From Adults to Teens and Everything In Between

From Adults to Teens and Everything In Between

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bloomin' Wednesday with Beth

"People from a planet without flowers would think
we must be mad with joy the whole time
to have such things about us." 

~Iris Murdoch


Sweet William, Bachelor Buttons, Coreopsis

Lupine, Dianthus

Monday, May 28, 2012

Trading Bookcases

Almost a year ago, I moved into the apartment I currently live in.  When this event occurred, I only owned two decent-sized bookcases (one six foot, one three foot), plus a mini bookcase (for my writing things), and a tiny bookcase extension that attaches to the top of my dresser.  When I moved, I moved figuring that I was going to buy another six foot bookcase eventually.  This happened a few months after moving in, but mostly what went on there were the old, childhood books that I was determined to get out of their boxes.

The rest of my books, however, stayed where I'd put them the night I moved into my apartment.

For a while, this was fine, because it was manageable.  And then many of the authors I love published new books...and books got sequels...and Half Price books had sales...and suddenly my original six foot bookcase got a little overflowing.

It's like a game of Tetris when I buy new books.
Today was deemed the day in which bookcases were going to get reorganized.  I've started reading so many books that are planned as trilogies or series, and I've gotten into reading so many different authors, that I know over the coming year, I'm sure I'll buy just as many books as I did the last twelve months.  After a couple of hours, I had a much better book situation going in my room.

Bookcase #1 (the one with the original mess)
The After Picture

Bookcase #2 (the one with all the childhood books and nothing else)
The After Picture

But best of all, my wonderful dystopian shelf has plenty of room for all of my dystopian-novel-obsessing.  It has the tallest shelf, so I can easily stack books on top of each other, plus it's not even full yet.  This is a great improvement from what it looked like before.

Dystopian shelf -- Before
New and Improved Dystopian shelf
The big test is going to be when I try to locate one of my books.  I'm going to guess that it's going to take me some time to get used to my new arrangement!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Revision Checklist

I recently read a book titled "Stein on Writing" by editor/author/instructor Sol Stein. A section of his book is dedicated to helping writers revise their drafts in the most efficient and effective manner. Since many of our members have completed first drafts and are now in revision mode, I thought this would be a timely lesson to share.

When I first began writing, I figured I'd be finished with my story as soon as I typed the words "The End" in my first draft. I didn't know much about the revision process and thought my first draft would be my final submission after making a few minor spelling and grammar changes. Wow was I ever wrong!

I've come to think that the process of story-writing is much more like baking a cake. Writing that first draft is like gathering all the necessary ingredients together and setting them out on the kitchen counter to see what you have to work with and discover what you might still be missing. It isn't until the draft is written and the ingredients are all together that you whip out your revising cups and tablespoons and begin measuring in the flour, sugar, eggs, and spices until it tastes just right. Several revisions later, you're preheating the oven and spreading the frosting for everyone to enjoy!

According to Sol Stein, the best way to revise is to start with the big problems first. Then you work on the medium problems, small problems, and finally the tiny changes such as grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

Tackle these areas in succession to make your revision process as quick and effective as possible:

