Once Upon A Time…

I used to write in this blog a lot…now it’s being neglected. It’s mostly neglected because I don’t have anything to say of a writing or reading nature. So what’s so special about today? I found an old notebook with a reading wishlist in it and it inspired me to talk about things that I want to read (in hopes that increasing my reading will increase my writing, both here and my creative writing pursuits).

So, what do I want to read? I don’t know. I know what the world says I should have read already (like The Help), but I don’t have many books I want to read lately. I do have a few non-fiction titles I would like to read: The Other Wes Moore, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and Laying Down My Burdens. I’m currently combing through my old list for fiction books, and I may cruise back issues of BookPage to find something.

I have been working on some pieces in my long term absence. I have made progress on my Camp NaNoWriMo manuscript (aka continuing to write a crappy first draft), and I officially starting on the second short story in the Candy Apples series. So it’s not all sitting on my hands this way. This second story in the series is hard to write because I haven’t been there. It’s dark and terrifying and sad. It’s not a place one likes to dwell. It’s not difficult thinking like an adolescent again, but the subject matter gets so dark I wonder if I can see my way out sometimes. But it will be powerful fiction, the kind of fiction that may help someone else. These addiction stories are turning out to be some powerful stories. I was thinking of putting Candy Apples up as an Amazon single, but I don’t know if I want to. I  might have to make it free and then sell the series, which doesn’t sound like a plan to me. Besides, I still will have ten stories to write, so publishing it now will be a little soon. I would like to know if any of you would buy my work.

I’ll post the fiction books in my notebook up tonight, and you can tell me if they’re worth reading. In the meantime, two questions: Read any good books lately? Would you buy my book?

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I’ve Lost My Mojo

I’ve seemed to have lost my writing mojo lately. I was doing well with the marriage kit book, then I got pulled to do a presentation on purity to the single ladies during the marriage and family workshop (and I’ve been waiting to find the time to go through a huge backlog of presentations I recorded from that, as well as interviews, etc.). As far as other writing (besides blogging and twitter), that’s been non-existent as well. But I’m ready to get back into the swing of things. Now the issue is what to focus on.

I have two fairly well developed stories from my NaNoWriMo efforts that I could begin to work on again, or any number of short stories, particularly the linked short stories. I had some great ideas and passages for the next one after Candy Apples. Where is this butterfly going to land?

I left both NaNoWriMo stories at crucial points–in one, the protagonist were finally about to meet face to face, and in the other, the main character was about to start some life changing activities. My next installment of Candy Apples deals with some heavy subject matter that will be tricky to write. No choice is going to be an easy one, but I like a good challenge, especially if it yields a good story.

For today, I’ll read over what I have, then see what pulls me in, which story I just have to know what happens next in, which character I just have to push through their present situation. Then I’ll know where to begin again.

To anyone left following this  blog, thanks for the support.

XOXO

2blu2btru

Making the Most of Memory

Sometimes I get little twinges of memories–incidental things that have happened to me a long time ago, things that were buried underneath all the new memories I’ve been  making. These memories are usually unrecorded things that make me so, “Oh, yeah; that’s right! That DID happen!” When my Muse is on  speaking terms with me, these little remembrances are just the grain of truth I need to sweeten the fiction pot, so to speak.

The other day, I was sitting at my desk, letting my mind wander when I remembered a little girl from my childhood that was murdered. This wasn’t just some girl I went to school with or saw on the bus; I knew her. She was invited to my birthday party. Little details about her and about the case came floating back: the last name of the couple responsible, what they had done to her, the date she died. I don’t know what idea it will turn into, but the memories mprinted themselves so fully on my brain, I knew I had to write them down.

It’s not always a full blown topic or idea, though. Yesterday, as my mind was out wandering at work (again), I was thinking about abuse in one of my stories. It’s tricky to write about something you have experienced, trickier still to write about something you read or heard about it. The very last thing I wanted to do was use someone else’s abuse real life abuse story. That was depressing, so I thought about summers when I was a kid. I was always with my cousins or someone else when I was really little, so nothing ever happened to me. Then I remembered coming back from a beach trip. I won’t tell you what little thing I remembered because it’s important to one of the addiction short stories I’m writing, but that detail, so minute, expanded into a whole scene. It was like when a movie comes on focused on something small like the numbers on an alarm clock, then slowly expands to reveal the whole scene: a hand shuts off the alarm; a head peeks out of rumpled covers; a man sits up; a woman sits up, scratching her head and yawning; they look at each other and scream bloody murder, each trying to cover themselves and get away at the same time.

