Tag Archives: writing

3 things I’ve learned from writing

1. The process of writing means more to me than the finished product.

I’ve gone back to reading several of my old works. Admittedly, some pieces are cringeworthy; others still resonate true today. This comes as no surprise, really. The familiarity of what I’m reading allows me to bypass the story and concentrate on elements of craft. I see things differently than when I first published in 2011.

When I was a non-writing reader, the rules of grammar and punctuation only came to light if I saw an obvious error. Poor sentence structure, the overuse of adverbs, word repetition, etc., were but fleeting impressions.

Now, I’m more focused on how a sentence can be improved upon. This is probably why writers are advised to read — a lot. We feed off and learn from the writing of better authors.

Although completion of a short story, novella, or novel is cause for celebration once it’s published, it is no longer mine. The process of writing is what is important from a learning perspective, and remaining attached to a story after it’s made public serves no purpose.

2. The more I write, the more I learn about others and the less I know about myself.

Writing fiction demands that I look at the world through the lens of others, to inhabit my characters in order write their stories.

By gaining insight into others, I’ve discovered how little I know about myself.

Allow me to explain.

Because I must expand my imagination to write fiction, I sometimes question if it is truly me who comes up with the stories. In the genre of mystery and suspense, I’ve researched by reading a lot of true crime. It’s not surprising I’ve filled my mind with some awful images. That I am also a news junkie only adds to the chaos inside my head.

It’s great for fiction, but not so good for maintaining daily calm.

To stay grounded, I meditate and do yoga. In meditation, all kinds of thoughts come up. I simply observe them, attaching neither good nor bad feelings toward them. Acceptance of these thoughts trains my mind to stay calm and be in the moment. This translates to a more easygoing manner outside of meditation, and hopefully, more awareness.

Yoga serves to strengthen my physical being, which is intimately connected to the mind.

To create believable characters, it’s necessary to nurture them to behave in a way that might be contrary to my own behaviour. The important thing is staying true to myself when I’m not in my fictional world.

3. Writing can be all encompassing.

Writing absorbs me when I’m “in the zone.” At these times, I don’t need food or sleep, and I avoid all distractions. My only purpose is to ride the creative wave for as long as it will take me and as far as it will go.

It doesn’t happen too often, but it’s an amazing feeling when it does.

+++

What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned from writing? Please feel free to share. 🙂

XX

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Toning my Mind, Body, and Time Travel (Part 2) #Bali #Ubud

Welcome to the fourth instalment of my Mind Body Series. If you missed the first three, you can start reading here. The series is about my efforts to unite mind, body, and spirit to inspire my writing.

I started writing this blog while in Indonesia. I have since returned home. What an amazing trip!

Here are some final thoughts on my time in Ubud, which encompasses changes I encountered in Bali from the last time I was there in 1988.

Postcards—The Internet of the Past

The Internet was in its infancy when I was traveling around Asia almost thirty years ago. For all intents and purposes, it didn’t exist. To stay in touch, one of the first things I did when I arrived at a new destination was pick up a stack of postcards and spend a couple of hours writing them. The process helped me acclimatize to my surroundings and lay down thoughts on my travels while planning next steps. I had a list of about twenty people to write, including family, friends, and acquaintances I had met along the way.

Writing postcards was not just a responsible travel ritual.

I did not pen: “Hi, I’m here in XYZ city. Alive and well!” on all my cards. No, each one was personalized.

Even though it was one-way communication, postcards helped me maintain friendships and forge new ones.

bali postcard

In my two years away, I must have sent close to 200 postcards. My only regret was that I didn’t send one to myself each time I posted them. Along with my photographs, they would’ve added another dimension to my scrapbook.

Fast forward to this trip and I can hardly remember when the Internet did not exist.

En route to Ubud, I connected with loved ones at each juncture—each time I landed at a different airport until arrival at my final destination. Media platforms like Facebook and Twitter made it easy. I no longer had to write a note to each person. I could provide an update of my whereabouts and what I was doing en masse.

