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Muskoka Novel Marathon

How Does One Prepare for a Novel Writing Marathon? How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?

Let’s break it down, shall we?

She climbs a tree and scrapes her knee, her dress has got a tear
She waltzes on her way to Mass and whistles on the stair
And underneath her wimple she has curlers in her hair
I even heard her singing in the abbey

She’s always late for chapel, but her penitence is real
She’s always late for everything, except for every meal
I hate to have to say it, but I very firmly feel Maria’s not an asset to the abbey

I’d like to say a word in her behalf
Maria makes me laugh

How do you solve a problem like Maria?
How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?
How do you find the word that means Maria?
A flibbertijibbet! A will-o’-the wisp! A clown!

Okay. There you have the first few lines of MARIA. Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and composition by Richard Rodgers.
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I’m looking at this and guess what? I don’t see a problem. You can’t solve a problem that isn’t there. You don’t fix someone who marches to the beat of their own drum. You embrace them. Those silly nuns were just too rule-oriented. They could have really partied up that nunnery, had they had vision and insight. Shut up, nuns. One should waltz on their way to mass. One should whistle on the stair. And what wimple wouldn’t look more fabulous than one with the bulge of curlers beneath it? Get real, nuns! I mean, seriously. So, in closing…one does not solve a problem like Maria. One embraces the freedom that Maria personifies. One doesn’t catch a cloud and pin it down. Christ! That’s a barbaric notion. One watches the cloud dance.
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When I’m with her I’m confused, out of focus and bemused
And I never know exactly where I am
Unpredictable as weather, she’s as flighty as a feather
She’s a darling! She’s a demon! She’s a lamb!
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(Let’s come back to that one above. It has something to do with the other topic in the title of this post…so I’ll just hint at its relevance here by asking you to remember I quoted it.)
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How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?
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Guess what, Nun dudes? YOU DON’T. You watch it alight on something. You experience its light and how it changes a thing. Hold it!? Those nuns were cannibals! To harness a thing that personifies delight is to kill the world itself.
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A writing quote opportunity has just arisen. This can be the segue, because let’s face it…I almost forgot what this post was to be about!
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“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” ~ Anton Chekhov

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There. From moonbeam in the hand to show don’t tell. It was a leap, but I made it.

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Now…on to preparing for a novel marathon. As some of you have probably figured out by now, I’m a lover of the weekend novel writing marathon. The MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON in particular. The 2014 marathon is coming up. Nay, it is racing to the forefront of my schedule. It is screaming itself into existence. On Friday July 11th I will make my way up to Huntsville, Ontario, for my annual MNM pilgrimage. I–along with some forty other writers–will write non-stop for 72 hours and walk away from the weekend with a complete novel under my belt. Hopefully.

One would think much planning would be involved in preparing yourself to write a novel in a weekend. One would think one would need to do some kind of writing endurance calisthenics, or something. One would think that an outline of sorts would be required. An opening paragraph. An opening line. Something!

Guess what? There is no formula. As I said, forty writers will be making the same trek as me. Forty writers will go into this marathon weekend with forty different plans, forty different ways to prepare, forty different concepts. The way one prepares for a novel writing marathon is absolutely unique to the individual. We are not all nuns, forced into the confines of formulaic rules and strategies. We don’t have to be the same. We can be as unique as snowflakes.

Let’s face it, we’re all MARIAs. Let’s just get that on the table right now. The job of the writer is to climb the tree and scrape their knee. A writer does not march in line with the rest of the world. Unless, of course, they want to. A writer of fiction takes up a challenge every time they sit down to write. They create a universe. That universe can be as structured and unmoving as steel, or it can be flibbertijibbet. How they get there is of no consequence. They climb a tree. They scrape their knee. Voila! They have a story.

To prepare for a novel marathon, a writer needs to cut away structure and discipline. They need to release control. Control lives only in the land of here-not-here. There-not-there. None of us have control of anything. To give up control is merely to give up the illusion of control. Sure, you can enter a novel marathon with a full page outline. You can have every single chapter of your novel outlined in point form. You can have your character profiles all standing in a tight little row like nuns at a shooting gallery, ready to be pegged off by angry satanists. You can do that. Yes you can.

