Tuesday, December 29, 2009

No Guilt!

I'm not a big fan of resolutions for myself. I understand the theory, but it just doesn't work for me. I tend to tinker with my life in little steps rather than giant resolutions.

Like many of you. I'm pretty busy. I tend to be a little OCD about my job. To me, teaching is more than a job - it's a passion. I spend a minimum of 50 hours a week on my job, but it's generally more than that. Sometimes a lot more! Then there's my family - hubby & 2 teens - and their lives. Plus nieces and nephews and all of their sporting activities to attend.

So, if I can make a resolution to increase the number of hours in a day, especially if those hours are just for me, I'm in! Other than that I think I'll just keep doing what I always do. My best. I'll write and revise when and as I can. When I'm able to, I'll blog and visit blogs of my friends. I'll squeeze in the Twitterverse for fun.

And I won't feel in the least bit guilty. The real world has to come first for me. I love, LOVE, my writing. Bringing characters to life on paper is so much fun. I enjoy torturing them with nasty plot twists and seeing how they handle it. I even like the way revising and editing make my story tighter and stronger - well most of the time I like it! :) Writing is a vital, important part of my life.

But, it's not my real world. So my resolution will be to keep doing my best, to keep living my multiple lives to the fullest. Let the fun continue!

How about you? Are you a resolution setter? In your real life or in your writing?

On another note, I've been lucky enough to be awarded two more blog awards! First thanks so much to the lovely Sara McClung at her blog: The Babbling Flow of a Fledgling Scribbler. She awarded me the Picasso Award (aka From Me to You Award).

The delightful Natalie Bahm at her self-titled blog awarded me the Superior Scribbler Award. Thanks so much, Natalie!

These ladies are fabulous bloggers and if you haven't checked out their blogs yet, do yourself a favour and pop over to have some fun!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Voice - Long or Short?

As I've been rereading my Steampunk from NaNo, I find myself thinking a lot about voice. Not my characters' voices, but mine.

I believe one of the ways voice is showcased is in length - length of sentences, phrases, paragraphs and chapters.

My sentences vary in length, but I do use a lot of short, tight sentences, and more than my share of sentence fragments. I like the effect. I know some people believe fragments should never be used. It's one of those grey areas. I think I know the rules well enough to break them for effect & emphasis. Will readers agree? Don't know yet. :)

My paragraphs tend to be short as well. Obviously they vary in length as needed, but I do include a lot of one or two sentence paragraphs.

This tendency of mine extends to chapters as well. Again, there is a fair amount of variety, but I have more short chapters than long.

I believe this is part of my voice as an author. When I look at some of my favourite reads, I find I enjoy variety. Some of my faves lean towards long sentences, paragraphs and chapters, while others run towards short with more fragments. As I read widely, I'm not terribly surprised at the variety of styles I've found!

When you look at your writing, do you find you have a preference for long or short? Do you think this affects your voice?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Wishes

Tis the season to wish all of my blogging friends the merriest of Christmases!

Do you know your favourite Christmas present of all time? My beautiful boxed edition of The Hobbit is a close second, but in first place, is a large stuffed dog. Yellow and white. I can still remember the excitement of coming down the stairs and seeing him under the tree. I didn't even look at the tag, I knew he was mine. I'm not sure how old I was, but he was big enough for me to sit astride his back, kind of like a horse. He sat at the end of my bed for years. He was a pillow, a toy, a confidant and a friend. Fluffy hung around for years and years.

I hope your Christmas brings you the same joy Fluffy brought me as a child. Treasure your family, friends and the memories you make. There's really nothing better. Merry Christmas!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

An Outline Begins

So, I'm finally starting to look at my NaNo novel again. I'd been tinkering with it a little, but the ending just wasn't coming to me. After listening to all of your very helpful advice, I decided to do a reread.

I've only done a few chapters so far. And I know the holiday craziness is going to cause a lot of interruptions in the process, but... I like the way it's going!!

I'm keeping a very short outline of the novel as I write. It's in a separate file. I number the chapters and add a one-line description of the action. I also include the pov because it alternates between the male mc and female mc.

I think I've got a handle on the direction for the ending already. It will require a little reorganization of the last few chapters I've written, but I think it'll work :) At least, that's the way it's looking in the very early going!

I know many of you outline before you write (which kind of blows my mind by the way!) and some of you do it later - the way I'm doing it now. I'm curious as to what your outlines look like. Are they "thin" like the ones I use, or "thick"? Do you include a lot of details? Which style works for you?

