One Writer’s Journey

February 2, 2017

The Fuzzy Barrier Between Pre-writing and Recharging

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:30 am
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yogaWhen I set goals for myself, I have a tendency to over do it.  Let’s just say that my t0-do list has a tendency to look like a six year-olds Christmas list.  Most weeks it is two plus columns long.

More often than not, I’m working on multiple projects at a time. This week I’m reworking the outline on my young adult SF so that next week I can get some writing done.  I finished the research on and drafted a picture book. I pitched a manuscript to an agent and came up with a query for a magazine.  And I still have a devotional to write.

When I have this much going on, I have a tendency to spend too much time at my desk.  Yes, yes.  It is rather obvious. If I’m going to get that stuff done, I need to put my butt in the my chair and write.

But to get ready to work on something new, whether it’s a picture book draft or a query, I need to spend some time away from my desk.  I call it pre-writing because it is something that HAS to happen before I write.  It is part movement and activity and part-time to let my mind wander.  Because of this, it helps if it is something not particularly brainy.

Walking is good.  Rowing is good.  But the best of all may very well be yoga class. Why yoga class and not just yoga?  Because in class, Leslie puts us through our paces for 1 hour.  I can’t hurry through relaxation or skip a pose that I don’t much like.  There’s accountability.

That said, me being me, although we are supposed to be present and not let our minds wonder, that’s pretty much what happens.  I’ll be stretching up with one hand in triangle and then my brain says, “Hey, I’ve got the perfect transition into the next picture book spread.”  Just as I’m exhaling into a bend, the best possible way to describe my character is suddenly THERE.  Lucky for me, Leslie knows all about wandering minds.  “When you mind strays, and it will happened, just gently draw it back.”

And once I’m done with whatever physical activity I was able to work in, I am much more capable of sitting down to write.  After twenty minutes or half an hour, my mind may start to wonder but I simply draw it back to the task at hand.  After all, I’ve worked off enough energy to focus and I have a solution or three ready to apply.





October 18, 2016

Characterization: Prewriting to the Extreme

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:18 am
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When author K.M. Weiland interviews her characters, she asks them a wide variety of questions including the name of their favorite book. As I started doing this for my main character, Clem, my first thought was that she wouldn’t have a favorite book.  She is definitely working class and poor.  She doesn’t have much time for things like books.

Then I started to wonder if I was taking the easy way out.  My grandfather graduated with a degree in Mining Engineering just as many of the mines in the US were playing out.  Because of this, he took any job he could find.  Sometimes he was head mining engineer for the mercury mines in Terlingua, Texas.  Other times he ran a filling station.  My grandmother used chicken feed sacks to make clothing.  Pretty sacks became dresses focrisscrossing-the-galaxyr the girls.  Ugly sacks were destined to be underwear.  They were definitely foundation-stonesworking class and poor but they had books.

So what kind of books would kids on a mining planet have access to?  Especially working class kids? What would there be and what would they want?

Fortunately, I collect old books, snatching them up whenever I see them at a yard sale, rummage sale or book sale.  I was able to base these two books on actual texts in my collection.  One is my character’s favorite book because her older brother read it to her.  The other is the kind of book her step father wants her to read.  It should be pretty obvious which is which.

I’m not going to be able to put this much effort into every crumb of material culture but having put the effort into creating these “books,” even if I really only made the covers, I feel like I know my characters a bit better.

I better hustle though so that I’ll be ready to start working on the novel in two weeks.  Fingers crossed!






October 5, 2016

Scrapbooking My Characters

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 3:22 am
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charcoal-drawing-1558887_1920Have you ever scrapbooked a novel?  I read an article about this in the SCBWI Bulletin and am giving it a shot.  I’m a pretty visual person so this may work well for me.  We shall see.

First things first, I’m scrapbooking my characters.  I designated one page per character but I’m not sure that’s going to be enough.  I’m working in Adobe Illustrator and will then print out my pages so I’m not too worried about running out of pages.  I’ll just start another Illustrator file or add more paper to the binder.

