Where Dreams Meet the Business of Writing

Archive for September, 2013

LIFE HAPPENS

Today is TUESDAY TALES! Today we’re writing to the prompt – rough. Here’s my musings on rough. Return to Tuesday Tales for more interesting stories from other awesome writers.

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life happensLife happens – and oftentimes devastates our well planned writing sessions.

Does this happen to you also? Please don’t tell me I’m the only one trying to tame these sometimes joyous, sometimes inconvenient interruptions.

I don’t have a problem planning. I’m the Queen of Planning My Writing Life. It’s just the follow through that’s usually rough. I began the New Year with a well laid out plan of what I was going to accomplish in 2013.

Now that we’re here in September, if you looked at my current ‘plan’, you’d think you were looking at the goals of two completely different writers.

I have completed a few – the operative word here is FEW- of my original goals. I’ve crossed off some. I’ve added twice as many. I’ve made tentative steps towards working through some. Yet as we near the latter portion of the year, I realize that most will not see the light of completion during 2013.

Life happens.

Many of us still have our good ‘ole day jobs, consuming more time and energy than we’d like.

We get sick. Spouses get sick. Children get sick. Parents age and need our assistance. Even our pets don’t always cooperate in our moving towards the writing finish line.

Cars break down and demand silly things like new tires and oil changes.

Friends think we should somehow devote a few hours of our life to them. Phone calls, lunches, dinners, movies.

Friends and family get married. This year my niece’s wedding in June required a trip back to California. There goes a week of writing. An August vacation get away for a few days in Vegas surprised us with my youngest son’s wedding. There went another week of writing.

And, oh yeah, the garden needs weeded and the lawn wants to be mowed.

A co-worker attended SCBWI’s conference in LA in August. I was so jealous. She returned home fired-up, oozing excitement and committed to polishing off some of her draft stories and writing a few more. She returned home to real life. Last week she bemoaned that it’s been almost two months since then and she hasn’t written a single word since returning home. No, no she hasn’t. She is also in the midst of a divorce. She has custody of two children who went back to school, with all of the hoop-la that accompanies that event. She went from part time to full time, compliments of the divorce. Her car is throwing temper tantrums.

My 'life happens' moment when Sookie helps me type this blog.

My ‘life happens’ moment when Sookie helps me type this blog. Okay, she didn’t stop me from typing, but it sure went a lot slower like this. Finished the blog anyway, even with her help.

It becomes a balancing act. In the case of my friend, I encouraged her and pointed out all that she had to deal with at this current place in her life. Sometimes you need to acknowledge that right now, for this current time and place in your life, the ‘real life’ needs your time, attention and energy. And you can’t beat yourself up over it. The world is hard enough on us. We don’t need to join the whipping crew. Honor your life, appreciate what you have, and know that you are in the place you need to be … at this time.

And sometimes, we need to take an honest look and see if we’re simply allowing life to take over. Are we not making the commitment we need to make for ourselves? Sometimes it’s easier to do the dishes, catch up the laundry, walk the dog, shuffle a pile of papers, and keep busy with a bazillion tasks other than sending queries, plotting, and placing words on paper. As many writers compel, it’s all about BIC – Butt In Chair.

You know what? It works. For all the stories on my ‘list’ that are only fragments in my mind, or pieces barely begun, this past week I finished one. I needed 50,000 words for a book contest. I thought I had the perfect story to fit their call. I just had to write it down. I planned to write it during August and edit during September. Remember the mini-vacation and son’s wedding in August? Needless to say the 1,500 words a day didn’t happen that week. I didn’t finish by the end of August. I didn’t finish my mid-September. It still took me another week, leaving me only one week to edit. But I kept on. I tallied my words. Except for a few minor ‘life happens’ moments, I kept my butt in the chair. And yesterday I mailed off the 166 page, 55,000 word manuscript. I hope it wins. But if it doesn’t, I have something that I can keep polishing and keep sending. But, even better than that, is the feeling that has enveloped me over the past week as I saw that I would be completing this project and it would get shipped off — three days before the deadline.

Life does happen – to all of us. But it’s up to us to make choices. We can make the choice to set aside our writing for real priorities. And, we can also choose to carve out writing time in our life, even if it means we won’t be making every social occasion that comes our way, or that our laundry isn’t always washed, pressed and orderly, or that we have to get up a little earlier every day. It’s our choice.

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Quit Your Job. Change Your Life. Be Happy.

THE WRITER’S PATH: Tuesday Tales

Tuesday TalesWelcome to Tuesday Tales. Each month this group writes to a picture prompt. For September, we have this lovely scene to contemplate. Here is my take on the peaceful pathway I’d love to run across and follow.

Return to Tuesday Tales for a large variety of other writer’s takes on incorporating this photo into their current writing.

THE WRITER’S PATH

TT_September photo promptThe path beckons. It calls out to us, singing the siren song of a writer’s life. We follow. We travel the path, sometimes venturing off the trail, often times changing to another.

