It's a Writer's Life
by Shawn Murray
It's a WRITER'S LIFE

Day 48: February 17th

Today is the 48th day of the year. There are 317 days until the New Year.

Does that change your perspective?

We're just past the half-way mark of the second month.

What have you accomplished since New Year's Eve?

I look over my (uh-hum unfinished) list of New Years Resolutions and realize I haven't accomplished much of anything thus far. I've allowed my circumstances to rule my emotions and thus rule my actions. My brain knows this is the wrong sequence but I fall into the same habit time after time.

It has nearly destroyed me on several occasions. It has ruled my life for far too long. And though I wish to change it, I'm sure I will succumb again but the good news is that I'm now consciously aware of the pattern and I'm completely aware of the havoc it has created in my life.

"They" say that awareness is the first step to recovery.

The second step is to make a plan for recovery.

The third step is to take action.

And apparently I need a fourth step: accountability.

And a fifth: reward and it's reverse: punishment.

I also need to follow through.

My writing is the first thing to suffer when I go through this emotional roller coaster.

I recently read an online article by David K. Williams entitled 10 Self-Limiting Habit Successful Writers Don't Have. Here's the list:

1.    Habit of only writing when you feel inspired
2.    Habit of making it all about yourself
3.    Habit of silly, wishful thinking
4.    Habit of playing it safe
5.    Habit of negative self-talk
6.    Habit of contrived pessimism
7.    Habit of trying to control everything
8.    Habit of constantly demanding things
9.    Habit of constantly comparing yourself to others
10.  Habit of quitting when things get a little tough

Read the full article here.

Embarrassingly, I have all ten of these habits to some varying degree, but I suffer the most from Habit #1, #5 and #10.

#1: I tell myself that inspiration comes once you start writing. I began writing over 30 years ago but I have to admit that I've not written more than I have written. Even journaling. My Resolution every year is to write 3 long-hand pages daily every morning in a marbled 200 page 9x7 Composition notebook. I have journals since I first moved to Georgia in 1990. I should have 138 journals plus the one I'm currently writing in. I have approximately 25. So I've written less than 6% of my goal (and this goal is on every New Years Resolution list I've ever made).

I know you're saying that New Years Resolutions are a waste of time. My lists are not necessarily the type of list you think of when you think of a New Years Resolution list. I set mine up as goals I want to achieve by the end of the year, not necessarily something I have to start on January 1st. This year, my resolution was to write one million words broken down into three parts: journaling, this blog, and any WiP.

I still have plenty of time to reach that goal but I'm woefully behind.

My biggest obstacle is myself, of course. I have the grandest intention when I set the goals but just the act of setting the goal seems to freeze me in my tracks. It the rebellious teenager in me. No matter that it is me, myself, setting the goal or that the goal is something I want or that it is something that is good for me or makes me happy; I just freeze.

I haven't figured a way around that yet but I'm open to the possibility of finding a solution. I'll keep you posted on my progress.

I have tried multiple suggestions: setting a daily word count, setting aside a specific time to write, writing a lot in one or two days a week, writing a chapter at a time, using a timer, having someone else to be accountable to, and writing only when I feel inspired. They've all worked for a time but never consistently. It's my own resistance. Which leads me to Habit #5.

Which I'll explore in depth in my next blog.

Tell me what works for you. What gets you to BICHOK?

undying love: a poem

Do you ever think of me,
and the promises you made,
to love me forever and always?
Your responsibilities kept us apart
and I shielded my heart
from ever having hope again
it's been years since we spoke
and even then you professed
your undying love
but I still have the bullet
meant for you.

© 2014 by Shawn Ann Murray

Happy New Year!!

It's time for new beginnings and a new me! Many things have changed for me in the last six weeks and I'm a new person. All my old friends are amazed when they see me. I've celebrated a birthday and no one can believe how old I am. I've be accused of looking 10 - 15 years younger than I actually am. And I'm happy.

