Sunday, July 23, 2017

Type A or Type B?

We've all heard about the different personality types, A and B. And we probably get asked which camp we fall into at least once in a while. So, I've taken the time to delve into this, especially this week. Here are my findings: 

According to Wikipedia, Type A individuals are outgoing, ambitious, rigidly organized, highly status-conscious, sensitive, impatient, anxious, proactive, and concerned with time management. People with Type A personalities are often high-achieving "workaholics." They push themselves with deadlines, and hate both delays and ambivalence.

Type B individuals are sometimes attracted to careers of creativity: writer, counselor, therapist, actor or actress. However, network and computer systems managers, professors, and judges are more likely to be Type B individuals as well. Their personal character may enjoy exploring ideas and concepts. They are often reflective, and think of the "outer and inner world. 

When asked the question, especially since retiring from a 'real' job, I always answered that I was a Type B personality. After all, I'm now a full-time writer, creative and reflective, so it seemed to fit. And this year, with no publishing commitments other than a manuscript that's been in edits since January, I was rolling blithely along, working on a story that I will finish before the end of the year. 

Then, this week, all hell broke loose. I accepted a ghostwriting job where I need to crank out 30,000 words in a month's time. I'm still trying to finish the story I'm working on before I lose the thread of it. I got an email from a publisher I'd contacted nearly a year ago asking if the manuscript I queried them about was still available. It is, and if it's accepted, it's the first of a trilogy and of course, books 2 and 3 have not been written. I'm still waiting to hear about another manuscript, a Regency. If that one is accepted by my publisher of choice, it's the first of 4 books, none of which have had more than a paragraph of my time. I should be panicking at this stage of the game, but instead I'm kind of jazzed by the looming deadlines and all the work exploding around me. Maybe I am a Type A after all. 

What about you? Type A or Type B? 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Settling The Dust

My poor house is strewn from one end to the other with dust and dirt, none of which was my doing. I'm laying the blame entirely on the state of Ohio and Mother Nature. The land in my part of Ohio is mostly clay, and when you pour ten more inches of water on clay than it's able to take, you get a flood.
So, for the past week I've had jackhammers going from 9 to 5. The men who did the very filthy job of putting in the French drain and sump pump did a great job, and the dust is beginning to settle.

I'll let the dust continue to settle over the weekend before I begin trying to sop it all up and make my house show-worthy again. Instead of cleaning, I'm using the weekend to work on a couple of writing projects. Settling the dust of another kind.

First, there's my ghostwriting job. I turned in the first 1000 words, and have to get to work on the next 10,000. It's in outline form and shouldn't be too hard to write, but I need time to do it. Then, there's the edits for my next contemporary. I waded through what has been edited today, and will wend my way through the last 1/3 of the book, trying to catch the things that drive this editor crazy before I send them back. Finally, there's my next historical, 2/3 of which got tossed overboard when the plot wasn't working. It's working now, just fine, but I need to think about how the next scene will play out. Letting the dust settle on that story line for a day or so.

And if I reach a point during the weekend when my three projects are at the point where I need to think about them, I'll pick up my dust mop and clear a path through the house. Already, the front door and book shelf in the living room are looking better. If I can get the floor clean by Monday, I'll consider it a good weekend, dust and all.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Lines Of Demarcation

A long time ago in my writing experience, I attended a workshop hosted by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. She's a very funny, very busy lady who revealed her secret to finding time to write. She bought herself a kitchen timer and every time her creativity was interrupted she stopped the timer.
She'd set herself a number of hours to devote to her writing every day and measured it out with the timer. Sometimes she got done before noon, sometimes it took her until midnight. I tried her timer method for a while, but found it didn't work for me as well as it did for Susan Elizabeth.

I also for a time latched onto a bit of advice to steal minutes of time wherever and whenever you can. I so admire my friends who are able to write while watching their children play soccer or hockey, who can grab fifteen minutes before the baby wakes up to jot down the beginnings of a scene. I wish I had the persistence to do that.

