Writing

So I've Gone A Little Crazy

CrazyFace.jpeg

Keeping the crazy in……

If you talk to my kids or my husband they will say I’m always crazy. So how much more could I be?

They aren’t wrong but this type of crazy is exclusive to my writing life.

After not doing too much of anything related to writing for about a year, I’ve suddenly been on fire. If you poke around my website you will see a new page - Freelance Services. I’ve decided that I would like to get a writing business off the ground. I have written a handful of blog posts for businesses but its via Verblio aka BlogMutt which is a content mill blog site. I don’t love it. At. All. But it is a way for me to get the business going. I’m working on a Letter of Introduction and generating a list of contacts. My goal is to send the mailing out in January 2019.

In addition, I wrote an essay that I am almost ready to begin the querying process for and am working on a feature article that I hope to find a home for in the next month or two. Yes, I wrote them first instead of pitching the idea first but hey, I’M WRITING. :)

Around the same time a writer’s group I’ve belonged to for three years, Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) surveyed their members in our state to see if there was any interest in getting together. There was and since someone needs to own making it happen I, along with two others, stepped up to organize this. Our initial meet & greet will happen sometime January 2019.

Due to the above, I connected with a writer who lives about 20 minutes from me! And she connected me with a local writer’s group!

I can not begin to tell you how freaking happy these two things make me. I have been searching for so long to find fellow writers. I’m like the desperate kid on the playground who just wants to be included in the game.

And then tonight, I applied to be a mentee in a mentorship program being offered for the first time by WFWA. Because at the end of the day what I really want to be is an accomplished writer. Creating stories that people get lost in.

Hiatus and Horses

I could start this blog by writing something corny. Like "I'm baaacckkk...." or "Hi, it's me again." But I won't be that cliche.

Instead I will say that if you read my blog then you know that nine months ago, which was the last time I posted, I shared that my husband and I decided to relocate our family. That, I am happy to say, has happened and all the planning and hard work panned out well. We have been in South Carolina for six months; in our new home for three. Now we are all on a learning curve, adjusting to the new geography and ways of life. So far so good. 

As we began the process of relocating and all that goes with it, I realized that I had to make a decision about my fledging writing ambitions. I could press on, revising my NF draft, seeking freelance work, continuing to work on the other pieces of writing I had in process. Juggling this against moving my family 800 miles, against keeping the kids' lives as normal as I can and in general just living life.

Or I could hit the pause button. Because I know myself. I know that for every day and week that went by and I did not get to any writing, I would beat the crap out of myself. Who the heck needs that? Not me. So I consciously gave myself permission to not only stop writing but also to not feel bad about it. I am only one person and my priority was to ensure our relocation was successful and my kids were okay during the process. 

This blog post is the first step to re-starting my writing life. The hiatus has officially come to an end.

The horse reference? Well that is both figurative -  "I'm back in the saddle" as far as writing goes - and literal!

That's me taking a horseback ride on the beach thanks to my parents, a Christmas present to our family. One of the perks where I live now! 

That's me taking a horseback ride on the beach thanks to my parents, a Christmas present to our family. One of the perks where I live now! 

How to kill the muse

Wow - so much for my intentions of writing a blog post a month.......

I have spent a good deal of the time I was MIA writing, well, really revising. I think I don't mind the revision process. It was not as arduous as I thought it would be. But that thinking makes me nervous - like maybe I didn't do it right because I didn't find it difficult or awful. Or maybe it was because my revisions were based on developmental editing feedback and not copy editing? Argh! Maybe I should not have such an 'easy peasy' attitude about the editing process yet. 

I suppose I will have another opportunity to explore the editing phase of writing since I decided to have the manuscript go through another developmental editing review. I reached out to the same editor and we worked out a deadline for me to complete the changes and get the piece back into her hands. 

I also made some progress, or rather, attempts at expanding my experiences in writing. I wrote and submitted a mini-essay for an online magazine. The piece was not accepted but I was encouraged to try again.

I applied and was accepted into a content mill type of blogging website. Honestly, I've been on the fence for a mighty long time about tossing my hat into that ring. But for a very particular reason (which I'll get to in a second) I made the effort. The first blog I wrote didn't get picked up which didn't bother me as much as I thought it might. Unfortunately, I got so busy with revising my draft that I had to set the content mill gig aside. 

Besides revising my draft, the other big thing that has taken up much time is all the stuff one has to do when they decide to sell their house! Yup, my husband and I have chosen to pull up our roots and re-plant them about 800 miles away.....and because the way we like to roll is to make things as complicated as possible, we are building our new home.....let me point out again this is 800 miles away.

