Officially Backed Up

After the almost-catastrophe of losing my flash drive, several of my readers helped with suggestions on ways of backing up my work should my spaztasticness ever result in loss of all of my writing again.

First, I tried Google docs.  It worked, but it was frustrating.  It took forever to upload all of my documents and my larger documents wouldn’t upload at all.  Not really helpful for backup when I can’t save my MS.  I had to create a new Google Document and copy and paste one chapter at a time.  It wouldn’t save if I tried to do more than one chapter at once.  And it would only let me save half of Twenty-Five in one document, so for both my first and second draft I have two documents: one with the first half, one with the second.  Again, not very helpful and certainly not efficient.

Next I tried Dropbox.  I liked this so much better.  I had to download the program onto my computer, which I didn’t want to do because I hate saving a bunch of stuff on the hard drive, but luckily I have a Mac and it’s still relatively new, so no slow-goings yet.  Anyways.  I was able to highlight all the folders I had on my flash drive and just move them over to Dropbox- no upload required.  It was so fast and I didn’t have to go through and re-create all of my folders from scratch to keep my work organized.  I’m officially in love with Dropbox!

So you’re probably wondering what the picture above has to do with all of this.  Well, it was one of the sample pictures when my Dropbox was created.  I like it.  Too bad I don’t play chess.

In other news- I added a ton of my friends from TNBW to my blogroll.  Check them out!

I’m Freaking Out a Little…

…because I’ve lost the flash drive that I keep all of my writing on.  And I mean ALL of my writing.  Twenty-Five, The Death Effect, all of the drafts of novels I haven’t finished, ideas I’ve only written a few sentences of, my short stories, my poetry, EVERYTHING.

Now, normally this wouldn’t be such a huge deal, because I post everything on TNBW and it serves as my “back-up” in case something like this happens, but about a month or so ago I had a bit of a breakdown.  I deleted everything from TNBW except for two short stories that I was entering into a contest, Twenty-Five, and The Death Effect.  So the good thing is that Twenty-Five is all there.  There may have been some editing I did without updating the site, but the whole book should be there.  The Death Effect I think is almost completely there, but there may be one or two scenes that I hadn’t updated yet.  Luckily, anything that isn’t on TNBW should be hand-written in one of my notebooks.

What bums me out is some of the poetry and short stories.  There were some I didn’t hand-write but typed immediately.  And I had all of my reviews from TNBW saved in separate documents for every project I ever posted.  I won’t be able to get those reviews back if I can’t find my flash drive!

So, any ideas for the best way to back-up your writing should this ever happen again?

2 Things. No, 5 Things. Well, Really 10 Things.

Sometimes I like to read the Tag Surfer on writing and come across very interesting blogs. This week, I found 2 I really enjoyed.

The first is A Broken Laptop, by Mercedes.  I clicked on Mercedes’s blog initially because it had a picture of a cute guy- pathetic, I know.  But my last experience with Religious Guy did not turn out so great, so my interest in CUTE guys has expanded.  Okay, moving back to the point.  The post with the cute guy was about a contest Mercedes and said cute guy (whom I will now refer to as Scottish Simon- because Simon is his name and he is Scottish and I like alliteration- wait, did I use “whom” correctly there?) are engaging in.  She has to finish a chapter a week and he has to write 5,000 words a week.  If one of them completes their goal and the other doesn’t, Completer is declared the winner for the week and gets a reward.  This week Mercedes won and her reward: posting a picture of Scottish Simon’s tattoo on her blog on Monday.

While I love cute guys and absolutely ADORE cute guys with tattoos, that is not the actual reason this post intrigued me.  I really like the idea of competing with someone else to achieve goals.  Because, let’s face it, I’m a fierce competitor (just ask Religious Guy about our game of Rummy or “Say the First Thing that Comes to Mind” or the other game we played that I can’t remember the name of right now) and an over-achiever (just ask anyone I went to high school with).  I need some kind of stimulus to work on TDE.  It’s coming along very slowly.  I don’t think I can start any kind of competition until May, though, because I have 2 weddings in April.  Soooooo… Anyone want to have a writing competition with me?  I’m not sure what my goal will be yet, but I’ll think of something.  Sadly, should I lose, I have no tattoo for the winner.

