Momentum – The Key to the Happy Writer

Everybody needs it. When you’re a writer, it can be the difference between writing and not writing. I’m talking about momentum, that thing that keeps you going.

 

 

“If I only could, I’d be running up that hill.” ~ Kate Bush

Momentum can be achieved any number of ways. For me, a book sale goes a long way. It’s a form of validation that really helps to keep me putting words on the page. But there are a lot of other things that can happen in my writing life that motivate me to keep runnin’ up that hill. A good review, a newsletter from a writing organization of some kind, booking a writing retreat or conference, communicating with other writers in forums or in person. All these things serve to get me pumped and ready to keep writing.

Once you sit down to add words to your manuscript-or poem-or journal-or article-or grocery list, you’re well and truly in a vacuum. It’s just you…and maybe your characters. This can be daunting. I find it helpful to get out into the larger writing community prior to sitting down. It fortifies me. When I talk about my writing, it feels more alive. It makes me want to jump back into it.

Don’t forget to interact, set goals, treat yourself to writing related outings, etc. And one of the great motivators is the simple act of SUBMITTING YOUR WORK. Do this often. You’re not risking anything if you’re not submitting. To submit is to motivate yourself. And remember, a rejection isn’t totally negative. It’s proof that you are doing something about your writing. You should wear rejections as badges of courage. You put yourself out there. That’s reason enough to celebrate.

There are great opportunities in the writing life to BE THE WALLFLOWER. I would even go so far as to say it’s often NECESSARY for a writer to be a wallflower. Especially during the cultivating stage of your work…when you’re collecting grist for your writing mill. BUT…you can’t always stand back against that wall and be the bystander in your life. It doesn’t get you anywhere. Sometimes you need to take life by the throat. Before you sit down into that vacuum of DOING WRITING, collect yourself some reasons to write. Get excited about writing.

Let review. Ways in which to jump-start your writing and gain the momentum needed to carry on carrying on:

  • SUBMIT
  • ATTEND CONFERENCES & WORKSHOPS
  • REGISTER TO ONLINE WRITING FORUMS & BE AN ACTIVE MEMBER OF SAID FORUM
  • ATTEND SOCIAL GATHERINGS FOR WRITERS IN MEAT-SPACE
  • SUBMIT
  • SIGN UP FOR WRITING ORGANIZATION/WRITING SITE NEWSLETTERS. READ THEM WHEN THEY ARRIVE IN YOUR INBOX
  • CREATE A SAME-TIME-EVERY-DAY SCHEDULED WRITING TIME AND STICK TO IT. WRITE OUTSIDE THIS TIME ALL YOU WANT, BUT CREATE THIS DEDICATED WRITING TIME
  • CELEBRATE YOUR VICTORIES, ATTAINED GOALS, ACHIEVEMENTS, ETC
  • ENTER WRITING CONTESTS
  • JOIN A LOCAL WRITING CIRCLE/ORGANIZATION
  • FIND A BETA READER PARTNER AND SHARE YOUR WORK WITH EACH OTHER (THINK OF THIS AS SIMILAR TO AN AA SPONSOR—CARRY EACH OTHER WHEN NEEDED)

There are all sorts of things you can do once you’re outside that vacuum. Things that will enrich your writing life and cause you believe in yourself more fully. Do them. Anyone can write. The trick is to keep the momentum going. Be excited every day. You don’t have to be sitting and writing to be cultivating your writing life. Think outside the box. Fuel the passion…

Writers Get the Last Word – Bullies Beware

One of the things I enjoy the most about writing YA are the issues involved. It’s true that one must be careful about coming off too preachy or soap-boxy when tackling the issues today’s teen faces. Nobody wants to read a story in which issues are crammed down their throats.

One of the issues I enjoy tackling the most? THE BULLY. Why? Because I was bullied relentlessly in high school. What I like to get across to my teen readers is that IT REALLY DOES GET BETTER. Sure, there are bullies out here in the adult world. But often we learn along the way that we (THE BULLIED) actually hold all the power. In high school, my bullies held the power only because I allowed them to do so. I didn’t know I could put up shields to block their negativity. That I could survive all the physical attacks. That one day I would be free of them. When I was in the thick of high school, just trying to survive the hallways, I was sure I wasn’t going to make it out alive. Because I allowed them to control me with the fear they instilled in me. I allowed them to tear me apart. I allowed them to get inside my head.

