Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Halloween Kisses

I've recently discovered these incredibly addictive molasses candies that I am totally and completely in love with.

Okay, re-discovered is more like it.

Do you know the ones I'm talking about? The toffee like pieces of candy that come individually wrapped in the orange, yellow and black paper? I used to get these in my Halloween bag all the time, and I remember sorting them out and putting them in the "not so great" pile.

How could they possibly compare to peanut butter cups or chocolatey covered nougat? But that never stopped me from unwrapping one or two, just for the heck of it (I mean, who was I to waste candy?).

A few days ago, I bit into one and it immediately took me back to my childhood. They're soft and gooey and chewy, and oh-so-good. And even though I saw absolutely no value in them back then, that one bite almost fifteen years later changed things.

Not only did they have value, but I actually chose to get them over the Mars Bars.

So, of course, one thing led to another, and you just know it got me thinking. A lot of the time we may write off a scene, chapter or entire novel, because it doesn't fit into our current goals and objectives. And I know the golden rule is to cut what doesn't work. Clean it up.

But then again, maybe it just doesn't work right now.

Save it. Come back to it. Maybe it will better fit somewhere else in your life... at a different point, in a different chapter... in a new story. Go through your shelved manuscripts, your long forgotten short stories. Who knows? You may just find a sweet treasure hidden within the pages.

So, my burning question.... what's your favorite Halloween candy? ;) AND, have you ever found ideas in an old MS or story that you could use now?

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Blank Page

As you guys know, I'm currently hacking my way through edits on my MS.

Right now, I'm staring at Chapter One, wondering how I can rework it.


I've already changed it three times. And to be honest, there is nothing more I can do.

It's time. To scrap the whole thing and start over.

With a blank page.

Let's face it. A blank page is scary. As a writer, it can be hard to find anything more intimidating than that empty white screen with the flashing cursor.

But there is also something refresing and reassuring about the blank page. Because in reality, it's hope in disguise, even though it seems to be dressed up for Halloween, ready to haunt you.

There are no limits. The prospects are endless. Instead of working with what you've got, you have the freedom to explore, to create, to venture outside the confinement of your scene or chapter.

It's a canvas of possibility.

Even when you're halfway through edits and your story is pretty much complete. Sometimes it's even better, because you already have your framework. You know where you want to go... Where you need to end up. You just need to remove yourself from the slush. Rehashing and overthinking your scene can become repetitive, stirring the same spot over and over until all you have is one big pile of messy scrambled eggs.

Set it aside. Open a new page. And see what you come up with. You might be surprised.

Have you guys ever reached the point where you need to edit your scenes/chapters by starting afresh? Do you find it easier than trying to make sense of what you've got when it's not working? What works for you?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Keep On Truckin'

A guy wrote this in my ninth grade yearbook. That's it. No "see you next year" or "it's been cool knowing you". Just "Keep on truckin'" scrawled above his name.

After that I heard the expression everywhere, and it used to drive me crazy. Who even says that?

It drifted back to my mind recently as I've been struggling through edits. This book is finished guys, but it's still not...right. I can feel it. I know it can be better. I know there's still lots of work to do.

One of the most difficult things in this process so far has been the following:

Looking at a swelling 100k MS, realizing I have to add at least 30k more and then cut 50k... well... it's pretty daunting.

No, I'm lying. It's downright scary. And this is when the book is still living in only my hands.

But I soldiered on. And I did it. But it's still not finished.

And it won't be finished until it's the best I can make it. I feel like that moment is just around the corner... I hope, but I won't know until I feel it.

Until then... I'll just keep on truckin'. I think I've finally learned to appreciate exactly what this means.

Don't give up.

Don't let go.

Don't stop fighting.

Stay with it.

This is your dream, and you deserve it. The hard work will pay off in the end. It always does.

Sooo... which part of this process have you found the most difficult? The easiest? Are you soldiering on... because you better be!

Have a great weekend guys :)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

After Happily Ever After

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, they met and fell in love, and went off in search of great adventure and journeys of epic proportions, bested the beast, slayed the dragon, received her parents approval....

...and lived happily ever after.

But then what?

What happened after all that?

Did they have kids? Grandchildren? Did the evil stepsister come back to exact her revenge? Did his best friend ever become a rock star and buy the jet pack?

Yes, even though I'm short of breath following all the excitement that makes the story what it is... I still want to know.

A part of it may be that I grow so strongly attached to the characters. They become my friends... I care about them, I care about their lives. I want to see them twenty years later... see for myself that not only are they doing well, but that they've succeeded.

