Friday, August 11, 2017

Pants, Plots, and Pages.....

The last time we spoke, I told you about how Patrick Swayze my muse wouldn't leave me alone about a new idea. I thought maybe it was just a vacation thing. I jotted down some of the ideas, made a couple of notes and tucked it away for some time down the road. I figured that would quiet things down. I'd get back to my first book and follow the logical steps to completion. I completed the revision on my book and sent it off to my wonderfully kind friend who helped with the first round of edits and (God Bless her), offered to take another look.

So, the next steps would be to start researching agents and work on a query letter, and cross my fingers that my friend doesn't tell me to throw book #1 out the window. I did these things, or at least I started to do these things. But then two things happened - Mr. Muse came knocking again and Camp NaNo WriMo started. (Short for National Novel Writing Month - a contest that takes place every November. The idea is you try to write a novel in a month. It's a great tool to kick start a project and it forces you to just write and not over think what you're writing.)

So back to Camp NaNo, which is a virtual writing retreat. It's the same idea as the one in November, but more relaxed. You set your own goals (hours worked, pages written, word total, etc.) You set up virtual cabins and you and your bunk mates offer support, camaraderie, jokes, and virtual s'mores. Again, a great way to jump start a project. A writing friend sent out an invite the day before the camp started, asking if anyone wanted to join. The fact that the invite came the same week that Muse started yammering again, seemed to be a sign. So I took the challenge and jumped in.

I set my goal at 50,000 words, but honestly had no idea if I would get past 500. I've only written Women's fiction and this new idea was somewhere between Middle Grade and Young Adult - way outside of my comfort zone. I had no idea if I had the ages right, or was the topic too old, or too young, or too boring?? But Mr. Muse told me quit whining and just write. So I did and in only a couple of days I had about 5,000 words. Words that have never come so easily - I was shocked by how much fun and easy it was. I can do this....piece of cake....like riding a bike....and then the wheels fell off. I hit this wall suddenly. I listened to the wrong voices in my head (not Mr. Muse - the other ones who say I don't know what I'm doing.) I sent my WIP off to some very trusted, extremely knowledgeable friends who write MG and YA and asked for their opinion. I got amazing feedback and encouragement to go either way with it - it would just need modifications depending on my choice.

And I froze....again.

And then one of the friends emailed me some wonderful advice. She told me that all of the things I was worrying about (voice sounding the right age, content too old, etc) would all be fixable in revisions. She said for now, you should just write the story you want to write. And that unfroze me!

But, I was still a little stuck. I had the beginning, the ending and some vague ideas for the middle. It's how I typically write. I meander and wait to see what comes to me. Sometimes it works amazingly well. And sometimes I feel like I'm lost in the forest. I decided to try creating an outline just to see how it would work. I've always been more of a pantser, a term to describe writers who just write, with no outline to guide them. Previously I scoffed at outlines. I didn't want to take the time to write about what should happen - I just wanted to write! But there were too many ideas and they were swirling above my head like little cartoon birdies.

Comfort zone out the window - I wrote an outline. A very long, wordy outline. Honestly the thing could be a novella in and of itself. The whole time I kept muttering that I could just be writing instead of wasting my time and energy on this. But a funny thing happened. Normally when I write as a pantser, I sprint through the first couple of chapters. The whole time I can see the finish line; how I want the story to end and I'm impatient as hell to get there. But in order to get there I need to get through the middle. That loonnng middle. And that is where I tend to hit my wall (see forest). But now that I have my novella outline I'm able to stay on the path. I can see where I need to be every step of the way and if I get stuck, I refer to the outline and see what I need to be writing about. It's not to say that the outline is carved in stone. I can make adjustments, but it guides me from point A to point B. It says, if you want Z to happen in chapter 5, then you need to do X in chapter 3. If you want E to equal....ok you get the picture. The point is this outline idea got me to over 13,000 words for Camp NaNo. It may not sound like a lot, but remember I took time out to write that novella, so imagine how many words I could have done. 

For my writers out there....anyone else convert from being a pantser to a plotter? Anyone else try out Camp NaNo WriMo? Anyone else have a muse who won't shut up?

~ Adrienne

Thursday, June 22, 2017

I've Created A Monster......



Vacation....

