It’s coming….Winter is coming

How did it get here so fast!? How could I possibly have ignored it’s looming presence for so long?!

Is it some deep psychological need to bury my head in the sand every year and hope it passes me by like an Egyptian Plague from the Bible? Is it fear that blocks the self-inflicted mental and emotional exhaustion imminent in the month of November? Or have I really been so distracted with other deeply frustrating crap on top of sleep deprivation that I simply didn’t notice the date on the calendar?

(It’s probably the first one. Just sayin’.)

Okay. Okay. Lets say it together folks….

 

 

Rip it off like surgical tape on leg hair…

 

 

NANOWRIMO

 

*shudder*

National Novel Writing Month. I can’t decide if this reaction is from pleasure because I’m a masochist or genuine cringiness. A month of pure writing. Of deadlines, goal-setting, hair-tearing, possible crying, freedom, imagination, accomplishment and satisfaction. It’s the best and worst for me.

NaNo is a glimpse into an author’s life, for any of you who aren’t writers. 30 days of angst, pure creativity and harsh reality. You should try it to get a taste. It starts with an idea. Bright, shiny, maybe a little outrageous. Something you haven’t read before, or thought of before. It latches onto your mind and you poke it to see what squirts out. A unique character. And amazing setting. A flash of the most perfect plot you’ve ever seen. It only takes one thing to get you hooked. A creative drug you will chase the rest of your life.

So you start to massage out this idea. You roll it out like dough in your mind and take some cookie cutters and outline some shapes and patterns. November 1st is coming and the pressure to have SOME SORT of direction mounts. But it’s okay. Just a basic outline because you know that your characters are going to run the show as soon as you get into a groove. They’ll take you in unexpected directions and you can ride their coat tails into plot and pacing perfection.

Protagonist you love? Check. Antagonist you love to hate? Check. Quirky side kick? Check. Love interest? Ehhhh we’ll see what happens there. Basic plot outline and a vague idea of the ending? Let’s hope so! October 31st, 11:59….GO!!

Week 1: Easy. The words are flowing like milk and honey from your fingertips. You post on the NaNo forums and update your word count proudly. You earn badges and maybe even donate to get the fancy halo on your profile picture. You help others with their novels and maybe even join a write in. You’re doing great! Everything going to plan!

Week 2: Okay, a little harder. Kinda like eating a second slice of cake at a party. The first one was delicious and sugary and wonderful. Second slice is harder and you feel yourself start to slow down and get sick. Your eyes stray to the dreaded word counter more and more. Your brain starts to wander to Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, getting a second cup of coffee, laundry, walking the dog…anything else.

Week 3: Suddenly your bright shiny idea looks like sludge. Crap that you’ve seen on thrift stores shelves a million times over. Your protag isn’t unique enough. Your antag isn’t nasty enough. Your ending is dull and lifeless. Life sucks in general. You want to quit. You’re 5K words behind and you feel hopeless. Sitting at a keyboard looking at the blinking bar not moving. You mentally table flip.

Week 4: You find the time and energy to catch up the word count. You know it’s filler. Unnecessary scenes and lengthy dialogue just to get words on your counter. You add in characters for fluff. You take the setting to some place new to give a breath of fresh air to the plot. Maybe you add in ninjas in desperation. But you’re dragging yourself over the shattered dreams from week 1. Just get a novel down. Get 50K. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be written. You can’t edit nothing. NO! DON’T THINK ABOUT EDITING! That’s a death sentence!

November 30th. You “Select All” and “Copy” your shitty manuscript. Shamefully; hopefully. NaNoWriMo.org, you “Paste” into the “Validate novel” box and with your heart beating fast, you click the button. And there it is. 50K+ words in a month. You made it. You’re a 2018 Winner! The accomplishment of setting a goal and actually finishing is yours to revel in. You have some semblance of a novel. You created something from nothing. BE PROUD. Get that Winner t-shirt. Eat the ENTIRE pan of brownies.

December 1st. Now go sleep for a week and binge-watch Supernatural on Netflix.

I promise you this is not over-exaggeration. Every single November this happens to me and millions just like me. Sometimes, like last year, I don’t even get past week 2. I think I’ve only won once actually. But the point is that I don’t stop trying, as much as I dread the ending days in October.

