Monthly Archives: February 2005

Life is good

Yet again I’ve proven my theory that the way to break through a block is to write.
Okay, so it’s not all that originbal, but man, it feels good to know it’s the truth.
I’ve written a ton the last couple days. Will I keep it all? Probably not. But I will keep the scenes and the secrets and the emotional outline. I really like my plot. I think it’s fun and unique. I really like my characters. They’re so real.
I’d forgotten that because I wasn’t writing enough.
It’s easy to let that happen when there’s no contract to keep you going. But I’m going to take Suzanne McMinn’s advice and write this baby as if there were a contract. Because, let me just say, there’s no reason for this book not to sell. It’s GREAT! And when it’s done, I’m going to send it out there. And someone’s going to pick it up. And if I don’t believe that I have no business sitting here at 11:30 at night writing. I could be sleeping!
🙂
I am super writer, hear me roar.

It’s Monday, so I better update my weight loss journey. Down 1/2 pound. I thought it would be more. And if I hadn’t made the best manicotti in the world yesterday, it might have been. (Everyday Italian. YUM! It’s on the food tv website.)
But weight’s only one part of this journey. And diets aren’t allowed. So 1/2 pound is a good thing.

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Trouble

A long time ago I could sit down at the computer and write and write and write.
Even a year ago I found myself writing all the time.
The last two months have stunk for me as far as writing goes. And then tonight I sat down to write and…nothing.
I know the problem. It’s easy. When you don’t write, you can’t write or you won’t write or you’re tempted to write something else only the time never comes around to get started on that something else. It’s easy to write if you do it. It’s hard to write if you let long periods go by without doing it. The creative brain just can’t shake the funk it’s in. At least that’s my take on it.
Or maybe it’s just the manicotti I made for supper. 🙂 It was an Everyday Italian recipe. I think it had a bajillion calories. But it was good. 🙂 Good thing I worked out an extra hour this week.
Okay. I’m going to go write. And I’m going to do the same thing tomorrow and the next day and the next. Before too long, hopefully writing will be as normal as exercise is to me these days. It used to be more natural.
How did I end up in this strange place?

Hero Journey

I’ve been immersed in research for the last week, so when I picked up a new romance this morning I was more excited than usual about reading. I took the book with me to work out and dug in. The opening scene was awesome. I loved the heroine, loved the writing. Couldn’t wait to see what happened next. Couldn’t wait to meet the hero worthy of this dynamic woman.
The elliptical hit 15 and I turned the page and met the man.
Three pages later I put the book down.
I know character arcs are essential in genre fiction. I’m all about reformed bad boys. I love the alpha male.
BUT when the hero’s story opens with us learning he’s a player times a thousand, loves sex, thinks he’s good at it, uses women like they’re nothing and then sends the one he spent last night with home with a best friend so he can bed her too, uh, that’s crossing the character arc line. I guess lots of people don’t mind a beginning like that. I did. I really liked the heroine. I wanted her to find happily ever after. But this hero wasn’t going to be worthy. If he hadn’t sent the woman he’s spent the night with home with his friend, I would’ve been fine.
It made me realize that I need to work hard at making sure my heroes are heroic in some way even when they’re being total jerks. Hope I can do it.
I plan on finding out tonight. I’ve been struggling with my writing the last two months. Thank God I found my journals and discovered that I’ve written two and a half books a year the last two years and in both of those years, I didn’t write in January and February because of my schedule at work. It’s deadline hell, so that made sense. Pretty relieving.
But I knew the deadline stress at work wasn’t what was stopping me with my new WIP.
My new work was stopped because the current situation is directly related to the past. A past I didn’t have figured out. I knew how the book was going to end, but I didn’t know why because that past event that sets the whole story in motion was still too vague. Last night I worked on that past event with my CPs. I’m ready to write today. I’m thinking about doing two possible things I’ve never done before. Writing the ending to see if my vision works and writing a prologue that might never see the light of day but will paint that beginning event vividly in my mind.
Writing the end is kind of scary because I sually write like crazy in the middle just to get to the last third of the book. I love writing the end usually.
The prologue is no problem. When I’m done with it I might even decide to make it a part of the book. I’ll have to decide if the reader needs to know that stuff to understand the book.
I know one thing. I’m excited, and it’s about time!

