Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tip Tuesday

Happy Tuesday Everyone

I have set Tuesdays aside as Tip Day or Tip Tuesday. Today's tips are for new writers or those who started out, like me, with little planning and have found themselves lost in a sea of disorganization. I am still learning about the life of a writer. More to the point, the work involved in being a full-time writer and do not be fooled, it is a huge amount of work.

The tips today are more of a (very) basic checklist. Each might seem obvious to you however, when you are starting anything new, even the basics are apt to elude you. This is not a complete list nor is it a set in stone way to get started. These tips come from my own experience when I first sat down with the intention of writing with the end goal to become a published author.

·        Prepare for long & lonely hours

Being a writer can be lonely. Writers sit at a keyboard or in their quiet spot with tablet and pen for endless hours. Family and friends will want your attention. Life will demand your attention. It can be difficult to strike a balance between your writing and living your life. Difficult does not equate to impossible and so with a little forethought, your family and friends will learn your schedule. In time, they will come to respect your space.

Make a plan and stick to it barring any emergencies, of course. A wall calendar is good for this purpose. Hang it within easy sight of your chosen work area. Things to consider for your calendar would be:

1. Family obligations

2. Work schedule (day job)

3. Writing schedule

4. Time to spend on research

5. Rest (believe it or not, it helps to pencil in breaks)

The list will grow to fit your specific needs. Color-coding the calendar will make it easier to spot things simply by glancing at the calendar for a specific color. Bobby's soccer games might be blue while Susie's ballet lessons are pink. You get the idea.

·        Set up a writing space

Some people are able to write at a desk piled high with junk mail, books, snack wrappers and spilled coffee while others need a dust free, sparkling clean and highly polished workspace. I tend toward the middle of the road with my own workspace. The best space is the space that makes you feel most comfortable. A comfortable chair is also essential. You will work better in a room with a door so that you can shut out any household noises.

Stock up on any supplies you need. For example, notepads, tablets, pens, pencils, printer ink, style guides, general reference books as well as those that pertain to the genre for which your story is intended. 

It helps to have your favorite beverage and snacks well stocked. Trips out to the store in the middle of a writing session only serve to quiet the muse.

·        Do your research

No matter what kind of book you are writing, research is imperative. Even the fiction novelist needs good research notes. If you mention the Tower of London in your book yet have never seen it, how can you be certain you have described it accurately? Research for historical fiction novels is a given but it is not the only genre writers that needs solid research. Believe me, readers notice that sort of thing.

·        Keep a notebook

You never know when the next great idea will pop into your head. Having a notebook or small voice recorder will allow you to take notes no matter where you are when they come to you. Keep a record of things and people you see in your daily life that might translate well in your stories. A woman you see in the parking lot struggling to balance a baby on one hip, hang on to a toddler at her knee and a bag of groceries at the same time might spark an idea for a story about an overworked single mother. Few people are able to recall every detail of an idea that happened hours earlier.

·        Write every day

Write something every day. If you have a day job, set aside an hour or two in the morning before work or in the evening after dinner. Commit to write something every single day. You will find that the more you write, the more you will write. On the days when you find difficult to move ahead in the story, write some character or scene description to get your creative juices flowing again.

When the muse beckons, write but do not neglect your life. A balanced approach is preferable in all things. Take time away from your desk to enjoy family and friends.

·        Read books

You must read. Read in the genre you plan to write and then, read everything else. Once cannot write a novel without first, living and second, reading. Absorb, absorb, absorb - everything around you.

·        Perfectionism

If you have not already figured it out, your first draft will not be perfect. In fact, it is likely to be far from it. That is okay. If you have a first draft of your novel, you have written an entire book! That is something to be proud of in itself. Take a break from writing. A few weeks should be enough time and then start editing and rewriting that book.