It was quick and easy, but it did not have the personal investment of postcards. As much as I love the Internet and its ability for near instant communication, it lacks for something. Perhaps I’m a romantic. I still like writing letters and cards on occasion.

Even now, postcards are available if I want to buy and send them, but the process seems like more effort than it’s worth. For a short trip, coupled with slow postal service, postcards probably won’t make it to the addressee until I’m already home.

For most people (and me included) *sigh*, the Internet has replaced postcards as the touchpoint along one’s journey.

Hostels and Hotels

Hostels were a great place to meet other travelers especially when backpacking on my own. I never felt like I was alone and the normally small facilities meant I would make friends, usually over breakfast or while using shared facilities.

This type of accommodation was perfect for a twenty-something on a budget. I don’t remember exactly where I stayed in Ubud so long ago, but it couldn’t have been more than $4 a night.

This go-round, I didn’t exactly stay at the Ritz, but it was luxury by comparison. I had a large room, king-sized bed, and a washroom I didn’t have to share with anyone! Breakfast was included as was a pool, and housekeeping was excellent. Space and privacy was what I valued during my stay at Gana Restaurant and Villa.

If you’re thinking of going to Ubud, consider booking Gana, located centrally and within walking distance to many attractions. The best way to book is via Anita’s Airbnb Listings. She has multiple places listed with different price points.

gana staff 2

The friendly and helpful staff at Gana!

Monkeys—Then and Now

Below are pictures of me in the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary back in ’88.

bali me and monkey 1 I was feeding peanuts to the Balinese long-tailed macaques and recall them being quite timid. They didn’t mind sitting with me for a while before scampering off.
bali_monkey-2

For this trip, I brought with me a a bag of unshelled peanuts again. Unfortunately, visitors to the forest can no longer feed the monkeys certain foods—peanuts being one of them. The caretakers maintain a strict diet with the monkeys, which consists of sweet potato, bananas, coconut and other fruit. It’s understandable for the continued health of the monkeys.

monkey forest sign

Instead of feeding them nuts, I gave them bananas purchased inside the Forest. Several monkeys approached and snatched the fruit immediately. They were no longer willing to sit and have a chat. 😉

monkey forest 3

There are now more than 600 monkeys living in the area. This has more than doubled since I was last there. Along with the population growth, the monkeys now seem more brazen. I can’t help but think it’s due to the continued interaction with tourists.

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-7-47-37-pm

One of the guidelines states: Do not make eye contact with the monkeys. They see this as a sign of aggression.

And yes, there are stories of how monkeys bite, scratch, and jump on tourists.

The amount of interaction between humans and monkeys did seem too intimate at times. I saw tourists posing with monkeys using their selfie sticks, the monkeys on their heads and shoulders. I was only too happy to observe from afar.

monkey-forest-roots

A photo opportunity with a monkey did not interest me, as I wanted my presence to be as non intrusive as possible.

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-7-43-15-pm

Along with monkeys, there are 115 separate species of trees and three temples inside the Forest. With its moss-covered statues and hanging tree roots, the Forest is an amazing place to walk through.

monkey forest temple

Pura Dalem Agung Padangtegal or the “Main Temple,” built around 1350

Toilets, Toilet Paper and Why the Hose? 

When I was first in Indonesia, I was terribly naive about many things. The first time I walked into a public toilet, I was shocked to find nothing more than a hole in the ground. No toilet paper.

Luckily for me, I always traveled with a small packet of tissues, so I was able to take care of myself that time. Later, I learned the lay of the land as far as toilets were concerned.

If you’re squeamish about bodily functions, this is a warning not to read further.

In Asia, travelers spoke incessantly of their bowel movements. Whether you were constipated or had diarrhea was a topic of conversation at breakfast. I quickly got over my shyness around the subject, and to this day, I have no issue talking about poo to anyone at anytime. (Not that too many of my friends want to talk about this anyway!).