My usual holiday depression was a far off memory this year though I've had a moment here and there of holiday blues. About the end of October, a very dear friend learned he had stage 4 lung cancer that metastasized to his bones and brain. I've been spending as much time with him and his wife trying to help out but there's only so much I can do. I wish I could do more. We're praying for miracles.

So we had a low key, relaxing holiday season. No drama. No additional stress. No trip home, travel or any of the normal family dynamics this year. It was all very pleasant.

I've eased into the New Year with a whole new outlook on life. I'm on a new food plan and losing weight steadily, with tons of energy, a clear head and lots of smiles and happy tears. I get overwhelmed with joy and it just overflows in the form of tears.

So different from so many years past. I actually went out new Years Eve as a single woman and had a blast, kissed a total stranger at midnight and danced the night away. Many firsts for me. I'm enjoying being single.

I went ice skating for the first time in probably 15 years. Fell only once but it was a doozy. Chiropractor said I got a slight whiplash from the fall. It's hell being young again!!


me at the ice rink


I've decided to pamper myself a little, so as a pre-birthday gift I had my nails done.



my candy cane nails.

And I had a birthday party:



me with my complimentary ice cream with a birthday candle.


I've met many new people that I now call friends, and several of them are also writers. It's so much fun to bounce ideas off each other and share our work. I feel as though I'm breaking out of this self-imposed shell I've been wrapped up in for so long. And have I mentioned that I'm happy.

It's no small feat to have broken through my year end/holiday depression. I dreaded the holiday season for so many years because I feared that I wouldn't survive the next one. The fear of the anticipated depression cropped up occasionally this year but the depression never took hold. Part of that I attribute to the new food plan (I'll never say diet again).

I'm eating mostly organic/non-GMO foods and feel absolutely no deprivation. My food cravings are gone. I loved bread and craved it all the time. Now that I'm away from it, I don't miss it. If I want sweets, I have a little dark chocolate-which also has health benefits. I just bought organic pretzels which I've found I no longer really want. If you know me at all, I couldn't write without my pretzels and ice to munch on with a Coke on the side. These days, it's more the habit I miss, not the food. I still have my caffeine in the form of a Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino and I've substituted a bag of Non-GMO popcorn for pretzels. 

Now, to my writing: I have made the resolution to write 1,000,000 words this year. Between this blog twice a week, my daily journal writing, WIP's and a whole lot of dedication, that goal shouldn't be so hard to reach.

As for this blog, I've decided that I want to review books on writing. A time or two I have shared with you, Dear Reader, things I have learned from the occasional writing book. I probably own nearly a hundred books on writing (and I currently have two more being delivered via Amazon). My biggest obstacle to writing has been finding the motivation to sit in the chair (and stay there) and write. Ideas come to me easily. I have nearly a hundred of those in some stage of completion.
 
(note to self: second biggest problem: completing WIP's)

I don't usually outline though I have found it necessary after completing a few projects. My stories seem to flow from my brain once I get in front of the blank screen though I often get stuck in the editing process. Killing off my babies is always a little difficult. But I've decided to try editing the previous days writing before jumping into it again. That should help kill two birds-keep me from having to edit an entire piece at one time (instead of writing) and it should be easier to write the next scene/chapter/page. I've already begun the new process but it's only been a few days. Still trying to find my routine.

In my ongoing search for motivating the Muse, I will read or reread books on writing and share with you what I find. Currently on my bedside tale (or more accurately-a pile of books next to the bed) The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards and The Prosperous Heart by Julie Cameron and Excuses Begone! by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer (along with Blood Sugar Solutions by Mark Hyman, M.D., Clean by Alejandro Junger, M.D., Grain Brain by David Perlmutter, M.D., and Wheat Belly by William Davis, M.D..)

And I have a few fictions books on that list too. My Goodreads account will be active this year.