I have many stories in me that want to be told but I’m a perfectionist. I want a full and complete product to come out of me on the first try. (HAAAAA talk about unrealistic expectations!) The best pieces of advice I’ve ever seen on Pinterest were these:

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” ~ Terry Pratchett

“First drafts don’t have to be perfect. They just have to be written.”~Caroline Mitchell

They are my biggest writing challenge to meet and it is something I’m striving for every word that comes from my fingers onto the screen/paper. I have to embrace imperfection and be willing to commit to taking this turd of a first draft and make it a turd sandwich that looks like chocolate and biscotti.

Commitment sucks. But it’s a cornerstone for a writer. Nano is a small exercise I can do to help that. So, alas, 7 days and approximately 11 hours till D-Day.

Come join me friends. It’s fun!! Haaaa……..

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Walk the Line: a deviation from Paint splatters

You wanna know why it’s so detestable to color between the lines? Because it’s boring!

Yes you can make the sky plum purple and the cow aquamarine with chartreuse spots but the colors are still defined by lines. Thin black tyrants of doom and conformity.

For me, story structure rules are a little like those black lines. I detest them and started this journey without a care, stepping on all the lines, breaking mama’s spine all over the place. (To those of you who don’t understand the reference, it’s a game my sister and I used to play where we couldn’t touch the cracks/line on the side-walk or we would break mama’s back/spine. Childhood is fraught with horrors. Do you KNOW what Ring Around the Rosy was about?)

I had an idea and the will to write. I read about it a lot and that’s basically the same thing, right? It’s the same as coming to this country as a foreigner with $20 in her pocket. It’ll all work out if I just believe, right? It’s the land of dreams!

My gawd I’ve never been more tortured in all my life than by that singularly stupid idea.

Writing a book, or attempting to, is the hardest work I’ve ever done. Seriously. Having two children within ten months of one another is a cake walk. Breaking both my elbows at the same time was slightly harder to endure but I’m still mostly whole and have forgotten the pain. Putting words on paper (or on a screen, whatever the case may be) is like that special pen from Harry Potter that uses your own blood as the ink to write with except that the scars it leaves are on your soul instead of your hand. It just leeches everything out of you, bit by bit until you feel like giving up from weakness and frustration doing the same lines over and over.

I counted all my unfinished book WIPs yesterday. I have 14. 14!!! All with great plots that I haven’t read before and nary a one has a completed first draft. Why? Because I detest lines. I prefer paint splatters. I can write a pretty damn good scene but if there’s nothing to connect it to, nothing to contain it, it’ll dribble off into oblivion, appreciated for a moment and nothing more.

I can’t deny it anymore. My piddly-ass stories will never be read by anyone but me (and Owen ❤ ) unless I grow up and take the long, less colorful road to success. Don the boring suits of a young professional and wear the boring black loafers that look hideous but apparently are very comfortable.

Here I go.

To have a decent story, at least for beginners, we need to start at the beginning, which means following a pre-set path laid down for us by the giants that came before us. A good way to do that is to be a mockingbird. Pick a story you really like (book, movie, manga, whatever) and break it down by identifying the story structure set up. Let’s be boring and do Harry Potter and run with a theme here, kay?

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K Rowling (SPOILER ALERTS BIG TIME)

(Part of this analysis was referenced from The Friendly Editor on this website https://thefriendlyeditor.com/2013/07/18/story-structure-rowling-potter/ )

The Set up: Harry’s life is crap. He gets picked on and abused by his cousin. We feel sympathy for Harry and his stunted existence. Wonder where his parents are.

Hook: Harry makes the glass to a snake cage disappear and reappear at the zoo, trapping his cousin inside. How? Why? He also talks to the escaping snake. Interest is peaked. Harry keeps getting letters from owls delivered to his door step.

Inciting Event: Hagrid comes and tells Harry he’s a wizard invited to go to Hogwarts.

First Plot Point: Harry is standing at King’s Cross Station waiting to board the Hogwart’s Express and meets the Weasleys.

First Pinch Point: There’s several for Harry that happen over the course of a chapter or two. He meets Malfoy, an obvious antagonist once Harry rebuffs him, meets Snape who despises him at first sight, feels his scar ache for the first time and is warned about the third floor corridor (though we don’t know this is important until later)

Midpoint: When Harry makes the connection between the package Hagrid took at Diagon Alley and what’s hidden on the third corridor. Finds out someone might be trying to steal it and decided to take action instead of standing by. reaction turns into Action.

