Friday, July 29, 2011

A tip to overcoming writers block


I love photography. The saying "A picture is worth a thousand words" is so true. How many of us could come up with an amazing story just based on this image? Who are these two people? Are they people? What is the second person carrying? Why are they in the forest in the middle of the night wearing robes?

I have written several scenes for my books by just looking at a picture. If I'm having a difficult time writing a certain event, I'll search for pictures I think will fit the scene I'm trying to write. Once I find the image then all of a sudden I can feel the moment I'm trying to write, the smell, the atmosphere, the sounds. It all just comes together.

As for the above picture, the two men, a father and son, have just come from the City of Ash where they have kidnapped the ten year old Priestess who is set to rule at the next full moon. It is prophesied that the girl will turn rivers to blood and sticks to bones, bathing the world in darkness and confusion. The seventeen-year-old son doesn't understand why his father, who is the protector of the ancient scrolls containing the prophesy, has taken such great caution in binding the girl whom the boy carries. She's a child afterall. But he understands soon enough when he unzips the bag and thinks his last and only thought, "I should've tripled the cords on her wrists."

What do you see?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Did my kid just say that???

Kids have such an imagination. I've learned to look at things differently based on what my children have said, and it's sparked all sorts of new writing ideas. For example, my five-year-old daughter asked me this morning, "Where does the tooth fairy live?" I said the first thing that came to my mind, "Canada." But, really, where does he live?

Other great things said:

When my daughter was four, she said the meal prayer and blessed that her mommy would stop saying the A-word, B-word, C-word, D-word, E-word, F-word, G-word, and so on. I had no idea I was so foul mouthed!

My two year old son has a recent habit of punching his fist into the air and yelling "Crotches!" (He has a ten-year-old brother.)

When my oldest boy was six, my husband and I took him to Wal-Mart to go grocery shopping. When we were in line at the checkout, there just happened to be a Native American and a cowboy standing in line in front of us. My son asked, very loudly I might add, "Isn't the cowboy worried the Indian will scalp him?"

When my daughter was in the hospital recently, she was given a small stuffed pink elephant. She immediately named it "Horny" and took it everywhere with her. I tried to encourage other names like Pinky, or Tusky, but she insisted upon Horny. When the nurses would ask, "What's your elephant's name?" She'd answer, "It's Horny."

Kids are awesome, and I've learned so much from them. What are some funny things your kids have said?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Agents Becoming ePublishers

Yesterday I read a very interesting blog post from The Bookends Literary Agency (see it here). They announced the opening of their epublishing company called Beyond the Page Publishing. If they accept your manuscript, they will help you edit your book, put it into the correct format, design the cover, etc. for 15% commission.

For someone who's not the most tech savvy, this sounded like a good deal, but then I read everyone's comments and am now rethinking my position. I was surprised how much of a controversy this started! I sure learned a lot about the epublishing business and how strongly a lot of writers feel about literary agents joining the publishing side of the business.

What do you think?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Must Read for First Time Writers

I just finished reading an awesome article over at Writer's Digest. You must check it out, especially if you're currently working on a novel.

Basically the article, written by the author Elizabeth Sims, gives eight tips on writing your first chapter. They are really good and made me rethink my beginning.


http://www.writersdigest.com/article/8-ways-to-write-a-5-star-chapter-one

How do you guys feel about your chapter one? I'm 3/4 done with my current WIP, but I always find myself coming back to the first chapter. I've already rewritten it several times. Grrrrr....

For me, I feel a lot of pressure to make sure that first chapter is brilliant. It's sort of like the beginning hill of a roller coaster--it's got to be exciting or the rider will think they accidentally got in line for Pete's Dragon (this was my four-year-old sons favorite ride).

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Check out my author interview

Deidra over at A Storybook World (awesome blog) interviewed me. Get to know me a little better, visit: http://astorybookworld.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What to take?

I think I mentioned this before. My family is moving to Maine in four weeks so my husband can attend school. The program is two and a half years. For the first nine months we are living in a furnished house, and then we have to move to Rhode Island for the remaining time and most likely live in an unfurnished apartment. After that, I suspect we will return to our current residence.

Here's my dilemma. What do I pack? Specifically furniture. Do I haul everything I own across the country only to haul it back in two years or do I spend money and buy used stuff? Anyone ever have to do a big move like this?

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Author of Our Lives

So I had one of those moments, you know where the suns setting, the birds are singing, the kids are happily quiet, and for just a second there's no pressure to get things done.

I took advantage of this moment and thought about the main characters in my current project. Specifically, what do they need to go through before they reach their full potential? I actually felt sorry for them because I knew it was going to be tough. I knew they were going to experience a lot of heartache, but I have to give them these challenges, otherwise they will never become the strong people I know they can be. 

This got me thinking in another direction. Do you ever feel that we are all just characters in a book and there's an "author" guiding us down a specific path with specific challenges? I've felt like this at different points in my life, very recently in fact. During the "trial" I want to take the author's pen and cram it, but afterwords, when I can see how much I learned and grew from the hardship, I am humbled and grateful.

Maybe the Author knows what He's doing after all.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Q & A with four literary agents

I came across this article http://www.pw.org/content/agents_and_editors_qampa_four_young_literary_agents and thought I'd share with you the parts I found interesting.  The agents are Julie Barer, Jeff Kleinman, Daniel Lazar, and Renee Zuckerbrot.

Tell me ten things in the query process that can make you want to reject something immediately.

