Friday, July 30, 2010

The Agony and the Ecstasy

Lately I've been planning a new, improved plot for my work-in-progress. I mired around in the muck of "unknowns" for too long with this novel, and all activity eventually ground to a halt simply because I didn't know which directly to go next.

After finally convincing myself that I need an outline, I started writing down each step I needed my characters to take. It's a slow process as I think things through (I sometimes think too much, believe it or not) and make sure it fits with the the vision I have for my novel.

My emotions were rather mixed last night, though. Along with the elation of coming up with a better plot fraught with tension and suspense came the agonizing despair of knowing I will have to cut a lot of the stuff I've already written.

GAH.

I know in the end it will be worth it, and as I never truly discard any of my writing (I have a file devoted specifically to "deleted scenes"), I may have material for a later story.

It's all part of the process - the agony and the ecstasy - of creating.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Finally!

After much hee-hawing around and going back and forth on design elements, I think I've *finally* hit on a blog design I like. I wanted to showcase the more vintage side of my nature, and I think the new header and background accomplish this.

Of course, the background will change periodically, but the header will stay the same for awhile.

I've also added an "About Me" page that details my writing journey.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

It's a Mozart Kind of Day

Today, my head needs a break from all things, well, serious. Thus, I thought I would ask a simple question:

What kind of music matches your day today?

For me, it's Mozart. Carefree. Melodious. Comforting.

You?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Cover the Canvas: At What Cost?

Covering the canvas, in writing terms, means to get the words down on the paper: don't think about them too much, don't try and craft them, then go back and make revision after revision. Instead, just get them down and fix them later.

I covered this in an earlier post and since then, I've been trying to follow my own advice.

But I'm realizing there may be a rather large pitfall associated with this method.

What is that pitfall?

My current work-in-progress, a World War II thriller, has lots of twists and turns. And as I cater to the "pantser" method (i.e. I don't do an extensive outline, but rather wait to see where the writing takes me), this means there is a lot I don't know going into it. This also means that I can come up with some pretty darn brilliant ideas. However, at the end of the day, all of that means one thing: a lot more work.

I have another novel in the works right now that isn't nearly so difficult. I have the bare minimum outline done, I know the major plot points, and it should be fairly smooth sailing to the end. Plus, I won't have a lot of editing and revising to do as far as changing the plot structure. This is not so with the current novel.

Which leads me to beg the question: in this instance, is "covering the canvas" worth it? Because let's face it: at the rate I'm going now, with all the fixing this novel needs, it's probably going to take me as long to edit it as it will to write it. In the end, is it worth it? Now this isn't to say that I should abandon every project that is hard work. But in reality, some novels are easier to write than others.

This is something I really need to mull. I love this story. I love the characters and their conflicts and how it all works so well. Unfortunately, my plotting is all over the place, something I've never experienced before. So. Do I just go ahead, push through, and finish the darn thing, set it aside for awhile, then pick it back up with fresh eyes and get to work? Or should I stop now and finish hacking out the plot? Or do I just go to my other, much-easier work-in-progress and finish it while leaving the thriller for a few months? My only fear with that is trying to get back "into" the story as much as I'm "in" it now.

Decisions, decisions...

Thoughts? Opinions?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Reaching the Halfway Point

Probably large part in due to your excellent advice of the other day, I have reached the halfway point in my novel. Yes...the word count meter over on the right now says 50,000.

(insert wild cheering here)

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The World of Crafts

When I was a little girl, I used to love crafts. My grandmother and I were alike in that way, and when I went over to her house, it was to discover a treasure trove of crafting supplies. My grandmother could crochet like nobody's business (and she still does it to this day), but she also created other crafts using beads and paint and glue and just about anything else you can imagine.

I used to make my own treasures. I once cut up pictures of an old U.S. history textbook and created a huge collage of the history of the United States. It was pretty awesome, if I do say so myself (ha!). I also made my own Barbie doll house out of cardboard boxes. And yes, my house had carpet and wallpaper, not to mention homemade appliances (made out of jello boxes, no less!).

