Monday, December 31, 2012

2013: the Year of the Snake

St. George & the Dragon by Trina Schart Hyman
We are standing in the final footsteps of a dying year. The credits are rolling. The sequel is about to begin. And it looks like there will be dragons.

In keeping with my promise on Friday, here are a few of my New Year's resolutions, which all seem to have to do with learning, because I have a lot to learn.
  1. Have more fun with writing this year. Don't get stressed with it and think of it as work. Play with it. Learn it. 
  2. Do new things. Don't stay inside my bubble of writing-related stuff. Branch out and learn something completely different.
  3. Wrap up school/college, and savor learning along the way.
  4. Learn to be a servant not only in the big things, but also in the little things as well. 
And since, without repentance, serious resolutions can never come to be, here is my chief New Year's repentance:

I am lazy, complacent, and afraid of pain. I need to:

Put off: staying comfortable, which is serving myself.
Put on: willingness to serve other people, even when it hurts. Especially when it hurts. When it's inconvenient or humiliating. When it's exhausting and uncomfortable.

This ties in with my word (or lesson) for the New Year. For 2012 my word was chosen because I've been learning to accept that not only does God care about me, but also that He chose me. Not only that He chose me, but also that He gave me everything. Not only that He gave it to me, but that He gave it to all the world. I felt like I was learning about His grace, and learning to wonder at His grace.

So it seems to follow that for 2013 my word is servant. Because God has done so much for me, it gives me a desire to do much for other people. Right now I feel like I have almost a hunger to serve, to take care of and take charge of the big things. That's why I took on not only the church Christmas play, but also the children's choir. However, in 2013 I want to focus on being a servant not only in the big things but the little things as well. I want to use this time I've been given to serve as exorbitantly and passionately as I possibly can, wherever I am. I want to be used up with service. I want to empty my store of love. Only when that happens can you find that is actually overflowing.

2013 is a year that will be filled with dragons. Economic and financial dragons. Relational and spiritual dragons. Mental and physical dragons. 2013 is the year of the snake, the year of temptation, the year of the serpent. What 2013 needs is dragon-slayers. But it needs dragon-slayers who are servants, which is why I sorely need to learn this lesson.

But before I can slay dragons I need to repent of the dragons I have not slain, that I have allowed to flourish and grow instead. Before I can learn to serve and be selfless I need to repent of having been selfish.

Repentance is putting off the old and putting on the new. God grant me the grace to repent this coming year, to take what He gives me with blessing, and to pour out myself in love to other people.

God grant us all the grace to crush the head of the snake beneath our feet this year.

Friday, December 28, 2012


2012 was quite a year.

I don't really know how I feel about it yet. It's like when you're walking out of the movie theater after a really good movie that had so much in it that you have to reserve judgement until you're far enough removed from it that you can think about it clearly.

So basically my feelings about 2012 are the same as my feelings for my recent experience with Les Miserables. I can't talk about that yet, either.

This year had ups and downs, as all years are accustomed to have. It had painfully hard moments layered in with blissfully sweet ones. It had stretches of growth tempered with patches of falling down and getting back up again.

I thought I would do a recap of 12 of my favorite posts I wrote from 2012, although that's a little odd because I only really started blogging this year. But here are some of my favorites:
  1. If the Lord is with Us
  2. When Others Define You
  3. What Superheroes and Fairy Tales Have in Common
  4. 5 Reasons You May Have Lost Followers (and Why You Shouldn't Be Too Upset)
  5. Top Ten Tips for Creating Top Ten Tips Lists
  6. Z is for Ze Accent
  7. T is for Tortured Artists
  8. E is for Ebooks vs. Books
  9. B is for Books vs. Ebooks
  10. What's the Point?
  11. Lauren and the Post About Titles
  12. Five-part Avengers review
Also, don't forget that I have spaces open for guest posts on Word Art. I'm currently open from February and onward.

I'm not quite ready to say goodbye to 2012 yet. On Monday I'll be posting my New Year's resolutions - and some New Year's repentance as well.

If 2012 is the movie we're walking out of, then 2013 is the sequel that we are all forced to see. On the one hand, it's a good year ahead, because God is good. On the other hand, I see dragons in the path before us. But this just means we've been given the chance to rise up, to wrestle the dragons to the ground and cut off their heads. I'll write more about this on Monday. For now, hope you had a happy Christmas, and hope you have a happy New Year.

How do you feel about 2012? Did you have a good Christmas?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Jessica Marcarelli: How to Effectively Market Your Writing

Hey there! I'm Jessica Marcarelli from Visions of Other Worlds. Lauren kindly allowed me to write a guest post for her, which I have been wanting to do for a while.

I guess we should meet and greet before we begin. I'm a fiction author by night and a business writer by day. Basically, I write all the time. I even - sometimes - get paid for it. I love great stories that I can read again and again, and fiddle with photography and painting whenever I have down time. I live in the desert with my husband and one incorrigible cat, play video games, and still believe Pluto is a planet.

So, that's me. Now, about you. I've got something for you. You may have heard of it. It's that elephant in the room that we all like to call marketing.

How to Effectively Market Your Writing

Writers tend to approach marketing the way a cockroach approaches light: they run away. When I first started my freelance business, I could run with the best of them. Then I learned one of life's unfriendly facts: today's online world runs on marketing. The 'Information Age' has created so much information that no one really wants to read it any more. We're all a bit over-saturated.

