Sunday, December 27, 2015

Get Reddy to Go Heaux (Just kidding! Sort of...)

Two days after Christmas and all through the house...I went to my corner and was quiet as a mouse. Actually, the guys went to see the new Star Wars yesterday. It was supposed to be a Hubz and me date sort of thing, since we agreed not to buy each other gifts this year, but at the last minute, somehow the movie date morphed into an outing for the entire family.

I decided to stay home. Not because I dislike my family, or because I was trying to be a rude bitch to the guys, or anything like that. I just know that if I had gone with the guys, I would've ended up being the group babysitter so everyone else could watch the film and have a good time. My nerves have been too on edge lately to deal with that.

Instead, I had a quiet day at home. I spared no hot water while bathing that morning, I ate the last of the cheesecake for breakfast, cleaned my office, worked on a writing project, and chillaxed with the dogs. It was nice. A rare day where I was alone in the house and didn't have to fix, find, wash, or cook something for someone else. That probably sounds incredibly selfish to say that, but there it is. I regret nothing.

The guys had a good time, too, although they had to deal with a long wait at the theater and poor seating. They loved the movie. Hubz said he wouldn't even mind seeing it a second time. I'm sure he'll rack up plenty of views when it comes out on DVD. Anyway, I won't let them tell me anything about the movie. I'll watch it later.

Another thing I did yesterday that I haven't done in a while... I made a cosmetics order. Two actually. I want to color my hair, but my favorite semi-permanent orange-red dye (Clairol Natural Instints Spiced Tea) has been discontinued/reformulated, so that's a no go. I couldn't find another semi-permanent product similar in color, so I went to Manic Panic's website and ordered a jar of Inferno, and a jar of Wildfire. I'm going to mix them and put it on unbleached hair. Crossing my fingers I get a sheer red-orange tone out of it. We'll have to wait and see.

Also, I ordered a couple of lipsticks from Mac. I bought Enchanter Creamsheen Glass, a Mac Velvetease lip pencil in Reddy to Go, and the 2.0 version of Heaux from the permanent collection. I already have the Heaux retro matte from the RiRi Hearts Mac collection. The 2.0 version is an amplified cream, and I've heard there's a slight color variation because of the different formulation. We'll see. It's my favorite berry red lipstick, so it was worth buying again just to have a spare.

That's what's what for now. I'm working on writerly things, but it's super slow going. It's been hard to concentrate lately what with the holidays and the family drama. In 2016 I've got to do better. I need to actually finish something. Hmm. At least now I know where to start my New Year's resolution. ♥

Clip art courtesy of GDJ at OpenClipArt.com.  

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas 2015 :: Dreams and Visitations


Dropping in to say Merry Christmas on my blog before the holiday rush. I've hit a sort of post-NaNo writerly dry spell, so instead of punishing myself over it, I've been reading and doing other things. 

I've also been thinking about my Grandma Rose a lot lately. She died in the early 1990s, not long after Oldest boy was born. Christmas was Ma'am Maw's favorite time of year. She would bake homemade fruitcake, listen to Christmas songs on the radio every morning, and throughout the season she'd buy copious amounts of creme drops and chocolate covered cherries because we both loved them. 

I went to bed the other night thinking about her and the Christmas of 1983, which stands out in my mind as the best Christmas ever (I got a Cabbage Patch Kid that year. I was 9. A very special holiday.) That year, Grandma won this drawing at the Dixie Dandy in Ruston for an eight foot tall Christmas stocking. The manager had it hanging above the automatic doors of the grocery store. It was packed full of food, candy, and toys. Grandma, my mom, and the aunts picked it up from the store and they divided it up for all of us grandkids. (Except for the groceries, of course. Would be kind of weird to get a can of creamed corn in your stocking Christmas morning, am I right?) Anyway, Christmas morning was a candy and toy bonanza for all of us. Good times. Like I said, best Christmas ever. 

So I was thinking about that Christmas the other night right before I fell asleep, and I ended up dreaming I was back at Grandma's old house. In the dream, I was the age I am now, no longer a kiddo, but I was staying in my old bedroom from back in the day. The same year of the best Christmas ever, my parents and I briefly lived with my grandparents. We had justed moved back to Ruston from out of state, and we lived with them until we found a new house. 

I dreamed I had a suitcase open on the bed, and I was getting ready to leave. I suppose we were only there visiting, Hubz and me. While packing my clothes, out of the blue, I remembered that there was something important I needed to do. I dropped everything and set off through the house to find my grandparents. I walked through the house, peeked in the den, then went out through the kitchen into the laundry room. I ended up going outside via the open air garage. When I initially stepped into the garage, I realized someone had torn down the lattice facing the street side. The concrete leading up to the garage had been jackhammered into square patterns, and between the blocks, someone had been planting trees with purple blooms on them. 

I walked into the yard to check out what else was under construction, and that's when I saw my grandparents parked in a truck out front, far across the yard, just off the slab of driveway.

I walked out there to talk to them, and to ask them for a ride home for me and Hubz. Pawpaw and Ma'am Maw were both sitting in the truck, which was a black 1963s Chevy C10 stepside, like what my Uncle David used to drive. The truck looked fresh off the showroom floor. Both my grandparents were dressed up in their Sunday best, and I realized as I reached the driver's side door that I had left my clothes in the house. Yes, really, it was an 'I'm naked' dream. Go figure. 

While I talked to them, I was trying to cover myself with my hands, and my hair (which is very long in waking life). Apparently my grandparents had been waiting for me out there. They didn't live in the house anymore. They had arrived to take me and Hubz to the new place, the one that they had prepared for the family. 

Pawpaw opened the door and climbed out of the truck to shake hands with Hubz, then they told me to go inside for my clothes. As I was walking back to the house, past the construction and new floral trees (which were kind of like purple crepe myrtles), I called back over my shoulder for them to wait for me. I didn't want them to leave while I was indoors getting dressed. Immediately after calling out to them, I woke up. 

I've been told before that dreams like that are really a visitation. I like that idea. I also like the idea that there is a place where my grandparents have gone on before me, and that it's a place where I'll be reunited with them one day. It was a good dream, a little sad, but reaffirming. I miss them dearly, and it was good to see them again, even if only in a dream. That's all I really had to say. To remember is to dream while waking.

PS. Before I go, some notable news from yesterday... Brooke McCarter from The Lost Boys passed away. He was only 52. How very sad. I had such a huge crush on him back when the movie first came out. RIP, guy.   

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

The Takeaway: Post-NaNoWriMo Thoughts

I did it. I survived another NaNoWriMo. I've been participating since about 2008, but this is only the second event I've actually followed through and finished, so yay for long blustery word binges.

Well, actually, now that I think about it, I probably got more done by writing in 15 minutes bursts, leaving off for a while, and then coming back to write another 15 minutes a short time later. Out of necessity, that's pretty much how I handled the second half of the book. Through half of the event, I had both kids and hubby home for Thanksgiving, so there was always someone needing me for something. I don't like shutting my office door during the holidays, so I stuck to shorter writing sprints. That's one thing I took away from this year's NaNo. I write more words when I write in shorter bursts. Probably because I have a short attention span. Heh.

Since I don't have a NaNoWriMo hub within comfortable driving distance, I decided to join in a couple of the online write-in sessions. The write-ins are fun and helped me feel more connected to the NaNoWriMo community, but they didn't help me much in terms of boosting my word count. For one thing, the write-ins I attended were themed. I'm used to doing timed writings with other writers, where we decide on an amount of time we're going to write, set a timer, and work on our own projects. When the timer goes off, we tell everyone how many words we managed to pull off. And that's about the gist of it.

I've always found timed writings like that helpful, but in the NaNo write-ins, we would be given a prompt and a time frame, then the clock would start. Next round, a new prompt, and then the clock would start. We'd write for anywhere between five to fifteen minutes, then stop and check our word count. Some would share what they wrote, which was pretty fun. I had a good time there, but the prompts weren't useful for me. I ended up doing my own thing.

Throughout NaNoWriMo, I posted semi-regular writing updates on twitter, and by doing that, I found several new followers (that I followed back.) To be honest, I got more out of using twitter for NaNoWriMo than I did using the website forums. I made one or two posts over at the NaNo HQ forums, and never got a reply. Then again, I'm socially awkward, and I didn't know how to meet other people over there, so that's probably just me. Another con was that, the posts over at HQ weren't in real time, obviously, so I had to keep checking back to see if I'd gotten a response.