A few years ago, I dabbled with rubber stamping, but I didn't have either the patience or the skills to do it right, so I abandoned it. I also didn't have the space to dump all my creative supplies and each time I set out to make something, I had to take over the kitchen table. One year, though, I did manage to make Christmas cards for everyone using my Snoopy rubber stamps. That was a great project.

Lately, though, the only craft I've really been focusing on is my writing. To tell you the truth, I'm starting to miss my other craft endeavors, especially when I head into Michael's or Hobby Lobby and look at the plethora of supplies available. My mind starts spinning with all the possibilties, but I inevitably buy nothing. I simply don't have the time.

The one concession I did make to this, however, was my embroidery. And wouldn't you know it - the one project I started well over a year ago (a dresser scarf) still isn't finished! I'm nearly done, but I didn't work on it nearly as fast as I thought I would. And I'm not sure it's a good craft for me since I'm not the best with a needle. The back of my embroidery piece is pretty sad. Lots of loose thread and knots and mistakes. But it was a learning process.

Now, though, I've discovered the world of digital scrapbooking, and it looks like so much fun. The only problem? I would be sitting in front of a computer more than I already do. I'm not sure I want to go that route.

Instead, I think my next project will be couch pillows. When I got my Victorian couches last year, I didn't have any pillows to match. I've been looking on and off for some that will work, but darn it, pillows are expensive. So the other day I thought, "Well, heck. I can just choose the fabric that I want and make me some simple, square pillows." I'm actually pretty excited to go look at the fabrics.

But if I had my choice, I would have a room dedicated solely to crafts. I'd get back into rubber stamping, start scrapbooking with real paper (instead of the digital kind) and definitly get back to collaging (which I adore doing). And I could leave it all in that room, shut the door, and not worry about cleaning it up so we could eat supper on the table!

Sadly, though, crafting has taken a backseat to my writing time. I'm hoping to slowly start incorporating my love of crafts back into my life. It gives me such energy to look at all the different things people create, and spurs idea after idea in my own brain. I especially love the shabby chic look, as well as the vintage creations people make.

Oooh. Just thinking about it all gives me goosebumps. But then I think, TIME. When do I have TIME?

Lord, could I have 48 hours in a day instead of 24?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Just Plain Fun


As anyone who is interested in the 1930s through 1950s knows, pulp magazines featuring dastardly villains, courageous heroes, and damsels in distress were very popular. There was Adventure Magazine, Wild West Weekly, Popular Love, Detective Fiction, and many, many others (for a brief overview of pulp fiction, visit this link).

Laurie Powers, one of my writing acquaintances, discovered her grandfather was a pulp fiction writer during the 1920s and 1930s. He mostly wrote westerns and published them in Wild West Weekly. Laurie even finished her grandfather's autobiography and published it. Called Pulp Writer: Twenty Years in the American Grub Street, it's a fascinating account of her grandfather's life as a pulp fiction writer. Her website jumpstarted my interest in this fiction powerhouse.

In researching pulp fiction magazines for my own amusement, I've been fortunate enough to snag a couple vintage magazines in antique stores. Browsing through them is an absolute treat, and makes me mourn the days when these were readily available.

What happened to our fascination with this type of short fiction? This wasn't literary fiction, but rather genre - sci-fi, western, detective, adventure, and just about anything else you could think of. Did the novel become more popular? Perhaps. (I'm sure there's an essay on this floating around there somewhere, but that's not the point of this post, so...I'll skip the literary treatise for now).

Short fiction and even serializations of novels were also prevalent in popular magazines of the era, as well. I have several copies of Ladies Home Journal that are stuffed full of short stories. I just love reading them.

All this got me to thinking: wouldn't it be swell to have a monthly print magazine devoted to these types of stories? As the title of this post suggests, I think it would be just plain fun!

