The Great Pumpkin Analogy

While perusing the pumpkin “patch” (shelves) at my grocery store last weekend, this one struck me as the roundest, cleanest, most pumpkiny pumpkin of the bunch. In fact, I was so pleased with nature’s work that I considered leaving it alone and letting its bright orange hue be all the decoration I needed.

Original Pumpkin, ala first draft
So pretty. Why would anyone want to mess this up?

That thought lasted about a day. While there was nothing wrong with my pumpkin — some people might say it’s a damned good pumpkin and why on earth would you mess with perfection? — I decided to hack it up, scoop out the messy parts, and polish it into something unique.

Kind of like a novel.

Every writer knows the first draft is just that — a first draft. You need dive in headfirst to separate the solid guts from the gooey bits that are just gunking things up.

Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.
Adverbs, passive voice, and extra dialogue tags be gone!

Once you really get into it, you discover writing the novel — or picking the pumpkin — was the easy part. Creating something good enough to present to the world takes loads more time, patience, and knives… er, red pens. If you’re like me, you may be tempted to shove that baby out the front door while the guts are still cooling, but a third, or even fourth, pass is probably necessary.

Did you catch every goopy string? Cut away all the pencil marks? Grab the extra pieces off the floor before the dog ate them? (or text a photo to a friend to make sure it’s really as good as you think?) Because only then is your creation ready to be unleashed to the world.

The masterpiece.

Want more Halloween? My post A Smurfy Package is up at An Army of Ermas.

When Do You Say When?

Photo courtesy of the one and only Mr. Tudor

I sent my first queries for Flicker almost seven months ago. In that time I’ve had a couple full requests, a few more partial requests, and several handfuls of rejections. I’ve avoided talking about the process here because I choose to keep that out of the public eye, but I’m reaching the point where I need some advice.

“They” say that at some point you need to put the novel away and start something new. I’m already planning my next novel (NaNo starts in less than three weeks!) and I’m ready to switch gears. What I’m not ready for is putting Flicker away. I’ve had so much positive feedback from agents and beta readers—including teenager—that I’m having a difficult time accepting that this is the end of the road for this story.

Yes, there are other options. I have quite a few friends who’ve submitted directly to publishers, and many more who’ve self-published. I’m not sure yet if either of those are right for me, but I’d like to hear your thoughts.

(And please no bashing one side or the other.)

Repost: Being Authentic

I first posted this on March 10, 2010, and thought it was worth repeating. I wrote this while working on my second novel, so while that part is a bit outdated, the rest still applies.

Do you ever have random words just pop into your head? Words that you rarely use but make you giggle, or remind you of someone from your past? And do they fly out of your mouth at less-than-convenient times?

They do me.

Since I’m working most of the day these words don’t fly out of my mouth so much as pop into my head, then I choose to type then onto the screen. But I usually express myself the way the thought first came to me because I feel like otherwise I’m not being authentic. Some may think I’m weird, or that I’m using a particular word to be ironic or to get a laugh, when really that’s just the way I think.

I started thinking of this while replying to a comment on recent post. You see, I used the word “smidge.” Spell-check tells me that’s not actually a word, but I KNOW I’ve heard my gramma say it and therefore it will be used. This leads to …

(HOLD YOUR HORSES! I’M ACTUALLY GOING TO TIE WRITING INTO A POST!)

… character development and that ever-elusive voice. I’m working on the edits for After the Fall, and one of the gazillion things on my list of things to fix is making the voices more distinctive. Particularly finding a way to make the characters that are the same age stand out from each other. I have two 17-year olds, two moms, and two 9/10-year olds and right now I wouldn’t pass the “remove the dialogue tags and guess who’s talking” game.

A writer who I follow on Twitter (I forget who) asked people for ideas for her character’s “quirky” word (like the girl in Annie who says “Oh my goodness, oh my goodness.” We once counted how many times she said that through the course of the movie.) And that’s when it first occurred to me that my characters don’t have that. They each have a nervous tic, or a gesture that’s unique to them, but I love writing dialogue and I’m a little surprised I haven’t incorporated this sooner.