Writers looking for attention have to catch it. This typically works one of two ways: you either offer audiences something irresistible or you tackle them to the ground and make them cry uncle.

For the record, don't make them cry uncle. They'll just run away as soon as you let them go. Then you have to chase them. And tackle them again. It's just too much work.

No, what successful marketers do now is offer something so eye-catching that audiences can't help but stop for a look. They - and you - do this through three simple steps:

Build Relationships

We tend to trust friends more than strangers. If you're looking for an opinion on the latest blockbuster movie, who are you more likely to listen to: your movie buddy or some random guy standing outside the theater?

Your audience is no different. They want to know who you are, where you've come from, and why your opinion is any better than their hairdresser's.

Tell them. Not through your words, but through your actions. Get to know them and their interests. Read the books they like. Visit the sites they browse. Engage in heated discussions.

Basically, help others and they will help you.

Be Yourself

Building a relationship only works if you be yourself. I know, I know. Friendship 101. But it still needs to be said. People become friends because they like what they see. Let your audience like you for you.

Hiding behind yet another article about the theology of living life to the fullest is boring. We've seen it before. Write that you lived one day to the fullest by bungie jumping off a cliff...and wet yourself on the way down. It's human. It's alive. It's you.

Whatever or whomever “you” is, write it down. You might not appeal to everyone. But there are people out there waiting for your unique perspective.

Which brings me to my last point...

Shock Everyone

We writers tend to over think every word we put to paper. We compare it to other accepted forms of communication to ensure we won't offend anyone. Worse, we create imagined offenses that our writing is sure to incur. Basically, we don't want to shock or disturb.

Throw that mindset to the wind. Shock everyone. Free yourself from your own perceptions of what is “acceptable.” When you write freely, you come out. People wonder what you'll do next. You grab your audience's attention.

Where To Go

Social media has become the go-to place to spread your message. And why not? It's fast, easy, and used by millions. There are also less known places to spread your message or expertise. Each one has its advantages and disadvantages. Look them up, check them out, and sign up for one or two. They're all free and easy to quit if you don't like them.
  • Facebook (pages are very helpful to writers) 
  • Twitter (casual, quick, and to-the-moment) 
  • Google+ (easy to keep contacts and updates all in one place) 
  • LinkedIn (for professional networking) 
  • Pinterest (share your interests in a very visual medium) 
  • Forums (talk about your interests and meet new people) 
  • Answer Sites (such as Yahoo Answers – good for sharing your expertise) 
  • YouTube (lots of lively discussions in the comments) 
  • Book-reading Sites (such as Goodreads – review and talk about fave books) 
  • Blogging (on your own blog or as a guest poster) 

So there you have it: effective marketing tips that won't have you running for warm, dark safety. Try them out. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Thanks so much for writing this wonderful guest post, Jessica! I know I'll be using some of these tips. 

So, what do you think? Have any other tips on marketing your writing? What has drawn you to a book recently? What do you find most affects you when deciding which books to buy?

Would you like to write a guest post for this blog? Click here.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Eight Days Till Christmas

I woke up this morning and realized that there are eight days until Christmas, and I've done no Christmas shopping whatsoever. Not that I have a lot of money to begin with, but I've been so wrapped up in preparation for the RCC Christmas play that I haven't really thought about gifts. Now, of course, I have eight days to finish all of that. I guess there's always socks, right?

Since I've been absent from this blog for most of December, I thought I'd do a recap of sorts.

About that Christmas play I wrote and directed 

The Christmas play that I wrote about writing in September had its performance last Friday. It was so much fun to hear everyone's reaction to it. The performance went off quite nicely, and I was very happy with how it turned out. I think it was a success! Now I'm putting together the video of it and I'll most likely post it sometime, since I know a lot of people who missed it but wanted to see it.

I posted the text of my speech last Friday as well. Here it is if you missed it. Also, Sara from The Farmerette posted pictures of the play.

[Update: finally got the video up.]

What happened with NaNoWriMo

I ended up with 27774 words. I could give you a hundred different excuses, but I think the main reason I ended up shy of 50k is that my story turned out to be far more complicated than I expected. I thought I was writing a straightforward action/sci-fi with hints of romance, drama, regret, and sacrifice. Turns out I'm actually writing a story about guilt and shame and pride and achievement and greatness and justice and ethics and forgiveness and the problem of evil. And some of the questions my characters are asking I don't know if I have answers to yet.

It's a story that I'm not ready to write yet. I thought I was, but writing my 27k words helped me see that I wasn't. I'm still glad I wrote as much as I did. It was a great writing exercise and helped me push through some writer's block on other projects.

I submitted my work to a magazine for the very first time

I was incredibly nervous to submit it at all, but finally I just took a deep breath and hit send. It took about ten days for the reply, and it was a rejection. I wasn't too cut up about it. It was a little exhilarating, knowing that I actually sent something out there. I printed out the rejection (it was a form rejection email) and posted it on my bulletin board to inspire myself to keep trying. I'm going to try to send out a lot more submissions starting January. I'll keep y'all updated on how that goes.

Go buy Miriam's stuff

Mirriam from Thoughts of a Shieldmaiden is trying to earn some extra money for Christmas gift buying, and so she has put up some of her artwork for sale. Being in a similar situation in regards to lack of money, I thought I'd help her out by linking to her, so go check it out, or click over to view some of her other pencil sketches.