Second Pinch Point: Harry sees Snape with a bitten leg and assumes he’s trying to get past Fluffy, the three-headed dog guarding a trap door on the third floor. Harry then is forced to contend with a cursed broom stick at a Quidditch match where we see Snape muttering and assume he’s doing the cursing.

Second Plot Point: When Harry realizes it’s Voldemort and not Snape who wants the stone, having been attacked by Voldemort in the forest. Then Hagird tells him that he traded information on how to get past Fluffy to a stranger for a Dragon’s Egg. Harry feels he needs to get the stone first to save his life and everyone else’s. Faces a series of tests and spells that hinder him on the way and his friends get hurt.

The Resolution: Harry gets through the tests and faces off with Quirrell, not Snape, who is discovered to have Voldemort inside his body to sustain him. Voldemort figures out that Harry has gotten the stone and they fight but Harry has a hidden power that makes Quirrell turn to ash when he is touched by Harry’s hands. Harry defeated the minion but Voldemort ultimately escapes to love another day. Harry saves the day and the world.

 

And there we go. Story Structure basics. Eat it. Drink it. Sleep with it. Marry it. Because it is your entire life as an aspiring (and seasoned) author.

This really is the first step in creating any sort of story (except non-fiction), not just fantasy. You need to be able to identify these steps quickly and clearly for every movie you watch and book you read because they are the building blocks for your own stories. Yes, it’s boring to stay inside the lines but if you get good enough at doing it this way, you can start to color outside them a little.

This is admittedly a difficult task for me because I get so invested in the story I forget I’m supposed to be analyzing it. Add to this the desire to write something different from anything I’ve already read (because breaking the cliché is my favorite thing EVER in stories) and my life just got three times as difficult as I needed it to be.

Let your first attempts suck. They’re going to. Accept it and move on. I am at this stage. Leave my really GOOD stories for later, when I can give them due diligence, and in the mean time make crappy romance or lame cliche fantasy princess stories.

Start at the beginning with the boring black loafers. I promise, this will save you so much time and energy being wasted on trying to make your sparsely outlined novel fit into a different structure. Give yourself over to the work because this is part of the journey too. Keep writing your brilliant scenes and witty dialogue. Keep them in a three-ring Unicorn binder or in a document folder on your hard drive and bust them out once you have a solid grasp of Story structure. Just follow it long enough to let it guide you in the right direction.

To be a writer, you need to read. But read with two brains: the Writer AND the Reader

There are more terrible ways to pass the time, no? 🙂

(p.s. ROAR ROAR GRYFFINDOR!!)

Poor Unfortunate Soul

Passion: a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept

I’m beginning to wonder if Passion isn’t a unicorn.

Or maybe a natural talent. Like, some of us have it and others don’t.

I don’t know if it’s cultivated at a young age; being the lucky kid that has parents that expose you to different kinds of things so you can have a chance to find out what you really like to do. Or merely liking something and being curious enough to stick with it and nurture it.

Maybe I’m thinking about the definition too acutely. Maybe I think passion is supposed to be a zealot-like, all-consuming devotion, like those people who give up all worldly possessions and dedicate their life to saving the rain forest.

Either way, I have zero passion in my life. I LIKE writing. I LOVE reading. I really want to lose weight and become a healthier person. I don’t have any strong desire to fight for any charity or injustice. I don’t really care about saving animals going extinct (although I wish it hadn’t come to that in the first place). Laziness beat all these out. Work? Pfffft! Oh, and forgetfulness helps. My short-term memory is shot to hell.

I’m a little jealous of these artists that can bang out books every year or clothing lines every season or produce awe-inspiring paintings for top-notch galleries. What drives you people? It it the love of creation? Is it the memory of a grandparent whose words inspired strength and resolve? Is it the illness of a sibling living life to the fullest while they can?

Why don’t I have this? Did something stunt me as a child and block some fundamental necessity to cultivate passion? Is it a personality flaw? Can it be fixed?

I was never disciplined enough as a child to stick with much of anything, except school and books. I wasn’t interested in anything enough to pursue it wholeheartedly but I was interested in everything. Clothing design. Drawing. Baking. Embroidery. Interior design. Quilting. Guitar. Choir. Calligraphy. Clay sculpting. Mixed Media Arts.

