Writing


Big hugs to all of you

Hello loyal readers. As you’ve probably noticed from the last few posts, and lack of, things on the farm have been crazy. Summer is usually busy, but this has been insane.

For a few months now, I’ve been thinking about letting the blog go. There are so many wonderful blogs already out there that address writing and offer more experience and information than I have. And it’s hard to write about writing when you don’t have the time to write!

So I’m recommitting to my works-in-progress. I’ll definitely still visit other blogs (plenty still to learn!) and hope to see everyone around Twitter. As my dear friend KCC said, “I’d rather you have an abandoned blog than an abandoned novel.”

It’s been a wonderful two years:

  • 209 posts
  • 5,873 views
  • 480 comments
  • $135.00 raised for local libraries through Jenn Hubbard’s Library Lovin’ Blog Challenge
  • Countless friends met and words of encouragement received

Thank you so much to everyone who stopped by over these last two years; whether you commented, shared links, or just lurked, I’ll still see you around, hopefully with a completed manuscript on my desk. Wishing you all happy and productive days of writing!

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An example from two decades of goofy sister pictures

I’m in the process of cleaning out my closet at my parents’ house (the conversation went like this; Mom: “Oh, you’ll be in town? Could you stay overnight?” Me: “So you can feed me taco pizza and Whitey’s ice cream because you miss me so much? Absolutely!” Mom: “No, because I need you to clean out your closet.”).

But I have to say, it’s been pretty fun looking through old pictures, art projects (most are terrible by the way, I’ll never be an author-illustrator), toys, and birthday cards. It’s got me thinking about what the things I’ve kept say about me:

  • I was cow crazy as a kid (shocker)
  • I loved my Polly Pockets (and still do, played with them last night)
  • It’s a good thing I was born during the era of spell check (“Aogist” = August, I wish I was joking)

Then I thought about the characters in my WIP. Being middle schoolers, they don’t have quite the history build-up of old stuff, but their rooms still say a lot about them. Have they kept any stuffed animals? Are they out in the open or hidden? Do they have sports posters or achievement certificates on the walls (or both)? What toys are hidden under the bed that they couldn’t stand to get rid of? Do they have pictures or old notes stashed somewhere?

What does your character’s bedroom look like? Have you taken a trip down memory lane lately?

Wish me luck, I’m headed back to the closet…

Should writing be fun? I saw some other posts about this around the blogosphere and contemplated it this weekend. I had a rare block of three hours on Saturday to focus on my WIP and, let me tell you, writing is work.

Part of the process should absolutely be fun. The creative spark should be fun. Getting to know characters and developing relationships should be fun. And the most fun part of being a writer: hanging out with other writers. Critique group meetings, book clubs, book launches, and conferences; I could do it everyday.

But sitting down to that computer screen, notebook page, or typewriter, that is work. Finding the exact words to represent your character while moving the plot forward and establishing themes is work. Taking critique and incorporating suggestions is work. Revising and revising and revising is work.

It’s the balance between work and fun that is present in any job. Parts of writing should absolutely be fun, but it’s the work that you put in late at night, early in the morning, when it’s just you and your words that make you a writer. Please leave thoughts in the comments; I’m off to book club to hang out with other writers 🙂

Display of delicious

Most writers I know prefer to be caffeine-fueled, either with coffee or pop (that’s right, in the Midwest it’s “pop”). And most also have favorite writing snacks, like pretzel M&Ms, chocolate, bacon, and vegetables (it’s true).

But my absolute favorite writing snack is strawberry Kookaburra licorice twists from Licorice International and, thanks to a recent trip to Lincoln, Nebraska, I have a fresh supply! Pair them with Diet Coke and I’m good for hours.

Do you write with snacks? Any favorites to share?

My little sister is graduating college tonight. That’s right, I’m feeling old. But more than that, it’s gotten me wondering about milestones and checkpoints.

The first 20-some years of life are filled with checkpoints. Birthday parties, moving through each grade, getting a driver’s license, being able to legally purchase tobacco or alcohol if so inclined. And for some, graduating college or grad school. It’s the final milestone in a school career, the light at the end of the tunnel, the last marking of time and achievement.

So when do you feel you “graduated” in your writing life? Was it finishing that first draft? Finding a critique group? Getting your first rejection? Signing a contract? Or seeing the book in print? I like to think I’m at least through freshman year. How about you?

New York is pretty (taken last visit, a little more snow now)

I’ve been very in touch with my senses lately.

Nothing activates your nose like airports and hotel rooms. How else would I figure out last night’s hotel room used to be a smoking room? Or know exactly how many gates down the Cinnabon is?

And driving a rental car on winding New York county roads gives you a new appreciation for the sight of snowflakes and the feel of slick pavement.

And taste, oh taste. Maple syrup, farmstead yogurt, farmstead yogurt MADE with maple syrup, and cheese cheese glorious cheese. Taste memories are so powerful; no wonder I love reading FARMER BOY so much 🙂 Mental note for revision: more sensory moments!

Have you read any stand-out sensory moments lately? How does it factor into your writing?

After my critique group read the first chapter of my WIP for the first time (you know, about 20 different first chapters ago), Michele suggested I read Lisa Yee. And how right she was! In the spirit of Lessons Learned, I just re-read Stanford Wong Flunks Big Time, this time taking notes.

  • Establish the conflict early – I know, I hear this one all the time, but Lisa Yee does it nicely here. Not only is the main character’s goal introduced, but it’s linked through a family dynamic and the importance of sports to the whole community, not just Stanford. It’s still a personal story, but the stakes are immediately extended beyond the main character.
  • Give characters surprising traits – a sixth grade boy knitting with his grandma is an unexpected and endearing characterization, plus the knitting project becomes symbolic of his goal and journey
  • It’s okay to have a group of friends – this book is a great example of a character with a group of friends, not just one best friend that they lose halfway through (yeah…WIP is guilty of that right now…). Two of the guys are more developed than the other two, and have motivations and roles of their own.
  • Emotional pay-offs rock – is there any more satisfying moment than suffering with a boy through a whole book and finally hearing his dad say he’s proud of him? *sniff*
  • Sports metaphors make me smile. Every time.

What have you learned lately? Any tips to share?

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