Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thankful, and a Splash Ink Update

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Got all your shopping done? I did mine yesterday, and it was wonderful to avoid the crowds and tick everything off my list. As always, we are having a vegetarian celebration, and this year I'm going to especially enjoy the day by writing more NaNoWriMo pages while my kiln fires a couple of new pots--time to celebrate, indeed!

For some reason this also seemed like a good time to share some of my latest splash ink efforts, maybe because they are so misty and reminiscent of autumn and the beauty of the season. I'm still using gouache on top of the initial watercolor background, a medium I'm finally learning to understand (thank goodness). As I've been painting, it's made me think how thankful I am for, well, everything!

But if I narrowed it down to just my creative life, these would have to be my top 12 thank-you's:
  1. I am grateful for my writing tools: computers, Alphasmart, fountain pen.
  2. Grateful for my Sunday morning writer's group! Best in the whole world.
  3. My art supplies: I have enough to stock a small store, and I'm grateful that I have been able to buy them.
  4. Books!! What would my life be without books? I love books more than just about anything. I love the way they feel in my hands. I don't care if e-books are amazing; they will never duplicate the thrill of opening those real-world pages.
  5. Social networking--now here's where the Internet is fun for me. I'm so grateful for my Twitter, Facebook, and JacketFlap friends. They make me smile every single day.
  6. I'm very, very grateful that I have a day job that is flexible and allows me to write or draw whenever possible.
  7. And gives me a nice studio-office where I can spread out my manuscripts, my art journals, my mess!
  8. I'm super grateful that I have my own little kiln--it's tiny but it works and allows me to  experiment and play with complete freedom (and zero worries about destroying anyone else's work--a huge bonus after some early traumas when my pieces would blow up in a shared kiln . . . don't ask . . . ).
  9. The library--forget Disneyland. The library is truly the happiest place on earth. And they give you free magazines for cut-outs. How good is that?
  10. Ideas! I have no idea where they come from--but where would I be without them?
  11. Art teachers. I would not be painting or potting or even writing without them. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
  12. Living in Albuquerque for the last ten years. New Mexico is not called "The Land of Enchantment" for nothing. The landscape is inspiring; every single kind of art supply or bookstore is within easy reach; and the amount of classes, groups, professional organizations for writers and artists is overwhelming. Sometimes it's nearly impossible to choose which one to attend--but each one I go to is always the right choice.
Last but not least, I want to thank everyone who follows and/or reads my blog posts. Every day I am stunned by how many readers I have and where they all come from: Egypt, Connecticut, New Zealand, Romania, Illinois--it's wonderful! You are all my pool of inspiration:

 Tip of the Day: If you haven't already, do start a dedicated Gratitude Journal. To me this is one of the most valuable journals you will ever write. Writing a simple list of just 12 items that made your day special can often be enough. Some days will be more difficult than others to find those 12 incidents, but I can promise if you dig deep they will be there. Enjoy your holiday weekend wherever you will be, and remember, I am grateful for YOU! Thanks again, dear friends.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Last Week of #NaNoWriMo 2013; Let's Get This Manuscript Finished

Here we are, the last week of NaNoWriMo! And yes, I know you'd rather go to Paris for the weekend, me too. But we need to get these manuscripts finished, so Paris will have to wait for a little while.

I don't know about you, but my word count isn't looking so great right now, something I want to change by Monday at the latest. To achieve that goal, I'm going to try something brand new: 10,000 words in one day! Yes, 10K, really. I'm all signed up to participate tomorrow 11-23-13 in a fun website writing party hosted by my Twitter friend Milli Thornton at @fearofwriting:

I only learned about Milli's site a couple of days ago, and just in the nick of time. In fact, the discovery was so fortuitous that I'm still reeling from one of those "how did that happen?" moments.

But despite my best intentions to write those 10K words, I also know that if I'm going to stay motivated I'll need some trusty writing prompts. Last night I brainstormed a list of 25; please feel free to borrow, steal, or add to the list by leaving a comment or two. All suggestions will be most welcome!

My 10K Prompt List:
  1. Write about my characters' goals: why are they so important?
  2. Write back story--lots of back story!
  3. Write a character's first memory and make it essential to a present scene.
  4. Describe my main character's place of work and how that influences the plot.
  5. Various characters' neighbors: what do they really think?
  6. Have one of the characters stuck in an elevator--with the villain.
  7. A mysterious package arrives: why and what's in it? How does this change everything?
  8. A death in the family.
  9. An invitation my main character can't refuse.
  10. Write about a recurring dream.
  11. Phobias--assign one to a secondary character and use it to keep them from helping my main character.
  12. Car trouble. At the very worst time possible.
  13. Illness. Ditto as above.
  14. Somebody witnesses a crime.
  15. And then is framed for it!
  16. A big lie and the unexpected consequences.
  17. Hobbies--pick one and make it important to the plot.
  18. An overheard conversation--and what happens because of it.
  19. A stolen identity.
  20. One of the characters finds (fill in the blank) and is devastated.
  21. Something observed in a window.
  22. A favorite item is broken. What, why, what happens because of it?
  23. A sudden storm.
  24. A creepy prophecy--that comes true.
  25. The three very worst outcomes that can happen if my characters don't reach their goals, and then have them happen.
So come on, join us on Saturday--I think you can even wear your pajamas all day, just as long as you promise to write.

