The Adventure of Creation Anthology

With the official release of the How To Think Sideways Writers Anthology, I thought it might be interesting to explore the reason we are driven to create, and specifically why some of us are drawn to making pictures with words. Why is it that I sit down almost every day to write some words, even if sometimes my head hurts, or sometimes I’m so tired my Image courtesy of Clara Lam @ stock.xchngeyes are ready to fall closed, and write until my cat comes around to remind me that it’s time to eat? Why do I sacrifice overtime at work, turn off the telephone and the television, even put aside a book to write my own words? It didn’t take me long to figure out why, but I thought it might be fun to share my thoughts.

Why I write:

  • Writing enhances my experience of the world around me. Everything I see, hear, touch, smell and taste gains a new dimension as I fit words around it, trying to store as much as I can for future story reference. It’s a fun way to live!
  • I write to escape. Ah, the irony. Even though my experience of the world is deeper because I write, I still yearn to escape it? With words, though, I take the experiences I have and turn them into something completely new and different. I can live inside a world of my own creation if I choose. What could be more fun than that?
  • I write to make happy endings, or at least find some meaning in how our world works and why we’re here in it.
  • I write because I love words. Even though it makes me want to tear my hair out when the words come out crooked, once I get a sentence that sings there is peace in my universe.
  • I write to leave my mark upon the world—these are my cave paintings, this is me howling at the moon.

Adventure of Creation AnthologyHolly Lisle’s Adventure of Creation Anthology features thirty-five talented writers from her classrooms, each with their own story about creation leaving a mark upon the world, and it’s available today. I’m looking forward to checking it out!

Why do you write? What brings peace to your universe?

Journal image courtesy of Clara Lam @ stock.xchng

Pardon the Tumbleweeds

Image courtesy Chris Dodutch @ BigStock.comDon’t mind me, I’ll just clear away these tumbleweeds that are blowing over the scenic route. I’m still writing, but it seems I took on too much again and left the blog to gather dust for a while.

What is it this time, you ask?

I’m writing a short story! Well, actually it’s done now and awaiting revision.

Usually not a big deal, as sometimes short stories ambush me and I bash them out in one big two thousand word rush to get them out of my head and onto the page. But in this case I wanted to try to get it right.

Holly Lisle, along with the forum moderators at the revision course I’m currently plodding through is putting together an anthology of stories by her students. Not only that, but there are prizes! Anyone who has taken a Holly Lisle course, from the Plot Clinic (short courses) to the How To Revise Your Novel course is eligible, so if you’re in that category I’m looking at you! The stories must be less than 2500 words long and the anthology even has a theme: Adventures in Creativity.

The thing is, I don’t really know how to write a short story. I write really, really long ones …

Image courtesy of ilker @ Stock.xchngSo I took the same approach I always do and threw up my hands and just started writing. I wrote three hundred words setting the scene for my idea, which was: What if a mysterious character who goes by the name of Dr. M were able to dispense inspiration and ideas, and what if he made house calls? I knew that I was saving what ‘M’ stands for until the very end of the story. I’ll give you a clue though: It’s very hard to pronounce.

I set up the main character and what she is facing, but did it in the form of a narrative. Then I stopped writing, and waited, turning the idea over in my head for a day, then sat down to write again. The idea grew.

A cat wandered onto the set. The name of the cat became an important turning point in the story.

I wrote four hundred more words and put the story away.

Dr. M changed from a man to a woman. She carried a suitcase full of feathers and a metal box marked Tea.Image courtesy of gyvulius @ stock.xchn

Four hundred words later, my main character was a costume designer at a fancy garden party.

Her husband arrived.

I did this for a few days in a row and by the time I was at fifteen hundred words, my ending came into focus. Four hundred more words and I summarized the rest of the story in eight or so sentences. I wanted to pace myself but from there a quick seven hundred fifty word session and I was done!

The coolest thing had to be looking down at my Scrivener word count and seeing that my story had skidded to a halt at 2460 words, forty words below the upper limit of 2500 words! Since the entries are paid in proportion to word count, and being of the wordy persuasion, I had decided to push that envelope as far as I could.

The beginning doesn’t quite match the end anymore, but that’s what revision is for and fortunately, I know a bit about how to do that. I have until March 30 to get that in. Wish me luck!

How do you approach writing a short story? Do your beginnings match your endings?

And, did I give too much of my story away?