That word brings such joy to my heart. To me it has always meant a time out, time off, time for my brain to truly rest. Hubby and I recently returned from a week in Florida. Nothing strenuous. We visited family, hung out at the pool and beach, and ate some fabulous food. One of my main goals was to read in the sun and for lack of a better word, veg. This is how I’ve always viewed vacations. I certainly would not be writing – my brain needed a break, a real break. This plan has always worked perfectly in the past. 


In the past….


There was just a slight problem with this plan. My brain. After months of my new routine of writing once, sometimes twice a day, going cold turkey was not going to go as easily as I had hoped. It started on the plane on the way there. My brain started nagging me to get out the notebook I’d thrown in at the last minute and start jotting notes. But since our flight was at 5am I told my brain to hush and took a nap. The first day we were on the go all the time so it wasn’t too bad. The next day was our first full pool day and I settled in with my book, excited to just disappear for a couple of hours. Then it started.


Brain: Hey, um mm we're not at work.
Me: Yup, that’s right.
Brain: Hmm, we um normally would be writing in our free time.
Me: I know, but we’re on vacation and need a break. And I don’t have my laptop
Brain: You put a notebook in your bag – I saw you.
Me: Siggh…I know that, but no. We need a break and we’re just going to read.
Brain: But…
Me: its one week. We’ll come back refreshed and more focused.
Brain: …


This worked for a couple of hours. I floated in the pool, read, and actually interacted with people. I thought my brain and I were on the same page. I thought we understood each other. I thought wrong.


Brain: OK, so we’re not actually going to do any physical writing?
Me: Right, no actual writing. Now, if you don’t mind I’m –
Brain: OK, no problem. You go back to reading and I’ll just sit here and wait.
Me: Okay….
Brain: Hey, remember that new MG/YA story idea you had? I have some fabulous ideas. I’m just going to mull them over. I’ll be over here. Perfectly quiet. I won’t say a word. (Proceeds to mumble ideas for the next hour.)


I meanwhile proceeded to read the same pages over and over again until I gave up and just sat and listened. I didn’t give in and write, but I definitely zoned out. I went far into my head; so far that hubby actually asked if I was okay. He gets me. He gets that I do this and that nothing is wrong, but I don’t typically (try not to) do this when we’re with other people. I do my best to be present. So I felt really bad about this, but my brain literally would not shut up. 


It got progressively worse from there. No matter what we were doing my brain kept throwing ideas at me. The only time it left me alone was when I was sleeping. It was always there, like a child, tugging on my arm, begging for attention. Going for a walk on the beach was the worst.


Brain: You enjoy your walk. I’ll just be over here… Hey! Look at all these people! What kind of stories can we come up with about them?
Me: No, no…. listen, I just want to walk. Please, just zip it.
Brain: Okay…. Psstt, look at that guy there. What’s going on? What’s that bottle he’s holding? How comes he’s holding his hands like that? Is he praying, or meditating? I bet he has a great story. Oh, oh! Look at this lady. A dog and three kids and she looks sad. What do you think –
Me: Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!
Brain:…

Silence for about two minutes and then we passed a group of older woman, sitting in those small chairs that go right in the water. They were having a lot of adult beverages and laughing hysterically. You could see the years of friendship and fun between them. Brain literally exploded.
Brain: OMGGGGGG!! LOOK AT THEM! LISTEN TO THEM! WHO ARE THEY????
I Just about ran to get away from them.


I made it through the rest of the week, but just barely. I was beginning to feel like Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost when Patrick Swayze’s ghost wouldn’t stop bugging her. I’m trying to view this as a positive thing. My brain fully believes it’s a writer. Writer’s write. Therefore going without writing for a day just doesn’t work. It’s my own fault. This was my goal after all; to train myself to write as much as possible so I could become better at it, and actually accomplish something. In a way I wanted to become addicted to I and I did. I created my own monster. So for future vacations I will need to schedule time for some kind of writing. 

Otherwise I’ll need to buy a plane ticket for Patrick Swayze.  

~ Adrienne

PS - This was how I imagined vacation would go.....

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Finding Your Tribe

Do you hear that? That my friends is the sound of me typing away. Last weekend was the annual Pennwriters conference and I came home with a renewed enthusiasm for writing. My love for writing has never died, but I have to say that sometimes daily life has done it's best to break us up.

