I Wouldn’t Have it Any Other Way

“Giving up is the only sure way to fail.” 
Gena Showalter

Perseverance. It’s an interesting word, don’t you think?

As writers we have few qualms about putting our characters in situations that require a great deal of it.  They need that dogged determination to overcome those black moments and obstacles that make a story compelling. Through dialogue and narrative readers get to share the journey, explore the resilience of our characters and do it all from the comfort of a favorite chair.

By and large, we writer’s tend to throw a lot at our characters.  We try to keep the tension and action tight-rope worthy and the stakes high from page one until the very end.  Why?  We want a good story. 🙂  It is a challenge to keep the plot, the characters and all the sub-text spinning in the world we create.  It is gratifying when we write the final chapter and know we have done our best to tie up all loose ends with our characters and our readers get to exit the story with the promise of a HEA.

But, let’s not forget the most important part of this.  Without a writer’s perseverance, that single-minded resolve that keeps us sitting at our computer day after day, none of this would happen.  What isn’t evident to most non-writers is the hours spent at a computer, the time carved out of our busy day with surgical precision to spend writing.

Being a writer is a demanding occupation, its damned hard work even on a good day. We give up family time, social/fun activities and, in many cases, sleep while we do our best to make a story come alive. We deal with the frustration of words that fail to adequately evoke the emotions we are doing our best to describe, the dreaded writers block that attacks out of nowhere, and story lines that fizzle for no apparent reason.

How many times have you wanted to throw up your hands and quit when confronted with yet another rewrite?  When you have written yourself into a corner and now have to figure out the best way to get back on track?  Me?  Countless times.  There have been instances where I will spend weeks avoiding my computer, convinced I will never write another word, but it is a losing battle – I always end up back in my chair and picking up where I left off.  It is a compulsion, a creative outlet and an absolutely exhilarating roller coaster ride with all the highs and lows.

I love it and sometimes hate it with equal passion, but I persevere.  It’s what I do.  I wouldn’t have it any other way. 🙂

 

Vacation – Woot!

Vacation used to be a luxury, but in today’s world it has become a necessity.

~Author Unknown

Vacation.  What a lovely word.  It immediately brings to mind sandy beaches, island breezes and relaxation, doesn’t it? Did you hear the big sigh from me?  That is the kind of vacation I would like, but my reality will never make the pages of a travel magazine.

Don’t get me wrong – I am excited to have a week off and the chance to visit my oldest daughter and her family.  I haven’t seen them in…well, forever.  There is a lot to catch up on and grandkids to spoil 🙂  But, let me share what is leading up to boarding a flight out of here and flying across country in two days time.

Let’s start with the day job that graciously allows its employees to have some time away to relax and renew (do you hear the sarcasm here?)  I have a things-that-have-to-be-accomplished-before-I-leave list.  On it are tasks that are job critical and must have all the loose ends tied up before I can escape – um- leave.

Ha!  My day started out bad and disintegrated from there.  Let’s not mention the disagreement with my boss before I even had a cup of coffee, or the disaster everything I touched turned into kind of day.  So much for quickly tying up loose ends.  My things-that-have-to-be-accomplished-before-I-leave list has now turned into a crap-I will-never-get-this-done-in-time sort of list.  With some reprioritizing I might be able to get the most critical of the critical things done.  Yay, me.

Let’s move on to packing.  Sorting through clothes to take is not fun.  That cute shirt I bought at the beginning of summer is a little snug.  It’s too late to regret the stress eating that caused the – ahem- slight weight gain and my much more limited clothing choices.  No problem, I will just have to manage with what I have.  It’s a vacation after all, right?

Writing.  Somewhere in all the chaos that has become my life just lately I have barely had time to keep up with email, never mind work on my WIP.  Double crap.  The 500 words a day I was aiming for is now 1,500 words behind and gaining fast.  Maybe I can sneak some writing time in on my long flight.  Yes, that is the Universe you hear hysterically laughing at me in the background.

Oh, let’s not forget the conversation with my daughter who is taking care of the house while I am away.  It went something like this:

  • Yes, wonderful child-of-mine the flowers need to be watered every day without exception.
  • Don’t touch the paperwork on my table.  I know where everything is and your habit of stuffing things in corner cabinets is not okay.
  • The cat will be unhappy if you do not pet him when he demands it and have his food bowl full at all times.
  •  No, I don’t think my neglected knitting basket would look better hidden behind that big chair.
  • Do not leave my kitchen in a mess.  Clean up after yourself or I will have to hurt you when I get home.  Stop laughing, I’m trying to be serious here….

Luckily for me I don’t have to drive to the airport.  I will have a few blissful moments where I know I have done all that I could before leaving and can now relax and leave the driving in her capable hands.

I’ll worry about getting through the airport when I get there.  After all, I’m on vacation. 🙂

A Writer’s Voice

Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in.

~Louise Brown

If you Google Writing Voice you will discover pages of material.  I literally found everything from what Voice is to instructions on how to develop it.  There is information in abundance to help you discover your own unique style. Wow.