Before I go any further, I have to point out the one saying I hate the most: STICKS AND STONES MAY BREAK MY BONES BUT NAMES WILL NEVER HURT ME. That is the biggest crock of shit going. Don’t sell it here, because it’s not true.

Sad_Teenager

Names hurt. They leave a lasting scar. When it comes right down to it, the names are carried with the bullied victim far longer than the sticks and stones. In high school I was thrown in front of a moving car, punched and kicked almost daily, pushed down the stairs, tripped, had chairs and food thrown at me. Some of those things stung. The moving car incident hurt the driver more than it hurt me. The woman behind the wheel was in her 70s, and I’m not sure she ever recovered from the trauma caused to her that day. The thing about the physical abuse is…I knew how to process it. It hurt.

The names…another story completely. The names get in your head and drill themselves down into your psyche. Twenty years later, when you’re having a bad day and feeling somewhat worthless, those names pop back into your head in the form of TOLD-YOU-SOs. Just a little self-doubt is all it takes for the wellspring of negativity to turn back on. And you get to hear those old recordings in the voices of those loathed bullies themselves. It’s miraculous how that happens.

If you let it.

I can’t even imagine what today’s teens go through…with cyber bullying. They must never get a break. Social Media bullying sounds like a nightmare onto itself. Makes me cringe just thinking about it.

But you can turn the cycle around. You can take the power back. I know. It’s hard work. But it can be done. The moment we stop letting it get to us is the moment the power shifts. Where does the bully come from? Chances are your bully is a swirling mess of non-confidence on the inside. Chances are they are suffering. Chances are they are unhappy, unfulfilled, unsatisfied. They might even be experiencing bullying themselves. Maybe at home, where it is hardest to imagine it happening. We should all have a safe-place to lay our heads at night.

When I tried to be empathetic towards my bullies, I found things a little easier. I found I could forgive some of their anger…that it might not all be about me. Who could hate the way a person looks THAT much? Who could want to kill you because you have a mohawk and dress like a crazy person? There was more to it than met the eye. My bullies were simply suffering in a different way than I myself was suffering.

It’s hard to grow a thick skin, but not impossible. Bullies can’t hold you down forever. There is light at the end of the narrow high school tunnel. Believe it or not.

As a YA writer, I now have the ability to create bullies and show how very fallible they are. Often they appear to be the cream of the high school crop…but this is not always the case. What I get to do is save my bullied characters from their bully. It’s liberating. It shows readers that maybe the bully doesn’t always win. Believe me, when you’re in high school fighting the battle day in and day out…you’re CERTAIN the bully wins. When you’re on the ground, with one side of your face scraping asphalt and the other side being stepped on by the guy who just can’t wait to ruin your day, you tend to forget the possibility of a bully-free future. With the tunnel vision that comes with being in high school, one really can’t imagine a day when they will be bully free.

Some thirty years ago, I always allowed the bully to get the last word. I was afraid not to. They controlled me. Sure, I had my days where I got lippy. I would just get fed up and say my piece…because I needed to. But I knew that for every deposit I made into the bank of TALKING-BACK, I’d have to make a withdrawal out of the bank of TAKE-A-BEATING. I paid for every word I uttered in my own defense. It was the way it went.

Today, I get the last word. I get to write these bully characters into corners. I get to dissect them. I get to confront them. I get to say, NO MORE. WE’RE NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANY MORE. Writing is an extremely powerful form of self-therapy. And the finished product has the potential of helping others. If my writing on bullies (or any of the other YA issues I happen to tackle) helps one reader–only one–I feel it’s worth it. Because I know how easy it is to forget that your high school bullies won’t be making your life a living hell for the rest of your life. But I know that NOW…because I’ve been through it. When I was in the heart of it, I considered these people my lifelong shadows. I was filled with despair whenever I thought of going to school. I knew they would find me. I knew I would have to fend off their slings and arrows time and time again…forever.

cyber-bullying-6

I have to remind people that they will be free. There will come a day…

 

Hateful of Hollow OR Why Every Writer Needs to be Edited

You know when you hear a phrase or music lyric the wrong way and it sometimes takes you years to figure out that you got it wrong? For me, one particularly idiotic example of this was the phrase WINDCHILL FACTOR. As a kid, I always thought it was WINDSHIELD FACTOR. I used to think the colder temperature was somehow measured by how cold it is on a car’s windshield…because clearly it would be a colder temp on the windshield of a moving car than a standstill temp. Right? It’s not that farfetched. So I thought somewhere someone had this thermometer pasted to their moving car and they called in the windshield temp to the local weather stations…just so we would, you know, know how cold it was were we to decide to travel on the hood of our car that day. Makes sense.

