Category Archives: Creative Writing

Thankful

As impossible as it seems to me, it’s already that time of year to celebrate Thanksgiving here in the U.S. Christmas will be soon around the corner, but as my children actually like to point out whenever they see Christmas displays already showing up at stores and on the street – you can’t just skip right over Thanksgiving. And for me, taking the time to be thankful is just as important as the turkey and dressing and time off work and school with family and friends.

I am blessed with a great many things in my life, family being at the top of my list, but since this is a blog that always comes back to writing (and reading sometimes too), I’d like to share some things I am thankful for in my writing life. Maybe some of these things are shared by others as well? Please feel free to share with me in the comments which ones we share and also the ones I may have missed. And since I won’t be posting on Thursday, let me take this chance to wish you and yours the happiest of Thanksgivings. 🙂

In My Writing Life I Am Thankful For:

1) Fellow Writers – Meeting other writers, whether through writer’s groups or online, has helped me tremendously. I have learned from others through their stories and blogs and critique of my work. I have enjoyed sharing the twisted writer side of myself that thinks of new characters watching people at the park or dreams up new dialogue while waiting in line at the grocery store. It helps to know I am not alone in in getting lost in thought that way. It is also comforting knowing that I’m not alone in my doubts and second-guessing myself. Fellow writers help in so many ways and I am thankful.

2) Office Supplies – Am I the only writer nerd who loves to pick up new notebooks or pens or pencils or Post-its or dry erase boards or who knows what else because I know I may fill those notebooks or Post-its or whatever it may be with ideas or even snippets of my next work in progress? There’s so much potential in an empty notebook. There’s so much possibility in a blank page or new ink or a stack of index cards. It may be silly, but I am thankful for office supplies.

3) Time to Write – It doesn’t always come easily or often, but when I am lucky enough to make the time to write, it is something for which I am always tremendously grateful.

4) Inspiration – I find inspiration in many places, at odd times and sometimes even in dreams, but always I am grateful that inspiration has been found. It is a gift to stumble upon an idea or feel a story start to take on a life. I am thankful to see with a writer’s eye all the possibilities that lie beyond what is on the surface.

5) The Work – I am thankful for the feeling of having written. I feel grateful for the creative outlet that sitting down to write allows in my life. I like having the need to put words down on the page. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to pursue a dream of writing and I am grateful each time I work to make that dream reality.

 

You’re Not Alone

November is quickly approaching and for some brave souls that means NaNoWriMo (50,000 words in 30 days). Perhaps I will include myself in that group, if I can muster up a bit more bravery.

For many, October has therefore been all about NaNo Prep work. For those out there who are giving this a go and perhaps having a little trouble, I’ll tell you this much: you are not alone.

You are not alone if you have spent more time coming up with reasons why you can’t do NaNoWriMo than reasons why you can.

I fight off the instinct to list the many obstacles to actually getting 50,000 words written in the month of November. It is easy to see the difficulty of committing to such a significant word count goal. Sticking to a commitment to write with a specific goal in mind truly will be worth the difficulty however so I have to move past the excuses and keep looking at the reasons.

You are not alone if you’ve spent more time reading articles on the best way to prep for NaNoWriMo than actually prepping for NaNo.

Fortunately there are some excellent resources available, both through the NaNoWriMo site and through all sorts of other sites as well. However it is very easy to spend much more time reading about prepping than in actual prep work. I’ve begun limiting the exploration of ideas and just applying what I’ve already found.

You’re not alone if you struggle against the plotting nature of NaNo Prep since you tend to be a full time “pantser”.

I have never done an outline prior to writing, so this is a big step for me. I’ve played with completing character sketches that are much more detailed than I’ve tried in the past. I’ve also worked on a plot summary more detailed than previously done on work I let come freely (but a bit more haphazardly).

You’re not alone if you are not nearly as ready as you should be.

I am quite sure I could be doing more to get ready and if I do this again next year (heck if I make it through this year! Haha), I will definitely learn other things I coulda, shoulda, woulda done differently. Live and learn is, I suppose, the only way to handle it at this point.

How is your writing or writing prep (or thinking about writing or prepping for writing) going? Do you feel alone in your struggles sometimes? Does it help to know we all have our struggles? Feel free to share with me about NaNoPrep struggles/victories or any of your current challenges. I would guess whatever it is you may be struggling with (or succeeding at), you are not alone. 🙂

Thanks for reading and have a good week!

~CJS

 

Dreams with Deadlines

“Goals are dreams with Deadlines” – Diana Scharf Hunt

Do you ever wonder what life would be without dreams or goals? Would we just float along aimlessly, with no real gumption to move forward in life? It sounds boring.

