Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I have been out walking...

Not really, but I feel like it. I also must start raking all the leaves and gumballs out of my yard, which is usually a two-day job.

I also feel like filling rooms up with white sheets and white comforters, and polishing hard-wood floors. Spring does that to me. I want to clean and purge and make donation trips to Goodwill without having anxiety.

I also scored a copy of Ben Moeller-Gaa's new Haiku chapbook!


Signed, too. Stay tuned for another interview. 

So, these days I sit and worry when I'm not working at my jobs. But I have JUST "picked up" (see: opened document) my work-in-progress (yes, THAT old novel I'm still editing). It is strange that we're not supposed to neglect our projects, but when I give it room to breathe, so the words aren't so familiar and stagnant I really feel that disconnect makes me like what I've written. No, it makes me WANT to work on it enough that it is very possible I just might like it. That possibility. I don't know if the rest of you struggle with fickle thoughts and a love/hate relationship with your own words. 

These days I just want to purge out all the cobwebs and old stuff: old words, old scenes, old thoughts, and make them fresh. 




Saturday, April 5, 2014

What I Need to Learn About Discouragement

It has been awhile, my unstable readers. How goes it?

First up, I'd be lying if I told you I was writing every dang day and carefully submitting carefully edited pieces to highbrow mags, carefully. Instead, I'll be truthful and admit it: I'm getting rejections and I'm not writing diddly-squat.

This is a time of year when the past one is always riding along on my coattails. In the aftermath of 2013, an obstinate and yet uneventful year, it is holding on fast and I am now trying to shake it off. While I don't suffer from any kind of mania, I am starting to get my footing back.

So get this: last night I'm sifting through my Word docs and I open up one I first drafted back in 2009. And guess what? I actually think some of it is good. Kinda funny. Of course, there were darlings galore, and plenty of adverbs, but I remember this one being my very very first novel, EVER. I remember working SO hard on it, taking my laptop with me to every cafe under the sun, and the music playlist I assigned to it. I know, right?

I also realized I write very differently now. What happened? Is this a good thing? Am I still being true to my "voice?" Sure, we ALL make changes to our art, but does this old novel belong in my life now? I don't know. If you have advice for me, hit me up.

This also makes me unsure of where I am as a writer now. Especially when I know I have a good idea, but when I put it to screen, it ends up feeling contrived. Boring. Flat. Stupid. The one I'm working on and editing right now, especially. And let's be honest here: another writer could do the idea justice, not ME. I have more than once felt that I just may be too dumb to write this novel well. 

What do you do, unstable readers, when you have too much on your plate? Or more specifically, when you have a lot of writings and you don't know which one is WORTHY of your TIME and effort? And then you groan and turn on TCM, because it is easier to watch Doris Day and Rock Hudson battle wits than to let your works-in-progress suck out your ever-loving soul? They are like children pulling at your shirt, morphing it into a rag.

On that note, I've interviewed Ms. Dawn Leslie Lenz on this very topic: women in creative fields and how they make it happen, day after day, their energy and focus, their passion and drive.

Happy spring, everyone!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

What I Learned About Editing the First Draft

So, have you ever been involved in a project? I'm sure you have. And you know how you try to figure out how to make the thing work, connect the wires to other wires sticking out of the creation, because if you just jab them into places they don't fit, it might look okay from the outside, but when you switch it on, it will catch on fire and burn up, sending the structure into a pile of rubble?

It is SO easy to do that. It is SO SIMPLE to think 'eh, this doesn't make sense, doesn't really add up, but who cares, my audience isn't going to care, or notice, and if they do, well, they'll come up with their own conclu--

Wait and back the frick up. They DO notice, they DO care, and if you pull a fast one (aka LAZY WRITING, CODE RED!), they won't want to read your awesome stuff anymore.

Don't be lazy. You have a problem in your story? Stuff that doesn't hold up? Figure it out.

I've been trying to figure out story points in this new novel, its climax and conclusion, what it all MEANS, how the characters comes together. I have been viciously cutting scenes and words, but I've also been doing some quiet pondering about what is really going on in this little world I created. There are SO many paths I can take, and many of them have been taken by SO many other storytellers. I want to be true to my intentions, but I also want to twist that lime so hard, my story bursts at the seams.

