Friday, October 11, 2013

What's Under Your Bed?

Queue background music from Jaws…da…dum…da…dum…
dadum.. Dadum, DaDum!

Under my bed are a few dust bunnies (okay, maybe more than a few) and my first, oh, fifteen tries at writing. And Oh. My. God, were they scary to look at! Why, they scare themselves just like the fierce little monster above. (Come to think of it, he resembles me watching a scary movie... like Star Wars. Yeah, I know.)

Lately, I’ve been REcontemplating the writing process, something that happens whenever I start to doubt my ability, my story, my existence, lol. So this was the impetus to find my favorite box of writing books which I’d misplaced after the MS River fiasco. Serendipitously, a little book by Heather Sellers, Chapter after Chapter, jumped out of the box and into my hands.

I’d left off reading quite some time ago so I flipped to where the dust jacket was primed, to the chapter on Serious Writer Man. “When we’re unsure, or in quicksand, in order to deal with the fear of the unknown, we suit up and call on Serious Writer Man, but it’s fake…and always produces weak writing…When we’re driven to please, to fit in, to try to be heard, (to write for the wrong reasons) we’re prone to producing work that rings hollow. We don’t trust the greatness within us.”


And…”Serious Writer Man must never be allowed into our writing


This was followed by advice on counteracting the “I should” mechanism.

Ms. Sellers likens writing a book to swimming across a vast lake. It’s scary and lonely. The swimmer is doing fine when she’s stroking, not worrying about the other side being far, far away, or what she should be doing. Every so often she stops and reassesses and then keeps going. She said we need to replace “’Should’ with curiosity and attention to the tiniest details. If I cup my hands will I swim faster? If I write in present tense, do things flow differently?”

Ironically, when I go back to some of my earliest serious attempts at writing, I find a fun freshness to the writing - not so many contrivances and attempts to style my writing to fit a mold or please anyone but me.

So what’s under your bed? What were some of your early stories about? Have you considered pulling any of them out to revise and submit? Which ones the scariest artistically? Did you always write in the same genre as you do currently, or did you explore your limits?
And most of all, when you re-read some of your earliest work, what do you see in those honest clueless samples of your voice? Has any of it resurfaced in the more advanced versions of your voice or style?

And readers, what’s beside your bed? Tell us what you like about what you’re reading lately? Did you ever make a stab at storytelling? Tell me about it. I hope you kept it somewhere precious, because everything we create is an opportunity to tap into our own unique soul center.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Day

Labor Day - the official end to Summer, not meteorologically or cosmically speaking, but your kids have started back to school, the weather is cooperating, hopefully, bringing cooler air and a fresh attitude (or the desire to get lost in those closets).
Do you have goals for the rest of the year? How do you feel about your accomplishments for 201o up to now? Maybe the Labor Day weekend a kind of marker for you, a second wind, you know, like a fresh start to try to accomplish everything you set out to do in January.
This morning as I sat outside in the 75 degree cool breeze, literally grrrinning with pleasure, I couldn't help but think of Grace's Friday blog. I do love, love, love Fall, Grace, I'd almost forgotten how much. We so often see hurricanes around Labor day and excessive heat that this Labor Day weekend is especially wonderful. Not that I'd wish a hurricane onanyone! Hopefully, we'll all be able to enjoy the long weekend - I mean what other holiday promotes relaxation without guilt more than this one?
Even though I'll be laboring on Labor Day, I'll be doing something I enjoy. How about you? What's on the menu? Will you be spending it picnicking, on the lake, with family, working? Do you have a tradition you honor on this day, or do you SIMPLY relax? Breathe out... forget to breathe in...

Saturday, June 29, 2013

What If...exercises in story exploration

Writers try all kinds of crazy stuff to get the creative juices flowing. Long walks on the beach, dangerous and exciting new adventures like rock climbing, snowboarding, volcano dipping...

I haven't worked up to that yet. For the last month I've been reading from my TBR pile (more on that later), listening to some audiobooks and brainstorming plots. I picked up my old copy of What If writing exercises for writers, and chose a random exercise. (The updated version of this book by Bernays and Painter is available but the old one is awesome.)

The author suggested creating a flash card type of system with index cards. It goes like this.

With one set of cards you mark a vocation on each. I chose pink for the vocations. On another, orange, this is tougher, you place specific actions like 'running in a marathon' or ' driving a bus'. I went one step further to make myself explore more options.  On one card I put, driving ________, driving a car, driving a motorcycle, so that based on the circumstances of when I pull the card I could fill it in even with 'driving him crazy'. (The authors say try not to be too mundane or too melodramatic.)

