IWSG: Heading to the Lake House

Welcome to this month’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group where, thanks to the genius of Alex J. Cavanaugh, Insecure Writers Support Groupwriters all over the world-wide web gather to share their insecurities and triumphs. If you want to join us, click the linky and add your name to the list of some of the nicest writers on the web!
For this month’s post I have a question for my fellow writers. As it’s summertime all over the Northern Hemisphere, I’m watching people pack up their swimsuits and head to the lake house, where they will sit under shady oak trees sipping lemonade and ruminate on the folly of the daily grind.Image courtesy of Jo Ann Snover @ StockFresh
I’ve begun to wonder.
When everywhere the gainfully employed are kicking off their sneakers and running barefoot in the lawn, when do writers get a vacation? When will I feel entitled to set aside my storytelling wizard hat and turn into a normal human being for a spell?

Of course there are those who would mock me and say that sitting in front of a computer screen transcribing daydreams isn’t work at all. And, in that sense, they’re right. I do enjoy almost every single minute of my writing adventures. Even Image Courtesy of Marek Trawczynski @ StockFreshthinking about stopping makes me sad, and as Stephen King so aptly describes his compulsion to write in On Writing:

“… when I’m not working, I’m not working at all, although in those periods of full stop I usually feel at loose ends with myself and have trouble sleeping. For me, not writing is the real work.” (On Writing pages 148-149)

And yet, in contrast, he writes, about writing workshops, where entire days are devoted to writing one’s masterpiece:

“ … the larger the work looms in my day—the more it seems like an I hafta instead of just an I wanna—the more problematic it can become.” (On Writing page 235)

Image courtesy of Marek Trawczynski @StockFreshI think my issue lies somewhere in between these extremes: There is just so darn much I wanna do, that it’s starting to feel like I hafta.
I just crossed over 50k words on my latest WIP and that’s going gangbusters. If I could just focus on that I would be a happy camper. But I’m also more than halfway through posting my revised novel chapters at Critique Circle, and I’d really like to get through the whole book there. I’d love to devote more attention to all the courses at the Holly Lisle Boot Camps  I haven’t explored yet. And though I know I don’t post nearly enough here at A Scenic Route, I’ve even thought about declaring a blog hiatus.

I know. Blasphemy!

Image courtesy of ArenaCreative @ StockFreshSo, Insecure Writers, how do you decide when it’s time for a vacation? Is there a way to cut back and still be happy with one’s progress?

And would you guys really desert me if I missed a whole month of posting?

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Footprint images courtesy of Image Courtesy of Marek Trawczynski, lake house courtesy Jo Ann Snover, vacation in sand courtesy of ArenaCreative @ StockFresh.

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

1967

Hi there. I haven’t forgotten about ye olde blogge, it’s just that I’m writing. A lot!

To prove it, here’s some of what’s been going on in the land of revision, where I converse early and often with the story’s main character, Nick Moore. In fact, something eerie and magical happened the other day while I was writing an outline and I was excited to tell him all about it …

“Something kind of cool happened last night,” I type, hoping Nick isn’t too far away to hear me.

Image courtesy of Cema Graphics @ stock.xchngHe stumbles out of the bathroom, sleepy-eyed and unshaven. “It’s early,” he says.

“These are morning words– they’re supposed to be early. And besides, it’s Saturday. This isn’t as early as I usually get up.”

He cracks his knuckles and yawns. “Yeah, I suppose, but still …”

“I’m going to look up knuckle cracking. If it’s bad for you, you’re going to have to stop,” I type.

He grins. “Make me.”

I’m beginning to have misgivings about making him more bad@ss. So far, though, I think I can manage him. “I was going to tell you the cool thing that happened last night.”

“I’m listening.” Nick leans against the door frame, stretching his arms in front of him with his fingers entwined. “But you’re taking an awfully long time to get to the point.”

“I know, but this is morning words, and the point, I think, is to get a lot of words in a short period of time. Besides this will make me laugh when I read it over later.”