This is going to be related to writing. I promise you.

I figured out the Windshield thing pretty quickly. It only took me a few years. Sooner or later one opens their mouths in the wrong company and someone is going to call one out on their awesomely fantastic stupidity. I was slightly humiliated when corrected about the windchill thing, but I learned. I grew.

Fast-forward to November 1984. The release of HATEFUL OF HOLLOW by THE SMITHS! Every single song on that album blew my mind so completely. It was perfection. But do you see what I did there? I called it HATEFUL OF HOLLOW. Actually, I called that album HATEFUL OF HOLLOW for the better part of 30 years. I had a poster of the album cover in my room all through the mid 80s. I listened to the album obsessively, so the sleeve and album cover were always laying around. And yet, after processing the title incorrectly that first time, I did it every single time I looked at it. Now, I like to think I’m not an idiot. But the evidence weighs solidly against me here.

For those who don’t yet know what I’m talking about, THE SMITH’s album was actually called:

HATFUL OF HOLLOW

Do you see my error? Exhibit A from the evidence of stupidity file:

HatfulofHollow84

There it is. Plain as day. HATFUL. It was only in recent years that I noticed my error for the first time. And I can’t tell you how jarring it was to realize I had it wrong for SO MANY YEARS. Hateful of Hollow just made pure and unadulterated absolute sense to me. It meant something. When I first realized my error, I spent the better part of a day contemplating the meaning of the ‘new’ title. Hatful of Hollow? What the hell? That doesn’t even mean anything. It has to be wrong. Somebody must be playing this crazy trick on me. Of course I can understand the meaning behind HATEFUL OF HOLLOW. Anyone would be hateful of hollow. Hollow is our enemy. It is sadness. Ergo, we hate sadness. But this hatful crap? What the hell?

Now let’s zero in on what this means to writers, shall we?

We don’t always see our own glaring errors. If you meant to write something a certain way, chances are you will read it the way you meant it to be. But often, we can slip in a wrong word or phrase without realizing we did so. You can go through your manuscript a hundred times, thinking you’re editing out every little error along the way. In actual fact, your ‘meant-to-write’ phrase or word keeps appearing in place of the actual error on the page. Here’s an example:

Your intended sentence: I took the potatoes out from under the cupboard.

What you actually wrote: I took the potatoes out for under the cupboard.

Unless you’re extremely diligent, you could read that sentence ten times and not see the error…because your mind is correcting it. I guess essentially this means you’re glossing over it. But this is a real issue.

It’s smart to edit your own work. Don’t get me wrong. You should ALWAYS edit your own work. But getting a second set of eyes on the manuscript is ALWAYS a smart idea. Someone else will catch the little things that make you appear sloppy if they’re not caught.

I’m not saying everyone should PAY for editing services. In fact, unless you are going with SELF PUBLISHING, I would suggest you NEVER PAY FOR EDITING SERVICES. You edit your manuscript to the best of your ability and then you have a friend/fellow-writer read it through for those glaring errors you’re always going to gloss over. If you’re submitting to an agent or a publisher, they are going to work with you on the manuscript. There is no need to spend precious money on an editing service. On the other side of the coin, I think one should always get their manuscript professionally edited if they are going the self-publishing route. You want to present the reading public with the most polished work possible.

Anyway, the moral of this story is, I suppose, to pay attention. I didn’t write the title of that Smith’s album, so it doesn’t really apply here. I just read it incorrectly for decades. But it is a good example of how our minds sometimes work against us by repeatedly replacing what we thought we read/wrote with what’s actually on the page. PAY ATTENTION! And have a reader in place! We should all have our work checked by at least one other person before we send it out into the world. It’s a cliche because it’s true…YOU ONLY GET ONE CHANGE TO MAKE A FIRST IMPRESSION! (see what I did there?!)

