Some Helpful Links

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Since all of you have been so helpful in sharing links, I thought I’d share a list of writing resources I’m aware of, that you might not be for todays post:

Duotrope
http://www.duotrope.com/

Duotrope is a free magazine/e-zine search geared toward helping you find places to submit your completed short story. Simply fill out the parameters of your story, and wait as a list of possible publications is generated for you. Brilliant!

Critique Circle
http://www.critiquecircle.com/

This service requires you to give as good as you get. You exchange critiques through a credit system. It’s a great way of getting critiques.

Vision: Resource for Writers
http://www.visionforwriters.com/

This is a great, free, online e-zine filled to the brim with information for writers. Read every page. It’s worth it!

The art of titling

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Until poor writing scared me straight, I never purchased books based on who wrote them. Sure, if I liked a book I’d read more by that author, but who wrote it wasn’t what I looked at first. I always flipped open the book and read a few pages.

Even after I became a hardened, cold reader that ran to my favorite authors without a glance at anyone else I still read the first few pages of a novel. I did this without fail up until the day I saw a title I couldn’t resist.

I confess to you, I picked the book up and bought it without so much as looking at the cover. I carried it straight home, read the whole thing cover to cover, and loved it. Even more, I loved it so much I read the entire thing out loud to my mother, who in turn loved it more and stole the book from me.

What made me pick up the book?

You probably guessed it. I saw the title, and it was such a good title I snatched it up immediately and ran to the cashier waving my money. The title was so strong, and so right, I knew it would carry over to the rest of the work. I was even right that time.

“Heroics for beginners,” by John Moore was the lucky book that day. I swear I never stopped laughing once the whole story. When I saw the title though, I didn’t know what it was. It could have been an actual book telling me how to be a hero. It could have been a history on heroic people. It could have been stupid or cliche, instead of a clever turn on stupid and cliche things. It didn’t matter. I knew I was going to love it, and I was right.

Thinking about this book makes me wonder if any of the titles I’ve come up with are that good. Dragon Psychology is well loved, and about to be included in an anthology. What else? Life of a Suburban Unicorn? Is that appealing?

I don’t know. What do you think about your titles?

The Idea Box

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Dancing with my latest manuscript issue has reminded me of a cure for half-finished manuscripts I discovered not too long ago. Well, not a cure, but something to help limit the available excuses not to finish.

I don’t get ideas every single day of the week, but when I do, I’m passionate about them. Every waking thought is filled with an electrical storm of visions, dialog, and full scenes cascading through my head. If I listen to it, what ever piece I’m working on is left on the road side, incomplete, probably forever.

The problem with this method of writing is that nothing ever gets done. The storm rolls by, another one rolls in, and there I am with an endless succession of half finished manuscripts.

Of course, I’m not a miraculous fountain of ideas. For every idea storm I have, I also have at least one idea drought. I wonder if I’ll ever have a creative thought again. I don’t make any progress on the story I’m on because I don’t have ideas for it, or if I’ve finished the manuscript I have nothing new to work on. Those times are scary for an aspiring author.

The first year I started trying to get published, I realized that wasn’t going to work. Publishers want complete manuscripts after all. I can’t listen to the siren song every time it calls, and what happens if I hit a draught with a deadline coming up?

My solution came in the form of a folder on my computer. When ever I get an idea for a story, I open up a new document and fill the pages with everything that will immediately flow out of my fingers. Names, characters, dialog, scenes, anything. I keep going with everything that will come out of me in one sitting. Then I save it into the folder, and go back to my WIP. I don’t pick at it, organize it, or extend it past the easy stuff. If it won’t come out in the first literary burp, it doesn’t need to.

When I’m done with my WIP, I open the folder and look around for something interesting. With this system, my manuscripts get done and I don’t have any down time.

I also put scenes I have to ax but totally love in the idea box. After all, it might be out of character for Susie to be crying under a tree, but what about moody Angelica? Mm? I never delete anything anymore. It’s all in my idea box. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pondered a spot in a story I just can’t fill, only to find the perfect answer somewhere in this folder.

If you don’t have an idea box on your computer, I strongly suggest you make a folder now. It can save you a lot of time!

A.M. Kuska tries the cluster technique

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EKCarmel suggested this post here to help me through a difficult portion of my story. I was able to write through this piece on my own, but this story has essentially been me wacking my head on every limb on the writer’s block tree all the way down. I figured I’d try it on a far distant future scene I skipped over the first draft because I just couldn’t figure it out.

Ladies and gentlemen, it works. The scene I worked on is a rather complicated escape scene that involves getting through every conceivable barrier I could come up with. Tools? Ha! Strength? Zero. The odds? Pretty close to the same.

