Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Work After The Writing

Sometimes I truly believe the most difficult part of writing is what comes after the writing. I spent years being afraid of the actual process of writing my book. I would allow my anxiety to cause horrible writer's block. I would make up excuse after excuse as to why it wasn't the right time to work on it or I would get to it just as soon as I finished some other unnecessary project. Followthrough has never exactly been my strong point.

Being totally honest my biggest fear for many years was that I actually could complete the book and that it might even do well. Why would that be a fear? Why would I run from success? Because I was concerned it was the only story I had inside me. What if I created a story that was readable, relatable and interesting but then when people actually showed interest in my work I was never able to follow it up with anything?

As time has gone on and I have published my debut novel, obviously not to the immediate and resounding success we all dream of but it is out there and still getting attention from time to time, I have moved past the concerns of only one story. I have another two and a half full length novels written and I know the rest of the one in the works it is just a matter of getting it down on paper. I have discovered things about not only my characters but myself as a writer. Many times when we open up to share personal things, both good an bad, our characters do the same and we are able to open to to sharing their stories across genres we never thought we would even try to write.

So now that I have accepted and am working hard to improve on the writing side what could possibly hold me back? How about the overwhelming amount of work that came after the initial work? Starting first with the editing and revising stage. This may be one of the most difficult parts and currently I find myself at the beginning steps of this painful, tedious process. You have to objectively look at your own work and tear it apart. things need to be removed, added even redone entirely. Why does this character make that comment when it fits the personality of that character so much better? How did they travel from here to there with no transition? Why did I even include the monkey? you get the idea. It is frustrating to have to destroy your baby but you remind yourself it is for the greater good.

Once the book has been revised, and you have poured your heart and soul back into it you have to do the unthinkable, send it out for beta readers to tear it apart again. You get the feedback and grab the fresh half gallon of ice cream from the freezer. After you eat yourself happy again you make the last changes suggested. Now you are done right? Wrong. Now comes the most terrifying part of all. Either self publish and put your baby out there for the indifferent general public and hope they like it giving you good reviews and telling their friends about it or submit to agents and traditional publishers.

If you self publish you are now in control of the promotions and get to field the praise as well as the critiques of the readers. You put yourself on the page, hit publish then laugh with the lovers and cry from the haters of your work. You call around for signings, attend shows and festivals, tweet and update Facebook endlessly and if you are even more technically adept than I am you keep your website updated as well. Or you can submit to agents and publishers hoping for a traditional publishing contract. This opens you up to the constant rejections and denial form letters that we can all laugh off publicly but in private we take a shot for confidence.

When I first got into performing and modeling they warned me about the level of rejection in those industries but they never tell you how much that can travel with you to other aspects of your life. Being a writer comes with its fair share of rejection but you put on a smile, grow a slightly thicker skin and keep pushing on. If this is your passion like it is mine than be brave, face the rejection fears and keep driving toward your own success.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Finding A Reason To Be Proud

Like many people I have spent my life trying to find happiness as well as make those around me proud. I know it is important that I be proud of myself but understandably I want my friends and family to smile and be glad when they think of me. I have fought insecurities and years of psychological torment in order to finally feel like I am in a place to do just that.

I grew up playing sports. I was involved in soccer, hockey, softball, swimming and diving, gymnastics and dance. I have always had the performance bug so dance remained with me from toddler through adulthood. It is just a hobby now but there was a time I thought it could become something more. People would tell me that I was easy to pick out on stage because I was so purely happy to perform. While I have rhythm I do lack a certain level of coordination making many sports difficult. I managed to play soccer, hockey and even softball for years but I earned nicknames which to this day are hurtful because I was not very good.

Sadly those names came from my father which made them all the worse. Not only was I terrible at playing the game but I was letting him down. He never knew that when I got home from my games I would go to my room and cry. In fact there was only one standout game in my hockey life where I scored a hat trick was also the only game my dad ever missed. It was extremely disheartening when I learned what a hat trick even was, and how difficult they are to do, then looked into the stands to finally see him be proud of me but realize he wasn't there.

