Wednesday, April 27, 2005

My Journal

I am kind of new to blogging, at least compared to some others. And I don't post to my blog as often as many do, simply because I don't have the time as often as I wish. Other times I just have nothing to say, or forget about something I thought I wanted to add when I wasn't able to get to the computer to do it. (Smile)

I do have some notes on my writing life that covers a number of years. There aren't a lot of entries there either, just kind of a gathering of my thoughts and how my writing is going over a certain period of time. Sometimes a whole year, others a whole season. If you would like to have a look see, here's the link to my journal site.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Oh What a Weekend!

It’s been one of those weekends when you just wish you could have skipped it all. My son got really sick Friday. (Scared me to death!) Well, he was sick Thursday too, missed his first day of college in three years. He tried to go Friday, got almost there and got worse, but went on any way. He has to drive almost an hour and a half to get to his school. He ended up getting so sick that he came home early and went to the ER.

By the time I got there they were getting ready to do a spinal tap on him. They were afraid he had meningitis since there had been a couple of cases at his college. It turned out it wasn’t that, but they don’t really know what it was. It seems most of his original symptoms have gotten better, but now he is sick from the spinal. Any time he spends sitting up, leaves him with a pounding headache to the point that he gets sick to his stomach and even dizzy. Guess he will be missing classes again tomorrow. But as long as he gets better, we can deal with whatever else.

We also added a new member to our already crowded family this weekend. I found a little dog outside my fence. He is a little Chihuahua. So cute. So tiny. But so sick.

He has been starved until you can see his spine, his hipbones, even his ribs and chest bones. He doesn’t stand very well and he was covered with fleas. He’s not the kind of dog that would have been making it as a stray on the streets, so I know he had to have just gotten away from someone, and as far as I’m concerned, they never need to see him again. We got the fleas off of him, and he’s eating well and drinking water good. I’m sure in a few weeks he will be fine.

The other dogs--all but one of them came here as rescues too--have accepted him as just another of the many. (Smile) I really can’t take in another dog, but this one is so small, it can’t eat much. I wish we had a SPCA here, or I had a lot of local friends who were really great with animals and would take in the misfits I end up with.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

To Plot Or Not To Plot

I hear other writers talk about detailed plot outlines, a long detailed synopsis, all done before page one of the manuscript is typed in.

Now there have been plenty of times when I was stuck in the sagging middle of a novel that I wished I had some kind of plotting map to go by, so I’ve tried. Even when I was stuck in the middle I’ve tried, and it’s hopeless. This is one thing I just have to say uncle on. There’s no two ways about it, I’m a write-by-the-seat-of-my-pants author.

That’s okay though. I think that's the way I write because that’s the way I get the most joy out of my writing. And even when it’s not joy, it’s still the way I write.

I like the journey. I like finding out things about my characters that I didn't know, slowly, one page at a time. I like it when the plot takes a turn that I would have never thought of if I hadn't just been letting things go how they would. I guess I like the surprises.

Now don’t get me wrong, I do know how things will start, who the characters are, how things will end, and even have an idea, or a few, about what will happen along the way.... but most of the fun is putting all of that together with all of the stuff that I find as I go.

At least it is for me.

What Happened to My Babies

I had two of them....two sweet little babies. They were here just a few days ago, I swear it. And now...blink...and my baby girl is turning 17 today. In a few months she will be starting her last year of high school.

My oldest is 21. He will be starting his fourth year of college soon, and is getting married next month.

Funny how very quickly it all happened. I got married at 17, had my son a little over a year later. But I look at my little girl and she's still a little girl in my eyes. My son is a 21 year old man, but he's still a little boy to me.

Guess it's just a mom thing. :-)

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Can You See It, Feel It, Hear It, Taste It and Smell It?

Getting each of the senses into your writing is important if you are going to fully paint the picture for your reader. They need to know if the air holds the scent of jasmine, if the humidity causes sweat to tickle a path down the heroine’s back, if the wind is howling through the trees, if the rose the hero picked for his lady love is as red as crimson or as yellow as a lemon, and if that first swallow of whiskey tastes as sweet as a first kiss or burns like cayenne pepper.

I know it’s needed, but that doesn’t mean it comes easy for me, or for a lot of writers. I try to stop and think of the senses as I write a scene, but I usually have to go back through and deliberately add in the senses, a scent here, a sound there, and so on.

