Some Psyches Are a Bit Passive-Aggressive. Just Saying.

addtext_com_MDAyMDIwNjI1MjU1A confession: Though it may appear that I only write on this blog every month or so, this is untrue. The truth is, I write a lot—I mean, a lot—that I end up not using. (Much like my manuscripts.)

Let me share the titles of some of the drafts in my folder:

Please Don’t Reset the Year Until I Get to a Save Point. — In which I feel really bad about David Bowie and Alan Rickman dying within a week of each other, but I accomplished a Major (and overdue) Thing and I really don’t want to have to do it again, because it was hard the first time.

My Word for 2016 is ‘Badass.’ — Pretty much what it says it is.

Death and Taxes — As in, the only two things in life that are certain. (This was kind of a downer.)

OMGSTARWARS! — Too many feels to contain. Too many spoilers to post.

All I Want to Do is Keep a Schedule, So Why Do I Need All These Stickers and Colored Pens? — In which I type the word “Planner” into the Pinterest search bar and get sucked into a Filofax-LifePlanner-Hobinachi-SmashJournal Wormhole. (I found out I really like just a Moleskine and a pen. Maybe I color code it a little. Okay, a lot.)

It’s Not You, WordPress, It’s Me. Is blogger’s block a thing? What if I’m only brilliant 140 characters at a time? I have a master’s degree in communication! Social Media shouldn’t be this hard! *sobs into couch cushions*

 

Yeah, I’m totally making this harder than it should be. Don’t try this at home.

No, really. Don’t. I have years and years of training.

Why would anyone write things and then throw them out?  Especially, you know, a professional writer. Well, I’ll tell you. Here’s a sample conversation in my head.

addtext_com_MjM1NzM2MjE1NTk1Me: La la la, I’m so happy to be writing a blog post today. I hope people enjoy reading it.

(Metaphorical) Devil on my shoulder: Oh honey, no. There was a school shooting today, so you’d better post something Important and Profound.

Me: Man, that makes me angry and sad. I’d much rather post about how much I love colored pens.

Devil: Hmmm. Better not post anything. Then we can go get a cherry lime slush from Sonic.

Me: Mmmm… Sonic.

The devil on my shoulder is kind of a passive-agressive asshole.

And then there’s this:

(Metaphorical) Angel on my shoulder: You know what Every Single Writing Article ever says: you’re not a Real Writer if you don’t write every day.

Me: But I didn’t write yesterday.

(Metaphorical) Devil on my shoulder: Then you must not be a Real Writer.

Me: Okay, then. I’m going to sit here and stare at this blank screen until I’ve writtten something.

*stare*

*stare*

Me: Maybe I’ll be inspired if I look at Pinterest for awhile.

Angel: DO NOT TOUCH THAT TRACKPAD, YOUNG LADY.

Me: *touches trackpad*

Devil: You know, if you were a real writer, you would have written 10 pages by now. Just look at all those Real Writers posting their word counts on The Twitter.

Angel: Do NOT even THINK about clicking over to— DAMMIT!

Me: Wow. Those are some Real Writers.

Devil: Yep. And you haven’t written anything in two days now.

Me: I must not be a Real Writer.

Devil: My work here is done. Let’s go to Sonic.

This isn’t just a writer thing.  I know I’m not the only one who thinks “Welp, I’ve blown my calorie count for the day, so I might as well have this ice cream sundae.”

(It occurs to me that I might be a little hungry as I’m writing this.)

ANYWAY…

I’m not any crazier than the next person (in this regard)–we all have an inner passive-agressive asshole. (It gets it’s script from all the outer passive-agressive assholes we’ve met in our lives). But we don’t have to listen.

(I just cut a lot of metaphor about volume dials and car radios on bumpy roads. You’re welcome.)

So, I’ve managed to post a blog before January is over. (*makes checkmark in turquoise for social media task*) And I even I managed to work it around to a takeaway point.

My work here is done. And Sonic is open for another 15 minutes.

 

 

 

 

Four Calling Birds

I’ll bet you thought Christmas was over. Psych! Today is the fourth of the twelve days of the liturgical season of Christmas, which means that as far as Christian Christmas is concerned, I am not actually late with my Christmas cards. Or presents. Whatever.

This is actually my favorite time of the season, because the blitzkrieg of Christmas Shopping commercials has ceased, I still have my little Christmas rosemary tree decorated, everyone is in a pretty good mood because the shopping pressure is over and they’re spending their holiday gift money and the mood is generally one of hope for good things in the new year. Plus, you don’t have to worry about offending anyone with “Happy New Year” because it applies to everyone. (Except for the Chinese, I suppose.)

And I don’t have to worry about Santa Claus breaking into my house  for another year. *shudder*

I guess this is why I’m able to create such a separation in my mind between American Secular “Christmas” and what I commemorate as a Christian. They don’t even really fall on the same days if you’re being pedantic technical about it.