So, twitter worked better for my motivation overall. It was easier to find other NaNo-ers that way. I was able to start typing in #NaNoWriMo in the search box, and several hashtag suggestions would autofill, giving me options to find other NaNo tags, which was kinda groovy. I'll definitely do that again the next time I join a NaNo event.

On either November 28th or 29th (the days all blend), I hit the 50k mark and validated my novel on the site. Of course, what I've written is a flaming hot mess, and it probably needs another 10-20k added to it for it to be submittable to the publisher I have in mind for it. But it's a good start.

My project is a story that's been bouncing around in my head for a couple of years, now, and until this year's NaNo, every time I've tried to write it, I'd stall out a few scenes in to it, and end up shelving it for later. This is probably the fifth time I've started writing this story from scratch, and once again, about half way through it, I almost put it away. I hit the very same stuck point as before. Instead of allowing myself to dig deeper into the mire, I stopped trying to write about the story and focused on writing about the characters, their wants, and life histories. I just kept free writing and rambling about the characters and eventually the story worked its way out of the mire and in an entirely new direction that allowed me to continue on to the end. Or rather, on to 50k. I'll probably have to cut a lot of that during revisions, but I know my characters better for the effort, so it was worth it. That's another tactic I'd definitely use again.

One crucial thing I believe helped me cross the 50k finish line is that I only worked with the characters who were interesting to me. That should be a given, right? Well not exactly. Have you ever been writing, and you knew a critical event had to take place, but it was boring for some reason, or it felt like slogging through a swamp to make the plot connections? Yeah, I nipped that in the bud.

Even if I thought I "needed' someone to step on stage in order to connect two scenes, if I was too bored with that character to fill the gap, if I dreaded working with them, or felt like I was slogging through swamp water to get to a good scene, I scrapped it - the scene and the character. I held fast to the "kill your darlings" rule. If a character didn't perform as I'd hoped, or they started to lose their lustre, I cut them out of the scene, merge them with another character, or killed them off entirely. It was better to do that than allow a deadwood character to stall my story. Bye-bye dead weight. So, another important thing I learned this NaNoWriMo: allow no free rides for characters in your novel. If they're too slow to perform, uninteresting, make you dread writing about them...give 'em the boot.

Another thing that probably allowed me to reach the 50k mark on time is that I let the book be what it wanted to be instead of trying to box it squarely into one genre. When I began working on this story, I had specific mood, tone, and atmosphere, in mind. I was hoping to write a quiet, suspenseful horror story, but I was always cognizant it would probably morph into a romance novel somewhere along the line. Most of my writing does. Instead of trying to push the story into a mold it may or may not fit, I let go, and let the characters take the book where they needed it to go to reach the ending. I stopped trying to push characters around, I stopped trying to force everything into deep POV, and approached writing with the frame of mind to simply "tell a story". Novel idea, right? To tell a story when writing a book.

Basically I threw out the advice to write my book like an transcript with plot points and added description, and instead opted for a more fluid storyteller approach, which doesn't shy away from paragraphs of straight up narrative. I did that, and I surprised myself this time. The story stayed on track. It didn't go full romance, either, although there is still a romantic thread that runs through it. The only downside I can see so far is that I'll have to trim and fluff it out when I do the rewrites.

Overall, I paid a lot more attention to my process this time, and I think more insight into my own process is probably one of the most valuable things I took away from NaNoWriMo 2015. I plan to join the revision leg of the NaNo journey, which opens in January, and I hope for a similar result when analyzing my revision process.

As for the story I was working on, if I'm honest with myself, I think all the times I started writing it before but didn't finish it was because I didn't know my characters well enough. But more so than that, I don't think I quite knew how to pull off that type of story at the time. The pieces weren't coming together as they should. The idea needed more gestation time.

So there you have it, my final thoughts about NaNoWriMo 2015. If you participated this year, I hope you finished strong and learned a lot about how you write. Until next time, happy revising and happy wishes. ☮

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Lessons Learned: Really Important Opinions™


http://www.freeimages.com/photo/no-dumping-sign-1548797
Good morning, everyone! I hope you've had a lovely Thanksgiving holiday. I'm about 2k away from reaching the NaNoWriMo 50k finish line, and I just wanted to stop and share a little nugget of wisdom with you (recently learned by my own trial and error method of living life, of course). Tin foil hat recommended, but not required.

The lesson I've recently learned is...people will argue with you, or at least attemp to draw you into an argument, over the most ridiculous, juvenile shit you would never have thought, not in a million years, was important enough to get anyone's panties in a twist over.

Sometimes a topic of disagreement is so out there, just so completely wtf, you have to stop and wonder if the other person is high or mentally unstable. Or maybe that's just how I process it. I don't know. What I do know is that this sort of thing isn't locked into one geographical location. Oh, no. This isn't just an American thing. It's a worldwide, shared epidemic of insanity, and when it happens to you, it's about as much fun as a case of surprise diarrhea.

However, the inherent value in this kind of scratch-pop argument is that if you have ever, even for a moment, believed that your voice - your opinion - doesn't really matter, woo hoo little sister, do I have news for you!  Words have atomic weight. They matter. If you care to test this theory, I challenge you to say something risque or even controversial on the internet. Say it wrong, land it without proper padding to spare everyone's delicate feelings, and it will go nuclear.

But wait! You don't even have to dance into controversial territory. Be playful and friendly. Start out small. Misquote some song lyrics. On purpose. Throw some hashtags in for seasoning. That's what I did. Ka-boom! Or, you could talk about a book you read and liked, the last movie you watched and hated, or go for broke and tell the world what your favorite flavor of coffee is...and yes, you're allowed to read it off the menu at Starbucks, because who the heck bothers to memorize a menu, anyway? (Personally, I'm too lazy for that. Sorry, not sorry.)

It doesn't really matter what topic you decide to talk about. If you're passionate enough about it, or even if you're only briefly Heylook! sparkly-shiny! kind of passionate about it, some rat bastard you don't know, who you've never heard of, and who you wouldn't bother to get to know if you met them face to face, is guaranteed to crawl off their garbage heap of Really Important Opinions™ to let you know just how wrong you are...and inadvertently, just how powerful your benign little voice really is.

Never take that for granted. Your voice matters. Your story matters. The way you tell it matters. Since the dawn of time, people have fought and died on the garbage heaps of other people's Really Important Opinions ™. Think about that for a while.

Marriages, lives, and careers have been made and destroyed on numerous battlefields built from incompatible opinions. There are people out there who are so apt at this kind of warfare, they can scent the blood of someone who doesn't agree with them from half a world away, and they will rush in like berzerkers armed for the kill, completely drunk on the power of their own opinion...the option of minding their own fucking business be damned.

If you ever felt unimportant, or like no one is listening and that what you say matters to no one, think again. You probably just haven't shared a passionate opinion, yet. Oh, but you will, darling. You will. And when you inevitably get good at it, you'll begin to amass your own garbage heap of Really Important Opinions™  to share with others...to which I say, bravo, and also, guard it wisely.

Just one more important thing to know. When you're about to share a particularly special opinion, you know, one of those that stink a whole lot more than all the others because they have a much heavier atomic weight than most opinions, be very careful. Those opinions are known to cause dangerous chain reactions if combined with incompatible opinions.

Politics, current news events, religion; race, gender and social issues; oh, and the sharing of misquoted song lyrics, can cause a nuclear winter scenario with irrevocable damage to your reputation, career, peaceful living environment, the quality of your drinking water, and can even lead to death threats. So word to the wise on that: know before you blow.

In general when it comes to any opinion, it's a really good idea to do your research and thoroughly vet your opinion with facts from credible sources before you crawl off of your personal garbage heap to wage battle shove it down the throat of others offer it politely to someone else.

I know...I know... [hands up]. While sharing is the kind and neighborly thing to do, the fact remains that not everyone wants to hear what you think. They like their garbage heap just the way it is, thank you very much. A few people out there may genuinely not care, or they may welcome your opinion, but it's a good rule of thumb to think before you speak. Or type. Or email.  Because no matter how wrong you know the other person is, not every greasy garbage heap is worth dying on.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

NaNo-ing Character Arcs...and a Pep Talk

To read the full Stephanie Perkins pep talk at NaNoWriMo's website, go here.

