Thursday, December 16, 2010

Monday, December 6, 2010

Marching on

After the peaks come the valleys.  After the highs come the lows.  Cliches, all, but still true.

After winning NaNoWriMo this year, I've been working through the frustration of wondering if those 50,000 words have any value whatsoever.  I've been tempted to set the novel aside, half-done, and try something else.

This is not unusual for me, sadly, and I decided it's time to quit it.

Not quit the writing but quit the second-guessing.  God clearly told me to write the story.  I don't know if it's this story and I don't know what the outcome will look like.  But I write.

Sometimes it's the eating of the elephant:  one bite at a time.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What writing goals provide

After joining ACFW's NovelTrack challenges in July and October, followed by National Novel Writing Month's 50,000 word challenge, I'm reflecting on what I've learned through these.

Thanks to NaNoWriMo, I've walked through the valley of the third week, where I was sure my novel was disgusting and why was I doing this anyway?

If not for NovelTrack, I probably would have.  Here are the stages I've seen so far in NaNo:

Week 1
Excited, sure this was my break-through novel.  I loved the genre, loved the characters, loved the setting.  I logged well over 1700 words a day and the time flew by.

Week 2
 Still excited at seeing the word count rise.  The plot was murky at times but I wrote.  Words on the page, right?  I could clean this thing up in the edit stage.

Week 3
  Why am I doing this again?  I am no writer.  This plot is transparent and disorganized.  Obviously, I shouldn't have chosen this genre.  Could I switch to re-writing the story I wrote last summer?

Week 4
 OK, the plot is smoothing out a bit.  I can see a theme developing and I'd sure hate to leave my characters hanging where I last left them.  I'd better keep writing.

I think these writing challenges teach me to spell better, as in "writing challenge" is spelled "persistent."  So many threads of fiction writing - character development, dialogue, plotting, description, theme - are starting to weave themselves together.  I am learning.

And keeping on writing.

Monday, November 22, 2010

New contest

Alison Strobel has a contest going at her blog to support Sandi Rog, who has been diagnosed with cancer just as her debut novel, The Master's Wall, was released.  I posted a report on Sandi's story recently.

Check out Alison's contest here.  And keep praying for Sandi's healing, please.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Want to write faster?

This is my first time to try to ride the rip-roaring bronco called NaNoWriMo.  You've probably heard of it:  write 50,000 in 30 days.  Plot doesn't matter.  Passive sentences?  Ignore them!  Cardboard characters?  Bring them on.

The idea is to experience writing without the internal editor reading over your shoulder.  I'm doing moderately well in that category, sadly enough.  I'm slapping words on the monitor screen, promising to come back later and whip them into shape.  I probably will.

But the best thing I've discovered is that I write fast.  Being me, I timed myself today.  I write about 1200 words an hour.

How did this happen?  Here are some things I've noticed:

I don't sit down without a scene in my mind.
My best brainstorming times are while brushing my teeth and while having problems falling asleep.  Contemplating tomorrow's scene usually brings sleep right away.

But I digress.  The point is that I have some direction before I sit down at my computer.  I use those dull moments (like while showering) to let my brain skitter hither, fetching ideas.

I make mistakes.
And I don't care.  Sometimes the internal editor says, "whoa, that was the third was you've used in this paragraph  Aren't you ashamed?'  But mostly it doesn't and I keep rolling. I'd rather edit than stare at a blank screen.

I have experience.
 For me, working as a reporter on a small weekly newspaper helped shred my perfectionist tendencies.  Although I wanted to lovingly craft every lead paragraph, I did not have time.  I had the basketball stories to write after I finished up with the feature interview I'd done.  And now, unexpectedly, a news story demanded my full attention.  The point of my writing was to communicate clearly, not produce literary excellence.

Experience happens when we write.  Which brings me right back to my first paragraph.  I'm doing NaNoWriMo to get experience.  I am pushing myself to write 20,000 words a month (after NaNo) to get experience.  I'm committing myself to a consistent practice so that I get more and more experience.

