My “On Writing” as told to my Jr. High Ex-Boyfriend

For almost the last twenty-odd years, my first boyfriend and I have called each other on our birthdays. We “dated” for maybe two months, but we have kept in contact and still manage to talk at least twice a year.
As I chatted with my friend on his birthday this year, the subject of writing came up. He also writes, but he is having difficulties finishing his projects. I talked to him about where I am in the process of becoming a published writer and he asked for some tips. I referenced various sites which helped me, but it was his birthday and I didn’t want to keep him him hostage on the phone so I offered to send an email with all of the information I was blabbing about.
Here is the email I sent him:
Hey Dude,
So the program I recommend is called Scrivener. There are a million videos on how to best utilize it. But it is so helpful, it’s amazing.
The book I recommend is called Writer’s Digest Writer’s Market. They have different ones for agents, genre, etc . At this juncture I find the Writer’s Market covers a good amount on its own.
I listen to a podcast called Writing Excuses. I’ve gotten amazing insight into the publishing world and writing. They are short and there are years of them covering all kinds of topics.
So, writing….
Everyone does it differently, there is really no right or wrong way as long as you keep on going and eventually finish it.
With that in mind a few little tips I have picked up, that I have to remind myself of practically daily.
I find a little humor can really motivate me
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I find Pinterest can be very helpful with this as long as you keep it down to 30 minutes. It saves you lots of time in googling funny cat memes.
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READ! Leave the reality show of your choice behind and read a half hour a day. When I am writing I marvel at how people can put words and ideas together in a published book. I pick up techniques of how they were able to string thoughts together or how they describe an awkward pause without ever writing those exact words. Read highly respected classics and new authors. You will think to yourself when reading (both categories) “I can write better than this!” And you might be right, but here’s the thing they kept on writing and they finished it.
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Do not edit your book as you write, you are learning your own story. Take notes in a journal, but do not go back, even if it is just to fill in that word you forgot three days ago. Write it down in a notebook, specifically designated for this book. (p.s. label the notebook, yes there is a story there).
The first draft is you telling yourself the story. I can’t tell you how many times I have started writing a book with one intention and then the actual process of getting the ideas down on paper made me realize the story was not where I thought.
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Find out if you are a planner or a pantser. (I think there is a Writing Excuses on this). Most people are a little bit of both.
I plot around the first third of the book before I start writing with sometimes a very specific ending. I do this in the notebook. I write the first third of the book on the computer and then one night when the house is quiet, I pour myself a glass of red wine and start outlining the rest of the book. Usually a second glass is poured in this process.
I find in the first third of the book I am just getting to know the characters, so I don’t really know what they truly want until we’ve “hung out” for a while.
If you write fiction, your characters will start talking to you. Don’t be alarmed, listen and start writing-they will lower the voices eventually.
“First find out what your hero wants, then just follow him (them)!”- Ray Bradbury
That quote saved my first book’s never ending plot.
Starting a new story, when you are half through your WIP….don’t
I follow V.E. Schwab, a writer who you are probably going to hear a lot about in the next few years. Several of her stories are being turned into movies/series. Anyway, on social media she is very honest about what it is like to be a successful full time writer. It has been enlightening and humbling. Suddenly your work in progress does not seem so daunting since there is not a publishing company poking you every few days.
Here is her video on Shiny New Ideas. I think you need to see it. Her videos are awesome, I can’t wait for more.
No 180k YA book, mkay?
After the first draft
Here’s how it has been going for me.
You write a first draft, finish it and then put it away for a month (this is hard).
Month passes and you now you don’t want t read what you wrote, you’re scared…but you do it anyway. Have tea, tea is good.
Some people edit on this first read through. I don’t and I wouldn’t recommend it for you my Virgo friend ;-)*  Remember that notebook I mentioned? Take notes by chapter.
After your first read through, chew on your feeling for a week. Write lots of thoughts and ideas down for this story and how you think it can be better. Decide what direction you want to go.
Edit! short word, long process. It will make writing the first draft seem easy because if you just kept on writing you knew you could go back and fix it. Now is the time to fix it. I find doing between a chapter or two a day is a good pace, you want to take your time with this.
Delete all excessive words (that, have, actually, really, etc.) there’s a list, google it. Hey look at that your WIP just lost 5,000 words. It’s ready for that a bikini.
Finish second draft…do a happy dance and then nap.
Start asking for beta readers. You want a mix of people who read your genre and those who don’t. People who read a lot are the best to ask. Be nice and ask, don’t tell them to read your book. Reading an unpublished book is a chore to most people. Thank them accordingly. I use baked goods.
Take their criticisms, don’t argue. Be open to being wrong.
Make changes.
Find some more people to read this version, some of your 2nd draft readers might be willing.
Take their criticisms, don’t argue. Be open to being wrong.
Then revise, revise, revise.
Make sure you are happy (but not in love with your book before querying)
We’ll talk about querying later. That is whole other email, that’s when the hard liquor comes out.
I hope this helps, let me know if you have any questions for me.
Hope you have a great and productive day. Remember if you only write 1,000 words of 1,600 word goal for a day, it is still 1,000 more words than you had yesterday.
~MJ
*this is reference to his comment on the call that his Virgo mind won’t let him progress in the story until it is perfect.
So what do you guys think, any suggestions for my friend?
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Birthday Wishes

I wanted to take this opportunity to wish Red a very Happy Birthday.  Lucky for all of you this is not a video blog so you don’t get to hear my “fabulous” vocal stylings, but just imagine a somewhat decent voice is singing this (which I can tell by my cat’s annoyed face is not the reality).

