October Writing

We are into the second day of my favorite month. I’ve always loved October. It’s a cozy month. The air is crisp and cool. I get to wear the hoodies that I love. Sure, I can wear hoodies in winter, but it drops to below zero where I live, so I usually need a jacket, too. In October, a hoodie and a pair of comfortable jeans (or long shorts) are all you need.

October, with its earlier sunsets, is a nice slowdown from the fast pace of summer. Summer days seem to last forever, and I feel guilty when I’m sittin’ around being lazy while the sun beats down in a cloudless blue sky.  But now that October is here, and soon nightfall will come as early as 4:30, I won’t have so much guilt on lazy days.

Since I started writing, October has been the month I really hunker down on my work. October is like New Year’s for me. I start anew. I assess where I am with my current project (usually I am behind, as is the current case) and decide which story I will work on next. Will it be one that I have already started or something entirely new?

The book I’m working on now is a short story I had written in college, over twenty years ago. The revision is going on two years now. Although I’d wanted to be finished with the book a year ago, I went through two major changes in plot lines that resulted in the deletion of multiple dozens of pages and countless hours of work. But I have no regrets. The story is remarkably better today than it was at any other time since I began writing it. So don’t be afraid to dump a few, or fifty-five, pages.

Three weeks ago I started a writing course at my local community college. I needed a reset with my writing, and being in a classroom helps to “recharge my writing batteries.” I find inspiration from other writers. It was this time six years ago that I took my first writing class since graduating college in ’99. The course, as well as the students in it, helped to refresh my writing ability, and four months later I had a contract option on my first novella, Her Name.

It is no coincidence that that first class, the current class I am in, and the writing course I took two years ago, were all signed up for in the fall despite being offered in other months.

Writers write no matter the season, time, or day of the week. But for me, there is nothing like October writing.

 

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So You Want to be a Writer

I was at a bar one night and ran into a woman I used to date over fifteen years ago. In our exchange of pleasantries, my being a writer came up and immediately my ex grabbed my arm and exclaimed to me with vigor how she is planning on writing her autobiography because she’s led a very interesting life, and all of her friends tell her she just has to write a book.

I told her I was sure she had many great stories to tell, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they could fill a book, but I asked if she’d had any training in writing. The uncertain look on her face answered my question. She hadn’t studied writing in any way past a classroom in high school, but figured since she had a story to tell (most people who are alive have a story to tell. It’s called life.) and knew how to write in complete sentences, she could write a book.

I didn’t roll my eyes in front of her. I’m not that rude. But I did suggest to her that if she was serious about writing her book, she should enroll in a writing course at her local college. Three months before I contracted my first book, Her Name, I had taken a writing course at my local college and it helped me more than I imagined one class would. I was lucky to have had some terrific writers in my class who gave me incredible notes on my story, which I still possess over five years later.

After I published my second book, Loving Again, I enrolled in another writing course at the same college. It was during that course that my third book, A Penny on the Tracks, was contracted. I value all of the critiques of my work by my peers and instructors because they have helped me become a better writer.

But as a writer, I have to put in the work, and it bothers me to no end when people think they can just pick up a pen and start writing the masterpiece that is their life without studying the craft.

I’m writing my current book in a point-of-view I’ve never attempted — subjective omniscient.  My former books were written in first-person and third-person limited. This is completely new to me. I feel like I’m starting all over again as a writer, and that isn’t such a bad feeling. I may enroll in another writing course. I need the guidance my fellow writers have given me on my previous works for the story I am writing now.

The writing community is tremendously supportive.

I thank all the writers who share their time and their knowledge to inspire and encourage those aspiring to write.

 

 

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Photo courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Never…Stop…Writing

I’m currently working on my third book. My first book, Her Name, was released last year. My second book, Loving Again, will be out this November.

I have a tentative title for my new book. The beginning of the story is set and the last scene has already been written. What I don’t have is a middle. I don’t yet know the words that will fill the pages from 27-103. The bones of my story lack any meat.

Knowing how the story ends should make the book that much easier to write because the path couldn’t get anymore clearer. I am writing towards something. The signs are all pointing specifically to one place with precise directions– turn left, then right, then left again. But instead of driving straight to my destination, I’m making unnecessary U-turns.

Writing is hard, but it doesn’t have to be this hard and I know that.

