Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I'm still collecting votes about my upcoming 202 followers contest. Once you fill out the widget at the top of the page and click "VOTE," it should give you poll results as a slide show after a 5-10 second delay. If you're having trouble using the thing (this might be a PC vs. Mac issue), you can also fill out the widget HERE (or so say the fine widget-creating folks at GlowDay).

I thought it might be helpful to clarify some of the possible answers also, since the widget limited the number of characters I could use.

Here's some clarification on question 3, "How should I select winners?"

1. Random drawing of followers
You do nothing. New followers each have one entry, existing followers have two.

2. Draw based on entries
You get extra chances to win by tweeting and linking on your blog.

3. Writing contest
You write something, I judge it. If this appeals, you can tell me more of what you'd like to submit in question 4.

4. Both 1 and 3
A two-part contest with multiple prizes, like I did with the Eleventy-one Contest. There'd be a random drawing based on luck, writing component based on skill.

5. Both 2 and 3
Again, a two-part contest with multiple prizes. Part one would be a drawing of the luckiest horn-tooter, part two, the most skilled writer.

Hope that makes sense!

Do you have other questions about this, or about grammar/usage? I'd love to do more "Editor-on-Call" posts, so don't be shy!
Tuesday, August 31, 2010 Laurel Garver
I'm still collecting votes about my upcoming 202 followers contest. Once you fill out the widget at the top of the page and click "VOTE," it should give you poll results as a slide show after a 5-10 second delay. If you're having trouble using the thing (this might be a PC vs. Mac issue), you can also fill out the widget HERE (or so say the fine widget-creating folks at GlowDay).

I thought it might be helpful to clarify some of the possible answers also, since the widget limited the number of characters I could use.

Here's some clarification on question 3, "How should I select winners?"

1. Random drawing of followers
You do nothing. New followers each have one entry, existing followers have two.

2. Draw based on entries
You get extra chances to win by tweeting and linking on your blog.

3. Writing contest
You write something, I judge it. If this appeals, you can tell me more of what you'd like to submit in question 4.

4. Both 1 and 3
A two-part contest with multiple prizes, like I did with the Eleventy-one Contest. There'd be a random drawing based on luck, writing component based on skill.

5. Both 2 and 3
Again, a two-part contest with multiple prizes. Part one would be a drawing of the luckiest horn-tooter, part two, the most skilled writer.

Hope that makes sense!

Do you have other questions about this, or about grammar/usage? I'd love to do more "Editor-on-Call" posts, so don't be shy!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Well, friends, I've reached another blog milestone--202 followers. Those who've been following a while know of my geeky love of symmetry, as evidenced in my Eleventy-one followers contest and the Whoops! Blogfest held on 2/22.

My last contest had both a luck component (random drawing) and a skill component (writing contest), but no horn-tooting component (points for tweeting and blog sidebars and the like). Would I have 600 followers by now if I'd done that back in March? No idea. I've never attempted horn-tooting. I just do my thing here and hope it's useful to someone.

I'm feeling a little conflicted about how to run this celebration, so I thought I'd democratize and let you all tell me what you'd like. I'll be collecting responses to the questionnaire in the widget above until Friday midnight eastern time.

Tell me about your experiences with blog contests--hosting and participating. What do you love? What do you hate?
Monday, August 30, 2010 Laurel Garver
Well, friends, I've reached another blog milestone--202 followers. Those who've been following a while know of my geeky love of symmetry, as evidenced in my Eleventy-one followers contest and the Whoops! Blogfest held on 2/22.

My last contest had both a luck component (random drawing) and a skill component (writing contest), but no horn-tooting component (points for tweeting and blog sidebars and the like). Would I have 600 followers by now if I'd done that back in March? No idea. I've never attempted horn-tooting. I just do my thing here and hope it's useful to someone.

I'm feeling a little conflicted about how to run this celebration, so I thought I'd democratize and let you all tell me what you'd like. I'll be collecting responses to the questionnaire in the widget above until Friday midnight eastern time.