But I’ve done seven or eight novel marathons now. I know what works for me. I know how this puppy rolls. I go in with a Nancy, a Bob and a Timothy about to embark on a story of love and deception. Half an hour into the marathon I find myself writing about Grace and Bill, two hippies who just want to change the world for the better with their hot-air balloon tour company. Free rides for anyone who donates a hundred kisses to the local animal shelter!

So, in closing, this writer does not prepare. He goes in with a story or two or seven swirling in his head…desperately wanting to be told. He picks the one that screams the most to be heard at the time he sits down to begin the marathon. He hopes it has staying power. He writes.

When I get there, I want to be confused, out of focus and bemused. I want to be unpredictable as weather, as flighty as a feather. I’m a cloud. Don’t pin me down, dude. The answer is simple. You don’t hold a moonbeam in your hand.

THE MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON IS FIRST AND FOREMOST A WAY TO BRING AWARENESS TO, AND RAISE FUNDS FOR LITERACY PROGRAMS. PLEASE CONSIDER SPONSORING MY WEEKEND NOVEL WRITING MARATHON. YOU CAN DO SO ONLINE BY CLICKING HERE. ALL FUNDS GO TO THE YMCA SIMCOE/MUSKOKA ADULT LITERACY PROGRAMS. THANK YOU SO MUCH IN ADVANCE. TOGETHER, WE CAN OBLITERATE ILLITERACY!

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Ernest Hemingway France Hemingway Left Bank Writers Retreat Paris Writers Writing Writing Advice Writing Life Writing Retreat Writing Tips

Left Bank Writers Retreat in Paris – A Writer at Work – Please Excuse the Blog Silence…

I will be slipping into the blog cone of silence once again. (-: Today I head to Paris and the LEFT BANK WRITERS RETREAT. It has been a lifelong dream of mine to go to Paris. It’s at the very top of my bucket list. In fact, a visit to the Shakespeare & Company bookstore in Paris IS the #1 item on that list. And guess where I will be heading while I’m in Paris! (-:

I will be taking small workshops every day while I’m there…little exercises in the exploration of all things writing. On the menu is; poetry, finding your voice, place as character and more. PLUS—we will be exploring Hemingway’s Paris AND F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Paris.

You can find out about the retreat by clicking RIGHT HERE. You know, in case you’re thinking you may want to go to the retreat NEXT year. I hear it’s an annual thing. (-:

Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway

Do I wish to retrace the footsteps of Hemingway? Absolutely. His A MOVEABLE FEAST is one of my all-time favourite books. I’m going to attempt to re-read it on my flight over tonight. Although I tend to do nothing but sleep while on airplanes. I can’t seem to keep my eyes open. I’m not too worried about it, though. I have practically memorized the book. (-;

Some of my favourite Moveable Feast quotes:

“You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person died for no reason.”~ ERNEST HEMINGWAY, A Moveable Feast

“By then I knew that everything good and bad left an emptiness when it stopped. But if it was bad, the emptiness filled up by itself. If it was good you could only fill it by finding something better.”~ ERNEST HEMINGWAY, A Moveable Feast

“For a poet he threw a very accurate milk bottle.”~ ERNEST HEMINGWAY, A Moveable Feast

I’m going to Paris for Hemingway. And for Paris itself. I believe it to be a beautiful city. I’m about to find out if reality matches my belief…

 

See you on the flipside. (-:

Please don’t forget to check out my previous post! I’m having a fundraiser for MALESURVIVOR. For a limited time, 100% of the royalties of my book sales will be going towards their Weekend of Recovery Scholarship program.

Categories
Writing Writing Advice Writing Life Writing Tips

A Writer’s To-Do List of Non-Writing Stuff That Will Help With Writing

All writers have time before and after (and in-between) writing time. How should we use that time? Better yet, how could we use that time in a way that may be useful to the B.I.C. (Bum In Chair) time we are afforded for our writing?

How about we make a short list?

