The Magic of Writing

April 7, 2020

I rebranded my blog almost a year ago, in April 2019. My first post remains my favorite, so I am posting it once again. I hope you enjoy it.

* * *

Beginning today, this blog has a new theme – all things writing. As I pursue a second career writing fiction, I’ll post about my writing journey, the craft of writing, lessons learned, mistakes made, and the people who are helping and encouraging me. I’ll also post about books and authors and publishing.

I started this blog to dole out advice about marketing and promotion, strategic planning, and nonprofits, and I still work as a consultant. Check my website – www.techsavvympa.com – for more information or look at my blog archives.

Here we go.

WRITE

 

Write. A magical word. It’s the ability to conjure scenes and stories from my imagination. I can create characters of any size, color, and personality. I can have people run races or play the piano or murder someone or solve a crime. They can live at the beach or in a city or on a different planet. There can be love interests, annoying neighbors, best friends. I can create a world with monsters or aliens. I can make up my own rules.

How cool is that? It’s the best.

When I say I’m writing, what I’m actually doing is conjuring, creating, imagining.

magic

Photo by Mervyn Chan on Unsplash

Writing and reading are like breathing and eating for me. I have to do all those things to survive and thrive. Although reading was my first love, once I learned to write, reading took second place.

I’ve heard some writers don’t like to sit down and write. Most days, I can’t wait to get to my writing desk. I go to sleep thinking about my characters and what they’ll experience in my next day’s writing.

Many times, my characters do things that surprise me. I’m the type of writer the industry calls a “pantser”, which basically means I don’t make an outline and I don’t know everything that will happen. I rough out my main characters and a main plotline, and go from there. Sometimes I know the ending; sometimes I don’t. (More on “pantsers” and “plotters” in another post.)

oxana-v-524244-unsplash (1)

Photo by oxana v on Unsplash

To me, that’s part of the beauty of it. The characters I create take over and go their own way. They come alive in my imagination, so much so, that I can picture the setting and the people, and their gestures and expressions.

I can see the waves crashing on the shoreline as the angry, young woman throws rocks into the water and clouds roll overhead. I can see the hiker with his walking stick in the woods, seeking a bird or butterfly that’s known to nest there. I can smell the detritus of a burned-out forest. I can touch the coat of the black lap cat who comes around frequently for some love from his elderly owner. I can hear them both purring.

And, yes, I can taste that pineapple upside down cake that the mom makes for each of her six children on their birthdays. Do you see her with flour smudges on her face as she puts the cake into the oven? Can you smell it baking, the aroma filling the kitchen? Her kids can. They all run into the kitchen, one after another. “Is it done yet?” Do you see the scoop of vanilla ice cream melting next to the slice of cake? I do, and I can’t wait to pick up my fork.

Mmmm. What could be better than this?

Time to conjure.

###

 


Pick a Genre, Any Genre, or Two or Three

January 21, 2020

When I began writing fiction, everyone assumed I was writing science fiction. But I wasn’t.

king ludlum steel

 

 

My reading taste has always been eclectic. When I was younger, my favorite authors wrote horror/sci-fi, spy thrillers, and romances.

 

 

 

My taste slowly evolved. For a long time, I read legal and political mysteries. I also like sagas.

                           mysteries     saga

 

Then I discovered science fiction.

scifi

 

Next, I came across books with magic.

fantasy

 

I’ve always had an affinity for the tales of King Arthur and Merlin the Magician.

arthur merlin

 

I also like the classics. And poetry.

                                        classic books     poems

 

For the last decade, my favorite genres have been science fiction and fantasy.

jordan gabaldon

 

These classics are my all-time favorite books. A family saga and world building.

favorite books

 

I read the Game of Thrones series by George RR Martin long before it became a TV series. (The first book is on loan to a friend.)

Martin

 

When I sat down to write my fiction, the stories in my head were women’s fiction. Stories about relationships and how we react and change due to the events in our lives. I’ve read some women’s fiction over the years, mostly when I want an easy read. It surprised me a bit, but that’s what I was compelled to write.

On a fluke, I wrote a spiritual story and entered a short story contest. My beta readers cried, and I won an award. Then, about a year ago, I saw a contest for sci fi, fantasy, horror, thriller, or any combination. I decided that could be fun.

My story started as science fiction. By the third page I had added fantasy elements. It became a thriller by page 5. I added a bit of horror around page 10. My beta readers said it was dark and creepy. I was thrilled. We want to provoke emotions in our readers.

I ran out of time to polish the story but entered the contest anyway. I didn’t win, and I’m revising that story. There’s another story in my head. This one is fantasy. I’m not sure where it’s going, It might end up being a love story.

