Thursday, June 28, 2007

You Want Me to What?!!!

Blinking Cursor of Doom. That is my new favorite phrase. Okay, I didn't come up with it. I read it in the comments trail over at Nathan Bransford's blog. But how appropriate. I couldn't write today because that fiend Blinking Cursor of Doom wouldn't let me. Damn you Blinking Cursor of Doom - I could be a bestselling author if not for you! Okay, okay. I won't say Blinking Curse of Doom anymore. ::whistles nonchalantly:: Blinking Cursor Doom. Sorry. Couldn't resist.

Anyway, an interesting topic a commenter over there brought up was self-promotion and how in this day and age an author can't merely write a wonderful book and be successful. They must also be adept at marketing themselves through networking, blogs, websites, running contests on aforementioned sites, nurturing relationships with booksellers as well as building readership through whatever means necessary. ::cue creepy organ music:: This might also involve *gasp* public speaking. Wait, I'll give you a moment to recover. Hell, I need a moment to recover. Public speaking? That's right up there with skydiving and standing naked in the middle of Wal-Mart for me. I don't even use my name on this blog for God's sake. If I can't write in plain view how can I possibly speak in plain view? Not that this is a set in stone rule, but think about the authors you read who are successful. I bet almost all of them give workshops at writer's conferences, give readings of their books at public venues, give speeches, guest blog on other widely read blogs as well as helming their own, and I'm sure a hundred other things I haven't thought of. So, the question is are you ready to do that yourself? I want to be successful but quite frankly don't know if I can do some of these things. There are a lot of blogs I frequent but seldom do I leave comments. I'm just too shy. One of the reasons for starting this blog was to get some practice articulating myself in a public forum......not that I'm a guaranteed anyone but me and my mom (Hi Mom!) will read this but still I'm putting it out there. You have to start somewhere I guess.

Btw, Blinking Cursor of Doom! Bwahahahaha.............

Monday, June 25, 2007

Do You Write What You Read?

I used to be a voracious reader, scarfing down new books like M&Ms (this message brought to you by the New M&M's Dark - chocolate the way it was meant to be). Then gradually life started to get in the way and I read less and less. I also wrote less and less. Coincidence? Of course not. Only I was too thickheaded to notice at the time. I read because I loved to get lost in the story not because I thought I'd actually learn something from it. I mean reading is supposed to be fun not educational for goodness sake. Blame it on my inexperienced, wide-eyed youth. Hmm...not buying that are you? Okay, blame it on plain old stupidity if you want. Either way, I missed out not only on a whole slew of new authors and good books, but also the chance to be inspired by really great writing. We are what we read right? Or is that eat...damn, I always get my mother-type cliches mixed up. Anyway, I've slowly been trying to rectify this but find I'm having a difficult time trying to figure out what to read. I'm interested in everything from mysteries to paranormals to traditional historical romances. And of course, there's the oft-told advice to read extensively in the genre in which you write. I actually took this to heart over the weekend and picked up a paranormal that looked interesting. I won't name the book because quite frankly it wasn't my cup of tea. And it had nothing at all to do with the writing. The story was a bit too dark for my taste and the heroine didn't strike the right chord with me. Again, this had nothing to do with the writing. The author did an excellent job with the pacing and tension not to mention wonderful worldbuilding (there's that word again). And I realized that even though I probably wouldn't buy another book in that particular series, I could still learn a lot just from a writing standpoint. I'm determined not to give up. Even if the writing had been bad, I guess it would have been a good lesson in what not to write. Of course, if I wanted that, I could just re-read some of my old manuscripts.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Is the Face the Thing?

