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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Relating to Characters

Trying to improve on some character descriptions got me thinking.
Most of the main characters in popular fiction have similar leading roles.  The characters are generally the 'every' boy/girl with something to overcome.  Obstacles can vary from being plain, orphaned, tragic loss, or coming of age.  Something in the life events of the character spurs a dramatic call to action and discovery of unwavering standards for truth, right, or victory at insurmountable odds.

Somehow the majority of the population seems to relate to these 'everyday hero's'.  Yet, the majority of the population would by definition have to be in the 'mob' of non-doers in order for the main character to stand out. 

It's nice that readers at large all see the glimmering of greatness lying dormant within, perhaps waiting for the dystopian society to rise so they can shine.  If nothing else I find comfort in the fact there are so many popular books based on government having too much power and one or two characters overthrowing the lack of balance.  I am counting on those readers to unite if our government gets too far out of line with power hungry changes toward long established rights.  I keep waiting for the Facebook post calling all Sci-Fi fan readers to some kind of Cyber Union of fictional book instruction based overthrow of power and the gradual return of authority to the people of society. 

I also wonder if anyone relates to the mob... Does anyone feel connected to the book majority population?  The group who never question oppressive power?  The classmates who standby while a bully finally pushes the 'hero' to the breaking point and thus igniting that winning spirit?  The devastatingly attractive character who is filled with vanity and greed, always getting what they want and unable to overcome a sense of entitlement?

We can all see the fire kindled within us demonstrating our destined greatness.  Best Sellers are always the books that overcome the most unrealistic odds for good.  I know I prefer a happy ending to stories I read or movies I watch, but I do realize it's ridiculously optimistic sometimes.  Even things 'based on reality' take a great deal of creative liberty in some areas to ensure the story is thrilling and emotionally taxing from they first sentence to the final breath.

I prefer a good story.  I guess I get enough reality in my day, the drudgery of downtime, to crave the nonstop action and adventure of a story. 

However, I do think I try to make my characters 'too normal' for the best sellers list.  I love stories where the characters aren't 'all good' where they have that mischievous spark of poor decision making or ill placed judgment and you somehow like them anyway.  Maybe that's why some of my favorite movie characters are those people who can make the 'bad guy' somehow likeable. I don't want bad decisions to be made to look good or good decisions to be bad, but I like the idea that everyone harbors the potential for both good and bad.  I love the internal struggle and the notion that you might not know for certain which direction the main character will choose. 

I know what I find dynamic and entertaining, but whether or not I can capture that in a character in a plot I create is another story.  My freaking dilemma! 
Who knows if anything will ever materialize.  In the meantime I am living the arch of potential for my own successes.  Will I choose to continue working out the flaws and character/plot development my attempts lack or will I fall to the laziness that seems to grow within and the hopelessness of being able to tell a dynamic story that other's will want to read. 

Only time will tell if I am truly a character of the 'hero'  who triumphs in my own life endeavors or the character who dreams things up and falls just short of following through on my goals.  Ugh, harsh.

I know what I want to be. 
I better keep working at being the success story and not the tale of tragedy.
I guess I better get to typing some adjustments and enhancements.  I'm writing a story for young readers, you might not think it's that difficult.  If you're a naturally talented writer it might not be that difficult.  For some reason it is truly overwhelming for me most times.  I struggle with flat characters, bland plot ideas, rushed action sequences, and hallow supporting characters. 

Stupid relatable and well written best sellers, you make it look so easy!  I read those tales and believe I can achieve the same life success of my own goals as the main characters. I truly believe it!  And all my efforts have me questioning that gleaming inspiration, but my stubborn nature won't let me forego all my failed efforts thus far. 

It's like being inspired to get slapped in the face repeatedly.  Being inspired to be reassured you not only lack talent, but the ability to correct or strengthen your weakness. 

It's a good thing I'm hardheaded and blindly optimistic, not to mention so 'well-read' that I have a deep seeded notion that no matter the hole of inability there will always be a way to achieve, to climb and overcome. 

So, thank you, unrealistic best sellers. 
You have provided me with the lack of reality to continue to pursue my goals and I salute you! 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Do You Encourage the Belief in Santa?

We have three young kids and never had that 'talk' about whether or not to say Santa is real. 
We're Christian and want to instill an understanding that this season is about Christ. 

I remember being three years old when my sister who was five informed me that there was no Santa.  As a matter of fact I don't recall ever thinking Santa was real because most of my ability to form memories developed with my language production/storage skills and I don't have many memories before the age of three.

