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.

 

 

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!

 

Word Count Update #4: But I Don’t Want To Write Today!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABack again?  Seriously, are y’all still reading this?  All right.  Let’s muck about in my brain and get our feet dirty.

  • Day twenty-two.  A crazy day at the day job paired with trying to get the blog out sucked up my day.  Re-edited #2 a thousand times, took 42 photos to get a few decent shots, re-edited a couple of thousands times more, then took a deep breath and hit “publish.”  It made me sick to my stomach, but I kept going with my day.  I call this day a Failure on word count, but an author win!
  • Day twenty-three.  Wrote a blog about the Bechdel-Wallace test with 560 words.  Word count goal WIN!  Had some fun conversations with other writers on Facebook.  I was reminded of a blog I wrote a year ago, about the merits of outlining.  A good day to be a writer.
  • Day twenty-four.   Wow, my motivation has completely left me.  I know I need to write something–ANYTHING–but can’t find the urge.  Not on e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, articles I’ve saved…  I think we have a Fail.
  • Day twenty-five.  Urg.  Emotional stuff has me in the doldrums.  No motivation to write, unless it’s some super-secret-my-eyes-only journaling.  (Ended up venting about 600 words, so goal Win.  I figure it’s a form of communication, even if it’s only with myself.)
  • Day twenty-six.  A blog written about how cool my writing friends are.  Seriously, y’all rock!  Anyway, goal Win, with 502 words.
  • Day twenty-seven.  Urg.  Today’s chosen blog topic only netted 321 words, so I’m short and too tired to think of another.  I may have done enough additional writing on some of the other blogs, but it’s too hard to count words during revision.  Technically it’s a goal Fail, but only in the strictest sense.  I definitely wrote today.
  • Day twenty-eight.  Caring for an elderly and failing pet has left me without anything in my head but worry.  No writing.  Fail.

Officially it’s three wins to four fails, but two of those fails were only technical.  In essence I spent five days of this week feeling like a writer, and that feels pretty damn good.

For the month that is ten wins and eighteen fails, but on a lot of those fail days I was still making progress. I also have a nice stable of blogs to post once they get some revision.  My motivation is now good, and taking the time to write is becoming easier.    I’m hoping to do better in the next few weeks.  If you missed the purpose of this little experiment here’s the original post, and updates #1, #2, #3.

Committing to writing isn’t easy.  Successful writers are the ones who don’t quit forever.  You may stumble, or stop completely for a while, but if the words keep pushing their way out, try to give them an outlet.  Give yourself permission to tell your stories; you are the only one who can.

If you are one of my writing friends who doesn’t have this particular problem I’ll try to start posting more interesting content.  Meanwhile, give yourself a nice pat on the back, have a treat, and keep an eye out for the rest of us to catch up.  (It is so hard to not say something really, really snarky to y’all.  Bless your hearts.)

I didn’t plan on extending this update series past week #4, but I hope it gave you a chance to snicker at a writer in “action”.  Frankly, it’s going to be more of the same slog; good days, bad days, and in-between days.  I don’t think I can keep these updates going without it sounding like incessant whining about being a writer, and that’s not fair because I do love it.  I’ll keep track of my goal, but I may not post updates.

Happy writing!

Word Count Update #3: Daily Writing Sucks!

Back again, exposing my shortcomings for your amusement.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?  (My daughter, too shy to draw a monkey for last week, decided to help this week.)

