Recently I purchased Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. It was recommended to me as a writer’s resource keeper. Of the many gems of Mr. King’s writing wisdom, the nugget I’d like to ooh and aah over today is his confession of writing rapidly with the door shut.
What? Close out the fur-babies, the hubby, my Nickelback iTunes? And what about stopping to make those pesky corrections after I re-read the paragraph I just wrote? Oh, the horror!
Well, Mr. King is the master of horror novels.
So, I allowed his little tidbit to marinate in my shocked and awed mind.
Mr. King explains that he literally closes his door and writes as quickly as he can, transferring what’s in his brain into words exactly as they come to him. He doesn’t stop for corrections and only flip-flops back to check characters and essential back story. He focuses on the goal of finishing the story by writing fast enough to outrun self-doubt. Revisions eventually come, but not until the first draft is complete and adequate time has passed so that sink holes in the plot and stumbling blocks in character building become as apparent as a shimmery full moon in a cloudless, black velvet sky.
Suddenly, I got it. For months, I couldn’t get past the first few chapters of my current WIP because I kept stopping to revise and rework it. As a result, the story twisted tumultuously and kept changing. Mainly, because I became unsure of where I was going with it. Self-doubt mowed me down and kept riding over me each time I made a change. I thought I was working toward improvement when I was actually disassembling the foundation and scattering it to oblivion.
Although I’ve been writing since childhood, I’m a novice when it comes to the craft of writing for publication. Knowing this, I read how-to books, take online classes, and whatever else I can find to do to learn the techniques I need to develop for success. I have charts and outlines and character interviews and storyboards. None have worked to help me complete this WIP.
Mr. King talks about starting with a situation that organically develops into a story. He defines the difference between plot and story as “Story is honorable and trustworthy; plot is shifty, and best kept under house arrest.”
I found that when I returned to the basic inciting situation for my hero and heroine, their story began to naturally evolve. Twists and turns and reveals are occurring that I never imagined when trying to systematically structure the storyline. I also found the writing is easier and faster than when I was struggling to make the jig-sawed plot pieces fit together. With resounding clarity, and a sliver of guilt, I accepted that formal plotting doesn't work for me.
Now, my mission is to write hard, write fast and let self-doubt choke on the dust my fingers leave behind while I'm tapping out that first draft. Do I expect it to be a masterpiece? Not in any lucid reality, but that’s okay. Ernest Hemingway said “The first draft of anything is sh**!” So, I’m in good company.
Reposted from New Kids on the Writer's Block
Friday, July 30, 2010
Recently I purchased Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. It was recommended to me as a writer’s resource keeper. Of the many gems of Mr. King’s writing wisdom, the nugget I’d like to ooh and aah over today is his confession of writing rapidly with the door shut.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
A blood red moon, partially obscured by passing clouds, cast an eerie orange glow over my house. The forest, strangely still, seemed more mystical than suburban woods should be. A soft, gentle wind nipped my skin just enough to elicit a few chill bumps despite the warm, Florida evening.
I stopped to wonder.
Were faeries afoot? Was tonight the night to behold a Faery Raed, a Wild Hunt? Would the sounds of galloping horses and barking hounds reach my piqued and straining ears?
With baited breath I stood, watching, waiting for a sign of things to come. Yet, as the clouds passed over and beyond the wide-eyed moon, all was quiet and serene. No portent of calamity, no foreshadow of doom. I heaved a sigh of relief. And yet, a twinge of disappointment lingered.
Just once, I’d like to glimpse the Great Faery Host thundering through the black velvet sky. Fierce and glorious in pursuit of their prey. But, I wouldn’t want to get in their way. They have a fondness for whisking humans away.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
I hadn’t planned to attend the Romance Writers of America’s annual conference in Nashville, Tennessee this year. Mostly because travel is difficult due to family circumstances and then, there was the flight, hotel, meals, transportation, and the conference fee. Cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching.
