Category Archives: Writing is Like…

Cleaning Bathrooms Is Exactly Like Editing

I have three boys, which means lots of resident testosterone. Add in friends, and the testosterone count increases exponentially. Throw in one daughter with finger nail polish, make up and ponytail holders to spice things up. Now you’ve got a glimpse into my house. As you can imagine, bathrooms quickly become a place I detest while maintaining a firm spot at the top of my TLC list. I can clean and clean and clean again, and yet every time I walk into a bathroom, I could clean it once again. Toothpaste on the mirror (how the heck does it get there?), soap scum in the sink, empty shampoo bottles, emptier toilet paper rolls and overflowing wastebaskets. Not to mention the toilet. I walk out, and someone else walks in. Scrub, restock, repeat.

Same with editing. No matter how many times I revise, rework and edit, my manuscript is never perfect. It just looks that way until the next time I pick it up.

Tiring: yes. Frustrating: even more so. Worth it? Heck yeah.

I just scrubbed my middle grade manuscript this weekend. It required a little picking up, not a major cleansing. Now to send it off to my editor, which is a bit like inviting the proverbial mother-in-law into the bathroom with a white glove…

What do you love about editing? What do you hate about it?

Curious minds want to know!

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The Aroma of Reading

I wish computers had scratch and sniff screens. If they did, I’d let you smell my coffee. Long story short, I used to Hate the bitter, black water. In fact, I didn’t start drinking it until about three years ago. My relationship with coffee began with chai tea in the mornings with Dear Hubby. That is, until shipping it to our little wilderness outpost got to be an expensive pain in the rear.

Yet, the experience of sipping my tea on the deck in the wee hours of the morning before the kids got up for school and Dear Hubby trudged off to work was something I refused to give up. So I started drinking coffee. Or rather, I started drinking a splash of coffee in my creamer.

Today, I actually use more coffee than creamer. In part because Dear Daughter and I have started a love affair with flavored coffee. This morning’s brew: Toasted Pecan Kona Snickerdoo with hazelnut creamer. Yep, three coffees mixed together to create a drink that tastes like liquid Girl Scout Cookies.

Yesterday, we slurped down a pot of Double Caramel Chocolate Brownie. Who knows what delights tomorrow will bring.

Regardless, my house smells yummy, my taste buds are tickled, and you’re probably wondering what the heck coffee has to do with reading. It will come as no surprise when I say that a novel is exactly like a cup of joe.

Seriously, a well-written passage awakens the senses and stimulates the brain. Coffee–and great literature–is calming/exhilarating, and slightly addictive. It is also highly versatile with enough flavors, caffeine combos, and creamer options to keep even the pickiest drinkers happy. No two pots need ever taste the same.

Reading is similarly nuanced. It is personal and intimate, with each reader connecting to characters and plot lines on a different level and for a variety of reasons. Even reading the same story years later can taste as different as the first sip of the morning from the very last swallow of the day. Each drop–each word–in between should be savored for what it means at that moment.

Yeah, a good book is exactly like a mug of specialty java.

What’s brewing in your pot today? What books have you enjoyed recently and why? What’s next on your TBR list? Which books have grown with/on you over the years?

Curious minds want to know. In the meantime, I have a mug of coffee in one hand, The Light Between Oceans in the other and a rocking chair waiting outside.

Automatic or Manual Transmission: which drives your writing?

Twenty-five years ago, I learned how to drive a stick shift. In fact, it was in my then-boyfriend-now-husband’s Camaro that I got pulled over by a cop for speeding. It was the second time I’d driven a car with a manual transmission. I batted my baby blues and said I was just learning how to drive.

“Looks like you’re learning some bad habits,” he said and handed me back my temporary, paper license. Yeah, I was that fresh to driving period.

He let me go with a warning, and I vowed that I would work on my driving skillz. You see, driving a stick shift is soooo much more difficult than driving an automatic. Hills suck. Hills in winter doubly suck. Starting smoothly takes practice and shifting gears can be tricky–especially with a tight shift pattern. Unintentionally killing the engine is a symptom of novice drivers.

But, oh can you have fun when you’re fully in charge of the power!

Writing comes in two varieties: manual and automatic. The latter is nearly a no-brainer. Sure, you have to watch for the other vehicles and obey traffic signs, but after a few years, it becomes as unconscious as breathing. You just do it, because the car novel nearly drives itself.

Manual transmission is a whole ‘nother story. It takes practice and skill and finessing. It’s a completely conscious way of driving your story forward. It adds an element of power and control–or the lack thereof for the newbie behind the wheel–and nothing is more freeing than learning how to slam shift a car to maximize the energy purring under the hood.

This isn’t about pantsing or plotting. It’s about being conscious of the story as you write. It’s about having one hand on the wheel and the other on the gear shift. It’s about listening to the story’s RPM’s and deliberately acting upon the natural rhythms, not just sitting back and letting the cruise control handle it all.

What kind of writer are you?

Curious minds want to know.

Writers are to Readers as Cats are to Dogs

The other day, my Dear Daughter played a funny video on YouTube. One segment showed a baby kitty slipping down a slide, desperately mewing for its mommy to come save it.

