I can’t sing! I can’t dance! I have to WHAT? Ahh CRAP…

Sometimes I think I really shouldn’t read blogs. I mean, I like to, but sometimes there’s that one article that just leaves me paralyzed with shock. It could be horrific natural disaster photographs with survivor stories interspersed, or a particularly moving piece of poetry that somehow ripped the words from my soul and displayed them on the computer screen. I kinda like when that happens to be honest. It makes me feel more connected to my fellow writers and reminds me that YES! I have a home here! These people UNDERSTAND *_*

And then there are blogs where I wish I hadn’t read them because they’re so right it’s painful. I am, of course, talking about writing. Specifically, PUBLISHING—DUN DUN DUUNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

*RUNS AND HIDES*

I have a board on Pinterest labeled “Writing Amusé” . Anything that interests me about writing will be pinned to this board. Writing prompts, funny quotes, good blog articles, tips and tricks to writing genre fiction… it’s all there. There is, however, a distinct lack of anything having to do with–

*GASP*–PUBLISHING.

Ermagherd Jess! Your dream is to become a published novelist and you know NOTHING about it? Seriously?

I know. I KNOW. It’s a hurdle I really haven’t thought about passing. I’ve studiously avoided it because I knew that all that careful self-confidence I’ve been trying to build would crumble in fear and I would hurry back to my turtle shell of safety. And so it has.

Pinterest presented me with an article that seemed pretty safe. It was written by Carly Watters, a literary agent, and it was called “4 Platform Elements that catch an Editor’s attention”. Now, the whole reason I’m even on WordPress is because I knew that it was suggested that writers start a writing platform to reach out to the public. (See? Not COMPLETELY in the dark here!) I took that baby step toward successful writing. But this article spouted terribly frightening things like, CONNECTIONS, PRESS and E-MAIL. EN MASSE.

D: I have to WHAT? Ahh crap…

Oh yeah. The whole publishing dream behind my rose-colored glasses has been shattered. I figured it would be like this:

  1. Write a book
  2. Get an editor
  3. Get a book deal
  4. Get marketing to do a bang up job promoting the book
  5. Make millions while inspiring people to write their own stories

Book writing in 5 easy steps folks!!

Yes, I can hear the world laughing at me. I accept this.

Reality (ad-libbed from the article):

  1. Make connections. Go to writing conventions. Get business cards. Meet other writers in your town. Sign up to follow other writer’s blogs. Form a support—I mean a WRITING group. Be as interested in these other people as you are in your own novel. Make friends with all different kinds.
  2. Press appearances. Get comfortable being in the spot light and public speaking. Promote your book and yourself with charm and grace. Don’t be afraid because this is what will sell your work.
  3. Get Numbers. The less work an editor has to do with marketing and audience gathering, the better the chances are of getting a YES. Use blogs, twitter, Facebook pages to promote yourself. If an Editor sees that you already have a decent following, it’ll boost chances considerably.
  4. E-mails. As annoying as those e-mail pop ups are, nearly everyone who frequents social media has an e-mail. It’s the fastest way to reach the public even if they don’t frequent your blog/twitter/Facebook page. A significant e-mail number with impress editors and agents.

The article is from a literary agent’s point of view. I mean, this is the goods! Real information on how to get your foot in the door and be noticed among the stacks. It’s just, for someone like me, who enjoys being a chameleon, it’s crippling to be told it’s necessary to be a flashy peacock. Do the song and dance to make people notice you and THEN keep them interested. Give them the ol’ razzle dazzle and rise above the other nublet novelists to be noticed (while still being their friend).

Well after my initial freak out, running and throwing myself on my husband’s sympathetic mercy and getting metaphorical head pats from my infallible friend Owen, I decided that it doesn’t matter.

Yep. I said it. IT DOESN’T MATTER–RIGHT NOW.

I have taken the first step and started a blog (which my family doesn’t even know about but HEY! Getting there!) I am writing the first re-draft of my 2015 NaNoWriMo Novel. That is all that is necessary at the moment. There’s no use freaking out over something that I can’t control. I only have 11 followers but that’s on me for not promoting myself better and not writing blogs regularly. And that’s okay. There’s no rush to fame.

(And to be honest, I’m actually dreading book tours and public appearances for so many reasons). So remaining unknown is perfect for me at the moment. I’m not ready.

Keep calm. You’ll get there. I’ll get there too.

So the point of this short blog is to just remind you to stay focused on what you CAN handle. Everything will come in its proper time.

Good luck my friends!

 

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I’m a real boy now! Ugly baby stories comes alive!

Books are amazing right?

AH-MAZ-ING!!!!!!!

Even as a tinnnyyyyy child we (maybe not “we”. Certainly I) devoured books voraciously. My mom read to me nearly every night. My teachers at school read to me after lunch and I would doodle on paper while my head drifted with images off the pages. The library was my sanctuary. Instead of asking to go to the mall or begging my mom for clothes, I asked to go to the library. I sat for hours, reading and going through books, picking and choosing which ones would go home with me. Rinse, lather, repeat for most of my childhood, all the way up until–well, now. Except now I have Amazon and Thrift stores were I can just buy my own books. Hooray for cheap renewable entertainment!!

Ahhh, my treasure trove. My beauties. My loves.

Books are the reason why I write. (Duh. Isn’t it always??) That and I excelled in every English class I ever took. I did words MUCH better than I did icky hateful math. (That’s a curse word in my household by the way.) I wrote near perfect essays in one go, usually the night before they were due.

I was a Procrastination Queen– SCRATCH THAT. I AM A procrastination Queen.

I loved writing and I got the grades to prove it. So I started writing creatively. Little stories about my friends or turning a family vacation into a magic filled adventure. Then the idea of “noveling” got it’s hooks into me and suddenly a whole new world opened before me. But I had this crippling belief where I thought to be a successful writer, I had to be TRAINED. Like, Masters in Writing kind of trained. I didn’t think I had it in me to actually write a successful book with my meager Associates Degree.

