Monday, November 30, 2009

Balance . . . Again

As I dive into the holiday season with the frenzy of a whirling dervish, and as the realization that the year is about to end, I again come to the realization that balance is the key to success.

We all have lives beyond our writing. Some of us have children. I have two dogs, one cat, a job, friends, toilets to clean, tables to dust, a partner (oops, perhaps that one should have gone sooner in the sentence - oh, well), and so many other things to occupy the few spare minutes of time available to me each day . . . as do the rest of you out there as well.

We each (trust me, it happens to everyone) reach a point where we're standing on the edge of a great abyss. One step forward and we'll fall forever. One step back and we can breathe just a bit easier until we suddenly find ourselves at the edge of the abyss once again. One step forward and . . .

If we cannot find balance in our lives, then not only will our writing suffer, but we will suffer as well.

A writing friend commented recently that he/she was taking a break from writing because the writing was interfering in his/her life. I understand completely.

So, my post this morning, is not only about finding balance among all the aspects of our lives, it is also about not denying the gift we have as writers.

No matter the belief out there - not everybody can write. Not everybody can play the piano either, or sing for that matter. We all have different gifts/abilities. Mine happens to be writing . . . and that same gift applies to so many people in the blogsphere, some who I follow openly, and others who I follow in the shadows because there is only so much time in the day and I'm not like Elana who can read 1 million blogs, and comment in 30 seconds. Okay, it takes her 32.5 seconds, but still . . .

Writers have a gift. We have a talent, whether inherent or learned. We do not need to deny this gift, but nurture it carefully, tend to it like an infant, or, perhaps a fire is a better analogy. You see, our gift burns brightly sometimes, and other times it is just the remaining embers, the last vestiges of a brilliant burning that, if tended carefully, if nurtured, can burst back into brilliant flame with some kindling, a piece or two of crumpled paper, and a breath or two of fresh air.

To walk away from the fire totally, doesn't necessarily mean the embers will extinguish . . . but it might make them hard to ignite into flame.

Writing is a part of me, whether I do it every day, or once a month because life is too hectic. There are times when it consumes way too much of me and I feel stretched, thin, and about to take that step over the edge into the endless abyss of nothingness. So, there are times when I must step away from my writing.

But, do I ever really step away from my writing? Of course, not!!! Sometimes, I write solely in my mind while laying on the couch with the dogs. I start a story - a character, a situation, and play out that writing in the depths of my mind while somewhat watching tv or listening to music. I figure out the basics of the story and, often, find great, gaping plotholes that can never be filled. Oh, well, such is life. I start again, perhaps the same character, but a different situation . . .

In the end, the writing solely in my mind is a point of balancing the sometimes chaos of my life. I cannot stop writing. I can't tell myself I'm not going to write for 2 months to get things in order. Why? Because, I'm a writer, and it is as integral to me as breathing.

So, to those at the point of frustration, where the writing is so consuming and obsessive that the rest of your life is falling to the wayside . . . there is a point of balance you must somehow find. It is not an easy task. It is probably one of the hardest things you will ever do in your life. It can be done.

For me, to say I'm not going to write for a period of time, is like saying I'm not going to breathe for 3 months. It's not gonna happen. No matter how hard I try, I'm still going to breathe. No matter how serious I am with my intent not to write . . . I'm still going to write. Writing is a part of me.

Writing is a part of my friend who has decided not to write for a set period of time. So, my words to this friend, to everyone out there who is striving for balance as they near the edge of the abyss . . . do not push your gift aside, but rather, find a sense of balance in your life, be it only 10 minutes a day (or week for that matter) where you nurture your gift. You do not have to give up who you are - family, friends, job, life - to be a writer. Rather, you have to incorporate those aspects of your life into your writing.

We, dear readers, are writers, whether we like it or not. Writing just happened for me one day, as I'm sure it did for you. I mean, seriously, how many people, on career day at school say hey, I want to be a writer. Not many, not many at all.

Life is about balance. Writing is about balance. Gifts - writing, playing the piano, taking photographs, painting, singing, dancing, cooking, whatever - are not meant to consume our lives, but rather enrich our lives. In order to enrich our lives, our gifts must be gently nurtured, so that they, and we, don't burn out in the process.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Well, Thanksgiving week is upon us . . . let the CHAOS begin.

Okay, no so chaotic for me since I'm heading to my sister's house for Thanksgiving, but still . . . How in the heck is it Thanksgiving already? Where'd the year go? How many days until Christmas?? Arrrrgghhhh . . .

