January 28, 2011

Some Free Resources!

Looking to improve your craft without shelling out the bucks? Here are some great resources for writers, and they're perfect for the starving artist's budget too!
Fiction Writing Tip of the Week from Jeff Gerke: 96 thorough, practical, and entertaining articles that walk you through a lot of the most important elements of quality Christian fiction, from writing to editing to publishing!
Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine with Randy Ingermanson: every month's issue comes right to your inbox and brings three articles (one on organizing your writing life, one on writing craft, one on publishing) that break down that sometimes intimidating world of writing into simple, understandable, doable processes.
I hope you all enjoy these. How about you? Are there any good resources you enjoy that I missed?

January 21, 2011

A Little Test of Character

Anyone following this blog doesn't need to be told the utmost, earth-shattering importance of character development, so I won't repeat what you already know. (But just on the off-chance that you don't know: IT'S REALLY IMPORTANT!!!)
We've all spent those long hours studying a character's nervous tics, or their accent, or the way they choose their words, or the reason they have that aversion to certain things. That's all important stuff to know, too.
But today, try something a little more fun:
Empty your pockets. I'm emptying mine on the computer desk right now. Let's see:
2 pocket knives
1 cell phone
1 cough drop
1 ponytail holder
1 2GB flashdrive
some little balls of styrofoam stuffing that leaked out of my lap desk earlier and are now static-stuck to absolutely everything
Got your pockets emptied now? Good. Now, empty your character's pockets (If your character doesn't have pockets for whatever reason, then empty her purse or his saddle bags--you get the idea).
What do you find? Is it all pretty ordinary, just the kind of things you would expect such a character to carry around? Are you surprised by anything your character shells out? Is there a particular item that he or she is embarrassed or reluctant to show you? Is there something they're carrying that is unique to them--something that only they and no one else would have? What do the contents of their pockets tell you about their personality, backstory, desires, or fears?
As always, feel free to share your finds or thoughts!

January 14, 2011

This Crazy Language

We all talk about writers' tools: strong verbs, few adverbs, concise adjectives, descriptive nouns... you get the idea. We spend enormous amounts of time and effort learning and studying the best ways to construct compelling stories out of the building blocks we've been given, namely, the words in the English language.
But have you ever stopped and really taken a look at just how confusing, random, and--well, just bizarre the English language can be? In some cases, it's just downright self-contradicting. And that can make life really hard for us writers! Here are some of my most 'favorite' examples.
~You can act 'nonchalant,' but you can't act 'chalant'.
~You may need to 'recuperate' after an illness... but when did you 'cuperate' in the first place?
~The word 'colonel'. And 'rendezvous'.
~'Noisy' means making lots of noise. 'Noisome' means irritating.
It's a wonder we even manage to learn to read, much less master the beast that is the English language enough to create a great story full of subtlety and subtexting and all those great and high arts of craft.
What are some of the English anomalies that give you trouble, make you laugh, or just leave you scratching your head?

January 7, 2011

Breathe... and move forward.

It's been a long time since I've posted, I know (though probably not as long as it seems). I could blame the holidays, but that would only be partially accurate. Those of you who know me personally know that for the last seven months I've been living with my grandmother (a dementia/Alzheimer's patient) as her caretaker. As her condition progressed and got worse, my mom started staying with me since I was no longer able to move and care for 'Moofy' single-handedly. Over the last couple of weeks Moofy became gradually more and more unresponsive; last Wednesday she slipped into a coma, and went to be with the Lord Thursday morning, December 30.
I won't lie--it's been hard. Caring for an Alzheimer's patient has thrown challenges at me that I never expected and, frankly, had no idea how to deal with. What do you say when your grandmother asks you "Are you going to marry that boy that's been seeing you?"... and you haven't been seeing anybody? How do you convince someone that there's no one in the house when they're pointing saying "Who's that?" Even adjusting to simple things like brushing her teeth once she was no longer able to stand up created big challenges that I had to learn to help her overcome.
But all in all I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. My grandmother's declining condition taught me to be creative in overcoming physical challenges. Her hallucinations and loss of short-term memory taught me a lot about patience. Helping her take care of more and more personal needs as she lost the ability to do it herself taught me compassion on a very deep level. My grandmother was able to spend her last days in the home she loved, surrounded by family, even if she didn't always know we were there. And now we can all rest knowing that she's at home with the Savior she spent her life serving, and she's not sick or hurting any more.
It's going to be hard getting used to life without Moofy. Frankly, after seven months of my life revolving around someone else's needs, it's going to be hard getting used to just looking after my own business. But I'm happy knowing that I gave Moofy the best care I possibly could, and I'm thankful for everything that God has taught me through these experiences.
I made it through the last challenge God gave me, so now, while we're still in the first few days of the new year, I'm looking forward to whatever new challenges and adventures He might be ready to send my way!
Do any of you have big things you've learned in 2010 or big challenges you're undertaking in 2011? I'd love to hear about them!