Writerly Musings

Over the last few days I’ve spent a lot of time editing. Well, in reality I’ve spent a lot of time accepting or rejecting the edits that a beta reader made for When Life Hands You Lymes
As I work, I’ve discovered something funny: When the beta reader suggests a change for a scene that has been written during one of the last five drafts, I’m very likely to be like “Oh wow, that makes sense” and push accept. On the other hand, when he suggests a change for a scene that was written during the first ten drafts, then it’s much harder. It’s literally more difficult at times for me to be okay with changing one word of an older draft scene, than to delete an entire paragraph in one of the newer scenes. 
I think it’s safe to say that I get pretty attached to my characters, settings, and even word choices after I’ve worked with them for a while. I get to the point where I begin talking and thinking about the characters as if they’re real people. For instance, I’ll be shopping and will think, “Oh, Maddie would like to have that in her room” or “This is just the way Katie likes her coffee.” In reality, it shouldn’t be surprising, because I’ve literally spent thousands of hours with the characters during the last 33 months. (Which is more time than I’ve spent with any other people, except for my family, during the same time period.) Besides, I know that in order to make my characters come alive to the reader, they have to come alive to me. 

One thing that always makes me happy is when other people discuss my characters with me, as if they’re real. I have a handful of beta readers and friends who make little comments about what Maddie would like, or how Darrick totally did the right thing, and that makes my little writer’s heart extremely content.

There are some people out there who declare that their characters have a mind of their own, and the writer isn’t in control of anything that happens, and while I don’t agree with that, they do have a point.  After an author has worked for a long time to develop a character, then it is almost as if the character starts taking over. To explain the concept better, imagine your best friend. In all likelihood, you can predict how she would react to certain situations, and it wouldn’t work out too well if you’d try and make her react in a different way, just because you thought your way was better.

My characters react certain ways in certain situations, because that’s who they are. And, since I didn’t know the characters as well back when I was writing the plot, then sometimes the plot is totally outdated and needs help, because hey, the character isn’t going to step out of character just to make the plot work better. So when that happens, it sorta does feel like the characters have minds of their own.

And now I’m off to edit again. I hope y’all have a fantastic and victorious day!

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What about you? Have you ever caught yourself thinking about a character (in a book you’ve written or read), as if they’re real? 

Commitment: Making it Happen

One thing I’ve discovered is that after I’ve decided and committed to do something, it’s so much easier to accomplish. All the guess work is taken out, and instead of wasting time thinking “should I or shouldn’t I do this?” the brain power goes to figuring out the best way to get it done.

For instance: Near the end of last year I decided to eat extremely healthily (aka paleo) for 100 days. And I did. There were times that it was hard, but I never once thought of giving up. From the time my 100 days were up (April-something), until when I went to North Dakota in June, I was on and off paleo, but did kinda okay with it. Then when I was in North Dakota I went totally off of it. When I got back to Ohio (not home), went off of grains and sugar, but still wasn’t that healthy. Then at the beginning of this month I wasn’t feeling well and knew it had a lot to do with what I was eating. So, I made the choice one morning after an embarrassing walk/run to be paleo until October 16th. Since then I’ve been paleo without any problem, hardly even craving non-paleo foods.

Another example: One of my 24 before 24 challenges is to write 1,000 words every day (except Sundays) for 24 days in a row. I made several half-hearted attempts to start the 24 days, but it wasn’t until I sat down and prepared and worked on a plot and committed to it that I actually really started. I’m several days into the challenge now and have throughly enjoyed writing each evening.

When I really want to get something done, the best way to see it through is for me to write goals, map out a plan, and then stick to it. Yes, there are reasons to sometimes abandon plans, but measly things like feelings shouldn’t factor into the equation.

