Writing Through It

One of my favorite days of the year is October first. Not only is it my husband’s birthday, but it is the day I mark to bring the Halloween decorations up from the basement. Halloween is at the top of my list for fun holidays. I dress for the Trick-or-Treaters and we pipe spooky music out of the upstairs window. My outdoor decorations are on the fun side rather than the creepy. I love the tiny tykes who are out for the first time in their princess crowns, ninjas, or ghost costumes.

October is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It doesn’t score high on my “fun holiday” list but, being a survivor it has risen to an important level for me. I went through treatment in 2015 and three years later I am thrilled that I am still cancer free.

A couple of questions were posed to me (Insecure Writers Support Group) about major life events and writing. The exact questions were: How do major life events affect your writing? Has writing ever helped you through something?

Breast Cancer was definitely a major life event, and here is how it effected my writing – Cancer crushed it.

Early in 2014 I had changed my focus to writing. I attended Pikes Peak Writer’s Conference starting my uphill learning curve to write and publish a book. My brain was overloaded with the amount of information I had to absorb, but I was in for the long haul and I was happy.

Then late in November 2014 I found the lump. My entire life crumbled around me as I collapsed on the floor weeping. Cancer? Me? How? Why? Treatment began in earnest on Christmas Eve.

Did this event affect my writing? I’d say a very loud YES. Did writing help me through it? Again, I yell, YES. But, it helped me through it in a way most people aren’t expecting. When I am emotionally raw I do not write about it. I don’t keep a journal. More often than not I collapse inward curled in a ball. Once the pain subsides I will reawaken moving on in my life.

Cancer was a big blow not only to my emotional well-being, but my physical as well. One of the big side effects that many non-cancer people are unaware of is “chemo-brain”. When a patient receives chemotherapy not only is the entire body decimated, the brain is too. Sometimes the damage lasts for years afterward.

Chemo-brain effects memory, cognition, problem solving, logic, and an array of other things that happen in the old noggin. Trying to write while impaired was an immense challenge for me. The harder I tried to think of a word the further out of reach that word went. My brain was thick slog. Nouns, verbs, adverbs, sentence structure, and spelling were not just elusive at times, but completely gone. I remember many days not being able to remember enough about sentence structure to make much more than babble.

This highly frustrating process of writing babble is what helped my brain begin healing. I forced myself to write a little bit here and there no matter how awful the story progressed. I wrote short stories, flash fiction, poetry, and all sorts of other garbage just to find the words again – making mental connections.

Three years later the struggle to write has lessened. When I need a word I can more easily find it. There are still residual mis-connections up there, but my doctor assures me that this will eventually pass. Keep writing and keep healing.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I ask you to take the time and make a contribution to the organization of your choice. My personal favorite is the American Cancer Society. If you would like to read my cancer story you can link to part one, Dread in the Dark, here.

I also hope that you have a very Spook-tacular Halloween!!

Until next time….


This post inspired by The Insecure Writers Support Group. Our awesome co-hosts for the October 3 posting of the IWSG are Dolorah @ Book Lover, Christopher D. Votey, Tanya Miranda, and Chemist Ken!

 

This is also a BLOG HOP! Click here to enter.

Writing Goals

Over the past few years I have read a lot about the importance of setting goals. Not just personal goals, but for writing as well. One challenge many writers face (including myself) is procrastination. Goal setting helps stave this off which allows us to postpone those things in life that can wait a few hours while we write.

There are two kinds of goals: long term and short term.  It is through many sets of short term goals that the long term goals are reached. Take writing for example. I my case, in order to write a book (my ultimate goal) I had to set about achieving some smaller goals first. In order to show you my process let’s go back a few years.

It was about five or six years ago I decided my career needed a change from MLMs to something that, at the very least, wouldn’t cost me any money. My MLM businesses were resounding failures and I wasn’t getting any younger. Back then, my daughter was talking non-stop about writing and studying creative writing in college so I thought that I could too. Well, not study in college, but to find other avenues that would achieve the same thing.