Are you confused yet?

jumble of books

Writers, editors and publishers tell you to stick with one genre. Maybe that works for most people. It doesn’t work for me. The stories I write are the ones that I’m compelled to write. The characters talk to me, and they don’t shut up until I write them down.

Right now, I’m revising my sci-fi, fantasy thriller. I’m also polishing a spiritual short story. And, I’m jotting down ideas and scenes for my fantasy romance.

We’ll see where it all takes me.

What genre do you prefer for your reading and writing? Or do you cross genres like I do? Do you think the “experts” are right? (I don’t.)

###

 

 


Words & Strides

November 26, 2019

This is the time of year I often neglect myself. Not on purpose. I enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas and all the necessary preparation. My days are filled with doing for others, even more so than I usually do, and that’s a good thing. It’s a big part of who I am. However, the more personal things that feed my soul often fall by the wayside. I’m determined to try and fit them in this year.

What things? Writing, running, and reading. I have work. I’m dealing with my relatives’ estate. I have yard work, shopping, and soon I’ll be decorating and going to holiday parties. Already, I find myself saying, I’ll write later, I’ll run later, I’ll read tomorrow. And then I don’t.

A week ago, I decided to start my morning with a run. It was snowing. Nevertheless, I went out. Snow was beginning to blanket the grass but it hadn’t yet stuck to the sidewalks or roadway. It was cold. It was glorious. Snow quiets the world and quiets my thoughts. We got 10 inches that day.

snowedit2019nov

I enjoy winter running if it’s not icy or windy. There’s something magical about it. I have all the gear, even though I wonder if I look like a criminal with the balaclava.

balaklava

I’m also taking an hour – just an hour – to write in the evening. It’s difficult to tune everything else out and focus on my story. I succeed 3 or 4 times a week, and those small successes bring me joy and a happier outlook.

writingpad

I try to read a novel once a week, again in the evening, an hour or two before bedtime. It helps me unwind.

readingbook

Recently, I read a blog post about the importance of taking time for yourself, and then a friend mentioned the same thing. Sometimes I feel selfish when I have such a long to-do list. I have to remind myself that I’m happier, more positive and more energetic when I fuel my passions and feed my soul. It’s like the instructions on airplanes – if the oxygen masks drop, put yours on first, so you can help others. It’s the same theory, right? Then why is it so hard?

oxygenmasks

###


Finding the exact precise right words

October 29, 2019

Sometimes I search for just the right word. I’ll be writing, words flowing freely, and then I stop. The word I want to use eludes me. I know there’s a word that denotes the exact feeling or movement or person I’m trying to describe but I can’t think of it. I put down a similar word and use the thesaurus. Back and forth – this word, that word, another word. Most times, I do find the perfect word. If it remains elusive after 5 or 10 minutes of searching, I leave a blank space in the manuscript, confident the word will come to me later. I don’t want to disrupt my writing flow.

edictionary

When I’m writing a description and the words won’t come, I use other means.

I was trying to describe a playground. I could see in my mind’s eye the equipment and the kids but I couldn’t get the description right. So, I said aloud – just me and my cat in the room – “Jenny and Mike walk outside and see kids on the swings, the teeter-totter, monkey bars and slide. Little boys are running around. The playground pulses with energy and joy.”

This is what I wrote: Jenny laughed as they walked out to the playground. Kids clambered on the jungle gym while smaller kids stood in line for the slide. One little girl slid down squealing, pigtails flying. A little boy stood on top of a green plastic pipe tunnel; as she watched, an adult rushed over to cajole him down. He waved his arms, obviously unwilling to abandon his perch. The swings were full, and kids raced around everywhere. A group of girls, age 6 or 7, stood to one side talking animatedly.

Jenny laughed louder as she felt the joy and energy emanating from the kids. Despite the reality that all these children needed a home – a fact that saddened Jenny momentarily – this was a happy place. She wanted to take them all home. How could you ever choose when they all needed parents?

Another tip is to say aloud: “What I’m trying to say is…” And then you describe it aloud. You can also draw the scene and then describe your drawing. I’ve done that when building a town.

“What I’m trying to say is…”

For emotions, I’ve heard people use an emotion thesaurus. Sounds good to me although I don’t have one of those books yet.

I’m sure there are other books and tips to find the right word. What helps you find the elusive word or description?

