Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Thanks to Michael DiGesu at In Time... for hosting today's Harry Potter blogfest.

The concept? Select two Hogwarts students you'd choose to be your best friends and describe what kind of trio you would be. Fun, right? Go swing by Michael's blog HERE to join the fun and enjoy other participants' offerings.

-----

If I were a Hogwarts student, I would be in Ravenclaw and share a dorm room with Luna Lovegood. Being creative literary types, we would dream of starting up our own publication--an underground school newspaper! Of course, we'd need help with the sleuthing and evidence gathering, so our trio would be rounded out by Colin Creevy, photographer extaordinaire.

Luna, Colin and I would be the sneakiest, in-the-know kids at Hogwarts. We'd get to the bottom of why Filch is so attached to Mrs. Norris (obviously a transfiguration charm gone horribly wrong, leaving his young widow paramour permanently feline). We'd uncover all the best secret tryst spots on campus. We'd blow that whole Chamber of Secrets wide open!

With Colin's photos and stories; Luna's creative writing and production experience; and my writing, editing and layout know-how, we'd be on our way to wizarding journalistic fame, right under the noses of our unsuspecting professors and peers. We'd call our publication The Thestral Gazette, with the tagline "Hidden Hogwarts revealed by those in the know."

Anyone want to join us as a secret reporter?
Wednesday, March 30, 2011 Laurel Garver
Thanks to Michael DiGesu at In Time... for hosting today's Harry Potter blogfest.

The concept? Select two Hogwarts students you'd choose to be your best friends and describe what kind of trio you would be. Fun, right? Go swing by Michael's blog HERE to join the fun and enjoy other participants' offerings.

-----

If I were a Hogwarts student, I would be in Ravenclaw and share a dorm room with Luna Lovegood. Being creative literary types, we would dream of starting up our own publication--an underground school newspaper! Of course, we'd need help with the sleuthing and evidence gathering, so our trio would be rounded out by Colin Creevy, photographer extaordinaire.

Luna, Colin and I would be the sneakiest, in-the-know kids at Hogwarts. We'd get to the bottom of why Filch is so attached to Mrs. Norris (obviously a transfiguration charm gone horribly wrong, leaving his young widow paramour permanently feline). We'd uncover all the best secret tryst spots on campus. We'd blow that whole Chamber of Secrets wide open!

With Colin's photos and stories; Luna's creative writing and production experience; and my writing, editing and layout know-how, we'd be on our way to wizarding journalistic fame, right under the noses of our unsuspecting professors and peers. We'd call our publication The Thestral Gazette, with the tagline "Hidden Hogwarts revealed by those in the know."

Anyone want to join us as a secret reporter?

Monday, March 28, 2011

This week, I'll be straying from my usual Tuesday, Thursday, Friday routine to participate in some blogfests.

Would you like to join me? Here are the details (and my schedule):

Wednesday, March 30
Harry Potter Blogfest:
Who would be your mates?

Hosted my Michael DiGesu at In Time...

Click HERE for the sign-up widget.

Post a maximum of 350 words based on this prompt: If you were a student at Hogwarts, who would you choose for your two best friends? Describe what kind of trio you would be.


Saturday, April 2
Memory Lane Blogfest

Hosted by Vicki Rocho at Rambles and Randomness

Click HERE for the sign-up widget

Vicki has posted a set of six memory-related questions for you to answer. Easy-peasy!


Blogfests are a great way to get to know people and stretch your creativity.

Have you joined any blogfests? What did you enjoy most? If not, what's holding you back?
Monday, March 28, 2011 Laurel Garver
This week, I'll be straying from my usual Tuesday, Thursday, Friday routine to participate in some blogfests.

Would you like to join me? Here are the details (and my schedule):

Wednesday, March 30
Harry Potter Blogfest:
Who would be your mates?

Hosted my Michael DiGesu at In Time...

Click HERE for the sign-up widget.

Post a maximum of 350 words based on this prompt: If you were a student at Hogwarts, who would you choose for your two best friends? Describe what kind of trio you would be.


Saturday, April 2
Memory Lane Blogfest

Hosted by Vicki Rocho at Rambles and Randomness

Click HERE for the sign-up widget

Vicki has posted a set of six memory-related questions for you to answer. Easy-peasy!


Blogfests are a great way to get to know people and stretch your creativity.

Have you joined any blogfests? What did you enjoy most? If not, what's holding you back?

Friday, March 25, 2011

I think we're all aware of our dark-side tendency to envy. The comparison game can be insidious and soul-killing. One of the most helpful pieces of advice on that front came from your elementary school teacher: "keep your eyes on your own paper."

Each of us has our own journey, and our chosen route will vary greatly depending on where we want to go. Your vision of success shapes the kind of projects you'll tackle, the sacrifices you'll make, your time priorities and your interactions with other creative people.

So how do you define success? Survey time, friends!

UPDATE Clarification: Click the response that best defines "I will know I am a success when I am ___" or, "I idolize and wish I could be like 'successful' authors who are ____."



Having trouble with the widget? Click this: To me, a successful writer is : modpoll.com

How does your vision of success shape how you work now?
Friday, March 25, 2011 Laurel Garver
I think we're all aware of our dark-side tendency to envy. The comparison game can be insidious and soul-killing. One of the most helpful pieces of advice on that front came from your elementary school teacher: "keep your eyes on your own paper."

