High Wire Act

“V ~ You have to stop this. It’s too dangerous. You’ll ruin everything we’ve worked for …”

Viviana reread the hasty warning, running her fingers over the heavy cream linen paper and chewing on her lower lip. 

Even though the note wasn’t signed, she knew who’d shoved it under her apartment door while she was at the barber shop. The emblem in the upper left corner, a little grey umbrella, was a dead giveaway. 

What she couldn’t figure out was how had they known where she lived? How had they found her after all this time? She’d been careful. Deliberate. Not using her real name, paying with cash whenever possible, moving frequently, and taking jobs that wouldn’t draw too much attention. Now she realized it wasn’t enough. It would never be enough. No matter how meticulous she was planning and adapting, they had their ways. 

As she hopped up on the roof ledge of her building, Viviana looked around as if the darkness would reveal where her safeguards failed. Some telltale sign that gave her away. But answers eluded her. The wire stretching across the alley, her escape route, was invisible from the street even in daylight. Only a person like her, someone who knew what to look for, and expected it to be there, could see the tightrope. 

Perched and ready to flee, she adjusted her backpack and said a silent goodbye to the place that had been home for the past nine months. She’d miss New York City, vibrant and alive. Big and crowded, the perfect place to swallow her up whole. In this city she was anonymous. 

“I’ll miss you,” she whispered, placing her foot on the rope, legs steady, referring not only to the city but to the people as well. She would miss her customers at the barber shop too. Many of whom had become friends and some more than friends, like Vincent. She wondered what he would think when he came home and found her ‘Dear John’ letter. 

Cutting hair had been a challenge, a skill she’d taught herself. One she enjoyed more than she expected. She would have to figure out another job that paid cash and had day time hours. Her nights needed to be free for funambulist pursuits. 

Coming home to the warning didn’t dissuade her as they hoped, instead it doubled her resolve to accomplish her mission, the one passed down by her grandfather (may he rest in peace). Or she would die trying just as he had. Viviana would prove The Acrobats weren’t a cult when she pulled off the most spectacular heist of all time.

With a sigh and a flick of her dark ponytail she walked with confidence above the alley. Another life to leave behind.

IMG_2504

© 2016 the Jotter’s Joint – Mind Map

 

PRACTICE:  I used a story starter courtesy of Scholastic. This program helps combat summer slide for my kids. It’s a great way to spark their creativity and let’s face it the spinning wheel adds the excitement of a game show. Who wouldn’t love that?

Write advice to a suspicious barber who is a tightrope walker.

They journal their stories in notebooks purchased specifically for the purpose.  Sometimes I ask them to pull out one of the 5 sentence long (my requirement) stories and build it into something longer. Editing is writing they say. It keeps them writing, facing a blank page, and maybe it even helps them avoid some of the fear of a blank page.

But it hadn’t occurred to me until my epiphany that I could use it as practice too. And to give myself a little bit of an added challenge I also used random word generator courtesy of Creativity Games; selecting three words that I had to incorporate into the story. This first go around I was able to work two of the three into the story.

~ ~ ~ LEGS ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ CULT ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ TOOTH ~ ~ ~

Mind-mapping as a part of my  writing process was freeing. I worried less about the “planning” or “outlining”. No pressure. Colorful. The best way to think through what my story and characters needed.

I wrote a second scene but realized that I’d fulfilled the prompt in this first scene. This short story may not be perfect but practice makes progress I’ve been told recently. Here’s to PROGRESS!

Can’t wait to do try another genre (this one is adventure) from Scholastic story starter. If you’re a writer who is currently struggling, I highly recommend story starters and mind-mapping.

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Signing Off, Broken Process, and a Writing Experiment

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

My Colorado vacation highlight was hearing Gary D. Schmidt talk about writing and publishing. His advice was similar to what you may hear from other sources e.g. write every day. He recommended 500 words. Disciplined. Committed. Daily. No excuses.

