Rhymes With Smash!

The musings of Megan Paasch, and other stuff.

Archive for the tag “writing”

TTOF Monday: When Reading & Writing Don’t Mix

Every third Monday of each month, I’ll be directing you to my post over at Thinking Through Our Fingers, a group blog which I’m thrilled to be a part of, where we discuss our writing lives, and share tips and tricks that we’ve learned along the way. My post today is on how I sometimes have trouble writing while reading certain books, and why that might be. You can read it right here. Please go check it out, and while you’re there, I urge you to explore the rest of the site as well. There’s tons of great stuff. My fellow TTOF-ers are a clever bunch!

Advertisements

Writing With Discipline: Forming New Habits

I was supposed to write this blog post last night. I was supposed to have it all set up and scheduled to post first thing this morning. That’s what I’d intended when I’d planned to blog every Monday. But then Sunday was long and busy, and I was tired, and my brain wouldn’t cooperate with me, and I couldn’t think of a single thing to blog about.

“I’ll do it in the morning,” I finally told myself, right around 11:30pm. “It doesn’t have to be up first thing, as long as it’s up sometime on Monday.” But I’d rather not make a habit of that.

That’s the point of this after all: forming a habit. Having some discipline. A routine. Getting myself to write something, anything, even if I don’t feel like it. That’s how writers become authors–through hard work even when they aren’t in the mood. Through persistence. That’s what I’m trying to teach myself.

My first book took six or so years of trial and error to write. I started it, then set it aside, then brought it back out and started it over, then set it aside, and so on until one day I told myself if I kept putting my draft away, then starting it over again, it would be decades before I ever finished it. So I buckled down and wrote and wrote, and revised and revised, and edited and edited, until finally I finished. That process, from the moment I buckled down until I was ready to query, still took about two years.

My second book, which I started during NaNoWriMo one year while my first book was “resting” between drafting and revising, also took about two years, and that was just the draft. Two years for a very rough draft. Part of that was because I hadn’t made it a priority. My first book came first–it was my baby. My second book was for fun. And that’s okay. However, when I started querying my first book, I took a look back at that second one and decided there was something there worth pursuing more seriously. So I started it over. Aaaaand then I got stuck. Aaaaand then a plot bunny bounced across the street in front of my car one day as I was driving to the store and I knew I had to pursue it.

That second book’s rewrite wasn’t gelling, and I wasn’t enjoying it anymore. As I said, that one had originally been written for fun. When it was no longer fun, I dropped it for something I felt more passionate about. That second book was my rebound book. Not to say I won’t ever revisit it. But when I do, it will be on different terms. It will be with the understanding that if I’m to pick it up again, I must have the tools and discipline in place to be able to see it through to the end.

And that’s what I’m working on right now with my third book–that plot bunny that bounced across the road. I went into this one with the clear intention that I will finish it, and I will do so in a timely manner. That’s not to say that I will rush it to the point where I end up with something that is such a mess, fixing it will be too daunting, and dropping it like I did with my second will be too tempting. Nope. I wanted to rush in and start writing, but I made myself take the time to plan and plot and outline first–those are the tools I’m talking about. If I know where I’m headed, if I know what events must take place, and in what order, and in what way, I’ll be able to write the draft quickly because I’ll know where I’m going. I won’t write myself into a corner, or veer down the wrong path and have to double back. And if I understand my characters before I start to write, I’ll have an easier time making their dialogue, their actions, and their reactions authentic.

So that’s done, and now that I know what to write, the next step is to make myself sit down everyday and write it. No more wasting time because I’m “not in the mood,” or “I’m not sure how to write this part perfectly, so I won’t get started writing it at all.” Those are habits that I’ve formed over time and I need to push them aside with new habits.

One of those habits is keeping up this blog. “But Megan, that’s not working on your third book. That’s another distraction.” Nope, no it’s not. Because consistent blogging forces me to find something to write about every week even when I’m not feeling inspired, and that habit, that kind of discipline, will carry over into all of my writing projects, third book included. That’s my hope anyway.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’d better be off. I have a novel to write.

Waking Up

This post is kind of personal. I’m not sure why I feel so nervous writing it, but I do. But I also feel like I should. So here we go.

