Tag Archives: the mind of a writer

Free to Write

Well, I did it.  I had two Swap Bot packets that had to go out today and I took them to the post office this morning.  The next ones I’ve signed up for don’t have to be mailed until next Monday, so I have time to clean up my mess from this last batch (one thing about writing, it’s not nearly as messy as other crafts!) and to take my time working on the next ones (an artist trading card and a pair of bookmarks).

And maybe even be able to focus on writing.

Actual writing, as in putting words on paper (or in a Word doc).  My mind is always on writing, and it’s been working overtime these last few days. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been focusing on the story that it needs to focus on. In fact, it’s not even thinking about any of the more pressing writing projects in my life.

Nope.

Instead, it’s been fixated on when a character should first put in an appearance in Sea Witch (working title only), arguing over having her show up first in the hospital or the court room.

Not very productive.

But it’s Monday, and one of the writing groups I’m on Face Book always has a post on Monday to set your goal for the week. So mine is to finish that blasted scene I’m trying to add to Onyx Sun.

Next week it’s going to be a follow up scene to this one – one that will segue into another already written extra scene that I need to work into the story.

So.

Weekly goal.  No word count, just… write the scene. Finish it. Even if it’s just bare bones, finish it. It can be fleshed out later.

Oh, and make an ATC.

 

 

 

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Who Ya Gonna Call?

Have you ever just been bopping along, doing your own thing, and suddenly one of your novels (or a character) just walks up and slaps you in the face?

That’s what happened to me earlier today.

I was scrolling through Face Book clicked on a link someone had shared and found this article.

My first thought was of Marsden from The Academy of the Accord because that is soooo something he would do.  (If, of course, he was a cop in today’s world, but that’s a minor trifle.)

The part with the hand on the shoulder and “Easy… I’ve got this one, son” is what really made me think of Marsden. That is something he would say and do and the description is spot on too, although he’s not quite that old – at least, not at the start of the series.

So, while it was really cool to come across that, now I want to get back to work on The Academy of the Accord.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but Onyx Sun is still supposed to be on the front burner.

I think maybe I need a staff of ghost writers…

 

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Read Like a Writer

You see it all the time in advice to writers: read. And read some more. And then read some more. In short, if you aren’t writing, you should be reading.  The idea behind it is that you can learn your craft by reading what other, supposedly better, writers have done. The problem is, the good writers make everything flow so seamlessly that you don’t notice what they’re doing or how they do it.

I had an English professor in college who would always tell us to “read like a writer.”  I never really understood what he meant.

Until recently.

Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of reading, thanks to the Kindle app on my phone. And a lot of what I’ve been reading has been… eye opening, to say the least.

A story in one anthology I’ve read said was by a “best selling author” but it was so full of grammatical errors (especially sentence fragments) that I nearly gave up on it. (It had some other issues too, but that was the most glaring.)

Now, granted, sentence fragments can be used properly but these just… weren’t. All through reading it I kept wondering who edited the story – and the anthology it was in. (Mostly so I never hired them – in case I ever got enough money to hire an editor, that is.)

And there was another story that I really learned a lot from. It had way more telling than showing, and that “telling” read like it had been written by a second grader.

Then there were really awkward scene breaks. (As in: an empty line, a row of asterisks, another empty line then the same scene continued. Why????)

And stilted dialogue. I think maybe it was written with an emphasis on word count because there were few contractions anywhere (except for a fairly consistent use of “you’re” instead of “your.”)  You know that advice about reading your dialogue out loud to yourself?  Well, now I know why they say to do that.

It also just had too much going on. There were too many characters that just showed up with no background or information, just a name, and a few chapters later you discovered that this one was that one’s sister, and, oh, yeah, this other one is also a sister.

Now, maybe this book was part of a series, and the readers were expected to know who was related to whom, who was whose mate, etc, but for someone coming in cold there were just too many characters.

Granted, in the Academy of the Accord series, I do have a lot of characters, but I’m being careful to introduce them – and to reintroduce them in later books. I also remind my readers about which warrior is bonded with which wizard, not just when re-introducing them, but once or twice later in the book too.

Overkill?

