Monday, December 29, 2008

Roll-Over Dreams

Today's Mood: Content. Today's Music: Lifehouse. Today's Writing: Finished 3rd (or 53rd probably, but 3rd round now) revision of Part II BD. Yeah! Today's Quote:
You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. -Jack London.

*******
Sigh. What a lovely day! Sunlight, shopping for creative stuff, Steak-n-Shake lunch including a Mocha Malt (with whip cream and a cherry!), and writing--lots of writing. In fact, I finished this rewrite of Part II. I am so psyched! One more revision of Part III, then a run-through edit of the whole thing and it is ready to go out into the big, bad world again. One word at a time, I'm getting there.

Of course, I can never come out of a bookstore without buying a book. In this case, it was a really cool one called Idea Log. It is divided into five sections: idea log(alphabetized), project log (for when I act on my ideas), sketch log (I'm excited to use this for art ideas), quotation log, and fantasy log. The fantasy log is funny--it even has a feasibility rating scale!

Between the writing and buying craft stuff for making cards (PW cards, I hope!), I'm brimming with creativity today. And I had a phone conversation with another PW writer about setting up a morning writing schedule. I have to admit, it is one thing I miss during the holiday breaks. But still, I managed to get some writing done. Not as much as when I stick to my schedule. I am a firm believer in having a set-don't-mess-with-me writing time. There is no way I'd get as much written if I didn't. Although, I have to say, I hate mornings. A necessary evil in the working world.

The other day my friend pointed out that our goals for 2008--for me, the goal was to get something accepted for publication--didn't work out so well. I told her it was okay; they were roll-over hopes and dreams, so they'll work fine for 2009. What about you? New goals? Roll-overs?


Monday, December 22, 2008

Glorious Vacation

Today's Mood: Happy. Today's Music: A Windham Christmas (new CD from Gloria) Today's Writing: Finished this revision of Part III Black Dragon (Glory Be!) Today's Quote:
*******
I think too much. (Huge surprise to you all, isn't it?) It took me waaaaay too long to finish revising the last few chapters. Over the weekend I'd boot up the computer, open the BD file, stare at it, maybe switch (add or delete) a few words, then shut down. I'm having a hard time settling--being quiet enough to hear what I need to write/change. Some of it is the time of year because there are all these parties to plan for, shopping to do, and shoveling. Lots and lots of shoveling. And I suppose, truth be told, part of it is that I can't quite decide how to end it. In a way, it seems too fast--like maybe I should put more detail, more chapters. Yet why drag it out?

Today I went over to Gloria's to write. After a lot of eating, we finally did settle down to write. At one point I must have made a frustrated noise (probably get that from my dad--it sounds a bit like someone did the Heimlich maneuver on me), because Gloria asked what was up. I told her I didn't know if I liked the ending. And after talking about it a bit (and reading some of it out loud) she suggested ending the novel in a different spot. I had never thought about ending it there. I have to say, I think it might work. Always nice to get a new perspective. That's part of what I like about getting together and writing with other writers. Not that we actually work on the same piece of writing, but just having them there to talk to, ask questions, or look so diligent that it makes me feel guilty enough to be diligent too.

My self-imposed deadline of the end of December is looming impossibly close. I don't think I'll make it, but I intent to get through the next (umpteenth) revision on Part II at least. Who knows, maybe I can finish it all by the end of January.

What about you all? Any deadlines--self-imposed or otherwise imposed? Do you (like me) feel the need to set deadlines--or at least set some sort of goal?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Back from my Facebook fling

Today's Mood: Busy but good. Today's Music: Maroon 5. Today's Writing: Black Dragon second to last chapter. Agonizing. Today's Quote:
"Don't wait. If you want to be a writer, you have to write. All the time. Day in, day out. It's as simple as that." -Dorianne Laux, "Writing from a lived life," Writer's Digest, Feb. 09

*******
I know, I know, it's been forever. I have been writing--although, not as much as I'd like. Life is getting in the way. But it does go on, and lo and behold, word by word does get it done (albeit slowly). These last few chapters are killing me. First I worried that events seemed too coincidental, now I'm worried that I am rushing the denouement/conclusion. Face it, between the economy, the season, and my writing, I embody worried!

And, as if I didn't have enough to do in my life, someone sends me an email message saying that they put a picture of me on Facebook. What picture, is my first question. (Not that there are any sleaze shots of me out there floating around, but there could be some seriously ugly pictures of me out there.) My second question is What the heck is she putting pictures of me out on the web for anyway?! So of course I have to go check it out. And you can't see it unless you create a profile on Facebook. Yeah, I need another thing to update and check--cause I do so well keeping up on this blog.

But worry drives me to do horrific things, so I created a profile. And I was right to worry, the picture is scary. Writing for hours on end does great things for my soul but isn't so hot for my outer appearance. Oh well, I've seen worse pictures of me. I log off to go do laundry and slave-drive kids into doing their homework and cook dinner and.... the list goes on.

The next day when I check my email, there are 4 messages saying people have asked to be my friend. I felt a momentary thrill, as if I'd been transported back to high school and was suddenly popular. But then I realized all these people are already my friends! Nevertheless, I confirmed the friendships (which is just a matter of clicking confirm and nothing like exchanging gifts or spending time or making out or anything like that) and went on to check my profile.

The following day I logged into facebook to check what everyone was doing, and then I tried to think of something clever to put up on my wall. As usual, whenever I try to come up with something clever, my brain turns a drab gray and starts to shrivel. In the end, I decided I'm not the right sort of person to have a Facebook profile. I don't do witty, I can't handle looking good enough to live in a fishbowl, and I just don't have time.

Now that my fling with Facebook is done, I have grand hopes of posting more frequently--and finishing this round of revision by the end of the week!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Partially Addicted

Today's Mood: Relaxed (as much as I can be with a head cold) Today's Music: Marisa is singing upstairs, but that's it. Today's Writing: this and emails (although I did stay up writing til midnight last night) Today's Quote:
In Steven King's book "On Writing" (one of the selections of the shortlived YesAnd book club of years back), he says you should never use an adverb. If you stumble across one, rewrite the sentence. -Greg Wymer
*******
What is your opinion of adverbs? A necessary evil? Descriptive writing? Death to all ly words? As you may--or may not--know, I've been deep in revision of Black Dragon. Working one on one with another writer has been very educational. I slave over a section until I can't tighten it any more, and then I get it back from my wonderful writing mentor and--lo and behold!--her comments make it sooooo much tighter and better. The last section she gave back with the words, "This section was tight." I looked it over the next morning and found that she lied. It had blue ink all over it, and, as usual, her suggestions made it much better.

Since the first step to conquering an addiction is admitting that one has a problem, I'm here to tell you, I have a problem. I am addicted to ly words. My characters smile slightly, shrug half-heartedly, and wish desperately. Sometime I just can't figure out how to say the same thing without using an adverb. I mean, sometimes I can change the verb and have it mean the same thing--but not always. There are times where I just can't find a verb that means quite the same thing.

However, I've been going through the three step revision program, and now I'm proud to say it's been three days since I've used an ly modifier. My characters give lopsided smiles, shrug one-shoulder, and pray.

Hopefully I don't fall off the band-wagon. : )

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

One way or another

Today's Mood: Scattered. Today's Music: Matchbox 20--Mad Season. Today's Writing: Revising chapter 50, 51 of BD. Today's Quote:
*******
I blame it on the snow. Here I am, hoping for a snow day, and what do I get? Extra early writing time! We lost power last night, but no problem, my travel alarm clock was right in the bedside drawer. I set the alarm and went back to sleep. Until my daughter called for me. The house was too quiet. Not much I could do about that--other than sing. She decided quiet was preferable. My alarm rang at 5:40 and five minutes later, the power came back on. Later, I was mixing up my cappuccino while I waited for my car to de-ice itself. I happened to glance at the battery-operated clock in the kitchen. 5:30. Hmm. That wasn't right. I went and checked my cell phone. 5:30 a.m. Holy cows! I got up at 4:45! Well, that's one way to get some extra writing time.

It was good. Really good. I had the extra time needed to dig in and get some good writing done. But there is no way in hell I'm getting up that early tomorrow! In fact, I'm hoping for a snow day.