I want to talk about why this blog has been a dead zone for the last seven months. Until recently, I thought it was just because I couldn’t think of anything to say. But that’s not really it. I have lots of things to say. It’s why I write novels. It’s why I take part on social media. It’s why I talk to myself when I think no one’s listening . . . I mean, that’s totally normal right? Yeah, totally normal.

But lately, it feels like I’ve been in a fog. Like I have things to say, but I can’t articulate them. A brain fog. And I’ve been tired. Super, ridiculously tired. Tired to the point where I got concerned and thought for several months about maybe going to the doctor, and then finally actually went, and spilled my guts out about everything I was worried could be wrong with me. This is not something that I do. And it was especially hard, because it was a brand new doctor. My old one, who I was sort of used to (if you can say that going to see someone once in a blue moon when I felt like I might have a sinus infection is enough to get used to someone) moved away a few years ago, and yeah . . . I hadn’t found a replacement since. I don’t like to go to the doctor unless I’m dying. Not the best philosophy, I know, but I’m working on being better about that.

So anyway, I went to the doctor. I said I thought maybe it was my thyroid. Or I thought maybe it was Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Or I thought maybe I was just depressed. Or maybe all of the above. I did not tell her that I thought maybe it was cancer, but of course I thought maybe it was cancer. Everybody always thinks maybe it’s cancer. Even WebMD always thinks maybe it’s cancer. (Spoiler: it’s not cancer.)

I’m not a hypochondriac, but it really was getting ridiculous how tired I was. It was interfering with daily life. I couldn’t keep up with the house, I couldn’t keep up with the kids, I certainly couldn’t exercise. And I couldn’t write. Not very much anyway. I could write more than I could do the other things, because I could do that while sprawled on the couch. But with the physical fatigue came mental fatigue, and so any writing time that I had, I used for working on the bigger “more important” stuff: the novels and my monthly blog post for Thinking Through Our Fingers. Short stories, flash fiction, and personal blogs fell to the wayside.

I know there are some of you who know me outside the realm of the internet who might read this and be surprised. If we’ve hung out, I’ve probably seemed fine. And I mean, I do have good days too. Some days I’ll wake up and have tons of energy, and I’ll feel awesome, and so I’ll want to take advantage of that and spend time with friends and/or get a bunch of stuff done while I can. And I usually overdo it because I know that for the next day or two or three, I’ll be wiped no matter what. Happens every time. And sometimes I just force myself to get out despite how tired I am, because hello, I want to hang out with you. But not here. Over at your house please, or somewhere in the middle, because I’m too exhausted to tidy everything up. And though each and every one of you has told me it’s okay and it’s probably not that bad, I’m embarrassed. Because I’m a perfectionist too. Exhaustion and perfectionism do not make good bedfellows.

So anyway, it turns out my thyroid is awesome (yay!) but my iron and vitamin D levels are super duper low. In other words, I should have 1) been taking my Flintstones everyday like a good little girl, and 2) gone to the doctor a hell of a lot earlier. Now I’m on some mega-dose vitamins and after a month or so of taking them, I’m just now–like, within the last week–starting to wake up.

I feel like I’ve been sleepwalking for the last year or so. And as I’ve been getting some energy back, I’ve been remembering things that I used to do, that I’d stopped doing, that I want to do again. I’ve been remembering what I was like before I got so tired. I didn’t remember any of that while I was tired. I was just tired. I just didn’t want to do anything. I was depressed, but I didn’t know if I was depressed because I was tired, or if I was tired because I was depressed.

Seems like maybe I was depressed because I was tired, because I’m feeling a lot better now.

So what is the point of this post? I don’t know. I guess I just wanted to explain where old me has been the last year or so. Probably longer than that. It’s been slowly building for quite a while, and I think maybe it’s been more obvious to other people that I’m not like I used to be than it has to me. And I guess the other point of this post is to say that I’m trying. I’m working on it, and things are getting better. I’ve been exercising every day. I’ve been getting out more, communicating more, being more…present? I guess? I’ve felt more present anyway. I’ve been in a better mood. And I feel like my brain is starting to work again–I’m feeling creative again, I’m feeling smart, and I’m feeling much more focused. It’s amazing what the lack of one little mineral and one little vitamin can do to you.