Of course, such an endeavor would involve a lot of start-up costs, none of which I have, but I like to dream about it sometimes. I would love to be the editor of such an endeavor and have the short stories focus solely on that time period. And of course, we'd have to include that amazing pulp artwork (some of which was pretty darn racy). I've thought of doing a sort of e-zine, but my heart is pretty much set on a print magazine. So maybe someday, when I'm independently wealthy, I'll launch that glossy magazine!

It's another aspect of the Golden Era that I love and wish I could resurrect. Maybe someday...




Thursday, July 15, 2010

When You Can't Write

Last night, I sat down at my laptop to pour my heart out. No, not into my novel, but into a deeply personal journal entry that would somehow give expression to the turmoil inside my soul. Does this sound dramatic? Perhaps so. But when you are a creative person, whether it be an artist or a writer or a photographer, you feel things deeply.

And when I do not write, I feel the pain - deeply.

All sorts of doubts and fears assaulted me last night. Actually, they've been hovering at the edge of my vision for the past few days. Why? I believe the answer is this: I am writing a thriller, something out of my comfort zone, something I've never really done before, and I am wondering if I bit off more than I can chew.

Until this point in my story (almost the 50K mark), I have done ok with the plot, putting the thrills in, the twists and turns, etc. But when I look back on it, I wonder if any of it is believable. And then I wonder, how can I make it better? And then I wonder, how can I make it more unique?And then I wonder, Am I plain nuts???

This is not the time to be doing that. Now is the time to just cover the canvas - i.e., get it down, cover the page, and edit later.

But...

What if I'm not supposed to write a thriller? Even if I have a good idea, can I execute it successfully? There are times when I think it is just too darn hard - harder than any other novel I've written. Is this a sign that I should put it away? Concentrate on something else?

However...I love to read thrillers. Love, love, love them, and I always have these awesome ideas that I want to turn into novels. But the intricate plotting structure scares the ever-livin' crap out of me and I have yet to find a useful plotting method for them. Then I look at all the successful thriller writers like Daniel Silva, Ken Follett, Vince Flynn, etc., and I think, there is no way I can even compete.

All this thinking has gotten me to a terrible point: I'm frozen. I can't move forward and I can't move backward. I have avoided looking at the manuscript since Sunday. Each day that goes by, the fear increases. Thus, I haven't written anything since Sunday night.

This has created a dramatic shift in my world. If I cannot express my creativity on the page, I feel disoriented, unsettled, and profoundly disconcent. I am not sure what direction to go. I have another novel in the works that I haven't looked at in months, yet it is a good story - and decidedly very non-thriller. But I stopped working on that one because the thriller idea knocked my socks off and I wanted to get started on it right away.

I'm not burned out on writing. I want to write. I just feel paralyzed right now. Because let's face it: if I do finish writing this thriller, and an agent decides to represent me, and he/she sells my book, that means I will most likely have to produce another thriller for my second novel- and I am scared to death I won't be able to.

I'm trying to figure out some options on how to combat this paralyzing fear.
1) Sit down and make a detailed listing of my complex plot
2) Write angsty journal entries that no one will see - and give voice to my fears
3) Pray
4) Leave the thriller world for awhile and go back to the last novel
5) Say the heck with it, turn on the laptop, and just start writing

I'm thinking of trying #5 tonight and seeing how it goes.

The bottom line is this: I am a writer. And if I cannot write, it affects me in profound ways. I sometimes wish I wasn't a creative soul and didn't think and feel this deeply. But it's who I am, it's who God created me to be, so I need to embrace it in all its different facets.

What do you do when confronted by writing doubts and fears?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Your Favorite Summer Treat


I am not a fan of summer, but I do enjoy the tasty treats available during this time of the year. Last week I made a triple berry pie out of fresh raspberries, straweberries, and blueberries and it was yummy delicious. I've also found some sweet ice cream treats that are sugar free and (mostly) fat free that will satisfy my diet requirements as well as my sweet tooth.

Thanks to Minute Maid's Light Lemonade, I can also enjoy my favorite summer drink without packing on the pounds!

What's your favorite summer treat?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Help! I'm Slogging...

