Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Lessons From a Quitter

If optimism is a disease, then reality is the cure.  And the reality work in progress sucks rocks!
I don't like admitting this. I'd much rather blog about things I feel good about, but I guess you should hear the good AND the bad.
So here goes. I'm putting my current novel in a drawer in the study and I'm going to start focusing on my new novel...Hello NaNoWriMo.
 I may revisit Reaper Eternal sometime in the future, but for now I'm quitting on it. I promised myself I would NOT give up on this novel. I would work, fight, and force it into a good novel, but I just can't do it!
It feels down right wrong to give up on it, but on the plus side...I did learn a few things.
First, I learned that I need to work on my characters! The fact is, my book lacks an entertaining voice.
How. On. Earth. could I have missed this? I honestly don't have an answer for that one. I read it, not once, not twice, but three times. It wasn't until I posted the first chapter on Wattpad that I realized it was kind of a dud.
My main character has no charisma, and that's the kiss of death in fiction. (Especially for YA!)
My second lesson is that I need to plot out the story before hand.  I loved it when I read Stephen King's, On Writing, and he said not to plot, but the truth is, (and get ready, it's a shocker)  I am no Stephen King!! I need to plot out the story. The editing is just too terrible without a good plot in place at the start.
And third, and finally, I learned not to take things so seriously!  I've learned so much valuable information from book after book on writing, but I forgot that my main focus is simply to entertain the reader. Have fun. Make mistakes. Be ridiculous. I don't always have to make it "pretty".
So, with these lessons learned, Reaper Eternal is packed up in a drawer and I'm about to take a peek at Book In A Month to get ready for NaNo.
Wish me luck! I'm going to need it!
If you're interested in my other novel, feel free to check out the first two pages on Wattpad. You'll see what I mean about the lack of voice.
Oh well, if at first you don't succeed...

Friday, October 25, 2013

Write It Now or Regret It Later

For years my sister and I have had a common goal. We wanted to be writers. We both believed that if we really put our minds to it, if we really worked hard, we would succeed.
We would meet at the library or a coffee shop with our laptops and get to work, but then something strange would happen. The coffee shops were too loud. The library was too cold. We realized we needed to go shoe shopping or we were suddenly starving and had to go to lunch. With all of these "issues", we didn't get much work done.
While at lunch we would talk about how difficult it was to be a writer. Oh, it was so much work and there was really no guarantee that we would ever succeed. We had the kids to take care of, volunteering to do at the school, and blah, blah, blah.
It went on like this for a while. We'd write a little, complain A LOT, and then go have lunch together and complain some more. It was really a lot of fun!
Then, slowly, things began to change. My sister quit meeting me to "write" and started writing on her own! How RUDE!
I'll admit it. I was trash talking a bit, "It's not right for her to abandon me!" "Who does she think she is?", but while I was trash talking, she was writing.  And a few months later she finished her novel.
Now of course, I wish her all the success in the world, you can find her book, The Corpse Goddess, on Amazon here.
But I was J-E-A-L-O-U-S! Jealous! Why was I so jealous? Even I didn't really get it. She deserved it, she did the work. Plus, there were hundreds of people who had published novels before her. I wasn't jealous of them!
 Now you may think you don't care about my sister and her book. You don't care that the doctor next door to you is a doctor, or that the girl you knew from high school is a movie star, but the reason you don't care is because you don't want to be a writer, or a doctor, or a movie star.
But I'd be willing to bet there is something that you really want to be. Whether it's an artist, or an entrepreneur, or a size six in your skinny jeans.
Whatever it is it won't bother you so much if some stranger succeeds. But when a friend or a family member succeeds, someone you know is so similar to you. They don't have the time either, they don't have the guarantee of success either, and somehow they did it anyway.
When they make it work, and someday they will, you're going to be happy for them, but more than anything you'll be asking yourself, "Why didn't I do the work?"
That's what I was thinking when my sister got published! "Why haven't I been writing?"
I promise you, all your excuses, the entire "poor me" act is going to seem pretty pathetic!
You will feel guilty for not doing what you really, truly wanted to be doing. You will deeply regret wasting time. You will regret letting yourself give in to the excuses. I know I did.
So, lace up those running shoes, start that business, write that book because the very worst thing you can say at the end of the day, or the month. The worst thing you can say at the end of the year or at the end of your life is, "I regret not doing..."