Just a note on the Food Plan books: I've spent my entire adult life battling depression-whether I was in full fledged depression or just worried that I'd go there. My change in eating habits has done wonders for my battle. I no longer have a mental fog all the time. I have more energy. I'm sleeping better at night and not needing to nap during the day. That's a huge step toward motivating the Muse. She tends not to show when you're tired and cranky. My diabetic sugar levels are leveling out nicely so I no longer have the drastic mood swings and confusion I once had. (No more cusing at the Muse) I'm not hungry all the time, my weight has gone down and my self esteem has gone up.

I've also been able to release about 90% of the stress in my life and that has made all the difference. Everything is interrelated. Sometimes, if we take care of the body, the mind follows.

Guess where I am


being a beach bum!!!

And loving it.

we're at St. George Island in FLA. It's beautiful here. A little too hot in the afternoons but the shade is just as wonderful.

something about the waves crashing the shore just relaxes me, makes me feel grounded. And after the last few weeks, this is just what I needed.

having issues with the new roommate, issues at work, newly single again and mourning the loss of my stepfather and my fiancée who both passed in September, one and two years ago respectively.

the beach, though, brings back many memories of a life shared and a future planned together. It breaks my heart to be here. But it's still better at the beach. This is where I'll retire when it comes to that.

The only downfall right now is that the meds I'm on make my skin splotchy when I'm out in the sun and I get terribly exhausted in the heat so I stick to the shade and AC during the heat of the day. Did get a run in when it cooled off last night. Love to walk/jog/run on the beach better than in the gym though that's where I'll be when I get back. Need to get in shape for my 5k in October. My friends have gotten my on a completely organic diet, no wheat whatsoever and I'm feeling so much better. Add some exercise in the mix and I'll be off my meds anyway.

Now to get into a writing routine and find another job and I'll be fantastic. (add a boyfriend and things will be near perfect). Just about given up in that arena though. I've come to the realization that people my age are looking for someone to fit into their lives rather than creating a life together. Something about old dogs. I'll admit, I feel rather old sometimes but I'm still looking to create a life with someone. Guess that's because I've never been married and I've made the mistake of putting my life on hold till I find someone.

but I guess I was meant to be single until I take care of my own happiness and achieve my dream of becoming a published writer. Then I'll be surrounded by like-minded people with whom I'll have a lot more in common.

so, I guess that means I have to write, write, write.

I've finally started book two. I've gotten through three chapters but I've found that I need to go back and review book one so I can continue the story line. The problem with that is that I'll be editing as I go and I don't think I'm quite ready to edit. I do have the next 4 days off so we'll see how that goes. I just have to recommit myself to the process (rather than commit to writing-there is a difference). I had recommitted to the writing-250 words a day, which went to the wayside yesterday since I had only about an hour of sleep in 48 hours. (a reoccurring habit when I travel  Procrastination is high gear. But that's the story of my life, pardon the pun.

I swear I'll stop procrastinating, tomorrow.

but for today, I want to start my Red Chain again and the only way to do that is to write at least 250 words. Guess I can do that while the sun is high in the sky and too hot to deal. AC is nice and the view is great. (see pic). And maybe, just maybe, my character will find herself on St. George Island instead of Mexico Beach. Don't want my private, pristine retirement community overrun with my avid fans.

Things are looking sunny...





good news and bad

The good news first: I finally finished the first novel in the mystery series.

The bad news: now I have sever writers block. I'm even having a hard time editing.

Arggggg.

And it seems, I'm having a hard time writing this blog too. Thought that writing the blog would be a change of scenery, so to speak. Pardon the pun. 

I have the plot for the next two books but I need a great opening line and a general idea of how's it's going to end before I can start. I have neither, squared.

Then I need to develop a prologue; a short bit about the murder my character will have to solve by the end of the book, while gathering details about the murder of her husband and mother (which won't be solved until the end of the series of books).

It's been done before. There are no new plots, just new twists on the old plots.

I think I'm going to pick up a pen and a tablet and do it old style for a while. It's just annoying that I'll have to then enter it into a computer later.

