Life’s Little Hiccups

I’m behind.  Again.

I wish I could say that I don’t know how it happens, but actually, I do know how it happens.

Life.

And a lack of making writing the priority it deserves.

What’s frustrating is that I know better than this!

June was my last blog before this one and the “Dear Plant” blog posted earlier tonight.  July, I spent dealing with my mother’s care and then dealing with her funeral at the end of the month.

What surprised me was the depression that followed.  I hadn’t felt that depression when my father died in 2008 or when my sister died in 2012, so why was I experiencing it now?  Was it because when their deaths occurred, I’d been writing regularly due to hefty deadlines where I buried myself in the writing instead?

I think so.

While I had a writing project that I was carrying around with me when dealing with Mom’s health issues and then, ultimately, her death, I had no deadlines, so the writing could be postponed.

So July melded into August as I prepared for the new academic year.  I noticed that despite the work, my depression wasn’t lifting like I would have liked.  Then, I became buried and exhausted with all of my work, which was more atypical than normal and with new responsibilities.  Basically, I was too tired to think.  Or write.

Only at the beginning of November, when some of the responsibility eased was I able to breathe again.  I got my writing out and was making headway doing some kind of writing every day, proudly putting red Xs on my calendar.  (Jerry Seinfeld would have been proud!)   And the more I wrote, the better I was starting to feel.

And then, BLAM! I found myself involved in a multi-vehicle (over 20, with 3 semi-trucks, a tow-truck, and police car) crash due a sudden white out on the highway, after having left town with the sun shining and only wet cement.  Michigan weather and living within the lake-effect weather zone, the weather can change quickly, and so it did that day.  Fortunately, there were no deaths, and only one driver seriously injured.  I had a few bumps and bruises, but I was okay.  The car, however, was not.  It was totaled.

That following week was a blur, filled with teaching, doctor appointments, and having to find a new car.  But now, I’m back on the writing track and with renewed energy.

Frankly, I had asked the Universe to put deadlines in my path, so that I would be forced to write.  How quickly the Universe reacted.  Deadlines I had wished for, I got!   A new writing opportunity was presented to me, which I took without hesitation, plus I volunteered to be part of a short-story anthology.  Work deadlines began piling up too, far earlier than usual for the end of the semester.

Despite all these deadlines, here I am writing.  What’s that old adage about the busier we get, the more we get done?

Yes, I’m several blogs behind, but that’s okay.  I’ve learned some lessons about myself and life as I’ve traveled through summer and fall’s events, and . . .

I’m joyously happy to find that I’m losing track of time again as I write.  Yup, I’ve reclaimed that zone.

Even better, that novel I’ve been trying and wanting to finish all year, well, I made getting that first draft finished as a professional goal at work, which has a spring deadline.

I have every confidence the book will finally get written.

Bottom line:  I do well with deadlines.  How about you?

Posted in Jerry Seinfeld writing trick, Joy of Writing, Motivation, Procrastination, Setting goals, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Dear Plant . . .

Lilly Conference
Traverse City, MI
October 2014

Dear Plant,

I miss your green, your silent acceptance of my work, even when I’m goofing off.

Oh, dear, did I forget to give you extra water?  I don’t worry about you as much as I do about your younger siblings—plants I’ve only had only a year or less—however, they are succulents and should be okay with drier conditions.

I always forget how you found your way into my plant celibate life, that I rescue you from a window shelf when I was working at Kellogg’s in various offices the summer of 2002.  You’d been deserted, stuck on that ledge by someone no longer there, and with no one claiming you, you were on your last breath, dirt totally dry, crumpling quite a bit in the sun.

What amazes me about you is your ability to thrive in the dark with little light other than the weak rays that filter in through the slabs, and even with our Michigan gray weather, which is definitely transitioning into its fall rains, you still thrive and bloom offering me quarterly pearly blossoms and new shoots almost monthly.

Looking forward to seeing and being with you again.

Love, gee how should I sign this?  Mom?  Your friend?  Your keeper?  I know I call you Buddy quite frequently and know how you prefer being near my desk, near my work, but what do you call me?  Hmm, I need to listen more carefully, don’t I?

See you on Sunday!