  • READ MORE – This is the easiest thing a writer can do to assist their own writing skills. What you put in to reading, you get back tenfold as a writer. As your neurons are connecting in new and interesting ways with the stories you read on the page, so too is your imagination working in the background on your own creative avenues of adventure. Never underestimate the power that reading gives you as a writer.
  • RECOGNIZE THAT YOU ARE A PART OF A BIGGER FAMILY – It doesn’t matter what we write, writers have great opportunities to commune with one another in many interesting ways. Join writing circles, both in-person and online. Help other writers and accept help from other writers. There is SO much you can do. Host them on your blog, either in the form of a guest post or an interview. Offer to beta read their work. Be creative…if you can think of something that would benefit you, chances are it would benefit your fellow writer.
  • NOTE TO SELF – This sounds corny, but it helps. Really, it does. Leave yourself little post-it notes on your mirror. Today, I will write an amazing sentence! I will edit Chapter 16 today! Today I will finish my first draft! I am a great writer! I will be published! I am going to submit something today! An agent is going to ask me for a full! You get the picture. Write yourself positive affirmations about your writing, about your writing life…
  • VISIT THE HARD STUFF – We all skirt that place in our minds where we fear to tread. You know those demons you carry but dare not write about. Go there. Go to the deepest darkest place you can find inside of yourself…and when you come back from the journey, write from there! Be fearless. Your heart has a story to tell. Listen to it. Be authentic.
  • GO FOR A WALK – Yes. A walk. It’s simple. ♪♫Put one foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walking across the flo-o-or. Put one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll be walking out the door.♪♫ Do silent meditation walks through the forest. Walk downtown and listen to the traffic. Walk downtown and listen to music screaming in your headphones as you drown out the traffic. It doesn’t matter how you do it…a walk is a fantastic thing for a writer to take. Your mind forgets the niggling day to day things when you’re out for a brisk walk…it’s free to wander. You can get it working for you in writerly ways.
  • TAKE YOUR SHIT SERIOUSLY – Write out goals for yourself. This is a bit like the post-it notes, but the mind is a terrible enemy of the heart. We have to repeatedly poke it to get it to do what we want it to do sometimes. Once your goals are on paper, see to it that you achieve them. You’re the only one standing in your way. Nobody else is going to give a shit if you succeed or fail. Do it for you. 200 words a day times 365 days is 73,000 words. Break your goals down into manageable bites if need be. I just showed you an example of this with a goal to write a novel in 1 year. Seems like a hell of a hard thing to do—write a novel in a year. Then you break it down into 200 words a day and you can’t imagine not being able to write a measly 200 words in one day. 200 words is nothing, right? This bullet point alone is almost 200 words. Do this many words every day for a year and you have yourself a novel. Treat your writing like it’s important—like your shit matters. Because it does. It’s yours. It’s the result of your creativity. That’s golden.
  • SERIOUSLY, CHILLAX – Writing is fun. Writing is allowing your creative side to do cartwheels across the floor. Writing is liberating your inner-child to sing at the top of his/her voice in the library where quietude is mandatory. Writing is using every colour in the crayon box to colour in your horse, just because you want to. Don’t, for the love of god and all things holy, make it a chore. When you feel that writing is becoming a chore, step away from it. You’re doing it wrong. Go read some poetry—maybe Shel Silverstein or Dr. Seuss. Don’t be serious. But be serious.
  • FIND WAYS TO LEAVE YOUR COMFORT ZONE – Yes. Do it. Book yourself at an open mic event. Or get your own audience of friends and peers and read aloud from your work in front of them. Get yourself into a writing commitment with a seriously scarey deadline. Offer to teach a workshop at your local library. Do something that will put you out on a limb without a paddle, or up a river without a parachute. Make yourself breathless with fear.
  • TAKE INTERESTING COURSES THAT HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH WRITING BUT LOADS TO DO WITH CREATIVITY – You must have other interests? Macrame? Underwater Basket-Weaving? Photography? Stained-Glass Window Design? Theatre Arts & Drama? Oil Painting? Finger Painting? Bamboo Carving? Glass Blowing? Totem Pole Carving? All these things feed the creative monster inside. Learning new skills also gives you more to write about.

