Too Much of Good Thing?

For the past six or so months, I’ve written several posts about my amazing writer’s group and our reinvestment in the group, as well as our craft. It’s been a great summer together! We’re still working on getting back into a regular rhythm, but we’re meeting for critique sessions as often as possible, and we’ve made a significant effort to meet and write, whomever is available, if our usual critique session won’t work for the whole group. These writing sessions have allowed me to really dive into my WIP – sometimes I work on my outline, other times I develop my notes, expand my character sketches, or spend time on world-building. It’s all time well-spent.

We’ve also recently kicked off a daily texting check-in. We each have different writing goals, either based on words or time spent writing, and we send a text with our accomplishment. It’s been fun, and we get so excited to see each other’s messages come through. I find myself feeling more accountable for keeping to my goals than I would have otherwise, and momentum is an incredibly important aspect of writing for me.

The fascinating side-effect of my improved diligence, of revisiting good and regular writing habits, is that I feel energized, excited, and enthusiastic about developing my story. Which is great. Wonderful! Lovely. But, I also find that I have the occasional new story idea. Or a couple.

Actually, I’m swimming in ideas. Which sounds like a fantastic problem to have! And it is, truly, but now I’m struggling to concentrate, to finish one story before I jump into the next. I’m a pantser at heart, although I’ve learned to value and prioritize creating a high-level outline, and that means that its hard for me to slow down and capture enough detail about my ideas that I can successfully come back to them later. The inability to recapture the idea makes me anxious about losing it completely, and I begin to lose momentum on the current project, bouncing back and forth like some errant molecule pinging around.

Can there be too much of a good thing when it comes to writing, and having a plethora of wonderful story ideas? Nah! Just a need to better capture the key details of the idea, and the self-discipline to focus on one project at a time. No problem, right?

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My Computer Ate My Blog

Monday has arrived, yet again, welcoming us into another week. Can you believe we’re halfway through August?!? I’m not quite sure where summer went – apparently I blinked and it zoomed by, leaving little trace that it was ever actually here. Ah, well.

Today’s blog was, well, not this one. I wrote two actually, and was deciding which to use. And then Monday happened. (Okay, technically Sunday night, but I’m not feeling the love for Monday, so Monday gets the blame today. And technology, but I’m getting there.)

As I struggled with my technology last night and again this morning, my brain roamed around how technology plays an increasingly present role in some of my favorite fiction. A sign of the times, writers are including internet searches, smart phones, and hacking in their stories at an ever-increasing pace; my favorite authors do this very, very well, walking that fine line between keeping the story current while not making it so current that a year from now it will seem dated and difficult with which to connect. Their characters use their technology in ways that I see myself doing so, and having the challenges I experience every day: difficult internet connections, no charging stations in airports, a phone that keep glitching, and so on. I can feel the character’s experience, as it closely aligns with my own, or is realistic enough that I can relate to the events.

Others, not so much. For instance, how often is the protagonist suddenly a hacker? Especially when the protagonist has a career as a florist, pet groomer, or parasailing instructor? And yet, here I sit, struggling with some basic functionality, when I spent nearly two decades working in IT. I’m suspicious. Of course, the stories in question are not sci-fi or other genres where there is an expectation of suspension of disbelief. No, these are the kinds of stories where the protagonist is your average florist, who suddenly knows how to hack some CIA database to obtain info about something-or-other. (No offense to florists, who are amazing; they’re simply not usually cross-trained as hackers, either white or black hat.)

My current work in progress requires a fair amount of suspension of disbelief, but I’ve tried to set up the story in such a way that the reader is engaged and willing to go for the ride with me, and the characters in the story. Rachel’s backstory provides groundwork for why she has access to the people and information that she does; when something is a stretch, I’m working to provide a rationale that the average reader is willing to accept. Plenty of beta readers will have a shot at telling me where I’ve missed the mark and stretched things too far, because its important to me that I be fair to my readers.

While I love a story that involves technology, I need it to be within the boundaries of reality, even a stretched reality, or I’m going to lose interest in the story. Tell me, what theme, trope, or bad behavior causes you frustration in your reading?

Collectibles

I collect experiences.