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Commitment

Today's Mood: Relaxed- Well, as much as I ever am. Today's Music: Love is Blindness by U2 (at the moment) Today's Writing: Revising Chapter 44 of BD. Today's Quote:

Passion is the quickest to develop, and the quickest to fade. Intimacy develops more slowly, and commitment more gradually still. Robert Sternberg
*******

Yesterday was my husband's birthday, as well as the second Monday of the month--which is when my writing group meets. I attended the meeting. Now, before you all think I'm a horribly callous wife, let it be known that my husband didn't mind since he prefers not to make a big deal of getting another year older. (I keep reminding him that the alternative is grim.) I bring this up simply to illustrate the fact that I believe writing groups are a commitment.

It was an interesting meeting. All of us showed up, and we even had a new (prospective) member at the meeting. She wanted to get a feel for us, and we wanted to do likewise. She seemed to fit in right away with her fun sense of humor, and good listening and conversation skills. She expressed the desire to make writing more a part of her life than it has been so far. Then one of the other members talked about how she hasn't written much lately and how she hoped to come away from group inspired. All good. To me, writing groups should meet both of those needs--helping me to focus on my writing, and inspiring me with good writing and good feedback.

Therefore it was interesting to me that neither of those women wanted to read the piece they had brought to share. "This is just something old. It's really too personal," the one explained. "The piece I brought was written to read aloud to a large group. It doesn't work well as a written piece," said the other.

Now, I have to admit that I am not the most tactful person in the world (shock!). So in my usual style I challenged them. "Come on! You just told us you wanted to make writing a focus in your life, and you wanted to be inspired, and now I hear slackers and whiners." Okay yeah, not tactful in the slightest. Hopefully I didn't scare this wonderful new woman away from the group.

The good news is that I bullied them into reading their writing. Well, it was good for me. It was inspiring for me. Whether it was good for them--I'm not sure, and I'm sorry that I was so harsh. But the writing shared was well-written, luminous, full of images and language and ideas that made me think.

And the evening has stayed with me. On the way home last night, during the night, on the drive to work this morning. Was I right to call them out? If you are a part of a writing group, do you owe that group something? What? If you are new, and checking out a group, do you owe them the chance to hear your writing as well as the chance to check out theirs? What are you committing to when you join a group? Just showing up? Showing up with something to share?

Life happens. I know that. There are times when it is impossible to come--illness, family, deadlines, work. I have missed a few times due to kids conferences, concerts, illnesses. Once in a while it might be impossible to bring a piece of writing. ... Okay, so I can't think of examples for this one, but I'm sure there are some. The point is, stuff happens. (and lots of times that stuff is shit--but that's another post) But if you have showed up, and even brought something you must have at least considered sharing, then isn't it just your gremlins causing you to not share? Your fear that it won't be "good" enough?

Maybe the answers to my questions depend on what type of writer you are: recreational, professional, obsessive, or maybe even just grimly determined like me. Do you belong to a writing group? If so, what part does it play in your life? Are there any expectations within your group? Or is all this just me being obsessive?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Breaking Points

Today's Mood: Industrious. Today's Music: U2--Zoo Station at the moment. Today's Writing: Finished up rewrite of Part I Black Dragon. Today's Quote:
"So many of us use writing as a way to keep ourselves down, limited, stuck."
-Heather Sellers in Page after Page.

*******
Breaking points could refer to many things when it comes to writing, but I'm struggling with how to divide my writing into chapters. Poets must deal with the same issue except on the micro-scale of line breaks. So how does a writer decide on the organization of a piece? Are structure and organization the same thing?

I know that I want Black Dragon to be a novel--although I have tossed around the idea of a graphic novel which would entail different organization of the material. So maybe that answers my question. Maybe structure and organization are linked, but not synonymous.

Black Dragon divides the content into chapters based on scenes. Each new scene is a new chapter. The chapters, however, are arranged/titled according to date. I suppose it is diary-like in a way. Some days have so many different scenes that it takes a number of chapters to cover that day. This could be confusing to a read. But if I lump all the events under one chapter (ie. Chapter Twelve--January 26--Friday), then it is an 18 page chapter, whereas some other chapters are only 3 pages. Does this matter?

If the organization of the material is all about clarity, then I should stick with one chapter per day, even if it makes the chapters uneven in length. However, as a librarian/teacher, I realise that chapter length is important to readability as well. Kids tend to like shorter chapters because they seem to be easier to read.

Of course, at some point it might not even be worth me worrying about this issue. Maybe an editor makes that decision and the author has nothing to do with it. It's not like poetry where the line break can change the meaning. The story remains the same--it is the impact that changes. Which is still a big deal, but shouldn't be a deal breaker.

Anyway, that's what I'm stressing over at the moment--well, along with a myriad of other things. One of those being the teachers memoir workshop tomorrow. I'm to talk about the importance of mentor texts. I've had fun looking through various writing books--especially Page after Page and Chapter after Chapter by Heather Sellers. Good stuff.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Attack of the gremlins

Today's Mood: Frustrated. Today's Music: Lucia Micarelli--Music from a Farther Room. Today's Writing: Revising the revision of Black Dragon Part I. Today's Quote:
Don't give up. Never give up. -don't know if anyone else said it, but I'm saying it now.
*******
I was in a funk over the weekend--you know, the usual, I suck at everything kind of mental punk that hangs like dank, dark smoke around my spirit. Why was I in a such a state? Who knows. Maybe the weather. Maybe the MEAP testing. Maybe I didn't get enough sleep. Maybe it's George W. Bush's fault. Or maybe, just maybe, it has to do with my art not being picked at the show, and my copy of Black Dragon coming back with lots of ink on it.

Don't get me wrong, the ink was dead on, made the story clearer, more succinct. In fact, I look at what my lovely writing mentor did with it, and I think, why didn't I see that? Who am I kidding, thinking I'm a good writer? These people are my friends, none of them would tell me that I'm just not good enough to be published. But I'm not. Look, she should be writing this. I should just tell her my idea and have her write it--it would be better than I could ever write it.

And so it goes, on and on with the whining, the self-doubt, the gray punk that bogs me down, giving me a headache, making me tired, and causing me to be crabby with the kids. My husband tried--he assured me I had talent, he listened, he even scolded me for over-reacting, but it didn't help. I went to bed.

The next day it occurred to me that there is NO WAY this wonderful, busy woman would spend so much time, painstakingly reading my manuscript (yet again) if she didn't believe it had some worth. After all, I wasn't even paying her! And hey, look at how much I was learning! Maybe I'd avoid some of those pitfalls (starting too many sentences with the word "but." I really like but(t)s!), and the last section would be better.

In the meantime, I'll get back to work on the first section, making those changes, making the story clearer, better, truer.

What do you do when you get in a funk? Or how do you keep the gremlins away from you? What's the worst attack of the "I'm no good at this" that you've ever had? Or are you like, not human, and have no idea what I'm talking about?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Plugging Away

Today's Mood: Tired. Today's Music: Sarah McLachlan at the moment. Today's Writing: revising Black Dragon. Today's Quote:
"I always write a good first line, but I have trouble in writing the others."
-Moliere, in Les Precieuses Ridicules

*******
Plugging away, every day getting closer to the end. Some days I can almost taste it, and it drives me to get up, reject hitting the snooze, resist the pull of sleep, all to got sit in front of a monitor and rearrange words, add, delete words. Other days, like today when I'm tired, I have to drag myself out of bed. And yet, when I sit in front of my laptop, a certain kind of magic happens, and the story takes over, the words are there to be tinkered with, crafted, chiseled away, sculpted, woven together to create a web, a yarn, a magic of their own. And on it goes, day after day.

I counted up, only six more days until I finished Part II. Then it is on to Part III. I am growing confident of meeting my self-imposed goal of sending the book out again during Christmas break. I think I'll research agents this time.

How's everyone else doing? Weaving words into stunning yarns the excite, entertain, educate, and provide a depth and richness to life? Or at least chiseling out a few words that might someday be sculpted into a masterpiece?

Hope to see you Friday at the art show. Or hear from you here on the blog. Writing is a lonely affair, despite all the people involved.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Sponging

Today's Mood: Content. Today's Music: Robert Pollard Is Off To Business--Boston Spaceships. Today's Writing: Revision, Black Dragon Part II. Today's Quote:
"It's been an adventurous day. The ship floats but it won't float away." -Robert Pollard (I always thought it was "shit" not ship, but when I googled it, lots of people had it as ship. I'll have to look at the liner notes. Gotta say, I like "shit" better!)

