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

IWSG: That Whooshing Sound

InsecureWritersSupportGroupIt’s the first Wednesday of the month and time for the insecure writers of the world-wide web to get together and commiserate via the wonderful Insecure Writer’s Support Group. If you’d like to join us, click the linky, where you’ll find the Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh and some of the nicest writers on the web.

Let’s talk about deadlines. I’m sure everyone has read this little gem:

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they go by. Douglas Adams

Kriss Szkurlatowski @ stock.xchngI can appreciate a solid deadline too. I deal with them all the time at my day job because in the lab our customers like their results delivered on time, often ASAP–if not sooner. I sometimes joke and ask them if they might prefer their results before the samples actually arrive in the lab! Deadlines met mean money made though, so I rarely fail to turn my workload around on time.

I’m the same way with my personal writing deadlines. If NaNoWriMo challenges me to write fifty thousand words in thirty days, I churn out at least a hundred thousand. If I resolve to free write seven hundred and fifty words every morning, I write my words no matter what, even if I can’t get to them until eleven thirty at night. If a short story contest ends on March 30, I hit send on March 29 to make sure the story is received in plenty of time. When I resolved to finish the How to Revise Your Novel course sometime in June, I finished it on May 26. If I sign up to post on the first Wednesday of every month about my insecurities, I start writing my post weeks ahead of time and haven’t missed a post. (Not yet anyway!)

I used to think deadlines were no problem for me. Then I tried to write and, more importantly, revise this book. For the life of me, I can’t seem to set a deadline to finish it. (For those of you who are counting, this is the draft I finished in September of 2009.)

I tell myself that it’s because I’ve never written books before, so I don’t know how long it will take to produce one that’s actually good. Besides, how can I set a deadline to finish my book if I keep running into potholes in the writing of it? It’s not as if my book is a batch of cookies, where all I’d have to do is look inside the oven and pull them out when they’re brown around the edges.Dominic Morel @ Stock.xchng

How will I know when my book is done?

When the critiques all come back glowing? When I’m finally able to summarize my story in a snappy query letter? Will angels sing and stars float over my head announcing that I have finally created the masterpiece I am hoping for?

Or will I hear a faint but rapidly approaching whooshing sound as a deadline hurtles towards me?

I don’t know. But I think I need to figure it out if I ever want writing stories to turn into a paying gig.

So I’m turning to the insecure writers–and the secure ones as well. What kind of signs do you look for to decide if the book is well and truly finished? Or do you simply set a deadline, and stick to it no matter what?

Microscope image courtesy of Kriss Szkurlatowski, cookies image courtesy of Dominic Morel, both @ Stock.xchng

Missing the Boat

I wasn’t even sure I wanted to blog about this, because there is this sense of shame I feel at falling short. But I know all writers, even the great ones, go through this. It’s almost like a rite of passage I suppose. So I’ll come clean.Image courtesy of Guido Giardino @ stock.xchng

My miserable piece of dreck short story was rejected for the Adventures in Creating Anthology.

It’s okay, really. As I read the names on the list, and saw mine wasn’t on it, I naturally had all kinds of emotions going through my head: disappointment, frustration, surprise, jealousy, hopelessness. But I had another reaction I didn’t expect.

Relief. Overwhelming relief.

No more revising that one, no worrying about when it’s coming out or if the cover will look cool. (No harassing my followers to buy the book. ;))

I’m struggling to understand why I feel that way, because it is quite a powerful feeling–one that eclipses all the rest. I wanted to be in the anthology. I did my best with it and had lots of other writers give me feedback before I sent it in. I poured a little of myself into that story, all my favorite things, feathers, a cat, music, wings, all there.

So why am I relieved that the story will remain safely on my hard drive?Image courtesy of Vjeran Lisjak @ stock.xchng

Is it because I don’t care about being a writer? I don’t think so. My creative fire still burns hot. I’ve never needed recognition to pursue my creativity. I don’t need the title of Writer in order to put my words up on the screen.

Is it because I’m tired and just want to get some sleep? Maybe. Finally, I have validation that all this ambition leads to nothing, so I might as well sleep.

I finally concluded that I’m glad my work isn’t out there if it’s not ready. I chose to submit to this anthology because I knew there would be feedback from the contest moderators, and I’m hoping for some insight as to why this story isn’t up to snuff.

Because I want to know.

