone the best of merry and blessed Christmases. May you be spoiled and cared for, with regard to presents and company and family, but yet with so much more. Merry Christmas!
Saturday, December 20, 2008
I've been a contributer for a long time. It's just that it's been a long time since I've contributed. Until now.
Dealing With Dawdling Kids has been published, and I'd like you to check it out. And take a looksee around the site, too, if you're a mom with interest.
Thanks for all the support after yesterday's post. I know I didn't go into a lot of detail, but I really appreciate everyone's encouragement. You really are an amazing group of people.
Hope you all have a fabulous weekend. Our Christmas festivities begin, so it's gonna be busy! I'll catch up with you all next week, and will be posting a Christmas-related piece of flash fiction on Monday or Tuesday. Be blessed!
Friday, December 19, 2008
While I know I can't see what this month may hold, I'm determined to make it as amazing as I can...
That sentence sure makes it seem I have a knack for foreshadowing my own life...
When I got the publisher rejection at the beginning of this month, I considered it a minor snafu. I wasn't going to let it shape my month and, really, I was all for putting it behind me and moving on with the next phase. I got a good start on my new WIP, brainstormed on short pieces, and had an all-around satisfied feeling about where I was headed.
But then came more emotional upset.
While I choose not to go into a lot of detail, something happened that made me question my life's happiness. It became clear I had some soul-searching to do, and I wasn't sure what kind of outcome - or huge change, even - might be warranted. My insides were raw with worry, my head was spinning with possibilities, and I feared the unknown.
The crossroads at which I found myself eventually opened onto a foggy path, and I set out with trepidation. But one who appears to have my interests at heart has joined me, making effort to illuminate the way and make the path light.
There are still questions in my mind, but... I'm in a better place now.
What seems too contrived and overdramatic for even me to believe, is that my new WIP focuses on a woman whose 3oth birthday is surrounded by heartbreak and discouragement. I'd gotten the idea after my own 30th (at the beginning of November), when I'd been dealing with all those things myself. What a great idea, I thought. A story of soul searching, finding the good in the bad.
I don't know if it's a case of life creating art (how many times have I posted about experiences and their effect on writing?), or art prefacing life. Either way, it's drawn too parallel for me not to take notice.
It's a lesson for me, I'm certain. What's happened to me was not of my own fault, but yet I've gained from it. And stand to gain more. My hope is that as I trod along this path, picking my way, that I buffer the bad with the good... and use it to my advantage with concern to my writing.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Aside from chancing a win for one of Barbara's giveaways, I love visiting her place (The Serenity Gate), just for the sake of a visit. It's warm and cozy, and she reminds me of a favorite aunt. (Shout out to Aunt Bernia!)
Thanks for creating such a nice place, Barbara.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
If you don't mind, I have some rambling thoughts to share today. And here we go...
Yesterday's snow was so gorgeous! And the temperature has dipped so low for the last three days, the entire lake (600 acres!) froze over. It's so early for that to have happened! But talk about beauty. I'll try to get a picture sometime soon...
Misterwrites brought a surprise home for me yesterday. "The best kind of 'flowers' to get in a December snow storm," he said.
Aren't they beautiful? He never surprises me with that sort of thing, so it was an extra-special treat. And I've never had a poinsettia! Speaking of, my friend Kelly recently posted the story behind poinsettias. If you'd like to read a good Christmas story, see here.
My throat has been sore for the last few days. It's more than sinus drainage, but not as bad as strep. I've been taking tylenol and gargling salt water. Anything else I should be doing? I'd really like to avoid the doctor...
And for what I think is last on my mind... I'm curious to know what you think makes a compelling blog post. Is it a relatable voice? A drawing topic? We all know some posts are more inspiring, thought-provoking, or touching than others, but what makes you return to any given blog?
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
A snow storm, expected to be day-long, began in the morning hours today, and it's coming down steadily. I suspect school will let out early, and we'll hole up in our warm home while watching the flakes descend and accumulate. (Actually, I could guarantee my girls will want to be out in the snow...)
