Monday, November 27, 2006

Oh NaNo, where have you gone?

My first NaNo experience has almost come to an end. And guess what, I am nowhere near the 50K word count I thought I would hit by November 30th. Real life has this way of slinking in and taking over when I least expect it, and November has been full of real life trials and tribulations.

So let's see, I can do one of two things. I can sulk about it. This would include beating myself up over not being a better writer or not being dedicated enough to my career to have met my goal. There would also be a heavy dose of self-doubt included because then I would wonder if I am cut out for this business or if I really can write anything worthy of publication.

I'm really not liking this option very much because I do believe I am a good writer who is dedicated to her career. I know I am cut out for this business because writing is all I want to do with my life at this point, and I know I can write something worthy of publication.

I guess that leaves me with the second option. I can write as much as I physically am able to over the next few days until NaNo ends. Then I can pat myself on the back for writing a large portion of this book in a much shorter time frame than it took me to write six chapters of my first one. I will need to reassess my goals for the rest of the year and see if they might have to change to make room for me to finish my NaNo project by then. And finally, I will congratulate myself on a job well done because when NaNo ends on November 30th, I will still have more words down on paper - technically on my hard drive - than I did on November 1st. I did not allow my internal editor to strike down every sentence I thought was less than perfect, and I did not give up when real life turned me down a different path than I intended to go.

No matter what your final word count is on November 30th, I hope you too will take pride in your accomplishments. Being a writer is not an easy gig, and the fact that you have the determination and motivation to break in or continue in this business, is worthy of respect and praise.


Comparing, or her's is better than mine.

I've become quite unhappy with my writing lately. I know I shouldn't be but I am.

I think it all started about a week ago when I read Deborah LeBlanc's first book Family Inheritance. It isn't often I sit and read until I'm finished with a book. In fact, I have two started that I haven't picked up in weeks. They just don't do "it" for me...whatever "it" is. Then Thursday I read Deborah's second book, Grave Intent and became quite unhappy with my writing.

When I finished the book, I had several questions. For example, how did she weave plot, setting, narrative, dialogue and all the other bits and pieces together so well? How did she make me forget about the real world and join her characters in theirs? I'm a very quick reader...yet at times I couldn't read the pages fast enough. Most importantly, I wanted to know how to do those things in my writing. There must be some secret I don't know about right?

In chat last night, Mary happened to mention that comparing your writing to another's was asking for writer's block. And that is exactly what I've done. I've looked so much at the negative in my writing this past week or so that the joy is gone. So now what do I do?

First, I look back and see how far I've come and how much I've improved. I'm going to read the last couple rejection letters I've gotten with personal comments and invitations to send more to them. Then, I'm going to plant myself in front of the puter and write.

I think the last is most important. Writing is what makes us better writers. Just as my son gets better the more he practices the piano, I get better by writing.

I'm also going to get Deborah's third book. And I'm going to read and enjoy her mastery of the craft. Then I'm going to go write some more and one of these days my readers will lose themselves in my character's world too.


Saturday, November 25, 2006



Turning Real Life into Fiction

Uncle Jimmy popped the videotape from Christmas Eve into the VCR. The family all gathered around to watch video of Aunt Louise singing while drunk on egg nog. Nobody told her it was the spiked one! Mixed with Aunt Louise’s completely original rendition of We Wish You a Merry Christmas, the whole family heard Aunt Pam’s high pitched laughter and Mom Reese’s scolding.

Now, here is a story waiting to happen. But, not in its present form. Can anyone see where you could go? What if Aunt Pam and Mom Reese were talking about the new addition to the family - Cousin Jennie’s new husband who everyone thinks is a bit dense and only after her newfound lottery money? And, Cousin Jennie has a front row seat in front of the television. Cousin Jennie already dislikes Aunt Pam because of past holiday experiences. Really, this story could go anywhere. You could take this into a humorous piece or even murder plotting.