The old me isn’t back yet. But she is on her way. And she’s looking forward to whipping life back into shape.

See you next Monday.

Stuff and Things

Hey! Well look at you! *squints through the screen* It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

My blog posts have been kind of sparse as of late, but there’s a reason for that. You see, I spent the bulk of the summer working on revisions (more revisions, always revisions, constant revisions, argh) for my contemporary fantasy, “Charlotte Elemental,” so that I could enter it in Brenda Drake’s Pitch Wars. If you don’t know what that is, you can read all about it here.

And I did it! I finished! And you know what else? Julie Sondra Decker chose me to be her mentee! And all the !!!!!!

No really. This was my tweet when I saw my name on the list:

(Umm…”Slaash” was my Halloween Twitter handle. Don’t judge.) And everything after that was just one exciting blur. Within a few days though, I calmed down, and together, Julie and I got to work. For the last two months I’ve been going through more revisions. And more revisions. And polishing up my pitch. And my query. And, and, and soon–as in, a week soon–my pitch and excerpt will go up on Brenda’s blog for all the participating agents to take a look at and decide whether they’d like to request more material.

No, I’m not nervous or anything. Why would I be nervous? *twitch* Nope, perfect picture of tranquility here. Heh. Eheh. Eheheh. ANYWAY, carrying on. . . .

I may be less busy soon, or even if I’m not, I want to be sure to set aside more time to blog. I want to make blogging a regular habit. It may be once a week or once a month–we’ll have to see what ends up working. But I definitely don’t want to let another three months go by with nothing here for you to read. No, don’t tell me it’s ok. You want to read my things. Yes you do.

That’s right. You’re welcome.

Oh hey, and before you go, take a look at the bar at the top of this blog. See how there are new page linky thingies up there? “Shorts” sends you to a list of (surprise!) my short stories and flash fiction, and “Interviews” sends you to . . . okay, you get it. I also updated my bio. But you don’t need to look at that. (You should go look at that too. I mean, if you want to.)

Drastic Measures

I have a big red tile on my phone with a big white number on it that gets smaller every day. It’s counting down to the day I want to be finished with my first revisions pass. Today, that number is a glaring 25. Twenty-five. Less than four weeks.

At the rate things are going, there’s absolutely no way. But I’m going to continue trying. I’m not going to call it a failure until I’ve hit Day -1, because until I haven’t made it, there’s always a chance that I can.

Here’s the thing though: I think it’s going to take something drastic. I think…wow, I’m even having trouble typing it…I think I’m…

*deep breath*

OK. I think I’m going to have to go into full on hermit mode until I’m finished. That means no social media. Let me emphasize that: NO TWITTER OR FACEBOOK FOR TWENTY FIVE DAYS.

None.

Nada.

Oh man, I just don’t know. I mean, I LOVE you guys. Really, really a lot. I love your camaraderie, your encouragement, your capacity for outright hilarity. You’re all amazing, and you’re all what keeps me checking in when I should be hyper-focused on my work. And that’s why I’m going to have to go into this little anti-social cave here for a bit if I’m going to finish what I need to do before the holiday season begins.

I’ll try to write a blog post once a week (I said try, no promises) to update my progress and hold myself accountable. And of course I’ll keep up with email. You might see me on Pinterest now and again too because, let’s face it, I have to do something while I wake up with my morning coffee.

Then, on Halloween, I’ll be back to PARTAY because hopefully I’ll be all finished! And also because it will be Halloween and you know, Halloween = PARTAY. It’s like a law or something.

I’ll give myself tomorrow to wind things down (but I won’t be on much), and then Tuesday I’ll go *poof* until the 31st.

Do you think I can do it? We’ll see!

Here’s Where I Do Something Scary…I Sing.

Eleanor Roosevelt said you should “do one thing everyday that scares you.” Well I do. I write everyday, (well almost) and that’s pretty scary, isn’t it? The fear that your story won’t pan out, that no one will like it, that you’ll send something out into the world and people will read it and might think it’s awful. That’s terrifying. But I do it anyway. I choke back that fear and damn it, I do it anyway. Because I have to. I have no choice.

