Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Changing One Story For Another

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Here, on the West Coast, July was a living breathing taste of honest summer weather. No rain, no clouds, just sun, sun and more sun. Followed by a barely damp August.  Glorious!  And I’ve tried not to miss a moment of any day, from dawn to sinking sun. Which makes it painful to see the days growing shorter and knowing we’ll be rising and bedding in dark soon. Which means—crap, I’ll have to remember where the light switches are again.

Last winter I bullied my brain into a habit of starting its pink matter bubbling roughly an hour before anyone else’s—to give myself uninterrupted time to write. And I’m happy to report it’s worked out so well I’ve recently finished the first draft of my mid-grade story—all 58,436 words of it!

And that means my first rewrite will be annihilating close to half of those words. Can you hear me sniveling in the dark?

Aw, not really. I’m looking forward to the next step which will be the first rewrite. I’ll be taking the 118 scenes I’ve created and blending them together to create something resembling chapters. I guesstimate I’ll be taking four to six scenes and making a chapter. So, yeah, the creation party is over and the cleanup is about to begin.

But before I jump into it, for a tiny time, I’m going to be facing a writing pad instead of a computer screen in the early morning.

For as many mornings as weather permits, I’ll be perched out front in one of our wonderful Adirondack chair. On one wide chair arm  I’ll have my favorite writing paper (a Cambridge Mead large-sized, wide-ruled, cream-colored, heavy-weight notepad) and my favorite writing pen (a Sheaffer Calligraphy wearing a fine nib and oozing Noodler’s black ink). On the other wide arm will sit my ‘G’day’  green smoothie followed by a coffee chaser.

Each day, three full pages per day of thoughts, grumps and cheers will pour out before I gather up the tongs and the matches and burn the thoughts back into non-existence—a satisfying ritual of self-purification.

Which sounds way better than —the crazy old lady in black is burning things on her patio at dawn again.

PB Land versus La-La Land

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I still have lots of PBs arriving almost daily at the library. I’m closing in on the read a hundred books advice. But I don’t think I’ll stop once I hit it. They are simply too much fun to read

And, Eureka! I have finally seen, felt and come to understand the difference between PBs (picture books) and PSBs (picture story books). One lesson learned, six-five gazillion more to go.

Boy, am I on a roll or what?

And, after re-reading the article on how to create a PB/PBS dummy book, I created one; even stitched the thirty-two folded blank pages together like a real (ugly) book.

The funny thing is I made the dummy book about a week ago but couldn’t bring myself to put my words in it. I was afraid to try my story on the pages. What if it didn’t fit? What if it stunk? What if I discovered I’d been wasting my time thinking I could write a PSB?

Yeah, the monkey mind was having a picnic upstairs, and isn’t it funny how one can wander around in la-la land without clueing in? I guess that’s why they call it la-la land eh?

Two days ago, while wasting time playing a game of spider solitaire on the computer my eyes drifted to the cork board behind the monitor and locked onto a small sticky note with the words, How’s it working for ya written on it.

It wasn’t.

DING. LightbulbThumbsUp-article

I suddenly realized what I’d been doing.

Nothing.

Again.

And that’s when I took ownership of the ‘suck it up’ mentality and attacked my story with a pair of scissors and cut/paste lust in my heart.

Too, too freaking cool—It actually feels like a real PSB now and not just a story on paper (okay, it still is just a story on paper ) but suddenly I am visualizing the pictures between the sentences and those pictures are showing me where more sparkle is needed and where I need to dim the switch a tad. It’s amazing!

Which leads me to a brand new problem. I know I recently said I was leaving the illustrating to the professionals—but oh my lord—I so want to draw the pictures in my head. I can almost taste them I want to do it so bad.

At least that’s what the right side of my brain is saying. The left side is telling me that I need to get more of my work out again quickly and to forget what the other half is saying.

So who do I believe? Me here or me there?

Reading, Writing and learning

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For the last couple of weeks I’ve been reading picture books. Critiquing them, breaking them down by word/line/paragraph and picture. Those in the know say those without the know should try to read 100+ books in whatever field they wish to write for. I figure I’m about half way there.