Did I miss the anthology theme? Was the conflict too small? Did my main character come off as one-dimensional? Was my setting vague? Does my dialogue confuse readers? Are my critiquers not honest enough to tell me what is wrong with this? Were seven critiques and six revisions not enough?

What, what, WHAT, tell me what do I need to understand to write decent stories?

Maybe I’m just tired of fighting the inner editor and ready to give in to her constant nagging that I’m not good enough.

Fine, I’m not good enough.

Not yet.Image courtesy of Marja Flick-Buijs @ stock.xchng

There will be other boats.

(Because you’re special, the Holly Lisle Forum members can find the password for my anthology page and read the story using this link. Be sure you’re logged in when you click. Please remember: This is a work in progress!)

And, how do you react when the boat leaves without you? Do you sink? Or do you swim?

Sinking ship image courtesy of Guido Giardino, folded paper ship image courtesy of Vjeran Lisjak, rainbow paper boats image courtesy of Marja Flick-Buijs, all three @ stock.xchng

IWSG: Intervention

InsecureWritersSupportGroupThanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh, I now have an excuse to expound upon my self-doubt without fear of reprisals! If you’d like to join us at the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, click on this linky, and prepare to meet some of the nicest writers on the web. We post on the first Wednesday of every month.

Today, I’m going to share something I’m worried I will never overcome. It’s this: I’m a horrible plotter, and even my characters are getting tired of my haphazard plotting. So fed up …well, how about I show you how fed up they are? Here’s how it went down …

***

Image courtesy of Emiliano Hernandez @ stock.xchng

My footsteps echo in the front hall of the Muse’s palace. “Muse?” I call. “You in here?”

“Over here.” His voice resounds on the stone walls. He’s in the library. Of course.

As I near the room, I hear whispered conversations, snatches of phrases like, “… tears of stars … walk in dreams … rock god …”

Then a loud ‘shhh.’

“What’s going on?” I ask as I enter. The lights come on.

Omigosh. The room is full of people I know, although I’ve never met them in real life. These are the people in my stories. Nick Moore from The Tempest’s Serenade stands near the front of the group, his arms crossed over his chest, watching my reaction with concern. On the opposite side of the group towers Teragus Swansong from The Whole of the Moon. The implacable steadiness of his golden eyes makes me shudder.

“Nick?” I ask, because he’s still the one I talk to most. “What’s going on?”

Image courtesy of 'miamiamia' @ stock.xchngNick takes a deep breath. The rest of the crowd has gone back to conversing amongst themselves. Rafael from Lost Wax, with Abigale wrapped in his arms, is exchanging Italian phrases with Noelle, the lithe ballet dancer from Constants, while Aiden, the numbers-addicted protagonist of the same story is immersed in conversation with Griffin of March, the gem collector and heir to the crown from Bridge of Light. Dr. Andria Morgan from my latest story–which doesn’t even have a proper title yet– looks forlorn as she stands off to the side. Despite the ill-fitting black Regulation uniform disguising her tiny frame, she has managed to attract the roving eye of Stuart Livingston.

“Who’s the new chick?” Stuart, Nick’s sidekick from Tempest’s Serenade, asks me.

Andria, with her as-yet-uncolored-eyes narrowed, faces him and answers, “I’m from her latest project— one that actually has a plot and an ending, I might add.”

“That’s what our Writer told me too when she started,” Rigel Mondryan from A Crown of Thorns sneers. “Just wait until she gets to the middle section. You’ll see. It’ll all fall apart just like it always does.”

Andria gives me a furtive look.“Hey, that can’t be true, our Writer has an outline this time—”

“Silence!” bellows Lord Swansong. He steps in front of the melee, his arms stretched wide. His son-in-law Rigel continues to bicker with Griffin of March until they come to some sort of agreement and break out in guffaws.

I spot the Muse sitting on a bookshelf high above the fray and hope he knew what he was doing when he put this gathering together. This many alpha males in one room can only lead to trouble.

Nick nods in acknowledgment as Teragus Swansong begins. “Writer, (because, to avoid confusion, all my characters simply call me Writer.) We’re here to stage an intervention.”Image courtesy of 'deafstar' @ stock.xchng

“An intervention?” I stammer. “For what? The hardest drug I do is coffee.”

I hear Stuart Livingston snicker. He jumps as his girlfriend elbows him in the gut.

