Face Your Fears

JUMP IN!

JUMP IN!

I haven’t mentioned how much writing can sometimes be a struggle. I’ve been in the midst of the struggle fog for months now, and I could give lots of reasons why: no secluded place to write, constantly moving, family upheavals. I used to write every day and wonder why people had so much trouble doing the same.

Nothing I write is good enough.

I have always faced anything I was afraid of: backpacking alone, traveling to Central America on my own, leaping that chasm, climbing that steep cliff.

What if I publish something and no one likes it? What if I look a fool?

Time to quit dabbling a toe in the cold water and jump in with both feet. Karen Lamb’s post this morning gave me an added boost. Thank you, Karen!

What’s Your Preferred Writing Aid?

Latte Machiatto

Latte Machiatto (Photo credit: 5.0OG)

My best writing time is first thing in the morning—before any pedestrian concerns of the coming day enter and destroy my dreamspace. A hot cup of tea or a foamy latte and mood music for the scene helps. I even have an iTunes playlist entitled, “Angst” for those special scenes—for example: my protag has lost her temper and accused the boy she loves of cowardice.

I used to get the greatest writing buzz while drinking green tea or a latte, but that’s gone since I’ve discovered the rebound from caffeine gives me headaches. No caffeine has made writing much more difficult. I’m writing this after finishing a cup of no-caffeine mint tea, and I feel like I’m pulling teeth from a submerged hippo.

Many writers, like Hemingway, used alcohol, but I have the same problem with tequila I have with lattes. I love it, but it hates me.

Do you write with a caffeine buzz? What about that steamed milk foam on your upper lip?

Life In These United States

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Van at Slab City, California desert

Van at Slab City, California desert

If you live in the United States, you are familiar with those horrid drug commercials on TV.  Yesterday, there were three in a row for three different drugs. It’s not bad enough the pharmaceutical companies screw us financially, now they make us listen to them yant while waiting for our programs.  I record most of my programs these days, so I can skip through the commercials, but my husband still has to watch his football games live.

I did get a laugh out of it all though, when we received a “thermarest-type” pad in the mail from Overstock.com.  You know how the drug companies are required to chant (as fast as possible) their warnings at the end of the commercial?  This came with the pad.  You have to get through to the end:

WARNING!

“This product is or contains urethane foam.  Urethane foam is flammable!  Urethane foam will burn if exposed to open flame or other sufficient heat source.  Do not expose urethane foam to open flame or other sufficient heat source.  Do not expose urethane foam to open flames or any other direct or indirect high temperature ignition sources, such as smoldering cigarettes, space heaters, naked lights, burning operations, welding or other heat sources.  These can cause urethane foam to ignite.
Once ignited, urethane foam will burn rapidly, release great heat and consume oxygen at a high rate.  The lack of oxygen may cause death or serious personal injury by suffocation.
Burning urethane foam will also emit hazardous gases.  These hazardous gases can cause death or serious personal injury.
Once ignited, urethane foam is difficult to extinguish.  Foam fires that appear to be extinguished may smolder and reignite.  Always have fire officials determine whether a fire has been extinguished.
We wish you many comfortable nights sleep.

Whoever wrote that one, could never write decent fiction.  Or could he?

A Yellow Chicken

My muse has flown the coop.

Lately I have read too many excellently written books.  Is that possible, you may ask?

It is when you are a writer and think, “I can’t write as well as that.”

I want to write as well as that.  But I never will.  I love (or used to love) writing, but I love so many other things, too.  Like traveling, hiking, reading (yikes), eating (double yikes), movies, ….  You get the picture.  Plus big changes or going on in my life at present.

Mainly, though, it’s the fear I am not good enough.  I write a paragraph and think, “yuck.”  Rhymes with “cluck.” 

This is part of a writer’s journey.  I seem to have fallen off the path for the moment.

One Writer’s Journey

JourneyThis post is almost like starting my blog all over again.

So many people have asked me what it was like to begin writing (at such a late age?).  When I thought about the answer, I realized that, once I got into it, I could probably go on and on and fill several blogs, especially if I included all that I have learned (or hope I have learned), and am still learning, along the way.  Making my journey, hence my blog, more personal, might even make it more interesting.  I will probably have to expose more of myself, for one thing, and that’s what makes our characters more interesting, isn’t it?

Yikes.

I think this blog is going to be another part of this writer’s journey.

IN THE BEGINNING:

2006.  I was a big fan of Battlestar Galactica on television.  I loved the idea, the characters and especially the writing.  I had a new Mac, discovered and read a little fanfiction.  I thought, “I can do that,” and, for fun, started writing a series about the childhood of one of the adult characters of BSG.  The character’s immediately family and the character, himself, along with the name of their home, were all that I took from the TV series.  Everyone and everything else in the story were my own.  Readers actually liked my series!