He was a great dad in many ways, he did support me and told me he loved me but I still felt like most of my life I let him down. After he passed away I took some money he left for me and quit my job to go back to school. I got my degree and felt like I did something worthy of his admiration. I struggled but overcame my severe insecurities and traveled overseas to do volunteer work and ultimately moved across the country on my own in order to establish myself. Things again I feel would have made him smile. Last year I published my book Never Give Up which made me proud of myself and I swear I could feel him beaming from within my heart.

All of these things I have done to try and make him look down and be proud to call me his daughter. This past weekend I participated in a charity bike ride covering forty miles and then played in a softball double header where I was actually able to hold my own as a helpful member of the team. Oddly enough the pride in myself from these physical accomplishments gave me a drive to write today and push past some of the painful and emotional parts in my current works. For the first time in a great while I feel as though my dad has pulled up a chair next to me at the computer and is encouraging me telling me he couldn't possibly be more proud.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Word Counts

Like thousands around the world I take part annually in National Novel Writing Month or as we affectionately know it, NaNoWriMo. For those that are unfamiliar with this act of literary insanity it is a month long writing challenge where writers and aspiring writers throw caution to the wind to ignore family and friends while delving deep into a would be novel with the goal of producing fifty thousand words in the form of a story. From midnight on November first until midnight on November thirtieth well dedicate ourselves heart and should to the act of writing.

So why am I talking about my annual addiction several months before? Because yesterday I was working on revising and writing a piece and the words flowed without hesitation and it got me thinking about the word counts for NaNoWriMo. Recently drafted a short story for an anthology that is near and dear to my heart about domestic violence. That is the piece I am revising and as I took some time to read over it I noticed several areas that could be expanded or at least  fleshed out with more detail.

At the time I wrote it I nearly gave up because the story is extremely personal. I didn't want to think about it, share it or relive it but I was reminded by wonderful friends that it could help others like myself that have abusive relationships. I survived and I want others to know they can too. When I write for Nano there comes the inevitable time when the words dwindle and begin hiding from me making me hunt them down so I can reach my daily goals. Yet as I worked yesterday they came almost so quickly that I was unable to keep up.

Why is it that when we share something painful the words can flow more easily? I understand that it is based on a true series of events and so I am not creating as much yet because it was and is something painful and that I wish I could have kept buried it seems like I would have struggled to find the words. For Nano I listen to my characters and share their stories for Survivor I am dredging up my own past and simultaneously sharing and hiding from it.

I may never understand why I am able to share my personal stories more easily than the ones I create but I hope all of my books reach an audience that understands them and that the experiences I share can help others like myself to know there truly is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Pep Talk

I received an email earlier today that should have sent me over the moon. It did of course make me happy but I find my excitement limited. For numerous reasons anytime I get good news I am immediately consumed with doubt. I get easily distracted and put unrealistic expectations on myself. The frustrating part is that I am aware of what is happening, I can rationalize why it is wrong but I cannot stop the emotions.

I applied and was accepted to be an author and vendor at the 2015 Vegas Valley Book Festival. I will be taking part in a weekend long love affair with writers and readers from across the country. This is a networking, as well as sales, opportunity like I have never had before and I am thrilled to have been accepted into the fold. I opened the email and a smile spread across my face. I promptly called my mom to share the news. Then just as soon as I hung up I began to dread.

What if I don't make a good impression when networking? What if I don't have enough interesting items to accompany my books such as charms, bookmarks, etc.? What if all of the books I want to finish such as the next 4 books for Rescue Me and my short domestic violence story Survivor are not done and released? Will I look completely amateur and like a fool with just 2 books? Will people be drawn to my booth? I drove my self instantly insane.

Now that I have had some time to calm down I am slightly better. I do feel overwhelmed but I know that my ability to get distracted as well as my reservations about certain projects need to be overlooked and pushed past. I have worked hard to get to a point when I can believe in my own success and I need to keep that determination. I must maintain my drive to improve and increase my visibility so that I can continue to learn from more and more successful people in my field. I will always fight the fear and insecurities but with grit and dedication I am certain I can overcome them.

