Writing a Book

 

As some of you may or may not know, I am writing a book. It’s very hard work. Before I began this process, I thought the hardest part would be writing the story. You know – figuring out what was going to happen and writing it down.

As it turns out, that is the easy part. It’s fun making up characters and deciding what’s going to happen to them. It’s fun making them say funny things, and serious things, and angry things, and happy things. It’s fun making them do brave things, and stupid things, and fall in and out of love, and make new friends, and lose friends, and experience new things. What’s hard is after the story is written – reading it and realizing that it needs A LOT OF WORK. It needs structure, and conflict, and all kinds of stuff that you never even thought about when you were writing it. Passages need to be rearranged and reworded. Sometimes whole chapters and characters need to be cut from the story. It’s hard, tedious work. And. it. takes. forever.

The hardest part, I’ve found, it finding time to do it. When I was writing my first draft, I was great at making the time. I couldn’t wait to write. As soon as I shut my son’s bedroom door at night after putting him to bed, I’d race off to my laptop and would spend hours writing. I’d often stay up until 1 am or later without even realizing how late it had gotten. But housework cannot be ignored forever. Friends, either. Most will be patient with you for a few months while you’re writing a first draft, but when it’s finished, you’re expected to be a good friend again. You’ll need to eat, also, and sleep, and at some point, you will run out of clean underwear. And that’s when you realize that you have to find some sort of a balance.

Revising has definitely been the hardest part for me. I’ve lost count, but I think I’m on my 14th set of revisions. That means going through and re-writing and editing the whole book 14 times!!!! Sometimes I think I’m getting somewhere; sometimes I think I should just delete the whole thing and start over. At some point, (hopefully), I’ll be okay enough with it to say I’m done. But it’s going to be awhile yet.

Getting Back Into Reading

Books_Are_Everywhere__by_PhysicalMagic

Being a single mother means that by the time I get around to reading a book I really want to read, one of three things usually happens:

1.) I stay up way too late reading – to the the point that no amount of green tea will make me feel like a normal human being the next day; 2.) I listen to the audiobook version so that I can clean at the same time, and end up missing major plot points because the vacuum or the running water was too loud, or 3.) I’m too tired to read and end up watching several minutes/hours of whichever TV series I’m currently obsessed with (right now it’s Sons of Anarchy. I’m on Season 2.)

I was thinking today, after one of my library patrons mentioned that she didn’t want the audiobook version of a book, because she’s trying to “get back into reading,” that maybe I should do that, too. There’s something about reading words on a page that creates a different kind of experience than is possible through any other format. I never enjoy audiobooks the way I enjoy reading a book. Audiobooks are awesome, especially for busy people, or people with long commutes, or people who, like me, feel guilty sitting around reading a book when there are things to be done. But maybe we all could benefit from taking a few minutes (or hours) out of our day to sit down with an actual book. What do you think?

Break from Blogging

I know I’ve been terrible about updating the last couple of weeks and I apologize for that.  I’ve had a lot going on in my personal life.  My son and I moved out of our family home due to some major problems that my husband and I have been having, so the last week or so, we’ve been staying with a friend until we can get our own place.  It’s been really hard on my 9 month old son, having to adjust to new surroundings, and for me, too.

I’ve decided to take a small break from blogging – probably for the rest of the month – so that Liam and I can get settled and figure stuff out.  I promise I’ll be back soon, and will post all of the fun projects I’ve done in the meantime.

I hope you and your families enjoy the holiday season!

Kiley

Thanksgiving and Stuff

Wow! Time flies by when you’re busy with the holidays! I promise I haven’t forgotten about you, in fact, I have several new projects to post in the coming days, including a dining room chair reupholstery project, a holiday banner, a clock, and some yummy recipes.

