Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Another update on the haunted cities book

I have made a decision: I am not going to stress out over what I can and can't include in the haunted cities book anymore. If I can include a city, I'll include it. But if I can't, then I can't. I just don't want to keep holding things up and holding things up because I am TRYING to include cities and the groups aren't interested. I know I'll probably get some backlash from people who will cry foul because this city wasn't included or that city wasn't included. But I just can't keep waiting and hoping and wondering if I'll ever hear back from people.

I have set a deadline. I am sticking with that deadline. If I hear from people in cities I WANT to include (San Antonio, New Orleans and Washington, D.C.), then, great! But if not, then they won't be in there. It will be nice if I hear from other groups on other cities, too.

This is just the way it'll have to be. It's not fair everybody else has to keep waiting and WAITING for this book. There have been enough delays. They have already waited so much longer.

And I have, too.

I will wait until June for everyone to get their stuff to me. Then I will be submitting the manuscript to my publisher later that month.

And then we can all look forward to the book FINALLY being published.

My apologies to everyone who has been so immensely patient with me about this book. I love you all. You guys rock!


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Got an idea for something to write? Write it!

The other day, I was reading a newsletter for writers and came across an article written by a respected children’s book author. This is an author I have admired for some time and one whose opinions I have always respected. But this one thing she talked about in her article was something I totally disagreed with.

This one thing was her belief that if something we want to write cannot be sold or even be written in a way that makes it publishable, then we should not write it.

Personal experience has made me feel otherwise.

I am always saddened by writers who choose to pass on spending time with family and friends because they MIGHT miss out on a job opportunity waiting for them in their inbox, but sadder still is the writer who decides that he or she is not going to write something just because they don’t have a market for it or they feel no one will want it. Or because there is no editor requesting it.

It just seems to me that these kinds of writers let a dollar sign determine whether or not they will write something, rather than seeing it as an opportunity to “play around” creatively or to strengthen their skills.

Especially to strengthen their skills.

The way I see it, any new thing that we decide to write is a chance for us to exercise our writing muscles. It allows us the opportunity to hone our ability to analyze and structure something we write, and perfect our voice. And the bonus is that we are given an opportunity to do all of this without a risk of failure. Without somebody sending it back to us with a rewrite request. And especially without the risk of some editor saying, “You know what? I don’t think I’ll buy this after all.”

This is an OPPORTUNITY. This is a chance to enhance our skill as a writer and capture any weak spots we might have.

On the other hand, just because we cannot sell something we write RIGHT NOW, it does not mean that we can’t sell it later. I have had several instances where a short story, poem or article I wrote years ago ended up finding a home, even in a paying market, at a future time. I wrote The Yellow Rose when my daughter was 5; it became a book when she was 9. A book that brought in some extra money. In fact, I recently sold an article that I wrote 7 months ago! I couldn’t sell it then, but I did sell it later. So even if we have an idea for something to write, and it may not be something we can sell now, I firmly believe it is worth the effort to write it anyway. Chances are you will sell it later. Chances are you will be able to perfect that piece later. Just write it down to get there.

Another benefit to writing something we have an idea for even if there is no market for it right now: We are allowing ourselves to revisit the joy of creating. We, writers, are creatives at heart. We create stories, articles, poems, essays, songs, scripts, books and even business letters. We are creating something and we can take joy in creating it. We can indulge in that creative spark and allow it to take us away, just for a little while, to someplace different, new, and even exciting.

And if that is not reason enough to write something even if you cannot sell it, here is one other benefit: By writing something you have an idea for, you are welcoming more creative ideas. The more you write, the more ideas you will have for other things to write. In a sense, you are “making room” for more ideas to follow. And what writer wouldn’t want something like that to look forward to?

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Describing a dog to young readers

I recently tweeted this:

"Good thing I told a little girl the title of the MS I'm revising. She didn't know what an Irish Setter is!....Makes mental note to be sure and describe the dog in enough detail so kids (the book's audience) can "see" that kind of dog in their minds."

