Rewrites–not as much fun as writing!

Several months ago I received an exceptionally thorough critique on my completed manuscript. The most useful critique I’ve received on any of my writing. The manuscript received high marks on characterization and plot, but–and there is always a but–other things such as dialog and timing need work. Over all, I think I can make the manuscript publishable-quality writing if I pay my dues in rewriting the problem areas.

This is the closest I’ve come to having a novel ready for publication, so I’m going to press on toward my goal. I don’t want to write about the revisions in this blog; it takes away from my ability to concentrate on the changes needed. However, you will hear it first right here when I get to the next step: a professional editor, which may mean more rewriting, but now that I’m totally retired with not even one part-time job, I have time to write and to visit the beach!

With the beautiful weather we have had in Myrtle Beach for the last several weeks, I have to challenge myself each day to sit down and write–Write Now!

Okay, y’all, Susan has left the building and is headed for the beach!

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Calendar Girl

January seems the logical time for new beginnings. I suppose that’s the reason we make resolutions on New Year’s Day instead of on Halloween. I’ve given up on diet and fitness resolutions because each year my new beginning quickly turns into a discouraging ending and leaves me feeling like a loser. I use the term loosely because my resolution for, oh, say the last forty-five years has been to lose weight and exercise more. I actually lose a few pounds in January, but by the end of February after all the Valentine’s Day candy I find the lost pounds, plus a few extra ones. During March a few more pounds find their way to my hips, and after eating the ears off the chocolate Easter bunnies, I decide to forget about dieting until summer when the fresh fruits and vegetables are available.

Somehow, I manage to spend the fresh-vegetable-and-fruit months of May through August enjoying the summertime feasts of fried chicken and potato salad, barbecue and baked beans, and grilled hamburgers and hot dogs with thick buns and all the trimmings. Let’s not forget the iced sweet tea, a must during our hot, languid southern summers. Who can diet with all that food?

By Labor Day, I’m ready to get serious about my weight. By this time, I can’t fit into any of my clothes, so I either have to diet or shop for a new wardrobe. Deciding which of the two paths to travel usually takes me down the path to the mall. Even though it’s too early to think about Halloween, Christmas decorations adorn the stores, so I shop for holiday gifts, which puts me in the mood to bake.

On the way home from the mall, I stop at the grocery store to stock up on baking supplies: flour, sugar, cans of pumpkin and cranberry sauce, and what is this? Halloween candy. I must buy candy for trick-or-treat. What’s that you say? Now, surely, you don’t think I would open a bag of Halloween candy before October. Okay, so last year I ate three bags before Halloween and had to turn off my porch light so kids wouldn’t knock on my door expecting treats.

By the first of November I’m really serious about shaping up before the holidays so I can eat during the parties and gain back all the weight I lost before the celebrations. Makes sense to me, so I devise a plan of exercise: walking during my lunch hour. The cooler weather inspires brisk walks. Unfortunately, my walk takes me within smelling distance of Chick-Fil-A. Good thing I carry a few dollars in my jacket pocket. I choose a brownie and eat it as I walk back to my office, knowing that it doesn’t count because I ate it while walking and washed it down with a bottle of water. How healthy is that?

Perhaps I was wrong and the brownie really did count since I can no longer zip my jeans. The day after Thanksgiving, I dig out my XL elastic-waist jeans from a year ago. Ah, comfort, for which I’m thankful but at the same time disappointed that they fit. Well, I can’t do anything about my weight now; it’s almost December, and I can’t diet during the holidays.

With Christmas just a memory, a new year brings opportunities for new beginnings. This year I celebrate without resolutions about my weight. Instead, I resolve to love my body just as it is, even with the extra twenty-five pounds. I will not spend any more time or energy trying to be something I’m not—a thin woman. I vow not to allow my weight to define me. I am beautiful; I am voluptuous; I am me. As I pass a full-length mirror, I take a moment to admire my new outfit. Hummm…Is it my imagination, or does this dress make my hips look big?

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Review, Revise, Rewrite

The three R’s have changed! All writers experience the process of reviewing, revising, and rewriting at several points along the way to a finished manuscript. The boring part of writing; the real work of writing. I’m discovering that the process is not finished until the book is with the printer. For me, this book is like a young child that I can’t let go out into the world on its own. So I continue to review and tweak each week. Even though I’ve begun another story, I’m pulled back into the first story at least once a week. I still find time to write articles for magazines and posts to this blog. Sasee magazine published one of my articles in the December issue (http://sasee.com/2012/12/01/joyful-life-changes/).

Although the world is still grieving for the 26 people lost at Sandy Hook Elementary, I’m preparing to celebrate Christmas with my family. I’m putting away my writing for a few days, traveling and listening to audiobooks (John Sanford’s Lucas Davenport series), and enjoying the sights, smells, tastes, and joy of the Christmas season.