As you may have noticed by the pitiful progress counter posted on the side bar (sorry, alliteration's got my tongue again), I'm not making much headway with my book. Yes, I had a thrilling breakthrough and finally got that first page written. I even went on to write three more after that. I'm beyond happy to have accomplished this. But, (you knew there had to be one somewhere), I feel like I'm not quite capturing my heroine the way I want to. And part of the problem is I can't visualize her enough in my mind. I know what makes her tick, her past history, her flaws and strengths. I don't spell all of these out as I like to learn more about my characters as I go along, just like the reader does. Sometimes they surprise me in nice ways. The problem is her face isn't clear enough for me. Everything from her hair to what shoes she wears says something about her and her personality, and I've got that part down. I just can't see the rest. I remember reading about other authors who like to pick actors to base their characters on to star in these "roles". And I think this is a great idea. I've actually already picked an actor I think embodies the look and experience of my hero. I'm not merely looking for a pretty face but that special something (can I be any more vague?) that I feel captures the spirit of the character. Trouble is, I'm stalled on my heroine. So as I'm sitting here typing this, I'm also flipping through a magazine hoping "the face" will jump out at me. ::cut to about 20 minutes later:: I think I found her! She has the action going on behind the eyes that I've been looking for. I hope this works. I'm closing my eyes now and picturing her with my hero. Uh, could you maybe come back later? I think they really like each other.

So how about you? Do you know what your characters look like from the get go or do you make it up as you go along?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Tag, You're It

I've been tagged by the wonderfully talented and generous TessaD (and if it sounds like I'm sucking up, I am - seriously, did you see the nice things things she said about me? And I wasn't even paying her). Anyway, I'm supposed to tell you eight interesting things about myself. Eight!? Sheesh. I may have to make up a few. Here goes:

  1. My sister and I had our hair cut regularly by a former Navy barber until we were in high school (our dad). Trust me, it wasn't pretty and I have the pictures to prove it.
  2. I almost always read the end of a book before I start it, unless it's a mystery. It there's no happily ever after, I'm not interested.
  3. I'm fascinated by television shows about real life hauntings and ghosts, but I can't watch them at night if I'm alone. They might be watching too.
  4. I love to watch people falling down: America's Funniest Home Videos, strangers, family, friends. It doesn't matter. If they fall, I will laugh. I don't know how I haven't been slapped more.
  5. I won't wear a bathing suit in public, ever. The last time I did was probably 1982.
  6. I have approximately seven stuffed monkeys sitting in my bedroom as we speak. And they all have names. I think I might need help.
  7. I was named after a Native American friend of my dad's.
  8. I'm seriously addicted to the Nancy Drew Mystery computer games. Another aspiring author, girl detective.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Ever since America's Next Top Model aired it's last intellectually stimulating episode, my Wednesday's have been barren and empty. No more Tyra to correct my posture or tweak my strut or do whatever it is she does that makes me alternately laugh and cover my eyes. Fortunately as fate would have it, while channel surfing I stumbled onto my new favorite show. It's called Creature Comforts and it cracks me up. There's actually not much to it. They take real live interviews from various people across the country discussing everything from body image to flying. Nothing special about this in itself...but here's the catch: Instead of showing the people giving the interviews, you hear their words coming from different claymation animals. I couldn't stop laughing. And this got me thinking about why this was so funny. Yes, I'm a sucker for claymation of any sort but seldom does it make me shoot Diet Coke through my nose. And then I realized it wasn't what they were saying so much as how they said it and who was saying it. For instance they had a female pig talking about body image while her mother (also a pig) stood in the background throwing in "helpful" mother-type comments from time to time. A talking pig and her mother. *snicker* Okay, maybe I've been watching too much Nickelodeon.

This also got me thinking about the characters we create in our books and how, if we're not careful, they turn into nothing more than Talking Heads (and no, I'm not referring to the 80's band, though I'll wait if you feel the need to hum a few bars of Burning Down the House). Talk Heads pop up when all you have are lines and lines of dialogue without much else to enhance the scene. Good dialogue of course is essential as long as it serves to move the plot along or shed some insight into the minds of our characters. It doesn't always require dialogue tags or action. But, again, it's not so much what our characters say as how they it. A look, an expression, a tiny movement, even the background of the scene, can all serve to enhance the dialogue and put a frame around it. What a character is doing while they're speaking can reveal just as much about them as a person as their actual words.