The paths differ. As with our life path, we change our writing path as we travel.

Some authors travel pathways traversed by the multitudes, one trampled smooth by many footsteps. Some venture onto less common trails – beating back brush, searching for footholds on steep or rocky terrains.

The important thing is not which path we follow, but that we move forward. Step by step. Mile marker by mile marker.

Some follow the path of journalism: investigative reporting, columns, or book reviews.

Others chose the business minded path of copywriting or editing.

Poetry, song writing, screen writing – more options for the creative muse.

And, there is the unlimited world of books. The path is diverse and branches off into a multitude of options. Many of us travel several of these paths during our life as a writer. Children’s picture books, middle grade and young adult novels – many choose these. Others select adult fiction – again, limitless genres: romance, historical, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, action, spy, western, mystery, zombie, and comedy – the trail splinters off into hundreds of possibilities.

Nonfiction routes also abound: cookbooks, biography, greeting cards, how-to’s.

So many choices, so little time. They only important thing is that we move along our current chosen path. Years ago, Winston Churchill said, “Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.”

Enjoy the climb; enjoy the path.

Friends with Benefits – Tuesday Tales: glass

Tuesday TalesTuesday Tales prompt of the week: GLASS

I’m cheating with this entry. I’m in the midst of wrapping up a contest entry for a Quirky Romance.  So I’m using a portion from the draft I’m working with. I’m bending a little and using a portion that has ‘glasses’ in it. If quirky is what they want, quirky is what they’ll get, so this ms is a little outside of my usual genres.

In this scene, Paige and Lucy are comparing notes about Anna, Lucy’s soon to be ex, and Paige’s best friend from high school. Paige was curious about her old friend’s lifestyle and it went from asking questions, to ending up in a cyber-affair. After seeing the true Anna, Paige ends it with old-friend Anna. She finds herself friends with Anna’s partner. Lucy, who was tired of the thirty years of cheating she’d endured, had installed spyware on Anna’s computer and was discovering more than she’d ever imagined.

Hope it meets the ‘quirky’ requirement. For those of you that prefer the traditional romances, sorry about that. Next week, we’ll return you to your regularly scheduled programming. For more tales from talented writers across all genres, see more Tuesday Tales here.

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FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS

computer sexLucy burst out laughing. “Sorry! I’m not laughing at you. I had to ask because I wondered about it. It’s because I found out that computer sex might not be as ‘safe’ as you thought it was.”

“Huh? I don’t follow you.”

“You know how we’ve both suspected there was more to Anna and Lonnie’s relationship than she let on?”

“Oh yes, we’ve both talked about that, her connection with her ‘mom’ she called her, that she couldn’t seem to let go of. I never asked her to not be her friend, but just don’t be chatting to her in one screen when you’re getting all lovey with me in another. I can understand the theory of multi-tasking, but I’m sorry, that’s just one thing you don’t multi-task with.”

“Let me tell you,” Lucy continued. “We were both right. There WAS more to it than feeling like she was a mother. And the sad thing, I even paid for a trip for her so Anna could go meet her ‘mom’ in person for a week. And now, I’m reading this right here, there’s written proof that she really went to try to have an affair with her!”

“No!” Paige exclaimed. “But I thought she was an old woman.”

“She is. She’s like in her 70’s. And married. But I’m reading right now where they’re talking about the trip and Anna’s telling her to never admit to it. And Lonnie’s commenting about being sorry that she just couldn’t get ‘the tongue thing’. I’m almost sick to my stomach. Not the age thing, I know there’s lots of people that fall in love with people many years older than themselves. But you don’t think of someone as your mother, and then go try to have sex with them!”

“But I don’t think Anna really did think of Lonnie as her mother. I think that was just a cover to explain all the time they spent together and that’s something that would be acceptable to you. Which obviously it was, because this ruse worked for several years … and got her a trip to go see her in person.”

“Yeppers. You’re right. It did work. BUT ….” Lucy was guffawing and almost couldn’t utter the words, “You have to get this … this is what I really called to tell you … they had children together!”

“They had children together? How can lesbians have children together? I mean, I know they can. But not in one visit, not like that, and not with Lonnie’s age.”

“They did! It’s right here, on the pages I printed out this morning. They’re invisible children, one boy and one girl!”

“Oh my god. I never would have believed that one. You sure you’re reading it right, you don’t need glasses or anything?”

“Nope. It’s all right here. They even have names. In fact, last night they were decorating the Christmas tree and the little boy … what were their names … I have to go back and re-read to find their names … but the little boy was asking where his ‘daddy’ was. And Anna typed back ‘tell him his daddy’s right here and I’ll see him soon’.”

“Goodness, it’s a good thing I’m sitting down. That is just ludicrous!”

“Yeppers, it sure is. I thought you’d get a laugh out of this. So see, computer sex isn’t safe. You could have gotten pregnant after all!”

“Whew! I dodged a bullet with that one,” Paige chuckled.

