A Writer's Journey through the Maze of Life

Friday, March 30, 2012

Mother Nature,The Muse and Ideas

Do you believe in a muse? I do. I can't describe her though; she's somewhere between an angel, Glenda the Good Witch (Wizard of Oz) and Mother Nature (from that old TV Parkay commercial). Regardless of what she looks like, when she is with me, she is supportive and encouraging me onward. Other days, it seems like I take two steps forward only to take three steps back. But. . .

I'm here to talk about ideas. Where do you get your ideas from? Specifically, how do you keep track of them?

Many writers keep a notebook by their bed to record thoughts or dreams. Ann LaMott carried a 3x5 card in her pocket. Having something that small with a pen or pencil in your pocket is a good way to capture an idea you may want to use later.

I've read where you should write down 2-3 words that will remind you of your idea. If you can recall your idea that way you are indeed better than I. If I looked at a scrap months later that read: dog is wolf, I would not be able to recall my original thoughts or where I was going with the idea. I need a good paragraph with a clue where this is leading me, i.e. seen a dog chained at house, dog/wolf/hybrid?, owner confirmed wolf, told me how acquired, etc.From there I can choose to write fiction, a poem, or an article on whether it is right to keep wolves as domestic pets. I need to put down where I might go with this information.

Another method of keeping track of ideas is to use a voice recorder (tapeless) or tape recorder. I just bought one; I'll let you know how well this works. How do you keep track of your ideas?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Wash your hands

Many beginner writers send out a ms. and then wait, wait, worry, wonder, wait. Forget about it! All that stress should have been done before hand, polishing and making your ms. the very best it can be. Once you've mailed it out, it is out of your hands and best put out of your mind.

Now then, about the eighth or tenth rejection, you may want to look it over again. If anyone has been kind enough to offer you suggestions to improve it, take it to heart, mull it over, make changes. Yes, the wait and worry and wonder will still exist, but the best piece of writerly advice is get busy working on something else.

Heard about the rule of 13? Some writers swear if you keep thirteen mss. floating around at editors, publishers, etc. that eventually one will pick up on one. It took me a while to write enough to keep thirteen going all the time and sometimes it is more like ten, but I strive to keep plenty of material out there.

Meanwhile, even as I write, I still look forward to the mailperson each day and feel a twinge of disappointment when there is no news. But hey! that's what being a writer is all about.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Hit the Road!

Spring gives me the travel bug. I love attending workshops and conferences. Later this week I'll be attending the Blue Ridge Writers Conference in Blue Ridge, GA. I've never been to this one and I don't know a soul there. So why go? I not only get to hear speakers I haven't heard before, I get to meet new people, editors/agents; I get to meet Blue Ridge Writers and find out what they write about and consider pertinent. It's a form of expansion, of growing.

But why attend these functions? Shouldn't I stay home and write? Because in today's world of publishing, you have to do more. I must say I haven't been to a workshop. Mainly, because I don't find many in my area. Workshops focus more on the craft of writing. Some are run like classrooms--write, then share. This is a place for improving your skills. Some offer critique services and it behooves every novice writer to take advantage of this.And please, don't be so thin skinned you can't take a little criticism. These people are trying to help you. If you're such a sensitive artist, you can't take criticism, perhaps you're not meant for the highly competitive world of publishing.

Conferences on the other hand are wonderful socializing events. While you will hear speakers and possibly mingle with editors/agents, the contacts you make at these events can be life changing. Usually authors who have published make their books available at these venues.

Where do you find out about writing workshops and conferences? I go to www.shawguides.com. Here you'll find conferences all over the United States and elsewhere and it is also broken down by genres. Once you start attending conferences/workshops, you'll be on a mailing list. Or you can Google writing conferences/workshops and go to the actual site. You may want to start within your own state and gradually branch out as confidence and cash allows. And yes, some of them are pricey, but you can also find many that are reasonable. I started out with one a year, then increased it to three, all within my home state. Now, after several years, I'm branching out. If you've never attended a workshop/conference, maybe this year is the time to begin.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Novel Excerpt

Bradford pears have bloomed and are already leafed out. Cherry blossoms and peach blossoms have bloomed. Dogwoods dot the land. Crocus, daffodils and tulips have sprouted their heads. It's Spring in the Ozarks.It is really difficult to buckle down and write when it is so beautiful outdoors.

Buckle down we must and I've been working on contest entries and the third novel.

Here is a short excerpt from Vestal Virgin:

Lying inert she knew she should put more effort into the sex act, but the chump on top of her didn't seem to mind.His chubby hands moved upward, caressing her shoulders, then swirled around her breastbone, and crept down. She could smell his fetid breath, the stale cologne mixed with his sweat, the pressure of his thigh between her legs. She flinched as he squeezed her breasts and began sucking on them.

"Oh, God, you're good. You like it, don't you?"

He was squeezing her breasts like he was testing oranges. It hurt, but she couldn't say anything. She murmured, "Uh-huh" while her mind protested. Get the hell off me, you fat slob .

. . . . . . . . . . . "You girls have a rough life. I suppose your pimp gets most of your take. Just hide the extra or keep your mouth shut," he said holding the car door open for her like she was royalty.

