On to Something New

I’ve talked before about Twitter and how I’ve been finding all sorts of writing prompts and games on there. They’ve been fun and have led me to write some interesting things and to explore topics I may not have thought about otherwise.

One of the prompts has encouraged me to ditch my current WIP and try something new. Completely new. This won’t be the first time I’ve abandoned a project, but it will be the first time I’m going to try and write in a different genre.

It will be interesting, to say the least. And, I think, challenging, but I’m hoping challenging in a good way. Like, in a way that allows me to complete a project and actually send it out instead of just talking about it. Or pushing to get to nowhere.

So, here goes. Out with the old. In with the new.

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Happy Freaking New Year

My Mom used to say, “Man plans, God laughs,” every time something went awry. Didn’t matter if it was a delayed flight, a party that didn’t go well or even having to park far away from the entrance, she’d say it. Kind of like a mantra. I always found it odd since she doesn’t believe in God, but, whatever. I could always count on her saying that when something didn’t work out as planned.

It bothered me a bit. It felt like she was saying we don’t have any control. That there was no free will. Only destiny. If that sounds a bit extreme and pessimistic, then you don’t know my Mother. If you know my mother then you get it. Which also means you know I automatically disagreed with her because she and I see the world very differently.

Of course, the funny thing is that the more adult-like I’ve become, the more I see that I can make all the plans I want and, well…

I had planned to start with the regular blogging again come the beginning of January. Not this crazy, occasional, when I get around to it and when I have time blogging I’ve been doing. And, I was going to work on the WIP more.

We can see how that worked out.

January is already half over and here’s the first blog post of the year. And that WIP? Still waiting. Hmpfh.

Instead of writing and creating I got stuck doing other stuff. Not stupid stuff. Stuff that had to get done. Stuff that had to happen. The stuff that occurs when you’re a grown-up and have to remind yourself – repeatedly – that you chose this path and that it comes with the territory.

Hmpfh. Again.

And, the super-annoying part? I logged in to Word Press this morning and see that everyone else has managed a whole bunch of blog posts and working on their projects and have been producing and creating and blah, blah, blah.

Hmpfh. Yet again.

Yup. Man plans. God laughs. You were right, Mom. (Don’t tell her I said that. I’ll never hear the end of it.)

Channeling it Into Writing

Fair warning. What follows is a fairly whiny and scattered rant. I’m writing it in hopes of expelling the negative energy.

I had a big writing plan today. Big chunk of time to myself, plenty of ambition, just enough coffee. It was almost perfect. I say almost because I haven’t seen the sun in about a week (I think. I’ve lost track). Not that it’s perpetual night here in Chicago, but it’s been overcast for days and when I’m working the day job, I’m in a windowless room so even if it does come out, I’m not there for it. This has definitely brought the energy level way down. That and eating nothing but marshmallows for lunch. Don’t judge me. It’s the weather’s fault. Not mine.

But I was feeling it today. Big time. So, I fired off one angry email this morning, honestly assuming it would go nowhere (since everything else surrounding said email has gone nowhere. It’s a long story about a battle I’m fighting. I’d say more, but don’t want to mess it up. Social media is a surprising powerful thing).

Shockingly, said email resulted in a response, which I had to respond to. So, now that’s off my plate since I know (because of what was said) it will go no further today.

But, it’s really not off my plate. It’s still eating away at me. Bugging me. I said what needed to be said so it’s not like there’s any nagging, “Oh, I shoulda’ said this!” bumping around my brain. And it’s not like I was smacked down. In fact, it was the opposite. I smacked the other side down (sort of. And, I’m not proud of it. I hate it when I have to do that and can’t work with you as a partner. But, it had to happen, unfortunately). It’s just sort of still sitting there. Hanging around.

In part, that’s my fault. I got worked up and anxious. Not like I was scared or worried but just revved up and ready to go. Ready to battle. Maybe I should have done my primal warrior call to ease the tension. I don’t have one, really, but maybe I should get one. Anyway, the anticipation combined with coffee, never a good thing for me. My heart is still thumping away and shows no signs of slowing down even though it’s over. For now.

