IWSG October 5, 2016: Getting started


Today is IWSG day. Come join Alex J. Cavanaugh and all the other writers who support each other, make us all smile and think in this monthly hop. No one is mocked or sneered at. All are welcome. We have all been there.

Please be sure to visit our host Alex J Cavanaugh, and this month’s co-hosts: Beverly Stowe, Megan MorganViola Fury, Madeline Mora, Angela Wooledridge, and Susan Gourley.

The twitter hashtag is #IWSG

Visit the website and look around: http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/
This month’s question is:  

When do you know your story is ready?

My answer is that it is never ready.  Or, at least I *think* it is never ready.  I was just reading one of my published books, one that I am really happy with, that expressed what I wanted to express and told, I thought, a good story.  The fact that it features two of my absolute favorite characters is an added treat.

I opened the paperback copy I had printed for myself, read a section and thought, “You know, it would work better if I expanded the various contractions and changed a couple words.”

I had to put on the brakes, hard, and admit that the story is set.  Too much fiddling makes the story stale.  (This does not mean that I won’t fix the odd mistake that I find).  

And now, I am going to reveal what insecurity has me by the throat at the moment:

It has been too long since I published.

…or, come to that, since I wrote anything really new.

The Memphis Cycle


I have a series of books set in New Kingdom Egypt (think Ramesses the Great) with a great many stories that can come off that.  I have my notes: the stories just need to be written.  








The Crocodile Fable


I have a short piece, a fable about a crocodile, that is nearly finished.  I just have to finish it:


The Orphan’s Tale #1
The Orphan’s Tale #2






I have a series set in 1830’s Paris with one completed, another nearly completed and the final one well underway.
I have other stories in varying stages of being outlined…

But I have published nothing in over three years.

Why?  Well, my father died in 2012.  That was a terrible blow. My delightful mother’s health took a downward spiral.  She had been caring for my father and now she was dealing with her own issues.  She needed surgery, she needed to be moved to a better place.  And she was far away from her family.

Work issues, travel issues (my mother lives 250 miles away) money issues.  I was, and am, very tired.   But I can feel things moving, stirring.  I have ideas.

…and I received some notes from readers:

I really enjoy your Memphis Cycle stories.  I have all of them in paperback.  I know you have one in the works: is it coming out soon?

I replied, and they replied enthusiastically. It made me smile.  And it started me thinking. 

It could be done.  The fable is about 40,000 words, the cover is finished.  I have some ‘shorts’ on the Egyptian stories that could be put together.  Something to please those kind people who wrote me and follow me.

I have some vignettes from the Paris story that I could put out.  Something to read.

Ramesses the Great never looked better…
And, things having eased up a little, I can set the Paris story aside for a bit to let the edits sink in.  I could take up some kind friends on their beta-read offers and put the manuscript out for review.

…and I could get to work on the full length novel that fits after the second book of The Memphis cycle.  Heck, I have a cover:

…errrrr….  Maybe I need to work on that…

(You aren’t down for the count if you can find something to laugh about, you know…)


Check out the posts on this hop.  Read, comment, enjoy.  I’ll be doing the same this evening.


Insecure Writers’ Support Group – February 3, 2016


Today is IWSG day. Come join Alex J. Cavanaugh and all the other writers who support each other, make us all smile and think in this monthly hop. No one is mocked or sneered at. All are welcome. We have all been there:

http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/

This month’s co-hosts are:
Allison Gammons,Tamara Narayan, Eva E. Solar, Rachel Pattison, and Ann V. Friend!

We are The Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

Well, I have a doozie for you:  what do you do with a writer who is not writing?

Not WRITING???  What ARE you, then?



Really, what if the writer isn’t writing?  Does that make him a  non-writer?  I mean, writers write, right?  Right?

At the moment I am taking a break.  I am right now formatting a book.  And correcting the odd issue with style (we do grow and develop) but I am deliberately not composing a thing.  I’m not even reading my several works in progress.  Though I’m checking my blog, and I don’t want to miss the IWSG, I’m not doing a whole lot else writing-wise.

I burned out, writing’s a chore right now, and I really need the break.

Am I a writer?

I certainly am.  I think I was born to tell stories.  It fulfills me, it gives enjoyment to others (generally), it’s a whole lot of fun, and I love it.

So, for right now I’m a writer who is resting.  Banking the fires, if you like.

I suspect we worry too much about whether we fit this mold or that.  We are what we are, and I’d say you all are pretty fantastic.

Back to resting and reading other things not my own.  I’ll do more formatting tomorrow.

