Thursday, March 25, 2010

True or False? Plus...Congratulations to all the Golden Heart and Rita Finalists!

As promised, I am revealing the very shocking Truths from my list today.
Okay, melodramatic much? Yep.

But first, congratulations to all the Golden Heart and Rita entrants who got the call today! What an amazing experience for you guys!

Secondly, I'm well aware that I tend to be longwinded. I'd like to say this post will be an exception, but it probably won't. Sorry.  Now, to business:

1.) My favorite movie of all time is Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief.
 This is FALSE. While it amused me a great deal, I'd be lying to say I was laughing with the movie. Another shred of evidence that the book is usually better than the movie, right?

2.) I am a writer of FABULOUS poetry.
Ha. Ha, ha ha ha. Nope. Terrible poetry is all I've ever produced. Poetry even I had to admit was terrible. This is SO FALSE, it isn't even funny. Especially if you're forced to read said poetry.

3.) I have a tramp stamp.
(Shifty eyes.) Okay. This is embarrasing, but TRUE. But I never would have gotten a tattoo there if I'd known it would eventually be labelled a tramp stamp. But even now that it is, I still love it. Its sooooo pretty, you see. No, no visual aids there. I can't get the camera that far behind me and still take the pic. Yes, that IS the only reson you're not being subjected to the sight. :)

4.) The desk I use to write at is a converted piano.
Again, this is TRUE. And to prove it, here she is! Isn't she gorgeous?? I'm told it's an 18th century piano that was converted to a desk and that there were only 4 made. But that was by the antique dealer trying to sell me the thing, so who really knows? And who cares? Look at her!! Lovely. Even if she is a huge mess.

5.) I write absolutely all my work using Write or Die.
This is FALSE. But I do about 85% of my first drafts using write or die, so it's only a little false...

6.) In my spare time, I play the violin
Errrmmm... No. This is FALSE. I cannot play a single musical instrument, not even the recorder. I can however operate my Ipod, and that's good enough for me. I am fascinated by folks who can play musical instruments though.

7.) I do everything long before deadline because I don't like things hanging over my head waiting to be done.
This is SO FALSE. I wait until the night before, or the hour before or the 5 minutes before. I don't know why I do that to myself, but I always do.

One more pic of my lovely piano desk...
And there you have it folks! The Outrageous Truths about Merissa.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Creative Writer Award (Yes, it is the big fat liar award--but creative writer sounds so much better.)

Courtney, at Courtney Reese gave me with this lovely Creative Writer Award. Thanks to Courtney, and I apologize for taking forever to come and claim it.
What can I say? Life got busy.

So Anyway, to business! I've co-opted Courtney's rules as follows:
Here are the rules:

1. Thank the person who gave this to you.

2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.

3. Link to the person who nominated you.

4. Tell up to six outrageous lies about yourself, and at least one outrageous truth.

5. Nominate seven “Creative Writers” who might have fun coming up with outrageous lies.

6. Post links to the seven blogs you nominate.

7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know you nominated them.

Rather than go easy on you and only have 1 truth, I’ve changed the rules a bit. So, here are your 5 lies and 2 truths. Which is which? You’ll find out on my next post.

((DRUMROLL)) And here they are:

1.) My favorite movie of all time is Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief

2.) I am a writer of FABULOUS poetry.

3.) I have a tramp stamp.

4.) The desk I use to write at is a converted piano.

5.) I write absolutely all my work using Write or Die.

6.) In my spare time, I play the violin

7.) I do everything long before deadline because I don't like things hanging over my head waiting to be done.

I'm passing the award on to:

1.) Wendy Marcus at Must Have Romance for being such a great commenter. Thanks Wendy--I love to read your comments.
2.)Kimberly Franklin at Kimberly Franklin--Confessions: Secret Life of a Writer because she has a great thumb photo (makes me want to be in a convertible driving along the Florida Keys every time I see it) and because her blog is ALL. ABOUT. THE. BLOG. AWARD right now.
3.)Hilary Wagner at Hilary Wagner because I love her blog. Who doesn't like a little white rat or three?
4.)Lindsey Brooks at Dangerous With a Pen because someone who give away so many wonderful prizes deserves a prize of her own.
5.)Anisa at Anisa Off the Record because anyone who makes such a rockin' Darth Vader cake has got to have some super creative lies and truths!
6.)Mia Hayson who has a wonderfully visual blog at My Literary Jam and Toast --check it out if you haven't yet.
7.)Jessilyn at Jessica's Vision. Her blog has an amazingly rich old world vampire feel. Love it! Check her out!

And there you have it Ladies and Gentlemen! The Creative Writer (aka big fat liar) awards!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Online Writing Communities--Do You Or Don't You?

As y'all have probably figured out by now, I tend to post about whatever's on my mind when I sit down to blog. I don't usually plan out a list of blog posts, although perhaps I should.
So what's on my mind today is online writing communities. Specifically, the number of communities, the varied purposes of them, and the seven million dollar question--which ones are worth belonging to?
Here's the thing. Online communities (whether they are loops or sites or blogs or facebook or twitter) take up precious time. Lots of precious time.

Everybody's life is different, but I think that we all face the same issue with regard to time. There's never enough of it.

Writing must be done. Words put on the paper, regarded, revised, regarded again and revised again.

Almost all of us have to take time to work, to put food in our bellies and clothes on our kids. What a timesuck that tends to be.

So when it comes to online writing communities, the question is, do they help your writing, or do they suck up so much time that the writing never actually gets done?