Matthew Quick, or Why I’m Allowed to Write for Adults & Young Adults!

When I first discovered Matthew Quick, I was at an interesting crossroads in my own writing journey. I had written a couple novels for adults and I was pondering writing for the young adult market. For some reason, I got it in my head that I couldn’t do both. One could either be an adult author OR a young adult author. I don’t know why I thought this, but I did. I’ve made it a point throughout my writing journey to always remind myself that THERE ARE NO RULES. There are guidelines, there is good advice and there is bad advice…but there are no steadfast rules. Writing is what you want it to be.

And yet, here I was…trying to make this decision. And while on the fence, I really sweated about it. I loved the darker issues I could explore writing contemporary adult novels, but I also loved the idea of exploring dark issues in a teenager setting…the coming of age in the high school environment novel. I was weighing the pros and cons of the two markets, because, as I said, I thought it had to be EITHER OR.

Enter Matthew Quick. No…I’m not going to be so bold as to call him my savior, or anything as nutty as that. I’m just gonna say that he reminded me of my own first rule of the Writer Club. The first rule of Writer Club is that there are no rules in Writer Club. He didn’t do this right away, mind you. At the time, I was mass-consuming YA novels…as part of my research in the market. Well, that’s what I was telling myself. Truth be told, I LOVE reading YA. But I was reading solely YA to get a feel for the landscape of the market. I was dissecting books for themes, formula, what-have-you.

I picked up BOY21 for several reasons. Because it seemed to have strong male and female ‘leads’. Because it was sportscentric. Because the blurb really caught my fancy. Sometimes, I’ll admit right here and now, I am sold by a cover. Or, at least, I am gripped by the cover and moved to learn more about a book. BOY21 had an awesome cover. Anyway, I picked it up and I read it. And I fell in love with it.

You know when you discover a novelist and then check out there other books and get excited because you get to spend more time with them? Well, immediately after I finished BOY21 I searched to find out what other Matthew Quick offerings there were on tap at the Kindle store.

HOLD THE PHONE!

The Silver Linings Playbook. Can it be? A contemporary ADULT novel?! Oh my God! He writes for adults AND young adults! YES!

Okay, so Matthew Quick may not be the first author in the history of authorship to do this. But he was the author I discovered doing it when I needed the permission to do it myself. When I needed to realize that it could actually be done. And not only was he writing for both markets, but it would seem he wrote quirky characters. I wrote quirky characters, too. I immediately purchased The Silver Linings Playbook. And I devoured it. And I thought it was a masterpiece!

Click on the book covers to read my reviews of these two Matthew Quick novels:

boy21

silver

I later went through Quick’s full catalogue and loved all his books. I eagerly await his forthcoming THE GOOD LUCK OF RIGHT NOW! I have it pre-ordered. And on February 11th, when I wake up, it will have been magically delivered to my Kindle! I know what I’ll be reading that day!

Click on the book cover below to read the synopsis of Quick’s latest offering:

TGLORN-full-cover

Okay, so on the surface this post may seem like a commercial for Matthew Quick’s books. But I swear to you, the whole purpose of the post is to tell writers to keep reminding themselves of the fluidity of the rules they should live by. When you find yourself questioning whether or not you can do something, DO IT. Try it, anyway. Don’t listen to people who say do this, don’t do that. I was very close to saying goodbye to one of the markets in question, even though I loved both! It was through my discovery of Matthew Quick’s novels that I found the permission to carry on carrying on. Because I saw that he accomplished writing for both adults and young adults, I knew that I could take the same path. And I did. And I for one am extremely grateful for Matthew Quick.

But seriously, check out his books. You’ll love them! (-:

Being Human – The Crux of Social Media Savvy

You wanna know something that DRIVES ME MENTAL? I can’t count on one hand how many of my writer friends have admitted to me that they use some kind of bullsh*t service to provide tweets for their Twitter stream. Their confessions usually go something like this:

THEM: “Twitter. Yeah. I still have an account. I don’t tweet, though. God, I haven’t actually been on Twitter for months!”

ME: “But I see tweets coming from your account precisely every 13 minutes, all day long every day. What do you mean you don’t tweet?”

THEM: “Oh, those. I just set it up to tweet automatically for me. No fuss, no muss.”