But what I really want to say is that whatever you celebrate (even if it’s just the fact you won’t have to hear “Jingle Bells” for another nine months), I wish you joy of it. In the longest nights of midwinter, one thing we all share is faith that the dark will get lighter, and a new year brings the hope of peace on Earth to people of good will.

And lots and lots of poultry.

Calling Birds Stamp 1977

Stamp Issued in 1977

In which I tackle Serious Issues

Two CommandmentsIf this blog seems a little untimely, it’s because I’ve been working on it for a bit, trying to decide what I want to post. For the TL;DR, scroll to the bottom.

I don’t generally blog about Issues—not seriously, anyway. I really just want to talk about Chris Hemsworth in the movie about the Essex, or these cool new pens I got for my planner.  And yet all this Serious Issue $#*! keeps happening. It’s crazy and tragic and infuriating and frustrating and heartbreaking. And I have a lot of feels and some vehement opinions on these Serious Issues, but I have no solutions. (Well, I do, but most of them involve mind control, where I can just send out rays to the chips in everybody’s heads and say “Okay, nobody kill anybody else. Oh, and read more books.”)

I was watching Highlander the other day, and you know at the end, where he gets the prize, and the Silvercup sign blows up, and he’s all like “I see everything! I know what everybody’s thinking. And I’m going to use it to help people understand one another and bring about World Peace.” I was like, “Good luck with that unless the prize came with a mind control ray in the box.”

Sivercup-Studios

 

Sidebar: On my first trip to NYC, when the taxi was crossing the Queensboro Bridge, I was all like OMG THAT”S WHERE CONNOR MCLEOD FOUGHT THE KURGEN, and my friends were like, “We don’t know you.”

 

So, I spent a couple of hours, or three, writing a long rant manifesto essay on fear (and mind control) and believe it or not, this is the short version.

Our climate has become divisive and angry and filled with fear.

Some of it fear of change, like the pushback that has come in the form of #notallmen and #alllivesmatter. But some of it is artificially enhanced, the pot of our paranoia stirred by people and institutions that have a lot to gain from us being afraid of each other.

Fear closes minds to compromise, to acceptance, and to the love we’re supposed to have for one another.

Fear is it makes us selfish, and it isolates us. We think only of ourselves. We don’t cooperate, because we’re afraid the other person is going to pull one over on us, or somehow come out better in the deal.

Fear makes us easy to manipulate. That’s the true mind control.

It’s a scary world. Americans fear a terrorist act, and they’re frustrated because they don’t see leadership with a decisive strategy for dealing with it. (That’s what CNN says, not me, whose solutions all rely on science fiction. Or magic.) But the odds are far greater that you should worry about a firearms related incident. (About 33,000 people in American die from gun violence each year.*)

“Love thy neighbor as thyself.” It’s so simple. It’s in the Old and New Testament, it’s in the Qur’aan, and it’s not even a matter of faith, just of decency and coexistence.

So, here’s my point. The world is full of far more decent individuals than horrible ones… until fear gets involved. We need to pay attention to who is trying to stir that fear into hate or injustice. When bigots and blowhards tell you that we need a wall to keep the Mexican rapists and criminals out, or that we need to ban all Muslims from coming into the U.S., or that Jews are responsible for the economic depression in post-war Germany, they are flat out fear-mongering, and its inflammatory and dangerous.

So, don’t let anyone tell you to fear your neighbor because she wears a headscarf or he has dark skin. Don’t let anyone say that if we give medical care to the poor they’re going to turn into lazy hoodlums.

And for God’s sake, don’t let anyone tell you that “Happy Holidays” is an attack on Christianity. (I feel like Christ is okay with not making a large percentage of the population feel like second class citizens in their own country.)

Don’t let anyone use fear to control you, or to drive a wedge between you and your fellow human being.

This is probably the most political you’ll ever hear me, unless something awful happens, like Lord Voldemort 2.0 getting the Republican nomination. Because honestly, my whole political platform boils down to this:

Be Excellent to Each Other

 

*According to the Center for Disease Control.

Edited 9am because I can’t number.

 

NaNo Now What

Congratulations! You’ve the parent of a manuscript. Now the real work begins.

MSS3Obviously this is a post-NaNoWriMo post. I always picture editors bracing themselves on December 1st for the onslaught of manuscripts submitted at 12:01am. Okay, I don’t really think that happens…any more than the normal percentage of people who think their first draft falls from their fingers like the song from the lips of angels.

