Why No One Needs Resolutions

Tomorrow is the last day of the year and by this time everyone around me and on TV is talking about resolutions. Everyone decides to quit doing something or start doing something else. Then, by February, all bets are off and everyone has gone back to “normal.” Resolutions are only good with follow through, motivation, accountability, and reward. Anyone can say they want to lose ten pounds. I can say that and probably could afford to lose more than that, but saying it and doing it are two different beasts of burden all together. One is a cute little kitty that looks appealing and fluffy. The other is a vicious lion with blood streaking through its fur and zebra skin still dangling from its teeth as it growls and swipes at the sky with its red tinged claws out.

The Big Annual Breakup

I’ve come to realize NaNoWriMo is like a bad boyfriend. You go running around having a great time and things are pretty hot and heavy. You’re seeing each other every day, but not to the point that you’re sick of seeing them, and then, in an instant, it’s December first. Your boyfriend, Nano, has broken up with you, again. He’s gone; the dates, the late nights together, the time spent talking about your feelings/thoughts/characters, and even the cute way he used to count your words with a bar graph. The relationship is all gone.

Sending the Fledglings Out of the Nest

Tomorrow I send out the first of many fiction submissions in almost a year. Hey, life happens. Am I a little nervous? Well, yeah. Of course I am, however the business of writing involves a lot of rejections before you start getting acceptances so I'd rather start getting material out there and receiving rejections already so I can get that much closer to an acceptance.

The best thing about this is that I already know exactly what story I'm going to start revising next and I already know exactly where I'm going to send it. This makes things much more steady, holding the wheel and steering straight ahead, not looking back or getting distracted. I wish these little stories luck, and while I hope for but don't expect instant publications, I look forward to the critiques (from those who give them) to keep pushing my craft and sending these little birds of stories out into the world.

NaNoWriMo 2010 is complete

Here I am, victorious to my word count beast and I'm thrilled to death to get so many good stories out of NaNo (25 is now my new total for the 52 Story Pick Up). If I could I'd lay in the sand somewhere (because I don't like snow) and run my arms and legs back and forth to make an angel, I would.

There's both a sense of accomplishment and relief that comes from writing so many words in such a ridiculously short period of time that confirms you must be crazy to do such a thing. So here I am...TA DA! Done!

So, do I take a break? Hell yeah! I'll give myself a few days to let the fingers cool and then the real challenge begins. Writing more new material and revising what I have. My hopes are to clean up one story at a time and send it out into the world like a little fledgling bird hoping one day it will fly back to me with a check in its beak instead of a rejection letter, but only time, energy, and revision will tell.

This clip is for me, but you can use it too.

I love Elisabeth Gilbert's writing style in Eat, Pray, Love, but I'm afraid a lot of people probably don't know she's written other stuff. Her collection of short stories, Pilgrims, in particular is a set of slice-of-life stories that are really amazing in construction and characterization, and they motivate me to get closer to my characters to tell their stories. That being said, anytime I need a boost of writing or a pep talk I turn to this clip of Gilbert and I'm washed with inspiration and enthusiasm to get writing. So here it is, this clip is for me, but you can use it too. If you're a writer, this may be the best 20 minutes of your day and it's so worth it.

Through Story 20

I'm writing, and I'm writing, and I'm writing. I have to be honest I'm ready for NaNoWriMo to be over. I really am just so I can have a couple days of a break. This is however a marathon, not a sprint, and that's true for NaNo as well as writing as a whole.
As for progress, I'm getting a lot of stories written and about half of them I feel really positive about without having had a chance to revise yet. That's my bread and butter; the revision process. It's taken years to get to the point that I really trust my own judgement to revise my work and know what isn't working, but for now it's those "shitty first drafts" to quote Anne Lamott, that I need to get out from under me. So, until next time, but for now I have to get writing.

Story 4 & 5: Cows, Birth, Houses, Death

I'm clumping stories four and five together because I wrote each of them back to back in two days. Not because I'm trying to force things, but because I'm trying to force things for the NaNoWriMo challenge. Story four focused on a girl in the snow heading out to retrieve a wandering cow. It was...okay. It's not literary gold, but there were some good lines in there. As the story goes she finds the cow and it promptly begins giving birth in the middle of the snow just as a bear is seen roaming nearby. With some heavy revision, this story could turn into something.

Story 3: The thing I thought I wouldn't do but I'm doing.

So story 3 is done and lacking. Not completely lacking, but something is missing that's for sure. However, what story 3 is or isn't, has nothing to do with this post. Here, I'll give you a little back history: in case you haven't heard of it there is a thing called National Novel Writing Month (aka: nanowrimo) that happens in November. Through http://www.nanowrimo.org/ you set up a free account and for 30 days you write 50,000 words which should be a good start for anyone with a plot line and desire to write a novel.

Story 2: South Western Flare Up??

