My daughter’s ELA class, formally known as English to us old folks, does an exercise on Thursdays called “Drop and give me 20.” The teacher puts a writing prompt on board and the kids write for twenty minutes. This is my daughter’s favorite part of class. She’s ten going on 40, so you never know what she will come up with. She loves to write and draw. I can see great things in her future.
When I was in high school I took a creative writing class, and we did the same thing, We had writing prompts. I always came up with some totally off the wall stories for my assignments. We were assigned a picnic scene, I wrote about ants. We were to write about a dark room. I wrote a ghost story with a twist. I couldn’t write a normal story. My teacher loved them.
but it was getting longer that I had intended, and I needed to finish. I apologized to my group for being so wordy, but I was told not to apologize. When the muse hits you gotta run with it. The story went over well. Everyone loved it, but the most important thing is that I loved writing it. It was so much fun.
I forgot a major item from my last evolutionary update. Fear. Yep, fear is a big item for me. Fear of success. Fear of failure. Fear of not having anymore stories in me. It’s all there ready to trip me up at a moments notice.
I remember the day I published Fat Farm. I had originally done the story as an e-book. I sat at the table with my laptop and stared at the screen wishing my hand would move on its own and push the “publish” button. I had butterflies in my stomach and I wasn’t sure what to do. I took a deep breath and pushed that button. I think I had an anxiety attack that lasted a week.
Did the fear go away? Hello no. I decided to do the book as a print-on demand as well. I felt the fear, anxiety, butterflies, and a bit of nausea when I pushed that button. The same when I did my give-away in June. I sat and stared at that button before I moved my mouse over it and pressed “OK.”
I’m working on my new book, The Insignificant Amy Dodd, and every time I send pages to my critique group, I’m anxious. I know that when I send it to an editor I will feel physically ill. And I know when I press that “publish” button the next time, butterflies and nausea will right there.
Sometimes I think there is a fear of what we, or should I say I, write. We had an exercise in my writing group and the subject was betrayal. I didn’t want to write about being betrayed by lovers, friends and family. I wanted to write something different. An idea came to me and I wrote my piece. I was afraid to read it to the group. What would they think? Would it offend anyone? I like these people. I didn’t want to offend anyone. I didn’t need to worry. I don’t know if everyone liked it, but I got feedback on what to improve. No judgement on anything else.
I’ve wanted to post the piece on my blog for a while. I think it’s a good piece. I like it. I think it’s worth sharing, but as with the group, I am afraid. What if someone got mad. What if…What if… I’ve decided that I can’t worry about the “what if’s” anymore. There’s a reason a story needs to be told and I can’t worry about offending anyone. Not everyone is going to like it. Not everyone liked Fat Farm. Not everyone is going to like The Insignificant Amy Dodd and that’s okay. So, this is now my “No Fear Zone.” Am I still going to be afraid? Probably. Am I going to let it hold me back on what I write and publish? No it’s not. So the first step is to post my piece. If you would like to read Betrayal, then read on.
Be fearless in your writing. I know I am.
Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is one of my favorite books. It’s a dystopian tale where books are banned and firefighters burn books instead of put out fires. It is a complex, socially profound piece of work. It was written during the McCarthy Era when Americans were questioned and accused of being communists. It was a terrible time in our history. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. Where am I going with this? Be true to yourself in your creations.
Mr. Bradbury wrote a story that was harsh, sad, and really didn’t have a “happily ever after” ending and it’s okay. It was the right ending. Fat Farm is another dystopian tale that doesn’t have a “happily ever after” ending, but it has the right ending for that story. Am I comparing my work to Ray Bradbury’s? Certainly not. So what does this have to do with my evolution? Write what is right.
I learned a very important lesson on my journey to become a good writer. Don’t be afraid of your story. My current project, The Insignificant Amy Dodd, is a hard story to write. I want it to be good. Actually, I want it to be extraordinary. I know what my expectations of the story are, but can I reach them? Did I set the bar to high? I belong to a wonderful critique/writing group. We get together every Saturday to hone our craft, and on Tuesdays to critique our projects. The critiques of my work have been extremely helpful and thought provoking, and will help this story be the best it can be. So, what have I learned from my wonderful group of friends?
- Don’t protect your characters. Let them live in your story. My current project involves a character who is being bullied. My friends brought to my attention that I might be protecting her. I thought, really? But once I thought about it, I was. I don’t want her to get hurt, but this is a redemption story and she has to rise above the pain. I see some major rewrites in my future, but it will make the story so much better.
- Give yourself permission to write. I thought I was doing that, but I realized maybe not. I have two children and am a stay-at-home mom. I have a lot on my plate. I grab time to write instead of taking the time to write.I’m learning to tune out my children and just write. My children are 10 and 11, so they don’t have to be micromanaged at this point. And school starts in two weeks. Yay!