Currently I’m training to run a marathon. Knowing this helps me get to bed earlier. It helps me wake up earlier. It helps me eat healthily. It helps me to keep running ten more seconds when I feel like slowing down to a walk. It helps me walk at a faster pace until I can start running again. It makes “one more mile” a reality instead of a wish. I’ve committed to a marathon, so training isn’t something I allow myself to choose any more, instead it’s a part of my day.

When I had a date set for when I wanted to be finished with the 15th draft of WLHYL, I worked on the book many days when I didn’t feel like it. I pushed through, and figured out problems that I’d been putting off. I made changes that I’d had niggling in the back of my brain for several drafts. There were times when I wanted to throw up my hands and set the book aside for another few months (or years…or decades), but instead I kept going.

We all have plans, goals, dreams, or tasks that we need to complete. Knowing how much it helps me when I commit to something helps me be wise with when and how often I choose to commit. What are some things y’all have committed to doing recently? 

Exclamation Points and Their Sneaky, Weasel-ly Ways

Confession: I was pretty pleased with myself.

Back at the beginning of my writing career, I used exclamation points like they were going out of style. This slowly evolved over time until I not only abhorred them in books (except for when someone is yelling or cheering or such), but I rarely even use them on Noveltea. Now, I must admit they sometimes sneak into my emails and texts like a prison-wide jail break, but that’s normally when I’m being frivolous with my writing style anyway.
So, I decided to search When Life Hands You Lymes and see how many exclamation points I had. I figured there would probably be a dozen or so, cause there’s some yelling that goes on, plus a surprise party. 
Y’all. I had EIGHTY-SIX exclamation points. No, really. Eighty-six. How in the world? And right there, the pleased-ness (yes, I just coined that word), I felt at my morphing into a non-exclamation-point-using author vanished. So, of course I had to look at each and every one of those exclamation points and see why in the world they were cluttering up my book. 
Thankfully in the space of two sittings I was able to significantly cut down on that scarily excessive amount of exclamation points and return my book to a much more respectful standing in the library of my brain. 
Here are some examples of exclamation points I change to periods or question marks:
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Yet, despite my best efforts there were times when an exclamation point was really needed to convey the way the words was spoken. Take for instance, “Merry Christmas!” is the normal way to greet someone (on Christmas day at least), and if I had just written “Merry Christmas.” then the readers would get the impression that Madalyn wasn’t actually excited about Christmas. And yeah, we couldn’t have that. So, here are some examples of the exclamation points I kept:

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Same thing with birthday greetings. No one texts “Happy Birthday, Best friend.” when they’re wanting to spread cheer and happiness, right? An exclamation point is practically required with that type of text:

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And then there’s the case when someone was surprised and screeched a word in excited happiness:  
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And that, folks, is the saga of my vicious fight with the semi-dreaded exclamation points and how I cut their number from eighty-six down to thirty-seven. I’m still slightly shocked that so many of them worked their way into WLHYL, and that no one pointed them out to me, but I guess maybe they were hidden pretty well… 
What about y’all? Do you have a hard time with those sneaky little bits of punctuation? 

A More Clear View

It’s been fifteen months since I got my glasses, which in turn translates to the most fifteen headache-free months I’ve had in a long time. Glasses make my world clearer and therefore it’s a lot more enjoyable to do activities like sitting in church, driving, and being in meetings since I can actually focus on what’s going on. There’s even a big difference with what I can see while doing my hair three feet away from the mirror.

Do you know what’s crazy though? Nearly every morning I resist putting my glasses on. It’s not that I don’t like them (because I do). Nor is it that I find them uncomfortable (because I don’t). It’s actually that every morning an annoying, subconscious warning whispers insistently “No, No, No! They’re dirty! Your vision will be blurry! You’ll regret it!” at me. So I often don’t wear my glasses until I’ve been up and working in my office for several hours, which is actually rather silly.

To combat the cringing feeling I get at the thought of smudgy glasses I wash them regularly, including each morning before I put them on. And do you know what? I can’t remember the last time I regretted putting my glasses on.

