Saturday Writers

Monthly Archives: May 2009

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Distract Me Baby One More Time

I was having a hard time picking a subject this month, until the darlin’ hubby kicked me in the rear.

“What?  With all the things going on around you, you can’t find anything to write about?”

I of course stood there like a deer in the headlights as he shook his head in irritation, pointing to my laptop and pages strewn all over the desk of our hotel room.

“How about the fact that you just told me, ‘the trip has kick started your teeny tiny brain’?”

Duh, there was my subject, motivation.  Snickering, he took off for his meeting and I debated where to write.

The urge to start immediately was outweighed by the sounds of housekeeping making its way down the hall.  As much as I enjoy sitting there making them nervous–yes, I know, I’m an evil person–I really wasn’t in the mood for the distraction.  Like the Starbucks I’m sitting in right now is any better.

I mean come on you can’t wear the clothing of a 16 year old when you’re over 40.  Miniskirts are not meant for those with cottage cheese thighs!  Just because you were in my sightline when I glanced up doesn’t mean you have to wink.  Seriously, I wasn’t flirting, that blank clueless look is pretty much how I always look.  Ok, family with noisy children, time to move on, can’t risk turning up the music without harming my hearing anymore than I have.

Distractions and a dwindling battery have sent me back to my room.  Ummm…ok, so more distractions, housekeeping hasn’t been here yet.  Should I stay or should I go?  I need that thing in the wall that feeds my hungry computer so I guess stay it is.

I was doing so much better yesterday, did talking about how this change of scenery helped just jinx me?  Is it because I’m writing this instead of working on revisions or that I have the attention span of a gnat?  Oh look, something shiny!

Maybe that’s the true topic of this post…distractions.  Whether they are at home or on the road, you can’t get away from them.  The trick is learning balance.  You don’t want to look like some crazy stalker or attract unwanted attention.  You also don’t want to be so focused you miss something that could round out that character you have problems with.  Most importantly, you need to finish what you are working on.  In my case this post, which is a losing battle with the distraction of revisions.

So how do you handle distractions?  Are you balanced, focused or do you have the attention span of a gnat, like yours truly?

WHAT HAVE YOU GIVEN UP FOR YOUR WRITING DREAM?

Recently several blogs caught my attention asking people what they have given up for their writing dream.  I was surprised by some of the things people have sacrificed for their writing.  Other things didn’t surprise me at all.  Some people have given up housekeeping, cooking meals for their families, and their lunch hour at work.  Some people have given up jobs, moving out of their parent’s house, other dreams, money, a social life, but the majority of people commenting said they have given up a precious commodity – sleep. 

I asked myself how I would answer this question.  One important thing popped into my head right away.  I was giving up time with my husband, children and grandchildren.  If writing were my profession it would be easy for me to justify spending time away from my family during work hours.  Since it’s not and I work a full time job I have the ‘guilt’ of taking more time for myself during what free time I have.   Instead of spending some of my free time being a wife, mother and grandmother I spend it writing.  It is easy for me to get into my routine of going to work, coming home, preparing dinner then sitting down to write before bed.  Before I know it the weekend is here and I haven’t seen much of my grandchildren or my children.   

Now the nice weather is here there is always something to do outside so I have added responsibilities of yard work, tending my flowers and garden.  I can’t come home and snuggle up in a blanket and sit down at my computer for the evening because ‘it’s too cold to go outside.” 

I could dwell on how much I am missing and make myself miserable.  I could feel guilty for what free time I spend writing.  Or I could give up my dream and give in to my own pressure to do my best to be available when everyone needed me.  I could make sure and take the time to clean my house so when I had company it was spotless.  I could spend my time cooking nice meals for my family instead of picking up take out or driving through the closest fast food restaurant.  I could spend my spare time on useless choirs or I could write.

What I have discovered is I have found my passion.  I have made wonderful friends by belonging to groups of people who share the same dream I do which is to be a published author.  If I didn’t make time for myself to write, to express myself on paper and to share my dream with other writers I would feel there was something missing in my life.  I would be incomplete.  To me that would be a bigger loss than the extra time I could give my family.  I have learned in my many years of life that if I give to myself and I am happy with me I have more to give to my family.  Also what I give them is a happier wife, mother and grandmother.  The time I do share with them is more meaningful and appreciated. 

When you find your passion and are trying to decide how to make your dream come true remember, don’t give up.  Don’t let the world and the people in it dictate how you accomplish your dream.  Listen to your heart and your head.  
     
Happy 4th Birthday to my grandson Kael Alexander.  Grandma loves you more than you know.

Committed to Writing

     If anyone were to ask me if I were a pantzer or a plotter, I wouldn’t have a definite answer. I fall somewhere in the middle. I’m not free-spirited enough to be a pantzer and not quite OCD enough to be a plotter, but I do have tendencies in both directions. I guess I could be called a spontaneous-anal-retentive predictably-unpredictable schedule-dependent-wild-girl.