  1. Determine what represents the sense of wonder, enlightenment, or excitement in your story and make sure that level of enthusiasm is maintained throughout the story. Too many stories start out exciting and then just fizzle out.
  2. Is the main character exciting enough to hold the reader's interest throughout the story? What motivates the main character and drives her to act and change throughout the story?
  3. Do you really like your antagonist? You should! Your antagonist should be just as motivated to accomplish her goals as your protagonist and just as driven to succeed. Is your antagonist truly bad, or does she just behave badly? Villains who are truly evil are much more enjoyable than cardboard cut-outs who just cause trouble for the heck of it. What endearing or charming qualities does your villain possess that would allow the reader to care about them?
  4. Don't neglect your minor characters. They need to be credible and believable with their own motivations to act.
  5. Is the conflict between the protagonist and the antagonist credible and strong enough to sustain the reader's attention throughout the story?
  6. What is your most memorable scene? What makes it work so well? How can less memorable scenes be strengthened to this level?
  7. What is your least memorable scene? Does it move the story forward? Would the story be stronger without it? Consider rewriting it or cut it out completely.
  8. What are the three most important actions in your story? Are they motivated in a believable way? Remember that "coincidence" in a story is not a credible reason for any action to occur. Review all other actions and either strengthen, rewrite, or cut them if they're not absolutely necessary to moving the story forward.
  9. Place yourself in the reader's seat and read the first page of your story. Are you compelled to keep reading? If not, you have work to do.
  10. Make sure there's something visual on every single page of your story. Never give the reader an excuse to remember they're reading a story. Help them visualize and become involved in the story.
  11. After fixing all the above, you're now ready for general revisions:
    • Tighten the manuscript by cutting every word, sentence, paragraph and scene that does not contribute to the story. Be ruthless with your word choice and make every word work.
    • Vary your sentence lengths to avoid a monotonous voice.
    • Make sure the pacing matches your story arc.
    • Fix point of view errors.
    • Make sure the tension continues to mount throughout the story and the stakes are continually raised for the protagonist.
    • Get rid of all but the most essential adjectives and adverbs.
    • Eliminate all cliches and rewrite for originality.
    • Vary and clarify all dialogue tags.
    • Look for precise word choices and meanings.
    • Add variety to your dialogue. Can exposition be replaced by dialogue? Is the dialogue confrontational enough? Does it actually move the story forward or is it just banter?
    • Last but not least, correct all spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors.
By correcting the biggest problems first and working through your manuscript with the checklist above, your revision process will be much more focused, productive, and efficient.

By following this process, I've also learned to quiet my inner editor while I furiously write that first heated draft because I already know it won't be - and shouldn't be - perfect. I now know that writing my draft is just a way to sort through all the cupboards, drawers, and pantries looking for ideas and ingredients for a feast I can worry about baking and garnishing later for my readers.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Why I Need A Dry Erase Board In My Shower

The funny thing about inspiration is you never know exactly when it will strike.

Below is am email conversation I had today with my writing partner. By the way, we're both Michele. To clear the mud I'm Michele B and she's Michele D.  Writers that we are, we appreciate the comedy of the name situation.

12 messages

Michele BThu, May 17, 2012 at 9:12 AM
To: Michele D
Hey where were you last night?  I was on until about 9ish.... Saw you wrote 800 words!  That's awesome!  You have to be inches from the finish line now!

In the shower this morning I finally came up with a hook for Treasures, I think. :)

Michele Thu, May 17, 2012 at 10:40 AM

To: Michele Buchholz 

No - I only got 1 file on chapt 18.

Thanks for looking at it - as I was going to sleep last night, I realized there were a couple things I need to insert in that chapter - just a few things here and there but I always think of them on my way to sleep (as in, I don't want to turn my light on to write it down, so I think I'll remember it and then never do. I'm hoping I'll think of it as I'm doing revisions. It would be so much more convenient if I could think of them in the shower like you do. But no, my brain doesn't work that way)  :)

Michele Buchholz Thu, May 17, 2012 at 10:43 AM
To: Michele 
Funny you think that about the shower.  I jump out dripping, soak my floor and mat, then drip all over my dresser while I write it down... That's if I get out and write it down.  Otherwise I do the same, repeat it hoping my goldfish memory will hold it until I"m done. :) Today I jumped out and wrote it down! 

Michele Thu, May 17, 2012 at 11:26 AM

To: Michele Buchholz

Ok, so clearly there is no best way. Usually I'm so sleepy and warm and I'm almost ready to slide under and I just don't want to mess that up. Darn brain! Why do they do that to us?

Maybe you could find a whiteboard that won't wash off - then you could just write the idea down without getting out. :)

Michele Buchholz Thu, May 17, 2012 at 11:58 AM
To: Michele 
That is a fabulous idea!

So, let this be a lesson for all of you linear, mathematical, engineer types. Writers, well, we're creative, spontaneous and innovative.  You have been warned. The bathroom floor may be wet, and there just might be marker or pen on unusual surfaces.  Just know, it is for the greater good of the human imagination.

