This Writers Life:You know you’re a writer when…

20121101091032-you-know-you-re-a-writer-whenYou know you’re a writer when… You are sitting in a waiting room because your teenager needs a sports physical before school starts and you’re people watching for facial expressions and mannerisms to use for your characters.

You know you’re a writer when… You’re back to school shopping and you’re mentally mapping out the store as a place in your fictional world you’re working on.

You know you’re a writer when… Your teen rolls her eyes at you and storms off and you take note of how her hair moves, the sound she makes as she moves away, the expressions of others around you, all so you can use it in a scene.

Around here we are gearing up for back to school. Which means running around, shopping, and exhaustion. It means going to about fifty different stores because you have four kids to buy for and you take them all separately. It means, people watching and using everything you see, hear, smell, touch as inspiration and research for your current work in progress.

That has been me this week. This will also be me next week, and the week after, until school starts.

What really drove this post though was the waiting in the doctors office. I caught myself looking around, mentally taking notes of everyone around us. How they were sitting, what their body language was saying about them, their facial expressions, and even how they spoke to each other and the ladies behind the front desk. All of it.

It was kind of surreal. I mean, I have never actually caught myself doing it, it was always something I just, did. But this time, I caught myself because I was focused on my daughter and she looked up at me, gave me a face and asked “WHAT?” That’s when I realized what I was doing.

I just kind of smirked and shook my head at her and looked away. Not really ready to explain what I was just doing. Knowing it would make her feel uncomfortable as she was the focus of the moment. Though, since I know she does read this blog, I’m going to say “Sorry!”

It’s in those moments, when you catch yourself doing something as habit, something you never have really thought about or taken notice of, when you realize “Hey, I’m a… (in my case) Writer. So this is not weird.” To the writer at least.

It’s those moments that make me smile. That make my heart soar. That make me feel giddy. Those moments where something that once felt like I would never remember to do this thing, is suddenly a habit that you don’t even realize you’re doing it. It comes naturally all of a sudden.

And, You know you’re a writer when… You finally, after years, say I am a writer.

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Wednesday Writing Tips: 5 Reasons you should be Free Writing!

Wednesday Writing Tips free writing

As writers, and people in general, we have so much technology available to us. We have apps, programs, websites, all aimed at helping us along. We are constantly bombarded by: You should be doing it like this, Don’t do this, This thing over here is better. But all of that technology doesn’t replace something very important, pen and paper.

Here are 5 reasons you should start (or consider) free writing.

  1. It can help you work through a writer’s block. Seriously. When you sit down with nothing more than pen and paper, no internet to distract you, and just start writing you would be amazed at what will come out.
  1. You will find new ideas. You don’t have to use free writing just to work through blocks. You should be doing it as a habit. Not necessarily free writing your current work in progress, just whatever jumps into your head at that moment. You could write a scene, a short story, anything. While it may not be what you’re currently working on, you could find a new idea for your next project. After you finish your current one of course.
  1. It’s just plain fun. No really. Do you remember being a kid and just sitting down and writing a story, with no end in mind, no goals for that story other than to write it, no advanced planning. If you’re anything like me, you do. I did this as a kid, and now, I can’t remember why I ever stopped. Oh, right, computers. Free writing helps to bring you back to a time when writing was fun for you, to help stir the passion you hold for it, and remember why you started writing in the first place.
  1. You can find new characters through free writing. When you’re working on your current project, you’re focused, dialed in to that story those characters. But when you’re free writing, you can find many new characters, new personalities, interesting traits you may have not thought of before. No matter if you use them in your current project or not, they can be saved to use later.
  1. It’s exercise for your imagination. Don’t think about all the writing rules you’ve learned, don’t think about publication, don’t think about anything other than what you’re writing in that notebook and let your imagination soar. As writers we sometimes lock ourselves into the worlds we’ve created and can’t see past them. Free writing let’s your imagination roam. By unplugging yourself from the distraction that is the internet, you are freer to write whatever, and however you please. Free writing is for you, and you alone.

 

So there you have it. 5 reasons you should be free writing. Can you think of anymore reasons? Do you free write? Why or why not? I’d love to hear it!

The Solitary or not so Solitary Life

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So if you were like me growing up, you thought that writers hid themselves away, toiling over their work. Agonizing over every word, sentence, and punctuation. They locked themselves away from all forms of life to finish the next great novel.

Well, part of that is true, I have found.

