Friday, July 31, 2009

Starting Tomorrow

Starting tomorrow, I am going to write 2,000 words a day for 31 days. The entire month of August. I'm going to write Margaret's story so that I finally have a first draft. Complete. No excuses.

So 2,000 times 31 days (30 days hath September, April, June and November - drat! That means August has 31 days. Sigh.) equals - where is my calculator - 62,000 words. Most novels shoot for around eighty, but I've already written 7,979 (sheesh, is that all?), so that makes 69,979.

That's pretty close to done, but I really want 80,000 by the 31st. So, dividing the rest by 31, I get 323.26 more words per day necessary to reach my goal. I think I will round down the point 26, that will look funny to have 1/4 of a word, and by the next day, I might not remember which word I intended, and then everything will get a bit messy. So, 2323 words per day. Ahhhhh!

I can do it. You can too, if you want. Anyone care to join me? Write a novel in a month? Chicken!

I'll be posting word totals for the day, but perhaps not much else. Depends on if I get crazy frustrated or not. And then, of course, I actually have other things to do too. But like I said, I can do it.

Wish me luck and lots of inspiration.

Margaret's Mom

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Is a SuperEgo character boring?

I think Margaret's Mom has said before in this blog that I am her, but a little bit more on the Super Ego end than the real her. Does that make sense? I am ethical and committed, more so than other girls my age, but sometimes I wonder if I am boring.

Girls tend to like bad boys because they are exciting. Why don't people think that good people are interesting too? What does that say about us?

Given the option of doing right or wrong, I will pick right every time. I want to be that way. I am compelled. It is my nature. There really are other people like this, I've met them. They are not so common that you run into them everyday though.

In order to tell our story the way it really happened, I want Margaret's Mom to show how good people can be. Do you find that boring? I find it inspiring. I would surround myself with people like that if I could.

Margaret is my best friend. She sees the world so much more sharply than I do. I prefer the outlines to be hazy and my movements to be slow like a river running to nowhere.

We drew angel outlines in chalk most every summer day, and Margaret never complained once. I just like angles and she thinks they are okay, but bless her, she always drew at least one or two to make me happy. I wish I could make her happy. She seems troubled all the time. One way to make her happy is chocolate. Hershey bars make the world go round.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Different Voice

I've noticed (we've noticed) that most of our posts sound the same. Same voice, perhaps a little bit of different thought content, but basically Mom's voice most of the time.

Three different people are supposed to be represented here, Margaret, Honey, and Margaret's Mom. The fact that Margaret and Honey are made up characters, and Margaret's Mom is their author shouldn't change the fact that it should be obvious who is writing. It shouldn't have to be signed Honey or Margaret for you, the reader, to know which one it is.

I'm striving for original voice: the kind where you don't need dialog tags to know who is talking. I wonder how long that will take to develop? Margaret's Mom's voice? Very simple - Me.

Margaret and Honey? Me also, but Margaret is going to head more toward the Ego of me and Honey will be more the Super Ego of me. Yes, there is an Id, in the form of Robert, the naughty neighbor boy (of course the boy has to be the naughty one!).

You would think characters that start out with such clear ideas would immediately sound different. I can hear their voices - very different - in my head when I'm writing. BUT . . . I read them later on the page and they sound too similar.

At least I've identified something to work on.

I've also chosen this particular novel to tackle as a "Novel in a Month" project. That means August 1, 2009 to August 31, 2009, I will be writing this story to finish the first draft manuscript. No more dinking around. I know the story, or at least I know most of it. I just need to get it onto paper.

Wish me luck. Keep me on track.

Margaret's Mom

Sunday, July 26, 2009


Today's post is about symbolism. Symbolism can be blatant like the American flag, or very subtle like, oh, a watch that a character keeps. The watch can come to symbolize many things because time is a large concept. Another large concept symbol would be a key. I love keys, I collect them and hang them on my wall at home (the old, cool ones with lots of character themselves).

Since I am a new writer, this is probably information an old writer would know all about. But nothing teaches you something like teaching someone else, so here goes. My advice about using symbol is twofold.