I had an amazing Thanksgiving.  This year, I had a moment of temporary insanity, and decided to host Thanksgiving at our house, not just for my family, but also for my husband’s family.  It was pure craziness.  We have a tiny house (here is a picture of my tiny kitchen – try cooking Thanksgiving dinner for 17 in it without freaking out!) so it was a bit of a challenge, and we had to set up an extra table and chairs in the front room so that everyone would have room to sit and eat.

My mother in law brought Brussels sprouts.  Now, I haven’t had Brussels sprouts since I was about 9 years old, and I’m pretty sure I hated them, and ate only what was necessary in order to be excused from the table.  I was a little bit nervous about trying them, but they were amazing!  She made them with bacon, walnuts and pomegranate seeds.

Here is a link to the recipe I think she used, except she added walnuts, too.  Delicious!

How was your Thanksgiving?  Any new or unusual recipes this year?

Writing a Novel – What to Avoid

State of Being Verbs

Avoid using the “to be” verbs which are: am, is, are, was, were, be, been and being. Any sentence that uses these verbs is “telling,” rather than “showing,” which is what we want. For example, instead of saying: “Sally is a funny girl,” you could say “I like Sally’s sense of humor,” or “Sally makes me laugh.” Even better, you could portray her being funny – maybe have her telling jokes, or making witty comments, which will completely negate the need to say she is funny in the first place, because the reader will already know.

Excessive Adverbs

Try to avoid using adverbs in your writing, especially after dialogue. An adverb is a word that modifies a verb, adjective, other adverbs, or various other types of words, phrases, and clauses, and typically are just adjectives that end with the suffix -ly. They will distract the reader from your story. There are too many instances of “he said incredulously,” or “she said sarcastically.” A good story or dialogue will convey the tone you’re trying to create without the use of an additional descriptor. The reason adverbs are bad, is that they draw attention outside of your story. It’s important that the reader does not feel the author’s presence but instead, should be able to absorb the story without distraction.

Excessive Description

Description is very different from specific details, which are necessary in a good novel. Description, however, can slow down your narrative. Use this rule of thumb to decide whether to provide a description in your writing – Does it relate to the plot and advance the story? If the answer is no, cut it. Writing is all about moving the plot along, and if you pause to provide a two page description of a building, no matter how lovely, you are stopping the action and taking the reader out of your story. Pace is everything. Stick with the action.

Avoid Generalizing

In contrast to excessive description, specific details are very important to a story. Taking a moment to name a street, or a restaurant, or to briefly describe a dress, makes all the difference to your readers. I recently read a book, which I won’t name, that didn’t provide any details. It made me so mad! She talked about a dress she had chosen to wear out that evening, but didn’t say a thing about it! She could have said it was a little black dress, or a slinky red evening gown, or a floral sundress. The fact that she neglected to provide such important details really took away from her story. It made it less believable. Most readers do have some imagination, but you have to give them something to work with. Expecting them to come up with all the details themselves is unprofessional, and frankly, a bit lazy.

Spice Boil

Here in Wisconsin, it’s very humid in the summer and very dry in the winter.  This can cause dozens of problems come November – itchy, flaky skin, stuffy/runny noses, dry, cracked lips and hands, etc.  I’ve found that the best way to lessen these irritations is to add moisture.  Some people use humidifiers to accomplish this, but because I’ve never found one that isn’t a pain to use/clean/refill constantly, and because I’m too cheap to purchase one of the expensive ones, I’ve found the easiest alternative ever – boil water!

For the last two or three years, I’ve been simply boiling water on my stove to steam up my house.  Around the holidays, it’s fun to add a few spices and let it fill the entire house with its delicious aroma.   It’s wonderful.  (Note: please only do this if you’re going to be home.  It probably isn’t a good idea to leave your stove on all day while you’re at work.)

Another way to do this, if you’re uncomfortable with leaving your stove on ALL DAY, even if you are home, is to use a crockpot.  Plug it in, turn it on high, and put the cover on for an hour or so until it starts to boil.  Then, remove the cover to let the steam fill your house (and skin).  When the water gets low, just add more water.