How silly of me, right? David Bromstad wasn’t school-trained to be an interior designer and he won Design Star the first season. Now he has his own TV show that’s been running ever since. (LOVE ME some Color Splash TV!!!) And of course y’all know of the other famous people who dropped out of school and became awesome. Einstein, Thomas Edison, Princess Diana…you get it. But the fear still gets you. Especially me who is very much a teacher-pleasing, by-the-book, homework driven weirdie. Yep. School nerd, right here. I thought that I had to KNOW THE RULES of writing to be successful.

How silly. Of course you don’t!! You can go the long circuitous route and find out for yourself. It’s more “hands on” that way…HA.

It took a long time for me to get over that “need a Master’s Degree” nonsense. It was just another excuse; another whisper of self-doubt in my ear. Anybody can write. Many of them even do it well.

“Alright” I said to Me. “Let’s do this thing!”

A couple NaNoWriMo’s later, here I am, struggling with my first grown up novel, YAY ME! <–this being said with a bar of chocolate in one hand and  a bottle of Cinnamon Whisky in the other with my book playlist blaring on repeat in the background.

Writing isn’t pretty yo. But you can kill people who make you angry without committing a crime so at least you can vent frustration right? Haha.

So you (I) write and write and write. We plot and plot and plot. We delete entire pages of filler and wipe the tears off our keyboards. We eat, sleep, and breathe our little ugly baby novels, nurturing them and caring for them. They really are like little wooden puppets. They’re technically made of trees since they’re printed on paper and we play with them surely–crumpling up crap pages and shooting waste basket hoops. But mostly the ugly little novel just sits in a binder in the corner, waiting for the day of the second draft and the Blue fairy to come down and say “You’re a real boy now–almost.”

I say ALMOST because you can write and write and write your fingers into nubs of bone but if you don’t BELIEVE your story is real, the it’ll never be real.

Wooooowww Jess. Really? You’re going there huh?

Shhh….just go with it…….

Okay, let’s put it this way. You’re binge watching some anime or some TV show for like, a week. It’s the only thing you do besides pee, eat and catch some zzzz’s. And then you dream about the show. It infiltrates your DREAMS. You start seeing people on the street that LOOK like the characters. You start referencing the show while talking about other things. It’s real enough in your subconscious that it stays at the forefront and leaks all over your life like a melting Popsicle in July.

Now apply that to books. YOUR book. Can you have dreams about your book if you’re not obsessing over it? NO! Can you write real, dynamic characters if you don’t look schizophrenic and have one-sided conversations with yourself–I mean characters? NO!! Will this thing ever make sense to you if you don’t memorize the plot points until you can recite them by heart? NOOOOO!!!

I hit this point about a week ago.

After my technological scare (blogged here) where I thought my novel was gone for good, I had to take a very stunned step back and realize that I CARE if my work is gone. This ugly baby story has become something I want to fight for. It’s becoming as real to me as any of the books I’m reading—WHOOOOAAAAAAAA.

MY BOOK IS BECOMING REAL TO ME. 

I think I crossed a line here. Is this the dark side? Do I get cookies??

When I close my eyes, I can see my characters standing there arguing or chatting or having an emotional melt down. I can see their clothing and facial expression and hear the cadence of their voices. At any given moment I can ask my character’s opinion on something and my brain will automatically give me their answer, according to their scripted personality. I can see the Zen garden where the main characters have their first emotional connection. I can also see it as a graveyard of dead bodies later in the book and feel their keen loss of the sanctuary.

This was REAL. As real as if I was remembering it from a book I’ve read. Like, a REAL book with an ISBN number.

I think this is a defining moment as a writer. You’ve inundated yourself with so much of your book, reading and writing it over and over, that it’s PART of you now. You know it intimately. Maybe not perfectly. But intimately enough that your characters are PEOPLE and you KNOW THEM. They’re your friends. Or enemies. It’ll stay with you now like the thousands of other stories you’ve read. Only this one is special because its YOUR story. Your REAL story.

HOLYYYY CRAP BALLS!!!

I feel like a fledgling actress who was handed a script for my very first role and has just finished my first scene on camera. Everyone is surprised and pleased with me and they send me along to my trailer. And then when I stare into the mirror, a blossom of knowledge opens up in me. So THIS is what it’s like. I understand now.

I WANT MORE. For better or worse, I want more of this. And it’s true.

It’s especially world shaking for me to feel this need because I was the girl who never got into anything past the surface. I am SO not a details person. But to know that I’ve come as far as to visualize my book as if I’d seen it on TV? That’s a huge leap forward. I want more leaps. I want more knowledge and satisfaction.

This is what we’re writing for my friends. When you believe in your story, others will too. You make THEM see it’s real when YOU do. So keep writing. Don’t stop! Make those ugly baby stories into real live novels with rosy cheeks and everything. The Blue Fairy will stop by soon and make it a really real book. No more “almost”. I will wait for this day.

—“I’ve got no strings/ to hold me down/ to make me fret or make me frown/ I had strings/but now I’m free/ I’ve got no strings on me” –Pinocchio

They LOVE me. They REALLY LOVE ME! THANK YOU!!

As writers, we anticipate failure at every turn. We drink it, bathe in it, chew it like Beef Jerky, and swallow it like 80% bitter cacao chocolate, grimacing the whole time. We live on it like coffee addicts. It keeps us from getting big heads when things are finally starting to go right and make us dig deep inside ourselves to find a third, fourth, tenth reservoir of energy to keep going. Failure breaths down our necks and whispers self-doubt into our ears like it’s a second language.

Wanna know a secret? We are actually the bravest and strongest people in the world.  All it takes is the press of a button from a random stranger to realize it.

Hello my friends, followers, and fellow writers. This blog post is dedicated to you.

Yes I know it seems presumptuous to do a “Thank you for your support!” blurb when I only have 10 followers, have barely finished a first draft of a novel, and nobody in my family actually KNOWS this blog exists.