*******
This past weekend my husband and I went to Ann Arbor to see the Boston Spaceships perform at the Blind Pig and to attend the Michigan Game. Despite Michigan's poor showing, I had an absolutely wonderful time. And I didn't even feel guilty about not writing for 3 days because I was sponging. Soaking in atmosphere, dialog, character, setting. The concert was great, the band tight and loud. I could not sit (or stand) still, my feet just kept wanting to dance. Of course, I second-handedly smoked at least 50 cigarettes, drank enough hard cider to feel very flushed (although, that's really hard to say since it had to be at least 90 degrees in there as well), and whooped and hollered enough that my husband is sure he can hear me on this YouTube Video from the concert.

Throughout the concert, dinner, walking around town, and at the game, I found myself watching people, observing their faces and gestures, listening to what they were saying and their tone of voice. I felt like I was absorbing it, so that at some later date, who knows when, I'll be able to wring it out on the page, and readers will be able to see, taste, smell, and hear it. From the tangy ginger sauce on the Mongolian Stir Fry, to the acrid stench of the cigarette smoke in my hair.

Then there was the driving around a fairly empty Ann Arbor at 2 a.m., lost, but so wound up from music and the excitement of not having to be a responsible parent, that it didn't matter that we were lost. The color of the city takes on different shades and tones at that time of the morning, the sounds are different, even the smells.

Being a fairly goal-oriented person, I have to remind myself that living is a part of writing as well. Yes, I have to put my butt in the chair and write, but yes, I have to get my butt out of the chair now and then and experience things in order to write with a passion.

Where are some of the best places you have absorbed? This summer I did some major sponging when I went to Michigan Adventure with my kids (always a wide variety of people there, plus going anywhere with my kids is a chance to soak up new experiences).

So.... go sponge. Write, live---live, write. Go. And then come back and tell us about it.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Great Expectations

Today's Mood: Tired. Today's Music: U2 at the moment. Today's Writing: Black Dragon Part II. Today's Quote:

*******
I'm lucky. On the way home from the Glen Lake Fall Conference, I get to debrief and decompress with Gloria since we ride together. We talked over the exercise we did on Saturday night--everyone had a sheet of paper on his/her back and had to go around and write on everyone else's piece of paper. Write a word (or a few words) about that person and/or that person's writing. For someone like me, who analyzes every word, expression, tone of voice, this was an intense exercise. And one that I will probably continue to over-analyze. What did someone mean when he or she wrote voluminous? I write a lot? I'm bigger than I look? We talked about words having different meanings, connotations and denotations.

This led (and I'm sure it was in a fairly round-about way because that is how conversations usually go) to a discussion about what makes a conference (or most things, for that matter) a success or a failure. We came to an agreement that often it was our expectations that made the difference. If one comes expecting to write volumes (is that what voluminous means?) and doesn't, then often the conference is felt to be a failure--even if there were absolutely wonderful discussions and insights into the writing and writing process. If our expectations are met--we had great shopping trips or we finished the story we were working on (your expectations depend on who you are)--then we go back home to the real world feeling fulfilled and successful.

So how often do we miss gold just because we are looking for rubies? And does that mean we should come with no expectations at all? Surely there has to be some sort of balance, an openness to all the wonder of the moment, and yet a focus, a direction to start out at least.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Work area

Today's Mood: Relaxed. Today's Music: Matchbox Twenty. Today's Writing: Black Dragon. Today's Quote:

Writers drive and plot. And you thought cell phones were dangerous. - bumpersticker

*******

We've talked about what we read--or at least, what we pile next to our bed (or in our relaxing area)--so let's talk about where we do our writing. What does it look like? What things are on the desk or table or floor next to your recliner? What things are on the walls? What can you hear? What do you smell? What do you have to have in order to enjoy a good writing session? And most of all, what do you think it says about what kind of a writer you are?

During the week I write in my office at school. My desk is small and solid wood. I need to have my cappuccino because it is 6:45 a.m. Music is also a must--I usually do shuffle on the music library on my computer. I have a Thesaurus next to the desk, a nail file in my desk drawer, Internet access in case I need to look something up, and notes about characters, eye colors, names, family and so on. While doing this Black Dragon revision, I leave the draft with Tricia's editing notes sitting on the desk to refer to as I go along. The room smells like orange blossoms due to the reed diffuser sitting on my filing cabinets. And I am surrounded by dragons and fairies, many, many books, a spilled cup of coffee, chocolate, and the Sorting Hat, Fawkes, and Time Traveler--all replicas from the Harry Potter books.

I love my Brazilian Cherry desk at home, although I don't use it to write except for during the summer or during school breaks. It smells like kitty litter with the faint hint of Bounce, since my desk is between the cat's litter pans and the washer and dryer. If I'm writing for an extended period--say, I send the kids to daycare for the day--then I light my cinnamon candle. Tea or cappuccino is important for comfort (and diversion when I get stuck) as well as warmth since the basement gets cold. To my left I have my CDs, many writing books, and folders with all my writing stuff. My desk itself has all these great little cubbies that I can (and do) fill with all sorts of things.

My work area and habits probably show that I'm only a part-time writer. And that I'm definitely a multi-tasker. I'd like to think that my work space shows my artistic, eclectic, spontaneous personality, but maybe it just shows that I'm messy and immature. : )

Friday, September 12, 2008

What's on your bedside table?


Today's Mood: Content. Today's Music: Guided By Voices--Surgical Focus. Today's Writing: Black Dragon Chapter 4. Today's Quote:
"One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying." -Joan of Arc

*******

So what's on your bedside table? I have a suspicion that writers tend to have a lot of books piled here and there, but maybe it is just that I am a librarian. So I am sending a picture of the items on the stand next to my bed (minus the glass of Hard Cherry Cider that is sitting next to me at the moment), and you can see if you beat me.

I have a Thesaurus, the book Cutting by Steven Levenkron (research for Black Dragon), the Intuitive Writer by Gail Sher, a Cherry Republic catalog, The Other Boleyn girl by Pilippa Gregory (I was supposed to read it for book club several months ago and still haven't finished it), Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, The Couple's Tao Te Ching by William Martin (given to me by my dad), Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus (an attempt to understand my husband--still only 3 chapters in and can't say that I understand him any better : )) the September issue of the Writer, my sketchbook, A View from the Porch Swing by Becky Freeman (given to me by my father. It is "musings on a complicated search for the simple life."), The Courage to Teach by Parker Palmer (given to me by my dad--still not read), The Shack (this month's book club book--I'm 3/4 of the way through it), and my journal for IFFY (in case I get a great idea during the night). The table also includes for AA batteries (the TV remote is still not working), various hairclips and chapstick, my alarm clock--unfortunately necessary), a pen, a copy of Inklings, and a couple of short stories I was revising to send in (which I have sent in so I guess I really should dump those.).

So, do you have me beat? Mind you, that is only what is on TOP of the bedside table. There is a drawer and a bottom shelf, but I don't have time to catalog all that.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Oh blessed routine!

Today's Mood: Tired. Today's Music: Matchbox Twenty--All your reasons. Today's Writing: Black Dragon--chapter 2. Today's Quote:
"Like dreaming, reading performs the prodigious task of carrying us off to other
worlds." -Victor Null

*******
The only way I got out of bed this morning was by grabbing the scruff of my neck with both hands and dragging myself out from under the covers. I can't believe how dark it is at 5:30 a.m.! But writing every day makes the dark hours and loss of sleep worth it.

My office smells of orange blossoms and paper. I drink my cappuccino, turn on my music, get out my computer and then I'm gone. Gone into the dank basement room of Sera the dragon fighter. Gone into a world of darkness, soul-searing pain, and blood. Dreams and visions of blood.

It's always a bit of a shock when the lights go on in the main library, and it is time for me to go back to my world of books, technology, kids, and teachers. But I'm happy. The revision is going slow but I think good--although the backlash of thoughts/cravings/emotions is quite unsettling. Thought I put all that behind me many, many years ago. Never knew how long habits could hang around!

