Awards and Instances

I have been given several blog awards of late. I want to pass them out to some people who I find are wonderful and I enjoy reading/visiting their sites. So let’s begin:

Mary Anne Gruen from Starlight Blog gave me this award quite a bit of time ago. I do apologize for not doing anything with it until now, but I was in the process of moving then and it slipped my mind. I am grateful she picked me for this award, and seek to rectify my forgetfulness by passing it out now.

This award is for all those writers, old and new and in-between. I will give it to Bethany from Shooting Stars, whose blog is an inspiration to writers wanting to do more with their skills.

And speaking of Bethany, she gave me this “BFF” award. Thank you! I believe I will pass this one onto Mary because she has such nice things to say about my writing. I blush about it every time.

This last award was also given to me by Mary. It is so me, sometimes! I’ve had people comment on just how much I write, never stopping, never running out of things to say. I’m passing this award to Eric from Working My Muse. He’s a fellow who has just started walking along his writing path. I’m hoping that this award while give him the inspiration to never place the ink pen down or stop those fingers from typing on the keyboard.

All right. For my next blog posting, I will be talking about “instances” you place within your writing. I want to delve into whether you have ever used a certain event in your personal life (sad, happy, or strange) in a scene of your story, and how did it turn out for you. Think it over, and we will talk about it more next time.

Blog Chain: Who is your Character?

Welcome back to the Blog Chain everyone! Let’s get right into this topic. Sandra is hosting this session round. She has asked two questions this time with our choice on answering either or both...

Have you ever created a character different from yourself in some significant way, such as (but not limited to) different gender, race, ethnic group, religion, or sexual orientation? If so, what, if any, research did you do to portray these differences? Was this character a main character, secondary character, or walk-on? Did these differences have an impact on the story?


Have you ever written writing exercises? If so, did you find the experience useful? What type of writing exercises were they, and did you do them on your own or as part of a writing class or workshop?

I will answer both questions, but the second one first. I have engaged in numerous writing exercises. My second blog is an ongoing exercise where I work on dialogue, plot flow, and character developments. I haven’t been involved in any writing classes or workshops, so all these endeavors have been mine alone. I love doing them and feel my growth as a writer expanding into areas that I’ve never considered before.

The exercise I like the most is what I call an “idea page.” Basically, before writing the story, I let my main character take control into telling me about his/her life almost like a therapy session or a journal page. In this way, I can feel their emotions, their motivations, their problems and the development of secondary characters. I have previously posted an idea page if you care to read more about it.

Onto the first question now, which I’m sure has a few people eager to hear my answer. Yes, I’ve written stories featuring the entire color spectrum. African American, Caucasian, Hispanic, whatever. I’m an equal opportunity writer. My research mainly involves just going out and listening/watching people interact - and watching TONS of reality television! :-)

*Michelle waits for the chuckles to die down before clearing her throat uncomfortably*

Okay, there is something else that I want to touch upon concerning this question - something fascinating to me. Sandra asked if these differences ever have an impact on the story. For my stories, I would like to say no. For myself, and for my readers, I have to say yes and not entirely in a good way. Let me explain.

I have one finished novel I'm going to focus on for this question. (For reference, I mentioned this story in the last Blog Chain. It’s the one that has gotten the most agent attention and that I loathe revising on at the moment.)

The incident involved the people who I asked to critique the story before submission. Their opinions were very encouraging - of which I am eternally grateful - and I made the necessary revisions. As the query phase started, one person also said something that made me pause in my tracks. To paraphrase, this person said since I had written a strong female black character I should use this to my advantage when catering toward the African American genre.

But . . . the main character wasn’t black.

This person (and the other readers when reviewing their comments) assumed the main character was black because I am a black writer. Yet I had made no distinction of this in the story. One of the things I had learned during the writing process was to use as little physical descriptions as possible with the main character so that readers can relate more to the story no matter their ethnic background. I did this. I didn’t mention any skin color, nor did I put in any specific mannerisms or language that would indicate the main character’s race.

In truth, from my own personal viewpoint, my main character is white.

The incident involving my story is disturbing. Does this mean that, whatever I write about, people will automatically assume the characters are black if I don't describe their features because the writer is black? And what about my other novel that is ready for submission?

I haven't allowed anyone to read through it because I wrote the characters as rural/hick in the same distinction as my life growing up as a farm girl. But will people automatically think the characters are white because I wrote them as country people while not taking into account my own background since a black farm girl is not something people hear about often in our society? Will they think I'm stereotyping a certain race as being country rednecks?