Here it is, Sunday afternoon. We went to church this morning, came home and had a nice lunch, and I have the entire afternoon stretched out in front of me - perfect writing time. I already wrote about a half a page so far, but it feels like I'm slogging through mud.

Why? There's always a struggle once you're in the middle of a story, of course. But I think my problem stems from me writing something completely different - a thriller mystery. And in a thriller mystery, you've got to make sure your clues don't give away too much, that your characters are constantly making new discoveries that will help them solve the mystery (and in this case, catch the bad guys before they do the bad stuff!), and that you don't reveal too much too soon.

GAH. It's enough to make me pull my hair out!

I think I'm just going to push through it. Last week I blogged about "covering the canvas" and I think I need to take my own advice. I can always go back in and change it. In fact, I'm pretty certain that's what I'm going to have to do.

What do you do when you get stuck in your writing?

Thursday, July 08, 2010

The Vintage Touch

Over my lunch break, I went antiquing. This is an especially dangerous thing to do when you have no money to spend. And today was no different.

Even though I live in an apartment and can't do an extensive remodel or paint things or rip out cabinets and carpet, I can add some vintage touches to it. I've slowly been doing that over the last year or so that I've lived there, but I've left the kitchen alone for the most part.

Today, while browsing through the gazillion antiques on display, I had the idea to buy some vintage tins for the kitchen - i.e. old spice tins, fruit tins, and any kind of food-related containers like the ones pictured below, and put them up on the very top shelves in my kitchen to add a nice vintage touch.

Only I didn't realize just how expensive these little items would be. Isn't it amazing that a canister of baking soda from the 1940s or 1950s costs $6 now (without the baking soda, of course!)? Or an empty coffee can is $17? I'm starting to think I need to save my own food containers and sell them 50 years from now!

Of course, that's not the only vintage item I'd like to feature in the kitchen. There were some lovely trays that would look stunning as well as some cute salt and pepper shakers that would be adorable perched atop different appliances.

The only problem I foresee with this whole arrangement is the cleaning aspect. That's just more to
dust, and I hate dusting as it is! But I suppose it would be worth it to turn my thoroughly modern kitchen into a cute reminder of the past.


Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Extra Pounds, Begone!


In the last year and a half, I've lost 25 pounds. I really wish it had been more, but for some reason, I will hit a plateau and stay on it for months at a time. Eventually, the weight will start budging again.

Unfortunately, I've gained at least 5 pounds back in the last month and that makes me supremely unhappy. It cannot be due to a lack of exercise since my calendar shows that I've been pretty faithful with it (I like to mark every day that I exercise). I take lots of bike rides and walks, but sadly, since my gym closed, I haven't done any strength training. I plan to remedy that since my apartment complex has a nice gym. (And it's free!)

I think the surgery I had a few months ago (had an ovary removed) and the resulting messed up hormones had something to do with the weight gain. Plus, when I don't feel good, I tend to bury myself in bad-for-me food. How I justify this, I don't know. But it's something I need to really watch.

I didn't eat very well this weekend, what with picnics and family get-togethers and the whole snacking on the road thing (when you have 400 miles of interstate to cover, snacking relieves boredom!). But now that the holiday weekend is over and life is settling down again, I'm determined to get back on track, lose those 5 lbs., plus about 25 or 30 more. That's the goal, anyway.

Does your weight fluctuate? How do you handle it?

Friday, July 02, 2010

Independence Day


To me, the 4th of July celebrates a lot of things. Our country's birth. Victory over tyranny. A day to remember those who made our country possible like George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson.

But it's also a day to celebrate family. There are too many people around the world who have been separated from their families through no choice of their own whether it be war, famine, or a cruel dictatorship. But not here in America - not for me or mine.

I praise God for the opportunity to live in this country. It's not perfect by any means - but it has allowed me to enjoy freedom unlike anywhere else in the world.

And this Independence Day, I plan to spend it with my family. There will be softball games, food, rodeos, fireworks, laughter, and good conversation. What a blessing!

Happy birthday, America!