Lord Swansong continues, “It has come to our attention that you are seriously deficient in the plotting department. We fear that you will never tell our stories properly.”

“I’m trying, really I am,” I reply. “I’m taking a revision course. I write every day. I read blogs.”

Rigel disentangles himself from his wife Cerule’s arms and stands. He’s wearing his crown, so I know I need to be careful what I say or he’ll be inside my head reading all my wicked thoughts. “Nick over there—” Rigel indicates the dark-haired, steely eyed protagonist of Tempest’s—  “Tells me you’ve been agonizing over his story for years now. Don’t you think it’s time you figure out how to get it right and get on with it?”

“I would if I could, but a novel is so big, it’s hard to keep track of everything. I’m doing my best. Maybe I’m just not cut out to be a novelist— ”

Nick holds up his hand to stop Rigel from perturbing me any further. “I think she gets the point.”

Cerule Swansong, silent up to now, stands. She smiles at me. With her silver blonde hair and her graceful yet powerful motions, I can see why Rigel fell in love with her. “We only want to help you, Writer. It’s not just about us. It’s about you. We want to see you successful, perhaps even published.”

“That’s what everyone tells me.” I sink onto the chair that Nick has pulled next to me. “I just don’t know how to stop writing and plan something. You guys just spill out onto the page and I write and write and can’t stop–”

“Which is why we’re staging this intervention.” Libra Duvall, Nick’s mysterious Muse, has left her window seat to stand next to him. “We want to be read, Writer,” she says as Nick absent-mindedly strokes her long blonde hair. “It’s why we exist. But your stories need to make sense.”

Nick continues, “We have some ideas for you. To get you back on track.”

I scan the faces before me. Teragus, Rigel, Cerule, Stuart, Libra, Nick and all the rest stare back at me expectantly. Their fate lies in my hands. I feel so helpless.

41GtFMuVhWL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_“I don’t want to let you down,” I say. “But the only book about writing I’ve read is No Plot, No Problem.

“Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered,” Nick says. “We picked out a few craft books for you.”

Aiden chimes in and stands, holding a stack of paperback books. “Here are a few to get you started. Writing the Breakout Novel , Story Engineering,” He winks. “A personal favorite.”

“Well, you’re the numbers guy, after all,” I agree.41zE6Pp83tL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_

“There’s more though,” Cerule says. “Techniques of the Selling Writer, Save the Cat.

41KYQst9aIL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_Abigale chimes in, “You’re going to love Bird by Bird!”

“And this one,” Rigel offers, “The Art of War for Writers. And Nail Your Novel. You loved Memories of My Future Life so I’m certain you’ll appreciate Roz Morris’s advice.

I hold the books in my hands, quite a stack, and see the concerned looks on their faces. “Wow, you guys are the best. I really hope I don’t let you down. Wish me luck.”

***

So, writers, any other suggestions to help me with my plotting woes? What’s your favorite writing craft book?

Images: rainbow of books courtesy of Emiliano Hernandez, talk bubbles courtesy of ‘miamiamia’, chairs courtesy of ‘deafstar’, all @ stock.xchng.

IWSG: A Whole Lot of Why

InsecureWritersSupportGroupIt’s time, once again, for the Insecure Writers to unite and encourage each other. If you’d like to join the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, all you have to do is click on this linky and add your name to the list. Alex J. Cavanaugh has hosted this group years now, and I can assure you, there is no nicer group of writers on the web.

In the past month, I’ve had a lot of insecurity about why it is that I’m driven to write. When I see everyone around me rushing to publish, and all I read is about the many ways to bring readers to my words, it sometimes freaks me out a little. Is this really the reason I write? Or is there an even more important reason I keep coming back to my words? As I often do, I discussed the matter with my alter-ego Muse, and found answers that surprised me.Image courtesy of marija jure @ stock.xchng

I come home to an empty house and the Muse is waiting. He watches me get ready to write as I pour my Pepsi and sort my bills. He’s humming in the back of my head. He has something to tell me.

I open my laptop. Since I haven’t done my morning words today, I decide to write what I please for a while.

The Muse rests his chin on his interlaced hands, doing his best Brandon Lee impression. “Glad you’re back,” he says without a trace of irony in his voice.

Ink Blot 2“I’ll always come back,” I type. But I know he’s had doubts.

“Thought so,” he says, hiding his misgivings. “So tell me, what’s eating you?”

