Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Synopsis: My Nemesis

I like to think that somewhere, there exists a support group for people like me. People who would rather peel off their fingernails one-by-one than work on writing a synopsis. Or perhaps, I'm just being melodramatic.

I don't know what it is. I appreciate the function the synopsis serves. I admire a finely constructed summary that encapsulates the driving points of a novel. But I absolutely hate having to write one for myself.

Maybe the problem is I'm too much of a "write as you go" sort. I'll have a general outline in mind, but it's not until I put pen to paper that the story really fleshes out in my mind. When "in the zone," I've topped out at 15,000 words in a day. So why is it taking me weeks to come up with a synopsis that doesn't make me want to puke when I read over it?

Anyone with synopsis-writing coping mechanisms? Some jewels of wisdom for the journey? Commiseration, perhaps?

What part of the process do you find most difficult?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Writing Wisdom Wednesday: Mechanics Matter

As writers, we have a lot to think about.

Crafting beautiful imagery.

Creating believable characters.

Spinning dramatic storylines.

Maintaining an authentic voice.

And the list goes on.

One of the most important elements of creating notable fiction (and nonfiction) is utilizing proper mechanics.

Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most frequently overlooked pieces of the writing puzzle.

Now, someone out there is laughing at me. (Probably my sister…stop it Meg!) And that’s because my turbulent relationship with the comma is fairly well documented. Pull any essay from my Freshman year of college and you’ll wonder why I didn’t drop out of the English program and become an accounting major instead (I’m even worse at Math, unfortunately).

The day I got back the first essay of my college career, I was confused by the big letter at the top of the page.


Contrary to my first thought, it didn’t stand for Delightful.

Then, as though I wasn’t devastated enough, my professor informed me that the paper “should have been an A. But your mechanics were awful.” I’ll admit it…they were atrocious. However, it does take a special kind of skill to make 28 mechanical errors in about 3 pages.

I’d like to say that I learned from my (grammatical) mistakes immediately, but that would be a lie.

I went from acing high-school papers to being thisclose to failing. And I had as many excuses as I had misplaced commas.

I was taught to put a comma wherever you would take a breath if you said the sentence aloud. And I’m an asthmatic. So I take breaths A LOT.

Okay, maybe I can’t punctuate to save my life. But the content is sound. And that makes it okay. Content’s the point, right?

It’s a stylistic decision. “Once you know the rules you can break them.” Isn’t that what they say? Well, that’s just how I roll.

But that was the problem. I didn’t know the rules at all. And all the superb content in the world wasn’t going to get me an A on a paper as long as I was incapable of mastering the fundamentals of the craft.

The same applies to writing fiction. So, since I love lists almost as much as I love comma splices, I’ve compiled a couple of grammatical DON’TS.

1) Don’t underestimate the value of proper grammar. I’ve often heard about managers who will discard the application of a highly qualified candidate based on errors in the cover letter. I’m assuming for some, at least, the publishing industry has similar standards. The competition for aspiring writers is stiff. Don’t let something as fixable as bad mechanics kill your chances.

2) Don’t assume that whatever you have to say is so brilliant that your creativity and artistry will outshine your lack of technical precision. Improper punctuation can render the most powerful and moving prose confusing and nonsensical.

3) Don’t trust that Word’s Spelling/Grammar check can do the do the job for you. While I’d probably get sued if I said that the Grammar check is designed to exponentially increase the number of errors in your document, I will—from personal experience—suggest that you not hinge your story’s grammatical success or failure on the recommendations of a computer.

4) Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you don’t have to employ proper mechanics because “that’s an editor’s job.” If I hadn’t learned how to properly insert a comma, it’s unlikely my manuscript would have even been considered for publication. While I’ve never been an editor, so I can’t speak with certainty, but I would imagine that lack of attention to the technical business of writing comes off as laziness or ignorance. Besides, editors are extremely busy people (something I didn’t fully appreciate until I saw the publishing process from start to finish). Editors probably don’t mind clearing out the occasional slip up or typo, but their time is too limited to worry about teaching writers how to write.

I’m sure there are more points to make about the importance of grammar. But frankly, I’ve rambled on longer than I intended. In closing, however, I will assure you that it’s not impossible to become a Grammar Superstar. Is learning about it fun? No, not really. Can employing it be a pain? Absolutely. Will you find grammatical errors in this post? Perhaps if you look closely.

