The Writing Questions

question

When people ask you what you do and you tell them you’re a writer, be prepared to close your eyes and shake your head a lot. Better that than blurting out what you’d really like to say. Trust me on this.

The first inevitable question, which usually comes with not-so-subtly raised eyebrows: “Oh. What do you write?”

My response: “Fiction.”

At this point, the eyebrows go up even further. I will interject here with an observation. To a large chunk of the population, fiction is not considered real writing. Apparently, anything you make up in your head is disqualified.

Question two: “What have you published?”

Me: “I am working on a couple of manuscripts to submit to potential publishers.”

Now the eyebrows drop and a look of indulgence appears: “So you’re not actually a real writer.”

I smile with my mouth, not my eyes, and grit my teeth as I politely respond: “Yes, I am a real writer. I write.” It doesn’t get more real than that, people.

To their credit, they recognize the fumble: “Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to – um – .” Their eyes dart around, seeking a way to bail themselves out. I’ve stopped helping with this. Finally, they ask: “How many books have you written?”

Why is our society so caught up with numbers? Quantity is the key. If there is no quantity, there is no validation. So I tell them that I’ve written dozens of technical manuals, completed two novels, started about a hundred others, and kept a blog running for over five years. Their eyes glaze over and comprehension drops. They don’t get it. And I freely admit that I’ve lost patience with them.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that no one understands a writer like another writer. And when you connect with another writer on that pure organic level, your mental chaos settles into lovely organized thought patterns. I have a few of those writers in my life.

Emily.

My beautiful thirteen-year-old granddaughter, already a brilliant fiction writer with an incredible imagination. She is working on her first fantasy novel and I am honored to be collaborating with her on it.

Christopher.

My talented university-student nephew who is well into writing the second novel in his Sons of Depravity series. He is the master of epic stories. I’m often dumbfounded at the level of detail and research that he puts into each scene. I’m grateful that he considers my opinions worthy.

These two, in particular, motivate me. They inspire me. They get me in a way that very few do.

The writing questions will always be there, coming from people who ask without thinking, comment without understanding, and form opinions based on whatever it is that makes them tick. What they think doesn’t matter to me as much as it used to. I’m doing what I know to do, just as they are.

So go ahead and ask.

But you may not like the answer.

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Seven Months

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It has been seven months since my last post. Seven. S.E.V.E.N.

Is there significance in that? Probably not, but I thought I’d extend a little fanfare in recognition. Please rise and clap. Thank you.

So, what has been happening around here in the past seven months, you ask? Hmm . . . we had spring, summer and now it’s fall. I attended two weddings, two conferences, numerous birthday parties, had a part time job show up on my doorstep (literally), babysat lots of grandchildren, drank gallons of coffee with friends and family, lost 45 pounds, drove through the Rocky Mountains three times . . . and a whole lot more.

Yet, during all that time, I wrote nothing that could be construed as good, interesting, or book-worthy.

Oh, I wrote. All the time. Everywhere. I have notebooks full of ideas. Pages of dialogue. Paragraph upon paragraph of description. But none of it ties together.

Yet.

I have to believe that this horrible dry spell will end. Soon. And if you’re a writer, I don’t have to explain how utterly discouraging and frustrating and disappointing a dry spell can be. It affects you. In everything. You can’t explain it, as much as you try, and I love the people in my life who support me and pretend to understand even though they don’t. They can’t.

Seven months is a long time. I am not a patient person and I have done my part through this desert; praying, keeping myself motivated, looking for ideas, trying new things.

I feel as though I’m on the edge, ready to jump off a cliff into the unknown. I don’t know what I will see as I soar over that new landscape, but I think that all of the snippets I’ve written in my notebook will be flying with me, waiting to land in the place I make for them.

Sense the anticipation?

I do!

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The Catch

It’s finished.

Done.

The End.

Let the Hallelujah Chorus resound.

After months of thinking, typing, dreaming, typing, eating, typing, revising, typing, and revising some more, my novel, The Catch, is complete. Aside from a little polish here and there, it’s ready for submission to the powers that be.

What happens when a frustrated writer is visited by the main characters of her work in progress, asking her to help them find their happy ending? Well, a whole lot of interesting twists and turns, that’s what. More about that in a later post.

For now, I am basking in the euphoria of having finished this 65,000 word story by the deadline I’d set for myself. And considering this was not a piece of work that I’d done any amount of prior writing on, it is nothing short of a miracle that it is finished. Seriously.

The point of this post is the catch. (Not The Catch.)

The catch to doing something like this is actually doing something like this.

You can cry and lament and whine all you want about how hard it is to write and finish a book. But until you sit down, with your rear in the chair and your fingers on the keyboard, I’ve got no sympathy. Because it ain’t gonna happen any other way.

I know this.

Because I was the one doing that crying and lamenting and whining for way too many years.

There is no doubt about it; writing is work. It’s hard. It’s not even that much fun sometimes. But you have to stick with it.

Every.

Single.

Day.

And now, less than 24 hours since my last revisions were completed, I am outlining my next novel.

And it’s going to be a doozy!

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Where Are the Thinky Ones?

The thinky ones are disappearing at an alarming rate. Or so it seems.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed a rather marked decline in the thinking population. I’m talking about people who actually stop to consider their actions, their decisions, their words, and their goals on a daily basis, rather than doing life by rote. Thinking people allow their minds to dwell on problems in order to solve them rather than lamenting their plight. They come up with new ideas instead of blindly following the latest fad. They are capable of having intelligent conversations that don’t revolve around the weather or football or shopping. They take the time to work through difficult situations rather than giving up because it’s too hard.

Where are the thinky ones?

I want to talk to them.