Jack of all trades, master of none.

Can one LEARN to be passionate or is “disciplined” as good as it’s going to get for me? Maybe I have to get through one to have the other? Is it depression submerging me in doubt and I just can’t see clearly? Maybe I haven’t found that ONE THING that fires me up and makes me happy to be awake every morning.

I thought for a second just now that I don’t take pride in anything and that was my problem.

Some people take pride in their homes. How clean they are and how nicely decorated. Some people take pride in their work. Some take pride in raising their families or being a devout (Fill in the blank ______ ).

None of those really apply to me. I’m happy to be able to do these things with some modicum of competence but eh. That’s life. What I do take pride in though, is making things well. Trying a new recipe and it turning out delicious. Seeing something on Pinterest, copying it and making it better than I’d hoped. Being given a task and having the person who gave it be pleased with my accomplishment. Making pretty things for people and getting nothing back.

I take pride in being generous and kind. I take pride in being able to create beautiful, quality things. I take pride in making people happy.

Still doesn’t help me with my writing though. Really, it’s somewhat of a distraction, making all these pretty things. Not complaining. Just saying. Cuz it always comes back to writing.

I thought for sure Writing books was my Thing; my passion; the thing I HAVE to do every day or I feel anxious and shitty and half a human being. Turns out I can go MONTHS without writing a single word! That’s not passion. Is it? I certainly think about writing a lot. I have conversations with my characters out loud sometimes. I write scenes in my head. I funnel my emotions into different scenarios. I make music play lists to guide me through the stories. I think about all the things I SHOULD be doing like character bios and plot lines and back story.

Thinking is good. At least the desire isn’t completely gone.

It seems writing won’t give up on me. Maybe it’s a stubborn as I am, waiting for me to get a grip. As it stands, it’s literally dragging me face down across the glass-strewn ground that is my life, walking determinedly forward. My wrist aches, my heart is dead, all I want to do is sleep and yet…it’s still there. So I ask:

Can Passion merely be the thing one comes BACK to?

Are there levels of passion out there? Some gently simmering for longevity and others blazing strong like the sun for a short until a project is done and then fizzling out? When can I have some? Share the wealth!

For reals I know that to be an author it takes work and time and experience. And practice. And planning (which I’m rubbish at). That Maya Angelou quote never seems to be far from my brain as a reminder:

“When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come’.”

So it comes down to forcing my fingers to move until passion/inspiration/motivation strikes? What a sad existence I have at the moment. But I know that eventually, after my first book is published and I look back, it’ll all have been worth it.

But still…damn. A little heavenly light can shine on me any time now. I’d appreciate the boost ❤

SQUIRREL! Errant thoughts of a writer who is blocked

I can’t move my fingers.

They are reluctant to obey me.

My brain refuses to churn out any sort of ideas and words simply won’t come. Playlists don’t work. Word sprints don’t work.

Nothing will come.

________________________

“What would you do if I sang out of tune? Would you stand up and walk out on me?”

I sing this randomly during the day. It was from a hulu commercial and got stuck in my head. I sang it once in my high school choir. I think I blocked out the memory because it wasn’t until I got to the chorus that I even remembered I had.

Darn Ear Worms. But at least it was something good, right?

_____________

I have a shameful secret.

I’ve read 11 books in two months.

That’s not shameful though. What IS shameful is that I’ve read them on my Kindle. My brand new Kindle that I swore up and down I would never own.

The Kindle that saves space and trees and has free books I can save to my account on Prime and Good Reads. The Kindle that has page-free convenience, which also means hands-free, which means snacking and reading at the same time.

The Kindle I bought a special leather cover for that was made to look like a book.

It was blue. Dark blue. A color I don’t normally gravitate to. Beauty and the Beast blue.

__________________

I don’t know if I could ever live in a Tiny House with my family. If I was by myself  or with a partner then yes. If we could travel together then definitely yes. I could see myself in a Gypsy Caravan.

I have too much stuff. Too many clothes. Too many crafts.

No that’s not true about the crafts.

But the stuff, yes.

I either want a big sprawling house with four bedrooms and a large, lush yard or a Tiny House. $430K or $30K.