The parts where you drive yourself crazy over a word choice. Pull your hair out over sentence structure. Work for hours on end when the muse has you in her clutches.

What I found not to be true? The hiding away part. At least, for me.

I need that interaction. That contact.

I need to see facial expressions, hear voices (that are actually talking to me and not just my characters in my head), converse, laugh, have fun. Without it, I don’t seem to have any inspiration.

I had always believed when I was younger that the life of an author was a solitary one. While I do spend many hours on my own, in my office, writing away, I am not actually alone.

There is always someone in my house. Whether it’s my kids, or my husband. Someone is talking, someone is laughing, someone is running through the house.

They say that to be a good writer, you should write what you know. Well, how are you supposed to write great dialogue if you don’t hear it? How are you supposed to describe body language if you don’t see it? How are you… well, you get the idea.

For me, hiding in my office for days at a time has hindered my inspiration. I find myself struggling with scenes, characters, their interactions. I have to get out. Go into the world. If it’s to people watch at the Arts Market, or just go swimming with my kids. I need that to keep writing.

So don’t think that in order to write you have to lock yourself away and hide from the world. Go out. Gain experiences. Live life. And then, come back and write about it.

5 Words we should be using!

I love words. I think that may be a little obvious, but I do. I love that our language is so diverse, and I love that one word if used one way, could mean something completely different if used another way.

Now, I have found that while reading I find myself longing for better words. Wishing for something that really excites my brain and tastes sweet as I speak it out loud. So if you’re like me, and you’re looking for better words to use while writing, here is my list of 5 words we should be using:

  1. Aflame – Instead of using excited
  2. Despondent – Instead of using sad
  3. Aghast – Instead of using anxious
  4. Clamorous – Instead of using loud
  5. Quake – Instead of shiver

So there you go, my 5 words we should be using. Do you have any more? I’d love to hear them and let’s start the next list!

Revisions, and learning to love them.

Yes, you read that right. Learning to love revising.

Oh come on, don’t groan.

We all know revisions are part of writing. It’s what takes that first draft to polished finished manuscript. But it can be drudgery.

You’ve finished your first draft. Go you! Now put it away. If you start revising now, you’re still very much in the story. You’re riding the high of it being finished, and you may miss some things that could/should be changed. So put it away.

After you have left it alone for a while, and you may even be starting to forget a details of your story, then pick it back up. You will have fresh eyes and be able to read your story as a critical editor.

Read it all the way through. Don’t stop. Make some notes if you must, when you find glaring issues, but read it from beginning to end. This will give you the best picture of the over all story and any big plot holes or gaps you will need to fill in.

Ok, so you’ve read it, you’ve made a few notes, and you have a good feel for the issues in your story. Now you start revising. If you’re like me, you will want to work in stages. It’s easier, I promise.

Round One of revisions.

I like to break my stages up into three chapters each. Unless there is an arch in the middle in which case I may add a few more chapters to round it out. As you’re going through, don’t pay too much attention to your punctuation just yet. Because you may change bigger things later on that will have made those punctuation changes useless.

After you have finished this first round of revisions, now you send it to your critique partners. When you get their critiques back look and see if they are similar. If they found the same issues, or had the same suggestions. This usually means there’s an issue that needs addressing.

Round Two of revisions.

So you read through your critiques, you made your decisions based on their suggestions, and you revised. Now, send it back to them. See what comes back. Did what you changed/added/removed change anything major that you missed? Did it cause a plot hole? This is what they are looking for the second go round.

After they send it back, you’re(me/we’re) hoping there are no huge changes, only minor grammar and punctuation at this point. If all street lights are green and the road is paved in gold, it might be. But for now, let’s just say that it is. Great!

Round Three of revisions.

You fixed the grammar, the punctuation, and your critique partners didn’t find anything big that needs to be changed. Now what? Your Beta readers. You send it to your betas to read through. You will get comments back. They will make suggestions, and you will have another revision to do.

Round Four of revisions.

Ok, you made the changes. It’s getting better with each pass. You’re confident in it, and you send it back to your betas. They jump up and down and call you the next [insert your favorite author here]. You’re stoked! What’s next?

Round Five of revisions.

One final pass. One final revision. Polishing it to the very best it could possibly be. You wanted to rip your hair out and throw your computer out of your window, but you’re done.

