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
8743c952ba1da60fcc5d970c65cd3153.jpg
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.
5c5a9bf434166e1744d3ee7c011d6dff.jpg
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.
3c657d9ff55a8f047a272556eccf7d8e.jpg
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.
670be7f1f57e63f26bb9da57955fe9aa.jpg
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?
Advertisements

Two For One Fooling

Originally Written on April 2nd, 2014. I meant to post it up last year, but forgot.

I am not a big April Fools’ person, most pranks seem mean spirited so I haven’t really participated much in the day, until this year.  A few weeks back we made the flight arrangements for my little sister Firefly to come see us, but instead of telling her the flight details right away I decided to wait until April 1st to send her a fake itinerary.  I originally planned to enter in something about having to ride a burro at one point, but thought I might be laying it on a little thick.  So here is what I sent her.

Dear Firefly,

So we got the arrangements made for your trip out here. =) You mentioned that you didn’t want us to spend too much money on your flight, so I looked into it and I think I found a pretty good deal!

Instead of flying into Our Airport I found it is much cheaper for you to fly into Nashville, and it’s even less expensive if you take a red-eye.  So you would be leaving SoCal at 10:55 pm on the 18th and arriving into Nashville around 4 am the next day.  There is a connection in Tucson at midnight and then one in Houston at 2 am, but you only have a 15 minute and 20 minute layover, so you’ll be back in the air before you know it. Hopefully all of your flights will be on time, at that hour I’m sure there won’t be too many delays (unless there is bad weather).

Now once you get to Nashville you can take a shuttle to the rental car agency and drive here, it is only around a 6 hour drive and you get to see the lovely state of Tennessee on your trip.  It really is gorgeous.  You’ll have to check when the rental car agencies open, it might be normal business hours.  Now I remember from my younger days that most places won’t rent a car to you if you are under 25.  If this is still the case, you can take a cab to the Greyhound station, it looks like it’s only 15 minutes from the airport. There is a bus that leaves at 11:20 am that can get you here by dinner time.  I know that’s a while to wait but you can check out Nashville and you could spot a Country star at breakfast.=)

I promise when you get into town we will take you to whatever your favorite restaurant is, so start thinking of your favorite place and we’ll make reservations.  If you can, try to choose a place near the bus station. That would be great, we don’t want to be driving around in rush hour traffic, you know how the drivers are around here.

Your flight home will be a little less complicated.  Your flight going home is at 6:20 am and then you only have one layover in Tulsa, unfortunately it’s for almost three hours, but then it is a direct shot to LAX.  Do you think Mom or Dad or maybe one of your friends will be willing to pick you up at 4 pm that Tuesday?  If not we’ll get you a ticket on the Greyhound, I think the station is right there at the airport.

Hope you are having an awesome week.  I love you!  We’re so looking forward to your visit.  =)

Love,

Big Sis

 

 

 

 

 

P.S. April Fools’!

 

Apparently my sister believed the whole thing until she saw the April Fools at the end.  Her only indication that it might be fake is that I wouldn’t have checked on the hours of the Rental Agency ahead of time. =) My tell was that I wasn’t my usual thorough self.  Anyway I got her good and because she was fooled, she decided to read the email to my Mom.  Apparently Mom believed it too.  She shot her the famous Death Ray Glare at Firefly and threatened to call me at a “Non-3 Hour Time Difference Appropriate Time”.  Little Sis was able to mutter “April Fools'” before Mom could dial, thankfully.

Next year I think I am going to have to watch my back.

I Need to Wear a Bra When I Meditate & Other Uncomfortable Conclusions

Warning: This is my experience with mediation, individual results may very.

Towards the beginning of the year I decided to take up meditation.  A few artists that I admire do it, it has been linked to making the body and mind more healthy, and couldn’t we all use a little quiet time? Now Pinterest and other such websites have told me that all I have to sit down and concentrate on something to be meditating but I wanted to dive a little deeper into it and make sure I was doing it right.  I used a Christmas gift card to get The Three Pillars of Zen by Phillip Kapleau Roshi. It has fabulous reviews and the forward is written by one of my favorite writers Huston Smith.  Ironically the forward was my least favorite part of it.  The forward was good, but very deep- it was like a thick piece of food that my mind had to chew on for a while, almost every sentence having to be worked over in my mind before I could go to the next thing.  It was just a lot to take in at first, but that’s what I wanted right?  So I read on and eventually got to the practice of meditating and how to sit what to do, etc.

