On the Writing Front

For the most part January’s been an uneventful month. I’m not complaining. In fact, I’m enjoying the quiet to some degree, although the quiet can sometimes keep me awake at night.

Every once in awhile I can’t stop thinking about the story I’m working on when I go to bed. It’s often at night that some new insight will strike me, and I suddenly know what needs to be done or what has been missing. Knowing the story I’m writing isn’t always enough to keep me writing through to the end. Sometimes I get bored by my own words or else sense that something isn’t quite right, but don’t always know just what that “something” is. So I end up lying awake. Thinking. There are worse things.

I’ve been experiencing some discontentment with my present WIP. I know the writing I’ve known it from the start, but knowing exactly how to tell it has been a bit of a stickler for me. But then something clicked the other night  as I was lying in bed and I figured out what was wrong. Yay me! So now it’s just a matter of whipping it up! Wrong. It’ll still take me sometime to do that, but at least I now know what wasn’t quite right.

I’ve experienced something similar when I first finished writing “To Fly With a Broken Wing.” I had that feeling that something didn’t quite feel right yet I’d convinced myself it was the only way the story could be told. I couldn’t see how it would be possible to write certain parts through the POV of a visually impaired girl since, well, her impairment would prevent her from seeing what was going on. So, I originally wrote some parts in first and third person. (I used third and first when I wrote Bitter, Sweet.)

So while I was flirting with the idea that my novel was complete, I was still having second thoughts about this POV issue. Finally, I decided I was just being silly about it, the novel was written and I was ready to send it to my editor. All that it needed was to be printed off and mailed in. The rest was out of my hands.

Funny, how we don’t always have a choice in things, and what we think will happen ends up happening in a totally different way. Before I had the chance to send my manuscript off I awoke one morning with this thought in my head, “Write it all in first person.”

But I’d ruled this out earlier. My main character is visually impaired, remember. Still, I couldn’t ignore a thought that was so crystal clear mere seconds after awakening could I? I spent the day considering if this was possible. How then would I make it work? I’ve got to tell you I don’t often get these jabs from the Universe, but as the day wore I decided that instead of wondering how I would do it, I would just do it. I would make the scene where Cammie describes what’s going on at a distance work. So yes, I figured it out. And you know what? It wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be.

Often times, I think, we hold the answers to our questions inside us. And for that reason, I like those times just before sleep arrives or immediately when I wake up. I believe when we’re most relaxed that thoughts come to us more freely if we stay open to the answers to our questions.

Have you ever experienced a time when a new insight came to you just before drifting off to sleep or immediately upon waking?

 

Tweetless in Dalhousie

When it comes to twitter I’ve yet to understand what all the fuss is about. That could have something to do with the fact that I haven’t tweeted in months or my oh-so-slow dial-up connection that I’m helpless to do anything about. (No pity please it’s just one of the fallbacks from living in rural Nova Scotia)Tying up your phone line while you tweet your little heart out is annoying to those who actually want to speak to you in person. Just ask my kids. Not to mention you spend ridiculous amounts of time waiting for these sites to load.

Let me be honest: maybe I don’t understand what’s so fabulously great about twitter because I’m the lamest tweeter on the planet. Oh, yeah, I’ve thought about that a time or two.

But wait, I can’t be THAT bad. Twitter’s been trying to reel me back in for months now with little messages that arrive in my inbox. @_____________just retweeted @____________. I also get lists of people who are simply tweeting. So thanks, twitter, for pointing out the obvious. You’re twitter. People tweet. I get that. It’s how it was meant to be. Not to be mean twitter, but I’m not really interested in missed tweets—not to be confused by those who are mistweeted because mistweeting others is definitely NOT cool. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!)

On the other side of the coin, with the little bit I’ve been on twitter in the past, I’ve actually met some pretty cool people. Some of them have gone on to become facebook friends. Imagine the potential if I was tweeting on a regular basis! I know people who absolutely LOVE twitter. When they’re home they stayed signed in all the time. The moment something happens they’re letting the rest of the world know.

I sometimes think I spent too much time in the world of make-believe. I’ve committed to spend more time writing this year in an attempt to increase my productivity. Right now that seems to be where I need to put my time. Some people seem able to do it all–tweet, blog, facebook all while churning out spectacular novels. Sometimes I wish I was one of those people, but I’m not. I’d have to stay up around the clock in order to keep up. There are SO many online sites these days, I’m simply not able to keep up with them all. But I’m not going to lose any sleep over it. That just wouldn’t make sense.

I’ve got to be honest though; those little reminders from twitter might actually be working. I’ve been thinking of logging in just to see what’s up. That doesn’t mean I’ll sacrifice my writing time. Maybe it’s a matter of finding the right balance if in fact that “right balance” even exists, but for right now you can be sure I’m still tweetless in Dalhousie.

