I know, it’s the newest “thing.” Maybe not the newest, but doesn’t everyone have one? I’ll admit, before I got mine, I’d see those commercials, with the people clipping them on and dancing like somehow this teeny musicmaker would inspire anyone to become so free of inhibitions, they’d just dance through the streets (and dance well!). And yet, I thought, “How often would I really use it? I don’t exercise, if I can help it. So what’s the point?

I use my ipod shuffle daily. And, honestly, the clip-on feature is probably my favorite part. It keeps it safe and out of the way, sure. But it also makes one feel a little like you want to tap your chest and say, “Picard to Enterprise.” It doesn’t need batteries, because the dock charges it and it plays a very long time before needing it.

But, you know what? Forget all of that. Because, if you’re like me, and you use music to connect to your story or set the mood for a scene or if you just use it to drown out the calls of, “Mom! Where’s the ketchup?” when you’re in the throes of a killer sex scene–then this? Your new best friend.

You load it up in Itunes, a free program you can get here if you’re one of the five people in the world who doesn’t already have it. Itunes will automatically update the software for you, which makes it ahead of any other mp3 player I know of. And, technically, if you’re writing, and sending out submisions, even if you’re getting all rejections, you can write it off on your taxes. Not a tax professional, I am not giving tax advice. Consult one before telling the IRS, “Lori says it’s okay!”

But, and yes, I’m finally to the main point, as I mentioned, it can pull you into your story. Finished a book and decide your ready to edit six months later (who does that, huh?), use your books “theme music” to pull you back into the story. Trying to write for an hour while everyone else is watching TV, create an audio barrier between you and the rest of the world. Need to just let the story jumble around inside your head, pop on your headphones and do something else: clean, exercise, stare at the ceiling. The feelings the music evokes will feed your muse. It’s like crack for your creativity. Except not at all illegal or deadly.

Buy one. NOW.

Okay, I’m not up to the level of fugging punniliciousness as these fuggers, but I tried.

Go Fug Yourself, if you feel like wasting a few minutes making fun of very badly dressed (and occasionally nipple-flashing!) celebrities.

Dry-Erase Board,36 x 24

A white board lets you think out loud, without the crazy. You can brainstorm on it, like it’s your job (which it sort of is); you can study your structure because it gives you this surface big enough to lay out an entire act, scene by scene (or mine, at this size does–I drool for one of the really big ones); and, when you’re not using it, and if you have kids, it can keep them occupied while you try to squeeze in just a few more minutes to write. I promise, once you go white board, you’ll never go back.

Every Thursday, I’ll be adding links to sites that I enjoy or find offensive (or both, who doesn’t love both!) or find just plain unbelievable. This isn’t the blogroll and this isn’t sites to see (which are purely writing related). These are just sites that caught my attention. If you have an idea for one, email me or post it in the comments.

The category name is a shout out to those Orbit gum commercials, which I find hilarious. If you’ve never seen it, keep your eyes open, and you will. And then you will laugh, inappropriately.

Since this is, in fact, Friday we’ll start with this one.

Sassy Kitchen Towels These dishtowels are for the disgruntled housewife in all of us. With phrases like: DRINK COFFEE Do stupid things faster with more energy or If you want breakfast in bed then sleep in the kitchen, all with a retro spin, who wouldn’t want these?

edit: Apparently, someone else thought those dishtowels were rather awesome, too, because the link just showed an empty page the last time I checked.

Every Monday, I’ll post a link to a product (or service) I either already own or drool for daily. If you have recommendations, tack them on in the comments. I’d love to find new toys tools for myself!

Last week, I took my husband up on a challenge/offer of great love. He would take care of everything except going to work for me, I would edit my finished manuscript.

It was an incredible process and a learning experience for me. First, I learned how I write. I’d already done a lot of work on the first two acts. So, I learned that when I edit, I have to do one pass for structure. I have to look at the whole thing, what’s happening, the arc of that act, how it fits in the story, what the characters are doing and how they’re moving toward the turning point at the end of the act. It’s not about a chapter, or a scene; it’s about the whole. The first draft I frame the house; the second draft I hang the drywall, cut out the windows (I can only take this example so far, I’ve never actually built a house); and then another draft to look at scenes and make everything mesh together. I guess it’s actually more like a pyramid. I plan on doing another pass to check that I have a good variety in my sentence structure, plenty of description (for some reason, when I first write, it’s almost all action and dialogue. I don’t think it’s because they come easiest for me, but because they’re hardest, and I’m working on nailing that.)

I learned that I can buckle down, work 8 hours a day, come home, throw in a load of laundry, and work another 6 hours at night. This would drive me insane for a prolonged period, but sometimes writers are called on to suck it up and meet deadline (or so I hear–could be all reading lovely books and sipping cocktails–kidding!). There was a lot of work to be done, but I was able to keep going, and not become intimidated by the sheer amount of it by keeping my eye on my goal. Much like Dori, in Finding Nemo. “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” I may tape that to my monitor, except replacing the word “swimming” with “writing.”

I learned that eventually you will become so sick of your own work, you really don’t care who reads it or what they think. I’m pretty sure there’s a small window before the stage fright comes back, but I’ll take what I can get.