Goals can be mundane, for example, like planning to make it to a destination on time for once. Or they can be a major plotting point in your life, like becoming a successful author.

One of my major writing assignments, due today actually, for one of my classes was to write an essay on my Life Goals. This included a three year, five year, and a ten year goal that I had to set out for myself. These things could not be something like getting married (though, check), or having children (again, check), but more like goals that I could accomplish on my own by pushing myself to reach them and not relying on another individual to succeed.

This sounds easy enough, but it wasn’t. Writing is a big part of my future, and I share my goals for writing every time that I make it to a writer’s meeting. It was difficult for me to come up with three attainable but meaningful goals and then write a paper explaining how I plan on reaching these said goals.

Writing this paper was horrible, not because I couldn’t do it, but because it had me hanging my head in shame. I am so swamped with trying to keep my head afloat that I am not getting the one thing done needed to reach my ultimate goal. Write! I mean, I am writing, but I am not getting to really write the fun stuff right now. Oh, I write. Essay’s upon essay’s! (If I never have to analyze another topic again, I wont be saddened.)

I need to write for fun for any of this to be worth it. This being school, blogging, and meetings.

At the beginning of next month is the start of NaNoWriMo (50,000 words in 30 days), I know that Jesi and CJ are already signed up to do it and have been planning profusely. I keep telling myself that I don’t have the time, and I really don’t, but I need something fun to get me back in the swing of writing for pleasure and not just for a grade.

 I guess I just added another dream with a deadline to my list .

So what goals do you have set for yourself? How are you going to achieve them? Let us know down in the comments, we’d love to hear from you.

Till next time,
~AJP

A New Twilight?

This past week, Stephanie Meyer, the best-selling author of the teen vampire series, Twilight, upon which the blockbuster movies were based, made a big announcement.

With the 10 year anniversary of the first Twilight books’ publication, Meyer has announced a new Twilight book, Life and Death – A Twilight Re-Imagining sold in conjunction with the 10th anniversary edition . Well, it’s not really *new*, it’s a new version of the first book.

This release is not like her unreleased and incomplete version that was leaked and then given for free on her site at one point, Midnight Sun, which was told from Edward’s POV. The new re-telling is the same story with – wait for it- gender swapped characters! (Cue eye roll).

In this new book, Meyer now has the teenage vampire as a female character and the love struck human as a male. Instead of Bella, we have a Beau. Instead of Edward, we have Edythe. Other characters are also gender swapped, like Carlyle, but the story is the same.

Meyer has said that this “new book” is not really a new book and she views it as more like “bonus material”, however new book or not, it will get a lot of sales I would imagine, given the series success.

Here I will admit I enjoyed the Twilight books. I know, the writing wasn’t good. I know she totally ignored the vampire tropes and gave the world the sparkling vegatarian vampire. (Cringe) I know the female lead isn’t the strong character I prefer to read about and see portrayed in film. I know. But I enjoyed them. Yes, part of this had to do with liking the British actor who portrayed Edward in the movies. (I love the Brits okay?) It absolutely had to do with the fun of the first movie and the great soundtrack. For all of the books’ (and movies’) faults, I enjoyed them. Chalk it up to guilty pleasures if you must. I’m coming clean here. I liked Twilight. Judge me all you want. 😉

Having admitted to that, I can tell you I think it is absolutely ludicrous to re-tell the same story with changes. I’ve seen her defense that it’s a response to the harsh critisism she’s faced with her ‘damsel in distress’ main character. I think the flaws with Bella go beyond a simple gender swap to play with the weakness not being female. If she wants to respond to giving us a weak female character, she should write something entirely new with a kick-ass female lead.

If she wanted to capitalize on her well-loved existing series, she could take one of her other characters in the world she has already created and explore her story. Alice was a cool and capable character that she could make the heroine in a new series. It could still be in the same world people are already plugged into and could be either before Bella or after Bella.

She hasn’t done that with this new “book/bonus material”, so I have no interest in reading it. I hope for her that she gives her audience a better option in the future. Better yet, perhaps all the readers who fell in love with Twilight can continue enjoying all the great books that have been published since in the same young adult category that are really worth the read. Susanne Collins’ Hunger Games series is fantastic and has a kick-ass female lead. Marie Lu’s Legend series is a great read. Ally Condie’s Matched series is also great and her prose is beautiful. Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices Series are both captivating. (The Infernal Devices series was my personal favorite between those two series, by far.) I also enjoyed the very popular Divergent series but didn’t like the writing as much as others. The YA audience has a wealth of strong options to choose from, so I would say, let’s just skip this “new” Twilight book and look nearby on the shelves for another instead. 😀

What do you think? (Amanda and AJ you don’t get to chide me for my Twilight guilty pleasure! 😉 ) Is a re-tooling of an existing story ever a good idea? Does her gender swap accomplish anything? Should successful series ever be re-visited? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. (No, Amanda, nothing about the Twi-Hatred you may have haha).

