Sometimes Stuff Happens

 

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On Monday morning, I walked up the hill to the barn in the dark. We’ve definitely crossed the line in terms of why-hasn’t-daylight-savings-time-begun-yet, and it was the first morning I really needed a flashlight. I know my way pretty well, so instead of going back inside for a light, I continued up the hill to the pump and turned on the water so I could fill the water trough. I have one horse who likes to spend his downtime dragging the water trough around the paddock until it dumps over and creates a puddle to splash in. So, most mornings I try to top off the trough so it’s too heavy for him to move.

As I dragged the hose towards the trough, I saw a movement outside the paddock fence. It was something large. In fact, at first glance it looked like two somethings. I could make out two white splotches in the dark.

Before I could truly panic, the white splotches snorted and trotted a few feet away, kicking the fence board in its own panic at the sight of me. It was a horse. Outside the fence. But it wasn’t my horse. I could just make out the shape of a paint horse—brown and white. I’ve always wanted a paint horse, and for just a moment I thought, maybe it’s a magical gift!

I took a step towards the horse. “Hey buddy,” I called quietly. He retreated further. Continue reading “Sometimes Stuff Happens”

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Kindle Convert

I’m not a fan of kindle. Or at least I wasn’t. The main problem was that I’m terrible about recharging all my electronics and consequently the kindle is always dying at the most inopportune moments. Plus, it’s heavy and my wrist gets tired of holding it. (Yes, I’m a whiner.)

My other complaint is that I can never remember the name of the book or the writer I’m currently reading because I never see it.

“Oh, I’m reading this awesome book right now.”

“Really? What’s it called?”

“Uh, Um, I think it’s….actually I can’t remember, but I’m at, like, 68%!”

I just turn on the kindle and it opens to the page I’m reading, super convenient, no bookmark needed, but because there isn’t that daily imprint of seeing the cover art and the author’s name, I can’t seem to retain that information. (I’ve decided my memory is at capacity, but that’s the subject of another post.)

This morning I had a minute and I scooted over to goodreads to review the book I just finished last night (which I loved). I wanted to leave a good review and send a message to the writer thanking her for her story., but I couldn’t remember the name of the book or the author. My kindle was still on my nightstand (its battery slowly dying). The only way to get to my bedroom from my office requires that I pass by the puppy room (where all 12 of my foster pups were sleeping and quiet after a morning of poop games and three major cleanups).

There is no way to sneak by that room. There is always at least one pup still up, pressed against the fence closest to the door, standing sentry.

dsc_5378 Continue reading “Kindle Convert”

Advice From Famous Writers

My son, who is also a writer, posted an article on Facebook that listed the most important writing advice from famous authors to young writers. It wasn’t what you’d expect. This was just off the cuff, what’s-your-best-advice-to-young-writers stuff. The advice was funny and seemed almost nonsensical. Until you thought about it. Take Zadie Smith’s advice:

Whenever you introduce a character, you don’t have to specify that they are wearing pants. Most readers will just assume that they are wearing pants unless you say otherwise.

Silly, right? Only it’s not. Because many times we writers think we need to spell out everything for our readers. We don’t trust them to use their own brains. Writing that holds a reader’s hand is exhausting. It gets bogged down in minutae. And truly, it’s kind of insulting to the reader.

I know I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to stating the obvious. We want to be completely clear. (See what I did there? Ugh. Redundant, right? Like I can’t assume that when you read the word ‘clear’ you knew that it means completely clear. What else would it be? Something is either clear or not clear. Nevermind that the entire sentence is unnecessary as it’s only expounding on the previous sentence which wasn’t that complicated.)

Taping a note to my desk right now that says, “Assume they are wearing pants.”

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Then there was the advice from Haruki Murakami. He says,

Every time you write, ask yourself: Could this scene take place in a hot-air balloon? If the answer is yes, then it probably should.

Again, silly advice. Except it isn’t. If your scene could be more exciting, then it should be. Don’t be satisfied with just good enough. Can it happen in a hot air balloon? Great question!

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And no-less than George Saunders gives this advice:

When I first started getting some attention, stories published here and there, Don DeLillo took me aside and gave me some advice that ended up being very formative for me. He said, ‘George, if you keep breaking into my home to use my swimming pool, I’m going to have to call the police.’ I always thought that was really wise.

He really didn’t go where you thought he’d go with that, did he? But he has a point. None of this advice means diddily-squat, really. What works for some does not work for others. Don’t try to copy anybody else or be anybody else or swim in anybody else’s pool.

It’s very tempting to get wrapped up in learning the craft and studying other writers and reading every blog/website/article/book out there on writing, those things are important but in the end there’s only one thing that will make you write better—writing.

Put something down on paper. Hone it to the best of your ability. Then write something else. And don’t take others, or yourself, too seriously.

NaNo-what?

crest-05e1a637392425b4d5225780797e5a76NaNoWriMo is not some kind of cult-inspired chant or childish taunt. (Or is it?) It stands for National Novel Writing Month and it’s held each November. It’s the crazy idea that you can write an entire novel in a month. Well, maybe not a novel, but you’re supposed to shoot for 50,000 words.

Even if you take the weekends off, that’s only 2500 words a day. As a professional writer, I’ve had days where I got on such a writing jag that I churned out 15,000, so, 2,500? Chump change. And yet….I do not write 2500 words every day. For a month. Ever.

If you’re the type of writer who agonizes over every turn of phrase, well, 2,500 words in one day might seem unreachable. Still, the main idea of NaNoWriMo is to sit down EVERY DAY and write. In exchange, you’ll get encouragement, direction, accountability, and commiseration. All things that most writers are sorely lacking.

When I mention to other writers that a few years back, I tried the craziness of NaNoWriMo, I get a knowing nod. I’m not sure if that nod means, “Yup, I knew you were nuts, now you’re just confirming it,” or “Ah—you’re one of us!”

I remember that month as being one in which I was very focused. I nearly reached my goal but was sidetracked by several personal issues that stole my time and attention. But still, I did flesh out a novel. And that was the novel which hooked me an agent. Sadly, that novel still lives only in my heart and on my laptop, but writing it taught me a lot. It set me on the path to publication. Someday, I hope to get back to that story. It deserves to be told.

This fall I’m flailing around on several projects, spending way too much time with my puppies, and berating myself for not getting back to the novel I started last May. That novel is presently 27,000 words. If I added just 50,000 words, I’d have a novel that falls nicely in the sweet spot between 75,000-85,000 words that most publishers appreciate. So, yes, I’m tempted. NaNoWriMo is calling. I could use the direction and motivation, but mostly the accountability.

I posted recently on Facebook that what I needed most was a boss, so maybe NaNoWriMo could be my boss for the month. Giving this serious thought. Anybody else out there up for the challenge? We could commiserate at Starbucks (where I know one of the baristas pretty well) or via the internet (which sadly has no baristas).

Click on over to NaNoWriMo.org and get the details or just go crazy and sign up!

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