“Well, I think you’ve got that down pat then.” He raises his upper lip in a smirk. “But you had a point?” He’s done stretching and is fiddling with the tie on his sweatpants. Libra is right. He never stands still.

“Yeah. I was working on my Editor Outline last night.”

Nick holds up his hand, palm towards me. “Wait. Isn’t that part of Lesson Eleven of How to Think Sideways? And aren’t you on Lesson Twenty-One of How to Revise Your Novel?”

“Yeah, but remember our story is full of holes …”

He grins again and chuckles. “Did you ever think I might be messing up your story just so I can stick around? To keep you from moving on to other stories?”

“Yeah, I’ve worried about losing you. But the thing is, as a writer, I can conjure you up long after the story is over. It’s like my own personal fan fiction. I will finish this course though, even if I keep getting sidetracked.”

“Speaking of sidetracked …” He glances out the window and I notice the hyacinths have blossomed in the yard. Image courtesy of Claudia Meyer @ stock.xchng“Pretty,” he observes.

“And I’m in here with you. Working on an Editor Outline because I think it’s fun. Crazy, I know. ”

“So, how’s that going?”

“Splendidly, actually,” I write as my adverb alert spikes into the red. “I’m starting to see exactly where the holes in my story are. Do you want me to tell you about them?”

“Not particularly, but I have a feeling I don’t have a choice in the matter.”

“No, you don’t, but I’m going to tell you about the cool thing first. I was tired last night—“

“You don’t say?” He rolls his eyes and finds a spot on the bed, then pulls his feet up and leans against the wall with his head resting against his hands.

“Could you stop interrupting me?”

“Sure, but could you get to the point?”

“I will. I was tired so I stopped where you and Libby are in the apartment and you’re about to take her to the Hacienda.”

Nick raises his eyebrows. “Why’d you stop there? That was the good part, I finally get to kiss her.” His eyes turn dreamy.

“I told you. I was tired.”

“Okay, I suppose.”

“But anyway, as I was closing Scrivener I glanced at the word count, and noticed that I had exactly 1,967 words.”Screenshot 1967 words

“So?” Nick eyebrows rise again.

“Well, let me read you the first sentences of my outline. They’re about you and Milo:

They called it the Summer of Love. 

In 1967, Nick Moore packed up his guitar and joined his buddy Milo Young on a trek to the west coast …

“Okay, that is cool,” he agrees.

“Sometimes, Nick, it feels as if a ghost is watching over my shoulder. A good ghost, but still something bigger than I am, something that speaks through my fingers and guides me to what needs to be written.”

He cracks his knuckles again. Suddenly I know why. “It’s because you don’t smoke anymore, isn’t it?”

“What?” It’s when he looks innocent that I love him most. 

“Cracking your knuckles. You always need to be inflicting pain upon yourself, whether you’re ingesting nicotine and tar into your lungs, or cracking the bones in your precious hands.”

He looks stricken and I feel wistful because I love that word and have decided I simply must use it in the next thing I write. “What’s wrong?” I ask.

“Nothing. It’s just that you know me so well, it scares me sometimes.”

Silly man. It’s because I wrote you.

Have you ever had weird coincidences happen in your writing? Do you have a hard time letting go of your characters?

And, is cracking your knuckles really bad for your hands?

Alarm clock courtesy of Cema Graphics, hyacinths courtesy of Claudia Meyer, both @ 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

Detour: Where Do Stories Come From?

Change of scenery ahead!

I’m taking a jaunt over to visit Anushka Dhanapala at Finding My Creature for a guest post. Yes, me! A guest post! My very first.

Join me there as I explore where stories come from.

Conjuring Up Characters

Buckle up, folks. This post got a little long on me!

But a fellow student at How to Think Sideways had a question about how writers might understand their characters better, and as I explored my answer, I wrote and wrote and wrote. I was searching for a way to explain how my characters turned from nothing more than thought experiments into the companions, conspirators, and co-pilots of my novel-writing adventures.

Is there some sorcery involving a playlist, a handful of feathers, and a thousand words written under the light of the full moon that brings them to life? 