I considered my writing process and the rationale behind it. Early on I determined every day didn’t work for me. It was too much. I needed time to ruminate, rejuvenate, etc.

Then I decided that word counts could be weekly instead of daily since I wasn’t writing every day anyway. It made sense.

And then, I figured my writing goals could be worked monthly so long as I donated some of my time to it. It’s not like it’s my ‘job’ right? Who needs deadlines? It will get done in its own time.

Four years later …

When my writing process seeped out of its dedicated-routine sized pitcher and leaked into a-hobby-I’ll-get-to later sized bucket, I didn’t notice. Until I kicked the bucket over making a huge puddle sized mess to mop up. A puddle, I promptly pulled up my pant legs and stepped over it.

I thought, “I’ll deal with you later,” because it was like trying to drink the ocean with a straw. A salty impossible mess.

Better for it to be out of sight, out of mind. (But not really.)

I realized, my process was broken. And broken processes are an irritation, a pet peeve. Ask my husband the number of times he listened to my rants about this topic on vacation. Processes are meant to run smoothly and efficiently. When they don’t, they’re meant to be improved.

Stay with me …

Gary also talked about how he’s not actively engaged in social media. He stated (and I’m paraphrasing), if you only write 500 words a day, should it be a blog post? Or tweets or whatever? Or should it be 500 words toward your fiction or non-fiction pieces? At the end of the year you’ll have 183,000 words to edit into the story you want to tell. You can get it done.

Ouch! That hit home.

Remember, my blog was supposed to be the place where I practiced writing? Okay, maybe it’s become a distractor or an “out” from doing the “real work” that’s hard and terrifying.

Again, broken process.

I know, I know, I just posted that writer’s write and it doesn’t matter what they write, but hmmm … I am rethinking that philosophy.

While I was on vacation my characters came-a-calling. They’ve lain silent for almost a year, only to shake me awake at 5 AM when I could be sleeping in for a change.

“Come out, come out, wherever you are,” they screamed.

I was game. I sat in the dark of our hotel room writing feverishly while my family slept quiet and peaceful.

There’s something about this time of year. Summer and vacation, being away from my normal seems to unleash my creativity, the playful side.

Hold on, we’re getting there …

While I thought about my recent reads (which were so good) and all of Gary’s encouragement, I realized the story scope on my novel was too broad; aggressive for a newbie. I started in the wrong place. I needed to plot the plot even though I am a pantser. The list of first-timer mistakes I’ve made is long.

I tweeted my epiphany which came in one of those 5AM moments:

From 40K to zero because starting over feels right. #plotting #AmWriting

Yes, I am scrapping it all. I am giving this WIP a clean slate to reinvent itself.

In working through this I found a new beginning to the story (4 unique versions of the beginning to be exact). A new direction and manageable scale which can help me past my writer’s block. I hope.

There’s a new working title: The Way to Wonderland, which makes me smile.

Character names, purposes, and motivations will change. Locations will evolve. Villains and heroes will get an unexpected twist, I never saw coming. And somehow it will all come together.

Here it is …

The culmination of events leads to the real reason for today’s post …

I am signing off.

No, not forever.

I am dedicating the entire month of August 2014 to writing; working on the novel in progress which technically is a new angle on an existing idea. I’m in pursuit.

31 days of 500 words a day. No exceptions. No excuses. It will be my little writing experiment,

Let’s see if I can fix my broken writing process. I’m nervous but hopeful.

Wish me luck. Live in the suspense. I’ll chat with you in September around the 9th. Be well!

~Gail

NOTE: I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago, thinking the timing would allow for character development and plotting. Unfortunately, I didn’t get it done. I will spend the first part of August completing the important task of planning. Then I will write 500 words a day. I’ll still check in with you early September but it’s likely I will need more off time to hit 31 days.

Writers Write, Right?

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Confession: I haven’t been writing, at least not in a fiction-novel-in-progress sort of way.