One other aspect of Mercedes’s blog that really intrigued me was her “Writers in Masks” series.  She features a writer a week with a blurb/link to their blog/publishing credits along with a photo of the writer in a mask of their choosing.  I found it really interesting that the masks all seemed to match the writer’s blurb in some way, either the tone or their preferred genre and style of writing.  It made me think about what my own mask would be.  I have one picture from my sister’s wedding that I like, I’m covering my face with both hands and I think that matches my writing pretty well.  I tend to hide myself behind my writing, i.e. behind my hands (since those are the instruments I use to write).  What kind of mask represents you and your writing?  Check out Mercedes’s blog for more info on how to become one of her “Writers in Masks.”

The second blog I found was The Adams Zone.  This post was all about learning from the mistakes we make as writers, but also learning from our successes.  Linda listed five things she would do differently when working on her next project, based on her previous experience in writing a novel.  She also listed five things she would do again because they worked the first time.  I found this to be a wonderful exercise, at least, I found the idea of it wonderful.  So I’m going to try it for myself.  As mentioned above, progress on TDE is going really slowly.  And TDE is not the first project I’ve attempted since finishing 25.  I haven’t really sat down to examine what worked for me on 25 and what didn’t work on the projects I haven’t finished.  I think if I do, I may be able to identify why it was so easy to “finish” 25 and so difficult to finish anything else.  And I use finish in quotation marks, because a book is never finished until it makes it to the bookshelves, and even then changes can be made between printings.  (Yes, I’m being optimistic here with the hope that my book is going to be so popular it will go through multiple printings during my lifetime. HA!)  I’m going to change the exercise slightly and just list ten things I’ve learned work (or don’t work) for me.

Here there are, 10 Things

1.) Writing Chronologically– This doesn’t work for me.  While writing 25, I always wrote whatever scene came to mind, never worrying about where it went in the book.  This actually CREATED the chronology for me without having to outline right away because main events  put smaller scenes into perspective.  I learned what had to come BEFORE such-and-such happened and it was easy to imagine what would come after.  I tried to write my NANO project, Anita’s Dream Diary, in chronological order.  It sucked.  The first chapter was great, but it all went downhill after that because I didn’t really know where the story was going.

2.) Outlining– This works for me, but only AFTER I’ve started writing.  I wrote my first 25 outline after I wrote half the book.  I wrote my first TDE outline after I wrote about 10K words.  Again, neither of these works were written chronologically.  I tried outlining The First Mermaid after only writing two chapters, but it just made me feel stuck.  I didn’t want to continue working on the story.

3.) Critiquing– Getting reviews from other writers and readers is great.  But I’ve discovered I need to wait until the work is in final first draft stage to start asking for help.  I mean, it needs to have a beginning, a middle, and an end that flow cohesively together before I start asking people to tear it apart.  I’ve tried getting critiques as I write and they just make me want to cry and trash the whole work.  I’m not encouraged to continue working on writing the rest of the book because so many flaws are found in Chapter 1.  Flaws need to be fixed, yes.  But not if that means you stop writing altogether.  For me, editing is stage two.  I’ll use reviews and critiques once the entire story has been written down.  It feels like progress is being made when I can sit down and edit several chapters as once, rather than trying to make chapter 1 perfect before moving on to chapter 2.

4.) Critiquing– Yes, it gets a second point on the list.  Critiquing is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY.  Readers can find flaws in your work that you overlook.  They recognize plot holes, typos, cliches, everything and anything that you don’t want to survive before an editor sees it.  I planned on stopping 25 at a certain point.  My reviewers made me realize that the end of the story I originally envisioned was NOT the end of the story.  The book is SO much better now because of critiques.