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On Writing Writing Life

What Can YOU Do for Other Writers?

All writers, no matter where they are on their path, can use a little help. There’s so much you can do for your fellow writer friends.

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  • Beta read their manuscript for them. It always helps to get feedback on your story, to know what’s working and what can be tweaked to work better.
  • Go out for a coffee with them to for some 3D mind-mapping. They can bounce their ideas off of you. Sometimes just saying them out loud changes the course of the idea excavating. By using you as a sounding board, they may be able to go deeper, realize ideas they might not have discovered had they been jotting them down instead. And coffee is always good.
  • Help them with editing. No manuscript does not require editing. A writer doesn’t always see their own glitches. Your unbiased eye on their work could really help.
  • Read their pitch/synopsis/query letter and give the valuable feedback that a second pair of eyes can give. Sometimes the pitch, synopsis/query letter is WAY harder than writing the entire manuscript. It often helps to get feedback on these prior to sending them out into the universe.
  • Be their mentor, if they are just beginning or not as far along on their path. Share what you already learned, even if you learned it the hard way…by yourself. Think of the gifts you can give to those just starting out.
  • Babysit their kids for an hour so they can have BIC time. Or two hours. Or three. I don’t think I even have to elaborate on this one.
  • Give them your spare room for a couple of hours so they can escape ‘the house’. Sometimes the only thing causing writer’s block is the sink full of dishes out of the corner of your eye, or the knowledge that the vacuuming isn’t done yet. Escape from your own environment is often the only spark you need to get the creativity flowing.
  • Tell them, “It’s okay. I understand.” Again, no elaboration needed here. Be, above all other things, a cheerleader for your writing friends.

kinopoisk.ru

I can go on, but I won’t. If you’re a writer, you probably thought, “I would love if someone did that one for me!” after most of those bullet points. If you find a writer buddy to share kindnesses like this with, it could be a mutually beneficial relationship that will go a long way in improving your day to day writing life. Always remember, we get back what we give. Your generosity can beget the generosity of others.

If you have writing friends (and I’m sure you do if you’re a writer), boost them. Support them however you can. Writing—‘they’ always say—is a solitary thing. We all write alone. But this does not mean we are required to be lonely. Find a partner, or two and three, and spread some joy. Reach out today.

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Writing Life

Deadlines and Commitments and Secret News, Oh My!

There’s a reason I love to share my good news from my writing life. It’s not because I want to brag about it. It’s not because I’m proud and I want to set myself up for a pride-goeth-before-the-fall moment. It’s so much deeper than that. I want to immediately share my writing accomplishments and milestones because I never get over being stunned that these things are happening to me. I am ALWAYS in a state of shock over my good fortune. I’m sure there’s someone standing around the next corner waiting to approach me and say, “We were only kidding, dingbat! Like these things would EVER happen to someone like you.”

But that gets a little tiring for people to hear. I know it does. I know I’M tired of hearing it. I want to own these things, take pride in them…be able to say, “I deserve this.” The truth is, I feel I am an incredibly lazy writer. I’m just waiting for the floor to fall out from under me. For people to discover just how lazy I really am when it comes to my writing life.

They say the first step is knowing that you have a problem. Sometimes I wish somebody would tell you what the second step is. What does one do with the knowledge of their problem? Enlightenment of your shortcomings seems like a huge step. I wonder how many of us try to make that initial step the journey itself. Yes, I know I have this problem…now I can die happy.

That’s not how it works. Somewhere along the line you have to discover a way to move past–move through–your problem. For me, I know my problem is about self-confidence in my abilities to write. As every accomplishment is reached, I wait for the sucker-punch that will inevitably take it away from me. I’m not worthy.

Sid Caesar died the other day (Wednesday, February 12, 2014). I wanted to share a quote of his with you.

“You think just because something good happens, THEN something bad has got to happen? Not necessarily. Two good things have happened in a row.”

