2015 Goals: June Status Report

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1. Work towards getting The Muse published.

Chapter 1 has officially been deleted! I am now in the final stage of restructuring Chapter 2 as the new beginning. The trick was keeping in mind the list of things agents hate to see in an opening chapter, (see Killing Chapter 1). The more I mulled over this list, the more I realized it applies not only to agents, but readers as well.

Gone are all the references to weather descriptions, the sky, and a main character waking up. With the new beginning, the reader is dropped right in the middle of the main character’s life. Bit by bit, her story comes into focus without any sort of an information dump. I’m liking the breadcrumb approach a lot more and I think this set up allows my main character’s personality to take center stage.

Next on the agenda is doing another read through to make sure the rest of the novel is not impacted by the deletion of Chapter 1. I’ve got to dig through each section to ensure there are no references to anything that was mentioned in the old beginning. There are a few things I’m already aware of from memory and I’m sure I’ll find more!

A writer’s work is never done!

2. Start writing Lineage.

My muse is starting to talk for this project. I’m anxious to see where she takes me.

3. Submit poetry.

Once again, I participated in the Poetic Asides community via Writer’s Digest. As always, I find the prompts challenging and the community inspiring.

I also completed another month of National Haiku Writing Month’s daily prompts via NaHaiWriMo’s Facebook Page. June prompts all started with the letter R and were quite challenging. Still, I managed to write one or two haikus each day.

4. Don’t give up or get distracted.

Free time in the summer can be a blessing for a writer, but also an invitation to distraction. There are always so many things I want to do! Luckily, I was able to find a nice balance between writing and other projects each day.

5. Be flexible.

My journal is coming with me to the wilds of Oregon this week. I’m anxious to see what will inspire me.

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And let’s not forget the word of the year:

Persistence

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How are you doing with your 2015 goals?

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c.b.w. 2015

Where to Write?

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When I started writing seven years ago, it was easy to find a place to write. There were four bookstores within a 10 mile radius of my house, all of which had coffee shops with free Wi-Fi. It was a writer’s paradise with unlimited space and inspiration.

Being a coffee shop writer, I loved having the ability to change my atmosphere by simply choosing a different freeway exit. Each coffee shop had it’s own feel and I could choose which one fit what I was going to write that day.

Over the last few years, my options have dwindled considerably. First, Borders went out of business, taking with it two of my writing locations in one shot. Then, back in December 2014, a Barnes and Noble disappeared from the radar. There goes favorite writing spot #3.

Only one writing spot has managed to survive and I’m lucky that it happens to be my favorite. But here’s the thing – even my favorite spot can get stale after a long stretch without a break. Without a change of scenery, inspiration and motivation runs dry.  I see the same people every day (although I love the people that work in my favorite spot) and see the same things.

Sameness brings a certain level of comfort (which I often enjoy), but I’m starting to get antsy and even bored. Writers need spark and I am seriously in danger of losing my spark. I’ve tried writing at home, but there is so much distraction thanks to one husband, five furkids, and the TV. I need to be out and about with endless background activity and conversations to wake up my muse.

There is a nice little Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf nearby and I am starting to explore it’s possibility as a new writing spot. The only issue I’m having has to do with the coffee. It’s good, but it’s not my muse juice. I may have to experiment with the menu to see if there’s some magic elixir hiding somewhere in the latte options.

I live in a city that has almost no stand alone coffee shops. Maybe its because I live in a desert where cold smoothies are the thing or maybe there simply isn’t a coffee culture. Almost everywhere I’ve been from Europe to Asia, I’ve always been able to find a coffee shop. I’ve written in coffee shops in London, Killarney, Florence, and Shanghai, which makes it even more baffling to me that I can’t find a decent coffee shop/writing spot where I live.

Part of my writing goals for the summer includes scoping out new writing spots. I don’t want my favorite (and last bastion) to become that blah spot I once liked, so I have to find some new places to put into rotation. Hopefully, there is a magic spot or two waiting to be discovered!