Of course I’ve captured conversations with my dudes that are humorous and notable, like:

S: How old is she again?
Me: She’s almost two.
S: Yeah. Right.
Me: Why?
S: Well, that’s why we’re keeping her away from the Legos. It’s a choking hazard till she’s three. You know because of all the small pieces.

Or this one:

Me: Do you want the last two books in the Sweetfarts trilogy?
N: I don’t know. No.
Me: They’re $1 on the Kindle right now.
N: I don’t know. I guess.
Me: Well would you read them? For a dollar each?
N: Okay. Go ahead. It’s your money. Spend it however you want.
Me: Gee thanks for giving me permission to spend my money on you.

Cute, right? Worth committing to paper for the sake of telling my future grandkids.

Confession: I haven’t written in the one-day-you’ll-be-a-published-author kind of way.

Hey, blogging is writing, right? Some of my posts have been longish of late, as I toy with sentence length, alliteration, and structure. My posts have ventured into new topics or maybe I should say, I’m not writing solely about writing (or not writing). Good, bad, or indifferent, I’m playing with language to share what’s on my mind.

Confession: I haven’t been writing in the sense of word count goals and manuscript deadlines. NaNoWriMo camps? What are those?

Sure my days are filled with endless forms of the written word: emails and tweets and Facebook posts.

I’ve engaged in rambling text conversations about homeschooling and teaching writing; about books on my “to read” list; and summer reading plans for my boys. Texts about grammar and Ted Talks; reminders and questions; random and fun; word bubbles and emoticons. Battling autocorrect when I want to intentionally misspell a word.

So much to say to so many people in a limited amount of time.

Confession: I haven’t written in terms of feeling like an artsy creative type; unworthy of the craft and tortured soul.

My first and only novel-in-progress remains at just over 40,000 words, which averages to be 10,000 words per year.

The new piece I wanted to start, stalled out because I tried to map it out. Poor Pantser me.

Accountability calls with writing partners have turned more social than productive. Well, when they attempt to steer conversation toward my writing life anyway.

How many times have I used a form of “write” in this post so far? Too many. I need to consult a thesaurus. I’m getting rusty and maybe language lazy.

Anyway, I digress.

Confession: I haven’t written in the butt-in-seat, every day way typical advice to writers.

Wait!

What?

Yes. Yes, I have written in the butt-in-seat, every day way, because I journal constantly; making notes of ideas that intrigue me; listing thoughts that challenge me. Jotting down phrases and words that may morph into blog posts.

What the heck?

I blog. I post. I send emails. I tweet. I text. I write down what my boys say. I even handwrite letters and thank you cards.

Does it matter what I write? No, of course not. What matters is the practice of writing, of thinking critically and creatively.

Writers write.

Writing is writing.

Don’t be fooled.

It starts small and it builds. It happens when you don’t affix the label “writing” to it.

What guilt riddled writing confessions hold you back?

Go fill all the blank pages with story …

World of Words: My Experience at Festival of Faith and Writing

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

I had the privilege of attending the Festival of Faith and Writing or #FFWGR on twitter hosted by Calvin College every two years. It’s THE literary event and it floods our city with artists, creative, wordsmiths, and readers.

Maybe I’ve mentioned before the power of community to inspire, motivate, and engage people. Well the #FFWGR community is a testament to that power. They are my people. What a sense of kindred spirit.

However, I have a confession and a regret. I’ve considered myself “well read” but even as a voracious reader I found that I had not read anything by any of the numerous speakers.

In the months leading up to the Festival I checked out the speakers and facilitators. Looking at their books and descriptions on Amazon. Visiting their author pages and websites. Hitting their social media sites. All to find, I knew a handful of names and their reputation in the writing world.

Despite having read zero of the represented presenters, I have to say what an awesome event. It was filled with great tips and advice; motivation and humility; and an energetic group of vibrant characters. Did I mention they are my peeps?

Mostly the Festival provoked in me a challenge and a desire to do what I love; to write. I learned that swimming in words surrounded by others who love words as much, is the place I am at my best.