But for the rest of us, the real work is in the revision. When I was researching what other people did to revise their work (because I was talking about this last night at the Euless Library *wave to fellow Eulessians*) I found some really great articles that I was nice enough to put in a handout, which you can download here. (PDF Handout)

But here’s a general list of the things that I’ve learned, and learned to look for:

  1. Let it rest. Especially after a really intense spell of writing, you’re still living the book in a lot of ways. It’s an emotional investment. You are either totally in love with it or totally hate it, and “totally” anything is not objective. Putting the manuscript down for a few weeks allows you to get some perspective, and also to approach the book with fresh eyes, like a reader would, so you can better evaluate what’s on the page versus what’s in your head because you know it so well.
  2. Work from a printed copy, or something like it (say, an iPad app that lets you mark up a pdf like you would with a pen). Personally, I like a stack of paper, because it gives me a visual for structure and pacing—how far am I in the book, how many pages is that, blah blah blah.
  3. The first read through is triage. (That’s from Holly Lisle.) You’re looking to stop the bleeding from plot holes, not worried about bumps and bruises. Think big picture and don’t tinker. (I need to embroider this on a sampler and hang it on the wall over my desk.)
  4. You’re looking for:
    1. Plot holes. (But wait? How did the giant monkey get off the island in the first place?)
    2. Inconsistencies and breaks in continuity.
    3. Incredibly convenient coincidences and implausible leaps of logic.
    4. Plot threads that never go anywhere, and characters that disappear for no reason.
    5. Things that you can make do double duty—a romantic development scene that can also be where they discover a vital clue. Instead of two cardboard characters who each appear to do one thing, one character who can do two things.
    6. Rambles, infodumps, and navel gazing. Long stretches of dialogue, exposition, or internal monologue that don’t advance the plot (or don’t advance it enough to warrant two pages about the evolution of the unicorn).
    7. Boring Sh*t.
    8. Scenes with out a purpose. Every scene has to have a goal that is either accomplished or not–and if not, it still provides something vital to the plot. (Mary fails to steal the secret government plans but overhears a plot to replace the president with a robot.)
    9. Scenes without tension. Every scene needs conflict, two characters who want opposite things. They don’t have to be the protagonist and antagonist–they can be allies who disagree about the goal, or how to accomplish it.
    10. Transitions and transcriptions. Make sure an ending leads logically to the next beginning, and orient the reader in the new scene ASAP. Conversely, art imitates life, it doesn’t transcribe it. Fast forward past the nicey-nice and the laundry lists. It’s okay to say, “John was in the library all night, and in the morning had discovered X.”

For lots more detail about these things and more, check out the articles on the Revision Resources (PDF Handout). As a bonus, it includes some Internet and book resources that are helpful if you’re like I was 11 years ago*, loving to write, but clueless as to what comes after.

Cheers!

*It’s my tenth anniversary!  My wonderful agent and I sold Prom Dates From Hell at Thanksgiving time 10 years ago. OMG I’m old.

Page Fright — The Struggle is Real

You know that thing where you are all “I’m totally ready to write my NaNoWriMo* pages today!” and you’ve got your writing pants on, and your beverage of choice at hand, and the dogs have been fed, and your phone is on Do Not Disturb, then you sit down at your desk, pop open your document, take one look at that empty white screen and your mind goes totally blank?

It’s the exact same feeling when you’ve practiced your speech/lines/talking points until you’ve got them down cold, but you step out on stage and all of a sudden you can’t even remember your name.

Page Fright. Sometimes known as Blank Page Syndrome.

mac image

Flickr Image by David Michalczuk under the Creative Commons License

Should you experience Page Fright, the first thing to remember is, Don’t Panic. It’s an acute but temporary condition. It arises from the same mechanism as the more chronic Writer’s Nerve Block—that is, fear and self-doubt.

Remember back when you went to sign someone’s yearbook or a greeting card, and you planned to say something clever but once your pen is over the paper, and the pressure is on because the bell is about to ring, and you don’t want to write something lame, but your mind is blank, “Have a nice summer”?

Maybe it’s some sort of genetic memory from the days of typewriters and correction ribbon, or back when monks hunched over scrolls, when making a mark on the page was a big commitment. But it’s real, if irrational, and an irrational condition cannot be reasoned with. You have to resort to trickery and mind games. Some of the tips below might seem silly, but I’m willing to bet one of these things will work for you, as sure as I am that the notes on the treble clef are Every Good Boy Does Fine.**

When a blank page makes your mind go blank, too, try these tricks:

  • Make a list. Write your protagonists To Do list. Things in your POV character’s pocket/purse/backpack. Start the scene with them using one or more of those things.
  • Describe the setting in detail, using all the senses. Get as detailed as you want or as you can. Bring the description in toward the protagonist like a camera. Or, start small and expand outward to find your character doing the first thing they need to accomplish in that scene.
  • Type nonsense for half the page until it’s not blank anymore.
  • Write some dialogue. Have two characters talk about the weather until the scene interrupts them.
  • Set a timer for five minutes, put your pen on the paper (or fingers on the keyboard) and don’t pick it/them up until the timer dings. Type anything. You can start with: I don’t know what happens in this scene, but I know that… (example: Mary and John have a fight about Susan. It all starts when Mary picks up a glass of water and…)
  • Start the scene with a pen and paper, then it’s already begun and when you transcribe it into the computer, you’ve got momentum.