However, due to the recent flooding of the Nashville area, the conference was relocated to Kissimmee, Florida. With most of the travel expenses eliminated, it became more affordable for me to attend and it’s practically in my own back yard. So, I’m headed to the conference of all conferences this week.
I’m a little apprehensive, to say the least. Large crowds are the last place I want to be. All I can think of is being caught like a rabbit in a buffalo stampede. Yikes!
Although I’m a friendly conversationalist when I have to be, I’m more introverted than I appear and big social events tend to spike my anxiety. I’ve heard from veteran conference attendees that many writers share this phenomenon. Great. We’ll all stroke out together.
Most of my stress is the build up before I get there. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it has something to do with stepping outside my comfort zone. Or outside my routine…but even that seems weird because I don’t really have a set routine. But, I do like to fill every spare moment with writing. And anything that takes away from those precious time slots fills me with angst.
There’s not much that I’d rather be doing other than writing. Oh, wait. Reading and napping are close seconds, but I usually do those when I’m stuck on a plot point that isn’t developing and my brain needs a break.
On the up side, (and so you know I’m not a complete social phobe) I am excited about meeting new people and hearing about their journeys. Also, the workshops and publisher spotlights scheduled look fabulous and I’m all about gleaning as much as I can from those who’ve gone before me.
So, my goal for this conference is simply to listen and learn, make friends and network. I’m foregoing the pressure of pitching since my current WIP is still in development and my completed manuscript needs significant revisions. At least my business cards came in on time, so I can get my name out there. Hopefully someone will remember me fondly when they see my query letters in the not so distant future.
So, tell me…will you be there too?
Sunday, July 25, 2010
It was apparent after a few minutes that the actors were not committed to their characters. They were going through the motions, and perhaps they were technically on cue, but there was no depth or emotions behind their efforts. (Except for Emily Hunt. She did bring life to the scenes whenever she was on screen. So kudos to her for givin’ it her all.)
I did at least enjoy the flick. It seems a throw back to “The Wolf Man” with Lon Chaney, Jr., especially the wolf man costuming. When Benecio’s character, Lawrence Talbot, transformed…for a moment I thought I was watching the 1941 version. Not sure if that was the director’s intention in regards to the special effects, so I’ll leave it at that.
During the movie, I pondered the impact of flat characters. That I was thinking about anything else while the story unfolded speaks volumes. If the characters aren’t committed to their tale, why should I?
I think to buy into a character’s story, we need to understand his/her motivation for being there and a strong emotion must be attached to it. I never got that in this film. Lawrence Talbot returns home to his estranged family after learning his brother has disappeared. It’s apparent that Lawrence doesn’t have an emotional attachment to his family so I kept wondering why is he there and why does he care. Neither question was fully answered, so I ended up with the conclusion that he had to return home for there to be a story. Yikes!
Big lesson learned there on a character’s internal motivation.
The external motivation may propel the plot, but the internal motivation fuels the drive to get there. Addressing only the surface issues results in flat characters because there are no layers to explore.
IMHO, a book, a film, a play, should be about the hero/heroine’s journey of self discovery and we come along because want to cheer them when they face obstacles, sympathize or criticize when they make mistakes, and give a pat on the back when they succeed. As observers, we want to feel and experience the emotion in a work of fiction. Without it, we might as well read an encyclopedia.
Friday, July 23, 2010
Why did I choose Paranormal Romance for starting my writing career?
I grew up watching the classic monster movies (on reruns, of course) and reading epic stories such as Beowulf, The Iliad and The Odyssey, Le Morte de Arthur, and faery tale collections by the Brothers Grimm. Each sparked my imagination and has fueled my writer’s soul.
Vampires and werewolves, dragons and wizards, faeries and trolls, angels and demons, ghosts and goblins, enchantments and curses. The good, bad, and the hideously ridiculous. I can’t get enough. Call me a paranormal groupie.
Yep, I’m the gal who’ll creep down the squeaky, rickety stairs with a dying flashlight in a blackout to investigate the specter haunting the basement. Oh, my heart would be tha-dumping against my ribcage, but it would be from excitement, not fear.