Since today is Veterans Day, I've decided to kick off this post by saying "Thank You" to all the veterans out there. There are no classes today, so MiniBeast is home with me. I rolled out of bed a little early to get a head start on motherly and household things, as well as writing, so here it goes.

I crossed the 13k threshold on my NaNoWriMo project last night. Or was it this morning? It depends on which side of midnight it was before I hit the bed. I can't remember exactly. While writing last night, I got to a stuck point, didn't know how to proceed, and thereafter in the flurry of post-it note that followed, I lost track of time. 

To break out of the stuck point, and to generate some usable words, I took out some sticky notes in different colors and began breaking down the story in my head by mapping everyone's character arc. 

Lemme just say that I didn't realize at first how many characters are in the book. Another thing I didn't realize was just how many words this would generate. About 2k so far, just for the arcs once I transferred all of it to my story file. 

I still need to map two more main characters, which I plan to do today. I'm going to get those out of the way first thing since those characters are the main reason I'm stuck.

In the process of jotting down all the character arcs, I managed to come up with a suitable ending for the novel, and there are a lot of other little detail oriented bits I was able to elaborate on and connect to other characters arcs. It was a little like playing connect the dots, I guess, only with multiple character scenarios. 

Another thing while breaking the book down by individual arcs, I was also able to look at every character's core purpose for being in the story, both the main players and the tertiary folks, to better justify why each person is being included in the book. If someone's reason for being there is/was looking kind of thin, I could easily beef it up and knit in more connections to the other characters. I've beefed up two characters so far, and both times, doing so added another layer of complexity to the story. Cool beans. I'll take it. 

So that's what cooking over here. Today's meme blog graphic thing comes from yesterday's NaNoWriMo pep talk. I loved it so much I had to share the good news. To read the Stephanie Perkins pep talk in full, you can find it right here on the NaNoWriMo website.

That's all for now. I'll post again when things get interesting. In the meantime, keep writing...and happy wishes! ♥ 

Monday, November 09, 2015

Everyday I'm NaNo-ing...

I'm around the 10k mark on my NaNo project, and I'm pretty happy with it so far. I'm pantsing the hell out of this story, no apologies, there, but I can honestly say I'm not sure where I'm going with it. At some point I'm going to need to figure out a possible ending, otherwise I won't know when it's finished.

For the overall gist of NaNo, I'm about 8k behind schedule. I told myself when I signed up, I wasn't going to worry about it, so I won't. Twice since I've started this story, the program I'm using for writing has tossed my words. Big chunks of words. Ouch.

As much as I love this program when it works, I've already started looking for different software. I hate the spyware keylogging crap Microsoft Office has brought on board since their subscription service, so I no longer use it. Straight up, I don't feel safe using Word for writing now. I realize how paranoid that sounds, but last year when I was trying to wrap up my vampire novel, I started getting Facebook and Google ads relative to what I'd been writing about. Too creepy for me. There has to be an alternative.

I have a computer running an older, paid-for (non subscription) version of Word, and I've considered hauling that computer to Dr. Bulldog for an overhaul and a new keyboard (it has keys missing) and just start using that computer offline for my writing. When I finish a piece, I can simply transfer my data to the laptop that has comp access in order to make submissions.

But that's a worry for another day. Right now I'm choosing not to worry about anything. The bottle of Merlot helps.

If you're NaNo-ing this year, I hope it's going well. I'll update again when something interesting happens. Until next time, keep writing...and happy wishes. ♥

Friday, October 30, 2015

Happy Halloween and NaNoWriMo Eve

LOL. Me.

Happy Halloween and NaNoWriMo Eve! 

Everyone in my house loves Halloween. It's my favorite holiday, so for us it starts on October 1st. Sometimes we even let Halloween run well into November, if the decorations left up aren't too obnoxious (or dusty). Pumpkins, turkeys, skeletons...it's all the same, really.

However, as November approaches, my focus has already shifted to NaNoWriMo. I signed up this year, and I've already added a BS cover to my account to commemorate the occassion.

Since signing up, I've been working on getting my character's histories straight and all that jazz. I created a Scrivener file to work in, and I've been toying with scene ideas to prepare. I'm not going to drive myself crazy over it, though. This is one of those story ideas that has been lingering around a while (at least five years), and I consider this NaNo a test to see if I can make something happen with it.

It's not like one more unrevised, unfinished story is going to hurt me at this point. At this very moment, I have two completed, unrevised novel drafts on this computer, plus several short stories that need to be edited. I also recently compiled all the core Werekind books into a single Vol. 1 Omnibus edition. All it needs is the formatting fixed, and a set of print and digital edition covers.

Anyway, I figure this will be as good a way as any to get words on the page. We'll see what happens. If you'd liked to be a writing buddy on the NaNoWriMo site, send me a request. My username there is lastdimtwilight. In the meantime, Happy Halloween! Ѽ 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Creative Forgiveness

Over the course of the past two weeks, I've written and deleted several blog posts I intended to use. Lame, I know. The posts were nothing serious or controversial, just frilly everyday life stuff, but I'd start writing, get half way through a post then hit the delete button. I guess because the posts didn't seem relevant or worth bothering with by the time I realized where they were going. I'm aware of how batty that is. It's just a blog after all, a place for random thoughts, and I keep deleting mine. But whatever...

It's nearing the end of October, and the blog hasn't been updated since the 10th. Hear that roar? That's the tide of guilt sweeping me away for not blogging. That's what I get for overthinking and censoring myself. Probably my worst two habits in action, but what can I do?

It's been a tough year for me creatively. Even a re-release of an old story felt like a major accomplishment, and I know it's because I put way too much pressure on myself. I have to stop with the pressure and the guilt. If I'm going to write and publish/self-publish my work, I've got to end it with the long suffering self struggle. It's throwing off my chi. I love to write. I should be enjoying what I'm doing, not dreading opening a file every time I sit down at the computer.

The Elizabeth Gilbert quotes for Big Magic have been added to my post today, because they've made a profound impression on me. I've written two novels this year, and both are still sitting on my hard drive waiting for me to get back to the revisions. In fact, I'm already working on a third book. However, looking at those past drafts is a lot like facing unscalable mountains. How do I get over those books?  How do I "perfect them" enough to kick them out the door? There isn't a minute that goes by when I'm not thinking about how I should be wrapping up those books. It's daunting. Why can't I seem to finish them?

All my first drafts are messes. I've aways been upfront and honest about that. So, what's the hangup? Better yet, why am I putting this kind of miserable pressure on myself?

I settled in to work on one of my drafts today, and again, I hesitated to open the files. I've even been thinking about shelving them indefinitely. But I really don't want to do that. I love both the ideas behind these books. I love the characters. I don't want to abandon them mid-stream.

I couldn't seem to focus on revisions today, so this afternoon, on a whim, I pulled an old story out of storage and started reading it. I've always liked this particular story, but it was rejected by one of my former publishers. Well, it was sort of rejected. I actually got a revise and resubmit request for it, but after reading through the editor's comments, I decided to take an R and be done with it.

Rereading through that story today, the editor's comments were still cringeworthy, but not for the reasons I remember. The editor's frustration with the story was apparent, and that frustration seemed to escalate throughout the piece. No wonder I tossed that story into a shoebox and abandoned it. After about four chapters, I had to stop reading the comments and ask myself why the editor bothered to keep leaving commentary this many pages in if they weren't invested and had no plan to take the story without massive rewrites.

As I said, it was a rewrite and revise request, but I'm sure that the majority of editors would've just axed me after the first chapter and dusted their hands. In this case, the entire story from beginning to end had been redmarked. I can't remember any other editor doing that before. Not for a piece they didn't plan to accept.

I know my story has legs. It just needs work. I think the editor saw that too. That's the point. The story itself isn't as terrible as I once thought it was. After I received that R&R, I thought the story had an incurable disease that killed it dead, but instead, it just has story rickets. It needs Vitamin TLC to get it to a healthy state. I can work with this.