I wrote a blog post a few years back called Breathing lessons. It was written after another Pennwriters conference. Reading it today, I realize how much it all still applies. I had to learn to breathe again. Immersing myself into a conference like this is so essential for getting my mind where it needs to be. As I said then, as writers we lose ourselves in another world. But the real world fights us to get out of our heads and stay in the present. I know balance is important, but lately I've felt the scales tipping too far into the real world. I feel it in my restlessness, in my need to daydream, even in my over the top reaction to small annoyances. My heart knows when there is a problem way before I do. This conference was a way to tip the scale back where it belongs.

Which brings me to title of this post. A major difference from a few years ago is that now my writing journey isn't so solitary. Our group of two has expanded into a much larger group within the place we call home. In addition, our conference group has grown from two into four (plus one adopted out of towner.) We've become known as the Buffalo Gals by conference goers. Each conference that we attend is a chance to catch up with people we met years ago, as well as meeting someone new. And with the available social media options you're able to keep in touch long after the conference ends. So even if you met someone once, or only shared a laugh during a seminar, you still feel like you have a common connection. You can reach out on Twitter to see who's writing, retweet a post, or commiserate over a writing problem. Knowing they are out there writing, however far away, makes things seem less lonely. These are the people who help me breathe. These are the people who understand what I mean when I say the real world is overwhelming me. This is my tribe....

Thank you for helping me breathe. 

~ Adrienne

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Visualize....




The funny thing about all my research on minimalism, decluttering, morning rituals – all the articles I’ve found have led me to other topics for self-care/improvement. I feel like I’m becoming a new age, granoley person (which is not a bad thing at all.) I love granola….and Pinterest…but I digress.

One of the ideas that popped up frequently was that of positive thinking, which in turn leads to the idea of visualizing. Visualizing the life I would like to have, the positive outcomes I am hoping for, and generally believing that the universe wants nothing more than to give me everything I’m wishing for. There are a TON of articles out there on the subject and I’ve only read a small amount, but the idea is very intriguing. My best friend’s mother loved telling us to visualize. “You have to picture what you want and then you send it out to the universe,” she would say. She was also a fan of driving around packed parking lots saying “who’s saving my spot?” And every time a spot would open, and not just any spot. A spot right up front, prime real estate. So what? It was a parking spot, not the lottery. The point is she believed completely in the idea that the universe was going to provide her what she needed in that moment, and dam if that isn’t a powerful idea. 

I’ve decided in this, my unintentional quest to (really) improve my life, I’m going to have to keep branching out in my way of thinking. If that means visualizing things I want for my life, then so be it. But, I think this has to be a two part process. It’s one thing to think about what I want in my life, but I need to also change my overall outlook on life in general. I can’t just say I would like to have a, b, & c, I also need to believe it can happen. That means striving to be more positive, removing as much negativity as I can. I should be hopeful about what could be, while at the same time being thankful for what already is. Instead of having my first thought be “Ugh, I hope they don’t hate what I’ve written,” it should be “Oh, I can’t wait to hear what they like about it!” Instead of thinking “I wish I was making money off of my writing,” I should be saying “I’m so thankful we have the jobs we do and are able to pay all of our bills.” This idea makes so much sense to me in the visualization process. Why would God/the Universe want to give me anything more, if I can’t be grateful for all that I have now?

A goal of each day is to find at least 5 things to be thankful for and write them down – concrete proof of all that is right. A new goal is to say thank you throughout the day, and not just for the easy things. The electric bill is a reminder that we have the wonderful conveniences of the modern world. A pile of laundry means I have clothes to wear, while dirty dishes point to all the food we have to eat. So many people in the world would love to have these “problems.” 

My hope it that eventually saying “thank you” will become as natural as breathing. I know in this day and age commiserating with someone over bad stuff is such an easy habit to fall into. It’s more common for some reason to bemoan when we’re having a bad day as opposed to sharing enthusiasm for all the good in our day. I am so guilty of this – I don’t know why it’s such an easy trap, but I sincerely want to be better about it. 

So I’ll start with this….. Thank you for reading and I hope you have an amazing day!

~Adrienne

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Spring Cleaning For The Mind



OK. I have the physical decluttering under control (i.e. it’s a work in progress.) 