Diana

P.S.  This letter was an assignment for a workshop.  After writing this letter, the session leader wanted us to rewrite it, since we needed to have asked questions about your plans, what you’ve been doing (ha, like I don’t know what you’ve been doing while I’m gone!), all of which is to inspire you to write back.  Yeah, like that’s going to happen.  Besides, I think this is a damn, fine letter.

 

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The One Trait Every Writer Needs

is PERSISTENCE!

The persistent writer

  1.  Submits their[1] work.
  2. Accepts rejection. (It’s not personal).
  3. Accepts criticism.
  4. Wants criticism because they know growth occurs when mistakes are pointed out.  Plus, criticism means the writer engaged the reader, if not hit a nerve.
  5. Pays attention to the details.
  6. Rewrites.
  7. Resubmits.

And repeats steps 6 & 7 repeatedly until SUCCESS (acceptance/publication) is finally achieved.

******

  1. [1] Yes, you grammarians, I used a singular noun with a plural pronoun.  This duality is acceptable and fast becoming a norm.  Why?  It’s considered wordy to say his or her when talking about more than one person, and it’s too sexist to pick one or the other.

 

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Publishing Online – Not For the Faint of Heart

In 1993, I published my first book.  I was in the right place at the right time, with a finished manuscript—several to be exact.  I was waiting for preparedness to meet opportunity, which is what being in the right place at the right time really means for a writer.

At the time, I was a member of Romance Writers of America and was asked if I wanted to be the editor/writer of a regular round-up column, taking over for a writer friend.  The bi-monthly column involved me contacting editors asking for their current needs.  I climbed on board enthusiastically.  What a great way to place myself further in front of editors!

About a year later, Milburn Smith, called me.  He was the editor of Starlog Press, a publisher of magazines in science fiction and fantasy.  The company wanted to expand into the romance genre.  After all, at the time romance novels was the biggest genre share of all books sold and still is today.[1]

Milburn gave me all the necessary information I needed to include Starlog Press in the roundup column.  And then, he said, “If you know of any writer out there who has a romance manuscript in their bottom drawer, send them my way.”

Opportunity!

I said, “Well, actually, I do know of someone.  Me.”

“Send me the manuscript,” he said.

So, I did.

A couple weeks later, he called me.  He told me that he liked my writing style but that the story wasn’t quite what he was looking for.  Did I have anything else?

As a matter of fact, I did.  He told me to send it.

A week later, he called.  He started with, “I just read the most wonderful book.”

“You did?”  I was hoping.  I held my breath.

“Yes, your book.  And I have to tell you I feel like I just discovered Karen Robards all over again.”  He went on to tell me how he had discovered her about twenty years earlier.[2]

I couldn’t believe it.  I was 42 years old and about to have my first book published.  About four years prior, I had vowed if I reached 40 and hadn’t published any book, I was going to stop writing.  I’d been writing for over a decade and wasn’t making any progress.  Even a close writer friend couldn’t understand why I wasn’t selling any of my books.  She claimed my heels were the only thing still on the edge of the cliff.  Why I hadn’t fallen off the publishing cliff was a mystery to her.

When I turned 40, I realized I was so close that I couldn’t give up.  So, there I was two years later achieving that dream.   What a difference my life would be now if I had given up.

Fast forward to a decade later, when I was able to get my rights back.  As the online publishing environment heated up, I thought I could reprint the book, making it available to a greater mass market than had been obtained on its initial 1993 release, which was magazine stands only.

Finally, earlier this summer, I began editing the manuscript.  I was a bit chagrined at the errors I found and no wonder.  Since its original publication, I had earned four degrees, which include creative writing and English specialties; my grammar and punctuation skills had definitely improved since that time.  Additionally, I teach writing so those skills are reinforced every semester.  While the errors I found weren’t that bad, *I* noticed them and now they weren’t acceptable.

I was delighted and surprised to find that my story still held up, that it was better than I had remembered.  I did have to make a number of corrections and clear up some wordiness or unclear meaning here and there; but overall, it wasn’t as bad as I had expected.

