Wednesday, March 31, 2010
But this week I've hit another road block with this particular novel: Now that the character has changed, her motivations have also changed. And if I lose her original (admittedly rather weird) motivation, then ... um ... it's a totally different book. The inciting incident of her trying to get a boyfriend on Valentine's Day doesn't work anymore. This new character wouldn't care about that!
It's complicated, and I'm probably not explaining it very well, but the bottom line is that V-Day needs to take an even longer rest. I need more time to think.
Can anyone relate?
Meanwhile, I'm going back to working on my new WIP. Weronika Janczuk was kind enough to critique my query and first ten pages and I received her feedback yesterday. She had some great things to say and it has motivated me to dive into this project again.
Also vying for my attention is the short story I mentioned yesterday, The Tiffin Box, and the children's story I mentioned a couple weeks ago, Ballerina Mom.
Lots to do! But right now I'm going to go lie down for a few minutes. I don't have time to, really. I'm supposed to be cooking and cleaning my house because we're having guests for dinner. But I've got a sore throat and sinus trouble -- and even typing this entry has pretty much consumed my energy.
Stay well, everyone, and happy writing!
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
But then, that same day, an idea walloped me. Not just any idea, but an idea I'm absolutely in love with. I did something I haven't done since I started my story-a-week challenge: I wrote nearly three thousand words in one day. That meant staying up until two in the morning on Sunday night, but hey, I was on fire!
Here's the pitch for my short story THE TIFFIN BOX:
Sylvie is vacationing on the small island of Cheung Chau off the coast of Hong Kong when she and her daughter discover an abandoned holiday bungalow overgrown by jungle. Picking their way through the dilapidated rooms, they stumble upon what they think must have been the servant's quarters. There they unearth an old fashioned tiffin box -- an enamelware set of dishes that stack together and lock in place with a clasp. Their find is intriguing on its own, but when they open the box, a fifty-year-old letter falls out. Sylvie tells herself it's most likely a laundry list -- nothing important. But when they meet an elderly gentleman on the ferry home who offers to translate it for them, Sylvie finds out a secret kept by a long-dead servant girl is a secret that could taint her own world as well.
Confession time: I'm not quite finished. I have a little over three thousand words, but I haven't felt well the last couple days (probably as a result of my into-the-wee-hours writing binge). I also needed to figure out how to end the story. I had a few different ideas and needed to figure out which one was best before I plowed through.
Still, I'm excited. I love Sylvie's character. She's an upscale expatriate British woman living in Hong Kong and it was fun to write in her voice, even though the story is written in third-person. Oh, and if you're wondering, that's part of Cheung Chau Island in the picture above.
I do have a favor to ask. Would any of my blog readers be willing to critique this for me when I'm done? I would appreciate the feedback. Maybe I could critique the first few chapters of a novel in exchange? Let me know in the comments or email me (a2sonnichsen (at) gmail (dot) com) if you're interested.
Hope you're all having fabulous Tuesdays (or Wednesdays for those not in America)!
Sunday, March 28, 2010
I think he enjoyed himself. He sounded like me when I'm on a writing binge: "Do you mind if I cut down just a few more trees before it gets dark?" My version is: "Do you mind if I try to finish just one more chapter before I come to bed?"
Saturday, March 27, 2010
I have to create in semi-private.
Because I look ridiculous when I'm writing.
I utter disjointed phrases out loud without warning.
I make absurd facial expressions, trying to see which part of my face is working to make the expression so I can describe it.
I do things with my hands and arms. For instance, just now I wanted to describe a woman's dangly earrings moving when she nodded her head. I wanted a better word than "moving," so I held out my hand and let my fingers dangle and wiggled them around to see what that looked like.
If anyone had been standing around watching me for the last ten minutes, they'd probably think I was psycho. So, I'm glad for a quiet, private space. I don't write as well in coffee shops, for instance.
Do you do anything strange while you're writing or are you more subdued?
Friday, March 26, 2010
While we're on the subject of food, thanks for all the comments yesterday ... they have indeed given me food for thought.
