Sodaro's Stories

April 29, 2015

zzzzz’s — why sleep is an important part of the process (A-Z blog)

Filed under: Writer's thoughts — michelle sodaro @ 12:41 pm
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Sleep is an important part of the writing process for a few reasons.

**As with every problem in our lives, our subconscious is there to give us an assist. Our sleep allows our minds to rest and our dreams (whether we remember them or not) helps us to figure things out.

There have been so man times I have been stuck on how to start a chapter, so I put it down and worked on something else, so I am still making progress. When I am deep into my sleeping time, I will get a whisper of a “how about we start chapter 27 like this” NOTE — these revelations usually happen around 2 in the morning. WRITE IT DOWN. Trust me on this — you will NOT remember the idea in the morning. At best, you will remember that there was something you were supposed to remember. Put it on paper, get a recorder, or, like me, use ColorNotes on your phone. (My handwriting is illegible and my recording is gibberish at that time of day.) Get down enough of the idea so that you have something to jog your memory in the morning. (Whenever possible, get up and write when the idea hits. Not a lot to edit when the ideas come like this. Trust me on this as well).

*The second reason that sleep is an essential part of the writing process is that just in case your waking hours didn’t provide enough fodder for new ideas, once again, your subconscious steps up. The scene for Arianna’s Honor that started it all was from a dream. Broken Trust started as a dream, as did Driven West and many others. And yes, I put them in ColorNotes and went back to sleep (or put them in ColorNotes, tried to go back to sleep and then got up to write and then sleep).

Sleep is a good thing. So is getting ideas down.

April 28, 2015

Yesterday– how to stop beating yourself up for what you didn’t do (A-Z blog)

Filed under: Writer's thoughts — michelle sodaro @ 12:21 pm
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I used to do this all the time until I realized “But that was yesterday…and yesterday’s gone” (Chad and Jeremy, “Yesterday’s Gone”).

Nothing productive comes from bemoaning what did or did not get done yesterday…all you are doing is eating away today and at the end of this you will have two days with no progress made and that is indeed a slippery slope in the worst possible direction. (This is true with anything — eating healthy, moving on from something unhealthy, working out, etc). “Well I didn’t _________ yesterday, might as well call this week, month, year a total wash.”

I make a word count goal for each month. It’s 30,000, which for April (easy math) is a nice 1,000 words a day. And if yesterday I had a sinus migraine or if today there is a Property Brothers marathon on TV…I need to forgive myself and move on. Don’t let the doubts creep in because they would move in without a second thought and set up shop in your mind and the next thing you know, a week has passed and all you have written is your grocery list and you aren’t even trying any more.

Your characters forgive you for not coming to play with them yesterday, but don’t stay away too long…you need to interact with them as much as they need it.

Forgive yourself for a lazy yesterday, but don’t let the lazy become a habit or you’ll never accomplish your goals and then your critics (internal and external) will be proven right…and they really are wrong, you know.

So get back to writing.

Forget yesterday.

Seriously, go write.

April 27, 2015

Xciting — the best part of the writing process (A-Z Blog)

Filed under: Writer's thoughts — michelle sodaro @ 1:07 pm

I apologize for the cheat…but it’s hard to find a legitimate X word for the writing process.

The exciting part of the writing process is the writing zone where you aren’t aware at all of the world around you or the chaos inside you. Where all you know is words on page, words on page, words on page — where your pen flies across the paper (or your fingers fly on the keyboard) and you aren’t even aware of how much time has passed until you stretch and your body creaks in protest and you realize you really need to use the restroom and more than likely eat something and what day is it and how is it 6pm.

It’s a really good thing I have the two cats. they don’t let me go without feeding them, so while I am up from my desk, I’ll eat and rehydrate and (yikes) probably shower and Dear God go outside. It’s also a good thing I have a job that expects me to be around other people on a fairly regular basis…and friends who check on me to make sure I am still alive and kicking.

This zone, where it is nothing but you and words is amazing. It is intense and exhilarating and unbelievable. There are no critics (internal or external) , no doubts, no negativity…there is only you and your pen and paper (or keyboard) and if you ever need proof of magic, it is here at your desk.

As exciting as it is, it is also completely exhausting. It’s a good thing that frenzied pace is not constant.

As a note…if you see me at a Starbucks or Perkins and I don’t even look up when the door opens, and my pen is flying across the page, please wait for my hand to cramp to come talk to me about writing. Thank you so much.

April 26, 2015

Writing — How to make yourself Just DO IT (A-Z Blog)

Filed under: Uncategorized — michelle sodaro @ 3:17 am

I have a cold. I have a messy house. I need to study. I need to wash my hair, the dog, my goat. I need to sleep. There is a new episode of Chopped on TV. I have kids to take care of. I need to hem these pants. I have a job. I need to go to the gym.