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Giver

Yvonne Osborne over at The Organic Writer and Jean Oram at her self-titled blog have blog posts today discussing Lois Lowry's novel The Giver. Yvonne challenged herself to read some banned books. Knowing Jean & I had read the book, she asked us a series of questions. Our answers are posted at her blog here.

The Giver is one of my favourite books. It has so many layers of interesting and thought-provoking "stuff". It has been banned in several places. Amazing what people fear, isn't it?!

I read it often to the students in my class. Students invariably love it, although they're generally not convinced by the first chapter. It takes a few days of reading until they are hooked. After that, I don't dare attempt to miss a day of read-aloud time :)

Lowry creates a world devoted to Sameness. It's safe, predictable and utterly lacking in anything important, like emotion. When students discover partway through the book that Jonas, the main character, is one of only 2 people who can see colours, they're always taken aback. How could it be possible? Continued reading brings more and more surprises and discussions.

When I finished up the book today in class, the kids were shocked by the ending. Lowry has made them think and wonder all the way through the book. She makes them continue to think and wonder after it's all over. No neat endings, no pat answers. More questions. Awesome! There was dead silence when I finished the last sentence & closed the book. Then the questions flew :)

Have you read the Giver? If you have any thoughts on it I'd love to hear them! Or you can pop on over to Yvonne's blog and comment there.

Do you enjoy books with multiple layers? Someone once told me a good book is like an onion. You keep peeling back layers and finding more good stuff underneath. What's your favourite onion book?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I'm It!

I've been tagged & now I'm it! Nope, I haven't been playing with the students at school. It's a blog game. Julie over at The Climb tagged me, so now I have to answer the following questions and then tag someone else! Thanks, Julie!! :) This is making me a little nervous - I'm not always good at the whole sharing personal info thing. But I AM a good sport, so here we go!

1)What's the last thing you wrote? What's the first thing you wrote that you still have?
The last thing I wrote was a scene for my wip in which the male mc is creating a tracking device in Steampunk England. Fun stuff. The first thing I wrote that I still have (at least I think I have it...) is a sappy story about a gypsy man playing his violin while his caravan burns. His wife has died & he can't live with the memories. (I know, I know, but I was little!)

2) Write poetry?
Not a lot anymore. I wrote a lot in high school and college.

3) Angsty poetry?
Of course, I WAS a teenage girl for a few years :)

4) Favorite genre of writing?

Romantic mystery, with steampunk running a close 2nd!

5) Most annoying character you've ever created?
A very arrogant English Lord. It was from a short historical romance story I wrote years ago. He was a real creep, and annoying to boot. He gets killed in a rather horrific manner at the end. Felt good :)

6) Best plot you've ever created?
The plot from the ms I've completed is fun with a couple of intertwined subplots. I really enjoyed weaving the plots together.

7) Coolest plot twist you've ever created?
Can't tell you that, now, can I?

8) How often do you get writer's block?
I'm lucky. That rarely happens. There are so many stories yelling at me, I never have time to write them all down.

9) Write fan fiction?
Not on paper. When I was younger I "wrote" Star Trek episodes in my head when I was trying to fall asleep at nights (well, still do actually)

10) Do you type or write by hand?
Always on the laptop. I'd lose papers.

11) Do you save everything you write?
Yup. I'm a very organized file maniac. Sad, but true.

12) Do you ever go back to an idea after you've abandoned it?
I'm a pack rat. Don't throw anything out. So, nothing's ever abandoned - just waiting for me to get back to it :)

13) What's your favorite thing you've ever written?
That's hard. Probably a completed ms. Even though it needs another round of revision.

14) What's everyone else's favorite story you've written?
I haven't shared much writing yet. My 2 crit buddies have only seen parts of 1 story so far. :)

15) Ever written romance or angsty teen drama?
I enjoy romance, especially with a mystery or some suspense added in. My completed ms is a romantic mystery.

16) What's your favorite setting for your characters?
That's a really hard one. Settings aren't as vital to me as characters or plot. Yes, they're important, but not enough for me to have a fave.

17) How many writing projects are you working on right now?
Two on paper. I'm finishing the first draft for my nano, and beginning another round of revision on my completed ms. Two stories are running around in my head as well.

18) Have you ever won an award for your writing?
I haven't entered any competitions, so no :)

19) What are your five favorite words?
Almost anything Italian - such a beautiful language! In English: love, peace & hope for the meaning, discombobulated for the sound. Recess for rather obvious reasons! :)

20) What character have you created that is most like yourself?
None of them really. Although bits and pieces of Ali in the first half of an ms are like me.

