Monday, May 26, 2014

Dum dum dum! I’m the Villain!

Last week, I wasn’t feeling so well, so I pulled up Netflix and decided to try “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2.”  I’m not always a fan of sequels, and I went in not expecting it to be as great as the first one.

I thought it was actually pretty creative, though there was one thing that really bothered me.  The villain came in the first few minutes of the movie and announced to the audience that he was indeed the villain.  Then he went on to become the main character’s mentor, though everything he did was clouded by the fact that I already knew that he was up to no good.

As I was watching, I started wondering why it was so important for the audience to know that he was evil to begin with.  Would the story have been different?  Probably not.  The young, enthusiastic inventor would have still learned from the older, wiser inventor.  He would have been sent out to save the island and ultimately saved the ‘animals’ living there.

The difference would have been that I wouldn’t be waiting for the other shoe to drop.  And I kept wondering how the main character couldn’t see it.  I mean, after all, he’s been so obvious in his evil intent that I told the audience within a few minutes.  How couldn’t he see it too?  I think I would have enjoyed the movie more if I had been with the main character, wondering if he was doing the right thing, instead of knowing he was making a mistake.

Which, in turn, made me wonder what kind of villains I’m creating.  Are they all so evil that there’s no chance of redemption?  Does the main character know who they really are or do they have an angel face hiding what they’re really up to?

Personally, I’m starting to really enjoy creating angel faces. 

How about you?  What kind of villains do you like to read?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Working on Multiple Projects

I have a question for all of you.

Do you work on multiple projects at once? 

I tend to work on one at a time, but once I finish a draft, I move to the next one.  However, this month has been a bit odd for me.  I don’t know if it’s that I’ve got enough going on that I feel like I’m jumping from one thing to another without any clear direction.  Maybe I’m losing my ability to multitask.  Or maybe I’m using it too much.  I don’t know.

In April, I finished my Blue WIP, and now it’s up for critiques.  I’ve been getting some awesome feedback, and I love it.  While I wait for the critiques to finish, I’ve been trying to use May to work on revising my Yellow WIP.  As much as I’m enjoying this one, (and trust me, it’s one of my favorites) I’m having a hard time concentrating on it. 

Actually, it’s not as much a matter of concentrating.  It’s a matter of getting down to work.  Every time that I start a section, I get so caught up, I keep reading to the end.  I think I’ve read the whole thing three times this month already.  I love these characters and the story, but I can’t concentrate on it enough to focus on revisions. 

Whenever I’m working on a novel, the characters take up residence in my brain.  In my spare time, or when I have a chance to stare out the window, I let them bumble around in there.  They tell me what their story needs or if there are any changes that need to be made.

Except this time, the characters from the Blue WIP haven’t moved out.  They’re fighting over space in my brain and I feel torn between the two stories.

So now I’m wondering how all of you deal with it.  Do you work on multiple projects at once?  How do you bounce from one to another?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Forming Habits

Ever wondered what it takes to get really good at something? 

I know there’s a lot to be said for talent, but honestly, nothing can replace hard work and practice. 
I wish I could say that I’m really good at practicing, but the truth is, I get frustrated when things aren’t easy the first time.  Just last week, I attempted to make my first buttercream roses, and I had quite a few issues.  Of course, most of it was because I hadn’t learned what I needed to. 

For example: Who knew there was a difference between waxed paper and parchment paper?  I grew up believing they were exactly the same. 

Apparently not.  That could have saved me a lot of struggling that night.

In nursing, it’s the same.  I went to four years of school where information was crammed into my brain to the point that I didn’t think I’d be able to remember anything else.  It’s only after years of practice and using my nursing skills that I feel confident in what I’m doing.  After two or three times inserting catheters, or starting IV’s, I finally feel like a competent nurse.

Okay, maybe not this kind of practice.

So I guess it makes sense that I’m only now starting to feel like I know what I’m doing as a writer.  It’s taken years of practice.  But not just an every once in a while practice.  Daily and constant. 

There’s always something more to learn, something more to improve.  Each time I learn something new, and once I master a skill, it’s on to learning a new one.  It’s a matter of forming the habit. 

What habits are you forming?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Learning a skill

I don’t think that there’s any point in our lives that we don’t need to learn.  Or that we aren’t learning something.  There’s so much out there that all it really takes is going out and finding out what interests us.  I know that I’m always finding new hobbies, new skills that I want to improve on. 

Recently, I’ve been working on making flowers with buttercream frosting.  I didn’t attach any pictures because I need a lot more practice.  Someday though, I’ll show all of you.

For me, it’s almost natural for my characters to learn as well.  They’re going through experiences that teach them, shape them.  It’s only natural that they pick up a few more skills.  And I love the chance to be able to learn with them.  If it weren’t for some of my characters, I would never have learned anything about stone masonry, home repairs or gardening. 

