That Would be Me, Slogging Through the Mess

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Writing has become…difficult. I have reached the point in the process where I’m pretty sure I am not creating the story I want, I am not doing anything good with words. I am stuck in the middle of a story and I have no idea what I’m doing.

And however normal this is for me…I am panicking. I admit it. It took me a while to realize it, but a big ole chunk of fear and doubt has lodged in my head. Usually I just keep writing, see where it goes, but this time I stopped. I set it aside.

I got out a notebook and started brainstorming, certain I needed to work something out. I didn’t know everything I was supposed to know. Right?

Maybe…

Or maybe not.

I’m not even sure anymore.

Luckily, I had a few people ask me to read their manuscripts. DING DING DING! A way to escape/ignore my own words. So I am critiquing, aka burying my head in the words of others to avoid my own. Don’t get me wrong. I love critiquing. I love helping other writers.

It’s part of the job.

Let my mess of a manuscript sit for a minute. Let the jumbled storyline settle. Let my mind wander away from the frustration it has become. When I go back, hopefully, I’ll be able to let go of the overthinking and have fun with Ember and Nowhere. Back to slogging through, though we won’t call it slogging…right? Frolicking. Running amok through the words.

I rock at running amok.

And for the moment, I shall rock at making comments as a critique partn…

Oh wait…no…

I forgot. The author I am reading for now has dubbed his army of readers CRITIQUE AVENGERS. We are the elite fighting force, out looking for questionable word choices, places where there is no sense making, and the dreaded, hidden plot holes. So I shall do that for now.

But my words still haunt me.

So, yes, that’s me up to my hips in a story that might make no sense, that might be going nowhere, that might spontaneously combust…

That’s me.

And it’s okay.

 

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Put the YOU in Routine

Routines are good. I believe in them. However, sometimes the routine becomes safe and comforting and bad habits can be the result. Sometimes the routine needs a bit of change. Shake things up. Throw out the habits that drag you down.

I have recently decided to do a little shaking in the daily routine. It’s exciting. So I decided. Yup. I thought of all the things I can change. I plotted out what I thought might be a good daily schedule, a great schedule, a schedule that will rocket me into the land of super productivity.

Then I struggled. Because I didn’t stick to the new plan. A plan I was certain would be THE BEST.

Or not.

So I panic. I am failing. I can’t even follow a plan! Geez, me.

But…

Maybe it isn’t me. Maybe it’s the plan. Maybe that schedule isn’t right for me. So I’m going to hold onto the parts of the plan I like, that make me feel good, that give me energy and motivation. But…planning never works for me, and I forget that. I have to be able to go with the flow. I have to be able to accept when my brain isn’t switched to the correct gear and do what I need to do in the moment.

If the routine causes stress, it’s no good. If the routine steals your happiness, it’s no good. Routines should help, should be comforting as well as get me off my butt. I am a procrastinator. I do need time for me to do nothing. I need to give myself room to change directions when my mind isn’t on the right track.

Know you. Know what you need. Be able to spot the things that don’t work and let them go without feeling like a failure.

As long as I listen to me, I will be on the right track. Shaking things up is good. But keep expectations realistic. Keep trying. Keep making those plans, those routines and stick to it. But when something is causing problems, is being more stress than help, let it go.

It’s not you. It’s the routine. Keep you in there. Your life doesn’t work without you.

And let’s be honest.

You. Are. Wonderful. Amazing. Awesome.

New Year, New…You?

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New year, new you!

I’ve heard this a lot. Every January 1st.

It’s a nice thought. That we can head into the new year and just…be someone else. Suddenly do things differently.

Though each year, I find that I am still the same old me. The same fears and doubts. The same bad habits. The same crazy, weirdness all wrapped up in moments of anxiety and depression and fun. The same girl living in a world asking it to love her…OMG I WENT ALL NOTTING HILL.

Save me.

I look back on last year and I guess I did stuff. I wrote stuff. I submitted stuff. I feel as though I was holding my breath. Did I accomplish every thing I wanted? Nope.

As I head into this year, I will write stuff. Maybe hear about the stuff I submitted. Still be the weird me who overthinks and forgets to just be. Maybe I will stop holding my breath. Maybe.

