What is YOUR Creative Self Saying?

I started teaching a new course of Creative Writing this week. I forgot how much I love it. My class last spring didn’t fill and was canceled. At the time, I was busy preparing for a book launch, so I was somewhat relieved.

Driving home after class this week, I was energized. It’s so exciting to work with writers who are just beginning their journey. The possibilities are fresh and exciting.

The knowing nods when we talk about the urgent need to write, reassure me. I’m not the only crazy person in my town who feels this compelling urge to bear witness to all the little oddities in my life and heart.

pexels-photo-115782We talked about what we write and why. So many echoed the same sentiment—a voice running through their heads aching to get out on paper. I recognize that insistency. It’s their creative spirit. Everyone has one. That spirit can find its way out in a plethora of ways, but when its left trapped inside, unrecognized and unfed, it can lead to a confused despondency, a sadness borne of a day-after-day sameness. Continue reading “What is YOUR Creative Self Saying?”

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Inner Supreme Court

I read a post recently by another writer I much admire and in it she used the phrase, “Inner Supreme Court.”

I recently received an opinion that brought that clever phrase to life. And I’ve realized that the decision to accept or reject it is mine to make. If only it were that simple.

When it comes to any decision — about writing or life — you have to trust your Inner Supreme Court. You can get lots of opinions and recommendations. You can listen to other people’s experiences and warnings. You can indulge possibilities and dreams, but ultimately when it’s time to decide you have to trust that only your Inner Supreme Court knows what is best for you.

I’ve been trying this particular case in my court all week. The case involves a huge re-write of a novel I’ve been polishing for over five years. I’m anxious to bring this story to light. I think it is ready. I think it has an important and timely message, but my agent wants me to gut out yet another re-write.

So, I’ve been gathering opinions, reading genre definitions (since this is the reason for the re-write), and taking long walks with my foster dog who is recovering from a broken jaw (thanks to a misunderstanding with one of my horses).

Sometimes I’m indignant.

My beta readers love this story! I’ve already put more than a thousand hours into it. These characters are my friends. I know them inside and out. What if she’s wrong?

Sometimes I’m self-flagellating.

I suck at this. I cannot write. I should shelve it and take a class and learn to write. I should plant blueberries all over the pasture, kick the horses out, and start a pick-and-pay business.

Sometimes I present evidence.

So-and-so read it, and says this will be the book. The one that makes the NYT bestseller list. I’ve mapped this book, edited it within an inch of its life. I’ve probably cut as many words as I’ve written. I’ve changed names, settings, killed my darlings, and read it out loud. It’s good. It’s really good.

And sometimes I try to see the side of the prosecution.

Maybe she has a point. Maybe there’s more story buried here underneath the overly polished surface. Maybe I just need to dig deeper. Maybe I need to set my ego and impatience aside.

For now, the justices are still hearing testimony. No decision has been made. And the court just might recess for the fourth of July holiday and spend some much needed downtime with the latest batch of foster puppies driving me to distraction.

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But soon enough, it will be time to make that decision. I’ll stop asking for advice and sympathy and more time.

As a writer it’s much too easy to see all the sides. But deep down, when I finally close the door of my courtroom, I do trust that my own Inner Supreme Court has been listening and taking all the testimony into account, and while they might not be in complete agreement, they will make the right decision.

And I’ve gotta trust that.

And maybe trust is the hardest part. As usual.

Sigh.

Thanks for reading!

If you’d like to know more about my writing and books, check out CaraWrites.com

If you’d like to know more about life with foster puppies, visit my blog Another Good Dog.

Have a wonderful holiday and trust your Inner Supreme Court!

Blessings,

Cara

p.s. Great thanks to Kathryn Craft for the phrase that inspired this post. (Check out her wonderful books!)

Verbizing (yes, it’s a word!) (okay, it’s my word)

What’s the most important part of a story? The plot? The characters?

How about the verbs?

Okay, maybe they aren’t the most important part but wow, they can make or break it.