If anything has come out of this month's worth of editing, I can honestly say that I recognize the determination and dedication that goes into editing. It is a completely different process than getting out the first draft. The hardest part for me is TRUSTING myself to make good decisions about the story, and make those changes. No mercy.

Also, while you are editing, your mind is going to be on your story more than ever. When I'm doing my first draft, I try not to think about where it's going to go when I'm not writing at the moment to keep from over-analyzing it. Now, when the bones are laid out, I can sit back and figure out why this or that isn't working so well, or if I need to up the amps in the chase scene; how can I make the audience's collective stomach churn even more? And those holes I thought wouldn't be noticeable? Yeah. It is SO much cooler when you know how to fill them. There is a time and a place to be vague, and lazy writing is NOT the equivalent of clever ambiguity.

As you read over your draft, if you have an ounce of a story-telling ability, you will know when something sounds weird. And it is EASY to shrug and look away, to the next word, next sentence, pretending it's not there and all is well with the world. STOP. Go back. Read it again and enjoy that cringe. You might have to rewrite it. You might have to get rid of the entire thing. But trust that instinct, that little red flag that goes up. Guess what that little red flag is?

It is your aptitude rearing its glorious head.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

What I Learned About Fear (And It's Not What You Think).

This post is about fear. Now, I know what you're thinking. You believe I'm going to be all no fear sista, gonna fight it, crush it, success, we are power, believe in yourself!

But I'm not. Yes, fear can be paralyzing. Fear can box you into a comfort zone and only let you write for yourself, for fear of anyone's opinions, criticisms. Fear is the only thing keeping you down in that pit of hopelessness. Now, go turn on some Sheryl Crow and bust that fear in its you-know-what and embrace confidence! Courage!

And yet...maybe a little bit of fear is not such a bad thing. Let me explain.

Say you're in the middle of a creative project. And say you have a million ideas for this project and every single one of those ideas come out perfectly. You wake up early each morning with confidence to carry them out, and even with slight obstacles, you still know how to deal and get your project going. You anticipate problems and solve them. You know exactly where you're going because you don't let fear get in your way. Even if something doesn't go as planned, oh well. You don't show it, and you certainly don't admit it. You can handle a little wrinkle in your bravery.

Maybe your project turns out just as you expected. But let's pretend for a minute something goes wrong. Maybe your plans fall flat. What you thought was a super-awesome idea, now, looking at it...eh. It's kinda stupid. Horrible, actually. Suddenly, your courage goes out the window and you have to make a choice.

There are a few ways you can go. You can quit, because your plans, your confidence, your WAY of doing things that always worked out before is dead and buried.

Or maybe your idea isn't horrible; it's just...safe. You go ahead with your project because you know it'll work out. You summon up your confidence, because fear doesn't belong here, honey.

Now here's the oxymoron. Sure, fear is a bully. But...maybe, just maybe, that FEAR you FEARED so much MIGHT just force you to take a path, a RISK you had no intention of making, because, plan or no plan, you gotta carry that project through.

I now believe fear can force you to excellence. Being out there on the tightrope can be the best path in creative freedom. That's why I feel the brilliant ones who started out with a plan that soon fell through, and had to create a mansion out of toothpicks, created the best magic out there simply because they first panicked, had a torrent of sweaty nightmares, and finally admitted, What in the HELL am I gonna do now? This isn't WORKING.

Some people give up when they get to that point. Because, well, they learned fear must be avoided, so they resort back to what they KNOW works, what they are confident in to succeed. Or they ignored the fear and the paths it offered.

The ones who ALLOW fear to bring out something inside of themselves that can never come out otherwise, go on to break down walls with their insecurity, their shaking hands, and their nervous stomachs. Because in the deepest corners of their souls, they know something special and extraordinary will come from standing in the eye of the storm of sheer terror.


And now for your viewing pleasure, the video that gave me this a-ha! revelation. Steve starts talking about taking risks and drawing inspiration from fear at 12:25, but the whole thing is worth watching.

