Shhhhh! I’m Busy!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShhhh!  I’m busy writing, or at least typing.  The writing happened last week.

The rough draft of the short story came together, all at once, in 1600 words worth of missing scenes.  The rest of the week was spent in re-reading and taking notes.  I don’t remember exactly what was the tipping point.  Doesn’t really matter, since that is not the kind of thing you can re-create on the next project.  Each project requires a different set of circumstances.

Now I’m on to the second draft, typed this time.  What you should know about me is this is almost harder than the rough draft.  I’ve never worked in an office, so computers and technology are not my everyday tools, although I did take a typing class way back in high school.  My keyboarding style is best described as “Monkey-Chicken Hybrid on Caffeine.”

But, before I go, let me type up a few thoughts that occurred during the week.

Writing is work.  If you don’t also enjoy the process, please, go find something pleasant to do with your time.  Save your sanity.

Editing/revision is where you make sure the words are fit for another brain.  YOU understand the story, but will another person just reading the words–without your brain–understand what you are trying to say?

Watermelon is the food of the Gods.

Teenagers are crazy.

Graphic novels are pictures and story, and I LOVE them.

Punctuation, grammar, and slang should reflect the target audience.  Anything else is just making it harder to be read, understood, and enjoyed.

I gotta get back to typin’.  Have a good ‘un.

 

 

Is the Writer Blocked, or Just Stupid?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome writers believe in Writer’s Block, and some don’t.  Whatever you want to call it, there are times that the words don’t flow, or what does come out is garbage.  It happens.  The trick is to figure out why.

In my continuing quest to let you see my abby-normal brain working (no flash photography, please) let’s poke at the short story that has stalled out.

I’ve got the characters, some dialogue, some introspection, some action, a twist, some creepy shit (it’s horror), and a decent circling back ending.  In the past I’ve been able to run with this much, and flesh out the story around these bones, but I only have about half.  Mostly what I’ve written this week is just not “muscle.”  It’s goo.  Or phlegm, or something like snot from a sinus infection.  There is not a lot of it, either, which is seriously screwing up my daily word count promise to myself.

I’ve picked at it during breaks in the day job.  I’ve taken walks.  I’ve read good books.  I’ve watched new TV shows.  I’ve organized part of the garage and attic.  I’ve napped.  I’ve sat down and just written oozing, stinking garbage to see if that will jar it loose.  It’s not budging, and I’m running out of time.  (It’s a self-imposed time restriction, so the only one hurt if I miss it is me.  But, shit, I’m tired of hurting myself.)

There’s a history book beside my knee that is the right time period for the story, but I haven’t cracked open.  Why?  I don’t know.  (I think I won’t like what I’ll find.)  There is also a book of the same genre that I’ve been meaning to read.  That could give it a jump-start, but I just leave it closed.  Why? I don’t know.  (Ditto.)

Something isn’t right, and I’m not sure if it’s one of the elements of the story, or that I’m just a shit writer.

If it’s the story, something will jar things loose.  Some small bit of information, or a sudden realization, or a casual comment dropped into a conversation.  I’ll adjust the elements to accommodate the changes, and be writing happily within minutes, without a frackin’ care in the world.  Magic.  Abra-cadabra-skippity-dee-do.  Familiar magic, at this point, but magic all the same.

If I’m just a shit writer…  Well, this could take a while.  Because I’m not a shit writer, and if my brain is telling me that I am, then there’s some fear burbling to the surface.  Fear of failure.  Fear of success.  Fear of being an imposter.

Fear.

It’s something all people deal with, and writers are certainly not exempt.  Unnecessary fear is the brain confusing one thing with another. Chemicals for one job applied accidentally to the wrong job, but it sucks the artist’s brain into a pit of self-loathing, and climbing back out is everything.

It might be time to step back, and take another run at “Art and Fear,” which I have mentioned here, and re-examine what the hell I am doing.  I’ll keep y’all posted.

Happy writing!

(Ignore the fake smile.)

 

 

What is Inspiration?

Inspiration.  Is it a freight train or a butterfly?

