Monday, March 19, 2018

How the Magic Happens

I'm in the mood for some fun and Sarah McCoy's post - Magic Cloaks, Lucky Charms, and Other Writerly Superstitious Habits - over at Writer Unboxed provides that and then some. The following just totally cracked me up: 

" got me thinking about the superstitious patterns of our writer tribe. Some we admit. Many we keep secret. But Writer Unboxed is a safe space of honesty and acceptance, so I’ll crack open my nut first... I wear a cape when I write. Technically, it’s a red tartan robe that my mother gave me. My husband refers to it as the “get-off-my-lawn” old man robe." 

Ms. McCoy continues talking about other superstitions of our tribe. Here are some examples from her post - 

"Isabelle Allende begins all her novels on the same day: January 8th...While A.J. Jacobs walks on a treadmill and Dan Brown hangs upside down to cure his writer’s block. Poet Edith Sitwell gets inside a coffin to focus her mind...." 

She also asked about superstitions in a forum of contemporary writers -

"M.J. RoseI have to play Gregorian chants when I write each draft of the book. I have to buy one [lucky charm] for each book. 18 books – 18 lucky charms.  I have to sleep with the ARC under my pillow one night.
Elizabeth BellI like to burn a scented candle appropriate to the scene I’m writing. On a beach? Ocean-scented candle. In a rose garden? Rose-scented candle, etc.  I also like to wear something my characters are wearing, such as a Victorian-style chemise or a saint’s medal."
It got me thinking about my own writing rituals. At first I didn't think I had any, but then I realized they're so ingrained I don't notice them anymore. Like, I always write in my office. I'll daydream, brainstorm, jot notes, etc. other places but actual writing? My office, my desk, my laptop. I also have a certain mug and spoon - both gifts from my husband - that I use for my morning coffee. Etched into the spoon are the words "What will you create today?" Answering that question usually keeps me focused and on a good track for the day. And isn't that what good rituals and superstitions do?


How about you all? Any writing superstitions you want to share? Do you wear bunny slippers? Dance around to a special song? Eat a certain number of Cheerios or peanut M&Ms? Pet a tortoise or two? Do you plan on starting your own writing ritual?

Monday, March 12, 2018

Foot in Mouth - The Sirens Call

I am honored to once again be included in The Sirens Call eZine's Annual Women in Horror Month Issue - Issue #37.

My flash fiction piece, Foot in Mouth (p. 32), is a twisted little tale about how, when you say something you regret, you're not always able to take it back, to remove foot from mouth. No matter how hard you try. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

IWSG: As Close to Camping as I Get

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One of my big goals for this year is to take my novella/novel as far as I can - writing, editing, researching publishing options, etc. I'm still kind of vague on what that should look like when December 31, 2018 rolls around, but I believe my gut will let me know.

Unfortunately, my gut is not big on deadlines.

So, I'm considering signing up for the April session of Camp NaNo. I've participated a few times over the years, but it's been awhile, and I'm hesitant.

Camp NaNo provides a deadline - great! But it also lets you set your own goal - project or word count - and this is not something I excel at. I make it either too easy or too hard, and I end up coming away from the experience with a stomach ache. (And, unfortunately, not one from eating too many s'mores.)

As March marches on, I'll continue to work on my novella/novel (for crying out loud, pick one!) and give more thought to Camp NaNo. Hmm, maybe I'll just go with my gut.

My gut really likes s'mores . . . .


Any thoughts on what I should do? If I go to Camp, should I set a project or a word count goal? Have you ever done Camp NaNo? How did it go for you? 

Monday, February 26, 2018

A Reminder to Wring It

Author and Writer's Digest Contributing Editor, Elizabeth Sims, wrote a fantastic blog post, "Wringing Direct Experience," as a reminder to get everything we can from a direct experience:

"So what’s the point of this post?
1) To be alive to the vastness of experience.
2) To go after it.
3) To improve your abilities to extrapolate and synthesize. This is the piece of greatest importance for writers."

She uses her experience witnessing the inaugural test flight of Elon Musk's/SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket to provide not a blow-by-blow of the event but instead her impressions of that day. Her notes bring not only color, texture, and vitality to this huge, public moment but they also manage to ground it, to make it personal and real. 

As someone who struggles with anxiety and fear, I sometimes feel like I'm not getting out enough, not experiencing enough. I continue to try, to push, to challenge myself, but I still worry it impacts my writing. And, while it's true that it does to some extent, this post by Ms. Sims reminds me that creativity isn't necessarily about the big moments, the dramatic experiences. It's about paying attention. To everything. 