When Real Life Meets Fiction: Tuesday Tales – building

Tuesday Tales

Today’s post is written to a weekly prompt from Tuesday Tales, ‘building’. Previous posts have taken place in 1934 Iowa, in Calico Connections. However, since I’m in the middle of another fiction for a contest submittal, I don’t want to re-enter my Iowa make believe world yet. Here is my entry for the week in the genre memoir/writing, for possible inclusion in another WIP, Planting Carrots. We’ll see later.

Thanks for stopping by. Return to Tuesday Tales for more wondrous words from a wide range of talented authors.

FRIENDS CAN BACKFIRE

writers pillowThe fat, fluffy pillow is the perfect accent for my writing room. ‘Careful, Or You’ll End Up in My Novel!’

So true. So true. We’re writers and we do as advised – write what you know. Our stories grow, building layer upon layer, drawing on our life’s experiences.

A Facebook post of a some-ecard echoes the sentiments:

“I’m a writer. If I’m staring at you, I’m not being rude. I’m trying to decide if you need to go in a book. If you’re a snot, I may be trying to decide how to kill you.”

We’re writers and we need a diverse assortment of characters at our disposal, be it for short stories, novels, or blog posts.

So, we borrow from real life. The bad hairdo from the barista at the coffee shop. The annoying habits of our coworkers: one is loud, one is OCD, one is in a perpetual bad mood, and one is saccharine sweet. The sloppiness and disarray of our neighbor. The tardiness, or compunctional earliness, of those in our social groups. A boss that chews. Our church member that smacks their wad of gum the entire time their talking to you. The clerk that needs a shave – or a shower.

Our spouses are not exempt. Mine has a habit of frequently answering with “Yeppers.” One of my major characters in a contest entry I’m working on now coincidentally has that same habit. (Shhhh, don’t tell!)

Eavesdropping on conversations is a goldmine for future characters. One day I overheard, “He doesn’t have the personality God gave a gopher.” Priceless! I jotted it down. I will use it someday. I’m not sure where, but I know at some point in the future, one of my characters will need just those words.

We have the disclaimers in place. “This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales are entirely coincidental.” (Disclaimer example is from The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austin, by Syril James)

As the popular song goes … ‘That’s my story … and I’m stickin’ to it!’

I’ll admit it, I’ve borrowed from real life, in the creation of my fictional, and not so fictional pieces. I’m sure that almost all of us have. In my WIP chapter book, The Itty Bits, Beezer and Queenie behave suspiciously like my younger brother and sister, Butch and Susie. After seeing a picture of the pillow quoted in the opening, I emailed it to my sister, along with the opening chapters of The Itty Bits.

She’s now afraid to talk to me.

I needed some girl names for two Girl Scouts in a children’s story. (Trash & Treasure, Guardian Angel Kids ezine). Elizabeth and Michelle came to life on the pages. (Thanks sister, Susan Elizabeth, and niece, Michelle.)

Prissy & Paige, a YA WIP, stars two 14 year old girls. These two BFF’s coincidently seem to have many of the same arguments and dilemmas that my own 14 year old BFF, Connie, and I had. (Connie, by the way, is still talking to me, maybe because she hasn’t seen my manuscript yet.)

One of my NANO (National Novel Writing Month) experiences brought to light one of the potential problems with using recognizable friends in your stories, even if the friends know and are excited about it. One November, Three Bags Full and the town of Bluebonnet Ridge came to life. Unfortunately, on November 30th the story stalled and is yet to be resurrected. The main crew in this small Texan town consisted of:

Paige (me): Proprietor of the fiber store. (Yes, I weave, spin, knit and crochet)

Jayne (Joyce): Works at City Hall and makes awesome chain maille jewelry on the side (Yes, she does, and yes, she does.)

Shelly (Shanine): the paper queen, her store features her beautiful paper creations (no store in real life, the paper creations are true)

Meg (Megan): Owns a ladybug farm nearby (No lady bug farm in real life, but she is a ladybug fanatic and would love to have a ladybug farm)

Faith (Connie Faye): Yes, here’s Connie again, now owning a bakery (In real life, no bakery, but she is an awesome cook, well known by all her friends and coworkers for her delectable goodies)

And then, about 30,000 words into the story (no, I never hit my 50,000 word goal that year), I discovered a major flaw. I’d let my friends all know about this group of ‘fictional’ friends. They knew it was about us, honoring our years of friendship. They were looking forward to reading the manuscript.

But, for the good of the story and the depth of the characters, we all need to have some flaws. All of us. My dilemma; how to portray the characters shortcoming without offending my friends.

Note to self: In the future, do NOT let your friends know that they are the inspiration behind certain characters. While they may provide the major impetus for the character’s development, when your friend reads the story, they may associate every word or action the character makes as a reflection of something you’ve seen in them. Bad idea!

Write your characters. Use the people you know – friend and foe – as your inspiration, just disguise them. Change the names, identifying characteristics, even change their sex if you wish.

We writer’s will have the ultimate revenge. Those we know and love, and those we don’t, will find themselves written into eternity by our words.

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