With my screenplay, though, I interviewed my character before I started to write just to find out what life was like for her before I ever wrote FADE IN:

That's an idea.... a pretty good one.

Gotta go...

200th Post: 100 things you may not know about me

Well, 219th to be exact. Missed that milestone a few weeks back. It's been an emotional roller coaster the last 6 years since I started blogging. My first blog was about my first screenplay idea, procrastination as a writer and moral support.

Since then, I've been in and out of relationships, lost a fiancee to heart disease, and now in a very comfortable long term relationship. I've finally submitted a piece of writing and actually got it published. Finished that screenplay I had alluded to in that first blog but still need to cut 20 pages. I have started several others; one of which has potential and the others not so much. I've written much poetry, several short stories and started several novel length fiction pieces, a couple non-fiction pieces and now a mystery series which could potentially be a 20 title series. That'll keep me busy for a while.

I've played an extra in the movie Warm Springs, and the show Blue Collar TV.

There hasn't been much else in the way of excitement in my life in the last six years, or in my entire life, for that matter. I live vicariously through the characters in my books and characters in others books and movies. I'm rather an introvert and would rather spend hours emersed in a book than be surrounded by a crowd.

Here are some other things you may not know about me: 

  1. I've been writing since I was 14
  2. submitted only one piece of fiction for publication and was accepted by the second magazine I submitted to
  3. love sci-fi
  4. Harry Potter fan, read all the books and watched all the movies
  5. Twilight fan, read all the books and watched all the movies
  6. top ten current favorite movies: Tequila Sunrise, Big Chill, Stealing Home, Dogma, Elizabethtown, Big Fish, Atlas Shrugged, Twister, V for Vendetta, Sleepers  
  7. favorite music groups: Pink Floyd, Styx, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, Sugarland, U2, Eagles,
  8. favorite musicians: Eric Clapton, Bon Jovi, John Mayer, Aaron Neville, Bob Marley, Dave Matthews, Ellis Paul, Joan Osborne, Jeff Buckley,
  9. love Lord of the Rings trilogy
  10. loves Star Wars, Star Trek, X-Men, Sherlock Holmes,  
  11. absolute favorite tv series: Babylon 5 and Stargate:SG1
  12. loves Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother
  13. loves In Plain Sight, Royal Pains, Hawaii 5-0, Covert Affair, Burn Notice, Castle, Angel, How I Met Your Mother and Big Bang Theory 
  14. favorite color: all shades of red, especially burgundy, and purple
  15. have hair nearly to my knees, plan to donate it to Locks of Love when it finally reaches my knees
  16. fan of the Hunger Games books
  17. love to paint & draw
  18. fan of the Fallen books
  19. enjoy watching documentaries about WWII
  20. love all things Frank Llyod Wright
  21. love seafood, Italian, a good steak,
  22. love chocolate, white chocolate, dark chocolate but not fudge, especially Sarris chocolate from Pittsburgh
  23. love chocolate cover pretzels, chocolate covered peanut butter melt-a-ways, and chocolate covered nuts
  24. have probably nearly 2000 books-they're my drug of choice-and amazon.com is my best friend 
  25. favorite pizza places - MaMa's Pizza in Alpharetta, New York Pizza Exchange in Smyrna and Fox's Pizza (a chain from Pittsburgh but recently moved to Cumming)
  26. Magharetta Pizza is my favorite pizza
  27. favorite pizza topping is pineapple 
  28. love boating, swimming and anything to do with being on or in the water
  29. love Steelers football
  30. absolutely love Penguin Hockey
  31. collect penguins, clowns, mimes, masks, Emmett Kelley and beautiful journals
  32. love all things Paris and Eiffel Towel
  33. want to take an Alaskan cruise
  34. love all things Winnie the Pooh and Mickey Mouse
  35. love to cook and bake
  36. collect recipes
  37. love all things Prince William and Princess Kate
  38. will spend hours reading tabloids about William & Kate, Jen/Brad/Angelina, Tom & Katie and Rob & Kristen and skip everything else
  39. think I was John F. Kennedy in a previous life (only half kidding) - fascinated by all things Kennedy
  40. favorite fiction authors: Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Patricia Cromwell, Sue Grafton,
  41. favorite non-fiction authors: Julia Cameron, Eric Maisel, Marianne Williamson, Wayne Dyer,
  42. I'm a student of the Course in Miracles
