Getting back to work

Joe’s Post #143

Getting back from a writing retreat or a workshop, or even a conference, is a lot like coming back from a vacation with a bad case of the runs. It’s not like you don’t want to get on with life, but sh*t just keeps cropping up.

orange is the new blackBack at home, there’s all sorts of distractions, from Orange is the New Black to a regular life full of ball hockey practices, dishes and yelling at the dog for barking at the cat who’s hissing at the frogs, to bills and fights with Canada Revenue Services.

So while it’s easy to find time to write when you’re on a retreat, or at a workshop, it’s hard to keep that momentum going.

In the last week, I wrote 30 pages. Better than most weeks in 2015, that’s for sure, but far below what I should be doing. And that got me thinking.

How do you keep up the momentum?

Thoughts?

For me, it routine is still my best hope, but I can write for 2 hours a day in the morning and produce 2 hours of crap. So that may not be everything.

keyFinding inspiration is the key. I mean, that’s what those other events are for, right?

Can you find it from other writers? Sure. So you need to be part of a group. A fun group that loves to write.

Can you find it from books on writing? Maybe, but it’s just as easy to get bogged down in editorial mode and that could mean you’ll be writing and rewriting and rewriting the same 30 pages over and over.

Can you find it from novels? Ah, that’s the ticket. At least for me. Nothing inspires like a good book.

Can you find it alone? Hmmm. Maybe, but inspiring myself is kind of like trying to cut my own hair. It usually ends in tears and a trip to the doctor to reattach an ear.

So how do you stay motivated?

talents

To write or not to write everyday

Joe’s Post #139

Is there a right answer?

it hardcover_prop_embedStephen King believes in writing 1000 words a day, 6 days a week. Hard to argue with the guy who wrote about killer clowns and domes and sold a zillion books  There’s also a 750 word/day club. I even suspect there’s a 12 step writing-every-day program.

On the other side, people like Paula or Cal Newport argues that such a regime is for full-time writers, only, that we doom ourselves to failure by setting such an artificial deadline.

So let me present another POV.

I doesn’t matter.

Write every day if that motivates you. Personally, I find that such a goal is good enough to keep me going in the short term, but not good enough for a long term project like a novel. For that, I need to be in love with the idea or the characters or a really comfy chair.

If writing once a week for a good 5 hour stretch works, that’s ok, too. Or writing a novel in month. Whatever.

I think it all comes down to motivation. What makes you want to sit alone in a room, stare at a blank screen and try to knit a story from the cobwebs in your brain? What makes you commit hours and hours and hours to something only your cat or critique group may read? What makes you put aside family, the latest Bachelor episode or a golf game so you can put words on a page?

torFor me, it was a deadline that motivated me to write. A deadline from an open call by one of my favorite publishers. TOR. They were looking for novellas. 30,000-40,000 word length.

I had a short story that I loved and thought, hey, why not turn it into a novella? I loved the setting – NY in a slightly altered universe, one where magic is creeping into the world little by little. I loved my character – a creature of the old world, a Fey, who means to misbehave like Malcom Reynolds in Firefly, and uses his magical talents to solve crime. I loved the plot, but I knew I’d have to create a new one for the novella.

It didn’t matter that it wasn’t quite what they’re looking for. It didn’t matter that I’d never written a novella. I didn’t even matter that we were out of motivational wine and chocolates.

I just decided to write.

In 10 days, I’ve got 80 pages done. Oh, I know, it could be better, but that’s 80 pages on a brand new story. I was writing again. About 15,000 words worth.

Due to commitments, I couldn’t write every day, but if writing every day gets you back to writing, then I’m all for it. I didn’t write one day for 5 hours, but if writing once a week for 5 hours gets you back to writing, then I’m all for it.

In the end, whether you’re inspired by a deadline, a daily goal, by a trip you took, an adventure you had or something you just need to get off your chest, writers write.

So, as Silk said, this day we write, but I have to ask…

What process to you use for writing? 

*****

Best show last week – Game of Thrones. Without a doubt, though I hear good things about Outlander.

Book that I’m reading at the moment –  Reading Sean Sommerville’s latest book. The Unforgiven. Man that guy can write.

Pages written on new book  80 pages on the new novella.

Social media update – If you like this blog, please follow us or share us on facebook

Best thing last week  Back to writing, again. 80 pages is not bad.

Worst thing  Finally over my cold, but it’s left me with diminished hearing. Dammit. I may need to get a hearing aid. I greatly feel this is the beginning of the slow slide that will eventually see me in adult diapers and a hover-walker.

For anyone interested in the TOR open call, see this link.

 

Fear pt 2 – Guest Blogger Sheila Watson

The 2nd part of Sheila Watson’s Blog about Fear. I think this will strike some chords with us all.