  • Day fifteen.  Still considering picking up one of the rough drafts to give me something daily to sit down and work on.  Don’t want to use my most productive time for the day job, but mornings are so much better for writing, too.  Evenings are just not happening. No word count, so fail.  Published #1 of the updates, despite nausea at the idea of people reading it.
  • Day sixteen.  Why can’t I just sit my ass down and write?  Surely there is a half hour somewhere that isn’t filled with job/household/family obligations?  I’ve had this!  I’ve done this!  I want this!  Why can’t I do it again!!!!!  FAIL!!!!!
  • Day seventeen.  Ok, calm down.  One, you are adding something difficult to an already full life, it’s going to take some time to adjust.  Two, publishing is still a long shot, so there isn’t anything to help you feel the writing will pay off–eventually–except self-belief.  It may be delusional to believe in yourself, but most writers are, so you are right on track.  Anyway, word count fail.
  • Day eighteen.  Spent some time putting longhand blog ideas into my drafts files.  It’s technically re-writes, but at this point I’ll take it.  As the old writer adage says, you can’t expect water without turning on the tap.  Word count at 526, so that’s a win.
  • Day nineteen.  Job, family time, and general life stuff was like a tidal wave.  No word count.  Fail.
  • Day twenty.  Typed up some random thoughts from my blog idea notebook totaling 608 word count for the day, so that’s a win.
  • Day twenty-one.  More random thoughts turned into blogs, one is a list of things I’ve learned about social media, the other about gladiatorial slugs.  Word count 700, so winner, winner, chicken dinner!  I can’t really imagine publishing them, but that’s not really the purpose of this goal.  Feels good to be putting words into strings that somewhat make sense.  Yay, Me!

Ok, there is some strange and random thoughts recorded here, but you are just getting the thoughts that are directly related to the daily writing goal.  (My blog, my rules.)  Any way, if you are keeping score, that’s three wins to four fails, so some progress is being made.  Starting a daily writing goal SUCKS!  (And here would have been another good place for the bendy straw pic.  Oops!  I’ll get to it.)

I actually felt good at the end of the week that I seem to be hitting the goal when I can actually sit to write, but the hard part is carving that time out of my day.  And late evening writing (the last chance saloon of the writing highway) has started working for me instead of against me.

If you are wondering how this all started, or are interested in starting a daily writing goal, check out this post, and the #1, #2 and #4 updates.  (Didn’t you expect some self-promotion by now?  Don’t you like my blog?  My very amateurish photos?)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy favorite bit.  “Nope.”   Thank you, Sweetpea.

Word Count Update #2: Dance, Monkey, Dance!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So, I guess I’ll continue this series for a bit.  I hope it is helping someone, and not just me dancing for the like button.  Dance, monkey!  Dance for the likes!

  • Day eight.  Rounded out miscellaneous blog posts for about 146 words, and posted the original Word Count Rant.  No other writing.  This is frustrating.  Can’t seem to find the groove.  Embrace the stink of failure. 
  • Day nine.  Stupid comments on Facebook and Twitter is all I seem to write.  Writing IS a pit of despair.  Maybe 40 words.  Another day of failure.
  • Day ten.  Tried to write a post about women warriors, but my blog rants are rambling and non-sensible.  For fuck’s sake, I’m 49.  Surely I’ve figured out something about life by now. (You haven’t, and stop calling yourself Shirley.)  Still, it’s 604 words so I’ll count it as a goal win since I didn’t delete it right away.
  • Day eleven.  More snarky comments and pointless conversations while wasting time on Facebook.  Trying to help a new friend launch a Dyslexic writers group, but not many bites.  Re-read some of my WIP character bios, but can’t seem to force myself to start the next revision.  That’s fine, because I really want to recapture the freedom and joy of writing a first draft.  Revision is a slog, but you can’t get published until it’s ready!  Word count fail.
  • Day twelve.  Another rambling/ranting blog, this time about slurs, both gendered and racially motivated.  I just want to help people find a way to convince themselves to write, not become a ranting social troll.  Yes, I want to promote social justice, but honestly, humans can’t even agree on what is basic human rights.  Still, it’s 504 words, so I will win the goal today.  I’ll decide later if anything can be salvaged from it.  Mornings still seem to be the best for new writing, when my brain is fresh.
  • Day thirteen.  Maybe I should clean up and publish my rants.  According to my WordPress stats my most looked at post was the rant-y The Hidden Hero.  (Yes, that got turned into a shameless plug.  Bite me.)  But, jeez, there is sooooooo much random ranting on the internet these days.  To tired from family stuff to think of something to write other than catching up on this log.  Word count is 80.  Fail!
  • Day fourteen.  Maybe I am relying on passion too much for daily writing, and trying to rough draft things that just aren’t ready to be written.  Maybe a long project would work better, like taking one of the longhand novels and typing it up into a second draft would get me back into the habit of daily writing.  Anyway, another day of FAIL!