Probably not.

However, I think a part of me believes there’s sorcery involved. I call that part the Muse, and therein lies the key. My logical, rational self insists that I can’t possibly know what it is really like to be someone else, whether it’s a man or a marauding multi-tentacled supernova-eating sentient space being. (And I will leave it to my gentle readers to speculate upon the similarities between these two species!)

Unless we develop the means to read minds, I am stuck inside this head of mine forever. One brain, one human experience, one shot at this life.

I can hear the Muse already: “Boring!!”

(And, “What? I’m going to DIE?!)

In order to tap the well of experience, whether it’s my own forgotten memories, or some kind of conduit to a common human (or, heck, sentient) experience, the logical self, limited by my own perceptions, needs to let go of what is real, and allow me to believe these constructs actually exist. For them to be real, I can’t force the story on them. They must tell me the story, and I need to suspend my disbelief, on some level, for that to happen.

All of my writing exercises are predicated on that premise. Especially in the beginning stages, characters are fragile as soap bubbles to me. If I try to look too closely I will shatter the illusion and they might start to do things that don’t make sense.

Hauling them in for questioning under an unflattering fluorescent bulb is unlikely to uncover much that is interesting. How would you react if some stranger walked up to you and asked what is missing in your life?                  

You’d probably say, “Whoa—do I know you?”

I suppose I could search through my character’s imaginary rap sheet, and look up where she was born, where she lives and what kind of grades she got in school. But I have a better idea.

After all, I’m a writer. I have wings!

In free write mode, I can watch my characters from afar. A few hundred words a day will do it. I like to do this in my morning words which comes to 750 words, but the most important thing to me is that there’s no pressure. I just let the Muse ‘tell’ me what’s going on with this person. What does she do when no one is watching? What makes this character worth writing? Who are the people she cares about?

If I’m starting with an artifact or a world I ask, “Who would be worthy of such an artifact? Who would bestow it upon him?” Or: “Who is the most interesting person in this world? Why is he important?”

I note down basic things. Is he neat and orderly? Well-dressed? Slovenly? Boisterous? Withdrawn?  Timid? Arrogant? Does she smile a lot? Is she graceful? Awkward? Forthcoming?

Whether I’m starting with my gifted but world-weary guitarist, my cynical warrior, a disenchanted dragon-builder, or the flower child’s ghost, all of them have a story to show me if I just let the Muse out of his cage to lead me to it.

After a while, when I have an idea of where the character likes to hang out, I put on my reporter hat and pay them an imaginary visit, in free writing mode again. I’ll catch up with them in the woods, in a noisy bar, a parking lot, or a coffee shop, but usually it’s somewhere ‘public’. Again, it keeps up the illusion that I’m dealing with a real person, since in real life I wouldn’t meet someone in a private place like a bedroom or their home if I hardly knew them. At least, not at first!

At this stage yes/no questions work just fine for me. Even something easy like: “Are you cold?” works. Sounds simple, right? But if I get inside someone’s head, by asking, “Why?” I can find all kinds of interesting stuff that leads up to my character’s answer.

For instance, if you were in my head today, you’d know that I shivered all day at work. But if you went deeper, you’d find more. I was cold because my boss likes to crank down the air conditioning, since he thinks it will make the employees more productive, and I don’t turn the thermostat up because the more things I ask him for the less likely it will be that I get a raise.

That’s a lot of stuff going on my head for a simple question. I’ll bet a character can give a long answer like that too.

Your character might be cold because it’s dawn and all he’s had to sleep under last night is a thin blanket. He gave the thick blanket to his little sister, in exchange for an extra potato in his soup.

Or take my marauding multi-tentacled supernova-eating sentient space being. Absolute zero is really cold, and if only it could find a way to gather enough supernovas, it could build a cozy nebula and finally settle down and start a family!

If I let the Muse field these kinds of questions, suddenly I get all kinds of interesting answers—like what is missing in my character’s lives. Before I know it, I’m dealing with another story that cries out to be written.

How about you? Where do your characters come from? What kind of questions reveal the deepest recesses of your character’s psyche?