Well, with Thanksgiving here, travel for the holiday, and otehr things in this life just weighing me down right now . . . I'm unplugging (for the most part) for this week. Oh, don't worry, I'll be lurking around the blogsphere today, but that's probably about it. I'll catch up with everyone next week.

I hope everyone has a safe and fantastic Thanksgiving!


Friday, November 20, 2009


This week hasn't been the best week of my life, and thus I've been a bit absent from the blogsphere.

As you know, a few months ago, my little Taz had some issues and we thought we were going to have to say good-bye. We were granted a miracle, of sorts, when it turned out she had a hyper-hyper active thyroid. She never did do things in a small way. In fact, the vet hadn't seen numbers like hers before. Go figure.

Well, miracles only last so long, and we weren't lucky enough to have a second miracle.

Pets never leave us . . . at least in the ordinary sense. They don't grow up, go off to college, get married, have families of their own, and every now and then come back home for a brief visit. Once they come home with us, if we're lucky, they're here for many, many years, with unconditional love. They might irritate us by waking us up at 3 AM, for no other reason then they need their ears scratched, or just for the heck of it. They might only want to be picked up on their terms, and only their terms, and yet we love them nonetheless.

Perhaps the hardest thing any pet owner has to do is make the decision to say good-bye.

Frank and I made that decision yesterday for sweet Tasmyn. Trust me, it's one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make, not that the decision to say good-bye to Jordy last December was any easier.

Poor little Taz just wasn't getting better on the pills for her thyroid and the time finally came, again her terms, not mine, to take her to the vet. She passed away at 11:07 AM yesterday morning.

I learned today how very lucky we were to have her for 16 years. You see, the average lifespan of an indoor cat is 12 years. She let us be a part of her life for 16 years. So, Tasmyn graced us with her presence for four more years than most cat owners have.

I'll miss her terribly. We both will. I'll miss her deep, Dorothy Zbornack meow, the head butts she'd give me every now and then, and just the knowledge that she's sleeping in the dog bed while I'm reading a book on the couch.

I've cried and cried for my baby girl, and there are more tears yet to come. She was my temperamental cat, my little witch, so to speak, who made it known from the start that we would be doing things on her terms, and only her terms.

The first day I brought her home, she stalked around the apartment, discovered a small space beneath my kitchen cabinets, and proceeded to squeeze her tiny, eight week old body under the cabinets. Oh, the joys, the joys, of pulling off the quarter round and the baseboard and reaching in to get her. I think I still have those scars.

he wasn't a lap cat . . . well, unless it was on her terms. She didn't like to be picked up. She liked to eat and eat and eat . . . and thus earned her name Gargantua (oh, and she had really neat theme music when she stomped through the house).

In later years, we got the weight off and she became more mellow. She still did things on her own terms, but she was more loving with us, and loved to curl up in the bed with me at night, or on the couch next to me as I read. She'd purr so loudly.

I'll miss my little girl, more than I can ever say/write. She was/is a part of my life.

I don't think there's any comfort that is available right now, but the below poem makes me feel just a bit better.

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. When our beloved pets die, they journey to this idyllic spot. There are meadows and hills enough for all to frolic freely, and plenty of food, water and sunshine. Each and every animal is warm and comfortable.

Those pets that have been ill or aged are restored to health and vigor. Those who are hurt or maimed are made whole and strong. Each is just as we remember in our dreams of days and times gone by. Our pets are happy and content at Rainbow Bridge, except for one small thing. Every creature misses someone special, whom they've left behind.

The animals all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops, and looks into the distance. Bright eyes are intent; an eager body begins to quiver. Suddenly, running from the group, flying over the green grass, legs are going faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and you and your special friend come together in joyous reunion. Happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head; and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life, but never absent from your heart. Then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together. Author Unknown

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


A quick post today . . .

Seventh Sanctum - this is a site of random tools for creativity and more! Hop over and check it out - basically, there are all types of tools used to generate characters, plot, etc. Casey over at Literary Rambles (this is your second link for the day) linked to this site in her blog post today.

Casey found out about the site from V. R. Barkowski, whose blog you can find . . . here.

Note, both Casey and V.R. provide some great research tips, and links to help out aspiring, and published, writers everywhere. I've learned quite a few things from Casey that have really helped.

A suggested site by V.R. is Academic Earth which provides high quality video lectures by educators from top universities around the country on various subjects. Hey, you never know when you might need to know something more about architecture, religious studies, chemistry and philosophy. Oh, and the lectures are F-R-E-E!!! Woo-hoo!!

And then there's this one which Janet Reid mentioned on her blog this morning. Hilarious!

