Friday, May 29, 2009

Baby, Baby, I'm Back

I have been back for a week now from my Baltic Sea Cruise. I have a blog post planned with pictures and bits about my trip.

But not yet.

I am just touching base with the blog world right now to bring you this news...

(completely unrelated to writing)

I'm pregnant!

Yea! Actually, I'm 12 weeks pregnant yesterday. I wanted to wait a little before blog telling.

And I'm SURE it's a girl because I've been sicker with this pregnancy than my first. (And my mother-in-law thought my husband was a girl when she was pregnant with him. I'm glad she was wrong.)

The sickness has mostly subsided, leaving behind a lot of tired. Combine that with jet lag, and well...that is one reason I have been so blog-neglectful since I've returned. The other reason is that when I'm not resting I'm eating. Then I have to rest from eating. Speaking of eating...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Round Table Critique

Where Am I today? Stockholm.

This is my last installment of the Strong Words workshop I attended May 2nd. Next time I blog, it will be a real live blog. Not a post-dated one.

At the workshop, I participated in my first ever Round Table Critique. Actually my first in-the-flesh critique by other writers. And it was very enlightening.

Of course, this being my first, I proudly handed over two pages of my manuscript that were perfect. After all, they didn't really need to be critiqued. Only praised.

And so my two pages were read aloud by another writer.

Then there was silence.

"They are so impressed, they are speechless," I thought.

Actually, I later realized the silence followed every read, as all of the writers gathered their thoughts on what they wanted to say.

And the general consensus? It could be tightened, they said. A little too wordy in places.

And now that this has been pointed out to me, I see it. It is so loud. How did I not see it before?

And one final note, and along the lines of Natalie's Bad Critiquer/Good Critiquer post the other day, the same advice was given in two very different ways. Critiquer A said it in a way that left me and my manuscript blushing...and a little defensive. Critiquer B said it in a way that made me JUST GET IT. Be kind to each other.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Zeroing in on Description

Where am I today? Tallinn, Estonia.

Two authors spoke during the writer's workshop, the one which I have chosen to highlight is the previously mentioned Elizabeth C. Bunce, author of A Curse Dark as Gold. And with her permission, I relate the following:

Elizabeth gave five points of what description should be.

First, it should be powerful, with the use of concrete nouns, vivid verbs, and only occasional adjectives. The stronger and more specific word, the better.

(And one of my favorite quotes, "Sometimes blue is just blue.")

Description should be precise. Use specific examples and not generalities.

Description should be selective. Give just enough detail, and let the reader fill in the rest.

It should be almost invisible. Integrate the description into the narrative. Avoid using description for only description's sake, as this halts action.

And finally, description should be hard-working. It supports the emotional content and mood of the piece.

And if you have read A Curse Dark as Gold, you will see the perfect example of all of this. Really, you hardly know you are reading as you are reading. You see and feel.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sensory Words

Where Am I Today? Copenhagen.

This is the first part of my recap on the Kansas SCBWI writer's workshop I attended on May 2nd. The theme of the workshop? Strong Words.

To open up the workshop, everyone participated in a writing exercise from Sharelle Byars Moranville. We were given a simple narrative about a girl who rode her bike to school on a Saturday to participate in a school clean-up. No sensory words. Just the pure and boring facts.

We were given a challenge to come up with additional pieces to the story to add those sensory elements (which are seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling, and remembering).

Then we shared. It turned out that all of my sensory elements were ones that at least one other person had chosen. Autumn leaves. Laughter. Cigarette smoke. Tasting breakfast.

The only elements the group leader kept were those that were unique-that no one else had chosen. Root beer chapstick. Lawn mower sound. Trash on the lawn.

The point? There are certain sensory descriptions that many of us fall back on. We need to consider all aspects of the scene.

We were advised to use at least three sensory words in a scene to draw the reader into the story, because sensory words produce emotion and create images and sounds that drive the action. And keep the reader turning the page.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Off to the Baltics!

Have I mentioned that my June cruise is now a May cruise? Well, we are flying to London tomorrow. Sunday we embark on our 15-deck cruiser for all the major cities of the Baltics.

I'm excited, but really nervous for the 8-hour flight. My son does not travel well, and so I don't have high expectations for this very extended confinement.

As I will be blog-absent for 2 1/2 weeks, I have decided to post-date a few entries. And the topic of my entries? All the wonderful advice garnered from the Kansas SCBWI writer's workshop I attended this past Saturday.

So, goodbye! Cherrio! Dasvidania! Auf Wiedersehen! Vi ses! And other languages. (What the heck to they speak in Estonia anyway?)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Knowing Things

When I started to write my book, I didn't anticipate just how much research I would have to do. Every writer has the chance to become an expert in something. For me?

Ancient Mayan Civilization.

Do you have a question on this subject? I'll give you an answer. Well, at least I'll be able to answer all your questions by the time this book is written.

I thought visiting Chichen Itza five years ago would tell me all I needed to know...and maybe a few trips to Wikipedia...but now I believe I could probably minor in the subject.

What subjects have you become expert in from your writing? Fairy Mythology? Japanese customs? Gaelic culture? Icelandic legends? I want to know.

And one more thing - As fiction writers we have a certain liberty to change facts to fit our story. But how much liberty?