Friday, July 25, 2008

Raise your glass Friday!

There is a lovely bottle of pinot grigio chilling in my fridge that is just waiting for me to fill up a glass... however, while it is still a bit early for me to start pouring - it is the perfect time to prepare my toast! And today I am raising my glass in acknowledgement of the importance of having a community of writers you can go to, not just for critiques, but for comfort and hopefully one day - celebration.

The two places where I have found a writing home are the Query Tracker Community and Passionate Critters.

The former I found through the actual Query Tracker site when I first began my agent search. I cannot say enough good thing about the Query Tracker main site and the forum. Both are incredibly user-friendly in completely different ways. Although this site has been active for only a little over a year - you would never know it. The layout and simplicity of its functions clearly show that a lot of thought was put into its design - and updates are constantly being made to keep the quality consistently high. On the forum end of things are an eclectic group of writers from different places in their lives and careers, but what they all have in common is their willingness to share their knowledge with someone new. It was with this group of people that my previous blog chain posting was arranged - and reading through them this past week made me realize how lucky I am to have fallen in with such good company.

Speaking of good company... just a few months ago I became a member of the Passionate Critters. However, like my Query Tracker forum the Passionate Critters do more than offer critiques of member's works - it is a community. I am not sure what possessed them to allow me into this group - because while we may all be swimming in the same waters, I am more in the shallow end doing the doggie paddle while the rest of them are discussing the best way to do a back flip off the high dive board - I am so glad that they did and have already learned so much from them!

The thing is that writing is a lonely business, and knowing that there are others out there struggling through the same things that you are can make it a lot less lonely and sometimes even a little more fun!


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Writing Methods

Okay, so this is the first post in a writing themed blog chain following the theme of writing methods. Hopefully, if you are reading this you will click on the link to the next blog in the chain, and then the one after that and so on.

Now you can Google fiction writing methods and come up with a ton of results from experts, yahoos, and everyone in between. When it comes down to it though the writing method that has worked best from Aristotle all the way to little old me is sitting down in a chair (or if you want to sit on one of those balance balls to work your core - more power to you) and just freaking do it. This is a lot more easier said than done.

Although I have been writing stories pretty much since I figured out how to string a sentence together, and I have piles (literally) of notebooks stacked in my poor parents' basement and in my own home filled with my writing - it was not until last year that I finally wrote my first novel.

So why then? What made me finally just freaking do it? Honestly, I don't know. One day I opened the laptop and typed a few sentences - maybe two paragraphs tops. Not even a full page. Then my son, Jamie, started crying so I went to pick him up, and feed him and run errands and just basically be a mommy. Except as I was doing these things I thought about this character and a story started to emerge. That night after the baby went to bed, I wrote a bit more - just getting one full page down. It was enough. I decided that was my goal - to keep going with this story one page at a time. I had a vague idea of where the story would end (um, it was a romance so, ya know, happily ever after is pretty much a given), but there were a lot of surprises along the way.

It wasn't totally seat of my pants though. A few days in, I opened a second word document and used it as a place to dump the ideas I was having for further into the story (around this same time I became determined to lose the thirty pounds of baby weight still hanging on me, so I was spending time on the elliptical and this became a great place for me to think ahead in the story or tackle problems in the narrative.). I also had the screenwriting 3 act structure that I had learned in film school and I used this to give my novel it's basic structure. Finally, when I reached what I called the "midpoint" I decided that needed a little more structure, so I basically wrote out little scene by scene snapshots with bits of dialogue or whatever else occurred to me at the time - that went all the way to the end. Then I just followed that - not religiously - some stuff didn't work, so I changed it, but mostly it was a good map to get me to "the end."

I started my book in mid-September and in mid-December I had a 95,000 word novel. The one thing I haven't mentioned is that everyday I wasn't certain if I could keep doing it. Even as the words and pages kept adding up, something in me believed that it was some outside voodoo force motivating me to keep going. Somewhere along the line I ditched that idea. Maybe it was on one of those days when I really didn't feel like writing. I wanted to nap, or read a book, or watch TV, or pick my nose - anything but write! But I wrote anyway.

So, that's my not so magical writing method. Please, visit the other blogs in this chain to see what other writers have to say! (Psst! You can find links to all of them in the sidebar!)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Raise Your Glass, um, er, Saturday

So I meant to post a raise your glass Friday yesterday and I would like to be able to say I didn't post a raise your glass Friday because I was too busy raising an actual glass.. but no. I am just a slacker. At any rate without further ado here is my belated (not sure if I am actually allowed to use that word without sandwiching it between Happy and Birthday - and speaking of which exactly who was it that decided this was going to be the way to express birthday wishes to someone after their birthday had already passed and you had totally forgotten about it.) raise your glass entry.