But if you do, remember, the mistakes are intentional. Again, that’s just how I roll.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Checking in on the Go...

We've now got a mobile template for this site!

So now, you can check in and see what's happening from your cell without having to deal with pages being too large to load, font being too small, etc.

Yay for technology.

And tune in tomorrow (from your phone if you like!) for Writing Wisdom Wednesday on Friday (running behind this week...surprise, surprise...)

Friday, September 23, 2011

What's on the playlist Friday

Another song that I enjoy listening to while I work--especially in the sentimental, drippy-emotional scenes!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Writing Wisdom Wednesday: Finding your voice

“A writer's voice is not character alone, it is not style alone; it is far more.
A writer's voice, like the stroke of an artist's brush,
is the thumbprint of her whole person,
her idea, wit, humor, passions, rhythms."--Patricia Lee Gauch

After I graduated with my B.A. in English, I was at a loss for what to do with myself. I knew I wanted to write, but that was accompanied by a restless sense of not knowing what the next move should be. So, approaching the dilemma from a scholarly angle, I decided I would go get my MFA in creative writing.

So I picked out my top school and began to prep the required application materials. After writing my first piece of short fiction, a piece I knew would swing wide the doors to this prestigious program, I sent it to my former advisor (and now VBFF).

I was shocked at her response.

Umm, Mandy…what was that?”

At first, I assumed she was in awe of my fiction-writing ability. While she had been my professor for numerous writing courses, Cheryl had only read my creative non-fiction. Perhaps she was dazzled by the brilliance of my work.

Yeah…that wasn’t it. At all.

The piece was a disaster. It was pretentious, abstract, and…awful. I had written what I thought would be impressive to the admissions board. I stifled my own voice for the sake of adopting someone else’s.

A while back, I wrote about the importance of being yourself as a writer. So to build on that concept, today, I’m going to give four practical tips to help you find your writing voice. Now, as a preface, let me say that there is no foolproof way of finding/developing your voice...so these tips are just things I think will aid you in the journey to discovering who you are as a writer.

1) Read.

Read everything you can get your hands on. The best writers are usually avid readers. Read your favorite authors; figure out what it is about their way of writing that entertains you. Read some authors you can’t stand. Try to pinpoint what you would do differently to make the story they’re telling more appealing to you. Use this as a way to strength your own writing.

A word of caution here: The point of this part of the process is not to find someone whose style you can copy. Readers can tell if your voice is authentic or is a pale imitation of someone else’s.

2) Analyze your personality traits.

Are you witty? Serious? Talkative? Introverted?

If you’re not certain, ask your friends how they would describe you.

This step may seem silly, or unnecessary, but understanding your personality is an important step to finding your voice. The way you are in real life is going to manifest in your writing. For example, my talkative nature tends to crop up in my writing as wordiness. I never use only three words when I can describe something in twenty. So I know I'll never write like Hemingway, who never uses more than like 5 words in a sentence.

3) Read what you’ve already written.

Go through previous stories, essays, etc. that you’ve written. If you’re new to the writing world and are trying to find your voice, go through anything you can get your hands on, journal entries, even old emails. Also, pay attention to how you verbalize information…how you relay a story to a friend.

This step is important because it gives you the opportunity to read how you write when you’re not worried about how it’s going to be perceived by an audience (or an admissions board!). Perhaps you’ll realize that you’re incapable of using words with less than four syllables. Maybe you’ll discover that you tend to address any issue with a healthy dose of sarcasm. Whatever it is, the traits you’ll find are your best tools to building your own authentic voice.

4) Write.

Always the most important part of being a writer!

To quote the cliché, “Practice makes perfect.” And practicing writing makes for a polished voice as well. So, write, write, write. And when you’re sick of writing, do it some more!

There's my advice (for what it's worth) on finding your voice. And I have to say, I never did apply to that school. Instead, I worked on fiction that I loved, that was me. And while I may not have an MFA, I have to say, I'm not disappointed at how everything ended up!

So what about you? Any struggles finding your voice? Any tips on getting there?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Quote for the day

“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night.

You can only see as far as your headlights,

but you can make the whole trip that way.”

E.L. Doctorow

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Marcus' book is up on Amazon


For those who have been waiting for Marcus' story, I have good news!

The book is up for pre-order on Amazon now. (That always makes it seem "official" to me!)

So, if you've a mind to, check out the link below...