The Formatting

I always tell my students that good writing is always about the details.  Converting my manuscript to acceptable online formatting was truly about the details.  I combed through that manuscript as if I was looking for microscopic eggs that could hatch into reader displeasure.  I lost count of the number of passes I made through it.

To format the manuscript properly required that I read Smashword’s manual.  Any errors could prevent my submitted book from being sent out to retailers.  I wanted a smooth journey.

The Cover

And then, I had to include a cover.  Talk about a learning curve.  I could hire it out or create my own.  I wanted to see if I could create my own.  I was up for the challenge, and what a challenge it became.

Another learning curve on the cover creation software I had purchased a couple of years earlier but hadn’t explored yet.  That curve included another manual.

Many hours of online searching, looking for the perfect public domain photos, preferably free.  In the end, I purchased them.

I needed a new title.  While The Man on the Romance Cover was an okay title, I had never really liked it.  My original title had been Fuss and Feathers, but that title didn’t fit anymore either.  Eventually, I decided on Determined.  When I was talked to a writer friend about the title she commented that it didn’t describe a romance and suggested I add “hearts,” so Determined Hearts, it became.

The creation began.  Many attempts.  Many failures.  And then, finally, success.

The cover created, the bio, short, and long blurbs written, I submitted the book.  It was accepted!  And, hooray (!), it passed initial inspection with no errors.

A week later, however, I got the message that the cover wasn’t appropriate—not enough pixels.

Another learning curve.  How many pixels equaled an inch?  How many inches did I need to reach the minimum total required?

Finally, I discovered that I could create my cover using a PowerPoint slide—software that I’m reasonably experienced with, and that once I saved it as a PEG or PNG file, I could easily resize it in my PhotoStudio Expressions program, with which I was even more experienced.

I can’t say this journey of self-publishing was the easiest; it has had its challenges.  However, this challenge was educational:  I learned new programs, new processes, and found new websites.

Now, if I’ve done every thing correctly, I should be getting a notice that the book went into the Smashword’s Premier Catalog distribution.

I’m crossing my fingers just in case.

******

P.S.  Wouldn’t you know it.  I originally published this particular blog with a HUGE grammar error in the title–feint of heart, instead of faint of heart.    Yup, I still continue to make those dastardly little beastie errors.

******

[1] http://www.rwa.org/p/cm/ld/fid=580

[2] I’d like to hope that someday I’ll get to ask Karen about her side of the story—what it was like, how did it feel, what book did he discover . . .

Posted in Motivation, Setting goals, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Facebook Writing Challenges Accountability Group

I don’t know about you, but when I make public my writing goals, I have better results.

What about you?

Would you like a place on Facebook (FB) where you can state your WIP (work in progress) goal(s), ask a question, and possibly get some direction from another writer?  Looking for inspiration, motivation, or just a chance to chat with someone who understands what you’re doing?

Then come take a look at my Writing Challenges Accountability Group that started with a few and has now been turned into a public forum.

Check it out!   https://www.facebook.com/groups/writingchallenges/

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Writing about Emotions & Feelings

Emotions & Feelings - Pinterest photo

Finding this chart of “Emotions & Feelings” on Pinterest today, I was reminded of a time when I was worrying and feeling high anxiety due to a stressful event that had my emotions inside out and upside down. All I could do was pace the room and look out the window every other minute. I’d sit down and get right back up and pace again. My hands would fist, open, only to fist again. My heart raced and I was sweating that smelly kind of sweat associated with fear.

As I paced, I realized that there was absolutely nothing I could do about the situation and all this pacing was getting me nowhere.

My thoughts turned to writing and how difficult it was, at times, to capture an emotion of anger, fear, worry, or anxiety, especially when I was feeling happy.

I thought, Why not write down my emotions and observations of my body’s reactions? Then when I was writing a scene where I needed those physical traits and words, they’d be at hand.

Immediately, I set to work capturing what I was feeling, quickly absorbed in the project, which then led to writing a scene that I’d earlier been struggling with before this event had taken place. A couple of hours later, exhausted by the writing, I stopped and only then realized I’d mentally moved beyond the event.

Looking back at it entire situation, I also realized that all that anxiety was for naught, as it was pure reactionary feelings, with no resolution. It was one of my first experiences of learning how to let go, to back away with trying to resolve a situation that I would have only made worse had I responded.

