Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Pantser vs Plotter

With every profession, hobby, or sport, there are specific words, a teacher would say vocabulary words, that apply to only that field. Writing is the same. Pantser and Plotter are two such words in the writing/author world.
A 'pantser' writes by the
seat of their pants!

A pantser is a writer who “writes by the seat of their pants.” These writers have vague or miminal outlines for their project. Panters don’t know where their story is going or how it will play out until they write it. Plotters, on the other hand, are writers who plan and decide- actually outline- how the story will develop and come out before they ever start writing. When I first heard these words and their definitions I was sooo relieved!  Why? Because I’m a pantser writer and I thought I was “doing it wrong." I get an idea about a story and I start writing.

Think, Think, Think, How do I make
the pieces all fit?

Here’s what I mean: My novel, (that I’m trying to find an agent for) The Ink of Time, started out as an idea: A tattoo artist whose tattoos do something “otherworldly.” I didn’t know what at the time, but through lots of brainstorming I figured out that his tattoos make him briefly travel to another place or time. So what? Well, I had to figure out why his ability to time travel through tattoos was important. Much more brainstorming ensued. I came to the conclusion that he was helping solve a mystery. What was the mystery? See???? This is a crazy way to write, but that’s how I do it.  I had no idea where the story would go as I was writing. Eventually, as the story grew, I was able to visualize how the story would progress and end, but at the beginning? No way.

Even the title changed, with the help of my friend and beta reader (another writer vocabulary word), Bekah. I was using the title Tattoo Man and she suggested In the Ink of Time, which I condensed to The Ink of Time.

A 'plotter' creates an outline
from start to finish.
Then, last week, I had the opportunity to go to a workshop presented by Gary W. Moore, author of Playing with the Enemy as well as Hey Buddy (Buddy Holly), and soon-to-be released, The Final Service. Gary Moore’s workshop was called How to Finish that Book You’re Writing. I went because, even though I’ve finished one novel, I have another one that I’m stuck on. I thought he might offer some insights that would help me get and keep my project moving along.

Gary W. Moore is not  a pantser. He’s a plotter. So I listened carefully and took notes. His plan was straight forward and easy to follow. I came home and put his advice to work.  It was and is hard for me to plan out a story. I’m still not finished with my outline, even though I keep writing the story.  I think the best I can do is a combination of pantser and plotter.  A pantster, if you will.

What advice/ideas have you gotten from others recently? Are you listening to their ideas and taking action? It’s a good thing to do. As the saying goes, “Two minds are better than one.” See if you can expand you thinking today.

Until next time.

Be Good to Yourself,

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Computer Updates: Why can't it be easier?

UUURRRGG! We, my computer and I, just updated to Windows 10. My computer has been running more slowly lately so I thought I should shut it down and do a restart so that it could update. Boy did it. 

All of my files are intact but everything looks different! Even my desktop wallpaper picture is gone! In its place is a four-pane window with a blue light – a shining Windows 10 light- glowing through, and I suppose, lighting up the black screen of my previous Windows life. I’m going to be spending hours getting this beee-awch (say it phonetically) back to the way I’m used to.

Singer, Jason Mraz
That’s life. It throws changes and challenges our way all the time.  Even if we agree to the change, it’s sometimes just hard to do.  I have the Jason Mraz YES! CD, and on that CD is a song called 3 Things.  It’s about what Jason does when his life falls apart. Now updating the computer is not exactly life altering, but that song can be a touchstone for problems big and small. As you may already know, I really like song lyrics and I’d like to share this one with you today.

The song says to first; acknowledge that there is a problem. Second, be thankful for what you have that is true and good. Third, move on.

So my first thing is this here rant on my blog about computer updates. (Sorry about that, dear reader.) My second thing is that I’m thankful I have a computer to use and that I can read and write and communicate my thoughts and ideas through this medium. My third thing is to just dig in and get my computer organized in a way that I recognize. Easy peasy. Sometimes. And sometimes not so much.

So what’s bugging you today? Take a listen to Jason’s song (the link is below) and give his 3 things a try.  I’m off to work on my third thing.  See you next time.
Until then,

Be Good to Yourself.

P.S. If you have any advice/tricks on how to best use Windows 10, I’d love to hear it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Rejection with a Smile

I finally got up the nerve to send out a couple of query letters for my novel, The Ink of Time. I worked and reworked the letter many times over. The goal of a query letter is to sell an agent on your project – and do it in the realm of just two or three well worded paragraphs.

