Friday, August 31, 2007

Blown, there's beauty

It's official, summer's over. Here comes the fall--I've always objected to the word "fall" for such a glorious season. After all, the roses in full bloom are so gorgeous. We exist in change.

Transitions need to be celebrated. I've notice that when we honor change, then it's easier, and more fun. When I get excited about a new season, then I'm more creative and focused. More in the moment.

Do you have a favorite season? Do you celebrate the changing of the seasons? If so, how?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Buddha Bless the Net

Okay, so the Buddha doesn't "bless" things like in the Christian world. But as a writer and a semi-Buddhist (I'm practicing, okay?) that's still my sentiment.

Because the Internet is such a great resource. News, knowledge, and camaraderie--all at our fingertips.

Before the Net, I couldn't have imagined having such riches. And having said that, here are a couple more great blog sites from fellow writers: Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life, a fun blog with lots of "writing-inspiring" posts by author Nancy Pickard and A Newbie's Guide to Publishing by J. A. Konrath--invaluable for the newcomer author who wants to sell the books--and who are these people who don't?

Remember the HINT: The Internet is great--and a great time loser--the first priority is to create! Everything else follows.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


What is a cat doing in a blog about expectations? Because sometimes what you expect is not what you get. And that can be a fabulous thing.

This is my cat, Baxter. This is the first cat who has ever owned me, my s.o. and the dog. When I first decided I wanted a kitty, since it was my first, I decided to get a little, i.e. small six-or-seven pound, cat from our local shelter. A short hair. I perused the shelter's online site and fell in love with the adorable, tiny face of the little kitty above. Out I drove to the shelter, carrier in hand...No, it is not a small window in the photo it is a large window. It took both hands and a lot of leg strength to haul my 18 pound new unhappy long-haired friend home in the carrier. He grumbled all the way home. I expected that he'd be quiet after he settled down, like other cats I know. He settled down and became much more vocal.

Only one of my expectations came true: there is a cat in my family. Am I upset? No. Disappointed? Not at all. Grateful? You bet.

Because Baxter is a character who fills my life with laughter and love. I didn't get what I expected. I didn't get what I thought I wanted. I got something better.

If I had refused to take Baxter because he didn't meet my expectations, I would have lost a lot. I try to remember that in my life.

What expectations do you have? What do you do when they're not realized--or realized in a way you didn't expect?

We all need a little help, sometimes a lot

This blog is about not going it alone. And how many great people with great ideas are available and ready to help. First up, blogs. Writers love to write and so many of them blog. So what? So the blogs (and I'll mention a few to get you started) are great free classes in writing for the beginning writer.

Here's the first two, because both have great posts up today specifically about free, great help and support for writers:

First Erica on her blog Erica Writes has a great post on storyboarding. Erica does a great job of explaining and illustrating with her own storyboard this useful writer's tool.

Second, Kathy on her blog Well Placed Words posts about writers' critique groups, another valuable tool in the writer's box.

More on the great blogging world later.

Do you have a beloved blog or two or twenty? Care to share?

Hint: Blogging is a world so remember, it's an adjunct to writing, a fun one, but not the writing itself.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Beauty and the barbs

A thistle, a thastle, a red and purple bastle--okay, my apologies!

It is a thistle, which are blooming everywhere. Most people believe them to be nasty ugly weeds. My dog thinks the fluff is delicious. I adore them.

Why? Because beauty always is barbed. Roses have thorns, actress have surgery, creative people have doubts and rejection.

Nobody gets one without the other--and when I remember that it makes it a little less painful when I get barbed by a rejection. Okay that's my philosophizing for today! Maybe for weeks!

What do you do when it stings?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Balance beams and falling off...

...and then getting right back on. Life is a balancing act--and from time to time we all fall off the beam.

I did this weekend. I taught a workshop--boy was that fun!--but because I don't teach workshops every weekend, I got a bit unbalanced. And then I fought that touch of mis-step (i.e. I didn't work on my w.i.p. on one day) and so I tumbled off the beam.

The solution? Yeah, you guessed it. I got right back on the beam. Not without rolling around on the mat a bit and a complaint or two.

What makes you fall off the beam? What helps you get back on?

SECRET: Nobody's perfect, everybody gets off-balance from time to time. Relax and get back on the beam as soon as you can.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Dog Days

All sorts of cliches come to me : "let sleeping dogs lie,"" ah, the dog days of summer, ""when in doubt, nap."

But this post is really about transitions and how exhausting they are. August for me, is a transition time. And I've noticed how it is for most people: end of summer, hot days but touched in the mornings with a taste of to-come, school almost here. I have a friend who told me that Fall in Native American tradition really is the beginning of a new year--and that somehow makes perfect sense to me.

