YOU DESERVE A GOLD STAR !

As my granddaughter watched me brushing my hair, she looked up and saw the sign, “WRITE.”  “What’s that for?” Pleased that she’d noticed, I responded. “It’s to remind me to write everyday.”

A quizzical expression registered on her face as she stared at me with those big eyes.  “But you write every day, so why do you still have the sign up?”

Good question. I needed a good answer. I took a moment. “So I won’t forget to write everyday.”

There had been other signs in every room when I began my indoctrination to the world of novel-writing. But as the years have passed, I only need one now. Because she’s right. I do write every day.

I discovered the power of visual repetition when I was in college at Baylor University millions of years ago.

Running for the Board of Publications, I asked a friend who worked in the printing area of the Baylor Lariat campus newspaper to help me create 3 x 5 cards with my name on them. Due to restrictions, it became my first name only. “Darla” I plastered them all over the campus. Nothing else. Just my name. I won and was re-elected. The visual reminder put me in the voters’ heads. It is the same in my house. “Write.” It puts it in my head.

Also, my cell phone alarm beeps at 7 a.m. everyday and reminds me to write 1000 words. Many times I am well done by then. I smile. Either way, it’s a reminder, a connection to my better self that says “get on with it.”

I have continued utilizing anything that will help me write and keep on keeping on. Even goofy and quirky stuff.

I have a barbie sized Wonder Woman doll who sits on top my favorite how to write books. Does she help me? I don’t know. But she stands for strength and she listens to me. Has she ever talked back to me? Never. Do you think I’m crazy? It’s fun. It works!

When I finished my final draft a couple of novels ago, I was asked to send the entire 350 page manuscript via U.S. mail.  I printed it out and placed it in a big white box. A crazy idea hit me. I was so exhiliatrated by finishing it that I wrapped it up like a present with a big red bow.  You probably aren’t surprised that I didn’t hear from her. Except for the rejection, of course. She probably wished I’d sent her a better story. Not very professional, but it was fun.  

Recently, I began the final edit of my current novel.  I labored over inserting the changes into the computer.  I rejoiced when I was finished. I was filled with exhaustion and pride. And no one around to congratulate me. Job well done, Darla. On the kitchen counter I saw a stack of mail. One envelope had delivered to me free of charge some adorable stickers. All alone in the house, I chose the bright gold star about the size of a quarter and eased off the backing.

Grinning, I placed it carefully on the first page of my manuscript before I filed it away. An intense feeling of pride radiated through me. I felt exhilirated by my accomplishment. I had finished another novel. It was a thank you to myself. Job well done.  It embolded me.  I had never worked so hard for a little star. I knew I was that much closer to publication.

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(Thanks Pinterest for Lovely Photo!)

Letting the inner you know that you are aware of all the work and research you have put into your manuscript is important. First you have to please yourself. And if you think about it, you’re the one who counts. This is your own look at this world you have created. You need to love it.

It’s important to learn to be playful, to learn how to motivate yourself. Writing can be a lonely business. Why shouldn’t it be fun and fulfilling as well?  Keep yourself upbeat. Learn to love the inner writer in you.

Writing with No Maps

Writing has not changed. It is easy, it is hard. It is fun. It is grueling. It produces results. It never gets off the ground.  It drives you crazy. It fills you with elation. So after all this advertising, are you going to catch the wave and be a writer?

Yes. It’s in your blood. You’ve got this urge to write. You don’t know why but you must write. But how do you begin? You don’t know what you want to write about? You don’t know how to do it. Your grammar is not excellent. You hated English class, but you love writing. Ignore the doubtful voices. Sit, go on, sit down and write.

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When you sit at your computer or you have pen to paper, the same process occurs.

Natalie Goldberg expressed it in “Writing Down the Bones.”

“When I teach a beginning class, it is good. I have to come back to beginner’s mind, the first way I thought and felt about writing. In a sense, that beginner’s mind is what we must come back to every time we sit down and write. There is no security, no assurance that because we wrote something good two months ago, we will do it again. Actually, every time we begin, we wonder how we ever did it before. Each time is a new journey with no maps.”