All these Christmas giveaways

Rissi at Dreaming Under the Same Moon is hosting a giveaway for a DVD from one of her choices or a $25 Amazon gift card. It runs until January 7th. I'm thinking I'd want either The Bourne Legacy or Downton Abbey Season 3. Go check out the other DVD's she's giving away.

Also the Inkslinger is hosting a soundtrack giveaway. You can win either The Dark Knight Rises soundtrack or the Hobbit: Unexpected Journey soundtrack. I'm personally going for the Hobbit soundtrack. I loved the music, in particular the dwarf song/walking-fighting theme.

I went to see the Hobbit
via Fandango
Speaking of The Hobbit, I spent the night at a good friend's house and we went to see The Hobbit together on Saturday. I liked it a lot. I think it did a good job in preserving the spirit of the book, but also adding in a flavor of epicness to fit in with the LOTR movie trilogy. It had some great foreshadowing of the LOTR trilogy as well. Both Martin Freeman (Bilbo) and Richard Armitage (Thorin) did a fantastic job. I'm looking forward to the next part and Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug, as well as seeing Lee Pace as Thranduil, King of Mirkwood.

That's how my December's been going. How has yours been?

Friday, December 14, 2012

If the Lord is With Us...

This is the text of an opening speech I'll be giving tonight for the Christmas play:

When I told people I'd be adapting the story of Gideon for the Christmas play, the most asked question was "What does the story of Gideon have to do with Christmas?"

Of course, all of Scripture points to Jesus, but I think Gideon has special significance both to the Christmas story and to our current situation in this day and age.

When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and told him that the Lord was with him, Gideon's response was valid from an earthly point of view. "If the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us?"

Gideon's people were being plundered and slaughtered. Their land was overrun by the cruel and vicious Midianite raiders. They could do nothing to stop the pillaging, and it seemed like the Lord was doing nothing to stop it either. "If the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us?"

Mary and Joseph had a similar situation. Their land, the land that God had given to their fathers, was owned by the Romans. They had to pay tribute to them, even going on long journeys to complete a census on the whim of Augustus Caesar. "If the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us?"

Today we hear of horrific things happening in our world. It's easy to be afraid, it's easy to get bitter, it's easy to point to the darkness and say Lord, I thought you were with us. Why then has all this happened to us?

But Christmas is coming. Christmas is the ultimate answer to the question is the Lord with us? Because God came down to be with us. He was called Emmanuel, which means God is with us. He is the savior not just of Israel, but of the nations.

We are a broken people, and we live in a broken world. But Jesus Christ has come – He has come to be with us, to live in the filth and sin and curse of our fallen world. He has come to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found. We are shortsighted, and we can point to all the corners of darkness that are still left, and doubt His coming. But Jesus Christ came, was born and died and rose again and ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of God, where He will rule until death has been destroyed. He has come to free us from the chains of sin and idolatry, to free us from the oppression of death. He has come to light the darkness and to heal the brokenhearted.

Gideon freed the Israelites. Jesus freed the world. He is God with us, He is God among us, and He is God who rules over us. He is ruling now and forever.

"The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

When Others Define You

I've been thinking a lot lately about how the people you know and interact with can define you. Those closest to you are like mirrors into your true personality. You can hold up your own picture to the world, but the way you treat other people -- especially the people you treat the worst -- is one of the truest reflections into your soul.

via Avatar Wiki
This can work very powerfully in fiction. One of the most striking examples I can think of is from the animated series Avatar the Last Airbender (which I watched mostly). One of the main villains of the show, Firelord Ozai, isn't actually physically revealed until season 3. But we know what he's like, because we see him in his outcast son, Zuko. Sure, the accounts of Ozai vary depending on who's talking about him. Some are trying to defeat him, and some, like Zuko, are trying to please him. But even though Zuko thinks his father is an honorable man, the burn on Zuko's face shows us who Ozai really is, irrespective of what anyone says about him.

Or take the Harry Potter series. The main antagonist, Voldemort, isn't actually seen or spoken to until the end of the first book. And yet we know what he's like even before we officially meet him. We see it, not in him, but in all the people whose lives he's ruined. We see it in the fear everyone displays towards him, not even daring to speak his name. We see it in the joy everyone shares when they think he's gone. We see what he is like every time the book mentions the scar on Harry's forehead. It's a mark of Voldemort's character.

via Fandango
Often the mark isn't physical, like in Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth thinks poorly of Mr. Darcy until she tours his house, meets his servants, and meets his sister. He seemed aloof from afar but when she finds out how he treats those closest to him she is challenged to reform her opinion. Mrs. Bennet is a silly, fickle woman, and her daughter Lydia (and her subsequent elopement) is the deepest reflection into both her character and the character of Mr. Bennet, Lydia's father.

The use of mirrors in fiction is something very subtle and very effective, and that is, of course, because it's true in life. We are all both mirrors (of other people) and the ones being mirrored.

Take a look at the person you treat worst in your life. And don't lie -- you know there is someone. Don't start thinking about someone else who is treating someone you know bad, or even someone who is treating you bad.  Who are you, personally, acting horribly towards, and what does that say about you? Are you starting to rationalize your treatment of that person - well, they deserve it? It's for their own good?

Wikimedia Commons
Your treatment of that person says something about you. Are you hateful and malicious toward them? You know what that says. Are you rude and patronizing? You know what that says. Do you continually give them the cold shoulder? In all of these examples, you know what that would say about a villain in a story. And yet often we ignore what that says about us.