That kind of smacks of his brand of humour, but it also smacks of a seemingly universal truth. Some humans have a hard time accepting good things happening to them. I suppose there is a myriad of reasons for this phenomenon. I know, for myself, I feel a high level of discomfort when a good thing happens. I don’t expect it. I worry, “BUT WHAT DOES THIS MEAN. I mean, really, mean…what does it really mean?!”

Well, lately some big GOOD THINGS have been happening to me. This time around, I’ve been trying extremely hard to just embrace them. Enjoy the ride. It might even be working somehow.

Which brings me to the deadlines and commitments. And my OH SO SECRET NEWS. (-:

I’m working fast and furious at getting through the first round of edits for HALF DEAD AND FULLY BROKEN and BURN BABY, BURN BABY. If you see me about, please YELL AT ME. Tell me to go home. Tell me B.I.C. If you see me writing blog posts, tell me to stop! I have never had 2 manuscripts to polish at once before. This is new to me. My head is swimming with these two stories as I make my way through them. Thankfully, I despise missing deadlines and I take my commitments extremely seriously. I shall overcome! I will get these edits done.

Sometimes the work you do as a writer isn’t about creation. This is the time when it becomes a chore for me. Don’t get me wrong, though. A chore does not a burden make. I love every aspect of the writing life. There are just degrees of difficulty. My Achilles heel is the editing aspect, but it doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it. I just need to give myself that extra push…I think because it’s not so much about discovery as it is about repair. The initial writing process is my heroin…trying to keep the fingers moving at the same pace as the mind as I write to discover what will happen next. Nirvana!

As for the big news that I am bursting to share? I will soon be able to announce it. Again, I am attempting to come to terms with it…accept that I am worthy of it. Once the moratorium on mentioning it has been lifted, though, you best believe I’ll be talking about it. And, hopefully, fully owning the blessing as well. I do deserve these things. I may be a lazy writer, but I’m trying. I’m doing the only thing I know how to do. I’m soldiering on. I’m connecting. I’m opening my writing life up to the possibilities that surround me. And, more than anything else combined, I’m stepping outside my comfort zone. I’m attempting to do things I never once thought I was worthy of doing.

Now, if I don’t get back to editing the guillotine I set up over my head is likely to fall. And I’m too busy at the moment to lose my head.

Happy Writing! And Happy Embracing Your Inner Writer! And Happy Accepting the Good Things that Come Your Way!

R.I.P. Sid Caesar - Thanks for the funny. Thanks for the inspiration.
R.I.P. Sid Caesar – Thanks for the funny. Thanks for the inspiration.
Categories
On Writing Writing Life

I Always Wanted to be a Writer…

Don’t you just love it when you meet people and they ask what you do and you tell them you’re a writer and their reply is, “I always wanted to be a writer too!”

I call bullshit every time. Usually with good results. There’s something about writing, isn’t there. Some people have this misguided misconception that it is somehow noble. The act of writing. In reality, it really isn’t. Talent–both hard fought and natural born–is needed in order for anything to happen with the byproduct of the actual act of writing. You can count on that. But the only thing holding these people back, the ones that say, “I always wanted to be a writer”, is desire. I tell them, “No. You don’t want to be a writer. You’re wrong about that. If you wanted to be a writer, you would sit. You would write.”

Quite often, they don’t know what to do with that response. But there are those special times when I just know I have flicked the switch. And that is about as rewarding as a thing gets. To know that you have somehow, through a series of seemingly innocuous comments, given someone else the permission to do something they have heretofore only dreamed of doing. It’s magic.

There are those who will challenge me. “I don’t have the time.” “I wouldn’t be any good at it.” “I don’t know a verb from a hootenanny.” “The kids, the spouse, the hockey games, work, shoveling the snow…I don’t know where to fit it in.” “I don’t know what to write about.”

I patiently pick apart all the excuses. They listen. They sometimes get defensive, as though I’m breaking down this wall they worked extremely hard to build up. When they’re cornered, the ones who really meant the original comment begin to think, “Well, maybe I should.”