Of course, I twisted and changed the memory to make it fiction: the girl is older, the cousins are friends, the room is different, and the addiction/abuse angle is completely fiction, but weaving in other memories, I think it could feel real.

I don’t know how many of you have encountered this, but there is a cloud on the horizon. I love the addiction stories so far, even though they’re tough work. It’s a challenge to myself to write them, and when I get one right, I feel like I’ve done my best work. However, I know if I ever do get to the point of sharing them, people will think I’m speaking from experience (if I do it right, anyway). How does one deal with that? I mean, to a certain extent it will be me; I’m using my memories and remembered feelings to construct it. But most of it will be the result of talent and hard work. I’m not too concerned about it. If I can make it so real I can convince people I have experienced it firsthand, I will take that as a compliment.

How do you make the most of your memory in writing? Do you ever use real life elements in your stories? How much of you fiction is you, is “real”?

Needing Help in a Hurry

Tomorrow is the official start to Camp NaNoWriMo. I’ve already been on to the website, filled out my author information. I’ve got my pens and paper ready, and I’m ready to resuscitate a very rusty writing practice. The thing is, I got to that pesky novel information page and realized I still don’t know what I’m writing about.

Since the spirit of NaNoWriMo is to start and finish a novel in the allotted month, I have to start from scratch writing wise. Thanks to my trip home, there are quite a few pieces that I have that I can start over with and make a pretty great story from. There are a couple of choices for this, as I outlined in The Girl Who Couldn’t Commit.

Here are my choices. Let me know what you think I should work on. Keep in mind, now, that since I’d have to start over, some of the ones I wanted to work on, I can’t (A Blues for Zora, the one on Openfiction.com, Class Reunion, the Southern Gothic Novel)

  1. The story I told you about in Three Sides to Every Story. It’s about a woman who has recently lost a parent. In her grief, she becomes a mean, bitter recluse. She meets and befriends a man who is her polar opposite–daring, extroverted, friendly. This is the story of their friendship. At this point, it’s not a love story, but who knows?
  2. The story with the “It’s Really Not What it Looks Like” twist. Amanda is sick and needs a home health aid. Her brother catches the home health aid in a situation that looks really bad and forms a bad opinion about her, despite his obvious attraction to her. Can she prove her innocence and keep her job? It’s very harlequinesque, as you can see.
  3. That murder story I was telling you about. Maria Gonzales is a mystery writer suffering from severe writer’s block under deadline. She just can’t seem to get a good grip on this female familicidal killer. Luckily, her boyfriend Tony works at a maximum security women’s prison that houses a notorious female convicted of familicide. Maria overcomes her writer’s block and pens a bestseller. Everything is going well…until the murderess escapes.
  4.  Something absolutely new that I’ve been playing around with. I’m not sharing it yet. That is all. Well not really. I’ll just say it’s more literary than the others.

Cast your votes now. I’ll let you know what I decided to go with tomorrow!

Why Not YA?

When I was a teenager, the summer before I started high school, my Horizons-Upward Bound English teacher read an excerpt from my manuscript, Fatal Obsession (yes, that’s really what it was called; I was tweleve when I started it). She suggested that I should be writing Young Adult Fiction right now (which was, of course, at age 14). I never did that. I don’t know why I didn’t then, but as the years passed, my interest in YA fiction passed as well. Once I wasn’t a “young adult” literature wise (I still consider myself a young adult in real life, LOL), I never read or wrote any fiction in that genre.

The other day when I came across the note my teacher had scribbled on a copy of FO, I wondered about finishing it (I even mentioned it in The Girl Who Couldn’t Commit). The story is good. I love those characters. Why not finish this book? Why not shop it around for publication? Because it probably wouldn’t sell.