Thanks for reading. Have a great week!

~CJS

The Write Stuff

If you’ve tuned in lately to all our Twisted Writer posts, you may have noticed an inadvertent recurring theme cropping up in some of our posts. We all seem to be touching on challenges writers including ourselves can be (or are) battling against. You’ve seen “Writer’s Angst” from Joe; “Getting Back into the Swing of Things” by Amanda; “The Hardest Part of Being a Writer” by Jesi and now you have me chiming in here with this post which touches a bit on all of those topics.

This week I posted on my personal blog about how in the last few months I have really been out of it with my writing, my blogging, my Twitter, my writing group attendance and well, pretty much anything besides work, back to school, and the new football season for my oldest. Despite getting off track, I am fortunate to have people around me who can help remind me of where I want to be and/or kick me in the behind to help me get back on track.

At this week’s critique group, our Fearless Leader prompted all of us to share our goals. I haven’t really been thinking about or following any real goals for my writing lately. No wonder I am so off my game! Without setting some clear goals and then following through with achieving them, how do I expect to ever have any success with my writing? Have I just been thinking if I kept ignoring the writing that I would just magically have a finished novel?

Sadly there is no  magic shortcut to getting to something I am proud to have written. To get where I want to go, I need to force myself to set some solid goals along with an action plans go with them.

I imagine I am not the only one out there who has reached a snag like this before. Maybe you are there too. Maybe you got mired down in the muck of a difficult work in progress and let things slide like I have. Maybe you have been busy and overwhelmed like I have been. Maybe you just fell out of the good habits like I have done. Whatever the case may be, the good news is that it isn’t too late to get back on track. It’s not too late to get back in the swing of things. It’s not too late to tackle our writer’s angst. It’s not too late to do that hardest thing about writing and just show up. It’s not too late to show that we have the “write stuff”. 😉

I will keep you posted on my progress. Please feel free to let me know where you are at, if you are struggling too, or how you have managed to get past the times you get off track. I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Thanks and have a great week!

~CJS

Brings Back Memories

My family and I just recently tried a local restaurant, Babes, famous in the area for down-home fried chicken and all the fixins served family style in a really homey setting. As soon as we walked in, the smell alone brought back memories of meals shared at my grandmother and grandfather’s house. The food was pretty yummy, but couldn’t quite compare of course to what I had growing up.

It is just remarkable how the smell or taste or sound or sight or feel of something can carry such a powerful memory. The smell of the food took me back to sitting in the kitchen while my grandmother fried chicken. I could have been sitting at the small table next to my Paw-Paw cutting up small bites of potatoes to boil and cream to go with the chicken, which by the way we always snuck a few bites of the raw potato when my grandmother wasn’t looking.  Did anyone else ever do that?  I could see the tomatoes fresh from the garden sitting on the shelf behind the kitchen sink that we might cut up to go with dinner or just sneak a bite of as a snack while we were waiting. I could hear the pop of the grease as my grandmother would put a new piece of chicken into the pan. I was back in those moments with just the little smell of the food at the restaurant.

When I write I have to be careful to remember details like the tomatoes on the shelf, or the kitchen sink facing a window that looks out to the garden, or the process of cutting up the potatoes. I don’t want to get lost in the details, but those type of little sensory details can help paint a much larger picture in a simple way that the reader may later color in with their own memories.

I could also fill in a character’s backstory with what he/she may remember based on a certain taste or smell or other sensory detail. Does the character deal with grief by listening to a song that he used to listen to with his wife? Does the character buy the house that is the setting for our story because the yard makes him think of the one he had growing up? Does the character hate the taste of beans because that’s all she ate growing up since beans and rice was all they could afford? Sensory triggers could be a starting point for a whole character sketch.

A solid go-to writing prompt can be taking one of the five senses and throwing it at your character. What is my character smelling in this scene? How does that smell affect her? Does the smell make her think of anything? It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it could be. How might your character react to the taste of a dish offered to him? And why? Does your villain try to torment your character with the sound of a certain song? Why might that impact your character?

For me, I am going to think some more about the beauty of the simple moments like sitting in my grandparent’s kitchen and wish I could somehow take a time travel moment back in time to be with them again. Perhaps someday I will write about that. 😉

What sensory details always trigger memories for you? Is there a certain smell or taste that takes you back? Have you ever read something that really did a good job capturing a sensory detail? Do you try to include these details in your writing? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. 🙂

Thanks for stopping by. Have a great week!