Are you regularly on twitter? If you’re a writer do you find it a struggle to find the right balance between social media sites and writing? Or like me, are you tweetless for the time being?

Finding the Piece to the Puzzle

Although it may seems as though I’ve been hibernating these days, I can assure you all I’m very much awake and active. No big secret—I’ve been busy writing. Winter is usually my most productive time since I’m around the house more and can give it more of my attention.

DSC03291A few weeks after Christmas I started working on a jigsaw puzzle, not just because I enjoy challenges, but because I can come back to it whenever I please or don’t please. Sometimes while I’m burning cooking supper, I’ll take a few moments and study the pieces. The really funny thing about puzzles is, you can look for a certain piece until the cows come how, even convince yourself it must have got left out of the box when it was manufactured, and then you’ll come back to it and find it just like that. A snap of the finger.

I’ve been puzzling my way through a story at the moment, looking for the missing pieces that will help bring it all together. It’s frustrating because no matter how much a writer writes we come upon these roadblocks from time to time. I went through this phase while writing my latest novel, knowing, as I was writing it, something didn’t feel quite right. Something was missing and I couldn’t decide just what that something was. Even as I wrote, “the end” I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something more I could do, some other way of telling this story. And why the heck was it evading me like this?

Sometimes we writers get an idea in our heads of just how a certain story has to be told. Once it settles into our brain we have a heck of a hard time making it leave. Surprisingly, I awoke one morning with the answer to my dilemma. I’d found that missing piece. Turns out it wasn’t anything so complicated. The answer was actually so simple I couldn’t understand why it took me until the very end of the book to figure it out.

I found one of the missing pieces I’d been looking for in my story this morning. It actually came to me through the night and I feel quite good about it. Of course it was there all along. It always is. Life isn’t always the mystery we believe it to be. Mysteries only exist when we have some of the information but not the answer. When the piece we’re searching for finally rises to the surface it feels as though things are finally beginning to fall into place, but the answer was really there all along. Sometimes we just have to wait for it to appear.

 

 

A Christmas State of Mind

Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas. ~~Calvin Coolidge

Our tree has finally been brought in and decorated so it feels a bit more Christmasy at out house.  You might even say I’m in a Christmas state of mind.  Coupled with the fact that we’re getting our first *real* snow of the season, it seems like a day to take it easy and relax and enjoy the season.  What gets done gets done, and what doesn’t well…

I’ve got a few more little things to pick up plus grocery shopping before the “big” day. We’d planned to go shopping today,  but with the snow we’ll stay were where are. Tomorrow will be a better day for travel.

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The edits on my novel are on schedule to be finished before Christmas. Since they’re not due until January, I’ll give it another read through before then. It’s always best to have a bit of a break before reading it through a final time. But this is the place where I’ll have to resist the urge to keep fiddling with the sentences. It’s difficult to let that story go. There always seems to be something we can see that needs to be changed, whether real or imagined.

It turns out this wintery day will be a good day to tie up some loose ends while I’m in this Christmas state of mind.

How about you, are you in a Christmas state of mind? Are you all ready for the “big” day? What things put you in the Christmas spirit?

Busy, Busy Beaver

On the property across from ours, the beavers have been extremely busy as you can see from the photo. It’s rather amazing to know that these small creatures aren’t afraid to tackle something so large. This urge to chop down trees is something that comes natural to them. Funny, how they don’t shy away from such a big undertaking. We see plenty of evidence of the beaver’s work, but we’ve never caught them in the act. I think much of their work is done at night.

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Writing a novel is also a big undertaking. One that writers enter into willingly, regardless of the work involved. Rarely can an author say they whipped a novel up in a matter of a few weeks or months…(Yes, I know, some can, but many can’t.) For many authors it may take many months, maybe even years until their book is ready to be read by an editor. But once a book has been accepted for publication it doesn’t mean a writer can sit back and wait for those royalties to start rolling in. For those not involved in the industry, it’s difficult to understand what takes so long for a book to come out. I hear from people all the time, anxiously wondering why, if I’m working on edits for the book now, it isn’t coming out until next fall.

The whole idea behind the edits is to help make that story shine as much as possible. A writer often becomes immune to seeing the flaws in our stories and it takes another set of eyes to point out the imperfections and make suggestions as to how the story can be improved. We all want that book to be the best it can be, right?

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So this is where I am at the moment. No, I don’t mean I’m cutting down trees….The edits are going well and I’m pleased with how the story is evolving even further. It’s always exciting to discover something new in your work, something you overlooked while you were getting the story down the first time around. Did I say the first time? I guess I should say the first several drafts.