Who says you can’t take boring real life stories and make it profitable? Not me! In fact, I’m banking on it. So, pull out your memories and begin to play. Change names to protect the guilty. Turn dismal relationship endings into enduring love. The past is yours to change, even if only in writing.

Can’t think of anything that you find interesting? Then scan the newspaper for unusual human interest stories and begin to ask "what if?" From one such article, I created my story "Fine Print." The story about Andy Fischer selling his forehead to Snore Stop as a billboard got me to thinking about temporary tattoos and the consequences of having the wrong message on your forehead. So, I created the rebellious son having money woes. He got his comeuppance through a round about way. Try wearing "Valtrex, It works on my Herpies" on your forehead while meeting your girlfriend’s father-in-law and rich business associates.

I hope this gave you some ideas! Now get writing.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

That's right! It's time to take the day off from everything but football, parades and help out with the cooking and eating of massive amounts of great food.

But, while everyone is on the couch after that last piece of pie, let's think about some of the things we are truly thankful for.

I'll start us off...

Our families...sure we may not get along all the time but they are "our" family, quirks and all.

Our friends...I'd like to give a big Texas shout out to Sassy and Judy in Louisana and Mary up in Oregon. Having friends who understand what it is like to be a writer is a wonderful thing and at StoryCrafters there are some great friends. Some I'd be proud to call family.

Our get together, to make complete fools of ourselves, to come and go when and where we please. We take so many of these freedoms for granted so take a moment to think about them and say thanks.

Here are a few more things I'm thankful for...hubby that supports my writing and believes in me, reliable transportation (hate those car payments though), puters and the internet:--), thick socks, hot cocoa, milk chocolate and chocolate milk, kids that enjoy reading, finding escaped hamsters before the snake does, instant messaging, Long Ridge, StoryCrafters, pecan pie, bar-b-que and all the fixings...

I could go on and on...but you get the idea.

Tell us some of your favorite things and share the joy. Then go back for that second or third piece of pie:--)


Monday, November 20, 2006

The Write Time

Have you ever noticed that we writers seem to have talismanic behaviors, oddities that help us in some strange way to achieve our daily writing goals? For example, I have to watch Imus in the Morning, drink 2 cups of coffee, eat a nutri-grain bar, and make a fresh pitcher of iced tea before I can begin to write each day. When any one of these habits is missed, it is difficult for me to get going. My friend Rhette Devane (aka Madhatter) needs nothing more than a good cup of coffee each morning to get her writing day started.

I doubt that any two writers have the same approach to gearing themselves up for a few hours spent in solitude, grinding out a story. One writer I know walks the dog at 5 am, clearing his mind for the day. Another writer friend takes an hour in the hot tub relaxing and giving rise to her imagination. My brother in law, a songwriter has a worry stone he rubs during his compositions. He claims that without it he can’t write a single line.

I remember reading a creative writing self- help book that said if you don’t get up every morning and immediately write for one solid hour, then you ought to pack it in; you aren’t a writer. Desiring to be a writer I began to arise each morning and without benefit of Imus or iced tea, started to scribble away. This lasted about a week. I kept falling back to sleep before the hour had lapsed. Initially I became discouraged, telling myself that I must not be a writer after all. This time of discouragement did not last however, for as we know a writer must write just as we must breathe. I soon returned to my routine and was once again writing away.

The experience caused me to wonder just how other writers, the ones who became famous that is, begin their writing day. What I discovered is that each writer has his or her own specific way of doing it. Some are sensible, while others made me downright uncomfortable. All of them were fascinating however, so I decided it might be fun to share them with you. If you think that rubbing your miniature pigs belly before starting up, or talking to your now dead grandmother is strange, just take a look at these famous writers.

