Monday, August 23, 2010

10 on Tuesday: Off to College

Today's 10 on Tuesday is about 10 things you wish you had known before you went to college or that you would tell someone before going to college.

1. You don't have to go to college just because you finished high school. You can wait. You can experience some life for a while. You can still backpack across the US or Europe or go do a mission trip to bring fresh water to people in Guatemala if you like or get a job at the MAC counter in the mall. College isn't going anywhere and if you go before you are ready chances are that you are going to drop out, fail out or (worse in my opinion) bore out of learning.

2. Don't let anyone tell you that your major is stupid or useless or not real. If you want to be a theatre major or a French language major or get a degree in fine arts with an emphasis in pottery, then go do it. Do what you love not what someone else thinks is important. If you are studying accounting because your father told you that it was a responsible career where you can make lots of money but you hate it, then don't do it. Do what you love. Be happy doing what you do rather than rich doing what you hate. Also, while it is true that jobs are further and farther between in specialized degrees, not everyone ends up as a teacher or waiter or flipping hamburgers at Mickey D's.

3. You will party. Don't delude yourself that you are going to buckle down and study. Let yourself enjoy your college years. Just don't let your partying dictate how well you do in college. If all you do is sit in your dorm or the library studying and you have no social life, you might as well just do a home study course in your closet in your parents' house. Save it for the weekends and for Bob's sake, please always have a designated driver and make sure that your DD is sober. If you can't trust your DD, then you be the DD.

4. No Doze will not help you pass a test. If you don't know the material, no amount of caffeine will get you through the test. You might as well take it tired with the limited information you have retained than hyped up and unable to answer a single question.

5. While ramen is cheap, you still need protein and fresh produce. Take care of yourself and remember those 4 food groups. Alcohol is not one of the four food groups. Protein and fiber come before rum and Coke.

6. Safe sex. If you don't know what it is, ask. Ask your mom or your dad or your guidance counselor or your school nurse. Or if you really are seeking anonymity, e-mail me and I'll explain it all to you. Or Google it. Just make sure you use it. Got it?

7. If you find yourself hyperventilating before every class and not sleeping because you are so stressed you can't think past the next minute let alone through Friday's Ethics class, then it is time to take a break. It's ok to take a break. See #1. College isn't going anywhere.

8. Always circle the last day to withdraw without failing on your calendar. Just in case. You never know when that World History class (or in my case the five attempts at College Algebra) are going to be your doom. Don't let that date slip by knowing that there is no way you are going to pull off a passing grade. It's ok to drop a course that is killing you so you can spend more energy on those classes that are going to be productive for you.

9. The package store is cheaper than a night on the town and usually lasts longer (as long as you don't invite all your friends over.) Now, I realize I've mentioned alcohol several times in this post and I'm not an advocate of heavy drinking. I'm just being frugal. Oh and red wine keeps better without a refrigerator than white. Just saying.

10. A degree doesn't equate to a career. And not all careers need a degree. If what you want to do would be better served through a different avenue, do it! If you want to own a yarn shop, take some small business classes through your local community college and get a job at a yarn shop. If you want to be a chef, go to a culinary institute and get a job at a restaurant. There are tons of apprenticeships available in all kinds of careers. College is not the only way to a successful and happy career. It's a lot of money to sink into something that you may not use down the road. Make it count for something. And if it won't, then find a different way to get to where you want to be.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

10 on Tuesday (sort of)

I received an e-mail that there wasn't going to be a 10 on Tuesday list this week. So I thought I'd put up my own list of 10 favorite numbers.

1. 11 - just because I like rows of ones all lined up like little soldiers. I suppose you could say I like 111 and 1,111 and 11,111 as well. (But not 1 by itself. That's too lonely.)

2. 2 - Two is a nice number. Two is a couple. Two is a mother and child. Two is twins. Two is a pair (as in socks and shoes, two of my favorite things.)

3. 7 - Like the movie Se7en. (Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow). 7 virtues. 7 deadly sins. 7th inning stretch. 7 days of the week.

4. 50,000 - it's the magic "You win" word count for NaNoWriMo It's the beginning of the end of a novel (or half way if your name is J. K. Rowling, Stephen King or Stephenie Meyer).

5. 667 - because it is the neighbor of the beast (even though we all now know that the actual number of the beast is 616, not the previously believed 666).

6. 8 - When I was growing up I learned my multiplication tables thanks to School House Rock. Figure 8 was my favorite one and I always dreamed of ice skating perfect figure 8's on the ice (not that we have ice in Florida, but a girl can dream).