The best stories are the kind we take to heart and apply to our own lives. The more I think about mirroring the more I'm inclined to work harder, both at understanding how to use this tool in my stories, and in understanding how I've been using it in my own life.

Do you have any other examples of mirror characters in fiction? Or any examples of this happening in your life?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ruth Dahlin: Why Christians Should Read Harry Potter (Or at Least Give it a Chance)

Today I start the first of my third-Wednesday-of-the-month guest posts with a post by Ruth Dahlin, whom I've known for some time. She's a really fun girl, and this is her first guest post!

via Goodreads
Hi! My name is Ruth Dahlin, and Lauren was kind enough to let me do a guest post, (applause and cheering for Lauren) which I have wanted to do for a long time.

So before we get all serious, let me tell you a little about myself,

I read a lot (all day if I could get away with it) my favorites are dragon books, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and The Constitution, and a good science book or two. I write, I make sarcastic remarks, follow politics, and take care of a lot of plants.

And did I mention my 8 brothers? 
Now, let’s all put our Sirius (Black) faces, and get down to business.
Why Christians should read Harry Potter (or at least give it a chance)

I Love Harry Potter, and logical decisions, and am always saddened by people making illogical decisions. One of my pet peeves is Christians insisting Harry Potter is an evil book.
First, let me state the reasons they would be against Harry Potter.
1. (And this is the most common one)It has magic in it - and all magic is evil! 2. It has swear words in it
3. It never mentions God

Now, let me argue with those points, and expound on No. 1. A little more 

1. It has magic in it (and all magic is evil!)
First, if magic is so evil, what do you call Jesus’ miracles? (Other than miracles)

That’s right, magic. I once read an article in a Thriving Family magazine (I've forgotten the exact issue and title, but if you know, please leave it in the comments) about how a lot of teenagers are becoming interested in magic, and using crystal balls, and Ouija Boards and how parents should be concerned. This is true, after all, Leviticus 19 verse 31 says, “Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God” (Notice it says,"Don't use magic from spirits", not, "Don't read books about magic!!")

But it also implied that fictional magic books are evil, and a Clubhouse magazine (again, I've forgotten the particular issue number I apologize profusely) said in a movie review that “Most movies rely on magic for plots” and “God hates the Occult” and “movies and books are relying a lot on magic for their plots. We should be careful”

But we, as, Christians should rejoice that this is happening, because we, are Christians are saved, and Loved by God, and Jesus died on the cross for us, and we wrestle with a supernatural being on a daily basis. Pretty cool, right?
via Goodreads

After all, if we are in extraordinary events ourselves, shouldn't reading books and watching movies about supernatural things happening to supernormal people and the supernormal people succeeding make sense?
We shouldn't idolize them, of course, but don’t you agree?

Also, if the kind of magic that is in Harry Potter is ‘evil’, why isn't the magic in Narnia and Lord of the Rings isn't called ‘evil?’(I've never heard of complaints to Narnia and the only objection I've heard to Lord of the Rings is that LOTR is “scary for kids younger than 12”) 
2. It has swear words in it
Yes, but only, I've found, on average, two per book, and if it’s that problematic for parents, they can go black them out.
3. It never mentions God
Neither do classics like (yes I just did that) LOTR and Narnia.

And let me put it this way, the plot would be pretty darn boring if God just appeared every time that Harry was in trouble and solved everything (and if God was only mentioned a couple times, Christians would be saying that God didn't do enough!)
And besides, you’ll admit there have been times in your life where God has been (seemingly) kept silent and you enjoyed a book where God helped a character through his “invisible hand”
So, go enjoy (re)reading Harry Potter!

Ruth is pretty great, isn't she? Thanks for writing this guest post, Ruth!
So what do you think? Should Christians should read Harry Potter? Do you agree with Ruth's points, or have other ones that you'd like to bring up? Feel free to disagree and state your reasons why.
Would you like to write a guest post for this blog? Click here.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving and Materialism

The Christmas season is nearly upon us, that merry time in which we all are supposed to decry materialism, but buy things anyway, and then feel guilty about it, but then feel smug and self-righteous for feeling guilty.

Am I right?

The seasonal blog posts attacking or defending buying stuff during the Christmas season are inevitable, but the spirit of guilt and confusion doesn't have to be.

It's actually a logical progression from Thanksgiving to Christmas shopping. Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time of gratefulness, of counting your blessings. Gratefulness for your blessings should cause you to want to turn around and bless other people in the ways that you have been blessed.

Christmas gift-giving is a tradition of blessing other people as a small picture of how Christ blessed us. Sometimes these gifts are material things, and sometimes they are not. But people who rail against giving gifts have forgotten this. People who buy gifts because they love sales and love stuff have also forgotten this.

To be clear: trampling people for sales is not good. But neither is feeling guilty about buying gifts because of how the tramplers think. If you're buying gifts for the people you love, because you love them, and because you are so thankful for what you have been given (something that you remember on Thanksgiving) then you are truly entering into the spirit of Christmas. 

God gave us the greatest blessing through Christ. What blessings are we grateful for, and how will we reflect that this season? 

That's what should be running through our minds this time of year, not: I can't believe they bought that expensive TV. How materialistic! But also not: I wonder how many of those TV's I can buy. Oh dear, did I just trample someone?

This time of year, our spirit should be one of thankfulness and gratefulness for our overflowing blessings. And it should also be the kind of spirit that doesn't hold our blessings tightly in one closed fist, keeping them all for ourselves, but the kind that, like God, opens up our hands and gives just as freely to others. That is true thankfulness.

