Friday, July 29, 2011

It's Been Great

I'm so sad to see Borders closing. Until the doors are locked and the shelves empty, I'll be checking off my book wish list and enjoying a little reading therapy from one of my favorite stores.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Using Music to Get Into the Mood

When you are writing a book in a different era, or even one in current times, music can help you get into the mood of the book. For example: if you are writing about the Roaring Twenties, play jazz or ragtime to put you into the mood and mind set. If your book is set in Greece, put on some Greek folk music - anything that suits your story. Music can remind you of experiences you have had and evoke emotions that would otherwise be dormant in your subconscious. In addition to all your other research, music is a great tool.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Mother's Heart

I spent the past few days with my sons. One of them has a new job and will be moving 1700 miles away and I wanted to squeeze in as much time as I could with him before he left. He will be getting married in a couple of months and that brings a whole new set of emotions.

Emotions in writing are what make us feel what is on the page. Living those emotions makes us able to convey that feeling. It all works in a beautiful way to give meaning and depth to a story.

As writers we constantly strive to make our word come alive in the reader's mind. The next time you are experiencing extreme anger, frustration, joy, pain, or love, stop for just a moment to think about how that emotion makes you feel. It may be a fleeting feeling or a feeling that weighs you down for days or weeks. Whichever it is, you stand to gain as a writer. Emotions and experiences shape us little by little until we become the people we are today. They can also enrich your writing into something very special.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Expand Your Mind

The past couple of months have been filled with learning. It has been said that we only use 10% of our brains. Others say that is a generous estimate.

If you've ever done the exercises in Betty Edward's book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, you know the feeling when you use a part of the brain that has been lax for too long. The right side is the artistic, creative side. It is more developed in some because they use it more frequently. When you draw, the right side of the brain kicks in and like an unused muscle, gets tired and it takes more effort to make it work. When you finish doing an exercise in this book (unless you draw all the time), you can actually feel your brain.

The same applies if you are learning lots of new material. The bottom line is, if you want to expand your mind, use it.

Friday, July 15, 2011


Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks? Last night I sat in a room full of middle aged savvy women who knew nothing about Twitter and most knew nothing about Facebook. Still, we were all willing and eager to learn something new about social media - the apparent wave of the future.

A very generous, Bob Hastings, gave his time and knowledge and patiently answered our questions to help us on our way. Now I know just enough to be dangerous.

Join me on Twitter @KarinaRussell

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Editing Your Baby

Writing a book feels a little like giving birth. For months you have poured your heart out, worked diligently, and created something unique to you.

Now comes the editing phase. This can be hard on writers. You don't want to change the idea you were trying to convey when you wrote it. It's painful to cut whole paragraphs or whole chapters. What will you fill in with? Your book is getting shorter and shorter the more you cut.

Never fear. Having someone else read and make suggestions is extremely helpful. They aren't as attached to it as you are and can make some good suggestions that can help the story along and actually make it better. To have the best experience here, I would say you need someone to help you who reads and likes the genre you are writing. Try reading it out loud to yourself. You will know when a sentence or chapter feels forced, labored, inconsistent, or unnecessary. You'll know if you need to reword or if you are using words too often. You have instinct, or you wouldn't be doing this in the first place.

In the end, it is still your baby and you'll be proud of the work you put into the story and the fact that you have a finished book.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Watered Down

I recently was asked to write an historic play to teach American history and to be used in the public school system. I questioned how it should be written, since so many of the stories referenced God and since our country was largely begun as a place where everyone had freedom to worship as they pleased. I was told to write it as my heart led me. Since I am a Christian, it naturally led me to tell it as it happened. These stories can't be improved upon. They are fantastic!

Our founding fathers prayed for guidance when they wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Our Nation's capital is filled with references to this belief, on buildings, in documents, and in historical accounts. A reliance on Divine Providence is what made America into a great nation. How else could they have written a Constitution that could see so far into the future and still be relevant 235 years later? How else could miraculous events have happened? The hand of God is evident in the majority of the stories of America's early years. Many of these stories were included in the history books years ago, but now are being forgotten. Unless we tell them, our children won't know what a great Nation we come from.

Now, things are changing at so great a pace, it's alarming. And these changes threaten to eliminate all that America stands for. I was rather proud of my first play. I learned a lot about our Country. As I discussed with a friend, we both remember having to memorize dates to pass the history test and missed the wonderful stories, so going back to read the stories and not having to think about the dates was amazing.

If you have read 1776 by David McCullough, you know some of these stories, though there are many before and after this time.

When I presented the play, they liked it. But they cautioned me that with so many references to God, it would never make it into the school system. I was disheartened, but I'm praying that God will show me the way to get the point across. Even without the mention of God's name, the events are downright miraculous and can't be explained any other way. God was with Godly men and women who were willing to risk it all, even their lives, to make a better place to live.

Our laws dictate that we dilute our history down to something boring and unrecognizeable. The greatness of our founding fathers is being left behind in the telling of our history. I can't help but think that children would be so excited by the real events and fall asleep in class to the watered down ones.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Writer's Software

I have been investigating software for writers. There are many different kinds with different features in all different price ranges. Based on the information I was able to find, the most expensive isn't necessarily the best. Most have multiple file capacity that can sort information, but I have been doing that on my laptop with no problem. Separate files are kept inside one book file with character pictures, outlines, and everything else. Writer's programs usually include color coding to keep you in the tense you started writing, separate side bars for outlines, chapter numbers, descriptions and the like. They may have a dictionary and thesaurus or not. If you are thinking of using one of these programs, be sure to check out all the features and make sure it has what you use most.

We live in a gadget age where there is a program or ap for everything. But many of the electronic useages are too impersonal or take too long to use. Sometimes manual is best - in my opinion, at least. I can keep track of my schedule much faster and easier with a pen and planner. I am used to a method that I devised and suits me. Sometimes new fangled gadgets are great and sometimes it's just more stuff to deal with. I reserve the right to change my mind down the road if someone can show me the benefits of using one of these.

Do you use a writer's software? What did you do before you had the software?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Character Sheets

There are many ways to keep track of pertinent character information and flesh out your characters. For me the most simple and handiest way to keep track of it all is to use a notebook.

You'll find a variety of check sheets and questions to ask yourself online. These can help you think of traits to keep track of, but initially, you'll want to write down the name, where they live, age, occupation, and any other pertinent information. Then start thinking in terms of personal traits and characteristics. What do they look like? What goals do they have? Do they dislike children, afraid of snakes - anything else that defines this person. The more ideas you write down, the better idea you have of who this character is in terms of the story. You may not use all the things you write down, so start with the most important and filter down.

When you are writing a scene with this character, open your notebook to that page. Six chapters after you mentioned the name of the place where they work, you may not remember. Your character sheet will remind you of these basics and save you lots of time scrolling through your story.

One way to make this person interesting is to give them a trait that sounds completely off the wall and in contrast to everything else. You may have a kindergarten teacher who loves bungee jumping or a preacher who dances the Rumba in his living room for exercise. Explaining how these things came about can make for an interesting story and dimensional characters.

If you have already started your book and haven't done character sheets, do them anyway and watch your characters come alive.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Research, Reading, Study

I'm back at work after a holiday weekend. This time it's research, reading, and study. I enjoy this phase as much as the actual writing and it's so important to make sure you've done your homework and know what you are talking about before you write.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Fourth of July

I just wrote a play on American history and I'm feeling very patriotic this year.

Take some time to remember why we celebrate this holiday. Have a great 4th.