Short post today but sometimes we feel better to see  others dealing with similar situations and we can all use a little pep talk.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Subconscious Journey

Recently I wrote about how we as authors will sometimes not only take inspiration from our own lives to use in our stories but we can also create emotions and scenarios that we feel may be missing giving us a vicarious experience. In all honesty I am not sure which I do more of but I can say for sure that in every book I write there is a reflection of not only what I have and am but of what I want.

What about when reality becomes overwhelming though. What happens when you want something you can never have or your personal life is in shatters but you are expected to create? That is after all what we do, we create. When you want something completely out of reach do you simply put it in the book so you can have it symbolically? What if it hurts to much to know you can never possess it physically? Do you inject the pain of loss or the need and desire you feel so that others can share in your frustrations? What if your personal life does not currently reflect in your story? What then?

Today I am dealing with those same questions and so I am turning to my work in a different way. I am relinquishing myself to my characters and their will. I am giving them free reign to tell me about what is happening, what they want and need. I am at their mercy because dealing with reality is daunting today and I need an escape. More now than anytime in the recent past I need to spend time somewhere else.

As writers most of us are avid readers. We enjoy taking the journey with the characters and seeing how those we share our craft with express their own points of view, beliefs and desires through the twists and turns of the plot. However as writers we are constantly taking journeys, not only with the creations we read but with the ones we make ourselves. We may give guidance at times but most would agree that to those of us that write, our characters are real. They take residence in our subconscious and join us in the conscious when they are feeling in a sharing mood.

We listen and tell the world their loves and losses, triumphs and defeats. We are not the creators so much as simply the medium through which they communicate with our world. I for one and grateful to them for because they exist I can get out of my own head and get out of mown way allowing them to take control while I merely join them for the ride.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Injecting Passion

Earlier today I had a conversation about passion. There are several ways to describe passion from the drive we have in our careers to the dedication we put forth in hobbies or sports but the most important  one to me is the passion we share in relationships. The romance, the intensity, the complete chemistry we experience with another person that can drive us wild.

You feel it in the electricity of the first touch. That moment when your heart skips a beat. You notice the way your body reacts to the heat of the other person's body when you are close. There is nothing quite like the way your breath is taken away when you kiss. I think about the old song Its In His Kiss and think they were completely right. The way a person kisses you can tell you everything.

Of course you can go further and talk about making love or the intimacy of waking up in the arms of the person you adore but it is the first moments that have always spoken the loudest for me. Passion is not only something I enjoy in my life, relationship and other aspects as well, but it is truly something I crave. I love the feeling of being so alive and in the moment with my significant other. Some however do not experience that.

Some people are involved with others that are not expressive, emotional or passionate. If they are also like that then it is a match made in heaven but if one person craves the intimacy the other is incapable of giving then what? There are several options of course. They could break up, talk it out and try to work on the situation or simply settle with neither being completely fulfilled but trying to look on the bright side.

For writers there is yet another option. I have seen countless shirts and posters proclaiming to be nice to the writer or they will kill you off in a novel. Yet I wonder if we actually insert things we need and desire in our own lives that we do not receive. If you are stuck in a passionless relationship do you then create the heat and chemistry in your characters? Do you live vicariously through your made up world to fill your own voids? Or is the chemistry better written by people that experience it for themselves in their daily lives?

I work hard to keep the fire of a relationship alive both in my own life as well as on the pages of my writing. Sometimes, in both, I fall short but I am curious if other writers create more from desire or reflection.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Training For Completion

My entire life I have struggled to complete things. I have always been very ambitious but the follow through has been extremely difficult. It is not that I want to fail to finish what I start but I have wondered for many years what I could do to help with my completion rate. There is of course those that would tell me to simply get it together and push through. That is solid advice admittedly but because I am still struggling it has obviously not worked for me. Then there are the people that would question the reasoning behind my lack of follow through. These are people like my mom and friends that look for the feeling behind the action. I have become one of these individuals as well in recent years.