Anyway, I find myself unable to write. I know what I need to do in the WIP. In fact, I delete the beginning of Chapter 2, that’s how sure I am, but I can’t seem to find the inspiration. I’m pacing the house, thinking, thinking, thinking. About nothing, actually. I’m just pacing, letting my mind wander and feeling my heart thumping in my chest. I’m deep breathing, I’m doing this blog post, but I’m still a bit crazed.

And, I hate it when that happens. People wonder why my day job is not that of “writer.” I find it hard to explain that I only have a certain amount of creative in me per day. I have no idea if other creative types have this problem, but I do. Once I’ve used up my creative for the day, that’s it, I’m done. If I’ve given it all to a client (or steady job) I can’t do for myself that day.

While technically I did nothing creative this morning, I did have to thing creatively and craft the right response. Angry without being condescending. I think I nailed it. But, as a result, I’m creatively drained right now. Which makes me angry. I had to waste all my creative on something stupid. Well, not stupid. It’s important, but I shouldn’t have to deal with it because it shouldn’t have happened to begin with.

So, I’m using this blog post to vent today, in hopes that I can expel negative energy and get back my creative. See, my fear now is that this negative will end up in the WIP. While that could be a good thing, it’s not really where the MC is in the story and I don’t want to write 2000 or so words today only to have them in the trash. I know that happens a lot, but if I can foresee it happening and avoid it, I’d rather do that.

Or, I could try to use it to my advantage. Maybe the MC is angry today about stupid stuff. Maybe I can channel this into something awesome. Would that mean I have to thank the people that pissed me off today in the book? We’ll see what happens.

ETA: It worked. I got the negative energy out and pumped out about 1500 words today.

The Inspiration Well

I’m very glad I opted not to participate in NaNo this month.

I thought I had a very good plot outline going, then I looked it over and decided I didn’t. I was making some tweaks to it and got stuck, distracted, overwhelmed and uninspired. Among other things. And now, it’s the 17th and I’ve written exactly 0 words. Is there a badge for that?

It doesn’t really bother me in the sense that I wasn’t planning on participating (officially anyway). It does bother me that I’ve been unable to find the right way to fix what’s wrong. I know exactly what’s wrong but can’t find the words or ideas to make it work. And I planned on writing this month and it’s half over and I’ve accomplished nothing, save for irritating myself seeing how little I’ve done.

Which also doesn’t bother me, per se. I know that sometimes it takes me time to find the right idea and work it out so it makes sense. If I ever do get the hang of this writing thing, I know for certain I won’t ever be called a “prolific writer,” the kind that cranks out a book a year. Or every other year. Or every five years, I’m guessing. And I’m OK with that.

What is bothering me is the other thing that’s inspiring me right now: angry letter writing. Actually, angry email writing to be exact, but you get what I mean. There’s an issue I’m trying to deal with and it’s something I’m passionate about and if you read my last post, you probably have some idea how I feel about the whole thing.

I was sitting in the office doing what has become my afternoon ritual of listening to Pandora and beating my head against the desk, trying to figure out what the hell is wrong with my WIP when an email response finally came in to something I’ve been expecting. I waited two whole weeks for this response. That’s a long time for me to keep my mouth shut when I feel strongly about something.

I took a deep breath and a walk (and by walk I mean into the kitchen to wash the breakfast dishes with a pit stop in the laundry room to switch loads) before I responded. Fortunately (for both of us) the person I’m now dealing with seems friendly and warm and actually willing to listen to my concerns instead of hurl insults (don’t ask). But, I’m still annoyed with the foot dragging and stalling. I needed a few minutes to compose my thoughts and make sure I didn’t come off as utterly obnoxious, given “something else” has come up and now she can’t examine my stuff for another few weeks. (Side note: uh-huh. Sure, you can’t. Whatever.)

So, I’m typing the response, and it took about 30 minutes to compellingly craft a five sentence response that was kind yet firm. And that was about 25 minutes too long, in my estimation. See, my mind kept wandering, I was so inspired by writing this response that I found myself drifting to another project.

This blog post. Sigh.