My children are all either napping or out to the store with their daddy, so I need to get stop blogging and keep writing my novel. But I just wanted to tell you it's officially spring break at our house since this 11a.m. when my hubby got home from conferences. I'm not sure if that will mean more writing time for me (because my hubby's a teacher, so he's home too) or less (you know, out playing in the gorgeous sunshine). Hopefully a good balance of both.
Meanwhile, my mother's in Israel and my sister's in Napal for their spring breaks. My dad is home alone in Hong Kong, but he'll stay busy enough. He's finishing edits of his book. I'll be critiquing it when he's done with this round.
Besides that, check out this competition on Beth Revis' blog (Note: I had a friend in China named Ruth Bevis, so Beth Revis' name always makes me do a double take!). She's celebrating because her book found a publisher. And she has an awful lot of cool things to give away to a very lucky writer OR reader, so please click on the link above and check it out.
In other very fun news, the darling hubby said we can look into me attending the LA SCBWI summer conference this year! Our baby will be almost two ... so maybe he can handle things around here without me for a few day. I'm almost speechless with excitement. Better start clipping more coupons and saving my pennies! Is anyone else thinking of going?
Have a wonderful Friday, everyone. I'm off to write while the house is silent.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Here's my entry -- the first 25-words from the book I'm currently rewriting:
V-Day, 7 a.m.
The card for Marshall was gone. Totally gone.
I’d searched every conceivable place, even pulled my bed out from against the wall.
So far, I'm getting mixed reviews.
Now usually I feel like I can take critique. I appreciate feedback, even when it's feedback I don't want to hear. I'm pretty thick skinned.
But I'll admit, my internal dialogue while I was reading some of the comments on my first 25 words was disturbing. I was actually getting snarky.
COMMENT: Not really hooked, but it might be a personal preference. I just don't have a reason to care. MY REACTION: What do you mean, you don't care? Were you expecting to care? How can anyone possibly care about a character after 25 words. Are you kidding me?
COMMENT: I probably wouldn't read on. MY REACTION: Ooo-kay. That's not helpful. At. All.
COMMENT: Not much action or conflict going on here, but would read a bit more to see if it picks up. MY REACTION: How much action do you need in 25 words? What do you want her to do -- throw herself out of a building?
Okay, you get the point. My internal reactions were pretty ugly.
Now that I've had a bit of time to think about these critiques AND my reactions, I've come to some conclusions:
(1) A REASON TO CARE: If several people say they don't feel connected to a character, I have two options. I can get all upset and defensive and say, "How can you expect to feel connected to a character in 25 words?" Or I can recognize that this is a valid critique. I need to infuse more of my main character's personality into those first words. I have to. If I don't, I will lose readers. How am I going to do this? At this point, I have no idea, but it's a goal.
(2) NOT HOOKED: I do appreciate constructive feedback more than just an "I don't like it" type of feedback. BUT, I'm realizing I can turn even bare, subjective criticism into useful feedback. Obviously, something's not working as well as it could be here. I can't please everyone, but I can make this better in some way. In other words, it's not there yet. I need to accept that and keep working.
(3) MORE ACTION: I'm still not completely convinced the first sentences NEED action for people to keep reading. I was hooked by other participants' entries that weren't at all action oriented. Still, this is good feedback. Maybe I'm wasting words stating the obvious -- that the card is missing. Maybe I need to tinker with this more to bring out the urgency of her situation.
The lessons I've taken from this exercise?
- Don't underestimate the power of those first 25 words! They might be the only words someone reads when they're skimming your book at a bookstore.
- It's never too early to infuse character.
- If you're going to include action, make it pop so that no one misses it.
Bottom line, taking criticism is hard sometimes. But ultimately, it's a writer's life, so I'd better get used to it.
Did anyone else participate in this critique fest? Any thoughts?
P.S. I wonder if I critiqued any of my friends' pieces without even knowing it. If I did, I hope my comments were helpful!
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
I am DONE with my first draft of my WiP, though: 67,000 words, baby!
Now I will let it take a long nap while I rewrite V-Day. Come back to it with new eyes in a few months. Sleep well, WiP!
And when I say rewrite V-Day, I mean I'm literally rewriting V-Day. I'm not just sitting down to add a little more polish and sparkle. I mean I'm sitting down without my finished document and starting over.
Call me crazy.