And, have you ever encountered a man you nearly mistook for a marauding multi-tentacled supernova-eating sentient space being?

Related posts:

Black Hair, Grey Eyes

Character Interview: Rigel Mondryan

Not Nicholas

Celebrating One Year of Blogging Fun

I’m surprised at this myself, but I’ve been on A Scenic Route for a whole year now! I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge this milestone with some thoughts about how I ended up here.

I pretty much stumbled into blogging. WordPress makes it incredibly easy to start a blog, so the temptation was great to come in and take a peek. What I discovered thrilled me. Themes, ready to fill with pictures and words! Widgets to track my word counts! Fonts galore! Spam blockers! I immediately set about making this place feel like home, rearranging the furniture so that my words might feel comfy here.

It never occurred to me that I was going to get visitors. I was just playing around. I’m a super shy writer. In fact, when I showed my blog to a writer friend, who knows about my inhibitions, she asked me, “If you’re afraid to show your work, why do you have a blog?”

Well, she had it exactly right. That is the perfect reason for me to have a blog. Blogging has been a great way for me to start overcoming my self-doubt, five hundred to a thousand words at a time. Many of my first posts were password protected, partly because they contain copyrighted How to Think Sideways course material, but also because exposing so much of myself to the world was downright scary for me. Clicking the publish button and the thought of someone coming upon my words induced stomach cramps.

Image via Geeks.com

Because writing isn’t supposed to induce gastric distress, I knew this was something I had to work through. I resolved to post something once week and wrote about anything that crossed my path. (Surfing by moonlight, anyone?) Usually though, I ended up with writing related posts: research discoveries, progress reports, playlists, or character interviews. The random nature of my posts fit in with the title and intent of the blog–to chronicle my writing journey.

The first few months were challenging for me. Even after the piece was published, I would usually edit it at least four or five times. I couldn’t imagine my words ending up in someone’s inbox, where my leaps of logic, typos, and grammar faux pas would be exposed for all the world to see.

Before I knew it though, I found myself looking forward to putting something up on the blog. I got a deep sense of satisfaction seeing my words up here, neat and edited, with pictures on the side, just like the pro blogs do. I looked at the Freshly Pressed blogs and aspired to be just like them, polished and pretty and popular.

Then, I gained a follower. Just one was enough to make me feel that I was now big time. The pressure was on, and I felt my posts had to be more perfect than before. Lo and behold, my practice paid off. I only edit my words once (or twice … ) after they post.

Now that I have a few followers—and believe me, the fact that you have invited me into your inbox means more to me than you can even know—I feel I should let the world know what joining me on A Scenic Route means.

My goal from the beginning was to make my blog a peaceful place to visit and read about my words and my stories. No hustle, no credit cards, no exhortations to visit this or that. No blatant pitches to buy my book—not that my book is anywhere near being finished. A Scenic Route strives to be a one stop shop for fun and relaxation. My writing is my holiday, my rest stop, my few hours of escape from the hassles of the everyday. I want my blog to be the same.

What is your vision for your blog?  How long have you been blogging?

The 'Editor' Strikes Back

The Inner Editor, that is. And for this month’s Insecure Writer’s Support group, I would like to introduce my own Inner  Demon Editor.

I used to think that since my Muse—despite his disturbing affinity for black eyeliner— is a man, that my Inner Editor would be a man as well. Sometimes I even imagined I could hear his voice—the voice of that ex-boyfriend who always warned me I would get fat if I ate the last piece of pizza he had his eye on.

But, as I thought about it some more, I realized that my Inner Editor is a woman. A beautiful woman, in fact. One that knows how to dress, and wears designer suits in a size 2. Her hair is always perfect too, always impeccably styled, sometimes twisted up in one of those sexy chignons. Her make-up is shiny in all the right places, matte where she needs to hide any imperfections—not that she has any of those. Her matching jewelry sparkles when she waves her hands around, and her rings catch the light as she points out my shortcomings.