5.) First Drafting by Hand– I’ve mentioned this several times.  My first drafts suck.  I mean really suck.  But, by handwriting them first, I get a second shot at my first draft when I type it.  My thoughts and ideas flow more easily when I have a pen in my hand than when I am typing.  I even write a good portion of my blog posts by hand first.  Not all of them, but at least half.  After finishing 25, I started typing almost all of my other ideas first and found that I got stuck at around 10-16K words.  25 was at least 75% hand-written before I typed a single word.  I had 60K words without even realizing it.

6.) Writing for Me25 is the love story I want for myself.  I wrote it because I was sick and tired of having nothing good going for me.  I wrote it for me.  When I started other projects, they weren’t really for me.  They weren’t really ideas I felt a strong personal connection to.  From now on, I’m going to write stories that I will enjoy, forget the rest of the world.  Because if I like them, then I’ll put more work and effort into them, more passion and heart.  And hopefully the world will like that.

7.) Simple Plots25 is a simple plot with complex characters.  It is based in reality.  I think I did this very well.  My attempts at complicated intricate plots really didn’t work.  I think I have more talent for bringing out the emotions in characters than in putting them in a series of impossible situations.

8.) First Person POV– I think this is the most natural voice for me to use.  When I’m intending to write in third person, I find myself slipping into first.  It’s so much easier to express the characters feelings when I am in first person.  25 was written completely in Abby’s first person perspective, then on second draft revisions, I added in Ben’s first person perspective, which resulted in a much fuller, deeper story.  I’m using both first and third for TDE, but every time I start writing a character’s scene who is supposed to be in third person, I start writing in first without thinking about it!  I have to go back and change everything!  But, I’m not giving up on third person completely.  I think it is one of the things I should really work on mastering, even if I end up writing in first person for every other project I ever do.

9.) Character Description (Physical)– This is something I don’t do very well.  I think it is because when I’m reading a book someone else has written, I often hate their descriptions of the way the characters look.  I always picture the character differently in my own head.  So, when I write, I want to leave character descriptions open so that the reader can picture the character however they want.  I’ve found though, for the most part, that my readers haven’t liked this.  They want at least a little physical description.  That’s why I was doing the writing exercises over the past two weeks.  In 25, I’m going to actually have to go back and add in more description for some of the minor characters.  There’s several that I never describe at all!  I need to go back into TDE and add in some for a good majority of the characters, as well.  Whew, lots of work ahead of me!

10.) Unnecessary Words– There are certain words I use way too much: THAT, JUST, HAD, WELL, and “I MEAN” are my biggest offenders.  I don’t even realize I’m using them until someone points it out.  Every time I read through a draft (of anything I’ve written) I will find new examples of these unnecessary words.  A good portion of my editing is taking them out and adjusting sentences to make them sound better without them.  I really don’t know why I use the word “just” so often, but it’s like a big glaring red flag anytime I sit down to edit.  I see it ALL over the MS.

Incorporating the Exercise

Alright, so I took my writing exercise and used it to expand a character and chapter of TDE.  Yes, there is dialogue here, but I think I managed the description and character building fairly well.  Let me know what you think!

Chapter Ten: The Girl Who Died

I remember the day I really noticed Jax for the first time.  We’d been in classes together every other year or so since pre-school, but didn’t become friends until fifth grade.  We shared a table that year because Tasha Moore moved over the summer, putting Jax Nathanson right behind me in the alphabetical order.

During the second week of school, our teacher Mrs. Klein told the class about family trees.  “You connect married people with a bold dash and their children with another bold dash.”  She demonstrated on the chalkboard then asked us to fill in the names of our parents and siblings on the blank chart she’d passed out at the beginning of the lesson.

I carefully wrote in my parents’ names using all caps, G-E-R-I, D-O-N-N-Y, and my sister’s, T-A-Y-L-O-R and was just about to write my own when Jax’s arm shot up beside my head.

“Mrs. Klein?”

“Yes, Jax?”

“What about adopted kids?  Do they go on the tree?”

The teacher approached our table and knelt in front of Jax.  “Well, adopted kids are part of the family, too, aren’t they?”

Jax shrugged his shoulders.  “I guess.”

