Relentless Call to Love

Hope nestles warm against frigid stone.

Joy and happiness found in the solitariness of a dark life.

Like a silver blade slipped between ribs, the soul seeks a twin harmony.

Its incessant song grates against reason and objectivity.

No amount of desolation or isolation can silence its call.

 

Dangerous Deadly love

Honor and virtue blind you to the wickedness that fuels my soul.

My demon is nourished by the anguish and misery I visit upon myself.

But your smile unravels the walls built to protect the world around us.

An aching desolation inspires my self-destruction.

My skin crawls with the devastation it longs to reap.

Searing thoughts burn, as they pass over my lips.

This is a battle you cannot win, for it rages within.

I always rebuild and blood and bone serve as my brick and mortar.

 

Tri-Writing

A triathlon is composed of three parts: the swim, the bike, and the run. As a triathlete, you have to train in all three of these areas to prepare for the goal, a specific race. Most people have their strong areas and their weaker ones.

Writing can be broken down into three parts as well: the first draft, the editing, and the publishing. As a writer, you have to learn about each of these areas to prepare your novel. A novel is similar to a specific race. It is the goal of all your prior work and training.

The swim is like the first draft. Most of what you do stays below the surface, your body rotation, kicking, and most of your arm stroke. In writing, most of the work a writer puts into the first draft remains unseen by others. In fact, you probably want your first draft to remain unseen by others. Research, backstory, character profiles, it all remains below the surface of the novel. In swimming, technique is essential. Understanding structure is critical in completing a first draft. It’s your road map to the finish.

The bike is like editing and revising process. The bike is the longest portion of the triathlon. Revising and editing take a long time. You have to let your manuscript rest for at least a few weeks before editing and sometimes for months.  Riding a bike for hours can cause various body parts to become numb and editing can cause mind numbing. Riding the bike and editing are both a pain in the butt. The only way to get through either, the bike section or editing, well is to spend a lot of time in the saddle.

The run is like the publishing process. In a triathlon, you make or break it on the run. It’s the final stretch before the finish line. You can’t give up and just relax, you have to continue to push forward even though you are tired and your mind is screaming to stop. Once you get to the publishing stage of writing, you want to just hand your manuscript over to others to finish it: formatting, cover design, and distribution. But you can’t you have to remain invested and oversee these aspects too and push through by promoting your novel.

For both of these life-changing events, you must be constantly training, learning, and improving. It takes months and sometimes years to reach your goal whether it is a specific race like the Ironman or seeing your novel in print. Dream big. Fight for your dreams. Never give up.

Three keys to keep the creative flowing

keys

There are three keys to keep the creativity flowing, the boys in the basement active, and the muse at the quill. First is to read, read, and read. Second is to learn as much as you can. Third is to write even when it sucks.

Reading in the genre that you write in is important. You learn new tricks of the genre. You keep up on what is trending. You understand the themes and structure of the genre. It is also important to read outside of your writing genre. By reading outside your genre it flexes your creative muscle. New ideas pop into your mind because it combines with the ideas you already have going. It adds a special twist in your novel. I’m not suggesting you combine genres, but you could. What I’m saying is that different genres do certain things better than others and you can learn to be better by reading outside the lines.

Continue to learn about structure, characters, dialogue, and every other area of writing. Strive to improve over your career as a writer. I have found that I need to keep a notebook near at hand when reading about the ins and outs of writing. Ideas for new stories and current ones spring into my mind as I discover new ways to look at things whether it is scenes or sentences.

Write as often as you can. For some this is every day. For others it is every other day. Whatever it is for you, keep doing it and do it regularly. It might be total crap that you are writing, if it’s a first draft it is total crap, but keep doing it. You will get better. However, if you stop you will not get better. Quitting is the end of the line. The chance of success drops to zero. Write all kinds of things. Don’t box yourself into one type of story. Write poetry, short story, novels, non-fiction, fiction, and in any genre that calls to you. I find it easier to have two projects going at the same time, that way, if I get sick of one I can still be productive on the other.