Write on, everyone!

Insecure Writers’ Support Group November 4, 2015


Today is the first Wednesday of the month, which means it is IWSG day. The once-a-month blog hop started by Alec Cavanaugh . IWSG = Insecure Writers’ Support Group (click the words to visit)


Today’s cohosts are: Stephen Tremp,Karen Walker, Denise Covey, and Tyrean Martinson.  

They will be visiting everyone and his brother and adding useful comments (I can attest to this) and are, in addition, interesting and useful contributors in their own rights.  Go ahead and visit them.  While you’re at it, stop by the web page for the IWSG: http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/

**   **   **   **   **   **   **   


Like everyone who writes, I have spent time trying to stem the spate of fabulous (to me, at least) words that came tumbling from my fingertips (or my ball point pen, depending on where I was).  Words that said just what I wanted to, that surprised me, that were a delicious surprise and so very fitting to what I was hoping to produce.  Better, in fact.

Never mind the fact that everyone else was reacting to my (read aloud) words in a fashion that made me realize that they had ears stuffed with earwax and could not hear my wonderful words.  I  knew they were good.


And, actually, when I looked the words over and worked on them and straightened them out, they actually were pretty decent, said what I wanted to say in a way that I thought was good (you do, after all, have to have some confidence in your own ability.  Running around and saying ‘I’m just terrible!’ is no more modest and truthful than shouting that you’re the best writer ever to come along.) 

The times do come, however, when the words themselves won’t come.  When I’m too tired to write, even though I want to tell a story and have an idea where the story is going.  I”m just too tired.

That has been happening recently.  Things get in the way.  Time gets away from me.  I just don’t have the time (I think), or I just don’t have the strength.  Or – and this is a major concern for me – the two stories that I have in the works have become stale.  I just…can’t…move.

And we all, or at least I  do, need to write.  I’m a writer, aren’t I?

I joined NaNoWriMo, thinking that cranking out 50K words to flesh out one of my WIPs would be the perfect way to kick off a new, lively, vital endeavor.  1400 words per day is not bad.  Let us be reasonable, here.  1400 words equals about 6 pages of double-spaced 12 point font typing.  A piece of cake.  

The first day of NaNoWriMo, I got in late, sat down, fired up my trusty laptop, and got ready to just write.  I closed my eyes, positioned my fingers on the keyboard, and typed my little heart out.  And, ladies and gentlemen, here is a part of what I wrote, as I discovered the next day, trembling with anticipation.  I kid you not, cross my heart and hope to die:


(Note: this would be book 3 of my Memphis Cycle, set in the Egypt of Ramesses the Great)

It was midnight and he was in the library of Opet.  Room after room, filled  with the scent of parchment and ink.  Tallow-topped torches at in the brackets along the wall. The golumes stood in rows against the walls, their contents carefully noted, tyheir writers loggedin the register.  He knew there were some there written by Amunhorkhebechef, Crown Prince of Egypt He di dot try to locat them.  His memory of the dispatches he had written were devastaig to thos wh o did hot know better.je [pire dfrp the fasl at jos be;t/  oOt was

He was writing by tye light of a single lamp.  Troop movements, ,bits of wisdom from thutors Iii. This was wor that he enjoyed, but it was gruelojng  His ajestywrote I a tight hand, rigidly daoj Ahw dlla  OR DE HWWLRH, ” HW iwa deo ou

 Je njad dpe jos dit9oes [er the guidance received fro hiu pve tjselves  She was a queen, a beauty, a woje to love a follow through light.

Dang, that’s good, no?  Just makes you want to read more, right?  Rush right out and pull out eveything that Diana Wilder has written, it touches your soul so profoundly.  Yeah, I agree.  743 words of pure fabulosity!  Wow, whoopee ding!

Yeah, right…

I scrapped NaNoWriMo.  It was a rough patch for me, and I might as well accept it, thought I.  These times come.  They’re the bad times that balance the good times through which you must work.  Hitch up your courage, take a deep breath, resolve to hang in there and put out a word here, a word there…  Watch it add up…

Well, folks, let me tell you what happened today.  I was sitting at my ‘real’ job, and a sudden twist of plot popped into my head. What if…?  Hmmmm…  It was a busy day.  I paused and thought about it, long enough to make an impression so that I could remember it, and moved on.  This evening, sitting with friends, I had a sudden idea for a conversation that would follow that twist.  Perfect!  It would work!  It brought new life to the story and added depth!  I opened my purse and looked for my notebook.