###


Big Sky, Blank Paper

July 23, 2019

I don’t feel like writing. Creative writing, I mean – the novels and short stories I write that bring me such pleasure. It’s not writer’s block, at least not how I understand writer’s block. I have plenty of ideas floating around in my head that I’m itching to write down. I’m not avoiding or procrastinating. There are plenty of days when I don’t feel like writing, yet I sit down and do it anyway. This is different. I. Just. Can’t. Do. It.

As I’ve struggled to find my way back to my happy writing place, I read a blog post that helped. It’s titled “Motors” on “Andrew’s View of the Week”. He has a clever writing style using metaphors interspersed with engineering terms. Anyway, I think I’ve run out of creative energy and I need to recharge my batteries.

How do I recharge? People. I’m an extrovert, so social situations energize me. I’m very high energy, and I like new and different stimuli – people, places, food. Cities are filled with energy. So, what better place to recharge than going to two new cities on vacation?

In my last post, I talked about going to Portland. Here, I’ll talk briefly about Seattle and our train journey across country. I was especially looking forward to the train where I’d meet all new people and recharge. But first…

Seattle has hills, not quite San Francisco hills, but big ones! I’m sure we lost weight. We stayed by the Space Needle, but the highlight for me was the Chihuly Glass Garden. All I heard was there were amazing glass sculptures. A perfect description.

IMG_0059

IMG_0068

IMG_0072

IMG_0087

Was I inspired to write? No.

The waterfront tourist area was fun; we had some great seafood. We especially enjoyed Pike Place Market, where we watched them “throw fish” and had the very best clam chowder and seafood chowder at…. Pike Place Chowder! If you go, it’s well worth the wait. And DON’T waste your time and money on an underground tour. That was stupid.

I still wasn’t in the mood to write, but I had high hopes the train journey would alleviate that.

After a couple days in Seattle, we boarded the train for our 50+ hour journey across country. We got a roomette, which is a sleeper room about the size of a dinner booth. Really.

20181112_082551 (1)

Meals in the dining car are included in the roomette price, and since there were just two of us, the hostess would seat us with other travelers at the booths for four.

20181112_082344 (1)

When we went to dinner the first night, I didn’t feel like talking to strangers, a feeling I attributed to being tired. However, I felt the same way the next day at breakfast. I put on a happy face and was social but I didn’t enjoy it. I wanted to be by myself.

I strive for balance in my life and that includes some solitude, but I’d never felt the need for it on vacation. The new people were draining me. For a description of this feeling from a self-proclaimed introvert, check out Quaint Revival, where Shelley describes how an introvert feels in social situations, an eye-opener for me.

So, there we were on the train with hundreds of strangers in close proximity. And, I admit, we were a bit disappointed by the view. We were in the Great Plains. The flatlands. There’s nothing there except some distant mountains we saw for about 10 minutes.

20190620_132556

I had gone back to the roomette after an energy-draining lunch, while my boyfriend went to the observation car. I decided it was time to write, whether I felt like it or not, and I definitely did not feel it.

I pulled out the small table, and retrieved my writing tablet and pen. My arm felt like dead weight. It was all I could do to lift my arm and rest my wrist on the table.

I stared out the window determined to find some beauty. Gratitude welled up within me for seeing the country in a way I never had before. I continued staring out the window looking for something… anything. And then I looked up.

20190620_161803

It was like being in a snow globe. The sky went on forever. BIG SKY. Images of cowboys and campfires and roundups flooded my brain. The clouds were amazing.

20190620_180402

I saw submarines lined up. I saw a pig relaxing on its back. Go ahead, you can think I’m crazy. None of my friends saw anything other than clouds. (And do submarines even line up???)

I went a little nutty snapping pictures of clouds. And I started writing… not a whole story, just fragments.

Then the rain started, bringing contentment with it.

20190620_161114

The desolation frightened her a bit but the new life she was steaming towards had to be better than the one she had left behind…

What had she done? Where was the town? Her mother had told her repeatedly not to do this, but she was determined. Having grown up in the city, she hadn’t known there was this much unpopulated land. Arrgh. Then a dark-haired man strode through the rail car, his boots clomping. She caught her breath as he tipped his cowboy hat her way revealing bright blue eyes. Maybe this would be okay after all. (yeah, yeah, mostly cliché but it’s a start)

Big Sky country. Montana. I want to go back. Stay on a dude ranch. Ride horses.

North Dakota boasted the bluest sky I’ve ever seen, a sky almost as big as the Montana sky. And then I saw the rainbow. God’s promise. The sight filled me with joy.

20190620_164552

We traveled through a few more states, and I wrote a bit more. By the time we returned home, my batteries were about half charged. I’ll continue to seek out solitude and big nature, and I’m confident I’ll be back in my happy writing place soon.

###


%d bloggers like this: