November 25, 2006

Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Writing

Thanksgiving went pretty well. We went to my mom's house this year. It was quite the gathering. There were 9 adults and 9 children. We had three tables spread throughout the house--the dining room table for the adults, a folding table for the teens, and a picnic table for the little ones. Mom made the turkey and most of the sidedishes and desserts. I brought toss salad and cherry cobbler. and my sister brought the corn.

Mom didn't seem her usual self but I think that might have a lot to do with the stress of raising teenagers. I've heard some pretty interesting (as in disturbing) stories about what she's going through with the oldest girl right now. None of these have been confirmed by my mom but I imagine in time I'll hear all about it. There really wasn't any privacy on Thanksgiving day so we could chat.

I should take my mom out to dinner sometime soon. Just to give her break from the kids.

I would have invited her to go shopping with us on Black Friday but she was babysitting so one of her neighbors could go shopping instead. So it ended up being just me and my sister-in-law Ronnie on Black Friday.

Our first stop was Circuit City. Don't. Ever. Go. There. On. Black. Friday. Never ever in a million years will make that mistake again. It was horrid. Finding the items was easy enough but standing in the checkout line for an hour and a half was beyond ridiculous. Worse was the fact that my poor SIL stood in line that long just learn at the register that the item she had been told to ask the clerk for had been sold out. She stood in line for that long only to end up buying a pack of gum. Seriously.

The rest of the shopping went fairly well. I got most of my holiday purchases taken care of in a few short hours. My children are all but done. I think I have a couple of minor little gifts I need to pick up for those parties where you have to bring a gift for your own kids, but that's it.

I still need to buy a couple of gift certificates for people, though, so I'm not done spending money yet. Much to the hubby's annoyance. He hates this time of the year.

As a final note, I have been working on the Christmas Project. I'm up to 10,000 words! Only 115,000 more to go!

November 21, 2006

Temptation

I know I need to write every night right now. That Christmas gift project is always in the back of my mind. Each day it grows bigger and my confidence in completing the rough draft grows smaller. I'm not overwhelmed yet, but it won't be long if I don't get busy and stay that way!

Yet, I'd rather be scrapbooking. The photos call to me, luring me away from my computers to dabble in the basement with paper and embellishments. Not to mention all the very cool supplies I've accumulated over the last eight years. The creative potential is endless.

Still. I know I need to write. So right now I'm dancing with temptation. I'm trying to satisfy the scrapbooker and writer inside me.

Tonight I started out scrapping but guilt drove me from my scrappin' space to the laptap and the story I've promised to my sister-in-law. While this sounds good, I really didn't make any progress. I don't even think I added a sentence. But at least I had it open, right? That's a start.

Maybe a countdown would help. We celebrate Christmas with Ken's family on New Years Day, which gives me 40 days to finish the rough draft. As of right now I have roughly 8000 words (we'll pretend those are all keepers). If my overall goal is 125,000 I need to write 117,000 words betweeen now and then. Divided by the number of days left that equals a little under 3000 words a day.

Hmm. I can do that. I know I can because I've done it before. Doesn't mean it'll be easy, especially when you consider the holiday madness that is so quickly approaching.

And on that note..I'd better get busy! Night all!

November 14, 2006

Perspective

Writing workshops can be a study in perspective. Over the last ten years I've participated in community writers' groups, academic creative writing classes, and online critique groups. I've read my novels aloud, one chapter at a time, to perfect strangers. I've shared poems and short stories with classmates. I've entrusted my word docs to my online crit partners, just as they've trusted me with theirs. Each experience has been worthwhile and enlightening. Not to mention occassionally annoying.

One of my most vivid memories from my first writers group is the night I was told with my level of skill I should be writing something more worthwhile than romance novels. The gentleman who told me this said it with such a tone of condemnation. I don't remember saying anything--I was rather young then and hadn't quite developed my current attitude. I think I may have laughed, rather unconfortably. After all, it was a backhanded compliment. He wasn't telling me I sucked. Just that I was wasting what talent I had been given.

I ended up quiting that writing group within a few months. I don't really remember why. I hope it wasn't because of him. I don't think it was. More than likely, life just got too crazy. Not to mention how hard it was be in my early twenties and faced with giving up every other Friday night.

After a few years I found an online group, The Mighty Quill, who welcomed me in. We swapped stories, gave each other suggestions, and talked craft. I learned so much there. We had weekly challenges, tried writing a collab together (what we got done turned out pretty cool, if I so say myself), and encouraged each other to write when the words weren't cooperating.

