Author Archives: Jesikay

Gender Equality and Pen Names

*reblogged from my home site The Lunatic Poet

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As I was having dinner last night I read something that made me do a double take. In most of our fast food places we have this little circular called Coffee News. It has these small blurbs of trivia and jokes and short posts about random facts and things. The one that caught my eye and caused a serious discussion with Big Son was about how J.K. Rowling’s publisher used her intials instead of her name (Joanne) so that the book would attract young male readers. It made me stop and ask Big Son if gender makes a difference in the books he reads as he was and is a young male reader. He said no. He’s just as likely to read a book written by a woman as he is by a man and the name on the cover doesn’t make a big difference except for him to go look up other books by the same author if he really likes the book.

However, we both began talking about how it might make a difference to young boys because they see a woman’s name and think it’s going to be something for or about girls. Meg Cabot and The Princess Diaries for example. But many of the books Big Son has read were written by women. In fact, he said, in his opinion, women tend to write better fantasy genre stories while men are better suited to sci-fi/tech. As for fiction, he thinks both do well. Not that we really consider gender when buying books. We buy and read a book for content, not the name on the book. In fact, both Big Son and I have read James Patterson books and we own zero. Not a one.

So here’s the thing…in today’s society gender equality is and has been an issue, for a long time. Centuries ago women had to write under pen names just to have their work published while men were often published over a female author, whether established or not. But, more and more the line between who can write better in what genres is becoming blurred. Women can write fantastic sci-fi and tech stories and men can write some of the tenderest romance books. Julie E. Czerneda and Nicholas Sparks jump immediately to mind. And what about Ursula K. LeGuin and Richard Paul Evans?

And yet, women are still having to hide behind pen names to attract male readers. J. K. Rowling is writing as Robert Galbraith, although I do believe this is to differentiate between her “adult” self and Harry Potter for the kids. But still. What does this mean for me as someone who is working towards publishing a first novel? Should I consider publishing under initials only to attract male readers, or does it even matter?

What about you? Does the name on the cover affect your reading choices? If so, how and why? Should it even matter?

Jesi

Setting Goals

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I don’t know about my fellow Twisted Writers but life has been sucker punching me left and right. There’s been a lot going on that’s out of my control and unfortunately, writing took a backseat to trying to pick up pieces the overturned snowglobe dropped into new places. Hence, the reason why I haven’t been posting on Mondays here or even on my home blog.

I’ve had some exciting news recently. I’m being given the opportunity to become a freelance writer for the company a friend of mine works in. It’s not overly creative but does give me the chance to work from home and get a foot in the door for better opportunities in the future. However, having not had the kind of experience most freelance writers have, I’ve been a little concerned about my ability to be successful and pull this off. I’ve not had the formal education most writers have. But I’m not going to let this deter me from trying.

The whole experience happened rather quickly and it made me stop and think about the first time I sat down and wrote anything after my dad died. I had a goal in mind then and I was determined not to let anything stop me from accomplishing that goal. The last year has been a hard one and I have let myself become distracted from my original objectives. That’s why this weekend I made the decision to accept the offer my friend’s company extended to me and see where it leads. I am also going to sit down and complete my first draft on my NaNoWriMo project from this past November. My goal is to have my first draft and edits done and a manuscript ready to go (whether self-publishing or traditional, I’m not sure yet) by the end of the year. Possibly the summer if I can manage that but I still have some  life issues that will affect my timeline. But I am going to do my best.

What writing goals have you set for yourself that haven’t been met yet? What will it take to meet them?

I know how hard it is to let life take over when things get out of control. Writing anything and completing it is a way to feel as if you are in control of something.

Set some goals, even small ones, and finish them. I guarantee the small boost of confidence you get from completing even something small is worth it.

Have a great Monday!

Jesi

Briefly Going AWOL

I apologize for missing the last few Monday posts. I’ve had some personal emergencies to take care of among all the holiday goings-on. I will be back soon. Please feel free to consider today an open forum on writing topics. And any of my Twisted Writer inmates, please consider this your space today.