There are several iterations of the Indonesian toilet. In the one I first experienced, a ceramic basin filled with water and a bucket stood next to the toilet. The idea was to use the bucket to scoop water from the basin and clean yourself—with your left hand only. (I’ll talk about this distinction of hands shortly). You would also use the water to flush contents down the bowl.

Below is a pretty fancy version of these toilets. The one I remember was simply a hole with no decorative ceramic tile. I’m not sure why the water is brown in this picture, but it should be clean water from the spigot.

squat toilet

With regards to cleaning yourself with your left hand only, I learned this when I was introduced to an Indonesian man and extended my left hand in greeting. He was polite but did not shake my hand.

As the left hand is used for cleaning yourself, you would never touch a stranger with it. Also, Indonesians eat traditional meals with their hands, and only the right hand is used to pick up food.

On this trip, my hotel had a Western-style toilet along with a handheld hose—a bidet, if you will. I saw more and more of these bidet hoses in public restrooms.

toilet with hose The hose is attached to the seat and activated by a button or knob, or in some toilets, it is mounted to the wall. In any case, it’s a step up from using the bucket. The idea is simple: After you finish your business, you would hose yourself while sitting on the toilet. Because I had good water pressure at my hotel, I didn’t need to clean myself with my hand.

The hotel also provided toilet paper, which I used sparingly to dab myself dry after applying the hose. A full roll of paper is only about a quarter of what you would get in the West.

Toilet paper is expensive, and the sewer system is not equipped for flushing copious amounts of it.

It takes some adjustment and coordination, but I like the idea of cleaning with water. It’s much more hygienic than just using toilet paper.

Food and Drink

I LOVE Indonesian food.

I had opportunity to eat at some fantastic warungs this trip. These small, family-owned businesses serve traditional food, and are usually housed in modest dwellings, though some can be quite large.

trad-food The food is normally a simple combination of rice, meat or fish, and a vegetable. Along with a drink and shrimp chips, you can have a filling meal for less than $3.00.

trad-food-2

What makes the meals delicious are the spices, usually a combination of chilli, turmeric, garlic, and ginger. Curries are also a big part of Indonesian cuisine.

curry

On one of my last days in Ubud, I was invited to a friend’s birthday party with many other women. It was a veritable feast that lasted over three hours. Thank you Ednawati!

I tried a shaved ice dessert made with fruit, grass jelly, and sweet and condensed milk called Es Campur.

me holding es campur

I never thought I would be able to eat the entire bowl, but I did. It was so delicious! I couldn’t finish the birthday cake though, but it was also very good.

dessert-and-drinkYoung coconuts were abundant, and since it’s a super food, I could not get enough of them. The juice from one coconut filled me for hours.

coconuts

Wine is expensive in Indonesia, given it is imported and there isn’t much variety. I’m also not much of a beer drinker. As such, I drank hot tea most days, particularly green tea, which I am addicted to! I found an amazing brand of it at Kakiang Bakery near my hotel and bought three bags to take home.

Now I have to find out how to replenish my supply once it’s finished! green-tea

On this trip, I tried something I’ve never had before—Kopi Luwak coffee. If you are unfamiliar with this coffee, it is the most expensive coffee in the world.

Why? The unusual production process.

The coffee beans (which are actually seeds) are digested by the Indonesian cat-like animal called the civet cat (known as luwaks in Indonesia). The feces of the cat/luwak are collected by farmers, processed, and then sold as Kopi Luwak.

Cat poo coffee.

civet-coffee

I told you I had no qualms talking about poo. Heh.

So, did I like it?

To frame my response, remember I’m a lover of green tea. I’ve also been off coffee for several months, so my taste for it is not discerning, by any stretch.

I drank the Kopi Luwak black, which is what you’re supposed to do in order to experience the unique flavour.

Truth is … I didn’t hate it, but that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement!

kopi luwak

Kopi Luwak is very rich, as you can see from the residue around the cup.