My first small goal was to learn everything I could about writing fiction, specifically fantasy/sci-fi. A friend recommended I attend a writer’s conference (Pikes Peak Writers) to get started. It was also recommended to read what I wanted to write. I already read a lot (I still go through about 80-90 books a year), but now I read as writer. Today, I am still learning to write. I don’t think anyone who writes ever stops learning, but I think I have taken a major chunk out of the beast. 

My next smallish goal was to start writing. I knew I could write, after all I did write for a local mountain newspaper and a few articles were accepted online that actually paid real money. Even though they were short, journalistic pieces, I was still a published writer. Someone liked what I wrote, so I should be able to write a book too (my ultimate goal).

Another small goal I set was to write on a regular basis. This one has been a little hit or miss, but I do work at it. Every February I do the 28 Days of Writing Challenge and in April I started the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Both of these challenges fit my relaxed style. I also do a monthly post with the #IWSG. I did try NaNoWriMo once and I was so stressed out it nearly made me sick. I work on my book, at the very least, once per week, write book reviews as I finish a book (I don’t have time to write a review on every book, but some do get written), and poke a stick at around writing short stories. One day I’ll write everyday (another ultimate goal), but for now I am happy where I’m at.

My ultimate writing goal has not changed over the past five or six years: finish writing a novel of at least 80,000 words. I don’t have a specific time frame, but if it is done before I die then that will be a good thing. It is through the accomplishment of many smaller goals, done over and over again, that it will be written. I look forward to writing, THE END.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Today’s blog post is inspired by:

 

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

 

July 3 question of the month- What are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time (if at all)?

The awesome co-hosts for the July 3 posting of the IWSG are Nicki Elson, Juneta Key, Tamara Narayan, and Patricia Lynne!

 

****IT’S A BLOG HOP!!****
Powered by Linky Tools
Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

 

What Season is More Productive?

I have never had this question posed to me. When do I write the most? I have never paid very much attention to my productivity in the past, but I can say that this year I have written more the first half of 2018 than any other time I can remember.

The first burst came in February for the 28 Days of Writing Challenge. It is hosted by Leap into Writing and your’s truly, me. I started this challenge about three years ago because I liked my sanity…NaNoWriMo is in November. Really? For me, this is one of the worse months of the year. I can easily say that November and December are zero-productive months so NaNo was out.

On the other hand, February is one of the most boring months of the year, and it’s short. Leap into Writing was born during the last Leap Year, along with 29 Days of Writing. (Obviously, every other year is 28 days so I renamed it the next year). This challenge is to write every day of the month. No days off allowed. Write as many words as you can and you’re golden. We also do weekly challenges (Word Wars is my favorite) to get the word counts up, along with writing prompts to get the creative juices flowing.

A second burst came in April with the A to Z Writing Challenge. This just finished up a couple of days ago, and I now have 26 blog posts more than I would have had without it. I enjoyed trying to come up with a blog subject based on a letter of the alphabet, and I hope you enjoyed reading them too.

Last, a big inspiration for this time of year is Pikes Peak Writer’s Conference. PPWC is always an inspiration and a great way to kick off the summer to write. If you are a writer, I encourage you to attend a writing conference near you (or take a vacation and travel to one far away). Here are just a few suggestions:

I’m sure there are many, many more. If there is a conference you love to go to please list them in the comments below.

For now, I am in the most productive stage of my writing career. I am excited! What about you?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This post Inspired by:

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Our amazing co-hosts for the May 2 posting of the IWSG are E.M.A. Timar, J. Q. Rose, C.Lee McKenzie, and Raimey Gallant!

It’s a Blog Hop too! https://www.linkytools.com/basic_linky_include.aspx?id=103850

Y is for YOY? (Why Oh Why?)