Each of us has our own journey, and our chosen route will vary greatly depending on where we want to go. Your vision of success shapes the kind of projects you'll tackle, the sacrifices you'll make, your time priorities and your interactions with other creative people.

So how do you define success? Survey time, friends!

UPDATE Clarification: Click the response that best defines "I will know I am a success when I am ___" or, "I idolize and wish I could be like 'successful' authors who are ____."



Having trouble with the widget? Click this: To me, a successful writer is : modpoll.com

How does your vision of success shape how you work now?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

You've heard it over and over--readers, agents and editors love "page turners." So you work hard creating characters that readers will invest in and worry about, engage them in inner and outer conflicts, and lead them through obstacles and opposition. You have the groundwork laid. Now what?

Look at how you exit scenes and chapters. If your scene and chapter endings consistently come to a resolution, you aren't getting the maximum tension potential. First look for ways to introduce the unexpected (setbacks, positive or negative reversals), anticipation (goals, foreshadowing) or uncertainty at scene endings.

Then, consider using the film maker's friend, the jump cut. Interrupt the tense moment. Cut the scene in the middle, at a point where the outcome is unclear. In the next scene, come back post interruption, pick up again later in the time line, or summarize what happened. With chapter breaks, you simply begin the next chapter where you left off.

Splitting scenes over chapter breaks is by far the easiest technique. You'll need to add some scene grounding in the new chapter, but otherwise you likely won't need to do much more to build in suspense.

Keep in mind that any technique, if overdone, will feel gimmicky to the reader. Be sure that you don't split scenes at the end of every single chapter. For variety, use the suspenseful scene-end technique instead, for, say, at least 1/4 of your chapters.

How might better exits from scenes and chapters improve the page-turning tension in your work? What favorite books our authors demonstrate the technique best for you?
Thursday, March 24, 2011 Laurel Garver
You've heard it over and over--readers, agents and editors love "page turners." So you work hard creating characters that readers will invest in and worry about, engage them in inner and outer conflicts, and lead them through obstacles and opposition. You have the groundwork laid. Now what?

Look at how you exit scenes and chapters. If your scene and chapter endings consistently come to a resolution, you aren't getting the maximum tension potential. First look for ways to introduce the unexpected (setbacks, positive or negative reversals), anticipation (goals, foreshadowing) or uncertainty at scene endings.

Then, consider using the film maker's friend, the jump cut. Interrupt the tense moment. Cut the scene in the middle, at a point where the outcome is unclear. In the next scene, come back post interruption, pick up again later in the time line, or summarize what happened. With chapter breaks, you simply begin the next chapter where you left off.

Splitting scenes over chapter breaks is by far the easiest technique. You'll need to add some scene grounding in the new chapter, but otherwise you likely won't need to do much more to build in suspense.

Keep in mind that any technique, if overdone, will feel gimmicky to the reader. Be sure that you don't split scenes at the end of every single chapter. For variety, use the suspenseful scene-end technique instead, for, say, at least 1/4 of your chapters.

How might better exits from scenes and chapters improve the page-turning tension in your work? What favorite books our authors demonstrate the technique best for you?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Many approach revision as if it were the literary equivalent of housecleaning. You sweep away redundancies, throw out excess adverbs and dialogue tags, donate some unneeded subplots to charity, polish lackluster sentences, and voila, a shiny manuscript.

Agents and editors are looking for more than tidiness. They want a story that grabs them by the throat and won't let go. A story that sings.

It's easy to let the fear of making mistakes put your creative gift into a straight jacket, especially when revising. One of the ways to unleash the raw energy your manuscript needs is to take a lesson from the jazz world--improvisation. Once you've done the work of smoothing out the plot--equivalent to a musician laying out the key, tempo, and where important shifts will happen--it's time to go back and make lackluster sections sing. In Manuscript Makeover, Elizabeth Lyon calls this "riff-writing."

Riff-writing is a very focused kind of freewriting. Lyon says it "helps you expand your imagination around a particular problem or need--to lengthen a section, to add images, or to develop more characterization, for instance" (10).

Here's how to approach riffing:

1. Find a section (sentence, paragraph, scene) that feels thin, underdeveloped or emotionally flat.

2. Find a point of entry to explore further--the setting, an object, a character's feelings or memory or attitude.

3. Start scribbling--start at your entry point and follow the thoughts and feelings wherever they lead. As with rough drafting, don't edit or censor yourself. Let any and every idea flow. Push past your comfort level and really explore every dark cave, every windy mountaintop. Remember that in improvisation, "there are no wrong notes, you work them and they become part of the riff," Lyon says, quoting a musician friend (11).

4. Let the riff "cool off" while you work on other sections.

5. Come back and edit down the riff material that works best in your story. Set aside bits that might be useful elsewhere for expanding other sections of the story.

Lyon notes that in her twenty years as an independent editor, she has rarely seen consistently overwritten fiction. It's far more likely that drafts are too thin, a shell of what they need to be. Revision is where you can pump in more life and fully develop your characters, plot and voice.

Image: http://www.clker.com/

Quoted material from: Lyon, Elizabeth. Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore. New York: Penguin, 2008.

What sections of your story could benefit from riff-writing? How might you move from tidy draft to fully developed story?
Tuesday, March 22, 2011 Laurel Garver

Many approach revision as if it were the literary equivalent of housecleaning. You sweep away redundancies, throw out excess adverbs and dialogue tags, donate some unneeded subplots to charity, polish lackluster sentences, and voila, a shiny manuscript.