1. Use it (I really, really like it)
2. Be subtle (don't shove it down the reader's throat - here's your SYMBOL)

As an example, here is a brief excerpt from the book:

Daddy brought me a glass of milk while I sat on the ladder backed cane chair in the formal living room of our great big house on Legarde Street. He knelt down to talk to me for a minute, asking if I was alright and did I want to go outside and play in the backyard with the other children. I didn’t want to play just yet. I thought Mama would be proud of me if I sat nice and lady like in my Sunday dress with my white gloves and accepted the condolences of friends and family. I learned that word sometime later, condolences, but I knew they were sorry. Their eyes were all red and puffy, their noses were running and white hankies were everywhere, dabbing at eyes and covering up mouths when they spoke near me so I wouldn’t hear “suicide” or “accident”, or other words to hurt my eight-year-old feelings. Those white hankies were in such abundance that day, I never got over thinking they signaled “secret” instead of “surrender” like white flags were supposed to. For years I would watch war movies and wonder what the secret was.

That spring two people came into my life at almost the same time, one floating into my world like a pretty butterfly, magical and perfect. The other would get me into more trouble than one girl growing up in Louisiana should ever find.

I first met Honey Sinclair that terrible April afternoon. She had come to the house with her father, a new man in town who worked at the grocery store Daddy shopped in. They’d become friendly and when Honey’s father heard that Daddy and I were left alone, he thought Honey would be just the thing to cheer me up. “My name is Honey. You must be Margaret. I’m sorry about your mother.”

I remember what she said because of the way she said it. She really seemed sorry, for me, not for herself or because that’s what she was supposed to say. I liked her right away. “Thank you.” I looked down into my lap at my white gloves, maybe they held a secret too.

“Here, I brought you something.”

Honey had her hand out, holding something small, and I put out my gloved hand to receive whatever small present she had chosen, not in the mood to disagree. She dropped a sugar cube onto the palm of my hand, the glove too small and tight like a drum, and it almost bounced off before I closed my fist, snagging the treat in mid air. We giggled and Honey popped one in her mouth at the same time, her white gloves and mine hiding the evidence of our thievery.

Honey became my protector that day, in more ways than I could ever imagine. Sent by God or whoever did nice things to make me believe in goodness, kindness, and in the absolute balance of the universe, here to counteract evil and naughty neighbor boys.

My teacher kind of liked this, so I got brave enough to post it. Thank you for reading.

Margaret's Mom

Friday, July 24, 2009


So my mom had to read a book, The Catcher in the Rye, for her English class and then talk about how realistic a character the main guy was. It was written a long time ago, so when you aren't alive then, all you have to go on is what other people say. She thought he was pretty realistic.

Me? I don't know what I think. I'm just working out what I think about myself. He wears a goofy hat. I don't think I ever would, not even when people aren't looking. He swears a lot. I try not to swear at all: Mom hates it and my best friend Honey hates it even more. He's had someone he likes a lot die on him. Now that's something I know a little bit about.

The biggest difference between us has to be that he thinks everyone is bad, and I think, deep down, that everyone is good, and I'm just so shocked when they prove they aren't. But I get over it.

I've been making a list lately of all the things I like, because when Holden (that's the character's name) was asked by his sister to list all the things he liked, he had a hard time coming up with anything. I want to be able to spit out about forty things in a row if anyone ever asks me.

So here's a list:

Green, strawberries, fresh-cut grass, the way sand looks when it's falling through your fingers, yellow paint, hamburgers, Chuck Taylor's, jeans, PB&J sandwiches, history, purple, a baby's laugh, skipping, fireflies, the smell of old books, storms with lightning and thunder, the feel of window glass on a cold winter day, popcorn, the moon.

That makes nineteen so far, I need to think of more later. Going over to Honey's house now, we are going to help her mom bake some cookies for her little brother's class field trip to the city. I hope we get to taste the batter. I like that too.


Thursday, July 23, 2009


Punctuation and I have a love-hate relationship. I love all those cute little marks that help me express myself and they hate me by misbehaving and being elusive, never really revealing their inner feelings. I get slightly annoyed by this.