I did a lot of research on how to write my letter, and I got lots of contradictory information. So I decided to hybrid the information I liked into a letter that sounded like me. Then I researched agents. It’s important that you send your letter to someone who’s actually interested in your genre. From what I’ve read, many a writer’s work is rejected simply because he or she didn’t do their homework and sent their letters to the wrong people/agencies.

The first agent I sent my query letter to has not responded. And wouldn’t you know, just after I hit send on the email I noticed that I’d left out the word ‘a’ in a sentence. How did I miss that after so many rewrites? And then notice it the minute- no the second- it was too late? I was so upset. After all, if a writer can’t create a cohesive letter, how could she create a cohesive book?  My husband Tim advised me to ‘let it go’ and move on. So after a couple more pouts, I did.

The second agent I queried required the first five pages of the story to be sent along too. I went over those five pages AGAIN, probably for the fiftieth time (I’m not exaggerating here) before I hit the send button. And guess what? I GOT A RESPONSE BACK!!!!!
A gift from above. Thank you, Lord.

The response was a rejection- a very kind one. She didn’t tell me to take a writing class, like JK Rowling received in a letter rejecting Harry Potter. She didn’t tell me to hang up my pen and walk away.  She was very kind. I didn’t expect that. 

You may be wondering why I’m excited about getting a rejection letter—I’m excited because she TOOK THE TIME TO READ what I’d sent. 
Not only that, she TOOK THE TIME TO RESPOND BACK.  That’s huge. HUGE! (Like a really big deal!)  To me it means my work is good. That it’s worthy of a person’s time; a person whose job is to find books to represent for publication.
"Logically speaking, luck is not an arbitrary
event. Rather it is the combination of hard work
and perseverance, but I'll give you a
thumbs up anyway, silly human."

So I’m energized to say the least.  I’m working on my second book project while researching agents to send my first book project to. I’m hopeful. I’m having fun.

Wish me luck!

Until next time,

Be Good to Yourself,


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Looking at Life Through a New Lens

Me and Erin and our trees.
You know I like trees. Not long ago, back on November 18th, I wrote a post titled Tree Love about losing a tree in our yard to high winds.

Over the years I’ve even painted a couple of tree pictures while at craft events with friends and family. So you can imagine my excitement when I learned about Mark Hirsch and That Tree from Amy, our events coordinator at the LeClaire Community Library, where I work.

Mark Hirsch, a photographer from Wisconsin, came to the Quad Cities to share his story about taking a picture of the same tree every day for a whole year.

What’s even more remarkable is that every picture was taken with his iPhone 4S- not his big, complicated every-gadget-included work camera. His work has been widely viewed my millions of people over the internet and was featured on the CBS Sunday Morning show last July.

Lucky for me, Mark Hirsch was presenting at the library on an evening I was scheduled to work. Unlucky for me was that his presentation would take place in the community room- not in the main library- where I would be. Still, I was excited and proud that our little small-town library had the opportunity to host something so Big Time. After the presentation people came into the library all abuzz about Mark’s inspirational story. They said it was so much more than just him showing photos of his tree.

Again, luckily for me, Mark Hirsch had another presentation to give at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport and I was going to be able to attend.

So last night, Tim and I went to the Figge to see Mark Hirsch and That Tree.

And it was inspiring.

And his photographs were something else. The word “beautiful” doesn’t cut it; it’s not a strong enough word. They were stunning and striking. These are two much better words to describe his work.

Hirsch, as he called himself, was in a horrific car accident that left him with a head injury that should have killed him. He survived but was told his recovery would take a very long time and that full recovery may not happen.  He did recover fully, with the help of an old Bur Oak tree.

Me reading That Tree by Mark Hirsch.
He shared some of his photos and the stories of how he got each picture, but his central message was to always persevere. To be optimistic. To make it a good day. To set goals and meet them. To do something that makes yourself happy. To not burn your bridges… you may need them one day. To be open to happy accidents. To look closely, to be quiet, to take your time. To look at your world from different perspectives- both literally and figuratively. To have passion for life.

An old oak tree showed him the way back to life and he shared his lessons with us.

Let’s all go outside and hug our trees. And while we’re at it, let’s be thankful for another day.

Until next time,

Be Good to Yourself.