Sunlight through the smokey trees

The interesting part is I still don’t now if I’m doing it right.  I count to ten while I breath, starting with inhaling on one, exhaling on two, so on so forth.  Then you move onto other types of counting. I usually would start right after I woke up and fed the cats, because any pet owner knows there is no peace when kitty is hungry. I only meditated for five minute a day the first week.  It was a new position for my body; my feet would fall asleep and I was always over correcting my posture.  Now in the book it says to wear loose, comfortable clothing.  Well most women will tell you bras are rarely loose or comfortable, so I would go sans bra.  By day three I realized my “ladies” were pulling me to floor and my back was really starting to hurt from just trying to keep those babies off the carpet.  So I found one of my more worn out, comfortable bras (which I affectionate refer to as a “house bra”) and suddenly my posture was not so painful.  I don’t know if I am breaking the rules by doing this, but I don’t care it works for me and gives me one less thing to be distracted by.

So in the book it mentions that certain thoughts will come into your mind that make situations and relationships very clear.  He recommends having a pad and pen nearby.  I’ve have yet to remember a pad and paper, but from day one I had some interesting revelations.  As I began counting (probably only up to 4) a thought came in my mind:

Wouldn’t it be so cool to talk to my Dad about this?  He’s meditated before…though not very regularly.  But I’m sure he would be happy I was trying it.  Wait, I lost count…I have to start at one again…inhale one, exhale two.  You know, he never really stuck with any hobbies.  Shit…inhale one, exhale two…

I think I got up to six that time. Maybe that’s why I have never taken to hobbies.  Would this really be described as a hobby? Probably not. Why should I care if he’s happy I’m doing this?

And the thoughts kept on creeping in and I would have to start over again.  As you can imagine five minutes became very long and very short all at the same time.   I did not feel very peaceful or Zen…and I felt a sudden desire to take a kick boxing class.  But, just like that a very complex relationship that had some walls were knocked down for me to see.

I went back the next day, tried again. This time when a thought came in my mind I tried to gently push it away.  It took me two weeks to do that gracefully. To this day I still don’t know if I am doing it correctly.

Early on thoughts of what I could be doing with the five, ten, fifteen minutes that I had eventually worked up to were the constant agitators.  All the little morning things that needed to be done to start a day right,  should be getting done with this new found time.  But I noticed that I slept better on the days I meditated and my anxiety was a little bit more manageable.  I only had to check that I locked the door once, instead of many times.  For a few months I meditated about five times a week, sometimes more than once a day.  It was only twenty minutes of my day-I just watched one less show or multi-tasked a little better later.

Eventually when those thoughts of all of the things I could be doing with the time crept in, I was able to tell my mind: No, this is your time.  You have the rest of the day to think about those things, or remember to make a call, or whatever else I thought needed to be analyzed at that moment.  Right then I was just going to breath and focus.

It’s kind of amazing how my my brain won’t let me just count to ten slowly without throwing in a whole bunch of thoughts that usually have nothing to do with anything.  They just pop up and say Boo!  And it’s not that you think of nothing when you meditate, you just ….I can’t explain it, but it’s not nothing.

Sometimes it has led me to some pretty hard stuff, realizations about my life and how my brain works.  In early summer I ended up taking a break for a while.  We had my Mother-In-Law in town for a few weeks and I couldn’t block out the noise I felt when she was here.  So I didn’t meditate…which I think my brain had gotten accustomed to and my reactions and feelings manifested in strange new ways.  But everyone made it though in tact and birthday cards were still exchanged this year, so let’s call it a win.

Eventually I made my way back to the mat.  Still wrestling with the thoughts that want to lead me away from what I’m doing.  If anything it is at least a daily moment to claim as my own.  I think many of us allocate our time to others so easily by necessity or obligation, but we don’t usually have the same approach for ourselves.  Not to say that we need to be more selfish (there’s enough of that going around), but I think we need to give ourselves at least a five minute break from everything else once in a while.  We don’t seem to be big on breaks in modern society.  If we have one were usually checking our personal email or playing with our phones (I’m still totally guilty of this by the way).  But maybe things would be a little more clear, a little easier if we felt obligated to treat ourselves how we treat the ones we care for.

Namaste Y’all.

The Time I Accidentally Walked into a Preppy Holiday

My body has been having a bit of a hissy fit with me lately.  Sometime last week my right knee started aching, a sustained dull ache that has now morphed into a feeling of broken glass.  I don’t know what I did to it.  It could have been the walks or the fact that it rained all of last week. It could been when I was rolling around on the garage floor the week before, painting the guest bedroom bookcase.  Whatever I did, I have royally pissed off my knee.  I am trying my best to make it happy and it seems to be most happy when I am sitting at my desk- so I thought I should use the time wisely and actually blog.