Kinnnddaaaa sounds like I’m jumping the gun a little eh? Well, perhaps I am but there’s nothing wrong with saying “thank you”. My mama taught me right! More than that though it is an extremely heart felt THANK YOU. Truly. Words on paper cannot do the feeling justice. Even the most eloquent novelists struggle to write their Thank You’s with anything close to the depth of gratitude they feel on the inside. It never hurts to try though. Again and again and again.

You know, I actually got irritated with authors that put a lengthy “thank you” section in their book. What a waste of perfectly good paper! They thank editors, writing teams, agents and family and last but never least, the fans of their work. To us, the readers, it’s a bunch of names and gushy emotional crap. Eh. Who cares? Get on with it!

I didn’t really get it until I started this blog on WordPress. I started it to connect to other people and to write on a schedule and document my journey as an author. I never expected anything to happen with it at all. I had very low expectations so I wouldn’t be disappointed.

Wow was I surprised. Like, expecting an F on a math test and getting a B instead. Wait, WHAAAAATTTTTT????? <–*Said in a high-pitched shocked Pinkie Pie voice*

It was a pleasurable shock to see my very first follower. I didn’t actually leap out of my chair and dance around the room. But in my mind I did. I didn’t tell the first person I saw and scream it at them. (I did when I reached 5 followers though 😀 My poor husband was so confused.) It was a pretty big “I don’t actually suck!” moment. A milestone. Or maybe the first step. I dunno but I was happy. It was a compliment I didn’t expect to get and I realized that maybe I was doing something right.

Huh. Well I’ll be damned. Let’s toast! *raises a Fireball shot to myself* “Here’s to not completely sucking!”

It’s such a small thing to press the “FOLLOW” button or the “LIKE” button here on WordPress. I’ve done it. I’ve commented on articles that moved me and given encouragement. It costs me nothing to do and I get to read a great article while giving someone a pat on the back. Everybody wins! Being on the other side of that though; being the one who GETS that like or follow, I understand now what a boost that gives. Especially being new to blogging and completely unsure what the rules are or what my voice is, seeing that little orange dot in my notification make my heart warm with gratitude.

Someone stopped browsing to read MY article. They enjoyed what they read enough to want to read MORE. HOLY CRAP! How much more of a compliment can a complete stranger give to me? I can’t think of any. Really. Someone said I was good enough to write more. Someone said “I like this!”.

I’m not a complete failure. 

I cried in the shower with an outpouring of gratitude and the sheer weight of realization that the voice whispering in my ear was WRONG. (Yes, I’m a huge sloppy sap.) More than that, I’m a writer that someone wanted to read. I’m not crap. I ‘m not a complete failure. My world has suddenly shifted and I’m off-balance. WOW.

How can years of self-doubt be shaken with one simple press of a button? you ask. Because we’re fragile. As fragile as a bubble in a garden of cacti. Artists at every stage in their careers NEED that boost. They need the justification to keep writing/ painting/ composing. We’re so HARD on ourselves about everything we do. Nothing is ever good enough for us and it’s hard sometimes to TAKE a compliment, even from our loved ones. For some reason though, at least for me, it took this blog to realize whet they’ve been telling me all along:

I’M NOT BAD AT WRITING!!

Never again will I take the “Acknowledgments” section in a book for granted. I understand now that the fans, ESPECIALLY the fans of a budding author, are the shaky foundation we build our career on. They are the ones we trust to give us the truest versions of our work, not blinded by love of the author or biased opinions.

Because of my humble little gathering of followers, I can believe that despite failure, frustration, table flips, and writers blocks, I’ll keep going.  I’ll try to persevere in the face of “You’ll never do it” and “We’ve read all it before.” I’ll give an answer to “You dream too big” and “Give up before you get hurt”. I’ll become more that a writer; I’ll become an author. Because I have something to say and I want someone, even just ONE PERSON, to be inspired by my work and start their own journey. I want to share my thoughts and stories with other people and also indulge in THEIR work.

For now though, I want to say THANK YOU, deeply, truthfully, wholeheartedly, to those of you who stop by and read my blog. Even if you don’t like it, you still stopped to read. Thank you for giving me a chance. And THANK YOU to those who have liked and followed me. You’re my answer to the voice that is failure and my reason to keep going. That’s the best compliment I can give to YOU.

THANK YOU as well to Owen, my rock and bestie, to Lael, the sister I am so proud of and admire for our steadfast perseverance, to the man behind Cinjin Artworks who gave me my artistic start in life. To Becky-chan and Dion (AKA Kimmy) for reading and bringing me out of my own head when I’m in too deep. THANK YOU to my mom for being everything I lacked in my life and being a woman I’d happily emulate. THANK YOU to my husband for well…..everything else.

*TABLE FLIPS AND WALKS AWAY* The day I almost quit writing for good

I had the scare of my life this week, my friends. My writing life anyway. I almost stopped writing for good. No joke. All because technology hates me and wants to ruin my life.

Don’t look at me like that. It’s the truth >_>

No no! It WASN’T ME!! I did EVERYTHING RIGHT! I–

……………..fine…………..You be the judge then.

I’ve been working on my 2015 NaNoWriMo Novel over the last year. The first draft was hideous and barely usable as butt wipes. Yay me I’ve been inducted in the First Draft Hall of Crap! I’ve since then re-hauled it and have been agonizing over it for months, trying to sort out the scene list. I had no Act 2 until last month. Yeah, I know. I’m the Queen of Procrastination. But 2 our of 3 ain’t bad for a second draft! The important thing is that I was excited about writing and eager to continue. So, as all good little nub writers do, I backed up my files.

Not in the traditional sense. For some reason my thumb drives and memory cards aren’t recognized by my computer so I simply send myself an e-mail of my novel for printing later at the Library because I can’t afford a printer of my own. Alright, good! All is well!

Nope. Bad. Very bad. DOUBLY BAD.