Oh how I love writing! Anyone else going to the Fall Glen Lake Retreat? How about entering the PW art show? I (foolishly) said I would and now I'm stressing because I don't have anything good enough to put in an art show. Silly, silly me.

Anyone reading anything interesting? I'm over halfway through The Shack. Now that's a book that makes you think! And I consumed Breaking Dawn in one gulp (which included very little sleep!). Happy writing!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Listening to the muse

Today's Mood: Busy. Today's Music: Um, basically nothing. The sound of vacuum cleaning until I sucked up a doll sweater and smoke started coming out along with a burning rubber smell. I turned it off. Today's Writing: nothing until this blog. Today's Quote: I got nothing.
*******
It's changing time again (not like any part of life isn't full of change) Gone are the late nights (or they should be anyway) since my alarm is going off in that early gray light before morning. Gone are the Mike's Hard Lemonade because I'm so tired that if I have alcohol I'll fall asleep. Gone are the "what are we going to do today" discussions/possibilities. BUT the scheduled writing time is back, the kids are separated, spending time with friends their own age, and therefore when they are together, they fight less. (Supposedly. Hopefully.)

Anyway, I blame the changing lifestyle on why I haven't written much this week. I'm thinking about Black Dragon most of the time. Back ground thinking, you know. The kind that scrolls through the back of your brain like those announcements that scroll along on the bottom of the TV screen. Every now and then it flashes and I focus on it for a little while, maybe even write something down. But most of the week I've been busy focusing on why in the hell are they tearing about the building to figure out the cable system NOW when the building has been EMPTY all summer!? Or how am I supposed to meet everyone's needs when I am only getting 6 new projectors and I need 9?

I titled this post Listening to the muse because I do need to focus on what is scrolling through my mind--and I need a place and time for that listening. Which I'll get next week at the daunting hour of 6:30 a.m. every school day. But I also wanted to think about what happens when I get a lot of opinions--usually different opinions--about what I am writing. I've had a number of people read Black Dragon and each of them have opinions on what I should change. Now, believe me when I tell you they all mean well. They all approach it with a "I wonder what would happen if....." They are all aware that I am the author and so I decide if I want to change it or not.

The problem is me. I am looking for the "RIGHT" way to tell the story. And because I'm not always sure what that is (read "I'm almost never sure what that is") I often go along with making the changes. Especially if the reader is confident of what should be changed.

Don't get me wrong, this has often made the story stronger. It's just that, after awhile and a lot of different opinions, I need to stop and take time to listen to what the story is telling ME. I get to where I almost don't want to share it for awhile. Does anyone else feel that way? Is it just me not wanting to work hard and change things?

I don't know, I guess I just wonder if there is certain times when you should seek the opinions of others, and certain times that you shouldn't. Not that there are hard and fast rules or anything--or even if there were rules, all rules are made to be broken. Sometimes I feel like I have to work on two different things at once--one that I don't mind sharing and getting feedback, and the other that I want to keep to myself for now.

Anyway, hope you all have a great holiday weekend. Enjoy the hot weather (now that school is starting. Figures.)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

First sentence funk

Today's Mood: Good. Today's Music: Sarah McLachlan--Afterglow Live. Today's Writing: working on revising Black Dragon. Today's Quote:
Which brings us back to perhaps the two most BASIC PRINCIPLES OF WRITING:

1. Execution Is Everything.
If you can figure out how to do anything well, you can do anything.

2. Never Say Never.
If you can figure out how to do anything well, you can do anything.
-
Editorial Anonymous
*******
How much does that first sentence matter? It should capture the reader's attention, pull him/her in and make him/her want to read more, and set the tone/mood of the story. No small feat. In fact, it's putting me in a funk. I have started BD fifty different ways, and I can't say that any of them start with "a sentence you remember forever." But then again, I can't say I remember any first sentences other than "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times." And "In the beginning..." So hey, maybe as long as I get a STRONG first sentence, I can quit worry about the best ever category.

Obviously in the rough draft stage all I need is a sentence that pulls me in, but it's different when revising. Now I have to try to think like a reader. Of course, every reader is different which is why some people in my small group like one thing and others liked something different. My head is starting to spin and I haven't even had a drink! Yet. I bet I might like my writing better if I did drink.

How much do you think the first sentence matters? Do you have any favorite first sentences?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Marketability

Today's Mood: Focused. Today's Music: None yet--but I'll put the music library on shuffle while I write. Today's Writing: Going to work on revising Black Dragon as soon as the kids are off to daycare. Plus I have a few essays I want to send out. Today's Quote:
"My world--my rules." -Robyn Ford reminded me of this. Don't know if she got if from somewhere or made it up, but it is a great reminder for a fiction writer.

*******
The camping trip was not one that will go down in the record books--either as good or bad. We spent several hours on Sunday in a doctors office in Traverse City due to swimmer's ear, but other than that, it was a fairly uneventful trip. Oh, except I lost the keys to the camper the day before we left so we almost didn't go. However, I eventually found them in the cupboard with the potatoes. All I can figure is that I scooped them up with the bag of potatoes and dumped them both in the camper cupboard. Sigh. That's what happens when I get crazy trying to do fifty things at once. And really, I have to blame that on the book Breaking Dawn. It kept me up until 4 a.m. and then I still had to finish it on Tuesday when I was supposed to be packing.

Since I've been back, the dilemma has been what do I work on? Should I try to gather up the story threads to IFFY and continue pounding out that rough draft? Or, since that story has migrated so far away from me, should I let it go for now (I do have enough written that I won't LOSE it entirely) and work on getting Black Dragon revised so that I can get it out there again?

I had a long conversation with T. McDonald and she told me about this non-fiction class she had taken. The instructor encouraged the people to work on the piece that was "most marketable." Which, in my case, would be Black Dragon because that is the closest to being "finished." Which is defined as the closest to being able to be sent out to agents and editors.

And so. Today I will pull BD out, dust it off, and get revising. What I need to remember is that it is my fictional world. I can make it whatever I want. That may sound like a no-brainer to you, but I am so bound by reality. I need to make a big sign with "My world-my rules" and set it up on my desk so I remember it always. Reality is what you make it, after all. So I need to shake off the real world. Shake it off, girl, shake it off!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Away

Today's Mood: STRESSED! Today's Music: soundtrack to Juno--yup, I am a vampire! Today's Writing: None--that might be why I'm stressed. Today's Quote:
"People want all the answers before they actually do the writing. But it's in the process of writing that you discover where you're going to go with a memoir."
-Natalie Goldberg
*******
Just thought I'd send a quick note telling you all to write hard while I'm away camping. Not writing. In a small, one room pop-up with my family. All week. With no alone time to write. I brought a journal and sketch pad and hope that saves me. Of course, it will probably be wonderful and fun and adventurous and .... I need more sleep before I can believe all that. Packing really does stress me out.

Anyway tell me what you've been up to while I'm gone!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

How to crush an ego

Today's Mood: Ranting at myself. Today's Music: None yet-but my sister-in-law lent me the soundtrack to Juno and said I should give it a listen. Today's Writing: so far just this. Today's Quote:
"There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." -Somerset Maugham.
*******
A friend of mine was grieving and I had in mind to paint her a picture and write a poem (or something that resembled a poem) to go with it. Of course, the stars had to align just right in order for me to brave the painting process. I did the background first and then two more weeks went by before I attempted the actual painting. And when I got done, it looked like what it was--a novice painting of daffodils in the snow. After leaving it sit for a couple of days (and staring at it enough that my husband finally was inclined to give me his two-cents worth about what the problem was with it--which was tremendously helpful since I knew something was not right but wasn't quite sure what), I took out the paints again, touched it up a bit, and then called it done.

So, then comes the ego. I got all freaked out about sending it because I didn't want my friend to think I thought it was some great painting that she should frame and hang on the wall. I decided to scan it into the computer and then print it off as a card--that way it didn't matter if she didn't think it was a great picture because it was just a card. I went to work to scan it and while I was there, I got talking to my principal about the painting and my fear of sending it because I really didn't think it was "good enough."
"Here's the thing," she said. "If you send the original, your friend has the choice of whether or not to hang it up. A card is nice, especially since you made it, but it doesn't give her the option. And I'll tell you this, I have a friend who is an artist. Yup, he's not Picasso, but when he creates something for me, it means just as much to me--because HE MADE IT."

