Thursday, August 30, 2012

When is a WIP Really Finished?

I just finished my latest WIP (work-in-progress) so it really isn't a WIP anymore.

Or is it?

I have at least four completed WIPs and three that are proposals (synopsis and first three chapters of a book).

But I've learned one thing in my many years of writing and that is never give up on a WIP.

Maybe you've shopped it around to several publishers, maybe you've ignored it for several years, or maybe the market isn't right for that novel, but whatever you do keep your WIPs because you're never really finished with them until the book is published.

Pull out a WIP every once in a while and see how much you've grown as a writer and what you can do to tweak the story that would make it more publishable.

River Whispers was a novel I'd written many years before it was published. I loved the characters and really wanted to sell the book, but publishers just weren't interested. So I turned my attention to other story ideas, wrote a couple of YA time travels that sold, and then I pulled out River Whispers again.

Right away I could see what many of the problems were in that book. There's a lot to be said for letting your work sit for a while. A week, a month, or even a couple of years can really make a difference in your writing skills and the critical eye with which you read your own work. I'm very grateful that I never gave up on that story because I eventually sold it. And look what a beautiful book it became.

Sometimes when I pull up an old story on the computer and start reading I wonder what in the world I was thinking. Sometimes I've found flat characters or characters so over the top that they are unbelievable or worse, uninteresting. And then sometimes I've found huge holes in the plot. Yikes! I'm very glad that I can now take out some of my old WIPs and work on them. My stories are like old friends just waiting for me to get reacquainted and help them grow into better books.

How many WIPs do you have waiting for your attention? Do you work on more than one at a time? Have you been surprised sometimes by how much you've grown when you've taken another look at your old story/friend?



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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Times Goes By, So Make Time to Write.

 
I can hardly believe that this handsome, young man is my oldest grandson. Where did the time go? It was only yesterday that he was a little baby. Saturday we attended his first Pee-wee Football game. I have to tell you, it was difficult to see him out there giving and taking tackles. I know he'll have a lot of bumps and bruises as he learns to play, but darn it's hard to be a grandma and watch. 
 
Saturday evening Hubby and I went to a car show. Hubby is like a kid in a video-game store as he goes from car to car. 
And he knows cars. 
He could tell me what each one was, what engine they had, what year they were made and any and everything else about the cars. I took a couple of pictures.
 
 If you've read  my An Angel on Main Street novel, you know that I describe a police car just like this one. 
I was thrilled to see it up close and personal.
This truck is so much like a truck my father owned, except Dad's was bright red. For some reason this one looked much smaller to me. Couldn't be that I was looking at it with adult eyes instead of a child's, could it?
This sweet ride won Best in Show. It turned out that the owner is a good friend of Hubby's. 
 
Time goes by so fast. 
Cars become classics and grandkids grow up.
 
Is time going by fast for you?
 
Have you finished writing that novel you've always wanted to write, but you haven't found the time?
 
Well guess what? You're never going to find the time unless you make it. 
Carve out of your daily schedule time to write.
Make your writing a priority. 
Because before you know it the time will be gone. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Mystery and Romantic Suspense

Sorry. The day is half over and I haven't posted. I've been madly working on my current WIP (work in progress). I'm very close to being done.


Romantic Suspense
My current WIP is another romantic suspense.

As I've met fans and autographed their copies of my new romantic suspense, some have told me that they don't understand the difference between a mystery and a suspense novel. I thought today I'd explain how I look at the genres.

Mystery novels come in many forms: cozy, detective (amateur and private), police procedural, thriller, and--the one I enjoy the most--romantic suspense.

Thrillers and romantic suspense are listed as mysteries, but they are different. What they have in common with a mystery is the plot drives the story, the crime is significant, the murderer is introduced early in the book (though the reader doesn't know his/her true identity), a number of suspects must be uncovered, and all red herrings must be dealt with by the end of the novel (there can be no loose ends).

However in thrillers and suspense novels, the reader may find out the identity of the murderer early in the novel, but what keeps them reading is how tension builds as the main characters struggle through dangerous and life-threatening situations before they put things together and learn who the murderer is as well.

 Readers are drawn to these stories because they are invested in the main characters and seeing how they will survive. So while romantic suspense and mystery novels are similar, they are different.

I'm curious. What is your favorite mystery novel and why?

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Weight Training and Synopses . . .

Picture by Creative Commons
Last month I had lunch with an old friend I hadn't see for a few years. It was great to see her and catch up. She told me that she'd been doing weight training, which totally took me by surprise. But she looked great: toned arms, weight loss, and generally feeling fit.

I have always had saggy arms, even when I was a kid. There's no muscle there. Nope. Zip. Zero. Well, okay there's a little, enough to type, eat, and everyday kind of stuff, but that's it. I'd lose arm wrestling a five-year-old.

So yesterday I decided I was going to change things. My daughter volunteered to introduce me to the weight machines at the gym.