Since that time, I’ve learned that whenever I’m facing a situation where I find myself steeped with worry, reactionary thoughts, or fear of the outcome, I need to let it go, realize that the situation will be okay in time, and to bury myself in some type of writing or creative process.

More than once, the craft of writing has rescued me from myself.

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Why I Write

Because I *like* https://www.facebook.com/freedomwithwriting on Facebook, I get notices of their online, short writing contests.  Unfortunately, I read about a recent contest, “Why I Write,” too late for entry.  Not able to share there, I’m now sharing it here:

I write to discover the magic of words that can prod, reveal, realize, fantasize, and inflame the possibilities of mind (yours and mine) for all the tomorrows.  I write for the promise of understanding, empathy, laughter, and sharing that grounds us to our souls of imagination.

That’s why *I* write.  In 50 words or less, why do you write?

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The Art of Procrastination

There’s no discussion needed.  Not really.  However, I thought you might be amused by my attempts to get the writing done today, as I sit here wasting time that I joyously celebrating having earned last night as a snow day in Michigan.  (About two feet of snow, arctic temperatures that shut down schools, businesses, but not the almighty USPS.)

Cleaned the kitchen.  Thoroughly.  Used a toothbrush to get close to the fixtures so I could remove otherwise-tolerable-on-any-other-day grit and grime.

Cleaned the bathroom.  Thoroughly.  Same toothbrush, but this time I threw it away when done.

Did laundry.

Replaced batteries in my CD player remote because I didn’t want to have to walk across the room to forward to the next song physically once I was in the throes of creativity.

Made hot chocolate.  From scratch.  For some reason, using a mix wasn’t good enough today.

Went outside and shoveled snow from the front of my garage.  Despite, the gale-force wind that will no doubt stack it up against the door again before tomorrow morning.

Heard the jingle of change in the couch.  Removed the cushions.  Had to drag out the vacuum for all the sand, dust, and dirt.

Put on a zippered covering/jacket with a hoodie as it’s getting cold inside.

Vacuumed the rest of the house.  Why not?  The machine was already out.

Dusted the furniture.  Can’t have a clean floor and dirty furniture, can I?

Restocked the toilet paper.

Changed my jacket – didn’t like the color.

Watered the plants.

Watched two guys walking in the driving lane in my apartment complex, wearing no hats or gloves, who stopped and huddled over something in one of their hands.  Suddenly one back up about 20 feet, with the other filming.  The first guy runs full speed toward a drift and plunges in headfirst!!!!!! He comes out, his head totally white, and they high-five and walk on. To find another drift?

Looked for a book to read from my TBR pile, but sorted them all first by genre.  Finished, I decided I needed to be writing instead of reading, so left the TBR pile without a book.

Changed my jacket.  Didn’t like the fit or the lack of pockets.

Finally, at my desk, I thought I would begin my first of many tasks.  Looking at the clock, I realized I’d be lucky to accomplish half a task.

Decided I needed to add to my blog that I haven’t visited since the first of November.

Changed my jacket.  The last one didn’t have a hood.

Okay, NOW, I’m ready to do some writing.

Oh, wait.  I need to turn up the heat and take off the jacket.  It’s too bulky. . . . I think I’m hungry, too.

Posted in Procrastination, Writing | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

NaNoWrMo – National Novel Writing Month

Years ago, I watched this organization begin and grow, always thinking I should join but never did due to work commitments, then school commitments, and life in general.  At the time of its founding, I was starting a new life and a new job, and then a new career path where my writing was sidelined due to academic writing commitments as I pursued my degrees, which resulted in a a full-time job with more writing responsibilities.  The only real new creative writing I did from 1999 until now have been those assignments required for my creative writing classes.

Occasionally, I came up with some new ideas that I would jot down (hoping to pursue some day), and some I would start outlining, but nothing significant until 2006 when I began teaching a women’s study survey course and started paying real attention to feminism* and made a connection to all the female writers and characters from the various periods I had studied, from early medieval times to the Renaissance, Victorian times, through contemporary modern day.

