Overactive Imagination

At the gym today, I found a flash drive in the parking lot, next to the door of my car. I picked it up, and turned it in, but on the way home, my writer brain wouldn’t shut up with all of the possibilities of what could be on it. Most of them were conspiracy theories that had to deal with death and mayhem. I even came up with the bare bones of a plot, which I might use down the road for a short story. It was a lot of fun, and a good reminder of why I love to write.

Lately, it hasn’t been so fun. Two weeks ago, due to a glitch I lost a hundred pages of edits, and then the next day, lost the whole darn manuscript. Needless, to say I was tad upset and depressed. It took several days of reconstructing it with old drafts, and in one case, a partial found on the C: drive. To stop this from happening again, I’ve taken precautions, and am looking at writing on Google Docs. But the whole situation zapped the joy out of it, but thanks to that flash drive, I’m back to loving it.

Funeral

I’m not sure if I’ve ever posted about my grandpa on here, but about 5 years ago, he moved here. I visited with him almost every Friday. When he was up to it, we’d go to lunch. Recently, he passed away, and I’ll be heading out for his funeral this week. Over 15 years ago, when my grandma died, I helped him pick out his coffin along with my grandmother’s. We also, picked out their burial plots up on a beautiful hill that isn’t too far away from the ocean. For obvious reasons, I can’t say I’m glad to be going back, but I am glad that I’ll be able to pay my respects to my grandmother’s site as well and see some family I haven’t seen in awhile.

Anyway, because of this, I won’t be posting next week.

Depression

I covet my writing time. I don’t answer the phone unless it’s the school or my husband and I try to ignore all social media. However, today, I let go an hour of my time to speak to a friend about depression. This disease runs rampant on my matriarchal side–mother, grandfather, uncles, aunt, cousins, and siblings. I thought I understood it. After all, I had so many family members that I knew the ins and outs of it.

Not so much.

I didn’t understand it until I became depressed with one of my pregnancies and continued to experience it until the child was over a year old. Here are a couple myths that I’d like to bust.

  1. The person experiencing depression knows how bad it is for them. Unfortunately, while in the midst of it, we think we’re handling it–dealing with it. Because of this, we do not understand when we need help. Looking back, I wish my doctor had dug further into what I was experiencing. He trusted me because I’d told him I’d seen it every day of my life for 19 years. It’s different to see it than it is to experience it. I was in over my head and should’ve been on medication.
  2. We can pull ourselves out of it. No matter how hard I tried, I could not force myself to be happy. Oh sure, I faked it for thirty minutes, an hour, even up to 3 hours, but inside I was miserable and anxious. There were so many basic functions that made me freak out–grocery shopping, going out with my friends, or even leaving the house for a walk.
  3.  The person understands that they need help. I didn’t. I needed someone close to me to say that it was a problem. My husband was that one for me. Although, he didn’t realize the severity of it, he understood that I needed support. He provided it in so many ways, but there is one I wished he would’ve insisted upon. I wish he would’ve helped me get medical help. While his support eased some of the triggers, it didn’t help fix the main problem.

 

 

Writing Books

After looking at my last post, I realized that I’m reading a lot of writing books. It must be the new year and the desire to write better. Except it might not be that as I’m always looking for ways to improve. My latest read is Donald Maass’ The Emotional Craft Of Fiction: How To Write The Story Beneath The Surface.

 

The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write the Story Beneath the Surface by [Maass, Donald]

I had the pleasure of meeting him when I sat at his dinner table during my first writer’s conference. He’s a very nice man and I cold-pitched my first manuscript without realizing I had until he called me out on it. Needless to say I was embarrassed and elated after he requested fifty pages. Ultimately, he passed on it, and rightly so, but his letter is one I’ve kept over the years because he was so honest with me about why he rejected my manuscript. Two paragraphs of all the things he did not like with one sentence of what he liked. Did I cry? You bet, but his remarks were accurate. Isn’t 20/20 hindsight awesome.

At the same conference, I also attended a workshop where he spoke about putting the fire in the fiction. It was helpful and insightful. Since then, I’ve always bought his books because I want his guidance still, even if it is only in the written form. His most recent one is about putting emotion in the story and I think anyone can benefit from it.

Here are a few of my favorite tidbits:

“Great storytellers…make the emotional life of characters the focus rather than the sideshow. They make familiar emotions fresh and small feelings large.”

“True emotional engagement happens when a reader isn’t just enjoying a character’s patter, but when she cannot avoid self reflection, whether she’s aware of it happening or not.”

“Skillful authors play against expected feelings. They go down several emotional layers in order to bring up emotions that will catch readers by surprise.”

“What gets readers going are feelings that are fresh and unexpected.”

“The first is to report what characters are feeling so effectively that readers feel something too. This is inner mode, the telling of emotions….The second is to provoke in readers what characters may be feeling by implying their inner state through external action. This is outer mode, the showing of emotions….The third method is to cause readers to feel something that a story’s characters do not themselves feel. This is the other mode, an emotional dialogue between author and reader.”

