2010 GOALS

My nine month old granddaughter, Alexa Reese, started walking this week.  I still am in awe of how fast babies learn and grow.  In less than one year she has gone from being a newborn infant who only knew to cry to get her needs met to feeding herself, communicating her feelings of unconditional love for her Mommy and Daddy to her delight for almost everything new she accomplishes.  It’s wonderful to watch and all of us are very proud of her. 

 The first of the year I turned in my writing goals to my writing chapter president.  Those goals came easy because I love writing and my dream is to be published.  All these goals will move me closer to accomplishing that dream.  At the end of next year the president will pull out the list and everyone in the chapter who reached their goals will receive awards if they reached those goals.  I reached all my goals last year and I’m looking forward to reaching them this year.  She made sure the goals we listed were goals we could control the outcome, goals we alone were responsible for attaining.

As for personal goals I had a hard time with these.  I came up with usual ones, losing weight and getting healthy, making more money.  I have some written on paper and some hanging on the wall in my office.  I can say as of almost the end of January I haven’t accomplished anything towards obtaining my personal goals.   I remember the passing thought of not making goals this year.  I remember thinking I could just be satisfied with the way I am and what I have.  After all, my life is comfortable.  I have pretty much everything I have ever really needed.  I have a good job, a nice house, a wonderful husband and family.  Then I saw my granddaughter walking.  I had to ask myself how could I take my life, health and time with my family for granted.  Just because I’m a grandmother doesn’t mean I’m that old.  I’m still healthy enough to exercise every day.  I still have many years ahead to accomplish lots of good things.  How could I just not care or even try to make a difference or believe I could make a difference in the way my life is lived?  I lectured myself, gave myself a pep talk, rewrote my goals and all I can say now is that I have eleven more months to accomplish them.  Thanks Alexa Reese.

I’m Thankful

November is a month of thanks for me. Not because it’s the month of Thanksgiving but because of everything happening this month. I am participating in NaNoWriMo again this year. I am managing to stay close to where I should be on my word count. I am writing my first western romance and enjoying the story. My reward for finishing NaNoWriMo this year will be buying and reading books by one of my favorite authors, Lori Wilde. She has two new books out, Zero Control Harlequin Blaze and The Sweethearts’ Knitting Club Avon. I can’t wait to read them but not until after I finish NaNoWriMo.

I’m thankful for being able to spend a Saturday writing and doing research with my friends from Saturday Writers. We made a trip to Woodward Iowa to visit the library where one of the women in the group works. We did some writing, playing in the stacks of books and taking pictures. We also did some research on my western but that’s another topic I might cover some day. Somehow I think stud fees for bulls belong in an entirely different blog.

I’m thankful for another writers group I belong to, Two River Romance Authors. They are not only a group of writers who have the same goals and aspirations I do but they are also a group of friends. We spent a retreat weekend together writing. We reserved a hotel suite from Friday to Sunday, brought food, drinks and whatever we needed to write. We set up our laptops, put on our headphones, set the timer for 20 minutes at a time and wrote. Taking breaks between each twenty minute writing session to clear our heads or run ideas past each other, we helped our stories continue to flow. Some of us brought magazines and books to do research on stories or to get ideas for new ones. It was a great weekend and I managed to write 5,000 words towards my NaNoWriMo total. Watch for these authors to be published in the next year, Emma Robuck, Jordyn Meryl, Malynda McCarrick, Annette J. Freeman, C. Deanne Rowe, Hannah Harris and of course, adding more to bookstore shelves, our President Maggie Rivers.

One more thing I have to be thankful for is I found out this week I am going to be a Great Aunt. My niece Brigette and her husband Rey are going to have a baby. It will be the first child for the couple and also the first grandchild for my sister, Becky. Congratulations.

I wish everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with love, family and friends.

Can I call myself a writer?