Time, hurt feelings and Woo Hoo

Whoa. It seems like only yesterday I was sitting in my big chair posting away about lessons I’d learned on my weight loss journey. Somehow I lost a few yesterdays in between.
This week’s been a killer. Late nights at school, working the state mandated test, church. It’s been a whirlwind. But I haven’t been exhausted, just busy.
then yesterday I finally had some time and I reuined it by taking a critique of the yearbook I advise personally. God, when I get published I am so not reading reviews. I can only imagine what I’d do. What I did yesterday was write an open letter to judges everywhere and post it to an educators loop I’m on. A loop with hundreds of subscribers. One of whom was probably the judge that hurt my feelings. Today I’ve gotten a TON of bravo mails. I’m sure someone somewhere will eventually write a response I won’t be so happy with. 🙂
But that’s okay. I don’t figure the person who wrote the critique meant it personaly, but they might have. They called the typography of the book “dated.” That’s stretching a little in my opinion. Especially since we copied our fonts from InStyle magazine. Oh well. It dsoesn’t matter. The critique actually freed me from the silliness of competitive yearbook. It doesn’t matter. It means nothing. It’s nice when they sing your praises and it sucks when they don’t. I’d just never dealt with the it sucks part before.
On the bright side, we’re down to the last very few pages of the yearbook. Thank you Lord it’s almost over. We’re down to the Index and one spread that needs football coach cooperation. I just don’t think the football coaches get that although they don’t care about accolades and a photo in the yearbook, their kids do. (More than that, their mama’s do!) I’m working on problem solving that issue for future years.
Tonight I get to meet with my critique group. Thank God! I need them. Of course, I have NOTHING NEW. I read a great article in my RWR today. Meg Cabot said she gets writer’s block when something’s wrong with her story. I think that’s where I am. I’m going to work on that with my CPs. I need their help!
Speaking of needing help. Sometimes I think parents need help. We have an incredible teacher at our school. He’s tough as nails but wonderful for freshmen students. He teaches kids how to study and kids who make it thorugh his class say they learned more about how to make good grades from him than any other teacher ever. He teaches Bio. It’s not an easy subject to teach when you live on the buckle of the Bible Belt. Anyway, a parent has set up a website to destory this man’s career. It’s complete with how to write complaint letters and e-mail addresses to send them to.
I’m beyond offended by the whole mess. As a teacher, I can’t even imagine. My daughter dropped this teacher’s class because she wasn’t willing to do the level of work necessary. But even she says the website it atrocious. I think it’s probably libelous. Hopefully by next week it’ll be gone.

The Weight Game

Late with this one. I’ve been on a major deadline so the hours at work have been LONG!
This week’s weigh in was sad. No loss, no gain.
At first I was good with it. Last week I had a huge loss and staying the same is to be expected. No prob.
Then for some reason today I had this strange feeling. suddenly i was looking at this as a race. I wanted to lose the weight NOW! And that feeling led to a nasty craving for massive sugar which led to me eating an oatmeal cream pie and 32 Pringles. Yes, I counted them so I could do the points! After that brief meltdown (I swear I inhaled the junk in less than two minutes and twelve seconds) I was better. I shrugged off the icky feeling, told myslef this was NOT a race, it was a lifetime. Then I went out to eat Mexican (my fave). And I ate responsibly all while having a blast with the best newspaper and yearbook staffs in the world. Afterwards I felt rejuvinated. Alive. DD and I Salsa danced in the parking lot. She kept saying , Thank God we’re not famous or our pictures would be in the tabloids tomorrow. (I didn’t say anything about my dream of being famous one day. She’s heard it her entire life. At that point we were penguin walking, so I figured that might be a discussion for another time)
Just got back from the hour-long workout at the Y. Much better. No problem.
It’s a journey, not a race. And if I have to penguin walk to get there, I will get there one day anyway.

