When does your story open up?

I'm always interested to see other writer's creative process. I've learned that as writers we share so much, yet there is so much individuality in methods. This post may be more for me than for you, but I would like to document my own creative process.

*I find my stories start in different ways--sometimes it's a character, sometimes a setting, sometimes a song inspires me, or a book or funny anecdotal story.

*Writing the first chapter almost always reveals the arc of my novel.

*After I know the arc, I write down an overreaching, very broad outline in my notebook.

*I think and think and think about my characters motivations. I ponder them when I'm washing the dishes, folding the laundry, laying in bed at night, listening to music.

*The nuances creep in at random times (often early morning or right before I fall asleep), and I must act. I keep notebooks everywhere. At the beginning of the school year Walmart had one subject notebooks on sale for .05 each. I bought one hundred of them, literally. I use the notebooks to write down details of my story, or I go to my computer if I can and type them at the bottom of my manuscript to use like a checklist.

*I would say, in general, by the time I've reached ten thousand words I know all the major plot twists and the ending of my story. At which point I may, or may not write a chapter by chapter outline.

What about you? When do you know the whole story? Do you outline everything before writing it? Are you a free-writer who discovers your story all along the way? What works for you?

Writing a Query is HARD!

Consider the title of this post my "duh" statement for the year.  This week I've been thinking life would be so much easier if I could just write a novel to explain my novel.  Seriously.  I would also vastly prefer to illustrate my novel with stick figures, or better yet, I would just send the illustration Natalie Whipple drew of  Jade and Jet arguing.  That would get fulls requested for sure! 

I know there are a few of you out there who love writing query letters.  You baffle and amaze me.  I have rewritten my query one ga-jillion times and cannot come close to your awesomeness.  Yet I persevere (insert heroic, martyresque  music). I continue writing and rewriting until my eyes are crossed and I am roaming my house like a query-brained zombie, mumbling plot lines like lyrics from a pesky song. 

I need a distraction stat.  I think I still have some of the Chocolate cow pie Jessie sent me.  I'm going downstairs to look for it...


I was doodling this morning and I thought I would share.
 I would just like to personally apologize to these contestants for liking them.  Apparently my support is the kiss of death on American Idol.  What in the world was America thinking????

AI and Querying Fun.

First off, I want to cover the important stuff going on this week--American Idol. The top twelve are about to be chosen! Yep, things are getting interesting. I'm rooting (at least for now) for Alex Lambert. That kid can sing and I never thought a sflb (short front long back) haircut could be so cute. I must admit his first performance was PAINFUL. He looked so incredibly awkward, but man did he come back and now I'm rooting for him. Other contestants I really like, Siobhan, Michael, and Crystal and Lily. What about you guys?

Now on to writing. I'm working on my query letter. It is WAY harder to write than I expected, even with awesome help (you know who you are). But I'm so happy to be moving along in the process. Wish me luck! Have a good week.

I was on American Idol!!

I know what you're thinking (at least those of you who know me personally), you're thinking I'm too old (true, my American Idol dreams died five years ago).  You're also thinking I can't sing that well (undeniably true), but neither of those things stopped me from having a very realistic dream in which I was performing on American Idol.   I have new respect for those contestants and what they go through now that I've "experienced" it.  Let me tell you, it's not as easy as it looks. 

My journey on American Idol started with the contestants  sitting in the audience, not the red room. It was our first live performance. I was sitting on the end of the front row, waiting from my turn when they went to a commercial break.  Knowing I was next, I looked down to smooth out my clothes and found, to my horror, that I was wearing a long, stretchy, cotton-knit skirt, ugly, dirty tennis shoes, and a oversized, wrinkled t-shirt.   How could I have chosen these clothes and not even realized what I was wearing, I thought? They were ugly and wrinkled and  made me look fat! So, without permission, I darted from my chair and down the hall into the dressing room to find something else to wear, because America could not see me in that!

As I tore through my suitcase, I found more of the same, wrinkled oversized t-shirts, stretched out tube socks, stretchy skirts and pants.  The only exception was a green, ribbed, v-neck shirt and a pair of designer jeans.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  I was saved.  I ripped off my hideous ensemble and started putting on the clothes.  Down the hall I could hear Ryan talking to America.  The commercial break was over.  I panicked, I still wasn't finished dressing.  Outside a producer yelled through the door (not nice things).  I grabbed the waist band of my jeans and tugged on them.  I remember thinking that I would just have to go barefoot and pretend like it was intentional because there was not time for shoes.  The jeans stuck at my hips.  I pulled harder.  I was frantic.  I could hear Ryan stalling.  Finally they inched over my hips, and I was just barely able to get them zipped.  I am going to make it, I thought with a surge of hope.

Then I noticed my pockets.  The were bulging out, the interior fabric flapping around my hips like tiny useless wings.  I grabbed them and tried to stuff them back in, but there was no room.  The levi fabric was hugging my body like a second skin.  I shoved harder, but I only managed to tuck the fabric back inside the very top edge of the pockets.  It looked like I was carrying wadded up socks on each side.  If only I had a longer shirt, I thought, but there was no more time.  I would just have to risk it or lose my chance forever.

I walked toward the stage as fast as the confining jeans would let me.  Ryan looked at me out of the corner of his eyes, ever the professional, his relief didn't show on his face, but I knew I was going to hear about my stunt later.  He introduced me, handed me the microphone.  "Take it away," he said.  I took it from his hand and turned to face the audience and cameras.  I had made it in the nick of time.  I didn't look great, but at least I didn't look like a hobo either.  I didn't ruin my chance.  I took a deep breath as the music started to play, and then it hit me; I had no idea what to sing.  In all my worry about wardrobe I'd forgotten that I didn't even prepare a song.  And what was worse, I realized, I didn't know how to sing either.  How could I have forgotten that?  Humiliation washed over me, but fortunately that was where the dream ended.  Thank goodness, because I don't think I could have kept my composure through the judges comments after that.  You know how in dreams you just know things.  Well, I knew that they judges were not fans of mine. 

When I woke up the next morning I have to admit I was a little confused (not to mention stressed). Why would I have such a strange dream?  I'm not one to put much stock in dream interpretation, but I do think our lives can sometimes influence our dreams.  So just for kicks, I decided to investigate the possible causes of my stress dream. I came to two conclusions:

1) I obviously take my American Idol watching a little too seriously (and I had watched it that night).

2) This whole getting ready to query thing may be more anxiety provoking than I consciously realized.

There are all kinds of possible parallels I could draw between my performance anxiety (and lack of preparation) and querying, and I have been drawing them, but I would be curious to hear what you guys think?  Was my American Idol experience just a metaphor for my querying fears? Do dreams really mean anything?