It’s no wonder that I chose the paranormal romance genre to launch my aspiring author’s career. It combines my love for writing with my love of the mystical, magickal, mayhem that thrives in the moonlight. And, the romance part, well, it’s like the marshmallows in rocky road ice cream. It makes something good, scrumptilicious. What’s not to love about that?
Our backyard must be deemed to have the Best Grubs in the Neighborhood. At least, that’s my take on it. Here’s why…
Despite having a fenced yard, wild animals seem to love it. Ergo, the reason for the fence. That, and we have two fur-babies that we don’t want adventuring in the swampy woods behind the house.
Still, a professionally installed barrier is no deterrent for a foraging armadillo. I love the cute little ears. Hate the holes he leaves behind. Especially the huge one that he retreats into when the fur-babies are out.
Monster puppy barks and chases, then looses interest in the armored critter. But, the brave little basset is determined. Determined to do what? I’m not sure. And neither is he.
Wednesday night, he was, literally, standing on top of the grunting armadillo burrowing deep in his hole. Once I pulled the basset off him, I realized this wasn’t the same armadillo that grazed our property several months ago. He is smaller and has different coloring. I imagine he heard through the critter hotline that our grubs were worth the trouble.
I’m hoping he decided that they aren’t. Perhaps the basset’s grand stand on his back was enough to ward off the pesky digger. He hasn’t returned for seconds. Yet.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
I debated for a long time over the current e-book readers.
I had an eBookwise 1150 reading device for a couple of years. It was cheap, $99 when I bought it and was the bare bones of electronic readers. But it finally stopped charging and I could no longer use it.
I shopped the Kindle, the Sony Reader, the iPad, and the Nook looking for a replacement. I read the reviews, went to the stores to check them all out. I pestered friends and strangers whenever I noticed them using an e-reader.
Mixed opinions abounded, confounding my already confused brain.
All I wanted was something that I could comfortably read. I wanted clear, readable text, no jumbled characters allowed. I wanted the device to be lightweight so that I could hold it in one hand and turn the digital page without dropping it.
I didn’t care about making notes, storing music, playing games, or all the other hodge-podge of features that make a device so many things other than an e-reader.
When I read a book, I’m reading a book. I’m not listening to music, playing games, and although I might make notes in the margin of what I like or don’t like, it isn’t essential that I do.
In the end, I choose the Nook.
One, the price was reasonable. Two, it came with a $50 gift card for eBooks. I love to read. Sellers take note, for die-hard readers, a deal sweetened with books is a hook that most of us can’t resist.
Now, the Nook isn’t a bare bones device like the eBookwise 1150. It does have some nifty features. The text size can be adjusted to suit your reading preference. It has 2GB of memory, which I’m told means that it can hold 1,500 books, newspapers, and magazines. If that isn’t sufficient, you can add a memory card.
The version I purchased has built-in Wi-Fi and can utilize the AT&T 3G network if Wi-Fi isn’t available. The Nook also allows you to read complete eBooks while visiting any of the BN stores. I haven’t tried that yet, but WooHoo! if it works! And yes, I will be checking out that feature the next time I’m in the store.
Chess and Sudoku come pre-loaded on the Nook. I’ve played Sudoku and like it. I haven’t tackled the Chess board yet.
When browsing the BN online bookstore, a conglomerate of titles appear and in no particular order. Usually, I use my netbook to browse the online bookstore and make purchases through the website that are then updated directly to my Nook. If you are hunting for something in particular, you can tap the slide bar to access the keyboard and tap out the title or author you are looking for.
I was able to easily order from other online stores and transfer the books to the Nook using the USB cable that comes with the device. I like the USB cable design because it also has an attachment that converts it into a plug so the device can be recharged using a computer or electrical outlet. I find this very convenient because I don’t have to carry two cords.