Sunday morning I woke up to my cat Bailey “gently” tapping at my head and eyeballs, like he does most mornings when I dare sleep past 7 am.  Sometimes I can tuck and roll and avoid him for another half hour and other times I relent and get up to feed him and Hitch.  That day I relented and decided to use the extra time to run some morning errands before everyone else in town woke up.  I needed to get some vitamins for my knee and some breakfast stuff anyway.  It was before 8:45 and it was ridiculously quiet, even the church crowd had not begun to trickle into the streets.  I was headed to Target for what I suspected would be a quick trip, but when I pulled into the parking lot I found all of the cars that had been missing in the streets.  The parking lot was full! I racked my brain for why there would be so many people, it wasn’t a holiday that I knew of.  There was a large church across the street so momentarily I thought maybe people park over at Target for the early service to miss the chaos that is the church parking lot, but I saw people coming out of Target. Huh?

The car I parked next to had it’s lights on, but didn’t seem to have a passenger.  When I got out to look at the license plate to report it in the store, I saw that a teenage boy was sitting in the backseat with his feet up clicking away on his Smartphone.  I preceded inside and saw a few women coming out with bags of Spring colored pillows, once again I thought holiday I was not aware of where entertaining is involved?   I saw a ton of women inside, mostly mothers with teenage daughters.  The line for the Starbuck’s that’s inside Target was over a dozen deep, something I had never seen there.  It led me to wonder if maybe there was some sort of Mother/Daughter thing going on for one of the schools.  A cashier at a grocery store last week had mentioned it was Prom at his high school that weekend.  Maybe it was some kind of Post-Prom ritual that exist down here to keep the kids in line.

I went to collect my shopping list items and every so often I would see a group of females chatting (some with raised voices) and waiting to talk to employee after employee  I heard bits of conversations about emails and online this or that, and that they couldn’t find something.   Maybe it was a Flash Sale?

Since none of things I usually get there seemed to be on this sale I picked up my vitamins and breakfast stuff and waited in line to be checked out.  I noticed the carts around me were full to the brim of some very (ugly) bright colors and patterns on clothes, purses, and pillows.

The couple in front of me seemed to be on the same early morning quest I was on.  They too had a small basket and not one pastel colored item was in it.

“Do you know what’s going on?” I asked them.

The cashier said, rather exhaustedly, “The Lilly Pulitzer line was released this morning.”
As apparently I was supposed to know what this meant I looked back to couple in front of me and said, “I’m sorry, who?”  They both burst out laughing.  The husband said he didn’t know, the wife had heard of her before but didn’t know why it was happening here.  They had the same theory about the church parking lot overflow and like me expected to have the store pretty much to themselves.  We all talked about the hilarity of us all accidentally walking into a mob on what was apparently some sort of historic shopping experience with no idea it was even happening.  I guess a good comparison would be going to see a movie on the day a Star Wars or a Harry Potter movie comes out, with gaggles of people in costume camped out and you go to the box office and ask for a ticket to see “Ghost Dog.”

With this new knowledge I looked around at the other shoppers and now I could see the frenzy in their eyes and satisfaction from their finds in their carts.  I saw a few things wrung up and I will be quite honest, it was not my cup of tea.  Loud, ugly patterns that made the shoppers coo over each other’s purchases with a fake enthusiasm of jealousy.  It was kinda sick.

As I was being checked out a women pushed her overstuffed cart of 60s-LSD-trip-hullitations-from-your-mother’s-house styled items into my side and kept going like she had just hit an orange cone in a driving simulator.  I didn’t yell, but I’m sure I made a noise because it caused me to shift all of weight to my jacked up knee and every time I have had to do that it has not been a silent action. It was her daughter, who couldn’t have been more than 15, that apologized to me and asked if I was okay as her mother hauled her items onto the next conveyer belt.  The daughter told the mother she had hit me, the mother yelled back an aloof apology that made me want to blurt our that it was I who was so sorry to have interrupt her path to a consumeristic orgasm with my mere existence-but I didn’t 🙂 Instead I collected my bags and maneuvered around all of the other carts and made it outside, only to find more women hoisting their purchases out of their bags to show their friends and neighbors that they had (coincidentally) run into, thus blocking another escape (I mean exit).

I got home and filled Honey in on my adventures in English Muffin procurement and looked up this Lilly Pulitzer, who I found out is known as “The Queen of Prep”.  It explained a few things, but I still don’t get the obsession.  Then throughout the day I saw the reports of the chaos that had ensued at the store and the website over the release and making fun of the people that bought the items (which I know I totally just did too).  And while I tease I feel that I must add this… All of us get excited over something or someone, and that’s okay.  We’re all a little different in what will make us wake up early on a Sunday morning to enjoy.  But I think we need to remember in our excitement that it is just stuff when comes down to it, and that we should not get so taken away in the frenzy that we forget ourselves.

In a few months when the items that Mother I mentioned bought are pushed to the backside of the closet or the pillows get stained, they will be gone and replaced.  But I have feeling the impression of the fashion trends of Spring 2015 will fade much faster in the daughter’s mind than the memory of her mother hitting someone and not caring.  It may be subconscious but more than likely it will be there. Like I mentioned there were a lot of mothers and teen daughters there and I’ll bet all of the daughters were noticing how their mother’s were acting in the situation.  So take from that what you will. 😉

The Books & Booze Room

Happy Friday All!