Thanks,

Jesi

Writing Using Given Elements

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Saturday night I discovered I had a writing assignment to do in preparation for my Critique Group the next day. It’s been posted for a while but because I was still doing NaNo and working on Real Life stuff I had completely missed seeing the exerise. So, while I was out I began thinking of different scenarios I could use to write about but what I kept returning to was Christmas lights and Gremlins. I love Christmas lights. All those mutli-colored fireflies lighting up and pushing away the dark makes me happy. It’s like seeing bits of hope in the middle of the night. It’s nice when you have a community where most of the houses are decorated but my favorites are the single homes out in the middle of nowhere where there’s nothing but you and the dark. I have very fond memories of driving to my grandparent’s house at night and seeing those pop out of nowhere like lit breadcrumbs showing us the way. And as for the Gremlins, well, I kept going back to the Phoebe Cates’ scene where she’s talking about why Christmas sucks for her.

Here was the exercise details:

  • Instructions: Take the information provided below and write the first 500 – 1000 words of a new chapter or novel/short story opening. Genre is up to you. Point of view is up to you. But each of the elements listed below must be included.
  • Objective: To hook the reader and to set the atmosphere without losing reader interest.
  • Basic set-up: Your main character drives up to a small house that is off the beaten track. From the outside, the house looks like most others in the area. A single light burns in the front window. Your main character gets out of the car and crosses to the front door. It opens under the MC’s hand. The MC calls out. No one answers. MC steps inside and finds . . . .

As I was brainstorming Saturday night out loud with my husband, I knew I wasn’t really wanting to writea traditional Christmas story. Like Gremlins, I wanted my main character to have a reason to like or not like Christmas. I went to bed Saturday night and woke up the next morning with my idea in place. After getting some caffeine in my system I started writing, and the next thing I know I’ve spent an hour and a half writing without thinking about it and I had to rush to finish it because I still needed a shower and I didn’t want to be late for Group. And Group ended up being so much fun because of the exercise. Three of us apparently had the same idea in a way; we wrote a murder/mystery opening, though mine was the only one with a Christmas theme. So, below find my unedited contribution to yesterday’s writing assignment.

I have another one to write for the next meeting and I’m thrilled, I tell you. Thrilled!

xo Jesi

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

In the sleepy little town of Oak Hollow in the deepest part of the backwoods of Mississippi, you can count on three things happening throughout the year. The first is the annual Holy Roller Baptist Tent Revival and Come to Jesus Meeting, and yes, it is actually called that. All the little old ladies fry up chicken and potatoes and bake casseroles and desserts. There’s even the occasional squirrel prank pulled thanks to that old Ray Stevens song. It actually works half the time, though I’m sure the teenage boys pulling the prank aren’t trying to bring anybody to Jesus.

The second thing you can count on is Mayor Goodwin’s daughter being crowned Miss Oak Hollow for the New Year Parade, Fourth of July parade, Christmas Parade, and, hell, pretty much every town ceremony requiring a queen of events. She’s been Queen of Everything for the last five years, including head cheerleader, only because she’s the Mayor’s daughter. And she’s not even all that pretty.

The third thing, and in my opinion the most exciting, is the Christmas Eve murders. Every year for forever, one person in the town dies on Christmas Eve. Where most people supposedly go to bed dreaming of sugar plums and all that magical crapola, here in Oak Hollow we all go to bed wondering who’s going to be wrapped up in tinsel with a big, bloody bow stuffed down their mouth. It’s been going on for so long now you’d think the police would have caught someone by now, but nope, this here is Oak Hollow. We’ve got one of the laziest sheriffs in the country, and he’s fanatically superstitious.

By the way, I’m Mags, and in the Oak Hollow people context I’m the girl with the big mouth always asking for trouble, according to Sheriff Boggs at least. Most of the kids in this town try to get as far away as they can once they turn eighteen, but not me. I want to catch the murderer who killed my Uncle Johnny on Christmas Eve three years ago.

Now, imagine the scene. I’m eighteen and have a license and a beat-up old junker of a car. I bought it for $500 from Old Miss Johnson, the crazy chicken lady, after her license was taken away from her because she drove her car into the middle of the entrance of the Piggly Wiggly grocery store. Not that that matters right now but I’m damn proud of that car. Took me all summer working at the Piggly Wiggly as a cashier to earn the money to buy the thing and I get to crow about it all I want, thank you very much.

So here it is Christmas morning and we’re all ignoring the fact that we know someone’s been killed. We’ll know by lunchtime who the unlucky victim was, because that’s how small towns work, even on Christmas. Mom’s in the middle of making her usual big Christmas lunch and she tells me to go pick up Uncle Johnny, her bachelor brother, who lives on the outskirts of town. Why me? Because I’m eighteen with a license and a car, remember?