Tonight I am asking myself, Why oh why did I wait until 10:00 at night to write this post?” I could have pre-written it, put up it on the scheduler, and had it automatically post today. But did I do that? No. So, here I am, 10:00 at night (yes I know, that’s not late to most people) writing my ‘Y’ post for the A to Z blog Challenge.

Why did I wait? I blame it all on the Pikes Peak Writer’s 2018 Conference – #PPWC2018. What an awesome event. Pikes Peak Writers hosts an annual conference where they bring a few hundred writers together, throw them in a hotel for three days with authors, publishers, editors, and agents who teach all these writers an amazing amount of writerly things.

I have come to PPWC for the past four years and love it. I have not only gained a wealth of knowledge from the facilitators, but I have made some lasting friendship as well. Each year I leave PPWC with my mouth hanging open and my brain bursting from all of the amazing things I have learned. WOW.

This year, I was not disappointed. Just to list a few classes I attended:

  • Perfect Placement – Debbie Maxwell talked about where to put the power words. When power words are at the end of a sentence, scene, or paragraph this compels your reader to keep reading.
  • Busting the Block – MB Partlow guided us through ways to overcome writers block. My favorite ideas were to have one of your characters pull out a gun. Even if that action isn’t relative to the story that’s ok. It is an excersises to get the creative juices going again.
  • WordPress for Writers – Kristy Ferrin took us, step by step, through the process of setting up WP. Even though I have been on WP for several years, I finally found out how to use some of those “things” (like what the heck is a plug-in?).

Over the course of three days there are over 60 workshops to choose from, panels, queries, critiques. Then there is always Write Drunk, Edit Sober. This prompt driven writing session is very popular too.

So, here I am, sitting on my bed in a hotel room, computer in my lap, and I’m no longer wondering Y-O-Y did I wait to write this post? I’m glad I did. I’m glad I could share just a little bit of this wonderful weekend with you. Next year, you all will be here too!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This post inspired by – Y

Z is for Zoo

It’s Almost Over, Saying Goodbye to 2017

What many people may not realize about being a writer is that it can be nerve wracking. We writers pour our hearts and souls into what we do, and if there is a single misspelled word we feel failure. It is not an easy job, but one that we all feel crazily compelled to do. We can be an insecure bunch of people, but we are not in it alone.

I am a member of The Insecure Writers Support Group, and every month we are given a question that we can answer in our IWSG post. These questions may prompt us to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. This month, the last in a very long year, our question is:

As you look back on 2017, with all its successes/failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently?

The only thing I would do differently is to wrap my entire family in bubble wrap. Without going into detail, let me just say that seeing the inside of nine emergency rooms in twelve months is more than anyone should have to go through. (No one died this year, so there’s that). To say the least, this put a huge crimp on my writing progress. Getting a story out has been the last thing on my to-do list.

It wasn’t all bad though. I did manage to complete a couple of short stories, several blog posts, and I wrote everyday for NaNoWriMo. My debut novel, The Manx, is shaping up with characters that are living and breathing entities in a brilliant world. I also attended two writing conferences (PPWC and RMFW) where I reconnected with writers across the country and re-energized my creative battery. I also had the pleasure to meet one of my favorite authors, Diane Gabaldon.

At book signing during RMFW2017

My advice to anyone who is in the thick of life’s challenges? Get through it anyway you can. Writing does not have to be at the top of your to-do list, but sometimes it should surface to the top just so you can have a few moments of sanity. It is okay to let the words fall by the side of the road while you are trying to maintain a straight direction with four flat tires.

Say goodbye to 2017 because 2018 will be a better year. It has to be.

Thanks to our awesome co-hosts for the December 6 posting of the IWSG, Julie Flanders, Shannon Lawrence, Fundy Blue, and Heather Gardner!

Chris Mandeville

Chris Mandeville

Author Chris Mandeville joins us today for a quick chat.