Okay, that's it for this brief post. I'm sure I'll post something later this week. Things are busy at work, plus Thanksgiving is next week, and I'm in the middle of revisions that are going quite well, plus there are a few ideas dancing around in my mind.


Monday, November 16, 2009

The Story You Want to Tell

What is the story you want to tell?

I was thinking about this question the other day as I considered my next writing project and realized that this single question, is probably the most important question any writer can ask theirselves.

Normally, I get an idea, sketch out some characters, and begin writing. I seriously have no clue about the story I want to tell. I just have all these jumbled thoughts dancing around in my head and try to form them into a coherent form as my fingers quick-step across the keyboard.

This pretty much works for me.

As we all know, there are various blogs out there with certain questions we should ask ourselves during the writing process. Those are some great questions, I've written about them before, and am too dang lazy right here/now to link to them. Sorry, I'm typing this post early on a Saturday morning when I should be in bed, but . . . ahhh, my lovely cocker spaniel Jesse (one half of the dynamic cocker spaniel duo known as Jesse and James) doesn't realize it's the weekend and doesn't need to be walked at 6:30 AM!

Anyhow, I really think (better late than never), the main, most important, most significant question of all is: What is the story you want to tell?

With one project, I wanted to strip away the stereotypes of society and show the true nature of a group of people, rather than the inaccurate stereotypical media portrayal of a group of people.

I did just that, in no uncertain terms. That was what I was thinking about yesterday when the question occurred to me.

I also realized, while the story I told was, well, uh, brilliant . . . there were more stories still to tell, more avenues to explore along the same lines as that project, though perhaps not written in the same style of that project.

So, as I sit down to consider what's next in what will be a very lengthy writing career, the first and foremost question I'm asking myself - before characters, setting, anything - is: what is the story I want to tell with this particular project?

How about you? Do you ask yourself this question before you even begin the brain-storming for a project? Before the characters spring to life in your mind and on paper? Do you consider this question at all?

Friday, November 13, 2009

All About . . . Robyn

Today's post is all about Robyn at Putting Pen to Paper.

First - my heart goes out to her right now, because her cat Blue passed away this week after a very short illness. I know the difficulty of losing a pet, far too well. You see, an animal's love is unconditional. They love us no matter what and bring untold joy into our lives.

Animals, unlike humans, rarely leave us. They don't go off to college, get married, and move half-way across the country . . . or the world for that matter. They stay with us, day after day, and greet us (well, if they're dogs they greet us, if they're cats . . . everything on their terms) when we come home, even if we've only been gone 30 seconds to the mailbox and back. They don't judge us. They don't demand an XBox for Christmas and then stomp their feet and scream at the top of their lungs when we say No. Okay, Jesse (one of our cocker spaniels) has been known to howl up a storm if I'm not paying him enough attention. But . . . all I have to do is say his name, he stops howling, and his tail begins to wag. Kids aren't' that easy. I'm just saying . . .

So, from Day One until Day None are animals are with us providing countless joy, quite a bit of frustration too, and a companionship that is often unequaled with our human counterparts.

So, as Robyn has been going through this with Blue, I've been going through it with her, offering what support I could, but knowing that nothing I could say or do could ease the pain or dry her tears. Blue was a part of her life, will be missed desperately, but will be remembered in her heart.

So, my sympathies are with Robyn this week as she deals with this loss.

My thanks are also with Robyn for taking time out of her busy and hectic life - multiple trips to the doctor and/or hospital with her son, home schooling, writing, blogging, living life - to help critique the short story I plan (or perhaps already have) to submit to The Literary Labs Genre Wars contest. Not once, but twice, she read my story, critiqued it, and offered some great advice.

So, dear Robyn, this blog post today is all about you. You have my sympathies, you have my thanks, and you have my friendship as well.


Thursday, November 12, 2009


The other Scott (Bailey, that is) wrote an excellent post over at The Literary Lab called: Inappropriate Subject Matter. You know the drill: click, read, and hop back here. Oh, and make sure to read the comments section, because that's where a ton of great discussion happened.

The basics of his post can be summed up in this question: have any of you awakened to the reality that you're writing a book about things you would normally never even consider reading about?

His post went more in depth than the question might imply.

The comments between Scott and I are as follows:

Me - In answer to your question - no, well, at least not yet. I have explored dark subjects - abusive relationships, well, the aftermath and recovery. No, I'm not, nor was I in, an abusive relationship. The situation just fit for the character, and hopefully I'm portraying the emotions correctly. I've also written about the aftermath of rape, but didn't show the actual act other than in very brief, very non explicit, snippets. I'm like you - don't want to read the explicit stuff, and I'm not going to write the explicit stuff.