Another important thing that I noticed, and this is a big one: I no longer agree with everything the editor said about the story or my writing. I can't tell you how huge that is, or what kind of growth that means for a writer. For the most part, I take an editor's word as golden. I have a certificate in copyediting, but when it comes right down to it, I'm a storyteller not a grammar geek. In this case, time and experience has given me a new perspective.  The story does need work, and the editor was definitely on track with the story's major problems. However, some of the things this editor pointed out to me, I'd politely ignore, because those suggestions are not what would be best for my story.

That's a pretty big deal. That one realization allowed me to forgive myself for writing and submitting such a shitty story over two years ago...a story that isn't even as shitty as I thought it was. That's liberating.

Now I just have to face those novel revisions. Before I open those files again, I'm going to take five before I settle into my desk chair and say this to myself: Cora, I forgive you for writing a horrible draft. You said you'd show up to write it, and so you did. Now, on to phase two. Muse, wherever you are, could you please put down your knitting and let's get on with it? I'm ready to see what happens next.

I feel better just from writing that down. Like Ms. Gilbert said in her book, Big Magic, "I didn't promise the universe I would be a good writer. I just said I'd be a writer." I totally support that logic. It takes loads of stress off the process, and as far as I'm concerned, the less stressful the process is, the better. ♥

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Nothing to Fear but Procrastination

A couple of days ago, I blogged about the book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Well, this afternoon I was doing a search for book quotes I could share on my blog, when I came across a set of podcasts related to Big Magic. How cool is that?

You can listen to the podcasts for free here: http://www.elizabethgilbert.com/magic-lessons/  The link goes to the author's official website. On her page, there are links to the podcasts on iTunes, SoundCloud, and Stitcher Radio. Again, the podcasts are totally free.

Today, the quote "All procrastination is fear" resonates with me. I stayed up until about 5 in the morning working on my novel. I slept for a few hours, then woke up again around 9. I've had plenty to time to open my wip and get cracking, but I'm at the point where I'm having to cut and rearrange parts of the manuscript, which always makes me super nervous. Even though I have a backup, I still feel like I'm going to screw things up beyond repair. Revisions do this to me. They always have. So, instead of diving in head first, I've been procrastinating most of the day, checking my Facebook, watching YouTube videos. and all that jazz to avoid go back to my book.

It's now 4pm, the house is quiet, hubby grilled so there's no dinner to cook, I'm fresh out of excuses. It's time to stop tap dancing around the problem and get back to work. Still I'm hesitating. Why? Because I'm afraid I'll make the wrong snip here or there. I'll mess it up. I'll have to backtrack, or worse; I'll have to start over. Sigh.

I've gotta stop doing this to myself. Elizabeth Gilbert is right: all procrastination is fear, and I desperately need to break the habit. ♥

The Point of No Return

Okay. So, I've reached the point of no return with the project of doom. It's 4:40 in the morning, and I just made my first cuts in the novel. This is always the worst for me. Just thinking about it makes me nervous. There is nothing ever so alarming as taking a draft that you've already written, rewritten, and are still rewriting, and you have to cut into it yet again.

I will say that this is much, much easier to do in Scrivener than it is in Word. I'm not having to endlessly scroll and hope I caught everything. It's also easier to see if I missed something. (I always do.) However, no matter how easy the slicing and dicing has become, every cut still affects my word count. It can't be all sunshine and rainbows, I guess.

As it stands, I'll probably have to go back in after everything is resectioned and bring the book back up to wordcount. C'est la vie. Even with that on the horizon, I think this one is going to be "the draft." The pre-proofread final draft. (Something like that.) The way the story is shaping up so far, I can tell this version is going to gel into a more cohesive story. Yay me.

In the meantime, I'm going to try not to panic. There are still a lot of changes left to make. That said, one big cut a night is enough for me. I'm off to bed for now. (Before I screw something up.) No more revising for me until I've had a few hours of sleep. Night, night, everyone. ♥

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Currently Reading :: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

I was on Facebook a couple of days ago, when I came across the lovely Sommer Marsden talking about a fabulous new book she'd read called Big Magic, by author Elizabeth Gilbert. Well, I never pass up a fervent, "you must read this" book recommendation from good friends, so I dashed over to Amazon and bought a copy for my Kindle Fire.

Big Magic is about having the courage to live a creative life, and so far, I am loving this book. The tone, well, really everything about the book so far, resonates with my personality. The author says she imagines ideas are free wandering spirits that come looking for people who are the best possible vessel to bring them into existence. If we're not receptive to the ideas, they go away to find someone else. That's a very clever way to look at it. From that point on, the author had me reeled in. Last night, I stayed up til two in the morning reading this book, and I'm looking forward to reading more tonight.

Big Magic was roughly $12 for the Kindle version, and isn't part of the Kindle Unlimited program. The physical book in hard cover costs just a few dollars more, around $13.50, estimated. If I had more patience, I'd have bought a print copy, but... I'm weak. I have zero patience when it comes to waiting for books, so I nabbed the Kindle version. By the way, I did pay for this book out of pocket, and receive nothing in exchange for passing on the good word.

To check out the book's listing online, or to buy a copy for yourself, you can find Big Magic on Amazon here: Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear (Not an affiliate link.) Happy reading! ☺

Monday, October 05, 2015

Post Craziness Writing and Revising

Today felt almost normal after about a week of spontaneous craziness going on in my world. I even managed to get in a little work on the revisions. I can't remember what day I last opened my files, but when I settled in to start working, I couldn't remember what project folder I'd saved the last two scenes I'd been working on. Yikes!

After digging through a couple of folders, I finally found what I was looking for. Crisis averted. Now I just need to finish polishing what's there and move on to the next chapter...which seems to be taking forever.  

I have an abundance of pet news, which is why I've been absent and not very writerly for the past...oh, probably, two weeks. Squeaky Mama gave birth in our bushes. We brought her inside. She took her kitten back outside. It's been a back and forth battle ever since. Her kitten's eyes are open now, and the little meepit has been stumbling around and trying to follow her mam everywhere. That has kept us all on our toes lately.

Then, if you follow me on FB or Twitter you probably already know, someone dumped off six doxy puppies down the road from us. Cue insane laughter here. The pups found their way to our yard, and not knowing what else to do, we took them in. We had no cardboard boxes, nothing, to put them in, so I gated off the dining room with Mini's old baby gates, and tossed one of JakeDog and SassiePup's old dog beds in there. For a few days our house was puppy madness. Lots of towel washing, floor mopping, puppy scrapping, etc. Jake and Sassie were besides themselves over these pups. JakeDog has abandonment issues, and Sassie is easily stressed, so I had to separate the pups from our dogs. SassiePup was extremely unhappy with me about this. She is my office guardian and lap buddy. Wherever I go in the house, she is right there with me. So, I had to put a gate up across my office door so I could keep her with me in here during the day.

CharlieCat, who is a rescue/stray himself, wasn't happy at all with the puppies. He saw them and decided to have his dinner on the patio. I kept a cozy cat bed in the laundry room on the deep freezer for him to sleep in. Still he's just now feeling comfortable about going into the dining room. It's been a big adjustment for him as well.

Anyway, hubby and I got in touch with the Humane Society, and they took all six doxy pups. We took their towels, toys, a dog bed and Jake's crate and donated all of it, plus some cash to buy dog food and vaccines. We were going to drop by the store for the dog food on the way to the shelter, but they were on a tight schedule and we had to rush. The Human Society was gearing up for a large adoption event, and we thought that was where the pups were going, but it turns out they're all presently being fostered, two pups in three different homes, until they're old enough to be spayed and neutered. Then they'll be up for adoption. I'm so excited about that!  Whoever adopts the little nippers will have a fully vetted, adorable pupkin right from the start. That's more than hubby and I could've hoped to provide for them.

All's well that ends well, as the saying goes. We've pretty much managed to get the house back in order. Now I just need to get my writing back on schedule. Wish me luck. I swear, it's never a dull moment around here.☺

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Tomorrow's Another Day

Happy Autumnal Equinox!  It still doesn't quite feel like fall in my area yet, but I'll take what I can get. While I was having lunch with Oldest at Johnny's Pizza today, I saw on the news that the warmer weather is supposed to linger longer than usual this year. Ho hum. I'm ready for flannel weather to get here. It's been a toasty summer, and I'm pretty much over it.