The balance between the three keys ebbs and flows, depending on where you are in your journey. Stagnation and loss of creativity is a sign that you have misplaced one of your keys.

Two weeks as a writer

I am Writing

“How did you find being a full time writer?” Jeff asked.

“I enjoyed it, but the one thing I would do differently is get out a little more with friends here and there.”

“Does that help with creativity?” he asked.

“Sanity.” I smiled. “I only had two weeks so I felt a bit of pressure to write as much as I could because I knew it was going to come to an end and then I would be back to struggling to fit it all in. If it was full time, I could relax a bit more.” As I said this I realized, yes it does help my creativity.

My main focus over the last two weeks was my fantasy novel, Syrain’s Marrow. I am 45,000 words into it now. I also spent some time working on the outline to my serial fiction, A Vigil for Justice, and listening to my memoir, Fighting for a Chance to Dream.

I have to admit, I didn’t spend as much time on the serial fiction or the memoir as I had planned. Once I got into the flow of writing the fantasy novel, time slipped away and then I had to tend to mom responsibilities.

Life as a writer takes a lot of self-discipline. It is hard work. I didn’t run into blocks where I didn’t want to write, in fact, I became frustrated when I knew I had to do other things such as come up with blog posts or research twitter articles.

I’m sure that would change if I were writing full time. I would reach the point where I wanted to throw the whole manuscript in the dumpster down the street and set fire to it with a blowtorch.

Being a full time writer is definitely on my to do list, but in the future. Until then I continue to have work to do for the children of Utah by telling their story in the courtroom and helping put their families back together.

As long as I feel my work in child welfare makes a difference to the families involved in the juvenile court system, I will continue to fight for their chance to dream. If I ever reach the point where I see my cases as just another case rather than people with a story worth saving, I will leave child welfare because if your heart’s not in it, you’re not helping anyone.

I didn’t start writing to make money, although that would be nice. I started writing to inspire others. I began with my memoir, which is about overcoming the odds even when they are self-imposed through destructive decisions and an unhealthy worldview. I try not to lose sight of the reason I write, just as I try not to lose site of the reasons I am an attorney. The day that I write solely for money, is the day I will set the quill and ink jar to the side.

I need a freaking doggie door!

My writing tip of the day: If you are a writer with dogs, get a doggie door.

Meet the slave drivers, Annabelle (black)  and Ignacious (brown). dogs 3

Adorable aren’t they? Yes well they are the first three times I get up to let them out the door, but after the fiftieth time, they are no longer adorable. In fact, they are hell-spawned demons.

You see, Satan, let them outside three times too, and then he was fed up with their cuteness and sent them packing.  You can only open a portal from hell so many times a day after all.

I sit at my computer happily typing away. I glance away from the screen to consider my options in the story and rest my eyes a little and there she is. Those floppy ears and big brown eyes, she knows their power. boot

She gives her tail a little wag and you think, “Oh how sweet.” No! Stop right there. She is the queen of the damned. Everything she whispers to you makes perfect sense, and then you realize you have fallen into her trap and you are completely under her spell.

She gives a little chirp and you stand up. She waddle to the door and you open it. Five minutes later, she barks and you stand, walk back to the door, and open it. She waddles in and grins up at you with her perky ears. 213

She waddles toward the couch and checks to see if you are following her. You are. She stops in front of the couch and gives a little bark, you bend over, and put her on the back of the couch so she can spy on the neighbors through the window.

She lies there content for a while until her brother hears something outside and then there is raucous barking and dancing little feet. You stand, walk to the door, and open it. Blurs of black and brown fur fly down the stairs and around the corner of the house. Their friends are outside next door.

My much wiser neighbors make their little beasties come in the house after ten or fifteen minutes of them flying along the fence barking like maniacs. I’m sure they hate me because I’m a well-trained human, who lets the beasts run, tongues lulling, and smiling ear to ear to their hearts content.

Lilly stares at me from across the room.

lilly “I told you not to bring them home, but do you ever listen to me?”