I love the easy of reading the Nook. It’s lightweight, slightly larger in size than a paperback novel but much thinner. For me, it is easy to read, even in dim light. Some might disagree. But growing up, I was the girl with the flashlight under the covers reading way into the night. I could read by the light of the moon or a flickering candle if need be.
What I’m not a big fan of is placement of the page turning buttons. The top buttons turn pages back. The bottom buttons turn the pages forward. To me, this is backwards. But, I’m adaptable.
Also, I wanted to be able to see the book cover art in color. Although the Nook does have this feature for the thumbnails on the slide bar, it doesn’t transfer to the actual viewer. Big belly-busting bummer!! Part of the fun of buying romance novels is drooling over the hunky heroes blazing on the cover. Some of the sizzle is lost in black and gray.
Speaking of the slide bar, it’s a smidgen too slow for me. Or maybe my fingers are too quick for it. I have to tap it several times for it to respond. Patience, patience, patience.
Dear hubby stresses patience with electronics and elevators. And I say, with OCD and ADD I’ll have patience when I’m dead. Until then, I’ll keeping tapping the button until I get the desired response.
Other than those three teeny hiccups in the design, I’m very happy with my Nook. And my hubby was happy for the $50 gift card. My eBook spending could bankrupt the budget.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
I love thunderstorms.
My two fur-babies do not.
They seem to know when a thunderstorm is brewing even before the dark clouds roll in and the first rumble trembles the air. Each reacts differently, but they both want the same thing. To be next to me or my dear hubby. Preferably, between us both. They press against our legs, climb onto our laps or hop on the bed, if permitted. Snuggle hounds, you could call them.
I know they are scared of the rumbling noise the thunder makes. And fireworks, too. But why? And what makes them want to be so close to us during those particular instances?
One theory I read tried to explain that an electrical charge builds when a thunderstorm is imminent. And when dogs lie next to you, the body heat insulates them from this charge. Well, okay. I guess that kinda-sorta makes sense. But there’s no mention of the same electrical build up when fireworks are discharged. So, that blows a hole in that logic. At least for me.
Further research led me to understand that dogs have very sensitive hearing. Duh! I should have known that already. Our 90 lb monster puppy, can hear me whisper his name when I’m in the back bedroom and he’s sprawled on the floor in the front room. He’ll come running every time.
Super sensitive hearing equals aversion to loud noises, i.e., thunderstorms AND fireworks. Bingo!
Now, why do the dogs want to practically lie on top of us whenever this happens?
Dogs are pack animals and as such they want to be close to their pack members. I believe they feel comforted when snuggling against us. Allowing them to do this quiets the baritone basset’s whine and the monster puppy’s pacing. Usually, they fall asleep despite the rattling windows and howling wind.
I’ve read that some animal trainers discourage allowing dogs to seek comfort. They suggest that this reinforces their fear of loud noises and that this behavior needs to be modified through behavioral training or desensitization. Recommendations were provided on establishing a “safe den” where the dogs could retreat when afraid.
Personally, I’m not bothered by my dogs’ mild reactions to thunderstorms and fireworks. If they want to snuggle with me, I’m okay with that. They aren’t ripping up the furniture or chewing the baseboards like I’ve seen some frightened animals do. If they were, as their pack leader, I’d definitely address that behavior with redirection and training.
By the same token, I believe my fur-babies expect a measure of comfort from me. They should be able to trust in my ability to keep them safe from the invisible noise maker that periodically threatens their world. What good would I be as pack leader if I couldn’t?
A stable pack life is dependent upon mutual trust and respect. Without it, everything deteriorates, leaving a household in turmoil.
If your dog exhibits destructive behaviors in reaction to thunderstorms or other loud noises, please talk to your local veterinarian about safe ways to effectively reduce your pet’s anxiety.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Hello. My name is Kristal Lee and I’m a netbook junkie.
I have a desktop computer and a laptop and now a netbook that’s never more than an arm’s length away, if that.
It’s light and portable and oh so easy to use.