I am right there with you — our lives are busy. We all have things we need to do, want to do, have to make ourselves want to do…and it can be overwhelming.

If writing is important to you, you need to find a way to get it on your to-do list. We make time for things that are important to us. It’s that simple.

Jot down your schedule in half an hour increments. Everything on your to-do list. Now, be honest, there is a 30-minute block in there somewhere that you could use for writing. At the laundromat? Perfect. Bring a notebook. Doctor’s appointment? Bring your tablet. Find the time. If it’s important to you — you’ll find it. (Thirty minutes a day may not seem like a lot, but it’s 30 minutes more than you were doing).

“Okay, Sodaro, I have my 30 minute block, but I have nothing to write.” Then write that. I  used to tell my students this when I used to teach English classes. Write “I don’t know what to write.” “I don’t know what to write.” “I don’t know what to write.” Over and over again. Your brain will think of something, ANYTHING just to make you not write that sentence one more time. Our brains like to be entertained. So let your subconscious take over and get those words on paper, but better set a time because when the words start to flow, time goes quickly and you still have more to do in your day.

Train your brain. Write at the same time every day and your brain knows what to do when you sit down with pen in hand or fingers on keys. You will get used to your writing time. Make it a habit. Then maybe you’ll find more than a half an hour a day to write…

But get to writing.

April 25, 2015

Voice – how to find it; how to own it (A-Z blog)

Filed under: Uncategorized — michelle sodaro @ 2:40 am

One of the best compliments I heard about Whatever you Make of It was that it sounded like me. Alternately, one of the comments I would write most often on my student’s papers was “this doesn’t sound like you. I need more YOU in this paper.”
In my experience, as an author and a teacher, we only find our voice by writing. Writing a LOT. Writing more.  Writing a LOT more. Then doing some writing. Read it. Write some more.
We develop our voice by putting words down on paper. By developing a relationship with those words and by having a lot of practice. “Is this something this character would say” is just as important as “does this come naturally for me to write?” If the answer isn’t yes, try again.
Think about your favorite author. When you have read multiple books by the same author, you get a sense of his or her voice. Now read through some things you have written…do you hear it? little nuances that are all your own.
Curious about developing your voice?
Take a story you know well, written by someone else. Write the story without looking at it. See the differences?? That’s your voice. Find it. Embrace it. Own it.
Now go write.

April 24, 2015

Ugly Personalities — why are they needed; what to avoid (A-Z blog)

Filed under: Writer's thoughts — michelle sodaro @ 12:37 am

Some characters are not bad guys per se, but they are incredibly unlikable. (They exist in real life too) People who are not evil, but their personalities are just not attractive at all.

I struggled with this concept in my current project, Broken Trust. There are a few characters, who in my mind, have no “good” qualities. They don’t grow. They don’t see the error of their ways…they don’t learn their lessons and promise to be better people. Their hearts don’t grow three sizes — they stay the same as they were in the beginning and I am 84.3% (made up statistic) sure these people will be the exact same in the sequel as well. I hesitated a bit when deciding this.

I am a fan of personal growth and people having redeeming qualities. And then I looked around me…I mean out into the real world, and I realized there are some people walking around this planet who aren’t evil, but would never be considered “good” people. Not all of them are sociopaths or anything, but there are people who are completely self-absorbed, people who are superficial and narcissistic and who will manipulate and use people. People are very willing to take advantage of others. There are people do in fact have ugly personalities…and as my novels are not supposed to ring true only for the kind people, it is helpful to have people with ugly personalities in print, since they do exist and add texture to our lives.

April 23, 2015

Talking about your work — when to do it; when to stop (A-Z blog)

Filed under: Uncategorized — michelle sodaro @ 1:13 am
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I was thinking about this when a friend was showing me pictures  of their nes baby, because in some ways it is a lot like having a new book or project. Some people are really excited about what you are sharing and some people are just being polite…pay attention to nonverbals, as with everything.
Your book is exciting! Amazing! Fascinating! Awesome! Impressive! Intoxicating! Unbelievable! A REALLYA BIG DEAL! And all of these things are true…to you. Just keep in mind that not everyone is as excited about your novel as you are.
I have been pretty open about the fact that I am an author and a teacher…so people tend to ask me about both, which is always nice. I love when someone asks what I am working on now because then it is a  green light to talk about the very thing I want to talk about ALL THE TIME.
Other authors tend to be more accepting of random outbursts of novel chatting, but make sure you ask about their projects as well.
One word of caution…there are times when you can talk too much about your writing..I know…I was surprised as well…but hear me out on this one.
I found myself talking about my writing MORE than I was actually writing. I don’t mean to state the obvious here, but it seems to me that talking about something doesn’t get it accomplished. Like those people who always complain about their life and do nothing to fix it…well if you are talking about your novel, which you should, make sure  you are WORKING on your novel just as much or your project will forever remain unfinished.