Fear – Part Two

We have (I hope) acknowledged that we are afraid when it comes to our “real” writing and that fear prevents us from writing.

This week I want to talk about why I think that is and what we can do about it.

We (writers) have two beings living inside us.  The first is our creative self and the other is our critical self.  These two sides of self are incompatible.  They don’t get along and they can’t both drive the bus.

Think of your creative side as a child on a playground.  Imagine the biggest, most elaborate, most amazing playground ever invented (whatever that looks like to you).  Your creative side wants to jump and climb and run and tumble and dig and swim and fly.

Then your critical self comes along like a prudish English nanny and starts to try to protect you from getting hurt.  Your critical self demands that you stop jumping and climbing and running and tumbling and flying.  She worries that you might fall, or get dirty or skin your knees or look foolish.  She tells you that playing is dangerous.  The nanny’s job is to make you afraid of what might happen if you play.   She makes you believe that the fear is real and that something really awful is going to happen if you play.

And it gets worse.  Your nanny — your critical self — does not know how to tell good stories.  She sucks at it.  I mean, she really, really sucks.  Just imagine the nanny trying to walk across the top of the monkey bars.  Not.  Going.  To.  Happen.

We need to lock nanny out of the playground.  At least until we get our playtime in.  We have to be able to play fearlessly.  We have to be able to write fearlessly.

So how do we do that?  How do we trick nanny into staying outside the playground gates?  Here are some ideas.  Let me know in the comments if you have any more.

Do fifteen minutes of “practice” at the beginning of each writing session.  Just write your story for fifteen minutes. Consider it a warm up; a practice run; playtime.  Then throw it away.   (Yes, really.)

Set the timer on your phone for one minute.  Write two sentences under that time pressure.  Repeat.  Then try four sentences in two minutes.  Eight in four.  Ten in five.  Ten in ten.

Set your ink color to white.  Just write.  Change the color and edit it later.  For now, just write.

Half and half.  Decide how much time you are going to devote to writing this day.  Write and play for half that time.  Then go back and fix it during the second half of your time.  Creative side first.  Critical side later.  Never on the playground at the same time.

Whatever it is you do to trick your nanny into staying out of the playground – remember that writing is the doing.  Do.  Write.  Write more.  Write fearlessly.

*****

Bio: Sheila Watson is a wife, a mom, a self-defense instructor, a 2nd degree black belt in Taekwon-do, a wanna-be chef, a dog companion and a writer of tall tales, fanciful stories, occasionally useful commentary and rather wordy status updates.

If you liked the blog, please follow us or share on FB (or any other form of social media-type thingees.)

Branding for writers

IMG_1540Helga’s Post #109: April 10 has turned out to be a rather interesting day. This year – more on that later – as well as ninety years ago. That’s the day F. Scott Fitzgerald published “The Great Gatsby”. A few notes below in honor of the book’s anniversary.

Fitzgerald struggled mightily with the book’s title. The one he was last documented to have desired was “Under the Red, White, and Blue” (A good thing his publisher won out). The novel is widely considered to be a literary classic and a close contender for the 20th century’s best American novel. (It’s neck to neck with To Kill a Mockingbird and Grapes of Wrath, depending on who is judging). Not everyone agrees. Regardless, what makes the book a classic is how Fitzgerald educates his readers about the garish society of the Roaring Twenties by placing a timeless, relatable plotline within the historical context of the era. In contrast to the theme of the book, Fitzgerald was not among the highest-paid writers of his time; his novels earned comparatively little, and most of his income came from 160 magazine stories. Scott and his wife Zelda did spend money faster than he earned it; the author who wrote so eloquently about the effects of money on character was unable to manage his own finances.

But this post is not entirely about “The Great Gatsby”. I just found some of the background of Scott Fitzgerald noteworthy. In a roundabout weird connection (that only writers can fabricate and spin), my own April 10 was sort of an experience of the opposite of Fitzgerald’s garish society. Perhaps opposite is too strong a word, too dramatic, but it was at least an extremely toned-down version of American garish society.

And what a great experience my 10th of April was. (Unfortunately though I didn’t get any writing done except for this post).

The day started with discussing that we are going home to Canada in three weeks. We really should pack in some unusual experiences while we are still here in the California desert. My husband’s love for eclectic music and venues combined with my hunger to explore the unknown got us searching how to combine our foibles.

We went about our research independently and agreed to draw straws in the end. I have no idea whether it was serendipity, or being married for more than 30 years, or maybe, just maybe, due to a subconscious desire to please the other, that we both chose the same place. Or perhaps it wasn’t a coincidence at all, considering we both watched an intriguing Anthony Bourdain documentary about the place some time ago. Long before we decided to become snowbirds.IMG_1559

Whatever, karma or logic, we agreed on Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, a place high in the Mojave Desert. This unique place was a living movie set once, but today people come for the music and mesquite BBQ. It’s a simple place. Some might call it a run-down shack.Pioneertown_pappys I think it’s romantic. Because of the people who visit and especially those who work there.