Images courtesy Chris DoDutch @ BigStock.com, ilker  and ‘gyvulius’ @ Stock.xchng

Liebster Award-Holiday Edition

Liebster Award 12-12As I was casting about ideas on what to post for your reading pleasure, all the while frantically wrapping presents, baking cookies, and packing my suitcase for another cross-country trek, I was honored to discover that the lovely and talented Vikki at the View Outside has presented this blog with the coveted Liebster Award. Thanks, Vikki!

Me? How sweet! But what about Christmas?

So I’ve decided to combine the holidays and this honor to unveil the first and only Liebster Award-Holiday Edition. Now these awards come with rules—yes I know, so confining—but here at A Scenic Route, we like to twist things around a bit, so expect a surprise or two.

Here are the Official Rules:

1. When you receive the award, you post 11 random facts about yourself and answer the 11 questions asked by the person who nominated you.

2. Pass the award onto 11 other blogs (while making sure you notify the blogger that you nominated them!)

3. You write up 11 NEW questions directed towards YOUR nominees.

4. You are not allowed to nominate the blog who nominated your own blog!

5. You paste the award picture into your blog. (You can Google the image, there are plenty of them!)

Sleigh HollyIn keeping with the Holiday Liebster theme, here are eleven things I like most about Christmas:

  1. The smell of fresh pine in my house
  2. Christmas music, all kinds from Mannheim Steamroller to Vince Guaraldi to Bruce Springsteen’s Santa Claus is Coming to Town
  3. Mulled wine: the taste, the aroma, and the warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you drink it
  4. Cozy sweaters
  5. Cars driving around decorated with wreaths and antlers
  6. Wrapping presents!
  7. Random acts of kindness
  8. Gingerbread houses
  9. Streets lined with twinkling white lights
  10. Jingle bells
  11. Sitting around the fireplace with the people I care about most in all the world

SnowmenNow I am to answer the questions Vikki asked:

  1. Are you a punctual person or are you usually late? I come early and bring a book to read while I’m waiting.
  2. How many hours a week do you spend watching TV? Now come on, be honest! Honestly, we turned off the cable a few years ago. I know, blasphemy! We just rent movies a few times a month.
  3. What do you wear in bed? Umm, pajamas. It’s cold outside!
  4. In a heated argument do you walk away or keep at it until you’ve had the final word? I walk away before the argument starts. I usually know how people feel about stuff before they start talking, and no one ever listens to me anyway.
  5. How many times a day do you look in a mirror? Come on, you can tell us. To put my contact lenses in and my make up on. Then I never look back.
  6. What’s the first thing you do when you wake up? Pet the cat.
  7. Do you consider yourself lucky?  Yes. When I met my husband I knew I was the luckiest girl in the world.
  8. Do you fear death? Of course. But what I fear more is not leaving a mark on the world before I die.
  9. What are your top 3 pet peeves? Impatient people, rude people, presumptuous people
  10. What character in The Wizard of Oz are you most like? The Wizard! I’m the man—or rather, the woman— behind the curtain.
  11. How many pairs of shoes do you own? At least thirty. And that’s not counting boots! But I love them all equally.

Pine AngelMy eleven questions are going to be holiday themed too.

  1. What is your favorite holiday gift of all time?
  2. Which is your favorite holiday special: Charlie Brown’s Christmas or It’s a Wonderful Life?
  3. What is your beverage of choice: Eggnog, mulled wine, or hot chocolate?
  4. What is your favorite holiday song?
  5. Who are you going to kiss under the mistletoe this year?
  6. What was your best holiday bonus from a job?
  7. What is your best holiday memory?
  8. What was the kindest holiday gesture ever made by a stranger?
  9. What’s on your wish list this year?
  10. If you could spend your holiday anywhere in the world just by snapping your fingers, where would you be?
  11. Who would you take with you?

Gingerbread BowAs for my nominees, I’m making a list, checking it twice, and all these bloggers have been especially nice:

Armchairauthor at Ink

Peter Cruikshank-It Is What It Is?

Virginia at Poeta Officium

Rabia Gale-Writer At Play

Anushka Dhanapala at Finding My Creature

T. F. Walsh

Jamie Ayres

Tangent Shell

Melissa Maygrove

Katherine Checkley at The Intrinsic Writer

But wait, you say,  that’s only ten nominees? That’s because the last spot is reserved for you, loyal followers. You are all deserving of this very special holiday Liebster Award, so if you’d like to participate, pull this one out from under the tree and take it home for your very own.

Whew! That was longer than the Twelve Days of Christmas! So, how about you? What do you like most about the holidays?

(Images courtesy of Renate Kalloch @ stock.xchng)

Does the World Really Need My Book?

Hello Insecure Writers!