Monday, November 12, 2012

One of the Best Posts on Writing I've Ever Read

I've been following the fantastic Ellyn Gibbs' blog for a while now, and her posts are always amusing, inspiring, encouraging, and intriguing. But just recently she posted something that really struck me. It put into words some of the things that I've been learning lately. It was so simple and encouraging, and I loved it so much that I wanted to share it with you all. Here is an excerpt from the beginning:
It doesn't matter if you're married, engaged, single and happy, single and hopeful, or a hermit, you have probably heard this cliche: 
Love is a verb. 
Well, maybe I'm exaggerating - a hermit might not have, but that's another debate for another time. Cliches are cliches for a reason, and though most of us have heard the phrase "love is a verb" over and over, its much easier to repeat it parrot-style than actually put it into practice. If you truly love somebody, you won't just stick around for the warm fuzzy hot-chocolate-and-mittens feelings. You'll stay with that person through annoyances, disagreements, and full-out fights. (Pay attention, Taylor Swift.) 
It turns out that this phrase also relates to writing. 

When is the last time you said, "I love writing?" Honestly, I haven't said that out loud for quite a while, because.... 
(Read more
What are you still doing here? Click over and read it. Then leave her a comment, follow her blog (you won't regret it), and maybe come back here to discuss. Isn't she fantastic? Do you agree with what she said? Any favorite posts on writing that you'd like to share?

(And in case you're wondering, that is a picture of my keyboard, and yes, the 7 key is missing.)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Breaking News: Lauren Attempts to be Funny, Fails

The Internet -  once upon a time on the internet there was a blogger who was supposed to be working on her NaNoWriMo novel. But instead she had an idea to write a post entirely in the third person (she justified this decision by pretending she was practicing for her fictional autobiography).

When asked why she was procrastinating, the blogger replied (quote) "Ummm..." (unquote).

When further questioned the blogger admitted that she was pursuing inspiration down the paths it led.

The blogger then began typing furiously on her iPad 1, utilizing the Blogger app (which, by the way, needs a preview button.)

The blogger, who was identified as Lauren Shearer, and who wishes to remain anonymous, refused further comment, declaring that this interview was "distracting" and "annoying."

Subsequently this reporter caught up with the blogger's family; unfortunately, they also declined to comment on the situation. Updates will be added as this site learns more.

Update: blogger now writing phony updates.

Update: nothing new to report.

Update: what do you guys think about writing about yourself in third person? It's very awkward, but it's necessary when writing bios. I need to write a third person bio. Although until I actually accomplish something that's kind of hard to do. Lauren is a person... who... um... does stuff.

Update: okay, okay, back to NaNoWriMo.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Less is More is Less is More is Less

“I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter."
- Blaise Pascal

I have a bad habit of writing too little and too much.

When writing fiction, I always write too little. I write bare-bones prose, focusing mostly on dialogue and hardly any on description. This habit came mostly from writing short stories and flash fiction, which is pretty much all I've been writing for a while now. In short stories (flash fiction especially) you can't waste a lot of words on description, unless of course that's the point of the story.

But that doesn't work so well for novels, as I've been finding out during NaNoWriMo. In order to reach my daily word count I have to write longer scenes than I usually do, otherwise my story is going to end really quickly. Now, you'd think writing more would be a bad thing - my story will be too wordy! But I've actually found out that my fear of description is totally unwarranted.

Adding more description to the story actually (surprise!) makes the story come alive. I know, obvious, right? But this is something I just haven't done in a while, mostly out of (like I said above) fear of being wordy.

However, when I write blog posts, I always write too much. Some of my shortest posts have the most comments and views (my Avengers posts being the exception.) With blog posts, I guess I just don't know where to stop, which is why I've been trying to keep my recent posts shorter than usual.

Now, of course, I don't want to fall into the trap of saying more or less than I need to say. There's a delicate balance here. And there are conventional word counts for different forms of writing that have to be taken into account. Like NaNoWriMo's 50,000 word count.

But in some areas I know I've been stunting my writing by saying less than I could, and in some ways I've been rambling by saying more than I should, and it's been fascinating to try to find balance while doing NaNoWriMo and blogging. Okay, that's it. There's my whole post in one sentence. I guess I can stop now.

Do you tend to write more or less, or do you generally say everything you need to say, regardless of word count?

Friday, November 2, 2012

NaNoWriMo is Probably Going to Kill My Wrists

I promise that NaNoWriMo won't be the only thing I post about this month. But today is my second day, and I thought I'd share a little bit about how that's going.

First of all, for those of you who are new to this word - NaNoWriMo - it stands for National Novel Writing Month. As in the month in which you write a 50,000 word novel. In 30 days. Which works out to about 1,666 words a day. Oh, and there's a website on which I have a profile. If the website takes a while to load, just know that's because it's November.

So I currently have a total of 1707 words, a little bit over the suggested average per day. I haven't started today's writing yet, but I will soon. After I finish writing this blog post. It was amazing being able to type in that total at the end of the day. 1700 words. I think I can do this. 50k words doesn't seem so unreachable anymore.

Although I also have another story that I'm working on at the same time. I'm trying to finish up H2WaMM for publication the Blotter (and if you're new to this blog that doesn't make any sense. That's why there are helpful links.) Two stories going at the same time... I can still do this, right?

I'm also attempting to write a poem every single day, as a sort of writing exercise. But that doesn't take very long. I'm not worrying too much about quality. It's more for creative stimulation.

