Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What's Your Secret

I'm the klutzy one.

My mother sent me to ballet classes starting at age four because she said I couldn't walk across an empty room without tripping over something.

After many years of ballet, tap, point, jazz, and other lessons, I shudder at how klutzy I'd have been otherwise.

I've been told my arm, hand, and head movements are graceful. I smile and say, "Thank you."

These are people who don't know me.

They haven't seen me get my arm stuck reaching for something. Drop a forkful of spaghetti down my blouse and into my lap. Catch my skirt in a door and take a step. Trip over a curb, bang my knee on the sidewalk, and bump my head on a plate glass window. Or any number of other such moments.

Embarrassing? Hardly. I'd be embarrassed all the time.

Sometimes these things are of my own making, like the examples above. Sometimes they simply happen to me. NOTE: Mini Writing Lesson on Active and Passive!

Like the time the sunglasses holder fell off the visor and hit me on the head. Or the chip bag exploded when I opened it and chips flew everywhere.

I'm a klutz magnet.

What's your secret?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Keep Going

My little brain has been pulled in several different directions this morning, none having to do with writing. So like many times before when I've not known what my writing post would be about, I'll just jump in.

Right now, I'm drafting a new manuscript. I've been working on it since about the first of September, and I'm a little over 25,000 words, which is a little over 100 pages. This is the first novel manuscript I've written where I've found myself in the wonderful zone almost every day. The words are flowing with relative ease.

Sounds great, right?

That part of it is. But . . .

I haven't known how good any of those words are. The first chapter was OK for first draft. Tension, conflict, suspenseful ending. Then it sort of all fell apart. A couple weeks ago, I decided to bring in a character earlier than I intended - well, actually, he decided it when he showed up in a knot of people - to bring in later. I was surprised when he turned around and spoke to my protagonist.

So I went back and added some chapters from his point of view. It helped, but didn't solve the problem. I kept writing, but my concern kept growing. There was no zing. None. Zip. And I have way too many characters.

Friday I wrote a scene with this same character who surprised me before. Good scene. It was a scene I hadn't planned, and when he got out of his car, I didn't know what he was going to do. Before he got out, I thought I was going to chuck the entire scene and have him do something else.

Boy, am I glad I followed him.

Turns out the scene is my new Chapter One.

But he won't be the one doing what he did. He showed me what I need my protagonist to do when the reader opens the book.

Most of my work this week will be rewriting this chapter from my protagonist's POV. And adding the much needed tension and conflict to her chapters up to where I am now. All of that will grow out of this new chapter. It will give purpose to what I've written so far and a whole change of attitude for her as well. Those are the things that have been missing. So when I get back to this point after making these changes, I'll move forward again. I may still have doubts as I write, but they won't be these huge ones.

As you might have guessed by this point, I'm a somewhat organic writer. A pantser. But I'm a pantser with a plan. Going in, I know my main characters fairly well, although I find out much more about them seeing them in action. I know the beginning (or so I think!) and end, and a few plot points in between. But the overall journey is pretty much off the cuff as I write.

This is going to be a good story because it has good bones. But to find it, I had to keep writing through all the fear that it was going nowhere. I had to keep writing to find the spark.

Like I said at the beginning, this manuscript started out different from any others, and it's continuing that way. Maybe that's a good sign. I hope so.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday's Top Ten

Top ten female fantasies - non-sexual [not going down that road here!]:

10. Chocolate has all the nutrients our bodies need

9. Children and dogs always mind us and never, ever bicker, fight, or talk back

8. We look perfect in any swimsuit

7. Carbs are diet food

6. Bad hair days happen only to men

5. Husbands, partners, and significant others are putty in our hands - always

4. Wine, beer, or your favorite adult liquid combo - need I say more?

3. We speak, even the cat listens

2. Punch a button beside our beds, and our home is magically clean and tidy

And the #1 female fantasy:

1. New clothes and shoes appear in our closets each morning - and they all fit!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Circles and Cycles

The more things change . . . the more they stay the same.

Have you noticed?

I think the change of seasons has put me in a reflective mood. Or maybe it's that I'm writing a flashback this morning to when a now older man first went to war.

Whatever.

Seasons change. In July we forget about the snows of January. And in February, its hard to believe the ground will ever be ready to plant sunny flowers. But in February, the days slowly lengthen and one day - like magic - it's warm.

It's Wednesday as I write this. Monday our temps here in Sunny San Antonio were mid-90s. We've been in an extreme drought situation for a year. On Tuesday it rained. All day. Lovely rain. Today we have 60s.

It won't last. We'll be back to 90 by the weekend. But fall arrived on schedule.

Circles and cycles are all around us, not just with seasons, like morning follows night.

Politics. Fashion. Books. You name it.