- It’s okay to write a crappy first draft. This is probably the most important lesson. I want my story to be perfect the first go-around. It’s not and I’m going to have to face that. I’m a perfectionists in many areas of my life. (I wish housekeeping was on of them.) I want to be perfect the first time I try anything, It has taken me a long time to realize it’s not going to happen, but it is something I struggle with every day. So, I will write my crappy first draft, have my friends critique it, and make it a great story.
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Have you ever wondered what would happen if the voices in your head became real? I’m not talking about schizophrenia. I’m talking about “self talk.” You know when you do something stupid, and you say to yourself, “Oh, you idiot,” whether out loud or in your head. Have your ever had arguments with yourself? Amy does. And sometimes they argue back.
Amarie (Amy) Dodd is a seventeen year old high school senior. She is not happy with her life. She feels as though she has no control over her world. She tries her best, but it never seems good enough. She has issues with her mother, (what teenager doesn’t) but the issues are a bit more complicated. She lost her best friend, who now bullies her, but most of all she’s fighting herself.
I am a Lay Speaker at my church and during Laity Sunday I was doing my message on how God is hardwired into us. I did a little research and found this article:
It was very interesting. These people were doing a study on singers and non-singers to see if anything in their DNA made a difference. It did. They hired a composer to take the singers’ DNA and put it to music. Then I heard the musical piece:
Wow! These people were singing their own genetic code – their DNA. I was blown away. I was fascinated. I shared this in my message and got a lot of weird looks. I don’t think it was one of my better messages. I’m such a geek.
So are we hardwired to be writers? I would like to think so. I believe we are made to be creative. When I think of all that God has created, and we are made in His image, then it stands to reason that we would be creative as well. It makes me happy to be creative.
I like music. Most music. I can appreciate rap for the poetry, but don’t really like it musically. I’m not much into country. I like some of it, but when it gets to twangy, my poor little head wants to explode. I listen to anything from Vivaldi to Linkin Park, Third Day to Squirrel Nut Zippers.I have to be careful with Berlioz. His music can give me nightmares.
I love the way music can tell a story. The rhythm and melodies take us on a journey. Some songs are happy, some sad, some angry, and some songs make you laugh. “The Motorcycle Song” by Arlo Guthrie makes me smile. My kids and I sing at the top of our lungs when I play that one. “Home” by Mercy Me makes me cry almost every time I hear it. That song reminds me of my father, who passed away several years ago.
Isn’t that what we writers do? Don’t we take our readers on a journey? Our words are the rhythms and melodies of a song. Our stories weave through our readers’ imagination like the crescendos and decrescendos of a musical piece. The percussion and crash of symbols during a tense scene that comes to an end. The soft, gentle lyrics encouraging our readers to continue with our hero or heroine, and cheer them on until the very end. To the fermata that holds out that final note as our story comes to a close. We hope our readers feel satisfied at the end of our piece; happy with their journey and want to go again. Isn’t that our goal as a writer? I know that is mine.
When I joined the choir at church several years ago, I entertained the thought I could sing. Well I can sing, as long as I have someone next to me singing the correct note.I can read music, but I don’t know what the notes sound like off the top of my head. If I’m singing and the note goes up or down a step or half step, I may go to high or to low. I was disappointed in myself because I couldn’t do it. One evening after practice I was feeling a bit sorry for myself and these words flowed into my head.
I have trouble sleeping. Sometimes it’s God trying to get my attention, because that’s when everything is quiet in my house. Sometimes it’s just the worries of the day. You know things like kids, money, husband, money, laundry, money…you get the idea. Other times it’s story ideas. Sometimes I have scenes from a story that I’m working on and need to fix. Sometimes I have conversations in my head with my characters. (Yes, I’m sane. I promise, although my mother never had me tested.) Sometimes it’s just scenes and snippets that I need to write down and save for later. Hence, the paper and pencil I always have beside my bed. I have to be very careful. If someone says something like, “You should so totally write about this…,” and it piques my interest, I’m in for one long night.
That’s kind of what happened Monday night. We were out of town for the weekend to spend Easter with my in-laws. The family has a mini-family reunion with an Easter egg hunt for the kids. After the eggs have been found, we sit around converse, eat boiled eggs and junk food. It’s loads of fun, except when your daughter gets car sick on the way home. You get the picture.
So this particular weekend I missed my writers group meeting. I knew the creative exercise was to write a conflict scene. That particular thought ran through my mind and subconscious all weekend. I had pen and paper with me, so if anything came to mind I could write it down. We came home Sunday evening. It was too busy to do anything but get unpacked, and the kids ready for school Monday morning. So Sunday night I slept, but Monday night is another story….here’s the result.
