The leaves are changing on the mountains. Temperatures are hovering near perfection. I get to wear sweaters and long sleeve shirts. Autumn is here! Oh, and also, it is the first Wednesday of the month which is when the Insecure Writer’s Support Group gets together for their monthly blog hop. Check us out and sign up HERE
From the website:
Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling.
You can also answer the optional question each month.
for October the question is: Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?
When I first read this, I thought in terms of identity theft. You know, something like I wrote my social security number on page 17, or maybe used my current street address. I can say with surety I’ve never done that.
But slipping personal things about myself, stories, traits, desires and dreams, sure.
When I was in my teens and twenties, the majority of my protagonists were loose representations of myself. I’d write about actual events, slightly tweaked, but anyone who knew me or was there could see through the flimsy disguise.
With practice, I got better and hiding things. Like many writers, I was able to create characters who could do and say things I might never dare try in my actual life. I would write idealized versions of who I’d like to be (and on one creepy occasion, someone I’d never want to be). The fictionalized adventures would be mine, become something like my memories.
If I’m being honest with myself, I think I still do this more than I’d like, but rather than jumble all these things into one character, I spread them out over everyone in the story. Maybe others are talented enough to write complex and interesting characters based entirely on speculation, void of any connection to themselves or anyone they know. That is beyond my skill.
On another note, I finished the second round of the NYC Midnight flash fiction challenge. Hopefully this story is more well received than my last effort, which honestly wasn’t very good. This time, I wasn’t sleep deprived or unable to focus. Hopefully, I’ll actually score some points and maybe advance to the final two rounds. If not, it was a fun and challenging experience.
My only complaint about the contest is the rigid use of genre and accompanying expectations. I know it makes judging a bit easier to have set criteria, but it makes the writing feel very controlled. I mentioned my story wasn’t quality work, but one of the critiques was, in romantic comedies, we expect a happier conclusion. In other words, don’t play with the genre. That seems a strange and vapid critique.
What about you clods? Any good words to share?
As I looked up, streaks of pale pink and yellow stared back at me me. For a moment, it seemed as if the sky were moving at an incredible rate of speed, stretching the clouds, and the earth lurched to keep pace. I stumbled, confused and dizzy, forgetting why I had come to the city, who I intended to meet. A passing stranger spoke to me, but his words were a jumble of incoherent sounds. I could only stare at the fading light, awestruck.
Three deep breaths, three rapid blinks, and I regained a recollection of my surroundings, who and where I was. She was waiting for me in the bar around the corner, a cold beer already placed on the table in front of the empty chair I would soon occupy. I was excited to see her again, share some conversation, one hundred laughs with someone I did not see enough of during the autumn months.
And in that moment, as I fumbled with my phone, framed a picture, instead of thinking how much she would appreciate the stunning sunset, the mountains dark silhouette like an oil painting, all I could think was how I wished you were right here to see this with me instead.
It’s my favorite time of the year! Summer is waning, and while I am not a huge fan of long, cold, Utah winters, I do love autumn. The temperatures hover in the near perfect zone. Football has started up again. Kids are in school. I don’t have as many yard work responsibilities. I’m calmer.
And I can’t think of a better way to start off this glorious month than with another IWSG post.
From the website:
-Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! –
Doesn’t that sound great? If you like the way that makes you feel inside, sign up here. You only have to (get to) post once a month, and the feedback is always on point.
September 6 Question: Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? For example, by trying a new genre you didn’t think you’d be comfortable in??
My second novel was going to be about a woman trapped by a blizzard in her mountain cabin, confronted by the sudden appearance of her husband who had died from a heart attack ten years previously. He would inform her that he had been sent by God, and that God had decided the world needed purging. He was ashamed of his children and wanted to wash his hands of them, forever. In six months time, humanity would be gone.
Over the course of the winter, she’d engage in back and forth conversations, hoping to convince her husband to intervene with God on behalf of humanity.
I liked the idea, thought it would make a compelling story. About thirty pages in, I realized the book was going to come off very didactic, preachy and arrogant. Also, I was losing interest in the overall arc of the characters. The minor players (out in the big wide world) felt flat, locked into certain behaviors. I didn’t want to scrap the entire concept, but knew the idea needed tweaking.
The story shifted into a science fiction tale, where beings from another world have tasked themselves with taking care of our planet. Frustrated by what they believe is an immoral human attack on the environment, they decide to reset the planet, eliminating the mechanisms that pollute and damage the planet. Most humans and their technology must go.
