Split Personality: lexicon Sabotage

Dr. Jessica and Mrs. Hide-the-beiotch psycho Jess. This has been my life this month.

I was set to do a challenge: 52K in May that my bestie Owen generously crammed into my busy stay-at-home-mom schedule. It was only two thousand words a day. Seemed easy enough. Even challenged myself to try to finish a rough draft.

You may have noticed I was speaking in the past tense. Yeaahhhhhh. I haven’t even hit the 20K mark.

I can’t say I didn’t see this coming, especially given the life-changing events that happened in the first week of May. Plus I just know me. I did tell Owen I would start strong and peter out. I haven’t developed that fine skill called “discipline” yet. I write my blog posts because I must but I have about 7 half-finished Mother Project stories and uncategorized fiction pieces. My story has one and a half scenes done in it.

I tried many days to sit and force myself to write at least 1000 words. Then it was 800. Then it was even 200. I was slipping away from reality.

It was overkill. Emotionally strapped. Mentally tapped. Physically exhausted from the stress. Happy Pinkie Pie Jessica was gone. Mrs. Hide-a-beiotch came out to glare. There was no way I was going to write another damnable word until I was good and ready. This started a downward spiral of “not caring”. This was different that the “take a break and come right back” situations. This was a full-on “I EFFING HATE YOU GET AWAY FROM ME” situation.

Boycott for three days.

I did nothing except the basics. Fed the family. Got the kids to and from school. Fought off the outbreak of the Norovirus going around. There was a cease-fire in my life.

Normal Jessica could only sit and watch helplessly as one, two, three days went by with no progress. She watched as Black Jess moved listlessly from activity to activity, trying to find something interesting to do. It was just too much to even do those things. Lots of naps were taken.

Congratulations are in order though, for the part of me that’s developed enough to recognize the urgency of needing to write. That was something I hadn’t been able to cultivate before. I sat within my own skin and as my deadline got closer and closer, the more I pressed against the skin of my Stubbornness to try to break free. I am sabotaging myself and I can see it. One step forward, two steps back.

“WRITE!” I screamed to unresponsive fingers. “Write anything! Just put words down!”

Black Jess summarily ignored the pleas and proceeded to eat a second brownie.

This post is the first thing I’ve written in four days and it’s only being written because I’ve trained myself over the last year that Monday Blogs are Necessary. Yes, it took a whole year of consistency to get this small victory locked in and it’ll take even longer to move past the other barriers keeping me from being a successful writer. I AM proud of it. I can give myself credit for this. But…

How does that saying go? “Leo the late bloomer…?” AKA extreme procrastinator. I’m the Queen of it.

You see, my split personality sabotages me. Black Jess is very much a self-satisfier; child-like and demanding. She will absolutely refuse to do anything that doesn’t please her. Nothing will shake her out of this mood until she’s good and ready to be shaken. I believe this will be the biggest stumbling block of mine. Publishers and agents won’t take tantrums as an excuse for unwritten manuscripts. They don’t got time for that. Time is money and they will cauterize any leaks the suspect will be a long-term problem.

I have to write like my life depends on it. My happiness certainly does. It’s my biggest dream after all and it deserves every effort from me. But I don’t know how to force myself to write when Black Jess comes out. I don’t know how to do ANYTHING when she comes out except sleep. I’m genuinely concerned about this Mr. Hyde quality in myself. Is it manifestations of the stress I’ve been feeling? Is it the culmination of a lifetime of being sheltered and spoiled? Do I just wait it out and come back when I can? Do I schedule “writing vacations” so this doesn’t happen randomly?

I have no answers for these things and I know I’ll have to figure it out before I start to seriously query agents.

How do you deal with these types of things? I sincerely want to know.

52k in May: We will writes the nasty wordses—

And so it begins.

I’m going to run the gauntlet. I’m going to do a trial by fire. I’m–going to write. And I will hates it.

I was challenged to do a Camp NaNoWriMo this month by my bestie Owen. I think it’s because he loves me and wants me to succeed but it might be a little bit because he’s tired of hearing me whine. “I want to be a published author wah wah wah! It’s hard to write waaahahhaah!!” Poor guy. He’s my unofficial editor (and psychologist) and he only gets paid in gratitude.

“SO WRITE.” <–passive aggressive voice of Owen.

Wha…? His demand startled me out of my latest tantrum.

“You’re going to do another NaNo in May.”

“Whoa wait! What?!”

“Fifty two thousand words. Thirty one days. NO complaints. NO getting out of it. DO IT. (Rewards and punishments to follow).”