Different from a sequel, or a series (although we WILL get into that another day), it's the after that you continue to ponder even when you've been rest assured that everything turned out okay.

Life doesn't just stop at happily ever after, does it?

I do understand the other side of the coin though--sometimes endings are best left exactly where they are. Trying to return to something twenty years later and re-create the same mood often fails. It's always better to end on a high note.

But gosh darn it, I still want to know.

I guess this is why I write... so I can make up my own "after happily ever afters" ;)

Are you guys okay with the happy/satisfying endings you're given? Do you ever wonder what happens to your favorite characters after? Am I the only crazy one who cares to know?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Pay It Forward Blogfest

Happy Friday Everyone!

Today I am participating in my first ever official blogfest. Yuppers, the incredible brainchild of Matthew and Alex... The Pay it Forward Blogfest! As a general (insane) rule, I never take part in these things, but this is a great initiative, and I couldn't resist.

And guys.. blogfests are FUN... like the "jump out of your seat, run down the street hollering at the top of your lungs fun"... it's fantastic to visit a variety of blogs and read everyone's take on things.

So the name of the game is to get us meeting people, and connecting and making new friends and all that wonderful stuff. All participants must list three awesome blogs they read and think others would also be interested in.


Sooooo... without further ado... blogroll please!

1. Theresa's Tales of Teaching Tribulations and Typing Teen Texts - Theresa never fails to amaze me with her down-to-earth, inspirational posts. Always relatable, always spot on and always thought provoking.

2. Words and Such - I've known Kenda for quite some time, and I can always count on her for beautiful, creative posts that just make my day.

3. Claudia Del Balso, Writer - Claudia is a power house of stellar advice and helpful tips for new and aspiring writers. She has published nine short stories and writes for an online magazine.

Please check out these blogs if you have time. No time? Bookmark them and come back to them later... I promise you, you won't be disappointed! :)

What is everyone up to this weekend?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Dark and Stormy Night

It's pouring rain outside today. The skies are dark and gloomy... there's a definite chill in the air.

I'm sitting in a familiar foreign place, surrounded by what I don't know, and what I dream about everyday.

Half the time I don't even make sense to myself, let alone anyone else.

Today I am broken. Small pieces. Fragments of what I normally am.

It sounds bad, right? Surprisingly, it's not.

Sometimes I find it the best place to be. It's the place where you reflect, where the thought process takes on a life of its own. Where the words transform on the page... they become more than just words. They hold a deeper meaning.

So what should you do? Use it to your advantage!

Take that dark mood and those swirling emotions and write. Sure, it's the opposite of happy, but it's still beneficial. Just in a different way.

I do some of my best writing in this place. Maybe it's where I do most of my soul searching.

This is also the best place to write those particularly difficult scenes--you know the ones, right? The ones that tear at your heart, and stump your fingers. The ones you have to erase and re-do over and over. The ones that are so hard to get right because they need to be conveyed just so.

Sometimes all it takes is a dark and stormy night...

What about you guys? Does the mood you're in affect your ability to write? Do you find it easier to write gloomier or difficult scenes when you're also in a likewise mood?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Finding Windows and Opening Doors

Hi Everyone!

Thank you for all your comments, supportive words and encouragement on my last post. It's great to know I'm not alone :)

If I haven't gotten around to your blog as yet, I promise you I'm on my way... apologies for taking so long, a few unexpected things cropped up over the last couple of days that I needed to deal with.

So let's review a few items that have been helpful when I've found myself in the "room with no windows". (If today's topic is new to you, please refer to Wednesday's post for a quick recap.)

There are two main stages to this phenomenon. One is the BEFORE, the other is the AFTER.

See below.

1) First Stage - The Creative Process

This is a great place to be. The ideas are flowing. Inspiration speeds towards you like a runaway train, you can barely keep up. This story is practically writing itself. Only one problem - it's all in your head.

Write it down
  • Grab that pen and paper and jot it down while it's still fresh in your mind. That way, when you sit down at your computer later, you've already got most of the groundwork complete.
  • If you have access to your computer and MS, get it in there.
No access to a pen and paper
  • Quite a few bloggers on Wednesday suggested using a recorder or dictaphone - awesome idea guys! I didn't even think of this one--thanks so much for this suggestion. Record it, listen back to it when you're ready to write.
  • Your cellphone or other favorite media device (obviously this only applies if you have one). I don't go anywhere without my phone. And phones nowadays have all sort of features. The simplest one? Open up a memo or notepad and type in your thoughts. Again, this will save you the grunt work for later.
  • None of the above? Try using a mnemonic technique. Create a memorable poem or think of a unique string of words that relate to your thought process. When you return to this phrase later, it can help restore you to the track you were on.
2) Second Stage - The Dark Room

You had no time to get those ideas down. The only tools at your disposal were your mind and a handful of possibilities that you dared to dream while you gazed out the train window or dropped the kids off at school.