The battery life is amazing. I love being able to take it anywhere and not have to worry about finding an outlet. I took the netbook with me on a day trip to see my parents. My hubby drove, of course, while I tapped away on the keys, working on my current project. I was squealfully delighted with the amount of progress I made because the battery didn’t give out before we’d made out of the neighborhood. Hubby was also happy. Since the netbook kept me occupied, I didn’t complain about his driving. He made a mental note to check that my netbook is in tow for all future trips.
My netbook has become so ingrained in my daily routine that I look for it before I look for my purse when I leave home. I still use the desktop or laptop when updating my website or backing up my data, when I need a larger screen or more capacity. But the netbook has become my primary device for writing, my virtual pen and paper. The screen is small, but sufficient and using Microsoft Word I can enlarge the text if needed.
The built-in pad created a bit of a problem for me in the beginning because my palms rested on the surface, causing my cursor to zip here, there, and everywhere. The fix? I disabled it in the settings and use a mini-mouse that I absolutely adore.
Now, I’m all about the netbook until some evil genius designs a way to take the words and images directly from my brain and turns them into an arrangement of coherent sentences on the computer screen while maintaining my writer’s voice, delivering my fingers from the arduous task.
So, which do you prefer when writing? The desktop, the laptop, or the netbook?
Sunday, July 11, 2010
“Writing is a dog’s life, but the only one worth living.” ~ Gustave Flaubert
When I came across this quotation, I paused. Then, I googled.
Gustave Flaubert was a 19th century French author, whose only work I recognized in his writing repertoire was Madame Bovary. He is described as a writer who ruthlessly wracked his brain to find just the right word but was never satisfied that he’d found it. The language and construct of his personal letters proved that his literary finesse wasn’t natural, but developed through the sweat and struggle of revisions to meticulously avoid the vague, the ambiguous, the imprecise.
The more I read, the more it seemed that Flaubert was a man tortured by his craft. A further Google search revealed that in the 1800’s, the phrase, “a dog’s life”, referred to a “wretched” one. In the 21st century, even the term “wretched” has become antiquated and in modern tongue, one would simply use the words miserable, crummy, or crappy to describe the sentiment.
A dog’s life equals a crappy life? My how things have changed in three hundred years.
My two fur-babies have posh lifestyles. Nothing crappy about their world, except the spot in the yard where they poo. They are surrounded by people who cater to them 24 hours a day. We feed them when they’re hungry and give them treats throughout the day. Anyone in the house becomes an instant doorman whenever the pooches want to go outside or come in. They are given regular baths with scented soap. (Okay, they probably don’t consider that a perk, but it is a necessity when living in a human pack.) They even get chauffeured to the doggie park for group play dates, followed by a trip to the drive-thru for their favorite kid’s meal. And, of course they get all the love—hugs, pats on the head, belly rubs, and positive affirmations that they want and need.
A dog’s life today is so not like a writer’s.
But I get what Flaubert was expressing.
Writing is a struggle, or at least it should be, even to those born to it. Nothing that comes easy ever satisfies the soul. It is in the wrestling that we find accomplishment.
The writer must pour over every word, honing and tuning it to portray the exact thought or emotion that exists in her mind at the moment of its conception. And, like natural childbirth, only through laborious toil and pain can that creation be pushed from her innermost being into the world. No one can do this for her. She has to do it herself.
I’m not suggesting that as writers we hole up in a closet or a basement, or underneath the stairs to go through this process alone. We should surround ourselves with people who cheer us on, cheer us up, and who are cheery to be around. Be mindful, though, that these same people know when to stop cheering and kick butt. Cheering for the sake of cheering serves no good purpose to a writer.
Despite the challenges and drudge I face, I love being a writer. So, I echo Flaubert’s summation… It is no easy life being a writer, but it is the only one for me.