As an only child living in a fairly rural area, I had a lot of time to myself. I think the practice of collecting probably began way back then. Adding new things to my room, organizing them, re-arranging them, all these tasks of creating and maintaining a collection were fun for me: bears, dolls, unicorns, stickers, books, buttons. . .well, I really liked to collect things. Tangible, appreciable things.  But, as an adult, I came to realize that things require physical space and maintenance – like dusting. Horrible, horrible dusting. As an adult, I’m far less enamored of things that require physical space and dusting, yet I still love collecting.

I’m an introvert, and we introverts tend to hover on the periphery of things where we’re not so overwhelmed. We visit the edges of conversations, the boundaries of parties, the quiet corners of chaos. We watch, and we listen. I could spend hours sitting in a mall or museum, watching the people walk by, imagining the situations they’re in based on the body language. Hand-gestures are so expressive, even from a distance! Sometimes, as I’m sitting in a food court, I’ll catch a few snippets of conversation. Without context, these snippets can sound strange, scary, exciting, dangerous. . .and it is so much fun to write the missing text in my head. What I discovered, is that I could collect the intangibles. The only space required is the space in my head. And dusting? No dusting required!

I’ve worked in a wide-range of industries and been to some amazing places, and all of these experiences were added to my collection, which lives, dust-free, in my head. They make life interesting by adding dimension, depth, and perspective. The best part? What they add to my writing.

When I’ve written myself into a corner or I’ve lost the plot thread (or not yet found it) or I’ve simply bored myself with my writing (it happens!), I can close my eyes and flip through the filing cabinet of experiences in my head. Images, odors, temperatures, sounds, words, are all there to browse through, remember, enjoy. My writing gets better as I add some version of the remembered experience, or use one as inspiration to weave into the story, and I get to enjoy the memories again and again.

No dusting required!

Attention Grabbing

Why do we choose to read the stories that we do? Lately, I’ve engaged in several casual conversations with new-to-me people, who have asked who/what I like to read, and why. It was a surprise to find that I struggled to answer the questions. For the who, the challenge was where to start my list! I love reading, and there is an ever-growing list of authors that I recommend to others.

But, how to boil down what captures my attention into a small-talk-worthy sentence or two? That has been a struggle, so I’ve been thinking about it for the past week or so. I still don’t have an answer, but I’m actually enjoying the self-analysis!

Currently, I’m re-reading a fun and incredibly well-written series (the Ordinary Magic series by Devon Monk). Set in the fictional town of Ordinary, Oregon, the stories revolve around three sisters who represent both traditional law enforcement for the town, as well as specific roles related to managing the gods that vacation in Ordinary.

Yep, gods. Death, War, and so on, come to Ordinary, Oregon to put down their god powers and vacation like normal humans. Great premise, right? I highly recommend the series (five books so far, with short stories as well). Here’s the beginning of the blurb for book five, Dime a Demon:

Myra Reed’s life is going great. . .Being a cop is great. Guarding the library of arcane secrets is great. Even dealing with the monsters and gods vacationing in the little beach town of Ordinary, Oregon is great. Then the demon, Bathin, strolls into town and steals Myra’s sister’s soul. So much for great.”

Whoa! Grabber, there. But, what about this series captured my attention before I even read the blurb? Why, when Amazon is driving me crazy by putting seven books by the same author, who I have NEVER read (and will never read; can I please have a “stop showing me this” option?!?), in my “recommended for you” list, for weeks at a time, am I choosing something else? (Other than a wee bit of passive aggression, of course.)

When selecting a new read, I usually start by checking for new books by my favorite authors; books that we’ve mentioned on this blog; or books by authors speaking at a conference I’m planning to attend. When none of those options result in a new book to read, I’ll scroll through the options presented by Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Interesting titles, great blurbs, an appealing cover are things that draw me in, but even after some thought, I can’t really define why one book sounds better than another – especially when the blurbs are similar.

I’d love to know what captures your attention – what makes you buy or borrow a book? Is there a particular theme that you are particularly drawn to? What magic draws you in, readers?

Happy July!

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

Good morning, and happy July! My apologies, but I do not have a fascinating post for you today. Instead, I’d love to hear what you’re planning to do – and READ -this week!

I’ve been catching up on my Kristen Painter books. This author is FANTASTIC and I adore her paranormal work. Such strong character and story development! Definitely recommend. I’ve been thinking about revisiting some Elizabeth Peters soon, too. For less fun, I’ll be reading about Emotional Intelligence and Change Management (thank you, Harvard Business Review books).

No big plans for our family, mostly impromptu outings and – the best part! – working on my current novel out on the deck. Send good weather wishes!

