Thursday, February 28, 2013

Writing Toolbox

One of the great things about writing is that I can do it anywhere, any time and without spending a fortune on tools (unlike my photography habit...) There are, however, some tools I've picked up along the way that make writing easier. For hardware, I love my MacBook for the backlit keyboard, my iPhone because I can do just about anything on it and my Kindle for reading/listening to MSs during editing. For software, I just use Word. But then there's a whole host of other tools I love thanks to the internet.

Evernote: Evernote syncs between my smartphone and my laptop, so I can jot down ideas for new stories, save bits of dialog for current WiPs and edit completed manuscripts. I save a "note" for each chapter of my MS, so I can work from anywhere. It's going to wear out my thumbs, but it lets me get a lot more writing done.

Dropbox: Every writer should have a dropbox. Everyone. It automatically backs up anything in your dropbox folder, so you never lose your work. It even saves versions, so if you do save over something, you can go back and find it. I'm a huge fan of my dictionary and thesaurus, but having them online is a lot simpler. is the best online version I've found.

Beat Sheet: I'm not a plotter by nature, but the beat sheet is a very useful tool for getting a rough idea of your major moments in a story and where they should land. It's also very helpful during revisions. Hit a slow spot? Check to see if you're missing a major beat or need to move one up. Evernote doesn't track word count, so if I'm working toward a specific goal, I use this site on my phone to see how I'm doing. I found this one while looking for the previous site! It gives you the most frequently used words in a block of text. Great for finding those crutch words we all have.

Wordle: A fun visual tool to see what words you're over using. It creates a word jumble from a block of text, so it's like a quick snapshot of your story.

Lulu Titlescorer: Find out the statistical probability of your title becoming a best seller! Based on actually scientific research, it rates your title.

Google: Everyone knows this one, but there are a lot of options that aren't as well known. I search the news section for info beyond the basic wikipedia entry - like how long it takes for a library to reopen after a fire or what happens when lightning strikes a power substation. I also use the photo search a lot. When I find an unsourced photo on Pinterest, I use the image URL to track back to the original source.

So those are a few of my favorite tools. Do you have any you want to share?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Monday, February 18, 2013

Excuses, Excuses

You guys remember how I wrote a book in a month? Yeah, that was awesome.

I haven't written a word since.

Some of my excuses are good. I got to meet up with some of my fellow writers on Saturday and talk shop.

Aren't we adorable?

I updated the blog (hello, Beautiful!). Check out the projects tab for more info on what I'm working on, including links to queries and first pages.

Some of my excuses are valid. My kids have not been napping well and I came down with a vicious head cold over the weekend. I slept for a grand total of three hours last night. Three. I'm a zombie with less than seven.

Some of my excuses are lame. I don't know what to work on next. Revisions? Something new? I feel rudderless and that has led to paralysis.

But all these thing are excuses. I wrote a WHOLE BOOK under the same circumstances and I did it by not making excuses. Ever. I wrote every day, no matter what.

I'm okay with taking breaks. They're healthy and much needed. What I'm not okay with is making excuses and avoiding something because it's intimidating or overwhelming or uncomfortable. I suck at making decisions but at some point I have to just go.

It won't be today. Today I'm going to sleep when the kids nap. But tomorrow? So long as my head isn't floating away and my sinuses aren't about to explode and I have everything just right...

Actually, those are more excuses. I have to write today.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Confessions of a Valentine's Grinch

Despite my love of all things romantic, I hate Valentine's Day. Any day that says my husband needs to spend $50 on a dozen wilted roses or he's a failure sucks. For singles, it's a day to rub their status in their faces. Even when I was happily single, I felt that way. For those of us in relationships, there are layers of unrealistic expectations and disappointment. So there it is. I'm a Valentine's Day grinch.

I love love. I'm a huge fan of marriage. St. Valentine was awesome (if you don't know the legend, he married couples in secret after the government banned marriage under the belief that single men made better soldiers). But I don't like holidays that make so many people feel bad.

But, like some many things, having children has altered my view of even this day. The other day I heard Timeless by The Airborne Toxic Event and I choked up, thinking of my children in the backseat. Because those two bundles of sweetness are the living proof of the love my husband and I have for each other. After we're gone, (hopefully) our children and their children will live on, making our love, in it's way, timeless.