Catie Murphy suggested using two pieces of posterboard, and a color code. I used two dry erase boards, since I already have them installed in my office, and unlocked the box to my top secret plotting utensils.

>_>

<_<

Don’t tell my husband. He will never let me live it down if he sees the five hundred little tiny toys I keep in my desk. I took a deep breath, lifted my dry erase marker, and began writing out what happens in the clusters, section by section. When I couldn’t visualize something, I took Elizabeth (represented by a fingernail sized white llama), Joseph Thundehead (slightly smaller Fox Terrier) and Peter (golden puppy, almost the size of the llama), showed their positions, and gave them pep talks.

I got the whole scene written out, and a clear visual of what was going on. I also came within inches of being busted with my toys. >_> He already knows about the borg cube. There will be no comments about the llama.

I highly recommend you check out this fabulous resource. It really works.

It’s not destiny, dang it!

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I swear I do have control over my  characters. I’m the author, I decide their every motion. I can force them to produce llama noises if that’s what I want them to do. Unfortunately, what I want is for them to stay true to themselves, and my inner-critic tells me that my characters are not prone to producing llama noises when staying true to themselves.

As everyone knows, the past few days I’ve been stuck on chapter five. There has been no movement forward. None. Zip. Zero. (I could get the thesaurus out for more words but I think you get the idea.) I’ve even been fantasizing about other stories, and writing out a list of theme music for my next novel. My house has never looked cleaner. What does that tell you?

Well I finally figured out why I couldn’t move forward. According to my outline, mom’s not supposed to walk her through the woods. According to Mom however, there is no way her little baby girl is going outside without protection until she’s sure it’s safe.

We have a deadlock. I can’t find a way to write Mom into the scene, and Mom isn’t leaving. Sorry.

Unless…

Unless of course, something far more sinister is coming in the back door, and she needs to hold the sinister creature off while Elizabeth makes a dash for it. ^^

Now you see why I have this blog. I can’t talk it out with a Writing Buddy, so I talk it out with my readers, because I know awesome people like Carol are out there listening. As I talk, I get ideas, and with the ideas, solutions.

Thank you, all. I know you haven’t even replied yet, but you’re already so helpful. Now, onward!

Outstanding Blogger Award!!

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Carol from Cah4el’s Blog has bestowed upon me the Outstanding Blogger Award! What a pleasant surprise, and how exciting to actually get an award for my blog! I’ve seen these awards everywhere, and never got one on any of my past blogs. I feel like I’ve officially been accepted into the blogging world. ^^

Anyway, I’m supposed to pass this on to 1-10 others.`^^ I’m not certain if I’m allowed to pass it back, since Carol’s blog is my #1 favorite, but if I can, absolutely that’s my top choice!

Hmm…who else can I give this to…

Tsactou comes to mind. This has absolutely nothing to do with the empty popcorn bag or the ice cream wrappers laying all over. Nothing at all… >_>

Must…Resist….

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Work on my story has come to an absolute stand still. All my usual tricks for getting through a difficult scene have failed me, and I find myself writing this blog post just to avoid working on it. (How’s that for procrastination?)

Don’t let procrastination fool you though. It’s not as if I don’t try. I open up my WIP every morning and evening without fail, and scroll straight to that difficult scene. I stare at it, scratch my head, and wait for inspiration. Nothing. I get out a notebook, and start asking questions about the scene. Nothing. I go back to the scene before, and check to see if maybe I got off track. Still nothing.

This is usually the point where I call up my muse, and have a rather long discussion with her about The Issue. We’re not calling it writer’s block. I never have writer’s block.

“I can’t figure out this scene,” I complain as soon as she appears in a sprinkle of fairy dust and the obligary tinkle of bells. “Elizabeth is supposed to meet a unicorn who ‘discovers’ her. She can’t do that with her mom right there. Can she?”

“I’m bored of this story,” my muse says, flopping down on the chair next to me. “I’ve got this new idea. I’m going to call it, Confessions of an Alchoholic Werewolf.”

I try not to look interested, but come on, what isn’t better than working on a difficult scene?

“He works in a dog grooming shop, cause thats the only work he can get. He starts hearing rumors of werewolves moving into his territory, a known peace zone. He’s got to stop them, but without being discovered. He–”

“I do enough dog grooming at work. I don’t want to write a story about it.”

My muse bats her eyes, all innocent. “It’s not about dog grooming. It’s about werewolves.”

I get the drift, but I’m not backing down. “I’ll type up everything you say and put it in my idea box, but only if you help me with this scene.”

My muse just smiles. “You’ll type it up anyway,” she says, and disappears in a poof of smoke.

