Thursday, October 10, 2013

Listening to music when you write/music that awakens your soul

I'm going to deviate a bit today and talk about another creative outlet-music. Like many as I was growing up, I did play an instrument. It was the clarinet. I wanted to play the alto saxophone when we picked in 5th grade, but there were already too many of those. I played from 5th grade all the way through high school. When I got braces, they told me to give it up, that it was bad for my overbite, but I kept on playing. There was something about making your own music and playing as part of a band. I've always been a creative person, whether it was those years playing music or all the years that I've been writing. I recently tried to pick my clarinet back up again, but my embouchure had grown weak and it made my thumb ache. I was too far out of practice.

 While I no longer play a musical instrument, I still delight in listening to music. No music has solicited such an emotional response from me as Frank Sinatra's. I can only describe it as an inner calm that travels throughout my body. It can make me cry and smile at the same time. There are two songs in particular. "The Right Girl for Me" which I walked down the aisle to and Time After Time which my bridesmaids walked in to. They are absolutely beautiful songs. Frank also carries another place in my heart as he was in the first short story I had published this year, "Wishful Thinking."

 I have a hard time listening to music when I write, although I recently discovered that I can put on instrumental music. Anything with lyrics just makes me want to sing along or dance.

 While a lot of music created now has a good beat and there are definitely ones well written, not many have the lyrics that contain such beauty as they used to. The music written around Sinatra's type and style have something extra and are some of the best written. Gershwin, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin...they all had something special. It was a very different time. The combination of the voices and writing in the 30's, 40's and 50's produced magic. Don't believe me? Really listen to the links above.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Life/Work/Writing Balancing Act

Everything in life is a balancing act. We need to balance so many things as humans. Work, Writing {if you're lucky, it's the same, for me, it's not yet.}, pets, kids, spouses, exercise, personal hygiene, cleaning and relaxing are a lot to fit in. Sometimes I find myself more often thinking about writing than actually writing. Many times, I daydream at work. Such as today, my brain refused to focus on work and would only think about writing.

The mood just takes over me at the worst possible moments and it's a struggle to do what I'm supposed to be doing. It's as if I have a split personality and I guess, in many ways, I do. I wonder what I'm doing at work when at my core, I know I want to be writing, but...as the saying goes...baby needs new shoes.

I'm working on organizing my time better now between all of those things. I always used to think I was organized, but honestly I'm more like this:
Here are some things that seem to be working for me:
1. Set some time aside for writing; whether it be 10 min, an hour or 10 hours a day, do it. You'll feel better.
2. Make an outline. I've never been one for an outline, but as I get further into a novel, I sometimes get lost. Having things planned, at lease loosely, ahead of time would help.
3. Give yourself a break if you don't get things done, just not too many breaks. Set ambitious, but still realistic, guidelines.
4. Sit outside and write. Fall is here. It's beautiful. Write a bit and then play outside. Don't miss it.
5. Play with your kids, pets, family.
6. Workout, get enough sleep, take care of your body. Again, you'll feel better. You can't feel good writing if you don't take care of yourself.

Remember, if writing isn't your day job {even if it is, there are always other things you want to be writing}, you are still a writer. Don't let your day job determine who you are. You are more than that. You will always be a writer.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

What I wrote at age 17...

I recently thought about a contribution I made to a fan site at age 17. I'm amazed at how young I was when I wrote this and that I put it up as fan fiction. I am a huge admirer of Robert Downey Jr. and discovered him not long before age 17. When a fan site put up a story set up as a diary where someone new wrote a different day, I couldn't resist jumping in. I wrote two separate days and was the one to propel it to a new level...having the narrator actually meet and fall in love with him. I remember loving it and thinking it was pretty racy at the time.

Reading it again over 10 years later, I realize it has good and bad parts to it. The ideas were fun, but it could definitely stand to be improved. I was glad to find that I printed it out because I can no longer find it online. I'm hoping to use pieces of it for a new story...especially a scene involving whipped cream.

It's both fun and appalling to find pieces you wrote at an earlier age. I have a hard time letting go of some of the things I wrote and strive to find something useful in everything. Do you find yourself nostalgic about your own writing?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Memorial Day

As I lay in bed this morning and reflected on Memorial Day, an idea for a story began to form in my mind. I mapped out the beginning in my head and just began writing it.

I've wanted to write some sort of military/soldier-based story for quite a while, but didn't know where to begin and it's probably been overdone. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to write it. We often forget the sacrifices that many have made for the good of our country. I see telling stories based on and inspired by actual events as sort of a tribute to them in my own way.

It will probably be hard to make my story all that different from those that have already been done, but I want to write it anyway. I'm sure as writers many will understand where I'm coming from and the hold that a project can have over you until you finish it. I only wish there were more hours in the day!

I wish everyone a Happy Memorial Day. Have fun with cookouts, friends and family, but also take a moment to remember why we have off of work. :)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Where Inspiration Comes From

Many people wonder where a writer gets inspiration from. The answer for me is that it comes from everywhere. It could be something someone says. It could be something that happens to me or others. It could be a fear. It could be a dream.

I seem to be getting a lot of ideas from dreams lately. If I wake up in the middle of the night after a dream that has a good story idea in it, I repeat a few words in my head to try to help me remember it in the morning. I suppose it may be easier to just get up and write it down. Do you keep a notebook in your nightstand? I do, but I think it may anger my husband if I were to turn a light on to try to write something down!

A few months ago I found the beginning of a new novel in a dream, which is great, but I do need to start finishing some other ideas!

I know what doesn't work for me and that's actually trying to think up a new idea for a short story. I used to try to force myself to think of a short story idea because I needed more short stories. This does not work for me. If anything it chases inspiration away!

