Thursday, September 29, 2011

What you always wanted to ask.

Okie dokie.

In this writing blog world of ours, there are many hmmm, how shall we say this... Know-it alls? I tend to be more of a know-it-nothing.(Like the grammer there?)

And sometimes when I'm out perusing blogs, I feel like I better be in tip top form. I better not let anyone know that I am still learning. I mean really learning. Sometimes I feel I'm at the bottom of the learning totem pole.

And guess what? I've been blogging for two years. I've been writing for ten years. I have a writing related degree. And I have a published novel!

But in the vast world of what-I-feel-I-need-to-know, I have only scratched the surface. I've only scratched the surface of the surface. I've only.... Okay, I'll spare you.

But all that aside, I decided today is the day you can let your faults be known.

Are there terms your fellow bloggers use that you just don't understand? Do you nod your head and smile thinking "what the heck is she talking about?" Are there topics you read about again and again that are failing to sink in?

Today's the day. ASK AWAY! There will be no judging of you (or me) for what you do NOT know. In fact, I think it's refreshing to admit we're still learning.

So, here is what I have been wanting to know (and of course, I could find the answer to this via Google in five minutes, but that wouldn't be fun now would it?)

What in the crap is Steampunk?

Go ahead, hit me with the answer. And while you're at it, please leave a question you've been wondering about. We'll all try to answer each other.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

You know there's housework to be done when...

When I have serious editing and revisions to tackle, you can guarantee I will procrastinate the heck out of it by cleaning my house. Sparkling toilets? I should be fixing my POV. Reorganized cupboards? I should be paring down my adjectives.

And now, I'm on the flip side.

I SHOULD be organizing the house we just moved into. Instead, I made myself a new About Me page on my blog. Check it out, it's super fun!

What do you procrastinate? And what activities fill your time when you SHOULD be doing something else?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Have you ever

...been asked if you were a daycare center when you were out and about with just your own family?
...been told, "you have your hands full" and thought the other half of my kids are at school!
...been given dirty looks in the grocery store?
...been asked "don't you know how this happens?"
...had to buy a pregnancy test with all your kids in the cart?

Yes, all of these things have happened to me. Sometimes people look at me as if I alone have overpopulated the Earth. And I only have four kids! On the flip side, older people often come up to us and say how neat it is because they don't see large families any more.

And, by the way, I know this is a kind of lame blog post, but today is moving day for the Fechner family, so this is the best I've got. Our move is only a mile away, but still, it's going to be a hectic day.

Share some of your "big family" moments.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Shut up and write already!

Sometimes in the blogging/writing world, I feel like I spend more time "talking" about writing than actually writing. So today my blog post is an un-post. My WIP is currently at 41,000 words and I still want to be finished with my rough draft by the end of the year. I'm just writing this morning. Feel free to join!

Do you ever spend more time blogging/facebooking about writing than really just writing?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sometimes the two don't mix

I LOVE my kids. These four littles are a HUGE part of why I felt I was put on this Earth. Without them I would not be complete.

I LOVE to write. I feel I was called by Heavenly Father to write. When I go even a few days without writing, I begin to feel down.

Writing is an excellent stay-at-home Mom job because you can do it from your own computer. However, I find being a Mom and being a writer at the same time don't mix. My writing schedule has traditionally been from 5-6:30 a.m. but over the past several weeks I have been a super lazy bones and not gotten out of bed early. Boy have I paid for this!

So, instead of writing when the house is quiet and peaceful, I've tried to eek out my word count during my Mommy hours.

Here's the results: (and please don't analyze the writing. This is a very, very, first rough draft)

Emmy ordered a hot chocolate and warmed her hands around the cup.
Mom, I need a drink of water!

She held it under her mouth and let the steam swirl up and meet
Mom, Lily's hitting Ryan!

her lips. The train was freezing. She glanced at the clock over the bar
How many minutes until the bus gets here? My hair is messed up, can you do it again?

and saw it was four forty five in the morning. They should be in Greybull by six.
Mom, you NEVER pay attention to me! I said I want a snack.
Me: let's turn on the TV for a few minutes.