“It’s all the commotion about publishing. Everyone’s publishing, and if they’re not publishing, they’re at least critiquing, exchanging manuscripts, blogging a novel … Sometimes I feel as if it’s all about who can get their words to the most people the fastest.”

He points at the title at the top of my blog to remind me. “I worry sometimes,” he says.

“What? You worry? You’re a Muse. You’re completely made up, a figment of my overactive imagination, less substantial than feathers and moonbeams.”

He looks at the ground, his shoulders sag and his wings droop. “That’s just it,” he mutters. “For the longest time you never even noticed me.”

My fingers stall on the keyboard as I remember. I had a dry spell so long I thought my words were an abandoned planet, without air, without water or sign of life. I wanted to be a writer way back in high school. I took classes and read craft books, but ultimately made the wise choice—

“Which was?” the Muse asks to prompt me to talk to him, instead of ruminating endlessly.

“I live in a safe neighborhood; I have a great job. I can sleep without worrying about where I will end up a few years from now.”Images courtesy of marija jure @ stock.xchng

“But something’s missing?”

“You bet something was missing. I felt mute, empty, adrift. But I didn’t know why.”

“Should I remind you of why?” the Muse asks. Though he will defend me to the last, his eyes burn with accusation.

“No, you don’t have to remind me of why. There’s a whole lot of why …” I take my hand off the keyboard to change the playlist. The Muse waits patiently and eases back from my desk once the song begins.

“You’re afraid of something,” he prompts.

 I hesitate, then type, “All this commotion about publishing reminds of what I felt like when I abandoned writing.”

Images courtesy of marija jure @ stock.xchng“How did you feel when you left writing?”

“I felt that what I had to say was unimportant, that my words were insignificant when compared to the great writers, and that if I didn’t have anything ‘important’ to say I should just shut up. I was certain that no one would be interested in what a girl who grew up in a quiet town in Wisconsin, who went camping and sailing and loved rock music, had to say.”

“What makes you think you’d feel that way again?” He folds his hands across his chest and the corners of his mouth turn serious as he tries to imitate a shrink.

“Well—” I pause as I try to visualize him and write down his body language. “A lot of writers have advice on building a brand, on how to reach readers, on how best to market a book, on how to escalate a plot, on how to keep adverbs at bay …”

“So?” the Muse asks. “That’s all good stuff, and I’m happy to help you with all that.”

“You have no idea how much I appreciate the offer. But that’s not what bothers me.”

“Then what does bother you?”

“That it stops being about the writing. I worry that I will find myself torn away from writing the next book. I’d rather just write. I need this for me. For you.”

The Muse purses his lips thoughtfully, and I cringe as another adverb pops up on my screen.Images courtesy of marija jure @ stock.xchng

“Can’t we do a bit of both?” he asks.

“I can try. But don’t you see? That’s why my blog has a destination name and not my real name? I don’t want this to be about me. It’s about the words.”

The Muse holds up his hand. “This is morning words so you can stop here. How about we take this up again tomorrow?”

“But tomorrow is IWSG day.”

“Then the next day. This isn’t a contest. This is for you.”

I close my laptop gratefully, confident that I’m not going to stop writing just yet.

Image courtesy of 'kuleczka' @ BigStock

How about you, insecure (and secure!) writers? What’s the why behind your words?

Related posts: What My Writing Teacher Should Have Told Me

Ten Days in the Life of a “Non-Writer” by Katherine Checkley

Images courtesy of marija jure @ stock.xchng,  and ‘kuleczka’ @ BigStock

Making It Sing

Image courtesy of 'Kimberlee Kessler Design'So, you ask, how is that novel coming along?

I kinda figured my novel-writing journey wouldn’t be an expressway, but sometimes it feels like I’m on a bus headed to the wrong side of town.

I always thought writing a novel would be like wandering from the Shire to Rivendell, but mine often feels like it has ended up on top of Mt. Doom.

And it seems that most writers’ story-writing sewer pipe leads straight to the street, but mine stops in the garden, then shimmies under the driveway and even takes a turn or two around some tree roots.

What am I trying to say with all these awkward metaphors?

Writing my first book is taking a really long time. How long?

Okay, I’ll come clean.Image courtesy of Barry Meyer @ stock.xchng

The first draft- and I use the term ‘draft’ loosely here, being the first story I ever wrote, long, short, or otherwise- was completed in September of 2009.

