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Wednesday, July 4, 2018

All I've Got- IWSG July 2018


 


It's IWSG Day.  The goal of this blog hop is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. IWSG is the brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh, our brilliant ninja leader. Co-Hosts: Nicki Elson, Juneta Key, Tamara Narayan, and Patricia Lynne! To read posts from other IWSG members, click here. 

This month, the OPTIONAL IWSG Day question is: 

What are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time (if at all)? 

I feel like I’ve written this post before, but here goes. My ultimate goal is to publish my novels via a traditional publishing process. 


Eight or nine years ago, The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron changed my life. Recently unemployed, I’d determined that writing HAD to be a part of my new incarnation but wasn’t sure how that requirement would take shape. I’d blogged like mad for a while and my essays here on Middle Passages helped me to shape my writing and find my voice. Then I freelanced, writing magazine articles (fun) and resumes (a skill learned during my former employment and not so fun) until I began to wonder what was next. Perhaps like many folks, I thought (naively), it would be “neat” or “cool” to write a book, not actually thinking I could, until an acquaintance suggested I complete The Artist’s Way course. Essentially, the daily and weekly exercises therein help participants eliminate real or imagined barriers that stifle creativity. In other words, The Artist’s Way dared me to try.

I met that challenge by managing to complete one rough novel and one I will call “better,” after which I amplified my goal to improve my writing and complete a publishable novel. The jury is out on that folks, as I query my third novel and approach the point on a fourth where I'll share it with critical readers.

This much I know now. Writing the best book I can, one that will attract an agent, one that will sell, is so much more than “neat” or “cool,” that it’s hard to put it into words. The process is as energizing and enriching as it is grueling. Sometimes words like daunting and discouraging and even soul-sucking apply. At the same time, I’m as much in love with my stories as I am sick to death of them. They’re my babies. My loves. They’ve given me almost as much joy and angst as my flesh and blood child. And yet, while I’ll be forever proud at what I’ve accomplished to date, my current road is such a tough one, I wonder I’ll ever achieve publication.
 
But if we’re open to them, there are messages in the universe to encourage us to carry on. Today, I read the following:

You have three choices in life. Give up. Give in, or, give it all you've got. 

Lord help me, I’m pretty sure there’s only one choice there.

What has it taken for you to meet your writing goals? 

Wishing all my American readers a Happy Independence Day!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Reminder to Myself-IWSG June 2018


It's IWSG Day.  The goal of this blog hop is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. IWSG is the brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh, our brilliant ninja leader. Co-hosts this month are Beverly Stowe McClure, Tyrean Martinson, and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor!

To read posts from other IWSG members, click here.

One of the hard lessons I continue to force myself to remember is to “write in scene.” It took me a long time to stop summarizing necessary backstory and to write the action as it happened. 


For example, instead of this:  

The fight about the glasses put the wedge in our relationship. Sissy claimed they were hers to keep, but Ma told me on her deathbed she meant for me to have them.
I go back and write it like this:


The fight started over Grandma’s glasses.


“They’re mine,” Sissy said the day after Ma died. Her eyes were cold, angry blue. The same color as the cobalt crystal she insisted she’d be taking.


But I knew the truth. How Ma ordered me to get a pen. How her hand shook as she wrote, the words slumping down the page. How when she was done, she passed the note to me and rested her head on the pillow with her eyes closed, her voice softer than the breath of wind coming in the open widow. I leaned in to hear her. “There. They belong to you. Don’t let anyone tell you different.” 


In a recent weekly newsletter, publishing coach Jane Friedman says: "The only stories that matter are those we inhabit personally, not just with our minds, but through our senses." 

It's another good reminder to make sure our readers experience the story as if they were looking through the lenses of our characters.

Do you find it hard to write "in scene?"



Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Late Spring - IWSG May 2018

It's IWSG Day.  The goal of this blog hop is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. IWSG is the brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh, our brilliant ninja leader. Co-hosts this month are, JQ Rose, C. Lee McKenzie, Raimey Gallant, & E.M.A Timar. 

