It’s Not Snake Oil, Really!

Promoting your writing can sometimes feel like you’re waving a flag in a crowd of deaf and blind people with better things to do.

crowded street

Really.

It feels like that.

It also feels like the physics homework I had back in eleventh grade where I regurgitated all the stuff the teacher told me but I never understood.

physics problem

I’m doing all the things I’m supposed to do and ever hopeful that this will bring about the desired result. And yet, Continue reading “It’s Not Snake Oil, Really!”

Advertisements

Writers Gotta Write (about something)

I always have something to say. (Just ask my husband.)

This is usually true about writing, also. I always have something to write about, but oddly, not today.

Today the distractions have me and my tired-I-didn’t-sleep-so-well mind.

squirrel

This blog is about writing and the writer’s life. Obviously, there is much that could be said about that, but….

The internet is smothered in writing wisdom. It is everywhere because, well, writers write.

It’s not like horseshoers or knitters or firemen. Continue reading “Writers Gotta Write (about something)”

I know that place, I’ve been there too

For whatever reason, I’ve been running into a lot of frustration lately.

I’m not the frustrated one, nope, I’m in a good place (for now). But a lot of the writers I know have recently shared their own head-banging-the-wall moments.

I know that place; I’ve been there. It’s part and parcel of being a writer, heck with being a person, really.

There are days, hours, okay maybe even weeks and months, but hopefully not years, when you feel as though all this slogging through the mud is getting you nowhere. No one, not even the dog, seems to appreciate your efforts. And let’s face it, basically, you suck at this. Continue reading “I know that place, I’ve been there too”

24/7 Writer Brain

Year of Yes cover image“Being a writer invades my life 24/7.”

When I read that line in Shonda Rhimes’ book Year of Yes, I thought, Exactly.

All day long I take mental notes of everything I see. I can’t not do this, even when I want to shut my brain off. Even when I notice stupid details that will likely never make it into my writing, like how cigarette butts pile up in intersections where people empty their ashtrays while their cars idle or how the smell of the dollar store clings to you even after you’ve been out of the store for hours.

And I wonder about everything…The Wal-Mart employee with the raccoon eyes, snapping her gum as she stands frozen, starring at a shelf, a product in her hand. Is she putting away returned items? Is she doing a price check? Has her brain frozen in place? Does she know her eyeliner is running? Does she care? Maybe she’s depressed? Maybe her boyfriend just broke up with her this morning after he used her toothbrush and took the last bagel. Maybe….

The squished toad on the driveway, guts spewed out its flattened mouth. Did the driver notice before they ran it over? Did I run it over? The flattened skin has the same texture as a football.

The pink hue to the light at dusk and how it makes everything softer, the same way snow makes everything look cleaner. How do you capture its essence in words?

Walking the dog, I find myself narrating my actions as if I was in the story itself. “They crested the hill and scanned the woods for the fox that keeps watch over the chicken pen. A hawk circled overhead– was it a sign?”

busy beesI can’t seem to stop my brain. I tell it to chill, but it doesn’t listen. Maybe I should sign up for yoga or learn to meditate. Something to stop my busy brain.

Sometimes I’m frustrated when I can’t seem to put into words what I truly feel in my heart. The perfect words that floated through my thoughts as I ran along our country roads this morning, escape me when I finally sit down to type them out. When I read the writing of someone like Shonda Rimes, who so easily, almost embarrassingly, spills her heart on the page, I think, “Yes! That’s it!” I’m grateful for her talent and strive to open my own heart unfiltered as she does.

I find there to be a magic in writing, a power well beyond me. So I’m grateful for this 24/7 invasion. It makes my days richer, even as it means that my mind is preoccupied and sometimes I forget about the clothes on the line or the tea I left steeping on the counter.

Writing makes life more real for me. I’m awed by the potential power it holds. Maybe this next sentence will change a life or lift a spirit, bring back a memory, or at the very least, make someone wonder. Maybe it will shine right through, all the way from my heart to yours.

maybe it will shine

Hey, thanks for reading. I know you’ve got lots of options, so thanks for sharing a few of your minutes with me.

