Friday, September 25, 2009

Post #100

Well, well, looks like I've hit the 100 mark! This is the centennial post--woo-hoo! I should do something special. "Top 100 list of..." maybe?

My 100 favorite books--too predictable. 100 places I'd like to visit--too much research. 100 stupidest things I've ever done--I suppose posting those on the internet would be number one....

So, what should I post on my 100th blog?

How about...

100 things I've learned about writing--the obvious, the odd, and the obscure....

1. I actually have it in me!

2. A synopsis is harder to write than a book.

3. A query letter is harder to write than anything else on the planet...

4. Read, read, read...and just keep on reading.

5. Good critique partners are worth more than their weight in gold.

6. Take advice on correction and clarification, but keep your own style. Too many cooks and all that :P.

7. Kill your darlings. You are going to have to cut some of your favorite passages.

8. Buy a copy of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne. Seriously.

9. Let people who don't read your genre read your manuscript.

10. Take classes through local writers groups and conferences. Lots of them.

11. You will NEVER be a good writer unless you let someone tear your work to pieces. You have to get over it, and let someone else be completely honest with you. If you can't take honest feedback, you're in the wrong business.

12. Editing/critiquing the work of other writers is one of the best ways to learn how to improve your own.

13. NEVER try to make someone else's work sound like yours. You don't want them to take away your voice, don't take away theirs.

14. Network online--you can make some awesome friends (Hey, Shawna and KM!).

15. Publishing in online magazines is really cool. People who wouldn't normally buy a magazine just to see your story (as much as they love you) will click on a link in a heartbeat. And then they will tell OTHER people to read it!

16. The meaning of "4theluv."

17. Writers conferences are way expensive.

18. And way worth it.

19. Sometimes.

20. There are so many more publishers out there than I have ever noticed before!

21. Ideas come at really strange times, and in really strange places. Carry paper and pen EVERYWHERE.

22. Spending a tremendous amount of time in front of the computer requires a good office chair.

23. Some of the best ideas come way late at night when you're just too tired to get out of bed and write them down. Get up anyway, or you WILL forget them.

24. You may find that the awesome idea you got out of bed for is really complete gibberish.

25. Snarly characters are the funnest to write.

26. Show don't tell. Unless it's a place where telling is necessary. Um, yeah.

27. There are rules, and then there are rules that can be broken. "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

28. Sometimes stories start off as a title.

29. Characters often do what they want, and take the story in a direction I never thought of...

30. Stephen King is brilliant.

31. Dragons can be anything I want them to be if I'm the one wielding the pen!

32. So can Elves.

33. Stuff that never bothered me before in books bothers me now. Drat the rules.

34. Using index cards for outlining is actually helpful, and not a torture device created by a disgruntled English teacher.

35. I want a Kindle.

36. Writing is not condusive to keeping a clean house.

37. Getting your first acceptance letter is an amazing feeling!

38. So is getting your first check.

39. And winning "Editor's Choice" rocks.

40. Rejection letters get easier to deal with.

41. They still suck.

42. Composing limericks is a great way to work out stress.

43. I'm still not the greatest typist even after hours, and hours, and hours...

44. You can read your manuscript 2,187 times and you will still find a typo somewhere.

45. Blogging is actually fun.

46. Writer's block is completely maddening.

47. Response times from magazine submissions can range from three hours to three years. No rhyme or reason.

48. It's annoying to tell someone I write YA fantasy and hear, "Ah, the next JK Rowling."

49. The whole business is subjective. Editors print what they like. So don't take rejection personally--if a story gets turned down, submit it someplace else.

50. If an editor takes the time to write something about a story you submit even though he rejects it, take that as a big compliment. And of course, submit it someplace else.

51. When you finally start telling your friends that you're writing, at least one of them will admit to writing, too. (In my case, it's been about five or six!)

52. The process for writing one book may not be the same as for another. My first book came like a tidal wave and the first (lousy) draft was done in three months. The second one is coming bit by bit, but more refined. Even my short stories emerge in different ways.