Great right?

My desk is clean, the piles have been corralled and I should be able to sit down at a moment’s notice and churn out a couple of chapters, right? Right….that’s how creativity works. You flip that switch and the words just come. I’m being slightly sarcastic. I don’t know many writers who can work that way. (If you are one of them don’t tell me – leave me my illusions please.)


I wasn’t having writers block in the traditional sense. I had thoughts and words, but they were all tangled in my head. For the last year I’ve mainly been writing in spurts. I would jot down an idea during the day, or worse, make mental notes and hope they didn’t float away. But, when I finally had an hour at the end of the day, I was mentally exhausted from staring at a computer all day at work. My personal process has always been that I need time to ease into the writing. I need to find the right music, I might doodle a little bit, read over what I had written the last time, read another person’s blog, anything that will get my mind into writing mode. You might call this procrastination, and you wouldn’t be completely wrong, but that’s how my mind works. It has to be coerced in a way into being focused on writing. Unfortunately, after all this preparation, now I’m forty five minutes into the aforementioned hour. And if I only have an hour, well what can I really complete in the fifteen minutes that are left? 


YOU NEED TO MENTALLY DECLUTTER ADRIENNE

(Yes, I yell at myself sometimes – again, all part of the process.)


Funny enough, in the middle of my Pinterest searches for minimalism, some random articles on self-care and morning rituals, kept popping up. I gravitated toward the ones that focused on people who were creative, or who were trying to be more creative. The morning rituals intrigued me – mainly because I’ve never been a morning person. Like ever. But they all pointed to the fact that your entire day could hinge on how your morning started. Prior to this my mornings had gone something like this. Snooze 5 times, at least, stumble from bed into workout clothes, attempt exercise routine (all while trying to wake up.) Then, while getting ready for work, my mind would be a steady stream of consciousness. Whatever was bothering me from the day before, what I was worried about for that day, some idea for my WIP that I needed to write down, and sometimes a quick prayer to get me through that day.


No wonder I felt mentally cluttered. 


So I pulled together the ideas that appealed to me the most and created a plan. The hardest part of the plan was the need to get out of bed – an hour earlier than I had been. Stay with me. I know it sounds like I’m a masochistic, but I needed to start my day off in a much calmer way. The only way to do that was to not literally hit the ground running. For the first week my goal was simply to get out of bed earlier. Anything that took place after that was considered a bonus. I’ll admit it was very difficult and I snoozed a couple of times. I actually set the alarm for earlier than one hour since I knew that would happen. As each day progressed I added in a new step. 


I dress in my workout clothes and make myself a bottle of lemon water and a strong cup of coffee. Moving to my desk, I listen to a meditation channel on Pandora. I have a couple of books of daily readings and depending on time and mood, I read at least one. By then my coffee and water should be half gone so my brain is (hopefully) ready to wake up. I start with a clean sheet of paper for each day. In the beginning it was mainly doodling and a couple of sentences about why I was awake at this ridiculous hour. But after a week the entries became longer, more detailed, actually making some sense. Some days I’m just venting about life. Sometimes it’s me trying to figure out an issue. There are even days that it almost turns into a prayer of sorts; maybe asking for the grace to get through just that one day, or for someone in my life who is dealing with something. I always end with a list of five things I am thankful for. I used to be very good about writing a thankful list every night, but it got away from me at some point. This way I start each day with a conscious effort to say thank you and be grateful.


At this point I’m more awake and ready to exercise without fear of falling over. From there I get ready for work and I’m ready for my day.


So that’s it – not an earth shattering change, but something that I feel is pushing me in the right direction. I’m about 3 weeks into the process and so far so good. Some mornings are easier than others. Some mornings I actually look forward to the ritual and the solitude. There are also times when all I want to do is turn off the alarm and go back to sleep. 

I’m a work in progress.


So far the biggest change I’m noticing comes from the little extra writing that I’m doing in the morning. I’ve noticed ideas are coming to me more frequently and when I do have time to write, it’s not taking me as long to get into writing mode. I’m being more productive, which has been my main goal all along. It’s still a little early to say it’s a major success, but I’m curious to see where this goes after I’ve been at it for a couple of months. I’ll keep you posted……


Adrienne