Category Archives: Writing Life

Cleaning Bathrooms Is Exactly Like Editing

I have three boys, which means lots of resident testosterone. Add in friends, and the testosterone count increases exponentially. Throw in one daughter with finger nail polish, make up and ponytail holders to spice things up. Now you’ve got a glimpse into my house. As you can imagine, bathrooms quickly become a place I detest while maintaining a firm spot at the top of my TLC list. I can clean and clean and clean again, and yet every time I walk into a bathroom, I could clean it once again. Toothpaste on the mirror (how the heck does it get there?), soap scum in the sink, empty shampoo bottles, emptier toilet paper rolls and overflowing wastebaskets. Not to mention the toilet. I walk out, and someone else walks in. Scrub, restock, repeat.

Same with editing. No matter how many times I revise, rework and edit, my manuscript is never perfect. It just looks that way until the next time I pick it up.

Tiring: yes. Frustrating: even more so. Worth it? Heck yeah.

I just scrubbed my middle grade manuscript this weekend. It required a little picking up, not a major cleansing. Now to send it off to my editor, which is a bit like inviting the proverbial mother-in-law into the bathroom with a white glove…

What do you love about editing? What do you hate about it?

Curious minds want to know!

Advertisements

Survival of the Fittest: what’s your writing adaptability

This morning Dear Hubby packed for yet another work trip. After several years of packing and unpacking and forgetting and remembering certain items, you’d think he’d have it down pat. But alas, he says to me just before heading out, “I almost forgot my running shoes again.”

DH is a workout fanatic. He likes to work out hard, pushing himself to the next level and then the next. Because of this, Shawn T is a big name around our house. We have a love/hate relationship with him. I hate him, and DH loves him. Insane, yes, I know. But despite DH’s go-get-em attitude, he has one teeny, tiny flaw. He has plantar fasciitis so bad he can barely walk from the bedroom to the bathroom without his inserts in. Shoe wearing is a must nearly every minute of the day.

Me, however, I have perfect arches. I’ve tackled Shawn T in my bare feet. I stairmaster shoeless and have even been known to attempt to run on the treadmill sans footwear.

Needless to say, these differences led to a conversation about how DH would have never survived in ancient times. We giggled over the outcome of what this would have looked like back in the day. In particular, because we always joke that if a bear was chasing us, DH would only have to outrun me to save himself–an easy endeavor on any given day, as I don’t run. Period. That said, I wouldn’t need to run fast or far if we were in a barefoot race, because my buff hubby and his plantar fasciitis would take the finish line last every time.

This, ironically, is a conversation I’ve had with my big sister in times past. She’s legally blind and can’t even see herself in the mirror to put her contacts in, while I have 20/20 vision. “If we lived in the wild,” she’s been known to say, “our parents would have eaten me so they’d have more energy to save you.”

Guess what, writers? There’s survival of the fittest in the literary world, too. As writers, we all have fatal flaws that can kill us off before we ever get started. Triumphing in the publishing wilderness takes savvy, perseverance, talent, time, patience, motivation, huge pots of coffee, refusal to succumb to a little pain and learning to flourish despite it. We must be flexible and able to adapt to the changing market, to our own down falls and to the obstacles that get put in our way.

Survival of the fittest is a brutal process that we face each day in writing and in life.

But, as my Dear Hubby so eloquently says, “I only need to outrun you.”

In reality, sometimes the only person we need to outrun is ourselves.

Do you have what it takes to survive? What are your fatal flaws and how have you overcome them?

Curious minds want to know.

Does Writing From Home Affect Your Worth?

The other day, a fellow writer lamented that she’d been brushed aside at a social gathering simply because she was an author, not an employee. Not surprisingly, this sentiment is echoed by many Write at Home Moms.

WrAH Moms are given the hand wave, the shoulder shrug and the scrunched-in-disgust face by women who nine to five it off the homestead. They acutely feel the disdain of the working. As if being there for their kids while writing, editing and marketing a novel equates sitting on the couch watching Family Ties reruns while downing copious amounts of soda. As if their contribution to their families and to society is somehow inferior–less than–the work these other women do.

I suppose it comes from the idea that respect is tied to a paycheck, and that being home is as old-fashioned as June Cleaver’s hair-do.

“You just stay at home,” says the working mother of two with a cleaning lady, a nanny and her summers off.

Yep. Just.