  43. absolutely love everything Christmas
  44. love the snow but not the cold
  45. enjoy political, philosophical and religious debates
  46. enjoying studying theology
  47. favorite smells: camp fires, bacon cooking, bacon cooking over a camp fire, chocolate chips cookies fresh from the oven, burning leaves, fresh cut grass, fire in the fire place, used book store, ripe tomatoes on the vine, crisp cold day, lavender, jasmine, cinnamon
  48. favorite woman's cologne: Sand & Sable
  49. favorite men's colognes: Drakkar Noir, Halston
  50. prefer to wear high heeled shoes
  51. owned only five pair of shoes until I turned 36. Now I own over 200.
  52. love Gallagher
  53. love the beach, the mountains, the lake, the woods
  54. love board games (fav: Lord of the Rings, chess, backgammon), cards, dominoes
  55. own a Star Trek multi-level chess set and looking for someone to play
  56. did you know I was in a bank when it was robbed?
  57. I was also held at gun point during a convenience store robbery where I worked
  58. enjoy seeing the Nutcracker ballet
  59. my birthday is the day after Christmas - I was an early Easter baby (3 months premature) - I was in the hospital until February and no one expected me to leave the hospital at all
  60. I love sushi but I'm allergic to avocado
  61. I enjoy breakfast any time of the day
  62. love bacon and ham but not sausage
  63. love eggs over easy but eat only the yolk, I'm allergic to egg whites especially uncooked
  64. love scrambled but only with cheese
  65. will celebrate 6 years at my current job in March
  66. never held a job for more than 3 years before
  67. planning to start my own businesses on January 1st
  68. planning to jump into other creative endeavors on January 1st to supplement my income and support my writing
  69. will submit my first mystery novel for possible publication
  70. will self-publish my first book of short stories and poetry before the end of 2012
  71. love long walks on the beach at sunset and jogging on the beach at sunrise
  72. enjoy the rain dripping through the trees in a forrest
  73. love cinnamon ice cream, or butter pecan ice cream, or ice cream sandwiches and push-ups
  74. I weigh less now than I did when I graduated high school
  75. I've been trying to go back to school for a long time (too long)
  76. support non-profits such as Make-A-Wish Foundation, American Heart Association, and American Diabetes Association
  77. formed my own non-profit: Next Chapter Foundation (email me for more information) and plan to dedicate time to building this Foundation in the new year
  78. want to form other non-profits to help others (girls attending college, writers & authors, alcohol & drug addicts, those searching for spiritual guidance)
  79. favorite Christmas cookies: snickerdoodles and pizelles and peanut butter blossoms
  80. I'm a very traditional-old fashioned kind of girl
  81. I sang a solo (A Few of My Favorite Things) in Junior High in front of about 2000 people
  82. I love all things oriental-especially when they're red and black
  83. I collect inspirational quotes
  84. I hate eating by myself, especially in a restaurant
  85. my favorite actresses are Jodie Foster, Claudia Christian, Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Garner, Helen Hunt, Keira Knightley, Salma Hayek and Natalie Portman
  86. my favorite actors are Hugh Jackman, Jean Reno, Orlando Bloom, Ewan McGregor, John Cusack, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt and Jason Lee
  87. I won a second place ribbon for a cake I entered in the County Fair when I was 16
  88. I love bracelets, especially gold bangle bracelets
  89. a psychic told me I was a gypsy in a previous life
  90. I'm a romantic at heart
  91. I held a hummingbird in my hand for several minutes
  92. my totem is a dragonfly (or a damselfly-yes, there is such a thing)
  93. I wish I was a red-head with green eyes
  94. I don't have a single grey hair and I don't color my hair
  95. I collect encyclopedias
  96. I wanted to be a psychologist when I grew up otherwise I wanted to be an FBI Profiler, brain surgeon or medical examiner and I still want to be a psychologist or a life coach (or both)
  97. My favorite Christmas show is Nester the Long Ear Donkey
  98. My favorite Christmas CD is A Charlie Brown Christmas and usually listen to it through June and I love the Trans-Siberian Orchestra: Christmas Eve and Other Stories
  99. I have over 750 items on my amazon wish list(s)
  100. And if you've read this entire list, you must really be a good friend