I tried not to disturb the coffee as I drank it, but once I got near the bottom, it became too thick to continue.

My best analysis of the flavour is it’s a blend of dark chocolate and dark coffee with a smooth, nutty aftertaste. Given I usually take my coffee with a bit of cream, I expected it to be bitter. Surprisingly, it wasn’t bitter at all.

My recommendation is you try it once and make up your own mind. Indonesia is certainly the place to do it.

Travel with Purpose

When I traveled to Bali and Asia in the late eighties, the purpose was to explore the world. With an open ticket and no set timeline, I started in Hong Kong and meandered from there. I had a simple formula—when my funds ran out, I would return home.

Indonesia was not on my radar when I started my journey, but it manifested as I met other travelers along the way.

bali_Goa Gajah

Goa Gajah, 1988

The only purpose of that trip was to expand my realm of experience and my mind. The power of travel helped mould me into the person I am today.

festival banner

On this trip, I planned my stay around the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. The festival saw numerous speakers come together for a five-day event to discuss writing, books, and issues affecting the world today.

open-dance-for-fest

The festival began with a traditional Balinese welcome dance.

The theme – Tat Tvam Asi: ‘I am you, you are me’ – created a strong focus for the conversations.

eden at the festival

One of the most entertaining speakers I met was Delhi-based author, Mayank Austen Soofi. (You have to love a man who chooses his middle name after his favorite author!).

He writes a popular blog called The Delhi Walla. I attended a couple of his panels, one in which he shared the stage with three other authors.

His approach was decidedly different from the others.

How so?

He didn’t try to sell his books by obnoxiously mentioning them while answering questions from the moderator.

Indie authors like myself who do it all, including promote our work will understand why this is so important. Nobody wants to listen to someone who screams: “Buy my book!” at every turn. In the age of social media, over-selling is easy to do, but it won’t work. Seasoned authors know that selling a book does not mean flogging it to death.

Mr. Soofi’s responses, infused with enthusiasm, warmth, and wit sold his book.

nobody can love you moreFor this reason, I feel fortunate to have received a copy of Mr. Soofi’s book, Nobody Can Love You More. It is an account in words and photographs of life in Delhi’s red light district. He was gracious enough to sign the book for me, and I look forward to reading it.

mayank sign book

Writing, yoga, and sightseeing made up the other days of my stay in Ubud. Instead of telling you about it, I’ve attached a slideshow. You will see for yourself why Ubud, Bali is one of the most magical places on earth.

Thank you for reading. Now that I’ve returned from Bali, my Mind Body Series will tackle other areas of my life. I hope you continue to join me as I explore this curious time in my life.

~eden

Approximately 30 pictures

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

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Writing and Yoga: The Two Things That Saved My Life by guest blogger @BrittSkrabanek

Today, I have the privilege of handing over my blog to author Britt Skrabanek. Britt and I have been friends since I interviewed her for my Eden’s Exchange Author series, and she included me in her Life Enthusiast Chronicles.

In sharing with one another, we discovered common passions.

Writing. Of course.

But also yoga.

Unlike Britt who is a yogi, I only returned to yoga recently. I attend hot yoga classes about four times a week and I’m loving it!

In reading Britt’s post, I now understand why I feel better than I have in a very long time. Britt explains it in her charming, no-nonsense style. Her words resonated loudly with me and I’m sure they will with you too.

Take it away, Britt!

* * * *

There are two things that saved my life. Writing and Yoga. They both require focus and patience, they help me understand myself and the world, and they allow me to be unapologetically free.

Nobody is ever going to come ask me for financial advice. And, that’s okay.

Besides the usual grammar question, it makes me feel very honored when people talk to me about Yoga and wellness.

Just this past week two coworkers shared their excitement with me about treating their bodies with kindness. One presented her green smoothie, her first attempt at breakfast in some time. The other told me he was wearing peppermint and eucalyptus oil to treat his allergies, so he could breathe better.

