Sunday, December 28, 2008

100 Words

That's all I'm looking for today. Considering I haven't written since the day before my granddaughter was born, 100 words would be progress.

Since Aubrey was born, what have I gotten done? Well, besides the grandmotherly things (like watching her occasionally while her mom & dad rest, helping to sterilize her bottle and helping out with washing her stylin' little clothes, and staring at her gorgeousness for hours on end), I've been TRYING to be good. In WeightWatcher-ese, that means trying to stay OP (on program). Not doing so good, especially tonight when we had "potpourri"--a little bit of this and that, leftovers. I have, however, been squeezing in time at the gym and hourlong walks at least 4 times a week.

And I've been doing a lot of cooking, like a lot of mothers-slash-grandmothers out there. Yesterday I cooked a ham at Joey's request, knowing our older son was returning to Jersey after visiting us for Christmas. His younger brother Brandon (Aubrey's daddy) came downstairs, dressed for work, and said, "Mom, dinner smells AWESOME." You know, you can use every air freshener out there, but nothing makes a house smell homey and inviting like the scent of cloves, which I used to spice up the ham.

Before that it was the pernil, the roast pork, served with rice and beans, the traditional Cuban Christmas Eve dinner, actually prepared for Christmas this year. I don't know, but it just wouldn't be this time of year without pernil, rice & beans!

But now it's back to taking "human bites," to quote an old commercial for a Broadway play that they aired some years ago on TV. It's back to writing, back to my WIP, maybe to get to work on a new idea. I know I can't be the only writer out there heading back to their respective writing tool, be it a computer, an AlphaSmart, a notebook, or papyrus leaves. My only writing resolution for next year is to write SOMETHING, doesn't matter how many words ends up on that paper, but write.

WRITE. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. With the exception of, say, the dinosaurs coming back or something.

Oh--and the major non-writing goal would be to stay OP. OP, OP, OP.

Except maybe on New Year's Eve, when we'll just be having a quickie dinner of a cheeseburger, fries, and a milkshake.

Now it's off to meet with my characters!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

"Rules" in Writing Were Made to Be Broken

There are people who love rules. I mean, they love those suckers. Remember that kid in school who always got that superior little tone in her voice when she admonished you with, "Oooooh, we're not supposed to do that! That's AGAINST THE RULES!" I don't know about you, but I often came away thinking, "Okay, well, if I ever break that rule, I am so gonna make sure Little Miss That's-Against-the-Rules doesn't hear about it."

You can imagine how annoyed I was to learn that there were "rules" when it came to writing, too. They weren't always called "rules". Probably because the word itself isn't considered cool. It's also an interesting phenomenon, but there are writers who do like rules. They seem to see them sort of like recipes; if you know exactly how many eggs you need to put in, how much grated Swiss cheese, the precise amount of milk, then you'll be pulling a perfect, yummy Quiche Lorraine out of your oven.

Except we're dealing with stories. We're dealing with the muse. It's not a quiche, folks.

Incidentally, The Rules are not to be confused with publisher guidelines. There's also a difference between good critique and rules that are downright bizarre. Here's a few dillies I've heard over the years:

1. Make sure you fit a baby into the book. Now I LOVE babies. See my previous post about my granddaughter. But squeezing a baby into every single book you write, with the express purpose of selling the book, kind of dictates what's going to happen in that story. It's a little hard to write about a town visited by a big, strong, handsome alien, for example, if you've gotta have oh-look-they're-having-a-cute-little-bouncing-baby-boy scene here and there. It also makes the baby into a sort of gimmick. This was a Rule that was really big some years ago, and I guess, if like Marisa Tomei's character in My Cousin Vinny, a reader's biological clock is doing some serious ticking, then 150,000 books with babies in them are called for. I notice, though, that this Rule isn't followed that much these days in newer releases.

2. Make sure the hero wears protection. An editor actually did tell me that once. Obviously, not the same one who touted having a baby in every book. "It's the responsible thing to do," she basically said. Of course practicing safe sex is being responsible--except a romance novel is supposed to be fantasy, an escape, not a public service announcement. It's also very difficult preaching to your audience while writing a scene that is supposed to be spontaneous and passionate. That editor is no longer in the field, by the way.

3. Never use judgment words. This was a writer who, as far as I know, made up this gem. What was meant by "judgment" was that you're never supposed to call a hero "handsome" or "sexy"...a good writer is never to describe a waterfall as "beautiful"...a good writer doesn't remark that a heroine was listening to a "funny" song. The writer who actually did say that "good writing doesn't do that" stressed that you can show the waterfall as being beautiful, and yes, you can do that. But I've seen better and more beloved writers than the one who insisted on this rule use "judgment" words--sparingly, but they've used it. I'm a stickler for preferring to use "he said" and "she said" with sparse usage of words that follow like "angrily," "loudly," "bitterly," etc. Yet I find the "Never use judgment words" rule to be one of those rudimentary, objective things that might work well for one person, but there are other more important things to focus on in the creation of a story. This is one of those rules that you can follow, you can omit all the beautiful, gorgeous, sexy, and so forth that you want--but that's not what will make good writing better. I wish it was that easy! Again, this ain't quiche, folks.

