Monthly Archives: June 2012

How Often and How Much?

I’ve been reading a lot lately about how a writer should write every single day.  That we should set a goal of X amount of words and work toward that diligently.  That writing X amount of words a day multiplied by 365 days a year will surely lead to a book (or two). I know all rules are not for everybody.  That no one can tell you how you should write or what you should write or what time you should write.  Duh!  But after reading so many of these posts by authors and agents and everyone else on the planet, I am almost itching inside to find out what my fellow writers think about this.

Why?  Because I do not and never have done it this way.  I’ve written four books, one published and one to be published sometime this year, and I don’t adhere to this “rule” and never have and can’t picture doing it, given my personal life, family, and whatever else is going on in my world.  When I finally get an idea for a book I’ll start and I’ll write until it’s finished.  Then I revise “til the cows come home” and then revise some more.  Then months may go by where all I’m doing is social media, blog tours, querying agents, etc… and I’m not writing at all.  I let my brain have a rest and when I get inspired I go for it all over again and start another book.  But this in-your-face rule about writing every day has made me feel so guilty and like such a loser in the writing world, I’d like to know what you do.  What do you think about this rule?

Thanks so much for commenting.

Are You Directionally Challenged?

I once directed my husband to my sister’s house.  We didn’t have her address and my husband had never been to her house.

“That looks familiar. Turn left here. Oh, I’m pretty sure we passed the subway, went right, then crossed through the light…”

We ended up on the south-west side of the city instead of the north-east side.

My husband, who by then should have known better than to listen to my directions—I turn right when I should turn left and vice versa—finally stopped at a pay phone. Remember those?! My sister gave him the street address and directions. With those in hand and without getting lost, he drove right to her house.

To this day, my husband still listens to my directions. Trust is such a wonderful thing. 🙂

I come by my lack of direction skills honestly. Every year, when my Dad took us on vacation, he drove through Calgary on his way to Penticton. Back then, there was only one route through the city. It only changed if there was construction and a detour.

And yet every year, my Dad got lost. We’d end up in one of the residential sections, until my Mom took navigational control and directed Dad back to the main highway and out of the city.

These days, when I want to go somewhere I’m unfamiliar with, I do the following:

1. Address in hand, I head for Google Maps.

2. Locate my destination, preplan my route, then study the surrounding streets in case I mess up.

3. Print off the map, highlight the route, and write down the instructions.

5. Quiz my guys. Any traffic circles? Oops, need to find an alternate route because traffic circles confuse me. According to my mom, they confused my dad, too. Overpasses, merging lanes, or anything else out of the norm? Check, check, check.

When it comes to writing, I need a road map, too. I’m a panster at heart. I love to sit down and bang out the story. But by the time I type THE END, I’ve taken so many detours, the story is lost in a muddle of side trips. Even worse, the story has no structure.

These days, I do some extra planning. I have the end in sight and a general map of the story to guide me. Before writing a scene, I preplan it, using colored sticky notes for the different characters. I can immediately recognize when I’ve taken a wrong turn and I can fix it before I end up writing a totally different book than the one I started to write.

Or before I end up writing garbage.

By the time I type THE END, I’m happy because the structure is solid and I know the edit stage is going to be manageable.

So do you know your left hand from your right hand? Are you directionally challenged like I am? Or can you navigate on the road as easily as you can navigate your way through your story?

Group Therapy

Two years ago I joined a Bible study. (This is not going to be a religious post, so don’t get your panties in a wad. I’ve got a point to bringing this up and it doesn’t involve trying to convince anyone that my religion is the best). Anyway, I joined this group of women from my neighborhood and we meet once per week during the school year to study the word and for Women Unpluggedfellowship. I agreed to join the group when my friend called because I’d just switched my kids to a Christian school where they would be studying the Bible and I thought it would be handy for me to know a little about what they were learning.

I won’t bore you with the details of my religious upbringing, but suffice it to say I had some studying to do. I didn’t know what to expect from this group or how I would fit in. Our neighborhood is very large and pretty diverse—from cultures to backgrounds to personalities—and this group was no exception. To my great surprise, at the first meeting we all introduced ourselves and discussed our experiences and I wasn’t the only one who’d be asking a lot of elementary level questions. I felt instantly relieved and welcomed.

These meetings were long. Three plus hours long. I sit at a computer for most of the day, but never for three hours at a stretch. My ADD and nervous energy won’t let me stay put for that long so those meetings took some getting used to. What surprised me the most about the long meetings (where I left with homework!) was that I looked forward to them every week. I enjoyed unlocking the secrets of the Bible, but more than anything I enjoyed the bonding and fellowship with my neighbors.

I’m a pretty solitary person. I’m a happy hermit with just me and the dogs and my family for long stretches of time. It wasn’t until I joined this group that I realized how much I’d missed being a part of something and sharing in other people’s joys and sorrows. The older I get, the harder it has become for me to reach out and really connect with people—especially women.

Women UnpluggedMaybe it’s just my age or stage of life, but I seem to bear a lot more burdens now, not just mine, but those of the people I know and care about. I know I’m not alone. Now, instead of feeling sorry for myself when something goes wrong in life, I take my troubles to this group of women and feel as if I’m doing something constructive. Sharing things, even intimate and personal things with a group of women I trust, has become very important. I almost forgot how much when I finally managed to make one of our rare summer meetings.