Eventually the membership of the Mighty Quill changed and I ended up moving on. It was at this time that I found Forward Motion. This site is significantly larger than my first online writing community. There were so many forums and so many people at varying levels of experience and abilities. I soon found myself participating in the discussions both on the boards and in the chatroom. Eventually I ended up moderating and leading a crit group.

One of the best things about this community was finding a large group of writers who enjoyed reading the genres I like to write in. I found romance writers, fantasy writers, science fiction writers, and a few who even enjoyed blurring the lines between the genres to create new and interesting blends. I found myself talking to the same people again and again, not because we always agreed but because we could discuss our difference in opinions without personal attacks.

My academic courses have proven to be much the same. There are difference of opinions but there's also respect. There's good advice and bad. There's been insight and, in my opinion, reading too much into things. All of which makes for interesting class sessions.

While each experience has been different and taught me something about myself, my writing, and the world of publishing, each experience has also taught me about perspective both as a reader and a writer. I've discovered I am a very opinionated person when it it comes to books. It doesn't matter if the book in question is full of poetry, a selection of short stories, or if it's a novel. As a reader I know what I like. I've also discovered I'm not willing to set aside my preferences just because they go against popular opinion.

As a writer I am a bit more flexible. At least, I like to think so. I can take a crit. I can take good and bad ones. I've learned to weigh the reader's assessment, questions, and comments against what I thought I had written. There have been many instances where I've agreed with the person critiquing the piece. There have been some instances when I have not. The question then becomes what should I do?

I trust my instincts. While I may respect the reader's opinion, I don't have to agree with it. I don't have to act on their advice. After all, its all a matter of perspective. We all see things differently. React differently. We all have different hang-ups and pet-peeves. What bothers one person won't even register on the consciousness of another.

This can be proved simply by picking up a number of books off the shelf at your local Barnes and Noble or Border's. Ask several people who've read the book and I promise you'll get a variety of opinions. A variety of complaints (aka suggestions). The key here is in the variety. Perhaps there will be some overlap but, in general, the opinions will vary.

The same happens in writing workshops. With such a variety of likes and dislikes, the responses a piece of writing may generate can be wildly different. So who then do you trust? When do you stop trusting yourself?

November 12, 2006

Date Night

Friday night we had a sitter stay at the house so the hubby and I could go out to eat and watch a movie. Dinner was pretty good. My steak would have been better if the first five bites wouldn't have been full of gristle and fat. The only saving grace really was the cheese and slices of portabella mushrooms smothered across the top of it. Ken's dinner was much better. Very tender and very flavorful.

After dinner we drove over the movie theatre to see what movies were playing and at what time. There were two we were interested in. I was more inclined to see a comedy, yet I was willing to let him pick out the movie. He insisted I pick it out. So I did. I thought the new Will Farrell movie would be funny so we bought the tickets for the 10:00 o'clock show.

Left with lots of time to spare (almost two hours) we decided to go shopping. Or at least window browsing. We drove up the road to the mall and walked around Dunham's until it closed at 9:00.

One hour until showtime.

Since we needed laundry softener we opted to go to Meijer's. We got the softener and some bulk candy. Maybe I shouldn't admit this but we snuck that bulk candy into the theatre; I'd feel guilty if we hadn't spent $17 on tickets and then another $10 on drinks. Could they make going to the movies any more expensive? It's insane!

If you had asked at this point how our night was going I would have given it two thumbs up. We'd had a great dinner, spent some time together just talking, and I'd found sea foam (chocolate covered buttery concoction) in the bulk candy section.

By the time the movie was over and I'd heard how terrible it was for at least the twentieth time, I'd have to give the night a firm C-. Nothing can ruin a nice evening like a rotten movie. Especially for my hubby. It's bad enough spending that kind of money on a good movie, but to spend it on a show you'd rather poke your eyes out than watch...well, that's unforgiveable.

So, a word to the wise...if you're expecting a comedy in Stranger Than Fiction, you've been misled by the previews. This movie is not a comedy. I think I chuckled--not even a full-fledged laugh--twice during the show. Twice.

Horrid movie. Damn thing ruined the whole night.

November 9, 2006

Parent-Teacher Conferences

Ken and I met with the boys' teachers on Wednesday night. First, we had the Kindergartener. After arriving way too early and sitting in the hall on teeny, tiny chairs for too long, we were ushered into the classroom. The boys sat on a chair nearby while Ken and I went over the little guy's report card with his beloved teacher.

I'm happy to report the little guy is doing great! He still has a few things he needs to work on, mind you, but nothing worth worrying over. He's already learned quite a few of the sight words he needs to memorize and he's doing well in math and such. The only thing he really needs to focus on is learning to identify his letters. Yep. He can recognize words but not letters...it's weird.

