How to Write a Book

School is starting – hurray!  Back to writing every day.  Time to research, time to query, time to blog – can you tell I’m excited?  I got a few things done this summer, but not much real writing.  This year both kids will be in school, so I have five days a week to devote to writing.  And I will.  At least four hours a day, because I have decided that this is what I want to do with my life.  If I want to be a writer, to publish a book, then the most important thing I can do is write.  Everyday and all the time.

How much do you write?  Do you wait until inspiration strikes?  Do you wait until you have a free day?  Or are you one of those who says, “I should write a book.  If I only had time, I could do that.”  I used to be all three.  But the further I have gone on this journey, the more I have realized that the time is now and that you have to fight for time to write.  I spent my youth thinking, “I’ll write a book one day.”  Well, a few months before my 30th birthday, I lost a friend in a car accident.  It made me think.  I always say one day, but how many days do we really get?  Dealing with a chronic illness, I have definitely had times in my life where I thought I wouldn’t make it to my next birthday.

Seeing a friend die so young, with so much unfinished, made me realize that some day is now.  We shouldn’t put off the things that are important to us.  If you want to be a writer, write!  That’s the only way to write a book, one word at a time.  Writing a book isn’t nearly as hard as deciding to write a book.  So pick up a computer, or a pen, or even a crayon.  Start writing and let your someday be today.

Sorry for the Interruption

I’m back!  Sorry guys, I had a Crohn’s setback and have been in the hospital for the last week.  After careful consideration, I decided that pain medication and social media do not mix well.  But I’m back home and trying to climb back in the saddle, writing-wise.

This one really took me by surprise.  I was in such a good stride after the conference.  I was motivated and inspired, I had queries out, and was waiting for replies.  I was writing daily and making great progress with my new novel. And then, BAM – hospital time.  A week of pain and the swirling haze of narcotics, and my mind is reduced to mush.   And now I’m facing a possible liver complication.  How do I pull myself out of this and get back on my path?  I don’t really have an answer for that question.  For now I’m just putting fingers to keyboard and hoping something comes out.  But I will not give up on my dream.  Crohn’s has moved somethings out of my reach, but it will not take this away from me.

Join me next week, for an interview with my favorite new poet, Elijah Burrell.  Check out his book A Skin of the River on amazon.  Thanks for reading!

Writing Emotions: Being Vulnerable

Yay, it’s Tuesday.  Except not yay here in the south, because we’re about to get slammed with yet another winter storm. That means picking kids up from school early, driving through ice, being stuck inside for days on in, etc.  It’s time for Spring, I say!

On a  happier note, I would like to say how surprised and happy I was to see so many people register for my blog last week.  I was starting to worry that no one was reading except my husband and my mom. So thanks guys, you made my week!

Today I want to talk about writing emotion.  Not because I’m an expert by any means, but because I think it’s interesting to hear how different people go about writing emotions in a book.  In order to make your readers feel something for your characters, you have to make their emotions feel real.  You have to create characters and situations that people can relate to, and those can fall flat if the emotions you are writing about don’t feel authentic.

To make emotion feel authentic, I have to let myself be vulnerable.  I have to use my own emotions and my own pain to paint my characters’ pain.  I don’t mean that my characters are little versions of myself who speak and act like me.  I simply mean that anyone who creates uses their own experiences – good or bad – to help give their own creation life.  For example, the physical pain that I feel with Crohn’s disease doesn’t mean I understand what it’s like to be a victim of abuse, but I have an idea of what it’s like to endure something you cannot control, that causes you harm.  I don’t know what it’s like to have lost a child, but my miscarriages give me an idea of the pain that would cause.