Owen doesn’t make demands. Ever. So of course I had to do it. And it will indeed be a trial by fire because on top of this I have to deal with deep emotional crap from just about everyone I know AND allergies AND my exercise routines. Yee haw. I’d better come out of this rock hard and ready to be a savvy published novelist .-.

LETS DO THIS THING!!!!

As I thought about this challenge though and May 1st was drawing nearer, I realized that as simple as the challenge was, basically 2k words a day, I wasn’t going to be satisfied just writing short stories or flash fiction everyday. I mean, it would definitely give me a leg up on my blog but it wouldn’t put a stop to my whining. I needed to complete something; beginning, middle and end. So I added the challenge to my growing list.

As we all know, however, first projects are usually crap. There are a few exceptions that have published best sellers right out of the gate but so many authors I know have misses because it’s their first. They haven’t found their voice yet or locked in the secret to a  successful plot arc. Whatever the case. I kept this in mind as I perused my story ideas and realized I didn’t want my first rough draft, the one that would be my first guinea pig, to be a story I cared deeply about like Silver Sun or Hourglass.

Okay, I care deeply about all my stories. Don’t get the wrong idea.

I care enough to want to write them, after all. This was different. The stories that have stayed with me for years I wished to give my best and most honest effort to. I want them to be the best versions I can make them and that requires more practice from me. So I chose something instead that I haven’t outlined to death but has a good strong foundation. (I’m a pantser at heart. My best work comes out of that.) It was a plot bunny story that wouldn’t leave me alone a few months back.

So far, I’m sure you’ll be happy to hear, this has been working for me! Within the first two days I wrote 5K in this plot bunny story and I like the hook. It starts out with drama and eases the reader into the strange world the book takes place in. (Apologies for being vague. It’s still an ugly baby story and I must protect it!)

Day three I finished a 4K blog post short story

Day four I had four different visitors to my house and wrote in between conversations.

Day five I had…a very big development in my personal life that confounded me so I only wrote 600, understandably.

Now it is day six and I am trying my very hardest to get back on track, in spite of my turmoil. Because that’s what writers do, don’t they? Which brings me around to the title of this post.

This is perhaps the first time in my writing career that I have forced myself to write when I didn’t want to. Yep. I’m pretty much the adult version of a child throwing down her toys and declaring in a screechy voice that I WILL NOT be doing my chores today.

C’monnnnn we’ve all been there! There’s shopping to do, cars to wash, kids to wrangle, toe nails to clip…no time to write! Or we’ll use one of those excuses given to us by the writers that have come before us. “Yes, it’s okay to take a little break. Recharge your brain. Go relax and come back when you’re ready.”

Yeeeep. Legit “get out of jail free” cards from the Pros. BYE! Netflix and popcorn. Just one or two episodes….or binge watch 13 Reasons Why. It’s okay. Go for it.

AS IF!

Writing is hard. It’s especially hard when inspiration has left you and you have to pound out one word after another, hating every damnable letter. These are the moments where authors have to dig in deep. You and your novel are married. You have to sit down now, have a long talk, and muscle through it. You have no other choice because this is your dream.

I have to put my big girl panties on in times like these. I need to get serious. Think of it as practice for when I have a REAL deadline form a REAL agency. Getting paid to write books. Have to develop good habits now while I’m still a tender young thing, ready to be molded and taught. I know this now so I’m going to force my way through it. Even if it takes many shots of alcohol, three walks a day and a full hour of exercise to get my frustrations out, I will write gawd bless it! I can always go back and edit the crap that I wrote but I can’t edit NOTHING.

So I will writes, but I will hates it. One step closer to the big leagues. I hope.

You too! Keep going!

Conquering biblio-phobia, one afflicted at a time

(Image is Maka Albarn and Soul from the anime “Soul Eater”)

“I blame you, you know.”

This statement was directed at me three times this week from three different people. (When it rains, it pours, no?)

“Oh lovely. What for?” I ask with trepidation.

In a fraction of a second I’d listed ten possibilities for deserving blame. What a guilty and skittish conscience I possessed!

“I didn’t like reading before you. Now I can’t walk into book stores with money or I become the proud owner of section four.”

*Blink Blink* “Oh.”

HA.

HAHAHAHAHAHA! Double HA! <–this is the sound of my soul laughing gleefully and with much sadistic pleasure. Truly, is there any greater blame to shoulder than that of “forcing” books on people? I’m happy to be guilty of this. It’s shaped my life really. My mother read to me every night before bed when I was a kid and she was always reading herself.  Then I entered school and had the pleasure of choosing my OWN books from the library. Wonder of wonders! It took off from there. Words became my life.

