Focus

Today I focused on reading about dialogue. Wasn’t aware that would be my focus today, but the magazine I picked up was turn to that page; where I left off last week. After reading the words of Elizabeth Sims I realized my first draft is quite ‘wordy’ I am telling a lot more as a narrator than I allow the characters to. Sounds simple, but a key point I obviously have not made a priority.

I believe my first draft is ready like an outline, sure there is dialogue, story line, arc, etc., but not as much dialogue as there should be. And what a difference this is going to make. Not only will dialogue allow me to character build within those interactions, but also describe the setting through their eyes, not mine.

LIGHT BULB moment…I do love these light bulb moments. Like when I read several articles about simply using ‘said’ after a character speaks and not fluffing each line with such ‘said eagerly’…etc. If you use the right dialogue and content then you don’t need to add much more than ‘said’. Anyway, now looking over my draft and focusing on letting the characters tell more of the story including bringing the setting alive is a light bulb moment.  It is so exciting to feel more focused!

Very basic example (to self) –

Instead of “She walked to the screen door, opening it slowly…feeling the cold air take her breath. She bundled her scarf around her mouth to protect her from the wind, allowing her to get to the car and drive to the school….” Use something like

“You better bundle up, the cold is whipping around like a winter tornado.” he said.

“You’re right. I”m so focused on getting to school on time, I almost forgot it’s the dead of winter.” She said

As noted, this is basic, but makes me understand the concept!

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2015

Yes, it’s 2015; April already actually. I have to say this yet again “it’s been awhile since my last post”. I won’t make this post about excuses or health issues. We all have them. I’m dealing with them and focusing on what I can do, not what I can’t.

SO with that little blurb out of the way I can say I’ve been reading more, learning more, focusing on learning what I need to know to complete the draft of Purified Revenge. I read an article today in Writer’s Digest interviewing Susan Mallery. I enjoyed the entire interview which has so many great tips. One quote that has been echoing in my head is “You need to focus on what you’re bad at, and make that your strength.”

One of my main issues is tense; I tend to go between ‘now, then, did, doing, going, gone, we are, we were’, etc. I have just accepted this is an issue and my weakness. Now, like a light bulb flashing in my face, I realize I can conquer that weakness, not just accept it and work around it.

Recently I have also realized one other ‘weakness’; counting my chicks before they hatch. I get caught up in reading about self publishing, agents, query letters, etc. and I haven’t even finished my novel. Shouldn’t my time spent on researching publishing options actually be used to finish a product to deliver and publish?? It’s like I’m coming up with recipes, canning tips, paying a vendors fee at the local farmer’s market, etc. for crops I haven’t even planted yet. Duh…just write the darn thing.

So here is to another round of focus, writing, commitment, writing more, only reading/researching what will help me finish my novel, writing more yet again, and finishing it this year. FINISH IT. Oh and use my blog more and keep my author site more professional.

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James River Writers Conference

OK, so I’m not sure how a year has passed since I attended the last JRW Conference, but it’s true. Two more months and a few days and it all starts again! So looking over my ‘to do list’ after returning last year…I’ve done some…need to do more, but I have stayed focused on being a writer. I have been doing some content and creative and professional writing. It’s not my novel, but it’s an outlet that I’m thankful for! At work I have done a few more creative projects and now I have a new deadline to get this first draft (oh yeah…I have a first draft done!) polished.

Let’s see if I can make this work! For starters – stop writing about writing and actually write!

 

 

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The writing purse

Yes,  I have a writing purse. No, it is not a purse that writes. It’s a very small black purse that I can fit my checkbook (yes, I still carry one), a few rewards cards, a pen and my lip gloss inside of it.I purchased this very small purse about 2 years ago when I found this amazing, perfect, beautiful messenger bag, I swear was made for me. I found the perfect messenger bag at a consignment shop and to this day say it’s my most prized used purchase. I figured I’d downsize the purse and put it in the messenger bag with my notebooks and books; I’d look all ‘writer-like’…if you talk the talk and walk the writer’s walk…you need a cool bag right?

I told myself if I had to carry this big bag around with my writing, then I’d have no excuse to write when it hit…I mean it was like carrying a writer’s studio on my shoulder…how could I NOT write more?!