7. 3 - because it is a strong number. Triangles are the strongest shape because two sides give support to the third. Three plays out often in religious contexts (Maiden, Mother, Crone; and Father, Son, Holy Spirit; trinities). It also is the number of books in a trilogy, which are so popular to write at the moment.

8. 100 because it is C in Roman numerals. It was the first really big number I can remember writing to as a child in kindergarten and remembering the thrill of getting to such a huge number. We measure things in 100's. We examine a president's worth by his first 100 days. We celebrate centuries and 100th birthdays and anniversaries in a big way.

9. 97132 - it's the zip code I wish I lived in again.

10. (Hm, it's sort of small for infinity). Infinity is one of those "numbers" that perplexes me. I remember the first time that I was informed that there is no last number. That you can always have one more after it. I sat for hours pondering the largest number I could (gajillions is a number, right?) and then realizing that there could be an "and 1" or even an "and 1/2." Wow. There is no end. It just keeps going. Unlike this post which will end now.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hunger Games/Catching Fire Review

Eight more days, folks. Eight more days. I'm going crazy waiting for Mockingjay (book three of the Hunger Games) by Suzanne Collins to be released and downloaded to my nook. I secretly keep checking to see if someone makes a mistake and sends it to me too early (although I would be good and keep it to myself). But in preparation for the release I went and re-read Hunger Games and Catching Fire (the first books in the series).

I will admit that this story line sickens me. For those who haven't read it, the premise is that in the future (this is a post-apocalyptic story) there are 12 districts that all answer (serve) The Capitol. Each year a boy and a girl (ages 12-18) are chosen from each district to fight to the death in the Hunger Games. The idea was that it was to remind the districts of a time when they were at war, but it has turned into a mockery and the only people who seem to enjoy it are the people of the Capitol (as their children will never have to be sacrificed to the games). Things seem to run their course until a player with a conscience enters the games and refuses to sacrifice her friend.

That's really all I'm going to say about the plot because I want you to read the books. They are fabulous and well-written. I was kept on the edge of my seat as I watched the story unfold. I feel for these characters and even though Collins doesn't give me a whole lot of descriptors I can see their faces, imagine the way the stand, present themselves and even smile. The world she has created if believable even if I find it frightening and repulsive. Maybe that was her point.

If you care to help me out a bit, I am using the Hunger Games for our homeschool co-op teen reading group next month and am collecting questions to ask to keep the conversation going. What questions would you ask teens (ages 14-18) about these books? This will be our first meeting for the year and most of the kids will not know each other. I think it will be interesting to see what their reaction would be if I were to tell them that in order to get out of the room they have to kill each other. I'll be sure to report back!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Writing Prompt Sunday

Your MC is lost. Not figuratively. Whether s/he is driving, walking, flying, tessering, or teleporting. This is not where s/he set off to be. What happened? How does s/he get unlost? How does s/he deal with being lost? Is it an adventure or is it frightening? Stressful or humorous? Go write!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Some more words for revising

I've been finding so many more traps in my writing that I hadn't even thought of before. Let's consider them, shall we?

Probably The odd thing is that ever since I started noticing this in my own manuscripts, I've been seeing it used in published books. You know what? It isn't needed 90% (or more) of the time and 5% of the time it is used incorrectly. Consider: "He probably was mad because I left the milk on the counter again." Hmmm. I think we know he is mad, so why would he probably be mad? He is mad. He might be mad because the milk was left on the counter. But since we are presuming this is a first person sentence, then we most likely know why he is mad. So let's strip the probability out of the sentence all together. "He was mad. I had left the milk on the counter. Again." See, that's much nicer. It gets the point across and that pesky probably word is gone. When you edit through for this word, read your sentences without the probablies and see if they don't read more concise and more sure.

I think Really? You just think? Get rid of it. It's stupid and doesn't belong there. Up for editing: "I think I can put my on my own pants." It's an I statement. Don't I know if I can put my pants on or not? Strip it. "I can put on my own pants." Ah, there's a strong character and a strong statement. Where would I leave an "I think"? Here: "I think I know how to get there." It shows that the speaker is unsure of what she is doing. That's what you want to portray. Unless, of course, you know that your character really does know how to get from Space Mountain to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad without getting lost.

was _____ ing You know what was ____ ing is. It's when you write was and any ing verb when what you really meant to write was past tense. For instance: "She was already feeling lightheaded and woozy." Really? Did I really do that? Yeah, and unfortunately I did it quite a big. Come on, Lorna, just say it like it is "She already felt lightheaded and woozy." Gah! One would think you never took honors English!