Yes, you read that right.

Two Thousand and Nine.

Why is it taking so long to share this story with the world?

Revision, my friend, revision …

Here is a picture of where I’m at with it:Lesson 18-Chapter 35

Chapter Thirty-Five, you say. What’s the problem? That’s pretty far along in a forty-three chapter novel, isn’t it?

Not really.

I started this pass of my revision (line editing for usage, self-indulgence, and commas) near the end of the story because I couldn’t stand to look at Chapter One anymore! I’m seriously starting to wonder if I will ever finish this story.

This is not my inner editor talking here. This is the voice of reason. I look at my words and I know they are not ready. Some of them are, and that’s how I know that I’m being realistic. I think I’m close, but there are quite a few sections that need some more work.

It probably doesn’t help that I keep scampering off to write other novel first drafts, five in all (finished) since I started Image courtesy of Irina Tischenko @ Big Stockrevision on The Tempest’s Serenade. I like to stretch my storytelling wings once in a while and it feels so good!

I’m here to announce that I’ve made a decision about my direction. After the second pass of block revision, (I’m pretty sure I’m going to need a third) I’m going to try to sprint— all right mosey, this is the scenic route after all— to the end of the How To Revise Your Novel course, whether or not the final result ends up being a publishable draft.

I’m on Lesson Eighteen of Twenty-Two. At the rate I work, it is conceivable that I could get through them all by summer. Maybe even in time for the Create Space offer for NaNoWriMo winners?

Someday, perhaps The Tempest’s Serenade will take the world by storm … but for now, I want to do my very best to make it sing.

How long do you think it should it take to write a novel? And what do you do to stretch your wings?Image courtesy Kate Childers @ stock.xchng

Images courtesy of ‘Kimberlee Kessler Design’, Kate Childers and Barry Meyer @ stock.xchng, and Irina Tischenko @ Big Stock

What's In Your Bucket?

jamiebucketAwful quiet in here lately …

You might think I’m hibernating— but actually, I’ve been absorbed in revision, (more on that soon) reading fellow writers’ works-in-progress (you guys are awesome, all of you!) and, okay, sleeping.

But I’m back because one of my cyber-buddies, the lovely and super-talented Jamie Ayres, has a book release coming up! This week, on January 24, her debut novel, 18 Things comes out. Be sure to check it out!

Isn't this a lovely cover!
Isn’t this a lovely cover?

As a way to promote her release, she’s sponsoring a fabulous blog hop that poses the question:

What are 18 Things on your bucket list?

Since I love to ponder what I want to do with my life, I simply had to come out of my winter slumber and post mine. So, without further ado:

My Abridged Bucket List:

  1. Experience weightlessness or zero-g
  2. Visit the Louvre and see the Mona Lisa.
  3. Read the top 100 novels of all time (though opinions vary widely on what those are!)
  4. Work at an archaeological dig
  5. Learn to play all twenty-one of Chopin’s Nocturnes on the piano.
  6. Swim with dolphins
  7. See an opera
  8. Visit the Haleakala Observatories on Maui and look at the stars
  9. Go hang glidingImage courtesy of Dave Dyet @stock.xchng
  10. Ride an elephant
  11. Celebrate Midsummer Night in Sweden
  12. Live on a sailboat for a year
  13. Pay off my mortgage
  14. Drive a Porsche
  15. Walk a half-marathon
  16. See the Northern Lights
  17. Visit Australia
  18. Hold a real live copy of one of my books published in hardcover

Stephanie Syjuco @stock.xcngWhew, that’s a lot of things! Makes me want to take a nap just thinking about them all …

How about you? What are some things on your bucket list? And, can you tell I love astronomy?

Congrats, Jamie on your  upcoming release, 18 Things!

Images courtesy of Dave Dyet and Stephanie Syjuco @stock.xchng

IWSG: My Blogging Blooper Reel

InsecureWritersSupportGroupWelcome to 2013, Insecure Writers! If you’re not already part of the Insecure Writer movement that is—thanks to the inimitable Alex J. Cavanaugh— taking the Internet by storm, click this linky to add your name to the list of some of the nicest writers on the web. The first Wednesday of each month is the day we post about our trials and traumas, supporting each other as we overcome our writing troubles.