At the end of each of the three days I was mentally and emotionally exhausted from all the interaction and knowledge. I am after all an introvert which means I get zapped by the social parts of life. And still, my mood was high. I didn’t yell at my kids like I do when I get home from working. I responded differently. They experienced a kinder, gentler mom.

Calvin Campus © 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Calvin Campus
© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Writing is many things. Speakers referred to writing as:

  • Higher calling
  • Stewardship
  • Self-Examination
  • Silence
  • Worship
  • Mirrors and Windows

For me, writing is all of that plus it is who I am. My sanity is tied to my writing. It relaxes me in the midst of hectic life. Writing helps me express what I feel, what I want to see in the world, and how I want to be remembered.

No matter how many times I quit, coming back to a world of words is like coming home. Every speaker and contributor, every participant, and every moment of the Festival was the jumpstart I desperately needed.

My favor quotes and the most tweet-able statements (please keep in mind that the speaker may have been quoting someone else and I didn’t do a good job of capturing that):

The cynics among you have a lot of blah, blah, blah to lay at your feet. Skepticism is good. Cynicism is the killer of dreams. ~James McBride

Fiction is the lie that tells the truth.

~Hugh Cook

We give language to longings that have yet to be articulated. ~Sharon Garlough Brown

If you will extract the precious from the worthless, you will be my spokesman. ~Tracy Groot adapted from Jeremiah 15:19

When we choose the right word, it’s worth a thousand pictures.

~Richard Foster

I gave up pontificating for Lent. ~

Silence is writing. If you want to be a better writer, if you want to have things to say, you need to spend time in silence. ~Nathan Foster

Failure is an integral part of success … recognition is earned not bestowed … If I’ve never failed at anything in life, I am setting my goals to low. ~Pam Munoz Ryan

True objectivity is fiction. We all write from a specific social location. ~Valerie Weaver Zercher

What I know about anything applies to everything. ~Anne Lamott

You are so loved and preapproved. ~Anne Lamott

The sacrament of puttering … Laughter is carbonated holiness. ~Anne Lamott

It’s the business of the writer to tell what haunts us. ~Valerie Sayers

Talent is a God-given gift often squandered. ~Valerie Sayers

Writing fiction is like being in your underwear in front of the world.

~Suzanne Woods Fisher

I will not offer to the Lord that which costs me nothing. ~Suzanne Woods Fisher adapted from 2 Samuel 24:24

All fantasy has a happy ending or at least a hopeful ending. ~G. Willow Wilson

Any belief system worth anything should tell an ethical message to all people. ~G. Willow Wilson

As writers of faith, we don’t have to operate with the scarcity principle because we serve at the pleasure of a generous Master.

~Rachel Held Evans

This is not a competition, it’s worship. ~Rachel Held Evans

Sitting in the sanctuary of his words. ~Rachel Held Evans

Amazing right? How can I not face writer’s block and rejection after hearing such statements of faith and writing? Bulletproof comes to mind.

I am still processing all of it. Ruminating.

I’ll tell you what though … since all of you are my peeps too, mark your calendars for the 2016 Festival of Faith and Writing.

I hope to see you there!

Wanderlust and Writing

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way. . . .’

Confession: I’ve yet to read Charles Dickens’s classic, A Tale of Two Cities. It’s on my ‘to read’ list.

The famous first line, a run on sentence of contradictions, best describes my writing life in 2013.

Living in the gaps between the best and the worst … the wise and the foolish … etc. Never quite staying in one extreme or the other.

As I reflected on my creative process and writing specifically, I couldn’t help but wonder why I’d hit such a wall. Why was I blocked to the point of paralysis? What caused me to go off the rails?

Lack of inspiration. Lack of desire to chug along with my novel. Inability to craft weekly blog posts. Where had all the words gone?