We have had to de-clutter our home to make it more appealing to potential buyers. For years my husband has talked about how we need more 'artwork' to hang on our walls. I asked him if he still felt this way as we bubble wrapped and packed what had to be 60 pieces of wall hangings - family pictures, kids artwork that we framed, and various other pieces. And we have had to grow thick skins pretty quickly when we read the feedback from people who have come to look at our house. Not to mention having to run around, stashing kids toys under beds and couches, shoving papers laying on the counters into kitchen drawers, collecting all the electronics and taking them, our dog and ourselves out of the house whenever we've had a showing. There has GOT TO BE a better way. 

So, getting back to the content mill blogging, I thought it would be a good time for me to start to generate a bit of income. Even if it is just enough to pay for groceries. Or the cost of hiring an editor ;)

Amid all of this, we celebrated my baby's 5th birthday. I am so grateful for his presence in my life and I am loving this time of his childhood. He is bright, curious, funny and a chatterbox! He has been my constant companion and I already mourn the time I will lose with him when he starts kindergarten in the Fall. 

Is it wrong that I encouraged people to give him gift cards so I wouldn't have to pack up yet another truck/train/jet? 

I have not had any creativity zipping through my head since we started what has to be the biggest project hubby and I have undertaken in our marriage, outside of having children and raising them. 

Power, responsibility and my manuscript

Ah...the doldrums of January. After the sparkling, frantic days of November and December, January is downright dull. How do I add a bit of excitement to this month? By reading the developmental editing analysis from my writing coach, of course. 

It took me five days to work up the nerve to read the eight pages of feedback. So on a dreary cold day, I gave my four-year-old a tablet to watch Youtube videos of jets and diggers, poured a glass of Reisling and got comfortable on the couch. 

It wasn't too bad. The first thought I had after I read it was "Whew, she didn't pan my writing." This was immediately followed by the thought "There is way more editing work than I want to do." 

I took a few days to think about what I wanted to do. I realized I had three choices: keep the structure and complete the suggested edits; change the structure of the manuscript and complete only the edits that pertained to that; and quit.

While mulling my options it suddenly hit me. I have total control over the direction that my manuscript could take. Now I know that sounds like a crazy thing to say because duh, I wrote it. It is my creation. But I didn't really 'get' the power that came with that control. I am master of its destiny. 

Of course, the flip side of this control and power is that if I used it incorrectly, if I made a bad decision regarding the direction of my manuscript, I was sending it down the wrong path. Whoa. I am a novice writer. I am feeling my way along this process. How can I make this decision? What criteria do I use? 

What I ultimately used to guide my decision was my own interest in completing the work. If I choose to keep it as is I dreaded doing the revision. Like I had zippo interest in continuing on. It was overwhelming and would take out the joy I found in writing. However, if I choose to strip out a certain element and then work the revision, I was excited about that challenge. Also, I had made such an investment, with my time and financially, that I really didn't want to shelve this project. 

I emailed my coach with my thoughts on her analysis (which was spot on and easy to understand) and told her what I was considering doing. She encouraged me to pursue that direction. So that is what I've been working on, how I'm filling the long middle days of winter. 

I also asked my coach for any last words of advice before I dived back in. She said, "Writing is only the first step; rewriting is where you discover your story." (These are words from her late mentor Arnold Madison.)

 

How my 2016 goal inspires my 2017 goals

2016 is almost history. On Facebook I've seen many people post how they can't wait for the year to be over. I haven't reflected too much about what kind of year this has been. Mostly because I've been so stinking busy. But today I started to think about it.

I don't normally make goals or resolutions as part of my new year celebration. Mostly because I know they will be something I won't follow through on. For me, the start of a new year does not equal a time to make a change. That has always come from my internal clock, based on when I have been ready be it emotionally, financially or the space has become available in my life. So it was early in 2016 when I put a screensaver message on my laptop. Know what it said? "This is my year." After thinking over where I was in my life, where my family as a whole was, I choose to be very determined that I was going to make something in my writing life happen. I wasn't sure what it was going to be - freelancing or writing a novel. 

Then in the Spring, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I had a set a goal for myself - that I was going to finish the first draft of my manuscript. WHICH I DID. I had set a goal to have it completed by the end of September but I didn't make that deadline. I pushed it out two more months which meant the end of November. It came down to the wire but I got it done! I passed it on to my writing coach, asking her to do developmental editing. I knew sending it to her that there are flaws. But now that I'm just a couple of days away from receiving it back from her with her comments I'm getting nervous. How far off the mark am I? Will I have to do heavy editing or a complete re-write? 