Research

I LOVE research. It’s one of my favorite things to do. I know it’s crazy, but when I find an approximate call number and can start thumbing through indexes looking for one or two or ten nuggets of information that will make my books better, I get all tingly. (I know. It’s a sickness. I don’t think it’s catchy.)
When I was working on my master’s thesis I did hours and hours of research. I looked up the history of soap and talked to the dean of agricultural studies at Georgia Tech to see how long tobacco had been a cash crop in Georgia. I researched the history of nurseries and irrigation and I researched the Civil War, slavery, slave dialects, the South and plantations, and the roll of Texas in all those things. It was glorious. I had to make myself stop the research and write the book. I loved every minute of it and I love that book even though it’s been rejected by several publishers. My graduate committee actually liked the book too. And I think they loved the research most. They asked me a question and I gave them an answer. One professor told me I’d done more research for my novel than most people did for their standard thesis papers. I figured that made sense. I was creating people from the past, living in a time I had only read about, but I wanted them to be as real as they could possibly be.
Since I love research so much, it came as a surprise when I realized I hadn’t done ANY for my WIP. I was basing my entire concept on what I thought might be true because of the movies, books and TV shows I watch. Then I started thinking about it and I realized I hadn’t really done any research for the last THREE books I’ve written. Of the two books I have out right now, one is thoroughly researched. That book’s characters are absolutely alive to me. I see them, feel them, smell them. The second book out right now was a BLAST to write. It’s hot, hot, hot and a lot of fun. I love the characters, but there’s a difference to their depth.
I’ve been fighting this depth issuewith my new WIP for awhile.
Today I took a big bite out of the problem by visiting my local library and checking out a bunch of research books. A speaker once told my local RWA® group, RRRW http://www.rrrw.org to write what we know. Her books are incredible. She’s been an Air Force pilot and she knows a dozen languages. She’s been all over the world, including in the middle of a fire fight where life and death truly were the consequences.
It’s easy for her to say write what you know. 🙂
When I was a kid I spent hours and hours in the library letting books take me away to other worlds. I learned about London and orange marmalade reading Paddington Bear. I learned about living by the ocean and the war reading Jacob, Have I Loved. I learned about the Old South and New South colliding reading The Sound and the Fury and A Streetcar Named Desire. (God, I LOVED those books!) I learned about all sorts of exciting coastal towns in Europe reading a million Harlequin and Harlequin Presents books. I learned Arthurian Legend reading The Mists of Avalon.
Today I’m going to let a different kind of book take me away to another world. I’m going to dig deep into the workings of the American justice system. And while my boring everyday normal life is nothing close to what I’m writing, when I’m done researching, I bet I can breathe my characters to life. Carefully, completely.
I can’t wait to get started!

Diet is the 4-letter f-word

Seriously. One of my CPs recently joined Weight watchers and she can’t believe how she can eat and still lose weight. It’s easy. Why? Because it’s not a diet. If you want a cookie, by God, have a cookie. But then write down the points so you stay in control.
There’s no secret to losing weight. I’ve lost about a hundred thousand pounds over the years. 🙂
The secret is how to lose it and keep it off. I hope I’ve figured it out. I’m not doing anything this time that I’m not willing to do the rest of my life. I’ll have to watch points and exercise the rest of my life. And you know what? That’s not a problem. I’ve never felt so good in my life. And I can still have a cookie if I want.
Can’t beat that.

