Tuesday, August 31, 2010

10 Ways to Finish that Danged First Draft

10. Stop fixating on your word count. Just write your story.

9. Resist the urge to hit that shiny delete button.

8. Remind yourself it's your decision when to put your story in front of someone else's eyes. Until then, it's just you.

7. Have a daily goal. I usually write one or two scenes.

6. Don't compare your output to anyone else's.

5. Remember speed does not necessarily equal quality. On the other hand, slowness does not necessarily ensure quality either.

4. If you notice yourself smiling while you're writing, it's probably a good sign. Or...you're thinking about cookies.

3. Expect your characters to say and do things you're not expecting. They generally know best.

2. Ignore the lure of your colourful secondary characters. One or two will insist they need a larger role. They're usually wrong.

1. No one said it was easy. If it was, everyone who says "I'd like to be a writer" would actually be one. Screw your courage to the sticking point and persevere.

Monday, August 30, 2010

New Goals

Here on the west coast of British Columbia, it's still officially summer but you can feel that first breath of fall in the air in the early mornings. My house is filled with new school clothes and untouched school supplies. This is a big year for two of my three still-at-home children; one is entering Grade 12 and my youngest is starting high school. It's my favourite time of year and the time, every year, that I get a fresh burst of energy.

Energy is good. Energy should be used. Although I could use this time pursuing my dream of an impossibly high Bejewelled Blitz score (a highly-addictive game on Facebook for those of you who don't know), I've decided to set myself some writing goals.

First, although I have people in my life encouraging me to take my writing seriously, I have no dedicated space for writing. As my earning are allowing me to shoulder more and more of my share of family expenses, I've decided my writing deserves I treat it with more respect. Up until now, I've been writing in my bedroom with my laptop balanced on my lap. This is about to change.

One room in my house (more one half of a room to be honest) is going to hold a big wooden desk I've had for years. This desk needs to be cleaned and repainted, but I have a plan. I'm going to get a huge bulletin board to hang on the wall and a set of shelves to hold all my writing extras. These are books I use for research, pictures I use for inspiration and everything else writing -related. The room itself is going to get repainted and I'm looking at a new floor and new lighting. When I'm done, I'll have a space I'm happy with and more importantly, a space dedicated to writing.

I've booked myself a few days away at the end of September for a small writing retreat (my first!) As a result, I 'm determined to write 2,000 words a day five days a week for the next few weeks until I leave. I want to go off to my cabin with a finished manuscript so that I can take that time for a final review and move on to the next stage. It will also allow me to start work on a new book which is pounding insistently at the back of my head.

I'm not expecting either of these goals to be easy ones to accomplish. I'm sure I'll have good days and bad days. But I am determined! If I succeed, I may treat myself to a lovely stuffed dragon to sit atop my new shelves. I think it might be appropriate.

Does this time of year fill you with new goals and aspirations? Is it your New Year as well?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Fun Friday

Welcome to another edition of Fun Friday! I've followed Margot Kinberg's wonderful suggestion and collected a selection of bumper stickers which I found amusing. Enjoy them and your weekend.

Thanks, Margot!

Nicely put...

I'd avoid this car, if I were you...

Points for honesty...

Sad, but true...

Oh dear...

Good idea...but I forsee a few problems...

However, you will note the sticker is right by the gas cap...

Don't you love irony?
Fair warning.
Brief. Succinct. Winner.
Here's an important philosophical question...
And a final one for all of us...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tips for a Smooth Writing Day

Are you ready? Really ready? Here's a checklist to help your writing day go swimmingly.

10. Disconnect your computer from the internet.
NO! Not now! Wait until you've finished reading this post! And maybe a few other blogs...and checked your email...and...

9. Know the location of the sugary snacks.
Check to make sure they're still there. Knowledge is power.

8. Have a vague idea of what you're going to write.
This is no guarantee that you will write what you expect.

7. Wander around the room flexing your fingers and muttering encouragement.
The yelp you just heard was caused by, in your daze of self-glorification, your treading upon your pet's tail. Crouch down, apologise and try to ignore the thump of pet-guilt that just wrapped its legs around your shoulders.

6. Go get a sugary snack.
Wash your hands afterwards. Chocolate fingerprints tend to make seeing the letters on your keyboard a challenge.

5. Ignore the baleful stare emanating from your pet.
Really try. It's harder than you'd think. Try not to feel the laser beams penetrating the back of your neck.

4. If you're working on a first draft do not go back an reread everything you've written before you start today's writing.
This is a no-win scenario. You like it and you've lost an hour to imagining which yummy movie stars are going to be clamouring to play your characters and starting to compose your acceptance speeches for both the Booker and the Oscar. You don't like it and the temptation to just stop writing and pursue that career as a welder may become overwhelming.

3. Is there a dragon or other cuddly monster in your manuscript?
Your main character noticing a poster with one on it as he/she is walking past a bookstore counts.

2. Add one scene where someone smells the worst smell they've ever experienced.
This situation can end in horror or humour. You decide.