Our labrador pup totally freaked out. With every cry, she would tilt her head nearly sideways and peer around the room in search of the kitten. DD then slipped her kindle under the couch and pushed play. Said lab dug furiously at the tiny space between the furniture and the floor in an attempt to get to the feline in distress.

I’m not sure what she would have done with a baby kitty if she’d gotten a hold of one, but she was one interested pup.

That should be the relationship writers strive for with their audiences–an all-consuming interest that nearly drives readers wild.

Dear writer friends, what do you do to make your readers’ ears perk up? How do you snag your readers’ attention so they don’t wander away from your book on the shelf to another title further down? What makes your stories as appealing as a kitten mew to a hunting dog?

Curious minds want to know.

Writing Is Exactly Like Heart Disease

My Dear Hubby has a heart defect. All his life, he’s known something wasn’t quite right with his heart–“he’ll never play sports,” said one doctor–“you have no superior vena cava,” said another–“a heart murmur, that’s what he has,” was a sentiment echoed by several other professionals.

Yet, no real diagnosis was ever provided, nor was any believable prognosis ever made. Despite being told he’d never play sports, DH vigorously competed all through high school and works out nearly every day as an adult.

He was never limited physically, though the emotional toll has grown over the years. You can’t hear, “We have no idea what the long-term effects of your condition may mean,” without stressing over your future just a little bit.

Writing carries it’s share of stress, too.

  • Who will love my writing?
  • Who will hate it?
  • What if nobody publishes it?
  • What if somebody publishes it?
  • I can’t self-promote. It’s too scary.
  • I’m afraid to query.
  • I’m afraid not to query.
  • I have writer’s block.
  • I sent my query yesterday and haven’t heard back. Now what do I do?
  • I can’t stand waiting.
  • I. Can’t. Stand. Waiting!

Writers can nearly cripple themselves with fear of the unknown. Like DH’s medical problem, writing has no clear diagnosis or prognosis.

Just because you find an agent doesn’t mean you will get published. And even if you publish one novel, it doesn’t mean you’ll hit the best sellers list. Heck, it doesn’t even mean you’ll be able to complete a second, cohesive manuscript. There are no guarantees in writing.

None.

But there is one certainty.

If you let fear rule your writing, you will never get published.

DH went to the Mayo Clinic this week. After getting checked out by a cardiologist, he finally has a clear diagnosis. He has a rare heart condition that affects roughly .4% of the population. In a way, one of the doctors was right. DH didn’t have a superior vena cava. He had two of them. He’s also 100% healthy and doesn’t have to worry about his ticker unless he undergoes heart surgery for something else altogether.

Imagine if DH’s mom let fear change the course of his life. If she had refused to let him play sports, his heart would have weakened from inactivity. He would have failed physically without even trying.

How do you stay inspired to write? In what ways do you let fear rule your writing? Has anyone ever told you your heart was too weak for writing? How did you prove them wrong?

Curious minds want to know?

Tweet Me A New Book

OMG: It Snowed.

Like, it’s snowing.

Did you see the snow?

Yay, snow!

If you’re annoyed with these bite-sized updates, consider how annoyed agents and editors are when they see the same dang story cross their desks, one query at a time.

If you think of your novel as a tweet, you can see very quickly how easy it is to get lost in the never-ending updates that inundated facebook and twitter by area residents yesterday as the snow took many of us by surprise.

So how do we stand out in an agent’s or editor’s crowded inbox? We tweet something new and original. Something like, “Thanks for the message on my windshield, Jack Frost!” We don’t use the same tired phrases to convey our thoughts. Nor do we use the same tired perspective.

Rachel Kent at Books and Such Literary Agency explains the key to giving your novel that added twist of freshness.  As usual, her tips are spot on.

Writer, Stina Lindenblatt takes this idea one step further by providing insight into how to properly use backstory. Because a glob of backstory can be as off-putting as an inbox full of weather reports.

How do you stand out in a crowd? What tips do you have for keeping your writing as fresh as the first, unexpected snow?

Curious minds want to know.

Writer Wednesday: Visually Impaired Awesomeness

Yesterday I had the pleasure of helping our elementary school with vision and hearing screening. You know, the time when you stand ten feet back and squint at the chart with your eye covered?

While the majority of the kindergarten and first graders had perfect vision and could rattle off the letters without even blinking–literally, there was one kid who didn’t blink the whole time he spouted off the letters–a few struggled to read even the giant letters at the top.

They would lean to the side, peak around the stick or squint really hard to try to get the letters into focus.

Books are no different. Many of them are formulaic. insert new character name here. Add a dash of new hair color and give the MC a cat instead of a dog. Boy meets girl. Girl likes boy. Best friend butts in…yada, yada, yada. Throw in a bully, and we’re good to go.

But every once in a while, a book comes along that appears fresh and new and exciting and never before read.

I picture two kinds of writers in the above scenarios.

  1. The ones with perfect vision who whip out formulaic novels without blinking an eye, and
  2. Those who squint and twist and lean just enough to see things in a different way.

What kind of writer are you? How do you find unique ways to look at your world? Better yet, how do you translate that into a novel novel?

Readers, what books took you by surprise with their originality?

Curious minds want to know!

pS. Spell check hates that I used novel twice in a row! Spell check meet novel the Adjective and novel the Noun.