"The point is, there’s so much waiting for you that you don’t expect. Space shots are extraordinary, and not everybody gets a chance to see one. But lots of other stuff happens that you can get out for and find way more than what’s front and center. City council meetings. Climb that hill, just for kicks. Ballgames. Prune that cherry tree. The movies. The lumpy blanket in the back seat. The sound of the cork popping, the cookie crumbling, the cows coming home. The look on that woman’s face when her boyfriend whispers to her....

1)     Say yes.
2)     Write bits of it down.
3)     Draw it. Try.
4)     Say yes again.
5)     And again.
6)     Take everything with you as you set to work."

Time to pull out that new notebook - the one I bought at the beginning of the year and have yet to write in - and get to wringing and recording those moments, no matter how small, in the hopes my writing will deepen and grow, and my stories may even, in their own way, loom large on the page.  


Are you good at paying attention to the smaller things? Do you record them somewhere, somehow? If you struggle with anxiety, do you ever worry it hinders your art, your creativity, your writing?  

Monday, February 19, 2018

To Count or Not To Count?

Steven James wrote a great post - "From 2000 to 300 - Why You're Writing Too Much" - over at Writer Unboxed about writers and word counts.

"The whole paradigm strikes me as an odd way to go about producing works of art . . . I should say, I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong about the technique, but I do think it can be restrictive, arbitrary, and doesn’t take into account the realities of the unforeseen, the bursts and surges and bubbles of creativity. In short, I think it puts an artificial constraint on the artistic process."

Whew! I'm not the only one struggling with making word count goals work. It's a shame, too, because I love the idea of visual progress - a stack of pages, a neat row of numbers. I want to feel like I accomplished . . . something

Now, this concept of word count works for me during NaNo, when I attack that first draft with the energy, focus, and intensity of a tortoise hunting a banana. In my normal writing life, though, I am much slower, more deliberate. I delve into characters' backstories, layer subplots, travel back and forth in time, move from notebook to computer. Some days, the only words I write are scrawled on my mind's notepad with invisible ink. 

So, instead of feeling bad that word count goals don't work for me, I'm going to remember the following:

"In short, strive for quality, not quantity. Rather than tracking word count, make sure every word counts and create work you can be proud of and that will entertain and impact readers for years to come."


Do you use word count goals to keep your writing on track? Or do you use some other method? Does it depend on the project? Do you usually feel productive or do you constantly think you're not doing enough?

Monday, February 12, 2018

Make Something Happen

One of my big goals this year is to take my horror novella/novel as far as I can then move to the next step . . . whatever that is. Is it sending it to beta readers? Is it hiring a professional editor? Is it querying agents? I don't know. And right now, that's okay.

What I do know is that I have to Write. This. Book.

I'm tired of not writing it.

I'm tired of whining about not writing it (as are my husband and the tortoises!)

I'm tired of complaining, crying, envying, moping.

I'm tired of watching time tick by, taking my dreams with it.

So, I am heeding these words -

(Janet Reid)


How's your writing career going? Are you in the process of making something happen? And what does that "something" look like for you? Is it getting a novel written, going to a conference, learning a new marketing/publishing/social media tool? 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

IWSG: Slow. Steady. Strong.

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In January's IWSG post, I talked about how I had two big goals for 2018, and that's where I was putting the majority of my effort and energy.

Well, for both my writing and my running goals, progress has been slower than tortoises who don't want to leave their heat lamp on a cold day. (But who can blame them? There were days this winter I wanted to crawl in with them!) Everything is taking so much longer - and is a whole lot harder - than I'd thought.

But then I remind myself that what I'm doing is building a solid foundation for my story and my health.

Slow. Steady. Strong. This is what I say when I sit down to write, when I need to figure out the logic of a major plot point before I can even get to the actual writing, when I need to cut a character I love because he no longer serves the story.

Slow. Steady. Strong. This is what I chant - ok, gasp - when I run. It's what I tell myself when I put on my sneakers, when I worry about people in passing cars laughing at me, when I don't think I can make it to the next corner.

But I'll get there. And so will you. Don't give up on your goals, your resolutions, your plans. It'll probably take a while, maybe even all year, but we can do this. It's only February, after all.


What do you do when progress feels non-existent? How do you stay focused and patient? What do you tell yourself - mantras, cheers, quotes - when you need encouragement? 


Don't forget to visit my wonderful co-hosts: Stephen Tremp, Pat Garcia, Angela Wooldridge, and Victoria Marie Lees.