So a novel, a short story, and a poem every day. Can I survive this November? More importantly, can my wrists survive this November? We shall see. I may have to take it easy now and then with all this typing I'm doing. But I think it will be worth it.

Heard of NaNoWriMo before? Doing NaNoWriMo this year? How did your first day go? What's your word count? Any tips for avoiding Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Friday, October 26, 2012

My Hundredth Post

If I had a dollar for every post I've written...

Today I've hit my 100th post! Celebration! No, I'm not giving away a hundred dollars (sorry). I just thought that would be an amusing visual. It seems kind of pointless to write a hundredth post about a hundredth post (post-ception, right?), so just for fun, and since I love seeing other blogger's stats, I thought I'd share some of my stats for this blog as of today, October 26, 2012.

My all time most viewed posts are:

I Understood That Reference: Avengers, Humor & Nerdiness  - 319 page views

We Shall Gain the Universe: Avengers, Plot - 136 page views

Storyboardishness - 134 page views

 Review: Outside Hollywood - 115 page views

Can You Wipe Out That Much Red: Avengers, Theme - 111 page views

Sort of Like a Team: Avengers, Character & Continuity - 108 page views

It's funny how four of my most viewed posts are part of my Avengers review. The Storyboardishness post surprised me, though. I'm not exactly sure why it's generated the page views that is has.

Traffic sources:
My all time top three referring sites are the A-to-Z Challenge blog, Google search, and Facebook. My top three keywords are:

"word art painting with words"
"painting with words"
"i understood that reference" (which explains my most viewed post).

The US is my most viewing audience (no surprise there) but it's followed closely by, for some reason, Russia. Third after that is the UK, and at the bottom of the list is Latvia. 

Fun fact: 5% of my page views were viewed from an iPad. Hopefully that wasn't all me...

And my total page views over time, indiscriminately counting robots, spammers, and the like, is....

11,463 pageviews

Also, as of today, I've reached 104 followers! That makes me very happy. Thank you to all my faithful followers and commenters. You are very much appreciated!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Wanted: One Guest Poster. Alive. Sorry, No Cash Reward.

Today I figured it was high time that I openly solicited guest posts.

It's not that I'm out of ideas. Or that I'm about to give up blogging. Or that I'm going to be super busy (well, I am, but that's not the reason). No, I've had my guest posting page up for a while now, and now it's time to ask you, my followers and readers, if you'd like to be featured on Word Art!

I love promoting other people, blogs, products, and events. I also enjoy guest blogging myself. It's a great way to expand your outreach and your audience. So I want to give my fellow bloggers the opportunity to do this as well. It should be fun!

I'll only be featuring one guest poster a month, and that will be on the third Wednesday. If demand for guest posts increases, I may also increase the supply of guest posters per month. We'll see how it goes.

Okay, I apologize for that last paragraph. I have Macroeconomics on the brain right now. It's what I've been studying for the past couple weeks.

So what do I want to see posts on? Here are some ideas to get you started:
  • Writing
  • Finding time for writing
  • Publishing
  • Self-publishing
  • Blogging
  • Marketing
  • Characters & character development
  • Story structure
  • Stories by writers about writing
  • Humor
  • Movie reviews
  • Book reviews
  • Top ten lists related to films, books, or writing
  • Christianity as it relates to any of the above topics
Despite these preferred topics, I'm pretty much open to all kinds of posts that are either A)well-written or B)make me laugh hard or think hard. If you want to know what kinds of posts I really appreciate, check out the Found Around the Web gadget on my sidebar.

To sign up for a guest post on this blog, go fill out my nifty little form on my guest posting page. Guidelines are on the page as well. Hope to see your response soon!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Storyboardishness II: NaNoWriMo

Remember this project I was working on back in May? I was planning out a novel using a storyboard. Not wanting to just let this beautiful planned-out-story sit on my shelf, I've decided to enter NaNoWriMo 2012. It will be my very first year participating.

I've been reading up a lot on what other writers and bloggers think of NaNoWriMo. I've also read lots of tips for first time NaNoWriMo participants (this one in particular was hilarious). Am I ready for 30 days of intense writing in a mad dash to finish a 50,000 word novel? Probably not. But I'm ready to try.

If you're also doing NaNo this year and would like to be my "buddy" you can find me here. Or if you'd just like to sneak a peek at what novel I'll be working on, you can look at my novel page here. Twenty-four days to go!

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? Have you done it a previous year? Any tips to help me survive this November?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What Superheroes and Fairy Tales Have in Common

via Fandango
“Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”
It seems like superheroes and fairy tales are dominating our media. With movies like The Avengers, TV shows like Once Upon a Time, no less than two Snow White adaptations in 2012, and an upcoming Sleeping Beauty film, this trend is going to hang around for a while. Next year we'll see at least two super hero films, and since 2000 we've had over twenty-three Marvel and DC superhero films. 2011 alone saw a total of five superhero films released in theaters.

Why are these stories so popular now? I don't know if I can answer that question, but I do know that they are very similar. In a way, superhero stories are our modern day fairy tales. Here are five things that the two genres have in common.

1. The Princess
via Fandango
Standing for all that is sweet and right and good in the story, the princess (or girlfriend) is sometimes the main object of desire, sometimes the reward, sometimes the voice of reason, and sometimes the heroine of the plot herself. Not always a literal princess, she is nevertheless usually placed in danger by the villain. Mary Jane is kidnapped in every single movie in the Spider-Man trilogy. Sleeping Beauty is put under a spell by the evil queen. Pepper Potts is threatened by the Iron Monger and Justin Hammer (in two separate movies).

