“Reality can be beaten with enough imagination.” Mark Twain

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Writing Is Making Choices

I'm once again revising my first novel, Another Place on the Planet. On the advice of my editor, I am deleting several scenes which will help in several ways. One of the scenes is a rape which I threw in as a plot device. It took on a life of it's own. And now I know my handling of it didn't do justice to the violence and terror women suffer when raped. I've never been raped so I could only imagine. I didn't imagine enough. I've never done a lot of things my main character, Lily, does and experiences.

The internet is a labyrinth. We all click on a link and hours later found ourselves topics and cyber miles from where we began. I have to admit I have learned a lot that way, as well as squandered precious hours when I could have been more productive. Tonight I clicked on a link to a screenwriting blog I follow and watched the video there that took me to YouTube where I watched a short film called  Train. Just out of curiosity.

That led to a click on this short film. I found it very graphic and disturbing. But it did me the favor of confirming the writing choice I need to make. I hadn't seen it before but there are several similarities to the scene I wrote. Three men violating one woman. Dark, lonely place. Urinating on the victim. My imagination scares me sometimes. The men in my scene are teens and less invested in the activity than the ones in the video, so it doesn't go as badly for Lily. That kind of trauma and the ensuing legal complications need an entire book.

How men treat women is a minor theme in Another Place on the Planet. I pray for the day when men treat all women as they would their mother or daughter or sister, and men who can't even do that are no more.


1 Timothy 5:1-2 (The Message)

 Don't be harsh or impatient with an older man. Talk to him as you would your own father, and to the younger men as your brothers. Reverently honor an older woman as you would your mother, and the younger women as sisters. 


Saturday, October 29, 2011

What to do, what to do?

I have a little bit of a writer's moral conflict. I just read a free download from Smashwords by an independent author, like me. Someone who loves writing, wants to share her work and maybe make a little money, or a lot of money. I don't know.

It's a short story (9000 words), an introduction to a murder mystery series. I rarely read that genre--just doesn't interest me, but millions love it. I want to start checking the quality of what people are putting out.

The story itself was interesting and we got to know a couple of the characters, although I think from the description of the first book, it the series might br about the detective and not the main character in this story.

But my issue with it is quite a few typos. I'm not the most astute at picking out typos, in my own or anybody else writing. Heck, sometimes I can't see the jar of mayo right in front of me. I'm not sure this writer had anybody else read it before she put it up on Smashwords. There are a couple of misused words--they sound similar to the word I think the writer meant to use, but didn't get corrected. There are also a few words that look like leftovers from a rewrite--the sentence was changed, some words deleted, but not quite all that were no longer needed. There were several book titles, although fictitious, that should have been italicized. And I noticed a few commas that never showed up.

Now, if I were this writer, would I want some stranger, even a well-intentioned one, contacting me and saying, "Thanks for the free read, but here are a few things you should change for the sake of your reputation and all independent writers and self-publishers."?

I catch errors in printed books all the time. It happens, even though with "real" books from "real" publishers, a work should go through enough hands to prevent any typos from getting by. And I suspect a few will get by me and my "editing team." Will I want to know about them? Sure, at least so I would know to be more careful next time.

Maybe my question should be "Do I have the courage to communicate with the author about this? I assume she wants to be professional--she has an awesome website and the trailer for one of her books is about as good as they get.

So, dear reader(s), please advise.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Shut Up and Write

 Just sitting here on the love seat, looking out the door ar the sky filling up with clouds. Listening to the roar of jets from Luke AFB as they land and take off a few miles away. The sound of freedom, someone at our yard sale said last weekend. And waiting for the doctor to call. Adventures in healthcare without insurance. A new learning curve.

And just a few hours and a week away from NaNoWriMo. I have to look at my outline, but I'm not concerned yet. My main concern is it's going to take me another 3 years to complete a book. But it won't. I spent a lot of time on character exploration and research, and with that information at hand AND an outline, it should only take one year, tops, to write the sequel.

Nano is becoming pretty popular in the writing business world. Writer's Digest offered a set of books and tools to help write a novel in 30 day. Writing software offers free trials. Writing expert hold workshops to help people be successful. There is money to be made.

There's a few things I wish I could afford for writing, mostly conference and workshops. And now, someone to design my book cover. Books, workshop, conferences help us learn, but nothing helps us sit down and do except having a goal. Nano is good for that.