I’m back with more rants about my latest writing demons, thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh who hosts the coolest blog hop around, known as the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. If you want to participate, just click on this here linky, and hook up with some of the nicest writers on the web.

I wasn’t sure if I should even post this, lest my Internet profile become permanently tarnished by this blasphemy, forever ruining any chance I might have of a successful writing career. But I’m a writer. I ask questions that others are afraid to ask. What better time than now, while my anonymous blog is nothing more than fly spit on the face of the world-wide web, to reveal the anathema that rattles around in my insecure writer’s conscience?

What if I decide not to pursue publication?

I can hear your incredulous shouts already.

What?!

(And you in the corner, rubbing your hands together with glee as you cackle, “More readers for me,” should probably rethink your IWSG status.)

Isn’t publication the dream of every lonely scrivener, who crawls out of bed at the crack of dawn to type a few hundred words before dragging himself to a day job of drudgery hoping to scrape enough money together for another ink cartridge and a month of internet access? Isn’t that the sole reason we write stories—so that someone else can read them, and validate, that, yes, life is a tough gig, and yes, love redeems us all?

Won’t getting my book out on Amazon free me from the bondage of my day job, so that I can write all day and all night, until my fingers are raw?

No?

Then, why publish?

For the sake of argument, and to keep my Internet reputation from being permanently relegated to SEO purgatory, let’s consider this a thought experiment.

What do writers really gain from publishing?

As most writers do, I like to daydream, and sometimes wonder what it might be like to be a New York Times bestselling author. Among the numerous perks I imagine would be bequeathed upon me are a big paycheck allowing quittage of the aforementioned day job, book signings with my adoring fans, speaking engagements, late night parties teeming with luminaries from the movie industry accompanied by the requisite long-legged blonde-coiffed ladies.

I admit, aside from chance encounters with not so adoring fans, and the sweaty palms involved with meeting large crowds of well-wishers, it sounds like a pretty sweet gig, all of it ripe with interesting story material. But about that: When do these people get time to write in between all the commotion?

Granted, dispensing with the aforementioned day job will help with that, but just imagine the pressure there must be, to write something equally amazing–and marketable–as the last novel!

I’m a happily married suburban housewife who only wants to write lots of novels. The big paycheck would be great, naturally, but I could buy a lottery ticket and my odds of hitting the financial jackpot might be better.

Perhaps, I can daydream some more and imagine a different scenario? Maybe writing a moderately successful novel series would be my cup of tea. I’d write characters and stories I enjoy, at a pace that allows me a good night’s sleep once in a while. I could keep in touch with my fans. Fend off attacks from haters. Track my sales numbers. Trek to my day job, because the sales aren’t high enough to pay the mortgage. Write the same series for the rest of my life, because my fans demand it and will track me down and strap me to my laptop to keep me writing it.

Okay, maybe that’s not for me either.

How about if, after a thorough professional editing, I were to put my books up on Smashwords and Amazon? In this case, no one will look at them unless I start building my brand, so it’s off to the Big Bad Internet I go. They say I need to build my platform, and the funny thing is, I’ve discovered this blogging thing is the cat’s pajamas! The more I write, and blog hop, and guest post, the more the world takes notice. I get to meet lots of people just like me, and some not like me, but all of them interesting.

The drawback? Posting and hopping and commenting are taking over my sacred writing time. The more I write about my cat’s latest antics, and how well my Christmas cookies turned out last year, the greater the assault on my novel’s word count. Does anybody really care about the heat wave in my back yard? Does it matter enough for me to sacrifice those few hours I have left after the day job to sell books, when I’d rather be writing them?

All I really want to do is write, and learn the craft of story telling. It’s ironic that much of the work involved with pursuing publication seems to take me further from that goal.

And, worst of all, as platform-building wisdom states, I need to be promoting my book before I’m even finished with it. Which brings me to the biggest reason publishing scares the bejeezus out of me.

It is a question all insecure writers can relate to.

What if my book isn’t any good?

I feel I’m too close to my work to answer that question, so last month I shared the first chapters with a few of the best writers I know. What they said surprised me.

They enjoyed my story! They loved my characters! They wanted to know what happens next!

I couldn’t believe how wonderful it felt to know that my story had made someone smile—and that it had made someone think.

The world needs to smile. And the world really needs to think.

Maybe publishing isn’t such a bad idea after all.

How about you, Insecure Writers? Have you always wanted to publish? Or are you like me, and apprehensive about publication?

