Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Time Wasters That Intrude Into Our Writing

On the last post, I wrote about what I was working on and making the most of winter living by working more on my writing projects. We all know, when the weather turns warmer, we’re outside more and we should be.

No matter what season of year it is, there are time wasters that need to be cleaned out of our lives. Just like the debris that gathers in our houses if we don’t clean from time to time.

The biggest time waster is T.V. When we moved last August, we agreed to not hook up ours. I can’t begin to express what a delight it is to not hear the noise of a T.V. or be tempted to watch it. It no longer steals hours from my writing time.

Other time wasters are window shopping, overeating (who me?), over sleeping (I imagine few of us have that problem, though), talking on the phone (especially if we’re gossiping), and another one I can think of is too much time on the Internet. There is a time for Internet, but we all sense when it falls into the territory of procrastination. Internet should be used mostly for our work.

There are times, in our lonely profession, when we need to correspond with fellow writers or family members. This is different. We need to interact with others to fill that lonely spot in our hearts. Then we’re recharged and can begin again to work.

Next post, I’ll write about ways to grab more writing time from everyday life.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Winter versus Spring Writing

These days I’m working on two stories, full-length novels, both for middle-graders. Since it’s winter, I am able to snuggle in and work every day. And it so happens, I’ve picked up the right books and articles lately, so I’m also on an up learning curve.

This is exactly what I’ve missed all those winters in sunny California, permission to hold up in the house and read and write my heart out. Like I’ve said before, there is a season for everything. God knows what he was talking about, as always.

As spring draws closer, the days will grow longer, eventually allowing for more outdoor work on our one acre property. I must carefully balance with discipline my goal to write several hours daily. Why? First on my farm plan, there’ll be a big garden to put in, a chicken house to build, and chicks to order and prepare for. Which means no time to work crossword puzzles for fun and less reading like I’m doing right this minute.

All in all, I love winter. I want to be like the animals that hibernate, only hibernating for me means sitting longer hours at my computer keyboard and writing. Now, if the electricity goes out for long periods like the neighbors claim, that will put a dent in my plans. Hmmm, maybe my idea of buying an old, but good working, manual typewriter would come in handy in the Oregon woods.

Being known for having a plan B, I’m going to search Craig’s List for that typewriter.

Next post, I'll write about how to make more time for writing.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

SCBWI’s 2009 Oregon Spring Conference

The Society of Children's Writer's & Illustrators' sponsors the best workshops and conferences in the nation. I helped establish our SLO (San Luis Obispo) workshops when I lived in California, and I can vouch for the wonderful speakers that have helped teach us our craft. A newbie in the writing realm, the lessons I learned facilitating the workshops were priceless to my career. Another big conference is coming up, and I'm already planning the comfortable clothing to pack.

The SCBWI Oregon Spring Conference for writers and illustrators is scheduled for May 15 & 16 and will be held in Portland at Shilo Inn Suites Hotel. The brochure and application for this year's will be posted in March at SCBWIOR.com. Until then, you can read about 2008’s to give you an idea what to expect.

After you read last year's conference, you may decide to take advantage of an editorial critique. Be sure to have your pages ready and in the envelope ready to hand deliver to the post office before the brochure is available. This way, you have a chance to get an editorial reading, because the editors take only 12 manuscripts to read and critique. I'm already working on my pages. When I sit before the editor, I am allowed 15 minutes of her time. The expert will tell me how I can improve my pages and possibly give advice as to which publisher may be interested in my story.

Although I’ve been to many workshops and a few conferences, this will be my first conference in my home state. And since I’ve been to Portland once in twenty-five years, I’m excited to visit this beautiful city, again.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Who’s Afraid of Show, Don’t Tell?

Over the years, I’ve pondered Show, Don’t Tell, wrestled with this, and lost sleep over it. I’ve read many articles and labor over my writing to not tell as much. I still get from my feedback partners, “You’re telling, now show us.”

I even had one expert write, “This is too much telling for my taste.”

Finally, a light bulb clicked in my brain about Show, Don’t Tell. And it all came about because of a dump run.

Our trash had piled up, and then a stray dog broke into a bag and scattered trash. I did my routine of piling the bags in the pickup, and then I filled a fresh bag with the trash on the ground.

Then it was time to go to the dump, and would now normally holler to my husband. Bye. Be right back. This time, he was on his tractor on the far edge of the property. And I was in a hurry.

I didn’t “Tell.”

A little about me as a writer, I write good dialogue. I hear this from folks who read my work. Why is that? Why do I have a problem with Show, Don’t Tell, and yet I write satisfying dialogue?

Now a little about me growing up, I was raised the eldest of eight children with a busy mother who eventually became ill. Guess who took over the job of mother? Me. And I was good at it. I bossed my siblings every day of their lives until I left home and got married.

Then, when I had children, I not only bossed them, I “Told” them what we were going to do, as I did it. I wanted them to not be clueless, hoping they would feel secure with their mother and their narrow world around them.

Back to my object lesson: I didn’t “Tell” my husband I was going to the dump. As I was driving on the curves leading to the waste site, I imagined the clues I left for him and what conclusion he would draw.

1. Absent truck.
2. No garbage on the ground.
3. Clean trash can.

Bingo! It dawned on me that I showed him I was gone and where I went by the clues I left. It is Show, Don’t Tell at its finest.