Honestly, though, do you think I'm crazy? I'm really, truly asking.
This is my dilemma: I rewrote the first chapter and Thia was different. Her voice was different. So, there's really not much I can salvage from the first five drafts, besides a vague storyline.
So, I'm diving into it. Maybe it's a dive off a cliff. Thankfully, I do enjoy cliff jumping (see #3) ... as long as I land in deep water. And the deep water here is that I know these characters pretty well. I also know exactly where the plot is going. For these reasons, it feels like this "draft" is writing itself. At least, so far.
I'll keep you posted.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
I know, I know, another ballet story! What can I say? I've been inspired by ballet. Probably because I'm taking ballet lessons (in socks because I can't seem to remember to get online and order myself some ballet shoes!).
This week's story is about ten-year-old Matilda who's sure she's going to be embarrassed when her mom announces she'll be taking adult ballet class -- the class right after Matilda's. Only kids should take ballet ... unless you're a professional. And Matilda's mom is not a professional. She's even older than Matilda's ballet teacher! Matilda just knows she'll be humiliated when her friends see her mom pulling on tights and a leotard in the dressing room. But Matilda may be in for a surprise....
As I'm realizing with short stories, maybe especially short stories for kids, is that concept is almost everything. I haven't mailed this off to Highlights yet, because I have a feeling my concept isn't quite there yet.
First of all, why is Matilda so embarrassed of her mom? Would most kids be embarrassed of their moms taking ballet?
I quizzed my eight-year-old daughter on the subject since she was the inspiration for this story. You see, I had to make up a ballet class I missed and I asked if I could join her in her class. Her emphatic answer was "No!"
That's how the idea for Matilda was born.
But then I asked Olivia if she minded that I took ballet, you know, safe in the confines of my adult class.
No, she didn't mind at all. She didn't seem to mind her friends seeing me dancing, either. In fact, when she needed to make up a class she was very willing to make it up in adult ballet with me.
The sticking point was me invading her territory, dancing alongside her and her friends. Perhaps she's afraid I'd boss her around or be critical. Perhaps she's afraid I'd embarrass her by being a big, blundering, dancing joke.
With this in mind, maybe my concept needs to shift in that direction. Maybe Matilda's mom shouldn't take adult ballet. Maybe she should jump right in to Matilda's class. Higher stakes.
But do parents do that? I know at least one mom in our community who takes ballet with her pre-teen daughter. Good for her!
I wonder how her daughter feels about it.
Any thoughts? How would you have felt if your mom or dad decided to join you in an athletic endeavor when you were a kid? Would you have been thrilled ... or humiliated?
Monday, March 22, 2010
Friday, March 19, 2010
Too hilarious. Even if you're not going to enter, it's worth heading over there to check out the entries. If you're a writer, this blog is an invaluable resource that you should add to your Reader.
The contest ends on Sunday, March 28. And there's a cool, practical prize. I love practical prizes!
Have a sunny, happy weekend, everyone!
Thursday, March 18, 2010
I don't think it's a good thing, but for me, procrastination works.
I think I've had many more positive reinforcements to procrastinating than negative ones. The result? I continue to procrastinate.
Case in point:
Since we moved into our new house, we haven't had a bathroom mirror.
Believe it or not, we *lost* the mirror. We thought maybe it was broken and thrown away during our massive renovations. We looked for it everywhere.
And this was a big mirror. It filled up the whole space above the huge counter in the hallway bathroom.
We tried to buy a new mirror at Lowe's, but all those prefab mirrors were too small.
So, I was *planning* to special order one from our local glass company, but I never got around to actually measuring the space. Procrastination.
But yesterday -- lo and behold! -- Aaron found the mirror! It was in the corner of the garage. The mirror surface was facing the wall and color of the back of the mirror matched the garage wall exactly. So, we didn't see it.
I'm thrilled to have a mirror in that bathroom. I'm thrilled that I never got around to ordering a new mirror. I'm thrilled to have saved all that money!
Has procrastination ever worked for you? Or are you one of those wonderfully organized people (I do admire you!) who doesn't let dust collect on your to-do lists?
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Where am I? What am I doing?
I'm slowly eeking out an ending to my WIP. It's not easy.