My oldest is now five.  She writes letters to Santa and chases down large bearded strangers dressed in red coats with crazed excitement.  She has never actually asked if Santa is real or not.  She's a generally inquisitive little girl, so it surprises me sometimes that she hasn't wondered about the intricacies of the Santa myth.  Then again I know my own father believed in Santa until the age of 15 when one of his High School teachers took him aside and broke the news.  It might be in the genes to believe.

With three little kids our last few weeks have been devoted to being sure to have things in order and fill our house with twinkling magic to some extent. 
We don't have and Elf on the Shelf.  Some of my friends think that is a creepy tradition.  It doesn't creep me out, the idea of creating magic in a kids life always makes me smile. 
But, it turns out you end up investing a lot more time and money- I'm already neck deep in crafting projects, school activities, painting things my husband made out of wood for the kids gifts (yes my husband is that cool)!  I just don't have the additional energy or creativity to come up with places to put the elf and purchase a bunch of things for it to leave... 

Back to the question at hand.   I love the magical feeling this time of year.  I remember being filled with wonder as a little girl, even though I didn't believe in Santa.  My kids do believe in Santa, but we also told them that Santa shares his joy for Christ by sharing his talents of toy making with all the children of the world.  We ask them to think of talents they can share in order to show their gratitude for Christ and celebrate His birth.  It was the best way I could come up with incorporating the commercialism of gift getting, which is the biggest excitement for kids with service and worship of Christ. 

Yes we allow our kids to believe in Santa, but we haven't been faced with having to reassure their doubts.  I'm pretty sure if my kids come to be with doubts about Santa I will let them reach their own conclusions and not try too hard to perpetuate the myth.  It's fun to get excited about fantastical things though- flying reindeer, magical sleigh, a jolly fat man that keeps track of good deeds, and (most important since we live in the land of snow six months of the year) a beautiful village where everyone is happy and productive despite the fact it is always in a dreary snowscape void of flowers and the natural antidepressants more than three hours or sunshine can provide. 

I think the season should be centered in Christ, it is CHRISTmas after all.  But I don't see any harm in enjoying the magic of Santa.  

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Less is More

This week I have decided to apply the literary additive that sometimes less is more to my own life.

I started with less writing and more baking.

That lead to less exercise and more weight gain.

I decided to spend less on groceries this week and eat more leftovers. 

This lead to less interest in eating meals and reverting to eating more of the baking goodies.  (They were intended for Holiday celebration/parties, but I will have to start over on that intention).

A book I had on hold at the library came in so I included less sleep and more reading, since the only time I can read without my kids sticking their heads in my face and asking what I'm doing is late at night when they're all sound asleep).

Lack of sleep lead to less patience and more yelling...

I did less laundry and had more piles to shove out of the way.

Suddenly I had less outfit options and discovery of more old clothes hiding in the back of my closet- I forgot how much I liked my green cable knit sweater! (despite the fact it's bulky and adds imaginary pounds).

Somehow my less is more week is turning into more bad habits than less bad habits... 
I guess I should have started with less instant gratification and more self control.

There's always the New Year for such lofty notions. Hopefully my resolutions will last longer than the two entire days I applied the less is more theory. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

When Plans Change

Our family was planning on joining a big family gathering until our four year old began exploding out two ends of her body.  All kinds of nasty. 

After contacting her preschool to let them know she will be out for the next class I was informed this particular illness is likely to last 6 days!  Joy.

Canceled plans to expose relatives to this illness proving parents have unconditional love for their children.  When you can lovingly reassure another human being while they are in the process of pooping all over your leg and puking toward your agape mouth (agape in shock and horror but you're trying your best to sound okay about it) you truly love that little person.

We were hoping to get a chance to watch the movie "Catching Fire" the second installment in the Hunger Games trilogy with family.  We now devised a method to watch individually so as not to expose any babysitters to the plague affecting our children off and on. 

My husband had to watch the first night, because we both know if I watch it first I will tell him what happens.  Even though we've both read the books we don't want to movie changes to be spoiled. 

He came home eager to discuss what we could and couldn't remember from the books.  It's been over a year since we read them- maybe two years?  Somehow he managed to not give anything away.  I don't have that talent of being exited about something and not spilling the beans.  Watch out kids I can only hold my tongue so long about who Santa really is- ME!!!  And dad too, I guess.