Here are some delicious scent combinations to add to your water:

Apple Cinnamon – Just add a few sliced up apples and a few cinnamon sticks to your water. You can also use a tablespoon or so of ground cinnamon if you don’t have cinnamon sticks handy.

Christmas – Add some pine needles or pine cones, a handful of cranberries and a few cloves to your boiling water.

Winter Spice – Add a sliced orange, a dash of cinnamon, some cloves and a few sprinkles of nutmeg.

Chai – A vanilla bean, a dash each of ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and a few cloves.  You can also toss in a bag of black tea for good measure if it suits you.

For a Cold – Add a few drops of Vicks VapoSteam, just like you would to a humidifier.

Clean – For a fresh, clean scent, and to remove odors from your home, add a few cut up lemons and a few tablespoons of baking soda.

Calm – Add a vanilla bean and a few drops of lavender essential oil or a few sprigs of lavender.

Vanilla Bean – Simply add vanilla beans to your boiling water.

Coffee Shop – Add your choice of coffee beans to the water.

Clean Laundry – Add a splash of your laundry detergent to fill your home with that clean laundry smell.

Does anyone have any other ideas?

Creating Characters – Part 2

Once you’ve figured out what your character’s name will be, and what basic personality traits they will have, it’s important to go deeper, and get an even better understand of “who” your character is. It’s helpful to keep a file, or even a separate Word document with all of your character information to refer back to.

Here are some things you may want to know about your character:

1.) When is their birthday?

2.) How old are they?

3.) What do they look like?

4.) Do they have a family? How many siblings? Are their parents still alive? Do they have any children of their own? Do they have a husband, or a wife, or a significant other, or a best friend?

5.) Do they have any enemies?

6.) What do the other characters like about this character?

7.) What do the other characters dislike about this character?

8.) What are they good at?

9.) What are they bad at?

10.) What do they do? Do they go to school, do they have a job? What hobbies do they have? What do they do for fun? What movies do they like? What books do they like? What music do they like?

11.) Are they optimistic or pessimistic?

12.) What are their favorite foods?

13.) What are they afraid of?

14.) What is their favorite color?

15.) Do they have any pets?

16.) What do they carry in their purse, pocket, backpack, wallet, etc.?

17.) Has anything bad happened to them in their life?

18.) Are they shy or friendly?

19.) How do they walk, talk, and behave that makes them different from everyone else?

20.) Do they have any bad habits?

21.) What sort of facial expressions do they make?

22.) How would they react to good news? To bad news?

23.) Why should we care about them, anyway?

The main thing to remember when creating your characters is to make them believable. Nobody’s going to believe, or even like, a perfect character. Characters need flaws, just like real people need flaws. It’s what sets them apart and makes them different. Find that one thing that makes your character different and run with it. Readers embrace imperfection in characters. It makes the characters more relatable, and everyone wants to relate in some way to the characters they’re getting to know.

As Steven Taylor Goldsberry says in The Writer’s Book of Wisdom, “We adore eccentricity. Most of the folks who populate the real world, never mind invented ones, distinguish themselves by being unusual.”

He’s right. Uniqueness is important. Use your imagination to create a character that people will remember.

Creating Characters – Part 1

Often, the most important part of your story will be your characters. Sometimes, you decide to base one or more of your characters on someone you know. This can be a great way to start. You already know most of the things about them, anyway – how they act, how they speak, what they would or wouldn’t do. But unless you’re writing non-fiction, you will probably have to come up with some of the characters on your own.

Deciding Who Your Character Will Be:

The first thing you must do when creating a character, is to decide on basic defining characteristics. Will your character be male or female? Approximately what age group will your character be in? Is he or she a small child, or a teenager, or a young adult, or middle-aged? Maybe he or she has just had their 100th birthday. Once this has been decided, you must decide what this character will look like.