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Where do you write? I’m open to all possible ideas!

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c.b.w. 2015

2015 Goals: May Status Report

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1. Work towards getting The Muse published.

I didn’t get to work on this goal as much as I would have liked. The day job always gets a little crazy during the month of May and makes some pretty intense demands on my time. On top of that, my portfolio submission for National Board Certification was due during May as well. Instead of focusing my energy on fiction writing, I had to direct my attention to professional, analytical non-fiction writing. My muse was not happy, but we got the job done.

With the arrival of summer comes huge amounts of free time that I will be devoting to restructuring Chapter 2 of The Muse,  (see Killing Chapter 1).

p.s. As this post goes live, I’ll be taking a Content Knowledge test for National Board Certification. Ahhhhh! Wish me luck!

2. Start writing Lineage.

I’m getting ready to blow the dust off of my notes as the above mentioned free time will be utilized for this project as well.

3. Submit poetry.

Once again, I participated in the Poetic Asides community via Writer’s Digest. Every Wednesday, prompts are posted with an invitation to submit poetry in the comments. I was late a few times, but I managed to submit a poem every week.

I also completed another month of National Haiku Writing Month’s daily prompts via NaHaiWriMo’s Facebook Page. May’s prompts were particularly challenging as each prompt started with the letter  “Q.” Despite the difficulty, I managed to crank out 46 haikus.

4. Don’t give up or get distracted.

National Board Certification severely encroached on my creative writing time, but I never totally lost focus.

5. Be flexible.

While I’ve made plans for my upcoming free time, I’m also making room for inspiration and exploration through travel. Towards the end of June, I’m heading Portland, Oregon for a change of scenery. We’ll see where it leads ….

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And let’s not forget the word of the year:

Persistence

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How are you doing with your 2015 goals?

Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Started Writing: Part II

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See Part I of this series, here.

6. It’s hard work and fun at the same time.

Whether you’re writing a novel or a haiku, writing can be a challenging pursuit. It involves daily practice and often hours of unflinching focus. Most of the time it doesn’t bother me as I love hanging out in my imagination bubble, but there are days where lifting the pen or punching those keys can be an enormous challenge. Sometimes the muse just won’t cooperate or the day job leaves me so exhausted, the words are hiding beneath layers of stress.

While the work is hard and never truly ends, it is worth every bit of the effort. Every word written brings you that much closer to finished draft. Every word makes you a better writer. And here’s the best part, writers usually love what they do, so that means all of that hard work is actually fun. Even on the days when the words are playing hide and seek. The bigger the challenge, the more delightful the reward.

7. Edit with an open mind.

For some writers, editing is the best part of the process. They can slash and rearrange without any hesitation. At first I struggled with editing because I liked to hang onto every single word. I swear my first novel was akin to a hoarder’s closet – cluttered with stuff that should’ve gone in the trash bin.

The simple fact is you have to be wiling to let things go in order to let things in. Writing is a fluid process with constant changes from start to finish. The more open-minded you are, the more your story finds it’s footing or the more your poem finds it’s rhythm.

Editing is about making a draft as good as it can possibly be. Sometimes that means simply polishing language and sometimes that means rewriting entire sections or reconsidering an entire storyline. Either way, let your muse be as much a part of the process as it was at the very start.

8. Do your homework.

If you’re writing a YA novel, read YA novels. If you’re writing haikus, read haikus. It’s a simple rule and one worth following. Even if you’re looking to reinvent a genre, it helps to know where it began, current trends, and techniques used by other authors. After all, how can you add tracks to a road if you don’t where it’s located?

When I started writing poetry again a few years back (after a loooooong hiatus), I just did my own thing and didn’t really think to read poetry. I like what I wrote just fine, but soon I realized I was missing out on a well of inspiration by failing to explore other poets. After immersing myself in anthologies of multiple poets and exploring poet blogs, I watched my poetry go from mediocre to something better.

