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Believe

July 20, 2014

No, I haven’t utterly disappeared! But I’ve been pulled head over heels back into my writing as I’ve fallen in love with my story again.

What’s it like to be in love with a story? Is it like the puppy-love infatuation teenagers have when they hold hands for the first time or cast shy glances across the classroom at their new-found crush?Image courtesy of Sandra Cunningham @ stockfresh.com

Maybe. Because that’s how it was in the first draft of the story, when everything was rosy and bright and the words flowed onto the page like cream into my coffee, and tasted just as sweet when I read them back to myself. This is when characters lead me by my furiously typing fingers into their world, and didn’t let me go until a hundred thousand or so words later I looked up breathlessly to find that I’d filled another Scrivener document with their adventures.

Now I think my love might have matured into the real thing. This is the love that cleans up the dirty dishes after dinner and mows the lawn on Saturday afternoon. This is the love that gets up early in the morning to cook breakfast before heading off to work, and that welcomes me into its arms telling me I’m beautiful no matter how sweaty and mud spattered I look when I come in from working in the yard.

Revision is this kind of love. This love reads craft books like Save the Cat, Writing the Breakout Novel, and Story Engineering. This love is working with book doctor Jamie Gold  (thanks to a lucky break and a blogiversary prize) to bang out my plot inconsistencies once and for all. This love painstakingly enters each and every comment from my critique partners into worksheets in preparation for yet another draft.

Still, there are moments where my passion for this story makes me feel like a teenager in the throes of her first crush, and that calls for a playlist, don’t you think?

I’ve called it Believe. These are the songs I’m listening to as I keep the faith and finally put together the story I’ve dreamed this would become.Image courtesy of Konstantin Kirillov @ stockfresh

Believe

Click here to visit my playlist on YouTube.

Have you ever fallen in love with a project you thought was past hope? What do you do when you want to restore faith in your abilities?
And, is this leap of faith the real reason they call it ‘make believe’?

Watering can and daisies image courtesy of Sandra Cunningham, daisy image courtesy of Konstantin Kirillov, both @ stockfresh.com

IWSG: Dear Future Self

June 4, 2014

InsecureWritersSupportGroupGot insecurity? We’re here to help!

Welcome to this month’s meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. If you’re not yet familiar with this fantastic group, we’re a bunch of writers, three hundred and counting, who are brave enough to air our insecurities on the worldwide web the first Wednesday of every month. Want to join? Click on this linky, hop on board  Alex J. Cavanaugh’s blog, and put yourself on the list of some of the nicest writers on the web.

This month I did something a little crazy. Whatever was I thinking? But I’ll let my post, (which was inspired by the How I Found the Write Path Blog Hop courtesy of Carrie Butler), explain …

 

Dear Future Self,Ink Blot 2

Hi, it’s me, your Past Self. Remember me? The one who thought it might be fun to enter a writing contest? The one who thought there was a remote possibility you’d impress anybody with those miserable three chapters you sent out?

So by now I’m pretty sure you’re really distraught about the results. When you look at your scores and think it was a stupendously stupid idea to try to write a novel, much less to try to make it publication worthy, I want to make sure that you aren’t entertaining even the slightest notion of ever quitting this crazy gig.

Images courtesy of marija jure @ stock.xchngIn fact, I want you to remember how much you love writing. So many thrills on this storytelling road have nothing whatsoever to do with what a professional editor thought about the ponderous beginning of your novel.

Remember that sunny May morning, when for the first time you banged out a thousand word scene in one sitting—a scene that had a beginning, a middle, an end, and best of all, a point?

Remember the first time you ‘saw’ your protagonist leaning against your car with his hands in his pockets, smiling shyly at you from underneath his dark locks?

Notebook PageRemember hand writing scene after scene in your sketch pad because that’s all that you had to write on during a plane ride from Chicago to Seattle?

And those low scores?

Wear them like the badge of honor that they are. You took a chance and let your words shake out on the screen of someone who knows what they are doing. Not only did you finish this novel, but you revised it, and revised it again, and then dared to give it to someone who can point you in the direction of a better story. You took this clumsy misshapen early effort and allowed someone wiser to have a look and poke at it with a red pen.Image Courtesy of 'MPMthe1' @ stock.xchng

I know. Sometimes those pokes will draw blood. That can hurt and weaken your resolve.

