Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Someday I'll Be A Beautiful Butterfly and Everything Will Be Better

This quote from A Bug's Life is a common theme among writers (and my children.)

 For the past several weeks, my four-year-old has been on this "When I turn five..." kick. I've heard him say:

When I turn five, then I can read.
When I turn five, then I can watch Harry Potter (this is not true, but for some reason he thinks it is.)
When I turn five, then I will be big and strong.
When I turn five, then I will have so much fun.

And I can't help but wonder: What's so bad about being four? He's built up five-years-old in his mind to be this amazing age where all of his dreams are going to come true. I can't help but laugh every time he gets this dreamy look on his face, and I know he's about to tell me about something else he'll be able to do when he's five. (By the way, he doesn't turn five until March.)

But, maybe I'm as bad as he is. I remember saying, "When I get published..."
a) I'll feel validated for all of my hard work
b) I'll know I'm a good writer
c) I'll be so happy
d) I'll never doubt my writing again

Now I say, "When I get an agent..."
(Fill in the blank with a, b, c, or d from above.)

I know there are others out there that feel the same way, who think the same things. I worry that we're missing the joy of the journey and the joy of just writing because we love to write. When writing becomes less of an escape and more of a business, I'm afraid we're cheating ourselves of the very reason we started writing in the first place. Not that I don't think that being published is great. Not that I wouldn't LOVE to have an agent. But what if the focus shifted off of how happy I'll be when that happens, to being happy with where I'm at right now?

If we're too busy wishing we are somewhere else, then we're missing how great life can be where we're at. I still think we should be working toward our goals of getting an agent or getting published or whatever our personal writing goals are, but we need to find contentment in that journey. And never, ever forget why we began writing in the first place.

Monday, July 25, 2011

How My Stories Start

I love writing. I love when I sit down and these characters come into my head and I have to tell their story.

For me, my stories start with the characters. Always.

With Meg's Melody, it all started with Meg and the fact that her husband had left her. That's it. There wasn't a Matt a Johnny or a pregnancy or issues with her Mom or any of that fleshed out in my mind yet. It started with a girl who was really sad (and kind of bitter) because her husband just left. My first draft of Meg's Melody was all in first person. I LOVED it, but felt like Matt needed to be fleshed out a little more. So, for kicks, I decided to write his side of the story from his pov. I liked it so much and felt it added to the story, so I had to merge the two story lines together. I've wondered sometimes how the first person version would have been received. It was a little funnier and Meg was quite a bit quirkier. A lot of that was lost when I went to third person, but I really think I gained by having Matt's story in there, too.

For Falling (I know, I know, most of you haven't read Falling yet, but it's on my mind so much I have to blog about it) my story began one night when my husband was out of town and I was supposed to be doing edits on Meg's Melody, but I needed a break. I opened up a new document because I had this girl saying to me, "My brother didn't die in the accident, but sometimes I wish he would have." And I had to ask myself: What accident? If he didn't die, what happened to him? And why does she wish he was dead? The first draft of this story was really depressing (by the way, no one has read any of my first drafts except for me. From first draft to second draft is extremely different--which is why no one gets to read them!) so I had to go through and give Brenna some lighter moments here and there. It's still a very serious book, but there are a lot more lighter moments that her voice originally led me to believe there could be.

Then there's my YA wip about kissing. And friendship. Two of my favorite things to talk about when I was a teen. But the story idea started with this girl named Chole who has to be in charge all the time--her voice just came through as snarky and spunky and kind of controlling. I love Chloe. She's the spunkiest character I've ever written and she doesn't let anyone get away with anything. This is the one that I'm actively working on and having so much fun with it.

(I'm also working on another LDS one. I'll post more about that one later. Also so much fun.)

I know I've said this before, but characters are where it's at for me. If I love the character I'm writing, then I'm loving my writing and having so much fun doing it.

I'm always curious about how other people start their stories.
Do you have to have the entire idea for your plot and where you're going before you start a story? Or do you just start with a character that starts saying crazy crap and go from there?
Or is there some other method unique to you?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Withdrawals

I live in Small Town, Arizona where we only have one option for Internet. (Cox, how I hate and love you at the same time).

