Lois Lane? Really?

Today I blog about my relationship with Lois Lane over at rebecca-grace.blogspot.com.

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Guest blogging is fun. It’s like visiting someone. So drop on by and check out my blog there and peruse the site. It’s the first time I’ve ever written anything so personal about how I got into this writing business. Leave questions. Also, if you’re a new writer, you can find great stuff on that site.

But today what’s really on my mind is the weather.

Yesterday a young woman asked, ” Why are you wearing all black. It’s summer!” She had on shorts. But I was the clever one because Colorado does not have summer until it’s officially June. It teases you and sends a few warm days. People rush to their closets and do the reorg thing. Not me.

Growing up in Texas, I always heard, “Wait five minutes and the weather will change.” Yesterday Colorado was at 88 and today snow is in the forecast.

This morning, I hear not one chattering bird but a choir outside as the dark is about to give it up to dawn. Lovely beyond words. Those precious little darlings are ready for spring. They’re in for a great disappointment. I do enjoy spring, but the first couple of years  in Colorado we had a blizzard … in late May. Now I’m snow shy. And skeptical. I’ll believe it when …

Enjoy today. And by that I mean look at the person you love. Grab that face and look into those eyes. Say “I love you.” Don’t do it only to their backs as they walk out the door. Live in the moment. And have a Happy Easter.

Making Stuff Up

You could write a book on this topic. Writing fiction … from the beginning … to publication …
But hopefully, my personal journey will reassure you, perhaps a beginning writer, that it’s possible. I had been a non-fiction writer, a free-lance journalist for over 25 years raising five amazing children on three continents. I was a stay at home mom endeavoring to keep my skills honed by freelancing articles. Moving often, it seemed prudent to be on tap to help children adjust to new cultures in Europe and South Africa. But that’s another book waiting to be written.

For now, suffice it to say that switching to fiction seemed in the beginning to be a piece of cake.

Who wouldn’t enjoy sitting down and making stuff up.

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I started years ago, but I got serious ten years ago, attending writers conferences, joining writing organizations, interviewing writers and participating in a welcoming critique group through the Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America. Never before had I had that kind of support.

Which leads me to say this: If you think you can’t do it, stop reading. But if there is a part of you that wants to find out if you could do it, you’re who I am looking for.

When an idea hits you — like creating another world, or putting a new story into a world you’re familiar with, enjoy. But, if you aren’t having fun, then go knit or start an aquarium or find something else that turns you on.

Above all else, don’t tell me “I think it would be fun but I just don’t have time right now.” You can search the web and read writers’ experiences and comments on that topic. Finding time.

Perhaps the turn on will be a moment when the right person at the right time says the right thing.

“If you write one page a day, in a year you’ll have a book.” Something so simple. But that was the moment for me. When I heard the lack of time commitment, the simplicity, I was hooked.  I had five children under my roof in New Jersey and simply decided to get up earlier and write one hour every morning. My whole day went better. Why? Because my personal goal, my passion for writing would be fulfilled first before my hectic day ever started.

Tons of people who work full-time write their stories while traveling to work on the subways or trains or planes. You do it where you are. When you can. You have to figure it out. Make it happen. I promise you a great ride.

Let your imagination soar. Find your passion. If it’s raising fruit flies, begin there. You hate commuting? Write about a world where teleporting is available. If you have a place where you left your heart, start there.

One last thought. Don’t expect your book to stay within your original parameters. It will take on legs of its own.

During an online class from Gotham Writers, with my book well on its way to being finished, the professor gave us an assignment. “Spend two or more hours researching, discovering information you’ve never seen before.” That research led me and eventually my readers into a world of muti killing, where innocent women and children become victims when their body parts are sold. The final product supposedly brings good luck. Not so much for the victims. And this practice continues today in South Africa.

So my point is do not presume to know what your book is about. There’s more. Much more. Look for it.

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.