My friend and fellow author, Jennifer Gre
enleaf, happened to be on Twitter at the time. She replied:

“Ah yes, the fine line between the show and tell issues writers regularly face. Glad you're staying aware!!!”

After I read that, I was glad she noticed that my dilemma was a whole “show, don’t tell” type of thing. Writers are told “show, don’t tell” even though there are times when it is perfectly fine to tell instead of show. (We don’t really need to go through the motions of a character making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, do we? Unless he is pausing after each stroke of the knife to tell somebody off or dancing a jig after applying first the peanut butter and then again after applying the jelly. Then that’s different!)

In my case, I merely “told” my readers that a dog was an Irish Setter. I did not “show” it was an Irish Setter.

Actually, this is what I wrote:

“He sat up in bed and turned to look in the direction the whining came from. He took one look at what sat there and blinked, turning all the way around in his bed to get a better view of what he saw. There on his floor, sitting quite still, was an Irish Setter.”

I made the mistake of assuming that, since the Irish Setter is a popular breed of dog, anybody reading that (including a child, who is the audience this book is written for) would be able to perfectly picture an Irish Setter down to the last detail.


One thing a writer should never do is NEVER ASSUME.

I was reminded of this rule when I had shared that information with a 7-year-old girl who was visiting with my daughter one day. She was told the story’s title and I noticed the look of confusion on her face. I asked her if she knew what an Irish Setter was and she said no. Of course, I was surprised. It’s not like she lived in Africa and never saw this breed of dog, or something. But, the truth was that she didn’t know what an Irish Setter looks like. And that was a big wake-up call for me.

Not everyone knows what an Irish Setter looks like. Especially a child raised in Africa!

So why not describe it? Describe what this type of dog looks like in enough detail so that a child who has never seen such a dog before would be able to “see” it in their mind.

So I changed what I wrote to this:

"Jesse sat up in bed and turned to look in the direction the whining came from. He took one look at what he saw then blinked in surprise, turning all the way around in his bed to get a better look at it. The dog had red fur, with some of the fur fluffing out on his chest in a “V” shape. It also had an oval head, black nose and dark eyes. It look just like the pictures of an Irish Setter he’d seen in books at the library. The dog appeared to be young, but not a puppy, and it sat there on his floor with its tongue hanging out of its mouth."

Well, it’s not perfect, but I think it’s better. I actually studied several pictures of Irish Setters in order to work on describing it accurately, and even found one of an Irish Setter that looked exactly like the dog as I “saw” it in my own mind.
Still, I’m not done with that just yet. I’m planning to run that description by some of my daughter’s friends and see how they respond to it. If it “works” and helps them to get a good idea of what the dog looks like. And if not, then I’ll tweak it some more until I get it right.

I am just glad I even ran that by the little girl in the first place. It has reminded me to be a bit more detailed when it comes to something that may not be so popular after all. And that running things by potential readers is actually a good thing!

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Too tired to write, or read

Last week was pretty hard for me. Before school started for the kids again, we all enjoyed being night owls. That’s what we are! During the school year, the kids and I are forced to cage our night owls until Friday nights when the one day of the week we can stay up all night won’t be a problem for the next day. But it seems like my own night owl refused to go back into his cage after school started up again.

Because, as it were, I was sleepy for most of the day. At night, however, I’d be wide awake! (On a sidenote, I jokingly started to wonder if I was turning into a vampire!)

Yes, I know this could have been avoided if we had worked on integrating the school year schedule long before school started again, and we did do that. But I guess we should have worked on that longer.

Well, because I was so tired this week, I hardly got any writing done. That was bad news because I had a SIGNews article due this week! Didn’t want to miss that deadline. But, unfortunately, I did. And writing at night was not an option because I ended up getting the kids to bed later than I had hoped (after 9) and I had to get some sleep, too, in order to wake up early to get them ready and off to school.

The thing of it was, even when the kids were in school, I still couldn’t write or read. I was still so tired. Even when I took a nap for one hour, I’d STILL be tired! Or soon tired out again.

I was just way too tired to write last week. Or even read in a book I am currently reviewing. I tried to think of why I was so tired all the time. Was it the weather? The season? Was it too much sugar? Not enough water or iron?