I guess my point in this post is to encourage you to reach out to others. It doesn’t have to be a Bible study. Go out for cocktails, join a book club, take an exercise class. Don’t get so set in your ways that you forget how important it is to share both the good and the bad with others. I wouldn’t have reached out if my friend hadn’t called and asked me to join her. Thank God she did. If you get a chance today, let me know if you have a special group that lifts you up. For your sake, I sure hope you do.

The Call

I’ve imagined a lot of scenarios about becoming a published author, but never one about getting the actual “call”.  So needless to say, when the call came last week, I was pretty blown away.

The day started out as a typical summer morning in my house.  I drove my daughter to the barn for her job as a camp counselor.  It was pretty early for a teenager to be up and out of bed, but I was thankful the early hour would allow me to get a workout in before I got down to a few hours of writing. That afternoon, I returned to the barn to drag my daughter to her weekly bassoon lesson.  While on the road, my iPhone beeped with a missed call, which was kind of funny since it was sitting on the console and neither of us heard it ring.

My daughter glanced at the screen. “It’s Melissa, Juh….I can’t pronounce it, Mom,” she said.

Huh?  The only Melissa with a tricky-to-pronounce last name I know is my agent, Melissa Jeglinski, of The Knight Agency.  Why would she be calling me?  This is when my heart starts racing and my brain starts to ricochet with all sorts of possibilities.   My knuckles are white on the steering wheel as she puts the phone on speaker and we listen to the message.  I’m now shaking, so I don’t really hear what the message is.

“She wants you to call her back,” my daughter says.

I make her play it again.  And again.  Still nothing registers in my whirling mind as I concentrate on not driving into the woods.

“What could she want?”  I’m practically wailing now.  My daughter looks at me like I’m a lunatic—an expression I see all too often on her face.

“She sounded excited,” she says, trying to be encouraging.  My inner Rodney Dangerfield is going in a very different direction.

“Oh my gosh, Mom, just call her back. It’s probably good news.  Nobody gives bad news over the phone.”  My diva is prophetic when she’s not being sassy.

I sweat it out another five minutes until we arrive at the bassoon teacher’s house.  No way am I going to take this call while I’m driving, good news or bad news.

My daughter dials the phone because my hands are shaking too badly to do it myself.  Melissa’s first question is if I’ve stopped driving and that’s when it hits me.  Like my daughter said, Melissa does sound excited.  It has to be good news, right?  Then I hear the phrase “three book deal” and everything after that is pretty much lost in a blur of tears and an escalating heartbeat. I’m not even sure what I said in response to her.  Hopefully, it was something ladylike.  But probably not.  It has been a nearly three year wait.

At this point, I leap from the car as my daughter cringes and scans the surrounding lawns for anyone who might be witness to my embarrassing display. I hug her and do a little happy dance in a stranger’s driveway.  Being a typical teenager, she recoils in horror.  “Mom!” she says. “Get a grip.  It’s just a book deal.”

Just a book deal?  Just a book deal!

She hefts her bassoon and heads down the stone steps to her instructor’s basement studio.  But, before she turns the corner, she shoots a smile over her shoulder at her idiot mother, still standing there stunned next to my open car door.

“I don’t know why you’re so surprised,” she says cheerily.  “We all knew you’d do it.”

I think the she might have mentioned a new horse she had her eye on at this point, but I didn’t pay much attention, instead quickly climbing into my car.  Fortunately, while I was on the phone with Melissa, my diva had been texting the details of the deal to my husband, because by the time I got on the line with him, the floodgates had opened.  He greeted me with the now almost patronizing line “I told you you’d do it.”

Wasn’t anybody as excited as I was?  Did I mention it’s been nearly THREE YEARS?  I was hyperventilating with joy.  My husband would later tell my agent that he wasn’t sure if I was more excited when he proposed to me or when she’d called with the deal.  Silly man.  Of course, we all know the answer to that one. 😉

So, now it’s been a week and things have begun to sink in.  The joy of selling my first book to Cindy Hwang at Penguin Company’s Berkeley Books is still bubbling inside me, but there’s a little trepidation there, too.  After all, I have two more books to write!

And, for those of you out there who knew I could do it even when I didn’t, thanks for believing in me. 🙂

Randomness…

Being in the midst of preparing for vacation myself, preclose accounting at work, and trying to write another book and novella simultaneously, I was not prepared for today’s post.  Eeek!  So I’m gonna wing it.

I’ll skip over the day job drama…no one is interested in that…not even me.

VACATION!!  It being the summer before my daughter’s senior year of high school, she and I are heading to San Antonio, TX tomorrow for a girl’s trip.  We live in SETexas, close to Louisiana, so San Antonio is about a four hour drive to the other side of the state. (Big state…lol)   It has the Riverwalk, and I got us a ridiculously expensive riverview hotel with a balcony, but I figured I’d splurge on the indulgence for once.  So we are going to spend four days walking, shopping and eating and overall general decadence and indulgence with no men to hinder us.  🙂  SO excited!!!

I’m writing and getting excited for RWA in 5 weeks!  Who’s going??

I had a mouse in my kitchen yesterday morning…. Not. Cool.  So hubby has little traps everywhere, and I live in fear of every room I go into.  I don’t cope with the idea of the tiny creature sharing my living space well at all.  Especially when I saw it go under my oven, and then I was doing this to cook last night…

Yeah.  🙂

Okay…that’s all I have.  Sorry for the randomness!!  Have to go get ready for that day job we’re not talking about.  LOL!  Everyone have a great day!!!

 

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