But I want you to see how blood can be beautiful, given in sacrifice to a new and better version of yourself. Those red marks show your dedication to your craft, your willingness to take a bit of pain in order to grow stronger. As you learn to fix mistakes, you will cover them with bandages while your bruised ego heals. Wear those bandages proudly. It means you’ve taken steps to become a more proficient writer.

Does your feedback tell you that you started the story in the wrong place? Great! Next time you’ll start it somewhere else.

Does the protagonist have murky stakes? It’s time to bring them into sharper focus.

But whatever you do, Future Self, don’t despair. There are many who have taken this road before you and emerged a stronger writer. You will too.

And one more thing … check the fourth drawer from the top of your bookshelf, where the colored pens are. I stashed some chocolate there for you. If all else fails, ingesting large quantities of that will get you through.Image Courtesy of Antonio Jiminez Alonso @ stock.xchng

With highest regard,

Your Past Self

Images courtesy of marija jure @ stock.xchng

 

 

How about you, insecure writers? What would you tell your future self about the steps you’re taking now to improve your writing? Have you ever entered a writing contest?

And, where do you hide your chocolate?

Ink blots images courtesy of marija jure, blood image Courtesy of ‘MPMthe1′ , pen image courtesy of Antonio Jiminez Alonso all @ stock.xchng

Write Much Lately?

May 18, 2014

Image courtesy of Elena Elisseeva @ StockfreshI hear a loud slurping sound as I open my morning pages. Suspiciously, I type, “What is it now, Muse?”

And there he is sprawled in the middle of my screen, legs askew, wings spread out behind him. He looks up at me with dark-rimmed eyes and blows another stream of bubbles through the straw in his daiquiri. At least half a dozen empty glasses lie discarded beside him.

He finishes his drawn out bubbling, then wipes the foam from his mouth with his sleeve. “Write much lately?” he asks.

“As a matter of fact,” I reply, “Yes, I have written quite a bit. I put together a post for the How To Think Sideways Boot Camps blog, and wrote another wrapping up the A to Z Challenge, and there’s that critique I need to do. I know—” I stop typing when I realize that none of these endeavors involves writing fiction of any sort. “Okay,” I concede, “I get it. You’re feeling neglected. That doesn’t mean you should start drinking.”

He takes a long slurp from his straw, emptying the glass, then says, “It’s Friday night. Party time.”

“Not for me it isn’t. I’ve got a night of revision ahead of me.”

“How’s that going, Writer-babe?” he asks and rises unsteadily to his feet, then stumbles off the screen and into my office. He grabs the corner of my massive bookshelf as he peers over my shoulder at the words that stutter onto the screen. “You’re getting out of practice,” he observes.

“I know, but you’re not helping.”

All I get in response is a loud belch.Image courtesy of Anton Balazh @ stockfresh

“Tell me something, Morpheus …” I type. He straightens at the sound of his name. “Why is it that I always get pulled away from what I love the most? How do I always end up feeling detached from the stories that brought me here in the first place?”

“You know the answer to that,” he slurs. Clumsily he edges down to the floor, and with uncharacteristic awkwardness, leans against the wall.

“I do?” I ask. “Tell me: Why can’t I be focused and calm and happy and write nice words that don’t sound awkward? Why can’t I bang out blog posts and then switch over to writing a scene or two of my novel, then kick out a few short stories for good measure?” I wait for his reply, although he’s right: I do know the answer. I just want to hear him say it.

“Because you get so hung up on being a writer that you forget about the writing.” He sags back against the wall from the effort of speaking and closes his eyes.

“Yes.” I sigh. “Remember when I first started writing, and all I could think about was the words I was going to write when I got home from work? I didn’t worry about whether my scenes made sense, or if my antagonist was ever going to show up, or if my story would be relevant, or marketable. It was all about the story and the characters– chocolate cake every single time I sat down to write, no soggy vegetables or meat by-products. All juicy steak and fine wine.” As I was making myself hungry I looked over at Morpheus to see that he’d passed out, his silver crown fallen haphazardly over one eyebrow.

“Morpheus?” I type and then reach over to poke him. “We’re not done here.”

“Huh?” He hiccups and then rubs his bleary eyes.

“I was trying to talk about why I can’t find that special writing place anymore.”

“Sure, yeah. That special place. When you gonna finish some of those stories I gave you?”