Emmy finished the drink and tiptoed past the sleeping passengers on both sides of her. She reached under her seat
Mom! It's on grown-up shows!

and pulled out the blanket the attendants had passed out. She wrapped it around her shoulders
Mom! Did you pack my snack? *Baby begins crying*
Ryan wants up on the bed!

Mom! Come see this!
Me: Just a minute!
No. You have to hurry!
Me: Just a minute!
*I rush to the TV to see a commercial for anti-acne cream*
Mom, maybe you should get that. Then your face would be more prettier.

pulled up the socks she had put on over her stockings. Emmy reached for the chair
I think the bus is coming!
*Baby cries*
Lily just hit Ryan!

in front of her to sit down but the train lurched forward and
Mom. Come wipe!
*Turns off computer*

Tomorrow I WILL wake up at 5 a.m. Anybody want to give me a wake-up call?

How do you mix motherhood and writerhood? Or do you, like me, find they need to occupy different time slots?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fall is coming!

Hooray. My favorite season is on its way. What show are you most excited for this fall?


PARENTHOOD! I so looooove this show and want to know why? It's a family saga--my favorite book genre.

THE VOICE! Adam Levine is awesome. Cee Lo makes me laugh. And Christina is gorgeous. Oh, and the singers are great too.

MODERN FAMILY! If you haven't watched this yet, order the back seasons now. Funniest thing on TV.

What are your fall shows?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Speed in your opening

My Journalism professors spoke a lot about leads. And speed. And how every single word in your first paragraph (or lead) should cost you a dollar.

Now, if you don't know the average salary of a newspaper reporter, let's just say this--it makes teachers look like they're rollin' in the dough. Paying a dollar for every word used would be akin to taking a pay cut.

But the point of my professors' logic wasn't to steal from poor starving students. Instead, it was to teach us to learn to GET TO THE POINT in our writing. News articles are measured in column inches, not pages, and a reporter has a very limited time to catch a reader's attention. Writing a novel is the same way.

If you've read any writing craft books (WHICH YOU FREAKING BETTER! YOU WANT TO BE A WRITER FOR GOODNESS SAKES!) you know that speed in your opening is of utmost importance. You have to catch the reader right away by introducing the problem, or conflict, or at the very least by alluding to some sort of change in the normal pace of life.

This is one of the most difficult aspects of writing for me. In fact, in every novel I've written so far, I end up chopping my first several chapters so that I can get to the point. (My critique partner can attest to this problem I have). I seem to think my readers need to know everything about a character before we can dive into the problem.

So, here's the point of my blog post: (Yes, I know, I didn't have much speed in getting to the point here) Why can some authors break this rule and still come out with a riveting book?

I am currently reading Anna Quindlen's EVERY LAST ONE. I love the book and can't put it down, so would you believe me when I say she didn't present the book's major problem until page 156? I kid you not! Page 156 out of a 330 page novel. This is definitely a character driven book, but still, how can she get away with breaking such an important rule and still come up with a best seller?

In my opinion, she does it by using these techniques:
1. Takes the American Dream to such heights that the fall will be unfathomable.
2. Creates such real characters that we read ourselves (or the "ourselves" we wish we were) in them.
3. Creates mini problems along the way to the BIG ONE. Now, the mini problems in this example weren't of much consequence: a depressed teenage son, a comfortable but not passionate marriage, a minor setback with the MC's landscaping company, etc.

I'm not suggesting any of us try these techniques and wait until our novel is half over to get to the point, I am just trying to work out in my mind how it works for Quindlen. I tend to believe you have to be quite masterful at the craft before you can blatantly and successfully break rules. If I am a rule breaker at this point, it's probably because I'm still learning.