I have to admit that I’ve found myself downright bored during a good number of conversations I’ve had over the years. I’ve concluded that life is too short to waste on small talk. Especially when small talk is all that too many people are able to produce.

During my high school years, I was fortunate to participate in a series of seminars that pointed me in a good direction – a direction that opened my eyes to possibilities. I learned to explore the unlimited capacity of the mind to be able to think and to reason and to create. This made sense to me. It still makes sense. So I think about it and experiment with it, and I see potential become reality.

As I spend time in God’s Word studying the things He has laid out for me, untapped abilities are coming to life. As I follow His direction and think His thoughts, I see limitless dreams and visions begin to form. It’s mind-blowing. And that’s exactly what I’m looking for.

But I have to focus. I have to zero in on what’s really important. I have to think.

I don’t know if this blog post makes any sense. I hope it does. Because that means you’re probably one of the thinky ones, and I’d like to talk to you!

 

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The Big Idea

Have you ever had a Big Idea? You know, the kind of Idea that seems impossible but is fun to think about anyway. The kind of Idea that when you tell people about it they look at you weird and back away. The kind of Idea that has potential to change the world. At least, your world. Yeah, that kind of Idea.

I have them all the time.

But the problem with having Big Ideas is that you have to be careful who you tell.

There are the Dummy-heads who don’t get it at all. They roll their eyes and groan, wondering what kind of lunatic you are to let your imagination run away with you like that. Stay away from them! They are damaging to your creativity.

There are the Polite ones who want to be nice about it. They smile and nod and say the right words, acting like they really like your Big Idea and they get your hopes up because you think you’ve found somebody who understands, but they don’t. These people are easy to spot because they usually look at you with a blank stare and have a fake smile pasted on their faces. They mean well, but they don’t help you.

There are the Naysayers who stop you dead in your tracks before you’ve even finished what you were saying. They have all kinds of reasons why your Big Idea will never work and they shut you down before you’ve had a chance to explain. It’s good if you can weed these creeps out of your life because they will choke you out.

There are the Control Freaks who can’t bear to let anyone have a Big Idea they didn’t think of first. Be careful how much you tell them, because the next thing you know, your Big Idea is being promoted as their Big Idea.

I like the Honest People. They will take the time to listen. They let you tell the whole story without interrupting except to ask clarifying questions. They make valuable suggestions and actually help you to make the Big Idea even better. They are the ones cheering for you when the Big Idea is a success. And they’re cheering for you even if it isn’t. These people are your real friends. If you’ve got one or two or three of them, don’t let them go!

I popped another Big Idea into the pipeline today. It needs some time to churn and grind in there – to smooth the rough edges and get the gears aligned. I haven’t told anyone about it yet and I’m going to be picky about who hears the details.

I’m not interested in rolling eyes or pretend smiles or being told a hundred ways why it won’t work.

Because sooner or later, one of my Big Ideas will change the world.

 

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Ladybugs and Rewrites

Ladybug

I had company earlier today. This little lady and a few of her friends have managed to find their way into our house as they seem to do every spring. I thought she displayed an amazing degree of bravery, though, marching across my notebook the way she did. Don’t worry, she did not meet her demise. I escaped her, as my four-year-old grandson would say.

Unfortunately, this was yet another diversion to keep me from the dreaded rewrites. Am I allowed to say that I am so tired of this story that I want to remove all references to the thing from my desk, my hard drive, and everywhere else?

I read this quote from Ernest Hemingway:

I read my books sometimes to cheer me up when it’s hard to write and then I remember that it was always difficult and how nearly impossible it was sometimes.

While I’ve never been a Hemingway fan, his words are so true. Today feels like one of those nearly impossible days. I wonder what it is that makes me think I can actually write something that people will want to read. Am I kidding myself? Are my dreams too big?

I know what the acceptable answer is. I’m just not feelin’ it.

So, from the desk of a very honest and discouraged writer who is avoiding the work of rewrites on a story she doesn’t want to look at anymore, it is what it is. I know this will pass. It always does. I know the exhilaration of a really good writing day will come again. I am confident that whatever creativity lurks in the recesses of my muddled brain will make its way to the surface eventually. I will see the light at the end of the tunnel. Right?

RIGHT . . . ?

I’m going to go outside and re-pot my ferns now.

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The Writing Course

I am on the tale end of a week-long online writing course, for which I paid good money and had high expectations.

I’ll cut to the chase.

It’s been a huge disappointment. Well, maybe not huge, but definitely sort of.

Each day, we were asked to submit an excerpt of our work-in-progress (WIP), rewritten to follow the instructions as outlined by the moderator. These were posted on a forum which was open for comments from our classmates and from the course moderator (who happens to be one of my favorite editors).

While I greatly value the constructive feedback from the moderator and most of my peers, there are always some in the crowd who wreck it for me. And for everyone else. In this case, there is one that stands out.

Let’s call her “Miss Massacre”.

I truly believe that this woman couldn’t crank out a compliment if her life depended on it. She’s trashed every single person’s work, on every single day of this course. And the kicker here is that her own work really isn’t very good. Oh, believe me, there are things I could say about that. But I have refrained from stooping to her level and I just don’t post anything at all where her stuff is concerned.

Why do people do this?

Maybe her boyfriend just broke up with her. Maybe she has a splinter in her – um – foot. Maybe she lost her job. Maybe she’s just like this all the time. Who knows? Unfortunately, Miss Massacre made the whole online course experience very unpleasant.

So what now? I take the constructive stuff and rework my own writing to make it better. I thank God for a great connection with a fellow writer from the land of Far-Far-Away. I forget about Miss Massacre’s massacre and move on.

Thanks for reading. Come again.

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