Writing is easier when you can write fast.  Maybe these ideas will get your writing going, too.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Keeping on

As a first-time NaNoWriMo participant this year, I started November with great enthusiasm and lush ideas for my book.  But by last weekend, my energy had fizzled and I was wondering what had happened to all the enthusiasm.

Turns out, this is normal NaNoWriMo behavior.  Many writers, at about the midway point, fade badly.  Their advice:  try a new tactic but don't quit writing.  Make a drastic change in the main character's plans.  Keep going.

So I did.  Today, I faced that blank screen prepared to pound out 1700 bland words.  But I decided to change my POV and write some backstory.  My inner editor screamed but I plowed forward.  In the midst of today's writing, I uncovered a secret among the people that I didn't know before.  This will take some re-writing of earlier scenes but there are secret memories sprinkled throughout the story.

I didn't know.  But I'm glad I didn't stop writing.  NaNoWriMo says, trust the process.  I did, and today it worked.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Help a writer

This request is for a fellow writer.  Please consider this:


Hey all,

This is Daniel DeGarmo with DeWard Publishing Company.

I'm sure all of you are aware of Sandi Rog's latest battle (with cancer - Type A Lymphoma) that just began last week.
As you can imagine, she's devastated, especially considering the timing of all this as her first novel just released last Monday.

Well, considering we are a small publishing company and can pretty much do whatever we want, my business partner and I have agreed to donate an additional $1 per book to a Fund that I'll be setting up this week.
Just so no one thinks we are being shady about the whole deal, this is above and beyond the royalties that Sandi (and her agent) is already incurring with every book sold.

The purpose of this fund is to help out Sandi's family (husband and children) while she is laid up fighting for her life. 

What I need from you is simply spread the word.  For every copy of "The Master's Wall" that is sold (including Kindle) we will donate $1 to this Fund.
I'll also be setting it up so that it can receive regular donations if anyone is interested in just helping out financially.

I hope to have more information to share in the next day or so but at least for now I would ask that you would do whatever you can do direct people to buy Sandi's book.

Sandi has been copied on this email.....Sandi..Please forward this message on to anyone you think would help us out in getting the word out.
The same goes for you if you've received this email.

I want to close by lifting the following prayer up on Sandi's behalf:

Father, I lift my sister before you as her body has been stricken with disease.
You know, O God, that she has used her gifts to glorify You and spread your wonderful message of grace and love.
It is my humble plea that you would bring her healing and complete recovery.  I know You can do this, You are the Great Physician.
Please bring Your Spirit into her home as her husband and children continue to live life without her there.  They need You.
May all that is done bring You glory as our God and Father.
In Jesus' name - AMEN!

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask.

Dan



--
Daniel DeGarmo
Co-Owner | Business Manager
DeWard Publishing Company, Ltd.
PO Box 6259
Chillicothe, OH  45601
800.300.9778
www.deward.com
dan@deward.com

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Learning from Agatha Christie

After I had decided to try my hand at writing mysteries last summer, I stumbled upon the deal of the week on eBay:  32 mysteries by Agatha Christie for  $18, with shipping ( 56 cents each.  What a deal!)  The books were all paperback and in readable condition. Good enough for me.

So I'm through at least 10 of them by now and still think they're a great deal, although many originally sold for less than 56 cents.  Can we say brittle pages?  Quaint 60's covers?

No matter.  I plowed onward.  Some things I've learned:


  • Christie wrote fascinating puzzles.  I thought I had spied the murderer in one book but she'd fed me the red herring with expertise.
  • The characters in her novels are cardboard and cliched.
  • That does not diminish the charm for me, which is surprising since I write and love character-driven novels.
  • Those old Brits were a rude and argumentative bunch.
  • Which only adds to the charm of the stories, for me.
  • Writing murders is easier than planning a real murder, since the writing can be deleted, changed, and slanted as soon as the author sees a mistake - or new red herring.


