Friday, December 30, 2011

Keeping It Real in Fiction

I love words. Printed words. Cursive ones. Spoken words. Whispered ones. The different heights and shapes of their letters. The things words get your mouth and tongue to do. The way words can make someone feel powerful, or peaceful, or loved.

One of my favorite words I learned in college was verisimilitude. We were talking about ROBINSON CRUSOE at the time. Verisimilitude is when a character or event in a story seems real because of the details given. These can be obvious details, like when you open the refrigerator door you feel a cool burst of air as the light turns on.

But with characters, I think they sometimes become more real when the details are unexpected. Like when the southern mom makes lousy sweet tea or the boxer is terrified of butterflies and views them as flying worms.

This doesn't mean writers should be inconsistant with their characters' characteristics. If your main character is a vegetarian, they shouldn't eat steak. But throwing in a few quirky details breathes life into characters and keeps them from seeming too flat or cliché.

Even if I didn't love the meaning of verisimilitude (which I do), I like the way it feels to say it. It makes your mouth do that thing it does when you silently mock someone who is lecturing you. You do that too, right?

So what words do you love? It doesn't have to be a literary word-- just any old word that makes your heart happy. Please share a favorite in the comment section.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


To celebrate the upcoming release of Kami Kinard's debut book, my 9-year-old daughter reviewed THE BOY PROJECT: NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS OF KARA MCALLISTER. Comment by 12/16/11 for a chance to win book bling: a BOY PROJECT bracelet! Here's what M.L. had to say:
This book ROCKED! When I first picked it up, I thought it would be another mushy gushy book about a girl that likes a boy who doesn’t like her back, but by chapter two, I was hooked. I laughed when she decided to make a project about how to get a boyfriend and loved how she became a trend setter using duct tape. Kara is a creative, artistic girl, searching for her soul mate. The ending was absolutely wonderful. I recommend this book to girls with a good sense of humor. It would make a great movie too.

Be sure to preorder THE BOY PROJECT (available January 1, 2012) and visit for more information.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Contest: Dodging Writing Questions

Holidays aren’t easy for writers. With the kids out of school, quiet time happens only during the wee hours when everyone else is ordering gift cards online or wrapping presents. And then there’s that awkward moment when we’re questioned by our REAR (Regularly Employed Anonymous Relatives). See if this sounds familiar:  

REAR: How’s your writing coming?
Me: Fine. *looks for a deviled egg and a good hiding place*
REAR: Have you finished that book you were working on?
Me: Well, the first two drafts. My critique group has it now.
REAR: You could have just sent it to me. I read Twilight last year.
Me: Uh, thanks?
REAR: So as soon as they’ve read it you’ll send it off to all the major publishing houses, right?
Me: I’m sure I’ll have more revisions to do. Then I’ll send it to some Beta readers. Then I’ll revise some more.
REAR: Huh. My neighbor has a friend whose aunt wrote her dog’s memoir. She sold copies at our class reunion. I bet I could get her to give you some pointers. She finished her book in three weeks and published it all by herself a month later.
Me: The tea is sweet, right? *hurries off & volunteers to sit at the kids’ table*

If it felt familiar, just know you are not alone. Preparing your book for publication is a long process. I’m still not sure why we’re called writers instead of revisers. So for a little fun, tell us your best topic-dodging line when you’ve given up on getting your REAR to understand and just want to change the subject. On Monday, December 5th, I’ll let my littlest pick a commenter out of a hat to win a package of Eraselets (cute little bracelets that you can also use as erasers).  U.S. entries only please. J

Sunday, July 31, 2011

First Drafts & Character Control

Sorry I've neglected my blog this summer. I had rotator cuff surgery, and it's tougher to type when you're rocking a sling. The sling's still on, but I couldn't wait to discuss this with you.

Tonight, I explained to my church small group one of the reasons I wouldn't let my girls read my current work-in-progress: Language. It's a young adult book, mind you, and as those go, it's not too scandalous. But it's a first draft, and although I'm hoping to replace the bad language during the revision process, I refuse to censor it now. Here's why:

In the first draft, I'm not really in control.

I have ideas, mind you. Sometimes I jot them down ahead of time-- a new concept for a former pantster like myself. But my characters lead me... and sometimes it's a wild ride.

Mazie, my current main character, is fresh out of juvie and now hanging out in a tattoo shop (Most fun field research ever). Needless to say, we've met some interesting characters. Not all of them speak in language my grandmother would approve of, but I'm typing fast and trying not to interrupt.

First drafts should be real and raw, in my opinion. I'm happy to let my internal editor help with revisions, but find if I listen to her at this stage, my characters clam up and my story stalls.

