Sunday, November 24, 2013

I am not a runner....(My first 5K with The Color Run and Cool Kids Campaign)

Our view at the start line
Photo by me!
Remember my first entry? I am not a blogger? Well, I am also not a runner, but I gave it a go last weekend. This time last Sunday, The Color Run came to Baltimore, so a group of my friends and I went into the city to participate and support a great cause, The Cool Kids Campaign.

"The Cool Kids Campaign is devoted to improving the quality of life for pediatric oncology patients and their families by focusing on the academic, social and emotional needs brought on by a cancer diagnosis." Before The Color Run, I did not know about this foundation, but I am glad to have been a part of the run that raised money to benefit these kids and their families, and I look forward to participating again in the future.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Little Bits of Inspiration #2: Write or Die....

So, I just loaded up my twitter feed, and the first tweet I see is:

"I haven't written in over a week. I feel like I should. I need someone to yell at me to write...@tabithamiriam

Funny, because I've heard these exact words from many people recently...especially with NaNoWriMo in full swing.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thankful for Things

This started as a Facebook post, and it started getting longer and longer so I decided to make a mini blog post.

I've been seeing on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.....all these things people are thankful for in November. Each day they say something else they are thankful for, and I think this is a great reminder for those of us who are lucky enough to be happy.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Little Bits of Inspiration #1 - A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words

When you're a writer, one of the most thrilling moments you can find yourself in is when you're in your "madman" phase*, writing away, seeing the scenes in your head and getting them down on paper, the words coming so fast that your fingers can't even keep up. It's like watching a movie or TV show, being taken along for a ride, it's fun and makes you feel really good about yourself. If only all writing could be like this....

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Fan Fiction as an Exercise

One of the ways that I got into more hard-core writing (setting deadlines for myself, plotting in my head all day long, finding myself excited about getting home from school to write) was Fan Fiction. I honestly cannot remember the last time I read a piece of fan fiction, though the last piece I wrote, I remember, was over ten years ago (the summer before college started), a Harry Potter Fan Fic, all about what if Wizardry was just in Harry’s head. But I digress, while I no longer have a need or even a slight desire to write/read fan fiction (and there is part of me that shuns that part of my existence because I grappled with the morality of stealing other people’s characters), I still think it’s a very valuable exercise for beginning writers.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Always Remember.

I am sorry it has taken me until nearly midnight this evening to post this, it’s sort of off the cuff, and not really much to do with writing, I just wanted to say something regarding September 11.

On on the way to work this morning I heard a 9-11 tribute on the radio where everyone was talking about where they were when it happened and it got me to thinking. We all say “Always Remember,” and we all will remember where we were when we heard the news, and the events of that day to follow. It made me think back as well. I’d like, if you have the time, for you to post your story in a comment on this post. No matter how simple the story is, I’m interested in hearing, even if it’s just a few words of where you where, share. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Listening To Your Novel (or Having a Conversation by Yourself)

Want to feel crazy? Become a writer. I frequently have conversations with “myself” aloud or on paper. For this entry, I’m going to talk a little about these conversations we writers have aloud.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Get to Know Your Characters

When you’re writing a novel (or short story) it’s really important that you know your characters very well. This goes for your protagonist(s), as well as the supporting cast. You need to know how your character would react to a given situation. You need to know the thoughts that would go through that character’s head. You need to know that character as you know yourself.

Spending the time before you begin writing really getting to know your characters will make your job later much easier.

Here are three of the exercises that I sometimes use when I get stuck.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Revision Series: Stepping Back

So, to continue from my previous entry, let me recap: my twitter buddy, Trisha Schmidt, suggested I talk a little about my editing/revision process. Because I have a short attention span, and I don’t like reading long blog entries, I am posting this as a series of blogs.

Reading your own work as an impartial, unbiased reader.
Hahaha. Yeah, I know. Right? That’s impossible.

I’m sure all of you understand where I’m coming from when I say this, but trying to step back from your work is one of the most difficult things to do when writing. Though I’m telling you “try it!” I’m not even sure I can fully manage this unless there’s a year or more between my writing the words on paper, and the revision. And let’s be honest, if you’re excited about a project, you don’t have that sort of time.

However, in theory, if one was able to step completely back from his or her writing, this is the ideal mental plane to be on when approaching revision. Sometimes stepping away for a little while, even just a few weeks, can be beneficial.