Besides that, I'm writing cover letters for magazine submissions. (I've never done that before.) And polishing up magazine submissions. And getting ready to mail stuff using the US Postal Service. (I've never done that before, either. I mean, submitting via snail mail. When I query I usually stick to people who take email queries.) This means learning how to include a SASE and how to operate a printer.
All these new challenges!
I hope all your WIPs out there are writing themselves faster than mine is. I think I need more sleep. (I actually had a deja-vu feeling while helping Anna in her gymnastics class today. I've heard you only have those moments when you're very, very tired. Your exhausted brain sees something a split second before it actually registers that you've seen it, so you get the feeling you've seen it before. Did you know that?)
Happy writing everyone ... and get some sleep!
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
During their drive back to the hotel after a family reunion, Mandy feigns sleep in order to evesdrop on her parents' conversation, a conversation that could change their lives forever.
That's my one-sentence pitch for the story I wrote this week. It's about 2000-words long, so I'm not going to post it. Waaay too long for a blog post, imo.
Also, it's part of a sub-goal I've made for myself. Over the next two months I'm going to write eight stories. Then I'm going to pick my favorite, polish it up, and submit it here at One Story. (Thanks, Moonrat, for the link!) Of course, if I pick this particular story, I'll have to figure out a way to lengthen it by 1000 words. Uh, so maybe I won't be choosing this one. Unless I get a huge plot-altering inspiration.
I don't know, I probably don't have a chance getting published in One Story. I'd be running with the big dogs if I did. But, when self-doubt creeps in, I remind myself, Am I not already trying to run with the big dogs? If I don't think my writing is good enough to be published in a magazine like One Story, why am I even sending anything to agents at all?
I think that's one way this A Story A Week challenge has been good for me. It's forcing me to focus on my writing, instead of on one big project. With a novel, I find that whether it's bad or good, I can't help but love it because it's my baby. I BIRTHED it. Sweat, blood, toil. We love our babies, even if they're ugly.
I don't invest anywhere near as much in a short story, so I can be brutal with myself. I can dissect without as much pain. I can experiment. I become more of a scientist and less of a mother. I think that's good for my writing.
Writers, what do you think? Have you written short stories? What is your experience with them?
Monday, March 15, 2010
It's my habit. Growing up in Hong Kong and living in China, we always took off our shoes when we entered a house. I don't think this is necessarily a Mainland Chinese custom. It's a Hong Kong Chinese custom. I also know it's a Korean and Japanese custom. When we visited Chinese friends' homes in Tianjin, we'd sometimes keep our shoes on, sometimes take them off. It seemed to depend on the type of flooring they had down. If the floors were concrete they told us to leave our shoes on. If they had tile or wood laminate, they usually asked us to remove our shoes and provided us with slippers to wear. But I digress....
In our own home in China we always removed our shoes. There were three primary reasons for this:
(1) Dust (think: super dust, the kind of icky gray dust that seeps in everywhere and sticks to everything)
(2) People spit (imagine: green and yellow globs all over the roads and sidewalks)
(3) No clean-up-after-your-pet-or-child signs (read: lots of dog poop, people poop; yes, this is the country where our taxi drivers all peed on the same wall right next to the place where our children caught the bus ... "No, children!! Back! Back away from the wall!!)
Honestly, who wants the green and yellow loogie slime (or worse) tracked all over their living room floor? Not me.
So, back to the present day in Prosser, Washington. I kick off my shoes at my friend's house. One of my other friends comments, "Why has everyone taken off their shoes?" He looks over at my friend's husband. "Do you guys ask people to take off their shoes?"
"No," my friend's husband replies. "In fact, I think it's rude when people require people to take off their shoes when they come into a house."
That made me think. I like the habit I picked up in Asia. I really don't like the look of dusty footprints through my house any more than I liked them in China. They're easy to clean up here, though, and there's not the loogie/poop factor. So, really, I'm not going to insist my guests remove their shoes. But I'll be honest, when I was in China, it irritated me when people would leave their shoes on. I just kept imagining green loogie germs all over my baby's hands.