I thought about that, and in the end, I took the risk and sent the original painting. I had to fight down the urge to send a note explaining that it wasn't really a great painting but here's what it means. Again I took a big breath and just sent it with a simple note--not trying to explain it, not trying to belittle it. Just telling her I wanted to send this to her because it said what my words couldn't.

As an artist (whether I'm talking writing or painting or drawing.....) it is so difficult for me to get my ego out of the picture. It gets in the way of my writing, making it difficult to write because it might not be good enough. It gets in the way of my sharing/ sending out/ giving away because it might not be good enough. Granted, the whole publishing process is good at making me constantly question whether my writing is any good, but there is a place for that--and it is not in the creation stage.

We teach our kids to be humble, but how do we teach ourselves that saying our stuff isn't good enough is often the opposite of humble? It's ego. It's being afraid other people will judge it (and therefore judge US), and find it wanting, and we can't deal with that.

I'm trying to practice the art of allowing myself to write crap. But I find it extremely difficult. Despite loving to write, it is still easier NOT TO WRITE, than to write and have it not be any good. This novel I'm working on, I didn't outline this time. I know the basic conflict, the basic ending, but I wanted to allow it to go places unplanned. It might kill me. The last two days I'm just so totally sure that it all sucks and is going no where. I want to quit--but I can't. Because quitting is another thing I don't do well. And because I hate to suck and write crap, I spend more time drawing, and finding out that I suck at that too. And now the crap is so deep I'm drowning in it. The really good thing about that, is I FINALLY start to not care. Maybe the fumes kill the ego, I don't know. Whatever. I don't care. I'm just going to write and draw and paint BECAUSE I LIKE TO. So there. Take that you stupid ego!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Shot in the arm

Today's Mood: Amiable. Today's Music: The Fray--(yup, Robyn, it's new) Today's Writing: scraps of dialog from IFFY (the scene just popped in my head during my shower. I LOVE SHOWERS! Somehow they help wash the good stuff out onto the page.) Today's Quote: (Oh, the pressure!)
"Writing amounts to creating an oversized clay model; editing is the removal of the excess clay to reveal the piece inside." -Mystery writer Archer Mayorin "How I Write" The Writer August 2008

*******
I love my small writing group. Just when I'm in my most doubting mood, the writing going slower than the slugs in my garden--and leaving something similarly slimy and disgusting in its wake, it comes time to meet with my writers' group. I agonize over what to bring (do I bring something I think is really good and risk getting my bubble popped? Or do I bring something sluggish and risk having them throw me out of the group?). But when I see the other members of the group, they greet me as a writer, and suddenly, I see myself as a writer again. We get down to work and read and comment and hone our craft. And I come away from group so pumped up that it doesn't matter if I need to do some major rewriting, because I'm a writer damn it! That is what I do. I write and rewrite until I get it as polished as I can.

Last night I received what I think is the best compliment anyone has ever given me about my writing. I had read my piece and the group had discussed it, so it was my turn to talk. I asked if anyone thought the word dark was over-used in the piece (it was), and Shelly said, "Oh, sorry, I wasn't paying attention because I was so engrossed in the story I was reading ahead. You weren't reading fast enough for me; I had to find out what happened."

To heck with the overuse of dark, she just made my day/month/year! I went home and my mind was clicking away on new scenes and ideas. As my mother would have said--what a shot in the arm! Thanks group! You are the best.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hypothetical Question

Today's Mood: Calm. Today's Music: Coldplay-Rush of Blood to the Head. Today's Writing: messed around with an idea for a poem. Nothing more than a mess at the moment. Today's Quote: (I just spent 20 minutes surfing around trying to find a great quote. Caught myself watching a Drunk History video on UTube, thought, how the heck did I get here? And gave up.)
*******
I've got a hypothetical question for you--well, maybe two actually. Say there was this fortune teller who is NEVER wrong (obviously this is one part that makes it hypothetical--you cannot cheat and say that maybe the fortuneteller was wrong. She wasn't. Trust me), and she could tell if you would someday be a published author. Would you want to know? AND, if the fortune teller's answer was no, would you keep writing?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Zoned Out

Today's Mood: Blue. Today's Music: Sarah McLachlan--Rarities, B-sides... Today's Writing: IFFY. Today's Quote:
"We want to believe that creativity and innovation come in flashes of pure brilliance. But, innovation is a slow process of accretion, building small insight upon interesting fact upon tried-and-true process. Just as an oyster wraps layer upon layer of nacre atop an offending piece of sand, ultimately yielding a pearl, innovation percolates within hard work over time." -Janet Rae-Dupree, New York Times
*******
Today I want to think about two different, but possibly related, things. How do you get yourself to sit down so that you stand some chance of getting "in the zone?" And then, assuming you achieve the first, what do you do to bring yourself back to the "real" world? That is assuming the world doesn't just crash your party.

For the first question, I find myself coming up with excuses lately--not enough time, too likely to be interrupted, not in the mood to write, too much on my mind to write..... the list goes on. Usually I'm pretty good about getting my butt in the chair. Way, way back when, I thought I could only write when I was depressed. Granted, at the time maybe that was a good thing because I was depressed! But I learned I could write if I just sat down and started to write--gasp! Remember, I didn't say it was great writing or anything--but I definitely could write. And during the school year I have a set routine, so there isn't a question about sitting down to write; it's just what I do. But now.... I could use some help motivating me to get in the chair. I tried setting my alarm clock early with the thought that I'd get up and write before the kids were awake--but I turned it off (the last 3 mornings in a row!) Part of the problem is I hate to quit dreaming. I love that dozing stage where my brain is telling stories--so much easier than actually WRITING stories.

And that love of dreaming leads me to the second question: how do you ease out of the writing zone? After spending a number of hours writing, I get cranky going back to the details of real life--food preparation, clean up, refereeing children, bedtime routines.... It's all seems so mundane. A few times I've taken a short nap before I went to pick up the kids. That seemed to help. Taking a walk or sitting down (away from the computer) on the deck and relaxing with a cup of tea (or wine) also helps. Come to think about it, some of those things are the same things I do to get in the zone. Maybe it really is changing from left to right brained and back again.

Or maybe it's all in my head. Trust me, I'm starting to think writing is a complete head game. And right now I am so losing. I need a personal trainer or coach or anyone who will kick my butt out of bed and make me go write!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Creative Zone

Today's Mood: Happy. Today's Music: IFFY Playlist. Today's Writing: notes for IFFY. Today's Quote:
“As artists, we must learn to be self-nourishing. We must become alert enough to consciously replenish our creative resources as we draw on them—to restock the trout pond, so to speak. I call this process filling the well.” -Julia Cameron, The Artist's Way
*******
Today I had an interesting discussion with a composer about different techniques we each use to reach the creative zone. It started with me talking about this link that has a test to see if you are right brain or left brain dominate. To my surprise, I saw the dancer turning counterclockwise at first (left-brain) and my husband saw it turning clockwise (right-brain). I generally think of him as more logical and me as more intuitive. Now granted, if I focused, I could see the dancer going the other way--and so could my husband. I found this interesting because the more I thought about it, the more it explained certain things about my writing. I like to write in a linear fashion. I like to have an idea where I am going in a piece. I am practical and goal-oriented.

In my discussion with Marilyn (the composer) we got talking about how we can access that right-brain. What things do we do that get us in the "creative zone?" Music is huge for me, but for her, since she is trying to compose, listening to music doesn't work. Sometimes she goes the other way--uses words, poetry, to get in the zone so she can create music. Drawing, painting, gardening, showering, driving, biking, cooking (as long as it is relaxed without a deadline and no hungry kids whining at me) reading--all those are things that help me zone out (so to speak) Honestly, showering is great, but people start to think you have OCD if you take too many showers a day, so I try to mix things up a bit.

Both Marilyn and I agreed that alone time is a must. I brought my journal with me camping, but since there were always lots of people around, I never managed to get quiet enough to write. Even when I'm home and the kids are busy, often it's hard for me to zone out because I know I'm going to be interrupted. And once I'm zoning, I don't like to be pulled out of it too abruptly. I get downright cranky in fact.