ZUCKERBROT: When I get an e-mail that says, "Dear Agent..." and I can see that I'm one of seventy agents who got it.

KLEINMAN: Bad punctuation, bad spelling, and passive voice.

BARER: Is it wrong of me to say that handwritten letters make me uncomfortable? Does that make me ageist?

LAZAR: Writers who will have a lawyer send you something "on their behalf." It's ridiculous, and you also can't get a sense of the author's voice, which is what the letter's all about.

ZUCKERBROT: When people talk about whom they would cast in the movie version of the book. I received three of those this week!

BARER: Anything that says something like, "This is going to be an enormous best-seller, and Oprah's going to love it, and it will make you millions of dollars."

KLEINMAN: Desperation is always good. "I've been living in a garage for the past sixty years. Nobody will publish my book. You have to help me."

BARER: I love it when they tell me why nobody else has taken it on—when they tell me why it's been so unsuccessful.

ZUCKERBROT: Or they've come close and they will include an explanation of who else has rejected it and why. "Julie Barer and Jeff Kleinman said..."

LAZAR: If they're writing a children's book, they'll often say, "My children love this book."

BARER: Right! I don't care if your children, your mother, or your spouse love it. All of that means nothing to me.

KLEINMAN: When it's totally the wrong genre. When they send me a mystery or a western or poetry or a screenplay.

BARER: Don't lie. Don't say, "I read Kevin Wilson's short story collection Tunneling to the Center of the Earth and I loved it so much that I thought you'd be great for my book." Because guess what? That book isn't coming out until next April. You just read that I sold that book, and you suck. You're a liar! That kind of thing happens because everybody subscribes to Publishers Marketplace, and nothing against Publishers Marketplace—I live for it, it's a very useful tool for me—but I think for writers it perpetuates this hugely obsessive cycle of compare and despair.


Tell me some common problems that you see in the work of beginning writers.

ZUCKERBROT: In a lot of cases, the story just sort of wanders off. You can say, "Well, there's great dialogue. There's great this or that." But if there's no real story anchoring it, who really cares, at the end of the day? You can have great characters, you can have interesting ideas, but there needs to be some narrative momentum, some narrative thrust.

LAZAR: I would say to start the story where the story starts. So often, the story doesn't actually start until page five. Sometimes it doesn't start until page fifty, but page five can be just as bad. As a reader, you just don't get that far.

KLEINMAN: The big problem I see is that people don't spend enough time with their books before they send them to agents. People are way too focused on getting published and not focused enough on really working on their craft.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Why does it do this???

In my many travels across the world wide web I've periodically noticed on my blog and on others that the "Follow" link and the list of followers disappears. Gone. Poof. But then it reappears days later staring at me like, "What? Something wrong?"

Does anyone out there know why this occurs?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Thickening Your Plot

We've all heard the phrase "there is no new thing under the sun", yet every year publishers put out a new and original story. Is it just the same story we've already read, but disguised with different characters? Of course! I've heard it claimed that there are only two plots: a stranger comes to town and a person goes on a journey. Or even one really basic story line: somebody wants something.

Creating an effective plot is like assembling a puzzle. Imagine the pieces at the bottom of the ocean. Your job is to gather the pieces, but there's some risk there. How far do you wade into the water before you drown? Nobody wants a story that clings to the safety of the coast. However, if you go too far, you risk killing your story altogether.

Part of the exercises we've been doing the last couple of weeks - sharing what scares us, frightening encounters, awkward moments with forty-year-old men - have all d been part of thickening your plot. These stories are what will make your plot interesting and will help your characters come alive. Not only that, but your story will seem original...unless of course you all have the same story of a girl who abused some dudes jiblets.

You'll have to call dibs if you want it. :)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Another writing contest

Hope you all had an awesome Independence Day! 

So my last post was very enlightening. Apparently I molested a forty-year-old man.  Poor guy. I wonder if he needed counseling. :)

Another great blogger, ebysswriter, is hosting a writing contest. Get over there now and check it out: http://ebysswriter.blogspot.com/ I know you guys have awesome stuff to submit so go do it!

Lastly, any of you on Twitter? I realized I needed some new Twitter friends when someone asked if we'd all like to swap nude photo's of each other. My Twitter address is @rachelmcclellan. What's yours?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Awkward and Embarrassing Moments

They've all happened to us. Some worse than others.

Several years ago I went to get a massage, but my usual lady was on vacation. "We have another masseuse available - would you like to see him?" the front clerk asked me. "Him?" I thought. I'd never been to a dude before, but I didn't think it would be a big deal so I agreed.

The dude looked to be in his forties (I was in my early twenties), was short and stout, and sort of looked like George on Seinfeld. I relaxed and hopped on the massage table that was lower than normal (he's short, remember?).

The massage started out as any other. I honestly didn't notice a difference between a man or woman...until he told me to roll over onto my stomach. I rolled over, my arms at my side, palms up. He leaned over and proceeded to rub my back, when I realized there was something strange and soft resting on my palm. It took me all of a second to realize what it was, but when I did I held real still, frozen in a disgusted state of shock. Clothed man jiblets. On my hand.

What do I do now?

I decided not to move; he didn't seem to notice and I didn't want to embarrass him, or move and cause him any sort of "excitement". Several minutes later he moved onto another area never saying a word. Neither did I.

Later I told my husband about the awkward moment, and he insisted that the dude knew exactly where his jiblets were. I prefer to think that he didn't know. My stomach swims just thinking about it.

So what is an awkward or embarrassing moment you've had?