Agents and editors are looking for more than tidiness. They want a story that grabs them by the throat and won't let go. A story that sings.

It's easy to let the fear of making mistakes put your creative gift into a straight jacket, especially when revising. One of the ways to unleash the raw energy your manuscript needs is to take a lesson from the jazz world--improvisation. Once you've done the work of smoothing out the plot--equivalent to a musician laying out the key, tempo, and where important shifts will happen--it's time to go back and make lackluster sections sing. In Manuscript Makeover, Elizabeth Lyon calls this "riff-writing."

Riff-writing is a very focused kind of freewriting. Lyon says it "helps you expand your imagination around a particular problem or need--to lengthen a section, to add images, or to develop more characterization, for instance" (10).

Here's how to approach riffing:

1. Find a section (sentence, paragraph, scene) that feels thin, underdeveloped or emotionally flat.

2. Find a point of entry to explore further--the setting, an object, a character's feelings or memory or attitude.

3. Start scribbling--start at your entry point and follow the thoughts and feelings wherever they lead. As with rough drafting, don't edit or censor yourself. Let any and every idea flow. Push past your comfort level and really explore every dark cave, every windy mountaintop. Remember that in improvisation, "there are no wrong notes, you work them and they become part of the riff," Lyon says, quoting a musician friend (11).

4. Let the riff "cool off" while you work on other sections.

5. Come back and edit down the riff material that works best in your story. Set aside bits that might be useful elsewhere for expanding other sections of the story.

Lyon notes that in her twenty years as an independent editor, she has rarely seen consistently overwritten fiction. It's far more likely that drafts are too thin, a shell of what they need to be. Revision is where you can pump in more life and fully develop your characters, plot and voice.

Image: http://www.clker.com/

Quoted material from: Lyon, Elizabeth. Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore. New York: Penguin, 2008.

What sections of your story could benefit from riff-writing? How might you move from tidy draft to fully developed story?

Friday, March 18, 2011

If you could hitchhike with a Time Lord aboard the TARDIS, where and when would you choose to go? Would you decide, like Rose Tyler (companion to Doctors #9 and 10), to go back and see a relative you never got to know? Would you choose a far-off space port in a distant future? Would you want to meet a famous person? Your great-great grandchildren? See one of the seven wonders of the ancient world?

Gosh, where would you even start? That's what makes Dr. Who's premise so delicious. The possibilities are endless.

I think one of my first stops would be 1780s Vienna. Having to disguise myself in poofy dress and an enormous wig would be quite a laugh. But most of all, I'd love to have a chance to see Mozart in the flesh. Was he charming or a complete jerk? A fun drunk or a mean one? Did he live lost within his inner musical world, or was he actually a fascinating conversationalist?

How about you? When and where would your first stop be if you could go anywhere in space and time?
Friday, March 18, 2011 Laurel Garver
If you could hitchhike with a Time Lord aboard the TARDIS, where and when would you choose to go? Would you decide, like Rose Tyler (companion to Doctors #9 and 10), to go back and see a relative you never got to know? Would you choose a far-off space port in a distant future? Would you want to meet a famous person? Your great-great grandchildren? See one of the seven wonders of the ancient world?

Gosh, where would you even start? That's what makes Dr. Who's premise so delicious. The possibilities are endless.

I think one of my first stops would be 1780s Vienna. Having to disguise myself in poofy dress and an enormous wig would be quite a laugh. But most of all, I'd love to have a chance to see Mozart in the flesh. Was he charming or a complete jerk? A fun drunk or a mean one? Did he live lost within his inner musical world, or was he actually a fascinating conversationalist?

How about you? When and where would your first stop be if you could go anywhere in space and time?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Just for fun, I thought I'd post an entry from one of my high school journals describing my experiences marching in the St. Patrick's day parade in Dublin, Ireland. I haven't altered the words I wrote at 16, except to remove names. Read on to learn about the magic of magpies, dueling saxophones and how to preform emergency surgery on a parade route.


March 17, 19--

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Up at the crack of dawn, we dressed and made our appearance at breakfast. Corn flakes and juice, followed by bacon, mutton sausage and eggs became an all-too-familiar breakfast. After loading the buses with instruments, everyone donned uniforms and boarded. To Dublin, Ho!

Conn [tour guide] told us of an ancient superstition about magpies, those huge crow-like birds of Europe. If you see a single magpie and wave to it, you’ll have good luck all day. If you see two, you needn’t wave, that is automatically good luck. If you wave to three magpies, you’ll have a girl child, and waving to four will bring a boy. We got caught up in the amusing Irish superstitions, to say the least—we waved at every big, black bird we saw for the rest of the week.

Entering the city, we stopped waving at magpies and started waving at the magnificent people. Everyone waved back, even some of the dignified guarde (police). We really got a kick out of that. With a little coaxing and much waving, we urged a peddler to come over to the bus and sell us Irish flags. Now we had flags to wave, as well as hands.

After lining up, we were in for quite a wait. A group of curious, kilted bagpipers came over to talk to us. They were intrigued by American saxophones, and we were intrigued by their bagpipes. One of the bagpipers challenged John S., and alto saxophonist, to a duel. We called it a draw.