I had not written sci-fi since I was very young, and I was sure it would be a disaster. Maybe because I kept the story rooted in the 21st century, centered the action around one family (aware of what is happening, but unable to do anything to stop it), and another small band of people, I was able to stay focused, not write outside my ability, create a compelling story.
What surprised me most was the way certain moral dilemmas played out in the book. I tried to write from as neutral a perspective as I could. It was fun to leave certain questions unanswered.
I’m still very proud of the book, and try to push it on anyone willing to read it (you, maybe?). I’m still not completely comfortable writing science fiction, and would never claim to be good at it, but I did enjoy creating this particular book.
Maybe I’ll write a thriller next, or a horror novel. Yeah, that’s it.
As I missed most of the discussion last month, I’m quite excited to participate in this months Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly blog hop. If you don’t know about us, what we do, why we exist at this point, I’m pretty embarrassed for you. Seriously, do better. Check us out here. Sign up. Participate.
It has been a very interesting month, writing wise. I spent two days working on a flash fiction challenge while trying to function on tiny amounts of sleep. I also spent a very stressful day tweeting different pitches for my three manuscripts during IWSGpit day. I didn’t get any nibbles from agents or publishers, and overall the day was difficult and frustrating. But I am grateful to the IWSG team for putting the event together, offering support to all the writers, and overall being super supportive and positive. Things may not have worked out as I’d hoped, but I am undeterred. Rumor has it another pitch party is on the calendar for January of 2018, and I will be sharpening my approaches to participate again.
Another positive thing- I’ve two stories in the final editing stage and plan to seek out places to submit them in the next two weeks. I really think I’m done sitting on the sidelines, hoping some miracle happens and my work magically finds someone who wants to publish it. I am the only one who can find that person, and it certainly won’t happen if I put in zero effort.
On the puppy front, Athena is growing and learning at a very fast pace. She is 14 weeks old, and weighed in at 32 pounds this morning. She still chews everything and has the occasional accident inside (almost always due to owner negligence), but her sweetness makes up for any bad moments. Here is a lovely photo of the two of us from the other day.
We were about to attend our second week of obedience training classes. It was socialization day, and the room was filled with all sorts of strange objects for the puppies to explore, climb on, into, over, through. My girl was all sorts of excited and brave. She still struggles with traffic noise, and the sight of moving cars frightens her. I hope continual exposure and positive experiences can do the trick. Wish us luck.
Tomorrow is the Insecure Writer’s Support Group twitter pitch party! I’ve been gearing up for this day for the past three months, trying out various ways of pitching each of my three completed manuscripts, and somehow, I still don’t feel ready. When I look at what I’ve put on paper, each effort seems silly, and somehow not quite catching what I think the novels are really about.
I’ve always struggled with describing the first novel. I have three different query letters for it, each highlighting a different part of the story, and I am equally unimpressed with all three. Now, I’m trying to pitch the same novel in less than 100 characters. Thank goodness I have a clever wife who has a gift for simplification. She was able to send me two really decent ideas, both of which I will be using tomorrow.
As for the other two manuscripts, I feel a bit better about what I’ve put together for them, but I still wouldn’t say I’ve got it all figured out. And that’s okay, really.
I am going into this event with my eyes wide open. It is likely I won’t get any interest from publishers or agents. If I do get a nibble, the manuscript or query letter might not satisfy. But this is all part of the process, part of putting myself out there and taking risks. Sitting back, doing nothing hasn’t been all that successful a strategy, so perhaps it is time to try a new, bolder approach.
Wish me luck.
Any of you planning on participating? How have your pitches come together and are you feeling confident?
And just because, here is a picture of my sleeping Athena.
As if having a 12 week old, teething, biting, super curious, super sweet, quite devious puppy taking up most my time wasn’t hard enough, I decided it would also be super smart to enter a flash fiction contest run by NYC Midnight.
Writers are put into groups, given a genre, location, and item, all of which must be written into a story of no more than 1000 words. Oh, and that story must be completed and submitted 48 hours after receiving the assignment. Super easy, right? Even under normal circumstances, I’d struggle with something so structured. Add to that some severe sleep deprivation and I was in for a rough weekend.
Still, I was excited to get the email, find out what sort of story I was going to be writing. At 10:59 PM Friday night, my path was revealed-Romantic comedy, a tropical island, a brick.