You see what I have to put up with? I’ve written the outlines for three new story lines and stuffed them in my “hold” box. I’ve gotten no help on my real story at all.

But an alchoholic werewolf would make an interesting character, don’t you think?

Hmmm…

Author Update

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 If Life of a Suburban Unicorn was a short story, I’d put it away for a few years and not look at it until I couldn’t even remember writing it.

I’m so freaking bored of this manuscript, and I don’t want to write on it anymore. I’ve made it all the way to chapter five in my edits, and I want to throw up every time I look at the endless see of rough words ahead of me. It’s not that I don’t love my manuscript. I do. It’s not that I don’t love writing. I do. But for the past three days all I’ve done is write and work at the real job. I don’t want to do it anymore. I want something new, something fresh, something entertaining.

Someone rescue me from this world I’ve trapped myself in. x.x

Perspectives: California

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I knew I was missing my homestate when I found myself remenescing over wildfires. Fire season spans across most of the year down there, and most of us don’t blink when we hear about a fire burning 30,000 acres. Even if there are three fires each burning 30,000 spread out in a line headed toward you. (Unless of course, you are unlucky enough to live in the hills instead of somewhere safe such as a valley. Then I imagine you are running to pack your bags and hope that huge swath of naked earth surrounding your house is a big enough fire barrier.)

California has its own unique personality, which I did not notice until my (then future) husband came down to visit me. He was awed by our attitude toward cops, and also to our speed limits. (I found out much to my horror that Washington speed limits are 5-10 miles slower everywhere.)

“When we [meaning Washingtonians] see a cop with someone pulled over, we slow down. You guys just keep going. It’s like you think since he’s got one he’s too busy to get you too.”

Well it isn’t exactly like that. It’s more like, “if you’re not the fastest person and you’re not the slowest person, and you don’t have an eye catching sports car, you’re unlikely to be the one who gets the ticket.”

That being said, I am the model of good behavior here in Washington. Even though the speed limits suck, and that kid on the tricycle is passing me. He’s going to be the one with the ticket. Right? Of course right.

Something that also really stood out for me when I first moved was the street names. We use actual names, with a theme to them where I grew up in California. Here, all the streets are numbered. Instead of Christine street, Karen Street and Vanessa street in one section, we have 176th, 175th, and 174th.

>.<

My dad actually noticed the other difference between these two states, that I think defines their personalities. When he came up for my wedding this past June, he seemed very flustered as we drove around the streets. Eventually, he brought this up to my Mother-In-Law.

“I have a question for you,” he said to her, not quite making eye contact. We all stared at him, because he isn’t generally that shade of red when he talks.

“Where ever I drive here, I see all these little pink stands by the side of the road, and the women in them are almost naked. What are they–um—selling?”

We stared at him for a moment, minds frantically racing to figure out where these naked people were. I was the first to burst out laughing, cause I’d figured it out.

“Coffee stands,” I told him between gasps for air. “Those are coffee stands!”

He thought they were selling–well–never mind. Washington is defined by its coffee, as you probably know, and also by the amount of clothing on the ladies who serve it. 😛

Those are the only differences that really strike me, weather aside. Despite what Bella will tell you, by the way, the weather doesn’t actually suck. I admit to staring at the sky the first time it snowed, and my first dumbfounded thought was something along the lines of, “Dandruff!” But it does snow in California. Somewhere. Just not where I lived. It doesn’t actually rain here in Washington every day. It’s just cloudy every single day. You don’t even notice after the first couple months, promise! ^^

That’s it for now! If you’d like to share your own perspective with other writers, please drop me a line at sskid2000 AT hotmail DOT com. Thanks all!

I GOT AN E-READER!!

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I got a Sony E-Reader for my birthday. ^^

I GOT A SONY E-READER FOR MY BIRTHDAY! YAY!!!!!!!!!

I can’t begin to describe how thrilled I am to have one. I’ve thought about buying one for over a year now, discussed the pros and cons intimately with myself, and in the end could not justify spending hundreds of dollars just to condense my library.

Happily, I have family perfectly willing to do the spending for me!

Having an e-reader is a lot different than I thought it would be. For one thing, it isn’t as hard to read as a computer screen. (I told myself it would be as an excuse not to get one.) I was also surprised to discover that I don’t mind pushing a button instead of flipping a page, and that the smell of paper isn’t nearly as charming as the ability to carry 400 books right next to my keys and wallet.

So far I have not discovered any pitfalls to it. I’m sure problems will appear with time. Right now, I’m just enjoying the fact that I have one! Now I need to find someone who owns a kindle, and an ipad to give their reports, and we can decide which one is best. 🙂

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