I wasn’t a typical teenager (I mean, I was writing a novel at 12! Hello!), and the things I wrote, while about teenage issues, weren’t typical of teenagers I knew. That way more true today. My main characters didn’t have sex or go drinking as a matter of course (although, my victim did those things when she was in her “bad girl” phase); those behaviors were the atypical ones in my story. The trend now seems to be having characters more in line with the characters in the movie Cruel Intentions than the books I grew up with.

I’m not ready to “get real” and admit that most teens are going around sleeping with everyone in my fiction. I don’t want to write what to me amounts to adults with teenaged emotions. Compared to Twilight or the Zoey books that were coming out when I left my YA phase, my character’s downward spiral is akin to her joining the real world.

As a teenager, I felt passionately about things. I wanted to be in love and have a boyfriend (I didn’t have a real boyfriend, someone I went on a date with, until my early twenties…told you I was abnormal). I had a crush I wrote awful poetry about (I’m lying; my poetry was wonderful :D). But to be quite honest, if my crush had become my boyfriend, I wouldn’t have known what to do with him. I would’ve been angry if he tried to hook up with me. I wasn’t that type of girl (and I’m still not). Most of my characters aren’t those types of girls, either.

So I admit it. I’m out of touch. I can write about peer pressure. I know about bullying. I can even write about those soul-rending emotions that we all had as teenagers that we just knew we would die from. But I can’t write about teenagers having sex as if it’s no big deal, as if they are mature enough to decide they want to sleep with all of these people and have babies. As if it’s legal for them to get drunk at 16 and not remember hooking up with that guy/girl last night. If that’s the current market, Fatal Obsession is fatally wounded, and will be buried until I die. I’m sure my well meaning husband (should he survive me) or children will discover it and publish it posthumously, when it’s really antiquated.

What do you think? Have I been given the wrong impression of YA Fiction? Is there a market for old fashioned values? What are you not willing to do to sell a book?

The Girl Who Couldn’t Commit

That would be me. It seems that lately I have a hard time settling down to work on one thing. I’ve started too many things and they all demand to be finished. Whenever I think I know what I truly want to work on, I casually glance at something while looking for a scribbled note or character sketch, and before I know it I’ve been sucked in to something different. I’ve started too many good things to focus on just one.

I suppose this should be a good problem to have. If I had a bit more focus lately, it would be. I’m guaranteed several good books, after all. It’s just deciding which good book to write NOW that’s giving me the blues.

I already know what your advice will be. “Write what you’re most passionate about right now.” Well, at the moment, I’m most passionate about researching the Marriage Kit book. I’m loving conducting the interviews and trying to figure out what to read to flesh this out. I’m even loving exploring my own feelings about the interviews and articles and bits of advice. What I’m not loving? Transcribing the interviews! I’m so far behind on actually typing up (and posting) all of the interviews that I’ve conducted, I don’t know when I’ll catch up again.

But then, I had a breakthrough on the Some College memoir. I was right; going home made all the difference (mostly because I came across a few more of my journals that fleshed out more of what I was thinking leading up to and during the first few months of that time. I definitely want to include parts of those entries in the memoir. I’ve also broken down the structure into three parts, quite a few chapters. I know where I’m going with it. Now I just have to write it.

I actually have quite a few chick lit/ harlequin type books floating out there. At one point I was all about the love. There’s the class reunion WIP you all are familiar with (my NaNoWriMo novel from last year), there’s one I found a chapter of on Openfiction.com (which I can link if you want me to) and three additional chapters at home,  there’s the one I spoke about yesterday, and at least one other with a really big “this isn’t what it looks like,” moment.

Also while I was home, I found the beginning (but not the whole written portion) of a story about a mystery writer that I started on the large lined paper with the big blank space at the top that they give you when you’re just learning to write (don’t worry; it’s evolved since then, lol) which shows promise, as well as a YA novel about a teen girl who is kidnapped by her best friend’s killer (and ex-boyfriend), who has connections to the mob. I was about fifteen–no, seventeen?– (short at first, then long) chapters in. I lost the first 12 (they were stolen), but had recreated three or more of them (I started this in eighth grade!).