This day and these views bring out so many feelings in me - warmth, nostalgia, thanksgiving, potential, determination.
What about you?
Monday, December 15, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
I'm excited to open this one; it looks to have some good stuff, by good writers. Yippee!
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Or, one could be self-taught.
Though I have a couple years of community college under my belt, I never earned a degree. And even if I had, it would have been in Occupational Therapy or psychology - nothing writing-related. So I've gotten where I am (wherever that may be) by teaching myself.
I've always been incredibly detail-oriented. I've had a knack for grammar and spelling. I've paid close attention to how others write, their voices, formats, markets, what works, what trends call for or reject, etc., and, as a result, I've honed my writing over the course of several years. I have to say the self-taught route has worked just fine for me so far.
Was your knowledge gained through higher-education or osmosis? A little of both?
While there are certain benefits to specialized courses (and I'm not against them), are they necessary to be a success?
Tell me what you think.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
There once was girl who wrote,
Sometimes this or that or a note.
She found poetry hard,
Certain she was no Bard,
Such skills were, for her, remote.
How 'bout you? Can you offer something fun for Witty Wednesday? Try a limerick!
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
My kindergardner, who is learning how to read and write, finds no excitement in my role as a writer. While she impresses the teacher with her desire to fill out journal entries (with sounded-out words and pictures) and the like, she doesn't yet get that writing can be a whole lot more.
Just last night she said to me, in her Little-Girl Big-Drama Voice, "Mommy, writing is not anything special."
Well! She told me.
Thankfully, all you faithful readers and bloggers and buddies feel differently, and prove it with your support. After yesterday's post about my publisher rejection (I'll be okay. I only cried myself to sleep thrice last night...), many of you left amazing thoughts and encouragements. What an incredible group of people I hang with, truly. You know what summed it up? celestialwolf's words: Janna, we believe in you. Thank you, cel. And everyone!
Okay, I totally feel like I'm giving in to peer pressure. Because all my friends are doing it. And because I want to be popular... So I've added the Follow Me widget or doohickey or thingamabob. Whatever it's called. It would make me ever so happy to see your little face smiling at me over yonder. Won't you follow me?
Have a fantabulous Tuesday!
Monday, December 8, 2008
“I hope if Avalon doesn’t accept my book, they at least offer some constructive criticism.”
I hadn’t spoken with him about my manuscript in awhile...
Fast-forward to our road, when I said, “Let’s stop at the mailbox. I didn’t get yesterday’s mail.”
The second the flap came down, I gasped. One lonely letter lay inside, post-marked from New York. And I knew.
“It’s too thin to be good news.” I clutched it in my hands, not ready for its message.
“So open it,” my husband pressed.
The second of grasping hope, when I thought Maybe it's a letter asking me to call them, didn't last long.
It was short and to-the-point: Bliss Lake isn't right for them. They felt pacing was slow at times, and that the "religious undertones" weren't in line with their more secular preferences. (Terri, this answers a question you and I had once...) For anyone curious about what they consider religious, characters in Bliss Lake attend church a few times (with brushed-over details of a particular sermon's message), God is mentioned, and the main character prays in thought, though no overt Christianity is presented. I myself thought it was all indirect and minor to plot. So now we know.
The editors also had concerns over the presence of a stalker. While he created an ambience that didn't fit with their "family-friendly guidelines," his existence didn't present the right kind of tension between the hero and heroine, either.
So what does all this mean to me? I don't know yet.
I know I'm really disappointed. Really. I feel like my sails have lost their wind. Now - instead of a writer being considered - I'm just a writer. I feel less validated. I have to start all over again. And I have some decisions to make. Do I try to tweak pacing (if I end up agreeing) and find Christian markets, to see what they think of Bliss Lake? Or do I chalk the whole thing up to practice and experience? Many do that. It is my first novel, after all. And I tried the agent route, too. No takers.