Holy mackinaw! I've always thought those apparatuses looked like torture devices and this morning I'm sure of it. You know you're in trouble when it hurts to lift a comb. Well, it's not quite that bad, but I'm feeling the workout. I'm glad I have today off from weight training, though I'm a little worried about tomorrow.

But this experience got me to thinking about writing exercises. One of my saggy spots of writing is the dreaded synopsis. I'd rather write the book than write the synopsis. But this exercises is very important. It's a good idea to have a five to seven page synopsis, a one page synopsis, and a blurb about your book. You will use them in many ways.

Five to seven page synopsis . . . 
When you're shopping for a publisher, they will want to see what your story is about. They want to see what your characters are like, where the plot is going, and how the story resolves. A five to seven page synopsis will show this to them.

One page synopsis . . .
Most publishers keep a one page synopsis on every novel. It helps the design department create the cover, it helps public relations as they think of ways to promote a novel, and it tells everything in one page.

A blurb . . .
You've seen these. They are on the back of novels and are very important because the blurb tells prospective readers what the story is about. You have only a matter of seconds to sell your novel. The blurb must catch attention and give a promise.

Today for my writing exercises I'm going to work on synopses. I hope my saggy, aching arms will hold up. ;)

How about you?  Are you going to tone up your arm muscles, your synopses, or both?


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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Book Review - Secret Weapon by Kevin Freeman

I have another nonfiction book review to share with you.This book really scared me. But I also found it very thought-provoking.

Secret Weapon: How Economic Terrorism Brought Down the U.S. Stock Market and Why It Can Happen Again by Kevin Freeman was very enlightening into the workings of Wall Street and how stocks are bought and sold. I never thought I'd find a book about finance interesting enough for me to read completely through, but I did. 
 
I learned what hedge funds, short-sells and naked short-sells are. I learned about bear raids, currency and debt manipulation, and sovereign wealth funds. I learned about the "uptick rule" Congress passed in 1938 and how after passing that rule the market never again fell below 1937 lows. Freeman explained the housing bubble in 2007 and how Fannie and Freddie played a part. And I learned about the sad state of our national debt (talk about scary). I also learned how financial markets have been manipulated during wartime (Did you know that the Germans were counterfeiting the English pound and flooding their market during WWII?). 
 
I was like a sponge as I read how Freeman found evidence, motive, means and opportunity for foreign enemies to nearly push our economy over the brink. 
 
This book has over forty-two pages of footnotes that support his claims. What I found most shocking is that after he finished his report that the government asked him to do, they have done nearly nothing to prevent this from happening again.
 
Kevin Freeman has a long list of credits to his name: CEO of Freeman Global Investment Counsel, he wrote a business plan for Sir John Templeton and was hand-picked to build the Templeton Private Client group. He's one of the world's leading experts on economic warfare and financial terrorism. If you would like to learn more about Freeman and his book go to www.secretweapon.t.v. 
 
I know this was a very heavy subject, and I don't usually go there, but nonfiction books tend to be that way. I'm hopeful to do a review on Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas next month. It's about a very courageous man who stood up for what he believed during a very dark time in history.
 
On a lighter note, on September 28th I'll have a special guest on my blog. author Jody Hedlund will be here to talk about her new book, Unending Devotion.    
 
Now I have a question for you. What books (nonfiction or fiction) have you read this summer?
 
I bought my copy of Secret Weapon by Kevin Freeman and shared it with you because I thought it was an important read you might want to check out.
 
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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Homemade Bread, My Grandson, and Writing Novels


 I love making bread with my grandson. He gets all excited when he knows bread making is going to be part of our day together. I let him pour the ingredients into the mixer. Of course, I'm there to keep his hand steady and make sure everything ends up in the mixer and not on the floor, but he thinks he's doing it all.

I have him help me roll out the loaves with the rolling pin and then fold them into the loaf pans. He sets the timer. I turn on the oven light so he can check the progress while the bread bakes.

And, of course, he gets all excited when the bread is finally done, and we rub butter over the crusty, brown tops before turning the bread out on the cooling racks.

But the best thing about making bread with my grandson is watching him eat it warm from the oven with a little current jelly spread on top. Now, some may say he really just likes the jelly. And there's a good argument to be made for that, but he eats every crust and crumb of the bread. So . . . I'm thinking he likes  Grandma's bread. 

Working on a story for a novel is a lot like making bread. There are ingredients that are absolutely essential for good story telling such as: likable characters, an engaging plot line, and the knowledge to stir them all together to make a book.

But it's the joy of having people read your novel and then having them tell you that they liked it that makes all the work worthwhile.

 I love writing stories almost as much as I love spending time with my grandson.

Hmm, I wonder if I spread current jelly on my novels . . . nah, the pages would stick together. :)

What do you enjoy baking? What kind of stories do you enjoy writing?  And here's a good question . . . what kind of jelly would you like spread on your books? I'm just saying . . .



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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Book Review: The Jefferson Lies by David Barton

Last January I made a goal to read twelve nonfiction books this year. I'm on my sixth book, but I need to step up my efforts if I'm going reach my goal.

I thought today I'd tell you about one of the books I've read, The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You've Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson by David Barton.