     Yup, that’s me!

     Sure, I sit down and plot the basics out for each story before I get started. Otherwise I would be all over the place and nothing would make sense by the time my hero and heroine hooked up. Okay, so chaotic dating and unknown variables are how romance works in real life but not in romance books. What person’s life is plotted in real life and actually sticks to that plan and ends up happily-ever-after? Nobody that I know of.

     Well, maybe Princess Diana, but we all know how that ended.

     Anyway…

     In the beginning, I draw up an outline to plot the general skeleton of my story – that’s about all the plotting that is involved. The rest is by the seat-of-my-pants. Literally. I never know what direction things are going to take and by the middle of the book, things have usually strayed so far off the original plan that it becomes a different story. And to make things really interesting, I may reach the middle of one book and actually throw the guts of another story into the mix. Believe me, I have lots of other stories waiting on the shelf to be written so their material is fair game for use in current plots.

     I’m not so different from most of my other writer friends. We all have our personal styles of writing and study habits, but the bare bones of it is that we come up with an idea, we do a little – or a lot – of research, we have an idea of the direction we want the story to take, and then we start writing. Some of us map out the plot, some of us just store the idea in our heads and revise it as we go along. Whatever works.

     Okay, confession time.

     Maybe I am a little obsessive.

     I have to plan things in life. I’m not real good about activities that are spontaneous, which goes against my issues with commitment. I don’t like to be tied down with certain responsibilities and expectations, but I am a very responsible person. It just has to be my idea and on my schedule.

     Wacky, huh?

     If I were to look at other areas in my life, maybe I’d find some clues. When I go shopping I tend to park in the same general area – I always thought it was because it would be easier to find my car but maybe it’s some sort of a commitment. Have I plotted my actions ahead of time?

     Hmm.

     What about other areas of my life?

     On work days, I get up at the same time every morning, after hitting the snooze exactly six times. It takes me the same time to get ready for work, the exact routine every morning, and I’m out the door the same time every morning.

     Yikes! That sounds committed!

     I clock in at work the same time, tackle the same projects each day, and clock out at the same time each day. My lunch hour is exactly noon to one o’clock.

     Listed under the word “plot” in my thesaurus are such words as conspiracy, design, development, machination, plan, scheme, stratagem, diagram, graph, outline, and contrivance. In that same thesaurus under “spontaneous” (“pantzer” isn’t listed) are such words as automatic, casual, impulsive, instinctive, involuntary, unconscious, and unintentional.

     This makes plotters seem like soldiers and pessimists, rigid and controlled, dedicated - nothing wrong with that. Pantzers are more optimistic and free spirited, flexible and intuitive – nothing wrong with that either.

     I stick with my original assessment: plotting involves commitment, pantzing involves refusing to give in to commitment.

     Now, what have I decided to call myself?

     Where so I fall in the scheme of things?

     That’s easy, I am a writer who plots by the seat of my pants! How’s that for commitment!

How can something so short be so difficult?

All my life I’ve written long form fiction. I wrote a few plays as a kid, and then novels as I entered my teens, and that trend has continued into chronological, if not emotional, adulthood. The concept of how to write short stories has always been somewhat foreign to me. I took a short story course once in college and the professor said “Your stories read like Bruce Willis movies. Chill out.”

 

It’s not like I haven’t wanted to write short stories; I’ve had some great ideas that fit better into the short arena than as novels or even novellas. But my brain can’t wrap itself around the technical process… As far as I can tell, it requires a tremendous amount of skill to convey character, setting, and plot in just a few thousand words. Apparently I’m not that talented.

 

Most of the time, my ineptitude in short form isn’t a problem, as I have plenty to write about in long form to keep my brain busy. But right now, the thing that is demanding to be produced is a short story. And when I say “demanding” I mean, my brain won’t ponder my current novel, or anything else. Just this story.

 

So shut up and write it, right?

 

My writer muscle is locked in a concrete padded cell. I’m overwhelmed and scared and convinced this is an impossible task. But I’ve got my pencil out and I’m using the eraser end to chip away at the concrete.

 

My very first question: How do I get the emotional back story in when I haven‘t got 85000 words to scatter it through? And my second: How do I make the reader understand the complicated, morally-questionable premise that’s on the table, and the resulting decision, when I don’t get to spend at least a few pages laying the groundwork? I pretty much need to jump in to the emotional action here, but somehow find a way to drag the reader up to speed – if not empathetic, at least sympathetic – right out of the gate.

 

I can’t figure out how to do that.

 

So, anyone have any tips for a new short story writer dipping a toe into the big pond?