This is a hopeless addiction, I have to admit.  The mysteries are brilliantly plotted with creative twists and turns.  I love the surprise at the end, even if I don't care which of the cardboard characters gets the handcuffs this time.  Justice always wins out.

Can I learn to write mysteries?  That was the point of this exercise.

For NaNoWriMo, guess what I'm writing?  Fantasy.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Christian woman sentenced to death

I've been praying for this Pakistani woman for over a year now, only to learn today that she has been sentenced to death.  Asia Bibi has been in jail for over a year and has two young daughters at home.  I am praying for her and am trying to figure out what other protests can be made.

Here's the information: http://bit.ly/9YThgR

Monday, November 8, 2010

When the plot stops

I'm working on a fantasy novel this month (and probably beyond November and NaNoWriMo) but found that my interest had flagged a little this weekend. What was up with that?

I realized that I had let the plot stumble into a chapter of conversation.  No action, just conversation.  And, even more painful to admit, I had steered that conversation into backstory and an information dump.  No wonder the story was hard going all of a sudden.

So I struck through an entire chapter (hated to just delete all those words.  Maybe some of the conversation will reappear in the middle of a fight scene.... well, I can dream...)  and stuck some more action.  Suddenly we've gone from chit-chat around a fire pit to drama on a falling log.

This revelation is thanks to Jeff Gerke's book, The Art and Craft of Writing Fiction, where he slashed through dry dialogue and other forms of telling, zeroing in on showing us the story.  Dialogue isn't necessarily telling, but mine was and I am moving on to more showing.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Daily writing

For years I read the advice to writers: write every day.

I do that, I thought.  I write something every day.  E-mails.  Message board posts.  Um, e-mails.

But writing to produce a novel means writing that novel.  Novel idea.  Here's what I have learned over the last four months of writing at least 20,000 words a month:

1. I have 90,000 words logged in two different novels.
Those ideas that would come to me in the night usually withered in the morning sun because I knew I couldn't turn the idea into a novel.  How would I write that length of a work?  Now, I know in four months I could have the idea blasted onto the screen.

2. I think of myself as a writer.
 This is no small deal.  I still hesitate when meeting a published author because I haven't sold a novel yet.  But if I have two novels sitting on the shelf awaiting editing (and undoubtedly a better plot), I can consider myself a writer.  And a writer writes.  It's a nice self-perpetuating kind of plan.

3. I learn the craft of writing.
It is one thing to read about POV, plot turns, character arcs in a brilliant book on craft.  It's another to mold those into a WIP.  Obviously.  But as I commit myself to this career of a writer, I write.  And write well.  I'm learning as I write.

4. I learn my style for writing
This is not my style of writing but style for writing.  I am a seat of the pants writer, because meticulous planning bores me.  But, when I do character journals before I start the story, the planning becomes more interesting because the characters have already engaged my mind and my heart.  Storylines pop out of nowhere as I let my characters introduce themselves.

I have also learned that I am a character-first writer, meaning I need to go back to #3 to work harder on formulating an engaging plot.  Otherwise, these deep meaningful characters of mine eventually put me to sleep with their lack of action.

So, I write.

Friday, October 29, 2010

I'm back

Although I didn't leave a "BRB" at the end of my last post, I will log back in to say "I'm back."

Here are my reasons for being away:
1. My mother had open-heart surgery and then she and my father lived with us for two months.  This took up a significant amount of my time and emotions.
2. I chose to write in my novel rather than on a blog.
3. I'm still unsure how to blog regularly while writing a novel. (scheduling, topics, etc.)
4. I began the process of learning how to network with other authors.  I'm a typical writer, an introvert who doesn't mind working alone.  Networking means getting out of my comfort shell and meeting other writers.  It's been a great exercise.

Here are my reasons for returning:
1. I miss the platform where I can share random thoughts about writing.
2. I'm starting NaNoWriMo in two days and want to share that.
3. I want a blog that I can link to in my e-mail signature (OK, not the most impressive reason)
4. I am curious to see what I can create when pressed.

