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!!)
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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 ❤

Quickie #14 Red circle of Doom

PROMPT: What date do you have circled on your calendar? 

Saturday January 27th was circled on my calendar because it was going to be the last day at my job.

I was only hired as a seasonal employee so I anticipated the day was coming. I put on a smile for the co-workers I’d come to think of as friends and tried to keep my disappointment on the inside. But I can’t deny I was a little annoyed that management was hiring cashiers left and right but not keeping me. Like, really? I already know the store, the product, all the positions…but I can’t stay. I survived Seasonal!

Well EFF YOU then!

During the Christmas season they put me back in the frame shop because I knew the job from before and I was able to help out while they were training a new Frame shop Manager. Then they promoted a guy into full time Framer and we were running pretty smoothly. I became the night time closer, straightening my aisles, cleaning the frame shop, and calling customers whose orders had been completed. I liked this arrangement because I got the entire day to do what I liked and then when my husband got home, I could use the car instead of taking the bus and having him pick me up at 10:00.

It was pretty sweet and I knew I wouldn’t be able to find another arrangement like this but what can I do? Beg? No. I did my job with a smile and tried my best, looking on craigslist and monster for jobs my meager experience would be good for. More retail. Warehouse worker. Sandwich artist maybe.

Well I’m happy to say they didn’t get rid of me.

Two days before my cut off date my boss decides to call me and say “Just kidding. We made room for you. We like your positivity and enthusiasm.”

Wait what? Not my work ethic but my personality? HEY! I’LL FREAKING TAKE IT!! I’d rather be good at customer service and make people feel good than just about anything else.

YAY!!

I greatly appreciated the little bit of freedom and independence that my job gave me. I liked being able to help my husband out with bills and groceries and get myself lunch without having to sneak it by the budget or use a credit card. I was beginning to get my own identity outside of “Mom” and “Wife”. I’m still learning how to balance speed with efficiency both at work and at home. I get dinged on it a lot. (After twelve years of doing things at my own pace, it’s hard to get on to someone else’s schedule.) But I like my bosses for the most part and my coworkers are the BEST. I adore every single one of them.

And I am grateful I can keep my job.

THANK YOU (to whoever is listening). And reading, as always. 🙂

A taste of the real world: Chew and Swallow

I am not my own boss anymore.

That’s probably the suckiest thing about working retail again. I can’t decide my pace or what projects to work on. There’s always pressure to go faster and do better if I want to keep the job. I have 6 bosses. But I can’t complain. I have to keep my mouth shut and not say what I honestly feel about where I work and the people I work with. There’s no secrecy. Bitching about co-workers and bosses to other co workers and bosses will eventually make it down the grape-vine. The bitchee will find out.

First lesson: Co-workers are not friends. They WILL nark on you. (Also, I am secretly a sour puss bitch.Who knew?)

Cuz this is the real world folks, where I am just a functioning body and corporate doesn’t care. Neither do your bosses. Get the f*&king work DONE.

How I’m turning that into a POSITIVE: Learning to deal with different types of personalities makes me stop and observe people more. Some people can take sass with a grain of salt and some get concern, even offended.

Next suckiest thing is the communication misinformation that runs rampant with major chain stores. Communication is KEY in retail. GOOD* communication. Everyone has to be more or less on the same page and any disagreements about it should be handled immediately, in a calm and professional manner. (Rather than my typical “This is complete SHIT” blurted-out honesty.) My family has spoiled me by not correcting my sardonic sass. They love me regardless. Corporate, not so much.

Second lesson: Not everyone can understand or appreciate my humor so ZIP IT.

How I’m turning that into a POSITIVE: Being silent and listening will make me more approachable and less likely to be noticed by the higher ups. It also reminds me to be patient and humble, something I think has slowly been slipping from my personality of late.

Next suckiest thing is how SLOOWWWWWWWWW I am at my job!! It’s embarrassing! I haven’t worked in ten years and it shows. I’m more blind now than I was as a teenager (I actually require glasses for my job) and my brain doesn’t work quite as fast. Hard core reality check right there. I’m getting OLD. Some of the managers are sympathetic of this fact, which I appreciate. Others are not. They attempt to give me tips and tricks to increase my speed and…yeah no. It just doesn’t compute. I say “okay” and continue doing things my way. But that makes me “uncoachable” apparently.