March Recap

I had resolved to stop signing up for every challenge that came scooting across my browser, but then along came NaNoEdMo. I couldn’t resist. Though the official website is infected with bugs (don’t go there on my recommendation) the idea of counting my hours in editing and revision and comparing my progress with others was too tempting to pass up.

So I signed up.

As is my usual pattern, I was in a panic for half the month, and stockpiled hours like crazy. I hate losing challenges, and didn’t want to get caught behind because life has a way of cutting into my writing time in the most unexpected ways.Overtime at work. Migraine headaches. Car trouble. House repairs. That kind of stuff. So I had a buffer, and then a bigger buffer. Then I finished last Tuesday, five days early.

I had promised myself that I wouldn’t overshoot the mark, and so I did slow down and ended up with fifty-three hours of editing in March.

I really can keep up, if I want to. I have to ask myself though, do I want to?

These last few days, since I’m ahead, and promised myself that I wouldn’t get caught up in it, I’ve been cutting my editing time back drastically. Yesterday I only did an hour, and then stopped. Tonight I will try to do just an hour and a half, and then stop.

Why?

Because I need to find that happy medium, where I can keep up with reading and critiquing, and side projects like writing short stories—and posting on my blog! If there is anything I should know by now, it is that consistent effort produces results, and I need to put in consistent effort into other areas besides the novel-writing.

Besides, I’m in a happy place with my novel now. I have most of the scenes planned out, most of them written, in fact, and just have to go through an editing pass patching in what I’ve figured out. My story is all grown up now.

Anything else this month?

I wrote a two thousand word short story in an hour. I was inspired, and just sat down and wrote it. I’ve never done that before.

I learned that I can get through a workday on five hours of sleep, but that I can’t do it two days in a row.

I learned that I can read a YA book in one day. (Catching Fire-Book Two of Hunger Games)

I learned that I need to take a day off here and there, or do just a little bit of writing, like my morning words, to keep the juices flowing.

And I need to stop comparing my progress to that of other writers.

All of it adds up to one Big Lesson for March: I learned how to do one thing at a time.

Written? Kitten!

I know, you are muttering to yourself, “Whatever is she talking about? Cats and writing have very little in common. I wish she’d get on with it and give some real writing advice.”

Ah, but there is where you are mistaken. I always knew that cats, or more accurately in this case, kittens have much in common with writing and finally there is an on-line site that agrees.

The site is called ‘Written? Kitten!’ and I haven’t had this much fun writing my
NaNoWriMo novel in a long time. The way it works is that every time you write a hundred words into the box, a picture of a kitten is revealed in the box next to it. Another hundred words? Another irresistibly adorable kitten appears in the box.

What a great way to sidestep the question of whether the words are of any quality or not. Does it really matter how much you have to fight for words, when you have a kitten to look forward to when you complete a hundred of them?

The amount of words necessary to get your kitten is adjustable in increments from one hundred, to two hundred and fifty all the way to a thousand. Also, the box has a buffer, but, as always, it is advisable to save your words on your computer occasionally as you type. The words were still in the box the next day I visited the site though, so you’ll have to erase
them between writing sessions.

This might be the alternative to Write or Die that some of us, who respond better to positive reinforcement rather than negative, were looking for.

(Images courtesy of Bill Davenport, Dominic Morel, and Joel Dietle @ stock.xchng)

Book review: I & Claudius: Travels With My Cat

This has to be one of the better books I will read this year. It will most certainly be the funniest.

The laid back narrator Clare decides that she will take her aging cat Claudius on a trip across the United States, since he is nineteen years old and not likely to have much time left. Claudius is amenable to the idea, and accompanies her, commenting on her various misadventures, which include visiting men and women she has contacted previous to arriving at her destinations.

She starts in New York, where she visits some friends and finally tires of the city and heads to Nashville and Memphis, then takes a southern route through Texas, then Arizona and the Grand Canyon, and ends up in California. Claudius gives her several health scares along the way but she manages them with her usual aplomb, arranging to visit the vet and getting Claudius the Kentucky Fried Chicken he favors. Claudius, it turns out, is the only one she can depend on in this crazy world.

The narrative is so well written that I often found myself reading it twice because it was so funny and perceptive. Being British, Clare had some keen observations about American life that, though not deprecating, were still dead on accurate, simultaneously wacky and sage. The pages fly by, and despite the inevitable conclusion to Claudius’ journey, the devotion Clare has for her cat is positively inspiring. In fact, I think this story may be part of the inspiration for one of my own stories, temporarily shelved for the current Nanowrimo project.

A book I want to lend out so that others will enjoy, but will insist on getting back.