Day two- I hit the matinee, yes I'm frugal.  I specify frugal because 'cheap' sounds cheap.
It's weird to walk into a theater and pay for a single ticket- then walk into a semi-packed theater and still try to scope out the best seat all by yourself. 
Perk- no one wants to sit by the weird-o-loner so you might get two seats all to yourself!

I am a jumper.  It doesn't even have to be an action packed thriller.  I have jumped in romances and comedies.  Luckily I was sitting fairly apart from anyone who have noticed the scenes that made me jump- before and after the 'scary' or 'intense' scenes. 

For some reason I tend to laugh out loud in theaters in places where no one else is laughing.  Either my sense of humor is the 'unintended' kind or these fellow viewers are really misusing out on the full depth of humorous possibility. 

The show wraps up and just like the book I think, "well that's a lame place to end it.". And all I can think about is how many takes they made Jenifer Lawrence make faces at the camera for the closing shot.  It would be awkward to have to thrash your eyeballs around and slowly pretend to draw them into some kind of determined anger and purpose that she supposedly didn't have until that point.  I would have thought she would have wised up and gotten focused the second she was back on the train. 

I take my sweet time mulling over how many takes the closing scene required.  My guess is after two she would have really wanted to get it right and be done with the oddity of the camera so close to her nose. 

Also I like to watch the credits- all of the credits.  Not just to see if there is a sneaky little scene tagged onto the end of the credits to excite you and last a year and a half until the next movie comes out.

My favorite thing is identify as many odd, humorous, or just plain awesome names I can see as they race up the screen.  It's like trying to read the opening of the original and best Star Wars episodes IV-VI.  I mentally tagged Joost for a first name and In Uh Hui, which sounds like a sound you might make while getting punched in the gut so it got most awesome.

People kept walking past me as I sat.  I took the walking aisle to sit in because, why not?  Stretching out my legs a little during the movie sounded great.  I admit hanging around to watch credits while passers by tried not to make eye contact with the lone-mom was a bit uncomfortable. 

But, I LOVE the credits.  I could watch a full movie worth of awesomely monikered talents who do bland behind the scenes crap and hopefully get paid well.  Seriously, if you're ever job hunting in LA or other movie production towns take a pad of paper and start writing down job possibilities from credits-there are a zillion people working behind the scenes.  Including female names under the credit of 'best boy'.  So don't feel like the job title is sexist- it's just a title.  Submit your resume.

I finally leave the room. It's just me and the usher/bouncer.  I'm pretty sure he thinks I'm scoping out the layout for some sort of Holiday breakdown plot.  He's giving me the 'get out of here and stop creeping me out' stare combines with the "are you okay?  It's the day before Thanksgiving and you're all alone...". pity look.  The combination is worth lingering a second to ensure my vertigo/lightheadedness doesn't send me flying into the row of seats one stadium level down from me.

I'm pretty sure he checked under my seat for a ticking purse after I finally left.

Got home to the smell of my husband baking strawberry-rhubarb pie from berries and rhubarb we froze out of our own garden.  Impromptu home Thanksgiving is going to be delicious thanks to my Food Network inspired husband who can both follow recipe directions and include the kids without freaking out at their help. 

So plans changed, some of it is a huge bummer- sickness is literally crappy- and watching movies all by yourself can feel like putting a huge spotlight on yourself before and after the movie actually starts.  If I'm paying to view a show in the theater though then I will not miss my beloved credit name search, even if there is no one to whom I can point out my name finding excitement. 

We'll figure out how to make the best of it, and don't the unexpected things always end up being the most well remembered?  Not that you should sabotage your big life events in order to remember them more clearly...

I even managed to do some minor editing over the last week!  That means my story is progressing along with my life, although the story is more neglected.  My story mimics this week filled with all kinds of unexpected changes and set backs.  I'll choose to make the best of whatever comes along for my goals or expectations in hobby, work, and especially family because any other option isn't worth the energy to express it sufficiently.

And I will always watch the credits.  Sorry, usher guy, all weirded out by my lagging behind all by my lonesome.  The credits are worth it- Go, Paige, you own that job title of 'best boy'.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Things I learned in Chicago

Someone from a town with a population under 200 can get lost within two blocks of downtown Chicago.

You don't get change if you put a $20 into a public transit ticket machine.

What you thought was an underground redline can suddenly turn into the L train.

Stores are open after 8pm.

Hotels double as night clubs.