 

A solitary endeavor...

As I said in a previous post, I'm a firm believer in the advantages of community for writers but writing is still a solitary endeavor. Only you know what's percolating in that brain of yours. And even though many people colaborate on books, I'm sure that there's still quite a bit of writing done individually.

I have formed many writing groups of various forms over the years. Many have failed for various reasons but I still reach out to fellow writers to offer support and encouragement in the hopes of receiving the same. I'm a better writer because of my writing friends.

That being said, when I arrived at our last writer's group meeting, I knew what the next scene was that I wanted to write. I set up my laptop, got my coffee and snack, and began writing. It was going well and I was able to get to the heart of the scene; a sex scene.

I looked up at one point and realized I was surrounded by people. My heart was racing and I felt my face getting flushed. Oops.

Usually, I'm easily distracted by movement, especially when people enter the Starbucks or walk past the table where I'm writing or even the cars driving through the drive-thru. It's not such a big deal because I can easily delve right back into the writing. So when an extremely good-looking young man walked in to get his coffee, I just had to look up. Not a good idea at that moment. It was then that I realized what I was doing and the affect it was having on my libido.

Luckily, my group was near breaking up for the evening. I was able to finish up the scene in semi-solitude at the table as I kept peeking from the corner of my eye at other patrons, the beautiful people, as my heart still raced.

And I packed up my stuff at closing and went home, pleased with the days writing. Day is done. I got home and I still felt the urge (pardon the pun) to write. So I pulled out the laptop and delved into the next unknown scene and surprisingly, that scene lead to another, lo and behold, sex scene that I hadn't planned. This one between two most unlikely characters. Now, eventually, I have to write the scene where they "have to talk" about what happened. That should be fun. Especially since they won't end up together.

But the fun part was that I woke my boyfriend up in the middle of the night and I attacked him. He told me that I should write more sex scenes.

Now, if you know me at all, you know that I am very traditional -- or old fashioned, if you will. I do not like the fact that there are gratuitous sex scenes in movies and books. "Yes, but sex sells," I can hear you say, so they're there. I get it. I don't have to like it. I prefer the sex to be subtle. My favorite movie of all time has a sex scene all done in shadows; granted that movie was made in the early 80's but I've always been a fan of leaving things like that "up to one's imagination."

So maybe I'm a prude and I'm sure that my sex scene is far from super titillating. But my boyfriend wasn't complaining.

And next time, unfortunately I believe that there'll be another sex scene if I want my work to be published, I'll have to plan to write them in solitude.   

Never Give Up...

 

 

There are still five days left to cross the finish line. Anything can happen in five days. I’ve written 10k words in three days before and I’m sure our schedules are nearly as busy. The trick is to recommit to the process. After all, only you can finish this masterpiece you started.

Masterpiece? You say. Not even close. Well, isn’t it a masterpiece in progress. You’ll never know if you don’t finish, and edit, edit, edit (in December). Every writer, including Stephen King, Patricia Cromwell, Dean Kootz, Stephanie Meyers, J.K. Rowlings, have doubted their first drafts but that didn’t stop them.