4. You have to find the right place to start for a story. That rule is true, but the person who told me that one made it sound like you have to agonize over that beginning scene. No--they BELIEVED you have to agonize over it. Contrast that to a tip I've heard attributed to Nora Roberts, who said (and I paraphrase), "With writing, you have to throw it up, then clean it up later." In my personal experience, I've found that to be true. You find the most interesting place to start, but you don't agonize for it to drop from Heaven. (It'll come as a surprise to the writer who swore this Rule had to be adhered to, but trust me, Heaven has more important things to do.) Get that story out. If your characters, who by the end of their story you'll know them a lot better, tell you the story starts out in a different place, you can always go on back to the prologue or Chapter One and change it. Agonizing over the beginning is no fun. And writing should be fun.

5. You can never rewrite too much. Oh, yes, you can. You SURE can. This is a sacred cow with some folks, too. I put this in the same category as washing your hands three times before pouring yourself a glass of milk. Again, this is my personal experience, but if you rewrite a story--and I'm talking about rewriting it from scratch, as some writers neurotically do--twice, and that baby doesn't work, then it just doesn't work. Period. Also, there is a BIG difference between editing and polishing and rewriting. I'm not suggesting a writer send in a first draft, which typically guarantees rejection. There are sections that always can use reworking; there are sections a writer will realize are unnecessary, or your inner editor will tell you, "The heroine would never do that" now that you really know her. Those are sections you either rewrite (sometimes, yes, from scratch), or you eliminate them completely. I know--I've ripped out whole sections that I knew would have affected the rest of the book or story adversely, and then I was able to take it in a better direction. But rewrite the whole thing over and over again? The result is rarely a better story. The object of editing and polishing is to enhance, never to erase the creative blood and soul. That's the art of storytelling, not rewriting a piece to death.

And there are a lot of other crazy rules, but these are just some of the crazier ones I've heard of.

And broken.

Had fun while I did it, too.

Our Family's Newest Addition!

These last few days of December have always been my favorite time of the year. Besides that being time for two of the biggest holidays--Christmas and New Year's Eve--I've always considered it a time of reflection and hope. Reflection, because you look back on what kind of year it was, what you were able to accomplish (or didn't get to do). The ups and downs, the excitement, the disappointments or mishaps along the way, the adventures and new discoveries. And hope, because next year holds new possibilities, new adventuries, new chances and new memories to be made.

This year is unique, and its last few days have been especially happy and thrilling, and all because of our first grandchild. That's Aubrey Lynn in the picture above, with both her Grandma (me, on the left) and her "Nonna" (the affectionate term for grandmother in Argentina), Mercedes. It must've been the Cuban side of her, but the little lady was late! She finally burst into our lives like a tiny shooting star on Wednesday, December 17, weighing in at 9 lbs. 1 oz.

Needless to say, my newest WIP, Sundown, has been on hold since Wednesday. LOL! And I was being really productive up till then, too. Plus, I've got other irons in the fire. Things have quieted down some, so I may have time to get a chunk of writing done tonight. Sitting here in my home office, I'm aiming to get at least 500 words down tonight. That should get me back into the swing. My goal for 2009 is to write 2 books (of varying lengths), plus a short story anthology and a novella.

That's a tall order for a brand-new grandma whose favorite pastime is staring & smiling at her beautiful little grandchild! I was in awe the first time those two words came out of my mouth, too. I'll always remember that moment, when Aubrey's grandpa and I stopped off to pick up a cheeseburger for her daddy to bring back to the hospital for him, and I told the young kid waiting on us that we were headed back to see our granddaughter.

WOW. Our granddaughter.

Knowing that she is now a big part of our family and our lives, that really makes me look to 2009 with joy, hope, and a heart that can't help but sing.

In case I don't blog again before the end of the year, I'm sending out wishes for a Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Waiting for Baby

Our granddaughter, Aubrey, was due TWO days ago. Both of our sons bounced into the world 3 days before their respective due dates, so I'm not used to this. With this little girl, I was antsy the DAY she was due. I'm the same woman who, back when I was a new writer, would check to see if the mailman had left me any news, good or bad, 10 or 12 times before lunch on a Saturday. If we had someplace to go, my husband would practically have to drag me out the door, telling me, "I'm not waiting for that guy all day!"

So in the meantime I'm avoiding housework, sprucing up my blog, getting ready to do Christmas-y stuff like wrap gifts, write a grocery list, trying to squeeze in time for an hour-long walk, plus get something done on my new WIP, all before we head out to a birthday party for our grandbaby's twin cousins, Anderson & Alexander. My WIP is 22,616 words long (yay!!), which means that if the word count stays at the targeted 75,000, I've got about 52,000 words to go. My deadline to get that done is January 31, 2009--or sooner.

But that all depends...since I'm going to be busy with my soon-to-be new best friend, whenever that little lady gets here!