Saturday, May 30, 2009

Writing a First Draft (Part 3)

Hi folks, welcome to part three of my series on how to write a first draft. Next week, I will be supporting:

So I'm going to do one post about revision, and then I will return my writing a first draft series. Check out Holly Cupala's blog and Jolie Stekly's blog. I met both of these author's in one of Peggy King Anderson's Advanced Writing for Children's classes. I'm a better author and a better person for knowing them, and mark my words, these two gals are two of the finest writers I've ever known, and they are both about to be household names. :)

So on with the first draft discussion, when creating a first draft, I have a whole notebook of supporting documents on my journey to write the worst book ever (every first draft ever written.) I clip photos of people that kind of look like my characters and stick them on pages. I do a character sheet on all my main characters. Author Chris Eboch offers this sheet, and I've found it invaluable. I write a page about the history of each of my characters. I hand write a page or two sometimes up to ten in first person from all my main characters, usually complaining about stuff but sometimes they are all positive.

Another important habit, I add a calendar to this stack of info. As I go, I mark major events on this calendar. Another absolute must is my map section. I draw maps of any complicated space so I don't have pages of someone turning left and right off the cliff. I have a list of quotes and major works that are inspiring me as I write. I create a discussion of all the major themes that I'm am intending to explore.

Well, that seems overwhelming enough for a day. I will continue this conversation in two weeks. Much more to come. My notebook is generally much longer than my manuscript.

Writing is real work. This is the one thing I have learned.

No doodles, yes, I know, it's terrible. Messed up. Universe, please, please, send my computer back to me.

My irreverent playlist hit for the day is She & Him singing "Why do you let me stay here." :)

My quote for the day:

Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls. Joseph Campbell

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Creating a First Draft (PART 2)

Today is going to be short. I've been out of town and just want to check in with you. One of the hardest parts of creating a first draft is what I affectionately call "the slog." That is where you sit in a chair for hundreds of hours and write an incredibly terrible stinky awful (ahem, first draft) book.

Here are some tips to help you keep going. Keep some nice tea and a special cup around for every 3000 words. Reward yourself for success. Race a friend. Pop an email over to someone you know who is writing a first draft. The challenge? I can write more words than you! Want a different strategy? Try spending a day at the library. Take a sack lunch and write all day long. Try this at a bookstore and then a coffee shop, then go to the park. Try the backyard too. That will probably pack on another 10,000 words.

Please let your inner critic take a break while you push through "the slog. Promise that you will make reasonable goals. "I will write 100 words every day this week, not 30,000." With that small reasonable goal, up it by 50 words a week until you reach 1000 per day for a week. Reset and do it again. Give yourself to permission to do whatever it takes to write that draft. Rent a cabin on Maui and take the laptop if that's what it is going to take. Take a class. Join a critique group. Wake up at 3:00 A.M. Go to bed at 3:00 A.M.

Bottom line? Write, write, write, write, write.

No doodles, but a proud mom moment. My son graduated with honors from his college this past week. The gentleman to the right is my son.

Today's playlist is Duncan Sheik's "Half-life."

Quote for the week.

It is not until you become a mother that your judgment slowly turns to compassion and understanding. Erma Bomback

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Conference Heart to Heart

I'm going to continue my series on how to write a first draft next week. This week I'm going to give you my conference "heart to heart" for having a good time at a children's writing conference.

I'm an introvert. Large crowds of people generally make me want to run into the hills. I've left conferences crying, so shell shocked that I'm generally sure I'm never going to write again for a week. Folks, here is a secret. You are not supposed to be popping Tums and Tylenol. Conferences are supposed to be fun.

After you get you nose out of that bag because you've hyperventilated from the thought of going to another conference, it's time to get to work. My first advice -- breathe. Take several slow deep breaths. Empty your mind. One more breath. The best news, everyone who goes to a children's conference is totally human. They love children's books like you do. You are Br'er Rabbit and have just been tossed into the briar patch. Yay! Go with this mind. YOU ARE WITH PEEPS.

Now, it's time to make some goals before we go to that conference. I use a strategy that fits my defensive pessimism style. I think every optimist out there might learn a thing or two from me.

I'm a worrier, and defensive pessimism is my protective mechanism to keep me from freaking out and also put me on the path of productivity. Defensive pessimists set the bar really low. I go through all my worst case scenarios: "I forget to go to my agent appointment", "I say something absolutely unforgettable and stupid to an editor", or maybe "I burst into tears after I make my agent appointment and head home, blowing all the conference cash for the year". Though this may seem depressing to you, this behavior actually helps worrywart me get my focus away from my bubbling emotions, so I can make an effective plan.

Once I've shaken out my heebee jeebees of the possibility of all hell breaking loose, I move on to my three tier goals of happiness. My first tier of goals are totally doable, really low bar. Stuff like, I will show up. I will go to sessions. I will talk to my friends. (Uh, this one is very specific, I will discuss J. J. Abrams' STAR TREK, hahahaha!) I will take notes. I will not eat too many cookies. I will meet one new person. I will hand out 25 business cards, etc.

