Story Minds all Start Somewhere

By the time I was old enough to have pet rabbits, a power-hungry rabbit with malocclusion (misaligned teeth that don’t stop growing) took over the world and sent people on a run for their lives. In college, I made an animation out of it just for fun. Trust me, it was bad.

Our rabbits were sometimes proof that one such occurrence hid just over the horizon. They had pen pals, you see, and thus co-conspirators. You should have seen the crap they talked about us! Ungrateful beasts.

One of them even growled at us as we walked by, and took care to show us just how far her bite could reach, but we kept her because she was show quality.

Her neighbor, Ida, did not care for such ambitions. She lay like a lump on a log—or in our arms—or on the couch—or laced in a bonnet, happy as can be. I imagine she would be the comic companion in the quest for independence.

But what about some the famous authors? What did they first write?

Margaret Atwood

She began to write plays and poems at age six.

Age six! I was still discovering fish sticks and relishing in extravagant grape juice at age six!

Steven King

He started by copying comics and seeing his mother’s disappointment when she found out they were copies. On to bigger and better…comics of his own such as I Was a Teenage Grave Robber in 1965.

JR Tolkien

He made a few of his own complete languages in his teen years and knew several real languages as well.

I tried a secret language once with my sister. We wanted to be like Harriet the Spy. It never really took off.

Jane Austen

She wrote stories and plays and poems from at least age eleven on, probably performing a few plays with her family. Her first works from between 1787 and 1793 were compiled into a novel she called Juvenilia. She titled them Volume the First, Volume the Second and Volume the Third. According to scholar Richard Jenkyns, the works are “boisterous” and “anarchic.”

John Steinback

He locked himself in his room at age 14 and began his writing career over poems and stories. As with most writers, it took some years to get going. His work is influenced by the Salinas Valley, which is fairly close to me. I’d like to read Grapes of Wrath again with an adult mind that can pay attention.

So what about you? What did you first write?

Every writer and author started somewhere. Even if you are working on your first work right now, I’d like to know!

Who Can Compliment Authors’ Babies on Amazon

Such an angry baby

Nothing hurts more or feels better than reviews on your written work. But it seems hard to get reviews when authors are just starting out.

Let’s say you go into a grocery store with your baby and:

Your babysitter happens to be shopping as well. She looks over and coos “my, chubby cheeks is looking happy today! So cute!”

An employee glares up from stocking veggies and says “you haven’t spent enough money here to compliment babies.”

A woman compliments your baby from across the store. She hasn’t even seen the child. The manager asks her to leave.

Your spouse walks in, winks, and says “hey, nice baby.”

The managers and employees all gather around and point at your spouse. “No family or friends can compliment babies!”

As your spouse looks on in dismay, a person pushing a cart piled high with fish sticks swerves around the corner, slams into your cart, and makes the baby cry. “Ugly baby. Shouldn’t have been born,” the cart owner growls.

Nobody reacts at first. Then, one by one, everyone at the scene starts to chant “you have to buy the baby before you can review it!”

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Writer Pages: Do it right the first time

confusing signs

Hi friends!

It’s time. I am taking the plunge! This subdomain on WordPress.com will soon be redirected to my own domain. But whyyyyy?

I don’t like ads, and I already pay for my host site, so why not go for a more professional look.

It’s painful, I know. But followers have multiplied faster than I thought they would, and I don’t want to risk losing them by making this move too late in the game. I intend to migrate everyone with the transfer so nothing should be done on your part.

Please let me know if you receive errors. It should be about 24 hours before everything propagates, so I’m trying to be patient! Hopefully you get to see this post!

Here is why I titled this post the way I did

Moving everything, paying for the redirect from WordPress.com, tracking down broken links, navigating SEO damaging 502 errors, all these things are a pain in the butt. If you start an author page, do something more like this:

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The Why Test

confusing sign“No, we can’t go to the park.”

“But why?”

“Because I said so.”

That never worked, did it? It doesn’t work on readers either.

If our stories can’t pass the Why Test, there is a motivation problem. The problem may be even deeper than why we allow something to happen, or a character to act a certain way. Does the part/person in question have a justified existence?

Let’s try it on my first draft of Fodder for Pigs.

I had to rip this information out of my head, and my readers probably would have done the same if they could reach me. Watch as it gets better in increments:

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Character Profiles

My husband used to stop me in the middle of my workday story to ask who somebody was.

I’d groan, “Candace. I just said her name.”

“No, like who is she to you? She’s just a name right now.”

Well darn. Can I just get that voice in my head when writing stories too?

See, characters are more than names. They are more than blue eyes, jet black hair, or freckles. Characters have eyes that roll, droop, dart, fixate. They have raven hair about as disheveled from lack of sleep as the actual bird after fighting a cat. Their freckles dance about their cheeks and come alive when they grin.

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Pantser vs. Plotter

World_France_Garden_maze_022035_29In the beginning, there were Pantsers and Plotters. One group roamed the earth looking for meaning while the other group stayed put and told the earth what to do. Both groups had a very compelling idea of the earth when they were through, and both lived peacefully in their separate camps. Occasionally a few members would break off and camp in between the two, or cross over completely, but nobody took notice.

If the earth represents characters and plots, what group do you suppose you belong in? Here are two extremes. I bet most people fall in the middle:

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10 Observations on Beta Reading

Open notebook

It’s your baby, and you’re letting somebody else tell you what they like and don’t like about it. Who does that to their children? The same people who know they must “kill your darlings”. Thank you Stephen King for telling us how it is. For many, beta readers are a must. For some, they are a waste of time. You get to decide!

I wish I had known a thing or two about betas when I first started this adventure. A quick internet search told me that betas read manuscripts and gave feedback. Well, that sounded fantastic! What I didn’t know was that beta readers are generally reserved for polished manuscripts. Alpha Readers are for that first read. Critique partners are for bouncing ideas off of and discussing your work. These definitions vary greatly, but if you want to get technical, I asked for the wrong thing at the wrong time. Yeah, I’d polished my manuscript. But I hadn’t actually done the restructuring a first draft needs in order to be anything but a first draft as far as plot goes. Furthermore, I found out how little I knew about self-edits.

Thankfully, two of my five beta readers were excellent critique partners, and they became great writer friends. They even put up with and participated in my awkward, sleep-deprived Facebook messages and accidental video calls. *Note to self: SLEEP IS GOOD. Take care of yourself.* Mind you, I’ve never done a video call before and would probably freak out if it happened for real. As it was, I frantically pushed all the wrong buttons trying to hang up.

Some things I learned about the process of matching up with people to read or trade:

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First Post!

I’m working on my first full-length novel, and I thought that by now I should have an author blog. If not for fans later on, this is for me to go back and reference some helpful advice I picked up along the way. It’s been a year, so I can’t go back to the beginning per se, but I will do my best.

I’ll be dropping tidbits I learn about craft, grammar, software, plot lines, etc. Whatever I want to keep around or think others may like, it’s going here. Of course, maybe a line or two from my writing will appear as well.