Not there.  Dang!  I cast about for something to write on: anything at all!  And I found some cash register receipts.  The backs were blank.   I did have my trusty pen (three, in fact).  I started jotting.

My friends watched me in silence, their eyebrows raised.  One of them said “Do you want to borrow my notebook?  I have one in my purse…”  I gave her The Look and kept writing.  And here is what I have:

Not terribly legible, but it captures a bit of conversation that I can work with.  And, more importantly, it captures that spark of inspiration I had at my desk.  I am very familiar with these characters, I know their quirks, and if they existed outside my own head, I’d invite them to lunch in a little local place I discovered that makes the best BLT sandwiches and has moreover, poetry nights with open mikes.  It would be a lot of fun.  They are people of humor and substance.  And they had, somehow, stepped in and saved my story.

…And NaNoWriMo is back on.

The point to all this is that, yes, the difficult times are there.  Creating anything always involves a struggle, as a philosopher said.  We all tend toward Chaos, and creating something out of nothing is fighting against that chaos.  Or so one writer whom I really admire said.  Whatever the underlying cause, my lesson, which I pass on, is not a new one:

Hang in there.  Let things work together, do what you can – and be prepared to be surprised.

**************
Visit the other blogs on this wonderful hop.  I guarantee, the other bloggers have a lot more to say, and a lot more on point.  (Cough!)

http://www.linkytools.com/basic_linky_include.aspx?id=103850

IWSG February 4, 2015




The Insecure Writer’s Support Group

The first Wednesday of the month is the time for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. This is the once-a-month blog hop started by Alex J. Cavanaugh .

IWSG = Insecure Writers’ Support Group (click for the link).  We share our insecurities and support each other with empathy, sympathy and  practical suggestions. 

Visit the site – and visit the co-hosts:
Gwen Gardner, Dolorah, Sarah Foster, and M. Pax!

This month I’m talking about ‘Clone Wars’.  Not the Star Wars type.  I mean the fear people have about copying others.  Bec0ming too much like others, losing their sense of who they, themselves, are.  Getting overwhelmed by something that causes them to lose their voices.

We are told that writers need to read.  That writers who do not read end up shriveling up and blowing away.  So we must read.  Read a lot, read widely, read to enjoy, read to learn, read in order to learn how to write, much as an apprentice used to sit and watch the Master make a masterpiece.

And at the same time, we are cautioned against plagiarism.  Now, I am absolutely against plagiarism.  I have seen some shocking examples lately from groups that expose plagiarism.  Often, someone has cut and pasted something from fanfiction.  You can’t do things  like that.  It is illegal, immoral and stupid.  But what of the person who encounters a way of looking at things, a way of describing things, that he or she embraces wholeheartedly and seeks to imitate.  Not copy: imitate.

 

But what if you find something so overpoweringly fabulous, you end up lost in it, overwhelmed by it,  transfixed by it to the point that you can’t say what you want to say, feel as you think you ought.  You are stunned, almost like someone who has fallen in love at first sight.  I remember the almost stammering reaction I had to the magnificent end of the third episode of Star Wars  (not the prequels – don’t get me started on them).  I felt breathless.

So…  it could be bad.  But it could be good.  Okay, I get that – but why is it so important?  What could I possibly gain from that – and what do I stand to lose?
 
What do you stand to lose?
 
I think of the great books I’ve read, some of which are actually acknowledged to be great books. Watership Down, Eagle in the Snow, The Lord of the Rings, The Rose of Old St. Louis (not a classic book, but an indispensable), The Dean’s Watch, Green Dolphin Street,  and many more.  They made me see things with new eyes, to stand back and evaluate how I felt about tings, what moved me.  Some left me breathless.  With each of them I felt as though I were looking at my world through new eyes. 
Did I feel overwhelmed?  Not really.  I think it was more a feeling of finding what was right, what was true. 
I found a quote I love:

“Expose yourself to excellence, and you will be excellent. Expose yourself to mediocrity, and you will be mediocre. Read the right books, watch the right shows, eat the right foods and engage with the right people. The rest is just a distraction from excellence.”

Iwsg November 5 – Just do it #IWSG


THE INSECURE WRITER’S SUPPORT GROUP

The first Wednesday of the month is the time for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. This is the once-a-month blog hop started by Alex J. Cavanaugh .

IWSG = Insecure Writers’ Support Group (click for the link).  We share our insecurities and support each other with empathy, sympathy and  practical suggestions. 

Visit the site – and visit the co-hosts:
LG Keltner, Donna Hole, Lisa Buie-Collard and SL Hennessy

Art work by Ben Southan

Over the past months, I have been wrestling with all sorts of writing-related questions.  For me, at least, they never come one at a time, small and easily dealt with. 