I think the answer to this varies from person to person, and from community to community. I'm a member of multiple online writing communities. Some I can talk about, some have rules that forbid it. What I can say though, is that its important to pick those communities carefully. Here are my standards for whether I'll remain a part of the community:

1. Is it positive?
Some communities out there are negative. They allow flame wars and beating up on people who disagree with the community's alpha leaders. I've been lucky enough not to experience this, but have heard some horror stories. People, life is just too short to subject yourself to this kind of negative experience. Move on. There are tons of wonderful, supportive communities out there where you'll be welcomed and respected.

2. Does it help me on my journey to publication?
This one is important. We've all heard about how it's important to have an online presence for when you "get the call." But if your online presence sucks up all your writing time, guess what? You'll never finish anything to submit, and therefore, you'll never get the call. Sad, but true. Sigh.

But wait, it's not all gloom and doom! There are communites out there that can help you do both! At once! I know--it's great.

For instance, I'm a member of a writing goals community. In this community, we set yearly, weekly and monthly goals. We post weekly about what we've accomplished writing-wise that week, and we cheer each other on. Sounds simple. But I can't tell you how powerful a tool this is. Having that weekly accountability from a loop of committed writers who cheer for your successes, and commiserate with you when you feel like you've failed is SO helpful. It keeps me on track, knowing I need to have something to report on weekly.

I'm also a member of two critique loops. The one I am allowed to talk about is Critique This, and you can see our group blog at Critique This if you're interested. Critique groups are fantastic things, if you find the right ones. Having fresh eyes look at what you've worked and reworked until it seems dull, lifeless and pretty much awful is invaluable. The trick is finding people who will tell you the truth as they see it, but kindly and respectfully. And the other trick is to remember that you are the writer, and you need to take what works and toss the rest. If you can do this, your writing will grow immensely, especially if you're a new writer. I also find that critiquing other people's work helps me see where I fall short in mine. Funny the way things work.

3. Does it help you learn the craft of writing?
This is a more specific question than number two. Here, I'm talking about craft classes. Many local RWA groups offer classes online, where for a small fee you can learn about something you're having trouble with in your writing, or just want to learn more about. Let me caution you. Not all classes are created equal. And the cost of fees don't always correspond to the utility of the class. Some of the best classes I've had were free, and some of the least helpful I paid for. What it comes down to is research. Try to find out if anyone you know has taken a class you think you may be interested in. Ask them for their honest opinion. And go into realizing that just because that style of teaching worked for one person, doesn't mean it'll work for another. Overall though, you can learn something from every class, even if it isn't what you thought you'd learn.

4.Does it help you learn about the business of publication?
Here I'm talking Twitter. Okay. So when I first tried twitter I thought it was the most useless thing ever invented.

(Sorry Twitter--I've since converted!)

I thought it was an immense timesuck, and pretty much useless, other than keeping up with my writing friends.

Then I started following agents.

Okay guys, listen up. This is important.

Agents tell you what they're thinking on twitter. What they're looking for. What they HATE and you should never, under any circumstances do. Seriously. Its better than their blogs, and far less work to keep up with. And they post competitions from their blogs on twitter. Win a synopsis crit? A query crit? Query submissionsfest? All posted on twitter. So, I'm a convert. I've learned more about agents, their preferences and what they're looking for from Twitter in a month than I did in a year of sporadic blog reading. If you have a Twitter account and don't follow agents on it, consider doing so.

Okay, I realize that every time I post, it's incredibly long winded, so I am going to stop for now. Does anyone have something to add to the list that I've missed? Any comments on what I have on the list? Agree? Disagree?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Writers Block

Anyone who has written regularly for a period of time has likely experienced it.
Writers Block.

That feeling of dread when you know you should be writing, and you are desperately looking for something else--anything else--to do instead. Laundry gets done, pots shine, and floors get mopped. Offices get organized, cars washed, vacuumed and waxed. Even toilets get cleaned, all while the manuscript you should be working on lies there, waiting unfazed. The guilt looms closer.


What causes writers block? Is it simple procrastination? Is it just a need to spend some time apart, only to come back and find writing effortless? Or is it something you can power through, if you just sit down and begin to type?

I think it depends.

On what? Well, I think it depends on why the writers block is well, blocking. I've identified a couple things that cause my writing to become blocked.

One, my story doesn't make sense, or my characters don't have motivation. This is a big one for me. If either of these things happens, everything grinds to a halt. I simply cannot power on through this type of block, until I identify the problem, and fix it. Once the story makes sense, or the characters have believable motivations, goals and conflicts, the writing comes easily again.

Two, I'm emotionally empty. I find that in order to write, I have to have at least a tiny bit of emotional energy left in me by the end of the day. Sometimes, that doesn't happen. This kind of block is short term, and is more exhaustion than block. Having a long bath and going to bed early goes very far towards making this kind of block go away. Sometimes we have to take care of ourselves. Sounds simple. But, with little kids, demanding day jobs and demanding characters, sometimes we don't take decent care of ourselves.

Those two reasons cover most writers block in my experience. Of course, there is simple procrastination. Sometimes writing is hard. Its work. Its hard work. Then, procrastination often plays a large part in my failing to sit down and write. This though, is the easy thing to deal with. It's essential then to sit down, and start typing. Power through. Commit to ten minutes. Likely, you'll look up an hour later, amazed at where you've gotten and want to continue on to.

What do you guys think? Have you ever had writer's block? Did you figure out what caused it? How do you overcome it?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Craft Classes

Today I wanted to talk about craft classes briefly.
I take at least one a month, and often more. They have really helped my writing, and have helped me make intelligent (I hope) choices in the way I approach plot, scene structure and POV choices.
Have you ever taken a craft class, either online or in person? Did it make a difference in your writing? Do you have any MUST TAKE classes that you'd recommend?