So, I am back.  No excuses, just pressing on to the next challenge.  Isn't that was writing is about anyway?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The secret

I discovered the secret to a successful writing adventure.  If you'd like to send your dollars my way, I'll be glad to share the secret.

OK, I'll trust you to send them in.

Here's the answer:

WRITE!  Get your tail in a chair and write every day.  No excuses.  Writers write.  They don't read about writing or collect conference notes or go to writers' groups.  (OK, they do those things but that's not what brings success.)  The key is to write.

I'm competitive and I get motivated by challenges, such as the NovelTrack offered by ACFW last month.  Could I write 10,000 words in a month?  I could.  I could write even more!

So what motivates you?  Ditch the excuses and get those words on paper.

Are you still here reading?  Get out there and write!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

New fiction

If you like your fiction a little quirky and unusual, check out this interview with Leanna Ellis, a homeschooling mom with a vivid imagination.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Marcher Lord Press

Our family loves the books coming out of the new indie publisher, Marcher Lord Press.  Check out their newsletter if you enjoy fantasy/sci fi/ spec fiction by Christian authors.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Good advice

"When you write, try to leave out the parts 
the readers skip."  
Elmore Leonard

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wrapping up Novel Track

I'm like a lot of writers: not gifted in the time management department.  Organization means I remember which pile that letter is in (or what trash can I might have dumped it into).  This method works about as well as you imagine it does.

But when ACFW offered a NovelTrack program in July - an accountability group to watch me write - I decided I didn't have time.  Then came the nudge: do it.  I try to say "Yes, Lord," to those nudges.

I did it.  I gingerly agreed to the 10,000-word goal wondering how on earth I'd do that.  However, when I did a quick punch on a calculator, I got a second wind.  That was only 350 words a day.  I could do that.  I write longer e-mail messages than that!

I discovered that writing every day is more important that trying to carve out hours for the big numbers.  Nope, writing every day works.  I logged 25,000 words in July.  Who'd figure?

See the badge over at the left?  That's the first of many, I hope.  The next NovelTrack is in October and I may be ready for my next WIP by then.

I'm not stopping this daily writing.  Besides, I'm now in too deep with this mystery to leave me hanging.  I gotta found out how it ends - and who really did do it!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

August Afictionado

A fresh set of articles for fiction writers are available in the August edition of Afictionado, the monthly magazine of the American Christian Fiction Writers.

Here's a partial list of the articles:

From the President: Someday
Cynthia Ruchti, ACFW President, asks "What do you do while waiting for someday and the fullness of time?" No answer? She suggests some of those, too.       More...
The Writer's Toolbox: The 10 Commandments of Time Management
Angela Hunt is here to whip you in shape with 10 of her best time management tips. Don't make her come over there and unplug your TV! Don't forget to click on the PDF link at the bottom of the article for the study questions!       More...
My First Sale: Kelly Ann Riley
First time novelist Kelly Ann Riley says “...when God gives you a gift or talent, He expects you to use it. He gave me this drive to write, and it’s my job to do it to the best of my ability.”       More...
Batter Up! Give Me Your Best Pitch!
Funny lady ("People, people who need people...") Ane Mulligan tells how she learned to pitch. Did she hit a homerun at her first ACFW conference in 2005?       More...
ACFW Bookclub: No Other by Shawna K. Williams
Next month the ACFW Bookclub will read and discuss No Other. Reviewer Lisa Lickel says it's a short read, but by no means light.       More...
Genre City: Nightshade by Ronie Kendig
Hot reviews of cool reads! Before you start reading the book, be sure you've set aside a good amount of time because the story starts with a bang and escalates from there.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

You write like....who?

On one of those larks that writers pursue when they're supposed to be putting fingers to keyboard, I checked out a site called I Write Like.  Paste in a few paragraphs from something you've written and, voila, you find out who you write like.

I write like William Gibson.