When I sat down at my computer on Nov. 1, 2008, I had NO CLUE what I was going to write, No character, plot. Nada. And it was thrilling. There was a blank page with a blinking cursor glowing on the screen representing a whole new adventure waiting to be experienced, characters waiting for life and conflicts waiting to tortrue them. I was a god who had but to type a world into existence.

And I typed and typed as often as I could. I was a bit disappointed when a romance came out. Not a bodice-ripper, but something developing between two people not quite ready for it. Once I accepted the fact it was what it was and not literary fiction that would change the world, it was fun. I couldn't wait until the characters told me what would happen next. I loved thinking of new plot twists and writing out the drama. I ended that year with 62,000 words. I had written a book.

A bad book, a shit draft, but worthy, in my mind anyway, of further attention. That's were the books and blogs came in for me. No workshops or conferences yet. I learned some things I needed to learn. I learned I knew some things I didn't know I knew.

Lots of people have more money to spend on stuff than I do and if someone wants to support fellow writers, God bless you. But, if someone wants to write, SIT DOWN AND WRITE. There are so many distractions and some of them are about writing. I believe there is only so much research a person can do and not apply it before she ceases being a writer and becomes a researcher. You can only rewrite the beginning so many time before it becomes a means of avoiding the end. You can only say you want to write so many times before you're no longer a writer or a wannabe writer but merely a parrot saying something you think sounds cool. Only writing makes you a writer.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Why and How I'm a WriMo

This is the first of what I hope to be a series on my experience with National Novel Writing Month orNaNoWriMo. It had changed my life, for the better. I hope.

Since I'm not working, I thought it would be a good year to be a municipal liaison for Nano. So I'm a co ML, which is great because Phoenix is a large area to take care of. So far, most of my job has been coordinating with my fellow ML and sending and responding to emails. We have someone interested in planning some meetings for an area in the nether regions, or at least far from where we are based. Yay!

My first November of literary abandon, as Nano is described, was 2008. I finally relented to my sister-in-law, Jean and decided on the first of the month I would attempt to write a novel of at least 50,000 words in 30 days. I was teaching full time at the time, so it would be a challenge in several ways.

The first challenge, of course, was time. Teaching 6th grade took up all my day and much of my evening and weekends with planning and grading. But I found the writing to be stress-relieving. No one had to see it or read it. You're not supposed to edit as you write; the focus is to get the story down. A Wrimo (Nano writer) is encouraged to silence her inner editor. A monster was created. I couldn't stop. I had to force myself to go to bed so I could teach in the morning. I had to force myself to do what I needed to do at home for school. All I wanted to do was write! And housework? Didn't happen.

Another challenge facing on November 1, 2008, was what the hell should I write about? I hadn't a plan. I hadn't a clue. I decided to take a slice of my life as it was then and start with that. I ending up flying with it and very little turned out to be autobiographical. At least in my opinion.

Something else I already knew was that I didn't really know how to write, how to structure a novel, how to develop characters, how to outline, etc. I figured I could learn if I wanted.

I always thought a writer had to outline, like they tell you in school. I'm not much good a planning ahead. I have since learned that  many writers simply set out and write by the seat of their pants. It didn't make me a bad person to not outline. What a relief that was!

The first step in a journey of 50,000 words is the first word. I wrote that word and have been writing ever since.

Here's the link to NaNoWriMo. Check it out. Perhaps there is a writing monster in you dying to be let loose.

Monday, October 3, 2011

It's been forever since I posted. Well, just over two months. Forever in blog time!

My gig with Harvard is done on Wednesday. I never had the of say I work/ed for Harvard University, but now I can say I have. Wish they would pay me! I'm working with great women of various backgrounds. We've sat around and chatted over lunch for the past four weeks. Today, one told me about a fabric store in Phoenix I'd never heard of. Hope to check it out on Weds. after work. Can't buy anything, but... But the job has been good--getting out, seeing cute kids who are well behaved one-on-one...

Really have to look for a full time job soon. But I want a job I love and can do well and feel good and passionate about. I want to write fulltime.

I could gripe about Unemployment, but I'll spare you.

I like to think I'm almost finished with Another Place on the Planet! I'm at the end, but I threw those pages together quickly. It was the end of my teaching career and I couldn't think so I just came up with things and said I's clean it up later. So that's what I'm doing, cleaning up. Buy the end of the month...

But I got myself into being a Municipal Liaison for NaNoWriMo so that will take time, but I'll get to meet people and that's what I want. Maybe it will look good on a resume-recent volunteer work.

