RESOLUTIONS? NO. A NEW WAY? YES

images_126Here we are in the period between Christmas and New Year. I get asked the same questions every go-around. “Did you make your New Year Resolutions?” My answer is always, “No.” People look like I am from some unknown species.

My thoughts….you can write something down with blue/black/red/purple ink on a piece of white/beige, notebook, or journal paper. Yes, anyone can do this and within 24 hours, one resolution is down the drain. Or you can go for weeks, even a couple of months, and then you fall off the wagon, so to speak. Your attitude turns sour, you consider yourself breakable, and you give up on all the other resolutions. Do not fear . . . you are not alone.

You want the best for yourself, and who doesn’t, but you cannot change all aspects of your life overnight. Yet, in the small time frame of the New Year, you are supposed to make yourselves over beginning in the next twenty-four hours. Go girl. Go guy. And when you find all the answers, please let me know. Nah, be kind and keep your answers to yourselves.

Have I made these famous “resolutions?” Sure. Do I make them any more? “No.” I make challenges to myself and here are some of my ways to push forward, when all else fails. Simplicity is a great companion and is always there, if you let different ideas into your head, heart, and mind.

Write yourself a letter with pen and paper. Let ideas flow from your head, down to your heart, through the pen in hand, and onto the paper. What do you want to do in the next year? What do you want to accomplice? What big surprise would you like to happen for you. Put some thought and effort into your letter. Be honest with yourself and do not go overboard. These ideas are yours, make them realistic.

When you finish, read your letter out loud to yourself, fold, and slide into an envelope marked:  FOR:__________________ (your name) OPEN: DECEMBER 31, 2014. Seal and put in a safe place for the next year. You can look at the sealed envelope, you can think about the items on the paper, BUT DO NOT OPEN. You will surprise yourself and feel good about you and your letter.

How do I know? I’ve done this for years. Sometimes things change and sometimes a subtle difference sneaks into my life. One request I have made over and over for a long time came true in 2013 – to get my novel published. Soul Mate Publishing offered me a contract for “Crushed Circle,” and we signed on December 9, 2013. Publication date still unknown. When I know, you will too. Will I stop the letter to myself. “NO.” I have more books to publish, more books to write, and when I open my letter on December 31, 2013, I will know what other things have happened this year.

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO EVERYONE – ALL THE READERS, FOLLOWERS, WRITERS. GET BUSY WITH YOUR LETTER AND SEE WHAT POSSIBILITIES LIE AHEAD FOR YOU IN 2014.

Patricia

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IT’S ALMOST CHRISTMAS, I THINK

ImageHow does this relate to writing? It does and it doesn’t. I got this thought in my head as I took a drive to a meeting. The Atlanta Writers Club’s guest speaker, Nicki Salcedo, a Georgia Romance Writer member, gave a presentation on “Budgeting Your Time.”

Back up a bit. I glanced at the clock – plenty of time – or so I thought. The cloudy skies gave way to a hint of rain. As I turned toward my route, all the peace and quiet came to a halt.

With the weather so warm, car windows had the down position. Construction noises over took the radio station,” 80’s, 90’s, and Now, playing a mixture of current songs and Christmas music. Horns blared, hands made different positions, and traffic crept. Sure, Atlanta is known for traffic problems, but this was crazy. Me and my little car inched ahead, little by little, from one traffic light to another.

Okay, think about a new story, and try to use all the commotion you hear as part of a new plot. Police were out on the corners waving their hands. Do I stop at the red light, or go with the green mittens waving me through? I went with the mittens, only to get stuck smack dab in the middle of an intersection, as the mittens went wild. Got the scene? You’re welcome to use this in any story.

To add to the distractions, Santa stood on street corners, a guy tights twirled a baton, while blowing a whistle very loud, bells, from Salvation Army, pealed through the air, and the homeless braved their way through traffic in hopes of a few cents. With the spring-like weather and the car windows, down a bit, the screams and cries of the children surpassed the horns.  “I wanna see Santa again. I gotta pee. I’m hungry. When can we go home? STOP. Santa’s on the corner.”