I was the weird kid that wanted to go to the library instead of the park when we had a choice. I was only allowed to take out three books of one subject at the time, which was fair for most people. Three books in three weeks. HA. More like three books in two days. Mom started having to check out extras for me to last me the week until we could go back. Finally the librarians threw up their hands and let me get as many as I wanted. I was on a first name basis with everyone.

My sister was not this kind of person and it was through her I saw the other side of things. She was an action person. If she had a choice she would Energizer Bunny her way through everyday, eating on the go, sleeping on the go, going on the go… She had no patience or time for books. She got frustrated with the words she couldn’t pronounce and couldn’t understand and she was embarrassed to read aloud. She grew to hate it. When there were books as required reading for school she would have to seek out the large print editions to help her focus better and mom would have to sit for a grueling hour to get through one chapter. It was the most difficult task to sit, read and absorb. I felt sometimes she was Golem from Lord of the Rings:

“We will reads the books, but we HATESSS ITTTT!”

Complete with hissing and spitting.

Such an alien concept for me. She lived for reality and I lived for my imagination. Once my sister was out of school and she was free of books she ran away and didn’t look back for many, many years. Meanwhile, I was filling my shelves with paper goodness and plowing through my first writing endeavors.

She was one of the people who laid blame squarely on my shoulders this week for turning her into a book eater. She found a book at one of my library sales and she liked it so much she got the second one. And then the third. My sister willingly BOUGHT a book. With her own money. And then, be still my heart, she asked me for recommendations.

Yep.

*blink blink* Wha….?

I think I marked the day on my calendar. August something or other two years ago. (It was also the day my radiator cracked. It was a yin/yang day.)

The other two victims were no less shocking to me although in different ways.

One was my long time friend from middle school. She was much like my sister; always go go go! She wasn’t as averse to books as my sis but she found most of them boring and predictable. If she was going to read something cover to cover, it had to be something beautiful and challenging, like Shakespeare or John Milton. She aced book reports and read perfectly outloud but there were much more interesting things to do for her. She teased me, ever the book worm, for always having my nose in a book.

We parted ways for a long time, going to different High Schools and then life taking us to different cities. When we reconnected later though, well into our adult years but still ‘forever’ friends. (One of those friends that, no matter how long you go without seeing, will always feel like no time has passed at all when you see each other again.) We set a date to meet up for dinner and drinks and after the shock of seeing each other fatter and wiser, we got to talking. As per usual with me, books had to slip into the conversation.

“That reminds me, ” she said. “While we’re here I need to try to find the last book in a series I’ve been reading. They don’t have it in the store near my place.”

*Blink* “Really?!”

I felt my ears grew like a cartoon character’s, engulfing our booth with their keen awareness of the words “Need Last Book”. MY friend. My PICKY book friend wanted a book. Joy of joys! I threw down my napkin and asked for the check. We did indeed find that book for her and we both left feeling satisfied. When she returned years later (under less auspicious circumstances) her visits became a regular occurrence at my house and she snorted at my “hoarding”. By this time I had three tall shelves double stacked with books and a pile waist-high on the floor, also double stacked. (Shhhh.)

Well. One thing led to another and soon her tote bag was heavy with inked dead trees full of awesome. I couldn’t help smirking. Two for two. We didn’t have the same tastes and that’s okay. I was at about a 50% approval rating from her but she managed to find her own interests amongst my shelves. Still a win. I deserved that smirk of triumph, dammit!

Last to lay blame was an unexpected person. He’s a very mature and learned guy. Well-traveled thanks to being in a military family, an Online School honor student most of his life, knowledgeable and healthy and active. He seemed to have the whole package from my point of view. But he had a fatal flaw. Yes, you can probably guess.

He was book poor. Owen, my darling, I love you but you’re on this list.

*GASSSPPPP!*

I KNOW! How does such a smart guy become this way?! His reasoning was entirely different from the other two afflicted and probably baffled me the most. His reluctance for literature was more that “he chose bad books.”

*Blink blink* HOW THE FU**——?!

AHEM.

I am ever a student of life. This was news to me.

Yes, he somehow managed to choose the exact wrong books for himself. Frugal to begin with, the thought of spending money had to be a careful decision for him. Then insert the millions of titles out there to peruse and no wonder my poor friend felt like hiding under a rock! And then finally to have the bad luck to choose novels that let him down…

Well. As a connoisseur of fiction, I offered to him the gentle hand of friendship and made him a list of my most favorite books. This seemed an acceptable form of research for him. He could do his own contemplation on them via the interwebz and decide for himself if it was something he wanted to buy in his own time. To further ease his anxiety about spending money on books I recommended he first try Second Hand stores. They were about half the price or cheaper for books at a chain store and there was less pressure from the sales people to make a purchase or push their recommendations on him. It was endless books and peacefulness with the smell of dust and old paper in your nose.

