Cheating is such an ugly word

Hi everyone.

What do you do when you want to write a blog post, but you have a hard time tearing yourself away from your other writing?

This. This is what you do.

 

 

 

 

 

Some people may think a post built around memes is cheating.

I prefer to think of it as deferring to someone who had the same idea as you, only they said it better.

Coincidentally, both of these speak to me on a very personal level.

Every time I sit down to write, I talk to myself in order to shake off the normal world and hopefully make the transition to the world of make-believe. It’s like a little pep talk.

And this is what I say to remind myself that writing is a terrible, horrible, wonderful way to live:

 

 

 

 

 

 

And …

 

 

 

 

 

What are some of the things you tell yourself when you write?

I’d love to hear about them in the Comments section.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

Everybody’s Got Pain

As I’m writing this blog post, the anesthesia from my root canal is wearing off. Needless to say, I’m in pain. A lot of pain.

This made me think about how we deal with pain.

Sometimes, if it’s bad enough, we just curl up under the covers and will ourselves to sleep until it’s over. However, too many people never have the luxury of allowing their pain to crash over them and carry them out to sea. These people – and they are usually poor people – are told to just “push through it” and “you can’t stay home with every little ache and pain.”

The implication being that if you give into pain you are weak, you are unworthy, and you are definitely not getting paid for today if you do.

Consequently, that’s how I knew now was a perfect time to get this post written. And so here we are.

Is this a sign of dedication to my craft, my blog? Of strength of character? Or of brainwashing and stupidity?

Hard to say.

So instead of whining about my own pitiful problems today I thought I’d tell you a little bit about my main character, Jake’s, tattoos.

Jake has a large slamming door tattooed on his back. It’s there so he won’t forget the night his father left forever, his mother screaming “Good riddance” at the empty air.

There’s an old coffee pot covered with spider webs on his left shoulder. It’s to remind himself of all the times five year old Jake got up at 2:30 am just to make his dad a cup of coffee when he returned from the bar. 

 

 

The yellow license plate, dinged and bent at one corner, that sits below his rib cage belongs to the car that killed his mother as she was crossing Roosevelt Boulevard when he was six.

 

Yeah, everybody’s got pain.

How do you deal with your own pain? Do you dive in, or try to ride it out? Also, what kind of pain have you dished out to your characters? And how do they deal with it?

I’d love to hear about it in the Comments section.

Thanks for reading.

Timelines

Hi everyone.

I’m currently stuck on my novel’s timeline, so I thought I’d share a bit of that hellishness with anybody out there.

Obviously timelines are important in any story, but especially in long,  complicated stories such as in a novel. Not only do you need to know what is happening in your novel, you need to know when it’s happening.

And if you’re a visual person like me it is so much better to see the important events in your story laid out in front of you than to merely think about them.

That’s where timelines come in. You can:

  • make your own with pen and paper,
  • use a calendar, or
  • find a program online.

 

 

I have, in the past, tried making my own and found that my ideal timeline consists of one, long sheet of paper tacked to my living room walls — satisfying, but not very practical.

Calendars are probably a lot of fun to use, but all those little boxes feel confining to me. Don’t judge me.

I’ve recently come across an online option on writershelpingwriters.net. They have a resource called One Stop for Writers that includes a 2 week free trial of all these cool features like Character Builders, Story Maps, Scene Maps, and you guessed it — Timelines. So far I’m really liking it.

Just so you know — I’m not affiliated with this group at all. I just thought you all would like to check them out.

Anyway, back to playing with my timeline.

How about you guys? Do you find timelines useful, or just another excuse NOT to be writing?

Please let me know in the Comments.

Thanks for reading.

3 Things I Do Before I Write

Hi everyone.

Writing is such a personal, intimate act – when we’re not letting total strangers take a peek inside our innermost thoughts and dreams, we’re spilling our guts for them – so it makes sense that every writer has their own process for getting in the mood and/or making the writing habit happen. Some people can’t write without burning their favorite candle, or listening to their favorite music/white noise (hello, Coffitivity). It’s pretty much guaranteed to be different for every single writer out there.