These are just the ones with the most upfront potential that I’ve found. I also found two more YA type of fiction pieces that are pretty lengthy. The only thing is, I haven’t written YA type of works since I used to read YA books…when I was a YA. Still, these books have something…

Of course, of course, there are the WIPs you all are familiar with: the jazz story, the southern gothic novel, Candy Apples and the other short stories in that collection. Everything with the potential to be epic and the pull to get me to reread it and want to write more of it. What to do, what to do? Some of these stories have been with me for years and refuse to leave me alone.  

Aside from these dilemmas, I’m also supposed to be working on a dissertation (editing, not writing). Oh, boy.

***

I promise that my next entries will be more than just me lamenting my good fortune. I am thinking of adding a couple of tabs, one where I help you keep track of the eighty million WIPs I have going on, and one where I make some concrete goals for the rest of the year. Maybe if I commit to it on paper? I’m thinking some NaNoWriMo-esque months are called for here.

Speaking of discoveries, I finally got a cassette player! I can play it through my little boombox, so that’s nice. I’m working towards being able to convert cassettes to digital (read: saving up to buy the software). I’m so excited about this, as I have one of my stepdad’s original recordings that I want to add to my collection. As my stepdad passed away in 2009, you can imagine how dear of a project this is to me. There are a few other things I’d like to convert as well, but this is the most important.

Now, time to brag: tell me about some of your recent successes. It can be anything. Also, tell me your plans for writing world/publishing world domination!

Three Sides to Every Story

My trip back home was fruitful. I found many old journals, stories, and story ideas. I found dictionaries, thesauruses, and grammar books, along with books on writing, complete with exercises. I don’t know what I expected to find, but I found far more.

There’s one story idea that I’ve had for a long time that I wanted to unearth and work on, possibly for this summertime incarnation of NaNoWriMo that is coming up (Camp NaNoWriMo). Through the years, I’ve scribbled this idea out as both a story and a play, never getting very far with it, just writing down the basic premise. I’ve come back to the idea any number of times, and promptly put it down when something else came along. As a result, I am now looking at three similar yet different plot points.

The story centers around a young woman who has a)just lost her father b)just lost her mother, or c)lost her father three years ago. In either scenario, both parents are now dead. She is a)a very wealthy heiress or b)drowning in debt. She’s either very meek and inoffensive or very rude. Obviously, I’ve come to this story with very different things in mind each time.

It’s kind of like what happened with the Southern Gothic novel. It started, in it’s earliest conception, being about the murder of a despised public figure. That idea somehow morphed into a ghostwriter helping a prejudiced woman write her memoirs. Explaining that huge leap is really simple: a minor character became the focal point instead of the original story, then the original storyline was cut away from this telling.

It’s interesting to look back at the evolution of a story, to see what ideas I scrapped that may be stories of their own. At the moment, I’m not sure which storyline I want to pick up in this possible Camp NaNoWriMo story, but the loss of a parent is so searing that it can be used again, taken in a completely different direction. But it does beg the question, which would you rather have: too many possibilities or only one alternative? When are you the most creative–when you have to choose between several options or when you have to make one work?

For me, I like options. I will take one, follow it along until it hits a dead end or I get bored with it, and choose another one. Sometimes, though, one option becomes the only option, the more I get to know the characters. If you ever get stuck, as I do, instead of killing the story, it may be time to go back a bit and take a left where before you took a right. I’m not sure if I’ll finally be able to focus long enough to make a great story out of this idea, but here’s to trying, right?

Wish me luck.

The Day I Realized There Really isn’t Anything New Under the Sun

For years, I’d been working on this idea intermittenly about a Southern woman wanting to write her memoirs and hiring a ghostwriter to help her. In this story, the ghostwriter ends up learning all of these things about herself, what she and the ghostwriter have in common, and it makes everything in her (the ghostwriter’s) world change. It was a novel idea, to me, in both that it hadn’t been done and it should be a novel length thing.

Does this sound remotely familiar to you? It should. This is the basic plot, though not entirely, of Donna Sutterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale. I writing the first sketches of my novel, which at the time had nothing to do with a memoir, when I was in high school. The newer,  centered around a writer version began taking shape in the fall of 2003, when I was a freshman in college. I picked up Sutterfield’s book in 2007 from the library. That’s when my literary world fell apart.