53. My kids aren't nearly as impressed to hear, "Mommy has a story in a magazine," as I thought they would be. Then again, they're nine and six.

54. Walking the dog is a great way to get the creative juices flowing.

55. So is pacing around the garage. Or bike-riding.

56. There are an amazing number of teen writers out there. That is just SO cool.

57. Newbie writers are terrified of submitting their first stories. Well, guess what--the worst thing that can happen is a form rejection. The editor doesn't know you from boo. They're not laughing at your submission (more like "delete" and forget), and if they are laughing, they don't know who you are anyway, so who cares? Just do it. Get that first rejection letter. It will actually motivate you to submit more!

58. I knew this before, but I'll mention it anyway. Use a thesaurus. A lot.

59. Waiting for responses from editors and agents is maddening. While time in every other aspect of your life speeds by, time in this aspect moves like molasses...

60. Writers have to be marketers these days. Big time. (Often to the point where a not so great writer will get published based solely on marketing skills. Not something I'm too happy to learn.)

61. Some of the BEST books are ones that have not been published yet. Man, I know some talented people.

62. Literary magazines have some really, really strange stuff in them.

63. The difference between "plotter" and "pantser."

64. I've not learned as much as I should have (cos I'm at number 64 and I'm groping...).

65. Writers are super-supportive of each other, even if you write something they don't get. I've had so many writer friends--after finding out I write horror--shake their head and say, "I just can't believe you write that..." Yet they still want my advice and cheer my successes.

66. I now have a cosmic connection with my laptop.

67. I back up my work on two flash drives, one of which I take everywhere. The idea of losing my writing because it's not backed up is enough to give me cold sweats.

68. It was easier to tell total strangers that I'd started writing than it was to tell friends and family.

69. No matter how many acceptance letters I get, nor how many times I see my work in print, nor how many praises I get from fellow writers, I still have moments when I think it's all been a big mistake and I'm just a big faker.

70. An amazing number of fortunes inside fortune cookies can be applied to writing.

71. Don't look at publishing statistics if you want to stay motivated.

72. Writing short stories about your novel characters is a great way to improve characterization--and open up publishing opportunities at the same time!

73. I thought I was a night owl before...

74. The people I thought would be the most critical of my writing weren't.

75. I have more computer skills than I thought (and in some cases, less).

76. It's the weirdest, and the most personal, stuff from my past that has made it into my writing. (Mostly in the form of symbolism, so don't get your hopes up!)

77. You can never learn enough.

78. Every fiction mag wants submissions in a different format. :P

79. Pay close attention to guidelines--something as simple as not having a particular word in your subject line can mean your story is deleted unread.

80. Weasel words are those little words that weasel their way into your manuscript way, way too often.

81. My weasel words are "just" and "so."

82. Some stories simply do not fit into a genre. I still haven't figured out what to label them, though.

83. Never agree to review a book you haven't read yet--you may end up hating it.

84. It is possible to go from thinking your book is brilliant, to thinking it is complete rubbish is less than a two seconds.

85. Never delete an unfinished short story. Some day the ending WILL hit you--then you will be hitting you...

86. Netbooks rock.

87. I LOVE the feeling of finishing a chapter.

88. Don't over edit. You can edit forever. At some point you just have to stop, before you turn your book into another book entirely.

89. For every article that gives a particular piece of advice on writing, you will find another someplace else that completely contradicts it.

90. For every magazine that says, "No vampire stories," you will find one that actually wants vampire stories. No one editor is the the supreme expert on what people want to read.

91. Some of the paying markets have some of the worst writing, and some of the non-paying markets have some of the best.

92. This should be obvious, but I'm going to say it anyway--do your research. Even a small detail, like saying a mirror is Victorian when it is not, is enough to bring scrutiny to your work.

92. Be grateful for every acceptance, no matter how small.

93. If you write short stories or articles, as soon as you finish one and submit it, start on the next.

94. The above advice is really, really hard to follow if you are anxious about the response on the one you just submitted!