A new year is always an opportunity to look back upon what was and what could have been. In my case, a lot of ‘could have been’ never gets past the gatekeeper of, “Would anybody really want to read this crap stuff?!” But then sometimes, I think maybe I should have given it a shot. Hence, fellow Insecure Writers, I present for your amusement: A glimpse of the posts that didn’t make the cut for the year 2012: My Blogging Blooper Reel

Take for instance the unfinished post: Building the Perfect Hero

He’s handsome, of course, but with scars.'Lucretious'

Okay, but describe handsome. Handsome starts with the eyes, deep-set, probing, intelligent, thoughtful. Not sharp, unkind, or darting about the room while I’m talking, but looking directly into mine without fear, with curiosity. They can be any color. Blue is overdone, but green will work, and in my hero’s case they’re brown with auburn highlights …

Another post was about how a trip to the E.R. ended up nudging the Muse to whisper the name of a main character in The Whole of the Moon. The post was tentatively titled Stranger than Fiction.

I had asked the Muse a week ago but had given up on getting an answer. The heroine’s father was in need of a name. And since he is a god, it needs to be a good one. I can see what he looks like, bushy white eyebrows, aquiline nose, and a stern, disapproving set to his mouth, weathered skin framed by a cloud of white hair. His frame is aging, but every bit as powerful as it was in his youth. A name worthy of such a man would not be an easy assignment.

Then, as the darkness of sleep crept upon me, I heard a name whispered inside my head.

Teragus Swansong.

I had a mind to post a character sketch for Danny DeVries- a minor character in The Tempest’s Serenade:

Christy ThompsonHi Danny. Got a minute? I know you’re busy tonight, but if you could just…okay, I’ll sit back with my margarita and speculate. Thanks for the drink, by the way. I know they are mostly for the tourists so I really appreciate you sending one my way even though I’m a regular.

So, I’m trying to get what you look like onto my page.

What? You hate your looks? Who doesn’t. Getting older stinks, especially in self-conscious, self-absorbed SoCal. There are a lot of nice people in Los Angeles though, you just have to be open to them …

There was a short post about a pivotal scene that came to me on a rainy afternoon: Caught in the Rain

A sudden shower, a dusty gem of a song, and a burst of inspiration written on the back of an airline ticket was all it took to give my story another nudge in the direction of the book I set out to write.

My mind’s eye saw a newspaper article announcing the tragic death of an emerging musician by drug overdose tacked on a bulletin board. Beside it were lyrics and some chord charts hastily Billy Alexanderscribbled in dark pencil.

My female lead, insisting, “Because I’m a ghost” when I am desperately trying to keep her from disappearing off the page. She has unfinished business she left behind. She haunts him.

I had some interviews with Rigel, the protagonist of Book Two of The Dragon’s Milk Chronicles:

He gets up early, like me, before the rest of the world wakes up. It gives him time to think, time to let his defenses down. I’m not even sure if I should bother him.

“You again.” He tries to appear angry, but I can tell that he is glad to see me.

“Just a few more visits. I have some things on my mind.”

“Okay, I suppose so,” he says, but I know that the word ‘okay’ might not even fit into my fantasy world, even though it is set in our world.

“Can you tell me more about the girl you loved?” I ask him.

“You want to know her name, don’t you?”

“I do.”

I had an interview with the love interest in The Tempest’s Serenade all cued up, before I backed out. It went something like this:

Chrissi Nerantzi“Libra?” I ask.

I try to be calm and soothing. She’s a nervous girl, and very shy. She looks around the room the way my cat would, always prepared with an escape route. I don’t describe her blue eyes, but choose instead the fragile bones beneath her cheeks. Her lips part in a tremulous smile.

“You don’t usually ask for me,” she says. “It’s always Nick.”

“Does that bother you?”

“A little.”

Nick was angry with me once:

“You know why it is taking so long on this revision, don’t you?”

I sigh, and keep typing. I know what is coming without even thinking about it too much. “You were meant for this,” he says, “Why do you always try to deny it?”

“I can’t bring myself to let it go.”

“You are hiding. Why?” His eyes are gentle, his anger gone. “Why?” he reiterates.

“Said bookism,” I accuse him weakly. Why is he beating on me, when I am so tired?

And then, I was going to post the scene when Nick got his guitar at twelve years old: Nick and the Black Strat

Image courtesy of 'RockNRollP' @ stock.xchngA long-haired dude saunters up to the two of them and addresses Nick’s father. “What can I do you for?”