I also know the first draft is only for me. I’m supposed to get the words out first and edit later. I’m not supposed to go back and rewrite scenes.

Move forward. Keep going. Don’t stop writing.

If something is unclear about the plot or character development is weak, make a note and highlight it. I can get back to it later, but whatever I do I’m not supposed to stop writing.

NeverStopWriting.

Yet, I’ve been staring at blank pages for months now, lucky to get a couple dozen scenes written that most likely will be long gone once the final draft is completed.

Where I had planned a first draft to be finished by Aug 1 (not gonna happen), I am now clinging to the hope that it will be completed by the time Loving Again is released.

I have numerous works-in-progress, unfinished stories, sitting in a desk drawer beside me. I don’t remember the specific reasons that made me stop writing each of those stories, but I assume self-doubt took over me, as it is trying to do now. I do recall many moments of poring over a story and questioning whether I had anything left in me to write. I still have those thoughts and I’ve only completed two books, and they were novellas.

My writing journey has only begun and already I’m hanging myself over the cliff, pressuring myself with the stressful worries of “Will I make it?”

My passion is writing. It’s always been writing. I know I will never stop, just as I know I will complete my third book and absolutely fall in love with it, and then wonder what all the fuss was about.

What I’m experiencing now is a tiny detour, and as frustrated as I may feel, I know this diversion will make me more appreciative of the moment I finally reach my destination, filled with sweet gratification.

All I have to do is NeverStopWriting.

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Thanks a Lot, Kurt

I’m currently working on a piece I wrote in college called The Hideout. I may keep the title, but most of the story will get tossed in the garbage soon, but it’s given me enough to work with, and though I’m sure I am barely a decent writer now, seventeen years ago, I sucked.

A horrible writer, but showed flashes of possibilities, ever so slightly, and today I’m trying to right my wrongs. It’s a big task, and only when my mind is saturated with enough alcohol do I believe I can succeed. It is late. I am drinking – writing – while watching a documentary on Kurt Cobain, and though I didn’t embrace Grunge when the music first hit the scene (because it knocked the #uck out of the long-haired, hard-rock bands I loved so dearly and I was bitter), it brings me back to my teenage years. I may not have connected instantly with the angry and depressing sound that was Grunge, I did love the fashion trend that came along with it. Flannels. Baggy jeans. Jesus sandals with socks. It was suddenly cool to dress like a lesbian…or the grumpy old man three doors down.

Plus, the ozone layer needed a break from all that Aqua Net. Goodbye high-hair!

And now, in the solitude of the late hour and the fog in my head, with Kurt’s tragic life playing in the background – I’m sure I can write this story – fix my mistakes as though they were never made because no one will ever know. No one needs to know how bad I was. The beauty of words written down that have never been read is that they are easy to erase.

And like magic, tonight, I will make my mistakes disappear. The mistakes I’ve made on paper. The mistakes not already revealed. The mistakes I don’t have to drink to forget because I can make them go away… and no one will ever know.

Usually I eat a bag of Doritos when my head is this heavy, but tonight I write. A half-filled glass sits next to me that was filled four glasses ago, and I want to sleep, but tonight I write.

I erase.

All of my old stories, finished or not, have death in them. I hadn’t noticed this reoccurring theme in my writing while I was writing them so many years ago, but there it is. Every damn story has a character who dies.

I reread a piece that I had submitted to a publisher fifteen years ago when I was twenty-four years old. This was before submissions were sent electronically and everything was sent through the mail. The response time was slow, about six months. Writers spent a lot of time waiting. I had sent a query letter, a precis, and the first couple chapters of my story. Some time later, a woman from the publishing company called me, talked about the process, and requested the entire manuscript. I was heart-pounding ecstatic.

Shortly after I sent my complete story to her, I received a thin envelope regretfully informing me that my book was rejected. After a phone call and talk about book tours, I was denied a chance at my dream.

A few months ago I reread that story. The piece needed heavy edits, but I didn’t think it was too terrible, until I got to the end. The book was about two women who, after a lot of push, pull, and resistance, fall in love and then in the end one of them dies in a plane crash.

In my precis I didn’t divulge the ending, but I did set the tale up as a love story because that’s what I believed it was, and this was the last line of my lovely love-story:

“Loneliness never killed anyone, though sometimes she wished it would.”

That was my romance novel – my version of a love story. It was depressing as $hit and I was only twenty-two when I wrote it.