Before glasses

Putting on my glasses is like getting feedback back from a beta reader. (Y’all knew a writing comparison was coming, right?)

Feedback is so incredibly helpful. It makes my writing and books better; it helps them be more focused and clear. Feedback narrows and enlightens, helps me figure out what the next step is, and helps me see from other people’s perspectives. (If only my glasses could do that…)

After glasses
On the flip side though, feedback also presents me with a whole new stack of problems to wash away and that can be a bit overwhelming. Plus, when I receive conflicting feedback from beta readers, it can smudge the clear view I thought I had of the book and confuse me while trying to decide who’s feedback to listen to. 

That means that sometimes even though I want to get the feedback, I’m also half-way cringing inside as I read it. I’ve discovered a very important fact though: In the end I’m always thankful for feedback, even when I don’t fully agree with it. That’s because feedback, like my glasses, have a job to do and make life better when I don’t shy away from them.

Currently I have a stack of emails with feedback sitting in my inbox, I have my glasses on, the world is clear, and I’m excited (mostly) to tackle today. 

When Names and Writing Collide

There’s a decided draw in my mind toward names. I find them intrinsically pleasing.  God calls each of the stars by name, Adam was charged with naming the animals, down through the years billions of people have named their children, and now I get to name countless pets, characters, and places. 

Before I started writing I was worried that when I grew up my children would have to have seemingly endless monikers so I could cram in as many delightful names as possible (Elizabeth Joy Emmeline Anne for instance). It was incredibly rewarding to finally have an outlet for all the beautiful names I’d come up with when I began writing. I’d pore over baby name books (I have nearly a shelf of them), look up meanings online, and spend way too much time making sure they fit the character perfectly.

I soon discovered that names are the bane of my writerly existence half of the time and the cause of great joy and happy dances the other half. My way of coming up with names has evolved into a rather quirky experience, especially when it comes to names for the fictional countries I’ve created.

The way I came up with the name for the first country I ever made up was by looking at the names of some missionaries who’s picture I had next to my bed some eight or so years ago. I thought their last name was the perfect title for a country and so incorporated it into the book. Only, I had no clue how to pronounce it and the first time I heard someone say it aloud I was disenchanted. So… I changed a few letters around and omitted a few more until I came up with “Turglar” which I promptly remembered by thinking of a turtle drowning and therefore gurgling as it sunk to a slow death on the bottom of a pond (don’t worry about telling me how unscientific that is). “Turglar” ended up being the main country in the Medieval-like series I wrote back in my teens. 

Today I thought I’d share with you some ways I’ve discovered to name fictional places:

1. Chose a country that is similar to the country you’ve created and then get on Google Earth and look up streets, cities, and landmarks from that county. Simply tweak a letter here or there and boom, you’ve got it. 

2. Research your ancestors. If you have multitudes of Sylvia’s in your family tree, why not find a way to incorporate it into the book? 

3. You could choose a word that summarizes the people group like “fierce” or “rich” and then look up the word in a different language. For instance in Javanese “fierce” is Galak,  “Rich” is Rikas in Finnish, and Redimir means “redeem” in Catalan. 

4. Take all the letters in your name (or a friends) and unscramble them. For instance my full name has the letters a-d-e-h-i-j-l-o-o-w-y-y, with those letters we could come up with Wiloo, Aidlow, or Loyad. (I’ve decided I come by the name-intrique honestly. While coming up with a name for their daughter one of my aunts and uncles combined their two names – Angela and Nick, and got Anika. Then they added an “I” to fit with the names of their other children, and ended up with Inika; a beautiful, and very unique, name.) 

5. I find it quite fun to tie my different books together in nearly unnoticeable ways. Flip a character’s name around, chose a special word and then change the language, use a last name from one book for the name of a town in another, etc…  

6. Listening to the people around you talking is a great way to come up with a name. Just drop a letter or two off of a fairly common word, and there you are. “Kios” is the name of the country where my Echoes series is located (the book I wrote in November). I came up with the name one day while church I was visiting was being dismissed and the pastor said something about the kiosk in the back. And yay, there the perfect name was. 