Today I want to share some of the things I do to prepare my own brain for writing.

#1 – COFFEE. Duh.

 

 

 

 

#2 – BULLET JOURNAL – I write in mine every morning listing all the stuff I want/need to get done during the day. In addition, I also note the following items without fail — these are the date, the weather, time I got up, and what song was stuck in my head when I woke up. (Today’s earworm was “If Our Love is Wrong,” by Calum Scott.)

 

#3 – TAROT and ORACLE – No point in just charging into a big, uncaring world all willy-nilly. Absolutely anything could be out there waiting for you.

With that in mind I invite the universe to give me a “heads up” every morning by pulling one card each from both my tarot deck and my oracle deck.

Today I got THE DEVIL (be careful about chaining yourself to the things that pull you down) and the WOLF (practicing tolerance will help balance out some of that agitated wolf energy), respectively.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now I’m not sure if these are for me, or the characters in the book I’m working on.

Either way, by this point I’m usually ready to take my reheated coffee upstairs to my office and start writing.

How about you?

What are some of your writing habits or routines?

Let me know in the Comments section.

Thanks for reading.

Terrible Strange: Behind the Scenes

Hi everyone.

Today I’m going to take you behind the scenes of my first novel, tentatively titled Terrible Strange. I started this and completed a rough first draft when I was in grad school a couple of years ago. However, there was so much wrong with it that I decided to put it away for a while – it just wasn’t speaking to me, you know?

Anyway, it did start speaking to me a few months ago so I set about rewriting it. I’ve changed the POV, made the characters older, took them out of high school and put them in grad school, got rid of the clichéd “angry dad” character, and did a LOT more digging into my protagonist’s backstory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have also left behind “pantsing” in favor of plotting.

I’m not gonna lie – it’s been a struggle to make such a big change to my writing process, but whenever you combine pantsing with ADD all you get is a hot mess that kinda looks like a story. At least, that’s been my experience.

 

 

 

 

So, I checked out a bunch of different plotting books – there are so many good ones – and loved two books in particular: Save the Cat Writes a Novel, by Jessica Brody and Story Genius, by Lisa Cron.

I was already familiar with Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat series from my screenwriting days, and Lisa Cron’s blueprint method of building a story that has both internal logic and a sense of urgency is brilliant. Plus, constantly asking yourself, and your characters, questions – as she recommends – really, really works. Who knew?

 

 

Anyway, despite my lack of productivity – God, how I wish I could regularly churn out 2,000 words a day like my OCD girl idols on YouTube – I have still managed to reach the midpoint in my novel. Yay!

How about you? Have you ever rewritten something from scratch because the story just wouldn’t let you go? No matter how hard you tried to leave it in the box of shame, or the folder of forgetfulness?

Please let me know in the Comment section.

Thanks for reading.

What the HELL is a Johari Window?

Hi everyone.

I recently discovered an amazing writing tool, courtesy of another writer. (Shout out to Kristen Lamb @authorkristenlamb.com).

It’s called the Johari Window.

It was created by two psychologists in 1955 – Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham. They thought it would help people to better understand their relationship to themselves and others. Self-help groups and corporate team-building exercise leaders loved it.

Ugh, I know. Snoozefest.

However, if you stop reading right now just remember this – these two guys named their creation after themselves – JO for Joseph and HARI for Harringtion – which is kinda cute.

Still here?

Great, because if you don’t think, Wow, this would be a great tool for character development the first time you see a Johari Window, then I don’t know what I can do for you.

That first box – OPEN (sometimes called ARENA) – this is all the information that your character knows about him/her/their self and that everyone else knows, too. Like – he used to be a lap dancer, but then he became an EMT, and now he’s a convicted felon out on parole.

That second box – BLIND SPOT – contains stuff about your character that other people know, but that your character is currently ignorant of, or blind to.

Like – she feels worthless and ashamed because she can’t afford name brand clothes, but other people see her as creative and stylish.

The third box – HIDDEN (sometimes called FAÇADE) – is full of all the crap your character knows about themselves, but that they keep hidden from everybody else.