Looking back over my life I can truthfully say that I have fought this war between ambition and completion for as long as I can remember. I played sports most of my adolescent life however I never stuck with one more than a few years. It was like a form of ADD because I would be in the middle of a game of soccer and see a team playing softball across the park. Suddenly I just had to play softball. The next summer as the games began I would go to the beach and see kayakers out in the water and I had to start kayaking. The list of hobbies and attempted sports was nearly endless. Then I got older and school began to have sign ups and tryouts for all of the teams. I was suddenly dancing, diving, swimming and doing gymnastics. That was just my freshman year. I also joined the drill team with the marching band and still had to find time for my friends and summer job.

There really is no question why my grades began to suffer. I almost didn't even graduate. My senior year I had to take summer school and an independent study in order to complete the core requirements because I had either not been able to stay focused in class or had done an alternative class instead. I loved my dance and Japanese classes but I took Visual Basic Programing, Telecommunications and Media instead of traditional English courses. Math I hated even though I did rather well in it. Science was a crap shoot for me, Physics was interesting but Biology put me to sleep. I did manage to get my diploma but it was a battle everyday.

Writing and dance were the two things I was sure I would follow through with but as I got older and the world of dance became more competitive I began to back away never reaching that next level I know deep down I had the talent to achieve. I was scared. What if I wasn't good enough? What if I went out on that stage and got laughed back off. I was terrified of never reaching my goal so I quit before someone else could tell me I failed. Writing became the same thing. I took a nearly decade long hiatus before I finished writing my first novel. I knew the story inside and out but the fear of mediocrity and rejection kept me from writing it down. Even though I finally did and I began submitting it I was scared every time I opened the mailbox.

Now I find that there is a second distraction for my writing. Yes I still fear rejection but I find the ADD aspect of my life has returned. I will be working hard on a book when a new character pops in to say hello. Like candy for children the new character will lure me away from my current focus offering me adventures and thrills I am not experiencing at that moment. They are a shiny new toy for me to play with and I find myself torn between the two projects. Partially I blame this on the fear of rejection. If I don't complete something then I never have to revise, edit and submit it. I am also easily distracted however and my mind is the worst culprit of all when it comes to causing my loss of attention.

I have worked hard to bring myself on being more focused. I am still learning to deal with my dedication issues. All of this got me wondering though. What distracts you? Do you ever feel torn or are you able to concentrate on one thing at a time cranking out project after project? What exercises do you do in order to improve your mental focus?

Monday, April 6, 2015

Cover Art

Today while I will be spending quiet a bit of time writing I also am working on a few side projects including more Rescue Me stories for my charity anthology series, getting my bathroom remodel going again and a few ideas for covers. I have ideas for both Sharing Strength, my PTSD book and for Survivor, a short story about domestic violence. All of my projects today are important to me but the one that has captured my mind for the past few days in fact are the covers.

I am planning to self publish Survivor and while I am going to be submitting Sharing Strength along with my romance story Breathe for agents and traditional publisher consideration I still have a working idea for Sharing Strength that was given my a wonderful supporter and I haven't been able to let it go. It is amusing to me that the one that is sticking in my head so deeply is most likely one that will never be used.

I do have an idea that I am almost equally passionate about for Survivor and seeing as how that one will be self published and much sooner, I am hoping by early summer, it is the one I should be focusing one. The problem is, and I have it a lot, that I am unsure if it is the right direction to go with the cover. I know the story. I know it far too well since it is for the most part my own story of surviving domestic violence. The idea I have represents a very pivotal scene from the story but I am not sure it is the correct image to draw in readers.

However because I have conjured this picture in my mind I have been unable to come up with alternatives. For me and my perspective it seems so perfect but I am now going to have to find a way to make up a mock cover to get feedback. Once I do that I need to be prepared if others don't see it the way I do. This story is important for me to share and I want a cover that will do it justice. But as I have gotten tunnel vision about this project it made me wonder about other writers and how they feel about their covers.