I always think of that ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW song when this happens. You know the one. Frank N. Furter is standing up there on the RKO stage (or is he in the swimming pool?), looking larger than life and twice as nice. You know the song. He begins seductively, “Whatever happened to Fay Wray? That delicate satin draped frame…”

Most of the song absolutely doesn’t apply here. But there’s the part that goes,

CAN’T YOU SEE IT? WHOA OH OH…DON’T DREAM IT—BE-E IT.

That’s the part. If I was a singer, I would belt that line out like nobody’s business every single time somebody said, “I always wanted to be a writer” to me. Alas, I am not. I’ve been banned from singing in most provinces and States. Don’t feel sad for me…if you heard me singing you would understand.

So, if you’re a writer and you get those people entering into your life who always wanted to be a writer…call them on it. Don’t let them get away with it. Eventually, you’re gonna have a great story to tell. A story about the day you kick-started some great and talented wannabe into becoming the writer they always considered being. It’s extremely rewarding to breakdown that wall of WANNABE and pave the way to BE IT. And it just takes a nudge. A nudge and a dream.

Sometimes people just need a little push to prompt them to tackle a dream they assumed was unattainable. I’d rather help someone reach to attain their dream than quash it for them.

Categories
Music Writing Life

When the Feels are Overwhelming

Do you ever feel like your world is shaky at best, and volcanic at worst? Do you sometimes sit there and contemplate the ways of the world and suddenly feel like you’re gonna melt into a million tiny pieces? Do you get overwhelmed by the feels?

My whole life, I’ve cried at emotional commercials. My sides hitch when I read a heartrending story. The first time my emotional world well and truly collapsed into a puddle of MESS was when I watched the ROOTS series on TV. That was 1977. I’ve been crying ever since. And I am extremely unapologetic about it. If you don’t like men who cry, fuck you. If you would rather believe that boys don’t cry, go to hell. There is nothing better than a good cry. It’s as liberating as all hell.

When I’m writing a novel, I love to play those killer songs that get me every single time I hear them. I love feeling emotionally destroyed, and I can put myself there with ease…one or two of those old standby songs and I’m a swamp of FEELS needing deep emotional rescuing.

I like to write in this place of vulnerability. I just have to trust that it’s the music making me feel so deeply. If I’m not careful, I will convince myself that I am actually deeply depressed. Actually, I think it’s an extremely thin line between allowing yourself to feel deep emotional connection to a sad song and falling hopelessly into a trench-of-hell depression. It’s a slippery slope, but SO VERY worth it.

One of my last posts for ALL THE WRITE LINES was one I titled NOSTALGIA AND EMOTIONAL SOUNDTRACKS (OR HOW TO CATCH THE FEELS). In that post I talked about some of the songs that most trigger my vulnerable feelings. THE THE’s PERFECT and AND IF VENICE IS SINKING by THE SPIRIT OF THE WEST. Please click on the link I provided in the blog post’s title to read the post. I’ll wait for you to get back. See you soon! (-:

Now, today I thought I would take out the big guns. You know, for those of you who erroneously believe that BOYS DON’T CRY. The one song that can drag me down to the very bottom of my soul is EVERYBODY HURTS by R.E.M. I seriously have to hide the razorblades while listening to this song. It resonates more than anything else I have ever listened to in my history of music listening.

Sometimes, I’ll listen to this song over and over for hours. It puts me in the mindset I need to be in to write teen-angst. That’s what I like to write. I know I’m in my late 40s. It’s just…I understand being an alien attempting to navigate the high school world. I like to relive it in different ways through my YA characters. In order to do this, get myself down into that place where pain lives, I like to listen to the songs that used to put me there. There is something golden about allowing music to transform you.

IN BETWEEN DAYS by The Cure used to knock me out. In the most delightful way.

“Yesterday I got so old
I felt like I could die
Yesterday I got so old
It made me want to cry
Go on go on
Just walk away
Your choice is made
Go on go on
And disappear
Go on go on
Away from here” ~ In Between Days by The Cure

Fuck. That right there was the mantra of my teen years.

(A little P.S. on The Cure. Their music was able to uplift me every time. A lot of people thought they were mega-depressing, but they were sickly uplifting for me. Even the sad stuff. There was always a smile on my face when listening to them.)