“Of course they are.  So you use a big dash to connect them, too.”  She patted his hand before walking away to answer another student’s question.  Jax still didn’t write anything on his chart.

His conversation with Mrs. Klein ran on a loop in my head, my pencil frozen on top of the paper where L-I-S-A was supposed to go.


That was the word for kids like me, but I’d never really known it until that moment.  I remembered very vividly the day my mother explained why Taylor looked like her and I didn’t, but somehow I’d never connected the dots.

Leaning across the desk, I whispered, “Are you adopted?”

Jax didn’t even turn his head to look at me, just nodded and continued staring at his blank chart.

“Me, too.”

That got his attention.  “Really?”



“Whaddya mean?”

“Why were you adopted?  My real mom died when I was five.  I was a foster kid for a while, but these people just adopted me.  I guess they’re my mom and dad now.”  He didn’t sound very happy about having new parents.  But it made sense.  I wondered if I’d been happy when I got my new parents.

“My parents have always been my parents,” I said slowly, realizing it was true.  My real parents gave me up, didn’t want me.  “They adopted me when I was a baby, I don’t know why.”


I looked back to the chart in front of me.  I didn’t know why I was part of my family, but I knew I was.  Pressing down finally, my pencil formed the letters of my name.  I drew the line between myself and my parents as bold as possible.  Jax’s chart remained empty.

“Alright, class, settle down.  Your homework for tonight is to fill in the spots for your grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  There are questions on the back of the sheet for you to ask your parents.  Tomorrow everyone will tell the class a little about their family.”

Jax immediately balled his paper up and stuffed it into his backpack.  He didn’t give a presentation the next day.

He completely fascinated me: I watched him after school, studying his face.  His dark brown hair had been shaggy when we first started school, but by the time we became friends, it had been shaved closed to his head.  The shade of his eyes matched his hair almost perfectly and he had beautiful tan skin.  His face was actually rather plain, a straight nose and square jaw, but he was still nice to look at.

The thing that fascinated me the most about Jax was seeing him with his new parents.  I was sitting on a bench outside of the school the same day as our family tree presentations, waiting for my mom to pick me up, when Jax and his parents exited the building.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  He actually looked like them!  His new father had dark hair shaved close to his scalp and his new mother had a square jaw.  He looked like he belonged to them, but he hated belonging to them.  I loved belonging to my parents, yet I didn’t look like them.

I found out a few weeks later that his new dad was in the army and that’s why he shaved his head.  He shaved Jax’s a month after the adoption was final.  Jax hated him.

It was a weird thing to have in common, being adopted, but it was nice to have someone who knew what it was like when my parents just didn’t get me.  Not that it happened often for me, even though it happened all the time for Jax, but it was still nice.

He was my best friend.

Day 3 of the Writing Exercise

My third attempt at creating character description without dialogue.  My intended focus here was Emmy, but things kinda got away from me.  Now I’m worried that these exercises are encouraging “telling” as opposed to “showing.”  Although, part of me doesn’t really care if that’s the case because I hate the show vs. tell rule.  Well, I did until I started reading The Wings of the Dove by Henry James.  Now I totally get why showing is better than telling.  If you’ve read even the first page of that book, you’ll know what I mean.  I’m only finishing it because I spent money buying it and feel like I have to or I might as well have trashed the $10 bucks I spent.

Anyways, all thoughts on this exercise welcome.  I think tomorrow I’m going to focus on a character from a book I actually intend to finish writing, The Death Effect.  I know the excitement is killing you…

Emmy was the most beautiful child Aribelle had ever seen.  She wasn’t just cute- she was absolutely gorgeous.  She had thick, curly blonde hair with just a hint of red undertone.  Aribelle could tell it would darken as she got older and eventually match her father’s.  But instead of grey eyes, Emmy’s were bright blue, wide, and sparkling with long blonde eyelashes.  She had the prettiest plump little lips and to-die-for dimples on her chubby cheeks.  Aribelle adored her instantly.

And she adored watching Tom interact with his daughter.  They laughed and teased and tickled one another.  She had never pictured him as the father type, but seeing him with Emmy, she wondered what else she’d been wrong about.