I wondered if I might actually be a writer, seriously.  I turned the manuscript over to a professional editor to see if he thought writing was something I should pursue.  He let me know that, with additional work, I should go for it.

Here I am, six years, many books on writing, two college classes, and a continual subscription to “The Writer” magazine later.  Plus all those writing web sites and blogs I subscribe to.  “To which I subscribe” is better English, but I hear that placing prepositions at the end of a sentence has become acceptable these days.

I remember my high school English teacher abhorring the use of “and also” and “but also,” which I see even in literary fiction.  Cringe.  I will never do it.  Aren’t we told to remove all those redundant words?

Excuse me, I have wandered into my pet peeves.

I rewrote that first manuscript, changed the characters, the background, the local, etc., but not the name of the story, at least not yet.  How freeing it was to create whatever I wanted!  My first novel, now in its third draft, grew out of this process–Learning to Fly.  I haven’t found a better title, yet.

There you have it.  Next post I’ll go back five years to how I made that first draft into a redrafted manuscript.  I had no idea what a mess it was until I started learning what was involved in writing a decent novel–in learning to write well.

Cat, Cottonwoods and Tags

Dickens (my cat) is whopping my shoulder with his tail.  One of his favorite spots is on the back of my chair while I tap on my MacBook.  He can keep an eye on things outside the window and, at the same time, remind me that it’s nearly time for his dinner.

We have arrived at lovely Riverside RV Park in Bayfield, Colorado, on an overcast but fairly warm, 70 degrees, afternoon.  I have an internet connection here!  Though the country silence of our friends’ land is preferable to the nearly constant woosh of nearby Highway 160.  We do have spring-leafing cottonwoods, aspens and a nearby creek.

Today’s writing subject is, you guessed it, tags, without which a reader wouldn’t know who is speaking that marvelous dialogue you just wrote.

One of my favorite and, I think, most useful books on writing is Arthur Plotnik’s Spunk and Bite.

He states in the beginning of the book that there are situations where every rule can and, sometimes should, be broken.  A good writer must know when and how.

Many writing gurus (experts, maybe) declare that you must never use any tag but Said.  At least limit yourself to said, asked and replied.  Arthur Plotnik believes that this rule should apply  “when the context and content of the dialogue, narrative description and the speaker’s character” are clear.  He used this example:

A cry of terror broke from Dorian Gray’s lips, and he rushed between the painter and the screen.  “Basil,” he said, looking very pale, “you must not look at it.”  (Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray)

Adding anything more than said in this tag would have been redundant.

Don’t use a tag that calls too much attention to itself (unless, of course, for some reason, you want it to make it stand out–humor, perhaps?).

Use descriptive tags when:

  • The sound of the speaker’s voice is important, but not clear in the dialogue.
  • To provide counterpoint where one speaker’s voice is neutral and the other speaker’s is not (anger v. calm)
  • When a character speaks against the line (“I love you,” he said angrily).

In the end, as the writer, you have the last word as to when you need to use an emphatic tag.  Only, as always, consider your reader.

To Be or Not To Be

These days, it’s hard to be anywhere when you have no internet or phone connection.  Absence is one of the trials of traveling around the country like we are–you never know when you will be out of touch.  I’m writing this from the local Ignacio, New Mexico, library on the Ute Indian Reservation.  All you readers and writers out there, remember to support your local library!

“There are eight computers lined up against the south wall of the library.”

Hey writers, do you know what is wrong with that sentence?  It reeks of dullness.  When I read it, I think, “So what?”  Unless, of course, your point is:  “Here’s a list of the things I see, a rather uninteresting list and they don’t do much but sit there.”   Your reader doesn’t know why, but is disappointed and unexcited by your writing when you use a “to be” verb phrase, especially at the beginning of a sentence, paragraph, or chapter.  Like Hamlet, these items exist, but don’t contain any action.  Even Hamlet wasn’t all that interesting until he decided to act.

It is, there is, there are, etc.  When you are editing your work, look for these “to be” verb phrases and replace them with more interesting, active verbs.  Doing so might even lead you into a nice metaphor or simile.  As in:  “Eight computers strategically line the south wall of the library like little soldiers waiting for duty.”  Okay.  You may think the sentence is a little silly, but at least it’s interesting.

So, find these little devils and perk up your writing by replacing them.  You will be surprised by how much better your story or article will read.  I was.

I may be posting from the Sky Ute Casino next time.  They are supposed to have a pretty good buffet.  Oops, was that a “to be” beginning back there?