Neglect

Okay. I admit it. I’m guilty. I haven’t been back since Monday. Why?
Neglect, pure and simple. And not just neglect of my journal. I’ve neglected my story-telling too. And my family. And my friends.
The only thing I haven’t neglected is my day job. Not exactly the way I try to keep my priorities.
I’ve learned a lot over the last eleven years teaching and eight years writing. The biggest thing I’ve learned (other than teenagers will be teenagers) is life works a lot better if I live my life God first, family second and my job third. God first: He’s in control if I want Him to be. Family second: Sure quality is better than quantity, but that doesn’t cut it if the qualtity is one hour and a quick kiss good morning and good night. Job third: Okay, that’s the hard part. My day job is awesome. It was my dream job and I had no idea how fulfilling it would be. I love it and I love my students. We’re on major deadlines right now, so I spend a lot of my life in the newsroom. And that’s a good thing because my kids understand their paper is the voice of their campus. They understand that they have a responsibility to their peers to show what’s going on around the campus. A couple of them are even working on a first amendment piece after a study showed 1/3 of high school students think the 1st amendment is dangerous. Both the reporters lean to the conservative side and both believe the first amendment is essential to democracy. I’ve definitely done my job! My yearbook kids understand the importance of documenting the year as they see it and talking to people other than their “friends” or the “popular” kids.
BUT
then there’s my other job. Right now that job is a dream. The closest it is to reality is the handful of contest finals I’ve collected to take off the sting of the file full of rejection. Unpublished, multi-rejected writer is DEFINITELY a job. It’s a hard job. It’s a heart-wrenching job. It’s a totally crazy job because it’s unexplainable to people who don’t write. My extended family sees me at family reunion and asks “So you get a book published yet?” and I just sigh and say, “Nope. But I’ve got something in New York right now.” Or like right now, I can say I’ve got two somethings up there right now. And that’s not even the job part of it. That’s just the sigh-inducing annoying part that keeps me going because the family means well, they just don’t understand.
The job part is making myself sit at the computer and let the story flow. Let it flow in spite of the nagging doubts of rejection. Let it flow in spite of the way the cat gets upset and flops across the laptop keys. Let it flow even when the work week’s long and crazy.
Because the only way I’m ever going to sell a book and then another and then another is to find a way to ignore nagging doubts and write the stories I love, even when rejections come along. Even when the day job is busy. Even when the cat, or dh or dd get upset because I haven’t given them enough of my time.
And that leads me right back to the beginning.
God first. Family second. Job third.
It almost sounds like I’m going to say I have to realize there’s just no way I can fit in the job of unpubbed multi-rejected author along with the rest of my life.
And you know what? Sometimes that thought’s almost tempting.
But it’s not right.
Because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt there’s a reason these stories burn to be told by ME. God gave me my talent and He wants me to write stories that end in HEA, that provide a little fun for people in the midst of their busy lives possibly an escape from desperate times and emotional upheaval.
So getting back to the beginning instead leads to the only conclusion possible. getting my priorities back in order is the one way I can guarantee I’ll find a way to work it all in.
No more neglect. Not for God. Not for my family. Not for my job. And definitely not for my dream.

PS: H/S bought THREE new authors this week! If they can do it, so can I! Woo Hoo!

1 toddler down, one to go!

I weighed in today down 4 pounds! Woo Hoo!
I’ve lost a total of 43 pounds and it feels great. Someone asked me the other day when I planned on reaching my goal and I laughingly said, I have the rest of my life to reach goal.
But you know what? It’s not a joke. This isn’t a race. It’s not a diet. It’s just eating right and exercising. A healthy lifestyle. And I feel better than ever. I’ve weighed less in my life, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt as healthy. And that’s the key.
Hopefully that healthy feeling will help me with my writing. I don’t know if it will, but I think it should.
I know walking helps free ideas. Hopefully the walk I’m fixing to take with a plotter friend will help me with that. 🙂
Woo Hoo!

Finding the magic

My new WIP isn’t so new anymore, but it sure is kicking my butt. I’ve had a horrible time trying to figure out the problems. I mean, I love the plot, I like the characters, I feel pretty confident about the sexual tension. But everytime I sat down to write, I just couldn’t find the magic. It was driving me crazy. I’ve never been in this place with my work for more than a week or two at most.
I knew the problem centered on my characters. I mean, I write romance. LIKING my characters just isn’t going to cut it. I knew the real problem was something with my heroine. But no matter how many times I read over the work, no matter how many new pages I added, no matter how many times I added to her characterization sheet, I just couldn’t pinpoint the problem. But it was there. Glaring in its invisibility! I mean the story’s moving forward, but it’s all plot. The people aren’t real. They go through the motions to get me from turning point to turning point, but there’s something missing. The hero tries, but with this one dimensional woman I’ve got him on the run with, he just can’t get into the story either.

Then this weekend I took a group of 30 teenagers out of town for an academic meet. I don’t know what about this trip broke the block, but I sat down last night with no Internet access (a-ha! maybe I do know what broke the block!) and just started writing a note to myself. I listed the problems I was having, how I felt about it, all the personal excuses I could have for not moving forward. And then I went back and read chapter one.
And suddenly it was crystal clear. My characters have internal motivation and outside conflict, the plot pushes the story forward, I have scene goals BUT my heroine had no idea what she really wanted or why this story was so horrible for her. She was clueless. I’d set the entire story and her character points up around the external plot and I’d somehow left out the tie to who she was when she’s alone at night. When she’s comepletely honest with herself. When she’s being her most real.
Within ten minutes I’d churned out a short synopsis beginning that points outs all I’d discovered. Now for the hard part. Building this discovery into the character I have on the page. But you know what? It’ll be okay. She’s a real person now. Hopefully I’ll find the magic again.
I sure hope so!