Apparently this is a very serious subject and one a writer needs to pay attention to.  Who knew? Certainly not me. When I first started to write it never occurred to me I needed to find my Voice. I had no idea what it was to begin with. I just wanted to tell a good story.  So I wrote.  And wrote some more.  Then I rewrote.  Along the way I discovered a tendency to head hop just a teensy-weensy bit – okay, I raised it to an art form, but, hey, I eventually figured it out.  Adverbs are not my friend and the word “that” can be overused.  Good to know.

Writing a sentence is fairly easy, but what gives it life beyond the words you read? What glues you to the pages anxious to see what happens next?  Words have power and the way they are put together on a page can transport us to other worlds and on wonderful adventures or make us want to hurl the book across the room.  We laugh, we cry, we smell the ocean on the breeze or hear the thunder of a waterfall and we fall in love with characters that become real to us for a short period of time. All because of words.

Okay, so we’ve established the importance of sentence structure (my English teacher would be so proud), but that alone isn’t enough to keep us interested is it? I know you’ve picked up a book and several paragraphs in you are wondering why you are wasting your time. Maybe you keep reading, hoping it will get better or toss is aside because you would rather wash dishes. Yet the book came highly recommended from a friend/co-worker/stranger on the street (you get the picture) because they loved this book and thought you would too.  What is it about the book you just didn’t like?

You know where I am going with this, right? It is Voice!  It is the cadence of the words put together, how it is punctuated, the dialogue between characters and how they are developed that either bores you to tears or keeps you awake half the night reading.  It is how the writer perceives his vision and translates it to the page that we either respond to or turn away from.  It is an emotional reaction.

If the writer is lucky his Voice will touch the right cord with a lot of readers, but I can say with great confidence that even bestselling authors have detractors. Not everyone will like what we produce and that is okay.  If everyone liked the same thing then we wouldn’t need a wide variety of reading material. Boring!

So, I’ve discovered along the way my rhythm for words and descriptions – my Voice.  I am comfortable there and fall easily into the pattern when I sit down to write.  My hope is others will like what I have done and few will be tempted to toss my book aside.

In my world, that would be pretty darned cool. 🙂

INFOSNACKING

“I have always been a sucker for ballads, but you have to be careful these days, you can’t overload people.”

~Joe Cocker

I was in a meeting last week and heard the term “infosnacking” for the first time.  It certainly caught my attention.  Ever curious, I went back to my desk and looked it up.  Apparently this word has been around since about 2005 and as with most words in the English language its original definition has changed over time.  I also discovered I am very adept at doing this 🙂

The word was originally coined to describe time spent on the computer at work to do things that weren’t work-related (Googling someone or even shop online when you should be working.)  Now it includes getting online throughout the day to check your email, visit blogs (oops) or check the headlines.  Hmmm.

In the context of the meeting I was attempting to stay awake through, the term seems to have expanded to include the average persons inability to pay attention to anything beyond a few paragraphs. Huh?  It was Friday, who has a meeting on a Friday? Seriously! The meeting discussion was how to gain and keep that brief window of attention to get your message across.  I won’t bore you with the details, but my writer brain immediately kicked in and got me thinking.

When was the last time you sat down and read a novel that was 500 pages or more?  It is a significant time investment, isn’t it?  One of my favorite books has 973 pages, but I don’t usually gravitate towards books this length.  I don’t have time.  Not only that, but have you ever skimmed over descriptive passages because you just want to get to the next action sequence?  I am ashamed to say I am sometimes guilty of doing that.

Books used to have more flowery language and imagery. They took time to absorb.  It was a slower pastime; not a sprint like so many things today.  I have heard over and over again that the average reader doesn’t even read at a high school level.  Keep the words simple so they can be readily understood.  What happened to looking up an unfamiliar word?  For heaven’s sake, eReaders do most of the work for you.  Highlight the word and the definition will appear.  Yet, we are still cautioned to stay away from big words.  I find that sad.  We need to keep the readers attention or they will “snack” somewhere else.

Books are much shorter in length, many with non-stop action.  I don’t know about you, but as a writer I struggle to balance a fast paced story and still develop the relationship between my characters.  Sometimes I just want to stroll along with the characters, not race them to the finish line.

I think there is so much information vying for our attention infosnacking is here to stay.  But, I for one, hope there are still readers out there that prefer to take the more scenic route.  Let’s savor the journey, shall we?

So what, I Procrastinate

“The thing all writers do best is find ways to avoid writing.” 
~ Alan Dean Foster

I hate to admit it, but I procrastinate.  There is no rhyme or reason to it.  It defies logic.  But, I do it anyway.

What person in their right mind will put off doing something they enjoy (like writing) and use the excuse they need to dust their furniture?  Seriously!  Dust my furniture?  Most days you can write a whole chapter on the dust layering it, so why would I suddenly have this desire to shine the wood? Not only did I dust, but I vacuumed and did laundry.  I need an intervention, people.

The whole time I was finding busy work I was feeling guilty because my second chapter is languishing from lack of attention. It gnaws at me and I glare at my computer like it is somehow at fault.  Its silent presence mocks me. I comfort myself with the idea that I am doing something called “structured procrastination”.