It’s got an interesting history. In 1946, a group of Hollywood investors founded Pioneertown with dreams of creating a living movie set — an 1870′s frontier town with facades for filming and interiors open to the public. On the outside were stables, saloons, and jails, and on the inside were ice cream parlors, bowling alleys, and motels. Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Russell Hayden, and the Sons of the Pioneers (for whom the town was named) were some of the original investors and personalities who helped build and invent Pioneertown. More than 50 films and several television shows were filmed in Pioneertown throughout the 1940′s and 1950′s. In 1946, where Pappy & Harriet’s stands today, was a facade used as a “cantina” set for numerous western films well into the 1950s.

IMG_1539Should you ever be in the area and want to visit, you can put it into your GPS as 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown, CA. I would urge you to do so if you are a writer in need of visual inspiration or have a penchant for any of the following:

  • A drive through scenery so awesome you’ll forget to breathe
  • Some very, very ‘interesting’ tattoos (all genders)
  • A stage that continues to be graced with some of the most talented and eccentric bands and musicians anywhere to be found
  • The best and biggest ribs you will eat in your life
  • Margaritas and beer served in Mason jars
  • The friendliest, kookiest (in a positive sense) servers on the planet
  • Washroom graffiti that makes you pause long enough for your ribs and Mac and cheese to get cold
  • Did I mention the bar?
  • Totally casual, all ages and walks of life
  • And the people. Especially the people

A writer can ask for little more.IMG_1551

Now I just have to find a way to get a few scenes into my novel where I can use those images that are branded on my mind.

Wishing you rich and colorful images to draw on in your own writing.

Guest post by Sheila Watson: Fear

Joe’s Post #136

Actually, I’m not sure I can call this my post as I’m going to give the blog over to a guest blogger. I hope that other people will also be interested in blogging on our site, so please send us a note if you are. In the meantime, Sheila Watson was fortunate enough to take a workshop on something we’ve all been struggling with over the last few months. FEAR!

So, here it is. It has some great insights.

Part 1 (the 2nd part will be next week)

FEAR ˈfir/    noun

  1. 1. an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

The key word in the above definition is “belief”.  Fear, as it relates to writing, is not real.  There is no danger or threat in telling a story and no disaster will ever befall you because you write a novel.

Those of us who are writers can’t help but write.  If we are not writing a novel, we are writing a blog or crafting status updates on Facebook or responding to discussions on forums or emailing and texting our friends and family.  There are hundreds of ways of writing daily.  And we manage to do all of them – except the writing that matters most.  Because we are afraid.

Why aren’t we afraid to write a blog?  Why is it that we set a goal to write a blog every week and we manage to get it done and published?  Every single week.  But when we say we are going to commit to writing a novel a year – a snail’s pace of merely 275 words a day – we can’t get it done?  Why aren’t we afraid of writing a blog?

Because there is nothing dangerous or threatening about writing a blog.  What’s the worst thing that could happen if you wrote a blog and put it out in the world?  Someone might not like it?  Someone might disagree with it?  No one will read it?  Maybe someone will write about the same idea and be better at it?

So what?  Is that what you are thinking?  So what if no one reads it?  So what if someone disagrees or doesn’t like it?  So what if someone writes better than I do?  It doesn’t matter.

That same idea – that feeling – needs to translate into the writing of your “real” stuff.  It’s the same.  You are just another person putting stories out into the world and seeing what resonates.  Some people won’t read it.  Some people won’t like it.  Some people will write it better than you.

So what?

You are already facing and managing this fear when you write a blog, or an email or a forum post or a witty Facebook status.  You just have to bring that to your “real” writing.

How much could you write if you were not afraid?  If you could sit down at the laptop with no beliefs of danger or threat or pain clouding your thoughts and you could just tell a story?

Do you know?

I didn’t. Not until this weekend. This weekend I set about writing a story for my teenaged children.

They still request an Easter Egg Hunt every year and we are long past hiding chocolate eggs behind the curtains.  So each year, this mom devises an increasingly difficult hunt.  This year, I decided to write a “choose your own adventure” for them.  The idea being that they read a story and at certain points in the story they have to decide between option 1 or option 2 (and sometimes options 3 and 4).  Seemed like a good idea.  But it required a story.  I started writing on Friday night.  And I wrote more than 11,000 words by Sunday morning.

11,000 words. In a day and a half.  Because I was not afraid.

*****

Bio: Sheila Watson is a wife, a mom, a self-defense instructor, a 2nd degree black belt in Taekwon-do, a wanna-be chef, a dog companion and a writer of tall tales, fanciful stories, occasionally useful commentary and rather wordy status updates.