Are we as the writer the best person to objectively pick an image for our cover? Do we become too invested in our own visions to be able to step back and see it as our readers might? Are we able to separate what happens in the book with the teaser we must portray in order to give a true look into the story without revealing too much? When is it art and when is it simply being stubborn holding on to an image that may not be correct? These are the questions I am struggling with and hoping to find an answer to shortly as I do my best to bring Survivor to life.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Love In Fiction And Reality

I was thinking recently about relationships and the differences between real life and the fictional stories we write. One thing struck me right away. The length of time for recovery and emotional depth is significantly less in our books. That is not to say that we should take so  long to end the attachment between our characters that it overshadows the story but I have read several books where the feelings simply seem to end.

In life we go through the stages of grief when dealing with a break up. So many times when we write them we skip a step or two however. It could be that the characters will eventually work it out and so we keep the separation from getting too bitter. I have noticed though that many times it appears more to be a simple decision. It is like the characters flip an emotional switch and move on as though the relationship is simply a footnote.

I understand that there are a number of characters that are filler or bit parts made to be gotten rid of in order to further the story. Their purpose is to be a plot point killed off either physically or emotionally when they are no longer needed. Perhaps because I write realistic fiction or possibly because I am an emotional train wreck myself much of the time I feel that this light switch method of handling a break up is completely unsatisfying.

I have noticed that my relationships tend to be more detailed than other aspects of my stories and that is something I need to work on. It is not that I want to reduce the relationship but simply improve the rest. For me having relatable characters is extremely important and I want my readers to laugh, cry and fall for the people I create. So why do we do this? Why do we either over focus on the interactions or gloss over them entirely?

I came to a conclusion the other day as I was discussing a problematic relationship I have become far too knowledgable about. In reality our head makes a choice to move on. We know it is best to separate and look for someone better suited to our needs and that will appreciate us for who we are. Yet at the same time our heart holds on to the good times, the sweet tenderness that we fell for in the first place. The heart reminds us of the friends and family members we are walking away from. It conjures images of things we experienced together and tells us we may never have these times again. It wages war on the logic of our minds.

When we write the story however we can see the big picture. We know what will work out and what won't. We take our characters on journeys that can be filled with ear to ear smiles or totally gut wrenching. We promise them that we will make it up to them when we break their hearts and they put their lives, quite literally, in our hands. Because we already know where we are going to the storyline we don't have to linger over the "What Nows" and "Why Me's". We knew what was going to happen when these two characters met. That emotional switch we are unable to flip in real life is easy to turn off in our writing.

In order to demonstrate at least some reality in our fictional relationships we should include some of the pain that we experience and make sure our readers know that the end did cause some grief for these fictional stars of our imaginary worlds. We owe them the time to grieve, though the condensed version is good for a book. I just try to make sure I capture the truth of how painful a break up can be even if it is in fast forward.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Sharing Personally

When we as writers create our stories and the characters that inhabit them we usually will put a piece of ourselves on the page. Whether it is our point of view, our beliefs or even something from our own lives, we are there. We leave ourselves raw and vulnerable exposing moments happy and sad for the world to see.

But when you share something that is true how far do you go? I know we do the whole "names have been changed to protect innocent" thing, but what else? Do you give details about the actual event. Do you describe the emotions that ran through your body or gloss over it? Do you share only true happy moments or are you comfortable divulging the tragedies as well?

I am a rather forthcoming person for the most part. I share things many would believe to be inappropriate or unnecessary. It has been shared on Facebook as well as here on my blog that I was diagnosed with PTSD a decade ago. I actually got it several years earlier but that is when I was first informed of it. I survived a very traumatic and abusive relationship in my teens and now I am taking part in an author event against domestic violence.

I had planned to write an entirely fictional story but a character jumped up and demanded to tell her story, my story, instead. The short story is called Survivor and it is the account of what I went through. I have changed the names as well as altered a few other parts but for the most part it is exactly what happened. Is it too far to share something so personal? Will it make others regard me differently or think less of me for broadcasting my past?

How honest is too honest as a writer? We share things overtime we put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard but they are generally tiny aspects of ourselves and can be easily looked past or go unnoticed entirely. I made the decision ultimately to share my story in hopes that someone in a similar position may see that I made it and know they are not alone, that they can make it out as well. I just hope it reaches those that could use it and will not simply turn people away for its honesty.