 

~CJ

A Creator of Words

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to Live.” – Albus Dumbledore

  

This past weekend, I skipped my writer’s group meeting so that my husband and I could take our kids to see a showing of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in theatres. I know, I know, skipping a writing meeting is generally unheard of.

But… Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was showing in the theatre. That hasn’t happened since 2001!

Now, my kids have grown up with a mother who absolutely loves all things Harry Potter, so this was not the first time that they have seen this movie. Nor was it the second, third, fourth, or… you get the idea. But it was the first time they were able to experience it on the big screen.

And they were amazed.

The first time I saw this movie was the weekend that it was released. My husband (then fiancé) and I were joining part of my family for a movie night, and at the time this was the only interesting kid friendly movie showing. I had never heard of this Harry Potter and his magical world and just needed something that my (under ten) siblings could agree on. They are now in their 20’s and probably do not even remember going. Later that same weekend, I drug my mother and another younger sibling to see it. After that, the rest was history.

We immediately went out and purchased the first book. As in the next day. A few days later, we bought the second. And so on. The movie had been spectacular, but the books were/are better. By the time the series was fully released, I had babies of my own. My son has his own collection of the books and the movies, and I have a collection of the books saved for my daughter for when she is able to read them on her own.

Now, I am sure there is someone out there that didn’t care for the series, but I haven’t met them yet. As I am also aware that there are plenty of people who liked the series, read them, even watched the movies and that was that. It was just another book/movie for them.  I have read or listened on audio to the series more times than I care to share with you.

Everyone is different. There are those who fall back on Shakespeare, Austen, Fitzgerald, Tolkien; there is a creator of words out there for anyone and everyone. You just have to be willing to find who speaks the loudest to you. Me, I’m just a Rowling girl.

One day, one of us might become one of those authors for someone. One never knows.

Who/what speaks the loudest to you? Let me know down in the comments, I’d love to hear from you.

Till next time,

~AJP

Writing to Come Alive

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because  what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman

I saw this quote this week and just loved it. “Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that.” It seems simple enough, but how many of us find a way to do this?

For me, there are quite a few things that really make me come to life. My family, of course, is my life in many ways, and in moments with my family I come alive. Traveling has also always made me come alive and I know this is something I would love to do more often. But one of the things that has always consistently allowed me to come alive has been writing.

Whether I am re-tooling a current work in progress, or creating something entirely new, writing helps me come alive. Whether the work is poetry, or prose, or even a new blog post, writing helps me come alive. Whether I write for five minutes or several hours, writing helps me come alive. Whether the writing is good or downright awful, writing helps me come alive.

I imagine I am not the only one who has felt this way. If you are a writer, I suspect putting pen to paper has a similiar effect for you as well. I’ve seen quotes from writers that lead me to believe they have felt the same as well. Here are some of my favorites.

Gloria Steinem:

Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.

Russell T. Davies:

“Writing isn’t a job that stops at six-thirty…It’s a mad, sexy, sad, scary, ruthless, joyful and utterly, utterly personal thing. There’s not the writer and then me. There’s just me. All of my life connects to the writing. All of it.”

Anne Frank

I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.

Neil Gaiman

“Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days nothing else matters.”

(And one more because I can’t resist and love it so much.)

William Wordsworth

Fill the paper with the breathings of your heart.”

Can you think of something in your life that makes you come alive? Is it writing, like those of us “Twisted Writers” who share our writing adventures and thoughts with you here? Or is it something else? Painting? Yoga? Music? Monster Truck Rallies? 🙂 Feel free to share with me in the comments.

Thanks for stopping by and have a great week!

~CJS

Bless her heart

I was listening to the radio today after dropping off my kids at school and heard the DJs relating a celebrity blunder followed by a “bless her heart” filled commentary. If you live in Texas (or in lots of places in the South I imagine), you have probably heard this phrase more than a time or two. And you’ve probably said it. “Oh, bless her heart.”

“Bless her heart!” (or his heart, their hearts, etc) crops up a lot when someone has said or done something we think is kinda dumb, like that crazy friend who can’t resist saying every thought that comes into her head, however foolish. You might just shake your head and say, “She told that police officer she was only speeding because she was late, bless her heart.” Or you might hear what your brother told his wife during a fight and say “Bless his heart” since you know he isn’t getting out of that doghouse anytime soon.

