Monthly Archives: February 2009

White Screen of Intimidation

I don’t know how many of you know the term "Blue Screen of Death." If you don’t, it’s the blue screen that pops up with machine code in white letters only a programmer understands when Windows crashes.

That’s not what I want to talk about, but to use it to segue into a new term I invented: The White Screen of Intimidation.

It’s the little white window I’m now typing in and doing my level best to come up with SOMETHING to write about interesting enough not to put you or me asleep.

It’s a versatile term as well, I noticed. It can be applied to that blank white piece of paper or word processor screen when I need to write something . . . anything . . . please?

. . .

Crap, I’m too intimidated!

I’ll give it another try later. I don’t like to be intimidated, especially not by a little, white square box or piece of paper.

Tweaking

Like my new format? Bright, isn’t it?

I changed it mostly because the original template was boring. The text of the entries and comments didn’t pop off the screen like I wanted them to.

This one’s better, but not perfect.

So says the artist within me.

And the geek. The geek is glad this one isn’t perfect, because it encourages her to study cascading style sheets (or CSS) even more, and in the end create that perfect template.

Within the next few months I will continue to tweak my blog, so don’t be surprised if it keeps changing every time you stop by.

On my list of additions includes a short bio and (gasp) a picture of moi. I’m sure you all would like to know the face behind the words. That will take a while, because none of the pictures I have look professional enough.

Change ‘o subject.

I finally tackled my possible articles last night. They didn’t take nearly as long as I figured. There were plenty of red marks, to be sure, but since they’re so short, rewriting them shouldn’t take more than two hours.

After that I’ll go through the edits my husband suggested for my novel. Most people frown on family critiquing a person’s work, but Dave is a good editor. He writes well himself and is a voracious reader. He knows a good story, and can pick out plot and continuity problems quite well. He also doesn’t pull punches, so I know his assessments will be at least honest even if I don’t agree in the end.

I may end up with all my saleable (I hope) material ready with a week to spare. Wow. That’s definitely a first for me. I’m usually still writing or editing like a madwoman the night before something is due.

What am I going to do with that extra week?

Work on my blog template perhaps?

She Won’t Leave Me Alone

My internal editor, that is.

No matter what I write, be it a blog entry, an article or short story, even an email to a friend, she hovers over my shoulder and whispers, "That’s terrible! Reword that. You used "I" too many times in that sentence. Repetitive statement in this paragraph. It’s ‘your’ not ‘you’re.’"

With spending so much time editing lately, I can’t shove her away and just write. 

I love the written word primarily because I can always edit it later. Writing crap is better than writing nothing.

Editing itself isn’t the problem, it’s the editing as I write. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve rewritten a single sentence in this entry alone (this sentence has been reworded three times — make that four. Five).

How do I manage to write anything with her breathing down my neck? The least she could do is consume less onions and garlic.

The question is, do I save or waste time by editing as I go?

No idea, and I’d like to find out someday. Once my internal editor takes a long nap or vacation to a far, far away place with no phones or email, that is.

Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening any time soon.

And no comments about my internal editor not knowing a thing about writing by critiquing this entry (kidding)!

The Crooked Path

Since I started attending church at the ripe old age of twelve, I heard people talk about their "life verse."

For many years I didn’t quite know what it meant. When I did understand, I couldn’t think of a single verse to apply to my entire life.

It didn’t bother me. I didn’t want my spiritual life constrained to a single thought, but instead continue to grow and evolve in my faith.

I may read a verse one day and it doesn’t register. A day, a week or years later I’ll read the same scripture and it pops off the page, waves its arms and yells, "Read me! Read me!" That passage then becomes my life verse of the day, week or year, because it best applies to my circumstances.

From attending three writers conferences, I now have a decent collection of business cards given to me by other conferencees. About 30% contain a scripture. Most pertain to writing in some way, but others could be considered their life verse.

I ordered new business cards a few weeks ago, and added my own scriptural passage. I stumbled upon it when researching for "A Reason to Hope." It hit me hard enough I realized then a person can claim a single scripture as a life verse.

