Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Outlining with the Document Map

Following an outline is like following a path with twists and turns to the end of a story. Most of my outlines were done with pencil and paper first, then typed in boxes on the computer, printed out, and bound in a three ring binder. As I worked my way through the story, I flipped pages in the binder, making notes. It worked for me but it was also time consuming.

I've been using Word for years and had no idea how to use the document map or why I would want to. Then on Verla Kay, Helene Boudreau, discussed using it to outline her novels. She also gave a snap of what it looks like. I decided to give it a try so I pulled out an old manuscript that needed a lot of revision. I figured if I messed it up, I wouldn't be that upset. After hours of "playing" with this feature, I finally made it work. What a difference!

It lets me move from one chapter to the other with one click. I can make little notes so I know with a quick look where a certain plot point or character first appears. I had no idea this little feature could be such a treasure!

The idea of using it to outline my new project is exciting.  Thank you, Helene Boudreau!

Here's the link to her blog where she explains using the Document Map:

Friday, January 22, 2010

Raising the Bar

Since I began writing seriously almost six years ago, I know I have learned a lot about the craft of writing. I also know that what I've learned shows in my work. Today, though, I realize just how much more I need to learn.

Over at the blog Pub Rants, two agents share the first pages that caught their attention of two novelists. The first is Janice Hardy's two pages from her debut novel The Shifter published in 2009 . These two pages are original and were not changed for publication! The other is the opening by Julia Karr for her novel XVI, which will be coming out in 2011.

I am in awe of these two authors. Both samples were so beautifully written I was hooked. Afterward, I tried to analyze why. I came up with three conclusions:
  1. They both opened with action. 
  2. With a few words weaved in, I became aware of the setting, place, and time. 
  3. I was drawn to memorable characters.
So, the bar has been raised, and I have a lot more work to do before I develop that kind of craftsmanship.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Too Purpley! by Jean Reidy

Too Purpley! A new book by the talented writer, Jean Reidy, is being presented at an online party at her website. Be sure and check it out.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Gone by Michael Grant

I was finally able to sit down and finish Gone, by Michael Grant. I thoroughly enjoyed it. This young adult novel is all about a small, coastal town in California where everyone over the age of fourteen vanishes in one day at one time. There is no televison, radio, cell phones, or any other device that would connect them to the outside world. Natural leaders as well as power hungry individuals rise up to bring organization to the chaos. The characters, all of them, were well rounded and believable. I really admired how Mr. Grant was able to have so many different characters stand out in their own unique way. To add another dimension to this chaos, some children have recently been given special powers that they have no idea how to control. While others have been secretly practicing and have learned to use them to the detriment of others. Gone blends love, betrayal, friendship, bullies, war, and the unseen force that keeps them isolated, into one exciting read. It is rather long at five hundred fifty-eight pages, but I think once the reader is into the book, he's not going to mind the length. I do wish, though, that the ending, though satisfying, was more final or at least solved a few major problems. Gone just sort of leaves you hanging in such a way that you know it's because there's going to be a sequel. Since it came out in 2008, there have been two more novels in what is called the Gone series.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Decisions, Decisions

Usually winter in San Antonio is like autumn in other areas. Not this week. The arctic freeze blowing across the nation has affected us, too. This morning began in the low twenties, the temperature should steadily rise until it tops out at 38 degrees, and then drop again tonight. I have no desire to step one toe out of the door and none of my friends will be calling to "do lunch" or shop. This is the perfect day to curl up in the recliner and read Gone by Michael Grant. It's a page turner with great characters!

However, it's also the perfect day to sit at my computer and revise my MG mystery. I like the story, I actually don't mind revising once I'm into it, and it's only January 8. Eight days ago I made a resolution to write every day. Blogging doesn't count. So, I better start revising, right now, but...what's that noise... I think I hear Gone calling me from the other room.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Kidlit Contest

Agent Mary Kole has announced another super contest. This one is for novel beginnings. I hustled and sent mine off right away. This is such an exciting way to start the new year.

Click on the link and check it out!

Friday, January 1, 2010

January 1, 2010

It's hard to believe that ten years has passed since the y2k panic and worry about computers. All turned out well and technology not only has continued to grow and change at an unbelievable pace but it has produced an amazing tool for writers. I thought about the old days. How did all those famous writers produce manuscripts with typewriters? I can't imagine typing up a 250 page manuscript with carbon paper to have an extra copy. It makes me tired just thinking about it.

I actually remember how excited I was when "onion" paper, that's what we called it, was invented and how easy it was to erase mistakes. Soon they came up with typewriter ribbons that lifted mistakes as you typed over them. That was thrilling!

Then they invented the computer which has changed dramatically. It comes with the delete key, copy and paste, cut and paste, spell check, paragraph formatting, and all the rest. What would William Faulkner or Agatha Christie be able to produce with a computer?

I have all the tools available that they didn't have, but I have become a master at finding reasons to avoid writing. It doesn't help that the other thing the computer has given me is a real window to the world. I can sit in my chair and go anywhere. Chatting with other writers around the world is fun, visiting my favorite blogs is even more fun, and don't get me started on the wonderful writers at Verla Kay. By the time I check in with all of them my time at the computer is gone.

So, now it's time for my own New Year's resolutions:
  • I will set aside time each morning to write. No matter how blank my brain is, I will sit in that chair and will not surf the net.
  • I will make sure I submit a story or craft bi-weekly.
  • I will attend a conference or workshop on writing in 2010.
  • I will revise last summer's MG mystery before setting it to rest for a few months.
  • I will purchase and read the debut PB, MG, and YA novels for 2010--especially those from the Blueboarders.
  • I will begin the outline for my new MG mystery.
  • Finally, I will eat less and exercise more.

Happy New Year to all of you. Here's to 2010 and seeing even more debut authors in the bookstores!