Tag Archives: writing

O-o sayy cannn youuu C?

No, not time for the National Anthem or to play ball….but there are some valuable lessons here as we look to what we’ve known since we were small that enables us to be great writers.  Let’s start with the anthem shall we? 

The anthem was, and still is a rallying call to remember that we persevere through adversity (definitely a writing trait), but also the anthem was one of the first pieces that talked about the nation with a sense of oneness, of community.  We became a “Land” of people and the “Home” of us all.  Writing is that and more, a community.  While writing is very much a solo endeavor at the writing stage, every last one of us is an individual practitioner in a community of writers…and what a community it is.  Community and a sense of belonging is something that we learned in kindergarten too.  The notion of where we fit and where our circle isn’t a life long learning curve, but the foundation was laid long ago as we learned our likes and dislikes.  What a tremendous thing that as a writer we get the whole community, like them or not.  *grins*  Writing takes learning, and sometimes the best teacher is the one who stands in another circle normally, but is available to us through the writing community that is its own great big circle.  The great thing I’ve found is that I haven’t met a writer yet who didn’t have something to offer if I was willing to hear…This willingness to be open or not brings us to another C – our Character.

Character is a compilation of several other traits together, also C words…confidence, care, and conceit.  We want the first two but not the last.  Confidence in our work is something that we need to have or find as we go from the writing to the networking and publishing part of our world.  An editor, agent or publisher can give you a morale boost, but if you don’t have confidence in your writing or your ability to tell the story and sell it, you will be walking a long lonely road as that empty spot inside cannot be filled by others.  Our friends and allies can help bolster us, but in the end we have to find the inner strength and fathom how to employ it to our purpose.  Fake it til you make it, but make it.

Care is not only about our writing, but also about the writing community too.  The people you meet and aid or enable in their work are the ones who are going to be there for you.  The writing community is a giving community and the benefits are there for all to reap, but leave care at home when you come to the community and you will have to rebuild any ground you had gained as the community of nurturers will and do close ranks to aid those who are in need, but not those who prey upon others.  Care is tantamount to success.  You need to care about your work, your world, and the community at large.  The urge to fan your feathers at the first great review is in us all and while being the proud parent of the work of wonder, we have to remember to reign back the conceit that can come.  Pride is one thing, conceit is another, keep the difference clear in your mind and your heart as you go forward.

Last up today, we’re going back to baseball as the final “C” is a biggie and one we learn in sports, in kindergarten, in life.  It is that as a writer we must be coachable.  Participating in the community, giving care and encouragement to others, having confidence in our work and remembering to couch our pride before we get too big for our britches is all important, but we can lose it all if we fall short on this last big C. 

We must learn to be coachable.  Writing in some ways is a school of hard knocks.  Ask any writer how many rejection slips they got before they were published and there’s sure to be a story there.  Ask any writer how many revisions or edits had to be done before the work was final and publishable and again, you’ll get a tale.  The point of having an editor, an agent, beta readers and ARC copies is to give you feedback on what’s working…and what’s not.  It is what you do with the information about what isn’t working that will define your reputation in the writing world.  People talk.

Sure, we all fell head over feet in love, lust, or hate with our latest and greatest and now someone wants us to change it.  Before you have a tantrum and kick your feet on the floor remember a few things.  One, we asked these people to give us feedback because???  We value their opinion and their place in the community.  Why would we knee jerk to “no” if these are the people we are entrusting to get us, AND THEM, to the top with our story?  They are not saboteurs, they are doing what we tasked them to do.  Two, sometimes because of the labor intensity of the writing, we are too close to the story to be objective. 

Passion is important, being able to moderate it to drive the passion so others can experience it too is the role of the coach.  Choose your coach wisely and remember – they don’t send the star quarterback in against a defense carrying machete’s, they evaluate the situation, and call the play that is best for the situation to promote their team to a win.  Likewise, you are not a lamb to slaughter and need to trust your coach to do their job as you do yours.

There is so much about writing that is simple if we are willing to look at it with fresh eyes and the wonder of our first day of school.  So far we covered A, B & C and found some pretty simple but significant things that we have in our arsenal that have been there since we were learning the alphabet.  I wonder what we’ll find next.  Til then…

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Everything I needed to know to be a writer I learned in kindergarden and it started with “A”

For some of us the notion of sitting at a keyboard or with pad and paper, pecking out or scribbling out a tale is the most daunting, ominous, overwhelming task imaginable.  I am here to tell you that is poppycock.  Everything you ever needed to know to do it and do it well you knew before you were ten, and much of it was learned in kindergarten.  Don’t believe me?  We’re going to begin at the beginning and I’m going to show you.

In kindergarten we learned many many things and over the next few months we’re going to pull that treasure trove of knowledge out and plumb the depths of memory for the things that we have known all along and forgot how to apply.  Starting here and now today, with “A”.