Individuals, whether politicians, designers, writers, or others, put unique stamps on each cycle, but the full circle comes around again.

Take fashion. Hemlines go up and down and up again. The look goes from structured to loose and flowing. From sleek to layered. From simple to intricate design.

The same with our lives. Our rainy days allow us to appreciate the sunny ones all the more. When we slam our fingers in the car door - and yes, I have done that, but not recently - we know eventually we'll be able to move them again.

So smile. That light at the end of the tunnel might not be an approaching train after all.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Please Take a Number

The other day at the deli, I elbowed my way in and knew to take a number.

Such is not always the case, especially if the place is new to me.

I step inside, look around, try to figure out what's what, where things are, where I need to be. I'm the one with the WTF? look on her face.

And as I'm looking around, I miss obvious things, like the number machine. So much so that my live-in handyman often says, "And you write mysteries?"

But I pick up on so much more. Like at the deli.

The woman shuffling her feet. The young mother cooing to her baby. The guy hiking up his jeans.

The way items are stacked on the shelves. Displayed in the cases. The combination of items people order. The way their eyes shine thinking about the taste. I smiled at the woman who licked her lips when she ordered one-third pound of sopressata.

So I become so engrossed in these little things - especially at new places - that someone usually taps my shoulder and says, "You gotta take a number."

But I'm trying to improve.

A vibrant manuscript includes all sorts of detail, large and small.

Next time I go to the deli, or into the garage, or wherever, I'm checking out the big-ticket items first.

It's time I look to see if a wall is missing or something major instead of what color the print is on the side of the paint can in the corner.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday's Top Ten

Top ten things I learned this week:

10. If you bark really loud, you get attention - but it's not the kind of attention you want.

9. Colds suck.

8. A change in direction can be a good thing.

7. Shiny gets noticed, but it's what's under the hood that counts.

6. Know how hot the salsa really is before you pile it on your chip.

5. A little rain lets you appreciate the sunshine.

4. Make time to play.

3. Never take your eyes off the prize.

2. Smiles work wonders.

And the #1 thing I learned this week:

1. Laugh at yourself - it's OK.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Hit by a Soccer Ball?

I have wild and crazy dreams.

One of the dreams I had last night involved a soccer ball. In the way of dreams, most of it didn't make a lot of sense in the bright light of morning.

But in one part of it, someone kicked the soccer ball and it flew several yards right into the lower chest of a man walking down the street. It knocked the man to the ground, and his buns said hello to the concrete.

The ball rolled a few feet. The man rolled it to him with his fingers, scooped it up, and stood.

He dusted off his pants, carried the soccer ball to the girl who kicked it, handed it to her with a smile, and went on his way.

That soccer ball is like a rejection letter. We're minding our own business, and Wham! Out of the blue it slams into our gut and knocks us off balance. For a few seconds, our buns touch the concrete, too.

Writers should strive to be like the man in my dream. We can't give the rejection letter back to the sender, but we can and should pick ourselves up, dust off the hard feelings, and continue on our way.

Somebody said:
It's not what you do while you're down, but what you do after you get up that matters.

I firmly believe that statement. What writers do is write.

Now's the time to do it better than ever before.

Don't be discouraged by rejection. Be inspired by it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Wake Up Your Writing

Since I'm having a hard time moving out of wake up mode this morning, I thought I'd chat with you a bit about waking up your writing.

How do you know if your writing needs a wake up call?

If you yawn reading the first chapter, that might be a clue.

Are your sentences repetitious constructions?

Do you use tired verbs? Mousy nouns?

Clues two, three, and four.

I'm not advocating making your work sound as if you've strolled through the dictionary or thesaurus. I am suggesting that you paint as vivid a picture of your story as possible without diving into purple prose.

You'll clear up a lot of these things as you work through each draft. After you've read your work for all the other stuff you do during editing, read it again for your word choices. Your eyes may pop wide open.

And your story might pop to life.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday's Top Ten

Top ten joys of motherhood:

10. Not again!

9. Spilled juice

8. "I didn't do it."

7. Bouquets of wild flowers

6. Sponge Bob

5. "I'm bored."

4. Ball practice

3. "Thanks, Mom."

2. Last minute homework

And the #1 joy of motherhood:

1. Hugs

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Novel Reading Habits

The number of books on my to-be-read shift totals 26. At the moment.

Of these, the newest is a just-out paperback I bought a couple weeks ago. The oldest is a hardback by a name author that's been in the stack for a number of years. I just keep not reading it. Not sure why. I guess something else always sounds better.

Sometimes books languish here awhile. Sometimes I buy a book, come home and read it right then so that it never hits the shelf.

Anyway . . . yesterday I began a new book. The copyright date is 2006, and I bought it new. So as Emeril says, it's had a chance to get happy with the other books on the shelf. The book is The Book of Fate written by Brad Meltzer.