I don’t know how I became so jaded about love and life. Maybe it was all that Grunge music I learned to love so much.

Thanks a lot, Kurt.

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Movies and Memories

As a writer, the last thing I want to hear in response to recommending a very good book to someone is, “That’s okay. I’ll just wait for the movie to come out.” …. “But there is no movie for this book.” …. “Then it must not be a very good book.”  Sigh.

Writers don’t compete with other writers. We compete with every means of entertainment that take people away from reading. Could this include the movie industry? Possibly. But maybe for every 100 people who instead of reading a book, choose to wait a long time for the book to get to the big screen, a dozen or two dozen of them will be so swept away by the brilliance of the movie that they will just HAVE to read the book, while crossing their fingers that the book will do the movie justice.

Hey, if it takes a movie to get a person to pick up a book – I’m all for it, because I love movies. Ever since I was a little girl it was my escape. I loved books, too, and had gotten lost in so many as a child (still do), but I sure loved to watch movies. And could watch them all day. Everyday. And that hasn’t changed.

I have a stack of old tickets stubs I had saved. The oldest one dates Jan-3-1998. I was 21 at the time. The movie was Good Will Hunting. The adult price was $7.50 – today’s matinee. I saw it with my best friend.

I don’t recall what made me start saving movie ticket stubs. Maybe I’m just nostalgic because I do have a fondness for the past and lamenting how the time has passed. But I no longer save my stubs. The latest ticket I have is from 06-09-2007. The movie was Shrek. I saw it with my ex.

Now that I have stopped collecting these tickets, it seems silly to save the ones I already have, but throwing them away doesn’t feel right. I’ve held onto them this long – how can I throw them out now?

As I look over all the stubs from fifteen years ago, I can remember the exact person I saw each movie with.  Maybe this doesn’t seem like an extraordinary feat, but if you knew my horrible memory, you’d be amazed. My girlfriends have an edge over me because they can convince me I’ve said or done things I didn’t do simply because I won’t remember not having said or done them. It really isn’t fair.

I wish I could remember the multiplication table, or our State Capitols, or my niece’s and nephew’s birthdays the way I remember the people who sat beside me in a darkened theater as I shoveled buttery popcorn into my mouth.

In eighth grade, I saw the movie Madhouse with my boyfriend and another couple. Date night! He was eating Twizzlers and was so anxious to kiss me that he couldn’t even wait until he had swallowed all of his delicious candy because parts of the chewed, left-over pieces ended up in my mouth. It was the grossest, wettest and sloppiest kiss I’ve ever experienced. It was twenty-five years ago but I still remember the sweet taste of his candy on the back of my tongue and the feel of drool running down my chin.

I’m pretty sure that was the moment I became a lesbian. Thanks Ryan! It’s a wonder I even kissed another boy after that. I remember my feeling of relief when he left to go to the bathroom and I was able to towel off my face.

I’m not the lesbian who likes to rag on guys. I have experienced some decent kisses from those of the opposite sex, but nothing summed it up the way my best friend described a kiss when we hooked up with some fellows while visiting a college friend. “He kissed the way Mel Gibson looks.” Mind you, this was 1995 and Mel was lookin’ real good, but my kisses with boys never left me feeling like that. My kisses with girls…well that’s a story for another blog….maybe. 🙂

This blog isn’t about kisses. It’s about movies. Or rather, what attaches us to movies.

I remember going to see Silence of the Lambs with my mother, who is the loudest person you can ever watch a movie with. I didn’t know that at the time, but  she jumps at EVERYTHING. Even the parts where you know the bad guy is going to pop out, she’ll scream as if there was absolutely no build-up and she never saw it  coming. She scared me more than Hannibal Lecter did.

I took my young nephew to see Finding Nemo. He was so excited running down the hall to the theater that he wiped out, face first, onto the floor. Arms and legs outstretched. He was laid-out flat.  I laughed. I laughed hard. (I’m laughing right now as I write this). And he was mad at me. He slowly got up and wouldn’t look at me as I walked, and he limped, to our seats.

In the middle of the movie, I replayed his tumble in my mind – slow motion –  and I busted out in laughter again. My astute little nephew turned to me in the dark theater and whispered, “I know why you’re laughing.” Yes, he knew, and that only made me laugh harder.

Memories.

Anything can be memorable – even the worst movie ever made- if it’s connected to a memory that’s unforgettable.