Next you ask yourself a question - "Why did char from Card A do Card B? The idea is you pull a vocation and an action, until you like the combination. Think of the scene that comes to mind as the last scene of the story. Now what possibilities leading up to that point does this exercise create in setting, behavior, and conflict?

When I was taking the Holly Lisle course on Thinking Sideways she had us do a bubble type of brainstorming divided into maps for - things I fear, things I'm drawn to, things I love, etc. This exercise works for each writer as uniquely as that one did simply because the ideas are based on your own story ideas and life experiences. So my cards won't look anything like any of my readers' cards.

What detailed actions and vocations come to mind for you?

Also, I was encouraged last year by one of my friends, Bill Kirton, to try flash fiction, those incredibly short pieces of work that require a concise use of all the elements of story in less than 1000 words. (Some sites require even less.)

I submitted my first flash fiction for the Christmas Noir post over the holidays. The story, entitled, the Right to Bear Arms written under my pen name, Skye Chase, will be on the blog Do Some Damage in the next couple days.  It's a bit different than my usual...

What have you been doing to keep the momentum going during the holidays?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

12 Steps to Publishment

So you wanna write a book. Want to see your name in print on the spine of your book in the local Walmart or on the pages of Amazon.
Think you can be the next J.K. Rowling, Nora Roberts, Peter V. Brett?
How do you go about it?
Well, get your pad and pencil, I’m fixin’ to tell you how…
1. First, decide how much you’d like to make in a year. (This will determine how many novels you must turn in to your publisher per year.)
2. Make a projection when you’d like to quit your day job. (I suggest you give it at least three months.)
3. Pick a genre that sells. (How about men’s fiction - Crime Fiction or Thrillers. Those thriller writers make big bucks – Harlen Coben, David Baldacci, Vince Flynn, Dan Brown! Yeah, okay, men’s fiction.)
4. Next, you need a plot. Hey, here’s the beauty of men’s fiction. Just go to the Washington Post or USA Today or any local paper and pick a headline.
5. Now tweak it. Change the names, add some extra conflict - you know, fight scenes and such. Oh, and a good no holds barred love scene, or three.
6. Don’t have a computer? (It’s a great time to go get the Ipad you’ve been wanting, and hey, Peter Brett wrote his entire first book on his cell phone!) Either go buy one or simply right it long hand. You must use your very best handwriting though, for a publisher to take you seriously.

7. Get a friend to look it over for spelling since you won’t have the benefit of spell checker (which completely eliminates the need for proof reading).
8. Oh, length. It needs to be long. About 300-400 pages. (That’s about 2 composition notebooks.)
9. Just remember, if you chose Romance, to be sure to get your hero and heroine together at the End for their happy ever after.
10. Okay. You’ve finished the book and you’re ready to send it. How to decide on a publisher. Take a couple of your favorites and look at the publisher on the spine, or on the copywrite page. And before you prepare your cover letter, you might consider contacting your favorite author and asking him or her if you can use them as a reference with the publisher. Just assure them, they will NOT be sorry. Promise them a recommendation or blurb for their next bestseller.
11. That’s it. (Come to think of it, a little light spray of perfume might make it stand out from the crowd in what they call the slush pile.) So, box it up, mark on the outside of the box - Attn: Next Bestseller! and mail it off. In about a month, you’ll have your answer. <Cough> Or sooner.
12. Now sit down and plan how you’re going to spend the money.
Did I miss anything?

How many times have I heard from a friend or someone in the family –
“They didn’t buy your book at the conference?”
“How long are you going to write before you give up being published?”
“Are you still working on the same book? Just send it off."
Okay, reality check here!
The truth?
Writing a book with the intent of getting it published is one of the hardest things to accomplish. And getting it published...even tougher.
Many, many - make that three manys - of your favorite authors, the majority in fact, write into the wee hours after long days at work and/or taking care of their families. Many published writers have written for numerous years and numerous manuscripts before getting ‘the Call’ and then…they still work, write late or on lunch hours, and take care of responsibilities. The Call (and I haven’t received mine yet ) isn’t some magical Disney ‘blinnggggg’ where life changes. Most published authors I know haven’t bought a private plane, appeared on TV, or even hired maid service.
Writing is a challenge, a dream, a passion. Like the lyrics by Shania Twain,
“If you’re not in it for love, you’re outta here.” The bottom line:
Writing is a labor of love.
I’m curious. How does this translate into your writing experience? What part of the writing passion calls to you the most? What were your biggest misconceptions when you began your career? Have you died laughing over some question or comment about your chosen path?