Next, come my second tier goals: I will talk to an editor, I will have fun at my agent appointment, I will get the card of all the agents and the editors at the conference, I will make contacts for school visits, I will learn something new. All doable but tougher than first tier goals.

Last, come my third tier goals: I will connect on a personal level with an editor, I will have a requested full manuscript by the end of the conference, let me throw in the Holy Grail, I will have a publishing contract, or, better, an agent with auction in the next month because of this very conference. Whew! I've got lots of stuff to do. I've got a good feeling about this conference. Yay! I'm sure I will have a good time.

Doodles of the week are temporarily back. This is my doodle -- Blueberries on Fire.

Hey, here is Kay Starr with Side by Side. I had this on a 45 when I was kid, and I must have listened to it 1000 times on my Fisher Price Phonograph.

Quote for the week:

Both optimists and pessimists contribute to our society. The optimist invents the airplane and the pessimist the parachute. G.B. Stern

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Creating a First Draft PART I

I thought I would do a series on what I'm working on right now, a solid first draft of a novel. My current novel in first draft mode is called PROFIT. I'm 69500 words in currently, and I think I've got about 20000 to go. The journey of writing a first draft is a story about excitement, drudgery, and agony. If you plan to write a meaningful first draft expect pain, boredom, tears, and laughter. Expect some chapters to flow out smooth as butter. Others will not be right on even after 15 passes. Most of all expect the unexpected.

Let's get to it.

I'm a concrete random thinker, so I'm going to take that approach with this series. First I'm going to cover the ingredients you need to start that first draft. The stuff you've got have or this journey is really not going to work. Think about the pioneers that crossed the Oregon trail. They needed a sturdy wagon, provisions, and and replacement running gear (wheels, axles, etc.) These folks often packed stuff they didn't need and had to abandon this stuff on the way. Yep, writing a first draft is going to be like that. So hop on this wagon train and let's get to our destination.

So how I do you get this cauldron of creativity going. It all starts with ideas like "how do I feel about war", "what do I think about bioethics", "what is our plugged in society doing to itself". These are all ideas I'm exploring in PROFIT. I have to find ideas that are provocative. Ones that cause me to have great emotion. I have to want to laugh and cry about them at the same time. I also must find a character that I really want to root for. I really care about my main characters and they are close to me. I can feel their heartbeat next to mine.

I spend hours just talking about the story I'm going to write. I talk to myself when I driving the carpool. I talk to my friends and family until they are really just sick of it. After a while that story starts to make sense. It becomes interesting. I dig deep into my southern roots. I build an oral story just like the ones I heard when I was growing up. Click on this link if you want a detailed plan on how to create an oral story.

Once I have that oral story, my main character and basic plot idea are in place. The oral story is between 5 and 20 minutes long. It's now time for one of my first writing steps on my novel writing journey. I write down my oral story. This document might be page or it might be 30 pages. I'm not ready to write the book yet, but I've got to have this "provision" to move forward.

I hope this has given you something to think about. I will be back next week with more of the journey next week.

Today's playlist hit is "When the pain dies down" by Chris Stills.

My quote for the week,

People are afraid of themselves, of their own reality; their feelings most of all. People talk about how great love is, but that's bullshit. Love hurts. Feelings are disturbing. People are taught that pain is evil and dangerous. How can they deal with love if they're afraid to feel? Pain is meant to wake us up. People try to hide their pain. But they're wrong. Pain is something to carry, like a radio. You feel your strength in the experience of pain. It's all in how you carry it. That's what matters. Pain is a feeling. Your feelings are a part of you. Your own reality. If you feel ashamed of them, and hide them, you're letting society destroy your reality. You should stand up for your right to feel your pain. Jim Morrison.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Beginnings (Part VI)

I'm going to wrap up my series on Beginnings this week and will start up a new one next week. Please post topics you would like to know more about, and I will surely let you have my two cents.

Today I want to encourage you to zip some creativity into your first chapter language this week. You've got a nifty plot going with a winning hero, and now it's time to brush in the details. Yes, you might want to head over to your poetry tool box and add some imagery and emotion through your word choice.

Think onomatopoeia. Add some words that make noise. So, sigh a melancholy air release or bang, bash, and boink away! Zoinks, Batman! This is great in picture books but you might be surprised to find that YA authors slip in noises too to spice up that first chapter.

Don't stop with making some noise. Chip in some alliteration and assonance along with that onomatopoeia. Add some simile and metaphor. Pull out your classical rhetoric textbook and check out those figures again. Or just head over to The Forest of Rhetoric. I go there regularly to toss on some genius.

Don't go crazy overboard! Nobody wants a little salad with their croutons.

Yes, you are going to fine tooth comb that first chapter and you are going to strike every boring word. You aren't going to run or walk anywhere. You'll dash, dive, saunter or tiptoe. You will make that first chapter the most sparkly writing ever. I know you will.

Whew! You've got lots of work ahead. Good luck as you go forward. After all this you should have a fantabulous first chapter.

Still no doodles. Waiting on the computer fairies to wave their magic wands and heal my sick, sick laptop.

My playlist hit is Josh Radin and "No Envy, No Fear."

My quote for the week:

The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. Ann Frank