Instead, they cluster around the door of my thoughts like wolves and go rushing in if I let them.  Fighting them off is tiring and usually an exercise in futility.


There are questions regarding my writing in general:

  • Is it good? (Pretty important, actually… )
  • Is it the best I can do? (See above)
  • I’m tired: how can I write anything good when I am exhausted? That requires a little extra thought.


Then come the questions regarding works in particular:

  • Will it sell? (Speaking strictly from the ‘art’ standpoint, this should not be so important a question, but we do tend to equate quality of writing with saleability, whether or not we recall our earlier sneers at various best-selling offerings that appear to have been cranked out on a conveyor belt by someone who, we say, has prostituted his or her talent to profitability)


Questions regarding the flow of my writing and the value of my current WIP:

  • Does this WIP follow well after its predecessor? Does it pick up the threads and weave them convincingly? 
  •  Is it bad? The predecessor was really good, so why does this one stink? (I’m getting ahead of myself, but if I were not – at the time I squall this to the heavens – really tired and off my game, I would admit that a story with three years of effort going into producing it is naturally better, at the moment, than one that is just underway. And I would also acknowledge that, this being a series, I am building on the structure that I hopefully perfected in Volume I and will bring to a thundering, triumphant conclusion in Volume III.)
  • …and why, oh why, is Volume III, nearly completely visualized, so much more seductive than Volume II, which I have had to insert between I and III?

Hydra by John Singer Sargent

How do you cope?
As with all questions posted on this wonderful hop, these are nothing new. 

Like the Hydra in Greek Mythology, though, they  do tend to come back every time you think you have killed it.

It’s a condition peculiar to writers.
(I remember the story of a young actress telling the great Sarah Bernhardt that she never, ever had stage fright.  La Bernhardt said, ‘Well, ma petite, when you become a real actress you will!’)


What is the answer?

Well…
November is NaNoWriMo time. We are supposed to write, write, WRITE!!! for thirty days straight and come up with 50,000 words. I am not participating this year because I have committed to get Volume II (of The Orphan’s Tale) whacked into a shape where I will not die of embarrassment when I send it to my editors at month’s end and then, heaven help them, to anyone who volunteers to be a beta reader. Publication is tentatively slated for Spring 2015. But the concentration on writing itself swung my attention toward the answer to this and just about any angst-related, insecurity-generated question that a writer can face:

Just write. 

  • Write what comes out the ends of my fingers.
  • Close my eyes and write. 
  • Wake up and see what I have written and laugh hysterically and resolve NOT to do this at 11pm on a weeknight. 
  • Realize that I am not carving things into a block of marble. I am putting out words, and words can be tweaked (the part I personally love the most).


But I’ll write. That is what a writer does. 
And just producing the raw material, which I can squint at, groan over and ultimately fix, somehow, for me at least, smooths away the worries. 
When I an clicking into productivity and actually doing what it is that I live to do, I am invincible, at least in my own mind.

Then I’ll go over what I have written. Use my wordsmithing abilities and work on it. I’ll just do it. Mark things up, rewrite, groan.

I’ll be too busy to be insecure.  And I’ll be writing, which is, after all, what I live to do.

http://www.linkytools.com/basic_linky_include.aspx?id=103850

Insecure Writers Support Group March 5, 2014


Today is the first  Wednesday of the month, which means it is IWSG day. The once-a-month blog hop started by Alec Cavanaugh . IWSG = Insecure Writers’ Support Group (click the words to visit)

 We share our insecurities and support each other with empathy, sympathy or practical suggestions. 

One of the great joys of writing is the feeling of ideas flowing, thoughts coming together, racing through your fingertips onto the keyboard and into the manuscript, flooding the pages.  It’s as exhilarating as careening down a snowy hill on a sled, or putting a horse at a jump, knowing – just knowing – that you can’t miss.

Tetris

You are the ruler of the universe, the spinner of stories, the Tale-Teller, the Seannachie – you can hold people spellbound… Well, you can hold yourself spellbound at any rate…  Those are the moments, rather like Runner’s Euphoria, that buoy us up and keep our fingers tapping on the keyboard.

…but then there are the moments, weeks, months, maybe years, where you squeeze out a chapter here and a chapter there, and it is like trying to squeeze the last bit out of a half-dry toothpaste tube.  And just about as enjoyable.  You know you want to write, but you find that you can’t write.  Or else that the joys of Tetris far outweigh the joys of putting words together. 