Tell me about your experiences with blog contests--hosting and participating. What do you love? What do you hate?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Putting ourselves out there to be evaluated by others--whether it's for critique partners or blog readers or agents and editors or the reading public--will involve risk every time. We may get all negative feedback, all positive or a mixed bag. Any of these scenarios has the power to eviscerate our productivity, though. In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield offers this wisdom for keeping forward movement and using criticism well:

The professional loves her work. She is invested in it wholeheartedly. But she does not forget that the work is not her. Her artistic self contains many works and many performances. Already the next will be better, and the one after better still.
The professional self-validates. She is tough-minded. In the face of indifference or adulation, she assesses her stuff coldly and objectively. Where it fell short, she'll improve it. Where it triumphed, she'll make it better still. She'll work harder. She'll be back tomorrow. (88)

Pressfield goes on to talk about the proper place of criticism and our work. We use it to change and grow, but don't let it feed our inner insecurities. Because that inner force that Pressfield calls "Resistance" wants more than anything for us to quit this whole writing business altogether.

I especially like the hope Pressfield offers here about our creative selves--that we're capable of many projects, thus success or failure on the work du jour should never have the power to make or break us. The amazing future-you will come into being as long as you keep showing up and working.

Have you struggled with crushing doubt in the face of criticism? What helped you pick up and move on?

If you could meet your future self, what would you ask her? What wisdom do you hope she'll have for you?

=====

In other news, I'll be posting news about a 202 followers celebration next week. Stay tuned!
Friday, August 27, 2010 Laurel Garver
Putting ourselves out there to be evaluated by others--whether it's for critique partners or blog readers or agents and editors or the reading public--will involve risk every time. We may get all negative feedback, all positive or a mixed bag. Any of these scenarios has the power to eviscerate our productivity, though. In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield offers this wisdom for keeping forward movement and using criticism well:

The professional loves her work. She is invested in it wholeheartedly. But she does not forget that the work is not her. Her artistic self contains many works and many performances. Already the next will be better, and the one after better still.
The professional self-validates. She is tough-minded. In the face of indifference or adulation, she assesses her stuff coldly and objectively. Where it fell short, she'll improve it. Where it triumphed, she'll make it better still. She'll work harder. She'll be back tomorrow. (88)

Pressfield goes on to talk about the proper place of criticism and our work. We use it to change and grow, but don't let it feed our inner insecurities. Because that inner force that Pressfield calls "Resistance" wants more than anything for us to quit this whole writing business altogether.

I especially like the hope Pressfield offers here about our creative selves--that we're capable of many projects, thus success or failure on the work du jour should never have the power to make or break us. The amazing future-you will come into being as long as you keep showing up and working.

Have you struggled with crushing doubt in the face of criticism? What helped you pick up and move on?

If you could meet your future self, what would you ask her? What wisdom do you hope she'll have for you?

=====

In other news, I'll be posting news about a 202 followers celebration next week. Stay tuned!

Monday, August 23, 2010

...was not my bachelor's program in English or my master's in journalism, though they certainly helped. According to Steven Pressfield in The War of Art, my best preparation for a writing career was having a string of really crappy jobs to put myself through school. Why? It's essential to learn to do what it takes to get to a larger goal. Work ethic and professional spirit are learned in the trenches. So when I'm tempted to potter around instead of write, I have to apply the same mindset that kept me diligently on the job selling spark plugs to huge, tattooed truck drivers. Wearing an enormous Strawberry Shortcake foam-head costume around a county fair and talking in a helium voice to mobs of sticky three-year-olds. Scraping nine-month-thick layers of soap scum off of dorm tubs and disinfecting urinals. Vacuuming an acre of cafeteria carpet for two hours a day, seven days a week.

Pressfield says that accepting and even expecting misery as part of one's work experience is what separates the pro from the amateur. A pro shows up for the job day after day, even when it's boring, back-aching, humiliating and gross. She makes work a priority even though she has hayfever and needs to cram for a history exam and ought to visit her lonely grandpa. She does the difficult tasks, perhaps cranking her music, or joking and commiserating with coworkers, or dreaming of Bermuda. But the job, for all its misery, is a means to an end. She pushes through for the payoff--a paycheck.