Ever notice how Southerners have a way of making it sound like you’d be doing them a favor when in reality they just got you to do something they don’t want to do? “Maggie, be a dear and run to the store for some milk please.” “Mags, honey, I can’t leave the house right now and I need you to go drop this casserole off at the church for me, thank you.” And my mom is the queen of guilt trips. So when she “asked” me to go get Uncle Johnny, I went. I tug on my galoshes because it’s been raining for the last three days and there’s mud everywhere, and I grab my jacket, keys jangling in the pocket where I left them knowing I’d be sent on some mission today. I’m like Mom’s messenger/errand runner since I got the car. Next, out the door, into the car and pray to the car gods that the engine will start in the cold air. Yes! The engine turns over though not without its usual groaning that it has to wake up so early in the winter. Now for the trek out to Uncle Johnny’s.

It’s still a little dark, thanks to the cloud cover, and most people have left their Christmas lights on. I love seeing the multi-colored lights shining on the houses. It reminds me that hope is hard to kill, despite the fact that we all know someone’s dead. My little car trudges along the street with Christmas music playing fitfully from the radio. I only get one station and since the tape cassette player is broken, Christmas music it is. Besides, I don’t own any tape cassettes. Actually, the Christmas music doesn’t bother me and I’m merrily singing away with Jose Feliciano when I reach Uncle Johnny’s driveway. My tires leave that satisfying crunch sound as I turn onto the gravel and pull up to the house.

The first thing I notice is that Uncle Johnny’s Christmas lights are off. All of them. He owns about four acres and every Christmas he puts on a big Christmas light display for the town. Everyone brings their kids out to see it because he’s always doing something different every year, and he leaves them on all day every day. Today would be the only exception I’ve ever known. Maybe he just forgot or overslept, my mind rationalizes. I don’t even think it could be anything else. Still, I hesitate just a moment before walking up to the door.

I see the traditional Christmas candelabra in the front window, its electric candlelight sending a warm yellow glow out into the gloom. Seeing that on must mean Uncle Johnny is still in bed sleeping. So, I run up the porch steps and knock on the front door calling out as I do, “Uncle Johnny! It’s Mags. Mom sent me to come pick you up for lunch!” But my words trail off as the door creaks open under the force of my hand. Shit! This would be where the unsuspecting heroine of the horror movie finds herself in trouble. I don’t want to go in. I don’t want to go in.

I have to go in.

I push the door open and warily stick my head through the entrance. It’s much too quiet. Not even Uncle Johnny’s infamous snoring. Damn, damn, damn. I don’t have a cell phone because I bought a car instead, so I’ll have to go inside the house to use the landline phone. I take a deep breath. Okay, Mags. You can do this, I tell myself. I walk through the door trying not to let my eyes fall on anything specific. The phone is in the kitchen which is only accessible through the living room. Crap. I turn to my left and begin walking that way. So far, so good. Nothing out of the ordinary. The Christmas tree is up and the lights are on. Everything seems normal. Except it isn’t. Christmas music blaring and the smell of pancakes cooking should be assaulting my senses but they’re not. This does not bode well. I have a feeling I know what Uncle Johnny received for Christmas.

“Get to the phone, Mags. Just get to the phone. You can call mom and then dad can drive over and check things out himself.” I repeat this over and over as I walk through the living room to the kitchen. I get through the kitchen doorway and there’s Uncle Johnny sitting in his normal spot at the kitchen table, a surprised look frozen on his face. He’s been draped in tinsel and there’s a big red bow-the kind you put on cars-tied around his chest. There’s no blood anywhere, though. He’s simply frozen solid holding a piece of paper with a message on it. I don’t want to look but curiosity compels me forward to read the missive. It’s only three words long.

“Ho Ho Ho.”

 

Did I Just Compare Writing To Knitting? You Bet I Did!

I’ve been doing a lot of knitting lately. I’ve also been doing a lot of writing. With NaNoWriMo almost over I’ve been working hard to sit down and write every day. I haven’t always managed that but I’m much better than I was last year. Now what does knitting have to do with that? At first glance, not a thing. But, recently, it hit me that writing and knitting are quite a lot alike.