KJ ~Tell us a little bit about yourself.
CHRIS ~ I’m a UC Berkeley grad, wife of a retired Air Force officer, and mom of three boys. I grew up in California, moved around a bit with the military (including a stint in Canada), then settled in Colorado where I’m more than happy to stay. Once upon a time I worked in advertising (most notably on the Lexus launch and Iams Pet Food) and also taught preschool. Since leaving the paid workforce to raise my children, I’ve always kept busy doing some kind of volunteer work or other, including working with the Red Cross, Project Sanctuary (www.projectsanctuary.org), and Pikes Peak Writers (www.pikespeakwriters.com) where I served for more than ten years on their Board of Directors. Now I’m a full-time writer and president of Delve Writing, an online community providing boot camps for writers (www.delvewriting.com). I love to teach writing and spend time with other writers, so look for me at writing events in Colorado and online, or contact me if you’d like me to present a writing workshop for your group: Chris@delvewriting.com

KJ ~ What are you working on right now?
CHRIS ~ I write New Adult speculative fiction and currently have a post-apocalyptic under consideration at several publishers and literary agencies. While that manuscript is making the rounds, I’m trying my hand at something new: this week I began working on a mystery novel. I love reading mysteries but this is my first time writing one. I’m also putting together an ebook for writers: 52 Ways to Name a Character which is due out later this year.

KJ ~Of the books you have written, which one would you like to tell us about?
CHRIS ~ 52 Ways to Get Unstuck: Exercises to Break Through Writer’s Block
http://www.amazon.com/author/chrismandeville
This is a comprehensive guide to overcoming writer’s block, including suggestions for how to prevent it from occurring. It includes innovative exercises, anecdotes, and advice from dozens of authors.

KJ ~ What was the hardest part about getting this book from the first ideas to publication?
CHRIS ~ There was nothing hard about the project itself—it was a dream to write. The only slight difficulty was that occasionally during the writing process I missed working on fiction because the nonfiction process keeps me in my own life rather than transporting me to “somewhere else.”

KJ ~Where did you get your inspiration for this book?
CHRIS ~ Several years ago the Pikes Peak Writers Conference was in need of a workshop on writer’s block and asked if I could put together something on that topic. I did and “52 Ways to Get Unstuck” was born. The workshop was so well received, I immediately began making plans to put it into book form, but it took me awhile to wrap up some fiction projects before turning my focus to nonfiction.

KJ ~ What books or authors have influenced you the most and why?
CHRIS ~ In terms of nonfiction books for writers, several have been very influential in both my fiction and nonfiction writing. In particular, GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict by Debra Dixon and Writing the Fiction Synopsis by Pam McCutcheon have been invaluable. As far as fiction, I’ve been influenced, inspired, and instructed (as well as entertained) in countless ways by hundreds of books over the course of my life. If I had to choose just one, I’d say Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman stands out as being the most influential because it was only in reading this book that I learned to embrace my own voice as a writer.

KJ ~What are your favorite books that you have read simply for pleasure?
CHRIS ~ Iron House by John Hart, The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman, Midwives by Chris Bohjalian, Diane Mott Davidson’s Goldie the Caterer series, Faye Kellerman’s Decker series, everything by Jeffery Deaver, and I just finished –and loved– The Breakup Doctor by Phoebe Fox.

KJ ~What does a typical writing day look like for you?
CHRIS ~ I like to write in “binges” rather than for a set amount each day, so a typical writing day for me is to tank up on coffee at breakfast, then write all day until something forces me to stop (sometimes that’s making dinner or sometimes I’ll write into the evening). It’s not uncommon for me to put in 8-10 hours on a good writing day. If I’m on a deadline I’ll sneak an hour or two of writing into a busy non-writing day, but I usually plan my week so that I have the opportunity for a couple of binges. The only essentials—besides time—are coffee and my laptop. I can write anywhere, but my usual spot is in a comfy leather chair in the pub at my house. There I have a great view of the woods, it’s quiet except for the wind in the trees, and I have an espresso maker within reach. Heaven.