The time finally came to enter the parade route. I swear, Dublin’s entire population must have come out to see us. They were so thick, we had to go single file at times. About 5/6 of the onlookers seemed to be under 18. I almost wished we didn’t have to march the parade—I just wanted to reach out and cuddle some of those adorable children. The little rosy-cheeked girls with ponytails in green ribbon and rosy little naughty boys were just too cute! The crowd seemed to love us too, asking as we passed if we knew their cousins in Pittsburgh or Scranton or Philadelphia.

The cord that suspends my xylophone upper keys [like the black keys on a piano] broke as I played the cadence, while we were squeezed into single file formation. One of the parents, Mr. F., saw my grimace, and thinking I’d hurt myself, rushed to my side. We were now two groups away from the judging stand, and I began to feel panicked. I restrung the bars, trying to keep moving and not swing my xylophone into anyone. Then Mr. F. pulled the cord taut and together we tied it, hopefully well enough to make it through our routine for the judges.

At the moment of truth—the Lord Mayor’s judging stand—we did our “Thriller” routine with utmost flash and precision. The crowd went wild. They’d probably never seen a drum major in a sequined glove moonwalk while color guard and instrumentalists alike did a Jackson-esque dance routine.

====

The entry goes on to describe the sightseeing tour they dragged us on after we’d marched in a parade and were still very jet lagged. We did take first place for our division with that homage to MJ, no irony intended at the time. (I'll bet you can easily guess the decade, if not the year.)

If you have no old journals to dig through, you might enjoy trying your hand at one of the following prompts.

Writing prompts
Write down your most extraordinary holiday or travel memory.
Write a fictional journal entry for a kid traveling abroad for the first time.
Write a story in which a parade goes horribly wrong.
Write a scene in which your character is caught in the crush of a huge crowd.

Have you ever dug out things you wrote in high school? What did you unearth? Are there any memories you wish you'd captured in a journal?
Thursday, March 17, 2011 Laurel Garver
Just for fun, I thought I'd post an entry from one of my high school journals describing my experiences marching in the St. Patrick's day parade in Dublin, Ireland. I haven't altered the words I wrote at 16, except to remove names. Read on to learn about the magic of magpies, dueling saxophones and how to preform emergency surgery on a parade route.


March 17, 19--

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Up at the crack of dawn, we dressed and made our appearance at breakfast. Corn flakes and juice, followed by bacon, mutton sausage and eggs became an all-too-familiar breakfast. After loading the buses with instruments, everyone donned uniforms and boarded. To Dublin, Ho!

Conn [tour guide] told us of an ancient superstition about magpies, those huge crow-like birds of Europe. If you see a single magpie and wave to it, you’ll have good luck all day. If you see two, you needn’t wave, that is automatically good luck. If you wave to three magpies, you’ll have a girl child, and waving to four will bring a boy. We got caught up in the amusing Irish superstitions, to say the least—we waved at every big, black bird we saw for the rest of the week.

Entering the city, we stopped waving at magpies and started waving at the magnificent people. Everyone waved back, even some of the dignified guarde (police). We really got a kick out of that. With a little coaxing and much waving, we urged a peddler to come over to the bus and sell us Irish flags. Now we had flags to wave, as well as hands.

After lining up, we were in for quite a wait. A group of curious, kilted bagpipers came over to talk to us. They were intrigued by American saxophones, and we were intrigued by their bagpipes. One of the bagpipers challenged John S., and alto saxophonist, to a duel. We called it a draw.

The time finally came to enter the parade route. I swear, Dublin’s entire population must have come out to see us. They were so thick, we had to go single file at times. About 5/6 of the onlookers seemed to be under 18. I almost wished we didn’t have to march the parade—I just wanted to reach out and cuddle some of those adorable children. The little rosy-cheeked girls with ponytails in green ribbon and rosy little naughty boys were just too cute! The crowd seemed to love us too, asking as we passed if we knew their cousins in Pittsburgh or Scranton or Philadelphia.

The cord that suspends my xylophone upper keys [like the black keys on a piano] broke as I played the cadence, while we were squeezed into single file formation. One of the parents, Mr. F., saw my grimace, and thinking I’d hurt myself, rushed to my side. We were now two groups away from the judging stand, and I began to feel panicked. I restrung the bars, trying to keep moving and not swing my xylophone into anyone. Then Mr. F. pulled the cord taut and together we tied it, hopefully well enough to make it through our routine for the judges.

At the moment of truth—the Lord Mayor’s judging stand—we did our “Thriller” routine with utmost flash and precision. The crowd went wild. They’d probably never seen a drum major in a sequined glove moonwalk while color guard and instrumentalists alike did a Jackson-esque dance routine.

====

The entry goes on to describe the sightseeing tour they dragged us on after we’d marched in a parade and were still very jet lagged. We did take first place for our division with that homage to MJ, no irony intended at the time. (I'll bet you can easily guess the decade, if not the year.)

If you have no old journals to dig through, you might enjoy trying your hand at one of the following prompts.

Writing prompts
Write down your most extraordinary holiday or travel memory.
Write a fictional journal entry for a kid traveling abroad for the first time.
Write a story in which a parade goes horribly wrong.
Write a scene in which your character is caught in the crush of a huge crowd.