I didn't get much writing done today, and I'm trying not to be too bummed about that. Today ended up being an errands day instead. I've got a cold and I'm not feeling that great, but I drove Oldest around to all the places he wanted to go...and managed to have a good time doing so.

At Walpurgis Mart, while waiting for him to do his shopping, I picked up a box of Zyrtec-D to try to fight off the stuffy nose and sniffles. Just enough ick to make you feel run down, cry-ey, and miserable. It's more of Mini's school germs. He came home with the sniffles on Monday and promptly gave his ick to old mother. Actually, I can only blame myself. He was drinking out of a styrofoam cup with a straw, and since he'd already chewed on the tip of the straw, I agreed to snip it for him. I did, and didn't think to wash my hands afterward, although I knew he had some croupy sniffly mess going on. Sigh. So, while in town, I should've been buying extra paper plates, but instead, all I could think about was the Zyrtec-D. In my own defense, nothing else seems to help with the stuffy nose, but omg, the pills are so effing expensive. It's $22 dollars a box for something like 24 pills, mega ouch, and you have to ask the pharmacists for it, because it's not on the sales floor due to drug regulations in the state.

All in all, it wasn't a bad day, just tiring since I didn't have a lot of energy to start with. We managed to get all the errands done, Bub and me, so yay. As a bonus perk, he bought our lunch, which was super yummy. Johnny's peach pie pizza is killer. I love that stuff.

Anyway, I promised I'd buy lunch next time once we left. After that, we came home and I promptly medicated myself, and began preparing for MiniBeast to arrive home from school. I've been sort of listlessly reading over a couple of pages and note taking here and there, but I've mostly just gone over the same five paragraphs dozens of times. I still can't say for sure what I accomplished by doing that. Right before Hubz came home from work, I decided to give it up for the afternoon. What with being kind of sick, and again, feeling a little out there due to the meds, I didn't want to cut or rearrange anything within my novel that I might regret later. I'll wait til I've managed to gather my wits about me before I dive into the project again.

That said, I'm swearing off anymore trips to town this week, if I can help it. I need to focus on revising this novel if my cold will allow it. It's probably just me, but it seems like everyday this week there's been something standing in the way of work. Kooky as it may sound to some, I blame Mercury Retrograde for all the wacky energy and distractions. It goes direct on the 9th of October, so maybe by then I'll have my writing and revising groove back. I hope so. I'm ready to wrestle this story into tip top shape so I can finally kick it out the door. ♥

Saturday, September 19, 2015

It's Complicated

I didn't get in a lot of editing time Friday afternoon: too much crazy pants going on at home. So, I'm up late/early revising the next scene in this book.

Anyway, what I'm doing... feel free to break out the wine while I complicate this for you, okay? I've been working on one scene at a time, really digging in with each one as I come to it, seeing what is there, and what isn't, and what needs to be added.

To do this, I copy the scene I'm about to work on from my Scrivener, then I move it into Word for revising. Once I've cleaned up the scene or rewritten it or whatever, I paste it back into a Scrivener project set aside as a "container" for the final draft scenes. That way I can work from multiple drafts without accidentally cutting something I wanted to keep.

It sounds bonkers, all that moving stuff around, but that's about as organized as I can get with this project. I just can't seem to wrap my brain around it any other way. I've never been one of those "neat" draft people to start with, but even for me this is a little complicated. I'm totally blaming the Mercury Retrograde going on right now. Any given day my process is a little like an explosion of glitter; I toss a handful of little sparkly story bits into a room, then spend the rest of my time trying to contain it and arrange it into something that makes sense. Brilliant method, right? No? I know, but I can't seem to help it. Care to pass the wine, now, please? I'm going to need it for this project.

That said, I'm setting a deadline for the end of October for Harlequin Hopeful. Hubby told me we've almost paid in the yearly deductible for our health insurance, and as much as I hate it, if we top it out, I need to take advantage of it. I've been putting off two very necessary surgeries, because I'm a big ol' chicken. But if the time is financially right, I've got to go in.

So that's where I'm at right now. I'm creeping along at a slug's pace through this revision, and I haven't even gotten to the part in the novel where I know the hero and heroine have breakfast, like, seventy-two times when they're actually only in close proximity for six full days. *insane laughter* Nevertheless, I'm throwing down the gauntlet and giving myself until October 31st to have this book ready for my crit partner to beta reading. Wish me luck!  

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Live from the Trenches of Revision Hell

So it begins. I have been told in the past I have impeccable timing. Bad timing, as it may be, but impeccable timing nonetheless. As of last weekend, because I didn't already have enough stress in my life, I have two full novels that need revision, so of course I'm going to start snipping away at the first one right as Mercury Retrograde has entered my sign. I'd like to say I enjoy living dangerously, but...no.

That said, the work has to be done. I can't keep sitting on the Harlequin Hopeful forever. After three incarnations, and a lost (then recovered) draft, it's finally complete...and it's long past time to clean it up and release it into the wild. Then there's the Hot Mess Draft that I completed recently. On it's own, that's 85k ready to go through red pen surgery. Both books are now at the top of my to-polish list, because honestly, I'm ready to kick them both out of the nest.

I'm terribly slow at revising, I think that's why I hate the process so much. This has always been the toughest stage of writing for me. A couple of my writerly friends agonize over writing the draft, then zoom through the revision process. I'd love to be one of those writerly types, but, sadly, I'm not. I've always liked the drafting process, and the proofing/copy editing process, if I'm at all honest with myself. It's that middle stage, the hard revision, that gets me every time.

Several years ago, I took a six-month class on novel length manuscript revision. I'm linking to it, because I'm sure someone will email me to ask what class I took. I'm not an affiliate - clicks and signups don't earn me anything, not even a pat on the head. Just mentioning that as an FYI in case someone feels the need to flambe my carcass for posting about stuff that isn't free. (You would be surprised...or maybe not...)

The course was expensive, almost the cost of a college course, but it was worth it. The process saved both Wave Rider, a short story, and Wicked Obsessiona novel, from the scrap heap. It  showed me how to organize my draft and my thoughts before diving in, then it taught me the process to work through the manuscript, trim away the excess, fix what was broken, and shape what was left.

Revision is still a painful process for me. Lots of reading, tears, cutting, WTFs, and questioning of my own sanity every time I go through it. Only when it's over does the journey ever seem worth it. Probably another of my many unpopular opinions about the writing process, but there it is.

My goal in writing about all this? After spending three days this week trimming, rewriting, and polishing one critical scene, I'm about to break out the revision guide and take it step-by-step through the trenches, if for no other reason than to save as many brain cells as possible. By doing so, I'm hoping there will be fewer three day scene fixes after today, because whoa mama, ain't nobody got time for that.  

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Please Don't Squeeze Me

Evidently, I am full of panic, because when life puts the squeeze on me, that's what comes out. 

In my own defense, it seems like everything I've done this week, I had to do it twice: rewashing laundry, resending old paperwork, repeated trips to the store. I even had to re-enroll my kid in school where he's been a student since Kindergarten. I'm not kidding. The entire parish had to do it because some kids were attending school outside their district. But I digress... Everything twice. Okay. To add to my list of things to re-do, I can now add reprinting the hot mess draft, because...well, lemme tell you...

When revising and editing I have to work from hardcopy. I have to. I'm not at my best when revising on screen. So, a couple of days ago, I bought paper and ink and printed the hot mess draft back to front.

After an entire evening of wrestling with my printer, I finally got the draft printed. In 12 pt MT Bell, that came to about 148 pages. Hmm. The result of all that paper and ink seemed rather "thin" when I know the book is over 85k and more than 300 pages on screen, but the job was done, so I arranged all the pages and started working my way through the first chapter, noting places that needed revision.

About twenty pages in, a scene was missing. I made note of it in the margins and kept going. Then I encountered another missing scene. Okay, now that was curious. I stopped revising and began looking through what I had in hand. Only the first five chapters had chapter headings. I had also marked the book into three acts so I could divide up the book and work on each section individually. When I realized my Act 1, 2, and 3 markers were missing, it was time to cue the panic. I knew then something was very wrong with my draft.