For me, receiving inspiration feels like being struck with lightning wrapped in bacon, or being ambushed by the teasing scent of your favorite flower on your daily walk.  Either way, it’s never the same place twice.  Or arrives in the same way. Because it’s not just the world that changes in the blink of every eye; YOU change that quickly, too.

What has me musing on the subject of inspiration this morning?  Last week I got to watch it in action.  And it was sooooooo cool!

Writers like to observe things.  We are The Watchers of things, and like the comic book characters, we store it all in our grey matter.

If we are smart writers, we make writing a habit.  Even when we aren’t inspired; even if we don’ wanna.  Even if we aren’t being paid for it, yet, we make some space in our lives that is writing time.  Be it bed time, break time, the kid’s naptime, laundry day, Sunday, or every day, we set out some mental space to create with words.

I’ve had this mental writing space in the past, and I wanted it back, so I have worked for it over the last few months, with a lot of bad days and good days.  Inspired days, and slog days.  Golden thesaurus days, and obscenity dripping days.  Numb-to-the-world days, and bleeding-in-gushes-and-spurts days.  Writing days.  You know, normal days, like everyone has.

So I had the good seats to watch myself receive inspiration.  It is a truth universally acknowledged that a writer needs to get their name out into the world, and while exposure won’t pay the bills, it can lead to more opportunities.  Yet another chance to submit to an anthology came up and for some reason it caught my eye, despite my failures in the past.  I didn’t have anything that could be modified to fit the theme, so that meant I had to write something new.  There is an open time limit on submissions, but it’s 2/3 full, so there is a bit of a race to submit before the slots are filled.

I began gathering bits of memory together; myths, stories, mental pictures, personal history, and remembered emotions. While discarding those bits that didn’t fit the anthology’s theme, I started fitting everything together, creating the “What if?” questions that will drive the story.

(BTW, I also realized the I do use a type of outline in my process, meaning things had to make sense to me to progress through the story, but it all happens in my head and is very amorphous until the plot is set with an internal logic.  I’m not as much of a “pantser” as I thought.  Huh.)

Flashes of lightning formed in the process, like the flashes you can see in a far off thunderstorm.  Stark blue and white and amber lit my personal night sky, backed by the deep, moist grey and angry navy of storm clouds.  The hidden alchemy of thought meeting thought.  A part of me watched the process, and it was beautiful.

When the flashes  slowed and weakened before I had a full plot, hook or twist, I posed a question to one of the writing groups I follow.  The conversation helped, but I needed more.  I posted to another group, and got a few takers, the conversation causing the “What if?” storm to roil and seethe, flashing like the strobe lights at an illegal underground dance club.  I rubbed my hands together in glee, chuckling evilly, manic grin stretching my lips, as flashes of inspiration brought the story to life.

“IT’S ALIVE!!!!!”

So, that is what inspiration feels like to me.  I don’t know if I can write the story well enough.  I don’t know if I will make the cut off before the slots are filled.  I don’t know if it will be good enough to be accepted into the anthology, or I’ll be forced to shop for another home.  What I do know, is that I have a new story.  It’s in rough draft bits, crammed tightly together with notes, and in the wrong order, and some of it’s still in my head, and some of it needs research, and refining, and to be typed, and edited, revised, edited, again, and again.

But I have a new story I adore.  That is the coolest feeling.

And I’m telling you the story of its creation so you might find some amusement or hope or even a bit of inspiration.  That seems to be my thing as a blog writer, writing about writing to writers, to serve as an example, for better or worse.  Let me open up my head for you to observe.  Please, no touching.  Or sneezing.  Euwww!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI didn’t have a picture of bacon wrapped lighting, but this is the flower that stalks me like a ninja.  Behold, the invasive, humble, and childhood-memory-infused Honeysuckle.

Happy Writing!

Time and Rose Petals

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you have worked on getting a daily writing habit started, like I have for the past several weeks, then you are all set for your next flash of inspiration.  Don’t turn your back on it.  Use it to drive your writing before it fades away.