I learned that I have a tendency to overwrite. Which sucks, yeah, because I’m going to have to go back (again) and cut like a ruthless serial killer. But, as a person who used to laugh at the idea of writing 100, 000 words of anything, even “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” that’s awesome. I actually wrote (and kept–so far) about 110,000 words. Stephen King says cut ten percent, so that’ll work out fine, gives me a goal, anyway. (Yeah, I don’t know why I have referenced Stephen King twice in this paragraph… dunno). But, hey! I won’t ever have to write filler! Not on purpose, anyway.

I learned that I am a writer. And I am fabulous. Not necessarily both at the same time, but still. I really believe you should write for yourself, first. It’s just too hard to not be writing what you love to read. In between those times that you want to bang your head on the desk or toss the monitor, you deserve to be in love with your story. I love my story. I love writing. Everything else, anything else? It’s just gravy on my mashed potatoes, baby.

I bought GMC by Debra Dixon. It’s genius, I’d heard, and it’s true. It’s like having someone explain brain surgery in a book you can read in a day or two, and you finish and say, “Duh.”

Before I go on, I’d like to point out that used copies can go for more then $40 on Amazon. I love Amazon, nothing against Amazon, but you can purchase the book from the publisher for $19.95. Worth every dime, btw.

If you really want to know how useful it is, just google GMC and Dixon. You’ll find thousands of hits. That’s how widely accepted, adopted, and appreciated her work is.

The GMC one sentence checker (my name, I can’t remember THE name) works perfectly. Character wants GOAL because MOTIVATION, but CONFLICT. It really is that simple. I know–duh, right? It’s full of these nuggets, like an external goal can be experienced by the five senses. Well, that makes it easier. Now I know revenge isn’t an external goal. It’s internal, because internal goals are about emotion.

However, once you have your “Duh,” moment, this hits: “I am so screwed.” Or it does if you’ve written a word. I always knew I was a little vague on my goals. I think I even started out with goals, but… maybe I didn’t like what having those goals said about my characters, so I… got vague. Either way, I think I figured out why my first act was so slow… pointless?

But, I’m making my charts, and I think I can fix it. Maybe. Doesn’t matter, not for this–my point is buy the book!

I really don’t know if I can or not. The jury is out, but sources say they are leaning toward can’t, at least today. But the title of this blog should read, “You’re a big whiny wussy.”

Or so my husband told me. That’s why I love him. Sometimes, you need a kick in the pants, whether you want one or not. I read once, on a forum, and I can’t find it, I’d pay money if I could find it… this person posted a quote from a fellow writer friend. And I may be getting this wrong, but this is how (I believe) it went:

Fear makes us life’s whiny little bitches.

And truer words, I don’t think I’ve ever read.

So, I’m scared. I’m sick of this damn novel, and it’s my first, so it’s probably crap anyway. But, I’m going to finish editing it. And then I’m going to submit it. And then, I will move on. But I will not quit. Maybe I’m opting for delusional instead of fear, but at least I’m not life’s whiny little bitch. Today.

I am here to talk about fear, my friends.

I always wanted to be a writer. Mostly I flirted with the idea, considering a degree in journalism or writing a scene here or there. And then, I realized I was being a chicken about the one thing I’d like to do most in my life, the one thing that would provide me with, at least, satisfaction of a life fulfilled. I told myself I didn’t have to be a wonderful writer. No one’s a wonderful writer, at first.

And that was freeing, for me. Suddenly, I could write. And if I felt it weren’t great, I could close my eyes, open up a new document (with eyes closed, fancy, right?), and push through it. Three years later, three long years later, I’d written a novel. I put it aside, to distance myself, and started working on new ideas. I had a scary couple of days, where nothing came to me, and I thought, “What if I only had one in me?”

But then it did come, and I wrote pages of notes, and dozens of scenes, and created a spreadsheet. Six months later, I decided maybe I had enough distance to begin editing the novel I’d actually finished.

I’m doing that (as mentioned) and it alternately goes horribly wrong or fabulously wonderful, as writing tends to do. But it’s just about time to let someone actually read it. And this is the fear I speak of. I postponed that paralyzing fear that kept me from writing and now, it’s back.

The idea of sending one page of my novel out there, into the world (or to my friend’s inbox for a beta read), some day soon as a submission, makes me want to curl up into a ball and whimper. I know it’s a first novel. I know it’s very likely nothing more than a learning experience and it’ll end up in a box somewhere. But I’m so afraid of hearing those three words: You can’t write.

What happens if someone, anyone, tells me I’m a terrible writer? I know, in my head and my heart, that a real writer keeps going, keeps writing. And I can’t imagine living a life that doesn’t involve me telling my stories, even to myself. I am in this for the long haul, this matters, and I’ll still be doing it ten years from now, fifty years from now. But, what happens if?

I have finished the first rewrite on the first act of my fist novel. All those firsts, they just kind of sing disaster, don’t they?

And yet, oh my god. I felt the same rush I did finishing the thing. The first act, about 140 pages, needed a lot of work. It was mainly written back when I had little to no clue. At all. There was infodump! There were scenes with NO conflict! None. Just… here’s an event. And another. And another. They serve no purpose, but… there they are!

Most importantly, though, I was extremely intimidated by doing those rewrites. I just didn’t know if I could make it into anything better.

So, it’s still rough. It’s still a WIP. But it is no longer a piece of crap. It is a shiny, well-polished piece of crap.