As for adequate standing . . . do any of us truly, unless we're writing a semi-autobiographical book cloaked under the pseudonym of fiction, have adequate standing?

I mean, I write about women . . . but I'm not a woman. I write about heterosexuals . . . but I'm not a heterosexual. I've written about people who have done horrible things . . . but I haven't done those things.

I truly think we can only do the best we can, based on our experience and research. We can only write the best novel we are capable of writing, and perhaps still strive to write something better.

Obviously, the characters and situations you are writing about were something, on some level, you wanted (maybe needed) to write about. I mean why, if there wasn't something you wanted (needed?) to explore, would the idea have come to you in the first place, and why would you have pursued the idea to Chapter 4? Was it maybe to understand the characters and situations a bit better? Pure curiosity? Instinct?

Sorry about the long comment. The words just flow sometimes and I can't stop myself. The post definitely gave me plenty of thought material. My brain isn't happy about synapsing this late in the afternoon.

Scott - "I mean why, if there wasn't something you wanted (needed?) to explore, would the idea have come to you in the first place, and why would you have pursued the idea to Chapter 4?"

You know, it all comes down to story. The story doesn't work without the characters I'm gathering together. There isn't anything I'm trying to figure out or explore in my writing; there is only the story. Possibly I'm just having doubts about my ability to do these characters justice, more than doubts about the characters' "appropriateness". The writing is going well, but each subsequent chapter is forcing me to write in new ways. I have a gay protagonist and I very shamefully worry about the marketplace. And yes, there's a lot of violence in this book and, while I plan to show the inner strength of our species, I intend to do that by contrasting it against our baser brothers and sisters.

ME - Scott - gay men read, and avidly, almost as much as women. There is a sad lack of good fiction with gay protagonists. So, there is an audience. In addition, as my best friend will tell you, the majority of women will read gay fiction as well. Now, she might be a bit biased . . . no, she's not. She tells it like it is, no holds barred.

I struggled with the same issue - gay protagonists - with the project I hope to query in the next few months. Was there a big enough audience? Would people want to read? Well, I hope so. I've poured a good part of myself into the project.

You, it seems, are pouring a good part of yourself into your project.

Personally, I admire you for daring to write such a book, with a gay protagonist. Best of luck!

Scott - It's not just the gay protagonist; there are also a number of murders and, more to the point, some scenes of race hatred that unnerve me and I haven't even written them yet. I don't know. The writing is going well, I say. I love this book, but it makes me uncomfortable in any number of ways.

Okay, all of this commenting back and forth made me realize the following: do we write about inappropriate subject matter, things we wouldn't read about, in order to confront our feelings about those subject matters?

Now, I'm not talking about explicit sex here. I'm talking about violence, murder, rape, abusive relationships, and . . . whatever. I'm talking about the things that make us cringe, that make us mad when we hear about them, and the things that might actually make us physically ill.

The other day I was watching Tabitha Takes Over on BRAVO. Basically, this witch of a hair dresser - very forward, very take charge, and very witchy goes to various hair salons, figures out what's wrong, and puts them right on track again. Yes, there's drama - this is a so called reality show after all. So, I'm watching . . . and I'm turning my head away so I don't have to watch the drama unfolding on screen. I'm uncomfortable with her tactics, her approach, and also the reactions of the people she is trying to whip into shape.

As uncomfortable as I was, I didn't turn the television off. Why? Because I think I needed to figure out why I was uncomfortable. What about the situation, her directness, was making me uncomfortable?

I think the same thing goes when we we write about inappropriate subject matter - I think we are trying to gain a deeper understanding of the events we are writing about, even if it is rape, murder, violence of any type, or whatever.

I also think that when we challenge ourselves by writing something that, as the other Scott put it, makes me uncomfortable in so many ways we are truly challenging ourselves as writers. We are going beneath the surface of our own emotions, our own feelings of outrage, to write about something that makes us uncomfortable. We, as writers, are viewing the event from every angle: the attacker, the victim, the friends of the victim, and other people. The event becomes so much more, and I think we delve deep into our own feelings as we explore the myriad emotions connected to the event, and resulting from the event, as we try to gain a better understanding of why whatever happened, and why it makes us feel uncomfortable.

Now, I could also be totally wrong about this. This is just my opinion, for whatever that is worth.

Now, as with any blog post, I must end with pretty much the same question as the other Scott: have any of you awakened to the reality that you're writing a book about things you would normally never even consider reading about?


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Conspiracy Theory Wednesday

I have come to realize that the people behind NaNoWriMo allegedly do not like Thanksgiving and/or Christmas!


