Women’s Fiction, etc.

An ongoing discussion for readers/writers of Women’s Fiction

Archive for Writing

Shifting Mud

 I couldn’t have been more than ten, and we were reading short stories in my class at school.  I don’t remember the name of the story, or who wrote it.  All I know is that it affected me so deeply that I’m writing about it now, forty-five years later.

It was about a boy that somehow got trapped in a sewer pipe.   You know the ones you can barely glimpse when you look down a grate in the street.   I was a hostage of that story; the author described it so well that for a short time, I was that terrified kid.  The boy knew he had to keep going forward to find a way out.  He ended up in a pipe just barely larger than he was, unable to back up, a wall of mud in front of him.  He started to panic and scrabble, afraid he was going to smother in that dark place. But by making himself be still and just breathe, he realized that the mud’s weight shifted, and he could move forward.  Inch by inch, through patience and self-control, he got himself out of that pipe. 

Finding my way through a novel is, for me, like that kid’s journey through the pipe.  What seems like such a great adventure at the beginning, morphs into panic and desperation, then triumph when I pull myself out of the end into the sunshine.

Probably a few of you can relate to the analogy.  So why do we do it?  I know why I do. 

I believe that every human seeks connection – to make someone else see exactly how you feel about something.  When it happens, that rare click of understanding, it is such an incredible rush.

Writing is my way of it, but there are many more and, I suspect, what resonates with you may be different than what touches me.  Just a few of mine are:

In music / performance: Leonard Cohen – Hallelujah

In art, there’s

or

 

There are many so ways to reach out.

When I write the ‘perfect’ line – when I actually manage to capture what is in my mind and get it on the page, it’s worth it.  That’s what I write for, not the search for the illusive sale that distracts me from time to time.

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Inspiration for Writers

I’m a quotation junkie.  I think it has something to do with loving the language…and probably a little jelousy of those who manage to get it just right.  Ran accross these the other day:

How does one become a butterfly? You must want to fly so much
that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar. — Trina Paulus—

“The brick walls are there for a reason,” he said. “The brick walls are not there to keep us out; the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. The brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They are there to stop the other people!  –Randy Pausch–

Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going. –Jim Ryun–

When you come to the end of all the light you know, and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: Either you will be given something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly. –Edward Teller–

Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; its when you had everything to do, and you’ve done it. –Margaret Thatcher–

Ok, I’m going to take my own advice, get out of the cheerleader skirt, and write something!

The Best Excuse

Ok, I’ve been remiss, I admit it.  I haven’t blogged in forever.  But I have the best excuse – I’ve been writing!  I’ve got all kinds of exciting news on the writing front.

First – Have you heard about the new Women’s Fiction RWA (Romance Writers of America) Chapter?  It’s an online chapter, and it’s amazing.  Check it out at: http://www.rwa-wf.com/

Second – I’ve finished my second novel, and it’s out to agents.  I’ve gotten three requests for full manuscripts so far!  I have high hopes for this one – it’s less dark than my first, and it deals with a subject that not many people know much about (but I hope would be intrigued by) the PBR – that’s Pro Bull Riding to those who don’t know.  No, it’s not a cowboy story.  More on this front soon, I hope.

It’s been an amazing year. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Stop by – I promise to be more prolific!

Balance and Butt Time

Have you ever tried to take up a new sport?  Master a new skill?  Do you remember how frustrated you got?   I’ll use learning to cast a fly rod, just as an example.  I took lessons when I started, and at first, I just focused on trying to keep the line in the air…rod moves from ten to two position (think of a clock) and timing is critical to keeping more and more line feeding out and in the air (hopefully without hitting yourself in the back of the head with a fly!).  All that seemed hard enough, but then I had to actually aim at something in the water and be able to hit it, without slapping the water and scaring the fish!  Seemed impossible in the beginning.

 

Being a neophyte in writing feels a bit like that; how do I remember all the things I need to at the same time?  Everything feels awkward, and just…. not comfortable.  I’ll learn a new skill – say plotting.  I end up focusing on that so much that my characters become flat and uninteresting!  What’s really frustrating is that, at first, I don’t realize what’s happened – just that I suddenly have lost interest in the story, and can’t make myself sit down and write.  I spent a month flogging myself, accusing myself of being lazy and questioning my ability to become a professional writer.  A month wasted.

 

 Well, maybe not wasted totally, because I now understand what was wrong, and maybe next time I’ll recognize it more quickly.  This road to being a good writer is a long and convoluted one, much more so than I realized when I began.

 

 It’s like giving birth – if you truly knew what you were getting yourself into, would you do it?  I think it depends on when you’re asked…when they put the baby in your arms for the first time?  Of course!  In the middle of labor?   Maybe not so much….