This question crossed my mind recently when a friend asked me what I had been doing since we saw each other last.  I hesitated a minute before I said well, I finished my first book and I am working on my second.  I’ve learned when those words leave my mouth I am going to get the reaction of surprise accompanied by the string of questions “You what?  You wrote a book?  I didn’t know you were a writer.  Is it published?  When can I read it?  Will you autograph my copy?  Am I in it?”  Usually these questions come without the person taking a breath or giving you a chance to answer.  If I don’t have to time for a thirty minute explanation I usually skip sharing the information of writing a book and just say nothing. 

I have completed my first manuscript and I am working on my second.  My third story idea is running circles around all the daily thoughts in my head like what’s for dinner, did I put the dog’s back in, my report is due today at work.  No matter how hard to try to keep focused on daily activities my characters keeping talking to me trying to tell me what to put down on paper.    So does this mean I can call myself a writer?  I haven’t published anything.  I haven’t submitted anything to a contest, an agent or a publisher.  Do all the classes and workshops I have attended give me the privilege of calling myself a writer or when I first put a letter and word down on a piece of paper did that give me the right?  If that’s the case then everyone I know can say they are a writer.

When I’m in the safety of my own office I feel secure in referring to myself as a writer.  The words flow onto the paper without effort.   I can read them back and make sense of what I have written.  At this point I would be willing to bet any agent would be proud to represent me and any publisher would be more than happy to publish my work.   It’s a given.  Take me out of this environment and put me in, for instance, a critique group and the story changes.  The other people are gracious and kind and most of the changes they suggest are good ones.  I take the ones I like and leave the rest even though they haunt me when I go back over the part of my story.  Should I change it?  Should I leave it alone?  What if they were right?  We are all writers.  Do I know more than they do or have they taken more classes and workshops than me?  Do they own more reference books than me and have they read them all?  There is always that if. 

I guess until I have published my first book there will always be a question whether I can say I’m a writer and I’ll hesitate every time someone asks me what I have been doing lately.

WHAT HAVE YOU GIVEN UP FOR YOUR WRITING DREAM?

Recently several blogs caught my attention asking people what they have given up for their writing dream.  I was surprised by some of the things people have sacrificed for their writing.  Other things didn’t surprise me at all.  Some people have given up housekeeping, cooking meals for their families, and their lunch hour at work.  Some people have given up jobs, moving out of their parent’s house, other dreams, money, a social life, but the majority of people commenting said they have given up a precious commodity – sleep. 

I asked myself how I would answer this question.  One important thing popped into my head right away.  I was giving up time with my husband, children and grandchildren.  If writing were my profession it would be easy for me to justify spending time away from my family during work hours.  Since it’s not and I work a full time job I have the ‘guilt’ of taking more time for myself during what free time I have.   Instead of spending some of my free time being a wife, mother and grandmother I spend it writing.  It is easy for me to get into my routine of going to work, coming home, preparing dinner then sitting down to write before bed.  Before I know it the weekend is here and I haven’t seen much of my grandchildren or my children.   

Now the nice weather is here there is always something to do outside so I have added responsibilities of yard work, tending my flowers and garden.  I can’t come home and snuggle up in a blanket and sit down at my computer for the evening because ‘it’s too cold to go outside.” 

I could dwell on how much I am missing and make myself miserable.  I could feel guilty for what free time I spend writing.  Or I could give up my dream and give in to my own pressure to do my best to be available when everyone needed me.  I could make sure and take the time to clean my house so when I had company it was spotless.  I could spend my time cooking nice meals for my family instead of picking up take out or driving through the closest fast food restaurant.  I could spend my spare time on useless choirs or I could write.

What I have discovered is I have found my passion.  I have made wonderful friends by belonging to groups of people who share the same dream I do which is to be a published author.  If I didn’t make time for myself to write, to express myself on paper and to share my dream with other writers I would feel there was something missing in my life.  I would be incomplete.  To me that would be a bigger loss than the extra time I could give my family.  I have learned in my many years of life that if I give to myself and I am happy with me I have more to give to my family.  Also what I give them is a happier wife, mother and grandmother.  The time I do share with them is more meaningful and appreciated. 