HEAVEN.

Much to our mutual delight, the first trilogy on the list was a success. I rejoiced with him for weeks as he delved in and grew more interested. We talked and laughed and shared quotes back and forth. It was a beautiful feeling. Not only did I have a new person to talk about my favorite books with but he now had a positive experience with a book! THREE of them!

It didn’t stop there, much to my delight. My second and third titles also caught his interest and he began to actively pursue acquiring them in preparation for reading. After this happened, he then had the confidence to purchase, of his own accord, an entirely new series I had not even heard of. He purchased them on Amazon and they came to him in the mail. He thus got to experience the agony of waiting and the mini Christmas celebration of getting packages in the mail.

~Deck the halls with books and shelves, Muahahahaha hahahahaaaaaaa…~

I’m 3/3 curing these beloved afflicted of their Biblio-phobia and I could not be prouder of us. There’s a great joy in sharing interests with people who are receptive to them. You create a rapport and a new thread of trust is formed, adding to the rope already connecting you.

I don’t mind giving myself a pat on the back for this. My purpose on this earth is to inspire and create. They are a living manifestation of my dream.

*PAT PAT*

To hopefully further this dream, I’m going to include a brief list of the books I have recommended to my family and friends that we’ve mutually enjoyed. These recommendations are  mostly fantasy based with some sci-fi and romance thrown in. Big thanks to Goodreads for providing summaries for these 😉

“Sabriel” , “Lirael”, “Abhorsen” (The Abhorsen Trilogy)–Garth Nix

“The Belgariad”–composed of 5 books–“Pawn of Prophecy”, “Queen of Prophecy” “Magicians Gambit”, “Castle of Wizardry”, “Enchanter’s Endgame“–David Eddings

“Daughter of the Forest”, “Son of the Shadows”, “Child of the Prophecy” (The Sevenwaters Trilogy)–Juliet Marillier

“Iron King”, “Iron Daughter”, “Iron Queen”, “Iron Knight” (The Iron Fey Series)–Julie Kagawa

“The Unexpected Dragon”–Mary Brown

“The Wee Free Men” (Discworld #30)–Terry Pratchett (READ ANY AND ALL OF HIS BOOKS!)

“Archangel”, “Jovah’s Angel”, “The Alleluia Files”“Angelica”, “Angel Seeker” (The Samaria Series)–Sharon Shinn

“Neverwhere”–Neil Gaiman

“Men in Kilts”–Katie MacAlister

“The Devil Wears Prada”— Lauren Weisberger

“Eat, Pray, Love” –Elizabeth Gilbert

“In her Shoes”–Jennifer Weiner

Mars VS. Venus (No, this is not about Sailor Moon)

The first draft of my #7 “Mother Project” story, More than words I sent to my bestie Owen for review. I needed his opinion since part of the story involved a guy’s point of view. It’s a bit of an emotionally charged piece about a man who finally confesses his love for his long time best friend. I know I needed to push myself outside my comfort zone so this happened. Men emotions are alien creatures to me though. Men are enigmas. I needed back up.

I thought I’d done an OK job on the story. The MC wasn’t blubbering or word vomiting his feelings. He did guy things like fist bumps and spoke in short concise sentences. He was able to function normally at his job and nobody saw anything was wrong. That’s very “guy” right? Ha.

“He still sounds like a girl.”

It was the first thing Owen said to me after finishing reading.

My reaction: *Sad face* D,:

I’m sure he heard my heart plummet to the floor.

Even more sad is the fact he couldn’t tell me how to fix it. Or wouldn’t because he’s a butt and thought it would be “cheating”. Greaaaattttttt. This is what I get for toeing the comfort line. Alright. I had two options. Find a guy in the immediate vicinity that would actually be willing to talk in depth about his psyche (I rank this phenomenon up there with winged flying pigs)…or turn to the ever comprehensive blogosphere.

Ahhh thank gawd for internet. Pinterest, especially.

I found several helpful articles that outlined some great pointers about Male Point of View. It was a relief I didn’t have to pull this out of my writer’s Hat of diminishing Magic Tricks. I ate up every word, amazed and thankful there are SOME men out there willing to give an account of their inner workings (THANK YOU).

