November 11, 2011

What am I doing blogging when this is National Novel Writing Month? For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo is almost self-descriptive. A whole bunch of writers, new and experienced, attempt to complete the first draft of a novel in November. I think if you finish on time, and upload 50K words, you get a tee shirt.

Obviously everyone isn’t going through writer hell just for a tee shirt. It’s just a great way to power through a story. Because it’s fast tracked, your subconscious is given free reign and your inner editor doesn’t have time to build massive walls out of writer’s blocks.

In this, my maiden voyage, I’m fortunate to have a co-pilot (we’ll refer to her as G) to act as some wind beneath my wings. Plenty of nights I have stayed past quitting time at my computer simply because I didn’t want to  try and sleep with G in the lead, word count wise. Today is the 11th day of NaNoWriMo and I’m pleased to report I’ve banked 21K toward a novel entitled Far Enough. It started out as a character driven story of a young alcoholic girl who hits an elderly man with her jeep and runs away.

Now, the characters have hijacked the story line and introduced a mystery element. But I’m still going to stick with my projected ending no matter what they say.


Categories: Tuesday - Writing.

Beat Sheet or Scene List

July 27, 2011

No matter what you call it, beat sheet or scene list, it’s  a wonderful tool to structure a manuscript. I’ve read three books on writing in the last two weeks. All three suggest the writer create a list of scenes or ‘beats’ for everything that drives the story forward. I finished a 68 scene list for my woman’s fiction, Layla Bunch. It’s very visual and colorful and it fits on one page (the print is a size 8 font, and it’s just large enough to read without a magnifying glass). The colors come in because I made each plot line in the book a different color.There’s room for time/date, the mood of the scene, and a separate color column designating acts 1,2, or 3.

You might think it’s confining and cramps creative flow, but it does the opposite. I can see the scenes in my mind, and if I need to switch them around, it’s an easy cut and paste of a single line. The book is so clear in my mind, I know that the draft I am writing will be much the better for this bit of planning. It won’t prevent me from going off on a left field creative jaunt, but I’ll be able to assess the damage/value of that deviation pretty handily.

Don’t be afraid to mess around a bit with your creative paradigm. Every writer must find that creative sweet spot somewhere between total creative anarchy and anal obsessive planning.

If you write, how do you manage the process?


Categories: Tuesday - Writing.

Rah! Rah! Rah!

July 21, 2011

Categories: Wednesday - Memoir.

A Writer’s Room

July 21, 2011

The room I write in is a spare bedroom converted to a ‘writer’s room’. If I’m an example of any other writers, it is a constant battle to keep this space orderly. It’s true much is stored on computer files, but there are printouts of chapters or entire manuscripts, journals filled with observations, yellow pads of notes, index cards of scenes, books on craft, magazines on craft, rejection slips, etc. I spend most of my waking hours in this room. It is the place I go to upon awakening, the place I leave from to go to bed. If it were not orderly, I would be frustrated, because the creative process is disorderly enough.

Anyone who has ever written a novel knows that it is a multi-headed hydra that must be wrestled to the ground over and over again. It slips from your grasp and if you don’t live in an orderly world and can call on the aids you have developed to maintain that order, it will be hard to pin the hydra and announce some sort of victory.


Categories: Tuesday - Writing.

The 90 Day Novel

July 19, 2011

Most novels are between 80,000 and 100,000 words. The book I’m reading this week is called The 90 Day Novel by Alan Watt.  If you follow the formula laid out in the book, you will have completed a first draft of a novel of that length in 90 days.The first 30 days are spent getting to know the protagonist and antagonist on whom your novel will be based. Out of this exploration, a story will be suggested. Story or plot is driven by the characters you conjure up.

There are a series of short writing exercises in the book for you to follow that allows you to flesh out the characters you have imagined. You may have an idea for a plot at the outset, but The 90 Day Novel tries to discourage attempts at pinning anything down prematurely.

This may sound like voodoo. Why not just sit down and start writing? Most new writers do that. I did on my urban fantasy series, and I’m suffering editing pains and weak story lines that end up in left field from that approach. I’ve been using the exercises to build a more robust protagonist in my current manuscript, and darned if it isn’t helping with the story itself. The mental exercises  led me to new avenues that I hadn’t thought of previously.

The book is downloadable on your Kindle, or you can actually attend one of Alan’s workshops. He is located right here in LA.


Categories: Monday - Books.

What Do You Regret?

July 18, 2011

I read a study about what people regret when they are faced with their own mortality. At the end of the string of their days they were asked what they wish they had done differently.

The most common regret?

That they had not taken more risks.  

What are we afraid of? Why don’t we reach for the brass ring, try something magnificent. So what if we fail? At the end of our days we may regret we failed,  but at least we won’t  regret we didn’t try, and wonder what the outcome might have been.


Categories: Sunday - Carte Blanche.

Would you Like to be a Public Speaker for Susan G. Komen?