Compounding this feeling of failure is the fickleness and speed (or lack thereof) of the publishing industry. Not every great manuscript gets published. In fact, many never find homes as publishers navigate the technology rush that has changed the face of book marketing. And even when novels earn a contract, it can take up to three years before they hit the bookshelves–cyber or otherwise. To the paycheck mentality who doesn’t understand the nuances of the literary world, this is a whole lot of wasted time and a lot of reruns.

So this post goes to my fellow WaH Moms. I believe in you. I understand what it’s like to be looked down upon for pursuing your passion. I get how hard it is to carve out time to write while balancing the volunteer activities you do, the families you raise, the business mind you must have to market yourself, the part time jobs you keep and the disdain you endure for doing most of it quietly behind the closed doors of your home–all for paychecks that might take years in the making.

Your time is worth something. Your words do matter. You are a viable thread in the tapestry of the world. Without you, picture books could not be shared between parent and child, schools would have no material with which to teach, vacationers would have no beach reads, scholars would have no way to enhance their learning and countless editors, marketers, publishers, illustrators, designers, carpenters, architects, store clerks, librarians, CEOs, janitors, teachers, etc, etc, etc, would be without jobs.

The written word has power. It can be responsible for cultural movements. It graces humanity with possibilities. It is vital to our society’s success. And you are a part of that–sitting on your couch, agonizing over word choices, disseminating fact from fiction, sharing your thoughts in only the way you can.

To hell with the naysayers and dust bunnies. Take pride in your work–and even more so, the process. Writing is some of the hardest work I have ever done.

If you have encountered similar situations, how do you handle them?

Writing Reviews Equals Selling Power

Going into a purchase blind isn’t something people usually do nowadays. More and more, buyers look for the stars before shelling out their hard earned cash. And rightfully so, as nothing stinks worse than spending your dough on subpar products.

However, I look beyond the stars to the review itself. I want to know why people love–or hate–a product. I want to know how it fits and how it holds up. I want to know the nitty-gritty as well as the undying lust. In short, reviews are the cyber-sphere’s version of word of mouth.

So, do your fellow buyers a favor and review the products you’ve purchased. Be honest, but not callous. Or, conversely, not all gushy-mushy. Give solid reasons for your likes and dislikes. Share whether you would purchase the product again or whether you’d buy it for your Aunt Harriet. Lastly, don’t forget to mention the reason why.

The why is the key to a good review.

  • Super cute, but the craftsmanship seems shoddy. The sole separated from the shoe within a week.
  • The skirt was the perfect length for my 5’2″ frame. Too often mini skirts on me are maxi sized.
  • The phone case actually fit my LG G2. I had to search long and hard to find one that works for Verizon’s special size. (True story, which begs the question: Verizon, why is your version a different size than every other carrier’s? Seriously.)
  • Despite keeping me glued to every page, the end of this novel was a disappointment. I didn’t like that the story had no real resolution–not unless I buy the next novel in the trilogy.
  • The mugs were broken when I received them. The supplier immediately resent new ones, which my mother-in-law loves because they are smaller than most giving her time to drink her coffee before it cools.
  • Likeable characters, but no real depth. The perfect beach read that you can walk away from when you’re done.

Solid reasons that neither gush nor shame. Rather, they have a mixture of both. Now, as a buyer, I can pick and choose which products will likely satisfy me. And so can you. But only if people leave reviews for us to sort through.

Only if you and I take the time to review the products we buy.

Do negative reviews scare you away from buying a product? What types of information do you find most helpful in a review? Least helpful? Are you a reviewer, or more of a reader of reviews?

From the author standpoint, it’s been said that it takes 20 reviews (good, bad or indifferent) to impact sales and draw readers toward your writing. How do you garner reviews for your writing?

Curious minds want to know.

Sealed Lips Sink Ships: pushing away support

So, I had an eye-opening experience this past week. With two novels under contract–one due out in a week and the other next year–I was feeling a little put out that my Dear Hubby wasn’t flapping his gums about my impending success.

Right? I mean, I’ve worked so hard to perfect my craft and piece together stories worthy of public consumption. Shouldn’t he be hanging from the streetlights with a megaphone?

Okay, part of that is a silly fairytale dream, but equal parts are true. As spouses, we support each other publicly and privately–except in this one small area. So, we sat down and had a heart to heart. Turns out, I’m the one who sealed his lips from years of being so guarded with my writing.

Scenario 1

  • Him: Whatcha working on?
  • Me: Nothing. Just stuff.

Scenario 2

  • Him: What did you get done today?
  • Me: Not enough.

