Monthly Archives: May 2010

Thanks, I Needed That!

It was just a week ago when I announced my sabbatical into “Crazy Writer Woman Mode” and boy, did I need it! I didn’t make huge, leaping strides. I didn’t write a whole lot of new words. But what I did do was gain a lot of clarity on where I’m going with at least one of my novels in progress.

I was able to successfully whittle down my first thirty-odd pages containing a lot of backstory into fifteen pages, punching up the beginning as a result. Backstory is a necessary evil for me. I have to start out with it in there so I can get to know my characters and how they’ll fit in to the story, mostly because when I start writing, I don’t always have a clear picture of where I’m going. Many authors and editors will tell you backstory is evil. It can kill a story. Too much info-dump early on can bore your reader before they ever get to the good parts. And, sadly, a bored reader isn’t a reader for long.

Now that I’ve cleared away some of the backstory and have a much better picture of the overall plot, the revising and new writing is coming a lot easier. I have more confidence now that it will all come together in the end, a fear, I’ve realized, that has been holding me back.

But, as promising and reviving as this discovery was, my confidence was kept neatly in check today by my seven year old, no less.

We were sitting at the kitchen table when she announced that she wanted to be a writer and illustrator someday. I have to admit, my heart swelled with pride a little, although I’m sure she’ll change her mind many times over.

My husband said to her, “I thought you wanted to be a baby doctor?” which is what she’s been telling us for at least the past three years, and, as she’ll further explain, it’s the kind that helps moms get the babies out, not the kind that doctors the babies.

She turned to us and said matter-of-factly, “I can do both.” (Well, I do hope to instill in my kids the belief that they can do anything they set their minds to, so this is good news.) “Writing’s not a real job anyway,” she said. My heart shrunk a little in proportion. “You don’t get paid for it.” Deflated like a balloon.

“Oh, yes you can,” my husband countered.

“Mom doesn’t,” she said.

Thanks for the reminder. Seriously. It reminds me that I have to keep working at it. Everyday, if need be. I have to keep thinking and creating and revising and writing. This novel’s sure not gonna write itself, but I do hope that one day my hard work pays off!

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Suspicious Minds

I like to think I look like an upstanding citizen. I try to always abide by rules of conduct and social behavior. I hardly ever carry any weapons, at least not visible to passersby. I’m kidding; the closest thing I have to a weapon is a fingernail file I carry in my purse and it’s not even metal. So why is it that I get some of the strangest, most accusing looks when I’m out in public?

Take yesterday, for instance. I was out jogging around my neighborhood where I make lap after lap, passing by my house several times. If you’ve read any of my past posts, you’ll know that I usually jog with my dog, Buddy. Buddy still has his little problem that occurs when running.  Buddy’s problem stems from the fact that he always seems to know when we’re about to go for a run, and he’s always so excited that he never fully relieves himself beforehand, no matter how much I try to get him to go. So, I have to jog with a bag and stop to scoop poop all along our route because Buddy doesn’t actually stop running; it just sort of falls out like a trail of breadcrumbs behind us.

Like a good, conscientious  neighbor, I dutifully scooped on my next lap and as I ran past my own driveway, I tossed the bag so I could retrieve it later when I returned. I happened to glance up in time to see a lady I didn’t recognize give me a most accusing look. Apparently she thought I had thrown a bag of poop onto someone else’s drive. I guess I could’ve offered up some plausible explanation as I passed by, but really, would it have been any less embarrassing? I’m only sorry she wasn’t still there to see me after a few more laps when I turned to go into the house.

Today I took a break from running errands and stopped to pick up some lunch before heading to the public library for some quiet writing time. I don’t particularly like to eat alone in a restaurant, so I ordered it to go and ate in my car at my next stop. I guess in hindsight, maybe I should’ve chosen better than to park along the street in such close proximity to someone’s house. It must have looked like I was pulling an all-day, undercover stake out, decked out in my dark sunglasses and a nondescript gray hoodie with my styrofoam to-go cup and notepad in hand. I was only jotting down notes for my novel, the one that currently has me in Crazy-Writer-Woman-Mode. I really wish I could’ve explained all that to the man who was eyeing me through his kitchen window.