Do you struggle with speed in your opening? OR, What books have you read where major rules are broken successfully? Are you a rule breaker?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

First Week of School Woes

Random facts about the first week of school that made me feel like a terrible mother:

1. Girl #3 has a tantrum when I PICK HER UP from Preschool--Not when I drop her off.
2. I tell Girl #2 I missed her so much while she was at Kindergarten. She says, "Really Mom? I forgot all about you!"
3. I forget to pack the "potty clothes" for Girl #3.
4. I forget to pack the water bottle for Girl #2.
5. I forget to pack the snack for Girl #1.
6. Keeping bus numbers and start and stop times straight in my head has me woozy. We have a morning preschooler, an afternoon kindergartener, and an all-dayer.
7. I filled out so many emergency forms I am beginning to think there absolutely MUST be many, many, many emergencies in public schools these days. (And this reminded me of the time my little sister had to fill out her own forms at the Dr.'s office because our Mom dropped her six-year-old off and let her go in by herself. Under the question Emergency Contact, she wrote, 911.)

Have any of you had a crazy first week back to school? Going from one kid in school to three has me running around like a chicken with my head cut off!

Share some first week of school woes.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Wait, wait, wait

As the microwave ticks down the seconds, I stand there impatiently tapping my foot. Fifty seconds is all it takes to warm a corn dog for my kids, but hungry children can do a lot of screaming in fifty seconds!

Teaching children to WAIT can be a difficult lesson. But I believe teaching adults to wait can be even harder.

If you are anywhere near the generation I occupy, you probably find waiting difficult. We are part of the "instant gratification" era where we can quite literally get what we want when we want it.

Remember the days when you and your friends waited to hear a certain song on the radio? I would sit with my cassette tape in the stereo and my finger poised over the RECORD button waiting for the announcement of my favorite song.

But not today. Today you type in the title of a song on your computer. Or your phone. Or your ipad or ipod or e-something-or-other. And instantly you have the lyrics, the downloadable version (legal and illegal), and a music video. Getting your needs met quickly is quite easy.

However, even in today's super-fast world, there are still things we have to wait for.

When I think of waiting, the most torturous wait seems to be the process of having a baby. First there is the wait until you're ready to get pregnant. Then there is the wait to conceive (counting days and what not). Then there is the wait until a pregnancy test is viable. Next, if timing is right and you get a + sign, the WAIT of your life awaits you. Forty weeks of wait, wait, wait.

There are many other waits in life as well. We wait for our children to hit milestones. We wait for jobs to change or health to improve or relationships to evolve.

And waiting is hard. Oh my gosh is waiting hard.

I honestly feel like I have been waiting this entire summer for a few emails. A whole season of waiting!

Although I wish this weren't a lesson Heavenly Father needs me to learn (patience), I know I need it. And so I wait with a cheerful--I mean somewhat cheerful--heart and hope for the best.

What has been a difficult wait in your life? Do you handle waiting well?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Go ahead, give it a shot

You can't go very many days in the writing blog world without coming across a post about plotting or being a by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer. These posts are usually titled something like Plotter vs. Pantster.

And I used to pride myself on being a pantster.

English was always my best subject growing up. I had no problem pumping out several-page papers. Essay questions were my forte. And I'd brag about straight A's (without ever writing an outline). In college, it went the same way, and when I began my career in a writing field (journalism) my attitude continued.

I did my best writing by simply sitting down and writing. Fast and furious.

Then I read a writing book, and the idea for my new story began unfolding in my head. I imagined plot twists and character arcs, settings and a killer climax. I decided to write it down.

I spent several hours working on my outline (which my crit partner told me was actually a synopsis since it wasn't in list form). This was a whole new experience for me. The synopsis ended up being a couple of typed pages. This was decidedly anti-pantster behavior, but it felt natural, so I went with it.

And you know what? I don't think I'll ever write another novel without a synopsis first. It has made such a difference in the speed of my writing. It has made such a difference in knowing exactly where I'm going. It's made such a difference in remembering where the story started.

I'm in love. Plotting IS worthwhile.

Now while I work on my WIP, I have the synopsis up on my computer at the same time. I highlight each sentence as I finish that portion of my story. It gives me a rough idea of how far along I am. If I make major changes in the story, I add those into my synopsis so that the end result will be a good summary of the book.

So today I'm challenging you to give the other team a try. Are you a strict plotter? Then try to write something letting the creative process flow with no worry of where things are going until you get there. Are you a pantster? Give an outline or a synopsis a chance.

Go ahead, play for the other team this once. You never know what you might discover.

Plotter or Pantster? Are you open to switching things up a bit?