But, what do you think? Is it rude to ask guests to remove their shoes when they come into a house? Are you one of those people who has a cute sign by the door that says: "Get a clue and remove your shoe" (I made that up!) or are you one of those people who wears your shoes everywhere and only removes them when you climb in bed at night?
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Today I want to thank God for Olivia.
And for all the ways He has provided for Olivia.
When Olivia was sixteen months old, even though she wasn't a U.S. citizen yet, we were allowed to bring her back to here (which in itself was a miracle!) to go to Shriners Hospital for Children in Portland, Oregon to have her cleft lip and palate repaired, completely free of charge.
It was a provision that she was even admitted into the program at Shriners because they usually don't accept children from other countries. But they made an exception for our baby girl.
That was seven years ago last Christmas.
Since then she's had one other major surgery -- a procedure to attach her palate to the back of her throat. This was primarily to help her speech, since she had a short palate and constantly had air escaping through her nose when she tried to talk. That surgery was also done at Shriners Hospital, also free of charge.
This Thursday, Olivia will have her first orthodontist appointment. Soon she'll have to start a spacing procedure to get her ready for a bone graft surgery. Shriners will do this surgery when she's ten or eleven.
Not only does this particular orthodontist have a lot of experience with cleft kids, but I also found out that his office accepts Medicaid for cleft lip and palate patients. Our kids happen to be on Medicaid, so ... perfect!
Next month, on April 16, Olivia is scheduled at Shriners for a lip and nose revision surgery. The surgeon will try to even out her lips and nostrils a little more. This isn't a "necessary" surgery. The last time we were there the doctor asked Olivia how she felt about her face and she said, "I sometimes wonder why one nostril is up and one is down." So, the surgeon said they would schedule this surgery. They want to do everything they can to make sure Olivia's not only functioning normally, but feeling good about herself, too.
Isn't that great?
So, on this beautiful, spring-is-in-the-air Sunday, I want to lay out my remembrance stones one by one. I don't want to forget how faithful God has been in providing for our little girl.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
I bet that title got your attention.
I don't want to generalize. There are obviously thousands of female authors who write very, very well. And there are men out there who write very, very badly. Some of the purplest prose I've ever read in my life came out of a guy.
But I got to thinking about this the other day while I was reading Gary Paulsen's The Beet Fields. It was one of those books I read in a state of awe.
Don't get me wrong. I hated the ending. I thought it was incredibly cliche and not anything I'd ever want my son reading when he's a teenager. The YUCK factor was too strong for me personally.
BUT, Gary Paulsen is an amazing writer. I was in awe of his writing. How he could show so much in a few words. He didn't have to lead us through his protagonist's emotions. We knew exactly how the mc was feeling without Paulsen ever having to give a word of explanation. Because of that, the man's a genius as far as I'm concerned.
I felt the same way when I was reading Matt de la Pena's Mexican WhiteBoy. Paulsen's writing made me think of de la Pena's, even though they write in markedly different styles. It was their brevity that awed me.
And I guess because they are both male authors, I began to wonder, is it a guy thing?
I'm reading Cythia Voigt's Homecoming right now. I like it. It's good writing, but I'm not in awe.
So, I keep wondering. Is truly succinct writing (think Hemingway) something that mostly men achieve?
Can you think of female writers you've read who have been known for their few, but powerful, words?
Do women tend to use more words than men? And why is that? What's your experience?
Friday, March 12, 2010
Thanks for all the great comments on Wednesday's post. I appreciate you sharing your wisdom with me.
The nice thing about *not* being published is that the only pressure I feel about my writing is the pressure I put on myself. One thing's for sure, I think I'm trying to focus on too many projects at once. So, for the next couple weeks, I'm just going to work on finishing my WiP (55,000 words at the moment!).
After that first draft is done, while I'm letting it sit, maybe I'll come back to my list of changes for V-Day. If I feel like it, that is. Yes, the unpublished life is a pampered one.
And while we're on the subject, Elana Johnson had a great post the other day about Dream Agents. It goes right along with what I was blogging about on Wednesday.
In other Sonnichsen news ... Here's a transcript of a conversation I had with eight-year-old Olivia last night:
At bedtime. Of course. Because that's the only time great conversations begin when you're eight. It's a tried and true sleep-avoidance technique.