In writing, one pushes through to a gripping story and a clean, error-free manuscript. Getting there may entail misery--insomnia and loneliness and boring Google searches and humiliating critique sessions.

Most of us start out writing for fun and as a form of play, and that's fine for one's early stages of development. But writing for publication requires taking things to the next level, Pressfield argues. Moving from amateur to pro. And the best training for that is developing a work ethic that can persevere through hardship and humiliation. For Pressfield, it was a stint in the Marines. I'd personally rather not handle firearms, thanks. But there are plenty of other unglamorous jobs that can provide the same mental and emotional training.

Have you worked crappy jobs? How have they shaped you?
Monday, August 23, 2010 Laurel Garver
...was not my bachelor's program in English or my master's in journalism, though they certainly helped. According to Steven Pressfield in The War of Art, my best preparation for a writing career was having a string of really crappy jobs to put myself through school. Why? It's essential to learn to do what it takes to get to a larger goal. Work ethic and professional spirit are learned in the trenches. So when I'm tempted to potter around instead of write, I have to apply the same mindset that kept me diligently on the job selling spark plugs to huge, tattooed truck drivers. Wearing an enormous Strawberry Shortcake foam-head costume around a county fair and talking in a helium voice to mobs of sticky three-year-olds. Scraping nine-month-thick layers of soap scum off of dorm tubs and disinfecting urinals. Vacuuming an acre of cafeteria carpet for two hours a day, seven days a week.

Pressfield says that accepting and even expecting misery as part of one's work experience is what separates the pro from the amateur. A pro shows up for the job day after day, even when it's boring, back-aching, humiliating and gross. She makes work a priority even though she has hayfever and needs to cram for a history exam and ought to visit her lonely grandpa. She does the difficult tasks, perhaps cranking her music, or joking and commiserating with coworkers, or dreaming of Bermuda. But the job, for all its misery, is a means to an end. She pushes through for the payoff--a paycheck.

In writing, one pushes through to a gripping story and a clean, error-free manuscript. Getting there may entail misery--insomnia and loneliness and boring Google searches and humiliating critique sessions.

Most of us start out writing for fun and as a form of play, and that's fine for one's early stages of development. But writing for publication requires taking things to the next level, Pressfield argues. Moving from amateur to pro. And the best training for that is developing a work ethic that can persevere through hardship and humiliation. For Pressfield, it was a stint in the Marines. I'd personally rather not handle firearms, thanks. But there are plenty of other unglamorous jobs that can provide the same mental and emotional training.

Have you worked crappy jobs? How have they shaped you?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

...is Resistance, according to Steven Pressfield's The War of Art. What is Resistance? It's your inner hard place, my friend. The seat of fear and of just keeping it safe. This part of you avoids doing the hard thing that has the power to change the world because...get this...succeeding would mean personal transformation, which involves death and rebirth as someone else, monstrous and wonderful. Every single day of writing life is a battle with this drive inside you. Pressfield argues that the writing itself isn't half as hard as actually keeping your butt in the chair and working, day after day, no matter what.

Does this all sounding frighteningly familiar as you sit here reading my blog instead of writing?? Uh huh, I thought so. Pressfield's insights are so dead-on, I very well may be blogging them for weeks. So stay tuned for further installments.

But now, I'm going to type up what I wrote on the train this AM. Because my inner coward isn't going to win. Not today.

Tell me about your battles with your inner coward. What does she say to you? How do you deal with her?
Thursday, August 19, 2010 Laurel Garver
...is Resistance, according to Steven Pressfield's The War of Art. What is Resistance? It's your inner hard place, my friend. The seat of fear and of just keeping it safe. This part of you avoids doing the hard thing that has the power to change the world because...get this...succeeding would mean personal transformation, which involves death and rebirth as someone else, monstrous and wonderful. Every single day of writing life is a battle with this drive inside you. Pressfield argues that the writing itself isn't half as hard as actually keeping your butt in the chair and working, day after day, no matter what.