My second story in the 52 Story Pick Up is a little odd bird about a girl leaving Arizona to find herself. What makes this a challenge for me is that I've never been there, so my trusted atlas which doesn't even have a cover anymore has been my best friend through it all so I can get the main character from point A to point B literally. I can't say the story is a failure just yet, but I never like it when my own interest is waining before I have a chance to figure out what it's about.

That's where the road trip came into play and I love that about writing. Here's the girl and here's her stuff and all of this sucks, so I put her in the car and she (and I) haven't looked back since. What was a painful "what is going on" kind of rocky beginning brought about some really good stuff and in spite of hitting the 2000 words count for the 52SPU (that's short for whatever the heck it is that I'm doing here) I'm still not done with this character now that she's crossing the border into New Mexico via my atlas.

We'll see where she goes, until then let the breeze of heat and sand flip your hair into tangles as you hang your head out the window.

Story 1: Dream Stealing?

I woke up with this dream stuck in my head that gave way to my first story in the 52 Story Pick Up. I don't know about you, but I have mixed feelings about writing from dreams. Most of the time you feel like you're working on a 100 piece puzzle with only about 10 pieces and this massive sense that the rest of the puzzle was really, really good. Other times I feel like writing from dreams is stealing from the part of my brain that hasn't yet rotted from too much chocolate or from never being able to get a bath uninterrupted since my daughter was born.

All of this is beside the point. My dream involved the following tidbits: four miniature giraffes, slapping floorboards with your hand, and magic. Oh, and a "bad" guy that favored the looks of the voodoo villain from Disney's The Princess and the Frog. Of course, when I wrote my story it was much more fabulous than these puzzle pieces and I never for a minute second-guessed the direction of my story. Yeah, right.

The crux of the matter is this: I wrote fiction again. I gave myself the much needed break from the bill paying freelance work and got to flex some of my more creative muscles again. I haven't titled the new story yet, which is odd because that's normally my first steps, but I'm not concerned. After about five rewrites this magic giraffe, floor slapping story might just be a good little read.

That funny feeling that death may want to meet you: the birth of 52 Story Pick Up

I turned 32 this past week. I didn't do anything special other than eat cake after every meal and take a little time off from my freelance work, but by the end of the day I found myself feeling, well, very mortal. I got this thing going in my mind that said, "hey, where in the hell is your life going?" And then the idea that I may die tomorrow flooded in and that my legacy I leave to the world would likely be a small one. Now that's okay, I don't expect grandiose things; I'm well beyond my college "conquer the world" mindset, but I want to leave something behind that reflects my work here on this rock. With this in mind, I created a plan...

A Swift Kick in the Pants

Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans. That's the saying right? Let me just say, a whole lot of life has been happening and nowhere near enough fiction writing. As I think I've said before, I do freelance writing as my "day job" and fiction on the side. This is proving a fatal experience for my spirit and as freelancing work rises, the lifeblood of fiction drops. My freelance job is draining me and there's been no recharge. This doesn't make one happy.

So, since I'm turning 32 in two days, I'm determined to get back on track (since I may die soon). I say this in jest, of course we all "may" die soon, but every birthday is when I kind of glance behind me and this year I was none too pleased at what I saw on the fiction writing front. That being said, I'm going to storm into my brain and give it a big shake down. I'm tossing out all the old furniture, turning the lights up, and cleaning this place from top to bottom.

It's like when I was little and my mom would clean the house and then say something like, "there are going to be a lot of changes around here because this house will never look like that again." Only I'm going to tell my brain that. I'm going to put myself on lockdown if I have to! In the next couple of days I'm going to come up with a plan for the year ahead where fiction is concerned and by God I'm going to hit my goals and flip off freelance writing when I need to. Not that freelance is bad, it's not, it pays my bills, but I end up writing about installing fence posts until midnight instead of working on my writing. This will be big and there will be casualties, but story writing needs to get back on the front burner. I'll let you know what I come up with asap. Any suggestions?

Quick Tip: Plotting Plots

A practice which can be best used "before" you start writing your story, but also helps if you've already begun the next great American novel is to plot your plots. Now, before you go googling for downloadable plot spreadsheets, let me tell you a little something. All you need is a piece of paper and a pencil. The other stuff is fine, and you may find a big worksheet that is perfect for how you like to write, but I will caution you to not get caught up in gadgets and gizmos or you may not be able to work as well when they aren't available.

The bare bones version is this: when you plot your plot, write down in order of appearance all of the major twists and turns of your story. Make note of huge revelations, the conflicts, the unexpected events that happen to your main character and what he/she does about it. Get it all on paper, to the best of your ability, exactly what it is that happens in your story and then look for problems. Search for holes in your plot as well as gaps of time in your story where you notice nothing really is happening between page 50 and page 100. Let this be your guide for adding more bulk or removing excess from your story.

Ants and Other Distractions

I sit down to write at my trusty laptop. It’s dark. It’s always dark (to me) in my living room thanks to the tacky 50’s era metal awning which covers over half the window. My solution during the daytime anyway is to open the front door and let the light pour in through the screen door. Light is a good thing until you see a battalion of mini-ants trailing from the corner of the door all the way to your daughter’s chair where she sometimes sits and eats snacks when watching TV.