I thought I’d nailed down all the reasons. I thought I’d reached understanding, named the big evil. I blamed it on:

  • Writer’s block
  • Capability / not good enough
  • Characters stopped talking to me
  • New characters were calling
  • Story wasn’t going where I wanted
  • Lack of time

Take your pick!

I blamed everything short of labeling myself a hack. Well, okay maybe I did that too.

But now I see one of the big issue that I didn’t notice before. You’re wondering what could be missing from this list?

TRAVEL.

My job requires that I travel 6-10 times per year. I typically go to the same corners of the continental U.S. Last year I only went on two trips; both within the first quarter. Shortly thereafter my writing slowed.

How does travel affect my creative journey? What are the benefits of traveling as a writer, even if it’s to Small Town America?

Change in venue
New places means new opportunities. A change that allows me to employ writing exercises where I can practice describing people, places, and things to which I wouldn’t usually be exposed. New perspective.

Different interruptions
This, for me, means no kids or hubby needs. My interruptions include clients and coworkers. But mostly it means a greater level of control over my time and energy. When I say “do not disturb”, guess what? No one disturbs me. Novelty.

New experiences
Airports are filled with diversity. It’s one of the best places I’ve found to develop characters: people watching, eavesdropping on conversations for dialogue, and assessing physical attributes, ticks and wardrobe. Amazing. I constantly think: if that person were in my story how would I “show” them. Great fun.

I now have an acute case of wanderlust; a desire to be somewhere else, new or familiar, just not here in my personal normal.

I want to hit the road and get outside of myself. Rack up miles and earn points. Buy postcards and key chains and t-shirts as souvenirs. I want the words to return from their journey as I embark on mine.

Can you relate?

Travel makes life interesting.

Would I prefer some place exotic: Australia, New Zealand, China, Greece, Japan, Spain, or Italy? Sure!

But for now I am thankful for six work related trips on the books already for 2014. All in the U.S. with some locations I haven’t been before. The first trip is at the end of this month.

Six scheduled attempts at jumpstarting my writing and digging out of my rut.

In addition to my work travel, we have some big family trips planned this summer and some day trips with new adventures built in. I am scheduled for a few writing events where other writers can rub off on me; their enthusiasm and expertise can influence me.

As much as I love to live vicariously through social media, it’s not enough. There’s something to be said for living life that revitalizes. I’ll experience these places for myself.

And, as much as writers may write about the solitary nature of writing, there’s something to be said for community, engaging people and being involved in the world outside of our heads that builds captivating stories.

To the writers among us … wander … live … roam … exist … tell great tales.

Remembering Where We Started …

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

I have to start this post with a big THANK YOU to Letizia of reading interrupted, who’s recent post, Revisiting The Jefferson Bible, led her to her first blog post. Also, it led her down the path of checking out the first blog post of her followers.

When she commented on my first post it made me wonder what I’d said, what I’d been thinking almost two years ago. Reading it made me laugh. It made me smile.  It made me remember. 

Quite honestly, it nearly brought me to tears. Not because it was prolific or special, but it captured my feeling, my desire, my dream.

I am inspired by my intentions and hopes from that first post.

I was optimistic, and let’s face it, naïve, which of course is the beauty of beginnings.

Amazing how powerful and happy I felt about writing before I tried to incorporate ALL the advice in cyberspace or build a platform using social media. I was overwhelmed by self-imposed pressure to live up to an ideal of a writer, not defined by me, when all I wanted to do was tell a story.

Writing, and consequently blogging, lost the shiny new exterior because stats were tripping me up, checking the number of blog hits or new followers.  Worrying that I needed to change to increase my stats.

Writing became about pleasing others instead of pleasing me. My blog posts were about getting attention, catering to an audience. I didn’t know.  I see the time and care I put into those first posts because I was more concerned with liking what I wrote rather than having it liked.

Maybe you can tell by my personal marveling that I’ve been in the state of quitting writing for months now. If you recall, I shelved my novel recently.