While she has had the draft I worked on creating a list of 100 agents who may be interested in the piece. I know there are hundreds more out there but I stopped at 100. I was also going to draft a query letter. I started reading up on how to write one which led me to read about how you query a non-fiction book. Book proposal, book summary, outline, author bio. And agents often want you to have marketing and online platforms. What? 

So now I find myself feeling like I did when I decided to pursue writing the draft. Overwhelmed. Unsure. Not feeling smart enough. How do I know if these supplemental documents I need to write are any good? I don't want to look like the novice I really am. Should I pay to have these pieces reviewed too? Screw this, it's too much. There is a pile of books I want to read. Organizing the house to tackle. This year's uncompleted Christmas presents to make for next Christmas.

But I won't. I will figure out how to write these pieces. I will query. This is, in part, my 2017 goal (along with those Christmas presents!) I also plan on joining a critique group and attending a writer's conference. Oh, and writing. I'm moving on to fiction; I have three story ideas circling around inside my head. They have been patiently waiting their turn. 

I think it's kind of cool that my 2016 goal spurs on my 2017 goal. I've never had that happen before.  

 

 

What's going on this year

It's been awhile since I've written anything about how my writing is going. The good news is it is going.....just not exactly the direction I thought it would when I decided to go for it 18 months ago. 

First, last fall I took a three night workshop on how to break into writing for magazines and other publications aka freelance writing. The author who taught the class is someone who has fingers in many different writing pies and a list of articles as well as a few books to her credit. And she is a great speaker - I could have listened to her talk about writing for many more nights. I signed up for this workshop because I've had an idea for an article brewing in my head for months. The article is based on an experience I had several years ago and I just have a strong feeling like I should 'speak' about it. I'm very glad I took the classes because I definitely would have approached writing in this area all wrong. Fast forward to this past weekend. I just sent my first query letter out. It took me three months to research what publications may be interested in my idea, line up my expert, and draft and revise my letter many times. Now I sit and wait; this publication keeps queries for six months. I'm opting to only query one publication at a time since I'm more comfortable dipping my toe as opposed to just jumping into the deep end. But I do have other publications lined up in case the response is "No thank you." 

On the last night of this workshop, the speaker quickly mentioned a new emerging area in writing that she herself had just taken a class on - content writing. Loosely, it is writing content for websites, helping them better populate their pages with information. She suggested that this might be something for us to consider down the road, after better establishing our freelance writing careers. I immediately thought of a local organization where I know the director very well and whose website needed a lot of revamping. I hemmed and hawed about approaching her for two reasons. One, I wasn't sure how, if at all, this fit in my vision of myself as a writer. Would I get sucked into doing this kind of writing and not have time to do the writing I want to do? Two, I was wary because she has wanted me to come work with her for a few years now. We've had conversations about it but each time I ultimately declined the position. I was pretty confident that, based on this history, if I reached out to her to offer my services in this way she'd gladly take me up on the help. Ultimately, I decided to not pass up this opportunity since I have no idea if another one would be pretty much handed to me and reached out to her. She said yes and asked me if I could help edit some documentation too. 

So here we are: one query letter pending and my first freelance content writing and editing gig. I'm feeling very excited and nervous!    😟

 

It isn't romantic

The other day, as I was folding the never ending laundry, I was watching a crime show. One of those real life ones where the true story of a (crazily stupid) group of people was being profiled. The law enforcement person was discussing the crime: a woman set her husband up to be murdered by her teenage lover and his BFF. They went to the movies and afterwards she told her husband she wanted to go to the local park to have a "romantic encounter." Now, this is not the first time I have heard this phrase used as an euphemism for sex. But for whatever reason, it struck me that this was an odd use of the word romantic. Of course this got me thinking.......

Off the top of my head I came up with four different definitions of the word romantic. There is the one that involves images of flowers and moonlight. Another that calls up the word love. The third one is an idealized notion and lastly, according to law enforcement, is sex. To see how close to accurate my various understandings of this word was, I then hit up Merriam Webster. They list six definitions; besides the ones that I came up with the dictionary associates hero and imaginary with this word. Okay. I can see those. 