First, knitting and writing require patience and practice. You aren’t going to learn to knit the moment you pick up a ball of yarn and a pair of knitting needles. Neither are you going to automatically write a bestseller by picking up a pen and putting it to paper. Both require skills you have to learn, over and over again. Knowing how to hold a string and a needle in one hand and a second needle in the other while simultaneously wrapping that string around the second needle without dropping the first needle is not a natural or easy skill to learn. It takes time and a lot of patience. So, too, knowing how to put words and phrases together so that they make sense is not a natural skill, but a learned one. We are not born knowing how to speak. We have to learn through daily lessons (listening to those around us and mimicking those sounds) how a word means something and how a certain way of saying it makes it mean something else.

The more challenging the knitting or writing, the more experience you gain. As in knitting, writing requires you to challenge yourself. Once you learn the basics of knitting then you are able to challenge yourself by attempting a project, for instance, knitting a hat. This will teach you new skills that you do not know yet. Writing is the same. I participate in writing challenges throughout the year because they force me to think outside the box and push the parameters of my current knowledge. Sometimes I am forced outside of my comfort zone. Sometimes my insight and/or perspective changes. My writing reflects these experiences. Challenges push you and if you aren’t being pushed then you, and your writing, can stagnate. What good are your writing skills if you aren’t using them to learn new ones or explore new ideas and perspectives?

Knitting and writing create black holes. Think I’m kidding? I’ve been knitting for over fifteen years. When I’m working on a big project such as a sweater or a blanket (or a freaking Harry Potter scarf in which I begin singing “this is the scarf that never ends…yes, it goes on and on my friends. One day I started knitting never knowing what it was, and I’ll continue knitting it forever just because-you get the idea), I will reach a point where it all stays the same no matter how much or how long I knit. The project never gets bigger, never gets longer, it just STAYS.THE.SAME. This is the black hole of knitting. No matter how many stitches I knit, the project eats them for breakfast. Then chaotically spits them out at some random point in the future without any notice. This means that I am often over my intended length or width and my measurements are way off. Then I have to carefully, stitch by stitch, go back to where a place as close to my measurements as possible. It’s a pain the butt. During NaNo I have discovered this same effect. I have gotten behind more than a few times and I have caught back up but it felt as if it took forever. I would type and type and type and not get anywhere close to the word count I was trying to reach. Then, after hours of writing and typing and losing sleep, I went to look and realized (after lots of tears and caffeine) I had written over my goal. Fortunately, I didn’t have to go back and re-type since I’m not editing as I go, but still…it was a pain in the butt. Knitting and writing black holes are evil. Watch out for them.

Knitting and writing are cathartic processes. I’ve heard knitting called a Zen hobby. The idea being that its meditative and relaxing. Have you ever watched someone knitting? Let’s say they are knitting a lace shawl. Guys, this means they are making fabric with a lot of holes in it. Having knit a shawl I can tell you, there is nothing relaxing about it. One mistake means you might have to rip THE WHOLE THING OUT! Seriously. In fact, knitting is one of the least relaxing things I do. I’m having to constantly read the instructions and watch what I am doing so I don’t make a lot of mistakes. One oops! and hours of work has to be unraveled and remade. How is this cathartic? Well, actually, its not only cathartic but enjoyable. You see, while I’m knitting (and focusing on something other than the problem that drove me to pick up my knitting in the first place) I have to concentrate on what I’m doing which drives everything else out of my mind. My breathing calms and I am able to think more clearly, less emotionally. While I’m knitting, I begin thinking about other ways to handle/deal with whatever the problem is/was. Basically, I’m using a more productive solution to deal with my stress. Writing does the same, but in a different manner. When I take my emotions out in my writing, I create a more emotional piece. I write out my problems from a different viewpoint (or at least I try), or I write in a new character who I immediately destroy or harangue or plague with problems. Its much more constructive, less destructive, though Freud and Jung might question my sanity. It’s definitely more productive than letting the feelings sit and simmer and eat away at you.

In the end, with both knitting and writing, once all the edits are done, you realize YOU have made something incredible out of nothing. In knitting, the magic takes place after all the knitting is done and your project is put together and washed and dried. In writing, the magic is in the final edits. With knitting, you’ve taken some string and two sticks and created a wearable (usually) item that someone will love. With writing, you take something (words) out of nothing (air) and created something that can be held in two hands (or listened to if its in an audible version) that someone will love. Its an amazing, almost miraculous, thing, and while you may think anyone can do it, the truth is not everyone can. You can’t just pick up a pen and begin writing without basic skills, and some people just never develop those skills beyond simply fillout out forms and their signatures. And, oh, horrors! Some people do not have the inclination or desire to write a story! Good thing there are enough of us out there who do, and who want to learn and give voice to the stories that live inside our heads. And, fortunately for me and my family, my knitting knowledge might just save us during the next Ice Age because, you know, skills.