I found myself composing the paragraphs for this post while I should have been working on those 5 sentences. I kept thinking about all the things I wanted to say and rant about, and how it would be an excellent blog post. It was hard, but I managed to force myself to finish the response first before I came over here to craft his amazing blog post. (I know, it’s nothing special, but I need this right now.)

Well, it’s not the WIP, and it’s not perfect, but I guess it’s something. I know that realistically, as a writer, I can’t wait for the muse to show-up (thought it would be nice if it would show up at 9AM, coffee in hand, ready to go like I am). I have to chase it. Or work without it, But my current frustration isn’t that I’m not inspired to write. I am. I just don’t want to write a bunch of jumbled nonsensical crap that I end up throwing out. I know that’s my specialty, but I’d really like to diversify.

I wonder how these prolific writers manage. How do they crank out a book a year? I know there’s rumors about ghostwriters, but assume they aren’t. How do they do it? How do people work when the muse is AWOL?

Inspiration can come in many forms, I guess. I just wish what so easily inspired this blog post could inspire the WIP. That would be nice. Less frustrating. Or, if something, anything, could easily inspire the WIP. But that doesn’t seem to be happening, so I’m back to beating my head against the desk. It helps. Happy Monday!

It’s Hard to Be a Grown-Up

Long absence, I know. But that’s because I’m a grown-up and have “responsibilities” and such. Things I don’t want to do but have to. Some of them are legally required of me, some of them I just have to do because I’m a grown-up. But, man, it is tough sometimes.

(I know, I know, a lot of what I’m about to say falls into the category of “first world problems” but, due to lack of anything else, that’s what today’s post is all about.)

Like this blog post. I’m sitting here basically not doing it (even though I am) because there are other things I don’t want to do. Like mend a pillow case and paint some shelves. Easy things that will probably take all of about two seconds to do.

Then, there are the harder things, like waiting back on 2 email responses that I really don’t want to deal with. I mean, they are things that need to be dealt with and that’s part of being a grown-up. But I just don’t want to. I realize that if no one else does it, it won’t get done and then I will suffer the consequences, hence my taking the lead on it, but… Yuck. I really hate dealing with stupid stuff. Actually, that’s not true. Sometimes I just hate dealing with stuff. But, that’s part of being a grown-up.

And, I’m not even sure when this grown-up thing happened. I kind of woke up one day and said “How did this happen?” I don’t remember a ceremony marking the occasion. Or getting an official written offer that I accepted. It just kind of happened. Sure, there are some aspects of being a grown-up that are awesome. Like right now, it’s 10 AM and I’m still in my pajamas with no plans to leave them anytime soon and in a few minutes I’ll probably have a mid-morning power boosting snack of coffee and donuts. And, since I don’t work the day job today, I can go outside and play in this beautiful weather (probably the last one for the year).

Play. Like a kid. Only it will be grown-up play which is more like exercise, really. Like riding the bike and cleaning up the yard, checking on the fall/winter crops (OK, last surviving crop) in the garden. Adjusting the Halloween decorations. Which really isn’t play. It’s the grown-up version of play.

And then, oh, yeah, gotta work on the WIP, too. Trying to create a compelling character is rather hard work. I had hoped it would be an easy, natural process. Nope. I’m excellent at creating flat, boring, cardboard characters though. So, there’s that.

OK, enough whining. Off to work and all those other grown-up things I have to do.

Tuning Out

I’ve been trying to write this post for about an hour, but I keep getting distracted. I had a whole other topic in mind for today but I’ve forgotten what it is. I’m sure I’ve got it filed away in my brain somewhere, but I can’t seem to find it. Knowing me, I probably wrote it down somewhere, but I can’t find my notebook. I think it’s in my car, but I can’t find the motivation to get up and get it so I can see what I was thinking about the topic for today. I think it was about writing. I’m not sure. I don’t remember.

See, I did something stupid. Actually, I’m still doing it. Right now as I type this. I’m allowing myself to be distracted. I say “allowing” because I could stop it. I could close all the active tabs on the computer, make the Internet go away, tune Pandora to something less fun, close Twitter. But, I can’t.