No, no one’s pointing a gun at my head and telling me I’d better tap on that keyboard everyday or else. That’s not what I mean. What I’m saying is, writing is no longer a hobby for me. It’s an innate need. So I write, and I try not to think about the frightening parts.

But right now, I’m about to do something else. Something that I don’t have to do. Something that I enjoy doing all the time on my own, when no one else is listening. Something that I occasionally do in front of close friends and family – and maybe a few more people if I’ve had an encouraging beverage (ahem).

Basically, something that scares the CRAP out of me, and yet I’m going to do it. Why? Because Eleanor Roosevelt, that’s why! And because a few of you have seen me tweet about playing my ukulele and have asked if you’ll ever get to hear it. And also because someone must have gassed me with courage vapors in my sleep last night.  But mostly because I’ve always deeply wished that singing in front of others didn’t scare me as much as it does.

Yesterday I got the notion in my head that I could probably figure out the chords for “Java Jive” if I fiddled around enough. And I did! And I was so proud of myself that today, after lots of practice, I recorded it. I recorded it about twenty times, in fact, until I got a version that I was happy with. It’s audio only because I’m not brave enough to do video yet.

So ….(deep breath)….. here it is.

And now I will go run away and hide and breathe into a paper bag.

Thanks for listening!

More Than Writing

I think a few changes are in order for this blog.

I want to write about more than just writing. Everybody writes about writing, and I have very little to contribute in that area just yet, as I’m still very new to the process. But writing isn’t the only thing I do, and it alone hardly defines me as a person. I parent, I do crafty things, I bake, I geek out, and I even draw the occasional celtic knot. Yes, celtic knots. What?

OK, so maybe I haven’t been doing much of these other things lately (besides parenting of course), because writing has taken up most of my time, especially with NaNoWriMo going on this month. But my point is, I do have other things I like to talk about, and I think I would write here more often if I opened up the range of subjects.

So from now own, you can expect to see quite a variety of Megan-y topics. I thought I ought to prepare you. It could get…interesting around here. Or not. Maybe a little. Eh, who knows?

The State of the W.I.P.

Obviously, I’ve been neglecting this blog. I apologize for that, but I’ve been ridiculously busy the past month. When I haven’t been running around taking care of family things, I’ve been so focused on my W.I.P., that any spare writing time has been used solely for that. I even gave up the short story that I was working on for a contest, partly due to time, and partly due to the fact that I was not at all happy with it. (Note to self: practice writing short stories).

So here’s the thing: my goal is to finish the first draft of my novel before Halloween, because from then until mid-January, things get crazy around here. I’m not sure how it happened, but a large portion of my family, nuclear and extended, have their birthdays clustered within that three month period (OK, I do know how it happened, but we won’t go there). Add that to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years, and I am a frantic, stressed out mess. So! I figure, if I can get the entire draft finished before all of THAT happens, I can step away from it during the entire holiday season, and come back with fresh eyes for revising and editing.

If you’re following me on Twitter, you may have seen me tweeting about doing some revising right now, which may be confusing. See, after I decided, around the middle of my draft, to step back and do some outlining and better character development, (I talk about it here and here); I threw out the entire beginning and wrote a new one from scratch. I also changed from first person perspective to close third, so that I can more easily switch to other characters when the story demands it.

But much of the middle is being kept the same – except for the perspective, of course, and some changes here and there to reflect the new beginning. That’s where the revising is coming in. They’re very rough revisions, however, and will need another pass (or two, or three) when I go back and revise the rest of the book.

I’m getting kind of excited, because I’m almost up to the point where I left off. Then I’ll be back in first draft territory when I write the last half of the book from scratch. That’s going to be the most difficult part, so it’s possible I’ll neglect the blog again when I get there.

I’m not sure any of this is very exciting to anyone but myself, but I thought I ought to update, since I’ve progressed a lot since my last post. I promise, the next post, whatever and whenever it may be, will be about something else. And hopefully more interesting. Hopefully.

By Jove, I Think I’ve Got It!