Like – they have a shoe fetish, only no one can tell because they have 40 pairs of the same style shoe.

 

 

 

 

The fourth box – UNKNOWN – is where all the stuff that no one in your story knows about yet.

Like – aliens have been keeping an eye on your character ever since they were born, because your character’s bio-dad is the leader of a great civilization on Alpha Centauri.

Once you use the Johari Window to map out your protagonist, you can continue to use it to structure your story. The way you do that is to design a story problem that will eventually help your protagonist finally see their blind spot and how it’s negatively affecting their life and other people’s lives too. And in the process of doing that, you want to shrink that UNKNOWN box by the story’s end with the goal of ending up with a more balanced, whole person who knows who they are, likes who they are, and knows where they’re going.

Have you ever seen the Johari Window before? And have you used it in your writing?

Let me know in the Comments section.

Thanks for reading.

It all depends on your point of view.

Hi everyone.

Today I want to talk about something I’ve been dealing with in my novel lately — POV, which stands for Point of View.

If you write you know all about the POV issue —

  • what are the different kinds of POV?
  • what are the Pros and Cons of each POV?
  • and how do I know which POV is best for me?

Here’s what we know so far. There are quite a few POVs — 1st person, 2nd person, 3rd person limited, 3rd person omniscient, multiple, unreliable, omniscient, head-hopping, and probably others I haven’t even thought of.

I won’t go into the pros and cons of each POV in detail, except to say you can figure out what they might be based on the name of the POV.

For example, when you use 1st person in a story you’re limited to showing only those things your narrator can see. That’s a con. However, when you use 1st person the reader is right there with your character, in the story. Boom. Instant reader involvement. That’s a pro.

So how do you choose which POV to use? And what damn difference does it make?

I’m glad you asked.

Choosing a POV involves a lot more than reviewing the pros and cons and then picking one. It’s more subtle and personal than that. You have to do all that, sure, but then you need to figure out how your character wants to tell the story, and then decide how you feel about that. Does she want a little space, but is still glad you came along? Try 3rd person limited. Is he okay being the star, but he doesn’t necessarily want you to know every damned detail because secrets? Unreliable.

 

 

 

And then how do you, the writer, feel about all this? Do you think your 3rd person limited character has too much energy for that POV? Maybe let her loose in 1st person.

As for what difference does it make which POV you use — don’t forget everything in your story is conveyed to the reader through your POV. If the one you choose isn’t the right one for your story, you could end up with a confused or dissatisfied reader. 

And nobody wants one of those!

 

 

 

Thanks for reading, and let me know your thoughts on POV in the comments section.

 

Writers on Writing

Hi everyone.

I have recently collected some of my favorite quotes on writing from some people I admire. It’s always comforting to know that someone better than you has been “there” before — full of doubt, exhausted when the words don’t come, angry at one’s own clumsy ineptness — and  that they kept going anyway. Here’s a few of them.

“I don’t want just words. If that’s all you have for me, you’d better go.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” – Terry Pratchett

And … “The first draft of everything is shit.” — Ernest Hemingway

“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.” ― Octavia E. Butler

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is … the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” – Mark Twain

“Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style.” — Stephen King

And most important …

“Write what should not be forgotten.” — Isabel Allende

 

That’s it for today. Let me know what some of your favorite quotes about writing are in the Comment section.

Thanks for reading.

 

Close Encounters of the Fangirl Kind

Being a fangirl is to live a life full of extremes.

To paraphrase Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities — it can be the best of times and the worst of times… depending on what’s currently going on in your celebrity’s life. (Ugh. PR relationships and fake baby rumors anyone?)

Today I want to talk about a different kind of celebrity fangirling … a higher level of fangirling that focuses on an appreciation of creators and their creations. (Huh. Sounds so lofty, don’t it?)

Yeah, today I want to talk about some of the authors I’ve met, or sort of met, or could have met if I had only said something… Sigh. So in no particular order, here goes …

Ray Bradbury.  He was scheduled to give a talk during some 48 hour movie marathon being held on a college campus in Camden, NJ — one of the worst, most crime-ridden cities in America — at night. There might have been 40-50 people in the audience that night, and he did answer questions, as I recall. Of course, I was too thrilled — and too intimidated — to say anything to him, but damnit, I COULD have, so I’m counting it.  Besides almost meeting Ray f*cking Bradbury that night, the one other thing I remember was when I asked some nice African American gentlemen for directions to the school, one of them said, “Girl, are you lost?”