Of course, I want to be just like her. I want to be her friend so she can tell me where she gets those great
suits, and have her show me how to put my make-up on so that it doesn’t melt the minute I step out the door. I want her to tell me where she gets those fantastic shoes.

At the same time, I know that I will never be as perfect as she is. Even if I get my hands on one of the suits, and shimmy into that pencil skirt, I will certainly spill tomato sauce on it the instant I sit down to eat lunch. My skin is way too blotchy to pull off that red lipstick. And my hair pretty much does whatever it feels like doing, depending on the weather, and so can’t be counted on to conform to any rigid style I might have in mind for it.

Most of the time when I’m trying to kick out some first draft, the Inner Editor behaves herself, and goes quietly about her business of correcting spelling and dialogue punctuation. She’s seen what the unrestrained Muse is capable of, and knows to stay out of his way.

It’s when I’m revising that she gets out of hand.

A few weeks ago she made a particularly snide comment. In my efforts to revise my first novel, I’m taking an online class, called, not surprisingly, How to Revise Your Novel. It’s a great class, but it’s a good thing the course is self-paced because I am taking my sweet time getting through it. In fact, the title of my blog is a reference to my frustration at going back and across and over every concept at least twice until I get it right.

As I was contemplating what it might feel like to actually be done with this course, taking three times as long as it should, and still not having the manuscript complete, because I have some ideas to make it much, much better, the Inner Editor informed me in her haughty voice,

“If you were taking this course in college, you’d be getting a failing grade.”

I promptly told her to keep it to herself, though I had to wonder why she would say something like that.

I thought about how strange it would be to get a grade for a course like this, where writers of all levels are working through the lessons at their own pace, and realized that what mattered more than any grade was how much knowledge I gained from it. Knowledge is hard to quantify, which is probably why it’s convenient to rely on measurements like page counts, scenes edited, or lessons completed, and why I search for something like a grade to prove I have made progress.

Grades and progress bars can be helpful in measuring achievement, but I think these need to be employed with caution–especially by insecure writers like me. Measurements like this give the Inner Editor a chance to bully me, and make me feel bad.

I don’t write to feel bad. I write because it’s fun!

Once I understood that, I patiently explained to the Inner Editor that I have made huge progress, but that, considering what I started with, getting this novel to be a better novel was going to be a long journey for me. She was welcome to come along, but she would have to resign herself to watching me mess up once in a while.

She sighed at that. But, apparently satisfied with the progress I’ve already made, she kicked off those fancy shoes, and leaned back on her black leather office chair in exasperation. We ordered a pizza, with everything on it–onions and pepperoni and extra sauce– for just the two of us.

Things were about to get a little messy.

What does your Inner Editor do to make you feel bad? How do you get him–or her–to cooperate?

For the Alex J. Cavanaugh Insecure Writer’s Group blog hop, follow this link.

What My Writing Teacher Should Have Told Me

I really don’t have much interest in the stuff I wrote in high school. That was long ago, and it doesn’t matter anymore. I don’t need those ideas, half-formed and never developed. I have much better ones now. Besides,  I threw most of that stuff away, never dreaming that I would take up writing again.

But fate has strange ways of reminding us where we came from. Like a message in a bottle from my younger self, I stumbled upon a short piece, no more than two hundred words, that I wrote for my creative writing class in high school, tucked in between the poetry I wrote in college.

Unexpectedly, I found myself face to face with the critique that haunts me still. My teacher, an unremarkable professor type that I barely remember, had, like a thoughtful critic marked some sections ‘good’ but then decried my melodramatic style, a comment that I obsess over to this day. I was seventeen, for cripe’s sake. As anyone who has been a seventeen-year old girl and lived to talk about it will attest, being seventeen is one big melodrama after another.

Then, in the final comments he had written, and I summarize:

‘… this is a mood piece, an excerpt. I’d like to this in the context of a story…’

I remember thinking, “But I don’t have a story. I don’t know how to make a story yet. You are the teacher-you are supposed to show me how to find the story, instead of raving on and on about how much money Stephen King is making from his novels.”