Christmas might be creeping up on me, but I’m very hopeful that I’ll have the manuscript sent back before then. What is it about Christmas that makes us want to accomplish certain goals? I can remember, as a child, that rooms were painted before Christmas or new flooring laid.—always before Christmas, regardless of how close to the big day that it happened. So long as it was done by then everyone was happy. Anyway, I’ll use Christmas as a deadline to have this round of edits completed. I’m pretty sure that I won’t get a whole lot of writing done once a certain little someone arrives anyway.

How about you, is there anything you’d like to accomplish before Christmas comes?

Let the Edits Begin

Seems as though the things we often expect to happen a certain way end up going off in a totally different direction altogether. Life is funny that way. This month I thought I’d have time to devote to my new writing project, but low and behold I received an email from my editor at Nimbus Publishing. It is time to start editing my new YA novel, “To Fly With a Broken Wing.”  Yippee!!

“If you could have the edits done by January that would be great,” she said.

“No problem,” I replied.

No problem! Oh right, there’s this thing called Christmas coming up this month. I forgot all about Christmas mere seconds before I fired off the email. *gulp*

Okay it’s really not THAT bad. My editor is understanding and did add that if I needed more time it was fine, just to let her know. And truthfully, edits seem a bit overwhelming at first until you actually start addressing each comment and suggestion as you go. Personally, I’m just happy to be working on it and gearing up for the book’s release next fall. The exciting part is, the book is making progress. Edits have begun and, Christmas or not, I’ll get the work done. Authors are funny that way.

But it hasn’t been all work. I’ve been balancing things out as I go. A little shopping, a little gift wrapping, a lot of editing, a little decorating. If I play my cards right I’ll even get to watch an episode of “Grimm” this evening.

DSC02991A big thrill this week was meeting up with Donna Morrisey at a book signing. Donna’s new book is “The Deception of Livvy Higgs.” If you remember, I mentioned in an earlier post that she was on my list of authors to meet. Little did I know at the time our meeting would happen so soon. Yes, life certainly does throw in a surprise or two. This month has been busy with lots of authors doing book signings and I’m heading out again for one tomorrow. I’m sure I’ll either post about it on Facebook or my blog.

I’ve also had a disappointment this week. I’d been planning for months to get high speed Internet service, but it just wasn’t to be. I know this is difficult for many of you to understand, but here in rural Nova Scotia we don’t necessarily have the option for High Speed and that sucks. One company put up towers and many people can receive a wireless signal, but I happen to live in an area where too many trees are blocking that signal. I’ve got to say, dial-up makes life very challenging, and many times I have problems with pages loading, especially those blogs that have lots of photos posted on them. Then again, it can sometimes be impossible to comment when it does load. But I’m dealing with this challenge the best way I can. Some things are out of my control. I sometimes think the thought of something better makes us less tolerant for what we have. So perhaps now, I’ll accept what is and feel grateful to have Internet service at all.

Anyway, despite Christmas and the edits for my novel, I’m hoping to be around Blogland a bit more this winter. I have a lot to catch up on.

Has life given you any unexpected surprises lately?

Slow and Steady

I’ve been busy these past two weeks working from home. I’m usually torn between enjoying the luxury of being able to work at home and disciplining myself to work at a steady pace without distractions. It’s not always easy. The truth is sometimes I like distractions, sometimes I hate them, depending upon the particular distraction. I’m fickle, I suppose, but I can be whatever I want. Right?

The good news is, I’ve been steadily increasing my word count on the novel I’m writing without letting it interfere with my “other work.” Yay me! Mind you, some days I’m not making any huge big strides but a few hundred words here and there add up over time. Sometimes it’s a matter of stealing a few moments in the early morning. I like waking early. I seem to accomplish so much more when I do.

I’m not really a slow and steady person by nature. I’m more of a jump-in-there-get- going-get-done kind of person, but I think this pace has been good for me. We don’t always need to do things the same way every time. That’s how we get stuck in ruts. I don’t like ruts either. They’re sneaky. You fall into them gradually over time and before you know it you’re living in that rut without a clue that you’re even in one. You’ve got your head in the clouds and you’re belting out Abba tunes. La..La…La…

Human behaviour is strange sometimes. I’m always amazed at how quickly I can see these things in others but not myself. To see them in myself I have to look mighty close, maybe even admit a thing or two I don’t necessarily want to. It’s all part of being human. No sense beating ourselves up over it, just make a commitment to do better the next time.

So here’s where I am at the moment. My usually Monday and Thursday posts didn’t happen last week, and likely they won’t for the next month. My goal it to blog whenever I can. Hopefully, the month of December will find me back into my routine.

Pig Identity–Do You Write in Character?

My two-year-old granddaughter is obsessed with pigs. She loves to draw pigs, read about pigs, she even likes to dress up like a pig. I bet if someone asked her she’d say her favourite book was “The Three Little Pigs.” The week she visited with us, she wore her pig hat most of her waking hours. At night, she’d often wake and cry, “Want to be a pig.” Oh yeah, she’s got a real pig identity problem.