Maslowe and Hershey Kisses

Some of my best ideas come to me while I’m riding my bicycle.  I had an epiphany during a gorgeous Southern California ride yesterday.  One of those moments when several pieces fall into place for a major “Aha” moment – I love it when that happens!

 

For anyone who is not familiar with Maslowe, here’s the Reader’s Digest version:

 

In the 1930’s Abraham Maslowe put forward his “Hierarchy of Needs” concept to explain behavior.  His theory was that you strive to move toward the top of the list that follows:

 

                        Self-actualization

                        Esteem needs

                        Belonging needs

                        Safety needs

                        Physiological needs

 

This is summed up in one of my favorite songs, “Constant Craving” by K.D.Lang., but I digress.  You can’t move up the ladder until the lower need is met, as anyone who’s been on the lowest rung can attest to (been there myself at one dark period of my life.)

 

My husband and I were talking the other day on a completely different subject.  We were watching one of those obnoxious “Weight Loss Breakthrough” ads on TV, and he didn’t understand why people were so lazy; why they couldn’t lose weight and keep it off (he has more drive than most – he lost 50 lbs 5 years ago.)

 

Last piece to the puzzle; I’m a Weight Watchers member, and the talk this week was about creating goals to achieve weight loss.  Okay, stay with me here, because my theory works for anything you want to achieve, not just weight loss.

 

We’ve all heard the goal-setting advice; break a large goal into steps, and achieve those, and you’ll finally get to your ultimate goal/need.  Great.  On paper.  But if you’re like me, when you choose a large goal like losing 40 lbs, learning to knit, writing a book, whatever…you have pictured in your head what the ultimate goal will do for you.  You’re standing on stage, holding up the Oscar to the applause and adulation of the crowd.

 

Okay, I set smaller goals, but ultimately my eyes are on the applause, and my acceptance speech, and the smaller goals aren’t enough to get me excited.  Yeah, I’m making progress, but smaller goals also point out the amount of road I have left to get to my ultimate desire. 

 

I think this is why we fail.  After awhile, you just burn out.  The effort just doesn’t seem worth it, and we move on to the next thing we want.  But there are two problems with that.  First, the goal you’ve abandoned is the one you want most, or it wouldn’t have been your first effort, right?  Secondly, in spite of excuses you make to others, deep down, you know you’ve failed, and it hurts.  You feel guilty, which lowers your self-esteem and makes the next goal harder to achieve, because you don’t really trust yourself to do it.  After all, you let yourself down before, right?

 

One of my goals is to get stronger on the bike.  We’re going on a bicycle vacation in Utah this summer, and it involves mountains.  Okay, so I’m riding, trying to figure out how to get consistent with my training – I get lazy when I get home from work, and find other things to do that don’t involve sweat and pain. 

Suddenly, I’m distracted by a mockingbird’s song.  I notice that the temperature is perfect.  I look up, and the rolling hills have changed since the last time I rode this route; tawny grass stretches away forever.  I’m so absorbed by the joy of being alive and being out in nature that I don’t even realize I’ve toiled up a major hill – it didn’t hurt at all!

 

That’s the Hershey Kiss part.  Is it the high I’ll get on the podium?  No, not even close.  It’s just a moment’s sweetness on the tongue.  Okay, I’m mixing metaphors, but you get the gist – it’s about focus.  You need to really take the time to revel in the small goals.  Wallow in them.  They are the rest spots on the stairs to the podium.  If you don’t, you’re going to burn out and quit.

 

Besides, just ask an older actor with an Oscar on their mantel; they’ll tell you the evening was great, but what mattered to them was the journey.  Like Lennon said, “Life is what happens while we make other plans”.

 

The Hershey Kisses are the joy of life!  Savor them; I wish you many.

           

Neophite Adventures

Inspiration has been elusive lately.  I haven’t been able to come up with a label for this blog, let alone finish the chapter I’ve been chipping out of stone the past couple of weeks.  For me, creativity comes from being outdoors, and with the Holiday weekend approaching, a road trip was in order!  For Gary and I, that’s motorcycle camping somewhere I can fly fish and he can bicycle his guts out.

We had reservations at Silver Lake – in the Sierras above Mammoth, but as of Thursday morning they had two inches of snow on the ground.  Brrrr.  I quickly reconnoitered, and was lucky – I got reservations in Kernville (in the mountains outside Bakersfield) at our favorite campground on the Kern River. 

We left Friday to sprinkles and stop ‘n go traffic through L.A., which graduated to a full-blown rainstorm at the Grapevine.  Pelting rain and 42 degrees.  We passed a wreck; a car had rolled, helicopter hovered, emergency vehicles flashing warnings to traffic. 

            Down the hill it was sunny and 72 degrees, and I looked back at the Mordor-like clouds sheeting rain – beautiful.  We rode an empty two lane happily through fields of grapes, alfalfa and groves of nut trees.  Odd clouds ahead though, with a tan horizon.  The wind picked up as we rode into a sandstorm!  Gary’s from West Texas, and has told me of them, but I never would have dreamed I’d see one in California. 

