Saturday, March 28, 2009

No Time to Blog...

No time to blog today. I'm buried in a REALLY good book! The City of Glass, by Cassandra Clare. Next up: The Forest of Hands and Teeth, by Carrie Ryan.

Yes, I know I'm supposed to be writing, but it's Saturday...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Joy of Plotting

I love to plot.

There's nothing quite like a good puzzle, and plotting a novel certainly fits into that category. I keep notes on foreshadowing, conversations, events, character quirks, and setting descriptions. I triple check every detail to be sure each is attended to and resolved. I find that I like to write the first couple of chapters, and then I go straight to the end. It helps me not to wander if I know my destination. All I have to do is connect the dots, right?

Maybe... Just like any connect-the-dots puzzle, the more dots there are to connect the sharper the picture. I like to use a loose framework to plan. The details come as I write. Helene Boudreau posted this structure on her blog. It's simple, and it works well for me.

Inciting incident (The big problem)

Plot Point 1 (first obstacle)

Plot Point 2 (second obstacle)

Plot Point 3 (third obstacle-situation is about as bad as it can get)

Climax A (lighting the fuse)

Climax B (watching it burn)

Climax C (kaboom!)



Another good source for understanding how to build specific plots is 20 Master Plots -and how to build them, by Karen S. Wiesner. I refer to this book each time I start a new project - my own little refresher course!

What plotting strategies and resources do you use?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

14 Week Novel - because I'm a glutton for punishment

That's right. Stephanie Ruble has challenged all of us to join her in completing a novel in 14 weeks.

Okay. I know that not long ago I posted that one of the things I learned in my first month of blogging was not to make public writing goals. Consider me a slow learner. I'm going to give this a try. This is not Nanowrimo. It's not 50,000 words in 30 days. We're in week 2, so I have about 90 days left. I have a plot. I've completed quite a bit of research, and I have 3500 words written.

For me, this is an exercise in silencing my sergeant of an inner editor. And so:

• I WILL NOT EDIT the 1st draft until it is finished (wimper)
• I have permission to write brief comments in the margins regarding changes, especially if Sergeant Inner Editor is in overdrive
• I can write chapters out of order. The manuscript will not spontaneously combust if I do.
• If Sergeant Inner Editor is starting to win, I will walk away from the computer and run a lap around the block, or work in my garden, or cook dinner for my family (they might appreciate this), or go to bed before midnight (late nights and early school days don’t mix)

I've got my Memorex in my purse and loaded with new batteries. It's much safer recording thoughts than trying to write notes while driving. Um.. not that I've tried that. My laptop is charged so I can write in the van while my daughter spends hours in gymnastics. My flash drive is on its lanyard (because I can't lose it when its around my neck).

I think I'm ready. Stephanie- I'm in!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Synopsis Question...

I've finished my revisions, and I'm now writing synopsis drafts. Chuck Sambuchino, Editor of 2009 Guide to Literary Agents, says you need to have these 5 things ready when you send out your manuscript:

Logline: 1 sentence summary
Pitch: 3-6 sentence summary (also known as book jacket pitch)
Short synopsis: Front to back telling of the story. Introduces characters, conflict, and includes ending. Told in present tense. 1 page single spaced, or 2 pages double-spaced.
Long synopsis: General rule of thumb - one page summary per 30 pages text
Full (spotless) manuscript

I have a logline, draft of a pitch, and a completed manuscript. I'm working on a long synopsis, and I will write my short synopsis last. My question is, how many of you have a completed long and short synopsis before you begin querying?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Cooking and Writing Don't Mix

I've decided that I am not allowed to write any more while I'm cooking dinner.

Yesterday, I fired up the gas grill. I usually give it 10 minutes to heat up, so while I was waiting I decided to knock off another page or two of revisions. Normally, the grill is about 350 degrees when I check on it. I came downstairs and headed out to the back deck. There I was met with 10 feet of melted vinyl soffit. Most or it was twisted, scorched and mangled over my head. Some of it smoldered on the wood deck. The lid on the grill was closed (thank goodness), and the thermometer on top was maxed out at 700 degrees. First thought, Turn off the grill! I reach for the plastic knobs to turn off the flame. It was only after I grabbed the knob that I realized they were melted. Next thought (besides %#$^&#ow!), Turn off the gas! Brain was not working well. I grabbed the metal, yes metal, cut off valve on the propane tank and gave it a turn. I immediately let go, slamming the top of my hand into the red hot drip pan. It was at this point that I noticed the eves were smoldering. I ran into the kitchen, grabbed a potholder, turned off the gas valve, ran into the garage, grabbed the hose and sprayed down everything - the deck, the soffits, the brand new lawn chairs (which survived).