I came home that day with plans to make Valentine's with my toddler for his friends. Because even if I hate the modern, commercialized version of Valentine's Day, I love what it represents at it's core. That love should be celebrated and praised. That even when the candy is eaten and the flowers are dead, love lives on. Because I want my children to believe in love and in marriage.

I still made sure my husband knows better than to spend money on flowers that will cost a third as much the next day, but perhaps my hatred is fading. And that's good because while there is always room for more love in this world, hate only wears me down.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Mean Times

My husband and I recently gave away our first set of dishes. Not our wedding dishes - the overprices, impractical things we received as gifts - but the $25 kitchen-in-a-box dishes that carried him from bachelorhood to marital bliss. We gave them to two motherless college boys who make you say "oh, honey," to just about everything they do. It's a good home and I'm happy to make room in my cupboards. Yet I admit that part of me is sad to see them go. Not because of the dishes, but because of what they carried us through.

In the space between when a dream is born and when it comes into being is what we call the Mean Times. We came up with this phrase in part because those times are cruel, but also because what you do in the mean time is important. The Mean Times come and go through out life. The summer between high school and college was a Mean Time for me, a space of expectation and waiting. The two years of our engagement, particularly the 15 months we spent on separate sides of the country, was perhaps the meanest of the Mean Times. They come in smaller stretches too. The time between an interview and a job offer. The time between when a query is sent and when an agent responds. The time between typing Chapter 1 and when a book appears on bookstore shelves.

The waiting hurts. The waiting teaches. The waiting tests our commitment to the dream. Those dishes, as simple as they are, fed us through our newly wed years, through buying our first home, the births of our children. They saw us through unemployment, sickness and celebration. Now, at 30 with a mortgage, two children and a beautiful set of service for 12, I no longer need the slightly chipped dishes that remain of the original set of four. Somehow I think I'm supposed to feel like I've arrived somewhere. Like I'm a grown up now.

Looking back at 21, at my newly wed dreams, I realize that the Mean Times will always be with me. There will always be another dream, another hope, another aspiration. I will always be waiting. And what I do with the space in between is vitally important to who I am and what I can accomplish. If I were to wait until everything is perfect and in place, until I've arrived, I'll reach my destination missing the luggage I need to stay or I'll never reach it at all.

As you move through life and search for meaning, value, purpose, don't neglect the lessons of the Mean Times. Never be in such a rush to meant a goal that you fail to prepare. Embrace the Mean Times and all they can teach you. You can't know the value of a chipped blue and white plate until you pass it along and realize that season in your life has passed.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


This is kind of old news by now, but I finished! I wrote a 50,000 word book in one month! It was exhausting, but far less time consuming than I thought.

My goal was 1,600 words a day. Every. Single. Day. Of course some days I wrote far less. Some days far more. But I wrote EVER SINGLE DAY. This might be normal for some of you, but not for me. I have a husband, two kids, a day job and a house! Weekends and evenings are usually very full for me. But I made a commitment to write as much  as I could every day, without ignoring my other responsibilites. You'll have to ask my husband how well I did at that, but I don't think anything went TOO neglected.

Another part of the reason I was able to finish so fast is because this was a contemporary romance - it's set in the real world, in current time, in a real place (names changed to protect identities, etc). When I write speculative fiction, there's world building that takes a lot of time and energy. The hows and whys and whatfors take a lot of thought, even if most of it doesn't end up in a story. For this, I put on angsty teen music, reverted to my teenage self and had at it. These characters spoke to me loud and clear!

My family ate a lot of Crock Pot meals and I didn't blog or do photography stuff much. When my husband worked late, I stayed up and wrote. If something came to me while out, I typed it with my thumb on my phone. I skipped a few showers and barely watched TV. But I wrote a novel in a single month!

What happens next? I have no idea. I've passed it along to a trusted CP and I'm following up on some fact checking things (side note: I know NOTHING about high school football and would be utterly lost without the Twitter Hivemind). I think I'll query it, but since it's so far outside my normal genre, I'm a little unsure of how to proceed. I'm about 40% through reading it just to read and I love it. I'm really proud of how it turned out. I love these characters and this story, so I'd love to see it out in the world. Until then, I'm just excited I finished!

P.S. I'll have my playlist for this story on the YA Misfits blog tomorrow, along with more about the actual plot, so if you're curious, check that out!