*Gustave Flaubert kept his lover’s slippers and mittens in his desk drawer.
*Alexandre Dumas, the elder, ate an apple at 7 a.m. each morning under the Arc de Triomphe. *Anne Rivers Siddons’ husband reports that she makes a nest of papers, like a mouse getting ready for winter, then she starts walking into walls just before she begins a new novel.
*Elena Castedo, author of Paradise repeats these numbers; 30,53,57. There are 30 years between Homers Odyssey and The Illiad,; 53 between Henry Roths first and second books, and 57 is the age of Cervantes when he wrote his first and greatest piece of literature.
* Alice Hoffman, author of Here on Earth gets up at 4:45 am, drinks lots of strong coffee and writes until someone else wakes up.
*Stephen King goes through these motions when he sits down to write; “I have a glass of water or I have a cup of tea. I have my vitamin pill I have my music; I have my same seat; and the papers are all arranged in the same places.”
*Gertrude Stein scribbled her poems on odd scraps of paper in her Ford, “Godiva,” parked at the curb. She had discovered her lofty position in the driver’s seat was an inspiring spot in which to write.
*It is alleged that Henry David Thoreau could swallow his nose. He also talked with forest animals. “I talked to [the woodchuck] in quasi forest lingo, baby talk, at any rate in a conciliatory tone, and thought that I had some influence on him.”
*Charles Dickens walked twenty to thirty miles a day. He also placed objects on his desk in exactly the same position, always set his bed in north/south directions, and touched certain objects three times for luck.
*Hans Christian Andersen put a sign next to his bed that read “I am not really dead.”
*Saint-Pol-Roux hung the inscription “The Poet Is Working” from his door while he slept. *Emily Dickinson wouldn’t see her dressmaker, go out of the house, or expose her handwriting. Her sister addressed all her letters.

And a few citing of sartorial eccentricities:
Edgar Allen Poe always wore black.
Emily Dickinson only white.
Mark Twain also attired himself in white, with shirts he personally designed that buttoned down the back.
Carl Sandburg sported a green eyeshade when he worked.
E. B. White tied on a surgical mask in public to protect himself from contagious diseases.
John Cheever donned his only suit of clothes when he went to his studio in the morning. He hung it up while he worked in his underwear, then dressed and returned home.
Allan Gurganus said he wears a moving man’s zip-up uniform because “I perspire so freely that I sweat my way through the fiction.”
Forest McDonald is said to write history on his rural Alabama porch - naked.

Unless you live way out in the country I don’t think sitting on your porch naked is such a good idea. But if that is the habit you adopt in order to write the next great American novel, then I say go for it. The point is that creating a ritual is vital for most writers, however strange or alarming these habits may seem to others.

Posted by Speck for Gwanny:--)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Self-doubt and leaping.

I always, in jest, call myself the Queen of Trauma Drama for what I put my characters through. If I am honest though, I am the Queen of Self-Doubt.

I could be Freudian and blame it on my parents. I could blame it on years of school-age trauma. I’m sure I could dig into my past and find a wealth of things to blame it on, but I won’t. Why? Because it doesn’t matter what caused it, I have it.

Most recently I’ve been ignoring it when it came ot my writing. I ‘know’ I can write. I believe I’m talented in it. So the writing itself hasn’t been the cause. No, instead I’ve been traveling the web on my breaks. I’ve spent time at blogs of Agents and their assistants. I’ve read about ‘nitwittery’ and ‘auto-no’s’.

Hey, who needs to doubt the writing, when you can doubt your ability to find an agent and/or publisher, right? After reading one particular post about some auto-no’s I started doubting how to do my novel.

The word count is going to be very high, that can be considered an auto-no. Okay, I could cut the novel in half and end it in the middle. It’s a very good, if a tad bit upsetting ending to those invested in the characters.

If I cut the novel in half, I have to consider the fact that I’d really want to present it as a series then. Oops, wait. Those are auto-no’s too. Either way, this book is a series in my heart, so I’m still facing that.

I know I can’t write a query letter to save my arse. That’s not self-doubt, that’s fact. But, I also know I have help in that area. Of course there’s the “Can I get the novel done in time? I set a goal for *this date*, but will it be accomplished?”

Then, this Monday I was forced to face my own self-doubt when the admins opened the Elevator. In the elevator I would have to announce, for all to see, my goals. I would be expected to meet them. Checked up on.