When I first started sending my stories to beta readers, I received a piece of advice that I’ll never forget.  I was told that if my characters spent any times learning anything, whether it be cooking, sewing, or horseback riding, it had better be a skill that they use in the final conflict. 

I think she only said that because she had to endure two chapters of sewing lessons that never benefitted my character in the end.

Even so, the lesson had been learned.  While outlining for my Yellow WIP, I knew that I wanted my character to learn a skill, some sort of trade.  I couldn’t even decide the final battle until I knew what he was going to learn on his journey.  Once I chose stone masonry, I had to find a situation where he could use the new skill to his advantage. 

Rowell's greatest challenge is building and tearing down walls

Honestly, it’s one of the most exciting climaxes I’ve ever written.

How about the rest of you?  Do you focus on your characters skills and how it would benefit them in the long run?  What skills are you working on yourself?

Friday, May 16, 2014

Quantifying My Productivity

Last year, I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time.  (Short for National Novel Writing Month.)  It was one of my most productive months, and I think the biggest reason was because I kept track of my progress. 

I love to write, but at the same time, it’s so much easier to procrastinate.  The NaNoWriMo website has a tracker that allowed me to write my word count for the day and I could see the progress throughout the month.  Last month, I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo, where I could create my own word count goals and add them together.

Later, once I finished with my word count goal, my productivity tanked.  It’s not that I really pay attention to word count, but I love seeing a visual representation of my progress.  I attempted to set something up in Microsoft Excel, though I really don’t know how to use the program well enough to do anything really helpful.

That’s where my sister comes in.  I told her about my attempts, and being the genius she is, she was able to set something up that I absolutely love. 

I thought I’d share it here, so that if any of you are Excel gurus, you’d probably be able to set it up yourself.

 She started out with two columns - One for the daily word count, and the second column automatically adds them all up together.  (Something about auto sum, I think.)

Obviously, I don't write daily, and since I've been working on revisions on paper, I only update word count once it's typed up, which is why there's 6000 on some days.  (And the beginning of this month was not productive at all, hence all the zero's.

Then, she added graphs (and showed me how to make graphs) so that I can see the progress throughout the month. 

Awesome, right?  She's definitely talented at what she does.

Do you pay attention to word count?  How do you quantify your productivity?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


This week, I started revising my yellow WIP.  My main character, Rowell, is very different from all of the other main characters that I’ve created, and I love getting into his mind.  He’s a teenage boy who's got a chip on his shoulder that clouds his perception of everything around him.  Yet there's something about him that affects the way that interacts with others, something he's not even aware of.
One of the main elements of this revision is focusing on voice.  I've already got a bit of it within the story, but as I've delved into what really makes him tick, I've realized that I've sold him short.  Rowell's personality is so clear that this draft has been one of the easiest to write. 

I've read many articles on the importance on finding a characters voice.  It can affect the tone of the story and the way that it reads.  Consider the differences here between the first and second drafts:

Rowell dropped his book, startled by his father's voice.  Lori shot him a guilty glance before scooting out and jumping up.

Rowell's head whipped up, and he flinched under Larzo's gaze.  After a moment, he glared down at Lori.  The little rat!

They're just small changes, but I can't help but smile with the second example.  Probably because I can completely see him glaring down at his little sister.  I have younger siblings, and I know what it's like when they tattle-tale.

Voice needs to feel natural.  It needs to come from the character, rather than from the writer.  Or maybe they should be working together to create it.

What do you think?  Any advice on creating effective voice?

Monday, May 12, 2014

Word Verbosity

Have you ever hard the phrase, “If I had more time, it would be shorter?”

I tried looking up who the quote came from, but it looks like it’s attributed to quite a few people.  I had originally thought it was from Mark Twain. 

It’s a phrase that I never quite understood.  Most of my first drafts are bare bones.  I have the structure, but there’s no furnishings.  It takes me two or three more drafts to put the actual details into the story.  Which is why my first draft is usually hovering just above 50,000, but once I get to a finished MS, It’s usually about 75,000. 

But I had a recent experience where I finally realized what this meant.  I had to write something nonfiction, something important, and I didn’t have a lot of time.  In fact, I only had about an hour and a half before I had to submit it.  It took me about that long just to write it.  However, I noticed something strange.

As I’m trying to get all of my ideas down, and sound professional, my writing became incredibly verbose.  All of a sudden, I was using five or six words to describe something that only needed one or two. 

And the words I used!

It became harder and harder to read because the words I used were longer and less common.  Maybe it’s because I felt like it needed to sound professional.  Maybe because I didn’t have time to think of a better word.  Either way, once I finished, I knew that it was way over the top.  The writing wasn’t thought through, and it showed. 