95. Read as many books on writing as you can--Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and Steven King's On Writing are two good places to start.

96. It's ok to call yourself a writer even if you haven't sold a thing. If you write, you're a writer.

97. Submitting queries is exhausting.

98. As is searching for places to submit them.

99. Save every rejection letter.

100. Every writer has his or her own unique experiences with writing, and you may find you disagree with a lot, or all, of the other 99 things I've listed. And that's OK.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Blast from the past....

This song has tremendous meaning to me. I listened to it many, many times when I was going through chemo--it kept me going on the days I wanted to give up because the treatment was making me so sick. That was almost five years ago.

The ironic thing is that when I first heard it (before my chemo days), I didn't know who sang it, even though I had the CD sitting on my shelf. I had just gotten the CD as a birthday present and hadn't had a chance to listen to it. I heard the song while visiting my cousin's church, having not listened to much Christian music so I wasn't familiar with the popular artists at the time. I asked her who the original artist was, and she told me "Jody McBrayer" and I ran to my shelf and laughed that I'd had it sitting there the whole time.

There's more to the story, though. You see, I had asked for that particular CD because I knew Jody growing up. We went to school together, from elementary all the way through highschool. It didn't surprise me in the least to find out he'd gotten a recording contract--he was always wickedly talented.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Amazed by Teens

My novel is considered young adult, which means I wrote it with teens in mind. That can't be done if you have no understanding of or relationships with teens. I taught highschool math for a while at a tutoring center, and I loved it because I love math AND because I love working with teenagers!

My students ranged from kids who were struggling in a particular subject, to kids trying to get ahead of their grade, to kids prepping for the SAT. It was loads of fun getting to know them and seeing them grow academically. But since I taught mostly math, I didn't discuss reading or writing with too many of my students.

Now that I've been writing, I'm getting to see that side of teens. I've had some amazing conversations with teens in my homeschool group about books. I've been reading blogs by teens who are book addicts and aspiring authors. I am completely amazed by the number of teens who want to become writers!

When I was in high school, most of my friends were avid readers, but I couldn't name a single one who wanted to write. Much less any who were actively writing a book. Now maybe they were like me, keeping the desire a secret, locked away in their heart for "some day." But they certainly weren't telling people, much less posting blogs about it and letting the world read samples of their writing.

I am just so PROUD that the next generation is getting a grip early in their lives on what they wan to do. And the self-confidence they show, and the's awesome! There will be a day, in the not so distant future, that MY KIDS may be reading books published by those same teen authors I'm getting to know. That is the coolest thought :).

Monday, September 14, 2009

Going, going...but never gone.

The Absent Willow Review publishes their next issue in just a couple of days. Which means "Willing Blood" will be moved to the archives. You'll still be able to locate it at this url:

And of course, there are links here on my blog and on my site ( to all my online writing.

I'm hoping to post very soon about upcoming stories. Mindflights has accepted a fantasy short of mine ("The Artist") but I'm not sure when they have it slotted for. Another story will be appearing in Einstein's Pocket Watch next month, although this one is totally mainstream (sorry fantasy fans).

I've got several others under consideration right now...impatiently awaiting those replies....

I'll keep ya posted.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Un-creative Process

Are you a plotter or a pantzer? Do you outline your stories and then write them, or do you just sit down and write whatever comes to mind?

I do both. For short stories, I usually get hit by an idea and sit in front of the computer until it has purged from my system. It may come in pieces (like my story "Willing Blood"--that one is over 4000 words long), or it may come out all at once. Either way, I just keep my ending in mind, and write whatever pops into my head until I reach there, without jotting down so much as one note ahead of time. Then I edit, send it off to a few writer friends, and edit some more before submitting it.

My novel writing is completely different. It's a strange mash of plotting and pantzing. There are days I pace around my house, or in the garage if the kids are playing outside, purposely trying to plot out events in the story. I don't go in order, though. I work on a character's motivation, or details of some scene way into the story. It tends to be "big picture" plotting.