Still lost? Sitting down with an idea and little else is overwhelming for many. If that is true in your case, you will need to do an outline. Outlines help by keeping the writer on track. If you have your starting point, middle and the ending written out on a chart or in a tablet that you can refer during the writing process, the story is more likely to flow and make editing much easier when your story is finished. Not everyone can turn out a good book using the 'pantser' method. Many find themselves lost and confused without a guideline to follow. We will look at the habits of planners and 'pantsers' soon.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Get to Know Me Monday

Happy Monday Everyone.


I claim Mondays as Get to Know Me Monday to share things other than writing. It helps clear the fog when I take a few hours out of the week to think about things other than writing. Not because my life is particularly fascinating or, that you would even be interested enough to hear the mundane details of my daily existence. I will however, try to spice it up a bit by sharing things that happen each week in the hope that you will find some of it amusing, entertaining or informative.
This week I will be talking about the way I spent my summer. Remember as kids after summer vacation when we went back to class how the teacher had us stand in front of the class and share what we did over the summer? No? Do they still do that? Anyway, I am going to break my rule straight out of the gate because this post will mention writing, a bit.
Part of my summer was spent in a 29' travel trailer on a mountain in the southeastern United States. I am extremely fond of the area and visit as often I can and stay for as long as I am able. There was no television reception, no landline telephone and *gasp* no internet connection. As you might guess, being in a TT for an extended period without outside distractions leaves a writer time to, well, write.
Since I was lucky enough to have all that free time, I made good use of it and wrote a novel. Yes an entire manuscript in only a few short weeks. I was shocked at how quickly the characters and story came together. Mind you, words being written do not necessarily make it intelligible. I will be sharing excerpts here on the blog as well as on my facebook author page throughout the editing process.
I did other things while on the mountain this summer. I spent time with my daughter, son-in-law and sweet little grandson. I enjoyed being with them on their place. Several goats, chickens, geese, ducks, dogs and cats escorted me on my daily walks through the pasture to their house. It was a sight to see.
I was also able to spend a good deal of time with my dearest friend in the world. We have known each other for nearly three decades and have celebrated good times and seen each other through bad time. In my mind, that makes her more of a sister than a friend. I will always claim her and her children as family. I was blessed to visit her home on Saturdays with one of her daughters where I watched as they created a memory garden for another of her daughters who, in April of this year, was snatched from this life by cancer.
We also spent some time in the thrift stores while I was there, one of my favorite pastimes. It was in some ways a frustrating couple of months but when I think about the happy moments I experienced, I realize just how wonderful my summer turned out to be, in spite its rocky start of which I have spared you the details here.
If I could leave you with one thought today, it would have to be that I hope you take time to be in the moments of your life. They are so very important. Simple moments in life are central to healthy growth and well-being. They also hold the most genuine pleasure. Grab them while you can - learn from them, savor them and store them deep inside your heart. There will come a day when these memories will be more precious than gold.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sunday Dinner & Rest

Today's recipe is a simple chicken finger recipe I created for my dad. He loves fried chicken from the deli but cannot have salt at all, per doctor's orders. He was missing his regular chicken stops when he went to town so, I mixed up some spices finally settling on this recipe for him. My mother
enjoys spicy chicken so, I added the cayenne for her. This fried chicken is not what you may call 'healthy' because of the oil it is fried in but you could season and then bake the chicken after rolling it in some bread crumbs and crushed corn flakes.

The ingredients can also be adjusted to taste. This is the list that seems to garner the most MmMmMm's (very chef-like word) from my family.

4 Large Chicken Breasts; bones & skin removed
2 1/2 Tablespoons of cayenne pepper powder
2 Cups milk
2 Large eggs (or 3 medium)
3 Cups flour
4 Cups cooking oil (for FryDaddy®)
2 Tablespoons Mrs. Dash® Extra Spicy seasoning
1 1/2 Teaspoons Mrs. Dash® Fiesta Lime seasoning
1/4 Teaspoon Mrs. Dash® Tomato Basil Garlic seasoning
1/2 Teaspoon Mrs. Dash® Southwest Chipotle seasoning
1/2 Teaspoon garlic powder

I have also used only the Mrs. Dash® Fiesta Lime and Southwest Chipotle seasonings along with powdered cayenne pepper and garlic. Like I said, it really depends on taste. My main goal with this recipe was to make tasty fried chicken fingers that my mom and dad could enjoy. The full recipe with photographs is here.