Did you know that hot metal warps and turns rainbow colors at 700 degrees?

My husband came home as I was finishing the drenching. The look on his face was definitely a Kodak moment. He was very gracious (thank you!). We decided to get our neighbor, Fireman Jeff, who took one look at the roof and said, "Call the fire department." The fire truck and police came. Their lighted glory blazed through the block- much to the delight of the neighborhood children and Gladys Kravitts, who donned her binoculars so she could inform the rest of the village that evening of the day's events. One of the fireman crawled through the garage attic space with his portable water pack and spritzed down the last of the smoldering whatever was smoking. I invited them all to dinner. Strangely, they declined.

The good news - the house is livable, fixable, and everyone is okay. The other good news - I didn't have to cook. We ended up eating out at Chili's!

Fabulous Writer Advice

Short and sweet today. Nathan Bransford's March 5th entry is just what I needed to read, so I thought I'd share it with you.



Sunday, March 15, 2009

Tim Hawkins - Chick-fil-A

I don't normally post twice in one day, but I had to share this. Too funny!!

Tim Hawkins: Chick-fil-A

Writing Confessions and the Wisdom of Letting a Manuscript Rest

I have a confession to make... well maybe two.

1) I've broken my first New Year's resolution. I promised to write 6 days a week, and I've not written a word since last Monday. To be fair (make excuses?), I've had a headache since Monday. One bad enough to stay home from work on Tuesday and go the the emergency room on Friday. Staring at a computer screen was out of the question. Unfortunately, there were no sick day clauses in the resolution, so now it's officially broken. My lazy self is saying, "Hey, you're off the hook! Kick back and relax that routine a bit!" My I really want to become a published author self is saying, "Back on the wagon, girl!" Back on the wagon it is.

2) (I thought) I finished the revisions on my current WIP at the end of January. I targeted my first five agents, printed out my query letters and required chapters for the snail mail bunch, stuffed the envelopes and branded them with stamps, and I put everything in the car so I could go to the post office and mail the lot after work. I never made it. Is that a bad thing?

I don't think so. It's been six weeks since I worked on this manuscript. There's something to be said for reading it with fresh eyes. I was surprised, in a good way, about much of what I wrote. I was relieved that I hadn't sent out the manuscript when I realized that a good portion of a particular chapter didn't move the story forward. I cut 95% of it out of the book and placed it in an 'out-takes' folder. That was hard. I really liked that scene. I knew it didn't belong when I discovered I only had to re-write one line to fix the hole. I'm pleased with the results of this latest revision. Time to get up the nerve to send it out again. It's ready.

I'm glad I waited (got nervous, scared, cold feet...) to send out my book. I've decided that letting a WIP rest is a good thing. It's a practice I'll keep for future works. Live and learn!

Thursday, March 12, 2009


I just finished reading SPEAK, by Laurie Halse Anderson.

One word: FABULOUS!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Forest of Hands and Teeth - Free book contest!

If you like zombies, Carrie Ryan's debut book, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, will be released this Tuesday, March 10th! If you would like an opportunity to win a free copy, hop on over to Tabitha Olson's blog. Leave a comment on her March 7th post, and you are entered for the March 28th drawing.

Good luck!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Feelin' Silly...

It's an absolutely gorgeous day here in Cincinnati - 76 degrees and the sun is shining. Perfect day for a gardener-a-holic to clean out the flower beds.

I begin my tour around the yard to plot my plan of action when I notice that one of my larger flower containers has a drainage problem. The soil is completely saturated and full to the brim with soured water, so I decide to tip over the planter and drain it. This is a BIG planter. Big like the ones you see in the mall that are overflowing with blooms and ferns and sometimes small trees. I almost have it tipped over when it slips out of my hands and lands, all 100+ pounds or so of it, on my foot. It stunned me at first, and it took a second for me to think - "Get it off your foot, stupid!"

I don't think it's broken, but is quite swollen. My plans for the day have changed. Instead of working in the garden, I'm going to sit in a lounge chair and work on my summer tan. Can't waste a beautiful day, right?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Today was at least a week long.

Sometimes my job as a teacher is to be a sounding board, and I don't mind. It usually means that the parent or student who comes to me trusts me enough to share something scary, or hurtful, or like today - incomprehensibly horrific and sad. If I can, I try to fix what's fixable about the situation, but mostly I just listen.

Tonight I'm thankful for my husband and my kids, and for a peaceful and stable home.