I opened Scrivener and did a search for a phrase I remembered from the first missing scene. It was there in Scrivener. So was the other missing scene. However, it wasn't in my printed draft. I checked the Act markers. In Scrivener, it was all there. At this point, I'm thinking, what the crap is going on?

This is my first time using Scrivener to put a book together, and I'm not going to lie and tell you there isn't a learning curve. There is. A big one. I knew this before I printed the hot mess draft, and I was careful to read a couple of blog posts about printing from Scrivener before I tried it. And yet, I still ended up with only part of a manuscript.

I set my printed copy aside, and recompiled the manuscript from within Scrivener, trying a different setting/format. I still ended up without the headers. I tossed that file, and recompiled again in yet another setting/format. Finally, I ended up with a copy that had all my scenes, chapter headings, etc. Hurray. I'm glad I caught the error and fixed it before I got too far into revisions. However, now I have to reprint everything so I have a hardcopy to work from, which is in fact over 300 pages long.

I'm going to need more paper and more ink. No doubt about it. So, back to the store, then back to the revision trenches. C'est la vie. ♥

Monday, September 07, 2015

Dream ♥ Write ♥ Repeat

Yesterday I spent a ridiculous amount of time searching for an ancient blogspot quiz from sometime around 2009-2011. I remember it was on a blogger blog with an orange and black theme. I think the blogger was an author, but I can't be sure about that.

The quiz was about what kind of romance you should be reading, or maybe it was about what kind of heroes you prefer...I can't quite remember. The quiz results were supposed to include recommended books (new releases at that time) for you based on your prefs; however, when I filled out this quiz, it had no book recommendations for me, because I like romances where heroes or stories that embrace a character's inner monster...which is entirely true. I wish I could find that quiz again!

Tomorrow the guys are back to school and work. While out and about running errands, I'm going to pick up some computer paper so I can print the hot mess draft I completed several days ago. From there I'll start reading through the scenes to see what I've got and what I don't. I hate this part of the process. I hate it worse than any other stage. It's always cringeworthy. I always question whether I should give up writing and go hide in a cave somewhere because I wrote something that bad. This stage requires copious amounts of wine and ice cream. I'm not even kidding.

Over the weekend I also started webspinning the next project, which is to say I've been writing little handjammer scenes for it, feeling out the characters and their world and the situation it's all linked to. I call it webspinning because there's a tarot card in my collection (I can't remember what deck) that shows a spider spinning a web representative of creativity and storytelling. It's an interesting card, and perfectly fits the prewriting before the writing stage, which I completely love. There are no right or wrong answers during this phase. Grammar and cohesion doesn't matter. It's pure creativity and brainstorming. It's my favorite part of the writing process.

In other news, I updated the blog. I cleaned out my links lists, added a new banner, added new social media icons, and tried to make everything easier to find. A small accomplishment, but I'll take what I can get.

So what's next on the agenda? I'll post updates on the state of the hot mess project in the weeks ahead. I'm terribly slow at revising, so I'll try not to let it drag out for months and months. It's painful enough to sift through a tough project; it's even more painful to have to tell others about it - lol. A quick and dirty revision, that's what I'm aiming for. We'll see how it goes.

That's it for now. I need to turn off the internets and tackle the mountain of laundry I've heaped on the bed. So many socks. So much folding. Alas, no house elves to do it for me. Sigh. I hope you've all had a lovely Labor Day holiday. Until next time, happiest wishes. ☺   

Saturday, September 05, 2015

What's On My Kindle Right Now : Story Trumps Structure and More

It's a hot, humid, rainy Saturday evening, and I'm not feeling 100% tip top. I visited my parents this morning (great visit), took care of errands, paid bills, and now I'm free to lounge and loaf for the rest of the four day weekend What better time to curl up with my Kindle Fire?

Yesterday I picked up a couple of books and a new app to keep myself busy, and since I have no new-news on my recently completed draft, I thought I'd share what's on my Kindle right now.

Story Trumps Structure by Steven James (with a foreword by Donald Maass) - I'm currently reading this, and so far I'm quite impressed. I'm on chapter two or three, and I've already taken a heap of notes. So far the book talks about what story is, what it isn't, and how to keep a reader's interest. I'll be reviewing this book in depth on Goodreads when I've finished it.


I also picked up a copy of Slenderman by Willow Rose. How about that fun, spooky cover?  Mini Beast initially introduced me to the Slenderman mythos, and I only recently began venturing outside the Creepypasta site to try to find a novel about him.

Slenderman by Willow Rose is part nine of the Emma Frost mystery series, which I don't know much about, but the author had a lot of cool, creepy looking titles in her extensive backlist, so this could turn out to be a new must-read author for me.

Both of these books are free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers. I've linked to them for your convenience, but please note that I am not an Amazon affiliate. I do not get paid for your clicks. These picks are based on my personal preference. I get nothing in exchange for showcasing them here. The same goes for the app below. xoxo

Last, but not least, I picked up a new app called Colorfy: Coloring Book for Adults, Free.

I was directly inspired by the lovely N.j. Walters, who stated on her Facebook page a couple of months ago that she had bought a coloring book for grownups. I thought, how fun is that?

I've always liked coloring and sketching, so last night I went hunting around for grown up coloring books and found the Colorfy App. I really like it. It's free like it says, installed easily from Amazon App Store. Within minutes I was thumbing through the mandalas and florals looking for a picture to color.

The app allows you to email and share your colored pages. To test out the features, I colored two pages, which took between ten and twenty minutes, and I saved them to my Fun Stuff  board on Pinterest.

This is one of the finished Colorfy pages. The app allows you to name your creations. I chose Hens and Chicks - named after the succulent plants.

Overall a neat, cute little app for all ages. The interface is minimalist, clean, and easy to navigate. Simply choose a coloring sheet from the available albums, and tap-to-paint. To get into the tight places on the coloring sheets, you can pinch to zoom on your touch screen, and it will enlarge the smaller details.

So there you have it. My latest Kindle downloads. I'm about to go flop across the bed and start reading that Slenderman book right now. I hope you all have a cozy Labor Day weekend. Until next time, happy wishes! ☺

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Dog-like Typing Detected: 999

I have some lovely news to share today. I met my #85kOrBust target goal, and I even had a couple hundred words of overage. Hurray! The big book of hot mess is technically completed, all the scenes are in place, but I'm still adding to it here and there. Fleshing it out more, etc., and giving it a couple of resting days before I print it up and start with the read through.

After I hit target yesterday, I allowed myself a little free writing. I haven't done that in a couple of months. I ended up with a complete story summary for a ghostly novel geared toward the ya market. If I decide to do anything with it, I'm going to need a pen name. I haven't given it much thought, yet, though.

This morning, I began working on another summary, but then I had to take a short break. I left my office for about five minutes, and when I came back, JakeDog had jumped into my chair and added his two bits to my story. What did he type?  999


Jake loves to hit the keys and mouse to my computer. All the pets nap around my feet while I'm in my office during the day, so he sees me typing often. I think he likes the clicking noises. Sort of like when you see videos of dogs playing and howling to the family piano while the owners are away. They've seen their owners playing many times and like the noise. I have to make sure my laptop is put away before leaving the house, because Jake will get crafty while I'm gone. I worry he'll knock it to the floor and damage it while tapping away.

At any rate, his dog-like typing is usually a string of nonsense letters. That very controlled looking 999 had me doing an internet search. Because I'm superstitious, curious, and I like stuff that could be interpreted as omens, or what have you. I ended up over at the Angel Numbers blog, and Joanne Sacred Scribes says Jake's numerical message means I need to "devote [myself] to [my] life's mission without delay."

How cool is that? I'm on it! ☺

Friday, August 28, 2015

The First 40

It's official. As of today, I've been alive for four decades. I'm sure my guardian angel is somewhere out back having a smoke break and bracing himself for the next forty years of my life journey. Poor beast, I've already put him through the wringer.

Today was a relaxing around the house kind of day. Hubz called around noon, and Bub and I met him at the Panda for a quick lunch. In the morning, Hubz is picking up the cakes, and we're all going to make a trip to my Mom and Dad's house. Tomorrow Bub is turning the big 2-4, so we're having a combined birthday party and cookout with the family.