Sammy, my writing partner, whom I love and adore, has been encouraging me and with each card, email, and phone call, I’d postpone my departure from the writing world one more day. I’d hold of giving up my title of writer for one more week.

She’ll be glad to read that I’m trying to work this out (albeit publicly) as opposed to avoiding the writing conversation.

And then, as if they’d planned it, another blogger buddy, Britt of A Physical Perspective, posted a renewed commitment to her writing dreams.  I am moved by her revelation and hope for the new year. Thank you, as well Britt.

Stories connect us. Good stories reveal something about who we are or what’s important to us. Letizia and Britt’s stories serve as great reminders.  Sammy’s investment in me keeps me sane. These events are a catalyst for creation. My muse is knocking. I’m tingly like someone sprinkled fairy dust.

So even though I didn’t make any resolutions for 2014, I am seriously considering making this a year of renewal … a year of remembering where I started … a year of celebrating where I am headed.

Which means, I am a writer, telling stories for me, while hoping others will love them too and join me on the journey.

I wish all my artistic and wordsmith friends a year of renewal!

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do: A “Dear John” Letter to a Fictional Character

Dear Baby Girl,

What can I say? Arriving at this moment is surreal.

I thought we would be together for a long time; friends for life.

Our lives are inextricably linked with a common thread …

Eight year old you wanting to escape, finding solace in the pages of a book. Struggling to deal with the loss of your grandmother. Realizing the fate of two worlds rests on your young shoulders because only you can defeat the villainous Red Queen. Fighting the internal battle of the truth that surrounds you or accepting your mother’s beliefs.

And my forty something self, also longing to escape by penning your tale so others can escape into its pages. We’re a match made in heaven.

Yet here we are …

I have other characters whispering, okay shouting in my ear. Waking me from sound sleep and vibrating for my attention. Of course, I’ve denied them till now because I was committed to you. But I can’t deny my feelings for them any longer.

They speak to me in ways you haven’t in far too many months. Six to be exact. That’s not an accusation. It’s a fact. We don’t talk like we used to. Let’s face it, the spark is gone.

I crave the newness that comes at the beginning of a relationship. The “Honeymoon Phase” they call it. I miss that. I miss the excitement and exploration and surprise as we were getting to know each other. I need that.

Still I held on …

Why?

Because calling it quits would mean failure. Calling it quits would mean admitting that your story is bigger than my ability to tell it.

I know it’s selfish. I’ve stayed for the wrong reasons. I stayed because I was afraid of not finishing.

This may be cliché but:  It’s not you … It’s me.

After three years and four months of trying to make it work … three years and …

  • Countless reams of paper
  • Megabytes of memory
  • Tens of thousands of words
  • Three journals
  • Hundreds of phone calls and meetings
  • Lots of tears and heartache …

I have to say goodbye.

I have to put you on the shelf and walk away. We’re just holding each other back. I’m sorry. I know I’ll regret this one day.

There’s an old saying:

“If you love something very, very badly, let it go free. If it comes back to you, it’s yours forever. If it doesn’t, it never was yours to begin with.”

Baby Girl … I pray you and your story come back to me. Please know that I love you, I just can be with you right now.

Tell the others bye for me …

Gail

Best of Breathe

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

As promised from my last post, I am sharing my Breathe Christian Writers’ Conference experience with you.

Instead of me telling you all about every detail, I’m going to give you the best sound bites that came out of the weekend.