No maps. It tugs at our inner free spirit. Maybe that’s why so many of us love to write. It’s up to us to  travel to worlds we’ve visited or imagined. To become someone else we are not. And sometimes, even thought we don’t realize it, writing can be therapy.  It tells us a lot about ourselves.

Perhaps we come upon an idea that seems strange and we tarry a bit. Fiction or non-fiction. Should we go there, should we not? Jump! Go! Tear it up later. Explore the thought, take off, explode into the unknown! Take a chance.

The first article I ever sold was sad, one I nearly didn’t write.

It was about the death of my second child. My first child was healthy as could be, and so we were extremely distressed to see that our second child was born with Hyaline Membrane Disease. He lived one day. Leaving the hospital with no baby. Devastating.

A short time later I wrote a piece about how lucky we were to have had our first healthy child, then a thriving thirteen month old, to come home to and be a constant reminder of something I had always taken for granted. Good health. I wrote how we dealt with the loss and sent it in to “Baby Talk” magazine, knowing full well they would never print anything so absolutely depressing. Which was a testimony to how young and naive I was. I thought I was the only one suffering from loss. The editors bought it and thus started me on the road to freelancing.

Sometimes what we are writing about —  nonfiction or fiction — seems unlikely to be of value to anyone. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned since the tech revolution, it’s that it’s a big world out there.

So what I am saying is don’t hold back. Write it down. You may be a new writer, but you have unique experiences and a perspective no one else has.

Tell us a story.

Write.

NEW WRITER? HOW TO BEGIN …

TO BEGIN

If you’ve decided to write a novel, then really there’s nothing I can do to discourage you. As if I would. I have written several and I remember the first one as if it were yesterday.

It was a warm spring afternoon in New Jersey and I had laid down on the bed for a quick nap that soon developed into a rather deep sleep. When I awoke, I had this amazing idea for a plot and a couple of characters. It had a sci-fi element to it, something I’d never thought about before. But I loved the idea!

I grabbed my pen and wrote down the general thought I had the minute I had stirred. Because as you know, a thought is a funny thing. It can flee in a moment with no notice whatsoever.

I was startled at how vivid my idea had been. How had that happened? It was like a gift from heaven. That was my first introduction to the fact that ideas do not come from us. We are human dream catchers and channel the thoughts onto paper.

Now, how to go forward.

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As I mentioned in an earlier blog, five children were under my roof. Two were babies, meaning they weren’t in school and needed constant attention. I wanted to write and now I had a plot that totally excited me.

There was all the time in the world. I was a journalist writing non-fiction articles for newspapers and magazines, short fiction, but this was going to be my very first book.

I wish I’d had a blog to help me get started. Here are a few pointers.

  1. Write fast. Set yourself a certain amount of words you hope to complete for the day or write for an hour, or even a half hour, according to your busy life.
  2. Turn off your editing self.  Worry later about clean up. Get the story down.
  3. Research later. You can fill in facts and descriptions after the story is complete.
  4. Let new characters appear at will and enjoy the surprise ride. Use your enthusiasm to get the story down.

Each morning I was excited to get up to see what would happen to my characters that day. Each day was a cliffhanger. I knew the end of the book, but the fun of creating, letting the ideas flow and writing a story that constantly surprised … What fun!

First, I would reread what I had written the day before. And then let the ideas begin! Later, I could change anything. Just write freely and fast.

The beauty was that I never knew where my characters were going, what they were going to do. What quirky ideas they might have. It was like taking a joy ride in a brand new car across country.  Every novel can be that way if you have a place to begin. The universe steps in and will take you on the adventure of your life.

If you haven’t had a dream experience and you’re not sure where to begin., you could try a trick of Stephen King’s.

In his book “On Writing,” he explains several of his books came from using the “what if” scenario.

What if vampires invaded a small New England village? (Salem’s Lot)

What if a policeman in a remote Nevada town went berserk and started killing everyone in sight? (Desperation)

What if a cleaning woman suspected of a murder she got away with (her husband) fell under suspicion for a murder she did not commit (her employer)? (Delores Claiborne)

If you have exhausted all your ideas of what to write and have come up with nothing, ask yourself a Darla question.

What is your true passion? Is it a place, a country, a person? Begin there.