Wednesday, April 20, 2011

10 Breakout Prompts from Agent/Author Donald Maass

Plenty of people talk about Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites and how important it is for you to get yourself out there. Build your platform! Build a following! But what is forgotten is how these social media sites are also HUGE TOOLS for a writer's toolbox. 

Here's just one more reason why if you're not on Twitter, you SHOULD be: Donald Maass. He is a literary agent and author whose books, Writing the Breakout Novel (and companion Workbook) and The Fire in Fiction, have made a huge impact on my own writing (and no, he hasn't paid me to say this). And I know plenty of other writers who would say the exact same thing (and I'm pretty sure he hasn't paid them either. But if you have, Don, you can mail my check to...).

If you are on Twitter*, you can follow him at @DonMaass. If you are not, I have pulled ten of his breakout writing prompts from Twitter and placed them here. Twitter is FREE, dear writers. And it isn't scary, I promise! It is full of hugely helpful FREE information that you might be missing out on! So without further ado...Mr. Donald Maass.

Which prompt did you find most helpful? And special thanks to Donald Maass, for just being his awesome self.

*You can also follow ME on Twitter @bethmann15

Monday, April 18, 2011

But I Love You

My youngest gets out of his bed AT LEAST 4-5 times at bedtime. And it doesn't matter how much I do to prevent it before he actually goes to bed. I'll put a snack and drink by his bed. I open the window to let him know that the noises he hears are just cars going up the street. I make him use the potty...twice. It doesn't matter. This is how it goes.

"Mommy, I'm hungry."
"Mommy, I'm thirsty."
"Mommy, I need to go potty."
"Mommy, I heard a noise."

After the first four, he has me so amped up that I'm ready to throw something (and it's usually aimed at my poor husband's head, because I can't take it out on the kid or the dog, now can I?). I march him back into his bed and tell him FOR THE LAST TIME that if he gets out again there will be serious consequences for his father.

Then, as I settle back onto the couch and put my freshly poured Coke to my lips, he's at it again. I huff and I puff like I'm going to blow the house down, but before I stand up my little guy says...

"Mommy, I just wanted to say I love you."

I love you too, you little emotional manipulator.

Does your kid drive you toward the brink of insanity only to melt your heart a moment later? Feel free to share :)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Some More of Something Borrowed

Okay, so I know I've already said this, but I am SO STINKING EXCITED for Something Borrowed the movie to come out (in theaters May 6 by the way). It is by far one of my favorite books (written by the lovely Emily Giffin).

Here's just another little sneak peak of the movie with cast interviews (and your daily John Krasinski fix - in case you didn't get enough of him on The Office last night. Lord knows I didn't!).

I apologize for the spillover of the screen into my sidebar, but I am not a technological genius like my husband (who is not around at the moment TO HELP ME).

Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Book Order and Birth Order

To me, the order in which you write your books is a lot like the birth order of your children. When I had my first son, I obsessed over every tiny detail, from the moment I got pregnant until...well, I still kind of obsess about the details. Because he's my first. My trial run. The one where I learn what NOT to do, so I can make fewer mistakes with the second (and truth be told, you STILL make mistakes with the second, am I right?).

The same goes with writing your first book. When I first got pregnant, I read a ton of books on being pregnant and parenting, like What to Expect When You're Expecting, My Pregnancy Week by Week, and Babywise. (Parent note: DO NOT SKIP AHEAD IN THESE BOOKS, because you will completely freak yourself out and you will think that everything that could possibly go wrong in your pregnancy IS going wrong at that very moment. Trust me, I've done the research!)

Likewise, when I first got the idea to write a novel I started reading up on the craft of writing. I started with The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing a Novel, because at the time, that's exactly what I felt like: a complete IDIOT. I also read On Writing, Plot & Structure, and Writing the Breakout Novel. Much like reading ahead in the parenting books, I completely freaked myself out writing my first draft, because I was so terrified that I was doing it wrong that it completely killed my confidence. (I recommend reading one book on craft, THEN writing the first draft the way you want to write it, THEN reading the rest of the books to perfect it in the editing stage.)

Did I get everything right with my first child? Only time will tell (and I'm sure his therapist will one day give me a definitive "no" on that one!). Did I get everything right with my first book? I can say with certainty NO. But I've learned...hoo boy, have I learned. And the second go 'round has been much more painless than the first.

What do you think? Does the first child/first book - second child/second book theory hold true for you? If you're not a parent, do you feel like your second book has come easier than the first?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Old Bird Is At It Again

I'm posting Mommy Monday on a Tuesday again. Sorry to my readers who like predictability! There is, however, good reason for my waiting until today. It's my youngest son's fourth birthday. Yep, my baby is four. I know you're thinking, didn't they already celebrate a birthday? And yes, you're right, my oldest just turned six on Saturday. And here it is, Tuesday, and we're celebrating another (what can I say, July is a fun month in our house)!

This day is always bittersweet for me, because my little guy came into the world with some difficulty and spent a week in the NICU before we were allowed to bring him home. In the grand scheme of things, a week wasn't really all that bad compared to most of the kids who had been in the NICU for weeks, some months. But that week? It was the LONGEST, most terrifying week of my life. It also happens to be the one time in my life that I have actually felt the presence of God holding me together. I will never forget that feeling as long as I live.