Mostly, I’m fascinated by Twitter right now. Either I’ve never stayed logged in for this long or today just happens to be a very active tweeting kind of day. Every time I look, there’s new tweets. I go to refill my coffee cup, 2 more tweets. I open them, find an interesting link, click it, read the article, finish and, 3 more tweets. I look at them real quick, get up to pee, come back six tweets. Open those and… You get the idea.

There’s no real reason for this. Let’s face it, most of the tweets aren’t particularly earth shattering. Some have links to interesting writery things. Those are OK. Sometimes things are funny and I laugh. But, truly, most of the tweets are time wasters. Sure, you could say that the writer related ones are work related, what with me being a part-time writer and all. But, it’s not like most of the tweets are going to advance my career. It would be cool if they could, though. And, of course, there’s all the links to the quizzes and all the other click bait I fall for.

It took me about 10 minutes longer than it should have to type that last paragraph because of all the incoming tweets. Seriously! What is wrong with me? Don’t answer that. Because, I’ll answer it myself.

I’m having a case of doubt. Ever have that? Sure, we all have. And, this isn’t my first case of doubt. I don’t know what number it is, but I know it’s not the first, or the last.

My latest WIP is actually my third attempt (or maybe 4th?) at a novel. Non fiction I can do. Essays I can do. Ghost writing I can do. Rambling blog posts are clearly not a problem. Novels, though… Ack. I have a good idea, but it’s vague and as I develop it becomes a little less vague, but not clear enough to coalesce into anything resembling a novel. It’s not just the telling not showing thing, I can’t quite figure out how to end it. Or the direction it should take to the foggy ending. It’s like a road trip that starts off really well but then the GPS goes out and you don’t have cell service and you kind of go, well, OK, whatever, lets keep going and see what happens and you drive and drive and drive and eventually drive off into nowhere and run out of gas. The end.

Not a very good road trip. Though possibly how a good story starts.

So, I’m allowing myself to be distracted today by the tweeting (7 sitting there right now. I’m sure I’ll check in a second) to avoid the fact that I am, once again, stuck. It’s difficult to be stuck, because I don’t know how to get unstuck. I have a great idea, but that’s about it. No where to go with it. I’ve tried a few times, but run out of gas.

What’s funny (to me) about this whole thing is that for as many times as this has happened to me, I keep coming back. Trying again. Starting over with another foggy idea. Or beating the old one because I’m not totally convinced it’s dead. Yet. I hope that’s the definition of grit. Persistence. So that when the day comes that I have done it and I have finished it and it’s published I can say I didn’t give up. I kept trying until I succeeded because I believed.

But right now there are 4 new tweets to waste time with. Believing can wait until later.

 

 

It Came From the Comments Section!

If that’s not the title of a horror movie, I don’t know what is!

Two minor items before I get started on what happened after the public flogging, er, critique of my opening.

First, for the moth of August, I ended with over 1300 spam comments blocked from the blog. Thank you, again, Word Press. I shutter to thing about the amount of moderating/deleting/screaming I would have done if it weren’t for that.

Second, I was going to post about the critique yesterday, but I got sucked into the Saved by the Bell movie. Don’t judge me. Sadly, I was horribly disappointed. It was rather boring and tame. I didn’t really learn anything about what went on behind the scenes, nothing salacious or even remotely interesting was revealed. Yet, I’m not at all sorry I watched. Really. Please, don’t judge me.

So. The Critique.

To set it up, you sent in your first 150 words and the critters (as I affectionately call them), had to try and guess your genre. The top ten entries with the most correct critter guesses move on to the next round. The idea was to see how well you built up your world right from the start.

At the end of the critique period, I decided I will now write in the “I don’t know” genre.

I’m OK with it. It’s a necessary part of being a writer. And, it was very eye-opening. While I’d argue that trying to get a genre type (or world) established in less tan 150 words is kind of difficult, it might even be unnecessary. A reader who picks up the book probably already knows the genre or world based on the title or the cover or both. Or maybe they got an idea based on the flab copy. However, there were a fair number of entries that did establish a genre in less than 150 words. Very clear, very concise, very obvious. And very well written.