Honored,

Cara

If you’d like to know more about me, my books, and where you might run into me, check out my website, CaraWrites.com.

If you’d like to subscribe to my (sometimes) monthly e-newsletter, click here.

If you’re a dog lover, check out my other blog, Another Good Dog.

I’d love to connect with you on Facebook, twitter, or Instagram, and I’m thrilled to get email from readers (and writers), you can reach me at carasueachterberg@gmail.com.

COMING AUGUST 2018 FROM Pegasus Books:

Another Good Dog cover

Write.

It’s summer.

The kids are underfoot.

The house is a mess; it’s noisy, too.

The garden is a tangle of weeds and the blueberry bushes are so full, the berries are bending the branches low enough for the mice to feast.

I drank too much wine last night; I can’t think clearly.

I’m not feeling it.

I’m tired.

I’m sick of this story.

I’ll just take today off.

What’s the point?

That’s just a small sampling of my excuses. What are yours?

There’s never a good time to write, but if you’re a writer that really doesn’t matter—write.

Some days the words circle your head like invisible gnats, and while you can hear them buzzing, you can’t catch them—write.

Other times the grocery list and the thank you notes are nagging around the edges of your brain; they can wait another day—write.

Even when you have nothing to say and what you do want to say is everything you wish you’d said to someone who belittled your belief yesterday – write.

Maybe the only coherent thought you have is, I hate this. Write.

As Elmore Leonard, arguably one of the most successful, working class writers, puts it—

“I don’t believe in writer’s block or waiting for inspiration. If you’re a writer, you sit down and write.”

What are you waiting for?

Sit down and write.

NaNoWriMo Day 30: My Magical Crayon

 

One day left. Hours really. And, are you ready for this??? I’m only about 400 words away from completing NaNoWriMo!! Yeah. I’m impressed, too. My latest novel is now 79,600 words! It’s gonna happen people!

But before I finish, I thought I’d reflect on the adventure that was NaNoWriMo for me this year.

I started it on a whim, not really all that serious about it. Yeah, maybe I’ll do it. I lined up all my excuses to explain why I wouldn’t finish it. They were good excuses. Excellent, in fact, so when the end of the month rolled around and I was still stuck somewhere around 30,000 words, I’d be able to explain.

With my safety net in place, I started writing. In the beginning the words just flowed and flowed. That was mostly because I’d been sitting on this story for months, so I had a lot to turn loose on the page. It felt good to finally write it down. And doing it in such a crazy rush, felt good, too. I was on a writing high that first week. Who cares if this isn’t my best writing. Just get it on the page, I thought. I’ll fix it later. That’s a very freeing feeling. Kind of like dancing when no one is looking. Or singing loudly while driving on back country roads. I was just flying over those hills and swinging my hips like I was still twenty and hadn’t birthed three babies.

And just when I thought I’d write the whole dang thing in a week, the election happened.

I was frozen in my tracks and waffled on how to proceed. I could let me emotions be a roadblock to my progress and just one more excellent excuse for why I didn’t finish, or….I could use that anger/sadness/horror/fear to drive my writing, just like a basketball team that lost the previous season by one point and goes into the next season FIRED UP. Instead, I went with another option.

I dove whole-hog into my story and pretended that the real world didn’t exist. I shut down social media, silenced the radio and television, nodded sagely while silenting saying “blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-I-can’t-hear-you” each time other people brought up the election results. I lived inside my story.

And you know what? With the exception of a really nasty character with a bad combover appearing in one chapter, it worked. I wrote like a madwoman, pounding out that wordcount right up until….Thanksgiving happened. Cousins and food and friends and wine and the prolonged presence of several foster puppies took over my house. I lost almost a whole week to gluttony and sloth and puppy poo. When I finally got back to my laptop I thought, No way. Ain’t gonna happen. Break out the excuses.