Many of us knew the alphabet before kindergarten, and those who didn’t, had a wall of magic symbols displayed when we walked into the room each day to help us on the journey to this knowledge.    “A” is significant in many ways, but for today it is the most important letter because it signifies the beginning…the only place to start.  Julie Andrews spoke to the musical beginnings of do, re, mi….and compared them to A, B, C.  Whether by rote memory or impassioned effort we learned that you always begin the alphabet at A and end at Z.  Writing is no different.  You begin at the beginning, be it an idea, an image, or a dream.  Without the beginning the tale is lost and wandering as we all would be if we had to recite the alphabet from M out…it is a far more difficult task.  Not impossible, but much more complicated and who needs that?

In kindergarten we learned another important “A”, accountability.  Sharing, shame, homework, or shoe tying we became responsible for our spot on the rug and the things we were tasked with.  We became the center of a microcosm where the world revolved around us, but we in turn revolved around others and had influence.  We could bring joy or tears and at the end of it all when it was time to take out our towel and nap, we were responsible for doing it right then too.  Little things became big things, but not all at once, instead step by step as we learned cause and effect of our actions or inactions.  The unquestioned affection of our parents took a backseat for a time as we learned to play with others and exist in a world where our parents weren’t.  These are all important beginnings and all translate into writing. 

Accountability, Action, Affection, and the Alphabet.  These four “A” words have tremendous impact on how we are as storytellers.  Our action or lack of action will be the driving force behind the tale we tell or keep to ourselves and the accountability to finish the task will in fact determine if the tale, though perhaps written, ever sees the light of day.  Affection for our work and the work of others as we learn that writing is a solo act in a community of others committing solo acts will influence the scope of our voice in the larger dynamic.  Will we have a best seller?  Will our story teach, or deter?  What it will be is determined by the affection we have to grow it to its potential beyond the begining, but just like “A” is where the alphabet starts, so must we.

So, with our beginning and the big “A” words, pick up your pencil and begin.  Any beginning is a good beginning.  Any beginning is a place to jump into the magical symbols and create something bigger than ourselves.  Will the world revolve around you when you are through?  If you never begin the answer is a resounding “no”.  But, if you begin, and remember that we crawl before we walk before we run, the cheer of the crowd and the tape across the finish line is one step closer than if you never do.  It’s up to you.  Find “A”.

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State of Mind

Where are we?  What are we doing?  What are we thinking?  Me, myself, and I are swimming with the mix of excitement, melancholy, insanity, gratitude, and a plethora of others unnamed today.  Why?  Because I’m alive.  I live.  I breathe.  I make strides and mistakes and stop to smell coffee and flowers.  I run headlong into things and end up with too much and topple the plate too…but at the end of it all, I live.

Recent thoughts are about thinking.  What do I think?  Why do I think what I think, and how did I come to think them?  A grand circle to be sure.  I am also thinking HOW?  How will I get it all done?  I have finished my Storytime Trysts flash pieces and they are edited and ready to go for the 19 th – 21st.  There is a pending commitment for weekly work on ST in January that I haven’t been able to bring myself to think on yet.  I am finishing up The Red Queen, the follow-up to Swingers, and working on Oracle, and the NaNo piece Racing the Rip-tide.  UGH!  I believe I’ve met myself at my pillow too oft of late.

I’m also thinking about gratitude.  Swingers continues to swell and has recently gone from 160,935 in November to Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,766 Paid in Kindle Store.  I have no words for the elation.  Gratitude is me.  I hope it is you for whatever it is that makes your day and brightens your smile, your heart, your step.

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Wednesday comes in the middle of the week

You’re singing it in your head now too, aren’t you?

Wednesday, what a quagmire of influence.  Not quite past the peak to enjoy the slide to the weekend, or the mad rush to finish before the tolling bell friday; and not far enough in to feel the accomplishment of unloading the burden of a new week.  Recent days have been rife with stress and unfathomable grief.  So much so that the joys unnumbered have not been given their fair accounting and no amount of Thursdays spent in gratitude will compensate the lack of acknowledgement.

In English please you say?  Today is my eldest daughter’s “weekaversary” with her first official boyfriend.  I cannot determine the nature of the relationship and if she is asking for trouble or has found it.  Being the protector and the disciplinarian while not creating an opportunity for the walls to be built is a fine line to walk.  I daresay that I have greyed exponentially in the last ten days.

Greying of course being relative as my youngest pointed out a grey in otherwise blonde brows just a scant week or two ago.  I wish I could recover that moment in time and laugh with her all over.  I think it might be the last laughter of hers I have heard.  I have learned in the interim that her world has folded in on itself and she is struggling in ways I never saw nor could I fathom.  Struggling to the point that ‘ending it all’ was a very real thought for her.  How does the world become so difficult for a thirteen year old that out is the best option?