I mean, seriously, why in the heck schedule NaNoWriMo in November . . . one of the most hectic months of the year for most people. Have the people behind NaNoWriMo ever hosted a Thanksgiving dinner? Do they not realize the many, many, many trips to the grocery store because you forget 12 important items on your 40 page grocery list? Do they not realize that the toilets do not scrub themselves? Nor does the glass shower clean itself? Oh, and do they not realize that November is dust breeding month? What, you've never heard of dust breeding month? Well, it's the one month in the year that the dust parties down and creates more and more dust, which you have to stay on top of or else, your mother will glance down at the glass table, wrinkle her nose, and then give you the look that says, haven't you learned anything, anything at all from my obsessive cleaning habits throughout the years? Oh, yes, Mom has been known to give me that look on quite a few occasions.

I guess the mothers of the people behind NaNo never gave their children such a look. I'm just saying . . .

Oh, now, back to my conspiracy theory . . .

Do the people behind NaNo not realize how much time is spent figuring out a menu, preparing all the stuff, and planning for any uninvited guests? There is not time to write during Thanksgiving week. Heck, there is barely time to think.

And what about the official put the Christmas tree up the day after Thanksgiving thingy?? I mean, it takes me days and days to decorate the house. Putting up the tree is an event. Christmas music blares throughout the house. I pull the tree out of the attic, put it up, fluff the branches - this takes forever, people, f-o-r-e-v-e-r! Then, before I can even put the first ornament on the tree, I must wait a day to make sure all the fluffing is done. Did I mention f-o-r-e-v-e-r??? Then, I begin the slow process of putting the ornaments up, studying the tree, moving an ornament here, there, and everywhere. The casual, but actually planned, movement of ornaments can go on for a week . . . or two. Then, there are the rest of the decorations to place through the house . . . which pretty well eats up the time between Thanksgiving Day and the end of the month.

So, how in the heck am I supposed to find time to pound out 50,000 words in 30 days time when Thanksgiving happens in the same month . . . every year?

Couldn't the people behind NaNo have picked a different month? What about January? I mean JaNoWriMo has a good ring to it?? Seriously, it's after the holidays, peoples lives have settled down, winter has settled in, and it would make a perfect time for writing.

So, who else thinks NaNo is a conspiracy???

Okay, seriously, I don't think it's a conspiracy. I'm just in a completely snarky mood and wanted to throw this out there for all the people struggling with NaNo and trying to figure out how the heck they're going to prepare the Thanksgiving feast when they still have 25,000 words to write and less than a week to finish them? I'm just saying . . .

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Okay, I've written about The Haunting, Take Time to Breathe, and Patience over the course of the last few weeks, well, days really!

There were quite a few interesting comments regarding Take Time to Breathe - go over, check them out, and then hop back here. The one comment that really struck a note with me, not that the others didn't, was this one by WindyA at Like the Weather:

Other than that, all my writing time is when the family is asleep. I would rather sacrifice the hours of shut-eye than time with my husband and kids.

My response (oh, come on, like I wouldn't have a response??):

I try and schedule my writing time for when I'm alone. #1 - if I don't, my beloved partner will just come in the room and start chatting with me, totally clueless to 'the look' I'm giving him. He's just lucky I like him a wee bit. There is sacrifice in the life we writers have chosen, and we just have to figure out where we're willing to make that sacrifice.

Yes, for a change, I inspired myself! Woo-hoo!

Everything I've blogged about recently - The Haunting, Take Time to Breathe, Patience, and a few other things as well, seems to come back to one thing: what sacrifice are we willing to make to become published authors? What relationships? What moments with our kids? What moments of life?

Am I willing to get up at 5 AM instead of 5:30 AM to write just a bit in the morning? Heck no. 5:30 AM is early enough. I do my exercises, shower, get dressed, scoop the litter boxes, walk Jesse, and then off to work. I'm not getting up at 5 AM. Sorry, not able to make that sacrifice, even for my writing, which I love, love, LOVE to do.

I write when I write, normally after Franklin heads off to work, and if I can't fit writing into my busy schedule . . . well, I just don't stress about it. I have enough white hair coming in, without adding more stress to my life. I mean, I am so tired of my oldest sister laughing and telling the rest of us that she doesn't have a single grey/white hair. She can be so hateful sometimes. : )

I'm willing to give up a lot for my writing, just not everything, at a cost to myself that is more than I'm willing to pay.

How about you? What price are you truly willing to pay to have your book on the shelves at Borders and available through Amazon???

How much of yourself are you willing to give in this crazy reality series known as: The Amazing Race to Publication?

Will you be able to look back, one day in the near future, and be content with the choices you made to finish that race?