I told you how after Porter and Kudra’s visit I renamed the library “The Books and Booze Room”, because somehow in a fortuitous miscalculation in size and our lack of desire to have a formal living room, we ended up putting the two together.  I mentioned this name change  to one of our local friends Poppy last weekend and she said that sounded like a great idea for a real business.  I have to admit if there was a bar that was made up of comfy couches and chairs that you could just curl up with a book and sip on your spirit of choice without the bar atmosphere, I might be inclined to check it out.

Just think of it, there would a wide selection of books and you could reserve a chair with an adequate amount of reading light around it.  The place would be quiet, but not as invasively quite as a library.  Waiters/Waitresses would come by and quietly ask if you needed a refill on your bourbon as you read Elmore Leonard’s Fire in the Hole or get you another glass of Pinot Noir while you read My Life in France by Julia Child.  There would specialty drinks created to best suit the book you pick. There of course would be food offered, little nibbles to pad your chosen intoxicant.  Maybe there would be a room set up to the side (with sound proofing) that local writers or guest speakers could come and chat with others.  Oh, if only…

But until I find some investors 😉 here is our version of The Books and Booze Room, which as you can see currently has two kitties napping off a catnip hangover.

Book and Booze Room 1

 

Books and Booze Room 2

The Books and Booze 3

 

The 12 Stitch Program

It was my goal to knit a scarf for every East Coast family member by Christmas this year.  I am proud to say I achieved this goal and then some…

2013 Scarves

You might not be able to tell but there are 16 scarves there, several more were not pictured.  Two were in the mail, one in production, and three others had not been made when I took this picture on December 3rd.

As I knitted my way down the list of people out here (12+1/2) my quality improved and I became much faster.  I found myself getting towards the end of my list with practically all of December free and that just didn’t seem right.  So I added my parents and my sister, then a few friends, then my mother-in-law, then John asked for another, and I wanted another…so yeah, two dozen scarves later and I am wondering if I can fit in a few more before the last ship date before Christmas.  This is bad right?

I mean it’s not like I have a drawer just dedicated to holding yarn that I haven’t used yet…

Yarn

Damnit!

Is there a 12 Stitch…I mean Step Program for this? They weren’t kidding when they said it was addictive, but thankfully for my hands and sanity were are  near the deadline and I can start giving more time to my other hobbies.  It has been fun, but let’s just say I’m not planning on making matching hats for everyone next year 😉

Real or Artificial?

You know how there is that list of things you and your partner should discuss before moving in together/getting married?  Things like do you think there should be a tv in the bedroom, who will do the dishes, etc.  I have found something to add (to whom it applies to) that has not been mentioned…Christmas tree, real or artificial?

All of my life I have been a real Christmas tree girl.  John had been a artificial tree guy when I met him and he already had one.  Our first year together, because I was so love and was willing to give it a go I said Sure, let’s use the artificial tree this year.  I was willing but not thrilled.  When the time came I was not so secretly ecstatic when John pulled the Christmas tree out of storage and found the box was covered in mildew, he had to throw it away.  That year and every year since we have a Real Christmas tree, until this year.  This year there were a few circumstances that pointed us to getting a fake one.

What it led to

While I complained at the time:

“My tree has instructions” ……”my tree has small hazardous pieces” …….”what do you mean I have to spend to hours making it look like a real tree before I can decorate it?”

I have found many advantages to this artificial tree.

First of all it came with lights, lights that with a push of a button go from solid white to fading in & out white to multicolor to fading in & out multicolor.  So no more keeping lights in storage and hoping that there are enough to cover this year’s tree. I can also change my mind about the color whenever I want.  We can have a tree out when we decorate the rest of the house instead of waiting until half way through the month so we don’t have a brown tree on Christmas.  If an ornament does’t fit right in the space on the tree you can just adjust the branches to fit it.  We don’t have to worry about water on the carpet or how it will break down and fit into the trash when we are done with it.

It’s true that it doesn’t have that “Christmas Tree Smell” and it’s not part of the ritual of the season to go pick out a tree, but maybe since we are in a place that has so many trees around I don’t feel like I have to have a (let’s be honest…dying) tree in the house.  If you think about it Real Christmas trees are kind of like “Fortnight At Bernie’s” what with the dressing up and playing with something that is withering away in front of you.   But there is something very special about going into a home with a “living” tree, it marks an occasion and a presence of time.  I have not fully converted to be an artificial tree enthusiast but I am willing to give a shot for the next few years.

And to be honest it doesn’t look half bad.

Tree2013

So out of curiosity which do you prefer? Real or Artificial Christmas trees?