Friday, April 29, 2011

Apostrophe Abuse - Something Funny to a Very Select Audience: Writers, Teachers, and Word Nerds

You know you are a Word Nerd when misplaced apostrophes tickle your funny bone. If you fit this definition, Apostrophe Abuse will brighten your day. Seriously people - some of these are just cringe worthy.

*Full Disclosure: I am a Word Nerd.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Alpha Readers, Beta Readers - Gotta Have them Both

I love the Writing Excuses Podcast - Brandon, Dan and Howard, three published best seller-authors chat for fifteen minutes on one particular aspect of writing per episode (their podcast is on iTunes and their blog is linked in my bloglist). Last week they covered Alpha readers and writing groups.

Good Alpha readers are hard to find, and when you do find them, don't let them go. The requirements include:

1. An ability to see your broad view, character and story archs.
2. They offer suggestions that make your story better, while still letting it be your story. Some Alphas may want to  change your story into something they would prefer to read, rather than helping you refine what you already wrote.
3. These are not proof readers - they should be able to ignore the little mistakes in order to focus on the main points of your story.
4. Their criticism and questions help improve your story.

Since I am new to this whole process, and I have two amazing Alpha readers in Kristen Bower and Sara McBride, I think I hit the lottery. I'm not letting them go! As for Beta readers, I am hoping I have a few of those willing to read my story after my drafting is done (someday...).

What's different about a Beta reader? These are the people who read your story after the Alphas have helped you guide your glob of ideas into a coherent, possibly brilliant, novel. Beta readers can point out grammar, syntax, spelling errors, and passive voice if they see it. They might be helpful at wordsmithing various sentences and paragraph to punch up the writing in general. They are the ones getting the full punch of your twists and turns, they are the ones who see the whole thing.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I Told my Story

A few days ago I told the guts of my entire story to my mom and grandma. It was the first time I had ever verbalized the whole thing, and caught myself saying, "Well, this is where it gets a little complicated," more times than I wanted to. It was a strange experience, almost like I had blurted out every secret I ever had over the course of the day (it took a while to tell the story, mostly in bursts between our other activities and inevitable interruptions from my little ones). Was it good enough? Had I eliminated some of the spark inside of me by getting it all out there, or was I more clear in my vision?

On Easter, I started telling my lovely cousin, Ashley, my story and this time, it came out more clearly I think. Since I cannot write for hours on end like I want too, I think verbalizing the story helps me clarify plot lines and characters. It may, also, just a little, take a bit of the magic out of me. I have decided to keep the rest of my story to myself at this point, hoping that my family will want to read it and find a few surprises when they do.

This is my first experience with taking on the challenge of writing a novel. The complexity of the process is fascinating, and overwhelming, and lovely, and gut wrenching. Frankly, I can't believe how much I love it.

I am so grateful to everyone who is supporting me in this process! Thank you!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Writing Resources - Top 101 Best Websites for Writers

My wonderful friend and fellow writer, Sara McBride, did me a great favor. She gave me a gift subscription to an inspiring and helpful magazine, Writer's Digest. This month, they had an article with the 101 Best Websites for Writers, and it is incredible.

I recently opened an email account for my writing where I can get all my information and newsletters on the craft in one place. I went to the Writer's Digest page, signed up for their newsletter, and as a bonus, they sent a digital copy of their website list that is clickable.

 I totally recommend any of my writer pals to check it out - fabulous resources!

My favorite site, which also had the most recommendations for this list from readers, is Funds for Writers. The weekly newsletter written by C. Hope Clark has wonderful advice which is followed by numerous paid gigs and contests for writing.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Distractions, Dinosaurs and Angry Birds

"Guess what mom? A bubble just came outta my nose! That was awesome!" Teo, 4 1/2 years old says, looking up from the iphone with Angry Birds music blasting from the little speaker.

