Archive for January, 2012

Pin This!

I am a late comer to the social media bandwagon.  I just joined Facebook a few months ago; I’m not on Twitter.  But I have to admit — I’m pinning like crazy.

Remember the collages you made as a kid, where you ripped all the things you liked out of a magazine and glued them on poster board?  Pinterest is just like that — a giant virtual bulletin board where you can collect any image that catches your fancy, without the messy glue and scissors part.

How can this help you?  Well, first off, it’s fun.  And we all need a little more fun, right?  Second, it’s a great place to store that lustful list of shoes or bags or whatever it is you are coveting.  (Shoe girl, right here.) You can also create a board of craft projects for your four-year-old, a list of gifts to give for the holidays next year, even a board for home improvement projects.

Since this is kind of a writing blog (and sadly, not a shoe blog), you might be reading for ideas on how Pinterest can improve your writing.  Here’s a great article on how to use the site as a writer, and here’s another. The takeaway is that Pinterest can be a handy tool for building worlds and characters.  You can stay broad or break your writing boards down by specific category.

I haven’t gone so far as to break my boards down by character, clothing, etc.., but I am keeping a general inspiration board, and I’ve found some fabulous images that have helped to spark scenes or descriptions for me.  I’m also pinning snippets of text from my work in progress under relevant photos – a fun way to share a little bit of what I’m working on with readers. And I’m following some amazing artists and writers who inspire me every day with their work. (Okay, I’m following some shoe mavens too.  Don’t judge.)

If you are on Pinterest, how do you use it?  I’d love to hear your thoughts. (If you aren’t, and want to be, let me know and I’ll send you an invitation.)


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If you are a slightly shy person with introvert tendencies, publishing a book will not change that.  You will simply become a slightly shy person with a book to sell (and, if you are lucky, a large poster of that book to hide behind).  IF you are really, really lucky, you’ll get to take that poster and your book to an event like last Friday’s author night at Zorvino Vineyards, one of the most fun author signings I’ve ever been to.  (And I can hear you thinking, by the way. That isn’t the wine talking – the only bottle I bought was the one I took home.)

Pear Tree Publishing pulled together what must have been the nicest collection of authors ever.  I saw some familiar faces, met lots of new ones, and had the best of times with my two table mates, who kept me laughing and plied me with sugar cookies.  The talented Daniel Palmer (he plays in a band, too — my family bopped around Saturday  morning to his cd) has a new thriller out, Helpless, that’s so good, my MIL swiped it a day after it was in my house.  (Ahem — if you are reading this, oh MIL dear, it’s a loan.  I was clear on that, right?)

And Allan Leverone’s book, The Lonely Mile, has made it to the top of my to-read list next.  (The books I cleaned out last week?  They multiplied and brought their friends.) It looks spooky and scary and it’s not one I’ll be saving for a night when I’m alone. For a horror writer, Allan certainly is a nice guy, and he has a lovely family.  (It’s gotta be an act, right?)

Finally, I devoured Tara Masih’s Where the Dog Star Never Glows in one sitting.  Her collection of short stories is lovely and subtle and stayed with me all weekend.

And then, after so much social time, it was time to go somewhere quiet, also with good company.  We hiked for two hours, and the falling snow felt like a benediction. However your weekend was spent, I hope you found your balance, too.

Quiet time

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We’re doing some spring cleaning here, and I’m trying to wrangle all the books back into their respective homes.  The baby books we can’t bear to part with go in the basement (Carl’s Birthday, anyone?), the books we love the most go in the living room bookcase, the kid books and the books I don’t want to part with but probably won’t read again go upstairs.  We’ll sort through the stacks on the coffee table and by everyone’s bedside and fit them in where we can, but in a few days they’ll start creeping out and multiplying on every possible surface.

It’s not the house they take over, either — key phrases and lines have infiltrated daily speech around here, too.  I realized this the other day when I asked one of small fry how they were feeling, and they answered “Respectabiggle.” (We’d just finished listening to “The Silver Chair” by C.S. Lewis.) It’s become the new catch phrase, joining several others that have become a part of our daily speech. Favorites include:

“Word of knightly honor,” from Igraine the Brave (Cornelia Funke)

“Nobody likes a wet dog,” slightly changed from To a Stranger Born in a Distant Country Hundreds of Years From Now(Billy Collins)

Not even damp, just a gratuitous cute pic from the puppy days.

“Hop it!” spoken by the mother trying to get the kids moving.  I think we stole it from Peter and the Starcatchers (Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson)

The last two are cheats, coming from movies based on our favorite books:

“You think that, Jane, if it gives you comfort,” from the A&E production of P&P.  (Used by my husband when I am being overly optimistic about someone.)


“What about second breakfast?” Elevenses? Luncheon? Afternoon tea?  Dinner?  Supper? He knows about them doesn’t he?” (Said when the small boy is complaining about being hungry.  Again.)