Annabelle  is the smarter of the two. She has a variety of chirps, barks, and whines she uses to tell you what she would like you to do. Once she has you on your feet, she will lead you to what she wants. If she goes to the kitchen, she wants a treat. If she goes to the door, she wants outside. If she goes to the couch, she would like you to lift her little butt up so she can spy on the neighbors out the window.

Ignacious is content snuggling you all day long. Of course, he wants his ears rubbed while you think about the next sentence you are going to write, or a treat when you get up to refill your coffee, but if you just let him curl up right next to you, he is a happy green eyed fur face. He really likes it when you throw his dinosaur so he can get it and bring it back for you to throw again, and again.

I got home from my run at 7:30 am. Now, it’s 10:30 a.m. and I have honestly let them outside fifteen times.

Shhhh, They are sleeping now. So maybe I can get some writing done.

dogs 1

Are all stories horror stories?

fear one

The themes of our stories tackle tough issues. More often than not, they deal with conquering fears: Fear of the unknown, fear of others, and fear of ourselves.  The novel may be packaged as a romance, mystery, fantasy, or adventure story, but at its very core it’s about facing the things that make us tremble, sweat, and run the other way.

Few writers start with a theme when they begin a story. Usually, one of the voices in our heads (AKA characters) demands that we tell their story. Their story is, of course, intricately and impossibly entwined with our own.

The theme is discovered along the journey to the climax of the book. It is woven in your character’s arc and the challenges faced throughout the book by any character. The various decisions that are made about each challenge shows a different facet of the theme. The character’s turn it every which way as the plod along trying to figure out what it is, and how to ultimately deal with it.

Someone famous once said, a writer only writes one story. The characters, setting, and plot all change, but the theme is the same. The theme of a story is what resonates with readers. It draws them in because they see themselves in the characters or they see their life in the challenges and decisions made.

I don’t have a degree in literary arts, but my guess is that if you look at a group of books written in any particular generation or era you would find similar themes running through all of them. The challenges and achievements of a culture or particular people.

Books create a safe space. A place where writers can express their darkest rational or irrational fear and readers can feel validation and companionship in their suffering and pain. How often do we come across a line in a book or just a few words and say to ourselves, “Yes, I know that feeling. It is an old friend of mine.”

fear three

I look at my own writing and reading, and I see patterns that match with the patterns and journey of my life. Overcoming adversity, conquering what appears to be overwhelming odds, an indomitable spirit, issues surrounding trust, and discovering who we are as individuals and within the world as a whole.

Within my stories, I am safe to relive the lessons again and again until I finally figure it out.

What are the themes of your life?

fear two

Text to Speech

AI

A useful strategy for editing your manuscript is to read it out loud. By doing so, you focus on each word more and can catch mistakes in your writing whether it is a missing comma, a misspelled word, or an auto-correct that is not correct.

Another tool that writers can use is text to voice programs. NaturalReader is a program that will read your manuscript back to you. They have a free version with a male and female voice, and they have a paid version where you get two more, higher quality voices and a few more options for $69.50 U.S. One option I am interested in is turning the book into an MP3 audio file giving me the ability to listen to my manuscript as I do other audiobooks. Granted the electronic voice is a little weird, but if you can get over that issue, having your manuscript read to you is a great way to find extra sneaking mistakes. NatrualReader has multiple languages options such as German, French, and Spanish.

I’ve looked at the IVONA text to speech program too. It’s an Amazon product. IVONA has a thirty-day free trial of their program. You can buy different packages of voices. It’s $59.00 U.S. for one voice and the ability to convert into an MP3. You can get three voices for $119.00 U.S.

yWriter is a free writing program that you can download. It helps with structuring your novel and keeps track of location, time passage, characters, and any other object you put into the program. You can input as little or as much information as you want into the program. It also has the ability to read the scenes to you (you have to be in the Scene page).

Another way of having your manuscript read to you is by changing it to a PDF document and emailing it to your kindle and having your kindle read it, which makes it more portable than a laptop.