That’s part of what makes writing so hard.  You have to bring those emotions to the surface, explore, and understand them.  If you cannot understand and suffer with your characters, how can you expect your readers to?  While I was stuck in the airport a few weeks ago, I was daydreaming about what memories or feelings from my teenage years still cause a reaction.  I remember that to me the two most painful emotions as a tween and teen were unrequited love (or “a crush”) and the feelings that everyone you trusted and called friends were growing up and experiencing things that you could not understand.  These things still leave a hollow feeling in my middle when I think about the pain they caused my younger self.  I was a late bloomer, and was frequently the one still caught up in childish emotions and concerns, while my peers had moved on to relationships and feelings that I was not yet able to understand.  It left me with the feeling that perhaps something was wrong with me.  It was a very lonely feeling.

Those are the feelings to take out and explore.  The memories that still, twenty years later give you pause.   Those are the emotions that will fill your writing, your art, your acting, etc with true emotions. When the emotion is real, it feels genuine.  And that’s true art.

I would love any feedback.  How do your emotions, pain, and memories color your art or your life?  Can you name books or movies where the emotions feel genuine as opposed to false?

My Novel

When I tell people that I’m a writer, one of their first questions is always, “What’s your book about?”  That’s a hard one for me because, as it turns out, I suck at summarizing.  Last week I went to a writing workshop in Seattle and was fortunate enough to get to pitch my novel to an agent.  Guess what, pitching is basically summarizing your novel.  Bummer.  Luckily, I pitched to a fantastic agent who managed to understand all my floundering about and she liked my story.  She asked to see the full manuscript, which is a great honor for me.  Doesn’t mean I’m getting published, but it’s a step.

So, point of all of that rambling is that I’m trying to get better at summarizing.  My current novel, WITHIN, is a YA Gothic Fantasy.  What that means is its a Fantasy book for Young Adults (although adults can read it too, I happen to love YA books) and it’s set in the Victorian Era, hence the word Gothic.

LUCY GELLING is a seventeen year old girl completely isolated from the outside world of Victorian England.  Her adopted family fell into disgrace with the Prince Regent, and now lives in seclusion on the Isle of Man.  When JAMES stumbles up the path to her Manor, he is under the impression that it is abandoned and is intending to use it as a hideout.  He is trying to outrun a horrible secret that could see him hanging at the end of a noose.  Lucy takes a chance and promises to hide James, even though he won’t share the details of his past.

Both lonely, they quickly become friends and begin to develop feelings for each other.  James reveals that he is hiding because he killed a boy who was tormenting him at school. Lucy accepts this and shares her secret; she thinks she’s being haunted.  She has nightmares that leave her with injuries on waking, and is followed at night by shadows that belong to no one.  She has shared this with her family, but they tell her that she is imagining things.

One night she feels compelled by a strain from a violin and in following the sound, sees death’s head with glowing eyes staring at her from an abandoned room.  Terrified by the sight, Lucy convinces her nanny to tell her something of the family’s history.  She learns that they are not the people she thought they were, but in fact have pasts littered with secrets, lies, and bodies.  But even the nanny will not tell Lucy of her birth.  James promises to help her find the truth of her past, but the harder they look the more frightening things get for Lucy within the Manor.  An attempt on her life finally opens her eyes to the truth; someone or something is out to get her.

James promises to take her away from it all, but can she leave without learning the secrets that her family are holding so close?  As the Manor walls begin to close in on her, Lucy may learn that the truth is the most frightening thing of all.

I am currently in the process of querying agents about WITHIN, which means I am looking for a literary agent to represent my work.  I will post excerpts from this and my other works here on my blog.  Hope you like my summary.  If you like my blog, please be kind and register.  That way you get emails whenever I post a new blog and you get to comment.  Just scroll down to Meta and click on register.  You will put in a username and an email and it will send you a link.

Thanks for reading!

Inspiration – Where Does It Come From?

I’m inspired today.  Does that mean I woke up from a dream that gave me a great idea that I just had to jot down?  Nope.  Did I read something amazing that inspired me to be a better writer? Wrong again.  Although both of those things occasionally happen, it’s not the norm.  Most mornings I wake up and it’s a marathon to get the kids up and dressed and off to school.  Then I come home and there’s a mountain of work for me here too.