At the next red light, I notice the harried faces of parents, or just maybe mom or just dad. I hear no words spoken but the facial expressions give the full story. Frowns on the forehead, tight shoulders, fingers gripping the steering wheel, eyes forward, eyes sideward, and eyes glancing in the rear view mirror became the normal sight.

When did Christmas get so out-of-control?

I remember going to stores early and putting items on lay away. We had a small, like really, small tree, but a live one. My son and I strung Bubble Lights, if you can remember back that far, all through the tree. We used home-made decorations, his, not mine, and strung popcorn, with a needle and thread, until it covered the whole tree.

Guess, at this time year, memories roll backward and capture all of us. Roll back and recapture those memories. Roll forward and see what memories, as a writer, you can give to a different generation.

Thanks for letting me delve inward and hope you can gleam some insights to a new story.

Until another post, I want to wish all of my readers, friends, writers, and everyone I know, Merry Christmas, in whatever language or religion you believe. It is not how we believe, but what we believe.

Blessings,

Patricia

Music – Coffee Shops and Writing

unicorn dance

Do you use music when you write or do you need silence and isolation?

I love music, but play instrumental as I write. My mind can float with the orchestra or guitar strings and my fingers slide over the keyboard. Of course, the same thing happens if I start out with pen and paper. Soft jazz hits the spot for me. I do not use  music with singing. The songs and words take over my thoughts and my writing stops. What is your favorite music to write with or do you use any?

Coffee shops, do you use them when you write? There are times I need to get ‘out’ and a coffee shop fits the spot. No, I don’t know anyone, but feel alive. In fact, I can turn off the noise, conversations, and write with ease. I have not yet learned how to stop the coffee aroma around me.

Sometimes in spring, summer or early fall, I go to an outdoor patio. I people watch. Body languages are fun to read and may come at the moment when you need a change in your Heroine or Hero. Looking at facial expressions, can add spice to your story. All of your observations are in high gear. Play with your characters and their unsaid languages.

Have you ever been in a scene and nothing works? Your Muse is in hiding and your keyboard hits all the wrong keys. This romantic scene just sits in your mind and not on the computer. I put in a CD of piano music, light a candle, and sip a cup of hot tea. As I begin to relax, my Muse decides to return from her hidden spot. I ignore her. This is my hiding place. When the CD stops, the candle burns out, and the tea gets cold, I’ll be back writing and my Muse? She’ll be back. She needs to insert her view points.

Writing can be done anywhere, anytime, anyway. What are some of the unique avenues you travel when you write?

Have a happy Unicorn writing day.

BRIDGES FOR WRITING

Two friends“Edna, do you get this thing about bridges?”

Ethel, “No, and I am not going to sit on a bridge and write.”

What brought this to my mind? Watching the weather channel on television. There are so many disasters hitting people and countries, it would take too long to list every one and every place. However, we can connect to all these unusual events with bridges. Okay, why not include writing? We write from any available place: a computer on our desk, a laptop in our car, a worn out journal, a piece of paper, a napkin, even the back of our hands. If an idea hits, ya gotta grab it like NOW.

But how do bridges work? In a disaster, if there are distances between and a bridge is still standing, the teams sent in to do search, rescue, and get supplies to the affected areas, can use bridges. I came up with the same idea for writing. Here we are struggling to get an idea from the beginning to the end. Instead of getting all bent out of shape, pardon the cliché’, try a bridge method.

The story begins….a character needs to expand to another area….use a bridge. You can place your character(s) at the beginning of The Bridge and see what they do. Some will take steps forward and even venture to peer over the side. Others will see the long walkway with no safety net and back up. Then, you have a character who chomps at the bit and takes off for the other side. An adventure is awaiting their arrival.

The Bridge brings out the best and worst of a character’s attitude and altitude. You learn how your character reacts to heights, being alone, clinging to another character, unable to encounter the unknowing of what’s on the other side.

Push your characters to their limits and see how they handle situations. Once they are on The Bridge, a different side appears. You can give them a choice to return, if they are not past the middle. This is the place where the bridge can open, if a ship needs passage under. If your characters went to far, can they still cling to the side and hold on for the bridge to close. You learn another dimension of your character’s strength in hard places.