There was an Internet outage in our area yesterday and I was going through some serious email/blog/FB withdrawals. I'm one of those people who don't have Internet on my phone ( I still have a flip phone, our television is from when my husband was a teenager, and our laptop is a refurbished castoff from his work--all this not because we don't love technology, but because our kids, bless their hearts, are destructive. And as under-functional as these old electronics are, they hold up well under sticky fingers and drool.) Anyway, I didn't have Internet for over 24 hours. (Until I remembered the 3G access on my Kindle, but it was such a pain to write an email, I gave up.) (Also, it's kind of telling that the newest electronic we have is a Kindle--you see where my priorities are.)

Also, sickness has decided to pay a visit at the Baldwin home, so I probably shouldn't be putting anything out there on my blog today, having only eaten a handful of crackers and some toast in two days, but here I am. Relishing the Internet, just because I can. (And writing a lot of asides and tangents, just because I can.)

Okay, back to the couch to cuddle with my little cuties and watch a movie.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

In which I have delusions about my abilities

Cabin fever.

We have a serious case of it over here at the Baldwin home.

It is over 100 degrees outside with the relentlessly bright sun killing everything in our yard, and me and my three extremely fair skinned children can't go out in that without paying a price.

So I took them to McDonalds last week to play in the indoor playplace. My oldest set off the alarm, tried to do it two more times, threw his shoes at people, knocked trays off the table, tried to run off, the decided to top it all of by screaming, screaming, screaming, until I could gather his scattered shoes, my other kids and their shoes, and drag all three out to the car (fyi, people glare at you if your kids decide to go limp on said walk and you literally drag them a few feet until they stand up--using their perfectly healthy legs God gave them for a reason). I think people actually cheered when we left.

So McDonald's is out for the rest of summer.

And pretty much any public place, since I want to keep my sanity.

So a friend of mine suggested we set up a tent in the house for the kids to play in. Great idea. Awesome idea, in fact.

And, although I'm not a camper, my husband is, so we have seven tents, I believe. (Don't ask me why a family of five that has only gone camping together TWICE has seven tents.) I picked the red one because I like the color red, and started to set it up.

What followed was the most frustrating venture with a tent that has four stupid poles that I had to stretch out and put in the right holes and then keep the tent from collapsing. Right when I was in the middle of the most frustrating part (where if I were a swearing kind of gal, there would have been words flying) my little sister called.

When I told her what I was doing, she just laughed and laughed and asked me, "Kaylee, do you not remember that you are not a camper."

"You shouldn't have to be a camper to know how to put up a tent," I replied, holding the phone between my ear and my shoulder because I was still trying to keep the stupid tent up (my kids had prematurely crawled inside of it, so I couldn't let it collapse.)

I finally ghetto-rigged it up (really, it was more "up-ish," but I was done.) My husband took one look at it when he got home and just started laughing. He then pulled it apart (saying, "How in the heck did you get the poles to go like this?) and showed me how to do it. Then informed me that I picked the hardest tent we have to set up. That's what I get for choosing because of color.

So my kids had fun and that's all that really matters.

We still have three and a half weeks of summer and I want us to have FUN!

Do you have any fun, indoor activity ideas I can do with my children?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Countdown to Love Review


From back cover:
Kelly Grace Pickens is an excited bride - until she's abandoned at the altar. Desperate, she accepts an offer to appear on a reality TV show, Count Down to Love. Her country ways are a stark contrast to the mysterious bachelor from New York. Wading through hurt and betrayal both on and off screen, Kelly discovers that being true to yourself is essential to finding happiness and love.

My thoughts:
If you've been following my blog for a while, then you know that I love The Bachelor, so when I got the chance to review this book, I was really excited. I started reading it the day I downloaded it, and finished it in one evening. So much fun. I really enjoyed this book. Kelly Grace is an extremely likable character and she works through her hurt and trust issues--something that is especially difficult when she finds herself falling in love with a man that several other girls are chasing as well. I highly recommend to those who are looking for a fun, romantic comedy with a little more depth than usual or those who love The Bachelor. I will be reading this one again.

Here is the author’s website:  JulieNFord.com

And here is the author’s blog: Queries2Reviews.wordpress.com

Thursday, July 7, 2011

An Email Obsession

I just discovered this interesting little feature on gmail. Down in the very bottom right corner there is a tab that says: Last Account Activity: Details (and you can click on the details link). I'm sure this feature is to make sure you haven't been hacked or that other people aren't getting into your email.