People really do wear high heels everywhere- and walk miles in them every day as far as I can tell.

There is a trend for women to wear knee-high high-heeled brown toned boots on the outside of jeans. 

You can get deep dish pizza at any hour- don't make the mistake of ordering a big pizza if it's for two people. 

Pizzeria Uno is the coolest place to eat deep dish pizza, as long as John Diaz is your server- he's awesome!  And you can purchase their deep dish pans to take home and attempt your own pizza.  We bought two sizes- yes we were that impressed with their pizza and service!

Giordano's pizza has more cheese than Uno on their deep dish pie, but they call it 'stuffed' even though technically there is no second crust layer (I looked up what a stuffed deep dish should be and it should have a second crust with cheese or something 'stuffed' in it).

Most of the people are friendly.  But I didn't talk to everyone so I can't vouch for the entire population, and was told by a questionably attired man blocking an intersection that he was 'not a hood-e-lem' even though I didn't ask him if he was or not.  I just assumed he was telling the truth on that impromptu information and continued on my way.

Protests are difficult to hear.  We walked right past a protest in front of the Chicago Tribune and it took us ten minutes to try to figure out what the group was chanting before we decided to move on- still only figured out the first half of the chant and context helped 'tell the truth.......(something something)" is what we think they were shouting at the building.

The local news is worth watching when you visit a different town.  We learned of crazed nude demonstrations on the trains, a family who conducted an impromptu dance on top of their SUV in an intersection downtown, and the cast of Chicago Fire came to honor the real fire department of Chicago. 

Al's Italian Beef is way better than Portillo's.  I've heard there is a debate regarding the two sandwich shops, but based on flavor, atmosphere, homemade ingredients, and quality of product- Al's has Portillo's beat by a landslide.  Not to mention Portillo's is like eating at a circus while being herded like cattle and listening to a girl holler out order numbers. 

Gloves are not a suggestion in November- even if there's no snow wear gloves.

The wind is serious.

Staying on the 35th floor of a hotel is amazing.  I swear I could feel the building swaying in the wind.

Rain does not ruin an Architecture River Tour. 

I was too distracted with city sights to actually work on editing anything. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

At a Crossroads or Mental Training:

They say there is a benefit in practicing things out in your mind.  If that is a true fact then my mind has been hard at work despite the fact my fingers have been taking a hiatus. 

The last week has been filled with Halloween candy.
To begin with I purchased a lot of candy two weeks ago with the lofty goal of keeping it stored in the house to pass out on Halloween night.

I am now at least three stable pounds heavier...  There was a little wavering up and down in that weight with five extra pounds topping me out.  Mind you this is only the first of a series of snowed in Holidays whose celebration is often based around food.  Snow equals less naturally occurring physical activity- and I struggle forcing myself to increase physical activity when I'm aware of the act of forcing myself. And since the snow started falling mid October and won't fully melt until mid May beginning June I can anticipate severe repercussions if this pattern continues.

I bought additional bags of candy two days before Halloween.  Since I have been training myself to expect a sugar spike midafternoon every day those bags were opened pre-event as well. 
So the candy coma has been a bit of a distraction.    

In order to mentally train my brain for the moment I might be out of my sugar haze and thus able to focus on some writing goals I decided to nap frequently- allowing my brain to ponder the areas of my stories in progress (I now have three in progress, not helping myself.  If I'm being honest at least two of those are NOT going to survive). 
I did much pondering.  All the way through three Winnie the Pooh episodes in a row.  There was a SpongeBob Squarepants marathon ponder as well...

I feel like my mental training is off to a good start.  I have thought about the same fact of which I am already aware.  I suck at including detail in scene set-up and physical descriptions- including character descriptions. 
It's a brutal fact.  I'd go as far as saying this fact alone distinguishes me from talented writers as a genuine hack-of-the-art writer-wanna-be.  I'm coming to terms with that fact and still have high hopes of improving at some point. 
I admit that I am astonished at my ability to be aware of this fatal flaw and my inability to remedy the problem with a well-intentioned session at the keyboard.   