When you find your passion and are trying to decide how to make your dream come true remember, don’t give up.  Don’t let the world and the people in it dictate how you accomplish your dream.  Listen to your heart and your head.  
     
Happy 4th Birthday to my grandson Kael Alexander.  Grandma loves you more than you know.

Synopsis Secrets

For the past few weeks I have been attempting to write the synopsis of the story I am currently working on.  I thought it would be simple.  Was I wrong.  So I did some research.  Everyone has a different opinion of what a synopsis actually is, when to write it and what should be included.  I presented the question to my writing group last Saturday which helped me narrow down what I exactly needed to do to complete my synopsis.  Here is what I learned.

 

What is a synopsis?

Webster defines it as “a shortened statement or outline, as of a narrative.”  A synopsis is primarily a condensation, an outline or a short presentation of an article, of an essay or of a book.  This is your chance to tell your story from beginning to end.  Your synopsis should focus on the main characters, the main plot and the main conflict.   What would you tell someone if they asked you what your story was about?  That is your synopsis.

 

How long should my synopsis be?

One author I recently had the pleasure of meeting, Lois Greiman, shared with us her rule of thumb for the length of a synopsis being 1 paragraph for each 10,000 words.  If you can summarize your story in 1 or 2 pages that would probably be an appropriate length for a synopsis.  That doesn’t mean it can’t be longer or shorter.  Your synopsis can be whatever length it takes for you to tell your story.  When you are ready to submit your synopsis to an editor or agent you might want to check their guidelines and edit your synopsis to meet their requirements.

 

What should I include in my synopsis?  Should I give away the ending?

A synopsis should tell the entire story from your beginning which hooks a reader to your shocking ending.  Your synopsis is not what is going on the back cover of your book so you aren’t giving away the plot.  A synopsis is used for submissions to an editor or agent.   You want them to want to read your story.

 

When do I write my synopsis?

This is the questions I have been asking myself and have yet to come to an adequate answer.  Would it be easier to write the synopsis before you begin your story?  This way it would help you stay on track as you write.  Or would it be better to keep a pen and paper handy and write down highlights of your story as you go?  Then you would have somewhat of a synopsis when you finish.  You can also wait until you finish your story to write your synopsis so you don’t feel obligated to stay on any one train of thought or story line, so you can venture off where ever your story takes you. 

 

How should my synopsis look?

Your synopsis should look professional. You should use quality white bond paper, 1” margins all the way around.  Double space your synopsis and use a standard font such as Courier New or Times New Roman in size 12 font.  Create a header listing your name, the title and the word ‘synopsis’ in the left corner and page number in the right corner.

 

Now you should be able to take on the task of writing your synopsis and have something worthwhile to show for it when you are finished. 