            Everything wet became mud, and my bright yellow motorcycle no longer was.  I sit writing this in “Cheryl’s Diner” Saturday morning drinking coffee, my point to this blog obscured by tangents. Then again, maybe not.

             Inspiration has returned, like the signs of spring I see all around me.  Starved for it?  Here’s a suggestion, go to www.smithmag.net/sixwordsThey have a challenge; describe your life in 6 words or less.  Sounds impossible, but once you get started, it’s like writing odd poetry.  The introspection tapped me directly in to my muse, and I created of a couple while riding in the rain.  The title to this blog isn’t just about writing…you’ve heard the term ‘old soul’?  That’s not me.  It may not be my first time, but you can still see the creases from the wrapper.

 

I think I can, I think…

Mistakes; life in disguise.

I learn slowly, remember long.

Hawk heart, unfortunately same size brain.

End comes, I go.  Smiling.

 

Give it a shot – you may not need an adventure to find inspiration!

 

Reader’s / Writer’s toolbox

 At Stephen King’s suggestion (no, he’s not a personal friend – it’s in his book, On Writing), I created a file on my computer entitled “Toolbox”.  In it, I keep my tools for writing.  One section is for websites that come in handy for reading or writing.  I’ll share the best with you here.  More can be found at: http://www.writersdigest.com/101BestSites/

Here are my favorites:

 Reading-

http://www.amazon.com/  – (of course)

http://www.bookspot.com/reviews/ – For reviews by NYT, and many others

 

http://bookmooch.com/ – A free online used book sharing site – Did I say FREE?!

 

http://www.biblio.com/ – find/purchase out of print books

 

 Writing

http://thesaurus.reference.com/ – The best online thesaurus I’ve ever found

 

http://dictionary.reference.com/ – The best dictionary I’ve found

 

http://babelfish.altavista.com/ – Online translator – popular languages (no Swahili-sorry)

 

http://baby-names.adoption.com/ – Names – listed by country as well.

 

· Quotations:
http://www.quotationspage.com/
http://www.bartleby.com/100
brainyquote.com

· Slang:
http://www.slangsite.com/

· Movie Cliches
http://www.moviecliches.com/

· Rhyming Dictionary
http://www.rhymezone.com/

· Lyrics
http://www.azlyrics.com/index.html

Urban Dictionary
http://www.urbandictionary.com/

Slang Dictionary
http://www.alphadictionary.com/slang/

Language Dictionary
http://www.alphadictionary.com/langdir.html

Alpha Agora: A forum for discussions on dialects, slang, accents, etc.
http://www.alphadictionary.com/bb/

Internet Acronym Server
http://silmaril.ie/cgi-bin/uncgi/acronyms

RhymeZone Rhyming Dictionary and Thesaurus
http://www.rhymezone.com/

Dictionary and Thesaurus – Merriam-Webster Online
http://www.merriam-webster.com/

 Word Spy – The Top 100
http://www.wordspy.com/topwords.asp

Words
http://www.answers.com/main/words.jsp

A.Word.A.Day
http://wordsmith.org/awad/

WA’s Curious Words Page
http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/WarrenAllen/words.htm

· Grammar
http://www.grammarlady.com/
http://www.junketstudies.com/rulesofw/
http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/
http://www.bartleby.com/141/index.html
http://www.english.uiuc.edu/cws/wworkshop/writer_resources/grammar_handbook/gram…
http://www.bartleby.com/141/index.html

· Ask Jeeves
http://www.ask.com/#subject:ask|pg:1

Agent Query
http://agentquery.com/
http://firstwriter.com
http://writersmarket.com – I use this – its’ the BEST!
http://longstoryshort.us – critting queries free!

Check out agents – scams
http://agentresearch.com/agent_ver.html
http://anotherealm.com/prededitors
http://sfwa.orge/beware

· Thesaurus
http://thesaurus.reference.com

· Maps
http://geology.com/state-map

 Critiquing

http://writing.com -great, especially for new writers.

Inspiration/ideas
http://refdesk.com
http://book-in-a-week.com
http://smithmag.net/sixwords
http://thestorystarter.com
http://writingfix.com

Romance sites
ghttp://groups.msn.com/romancewritingtips
http://rwa.com
http://coffeetimeromance.com
http://romancedivas.com

Market/event listings/writer organizations
http://forwriters.com
http://www.wga.org/
http://writing.shawguides.com – writing conferences

Just plain interesting!
http://coolstuff4writers.com
http://eighteenquestions.com
http://writersfm.com
http://writesideout.com

 I collect these like baseball cards – you can’t have too many!  I’m always looking for new helpful sites, so I’d love to hear your favorites.