My computer sometimes will shut itself off at the butt crack of dawn and give itself updates, cranky wanker that it is. Can’t wait for permission. Just goes and does it. All our Chrome tabs disappear and any writing I’ve left up is shut down. (Luckily I’m obsessive about saving my manuscript every 20 minutes and every time I get up from the computer.) This innocuous but annoying act wasn’t what made me want to table flip. It was what I discovered afterward.

I use a free writing software called AbiWord to type out my novel because I’m too cheap to invest in Microsoft Office. So far it’s been okay. It screwed me out of 2k words when I was competing in NaNoWriMo but that was an easy fix and a lesson learned. What wasn’t was the corrupted file that contained my ENTIRE SECOND DRAFT.

CORRUPTED FILE. CANNOT OPEN. INVALID DOCUMENT.

WHAT IN THE ACTUAL FU#*???!!!!!!!!!!

I stared at the screen of my computer and felt the blood in my veins turn to ice. Like an idiot in shock (and we’ve all done this), I clicked on the file ten more times, hoping to get a different result, a different message. INVALID. INVALID. INVALID. I could almost hear the damn computer’s evil malicious laugh. It ATE my BOOK.

I was ready to table flip. I was poised for it. Every other document I wrote was FINE and opened perfectly, unscathed. It was only the ONE that I left up after the computer rebooted. OMFG. OH MY GOD are you SERIOUS?! Is this some kind of cosmic JOKE? Am I being PUNISHED for something!??

To appreciate the pain of this a little more I have to tell you that I’ve lost everything I’ve ever typed on a computer….TWICE. All my short stories, my novels, my ideas..EVERYTHING. (This was before I discovered wonderful things called re-writable disks and programs called Ubuntu and Google Docs.) Of course I could have paid a small fortune and had the nerds at Fry’s Electronics dissect the hard drive and extract the files. I still might. I have both computers in my laundry room atm gathering dust and housing spider colonies. The point is though that I’ve had to start from scratch on every single typed story I’ve ever written at least once. Silver Sun has been re-written more than a dozen times for sure. (Almost one draft for every year I’ve been writing it.)

Everyone has experienced this frustration. Whether you’re a student that lost an essay or a corporate CEO that misplaced the 4th Quarter accounting report, it’s happened to you. So you feel me right? Third time is enough. Thrice burned by technology and the disgust is so strong it burned like acid.

Wait.

E-mail……

EMAIL!!!!

I fumbled my password a couple times in my haste for salvation and scrolled passed all the blog updates and e-mail offers for cheap shoes and “save the cats!” merchandise. I strained my eyes, scanning the subject lines for the two words I desperately needed to see: MY OWN NAME. At the very bottom, (naturally) it was there, my possible redemption. The computer might live another day! Oh praise hallelujah! I double clicked and held my breath as I downloaded the document.

I felt like a swimmer taking their last deep cleansing breath before they hear the bell to begin their Olympic finalist race. Go for gold! Alright, let’s open this beast up! Please please please OMG PLEASE OPEN!

INVALID DOCUMENT.

WWWWWWWHHHHHHHHHHHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY???????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now I was near tears. Tears and rage. I grabbed my phone and through blurred eyes I typed an S.O.S to my bestie Owen, who’s been my hand-holder and brain-storm buddy through this entire book. As a last resort I told him to hack into my e-mail and try to download it onto HIS computer. But I had no hope at this point. I was done. I felt all the fight drain out of me in a cold, dingy grey trickle, leaving me empty as a pint of Cherry Picking Chocolate Ice Cream after a traumatic break up.

“I’m at Costco with mom D:”

OMG can I die now? Can the earth swallow me up? Can Mr. Lew, my religious studies teacher be right and can Jehovah strike me down with a lightning bolt?

I was ready to hang it all. MONTHS of agonizing over characters and unconventional plot devices and creating my realistic emotional arcs…….GONE. Yes I had drafts of the first stages of development still but it didn’t have the all important Act 2.  UGHHHHHHHHHHHH…………………..

Well this was rock bottom friends. No, I’m not being dramatic. I was absolutely done trying to make this work. It was a make it or break it moment and I was very nearly breaking into a million disappointed pieces. Or maybe a little dramatic….

But with every situation I try to see the silver lining. It’s my damned stubborn idealist attitude. She’s my internal Pinkie Pie and dammit I wanted to hurt her at that moment for distracting me from my melancholy. What GOOD thing can come out of this? How can we turn this around? In my hurry to open other Abiword documents to determined their state of validity, I left a few tabs open so I moved to close them. And then paused, the sun peaking through the storm clouds.

What’s this? When the hell did I write THIS?

I sat for half an hour, re-reading short stories I had written, completely absorbed and fascinated. MY BRAIN wrote that? It was…….it was GREAT! I was stunned. I couldn’t have written THAT. No way…..

Oh I so did that. I did that!

–A short story about a woman who wakes up Post Armageddon to find Angels were roaming the earth and she’s PISSED.

–A story idea about a Dating SIM that can get revenge on you if you break up with it–even kill you.

–A story about a half-wolf girl who opens a School and trains shape-shifters how to claim their ancestral ability to change from human to animal.

MY MIND created those and as I read through the scenes it felt like I was experiencing this all brand new. I felt like I was beta reading someone else’s book and I….ENJOYED it. I LIKED my own writing. It was well-paced and descriptive with just the right amount of dialogue thrown in.

WHAT IN THE ACTUAL FU#%??!

Was this some sort of elaborate plan to give me a confidence boost?! If it was, I would have preferred a kind word from a random stranger or something. Not freaking taking my whole BOOK away from me and making me cry >_>

Okay I’m being a tad dramatic. I tend to get that way when I’m emotional and I just went from rage to melancholy to surprised delight in an hour. I was much calmer when Owen finally came home and delivered the news that the document was indeed corrupted on his end.

My shoulders–and my soul–slumped in defeat.

“But I opened it in Word Pad. There’s 50 pages of code but your book is still there. Let me clean it for you…”

My ears perked and I gave the phone screen a hopeful puppy-dog eyed stare. I think my tail even wagged. I called him on Skype later and screamed at him that I loved him and he was the best and I would die a painfully slow and agonizing death without him as my best friend. To which he replied “I know.”(LOVE YOU OWEN!!!)