That’s okay though. All that matters is that it’s there. (Smile) Besides, a lot of writing is rewriting. We double-check grammar, reaction, pace, action tags, and even the color of the hero’s eyes. (Yes, that last one is necessary. I’ve read more than one book where a character had blue eyes at the start of the story only to have them turn green some where before the last page.) So double-checking is a good thing. (Smile)

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Fear of Success: Can it keep you from trying?

I have sent out very little work since I gave up my full-time freelance job so I could write romance. That doesn’t make a lot of sense. All of those years when I had that weekly writing deadline for my non-fiction work, I kept wishing I had the time and the energy left to work on my fiction.

Then suddenly I had the time, and I wrote some, but not regularly. And the manuscripts I had finished, that I could have polished with the things I had learned over those years, I didn’t touch them either. When people tried to encourage me to send out something, I always had an excuse at the ready.

Then I gave in and sent off a query to Silhouette. Got a quick request for the complete. (They just skipped right over asking for the first three chapters.) My story made it up the ladder, but was finally rejected. (Wasn't the first time that had happened either.) The editor wanted to know if I had something else along the same style ready, and I didn’t. I could have written something else, but I didn’t do that either.

After a couple of years of nothing, one of my writing friends who had asked about what I was writing or what I had out there, listened to my normal excuses and then informed me that I was a great writer. I blushed and smiled. And then she added, ”...that wants to go nowhere.” Huh? “You are afraid of success,” she said matter of factually. “You’ve stopped finishing work, stopped writing most of the time at all, and you never send anything out unless someone twists your arm.”

I disagreed completely, and she kindly changed the subject. Good friends know when to back off. (Smile) But then a few weeks later another friend said almost the same thing to me. And then a few months later two more said it also.

Okay, that many people have to be on the right track at least. Right?

Maybe not.

So to prove them wrong, I recently sent out a query to a really top agent. Then I went in a panic...knowing the rejection was on the way. I had kind of set myself up to agent...query for a manuscript that was only half completed. Something I always tell new writers not to do. (I did tell the agent right off that it was only half finished.)

So of course I would get rejected. I sat around waiting for that rejection to come, nerves on edge. And then one night while I was in bed tossing and turning thinking about that coming rejection instead of sleeping, this cold lump formed in the pit of my stomach and I had one of those light bulb moments.

I wasn’t really dreading a rejection. I was hoping for one. Hoping that agent would send me a thanks but no thanks.

If I didn’t get a rejection, then I would have to prove to myself that I could still complete a manuscript. And if she signed me and sold that story, then I would have to prove that I could do it again, and then again. And then what if I couldn’t do it again, not even the second time? And what if the reviewers hated it? What if other writers hated it, if my family and friends hated it? What if the agent made a mistake and thought it was good, and then the publisher believed her, and they printed it and the whole world found out my writing sucked?

Those kinds of thoughts rushed through my head until I actually became sick. I got out of bed and stayed up a long while before I finally was able to go turn in and go to sleep. The next day I started the morning with a few things settled in my mind.

I love to write romance stories! Too many people have told me my stories are good. All of them can’t be wrong or wouldn’t be telling me a lie out of kindness. I do want to hold one of my books in my hands; to walk into a store and see one of them on the shelve with my name on the front cover. So what if everyone doesn’t love it, or even like it. That’s just life. There are novels that I’ve heard others say were great that I didn’t like at all. Liking a story or not is just a matter of personal taste. So that’s how it should be taken. I also wanted to help my husband support our family. Since I wasn’t freelancing any more, I wasn’t brining an income into the household.

And the most important thing I had settled in my mind was that I could do it. I can write a novel. I’ve done it several times, and it hasn’t killed me and the whole thing didn’t fall apart, and the world didn’t even end. (Smile)

So darn it, if success is waiting for me, I’m going to welcome it with open arms. And if it’s not...then it will just be fate and not from a lack of trying on my part. I can deal with that...and without guilt and wondering what could have been.

I’m not going to let fear hold me back any more!

Oh, and that query I sent that top agent. Well, she liked it a whole lot, and asked to see the first three chapters. She liked those too, and is now waiting for me to complete that manuscript. Success better watch out...because I’m on the hunt. (Smile) I might not find it, and that’s fine too, but I’m not going to hide from it any more. I think I’ve kind of reached the next level of “Life is Too Short”! (Smile) Took me long enough!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Making Time for Yourself

Sometimes we seem to forget that we are important, that we owe ourselves a little time and attention. I know this is something that both women and men are guilty of it, but more women seem to do it than men. We put our children first, our husbands first, our friends, our jobs, our housework, our pets, our bills, even the things we volunteer for. Then last and least, if there is a second of time left, we think about ourselves.