The third grader did not fare so well. In fact, he seems to be failing EVERYTHING. The only good mark he received was in math: problem solving. Can't do simple addition and subtraction, but he can problem solve. Right now the school uses a grading matrix of 1 (90% and above), 2 (71-89%), and 3 (70% and below). In area of academics my child received almost all 3s. The only 1 he received was in problem solving in math.

Now, I've known he's been struggling with science. He flunked his first geography test and had to do a retake. I worked with him all that week. By the time Friday rolled around (the day of the retake) he was able to get 8 out of 10 questions right on a mock test. Yet, when he got to school and actually had to take the make-up exam, he received a whopping 34%. I don't get it. I used the same exact questions (randomizing so he couldn't memorize the answer location on the page) as the teacher. He should have done much, much better.

This is just one example.

On the upside, he did complete the 6 mandatory AR (reading) points required by the end of the marking period. He's reading. Just not as well as the teacher would like. Or as well as we'd like. Comprehension seems to be a major issue when he has to pause to decode the words.

Fearing things may only get worse Ken and I have decided to contact Sylvan Learning Center. We're going to get the child a tutor--someone trained to help kids who are falling behind the curve. The center guarantees he'll be at grade level by the time they're done, if not above grade level.

Of course these services don't come cheap. But that's beside the point. If we don't get control of this situation now, it's only going to get worse.

So, if you've a mind to, say a little prayer for our little guy. He could use a little extra help.

November 6, 2006

Going Beta

I switched from my old Blogger account to the new beta version. The only thing I'm not liking is the header. I got an image loaded into it but it doesn't like the html code for tables. Oh, well. At least I have labels (aka post categories)!

November 5, 2006

I'm Writing

I have three stories I'm working on at the moment. One of them is a short story I wrote yesterday for my creative writing class at the University. Another is the collaboration with my sister, Chrissy, which is shaping up into a paranormal historical romance. The last of my WIPs is my vampire romance.

The short story came together in an hour's time. I don't like the ending but I already have a few ideas on how to modify it into something more short-storyish. True to my writing nature, I didn't finish things, just left them hanging. It's not the best thing I've written, but let's be honest, short stories are NOT my thing. Never have been. Probably never will be. I write them for class and as writing challenges but never because I feel inspired to write something short.

The second story--the collab--needs a lot attention. My sister has had time to play with this concept for years. I'm coming to it a little more green behind the ears. I told her I'd come up the hero's backstory and current issues. Yeah. I don't even have a name. Working on that.

The third story is where most of my energy has been directed. I'm cruising. I'm not saying the story is perfect. It's a first draft so how can it be? I am saying that I'm enjoying writing Makenna and Gabe's story. I think part of that enjoyment comes from knowing I have really no intention of attempting publication with this story. I'm writing for someone close to me who has never read any of my work and asked for a story as a Christmas gift. The only concern I have is that I don't get it done before we exchange gifts.

This brings me to NaNoWriMo. I'm not participating this year. I just can't. I had good intentions, even signed up, but there's no way I can complete this vampire romance, work on the collab, keep up with my class assignments, and start a new project. It'd be suicide. So I'm not even entering the race.

To those of you in the grips of NaNo, may the muses be kind and generous.

November 1, 2006

NewNovelist Update

If you've been a visitor here for any length of time, you know I use a writing program called NewNovelist to help keep me organized. While I really liked the program right from the beginning there was room for improvement. I guess I wasn't the only one who thought so. I received an email a couple days ago alerting me to an available upgrade. Geek that I am, I bought it.

It was worth the $44 dollars. 100% worth it! Features I wished it had are now available. I'm not sure I'll stop using Microsoft Word as my main word processing program but for the first time I feel it could become a possibility.

Here are some of the key upgrade features I'm lovin' right now:
*I can upload pictures on character profiles.
*I can upload pictures on place (location) profiles.
*It has spellcheck. Finally!
*From within the program I can access my
internet explorer favorites for easy reference.
*From within the program I can access folders
on my harddrive directly related to the story I'm
working on.

Like a kid with a new toy on Christmas morning I couldn't wait to get the program installed. Of course, that wasn't good enough. I had to use it right then and there, too! I'm trying not to rush it, though, so I only have one of my many stories loaded into the program. I have the option of importing the old NewNovelist files from version 1, but I'm thinking I'm going to rework them all from scratch. This way I'm only putting time and effort into stories I'm actively pursuing right now.

If I get a chance, I'll post some screen shots in the next few days.