I will have moments where I AM DOING SO GOOD LOOK AT ME.

I will have moments where I SUCK AND I AM A FAILURE AND OMG WHAT AM I DOING WHO AM I.

New me? Nope. Just me. But being me is fine. I am working on making me better every day.

Resolutions? Goals?

Not really. They never work for me. They feel like weights around my neck, holding me down instead of setting me free. I want to remember to enjoy myself. I want to make me a bit better every day. And the days where I can’t? Those are okay.

One breath at a time.

I have things I want to do. I will do my best. And when I am pretty sure I am not doing my best, that I could do so much more if only this and I should that, I will remind myself that the ‘if only’s’ and ‘shoulds’ can go jump in a river. Those will hold me back. Those will steal my happiness.

Life is nothing without happy. Stress comes and goes. Fear is a liar. Happy is forever.

New year, new me?

New year…and me, along for the ride, ready to move forward however I can with my hands in the air and a smile on my face.

 

Middle Grade: My Happy Place

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If you remember, I have begun my first attempt at writing middle grade. A creepy little tale of being lost. Of the journey to find oneself and, maybe, helping others along the path.

It’s an idea I had years and years ago, an idea that finally solidified.

Can I write middle grade? Can I leave the young adult world of teen angst, of realizing there is more to the world than parents and school, of beginning to forget the magic of childhood? Can I write for those who still believe, who look to parents and teachers for guidance, who live in he small world of home and siblings and friends?

We’ll see.

I’ve always loved middle grade books. My kids were that old not too long ago and we read all sorts of things. Adventures! Magic! Friendships!

But since writing mine, I’ve dug deeper into the category. I want to know where my book will fit when finally it makes it onto a shelf. So I am reading all the middle grade I want!

And I discovered something.

I LOVE IT HERE!

This is my happy place. I have read a few REALLY good books. Books full of emotion. Books full of wonderful friendships. Of relationships between parents and kids, between siblings. Maybe it’s just me, but I am enjoying that fact that there is no expectation of who will fall in love, or lust, with who. I have enjoyed just good friendships and stronger sibling relationships. When you’re a kid, strangers are possible friends…though some kids are better at making them. When you’re a kid, parents aren’t trying to ruin your life. When you’re a kid, you might not be able to interpret all the emotions, but you feel them. Though kids know more than adults give them credit for.

Kids can handle a lot.

They know a lot.

They feel everything.

But most of all they love adventure! Magic! So I am trying to get all this in my manuscript.

And I will continue to read middle grade. Let me share with you some of my favorites.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle…soon to be a movie!

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

Took by Mary Downing Hahn

Deep and Dark and Dangerous by Mary Downing Hahn

The Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull

The Search for Wondla by Tony DiTerlizzi

Journey’s End by Rachel Hawkins

Rules for Stealing Stars by Corey Ann Haydu

And I just started… My Diary at the Edge of the World by Jodi Lynn Anderson and I AM SO HOOKED ON THIS ONE!

My Nowhere series will fit nicely in there! When it’s done…when I find an agent…when it is published…ummm…yeah, I have work to do and a bit of luck to find.

When you find what you love, go with it.

 

Where the Road Ends…Choices

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A path. One cleared. One known. One loved.

Until it ends.

A giant chasm.

And no bridge. Possibly it’s under construction and there’s no completion date in sight. A project left under the control of others.

Standing at the edge of the cliff, staring at the darkness, yelling into the black hoping for an answer. But hearing only echoes.

The echoes are hollow. Meaningless. Easily crumbling into nothing. Leaving emptiness. Leaving hurt.

Why?

Why?

Why…

Standing. Waiting. An option, one that stabs, one that takes pieces of soul as payment.

Standing.

In frustrated silence.

Waiting.

In disappointed tears.

Or turning to the wilderness of tangled chaos, of fear, of unknown…

…of possibilities…

And forging a new road.

Stand. Easy. Easy to sit. Easy to let hope die.

Or fight.

Because of hope. Because of belief. Because of movement.

Into the fray.

The old path not forgotten, merely paused. The bridge will appear. Ready to be crossed. The adventure, one to be cherished.