7. Chose your favorite meal (or least favorite depending on what you’re naming) and mix and match. Like if you like lasagna and green beans and garlic bread you could name the people group “Laseenga.” (Okay, yeah, that was weird.) 

It’s a two-way street though. Not only has my delight in names helped with my writing, but my delight in writing has also helped with my naming. Over the years I’ve had dozens upon dozens of pets, and some of them have had rather singular titles. 

Take for instance some of the goats I raised with my brother we had Epilog, Prelude, and Synopsis. I named a sweet litter of kittens Booklyn, Smilie, Metaphor, and Onomatopoeia. My dog’s name is Novel, and my rat’s name is Autumn Genre. Names are so much fun and I’m thankful to get to work with them. 

What are some of your favorite names? Or some of the names you’ve come up with? 

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Today I had Josh (who’s pretty much a brother) help me choose the destination for our Around The World in Fifty-Two Weeks post, and the country is: Poland! 

Becoming a Musician (but not really)

Podcasts. YouTube. Websites. Books. Friends. Pinterest. Strangers. Emails. Facebook Messages. Phone calls. 
I’m working on the music plot for When Life Hands You Lymes and until I got into it I didn’t realize how very much I had to learn. I’m not musical. I took piano lessons for a while during my early teen years, and while I enjoyed them a moderate amount, I wasn’t a star performer by anyones standards. 
I really enjoy listening to music. 
Crazy thing though: Enjoying music and learning all the “behind the scenes” to music are two different things. It’s been good for me though, because it’s pushing me outside of my comfort zone and helping me to learn an amazing multitude of things that I probably would have never learned without this shove. 
It’s also quite overwhelming. It’s like learning a whole new language. Or seeing the world through different eyes. I’ve discovered that everything is effected when you’re a dedicated musician. Just like I see everything differently because I’m a writer. And when I say “see” I also mean taste and touch and smell and think. Take for instance the one podcast I was listening to: The hostess was talking about how her newborn baby “cooed” in the key of D. I never even realized babies had different keys do “coo” in. 
Right now I’m immersing myself in music from every angle and hoping that it does the trick of helping me think and feel and reason like a musician. I’m also trying to do it on fast speed so I don’t have to study for fifteen years to become at least proficient enough to write about it from a realistic angle. 

It reminds me somewhat of what I would imagine life as an actress. I have to put myself into a whole new skin and study the surroundings from that angle. I’m even imagining what kinds of t-shirts and hoodies Maddie would wear while practicing. How she would put her hair. What her dreams look like. It’s rather in depth, all these different situations to become a part of. 
I’ve known musicians (quite dedicated ones) all my life, and yet knowing them and “becoming” one of them are two totally different things. And yes, I do have an even greater appreciation for those who make music…
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If you’re a musician, particularly if you play the piano or violin, but any kind of instrument, really, then I would be delighted to hear about it! And, if you’re okay with me asking you some questions you could email me at: aidylewoh@gmail.com Thanks! 

How Writing Relates to Gummy Bears

One thing I’ve discovered is that sometimes writing a book doesn’t always go the way I had expected it to. Instead it’s kinda like getting gummy bears, taking them apart, and reassembling them in a new way. It takes a lot of creativity, thinking outside of the norm, tools to work with, and a fair amount of time. The work is intricate and sometimes feels messy. (Well, not all those things apply to re-crafting gummy bears, but they do to re-crafting a story.) 
Do you know what though? When I finally have the finished product in sight it’s beautiful. All the years of work I’ve poured into crafting a story will be worthwhile because it will shimmer and be full of word pictures and moments that make me go yes!. (And, when it comes to gummy bears they’ll be bright and colorful and fun to look at.) 