And now, that tiny, five pound baby is thirty-five pounds, and so awesome that sometimes he takes my breath away.

Happy Birthday, wonderful Tyler. We love you so much!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Further Proof That I Am An Old, OLD Woman

Last Saturday, I went to a baseball game to support my husband (who is a coach) and to enjoy some of the beautiful weather we were having here in Georgia. Our team won (yea!), and then I threw my back out (boooo!). That's right. BACK. OUT.

The annoying thing here, is that I wasn't doing cartwheels or russians or anything even remotely cheerleader-y to celebrate our team's win. I hadn't so much as high-fived anyone. All I did was bend over to PICK UP MY KEYS from the bleachers where I had been sitting, and I suddenly felt like I had been stabbed in my lower back. I couldn't walk, couldn't crawl, couldn't BREATHE the pain was so bad.

So here I am, almost a week later, and I am still hobbling around like an old woman, wondering when the pain will get better. And if what I've been through the past week - trying to figure out who to see and what medication to take and just exactly what I did - is any indication of what being and old lady will be like THEN JUST KILL ME NOW.

Also, my oldest son is turning SIX this weekend. Which is a third of the way to eighteen. Which means if I blink again he will be driving and going away to college and getting married and LEAVING ME FOREVER. So yeah, time to start thinking about having another baby, honey! Think they'll give me the epidural, like, NOW?

Happy 6th Birthday, sweet Cody. Your very old Mommy loves you so much!

Happy Weekend, everyone! :)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

I have never taken a picture that so accurately represents my life as a mom/writer. You will notice:

1) There is a laptop charger,

2) the laptop charger is covered in a mysterious brown substance that could be either a) poop from my three-year-old, since he still doesn't know how to wipe his own behind and likes to touch things that look like they might be a toy, b) dog poop, since she gets mad at me for ignoring her in favor of playing with my imaginary characters, one of whom has a cat, and my dog hates cats, or c) a chocolate bar - melted because I stuffed said chocolate bar into my computer bag so I would not have to share it with aformentioned three-year-old (selfish? yes. necessary to my sanity? absolutely.) and then accidentally put my hot laptop charger in the bag on top of said chocolate bar.

What do you think? Poop or chocolate? What would your picture look like?

* For the record, it's chocolate, and I will neither confirm nor deny eating it right off the charger.

Monday, April 4, 2011

How to Annoy Me/Charm Me

I am borrowing this idea from one of my favorite bloggers, Heather Armstrong over at She used to do these posts called "How to Annoy Me" and "How to Charm Me" and I thought I'd do something along those lines. It's a variation on my Love It/Hate It posts. My "How to Annoy Me" moments remind me a little of Mr. Heckles' Book of Grievances from the show Friends. (Which, I should mention, I miss so very, very much. However, shows like Modern Family and The Office take the edge off a bit, no?) On that note:

How to Annoy Me:
- Allow Steve Carrell to leave The Office.

How to Charm Me:
- Replace Steve Carrell with Will Ferrell!

How to Annoy Me:
- Let me pre-pay $20.00 for gas and then stop the pump at $19.37 and make me wait for five minutes while it slowly creeps its way to $20.00.

How to Charm Me:
- Serve that yummy, crunchy, awesome hospital ice at your gas station - and offer Coke, not Pepsi.

How to Annoy Me:
- Pull out in front of me in traffic with, like, 9 LADDERS dangling from the roof of your truck (or a bed full of used furniture tied down with a SINGLE ROPE).

How to Charm Me:
- Wave and smile (and not give me the finger) when I pass by you with an "Are you SERIOUS?" look on my face.

How to Annoy Me:
- Ask me if I'm tired, don't wait for me to answer, and then tell me I LOOK tired.

How to Charm Me:
- Say, "Has anyone ever told you that you look a little bit like..." and then name an insanely gorgeous celebrity. Even if you only said I look "a little" like that person, I'll take that compliment to the bank.

How to Annoy Me:
- Gift me with an entire loaf of fresh-baked bread. (Don't you know I have a carbohydrate addiction?)

How to Charm Me:
- Gift me with an entire loaf of fresh-baked bread. (See how quickly I forgive?)

How to Annoy Me (as previously seen on Facebook):
- Allow me to pre-sort my groceries into their rightful categories (i.e. frozen foods, dairy, fruits & veggies, meats, boxed & canned items) and then not pay any freaking attention to my efforts when you bag them. I realize that you make very little, grocery bagger, but if I pull one more frozen pizza from a bag full of cereal boxes, I WILL come for you*.

How to Charm Me (also seen on Facebook):
- Be my husband and bring me Butterfinger bites and Discs 1 & 2 from Mad Men Season 4 (Yep, he's a keeper).

That's it for now. Now you tell me: What annoys/charms you?

* I will also come for you if you forget to put my $9 mascara in the bag, because it will cost me that much in gas to come back to your store!

** Also annoying? Throwing your back out - which is what I did on Saturday (the very same day I wrote this post, and no, the irony is not lost on me).