Things That Amaze Me

I’m amazed by the things that amaze me, especially in my writer’s life. They’re reminders that I need to pause and be grateful, to thoroughly enjoy each moment, and to be sure that I carry with me, and use, good thoughts, good words, and good deeds. 

I can’t possibly list all the amazing things, but here are two recent highlights:

– It was a long haul to drive from my home to the recent Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Traffic snarls, not quite knowing the way, and parking really tripped me up. By the time I arrived, I was ready to turn around and motor back. I’m glad I didn’t. Even with the holdups, I arrived ten minutes early, which gave me a chance to visit a few booths where I met wonderful people, bought enjoyable books, and relaxed before my book signing.

While signing, many, many lovely humans stopped by to chat. Talented authors surrounded me. It gave me great joy not just to promote my own books, but the books from the writers sitting around me, such as Lark O Jensen and Iris Yamashita. After I left my signing, a gentlemen stopped me and said, “You’re the author. I wish you great book success!” I wasn’t sure if he was mixing me up with someone else, but it at that moment, I was happy to be that author, or any author, for that matter. The day was a success, not only because of my book sales, but because of the kind humans that made my day. Who doesn’t want to be around happy people? A little shift in my mind made a monumental difference.

– A few weeks prior, I had another book event in Morro Bay at Coalesce Bookstore. It was a live reading with other authors where we shared scenes from our books. By shared, I mean we acted out various parts and characters. I channeled my inner Reba for a Southern accent, my inner diva for a demanding, mixed-up lady on vacation, and my inner, fearless PI to play the heroine featured in my series. All of which were way out of my comfort zone… and such a blast! Again, amazing due to a simple change in attitude: I can do this! Sometimes, that’s all it takes.

What Happens After "The End?"

After that glorious moment of sending off a completed manuscript to the publisher, I rejoice, a little nervously, as I await edits. It truly is a time worth celebrating and appreciating. Reaching The End of a ~77,000 word novel is not for the faint-hearted. It’s like building a skyscraper with only seven tools on hand: imagination, heart, experience, emotions, research, perseverance, and either a computer or a pen and paper. Perseverance is paramount. After all, how will you reach The End if you give up?

You’re done. What’s next?

How about taking a few days off to kick back, recharge, and regenerate those weary brain cells? Take as long as you like! That is, until your edits come in. Sometimes, finding ways to distract oneself, that sort of relate to writing, helps massage the brain cells, preparing them for the next round. Diving into that ten-story high To Be Read pile that’s about to topple over can be rewarding. I love reading books in the genre I write, and in other genres, as well as nonfiction. Inspiring books make my mind soar; and I truly appreciate those reads that make me think or see another side to something. But what’s my favorite distraction? Writing!

A short story might pop out during my down time. Writing short keeps me sharp. Telling a story in 5000 words or less means every extra word’s gotta go. A children’s story is a wonderful challenge because it’s  not only short (under 1000 words), but has to have that special readability factor that makes it engaging enough for youngsters and their adults to want to read over and over again. That’s an ambitious, yet marvelous feat.

But I mustn’t forget one last challenging item that remains: creating the descriptive blurb for the back cover. Did you know that writers come up with that? At least this one does.  Condensing what a whole book is about into less than 200 words? Impossible! That’s what I say every time, until I write it up. Just like the novel.



Note to Self #22: Writing the Pesky First Draft

Once again, as is the case every single time I write a new book, I need a reminder that the first draft is going to stink so dreadfully that I should consider buying a military grade oxygen mask in order to breathe properly. How do I keep pushing forward? By asking myself one simple question: How can I fail when all I have to do is reach The End? That’s right, the words can be atrocious, the plot holey, the dialogue stilted, but can I actually finish the story?

And, if you need more motivation, consider this: Once you do finish, every single time you revise that puppy, you’re going to feel better and better until you might just burst with enthusiasm because you love writing that much!       

Shove those negative feelings aside, kick your frustration to the curb, and embrace the fact that your writing skills are nearly absent in that first iteration. They’ll slowly return as the story unfolds; as your shy confidence tiptoes by and as you realize somewhere along the revisions that you’ve done this before, and you’ll do it again. And if this is your first book, just know that somehow, it will all come together.

Don’t berate yourself for being a pantser. All that means is that once you’ve spit the story out, you just need to go back, a few times (maybe a whole lot more than a few), to patch up the holes and erase the excess clues and characters. It’ll make your story stronger. And if you’re a plotter, so what if you get a little bored along the way? No worries. An unexpected twist or turn may pop up.

And if none of the above work to lift you out of the first draft doldrums, go back and read a portion of your manuscript that you worked particularly hard on. When I do that, I can’t help but think, who wrote this? It’s actually not too bad.