Even though I’m home all day, there are a million things that take up my time.  Cleaning, cooking, running errands, volunteering for the kids’ endless activities, third grade division homework – it’s a wonder some days that I have time to shower (some days I don’t bother – shh).  I could easily go days or even weeks without making time to write.  But that is exactly what I have to do.  I have to make time to write.  I have to sit down at the keyboard and decide to write whether I’m inspired or not.  And most of the time it’s not.  I might feel like crap, I have my mind on other things, or I might feel self conscious and think I’m wasting my time trying to be a writer.

But a funny thing happens when I sit down and make myself write.  My fingers fly across the keyboard and a story begins to flow.  Sometimes it’s magical, but most of the time it’s a lot of crap with some good stuff thrown in.  But that’s what the delete key is for.  And that crap is helpful, it gets you moving and helps fertilize your mind for the brilliant ideas that come next.  Amazing things happen when you feed your art.  On that note, there is a book you should check out.  It’s called The Artist’s Way, and it’s a little cheesy but it’s about feeding your creativity.  It can help you to become a better artist or even just to add more creativity to your daily life.

Thanks for the comments and likes on facebook!  Please subscribe if you like my blog.  It will let you know when I post a new blog and open the comments section for you.  Plus, I get a nice, little email letting me know I have a subscriber and that makes my day!

 

Living in a Bubble

I’m back.  I took a small break from blogging, writing, and pretty much everything last week.  My joints were swollen and red, and it hurt to even try to make a fist.  It’s part of Crohn’s for me.  Three years ago, after my son’s birth, the Crohn’s spread from my intestine into my joints.

I mention this not for sympathy, but to get you into my frame of mind.  When I hurt, I shut down.  I crawl into myself and close everyone else out.  It’s my survival mode.  And suddenly, out of nowhere that black cloud of depression descends to hang over my head, threatening to suffocate me.  Luckily, I was able to get out from under it quickly this time, and I’m up and moving again.

It’s amazing how quickly I can go from up and moving, happy and active to curled in the fetal position in bed.  It’s frustrating and it seems after twenty years I would have better coping skills.  But the truth is, shutting down is how I cope.  When I hurt, it hurts my family.  So, I shut them out of it, best I can.  Living in my little bubble I feel somewhat safe.  And when the pain recedes, I write.  It helps me breath fresh air back into my life and reorient myself as a person.  It keeps me sane.

I know a lot of people suffer from daily pain.  Whether it be back pain, joint pain, headaches, or stomach, daily pain can drag you down to a bad place.  It’s hard to cope with your daily schedule, work – parenting, etc – when you’re fighting a battle against your own body.  Even if we retreat to our bubble for a time, we cannot remain there.  That’s not life.  How do other people cope with pain and illness?  What brings you back to normal?

Creativity – the new Antidepressant?

I tend towards depression, always have.  It’s not surprising, I have a chronic illness (Crohn’s disease) and a lot of the medication I take causes depression.  In addition, when I’m in pain, I’m depressed.  But we all deal with depression in some form or fashion in our lives.  Whether it’s after a tragedy, during a difficult time in our lives, after a setback or failure, or even simply a blue day because of the weather.

I take medication for depression, but I’ve learned that there is one surefire way for me to deal with the blues – to write.  On days where I spend time writing, adding pages and chapters to a current book, or rewriting what I’ve already written, I have a general feeling of well being.  I feel balanced and in control.  I’m more patient with my children and husband, and I’m more likely to get things done around the house.  On the other hand, if I ignored my writing, I’m cranky and short with everyone.  I go to bed feeling like I got nothing accomplished, even if I cleaned the house or finished a to do list.

Writing has become necessary to me.  It’s my lifeblood, it’s my passion.  It lifts me up and makes me a better person.  This seems to ring true for a lot of creative people I know.  What is your passion?  Do you feel better after an afternoon creating?  Do you feel like you’ve accomplished something?  If so, we may have discovered a way to get us through the cold months of winter, when tempers are short and moods are low.

Comment and tell me how you fight the blues.  Or about a time when you fought depression and won.  Are you fighting depression now?  Message me, I’ve been there.