The majority of the PBs I’ve gone through have been delightful. So much so I don’t want to give them back to the library. Writers like Mary Casanova and Robert Munsch always leave a happy, sappy grin on my face. But lord, there have been many excellent reads and I’d love to list every author.

But I won’t because then I’d have to list the ones that left me shaking my head. Some so brain-smacking dull it hurt to read them. Who published them and why? Or the few where I swear I could feel them looking down their long snooty noses at the reader. Man, there were even a couple so heavy into the dark artsy/crafty style I wanted to go wash my hands and eyes after reading them. How did they get published?  How did they find a publisher daft enough to accept them?

When you compare those dodgy ones to the ones written with care and illustrated so richly you can taste the story, well, it’s just a mystery to me. And, I have to confess—I figured if I wrote a PB I’d illustrate it too. Why not?

*Let’s all snort here*

In fact, here’s a baby’s board book —go ahead smack me with it. What the heck was I thinking?

Well, now I am, and I’m striking that idea from my ‘gotta do’ list.

Sweet.

Pulling the ink out of the twigs

 

Scan0001Confession time. I have been a slack-ass these past few years and the proof is in the ‘submitting’ file drawer I ripped apart two days ago. Oh, heck, let’s be truthful and call it my ‘hide it and forget it’ drawer. It contained twenty-nine never-seen-an-editor pieces.

There it was—my fear of submission. Stacked in front of me. Funny thing is—I never thought rejection would stop me from writing because I was able to rationalize it so well. Now I see that rationalizing doesn’t always win in a battle against emotions. Emotions like to sneak in and around rational thought. They’re like the beavers building a dam. One little twig of doubt is stuffed in here; another one over there. Here and there, there and here, and before you know it the whole dam is complete and the flow is gone.

Honestly, if it wasn’t for the small writing group I’ve belonged to since I started writing I think I would have thrown in the towel a few times. They’re kind of like the little dingy that keeps banging against the dam, breaking twigs, keeping the trickle alive.

And pushing myself to write here each week has been a twig-plucker too.

About two months back I sat down and had a serious talk with myself (for sanity’s sake let’s call it meditation) and I realized I couldn’t keep not writing. To keep dragging my fingers (imagine the word butt there) was just stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid, and since I’m not stupid—slightly daft maybe, but not stupid—I made up my mind to follow the advice of all those prolific writers who lead the way;

Just write

Simple words. Strong words.

I shifted gears and have been getting up around somewhere between four and five a.m. each morning and firing up the computer, opening up to a book I’ve wanted to write for about 10 years and just writing. Before I let anything else into my world now I write. It’s a joy. The quietness. The emptiness of the world before dawn; before I become the wife, the daughter/mother, or even the Cathie, I’m just the open valve onto the page.

I’m not writing volumes. If I’m lucky I get 500-800 words down before my name is called. But the dam has been breached and it feels good to be moving along again.

As for my un-submitted pieces from the drawer? I made up a sign. It sits in front of the stack on my desk. It says,

Good Shit Man! Don’t Be Afraid.

And you know what. I don’t think I am anymore.

The Inky Path to Growing

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The whole writing process, the art of the craft is much like growing up. You start out as a newbie. A baby. Everything you see is new, fresh and entertaining. You want taste everything that comes within reach.

Before you know it, you’re at the toddler stage – still new-ish but struggling to get up and run. Sometimes you try too fast for your ability. You tumble. Scared you resort to the writer’s version of hiding behind your mom’s legs —you lurk. When you catch your spirit again you take your first steps. All by yourself. It’s intoxicating. You do more. Babyhood is dropping away as you move forward. But maybe too fast. So fast you crash. Your head-fast run to freedom has just been clipped.  There are rules to writing and there are ways to write, and just like the big kids, you have to learn them. Just like the published authors did.

The craft of writing is like speaking—which you learn as a child.  You learn there are patterns, steps to each process. You must learn how or you don’t get what you want. There is a right way to do things. And tons to learn. You decide you want to go to school, like the big kids. Learn how to do stuff like they did. But what they didn’t warn you about was the report cards/critiques. It’s where NO rears its ugly head big time. It seems like everyone wants to scribble ‘you can do better’ on your paper.

