Monday, May 28, 2012

One Stop Shopping

I recently presented on writers' resources, but knew at the time I hadn't found all of them...or even the best of them. This website I discovered today has the most comprehensive sets of information I've found yet. She's really spent some time on it. It may be titled for romance writers, but I found her resources are also good for writers in general.


Friday, May 25, 2012

The Power of the Printout

Last night I was talking to my sister about the novel she'd written over 20 years ago. She was sad about the fact she had no hard copies of it, and the only possible digital file was on a 3 1/2" disk that isn't formatted for any modern computer.

Today, I was looking for something else in my writing files and found an old printout of her story. Nearly in tears of joy, I called her and told her I had a surprise. She was astonished, and grateful, that someone still had a copy. The price for the gift, I told her, is to re-write the story and try to get it published. I'm a mean sister that way!

But this brings me to my point: technology is a wonderful thing, but hard copy printouts are still a necessary part of keeping record of your writing. Personally, I don't see the point in keeping EVERY draft (although I know some writers don't throw anything away) but keeping at least the last two or three gives you an idea of where you came from and where you left off if by some tragedy you lose your digital copies.

Now, I need to practice what I preach and take some of the old dot-matrix stories I found and make them readable to someone other than an angst-filled teenager.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Power of a Loose Schedule

When presented with the classic psychological test, "Which shape do you like the best: square, circle, triangle, or squiggle?" I answer, "A squiggly square." I like structure, but also enjoy the freedom to be creative within that structure. Too much structure depresses me. Too much chaos confuses me. So a compromise makes my little psyche happy.

Once I figured out why my response is "a squiggly square," it's made my life a bit easier because I can structure it in a way that fits my psychological preference.

For example, my summer schedule is a list of things I must do every day. Doesn't matter what order or how long I do each activity, I must do at least one of each every day. And each category has flexibility within it so I'm not doing the exact same thing day after day. I've included fun things (crafts, reading) as well as necessary things (clean house, write, work out).

For those of us who have grown up with the Internet and computers, this culture of jumping from task to task randomly is an extension of how we process digital media. I'm not saying it's better or worse than those who can stay on a single task all day, it's simply how some of us work.

We'll see if this loose schedule really helps me achieve a clean house, a publishable novel, an emptier craft room, a healthier diet/body, a better understanding of the Bible, and more read books by the end of the summer. Or if it ends in epic fail.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Synopsis Revelation

I just figured out one of the "secrets" to writing a synopsis for a novel: leave out all the cool character stuff. NO! But that's the fun stuff! Yes, but a synopsis has to be 1) short and 2) about what happens which is the definition of PLOT. So any time I come to a place where I think, "OOoh, that character is cool!" I leave that out. Needless to say, this makes me a little depressed. I think I'll go put away laundry to cheer myself up.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

On-Line Resources for Writers

I want to thank everyone who came to the SEMO Writers’ Guild meeting Saturday May 19th. I really enjoyed presenting and talking to everyone.

Following are the links I shared that might be good on-line resources for writers. As I said in my presentation, please do your own research to make sure the you can trust the websites you’re using.  

Some tips on deciding if a website is credible:

§         Ask for references and CHECK THEM OUT

§         Do Internet searches on “review of ‘x website’”

§         Ask the writing community you know

§         Check the Better Business Bureau’s website

§         Don’t do something/buy something if your gut tells you it’s a bad idea. (If it’s too good to be true, it probably is!)

So, here are a few on-line resources for writers:

¡        How to find ideas/trends/what’s already been done

¡        Ideas



¡        Trends/what’s already been done



¡        Read blogs by your favorite authors of the genre in which you wish to be published.

¡        How to use writing/organizing software

If you want “real world” training on Microsoft 2010 programs (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and web design using SharePoint), the Career and Technology Center is offering one day workshops this summer, and I’ll be teaching them this year. Here’s the link if you want to sign up. “by Instructor” and choose Janet Cannon to see when and what times the classes meet.

¡        Microsoft Office Products (2003, 07, 10)

¡        Microsoft Word training (PPt presentation)

¡        Microsoft One Note training (PPt presentation)

¡        How to write and find our own errors

¡        What’s your focus?


¡        Various articles on writing

¡        Goal/Motivation/Conflict

¡        Grammar help

¡        How to get critiques/feedback

¡        Any genre


¡        List of on-line critique groups

¡        Find people through your writers’ guild and e-mail pieces/meet on occasion.

¡        How to write a query letter, blurbs/back cover copy, synopsis

¡        Query help-

¡        Kristin Nelson’s accepted query letters:

¡        Blurbs/back cover copy (plot catylist)

¡        Synopsis (one sentence from each chapter)

¡        How to pitch your work

¡        Kristin Nelson’s blog:

¡        Pitching advice

¡        How to get an agent

¡        What (not) to look for in an agent

¡        List of/guide to agents


¡        How to get published

¡        List of publishers, wait times, pay scale


¡        Blog that occasionally publishes short fiction

¡        Contests/grants/publishers/agents

¡        Self-publishing websites


¡        How to market yourself/your book

¡        Platforms for self-branding/marketing:




¡        Publishing/marketing tips


¡        How NOT to get scammed

¡        Predators and Editors


¡        Agents with a bad reputation

¡        Writer Beware

If you have any other great resources to share, please leave a comment!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Finish what you start

I'm one of the worst when it comes to finishing what I start. I have an ENTIRE ROOM in my house dedicated to projects I started with great enthusiasm, then for whatever reason gave up on. Sometimes it was due to disinterest. Sometimes I just wasn't good at it. Most times, something "more important" came up and I just haven't thought about that project since.