I chastised another writer over the weekend.  At the library, as we were heading back out, my companion started telling me about the cool book they had come across.  Eyes sparking and voice slightly too loud, I was told how the book inspires such realistic, wonderful, graphic stories in their mind.  I listened for a few minutes before I asked where the book was.  STILL IN THE STACKS!  I hope I wasn’t too stern when I insisted we turn around to go get it.

But…  It wasn’t part of the story they were working on, just a future idea.  Doesn’t matter.  They hadn’t started a daily writing program, yet.  Doesn’t matter!  There are so many things that need to be finished first.  DOESN’T MATTER!  You don’t walk away from free inspiration!  EVER!

I’m still waiting for inspiration, and the daily word count goal suffers because of it.  I don’t mind too much because I can feel something coming.  For now I blog, read fiction, study writing techniques, and just live in the world.  I know some of you have the same struggles, so I ask you to let me know what you are doing to get ready.

(For those of you who already write and have the deadlines, schedules and payday to push you, I will try to not be jealous.  Feel free to impart your great wisdom on us poor beginner writing plebes.)

And my friend who went back for the book?  They started writing today.  I know it was a convergence of several things to set them on the path, but I smile to think I may have played a small part.

Happy Writing!

 

It’s Not About The Word Count…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADaily writing.  It’s a surprisingly controversial topic for writers, but only because the word “writer” applies to everyone who wants to use it, and that as it should be.  Writers are as varied as something with lots of… variety.  Like plants.  And pop up randomly, like…

Ok, it’s spring here!  How can you not be inspired by spring!  Sheesh!

Daily writing is just a way to attune your mind to use words effectively.  Establishing this habit was the way I learned to feel like a writer, and to make words my every thought. My point of view became different from before.  I began to think about the words my thoughts used.  Random conversations I heard become models of dialogue. While noticing a transient moment of natural beauty, I reached for words to preserve it, and then I could transmit the fleeting moment to another.  Life’s travesties and joys became plot points for me to harvest.  I was the observer of the universe, noting the contrasts of chaos and order, and how they exist side by side.  The entire spread of time and existence were my writing prompts.

The painter never learns to paint without learning the way of the brush.  And the paint.  And the canvas.  Or the mouse and pixel. One thing I am certain of, and it is Art Finds A Way.  Very much like nature.

We all have obstacles in our path, and some of us have obstacles the size of the world. Real, everyday life sucks out our creative drive, burning it up for a bit more energy to just survive.  But a lot of us–I suspect–have obstacles exactly the size of our egos.  If we want to write, we find those obstacles and name them.  Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of being judged. Fear of sucking, despite our best effort.

I am asking you to put those fears aside and just write.  Write every day.  Find a way.  Ignore publishing for now.  Ignore peer review, and beta readers, and editing.  Don’t wait for NaNoWriMo. Don’t wait for the new laptop, or writing class, or whatever it is that is stopping you.  Form words into sentences and put them down on paper, or the screen, or the voice recording.  YOUR WORDS.

Give yourself an easy word count goal.  How long does it take to get down fifty words, or five hundred?  If time is limited, use that as your marker.  How many words can you put down in a fifteen minute break?  Can you do better tomorrow?

It’s just like anything else you have to learn.  You MUST practice, and if you don’t cheat yourself, you will get better.  Faster.  More coherent.  And when you figure out there is a missing technique you need, you research it and work to apply it.

Lots of people will tell you the word count doesn’t matter.  And they are right, the numbers don’t really matter.  It’s the effort behind the numbers that is the important bit.  Numbers are just a simple marker of effort expended.  Be proud of it.  Give yourself the gift of watching the goals being met and exceeded.  Pat yourself on the back, or have some chocolate.  Reward yourself.  Shrug off the awful days, the days you simply can’t meet your goals, and try again tomorrow.  Momentum is the key; keep moving forward.

And try to avoid sounding like a greeting card, or motivational poster, like I just did.  Not everything you write will bloom gloriously.  Just keep shoveling those words.  Spread them like manure.  Something will grow.

If you haven’t figured it out this is mostly a reminder for myself, since I am starting a daily word count goal, TODAY.  Updates on my progress start here.  I apologize for the wide distribution of a bit of random rambling, but I also hope it will find its way to those who are struggling. You are not alone.