With some exceptions, the princess is the one who must be rescued by...

2. The Hero
via Fandango
The hero attempts to do what he knows is right. He may start out selfish and reckless (like Tony Stark or Hal Jordan), but eventually learns to live for others, because that is the burden of a hero. He meets and falls in love with the princess, but his destiny as a hero usually conflicts with his desire to be with her. Peter Parker breaks up with Mary Jane to protect her. Aladdin cannot marry the princess because he's just a beggar. Bruce Banner transforms into the Incredible Hulk. The frog prince is - well, a frog.

The hero's selflessness or initial recklessness leads him to inevitably collide with...

3. The Dragon
via Fandango
The dragon has no moral compass like the hero and lives only for himself. When the hero gets in his way, he will do everything he can to bring the hero down - not only to get what he wants, but also to take pleasure in the hero's suffering. Loki's plan to take down the Avengers is motivated by both ambition, and a sheer love of evil. The evil queen Maleficent was slighted by the king and wants revenge.

Because he hates the hero, the dragon is usually the one who brings...

4. The Temptation
via Seriable
The dragon offers riches, power, fame, revenge, pleasure, comfort. The dragon tempts the hero to do something that he was told he must not do, or places the temptation in the way so that the hero is tempted without the dragon's prompting. Cinderella must not stay past midnight. Peter Parker must not reveal that he's Spider-Man. Finn mac Cumhaill must not eat the salmon of knowledge.

Trouble always follows when the hero succumbs to temptation. When Tony Stark reveals that he's Iron Man,  Ivan Vanko is able to track him down. When Snow White eats the apple she falls into the deathly sleep. When Finn mac Cumhaill accidentally tastes the salmon he must suffer the rage of Finnecces.

But normally the hero is forewarned of temptation by...

5. The Actual Fairy 
via Fandango
How can it be a fairy tale without a fairy? And how can it be a superhero story without superpowers? And none of this can happen without an origin story.

In most fairy tale origins the plucky young hero meets a fairy, witch, sorcerer, or other magical creature that he rescues from a dire situation. In gratitude, the magical being gives the hero one magical gift that will help him defeat the dragon and save the princess - and also delivers a warning against the temptation.

In most superhero stories the plucky young (or young-ish) hero is involved in a freak accident that endows him with a magical power that will help him defeat the dragon and save the princess. Sometimes the power itself is the warning against temptation, like Tony Stark's freak accident involving weapons that he made, or Spider-Man's spider sense. Though superhero stories explain the superpower with science, it really isn't very much more plausible than the magic in fairy tales.

via Fandango
Superhero stories and comic books are our modern take on the classic fairy tale stories. The classics had knights in shining armor and beautiful princesses, or plucky peasant boys and fair-haired maidens. Our stories have knights in technological armor and hard-working secretary girlfriends, or skinny science geeks and redhead model girlfriends. Instead of dragons we have Jokers and Green Goblins. Instead of magic, science. But they follow the same patterns, and that is why we love them.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Genre Favorites: the Blogfest

Today I'm participating in Alex J. Cavanaugh's Genre Favorites Blogfest. The goal: list your favorite genre of movie, music and books, as well as a guilty pleasure genre.

Now, I love a lot of genres in literature, and I love a lot of stories that cross genres, or can't be classified in a genre, so it was a little hard picking just one. The most important things in a story for me are the message and the characters, so I can enjoy a story in almost any genre if these two elements are in place. But there are a few genres I enjoy more than others. Here are some of my favorites:

via IMDb
Movie - Science fiction

One thing I love about science fiction is that, unlike fantasy, it's something that might, just possibly, someday be true (look at Jules Verne's stories). This combination of reality and semi-plausable fiction makes sci-fi movies a lot of fun to watch. On the flip side, I also enjoy the sci-fi movies that pose a question that challenges your perception of reality. I think those are some of the most powerful movies. Some of my favorites in this genre are Star Wars, The Matrix, and Iron Man.

via IMDb
Music - Soundtrack

No contest here. This is the genre in which I most consistently find songs (and even whole albums) that I like. One of the things I love most about soundtrack music is that it's written to evoke specific emotions that tell a story. I tend to favor the composers (like John Williams) that have sweeping orchestral accompaniments. Some of my favorite soundtrack composers are Steve Jablonsky (Transformers), Hans Zimmer (Pirates of the Carribean, Kung Fu Panda, the Batman trilogy, among lots of other things), and John Powell (How to Train Your Dragon and the Bourne movies). I've also been listening to Alan Silvestri's Avengers soundtrack alot. Good stuff there.
via Goodreads

Books - Mystery

Mystery will always have a special place in my heart. I spent maybe two or three months when I was 14 reading through the rest of the Sherlock Holmes stories, all the Lord Peter Wimsey stories, and a lot of the Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple mysteries. But I started reading Sherlock Holmes when I was 7 or 8, and he'll always be my favorite detective.

via Goodreads

And a guilty pleasure genre from any of the three categories:

Comic books. Especially the ones from the "golden age" of comics in the 60's. I love them for the same reason I love reading fairytales - its about good and evil in a simple, uncomplicated form. The first comic book I ever read was the very first Spider-man comic, and I'll always love those. I also enjoyed the original Fantastic Four comics, and some of the early Avengers comics. The newer ones can't really compare.