He looks so forlorn down there on the floor, his eyes bloodshot, his clothes wrinkled and dirty. “You’ve been letting your hygiene slip again. You look like a homeless person,”Image Courtesy of Feng Yu@ StockFresh I remark.

He grins up at me. “Who says I’m not?”

“I do. You have a home right here next to my writing desk, and in my heart.”

“My head hurts,” he replies and rubs his temples.

“Why don’t you take a nap then? And come back later once I’m done with all my blogging?”

“Blogging,” he mutters as he shuffles into the bedroom to curl up next to my cat. “World’s most stupid invention.”

“I heard that!” I call after him, but close my pages and head to the worldwide web.silver-swirls

How about you, faithful friends and followers? Are you hung up on being a writer? Or are you too busy writing? And, what is your muse’s favorite beverage?

 

Daiquiri image courtesy of Elena Elisseeva, letters courtesy of  Anton Balazh,  heart on a chain courtesy of Feng Yu, all @ Stockfresh, my new favorite stock image site. :)

IWSG: The Month My Blog Ate My Novel

May 7, 2014

Image courtesy of 'Maja ...' @ stock.xchngOtherwise known as the A to Z Blogging Challenge.

People sometimes asked me why I would undertake something this crazy. What benefit could I get from posting something, anything, about every letter of the alphabet on successive days in the month of April? What could that possibly have to do with writing novels? Which, I should remind you, is the stated purpose of this blog: Postcards from my Journey to Noveldom.

Novels, not blog posts …

The reason I decided to take this on has everything to do with my insecurity, which is why I’m reflecting about the experience for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group this month.InsecureWritersSupportGroup

The IWSG, by the way, is founded by the fabulous Alex J. Cavanaugh, and is a place where writers can freely air and discuss their writing insecurities without fear of appearing foolish or weak. If you want to join us, click this here linky and add your name to the list of some of the nicest writers on the web.

Though I realize that it may sound as if I regret participating in the challenge, I’m incredibly proud to say that I managed to write and post for all the letters, getting my words out there–as Kristen Lamb writes:

… we must learn to keep pressing forward and ship.

from Writing–So Easy A Caveman Can Do It by Kristen Lamb

Image courtesy of Michal Zacharzewski @ Stock.xchngFor an insecure writer like me, putting up a blog post every day except Sunday is huge.

So, how has all the commotion around here impacted my attitude towards my writing—even though I haven’t even done that much of it?

I’ve gained confidence! And I finally understand why I keep piling on all these different projects: Gotta finish that next revision. Gotta write another draft. Gotta finally get that other book out the door, after fixing all the holes my sharp-eyed beta readers pointed out. Gotta learn to write short stories.

Gotta read craft books. Gotta read regular books. Gotta read my writing friends’ books. And leave a review, a good one if possible.

I could go on, but the point is, I do all these things because I’ve been told that’s what good writers do. And that’s true, they do. Just not all at once.

Knowing myself and that I’m a person who tries to play by the rules, I can see that doing everything for everybody all the time is my way of trying to follow all the rules and thus become successful.

Image courtesy of Michal Zacharzewski @ Stock.xchngWhat I’ve forgotten is that I didn’t find the stories I wanted to tell until I concluded I’m hopeless as a writer anyway so I’m going to write whatever the hell makes me happy. Damn the torpedoes. Forget the markets.

So I wrote that and, lo and behold, people who’ve read it like it. It needs work, but I can do the work. I’m not afraid of work.

I think I needed to surmount the A to Z Challenge to prove that I can do something really big and scary. As a result, I built up some confidence, the kind of confidence that will allow me to look at my array of projects and say, “This is what I’m going to focus on, to hell with what everybody says I have to do.”Image courtesy of Roberts Ratuts @ StockFresh

Maybe my blog didn’t eat my novel after all. Maybe focusing on one thing–writing a post for every letter of the alphabet– forced me to set everything else aside, and now that that the challenge is over I have a fresh start. I can choose one thing I really need to work on.

Yes, I’m revising my first novel, post beta readers, again.

How about you? If you did the A to Z challenge, what did you learn about your writing? What are your goals for your blog?

 

Mug image courtesy of ‘Maja …’  @ stock.xchng, Cheese and meat plate images courtesy of Michal Zacharzewski @ Stock.xchng, strawberry image courtesy of Roberts Ratuts @ StockFresh

Backstage at the Blog: Z is for Zero

April 30, 2014

Z © A Scenic RouteZero is what I started this blog with. In fact, it’s what we all started with.