I’ll tell you what, my biggest flaw is lack of follow- through. I’ve wanted to write a novel for years and never gotten past the first few pages. I make commitments for so many things that I’ve never followed through on. My ‘dreams’ always seem to fly away on the wind. Here, at Storycrafter’s, the whole ‘world’ I’ve found could see my imminent failure if I posted those goals.

Yesterday I made that commitment post with shaking hands. I stared at the screen for two hours before I hit ‘submit’. My own self-doubt almost prevented me from making a solid commitment to something I believe in with all my heart, my novel.

I won’t tell you that I ‘got over’ my doubt, because I didn’t. I still stare at my post and say, “What have I done?” But, I’ll tell you how I did manage to hit submit after two hours of debate.

I closed my eyes.

Looking for a profound statement? Sorry, none here. I was scared out of my wits to make a commitment not only to my novel, but to writing quarterly ‘other’ items to submit. I’d HAVE to finish that article on FTT. Not only that, but I’d have to come up with others.

I wish I could say I did it because I’d had an epiphany. It simply isn’t true. The same facts were present when I hit submit as when I was waiting. I still knew my husband, though he didn’t understand, supported me. I still knew that I had capable reader’s to assist me. I still knew that I’d have the support of Storycrafter’s. Those were never in doubt.

What happened was I faced the fact. The same one that made me finally audition for local theatre shows five years ago after years of dreaming of being onstage. A simple sentence told to me by a performer I met and still admire.

Nearly six years ago I told him of my doubts of being able to audition. Standing there, at the stage door on Broadway, he reminded me he hadn’t started dancing until he was twenty. Despite that, he was standing there in the most intensive dance show ever. Then he said the one thing I’ll remember forever.

“If you do it and fail, you’ll have at least done it. If you don’t do it, you’ll never know what it felt like. You’ll always wonder what could have happened.”

He was as right about my performance dreams as he is now about my writing dreams.

It’s not an epiphany. It’s a leap. Not a leap of faith, a leap into the pits of self-doubt. I dare say I became successful in performance. Now it’s time to focus on this leap.

At least I know I’m not alone.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sassy & Speck at the Con.

Here's a pix of Sassy and I at the conference. Can you guess who is who? I'll post a conference report soon.


Monday, November 13, 2006

The NaNo Experience

This is my first year participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNo). So what have I learned in the last fourteen days?

Let's see, the first thing was to stop procrastinating. I knew my story would take a fair amount of research, and while I did complete some, I could have done more if I didn't waste time surfing the Internet, and writing fan fiction stories so my friends could stroke my ego by telling me what a great writer I am. Note to self for next year's NaNo: Be prepared.

Then there was that little bit about character interview sheets and questionnaires. I've always kind of thought these things were dreamed up by writers who wanted to sound intelligent. They made good paper airplanes if you printed them out, and some of the questions could be down right interesting if I answered them myself - which I think I might still do. But with this story I finally bit the bullet and used the ones posted at the StoryCrafters forum, and I won't create another story without them. On numerous occasions I have referred to them to bring depth to my characters. In those character sheets I had posted specific details about my main character which have helped me to create a good picture of who he is. And because I filled these out early in the process, I knew what areas I needed to research before NaNo started. Next note to self: Never try to write a story without finding out who your characters are first.

So what else have I learned from my NaNo experience. I can write if I set tangible goals. I am more committed to my writing when I feel a little bit of pressure to get it done. Writing with a group of people is much more fun than doing it on my own. And, it's okay if my first draft is crappy, because that's what revisions are for. Last note to self: Make sure to sign up for NaNo every year.

Good luck everyone. I enjoy sharing NaNo with you.


It's Open!!!

Hey all...

Sassy and I decided we just can't wait any longer. We're going to open "The Elevator" section of StoryCrafters before originally scheduled. We came back from the conference so eager to get busy we just had to share our excitement.

So, the goal of The Elevator section is to get everyone to consider what they want to accomplish with their writing, when they want to get it accomplished and then make plans to get them where they want to go.