Between the two of us, we managed to salvage my book. Yes, all of it. I needed to take three Advil and have a swig of Fireball while doing it but we did it. So now he has a copy, we have a copy on Skype, in my e-mail, in HIS e-mail and on both our computers. HELL no will this ever happen to me again! And once I figure out those file-sharing thingies, I’ll back it up on there too!

I was jelly by the time it was all done. My dream was nearly snuffed out. I mean, YES I could continue writing. Maybe finished that 17-year-old WIP or start fresh with one of my two dozen ideas waiting for approval. But you really don’t get it.

The whole reason I was freaking out and so dramatic about this whole thing was because for the first time EVER in my life, I had made the commitment to start something and see it through. (Well, besides my marriage but that I almost quit that several times as well. Baka hubby was just too stubborn to give up on me.) I give up pretty easily when things get hard. It’s a character flaw. But when I pounded out my NaNoWriMo last year, I promised myself it was going to work this time. No matter how hard it got, I wasn’t going to quit. Owen hounded me like a mad man, setting goals for me and picking at me until I sat my butt down and wrote. (LOVE YOU OWEN!) The complete and total destruction of my novel would have been the feather that broke the camel’s back. There was no way I would be able to re-write that. All I would see is another possibility for failure.

It was lucky then that at the very end, I got TWO silver linings and two very hard-learned lessons.

  1. Owen is the MAN and I owe him free Pizza for a year.
  2. Sometimes you have to give yourself credit for being awesome as well.
  3.  ALWAYS BACK UP YOUR WORK TO MULTIPLE SOURCES
  4. And…..some things are worth fighting for.

I’m going to be a published author one day. There’s no alternative. Some days I might want to table flip and walk away. But because of this, I know now that yes, I’ll walk away sometimes….but it’ll only be long enough to line up shots of Cinnamon Whiskey and get right back into it.

Don’t give up friends. Accept technology is an evil bastard and keep marching on. You CAN do this. I’ll help! ^^

WhooaWHOOOOAAAAAA, Listen to the music!!!

My friends! Hello! Today lets explore something that everyone knows and loves in some form or another. A lighter topic for the beginning of Summer (at least for me. Kids are out of school so that starts MY Summer 😉 )

Music. The stuff that creates moods and memories. The stuff we sing off-key to in the bathroom or in the car. The stuff we do homework to or dance to in a club. Whatever you use music for, it creates reaction in you, yes? And how lucky are we as humans to be exposed to this? We’re able to get tickets to Broadway and not only HEAR music up on the big stage but see dancing accompaniment as well! AMAZING! We can go to rock concerts at the Greek Theater in L.A. and experience our favorite bands live while dodging the inevitable contact highs and spilled beer. That is a unique experience in and of itself for sure. Or we can be romanced by live jazz on the street corners of New Orleans while eating beignets and sipping chicory coffee.

Even in the 2-D world, music is ever present. Can you imagine watching a movie with NO MUSIC? O_O That super intense moment right before the killer nabs the chick would be flat as  a pancake without the rumbling drums or high-pitched eerie flutes. Lord of the Rings would for sure be as mind-numbing as a lecture on politics without the swell of violins and the brassy blare of horns.

How about an example on  a personal note? Your first dance at prom. Even if it’s the worst, most cliche song ever, you’ll always remember it because of the way it made you feel, dancing there with your boy/girlfriend/crush or whomever. Your first big break up. The soundtrack of angry chick ‘eff you’ songs and depressing ‘take me back’ songs with a few ‘maybe it’ll work out’ hopefulness songs thrown in. We connect with music in all sorts of forms and mediums. Without consciously knowing it, as we continue to live and grow, we make a soundtrack for our lives that builds on itself.

Hey, if it works in real life, why not your fictional life? Or the fictional life of your novel characters? Yep. You knew it would eventually come to this because this is under the category “writing about writing”. Duh. But first, a bit of a dance down memory lane….

My mom constantly listened to music. While she cleaned, while she drove, while we were camping and while we were chillin’ in on the patio. Different bands for different moods. There was REO Speedwagon, Wilson Phillips, Bad English, Journey, Eddie Money, Richard Marx, the Doobie Brothers, Damn Yankees, Tears for Fears, Heart, Ted Nugent, Styx…all these wonderful bands that I still love today as an adult. They remind me of my mom whenever I hear them and always will. They were my first musical education, something I’m forever grateful for because music these days? Yeeeeesh. (I’m eternally thankful my kids missed the Justin Bieber and Hannah Montana trend -_-)

Then when I got my very first Boom Box in sixth grade I discovered the Radio and expanded my musical repertoire to the 90’s alternative music (and the inevitable BOY BAND fad >_<). Goo Goo Dolls (my very favorite #1 band of all time), Vertical Horizon, Third Eye Blind, Aqua, Savage garden, Edwin McCain, Stabbing Westward, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sixpence None the Richer, Backstreet boys, *NSYNC, Hanson…all of these bands remind me of being in Middle School and plastering posters all over my walls. I remember I dedicated Savage Garden’s “Truly Madly Deeply” to my first serious boyfriend at our first 9th grade dance. I listened to the radio for HOURS just to catch my favorite Backstreet Boys song “Quit playin’ game with my heart”. I cried hearing “I’ll Be” by Edwin McCain for the first time. My Christmas and birthday lists were mostly taken up by CDs I wanted and books. (And chap stick. My mom would laugh reading that…)

They’re still with me, even 15 years later, and have built on the root of my rock and roll education. I love that I can play Styx on my iPod in the car and my kids will know exactly who they are. They cna even name the songs correctly. Oh yeah. Some music HAS to be heard.