I then took a side trip to look up the definition of romance since the 1st definition listed under romantic was "consisting of or resembling a romance." Number one definition of romance is the literary one; associated with romance novels or medieval tales which often include heroes and adventure. There is also the romance with a capital 'R' for the Romance languages. Interestingly the 4th definition given for this word is "love affair." Since this was in blue indicating a hyper link I clicked on it. Finally, I was brought to a definition that meant a sexual relationship, usually between people not married to each other.

So how did the word romantic evolve into meaning sex? How come law enforcement and any other entity that uses that phrase "romantic encounter" just don't say sex? What's wrong with using the word sex? These words aren't synonyms for one another.

No wonder people confuse sex with love.

 

Little Signs

I give up. I quit. I can not do this.

I was so motivated when I last posted. We were on vacation, far less responsibility then if I was home, and I felt like I could sit down and kick out some serious wordage. Nope. That lasted two days and then I got distracted (but I did write 2,763 words). You know, doing fun stuff, exploring the area, shopping. I came home very well rested but disappointed in myself. I certainly didn't establish new BEHAVIORS. And once we got home I didn't make the writing a priority. So after berating myself night after night over not making time for this I decided I'd just let it go. Perhaps it is not the right time for me to try and shove it into my schedule. I am smack dab in the middle of raising a family and my husband runs a company which takes up gobs of his time. Something has to give. God knows I have enough other junk to feel guilty about without heaping this onto the pile. I admit once I made this decision I felt a lot better. I suddenly felt I had some space….odd isn't it since my perception was that my lack of writing was due to a space issue! But I was also mad at myself for giving up. That's not like me. That's not the example I want to set for my kids. 

But a funny thing happened. I got what I view as signs that I should not give up. First it was the trickling in of people deciding to follow me on Twitter. Not those bots either. Real people who write. It really made my day when that happened. The second sign was a link that Alice Hoffman (one of my all time favorite authors) posted on her Facebook page. It was to an interview done by the Boston Globe where four authors talked about their writing careers in relation to motherhood.  (http://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2015/04/21/writers-who-are-also-mothers/cR5vtbbIuFlsjuVh3zWXHI/story.html). It validated that it is indeed hard to do! I'm not missing something in this process. 

And then the biggest sign. Back in January I had volunteered to be a blog contributor to the Book Blog, a blog hosted on the digital edition of our area's largest daily newspaper. The managing editor emailed me back and said he'd like me to come on board. But then I heard nothing. For months. Out of the blue, last week he emailed me again, said the Book Blog was ready to get running again and asked if I was still interested in being a contributor. I told him I was in! So I've been busy writing my first post. Then I hopped over to here and started writing this post. The renewed enthusiasm I have for sitting my keister in the chair and writing has been huge. Like I haven't felt guilty that I haven't done anything else today except write two blog posts and run two loads of laundry. What is even more reassuring is that once I started writing each post the words just came and I was in a happy place :) Here is the link to my first post:

http://blog.timesunion.com/books/hi-my-name-is-lynn-and-im-a-book-addict/2481/

Maybe I can do this. Maybe I'm not a quitter. Maybe what I need to quit is the self imposed deadline I have in my head and just let it happen as it will. 

The Process of Becoming a Writer, Step 2

I spend a lot of time researching but not for a novel I want to write. Nope, I spend much time reading about the career called writing. I talked about this in my very first post. As time has gone on I find that what I seek information on isn't necessarily about how to get published but rather the actual practice of writing. 

I'm six months into making a conscious effort to become a writer. I have found that I really struggle to actually get any writing done. This produces a great deal of panic or guilt, depending on the day. I complain to very few people about this because A. I haven't shared with very many people that I'm trying to make a career change and B. to those that I have, I'm embarrassed. Because, really, how hard is it to sit down and type? One person in particular, who has had the 'privilege' of hearing me complain, has suggested that I look at my behaviors. When he first said this I immediately balked. My lack of writing had nothing to do with my behaviors. It has everything to do with the demands on my time and I rattled off the names of my three kids, my husband and 'the house.' I may have even thrown the dog's name in there. But his observation stayed with me.

I started to read more blogs and articles that talked about writing practices, the best/worst writing advice, how they made the transition from X career to writing, how they juggle competing demands. I felt very relieved to see that many have the same struggles and fears that I do. But what really got me to think about looking at my behaviors was how dedicated writers made the time to write. That's what sets them apart from me and when the proverbial light bulb went off over my head. It IS my behaviors. It is me not taking the 10 minutes here, sneaking 20 minutes there. It is me putting the 'if I can't have at least an hour of solid writing time I'm not going to do it' wall. It's allowing what I call "Writer's ADHD" rule when I do sit down to write: re-reading what I've written, re-writing, looking things up on the fly, checking in on the author/writing websites I have bookmarked, starting a new novel for the latest idea I had that morning in the shower. 