Saturday, July 3, 2010
Tell us a little about yourself. I am a mature, college educated, wife, mother, and all around modern woman who happens to like all things Scottish and loves to read regency historical novels. I started writing toward publication about three years ago. I signed my first contract for a contemporary romance then, just this past February, sold DRAGON’S CURSE. Both books were released in June and I am thrilled. I grew-up in Huntington, NY then moved to New Hampshire to attend college. I stayed many, many years. My husband and I moved to Raleigh, NC recently to be near family. I write full-time.
What inspired you to become a writer? I have always loved to read and one day my Scorpio-driven type ‘A’ personality said “I can do better than this.” I discovered it is NOT very easy to write a novel. It takes works, training, editing help, critique help, and lots and lots of rewrites. I am a voracious reader and have met some of my favorite authors in my writer groups. They keep me focused toward success.
What were your first steps toward publication? Writing the story came easy. My son arrived home from a tour in Iraq and it felt as if a damn broke open. Maybe the relief from a year of stress had melted away. Whatever happened, the story was finished in one month. After several rejections from agents, I received a request for the full manuscript from Harlequin. Even though they eventually rejected it, I kept going. I have completed six manuscripts to date and have sold three. I’m liking them odds!
What is one speed bump that you encountered along the way and how did you overcome it? I worked feverishly on a Scottish historical with a bit of time travel and a present day witch in order to be able to pitch it at the annual Romance Writers of America conference in July 2009. I waited patiently for my turn with one agent and one editor. Both requested I send them the first three chapters so I raced home, edited it to death, and proudly sent my ‘baby’ out into the world. Alas, the publisher said ‘no thanks’ and I NEVER heard from the agent. Ah, well. I have since worked on the manuscript, using information I learned over the last nine months to make my writing better. I will again pitch my book at the next RWA conference.
Who or what has been the biggest help to you in becoming a published author? If I named names we would be here all day so let me make a shout out to my chapter mates at Heart of Carolina Romance Writers. Besides them, I belong to several on-line groups which are where I realized e-publishing was one way to get published. Sort of a stepping stone, especially for a novella length story like DRAGON’S CURSE.
What sparked your heart to write Dragon’s Curse? I love Dragons (and horses, and unicorns, and mermaids….watch out!) but I love stories where Scotland is a prominent feature. My husband is of Scottish ancestry and we still volunteer each year at the New Hampshire Highland Games (www.nhscot.org.) I decided to combine the two. I thought caves, then thought islands, and did a little research. Scotland has a plethora of beautiful islands and I discovered Fingal’s Cave on the uninhabited island of Staffa. It is the oddest looking place I have ever seen. The story flew and I came up with the tale.
Where do you go from here? I think the term ‘juggler’ might describe my life at this point. I have full-length contemporary romance also just out under my pen name, Nancy Lennea. Check it out at www.nancylennea-inlove.blogspot.com. I just sold a full-length romantic suspense which I hope will come out later this year. I am finishing up SPELLBOUND HIGHLANDER for the RWA conference and already have 1/3 complete on a story that takes off from that story. I just started another paranormal set in present day Raleigh, NC at the new Museum of Art. I am aggressively pursuing getting an agent because I would like to submit work to one of the large NY publishers.
Any words of wisdom for new authors with dreams of a publishing contract? Don’t try to do it alone as I did for the first year. Gain membership in at least one writers group. Writing is a solitary profession and the camaraderie is priceless. And just remember: Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.
Thank you Nancy, for chatting with us today. Congratulations on the release of DRAGON’S CURSE.
Nancy Lee Badger writes full-time and lives with her husband in Raleigh, NC. She loves everything Scottish. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, Fantasy-Futuristic & Paranormal Romance Writers, Celtic Heart Romance Writers, and Sisters in Crime. She stays busy celebrating the release of her Scottish historical DRAGON’S CURSE available from Whispers Publishing at www.whispershome.com to get your copy today.
Visit Nancy’s websites: http://www.nancyleebadger.com/ and http://www.nancyleenea.com/.
Visit her blog http://www.rescuingromance.nancyleebadger.com/ For excerpts and more information.