Also in the same week, Eden and I began discussing a guest post—one that was long overdue. Almost two years ago we did an author interview, but this time was going to be completely different.

And, here we are.

yoga on the beach

Yoga on the beach

Eden, a regular meditation practitioner herself, told me about her recent journey with Yoga. Her body was craving movement, and a newly found love for a regular practice helped her become more focused and inspired when she truly needed it.

When you’re a writer, your mind has to stay simultaneously relaxed and sharp. Otherwise, it’s a struggle like nothing else. It looks different for everybody, and sometimes it’s not as clear-cut as being diagnosed with writer’s block. You might still be writing—but devoid of passion, going through the motions and feeling like you’ve run into a wall.

I certainly don’t claim to be an expert Yogi. I may not be the most natural speaker in front of students, or the technical teacher who knows the name of every muscle and bone. What I do know is what feels good and why it does.

I haven’t taught Yoga in a couple of years, but my training served as a guidebook to a better life. And I have made countless positive changes since I began dedicating my life to wellness.

However when I moved to Portland a couple of years ago, I started losing my practice. Uprooting your life is never easy, and the effects of those changes take a while to digest. I explored some new forms of exercise—I started running, something I loathed all my life, and I even joined a gym, something else I couldn’t stand.

Over the past six months I pushed myself to return to Yoga. And, I mean it when I say pushed.

morning meditation

Morning meditation

I started getting up a few minutes earlier each day to meditate and stretch. I got into guided meditation at night to heal my busy mind after a long day at work. I started practicing several days a week, even when I felt like I didn’t have the time.

Well, I made time for it. The demanding job excuse…so what? The novel won’t write itself excuse…so what? I knew I was doing the right thing for me and my body.

Over the past decade Yoga has exploded in the West, and there are many who claim it is a bastardization of its original form. The image of a skinny woman in expensive active wear doing impossible poses is something we started to associate with Yoga.

But, it’s so much more than that. And no matter how you come to Yoga, or which style you take, the benefits will take precedence.

A lot of people are attracted to the fitness aspect of Yoga. Then, they notice that they’re making healthier food choices and they’re handling conflicts with a sense of ease.

cat yoga

Cat yoga

That’s because the mind and body are deeply connected, more than we’ll ever know. Yoga postures are meant to prepare the body for meditation. Because if the body is functioning well, the mind has the space it needs to soar.

Think about it for a second. If something’s wrong with your body—you have the flu, you broke your toe, you experience chronic back pain—that’s all you can think about. Your mind is consumed by the unhappiness your body feels. When your body is happy, your mind can move on to other things.

I’m biased and I think everyone should and CAN do Yoga. If you’re a creative person? You absolutely should consider it for these reasons. My writing has transformed since I started a regular practice.

I’ve always been an active person, but Yoga is perfect for any body. Dance, especially when it got very serious for me, was not perfect for any body. There was an unattainable perfection staring back at me in the mirror. In Yoga it was just…come as you are.

Where else do we have that kind of permission in life? To just be.

On our Yoga mats we have a safe and beautiful space to explore. And it’s truly amazing what can happen when we take the time to listen to ourselves.

* * * *

Beautiful and true words, Britt. THANK YOU for sharing your wisdom. 

Readers, please offer Britt some <3. Comment and ask her questions about yoga, fitness, and wellness. Or anything creative for that matter! She is, after all, the author of three books and a terrific addition to your network.

* * * *

Connect To Britt

britt summer

Website/blog | Amazon Author PageTwitter @BrittSkrabanek

Facebook | LinkedIn | YouTube Goodreads

Britt Skrabanek is the spirited indie novelist of Nola Fran Evie, Everything’s Not Bigger, and Beneath the Satin Gloves. Her blog is a whimsical snapshot of life, musings, and the glory of the written word. She is blissfully married, has two delightfully incorrigible cats, and loves to experience the world—all of its quirky beauty inspires her endlessly. When she’s not writing, she’s a bike-riding Yogi who loves to dance.