So I had to Google William Gibson, since I was feeling guilty wondering if he was some 17th century English poet that I ought to recognize.  Although I can't see my writing resembling some dead English poet, but still....

Wikipedia calls him the "noir prophet" of the cyberpunk subgenre of science fiction.  He coined the phrase "cyberspace" and went on to write "steampunk" science fiction.  "Gibson is one of the best-known North American science fiction writers, fĂȘted by The Guardian in 1999 as 'probably the most important novelist of the past two decades.'"

OK, then.  I have used the word "cyberspace" before, often referring to e-mails and checks promised by my Nigerian great-great uncle who died without an heir.  Knowing that the internet does not lie, I'm wondering if I should re-think the genre I've chosen.

Would a William Gibson look-alike write mystery when steampunk science fiction awaits?  I'll let you know as soon as I figure out just what it is.



Saturday, July 24, 2010

Those headlines

My current mystery involves a young newspaper reporter on a small weekly newspaper.  I've spent time in the field of journalism and have collected humorous headlines over the years.  I ran across a site today with more.  Here are a few:


Killer Sentenced to Die for Second Time in 10 Years
Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers
Quarter of a Million Chinese Live on Water
Queen Mary Having Bottom Scraped
Reagan Wins on Budget, but More Lies Ahead
Robber Holds Up Albert's Hosiery
Safety Experts Say School Bus Passengers Should be Belted
Shot Off Woman's Leg Helps Nicklaus to 66
Smokers are Productive, but Death Cuts Efficiency
Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Experts Say
Soviet Virgin Lands Short of Goal Again
Squad Helps Dog Bite Victim
Stiff Opposition Expected to Casketless Funeral Plan
Stolen Painting Found by Tree
Teacher Strikes Idle Kids
Two Convicts Evade Noose, Jury Hung
Two Sisters Reunite after Eighteen Years at Checkout Counter
Two Soviet Ships Collide - One Dies
War Dims Hope for Peace
William Kelly was Fed Secretary

Taken from alphadictionary.com's funny newspaper headlines.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A writer's drive

Fascinating post on co-writing at The Kill Zone today but what I found interesting was Michelle Gagnon's description of a dedicated writer.  Such things as drive, daily writing, working hard to perfect the craft of writing.... that separates the wanna-be's from the writers.

I'm trying to take the path of a dedicated writer.  If you know me, you know that lions roar.  I'm not giving up on this.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A new goal

First, the 10,000 word hurdle went down.  Then 15,000.  Now I'm hoping to clear 20,000 words this month.  Thanks to ACFW's NovelTrack, which has provided the structure and the encouragement to write daily and look at my word count.

I want to continue writing like this so watch for new progress meters after July.  And now I'm wondering if I can take on NaNoWriMo in November.  50,000 words in 30 days. Sure!  

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Look out!

Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.  
~Henry Ford

Monday, July 19, 2010

Names

Picking the right names for my characters can bog me down.  I want my main characters to have perfect names, whatever those are.

Recently I named a character "Ken" but after two chapters decided he really wasn't a Ken but a Mark.  So I did a find&replace.  That worked well until I re-read chapter 1 to discover that my main character had not "taken a walk" but "taMark a walk."  So be careful with those name changes.

I like to use the Social Security popular baby names page, which shows me the top names for each year.  That helps me find a name appropriate to the age of my character.

And I also found a list of most common surnames, in case I can't think of those.  That list is at Mongabay.com.

In my current WIP, my main character is named Addie.  After my kids asked, "Why THAT name?" I had to admit I had no good reason.  Who knows?  We may be doing a find and replace soon.  Or not.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

First drafts

James Scott Bell has an excellent post today at The Kill Zone about writing that first draft.  It's easy to overanalyze your work in a first draft rather than just pounding it out.  Bell lists four basics for the first draft.  Concentrate on those and edit later.  Check it out.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Scaring myself

I once heard Donita K. Paul talk about writing a scene in one of her stories that was so vivid that she scared herself. 

