Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Creative writing class is complete

My first opportunity to teach middle school students creative writing is over. Yesterday was our last scheduled class and we celebrated with a pizza party. We did a little writing from different points of view too, but  it was beautiful outside and the promise of free food hung in the air like a piece of steak being dangled over my dog's nose. Yeah, they were a bit distracted.

While they munched on their pizza, I asked them what they enjoyed about class and what they were hoping I had covered. Character development was good. My rambling about plot too long was bad. The various writing prompts were good. My not covering word choice was bad, but in my defense, if we hadn't cancelled last week's class, word choice was on my agenda. The students also wanted to learn more about editing. Next time, I'll work harder to get a room with a smart board so we can do that. Apparently those rooms are a hot commodity and I need to throw a bigger fit to get into one of them.

Will I do it again? Yes. Will I make a few changes? Yes. Did I learn something along the way? Yes. What was my favorite part? Learning that the students love to write as much as I do.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Ideas come at the strangest times

While I was driving my kids home from school yesterday, my daughter told me a story about...well, about something. I was only half listening because an idea came to mind of how I could fix a trouble spot in my latest book. Why it chose that moment to pop into my brain is beyond me. Was it something she said? I don't know. Like I said, I was only half listening. When I told her to hang on so I could write the idea down in my handy-dandy mini notebook I kept in my purse, she grew silent. She caught on that my actions were completely rude and that I probably had no idea what she was talking about. After I finished writing, I asked her to back up and try the story again. She did so, but with less enthusiasm. Unfortunately, I still don't remember what that story was about. It's either poor parenting or my kids talk too much.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Running behind schedule

I'm so behind schedule with my rewrites for book #3, so much so that I'm still having to call it book #3. UGH! My mind is in ten different places at once and it is plain ol' distracting. I don't know how to stop it. Calgon, take me away! Is that stuff even around anymore and did I spell it correctly? I remember the commercials from when I was a kid: a mom is soaking in the tub while all chaos erupts outside the bathroom door. Enough with my ramblings. I don't have time for that. Today on my agenda is bouncing with my almost four-year-old nephew...literally bouncing. Um, there seems to be more snow on the ground, so what else are we supposed to do?

Tonight I shall work.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Day 4 of creative writing class

So much better than last week! I left the school feeling happy and accomplished instead of weary and flat. My son shared my enthusiasm, which is a great indicator that class went better this week. He is a horrible liar and can't hold back when it comes to sharing his misery.

Yesterday's class focused on the opening line or paragraph of a novel and how truly important it is when you are attempting to grab a reader's attention. The opening line also usually tells you a lot about the type of book it is. I compiled a two-page list of favorite lines from a writing website and then brought some books from home that I passed around for everyone to take turns reading. Part of the time was spent talking about our favorite books and offering suggestions on what others should read, which I loved. Part of the time was spent discussing the power of a single sentence and how best to start their own stories. Hopefully, they all got the point I was trying to make, the point every author should make: begin a book with intrigue to hook your reader right away.

The second half of class we created a story together using different colored note cards. We wrote down our main ideas and character actions, and then placed the cards on the floor to see how the story progressed. This exercise was a lot of fun (with a lot of crazy ideas!) and it also gives the students another way to organize their stories at home.

Friday, April 12, 2013

My first expo

I've experienced a lot of firsts since beginning my new career as an author and this weekend will be no different. My sister and I will be spending our Saturday at the Dodge County Expo in Dodge Center, MN. We're sharing a booth and will be sharing plenty of smiles as we attempt to gain more patients (my sister is a chiropractor) and readers (you guessed it, those are for me!). She even went out last night to buy candy as a ploy. I'm pretty sure it will work too. Just like kids, adults love free stuff, especially food.

My goal this weekend is to pass out my entire collection of business cards and postcards, sell a few paperback copies, and make a memorable impression on the thousand or so people attending the expo while at the same time entice them into believing that my product is worthy of their purchase. If I merely get one hundred people to download a sample of one of my two books, it will be a good day. Oh, who am I kidding? If maybe a dozen take the time to download a sample, it will be worth my time. I'll be happy for whatever I can get. That's what life is all about, right? Being happy with what you get, but continuously striving to get more, regardless of what "more" you're trying get. That was really confusing.

Wish me luck!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Day 3 of creative writing class

I went to class today prepared to lead a very informative discussion on how to best prepare a story's plot. I made copies of material from a writing class I took a few weeks ago. I printed off examples of different outlines to help get the students organized. I had exercises that we didn't have time for...ugh! I want to kick myself for not taking their not-so-subtle hints. You know, the wandering eyes, the dead silence, my son humming a song. They were bored. They were wishing I would shut up so we could do a fun writing exercise like we had done in weeks past. I didn't listen to their cues. I instead stayed the course - my course.

Unfortunately, none of this hit me until about an hour ago. I was blaming spring break for their not being as attentive. I now realize that I must have a better mix of lecturing and exercises. We should talk, then we should do. More do! More do!

Characters are better in the end

Spring break is over and it's back to work and school for most of my family. I say most because two of my three kids still have one week left to do as they wish due to the year-round schedule their school uses. However, without going into too many details, I will get some time this week to work on my rewrites for book #3.

After reading only four chapters of the book, I realized changes were necessary. Here's the reason why. When I sit down to write a book, I begin with some characters in mind. These characters are even outlined in separate files. In these files, I type out their quirks, flaws, who they love, who they despise, etc. It isn't until I get to the heart of the story though that I really know these fictional people, and usually they change somewhat or almost entirely from what I initially envisioned. So, after completing a manuscript, a character in the beginning doesn't always match up with the character in the end, which means more work for me. But since I know my characters very well by the end, I also usually know what changes to make in the beginning. I know how a character will react in situations. I know what tone of voice he or she will use. Just like I know what my spouse is going to say before he says it. I just know.

Today I'll hopefully fix up the first four chapters and be able to move on. At the moment, I have the manuscript divided into approximately 40 chapters, which means this rewrite might take longer than anticipated. Isn't that the truth about everything?