Olivia: Mom, what is a crumbling foot?
Me: Uh, can you tell me the context?
Olivia: Well, when I was watching the documentary about King Tut with Daddy the other day, they said he had a crumbling foot.
Me: Um ... was it Tut's mummy? Maybe they didn't preserve his foot well enough and it crumbled?
Olivia: No, when he was alive he had a crumbling foot. They said he might have died because of his crumbling foot -- when he was hunting or when he was fighting in a battle, his crumbling foot made him die.
Me: Do you think they said he had a crippled foot?
Olivia: No, it was a crumbling foot.
Me: Okay, well, let me talk to Baba about it and see if he remembers anything about a crumbling foot.
*several minutes later*
Me: Olivia, Baba says King Tut had a club foot. Do you think you heard 'club foot' instead of 'crumbling foot?'
Olivia: No, it was a crumbling foot. (Then, in a perfect Egyptian accent, a direct quote from the documentary, and she did not forget to roll her r's:) King Tut lived all his life with a crrumbling foot.
Come on, say it out loud. I dare you. I think you'll see why my poor daughter was insistent about the state of King Tut's foot.
Have a lovely day, everyone!
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
I am one of those people.
I need a deadline.
I know exactly what I need to do to V-Day. But what have I accomplished this week? Well, I rewrote the first chapter, but that's the smallest (and easiest) thing on my list of overhauls.
Yes, I made a list. Still, V-Day sits there pretty much untouched. Because there's nothing driving me towards finishing it. No deadline, no active queries out, no thrill about submitting it to my favorite agent who I'm sure will love it....
In fact, here's my thought process about it, including some good old-fashioned numbers:
- I've sent out 55 queries. Received six requests for more (either partials or fulls), which were later rejected. The rest were either form rejections or silence.
- Those 55 include all the agents I know most about, including several agents that I would give my right big toe to work with. (No, maybe not, 'cuz then I couldn't do ballet anymore. Darn.)
- I have picked out about 15 other agents that I would like to query after V-Day is revised. I will also be using a brand new query letter.
- Still,I don't know much about these 15 agents. Not that they're bad agents, I just don't know them like I know the other ones. Maybe they don't blog, maybe they don't have a website, maybe they're kind of new, that sort of thing....
- So, there's my quandry. Why am I revising? I know, I know, people say: Keep at it and don't give up!! But I figure I've already queried most of the agents I'm interested in and they've turned my project down. It's a big no-no to requery unless the story is HUGELY changed. My story is changed, but not drastically. I could still use the same query letter for it if I wanted to.
I'll tell you what I'm afraid of. Here's a story to explain:
I was watching a Garfield episode the other day with the kids. Garfield and the gang were going to be in a talent show. I guess it was one they competed in every year. And every single year all the contestants performed the exact same act they'd performed the year before. One rabbit had a hat. His trick was that when he tapped the hat with his magic wand, a rabbit puppet popped out. Garfield said, "I think you need to find a new trick." The rabbit looked thoughtful and said, "Hmm. Maybe a chipmunk puppet popping out of the hat?"
See, the rabbit was open to "revisions," but he still didn't get it. It wasn't the fact that what he pulled out of the hat was a rabbit. Pulling a chipmunk out instead wouldn't make it better. It was the whole trick! It just needed to go.
But that's not the end of the story. As Garfield walked away, the rabbit stood there, still thinking. Suddenly, a man pops out of the rabbit's hat. A full-sized human man. He's the puppeteer with the rabbit puppet on his hand.
You get it, right? The greatest trick in the world was right in front of their faces the whole time. But they couldn't see it.
There are two ways this analogy could work for me:
- Stop revising V-Day. It's basically the same story. Just accept that no one's interested.
- You might be close to the greatest novel of all time (okay, I'm exaggerating to make a point). Get those hiccups out of there so that those fifteen agents can see it.
I'll take YOUR advice now. I'm stumped.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Because there can never be too many books for little girls about ballerinas, right? I know I've been shelling out money lately for books about ballerinas because I have two ballerinas in my house. And they like to read books about other little ballerinas. And there don't seem to be enough of these books in the entire world to satiate their craving.