A few months of lugging it around and trying to force more and more into the little purse…I had upgraded to a large baggage type purse. I thought it would save me from carrying my little purse and a book bag; combine the two into ONE large purse, it’ll be fine.

Well, the baggage purse worked for awhile, but made me feel like my shoulders were carrying bricks all day! That thing got HEAVY. Then I noticed I was still carrying a small book bag or carrying my Nook, a book, and notebooks in hand along with the baggage purse.

SO to the point…I’m back to the amazing made just for me messenger bag and small black purse. Any time I think I am tired of getting out the checkbook to find the lip gloss and fit it all back in again, I think of my writing…it’s sometimes unorganized, I sometimes write the middle while needing to focus on the beginning, sometimes I think “this is just too hard”, I’m going to write something else (get a different bag)…but it’s part of me. No, a purse does not make me a better writer, the messenger bag doesn’t spark creativity, but they both do serve as little reminders, little nudges “Hey, did you write today?” “Hey, you’re a writer…why aren’t you writing?”

 

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Fear

I write about fear often. I write about days when I conquer it and I write about days I swim in it, almost drowning. The recent content/editing/writing gig is fun, it’s challenging, it’s feeding a creative side, I’m making great contacts, I’m getting positive feedback…I am afraid though. Am I doing it ‘right’? Am I capable of learning technical terms, writing about something that is new to me, etc.? Ah, yes…Mr. Doubt and Mr. Fear are visiting often…

Today as I leaned to steal a look out a window in an empty office (my only way to see outside while at work) – I noticed a bird on a wire. He (or she) was cleaning under its wings. He was thorough, a few beak scraps under one wing, then the other…repeating several times.

He balanced perfectly as he did this. I watched him for a good five minutes. He never fell…never slacked at the preening. He didn’t let fear tell him to stop preening because he might fall. He was flying around, saw a wire, wanted a little ‘me time’ and he did it. He finished getting each feather perfect, sat in silence for a moment, look left and right, then flew off. No doubt, no fear, just doing.

So yeah, I can do this…I can bring my skills to a new project while learning. I can balance and preen.

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Inspiration

Even though I have been inspired and had a whirlwind of thoughts about my working novel, I have not worked on it in several weeks. I have been writing though. I am doing some content writing and giving suggestions for a friends’ new dot com. It’s exciting and I love this kind of work. Looking over everything a few dozens times, playing with the layout, wording, content in general. It’s a creative outlet and has a possibility of turning into full work when it flourishes over the next several months.

I have always enjoyed writing that requires me to think and not just day dream. I like the ‘fact checking’ and putting myself in the shoes of members and how outsiders will see it. It’s still new but check out oddjobcity.com (if you want to join for free, use my ID 8722).

I like a challenge and learning as I write. Having to change something because I didn’t understand the true outcome or the other side of seeing something in a way the developers didn’t and working with them to get the ‘flow’ right. It’s requiring me to learn about aspect of web sites I never imagined I’d even want to know about. I like that.

I like when you think you know what you want or how you want to write and an opportunity presents itself and smacks you right in the face and you like the unexpected inspiration to grow.

 

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Moms

As I have stated many times, my mom is my muse. She wrote as a young girl, into young motherhood and still has stories inside her. Her health is getting worse, her thoughts less focused, but she is still my muse. She will work through a moment in my writing as if she if she is the poster child of health. Don’t get me wrong, she still cares for herself, solves issues on her own, etc, but relies on me and my sister more and more each day. I see the gleam in her eye when we discuss writing. I can talk out loud about an issue I’m having; working it out as I speak. She will stop me at times and ask a question, a good question and we will work through that.

Last night we were having one of our discussions after taking care of some insurance issues and grocery shopping. I started talking about a twist I had come up. Mom had her questions, but also had joy and pride on her face as I rambled on and on. I told her about a possible sequel swimming around in my head; a darker extension of the story. She looked at me, smiled and said “Honey, do you have that in you?” I paused… it was a good question. We had just discussed how each story has a piece of me… So yes, it was a good question. I told her I think I can, once I have the first ‘good’ half written, knowing good will always balance out evil…etc. If I am truly a writer, I can (and maybe MUST) write outside my norm…

To grow as a writer I think I can do this. At some point I will be able to say “I know I can do this” and believe it. Right now I have to wrap up the first novel and then open up my mind and write the opposite; step outside myself and create an even deeper writing experience. 