In turn, my writing has taken a dramatic shift as Niagara Falls could not fill the basin faster than the words have come spilling out.  Gearing up for NaNoWriMo I have to pause and wonder if I will complete that journey when I cannot think to ‘Rip-tide’ with this work taking me on the journey instead of me taking the words.  Can both works come out before the November 30th deadline?  I don’t know, and a part of me doesn’t care.  My mission, my crusade, my singular focus is finding the joy that has been lost to my daughter and returning it to her.  The sun shines when she laughs and I’m sore tired of rain.

 

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Writing in the dark…

Am I the only one out there who went to bed, and then had to get back up and sit at the desk to write because the words just would not stop?  It was an odd phenomena.  Completely new.  Ultimately trivial…and thus my cuppa Joe has been refilled more often today than any other in recent history. 

Sure, I’ve had nights where the notepad by the pillow got a few scratches with ideas that were bouncing about.  I have never however, had a scene set on repeat in my head running end to end over and over again until I scratched the whole of it out on paper.  The mind on a roll is a curious thing.  I also sat debating how exactly I tell my mother that I’m never going to use the degree I so purposefully pursued and accumulated a land mass of debt to have, because when I find the right path to a writing career, I’m on it and never looking back. 

Sitting in the lone lamp I then remembered the electric bill was due, so I logged on to pay that.  Paying that brought the insurance renewal to the top of the stack and so I started reading that.  Good lords;a distraction for a simple three page scene took me on a cross-country journey. 

At the end of it all, I’m sitting here today wondering why I’m so tired, when getting the words to paper was all I needed to do.  I guess maybe I should have stopped there.  But then again, I’m not sure that I could have stopped the freight train without derailing the whole of everything.  Anyone else do the re-route and ramble?

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Why am I here?

For the second day in a row I’ve asked myself this question out loud.  Quite a telling situation to be sure.  The answers are not quick to come either.  I roll into the office and set up for the day, dive into whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing and somewhere in the accomplishment phase of said task, I find myself wondering why I’m here?  Not the visceral, what is my purpose question, more the specific; I hate my job, I end up frustrated and feeling something just shy of broken every day, so why do I keep plugging away at the 9 – 5?  Short answer?  I can’t afford not to work.  Long answer, I can’t afford not to work.

Writing has been a release and a form of guided meditation, but until that transitions into something more, I think I’m stuck.  So, how to make the transition?  How do I engage the curve and make that turn?  Is it up to me?  I think the answer is yes, and no.  I think that the ‘leg work’ is mine to do, but there is an element of uncontrolability too, and that makes it both exciting, and frightening.  In the end I can put the words on the page, but I also have to listen to the readers some to gauge how to write what they want to read.  As a virtual unknown that is a really small group of dedicated amazing people.  Are they a true cross-section of my potential audience?

How does this impact stories?  I think a little or a lot depending.  A well-known writer that I’ve followed for a while took quite a bit of heat not too long ago because after listening to fan outcry at the possibility of a character being killed off, they changed the story from where it was originally going and that threw the opposite end of the fan spectrum into arms.  The balance between where you the author are going and where the fans hope you go is sometimes daunting.  I consider myself beyond fortunate to have such a strong and true fan base already.  I am also fortunate that many/most of them are completely comfortable telling me that I’m doing it wrong.  ~laughing~  Yes, I do that too.

In the end, I guess this is not so much about ‘Why am I here?’ but more about how much longer do I have to stay?  I hope the time grows shorter.  I think I’m ready to get out.

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Forgotten Dreams

Have you ever stopped to ponder the sunset when your view is to the east?  What about the sunrise if your only vantage point is westward?  There are odes, sonnets, and many a verse committed to the beauty of sunrises and sunsets, and yet as I look out my eastern facing window as the sun is descending I cannot help but wonder at the view, were I able to look the other way.  Would it be glorious, would it be eventful, or would it be an unnoticed moment of time because the remarkability of it fell short of so many others?

Perspective is everything, and it is nothing.  For the writer, perspective will dictate plot, character, and points of view.  Vantage point will determine the protagonist and the antagonist, as well as drive the fans to love or loathe the story…so again I wonder at the view were I able to rotate my head one hundred eighty degrees. 

Recently as many of you may know, I torched the manuscript of a story that was very dear to my soul as a writer.  I knew the story well, and could see it play out in random momentary lapses of focus or awareness knowing exactly what I was seeing without having to wonder an iota.  I burnt it to cinder because as I had forcibly been converting it to a different point of view I was in fact no longer telling the story I knew.  It was not working because it was wrong. 

Perhaps that is the case for many of us and instead of challenging ourselves to turn around and see the puzzle from a new point of view, we set it aside and it becomes a paver on the path of forgotten dreams.  The story did not die, we killed it off in a fiery blaze or a quiet smothering as we did not adapt to find the voice from which it should be told.  As I ponder the sunset I cannot see, I am reminded of the stories paving my path that have yet to have proper voice and am Thankful (yes it’s Thursday), for the inspiration and knowledge of what is possible to resurrect the muse for that tale so that the Bard in my soul can have a voice.

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