This is a new term for me, but one I grabbed hold of with both hands.  I read about it in an essay by John Perry. (Hey, dusting is boring!)  I liked the idea that my procrastination was actually working for me by allowing me to do a task I had previously avoided.  I was accomplishing something even though I was putting off what I actually should have been doing.  I chose to ignore that this behavior is really self-deception and self-defeating.  It is a vicious circle, my friend.

The truth of the matter is words have not come easy of late.  I wouldn’t call it writer’s block exactly – it is more like a mild form of ennui.  Scenes play out in my head, characters demand attention, but it all dissolves into mist when I sit down and try to write.  I lose focus and suddenly dusting my furniture becomes preferable.  My Muse has packed her bags and is on vacation, dammit.

I know myself well enough to accept this recent bout of behavior will pass and I will sit down and fight my way back into my current story. I know I will become so involved with my writing that polishing furniture will be a distant memory and the dust will happily accumulate again.  It will happen any day now.  Really.

In the meantime, I think I  will worry about it tomorrow.

Here a blog..there a blog…

“We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it?”

 ~Erik Qualman

I spent a little time visiting blogs and web sites today.  I don’t do it as often as I should, because keeping up with the publishing industry and writing in general can be a daunting task.

Advice flows across these sites like a wide river, enticing the reader to stop and dip a toe in or, in my case, get sucked in for long periods of time while I lose myself reading interesting tidbits.  I find out about new releases from favorite authors, worry over the affects the economy is having on the publishing industry and what will happen now that e-books have exploded.  I mentally commiserate with other writer’s who blog about their trials and tribulations, laugh over anecdotes they share and get to do it all from the comfort of my office.  Most days it is a pleasant way to spend time.

Occasionally, I will read something that makes me stop and consider a point that is being made on a deeper level.  That happened today.  There are all kinds of opinions circulating in regards to an author having to find creative ways to stay in the collective conscious.  A publicity machine backing your newest release is not often an option for those just beginning their careers. Much is being asked of the author to promote their own work.

What has been repeatedly touted is the need for an author to have a presence beyond a book on a shelf.  What does that mean?  Sometimes it is as simple as a bookmark that you can give away or as complex as hosting a blog, a web site or having a twitter account.  With all the noise in our daily lives it gets harder to be heard, harder to get shelf space for a new untried author and suddenly writing isn’t just about writing a good story anymore.  It becomes about putting ourselves out there, showing up and raising our hands to catch a potential reader’s attention so they will find our book.   We spend our own money to help launch our creation in the hopes we will recoup our investment on the back end and garner enough attention we help our sales.

I am a bit of a late bloomer when it comes to joining the cyber highway.  It wasn’t until my book was almost ready for release that I finally got this blog up and running.  I joined Twitter thinking that would be easy (Ha! 140 characters to say something is hard work!) and finally after much whining and, well, more whining, I added an author Facebook page.

Want to know what I discovered?  I actually like blogging.  Who knew?  I get a thrill every time someone visits and actually leaves a comment. When I get a notification my tweet has been re-tweeted I breathe a sigh of relief because I managed to say something worth passing along.   Better yet, it is pretty darn awesome when someone tweets something good about you.  And Facebook – I quit whining.  Okay, maybe I just slowed down a bit.

Social media is a challenge and could take over my life if I let it.  It hasn’t been easy finding the rhythm that works for me, but I think I am getting there.  I make a point of leaving a comment when I visit a blog nowadays.  I want the author to know I enjoyed what they took the time to write.  It is all about give and take and making connections and new friends.

Will my efforts help my sales in the long run?  I haven’t a clue.  It will be fun to find out though.

Don’t Give Up!

Don't Give UP

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
—Ernest Hemingway

There is no easy path to getting published.  It’s a simple truth. Every single one is littered with stones to trip the unwary, blind corners and snags.  There are too many forks in the road to count and each one promises to be the answer.

It is easy to become so overwhelmed we are unable to move forward or we simply give up because it seems too difficult. What is the point?  Why should I continue to spend hours in front of my computer trying to put words around what I see in my minds eye?  It can be very tempting to walk away.  Who wants to be published anyway?

Yet, that quiet voice in our mind continues to entice with another story and we find ourselves starting to pay attention. There is simple joy in writing the perfect description, snappy dialogue and in having characters jump off the page and demand attention.  We wrestle with writer’s block, sagging middles and protagonists refusing to do what we want them to do.  It is glorious and frustrating and mixed in with all of it is our wish to know our work is being read and enjoyed by others.

If we are lucky we have a great critique group or partner to help us flesh out our story and make it shine.  Heck, maybe enter it in a contest or two to see how well you did and then use the comments to polish it more.  Definitely submit to agents and editors in the hopes someone will love what you have written as much as you do.  And learn.  Learn from every critique, every painful rejection and fellow writer sharing their path to getting published.

Difficult though it may be, we need to keep moving forward.  We need to know when to let go of a beloved story and move on to the next.  We need to always find ways to grow as a writer, to hone our craft, to keep submitting our work in the hopes of publication.

For me, being published is the realization of a dream, but the truth I discovered during this incredible journey is I will always be a writer whether I am published or not.

It is non-negotiable.