When writing a novel, I work on getting the story down.  I don’t care about the words, the tone, anything else.  Most of the time that comes naturally.  But when I’m writing to impress?

Whew.  I need to give myself more time to edit.

How about the rest of you?  Do you have to add or cut after you write a first draft?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Blog Hop!

I want to thank Gina Drayer for inviting me to join in the writing process blog hop.  We met through an online critiquing site and joined a Social Media help group when we both started blogs.  She’s got some exciting stuff going on, including the debut of her novel Lotus Petals on July 4th.  Be sure to check it out!

Here’s a link to her website:

1)      What am I working on?

Right now, I’ve just finished a draft of my Blue WIP, tentatively titled The King’s Councilor.  I’ve been having critiquers tear it apart, which has been fantastic help.  I’m moving on to revising my yellow WIP, which still doesn’t have a name.  This one is a favorite of mine, probably just because this is the first one I’ve written from the point of view of a teenage boy, and he makes my heart break. 

Here’s the quick logline:

Rowell never quite fit in his family, and it's all his mother's fault.  If she'd just stuck with her own people, then maybe he would have the same abilities as the rest.  When Rowell accidentally spills his close friend's secret, he realizes he can't go on blaming everyone else. 

 It's his turn to make things right.

2)  How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My work focuses a lot on family relationships.  Yes, there are orphans, but the family unit is a very strong, and focused force.  None of my characters would be who they are without their family.  More than romantic relationships, family always comes first.

Another thing that makes it unique is that despite being fantasy, there is not very much fantasy.  At least, not in the first 1 ½ novels.  It’s like a whisper that finally comes into play in the third book.  It’s been fun exploring the world and the distant idea of magic.

3)      Why do I write what I do?

This is like asking why I am who I am.  These stories are a part of me, they come from my brain, from my imagination.  The first book came to me in an afternoon, and within a day or so, I had a whole, fleshed out story.  It had nothing to do with the idea of becoming famous, or reaching an audience.  It was very much about getting the story out.  These characters are stuck in my head and they want to get out.  Sometimes they surprise me by the direction they take, but they always know where they’re going.

4)      How does my writing process work?

Ahhh.  This is question that every writer gets asked.  My writing process usually involves getting an idea, a character who taps on my brain and asks for entrance.  Then over the next few days, I let them bounce around as their story unfolds.  I plan every last detail before even getting the words down, but once I start writing, it can go pretty fast.

I also do a lot of revision before I get to the final draft.  I love having it read by multiple betas, people who are willing to let me know what works and what doesn’t.  I don’t know what I would do without them.

And that’s the short version of my creative process! 

And for those who I’ve tagged, I hope you pop over to their blogs and check them out!

R.S McCoy is an author that I me through the social media, and she’s got some amazing writing skills.  Her novel, Sparks, is already out, and a fantastic read.  Here’s a link to the review I wrote a few months ago. Her second Novel, Spirits, should be coming out soon! 
Here’s a link to her blog:

Amy Ross is a writer who is working toward publishing a children’s picture book.  She’s already got some cute illustrations lined up, and it looks like it’s going to be great! 

Here’s a link to her blog:

Taylor Lavati is a writer who's already published the first of her series: The Curse Books.  Her blog is great help for us writers, and she provides writing prompts weekly to help get our juices going.  
Here's a link to her blog:

Monday, May 5, 2014

Creative Outlets

I know it’s been a week since I last posted.  I took a mini vacation to go visit family. 

One of the things that I looked forward to (other than spending time with my family and celebrating with my sister and brother-in-law) was the chance to make them a cake to help them celebrate.

I’m one of those people who likes to find creative outlets for my energy and ideas.  There’s always something running around in my head, and I love when I can find something that helps me take those ideas and make something physical out of them.  It’s the act of creating something real out of whatever’s clunking around in my brain.

I started really trying to make cakes a few years ago when I had a friend who made amazing cakes.  I loved the creative license she could take, making whatever she imagined, using colors and shapes to paint ideas.  I started out by just experimenting with flavors and icings.  I knew that for cake, taste is most important.  No matter how it looks, it has to be good enough to eat. 

Fortunately for me, I had quite a few supportive coworkers who would try anything that I made.  And because they were good friends, they let me know when they didn’t like something.  Actually, I knew it when there were leftovers. 

But over the past year, I’ve been experimenting with decorating.  I try to find something new to try for each cake that I make.  The cakes for this weekend, I used modeling chocolate for the first time.  There was a lot of trial and error, but by the end, I think I got the idea of what I was supposed to be doing.

And here’s the final results!

For a Mechanical Engineer

For an Elementary Education Major

What kind of creative outlets do you use?