Monday, September 12, 2011

Insecure Writer Loses Her Mojo

            This is a difficult day for me.  This post was originally supposed to correlate with Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer's Support Group, to be about the troubles I was having starting my next book, about being motivated to compile an outline, choose a POV, and establish the main characters.  This is a new problem for me.  My first book came to me virtually whole with all the characters in place and their story clear.  All I had to do was listen to the voice whispering over my shoulder and scratch out the outline. 
            I had a few muses along the way, folks who inspired me to write, who gave me visual stimulation to shape my main characters.  I simply kept them in mind as I churned out the words.  And it was easy.  Too easy.  I just wrote everyday for hours on end and after a couple of months, viola, I had an 85,000 word novel.  All the while, I read blog posts about writers who were having a hard time writing their stories and I honestly had a difficult time connecting with that. 
Not so anymore.  I get it.  Completely.  That’s where I am now.  Karma, you might say?  Hmm, perhaps.  
            This is not to say I don’t have a story, because I do.  It’s just not clear like it was the first time.  The plot is murky, at best, and I have no muse, no one that inspires me to develop my main character, the protagonist.  And the saddest part for me is that one of the men I used as a muse for my last book’s main character, Skylar, has just died.  He was a real man, young and vital, and now he is gone.  I didn’t know this particular muse personally.  He was an actor whose character work I found stimulating.  His face, or a composite of his and one other’s, played like a movie in my head as I wrote and revised my book.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to put this book behind me as I query for an agent and prepare to move on to my next project, but the death of my old muse feels like a nail in some proverbial coffin, or an omen, perhaps.  Today was the day I was going to start brainstorming in earnest, but now, it seems, his death has sapped my energy.  In some way, it’s like a death knell for my first novel.  How do I get inspired to move on when it feels like an old friend has passed?
No, I’m not the stalker type.  This man was a character to me.  But I am strongly linked to my book’s characters, so this man’s death feels terribly real to me, like my own protagonist has somehow died even though I wrote a happy ending for him.  What makes this harder still is that this man died of cancer, a normally highly curable cancer, one that a special and dear friend has had to battle in recent years.  This correlation comes a little too close to home for me and does touch me personally.  So now I’m sad and scared.  Therefore, no writing for me today, other than this post, that is. 
Though I know it won’t alleviate my anxiety, I was hoping that writing this would help purge my melancholy, help me move on, get over the shock that a strong, young man in the pinnacle of health, at the height of his career, can be brought down in a mere eighteen months.  It hasn’t.  I’m sad that life is so fragile.  Funny, I got off writing just this kind of thing in my novel, but in reality, it just sucks.  But I’ll move on, because that’s what we humans do, right?  We move on.
In the mean time, this very insecure writer has read a helpful post, also by the lovely Alex Cavanaugh, who recently wrote a piece as a guest on Elizabeth Mueller’s blog called Writing the Second Book.  Though his article focused more on writing a sequel, he gives some great tips for getting started on a second novel.  Just in the nick of time for me it seems!  You’re kind of like a guardian angel for me today, Alex.  Thanks for that. 
So, what about you?  Have any of you written a second book?  How was it different from your first one?  Did you have trouble starting?  Any tips?  And have any of you ever lost your mojo, or your muse, like I have?  How do I find it again?                    

Monday, September 5, 2011

Last of the Summer Fluff: The 7x7 Link Award

            Oh boy, I almost forgot to post about this.  It seems I missed so much while I was away, like Rachael Harrie’s Writers Platform Building Campaign.  I did manage to sign up for one of her groups, but since I missed the deadline, it didn’t work out.  My loss, for sure.

            Something else I forgot about was this little award I received from my BFF, Lisa Regan.  She got this little thing called The 7x7 Link Award and passed it along to me.  Now, I told myself I wasn’t going to do these things anymore, but since I have one more short trip this week before my summer is officially over, I thought I’d allow myself one last hurrah.
For this award, I’m supposed to categorically list my best blog posts:  Most Beautiful, Most Helpful, Most Popular, Most Controversial, Most Surprisingly Successful, Most Underrated, and Most Pride-worthy.  I only have about fifty posts to choose from, but I’ll do my best. 

So here it goes:

1.                  Most Popular:

Definitely “Stories Don’t Happen in a Vacuum” which has to do with backstory in a query letter.  It struck a chord with a lot of people back when I wrote it, but that post still gets 12 hits a day on average for whatever reason.

2.                  Most Beautiful:

This is a toss-up between “Finding My Book’s Theme:  Forgiveness” which deals with how my book’s theme relates to me personally, or “The Puzzle” which explains why I started to write my book in the first place.