Okay, everyone is now headed down the other side of The Bridge, but what awaits them? This is where you get the tension flowing. Readers either turn pages fast or hesitate. They don’t want anything to happen to their character(s). This could be a no return. Each character needs either to rely on someone or shrug and go off in another direction.

With The Bridge, you took your characters from the normal, to a possibility, to an ending only they can decide. How will they react? How will your readers react? Remember, you can always throw a rope into the novel for a safety net.

Now you know your characters strengths and weaknesses. Make them shine and surprise, not only you, the author, but the reader

CROSS BRIDGES WITH CAUTION. HAPPY WRITING.

“See there, Edna, we worried for nothing. She’s not going to let us down.”

“Yeah, Ethel. I’m so happy. You know I don’t like heights.”

LET’S GO ON A WORD DIET

AudienceWhat? That won’t do a thing for my waistline or any other part of my anatomy. But, think of what it will do for your writing.

Sure?

More than sure. A positive move.

Look at all the excess words you have in your story. This will involve a little extra work, but worth its weight. As writers, we all like to expand on a setting, a scene, a character, or a narrative description. Due these additions drive your story forward? Does this make you character more believable? No. Sometimes these extra words detract from the story rather than add anything.

So, go back to the old-fashioned way — a printed version and a red pen. With all the pages in your lap, grab your red pen and uncap this instrument. Relax. This is not your gym exercise, but your brain in action. You need the television off, the radio off, and if you have some good meditation music on a CD, go for it.

Feel the tension float away. Music or no music, it does not matter as long as you are in the moment. Picture yourself as the reader of a new novel, not yours, but your alter ego’s writing. Put that thought on hold, during the reading. Then you can slash, and slash, and not feel a thing. However, your alter ego may not have a great day.

You are in the Diet Mode. Look at each word as necessary. How many times have you used the same word twice within a couple of paragraphs? Go back and slice with your red pen, an action known as PR Slice.

Have you explained any actions or just let the actions happen. If an explanation, use the RP Slice. Actions speak a heck of a lot louder than an explanation. A boxer does not explain each move, but the opponent feels every move.

Then look at your words as trying to get the reader to listen to every movement and they feel like you think they need to be told. Check for all of these places, delete, and rewrite. If you try to show the kiss or the sound of a kiss, write a stripped version of the scene. Guess what? Your reader will relate and remember their first kiss.

Do not make the reader have to grasp or wonder what is going on. This is your job as a writer. Each writer must give the reader everything to make that person become part of the novel.

By putting your novel on a diet, you have deleted explanations, double descriptions, and given the reader his or her utmost senses: I am part of this story. The Word Diet, restores the readers beliefs in the story and words. You have brought the reader to a place he or she remembers, but you have not told them. They recognized the place in an instant.

Congrats. You have lost xxxx words. Your reader is enthralled and you are xxxx pounds less. Showing is fewer calories than telling.

Happy Writing.

HOW DO YOU LET YOUR CHARACTERS SHOW. . .

BookclubToday, we are in a book club together. No particular book by name, but the book you are writing, and we want to discuss characters.

How do you let your characters show their power of empathy? You know the sensitive side of themselves without being overbearing. Can your characters (male and female, protagonist or antagonist) let down their attitudes and become human? There’s one character who can never let down his/her guard. Always on edge, waiting for something bad to happen. Now, this character needs your assistance. How can you provide without taking away the edge? Try to work in a little compassion and let your character have one moment where she/he might be vulnerable. The desire to share her/his concern is there, but not all at one time. This may be a ‘sore spot’ for the character and to empathize would take away the hardness needed to survive, or so the character thinks. Show all of these emotions to your readers, a little bit at a time. Even the most hardened character needs to be transformed.

Your character has allowed small irritations to fester, and heaven help the next person to encounter this explosion. Do you ignore the outbursts? Do you try to show your reader the insights to this character and why? Or, do you build up these small raw spots so the reader can relate to this character and empathize with these trouble areas.