So, I thought about that flaw...  I thought about it a lot.  There were dreams with no identifiable physical settings and characters in the dreams with no distinguishable facial features or hair colors.  It is a little known fact that I have a slight case of Facial Recognition Blindness.  So the indistinct faces in my dreams didn't freak me out too badly- that's pretty much how I go through the grocery store.  I literally wave at anybody I think is looking my way.  I've confused many people into thinking we're good friends when it turns out we've never met before.  I don't think this brain-glitch can be blamed for my lack of descriptive skills though.
My dreams have been vague, yet useful.  My brain realized I was in problem solve mode with my physical writing activity downtime and came up with a great solution to date nights with my husband. 
I dream solved the babysitter cost issue by swapping every other Friday with a family who had children too young to tend themselves and also had no family in the Valley to help watch kids when they went on a date.  That way each family had two babysitter cost free dates a month!  It was genius considering the last date I had with my husband was at the county fair in late July- four months ago.  Great idea, but I don't actually know anyone who matches the parameters.  Everyone has family to call on, or they have a child over the age of 12 (and they also have family nearby).

Miracle of finding yourself with substantially less savings- I did purchase a flight to accompany my husband on his work related business trip this coming week.  So, that's like having five days of dates all crammed between seminars and layovers.  It's going to be awesome!  Not to mention his conference is in one of our pizza lover's dream destinations- Chicago!  (not included in this account is the agony of Mother's guilt I've been struggling with at the prospect of leaving our three young kids for multiple days.  I'm trying to focus on the excitement of the alone time with my man of choice because he trip is shockingly present).
Do they sale deep dish pizza pans to tourists?  I mean the authentic nice ones?  I'm going to find out.

Hopefully I will employ some of my downtime working on writing goals...  Or I might just have to continue the mental pondering. I think I have a real talent for pondering.  I'm still working to develop/improve my talent for writing.

Also, the night before we leave I get to feel like a celebrity and do a book signing for my children's book- it being my one finished project.  Maybe I'll update how that highly intimidating yet thrilling experience turns out before I go dark for at least a week.  I need time to unpack, clean house, and most importantly reassure my babies that I will never leave them again- even when they get married I'll move in and creep out their spouses with extra loud toots or something.   

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Writing Dance

Are you kidding me balance?  Moderation? 
I'm pretty sure my dieting habits have challenged your wisdom before.

Ramen noodle lunches and dinners didn't make me gain too much weight in college, but I'm pretty sure I have early onset osteoporosis...  Not literally, though I'm sure there is some health effect on a diet of nutritionally absent foods.

There is some kind of dance to be played with word count and description.  Right now I'm in the 'two left feet' phase. 

I'm a sort of lumbering dancer as it is.  My writing is following the same awkward manner.  I'll get an idea- it's smashing!  Click out some basic storyline- two step, church dance level.  Basically hands on shoulders and slowly spinning in a circle. 

I look up and see fellow authors flipping their story partner over a shoulder and through their legs- doing the 'Dirty Dancing' swan pose and some kind of gymnastic-hip-hop hybrid move...  What the?!?  Your story can already accomplish that?

My story is avoiding eye contact...
As a matter of fact I think my story idea just made googley eyes at a different author- it wants to jump ship! 
I try to throw in a fancy step, but trip on my own feet.  I swear my story just rolled it's eyes at me.  All my effort to make it look better, sound better, and ultimately show more through actions and character development seem to keep the story from faking a twisted ankle in a desperate attempt to escape my clutches, but that's about the best I can conjure right now.

I keep pruning away the "he said..."s  and "this happened"s.  I am attempting to add more character traits and habits that will give life to the individuals.  So far it all sounds desperate.  I'm trying to write a simple story for children who are barely learning to read and starting to feel like I need to enroll in fourth grade in order to learn to write...

The balance of too many words that don't actually provide imagery and fewer words that can paint an idea solidly in a child's mind seems out of reach.

I did go to the library and check out seven different books in the genre/age range I'm aiming for. 
This activity is like attending a professional acne performance and then going home and trying to copy the entire show in front of a half mirror.  At least that's how I feel right now.

I haven't kept up on my drill and practice much this week either.  Research has me baffled.  I swear the stories for this age range are bland- blank- and almost too educational.
When I was a kid I didn't want to read to learn for pleasure.  It seems like an oxy moron. 

I'm aiming for leisure reading early grades, these poor kids are better off reading strictly picture books for entertainment.  The popular chapter book options are pushing social studies and sciences too obviously.  I will refrain from saying too much myself right here, I know the series I'm thinking of specifically is beloved by many...  But, oh my BOREDOM!

I can't aim for that.  I want to attempt that crazy hip-hop-gymno-dance move with my story by finding some kind of balance between word count and imagery.

