Welcome Interruptions

typewriter-skip-huntI had been working on two novels simultaneously for a long time. When I need a break, thirty day challenges are what I look for. If I can’t find a good one, I make up my own. Once, I did a post every day for a year—photos, quotes, stories anything. I just had to post. It helps me to do things that are related to my field. Buying one caramel macchiato every day for a month wouldn’t be appropriate, but something writing related is.

The most recent challenge issued was to write 30 short stories for 30 days. One thousand to 20,000 words. Obviously, some of them will be real stinko stories, but the idea was to spark my imagination and see what I could come up with every day. It caused me to be more observant, eavesdrop on conversations (who knows, maybe I was listening to you!) and watching the reaction of people to various circumstances.

It’s better to try and fail than not try. You don’t know what you’re capable of if you don’t make the effort. I allowed myself 3 extra days due to standing appointments, and took advantage of those days where I wrote more than one story in a day. I’m happy to announce I managed to get 30 in 30. My husband and I celebrated the accomplishment.

They’re not all highly polished stories ready to send out (yet) but I’ve got seedlings to grow. Because they’re designed to be brief, this kick starts my goal of sending out short stories this year. It’s only March. By December, I plan to have all the good ones out in the world being read by someone, and maybe attempt another 30 day challenge. Who knows, maybe you will join me!

How are you challenging yourself in your writing?

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Keepers of the Flame

candle in windIt is possible for others to minimize your relationship with writing especially if they are not writers. It’s more than a little frustrating when someone who says they care about you, yet try to invalidate your passion. Quite often, they’re disinterested or—surprise, surprise—jealous of your ability, tenacity and determination to pursue a dream.
I would venture to guess that every writer has endured the cutting remarks about their writing whether they wrote longhand with a pen on paper or had the newest computer set up on the market.

Learn to recognize when someone isn’t interested in your writing and stop talking to them about it. It may sound like, What makes you think you’re a writer? Have you ever been published? Have you ever been paid? Your writing is just a hobby. What makes you think anyone wants to hear what you have to say?  You’re still working on that same book?

I was once married to one who refused encourage my writing. It’s disheartening when the people we are closest to can’t or won’t support us. It’s discouraging when they disparage your efforts or even worse, try to sabotage them and make you feel guilty for pursuing your craft.

Do not share your work or your victories with these toxic people. Spare yourself from feeling and being discouraged. You don’t have to ditch them as friends (or relatives) but they’re not part of your tribe. Develop an inner circle of writer friends to share those exciting moments with, when you get a contract for your piece or you get published in a magazine, when you complete your book.

I can’t imagine a life without writing. I don’t view it as a hobby. If you’re comfortable with the term, that’s completely fine, I am not and my intent is to make writing my full time job; until then, I view it as a sort of hands on apprenticeship. You can’t be a writer unless you write (and read a lot!) I treat it like a job; I come home, get into the office and write a set number of words (1000 to 2500), or for a set amount of time. By the end of a year that’s a lot of words.

Remember that not all people share our enthusiasm, but their remarks don’t make you any less a writer. It’s always disappointing and it says more about where those friends and relatives stand, not you. This is one of the reasons it’s so important to find like- minded people.

If you don’t have a cheerleader in your corner, comment below. I will cheer you on. If you’re writing a blog, share the link, I will follow and encourage you. If this is your dream, guard it like a candle flame. Too many people are willing to be the wind and blow it out for you. And if someone tries to put out your fire, even if you’re barely a smoking ember, come back here and let your passion be reignited. No one on this earth will ever see or say things the way you do. Your voice is unique and important. Keep on writing. Never ever give up.

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Tea Time With Mr. Winter (an excerpt)

Winter park_iphone _new years eve_christmas_santa_wallpaper_1Remember last post we talked about my writing shorties? Here is an excerpt of one of them. I don’t know how you feel about the amount of snow you’ve had in your neck of the woods, but here, it’s caused us to miss a friend’s play, a day of work, untold errands and several trips to the tanning bed. :) At any rate, it spawned another shorty for my collection.

“Isn’t it glorious?” he asked. He didn’t need an answer, he was so enamored by the twinkling and sparkling and dazzling white. Not bleach white, but halogen purity on display straight from heaven. I took a deep breath and decided to be honest.

