Hunting Cookies and Plotting

My current WIP bears greater resemblance to a tangled rat’s nest of ribbon and string than it does to any kind of ordered tapestry of all the elements of story working together. And you know when you start writing from the beginning AND the end simultaneously you’re really in trouble.

So anyway, then I found this great post through a post by Kate Nolan, which led me to “Coaxing Out the Magical Cookies” by Susan Dennard.

I highly recommend you go and check it out for yourself and then head out on a “cookie expedition,” but to give you the gist, the “magical cookies” are the essential reasons you wanted to write the story in the first place, and then the scenes you just can’t wait to write.

If you’ve been reading this post, you know I’m what’s often considered a “pantster” or what I like to refer to as a “Gardener.” In most areas of my life, I love being รผber-organized, and usually I am. I have a plan A, B, C, and D for most everything, and lists are my best friend … until it comes to writing, where for some reason, I like to work much more organically. Which gets me into trouble sometimes (see Exhibit A, the Great Rat’s Nest, aka my current WIP.) That said, I’ve come to a point where I know everything can be worked out in revision, and that sometimes, for me, coaxing out the story means going on the ride with my characters and sometimes going places I wouldn’t have considered or come up with if I’d tried to outline. (Or perhaps that’s my excuse … I’m also notoriously impatient, so getting directly to the writing works best for me.)

So where does this leave us? With a short blog post and a tiny note of advice that’s kind of stuck for me: Write what you love. Write the book you’d love to read.

Which is what I’m off to do right now. Well, after I dig out a few more of those cookies and figure out exactly where I’m heading again. ๐Ÿ™‚

What about you? How do you write? And how do you get yourself out of trouble when you’ve written yourself into a tangle?

Thanks for reading, and hope you’re having a terrific week.

Over the Moon and Surreal Moments: 2014 Golden Heart Finalist

This morning I got the call from RWAยฎ that my novel, “Hidden Magic,” is a finalist in the 2014 Golden Heart Contest.ย Golden Heartยฎ Finalist (If you’re curious, you can visit the link the all 2014 Golden Heart and RITA finalists here.)

To say I was “excited” is an understatement. My husband was afraid I was having a heart attack. And if I had been, I don’t think I’d have cared. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I’ve had many well-wishes including to “enjoy the ride,” and only now am I starting to get some idea of what a surreal kind of ride it is. Honestly, this week I’ve been trying to ignore the deadline for when contest finalists were announced, and planning on the fact that since I’m going on holidays, it could be consolation for another year when I didn’t get that call. I had already decided this was certainly the last time I was entering the contest. And I’ve been dreaming of attending this year’s conference in San Antonio for four years but doubted I’d be able to attend (where winners are announced and there’s lots of Golden Heart fun). When I got the call this morning, and the lovely caller said she was calling from RWA, I refused to let myself get excited. I wondered if I’d done something wrong, maybe there was an issue with my membership or something.

Even now, as I’m staring outside and its snowing (where the heck is spring?!?), I’m not even ranting and raving. And I can still hardly believe it’s true, more than just a tiny bit of validation, encouragement to keep writing, to keep pushing on improving my craft, and that maybe, I’m on the right path after all.

8 Ways to Shake Off the Winter Slump

Remember last week (and possibly the week before) when I mentioned how I was kind of in a slump? Kind of down and into running away?

I think I’ve finally started to shake it. And I thought I’d share how, just in case you’re still stuck in a state of Winter-Blahs since spring seems oh so far away (first day of spring was Thursday here … and it snowed. Again. I hate snow is becoming a motto to live by.)

Anyhoo, some of these things are really not rocket science, and I’ve heard them before … but I have a very hard head, evidently, and sometimes it takes more than once (or possibly a small anvil) to get me to actually help myself. So without further ado, how to shake off the blahs and feel better:

  1. Connect to people. Talk to them. Meet new people. For me, this was and is hard. I like talking to people, 2014-03-22 22.39.37but I find actually putting myself out there to meet people a bit terrifying. I’m afraid of being burned, hurt, shut-out. But the reward of a funny conversation with someone new, a shared smile, is SO worth it. Promise.
  2. Let in the sun. Whether that means going out for a walk or even a drive, let the sun shine on your face, and let in good feelings. Sometimes we’ve been shutting them out without even knowing it.
  3. Give yourself something to look forward to. I have an upcoming vacation which does help, but I also found that I’ve been feeling down how to get through the weeks after, since spring seems soooo faaaaaarrrrr (note the more stupid snow on Thursday?). And then I got my new seed and bulb catalogue from a Garden and Nursery company, and just looking through those pictures started getting me excited about my garden, and what I’d plant, and what this year would turn out like. When you’re a gardener, seeds are naturally imbued with hope (they really are the future), but other things work, too. What about events that are coming in a month or so? Look for something to put on your calendar and start counting down the days.
  4. Put on some upbeat, happy music. Music seriously affects my mood, which is why I have specific disks I’ve made with “happy music,” some of it just music that I really love, some stuff amusing, like “He’s got high hopes.” Sometimes it’s just a great song on an upbeat radio station. (And if you’re looking to create a compilation for yourself, try showtunes, seriously. They’re so cheerful it’s almost nauseating … but fun.)
  5. Read or watch something funny. Read a funny book, watch a funny movie. Let yourself just enjoy, without over-analyzing or trying to be down (though that might just be me.) ๐Ÿ˜‰
  6. Try to see the world with a child’s eyes. Ever notice that kids love snow? They love playing in the rain and out in the puddles. They love playing, altogether. And sometimes, it really pays to just get down with them and let yourself try and feel some of the sheer joy they feel. Because that’s allowed – and strongly encouraged! And it’ll probably at least give you a smile.
  7. Give yourself a little treat, especially a silly one. The little … “thingy” in the image? He was my treat one day, quite some time ago. He was free, I have no idea what he’s supposed so be, but he made me smile. On weekends, I love to go to dollar stores, just ’cause if I find something I like (craft supplies, home stuff, kids stuff, etc), I can buy something and not have to worry about the cost much. Those are my little treats. Do you have some for yourself?
  8. Go play! Take your play seriously, letting go and just having fun and shutting out all the voices that want to stop that fun (like inner editors when you’re trying to write, ambitions, to-do lists, etc.) Make something with no particular purpose. Write something just because you want to. Go jump in puddles. Just remember, play. Life’s too short, and way too dull otherwise. ๐Ÿ™‚