Happy (late) Monday!

Jesi

NaNo Week Two & Using Adversity In Your Writing

As you know, I am participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). We’re two weeks in now with two more weeks to go. By now, according to a daily word count calendar, I should have completed 25,000 words. I have not. But I am not that far behind, only a few thousand words. Completely doable. I am not out of the game yet. 

It’s not so much that I want to “win” NaNo because I could care less about that. I just want to see if I can reach that 50,000 word mark for myself. I haven’t written every day but I’m not skipping that many days. Some days I may not write more than 200 words while the very next day I come back and write over my daily goal. I have already surpassed my total for NaNo last year, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s a win already.

Currently, as I stated above, I am behind on my word count goal. There are events in my life that had to take precedence over the weekend, and they out me behind. I’d like to say these were normal every day things that just caused time to get away from me, but they were not. I’ve ridden an emotional rollercoaster several times in the last three days. This seriously hampered my desire to do anything but fall into bed and sleep until things straightened themselves out. So, writing became secondary. 

But, despite how I felt last night, I went to my bedroom where it was quiet and peaceful, grabbed my laptop, and began writing. I knew I was far behind where I wanted to be and I started to feel a little overwhelmed. After a brief Facebook writer support group meeting and a little encouragement, I calculated how many words I’d have to write over how many days and proceeded to type one word after another. It took a while to reach my new word count goal but reach it I did, and before midnight I looked at my word count total-21,000 words. It might not be 25,000 but I’m satisfied. Those words were well earned, and the writing was cathartic. 

One of the good things to come out of the dog-pile that was my weekend is all of the writing fodder. All of the emotional turmoil and fallout made for some excellent material to use in my book or in future books. My writing last night was very emotional and I think it will show later on. And in return I was able to look at what had happened through my character’s eyes. It allowed me to step back from my own perspective, view it through someone else’s, then let go of all of the stress caused by worrying over things.

Writing, even when I don’t particularly feel like it, is what I’ve learned this week. But if you persevere and just keep typing one word after another, even if they aren’t particularly good words, then you’ll reach your goal, whatever that may be.

Are you participating in NaNo, or even your own version of it? What have you learned and how is your writing going? Let me know below.

Jesi

What I’ve Learned During NaNo’s First Week

Happy Monday!

What? Too perky?

So Not Sorry. After a long weekend of feeling like someone skewered my insides while also having a house full of kids (and one of those gets sick, too), I deserve a little perky.

Plus, I have a grand total of 12,459 words in my NaNoWriMo word tally. That’s for one week of writing. By today I should have 15,000 words written and I will get it done. I’m not going to push myself into misery though, which is why I took yesterday off. It was a beautiful day and I had been up until 3 a.m. writing 4,000 words, I felt good after being sick for two days, and I decided I’d earned the break.

I’m learning a lot from this round of NaNo. I’ve figured out that if I give myself 20 minutes, and only 20, to socialize and distract myself from writing then I can actually focus on writing without being distracted because I spent my allotted time and have to earn more. It’s my reward system and it’s working for me. Next,  I’ve discovered that for the first hour I am pushing myself for words. This sucks because I might manage only 500 the first hour. However, once I get past that first hour and those 500 something amazing happens: the story takes over.

I’m serious. I’ve had a week of testing this theory. It’s like sitting down to do homework at first or reading a book someone tells you to read in a genre that you don’t normally read in. There’s pain. There’s whining. There’s wining. 😉 But after a while you realize that the book isn’t so bad or that you’re almost finished with all those thousands of math problems. Once I get past the mad toddler stage of that first hour I find that the words are flowing, the characters talking and telling me their part of the story, and I get lost in what I’m doing. So much so, that Saturday night I lost track of time and that’s when I looked at my word count and realized I’d gone over my daily goal. That’s happened quite a few times this week.