Man I wish I could afford either. Instead I’m in government housing in southern California.

_____________________________

I like looking at Wedding Dresses. So many fabrics and styles. Ugly, beautiful, intricate and plain.

Somebody dreamed those up. They took the images from their heads and put it on paper and then sewed it into a dress. The completion of an artist’s dream and the pinnacle of a bride’s dream.

I like looking at women in wedding dresses. No matter what they look like or where they came from, they all share the same shining hope. They have the sparkle of a woman in love, dressing up in the most beautiful outfit she’ll ever own, to walk toward the partner she wants to spend the rest of her life.

Every lady deserves to feel like the star of the show; a modern day princess, at least for one day (although it really needs to be more).

Even if most wedding receptions suck unless you have thousands of dollars to spend.

Weddings. Guh.

________________

I am so grateful for my cat. I’m glad I didn’t get a dog.

She’s brought so much joy and tranquility to my home. She’s affectionate and hilarious and protective. She loves music and having her shoulder blades scratched and she doesn’t mind so much when I pet her belly anymore. She doesn’t even mind when I call her Fat Girl. Winter was good to her.

(Thanks mom, for the extra food!)

When I call her, she comes and maow’s at me, blinking up at me with her yellow-green eyes.

She knows where home is and she doesn’t let any other cat near. Or dog for that matter. Unless she doesn’t have a choice.

She loves her collar. She won’t let me take it off to change it.

Sometimes she’ll sit at my feet when I’m at the computer and reach up with her claws and hook into my thighs until I rub her head. And keep rubbing until she can’t hold on anymore. My skin has permanent claw pricks. I’ve gotten used to the sting.

I get slow blinks and I am often a snuggle partner when we read together on the bed. She sleeps between my husband and I find myself pressed up against the wall in the morning to give her maximum room.

She loves new blankets more than anything, especially quilts. Fresh out of the laundry and folded as thick as they can get is preferred.

___________________________________

Sometimes I miss being in choir.

I couldn’t read a lick of music. I just knew when a dot was higher on the line, my voice needed to go higher.

I could match pitch though. As long as there were others to match with.

Never did I ever try out for a solo.

I liked being part of a group, working toward the same goal. I liked the music and the way my body felt after singing.

Like it was vibrating.

Like a bell.

I still want to punch my high school choir teacher in the face. Or maybe in the throat. What an asshole. Chipmunk man.

I’ve sadly lost my singing voice to age, child birthing and obesity.

I tried a karaoke game with my kids and I couldn’t even get through 5 songs without my vocal chords seizing up.

I’m sad I’m an alto/tenor now. I miss my soaring soprano voice.

The little Writer that Could

So I’ve been going at this whole blog thing for a good year now. YAY ME! Wait, has it been over a year? Has it really almost been two years? Nahhh. Maybe? I’ll have to check on that later. I took a break in the middle to ruminate on my depressing life and schtuff hit the fan but I came back, like a beaten but loyal dog. I guess that really says something about me since I never stick to ANYTHING.

But I did start this blog because I want to be a published author and that is still my end goal, even if life throws wrecking balls in my way. What’s life without a few random steel balls blowing through your path, am I right? (You’re welcome for the ear worm.)

Wow. That’s actually a good analogy for what I wanted to write about today. Wrecking balls in writing. I’m taking the next step!

Lemme ‘splain…

See, I’ve gotten over the initial fear of failure that had hindered me when I first started this journey. I was afraid of people not liking my stories or not caring what I have to say. I was afraid of not sticking with it, of giving up on it, of being WRONG about what I wanted. Not so much anymore. I’ve gotten used to writing on the blogosphere and putting my vulnerable self out there.

I’m starting to settle into a writing voice that sounds somewhat like me. My entries have mostly been consistent in that department though someone else would have to tell me yay or nay. I can’t really judge that for myself yet.

I’ve even gotten a little writing routine down for myself (a friggin’ miracle if you knew me at all). Get up, get kids breakfast, sit down and start an entry, get first daughter on the bus, come back for another twenty minutes and write, then walk second daughter to school, then come back and finish. I try to write until at least 10 am. Even more amazing is that I start to get anxious when I can’t write any given day or a miss a blog entry. It feels like back sliding and that cannot be permitted!!