Zero words. Zero posts. Zero views. Zero followers.

Honestly, I pretty much stumbled into blogging. (And novel-writing as well, but we won’t go there today …) WordPress makes it easy enough to come up with a name and sign up, so I did that. I mostly just goofed around with it, putting up pictures, writing silly posts.

It didn’t bother me much that no one came by to take a look (in fact, it terrified me a little to think about it!) because I was having fun just making blog posts. For some reason the concept that someone would actually be interested in what I have to say seemed incomprehensible. After all, I’m not really a writer

Little by little though, with the help of a side project called Write A Book With Me, people started to swing by. The Insecure Writer’s Support Group gave me another boost of followers and, post after post, month after month, building confidence, building writing chops, I’ve put together a blog I can be proud of.

I know that a blog with followers comes with certain expectations–things like regular posts of a manageable word count, as well as a commitment to check out the sites of commenters and followers once in a while–but I sometimes wonder what it might be like to start over with zero.

Imagine the freedom I would have! I could dream up a new blog name and create a whole new blogging bubble. No one would expect a certain kind of post from me, or a schedule, or anything at all. I could blog once a month, or twice a day. I could write ten word posts or three thousand word posts. I could post time-lapse pictures of my sleeping cat and quote random excerpts from my morning words.

But then, isn’t every new project, whether it’s a blog or a story, the beginning of a new adventure? Isn’t every zero the beginning of infinite possibilities?

The thing is, I’ve also come to realize that I would miss you guys, my patient followers. So, I think I’m in this for the long haul.

But if you ever stumble upon a really weird blog, with posts of wacky photos, odd character excerpts, punctuated by the unmistakable rants of a contentious muse, beware. It might just be me, having fun all by myself.Image courtest of 'Leonardini' @ stock.xchng

How about you? What made you decide to start a blog? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to start all over with zero?

(Here’s your link back to the A to Z Challenge Sign Up list.)

Image courtesy of ‘Leonardini’ @ stock.xchng

Backstage at the Blog: Y is for YouTube

April 29, 2014

 

Y © A Scenic RouteI’m a bit compulsive about my playlists, and I love to share them. But for a while I was stumped about how to do that without forcing my followers to listen to only ninety seconds snippets of my favorite songs (iTunes) or to log in to a new application that tracks their Facebook profile (Spotify.)

Enter YouTube. By simply clicking on a link, followers can listen to my playlist, even put it on shuffle, without any fuss at all.

There’s a bit of set up required on my end though. First I need to make my playlist by gathering up all the videos from the YouTube archives. This is fun, but time-consuming, because of course I need to watch every single one of them first!Screen shot 2014-04-26 at 8.46.44 AM

Then I arrange them in the appropriate order, and write a short paragraph about how the songs came together as well as select an image from the video collection to represent the playlist.Screen shot 2014-04-26 at 9.04.02 AM

Last, I set up the sharing preference, create the link and put together the post. Viola! Rock and roll, at the touch of a button.Screen shot 2014-04-26 at 9.11.35 AM

Wanna listen to the result? Just click the link: Swan Song

Do you make playlists for your stories? What’s your favorite way to share them?

(Here’s your link back to the A to Z Challenge Sign Up list.)

Backstage at the Blog: X is for .xml

April 28, 2014

X © A Scenic RouteXML stands for Extensible Markup Language, and is the default format for many office productivity tools.

What does that have to do with WordPress, and my blog?

.xml is the extension for the backups of my blog. When I export all the hard work I’ve done here at the blog I am making a complete backup of everything I’ve created: my posts, the comments, the image galleries, all the components I need to set up my blog just like it is now on another host. Isn’t that reassuring?

In fact, I think I’m going to go make a backup right now. Wanna join me? Click on the Tools menu and highlight Export.

Export MenuFrom there clicking the Free Export option takes me to the screen with my Export options:WordPress Export Screen

Usually I want All Content. Then I click the blue Download Export File button. A few seconds later my export is finished and I have a complete backup of everything I’ve created here.

Do you back up your blog? Have you ever moved from one blog host to another?

(Here’s your link back to the A to Z Challenge Sign Up list.)