I moved on to a broader and less wholesome mix of music later in High School and College that included Static X, Rednex, Seether, Good Charlotte, Staind, Skillet, Red, Cake, Rob Zombie, Meredith Brooks, The Black Keys, Breaking Benjamin, and Evanescence. I even took a course on “Music Appreciation” and fell in love Gregorian chants, bagpipe music, polka, and French Rap. I took a course on keyboarding and acoustic Guitar and 4 semesters of Choir. I was inundated with Music and I loved it. It filled me up and made my life fuller.

Okay okay, sorry! The point of this is not to go down memory lane….

Actually…

It kind of is.

When I started writing my first story (the one that’s incomplete and going on 17 years now) I had a ginormous case of CDs that I could select from and pop into my disc-man (yes my age is showing >_>) whenever I needed to create a certain mood or remember a specific time in my life. I used my musical education to write dramatic dialogue and tear out the hearts of my characters. Sometimes I would listen to a song on repeat while I fleshed out a scene, needing that perfect blend of notes and lyrics to strike the right tone. These amazing little discs helped me to sink into whatever emotional state I needed to be in at the moment to create the right mood in the story.

Sometimes the pages of my notebook would be stained with tears as I forced myself to listen to a sad song over and over. Bryan Adams’ “Every little thing I do” for some reason reminds me of my late father. I cry every dang time I hear it. So yeah, guess what went into the disc-man when I needed tears? Sometimes my writing would be angry and messy as I wrote furiously, pulling from my own life the time that guy cheated on me or that ex-friend made me feel like I wasn’t good enough. Authors go through emotional trauma writing stories sometimes =/ But in the end it’s worth it right? (I haven’t reached the end yet so I’m assuming it’s true. You know what they say about ASSUMING anything though….)

When I got my very first iPod, I was 21. I was newly married and I had gotten myself a 4th generation sapphire blue iPod Shuffle with our tax return. It was salvation, both on my ears and my arms, not having to tote around that brick-o-CDs whenever I wanted to write. I had an ancient dinosaur of a computer that I downloaded iTunes on and patiently ripped all my CD’s onto it and spent hundreds of hours downloading music onto it. Then hundreds more creating playlist and refining them.Sometimes, that’s more fun than writing.

Silver Sun is the name of the 17 year old incomplete novel I’m writing and the name of the playlist associated with it. I took from all of the stages of my musical education to create an emotional arc that followed the story line. For my main female character, Meredith O’Connor, I used strong female voices like Joan Jett, Florence and the Machine, Adele, Avril Lavigne, Super Chick, Meredith Brooks, and the Pussycat Dolls to represent her. She’s very strict with herself but generous with others. For her jerk of a rock star love interest, I used “Joker” by Steve Miller Band”, “Dizzy” by Goo Goo Dolls, “Low Life” by Theory of a Deadman, and “Are you gonna be my girl” by JET. If I needed an angry moment where a character lashes out, I might use “Coming Undone” by Korn, “Words as Weapons” by Seether, or “Savior” by Red. For the BIG BREAK UP SCENE in the novel I used songs like “Where is your heart” by Kelly Clarkson, “In between” by Linkin Park, “Ex-Girlfriend” by No Doubt and “Almost Lover” by A Fine Frenzy.

If you haven’t tried this yet, I highly recommend you do. It’s a challenge and an immense satisfaction when you can fit the perfect song to the perfect moment in your novel. And–BONUS– you get a playlist you can rely on to be good when your “shuffle” selection keeps throwing you crap you don’t want to listen to ! But really, if you play the list whenever you write (if you can write and listen to lyrics at the same time) it helps to get you “in the mood” so to speak. And I’ve noticed that using the playlist while writing helps to condition your mind to automatically go to your novel when you hear those songs again. Like, whenever I hear “Epiphany” by Staind, it will forever remind me of my character Gaelyn, whom Merry relies on for his blatant honesty about everything. Or “Acoustic #3” by Goo Goo Dolls. I’m immediately taken back to the moment in my novel where Merry and Gaelyn make their first emotional connection.

I’ve made play lists for all the major novels that I’m serious about writing. I have a dozen or more on my iPod—HAD, a dozen. My beloved sapphire blue iPod finally took a crap this year and I lost most of the playlists. (Do you know how hard it was to find another one? I had to import if from Canada! D:) Luckily I had the foresight to back up the playlists I MOST needed before it officially died. But it was still a painful blow to lose all that hard work.The silver lining though was I could start fresh and fall back in love with my novel by immersing myself back in the characters and scene lists.

So two pieces of advice for you my fellow writers, followers, and friends: Make playlists. Call on the soundtrack of your life and give it to your novel. Let your characters borrow your rage, your sorrow, and your happiness! Fill up your scenes with variety and layers! AND then back up EVERYTHING. It will add another layer to your writing that you can enjoy for years to come. I know that even when I’m a famous published author I will continue to listen to Silver Sun and Hourglass and Lycans for the memories and the good music and the hard work that went into each and every list.

Ha….it always comes back to memories and emotion doesn’t it? Music is a powerful tool indeed.

If you’re curious about my thought process or whatever when making my playlist I’ve provided a small sampling of my Silver Sun list and the explanation behind my choices.

This is the break up scene between Merry and Bryce, who cheated on her and wants her back. It sounds prosaic. I’m sorry. But the back and forth between the two is represented in the songs. It’s a good sampling of mood, intent and character. Also, if you’d like to HEAR the songs, I’ve provided YouTube hyperlinks for you to enjoy 🙂 (Thanks to all the great videos that the YouTube members put together for our enjoyment! All credit goes to them and the bands that made music!)