But I wrote anyway. Even if I was going to fall short of my 50,000 word goal. With three days left I still had over 10,000 words to write and I was stumped. I couldn’t see the ending and I was getting bored with my characters’ indecision. So much for NaNoWriMo. I couldn’t sacrifice my story just to get a winner’s badge.

And then yesterday, I sat down at the computer and I thought—just write something. Anything. Even if it’s a stupid idea, just slap it on the page and see what happens.

And you know what? The ending found me. It was nothing like I thought it would be. Once again those characters surprised me. They were much better people than I’d imagined them to be. The magic happened. This is why I write. I write for these moments when what comes out of my fingertips comes straight from my heart, completely bypassing my brain or my conscience or my grand plan. It appears on the screen and I think—wtf? Who wrote that? This is the magic I love about writing.

Remember that book, Harold and The Purple Crayon?

harold

It was a simple little book with a purple cover. All the illustrations were line drawings. Harold starts drawing a picture and suddenly he’s in the picture and he’s creating a whole world and then he’s in that world. He encounters a forest, but doesn’t want to get lost so he draws a forest of only one tree. He’s hungry, so he draws apples on the tree to eat. But like any good story, there is peril! He almost drowns, but he draws a boat to save him. His adventures take him anywhere his mind wants to go. This is how writing works for me. I have one idea, so like Harold, I just start, and then I see where it takes me and if the story is fun/interesting/moving for me, then there’s a good chance it will be for the reader, too.

Would I have completed this story if I wasn’t doing NaNoWriMo? Probably. Just not in a month. What was so cool about doing it this way is that it forced me to keep going when I didn’t trust my characters or my crayon or the magic. And I learned that the magic will always show up. I just have to start writing.

Speaking of writing, I have 400 more words to spit out….

 

 

NaNoWriMo Day 25: Waffling

dsc_4195
Half of these chickens didn’t survive the latest fox attack. My odds at finishing NaNoWriMo seem similar. sigh.

I don’t know if I’m going to make it. There are only five days left in the month and writing time is at a premium considering the house is overrun with kids and their messes and their friends and my need to be amongst them. Add to that a couple foster dogs/puppies and well, I’ve got a boatload of excuses for not finishing NaNoWriMo.

I’ve got just under 13,000 words to go. Doable? Sure, but will I do it? Not so sure.

I’m doing what I’ve done with pretty much all five of the novels I’ve written – stalling in the middle. Ask any writer – the beginning is the easiest part. And then for many writers, the ending is obvious, but the middle….that’s terribly tricky. It’s very easy to wander. It’s very easy to obsess over unnecessary detail. It’s very easy to play favorites with your characters and entertain an odd darling or two.

For me, though, what happens in the middle is a lot of circling and stalling and avoiding the ending. I don’t want the story to end. Once it’s over, the real work starts. The tedious, painful editing. The sorting out whether there’s really a story here or not, and after 90,000+/- words, there really better be a story here.

Hanging out in the middle is safe. It’s easy. I like it there. The tail end of the middle is the time when I get anxious. What if the ending doesn’t appear? And what if it does and it sucks? Or what if I jump the gun and force it?

Much better to just stall and await a sign.

The problem with NaNoWriMo is there is no time to stall. There’s not time to explore tangents and wiggle my way into an ending. I have to write 13,000 words. NOW.

But what’s the worse that happens? I don’t finish NaNoWriMo? (or in the NaNoWriMo lingo – I don’t win?) So what? No big deal, Easter seal. I can handle it. I don’t have to achieve my goal. I can finish in another week or two. What’s with the arbitrary deadline? There’s nothing hanging in the balance here. The only person I owe this to is me. And I’m easy. Ask my kids. I talk big, but in the end I always cave.

Will I make it? It’s so very hard to say. I wouldn’t wager any money on it, but then again, I’m a more or less reliable person. I usually do what I say. So, you know, maybe it’ll happen….let’s just wait and see.