Maybe. But I’d rather slip in an unneeded reminder here and there than frustrate and confuse (and therefore lose) my readers.

A few other random thoughts.

Sex scenes are fine.  But when it seems that that’s all the characters do then it gets old and dull and I tend to skip them. (I’m wondering if I should go back through Sanguine and delete some of mine, except the ones in there serve a purpose – they show the developing relationship between the Kaen and Gregor. The ones I’m talking about are just… there. Gratuitous sex. Sometimes while there are pressing issues that need dealt with. (It reminds me of the scene in The Sound of Music where they’re running from the Nazis and stop to sing.)

Also, could adult characters please act like adults and not teenagers with their first crush?  Or two year olds throwing a tantrum?  Seriously! Never in my life have I wanted to smack some sense into so many characters in such a short amount of time.

Oh, and see that exclamation point up there? Please don’t use them when describing action.  One really intense scene was utterly destroyed because of an exclamation point. (Or, as another English prof used to tell us, “Don’t tell me how to feel.”)

So, yes. Read. Read a lot.  Read everything. You’ll learn from reading the good writers.  You’ll learn more from reading the bad stuff.

 

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Fake Post

It hasn’t been a good day in my world, so I’m just going to leave a few words here and come back stronger on Friday, okay?

No one panic. I’m not dying or anything, and neither is anyone close to me.

It just feels like it.

After two days – less than two days – my roommate decided that she had “tried” but she was “overwhelmed” by the new dogs (who couldn’t be sweeter and who were getting along great with our other two) and as I write this she is taking them to someone else.

And trust me, I’m recording all the emotions and their physical sensations – the writer in me can’t help it. They’ll end up in a novel someday. (Probably not a current one, but there’s always a plot bunny to be found.)

But right now I can’t quit crying (it’s hell to type through tears) and I hate crying. All crying does is give me a headache. And makes my face hurt.

So this isn’t really a blog post but you all can pretend, right?

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Increasing Count

I spent most of yesterday in a car getting lost on a road trip to Ohio.  (I don’t know what Google Maps was tripping on when it gave me directions but it sure wasn’t PA and OH roads, that’s for sure.)

So word count didn’t go up, but body count did.

No, I didn’t kill my roommate.

Nope.

We were taking the dogs to a pound in Ohio. (We live in Western Pennsylvania.)

And, no, we weren’t dropping our dogs off there. Jazzy and Riley came from a shelter and have a forever home with us.

Nope, we were going there to meet Laverne and Shirley.

They are 10 year old sisters that I learned about via a boxer rescue group on Face Book (Boxer Rescue of America).   They were surrendered by their elderly owner because she was no longer able to care for them. Laverne is the fawn (on the right) and Shirley is the brindle.

The meet and greet went very well. None of the dogs showed any sign of aggression – not one hackle was raised, no flattened ears, no growls or snarls or baring of teeth, not even a guarded look. A lot of sniffing and going about their business. No cowering in submission from anyone, either.

So, we’re going to back on Saturday (sans dogs) to bring them home with us. (Laverne and Shirley are getting some blood work done this week.)

That’s going to give us four wiggle butts.  Two humans = four hands. Four dogs = one for each hand.

(My roommate wasn’t too sure about adding to the family, but Shirley kissed up to her and now has her wrapped around her little cigar butt tail. Literally kissed up to her.  She did the “Boxer Lean” and slobbered big wet sloppy kisses all over her face and Sue said, “They have to come home.”)

Anyhow, since I’m about nine thousand words behind where I need to be today, and since I’m probably losing most if not all of Saturday (and the days that follow as I help the two new additions settle into their new home) I had really better get myself focused on increasing word count.

And I will.

Right after supper.

 

 

 

 

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Unhappy Camper

Well, this hasn’t been going according to plan.

And by “this” I mean “Camp NaNoWriMo” of course.

And by “plan” I mean at least one thousand words a day.

It’s day three and as I write this I have written less than a thousand words.

What happened?

I wish I knew.