Sometimes, when I really need to plug in to the FEELS, I sit and I listen to the songs I listened to in the 80s. Alone in my room with my shitty turntable. I needed to tape quarters to the needle arm in order for it to work. Three quarters were too many, while two were just enough. One wasn’t enough. Music owns us. It doesn’t matter how old we are. When we hear a song that connects with us on a spiritual level, that makes us go, “YES! THAT’S IT. EXACTLY!” that song will always be with us.

As writers, we get to manipulate ourselves (and our emotions). We can tinker with our emotional landscape until we’re at the exact right ‘place’ we need to be in in order to write a particular scene. I do this by the easiest means available…I listen to music.

Yeah, there’s a lot of talk about SOUNDTRACK OF MY NOVEL. But what you should really be doing is creating an EMOTIONAL SOUNDTRACK to your novel.

By the way, this works just as well tossing out a happy song that makes you smile every time. If you’re writing a happy scene, you can prepare yourself by listening to something that always put a smile on your face. My go to for this emotion was always CAPTAIN SENSIBLE. Boy could make me kick up a smile faster than a rogue car on the Audubon could lose control.

Before you sit down to write, go ahead…manipulate yourself. Have fun with it. You can be the master of your emotional landscape. You might discover that it helps your writing immeasurably.

Happy Writing!

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Writers Writing Writing Advice Writing Retreat Writing Tips

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…

Categories
Casa Loma Writing Life

The Secret Passage that Led Me Back to My Middle Grade Novel!

I have been dragging a certain Middle Grade novel around with me for a few years now. Seriously, it’s ridiculous how many times I have taken it out and edited it, read it, or simply slapped it upside the head.

I don’t know what it is about this novel. When I’m IN it, it captures me completely. But when I get some distance from it, I feel super unsure of it. I have not yet moved to prepare it for the trip to the agent’s desk. I keep planning on doing so, but I keep stopping myself from clicking send.

Well, as one is wont to do on a Saturday…I spent last Saturday in a castle. As I toured the ramparts and the basement and the secret rooms and the conservatory and the library and the bedrooms and the garrets, I thought nothing of my little novel in hiding.

Casa Loma - High Tea - February 1, 2014
Casa Loma – High Tea – February 1, 2014

It wasn’t until I came across a passage that brought me from the basement wine cellar to the upstairs study that it hit me. My god! I’m inside the walls! When that realization hit me, the whole story of DUBIOUS PICKLES AND THE SPACE BETWEEN THE WALLS came back to me. I have so many feels for Dubious, the strange middle-aged character of my middle grade book. I love him to pieces.

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While standing in the narrow stairwell that would take me to the study, I allowed my friends to get ahead of me so I could capture the moment between the castle walls on film. I wanted to have this reminder to fall back on for the next time I opened up the dusty manuscript.

Little did I know, that moment on the secret stairs between the castle walls would reignite my passion for Dubious and his quirky little story.

I need to get back to this story!

Here’s a first draft synopsis for Dubious:

Everyone in Dobber Corner is afraid of Dubious Pickles. Everyone that is, except ten-year-old Arbour Lévesque. After an encounter with Dubious at the local thrift shop, Arbour knows there is nothing to fear. But when he follows Dubious home and peeks inside his windows, he discovers the world of impossibilities in which Dubious lives. Arbour witnesses a walking talking plastic man, a flying cat and a staircase that does everything twice.

Arbour decides to befriend the shy Dubious, but he knows it won’t be an easy task. He badgers his friends to help him infiltrate Dubious’ magical house. Inside, they discover that Dubious lives in a maze of secret passageways that honeycomb his mansion’s ancient walls. Afraid of their attention, Dubious attempts to scare the boys away. When drowning them in a room of pearls doesn’t do the trick, he tosses them into a cavernous abyss that takes them all to Nowhere Fast. Arbour’s brother Newton, a card-carrying genius-inventor-extraordinaire, lends a hand and the boys are able to overcome every obstacle Dubious throws their way.