ME: *&%$(*&^%&*^)$*%)(*%)*$)^*  %U$#)^U$)^  %U#)^U ^$)U^ ^)U%)$U%(*$&&^$#

For argument’s sake, I’m talking about WRITERS. Most of my social media contacts are writers. As are most of my real-life friends. I am a member of an extremely vibrant writing community. We are about 300 members strong and we meet on a regular basis. It’s not always the same people meeting up, so over the course of a few months I easily cross paths with 200 members of the community. Some of them are extremely tech savvy. Some of them are not even online. The spectrum is WIDE.

Don't be a dumb-ass bird! Be personable, not an automated clutterbug!
Don’t be a dumb-ass bird! Be personable, not an automated clutterbug!

From time to time I see some of these people on Twitter. Let me say right now that I’m quite active on Twitter. It’s my go-to social media network. It replaced Facebook as my fave quite a while back. I try hard not to inundate my followers with blah, blah, blah…otherwise known as verbal diarrhea, but the truth is that I’m addicted. I love the instant connection ability that Twitter has. You agree with a follower, you say so…you RT them. You engage in conversation.

So when I hear that some of the writers in my community have mindless programs spewing out a WHOLE LOT OF CRAP ABOUT NOTHING on their behalf, it irritates me beyond comprehension. They are basically SPAMMING me and all their other followers. Twitter, when used properly, is for communicating. Yes, it’s a great marketing tool. But sometimes the best way to market yourself as a writer is to engage. What Twitter doesn’t need is people hooking up to computer generated tweet-feeders. Please, God! If you do this, STOP!

Some writers think their fellow Twits are too stupid to figure out that their tweet-stream is actually unmanned. Guess what? They’re WRONG. I can tell just by looking at a user’s tweets if they are behind them or not. You’re not fooling anyone. Log in to Twitter once or twice a day. Compose personal tweets and send them into the stream. Read a few of your followers tweets while you’re there, and respond to them in a thoughtful way. This is how Twitter was meant to be used. Don’t clog up the tweet-stream because you’re far too important to actually create 140 character tweets yourself. NOBODY thanks you for doing this. Eventually, you will be labelled a BAD NEWS BEAR, if you continue to use Twitter improperly.

So, in case you didn’t get the gist of this rant…please schedule some ACTUAL REAL-LIFE TWITTER TIME and interact with people.

 

ETA: One of the BIGGEST no-nos in the land of Twitter is the DM Welcome Message. When someone follows you, please-for-the-love-of-God-and-all-things-holy-and-unholy…DO NOT Direct Message them thanking them—or sharing your links. That’s not what DMs are for. There is NOTHING more useless than a SPAMMY DM thanking for a follow…and asking the person to read your books or follow you on Facebook. JUST DON’T!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Interact with people! Don’t be a Twitter Spambot!

 

/rant

As you were

While the Mundane Takes Place – Write, Write, Write!

Unless you’re some all-powerful deity, you have a little mundane in your life. It’s true. Even the movers and shakers of Hollywood and the Tower of Song get to partake from the Table of Mundanity. Nobody is exempt. It’s kind of like dying–no one here gets out alive. You don’t have to be a poet to know that simple truth. Life is dying. And dying is living.

It’s the middle road between birth and death that matters. And not just the glitzy stuff. There’s more to life than podiums and celebrations. So much of our living time is filled with simple moments of non-fabulousness. As a writer, I try to pay particularly close attention to these moments. I always found that it is in the simple less spectacular events where story hides. Like a crouching lion, the details lurk under the surface of our mundane downtime. It is when I’m bored or idle or daydreaming that I ask myself, “What can be found in this time?” “What universal truth, wisdom, parallel, insight, emotion can be found within this moment?”

When a writer connects with that part of us that is universal–that humanness that we all share–that is when the fireworks go off. You don’t necessarily reread a passage in a story where the most exciting seat-of-your-pants action happens. But if you find that one special sentence that crawls down inside you…that sentence you recognize and know could have come from your very heart…that’s the sentence you’re going to read and reread. You’re gonna fully relate. You’re gonna say an emphatic, “YEAH!” or “YES!” It could be a mundane part in the story where the main character slices into an apple with a paring knife. It could be the way light comes into a room and rallies dust motes to dance. These mundane moments captured for one great big universal AHHHH! That’s what I love about writing. About reading. We share the simple moments that go into a life…the moments that connect EVENT to EVENT. Just those mundane moments that are filled with the hidden knowledge and wonder of universal commonality.