Keep your mouth shut. Where had she heard those words before? From none other than that slime-ball priest Father Margolin at St. Augustine's. She hated him! She hated what he had done to her.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


You probably had one as a kid. Or at least you've seen them. Some writers are just like jack in the boxes. We sit down to write with all good intentions only to POP up at the slightest excuse.
                  I forgot to put that load of clothes in the dryer. Pop!
                  Hmm, looks like I need another cup of coffee. Pop!
                  I better call ___ before I forget. Pop!
                  I should wash the dishes, vacumn the floors, dust, vac out the car, etc. Pop!

If you are a jack in the box, you must learn to keep the lid closed.

If, like me, you must have your house in order (clean) before you feel comfortable to write, then work your tail off all morning/afternoon/evening (depending on your schedule) so will have the afternoon/evening/morning to write.

In lieu of my last post, perhaps we need to quit popping into Facebook and other social networks so often. Limit ourselves to 15-20 minutes of networks daily or just check in 3-4 times a week.

If you must talk on the phone, schedule 20-30 minutes for it just prior to your sit down to write time.

Need a coffee, Coke, iced tea? Get everything you need or think you will need before you sit down to write.

Discipline yourself to not pop up with every little excuse and you'll son find yourself being more productive.

Monday, March 19, 2012


Do you find yourself wishing you could find more time to write? I'm sure we all do, especially women who not only have 9-5 jobs, but have to come home to child care, laundry, housekeeping, chauffeuring, ad infinitum.

Other than the time worn advice of rising an hour earlier or staying up an hour later at night, there are two or three big time wasters.

  1. Networking/Internet   Although social networking--making yourself known--is important, hours can be frittered away on Facebook, Twitter and other social network sites. Ask yourself how many friends are reading your material/helping you reach your goals? Are they critique partners (a valid reason for networking)? Or are you just sharing jokes and small talk?  If you're not getting  readers, limit your friends/followers to those who may be of the biggest benefit to you--agents, publishers, editors, etc.The Internet is wonderful, but are you surfing just for something to do? Or are you researching? If the latter, you're justified in the time spent.
  2. TV   If your TV is in the same room (or where you can see it), your eyes and ears will be drawn to its sounds/visuals. You can't watch TV and hope to get much writing done.
  3. Reading  Face it. Picking up a book is more pleasurable than staring at a blank Word document. Save your reading for pre-bedtime.
Other tips to find more writing time:

  1. Write while waiting for dinner to cook. This is best done in longhand. You can always type it later. Just don't get so engrossed that dinner burns!
  2. Delegate your husband, significant other, children to tasks that will free up a half hour for you.
  3. If you don't have to socialize or conduct a meeting during your lunch hour, go sit in your car, go to a park or some other quiet place and work while you eat.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Welcome to my blog. In coming months I hope to share with you tips, articles, commentary and more on the craft of writing. I'll even throw in a little personal news from time to time. Leave comments. Ask questions. What do you want to know about writing? Check back often and become a follower.

In a few days I'll share with you an excerpt from my upcoming novel: Vestal Virgins.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


What kind of hat do you wear? As writers, we are now  caught in a glut of increased responsibilities. No longer can we just sit back and write. Now we have to socialize on the Networks: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Now we need fan pages, landing pages, blogs, websites. Now we have to educate ourselves in editing, marketing, distribution. Now we have to become public speakers. All these things help us grow and hopefully help us to sell our books.

How many hats can you wear? Too many hats are bad when you are compromising so much of your time that you have no time to write. How to solve that problem? Just like in big business: Delegate. What do you suppose marketing specialists are for? Distributors? Publicists? They all have a function and are there to help.

But I can't afford it, you whine. Then you just have to pull up your big girl panties and learn to deal with things to the best of your ability. Ask fellow writers how they go about handling these tasks. Every encounter can be a learning experience. How do you handle all the hats of the publishing world?

Thursday, March 1, 2012


Verisimilitude is one of those twenty dollars words with a ten cent meaning: having the appearance of of being true or real. And that's what stories have to contain.

Right now, I'm reading East of the Mountains by David Guterson. It's not a new book (I seldom read a new book). It is the story of a doctor who has cancer and  runs off to the mountains to die. I'd no sooner read page two, getting caught up in the story, when I had  to check  the cover. It says  fiction; I had to affirm I wasn't reading a personal memoir. Another chapter. Was that right? I check again. Yep, it says fiction, but  it reads like a real life story, it feels like real life.

How does he do it? I believe it is tiny finite details: the emotions that run through the doctor, his thoughts about what to do with his dogs, how he keeps rubbing his side where the colon cancer pain is the worst, how he needs stool softeners for his constipation and more. I'm on a chapter that speaks of  the apple orchards in Washington State. The details of how the trees are taken care, the varieties of apples, the history of how the orchard began.Vivid, yet everyday details bring the story verisimilitude.

 I continually keep going back to the cover because it is to hard to believe this is a work of fiction. And that is what we should all strive for. We should  make our readers go to the cover for affirmation that it is a piece of fiction, a piece of verisimilitude.