Ahem…

Happy Birthday to Red!

Happy Birthday to Red!

Happy Birthday to an awesome lady…who always makes us laugh…recommends the best books…is one of the most intelligent people I have ever met…is a kick-ass Mom…gets me all verklempt…and who I force to try on dress-es!

Happy Birthday to You…

You Crazy Canuck!

Happy Birthday Red

So slight tangent…one of the strange (of many) things about me is I only like to have things around that have happy associations.  With my office I am extremely strict about this rule and only certain artwork and carefully selected items are allowed to be in here. So imagine my amusement in only realizing not too long ago that I have three little stuffed animals tucked into my bookcase, facing me every time I meditate, that are all from Red.  Not to mention the pencil holder/planter that sits on my desk and I stare at while I write.

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And of course all of the books on my bookshelves that she has introduced me to and all of the warm thoughts she has sent me over the years, still echo around in my mind.

So pretty much Red, you are the goodness in this life that I like to surround myself in and I know I am not alone in that thought.  You are an incredible person and I wish you the happiest of days and a most wonderful year!

And may your day also be filled not only with people who love you, but with at least two proper Coke and Ryes 😉

Happy Birthday To Red!

I wanted to take a moment and wish Red a Happy Birthday!  You’re miles away but I feel so lucky that we have been able to keep in touch and even “see” each other on a regular basis.  You are an awesome friend that gives so much to us all and you find a way to keep us all laughing.  You’ve kept me from doubting my own sanity on more than one occasion and gone giggly crazy with me too.  You have opened up worlds of new authors, new foods, shopping, and even an appreciation for action movies; thank you for being my friend.

I hope this new year of life brings you all kinds of happiness and hopefully many nights of uninterrupted sleep!

Happy Birthday to one of my favorite Lovely Ladies!

And

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Mad Melly’s Mar”T”ini Party

For my birthday party this year I decided use a theme, I wanted to invest some time and make something a little different than our usual summer BBQ.  Since it was my 30th and in a sense the end of childish things (yeah right) I chose an element from Alice in Wonderland, I had a Mar”T”ini Party and I was the Mad Hatter or rather The Mad Melly.  Melly was a nickname I was given by my former boss and eventual friend, it is my favorite my eight other nicknames.

I began by sending out handmade invitations, instead of the usual evite.  I sent the invitations with a response card made from an old set of playing cards.  I wanted to send out cards in the mail because with email and text messages how often do we get something besides a bill or junk mail in our mail boxes?  Hopefully it made someone smile a little bit, it made me smile seeing the response envelopes in my mailbox.

The envelopes

The Invites

I have always loved the images of Alice in Wonderland in all kinds of incantations of the films and in books.  My idea was to have the fun stuff of Wonderland in a nighttime setting, like this is what all of the grownup characters did after Alice went home.  I decided to have be a cocktail party so Honey wouldn’t be chained to the grill but then he volunteered to be the bartender, so he was chained to the makeshift bar made of an old computer desk.  There were some minor hitches (light cord being cut, malfunctioning fake eyelashes, and the painters next door working after 5 for the first time all week) but overall I think it went really well.  Every conversation seem to have boisterous laughter every couple of minutes.

I had a wonderful time, I got to see (most of) my favorite people in one setting.  With Birdie making my birthday pie (a delicious mud pie from a family recipe), Kudra having me over for pre-party helping of “happy bubbles” , and Azure helping with set up, I felt very loved.

I did make a Mad Hatter Hat (of sorts) out of a strand of peacock feathers Birdie gave me a while back.  I wore it again for breakfast at home on my actual birthday and it now has a temporary home on my Buddha statue in my office.

I plan that when I become a crazy old lady, I will wear it while I water the garden-like Boris Karloff did.

We decided to make a few signature cocktails to add to the fun.  The “Mad Melly Martini” is actually a version of a French Martini-it was requested often.  The “Dirty White Rabbit Martini” is the martini we have most often (being big garlic fans).  The Red Queen Lemon Drop is something to try, the pear vodka cuts the bitterness in a Lemon Drop and makes it go down nice and smooth, I borrowed it from a very Lovely Lady.

But I am a shocked we had so much liquor left over, we have four bottles of vodka and half a bottle of gin left-enough to have at least three more martini parties!  I guess we’ll just have to have people over more often.  =)

These are the leftovers

I didn’t take many pictures during the actual party because I was too busy having fun but here are some of the decorations, many of them I made myself.  I made “Drink Me” labels and “Eat Me” labels (which I forgot to put out), direction signs, oddly painted bird houses, pictures of victorian animals, and of course christmas lights all over the backyard.

Thank You for coming friends!