The same is true for my novel writing attempts. For the first novel, I read plenty of fiction, but not in the genre for which I was writing. The result was a halfway decent attempt, but nothing too exciting (yet). For my second attempt, I read every YA novel I could get my hands on in order to get a strong sense of how to structure a YA novel and to learn techniques to make writing appealing to young adults. The result is a novel I’m pretty darn proud of.

The big take away here is to let other writers guide you through their work and inspire you to blaze your own trail.

9. Join a writer’s group

Writing can be a lonely pursuit. While most writers are introverts and prefer the solitude, it’s still important to leave that lonely bubble and socialize with other writers. A writer’s group can be a place for inspiration, camaraderie, advice, and networking. Writers’ groups range from groups that just write, critique groups, or groups that work on a single project. There are, of course, many more options and they are all worth considering.

Much like editing, writer’s groups offer that open door that all writers need. Sometimes we get so stuck inside our own little world, we don’t realize how stuffy it gets. Let some fresh air in by letting other writers into your world. They bring fresh perspective and insight. They lift you up when your inner critic is weighing you down. They never let you give up.

10. Trust your muse.

When in doubt, listen to your muse. That gut feeling is usually right and always knows best. No amount of book smarts, advice, or technique can outmatch the creativity that lives inside of a writer. Trust your vision and stay true to what your imagination sees. No matter what.

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Did I miss anything? What do you wish you had known before you started writing?

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c.b.w. 2015

Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Started Writing: Part I

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1. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

This is especially true for the first draft. So many poems, novels, and short stories go unfinished because of backtracking to “fix” problems. My first novel took 5 years to complete due to my constant adjustments. My second novel taught me to just punch out that first draft and then go back in and revise/edit. Rationale: Having the big picture in place makes easier to find and fix mistakes.

2. Too much advice does more harm than good.

That old adage, “too many cooks in the kitchen” comes to mind. Knowledge about anything is powerful, but ultimately it comes down to action. You can attend a million workshops or read every how-to manual on the market, but the best teacher is experience. You have to make mistakes and allow yourself to fall instead of only relying on a knowledge base to get you through the process.

This also applies to beta readers. They have their purpose, but too many opinions can easily sway or muddle your original vision. Like all good things, advice is best in moderation. There comes a point where a writer has to find balance between outside opinions and the muse’s compass.

3. The inner critic is brutal.

One of the first posts on this blog was titled, My Inner Critic Is Trying To Kill Me. Let me tell you, that voice is LOUD. And soul crushing mean. For some writers, the inner critic is so cruel the words stop coming altogether. I wish I had a magic fix for the self doubt the brews inside of every writer, but the one piece of advice I can give is to fight back. The only way to defeat the inner critic is to keep writing and pushing forward. Eventually, that loud, mean voice falls on deaf ears because you’re too busy writing something.

4. Triumphs are small, but incredibly meaningful.

Even though I’ve been writing for most of my life (I have poetry journals from when I was 8 years old), my list of accomplishments is quite small. I’ve won a small contest, been published in a tiny local journal and a local newspaper. That’s about it. Although, I do count my blog as a success as well!  While the list is small and the accomplishments smaller, I cherish every victory. They are few and far between for most writers, so grab onto them and don’t take them for granted!

5. Rejection is a good thing.

No one likes getting that email that says, “unfortunately I am not interested in your work at this time.” It sucks. But it’s also great. Most agents and publications don’t even bother responding to queries at all, so getting any sort of a response is exciting stuff.  Embrace it and give yourself a pat on the back. In many instances it means your work was good enough to spark some sort of attention.

Something else to keep in mind is the fact that the rejection letter allows the inner critic to occupy some prime real estate in your soul if you choose to take it personally. Don’t let the inner critic win. Instead, save your rejection letters as testaments to the fact that you are trying and someone noticed.

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Stay tuned for Part II next week. Meanwhile, I’m curious – What do you wish you would have known before you started writing?

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c.b.w. 2015