Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Where have I been?

I've been getting some feedback: Where are you? Why don't you write more posts?
So where have I been? I've been, you know, running down a dream. That is to say, chasing a deadline. Working like a fiend so that by a particular date in December, another book will be written. "Written" is a little misleading because a book isn't truly finished until all the revisions and edits and revisions and edits and revisions are done. But I'll have a draft to submit, a draft of the sequel to Violet Wings. So yeah, I've been r-e-a-l-l-y busy, which is my latest excuse for neglecting my blog. I've also been taking some time very day to savor the moments of life: gazing at sunrise and moonrise, hugging loved ones, listening. . .
I hope you're savoring the moments, too. And giving your imagination a place to run free.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

New book out today!

It's such thrill when a new book comes out! To all you hopeful aspiring writers out there, let me tell you, it's worth it to persevere through months and years of writing!

My author copy of VIOLET WINGS arrived several days ago. I looked at its dazzling cover art and hefted its 300+ pages, humming with joy.

Once finished, a book can be read in a few hours. The story flows, seemingly without effort. That's as it should be!

But of course, I know how many many hours went into it--not just from me, but from others. I didn't keep track of how much time I spent writing, revising, writing, revising this book. . . And then there were all the contributions from critique partners, editors, designers, artists, marketers. It takes a village to raise a book. :)

If you'd like to read the prologue to get a sense of what the book's about, go to my home page and click on "read the prologue."

Breathe on your own now, book of my heart! Soar through the world with strong wings.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The time question

A comment from my previous post asks a question:
"Um, as a fellow writer i was wondering When do you find the time to write? i know i should plonk my butt in the chair and keep writing but I get so frustrated and worried about what happens next. I hate any ideas I come up with and haven't made progress in months and..."

Here's how I see the time question, and I know I could be wrong. . .

The thing about time is that it often disguises other issues. We say we don't have time, but is that really so? I mean, we're all issued 24 hours a day. What do we choose to do with those hours? Even with a hundred commitments, there is always at least some time left over to write. It might be only a few minutes a day, but it's there to be found if we seek it out.

So what's it mean when it feels as if there isn't any time? I think the questioner above is on to something when she says frustration and worry and self-doubt take over. When that happens, time to write seems to disappear. It disappears into the frustration, the worry, and the self-doubt. Time contracts as our fears expand.

How to work with those fears and open up some time? Well, I'm not a psychologist so I can only speak for myself. I think it's important to remember that doubt and fear are natural, normal, and something to expect. (I write about this topic more in my book Wild Ink.) Writing involves digging into our gut, exposing heart and mind, and wrestling with language! Sometimes, it's very hard.

The main thing: Don't get discouraged. Take it one word at a time. Give yourself permission to write badly while working on the first draft. And the second draft. . . Just about every writer struggles with this, so take a deep breath and keep going.

Eventually you'll seize your story. Just give it some time.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Do you feel sorry for your characters?

Do you feel sorry for your characters?
You should. If you don't, something's wrong with your story.
I feel sorry for mine.
Oh, how they suffer! And yet, I lie awake nights thinking of fresh ways to disturb them and make their lives horrendously hard.
Because without conflict, a story is about as exciting as a stale marshmallow, a dead toothbrush, or a cracked porcelain bell without a clapper.
We love our characters, so it's tough to make them suffer. If only their lives could be smooth as ironed silk scented with blooming jasmine. . .
However, if we wrote them like that, they'd be so boring they'd put everyone to sleep.
So, another day, another hardship! For the characters, that is.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

teen writers' boot camp

Last week I led the "fiction track" of the Explorati teen writers' boot camp. Twenty young writers and I gathered together every day for four days to focus on writing. Whooee! (Meanwhile, other groups concentrated on writing nonfiction, screenplays, or poetry.)

The camp turned out to be just what I needed to feel happy, alive, and inspired. Is that hard to believe? It shouldn't be, but it's kind of boggling how many cultural messages are out there about how "difficult" it is to be around teenagers; how much trouble they are; how touchy, out-of-control and maddening they can be; how etcetera. . .

Maybe I'm just lucky, or maybe I simply like teens in a way that most people don't. I suspect it's a combination. At any rate, "my" young writers were generous, sensitive, fun, funny, interesting, entertaining, and kind. Not only that, but they were excellent writers, and highly motivated to write even better than they already did.

I felt really blessed to be there. And I can't wait to read their books in the future!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

My mom has passed away

Yes, it's been a long time since I blogged.

My mom got really ill in March, and left this world on the last day of April. I was able to go to Florida for just about three weeks and be with her, and I'll always be grateful that my "job" allowed room for that.

Mom was happy with her terminal diagnosis, and refused treatment that she believed would be ineffective anyway. She felt she had lived her life; she wanted to join my dad and see what was next. She thought I should write about people like her, people who feel ready to go. "I don't believe I'm the only one," she said.

Maybe one day I'll write more about the subject of death and dying. For now, it's enough to feel all that I'm feeling.

I'd like to share something my mom wrote:

"Have you ever waked up in the morning and looked at the floor and there was the sun right there on the floor? And you looked around to see where the sun was coming from, and found out it was coming right in through your window, even though the window was shut tight. That's a funny thing about the sun--it can come in when the window isn't open, and just sit there on the floor smiling."

I love that.

Well, now you know why there's been a lack of posts from me lately. I'm one of those people who gets very quiet when I'm feeling a huge amount.

Today I woke up and looked at the flowers and felt as if they were telling me something: It's important to bloom even if you could get torn up by a strong wind or lashed by a torrent or even struck by lightning.

We can't know what's next. We can't make sure that there will always be a wonderful climate with just the right amount of sun and rain. But we can go on blooming just the same.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

productive writer?

Today I've been remarkably productive. I got through a whole heap of things that I've been procrastinating about. Everything seemed to work out well and go easily.

Is all this productivity today related to the fact that yesterday I was almost completely UNproductive? I would start one thing and then move to another. Nothing I did seemed to go easily at all. By the end of the day I was ready to cry.

So today I'm thinking, maybe it takes both kinds of days. Maybe the days when we're feeling frustrated, clueless and overwhelmed are just a sign that we're rearranging something underneath the surface, something that will help us out another day.

Impossible to really know. But if you're feeling tired, upset, overwhelmed or just plain terrible, remember that everything changes, sometimes as soon as tomorrow.

Monday, January 12, 2009

How to begin a book?

I'm often asked "How do I begin a book?" or "When I start a new story, I feel really inspired, but somewhere along the way I lose inspiration or the story fizzles--what do I do?"
Getting past chapter three is a challenge for many people, including me. To keep going without getting permanently derailed, I always remind myself that IT'S OKAY TO WRITE BADLY. During a first draft, we're not trying for deathless prose; we're just trying to stay alive. When it comes to the first draft, perfectionism is death--save it for the final draft.
Just get in there, get going, and keep going! You can't write a book without writing it, and it will only happen word by word. Often, in a first draft, the words are nothing special. That's fine. Don't worry about it. Set aside obsession and attention to detail. Set aside criticism. Just write. There will be plenty of time later to go back and polish up what you've written. By then, you'll be celebrating the fact that you have something to polish!