…creeeeeaaakkkk…

You sit there about as useful as a rusty old water pump.  Lots of creaking and no juice.

What to do?  

I attended a small writer’s conference years ago.  The first I ever attended.   I got a lot out of it, and I still have my notes.  Talks about characters, about where to get ideas, a funny chat on surreptitiously writing things down on napkins in restaurants.  Someone asked this particular speaker how he worked through writer’s block.  His answer, completely serious, was unexpected based on his talk up to then. 

He said,
 
“I can’t afford to have writer’s block.  If I don’t write, I don’t get paid.  So if I hit a stone wall, I write through it.  Anything.  If it’s a scene, I mock something up.  But I write and move on.  I don’t let myself get stalled.  Once I get my momentum up, I can always turn around and fix what I did.  But I don’t have the feeling that I am somehow stopped.” 

It’s a good thing to think about.  At the moment I’m a rusty pump.  Frankly, I think I have a slight case of burnout, since I am working on a story that had been fixed in my mind for a long time.  I was familiar with it, comfortable with it – but suddenly I was seeing ways that the plot could go, sidelights to the main character’s history and personality, new ways to deepen things – and I was simply tired.

I may take a day’s break.  Or not.  I may just plow through.  Write even if it’s just 700 words of my notes to myself about what I think might be happening.  Just write.


…Like I said before, without insecurities, would we be real writers?

Hm…

This is a blog hop with lots of good participation.  Go forth and read!

http://www.linkytools.com/basic_linky_include.aspx?id=103850

Insecure Writer’s Support Group – February 5, 2013


Today is the first  Wednesday of the month, which means it is IWSG day. The once-a-month blog hop started by Alec Cavanaugh . IWSG = Insecure Writers’ Support Group (click the words to visit)

We share our insecurities and support each other with empathy, sympathy or practical suggestions. 

“Odd creatures, writers…”


Today I would like to address a concern that just about every writer I have ever known shares.  It is something that haunts our dreams, something that dictates our actions, something that makes our loved ones look at us with one eyebrow raised and extremely quizzical expressions, as though they  have just turned over a rock and seen something truly strange come scuttling out.

The way writers view their words


I am speaking of the terror we feel when we are nowhere near anything that can capture our precious, priceless words as they spring fully armed to our heads, rather like Athene in the old Greek legends.

We have various ways of combating that terror.  Some people carry around notebooks, some use a permutation of a Dictaphone, garnering stares from people who find the spectacle of someone yakking into a box rather diverting in an odd fashion.

Wine stain in left-most towel

There are jotters of all types.  Some jotters never carry around anything upon which they can jot, and are reduced to scribbling on the backs of grocery receipts (those that don’t have advertisements and offers on the back), voided checks, toilet paper (they seldom do that twice unless they are in a public toilet in France where, I am convinced, the TP is made of recycled chain mail.  Or, perhaps, barbed wire.  But then the problem of with what to write arises).  Some of us use paper towels.  I confess to that silliness…  


So what do you do if you accidentally use your deathless words to mop up spilled red wine (see above)?

Wow!  Alas!  Phooey!

Most people use notebooks.  I certainly do.  At any moment I have about four going.  I start out with a dedicated notebook for each story.   Unfortunately, I may pack the notebook for my French story and instead get an idea for the Egyptian story I’m fiddling with at the moment.  What to do?  Snatch a piece of toilet paper (which means I get to travel to France!) and hope I don’t blow my nose on it?  Nah.  I write in the incorrect notebook and make a mental note that the deathless scene is in it.

Of course, then I mis-file my mental note and bewail my fate and mourn the loss of my deathless words.


It’s always a puzzlement…  (I have to bring Yul Brynner in this somehow.

Well, it’s one of those conditions that few of us have conquered. for myself, if (I say IF) I become famous, my descendants will not have to starve in the streets or work in a sweat shop or kow-tow to people who have no more qualification for leading people than silverfish.  And who are, perhaps, less beautiful than silverfish.   (I was going to post a photo of a silverfish here, but after looking them over I decided that I’d rather chew my fingernails.)

What to do?  Well, like many of our insecurities, I just live with it.  I have actually found, when I have located my deathless words, once lost, that they weren’t all that great after all, and what I actually wrote in desperation, just knowing that the story would be ruined – simply ruined! – actually were more fully formed, satisfying and colorful than what I thought I’d lost.

…but without insecurities, would we be real writers?




Hm…

This is a blog hop with lots of good participation.  Go forth and read!

http://www.linkytools.com/basic_linky_include.aspx?id=103850