21) Where do you get your ideas for your characters?
Everywhere and who knows. They just "are".

22) Do you ever write based on your dreams?
Sure, but not often. My dreams are generally too crazy, disjointed & scary.

23) Do you favor happy endings?
YES! The world is so often unhappy. In my job, I see a lot of kids who don't or can't believe in happy endings. They need to have access to them somewhere. They need to believe and hope.

24) Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?
Yes. I think it's automatic. As a teacher, it's just part of me. It's not even conscious most of the time.

25) Does music help you write?
A most resounding yes. I put the iTunes on Shuffle and enjoy a wide variety of music. No playlists, just mix it all up.

26) Quote something you've written. Whatever pops in your head.
"It's my first mutilated mammal by mail."

Phew! I'm exhausted. You probably are too :)

Calista Taylor at A Steampunk Reverie,
Jenny Martin at Book Binge,
Cat Woods at Words from the Woods...

TAG, you're it!! These wonderful writers/bloggers are some of my cyber-friends from AQ. There are so many more I could mention, but I'll limit myself to just 3. Enjoy their fantabulous blogs :)

P.S. If you haven't checked out Julie's blog, scroll back up and click on her link - you won't regret it!

Monday, December 14, 2009

What a Voice!

I've got Jennifer Hudson's Christmas special on as I'm writing this. What a Voice!! She truly sings like an angel.

Of course, I giggled when I thought "What a Voice!". As writers, we worry about a slightly different kind of voice.

Voice is a difficult thing to teach. It's easier to find examples and read them aloud, then contrast different styles. The kids in my class tend to pick up the different kinds of voice rather quickly when I read short snippets of a variety of texts.

They all have their preferences. Most kids this year prefer short, snappy sentences with sly humour mixed in. However, lyrical sentences can grab them as well. When we studied opening lines last year, the class favourite was from Ray Bradbury's Farenheit 451.

"It was a pleasure to burn. It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of history."

They loved the contrast of the sentence lengths, the imagery. They all decided these short lines spoke to them. They loved the voice, and referred back to the image several times over the year.

A strong voice can be compelling. It's something we all strive for.

Whose voice do you most admire? Do you find it difficult to identify your own voice?

On a side note, thanks to Elizabeth Spann Craig at Mystery Writing is Murder for the Blogging Writer Award. Check out the award she designed herself on the sidebar! Thanks as well to Kristi Faith over at RAW (Random Acts of Writing) for awarding me the One Lovely Blog Award, also on the sidebar. These are fantastic writer friends. If you haven't checked out their sites, do yourself a favour & pop on over!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Elusive Endings

I'm having some difficulty squeezing in time for my writing. And it's not all due to pre-holiday prep, report card season and all the other nuttiness that goes with family life.

I've been procrastinating because I'm just not sure which finish I want to put on the NaNo novel. I'm close to the end. Probably between 5k & 10k to go. But I can't get it written.

My dilemma is in how the book needs to finish. I just can't see the ending clearly. This is weird for me. Usually it's the ending scene I see first. It's where the story starts for me. When I'm creating units for school, I always start with the test or culminating task first as well. Some people think I plan backwards, but I always want to know where I'm headed before I start.

So... I'm thinking of going back to the start and doing a read through and a quick outline at the same time. Maybe I'll find the ending in there. I do have a few possibilities floating around, but none of them are telling me they're the "right" ending.

This method feels a little like cheating. Silly, but true. Maybe I should just plow through it and see what happens. My characters do have a tendency to go where they like anyway.

Or maybe I should continue to let it stew in the back of my brain and let the ending appear when it's good and ready.

Have you ever been stumped near the end of your ms? How did you get yourself through it?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Fave YA Couple?

My blog buddy Alexa over at Not Enough Bookshelves has a very interesting theme going this month. It's called Christmas Countdown.

Alexa is counting down her favourite couples from all of the YA books she's read this year. There are some very interesting people in YA! Alexa is also holding a contest in the same theme. Check out the rules here.

Anyway, Alexa's post got me thinking about some of my fave couples in the books I've read.

