Showing posts with label stories. Show all posts
Showing posts with label stories. Show all posts

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Starting is the Hardest Part

I love writing. I love learning about my characters and where they live. I love following along as they go on adventures and deal with problems. I love the way they can infuriate me or make me laugh out loud. As a writer, I get to experience my stories in a way that nobody else ever can, and I love the private journey I take with my characters.

But as much as I love writing, I dislike starting a new project. Sure, I'm full of anticipation and hope, but at the same time, I'm filled with doubt and a touch of dread. Am I really up for the task of doing it all over again? Am I up for monopolizing lunchtime conversations with chatter about who said what to whom and how she deserved it? Am I prepared to feel the oscillating emotions that go along with writing a novel: The joy, the excitement, the ambivalence and the despair?

When I'm about to start a new project, I question both my sanity and my choice to become a writer. I could have been anything. I could have been a competitive skydiver, an accountant, a bounty hunter, a cake decorator. I could have been a chef, a gymnast, a surgeon, a dog trainer. There are so many things I could have chosen that wouldn't have been so emotionally and physically draining, and I'm sure I could have been happy enough doing any one of them. Why in the world didn't I choose a different path?

Easy. I don't love anything the way I love writing. I can't go anywhere without making up stories about everyone around me. I am prone to sudden fits of laughter in the grocery store because I had a vivid and absolutely hilarious (to me, anyway) scenario flit through my head. Notice how I didn't call them hallucinations? That's because I don't need medication, I need words. Or maybe words are my medication. I think about them all the time. I feel most myself when I'm putting them in nice little rows, building one upon another. Without that, I feel displaced, depressed, and just not right. I could have been a bounty hunter, but I don't think hunting down bad guys would make me feel as whole as writing about bad guys.

And so I come back to the place I started: putting off starting. That first word of a new book is so hard to write, but the first sentence is damn near impossible. What I know, though, is that if I can power through the first few sentences, I get pulled into the story and writing becomes easier. Adrenaline kicks in, and the words begin to flow from my fingertips with an ease that is almost disconcerting. Almost, but not quite. The relief and wonder overtake the fear, and I know that I'm doing exactly what I am meant to do.

Starting is the hardest part, but it's also the easiest to get over. Just one word. Then one more and one more. Just one sentence, followed by another and then another, and I'll be well on my way. I've had a good break, but now it's time to stop procrastinating and get back to work.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Finding Inspiration As A Writer

Sometimes, when I'm supposed to be writing, I'm actually combing the interwebs for inspirational quotes about writing. There is a fortune cookie fortune taped to my monitor, and a quote by Somerset Maugham written on a sticky note and taped up to my wall. When I'm stuck, these slips of paper are enough to remind my fingers that they need to keep moving.

Now I have a new one to add to my wall. Actually, this quote is so perfect for me that I want to paint it, in big blue letters across one entire wall of my office:


Oh, Jon, I knew adolescent Dannie loved you for a reason. Clearly, you were speaking to the nearly forty year old writer that I would one day become.

I happen to be lucky enough to have the love and support of my family and friends, but when it comes right down to it, if I don't believe in myself, what good is it to have the belief and support of others? Nobody can sit down and write the stories, blog posts, or query letters for me. They can cheer me on and ply me with liquor and chocolate, but in the end, the dream is mine and only I can make it happen. Sometimes the negative voices in my head want to take over and tell me that there's no point in trying because I'll never succeed. Sometimes, I give those voices more authority over my actions than I should, and that is exactly why Jon's quote resonates so deeply with me.

Just as Rome wasn't built in a day, neither is a novel written in a day. But more than that, a novel can't be written, even in a hundred years, if you don't believe in yourself.

What inspires you?



Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Importance of Being Habitual

When you're a kid, it seems like adults drone on and on about developing good habits. They talk about how it's easier to create good habits than it is to break bad ones, about how kids with good study habits do better on tests and are less stressed out. When you're young, it's really rather hard to understand what's so great about a life of boring old structure when there's a whole world out there to be discovered.

I like to think that, as a writer who happens to be an adult, I've outgrown the desire to roll my eyes every time I hear the phrase "good habits." I like to think that I epitomize solid habits because I know that they are way more important that adults ever let on.

When I was in the process of writing Average Simon, I actually towed the line. I had a great schedule that I stuck with, and that schedule turned into a habit. Every day brought the same events until lunch time: Get up, have a cup of coffee and check emails and social media. Then I'd lock myself in the office, put on headphones, turn on Pandora and spend the next two hours ignoring everything that happened in the rest of the house. It was good. It got to the point that I just felt all wrong if something happened to interfere with my routine.