So I get dinged and sent to the principle’s office.

My entire attitude about it (which they’ve been able to clearly see) is “Let me do my F&*KING job and leave me alone!” All these interruptions and conversations break my concentration and I lose my rhythm. But I can’t say that. When they talk to me about how off-putting I am when it comes to advice and teaching moments, I have to be a broken record and a dancing monkey. Which makes me raise my hackles. Do NOT tell me how to do the job I’m already doing!

Well…

Third lesson: Constructive criticism is a thing. It’s not nit-picking. They do really want to help (in most cases).

How I’m turning it into a POSITIVE: I hate people telling me how to do my job. HATE IT. HOWEVER, I will learn to bite my tongue and put suggestions to use in case they really are helpful. I really don’t know everything and I must be adaptable to change.

Overall, I see this as training for being a published writer. I’m not going to be to everybody’s taste and I need to find a way to accept that with grace. Hey that rhymes! How sublime!

(See? It really does always come back around to writing ;D )

I WILL become my own boss some day and write exclusively. And I WILL combat criticism with professionalism. Every experience is a lesson. Only YOU can decide what to take from it.

Good luck with life y’all.

The Happiest Place on Earth is NOT Disneyland

So.

This post is going to be a little more personal than usual but it eventually will end up about writing. Long story short, there’s been several deaths in the family, several births, very large and painful secrets divulged, there’s been separations and divorces, my husband lost his job and I had to find one after 10 years of not working.

It’s not a complaint-fest I swear! It’s a bit of a story actually. Surprise, surprise 😉

When my husband lost his job it was right around the same time I was looking for my own employment. His employer hadn’t been paying the workers on time and that sent up a huge red flag that something was going down. The kids were older and I knew we all could handle me getting a part-time job now. Plus, it was going to be necessary.

So I went online and did the whole “job recruiter” thing. I sent out half a dozen applications a day and waited anxiously. Target called me right away for an interview and I was excited. Not to work there but about being called back. This was easy! I trotted myself down there and waited on a bench with two other beefy guys. Haaaaa…

I did everything wrong apparently. I wore jeans to the interview for one. I was so far out of the game I didn’t realize that was taboo. I was a mom for Christ sake, looking for a stocking job! Who needed to be fancy?! I was too honest in my interview and said the wrong kinds of things. Like, “What is one quality your employer would say you need to work on?” and I replied with “Speed. I’m a perfectionist so I go slow and do things right.”

*FACE PALM*

They trap you with those questions, I swear! What is the LEAST BAD thing you can say about yourself that won’t impact your job performance? Seriously. And being a perfectionist isn’t bad! Ugghhh. Needless to say I didn’t get called back. I’ve been much less inclined to shop there suddenly. Hmm. Back to the apps.

Now, I don’t know how it is for you lovely people out there in WordPress Land but there has always been a job or two that I’ve ALWAYS wanted. I don’t aim high for employment so it’s not like I wanted to be a CEO or anything. I’m perfectly happy working in retail (a rare trait, might I add.) One of those jobs I had before I got pregnant with my first daughter. I wanted to work at a craft store. Michael’s hired me and I stayed there until a week before my kid was born. I was never able to go back since I got pregnant again right after my first was born. But I got to live one of my “dream” jobs!

It was wonderful! I helped kids with their art projects and I helped a young couple memorialize their deceased babies in a beautiful ceremony with reminder bracelets. I knew alllll the tips and tricks for the artsy things and I could whip out a full custom frame job in an hour if need be. I felt energized by helping people and my bubbly personality made their shopping experience better. No grumpy employee here! It was a mutualistic happy relationship I had with Michael’s. 

I did apply there first, actually. My mom works there now and my cousin worked there for many years off and on. I knew the managers by name and many of the employees knew ME because I practically lived there, shopping for one crafty project or another. It would still be a good job for me and I knew I would benefit the company.