 

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On the Subject of Self-Editing

I am a writer and a reader. On occasion, I am a reviewer, but one thing I can never be is an editor of my own work. Given that, I’d like to speak about self-editing, the important process I do before I hand off my manuscript to a professional editor.

Even if you are an indie writer who does not use a professional editor for whatever reason, I hope the following information will be helpful for you.

editor

Many writers hire two types of editors, and the same person can be both in some cases.

Content Editor – looks at the big picture: plot, characterization, voice, and setting.

Copy Editor – specializes in grammar, punctuation, fact-checking, spelling, and formatting.

The reason I self-edit is to provide my editor with the best possible draft of my work, free of: typos; grammatical errors; plot holes; etc., but I know that even with the best of intentions, even after I’ve made changes based on beta readers’ suggestions, there will still be errors.

Why?

I’m too close to my work, and after re-reading my book for the umpteenth time, my mind simply fills in the gaps and I can no longer see my mistakes.

I’ve listed five things I do to polish my manuscript when I self-edit. It’s grunt work but is not difficult to do and will make your final product much cleaner.

1) Eliminate clichés

chiches

Clichés are words or phrases that have become popular from overuse. They weaken writing and make sentences boring because they lack originality. Examples of clichés are:

– fit as a fiddle
– lived happily ever after
– sent a shiver down my spine

I try to replace them with a different phrase or rewrite the sentence without the cliché. It takes more effort, but the reader will be rewarded with fresh storytelling, not the same old, tired phrases.

2) Eliminate repetitive words/phrases/facts

repeating words

I often repeat the same word(s) within a few paragraphs, but it’s not easy to find these repetitions. Reading my text aloud helps. I also have “crutch” words I tend to overuse. A “search and highlight” for a specific word or phrase will reveal how many times I’ve used them in my manuscript. After that, I can replace them with a synonym or rephrase a sentence altogether.

Repetition of a fact/effect is a different problem. This can be two sentences that say the same thing or two paragraphs that convey the same information. It’s akin to hitting the reader over the head numerous times to make sure they understood you the first time.

Example:

Chapter 2: Mary’s hair is a flaming red color, always sitting as a messy pile above her shoulders.

Chapter 4: Mary’s fiery hair falls in a disarray around her neck.

Chapter 7: With her curly and out-of-control crimson tresses, Mary was easy to spot in the crowd of blonds.

I am essentially saying the same thing, drawing attention to the color and state of Mary’s hair. There may be instances where this can work, but in most cases, once is usually enough.

3a) Reduce the use of adverbs

Adverbs are words that modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. As a rule of thumb, they usually end in -ly.

studly adverb cartoon

Courtesy of the New Yorker

I know writers who are staunch “adverb-haters,” intent on removing all adverbs from their manuscript. I’m not one of those writers. I go by the rule that it’s always better to replace a weak adjective or verb with a stronger one than to use an adverb, but sometimes I choose not to do this. Stylistically, I may prefer the adverb in that sentence.

Adverbs such as ‘really’ and ‘very’ can usually be strengthened with a better word or phrase, and adverbs like ‘rather’ and ‘quite’ can be eliminated altogether.

Examples:

Modifying adjectives:
Really big … replace with HUGE
Very tired … replace with EXHAUSTED
Extremely small … replace with TINY

Modifying verbs:
She ate quickly … She GOBBLED her food
He walked slowly … He SAUNTERED

Modifying adverbs:
He moved rather slowly … eliminate RATHER – or change to: He appeared lethargic
She talked quite loudly … eliminate QUITE – or change to: She bellowed

3b) Eliminate adverbs in dialogue tags

In most cases, an adverb in a dialogue tag adds nothing useful to the dialogue.

Example:

Tom’s mouth curled into a grin. “I’m so thrilled you threw me this surprise party!” he said happily.