Saturday I had every intention (Yeah, yeah, the road to Hell is well-paved. I know) of writing three thousand words.  I managed a little over seven hundred.  (Soraine is being a very uncooperative pirate captain and is trying to do some sort of odd heroic thing that is going to completely mess up other stuff… But maybe I should just scrap the other stuff and let her go and do it.  But anyhow, I digress.)

I did have one hellacious headache all day, though, which didn’t help.

So, Saturday was a bust.

Sunday was even worse – I managed to scrounge up another two hundred words or so, despite the headache that staggered in from Saturday.

And so far today hasn’t been very productive either. I was running errands for a large part of the day, though, so at least I know where some of the time went, unlike the two previous days.

But still… How did I get this far behind already?

I think maybe part of it was the departure from what I had planned. I’m fighting against the natural flow of the characters and story, trying to force it into what I had planned.

Or maybe it’s that I didn’t really have a whole lot planned for this scene, but when it made a 90 degree turn from my expectations I still insisted that it needed to follow along my non-existent planned route.

Either way it seems that the problem is my reluctance to give up control and go with the flow. (Maybe because what I’m writing is an extra scene to a more or less completed (a beta reader wanted more added) novel that I’m trying to finish up?)

At any rate, the solution now seems clear.  Strike through a lot of what I have written (don’t want to lose the word count) and start fresh, letting the characters lead the way.

On Friday I’ll let you know how that works out.

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Still Trying

Anyone and everyone who knows me knows a few things about me:

I love lists.
I love “things to put things in.” (My tote bag collection is not up for discussion.)
I am totally addicted to office supply things. (I can’t wait for “Back to School” sales to start.)
I am an expert avoider of housework.
I will, someday, find the perfect way to organize everything.
(And by “everything” I mean craft stuff. And that includes writing stuff, especially plot bunnies.)

Followers of this blog have been subjected to bouts of enthusiasm about a variety of organizational methods:

A photo album that is just about perfect for holding index cards
3×5 index cards divided by genre and by status (how far along they are)
a bullet journal devoted just to writing
a traveler’s notebook devoted just to writing

And probably a few others.

The latest brilliant idea involves page protectors.

The idea is to put labels on them with the project name, put them in a three ring binder in alphabetical order, and drop notes into the sheet protector as I get ideas. I think that might work for the stuff that’s not well developed yet, and for stuff that’s sort of on the back burner.

(Like Hedge House, for instance, because I got a great idea for a scene to put in it and since it’s not being actively worked on at the moment I would love to have a place to put it for safe keeping.)

The sheet protector idea actually started as a way to organize stuff for paper crafts. I thought that they might be a good way to organize stickers. Or at least store them and keep them all in one place.

Now if I can just find my sheet protectors.

And white sticky labels.

 

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Bad Idea

Guess what I did on my days off?

Nothing all that productive (other than planting the grapevine my roommate bought to replace the one the neighbor destroyed).

Nope.

Mostly I read. I’m telling you, that Kindle app on my phone is the death of productivity. Of course, it was also much cooler downstairs than it was up in my room. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Now, reading in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. After all, when you’re not writing or re-writing you should be reading.

But…

But for some reason I started thinking about one of the stories in my “Novels I’m Ignoring” folder so I opened it up and re-read it.  It’s Hedge House and was my 2015 NaNoWriMo novel.

And you know what? It’s not too bad for a first draft. If you overlook all the typos (I fixed a bunch) and the notes that I left for myself, it’s really pretty good plot and character wise.

It’s not finished, though. I haven’t had the big final fight and wrapped up stuff, and I’m not even sure I’m to that point with it yet. I do know that I shouldn’t have read it because now I want to get back to work on it, but there’s so much else I should be focusing on.

Maybe it would be all right to start a spiral bound notebook for it of things to check on, threads I don’t want to let drop, etc… That’s not really working on it, is it?

Anyhow, lesson learned:

Don’t re-read old WiPs unless you intend to go back to work on them right that minute.

And I still have no idea what I’m doing for Camp in two weeks, but having re-read Hedge House I now have one more option to try to sort through.

I still have two weeks to decide, right?

Meanwhile, someone keep me from re-reading any more old WiPs or I’ll never be able to decide.

