Monday, December 21, 2015

PLANNING A NOVEL

we live at the edge of the miraculous

You might wonder why I included my own art journal page on this blog that is supposed to be about writing a novel. Well I found this saying in a fortune cookie--"we live at the edge of the miraculous" and I thought it applied.

Writing a novel is a miraculous process, one I've engage in several times. Some to completion, while other novels sleep soundly in my file cabinet never to be awakened again. As I approach this coming new year I must make a commitment to actually writing a novel. I have the idea and have spent the past two weeks planning it.

Planning involves an overall description of important scenes or plot points. It means coming up with characters to inhabit the story and giving them names, jobs, personalities and physical descriptions. 

I'm not a big outliner and over the past few years I have read books on outlining and tried to write the last novel following a scene by scene outline that took hours to create. For this coming year I am going back to my "seat of my pants" style. I have the general idea and I am just going to sit with my spiral notebook and blue ball point pen and just write.

You see when I outlined I never finished the novel--I got too caught up in the planning. Prior to that I wrote 3 novels from the seat of my pants. Granted they required vast revision--but the writing energy was strong and I did get to the end. So I'm giving it a try once more. 

The only preplanning was coming up with important plot points. Those are sketched out as well as the general story line. And I will hit 2016 with pen in hand ready to write this thing.

I'll keep you posted on my progress and perhaps hold a contest for a title for the book since I don't have one yet. That's unusual for me but I have to plow ahead and write. 

I want to keep this blog going! Post a few times a week on progress and offer some hints, advice, book recommendations, prompts and contests.

Keep reading and follow this miraculous journey to the final page and "the end."

Monday, December 7, 2015

RESOLUTIONS


I always believed New Year resolutions should be composed in December. That way you can just dive right into them on January 1. This is the first year I am actually doing that!

The new issue of Writers' Digest magazine says "Make 2016 the year you write your novel." So that is my plan. I have no more excuses. Now that I am retired I have all the time I need. I just have to muster the motivation and inspiration. I have the idea for the novel so now I have to take a few first preparatory steps.

  1. Clear away art supplies and wash my art/writing desk.
  2. Set up my writing craft books on the computer desk.
  3. Create a binder for the novel and take out a fresh clean spiral notebook for notes and the first draft.
  4. Begin planning the story and creating characters.
I want to be able to start right in on a first draft beginning January 1.

In the planning stages I am using a few tools and ideas from writing gurus.

First I am going to re-watch the videos that Martha Alderson created. One series is about developing you plot. The other series is about your personal journey as a writer. Each series of videos come with free workbooks that I will follow. Martha Alderson is aka the Plot Whisperer.


I've been to her retreat which was immensely helpful and have read and used all of her books. Her prompt book is a great way to launch a first draft and I will use that in the new year.

I have also learned a lot from Diane O'Connell's book on novel writing.


Here she lays out a plan for creating a novel that will have a strong story, engaging characters and solid marketability. Her online class was fun and informative and phone consults with her helped to narrow my writing focus.

So the next three weeks will be spent in preparing to write a clean first draft and in creating a year full of goals for this novel and for a long range career in novel writing.

Yes- I believe 2016 will be the year I finish a novel and begin to seek representation and publication!! Full steam ahead!!



Tuesday, December 1, 2015

GOALS AND OBJECTIVES



After working for over 25 years in the field of special education I know all about goals and objectives. At least I know how to write them for my students. Now I must create some for myself if I ever want to get this novel written.

Between now and January 1, 2016 I must lay down my writing goals for the coming year. Timelines involve getting a first draft done by the time my writers' group goes on retreat again in April.

I will need weekly goals, monthly goals and a daily writing schedule. I want a good second draft completed by July when the Romance Writers of America has its annual conference.

I need to calculate how many pages a day, chapters a month, whatever I need to write in order to meet my self-imposed deadlines.

It will be a long road, but I have to take the first steps and keep trudging along until I meet my goals and get a novel written, revised, published and be ready to write novel number 2!!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Emerging Novelist


Okay, so this is a pretty blurry picture of my latest mixed media canvas and you may wonder why I am putting my art on my writing blog. Well this particular piece "Find Your Balance" seems to be the theme for my life right now.

For many years I have flip flopped between writing and art and within each of those creative pursuits there have been additional flips flops between different genres or different techniques and styles. Now my brain seems to be pushing back into writing. So putting my art here today seems to be a bridge between my two creative worlds.