So, I wrote Arabella Twirls, about Arabella, who can't twirl without falling over. The recital is coming up and Arabella's nervous. Will she learn the secret to the perfect pirouette in time?
I sent the text to a writing friend I found on Verla Kay's Blueboards. She critiqued my gecko story and I've critiqued a couple of hers too. I sent her Arabella to see what she thought.
She had great advice for me, but one of her comments struck like a bolt of lightning: "Maybe try and make Arabella more proactive about overcoming her obstacle."
Hmm. Yes. Yes. Hmm.
See, this critique partner is GOOD. No, no, that was an understatement. She's AWESOME. She not only found the root of my problem in this short story, but the root of my problem in EVERY SINGLE STORY I WRITE, including novels!
I don't know how to make my characters proactive. This is a handicap, people!!
I think it is because I have a problem being proactive myself. So my characters invariably limp around trying to find other people to help them.
What can I do to overcome this? Will this doom my writing career? I think it could. And I'm serious. Lack of proactivity is a like a disease. It spreads through the plot and ruins EVERYTHING.
I need to get proactive and overcome this obstacle. I need to figure out how to write outside myself, to let my characters do things I would never dream of doing. My characters need to be smarter, more creative, more ingenious than I.
How in the world can I make that happen? Maybe identifying the problem is the first step towards a solution.
All I know is, if I ever figure out a way to overcome this, it will be by the grace of God. I'll keep you posted....
Monday, March 8, 2010
This morning I took the little girls with me to the post office to mail a package.
ANNA: Why do we need to go to the post office?
ME: Because I need to send my friend in Montana a present for her new baby.
ANNA: (incredulous) What? People in Montana (pronounced "Ontana") don't have babies! They're just kids!
ME: What are you talking about? Of course people in Montana can have babies. They're people just like all of us. There are mommies just like Mommy and babas just like Baba....
ANNA: But they're just kids! I saw it on a show on TV!
ME: Do you mean Hannah Montana?
ANNA: Yeah, Hannah Montana.
Note: Technically watching Hannah Montana is a no-no in our house, since I don't generally buy into shows with themes such as "kids always know better than their parents because parents are idiots." But I have a feeling there's some subversive Hannah Montana watching going on in our house. I have now become vigilant.
Thank you for thinking that Hannah Montana is a show about Montana, Anna. You have done well, my small spy.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
We had a family night out tonight. Grabbed some Arby's, went to a Lady Mustang's basketball game, and stopped at Dairy Queen on the way home.
My kids tried fake cheese for the first time.
GABE: Why is there mustard all over my sandwich?
AARON: It's cheese.
OLIVIA: I'm getting a stomachache. I think it's from the cheese because sometimes dairy products make me sick.
AARON: That stuff won't make you sick. It's fake.
GABE: Fake cheese?!?
AARON: Yep. Come on, you kids need to like this stuff! I'll tell you what, this summer, we're eating nothing but convenience store nachos and Velveeta Mac until you guys get used to it.
The kids look at him -- stunned, horrified.
OLIVIA: (starting to cry) I don't want to eat fake cheese all summer!
ME: (hugging her) It's okay, honey, Baba's just kidding.
Yeah, is it obvious my kids aren't real Americans.
They also had another first tonight: Dairy Queen Blizzards. They didn't complain about those. Except Gabe, who had opted for an ice cream cone. When he saw the Blizzards he said, "I didn't know we could get those!"
He'll know next time.
Friday, March 5, 2010
Literary Agent Kristin Nelson begins every one of her posts answering the question: "What's playing on the iPod right now?"
I think it's marvelous. I want to copy her. Problem is, I don't own an iPod. In fact, since we've moved, my only music listening device is our clock radio in the bedroom. Pathetic, I know.
So, I'm going to steal her idea, but give it my own little stay-at-home-mom twist. From now on you'll notice all my blog entries will begin with me answering the question: "What's cooking?" Then I will tell you what I'm making for dinner that night. Because it's soooo interesting and I'm sure you're all dying to know, right? Of course, right!
So here I go.