3.                  Most Controversial:

Grading on content, I think this would have to be “To Prologue or Not” which asks whether I should I include my 250 word intro as a prologue.  People have diverse opinions about prologues, as do agents.  I’m still up in the air, but have included it with my three recent requests from agents. 

4.                  Most Helpful:

 Well, I’m not sure that this post was helpful to anyone else, but my “Gearin’ Up to Get Agent Blogfest Week 1” post garnered me so much helpful information that I rewrote my query into what I believe is my best one yet.

5.                  Most Surprisingly Successful:

That’s an easy one; it’s “Networking, Blogging and Other Fluff.”  While this post was over 1,800 words, it garnered me the most comments, I think because it struck a chord with so many of you writer/bloggers out there who are struggling to make connections with other writer/bloggers and have found camaraderie here within the Blogger ranks.

6.                  Most Under-Rated:

I guess it would have to be “My Thoughts On Writing vs. Publishing” which explains why, though I love writing for its own sake, I am so driven to find and land an agent and have my book traditionally published. 

7.                  Most Pride-Worthy:

I think I have two that qualify here.  The first is “Everyone Needs a Champion” where I speak of those few people who have helped me get through the most difficult periods in my life during this journey toward publication.  The other is “How I Was Saved” which is similar and tells how my friend, Lisa, kept me going.

Now for those I’d like to bestow this award upon:

Tara at More Than Fiction (Yes, Tara, both Lisa and I have requested your participation!)

Robin at Robin Weeks because I find her fascinating and brilliant!

Lora at Lora  Rivera Inside Writing because she’s talented and always writes about writing.

Joylene at Joylene Nowell Butler, Author because she’s a fellow thriller writer and published, too.

Hektor at Hektor Karl because he’s interesting and loves dogs!  You can’t get much better than that.  Well, okay, he’s very handsome, too!

People I’d love to see participate but am too much of a weenie to ask:

Alex at Alex J. Cavanaugh because EVERYONE loves Alex and I think he’s totally cool!

Julie at Julie Musil because she is chock full of fantastic writing advice.

Lynda R. Young at W.I.P. It because she’s wise and smart and gives great writing advice.

Now, I’m off to Portland to spend hours and hours at Powell’s City of Books.  Have any of you ever been there?  It's the largest book store in the world, taking up an entire city block, and is full of new and used books, any title you can imagine.  In other words:  HEAVEN!    

Sunday, September 4, 2011

100 Followers! Happy Dance Time!

            I thought I would bury this post on a Sunday since, statistically speaking, not many read over the weekend, but…WAHOO!  I just turned over 100 followers!  I never thought that would happen in a million years.  I must say, I am grateful for each and every one of you, and I promise to keep writing and posting articles on writing and publishing that will hopefully keep your interest.  Thanks again to all of you!    

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Coming Home, Housekeeping and Cheers!

            It’s been over two weeks since I last posted here on my blog.  As you know, I’ve been away from home.  I took my sixteen-year-old son on his college tour through California.  As daunting as the itinerary looked on paper, it proved even more so in reality.  Twelve schools in thirteen days, a rehearsal dinner, a wedding, a day-after brunch and a little sightseeing was just a wee bit much for me.  By the middle of day nine, I was thoroughly exhausted and sick as a dog.  And that was the day of the wedding rehearsal and dinner, one day before the wedding itself.  Needless to say, I didn’t enjoy myself as much as I wanted or expected.  Not one drink passed my lips and my feet only touched the dance floor to take photos of my family members as they frolicked with drunken glee.
            But the trip was not wasted.  Though I spent the last five days of it coughing and blowing my stuffy nose, I enjoyed my time with my son.  We spent many hours on the road together, talking about so many things.  We flitted from school to school, discussing the merits or drawbacks of each, what we liked and hated, and whether or not “that feeling” was there the moment we stepped out of the car.  Afterwards, we would be tourists and go to the beach, visit the city, tour a ballpark or have a nice meal.  He even managed to drag me to a San Francisco Giants baseball game though I was quite ill and wanted nothing more than to lay in bed and sleep.  All in all, it was a time of bonding I will cherish forever and never forget.  And the trip served its purpose; my son now has a list of his top schools to apply to:

            #1 - University of San Francisco
            #2 - University of California at Berkeley
            #3 - California State University at San Diego
            #4 - Santa Clara University
            #5 - California State University at San Francisco