Now, I ask you, does my behavior warrant suspicion? Perhaps I have more of a vivid writer’s imagination than I give myself credit for and I only perceive that people assume I’m up to no good. Nah. Who am I kidding? I’d wonder about me too.

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Consider Yourself Forewarned

The other day on my lunch break I called up my husband. “Hey,” I said, “remember that writing thing I like to do?”

“Yeeeaaah…” He often uses that tone that sounds like he’s never quite sure where my brain is going with things and is debating on whether or not to get off the train or ride it out.

“Well, I just wanted to give you a heads up. I have some new ideas I’m plotting for that one book I haven’t worked on for a while.”

“Okaaay…”

“I just need to sit on them for a bit and then I’ll be going into Crazy-Writer-Woman-Mode.”

“Sweet!” he says. I’m very lucky, he’s very supportive of my writing. Although I’ve never really asked him to read any of my novels in progress, he knows how much writing in general means to me. That, and the fact that I tend to get antagonistic if I haven’t been able to creatively express myself with words for a period of time.

“Yeah, you’ll think ‘sweet’ until I burn dinner and forget we have kids for a while,” I lamented.

He chuckled. Probably out of nervousness because of not-so-distant-memories of the last time I was “in the zone.” It was during the final stages of my first draft of Autumn in Vermont. It was my first attempt at novel-writing and even I didn’t realize how all-encompassing it could be. I routinely tried to pass off overcooked dinner or lunchmeat sandwiches. They were lucky they got fed at all.

“I just wanted to warn you,” I said. The last time, I think it took him a few days to realize I was MIA and then he walked around wondering if he’d done something wrong. When I finally emerged and he realized how engrossed I’d become in the task of heavy-duty writing, I think he was relieved. This time around, I hope they’ll all be more prepared for what’s to come.

So, I may be missing from here for awhile as well, but at least you’ve been given a heads up. I’m likely not sick, or dead or mad at the world…just writing!

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Writer’s Laryngitis

I’ve lost my voice.  That is, if one can lose what they possibly never truly had in the first place.

I’m not speaking literally, but literary. I can write; that’s not the issue. I’m just struggling right now trying to find my place in this world. The trouble with me is, I’m sometimes flighty. There, I admitted it. I didn’t call myself “Wayward Writer” on Twitter for nothing. In fact, “easily swayed or prompted by caprice; unpredictable,” often fits me perfectly when it comes to writing.

I flip flop back and forth on my writing style–my voice–trying a number of different things on for size. The only thing that remains constant is my desire to write, to be a writer.

At this moment, I have two fictional novels partially complete. And by partially, I mean I can’t seem to get the storyline on either quite to my liking. But, more than that, each is very different in style. The first is an example of women’s fiction, written in a more literary style (i.e. I use bigger words). The other, even less complete, is an easy-read, fantasy story, more humorous in nature (I hope).

I also have started writing down bits and pieces of my life which I hope to someday compile into a memoir. The trouble with this is, I can’t see the path it’s taking yet. Would it be a fun, lighthearted memoir? Or more like the inner-soul searching, find yourself type? This really is ironic, being that it’s my own life’s story! I would think, at least, I’d be able to figure that one out. But, alas, I am still wishy-washy even when it comes to this.

That’s why I’ve decided I suffer from the possibly rare but serious disease called Writer’s Laryngitis. (Okay, yes, I just made that up.) This is not to be mistaken for the all-too-common Writer’s Block, which symptoms include: staring aimlessly at a blank computer screen for hours at a time, overuse of alcohol, and eventual hair loss. Writer’s Laryngitis is often caused by the overuse of one’s writing voice or by the use of too many different voices all at once. These voices may also occur in one’s own head (often exacerbated by the aforementioned overuse of alcohol). More serious cases can often lead to Dissociative Identity Disorder, or split personality, so we’ve I’ve heard.