Also, by joining The Elevator, you are commiting to sending out an article or short story every 3 months. Yeap, even those of you just wanting to write novels. Because, those short stories will get you published and publishing clips look good in your agent query letters.

There are articles posted that deal with goal setting so give them a good read. Also, take a couple days to ponder what you really, really, really want to do with your writing. Do you just want a book with your name on it or do you want the brass ring and all that entails? And consider what you are willing to do or give up to accomplish those goals.

I'll be looking for you there!


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Hi all,

I finally got my ducks in a row to come and say hello here. Many know of the recent computer issues I've had recently. Let me just stress the importance of backup copies and printed copies. I still have not recovered all I lost but I've gotten back into working condition. Yet still another solution is to take advantage of all the free email accounts out there and email all your versions to yourself. Tedious at best I'm sure but better safe than sorry. At any rate, I will blog more when I get to a better place with NaNo. Here's to all those writers who have jumped off the NaNo ledge and are still looking for that foothold! Have a good write!

Sassy Candela Martinez

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Finding Time

The dreaded expression that makes every writer cringe. Time Management. When you’re a writer, you often do it for the dream first, the pay second. But if you ever want to get paid, you have to focus on your writing at some point. I can’t be pushed off constantly.

I hate the phrase “treat it like a job”. Not because it isn’t true, but because in my life, it’s nearly impossible. I know the realities of having to run and switch out the laundry so that the piles of clothes don’t take over your house. The reality of three kids all needing my attention at once. A husband who is just as needy, as well as my own needs and sanity. It simply isn’t reality that I will sit down eight hours a day and write.

I have found my own ways around this, as we all do. Have children? Nap time or school time are wonderful periods to write. If you’re an early riser, set your alarm clock one hour earlier and hop out of bed and write. If you’re a night owl, stay up an hour later then everyone in your house. Find one, two or three hours that work for you.

Keep in mind, these hours do not need to be concurrent. One hour in the morning, one in the evening. Finding a schedule that works for you, that your mind isn’t wandering to what you need to do around the house, with the family, out on an errand run.

The next, and most wonderful, tip I have ever received is this - Don’t force out an hours worth of work straight. I am an internet junkie (aren’t we all?). I find myself switching windows and surfing instead of writing. So, instead of forcing myself to write for an hour straight and getting antsy for the internet, I break it up. I have downloaded a minute timer (you could even use an egg timer) for Windows. I set it for ten minutes. For that ten minutes I am required to focus on writing. No wandering to the internet, no glancing at the TV, nothing but Word and me.

Once the ten minutes are up, I’m allowed a break. The timer is reset for two minutes (yes, only two). For that two minutes I’m allowed the freedom of surfing my heart out, watching that TV, grabbing my sweets to snack on. Then it’s back to my ten minutes.

To make it more enjoyable, I’ve even turned it into a game with another writer friend. We use an old childhood game for this, and call it “Red light, green light”. We challenge each other, set the timer and say ‘green light’. When we hit the red light break we must first post our word count to see what we accomplished. We do this to keep each other accountable. When she's at work and knows it's my time to work, she emails me to make sure I've been writing. Accountability keeps me going.

The best, and only tips, I’ve found that work are these three. In case they got lost in the story, I’ll shorten them up for you:

1. Find a schedule that works for you. Set it. Keep it.
2. Break your time up. Allow a little play time in with the work. It keeps you sane.
3. Keep yourself accountable. Find a friend, your S/O, a daily log to make sure you're still writing, no matter how much, or how little.

Don’t change your entire lifestyle, don’t ‘declutter’ so you don’t have to think so much. Don’t get the self-help books on time management. Only you know you. You know what works for you. Find a flow, and use it. Use your own weaknesses to your advantage to give yourself ‘rewards’. The important thing to remember is, at the end of the day, it’s your words that you have to face. We love them, we hate them…but they are a part of us. We have to make time for them like we do any other member of our family.