It's taken years for me to figure out what works best for me. And I've determined I can't write in bits and pieces. The first 500 words are a struggle for me. I stare at the screen, lay down sentences and then erase them, glance out the window, grit my teeth and keep plugging away. Then, as if by magic, after 500 words, my eyes glaze over, my fingers begin to fly over the keyboard, and before I know it, my characters have taken over and polished off the scene for me. I come out of my stupor, read the scene and begin to think about what comes next.

Like I said, it's taken years for me to realize that's my approach to writing.

Now, when it comes to walking, it's a different story. As many of you know, I had a problem with my hip replacement surgery that pretty well put me out of commission for 1-1/2 years. I was held together by an awkward brace, so after my final surgery, I had to build my stamina back up. Factor in the Taylor Swift fall from the treadmill, and it's only been within the past six months that I've actually started working on getting fit again. My dog Mary and I head out every day it's pretty and start walking toward town. In the beginning, I measured my progress by getting to the next driveway. Then, my line of demarcation was where the new sidewalk met the old.
Then it was to the stop light. Now it's beyond. One driveway further each day. I figure we'll get to uptown by fall at this rate. Mary likes to lay down in the middle of the street, and there have been times I've been tempted to join her. But. one step at a time, we make it back home.

And, one scene at a time, my next manuscript gets written.

How about you? Do you need a dedicated chunk of time to write, or do you grab a few minutes wherever you can?

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Winging It

Last week I wrote about how things that look good on paper don't always cut the mustard when it comes to putting it all together. That's what's happening with my current work in progress (WIP. ) I followed my usual formula for when I get an idea–pull out the Blake Snyder beat sheet and fill it in. I mapped out a set up, an inciting incident, a midpoint, dark night of the soul moment, and a satisfying ending. It looked really good on paper.

Then I began to write the story. The basic story line took place on a riverboat leisurely strolling down the Mississippi toward New Orleans. And that's where the wheels, or paddles, in this case, began to come off the story. The boat was too confining for the story line. So I took a deep breath and tossed hero and heroine overboard. And while I was at it, I tossed the beat sheet overboard as well.

So where does that put me? Up the creek without a paddle, so to speak. I'm totally flying by the seat of my pants this time. No beat sheet allowed. And I'm finding something about this new approach that I really like. Many of you know I'm an obsessive jigsaw player. I've given up on the real ones, but the Magic Jigsaw Puzzle app and I spend a lot of time together. I am becoming quite adept at piecing things together quickly. The same is happening with my story. I've got my damp hero and heroine walking now instead of being on board, and they come upon a fort. It happens to be a Union fort, constructed in 1862. My hero was a Union spy who used to deliver intelligence to the fort, so they're granted access without question. I've got entire scenes from when they were aboard ship that I've abandoned, but there are bits and pieces of those scenes that, with a little tweaking, work well in the new story line. Just like my jigsaw puzzles, it's becoming less and less individual pieces with sharp edges, and is morphing into a discernible picture.

I never thought I'd be one to work by the seat of my pants. I know plenty of great writers who are pantsers, but writing historicals demands that research be done to make the story accurate. But this seems to be working for me for this story, anyway.
I recall what an early mentor told me when I was doing research for a story that's yet to be written. I asked her when I should stop doing the research, which was overwhelming me. She asked if I had a story to write or not. When I nodded, she said, "Write the damn story then. You'll know what research you'll need to add to the story once the story's on paper."

Sage advice. And that's what I'm doing. I'm writing the damn story.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Looking Good On Paper

Most writers have experienced this at one time or another–you get an idea, do your research, plot the major points that make this a sound book idea and get to work, only to realize that what looked really good on paper won't fly when the nuts and bolts of the story start coming together and something's not right.

That's what happened to me last week. The house contract looked sound so I made a quick trip to North Carolina in search of my next adventure. I'd done my homework and had narrowed my choices to two potential cities, one of which I'd been to numerous times, the other a new to me city. I had decided renting was the best option, giving me time to settle in, and to fit in. However, two things were getting in my way–rents were more expensive than I thought they'd be, and the town I'd picked as my first choice didn't feel right. No warm fuzzy. I even asked total strangers what they liked about this particular town and they seemed puzzled, couldn't come up with an answer. I liked how they decorated the sides of the downtown building with images from the past. The historian in me appreciated the nod to the way things used to be. But it was not a good enough reason to consider relocating there.