However.

There was one “Unicorn Job” I’ve wanted since I was 18. I applied every year and always seemed to just miss the cut off. I was there almost every day of the summer in middle and high school. It was my salvation away from an abusive step father.

Can you guess that it might be? If one half of me is crafts, then the other half iiiiisssssss……??????

C’mon you can guess! I made a blog specifically for this kind of thing!

Nothing? Not a clue?

Alright, fine. I’ll tell you.

My unicorn job is Barnes and Nobles. It was and is MY happiest Place on Earth. Screw you Disneyland with your long lines and screaming kids. *shudder*

Yep! All those lovely dead trees printed with stories and facts and information. MMMM!!!!!! I knew I would be a good fit in there too if I could just get my foot in the door. I am well-read and I’m a pleasant and helpful soul. So once more, with a hope and a prayer, I tried one last time. I filled out the application and sent it in. Then I waited three agonizing days before taking my mama’s advice and going there to show my face. She always said it was better to go and let your physical presence be known to potential employers. It showed initiative.

Well. I was terrified. My interview went so badly with Target I got tongue-tied when I saw the store manager. My mind went blank. This was my unicorn job! I had to keep it together! I fumbled my way through introductions and could barely spit out what I came to ask. I was shaking and near tears. I was a mess.

She took pity on me, thankfully. I think my trembling chihuahua bit softened her and she arranged to have me contact her assistant manager to set up an interview. I walked out of the store, zombie-like, and stood by my car, in shock.

Did…did that just happen? Was that my foot going into the proverbial door of my dream job? OMG. OMG! I threw my arms up and screamed “YES!”

Well, I’m happy to inform you I am the newest part-time employee at Barnes and Nobles. YES! I did it! I didn’t get the book seller position I wanted BUT I got something much better suited for me. I joined the work force, which is basically stocking shelves and organizing, my two favorite things to do to books besides read them. I get to see all the newest titles pass through my hands and glean information here and there about what publishers are pushing out these days. My Good Reads account is slowly starting to fill up.

I did it. I can hardly believe it. I got my Unicorn job! I’m very slow, which is bad but that’ll improve with time. The holiday season is right around the corner and I need to be fully cognizant of the shelves before the crazy season begins. I adore all my co workers, who are welcoming and generous with me and my incessant questions. My managers are equal parts firm and funny. It is literally, everything I wanted.

I’m humbled working there too. I’m only a month in but so many things have been brought to my attention that I know I need to work on. For one thing, I have a poor diet of books in my library. Or rather, a very fantasy rich diet. Trying to recommend my personal selection of books to guests makes me feel like a toddler handing the “Good Night Moon” book to an adult. I need to get some meaty selections on my shelves! Some current events or some mysteries at least. I have all of my mother’s Lee Child books and picked up nary a one to read. So I’ll be working on that. 30% employee discount might help 😀

Another thing that has humbled me is looking at all the successful authors that have made it to the shelves. There are hundreds of thousands of authors at BnN. They’re the ones that have done the hard work and bled all over their manuscripts to make their dream come true. They WANTED it. They didn’t give up. What kind of writer am I to stop when the going gets tough? A punk ass one, that what.

I know that paper books are somewhat of a dying market. E-books are convenient, cheaper, environmentally friendly blah blah blah….I still don’t own a nook or a kindle or whatever. But I have a job at a book store. And I want to be traditionally published. I can only feel that me getting the job at Barnes and Nobles is a step in the right direction. I get up front information about what kind of genre and books each publisher is looking for. I can jump on trends and I can find endless inspiration on the shelves.

I am a blessed person. For all the shit I’ve been going through since the beginning of the year, I’m grateful I can still find blessings and my eyes are still opened to them. I’m excited for this new chapter in my life, even if juggling everything has been difficult. I’ve dropped a few balls but they’ll be in the air again. Once such ball has been my blog. I’ll be getting back into it again. I need to.

I’ve managed to manifest my dream retail job into my life so I can do the same with my truest and biggest dream as well.

I WILL be published. I WILL!

Take care everyone. Don’t give up. Find the blessings ❤