3. Other Writers
8. A Writing Spot
9. Alone Time
What did I miss?
Do you think a writer needs to go on a diet? A writing diet that is. Check out my guest post over at This Literary Life. Bree Ogden (a super agent) was cool enough to allow me to write a blog for her site. It is the first time I have written for another blog as a guest and I’m super excited.
Make sure you leave a comment so I know you stopped by.
Too often, I find myself thinking about writing while driving, thinking about writing while working, thinking about writing while sitting on the couch which leads to me telling myself Hey Mar, thinking about writing is not writing.
Thinking about writing is not writing but it may be just as important. I have found that a lot of my best ideas came at my laziest of moments. There have been times where I sat down to write only to come up with nothing. I’d feel sorry for myself and decide that instead of wrestling with the emptiness of my mind, I’d go take a nap. Sure, the first few seconds I’d curse myself and call myself some unflattering names but then something almost magical would happen. As I lay there in a stupor a blink of an idea would flicker. A character I’d never met would introduce itself. A scenario I hadn’t imagined would dance across my thoughts and before I knew it, I was jumping off of the couch.
Why didn’t the ideas come to me while sitting in my writing chair? Why didn’t these characters say hello when my fingers were tapping the keyboard? Why didn’t the scenario shout to me when I was sitting there staring at a blank page?
I have come to the realization that our brains need rest and much like a baby sometimes they don’t act on command. It is easy to think about what you will write when you are not writing because nothing is expected of you in that moment. Your mind is free to roam. It’s not in the spotlight so to speak therefore it is filtering out junk without you even realizing.
I think I figured it out. We have to trick our minds into thinking we are not going to write. We have to play reverse psychology with our own psyches.
If you make mental notes when you are thinking about writing, you might find a plethora of material waiting for you when you sit down to actually write.
Do you think about writing more than you write?
Where are some places you find yourself thinking about writing?
Do you agree that once you walk away from writing that your mind fills with great writing material?
Happy Thanksgiving! In honor of today, I am going to list everything I am thankful for as far as writing goes. I’d love to hear what my fellow writers are thankful for, so please feel free to leave a comment so we can compare.
1. I am thankful for being able to recognize that my passion in life is writing.
2. I am thankful for my fellow writers. I have connected with so many wonderful authors that have given me critiques, offered me support and provided me with inspiration. I truly believe that a writer cannot become a great writer without the help of other writers.
3. I am thankful for agents. I do not have an agent as of yet (hopefully that will be changing soon) but I appreciate all of the work they do for authors. A good agent will help a writer gain recognition, cut a book deal and set the path for a great journey.
4. I am thankful for the internet. Sites such as Twitter, Facebook and WordPress have introduced me to talented individuals who I might have never had a chance to meet.
5. I am thankful for The Institute of Children’s Literature. The courses I took with the ICL educated me on the craft of writing and encouraged me to believe in myself and the stories I tell. I am also thankful for the two wonderful instructors Melissa Stewart and Kevin McColley who taught me how to show not tell, write with emotion, set up a manuscript and edit my work (plus so much more).
6. I am thankful for publishers. The publishers are the kings of the writing jungle. The publishers make the writers dreams become reality. I’m thankful that they believe in the written word and work hard every day to keep writers writing and readers reading.
7. I’m thankful for the people who love to read. Without the readers there would be no use for the writers.
8. I am thankful for the gifts of creativity and imagination.
9. I am thankful for informative sites such as Query Tracker, Writer’s Digest, Guide to Literary Agents and any other site or blog that offers assistance to writers.
10. I am thankful for libraries and book stores.
I’m sure there are a dozen more things that I can add but for now that concludes my list. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Eat, write, and be merry, for tomorrow your dreams may come true.
Yesterday I spent time on my back porch looking out at my yard. The sight of my withering Weeping Willow saddened me. Winter is approaching and the green weepy leaves that I love so much are slowly but surely disappearing for the season. As I dwelled on the soon to be bare tree a realization occurred to me. I surround myself with the very things that inspire me to write. I won’t say I did this consciously because I really do not think I did. I have loved trees for as long as I could remember (Weeping Willows are my favorite). I can go on and on about trees and how you will probably find one in each of my stories (even if it is just a small mention) but I will get back to the point I’m trying to make. I believe that most if not all writers surround themselves with inspiration (whether conscious or not). After coming to my realization, I looked around my house (especially my writing room) and found many items that I have placed throughout my home that inspire me. Here is my list.