I will be editing again today so, there is little rest for me on this Sunday. I hope you all have a blessed day of rest and are able to spend it with family.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Saturday Sneak Peek

Here is today's Saturday Sneak Peek post. An excerpt from chapter eighteen in my WIP, "Rough Hewn". Here we have a conversation between Charlotte and Lorianna, two important characters in the life of Carolyn Dunsmorrest Breckenship.

Charlotte began clearing the table. “Ray, take Gabe in there and show him what you are doing in the nursery. We’ll have some of Lorianna’s delicious cake with coffee in the living room in a few minutes.”

“Yes ma’am.” Raymond saluted his wife. “Come on back here Gabe. I’ll show you the wall I tore out. Maybe you can help me figure out how to put it back up.” Charlotte shot him a ‘you better not have’ look. “Don’t worry honey, I’ve got it all under control.”

“Famous last words.” Lorianna was stacking dishes next to the sink. “He is such a comedian, Charlotte.”

“Yes he is. We laugh a lot in this house. I think that is what kept us going in the rough times.” Charlotte shared.

“Rough times?” Lorianna questioned Charlotte.

Charlotte smiled. “Oh yes. We have hit a few bumps in the road along the way. Nothing we could not work out though. We always knew that our love was paramount in every situation. Even when we were angry with each other we never forgot that.”

Lorianna smiled at Charlotte. “It amazes me when I see two people so much in love. It makes my heart smile.” She thought of Carolyn then. How sad her life had been since she married Jim. “I wish all my friends could have the kind of happiness you and Ray have.”

“Me too.” Charlotte agreed. “You and Gabe are next. The two of you have to find your other halves.” She laughed. “Well, that is sort of a weird thing to say isn’t it? You know what I mean, right?”

“I know exactly what you mean. I am still not ready although, I do think of it sometimes. As for Gabe, his heart is filled to the brim with Carrie Dunsmorrest. Well, Breckenship now. There will never be an empty spot in it for anyone else.” Lorianna looked at her reflection in the window glass over the sink. She realized in that moment that she really did want someone of her own. Someone to share her life - hers and Billy’s. Billy needed a male influence in his life. How could she teach the boy how to be a man in this world when she knew nothing about growing from a boy to a man?

“Lorianna?” Charlotte tapped her shoulder. “Earth to Lorianna.”

“I’m sorry. I was lost in my head there for a minute.” She dried her hands on the towel Charlotte handed her.

Charlotte picked up the coffee tray. “If you’ll grab that tray with the cake on it, we’ll go into the living room and see what Gabe has on his mind.”

“I’m right behind you.” Lorianna followed her into the living room. Setting the dessert tray on the coffee table, “Can you believe the nights are already getting cool enough for a fire in the fireplace? It is going to be winter before we know it. I hope we get at least one good snow this year. I’m looking forward to taking Billy sledding on that big hill in the pasture behind my parents place.” She sat on the rock hearth watching the low flames dance above oak logs.

“He will have a blast flying down that hill with you. I think we are in for a rough winter. The hornets are building their nests underground instead of in the trees. That usually means a bad winter.” Charlotte shared.


This excerpt is from the first draft of Rough Hewn. The novel Vanda's Calling is still percolating while I edit Rough Hewn & the sequel for publication. It was odd how these characters demanded that I tell their story before Vanda's. I hope to get back to her story soon. In the meanwhile, I do hope you will drop back in for updates on my current projects.

Thank you all so much for visiting. A great big thank you to my beta readers out there. Without you I would be swimming in a sea of confusion some days. *smile*