As a sort of side observation, none of the adult entries (versus middle grade or young adult) made it through to the next round. In fact, most of the adult entries seemed to have “I don’t know” as a guess. I’m not sure what this means. Is it that all of the adult entries selected happened to have weaker openings? Is it that writing for an adult audience results in a different type of writing – one that is less concerned with world building in the beginning?

Interestingly, one entrant echoed my thoughts about how 150 words just isn’t enough and the title would have made it clear (or clearer) what the genre is. And, another said that the set-up was more obvious at about 500 words in. What this all means in terms of writing for a broad audience, I don’t know. Yet. But it is intriguing.

As for my entry. Well, I knew it wasn’t totally polished when I entered. The entries are selected at random so you never quite know if you’re in or you’re out until you are. So, I probably got what I deserved. Feedback that wasn’t very, um, great? That’s not right. It was great. Just not what I wanted to hear. It was totally clear in my head, just not so much on paper. Eating banana pudding while I read it helped.

It did encourage me to rewrite the opening, which I did. On paper. With a pen. Which slowed the process down for me and allowed me to really stop and think about details. Which got me thinking about character names (another critique) and streamlining things and where to add and subtract from the overall arc and a bunch of things I probably wouldn’t have considered if I hadn’t done this. So, in the end, very useful. Like I said, good can come from the comments section. You just have to be willing to find it.

And do it while eating banana pudding.

No Good Can Come From the Comments Section

That’s what everyone says? Right? The comments section is the place where the trolls and spammers hang out. Especially when the topic is controversial or polarizing. Or someone is having a bad day and wants to make trouble. That’s what the comment section is for. To make trouble. It can also be the place the spammers go when they think no one is looking.
For example. I take a slight break (as unintentional as it might have been) and come back to a hell of a spam attack. Thank you, WordPress, for keeping an eye on that and keeping it at bay. As of this morning I was up to 942 spam messages for this month. Yikes. No comments have made it through (as far as I can tell).
I knew going into this blogging business that spam attacks was going to be a concern. I’ve been a ghost blogger before, so I knew what to expect. Spammers see an opportunity to strike and they will take it. I’m not sure why they keep it up, though. How many people actually click those links these days? And, so far, no trolls. Hopefully they stay away, all though, I suppose, trolls mean your blog is successful and getting attention, right? No? Just me thinking that?
But, unlike some, I think good can come from the comments section. Like today, I’m in a critique contest. The blog can be found here.  Authoress (who runs said blog) has created an amazing community and an opportunity for people to get feedback on their work. And, don’t tell, but the occasional agent has been known to lurk there. I’ve been lucky enough to have stuff critiqued in other contests.
It’s always scary putting stuff out there. Particularly a WIP that hasn’t exactly been edited yet. (Not to fear. I proof read it before I put it up, it’s just not perfectly polished yet. I think that’s OK, according to the rules.) What I really don’t like about it is that I’ve got this perfect image in my head and I’ve taken the image, put it into words and now you’re reading the words and peering into the image in my brain. I have to do a really good job to get you to see what I see. To hear, smell, see and feel what the MC is hearing, smelling, seeing and feeling.
And I don’t always get it right. And the community lets me know that (nicely, of course.)
Yeah. It’s not pleasant but it is necessary, for two reasons. One, you’ve got to learn to put it out there, otherwise, you never will. Two, you’ve got to learn from all the comments that come in. Good one, bad ones, evil ones. How to find the positive and incorporate that into your work. How to handle the bad ones (and maybe find some good in them). Hence, good can come from the comments. You may not like what they have to say (trust me) but you can always learn something from the comments. Maybe you learn how to set things up for your world building, or how to write better dialogue. Or you can figure out why a scene isn’t working or why no one gets your MC. Or how to ignore the trolls and how to just keep going.
So, if you get a chance, hop on over to that blog today and check it out. Take the opportunity to comment and read other’s comments. Maybe some good will come from it today. And, for fun, see if you can figure out which entry is mine. I have to reveal it by the end of the commenting period so let’s see who can find it.
I apologize for the formatting of this post. I don’t know what is going on today.