Aren’t they wonderful? I’m sure if you read it, you’ll find even more helpful tips and writing exercises.

 

Creating Character Arcs

Once a month, my critique partner and I meet up to talk about our lives and all things writing. It’s a ton of fun to spend time with someone who “gets”me in a way that non-writers don’t. I’d planned on sharing with her a book that I discovered two months ago and have been referencing at least twice a day. As usual, we were chattering along and I forgot. She brought up this book about creating character arcs she’d ordered from Amazon that she’d heard good things about. I asked her if it was Creating Character Arcs:  The Masterful Author’s Guide to Uniting Story Structure, Plot, and Character Development by K.M. Weiland? Turns out it was. Of course, then I had to gush about it.

Image result for creating character arcs by K.M Weiland

It’s an excellent book and here’s why I think that every writer needs it. Almost all writing advice about characters says a writer has to make them flawed to make them sympathetic. Then you have to have them overcome said flaw or make some improvement to it by the end of the book. Sounds easy, right? Not for me. I’ve tried this and floundered through too many manuscripts to count. This is where this insightful book comes to the rescue. It breaks down how to write a flawed character in a step-by-step process. It even provides the way to do it for a positive character arc, a flat character arc, and a negative character arc. In my opinion, K.M. Weiland is brilliant, but her help doesn’t stop there. She even helps you identify how to make the characters flawed, along with points during your story where your character should make choices or react or start to change. The book walks you through the three acts and pinpoints certain areas where the arc needs to do something. Like the title says it even helps guide the plot. Every writer should keep a copy close by to reference, whether a panster or a plotter.

Objective Correlatives

As usual, last week I went to visit my grandpa at the nursing home. They had a huge sign that warned the unit was sick with Gastroenteritis and to not visit unless absolutely necessary. I turned to go away, but one of the staff stopped me to ask me about something my grandpa received. Against my better judgement, I followed them onto the unit, solved the problem, and decided since I was already there to go ahead and visit my grandpa. Bad decision! I ended up sick for three days and passed it on to my six-year-old daughter, who was also ill for three days. Knock on wood, so far we’re the only two out of the family that came down with this horrible bug.

There are things you don’t want to share, like the nasty disease above and then there are things you do want to share. Cindy Baldwin’s blog is something I found that has been helpful while I’m plotting my next manuscript and that is something I want to share. She doesn’t write often, but she has several nuggets of helpful writing advice in between her personal stories. My favorite is the topic of objective correlatives. If you’re like me and clueless as to what that means, Cindy does an excellent job of explaining it in detail here. Basically, it’s a “grand-scale metaphor” that is throughout a story. The Phoenix in Harry Potter is an example–that I swiped from her post–and she explains it in detail if your curious about it. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.jpgSo, long story short, I’m trying to figure out how to get this into my next WIP.

Have you heard of this? If so, have you used it in your writing or have you read it in a novel?

*cover art original U.K. edition

 

 

 

 

Self-Publishing Teen

I read an article about a 16-year-old girl who self published her manuscript. I’m impressed for several reasons. First, it appears that she went about it in the right way–editing, a decent cover, and a knowledge of what she wanted to do with her writing career for now. It’s the last one that amazes me. There’s no way I would’ve had the self confidence to show another person what I’d written at that age, let alone self-publish it for the world to see. She says in the article that she didn’t want validation from someone else about its worth because she already knew that it was special. I think my mouth fell open when I read that because don’t most of us want validation about our work. This teenager seems to be special and I wonder what her parents did to help nourish that in her as I would love to replicate it in my own children.

Were you self-confident at the age of 16?

Gratitude

It’s that time of year where I take stock of all the things in my life that make me grateful. There are a few that don’t change–my friends, family, and good health. After that the list changes. This year, I’m grateful for the following:

  1. My education–even though I’m not actively using it in a job. I realized that it helped me learn to be more open minded and educated about topics I would’ve never read or learned about.
  2. The ability to vote, even if I don’t agree with who is in office.
  3. Michelle Obama for showing the world how to be and stay classy in the face of adversity. Need I say it; When they go low, we go high.
  4. Health care-enough said.
  5. Books-This year I decided to take the Goodreads challenge and I made a goal of a hundred books. I was worried I might not make it as last year I only read about 80, but I’m only 4 away from completing the challenge. This has reaffirmed that I can continue learning by reading or escape from the reality of the world.
  6.  Forgiveness-sometimes we need it and sometimes we need to give it.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and have your own lists of things you are grateful for this year.

Post-Election Blues

I’ve been at a lost since after the election and struggled to maintain a brave face for my children as they asked how Trump could win and if we were moving to Canada. The latter question was an easy no, while the first one still has no answers. So, I do what I always do when I don’t want to face reality, I read. It’s helped me keep it together and I thought I’d recommend some of the books, I’ve read lately. Listed below in no particular order:

I couldn’t find a copy of the book, so here’s the movie poster.