But until then.

Until then.

New roads to find. Cutting through the mess of ideas and struggling to pave a trail. Frustration, one chosen. The hammer for building bridges in hand. The power of moving forward burning bright.

Stand at the end of the road.

Or fight.

Choose.

Warm Treasures to Hold

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I sit in my house all alone. It’s quiet. I never realize how giant my house is until these moments. My whole family came for Thanksgiving. A total of 14 people at my house for three days. It was wonderful. There was food. There was chatting. There was laughing.

And yesterday, everyone went home. Back to life. And here I sit.

Happy they all came. Happy for all the fun. But happy to have my house back, even if it feels a bit too big, a bit too silent.

The laundry is done, the sheets used by family clean and put away. The dishes are washed, sorted back into their positions. All traces of the visit tucked into the corners of my mind. Memories. Great ones.

Of cramming us all around my kitchen table for turkey and mashed potatoes. Of seeing Justice League together. Of gathering for an early Christmas for the kids. Of taking walks along my country road. Of playing with the dog and kitten. Of a basketball game to hear Ella play in the pep band. Of watching Hallmark Christmas movies. Of people filling every room with smiles. Of us being together. It doesn’t happen all the time with us spread across three states.

Treasured memories. More valuable than anything else. What I should remember when I start to stress about word counts and rejections, when I start to obsess over my weight, when I lose my mind over Christmas shopping, when I struggle to just be me.

A moment in time. One to keep, like a warm hug, when life is cold.

I hope everyone has moments like those to hold forever.

Staring: A Great Place to Start

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I started working on a new and exciting manuscript…a middle grade horror!

Then I was distracted by short stories.

It happens. And if it’s not other writing adventures, plain old wonderful life sucks away writing time. But after the suckage ends, it always does, after the short stories are submitted…the manuscript waits.

I went back.

And stared at it.

And went on Twitter.

And went back to staring at my ms.

And went running back to Twitter.

And realized that I was running from it cause it was looking at me funny.

I didn’t know it as well as I did. We went our separate ways for a while. Maybe it was mad at me.

Time to get to know that world. So I stared. I scribbled notes. I let my brain live with Ember again. I listened to Nowhere and all my characters. Heck, I offered it cookies and glittery stickers.

And the story began to speak to me! TA DA!

So I am back to writing my first attempt at middle grade. The words are slow at the moment, but I will not give up. Time to focus and finish this sucker.

It’s hard to leave projects…or maybe not, depending…

Possibly harder to go back. But a bit of magical determination, a little bribery to get those characters to talk to you, and POOF the words and ideas return.

So staring…is a pretty great place to start.

 

The Great Nano Experience

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It’s that time of year again. November…or to writers, National Novel Writing Month, more affectionately known as NaNoWriMo or just Nano. Where writers everywhere set out to write 50,000 words in a month.

Cause that’s what we all look like…riiiiiiight.

There are those who participate every year, planning and plotting through October to be ready. Plotters, I admire you! There are those who jump in on November first, scrambling to plot and plan or merely crazy enough to see what happens. Pantsers, I love you!

It began yesterday with people tweeting their accomplishments, their word counts, how they procrastinated, how they were full of hope…and fear. Some start knowing they’ll hit 50K. Some know they won’t, but are happy to give it a shot. Some know they will have to rip apart what they write a few months after it’s finished. Some may never go back to what they write. Some will stay on track. Others will fall behind…only to catch up later or not. By the end of week two, determination will have replaced the fear and hope.

Maybe not the hope, not completely.

I am an observer in this. I do not Nano. The thought of word counts and reaching a certain number breaks my brain. NaNoWriMo causes too much stress for me to benefit.  But that doesn’t mean I am not writing alongside these brave and fabulous folks. I am drafting.

Right now, Twitter is full of tips, of information, of helpful words to drive people along their writing path.

I have my own thoughts about all the tips…

Don’t worry about them. Don’t clutter your brain with what others think you should or should not do.

Have fun. Enjoy your world and characters.

Don’t overthink. When the goal is word count, there is no room for thinking. There is typing, focusing on what happens next.

For the pantsers…let the story go where it likes! For the plotters…dude, you got that outline to guide you!