Have you ever dug out things you wrote in high school? What did you unearth? Are there any memories you wish you'd captured in a journal?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

It's tax season and this year I had the distinctly frightening experience of doing a Schedule C for my husband. See, he got paid for writing a chapter in a book published in 2010 by Wiley, The Ultimate Harry Potter and Philosophy: Hogwarts for Muggles. Along with the check came a 1099-MISC and a lot of complication, because book royalties are considered self-employment income. If I manage to sell some of my poetry or short stories this year, I'll be in the same boat next tax season.

So here's my question: Are you taking steps to treat your writing like a business?

If you hope to make a little money from your writing this year--whether from magazines or anthology publishers, or better yet, a book deal, you need to begin keeping good financial records NOW. I'd argue that if you are pouring resources into writing, you SHOULD try to make at least a little income from it. Why? As far as I can tell, the IRS requires that you have some income in order to deduct expenses.** Chances are, you are racking up quite a few. What kind of expenses should you track? Here's a starter list:

Advertising expenses
Business cards, stationery, bookmarks and other items to used promote your writing are deductible--keep receipts! Costs associated with maintaining a website and blog, such as paying for server space and a domain name would fall under this category (design is a "professional service," see below).

Legal and professional services
Keep track of what you pay others to help you improve your writing or run your "writing business"--a professional editor, a proofreader, a web designer, an accountant, etc.

Equipment costs
Big ticket equipment purchases like your computer and printer can be deducted over a period of time using a method the IRS calls "depreciation."

Office expenses
The usual materials writers run through--paper, ink, pens, staples, whiteboards, sticky notes, postage--are deductible business expenses. Keep receipts!

Utilities
If you work from home, a portion of your home utility costs can be deducted; you may need an accountant to calculate this correctly, so keep copies of all utility bills.

Travel
Attending conferences to network and skill-build would be considered business expenses. Travel costs associated with book signings and school visits most definitely are. A portion of your expenses including mileage, tolls, parking, hotel costs, meals can be deducted. Be sure you're keeping good records and documentation of what you spend.

I believe that conference fees can also be deducted, but I haven't found definitive advice on where you report this particular "professional development" expense. An accountant could tell you. Just hang on to your receipt.

Other expenses
Reference and craft books to build your skills are likewise deductible, so keep receipts!

Child care
If you put your kids or a disabled dependent in daycare, after school care or elder care so that you can write, you might be able to take the child and dependent care credit on your 1040. Again, you need to have some income from your writing, or the daycare is really just a convenience to you as far as the IRS is concerned, rather than an expense so that you can work.

A caveat
Remember that you won't get in trouble for not deducting expenses, only for not reporting income. But if you spend more than you make, your tax documentation should reflect that, right? Keeping good records may involve some work, but it can save you big money come tax time.

**BIG disclaimer: I am not a tax professional. The above post contains general pointers on record keeping and should not be construed as professional tax advice. Seek help from a tax professional to determine which expenses are legally deductible.

Are you tracking your writing expenses? Will you consider doing so now?
Tuesday, March 15, 2011 Laurel Garver
It's tax season and this year I had the distinctly frightening experience of doing a Schedule C for my husband. See, he got paid for writing a chapter in a book published in 2010 by Wiley, The Ultimate Harry Potter and Philosophy: Hogwarts for Muggles. Along with the check came a 1099-MISC and a lot of complication, because book royalties are considered self-employment income. If I manage to sell some of my poetry or short stories this year, I'll be in the same boat next tax season.

So here's my question: Are you taking steps to treat your writing like a business?

If you hope to make a little money from your writing this year--whether from magazines or anthology publishers, or better yet, a book deal, you need to begin keeping good financial records NOW. I'd argue that if you are pouring resources into writing, you SHOULD try to make at least a little income from it. Why? As far as I can tell, the IRS requires that you have some income in order to deduct expenses.** Chances are, you are racking up quite a few. What kind of expenses should you track? Here's a starter list:

Advertising expenses
Business cards, stationery, bookmarks and other items to used promote your writing are deductible--keep receipts! Costs associated with maintaining a website and blog, such as paying for server space and a domain name would fall under this category (design is a "professional service," see below).

Legal and professional services
Keep track of what you pay others to help you improve your writing or run your "writing business"--a professional editor, a proofreader, a web designer, an accountant, etc.

Equipment costs
Big ticket equipment purchases like your computer and printer can be deducted over a period of time using a method the IRS calls "depreciation."

Office expenses
The usual materials writers run through--paper, ink, pens, staples, whiteboards, sticky notes, postage--are deductible business expenses. Keep receipts!

Utilities
If you work from home, a portion of your home utility costs can be deducted; you may need an accountant to calculate this correctly, so keep copies of all utility bills.

Travel
Attending conferences to network and skill-build would be considered business expenses. Travel costs associated with book signings and school visits most definitely are. A portion of your expenses including mileage, tolls, parking, hotel costs, meals can be deducted. Be sure you're keeping good records and documentation of what you spend.

I believe that conference fees can also be deducted, but I haven't found definitive advice on where you report this particular "professional development" expense. An accountant could tell you. Just hang on to your receipt.

Other expenses
Reference and craft books to build your skills are likewise deductible, so keep receipts!

Child care
If you put your kids or a disabled dependent in daycare, after school care or elder care so that you can write, you might be able to take the child and dependent care credit on your 1040. Again, you need to have some income from your writing, or the daycare is really just a convenience to you as far as the IRS is concerned, rather than an expense so that you can work.