MARCH IS MY MONTH FOR MEN

     Today I could say two words that would be an instant conversation starter among a group of people no matter what their age.   The Bachelor.  What a putz.  The last night of this seasons show he chooses one of the two final women to be his bride then changes his mind.  After what seemed a dramatic heart wrenching decision which causes him to break down in tears he dumps the woman of his choice and goes after the other woman whose heart he had already broken.   And he wondered why he is single.  Why he has a hard time finding the right person.  Get a clue. 
     We as writers live for characters like The Bachelor to shape stories around, to use as villains in our stories.  They pretty much write their own plot.  Maybe he is the reason for conflict between our hero and heroine.   Or he could always be the hero of our story who has never had a steady relationship.  Someone who seems to go from girlfriend to girlfriend until our heroine comes into his life.  He is instantly taken with her and can’t think of being with anyone else but her.  Now you know what I mean about living for characters like The Bachelor.  There are so many possibilities and to have someone like him right in front of you week after week to see all of his faults, to be able to make note of them and change the ones we want is priceless.  We as writers take those faults and work them into our stories so our readers either learn to like, or at the least, except him or hate him even more.  
     I’ve gotten ideas for characters from a lot of places.  I have to admit some of them from the people closest to me.  Since it is March I have to recognize three of the men in my life that would make great characters in anyone’s story.  All three happen to have birthday which fall in the month of March. 
     First my brother Mike who above all is my friend.  He is someone who can make me laugh until my side hurts or milk comes out of my nose, who liked to drink until he became invisible.  We have never lived close to each other and there are times we go for months without speaking to each other, only sending emails, but he is always there for me.  Just knowing that makes my world a better place and I love him. 
     Next is my son Ryan who is one of the joys of my life.  He is someone who makes me proud with everything he attempts or accomplishes in his life; someone who has amazed me with his intelligence and charm since he was a small child.  All the medals and awards were great milestones in his life but he is facing one of the biggest milestones this month, the birth of his first child.  Watching him take on this responsibility with love and joy in every second makes me a proud parent.  To think he learned some of that from me.
     Last but not least is my husband Craig.  We have been married for 34 years.  We were high school sweethearts.  I can still remember the first time I saw him across the commons before school.  He still looks the same to me today.  We have taken care of each other all these years and hopefully many more to come.  We have had a lot of trials in our relationship but he is still the one I want to spend time with, feel comfortable with and would be one of the things I would take with me to a deserted island.   Love doesn’t adequately explain the feelings I have for my Husband.
     So there you have the Men in my life for March.  I fashion characters after them and use them to give me ideas about how a man would react to certain situations.  They are among my greatest supporters and I love each one of them.  Happy Birthday guys!

Learning to Revise

In my attempts to come up with my February blog idea I searched saved files, old notebooks, idea boxes filled with clippings and articles.  It came to me as I sat in the pedicure chair bouncing ideas back and forth with my daughter in the chair next to me.  I have been revising my story for what seems like forever and I don’t feel I’m getting anywhere.  It finally hit me I need to give my story a pedicure.
 

I watched as my cuticle was carefully tended to, trimming away all the unwanted skin.  I realized this is what I needed to do with my story.  Trim the dead wording from around the original idea.  I knew I had added a lot of extra words which didn’t need to be there.   I have a habit of telling and not showing.  All it was doing was making the story boring, unattractive and a difficult read.  The extra words needed to go.  After all that was trimmed away it should leave me with the basic premise of the story I began with.

 Next I watched as a layer of dead skin attached to the bottom of my feet was exfoliated.  It didn’t need to be there.  All it was doing was making the bottom of my feet dry and unattractive.    So the next step in revising my story will be to scrap away the layers of dead calloused concepts which have managed to cling to the original story sucking the life out of it.  It seems no matter how you try to stay focused on the story line somehow these layers attach themselves becoming part of the story.   They will end up in the garbage just like what they scrapped from the bottom of my feet.

 When I am finished I should have a clean fresh copy of what I originally started with.  It should shine bright.  Buffed to it’s height of glory.  It should read as smoothly as a fresh pedicure.  l will take my story and massage it again applying just the right amount of grammar and spell check.  Now it should be ready to apply liberally a layer of new wording to take it from shiny, bright, fresh copy to spectacular and brilliant.  I can stand back and admire my hard work and appreciate a job well done.  I might even pull out the open toed shoes in celebration.

Seven Good Habits of a Writer

“Good habits are worth being fanatical about.” -John Irving

I came across this quote and instantly it triggered an idea for a blog. I have developed some good habits since I began writing. I am normally fanatical about them but unfortunately there are times when I slack.  With the holidays I have been slacking on those developed habits.  I thought it would be a good time to refresh my memory.  So I am writing down what I feel are the habits of a good writer.