Scenario 3

  • Him: What’s your new story about?
  • Me: Hmmm, it’s kind of hard to explain…

Scenario 4

  • Him: walks by as I peck at my computer
  • Me: covers screen in embarrassment

I could write a thousand and one more scenarios, but the point will always be the same. I. Am. Terrified.

I’m terrified to talk about my writing, to share my writing, to articulate where I’m at in the process. I am insanely scared of being judged when my work is incomplete. Once I’ve finished a piece–and by finished I mean polished to near perfection–I’m tolerably okay with sharing.

The problem is that by sitting behind my writing wall for so many years, I’ve shut him out. Him and probably other people as well. Not a good place to be when you’re gearing up to throw your baby onto the world’s bookshelves.

So I ask you, dear writers, have you locked your writing and your writing process behind fences and walls to the point where you feel isolated from those who would otherwise love to support you? If so, it’s time to throw the gates wide. The question is how…

If  you’re one of the smarter ones and have been open with your writing from the get-go, please share any tips you have so the rest of us can learn to gracefully and graciously accept the support we so desperately want, but so completely push away.

Curious minds need some help!

Little Dog. Big World.

I love reading. I love writing. I love the idea that Somebody Somewhere reads the words I write. And yet, it’s terrifying.

IMAG0260My stories are small dogs in the giant kennel of life. They are but an infinitesimal dot on the landscape of literature. The period at the end of a single sentence in the vastness of the Library of Congress.

Yet my hope is that Somebody Somewhere will be impacted–in a good way–by the tales I tell. But there’s so much great writing out there already that I worry how my words will hold up against the books on the world’s bookshelf.

Over the last decade, I’ve had short stories, poetry and articles published in various places under various names. This past year alone has been a bit of a rush with six short stories in four anthologies, a major project in the works and a debut novel coming out this fall under my alter ego.

And yet I wonder: how will you find my writing? Physically and emotionally. Will you stumble across it on someone’s coffee table, on an Amazon recommended list, on GoodReads or a blog? Will you hear about it because Someone Somewhere said, “Hey, you have to read this.”? Or, will it languish in the corner like a naughty, half-starved mutt in the kennel? You know the ones. The kind so ugly they hurt your sensibilities with a yappy bark so annoying your ears bleed. Yeah, those dogs.

Confession time: I am terrified that in addition to being a small dog in a big world, my writing is subpar at best.

Although, Someone Somewhere took a chance on me. I’ve had an agent. I’ve had editors. I’ve even got a publisher. What I seem to struggle with is the confidence to just flop down with the big dogs like I belong.

How do you gather the courage to pursue your passions despite the fears that go along with them? Are you as terrified of succeeding as you are of failing? Do you ever feel like a little dog in a big world?

Curious minds want to know.

That Moment When…

  • You walk out of the store and realize your sock is stuck to the Velcro on your pants pocket,
  • You thought you had your hand on the back of the couch, not your neighbor’s chest,
  • You count your toes each and every time you see your feet–in case a digit has somehow been lost since the last time you checked,
  • You realize you are entirely more human than you want to be and just can’t change the past no matter how often you replay it in your head.

This weekend, my family came to visit from states far and wide. Together, we reminisced. Hilarious childhood memories abounded, long-dormant quirks were revealed and new moments were forever burned into our collective soul.

I won’t tell you which of the above I am guilty of. Just know that I am capable of stirring up a commotion wherever I go. And so should our characters.

As a reader, my new favorite character is Dante Walker by Victoria Scott. He’s a bad boy who feels so real that I literally LOL when he talks. Miss Scott has nailed his personality–full of elevated self-worth, harsh judgments and acid wit. If I weren’t happily married with four kids and three dogs, I just might be tempted to call him up for a date.

Dante, as portrayed by his creator, is unabashedly himself. He’s not wishy-washy. Rather, he’s fully engaged in who he is, what he does and why he does it. He takes human foibles to a whole new level and reeks of a charisma so potent I can’t stop the pitter-pattering of my heart.

I fell in love all over again with my three wonderful siblings this weekend as we sat on the bed at 11:30 at night and tried on each other’s glasses to see who was more blind. They/we are goofy, fun-loving, serious, smart, quirky, strange, hilarious and utterly teasable.

As a writer, I can only hope to fill up my novels with such depth and character as was shared in a few short hours. Because truly, being human is downright amazing on so many levels. Capturing that magic and bringing it to our readers is an art.

Dear Readers: who is your favorite character now-a-days and why?

Dear Writers: how do you capture the essence of a character and write him in such a way he comes alive?

Curious minds want to know.