All brothers and sister will be in town this weekend. Mom wanted a family reunion. I'm having an issue (in my head and heart) about my brother but I can't go into it because I should hash it out with him instead of putting in in my blog. I need the Lord to change my heart about it, be less judgmental, more supportive. What's done can't be undone, but I hope he learns to live honestly. His telling us he was living one way then it comes out he wasn't, that's what burns my grits.

I miss choosing several pumpkins at Hoover's farm market!
I hope we get the rain we need to change the temperature. I'm tired of hot. It's been less hot but I want warm/cool. I want fall!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

One Good Thing About a Full Time Job

--besides a paycheck.


When I worked full time, I had limited time to write. I would dream about writing at work, wish I could turn off the 35 children I was trying to teach and tune in to my novel's characters.

Now, I have ALL day, minus time to job search, which I should be doing more of. I'll look at my work in progress, then stare at it, then look at Facebook (again) and Twitter (again) and play Mahjong (again). For some new and different procrastination technique, I could figure out the wonders of Google + which I've joined. It's something about circles.

Stress from the job made me want to escape real life. It fed my creative energy and my motivation to dream and do something to hopefully get me out of the need of a "real" job. Now I don't have that. Might be coming soon, as we run out of money.

I like staying home too much. Our house is small and comfortable, slightly untidy and lived in. I like hiding away, especially in this hellish summer heat. It doesn't bother me if the only time I open the door is to get the mail or take the trash out. We go to church on Sunday. Isn't that enough out for a introverted dork like myself? Well, maybe not.

There were other good things about my job. I loved the kids-a few at a time. And I did have some good times with whole classes and I think one or two kids actually learned something, even if it didn't show up on the AIMS test. I worked with some good people, too. People I will miss.

The structure the job gave my day was useful. I'm a "whatever, whenever" kind of gal. I'll go to sleep whenever, day or night, cook food whenever. Write whenever, wear whatever when I'm hanging around home. Working told me "If you want to write, you have to do it between these hours, and no, you can't stay up until two just because your muse wants to." So, I wrote during those hours. I needed to. My sanity depended on it. And that's not much of an overstatement.

My husband works nights and his four workdays vary every week. He doesn't sleep for six or seven or eight hours straight. He'll get up late morning, go back to bed in the afternoon and wake up again in the evening. That doesn't help either one of us. About the only regular thing we've been doing is watching the Diamondbacks in the evening.

I need external expectations to help me be productive and I don't really like that. I'm kind of wishing I could come up with a series of gigs to make money, different jobs to challenge my mind, meet new people and learn new skills. But if I can't structure myself to be productive, I'm setting myself up for trouble and failure.

Or possibly, as far as my novel goes, maybe I'm scared to finish it and put it out there for e-sale or to be rejected by agents. Maybe I'm afraid it will be good and I'll have succeeded at something and make a little money and be compelled to do it again.

I have the time I dreamed of. Now, I have to learn to be productive and use it wisely.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


I bought a year book at school this year since
I knew it would be my last year. I went through
it tonight and starred the students I had this
year. Well the ones that were there the
second week of school when my 6th graders
still looked like 5th graders and hadn't gained
those huge grins they'd have later on.

So many beautiful young faces ranging from
very light to very dark with most in the
mid-ranges--a rainbow of tans. Their need
for attention and recognition was overwhelming
at times, especially for an introvert like me.
I love them all, even the ones who made
classroom life difficult. I wish I could follow
every one and see what they do with their lives,
this gift we don't know how to use until it's
almost too late.

Some faces weren't there. They came after the year began. Some stayed the rest of the year, like D. We had a love/not love (hate doesn't fit here). We drove each other crazy at times. I blamed it on her pre-teen attitude. She decided she hated me. But at the end of the year, she spent all day in my room because of a problem with another teacher on my team. I'll miss her.

Then there were P & R & N and a dozen others who loved learning. R & N made up projects to do. P was constantly reading. I hope her dad lets her write some this summer. I pray her stomach ulcer goes away. She internalizes so much.

There were some that came and went. Am and Au--twins. Amber has the looks and everything else it takes to get into serious trouble. Aubrey has drive to work hard, but also wants to please which could bring it's own kind of trouble. They showed up one day. A few months later, they stopped showing up. They lost everything in a fire last summer. I wonder where they are now?

Some came, went and came back again.

I miss them. I'll miss the ones I don't get to meet on August 10. But I'm still recovering from the school year. The sheer energy output required is astounding. I hope I don't start getting older faster now.

Maybe I'll write more over the summer. 7 years as a substitute teacher and 5 years as a 6th grade teacher in a city has to be worth a few blog posts.