A caveat
Remember that you won't get in trouble for not deducting expenses, only for not reporting income. But if you spend more than you make, your tax documentation should reflect that, right? Keeping good records may involve some work, but it can save you big money come tax time.

**BIG disclaimer: I am not a tax professional. The above post contains general pointers on record keeping and should not be construed as professional tax advice. Seek help from a tax professional to determine which expenses are legally deductible.

Are you tracking your writing expenses? Will you consider doing so now?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Fellow poet/fiction writer Alberta Ross was so kind as to pass along the Stylish Blogger Award to me. Thanks, Alberta!

The rules of this one are to share seven things about myself and pass along the award to some other worthy bloggers. Here goes.

1. My black cat, Keats, looks just like Toothless in How to Train Your Dragon. Seriously. He even lost all his fangs due to gum disease, so we've taken to calling him Toothless, too.

2. Whenever I walk with someone, I'll usually be in step with them. It's one of those deep-seated marching band things.

3. Music that changes time signatures frequently makes me extremely anxious and agitated. Sufian Steven's latest album, for example, which my hubby adores, has this affect for this reason. After years in a drum line, you start to feel personally responsible for rhythms around you being "right." Weird, I know.

4. I like to read psychology books, style manuals and my rhyming dictionary for fun.

5. My favorite chore is doing the laundry, especially if I can dry things on my clothesline. Nothing is quite so soothing as sheets flapping in the breeze.

6. I have never broken my teenage habit of listening to the same album over and over all day long.

7. I know more about cars than my hubby does. He didn't have to take two years of classroom driver's ed. in which we learned why tire pressure is important, took written tests on engine parts and watched many grisly movies demonstrating what happens when you don't wear a seat belt or maintain your car or you drive too tired or tipsy.

I pass this one along to the following bloggers:

Bethany at Aspirations.
Karen at Novels During Naptime.
Perri at Lesser Apricots.
Saumya at Left and Right Brained.

What odd habits do you still have that you acquired in your teen years?
Friday, March 11, 2011 Laurel Garver
Fellow poet/fiction writer Alberta Ross was so kind as to pass along the Stylish Blogger Award to me. Thanks, Alberta!

The rules of this one are to share seven things about myself and pass along the award to some other worthy bloggers. Here goes.

1. My black cat, Keats, looks just like Toothless in How to Train Your Dragon. Seriously. He even lost all his fangs due to gum disease, so we've taken to calling him Toothless, too.

2. Whenever I walk with someone, I'll usually be in step with them. It's one of those deep-seated marching band things.

3. Music that changes time signatures frequently makes me extremely anxious and agitated. Sufian Steven's latest album, for example, which my hubby adores, has this affect for this reason. After years in a drum line, you start to feel personally responsible for rhythms around you being "right." Weird, I know.

4. I like to read psychology books, style manuals and my rhyming dictionary for fun.

5. My favorite chore is doing the laundry, especially if I can dry things on my clothesline. Nothing is quite so soothing as sheets flapping in the breeze.

6. I have never broken my teenage habit of listening to the same album over and over all day long.

7. I know more about cars than my hubby does. He didn't have to take two years of classroom driver's ed. in which we learned why tire pressure is important, took written tests on engine parts and watched many grisly movies demonstrating what happens when you don't wear a seat belt or maintain your car or you drive too tired or tipsy.

I pass this one along to the following bloggers:

Bethany at Aspirations.
Karen at Novels During Naptime.
Perri at Lesser Apricots.
Saumya at Left and Right Brained.

What odd habits do you still have that you acquired in your teen years?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Why do stories that turn on a simple epiphany bother us so much when we encounter them in fiction? Probably because they feel so fictional. In real life, insights are a lot easier to come by than true change. Look at the vast self-help section in your local bookstore and you'll see what I mean. Gurus everywhere offer tests and tools to help identify our every weakness. But changing those things? Ah, now there's the rub.

In Think Like a Shrink, Emanuel Rosen's primer on 100 basic principles driving human personality, he discusses the limits of insight. Therapeutic relationships, whether with a professional counselor or an insightful friend, will only get you so far, he says. Why? Those insights are just a theory--a theory one is prone to resist--until some experience makes it real.

In other words, your story will fall flat if you stop at the point of realization for your character. She needs the further step of a new experience to test and perfect what she's learned. This new experience might happen during the climax or the denouement. But it must happen.

When you show your character acting on an insight, behaving in a new way, relating differently, you do more than just prove change. You act on your readers' imaginations in a way that helps them to make a similar leap. This is where fiction has a role to play in being a healing force in society.

So what will that new experience look like? That depends entirely on the character's flaw and how he or she is wired. A bold character should have a bolder healing experience than a quiet character does. Think Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol versus Pip in Great Expectations. A particularly stubborn character won't likely do a 180, but will take an incremental step toward the new pattern of behavior. Yet that small gesture--a sympathetic nod, a few coins in a tip jar, a mumbled "thanks"--can have big impact when it shows a new direction for your character.

How might moving from insight to action improve your story? What favorite books do this in a way that resonated with you long after you closed the covers?
Thursday, March 10, 2011 Laurel Garver
Why do stories that turn on a simple epiphany bother us so much when we encounter them in fiction? Probably because they feel so fictional. In real life, insights are a lot easier to come by than true change. Look at the vast self-help section in your local bookstore and you'll see what I mean. Gurus everywhere offer tests and tools to help identify our every weakness. But changing those things? Ah, now there's the rub.