Another thing I’ve learned is to not focus on my word count. Because it’s insanity. I may be a lunatic poet but I’m not actually all that crazy. (Hush AJ.) At first I caught myself looking at my word count every ten minutes to see how close I was to my daily goal. It was a distraction in itself. So I tried to focus more on the writing, not the words. It’s helped but it is really tempting to look and keep track of those words. I’m now trying to just let it go. (Ok, Joe, stop it. If I have to hear that song one.more.time…)

Let’s talk about editing-as-you-go-now. One of our biggest problems, right? Not this time for me. I have somehow ignored all those little niggling impulses that say “go back and fix it now.” Nope. I am making all kinds of errors and just leaving them. I am info dumping. I am deliberately ignoring all the rules and liking it. I have chapters all over the place. I have scenes happening before other scenes. I have characters introduced that I will need to go back and create an introduction for. I have timeline issues. But it’s all good. I will go back after November, or when I’m finished writing, and sandpaper the hell out of it. That’s why its called a rough draft.

I’ve also developed an interesting little quirk. I like to knit, and with fall here and winter on its way I began knitting a scarf for one of my eldest son’s friends. (Its a Ravenclaw scarf, CJ. Thought you’d appreciate that note.) I’m almost done with it and have now begun knitting hats because they’re quick to make. Well, I’ve begun  keeping a hat in progress next to my laptop. Whenever I get stuck on what to write, I pick up the hat and knit until an idea comes to mind. There’s this idea that knitting creates a Zen-like mindset in the brain. I cannot corroborate that with any scientific facts but it does clear out all the minutiae and let’s me begin to focus on the problem at hand. Clearing my mind allows new to form and I can brainstorm while still being productive, which then allows my writing to be more productive as well. Plus, I love the yarn I’m working with right now. Its SOOOOFFFTTTT. So…writing and knitting, though not at the same time, an interesting but effective combination.

This week has definitely been worth the time I’ve invested in NaNo. Just learning more about my writing process, and how its evolved during the last two years, has been a gift in itself. I know I need to allow myself distractions and reward myself for a job done, even if it’s a small one. Knowing that I will be pushing myself for words the first hour or so allows me to know what to expect, and I will be developing a strategy to combat this problem as November goes on.

Week Two is here and I hope you’ve discovered things about your writing, and your writing process, that will help you as you go forward. And I would love to hear about it. Pipe up in the comments. Let’s see what ya got!

Jesi

It Has Begun

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNo for short, has begun. Yesterday to be precise. And I missed it. I had a family emergency sprout up that took the entire weekend to resolve and so I ended up without logging (even for my own benefit) any writing time.

But you know what? That’s ok. I’m not going to beat myself up over it. I’m not out to try and “win” NaNo. By that I mean that I’m not going to try and kill myself to make the 50k words in 30 days goal that defines NaNo. I will do my best to get close but pushing myself to frustration to be able to cut and paste a “I Won NaNo!” button on my home blog isn’t worth it. That’s not MY goal.

My goal is simple: to sit down and write something every day. I have one idea that is my NaNo project, but I have a few other projects that I would really like to work on and finish as well. So, I plan on writing a little on my NaNo Project, then working a little on another smaller project and getting it completed. No, that doesn’t follow the NaNo contest guidelines but so what? Isn’t the whole premise of NaNo to get you writing? What does it matter if it’s one new project or an older one? As long as you are writing every day and reaching whatever reasonable word count goal you have set for yourself, I don’t see that WHAT you write matters all that much.

So, what is my NaNo project? I am taking on and retelling King Lear. I was inspired this past September after I watched Sir Ian McKellen’s 2008 performance of Lear. His portrayal of the mad King sparked an idea that I ruminated on for at least a week before realizing I was prepping my story already. I had most of my characters and scenes began playing out in my head. All I had to do was write them down. That’s where NaNo comes in.

Thanks to NaNo I had to hold off on actually sitting down and writing the story. Because I had to wait to begin writing until November, I was forced to actually prep. I had some research to do (I still have research to do). There were character sketches I wanted to write out. And, horror of all horrors, I actually began outlining! A natural pantser (thanks to writing poetry…A LOT of poetry), I was outlining…in my head. I know. I can’t believe it either. But I did.

I don’t have all the mechanics worked out. But I have enough that it didn’t matter that I missed writing yesterday. As far as I’m concerned, all of my prepping (which includes writing about 500 words of a summary that could be a possible opening chapter) should count towards my first day work. I sat my butt down and wrote every day in October. Granted, it was for a poetry challenge but I still sat down and wrote. I also did lots of reading, on my subject and off it. I planned, I plotted, I wrote. (Google Translate says that is: “Aluero, confirmaro insidiatus scripsi” in Latin.) As far as I’m concerned, I have made a great start. And let’s face it, we’re going to need all the little bits of encouragement and support as November marches on and NaNo becomes a pain in the butt to get through.