So here’s the break down of the male POV, generalized of course since there are always facets and fractions to everything:

  1. Any problem they face will normally be dealt with in a physical manner first. Immediate action.
  2. When they talk to other guys, it’s usually about one or two shared interests such as sports, cars, music, sports, politics, religion, sports or the occasional stamp collection. Also, if he can make them laugh, then he’ll do so. Goes for men and women.
  3. When they talk to women, it depends on if they think the woman likes them or not. Either potential love interest or deep friend-zone “one of the guys”. Guys, apparently, cannot have platonic friendships with women so this is the way they’re categorized. (I find this completely off in my world but whatever…)
  4. Guys will normally hide their inner feelings unless it is an extreme case, such as death or a harsh break up. This is what they’re taught. They CAN cry. They just reserve the tears until they have no other choice.
  5. On understanding women: believe or not, most men DO listen women and understand. They just don’t know what to do about it. This is partly the woman’s fault if she can’t communicate what she wants to him. Which brings me to the final point…
  6. Men aren’t psychic. They DO NOT know what is in a woman’s mind (thankfully). They don’t catch subtle cues or flirting. They don’t know what the should and shouldn’t do in every given situation. Women, throw them a frickin’ bone. Making the first move will put them at ease.

I want to remind you this is a GENERAL list culminated from the articles and interviews I’ve read. No one male will fit all this criteria so please don’t flame me. I respect all personalities and quirks and flaws! It adds character.

Ah, speaking of characters…

Now that I’ve outlined the male POV, it’s time to do the hard part. The other hard part I mean. Time to apply it to my writing. With a brutal and scrutinizing eye, I cut out mushy paragraphs. I shortened lengthy emotional inner monologues. To the other characters my MC interacted with, he was totally 100% cool male. Okay. DONE. But how the heck do I convey he’s hurting inside to the audience and still make him sound male??? “I miss her” just doesn’t cut it. Or does it? It’s more than that surely! Isn’t it? Guys??

What a conundrum. It really worried me that I would fail at this first tiny test I gave myself. I wanted to give it a fair shot, even though I knew it wouldn’t be anywhere near perfect. I considered reaching for the books on my shelves for hard core examples of Male POV. Do you know how hard I had to search? Seriously. I had “Harry Potter”, “Percy Jackson”, “Eragon” and book 1 of “The Dresden Files” to guide me through male POV. Those are the only books I’d read that had male leading characters that I could find in a pinch. (I have 6 book cases double stacked guys…gimme a break, kay?)

The industry, it seems, has a distinct lack of male protagonist novels. Or I’m just not picking them up off the shelves. I wish I could say that this put a fire in my belly to write the Next Great American Fiction Series with an Epic Male Leading Character. It didn’t. They say write what you know and man language is Swahili to me. I’m still trying to write one COMPLETE novel, much less one with a male MC. I’ll stick to short jaunts in flash fiction for now, thanks.

But there’s nothing stopping YOU! Go for it! You’ve got the basics right here in one nifty little blog post plus the plethora of other articles out there.

I’m not sure I aced this Male POV test but I DID publish the short story as proof I was brave enough to try. It definitely still needs work, but at least it’s out there, right? I’m going to be putting out part two on Thursday, which is from the female’s POV. Pssshhh it’s in the bag… HA.

I have to say over all though I enjoyed researching for this challenge. It’s one of the goals I want to achieve this year. I want to be more informative and less opinion based writing my blog articles. It’s one thing to write all about me but now I hope that you can take something away as well. Inspire each other, right? Write.

WRITE! Expand. Experiment. Be Brave. Go do it!

Straw into Gold

I scared myself recently. But first I want to take a brief look back.

In light of the fact that I’ve officially been on WordPress for one year (they sent me a happy anniversary notification), I decided to look back on my accomplishments. I looked at the Pros first.

  1. I managed to stick with something for more than a few months. Yes there were a few weeks where I did no writing but I came back to it. Routine has never been my thing.
  2. I have 26 followers. (THANK YOU!) Never thought I’d get any and I celebrated every time the counter went up.
  3. I started the Mother Project, which means I had to get over my biggest fear and put my writing out there for public consumption. (And my Mother’s.)
  4. I explored myself as a writer and learned a bit more about how I work.
  5. I discovered many people on here that I enjoy reading and have enriched my experiences as a writer and human being.

Those are like, the TOP 5 but I had to admit I struggled to even get those down. It’s because artists are their own worst critics and in our esteemed opinion, we are never good enough. Trying to shine a good light on our work is difficult.

So I looked at these 5 and sighed. I felt my shoulders droop a little. That’s all? This is what I accomplished in a year? I was hoping I’d be farther along by now. Have more comments, more likes, more interactions. I felt like a shy violet in the shadow of the mighty oaks that came before me. I had to do more. That much was for damn sure. My minimal effort wasn’t enough.

Okay. Okay! I can do this. Let’s find out what it takes! We’ve been at this a year. Let’s take another swim with the sharks.