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Aspiring Writer's Challenge

Let's do it together, shall we? Do what? Why sign up for NaNoWriMo, of course! In case you don't know what it is, it's a book in a month baby! All you have to do is write 50,000 words in the month of November.
If you're lucky it will be in story form, but hey, 50,000 meandering words is better than no words at all!
I'm signed up! If you read my blog you know my manuscript is no where near done. You know I've been procrastinating while at the same time talking about how I'm going to finish it. (can you say blind optimism?)
Yes, I'm STILL planning on finishing it, but let's pile on the work shall we!? What's another 50,000 words?
You may also know that I have a very difficult time plotting my stories. That is the reason it's taking me so long to get my current manuscript into working order. I didn't plot to begin with and now I'm paying for it in the editing process.
But this time, I have a plan.
I recently purchased a book called Book in a Month.  Guess what it's about:)
For the aspiring writers out there I'm going to suggest that you do the following:
1. Buy Book in a Month.
2. Sign up for
3. Think about the story you want to write.
And there is a fourth thing I want you to do, but not ALL of you. If you have the tendency to get super excited about new things, I mean really gung ho, and then ten days later you quit (I fall into this category), then DO NOT do step four.
If, on the other hand, you're one of those over achievers, then proceed to step four nerds!(You're not really nerds, but my ego can't take your super awesomeness!)
Step 4. Read the introduction to Book in a Month as soon as you get.
For you go getter's you'll read the intro and be able to maintain your excitement until November. I'm not even going to peek at the intro until a few days before Halloween. For those of you who have a hard time sticking to things, I suggest you wait until then too!
I'm sure, with the help of this book and NaNoWriMo in November we're going to produce some amazing works of fiction!
If you're already a great plotter then skip the book, but DO sign up for NaNo!!

Good luck! And let me know if you sign up!! If you do, I'll be right there with you, every step of the way.
P.S  I have never used Book in a Month and have no stake in it's success or failure, but I've perused the pages and it looks like a pretty thorough plan.
Like I've said before, I'll try anything when it comes to writing!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Camping Trip

Me with Jack and my brother, Joe

I'm back from my camping trip and man, did I need the break. There's just something about nature that puts everything back in line again.
We stayed at Lost Maples in Vanderpool, Texas. It was a beautiful area and despite the rain we got in some good hiking time.
It's been a long time since I've been on a hiking trail, Houston isn't exactly mountainous, but it was amazing!
On my way up the hill I wasn't thinking about how long it was going to take. I wasn't wondering how fast I should be walking or if someone would beat me to the top. I was just enjoying the time.
Monkey Rock
I was completely focused on the task at hand and loving every minute of it. It was the sort of peace that can only come from living in the moment.
Even when I got to the top, and the view was amazing, I was disappointed that the trip up had ended. The joy, for me, came from the hard work. The water breaks taken in a shady spot, sharing trail mix with the people I was with, or just walking on my own in the quiet. The joy was in the crunching of the rocks beneath my tennis shoes, and the sounds of the leaves rustling in the wind.
The top was just the end. Or the beginning of the end anyway, we still had to hike all the way down!
Nature has a funny way of reminding me to slow down and enjoy the little things.
Maya and Brian
With that in mind I intend to slow down a little in my life and in my writing. You're probably laughing if you have any idea how many self imposed writing deadlines I have missed, but what I mean is to slow down and enjoy the moments.
I'm going to try not to feel like I should be writing when I'm sitting with my daughter and she's telling me the names of every single stuffed animal she owns, "This one is Pixie Gouda Charlotte Earthaven, and this one is.."
I'm going to try and remember that these times will pass all too quickly and they won't come back again. I'm going to remember that slowing down to really feel the life I'm living is more important than getting my kids to bed at exactly 8:30, or getting my book finished by October 31st.
I'm going to remember how much I enjoyed that hike, and I'm going to remember that even when I got to the glorious view at the top I still felt that pang of disappointment for it being over. I'm going to slow down and enjoy the climb.
Jack and Brian
Oh, my God! Miley Cyrus was right, "It's the Climb"!!
What about you? What are some things that remind you to slow down and enjoy the little things? I'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