Okay, so that’s my two cents and my likely reused advice. But know what? It works.

What works for you? Why not share?

Have a great week, thanks for reading, and here’s to sunshine, happiness, and some play. ๐Ÿ™‚

Spring, where are you? Or, Trying to Shake the Winter Rut

These cupcakes won't fill you up; my pin-cushion cupcakes I made as gifts. :)
These cupcakes won’t fill you up; my pin-cushion cupcakes I made as gifts. ๐Ÿ™‚

Hey out there! Hope you’ve all started to see signs of spring wherever you may be. Here, it was nice and slushy, sun shining … and now today there are suspicious white somethings fluttering through the air, and a nasty wind (if I don’t name them, they don’t really exist). Which doesn’t do much to improve my mood, and frankly, I’ve been a bit down in the dumps.

I’m trying to remember that this is just one of the stages of writing … and probably symptomatic of other things, like a long dark winter, not having enough fun, and otherwise feeling a lot more of the uphill battle than usual. And there are lots of good things to look forward to, like the fact that heck, it’s only March, which leaves most of a year yet undiscovered, plus I get a rockin’ holiday with family at the end of the month.

And I’ve also been trying to remember moderation and gentleness in amongst the chastising myself for not writing enough, for not writing fast enough, etc, etc. Because sometimes, we all need a break – and we need to recognize when there’s a need for a bit of a break. Will I be writing today? Yes. I will try, and maybe today will be a great day and I’ll get in all the words I want. But if it’s not, I’m also trying to allow myself to write as much as I feel I can, and then I’m going to go off and play a bit, to allow myself other creative outlets to refresh and re-energize my outlook.

Which is why I’ve been spending a lot of time up in my craft room, playing with polymer clay and making miniatures, another passion of mine. And if you want to take a peek at what I’ve been up to, you can check out my other blog: Craft Room Chronicles: What happens in the craft room, stays in the craft room.

What about you? Have you ever felt the need for a bit of a break? Conversely, how to you get yourself out of slumps?

Hope you’re having a springy kind of week, thanks for reading, and take care! ๐Ÿ™‚

A Little Sunshine and Positivity

Flowers in my garden - a good place to run away to.
Flowers in my garden – a good place to run away to.

It’s amazing what a little sun can do for the disposition. Yesterday I headed out for a treat-trip to the dollar store and Michaels (two of my favorites), and the sun was shining, the car splashing through puddles – it was wondrous!

This winter has been long, dark, and harder than usual for a lot of us. It’s like the sun and the big melt gives all of a us a chance at rebirth and feeling a little more positive about things and a lot more … hmm, alive? Hopeful? Quite possibly all of the above.

Now, by spring melt I am by no means suggesting all the snow is gone. *Sigh.* No, there’s still probably about a foot of that junk left, but it’s going. Slowly, I can see my flower pots with all the dead plants I never got around to cleaning up last fall (I always mean to, never happens.) And I’m thinking about what I’ll plant in them this year, how this summer will be different and some miracle will occur and I will actually FINISH my weeding (hahahahaha!). It means soon I’ll be able to have my office window open and listen to bird songs and lawnmowers while I write, and the grasshoppers will be back to trying smashing themselves into the window and trying to get me. But it mostly means that at last, the long period of darkness has ended, and the light can shine – both literally, and spiritually.

So what about you? What does spring mean to you, and how has it started to manifest wherever you are?

Thanks for reading, and have a great week. ๐Ÿ™‚

Doubt, Fear, And Dark Days

I am tired. Tired of winter and long dark days, outside and in. Tired of waiting for good news, and receiving rejections. Tired of trying to believe in possibilities and forcing optimism.

And of course, when you’re tired, it leaves the door wide open for those buggers doubt and fear. It lets them sneak up on you and seep like grease stains into all aspects of your life. One rejection becomes a rejection from the world. Which is ridiculous, the logical part of my brain knows, and yet it’s the reptilian part, all that doubt and fear taking control, that whispers bad things.

It would be easy, ever so easy to just step away. To say I’m “taking a break” and slowly, without quite realizing it, just stop writing. It would start with one skipped day – you know, the kind you can “catch up on.” Then it would be another, because you need to be kind to yourself. And then a week or two missed. And then a month. And suddenly, you’d find you hadn’t been writing anymore. That it had all dried up.

And so, on days like that, on days like THIS, it is even more important to sit down in front of that computer, to put the fingers to the keyboard and ignore all those nasty whispers, and just write. Write if you are tired, write BECAUSE you are tired. But just keep writing, words in the dark, words to yourself, words to prove those whispers and the reptilian brain wrong.

Thanks for reading, and hope you’re having a brighter week with melting snow and hopes of spring. ๐Ÿ™‚