In the meantime, I jot things down (on whatever paper happens to be handy) as they come to me: scene ideas, specific lines I want a character to say, certain details I need to weave in, etc. They go into a bin on my desk, where I transfer them to index cards. Yeah, I actually use the process I learned in highschool! I write all the specifics on index cards, then lay those out on a table top and put them in order.

That is where my title "the un-creative process" comes in. Outlining is tedious for me. But, at least I can do it when I'm not feeling particularly creative, and I still feel like I'm accomplishing something. And it's absolutely necessary for me! My plots get pretty complex, and I have to weave things in at just the right time, offering clues here and there, exposing the mystery little by little. Ah, it's fun, but maddening at times :).

So, what about you? Plotter, pantzer, or hybrid?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Late night plotting

Well, I got back from camping yesterday. I've been so wiped out today I could barely see straight. I did a lot of nothing most of the day.

My friend, Shawna Williams, on the other hand, has been working her little tail off on her second book because...drum roll, please...she signed a contract with Desert Breeze Publishing to publish her first book, No Other, as an ebook in May 2010. Needless to say, I'm super-excited. She's pretty happy, too :P.

I've been a little jealous--not that she's getting published, because (a)she deserves it and (b)I know we're in completely different genres, so epubbing is a good option for her but not for me. What I've been jealous of is the way the chapters were just flowing out of her as she finished the first book and now has started on the second one.

When I wrote Finding Angel, I became like a woman possessed. I thought of nothing else, plotted in my sleep, in the line at the grocery store, walking the dog, cooking get the idea. I had the whole first draft done in three months. Then I began the editing/revising/rewriting process, which took a good year. While waiting on my readers to critique, I started my second book, Seeking Unseen. I was in no hurry, because I hadn't even finished revising Finding Angel.

Well, now I need to be working on Seeking Unseen like crazy, but I hit a speed bump. Or two. The story kind of stalled out. I worked on short stories and essays while I let it simmer in the background, but I was getting a bit frustrated. Wondering if some subconscious fear was holding me back. Or if I just wasn't meant to get another book out of me. All kinds of worries--and excuses--swirled around inside my brain.

But tonight I seem to have jumped at least one speed bump! I got a bunch of plotting done, and tied some scenes together in such a way that the path to the end of the book is coming into focus. Ah, it feels SOOOOOO good!

Thursday, September 3, 2009



That's the title of a book by author Steven James. I'm only half-way through, but it is affecting me so much I'm reviewing it now, so you can get yourself a copy sooner! It is a collection of poems and essays Steven James has written about the Bible, about Jesus as a person, savior, friend. It is beautiful, haunting, joyful, enlightening...

I bought this because I love Steven James' novels, and really had no idea what to expect. I am so glad I took the chance. And because the individual pieces are short, I'm reading the book sort of as a devotional.

Steven James isn't afraid to talk about the things we are afraid of, and the nitty-gritty truths of the Bible. His writing is real.

Get a copy. Really. Story, by Steven James.

On a different note, in my other devotional (Our Daily Bread by RBC) was this poem. It really hit home for me:

The journeys that we take in life,
Though unexpected they may be,
If we commit to follow Christ,
His work through us the world will see.

As I'm struggling with the hope to someday see my novel published, these words just jumped off the page at me. My life has been a strange journey, with experiences that seemed completely unconnected. But as I wrote Finding Angel, I found myself drawing on all of those seemingly unrelated experiences, and they just meshed. I never expected to become a writer, and most certainly never expected to be able to use my experiences in such a way. But, I'm committing to follow Christ in this. And what He does with it...well, I guess we'll just see. But I've never found Him to be wasteful of our work for Him.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The "Official" Announcement

The Absent Willow Review sent out their newsletter today, and the announcement that "Willing Blood" won the Editor's Choice Award was right there on the front page! I wanted to post a link to it, but it's a pdf. You can sign up for their newsletter here, though. And you can see the abbreviated announcement on their site here.

OK, so that's the last post about that story. Promise. I'm just so excited :).