It was this mind-set that had me venturing into the great gaping Maw that is “Publishing” again.

WordPress has a terrific number of articles about publishing. There are editors here that can give you the skinny on what they want from writers, marketers that tell of their experiences in the industry, authors and bloggers that have been through it, and are still going through it. It’s a great resource. However; with every click, my eyes grew bigger and bigger. My eyebrows lifted into my hairline and I had to bite my cheek to keep my jaw from unhinging.

Apparently, according to the general consensus of the Publishing Maw, a writer could no longer be humble and mediocre. They couldn’t be shy and meek and grateful for being considered. No. Writers had to be Pushers. They had to push themselves to go beyond their borders and push their audience and push issues. They had to be EXTRAORDINARY and STAND OUT and BE ORIGINAL. (Mind you, there is no originality left in the world so go figure.) The market is so saturated with fiction now that editors and agents have to reject almost everything that’s been done before. Vampires? Meh, been over done. Zombies? Soooo over it. Teenagers with special powers? Something else for god’s sake!

So right out of the gate, writers have to spin gold out of the moldy over-used straw that has been used before them. Then, once you’ve edited this snarl of straw into a semblance of a  “good” novel you have to go out and promote it. YOU, the author, have to come out of your cave and start a social media account and promote yourself. You have to get people to review your novel. Get beta readers, hire an editor to polish up your novel and then pitch it to agencies. Most won’t even look at it unless you have a platform of followers over 5K. Then you wait months and months for your rejection letter.

…….Why the hell am I doing this again? WHY do I want to be a writer? It’s goddamned impossible!

I felt the Maw start to close over my head, sinking me into darkness. I scrambled out and ran for the safety of Netflix, ice cream and a fluffy blanket. Now here I am on the morning of my anniversary. I’m mad at myself for not doing more, for not knowing more and being farther along than I am. I don’t know where to go or which direction to branch out in. What more can I do? I was more lost than a wee lamb in a snow storm and I’m ready to table flip this shit and quit.

But then.

But then an interview came into my mind that I listened to recently from Dr. Joseph Suglia, author of Table 41.  A very eloquent and intelligent man with a writing voice that makes the imagination fly on colored wings. I’m making my way through Table 41 now. It’s so different from anything I’ve ever read. At the end of the interview he was conducting, he said one thing that I had forgotten on this journey:

“Write for yourself.” 

And there it was.

The clean gust of fresh air to clear all the smog surrounding me.

Yes, I really would like to make decent money writing and doing something that I love to do. But if I’m not enough without the money, how am I going to handle trying to be enough with it? There is still a lot I have to learn before I’m ready to research publishing as of yet so I’m going to stay far faaarrrr away from that shark pool. I’m going to continue, one foot in front of the other, on this simple road I’m cultivating for myself. So here’s a list of goals I’m going to try to achieve for this next year:

  1. Read more diverse genres of novels (I tend to stick to young adult and fantasy since that’s what I aim to write)
  2. Write more diverse articles. Push myself to write about the things that scare me, or scare others. Confront issues head on.
  3. Join a writing group. I enjoy discussing books and writing with others and I could really use some constructive criticism on my writing.
  4. Add another day of the week to publish on WordPress. Maybe start promoting the books I’ve read or high-lighting a great article and discussing it. Never hurts to give other writers a nod of respect. Plus, sharing is caring 🙂
  5. I’m going to leave this one BLANK. Always room for improvement.

So what started out as a debilitating and dismal day has turned into something a little more hopeful. You’ll probably never read this blog post Joseph, but I wanted to say thank you for the reminder anyway. I’m grateful I’m still on this path, even though I wanted to quit many times. It’s taught me a lot and I know the journey will teach me even more. I’ll try to be ready.

Journey to the Center of my Head

Here’s something most people don’t know about me. I LOVE to make lists. I like the process of adding things to blank lines and watching the paper fill up with necessities on my current subject of interest. Grocery lists, To-Do lists, Chore lists, Gift lists, Scene lists…it gives me a thrill to see it all organized. (Yes, I said the terrible “O” word.) And for a lady who thrives on chaos, this is a pretty weird quirk, if I do say so myself.

But here’s the clincher.

As much as I love to make lists, I almost immediately lose them or throw them away because they become obsolete. I’ve discovered recently that when I make lists, they aren’t meant to be absolutes. (Except maybe grocery lists.) In my mind, lists are possibilities that my brain needs to get down before it loses its train of thought.

Alright, you say. That’s not so bad.

HA. Now take that concept and drop it into Writing a Book.