One thing’s for certain, I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to stick with just one genre or style of writing. I can’t write all humor all the time (not enough material). And, by the same token, I can’t be serious and broody all the time either (not enough wine). If this post itself isn’t evidence enough of my eclectic, wayward writing habits, I don’t know what is. It doesn’t take much to see that this piece started out as something more figurative and metaphoric in tone.

Then, somewhere, I took a left turn at Albuquerque.  The question is, do I need a road map or just continue to follow my own erratic sense of direction?

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Cause for Pause…Paws?

The pavement’s still wet this morning from the previous night’s storms, but the sky is a bright blue, only a few white, fluffy clouds suspended overhead. I lace up my running shoes and grab his leash from the hook near our door. He’s already there, of course, with his tail wagging erratically from side to side, a look of pure joy spread across an innocent face.

He knows what comes next and he can hardly wait.

Like me, Buddy started running later in life. I sometimes have to remember, in dog years he’s forty to my thirty-seven and he’s not had the benefit of conditioning, but he’s always eager to go another lap, sometimes pushing me when I would rather give in to the soreness of my tired, aching muscles.

When we start our first few minutes of warm-up walking, he’s overly-eager, prancing beside me, urging me to take off into a sprint. “Wait,” I tell him. It’s too soon for me yet.

Just a few more yards.

“OK, go,” I start to say, but he already knows and has taken off in a brisk run, pulling gently at his leash. He looks back at me with his tongue lolling out one side, mouth turned up at the corners, as if to say, “Come on. You can run faster than that.” And I pick up my pace to match his child-like energy.

Each time we pass the driveway to our house, he moves to the opposite side of the road, pulling me with him as if to say, “Not yet. I want to keep going.” We run like that–encouraging each other, lap after lap–around our little neighborhood and it’s nearly two and a half miles before Buddy starts to slow his steps. By now, his four legs have done twice the work of mine. I’m just getting warmed up, but I slow to match his pace and walk for a ways with him, sometimes even pause while we catch our breath. When we get to our house again, I tug at his leash and he walks slowly up the drive toward our front door.

I let him be the judge of when he’s done and I’ll often drop him off to let him rest and to get a drink of water while I run another two, even three miles. When I finally relinquish myself to my own exhaustion and turn in my driveway, he’s waiting at the door for me.

I’m convinced that if he were able, he’d offer me a bottle of water. We exchange looks and I scratch him behind his ears and tell him what a good friend he is. The perfect running partner.

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The Story of My Life

I jump around between genres, both in what I read and in my writing styles, depending on my mood. I’ve been in a memoir-reading kind of mood lately. Perhaps this is because I’m in a “who am I really” kind of state in my life. At some point, I’d love to try my hand at writing a memoir. But what constitutes a life interesting enough to be worthy of people wanting to read about it? Don’t get me wrong, I love my life–although there are some days that are a challenge–but it all seems so “normal”, even boring sometimes, that I wonder what would make people want to read about it.

We want to read stories about a woman whose husband leaves her (Happens Every Day by Isabel Gillies). Or another who ate a lot of spaghetti and found deep spiritualness (Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert). Or the hilarious story of cooking dangerously (Julie and Julia by Julie Powell. While these true life story lines don’t necessarily seem like anything extraordinary, two of them have already been made into movies.

I can think of several more movies off the top of my head that have been taken from memoirs. I just can’t picture my life as that intriguing. (Although I’d like to think Jennifer Aniston would make a great me.)

So, what makes a good memoir? Is there a life lesson to be learned? Is it that we can all relate to something going on in the author’s life? Is it the “normalness” that makes it appealing? Do we just like having a glimpse into someone else’s life that we might not ordinarily have? Or is it something else?

What about you? Do you enjoy reading memoirs? Why?

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