April 21, 2015

Setting –What to include; what to leave out (A-Z blog)

Filed under: Writer's thoughts — michelle sodaro @ 8:04 pm
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This is a point of disagreement among writers and readers and as with everything I have written about the writing process, take what you can use and put aside the rest.

Some readers and writers LOVE setting description (same with character description). I tried to get through a book that had spent 4 pages describing a tree. Not a magic tree, not even an all that spectacular of a tree (I don’t really remember…it was 4 pages…about a tree). I know what trees are…I have one right outside.

Some people like this much detail. They like to check facts and pull out an atlas or google and trace the route the hero has taken and I LOVE those detail-oriented people and the authors who can write for them…I am not that kind of writer and it’s mostly because I am not that kind of reader.

Maybe it is because spatial knowledge is one of my lowest scores or maybe it is some kind of self-diagnosed ADD, but when I read or try to write that level of setting description, I lose interest very quickly…and if I have lost interest in the story, I find it really easy to put down the book or the pen.

I like Kansas City. I have it as the setting of the majority of my current and upcoming projects. So I talk about the Westport Area, the Plaza, Independence Events Center, Arrowhead and Kauffman Stadiums…I like to give people enough to picture the area, without them having a building by building description that could double as a travel guide. I like the plot and dialogue to push more than a setting, because if people have never been to Kansas City, they can picture their own city, and I am okay with that. This works for me. Find a level of setting description that works for you…I will be willing to be what you like to write is very similar (detail-level) to what you enjoy reading.

April 20, 2015

Revising – how it is different than editing (A-Z Blog)

Filed under: Uncategorized — michelle sodaro @ 11:27 pm

So I talked about editing– with the colorful pens and critics invited in and all of us going through the draft with a fine-toothed comb, looking at grammar and consistency and does this need to be taken out or added to.
Revising is another beast entirely. By this time in the process, I have written the first draft, it has been typed and marked through and all changes have been typed. The draft is printed and now is the time to look at the beginning, the middle, and the ending.
Is the beginning of the story strong enough…
**I personally give a book I am reading 3 chapters (this is also what a lot of agents look for with a query).
**Does it draw my reader in and make them HAVE to read more?
Is the middle set in a good pace?
**Does it keep the action progressing and still give my readers a chance to catch their breath?
**Do my chapter endings have a “I will just read one more chapter” appeal?
Is the ending to the story a SOLID ending?
**Are there any loose ends or unresolved issues (if there is a sequel some issues need to stay unresolved, but this novel should stand on its own.)
**Is it an understandable ending? Note: I didn’t say good ending or happy ending. Not all characters are guaranteed one…but the ending shouldn’t leave the reader saying “what the hell just happened?
**Will this ending make my readers want to pick up my next novel?
It is a lot to revise a novel– but as with every part of the writing process, it is worth doing well.

Quicksand – how to get out of it (A-Z blog)

Filed under: Uncategorized — michelle sodaro @ 12:53 am
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(this was originally going to be Quirks, but yesterday’s blog had me changing my mind.)
So it has happened with every novel I have gotten past chapter 10…you are writing along and all of a sudden you notice your words and thoughts appear to be moving more and more slowly until you are literally. forcing. one. word. after. another. across. the. page.
It is agony to keep going but you are afraid if you stop completely, you won’t ever get started again. I hate to say it, friend, but your novel is in quicksand (or the Doldrums if you are in Norman Jester’s Phantom Tollbooth).
Now, usually my novels find the quicksand anywhere from Chapter 12 to about Chapter 20. It’s the dreaded middle of the novel (SCREAM!!!!).
Somewhere in that 8 chapter range, my motivation and my writing become almost painful. It’s after thestory introduction, we have met the characters and before too much of the rising action…and nowhere near the climax…it’s the building of the characters, the day-to-day lives of the characters that make the readers care about them.
Here you need to develop the story, but not give too much away. You need to add to the action, but not reach the climax too soon…you need to build, build, buildand then back up a bitand let the characters (and your readers) catch their breath.
So how do you get out of the quicksand?? You keep pushing through. You keep forcing one more word on to the page. You do freewriting. You stick to your outline. You keep pushing you through until the writing flows again.
Your novels will thank you.

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