Time to hit up a high school game and start taking notes…

So, what odd or quirky (but CLEAN) phrases fly out of your mouth when you least expect it?

Leading by Example

In early spring of 2009, my friend Stacey Graham mentioned an idea she had for a new humor blog. Our group of friends continuously amused each other, so why not spread that joy throughout the internet via essays written in the spirit of Erma Bombeck?

Thus was born An Army of Ermas.

Our ranks have grown, and some early contributors have faded into the background (including yours truly) while others have truly blossomed, turning An Army of Ermas into something I don’t think any of us expected. Erma’s regularly gets thousands of hits per post, and the site was recognized by the Erma Bombeck Writing Workshop as Humor Blog of the Month after only two months in existence. Behind all of it is Stacey, cracking her whip to keep the writers in line and the readers entertained.

To honor and thank Stacey, we have declared today An Army of Ermas Day. I would yodel but I don’t want to waste my quota of vowels for the day.

I’ve only written a handful of articles for Ermas so the site’s popularity has had little to do with me, but it HAS affected me. Watching Stacey take an over-caffeinated idea bubble and turn it into a popular humor site (all while raising five girls, getting an agent, selling a book, running spy camp, and wrangling zombies) has been an inspiration. Anytime I feel like an idea is silly or unattainable, I make myself stop and ask “why not?” Stacey’s determination and exuberance for every project she tackles has given me the hope that I might be able to do the same.

Stacey, thank you.

Me and Stacey on vacation at the end of July. How cute are we?

More friends celebrating An Army of Erma Day:

Terri Lynn Coop
Angie Mansfield
Sara Spock Carlson
Jennifer Caddell
Adam Slade
Jason Tudor
Beth Bartlett
Harley May
Amy Mullis
Patti Wigington
Janna Qualman
Tricia Gillespie
Sarah Garb
Pauline Campos
Melissa Hollern

Nitpicking

I love to pick at things. I won’t disgust you with the details, but if my fingernail can pry it loose, you can bet I’m going to try. I also apply this obsessiveness to theories, plots, and pretty much any story that a person can invent. I often have to warn people that I play the devil’s advocate to a fault — I can’t help myself. If there’s a way for me to wiggle in there, I will.

I’ve always figured I’m a little off-center since I absolutely love proof-reading bodies of text, but I’ve slowly come to accept that Hey! I might actually be good at this. I’ve critiqued several friends’ novels and while they thank me profusely, I’ve never sat in the same room while they read my comments so I’ve always wondered if I’m getting the real reaction.

Last week I critiqued my lovely friend Stacey‘s manuscript and had the delight of sitting in the same room as she read my notes. The most common words muttered?

You’re thorough.

Be still my anal-retentive heart. I may be on to something here.

Sunday I bought two of my favorite grammar books — Eats, Shoots & Leaves and Grammar Girl’s Quick & Dirty Tips for Better Writing — and I plan to dive back into the grammar world very, very soon.

Do you like to proof others’ writing, or am I just weird?

Odds & Ends

Hi there. I thought I’d use today’s post to catch you all up on what’s been going on with me. Ready? Okay!

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I LOVE my apartment. Love. The paint, the layout, the trees outside my balcony… it’s all wonderful. Owen’s adapted well and I’ve made several friends through him and the dog park. The roads leading to the apartment complex are all very winding which is AWESOME in my quest to be a racecar driver. Let’s just not think about what those roads will be like in the winter.

I’ve framed my own photos to hang on the walls, and Monday night I picked up three prints I had enlarged. As soon as I hang them up I’ll share pictures.

Last week my cable went out during some crazy storms and I discovered my one-month old cable box (or “receiver” as the man on the phone kept calling it) was dead. As were the 30 movies I’d taped. But never fear! I ended up with six months of free movie channels as a consolation. Hooray U-verse!