DIY Book Cover

After a little bit of research I've decided that, if I ever finish this book, I'm going to self publish it. Now if you've read my blog before (or you know anything about self publishing) you know that this means I'll need someone to design the cover of my book.
A good cover design can run you a couple hundred bucks (at least!). So, in the spirit of saving money (and because I'll use any excuse to take a writing break) I thought I'd look into making my own book cover.
First, I spray painted an old bracelet to look like the "reaper bands" I describe in my book.  Next I hired a lovely teenager from down the street to come over to model for me.
I even had my daughter hold up a fan in a few shots so we could get that wind blown look (This didn't really work. The fan we used couldn't blow the petals off a dandelion!).
Because I asked my model to wear a black cloak and slink around my yard looking "mean", I paid her twenty bucks. Because my daughter talked her ears off the entire time she was here, I forced her to take the money even when she refused.
Anyway, after about half an hour I thought we had plenty to work with so I loaded the pictures into Lightroom. I took a little bit of time and played around with a few sliders (exposure, contrast, whites, blacks, a few brushes) and VIOLA.
Now it wasn't a complete success. I tried to get the eyes to look orange (the protagonist in my book has orange eyes), but my Lightroom skills weren't quite up to snuff.
I still need to add the title, my name, the back cover, and the spine. Plus, a few of the pictures need a background change, and then there's the formatting. The formatting alone might cause me severe chest pains, but it's worth a try!
Worst case scenario is that I won't be able to get it done and I'll still have to hire a professional.
But for 20 bucks, an old bracelet, and a few hours tinkering around on the computer, I'm happy with the results.
Let me know what you think! And if you have an inkling that I'm getting in over my head, let me know that too!!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Write Like You Don't Know You Can Fail

Have you ever had someone you know, all of the sudden, decide to do something completely stupid? Recently someone I know decided that she was going to be a photographer. The kicker is, she was really terrible at photography. Her pictures were lousy and she didn't even know how to use Photoshop. Or even Lightroom. Her camera wasn't all that fancy or expensive, and I'm pretty sure she only had one lens! What?!

She simply announced on Facebook that she would charge $100 for a sitting fee and the disc of photos she took was yours to keep. Bam! She was completely inexperienced and she was advertising herself as a photographer. What a nut!
 I would have done things so much differently. I would have researched photography, practiced all day and night. I would have read everything I could get my hands on. I would have bought the best camera money could buy (and a couple of fancy lenses) and then learned to use Lightroom AND Photoshop. (All the best photographers know both!)
 I would probably take pictures for free for about a year or two and then, and only then, would I start charging people. Actually, I probably wouldn't EVER start charging people because I would never have felt like I was worthy enough to charge for my services.
 What happened to my friend the photographer you ask? The girl who did EVERYTHING WRONG?  I bet you can guess what happened! She succeeded.
She is currently a working photographer. Not just working, but successful. She's making money and her pictures are looking great!

There's a reason why I didn't use writing as an example, (it hits too close to home) but I easily could have. If you're a wanna be writer you can probably relate.
So what's the lesson in this? Now listen close, you might have heard this before.
Nobody's perfect!
There it is. We have to quiet the perfectionist in our minds.
We have to decide that we're good enough to put our work out there for the world to see. We are good enough to call ourselves writers.
We have to find the confidence, that same confidence that lead a mediocre (at best) photographer to start her own business. People do it all the time and it can be you.

 If failure is not an option for you then eventually you're going to have to finish that novel and put it out there for the world to see. Eventually you're going to have to call yourself a writer, or a photographer or whatever it is you've been dreaming of being. And if you work hard enough, and long enough, and pretend like you have no idea that you could fail at whatever it is you're working on, you'll have no choice, but to succeed!

"Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, "It might have been."-Kurt Vonnegut