Why would anyone ever love this process, and why should you? Because, if you hadn’t done it that polished and shiny completed manuscript you have wouldn’t even be there. And looking back at it, isn’t what you ended up with so much better than what you started with? I’m willing to bet you fifty bucks it is. Just make your check payable to A.G.

But in all seriousness, while revising can be daunting, and it can feel like a never ending loop, know that with each pass you are one step closer to that finished publishable novel. And isn’t that something to love?

On Critiquing

Ok, it’s something we all need as writers. We need to give, as well as get critiques on our writing. And when I say critiques, I’m not talking about your spouse/partner/family reading it and telling you how much they love it. Sure, that can be a good boost, but that’s not what you need.

You need another writer. Someone who knows about structure, plotting, voice. Someone who is focused on the elements of a story that really make it sing. Someone who can call you to the mat and tell you something sucks isn’t working. But with telling you something isn’t working, they offer helpful advise and suggestions.

While your critique partner should never be mean to just be mean, and if they are stop swapping with them; Your critique partner should also not be afraid they will hurt your feelings. As writers we must always strive for better. A better scene, a better description, a better dialog exchange. An honest critique will help you get there.

Here is an example of a very good critique I got:

I like your use of descriptive words here, but I think changing them around a bit will help the flow of the sentence structure. Also, try an avoid cliches, you have a few in this paragraph. Cut them, and see what happens. Does it stop the scene in it’s tracks, or does the scene keep moving forward. Never be afraid to cut something if it’s not working. And right now, I don’t think it is.

Here is an example of a critique that’s nice, but not very helpful:

You did a good job here. I would change a few things, maybe move some things around.

And finally, here is an example of a completely unhelpful critique:

Nice. I liked it.

Now, which one do you think will help me grow as a writer and craft a better story? The first one right? Right. The second was good, it did let me know that there was obviously something wrong and that I needed to look closer at it, and the third, well while it’s nice to get compliments, if that’s all you have to say in a critique it’s not very helpful.

I haven’t gotten any like the third, but I have seen them before. So, when you are giving critiques, while you should be mindful of your word choices, you should never worry about hurting the writers feelings. If you are giving an honest critique with helpful advice, trust me, the writer is not going to string you up. We really do want those kinds of critiques. Not our egos stroked.

And, if you are getting critiques, don’t ever take them personally. They are not critiquing you as a person. They are critiquing the story and the way it is being told, and they honestly are trying to help.

 

Welcome!

Hi, and Welcome! To what is my very first blog post. Thank you for stopping by. My plan when I first decided to start this was to just document my journey through writing and (hopefully) getting published. But then I thought, maybe I could help other young writers along their journey as well. So here we are.

I plan on sharing my ups, my downs, my bumps in the road, and a few pieces of writing advice I’ve picked up along the way. If I can help anyone, like I’ve been helped, I want to do it.

I want to first say, I am no expert on writing, by any stretch of the imagination. No where near it. But I’m learning every day. I know that I have been writing short stories, novels, and poems since probably 3rd grade. So I know a little something.

I am also, not currently published or agented. Though one day I certainly hope to be. Though throughout the years my writing was always just that, for me, it’s something I have never been able to shake.

I once thought along the way I wanted to be a journalist, because, writing. But the facts and not writing what I wanted really got me down. Boo. So I shifted, and thought maybe I could just be satisfied with writing and no one ever seeing it. But…. That was not what I wanted.

I’m going to be honest here, I know a lot of people, and other writers will say, write for you first and never expect to be published or anyone to ever see it. And that’s fine and good if they believe that to be true for themselves. But that’s not me. I have always, always, always wanted to be able to walk into a bookstore and find a book with my name as the Author.

Will that be easy? No, no way, no bueno.

I know it will be hard, and I know it may or may not happen. I know that there are writers out there who have been writing for years and have never gotten an agent or a publishing contract. But I’m not going to let that discourage me, and you shouldn’t either.

While writing for just yourself is noble and could help you keep your sanity, at least be honest with yourself. Me, I am writing to be published.

(Please hold off on the name calling and tomato throwing, seriously)

I’m writing to be published, and ideally, I would like it to be traditionally. I do not care if it takes me 1, 10, or 50 years. That is my goal. I will write, every day, and revise, and critique, and get critiques, and beta readers, and polish, and query. Until all avenues of traditional publishing are shut to me. (Really hoping that doesn’t happen.)

So if you’re like me, and you have that end goal in mind, welcome to the club! We can take this road together.