July 18, 2011

I heard once that most  people feared public speaking more than they feared death. Is it about vulnerability? The fear of looking foolish? If we can speak to one person, why can’t we speak to six or six hundred?. Is it that there are strangers in the audience? Would we be less afraid if everyone in the audience was a friend or a family member and thus would be more forgiving?

This I do know, if you face your fears often enough, they shrink in size and become manageable. So, if you’re fearful of an audience hanging on your every word, I have an offer you shouldn’t refuse. Become a voice for Susan G. Komen. Learn to speak to groups of people about the importance of early detection of cancers, and explain why supporting Komen will lead to a cure.  And in the process, battle your own fear of public speaking.

On August 13, 2011, the LA County Affiliate of Susan G. Komen will hold a training session on how to stand up and be heard on the important issues concerning breast health. Be a vocal advocate for a disease that devastates women and their families in frightening numbers.

Comment on this post and I will respond with the details of where the training session will be held.


Categories: Saturday - Susan G. Komen.

Should We Be Concerned About the Debt Ceiling Debate?

July 16, 2011

During the hay day of credit card largess, it was a common ploy for the credit card companies to extend your credit limit. Did that mean you were obligated to charge more? Of course not. Did most people take advantage of the additional credit? Yes they did. Will the government take advantage of the opportunity to borrow more if the debt ceiling is raised. Probably. Remember, the government is made up of people just like  us.

Reaching our debt ceiling is not the same as defaulting on our debt. When you reach the maximum on your credit card, what do you do? You stop spending. You have no choice. But what about this threat that our credit rating will be lowered and consequently it will cost more to borrow money, not just for the government, but for all of us. No loans for small business to expand and hire more employees. Sorry, but hasn’t that been true since the economic crisis began? Has anyone mentioned that our government’s biggest creditor, China, has already lowered our credit rating as of  last year?

Personally, I say a pox on both of their houses, Republicans and Democrats alike. Are they just trying to divert our attention from the fact that the economy still sucks? That people are still out of work in large numbers, and that the  housing market is flat.

You may say that I don’t get it, that I’m simplifying the issues. Hey, what can I say, I’m a little bit simple.


Categories: Friday - Economics.

Take a Friend to the Gym

July 15, 2011

I am fortunate that my two daughters are devoted to a healthy lifestyle. We all belong to Spectrum in Thousand Oaks, a behemoth of a gym. With encouragement from my daughters, I joined  the gym at the  beginning of this year, and effectively turned my health around through a program called the Greatest Challenge. Now, to remain in good health, besides eating a healthy diet,  I meet my daughters on weekend mornings for a horrific workout. I go on my own to the gym two or three more times during the week.

When you write, or spend hours in front of a computer screen for other reasons, you don’t move, your body is hunched over, your shoulders and neck cramped, your circulation stymied. You know it, you can feel what it is doing to you. I  know how hard it is to step away from the computer, but if you don’t, the quality of your life will erode over time. Life and movement are intricately inter twined.

So when Spectrum sent out an e-mail with the scientific studies quoted below, I thought I would share the info with you.

A new study has found that healthy friends could be the best way to keep fit. A study of 3,610 Australian women, published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, found that physical activity and healthy eating behavior were both strongly affected by social contacts. In other words, if your friends are doing it, you are more likely to be doing it.

Researchers from Deakin University surveyed women between the ages of 18 and 46 for the study. They said the importance of social environmental influences on health-promoting behaviors such as exercise and healthy eating has been increasingly recognized. Their new study is one of the first to illustrate the link between social support and a health-focused lifestyle.

Those women who moved in healthier circles were in turn more likely to eat well and get more exercise. The researchers suggest that healthy behavior may be contagious.


Categories: Thursday - Lifestyle Changes.

Do You Make Lists?

July 8, 2011

I’m an inveterate list maker. I don’t remember  how old I was when I became a list maker, but I was pretty young. For years I would make lists that required a 48 hour day to complete. If something didn’t get finished, it would roll over  to the next day. I started to do the easier things on the list first, because I could get more things done and the list would grow shorter, not easier to complete, just shorter. Then I realized that the things that didn’t get finished tended to be my priority items, because they took a greater effort or time commitment.

Here’s the method I finally arrived at that satisfies my need to be slightly anal, and also address the priorities I have developed over my life time. I no longer put things on my list I know I am going to do anyway. If I have a doctor’s appointment, I don’t put it on my list. It goes on my calendar so I won’t forget, but it doesn’t go on my list.

The main priorities in my life are my family/friends, my health, my writing, my home, and Susan G. Komen for the Cure. In the morning I consider those priorities and ask myself what  I can do today  to serve/promote those priorities. The rule is to address each one of those priorities every day in some way. It’s a rare day that I don’t complete the tasks on my list. If I have spare time, I just circle around and write a little more, clean out a drawer, call one of my children, kiss my husband, take a walk, work more on a Komen project.

Try it, you may find your life less stressful and more productive.


Categories: Thursday - Lifestyle Changes.

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