Of course, saying “Oh, Bless Their Hearts” isn’t limited to doing or saying something not so smart. In truth it can be used to cover all manner of sins or to avoid revealing how you really feel. I’m not a hater, but there is plenty of hating over the Twilight star, Kristen Stewart. I’ve described to my oldest son a reason I have heard for why people don’t like her. She only has one expression, bless her heart. When Grandma tells the same story for the hundredth time, but you smile and nod anyway, you might tell you sister about it later. “She told the spaghetti and meatballs story again, bless her heart.” When I heard what happened to Jimmy Fallon (his ring evulsion accident – beware if you google that), I felt awful for him. “Bless His Heart” that he is having to go through that but also for having to explain that it happened tripping on his rug.

You get the point, blessing someone’s heart is a thing.  What does that have to do with writing you might ask?  I started thinking about how common the saying can be, but also why it comes up. We are all flawed. We are human so we all make mistakes. Our characters should have some “Bless his heart” moments.

Maybe our characters accidentally say or do something kinda stupid. Maybe they witness other characters having a “Bless Their Hearts” moment. Perhaps the blunder causes the conflict. Maybe a leading man’s “Bless his heart” moment makes him more relatable to the reader or to others in the story.

I would issue a word of caution in using these moments too often or in too big a way because we wouldn’t want to make our character “too dumb to live” as our fearless leader, Amanda, might say. We need to know the character has some sense enough to make it interesting and believable.

A fun writing prompt might be to create a scene where your main character or a side character or a new character experiences of “Bless his heart” moment. It should be fun to play around with and maybe will lead to something you can use!

Have you written a “Bless her heart” moment for one of your characters? What was the purpose? Plot? Humor? Relatability? Or do you just say this all the time and want to share a time you used it? Please feel free to share in the comments.

Thanks for reading & have a great week. 🙂

~CJS

Writing What You Would Want To Read

The most important thing is you can’t write what you wouldn’t read for pleasure. – Nora Roberts

 

Happy belated Labor Day. Hopefully everyone had a great holiday. I did really enjoy having a little time off, but I also made myself tackle a chore I had long been putting off. I began cleaning out my office. Sadly my office has become something like the junk drawer of rooms in my house. It was filled with boxes of random things we have no other place for and which we told ourselves we will get to sorting eventually.

“Eventually” happened to be most of my Saturday and Sunday. While sorting through the madness, I stumbled upon several of my old notebooks where I had brainstormed several stories and part of a book. It was very cool to look at some beginnings to work that now has become more fleshed out, but also to see others I had forgotten about years ago.

One thing I noticed was that almost all of them had the same basic theme. They all had a romantic storyline of some sort. For a minute I was thinking how unoriginal I seemed, but then considered how that is what I like to read, so why shouldn’t I be writing that?

The Nora Roberts quote at the beginning of this post about writing what you would enjoy reading may seem obvious, but I know I am not the only one who has had a friend try to write a book unlike something they read just because they think that genre will make money. While pushing yourself to try new things may be good at times, making sure that you not only read but respect the genre you are trying to write is essential to the success of writing in the genre.

I’ve know people to try to write YA (young adult) because that is what was selling or another person who wanted to write romance since that would make more money than the genre he was writing. I support taking advantage of a chance to expand your range and hey, we all would like a little extra money I assume, but to do so without respect for the type of book you say you want to write is a quick path to failure.

Do we have to love everything about the genre? No. I love romance but do not always love the cliches that can crop up at times. Of course there are examples where few, if any, of these cliches occur, just as there are others that are so full of them you couldn’t possibly finish reading them. But there are still so many other things about the genre that I truly enjoy so I will always find myself drifting back for fun reading.

On the other hand, I am a big chicken who loves Stephen King for his book On Writing and for fun pop culture commentary, but cannot possibly bring myself to read his horror novels. I don’t go to horror movies ( though there is one I am going to give a try because it has my fangirl favorite as the lead actor ). I don’t like scary TV shows or video games. So basically just no scary anything, right? Right! I could challenge myself to write horror, but I would have to make myself read some in the genre and learn what horror usually offers before I could do a credible job writing a true horror novel/story. Knowing me, I would write a romantic story line with a scary moment and try to call it horror. My attempt at horror might be the true horror. 😉

We’ve all heard the advice to write what you know, but I would also add in that we should write what we have read and enjoy reading.  The reader will know. Readers are smart and they have more than enough to choose from out there to stick with a book that doesn’t seem to be written by someone who likes what they are writing.

What do you think? Have you ever tried to write something outside of what you would read for fun? How did it go? Was it difficult? Was it successful? Or do you, like me, seem to keep going back to what you would read? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Thanks for stopping by! Have a great week. 🙂

~CJS