Right now I have to get my story at least interested in conversation so we can communicate about the complicated steps involved in continuing story development.  Basic dance steps aren't cutting it, I have to up my awkward efforts-

It's gonna be weird and distracting for those who know what they're doing and happen to see my efforts out of the corner of their eye. 


Tuesday, October 22, 2013


My husband and I read The Legend of Sleepy Hallow with our kids every October.  This year as we were reading and discussing the character descriptions with out four and five year old I realized something.  I have crappy descriptions in my writing! Not just characters either.  I may only write as a hobby, but that's no reason to be so crappy at it.

Luckily I have wise friends with degrees in writing. 
I brought some samples to go over knowing well enough it wasn't praiseworthy literature. 
We went over areas in need of imagery on the first two pages- oh man, there was a lot of red on that poor paper.  We basically took shot holes in all the descriptive absence.  I'm pretty sure I would have been devastated and maybe drown my sorrows in some full body Pepsi- not the diet nonsense- if my friend weren't so wise and insightful.

Instead of leaving me with my war battered pages she gave me some suggestions. 
Practice dummy!
It was one of those, "oh yeah" moments.  Where you realize there is more you can do to improve your ability in the moment.  It's probably common sense to any true writer, but I don't have an editor, publisher, agent, or teacher from whom to seek guidance.

I'm literally just tapping at a screen determined to improve with the resources I can scrounge up.  Why you wonder?  Because I currently do not have the skill or ability to garner attention from an agent, editor, or publisher.  And I live in a tiny little valley without face to face teaching access.  I could take an online course, but I don't want to pay for it.  I'm a frugal mother of three kids under five years old.  It shouldn't shock anyone that I choose not to foot the bill for writing seminars and classes when I go through 144 diapers a month.  I love reading other people's blogs with insights, advice, and inspiration though.

Back to the point.  It occurred to me in that moment that practicing was different than typing project efforts into my hard drive.  Still, my thick intuition prevented me from figuring out what qualified for good writing practice.  I'm pretty sure my friend was wondering if I was suffering an absentee seizure at this point.  I hadn't moved for a full two minutes while processing the idea of practice.

She suggested any of three quick writing drills. 
1.  Describe a setting. 
You don't have to be too flowery, simply set the scene in a real location that you know.  You can make this exercise more difficult by refraining from using any common explinations, such as 'there is a lamp on the table next to the chair."  Find a more captivating method to explain the same thing.

2.   Five Senses Object. 
Pretty straight forward.  Take a small object and describe it using all five senses.  It doesn't all have to fit in one sentence.  Be as imaginative as you can in comparisons.

3.  Metaphors and Similes
Take an object or setting and describe it using only metaphors or similes.  You cannot use any words indicative of what the object really is.  For instance, if you have a blue pen you can't say 'it's a blue pen'

I'm also a reader.  Not voracious, but I read when I get a chance.  If there's a series I really love, I might neglect cleaning some bathrooms or folding laundry in order to finish the book.  My friend suggested that instead of consuming the story and getting lost in it, I mentally process the writing style, technique and imagery. 

That is difficult.  When the writing is good, I just get lost in the story- I completely forget I'm reading- so it's difficult to remain aware of the writing process.  When the writing is less good I notie the process and think to myself, 'why are they telling me that?  I want to discover it through the actions of the characters and developing plotline!  Does the author think I'm too stupid to figure this out without spoon feeding me this information?"
I'm looping from aiming for the story distracting me from the writing and the crappy writing distracting me from the story. 


So I've been practicing.
I was thinking 2 a days.  Two rounds of practice every day.  Or maybe 3 a days when I don't have to work... 
Realistically I have only managed 1 a day.  My first mistake might have been in phrasing my writing goals similar to my workout goals.  I have only managed 2 a week workouts with a 1 a day goal...

Even though my practice hasn't been as frequent as I had hoped, at least I'm still working on something to improve my skill. 
I've also been reading some of my beloved authors.  Unfortunately I'm sucked into the events already and now have to go back and pick it apart better...

Drill and Practice. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Surrounding myself with Talented People:

I've been blessed with very talented people in my life.  Not just other writers either.
As a matter of fact I would say the majority of my successes in life have come as a realization of the talents of others.

I have that awesome aspiration to imitate those who inspire me.  I've been lucky to have inspiring people all around me at every step.
My father returned to complete his education when he had three kids and was dealing with a failed business venture.  I remember him working nights and going to school all day.  He even took me and let me color in a book while his professors lectured about the mental state of man (he has a Ph.D. in psychology now).  Guess where I aspired to attend my post High School years?  The same University.  I had to transfer after two years at a community college to finally get accepted, but it happened.