Tom’s facial expression and his words already express his happiness. There is no need to insert the word “happily” after “he said.”

Below is an example of where the word “angrily” isn’t needed.

“I’m never coming back here!” she said angrily. Jane stomped out of the room and slammed the door.

4) Be consistent

british vs US english

If you are writing in American English, be sure you use the correct spelling of words and keep them consistent throughout your text. American and British spellings differ for many words. As a Canadian, I’m aware of both spellings but sometimes use them inconsistently in my manuscript. This rule also applies to words that are capitalized or hyphenated, as well as formatting of punctuation.

Examples:

Color vs Colour
e-mail vs email
Internet vs internet

Here is a comprehensive and helpful list of UK vs. US spellings: http://www.tysto.com/uk-us-spelling-list.html

5) Vary the construction of sentences

keep calm and vary sentence structure

A reader alerted me to a specific stylistic technique of mine when he read my last book. The sentences looked something like this:

– With steely determination, she pressed on against the tide …
– Holding his bible against his chest, he preached to the choir …
– Like a wildcat circling her prey, she examined the body …

There is nothing wrong with this construction, but he was correct in pointing out that the sentences had a similar rhythm. Overuse of it can distract a reader.

Varying the structure of sentences helps make the writing more sophisticated. By avoiding constructions that have been overused, your writing will sound fresher and go a lot further to developing your own unique voice.

* * * *

I hope you have found this information helpful. If you have any tips on what you do to clean up your manuscript, please feel free to comment and share.

Happy writing and self-editing! 🙂

~ eden

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The Best Laid Plans ~ An update to my mystery novel

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley

 ~ From “To a Mouse” by Robert Burns

Most of us know the line paraphrased as:

The best-laid plans of mice and men
Often go awry

Or simply: The best laid plans …

In layman’s terms, the meaning of the line is: No matter how carefully one plans, something may still go wrong, or the result may not be as expected.

If you consider I’m not a planner anyway, it is amazing how I accomplish much of anything, let alone write. In the writer’s world, I’m known as a “pantser.” I fly by the seat of my pants. I don’t plan my storyline—the ones who do are “plotters.” Some days, I envy them.

Up until now with writing flash fiction, short stories, and novellas, I’ve had the good fortune of not having to plan.

When I set out to write a novel in September 2012, a seed of an idea took root in my brain. It sprouted slowly, branched off in different directions until it began blossoming several months later. The story did not reveal itself to me in its entirety as did other stories I’d written, but for some ridiculous reason, I continued to think it might.

Given that, I committed myself to finish the novel by year-end 2013. I wrote a post in January called Scaling Back the Juggling Act to publicize it. I figured that if I wrote it down and announced my intentions, my deadline could no longer be a moving target. In other words, I had to follow through.

Fast forward eleven months …

People who know me well understand I’m private with my writing. I rarely disclose works in progress. I don’t lament when I’m struggling, nor do I announce any great revelations. Based on how I write, things can change, so there is no point giving away anything until the product is complete.

Why am I telling you this?

The main reason is that people have been asking me when my book is coming out.

And why shouldn’t they? I’m the one who said it would be ready by now.

Firstly, I’d like to say I am so honored and thrilled for the interest. The fact that my book will not be released this year obligates me to explain. Even though the deadline is self-imposed, I adhere to my own work ethics, and my word should mean something. I am disappointed in myself for not keeping it.

My inability to plan the release date is a big lesson for me. I set the fuzzy timeline but did not build in a buffer. Ultimately, I underestimated the steep learning curve of switching both genre and classification.

A few clues to my personality should have alerted me to the challenges.