I had never written a short story before and now I’ve written a dozen or more. I’ve even written ongoing stories, divided into parts. Bonus too is that I write stories I actually ENJOY re-reading. (That almost never used to happen.)

There are all mini goals I had set for myself early on and I’ve met them. I’ve gotten used to them and they no longer intimidate me.

Now it’s time to ramp it up.

What brought this on? Fame and money did of course. “Published” is the name of the game remember? NO, I’m kidding! Actually, I read an article on pinterest about writing (what else?) and I realized that I needed to break past the comfortable once again. The article talked about putting conflict in stories and using character development to solve their problems. Conflict sells readers. I am NOT a confrontational person by nature so this is a goal I know I’m going to struggle with.

I mean, I don’t enjoy reading stories with no conflict, obviously. Boring! So why would I write them? It’s one of those things I think takes time to develop in a writer brain. How much is too much? What conflicts are relevant to plot continuation? How does one narrow down the infinite possibilities to make a great read? My brain aches just thinking about all the details. But I’ll do it, dad gummit!

Another thing I really ought to start doing is outlining. I thought to be a complete panster writer before, just punching keys willy-nilly and letting the characters tell the story. But that doesn’t work because of the aforementioned problem of being a pacifist. And the fact that I get so lost in the details I completely forget why I’m even writing the story. I lose the forest through the trees. So having an outline, even a basic one, will help me keep track and remind me of the big picture.

To help with this situation I’ve decided to ramp up my iPod Shuffle Short Story or “iPod S.S.S.” entries. These are blog entries you might’ve seen sporadically on my page where I put my iPod on shuffle and write down the first 5 songs that pop up. I’ll analyze them, write down thoughts and feelings and then come up with a story for them, using the Plot Structure diagram to write the story. It stretches creative muscles in the way that I don’t like using clichés so trying to make a story that’s outside the box is a double challenge.

The next goal I want to set for myself is to be on my Facebook bakalove page more often to get a wider reader base. I mean, I literally only have to cut and paste what I write on WordPress over onto Facebook but I find that task exhausting some days. Probably cuz Facebook is exhausting with all the drama. And it sucks me in for HOURS catching up on all that I missed and IMing friends. Bleh.

It’s gratifying to know that I was right about the most important thing: The Journey. It’s rare that a person can write a best seller right out of the gate but it happens. The rest of us have to toil and do the hard work and sharpen ourselves against the stones of adversity before we can even THINK about publishing. We’re so vastly rewarded by this though! We’re building a solid foundation of creativity and logic so that we may succeed in any writing endeavor we choose.

We’re the Little Writers that Could!! CHOO CHOOOOOOO!!!!!!

I’m more glad than I am frustrated by my progress I think so it’s with a happy heart I end this blog. To be able to reflect on my progress, meet my goals, and make new ones is very humbling and encouraging.

I hope your goals are within reach as well! Keep chugging little Writers! ;*

Hey! It actually works!–writing advice

How many times have you been scrolling through pinterest or other blogs and seen this:

“The best advice ever given is to write every day without failure.” ~EVERYONE

Do you roll your eyes every time? I give a little impatient sigh like “Whatever. Give me the fast track secret to being published and successful.” But that’s it. That’s the not-so-secret key to success. Hard work and practice.

So boring.

I started this blog as a way to conquer my fear of failure and rejection. I knew I had to do SOMETHING to kick-start my dream of being a traditionally published author. Even if a miracle happened and someone gave me a book deal out of nowhere, what would I write? Drivel, basically. Because I wasn’t seasoned. I hadn’t found my writer’s voice yet or my genre or style. I hadn’t won NaNoWriMo in a few years. I stopped writing in my journal. The only thing I’d been writing is grocery lists and checks for bills. I had a few months where life got me down and I didn’t write. Lemme tell ya, those were the months I was hardest on myself.

But I didn’t give up. My blog was always in the back of my mind and the guilt of NOT writing weighed me down. I figured this was a healthy weight, annoying as it was, because if I didn’t feel guilt, then I wouldn’t care I wasn’t writing. I did care. I couldn’t give up on my dream, even when I was only clinging to it by a fingernail. So on the heels on “WRITE EVERYDAY” was another piece of advice that kind of goes hand in hand and it’s this:

“Write and finish, even if you think it’s crap. You can edit crap. You can’t edit nothing.” ~PEOPLE WHO KNOW

Maybe I was paraphrasing a bit but it’s the same thing, basically. This advice is a little harder for me to wrap my head around because I was always a “one hit wonder” in school. As in, I could have a paper due and would write it the night before and get an ‘A’ on it. It made me develop a bad habit of not editing my work. I’m working to get over that; another reason I started this blog.