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I’m thisclose to writing again. I tried back around Easter, but with everything else going on in my life I found it hard to concentrate on a new idea. I’m getting together with more writing friends very very soon, so I had BETTER write then!

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Since more of my posts here have focused on writing, I’ve started an account on Tumblr to focus on the silliness. Go check it out!

MoulinHoo

I’m still figuring out Tumblr, but I like the simplicity of it. Plus I’ve wanted a platform just for photos, and while you can do much more there, that’s what I’ll primarily use it for.

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And that’s about it. What’s new with you?

Summer ‘ku

Thoughts from a late night perusing friends’ friends lists and other posts on Facebook…

Freakfest on Facebook.
Spray tans + protein, oh why
did I give you up?

My long-ago crush
has a toddler named Owen.
The universe speaks!

Oh vague status posts…
If only you intrigued me
as your poster planned.

The Q despairs, for
without no home, my ten-point
lead evaporates.

Server won’t respond,
my night of frivolity
must come to an end.

Would you care to share / how you spent your Tuesday night? / haiku is preferred.

It’s a Start

Thanks for your encouragement last week. I’m proud to say I finally sat down and wrote TWO WHOLE PAGES. For me, that’s the hardest part because the first couple pages set the tone for the entire novel and that’s the only time I truly struggle to write. Once I get into the flow of writing I can knock out pages like nobody’s business.

So, yay, the hard part is over!

*waits for you to stop laughing*

As usual, I’m not going to tell you about this story until it’s much further along. Like Beth said in the comments, I feel like I’ll jinx myself if I share too much too soon.

So what’d YOU accomplish this weekend?

Me and OCD

I joke so often about my OCD tendencies that I forget a lot of people probably don’t realize this about me. If you know me at all you’ve probably picked up on some of my quirks, but I’m always surprised when a friend discovers just how ingrained these compulsions are.

Some background: I’ve always been rather… particular… about how things are arranged and the order I do things (can you say morning routine?), but I don’t check the oven twenty times before leaving the house or anything like that.

It was recently brought to my attention that I’m unable to not finish something, which sounds like a good thing until you realize that means I won’t start something if I think there’s a chance I won’t be able to finish. I don’t read books unless I’m certain I’ll like them, because there’s no way I’m stopping once I get started. I think I’ve put down three books in my life. I can only think of one movie I’ve turned off (Bruno) and if I fall asleep while watching one, I’ll usually finish it the next day.

Where this becomes a problem is with my writing. As I mentioned last week, I’ve come up with a new idea, but what I didn’t tell you is how terrified I always am that I’ll never come up with another one. My friend Erica helped me brainstorm, then gave me the wonderful advice to start writing it, and just stop if I don’t like where it’s going.

Come again?

I stared at her open-mouthed, collecting my thoughts. “I can’t do that,” I finally admitted.

And my secret was out. I’ve written three novels and have come up with a total of seven ideas — including books two and three of my trilogy and the latest one. Lots of thoughts whisper through my mind, but I don’t consider them an actual IDEA unless I can see it through to the end.

I don’t expect anyone else to share this quirk, but do you have a personality trait that challenges your writing?

Grab a Glass…

… because I’m about to start whining.

It occurred to me over the weekend that it’s been SIX MONTHS since I started a new project. I spent two months writing Flicker, then another month and a half editing, and since then… well… let’s just say I haven’t been writing. Yes, I outlined books two and three of the trilogy and I came up with a fresh new idea, but I haven’t actually moved forward on any of these projects. I’ve been busy with other life things, but that’s no excuse. If I choose to call myself a writer I need to actually put words on paper. Or pixels.

I keep telling myself that when I get this one thing done I’ll get started, but that’s clearly not working for me. I need to just start. NOW.

Any suggestions for stopping procrastination?

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