Where Do I Go Now

One of the coolest parts of being a writer is that you can work anywhere. Home, coffee shop, library, beach. Wherever.

Presuming you actually get work done.

I’ve learned I can’t work from home. I’ve had an inordinate amount of time the last few days to write while at home, but I haven’t written. Too many distractions. Or excuses. Whatever you want to call them.

So, I’m at the coffee shop, writing. I’ve got the essentials: coffee, cake, bathrooms and a ridiculous amount of people to watch. That could be the downfall. I’m busy composing character sketches in my head, wondering if I can fit them into the WIP.

I can see the corporate office is here, monitoring, watching, timing. That’s got to be nerve racking. They’re just staring at the baristas, timing them, looking at manuals, monitoring them. Not saying anything. Just looking cheery and bright. It’s all a ruse. I just know it. Underneath lurks the cold, dark heart of a corporate cost-cutter, looking for ways to improve efficiency, without any regards to the humanity of the situation.

There’s the guy I only glanced at. I could only see his white shoes and white socks. Bright white. Blinding white.

The guy in the corner is creeping me out. This place is longer that it is wider and on the back wall, there’s a little seating area consisting of two comfy looking chairs, and a little table. What’s odd is that just in front of this seating area is a few display racks. They’re open shelves, but chock full of stuff, so you can’t really see behind it and, really, who’s looking behind the display rack?

This guy is essentially hiding back there. Is it on purpose? This place is very crowded today (it usually is in the AM), so maybe he didn’t have a choice, but he’s hunkered down in the chair, typing furiously into a lap top. Or is he? The way his glasses sit on his face, his eyes are somewhat obscured and it’s hard to tell if he’s looking at the screen or around the cafe, taking inventory of all of us. Plotting something.

I’m at the communal table and the corporate people sat down at the other end. I’m plugged into headphones and really trying not to overhear, but, they don’t know that. They can’t tell that Pandora is on and I don’t care what they have to say. I could be listening, gleaning corporate secrets on the best way to brew coffee (I really would like that information) or learning about personnel secrets I can leverage for blackmail.

Man! Too many distractions! At least there are fun and possibly useful for the WIP. But, we’ll see what I get done.

Which leads me to ask: Where do you work? Where are you most productive and least distracted? Am I the only one that creates back stories for everyone I meet?

Edited to add: The irony of this post is that while I got a lot done today, I had to come home to retype this into WordPress because something was messed up and I couldn’t copy and paste!

I Can’t Possibly Be Serious

I guess this blogging every day thing isn’t going to work out like I planned because, it would seem, I haven’t written anything in five days.

Oops.

That happens from time to time. Stuff gets in the way. You know, life and all. And, as a writer, it doesn’t really bother me. I fully believe that writing every day isn’t something I can do. I don’t think it’s something anyone should do (but that’s just me). Too easy to get frustrated and to tear out hair screaming “Why me, damn it? Where are all the ideas?”

Maybe that’s just me.

In any event, the fact that it’s been five days does make me wonder how serious I am about this whole writing as a job thing. My day job is part-time for the express purpose of allowing me to write (and to bring in money). Yet, since March, when I started, I haven’t exactly worked on the WIP too much. Here and there I have, and I do feel like I’ve made some solid progress, but nothing really substantial. Each time I do write, I manage to pound out about 2000 words. Which (ball parking numbers here) would mean I should have a completed novel (rough first draft, of course!) in about 40 days. Forty days! Which would mean, and I don’t really write on weekends, I should have completed a rough draft of this sucker by, give or take, the first week of May!

Ouch.

Even allowing for the occasional illness, life event and shear laziness, I still should have finished by now.

Ouch again.

I could come up with a million reasons why I haven’t finished, and they’d all be really, really, really good reasons. But they don’t matter, do they? Because I haven’t been working on it. Which makes me wonder, is it that I’m not devoted enough to my craft, this is just a hobby for me? Am I really as lazy as all that?

And yet, here I still sit in the bathroom (it’s quiet in here. Don’t judge me!), typing away, plotting and planning. And writing.