One night, I had this brilliant idea, one that has yet to be written as I envisioned her, and I quickly found myself—in her voice—writing her story, from her point of view, a story that has yet to be told without making her an absurdity, voiceless, or a caricature as she’s been betrayed far too often.

In that one night, in a short four hours’ time, I quickly wrote 18 pages of what I imagine to be the beginning of her story.  A few years later, I returned to her story and imagining the story as a screenplay, wrote a detailed outlined that included characterization pages.  As I did so, I began hearing other voices, other characters from within the story.  Since then, for the past seven years, she has been clamoring, other times softly whispering and pleading with me to finish her story.  A few years ago, I found a work of ark that aptly displayed her in conversation with another main character; and then, I found a bronzed-like figurine that fit the story, as well.  I displayed the two objects where I saw them every night when retiring.  I thought about her story constantly.

Now that time has come.  I’ve decided through the wonderful, supportive vehicle of NaNoWrMo that occurs this month—most appropriately, as time will reveal—and the year that her story will come to fruition—from the imagined images of my thoughts, inspired by history and onto the page.

It’s a story unlike my other publications.  Over the years, and through my education, my writing has changed.  This story inspires me and has me aflame with a passion of can-do mentality.

For the now the title is only Medieval Novel.   I’ll be contacting a publisher  or two as I write this month, for I have no doubt that I’ll need a publisher soon enough.

Sadly, I’m starting late–one day late, as NaNoWrMo month began yesterday, but in no way am I behind.

——————————————

* Until I began teaching this women’s studies class, I along with so many misguided individuals, thought that feminism was for radical bra-burning women who didn’t want marriage or babies.  I was so wrong (!!!) learning, instead, that feminism is nothing more than wanting equal rights for all people–equal pay, equal rights, equal freedoms, and so forth.  Since then, I’m proud to say that I am a feminist.

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The “Old Days” versus “Today”

I have to laugh when new writers or students state that “writing is hard.”  Compared to the old days, writing is easy today.

In the old days one wrote with a manual typewrite and carbon paper.  At best, the writer had an electric typewriter or an assistant who would type up handwritten notes.  Of course, I didn’t have any writer friends who had those kind of resources.  Like me, they hammered on the keys, cursing at the errors as they grabbed the liquid whiteout and flipped the papers in the typewriter, blowing on the blobs of white so that it would be dry before retyping, pressing HARD multiple times to ensure it went through all the copies.

When I look a particular 1963 dissertation that had over 5000 participants that entailed an endless array of charts and diagrams, I’m in awe of that student.  Of course, it also makes perfect sense that there were no publications after graduation.  The burnout must have been incredible.

Today one writes with a computer. 

Of course, there are other electronic tools such as the iPhone, iPad, or dictating one’s creative words into the computer using a program like Dragon (a program I have yet to make time to learn and cursing how much easier life would be if I’d just put in the time to learn it!).

In the old days, if I wanted to change a character’s name . . . well, I just didn’t.  The same was said about considering changing hair color or length, eye color, or other details that would require pages of retyping.

In the old days, once the sentence structure was laid down, it didn’t change, even though I knew it should be changed.

In the old days, as I typed up final drafts, if I had a sudden inspiration for a slight change in the plot, well that change ended up in a different project or was just forgotten.

Today’s writers, those who have never experienced using a typewriter, have no concept how easy is to make changes, both large and small to their writing(s).

When I hear writer’s bemoan writer’s block, I have to laugh.  Seriously?  Today?   Yes, I used to suffer from writer’s block because I wanted to type out those perfect sentences.  I didn’t want to spend hours of retyping because of rewriting issues.

Once I got a computer, it still took me several years before I learned that I didn’t have to write those perfect sentences or write in my head while I tried difference word choices.  Instead, I could play with words on the page and easily delete or change that which I didn’t like with a tap of a few keys.

Today, there is no writer’s block.  Today, there’s only not doing.

Writing today is not difficult.  Writing in the old days was.  Today, I have no real excuse not to be writing.  Even when driving, I could be writing by dictating.  Now that’s progress.

In reality, I have no excuses for not writing.  None.  Nada.  Zilch.

Bad, Diana.  Bad, bad, bad, Diana.

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