I made every attempt to capture statements verbatim and will use quotation marks. With that said, please be forgiving if you later find I misquoted a speaker …

Take what works for you and leave the rest. Enjoy:

Treat your writing like a business because agents, editors, publishers, bookstores, and consumers do.” ~Peter DeHaan 

Writers shouldn’t settle for mere escapism.” ~Patti Hill 

No one is more qualified to give your message than you are.” ~Twila Belk 

If I took my character to a psychiatrist, what would I learn about them?” ~David Beach

Be faithful to the task of writing and God will do something with it. He probably won’t publish your thoughts though.” ~Latayne C. Scott 

If you get hung up on a form of writing, you won’t be able to write. Or, you get addicted to that form and you don’t move forward.” ~Tracy Groot 

Social media isn’t your platform, but it does direct people to your platform.” ~Peter DeHaan

I have a love-hate relationship with the writing life. I wouldn’t wish to have any other kind of life . . . and on the other hand, I wish it were easier. And it never is. The reward comes sentence by sentence. The reward comes in the unexpected inspiration. The reward comes from creating a character who lives and breathes and is perfectly real. But such effort it takes to attain the reward! I would have never believed it would take such effort.’ From Elizabeth George’s: Write Away: One Novelist’s Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life 

 “All dialogue should have tension.” ~Patti Hill

Don’t die with the story still in you … Let it out!” ~Twila Belk

Read your dialogue out loud in a monotone to see if the words move you anyway.” ~Patti Hill

We live most of our lives in contradiction … Quality writing requires friction.” ~Latayne C. Scott

Give the muse something to work with.” ~Tracy Groot on Preparation

An author’s job is to leave breadcrumbs.” ~Patti Hill

Our writing must link the reader from the seen to the unseen …” ~Latayne C. Scott

I needed to hear all these things and much more. My “to do” list has pretty much doubled, but I can’t focus on its length or I will be paralyzed by it. But it’s there in list form (in the margins of my writing notebook with g* as a signifier that I need to take action).

My “to read” list has grown by leaps and bounds. I’ve added titles written by the presenters and writing resources they recommend. Some of the writing resources I wanted to avoid but my desire to do so is futile.

Resources:

  • On Writing by Stephen King
  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
  • Elements of Style by William Strunk
  • Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card
  • Writer to Writer by Cecil Murphey

I’ll be back soon with a few more things to share from Breathe!

Back-To-Writing

Pen en papier / Pen and paper

Pen en papier / Pen and paper (Photo credit: Nationaal Archief)

Back-to-school (BTS) is less than a week away for our dudes.

It’s giving me anxiety. I wake up with a crippling “to do” list scrolling on my mental screen. And I fall asleep the same way.

  1. Order uniforms – Surprisingly between the end of school and now my dudes have grown. Go figure.
  2. Buy school supplies – It’s my favorite thing about back-to-school.
  3. Coordinate drop offs and pick-ups – The bane of my existence. They get out of school at 3PM. I get off work at 5PM.

There aren’t any checkmarks to signify completion of any of these” to do” list items.

  1. Buy shoes – First must practice tying shoes or plan on shoes without laces.
  2. Buy backpacks – Not cool licensed stuff like Batman and Sonic because they don’t last. Need something reinforced. Boring.

And the list goes on and on …

  1. Discuss lunch options – Need choices that can survive without refrigeration.
  2. Get haircuts – Now, not later. It will grow out just the right length before pictures.
  3. Buy glasses wipes – Little people don’t care about grime.

Oh, I know some of you are feeling my pain. But that’s what BTS looks like for my dudes. These are the things Momma needs to do to get them ready for the 2013-2014 school year.

 

14:365 Pen & Paper

14:365 Pen & Paper (Photo credit: mattbeckwith)

BTS looks different for me personally. This year, BTS for me is Back-To-Writing. Writerly me needs a back-to-school program!

For those of you who don’t know, I started writing my first novel in August 2010. The idea came to me one morning while I was curling my hair. A flash of brilliance.

I was excited and the words flowed. Then I realized I had no idea what I was doing. So I started looking for help and there’s an abundance of it available. By abundance I mean more than any one writer could ever sift through.

It was paralyzing to realize all I didn’t know. Plus, it was overwhelming to realize what I did know and maybe wasn’t applying right.

In August 2011, I reset my goal. Put my word count goal in Scrivener again.

In August 2012, I reset the goal again. I’m half way there.

We’re coming to the end of August 2013 and I am facing my third reset. I have mixed feelings.