This week I’m hoping to spend a lot of time reconstructing sentences and tearing apart my previously written work. I need to do tons of research on certain subjects and work at making my plot stronger and more consistent. I need to really think through the goals and purposes my book has and then figure out the best way to reach them. (Thankfully my sister did all the work with the gummy bears so I didn’t have to put so much planning into them.)

It’s exciting to think of the finished product, yet kinda scary to think of the process of getting there. Sometimes I feel like giving my book a nice little pat and setting it off to the side then playing Dutch Blitz all day long with my siblings. (Still trying to figure out a way that playing games can be considered research for writing…) It’s times like this that I have to set realistic goals for my writing and then focusing on what the end goal is so I don’t get caught up and freaked out by the millions of little details that will happen before that goal is realized. (With gummy bears, all you have to do is think of how delicious they’ll be when you’re done with them and that’s motivation enough.)

What about you? Have you ever compared your writing to gummy bears? And, do you generally play with your candy, or just eat it?

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It’s that time again where we get to choose where Annie goes for this week in our Friday Series, Around the World in Fifty-Two WeeksAnd the destination is… Great Britain! Yay! This makes me happy. 🙂 (I’m actually going to consider this to be England.)

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the end of this post.

Why I Don’t Edit During First Drafts

I have discovered that if at all possible it works best for me to write a quick first draft and not allow myself to do any editing until six weeks after I’ve written The End. When this happens I end up having to do a lot of rewriting and cutting and adding, but it’s worth it, even if I do trash thousands of words and add in whole scenes to replace them. 
Why this works best for me:
~Keeping the flow going while I’m writing helps my thoughts stay in tune. My brain loves to jump from place to place so sometimes I even write a note to myself on my WIP to come back in and finish a scene later on and then I skip ahead. Writing it all in a timely manner keeps me from having too many misfitting scenes.
~When I’m in the writing zone my thoughts are extremely different from when I’m in the editing zone. It messes up my rhythm to try and change back and forth. 
~I thrive on starting and finishing something. Working on one draft at a time and having concrete starts and stops works a lot better then merging the two.

~I’d rather get a first draft written quickly if at all possible. I can generally (sometimes, anyway) think of other story ideas while editing, but I try to focus solely on the story at hand while I’m writing.

~My inspiration doesn’t flow nearly as well if I’m paying attention to typos or grammar or plot holes.

~I make needless edits because I don’t know where the story is actually going to end up, or the exact routes it’s going to take to get there.

~It takes so long when I’m writing and editing then I lose my drive and enthusiasm for the project more often. (Meaning I take breaks from the book a lot.)

~I plain and simple like dividing the writing part and the editing part.

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What about you? Do you write and edit at the same time? If so, why? If not, is it because of some of the reasons I listed? Oh, and don’t forget to fill out this survey for your chance to win a gift card (and to help me out!). 

The Creative Creator

Somewhere in the middle of last week I realized I missed taking walks. For a long time I would take a walk each morning and activate my brain and kick my attitude into high gear by praising God and thinking over my day as I went. I don’t know if I stopped the habit when the weather turned quite hot or when I was gone one too many times, but for the last few months my walking habits have consisted of running back and forth to my non-writing job in the middle of the day. Not quite the same feeling. 
This morning I awoke to a chilly world outside and a brilliant covering of frost. I curled up in a blanket and snuggled down on the couch to have my devotions. The comfort of the fuzzy blanket got to me and by the time I was done I wanted to take a nap. Instead I bundled up and went out on a walk. 
My walk took far longer than normal because I stopped every twenty or thirty yards to take pictures. The sun was coming up in stunning brightness and the frost was so defined I kept having to crouch down to see it at eye level. 
The frost reminded me, once again, that I serve an awesomely creative God. He not only created the world with magnificent diversity back six thousand(ish) years ago, but He continues to fill our lives with diversity and beauty even now in the year twenty-fifteen. 