But this is the information age, and I can look up practically anything. I look it up. I still get it wrong. Sigh.

Spelling? I can spell anything. I don't even need the spell checker. Why can't there be a comma, semi-colon and apostrophe checker? That would be ever more useful in my little world. I found a few on the internet, but I'll paste something in there for it to, find a misplaced comma in the middle of the sentence - one that is very obvious like the last one - and it does not catch it.

So I'm left to look it up, and submit pieces that people will then tell me are punctuated incorrectly. I look it up again, and sometimes they are right, and sometimes they are WRONG. Matter of fact, they will even say "I prefer an em-dash to a semi-colon."

Oh yeah? Well, I don't. How's that. English is a bear of a language. I just can't spend all my energy learning the rules to that extent. But I hate it when I get conflicting critiques.

I think I'll just learn to say "thank you, but I've decided to do that on purpose for a style choice." When can I do that? After I'm published? After I have the Masters of Fine Arts that I'm never going to get? How about now? Now sounds good to me.

My dad used to insist that he didn't care if I ever got a degree, just that I was well-educated. I think I'm pretty well-educated now, but am finishing the degree for grins. He especially wanted me to be able to read, write, and speak my own language. I think I do that pretty well. Except, of course, according to the Punctuation Professors (I prefer this to Punctuation Nazis, I've heard both).

So, if I mess up, please feel free to inform me of your opinion. I may agree, and I may not. But, I would rather hear about it and have the chance to look it up before I respond. Don't want to be seen as hostile. This long rant about punctuation comes back around to the fact that I want to be able to do it well, with few mistakes.

I'd also like to quit using the word "that" about fifty times a sentence in my un-edited work. That would be nice.


Margaret's Mom

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

One Week

One week exactly today that I've been posting on my new blog. Six entries in that one week, so yeah me! Or, yeah Margaret!

My site counter shows exactly ZERO site visits! I kind of like that. I must be the only person in the world who blogs, but doesn't really want anyone to read it . . . yet. What does that say about me?

I haven't even told my family and friends that I'm doing this. And I'm thrilled. Really. Not disappointed at all. Thrilled that no one has read this. I guess it's because I don't feel I'm ready to have a voice yet. Ready for my characters to be heard, but not me so much. So I hide. Someday I'll be ready.

I've been so busy with real life stuff this summer that I have had no time to give to Margaret and her crew. This is depressing me. I am personally taking classes at a University to finish my Bachelor's Degree in English - one year to go. I love the reading and writing growth and feel it's very useful. I don't want to waste good ideas on bad writing. It just takes away from Margaret's world and I've grown to love her already.

What happens when your novel ends and you have to give up a character? I think I'm procrastinating on finishing it for that reason. I won't have a sequel so she'll be done with her story. Not sure I'm ready for that. Do any other writers delay finishing a story because they will miss their characters?

I just finished reading Catcher in the Rye again, this time for an English class (and twenty years after reading it the first time). I hadn't remembered Holden talking about missing people. I didn't miss people when I was young the way I do now. Makes me think I'm going to have to re-read everything I ever read - liked and disliked - because I may feel differently now that I'm older.

That would be a hella lotta books!

Margaret's Mom

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sunday Mornings

Sunday mornings - reading the paper, drinking coffee, contemplating life. Trying to get Margaret to behave herself. Sometimes it strikes me how much a character is like a real-life child. You want the best for them. You try to guide them and have them make good decisions, but hope their screw-ups are more comedic than tragic (unless you are writing a tragedy, of course).

When do you get out of the way and let them be who they are? Both the real and made up children - how do you know when to stop molding?

My real life son wanted a Facebook page, so I got on there too, hoping to get the lay of the land and be able to anticipate pitfalls and save him from himself. So far, pretty good, but the other day he posted something to a friend that, in person, would have been a small, all-in-fun dig, but on Facebook came across as mean. I, of course, made him delete the post and apologize publicly. He's young. He'll learn. No real harm done.

What I could have done is ignore it and let him suffer the consequences. Sometimes that's a very good thing. I certainly don't want to become one of those helicopter parents who hover around and constantly fix their children's errors. They never learn consequence and therefore never learn to fix their own errors that way. So how do I know which battle to fight? Plain and simple, I don't. I just guess and use MY best judgement and hope for the best.