Besides, you’ll never know if you don’t finish. We started this November with high hopes and big dreams. Where did they go? The same place they’ve always gone. Because you’ve done the same things. NaNoWriMo is a chance to do something different. NaNoWriMo is the opportunity to do something you’ve always wanted to do and now, look at you. Are you posed to cross the finish line this week? Are you dedicated to your story to continue with it through December? Until it’s finished.  And then edit it until you can stand it anymore? And then continue?

Writers write. And then edit. And write some more, and edit, edit, edit. NaNo is about crossing the finish line.  It’s about the camaraderie. It’s about the challenge. But if you’ve taken up the challenge, then somewhere inside of you is a desire to see your name on a book jacket somewhere on the bookshelf in a major bookstore chain. (okay, Barnes & Noble. It’s all in the details.)

So it doesn’t really matter in the bigger scheme of things if you cross the finish line by midnight Friday but wouldn’t it be wonderful if you did? Challenged yourself to do whatever it takes to see WINNER! next to your name there on the NaNoWriMo website? Then you can say you’re on your way to being the writer you’ve always dreamed of.

May the Muse be with you…

 

 

 

Killing Your Darlings

After 8 years of tackling this 50k/30days writing challenge, I’ve heard the advice many times to kill your darlings. I’ve heard it and ignored it, saying that that is just not the kind of story I’m writing.

Which is ironic since every story I’ve ever written since I was 14 had some form of death in it. To me, death is just a part of life. I’ve killed characters at the end. I’ve killed main characters. I’ve killed minor characters. I’ve even had one main character dead at the beginning of the story and talk to us from the great beyond throughout the entire story.

But somehow, the idea of just throwing a death scene into a story seemed odd to me. It had to make sense. I recently lost my step-father to a heart attack and during the week that followed, nothing made sense to me. It still doesn’t. Sometimes, we just can’t explain it.

Life doesn’t necessarily make sense but fiction must make sense. But a death can come as a surprise in fiction. There should always be surprises in your story, just to keep the reader from putting your book down and never picking it up again. The bigger the surprise the better but it must be believable, even if your writing sci-fi or fantasy. Challenge yourself to write about bigger and bigger surprises.

For me, throwing a gun into a scene or murdering one of my characters was a challenge I never took on before. I usually knew that a character would die by the end of the story. But to just kill a character was so foreign.

But this year, I’ve decided to tackle a mystery. I had three characters dead at the beginning of the story and my main character would need to figure out who killed two of those three, sometime in the next twenty titles/books. (Did I mention this was a mystery series?)

But the very first murder mentioned in my book needs to be solved in this book (otherwise it wouldn’t be a mystery, right?) I had a police detective, someone other than my main character, looking into that murder (and the attempted murder of my main character). Suddenly he (and my readers) had more information than my main character and I had to do something about that. Next thing I know, he’s being thrown off a third story balcony and lying dead on the pavement below while another character is dead in her bathtub.

That was unexpected. My main character is about to learn that the man that she hoped would find the person trying to kill her is dead and she now has to step up and find the murderer herself and in the process step-up in her own life.

That’s been the goal since the beginning. She’s been a widow now for five years and has been in mourning just as long, while everyone else has shielded her from life. Book One will be an awakening for her. Having the detective die while investigating her life will awaken her to her own complacency and to the fact that she hasn’t been there for her friends and family, especially her child. Having  your life threatened has a way of doing that to someone. In reality though, most people in that situation would eventually fall back into that complacency. In fiction, your characters may fall back into what is known as the “long, dark night of the soul” but they cannot stay there. It’s a moment where all hope is lost, usually just before the climb toward the climax of the story. If they stay in that forlorn moment, there is no climax, thus no exciting/surprising ending, and no audience.

And that’s not why we write. Having another two bodies at the morgue was not in the outline of my story nor did I set out to kill my detective but there was no other way to have my main character step up. She could allow life to happen to her throughout Book One or I needed a catalyst to force her to really live. The former would put my readers to sleep. The latter, I hope, will keep my readers turning the page. After all, I have twenty plus titles/books to write. And, I guess, a few more darlings to kill.