How about you? Do your characters lead you during a first draft? Or are you the puppet master, feeding them their lines and controlling their every move. Leave a comment to share your thoughts.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Crush Confessions of Writers & Illustrators

Truth or Dare?
What if I dare you to tell us the truth?
What if I quadruple dog dare you?

Writers: I dare you to share the name of an artist you would love to have illustrate one of your books.

Illustrators: I dare you to share the name of a writer whose words you would love to illustrate. 

Don't be shy. You never know. Someone out there might see your crush and hook you up. What have we got to lose?

Monday, May 16, 2011

What If

Me: Guess what I bought with the Mother’s Day money you sent me.
Mom: What?
Me: Roller skates!
Mom: Are you sure that’s a good idea?
Me: I’ve been wanting some for a long time. I get bored walking, but I love to skate.
*awkward silence*
Mom: But what if you fall?

What if. Those two words keep us away from too many adventures.

What if the editor hates my story? What if the agent reads my query to her cool agent friends and they cackle loudly over wine and cupcakes? What if my husband’s grandmother is so offended by my YA that my descendants and I are permanently banished from all family events? What if I agree to do a school visit and the kids hate me?

Sound familiar? The scary thing about the “what ifs” is that the awful scenarios we come up with can happen. So what do we do to keep them from handicapping us? I have two ideas about this. The first is to focus on the better possibilities.

What if I am the disco queen on my new roller skates? What if the editor loves my story? What if the agent posts my query on her blog as a how to guide for other writers? What if my husband’s grandmother chooses not to read my book—but is proud of me for writing it? Let’s face it, most grandmothers would be offended by most YA. What if the kids at the school visit love me and commit to buying every book I ever write?

Those things could happen too, you know.

But if the happy thoughts get overwhelmed by the terrified ones, remember this: Courage is not being without fear. Courage is acting in spite of fear. Picture Peter, from THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE. His sister Susan is trapped in a tree with a leg dangling down in front of a snarling, snapping wolf:

“Peter did not feel very brave; indeed, he felt he was going to be sick. But that made no difference to what he had to do. He rushed straight up to the monster and aimed a slash of his sword at its side. (Lewis 127)”

So be brave, friends. Focus on the great things that can happen if you’re willing to risk the falls. And if you do fall? Pick yourself up. Dust yourself off and try again. I’m rooting for you.

Lewis, C.S. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1970.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Social Networker or Writer?

Two weeks ago, I unplugged for the work week. No television. No Twitter. No Facebook for five days. Why? I found I was becoming more of a networker than a writer. Social networking is helpful, but not at the expense of my writing time. And television wasn’t helping either. I decided to see what would happen if I unplugged for the work week.

What happened? I found HOURS, friends, I discovered time I never knew was available. Blocks of time at my disposal! It was a glorious week of productivity. I wrote. I revised. I even scrubbed the kitchen floor. When the week ended, I promised myself I would monitor my online time better.

Did I? Nope. Seems it’s all or nothing once I log on. Last week I spent one day writing. One. *sigh*

So here’s my new idea. I’m limiting which days I network. Days with big blocks of time without kids are off limits. Those days are for writing and revising. Days with little slips of time here and there to check in? Those will be my social networking days. I’m excited to give my new schedule a try.

What do you do to balance your writing time with your social networking time? Leave a comment and share your ideas.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fun Friday

My littlest is a grump in the morning... unless it's Friday. Has all the coloring and counting of kindergarten stressed her out to the point she longs for the weekend? Nope. But her kindergarten teacher calls that day Fun Friday, because they get a little treat if they've behaved all week. Don't we all deserve Fun Fridays?

 I knew you'd agree. So I've decided from now on we should celebrate Fun Friday too.

The Today Show had a host of the show Unpoppables on this morning. He brought beautiful balloon art including balloon chairs you can really sit on without popping. How cool is that?

So today, the girls and I made balloon hats. There were squeals of glee and lots of giggles. I think the girls had fun too.

How about you? Did you do anything fun today? Is there something you wish you had done? Comment and let us know.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Falling In Love with Books

Happy Valentine's Day! Celebrate this day of love with me by hopping into the Wayback Machine and remembering a book that made you fall in love with reading. Some people find book love at an early age. Others go half their lives without finding one to adore. So when did it happen for you? Was there a picture book you couldn't live without? Did your palms get sweaty when the Scholastic book order form showed a new James Howe book? Can you remember sitting with your chair scooted back in math class because there was a character in a novel you just couldn't keep your eyes off? Do tell!