Not mine. It shows that I logged in all at the same computer. And these are my log in times:

Jul 6 (18 hours ago)
Jul 6 (18 hours ago)
Jul 6 (17 hours ago)
Jul 6 (16 hours ago)
Jul 6 (15 hours ago)
Jul 6 (15 hours ago)
Jul 6 (11 hours ago)
**then I must have gone to bed**
Jul 7 (1.5 hours ago)
Jul 7 (58 min ago)
Jul 7 (0 min ago)

I'd label this a wake-up call for my obsession for checking my email, but I already knew I had a problem. I can't walk past my computer without logging in and checking my inbox. I guess that's what happens when you're querying and waiting to hear back from agents!

How often do you check your email?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My Birthday Winner

Congrats to Julie Coulter Bellon for winning my birthday prize! Thank you all for entering. I'll be doing another giveaway in a few months, because I love giving away books :)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Just waiting around for me to come

My feelings were hurt the day I did the math and figured out that my parents waited NINE MONTHS after getting married to get pregnant with me.

Up until this point, I figured that they got married just for the sole purpose of getting pregnant, and therefore having...me. What else would they want in life but a beautiful daughter? What were they doing in those nine months that were better than having a newborn baby? I guess I always just pictured them sitting around, yearning for me, never really living until they had me.

Pretty self-absorbed, right? (My sisters, if reading this, will not be surprised at all that I felt like the whole of our parents' younger lives were just a series of angst-filled, empty moments until I came along to give them purpose and joy.)

Since then, I often wonder how many children believe that they're parents' lives started when they were born.

How many authors feel that way about our characters? Like our characters have been sitting in some dark place somewhere, just waiting for us to discover them, and the only moments that really matter in their lives are the ones that we put down on paper. Anything before that? Insignificant, because it's not a part of their time with us.

I recently read a book where I felt like the love interest was created for the sole purpose of giving the main character someone to hook up with. His past was alluded to, but never explored. He didn't have any identity outside of the context of the main character. He pretty much could have been substituted for anyone and it wouldn't have made that much difference.

I love when I'm reading a novel, and I get this sense of knowing the characters, their pasts, what led them to the point in this story, where I don't feel that the characters were just sitting around, only existing when the plot conveniently says they exist. I want them to feel like REAL people, ones that I could be friends with, fall in love with, or, in some cases, hate. Ones that I'll talk to my husband about and he'll ask me, "Wait, are you talking about real people or book people?" (To which I respond, "Does it matter?")

I love even more when I'm writing and a character's voice comes into my head, and I have to discover who she is and what made her that way. My story may only cover a few months in her life, but I love finding out what existed BEFORE that time that she came into my mind.

What makes a character real to you? What helps you connect to a character?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Nerd vs. Dork vs. Geek

I went out to dinner last night with my husband and several of his co-workers (all electrical engineers) and my husband tells our dinner companions that he likes classifying everyone at work under three categories: Nerds, Dorks, Geeks. He then proceeded to inform everyone at the table where they fell. (He, of course, is the rare exception among engineers and claims that he does not fall under any of the three).

So, being engineers, they couldn't just leave it at that. They had to define what made a nerd vs. a dork vs. a geek.

Since the other popular topic at dinner that night was robots (I know, robots, but my husband had to go to a writers' award gala with me and listen to writing talk all night long, so it was only fair) so they decided to define nerds/dorks/geeks in terms of robots. Here was my interpretation of what they said:

Nerds would build a simulated robot.
Geeks would build an actual robot.
Dorks would dance like a robot.

I have always considered myself a nerd, so I didn't like this definition of nerd (because I had to ask my husband what a simulated robot even was) so I have to add that I think a nerd would READ about robots, too.

And even though robots are not my reading topic of choice, I will read about almost anything else, so I am a nerd.

Do you consider yourself a nerd, a dork, or a geek? (Or are you the "rare" exception like my husband seems to think he is?)

**Don't forget to enter my birthday giveaway for a chance to win in any book you want.

***If you get a chance, head over to Jolene Perry's blog and congratulate her! She's one of my favorite critique partners and has some awesome news.