Transitions highlight, perhaps also increase the pace of, change. Time to get out the fall wardrobe, time to get ready for school, time to start thinking about the holiday season (which starts way too early these days--I've already seen Christmas decorations!). And no time to get it all done...

What helps me when I feel my knees buckle from fatigue? Acceptance. Acceptance that everything changes every moment. Acceptance that it can be difficult to "keep up" with everything in a transition--and perhaps unnecessary--so I wear white after Labor Day, so what? And acceptance that resistance, fighting a transition (more summer! more hot days! more vacation!) is more tiring and futile than acceptance.

What do you do to ease transitional times?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Why we need "blind readers"

Okay, I had an epiphany today--I discovered a "flaw" in my w.i.p. I put flaw in quotation marks because this one is big enough to drive all the semis delivering the last Harry Potter through, side by side. The problem is I developed, added to and changed the characters, after taking Donald Maass' Write the Breakout Novel Intensive workshop (excellent), which transformed relationships which meant that a plot point disappeared. Vanished. Gone and left behind a black hole.

I'm fortunate to have an excellent writers' group that I credit for much assistance and for most of my improvement of my writing. They didn't catch the plot hole. Why? Because they had read the earlier drafts, of course!

Hence the value of "blind readers." A term which always puzzles non-writers--do you have to translate into braille? Not unless the reader is literally (sorry, bad pun) blind. A blind reader is someone who has never read any draft or section of your w.i.p. When the draft is very, very close to final is when you have as many blind readers read it as possible.

The blind reader is a great resource. They catch all the things that a writer doesn't: plot failures big and small, character problems, where the novel works and where it doesn't (especially important). Blind readers are not your family, your close friends or a possible agent. Blind readers are best if they enjoy reading and read widely in your genre or lack of genre, but are fine just as long as they love to read. Writers are nice as well as blind readers, but sometimes writers are too much editors. Blind readers are the closest thing to objective that a writer can hope to find.

How to find a blind reader? I have a librarian friend who has a couple of friends. I have a writer friend who belongs to a book club and knows a couple of avid readers. Book clubs, librarians, writers that have friends--are you friendly with the clerks at a bookstore? When you find a blind reader, resist the urge to make a new friend. Explain how you truly are thick-skinned (a little white lie) and would love to hear their honest opinion. If it's not too long and involved, a short quick list of questions at the end of your w.i.p. is also useful: "Were you ever confused or lost or did you lose interest in any of title of book?" Keep your interaction brief with a blind reader so they don't become exhausted and use each only a few times.

HINT: Blind readers are gold and well worth searching for and finding.

Friday, August 10, 2007

A million facets

It's been a couple of months since I attended the magnificent, fun Murder in the Grove Conference.

Before the conference, Murder in the Grove provided a fabulous workshop by Margie Lawson on her editing system. Margie is a psychologist as well as a writer, so she brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her workshops. It's been a couple of months, and I'm still discovering new insights and developing new skill sets from her workshop. Not only has my editing of my manuscript improved, but also my writing.

Why? That leads to the title of this entry. Creative pursuits are subjective and so there is a million ways of creating and a million ways of perceiving said creation. Taking an excellent workshop like Margie's is one way of shifting perception and gaining a touch of objectivity. It also provided a whole new "toolbox" of methods for faceting the diamond of my w.i.p. How's that for a mixed metaphor? And simply the work of a workshop forces all sorts of new connections with imagination.

Hint: Stuck in a rut? Feel like your creative endeavor is going nowhere at no pace? Take a fun workshop like one of Margie's (her classes are also available online and also excellent), or a class in something unique to you, or read a manuscript or critique (not criticize) a friend's endeavors. Use your imagination!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Of drafts blowing hot and cold

Woohoo! I've finished my almost-final draft of my w.i.p.! So, to use a metaphor to death: my first draft was the foundation, the walls and roof of my novel, this draft was finishing the outside and inside: painting, laying down tile and carpet, bathroom fixtures in, etc. And the next draft is moving in (the final tweaking draft).

Okay, that's goofy. But I've found that thinking of my w.i.p. this way helps me DETACH (a little) from my work. Which, in editing is extremely useful. Any subjectivity is sooo helpful. And difficult to achieve. I think of my novel as a structure where in the first draft, I can move the foundation, have more rooms or fewer rooms, and so on. In the second draft, I can change the paint color, the fixtures, the tile. The third and final draft: the house is in place, it just needs to become a home.

Secret: Whatever your creative endeavor, thinking of it in metaphorical terms often is useful for gaining a touch of subjectivity. Another example: a friend of mine is an artist, a painter, who thinks of her canvas as a film--the different scenes are the paint she lays down as she progresses.