  1. I am my own worst critic, and I’m anal—a deadly combination. I cannot release what I consider inferior writing just to meet a deadline.
  2. I’m fearful of my editor, Annetta Ribken, even though I absolutely adore her. That adoration compels me not to disappoint her. She knows I want to become a better writer, and that can only happen with hard truths, delivered in a way only she can.
  3. I edit and re-edit my work as I write. I know this is wrong on so many levels. For my next novel, I aim to write a crappy first draft and not worry about it. For this one, that ship has sailed.
  4. I’m not verbose in spoken or written conversation, and I’m no fan of wordiness. I’ve always admired authors who can write 100K and edit down to 80K. My style of writing is spare, so my difficulty has been to build up word count, not slash it.
  5. I love a challenge even though writing this book has frustrated me to tears. At times, I despaired as to whether I could sustain a novel.

As of now, the truth is: My book will not be coming out this year. It will come out in 2014.

I’d like to end with a quote that makes the hardships some of us go through seem rather trivial, but we can still take inspiration from it for whatever challenges us.

* * * *

It always seems impossible until it’s done.
~ Nelson Mandela

* * * *

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Writing is like …

This is a blog meme. What is that, you ask? I had to find out before I attempted to add to it.

A meme is a self-propagating unit of thought spread from one host to another, an idea-gene, if you will.

For bloggers, memes can provide insight into the personalities of other writers that you wouldn’t necessarily find in their writing.

This meme was passed on to me by my friend, wild and witty thriller author, Jason McIntyre. I think he’s purposely trying to push me over the edge by adding more to my writing plate, however, I’m rarely one to pass up a challenge, so thanks Jason!

Here’s my attempt at keeping this meme alive…

Writing is like controlling a vicious beast—not literally, but some days, it sure feels that way.

My attempt to tame the beast is through meditation. The task seems simple: concentrate on one thing and one thing only—my breath. Just feel my breath as it comes into my nostrils, and feel it as it exits my nostrils. Direct all my energies toward this instinctual life force. Do it for an hour daily to attain a sharper mind and gain the ability to write with more focus. Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out…

I sit perfectly still in the lotus position on the floor, eyes closed, hands folded peacefully in my lap, and the alarm clock set to go off in an hour. Ten seconds in, my thoughts wander to yesterday. Did I remember to take the laundry out? Did I send off that e-mail for my interview? Shit, I forgot to call my mother!

Rein in that savage beast! Concentrate…breathe, okay…

My thoughts skip ahead. What am I making for dinner? I need to get my teeth cleaned. Did I just hear my mailman come up the walk? Stay in the moment, dammit, just think about the breathing!

And so it goes for the next hour as I cautiously dance around this maniacal animal, coaxing it to behave, using my powers of persuasion to break its uncivilized spirit. I refuse to kill it, but I want to grab it by the neck and choke some sense into it, make it listen to me, show it that I’m the master. And yet…despite my reasoning, this feral creature tears at me with its dripping fangs, and I spin around and around to…

Fantasy time: An editor from Random House calls me. She’s read my book and would like to fly me down to New York for a meeting. She wants to discuss a series and …

Pep talk time: I can do this. I know I can. I’m strong, hang in there…

Whining time: How can one hour seem so bloody long? My right knee hurts, why do I need to sit like this? I could sure use a chair. When the hell’s that alarm going off?

And just as I’m ready to think only about breathing, I’m jolted out of my meditation/nap by the “beeping” of my alarm. As much as I’ve tried to force this wicked animal into submission, I’ve only experienced a few moments within the hour when it actually obeyed me. Those few moments were sublime—moments where there was a true connection to the present and doing what I had set out to do.

As each day passes, patience will grow those few moments into seconds, and seconds into minutes, and in time, this wild beast will be trained, healthy, and with all its bad habits happily obliterated.

I can only hope.

*  *  *  *

So who am I asking to carry on this blog meme? Three lovely female authors whom I’m proud to call friends:

Paranormal romance writer: LM Stull

Young adult writer: Patti Larsen

Horror writer: Rebecca Treadway

Ladies, may you go the distance with this meme!

Stay sexy,

eden

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Filed under Craft of Writing, Revelations & Humor