 

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Reasons, Excuses, and Other Dodges

So I was laying in bed this morning trying to make myself get up and get my day started and thinking that it was too hot to move. (For those don’t know me, I hate the heat and it was already about 80F and the fan wasn’t helping much.)

And then I was thinking about how much the heat drains me and how I don’t feel like doing much of anything, including writing, and then I wondered if that was a reason or an excuse.

I decided that it was an excuse and that excuses were a good topic for a blog post.

(Hey, it’s better than my original thought of comparing writing a novel to gardening – I’m saving that gem for another day.)

So then I started thinking about a form I have somewhere about excuses and believe it or not I found it on my computer.

It’s from my days as a Municipal Liaison for NaNoWriMo and it’s called “Resistance vs. Life Happens: How to Tell the Difference.”  I don’t know who created it (and the URL given at the bottom apparently doesn’t work anymore) but it was passed freely so I’m going to try to share it in the blog post.

And then I’m going to use it.

Of course, first I’m going to have to set up scheduled writing times because it’s based on “Broken Writing Dates” and forces you to look at why you stood yourself up.  Then it asks you to identify themes and form a plan of correction and start the process all over.

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Resistance vs. Life Happens: How to Tell the Difference

Fill in the following information over the course of several weeks to a few months depending on the frequency of how often you miss your scheduled writing time. (Make additional copies as necessary.) Identify any themes that become obvious. Address those specifically and aggressively. Are you allowing any distraction to come between you and your work or are there specific problems that can be easily remedied? For example, turning the phone off, finding childcare etc. If you find that every time is a different reason, then you will need to be more proactive in protecting your writing time and space by asking for and receiving help from family and friends. Answer the questions at the end and develop an action plan.

Broken Writing Date

Date scheduled:
Time scheduled:
Location:
Did instead:
Other people present:
What else was going on at the time?
Thoughts that were going through my head at the time:
Emotions felt immediately before scheduled writing time:
Emotions felt immediately after missing scheduled writing time:
Identification of themes:  ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Action plan to address missed appointments:

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

 

Action-oriented replacement thoughts to deal with emotional aspects if present:

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

 

After implementation of the action plan, have you missed fewer writing appointments?

_____ YES _____ NO

If not, have the themes changed?

_____ YES _____ NO

If so, what is your new action plan?

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

 

Based on questions developed for a critique group at A Ream of Writers (http://areamofwriters.freeforums.org/index.php). These questions were inspired by Chapter 14 in Kelly L. Stone’s book Time to Write © 2008.

 

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If anyone knows the originator of the above, please let me know so I can ask permission to post it here.  I know it was made available to MLs to share with their regions, so I’m hoping it’s all right to share here.

 

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De-Stressed

Well, somewhat.

I had an appointment with a cardiologist yesterday and he cleared me – no stress test needed.  Happy happy happy day!

The countdown has begun – only 16 more shifts at my current job. Just having made up my mind to not go with the new company has relieved most of my stress. Now if my doctor would just get back to me with when I can pick up my physical form…

And with the stress starting to fade away my energy has started to come back.

Yesterday I planted some tree lily bulbs, Dutch iris bulbs, and some other kind of bulbs that my mother thinks are some kind of lily. I also planted some chocolate mint and regular mint.

This gives me hope that my will to write will come back soon too, so I can do something about these plot bunnies that are nibbling away at my mind.

Meanwhile, I still have other stuff to plant, and some columbine to pry out from between the bricks in the retaining wall and transplant to my garden.

And lots of other craft stuff to keep me occupied.  (Not to mention the Kindle app on my phone.)

And I only have three weeks to decide what I’m doing for Camp. I should work on Onyx Sun or the Elven Bard novel.  But doing one thousand words for 31 different plot bunnies sounds like fun too.  And then there’s the werewolf thing that’s preying on the edges of my mind. It has some characters (without names) and a scene or two, but no real plot. Of course, I have 3 weeks to flesh it out. But I should work on Onyx Sun or the Elven Bard novel…

I hate being undecided.

Or, rather, I hate being decided on too many things – I want to write them all! Right now!

Sadly, I have to go to work.

Sixteen more shifts.

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