So, a few tips.

  1. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t make your daily word count. Some days you are going to have a word count euphoria while others you might manage two words.
  2. Take breaks. Get up and walk around. Go for a walk outside if it’s nice. Make a cup of coffee or tea. But take a break. Get your mind off of writing for a bit. It will help if you come back to your writing with a fresh mind.
  3. Reward yourself, even for small goals. Basically, be your own cheerleader. Do something kind for yourself like having a piece of chocolate (or your preferred delectable treat) or watching a movie (see tip #2).
  4. Ignore all your natural inclinations to surf the web and social media sites. Set your phone to vibrate or turn it off completely if it’s a big distraction. It’s a proven non-scientific fact that once you sit down in front of your computer to write you find a hundred other things to do instead of actually writing. So, put on the blinders and turn off the distractions.
  5. Remember that “winning” NaNo is NOT the goal. Writing every day is.

NaNo is a good exercise in dedication. It’s helpful in that it forces you to try and make a habit out of writing every day. And if you are sincere and determined to be a writer, then writing every day is not just a necessity, it’s your writing oxygen. Even the great writers knew it. Practice makes perfect isn’t just an adage, it’s a well-known fact of every craft.

Here’s to hoping you’ve made a great start to NaNo! Happy writing this week!

Jesi

The 5W’s and a Pile of Poo

[Reblogged from Writer B Is Me] (Read this post recently from Beth Teliho, author of Order of Seven, and loved what she had to say, especially since NaNoWriMo is about to begin. Some language does ensue but we’re all adults here. Right?)

I thought this might be a timely post with Nanowrimo on the horizon, but also because I know quite a few talented writers who aspire to publish (you know who you are!) but they haven’t started yet because it’s scary as hell. Fear of not being perfect freezes them. They choke at their keyboards, unable to let the ideas sprinkle through their fingertips.

I know exactly what the voices in their heads are saying: What if I fail?

I know because I thought those same things. So I ask you, what is your definition of failure? And regardless of your definition, wouldn’t you automatically fail if you never tried?

fly

The most freeing thing I’ve ever heard in regards to writing is give yourself permission to suck.

You’re not going to have a first draft that’s gold and ready for print, whether you cranked it out for Nano or worked three years to get it done. It doesn’t work like that. All professional writers go through dozens of drafts with the skilled guidance of their editor(s) before they’re ready to publish.

When you first start to write out your ideas, it’ll be shit at best. And that’s perfect. That’s all it needs to be. That shit will be the compost for your beautiful garden.

You need it. You need all the shit.

My current work in progress is a steaming pile of ….you guessed it. To me, this is a sign of success. This is how I know I’m creating something. I know flowers are on the way because I’m preparing the soil.

When I first realized I was going to do this thing – this crazy writer thing, my immediate emotion was overwhelm. But I don’t know how to find an editor. I don’t know how to publish a book. WHAT’S A QUERY LETTER? I have to build a platform? WTF?! I don’t know the right title/cover/genre. Should I self-publish or go traditional? *breathes into paper bag* 

So I took baby steps. I figured I’d learn all the aspects when I NEEDED to know them, not before. First, I needed a full manuscript, which meant I needed to figure out the ending. Once I did that, I moved on to beta readers, and rewrites based on their feedback. Then the next step, and so on, and so on.

Bottom line: I stopped worrying about the tasks that weren’t due today.

One. Thing. At. A. Time.

Let’s talk about editing. The most difficult aspect of creating for me is writing without micromanaging. Turning my inner editor off is TOUGH. It takes practice (precisely why nanowrimo is so useful). But if I don’t do it, I spend too much time toiling over sentences that may not even make the final cut. Waste – of – time. You have to do a word pile – just get all your thoughts and ideas on the page. Don’t obsess over grammar, or perfect chapter titles, or loose plot lines, or fully developed characters, or what if my dad/aunt/mom/grandma reads this?!

Block the negative thoughts out and replace them with: I am going to write exactly what’s in my head, and it’s going to be utter crap that no one will ever lay eyes on.