Secret wisdom of the earth by Christopher ScottonI’m reading The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton and I am dumbfounded (love this word – oh, and what a great verb!) by how he simply makes up verbs. Out of thin air. He takes ordinary words and he verbizes them (there! I just did it too! I verbized the noun, verb.).

Watch how he does this:

I remember watching my mother from the backseat as she stared at the telephone poles flishing past us, the reflection of the white highway line in the window strobing her haggard face.

The first time it happened, on the first page, mind you, I thought – flishing? huh, never heard of that verb.

But then again and again (and again) he simply created verbs where there were none. Jounced? (okay, that one’s real, but who uses it?) Vigiling? Birth-defected?

How empowering, I thought.

The verb you choose for a sentence can be the difference between eating vanilla store brand ice cream and Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food flavor ice cream. Totally different experience.

For example:

He walked slowly along.

He lollygagged.

The bird flew across the grass.

The bird flashed across the grass.

She thought about it.

She sloshed the idea around in her head.

See? It’s easy. And what Scotton has proven to me, is that if you can’t think of a verb, you can simply make one up. Nobody minds. Really.

The toddler wasted time.

The toddler fiddle-de-dooed.

Cake? Right?

If you need a few lists of verbs check out foxhugh.com who teaches ESL and has lists of action verbs, PLUS a cat and the hat rap video and a number of other interesting posts. You could also check out ResumeGenius.com which claims to be the longest action verb list in the universe, although I’m quite certain that Fox Hugh has it beat.

If worse comes to worse, you can also right click on a boring verb in your document and look at the possible synonyms, there could be a more interesting alternative there.

Want to pump up your manuscript? Search out words like was, is, walk, sat, run, read, stand, etc., you know the standard stuff from your first grade primer, and see if you can liven up your sentences by plugging in more interesting verbs.

It used to be we had to stick to Webster’s for our word choice, but I’m pretty sure that rule is long gone. I can’t imagine how spell check or auto-correct keep up. That’s their problem, though, because clearly best-selling writers make up words everyday—why can’t you?

Thanks for reading!

If you’d like to read more, meander on over to my website. We’re just getting my Street Team (Cara’s Cronies) off the ground. I’d love to have you on my side!

Oh, and if you’re totally into dogs, check out my blog about fostering rescue dogs!

Enough of the shameless self-promotion. Have a blueberry pie with fresh cream kind of week!

Blessings,

Cara

 

 

Week One of my Be-A-Better-Writer Reading Plan

I’m one week into my Be-A-Better-Writer reading plan and I already feel like a better writer. I’m learning a few things and I feel intentional, which is my favorite kind of feeling.

Plus, I really like coloring my notes with my gel pen set. I underline and star and copy thoughts into my notebook and then go back and circle and underline even more in color. Plus, some pages of my journal have little coloring breaks—

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Reading six writing books each day is a bit like having six teachers hanging out in my office with me. I like some more than others. I find myself looking forward to opening some (Writing Down the Bones, The Art of Memoir), forcing myself to read others because I know it’s good for me (Fire in Fiction, A Writer’s Guide to Persistence), and having mixed emotions about the other two because while they captivate me with their engaging style, every now and again they irritate me (Story Genius, Fierce on the Page).

Some of the writers feel like old friends I’d love to meet for a beer and commiserate with about the sad state of the publishing industry. Others feel more like the teacher I had in third grade who was really pretty and let us watch Electric Company during class, but also scared the shit out of me and rendered me mute with her wicked brilliance and condescending confidence.

Story Genius is probably pushing me the most. It’s making me question the framework of the story I wrote this fall.

Fire in Fiction is making me examine the characters in that story. Although Fire in Fiction is also the book I’m least inclined to open if I’m sleepy or unmotivated. Maass uses TONS of examples from books I haven’t read which is frustrating because my sad little brain is overwhelmed with sorting out the story he’s quoting instead of the point he’s making. It’s exhausting. Add to that my feeling of inadequacy because I haven’t read so many of his examples. If I was a real writer, I would have read them, right?

Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones is Continue reading “Week One of my Be-A-Better-Writer Reading Plan”