That Here is another word that we tend to throw in that just doesn't belong. Strip them. Go ahead. Put on some really good stripper music and take it all off. What am I talking about: "She was thankful that he was there to lend extra support." See? It doesn't even belong there. It isn't needed. It's a filler word that I would use to earn my Word Padding Badge over at NaNoWriMo. But it doesn't belong in well-written sentences. "She was thankful he was there to lend extra support."

Well, that should keep you busy for a while. And don't forget the stripper music. It's really important (because this is all really fun and easy editing. Save the Cold Play for the serious editing!)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Pulling out the Pulls

Or maybe since I've been on such a wonderfully fruitful editing streak lately I should say, "Editing out the pulls." I finally rewrote all the feels/felts from my manuscript and tackled the coulds. That was actually quite fun. But neither of those edits was as satisfying as rewording the pulls. As I edited them I made of list of words that I used to replace pull, pulled, pulling, and pulls. Here 'tis:

withdrew (form school - this is a YA book, please!)

Now out of context one would think that none of those words could be interchanged with the pull words, but amazingly I found a way to make it work. Some of the edits required that I rethink the entire sentence or phrase whereas others were simple substitutions. I hadn't realized until I started this major revision how much we rely on the same set of words over and over. How I can have such a limited word base when I love words and have a fantastic library of books about words is beyond me. At least I love to edit and find no great insult in someone suggesting changes to wording and phrasing.

10 on Tuesday: 10 Reasons To Love Bacon

1. JFK
2. The River Wild
3. A Few Good Men
4. Footloose
5. Animal House
6. Taking Chance
7. Six Degrees of Separation (I happen to be only 3 degrees from Kevin)
8. Apollo 13
9. Liberally minded
10. Kyra Sedgwick

Oh, you mean the meat bacon? Oh, ew. Not a fan.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Go do this RIGHT NOW!

Seriously, I mean it. Drop everything you are doing, close all your extraneous programs, put on your editing music and open your most recent manuscript. Now using your "find feature" in your writing software (most have them, in MS Word 2007 it can be found under the "Home" tab to the far right hand side). Type in the Find box,"feel." It is the most insanely overused word ever! Seriously. In my 80,000 word manuscript I found almost 200 instances of feel, felt, feeling. There are better ways of expressing "I felt" than using "I felt." And guess what else? In many instances you can actually delete that little word and your sentence still makes sense. Really. Try it. And if that doesn't work, how better can you write that sentence without using "I felt"?

I only left a few instances of this word in and it was in places where the phrase is so ingrained in our vernacular that it just seemed silly to try to alter it. One instance was "How are you feeling today?" We say that all the time so why not use it? But the word feelings can be said so much better with the word emotions. I am amazed at not only how many times I used that word (or variation thereof) but how well-entrenched it is in our daily speech. Another example where I used feel too often was "The room felt hot." Um, what about just "The room was hot"?

So why are you still sitting here reading this? Go. Go edit. You know you want to now.

A special thanks goes out to RebeccaJoym for her tweet yesterday. She is the author of Infinite Days and blogs here.

Oh and when you are finished with feel/felt, try could and then pulled. I'll post more as I think of them (or share some you know.)

Word Prompt Sunday

Tada! It's that time again. So let's talk about time. What is the time for your book? Is it modern or is it in the past? Is it in a real place or is it in a mythical place? We are going to play with time/place today. Bring your MC to your time and place. Hang out with your MC for a day, showing them your world. Where do you go? What do you show them? How do they react? Do they approve of your time and place or do they only wish to return to their own?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Limiting oneself or sticking to values?

I've been thinking lately about the agents I have been submitting my work to. I consider myself fairly green when it comes to the environment. I carry my own shopping bags so I don't have to use the stupid (weak, holey, and ugly) plastic bags that the stores use. I recycle everything that I possibly can and reuse plastic containers and glass jars. I run multiple errands with thought going to creating a circuit so I don't crisscross town and drive a fairly fuel-efficient car.

I've been spending the past month adding to my database of agents that I want to submit to (as many are on vacation during the months of July and August I'm using that time to research.) I decided to head to the library last week and take advantage of various books on publishing in the reference section. I had my notebook and pen so I could write agencies' addresses, websites and various notes (such as only accepts through various months, what they wish to see for with the query - sample pages, chapters, synopsis, etc.), which genres they represent (of course bypassing those that don't mesh with my own writing), and specific agents' names). I have a great spreadsheet I created to keep track of these things.