Don’t overlook a thing when you’re putting a story together. To capture the heart of the reader, you will need to capture the essence of humanity. It’s not found in the glamorous and intriguing fabulousness of the EVENTS. It’s found in the things we do every day. The minutiae. That will capture your reader and allow them to step inside your story bus…just to see where it is you’re going to take them!

Book Trailer as Outline!

I found an easy and entertaining way to outline…for those of us who hate outlining. Now I use hate loosely here. Whether you’re an outliner or a pantser should ultimately depend on your project. I always felt this way. I don’t think one should come to a conclusion that they are one or the other. Always be open to new ways to draft your next novel.

Anyway, as I have frequently struggled with outlining, I needed to find a way to make it creative and fun. So, no charts for me. No diagrams, no lines from one scene to another, no boxed miasma of words planned out on chalkboards waiting to be distilled into novel form. My brain just doesn’t seem to want to work that way. I am content to have a large block of clay and just pound away slowly at it and wait for the story to reveal itself to me. It’s more exciting for me if I don’t know what will happen next until I make it happen.

But this one thing seems to be working for me. With Windows Movie Maker, it’s SO easy to throw together a quick book trailer. And this is my new outline. I make a book trailer for my vision of the finished novel, prior to writing the novel. Whether or not you use live action in a book trailer, I suppose is up to you. If you have friends who are competent enough actors for the job, it would be a great idea to film something. I prefer to mix stills, music and plot points in my trailers. And once I clip them all together in the easy to use Windows Movie Maker, I simply watch it a few times to let the ‘story’ soak in.

After that, I start the writing. I have no laboured chaotic mess of an outline to sort through. Just a quick 3 minute video that was fun to put together and hopefully fun to watch. I don’t have to stick rigidly to the video, but the process of making it solidifies the story I would like to tell. You should try it. It’s a lot of fun to search for just the right pictures and just the right words to accompany them. Sometimes, the music I choose even helps me to better envision the story I want to tell.

It’s creative. It’s fun and it really really helps. I’ve tried it. I will be making a book trailer this week for the novel I intend to write for this year’s Muskoka Novel Marathon. I’m not sure yet what I want to write, but once something comes to me I’ll make the trailer and then watch it until the gaps are filled in with my imagination and the wants and will of the characters I create for the trailer.

I won’t post any book trailers I’ve created as outlines, as I don’t have permissions for the images I used…I don’t make them with the intent of showing them publicly. I do have the permissions needed for the book trailer for my latest novel, The Reasons. So, I’ll share it now as an example of what you could do as an outline:

AWKward…

Sometimes, when you’re a writer, you are approached by people who are dabbling in the medium. People who–how should I put this–shouldn’t be.

I was recently approached by someone who said they bought my book. Great. I hope they like it. I’m always happy to hear my books are being read…if somewhat nervous and ‘squiggy’ feeling. It’s not about the royalties. They either come or they don’t, right. It’s about someone reading my words and getting something out of them. So, I thanked him and told him I hope the book is a good experience for him. He’s a friend. I appreciated his support.

The thing is, he actually told me he’s not going to read it until I look at something he wrote.

Okay. WTF!

Why am I suddenly this person who has to read your work? It was almost a threat. He has my book…but it’s being held for ransom until I read his writings. Seems like a fair exchange, right?

NOT.

I try to be nice to everybody who shows an interest in writing. I try to be supportive. I guide them to the best places on the web–and in meat space–where they can congregate with like-minded people and learn more about the craft…and frankly, celebrate the craft with their fellow worshipers. I volunteer on a Board of Directors for a writing conference in my area. I critique the work of fellow writers. I’m an active participant in my local writing community, the WCDR. I try to be approachable and helpful when writers contact me. Sometimes to my own detriment. But I do these things because I feel indebted to the community that has given so much to me. I always feel I have to give back to writing, since writing itself has given me innumerable gifts…simply in the act of allowing me to call myself a writer.

But what’s this bullshit?!