  1. The first thing a writer must do is write.  Whether you feel like it or not writing is the most important thing you can do. If you write on a schedule or if you write when you are inspired you must write.
  2. Write in an environment you control.  If you write better with music blaring by all means turn up the radio, plug in your favorite CD, stream music over a radio station on your PC.  Just be considerate if you write early in the morning and use earphones.  Plug in a movie that inspires you.  Turn on the romantic music or watch a scene from Dirty Dancing with Patrick Swayze to help you write love scenes. “Nobody puts Baby in the corner.”  Some might consider this torture (no way) so think of it as research.  Use whatever makes you creative to your advantage.
  3. Find out what time of the day is the best for you to write.  If you are a morning person, grab a cup of coffee or your choice of morning beverage and write.  If you are a night time person, let the dogs outside, put the kids, husband, or significant other to bed and write.  Use your lunch hour and write while you eat.  Run a bathtub of bubbles and lock the door.  Find time for yourself and use it to be creative.
  4. Use whatever tool you have at your disposal to write.  Whether you use a laptop, a Neo, a typewriter or paper and pen.  Find your favorite tool and write.  Most the women in my writing group drag along laptops to writing meetings except for one.  One of our group writes with a pencil and paper until she received an ‘almost fatal’ wound from her arm rubbing against the edge of the table.  You will be happy to know she has since healed, purchased a laptop and is still writing.
  5. How much you write is up to you.  Some writers only find 5 or 10 minutes at a time to write.  Some writers write until they complete the thought or idea they began with.  Other writers stop mid thought leaving their ideas flowing until they can return and pick up where they left off.  For me if the ideas and words are flowing I keep writing.
  6. Be observant.  Take note of your surrounding.  Stop and smell the roses.  Pay attention to strangers.  Listen when they speak.  Learn other people’s life experiences.  Everyone has a story.  Find out what it is.  Eavesdrop on the conversation of the people at the table next to you.  Read the paper and watch the news.  This is where you are going to get ideas.  Writers find inspiration in a lot of different places.  Don’t leave anything out.
  7. Last and most important habit for me is find a group of people who share the same passion for writing you have.  Create a network, share ideas, help each other plot or just get together and laugh.  Writing is a lonely profession which can be a hindrance to creative ability for some writers but other writers thrive in isolation.  Find what works for you.  Ask yourself what makes the ideas start flowing in your head?  What do you need to put those ideas down in written form?  When is the best time for you do accomplish this task?  Create good writer habits and be fanatical about them.

My December blog

During the month of November we all blogged about participating in NaNoWriMo. Well, Nano is over and we all deserve pats on the back for finishing, coming close to finishing or participating unofficially and making our own word count goal. I learned a lot from finishing NaNo. I learned I can do something if I set my mind to it; I have a terrific support group of friends and some awesome plotters. I actually like the story I wrote during NaNo and I am looking forward to the finishing it. I am spending December revising and editing.

Now it is time to think about what I am going to blog about this month. I wanted to come up with another subject and it didn’t take me long at all. My November was so full most everything that happened during the month is a blur except for one very important event. Both Grandmothers got to be present at the first ultrasound of our new Granddaughter, Baby Williams, and she is beautiful.

For any of you who haven’t had the pleasure of being a Grandparent, you have something to look forward to. All be it a miracle to become a parent, it is even more miraculous to become a Grandparent. I gave birth to two wonderful children of my own and watched both my daughter’s children come into the world and the wonder of childbirth is still a miracle to me. What is even more miraculous is to experience a child you have loved, cared for, worried about and watched grow up way too fast about to become a parent themselves.

When your children are small you mold and teach them. When they become teenagers you hope and pray what you taught them will kick in and protect them. When they become adults you admire and brag about what beautiful people you managed to share with the world. When they find their life partner you sit back and let them come to you if they need anything because it’s their time to experience what you have already had the pleasure of experiencing in life. Hopefully they will need you every now and then. I am truly grateful to be asked by my children and their spouses to share in their experience of bringing their own children into this world. To be able to see a developing baby in his mother’s womb is probably one of the most wondrous things you could ever witness. All warm, snug and secure. We could all be so lucky. I feel truly blessed. So here is a picture is my new granddaughter. Welcome to the Williams, the Simmerman and the Lewis families baby. You are already loved!

P.S.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!!   I LOVE YOU!