My husband's family are astounding singers.  All of them!  Singing is something I'm terrible at.  I can't remember lyrics and staying on beat as well as in tune are beyond my understanding.  I don't know how his family all managed such skill, but they don't hold my lack of skill against me.  No matter the song filled environment they have always smiled and nodded at my efforts to follow along.  I haven't signed up for any choirs or public performances, but I have made an effort to be less concerned about my inability.  No idea if I've actually improved- because again- I'm pretty much tone-deaf (and beat deaf if there is such a thing) where singing is involved.  Still, the talented people around me have inspired me to not give up.

Writing:  My first effort at following through on a story idea came from a local man who did just that.  He wrote and illustrated a children's book, found a company to print it out for him, and asked some local stores to carry it for a percentage of the sales.  Wow!  I thought.  That's something a real person did.  A real person from a nowhere town and with no substantial writing connections, just like me! 

I started doing some research and put a community outreach class on writing I had taken years back to use.  At the time of taking the class I felt I learned a lot about method of writing, but nothing about the practicality of what you do after you write something.  The 'what now?' aspect when you want to try to make your hobby legitimate. 

My effort happened to be a children's book.  Nice, simple...  Crud, I can't draw worth beans! 
Once again I was inspired by other talented people.  My sister had once won an elementary school contest for a picture she created out of fabric.  Since I am a terrible seamstress and happen to have tons of fabric scraps due to failed sewing projects I called my sister.  She graciously permitted me to rip off her award winning illustrating idea.  I made a template out of cardstock and cut out zillions of little hippo pieces.  I stuck the images to paper and scanned the effort into my computer. 
Result:  Not what I had imagined when the idea first popped into my head...  But, it seemed 'good enough' for my first try.  I never claimed to be a perfectionist.  As a matter of fact, if I suffered from perfectionism I doubt I would ever accomplish anything- there isn't one thing in my home that is done to perfection.

More research came next.  And more talented people.  They are everywhere!  People skilled at layout, cover design, and industry standards.  Actually they make a profession out of knowing these things.  They may come at a cost, but their lives are dedicated to the industry of literature.  I was happy for their guidance, since I was stuck at that point anyway- and they came with credentials and references.  Phew!  No one said surrounding yourself with talented people didn't include professionals. 

First project done!  But, marketing is not a strength of mine either.  I'm working on building from other's marketing examples.  I even pedaled my book to local stores!  It hasn't sold much, but how many people are really looking for a book about a high spirited hippo "O. Potamus" in a town with a population of 1800 while in the middle of a recession? 

I'm actually impressed with myself for not giving up at any of the sticking points. 
There aren't many people in my life's experience that let hiccups hold them back.  I consider that a talent to glean from once again. 

I'm working on additional projects.  There seems to be endless sticking points.  Editing is my biggest hurdle.  Illustrations are still a challenge.  The smooth prose that come naturally to others seem to be a nasty afterthought in my writing.  My brain seems unable to realize not everyone has the imagery I am conjuring already set in their mind. 

I am continuing to draw from the talented examples that surround me to improve and if nothing else keep trying.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

I'm calling today Tangent Tuesday. 
It's not different than most of my writing efforts- being distracted by way too many ideas and an inability to follow through on the one thing I have been devoted to for weeks.
The only difference today is that I gave into my tangents.

It's been fantastic to allow my brain free reign of ideas and not feel badly about ignoring my hobbling main manuscript.
This is usually a terrible idea for me.  it signals the end of the project in most accounts.

However, since I he just waded through my five year olds fifth surgery thanks to awesome genetics I graciously shared with her, I'm not too worried about whether or not I stick to my goals this week.  I have every intention of getting back to them.

I have managed to stack a notebook with outlines and follow up on a few things I had previously started and stalled.
Mainly my families camp side tales of Joe and Moe the Inter-Galactic Space Explorers have a short tale on my hard drive.  They usually only venture out under the stars of our little family's summer overnight campfires.  Today they managed to get one short adventure written out.  It's simple and something my kids love.   

It has been a productive 'non-productive' day.  And I feel satisfied.  If all my tangent could be so satisfying I think I'd devote all my efforts to being distracted at all times.

If I could only illustrate!  I could actually finish some of these side projects...
Little Rhino could find claim his ISBN for one thing.