Where do you get your ideas from?

Monday, April 1, 2013

Writing the Ending

Sorry about the hiatus! March was a very difficult month! I'm onto a subject that I'm having to deal with very soon which is the ending. I've been struggling for quite a while with "finishing" my historical fiction novel. Last year I even made a bet with my husband that I would have a draft done. I lost. This year he wants to bet me again. I can't lose this time and I do believe I have a good chance of winning. I'm much closer and it really is time to wrap it up.

I'm both thankful and nervous at the prospect of writing the ending to my book. I came up with five different ideas of how to end it and have since narrowed it down. I realized that some of them would basically be cheating. Ending it to end it and I can't do that. How do you decide where your book will end? I have a difference circumstance because Judy Garland's life goes a certain way. The question isn't really what will happen, but where do I cut it to maintain the closing that I want?

In having to think about the ending, I was reminded of a quote from the movie Secret Window/Stephen King's Secret Window, Secret Garden. Forgive me if the story line is phrased differently, but the movie line is this: "You know, the only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story, the ending. And this one... is very good. This one's perfect." 

We all want our endings to be perfect and that can be a lot of pressure. I guess we just need to try one and see what happens.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Day Job Stress and Writing

I had a rough couple weeks between odd injuries and work stress last month and didn't get much writing done. Something awful is that when I'm stressed about my day job, I can't write. I'm too consumed with that stress that it takes away something I take so much joy and pride in. Does anyone else have this issue?

Thankfully, it only took me a couple days to pull myself out of it. It's way too much work to be that stressed all the time. Many people told me that it simply wasn't worth it and they were right. Once I decided not to be stressed anymore and had vented about it enough, I felt a lot better and was able to work on my novel again. I don't want to imagine how much my writing will suffer when I have kids! A puppy is distraction enough!

Friday, February 8, 2013

My First Novel

Whether you're new to writing or started as a kid, you never forget your first novel. My first major project was when I was around 9 years old. This was when American Girl had a brilliant idea. An idea that it appears has been discontinued. It was at this time that they came out with their Girl of Today line of dolls. You were able to pick what you wanted your doll to look like. And the best part? She came with 6 blank books for you to write her stories.

The main underlying theme behind the dolls was to pick one that looked like you. I picked one that looked nothing like me. I already had Kirsten who was blonde haired and blue eyed. My Girl of Today, Nina, was Asian. I began writing her first book before she even arrived.

With the first five books, I kept close to the number of pages included: 20. On the sixth, however, I couldn't contain her last adventure to so little pages. It ended up being more than 3x that. In order to expand the already-made book, I measured and cut out pages to fit and then glued them in. From what I remember, her life was much like a soap opera. I was in the book as her adopted mother, her real mother having gone to jail. This real mother got out of jail during the course of the books as well.

What were some of your first novels?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Assimilating Into Your Character's Head

After focusing on a few short stories, I have recently returned to working on my historical fiction novel based on Judy Garland. The reason I had stopped for a while is because she is so completely exhausting. What a fascinating and frightening head to get into. Between the issues over her weight, her abortion and nervous breakdowns, I sometimes find it hard to get back and really dive into her again. My brain sometimes doesn't want to because it is so sad.

Last week I began to push on when I discovered the new stuff to be removed and superficial. It was too much telling and not enough showing. This was when I turned back to research and simply reading through some of the draft to find her again. I also watched a couple of movies of hers to remind myself about why I'm writing this. She was amazing. She was tragic.

Do you find it hard to get back into a character's head after being out for a while? Are there characters' heads that you're afraid to get into?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Sharing Your Writing

A couple weeks ago my first short story, Wishful Thinking, was published. When I first got the confirmation, I could not stop jumping up and down. My mom was the first person I called. I not only wanted to share it with her; I wanted to share it with the world. All of my friends and family.  I was proud. I wanted them to see what I had done.

It is a first person story and the character does admittedly have many traits similar to my own. I never thought of the character as me. It's fiction. It's not me.  After my mother-in-law read it and told me that it made her sad because of the way it ends, it struck me. Those close to me may think of the character as me. She did bring up an interesting point of how she read it differently because she knows the author. I found myself struggling to explain how to not think of the character as me. There's magic in her world and just because she does something, doesn't mean that I would.

This also got me thinking about the novel I'm working on which is historical fiction based on Judy Garland. Sometimes, I do notice that she sounds like me. I think it's impossible to keep all of your personality out of your characters. It is their connection to you that makes them real. You do sort of become them while you write them, right? You form their thoughts and their actions. They are at the same time separate and a part of you.

Have you ever had someone read your fiction story and they connect you directly to your character? Do you worry that they will?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Making Zombies Scary

 Writing a zombie story is no easy task. The creatures have been done and redone. This barely allows for original ideas anymore, let alone trying to make them scary. I have challenged myself to do this. When one of my friends did something to inspire this story, I couldn't resist it. Writers know you can't resist inspiration because who knows when it will strike again? Ideas are sought and chased and forced so when they come on their own, I'm grateful and don't question it.

 The struggle I've found with my zombie story is making it and the zombies themselves scary enough. People have become so desensitized to horror. How does one tap into their inner Edgar Allan Poe? He's difficult to find and sometimes I'm not sure if I want to. He was too great not to try.

 To scare up my zombies, I began with their descriptions. Blood stains, vacant eyes, torn up clothes. I discovered that it added an extra element to have the main character recognize one of them. Something was still missing. Her thoughts and frame of mind helped add fear to the story even more than the zombie descriptions. Knowing more about her makes the reader fear for her more and hope she will live.

What other techniques make your stories scarier?