 

“You Oughta Know” Alanis Morisette (Merry being pissed off)

“Before he cheats” Carrie Underwood (More angry chick breakup music)

“Ex-Girlfriend” No Doubt (annnd morreeee angry girl music)

“The Truth” Good Charlotte (Merry giving up on anger and giving into her despair and pain, asking Bryce to tell her the truth)

“Inbetween” Linkin Park (Bryce’s painful and truthful response)

“Where is your Heart” Kelly Clarkson (pleading with Bryce to look deeper inside himself and tell her it all wasn’t for nothing)

“Werewolf” Fiona Apple (Merry being bitter and cold and self-deprecating)

“Addicted” Kelly Clarkson (Merry hating herself for needing Bryce)

“Without you” Hinder (Bryce realizing that Merry really is leaving and now he’s trying to get her back)

“Almost lover” A Fine Fenzy (Merry’s decision to say goodbye to Bryce)

“One last chance” Daughtry (Bryce’s pleading now)

“Keeper” Yellowcard (Bryce saying he wishes he could be someone else for her and he’s sorry)

“Wishes” Super Chick (Merry telling Bryce they could of had a great thing and that he screwed it up. Hates that she still loves him but is still saying goodbye)

“Time for me to Fly” REO Speedwagon (the final goodbye)

Not right now Honey. I have a Headache…

It’s been awhile since I wrote a blog post. Shame on me! I started this so my future fans can get to know me and I can make forays into the Professional Writing World, which subtly demands that the authors have a blog of some sort. Bloggsssss…….bleehhhhh *smacks cheeks vigorously and perks up, shaking my brain out of this nonsense*

OK! YAY blogging! Opinions only! Write what I want to write! This is an excellent thing!

…then why do I only have a dozen articles at best? Wellll a pesky thing called procrastination might have something to do with it. It’s in my genetic DNA. Can’t help that. (Actually my sister and mother are anti-procrastination so maybe I’m just the black sheep of the family :P) The other bigger part of this conundrum is every writer’s greatest nemesis, besides the foul-mouthed Editor Demon. It’s called:

I DUN WANNA. 

I Dun Wanna write today because *fill in the blank*. It can be just about any excuse. No time. Headache. Chores. Errands. Too tired. Work. Deadlines. Weeding the garden. Kids. Pretty Little Liars Marathon on Netflix. All of these are legit excuses–I mean REASONS– why you can’t write. Priorities first right? Cool. Fine.

The thing is, when you first start a project, you’re all gung-ho for it. Remember that? Your fingers fly over the keyboard and your pen scratches fastidiously on whatever piece of paper is nearest at hand because you can’t WAIT to get your ideas out! You’re all fire and smoke and you babble to whomever will listen about your latest brilliant book idea! It’s NaNoWriMo material! Publishers will eat it up! So you write scenes and character bios and maybe even get as far as a scene list. The relationship is great and fun and fiery! At first. All lust and passion and late evenings contemplating the world by candle light and glasses of wine. It’s a beautiful thing for sure and you think  that it if only it could last forever, book deals will rain down on you from Publishing Heaven.

So after the initial rush, you take a breath and go back to the beginning. What happens when the characters seem…TOO perfect? What if you start to think, Oh WOW, did that really just happen? You might hesitate when a scene demands something of you that you just aren’t ready for. Little things start to bother you. Then bigger things. You get frustrated and you can’t find the right words to express why. And suddenly it comes to this:

Not right now Honey. I have a Headache. 

You feel guilty saying it, even if it’s not true. And you start paying less attention to the manuscript, making more and more excuses to NOT sit down and write. The relationship with your book changed. Now IT’S WORK. All the newness and bluster of the new idea wore off and you have to sludge through terrible first draft scenes and you have to make your perfect first character meaner/uglier/flawed. It seems like all your hard work was for nothing and will only ever be nothing.

You’d be right, of course, if you never did another thing with your piece of shat novel. But hey, you’re married to this book now. And if you REALLY want to test your mettle as a writer, then FINISH IT. Force yourself to face the painful things, the boring things, the gaps between scenes, the trashing of the last ten pages of absolute crap writing. This literally is the defining moment between Blog Writer and NOVELIST. James Patterson probably has every single crack in the walls of his office memorized and named from the hundreds of hours staring at them, trying to make his brain spit out new murderous plot twists. Nora Roberts probably has trenches worn around her garden as she walked and contemplated the next great heroine for her latest romance.

Contemplation and staring are fine. Chew pencils, turn circles in your spinny chair, balance a spoon on your nose….whatever works for you. But while you’re doing it, think about writing. Write a word. The another. And another. Put the punctuation at the end of the sentence and write another word. Even if you resent every damn word you write, just keep doing it! Because this is what being a professional writer means, working on your manuscript likes it’s your significant other. Work out the bad things, reward the good things. Talk it out. Re-read it. Reiterate.

Yep. it’s WORK writing a book. Yuck. I know friends. It’s hard. I know for sure it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. You have to dig deep inside yourself and explore dark corners you never knew existed. For example, I’m writing an anti-hero into my novel and he’s very…cruel. He LIKES hurting people and toying with people and he doesn’t give a rat’s ass who doesn’t like him. His voice is harsh and true and unrelenting. To write this character I’ve had to explore hidden places in myself that have made me…not a nice person of late. Like an actor slipping into a role. It’s rough. But if you stick with it, and DON’T fake headaches, the rewards might be really great. You could get a publishing deal out of that!

Maybe you won’t. Not gonna lie. But are you really going to pass up that chance?

The best piece of advice I come across over and over while I research the writing world is to KEEP WRITING. The more you write, the better you’ll become.

Pick any writer and read their very first novel. Then read their latest one. I bet you’ll see a vasssssttttttt improvement.

I am struggling a great deal with this concept myself because I can’t balance my life right now to fit writing in among all the other things. I know that it really needs to be the other way around because above all things, I WANT TO BE A WRITER. I’m at the hard part of my writing relationship where writing is work and I get so frustrated and disappointed that I just table flip and walk away.

Simple advice? Write what you’ve got. If it’s only three scenes, write that. The rest will come if you work at it.

Just keep writing. NO Headaches 😉 (Or maybe occasionally….)

Also if you need another pick me up about why you’re a bad ass for writing a novel, check out this blog. It’s a good reminder about why you do what you do 🙂

Scene it! Can I use a lifeline please?

As I delve more deeply into the deep and chilly waters of the Writing Craft, I realize how very organized we authors have to be D: It’s ridiculous! I mean, SUB plot lines? Scene lists?Characters arcs, Emotional arcs, Dramatic arcs, and Climatic arcs? Well why dontcha throw in Noah’s arc too!?