This book exposes lies that we've heard and have come to believe as true with tons of footnotes (23 pages front and back, single spaced) that refer to well respected sources. I have long been a fan of the author, David Barton, who is the founder and president of WallBuilders, a national, profamily organization that presents America's forgotten history and heroes with emphasis on our moral, religious, and constitutional heritage.

I attended a lecture once where Barton named every person in the famous painting of the signing of the constitution.


Not only that, he was able to say what the man believed and why he was there. Barton's knowledge is amazing.

So I expected big things from The Jefferson Lies. I wasn't disappointed.

To expose the lies told about our third president, Barton explores five fallacies of logic: deconstructionism, poststructuralism, modernism, minimalism, and academic collectivism. Talk about a lot of isms. I don't know about you, but when professors in school used to explain such subjects I'd tune out. But because I wanted to learn the truth, I needed to know how misconceptions developed about Jefferson and why. To do that it was important to understand each fallacy.

After the reader learns about the fallacies, Barton then takes on the lies that have been spread about this very noble and misunderstood man, Thomas Jefferson.

Here are some of the lies exposed in this book: that Jefferson fathered a child with a slave girl, that he was an anti-Christian secularist, and that he was a racist. Barton debunks all of those claims and more with well-documented research that even includes some of Jefferson's own words and testimonies of his contemporaries.

Thomas Jefferson truly was an American hero who stood for liberty and God-given inalienable rights.

Who was your favorite founding father? Jefferson is right at the top of my list, but he's not my favorite. Guess who it is?  


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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

An Old TV, a Repairman, and New Hope for Old Stories


Last week a tragedy happened at our house. Our 55 inch TV died. See it, over there to the left.

We've had this TV for at least eleven years and while our family seemed happy that the old, black box had given up the ghost, I grieved.

What's with me? I mean, it's just a TV. An old TV that has had a good life and was enjoyed by all.

My daughter wanted to wheel it out of the family room into the garage, but I wouldn't let her. Silly I know, but I have a hard time letting go of things.

Hubby and I started looking at other models. There's so many sleek, trim, and gorgeous sets to choose from. Still, I was having a hard time saying good-bye to the set that I'd enjoyed for years.

But hope sprang anew last night.

Hubby told me that he hired a repairman to look it over. The repairman came this morning and fixed the old TV. YES!!! He told us the set will probably last another ten years.

A good repairman can fix the old and make it new again.

I realize as an author, I'm a repairman for my old stories. See, I have many books that I've written over the years that haven't been published. I've saved them to files on my computer. I don't look at them very often, but I'm very hopeful that some day I'll be able to repair them and give them new life.

My old TV gave me hope for my old stories.

I know it's silly to form such attachments, but am I the only one who does this? Do you have old stories or things that you can't give up on? 


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Thursday, August 2, 2012

The 3 Acts in a Novel

I promised Tuesday that I would write more today about what I learned at the RWA Conference. I'm going to focus on writing novels using the same three acts as screenplay writers use.

 As I have mentioned before, here on my blog and when I've been asked to speak about writing, my novel writing really took off after I'd taken a screenplay writing class at the university. We were taught how movie scripts are written with three acts in mind: Act 1, is usually the set up; Act 2, the middle; and Act 3 the ending or wrap up.

I understood Act 1 pretty well as it applied to novels. This is where the author sets up the story by introducing characters, setting, and the main premise of the novel. At the end of Act 1 there needs to be a plot point that takes the characters out of their familiar world. It can be simple or life-threatening, but the characters will never be the same.

Act 2 is the middle of your novel where the characters struggle with the problem. They can be chasing red herrings, meeting new people, or overcoming more challenges, but all of this must move the story forward. Act 2 must also end with a major plot point that will ultimately take the main characters to the climax of your novel

Act 3 is the climactic scene and the wrap up. This is pretty straightforward and easy to understand.

BUT I've always wanted a little more guidance in regards to Act 2. This is the bulk of the story. I've read what other authors believed was supposed to happen during the middle. They had elaborate charts with arrows pointing up and down and one, I swear, had a circle. I felt that by the time I figured out what it all meant and applied it to my novel, I could have written two other books. So it seemed a waste of time.

However, last week when I took Michael Hauge's class on Six Stage Plot Structure Act 2 finally made sense. And it's so simple. Michael says that during Act 2 your characters need to make progress and vacillate between identity and essence. Identity is the false sense you present to the world. Essence is the potential of who your character can become. Yes! So it goes back to shoring up your characters along with forwarding plot. Also in Act 2 complications and higher stakes must be added which will steadily build toward the big plot point turn at the end of Act 2.
I understood this part and without my knowing it I have had my characters struggling with identity to embrace their essence, but now I know why.

 So if you've been struggling with writing the middle of your story, you might want to check out Michael Hauge's Six Stage Plot Structure on his website. And you might think about buying his book because there's a lot more to writing a solid story than what I've told you.

 I love learning more about my craft. Have you found a new theory or book that has helped your writing? Feel free to let me know.
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