I don't want to say I give up. Because I won't. Not on this dream of writing and being published at the novel level, anyway. The first thing I said to my husband was, "I'll keep trudgin'." So I'll strap on my boots and push myself onward.
Here I go.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
The award is given to bloggers who write about real life. Barbara, I so appreciate your recognition of my efforts!
The idea is to pass the award on to seven others, and I'd like to tell you why I've chosen who I have.
First, Kimmi, who shares exciting news about her upcoming debut (The Unbreakable Child) and living that dream, and also enlightens readers with tales of her work with Habitat for Humanity. Great job, Kimmi!
Kelly, who so well expresses what it's like to be a farmer's wife. Even if I didn't know her personally, I'd find her musings interesting.
Melanie - Living in Mexico isn't easy for her, but she shares awesome stories and a great attitude, both which make it seem like such an adventure!
Terri, who writes about real life as a writer, which many of us can relate to and/or draw inspiration from. Thanks for all the encouragement, Terri!
Fringegirl, whose posts prove a pastor's wife can be fun and sassy!
Jewel, at Pink Ink, who tells us of everyday things in such touching and relatable ways.
And Joanne, whose pursuit of a choice life makes us all sit up and take note. Thanks for your beautiful posts!
And now, if each of you accept the honor and wouldn't mind following the guidelines, you're supposed to link to me (show me some love!), and link to the 7 seven to whom you choose to pass the award. Make sure to post the award picture somewhere on your own blog, too!
I also want to take the opportunity to thank every one of my readers, as well as all those whose blogs I read. Each of your posts give me something to ponder, and touch me in some way. You all make Bloggerland such a great place to be, and I thank you for the connection, the support, and the endless benefits of networking. Your friendship is awesome.
Friday, December 5, 2008
So I considered my options carefully. Writing needed to take precedence, because I'm determined to make a huge effort with it this month. But man, I really wanted to watch The Office (so ridiculously hilarious!) and ER (sucked me in this season). It's such a massive decision. Will my world slow to a crawl if I miss an episode? Will my mind implode if I don't write the next section of chapter two?
During my gut-turning deliberation, I remembered how my husband always asks why I watch "crap shows." (Just for the record, it's the hour-long dramas he refers to.) This question is usually preceded by my distress over a fictional storyline (or that Law & Order sound: dng dng). He doesn't understand the draw. And, for awhile, I didn't either. But then an episode of ER hit home. The plot was so wrenching, the characters so riveting, that as I blubbered for breath and blew my nose, it dawned on me. It's the emotional ride.
And what's a writer if not one who enjoys an emotional ride?
I like it when shows (movies, what have you) make me feel: Elation over a victorious moment, indignation over circumstance, a tickle down to my funny bone. Just like a good book. And allowing myself that ride opens up possibility, shows me potential. It all comes down to, as I've mentioned before, what goes into our reserve of thoughts and feelings, for our writing. So, in essence, I could treat watching ER as research. Or, I could forego the new episodes, draw on my previously-acquired reserve, and write.
What did I do? What anyone this day and age would do, of course.
I plopped in front of the tv with my laptop on, WIP open. It was the best of both worlds.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
I carry them in my purse for shopping lists. I tuck them around the house, for easy access when a great thought bursts onto the scene. And, of course, I keep 'em at the ready near my computer. (I should also say they always - ALWAYS - end up with at least a few pages of preschooler doodles.)
Here's my current collection:
Some you see are filled with miscellaneous scribbles and jots. The two upper-right ones are the journals I fill with tidbits about my daughters' childhoods. The floral in the middle, top row, is the one someone personalized as a gift for me. And then the celery green and mauve-y books, together in the middle, along with the light blue (sandwiched in the corner between the two beefier blues), came as a packaged set from a hobby store. They're thin and smooth, with beautifully blank pages.
I am going somewhere with this.
The sandwiched blue one is the new home to some very crucial notes for my WIP. After yesterday's post about whether or not I should outline, I decided I'd make an effort. Especially after Jenna suggested maybe I was turned off by the word "outline," and the connotation it came to have through years of school papers and reports, not the actual output of one. Call it a blueprint! she said.