Ouch! It hurts!

You sulk because you thought you were doing fine but still, for a while, you try harder. Then one day you look around and suddenly, you’re the one yelling NO.

Hey! Welcome to the teen years of a writer. The rebellion period. At this stage you wonder if the efforts worth the work. Besides, what the heck do they know anyway. They don’t really know you. You spend your days in la-la land daydreaming about the masterpieces you will ‘someday’ do.

Then one day, maybe a year or two later, you realize you’ve been sitting in your own little stinking mud puddle for way too long. Maybe you should listen to the elders of the ink. You’re ready to learn from those who’ve been there and gone beyond.

Welcome to adulthood = earned maturity.

And with practice comes wisdom. The wisdom to trust your gut instinct when it’s banging against your brain. The wisdom to have enough faith in yourself to say, No thanks, that’s not for me—at least not right now. But I’m glad it works for you.

 You’re in your prime—finding your style, voice and speed.

Growing can be a long confusing process. But, get this—yahoo—it’s graduation time! You have become the writer  author you’ve always been. Now you understand where you want to go and how to get there.

Get to work—Don’t waste a minute of your writing time and ability because old age, and your walker, are waiting just around the corner. .  . . .

Picking At the Gray Matter again (no, not my nose)

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I often wondered if writing was going to become another one of the many things where I jump in headfirst and learn, learn, learn only to watch it do a slow fade into becoming just something I once tried.

I’ve always been on the lookout for ‘my passion.’ You know—that thing that smacks into us. Something so strong it grabs me and scares me silly. Carries me away until I’m one of those starving artists in a drafty loft on the bank of some river. I figured when we met— my passion would announce itself with a mighty poof  in my face.

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I’m still waiting.

Oh sure, writing was exciting—in the beginning, and it’s never stopped being fun, tense, frustrating and a major hissy-fit creator. And, yes, it has the power to swamp me with enough self-doubt to flood an indoor skating rink. But it has never felt like it ‘poofed’ in my face so there’s always been a niggling question, like a tattered old ribbon, running through my gray matter.

Is writing my passion?

Being a well-practiced procrastinator of some magnificence there are oodles of time where I don’t write—but there is never not a time I don’t have a story, or the gleaming of one rotating in my head.

Writing won’t leave me alone so yes, it’s a passion. Just a quiet, maddening adherence to me—kinda’ like a nervous dog clinging to its master in a crowd.

And I’m happy with that because I get it—passion shows up when and how it chooses and it’s up to us to recognise it.

Some just take a little longer to get there. . .

Not Sure What Hat To Wear? Me Neither.

I just finished reading a piece by one of the wiser writers around—C. Hope Clark. The piece was on being a DIY.

She talks about compromising our story’s future when we try to cobble together what others do for a living. When we decide to settle for less than professional. She says ‘we have two choices; take the time to become an expert, or hire an expert’

Well, I was razzed by her words and thought, wow – someone else thinking like I do. Then I reread the piece and realized she was more likely referring to self-editing and self-publishing and not so much about expecting an editor, publisher or agent do the job that by the very definition of their profession tells what they are experts at.

I find the whole issue of being published a confusing one. I always figured if you wrote the book then you’ve done what you are the expert at – writing the story. But that’s not always the case; most often not the case. We are expected to write the story, find a publisher and then do a mega load of the marketing if we wish success for our creation.

There lies my confusion; aren’t we  the book’s writing expert? Shouldn’t we expect the other experts to pick up the ball when it lands in their area? Shouldn’t that be how it works? We are not experts at being an agent. We are not experts at publishing, nor are we experts in the editing field. And we are not marketing experts. There are people with those titles.

I don’t mean we shouldn’t do the signing scene or give talks about our work. But why are we expected to take on expert roles that don’t belong to us? I just don’t get it.

I truly don’t.

Now That’s a Character!

I have to face facts – I may never finish my chapter book.

There—I’ve said it out loud.