It’s easy to look at some people and know which parent they received a certain trait from. I apparently (from what everyone says) look like my mom, sound like my mom and have her same expressions. I received my sneeze, my weird sense of humor and my habit of sleeping on the floor from my dad.

I like to think that in the same way that God has designed us to be like our earthly parents, He’s also given us certain of His own traits. (We are created in His image after all.) When I use my imagination to bring God glory I think it makes Him happy. When I am inspired by His creation and it spurs me on to create something of my own, I think He is pleased.

God is creative.
In Isaiah 64:8 people are compared to clay and God to a potter. 
In Psalm 139:13 it says we were “knit” or “woven” together in our mother’s womb. 
In Ephesians 2:10 we are called God’s workmanship.  
I have enjoyed names ever since I was a little girl. I find them creative, fascinating, beautiful and filled with promise. In Psalm 147:4 we’re told that God knows the number of stars and calls them each by name. The first time that verse really hit me I was filled with wonder and amazement, see, God was interested in names way before I ever was. 
I enjoy being creative. I enjoy trying to look at the world with new eyes, to experience a normal experience seemingly for the first time. A child-like wonder still floats around me, reminding me that the world, the people, the challenges I face are all multi-layered and hold mysteries I can’t even begin to comprehend. 
There is so much creativity that is waiting to be discovered, to be tapped into, to be fashioned and held and changed. I serve a creative Creator and I have been given the gift and desire to create as well. It’s a honor I’m so very thankful to comply with. 

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What about you? What is one thing that inspires you to be creative?

When "National Novel Writing Month" Turns Into "Eat All the White Chocolate I Want Month"

I have so much super amazing support when it comes to my writing that it’s pretty crazy. Take for instance the announcement that I made at the beginning of this month that I was calling November not only “National Novel Writing Month” but also “Eat All the White Chocolate I Want Month.” 
Writers are always talking about how they eat chocolate to celebrate or when one of their characters are threatening to die or when a plot hole is so large it has the capability of swallowing whole cities. Since I don’t generally go around eating candy I always felt a bit left out of these enthusiastic virtual (and real) chocolate eating parties. So, this month I decided to include myself in the festivities.  

I’m not sure if I’m sub-conciously begging people to give me handouts of white chocolate or if my face proclaims “White chocolate makes me happy” (perhaps is the fact that I talk about it all the time???), but people have been giving me white chocolate. Yes, that’s right. People, not just one person. No, this month I’ve had five people give me whole packs of white chocolate, four of them just this past weekend. Needless to say I was rather astonished and blown away. (Thank you, by the way!!! Y’all are amazing!)

See? I’m surrounded by generous and caring people and it makes my little heart so happy. It also makes my chocolate box filled to the brim and maybe overflowing, so we just had a party where I invited my sister and a couple of friends into my room and we snacked on the delicious goodness. It was wonderful.

To all of you who support my writing, whether it’s by reading my blog or buying my book or giving me white chocolate or asking how my writing is going or emailing me encouraging words/advice, Thank you! Being a writer isn’t always the most easy road to travel, but I know I have tons of support and that makes the journey so much more amazing and totally worth-while. 
To all you writers who read my blog: Keep going! Writing can be difficult but if it’s really your dream and passion than it is worth it. There are times when I feel like curling up in a ball and hoping that I’m a caterpillar so I can emerge from my cocoon as a butterfly because this is hard work and sometimes hard work seems way harder than it should be. It’s a journey we’re on though, not just a destination we are striving for. One day you’ll be able to look back and be proud of the way you kept going, even when the going got tough. 

And to all of you who wonder how much chocolate I’ve devoured during the first sixteen days of my “Eat All the White Chocolate I Want Month” here’s a picture. ^ That might look like a lot, but it averages out to one and a half pieces a day, so I’m pretty sure I’m doing fine.

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What about you? Do you like white chocolate?