Makes a person wonder . . .

All right, I’ve strayed enough with this topic. Do please visit Eric’s post from yesterday and stay tuned for Kat’s post coming up tomorrow.

Disregard the previous post

*Rounds of enormous, embarrassing laughter*

You might have noticed in your Readers the Blog Chain post due today. You might have also noticed it was incomplete. I usually schedule my posts ahead of time, even while working on them. Unfortunately, I had some articles to write and submit, taking up my time, and I hadn't had the chance to complete the blog chain post yet. But Google went ahead and posted it!

I will have the post ready later today, so stay tuned!

Contest Alert.

While I suffer through my tooth pain (check out my post about that here), I'll send you over to Eric's post for some fine reading.

He's hosting a contest in celebration for his 200th post. Join in the fun and win some fantabulous prizes, sponsored by the Query Queen herself, Elana Johnson. The contest is up until April 30th.

The Prizes:

1. A critique of the first 10 pages of a work in progess/final draft/whatever.
2. A critique of your query letter.
3. A free copy of Elana's magnificent e-book From The Query To The Call.

So stop by Working My Muse for complete contest details.

Bumbling Beginnings, Misstep Middles, or Excruciating Ends?

Like any involved project, writing is a process. There are steps to the process: outlines, first drafts, revisions. At times we seem to speed through certain parts, gliding our way merrily through each obstacle with our inner muses speaking sweet plot words to our typing fingers.

Then there are times when our muses speak in drunken tongues, losing our story directions as we slam head first into a mental brick wall.

Which part of a novel do you have the most trouble writing?

Is it the beginning? Are you the type of person who knows exactly what the plot of the story is? All your imaginative characters have their acting scripts ready, standing on stage about to commence with a grand cinematic scene, but the prop boy forgot to get the clapperboard so you could yell out, “Lights! Camera! Action!”

The beginning always seems tough, as fingers hover over the keys, wondering how to start so you can get to the meat and potatoes of the story. Do you find yourself a bumbler at beginnings?

Or is it the middle? You have an awesome first 50 pages. Action. Thrills. Love triangles. Mysteries. Numerous plot arcs to span across the Atlantic ocean to invade Spain. But then, you have no idea where to go from there.

You know what ending you want, but you don’t have a clue on how to reach it with the storyline you have. Perhaps you’ve resolved too many issues too quickly in those beginning chapters, and now your characters are loitering about smoking cigarettes and drinking cheap scotch with nothing else to do. Do you find your bulging middle sagging while you search for a treadmill to get physically fit to run those last miles to a satisfying end? Do you take too many missteps at the middle?

Is it the ending? You have a strong beginning. You’ve followed through with an entertaining middle, and now you . . . don’t know what else to do. You don’t know how to put the plot to bed.

Perhaps you created too many unresolved issues and you don’t know how to tackle them all? Or you resolved them too soon in the story? Your characters are standing in the aisle, waiting for their paychecks for only working half a day, and you are aware that the production accountants will have your head on a spit if you don’t fill those theater seats to capacity with a full-length feature. Do you find endings excruciating to write with no clear picture on how the story should finish?

For me, beginnings can get iffy now and again. They are the hardest for me to write, as I wonder what angle I want to take with it.

Which part is hardest for you?

Can't Miss Contest!

A lunch with agents Janet Reid and Suzie Townsend.

A query critique from agents Kathleen Ortiz, Joanna Stampfel-Volpe, or Colleen Lindsay.

A 30-40 page critique from Suzie Townsend.

Come on, people! Those are the PRIZES!!!

Go here now. Yes, right now. You have to pick up little Bobbie from soccer practice and little Mandy from ballet school?

Let them walk home. They need the exercise.

Okay, I'm joking about the last sentence above. Go pick them up. You have the time - up until April 25.

But why wait? Skip the cooking. Pick up pizza for dinner. The kids will be happy about it. Go here now. Enter to win. And stop by and thank BJ for dropping the news on her blog.


Blog Chain - Who do you write for?

Recently, I received an invitation to join the Blog Chain . . .

Why, Michelle! What, pray tell, is a Blog Chain?

I’m so glad you asked, fake audience I’m using to move this post topic along. The Blog Chain is where a bunch of writerly people get together asking questions, sharing in the knowledgeable fun, and learning about ourselves and the stories we write. At least, that's what it says in the information packet.

Can WE have an information packet?

No! It’s mine, you imaginary moochers!