As a writer, I can relate to how she feels. When my writing is going well, and the story is flowing, it usually means I’m writing in character.  What’s writing in character? Simple. As events pop up along the way, I feel the character’s emotions, as surely as if I were that character. Now, I don’t usually feel the need to dress up, but I’ve heard of some writers who do, to make their writing feel more authentic. I’m no one to judge, if it helps someone make it through a scene I’m all for it.

Personally speaking, writing in character provides me with insights into the thoughts, emotions and actions of the characters, but it doesn’t mean the story will automatically write itself. Oh no, there’s a little bit more to it than that. For me, character is important, as important to the story as the people in my life. When I’m out and about in the world, the things I do always seem to pale in comparison to the interaction with the people involved. I know not everyone shares this sentiment. That’s okay. There’s a quote by Maya Angelou that goes like this: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  This kind of sums up the way I feel about the characters I write. At the end of the book, I’d like them to be remembered for the way they made you, as a reader, feel.

So, like any two-year-old, Miss Charlotte might sometimes be a bit confused about the character she’s portraying and exactly which way she’s headed, the laughs and giggles she presents us with is what we’ll remember the most. In a few days she’ll be bringing her mom for another visit, and while I’m not sure if the pig hat is still part of her everyday apparel, I’ll always look back with fondness at those days when nothing seemed more important to her than her declaration of, “Want to be a pig!”

Writers, do you always know which way your character is going or do you show up and wait to see what happens? Do you ever write in character?

Writing Challenge

I’ve been given a writing challenge, and it’s been taking up a good deal of my spare time. Did I say spare time? Wow! That’s a joke.

Yeah, I know, I don’t often mention the projects I’m working at because I really don’t want to bore you all, but I’m making an exception with this post, maybe get a few opinions along the way.

Many years back I wrote a short story that had me a bit curious. The story itself had ended but I wanted to know more. I wanted to know the reasons behind a certain character’s actions. Why would she do what she did? As a mother myself, I knew this woman had to have a good reason for abandoning her children. The question niggled at me. Finally, I wrote another story that satisfied me for a short time until I became greedy and wanted to know even more. It’s like eating potato chips. You can’t just nibble on a few, you keep picking at them until they’re gone.

The result? A collection of linked stories.

Needless to say, a collection of linked stories is about a hard to pitch as a regular old collection, and while many of the stories have been published individually in literary magazines, the collection, as it stands, is just gathering dust balls, big ones! In fact, to be truthful, I really didn’t send it out very many times and as any writer knows that’s the way NOT to get published.  I know, I know, pretty darn lame of me.

But recently, it was suggested I turn this collection of linked stories into a novel, using different perspectives, since many of the stories have been written in the first person. Oh happy day, could there still hope for this dust-gathering collection? Can it be ressurrected after all?

Easy peasy, right?

Maybe, maybe not. I’m still trying to figure this out. The challenge at the moment is deciding where the story begins, exactly whose story it is, and if the story belongs to several people or one person, not to mention finding a common thread, as I work through the plot. Can I use any of the previously written material, or do I need to start from scratch? A whole lot of questions swirling in my very confused, for the moment, brain. Short stories are an entire story, beginning, middle and ending, contained into a few thousand words. A novel is a little more involved, as you all know, but each chapter needs to move the story along.

So here’s my challenge at the moment. I haven’t yet decided if converting a bunch of linked stories into a novel will flow along as smoothly as I’d like it to, but I’m sure going to give it a go.

So what are your thoughts, do you think is it fairly easy to write a novel around linked stories since the character already exist? Should I try and use some of the existing stories or start all over again? Where are you in your writing journey? Have any new challenges come your way recently?

Celebrate Good Times

Hey, look at me I’m celebrating—nothing outstanding, mind you, just the fact that this is post number 400.  Impressive, don’t you think? Why not have some dessert with me as part of the celebration?

So if I figure an average post of about 500 words (give or take) that means I’ve written 200,000 words for you, WordPress.. You ought to be a little proud. That’s a couple of novels I’ve sacrificed, maybe even three or four depending upon the length. So what do you think, WordPress, am I ready to be freshly pressed anytime soon? Be honest, I’m used to being rejected by editors, I can take it.

Hehehe..But on a serious note, when I first began blogging I wasn’t sure what I’d even write about or if I’d even write on a regular basis. Now, look at me 400 posts in. That’s kind of cool and a reason to celebrate I should think. But the biggest reason I have for celebrating is all of you for stopping by and reading what’s going on in my mind. I do appreciate everyone’s visits and the comments you leave that sometimes make me giggle, sometimes make me think, and are always entertaining.

Here’s to another year of blogging!