The writing bug has been dogging me for a couple months now. It began with partial retirement in July when I had more time to myself than ever before. And now that I am completely retired and all my time is my own the dream of being a novelist has emerged once again. I've waited years to retire and have my days free to write. To be able to write every day and not have my characters and their stories become foreign to me each time I get back to the page. So now I have no excuses not to write a novel.

Though I won't totally give up art, the majority of my time needs to spent on writing. Having just returned from our writing group's retreat I feel the writing energy rising and hoping it will grab me by the throat and not let go.



I did spend some time last weekend on the retreat re-thinking the novel I've been writing and having some flaws in the story as well as the genre of thriller/suspense in terms of my own writing style I have decided to begin something brand new.

I will create a writing schedule and some timeline goals to get a first draft and outline done. And add future deadlines for revising and submitting what I write. 

Presently I am working out the main story but it will be a romance in the subgenre of women's mainstream fiction. I need to flesh out some characters and an overall story arc and will share some of that here on the blog. I want to blog the creation and progress of this novel as well as my deadlines so I can cement the whole production in my mind as well as into my life.

Here's to novel writers everywhere who inspire me to continue the dream!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Dream Guides




Very interesting!
For many years I have had two recurring dreams. The most frequent one is being in a parking lot or on the street and not being able to find my car. Even if I recall where I parked it, it's not there when I to that spot. I know that a car symbolizes power and control but I never researched the true meaning behind that dream. I don't put much stock in dream interpretation, I believe most dreams come from "day residue" things you did or thought about during the day that show up in your dreams. It made sense for many dreams but not this recurring dream. I did an online search and found this explanation from Dr. Oz's website:

Stress Dream: Losing Your Car or Your Car Gets Stolen
This stress dream is connected to uncertainty or loss of motivation. Your car represents your “drive” and motivation to continue to move forward in some area. If this is your stress dream, you need to ask yourself what in your life you no longer have the desire to continue with. Is it your job? A relationship? A project? If that doesn’t fit, ask yourself what is causing you to feel uncertain and directionless. Maybe you can’t find a job and no longer know what to do. Or perhaps your kids are unruly and you don’t know which path to take in order to deal with them.


The Lesson: Whether it’s lack of motivation or uncertainty, your dreaming mind wants you to find a new path, and get your drive or mojo back, which is why it keeps taking your car away from you in your dream.  Time to try something different because the direction you are headed in now isn’t going to get you anywhere.  

That made sense! I've often felt that my job was not the right place for me. I should have been writing or making art. I certainly shouldn't have been spending up to 15 hours a week commuting. Maybe my dream was a subconcious wish that I would lose my car so I couldn't go to work.

I also frequently lost my motivation for writing the novel I've been penning for the past 6 years and am finally abandoning. So retirement will be a great gift. I can stay home and write and feel more motivation for getting up each day. And maybe I'll stop dreaming about losing my car.

The other dream I've had several times, though a bit less frequently is that I'm walking down the street and a tidal wave of water comes rushing toward me. It may have begun with all the news about tsunamis a few years ago, but then again perhaps this explains it better:

Stress Dream: Tidal Wave
If this is your stress dream then you have something in common with CNN’s Piers Morgan because he has it too! The stress this dream is connected to is being overwhelmed by too many responsibilities. Just as the tidal wave surges over your head and threatens to sweep you away, you are getting in over your head in waking life responsibilities that threaten to pull you away from any down time. Less often, this dream can be connected to an emotional situation that is overwhelming you. If you suffer from depression or anxiety, these dreams can be a heads up that another bout is on the way – so prepare!
The Lesson: Like the wave, your dream is showing you that your responsibilities or your anxiety are getting bigger than you are. It’s time to take something off your plate, ask for help, or delegate some of your responsibilities to someone else. If it’s anxiety or depression, make plans to go see a comedy or spend some time outside with friends who make you laugh. Like the wave, if you don’t lighten your load or lighten your mood, you are headed for a crash!

I often felt overwhelmed by all the things I try to do and the little bit of time and energy I had to do them. I've felt like I was drowning and had no way out. I had to keep working, I had to keep writing and I had to keep making art. Weekends also made me feel overwhelmed by the things I had to do, the things I wanted to do, and the need to just rest and relax.

Retirement will take care of that too. Perhaps in the next dream I'll just turn toward the tidal wave and dive right in to this next phase of my life and all my creative projects that I will finally have time for.

I've arrange with my Directors to work 2 days a week, 5 hours each day, to help out while we transition a new person into my job. I can deal with that. Keeps me connected to the staff I love and still leaves me creative time.