Now - translate that to the book - how do I get out of my own way enough for the characters to become alive and not come across like they are my puppets, doing the bidding of the Grand Master? It's a good question. Plain and simple, I don't know that either.

I did write a short story the other day that was Flash Fiction, meaning less than 1000 words. The ending was not coming to me, so I made up something gross that would end it quick and neatly. Then I couldn't get the story to change back to a more "acceptable" ending. I don't write gross, I really don't like it (it had to do with incest - EW!). I learned an interesting lesson though. The story was pretty good.

I think that in writing, sometimes I have to get out of my own way and let the characters drive the story. I may be much happier with how the story ends up. The challenge will be to let go of my controlling nature which manifests itself in every other area of my life. Maybe I'll use this as a place to "let go" and see what happens.

Margaret's Mom

Friday, July 17, 2009


I like to read and most of the time it's ghost stories or something about ancient times, like the 1900's. Ghost stories inspire me the most though because I've had a few things happen to me that might even be ghosts trying to talk to me. Sometimes I hear things but Honey can be standing right there with me and she doesn't hear it. She's my best friend though, so she doesn't think I'm crazy.

I wish that books would be a little less formal, let the characters speak for themselves. I don't really like reading all about how the street looks or what the weather is like. I want to know what they are thinking and how they are going to get out of whatever mess they are in, cause that's my situation half the time.

I get to stay up late on Friday nights and watch TV with Daddy. He usually watches some dumb show, but I like eating popcorn and getting to drink a Coke. For some reason, it's always hard to fall asleep afterwards, but I read my book or write something in my journal that I throw out the next day. Someday I'll write something that doesn't make me want to barf when I read it again.


Thursday, July 16, 2009


I'm Honey,

Nice to meet the two or three folks who stumble through here by accident. I'm Margaret's best friend and I help keep her on the straight and narrow path that leads away from trouble. She's always listing to port and heading right at it.

Margaret is busy today being grounded in her room. She usually counts the floor tiles or reads a book, right now she's reading How to be a Nonconformist.

Her mom has a paper due for an English class and needs to spend time reading and writing. She's trying to finish Native Son so she can answer some questions about the book and not look like an idiot. She doesn't much like looking like an idiot.

I have plenty of time to do anything I want. It's summer. Time for watermelon and running through the sprinklers, fireflies on hot nights and sleeping out in the backyard until the mosquitoes drive us inside. Let's see, today is a Thursday, so that means . . . nothing. Mama wants me to help her paint the kitchen, but I think I'll sneak out the back door and walk over to Margarets house - it's only 3 blocks away. I'll let you know if we figure out something fun to do.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Numero Dos

The sophmore post. I don't think I'll be able to stay in character for very long.

In The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran says to "let your best be for your friends." I always think that is a very nice idea, but what if I need to keep the best parts of me? What if I need to use them myself later? Is that being too selfish?

I like the idea of always blogging in character. But, like many good ideas, their execution requires a bit of tweaking for the real world. I mostly started this because, like Margaret said, I want to learn about blogging, but am afraid to be bad at it. Very bad. Exceedingly bad. An alter ego seems like the perfect device, but I know I will quietly slip into blogging about things "I" do and think about, and leave poor Margaret in the dust.

She'll forgive me. I'm her mother. Actually, what do you call a writer's relationship to their character? Are we parents? "My author" sounds pretentious. Well, until I can find a definitive answer from someone further along the path than I, I will continue to be Margaret's mother.

Margaret's Mom

Hi There!

Hi, my name is Margaret. I'm a character in a book that isn't quite finished yet. My mom is having trouble controlling me, so she thought maybe if she let me loose on here, some of my antics would get in line with how she wants my story to go.

I think she's wrong. But, she made a deal with me. She said I could write whatever I wanted on here and she would get to learn how to do the blog thing - 'cause she's a big fat chicken and won't do it under her own name just yet.

My friend Honey will show up sometimes too. Oh, and by the way, it's 1974 and I'm fourteen.