I hope you all have something fun on the horizon, good weather in your area, and plenty of books to read!

An Explosion of Ideas

As the weather warms up (and dries up!) here in the northeast, the resulting pollen count is a beast. Everything is yellow-cars, puddles, furniture (even inside), and grass. However, watching the gardens fluff up with new shoots and buds, realizing that suddenly I can’t see my neighbors yard because the trees have leafed out, and spotting those bird species that are only around in the summer makes the sniffling and sneezing worth it (mostly).

In my last few blogs, I’ve been writing about the crazy that is my life, really most people’s lives, and the renewal of my writers’ group. We had another meeting this weekend and there were a few takeaways that I wanted to share.

  1. The importance of accountability. One of our members has really taken our discussion about commitment to heart, and has stepped into role of accountability maven. She’s set some expectations for us, and I so appreciate her willingness to do so; it makes me want to share that burden, partly by arriving to our meetings prepared and partly by also holding myself and others accountable. It’s exciting to feel that shared energy and responsibility!
  2. Energy and creativity beget energy and creativity. (Disclaimer: I’ve done no research and gathered no data on this; it’s purely my conclusion.)

Driving to Saturday’s meeting was rejuvenating for me, because for the first time in months ideas were bubbling and bouncing and tumbling around in my mind. I hadn’t realized how much I missed that feeling and experience! The more the ideas came to me, the more my excitement grew and the more ideas bubbled up. The feeling was similar to when you get a solid 8 – 10 hours of sleep and awake refreshed and ready to go. Happily, I’m revisiting that place where I’m slightly annoyed that I can’t just drop everything and WRITE because there are so many ideas ready to explode out of me. (Picture joyful child clapping hands and giggling with glee. That’s exactly how I feel right now.)

What’s next? We’ve made a commitment to attend our next meeting, new writing in hand. There’s a plan for our meetings for the rest of the summer, and even some proposed group writing time, too. We’re taking the time to celebrate success, whether that’s new writing, completed editing, or pursuing an agent. All milestones represent success!

My plan for the summer to is to let my ideas explode out and onto the page; all while enjoying gorgeous weather, the beauty of summer gardens, and the camaraderie of my amazing fellow writers.

This Page Intentionally Left Blank

Today is my day to post.

I’m late.

I have excuses, but I won’t bore you with them.

Well, not all of them.

Life has a funny way of sending you in unexpected directions, have you ever noticed? For instance, you’re driving to a destination and road work requires a detour, which takes you through a neighborhood you’ve never seen, and you realize there’s this lovely little gem you’d never have known about otherwise.

My company (the day-job) announced a merger last July, and we began the journey to becoming a single, cohesive entity. We’re both not-for-profits, a similar size, and exist within the same industry; however, we have different areas of focus, so the merger is advantageous to us both without requiring a lot of layoffs or other unpleasantness. Of course, culturally we’re quite different, as we’re merging a northern company from New Hampshire with a southern-based company from Georgia, but overall, things are going well.

Except.

My division did some restructuring in October, as a result of task force findings. The new plan made sense, but October is the beginning of our busy season, and our progress has been slow. Improvements are occurring and staff have been remarkably supportive.

Except.

We thought we were done “re-orging.” There was a plan, execution, and active progress. Three weeks ago, we found out we were – wait for it – being “re-re-orged.” *sigh* It’s good for me (I’ve gotten two promotions), and it’s good for the company (the changes make sense), but this is a LOT of change for people to consume in a very short period of time. If you’ve ever done some change management study, you’re aware that each individual processes and proceeds through the transition from original state to future state in their own time and at their own pace. We’ve worked hard as a management team to support this, while still finishing our operational work and meeting client expectations. I spent most of last week on our Georgia campus, meeting new colleagues and helping to develop the roadmap for our division transitions.

On top of this, my daughter is wrapping up the school year by studying for finals, anxiously awaiting time to take her driver’s test, and needing to shop for a bathing suit for a party happening this Thursday.

I’m overwhelmed.

Here’s the good news: my writers’ group met on Sunday, and we spent our time discussing how to reset, reinvigorate, and reinvent ourselves. The conversation was lively and I feel as though we reconnected. We set some individual goals, and can hopefully work toward them.

So, that’s my June. It’s sunny today, I re-arranged my office this weekend to make it more useful for writing, and I’m looking forward to meeting with my writers’ group in two weeks – new writing in-hand!

Happy Summer!