"I wanna do Dino Dan on your computer," Lex, sitting on my lap reaches for the mouse, "I wanna do Dino Dan on your computer!" He reaches his dinosaur's tail to tap the keyboard. "I am falling down! I am falling down! I wanna do angry birds on your phone! I'm falling down, I'm falling down! It's my turn!" Lex, nearly 3 really wants to play Dino Dan.

This is what I am hearing while trying to type some brilliant blog post.

"Angry bird, angry bird, angry bird. I wanna do Dino Dan on your computer! Please me do Dino Dan on your computer!" Lex says before I remove him from my lap, and he starts screaming.

Every word struggles, and each one that reaches the page has to navigate through a maze of Dino Dan and the musical stylings of Angry Birds.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Comic Character - What is Funny?

Funny is not easy. I am at the point in my story where the 'funny guy' comes into play and I find myself stretched. I don't consider myself naturally funny. At all. How do you come up with witty retorts and comic dialogue when it doesn't come naturally? There is a fine line between funny and annoying or crass.

Also, since it is a character from another world, I know I need to be careful with any cultural references. He wouldn't be making any jokes about Charlie Sheen, obviously (not that I would ever do that anyway). So what is funny and how do you do it?

Any thoughts from my funny friends out there? I'll happily borrow your funny.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Moveable Feast - How Hemingway Did It

I love magazines - they are so easy to read, taking much less attention and commitment than books. Read what interests you and leave the rest - an easy accomplishment. Last month, one of my lady magazines (not sure if it was Good Housekeeping or Redbook) had a book excerpt from the new book, The Paris Wife. I had already heard about the book - it's getting a lot of buzz.

Can't wait to read more of this book...

Told in first person in the voice of Hemingway's first wife Hadley, the little chunk got me right away. The charismatic, handsome, idealistic young rogue was nothing like the cranky, depressed, angry Hemingway that I always conceptualized him as. He was young, madly in love, and they were in Paris. I put in my request at the library, and I am number 168, or something, in line to get the book. Guess I will have to wait a while for the rest of the story.

Barns and Noble had a little video interview with the Author, Paula McLain. She had written her first book, gotten published, and had no idea what to do for her second book - she found herself bone dry for ideas. She decided to reread A Moveable Feast by Hemingway - his memoir of being a young man in Paris from about 1920 to 1925, and became inspired by the relationship between the young married couple. She didn't even need to invent any plot, since the true story was so compelling.

Before the 'Crank'
I put my request in to the library for A Moveable Feast, and didn't have to wait in line at all for it. What a compelling book - I am munching away at it like a flaky croissant. Half way through it at least, I am really enjoying Hemingway more than I ever have before (although I did like The Sun Also Rises quite a lot in College, but The Old Man and the Sea in High way. Should give it another read I guess).

Of course I am a sucker for truth, for reality, for memoir and real people, oh and also for 1920's Paris too.

What a dreamy cover. I want a poster of this...
So here's the writing bit that I found interesting. Hemingway worked everyday in a little room in Paris, writing until he knew what was going to happen next in his story and stopping there. He knew he was done when he had something more to say the next day, never letting the well completely run dry. Then he would do everything possible to not think about writing until the next day, letting his unconcious deal with the story, allowing the spring to refill the well, ready to write again later.

I seem to have more time to think than write. As I type, my boys are throwing pillow bombs at me. So it is time to sign off and let the well fill, and fill and maybe flow over. Guess the words in my head will get all that water someday!

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Reading Fix

No zombies needed, thanks. 
Being a mom of two little ones, I don't have the luxury to read like I used to (those were the days). Instead of hours with a book, I find little cracks of time here and there to get my reading fix. I recently got a Kindle, which I adore, but like regular books, don't have too much time to hang out with it. I did recently put the Kindle app on my smartphone, however, and while I wait for my little one to fall asleep, I am using it to read Pride and Prejudice for the first time (I know, it took me a while to get to it...).

So if you don't have a Kindle, but do have a smartphone, I highly suggest getting that free app because along with it comes a treasure trove of free public domain classics. As they say, the more we read, the better we write...right?