Anyway, Michelle McLean was the starter of this current chain (make sure you stop by her site to follow the chain). The question posed was this:

Do you write for the market or for yourself? Why? Are there times you do both? Or times when you've written something specifically because it was "hot" at the moment? If so, how did it turn out?

I write for the story, if that counts as writing for me. There’s no real “why” to it. I could claim it’s for the love of the story. Yet I’ve written pieces I absolutely hated just to get the darn plot out of my head. Right now, I have a finished manuscript that I loathe to get back to revising on. Yet I know I have a real chance of getting an agent for it since I’ve gotten partial and full requests without representation offers: 6 so far. Unfortunately, I’m not sure I want to be seen as an established author with this novel. I don’t want to be fit into a predetermined category that might not sit well with me in the future, especially when it comes to writing the second and third books.

Sigh . . .

But with this being said, I don’t write for any market trend. Trends don’t work for me. The time frame in which some trends last can be unpredictable. Something could go on for a few years, or fizzle out in the first two weeks. I can’t write fast enough. The best I can do is three months. Even then, I would still need to get agent representation and an editor willing to take a risk on my novel - a long and arduous process. If by chance things were sped up on the publishing end, I would still be going up against other novels seeking to fit in the current trendy niche.

I ride my own horse. I walk my own path. I eat my own donut from the inside out. I have to be myself and not seen as a knock-off of the person who started the trend. To be pegged as, “in the writing styles of Stephanie Meyer or Stephen King,” isn’t something I would look forward to penning on my resume.

I want to challenge myself in creating the new trend. Perhaps that is the best answer I have for the question. I write for the story so it can be seen as its own entity, its own worthwhile accomplishment. And, in doing so, I can love it the way it deserves to be loved without any restrictions of needing to be fit into a trend.

Okay, now that I’ve totally confused everyone reading this, go visit more knowledgeable people such as Eric who wrote about this topic and don't forget to stop by Kat's blog tomorrow to find out how she feels about this.

Perhaps they will even share their Blog Chain information packets.

Mindflights Issue #5

Recently, Aubrie from Flutey Words held an interview with Mindflights Submission Editor and Author, Angie Lofthouse.

Angie has been a follower of this blog and of my other one for some time now, and I stopped by to read her interview and give support to a wonderful author. Aubrie and Angie held a comment contest for a chance to win a copy of Mindflights Magazine #5 featuring  the story, "The Bearer's Oath," written by Angie.

I had won! I just picked up the package from the post office.

Thank you Angie and Aubrie! I can't wait to read these wonderful stories!

Oh, character! How I hate thee . . .

. . . let me abuse this pure, innocent flower by counting all the ways!

-You changed yourself before my very eyes. At first, you seemed so cool, so confidant, so knowing of who you are. But, by the middle of the story, you turned into an annoying prick: self-centered, whiny, and crying over every little damn thing.

- And did I also mention your arrogance? I mean, really! How many times do you have to stand in the mirror just to describe yourself? Do you think readers want to know about your emerald green eyes and titanium hair? Fair-skinned and beautiful or dark and mysterious, you took up four paragraphs simply talking about your sculpted chin depicting a strong personality.

- Let’s not even begin to describe the loftiness you have toward the other characters. You act like you know exactly what they are going to say/do before they do/say it. This head-hopping is very disconcerting to me as you realize, are familiar with, aware of, or all the other unnecessary phrases used to hurry the scene along into the part YOU want. If we are rushing through those scenes, do we need them in the story? Or are they just unnecessary filler to reach a certain word count?

- I don’t even want to think about the passiveness you show in the descriptive paragraphs. Sometimes I want to scream for you to get off your lazy duff and DO SOMETHING. I want to see some ACTION. Don’t tell me what’s going to happen with the other characters. Show me. Do something yourself. Hold my attention throughout the chapters.

- Finally, dear character, could you please tighten up those chapters? There are times where I’m totally confused on how you got from one spot to be in another. I feel like I fell through the biggest plot hole without a book map. Unless you are Houdini, Merlin, or H. G. Wells with a time machine, there’s no comprehensible way you could go from point A with battling pirates to point B as you play in the orchestra to point C where you are kissing the fair damsel saved from the alien mothership without having a rational plotline.

Hm . . . it seems I ran out of petals, and I had so many other things to say about you. Oh well, perhaps other people have a thing to say about some of their not-so-likable characters. Pick a flower, and unleash that pent-up frustration. Is it the dialogue? Is it the plot? Or is it the character’s unpredictable personality?