I wonder if people who are more right brain dominate have an easier time getting into the zone? The majority of people probably shift between left and right brain on a regular basis. Or maybe we even use both at the same time. I do think I'll try writing out of order a little more often. Maybe that will be another way for me to access the write brain a little easier. And I think I'll use Marilyn's idea and make a list of all the things that refill the well (to use Julia Cameron's words) and try to make sure I give myself permission to do those things on a regular basis. Sometimes I get so goal-oriented that I need to be reminded there is more to writing than just writing.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Focus

Today's Mood: Relaxed. Today's Music: Coldplay-Rush of Blood to the Head. Today's Writing: Zip. Today's Quote:
Be content in whatsoever state you are in. (Biblical but I have no clue where)
*******
We just got back from camping over the 4th of July. I always feel sort of manic/depressive when it comes to camping. One minute everything is wonderful, the weather is warm and the bugs are not too bad (especially if one is wearing enough deet--which happens to be my perfume of choice this summer). The kids are riding their bikes, I'm sitting and drawing, listening to my mp3 player. And then, in the next instant, the kids are screaming and blaming one another for the crash, crying, blood, the fire (which started nicely) is now just a smoking pit, and a mosquito just bit me on the eyebrow--the eyebrow for Pete's sake! But then, a few minutes later, the crisis is done, and my stress level slowly drops out of the red zone.

Ah, the joy of camping. Late nights with lots of fireworks that go on and on and on long after the 11:00 quiet time, the loud laughter from the campers next to us, the whining of one who swears that the sister--the OTHER sister--crossed on to her side of the bed, and the noise of something in the night--something with little feet and sharp teeth that tears through the trash bag and loves peach peelings. The stars shone bright, the fire danced blue and orange and yellow, and I relaxed and did not write.

But, now I am home, and tomorrow I will write. Blessings to you all and I hope the writing is flowing from your soul through your fingers onto the keys or paper.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Writing? What's writing?

Posted by Deborah

Well, it's more than a week after the GL summer conference and I'm sitting on my son's screen porch in Winston Salem, NC, enjoying the perfect summer day and reading the PW blog, occasionally looking up at the sun shining off a hugo-gigantic magnolia whose blooms are ready to pop open. What a great way to spend a summer vacation! And while the week between the conference and now has been crazy, my mind keeps going over the memories, the conversations, the stories from Read Around and the small groups I was in. What blessings to have these thoughts running as an undercurrent to all I do.

I returned to what Chris H calls "writing for food" to find that my editor--the only editor I've ever had and a person who has care-fully nurtured my journalism, my interview ideas, my vision for the reporting I do--is leaving for another job (a fab opp for him and that makes me happy). But, selfishly, my first thought was "Oh my gosh! He's leaving me!," the second was about his happiness and wonderful future, and the third was "Oh my gosh! He's leaving me!" Talk about transitions, Sarah!

I've been through job losses, boss losses, reorgs, corporate changes in vision, and such before, and it's always turned out fine, sometimes it's even an improvement in my life, but that unknown (Who's going to be my boss now? What will he/she expect of me? Will I be able to perform? Will I keep my job?) can paralyze my writing. I can spend so much time trying to live up to what I think they think they expect of me that my brain just keeps looping over the same sentence/phrase/opening line and I spend hours on an article that should have taken 30 minutes to write, and then I'm pushing a very heavy deadline in front of me. Stress!

So, at the end of this month the new editor, as yet not hired, will probably be on board and I'll be transitioning to new ways of working. And while I know the solution is simple--just tell the story of the person I interviewed--it will, at least some days, be hard to remember that.

It's comforting to have the PW stories as undercurrent. But most of all, it gives me some peace knowing that all of you, the writers who can relate to this work, are rooting for me.

AND...how's this for a transition?...here's a sight Tom and I saw on the trip down here, just outside Nelsonville, OH.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Transitions

Today's Mood: On Edge. (more bad news on the cancer front.) Today's Music: Viva la Vida- Coldplay. Today's Writing: IFFY chapter something. Today's Quote:
The important thing is that there should be a space of time, say four hours a day at least, when a professional writer doesn't do anything else but write. He doesn't have to write, and if he doesn't feel like it, he shouldn't try. He can look out of the window or stand on his head or writhe on the floor. But he is not to do any other positive thing, not read, write letters, glance at magazines, or write checks. Write or nothing.[....] Two very simple rules, a. you don't have to write. B. you can't do anything else. The rest comes of itself." Letter to Alex Barris, an interview by mail 18 March 1949

*******
I struggle with transitions--both in the real world and in the writing world. As far as the real world goes, you'd think after 16 years I'd get used to the switch from work (in a school) to summer vacation, but every year I go through a strange phase of not knowing what to do. I make lists--lots of lists--and then lose them or stack them in a pile somewhere and never find them until one or two weeks after school as started again.

And I find transitions in my writing just as hard to accomplish. Characters get stuck in endless conversations or enter a room full of people and then I can't get them out. I tried making lists for that too: bomb goes off, MC blacks out, MC bolts out the door, it's past every one's bedtime, the cops show up and everybody runs..... The black out idea appealed the most. Then the MC could just up in a new room and I'd start from there. But how many times can a person black out?

Any advice? Comments? Snarky insights about life?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Real World?





Today's Mood: Relaxed. Today's Music: none yet--but I can't wait to go buy the new Coldplay CD! Today's Writing: only the blog so far. (have plans to write for my hour after the girls go to bed.) Today's Quote:
"Start from a foundation of your own fantasies and feelings. Because the character you can't fantasize and feel with will fail." -Dwight V. Swain, in Creating Characters: How to Build Story People.

*******
Coming home from Glen Lake is always a strange mix of bitter and sweet. My youngest only partially lived up to her promise to be mean to me--because I left. My eldest was glad to see me, but spent the whole rest of the day up in her room playing. It was good to see the garden and what was blooming, good to talk and have dinner with my family, good to sleep in my own bed. But at the same time I missed talk of writing, missed sitting down at my computer and thinking 'okay, what happens next?', missed the feeling the spending time writing was not only okay, but expected.

I feel cut adrift, not quite sure of what I should be doing. Oh, there's plenty to do, but it all involves choices and prioritizing and planning. Up at Glen Lake, there really is only one priority: to write. Granted, I choose to do other things at times--swim, paddleboard, eat, talk--but writing is always there, running in my mind. When I'm at home, there are so many other things that the hum of the story can grow very faint.

SO, my resolution (for what it's worth) is to write EVERY day, even if it is only for 10 minutes. That way, the song of my story will still be audible. And when I do have more time to write, it won't take as long for me to tune into it.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Writing Schedule

Unlike you, Sarah, I finally have a bit more time in the summer to write. I walk more (and take a pad of paper with me) and find beach time or home time to just sit, quiet my mind, and write. I LOVE it.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Change in Writing Schedule

Today's Mood: Relaxed. Today's Music: Muse--Invincible. Today's Writing: Blog. Today's Quote:
"Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck." -Iris Murdoch , in The Black Prince
*******
It's summer! Summer, summer, summer! Summer indicates a lot of changes in my household: later to bed, later to rise, lots of swimming, biking, eating salads and grilled food. And biggest of all for the writer in me--a change in my writing schedule. Now instead of getting up and going to work early, I have to find some other place to squeeze in an hour or so of writing.

[short lapse--day or so] Sorry about the delay getting this up on the blog. We had some big storms and evidently that knocked out my charter signal. And then I had to reconfigure the router. Of course, I didn't have time to even look at it until the birthday madness cleared up. Not my birthday--my daughter's. 6 screaming kids. Boy, oh boy, I can't wait for Glen Lake!

So what have you all been up to?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Emotion

Today's Mood: Cheerful. Today's Music: Modern Love. Today's Writing: Blog now, research for IFFY. Today's Quote:

“Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.” Zora Neale Hurston quotes (American folklorist and Writer, 1903-1960)


*******
Okay all of you, I need your help. Yesterday I had small group and it raised the question about whether or not pain is an emotion. Awhile ago I did some research in an attempt to find a definition of emotion. It turns out that emotion is rather difficult to define--or at least to get people to agree on a definition. Besides which, the terms emotion, mood, motivation, and affect all get used somewhat interchangeably in popular culture. So let me give you a few of the definitions out there:

Emotion: a response to an environmental stimuli that creates an intense but short term affective state. Emotion is externally triggered.