Project Runway has returned!!! And The Closer! And Burn Notice!!! My TV cup over-floweth.

Also, found a hysterical new website - Two of the entries I found today actually made me laugh out loud.
This one addressing a suspected hay-stealer is funny, but the best part is found once you scroll down a bit to comment #15 from Quite Contrary where he has composed an excellent rebuttal note.
I also had to laugh at this note from one neighbor to another concerning noise in an apartment because my husband and I have lived on the third (and highest) floor in our apartment complex for a little over two years now and we had a woman who lived below us complain to management almost daily about our "heavy walking" above her (she even called the courtesy officer and made him come to our door once - where he seemed kind of embarrassed to see that our raucus activity was um, doing dinner dishes) and after she moved the people who replaced her have decide to take the much more direct communication route of when they feel like we are making too much noise (for example when my 14-month-old son was bouncing a tennis ball on the tile floor in the front entry-way) they just pound on their ceiling until we stop.

And finally because I love me some Joss Whedon I must raise my glass to his latest creation: Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog - which I learned about through a lovely NPR article.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Deal Breakers

This time I'm back for real.

After my posting last Tuesday reminiscing over all my vacation fun - one last souvenier presented itself - I had caught the lovely little virus that both of my little nieces had while we were there. Soon I had gone through a box full of tissues and when I wasn't blowing my nose I was trying to figure out a way to sleep... this was made more difficult by the fact that my son also caught the virus and it made him not want to nap at all (either because he had the scratchy throat symptom or because he couldn't breathe through his stuffy little nose) and anyway it was a horrible long week that after a weekend of rest (thanks to my husband for getting up with the baby so I could sleep in) and finally getting around to emptying the suitcases from the vacation - I am not really ready to blog again.

Anyway, I found this article from the NY Times a while back and bookmarked it because I thought it was pretty interesting concerning Recipes that are Deal Breakers. I love to cook and am big into using recipes - which I am pretty anal about following. And I am constantly looking for new recipes and different things to make, but of course, I have my own personal deal breakers as well. Anything that needs to be deep-fried is at the top of my list. Not just because of the horribly fattening aspect, although I do try to cook somewhat healthy at home, but mostly because I don't want to deal with having to dispose of all that used cooking oil. Another deal breaker is one that I came across when I had a subscription to Cooking Light magazine - so many of their recipes called for a ton of exotic or expensive ingredients to make one little dish - that I would automatically remove it from consideration.

This article also made me think about deal breakers in other aspects of life - and specifically in books. I know that when I am browsing in the bookstore or library there are some books that I pick up and have to read only a few sentences of the back cover copy to know that it is not for me. The one sentence that usually sends me running is: "Through three generations of one family" or "Three friends do this and that as they look for this and that" - it's always three, which I understand - three is the magic number in writing, but I just prefer to read a book that focuses on one main character's journey - not three or three generations worth. Another more recent deal breaker for me is any book that immediatly starts talking about the heroine's love of designer clothing and shoes - in fact my eyes go rolling right up into my head.

Those are my deal breakers in recipes and fiction - what are yours?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Two Fulls Weeks Since My Last Post

Eeek. Who knew two weeks could go by so fast? Yes, it is more than a little embarrassing that at the end of my last post I made the promise to continue blogging throughout my vacation - but what can I say - I got busy.
Not to bore anyone but some of my activities while I was in my wonderful hometown of Buffalo, NY included:

-Seeing Wicked. I have loved this show since years ago when I first heard the cast recording, and have been dying to see it, however, it was pricey and I had decided against going due to financial concerns... when my wonderful friend Jenny bought me a ticket! We had great seats at the front of the balcony - and the show was just wonderful. I had forgotten how much I love seeing live theatre.

-Had a girl's night out complete with martinis, a Sex and The City viewing, and then an hour spent in the movie parking lot while we waited for a tow truck drive to arrive and give us a jump after Jenny had mistakenly left her lights on.

-A night out at the best dive bar ever called The Sterling Place. Wonderful selection of beers on tap (although I was pretty much finished after one pint), free popcorn, and the world's most delicious hamburger ever. Seriously, I do not know what the owner does, but it was so good that I actually stuffed myself and ate the whole thing - and it was a HUGE burger too.

-Another night out that started with an amazing Italian meal at Chef's and then Jenny proceeded to buy me more drinks than I could count while we played darts and pool at another local dive bar.
-Enjoying Shakespeare in the Park's production of King Lear.

-And finally lots of quality family time. Here is a picture of my son Jamie giving his little cousin Lucie a little love.