Do you even fathom how many reams of paper I’ve chucked over the years because of this awful habit? How many notebooks I’ve filled and then recycled? Whole forests have died for my cause! It’s awful! And now that I’m trying to organize myself to be a productive and thorough writer, this method of organization just isn’t cutting it. I can write down scene after scene in a beautifully organized list but as soon as another possibility comes up I start from square one again. It’s an endless cycle that is the direct opposite of what I want to do and be.

As always, when I’m in a rut I turn to the internet and read articles and blogs about how other writers do it. Some I’ve tried for myself: The index cards on the wall, the timeline, the writer’s journal, the poster board, the snowflake method…none of them ever seemed right for me. It doesn’t help me get organized and motivated to work. I talked my dear friend Owen’s ears off about this and he grew smart enough to just say “I don’t know what to tell you Jess. You’ll figure it out.”

At the time I thought he was just tired and irritated with me whining at him but was just being polite about it. I realized though that it was the best advice (as usual. He’s amazingly intuitive.) I need to find my own way. Something personal to me that I can easily segue into my natural routine.

And so began the Journey to the Center of my Head. Left Brain Activate!!

When I started to really think about my problem with organization the first thing that came up was “reminders”. I write lists as reminders for everything, even though they’re subject to change. When I write my stories, I easily get lost in the details. I get overwhelmed with the thought of writing subplots and minor characters and emotional arcs and foreshadowing that I forget the BIG PICTURE. Things like, why am I writing this book? What’s the purpose? Who am I writing this for? What’s the theme of the story?

Getting back down to basics.

I realized I needed a sheet of paper exactly for this purpose. Something to look at every time I sit down and crack open my word document (or my file folder, depending on what is needed). I need to make it part of my ritual to remind myself of the story and also why I’m writing at all. Ya know, for those days where I want to table flip because everything is crap and my writing is crap.

The second thing that bubbled up almost immediately was the need for character interviews. Something more than just a one page Bio that I could reference and remind myself how each one is supposed to talk and react. A questionnaire that each character answers in their own tone with their own personality. It’s actually a lot of fun when you start out writing to do a Myers-Briggs test on your character. You get to slip into their shoes for a minute and really flesh out their personalities. You can also do the same thing with Horoscopes as a writing tool or Name origins. (I love characterization so I go whole hog into figuring them out. This one isn’t a chore for me.)

The third thing I figured might be a good idea is having a basic story structure for the scene layouts. (Ha. Yes.) Scenes that REALLY need to be written that are the foundation of the story. Again, with a list. How I love lists! Of course, these usually aren’t the problem for me. It’s weaving the subplots and arc altogether into a cohesive entertaining read.

This to me, needs the most work for my writing routine because it’s not just a matter of ready, set, go with plot and characters and stuff. It’s also a matter of incorporating “the Rules” of writing. Like, no character should exit or enter a scene in a neutral mood. Make them better or worse than they were. Then there’s the rule that every scene should have a purpose in either moving plot/ characters forward or give a sense of scene. Duh…who wants to read filler? Get on with it!! And then there’s the delicate inclusion of the subplots. How much is too much? How to I braid them into each other without making the subplot give away too much or become too important? There’s SO MUCH TO REMEMBER when writing a scene it drives me nuts and I quit before I even start.

Yeah, I know, I know. This is all what editing is for. But before that can happen I have to write a rough draft. And before that can happen I need to get organized and then I come back to the lists….see the vicious cycle? I do think I’ve come up with a solution for this dilemma however. I wish I had Excel because it would make my life a lot easier but that’s just not in the budget right now to buy Microsoft office. So I’m going to make my own hard copy of Excel using index cards and baseball card protectors.

Yup, you heard me.Er…read me.

I need a system that will allow me to see all the scenes spread out in order and make them easy to move around at will. This also won’t break the budget and make me kill forests with all the paper I’m wasting making lists. I also bought myself some color coordinating high lighters for the index cards so I can highlight the main plot and the subplots and when a new character appears. And eventually I want to figure out something for characters too. Maybe use stickers or something. Shiny ones. Mmmm shiny….

But so far, this is what I’ve come up with for organizing my stories. I’m excited to try to make it work and see if it suits me. I know it’s going to take some trial and error so I’ve decided to use books that have already been written as a practice model. I’m so proud my myself for finally coming up with my OWN solution! I’m such a mockingbird in all things organization that creating something like this (even if it’s not exactly re-inventing the Wheel) really makes me motivated to write again. I feel mentally ready to give it a good heave-ho and I have the determination to finish. I have at least one person who supports me with my writing (Thank you my dear Owen) and that’s a start.