As for writerly updates, I'm 3k away from the minimum safe word count for my novel, and it's getting harder and harder to find the words. All the scenes are in place. Some scenes are still just sketched in. I keep going back, tacking on thoughts here and there, firming up connections between scenes and characters.

It's all coming together, but I'm under no illusions. The draft is a mess. It's going to need a lot of revision. Some scenes will need to be completely rewritten. That said, I've given it a good go. I started writing (this incarnation) of the book in June. So, this draft is a three month-er. I'm satisfied with that.

Earlier I made a bullet point list of stuff I needed to add in, but even that has been slow going. I'm reaching for ideas at this point, and that's a good sign. Every time I make a new list, it's shorter and shorter, which tells me, for the most part, the core story is already there on the page.

That's the latest news. Tomorrow is a family day. I don't know yet if I'll be tackling the remaining 3k after the cookout, or if I'll be waiting to jump into it again on Sunday. We will see. Tomorrow is technically Bub's day, so I will likely go along with whatever he wants to do. There's no need to rush to the ending. Besides, we only get so many birthdays, and they're meant to be shared with the people who matter most. 


Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Final 10k Stretch


I'm a little less than 10k away from defeating finishing this novel. I'm tired. My characters are showing signs of distress. Like them, I just want the villain to die already so we can all dash through the finish line and embrace the HEA. But then I settle down at the computer and stuff like this happens...

Over the past few days, I added close to 5k to my WIP only to realize what I had tacked on would add a new subplot that doesn't really support the main story.

What did I do about it? I deleted that 5k. Or rather, I clipped those scenes and saved them elsewhere so I can recycle them into another story later...maybe. For this book, though, those scenes are unuseable. They had to go.

This week, so far, I've written, rewritten, edited, and deleted. Rinse, de-wrinkle, repeat. The usual process. However, in terms of progress, it's like trying to ride a bicycle toward the beach during a hurricane. It's a constant struggle. Still, I love these characters, and I believe in them 100%. Their lives interest me. Their problems keep me up at night. These are the people at the house party I'd watch from afar and want to know more about. As Alan Rickman channeling Hilly Kristal would say, "There's something there."

This whole process has been madness, and I'm still wading through the trenches. Every day I wake up obsessed with these characters and their individual stories. I'm constantly looking at the pieces of their lives, aka the mountain of Post-it notes I've used making scene notes about them, and I'm forever trying to make solid connections that link their lives together. Little by little, plot tangle by plot tangle, it's slowly coming together. As it stands right now, the word count is parked at 75,143. I'm happy with that number, but after Wednesday's big chop, I solemnly swear I'm not going to cut a another word from this manuscript until the draft is completed.

So, onward to 85k. That's my minimum safe wordcount for this story. According to several sources, that's the industry standard for this type of novel. I've done the math based on what I have left to write, and I should hit that target by the middle of next week. When all is said and done, I estimate an overage of roughly 2-3k words.  We'll have to wait and see. Until then, only 16 Post-it note scene reminders left to sort through, and 9,857 words to go.

Monday, August 10, 2015

I Stopped Myself From "Stepping Out" on My Current WIP

Sometimes it's like a story just doesn't want to see the light of day. The plot pieces won't fit, the conflict drags on and on, and the characters won't cooperate. I have written this novel twice to date, and I'm still uncovering little "ah-ha" moments as I work through this incarnation of the story.

Once this final-final-final draft is finished, I still have to revise the damned thing, so I am far from being out of the woods yet.

Yesterday, I reached a stuck point where I couldn't justify my hero's motivation, and I struggled with his scene until I was sorely tempted to  kill all the characters, set the imaginary city on fire just to watch it burn, delete the entire file, and pretend it never existed toss the story aside to work on something else.

The thing is I have at least baker's dozen of unfinished stories littering my hard drive. Whenever I'm struggling with a novel, I always catch a glimpse of some sparkly, shiny new idea on the horizon, and I will run toward it with open arms, jot down the beginning as if I know exactly where it's going, only to inevitably lose momentum midway through the piece. No, I don't know exactly why that happens, but I'm brought to mind of that quote by Anne Lamott about ideas losing steam because there's no passion at their center. How can there be, when I'm just using that story to escape from the one I should be working on?

I have a chronic habit of starting up little hand-jammer writing pieces whenever I'm having a spat with my main work-in-progress. Instead of toughing out the rough patches, instead of brainstorming my way out of the hole, I end up setting aside my main work-in-progress to have a dalliance with an "easier to write" (lol), fanciful idea story that I know from the outset isn't going anywhere.

Once the excitement of the hand-jammer is over, and the sparkle has been examined up close, so close that I can see the diamonds are really paste jewels, and the stars are really just sequins sewn to a cheap, black curtain, I bow out, hair mussed, lipstick smudged. The whole ugly affair is over, and from there, it's the wip version of the walk of shame. I have to go back to the home piece to face the music.

I slink back to the main wip and its protagonist, and I open the file to find the hero glaring at me from across the room. His arms are crossed. He knows what I've been up to. He's been expecting me to come crawling back, and all I can do is sag into my desk chair and go on the defensive."This never would've happened if only you'd talk to me!"

It's a tense couple of days after that. The hero and I, we don't write very well together. It's uncomfortable and a little frustrating. There is often hair pulling, teeth grinding, behind-the-back cursing, and inevitably, some tears are shed. I occassionally recount the dalliance with that hand-jammer piece and cringe. Why did I stray? How could I have thought anything would come of such a ridiculous idea?  It's humiliating - and humbling. But eventually the hero and I fall into a comfortable rhythm, forgiveness settles between us, and the writing starts flowing again. Finally, progress is made.

When I hit that plot tangle the other day, I glanced longingly toward all the sparkly new ideas beckoning me from afar, their siren song so sweet in my ear: Just a quick short story on the side. Easy peasy.

Yeah, right. I was sorely tempted to cheat on my current wip by starting something new, but I also knew that the promise of a quick, easy project was just a distracting glimmer on the horizon. It would only end up another morning-after story to toss onto the unfinished project stack.

What ultimately kept me from straying is that I knew I couldn't spare the time to begin a fresh project. Mini's back-to-school bonanza is on the horizon for next week, and once that begins, I'll no longer have an easy-breezy summer schedule to do whatever I want, whenever I want. As much as I wanted to chase the shimmering gossamer of a new hand-jammer project, I recognized it for what it was. An illusion. A desire to escape from the problems in my current wip.

So what did I do? I resisted the temptation. I disconnected from the story entirely. I turned off Word and Scrivener, and I let the characters rest. I read a book. I watched a few episodes of Fist of the North Star with Oldest. I called my parents and chatted a while. I had my hubby take me and the MiniBeast to the buffet. Toward the evening, when I settled in at my normal writing time, if my characters spoke, I'd jot down a little note in long hand, then I'd work on something else - like typing up notes I've had scattered about my desk for the past two weeks.

Today I had a breakthrough that pulled me out of the mire, and put me three steps ahead of where I'd been before. What I needed was a break, not another unfinished story to feel guilty about. My characters stopped cooperating because I needed time to mentally untangle the knot blocking my story from moving forward.

Everyday I learn something new about writing and my own process. I have a greater rate of finishing, and I finish faster, when I'm working only on one project at a time. To help stay on track with that, and to help prevent data loss, I've started moving the stories I'm not working on to Google Drive and Dropbox. Out of sight, out of mind. If there's only one project on my desktop at a time, I'm less likely to stray from it. I'm also more likely to open that file out of habit after I turn on my computer.

Now if I could just train myself to take more breaks, to refresh the creative wells more often, before I get to the stepping out point, I'd be all set. ♥

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Plot Hole Whack-a-Mole: Kitteh edition

This is me, trying to find and fix all the plot holes. 

I'm about 70k into my novel now. It's not all new material; I should mention that straight out the gate. I salvaged three characters, and the initial concept, from the old manuscript, which was a little over 50k, as completed. This new version is a total reimaging/revisioning (not to be confused with revised, because whoa mama, this thing is a hot mess right now) of the original novel I completed in 2011.

I sent the original around to a few publishers, when many were loudly crying no more vampire novels! That's probably when I will stop reading forever, but I digress. I did it anyway and was told my story was "promising"...still, I had no takers. I thought about self-publishing it, so I purchased a premade cover for it. Since then, I've hedged on releasing it, because of the wealth of feedback I received while it was out on submission. You know, the "promising, but with caveat" and all that.