 

This month's optional question: It's spring! Does this season inspire you to write more than others, or not? 

 

Writing has been a struggle lately, but spring helps. Here in New England, this winter arrived late and held on. Even now, we’re wearing our heavy coats. This morning, before leaving for work, I stuffed a pair of leather gloves into my pockets.


But there’s this. The other day I drove down my street and was astonished to see a batch of daffodils in full bloom in front of a stone wall.  The weather has been so wretched, I forgot the sun is warmer and things are coming to life underground. Today, no word of a lie, I crowed out loud when driving by a rhododendron purpling up. Yes! A reminder. There’s always hope.

And, the same way this arrival of our delayed spring gives me faith, I know my writing will eventually blossom, too. Right now, ideas percolate underground, looking for the right fertilizer to generate growth. They’ll surface at some point. It's all about trust. Just like I know the trees will knock out their Kelly green leaves, I also have to believe that somewhere deep down in me, little seeds germinate. I have to take heart from my many springs, accept that while I'm not in charge of the calendar, like the tiny spears fingering up in my garden, at some point words will poke through.

I could sweat this slow time. Call myself in a slump. Moan about writer’s block and so on. But I won’t. Experience tells me to hang on, to be patient. Just as spring shows it’s face when it’s good and ready, my words will eventually form buds. When they do, I’ll pluck early blossoms and gather them into a story.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Cloudy with a Chance of Rain - IWSG April 2018



It's IWSG Day.  The goal of this blog hop is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. IWSG is the brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh, our brilliant ninja leader. Co-hosts this month: Olga Godim, Chemist Ken, Renee Scattergood, and Tamara Narayan!


This month’s optional question: When your writing life is a bit cloudy or filled with rain, what do you do to dig down and keep on writing.

Things to do when your writing goes south…

Explore a place you’ve never been before--a park, a town, someplace in the city, a museum or a botanical garden. Take yourself on a writer’s date to a place that will stimulate your senses. Paddle a boat, walk a beach, take a run on a route you've never followed. New experiences encourage creativity.

Take a walk while listening to music. I don’t know about you, but music brings me to a place where I see, hear and think more clearly. Deeper. The more I connect with the music, the better the inspiration.

Google writer websites for scene-storming hints. Give yourself a timed writing exercise. Don’t stop. Don’t edit. Just write what floats into your brain. Let the words flow. They may not be good, they may not be worth keeping, but they’ll come. And when they do, more words follow.

Talk to other writers. By nature, the writing process is solitary, but it doesn't have to be all the time. Writer friends buoy each other up during the bad times and celebrate each other when things are good. We all need support, feedback and encouragement. In short, we need our peers. If you haven’t joined a writing group, I encourage you to do so. Here’s a confession. It might be possible that my writing life is a bit cloudy right now. But one of the members of my writing group encouraged me via email yesterday. She said: “Maybe just play around and throw a lot of little ideas at the writer brain and see if anything takes hold, with no expectations of any of it.” Just that little suggestion had me sitting down in front of the computer, “playing.” 

Take a look at an old project. Even if your skills have surpassed where you were when you wrote the piece, it may offer something…a character that you liked writing about, or a scene you crafted well that may inspire you to branch off to something new.

Above all, don’t NOT write. As bad as it may feel if you are struggling, be sure to sit down for a least a small period of time every day. No matter how hard it seems, as awful as you think the writing may be, it’s writing. To be a writer, that’s what we have to do.



After I wrote this post, I was heartbroken to learn that one of my favorite authors, Anita Shreve passed away this past Thursday. I was supposed to attend one of her readings a year or so ago and was dreadfully disappointed when she had to cancel for health reasons. Given this month’s IWSG question, the quote I read from Saturday’s Boston Globe memorial on this lovely writer seems particularly appropriate: 

“To other writers, published and successful or merely toiling and aspiring, she offered three words of encouragement that her father had used to nudge along her youthful writing efforts.

‘My father one told me, ‘Don’t give up.’ she recalled in 2008 for the London newspaper The Guardian. ‘It’s advice that has served me well.’”

RIP Anita Shreve.