How could it be? Someone had already thought up (and written…and published) my idea! What was I going to do? I had spent years starting this story, submitting it to a writing contest at the university I attended, getting a teacher to read an excerpt for me, letting it lie fallow, coming back to it. In all of that time, I thought it was fresh and new and different, and it wasn’t.

That’s not a bad thing, though. Some things haven’t been written about because they don’t make good writing material. Some things have been written about, but not in the way you mean to write about it. As long as I don’t tell the same story, the starting point can be the same. It’s why all of the writing exercises my creative writing teacher gave us led to such varied places when we read them out loud. No two people see things exactly the same. I can still add something to the discussion.

Once I got over my disappointment, I realized Donna Sutterfield hadn’t stolen my novel. ( 🙂 ) Her novel was about a woman who worked in her father’s bookstore and an older woman with a secret she was dying to tell. It was about siblings and family pressure and identity. It was beautiful. But it wasn’t my novel. My older woman isn’t very old, and she is trying desperately to keep her own secrets while airing everyone else’s. Neither the older woman nor the younger have any siblings. Many other tensions and motivations are in play in my story. I’m not telling the same story at all.

I feel better about the story now. I know that it’s a story that still needs to be told, and get it told I shall.

Have you ever read a book that sounded like a WIP you were working on? Did you continue on with it? When did you realize, in a literary sense, that there was nothing new under the sun?

Random Thoughts Friday

  • NaNoWriMo is having an official summertime NaNoWriMo called Camp NaNoWriMo. Is anyone thinking of doing this? I personally would have liked a bit more notice, so I could begin thinking of what I would have wanted to do, but I just may try it. It might necessitate becoming friends with my local library for a few hours a day, but who knows what it could yield?
  • I have some exciting posts I’m working on…well, exciting to me. One is the Ten Commandments of Editing (feels a little sacreligious to call it “the Ten Commandments”, but there are ten of them, and I enjoy excuses to use “thee” and “thou”). Another is how editing a book can improve your relationship. I have a massive amount of link love to distribute as well.
  • I found some fiction that I wrote when I was a senior in high school on a fiction website. Some of it is really good and I really want to continue it. One piece in particular sounds like the beginning of a pretty good Harlequin. I was actually sitting there going, “what happens next?” I don’t remember, although I know that there are at least three more chapters written stored away in Michigan. It makes me even more excited to go home.
  • I thought I had more to talk about, but I actually have more things to write, as in writing that may one day be published. That’s a good thing. I’ll try to post what I can this weekend from the promised posts and pieces for the Untitled page. Thanks for reading!

How are you spending your weekend? Any exciting news to share?

Disorganization Station

I’ve hit a rough patch with the marriage kit interviews (and by rough patch, I mean that I keep getting dodged and ducked by my pool of participants :-(), so naturally I’ve switched gears to another project. Here’s the problem; I can’t find it.

One day, long, long ago, I mentioned that I came up with a very detailed vision of one of the Candy Apples characters and was ready to start her short story for the addiction short stories. I wrote a bit about that, from the perspective of her barbie doll. It was great for a first draft. It started like a tight shot, a close up of a battered and bruised Barbie, then expanded to pull in the character, her home, her mother, and all sorts of interesting things that didn’t belong in the opening paragraphs but were good insights for later in the story. I was pretty pleased with the direction, but I got distracted by a shining bauble (aka, the Education Workshop), and after chasing that a bit, I attempted to resume my marriage kit things. Now, I’m ready to get back to it. The ideas still seem fresh and exciting. The thing is, though, I don’t know where I put the Page of Awesomeness that I wrote.

This always happens to me This never happens to me. I’m so disorganized organized. I never always know exactly where everything is. It’s typical so out of character for me not to be able to find the scrap of paper page that I’ve fleshed out some paragraphs on. Of course, I can absolutely put my hands on my journal, in which I outline the general ideas and crow over my major epiphanies; I just can’t find the wonderful Barbie-centric opening paragraphs.

I’m almost certain they are in my living room amongst some other scraps of stories papers that I have. It would be easier if I had a specific place to write and keep my story ideas. I really need a computer desk/mini office space.

Are you an organized writer? Disorganized? Where do you keep your little creative asides until you can work on them? Any idea where I might find that story?