The times when I have had the most successful revisions have been when I didn’t let my emotions get in the way. If you are close in on your work, it's really hard not to get attached.

Kill your darlings.....
“Kill your darlings,” they say. Kill them I did. In my most recent revision, one of my favorite scenes that I have literally been clinging onto for years as a prologue finally had to go. It bogged down everything. I love the idea of a prologue, it seems fancy and fun and unique. It leads you into a story with some pre-knowledge so you feel privileged - or that’s what I thought from an author standpoint. Maybe that’s how it is, but from my reader standpoint, they’re not that unique, fun, or fancy, and sometimes they can be disconnecting, and you just want to skip them and get to the start of the story (there are always exceptions, of course! David Benioff’s City of Thieves prologue is perfect, please read that book). But remember, you're getting this opinion from one of those annoying lazy readers who doesn’t want to put the work in (sorry guys, can’t change who I am. Grip me from the beginning and I’ll keep reading. But this is why when I write I try to accommodate lazy readers as well).

How to think about stepping back...?
I feel that lately this stepping back idea has been working for me. Here’s what I try to do: I pretend I’m reading this story from a workshop standpoint. Someone who is looking to improve their work - how can I help them? Just like I would do when I look at another person’s work, I first look at the big things like:
  • Setting (where and when is this? on a smaller setting scale - am I describing enough? can I visualize where everything important is?)
  • Characters (can I see and hear them? do I know their names and relationships? am I getting an idea of their personality yet?)
  • Events (are they clear/blocked out in an understandable way)
  • Dialogue (is what being said necessary? natural? fit the character speaking?)
These are just four examples of big scheme things. As you hone things down, you will get into more nitty-gritty items. I plan to later include entries with more in depth about individual aspects of writing.

When looking at these big scheme things, try really hard to focus only on what’s on the page, not what you already know. Remember, you have an unfair advantage - you know your characters already, you hear their voices, you can see the settings in your head, but you have to get your reader to that same place. That’s the point of a writer: ....You have a story in your head that you love enough to share with others, and in order to get them to really understand the story to it’s fullest, you have to portray it for them, the way you see it in your head.....

So, to sum up this revision series suggestion: cutting and changing things is the heart of revision, so try to step back from your work during this process, it will make your life a lot easier. 

If you have any suggestions or questions about things involving my/your revision process, leave me a note or a tweet @jacquelinebach and I will try to talk about it next time! 

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Revision Series: Setting Up Camp

So, my twitter buddy, Trisha Schmidt (@seeredwrite), suggested I talk a little about my editing/revision process because she's interested in how others handle this. Because I have a short attention span, and I don’t like reading long blog entries, I am going to post this as a series of blogs over the next few days. So keep checking back!

Why I feel like I can discuss the revision process:
I am not an expert on revision, but I have to say my workshop this week, which was of a revised chapter that has been previously work-shopped at varying stages (the first being unrecognizable when comparing to the last) in FIVE separate classrooms. That’s right, five. Four different teachers, two different educational establishments. All in all, I believe that the transformation of this piece has been amazing (so maybe I’m propping myself up here, but I’m proud!) Some of the comments I got from students who read my piece in previous workshops still have me smiling, and most important to me was my teacher’s comment saying that I’ve found the opening of my novel. This is not to say that it’s done and ready, it still needs some edits, but this meant A LOT to me.

Anyway, all of this is to say I do have experience with revision. And what I can say right off the bat is that there is no set process, everyone has their own way. You have to figure out what works for you.