What happens to  your story if you throw a gun into the mix? Or kill off a minor, or major character? Remember, death is a part of life. If there is blood running through the veins of your characters, whether it’s red or purple, there’s usually a way to kill them off. Then write about the repercussions. A friend of mine says that God know how each and every person will react to someone’s death and after all, are you not playing God with your characters? Explore what happens. They may take you off into a completely different direction and help you to cross the finish line.

May the Muse be with you…

Community

I hit the wall. No, not a real wall. Done that. No t-shirt needed. The proverbial wall that always appears in week two of NaNo. No matter how many years I’ve done this and no matter how much I prepare for it, the wall is always there. This year it came in the form of sheer exhaustion. Twenty-four hours of babbling confusion. The fact that I haven’t been sleeping well; nightmares, working late, waking early, and not taking care of myself; not eating right, forgetting my diabetes meds, sugar out of whack, I became a walking zombie and no matter the amount of caffeine I just couldn’t focus long enough to avert narcolepsy or sleep long enough to rest.

NaNo is not worth risking ones’ life no matter how much I try to convince myself that I must reach my daily word count. Luckily I’ve been ahead as far as that goes so taking a day off was not only necessary but essential. Especially since I managed to paint myself into a corner, figuratively.

I wrote such a disturbing scene in my last chapter that I just couldn’t continue. Writer’s Block. I keep telling myself I can delete it, in December, but just having that scene there staring at me, just made me literally sick to my stomach.

I could delete it but erasing a chapter full of words would delete, like, two days worth of word count. Turning the font to white might help but I want to keep the scene as part of the story but just allude to the details rather than go in depth about the atrocities and crimes my villain is committing.

I like alluding. And illusions. Hey, I can use that. BRB.

Okay, I’m back. Thanks to the participants at the Sunday morning write-in, I’ve managed to break through my writer’s block. They suggested several ideas, none of which I used (sorry) but it did get me to think of an alternative for a chapter (not necessarily the next chapter, though). And that brings me to a few pointers. One being community. NaNo is a community of over three hundred thousand writers going at this one word at a time, just like me. And just like you. If you think about that, that’s a very large football stadium (Superdome, if you will) full of people typing away, everyday, to cross the finish line. (sorry, just finished watching Monday Night Football. Go Steelers!) If you were sitting with all those other 300,000 participants, typing away, would you just stop typing, pack up you toys and go home? Probably not. You might stop and look around every once in awhile. You may get up and go to the bathroom, grab a bite to eat or another cup of coffee but you’d come back and add more words. You’d keep at it. Not just because you were there and didn’t have anything better to do. Not because you made the commitment to everyone there and to yourself to do this. Not even because it was all fun and games. You did this because there’s a book inside of you that’s been itching to get out. NaNo is the ticket that got you in the seat.

Community keeps you in the seat. I did my first NaNo completely alone. I’m an extreme introvert. Dealing with people completely drains my energy. (Not necessarily a good thing when you make your living from retail.) I thought I could do it myself. I failed miserable. I hit the wall in week two and never went back to that story (though I plan to someday). The next year I volunteered for co-ML and joined a weekly write-in lead by a very audacious lady whom I loved. As life goes, that little group fell apart over the years but new NaNo participants joined, fell away, formed into other groups, new groups, new participants, and now we have a new, growing group of dedicated writers who meet year round.

That brings me to point two; community online is fantastic. But community, in-person, will get you writing when you’re stuck, make suggestions to spur your creativity, throw up challenges, dares, what if…scenarios, share jokes and quotes, support you when life gets in the way, listen when you feel overwhelmed, commiserate when your characters won’t cooperate, and force you into a word war when you really don’t feel like it – and cause you to write 1,000 words and head off into a direction you never would have thought of otherwise. (thank you)

There are so many benefits to attending a write-in or forming one of your own. Before quitting, think about joining. Literally.

 

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