Editing is just as important as writing. I’m not going to say more or less because they’re symbiotic. One cannot exist without the other. Knowing what to look for the first, second and third read-throughs, how to fix what’s wrong, and, most importantly, knowing when to STOP. I read a book written by a friend that had been edited within an inch of it’s life and I to this day haven’t been able to finish it. It was so dry and static it felt like sand paper for my imagination.

So yes, write your crap and then polish it into a handsome turd. Then pass it on to someone you feel comfortable reading it. Or maybe you DON’T feel comfortable. This is the third piece of advice I’ve found repeatedly:

“Find beta readers.”~THE BRAVE ONES

I’m especially cringing at this one. Having strangers read my blog and my stories is one thing. I could get a nice comment and I’d be thrilled! I could get a criticism and say “Thank you may I have another?” But family? Friends? Just shoot me.

I rarely let anyone close to me read my stuff. I started something on my blog called “The Mother Project” where I intended to send my mom a letter every other week with a picture and a short story I’d written with a note, just to keep her connected.  Shameful secret? I haven’t sent a single letter. That might change now that her life is a little more stable and there aren’t fires raging everywhere here. Ha.

That being said, I do have a couple reliable beta readers. My bestie Owen is a willing guinea pig and he’s got a sharp eye for editing. Mainly I just let him read though. I don’t know what to ask from him as an official editor. I’m mostly worried about content; making sure the story doesn’t drag or there isn’t a part that takes you out of the story. Making sure it’s a solid read-through. My other beta is my female bestie, Lizzy who follows my Facebook blog (that I’ve been sadly neglecting of late).

See, I have several people who WOULD read my stories but they’re not helpful in the slightest when it comes to giving me advice on how to improve my writing. They don’t want to give me an honest opinion for fear of hurting me or they can’t put into words what it is they need to say. (I myself have been on this side of the beta reading dilemma). So when I’m desperate, or really need an honest, critical opinion, I drag myself over to the King of Honesty.

My husband.

Everyone needs a Timothy. He’s not into main stream fiction at all, which is a good portion of what I write, so the content is lost on him. “Predictable”, “shallow”, “simple”, and “unrealistic” are some words I’ve been given in regards to content. Ouch. Ouch and ouchie.

Told ya. Honest.

But this acts as a two-fold blessing and I’m going to tell you why. He was given a task and he did it. “Read this and tell me what you think.” He’ll tell me how other people might see it too if it smacks too political or sensitive. He reminds me that even though my intentions might be pure, others absolutely will not see it that way. They’ll read deeper into it than I intended maybe and might tattoo me with prejudices I don’t personally bear.

That is the other part of the blessing/curse of having a brutally honest beta. You get toughened up. He makes me think deeper about what I put out there and he gets me ready to defend myself if such things as bigotry or racism crop up because of a piece I write. As a writer, you WILL be at the mercy of the trolls out in the world. They’ll try to rip apart your ugly baby stories and make you cry just for fun, like those bullies that smack your ice cream from your hand.

Be ready. Get yourself conditioned to rejection, to criticism, as early as possible. Learn to find a way to deal with it that’s healthy.

The last piece of advice is subjective because we’re all different kinds of writers. Some pants better. Some outline a story within an inch of its life. My journey thus far has been about experimentation and finding the right way for me. When I started the blog, I’d hardly ever written a short story. I tried to write one a couple of times and it turned into a full length novel. Then I tried to write several full length novels and so far haven’t been entirely successful at it.

“Learn to outline, even just a little bit. It will help you stay focused.~ THE WISEST OF THE WISE

So often I get lost in the details of a story. I worry so much about pacing and arcs and subplots that I forget the basic frame of the story. What is the purpose of writing this story? What do my characters want? What is the end goal? Having a basic outline of the story helps bring me back. It’s an anchor. Not to say it can’t be changed and rearranged but I think there should be three or four things that ABSOLUTELY CANNOT CHANGE or the basis of your story will be completely different.