Happy day!

Friday, September 16, 2011

What's on my playlist?

Like it does for pretty much every writer, music helps me get "in the zone." While I'm sure no one is ravenously curious as to what I listen to...I think I'm going to start posting different "playlist" songs from whatever project I'm working on at the moment.

So today's song combines the nostalgia of the 90's, the dying breed of boy bands, and some super creepy dancing at the end of the video [which doesn't usually affect me as I just listen to it on iTunes].

And please, don't judge me too harshly =)...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My September 11th thoughts...ten years later

Flags at half-mast today at the University where I work.

First, let me warn you that I have nothing of unparalleled eloquence to add to the remembrances and memorials of September 11, 2001. Others have put the overwhelming grief, the incomprehensible tragedy, and the unflagging determination and resilience of the human spirit into much finer words than I ever could.

All I can offer is yet another perspective, another lament for the countless lives lost and forever changed.

At 27, I look back on the events of that black day and see things differently than my 17-year-old self did. Back then, I mourned with the rest of the nation, without understanding--truly--the depth of loss that had occurred. I spent that day, during classes and then later at home, transfixed by the images on the screen...watching in mute horror as smoke filled the sky and ash rained down on one of the most vibrant cities in the world, turning the bustling metropolis into a gray shadow of itself.

But now, as the television stations have re-aired footage from that morning, I find I can't hardly bear to watch the images at all. I don't want to see the desperate people jumping from the towers, choosing in their final moments, to exchange one horrifying death for another. I don't want to have images replaying in my mind of grieving friends, family, coworkers, covered in dust, watching from the street below and powerless to do anything to help. I honestly don't think I could stand to see again the second plane, flying low and with a nefarious intent to topple the second tower.

These are important images. Crucial moments in our history.

They exist and are replayed so that we don't forget. Although, if I'm being honest...sometimes I wish I could. Because now, as a wife and a mother, my heart grieves again--and more deeply this time--for people who waited to hear if their spouses were okay. For mothers and fathers who sat by the phone hoping for a call from their children. For children, who lost their innocence, when they heard a parent wasn't coming home.

So on this ten-year anniversary, I just want to leave my thoughts.

We can never forget. Not just the atrocities committed on American soil, but those abroad as well. Terrorism is world-wide and people from all nations, all walks of life have experienced their own 9/11's.

We must pray. That God will heal, restore, and bless. And that through Him, the hearts of those seeking to do evil will be changed.

We must be thankful. I know I'll squeeze my daughter a little tighter and for a little longer tonight (and probably every other night to come), and while I know she'll protest and try to wiggle out of my grasp, someday she'll understand my reluctance to let go. And I'll make sure my husband knows that he and Brie will always be in my heart and on my thoughts, even--and especially so--when my own last moments come.

We must find peace. Things happen outside the realm of our comprehension, of our ability to deal with them. So to close this post, I end with my favorite Bible verse:

These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Friday, April 15, 2011

Why waiting stinks

Photo Credit: here

All of us are WAITING for something.

If you're here and you read regularly, I'm assuming writing is important and maybe you're waiting for your next book to hit the shelves, waiting to get a phone call from your editor, waiting to finish revisions, waiting...

But others are waiting for different things...

Waiting to find a job.

Waiting to find a mate.

Waiting for test results.

Waiting for a miracle.

I'm impatient. I think of something...I need something...I want something...and I want it NOW. It's by far one of the most important areas I still need to completely surrender to God. Because I DO surrender (after all, who wants to be miserable and impatient all the time?) but the next time something happens, I'm taking it right back from Him.

"Look, God...I know I said I was going to let you handle this timing thing...but...I've got this really brilliant idea, so why don't I just see what I can do with it..."

My thoughts, while maybe not as well-defined, usually look like the above. And then, when Mandy's Way hasn't worked like I thought it should...I'm stuck waiting some more.

Waiting stinks. But it's necessary. And I'm waiting for some pretty important stuff right now...and the temptation is always to try and see if I can do it (not better) but maybe quicker than God has planned. It's not arrogance. It's being imperfect.

I don't know exactly what you're waiting on today. Like me, maybe you're frustrated and growing weary and impatient. Or maybe, you're one up on me and are handling the interim with grace and dignity (teach me how!).

Whatever it is you're waiting for, I'm praying it comes for you. And I'm praying that the difference between "our" time and "God's" time isn't that long!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Good News!