And so I am. The little notebook is perfect. Thus far I'm designating one page for each chapter, for key points. (Those will be written along with the book, as I see where each chapter will take me. So it's kind of outlining, kind of not.) The margins are already being stuffed with things I'll need to keep in mind down the line. And I started writing a character sketch for the main character, as well.
It pleases me. And not just because I'm using an adorable notebook.
Do you have a (healthy) fetish?
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Outline, that is.
I never want to outline. I'm the kind who likes to sit in front of the computer, a few notes here or there beside me, and just let it flow. I like the culmination of words and story to build with few set confines. Plus, starting with an outline is like starting with a piddly appetizer, when you're hungry for the whole meal!
Chapter 1 of my new WIP came out great. (That's not to say there won't be lots of tweakage, because, for now, I'm writing without editing as I go. But that's another post for another day...) And I know the general meanderings, the guts, of the whole book. But what about the minor details? What about the sub-plots? How will the rest come out?
My first novel (Bliss Lake, for any new readers, is currently under publisher consideration) unfolded page by page in front of me without an outline. I couldn't believe how well everything tied in, how much it all flowed, without having strategically planned it in advance. (It was a huge blessing for me; a reassurance I was on the right path with my writing. Also another day's post...) But could it happen again? Do I test it, supposing I could fail? Part of me feels I should at least jot down some kind of informal outline. I mean really, there's no one way to outline a project.
I think it's just such a question in my mind right now because the task of jumping into a new full-length novel - from scratch! - is daunting. Am I right? And anything serving to point me in the right direction can't be bad. Right?
So do I or don't I?*
Do you or don't you?
*I guarantee many of you are thinking Janna, it's up to you, girlie, because every writer is different and has to choose their own way. I know this. But I figure myself out better when I share my thoughts and absorb everyone's feedback. Thank you, thank you.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
I got a great start on my new WIP yesterday! I'm very excited about this idea, but am hesitant to share anything just yet... we're still in the early stage of our relationship, you see, and I don't want to jinx it. But if things continue to progress and it looks like we may last long-term, I'll give you the goods then. ;)
I have another author to add to my favorites list! Her name is Anna Maxted. I mentioned her sometime recently, when I told you about reading her book A Tale of Two Sisters. The book was phenomenal, and I absolutely recommend it. Here's a small excerpt from the back... Forced apart by mistakes not their own, enticed by new loves, and confronted by challenges they never asked for, Cassie and Lizbet [who live in England] struggle to rediscover the simple goodness of their sisterhood, even as their lives take them on a collision course of heartache and new beginnings. The book, alternating between Cassie's and Lizbet's first-person points of view, is written with plucky humor and deep-hitting truths. Loved the author and her voice!
And... well... I guess I don't really have any things to share.
What's up for you today?
Monday, December 1, 2008
Today I welcome December with flourish. And maybe fanfare. Seriously, I may break out the sparkling grape juice; I've never been so glad to see the calendar page turn.
While I know I can't see what this month may hold, I'm determined to make it as amazing as I can. I'm going to love my family and friends with my whole heart, make my home a warm and welcoming place, offer smiles to strangers, help whomever I can, and fling myself head first into writing.
A good springboard from which I'll jump into my writing was news of acceptance for one of my flash fiction pieces. Surprise at the Salon will be published at The Chicklit Review this week or next. It feels really great. I'll post more details and the link when the time is write. Erm, right.
And I've made a big decision. Life After Death, my WIP, is going to be scrapped. Put in a file, is more like it, for another time maybe. And after giving myself permission to make such an executive decision, to change my mind, I feel good. Instead, I'm going to start something totally new. A new month, a new space, a new WIP. It's an novel idea (har, har) that came to me a couple weeks ago, and I'm just gonna let it fly, see where it takes me.
I'm looking so forward to it.
What will you do this December?