This just proves true about that other lesson writers are always hearing from the experts: live a lot of life, learn from it, and apply it to our writing.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Muse Drives The Writer

Recently, I started a new story. Even though I couldn’t wait to write pages each day, I grew nervous when I felt compelled to write only at night. For many writers, that’s not a problem, but that’s just plain odd for me. I’m a devout morning person. At age 12, I used to get up at five and milk my cow for goodness sake. Even in the snow and rain.

See my problem?

There have been a few days where I knew I wouldn’t get in my committed daily writing on this new project (taking care of seven grandchildren ages 10-seven months), so I wrote early morning. I found, though, the characters weren’t chatty at that hour and I forced a paragraph or two.

Since beginning the new story, I hurry to finish up nightly chores. While I’m working on the chores, I sense the characters urging me to “hurry, hurry, come join us, and write what happens next.”

Wow! This has never happened to me before. Is this normal? Is there something wrong with me? I feel like a child, who's sneaking out at night with a flashlight to find night creatures.

After two weeks and 75 pages of writing later, I wrote my crituqe group. I expressed my concern for these off-the-wall nightly writing sessions. One writer thought this was good. She says my muse is working at night, and the character is talking to me during this time.

But why?

The best explanations I could think of are two fold. My first and older story doesn’t allow competition, so the new story has to work the night shift. And the second reason could be the story begins in the middle of the night.

Has this ever happened to you?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Author Quote: Dian Curtis Regan

This quote is appropriate to our present day economy, which impacts the larger publishing houses.

Children’s Book Insider interviewed Dian Curtis Regan, author of Princess Nevermore, back in 1996.

CBI asked Ms. Regan, “Do you have any advice for beginners?”

Ms. Regan replied with what she did back in the early 80’s. “I started going to conferences and I heard a lot of gloom and doom about the industry. During those years I felt it was my time to learn how to write and go to conferences. Then when the boom came in the mid-80’s I was ready. This is a cycle that inevitably repeats itself. The industry’s cutting back a bit these days, but if you do your homework now you’ll be ready when they open the doors again.”

In a nutshell, during the late 90’s the industry was cutting back. Now here we are about thirteen years later with the same scenario. Those who may not have the drive to write will throw up their hands and quit. Then there are those who would write even if they never publish a thing. I’m one of those. I have to write.

Recently, I read Agent Nadia Cornier’s post Why 2009 Can Be a Great Year For Books at http://nadiacornier.livejournal.com/ for January 3rd­­­­­. In it she gives hope for writers during 2009. I agree with Ms. Cormier.

In my opinion, it is not all doom and gloom. After the first reports of lay-offs, I figured it was time to start a new middle grade story. Though, I won’t quit sending out my query letter. I even have my eye on a publisher that will take a complete manuscript and publishes what I’ve been working on for eleven years. I plan to send that publisher my full when it’s ready. For me this is an excuse to do what Ms. Regan did all those years ago.

For beginning writers, this is also a good time to become a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators’ and receive their fantastic newsletter. Like Ms. Regan said, go to conferences. SCBWI has a calendar list for area conferences and workshops.

I highly recommend receiving CBI’s newsletter, also, which is chocked full of industry information. You can receive it by postal or e-mail. Click on CBI’s link below under Professional Websites, and check out their site.

Until next time, write, read, and work hard on both. And never give up.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Writing Through Loss, Again

2008 has been a year of losses, six to be exact, half of them young people under forty. These losses are unsettling to be sure, because isn’t it a law of nature that the old die first? Well, we know that’s not true. Look at what happened to young Abel, Adam’s son.

2008 has also been a high top experience for my husband and I. In January, we sold our home when the market said we couldn’t. The day after we got our house money, I flew to Oregon to say goodbye to my ex-sister-in-law, who was also my friend. I believe I will see her in heaven. Three weeks later, my baby brother, Eric, a sergeant in the Army, died. Those two deaths happened within days of one another, and they hit our family hard like rock shattering glass.

Did I stop writing? No, although I got stuck unable to write a thing for a month. I prayed for God to help me. Write Where You Are, is what I felt the Lord saying to me. Once I wrote about my brother, I could work on my novel, again.

Somewhere between January and August, we lost two young cousins. One was even Eric’s friend. I know what it’s like to lose a son, and so I was grieving for my dad, aunt, and uncle. I didn’t stop writing, though, and somehow it has helped saved me from dropping off the face of the earth.

In August, we found a small property and moved to Oregon. This was a long time dream of my husband’s and mine. We worked hard winterizing our place before the snowstorms. Then in December, my husband’s father, James Thomas Cavitt Williams, was pronounced terminal with days to live. We waited out a snowstorm, and in between storms, we drove to California to say goodbye to him. Within the week, we buried James and went back to his house where it was vacant of his smile and glow.

Surprisingly, the night before we left to go back home (in between storms, again) Mom said one line that sounded just like a blurb from a middle grade novel. She said something that I added to and our granddaughters added to, until I announced, “This is like a story. I shall write it.” That turned every head my way and smiles, too. I could see the hope in their eyes.

I’ve been hitting the keyboard keys every day since, writing a story that came from an old woman’s stubborn resolve to be independent. A story I hope will show the courage it takes to live even when the one we adore most is gone.