Maybe your character will be tall, dark and handsome. Maybe not. Maybe he or she will wear glasses, or have blue hair. Maybe your character has a pug nose or bushy eyebrows or very tiny ears. Find that one thing that will set your character apart, and use it. Readers like your characters to have flaws. It makes them more believable, and it’s very important for your audience to relate to your characters. The success of your novel will depend upon this.

How does your character speak? Is his or her voice very low or very high? Does he or she speak in complete sentences or fragments? What words does he or she use often? You need to be able to hear in your mind what this character will sound like, because this will help you immensely with dialogue.

Each character needs to have his or her own distinct personality. Maybe he or she is one of those happy-go-lucky people who always has a smile on their face. Or maybe he or she is very shy and quiet. Your character could be very funny, or dry, or cynical, or romantic, or even some odd mixture of everything. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Try something, and if it doesn’t seem right, change it. Getting to know your characters often continues long after you’ve begun working on your novel, and sometimes, you’ll have a flash of insight and suddenly just “know” that your character has a fear of dogs, or an interest in aviation. Go with it. It’s easy to go back and change things if you need to.

Naming your Character:

Once you’ve figured out who your character will be, you need to name him or her. Try to pick a name that suits them. Often, naming your characters can be one of the hardest parts. But sometimes, you’ll just know. You know that the sweet old lady living down the street is named Betty, or the cute little baby in the stroller is named Davy. You don’t know how you know that, you just do. Sometimes, all you need to do is get to know your character a little better, and the name will just come to you.

Happy writing!

Clutter

Photo Credit: EvelynGiggles

I’ve always subscribed to the theory that a cluttered house makes for a cluttered mind, and vice versa.  I’ve been struggling with clutter for most of my adult life, and in the last year or so, have finally started to get a handle on it.  However, the fact that my husband is a minor hoarder doesn’t help matters.  He keeps EVERYTHING!  He has collections of things that most people wouldn’t even think about collecting (rusty screws, random chunks of metal, used lighters, dirty pens, etc.)  He has socks, boxers and tee shirts from his high school days – things with holes that he will never, ever wear again (I hope.)

His desk is strewn with unopened mail, piles of empty soda bottles and cans, food wrappers, and random junk that he is either seriously attached to or is simply too lazy to throw away.  (I say lazy, because there is a large garbage can literally INCHES from his desk.)  He has boxes of unidentified junk treasures lining the shelves in the basement that he has not gone through in years. Don’t even get me started on our two car garage that I have not been able to park in for two years.

So why am I suddenly so concerned with my husband’s clutter, when I’ve been living with it and dealing with it for almost 6 years?  Well, we have recently decided to sell our three bedroom house, which has been a huge source of financial stress for us in the last year or so, and downsize by moving into a two bedroom townhouse, which is much more affordable.  The house we have now is literally bursting at the seams with our stuff, and I’m a little concerned as to where we will put everything when our space is even more constricted.

This whole situation has forced me to come to the conclusion that “we” need to reduce “our” clutter by at least half.  So I’ve decided that the month of November is going to be “Decluttering Month.”  Now, I just have to find a way to get my husband on board…

 

Baked French Toast

Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf of French bread
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups of half and half
  • 1/2 cup of maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg, divided
  • 1 ring of smoked sausage
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar, divided

Directions:

Cut (or tear) French bread and sausage into bite sized pieces – approximately 1 inch.  Mix together and place in a buttered 13X9 pan.  Whisk the eggs together with the half and half and syrup.  Add salt, 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg.  Whisk until well incorporated, then pour mixture over the bread and sausage pieces, making sure all of the bread is soaked.  You may have to use a spoon or your fingers to make sure the bread is well saturated with the egg mixture.  Cover with aluminum foil and put in the refrigerator overnight.

When you’re ready to bake it, preheat the oven to 350°.  Mix together the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg, and 1 tablespoon of sugar.  Sprinkle over the top, and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, uncovered.  Serve with maple syrup, or just the way it is.