I set the whole novel aside to give it breathing room while I figured out what I wanted to do with it. Then, last year, my old PC died and I lost the original digital file of the book. I still had, and do have, a printed copy of the original story, but after reading through it twice, I decided to rewrite the book from scratch. I've been doing that for the past two months, give or take a few weeks.

Last Friday, when I pulled the hard drive from my Acer and recovered all my old files, I was able to rescue the original file for The Novel. However, when I poked through it, I realized there wasn't much material that fit the reimagined version. So, that's a full novel on Drive that I won't be using ever.

The new version looks almost nothing like what I initially wrote. I saved three characters from the old book, then rewrote the full story from the beginning. The theme, tone, premise, everything...it's all totally different. The beginning and ending has changed dramatically. The heroine was the protagnist in the original novel. In this version, it's all on the hero. Overall, the story is much better for the changes I've made ("promising" editor was right, dammit), but I'm not even gonna lie...this story has been an absolute bitch to write.

As advised, I've pantsed this thing from the new beginning, letting the characters and their personalities drive the plot. I'm a plotter by nature, so I guess no one should be surprised that this book winged off into a direction I didn't anticipate at all. The two main characters I saved have evolved from who I thought they were initially into discover-as-I-go strangers; that's probably the most surprising thing of all. Does anyone else get how crazy that sounds? Hello, my name is Cora. My characters, they aren't who I thought they were.

Just when you think you know someone, am I right?

The third character, a mentor/sounding board character, has become a Bechdel litmus paper. That's another surprise, because it's never my intention to self-censor or inject politically correct anything into my books. I do, however, want my female charaters to talk about more than just men. This is a grittier novel than what I'm used to writing, and I want it to stay that way. While there is a strong romantic subplot running throughout the novel (the novel couldn't exist without it), I'm purposely trying to steer the story away from certain conventional romantic scenes and elements.

Constructively speaking, what great lesson have I taken away from all this? (Again, what I take away from this. Your mileage may vary.)

A.)Plotting from character equals greater character depth, but less "intrusive authorial control" over the plot. That can be a little scary when you're writing a mystery, or suspense thriller, or you've been given a rigid framework, or specific story guidelines to work with. The characters may not obey those guidelines. Then what?  Commense hair pulling.

B.)Plotting from...well, plot (which I define as: the series of events that happen in your story) gives you greater control over the story itself, but the characters are sketched in more lightly. Motivations have to be cut and polished to fit the framework. Characters need more tailored reactions to fit the scenes necessary to take your story from point A to point Z. While the characters are guaranteed to obey the plot dynamics, they can come across as two dimensional, and they can also make the story seem less organic.

Pros and cons exist for both methods, so it doesn't matter which one I decide to use. The end result is all that really matters: a completed book. I will say, though, pantsing my way through a story while also plotting from character has created a minefield of plot holes. Holy Schnikes the plot holes. Reference the kitteh video above. Yes. It's really like that.

I've already written all the way to The End, but I need another 15k to reach my minimum safe word count. So, for now, I'm taking what's there and beating the sheet out of it. Not really. I'm just using a STC beat sheet to find all the inevitable plot holes. Which, coincidentally (or not), makes me want to drink ALL the King Cake Vodka and Diet Coke. In moderation.

I tell myself every day the story is getting there, wherever there happens to be. Just a little further now. A little more. 5k more words. Then another 10k. The finish line is just across those train tracks. And across that lake. And across those mountains. I'm exhausted from the journey, but I'm pushing forward. The process has been very messy, but like Joel Saltzman said, "Strive for progress, not perfection." Trust me, I'm on it.

Cheers. ♥   

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Impose Your Own Terms



I saw this T.S. Eliot quote on Facebook yesterday, and it really hit the mark for me. When it comes to writing, I'm always trying to color inside the lines, so to speak. There are specific elements required to meet the expectations of certain genres, and I've always struggled with that, no matter what genre I'm writing. This is especially true when I start a story from a plot scenario rather than from character, and more often than not, that's how story ideas come to me, as a snip of dialogue or an interesting situation.

With all the changes going on in the industry, as well as the changes happening within the writing communities I'm involved with, I've come to the realization that I've got to let go of the old rules and the expectations I've been trying to write by. I say this not because the genre purists are wrong, but because their rules are absolutely paralyzing me as an author.

When I saw this T.S. Eliot quote the other day, it was like finding a message in a bottle that was personally addressed to me. I've spent many years now studying writing craft and learning the rules, but at this point in my career, I feel it's time to break away and write my fiction on my own terms. ♥

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Dreaming, packing, and the airport

Last night I dreamed I was at my grandmother's old house with MiniBeast. We were waiting for the rest of the family to return from an outing, but they were late, and I was becoming frustrated, because I was ready to go home. I have no idea where the family had gone, or who I was specifically waiting for, but in waking life a lot of the family has since passed away - my grandparents, for instance. The house has special meaning to me, though. That house was a huge part of my childhood, and I spent many happy years there. 

In the dream, I was sorting through a linen cabinet when I decided I was tired of waiting around and wasn't going to do it anymore. I told Mini to grab as many bags as he could find and we would start packing. Being a kid, he groaned at the suggestion, and instead of packing, he hid himself on one of the linen shelves and went to sleep. I went on to gran's room, opened the dresser, and began packing clothes. I was putting them into all these purses and totebags that I have hanging in my office in waking life. 

In the middle of packing, the bedroom door opened, and this family I didn't recognize filed into the room. There were at least fifteen people, and they were dressed in their Sunday best. This elderly gentleman walked over to my grandmother's bed and set down two bulldog puppies on the bedspread. I was awed by one of the puppies because his brindle markings were an ombre black shade and looked like tiny scrolling leaves. Very strange. 

The next thing I know, I'm standing in a busy airport with my Tokidoki vampire candy tote bag strapped over my shoulder. The bag itself is huge, and it's packed to the max. I've used it in waking life to tote college text books around, so whatever I was carrying - the clothes from my grandma's room, I guess - was quite heavy. I was looking around for my gate, when I saw Gweneth Paltrow standing about three feet away. She pointed toward my bag and said, "Excuse me. Do you happen to know the length of the drop?" 

She was talking about the strap drop, which is the height from the top of the strap to the top of the bag. I told her I didn't know the drop size, so she walks closer and says, "May I?" I let her slip the bag over her arm to test it. Someone shouted back behind me, and I turned to see this group of guys, all of them dressed like dayglo versions of Wez (google it) stamepeding through the airport. I stepped out of the way just in time to avoid being knocked down, and I overheard someone saying that the guys had just come back from winning a championship football game. When they had passed by, I turned around to get my bag back, but Gweneth was gone. The dream ended with me wandering around the airport looking for her, because she still had my bag. 

I guess the key themes in all that is frustration, being tired of waiting, packing, and taking off to the airport without even knowing where I'm headed. In a nutshell, it's about change. A desire for change. One I'm sorely tired of waiting for.

Lately hubby and I have talked in passing about moving. If we had the money, we would. Our house is paid off, though, and neither of us are crazy about having a mortgage again. Still, if I could afford a little house on Tybee Island, or a cottage in Biloxi (I'd want to live in one of those little neighborhoods right off Beach Blvd), I'd do it in a heartbeat. I told hubby my dream home is a small house in walking distance to the beach and a grocery store. I could do without everything else. I'd ditch my car and walk everywhere.

I've also been thinking about taking my career in a completely different direction. I've become really disenchanted with some of the stuff I've read in the forums lately. I keep asking myself why I'm clinging on when lately it's done nothing but remind me repeatedly that I'm not really one of the crowd. What's worse is I'm paying dues to feel this way. Why? Why am I doing this to myself? It's not necessary to stay in publishing. Add to that, my best, most trusted friends aren't even a part of that community. I know, I know... It's time to start reassessing my goals, but I keep putting it off, because...well, I just don't want to deal with it right now. There's the sad truth of it.

So all the packing, moving, the airport...it's all related to feeling overwhelmed and desperately wanting to initiate change for the better. As for why Gweneth Paltrow wanted my purse in that dream, your guess is as good as mine. ♦