Couldn't be better.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

THE LITERARY SHORT STORY


Sitting on a wooden bench, surrounded by blooming flowers and the scents of blue bells, moist earth, and some sort of exotic mint, I spotted this doorway. Two rows of trees whose branches arched together to frame the entry to a garden bracketed by a red brick walkway and leading to a fountain that sprayed cool crystal water into the warm sunlit air. I sat mesmerized and understood at once that this was the doorway to my new world. 

On the brink of retirement, only 5 weeks away, I have been struggling to make some creative decisions about what my new life will be like. Where will my creative focus be? Will it even be focused, or will I continue to bounce from one art form to another? I feel as though I must make this decision before my first day of retirement on July 1 so I can jump right into whatever it is I am meant to do. Will it be novel writing? Making mixed media art and scrapbooks? Writing poetry? Writing short stories? Do I abandon the novel or just dive into it anew on my first day of freedom?

These last few weeks of work have given me more stress than the past ten years as an Assistant Principal. How can I demand of myself that I make a reliable decision under this pressure? Yet I seriously wish to have made my choice by July 1.

Then, as if by sublime spiritual intervention, it fell into place.

Dividing my writing passions with my interest in art is simple enough--writing is the work while art is the hobby that I can turn to for a break in the writing. Poetry is a clear choice. It's what I've always written and read, it's what I love, and I will never give it up.

It's the decision between novels and short stories that seems to provide the biggest dilemma. But as I said, like that spray of clear water from the fountain, it seems to be delightfully raining down on me like a soft and soothing shower.



Last night I began to read Michelle Richmond's book "No One You Know." I knew it would be good as I've read her other novels and thoroughly enjoyed the stories and her writing which delves deep into the lives and thoughts of her characters. And it came to me. When I am writing my novel I've been trying to mold it into the style of commercial fiction. But that is not my voice. As a poet, my prose--personal essays and short stories--have always leaned toward a literary, poetic voice. That is the voice of Richmond's books and it snapped some loose pieces together in my brain. All along I have been fighting my voice.

This morning I got up and the opening of my story came to me in my literary voice and after writing it down I realized what I was doing wrong all this time. I am sure I will write in my own authentic literary voice from now on. I believe this novel can take on the form of a short story if I refine and hone it, cut and trim its essence, and write a short story from the heart and guts of it.

With a clear understanding of who I am as a writer--a poet and short story writer--I can confidently step through this branched doorway and enter the sunlight of a writing career path that fits me. 

It will be difficult to wade through the next five weeks until I am free to finally follow my path. But I will make it and step bravely into my new life, my new world, where the scents of spring, summer, and pen on paper will guide me and comfort me.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

UNCOVERING THE RIGHT PATH


Snow drifts outside the windows of the car as I drive home from work. Left early to avoid slippery roads and rush hour traffic. Thankful that my old fashioned work ethic doesn't interfere with my sense of safety.

I'm listening to the CD "Clear Mind, Wild Heart" by David Whyte and coming to my senses. I have always known I am a poet. Even my license plate says so. I've been writing poetry since I first held a pencil and reading it with the fervor and love of an impassioned woman. So why does it take the thoughts of this Irish poet and philosopher to validate who I am?

I have written novels, and keep trying to convince myself that in order to be a recognized and successful writer I need to focus on a novel writing career. But that's not where my heart and soul live. They thrive here in the cadences of poetry and the images that rise in my mind as I listen to the words.

Yes, I have been working in a respectable field for over 25 years but this is not who I am, it is only what I do. Whyte talks about the exhaustion one feels when pursuing work that doesn't feed the heart and soul. I can relate.

Back at home, safe from the slippery slide of my all weather moccasins on the slick snow and ice, I spend some time "working from home." Now I shed the exhaustion of that work and don the cloak of poetry. Images emerge, words link together like prayer beads, and my heart opens. Life becomes more of who I am and less of what I do. I feel light and my mind is clear. I know what I am supposed to be doing.

I have several of David Whyte's CDs and they sustain me as I commute too and from work, wasting precious hours better spent pulling poetry from my soul and unwinding it on the page. His voice, and his pattern of repeating lines of poems two and three times as he reads, carry me along the road toward home.

Home is a warm and cozy apartment full of love. Home is also between lines of poetry, mine as well as other poets, and therein lies peace and a sense that I am doing what the work the world needs from me. I am free. I am content. My heart slows, my breath evens out, and my soul sits back and rests in the knowledge it has brought me to this place of poetry, a place of prayer, a place of warmth despite the icicles forming outside my office window.

each snowflake
a poem
dreams flutter
to the ground
pile up like love