My list would have been slightly different in that I loved the University of California at San Diego over Cal State San Diego and I would also change the order of the first four, but overall, we were on the same page about most schools.  There are many more to which he will apply, but these are his favorites.   
            While I was gone, many of you left comments of support, some commiserating with the experience of dropping their child off at college, or just wishing me luck and enjoyment.  I even received two awards over at Letters from Valentina Hepburn, but since I’ve already posted about both the Versatile Blogger and Irresistibly Sweet Blog Awards, I will simply thank Valentina and move on.
My plan was to get right back into posting about writing and querying and all that, but since returning only a day and a half ago, I am thoroughly exhausted.  I don’t remember the last time I spent two whole weeks away from home, and perhaps it’s just my advanced age or the fact that I’m still pretty sick, but I haven’t the energy to devote to a witty, dynamic post. 
            But if you would be so kind as to indulge me, I would like to mention one more thing.  My friend, Lisa Regan, emailed me two days ago, while I was still in California, reminding me that it was our one year anniversary, that is to say it was one year ago that we met online via Nathan Bransford’s website.  I had posted a request for a critique partner in one of Nathan’s forums and Lisa responded.  We hit it off immediately and have since become best friends.  She has inspired me to be the best writer I can be, while also teaching me more than I thought possible.
I’ve often referred to Lisa as my writing soul mate, but she is much more than that.  When I have exciting news to share or need cheering up, she is always the first person I turn to.  I could not imagine what my writing experience would have been like over the last year without her. 
So cheers, Lisa!  Here’s to many more years together!        

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Going on Hiatus for the Great California College Tour

            First, I’d like to say how thankful I am for all your support during the last week.  I’m blown away by the fact that so many of you read my entire last post, as long as it was.  I received more comments than ever, so I think I must have struck a chord.  Several of my friends here on Blogger ran similar posts about blogging and what it’s meant for them.  Some have reassessed the amount of time they devote to blogging so they can get back to the real reason they are even here in the first place:  writing their novel.
Yes, blogging takes a great deal of time, not just writing an interesting post, but also devoting time to your loyal followers.  After all, we’d be next to nothing without them.  I’ve been a tad neglectful of my own for the last week and for that, I apologize.  Some of you know why, but most do not, and, frankly, I’m a bit leery of sharing the reason outright for fear I will jinx myself.  It’s happened before, God knows.  I open my mouth in excitement and the next thing I know, devastating disappointment.  So I’ve learned not to get my hopes up and I truly don’t think anything will come of it this time around either, but I can’t help but be hopeful.  To that effect, I need a diversion to get my mind off things.  Lucky for me, I already have just the thing.
You see, my sixteen-year-old son and I are leaving in two days for what we call The Great California College Tour.  In one year, he will be off to college.  He hates it here in Western Washington.  Can’t say I blame him.  It rains a lot here in Seattle.  And I mean A LOT!  When it’s not raining, it’s usually cloudy and way too cold for our tastes.  We are, after all, from sunny, warm California, and my son dearly wants to return there to attend college.  So for the last fourteen days of August, we will be touring twelve universities, from San Diego to Santa Rosa.  That’s 12 colleges in 14 days, plus a family wedding.  YIKES!
Needless to say, I will be very busy and so I’ll likely not have any time to write or post here.  I suppose I could use the time to re-energize my blog writing, come up with some new and interesting topics.  I’ve been quite distracted lately with blogfests, awards and such, what I lovingly call fluff.  I think it’s time I get back to some serious writing.
I’ve also completely finished my last novel.  That’s right, I finally no longer feel the need to revise, at least not until I hear back from a few gatekeepers.  Fingers crossed they even give me feedback.  That’s all I’m really hoping for at this point.  But this time away will be a much needed distraction so I can regroup and focus on my next book.  I hope to do some character sketches and work on my outline.  Unfortunately, I don’t feel the same inspiration this time around like I did with my first novel.  Nobody’s whispering in my ear this time, so that means this will be work.  That scares me. 
I might write a few posts on our college tour progress, maybe post a few pictures of the beautiful campuses we will be visiting, that is if I can figure out how to upload remotely.  In the mean time, I will do my best to visit you all from time to time, post a comment or two when I can.  But please know that if I do not, it’s only because I am devoting all of my time to helping my son make the most important decision of his young life thus far.  I can honestly say I will miss blogging.  As much of a chore as I’ve always thought of it, it’s also been the one way in which I reach out and connect with others like myself.  That has meant more to me than any of you will ever know.  Thanks for that, and I hope you come back and visit with me again after my hiatus.  God bless you all!