1. Trees- I know I already mentioned them, but I have to add them to my list.
2. Quotes- I love any type of plaque or picture that have a quote across it. A quote can inspire me in so many ways. It also can give me that push that I need when I’m having an off day. Some of the quotes that surround me are:
*Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is not path and leave a trail-Ralph Waldo Emerson (Love, Love, Love this quote).
*Home is where your story begins
*The best way to predict the future is to create it
*Even if the voices aren’t real, They have some pretty good ideas (This one makes me smile. I think it’s a great quote for writers).
*Laughter is the music of the heart
*Family, where life begins and love never ends
I stumbled upon the one pictured above(Creativity is a drug I cannot live without by Cecil B. DeMille) today and instantly fell in love with it
3. My writing diplomas. I have two diplomas from The Institute of Children’s Literature. Every time I look at the framed diplomas that hang upon my wall, I am reminded that I have taken steps to better myself and hopefully further my writing career.
4. Photographs: Pictures of family and friends can be very inspiring. If I’m writing a scene that involves friendship, all I have to do is look at a picture of a friend and instantly memories, emotions, and conversations pop up. I especially love the pictures of my father (he passed away two years ago) because I know he was my biggest fan. I can still hear him say “Finish that book Maribeth,” or “Don’t give up honey, you are a good writer.”
5. Books: I was thrilled this year when my husband came home with a beautiful bookshelf. I am inspired for many different reasons by the books that line my shelves. A glance at them can push me to keep writing because I want to see my name on the cover of a book. I also can be inspired by lines in the books that other authors wrote. Most of all they inspire me to keep writing because I know that every one of the authors were once unknown.
I’d love to hear what types of items surround you. Maybe something that inspires you will inspire me as well.
Have you ever been in a situation where you catch another person looking you up (or down) from head to toe? Your first thought is probably something like “What is she (or he) looking at?” This is the exact thing a writer must do in order to create characters, develop scenes and incorporate details. Imagine if every book you read had only a plot? What if there was no character description, no setting imagery or no sounds mentioned? I think you would agree that most readers would find the book BORING. It is the incorporation of a writer’s observation that brings a book to life. A dark haired man is bland. A dark haired man with a receding hairline, beer gut and a tattered white t-shirt adorned with sweat soaked arm pits becomes interesting (or disgusting). A scene where a girl sits by herself on a bench in a park isn’t much of anything. Adding detail to the scene gives the reader a visual and helps bring them into the life the writer created. E.g. A teenage girl sits on a spray painted park bench under an oak tree and notices a large groups of kids huddled around the basketball court watching grown men play a game of hoops. The reader can now envision the setting because of the addition of minor details, such as the spray painted bench, the oak tree and the basketball game.
If you are a writer think of yourself as a sponge. Everything around you should be soaked up.
If you want to master the art of observing you must do the following.
*Wherever you are take in the sounds. Practice closing your eyes and assimilate all that is audible. How many sounds throughout the day do you ignore because they have become too common? E.g. Birds chirping, horns beeping, sirens, dogs barking etc.
*Watch the Activity. Try sitting in a highly active place (restaurant, park, casino, sports arena, concert, etc.) and write down what is happening around you. What is the waitress doing? Is there a child sliding down a slide for the first time? Are there groups of people listening to music in the parking lot prior to the concert they are anxiously waiting for?
*Pay attention to emotions. Does the gambler look excited or frustrated? Weddings, funerals and sporting events are great for observing emotions.
*Watch for mannerisms. Mannerisms as I have discussed in previous posts make characters relatable. Does the young waitress have a habit of licking her lips? Does the lead singer jump up and down before the start of a new song? Is the football player known for blessing himself before he leaves the huddle?
*Don’t forget about nature. Nature is free art. Getting in touch with nature may sound corny to some but it is a must for a writer.
*Watch the animals. Don’t ignore the birds that chirp on the telephone wire, dismiss the squirrels that scurry up the tree or fail to pay attention to the neighborhood cat. They all can add to a scene.
