25 October 2013

Family Photos 2013

Our family photos from our first year in Laramie could not have been better. My amazing friend Julia, one half of the couple who are Studio Despain, was so patient with our kids--especially Benjy, who was not at all into getting his picture taken. In fact, he spent most of the photo shoot looking like this:

Which made us feel like this:

And somehow, Julia was able to capture him like this:

Sam is a ham (rim shot!), so it was easy to get great pictures of him cheesing it up.

Even Ryan and I managed to get a nice photo together.

Here are some of the other ones I loved.

Ryan said croquet sticks were "preppy", I said they were cute. I think we were both right.

I really love this picture of Ryan


Benjy especially hated having to sit with Sammy, so we were really lucky to get this picture!

As a final note, here are my tips for getting kids to cooperate for family photos. Let them get used to the photographer for a few minutes before you start expecting them to pose. I didn't think Ben would have a problem with Julia because he sees her every week at church, but he was still leery of her once she had a camera in front of her face. And finally, bring a bribe. Once I pulled out the gummy bears, Ben was much more willing to smile! 

22 October 2013

Finding a "voice" for your characters

It's been busy around the Reynolds home, and on top of that the kids and I were sick last week. I'm finding that juggling a bunch of different writing projects is... well, difficult. I'm still incorporating feedback into the MS I have out for querying, working on preparing for NaNoWriMo '13, and also trying to help others with critiques.
After finishing the outline of my new novel, I decided that one last thing that I wanted to do before November was work on my characters' voices. I'm trying to figure out their unique worldviews NOW, before I start writing them, because voice can be a very difficult thing to put into a manuscript after it is already written.
I came up with several "prompts" for each of my characters, such as "Why did you decide to take this career path?" "How do you feel about your siblings?" "What's you favorite TV show?". Then I started responding to the questions as if my character was answering. It's been helping me a lot with character development, and getting everyone's unique voice straightened out. I highly recommend trying it out before November!

15 October 2013

Don't miss the Writers Helping Writers AMAZING RACE!

Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi at Writers Helping Writers (formerly The Bookshelf Muse) have added two more books to their Descriptive Thesaurus Collection: The Positive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Attributes and The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Flaws. To celebrate, they are hosting a race, and not just any old race, either. It's the...

Photo Credit: Tharrin

Writing is hard, isn't it? Create the perfect hook. Make your first page compelling. Craft an amazing 25 word pitch. Knock out a query that will blow an agent's mind. On and on it goes. And sometimes, well, you just wish someone would help.

From October 21st until October 27th, Writers Helping Writers is posting an OPEN CALL for writers. You can fill out a form, requesting help with critiques, book visibility, social media sharing, blog diagnostics, advice and more.
An army of Amazing Racers are standing by (ME INCLUDED!) waiting to help with your submissions. How many people can we help in a week? Let's find out!
Each day the week of Oct. 21-27, there's an AMAZING giveaway, too. So stop in at Angela & Becca's new Writers Helping Writers website and find out how to take advantage of this unique, pay-it-forward event for writers. I'll see you there!

03 October 2013

Writing 50,000 Words is Not Easy

The thing that challenges me the most about NaNoWriMo is that it forces you to write every day- because if you don't, you'll fall behind. Most days I do not feel like writing. I much prefer to edit my work than to write the rough draft. This is why I am not a good "pantser," i.e., someone who doesn't make an entire plan for their novel before starting out. A pantser writes by the seat of their pants, get it?
I wrote my first NaNoWriMo work by the seat of my pants. It was hard. That novel ended up being a hot mess, but I loved it. That's why I spent the better part of three years editing it. I had written in all kinds of things as means to various ends, without considering how they affected my characters as a whole. (e.g., I wanted Anna's dad to be a widower so Anna would have a clear reason to live at home after high school. But nowhere in the novel did I address how growing up without a mom would affect Anna.)
Same story with NaNoWriMo 2011.
I started learning a lesson with NaNoWriMo 2012. Every day, after I finished writing, I would spend 15 minutes writing down where I wanted the story to go next. That way I would have something to work with the next day. It made it a lot easier to make my word count each day, but again: I have a hot mess on my hands. That story made me laugh out loud several times as I was reading over it last month, but it's still crap. No character development whatsoever. Maybe some day I'll polish it up.

This year, I have a plan. This will be the easiest NaNoWriMo ever. Here's what I've been doing:
I bought a beautiful piece of software called Scrivener. Scrivener allows me to break my novel into scenes, because it will compile it for me when I'm done. I can't even begin to do justice to a description of all the things it does, but here's a sample:
Allows you to mark whether a scene is a first draft, has been edited, or specifically needs work.
Comes with character building sheets as well as location sheets, that you can save with pictures in a separate folder from your novel.
Saves automatically, so you never lose your work.
Provides a quick reference box next to the frame your story is in so you can see at a glance who is in a scene, what day it is, etc.

I started putting Untitled NaNoWriMo 2013 Novel into Scrivener in September. By the end of this month I will have a short description of every scene in the novel, so that on November 1st I know how it will end. Each character has a bio page, and I'm filling those out before November, too. The final piece is a list of writing prompts to deepen my understanding of who each character is and how they would talk. It's a long list, but I hope to be done with that by November, too.

Why all this extra work, when I've already proven to myself that it is possible to write 50,000 words by the seat of my pants? Because the goal is not just to finish NaNoWriMo, but to end up with a decent first draft of a complete manuscript in a way that will allow for the least painful editing process when I'm finished. Because I don't just want to be a writer, I want to be an author some day, and authors take this stuff seriously.

01 October 2013

Why I Do NaNoWriMo

I have (secretly) always wanted to be a writer. I dabbled in writing stories from elementary school through college, but never finished anything. I think for a lot of us aspiring authors, we get a neat little idea, start to run with it, and then fizzle out when we can't think of anything else. It is certainly how I (used) to work.
In 2010, I finished my master's degree and settled in to being a full-time mom to my one-year-old son. I went from constantly being busy to having a lot of free time on my hands. Some full time moms use the down time when their children are napping to pursue their own interests. I had a hard time realizing that I didn't have any interests now that school was over. I had a lot of time to read, but no money at all for new books. So I was bored a lot.
And then I got pregnant again, which for me means being very sick. If Sam didn't need me, I was asleep so that I didn't throw up. Ryan had decided to try going to school again, so he was very busy, but Sam and I were coping.
In October, I had a miscarriage. So I wasn't sick, I had my free time back... and nothing to do with that time except think about how sad I was. And then a friend reminded me about NaNoWriMo, on the day before it was supposed to begin. In desperation for something to write about, I found some old notes for a story I had been kicking around, and ran with it. All the way to 50,000 words.
I found that where other people liked to be crafty and creative with their hands, I could do the same with a keyboard. The power that I got from that creative outlet was surprising, and intoxicating. And now I can't stop! Sometimes, I have to think really hard to come up with an idea for a story. Even if it's just a tiny shadow of an idea, I write it down, and I rely on NaNoWriMo to help me flesh it out and turn it into something real.