I taped a picture of my daughters to the wall beside my bed. I want them to be my motivation to write and become published so 1) they’ll know I achieved my dreams through hard work and patience and 2) I want them to know you CAN be successful living your dream (at least I hope that’ll be true for us). If I can buy a house for them by living my dream then I really see no down side.

I just have to get it going and NOT GIVE UP.

How do YOU organize when you write or start a new project? Let me know! Having comments excites me!! 😀

The Athena Effect

Athena: Greek Goddess of wisdom, reason, justice, handicraft and agriculture. The legend of Athena is that she came into the world when she burst forth out of Zeus’ head fully formed and that she was his most beloved daughter.

I had a Zeus moment. I gave birth.

Upon the completion of my first piece of flash fiction ever, The Teacups and the Tempest, I felt like all the pressure and anxiety in my brain to write something, ANYTHING, came bursting out in a flood. This was it. This was the start of it all. As soon as the last period was in place and I pushed the blue “Publish” button, it felt like a mantle was put around my shoulders. (Maybe it was a cape because I felt like a frickin’ super hero!) It was light and warm and made me sigh with contentment. I felt like Athena herself, goddess of wisdom, was telling me that this is what was supposed to happen all along. THIS is what it’s all for.

Then she turned me gently toward my blank notebook and sat me down and said, now do it again.  So I am.

I don’t really have adequate words to explain this, which is shameful because I’m a writer. I should be able to describe this you in a way you would understand but I really can’t. It’s too personal and too…BIG. I started this Blog to document my journey as a writer and so far, the only writing I’d actually been doing was articles. I mean, I LIKE doing the blog thing. It’s kept me on a schedule and forced me to write regularly, which was one of the worst habits I had of NOT doing. But I finished an actual story, beginning to end (all in one go I might add. I pantsed the whole thing.) That, in and of itself, is a damn miracle. I hadn’t written anything shorter than a novella since college ten years ago and never finished any of them. But then to write one, beginning to end and then PUBLISH IT for the world to see? WOOOOW. Okay, my own mother hasn’t even read anything I’ve written and this was an intensely personal piece. It’s HUGE for me. It was a literal break through. The was the culmination of what I started the Blog for. It doesn’t matter than only three people read it. That wasn’t the point of this piece. The point was to FINISH it. And I did. Halle-frickin’-lujah!!

Do ya get it yet? No? Okay well,  the best I can do it tell you what it MIGHT be like.

Giving birth, for reals. Women go through nine+ months of growing a baby inside their bellies, right underneath their heart. They endure sickness, awkward bodies, swollen feet, hormone fluctuation and a gauntlet of emotions to support this little human. And then it’s D-Day and it’s time to get it out. There’s pressure and fear and all the “What if’s” come flooding in as she’s strapped to a table with tubes coming out of her arms. But then, at some indecipherable cue, the mind kind of goes into this special little trance where it HEARS everything going on but it doesn’t let the body freak out about it. It hears directions from the doctors to ‘push’ and ‘count’ and it signals the body to follow but there is no real fear. Just a soldier-like determination to follow orders. And then, after a while, a squalling slimy blue alien comes slithering out and it holds all the wisdom you’ll need to acquire from that moment on. It’s a tiny Athena.

My fingers plunked over keys while my mind was in its little quiet room, telling me what to push and in what order. I didn’t feel fear. My brain wouldn’t let me. I just wrote. My own personal Athena was growing in my mind and I let her flow onto the page, fully formed, in about an hour’s worth of time. Then I sat back afterward, looking over its ten fingers and ten toes and I was proud; as proud as a new mom (which I’ve been twice over).

I was as proud and relieved as anyone who has ever passed a really difficult test. A driving test, a GED test, a competence test, a citizenship test, a paternity test, a job application test…whatever test. Everyone has taken one and there’s nothing that compares to the release of anxiety when it’s over and there’s nothing more to worry about.

I feel like I understand a little bit more what all the other writers are talking about now. It’s all true. All those inspirational quotes about writing and those annoyingly wise Memes. They’re not just words on a page, as cliché as they sound. They’ve BEEN THERE and now I can say, at least in part, I have too. I’ve joined the ranks of plebeian flash fiction writers and I’m OUT THERE now. YAY ME!

That’s really the only thing I wanted to say. Yay me! I just did it in a long-winded round about way. You’re welcome.

One day the same epiphany will come to everyone and the door to heaven will crack open a little bit more. Or your skull will crack open and wisdom herself will jump out of it. I can see a little bit farther through the fog now. The hill is not so steep and my legs aren’t so tired of climbing it anymore. I have shed the first ten pounds and I feel great! I’m over the sickness and on the mend! I’m–stopping now. Sorry.

Take care friends and followers. I hope you get your epiphany soon too. The first of many!