Quick Tip: Saving Your Work

Never, never, never, never, never forget to save your work when you are doing your rough draft and revision writing on a computer. While you can save to your hard drive, to top that off, please, always, always, always, always, always save a backup copy of your work somewhere on a floppy disk (yep, I just dated myself) or a USB flash drive. I try to update my flash drive weekly, every Wednesday to be specific.

Want a little extra security? When working on a large project, like novel revisions or a collection of stories or articles, be sure to email yourself a copy of your work to an email address you have access to from any computer terminal. While I use a lot of email addresses, I usually send a copy of my big projects to my GMail account. That way, no matter what happens to my beloved laptop or flash drive, I can run to the library and log in to my email and retrieve my documents.

Floods and Dry Spells

A lot of authors will tell you they just sit in the same chair everyday and write for the same amount of time every day and the magic just happens. This isn’t always the way it goes for the rest of us. While I have no doubt that making appointments to write is necessary, helpful, and effective since you can come away from each writing session with a sense of accomplishment, that doesn’t take into account floods and dry spells.

Quick Tip: Timed Writing

If you're having trouble cranking out that masterpiece, one technique I like to use is timed writing exercises. Give yourself 10, 30, even 60 minutes where all you do is write without interruption or distraction. This may mean writing with the door locked, the phone taken off the hook, and your email alert put on mute. Whatever it takes, do it.

Try to make the environment around you disappear so you can focus 100% of your energy to the story, journal entry, chapter, or poem. Keep a piece of scrap paper nearby so when you remember you need to buy onions at the grocery store you can quickly jot it down and throw the thought out of your head, then get back to your writing. Time your writing and see just how nice it is to hone in on your creative juice.

Hunting Words

A while back I told you about getting your butt into the library. Of, course I’m certain you have done so, because I said so. Now that I’ve gotten you into the library and poking around my Dewey decimal buddy 808 (where the writing books live), I want you to step to the right toward 807.

I find it of absolutely no coincidence that just before the writing and literature section are the books along the nature of “Advanced Whitetail Hunting” and “Treasury of Sporting Guns.” Anyone that has been writing and revising for any amount of time should understand what it’s like to hunt for the right word, plot, character, agent, publisher, etc.

This shit is hard and other people (non-writers) just don’t get that.

They may make fun of you for going to library, staying up talking to yourself about your story, journaling about fake people that don’t exist to find out more about them. Ah, but Dewey gets it. Dewey puts the books about hunting down and killing wild animals for sport right next to the books about writing for a reason.

Writing is a painstaking task that requires more than loading a gun and pulling a trigger.

Writing requires waiting it out in the dark of morning, listening for cues that what you’re searching for is coming toward you, and waiting until just the right moment to strike with just the right weapon/words.

You must always remember that writing is an enjoyable challenge, yes challenge (even for the best of us), and if you find yourself breezing through your story without a hitch, then you’re probably missing something.

Kill any good stories lately? Share your tales of hunting words in the comments section below?

Making Time

Probably the number one thing that keeps writers from writing is the fact that they don’t make time to do it. Myself included, it usually sounds something like this: “I can’t find any time to write.” Maybe a little more nasal, a little more whiny, but that's what it sounds like. "I can't find time."

Well, that’s what we say. We can’t find it, but the real matter is that we don’t make it.

Writing requires that you make the time. Not just that it’s a good idea to have a regular routine of writing from seven to eight o’clock every day, but that you have to do so in order to focus your creative energy in one direction and keep your writing/story/characters moving.

The Positives of Goals

There’s a beauty to accomplishing a big task, especially when it comes to writing. Sure, deep down we all want to be recognized for our work, whether it’s by our friends, co-workers, family, or Matt Lauer. No matter the form of acknowledgement, we all want to see something come of the fruits of our labor. But what comes before this sparkling recognition and cheer? Work. Lots and lots of independent, isolated, secluded work.

Get Thee to a Library

I don’t know if you’ve been to the library lately or not, but if you haven’t, you better get your butt in gear and go. To be "well read" or even to isolate yourself into one genre, one of the best places to do this is in between the stacks of the library. Also, for anyone to be a “good” writer (good being a relative term) they have to be a “good” reader (good meaning to read at least a book or two a month). If you buy all of your books at full price in hardcover you’re looking at spending anywhere from $300 to $360 a year on books. This could be more if you read more than one book a month. This is equivalent to buying 120 lattes or doing something that is actually meaningful with that money.


Welcome. I am no one, and you’ve never heard of me. You are also no one, and I’ve never heard of you. This is how most creative writing works and how most creative writers live their lives. While some strive to publish and become famous, others write for the pure joy of writing. Some write literary tales and others write obliterary tales. Obliterary is not a real word. Most good writing doesn’t use real words. Don’t believe me? Read Faulkner.