I think: “Why am I not done yet?”
Then, I think: “No worries. Take your time.”

I’m sure some of you are ready for the whining about the novel and my writing process for it to be over.

But my enthusiasm has waned and with it my habits. I’ve gotten sloppy.

How do I combat this slowdown in progress? How do I overcome this dwindling enthusiasm and momentum?

Easy! Back-To-Writing.

By getting back to the basics and rebuilding my writing habits, which means, I must write daily; adhering to word count and time goals.

Discipline is the key.

I’ve heard that it takes 21 days to form a habit. Twenty one days of doing a task over and over to make it second nature.

 

Calendar Card

Calendar Card (Photo credit: Joe Lanman)

So here I go … 21 days of writing new words every day. That’s my first semester or quarter or marking period. Call it what you will.

It won’t matter what I write at this point. I just need to be intentional about sitting down each day to write. Words on the page. It could be novel writing or blogging. It just needs to be daily.

For the past 6 months or so my characters have been on sabbatical. Their leisure time is over. It’s time for the hard work. Together we will finish this.

Otherwise, the characters from a second novel idea will breakthrough. They’ve been knocking at the door and whispering to me in my sleep. But I refuse to answer until I finish book idea one to satisfaction.

Oh and did I mention, if I miss one day, then I will have to start over counting my 21 days. I will reset daily if necessary to avoid resetting at the end of August 2014. FINISH.

Once I complete a full 21 days of writing, I’ll up the ante by selecting specific word counts per day or time writing per day. Don’t worry, I’ll keep you posted. And, you can help hold me accountable.

I had good habits in the beginning when I was ignorant. Maybe naïve is a better word. Either way I want to have that sense of innocence back; that feeling of invincibility. I can do this.

What does BTS look like for you? What will you rededicate yourself to? Will you get Back-To-Writing? Creating? Painting?

Images through WordPress…

 

Word Choice – It Matters

 

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

I’ve always been a writer but I am a fledgling novelist. One thing that writing a novel is teaching me: my vocabulary is lacking. Nonexistent really.

To think, vocabulary was once something I prided myself on.

I guess spending my formative years looking up words I didn’t know; writing down the definitions in my “reading journal”; and using the word in a sentence was for nothing. Especially because I don’t recall the majority of the words let alone their meanings.

Most of the time I rely on the context clues for meaning rather than the denotative meaning. There’s nothing wrong with doing this as a reader.

However, as a writer, I find myself struggling to convey what I mean without being repetitive. Or I have to use a thesaurus because I don’t know an alternative way to say certain things. And then it feels forced because they aren’t “my” words.

It’s a sad state …

Who wants to read a novel full of the same single descriptive word or phrase? For instance: “the twins” to describe our heroines.

Not me. Not any reader.

I know I can use: siblings, sisters, girls, daughters, doppelgänger. Or even combinations with: matched set, pair, identical, fraternal. But will it feel authentic coming from my mouth, my pen, my keystrokes?

Help!

I guess that’s why they say: “Writing is Re-writing.”

I wonder if this is part of finding my writer’s voice. The reason I choose the words I choose.

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

Poor vocabulary is limiting. HINT: I’m easy to beat in a game of Words with Friends or Scrabble which is why I won’t play against my hubby.

Although I am in a state of hysteria over this, I haven’t allowed it to slow me down. My choice? Let words flow. Even if the words are repetitive. I just need to get the story out. Right? Then I can go back and make the words matter.

This is part of the reason I am reluctant to share excerpts from my novel in progress. Eventually I’ll move past this issue. Or maybe the second draft will only contain deliberately repetitive statements, making it worthy to post.

Outside of using a thesaurus … I need to work on vocabulary building. My characters deserve a richer language than I have to offer right now.

Anyone else have this problem? What’s the cure?

Off to listen to my Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day and Grammar Girl podcasts. Oh yeah and to read more so I can learn from those who’ve done it well.