*Make note of a person’s sense of style. Do they have a flair that begs to be imitated? Do they appear sloppy looking? Is their pants one size too small or two sizes too big? All of this can be used for character building.
*Check out the atmosphere. Make it a point to scan your surroundings. If you are in a friend’s home look at their décor for inspiration. What unique things do they have that can add depth to a scene. Does your favorite restaurant have booths or tables covered in linen?
Promise yourself that this week you will take time to really observe. Soak in your surroundings. But, remember that too much detail can be overkill and turn a reader off. Find a way to add your observations in a non obvious way.
What observations have I missed that you think are important?
Where do you like to go to observe?
Happy Halloween! Halloween stirs up memories for me. I like to reminisce about being a young girl anticipating this once of year fantastical event. Sure, there were the costumes, the candy and the trick or treating, but most of all there was the Charlie Brown Halloween special “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”. I looked forward to seeing the Peanuts crew dressed in costume, celebrating the joy the holiday brought. I rooted for Linus and believed every year (even though I knew the outcome) that the Great Pumpkin would come. Today, as I reflected on my Halloween Pasts, I came to the realization that I am now Linus. I am sitting in a pumpkin patch (okay maybe it’s a room within my house that I like to call my “writing room”) waiting for the great pumpkin (an agent) to show and prove everyone who never thought it (or she or he) would come wrong. I have created characters much like children do on Halloween and rang doorbells (okay, sent e-mails) in hopes that the person on the other side would fill my treat bag with goodies. When no one answered the door (e-mail) I became like Linus and waited and waited (still waiting) and refused to believe that the Great Pumpkin (great agent) was going to be a no show.
Linus was convinced that once he left, the pumpkin would show. Aren’t writers a lot like Linus? We are sitting in the middle of a field of writers waiting to be discovered (I know, Linus wasn’t waiting to be discovered but still he was waiting for something he believed in.) We have to be patient like Linus. Wasn’t it another fairytale that a pumpkin turned into a coach and escorted a certain princess to a ball? I believe my pumpkin will come and bring magical things. Do you?
A good query will pique an agent’s interest and hopefully prompt them to request more. A bio will give an agent a glimpse of who you are. The social media networks will allow an agent to get an even better grasp on a potential client, (what they look like, what family and friends say about them, what their interests are). Today’s post is meant to be fun yet informative. Currently, I have three partials out there swimming in the sea of possibility. I have decided to list ten reasons why I think I would be a dream client just in case one of those agents decides to check out my blog. What would you tell an agent about yourself if you could?
1. I LOVE constructive criticism. I am completely aware that I will never reach my full potential unless I am willing to listen to what others have to say. I do not view constructive criticism as an attack. If I had nothing more to learn, I would already have many published books under my belt. Note to other writers- Don’t respond immediately to constructive criticism. You are more apt to respond negatively within minutes than you are if you give yourself a few hours, even a few days.
2. I will never attack you via the internet. I won’t promise I will always agree with what you have to say but it is not my style to throw your name out into cyberspace to “get back” at you.
3. I am not trying to be the next J.K. Rowling, I am trying to be me. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t love to become as successful as a lot of today’s popular authors, I am saying I won’t try and ride on anyone else’s coattails. I want my work to be my own. I’d rather start a trend than follow one.
4. I am good at public speaking. Of course I get the jitters when standing in front of a group of people but the audience would never know.
5. I can get along with anyone. I think everyone has a story to tell. My motto is – look for the good within every person you meet and you might be surprised how your life changes. If you can’t find any good then you have a muse for evilness.
6. I will always give it one-hundred and ten percent. I want to be great at anything I do, not because I want to be better than anyone else, I just want to be the best of myself.
7. I have a fun sense of humor. Often, I connect with others based on sense of humor. I’d rather laugh at myself than at someone else.
8. I won’t pretend to know your job.
9. I have a trunk full of stories waiting to come to life. I don’t want to be a one trick pony.
10. I am LOYAL. I won’t look for every opportunity to get rid of you. If there was a problem I felt needed to be addressed, I would come to you first.
I love when I finish a book for many reasons but today I will only discuss one of the reasons. You would think the first thing I would do after finishing a book would be reflect, but I don’t do that until after I have read the acknowledgements. I guess you could say I’m a bit corny. I won’t allow myself to read the acknowledgements until I have finished the book (I’m not somebody that looks ahead to find out what’s happening either. I like waiting).