Does this all sounding frighteningly familiar as you sit here reading my blog instead of writing?? Uh huh, I thought so. Pressfield's insights are so dead-on, I very well may be blogging them for weeks. So stay tuned for further installments.

But now, I'm going to type up what I wrote on the train this AM. Because my inner coward isn't going to win. Not today.

Tell me about your battles with your inner coward. What does she say to you? How do you deal with her?

Monday, August 16, 2010

My daughter is home sick today instead of having an outing with her grandparents. I found myself wanting to make her tea, even though she doesn't like it, because it's what my mother did whenever we caught a cold.

Sickness or injury may not be a factor in your work, but I'm realizing it appears frequently in mine. I suspect that "coping with human frailty" might become a theme I continue working through my whole career.

Here are some questions I think through when approaching a character's sickness or injury:

~Is this character a "good patient" or a "bad" one?

~How is his "badness" manifested? Is he whiny, demanding, violent, non-compliant, in denial, depressed?

~How does the character feel about having physical limitations?

~Who is the usual family caregiver? Why?

~What does caregiving and comfort look like for this family?

How have you approached character sickness or injury? Is there any theme that seems to appear repeatedly in your work?
Monday, August 16, 2010 Laurel Garver
My daughter is home sick today instead of having an outing with her grandparents. I found myself wanting to make her tea, even though she doesn't like it, because it's what my mother did whenever we caught a cold.

Sickness or injury may not be a factor in your work, but I'm realizing it appears frequently in mine. I suspect that "coping with human frailty" might become a theme I continue working through my whole career.

Here are some questions I think through when approaching a character's sickness or injury:

~Is this character a "good patient" or a "bad" one?

~How is his "badness" manifested? Is he whiny, demanding, violent, non-compliant, in denial, depressed?

~How does the character feel about having physical limitations?

~Who is the usual family caregiver? Why?

~What does caregiving and comfort look like for this family?

How have you approached character sickness or injury? Is there any theme that seems to appear repeatedly in your work?

Monday, August 09, 2010

Tomorrow I'm heading to my old stomping grounds for a mid-week getaway, so I'll be posting Monday and Friday this week.

While it will look like "vacation," I'm hoping to do some research while I'm noshing on cotton candy and riding the Merry Mixer at Knoebel's, one of America's last old timey amusement parks. My book in progress occurs largely in north central Pennsylvania, where I grew up. However, I've lived my entire adult life in Philadelphia, so I've forgotten some things, especially the dialect.

For a number of reasons, I never really embraced the local dialect in my rural hometown. My urbane older siblings mocked the "hick speak" whenever they visited. My parents are from Montana and Minnesota and their Western and Mid-Western turns of phrase stuck with me far more than localisms. A few I remember: "warsh" for "wash," "redd up" for "tidy," "crick" for "creek." But the other elements of the dialect I can't quite reconstruct from memory.

Here's what I'll be listening for as I eavesdrop like crazy the next few days:

Regional pronunciations
While I'm no fan of badly tortured spellings to represent dialect, a few well-placed phonetic misspellings can be effective. Here in Philly, the locals walk "down the shtreet," for example. (Okay, to my ears, it sounds more like "downa shtreet" but that's hard to read.)

Colorful idioms
My dad's westernisms like "in a coon's age" and "if it was a bear, it would've bit ya" speak volumes about the abundant wildlife in his region. Ask someone from New Hampshire and from Idaho to complete this sentence: "this winter has been as cold as ____," you'll get very different answers, usually based on local culture.

Word choice
When I moved to Michigan for grad school, I quickly learned that I'd crossed the great "pop" divide and could no longer expect to get anything but carbonated water if I asked for "soda." There's regional variation for all kinds of terms: supermarket or grocery store? Laundry or wash? Water fountain or drinking fountain or bubbler?