The boys eventually convince Dubious they mean him no harm, but coaxing him out from behind his walls is but a short-lived victory. Bad things begin to happen in their town and the adults are quickly vanishing. Arbour knows that only the childlike Dubious can help him save the town from a threat more menacing than Dubious Pickles ever was.

So, as I battle to finish another project I’m nearing the end on…I now feel the need to keep this Dubious passion alive once more. I’m going to be looking at this picture of the stairwell often to help remind me of the story. I have officially marked it as my next project to bring to completion.

God! Why is it that writers have such a hard time finishing an idea before they move on to the next one. Life would be so much easier for me if I just wrote linearly. I won’t even go into how many WIPs I have on the go right now. I’ll just say I can’t count them on one hand. This makes me all jittery and panicky…so I don’t like to think about it.

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In case you’re wondering what the heck I would be doing in a castle, I visited Casa Loma in Toronto. They were having HIGH TEA as part of the city’s WINTERLICIOUS festivities. The tea was fantastic! And so was the tour of the castle. It was about 35-40 years since I last stepped foot in Casa Loma.

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Thank God I was lucky enough to take a stroll between the walls of this amazing castle this past weekend. That stroll has helped to reignite the flame. (-:

Now, on to Dubious, Arbour and the rest of these crazy characters! They deserve to see their story completed.

Categories
Green Writing Life

It’s Not Easy Being Green…er, I Mean Me

Speaking of frogs, my grandson is well and truly obsessed with them. He hasn’t met a frog he doesn’t love.

In fact, he’s in love with the colour green itself. He sings songs to the colour green. For Edward, I believe it would be extremely easy to be green.

As for being me…it’s often hard. This is true of life in general, of course, but what I’m talking about here is my writing life. It’s not easy. Particularly in the winter. It’s hard to catch the spark, if you know what I mean. It’s even harder when you feel obligated to finish a project. And at the moment I’m feeling particularly obligated to finish a certain project that shall, here, remain nameless.

Let’s just say it’s when you most need a project to be taken care of that that project fights you tooth and nail. Every step of the way.  Just when I think I have it by the tail, it struggles itself away from me. And this isn’t even a real deadline. There’s nobody standing beside me with a gun to my temple telling me, “WRITE! FINISH IT! NOW!” It’s just little ole me, wanting to get it done. Although, the mother of the little man who loves green is waiting to read the rest of this particular work-in-progress. And she’s not exactly subtle about it.

I don’t know what it is about this project. Usually I just thrash about until I’m finished a story. I don’t particularly think about the next turn in the road…I just take it. I don’t brag when I say this. I have just been extraordinarily lucky when it comes to writing a novel. I don’t outline, and mostly it’s just a struggle to keep my hands moving as fast as the story that floats by on the movie-screen of my mindscape. But this story, it’s different. The first three quarters came to me at a shocking pace. The last third is not surrendering to me as quickly as I would like it to.

This infuriates me. This makes me question my ability to write. This makes me kick and scream somewhere deep inside of myself. Yes, I even admit to being overly dramatic on the subject. I may have even stood out in the street in the middle of the night, looking up into the cold dark stratosphere and screamed,

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Maybe. I might have done that. I might not have done that. There’s no video footage, so one cannot be entirely sure.

Listen, I just want to put this one to bed. I just want to write those golden words at the end of the journey.

THE END

Those words are heavenly to the writer. They signify the end of a long arduous trek. Oddly, they also signify the death of a loved one. As heavenly as it is to write those words, it is also slightly tragic. It’s you stepping away from characters you loved spending time with. It’s you telling them, “Goodbye.”

So, yeah, it’s hard being me. It’s frustrating. I may not be green, but that doesn’t mean I can’t sing the blues every now and again.

I know what you’re thinking. Cry me a freakin’ river. Well, I am…so there. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up. I’m going to beat this thing. I WILL win! This manuscript has nothing on me. I will NOT fall to pieces.

Actually, that’s the perfect song for how I feel about my WIP.

I fall to pieces, each time I see you again.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate my manuscript. I just want to conquer it. Sometimes we writers need to declare war on our projects in order to get to the finish line. Tonight, that’s what I’m doing. This means war….