 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

No Longer Snowbound

For those hit hard in the midwest, keep it up. St. Louis is starting to crank its gears again after two plus days of incapacitation. People are getting to work by sled, and all I can think about are people in Minneapolis and Colorado laughing and rolling their eyes at us.

Fortunately, I drive like a beast in the snow, invest in good tires, and know how to use a low gear.

From being cooped up more than usual, do you think I've been productive? No. But this month is going by very quickly which means I will start seeing emails from the journals I've submitted to recently telling me yay or nay. Let's hope there are more yays than nays.

Weather Whiskers tells me it's a whopping 27 degrees, which makes me want to wear a tank top in such a drastic change in the last forty-eight hours, while it tells me it is sixty-five in Sarasota. This is what it looked like back in June in case you're wondering:

Right now I have my obligatory snow-is-magical pic stolen from Pinterest as my desktop. I have carved out this coming Saturday to start second drafting. My story is returning in flashes, and I'm trying to forget it so I can approach it with a fresh start. How long do you take in between drafts, my unstable writers?

In case you live under a rock and don't know, Stephen King is on the Tweety. That's right. When I found out, I squealed like a girl at a Spice Girls concert. Okay, whatever concert the young whipper-snappers are attending these days. Now let me get my slippers, yell at the kids on my lawn, and make some tea to fight this cold, and look nervously forward to this Saturday when it all comes to a head, and I find out just how cool/lame-o this story really is.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Watching Winter Windows

While I'm verbal about how I love the holidays and snow, and as soon as Christmas and New Years is over, I kind of want a mild, breezy spring right away. But it's not true. I love January and February. I love snowy winter months after the rigamarole of gifts, decorations, planning, cooking, baking, trees, etc. I love it when I have a day off work to sit and drink coffee in the chilly afternoon, or take a day-trip to Alton to grab a cup of coffee in the sunny, snowy morning, far away and indisposed from everyone back on the other side of the icy river, my car windows foggy and my heater going full-blast.

It is the new year, a time when stress from last year threatens to dribble over into this new one. I love the start of a new year when it's not time to worry about doing taxes just yet, and the holiday rush has come to a dead stop. It's the time to be lazy, and yet curious and contemplative when you have a free minute. It's the time to start something fresh, either a project or a frame of mind. It doesn't matter if you lose interest in the first week or you run out of steam: this week is the starting line, and everything you put on your resolutions list seems achievable.

It is time to take in everything. The momentum of last year belongs in the last year.



This time of year, I want to get on a train and sit on it all day long while it takes me back and forth in and out of the city and back again, looking out the window.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Post

Do I blog every New Year's Eve? I get the feeling I do. Usually because my head is swamped with ideas of change and metamorphosis, and I'm gung-ho about getting the next year started with a fresh, positive, creative surge of energy.

This year, well...

Not that I am not embracing a new year, change, and freshness like a sealed tupperwear, but life can really kick you in the pants. I feel old and crotchety. I want to ring in the New Year tonight with a glass of wine and my slippers instead of a rockin' party. I probably will. Slippers and The Twilight Zone is super-exciting, all you young whipper-snappers. Just you wait.

In other news, I am letting my novel simmer for the standard three weeks of downtime, so I can lose all emotional connections with it and edit more productively. I will not be pitching it at the conference in April, but I am still on the lookout for another pitch conference in the St. Louis area. The timing is not right at the moment.

Here is my interview by Jason Gerringer from The Weary Writer! I had a lot of fun answering questions about the writing process--heck, I could talk about the writing process all day long--and I am very honored to be chosen.

Are you frustrated, too, my unstable writers? Are you experiencing those just-before-dawn moments where your brain tells you "You've gotta be kidding me. You really think you can sell your work? You really think your story is good enough? There are gaggles of people out there much more talented than you. Grow up and face reality"?

How are you spending your New Year's Eve/Day? With slippers and Rod Serling? I wish I could take him out on the town. What a great New Year's Eve date. What are your resolutions? Specifically, what are your writing resolutions? Do you aim to submit to a certain amount of lit mags every month? Are you going to finish a novel? Writing two short stories a week?

Even if it's a little resolution, making a change and pushing yourself to commit to one writing challenge, no matter how small, can impact your success.