That’s not to say I won’t change my mind when another passage applies better to my life, but for now it’s Ecclesiastes 7:13:

"Accept the way God does things,
      for who can straighten what he has made crooked?"

I sometimes expect by following Christ he’ll straighten my path, but in looking back on my life it’s quite the opposite. I fought (and continue to fight) for him to straighten my way, and make my life easier. 

Through this passage he reminds me his way is best. In order for me to be the person he needs me to be, I need to struggle. I need to walk that rocky, serpentine path, and accept it with grace and gratitude.

God forged for me a crooked path. It’s steep, full of obstacles, and I don’t know what the next turn will reveal. I’m learning to accept that God knows and will always provide the strength and wisdom I need to keep on climbing.

The Writer’s Library

Every writer keeps on their bookshelf what he/she considers every writer’s must-have, and given any opportunity will brag it up.

This writer is no different.

1. "Elements of Style" by William Shrunk and E.B. White. This little book sits prominently on most writer’s desk or bookshelf. Stephen King wrote in "On Writing" (another excellent book) that he reads it at least once a year. A good practice, because it highlights the most common mistakes writers make including comma usage (my biggest problem of late), word usage such as mixing up who/whom and further/farther.

2. "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" by Renni Browne and Dave King. About three years ago, I queried an agent for my novel. In his rejection letter he pointed out a few errors and recommended this book. After devouring it in three days, I understood why he recommended it, and why he rejected my manuscript. My book wasn’t near as ready as I thought, and "Self-Editing" showed me how to fix it. This is another book a writer should read once a year as well.

3. "Write Tight" by William Brohaugh. This is especially handy for those of us who have a tendency to write extremely long sentences that go on and on and on (can you tell I’m one of those?). Of all the reference books I’ve read, "Write Tight" is the most fun. His style and examples will make you laugh.

4. "The Forest for The Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers" by Betsy Lerner. If you want to learn from the perspective of an editor who’s worked with (and wish she could avoid) all types of writers, you’ll enjoy this book. I guarantee you will see yourself in some of her examples. It will at times frighten or embarass you, but you’ll understand better what an editor goes through from day to day.

While I own many other writing books that have taught me more about the craft, these four top my list.

Now it’s your turn. What are your must-have books, and why are they your favorites?

Note: They don’t have to be writing/reference books, either, but ones you learned most about the craft of writing.

What I Know Now

Amy Deardon is writing about publishing including how to best prepare our manuscript and sharing her thoughts on various POD/Self-publishing companies.

Her entries encouraged me to take a hard look at the route I chose for "A Reason to Hope" and what I could have done differently had I known then what I know now.

I think I started out well by creating my website before the book was available for purchase. Some of my fellow writers kindly advised me how to word certain passages and what pages to add or remove, so it started out smooth.

I also made sure to check out other writers with similar interests, both to help improve my site, and as a marketing tool. I learned through blogging the best way to attract readers is to make the first move.

What would I do differently?

1. Based on the reviews so far, I should have asked more people to critique it. They found a few (minor, thank goodness) grammatical errors.

2. Researched more into self-publishing, including starting my own publishing company like Amy and a few others. No matter how you slice it, people consider self-published books sub-par. Those that are well-written with a good story line need to work even harder to gain a following. Because of the general stigma attached to self-publishing, I can’t mention "A Reason to Hope" to the editors at the conference. If I’ve sold more than 5,000 copies that would be different, but I’m nowhere near that. Yet.

Other lessons (so far) pertain to my blog and website in general. These are easily fixed, so I’m not worried about it.

Looking at the big picture, I’m amazed (and thankful) to receive the traffic and return readership I do. After all, I published my book and started my website a mere three months ago. 

Yesterday I gave a copy of my book to my pastor. I asked him to read a draft for me a few years ago to check the theology on it, so he remembered the story. He recommended I meet with him sometime to set up a book signing, write a blurb in the bulletin, and perhaps plug it during one or all of the services (gulp).

Not only was that a terrific ego boost, but I’m touched to receive so much support with so little effort on my part.

Like I told my pastor yesterday, "A Reason to Hope" is a God thing. It and my website would not have received the positive attention it has so far without his help.

My gratitude goes to each of you as well for not only stopping by, but for returning.