“Frankly, I’m sick of it, Mr. Winter. We’re all sick of it.”

“Ingrate!” he gasped. I served him a plate of egg whites with sautéed white mushrooms and white onions, sprinkled with white pepper. His white gloved hand took the plate and his fork poked at the eggs in search of offending yolk. He found none, and satisfied, took a bite. With his mouth full, he asked, “Do you have white toast?”

I handed him the breadbasket filled with unbuttered toast halves, practically raw toast; it didn’t look as much like toast as dry bread.

“Even Boston and Buffalo are weary.”

“Bite your tongue!” he rarely looked at me, so enamored was he with the snow-globe effect beyond the glass.

“Face it, you’re getting lazy and sloppy. Seven feet in one day? We all know that you normally dole it out in inches and maybe a foot plus in the higher altitudes. Seven feet in Boston? That’s just pure unadulterated laziness.”

Please let me hear from you if you would like to see more excerpts!

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The Long and The Short: A Truce

Buchler_ShortStories-Cambs47c93Most days I lock myself in my little writing closet and I don’t come out until I’ve made significant headway on something, usually the book I’m working on. Currently, I split my time between two books in a series. I had finished the first draft of book number one and really didn’t like it much. The majority of my read-through tribe had a really tough time getting past the first few chapters. I knew something was seriously wrong and I had to admit, the beginning of the book was as dull as watching cats sleep.

In order to have a sharper story, some great scenes would have to be cut, story holes correctly filled and extraneous rabbit trails eliminated. Some points of the story, if I’m brutally honest, were not the least believable. While pruning, rewriting and revising, it occurred to me how long it could take to get my name out there by writing books alone. It takes me about a year to write a rough draft between working, family time and other obligations. Another six months to get it to the editing stage. Even though I write every day, no one sees much of it until a full length book is completed.

Hey, what about all those story ideas I’ve been stockpiling? What if I wrote short stories too?? At times it has been helpful to have another, completely different story to work on while I noodle through a scene in the book that is problematic. This line of thinking triggered The Great Divide, A Novelette. It was how I managed to get Until Rodanthe published.

Lately I have more ideas that just refuse to be shelved and I find myself working on them in my head. Then, I have to write down what I know of it on any given day. I try to keep them short and sharp. I started a file specifically for story ideas I want to explore.

Maybe, as an experiment, I’ll start sending them out. I like the idea of sending out stories. Who knows, maybe something great will happen. Who knows, maybe I will even get paid!

What are you doing with the story ideas you have floating around in your mind?

Posted in Encouragement for Writers, getting your name out there, sending out your work, Story writing, Writing Process | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Keep Your Head in the Clouds

cloudheartYou work long hours carving your words into an image, finding just the right verbs, the perfect turn of phrase, the most excellent comebacks. Your dialog is sharp, your prose is perfect, and your imagery is breathtaking. Writing your book has been a labor of love, something you feel almost paternal about. After all, you’re giving birth to something important. Then, in a moment, it disappears.

You’re gasping in shock. But–!

If you write long enough, your chances of enduring endure a writing disaster of one kind or another seem inevitable.

With the introduction of cloud services, this may seem like a no brainer to you. I’m from the ancient era of saving documents on your computer, emailing them to yourself, copying them on discs (CD’s not floppies. I’m not that old!) or jump drives. Even then, it is of utmost importance to pay attention.

Just recently, the book I’ve been working on for over a year had finally reached a critical revision stage. I’d taken 30 days off, (the NaNoWriMo break!) and went back to it with a fresh perspective. I had been working on it sporadically for six weeks. Somehow during a national novel writing frenzy, I’d managed to copy the book from the cloud and onto my desktop. A fact I didn’t realize until I woke up one cold January morning and found my computer blank-screened and beeping, instead of booting up.

None of those weeks of revisions had been backed up. Normally, I depress the panic button if I’ve worked for 30 minutes and lose those tweaks; six weeks was beyond anything I could wrap my head around. Some of you remember my panic over an enormous file loss (all of my written work for nearly ten years. See link at the end of this post.)