Thanks, yet again, mom for guiding me and supporting me.

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S

Last night I had the opportunity to go to a free event at our local library. The guest author was Doug Dorst. He has written other books, is a three time Jeopardy champ AND works at Texas State University! “S” was collaborated with J.J. Abrams. I had not heard of this book until a few days before the event. The concept was so intriguing I made going to the event a priority!

You can read about this concept and wonderful writing on his website! I recommend checking it out! I personally am looking forward to the read since it is so different to any other books I have read. It has multiple story lines, hand written margin notes, and treasures within the book. I really can’t put into words how excited I am about such a concept and how well it has been put together! He mentioned there are a few ways to go about reading it and I have yet to decide which way I will choose. Last night I read over about 8 pages and just flipped back and forth and read every word on every part of the page. So interesting!

OK…to the event details – I really enjoyed the talk, not only did I learn more about the book and concept, but he shared his writing process as well. Seeing his notes of a first draft through changes and to the final was so interesting! He was so down to earth and his passion for writing came through in every enthusiastic answer he shared with the group. After his very informative and interesting ‘interview’ questions were encouraged and then a book signing opportunity.

I was about fifth in line and tried to think of how to put my emotions into words. During his talk and passion of writing shining through I started thinking of my own novel and how I have been researching and that is necessary, but I have not put pen to paper in quite some time. His words were sparks, the fire grew and I started writing notes down about more story ideas during the interview. I wrote quotes of his and put little arrows by them to character names and notes like “remember to change this or that”. I thought of all of this while waiting in line, a bunch of words came to mind to say, but I wanted them to make sense!

My turn came and I told him I appreciate the concept of a book that really reads best in hand. As much as I enjoy my ereader, it’s nice having a book like this to use as an example of why books will never cease to exist and how I was looking forward to the adventure of reading it! He thanked me and was so kind, he mentioned not being against ereaders, we laughed and I said “of course not”. I nervously mentioned getting a bigger purse so I could fit my ereader and books in it! As he started to sign my book I mentioned my writing and how inspiring it was to hear his talk and passion about the written word. He gave me his full concentration something like (don’t quote me exactly, but he said…) – it’s so important for writers to see and hear other writers, it’s how we learn. “We”… wow. He and I writers… He was kind to say “we”. I mentioned having a concept of adding a few diary pages from a mother that her son finds and how I wanted to put them in as actual pages. (the diary is pretty much for her son and discusses a difficult time they are going through, but she is not sure when he is going to read it, but it is planned that he will see it at some point). Doug said, again no quotes, but the concept of his comment was something like, – Isn’t it fun for us writers to write something with multiple concepts and character development…?

Yes, it is fun. And again, thank you for automatically grouping me into something of ‘us writers’…I told him he had inspired me and sparked a fire in me to continue writing and gave me such valuable ideas to move forward. A lot was said during out 3 minute interaction. As I started to walk away, he thanked me and said ‘good luck on your writing’.

Writers do need to be around other writers, it’s priceless education to hear another author discuss their writing and writing process. I’m so glad I went last night! He made so much sense and helped me clear up some questions I had about my own writing. I believe I owe him a thank you in my acknowledgments! 🙂

 

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Sporadic thoughts

Last Saturday marked eight years since my father passed away. I always try to spend extra time with my sister around that day each year. This year was no exception, thankfully. I wish she had been able to have more time with him. She is 15 years younger than me; she needed more time, but I’m thankful she and I are so close.

As rocky as our relationship could be times…thankfully we worked through that. I do miss him. I do think of him often. I have yet to delete his email address from my online address book. I’m grateful my sister and I had the last few months with him that we did. Even though he deteriorated quickly, we had warning…we had a chance to say things to one another we had failed to. I am grateful for that priceless gift.