Wishing you a blessed Christmas and a happy New Year!

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Vacation Time

I’m taking a break from my usual routine this week for a vacation to Charleston, South Carolina and then on to Savannah and Jekyll Island, Georgia with my daughter. So far, the weather has been beautiful. We visited a tea plantation, a winery, and the Firefly Sweet Tea distillery today. Dinner at Shem Creek tonight ( http://shemcreeksc.com/). More next week on the trip to Savannah and Jekyll Island. This week is quality time with my daughter and inspiration for new stories and characters.

This week, make time for yourself–to revive your muse and replenish your spirit.

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Survive or Thrive?

The difference between thriving and surviving is the element of personal growth. Survival takes commitment, endurance, and self-discipline. Surviving implies simply existing instead of living. Surviving brings relief when the problem is resolved. Survivors encounter a problem, take whatever action is required, and then move on with life, waiting for the next problem to surface. 

Thriving requires survival skills plus personal growth. Thriving allows us to flourish, to learn from mistakes—whether our own or others’—and succeed in future endeavors. Thriving brings joy from something learned and applied to our lives. People who thrive are proactive and can usually avoid a second occurrence of an already resolved issue because they apply lessons learned from past experiences to everyday life.  

For most women, including me, the survival instinct is great. We get the job done at all costs. It doesn’t matter if we’re sick, tired, frustrated, or whatever else can sidetrack a woman. We push forward, clear paths, jump hurdles, leap tall buildings in a single bound. We are Superwomen.   Fortunately, most people thrive after surviving a situation that threatens their physical, mental, or emotional well-being. If we survive it, learn from it, and apply it to our lives so as not to encounter the situation again, we thrive. We are no longer a victim of circumstance. We use life experiences to make our lives more fulfilling, more rewarding. We’ve developed personal growth, a higher level of maturity, and our lives are better for it. We’ve turned an unavoidable circumstance into an opportunity to enrich our lives. 

Dr. Phil would say, “We get it.” Jeff Foxworthy will never say, “Give that woman a sign,” or label us “the dullest knife in the drawer.” We see the potential in each opportunity; we keep a positive attitude when broadsided by unavoidable circumstances.  

Applying this principle to our writing life could mean less time between idea and publication, so challenge yourself not only to survive, but also to thrive—Write Now!

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When Life Gets in the Way . . .

I’m baaaaaaack! After a year’s absence from this blog, I don’t know where to begin, so I’ll just write off the silent months as life getting in the way of life. Sometimes things don’t work out as planned, and we need to be flexible and go with the flow. So that’s what I did, and the creative juices flowed.

 First, I had a disagreement with my landlord and moved. This was frustrating, expensive, and time-consuming. Enough said.

 Second, I had to downsize once again. I’m now living with the minimal accoutrements that allow me to function, but this turned out to be a blessing: less junk; less housekeeping.

 Finally, I needed a total knee replacement and spent eight weeks in pain waiting for doctors’ appointments and a surgery date in late May. The surgery, recovery, and physical therapy were painful, expensive, and time-consuming. This too was a blessing for I couldn’t walk. So, for the first time since I began this manuscript two years ago—or maybe more, but who’s counting—I kept my butt in the chair and wrote all day every day and sometimes into the night to finish the manuscript. Yes, you heard correctly: I finished the manuscript. By finished I mean edited, polished, ready to go, ready for the eyes of an agent.

 The problem now is getting an agent to read it since this is my first manuscript. I’ve published many humor essay in magazines, but this is a novel. A publisher will have to spend money to print it. What if no one wants it?

 Fortunately, I had registered for the Mystery Writers of America Killer Nashville conference early in the spring, and I was determined to attend that conference after my surgery. This inspired me to work at my therapy exercises. By conference time in late August, I was walking without pain, and I had a polished manuscript. Off I went to Nashville sporting a six-inch scar from top to bottom of my knee. I met agents, editors, publishers, and publicists.

 Then I had to write a query letter, a 350-word synopsis of the book, which is almost 70,000 words, and a bio of my publishing history. Each agent/editor/publisher wants something different, so I spent a month rewriting to make the changes each agent wanted. Suddenly, writing isn’t so much fun. The business of writing gets in the way of the creative side. I have yet to find a blessing in this part, but when I find one, I’ll let you know. At least my manuscript is on its way to agent eyes.

 Meanwhile, go with the flow if your project doesn’t work out as you planned. Maybe you too can change adversity into a finished manuscript, or a query letter, or a miniscule summary of your story, or find a way to fill your bio when you have no book credits.

Take the challenge by placing butt in chair and creating something—Write Now!

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Make Yourself Happy

Last week, my daughter invited me to hear Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love speak about her travels and writing. I had read the book and seen the movie, so I jumped at the chance to hear her experiences.