His father looks him over, and tries not to judge him. The guy can probably play the pants off Eddie Van Halen. Erik used to listen to rock music himself, but now music makes it hard for him to think.

“It’s for my son.”

The long-haired dude looks down at Nick, who can’t disguise his fervent admiration for anyone who plays the instrument he loves so much.

Nick looks up at him and smiles. “Can you play Van Halen?”

The dude grins and rolls up the sleeves of his flannel shirt to reveal tattoos up his elbows. “‘Course I can play Eddie, and I can play Jimi and …Satriani. ” The young man plucks a guitar from the upper row, bright red with black hardware. Nick grins in anticipation, but it is all Erik could do to keep himself from rolling his eyes.

Most recently, there was the post about my story having a shape:

Alaa HamedSometimes writers talk about writing with intention. For me, it is the unintended, those moments where I discover what my subconscious is weaving into my words, that gives me a glimpse of my soul.

One of my favorite aspects of drafting a novel at the accelerated pace of NaNoWriMo is when a pattern begins to emerge in the tapestry of my story. Halfway through The Whole of the Moon I was struck by a theme that keeps popping up. My story has a shape. That shape is a circle …

There are more, but that’s enough for today, don’t you think?

How about you, Insecure Writers? Do you ever toss posts back into the bin because it’s just too scary to put them up there? Do you have a blogging blooper reel?

Images courtesy of Antony Ruggiero, Chrissi Nerantzi, ‘Lucretious’, ‘RockNRollP’, Billy Alexander, and Alaa Hamed, Christy Thompson @ stock.xchng

IWSG: Driving A Story Off A Cliff

InsecureWritersSupportGroupHere we are at the first Wednesday of the month and it’s time for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group to pull our virtual chairs into a circle and discuss our anxieties. If you want to be a part of our great group, and join Alex J. Cavanaugh in commiserating about all the trials we Insecure Writers endure, click on this linky and join us! I’ve been posting with this fabulous group for almost a year now, and knowing that I am not alone in my insecurities and fears has made a huge difference on how I view this writing obsession of mine.

This month I was certain I would be posting an uplifting story about how winning NaNoWriMo has boosted my self-confidence, how much fun I had writing my story, and how I feel so much more a part of the tribe of writers.

Well, that lasted for about a day.

Then my Inner Editor, who’d I’d sent on a month-long imaginary shopping spree to spruce up her already stunning wardrobe, returned. It didn’t take her long to unpack all the designer duds out of her matching luggage and to add her latest acquisitions to a shoe collection that rivals that of the infamous Imelda Marcos.

She settles in quickly and makes a cup of coffee, black because extra calories do nothing for the hips.

“What have you got for me?” she says. Her desktop is one of those glass ones that only the high-powered executives with nothing to do except schedule meetings have, with only a phone, an expensive pen, and a vase of flowers on it.

I hand her my newly minted first draft manuscript, and she proceeds to look it over.Red Lipstick

“I see that  you wrote yourself in again,” she says as she flips through the first few pages. Her coral-colored lips, the latest Chanel shade, are pursed as she points out the first of what are certainly many strategic missteps on my road to literary abandon.

“Umm … yes,” I reply. “I needed to get into my protagonist’s head,” I add helpfully.

“Have you ever met an adverb you didn’t like?” She turns another page.

“Rarely,” I say and clap my hand over my mouth as I realize I’ve released yet another adverb.

“And what’s this?” She taps a perfectly manicured coral fingernail on the title of a chapter. “A Side Trip to Exalta City?”

“It’s a tour. Of the city where part of the story takes place.”

She pulls out her red pen, a Cross limited edition. “Does it move the story forward?”

“No, I suppose not. But I needed to see what things looked like,” I try to explain. “I might be a discovery writer.”

She frowns, looks annoyed, and goes to the next chapter. “You know, some people write their novels according to a plan. Scenes, character arcs, plotting …”

“So did I!” I reply (defensively.) “I just got sidetracked a lot.”

Question Mark-Red“I can see that. What’s with all this squid? This is a fantasy novel, isn’t it? Why is there squid on the menu for dinner, lunch, and breakfast?”

“Oh that.” I blush. “It was a dare.”

“A dare?”

“To see if I could figure out a way to include a squid in my story.”

“Tell me,” she says and tries to wrinkle her botox-enhanced forehead. “Why is it that you routinely insist on driving a perfectly good story off a cliff?”