So I moved on, a bit further south, to the town I'd visited many times over the years. Sliding into this little town felt like I was coming home. However, since it's close to a military base, rents are really high, even more so than the first town I was in. And housing prices are up there too, since it's a desirable location. I spent a couple of hours with a realtor, inspecting various houses, but my pickings were slim.

When I returned home, I got the news that the potential buyers backed out of the contract, since the home inspection turned up too many things that needed fixing. Even though I'd disclosed all the problems beforehand, it didn't seem to sink in until the home inspector laid it out to them. Back to square one.

So, what to do?

I threw away the paper on which I'd laid out my plans, realizing what looked good on paper wouldn't work in reality. But it's still a good idea. So, I'll rework the plan, come up with some different plot points, do some more research, and put my nose to the grindstone to get it done. After having seventeen books published, I know how to do this.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Gypsy's On The Move

I don't know why I have this personality quirk, but every seven years or so, I like to upend my life. Since I've never married, it's not men, but locations that suffer from my seven year itch syndrome. It must be my gypsy blood. I wish the Tiny Home concept happened years ago. Then I could have taken the house with me as I tour the country, always eager to explore what's over the next hill.

I met a wonderfully supportive group of writer friends in Ohio and launched my career here, with my first book in 2012.
An agent told me recently I have an amazing publishing history and my writing is top-notch. Not something I could have accomplished without the love and support from this group. I will truly miss them.

My sister lived with me for the first time in our adult lives. We spent four years together, nursing each other through major surgeries, but she's now returning to Phoenix, where she spent so much of her life. Since I don't do deserts, she's going to be on her own. I'll miss her, but I also realize she needs her own space.

So where will I end up? This is where it gets exciting. I don't know. I explored some of North Carolina years ago when I first contemplated retirement, but couldn't find anything I cared much for. I've had gobs of time to research cities in the state now, and have sort of narrowed in on a choice, but I have yet to get there, boots on the ground, and check out the city I have in mind. As soon as my house passes inspection and I can be assured the potential buyers don't back out of the deal, I'll be on my way, scouting out a new location. Just as I did when I made the move to Austin years ago, I'll know when I pass the city limits sign that this city is the right one for me. At least that's my hope.

I'll be sure to let you know.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

A New Set Of Eyes

After the big garage sale weekend, I still have a house to sell. Admittedly, it's got a lot less stuff in it, but still. I worked upstairs today, moving things around to make the spare room look not so spare. Pat's stuff is all packed up in the basement, but she's now going through the kitchen and separating out her things there. We've been living together for four years now, so a lot of our stuff has co-mingled. But now I'm starting to look at the house with a new set of eyes, as if I were seeing it for the first time. I'm trying to remember what about the house appealed to me in the first place and play that up. Which I can now do, since the clutter is gone.

So the basement has been cleared out, and by today, when the next potential buyers come through, Pat may have enough stuff packed so her room will look organized. It's been a challenge to trim the fat from the house, but it feels really good to know that now everything I am left with has a purpose and a reason for me transporting it hundreds of miles.

Which, of course, got me to thinking about my editing process. Clearing the house has been so similar to what I go through in my writing, it's almost eerie. In the months it takes me to write a first draft, I add things in along the way, some good, some brilliant, some really bad. I leave it all in, carting it around with me, until it's time to clean things up, to edit my messy first draft. Just as I've gone room by room through the house, paring things down, I do so with my draft. Sentence by sentence, scene by scene, chapter by chapter, I start cleaning, tightening, and making certain everything I keep has a purpose, a reason for being in the book. Then I'll let my beta readers take a look at it with their fresh eyes.

My rule of thumb for deciding whether to keep something or dispose of it in the house has been if I had touched it in the past eight years or not, the length of time I've lived here. It amazed me to see the moving stickers from my previous move still on way too much stuff. Which means, it hadn't been used since I've been here. As I work through my draft, I try to apply the same logic. I cut out the things that don't work, that aren't needed. Lines that sound wonky either need to be kicked to the curb or cleaned up.

Look out, wonky wordage. I'm here to take you down.