Oh, I have the story. The problem lies with the characters in my story. They might be a tad over-developed. (And not the hormonal big-stuff either).

No, I mean these characters are so well-rounded they won’t shut up and they will not leave things alone. They keep chucking up new bits of information. Sometimes they take a nice, clean, simple scene and make such a kerfuffle it ends up looking like an unmade bed.

And there really must be a bit of goober in me. Each time I listen to them, every time I’ve finish the rewrite I think – yeah, they were right, it is better. And as I hit that last period all I can think is—thank god it’s done.

Then, BAM, they strike again, and I’m forced to rewrite a scene, or scenes, or the whole stinking chapter again. I know I have some issues with self-control, but man-oh-man, these characters are often major pains-in-the-butt.

I’m not saying I don’t have any choice. There’s always a choice. Create flat characters with personalities similar to grass in winter. Or let your characters grow until they are as realistic as anyone you know; which means you will be listening to them.

Which poses the question — how do I ever finish a story when the characters won’t stop talking and changing things around?

Do I have to resort to threats?

And if I do that,  if I piss my characters off — can they make my head explode?

Crap Days & Kissy-faces

Today’s blog is late because I was venting. Being inside-out ugly, and wrote out a short but crap-minded blog on my laptop, copied it to memory stick, transferred it over to main computer only to then wipe it out of existence by being careless. Pissed beyond reason, I stomped off,  found Man-wonder and had a few moments of ugly with him. (We’re giving each other BIG spaces right now.)

Eventually, I tried to retrieve the original blog. Almost put myself in another major hissy-fit. Man, I could feel the ugly words pushing their way up like sprouts in spring. That’s when the universe tapped on my skull and stopping me mid-hiss. Maybe, just maybe, the ugly blog wasn’t meant to be. Maybe it needed to be wiped out before other eyes read the ugliness.

Which took me back a few years to when I was reading Julie Cameron’s words and how she inspired me to journal. It was like I finally got permission to spit out nasties like a whore in an alley of pennypinchers. Only I never saved any of the spewing. I knew I would never want to re-read it. So the minute I finished each three page session I threw it in the wood stove. I just knew I wouldn’t anyone else reading those nasty words either. Once the emotions and thoughts are scribbled onto the paper, they are just words and not so much the truth anymore.

And that made me realize, my blog of ugly didn’t need to go on public display. And there would be no need for me to end my blog yelling, “DUCK—INCOMING CRAP” because I was feeling too mean and ugly to warn anyone until it was too late. Nah, let’s end this baby with kissy-faces and sunshine. . .

Oh, yuck, let’s not

Bugs on the semi’s windshield

Just finished reading a well thought out and well-written article called Social Media Suicide by M.J.Rose.

I bristle at the thought of mindlessly following mass thinking. Tell me something is necessary and I’ll poke holes at it. Tell me if I want to get ahead I must jump on the same overloaded vehicle as others and I’ll smile as I rip-screech my nails down a blackboard.

They say being social is part of our human make-up. I think I missed that gene in my creation. I am not a social butterfly – I am more like the closet moth.

I regenerate my steam by being alone. I don’t gather it from others, at least not in the long run. So many of these social connections and gatherings are like semi over-loads of nervous, high energy that, in the end, make me feel like I’ve been run over.

And now I know I’m not alone in feeling this way.

As a writer I am always amazed at those writers who jump in and offer help via workshops, conferences, forums, newsletters, websites or blogs. They are blessed as teachers and they offer big steps up on the learning curve. No—it’s more the social hand-shaking and back–patting within the writing community once our creations are completed that I don’t understand. Is too much energy going into the socializing with other writers? Socializing that gives us status within the writing community but doesn’t really sell our book.

I don’t have the answer. I only have questions. Am I right or am I wrong in my thinking? I don’t know. I just know that for people who think like me, that part of the writer’s world may well be the hardest road to travel in the whole process.

So for now, I’m just going to revel in the writing journey; enjoying those sparks of genius when they strike, revel in the rush of a new discovery found during research than often sends me head-first down another distracting but fascinating side-street.

Because—if I’m not enjoying the journey, that what’s worth rewarding?

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