When my first draft was done, I rested for a little while before getting to work on my revisions. It felt good to get back into the swing of things, and I like to think I was productive.

Now my manuscript is in the hands of some very brave and much appreciated beta readers, and I feel like I'm in a sort of limbo. There are things I can do to get Average Simon one step closer to publication, but without feedback from my beta readers, it's hard to sketch out a synopsis or flesh out a query letter. I've used that as an excuse to let go of my routine. I find myself surprised by how much I miss my writing habits.

It's true what the adults say: Good habits are easier to break than to make, but once you make them, they sure do make life a lot easier. I think it's time for me to get back in the habit of writing every single day.

First thing tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

You Know You're a Writer When...

I  recently had a conversation with a young man who told me that he is in the process of writing a fantasy series and scoping out ways to get published. He also said that he wishes he could write full time.

Me too.

It's true, I don't have outside employment, but that doesn't make me a full-time writer. My son is homeschooled, so my husband and I co-educate him. There are still all the little things around the house to do and all the meals to cook. We have bills to pay, cat litter to scoop, fevers to soothe, and a marriage to nurture. And just as my husband tries to give me space to write as much as I need, I try to give him space to work on his marketing business all he needs. It's certainly not easy to balance the needs of a child, a group of pets, and two self-employed adults. Most days I only manage to get a couple of hours of writing time in. Some days I get a bit more, but some days I don't write at all. Sometimes I long for a life that allows me to write 40 hours a week, without guilt.

But the fact that I don't write "full time" does not make me less of a writer than someone who writes sixty hours a week; I just have less time. That's it.

I'm a writer, and you or someone you love just might be one, too. If you're not sure, just refer to this handy list of symptoms:
  • You find yourself agonizing over where to place the word "is" in a sentence.
  • You're happily shampooing your hair when the solution to a sticky problem in your book hits you. Instead  of rinsing your hair and finishing your shower like any sane person would, you jump out, wrap a towel around yourself (if you have a preteen son in the house. If you're alone, you skip the towel all together), and run--dripping shampoo and water--to your computer to write before the solution slips away.
  • You're sharing a meal with friends or family and you prattle on and on about your characters as if they were your children or friends: Oh my gosh, you won't believe what Simon said to Ana! Oh and Lorna! She has so much on her plate right now and she's handling it all  so well. I really should get her some chocolate or something...
  • Your friends and family listen indulgently, with just a minimal amount of eye rolling, while you dish the latest gossip. 
  • You wake up in the morning hungry but start writing before breakfast. Before you know it, you've been writing for hours and your hunger has mysteriously disappeared.
  • Something bad happens to your character and you cry for him.
  • You sit in front of your computer for forty-five minutes and can't think of a thing to write so you just type the same word over and over and over until that word changes into something that actually belongs in the story. My favorite thing to type when I'm stuck is "chocolate". Unfortunately, it's also my favorite thing to eat when I'm stuck.
This list is by no means complete. The point is, being a writer isn't defined by how many hours you put in, it's defined by whether or not you write. If you write at all, if you agonize over your words and your characters or subject matter, then you're a writer. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise, including yourself.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Writer's Block Is No Excuse

I have writer's block and a cold. My throat hurts, my head hurts, I can't stop sneezing. My brain is foggy and I can't string together two coherent thoughts for anything. I also have several writing projects that I'm working on and I've attempted all of them today, just hoping to find my groove. Unfortunately, my groove must have packed up and gone to Disney World for a vacation, because I can't find it anywhere.

So what is a writer to do when writer's block strikes? My initial reaction was to power through it and write anyway. After all, the editing process is there for a reason.  But sitting and staring at my manuscript for forty minutes only served to make me feel like a failure. My next reaction was to throw up my hands and say, "Fine then! I'm taking the day off!" But hiding under the covers and reading Stephen King isn't going to get me any closer to finishing my book.

I realize that the words aren't going to flow from my fingertips today, but that's okay. Today I give myself permission to lay the story aside, but not to take the day off. Instead, I'll work on other things that will help me achieve my end result:
  • Write a blog post about what to do if you have writer's block
  • Browse through The Writer's Market, online and book forms, and read helpful articles
  • Use The Writer's Market to identify potential agents to query
  • Actively participate in social media to engage in discussions with other writers, offer love and support
  • Curate a list of blogs I'd like to follow and possibly guest blog on
  • Curate a list of bloggers I'd like to invite to guest blog here
What do you do when the words just won't come?

Monday, November 5, 2012

How to Write When Your Characters Won't Cooperate

It's been a busy few days and I've hardly gotten any writing done. Sometimes it's hard to find the time, even with a supportive husband to pick up more than his fair share of household responsibilities. Sometimes (okay a lot of the time) I have plenty of time, I just find it hard to make myself get the words out of my head and onto my screen. This whole gonna write a novel adventure has reminded me of something I've always known: writing is damn hard.