What's cooking? Sweet and sour chicken and broccoli beef with Thai Jasmine rice. (It won't taste like Tianjin's or Hong Kong's heavenly cuisine, but at least it will be something sort of like Chinese food, which my entire family perpetually craves. We are reduced to Kikkoman seasoning packets that say "Quick and Easy" across the top! *sniffle*)
What are you having for dinner?
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Look what popped up in our front yard yesterday.
I think it means Spring has come to Central Washington State. And to celebrate, Sophie learned how to say "flower."
In other news, my official word count on my most recent WIP, Back, is 49, 172, which means I'm getting closer. But of course, when writing a novel, one is always getting closer. Word count on a first draft gives no real indication of how close to finished one actually is, because one might have to rewrite the entire novel if one realizes at some point that it's diarrhea on paper. Still, one is closer. Is that encouraging, or not?
I'm still tinkering with V-Day. I'm being very patient. I have the urge to query (similar to the urge to push when delivering a baby), but I'm holding back because I know I'm not yet ready to enter those dark waters again. I have a new critique partner who is drilling into the thing chapter by chapter and there's no way I'm querying again until either she quits or she finishes the entire manuscript. She's very thorough and I'm very appreciative! There have been so many times when I've been ready to throw in the towel with this particular manuscript. I keep thinking there's too much to fix. The fixing will never end. That's when I remind myself that writing a book is work. I used to be the first one to giggle and coo and say how much I loved revisions and editing. That was my first book. I was obviously very naive and didn't know the real meaning behind the word "revising." I'm wiser now. Definitely less giggly.
If you're a fellow writer, how are those WIPs going?
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
I guess I saw him settling down a few different times before it registered he was there every day. I’d come round the east side of the barn pretty early and see him walkin' through the neighbor’s field with the shovel on his shoulder, strike the dirt with the sharp end so it stood up straight. Then he’d lay down in the grass where I couldn’t see him no more.
After a few times spotting him I started wondering what he was doing there.
So, one day I up and walked over the field to talk to him. Caught him staring at the sky with his hands tucked behind his head.
He scrambled up when he saw me standing there. “This your land?” His voice sounded scared.
“Nope. Belongs to the neighbors,” I says. “I doubt they’ll give you any trouble. You ain’t hurtin’ nothin’. Guess you’re welcome to stay if you can stand the bugs.”
“Aw, only a few grasshoppers. I don’t mind their hoppin’.” He stood there staring at me with his big hands limp at his sides.
“I seen you come out here a few days now,” I says. “Got a good, sturdy shovel there. You lookin’ for work?”
The man shrugged. He was older than me, white hair growing out of his ears. “No sir. Just left a good job shovelin’ a new road.”
“You need a meal?”
“Nope.” The old man wagged his head. “I don’t need nothin’. Just a place to lie.”
“You got a home?”
“Does she know you taking time lying around another man’s field?”
“She don’t know nothin’ about it,” he says. “I tell her every night I go home I’m still out workin’.”
“You lyin’ to your missus?”
“Don’t want her worryin’ about me, see?” The old man blinked pale blue eyes.
I snapped off a blade of tall grass and put it between my teeth. This conversation was getting particular strange. “Well, that don’t make no sense. An able bodied man like you.”
“Not what I seem.” He sat back down in the dry grass with a huff. The sun got higher. A sheen of sweat showed up on his wrinkled up forehead. “The doc told me I’m dyin’. Could go any time.”
“Any time?” I kept on chewing that grass blade, watching him. “That’s a shame. Your missus know that?”
“Nope,” the old man says. “And I’m not gonna tell her.”
“Don’t you want to keep workin’ hard, so she’s can have some money to live on when you’re gone? Instead of lyin’ around in a field wasting your last days?”
“Nope, she has folks. Besides, she’s younger than me, still a pretty little thing. She’ll find another man to take care of her, no question.” He settled back in the long grass again. “I figure I spent enough of my life lookin’ down into ditches. Not enough time lookin’ up at the sky.”
After that I let him be.
In the days after, I knew the old man was there when I saw the shovel stickin' out of the ground. But after a few days, I didn’t see him no more. Checked the paper for the obits, wondering if there’d be a picture. Lots of obits, almost any one of them could’ve been him, except the females of course.
When he never showed up again, I figured he was done diggin’ ditches forever. Someone else had gone and dug one for him.