So this week is Spring Break for my kids. We made plans back in the middle of frigid February to get the heck out of NY for this week. We rented a house right on the ocean…it's beautiful and very restful (and warm!!). I brought my lap top and told myself that I was going to write 1,000 words a day while we were here. Of all the story ideas I have started, there is one in particular that is jumping up and down, arms waving, saying "Pick me!" And I've done it. It helps (a lot) that I don't have all the responsibilities I do if I was home. But when my husband offers to take the youngest to the beach I let him. When said child is crying I don't run to intercede. I let my husband or his sisters handle it. My daughters entertain themselves. Dinners are quick and easy. I am looking at websites as I drink coffee in the morning. I am not trying to write the story perfectly the first time around. I'm just letting it out as it comes to me.

I want to be able to say that I'm a dedicated writer. I recognize it is easy to start these new behaviors in this less demanding environment. The trick will be if I can practice them when I get back to the (hopefully warmer) real world. 

Who Is Writing In My House

I've been struggling to find a topic to write about. Part of this is because I'm trying to keep this blog focused on writing related topics. Since I haven't been doing very much writing I don't have anything worthwhile to say.

While I have been sitting and staring at the computer screen, my younger daughter has discovered Wattpad. In her words "best app ever" as she is doing most of her writing on her phone. She has been busy writing stories, reading other users' writing and developing a network of readers and writers. Clearly I need to take some pointers from her. And for English class she has been working on writing a realistic fiction novel complete with artwork, author and dedication pages. I guess it is no surprise that she has been talking about being an author. Her enthusiasm is pretty impressive and it's hard to kick her off the electronics knowing that she is using them to pursue our mutual interest. I wouldn't be honest if I didn't admit to envying her greatly the night she sat at MY computer complaining that she was on page 17 and couldn't figure out how to end the story…she was only suppose to have 15 pages!

My older daughter also likes to write. Two summers ago she spent much time on another website, Quotev, writing a love story for Peter Pan and a reverse telling of Beauty and the Beast. She told me recently that she has started writing out there again and is more into creating short stories. She likes short stories because she can finish them more quickly (time being a highly valued commodity when you are a teenager). She is in her last 20 weeks of high school and her English class this semester is one she self selected - Creative Writing. I haven't heard any complaining (yet) and she has talked to her teacher about using some of the material she has already wrote on Quotev as a springboard for her assignments. I'm crossing my fingers that this is a positive experience and she learns a thing or two. 

I guess if I treated my own writing like a homework assignment that was going to be graded I would accomplish more!?

In the beginning

In the beginning there was a woman, a lap top, and many ideas running around said woman's brain. This, I thought, was all that I needed to launch a career as a writer. It turns out that I was wrong. 

When I decide to do something new I like to research. I want to know what it is I don't know. And honestly, I like to research. I like learning. This is definitely one of those times I'm very grateful that I did my research. I had no idea what else was involved in establishing a career as a writer. Oh I knew after I corralled an idea and got it down on paper I still needed to draft a query letter, create a list of literary agent names and/or publications to submit my pieces too, find a lucky penny, and wish on a shooting star. I didn't realize that I should have a web site, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and blog to help promote my writing. 

I was pretty bewildered and overwhelmed. After all, at this point in time, I'm trying to find the time to write and be brave enough to send it out there. Now I have to add creating these various social networking accounts and come up with content…….and let's not forget maintaining/updating said accounts. What the heck?! I have bookmarked the web sites of some of my favorite authors where I can read their blog posts. I knew they used Facebook and had Twitter accounts. I assumed they did all of this AFTER they became best selling writers. And maybe some of them did; especially if the advent of these social media outlets occurred after they had established their successful careers. 

So after more researching (read: hemming and hawing) I reached out and asked a question on the writer's web site, She Press, where I am a member. When do I create these very public presences? The response I got was it was my preference. Depends on my comfort level and how aggressive I want to be. Okay, I like that this is something I can control. I don't have to go crazy and establish a whole universe. So after more researching (now read: delay tactic) I have chosen to use a web site with a blog and Twitter. 

If you are reading this blog, congratulations! You found my web site…..or more realistically I told you were to find it! Feel free to bookmark it in your browser to check back and see how I am doing. And, if you are a Twitter user as I am now, feel free to follow me there too: @lynnmandrews.