Instead of flipping out, I comforted myself with the knowledge that I’d managed to move all book related projects to a specific memory stick and Dropbox. My life wasn’t over or even delayed. I had options of retrieval to pursue and in play. They involved a few less costly repairs (how does RAM go bad??) And once again, two weeks later, I got my book revisions back. I can’t press this enough. Save everything. Find a way to schedule file saving and /or work out of a cloud.

Click here to read about another saga regarding backing up files… Unlikely Houseguest

What are you doing to save your precious hours of writing?

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The Care and Feeding of Dreams

Ocean of Dreams Josephine Wall

Ocean of Dreams Josephine Wall

Well, I’d be lying if I told you that I wasn’t more than a little bit proud of getting a writing gig at the very tail end of December. I met with a couple of musicians who were in need of brief biographies, one of them for an imminent website launch. (See the link for the finished bio at the end of this post.)

It was a pleasant surprise to be invited to the CD release party of a new rising singer songwriter. Giddy with excitement, it was all I thought about for hours until I finally arrived at the party location.

There is something really precious about seeing someone so young at the very beginning of their potential. She was hopeful and talented, grounded, gracious and professional. It inspired me, reverberated within me. She had a tribe of people in attendance who believed in her and she had an unwavering belief in herself.

And actually, being there shook up something else in me.

In the recent past, I’d wondered at some of the directions I’d found myself going. Dare I say, not so hopeful, dark, dystopian and even… jaded. (GASP!) I didn’t used to be like that. I never wanted to become that way. My motto used to be, girls just want to have fun. Somewhere along the way, insidiously, that sentiment took a back seat. Living or working in a negative environment can be draining to the point that you’re ready to trade in your dreams for one sunny day.

Life is funny, though, and it seems true nature is always at work trying to reveal who we really are. It’s sad that sometimes we forget and need reminding. And it’s just huge when the reminders come in like joy parade. Encouraging friends, or relatives or acquaintances.

After significant changes in my life a few short years ago, my writing got back on track and I thought my skies looked a lot brighter. I felt happier. Things were beginning to click.

But compared to this new artist, I felt like Dorothy in the black and white world before entering the amazing land of Oz. When I left the party, I felt like I’d been handed my own slice of Technicolor pie. Here, feast your dream on this!!! I remembered another motto I once held dear, Dream Big. It’s free!

Being at the CD release party was like swimming in an Ocean of positivity. I’ve been on a cloud, smiling, happy for a few days and it took me a while to realize, I haven’t been surrounding myself with enough creative, positively expressive people and I miss it. I like being around people who aren’t afraid to dream gigantic dreams, people who are shooting high. They’re so much fun. And, I guess, I’m back to girls just want to have fun.

I’m looking forward to the new year and a lot more creative people to share it with.

By the way, check out the Bio on www.LizzieZink.com. Hope you’re dreaming up a great New Year!

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Breath New Life or Lay to Rest?

A Christmas-CarolI spent November away from my Dancer’s Tale novel. During that break, I thought I had an epiphany. And, in a way, I did. I actually considered welding the first and second novels together. I spent a few depressing days considering my options. But, after much deliberation, and a book that helped me considerably (See the link at the end of this post) Elizabeth Lyons showed me why that would be a particularly bad idea. (Lopsided on protagonists and split loyalties).

In the end, my true Epiphany, after talking to my editor over dinner, was that my opening chapter needs another look and some serious revisions. Whew! (Don’t tell anyone I had already started weaving the two together!) Is that all?

Well, that sounds easy, fortunately I happen to love revisions. Without a fascinating first line, paragraph, page, chapter not many people aren’t interested in turning pages. Rare is the one who wants to read an exciting book past a dull opening. And I had it in spades. Can I be honest? I didn’t like my opening at all.
Revisions are the answer. A trajectory shift. Not a 180, heck not even a 90. You might be surprised how much difference a subtle shift of one degree would make.
It isn’t necessary to shuffle the bones of the book, just a few tweaks. It will take time, like dieting takes time, but, I was glad for this little reference gem: Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon.
If you haven’t begun a reference book stash, this is not a bad first book to snag for your shelf. If you’re serious about writing, it won’t take you long to accumulate a dozen or so titles. Over the course of the next few months, I will share the ones I have found most helpful. I hope you will share yours with me too!

Posted in Encouragement for Writers, Writing Process | Tagged , , | 4 Comments