So what's my point after all this rambling? Tune into Creature Comforts Mondays at 8:00 pm on CBS. You might learn something. Or shoot soda out of your nose. Either way, somebody will be entertained.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Rocky's Got Nothin' on Me

I did it.....I did it....I did it! Did I mention that I did it? Oh, okay. Might of blacked out for a minute there. I wrote my first page! ::brief pause while some extremely bad dancing commences around my living room, out onto the porch and into my neighbor's yard:: ::another brief pause while I convince said neighbor not to call the police::

I realize one page isn't a lot but it's a start. And thanks to the helpful advice from my blog readers (and since there's only three, you know who you are), I conquered my fear of that hateful, smug, blank page and marked it up but good. *sigh* I finally have a writing breakthrough and my grammar goes all to hell. Oh well, can't have everything.

At least now I have my starting point. It's weird how a single page can free you (or at least me) to feel like it's actually possible to write the rest of the book. I know there will be more problems to come. Definitely more hand wringing and embarrassing self pity with much wailing to the heavens. But these too shall pass. They always do, one crisis at a time. For now, I say let the celebration continue.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Stage Fright

My last few posts have dealt with my wonderful new book that I am soooo excited about. I've done research, worldbuilding, created backstories for my characters, tried to find the perfect names for my hero and heroine, and tossed it around in my head until we're both dizzy. I've even come up with an actual plot that consists of more than just boy meets girl, boy likes girl, they talk and fall in love and stuff (Don't laugh...I have half written books pretty much like this. Don't make me show them to you). And I still haven't written a damn word. I haven't even written Chapter 1 across the page yet cause if I do then I really have to start writing. Why mess up a perfectly pretty pristine page? (Say that three times fast....go ahead, I'll wait). So what do I do? Okay, that was a rhetorical question. I know what I have to do. Write. Even if I thinks it's bad. Even if I know it's bad. It will get better. I know this. You know this. So why am still still sitting here staring at this post instead of writing? Oh right, cause I'm a big scaredy cat. Shut up and pass the milk.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Which Came First, The Idea or the Egg?

I've always been interested in other writers' processes and the journey by which they go from idea to finished manuscript. Of course, I realize what works for them won't necessarily work for me, but a little experimentation could be an excellent book starter, especially if you're of the procrastinatory (is that a word?) persuasion. Typically, I start with a scene that's popped into my head for no apparent reason, possibly the result of a chance phrase I've heard or a clip from a movie or maybe even dementia....whatever. I then build around this paragraph or so I've scribbled down, gradually getting to know my characters and where the story is going pretty much as I go. And what, you might inquire, has this process netted me thus far? I'm so glad you asked. I have three partially finished books cowering beneath my bed and one finished, though highly unpolished, manuscript locked in a closet refusing to come out until I give it something pretty to wear. Drama Queen. Obviously, this isn't working for me at all. I firmly believe there is no set in stone "right way" to write a novel. However, there are many "wrong ways" to do so, or at least wrong way for me. The above scenario is a perfect example. In someone else's hands this could work perfectly. Alas, I'm not someone else. I'm just little 'ole me and I need to figure out a way to work with that. Presently, I'm involved in some serious prewriting for my new book. Usually, this merely involves a list of each character's physical description, their families, a half-hearted stab at their past histories, etc. I know, I know. Lazy writing won't get you anywhere. As I mentioned in my last post, I've started with the worldbuilding before even trying to flesh out my characters and what makes them tick. To my surprise, the worldbuilding has actually helped my characters to start taking a more defined shape. Motivations and conflicts are springing up almost on their own from this world I'm creating. ::slight pause while a loud round of "Doh!"s are heard round the blogosphere:: Okay, okay. I deserved that. Better later than never, right?