For me, right here/now, I'm happy with the choices I'm making. I'm taking things slow, I'm taking deep breaths, and I'm creating balance in my life.


Monday, November 9, 2009

The Haunting

A professor of mine once told me that everything we cut from a MS haunts it. The weight and sense and soul of what we cut lingers in our work, even if it isn't visible on the page - Sarah over at Slushbusters included this quote in her post about The Scenes We Leave Out.

For whatever reason, the quote resonated with me - very deeply. I mean, I've been cutting like crazy from Margarita Nights lately, and from other projects that I'm working on as well right now. I never delete the stuff I cut, I carefully paste it into a document called Omitted Sections. I never know when something in that paragraph, or chapter (that's happened a time or two), I cut, might come in handy at some later date, or in some future project. So, I keep everything.

But, the keeping of everything is not the point of this post. I'm really not sure if there's a point to this post. Perhaps the quote is the main point of this post.

When I edit, it's like going to the dentist for a root canal - I don't want to do it, it's going to hurt, and I'm going to be all swollen afterwards.

Okay, revising is not that bad, but sometimes when I'm cutting out a paragraph here, there, and everywhere, it is very painful. It's never easy to take out swaths of writing in one fell swing of the scythe. These words, sentences, and paragraphs, are a part of me. I poured endless hours into my writing. Every. Single. Word. Is. Brilliant!

Okay, maybe not, which is the whole point of the revision process. Sometimes, though, we have to take out things that are truly special because they really don't do anything for the story.

Sarah at Slushbusters put it this way about a particular scene she cut: it wasn't part of my story but it set the stage for the story.

I've eliminated a great many paragraphs that set the stage for the story, but weren't really a part of the story. In the revision process of another project, I've cut out major, major bunches of stuff from the first few chapters. In fact, I've pretty much cut those first few chapters in half.

Now, the stuff I'm taking out is part of the story, but it really wasn't needed in those first few chapters. There are parts of the stuff I cut that I will incorporate later in the book. There are other parts that will just remain a part of the first draft and not the later drafts. In the end, though, the weight and sense and soul of what we cut lingers in our work, even if it isn't visible on the page.

It's okay to delete huge passages. It's okay to delete chapters. It's okay to . . . delete, delete, and delete some more, because the intent of the writing in the first place remains.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Take Time to Breathe

Below is what was intended to be a comment response on my blog. Instead, it sort of morphed into today's post.

I've written before about patience, taking time to smell the roses, and all that jazz. Well, a comment yesterday started me thinking along those lines again, and it went something like . . .

If we hurry too fast through life, we're not really living. We have to take the time to slow down, ease the hurried pace, and take notice of the world around us.

Icarus wanted to fly, but instead he crashed and burned. He wanted his dream so bad, he didn't think about the consequences. He, in effect, burned out.

I think if we rush, rush, rush all the time, then we will burn out. Our relationships will suffer, and, our writing as well.

So, my advice - don't fly too high, don't race to far, don't worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow might not come. Worry about today, here and now, and take a moment to breathe!

We need to breathe people, deep, steady breaths, as we race toward our dream of publication. We need to stretch, warm-up, and take precautionary measures. We need to find a balance between our dream of being published, and the world around us as well.

So, my questions: Is a dream worth having if there's nothing left of us in the end? How much of you, the person, are you willing to sacrifice to become you, the published author? What relationships are you willing to let fall to the wayside so you can pursue your publishing dream? How many hugs with your children/husband/significant other are you willing to give up because you just have to write? How many pats on the head for the dog and cat are you going to forgo because you just have to write? Will it all be worth it in the end?

Follow your dreams, follow your heart, but don't forget to live in the process.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Internal vs. External Conflicts

Elana talked about consequences on her blog yesterday. More accurately, the consequences the main character must face.

The question: What does the MC have to lose if they can't overcome Conflict A, B, or C?

Whoa, deep question, which prompted a quite lengthy answer on my part (after I rolled my eyes at the title of her post - sorry, Elana, it was an instinctive reaction . . . and you knew it was going to happen), which prompted this blog post. So, woo-hoo to Elana for inspiring me once again!!!

Part of my response . . .

What is the loss, and what is the importance of the loss to the character?If it's an internal struggle, will the loss create greater consequences somewhere down the road for the character . . . well after 'the end'.

If it's something external - home, job, wife, kids - well, that's easier to write about.

Can an internal struggle be maintained? Can the reader sympathize? Would a reader want to sympathize?

I normally write about internal struggles (well, conflicts) versus external. Many times, at least in my own personal experience, the struggles a person faces in life are truly internal. There is not the loss of a home, a job, a wife or a kid, but rather the loss of happiness, the loss of independence, the loss of self, and so many other things.