Page fright is a pretty specific type of “Writer’s Block.” (Of course, Writer’s Block doesn’t really exist. I say this all the time, even when I’m suffering from it.) “Just write” is easy to say but hard to do sometimes. These tips are meant to get your fingers and brain moving so that you build momentum to carry you into the scene/days work.

(And hey, if you’re not writing a novel this month (or ever) these will ALSO help when you don’t know where to start writing your English paper or History essay. Just remember to go back and edit out your nonsense before you turn it in!)

*I do this thing whereI assume everyone else sips the same nectar from the social media fountain as I do, so I’ll launch into a tirade talk about something and get blank looks. NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is one of those things. But if you’re reading this blog, you are probably tapped into Book World enough that you know this is where people try to write a 50,000 word novel in the 30 days of November, and if you don’t you can click on the bold link and read about it. It’s kind of like Movember, except at the end of the month you have a book (or half a book) instead of a caterpillar on your lip. (Or you might have that, too. The last week of writing can be a little all-consuming. I don’t judge.)

**Mnemonic devices are also mind games. Face it. Half of writing is gaming our brain into the right state of… well, you know. 

And Texas is slang for “crazy.”

So, in Norway, when something is completely nuts, it’s Texas. As in, “der var helt texas,” or, “that’s totally texas.” (Yes, lower case. Because it’s an adjective. Duh.)

I don't know what's in this picture, but apparently it's pretty awesomely out of control.

I don’t know what’s in this picture, but apparently it’s pretty awesomely out of control.

Now, mind you, a situation can be totally texas, but not a person. Which is an interesting (and oddly logical) distinction. Here’s the tumbler post that brought this to the attention of Texas Monthly:

texas-norway

Clearly someone in Norway has once been to a meeting of our state legislature.

I’ll just cite the Texas Monthly article that cites and example of a fisherman telling the local news about the rare sverdfisk he caught in Northern Norway. (Oh hey! THAT’S what that picture is about) “I heard a loud noise from the bay, but I did not know where it came from right away. Thirty seconds to a minute later it jumped out in the fjord. I got to see some of it before I took up the camera,” he says and continues: “It was totally texas!”

Maybe this isn’t as funny to people who aren’t from Texas. It’s just so random and yet so utterly perfect. The logic goes “Texas” (the state) = “the Wild West” = “totally bonkers.” Which about sums things up, from Austin hipsters to big trucks to Texas Longhorn football games, and yes, even blowhards. Everything is bigger (and nuttier) in Texas.

det var helt texas gothic

Maytag Neptune Unleashes Kraken in Laundry Room. News at Eleven.

Go home, Washing Machine. You're Drunk.

Image from reddit. I presume it came from somewhere else first. #memeappropriation

My day so far:

  • Feed and take care of Business with my dog.
  • Pour coffee, open news feed.
  • Mom and her dog come downstairs. Feed and take care of Business w/both dogs.
  • Warm up coffee, reopen sleeping news feed.
  • Mom starts laundry.
  • Ungodly noise from washer.
  • Bang around on washer. Seems to still be working?
  • Cross fingers
  • Ungodly noise continues.
  • Throw out first coffee. Pour fresh mug.
  • Give up on news, open work email.
  • Ungodly noise continues.
  • Open WIP file. Put on headphones and white noise.
  • Ungodly noise stops. So does washing machine.
  • Look up error code online. Curse.
  • Look up service manual online–Maytag has discontinued washer and does not keep that SM online. Curse.
  • Google “Washing Machine Repair.”
  • Look up bank balance.
  • Curse.
  • Explain to Mom she will have to go to Laundromat.
  • Explain Laundromats have improved since 1975.
  • Open WIP file. Put on headphones and white noise.
  • Stop and look up Laundromat with excellent Yelp Reviews.
  • Open WIP file.
  • Stop and look up directions to Laundromat with excellent Yelp reviews.
  • Open WIP file.
  • Stop and tote Mom!laundry to Mom!car. Instruct her not to try and carry into laundromat all in at once so as not to hurt herself.
  • Realize Mom will ignore me.
  • Realize there’s nothing I can do about it.
  • Open WIP file.
  • Sit in quiet, peaceful house and stare at screen.
  • Stare some more.
  • Blog about this like it’s important.

The thing about setting up house is that because you get most of your appliances at the same time, they will inevitable start needing repair about the same time.

That’s the only Profound Truth I have for you this morning.