Or another definition of Emotion
: Emotions are psychological rewards and punishments. They constitute part of the feedback provided by the brain to motivate us to optimize our survival by acting to correct inner deviations from cellular homeostasis. In reptiles, injury, restraint, or blockage of ancient survival drives, such as air-hunger, cause powerful alarm responses and associated reactions. These are part of the ancient pleasure-pain drives ascribed to our brain core system Dragon. In the early mammals, these reptilian drives were extended or amplified by the limbic system to become a larger number of distinct emotions. Thus, the limbic-Caretaker has many behavioral properties overlapping those of Freud's Ego.

Mood
: has a general stimulus--it is often difficult to determine the source of the mood--and has a longer span than emotion.

Affect
: generally the intensity is milder than emotion. If the stimuli is intense--it is generally considered an emotion.

Motivation
: motivations are internally fired up and are action oriented whereas emotions are more of a series of reactions to surrounding situations.

Then there is the theory (actually more than one theory, but anyway) that there are PRIMARY emotions, and that all emotion comes from some sort of combination of those primary emotions. Of course, there is little agreement of what those primary emotions are. Robert Plutchik is one of those advocating the theory of primary emotions. He even uses colors to represent his model.

Another theory is the THE HEXADYAD PRIMARY EMOTIONS MODEL. In organisms whose brain includes a limbic system, there appear to be six independent primary emotion-generating systems. The function of these separately regulated primary emotion systems appears to be based upon the activity of several different limbic-brain core structural elements. This is supported by measurements of regional brain glucose uptake. In these observations, only the brain core system and the limbic system have shown shifts in regional brain activity during the production of emotion‑associated behaviors. In general, each of these emotion-associated structures receive separable neural inputs, and produce different neurotransmitter outputs most likely leading to production of a primary emotion.

Inherent in the hexadyad primary emotions model is the concept that each primary emotion-generating system produces an output ranging between two polar extremes. For each primary pair, one extreme is rewarding (appetitive) and generates approach behavior, while the other is punishing (aversive) and produces avoidance behavior. In keeping with this proposal, certain observed regional brain activity outputs occurred in opposite directions, depending on whether the emotion was rewarding or alarming. This binary, dichotomous situation is not to be confused with the dualism of mind and body, an obsolete concept to be discarded.

Given those definitions, do you think physical pain could be considered/connected to/experienced as emotion? My main character can feel (literally) the emotions of others. I'm struggling to determine if she would experience pain if someone else got hurt. She's in a fight, would she feel the others' pain as well as her own? Would she feel it as they did? Like, if they hit something, would her hand hurt? Or would she feel pain in a more general way--like, alarm?

Various other things I've read about psychics mention healing or being able to determine the source of pain, illness. I know this isn't a right or wrong type thing; most people would deny that these abilities exist at all. But I need to know if it exists for my character. I want to make this as believable as possible--suspension of disbelief, isn't it? As long as the "rules" seem logical, it doesn't matter if they are, or aren't. After all, it's fiction! Interesting questions that writing brings up. I love it. I never know what I am going to learn next.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sacrifices

Today's Mood: Relaxed. Today's Music: Umm, some Bob Pollard this morning. Today's Writing: zip, zilch, zero. Today's Quote:
*******
So in the midst of stress and lack of sleep (a common enough state in my household--especially at this time of year), my husband and I had a lovely fight about... well, lots of things. The upshot of the whole thing was I had to sit and think very hard about whether or not I should, could, would give up writing for the betterment of the family. I decided I couldn't.

I COULD, however, give up conferences and lie about the small writer's groups--saying I was going out with a friend. I COULD get up in the middle of the night and write for a few hours and no one would know it. I COULD not talk about writing anymore at home. (yeah, I know, I tend to go extreme at times)

Thankfully we worked things out and my husband assured me that he had no desire to have me quit writing. (I hadn't told him that I didn't think I could--that I considered a lot of weird and strange ways to hide it, but I couldn't actually quit it. I guess that qualifies me as addicted, yes?)

But the question of what was important about writing has stayed with me. Yup, I CAN'T WAIT for Glen Lake--but I could do without it if I had to. Yup, I LOVE talking about writing--but I could do without it if I had to. Yup, my small writing group is important to me--but I COULD LIE about going there if I had to--and I could even do without it if I REALLY had to.

The one thing I just don't think I could give up and remain, well, sane, is actually writing. Spending time putting words, sentences, paragraphs, stories on paper--or at least on the computer.

Good thing I don't have to give up any of it--yet. Could you give up writing? What would you give it up for?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Procrastination or Writer's Block?

Today's Mood: Optimistic. Today's Music: Guided by Voices - Mag Earwhig. Today's Writing: IFFY. Today's Quote:
"I don't believe in writer's block. All writing is difficult... Plumbers don't get plumber's block and doctors don't get doctor's block; why should writers be the only profession that gives a special name to the difficulty of working and then expects sympathy for it?" ~ Phillip Pullman
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Check out this great article by Slate magazine that talks about the difference between writer's block and procrastination. The article quotes neurologist Alice Flaherty's attempt at a working distinction between procrastination and block--"A blocked writer has the discipline to stay at the desk but cannot write. A procrastinator, on the other hand, cannot bring himself to sit down at the desk; yet if something forces him to sit down he may write quite fluently."

Given that definition, I think I've suffered both at different points in time. Although any writer's block I've had has been of short duration. Mostly I procrastinate because I'm afraid of writing it and not having it be as good as it is in my head.

I've been reading an awesome book of interviews with Fantasy writers--The Wand in the Word--and it makes me feel not quite so alone. Or crazy. Reading about how all these great writers write in all different ways reminds me, yet again, that there is no RIGHT way to write. And a lot of the writers talk about how hard writing is, so just because I don't find writing easy doesn't mean I can't be a writer. There is hope for me yet!

Anyway, what makes it hard for you to write? Are you a procrastinator or do you have writer's block?

Friday, May 9, 2008

Plot Struggles

Today's Mood: Relaxed. Today's Music: The Call. Today's Writing: IFFY. Today's Quote: Nothing handy at the moment.
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Is it possible to have a novel be both a journey story (a Bildungsroman?) and a romance? And is Science Fiction a plot structure or just a way of telling a story?

I am, of course, thinking too much. But I am looking at where this story is going (with my other 2 novels I did quite extensive outlines before starting to write. With this one I wanted to try writing and seeing where it took me. No where fast, I can tell you that for sure!), and I went back to my original notes (I didn't jump into it totally blind--I'd have to change my whole personality in order for me to be able to do something like that!). I had gone through the book Story Structure Architect and found that the story I wanted to tell could be considered either a female journey story or a romance. And although there are many elements the same--conflicts and climax, and resolution and all that, certain elements are different.

Say for instance, it is a romance. In that case, the love interest has to show up early on in the story. Probably within the first 30 pages. It's not that I can't make that happen, but I am toying with the idea of making this more than one book. Possibly even a trilogy. Which may be insane seeing as I haven't even finished one rough draft yet! But it matters to how I proceed. If the main plot is journey story, I think romance can still be in the book--maybe like a subplot or something. And then the love interest can be mentioned, but not really play a big part right away--or even in the first book much at all.

If the main plot is romance, then... hmmm, even as I'm writing this I'm thinking that romance isn't enough for me to arc it over more than one book. Not that I can't come up with obstacles, but there has to be something more than that.

And at what point do I have to decide if it is going to be more than one book? Makes me think I need to take time to do a detailed outline. But I'm trying to allow more spontaneous creativity. I feel like I write a lot like I draw or paint. Put down one layer. Erase it. Put down another layer. Probably erase at least part of it. Put down another layer. Like I'm building a shithouse out of bricks made from straw and mud! Somehow I think that if I were a real writer, writing would be easier. I would be more creative and I could imagine the story in one fell swoop instead of slowly and painstakingly coming up with details to pile on top of each other until I have something that resembles a story.