Still plunking along at my own pace. 
One way or another I'm determined to have that pace work for me, I'm working on it.

Friday, September 27, 2013

I only just started my blog delving into my efforts at writing.  Yep, still eeking out the first week of documenting my progress in writing. (note that documenting is different than actually writing, I've been working on that much longer than a week).
However, I haven't really made progress. 

I've been tapping at my little magnetic keyboard and watching letters materialize on my screen a few times during the week, but I'm sidetracked.
The first aspiring author to ever be sidetracked?  I sure hope not.  My big concern is that my self doubts might prevent me from re-working enough to make something worthwhile materialize. 
I am not the sort of writer who can produce a flawless first draft.  I don't have the illusion that many writers have that astounding talent either. 
Tackling this is a logical manner is the best I can do.

Step One: Get the idea out of my head and onto paper.  YAY!  I have accomplish that to some extent.  Feeling GREAT!

Step Two: Reread and edit.  I didn't think this through well.  I have over 200 hundred pages of storyline (it's formatted with double spacing and for some reason only feels like it's really 70 pages of writing)  Why does double spacing make my brain think I wrote less when it practically triples the page numbers? 

Step Three:  Realize you are a crappy scene setter!  You mean to tell me that no one else reading my idea knows what the environment and characters look like?  But, they have rich personalities, what more could you want?

Step Four:  Return to the idea of Children's Picture Books!  Oh, yes, you can't draw. Continue with your steps.

Step Five:  Start describing scenes.  Practice mentally by describing rooms and setting throughout your day.  Try writing down some of the settings for your 'idea'.

Step Six:  Rethink first person main character.  I can't seem to reach my secondary characters with one forefront first person speaker.  Can you mix perspectives and not sound like a total lunatic?

Step Seven:  Start Over.  You might have to scrap 200 double spaced paged.  On the bright side, it only feels like 99 pages single spaced. (Yes, the internal page weight went up when I realized I will be reworking pretty much the entire effort so far).

Step Eight:    At this point no one is going to care what the project looks like.  It's a mess, you're a mess, the idea is a mess.  Keep writing your idea on the page but, now in the re-working it form.  So yes, it's going to seem totally different.

Step Nine:  Okay, trying to take on the entire thing at once is proving overwhelming.  I'm going to chunk it!  Genius.

Step Ten:  Work on the first chunk.  Woo Hoo, this is working.  Slowly, but I think it's sounding less flatly one sided.

Still feeling great?...  Yes, you can't crush my optimism self!   

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Blogging.  It's not new, but it feels foreign for someone just getting their toes in the water.
All I can think of while I type is the pen I used to take notes in University.
I wanted to strangle that pen.  Madly scribbling to keep up with lectures only to find, two hours before an exam and eager to cram information into my brain, that my handwriting was illegible!
The irony was that when the pen dried up I was sad and angry.  It was my favorite purple sparkly pen; I'm a girl and not afraid to be girly.  And it was a gel pen so the ink came out even and clear.  Also it cost a butt-load of money in those days.  If you have to spend over a dollar for one limited writing tool it's expensive. 
I found myself the literal murderer of my beloved enemy pen.  I had smeared it's sparkling blood across my pages, was unable to read the dried remains, and mourned it's loss. 

Sitting now I front of a sparkly new writing technology I am cautious and eager.  I suffer from irritable change syndrome or ICS.  I still miss my pen.  On the up side, if spell and grammar check are vigilant my typing is likely to be more legible than my handwriting.   

This is my first attempt at reaching out to the connected world for writing tips and advice, and sharing any little bit that might be helpful to my fellow readers.

I have struggled and battled to accomplish my first published book.  A Children's Picture book titled "O. Potamus" 
I have no marketing skills so that's as far as that accomplishment has progressed.
To be honest, I'm seriously impressed with myself for figuring the steps out to that point on my own.  I feel a sense of ability to find answers and solve problems in my writing goals.

It's amazing what limited experience and minimal accomplishment can inspire in myself. 
I will ride my unfounded dedication to whatever lengths I can scrounge. 
Anyone is welcome to read the gritty ride and encourage me in my efforts.

Also, be aware that I have never claimed to have a professional grasp of English grammar or spelling.  I often fail to realize my misunderstanding of homonyms and apostrophe use.  You're still welcome to edit my posts and can even maintain the hope that some day I will improve. 

Thanks for reading!