1. Realize your trod-upon pet is now devouring the sugary treats.
You can't write now - you have to go to the store.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Recipe for Writing

There isn't a this...

when it comes to this...

But allow yourself some this...

and soon you'll discover a bowlful of this...

Add a bit of this...

and perhaps a dash of this...

Stir in a setting like this...

or this...

or even this...
(this is where I was for 2 days last week)

and add some spice with this...

or even this...

When you feel like this...

Remember there's this...

Just follow your own this...

and before you know it, you'll be writing this.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

10 Writerly Reminders

10. Your first draft is not your last draft.

9. Make your characters suffer before you give them cake.

8. A thesaurus is a wonderful tool but use it with discretion.

7. "What if..." is the writer's best friend. (or this writer, anyway!)

6. You cannot plan for inspiration. It erupts when it wishes. Be prepared.

5. Snacks are a good thing.

4. Only other writers will understand how much self-discipline it takes to write.

3. You will never read any book the same way again.

2. Don't have liquids near your computer.

1. Your 15th draft might not be your last draft.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Back Home

I've had a wonderful vacation in the Rocky Mountains for the last 10 days. My family and I went up a gondola to the top of a mountain, viewed a ferocious waterfall deep in a canyon and saw bears, deer, elks and mountain sheep. A good time was had by all, although the highlight for my 13 year old daughter was the day we spent in a huge mall in Edmonton.

As we pulled into our driveway yesterday, I thought about the place our home has in our lives. Sure, there's drudgery and routine, but there's also comfort and safety. It's the same for our characters.

Think about the role of home in your characters' lives. Is it a refuge or a battleground? Do they feel a sense of peace as they open the door or does their stomach clench from fear? Is it worthy of a decorating magazine or is it 'lived in'? Are they welcomed by the aroma of dinner in the oven? Are there squadrons of fruit flies circling over the spoiled peaches in the kitchen? Is there a pet dancing for attention?

No matter what kind of adventures you throw at your characters, every one of them has a home to retreat to at the end of your plot. Give yourself enough time to become familiar with each of them.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got 10,000 loads of laundry waiting for me. It's all about the glamour.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Around the Corner

When you do this...

You learn some days it feels like this...

and some days it feels like this.

Some days are like this...

and some (let's be honest) are like this.

But what makes writing this...

is never knowing this.

As for me, what's around the corner is a break. I'll return Monday, August 23rd.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sheep with Trumpets


Writer: Was that a trumpet blare?

Sheep #1: We've been practicing.

Sheep #2: For moments just like this.

Sheep #3: We think we're gifted.

Sheep #1: We think we might have a new career.

Writer: As trumpet players?

Sheep #1: You've got to dream big.

Writer: (shakes head) Wait. Why were you blaring a trumpet?

Sheep #2: It got your attention, didn't it?

Writer: Yes.

Sheep #3: We've been trying to get your attention for days. We resorted to desperate measures.

Writer: (sighing) What do you want?

Sheep #1: It's time for you to get going again.

Sheep #2: Pick yourself up and dust yourself off.

Sheep #3: As the old song goes.

Writer: I'm fine. Really.

Sheep #1: No, you're not. You can't fool us. We're the sheep.

Sheep #2: You haven't been writing. You've been fiddling.

Sheep #3: Look! Another musical reference.

Sheep#1: Wow. We're good.

Writer: I've haven't been fiddling; I've been polishing.

Sheep #1: No. You're afraid to take the next step.

Sheep #2: It's time.

Sheep #3: It's past time, actually.

Writer: I know.

Sheep #1: Do you?

Sheep #2: (louder) Do you?

Sheep #3: I'll blare the trumpet again.

Writer: Please don't.

Sheep #1: You've spent all this time on your book.

Sheep #2: You've worked on your characters, your plot, your setting...

Sheep #3: You've done your historical research...

Sheep #1: Good grief, you've even looked up the weather.

Sheep #2: Talk about thorough.

Sheep #3: But now, it's time.

Sheep #1: Accept not everything is going to go the way you want. Accept there will be disappointments and set backs.

Sheep #2: The unknown is scary. You're putting yourself out there.

Sheep #3: Think of it as the mother of all auditions.

Writer: But I hated auditioning.

Sheep #1: Ironic, isn't it?

Sheep #2: Listen to us.

Sheep #3: It's time.

Sheep #1: Think of this not as a wake-up blare, but as an announcement of battle.



Special thanks to all of you who took the time to leave a comment yesterday. I felt as if I'd gotten a large, virtual hug. I'm very grateful.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Dragon Skin Needed

Every writer knows you need a thick skin to survive, but after the last few days, I'm thinking I need a new layer of dragon-strength scales.

I'm trying to remember:

There's always something to learn from criticism, but...

It's only one person's opinion.

Nobody is perfect - including me and those saying hurtful things.

Most importantly, I'm trying to remember:

No one forced me to do this. It was a choice. No one promised it would be easy.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to look for thicker skin.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Fun Friday

Rejoice and radiate light: it's Friday! To help you with your glow, here's another collection of, shall we say, interesting signs. Have a great weekend.