Of course, if she asked him about it, she’d find out she wasn’t entirely wrong.  At any point before Emmy was born, Tom would have said he didn’t like kids and never wanted any.  He and Julia agreed that they didn’t want a family.

Emmy was a blissful accident.

But, even during the pregnancy, Tom had doubts.  He never believed he could be a good father or love any child, even one of his own.

It only took a second, though, for him to fall madly in love with Emmy.  The nurse handed her to him, all pink and new, and he’d never felt an emotion so powerful.  He couldn’t even name the feeling- it was too overwhelming, too all-consuming, to be described by the simple word “love.”

Loving Emmy made him love Julia even more and Julia claimed the same was true for her, but things still fell apart.  Not because of Emmy.  No problem in this world could stem from such an angel, all smiles and laughter as she was.  But Emmy couldn’t help the situation, no matter how much they tried to grow their relationship around her.  Love wasn’t enough.  Tom didn’t think it ever could be.

Am I Getting Any Better?

Okay, my next attempt in the writing exercise to work on character description.  How am I doing?

Tom Witherspoon was no one special back in high school, unless Aribelle’s love made him special.  He wasn’t short and he wasn’t tall, he wasn’t ugly and he wasn’t handsome, but Aribelle loved him.  He was the kind of guy you had to get to know to love, and once Aribelle got to know him, she couldn’t get enough of him.  He was funny in a subtle way, one really had to think about what he was saying and realize the irony.

Aribelle’s friends didn’t get the appeal, but it didn’t matter, because once she made up her mind, there was no changing it.  And she adored his grey eyes and strawberry blonde hair.  He just wasn’t like the other guys- that’s what she liked the most about him.

He scheduled the appointment at the salon because his mother kept harassing him about his long hair.  She complained that he was never going to meet anyone else if he looked like a hobo.  Of course, after his five-year marriage ended, he wasn’t exactly looking for a new relationship.  He had his hands full enough with Emmy, his three-year old daughter, and learning how to cook, clean, and pay bills for himself all over again.

The marriage hadn’t been bad.  It just hadn’t worked.  After Emmy’s birth, things became strained.  Julia felt more and more tied down and began to resent Tom’s “free-spirited” existence.  He could never figure out where she got the idea that he lived a “free-spirited” existence, but stopped arguing the point after a while.  He finally supposed that the fact that he left every morning to go to work and she was “stuck” at home every day with the baby gave her the idea that he could go off gallivanting with his friends whenever he felt like it.

Now she was working again and Emmy spent the day with one of her grandmothers.  Tom had her for two weeks straight, then Julia had her for two weeks.  It was the easiest and best solution for the time being, but Tom worried when Emmy reached school age that the constant moving back and forth would cause problems.   Julia never wanted to talk about that, even though kindergarten was only a year and a half away.

Writing Exercise

I’m in need of practice, specifically with character description and prose.  I suck at these two aspects of storytelling.  I like to be all Dialogue, Dialogue, Dialogue.  So, I’m going to start a writing exercise where at least once a day I spend thirty minutes to an hour trying to write as much as I can in terms of character description/development WITHOUT ANY DIALOGUE.  I started last night, here’s what I came up with:

Aribelle Justice loved her job.  She counted herself lucky.  How many people could actually say they loved their job?  She loved that every day was the same, yet different.  She loved making people beautiful.

When she went into work on a Saturday, she didn’t consider life unfair.  She never once thought, “I never get a real weekend!  Why didn’t I choose a normal 9-to-5 type career?”

Aribelle Justice loved her boyfriend, once.  Not so much anymore.  But she hadn’t realized it yet.  Things were comfortable with him.  He was handsome and intelligent; he treated her with respect.  But the spark was gone.

When she left work on a Saturday evening, she wasn’t excited to go home.  She wanted to stay at the salon, see a few more guests, make someone else’s date night incredible.