For whatever silly reason, I started with two of the secondary characters.  For Michael, the main character’s older brother, I have a head shot and a tattoo that he picked up while in the military.  I have his primary vehicle as well as a paint swatch.  I still need to find clothing samples.

For Jake, the love interest, I also have a head shot.  The hair color is wrong but maybe I can fix that with colored pencils once I print it out.  Yeah, yeah, someone super techy could do it electronically.  I’d rather just get out a pencil.  I do have two clothing samples for him and several tools of the trade, his vehicle and corresponding paint swatch.

I’m trying to decide what else I need to include.  I started to say not hobbies, this isn’t a really hobby oriented culture.  You know how it is — the working poor are busy working.  But they do have talents and I need to figure out where each of these young men  excels.

After I finish with these two, I have four more characters to go.  Then I’ll work up settings (house, town, store, ruins, mining area) and material culture.  Material culture will definitely take some research so that I know technologically what they do. Then I’ll figure out what tools they use to do it.

Oh, right.  I also need to finish the rewrite of the book that’s due Wednesday.  But, honestly, I’d rather be looking at pictures.



September 22, 2016

No No NaNo or Am I In?

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:44 am
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nanowrimoYesterday I spotted a blog post about NaNoWriMo.  “Sioux,” I thought.  “What is up?  NaNo isn’t until November!”

But Sioux is right.  If you are going to do NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), now is the time to plan.  Ugh.

For those of you who don’t recognize the abbreviation, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month.  What it amounts to is this — in the month of November, participants promise to draft a novel.  One of my problems with this is that I write for children.  The NaNoWriMo goal is 50,000 words.  By about the midpoint it becomes clear that I’m not going to make that word count so I just kind of drift away.

The other problem is that November always seems to sneak up on me.  If I decide to do NaNoWriMo, it is always a spur of the moment decision.  I don’t do any prep work and attempt to jump into my story.  It goes okay for a while but sooner or later I come to a stop, brought up short by something that might not have been a problem with a bit of prep work.

What that means is that if I’m going to do it, I need to start working in it now.  Maybe not writing but prewriting.  I want to finish drafting my middle grade fantasy, Iron Mountain.  I need to spend a bit more time with the characters.  I need to decide if I’m turning the stepfather into a true blue antagonist.  That had been my plan but then I softened him which meant that the last 3rd of my plot outline was off.  I need to think a bit more about the world and the culture.

Yep, I’ve got plenty to do before November.  If I’m going to NaNo.  Do I or don’t I?

My inclination is to say “do it,” because I want to have a finished draft.  So I guess I better get to work and start muddling through a few things.


April 15, 2010

Rehearsing what you write

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 3:00 am

The other day I wrote a fellow writing thanking her for a piece I found especially touching.  She wrote back with a comment on how she had responded to something I wrote.  “Yes, I actually talked out loud to myself about things,” she said.

Well . . .

. . . doesn’t everyone?

Or is it just something that writers do?

Sometimes I find myself walking through the house, doing some mundane chore or another, talking to myself.  Rehearsing dialog.  Feeling out a scene. Testing a bit of humor out loud.  Or just conversing.  “But if I do that, then this won’t work and it will mess that other bit up completely.”

And I wonder why my family doesn’t always respond when I do speak to them.  [insert big sigh here]


January 31, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 4:46 am
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Friday, I got the most wonderful birthday present. 

I have a Google Alert set to search for my name.  It popped me a notice that Kristi Holl had mentioned one of my articles in her blog, Writers First Aid.  The post, Danger: Rush Jobcake, discussed her problems in outlining her new book.  She commented that my article, “Fight the Good Fight Against Writer’s Block”  (The Children’s Writer Guide to 2009) reminded her that taking the time to work out the details now can save you a lot of time when it comes to revisions. 

Have you ever heard someone quote you and suddenly you get it.  BOING!  If only you’d listened to yourself when you said it instead of waiting for someone to repeat it back to you.

At least now I understand some of my problems rewriting my work-in-progress.  I’ll stop and work out the rules of my fantasy universe.  Then I’ll go back to rewrite chapter 2.  Somehow I think it will go a little more smoothly when I know how the world in question works.   

Thanks, Kristi! 


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