I knew–ladies and gentlemen–right away that I was in for an unpleasant experience. I can tell. Writers…we can tell. When people say, “Yeah…I’ve been thinking about writing a book…about all the wild stuff I’ve done. You know…a biography. I’ve done some pretty amazing things.” When people say things like that, instead of, “I want to write…I want to BE a WRITER”, you know you’re in for a little bit of a nightmare. What I don’t get is the way that these people feel justified in approaching us and throwing their handfuls of loose paper on us and asking, “Well? Is it good?”

I’ll tell you now…before you read any further…that this is a venting post. I’ve been saddled with a handful of loose paper with one-dimensional dreck scribbled upon it. I didn’t even say, “Yes…I’ll read your work.” It was just handed to me, with the assumption that I’ve been waiting for the masterpiece all of my life. Why do people feel okay with this? Foisting their ‘writing’ onto people like this?

So now I’m stuck with pages and pages of, ‘…and then this happened and then this happened and then this happened and then this happened.’ There is no flow, no voice, no grammatically correct sentences. For the love of fuck, there isn’t even attention to SPELLING! Does this person not have a word processor?!

I have to tell this person that his writing needs work. It’s not ready for the public eye. It will NEVER be ready for the public eye. He will never be a writer. Writing is something that is miles ahead of, “I have a story to tell.” Writing…when done well…is a state of grace. Not everyone with a story to tell becomes a writer. I’m so frustrated right now. I didn’t ask for this. I hate discouraging people. Even if they are bullies who foisted their work upon me. How do I deal with this person?

What gives these people the justification to do this? I don’t like awkward situations. Just sayin’…

/rant

I feel ‘small’ for talking about this…but I’m hoping other writers understand. I know we all get the, “Yeah! You’re a writer? What have I read of yours?” or the, “You write? How much do you make?” or the, “You write! How many books do you have out?” or many of the other questions non-writers ask writers. Sometimes you’re afraid to mention the fact you’re a writer in certain company…it’s like you can almost guess what some reactions will be. I can deal with this kind of thing. I just blow it off. Some non-writers think you’re not REALLY a writer until you have books out…and not just books in some cases, but books that they may in fact have read. Or, you’re not really a writer until you can afford to buy the second home from the staggeringly sickening royalty cheques coming your way. I can zone out this kind of noise. It’s the people who are not writers who think they can just throw some words together because everybody is dying to know the gritty and enlightening details of their wonderful life who make me insane. It’s the way they think they DESERVE and have a right to my time. Bottom line, though, is that I could have said NO. I was just cornered at the time…and I felt there was no way out. I guess the rant wasn’t quite over.

Time to face the music…

LOOK at THAT! A Challenge to Writers

Well, because of a challenge I was tagged in today I came to realize I used the word LOOK 173 times in my latest WIP. That’s not so bad, is it? Speaking of THAT. I also gathered up the courage to search that word in the manuscript. That word is my kryptonite.

How many thats does it take to write 46,478 word manuscript, you ask? You had to ask, didn’t you!?

457 to be exact.

I can live with my looks. Yes, I’m not going to feel bad about my looks AT ALL. But I do have to confess…a beta reader already discovered my tendency to overuse look. So, I spent most of August slaying that dragon. What LOOKs like a reasonable look usage is actually a corrected look usage, so don’t feel bad if you discover a few hundred more in your manuscript than what I found in mine.

Now, on to the CHALLENGE, and what it means.

Thank you to the lovely CATHY OLLIFFE-WEBSTER for poking me for this challenge. I don’t know how I’ll get her back, but I know I WILL. I don’t know how I will thank her, but I’ll find a way.

The CULPRIT:

How can one stay mad at someone with a smile like this? Also…how can someone NOT laugh to discover her photo file name is MY HEAD.

Now, the challenge is to not only find the LOOKs in your current WIP, but to also post the paragraphs around the word. I guess this kind of gives you the option to choose any three paragraphs in your WIP to post. (-:

Here’s the one I chose:

Trig is pretty awesome. He’s my best friend. He and I go back a long way. When I finally make it to my chem lab, he’s sitting in his seat giving me the eye. He knows something has happened. He has this look on his face like he’s gonna kick the shit out of someone and he just needs me to give him a name and he’ll be gone. But I silently slide in beside him, with my head down. Better not to look him directly in the eye.

“What the fu—” he whispers.