Actually, no. Don’t do that. Cuz then we’ll have to do character bios for all the animals. Noooo thankkksssssss.

The most organized I’ve ever been is when I was in college working two jobs and holding down a full class schedule. But that wasn’t ME being disciplined. I was just following the system like a sheep. Maaaaahhhhhh. Now that I am free of the institution and am (supposedly) a well-adjusted adult (HA), I have to instill some self-discipline. In my opinion, it would be easier to take candy from a hyperactive, over-tired, screaming toddler than to make ME have discipline. No, it’s not a position I’m against, per se. I am literally incapable of being organized and have little self-control. Which is why my books are piling on the FLOORS now… SHHHHH don’t tell my husband!

Okay so in almost every other area of my life I don’t have discipline but writing isn’t one of them. I NEED to be organized in order to function properly when I write, which is a virtual FIRST. As I type this, I can hear my friend Owen’s voice in the back of my head saying “HA! I TOLD YOU SO! Structure is LIFE!” Yes yes, you were right. And now all….6 of my followers will see it as proof. But no worries, when I publish my book the first dedication will be “Yes Owen, you were right.” Then millions will know.

But here’s the catch about being organized: there are literally THOUSANDS of ways to do it as a writer. Geezus it’s mind-boggling. It really is! I’m sure you’ve been here before but for someone like me who doesn’t have a foundation of organizational strategies to jump off from, trying to find the combination that works for me is daunting, frustrating, and a whole lot of other verbs I can’t say in polite company. I feel like a self-diagnosing psychiatrist trying to find which combination of pills works the best but the results are varied and unpleasant. *Le sigh*

Well, despite the *Insert ‘-ing’ verb here* mess of information I filtered though, I did make progress, as told in my blog post HERE. I found the Snowflake Method  and so far it’s been the best overall organizational method for my writing. Great! YAY for steps forward! Grab some dark chocolate and cinnamon whiskey and celebrate. (Yes, that’s exactly what I did too.) Cool. Now let’s move on to the next bullet point in my dysfunctional writing life. One of the steps in the Snowflake message is to write a scene list. HOOOOOOOOOOOOO DOGGIE! Here’s where it gets a little more complicated and where I’ve blended some techniques to match my style.

First, I decided to use  a bit of the Three Act Method. It basically outlines that there are three disasters and a climax. It gives me an equidistant span of time to pace said disasters. All the guess-work is taken out of it, which I love (and kind of hate. Where’s the unpredictability!?) Then, to fill the in-between of those disasters, I’m using a snippet from a blog I can’t remember that said each part of the three act method should consist of about 16 scenes. Hooray for whittling it down more! I can do this!

………..until I realize I have only about a dozen fully conceived scenes.

WHAAATTT!?

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! IT NEVER ENDS!!!!!!!

At this point I gave in to my inner hysteria and had another glass of whiskey. To, ya know, make it shut up.

Well I HMMMMM’d and HAAAAAAA’d  for several days and came up with an okay rough scene list to start from. YAY! And this is where a large helping of my “That’s A Good Idea” notebook came into play. As I’m sure every good writer does, they have a notebook (or several) where they write down EVERYTHING. Character names, bios, quotes, dialogue, research material, book titles, questions, answers, blog links…it’s like the unofficial and ever-changing bible for writers. Thanks to this, I have come up with a third bullet point for my journey into writing-dom. A third! That’s huge news for someone who managed to be late for her own wedding thanks to–you guessed it!-disorganization.

  • First bullet! Discovering the Snow Flake Method
  • Second Bullet! Using the Three Act Story Plot and the 16 scene average
  • Third bullet!  The six questions I ask myself when writing individual scenes

You probably have heard of them all before at one point or another in your writing exploration but I feel these really define what’s important to make a scene successful. Best part? They don’t have to be in ANY kind of order! Rebellion rears its tiny head! So for the umpteenth time, I’m going to write for you all the questions you already know because you know, repetition equals remembrance. (Practice makes perfect is a lie.) Here’s my lifeline to YOU:

  1. What needs happen in this scene?
  2. What is the purpose of this scene?/ Why is it important?
  3. Where is the conflict?
  4. Does everything inside this scene move the plot forward?
  5. Does everything in this scene make sense and flow?
  6. Do the characters end up in a different emotional state at the end of the scene than when it started?

And just for kicks, and the fact I love the number 7, here’s a 7th question for you to consider and it comes from a famous writer. You may have heard of him. His name is Anton Chekhov. If not, go give him a quick once over. Chekhov’s gun is a brilliant common sense theory for writers. The ultimate DUH. Anyway, number 7!

7. Is everything that is said and done in the scene important to either the next scene or the whole of the book?

It really helps me to stay focused on a scene when I remember these questions. I have them on a separate sheet of paper near me when I write so I can double and triple check them. Sometimes every paragraph gets a once over with the questions when it’s a particularly hard scene to write for whatever reason. It also shuts up my inner editor, who is constantly nagging over my shoulder with her sour cream and onion scented breath. Yes these questions would probably be more suited to a second draft but it helps me NOT write wish-fulfillment crap. Helps to streamline the process.

It’s also helped me re-write half my beginning scenes but HEY part of the fun right? HA.

I have three bullets in my Writing Organization Arsenal now. W.O.A?? Hey that works! It is a pretty big WHOA moment for Disorganized Me. Owen is crying metaphorical tears of joy. That’s alright. He may have won this round. But he’s also trying to get me to exercise and eat better. HA! What’s that saying about having the last laugh? He’s trying to save a sinking ship here xD Someone is going to have to throw HIM a lifeline soon!

W.O.A friends. Writing Organization Arsenal. Find one that works for you. Don’t be afraid to change it or dump it completely for a new one. Start a writer’s bible and start doing what you do best. I wish you luck, plentiful whiskey, and brilliant epiphanies. And life lines 🙂