Tip of the Day: In case you can't sign up for this Saturday's 10K session, be sure to check out anyway for one of their future writing sessions; they're held twice a month regardless of NaNoWriMo or similar events. Whichever day you choose, 10K in one day will surely help you reach THE END, a very good place to be.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013; Lost in the Woods

Yesterday I was ready to give up on NaNoWriMo, as in seriously QUIT. Why, why was I torturing myself to write these stupid 50,000 words? Am I so devoid of writing projects that I have to take on a task that wasn't even fun?

Fortunately, that was yesterday. Today I'm feeling a whole lot more positive and ready to keep going. The secret was in realizing several things:
  • First, nobody is making me do this. Nobody. There is no contract or deadline awaiting me with dire consequences if I don't write. I've won enough previous NaNoWriMo certificates to know I can write 50,000 words in a month. I have nothing to prove here.
  • If I don't reach the 50K mark, so what? I'll have 10 or 20K extra manuscript words to work with that I didn't have before November 1. And that's a good thing.
  • Lastly, I was taking my manuscript way too seriously. Demanding that it make perfect sense--right now. That all my characters be fully developed and action-oriented, intent on weaving their way through a brilliant plot line that was simply amazing, full of shocking twists and turns with a stunning conclusion. Except NaNoWriMo doesn't work like that, at least not most of the time. (Note to self: neither does any first draft. Sigh.) Asking that it do so was setting myself up for instant failure.

So here's what I did to beat the NaNoWriMo blues: I decided to be willing to get lost in the woods. Crazy plot line? Just follow where it does go, and if I don't like it, write "stuff happens here" and carry on writing a new and more interesting scene. Characters I can't stand? Get rid of them--send them to China or off on safari where they get eaten by lions. Bored with the whole process? Write about things that interest me, not what I think is "supposed" to go in the manuscript because I want it to fit a particular genre or style.

I'm not going to quit. How about you?

Tip of the Day:  One of my favorite ways to infuse any flagging manuscript with new life is to grab a handful of writing prompts from old magazines. Article titles and headlines are perfect. Get your scissors and start cutting; throw what you find in a jar and then pick one for every new page you start. Here's a sampling from my current collection: "Warm Kebabs for a Cool City." "The Human Face Behind the Makeup." "Last Stand in the Serengeti." (Uh-oh, I guess those lions really did get my unlikeable characters . . . ") Good luck; happy writing!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Heroes and Heroines

Just in time for NaNoWriMo: How well do you know your characters? By now you might be familiar with their physical features, their taste in evening clothes, and what they like to eat for breakfast, but what about their personality quirks and motivations?

One of my favorite writing how-to books to help uncover more about my characters' inner worlds and psyches is one by Tami D. Cowden, Caro LaFever, and Sue Viders:

Originally written for screenwriters, The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes and Heroines, Sixteen Master Archetypes is a great tool for all writers, poets too, I can imagine! Based on the idea that there are 16 character "types" common to all fiction and mythology, the book is a great one to read just for fun as well as for research.

The other day I thought it would be interesting to re-examine where and how the three heroines from my published novels fit into the various categories. I also used the templates to evaluate the Pinterest boards I had created for these books: What kind of pins could I add to each? I started with:

The Great Scarab Scam

See The Great Scarab Scam Pinterest Board!

The Great Scarab Scam is my Egyptian mystery for young readers 8-12 years, so obviously there isn't the conventional male-female interaction you might find in a book for older readers. However, my main character, eleven-year-old Lydia Hartley, definitely falls into the category of "The Spunky Kid," and not just because of her age. Her other traits and story difficulties include:
  • She's stuck between two brothers--one a little bit older and one quite a bit younger.  Although neither of her brothers are particularly "heroic." 
  • She's a reader--and even enjoys doing homework!
  • She's fiercely loyal to her father, a university professor and archaeologist.
  • Loves history, especially ancient Egyptian history.
  • She's curious about the world around her, but can be shy in social situations.
  • She's brave, but a little reckless too.
  • And she's very motivated when it comes to helping others. 

Better Than Perfect

See the Better Than Perfect Pinterest Board!

My Young Adult novel set in New Zealand, Better Than Perfect, follows fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Haddon when she is sent from London to live with her wealthy relatives in Auckland. Elizabeth falls into "The Waif" category.  She's:
  • Lonely.
  • Unwanted.
  • The "poor relation."
  • Insecure.
  • Smart, but without direction.
  • Prone to envy, especially when she continually has to make do with second best.
  • And she has a serious crush on an unconventional "bad boy."
And although Elizabeth does manage to find her true north and come to grips with real life in the course of the story, she does so with all the handicaps of a victim and lost child.


See the Overtaken Pinterest Board!

Written for an adult audience, Overtaken includes some of my most complex characters, especially my heroine of Sara Bergsen.  I had a bit of trouble discerning exactly which archetype she truly was, but in the end I decided she was "The Librarian."
  • She's essentially a loner.
  • Her chosen career as a portrait artist reflects her powers of observation and love of order. Abstract painting doesn't interest her in the least.
  • Her wardrobe, at least in the beginning of the book, consists of practical pieces in black and gray--great for work!
  • And this girl does love work. She's disciplined and dedicated to deadlines.
  • At the same time she takes risks because she is confident in her own ability to succeed.
  • She's a reader--which has also led her to believe in the possibility of a happy ending.
One of Sara's main challenges is to confront and understand the three men in her life: a Warrior, a Lost Soul, and a Charmer.

Tip of the Day: The Complete Guide to Heroes and Heroines is an excellent reference for any stage of your manuscript, even your published stories. For your WIP's see where your characters match up to the suggested archetypes, and pay particular attention to the sections on how they all work (or don't work) together. For your published manuscripts, you can still use the book to help describe your characters in your marketing material. You may be surprised at what you find!