Stephen King. In contrast to my Bradbury “encounter”, this is more of an unconfirmed sighting, if I’m being honest, but hear me out.   I was standing at a bus stop on Roosevelt Boulevard (aka US Route 1) one afternoon, waiting on a bus.  Now when you “wait on” a bus, you don’t just stand there staring straight ahead. You stand on the the very edge of the sidewalk, and stare up the road the bus is going to be coming down… so you can get the first, possible glimpse of the bus way before it actually reaches your stop.  So there I am, following bus-waiting protocol, when I spot this tiny foreign car (at least I think it was a foreign car, but hell, what did I know? I was taking the frigging bus!) barreling down Route 1 in the right-hand lane. Inside the car was this big guy all hunched over the steering wheel, looking all tense, but determined. (Driving on Roosevelt Blvd./Rt. 1 has that effect on people, believe me.) My first – and last – thought was “That’s Stephen King!” as he flew by me less than six feet away. Don’t fight me.

 

 

 

 

Clive Barker. I think I actually took the day off to go to a book signing of his. I even made my girlfriend, Mary, use her precious lunch hour to accompany me to this book signing of someone she didn’t even know. Thank God she did, because otherwise I would have been hauled off by his security guy for being a drooling idiot. Don’t ask me when this was, or what book I gave him to sign, or whether I actually said anything to him – I just remember standing there with my mouth open while Clive and Mary had a nice, little chat about fans, and his handwriting looking like a doctor’s, and who the hell knows what else? It’s all a big, embarrassing BLUR. And I am totally counting that as “meeting Clive Barker”, so there.

 

 

 

 

Laurel K. Hamilton. This was at a science fiction convention in St. Louis. I attended a panel she was on, and afterwards, ended up in the same restroom… at the same time. Not wanting to bother her (while simultaneously letting her know I recognized her, but was being cool about it), I nodded at her in the mirror above the sinks. And, yes I’m counting it.

 

 

 

 

Have you met any of your favorite authors? Were they triumphs of fangirling? Or tragedies like mine?

Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading.

 

Binge-watching Netflix — It’s strictly research, I swear.

Well, here we are living out all our old “if I only didn’t have to work” fantasies.  (Except maybe for the one where you get naked and belly flop into a pool of lime jello.)

 

 

 

So, in between taking naps and trying not to eat everything in the house, my husband and I have been binge-watching TV shows on Netflix. But unlike the rest of America we are doing it for a higher purpose — we’re both writers so we’re calling it “research”. 

Yeah, I said what I said.

Right now we’re researching the hell out of “Supernatural” — already on Season 3. Woo-hoo! Great cast, great writing, and according to Dean in Season 2, Episode 18 — great craft services.

 

 

 

Also, sadly, we’re finishing up “The Magicians” later tonight. LOVE this show, especially Quentin, Eliot, and Margo the Destroyer. Maybe we can get a GoFundMe site started to finance another season (or 10) just to frigging bring back Quentin (and, by extension, one of the hottest ships on TV — Queliot!). C’mon, you guys — it’s a magical world. Anything can happen!

And, last but not least — “Lucifer.” He is my favorite drama queen. My husband and I are both loving Lucy’s character arc, but it’s hard waiting for the most recent season to make it onto Netflix. Ugh. I want it nooooooowwwww!

So, how dare we call what appears to be a hedonistic waste of time “research”? Hey, when you write everything is research.

Three week trips to exotic places just to get “local flavor” for your next book  ? Research.

 

 

 

 

Eavesdropping on people in public places (ah, the good old days) simply to hear authentic idiot conversations? Research.

eavesdropping

Watching 72 hours of shoe fetish porn just to give one of your characters a “secret obsession”? Research.

Let me know what you’re binge-watching in the Comments.

Thanks for reading!