This time, I actually have a good reason for my complete lack of presence/updating on this blog.

Love Inspired Historical has contracted my next book.

So of course, there have been revisions, celebrating, some more revisions, and jubilation.

This time around, I don't really think my husband understood why I was still as excited/disbelieving as the first time (although, unlike the first time I didn't hyperventilate or have a near nervous breakdown...progress, I like to think). But the publishing industry is such a tight market, and there are so many fantastic writers out there, that one book contract doesn't guarantee a second. So, when in my earlier post I said I didn't think anything would be quite as exciting as that very first phone call, I'm thrilled to say I was wrong.

I don't have a lot of official details yet. But I can tell you the next book looks like it will be coming out early next year.

As soon as I have the okay to let you guys know specifics, be assured I'll be posting it up here.

So for those of you who have wanted Marcus to find his own Happily Ever After...

This is it!!!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Quote for the day

If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it. ~Toni Morrison

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Romantic Times Book Review for The Blackmailed Bride

The Blackmailed Bride by Mandy Goff

RT Rating (out of 4.5 stars)

I have to say I was really pleased with my first review from RT Book Reviews. Really pleased! =)

Here's a little snippet of the review, with a link to the full post below.

"This is a wonderful Regency romance. The characters are written with their imperfections showing and it’s wonderful to see a female character so full of spunk."

(The link to the full post on the Romantic Times Book Review site is here)

This post is brought to you by the letters "S" and "B"

Spring Break!

One of my absolute favorite perks that comes with working at a university is the vacation time. So, this whole week, I've been spending time with Brie. We've vegged on the couch...gone couch shopping...and taken naps.

Sigh. It's been wonderful.

Next week, reality returns. But until then, I've got a few more days of relaxing. It's been wonderful after all the business of the last few weeks.

I just remembered that while I promised to post the review from RT Book Reviews, I never did...I'll get on that with the next post.

See, I really have gotten lazy.

I'll try to do better ;o)

Go check out the party!!!

Barbara Vey of Publishers Weekly is hosting a mall party for Inspirational, YA, and non-fiction at her blog Beyond Her Book.

There's some great prizes and giveaways going on. Go check it out and comment for your chance to win!!!

Go here to join the party!!!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Emotional Overload

I know I've apologized profusely in the past for my incredibly lazy blogging. It's not that I don't love posting my everyday inanities on here ;o) but I've been beyond busy dealing with work and trying to eradicate sickness from the house (MUCH harder than it sounds. We have literally caught every cough, cold, stomach virus, etc. circulating in our hometown!)

But I just wanted to try and describe what I'm feeling now that The Blackmailed Bride is out on the shelves and being read by people I've never met.

I'm thrilled.

I'm amazed.

I'm overwhelmed, blessed, delighted...every positive emotion you can name...I'm pretty sure I've felt it in the last few weeks.

This journey has been full of unexpected surprises and blessings. I've met some fantastic people along the way. And not only have I learned a lot about writing and the publishing industry during this process, but I've also learned a lot about myself. It may sound sappy, but it's true.

And let me say to everyone, I'm so thankful for the support and encouragement. More than I could ever say.

So, to sum it up...at the end of the day, when I see my copy of The Blackmailed Bride sitting on the bookshelf, I feel content.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The after-holidays slump

Things have been very quiet around here.

All the presents have been unwrapped (although the tree may not have come down yet...not confessing or anything like that, though). The new year has been inaugurated. The vacation from work is, regrettably over.

But it is nice in its own way. I love Christmas. LOVE it. But it's also stressful, hectic, and a bit wearying from all the running around we have to do (three places to visit on Christmas day, in addition to opening our gifts here!)

So I'm reveling in the fact that I don't have to wrap any more presents, bake or cook anything else (we're back to take-out...I'm actually waiting on a pizza delivery right now ;o).

The only downside is that Brie's been sick the last several days. It was her first stomach flu and was pretty scary for her. I tried to imagine what it would be like to be three and not understand why you keep having to run to the bathroom...scared me too!

But she appears on the mend. No fever or bathroom-trips today. So that's a good sign.

Found out I got my first review. It's from RT Book Reviews.

I'll post about it later tonight. Right now, I want to be sure I'm ready when the delivery guy rings the bell.

I'm starving.

I pray everyone had a safe, happy, and blessed holiday season!