 

It’s not pretty folks.  Two days of Win, five of Fail.  Making the decision to write everyday is just the first step.  Don’t treat it like a New Years Resolution, and drop it the first day you screw up.

If this rambling post confused you, here is the daily word count post where I decided to encourage other writers to try it while pushing myself, and update #1.  (More shameless plugs!  Yay!) Here is update #3.

Meanwhile, I still haven’t caught up on months of email backlog, or checked out the new people who follow my blog (Hey, everybody!), posted reviews for a couple of books/stories (Sorry Sarah, Alice, Matt and Joe!), or done the beta read of the two new chapters for an incredibly patient writing friend (Sorry, Orlando!), but I’m trying, and that’s all anybody can ask.

And, yes, I know that’s a Chimchar, not a monkey.  Work with me, people!  Sheesh!

Word Count Update #1: This is Normal…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs a follow-up on last week’s post, here is week one of my word count goal of 500 words per day.  I chose this number because I thought it would not be too hard since I spent over a year with a 2,500 goal (a couple of years ago), but it’s high enough you must set aside some time or fail to meet it.  I’ve decided to post a log so people new to daily writing can see that this is a fluid goal.  Be flexible and bendy.  Be the bendy straw!  Or a plant that doesn’t need a garden, just a bit of dirt in a crack of a path. Do me a favor and be more like that plant, because I don’t have a picture of a bendy straw and don’t feel like taking one before I post this.

  • Day one.  Exceeded goal while writing a blog!  Win!  Didn’t publish it because it needs revision.  (Why am I using “should” and “need” and “must” in advice meant as helpful?  That is the way to send writers skulking off to social media instead of starting a daily writing goal.)
  • Day two.  Couldn’t write during day job, can’t ignore family, and realized I hadn’t written anything by the end of the day.  Oops!  Completely failed to reach goal.  Spent an hour on revision before bed.  (Still something wrong with the blog post.)
  • Day three.  Figured out Blog post, revised it, but had Wi-Fi trouble and didn’t post it. Kept sitting down to write, but family interrupted each time.  (None of us are used to this, yet.)  Failed to reach goal, but had some word count progress during revision.
  • Day four.  Hand wrote a page of revision ideas and scenes for novel-in-progress (about 140 words). Had an idea on posting a “difficulties of starting a word count goal” type article and started writing it at lunch break. (229 words).  Took another look at blog post, and decided to wait to post it. (Why?)  Failed goal by 131 words, but still vaguely please with progress
  • Day five.  Having second thoughts of usefulness of Word Count Update post.  Could it really help anyone or simply make me look like a fool.  (Uncomfortably aware that people may read what I am typing right this second…  Decide I can fix it in editing.) Added 60-ish words to this post, but did no other writing.  Work and family time left me too dysfunctional for anything but social media browsing.  Ignored the blog post.  Hard fail on word count goal.  <shrug>
  • Day six.  Revised verb tenses on original Word Count blog, but still not happy.  Dug into notes for a new blog post about vampires, to save as backup for when I’m back to posting regularly.  (Also hiding in the world of words from crappy life stuff.)  Word count for the day is 574.  Win!
  • Day seven.  Nothing written today except this entry. Life crap is at a new low.  Word count fail. I suck.

For the week that gives me two days of meeting the goal, three of failure, and two of some progress.  That is more than two days worth of writing that pushes me toward being a better writer that I didn’t have before.  I am pleased, even with the failures.  They show me where I need to work to get daily writing back into my life.  Don’t be afraid of your failures. Use them.

Also, you are a writer.  You don’t fear words–even words like failure–you command them. 

If you found some use for this, either as inspiration or just amusement, click the like button here or on Facebook, and I’ll continue the series.  Here is update #2.