I chew my unfashionably un-coral-colored lip. “Because it’s fun?”

“Aha.” She twirls her red pen between her elegant fingers. “Some Nano novels actually do find publishers. Did you ever consider that writing something this bad will never get you published?”

“Well, I was hoping you could help me whip this into shape.”

“Perhaps …” She pulls out her reading glasses, Christian Dior, and begins to pay attention. I dare say she looks interested in what she’s reading.

“Anything worth keeping?” I ask.Exclamation Point -Red

“Who’s this Lyra woman? I haven’t read about her in your outline.”

“She was a surprise.”

“Any other surprises?”

“A few. Some were good though. I think … ”

She smirks. “I’ll be the judge of that.” She pats the comfy chair, and motions me to get the blanket.

“You’re not going to quit are you? Is this story worth saving?”

She smiles a perfunctory smile, the kind the doctor has when he tells you that you’re getting older, and to expect a new ache now and then. “That’s why you pay me the big imaginary paycheck isn’t it?”

I’m so glad the Inner Editor and I have this worked out.

How about you, Insecure Writers? Has your Inner Editor gotten his or her hands on your Nano yet? Do you write from an outline? Do you prefer coral or ruby-red lipstick?Red Lipstick

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Images courtesy of  Jordan McCullough @ Big Stock, Jean Scheijen, and ‘Widiwidi’ @ Stock.xchng

IWSG: A Cloud of Caffeine And Happiness

Got self-doubt? I do!

On the first Wednesday of every month the inspiring Alex J. Cavanaugh and some of the most amazing writers on the web get together to talk about it. Click this here linky to join me and The Insecure Writer’s Support Group as we circle the wagons to huddle around the campfire and share our stories.

Today, I’m going to talk about National Novel Writing Month and how writing fifty thousand (or more!) words in a month has been a great confidence builder for an insecure writer like me. One NaNoWriMo experience in particular marks an unforgettable turning point of my writing journey.

Two years ago I participated in my second NaNoWriMo and, having clocked a personal-best word count of 121k, I was already feeling pretty happy about my writing prowess. But there was another challenge I had determined to overcome that year: Sharing excerpts of my work.

The NaNoWriMo writer’s profile has a page where one can post an excerpt of the work in progress. I knew I had a problem when I took my excerpt back down after only a few hours because I couldn’t stand the thought of someone seeing it!

Yes, I’m that insecure about sharing my writing.

I persevered and put another excerpt up, but it took all the courage I could muster to leave both the story summary and an excerpt up on the page for the duration of November.

That was why a particular challenge involving a seventeen minute word sprint and a subsequent posting of a snippet from the resulting words was perfect for me. I love word sprints, and the part about posting snippets was a good dare for me–especially because the forum offered no possibility for taking my words back down once they’d posted. I did this four or five times, and each time it got a little easier. I tried not to think about other writers actually reading them. I hoped everyone was too busy with their own stories to care about mine.

Then, at one of the last write-ins, I met a few other NaNoWriMo participants, known in Nano-land as Wrimos. As we talked about our stories, about why Twilight was so successful, what we liked and didn’t like about our protagonists, and various other sundry writerly topics, one of the other Wrimos asked me what my on-line handle was.

“Oh, I’m Larkk,” I told her.

Her response was spontaneous. “You’re Larkk? Omigosh, I love your story!”

I was so overwhelmed I almost started to cry. All I could manage was, “Really? Seriously?”

“Yeah,” she continued. “It’s such a cool idea, and I like your characters. I love the parts about flying, and the fog, and the numbers.”

Floating on a cloud of caffeine and happiness, I pulled myself together as best I could and proceeded to tell her more about it. She liked everything I told her. Never had I expected someone to actually like something I was writing, much less love it! In my insecure world the most I’d ever expected was for people to think it wasn’t horrible.

I can’t say that it will ever be easy for me to post excerpts and chapters–or to publish my stories. But that day, the revelation that someone might actually love my story as much as I do changed my outlook on my writing. These words will always ring in my recollection:

“Omigosh, I love your story!”

How about you, Insecure Writers? If you’re doing NaNoWriMo, how does participating in a crazy month-long writing sprint help you become a more secure writer? Has anyone ever done or said something that made you a more secure writer?

And, if you love someone’s story, tell her! You just might make her day.