I finished the class, and did finally manage to produce something that resembled a story. But I gave up on the story after that, because the teacher didn’t find my plotting plausible. Again, offering no ideas on how to fix it.

Now, I don’t want to imply that I bear this teacher any ill will or malice. This was a community college with no pretensions of literary grandeur and I’m sure he was only doing his job. He most likely had enough troubles finding his own story and had every reason to believe that the students who signed up for a creative writing class did so because they had a story they were burning to tell.

This is me at seventeen. I'm on the left.
The thing is, I did have a story to tell. It just wasn’t the story this writing teacher expected me to have, enamored as he was of Stephen King and Mr. King’s ginormous paycheck.
Every night as I fell asleep I would tell myself my own stories, each installment only as long as the twenty minutes long it took me to drift into the land of nod. I still remember the names of the worlds in which it took place, two planets, twin planets called Tolyma and Altima, one with advanced technology, the other with untouched forests and magic. There was romance, of course, alongside evil overlords and rocket ships and alchemy. I remember writing down the names of the characters who populated these worlds, and some words of the language they spoke.

But, other than that,  I never wrote one word of these stories down. Maybe once I tried, but it didn’t sound as cool as Ursula K. LeGuin, even in her early work, which I read assiduously, and so I thought I just wasn’t cut out to write fantasy. My fantasy world wasn’t completely built yet, not all things had names, not all my characters made sense, so I thought I wasn’t ready to start writing yet.

This was what my so-called writing teacher should have been able to explain to me.

There have been many bedtime stories since then, adventures in distant galaxies, endless fairy tales with kings and knights courting ladies who masquerade as wizards, shameless trysts with movie stars. All played out for my own pleasure in the cinema of my cerebrum. Now that they are gone I can recall the details of very few of them. If I had recorded them with words, no matter how clumsily, I could play them back again.

It really doesn’t matter, now I’m here and I’m writing and I get it now. I found my own way eventually. All I want is for the world to know, those stories in your head? They mean you’re a writer. Doesn’t matter if they’re not what anyone expects you to write, write them down, even if just for yourself. My only regret is that I didn’t get to discover them sooner, because, in the words of Stephen King:

“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.” 

Stephen King, On Writing

Thanks, Mr. King. I’ll be sure to choose my teachers more carefully from now on.

Write a Book with Me

When I first started writing all I had was a story, one that didn’t even know it wanted to be a novel, much less that I would have to be the one to write it. Like many newbie writers, I turned to the internet for guidance in my quest to get it written. Fortunately for me, I landed on a blog called Write a Book with Me and there, in the company of writers of all levels, moderated by the witty and passionate Holly Lisle, I managed to land my novel safely on the runway of my finished first draft.

The central concept behind Write a Book with Me was that writing a smallish amount of words consistently over time produces big results. A novel is a huge project, but when broken down into smaller parts-a few hundred words here, a scene there-it can be completed in a timely fashion. Holly Lisle did her writing in five hundred word increments each day, writing five days a week, and suggested this pace to intermediate writers. Beginning writers could jump in at two hundred and fifty words a day and still expect results. But regardless of which goal they chose, participants would report their word counts daily on the blog and add a few notes about the what they wrote – perhaps what kind of mood they were in when they wrote, and any breakthroughs or milestones along the way.

We finished novels this way, lots of them. As each writer crossed the finish line the rest of us cheered. It was a great group to be involved with.

I am proud and a bit nervous to announce that I have taken the helm of this project, which was one of the seminal events in my very new writing endeavor. I certainly can’t claim to have gained enough wisdom at this point to give the kind of advice Holly Lisle did in her version of this project, but what I can do is try to round up writers so that we can keep each other company on our novel writing adventures. I’m hopeful that it may become the kind of experience for others as it was for me, where I saw writers confront obstacles and overcome them, learning from their mistakes, as they might learn from mine.

So, if you’re reading this, and you’re a writer, take a peek at Write a Book with Me and see what we’re up to over there!

(Image courtesy of Felipe Wiecheteck @ stock.xchng)