What are some of your favorite genres?

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Taste of the End of Summer

Summer is winding down now, isn't it? I think one of the most distinctive reminders that summer is ending is the taste of freshly picked apples. The taste of the end of summmer.

This poem was going to be entered in Britt's poetry contest, but unfortunately I spaced out and forgot to submit it yesterday. But here it is anyway, for you to enjoy.

The Taste of the End of Summer
Lauren Shearer 2012

Take an apple
Crisp from the tree,
Lightly baked by the waning sun
And crunch into the freshness of the fragrant skin
With the sweet-tart juice fleeing down your wrist
And just a hint of autumn
In the texture on your tongue.


What will you miss most about summer? What are you looking forward to this fall?

Monday, September 10, 2012

I Am Writing a Play

“Playwriting gets into your blood and you can't stop it. At least not until the producers or the public tell you to.” ― T.S. Eliot

I don't think I'd consider myself "only a playwright." As in, I don't think I'd be content to spend all the rest of my life writing for the theater. But I do consider myself a writer, and not one who is stuck in one particular genre or medium.

Which is not actually the reason I'm writing a play. Though I'm not just doing it for fun, either. I mean, it is a lot of fun (especially because I love writing dialogue), and I wouldn't be doing it if I didn't have any interest in it, but that's not primarily the reason why.

Nor is it for practice -- not entirely, at least. This is only the second play I've written, which of course means that I should be practicing, since I don't have a lot of experience. But it's not just for practice in the way that something written for fun would be just for practice. It's something that's actually going to be physically performed, for real.

How do I know it's going to be physically performed, for real? Because I'm the one putting this performance on. As in, I'm the director, producer, designer, coordinator -- scary, I know. But I did it last year. I wasn't really blogging back in December, so I never wrote about it, but last year I put on my church's annual Christmas play. And this year I'm doing it again. But bigger. And better. And quite a bit different.

Last year's play was just a simple adaptation of the Christmas story in Luke. The story you've all heard before. It was fairly straightforward. But this year I've set my sights on a story from a different book of the Bible. A popular story. A story that's unusual for a Christmas play.

I'm writing a play that dramatizes the story of Gideon.

Fun, right? It's an exciting story with lots of dramatic potential. Of course, being a play for my church, and being a play that will be performed by non-professional actors with little to no experience (and mostly under the age of 18), I do have some limitations. But I think that's when it's most fun to write a play (or screenplay).

For one, I have to write a play that can be performed on a traditional church "stage" - one that has the bare minimum of props, very limited scenery, and poor visibility. But this is just creative license to use people and words instead of props, to use movement instead of detailed scenery, and to bring the action spilling out into the aisles.

Another limitation: working with volunteers who are amazingly dedicated, but who don't have a lot of time or motivation to memorize a lot of complicated lines, and who also aren't professional actors who can project lines loud and clear. But this is just an excuse to simplify the Biblical phrases into modern English, to add witty lines or clarifications of my own, and to write dialogue that will come alive to the actors, so that it will also be easily understood by the audience.

Any kind of playwriting is fun. But playwriting on an almost nonexistent budget with a specific set of limitations is tremendously fun because it forces you to think creatively about problems and solutions.

Some professional screenwriters write the action first and then write in the dialogue. That's what I've been doing, using quotes from the Biblical story to stand in for dialogue while I work out all the actions (Judges 6:21 in particular, heh). Now it's time to go back and simplify the dialogue. After that (and after a final edit) I'll be submitting it to my writing group for critique (and another edit after that!) and then to the Elders for a final approval before I start recruiting and casting and the whole crazy project begins. Then I become director, designer, producer, coordinator, etc. etc.

With so many things to consider that I otherwise might not have to, I can't really be "only a playwright." And I like that. It makes it less like work and more like play.

Yes, that pun was totally, shamelessly intended.

Have you ever written a play? Ever performed in a play? Ever been to see a play? 
How do you feel about writing with limitations in mind? 

Friday, August 24, 2012

2012 Reading Goals

2012 Reading Challenge

2012 Reading Challenge
Lauren has read 34 books toward her goal of 75 books.

I joined the Goodreads 2012 reading challenge this year because I thought it would be fun to keep track of how many books I read. I originally started out with 50 books as my goal, but then by April I had it almost halfway done, so I upped it to 75.

And now look at me. Only 34 books in 8 months. I think I am failing.

Not that I've had any lack of books to read over the summer (and if I counted my CLEP books I'd have at least 10 more to add - but I don't really think they count). I just seem to have lost the motivation to actually sit down and read for more than an hour. Maybe I could blame The Hunger Games. After reading that fast-paced book at the beginning of the year it's kind of hard to get super involved in a fiction series.

Truthfully, though, I have no one to blame but myself. But I'm aiming to fix that. I've checked out quite a few books from the library, ranging from non-fiction (Psychology: a Beginner's Guide!) to half the Master and Commander series. Yeah, I didn't mean to check out all ten books at once, but I reserved them and they all came in at the same time, so... there you go.

I also have Mimus, a German book (translated, of course) given to me by my good friend Lindsey. That one should be fun.

On the bright side, I still have four months left in the year if I want to finish my 75-books goal. That's approximately ten books per month. That would be the whole Master and Commander series in two months. I think I can do this. What do you think?

Have you been keeping up with any reading goals this year? Ever had a dry spell in your reading? Any books to recommend to me? Have you read the Master and Commander series or Mimus?
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