Setting Up Camp:
Here is how I generally get set up for a day of revision (this can also apply to writing for the day as well).
  • Sit in the car on a drive to the shore (because that is the only place I can get work done - my recommendation, for writing or editing, find a place that you love to write in).
  • On the drive (I get my best ideas in the car, in the shower, and right before I fall asleep), watch your book in your head. See if you can watch the scenes clearly. This is a fun way for me to write new scenes too. If I have good ideas, I jot them down or text key words to myself that will remind me of the idea.
  • Once in my "zen place," I sit down, open up the file that I want to work on. No distractions. No TV. No music. No people or pets.
  • Then, I open up Twitter...or Facebook...or my e-mail...or real estate websites....or websites about horses...or websites about dogs....or my pictures/video from the Taylor Swift concert we went to...or a youtube video of a horse cantering where the rider almost falls....oh how traumatic watching that video was. I must take a break...So I watch an episode of VEEP on HBO go (since I don’t have a TV because I was avoiding distractions).... Already on the iPad, I switch over to a game of Matching with Friends, while you’re at it, you might as well check Hanging, Words, Scramble, and Gems with Friends too, I tell myself. 
  • Then I realize several hours have passed and it’s 2am...and I should go to bed. Tomorrow is a new day.
  • Next day. Get up. Make some coffee (very important step). Get back in my "zen place," open up the file. Sign on twitter. Announce to everyone that I’m revising because I am an attention hog and need twitter cheerleaders. Oh no! You just told 4500 people you’re revising. You better do something!
  • Now it's time to get down to work.
Sadly, though I’m taking a stab at being comical, the above is typically how it goes when I set out to revise. Until I give myself some pressure - ie: announcing things on twitter (which, let’s be honest, nobody cares if I’m revising or not, it's really for yourself, but it helps when your buddies jump in and say something like 'good job!' or 'me too!'), again, until I have that pressure, I don't usually get anything done.

However obvious the following items are, I guess what I'm trying to say with this entry is that revision or writing in general, I suggest the following:

  1. Find a place that makes you write - Be it a quiet coffee shop, your basement, a park, the beach, wherever you feel best.
  2. Find some sort of pressure that keep you working- Deadlines. Social network announcements. Time yourself. In writing this bullet point, I realized I can do a whole blog on creating pressure for yourself, so check back for this one!
  3. Figure out a way to eliminate distractions. For me? I have to be away from a television set and the internet...thankfully, I have this nifty little button on my computer where I can turn the wi-fi off. It helps. Have it? Use it. 
So there. You're ready to get started. In my next entry I will talk more about the actual revision process. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Let's Be Honest, I am not a Blogger

This photo is from the moment I stepped off the train at Penn
Station in NYC in 2009. My first glimpse of the big city!
Wide eyed and innocent, with my unpublished little “work in progress” clutched in hand, at the edge of crowded streets full of whizzing cars, pedestrians in their own little worlds, texting and chatting away, shouting officers telling you what you can and cannot do, here I stand, ready to take my first step into the crazy metropolis known as the Blogosphere (Blogosphere, really?).

Confession: I know nothing about blogging, and I'm not about to pretend that I do. Here is my very limited experience: 
  • Yeah, I write informative blogs for the company I currently am employed with.
  • Yeah, I used to run our retail store's website which I set up as a blog for easy updates, along with a blog featuring contests and quirky posts for the candy company I helped create.
  • Yeah, I used to run a fan site with fan fiction from other authors and updates, similar to a blog, but not quite there.
  • Yeah, wrote RPG character diaries for years and years and years, which I guess could be likened to a fictional “blog,” but the writing quality of those mimicked teenage kids, and let's face it, I was an inexperienced teenage writer myself back then. In short: they’re awful (but great for character building...of the fictional kind!)
  • Yeah, I went through that teenage attention-seeking phase of “Live Journal,” ranting and rambling about anything and everything that bothered me at school so that my friends could read and comment with they’re sympathies. So glad I wised up and realized how stupid that was by the time I was, oh, I don’t know, twenty? Sheesh.

But all of the aforementioned experiences encompass an entirely different realm and hardly make me qualified to call myself a blogger. Wait, blogger? Scratch that. No. I detest the term blogger. Sorry guys, I think the word 'BLOG' is a ridiculous. It's like, who came up with that term? Were they having a stroke?

Okay, that was really mean, I apologize. And, in all fairness, I just looked it up on Wikipedia - it’s from the words web log (secretly, I think at some point in the past I knew that and just forgot). So I forgive the term, it’s cute. Like Squirtle from Pokémon cute (if you don't know Pokémon, Squirtle is a turtle with water squirting powers).

So, starting with my twitter writing buddies, and hopefully expanding from there, here is the beginning of my new blog. I know the design is basically jacked from my Twitter account (what? I thought it was pretty, thank you Twitter for the temporary background), I'll fix that, in time. I'm actually a little excited to get back to my web roots and break up the usual monotony by playing around with some html and entries. Still, I do not want to be called a blogger, because I am not. I’m a writer.

My name is Jackie, and welcome to my blog :-P

Ways to follow