Having another voice read my manuscript adds another layer of objectivity, at least for me. Separating myself from my memoir has been difficult. I’ve waited four month before going back to edit it, and I still find it hard at particular points to step back and experience the book as a reader.

Has anyone else tried any of these programs and have a favorite?

 

I’m a full time writer! well sort of

I am Writing

For the next two weeks, I’m a full time writer. I’ve taken vacation from my day job, since the judge is out of town and I don’t have to worry about missing court hearings or finding coverage it is the best time for me to take vacation as well. Of course, I will have a rather large pile on my desk and I’m will be walking back into four trials in four weeks, but you gotta get it when you can.

Over the weekend, I went shopping and cleaned house so that I wouldn’t have to worry about those two things during the week and I could focus on writing. I also decided that I would need a schedule or some sort of structure to my day otherwise I would just waste away unfocused and accomplishing little.

My goal is to finish the first draft of my epic fantasy novel, Syrain’s Marrow, by January 1, 2015. Given that this is my primary goal, I knew that I needed to dedicate a significant amount of my day to working on that manuscript.

I’m also editing my memoir, Fighting for a Chance to Dream, which has been sitting since the end of April trying to be forgotten. Thus, this would be my secondary goal. Finally, because I like three’s and a triangle is the strongest shape, decided I would work on the outline for my serial novel, A Vigil for Justice, as my third goal.

The schedule I’ve worked out is that I will spend four to five hours working on Syrain’s Marrow each day. I will spend one hour editing Fighting for a Chance to Dream and one hour on the outline for A Vigil for Justice.

This shouldn’t be too difficult, so long as I fight the urge to check Twitter, email, Pinterest, Facebook, and Goodreads.Right. Hmmmm. Okay. How do I deal with that urge? Yeah I put it into the schedule too. One hour for social media.

I’m a morning person, so I’m out of bed by 6:00 am at the latest every day. From there, I head out to swim, bike or run depending on the day and voila the rest of the day can be dedicated to writing and taking care of my boys.

The house is eerily quiet other than my fingers on the keyboard, the blowing of the swamp cooler, and occasional barking of beasty little dogs needing to go out into the sun.

“Boys,” I call into the empty house. Oh yeah, Sky went camping with his grandparents for the week and Jazz, well he’s seventeen, has a social life, and this is after all the last week of summer vacation.

I happily wish Jazz a great day and tell him not to worry I will have an excellent time. He is a bit disturbed by the fact that I am perfectly content to spend my vacation alone, but for the voices in my head.

Structuring Your Novel: Part Three

Structuring-Your-Novel

The motivation-reaction unit (MRU) helps writer’s structure sentences and scenes alike. It is a way of thinking about the cause and effect relationship of incidents within your story. Many writers place the effect before the cause, which makes readers slow down and think about what happened. Even a seconds slowing can distract and/or confuse a reader, so it’s best to keep things in the right order.

Here are a few examples:

Effect then cause:

The cat scratched Simon’s face because Simon pulled it’s tail.

Cause then effect:

Simon pulled the cat’s tail, and it scratched his face.

Effect then cause:

Gertrude slammed the front door, after seeing a man with a shotgun running across the lawn.

Cause then effect:

A man with a shotgun was running across the law. Gertrude slammed the front door.

Each of these examples is more powerful when the cause comes before the effect. The reader has to think less about what just happened when the motivation (cause) come before the reaction (effect).

Sequencing your reaction in the right order is also important. A person reacts to a stimulus in a very specific way. When you get things out of order, it slows the reader down. Reactions occur in the following order:

  1. Emotional and thoughts
  2. Action including involuntary actions
  3. Speech

If you stop to analyze how you reaction to various things in your environment, you will see that you have an emotional response or thought first, followed by an action, and finally speech. Keeping things in the right order helps readers suspend their disbelief and reduces the acrobatics their brains have to engage in to understand what is happening with your amazing characters.

If you want to learn more about structuring your novel, I highly recommend K.M. Weiland’s book Structuring Your Novel (picture above).

Part one of this series can be found here.

Part two of this series can be found here.

Happy Writing!