Secrets….always pose a problem. Secrets are not secret as they come out each day in our characters’ lives. SHHH….. well forget this. Someone has spilled the can of beans all over the sidewalk. As a writer, you can have a ball with this scenario. Do you go overboard and show an oversensitive character or a thin-skinned character? Does your character get irritable or touchy and has no respect for herself or himself? Does this character want to get in a pay-back mood? Only you, the writer, will know how to handle this in your story; but be aware, you can have a great turn-around or one less character.

Now comes some fun parts.Think about friendship in a love relationship. One character wants a relationship and the other a friend. What a combustible fragment you can create. You know your characters, so could this be avoided? Not if you want your readers to follow every word, line, and page. One of your characters needs to crawl on the sofa and be held, comforted, a back rub, and nothing more. The other character wants to give more than a hug, a few kind words, and when nothing happens walks out the door or goes to another room.

Okay, put your heads together and I would love to hear some of your responses. There is no one way to solve or handle , but when a group gets together……watch out. Writers know how to handle the most delicate or horrendous situations.

Got a couple more for the next time. So, let me hear from you and we will conquer. What? Whatever needs to be conquered.

Happy Writing.

SPRING CLEANING IN DECEMBER

Seasonal_FestivalsIf you are a writer working on a manuscript, you need to revise, revise, and revise again. Sometimes, the word revise hits the wrong chord in your brain.The sound escaping is strained. I might be writing in “B-flat” and all I hear is “C-major.” No comparison on paper or in my thoughts. I shake my head and a new idea hits. Reasonable? Who knows, but it works for me in the SPRING CLEANING episode of my home. Wanna try?

After a long, cold winter, I open my closet door and look at all the heavy coats, sweaters, wool slacks, and think…..dry clean, dry clean, and another trip to the cleaners. Then, after many trips, many uses of my credit card, I return home. These heavy items are stacked in neat piles and all I see in my closet –  bright, clean, soft, ruffled (maybe, maybe not) clothes. I feel like a released prisoner, or how I think one should feel— free and in control.

Then the idea hits hard. Compare writing and housecleaning. Do you wait until you have a  problem getting in the front door? What about closets? Are you able to find what you need, quick like in a hurry? And those pesky kitchen cupboards create chaos. These require more than just a SPRING CLEANING.

My manuscript creates havoc when I do not take the time to “clean words.” On this, we as writers can agree. The story is in our heads, minds, hearts, fingers, and clutter adds up, big time. Do not wait until the file folder will not shut, or the closet door cannot shut. Write, and write and write. When in the flow, flow with the flow, and keep the words flying across the white space before you in black letters. When the mind slows down and words creep onto the page or computer screen, this is the time to shut down and clean a closet cupboard, or at least straighten the linen closet.

Change the pace and the project. If it is winter, spring, summer or fall, the process is the same. Get going. After a few hours of stomping, throwing, discarding making decisions, I can stand back and look at the results. I can see all of the towels, sheets pillowcases–get the picture? Gee whiz, I have enough pots, pans, bowls and electric gadgets in the kitchen to last for a long time. My wallet is a little heavier. Why, I have what I need and no excess baggage.

Keep this energy turned on and find the manuscript file. There might be one, two or three files, but remember…spring clean one and see the results. Start at the beginning and read like you are being a paid worker and your employer (you) needs results. Hey, this is a big project and I do not have to finish in one day. In fact, it is better continued over a few weeks.

LOOK! Why did I put that word here? It has nothing to do with the scene. Keep going. This means looking at each word (pot, pan, towel, and sheet) and wondering about its use. Keep or discard. SPRING CLEAN the manuscript a little at a time until you see the words, THE END. Now, close your file folder, as you would the closet door or cupboard door and see if you feel comfortable. If not, start another SPRING CLEAN, even if the leaves have started changing. GO. GO. GO.

Doesn’t this sound better than revising, revisions and clutter? I have more fun and get a lot more accomplished, both in my manuscript and my home.

HAPPY WRITING. HAPPY SPRING CLEANING. HAPPY FUN TIMES.