Boy, do I understand now.  Today's chapter was one of scariest I've ever written. So I'm chilling here for a little while.  But I got 1208 words in, so that helps offset the creepy chapter.

I'm a seat-of-the-pants writer, even in this mystery, and I've layered in lots of details that may be clues or they may be red herrings.  It makes for a rich stew that lent itself to an unexpected and creepy scene today.  I'm definitely not bored with things as they're rolling along.

BTW, I do know who did it.  Unless the clues reassemble themselves. 

A progress meter

The progress meter that I'm using on blog comes from StoryToolz, which offers several free resources for writers.  In addition to progress meters, you can tap into two kinds of story generators.  And there's a readibility chart on there as well.

Friday, July 16, 2010

What I'm learning this month...

In taking on the Novel Track challenge, I've learned these things so far:
  • I can write at least 350 words per day.
  • I can't edit a blank sheet but I can edit words and sentences.
  • The act of writing stimulates the creativity center (sometimes)
  • Good work can come on days when I just muscle it through with no inspiration.  
  • I have trouble stopping at 350 words.
  • Having over 12,000 words and the month is only half over encourages me to write on.

Mary DeMuth, who sets a standard for orderly determination in her writing, gives some excellent advice in an article for Writer's Digest.  

Write on!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Writing goals

I just cleared 10,000 words in my work in progress (WIP) tonight.  I didn't think I could write that many words in July but now I'm wondering of 20,000 is possible.

This daily writing has been wonderful and I discovered a new point of view (POV) character tonight who offers some crazy possibilities to the story.  I tend to write by the seat of my pants and these characters have been uncovering all kinds of intriguing possibilities of late.  I'm enjoying the ride!

Donita K. Paul

At a H.I.S. meeting (a Colorado chapter of ACFW) last night, I got to meet Donita K. Paul, who is a champion for the dragon sub-genre of Christian fiction.  She talked about some advanced writing ideas and then signed some of her books. 

She impressed me with her quick wit and creativity.  And her confidence in her craft.  She discussed three main points:

1)Wait For It - don't give away everything in the beginning of your story.  Plant hints but then leave them dangling for awhile.  Just be sure you eventually resolve those early embedded questions.

2)Resist the Urge to Explain - Trust your reader's intelligence.  Don't define the spices in your story; allow them to subtly flavor the story.  Don't explain but rather tickle the reader's curiosity. 

3) Flashback cautions - avoid backstory and flashbacks because those stop a story's momentum.

 And sitting among a group of fellow writers is always delicious, exchanging ideas and encouraging one another.  The writing process can be a lonely one:  just me and that computer screen.  But we're not alone and it was great to be reminded of that again at last night's meeting.

Colorado has several ACFW chapters plus we're hoping to get one started in our town.  ACFW is a wonderful organization with lots of resources and support for Christian fiction writers.  

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Wordle

My youngest daughter used to love to invent her own words. A famous one was "smugged" as in, the vapor-covered mirror in the bathroom was smugged. She'll love this new writing resource just because of the title:  Wordle.  Check it out and you, too, will be creating beautiful word clouds!

Progress

In my WIP, a conversation between my main character and her pastor took an unexpected turn when he invited her to go to the cemetery with him.  They found a creepy headstone there that just put a new muddle into my mystery story.  I hadn't expected that so we'll see where it takes us.

Friday, July 9, 2010

NovelTrack

I am currently participating in the ACFW NovelTrack challenge for July.  Although I almost missed this opportunity (didn't believe in the power of accountability, apparently), I am rushing forward at an amazing clip for me.  Watch my word counter to see my progress.  I nervously agreed to aim for 10,000 words in my mystery novel but I think I'll get well past that.  

Addendum:  I upped my goal to 15,000.

Come in!

Welcome to my writing site.  I hope to include resources, snippets of what I'm working on, reports, and whatever pops in my head.  I'm a curious writer who likes to explore. Welcome!