Sounds crazy, right? Yep – just crazy and freeing enough to work, trust me. Get your story on paper. That’s all. Get a beginning, middle, and end. Write FREE. Be unapologetically Brazen. Cocky, even.

Be the stealth-badass-ninja-writer you were born to be.

leap 2

Another toxic-time-suck-sewer-ass-sludge-writer-slayer  unproductive behavior is comparison. But Stephen King writes 2,500 words a day, and cranks out at least a book a year. I heard Joe Schmo wrote a best seller in 6 months during his train commute to/from work. What about so-n-so, she wrote for years and never made a dime. BLAH BLAH BLAH

So What? Their writing journey is not yours. Their stories are not yours. YOU will have your own unique journey. YOU will write something no one else can, in a way only you can write it, and it will take as long as it takes. It will be a success for no other reason than because You Fucking Did It. You can’t write your way into your own journey if you’re obsessing on the journey of others.

RECAP of the 5 W’s:
1. Write that shitty first draft
2. Worry only about what’s due today
3. Write FREE of inner editors
4. Write with fearless-ninja-take-no-prisoners badassery
5. Weave your own writing story

#amwriting

I sincerely hope you are too. Can’t wait to see your beautiful garden.

((To read my award-winning badassery, click this> Order of Seven.))

order of seven

Drawing Your Reader Into Your Story

I apologize for my extreme tardiness. I had an overly busy weekend that seems to have extended itself into today. So, this is going to be short.

Yesterday, in my Critique Group, we reviewed a short work that was an assignment the author (AJ) was given. She was given a choice of a picture, song, or poem, and told to write what she saw. It was a “show, don’t tell” assignment. AJ chose a picture which happened to be Judith Beheading Holofernes by Caravaggio, and the story she wrote from that had me captivated and intrigued.

The main thought that kept circling in my head was how excellent an exercise this was for writers. Especially for beginners. One of the biggest problems I’ve had in my writing is the tendency to write exactly what I see in my head. Most of the time this is fine. However, I forget that I’m seeing a scene in my head that I’m trying to describe to an audience and I want to bring that audience into the scene with me. That means showing them by using descriptors and metaphors that put them there, not giving them stage directions, that will bore them and make them not want to know more. It’s not enough to know it’s raining; they need to feel the rain as well.

The exercise AJ had to do was such a great way to practice this technique. It forced her to bring her reader into the picture, which she did very well. Another way of accomplishing this would be to write for 30 minutes about where you are right this very moment. Are you sitting down at a desk like I am? Are you in a park? Describe in detail what is going on around you, such as the noises, the scents, etc. Use your five senses and bring me to where you are. Show me, don’t tell me.

This works for poetry as well. Last week for the poetry challenge I am doing I was supposed to write a poem about risk taking. Instead, I wrote about a dream I had the night before which continued to haunt me throughout the day. So, I wrote a poem about that instead. You tell me, did I bring you into my dream or not?

You Were Not There

By Jesi Scott

 

Last night, I had a dream about you,

But you were not there.

I know it was you I dreamed about because

I felt you all around…

But you were not there.

I walked the rooms you had walked in,

Placing my steps in the same places you did.

I sat in the chairs you sat in

Imagining you reading into the depths of the night.

I laid my body on the couch in just the same spot,

In just the same way, that you did

Only…

The cushions had forgotten your shape

And so, I could not feel your body next to mine.

The chairs were hard and cold,

And did not retain the memory of you in them.

The floors had erased your footprints.

You were not there.

Yet…

When I looked I noticed the relics of your presence:

Old, worn shoes left by the front door

Waiting for you to put them on again,

The book you turned upside down on the last page you had read

Waiting for the caress of your hand on its pages,

The cup you left by the sink, unrinsed,

Waiting for the softness of your lips pressed against its rim-

All of us waiting for your return.

Yet I could not wait forever so I turned away

and opened my eyes eager to see your face…

But you weren’t there.

 

And I am left,

Bereft.

 

Personally, I think it could use some editing. I could have described the couch more or maybe I could have mentioned the table that the book was lying on. What about adding a clock ticking somewhere? Or did I manage to pull you into the poem by not showing you everything? Showing can mean a little or a lot, and part of our job as a writer is to know when just enough is good enough. Too much can take away from the overall scene by being too descriptive, and too little can leave a reader trying to figure out what’s going on.

Try it for yourself. Find a picture that captures your interest and write to show, not tell, and bring your audience into it.

Have a great week!

Jesi