I’ve been thinking about this topic for a while now. I’ve tried to write this entry for about two weeks. I just couldn’t seem to find the words for what I wanted to say. Kind of ironic don’t ya think. I still don’t have the words I want, but it’s time to write down my thoughts and feelings about this whole topic.
I’ve read other blogs and they are really, really, good. They are full of great information for writers and I have started following two of them. I’ve never followed a blogger before, but these two really spoke to me in their delivery of information. One is http://www.theloneliestplanet.com/. Randy Ross and good information on marketing and is a fun read. The other is http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/. I read Kristen Lamb’s post on editing and found it to be helpful and inspiring. I would love to have a lovely blog like these, but I’m not there yet. I’m still learning.
Back in January I decided to be more intentional about my writing. I joined a writers group. They are a bunch of amazing people. I look forward to Saturday evenings when we meet, write, and converse. In the short time I’ve been with the group, I’ve learned so much. I look at the group as kind of like on-the-job training. I’m uncomfortable sharing my writing with the group, but how do you learn if you don’t share? The critiques and suggestions have been positive and helpful. The exercises we do are sometimes difficult because we write outside our genre and comfort zone. I feel like I grow into a better writer every time I participate.
I always thought I wanted to write my stories, put them out into the world and everything would be fine. I realized that I have to find people to read them, and that means I have to market them. I don’t know how to do that. Kayelle Allen ((http://www.kayelleallen.com/) is an award winning romance writer. She is one of the founders of my group. Kayelle has helped me so much with the world of marketing. I’ve started wading into the this interesting and time consuming world. Sometimes I feel I work harder on the marketing than I do on my stories, but it has to be done. So now I have some of my marketing tools, a website, a twitter account, and a Facebook Author page. I’m trying to get on Goodreads. I did find my book in their database, so I decided to try their Author program. I hope to hear back from them soon.
Sometimes we think it’s glamorous and romantic being a “writer.” We watch “Castle” on television and rarely do we see him write, but he is having a lot of fun hanging out with the police department. He sometimes plays poker with his writer buddies. He is a wealthy. Has this great apartment, a house in the Hamptons and cool toys. He writes best sellers, has an agent and a publisher. Granted he is a fictional character, but isn’t that we aspire to be? A writer on the New York Times Best Seller list?
Don’t get me wrong, I love the show. I love it because of the characters and the stories. I love it because of the writing. The show normally tells a good story. And that’s what I want. To tell good story.
I don’t need to be famous. I wouldn’t mind being wealthy. I wouldn’t even mind being on the Best Seller list, but what is most important is telling a good story. Being a writer is hard. It’s not glamorous. I sit at my computer and fill digital pages with words, hoping the words will spark the imagination of the reader and take them on a journey. It is lonely, frustrating, mind-boggling, hard work. But I love it. I love going on adventures with my characters. My characters get to do things I probably would never do, or get to do. Writing them takes me away to places I hope my readers get to experience. That in itself tends to blow my mind.
Evolution. As a writer I’m constantly learning and evolving. I learn from everyone and everything around me. I’m learning how I work best. Right now, I’m at my kitchen table writing this because I just can’t seem to get to my office. Life tends to get in the way. “Improvise, adapt and overcome” should be a motto of a writer. We improvise when things get tough, we adapt to the situations we’re given, and we overcome any plot problems that may arise. I am evolving as a writer. I will continue to evolve as I learn and grow and maybe one day…one day I’ll be on that best seller list.
Stuff. I like stuff. Stuff can be fun. Stuff can be cluttering. So what stuff am I talking about? Writing stuff. I now have my author Facebook page. I now have a Twitter account, and I now have a website. What other stuff do I need. I need a good story.
I’m not liking how Pete and Virgil is coming along. I’m now sure why. It doesn’t seem fun. Of course, the adventure they are having is not really fun, but I thought there would be more comedy in the story. I want more comedy in the story. It’s just not there yet. I’m going to finish it, set it aside for a bit, and look at it again. I did that with Fat Farm. I started that story 20 different times in 20 different ways before I liked what I wrote. The whiney baby in me wants it to be right, right now. It’s going to take work and then I’ll like it.
I kind of want to work on Simon and the Sweet Pea Root now instead of Pete and Virgil. I have the original hard copy with all the edits and I’m transferring it onto my computer. I’m making even more changes as I go. I work on Pete and Virgil for a while, then I type some of Simon. Maybe they will both be ready at the same time. We’ll see.
See my head is cluttered with stuff! There are so many stories to tell that it is hard to focus on one. I can’t sleep at night because stories are floating around in my head. It’s great and awful at the same time. It seem that since I made the decision to be more focused on my writing and be more disciplined the stories are just pouring out. I just can’t type fast enough to get them all down. So for now, I’m telling my brain the stories will be told. All in good time.