I took all this home and started going to the websites to better understand what these agents were looking for, make sure contact information hadn't changed, and to see how familiar I was with any of their current clients and their work. I have truly been amazed in this Internet world that we live in how many agents do not accept e-mail queries or submissions. I started adding up what it would cost me in both paper, ink and postage to send just queries (not including synopses, sample pages or manuscripts) to all these agents. Then I figured out the cost for sending just five agents a query with the first fifty pages (as that seems to be most common). Let's just say it's not cheap. And I have to trust that these agents are actually going to recycle my pages. I don't have this fear of my work being stolen, but more my work ending up in a landfill where it may or may not decompose.

I appreciate agents who say on their website "We are a green company and only accept e-queries." Thank you. You are speaking my language. I was talking about this with another writer who was shocked that I was limiting my search. What if I missed the perfect agent and a great book deal because I refused to submit to someone who was not as "green" as I am? What if that agent is restricted by her firm to only accept paper copies? And am I one of those people who believes in the destruction of "real books" in favor of the e-book? One of her points was also that agents who only accept e-queries might not be as attentive and more easily dismiss work because it is so simple to discard bites of data than sheets of paper and perhaps "e-agents" aren't as attentive because it is "too easy" to create an e-query than to write and print a "real letter."

All this got me to thinking about whether I am limiting myself or if I believe strongly in my convictions of a greener planet by only using agents who accept e-queries. I do firmly believe in "real books." I love books. I've mentioned this before. The texture of the page, the smell of the ink, the dance of letters across the vast expanse of paper creating stories. All these things I adore about physical books. They are things that cannot be duplicated by any e-reader. As much as I love my nook, I will always love the feel of an open book in my hand. But does my application for an agent to help me sell my books (real and digital) mean that I should kill trees in order to reach that goal? I just can't believe that it does.

I'd be interested in my reader's views on this (yes; all six of you). If you are a published writer, did you use traditional means or is it truly possible to find an agent via the web? Tomorrow we will discuss the ways in which to create an e-query and not accidentally send it off to an agent before you are finished.

Monday, August 2, 2010

My first signing (not)

I must admit that we got a little silly at Stitch n Bitch tonight and there wasn't even any alcohol involved. This may be a Very Good Thing. There is a romance writer by the name of Michelle Reid (part of my own legal name) who has a Harlequin Presents for the month of August called Mia and the Powerful Greek (I love these titles, really I do). So The other day my daughter took my picture with the book and we had a good laugh about it. Tonight one of the ladies asked me how my quest for an agent was going and I said, "Oh, didn't you hear?" I ran and got a copy of Michelle Reid's book and made sure everyone was aware that this was not my book.

But then things got very silly and they begged me to do an oral reading, and never one to pass up an opportunity to have a little fun I obliged them. (I'm afraid the mothers with the teenagers won't be returning.) Then one of the ladies begged me to sign a copy if she bought it. So I did (with great and sincere apologies to the real Michelle Reid). But it was all in good humor and fun and hey, both copies of the book at the store were sold (as I really have to have a book that has at least one of my names on it in my library, don't you think?) I must say that I can see the excitement of doing a book signing and hopefully one day I will actually be able to post a real picture of me really signing a real copy of my real book. Until then I 'm going to delve into a little naughtiness and enjoy a fun read.

And if by some stretch of the improbability the other Michelle Reid comes across this, I hold you in the highest regards and am so glad that Nikos does nothing tiny!

10 Things To Bring on Vacation

It's time for another Ten on Tuesday list!

10 Things To Bring on Vacation

1. My toothbrush (it seems to be the most forgotten item by travellers)
2. A simple project to knit and a back up project in case I finish (or get bored)
3. My laptop
4. My iPod
5. My nook preloaded with several books to read (and the knowledge that I can always buy more!)
6. My sock monkey NijiSar as she is a world traveller who understands the ins and outs of international and domestic travel
7. My shoulder bag with lots of pockets to hold all the things that I need with me all the time
8. A small sewing kit (because I am forever losing a button or pulling out a hem)
9. Stamps so I can send witty postcards to friends
10. My phone because it acts as camera, calendar, GPS, address book and watch

I would add my sense of humor because I tend to A) get lost while on vacation (I am navigationally challenged) and B) run into rude people in amazing numbers (I'm like a rudeness magnet and despite the number of times I have been pushed into, knocked down, cut in front of and yelled at for no good reason I just don't push, knock, cut, or yell back).

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Writing Prompt Sunday Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Here's this week's challenge: Take a scene from something that you have already written where the MC had to make a choice between two different actions. Now rewrite that same scene with the character making the opposite choice. What happens to the story? How does it change the direction of the story? How does it make you feel about your character? How do your other characters feel about your MC's decision?

Sometimes I have found that even if I just play with a scene and make my character do something different than I originally imagined, it helps me understand my character better. And who knows, it might even change (for the better) the direction a book is going.