One sporadic thought I have of my father is his handwriting. It was beautiful. I wish I had more letters from him. He had this clear, cursive, flowing, beautiful handwriting. He had an amazing voice. He could fix anything with parts to it. He had a beard, mustache and rode a Harley as often as he could, he almost always had dirt or auto grease on his hands, he made the best spaghetti ever and grilled like a master. He was shorter than me, broad shoulders and looked mean, but was the first to help someone when needed, he could quote the bible in one breath and make you blush in the next. He was unique and lived life the way he wanted. He had a lot of experiences; had a pilot’s license, owned a boat for a few summers, motorcycles came and went along with wives. He rebuilt old cars, created some white lightening that could be used for race car fuel. Oh he raced cars…he might not have been focused on any one thing, but he was focused on living and enjoying himself and he did just that.

So of course this time of year always stirs up life thinking, concentrating on where my life is going, finding ways to grasp each day and the joy it brings since it could all end tomorrow…etc. I try to stay focused all year, but that is always difficult. Seems like the thought of death makes you stop in your tracks and focus a little more.

I drive in morning traffic five days week on my wary to work; it takes me anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes in stop and go traffic to get to work. Today, I saw this car that was behind me, then in the other lane, trying to go around the three lanes of traffic. He ended up back behind me at least four times. I started thinking that is kinda how I am in life…I have been trying to find that faster way around what I want and always end up in the same spot…in the sequence I should be in. We can’t make short cuts often. There are certain steps we have to take…we have to experience to end up where we want and need to be. I can be more productive, but nothing is going to happen overnight in my writing. I’m not going to be an overnight success. I’m not going to finish a novel overnight. I can’t jump ahead several steps and expect it balance out. Stay focused and complete each step. Do what I enjoy, but don’t cut corners. Life is short…but no matter how fast I try to make something happen, life won’t extend. Life has a pace…

So, yeah… I can focus more, but can’t force time to bend or speed up or slow down. Why would I want it to?

 

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What do I want to be when I grow up?

Boy that is a question I continue to ask myself…Am I ever going to figure it out or grow up? Actually, I know what I want to be…how do you get there though?

I am not getting any younger. I need to figure this out and stick with it. Writing has been the only consistent thing in my life since I can remember. The journals from grade school through now in a book bag and in bins down in my basement testify to that. I would write alone in my room until my hand cramped and I would hold the pencil in the other hand and print / scribble the final thought out until I came to a stopping point or mom would make me turn out the light go to sleep. I want to be a writer. I am a writer. I want to quit my day job and write for a living. I want to teach writing… all of these ideas have always floated in my head, but more so recently. I work in an office. I’m happy enough. It’s a good job. It challenges me, has good benefits, etc. As far as day jobs go it’s about the best (in several aspects) I have had.

The past several years I have worked toward a degree in Elem. Education. In about 2005 I took the leap to take a class and start the venture (yes, 14 years after graduating high school) I submerged myself in teaching research and those classes. Life happened, my father passed away, jobs changed, financial situations changed…and now almost 10 years later here I am with only about 35 credit hours to my name (wow…that hurt more than I thought it would!). The silver lining of this? hmmm…there is always one isn’t there?

Despite realizing I could be well on my way to getting my Master’s degree if I had kept taking classes while working full time, I have realized I want an English degree, not an Elem. Ed. one. So moving forward, I can stop taking education classes that will not count toward my English degree…YAY, silver lining. I have also realized I actually do want to complete a Master’s degree and teach at a college level. My goals are clearer now…they are quite more difficult to map out as well though. I keep eyeballing the Iowa State University writing programs. That is exciting…not saying I will ever even make it in, but it’s exciting to know my goal is possible.

So first thing first. Pick up the classes I need for a general Associate in Arts degree, I’m half way there right? So complete it. Then find a transfer University to start my English major…complete the Bachelor’s degree. Gain some confidence, suck it up and find more hours in the day to complete a Master’s degree! Simple right? I’ll be like umm… what…55 or 60? And able to teach creative writing finally…? hmmm… I need to add to this plan “find way to go to school full time…win the lottery…sell my first novel and have it made into a blockbuster movie…” So…sure, I can do this. I know what I want to be when I grow up.

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