I’m just as guilty of this as others. (Smile)

I started putting my husband’s needs first when I married at the ripe ol’ age of seventeen. Just before I reached nineteen I had our first child, a son. Of course he had to come first too. (Smile) A daughter came a few years later. A few years more and I begin to write romance novels. Of course that fell into place after the cooking and the dishes, and running children to school and practice and the volunteer work at those schools. (No matter how little time I had, I found it hard to say no when someone asked me to do something.)

It was okay. I was young. There would be plenty of time for me later.

More years went they flew by. I was still running children back and forth, trying to cook huge family meals like Mom, and still do volunteer work, write, and keep my house decent--I had given up on spotless.

A couple more years and I added a full-time freelance writing job to my schedule. With it came a killer weekly deadline, but at least a good paycheck arrived every week as well. Most of my volunteer work took the hit. There just weren’t enough hours in the day. My romance writing took a hit as well, a big one, and ended up pushed completely aside.

More years went by at the speed of light, and still there was no time for me. In fact, there was less, since my parents had added me to their family late in life; I was now a woman with children and parents that needed care. As my children needed less, my parents needed more.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that my weight crept up each year, that by the time I was thirty I had high blood pressure and needed medicine to control it.

A few more years went by. My health got worse. I added high cholesterol and diabetes to my list.

My parents are both gone. (I miss them so much!) My first-born left home, is about to finish college, and is getting married soon. My youngest will begin her last year of high school in August. The freelance job is gone, and yet other things always pile in.

The key is, that it will always be that way, if we let it. I will admit that it’s a recent discovery, and I’m still kind of new to this all, but I’ve learned to say no, and I’m learning to put me first. If we push ourselves until we pay for it with our health, then what good are we to anyone? We have to take care of ourselves first before we are fully able to help others.

That means I make time to write now, for me, what I want to write, what I enjoy writing. I make time to work out, every day. (So, I don’t like that part of my day, but it’s important.) I also make time to relax, to watch a good movie now and then, to curl up in bed an hour early and just read. I might not do these things as often as I should, but I have a feeling I’m going to get better at it.

I hope after reading this, you’ll get better at it to. (Smile) Try to do it sooner instead of later!

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Just Getting It Written

I’ve heard many well-known writers say that it’s best to just get it written, that even bad writing on a page is better than a page with nothing on it. I went back and forth through the years, sometimes agreeing with them, and other times not agreeing with them at all.

I've found there are actually two kinds of bad writing though. The kind I did years ago when I wrote my first two romance novels. And then there’s the kind I do now when I’m taking part in a writing challenge or just pushing myself, allowing the words to come and blocking that editor from my mind--and sometimes knocking her off of my shoulder. (Smile)

I’ve tried to rewrite those first couple of novels, and I’m going to do it one day just because they were my first. But there’s nothing easy about it. No matter how I try to justify it when I look at those choppy scenes and cut-out characters, I find it hard to think that starting with a blank page would be harder than saving these dear-to-my-heart-but-oh-so-bad novels. To be honest, when I wrote the first one, I had no idea what plot was, what real conflict was, or even point of view. Thankfully, I’ve come a long way baby. (Smile) So maybe really bad writing from someone who doesn’t know what she is doing--at all--can be worse than a blank page.

Then there’s the story I’m working on now, that I’m trying to just get written. I’m not allowing myself to go back and rewrite as I go, or to over think every little detail. When I’m done though, that rough draft will no doubt be better than those polished first efforts of long ago. So now, at the place I am, bad writing is definitely better than the blank page. Of course I do a lot of prewriting in my mind before any words hit that screen, which helps.

Do I regret those first couple of manuscripts I completed?

Not on your life!

Those were my schooling. Those were the stories that carried me to where I am now. I learned as I went. Each page, and sometimes each word, was a lesson.

Hmmm, maybe anything is better than a blank screen. Without those learning efforts, no matter how rough, I wouldn’t be the stronger writer I’ve become. I guess anytime you have the choice to sit there and stare at that little blinking spot on that blank screen, or to type words, typing words is the best choice. At least that’s my story on the subject for this moment on this day, and I'm sticking to it. (Smile)