Now it's (insert number) hours later, and those same brilliant ideas are no longer coherent... they're tangled up with one another in a disarray of colors, stray letters and clashing sentences. It just doesn't sound right anymore.

Your new problem? You're staring at a blank screen, your brain refusing to connect with your fingers.

Write Anyways
  • Just start writing. Whether it's good, bad, or complete garbage. Force those words onto the page. Sometimes it all just sorts itself out.
Recreate the Moment
  • Close your eyes and delve deep in the recesses of your mind. Mentally go back to that mindset that you were in when the ideas came to you. Oftentimes this helps to open the door and let words out.
Take a Short Break
  • Go for a walk, listen to some relaxing music, surf the web, read some blogs. Take deep breaths, clear your mind and refocus your energy.
Forget About It and Do Something Fun
  • Just leave it alone. Put it out of your head. We tend to put so much pressure on ourselves and these words that the strain is overwhelming. We freeze. Tense up. Turn off that screen and go do something (else) you genuinely enjoy - something that makes you feel light and happy, even downright giddy. Once that pressure is off, you will be amazed at how quickly the ideas return.
I just realized how long this post is (sorry guys!), but there we have it--what usually works for me. Try them all, and see what works for you. Anything you would like to add? Did I miss any? Please share!

Hope everyone has a wonderful, inspirational and creative weekend :)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Insecure Writer's Support Group: A Room With No Windows

So today is my first post for the Insecure Writer's Support Group hosted by Mr. Alex J. Cavanaugh.

Today I wanted to talk about something that's been plaguing me for a while. Maybe the last couple of months.

I'm stuck.

But not in the way you would think. The inspiration is there. The ideas are there. The words are there. I just can't seem to get them out.

Last Friday I touched on the subject of how cluttered spaces can create a cluttered mind. Well, that's how my mind has been feeling lately. Cluttered.

There is a serious game of table tennis going on in a windowless room with no doors in the confined spaces of my brain. These words go back and forth, each one ricocheting off the other, colliding with the next new onslaught of "ah-hah's" and "I should do that!".

And there they bounce, with no where to go, not even a small sliver of light in the darkness to provide any release. I sit down each night, and face my screen... overwhelmed, excited, nervous.... and then...


My fingers freeze. The room shuts down. Sentences which made perfect sense three hours before now exist in fragments, each one blending into the next, until it's all a blur.

I know what's causing it. I'm stressed beyond words right now. Too stressed to believe in those very words that keep me going, help me make sense of the daily craziness, of things outside of my control... the ones that normally keep the stress at bay.

Maybe I put too much pressure on them. Maybe I'm not putting enough...

Okay, I'm going to leave you there, because this post is already long enough as it is, and I know there are many more to go through... but pop back here on Friday when we'll explore various ways I've found helpful for dealing with this.

Thanks for listening--er--reading guys, and thank you to Alex, for being the driving force behind this wonderful idea!

Please do share, have you ever experienced this? Have you found yourself stuck lately?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Halloweeny Shaped Clam Chowder Made By Simon Cowell

Hi Everyone!

Goodness, we're already in October! It's crazy how quickly this year is moving.

I was originally going to talk about cluttered spaces and ideas being trapped today, but I've recently signed up for Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group (first Wednesday of every month), and I think I'll save this topic for then. You guys should definitely head over and check it out if you haven't already (and if you haven't heard of Alex or visited his blog, please rectify this immediately, because he is just awesome!).

Hmmm, so now that my topic for today is gone, I think I'm going to share a few bits of Monday randomosity with you... since it's been a while ;)

1. I've recently started watching The X Factor (US version). I don't know what it is with me and Simon Cowell--he just cracks me up.

2. I'm itching to finish my edits today, but I think I've just discovered a major flaw that will require a significant rewrite.

3. I seriously want to go to Disney World (again), and have the clam chowder at Magic Kingdom.

4. I'm feeling very Halloweeny (yup, it's all about making up the words today)... I want to watch scary movies and make cookies shaped like witches and ghosts. Must be the weather.

5. There is a spider web outside my window in which a gazillion little midges are caught (May and September are their seasons). It's disturbing. I was going to include pictures, but after careful consideration, decided against it.

How about you guys? Any bits of random to share on this lovely Monday? Anyone else feeling Halloweeny? Should we plan a trip to Disney World? Who's in?