So there it is. Four pieces of redundant advice that actually WORK. At least for me they have. Combined with the affirmations that YES I CAN DO THIS and I’M ALREADY A PUBLISHED WRITER, I’d say I’m in a pretty good place.

Give it a try.

Write. Edit. Read. Outline. Repeat as needed.

 

 

 

 

Goals, WTF? A look forward and back

Goaallllls! Oh GOAALLLSSSS!! Hey goals, Where the F*%k are you??! Olly Olly oxen free!!!!

Caution: the following is a depressing bitchfest about my life. But it’s an honest summary from a trapped housewife if you’re curious or have ever been here. 

I had goals once. Right out of college. They were glowing brightly in my minds eye and my path for the next ten years was loosely laid out. I left in plenty of wiggle room for disasters, travel, surprises, changes and opportunities. It was pretty basic too; nothing special or different than any other college grad.

Get a car and a part time job

-Go to college for Interior Design 

-Gain enough experience with a firm that I could start flipping houses

-Travel around the USA flipping and discovering awesome places and gaining life experience

-Maybe get married and travel internationally

-AVOID KIDS

Not too far-fetched right? Back in 2006 it didn’t seem so.

But then I got a marriage proposal to which I didn’t actually say yes to but then found out I was pregnant so yeah, of course I’ll marry you!

And then found out I had to move out of my mom’s house while four months pregnant the same weekend I was getting married and going on my “honey moon” (camping for three days). It was all we could afford.

I felt I’d been back slapped by the Universe at this point.

I tried doing the online college interior design thing while pregnant, hoping to be able to swing a routine around the baby.

I learned a costly mistake: I can’t do online classes. I have zilch self-discipline that cost me thousands. Yay life experiences? And then I got pregnant with my second child and had her ten months after the first, in my second semester of college. By this time I’d accepted I was doomed and gave myself over unwillingly to a life I forced myself into. I quit college and paid off my loans with taxes.

Then I just survived.

For the next ten years I didn’t give myself any goals. What was the point? I was the reluctant mother of two children, one of them autistic, and wife to an irresponsible husband who hated his work. Luckily that changed but we still lived on food stamps and government housing for the next ten years. My motivation was hanging by a thread and my marriage was falling into shambles.

And you’re reading this I bet and thinking, is there a point? Sounds like a big ol’ bitch-fest. (I did warn you.) There’s a point though, I promise. Well, a question really. A pointed question and here it is:

What kind of goals am I allowed to have? 

Me, the mother of two girls, the wife of ten years to a man I no longer love, and a woman with zero experience working to support my own life.

I keep getting asked by my husband, “What do you want? Where do you see yourself in ten years, in twenty, at the end of your life?” And I look at him like, “what do you expect me to say? I’m a wife and mother. It’s selfish to want anything else.”

What I’m really saying is, “I want independence, a life free of the burden of marriage, and to be happy doing something worth while.”

I sound like a dick and I’m basically being called one for wanting to end my marriage and break up my family. It’s “Unrealistic” apparently. (You have to understand that I live in Southern California on the coast which means I will NEVER make it on my own because the price of everything is way out of my meager budget. Independence here still means I need roommates; ones that can tolerate kids since there’s no way I’m forgetting my girls in the middle of all this.)

So I ask again, What goals am I allowed to have?

I thought I was playing it smart by replying to this with things like:

A truck (in case I need somewhere to sleep)

-A job or two

Annnnd that’s it for immediate life goals. Easy manageable goals; something even I can’t screw up. Of course I still have the bigger, less easy to obtain life goals like:

Becoming a traditionally published author

-Buying my own house on some land

-Adopting a Pit Bull from a shelter

Securing a financial future for my children

And I’m working on those goals! I am writing in my blog again, training myself to sit down and make writing a habit. I am getting my credit scores back up by applying for credit cards and making payments on time. And eventually I want to start volunteering again at my local animal shelter to quell the need for doggie kisses.

Is it so bad that these are my goals? Is it not enough?

Seriously, is this stupid? I need someone else’s opinion other than my own or my husband’s because we’re both entirely too toxic right now to see clear. Is there a book I can read that deals with this? Is there advice from wiser and more experienced readers I can contemplate?

I am so lost. I’ve never done this before. Haaaaalp.