Yesterday I took the book with me when I went to get a haircut. While I waited, I read the Acknowledgments in the front. Midway, Meltzer says, "Every novel is a lie that tries to sound like the truth."

I couldn't have said it better.

It describes exactly how I write. I take a fact from here, another from there, create some characters, and weave their story around the few facts I've gathered.

The tricky part is making the parts into a whole so that the story comes alive for the reader.

There's a long word for making something seem real - verisimilitude. It means the appearance of truth.

Don't forget that word. It's important.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

If It's Tuesday

A writer has two jobs. Many jobs, but these two are important.

One is to learn.

I learn something new - often many somethings new - every day.

I learn about new concepts. People. Tidbits of physics. Jewels. Firefighting techniques. Writing. You name it.

The other job is to share.

This sharing takes place in novels, short stories, articles, essays, ads, blogs, movies, plays. You name it.

Someone asked me why I thought I could tell someone else how to write when I've never sold a novel or few people know my name. Why do I think I can tell someone how to write? Why would anyone listen to me?

What this person didn't know is that I made my living for a few years writing copy. And got paid well for doing it. Nor did this person know that I've sold work to the short market.

My answer was what I've shared here before. I'm not trying to tell anyone how to write. What I do is share what I've learned, what works for me, and how I do certain things. If that helps another writer, I'm happy. If it clues in a non-writing reader about how a writer thinks or works, I'm happy.

My goal here at Under the Tiki Hut is to bring readers and writers together. It is not my goal to offer a free writing class. A lot of my posts are writing related, since writing is what I do. But I only focus on writing one day a week - on Mondays.

Most of the time I write about Arf and Woof. Or about things that happen to me during the day. I blog to share these things with my friends. With you. If you read here, whether or not you comment, you're my friend.

Am I a working writer? Yes. I've sold short stories, articles, essays. But my heart lies with novels, so now I'm hoping one of mine is good enough that someone falls in love with it and wants to represent it. In the meantime, I'm working on a new one. And striving to make it the best one yet.

So keep asking questions. I'll keep answering.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Clean Up on Aisle 2

It's almost midnight Sunday.

Since tomorrow is Labor Day here in the U.S., I'm probably going to skip a regular Monday writing post, but I may post on Tuesday.

I've spent a little time cleaning up the links on the right, trying to sort them out so the one you're looking for is easier to locate. If you see I've put yours or any others in the incorrect spot, please let me know. Either post a comment here or click on the email link and I'll get it fixed.

As part of spiffying up, I moved those annoying but necessary labels to the bottom of the right-hand column.

I'll try to be better about keeping up with links and with posting new agent blogs as I find out about them. If you know any more from agents who represent the mystery, thriller/suspense, or romance genres, please let me know and I'll list them here. Or if you blog and your link isn't shown, just comment here and I'll pick it up.

Thanks.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Friday's Top Ten

Top ten things about back-to-school:

10. Earlier bed times

9. All the shopping

8. All the returns

7. And more shopping

6. Matching school supplies with the right kid

5. Helping with the perfect first-day outfit

4. All the paperwork

3. Homework

2. After-school activities

And the #1 thing about back-to-school:

1. The kids are out of the house!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Surprise!

I love surprises.

Good ones, I mean.

I'm working on a new manuscript, and I'm getting plenty of them. Characters I'd envisioned one way are showing me their real lives. You might say their lives are a little different from what I thought initially. And for the better.

At least no one has laughed at me yet. That happened one time. About 50 pages in, my protagonist told me she'd given me a fake name. Her real name was entirely different. After I made the changes, she shaped up and stopped giving me trouble.

Characters are like that.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Honest Scrap Award

Yesterday Laura Eno at A Shift in Dimensions honored me with the Honest Scrap Award.

The award rules are simple - pass the award to seven worthy bloggers who post from the heart, and list ten honest things about yourself.

Thanks, Laura!


So first, here are ten honest things about myself.
1. I make up stories.
2. I make up people.
3. I talk to the people I make up.
4. I listen when those people talk to me.
5. I place those people in perilous situations.
Are you scared yet?
6. I love to laugh.
7. I cry at silly things.
8. I'm scared of spiders.
9. And snakes.
10. I love to read sexy books!

Enough about me. Here are the seven bloggers I've chosen to pass this award to. I hope all of you will pass it on. And I hope all readers here will stop by these great blogs and leave a comment.

Angela at Letters from Usedom

Helen Ginger at Straight From Hel

Jane Kennedy Sutton at Jane's Ride

Jody at Waconda Springs

Kerrie Flanagan at The Writing Bug

Shirley at Clever Chronicles

Terry Odell at Terry's Place