“Mr. Fripp. Is there a reason you’re joining us rather later than usual today?” Ms. Mendel interrupts from the front of the class, causing my face to bloom red. “Is that a late slip in your hand?”

I look at my empty hands, puzzled. “Um, no ma’am,” I begin. My voice wavers and cracks all over the place. Like usual. “Sorry, ma’am. I was—”

That’s part 1. Part two of the challenge is to victimize pick 5 new writers to take the challenge. (-:

Here are my 5 (That sounds familiar. I wonder if Rogers can sue me for using that terminology. Have at it.):

JOCELYN ADAMS who is awesome. Click on the book cover to start exploring her stuff on Goodreads:

Victim #2 – This person is my nemesis and my mentor and my hero. I would probably have a fencing comp. with her, just to poke her in the eye…but we would make up RIGHT away. I hope!

PAT FLEWWELLING is the bomb. This I know. Here she is, the nine day wonder herself!

I know she’s going to sue me, because there’s copyright stuffs all over her most fabulous picture and yet I willy-nilly kidnapped it.

Now, who should I put on the spot NEXT?! I know…because I love her. The earth Momma herself…my MNM Guardian Angel, Susan Blakeney. Here’s Susan’s DOT COM right here.

And here’s her smile:

The one who holds us all together.

That’s 3, right? Right. Shellie is so very nice that I sincerely hope this is something she would like to be roped into included in. Otherwise, I’ll feel bad. (-;  Shellie…time to LOOK! Am I allowed to play hardball here? Because to the best of my knowledge, Shellie Yaworski does not yet have a blog. I’ll tag her so she knows she’s being challenged, though. Maybe she can let me know where her undercover blog is…or, maybe, you know…start one. What I really love about Shellie is that she has no idea how bloody fantastic her writing is. Thanks to the READING NIGHT at the MNM, there’s a roomful of people who know how proud she has a right to be. (-:

 

Okay…so by my count that’s 4 people tagged. My 5th and final tag…not an MNM person. This is someone from the WCDR whose blog I follow. She’s a lovely person whom I would like to share with the rest of my world. (-:

MARY E. MCINTYRE, both an inspiration and a supporter of her fellow WCDR members. And a great read, too…if you’re looking for a new blog to follow.

Mary!

SO — Okay, so the one thing YOU FIVE have to know is this: You will all fall prey to spontaneous combustion if you don’t look after your LOOK CHALLENGE within 48 hours. GO!

Define the Dream…

A few days ago I wrote about following your dreams. It’s so important, it bears repeating. Essentially, it’s our purpose. I’m discovering now that there is something else we should do regarding our dreams…

I’ve been so hungry for my dream of writing, I think I kind of steamrolled over the whole spectrum of what writing is. Something else we should attempt to do is rein things in. DEFINE YOUR DREAM. If I were being true to myself, as true as I could be to my dream, I think I would end up narrowing my dream to that of PLAYWRIGHT. It’s where I find the most satisfaction. And, no, I’m not talking about the accolades received from the audience when one of my plays is produced. I’m not talking about positive feedback from actors and/or directors. I’m talking about the actual act itself. There is something about playwriting that is IMMEDIATE for me, something SO electric and alive in the act of putting the dialogue to paper that I crave so much. It’s so much different than novel writing. The reward in writing a play—of anticipating the animation of the corpse (in this case, the actor) and defining characters by their words and mannerisms—it’s just so addictive and satisfying.

I think it’s time for me to define my writing dream. I’ve been a poet, a lyricist, a freelancer, a novelist, a playwright, a memoirist. I’ve had about 10 years now to explore my options. It’s more than time to zone in on a particular writing form and see if I can take it to a higher level. Otherwise, I’ll just continue mucking about without a specific plan of action. And that’s libel to get me nowhere, if I’m not careful.

How about you? Have you asked yourself lately what it is you want to achieve with your writing? In what direction you want to take it?

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with floating about doing this and that and just having fun exploring all the avenues. But I’m beginning to feel a bit dizzy in the head. I’m living my dream…I’m writing. But now I think it’s time to discover what writing avenue speaks the loudest to me. I think it may be the avenue of the playwright. I’m going to try focusing on that for awhile to see where it takes me. Who knows…I could be totally off-base.

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EXIT – STAGE RIGHT…