KJ ~Do you have strategies for getting past those days that are hard to write?
CHRIS ~ Yes! The specific strategy depends on the type of difficulty I’m having. Often when it’s “hard to write” that simply means I’m having trouble getting my butt in the chair and I need to clear the decks and put my nose to the grindstone. I seldom have difficulty being productive once my butt is in the chair and my hands are on the keyboard. If I’m stuck on something related to story/character, or if I’m having difficulty turning my focus away from my non-writing life, I turn to one of the strategies in my book, 52 Ways to Get Unstuck. My top strategies are to take a shower or take a drive.

KJ ~If you took a two-week vacation in any book or story, where would you go and who would you be?
CHRIS ~ Most of what I read is mystery/suspense/thriller, and I don’t want to take a vacation amidst killers, corpses, and danger! So I think I’d choose to go to C.S. Lewis’ Narnia, and I’d want to be myself. I’ve already seen how the characters in the Narnia stories interact with their world; I’d want to experience that magical place for myself as myself.

————————————-

Coming July 31: Anthonette Klinkerman (2 time winner of the Reader’s Choice Award) is the author of “Battle of the Grandmas” and she shares some of her thoughts about writing this children’s book.

PPWC 2014

Over the weekend I was treated to an amazing four days surrounded by writers. For the first time, I attended the Pikes Peak Writers Conference (PPWC) and I don’t think I have learned so much since I was in college. Let me share with you just a few of the highlights, but before I do, did I mention that I was surrounded by writers? Oh, and editors, and agents, and more writers. There were even writers who have books. Yes, plural….BOOKS that are actually published and available on Amazon (or a bookstore near you). I was in writer’s heaven.

I sat in on workshops taught by authors like Becky Clark, Kris Tualla, Linda Rohrbough, Brandy Vallance, Chuck Wedig, Cindi Myers, Jim Hines, and Carol Berg. I was given an opportunity to read a first page of my historical fiction to Beth Phelan (The Bent Agency) who had some great feedback for me. I had lunch with a detective, and dinner with an agent, and after every meal I was back at it again. WHEW!!

The workshops were all amazing. I could take each one and share all the details with you, but that would actually take an entire book and I really only have the space for a blog. So, let me just give you some of the tips (in the form of a bulleted list) that stood out for me.

  • Self-editing is, and must be, painful. Take yourself into “editing triage” and rip that first draft down to your best writing.
  • Do your research when it comes to indie publishing. There are a ton of options to publish that famous novel so check out all the available avenues.
  • Make a good marketing plan. You are your own product (I should say your book is your product) and it needs to be sold. A marketing plan will make that happen.
  • Know your genre. If you have written a horror romance novel, be sure you publicize it as such. Your readers will be upset if they think they have a romance novel when it is more a murder mystery with a bit of romance in it.
  • Create memorable characters that come to life off the pages. Think of them as people who live beyond your book. Who are they? What do they like? What is their favorite color?
  • Your first draft will be crappy and that is a good thing. NO ONE writes beautiful prose right out of the starting gate (well, I should never say no one but you know what I mean). Get your story on paper by any means. Don’t do any research during the first draft. Don’t do any editing during your first draft. Just get it down on paper!
  • Be sure to develop your characters as much as you develop the plot. One gives the other form and color.
  • Real life can be, at times, pretty boring. Leave it out! Your readers already have to live some of that boredom and you, as the writer, do not need to inflict this upon them in your book.
  • If you are writing a book….get Scrivener or some other software dedicated to writing novels. It will save your sanity and prevent balding. OK, you might still go bald, but you won’t rip your hair out while you write.

The four days did come to an end and I fell into what was referred to as post-conference slump. I wanted to continue riding the wave with my fellow writers, but alas, life called me back home. I made new friends and I learned so much about the craft of writing. I am looking forward to applying all the things I learned in my writing. I hope you will consider joining me next year at PPWC and enjoy a piece of writer’s heaven too.