What phrases have made it out of the pages and into your life???

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Once More With Feeling

I hate revising.  I put it off by doing everything else possible – I clean the bathrooms, fold laundry, ask for more freelance work, write my blog posts in advance.  The cleanliness of my house is inversely proportional to how much I need to revise, and man, is my house clean right now.

My office is a whole other affair.  Want to see?  Here:

And the piles just keep growing...

It seems so grossly unfair, doesn’t it?  You write, and write, and write, get the words down perfectly (at least in your head) and then, are you finished?  Nope.  You have to write them all over again.  So, in the interest of procrastinating some more, I thought I’d share my process with you.

1) Every time I sit down to write, I start at the beginning of the chapter I’m working on.  I read through slowly, often out loud, changing a word here or a sentence there, until I get to where I left off.

2) Every 50 pages or so, I go back to the beginning of the book and do the same thing.

3) When I get to about 150-200 pages, wherever I have a natural break but also feel confident enough to keep writing, I do a more serious revision, which is where I am now.  I print out the whole manuscript, sit down with a new pack of sticky notes, and read through the entire thing.  Every time I have a question, think something could be made more clear, find a plot hole, etc. I write a comment down on the sticky and slap it on that page.

4) I break the manuscript up into chapters, put each chapter on the floor, and add any feedback I might have received that deals with that section of the book.  Digression:  I have awesome beta readers, who shall remain anonymous, but whose critiques I really trust, and who write me notes like: “ACK, LIZ ACK THIS IS THE TOTALLY WRONG PLACE FOR THIS.  WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!!!!!  and in general whip me into shape.  We write completely different genres, which I think helps, and they are  more than generous with their time.  I’m very, very lucky.

Further digression:  I send my beta readers 50 pages at a time.  One reader works very well like this, and one of them seems to prefer to read the whole thing at a stretch, so I tend to value the latter’s opinion more once the whole manuscript is finished.  Both of them totally rock, and I liken their comments to getting a really good deep tissue massage — it hurts like crazy when you are going through it, but it makes everything so much better later on.  I’d be lost without them. My agent, too, is fabulous and gives me terrific feedback, although he respects my delicate writerly feelings and usually refrains from writing ACK in the margins.  (That’s only because he’s super professional.  There’s no doubt at times he must be thinking exactly that.)

5) I go through each chapter, taking into account my notes and my beta’s feedback, and make the necessary changes.  Around this time, it starts to be kind of fun, like putting together a puzzle and wondering if you have all the pieces. Any changes I can’t make in that chapter but that I feel need to be done somewhere, or that relate to a larger plot point, go on a sticky note and are posted at eye level above my desk, where they stare accusingly at me each time I sit down to write until I make the changes, at which point I happily throw them away.

6) Once I’ve gone through all the chapters, I check the wall for any outstanding notes, address them if necessary, and then read through from the beginning again to check for typos, continuity, etc. etc. etc..

7) I write another 150 pages, wash and repeat.

This time around I’m also making brief summaries of each chapter on index cards, placing them on top of the pile, and trying to evaluate how much action takes place in each chapter, and then in each segment.  (I’d tried doing this on notecards in Scrivener, but it wasn’t working very well and I was using it as a major procrastination tool, so I stopped and went the old-fashioned method.)

So that’s what I’ll be doing over the next few days.  How do you revise?

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How to lose five pounds in my house.

We had a lovely holiday, and are still digging out and trying to find the floor, which is covered in mounds of presents from the generous family and friends who seemed to think Santa needed a little help.  My kids are lucky enough to have been ‘adopted’ by several close friends, and now own enough Star Wars gear, gorgeous clothing and toys to pay for college.  I’m waiting for the day my daughter announces she wants a pony, because I know exactly who will buy it for her and who will supply the fashionable equestrian outfits she’ll need.  (Note to those I’m talking about: The pony is living at YOUR house this time.)

I’d planned to come back refreshed and ready to talk about New Year’s goals and resolutions, but I’m feeling a little frazzled so I’m going to make it quick: in 2012 I want to run 12 miles without stopping, write more, and lose those last sticky five pounds.

I’m halfway to the first goal, so adding just a mile a month should get me there, right? (I’m not trying to break any speed limits — I just want to run it without passing out or falling over.)  For the second, I’m using the advice in this article.  And for the third?  I’m going to have to move.

I made the mistake of mentioning the goal in front of my family on Sunday.  On Monday, they bought me a gingerbread birthday cake a week early, served pizza and lemon truffle cupcakes at lunch, and decided to hold a sundae-making party before our regularly scheduled family movie night. Next year, I’m getting smart — I’m announcing that I’m giving up buying shoes, and seeing what that gets me.

I hope your holidays were lovely, and that your own resolutions are proceeding smoothly.  Feel free to share them, if you like!

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