Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday Round-Up - #223

Karen Lange, guest posts at Lessons from the Homestead (Carol Alexander). In addition to sharing a little-known holiday for writers, she gives suggestions on how to encourage children to write.

Writers & Readers: Do you encourage the children in your life to express themselves through writing? What are some of the methods you use to capture their imagination?

Have a blessed weekend!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Translating Reading to Fine Writing

As writers, we're admonished to read excellent books in our genre. Many post about how they analyze an author's style, plot, characters, and setting. As a Seat-of-the-Pants writer, this comes about as naturally as standing on my head.

So, how do I translate what I'm reading into principles I can integrate into my writing?

1) I read the story for pure enjoyment. If it grabs me and takes me on a breathtaking ride, I go with it.

2) After I finish, I evaluate how the book affected me. Did I keep getting pulled out of the story or was I engaged the entire time? Did the author create characters that were sympathetic or did I want to slap them silly? Was the ending satisfying or did it leave me feeling cheated?

3) When I narrow down the aspects of the book I liked and the ones I found unsatisfactory, I ask myself, "how did she/he do it?" Did the author make all those historical references a natural part of the story or did they pound me over the head with facts? What techniques did the author use to evoke an emotional response in me, the reader?

4) I then compare the methods against my WIP. I'll re-read sections and see if they're effective or need more work.

5) If I were reading my book, would I want to have a sequel or be disappointed at the end?

Writers: How do you translate what you read into tips for your own writing?

Readers: What makes a book go from so-so to so awesome?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Blogger Burnout Spa

My friend, Karen Lange, and I were discussing the need for a blogging break via email. She used a phrase something like, "blog burnout spa." Well, my brain did a flip and tossed out some interesting ideas of what amenities that spa might offer.

1.  Chocolate. Writing or not, this is a necessity.

2.  By day, I'd walk through an indoor tropical paradise. Birds and butterflies would swoop and hover among the orchids, waterlilies, ponds, and palm trees.

3.  At night, a cozy fire and couch would give me a place to read my Bible, journal, and talk with the Lord.

4.  A princess-and-the-pea canopy bed would await me, piled high with pillows and luxurious linens. Of course, they'd be various shades of purple.

5. No spa getaway would be complete without the company of good friends. Tea, delicate confections, and laughter would erase the tensions of daily life.

Items to be checked at the door:

1.  Computers
2.  Cell Phones
3.  TV's
4.  Newspapers
5.  Manuscripts and red pens

I'll be taking a break for the Thanksgiving Weekend. See you on Monday, 10/26/12. 

What's your idea of a blog burnout spa?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday Round-Up - #222

James L. Rubart is one of my favorite authors. Recently, he guest posted at Novel Rocket, and shared where he gets ideas for his books.

Writers: Have you figured out where your ideas come from? Please share.

Readers: Do you have story ideas that you'd wish an author would put into a book? Please share.

Have a blessed weekend!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Do Less, Accomplish More

My To-Do List screams at me. Like papers on my desk, it multiples. There's an Amish saying I've seen in tourist traps: The faster I go, the behinder I get.

How do I keep something helpful from turning into a monster? I've discovered a secret. I split my To-Do List in two. One list contains the big picture with everything that pops up in life, while the other is a daily list of priorities.

Here's a sampling of my Big Picture:

1) Write church blog.
2) Email update
3) Promised book review for friend (due in January)
4) Laundry
5) Gym
6) Swagbucks
7) Write out Christmas cards.
8) Christmas gift list. (I list each person, and jot ideas next to their names.)
9) Update bookkeeping and pay bills.
10) Call health insurance.

My devotional time and seeing Mom is a recurring item on all lists. Also, my Big List is much larger than what I've shown here.

My Daily Lists:


1. Gym
2. Vote
3. Laundry
4. Work
5. Swagbucks


1.  Gym
2.  Pay bills
3.  Swagbucks
4.  Cancel appointment and re-schedule.
5.  Work

You may have noticed that writing doesn't show up on any of these lists. I confess: I'm in a slump right now. I'm thinking about writing. I'm praying for direction on what to do with my trilogy. But...words are stuck like a chicken bone in my throat. (Yeah, I need a creative Heimlich maneuver.)

This post isn't about my writing woes though. The shorter lists help me take a bite out of that big elephant, while the longer list  reminds me there are other things on the agenda. Each one has a deadline. By scheduling the items on my dailies, they get done in a timely fashion.

By the way, my blog skin has disappeared. At least, I can't see it. Can you? Argh. Another thing to add to my list!

Writers and Readers: So, what do you think of my lists? How do you keep from feeling overwhelmed by all the "things you gotta do?"

Friday, November 9, 2012

On My Nightstand - Inescapable by Nancy Mehl

Lizzie Engel learns a difficult lesson: problems have a way of following you. She ran from the pressures of her strict Mennonite upbringing in Kingdom, Kansas. After five years, her life has taken another downward spiral, and she's on the run once again. Her once despised town now seems a possible safe haven.

Noah Housler, an old friend, brings back pleasant memories. How can she think of romance when secrets threaten her life?

I LOVED this book! The author plunked me into the setting and into Lizzie's life. I couldn't put it down. My Mom also gave Nancy Mehl's story high marks. I was torn between wanting to see what happened and yet not wanting the story to end.

Disclaimer: I won this book in a blog contest. Neither the author nor the publisher asked for this recommendation or gave me any payment.

Writers:  What are some of the methods you use to make your characters and settings realistic?

Readers: What books have gripped you and put you in the "I want to finish/I don't want to finish" dilemma?

Have a blessed weekend!

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Mystique of Setting

When I was 5 years old, my uncle gave me a dollhouse for Christmas. From that point, I was totally hooked on giving my miniature people all the advantages of a real home. Little children played in the nursery, while Mom cooked dinner. They had a stage for their activities.

My larger dolls didn't escape my vivid imagination either. When my cousin was born, my aunt passed her outgrown baby clothes on to me. I preferred them to the flimsy doll clothing available in stores. Real sweaters, hats, and booties adorned my darlings.

Along with the clothing, came the bassinet, the real wood crib, highchair, and doll carriage. At one point, my room had a fully-decked out bassinet, a crib, and a doll bed made out of a Penny Playpal box. (She was the older sister.)

A character without a setting is like a doll without the trappings of real life. Who can forget the curtains Scarlett O'Hara made for Tara? Authors like Cathy Gohlke, Tamera Alexander, and others draw us into their worlds with sweeping vistas and realistic details of bygone years.

How can we create a stage for our characters that doesn't resemble a cardboard backdrop?

1) Research, research, research. I know authors, who read books, newspapers, articles, visit museums, and travel to absorb the flavor of their characters' era.

2) Word choice. We would not use King James English in a contemporary novel. Neither would we resort to modern terminology in a historical romance.

3) Interview experts. While working on my first manuscript, I relied on a friend to give me cultural input. On TV, the character, Richard Castle, hangs around a real-life detective for inspiration and accurate details.


Photo Credits:  Dollhouse by melodi2
                         Fashion by Ayla87

Writers:  What techniques do you use to produce great settings?

Readers: What does a stunning setting do for your reading experience?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Friday Round-Up - #221

Are you participating in November's NaNoWriMo? Larry Brooks, at Story Fix, gives a plan for moving from an idea to a viable story plan in one easy lesson.

Writers: Are you taking on the challenge? How do you manage with Thanksgiving at the end of the month?

Readers: How do you find time to read during the holiday season?

Have a blessed weekend!