In Think Like a Shrink, Emanuel Rosen's primer on 100 basic principles driving human personality, he discusses the limits of insight. Therapeutic relationships, whether with a professional counselor or an insightful friend, will only get you so far, he says. Why? Those insights are just a theory--a theory one is prone to resist--until some experience makes it real.

In other words, your story will fall flat if you stop at the point of realization for your character. She needs the further step of a new experience to test and perfect what she's learned. This new experience might happen during the climax or the denouement. But it must happen.

When you show your character acting on an insight, behaving in a new way, relating differently, you do more than just prove change. You act on your readers' imaginations in a way that helps them to make a similar leap. This is where fiction has a role to play in being a healing force in society.

So what will that new experience look like? That depends entirely on the character's flaw and how he or she is wired. A bold character should have a bolder healing experience than a quiet character does. Think Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol versus Pip in Great Expectations. A particularly stubborn character won't likely do a 180, but will take an incremental step toward the new pattern of behavior. Yet that small gesture--a sympathetic nod, a few coins in a tip jar, a mumbled "thanks"--can have big impact when it shows a new direction for your character.

How might moving from insight to action improve your story? What favorite books do this in a way that resonated with you long after you closed the covers?

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Twice a year, my spiritual tradition gives me the opportunity to live inside a story arc in anticipation of our major holidays: the Advent/Christmas season and the Lent/Easter season.

Plenty of practicing Christians don't participate in Advent or Lent. I didn't grow up doing so. I wish I had, because these seasons of waiting, struggles, and anticipation make the holiday's arrival much sweeter.

As I've reflected on this, I realized there's something archetypal about the Easter preparation cycle. Much of its story arc fits the standard fiction plot structure--the call to enter a period of testing (Ash Wednesday) leads to a period of trials (Lent), an ultimate test (Good Friday) and climaxes at the resurrection on Easter. Before the season begins, the calendar is in "ordinary time," which would correspond with the hero's normal world as introduced in a novel's opening. In this schema, that leaves Mardi Gras as...the inciting incident? Hmm.

Hero's normal world-- Ordinary time
Inciting incident -- [Mardi Gras?]
Call to adventure / first doorway -- Ash Wednesday
Rising action / tests and trials --Lent
Ultimate trial -- Good Friday
Darkest hour -- Holy Saturday
Climax /final reversal -- Easter
Denouement -- Pentecost

Conceptually, that rejiggers my notion of what Mardi Gras is about, and what an inciting incident might possibly look like. If inciting incidents are about disturbance of the ordinary, then Mardi Gras had better be not be an ordinary Tuesday with some donuts thrown in. And if an inciting incident is like Mardi Gras, then it's not partying for the sake of partying. It's a recognition of what's about to be lost, an anticipation of hard things to come, and the first seeds of hope that evil will be definitively defeated in the end. If we're honest, we can see that our craziest Mardi Gras excesses make clearer the need for lasting change in ourselves and in our world. To throw oneself into the celebration wholeheartedly is to anticipate change to come.

What are your thoughts on my structure comparison? Helpful or not and why? How does anticipation play into your story arcs?
Tuesday, March 08, 2011 Laurel Garver
Twice a year, my spiritual tradition gives me the opportunity to live inside a story arc in anticipation of our major holidays: the Advent/Christmas season and the Lent/Easter season.

Plenty of practicing Christians don't participate in Advent or Lent. I didn't grow up doing so. I wish I had, because these seasons of waiting, struggles, and anticipation make the holiday's arrival much sweeter.

As I've reflected on this, I realized there's something archetypal about the Easter preparation cycle. Much of its story arc fits the standard fiction plot structure--the call to enter a period of testing (Ash Wednesday) leads to a period of trials (Lent), an ultimate test (Good Friday) and climaxes at the resurrection on Easter. Before the season begins, the calendar is in "ordinary time," which would correspond with the hero's normal world as introduced in a novel's opening. In this schema, that leaves Mardi Gras as...the inciting incident? Hmm.

Hero's normal world-- Ordinary time
Inciting incident -- [Mardi Gras?]
Call to adventure / first doorway -- Ash Wednesday
Rising action / tests and trials --Lent
Ultimate trial -- Good Friday
Darkest hour -- Holy Saturday
Climax /final reversal -- Easter
Denouement -- Pentecost

Conceptually, that rejiggers my notion of what Mardi Gras is about, and what an inciting incident might possibly look like. If inciting incidents are about disturbance of the ordinary, then Mardi Gras had better be not be an ordinary Tuesday with some donuts thrown in. And if an inciting incident is like Mardi Gras, then it's not partying for the sake of partying. It's a recognition of what's about to be lost, an anticipation of hard things to come, and the first seeds of hope that evil will be definitively defeated in the end. If we're honest, we can see that our craziest Mardi Gras excesses make clearer the need for lasting change in ourselves and in our world. To throw oneself into the celebration wholeheartedly is to anticipate change to come.

What are your thoughts on my structure comparison? Helpful or not and why? How does anticipation play into your story arcs?

Friday, March 04, 2011

The fine folks at The Literary Lab have released a new anthology this week, entitled Notes from Underground, including work by one of my CPs, Simon Larter, and blog followers Anne Gallagher and Summer Ross. Way to go, writer friends!