And what foreign words have worked their way into common use? Here on the East coast, Yiddish words including "chutzpa" and "schlepp" are common among urbanites. In Louisiana, French terms slip in frequently.

Word order
How grammatically one strings together sentences is determined partly by education and socio-economic status, and partly by region. You know the "rule" against ending sentences with prepositions? The Mid-Atlantic dialect turns it on its head, adding unnecessary prepositions: "Where are you at?" and "Where is she going to?" In parts of England, questions are often doubled: "Having a good holiday, are you?" or "Shall I Hoover the floor, yes?"

Cadence
Being able to hear and replicate the rhythm of a dialect is perhaps the most difficult skill you need to write convincing characters from a region other than your own. If you're musically inclined or have been trained in writing poetry, you have a bit of an advantage. It still takes a lot of listening to master. Aside from total immersion, it helps to have recordings to revisit and study.

Do any of your characters speak in a dialect that's different from yours? How did you research it? What regional speech variations have you noticed when you travel?
Monday, August 09, 2010 Laurel Garver
Tomorrow I'm heading to my old stomping grounds for a mid-week getaway, so I'll be posting Monday and Friday this week.

While it will look like "vacation," I'm hoping to do some research while I'm noshing on cotton candy and riding the Merry Mixer at Knoebel's, one of America's last old timey amusement parks. My book in progress occurs largely in north central Pennsylvania, where I grew up. However, I've lived my entire adult life in Philadelphia, so I've forgotten some things, especially the dialect.

For a number of reasons, I never really embraced the local dialect in my rural hometown. My urbane older siblings mocked the "hick speak" whenever they visited. My parents are from Montana and Minnesota and their Western and Mid-Western turns of phrase stuck with me far more than localisms. A few I remember: "warsh" for "wash," "redd up" for "tidy," "crick" for "creek." But the other elements of the dialect I can't quite reconstruct from memory.

Here's what I'll be listening for as I eavesdrop like crazy the next few days:

Regional pronunciations
While I'm no fan of badly tortured spellings to represent dialect, a few well-placed phonetic misspellings can be effective. Here in Philly, the locals walk "down the shtreet," for example. (Okay, to my ears, it sounds more like "downa shtreet" but that's hard to read.)

Colorful idioms
My dad's westernisms like "in a coon's age" and "if it was a bear, it would've bit ya" speak volumes about the abundant wildlife in his region. Ask someone from New Hampshire and from Idaho to complete this sentence: "this winter has been as cold as ____," you'll get very different answers, usually based on local culture.

Word choice
When I moved to Michigan for grad school, I quickly learned that I'd crossed the great "pop" divide and could no longer expect to get anything but carbonated water if I asked for "soda." There's regional variation for all kinds of terms: supermarket or grocery store? Laundry or wash? Water fountain or drinking fountain or bubbler?

And what foreign words have worked their way into common use? Here on the East coast, Yiddish words including "chutzpa" and "schlepp" are common among urbanites. In Louisiana, French terms slip in frequently.

Word order
How grammatically one strings together sentences is determined partly by education and socio-economic status, and partly by region. You know the "rule" against ending sentences with prepositions? The Mid-Atlantic dialect turns it on its head, adding unnecessary prepositions: "Where are you at?" and "Where is she going to?" In parts of England, questions are often doubled: "Having a good holiday, are you?" or "Shall I Hoover the floor, yes?"

Cadence
Being able to hear and replicate the rhythm of a dialect is perhaps the most difficult skill you need to write convincing characters from a region other than your own. If you're musically inclined or have been trained in writing poetry, you have a bit of an advantage. It still takes a lot of listening to master. Aside from total immersion, it helps to have recordings to revisit and study.

Do any of your characters speak in a dialect that's different from yours? How did you research it? What regional speech variations have you noticed when you travel?

Thursday, August 05, 2010

High school kids don't drive in New York City. It's illegal. This has sent me on a big research dig for my book in progress, because my characters won't be IN the city for this particular summer. One will be working as a camp counselor, and the other staying with a grandparent. In rural Pennsylvania. Where there aren't subways and buses and taxis everywhere.