Come to find out it was none of those things. The real reason was, I just wasn’t getting enough sleep!

I tested this theory last night. I made sure I got a good night’s sleep. I got to bed as soon as I was able to and slept well past the time I normally wake up. I usually sleep in on Saturdays, anyway, but this time, this sleeping in really helped me to recharge. I think that was because I didn’t stay up so late on Friday night like I normally do. I needed to catch up on all the sleep I missed.

And, today,. I am happy to report that I am me again! I am wide awake now and completely refreshed. Hooray!

I wrote my SIGNews article and sent it off. Now I’m ready to get back to the revisions on my manuscript, and maybe even some writing in another book project.

It’s good to finally be able to write – AND read – again. All the same, I have definitely learned that it’s time for an adjustment. It’s so important to get enough sleep, especially the children, and I’m going to have to rework our routine to make sure we get the rest we need.


Saturday, January 07, 2012

The first week

Today is January 7th, and it marks the first week of 2012. Some people are asking, “So how did we all do?” When I saw a question similar to that in a newsletter I am subscribed to, I had to pause and take stock of just how my first week went.

On the writing level, it went well. On a personal level ... well, it COULD have been better, but at least some things are happening that will help me reach my goals.

I’m posting about my personal stuff on the Palms to Pines blog.

Here, I’ll cover the writing stuff.

On the writing level, I had a good week.

I have a system in place for the rewrites of Shadow of Samhain, and if I follow this system to the letter, and my beta readers get back to me in the time I have set aside for that, I should have the manuscript ready to submit by April. Part of that system calls for getting five chapters done in the first week, and I have accomplished that. Things got held up the other night when we had some problems with the power and I had to hurry up and write a summary of what happens in the scene I was writing before the computer shut down for the night, but I was able to get back to that, fix it, and so now the five chapters are complete. Yay! I’m going to spend the weekend editing and revising them, then it’s on to the next five next week! (I am also going to work on my outline this weekend. The story is moving too fast in my head and I couldn’t possibly remember everything. So I have to write it all down and decide what goes into which chapter.)

Also, I received good news this week: My charity ebook, On the Wings of Pink Angels, is a go with Gypsy Shadow Publishing. HOORAY!! I am so excited and thrilled that this ebook will be a reality in the near future. While the ebook’s topic is mostly about breast cancer, the charity it will benefit, Courageous Kids, is for any child who has experienced the loss of a parent, sibling or relative to anything, not just breast cancer. One of the people I included in this ebook suggested the charity, as her friend who lost her battle against breast cancer had two boys who went through this program, and I’m glad that they accepted my proposal to have proceeds of this ebook to go towards supporting them. It feels so good to be able to “write for a cause” and I’m so glad that this project will finally reach completion.

Since my focus this year is mostly on book work, those are pretty much the accomplishments I have made so far, in this first week. My publisher and I discussed plans with the GHOST Group series yesterday, so I’ve also adjusted my “writing schedule” to include time to revise/edit Book 3 in that series.

It’s not so much of a “writing schedule,” though. I am so done with using weekly schedules or weekly “to do” lists this year! (And it actually feels kinda strange not having one.) But what I did was decide what books I’m going to be working on this year (one for writing, one for editing), and I set aside time for each project that will last me throughout the year. Some will probably take longer than others; I gave myself 9 months to write a new nonfiction book, as it is. But others won’t take very long – and I know this because I have worked on those types of books before, and I have an idea of how long it will take me to complete them. So that is set up and I’m eager to see everything fall into place.

(And for the record, I may not use a weekly “to-do” list for my writing stuff anymore, but I AM using a dayplanner to chart my progress with my book projects. That has been a huge help and it’s definitely allowed me to stick with my system.)

And while I was planning to take a scriptwriting or songwriting class/workshop this year, that has not fallen into place yet, mainly because I don’t have the funds for it. (This is tied to a personal goal, actually.) Once that’s in place, I’ll start looking for one.

For now, I’ve made progress with the book goals, and that’s a good thing. I had a good first week of the year, writing-wise.

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