The woman has a way with words. She speaks and writes to women’s deepest feelings. Her experiences to overcome a broken heart, to decide what she wanted in life, and to restore faith in herself to accomplish her goals are an inspiration to me. I too took a journey after a divorce. I went to college and earned degrees that provided me a rewarding teaching career and allowed me to follow my dream of writing. Granted, travel would have been more fun, but then I was too practical to indulge in something so frivolous, at least frivolous to me.

I learned through my journey, as Gilbert did through hers, that happiness cannot be found. We create our own happiness by believing in and respecting ourselves. By allowing time for and treating ourselves with kindness. This year, I plan to add to my happiness by allowing time to indulge, to dance, to laugh. I encourage you to do the same.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Rejuvenate Your Muse

I slept away most of last week because of an upper-respiratory infection. My illness didn’t require bed rest, but the meds made me drowsy. I spent awake time, listening to audio books and watching movies and TV reruns. After three complete seasons of NCIS, I’m sure I could perform an autopsy, sleep in a coffin, and drink Starbucks coffee 24/7.

The good news: I have lots of ideas for new stories and characters. Too often we forget to take inspiration from daily life—bits and pieces from strangers’ conversations, body movements of people engaged in an argument, hand gestures from someone in animated conversation. The list is endless. Use the bits of information to create believable and interesting characters and stories.

By watching the NCIS episodes, I learned to create a strange but lovable character without stereotyping (Abby). I can use a swagger and stare to show self-confidence (Gibbs) and beauty and small stature to take down the most violent criminals with one kick or a 9mm Sig (Kate). On the other side—the stereotype—Tony epitomizes the womanizing hunk, yet occasionally he lets down his guard to reveal compassion and empathy under his macho façade. When interrogating criminals he can be ruthless, first convincing criminals he is an incompetent, uncaring, funny guy and then turning on the criminals so that he, the interrogator, appears psycho.

This week, I’m playing catch-up with a couple writing deadlines, but as I work, new stories are beginning to form in my mind. Perhaps having a week to rest is a good thing. I encourage you to take a break from your usual creative process to inspire new ideas.

Take the challenge to rejuvenate your creative muse—Write Now!

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Writing through Problems

I never thought I would say, “I hate technology!” Formerly a techno-junkie, I loved learning new technology, buying new tech toys, and discovering new ways to use technology in everyday life.

Then came the new Smart Phone. I thought I wanted one. I thought I wanted to text, email, and google on my phone. Ha! Now, I have turned into an android: a robot trying to behave like a human. If only my signal strength would support my apps. What good is a Smart Phone with only one bar? Okay, so I can take a picture and look at my contact list; not good enough. Through all this, I saw another side of my character that I’ve not seen since my divorce twenty years ago: I can go from carefree to bitch in less than five seconds, the amount of time it takes to get the message: No Signal.

Today, I have misplaced my old, but still working, phone. Of course, the sound is off, so calling myself won’t help even if I could get a signal. I’m having withdrawal symptoms from signal loss. Silly me—I thought it was a sinus infection! I just need to get in my car, drive two miles, and then I can talk. Grrrr! Until I find my old phone or get to a Verizon store, whichever comes first, I am unreachable except by email.

Meanwhile, I’ll focus on the positive side of this situation. I’ll save the $25 co-pay at my doctor’s office; I’ve suffered through worse illnesses without drugs. I’ll probably get more writing done today than in the last three days. I’ll pour another cup of coffee, take the laptop to my comfy sofa, and snuggle in for a day of writing.

See how therapeutic writing is? My anger dissipated, I’m ready to tackle a day of writing; no signal needed. I’ll view this as a day of rest from everything except reading and writing, two favorite things. Maybe I’ll find the courage to turn off the wi-fi. Hot diggity! I may be on to something.

This week, I encourage you to write through a problem. Find one thorny issue and put it on paper or screen. Be honest; be brave. No one else has to see what you write.

Take the challenge to discover the therapeutic effects of writing—Write Now!

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Staying Focused

Last week, I accomplished my goal of staying focused on one writing project. I used the week to research, write, and revise one piece of writing. At first, I found it difficult to focus on just one piece of work, but by the end of the week, I celebrated the writing quality and the market knowledge I acquired.

Sometimes writers tend to forget that writing is a process and not just a product. Most writers lament that the finished product—a marketable piece of writing—requires more than a desire to write, a grasp of basic grammar rules, and one hasty writing session. A marketable product requires thought and planning, writing and several revisions, and knowledge of the product market. Although the process can be broken into several parts and the path to a finished product is not always linear, no part of the process can be eliminated.

This week, I encourage you to select a task for the week and stay focused on it until completion. Break your task into small sections that are manageable, and then put all other tasks out of your mind until the designated task is finished. You will be happy with the results this simple change produces.

Take the challenge and focus on one task at a time—Write Now!

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