All proceeds from the sale of this anthology go to the American Society of Journalists and Authors Writers Emergency Assistance Fund.

Here's how to get your hands on a copy:


PRINT COPIES through CreateSpace Store
$10 each (If you subscribe to The Literary Lab mailing list, you will receive a 15% discount code to use in the Create Space store. They will email the code by the end of each day to new subscribers until March 8, when the discount expires.)
click here

A larger precentage of profits go the the ASJA Writers Emergency Assistance Fund from the Create Space site, verus other outlets.

PRINT COPIES through Amazon
$10 each
click here

KINDLE COPIES through Amazon
$4.99 each
click here

Have a great weekend, friends! Any fun plans? Anyone else slogging through tax forms? Any tips for surviving the annual agony?
Friday, March 04, 2011 Laurel Garver
The fine folks at The Literary Lab have released a new anthology this week, entitled Notes from Underground, including work by one of my CPs, Simon Larter, and blog followers Anne Gallagher and Summer Ross. Way to go, writer friends!

All proceeds from the sale of this anthology go to the American Society of Journalists and Authors Writers Emergency Assistance Fund.

Here's how to get your hands on a copy:


PRINT COPIES through CreateSpace Store
$10 each (If you subscribe to The Literary Lab mailing list, you will receive a 15% discount code to use in the Create Space store. They will email the code by the end of each day to new subscribers until March 8, when the discount expires.)
click here

A larger precentage of profits go the the ASJA Writers Emergency Assistance Fund from the Create Space site, verus other outlets.

PRINT COPIES through Amazon
$10 each
click here

KINDLE COPIES through Amazon
$4.99 each
click here

Have a great weekend, friends! Any fun plans? Anyone else slogging through tax forms? Any tips for surviving the annual agony?

Thursday, March 03, 2011

I've been on a short story jag lately: writing, revising and most of all, market research. I'd mentioned a few weeks ago that short stories can be a great way to make use of excised material from your novel or to explore periphery characters and plot lines.

It's also a great way to simply stretch yourself. If there's any genre you think would be impossible to write, chances are YOU CAN. You won't really know until you try! I never dreamed I could write for younger kids. I thought I'd have to gut my vocabulary. Not so. I have to temper the Latinate words, but it didn't hobble my creativity in the least. Last month I wrote not one, but two MG stories and I've had positive critiques so far.

I've got two romance shorts in the works. A pretty awesome magical realism idea bubbled up in the process of critiquing someone else's story (thanks, Simon!).

I've largely been using Duotrope's Digest to research markets. It's a great tool, if a bit overwhelming. A few things I've observed regarding markets for short fiction:

Kidlit categories seem to be much tougher at present. Many publications have folded in the past few years. Manuscript lengths need to be very short--almost no one takes stories over 1,000 words.

Fantasy/SciFi / Speculative Fic genres seem to have the most vibrant story markets. More of them seem to pay, also.

Literary fiction is probably the most overwhelming category. Publications abound, and the paying markets are very tough to crack. E-zines have the higher acceptance rates than print pubs. They also respond to submissions and publish accepted pieces much more quickly. The non-paying markets have an enormous range quality-wise. If anyone knows of a good source that ranks literary markets, I'd love to know.

Religious markets take far more poetry than fiction, and many pay quite well for poems--better than many literary fiction markets. As with kidlit, this market has seen a lot of publications fold in the current tough economy. I expect to see some good e-zines emerge in the coming years as younger people bring religious organizations into the digital age.

Have you tried out short fiction lately? Any tips to share? What "impossible" genre might you challenge yourself to attempt?
Thursday, March 03, 2011 Laurel Garver
I've been on a short story jag lately: writing, revising and most of all, market research. I'd mentioned a few weeks ago that short stories can be a great way to make use of excised material from your novel or to explore periphery characters and plot lines.

It's also a great way to simply stretch yourself. If there's any genre you think would be impossible to write, chances are YOU CAN. You won't really know until you try! I never dreamed I could write for younger kids. I thought I'd have to gut my vocabulary. Not so. I have to temper the Latinate words, but it didn't hobble my creativity in the least. Last month I wrote not one, but two MG stories and I've had positive critiques so far.

I've got two romance shorts in the works. A pretty awesome magical realism idea bubbled up in the process of critiquing someone else's story (thanks, Simon!).

I've largely been using Duotrope's Digest to research markets. It's a great tool, if a bit overwhelming. A few things I've observed regarding markets for short fiction:

Kidlit categories seem to be much tougher at present. Many publications have folded in the past few years. Manuscript lengths need to be very short--almost no one takes stories over 1,000 words.

Fantasy/SciFi / Speculative Fic genres seem to have the most vibrant story markets. More of them seem to pay, also.

Literary fiction is probably the most overwhelming category. Publications abound, and the paying markets are very tough to crack. E-zines have the higher acceptance rates than print pubs. They also respond to submissions and publish accepted pieces much more quickly. The non-paying markets have an enormous range quality-wise. If anyone knows of a good source that ranks literary markets, I'd love to know.

Religious markets take far more poetry than fiction, and many pay quite well for poems--better than many literary fiction markets. As with kidlit, this market has seen a lot of publications fold in the current tough economy. I expect to see some good e-zines emerge in the coming years as younger people bring religious organizations into the digital age.

Have you tried out short fiction lately? Any tips to share? What "impossible" genre might you challenge yourself to attempt?