Perfection is boring. Who the heck cares if at the end of the month you have a brilliant piece of literature! No one cares. Revisions exist for a reason.

Write your story. This is time for you! For what you love! For what you feel is right for your art! Do it.

Write words. All words are good words. All words get you to your goal and give you something to work with later.

Don’t let the numbers break you. Sometimes the creative process is more than word count.

Do what works for you.

Don’t let others’ word counts get you down. There are people who will write over 50K…*cough*overachievers*cough* You celebrate you.

Please remember to sleep. And eat. *gives everyone a glass of water* LOVE YOURSELF! Take care of you!

I will be cheering from the sidelines. Whatever you do, be proud of you. Whatever you don’t get to…WHO CARES!

Do your best. It is enough.

 

 

Rejection…A Stupid Part of Life

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Writers talk a lot about rejection. As I get ready to submit another short story, I am thinking about it.

Cause it happens.

All the time.

And it sucks. Never ever does it suck less. Never ever does it get easy, does it not hurt.

 

Last Saturday, my daughter’s high school marching band did not advance to the state finals. I saw tears and faces draped with disbelief. They had been rejected. As much as I wanted to make the sting go away, I knew I couldn’t, I also knew I shouldn’t. That pain is part of life. If they don’t get into the college they want, or get the job they want, if they get turned down by the person they ask out.

If we always got what we wanted, would life be happier? Without feeling the stab of rejection, we will never know the joy of victory.

Life is full of the word no…sometimes it seems as though that tiny syllable is playing on repeat. Those two little letters drive a stake of sadness through our hearts, but also fuel the fire of determination. Stack those rejections and climb on top of them, use them to reach higher. Yes makes us happy. No makes us stronger.

Everything happens for a reason. Your path won’t be straight and free of obstacles. It’s called life.

Live it. Let the pain drive you to search for and find joy.

Just Gotta Short the Stories

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I wrote my first short story long, long ago after taking a class on getting published where I learned that to get published you had to be published.

I know.

But it made/makes sense, publishers were/are more likely to work with someone who had experience. So…one of the suggestions was to write a short story for a contest or to submit to a magazine, because getting those published should be a bit easier than a book.

Okay. I figured I could do it! I had written a 100,000 word manuscript…what was 2,000 words, right?

Well, I did. But I learned that shorts are a whole other beast.

Getting a set up, a conflict, a climax in 2,000 words is tough. But doing it is good for my brain, flexing different writing muscles and challenging the creative gray matter.

I have found a love of writing short stories. An obsession, maybe.

Or maybe not.

Maybe my brain knows what it’s doing…what it wants. I write shorts in spurts. I didn’t realize it until lately, but I do. Right now, I am working on the third short in a row…I think it’s number three. I get caught up in anthologies looking for creepy stories. My brain lights a signal fire that says HEY I HAVE AN IDEA FOR THIS ONE! So I write…I submit.

And the current manuscript gets set aside.

But YOU SHOULD REALLY BE WORKING ON THAT MANUSCRIPT!

Maybe. Or maybe I need to flex the short story muscles, challenge my creativity. Writing shorts reminds me to be mindful of word usage, to pay attention to pacing, to use all my writing knowledge to get a whole story told in as few words as possible, to let my mind go wild and come up with a unique story.

There’s no room for info dumps. There’s no time to mess around with backstory. All the subtle hints have to be powerful.

Shorts carry a punch.

I can usually get a short polished in a month. Not very long, but it sure wears me out. After these last few, I noticed that I’m done. I am ready to go back to my newest manuscript and focus on it. But that’s normal. Looking back on my writing life, I will break from longer work to dive into shorts. I need it. My mind needs it. That obsession I think I have…maybe it’s necessary. Maybe it’s the way my writing brain works. I am definitely going to let it do what it needs.

This final creepy TV story is due at the end of this month. I am ready for it to be sent. I am ready to go back to Nowhere with Ember, my workouts in pacing and words and power complete. I’ll wait and see if any of these submissions are accepted.

At some point next year, the shorts will call again. And I will answer, ready for the challenge and hopefully becoming a better writer.

We gotta do what we gotta do.