How can I love something that drives me so crazy? Yet I do, and I'm not just talking about my husband and kids here! Writing is wonderful--and torturous at the same time. And I suppose I'd better just go to bed at this point before my head implodes. Happy writing!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Setting

Today's Mood: Good. Today's Music: Bent - Matchbox 20. Today's Writing: IFFY (This week's sign of the apocalypse) Today's Quote:
"The road to hell is paved with adverbs." -Stephen King

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Recently it occurred to me that I could do more with the setting of my story. Granted, the setting isn't crucial to the plot--although maybe that is my problem. Maybe it should be. Or is it okay if it isn't?

I mean, I need it to be somewhere with a high school where there are students who are not very tolerant of differences. Oh wait! That is every freaking high school. I need it to be in a city/town where parents worry about keeping up appearances. Oh wait, that could be anywhere as well! Okay, I guess I want it to be on the big lake. Or I suppose it could be the ocean. Hmm. Doesn't really matter which it is. I mostly just want some large body of water. And a cemetery. But that is a lot of places as well. And I don't want it to be a huge town, but it can't be a podunk nowhere place either. (Nothing up in the U.P. : ) That's for you, Mark!)

Is it better to just imagine a place so I can make it whatever I want? Or is it better to locate the story in a real city? And if I put it in a real place, does it have to be accurate? I mean, can I mix imaginary and real? Do I have to get the street names right and all that?

I'm afraid I have little budget for an information gathering trip. Although, if I did, I'd make sure I located the story somewhere wonderful and warm! With great beaches.

The Internet gives me lots of information, but there is nothing quite like actually going somewhere and walking the streets and smelling the air and tasting the food.

So, are there good stories where the setting isn't all that important? I guess I can think of a few. Maybe they tend to be more character driven books instead of plot driven books.

What do you do when creating a setting for your story?

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Spring Madness

Today's Mood: Tired. T0day's Music: Random play. Today's Writing: IFFY. Today's Quote:

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Lately I don't feel much like a writer. I don't seem to be getting anywhere. Yesterday I put in capital letters, bright red font: STARTED 3RD PERSON HERE!!!!!!!! And then I wrote a paragraph in third person. Today I took out the capital letters in red font and rewrote the paragraph in first person.

What is my problem? Why is writing so hard? How will I know what is the right POV for this story? When will I stop asking questions?

Okay, sorry, had to slap myself there to end the madness. Does anyone else feel nuts this time of year? (another question, I know.) Maybe it's my job. Everybody is feeling the crunch and trying to jam in every last project before they run out of time. And I SWEAR that equipment--especially computers--always start flaking out once it hits April. It's like they know the end is near and no one in the tech. dept. wants to bother fixing them until summer, so they can glitch out all they want and stay safe from being re-ghosted. Of course, I might just chuck them out the window.....

I'm flaking out. I'm stretched too thin. I'm not writing enough. I can't think. I think too much. Aaaaaaaaaaaah!

So what is the fix? Anybody got any ideas on how to get through tough spots in their writing in only 25 minute writing increments a day? I just start to get to that zone and zing! Time's up.

And then there is the whole publishing thing. Still considering. You should hear something soon. Of course, since it has been over a year, soon has lost its glisten. If only I had an agent. Of course, to get an agent you have to query and query and query some more. And even that doesn't promise anything if you are a never before published writer. I guess I'd better call again. Sigh.

Maybe tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Creative energy

Today's Mood: Relaxed. Today's Music: U2--The Joshua Tree. Today's Writing: IFFY. Today's Quote:
The beautiful part of writing is that you don't have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon.~ Robert Cromier
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I was hot today. The writing was flowing and I was working the words and then... I had to quit because it was time to go to work. No wonder I've been stuck on this dang chapter forever...well two weeks anyway. Oh, I wish I had more time!

Of course, when I do have time, what do I do? Work out in the yard. Watch the birds. Eat Popsicles. Read Francine Prose's book How to read like a writer. Great book by the way. Makes me want to go back and read the classics. Not that I have time.

I can't WAIT until Glen Lake!

Are there certain things that make you want to write? I read the book City of Ashes. Started it in the evening and read until 1:00 in the morning. The kids were in bed and my husband was gone and all I was doing was sitting and reading. But the story was so intense and I was so into it that I was sweating! Literally! I even ended out unbuttoning my shirt. The next morning I got up and read during my writing time. I finished the book later that afternoon. But even though I had little sleep, I was fired up. And the really awesome part is that it made me want to write! Ideas crowded into my head and the I'd think of new plot twists, scraps of dialogue, and descriptions of thing. The City of Ashes characters would keep cropping into my thoughts, but they weren't interfering.

Sometimes when I read a great book, it stalls my writing. It saps my energy and I end out thinking, I am never going to be able to write like this. I wish I could write a book that makes someone forgot to sleep, eat, take care of kids..... So why is it that some books feed my own creativity, and some make me feel like such a novice that I despair of ever being able to write a book good enough to obsess readers? Is it just mindset to begin with?

Have any of you ever had experiences like that? Do some books make you feel like you will never be that good a writer? Do some books pump you up and make you want to write? What do you think makes it go one way instead of the other? 'Cause personally, I like the energy created in the later!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

What I enjoy

Today's Mood: Capable. Today's Music: Random play on music library. Today's Writing: IFFY. Today's Quote:
You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. ~Ray Bradbury

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The gremlins have been talking. I'm trying to drown them out using various different methods: chocolate (extra dark--or any really), alcohol (Mike's hard limeade is awesome when it is really cold!), sleep (gotta love those 1000 thread-count sheets!), music (lots of Robert Pollard--always good for upbeat stuff), painting (pictures not walls), and my oh so wonderful writing friends.

The upshot of this intervention is that I was forced to confront my fears, one of them being what if I never get anything published? And after finally facing that fear, I found that it really wouldn't change much of anything in my life. I wouldn't starve since my day job pays enough to buy something beyond Ramen noodles. So why was I getting all stressed and listening to gremlins?

It was time to focus on why I write. Which isn't to get published. It is because writing is something I enjoy--along with chocolate, hard lemonade, good sheets, music, art, and writing friends (and a few other things as well). Funny how easy it is for me to forget why I write. As soon as that deadline draws near and I have to face the possible rejection, the gremlins start talking and I can't remember all the joy and delight (and sweat and tears--but I'm not talking about that right now because I made the heading What I enjoy) of putting words on paper.

I need to write myself a love letter. A letter about how much I love writing. Even if I don't get published ever. But that's gotta be the gremlins talking. Right?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Imagination

Today's Mood: Industrious. Today's Music: Tori Amos-Tales of a Librarian. Today's Writing: working on a poem. I think, however, that it needs to grow a little before it is ready to see the light of day. Today's Quote:
The novel is an event in consciousness. Our aim isn't to copy actuality, but to modify and recreate our sense of it. The novelist is inviting the reader to watch a performance in his own brain. -George Buchanan

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Today was the last day of spring break. At least I have the weekend to transition into the school week. I've been working on a painting I call Window to Imagination. People are always asking authors where they get their ideas. So what is imagination? Is it a pool of things we have read, seen, experienced, dreamed?

In my painting I portrayed the positive, whimsical side. But really, imagination can be dark and scary too. I used to frighten the heck out of myself imagining what might happen if someone broke into my house when my husband was gone and attacked me and my kids. (Okay, so I still frighten myself with that one now and then.)

And think of the horror writers like Stephen King. Definitely takes some kind of imagination to write those kind of stories. So our imagination must be fueled by our fears and desires as well. I imagined what I'd like to say to the idiot driver who passed me on the right going at least 80 miles an hour.

Sometimes imagining is a way to re-do things. When I don't like the way I handled something, I find myself imagining it a different way. Like I'll imagine saying something much funnier than what I actually said. Or sometimes I imagine myself pouring on the righteous anger. I'm always way funnier, stronger, smarter, and definitely sexier in my imagination. Funny how that works.

Maybe imagination is a way to try out new behaviors. I can say things that I couldn't really say in real life. Or at least I can say things and not have to pay the consequences. I guess if I was really looking through a window into my imagination, it would definitely have some dark things lurking in it as well as things like fairies and unicorns. Because if I can work out the nasty, petty, mean things by imagining them, then maybe I won't need to say or do them in real life.

By the way, this week I have watched two movies with authors as characters. Both movies (Stranger than Fiction and Nim's Island) portrayed the writers as neurotic. So see? There is no reason I shouldn't be an author!