Last night as I was finishing the cut-in portions of painting my hallway, I was thinking about my tendency to go into a project, guns blazing, then leave the party before the last song plays. Why? Maybe I have a fear of seeing that the fun's over. Just like running 5k, 10k, a 1/2 marathon and a full marathon in one year, what's left after that? Maybe I fear failure: I finish but with a face-plant. Maybe I really am lazy and don't want to put the work in once I find out it's going to take a chunk of my time I could spend reading or sleeping or eating chocolate caramel bon-bons.

Many people say, "when I get around to it" or "when I have time" when it comes to unfinished projects. I disagree with that mindset. We will never "get around to" things that aren't important to us. We will never "have time" when other things in our life are a priority. (Sometimes its someone else who determines our priorities, and that's just life.) We have to MAKE the time. Set aside time. List our priorities and check off our list as we finish before we take on something new, otherwise we accomplish nothing. Is there anything more pitiful than the person who talks big but never gets off the couch?

Is preaching to myself like listening to the voices in my head? Maybe. But if it works, so be it.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Benefits of writing by hand

Any of us that have computers and use them frequently have this issue. Pencil (pen) and paper just isn't fast enough. I can type quite a bit faster than I can write. Almost at the speed of my thoughts. Pencil and paper just takes TOOO LOOONG!

But wait a minute. Maybe I'm hurting myself in this process. Good writing isn't a "from the mind to the page" perfect art form! It takes time, patience, thinking and re-thinking to do right. For many years now I've been outlining on paper then drafting on the computer. This time, as I was rewriting my first chapter, I wrote everything.

What I found astonished me. Continuity errors. Gaps in logic. Character miscues. Subtle mistakes that good agents and editors would have found on a skim through but because I KNEW my material, I didn't see it. But writing by hand made me stop longer and think longer about what I was saying.

I hate the idea of physically re-writing my entire novel. Even worse, typing it in again. But seriously, if this is going to be what it takes to make a good novel great, I need to do that. Good thing I'm not afraid of hard work!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Write What You Know?

That's the traditional advice: write what you know. It's good advice. Nothing's more annoying to a savvy reader than a writer who doesn't know what they're talking about, right?

While I agree with this advice, I have a piece to add: experience more so you can write more. Why write the same old things when you can deepen your writing, and enjoy your life more, by participating in new experiences?

This weekend I participated in a four-mile run + obstacle course. Having just come off of my first marathon last weekend, I was still tired, but wanted to see what I could do.

Frankly, I wasn't very good at the obstacles. I don't have the upper body strength to pull myself onto/on top of the walls/cargo nets/rope swings/monkey bars/etc. I'm not flexible enough to fling my foot past my head, and when I get more than 50' off the ground, I tend to freeze like a deer in the headlights. Oh, and I scream like a girl just before I fall.

But what I really learned is the true meaning of the phrases "dig deep" and "push past the pain". Digging deep isn't a physical manifestation, it's a purely mental one. It's that second of realization where you have to make the decision to either overcome your obstacle or give up and fail miserably. In this case, finish the obstacle or fall and hurt myself. With your muscles screaming that they're failing, your body hanging 20' off the ground and your mind convinced you're going to die, digging deep means deciding you WILL keep going, you CAN keep going and there is no other choice BUT to keep going.

Pushing past the pain is so much harder than I expected. I didn't have broken bones or strained ligaments or anything serious. Just major bruises and exhausted muscles. But when it came to the last few obstacles, just leaning my shins against the ropes or crawling through another mud pit (filled with rocks and sticks) made me want to scream in pain. I wanted to quit. Take the easy way out. But in those moments I realized the pain wasn't really that bad if I accepted it and looked to the goal rather than focus on the pain. I was making progress with every step. Painful, yes, but each time it hurt more was one step closer to the end.

Lessons learned this weekend: 1. Pain is a marvelous teacher. I don't think I'm going to do that again for a long time. 2. It's good to have friends to LITERALLY give you a boost when you're too weak to overcome an obstacle yourself. 3. Wet scrub grass/gumbo smells like cow manure and doesn't come out of white underwear even when bleached. 4. I know how to "dig deep" and "push past the pain" a little better than I did before. 5. I scream like a girl when I'm scared. But that's okay because I am one.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

POV-From 1st to 3rd

I'm currently re-writing my first chapter from first to third person so I can submit it to an agent who requested the change. At first, I didn't think I'd like yet one more re-writing of "CHAPTER 1" but now that I'm 11 hand-written pages into the project, I'm pretty stoked. I wrote the piece in first person for two reasons: one, to get closer to the heart of the characters and therefore get the reader more emotionally involved. Two, because I tend to be verbose and limiting myself to a first-person POV would force me to cut a LOT of material. But you know what? Now that I know a lot more about how to write and specifically how to manipulate POV, my third person version is, in my humble opinion, more tightly written and more emotionally sincere than in first. Who woulda thought?