I am happy to announce that I am THIS close (imagine my thumb and finger held really close together) to starting back up on the draft of my W.I.P. I have a few more minor things to figure out tonight, and then I will be ready to go! The one major hold up for me has been figuring out the reasons – the big WHYs – behind the plot. Why does the Spirit return? Why does it choose Charlotte? I wasn’t comfortable with a convenient explanation such as “because she’s the one,” or “because some random prophecy said so.” I wanted the reason to be more tangible than that. And I found it. And it’s so simple. And I can’t believe I didn’t think of it before.

It came to me today out of the blue, and at the last possible moment, because I set a goal for myself to be ready to start a new draft by August 1st. That’s tomorrow. Wow.

I haven’t been as thorough with the outlining process as I said I would here. For instance, I haven’t mapped out locations, but I have thought long and hard about them. I haven’t created a timeline, I haven’t figured out everyone’s backstory, and I certainly haven’t created a detailed, scene-by-scene outline. But I have done (for me) the important bits. I know the main plot points. I understand my characters: their faults, their strengths, and what drives them. I even have a few scenes written down on index cards and put in order, and I plan to add to these as I go along. I’m comfortable with it now, and I’m ready to go.

Random Phantom Earworm of the Week: The Great Escape Theme Song

I have a tendency (I’m sure we all do) to have a song pop into my head from nowhere, and stay there.  It won’t be from anything I can recall having heard during the day, or anything that I’ve seen. It just shows up, and I won’t even realize it until I catch myself humming it. I’ve taken to calling these songs “Random Phantom Earworms.”  Last night, it was the theme song from “The Great Escape.” I haven’t seen that movie since I was a kid. It was so bizarre, that I tweeted about it, and then I had an idea. What if I started a blog series called “Random Phantom Earworm of the Week,” where I pick whichever song most recently lodged itself into my brain, and use it as a writing prompt? It can be a fictional story inspired by the song, poetry (though not likely – I don’t write much poetry), or any memories or feelings that particular song dredges up. Today, I will treat you to the latter.

So here it is: The Random Phantom Earworm of the Week: The Great Escape Theme Song:

Ah, the memories – sacked out on cushions on the floor, my parents on the brown and orange striped sofa behind me in our cool basement on a summer evening, scraping out the last bits of ice cream and chocolate sauce from the bottom of our bowls. The cathode-ray tube television would be before us – a gigantic (for the time) cube encased in wood with dusty cable box, VCR, and stereo stacked on top. Behind it, on a ledge on the wall created by the house’s foundation, were rows and rows of VHS tapes. Mostly store bought, but occassionally taped off the tv as well, when a film was not available to buy – the analog version of a DVR. Usually there were three movies to one of these tapes, and if you wanted to watch the one at the end, you had to fast forward through the first two. This was not a problem. We were much more patient then, in the days before the internet and instant gratification. I remember the whirring as we sped through the images and the clunk when we found the right spot and hit stop. Sometimes we would speed right past it and have to back-track.

We had all the cool movies: “Star Wars,” “Indiana Jones,” “Alien,” “Predator”, you name it, we probably had it. We also taped a lot of classics: Black and white detective films, Shirley Temple flicks, and of course, war movies made in the 50s and 60s. One of my Dad’s favorites was “The Great Escape.” I’ll admit now that I enjoyed it too, though at the time I would roll my eyes and whine.

“A war movie again? I wanna watch The Goonies.” I loved “The Goonies.” I even had the game for my Super Nintendo. But “The Great Escape” it would be, or “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” or possibly “The Dirty Dozen.” And though I claimed not to like them, and though I could have gone off and done something else, I stayed and watched. Because they were good, darn it. And you know what? When my kids are a little older, I’ll probably make them watch them too. And they’ll probably complain, and say they’d rather watch “Harry Potter.” But I’ll bet you they’ll stay and watch anyway, just like I did, and they’ll appreciate it later in life too.

If you’re interested in the true story behind “The Great Escape,” here are a couple of links to start you off:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stalag_Luft_III_escape#The_.22Great_Escape.22

http://www.elsham.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/gt_esc/

Post Navigation