What? People actually write romantic comedy flash fiction? Visions of Love Actually and a half dozen Adam Sandler, Drew Berrymore movies instantly came to my head. This genre was definitely not in my wheelhouse or toolbox. I would rather have had romance, a soviet era gulag, a french fry.
My first attempt on Saturday Morning was a disaster. I had a couple, a clever way for them to meet, but that moment itself took 400 words. Scratch that. Delete. Try again.
A second idea had more promise, but also took up too many valuable words without getting me anything resembling a story.
Then the tiredness took over. I couldn’t concentrate, spell, type, do much of anything but stare at the screen. Also, the puppy needed attention, and the puppy comes first right now.
A few hours later, I tried again, this time with some more success. I had several awkward encounters, silly moments, and the outline of a story. An ending still eluded. I had Sheryl read what I’d written so far and while she liked it, she agreed it wasn’t quite right.
Sunday could not have been a more awful day. I didn’t rest well, and a very intense wave of puppy depression hit me early that morning. I felt overwhelmed and hopeless. Writing was impossible. The contest was out of my mind completely.
I did some heavy soul searching that day, spent a lot of time talking with my amazing wife. I am so grateful for her advice, patience, love. She is my best friend and perfect companion.
With less than 3 hours until I had to submit the story, I had no draft, no ending, and very few ideas, but I was determined. I sat at the computer and hammered out three very sloppy endings, picking one to flush out and use. I read through, edited, read through again, edited, then asked Sheryl for her opinion.
“It’s okay, but the ending lacks pop. It’s too sweet. Something needs to happen that puts them at odds again.”
I was crushed, out of ideas, ready for defeat.
“Something like…” and she said it. The exact ending. And I loved it. With forty minutes to go, I rewrote the ending, not worrying about word count. When it was finished, I was at 1020 words, but the ending was just what this brief romantic comedy needed.
I spent the remaining time cutting words (easier than I thought) until I was at 997. One more read and edit, just to make sure, and it was time to submit. My first romantic comedy was complete. I’m not sure it will get me enough points to move out of the second round (two rounds are guaranteed each writer), but that is fine with me.
I’ll keep you posted.
Wish me good sleeps. I still need them.
And dogs are awesome.
Music has always been a very influential part of my life. It is hard for me to remember a day without the presence of some song or other. I’ve talked before about how music (and books) are sacred to me. Musicians are storytellers, and as a storyteller I feel a connection with them that goes beyond just enjoying their talents. Certain music has the ability to reconnect me with my past, transport me places, allow me the opportunity to experience old emotions, people. I’ve been moved to tears by music more times than I can count, and each time I’ve been grateful for the experience.
Music also fuels my writing.
There was a time when I needed silence to work, and any outside distraction was a detriment. I don’t know what changed, but now I cannot compose anything without some music playing. It influences the direction of my writing, the tone, the development. I know certain scenes in my first novel were created in direct response to what was on the stereo at the time I was writing them.
And I have so much of it.
Hundreds of vinyl records. Thousands of compact discs. A few lonely cassette tapes.
I’m always acquiring more as well. The more new stuff that I add to the collection, the more some albums get forgotten. Some albums have not been played in years, maybe decades.
In order to try and remember the lost ones, I determined to listen to each of my CD’s (in reverse alphabetical, reverse chronological order) over a two year period. I call it “The Great CD Listening Adventure. I started in the fall of 2016 and just moved through L and into the letter K this morning (L7 to Kylesa, in case you were wondering).
Because some albums have not aged well, I give myself some outs- I play everything, but if after three songs, I’m not feeling it, the disc gets yanked (set on the pile to take to my local record store where I can get store credit). I can skip live albums and greatest hits collections. Singles are also optional. Otherwise, it’s every album by every artist. It’s been so much fun. I’ve rediscovered some forgotten gems, and realized that I’ve lost interest in some bands completely.
My tastes have always been all over the place, ranging from bubblegum pop to Black Metal and most everything in between. I firmly believe that there is a gem in every genre, and that some of the best music ever made is being created right now. If you’re wondering, disagreeing, curious, I can give you a nice list of artists to consider.
What about you? What sort of role does music play in your life, your writing? When authors use music, does it have any affect on the way you perceive a scene?
Who are some of your favorite artists? Who are you listening to right now? Tell me all about your love of music, please.