When I'm in my zone, the words flow like liquid gold from my brain to my fingertips. My characters are active, vibrant and complex, my dialogue is snappy and intelligent, and all I really have to do to hit my word count goal is close my eyes and type what's going on in my imagination. It's like I don't even have to try all that hard to come up with the actions, my characters just take on a life of their own and do what they need to do.

Unfortunately, sometimes what they need to do is hide in a dark closet and pretend they're not home when I knock on the door. Sometimes what they need to do is eat cookies when I tell them they need to go paint the tree house. And most infuriating of all, sometimes they need to tie me up to the tree house tree and dance around me like little Lord of the Flies heathens while blowing into their conch shells and throwing sticks at me. Even the adults. Needless to say, it's danged near impossible to type what I see when I'm tied up to a tree in the middle of a forest.

Sigh.

So what's an author to do?

If you're this author, you do one of several things:

1. You try to rationalize with your characters and assure them that you have their best interests at heart and that you'd never, ever  kill one of them off, even if you fully intend to.

2. You start to cry like an overstimulated two-year-old and hope they take pity on you.

3. You write their stubborn rears into terrifying situations that only you can save them from. I've found that dangling them over a steep cliff with a stormy sea below brings about an amazing change in attitude. The same can be said of locking them in a dark room with a bunch of hungry rats. Really, the struggling author is only limited by his or her own imagination. And since the characters are fictional, you don't even have to worry about jail time!

4. You try to write them in the way you think they should be written but end up failing miserably and falling back to option #2.

5. You just throw your hands up and shout "FINE! If that's how you want it, you just go ahead and goof off forever in your little world and nobody will ever hear about you and your amazing adventures. I'm going to go read a book that's filled with good characters who behave and do what they're told." Of course, this option does have the inherent danger of the actual living people who are near you thinking your a mad woman (or man), so I would suggest  not taking this track if you are writing at a coffee shop or the public library.

6. Last but not least is one of my favorite options. Write a bunch of smack about what to do if your characters won't listen to you, make yourself a drink and settle in on the couch for an evening of The Muppet Show.

What do you do when your characters won't cooperate?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Story of a Story

Hi, there!

My name is Dannie and I'd like to thank your for visiting my site.

A little bit about myself: I am an author, a lover of Halloween, a chocoholic, a voracious reader, and a mom to one human child, two canine kids, two feline kids and two fish. Okay, I don't really consider the fish to be like family just yet. Maybe if they survive more than fourteen minutes I'll start to feel attached to them.

It was my son (the human one, not the doggie one) who was my inspiration for Average Simon,  my first children's novel. The idea came about one day when he was about nine. We were having a conversation about life and he looked at me in all seriousness and informed me that all he wants is to be an average guy. Not famous, not necessarily rich, just a normal guy.

It's interesting how inspiration can come from a simple conversation. My brain got to whirring and purring and I thought:
What if there was a boy who just wanted to be average, but the more average he tries to be, the more extraordinary he discovers he is? How would he feel about that? What would he do? Would he be able to accept his talents? Would he try to hide them for the sake of not standing out? What would be the result of never allowing your true self to be seen by anyone, including yourself?
A seed was planted. I knew that this was an idea I needed to develop and nurture, but I shoved the idea into the very back of a deep and dark closet under some dusty stairs in my mind. Every now and then, I'd mentally pass the old closet door and I felt like there was something important inside, waiting for me to shine a flashlight on it, dust it off and bring it into the warm sunshine. But I was always too busy to bother with a dusty old seed of an idea, so I just kept on passing that door and ignoring the feeling that I was neglecting something. I couldn't even remember what it was that I had been ignoring anymore.

Until one day not too long ago. My kiddo asked me a simple question:
Hey mom. You always promised you'd write a novel for me. When are  you going to start it?
 Oh yeah. I did promise him I'd write him a book...Well, okay. This seems like as good a time as any.
How about I start it this month?
The grin that spread across his face was bright enough to reach under the dark closet door and shine, just a little, on that long neglected and forgotten idea. He asked me what it would be about, and without even having to think about it, without a sense of panic or fear, I strode confidently into that closet, pulled that seed of an idea out and showed it to my boy.

And now here I am, on a journey that I always  knew I was  going to make. No, it's more than that. I'm on a journey that I was born to make. A piece of me wishes I had started this trip a long time ago, but ultimately, I'm excited to finally be on my way.

Thank you for joining me on this trip of a lifetime.