My all-time favourite YA couple has got to be Anne Shirley & Gilbert Blythe from Anne of Green Gables. If you've been following me for a bit, that probably shouldn't surprise you :)

I LOVE Anne. She was everything I wanted to be as a young girl: outgoing, friendly, adventurous and so wonderfully creative. As a shy and serious kid, I knew the only thing we really had in common was a very vivid imagination. I generally kept mine to myself, but it was there -- still is :)

Anne and Gilbert make a great team - from the carrot-top comments and the pigtail pulling to the more serious stuff in later books, you never quite know what to expect from the pair. Just the way it should be :)

So, do any couples stand out for you? Are your faves from childhood or from something you've read more recently?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Long or Short?

There seem to be a lot of short story contests and flash fiction mentions around the online writing community lately. I probably won't be entering any or reading many. I have a definite preference for longer works, both when I'm reading and writing. As usual, my brain started wondering why. :)

I understand the talent and work the shorter pieces take. When I'm teaching, I limit the pages/words students have for their writing in order for them to learn control. I use phrases like "clear and concise," "rambly", and "precise language." I also occasionally teach/write poetry where every word, every syllable is vital. So, yeah, I think I get it. I admire all the folks who do write the shorter stuff.

But I don't write short works. The ideas popping into my head take a lot longer to develop and explore. For me, writing is mostly about emotion and characters. My characters become very real, as do their problems. The conflict is complicated.

I also like subplots and secondary characters. These are often as compelling as the main plot and characters. I like multi-faceted situations and people. I know, I know these can occur in short pieces too.

Maybe I prefer the longer works because I tend to become highly attached to the people populating these worlds. Maybe it's simply that I enjoy living in their worlds, and don't want to let them go. I've always been a series reader too. Hmmm....

What about you? Do you have a preference for longer or shorter works, or are they equally appealing for you? Have you thought about why?

On another note, thank you to Stephen Tremp over at his Breakthrough Blogs. Stephen is a great blogger who keeps track of all kinds of news and information interesting to writers. Stephen awarded me the "Awesomous Maximus" Award. Check out the great looking pup on the sidebar of the blog :) Thanks Stephen, and if you haven't checked out his blog, do yourself a favour and pop over!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Pay It Forward

Wow! It's been quite a few days - I've received 2 awards from 2 very sweet and awesome bloggers :)

Sara McLung over at her blog: The Babbling Flow of a Fledgling Scribbler awarded me the Honest Scrap Blogger award. If you haven't checked out Sara's blog, pop on over.

Courtney Reese at her blog: Work in Progress awarded me the Best Blogger award. Another blog definitely worth a visit!!

Thank you to both of you - you're awesome!

Now, I'm not quite following the rules - those of you who know me well won't be terribly surprised :) As I've already listed a few things you don't know about me, I'll not torture you with a whole list - just a couple...

1. I still (yes, STILL) can't get Blogger to accept me posting pictures in the body of the blog. I'm fairly computer literate. Really. The kids at school are regularly impressed by my computer skills. Again, really. I'm probably the most tech-savvy person in the school. REALLY!! So, why won't it let me post a picture??? *sigh*

2. I did finally get Blogger to accept me putting links in my post! (Wild cheering please) Sad, I know, but my excuse is I didn't start blogging until just before school began. Not a lot of time to spend on the peripherals.

3. I'm reading a Banned Book to my kids at school. Fun!

4. I'm a BIG sap with movies, books, kids, puppies, commercials, parent-teacher-student interviews, ...

5. When I was little I used to walk across the top of swing sets on dares :)

Okay - now to the fun part! I've awarded blogs to several other bloggy types before, so I'll pass on those lovely folks. You can check them out here I'll also try to avoid some great bloggers who were also awarded by Sara or Courtney. I'm also limiting myself to 7 which was NOT easy! I'll leave it to these folks to snag whichever blog award they'd like! So....

1. RK Lewis at Needle City for the noir crime novel lover in you :)

2. Natalie Bahm Natalie is a great blogger and provides such thoughtful posts!

3. Michele Emrath at Southern City Mysteries offers all kinds of Down South smarts

4. Megan Rebekah at Megan Rebekah Blogs...And Writes Check out her Dear Nano, oops, Dear John letter :)

5. RK Charron over at BOOKS If you like to know what is being released, and where the contests are, you need to check out this blog!

6. Layna Pimentel at Stomping Ground for the Supernatural Layna is one of the best multi-tasking writers I know!

7. Belle over at Ms. Bookish Belle's blog is FULL of fun stuff including awesome lists of book giveaways!

Phew! Okay - that's all for now. Check out some of these fine folks - you won't regret it at all :)