Where was the strangest place that inspiration took hold of you?  What did you do about it?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Graduation To-Do List

This year my husband and I will be graduating our first high school student. You see, we have chosen to home educate our children, so on June 1st our oldest son will be graduating. We are participating in our home school support groups ceremony, and I'm really looking forward to the time. What I didn't anticipate was all of the things that needed to be finished prior to the "big day"

Here's a sample from my to-do list:

1. Choose graduation pictures
2. Write biography for program
3. Send pictures and biography to appropriate person
4. Put together graduation board (this requires sorting through years of photographs which make you sad)
5. Put together all info for college. (Transcript, loans etc...)
6. Prepare party for approximately 200 guest
7. Clean house for out-of-town company
8. Make list and purchase items for everything son will need for first year at college.
9. Cook, clean, grocery shop, maintain laundry etc....
10. Work on's what I love!

Congratulations to the class of 2012!!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Camp NaNoWriMo

For eight years, I've participated in National Novel Writing Month in November.  I've only passed the 50,000-word finish line for the last few years, but regardless, I find the experience a great motivator to getting me to write every day.  I also love the community of writers that forms through the experience.

The Office of Letters and Light, the organization that hosts NaNoWriMo, kicked off an event last summer that they called "Camp NaNoWriMo", which was a novel-in-a-month event, but in the summer.  It's geared toward people who either can't wait until November's event or who don't have the ability to participate in November at all.

They're doing it again this year in June and August.  You can sign up at the official site, and there you will eventually be assigned to a "cabin" with 4-6 other writers to cheer each other on, you'll have access to the word count trackers we're familiar with in November, and you'll have the epic motivation that comes from writing a novel in a month with a bunch of other nutcases.

I've signed up to participate in June.  I need to get some first drafting done and this seems like as good an excuse as any.  I hope all of you will consider joining me on my first summer in Camp NaNoWriMo!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Home Improvement

This past weekend my husband and I tackled a home improvement project.  Like most couples we don't always see eye to eye or communicate well but, we have learned, over the years, not to get too worked up or frustrated.  We have the same goal in mind, we might have different routes planned, but the end result is always something beneficial for the whole family.

This project was no different, except there were some significant power tools involved.  And not to toot my own horn, well maybe just a bit, I have a very steady hand with power saws.  Not to mention, I love them.
However, what I do lack is brute strength.  So you can see that in building a pergola over our back patio my husband and I had to work as a productive machine.

Here's how it went down, or I should say, up:
Day 1: We are full of energy and carry six 6x6 posts that are about 15 feet tall around to the back yard.  We, or I should say my husband and our wonderful neighbor, dig all six post holes by hand.  This takes us ALL DAY! I helped finish the last hold in the dark.  My main role was to mix and pour the concrete into the holes and help brace the posts.

 Day 2: I carried all the 2x6 x10 boards around to the cutting station where I 'dog-eared' them.  My arms nearly fell off.  Treated lumber is extremely heavy. But, while I did the cutting the men did the lifting.  See, team work. Below is a picture of my husband cutting the excess off the posts once we had the stringers level. He is using a chain saw. I am standing back out of harm's way.
 Below is a picture of my cutting station.  I love that saw.
Coming soon: a finished photo once the patio stones are all back in place.  We expanded the patio about five feet as well for a larger grilling area.  At the end of day two a storm arrived so we didn't get to do the arranging and decorating yet.  Hubs went from post to post with an 18 inch drill bit, punching holes through the supports and posts.  I followed along behind and set the massive bolts in place that hold it all together.  We finished that up just as the wind picked up and the rain begin in earnest.  Teamwork, we succeeded through to the end.

Without my team here in Fiction Flurry, I doubt I'd be at the place I am in my path to publication.  Thanks much everyone!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

First Blooms

We know you like to write,
but what else do you do? 

What inspires you? 
Leave us a comment...

For me, it is gardening:

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