Backstage at the Blog: W is for Widget

April 26, 2014

W © A Scenic Route-croppedI don’t think I’ve ever met a widget I didn’t like. These amazing mini applications do everything from display my mounting word count to help visitors find other members of my blogging community.

Where does one find these cute little buggers?

In the Appearance category! Just click the menu and the page loads to show the ‘Available Widgets’ on the left side of the screen. To activate a widget, simply drag it from the ‘Available’ column into one of the columns on the right side. And don’t worry about using them up. The ‘Available Widgets’ column always repopulates itself. I don’t know how it does that, maybe the widgets throw a party when I’m away…

Not This Kind of Widget!

Not This Kind of Widget!

Inside A Widget's Brain

A Peek Inside a Widget. Code courtesy of Critique Circle.

Anyway, each widget can be opened with the triangle on the right, where it will display all the knobs and wires boxes and menus inside.

I like a busy sidebar. Image and text widgets display everything from the disposition of my Muse to my myriad WIPs and their various stages of incompletion. Even my hard-won A to Z badge has earned a place on my sidebar. I also have the requisite Follow Blog widget, and the My Community widget is a favorite of mine as it displays the avatars of all my blogging friends. I even have a calendar of my latest blog offenses posts.

This kind of Widget!

This kind of Widget!

I know some bloggers find a crowded sidebar to be distracting, and I get that, but for now, having my badges next to my words inspires me to more confident blogging. Besides, they’re colorful!

Do you like to put lots of badges in your sidebar? Or do you prefer the sleek, minimalist look?Lady Robot

 

 

(Here’s your link back to the A to Z Challenge Sign Up list.)

Robot images courtesy of Cécile Graat @ stock.xchng

Backstage at the Blog: V is for Visit

April 25, 2014

V © A Scenic RouteSometimes hopping onto the worldwide web feels like the world’s biggest cocktail party, with the only exception being that  I can attend wearing my fuzzy slippers!

I can choose from blogs that discuss almost any topic. Writing fiction? Baking a stollen? Flying a dragon-shaped kite? Chasing tornadoes? There will be a blogger who’s devoted pages and pages to his passion.

But what about the etiquette of visits? Is it polite to leave a comment? Is a Like an appropriate token of appreciation?

Appropriate Blogging Footwear

Appropriate Blogging Footwear

In the interest of saving time staying sane, I’ve had to establish a hierarchy of blogging friendship. Bloggers who share the same passion as I do-writing fiction- become instant buddies; I comment and subscribe. Fellow fiction writers who comment on my blog receive a return visit, and more often than not, I will follow.

But how do I decide whether or not to visit all the other blogs I follow via email? While I never miss reading a post from my favorite movie blogs, or writing craft blogs like Larry Brooks and Chuck Wendig, or even my favorite cat blog, Traveling Cats, I rarely visit them.

After all, I can’t talk to everyone at the cocktail party; it would wear me out!

How about you? Do you visit all your blog buddies? Or do you sometimes stay at home and enjoy their posts from the comfort of your Inbox?

And, what is your blogging footwear of choice?

(Here’s your link back to the A to Z Challenge Sign Up list.)

Slippers image courtesy of Evgeny Karandaev @StockFresh

 

Backstage at the Blog: U is for Unsubscribe

April 24, 2014

U © A Scenic RouteJust when things were getting all warm and fuzzy …

But sometimes as they say, “It’s not you, it’s me,” and it’s time to sever my ties with a blog that sours my day instead of brightening it.

There’s a button for that. It’s called unsubscribe.Screen shot 2014-04-06 at 6.44.24 PM

Have I unsubscribed to a blog or two? Yes!

In my case, the usual suspects were at fault: Too much politics, or posts that cut down other writers, or even flat-out too much posting. I was drowning in a deluge of thrice daily posts imploring me to buy a book, and another book after that. I just couldn’t take it any more!

For the most part though, it takes a lot to drive me to unsubscribe.

And, as much as I try not to stress about it, I know there will be times when my message won’t resonate with a reader, when my banter becomes banal, my alliteration annoying– or when my Muse has one too many rants. It’s a free worldwide web. There’s room for all of us, but all of us won’t necessarily like each other.

How about you? What is the final straw that makes you hit the unsubscribe button? Has something you’ve written ever caused someone to unsubscribe?

(Here’s your link back to the A to Z Challenge Sign Up list.)