So, picture it - Character E is in a bad relationship, somewhat content in his misery, and not sure he wants to risk leaving the relationship, for fear he'll end up alone. Isn't a bad relationship better then no relationship?

With this instance, the struggle is totally internal, but there is still loss, because I think the character sacrifices something of himself to stay in the bad relationship, to exist in misery, rather than going out and risking loneliness.

So, picture it - Character A has a great life - good job, house, car, loving family. He suddenly discovers a horrible secret about two of the people he loves the most. His goal: protect that secret, even if it means destroying himself in the process. What does he have to lose? Well, the two people he loves the most because if the secret is revealed, the consequences to those two people will be harsh. He will do anything, anything, to protect them.

So, again, the main loss is internal, but there is a potential external loss if he can't overcome the main conflict of keeping the secret, well, secret.

So, are the consequences in your story internal or external? If internal, how do you sustain the story when there is not the loss of . . . job, home, car, wife, kids, family dog, whatever? Is writing about internal struggles harder than writing about external struggles? Lastly, did you roll your eyes when you read the title of Elana's post?? Ha!


Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Douglas over at Adventures in Writing did an excellent post about being stressed and asked the following questions: Any of you feeling stressed to finish your latest WIP these days? How do you cope with it?

My response to those questions . . .

I no longer stress about finishing my WiPs!

Why? Well . . . the publishing industry is currently in chaos. The economy, while improving, is still in a bit of chaos. People just aren't buying books right now, agents are being a bit more picky, and the publishing industry as a whole seems to be taking a step back to consider things.

So, why should I rush? Why not grab hold of that elusive entity known as patience and take my time?

That's exactly what I have been doing. I still have the dream of being published. I will be published. I will hone my craft and create the best possible manuscript I can.

So, take a deep breath, and give your writing the thing it deserves the most - patience. You'll finish your WiP when you finish. There's no rush. Yes, there's the driving need in every writer to finish and get published. But . . . patience, patience, patience. The industry is in flux right now. Why not take advantage of this time of uncertainty to really, really make this WiP the best thing you ever did . . . by taking it slowly, one step at a time!

I think we all know that the publishing industry . . . well . . . it aint' what it used to be. The publishing industry is going through growing pains. There's a sense of uncertainty out there right now, especially with the massive (tsunami anyone??) move toward digital books.

For that very reason alone, I've adopted a more patient manner toward my writing, and my eventual publication. Oh, I will be published, you can place money on that one, dear readers, but perhaps in a more sedate time frame then I once imagined.

In no way am I giving up the writing dream. I'll write! It's part of who I am!!!

I'll also take a few deep breaths, and continue to refine the stuff I've already written. I'll take the distance (see yesterday's post) I need so that what I'm writing is the best possible stuff . . . EV-AH!!!!

How about you? Are you still in a hurry toward publication? Can you think of nothing else? Do you hurry through projects thinking this is it, the faster I finish, the faster I'll be published? Is this a good/bad attitude to have? Should we all take the time to enjoy the flux/chaos of the publishing industry to adopt a more patient manner, while at the same time never giving up our publication dream? Should we count this flux/chaos as a blessing, a chance to take the time to truly live up to our writing potential, rather than put something out there that's just not . . . brilliant??

Yes, I know, a lot of questions, but that's where my brain went with this post. In the end, our writing will define us in some small, perhaps grand, way. I'd rather the writing that defines me be just as brilliant as I can possibly make it!! How about you?


Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Yesterday, Elana did a snazzy post about it takes practice. Go on, read the post, and then hop back here.

The whole concept, whether playing the piano, painting, gymnastics, writing, or whatever, is that, well . . . it takes practice. The brilliant writing that we all do, that we are all capable of doing, doesn't just happen.

We hone our craft . . . constantly.

We write, write, write . . . write, and keep on writing.

Sometimes, we write doody. We have to move past the doody and keep on writing. We also have to remember that doody is a useful part of life. I mean, what is fertilizer, after all, except a big pile of doody that makes plants flourish and show their brilliance! So, writing doody is just a reminder of how much better we can write.

In my comment to Elana I wrote something to the effect . . . every novel is a practic novel, but some of those novels become a performance at symphony hall (or something to that effect - sorry, forget to copy/paste that lovely comment - whoops!!).

Some of the novels are just doody.

And still other novels are . . . well something I must keep practicing at until they are ready for performance at Symphony Hall . . . or should I say . . . Publishers Hall!!!