Aribelle had been one of the pretty girls in high school, though no one would claim she was beautiful.  She had deep brown eyes and long dark hair, a round face and slightly chubby cheeks.  The boys loved her because she was fearless and never took herself too seriously.  Senior year, she climbed to the top of the school’s clock tower, in a bikini, to protest the strict dress code.  Now, ten years later, her face slightly rounder, her hair slightly lighter and much shorter, she used that same fearlessness and a pair of shears to transform her guests from shlumpy housewives into fierce sex kittens.

She walked into the salon every day with her head high, thanks to two-inch heels.  She hadn’t felt her toes in over six years, but she didn’t care.  “Beauty is worth a little pain every now and then,” was her motto and she took nothing more seriously than beauty.  It was her job, after all.

So it wasn’t fate that she happened to be wearing a stunning outfit on a Wednesday afternoon in March.  Dark jeans, a fitted royal blue top, and a killer black blazer.  She always dressed to impress.  But perhaps it was fate that caused Tom Witherspoon to schedule an appointment with her best friend and co-worker, Lacey, on that same Wednesday afternoon.  Or, it might have been fate, if she believed in fate.  But she didn’t.

Now I’d like your help.  In the comments, give me the name of a character and one or two thoughts on who this character is.  I’ll post my practices here and everyone is free to critique to help my improve my writing in this area.  Sound like fun?  Thanks in advance for your help!

What I Learned This Week

I’m often told that my writing is very honest- that I’m not afraid of putting myself out there on the page.  And I definitely find this is true.  In fact, I’m more honest in my writing than in actual conversation.  Not because I am untruthful in real conversation, but because I often just can’t find the right way to express myself.  Somehow, in writing, I always can.

I’ve been thinking about this phenomenon a lot lately.  Namely due to this guy I went out on a couple of dates with.  Let me emphasize A COUPLE OF DATES.  I’ll be more precise.  TWO dates.  You’ll see why the number is important in a minute.

This guy is very nice and we had a good time hanging out together.  He’s also very religious.  Not religious in the sense that he thinks you’ll go to hell for smoking, drinking, and cursing, because he certainly does those things, but religious in the sense that he feels a very deep faith in God and Jesus.

I respect his faith.  I respect anyone who is able to have an unwavering belief that God is the answer to anything.  But.  I am not one of those people/  I believe in God, but I don’t always like him.  This turned out to be a problem for said guy.

Personally, I think discussing religion on the first couple of dates is a BIG MISTAKE.  But, God isn’t as important to me as it is to him, so the subject came up.  I tried to explain I wasn’t comfortable talking about it, but it was important to him.  I finally wrote down my entire history with church and God because I felt like I wasn’t expressing myself very well verbally.

I am really proud of what I wrote.  I found it incredibly beautiful and honest.  One day maybe I’ll share it with you, but it is still very personal.

The whole experience also made me think about myself in a new way.  I’ve decided I’m pretty awesome.  I’m not saying that from a conceited place, but from a it’s-time-I-had-a-little-more-confidence place.  Because really, I’m an awesome person.  If things had worked out with the guy, he would have been lucky to have me.  Because I’m funny, and witty, and I don’t always take everything so seriously.  I can have fun sitting in the Garden Center at Wal-Mart playing dots.  (One of the activities on our first date.)  I’m smart, and dammit, I’m going to do something incredible in life.  I don’t know what that thing is yet, but I believe it’s going to happen.  I have passion.  I care about people.  I’m thoughtful.  I’m pretty when I get dressed up.  I’m freaking awesome, and just because no guy has been able to handle all of my awesomeness up til now, doesn’t mean that no guy ever will.  Because some guy is going to see it.  And he is going to be incredibly awesome, too.

One other thing I learned this week (which has absolutely nothing to do with the other two things), thanks to Nathan Bransford’s blog: I use too much repetition in my writing.  It is always good when you see a post by an agent that helps you recognize and remedy a problem!  Thank you, Nathan!

So, to recap, what I’ve learned this week:

1) I’m able to express myself more completely through written words.

2) I’m pretty f***ing awesome.

3) I need to edit for repetition.

A pretty good week, I think!