Once I know I have completed reading I race to that page where the author does some of his or her own reflecting. I love to see who they have thanked and why. I also gain valuable information such as who the author’s agent is. Reading an acknowledgement allows me to daydream of what my own would look like. Who would I thank? What agent’s name will be listed? What interesting facts about myself would I like to share?
I thought about writing a mock acknowledgement on this blog (I was very tempted) but decided not to in fear that doing so would somehow jinx me (yes, I’m a bit superstitious).
I recently was given a Kindle for my birthday and my first thought was… will there still be an acknowledgement section? I still don’t know because I haven’t jumped ahead to see.
Reading that short paragraph at the end assures me that all authors have someone who helped them along the way, someone who encouraged them, someone who believed in them, someone who wasn’t afraid to critique them and finally someone who helped turn their dream into a reality. They were where so many of us still are. Seeing that they made it allows us to hope one day we will too.
Do you read the acknowledgements? What do you like the most about them? Have you ever thought of who you would thank?
Sometime around ten years ago I declared myself a writer. At the time of declaration I thought being a writer simply meant you wrote stories. I did not realize what needed to be learned before others would view me as a writer. Today, I have been racking my brain for interesting blog ideas. There are so many blogs out there regarding the craft of writing that it is hard (not impossible) to think of a topic that has not already been done. So, I thought why not go back to that girl in her twenty’s who knew virtually nothing about the craft and tell her some key facts she will need to know in order for her writing to be taken seriously. Here is what I remember learning early on. Please leave a comment and share with us what you remember learning.
*Show Don’t Tell –Eg. Caren was mad. (this is telling). Caren threw her book bag across the floor and slammed the door behind her. (This is showing)
* Pov’s- 1rst Person Point of View (A character narrates the story. Their use of speech would include the words I-me-mine.
2nd Person Point of View (rare) the author would use you or your as if they were directly addressing the reader.
3rd Person Point of View- Writing in 3rd person means you only know the thoughts of one character. If your main character is Edmond you can write about how Edmond feels. You are writing as if you are looking through Edmond’s eyes.
Eg. Edmond’s heart longed for the girl Stella once was. (You can write this because Edmond is your main character). You cannot write Edmond looked at Stella and his heart tugged and then in the next sentence write Stella knew Edmond was looking at her but she refused to look back.(Stella is not your main character so you would not know what Stella felt or thought.) Unless you were writing in 3rd person-omniscient (this is when the author decides to open up the thoughts of all the characters to the readers). I like the idea of this but I think you would really have to master it in order to get positive feedback.
*Formatting – Most agents, editors and publishers prefer that your manuscript be double-spaced, using Times New Roman in 12pt font. (Don’t think you will make yourself stand out in a good way by using something different.)
*Query Letters, Cover Letters, Bio’s and Synopsis
Query Letters – Brief letter to agent or editor consisting of a short hook, (eg. A short sentence that draws them in and hopefully tempts them to want to read more), a brief overview of what your book is about (Eg. Edmond and Stella have known each other since the sixth-grade. When Stella starts hanging out with the known druggies, Edmond fears he will lose her forever and decides to develop a plan to save her.) Close your query letter by adding your qualifications or experiences (Publishing credits, schooling, memberships etc).
Cover Letters- A cover letter should accompany a manuscript. This letter will provide an overview of your submission. If an agent or editor request material, your cover letter is where you would remind them that this is being sent because it was requested. Eg., Thank you for requesting Edmond and Stella etc, etc.
Synopsis- A complete description of your work in which the entire book is conveyed compactly. You can write a one or two paragraph synopsis or a chapter by chapter synopsis (check the agent or editor’s specifications before sending)
Bio – A very brief summary of who you are. Practice summing yourself up in fifty words or less.
This blog could go on and on and on (I didn’t even touch, story structuring, grammar, the importance of critique groups etc.)
For now I will end this blog but promise to continue posting things I have learned. I am still learning, which is exactly why I love the craft as much as I do. We can’t become experts if we refuse to admit there are lessons to be taught. Our journeys are different but we all encounter the same lessons along the way.
What did you not know early on?