Am I going to count this in my word count goal for the day?  You bet your sweet ass, I am.  Then I’m going for a walk.

Sometimes You Need A Writing Break

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve already taken several breaks from writing this blog but here comes another one.  Like a lot of people 2016 brought major changes for me, and 2017 is starting no differently.

I have enjoyed the learning process of writing a blog.  Trying to figure out how to write catchy titles with insightful content (hopefully without being unbearably long-winded)about my writing-to-publishing journey has been a real eye opener.  I understand a lot of things better; widgets, tags and links.  Promotion.  Social media.  Time management.  I’ve had moderate success sustaining weekly content, while also finding my personal hard line about adding more unnecessary and rambling opinions to the shit-storm of free content available on the internet.  (The only reason I am posting this notice is because I don’t want to keep dropping off the planet for my few followers.)

I’m moving.  Packing my life into easy to move boxes.  “Moving” is one of those layered words.  It’s a simple concept everyone knows, and a huge shift in everything that I consider normal in my life.  I’m moving to another state, into the home of my parent, bringing my family with me.  Squeezing two households together.  We all get along, much better than the horror stories of many families, but it’s still going to be a major adjustment.

There is a limit to my mental energy.  I’m guessing that my focus will be on my family for the next month or two.  Free time will probably be reading as escape.  Hopefully, I will be catching up on reading and reviewing the books I’ve picked up from other writers, along with the beta work I’ve promised.  Since I don’t have a current daily writing habit, I will not be starting one until things settle.  I’ll write when I have to, of course, since that’s not really something I can stop myself from doing.  I will also continue my research into how to be a better writer by digging into the wisdom of those who have gone before me.

So posts will be sporadic, at best, but that is better than multiple posts about how tired or frustrated I am.  I don’t want to spread more negativity; we had a bumper crop in 2016.  Good things may be shared, or funny/weird stuff,  along with the hope that this move will ultimately result in even more writing time.  In the meantime, Happy Writing, and I’ll see you on the other side!

The Writer’s Road: Potholes and Roadblocks

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Despite not blogging for two months, I am still here.  I’m struggling with several things, in writing and in life, the most prominent of which is imposter syndrome.  Funny thing is…

(Ok, not funny. Sad and depressing, maybe.)

…IS that knowing WHAT you are struggling with is not the same as being able to overcome it.  This is not the first time I’ve been tempted to give up on writing, nor is it likely to be the last.  For now, I am firm in resolution to be a writer. Publishing is optional. Social media presence is optional. Good reviews and sales are optional. Writing is not optional.  Writing is not optional. Writing is not optional.

(Ok, now those words have lost all meaning.  <sigh>)

I have many reasons to give up and so does everyone else who is trying to get published.  I’m not an idiot.  My chances of writerly fame are miniscule.  It is no surprise that the post that stopped me dead in my tracks is the one about grammar.  I keep telling myself that I’m writing a helpful blog series for new writers like me. I’m just pointing out some books that helped me, and that I am not setting myself up as any kind of authority.  That thought is not quite sinking in.  You will know when it has, because you will see the grammar post.  I WILL continue that helpful series.

(Cue writer montage. Furious scribbling, frantic re-reading of source material, and then frenzied keyboarding fueled by coffee and uplifting power-cord heavy song of your liking. “Eye of the Tiger” or “I Will Survive” will suffice.)

For now, I will try to write creatively every day, continue to edit, learn about publishing, screw around on Facebook, try to figure out Twitter and the other platforms, blog about other things, and enjoy the lovely people I have connected with. Some of them are writers, and some are people who have retained some level of sanity.  I’m greatly enjoying both types.

(Hmmm.  Should I block the weird political ranting person, or use them in my next story?  I better observe them some more…)

I am on a road with pot holes and roadblocks, but they will not stop me. I will move forward, dodge left and right, move fast and slow, but always forward.  I hope you will, too.

(Dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge. Right?  Who knew the five D’s of Dodgeball would be so helpful.)

If you need encouragement, please, drop me a line. Helping others always keeps me moving, too.