In order for the nearly-18-year-old to be driving, I'd need him to have already gone through the whole learner's permit and driver's ed hoops in Pennsylvania. How sketchy would it be for him to have done this the previous summer, using his family's vacation home as his Pennsylvania address?

Can my 17-year-old get a learner's permit using her grandfather's address? I think it might be pretty fun to make her take driving lessons with the crotchety old guy and be stuck schlepping him around all summer.

Do I have a legal leg to stand on, using part-time residency to help my fictional kids get wheels?

Who taught you to drive? How old were you?
~image from Colorado Association of School Resource Officers~
Thursday, August 05, 2010 Laurel Garver
High school kids don't drive in New York City. It's illegal. This has sent me on a big research dig for my book in progress, because my characters won't be IN the city for this particular summer. One will be working as a camp counselor, and the other staying with a grandparent. In rural Pennsylvania. Where there aren't subways and buses and taxis everywhere.

In order for the nearly-18-year-old to be driving, I'd need him to have already gone through the whole learner's permit and driver's ed hoops in Pennsylvania. How sketchy would it be for him to have done this the previous summer, using his family's vacation home as his Pennsylvania address?

Can my 17-year-old get a learner's permit using her grandfather's address? I think it might be pretty fun to make her take driving lessons with the crotchety old guy and be stuck schlepping him around all summer.

Do I have a legal leg to stand on, using part-time residency to help my fictional kids get wheels?

Who taught you to drive? How old were you?
~image from Colorado Association of School Resource Officers~

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Creating a fully realized cast of characters is for me one of the most fun aspects of writing. Part of what makes fictional characters seem real is their webs of relationships--including relatives.

Unless your main character is adopted, she will share certain characteristics with other members of the family. And this is where some of the fun comes in. As Bill Cosby joked in a comedy sketch, having children is like conducting a chemistry experiment--you mix a little of each parent and see what you get. Some kids are strongly like one parent, while others are an amalgam.

Now imagine working backwards. You have a main character. What do his parents look like? Is he a younger version of his dad? A male version of his mother? Or have the sets of genes combined in an interesting way? The genetic combo is, of course, the most fun to extrapolate ancestors for.

One thing to keep in mind when dreaming up your character's genetic heritage: you need a grasp of heredity basics (remember high school bio?). Certain traits are dominant and will most frequently reappear in offspring. Others are recessive and won't appear at all unless someone in the line has the trait. Tone deafness, for example, is a dominant trait. Your piano prodigy character must have ancestors who can carry a tune (a recessive trait).

Here's a good refresher on the basic science of heredity.
And here's a list of traits (and also here) known to be dominant and recessive.

How might heredity shape your character building? Have any characters you might alter to make your protagonist more plausible?
Tuesday, August 03, 2010 Laurel Garver
Creating a fully realized cast of characters is for me one of the most fun aspects of writing. Part of what makes fictional characters seem real is their webs of relationships--including relatives.

Unless your main character is adopted, she will share certain characteristics with other members of the family. And this is where some of the fun comes in. As Bill Cosby joked in a comedy sketch, having children is like conducting a chemistry experiment--you mix a little of each parent and see what you get. Some kids are strongly like one parent, while others are an amalgam.

Now imagine working backwards. You have a main character. What do his parents look like? Is he a younger version of his dad? A male version of his mother? Or have the sets of genes combined in an interesting way? The genetic combo is, of course, the most fun to extrapolate ancestors for.

One thing to keep in mind when dreaming up your character's genetic heritage: you need a grasp of heredity basics (remember high school bio?). Certain traits are dominant and will most frequently reappear in offspring. Others are recessive and won't appear at all unless someone in the line has the trait. Tone deafness, for example, is a dominant trait. Your piano prodigy character must have ancestors who can carry a tune (a recessive trait).

Here's a good refresher on the basic science of heredity.
And here's a list of traits (and also here) known to be dominant and recessive.

How might heredity shape your character building? Have any characters you might alter to make your protagonist more plausible?