I have learned that distance (yes, it took me a bit, but I'm getting to the point/title of this post) is the greatest tool a writer (perhaps any artist) can possess, well, that and a heck of a lot of patience.

Still, distance is key to writing. Sometimes, we have to set our practice materials aside and move on to something else, so that we can look at the stuff we set aside with better clarity.

I wrote what I thought was a great novel. It was good, not great. I've recently begun relooking at the project with more clarity. I know that it is not working in its current format. I also know it's not a big pile of doody. It needs a bit more practicing. Heck, it needs a lot more practicing.

So, when you've written something that you think is brilliant - well, send it off to the crit group, step away from it, and look at it a month or so later. It might not be brilliant, it's probably not doody, and with a little bit more practice, it might be Publisher Hall worthy at some future date.

Give yourself the distance from your writing so that you truly can look at it with a sense of clarity. Examine the structure of the novel. Is everything working? What's not working? How can you, in the words of Timm Gunn from Project Runway . . . make it work???


Monday, November 2, 2009

The People We Are

Really, in the end, the only thing that can make you a writer is the person that you are, the intensity of your feeling, the honesty of your vision, the unsentimental acknowledgment of the endless interest of the life around and within you. Virtually nobody can help you deliberately -- many people will help you unintentionally. - Santha Rama Rau

Patrick over at Adventures in Writing ended his Friday post with the above quote. I found the quote as inspiring as Janet Reid's post titled less than zero which I linkity-linked to last week.

The above quote is less a pat on the back, a sense of accomplishment, then it is a statement about our lives and what makes us writers, other than the fact that we've written a novel, twenty unfinished manuscripts (btw Elana, I'm on Chapter 2121 now - I'm making progress), a short story or whatever. Yeah, those accomplishments make us writers, but they are only one part of the complex equation.

You see, dear readers, life itself makes us writers as well. I don't know about anybody else, but the world around me is inspiration - the conversations I overhear (okay, I eavesdrop, but I'm a writer, I'm allowed), the confrontations I witness, the moments of my life that were so filled with drama they're etched permanently into my mind, the dancer on a dance floor, the woman proudly wearing her new hat to church, and so many other things.

My anger is often inspiration. As everybody should know by now, a 15 year old girl was gang raped during a dance at her high school. At least 10, if not more people, watched this happen and . . . did nothing. This makes me mad. The fact that a woman was dead for 23 years and nobody noticed makes me mad. Anger inspires me to write, normally not short stories, but blog posts on my other blog. Life is unfair. I write about that unfairness because the only thing that can make you (me) a writer is the person that you are, the intensity of your feeling, the honesty of your vision, the unsentimental acknowledgment of the endless interest of the life around and within you (me).

I sometimes think I see past the facade - what is happening here/now - to the emotions behind an event. Okay, I don't really see past the facade, but I'm able to create a scene in my mind, and eventually on to virtual paper, based on the facade. If I see two women arguing - well, I can pretty much create endless scenarios as to why they are arguing.

Scenario One - woman stylishly dressed, make up carefully applied, every hair in place just found out her best friend was having an affair with her husband. Best friend is vehemently denying the accusation while all the time she is clasping and unclasping her hands.

Scenario Two - woman stylishly dressed, make up carefully applied . . . just let her best friend know that her best friend's husband might be cheating on her . . .

And the scenarios could go on endlessly, but eventually end up in something I'm writing or will write at some point in the future.

I don't just see an argument between two women, I see an unfolding vista of stories. I don't just see leaves falling off a tree, I see something else entirely. The fog shrouded street last Thursday morning, tendrils of pink in the sky, and slate grey, almost flat clouds, were not just fog, colors, and clouds, no, that scene evoked . . . the woman walked slowly down the street toward the fog, the man behind her walked more slowly. Her pace quickened, his slowed. She reached the edge of the fog before him. She glanced over her shoulder, smiled, and then stepped into the fog. The man did not. He stood frozen in place.

The woman felt the fog wrap around her. She shivered. She kept walking. Silence was all about her. She could see the dim outline of trees in the distance. She shouldn't be seeing trees. She should be seeing the shapes of the houses at the end of the cul-de-sac. Where were the houses?

So, such a simple thing as fog, pink in the morning sky, and slate grey clouds became something more than fog, pink, and clouds.

We are writers because we are writers, because our lives shaped the path we took to this crazy, exciting, frustrating, angst ridden, adventure known as the writing life. Every moment in our lives, every argument we witness, every laugh we hear, is so much more than a moment, an argument, a laugh - those things are the inspiration that keeps us up late at night, pecking away at the keyboard, honing our brilliance so that one day, all our friends will say well, I knew him/her when . . .