Stay tuned, she has a second part coming next week!

As always, if you like the post, please follow us or share on FB or get your 8 year old daughter to do something with it on instasnap or chatlink or whatever’s new.

 

Bootcamp for writers

Joe’s Post #135

i dont know butWhat do you do when you’re stuck in a non-writing groove? Maybe you look at a writing bootcamp.

Not the kind of bootcamp where you get yelled at by an angry-looking marine or go around singing martial marching songs. “I don’t know but I’ve been told, if you don’t write, you don’t get sold. Sound off, one two, sound off, three four…”

Nor the kind where you leap over logs and end up running through mud. Nope, a writing bootcamp is where you, ah, write.

It’s something the group is considering. What better way than to get together, unfurl our laptops, and grind out page after page? We can be there for support. For advice. Or simply for company.

stephen kingThere are, of course, some variations on this theme. I think the Hemingway version involves a lot of scotch. Certainly the Hunter S. Thompson version would include a lot of blow and hookers. I imagine Stephen King’s would involve graveyards and listening to thrash metal music and something that would probably scar me for life.

Some are structured (from Writer’s Digest). Some are fun and spontaneous (from Capilano College). Some set goals (like the one I went to in Oregon as part of the Oregon Writer’s Network, where we set a goal of writing a book in a week). Some just get together to write.

What’s important is that all of them motivate writers to write. And that’s what we need to do.

When I went down to Oregon, I was with a houseful of professional writers. That alone added a huge incentive for me not to sit there and play Minecraft or go for a walk on the beach and gaze at the waves. And I wrote my ass off. 400 odd pages in 6 days.

Now, I’m not saying it was the greatest novel I’d ever written, and I ran into a huge plot flaw problem on day 5 that I couldn’t fix in the time allotted, but I wrote, and wrote a lot. I didn’t even spend much time with the other writers, talking about ideas or methods or just the best way to make a cup of tea. It’s something I actually regret, but (again) I didn’t get distracted from my reason for being there.

So, I think it’ll be a good thing for us to gather together and write.

I don’t know if we’ll set goals as a group or as individuals.

I don’t know if it’ll be some place fancy like Palm Springs or my backyard.

structured writingI don’t know if it’ll be all structured and organized (like get up at 7am, pee from 7:10-7:11, dress from 7:11-7:30, coffee and breakfast 7:30-8:00, heavy drinking from 8:01-11:15, write…. 8:10-8:20 crying and swearing time. 8:30 bed), or we’ll just wing it day-to-day.

But I do know that if we get together for the purpose of writing, we will write. The peer pressure will be there. The support will be there. The encouragement for getting sh*t done will be there.

So I ask you all: What would your writing bootcamp look like? How would you set it up?

******

Best show last week – Seasonal finale of the Walking Dead. Brilliant stuff.

Book that I’m reading at the moment –  Shadow’s Edge. Brent Weeks. Nearly done and it’s his best book so far. But why, Joe, why? It’s because he gave his hero a nice cost to using his uber powers. A brutal cost, but an effective one.

Pages written on new book  I’ve now officially committed to the group to write 10 pages a week. A low total for a professional writer, but it should be me started.

Social media update – Finally finished my epic journey as a chaperone on my step-dad site. Check it out.

Health  Still functionally deaf at the moment due to an ear infection. F*ing hell. It’s like living in a bubble.

Best thing last week  I found out I’ll be getting more time to write. Let’s hope I can use that time effectively.

Worst thing  Nothing. Life is good.

Links to other writers and bloggers to check out….

Ok, I asked everyone to check out this guy, but if you haven’t, then now’s the time….

chuck

Chuck Wendig

http://terribleminds.com (it is NSFW, but funny as hell!)

Looting your life

Joe’s Post #134

timmiesSo there I was, sitting at my computer, drinking a Timmies double-double, trying to add a few characteristics to my character (to, you know, flesh him out a bit), when three things occurred to me.

1) Timmies coffee is brain food. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

2) Creating amazing fictional characters is hard. It may not seem like it, but avoiding shallow, cliched characters takes time, some thinking and a lot of work.

3) Why create fictional characters at all when you can draw from people in your own life (or even other fictional ones, but that’s another blog entirely.)

It was the #3 that really got me thinking. Since I have lived a life of utter normality, I had to look farther afield. But if you lived an amazing life, use that. I know some of our 5/5/5 have had extraordinary lives that they could easily draw upon. Just not me.

So, I looked back to someone in my life who I really admired, someone who I dearly wish was still alive today. My dad.

battling dragonsI was pretty young when he passed so I never got a chance to really hear about his life from him. Sadly, at 13, you just don’t care that much about what your parents did or didn’t do. They exist only as your parents. They never had sex. They never had their hearts broken. They never went on adventures or committed crimes or battled dragons.

Now my dad never battled dragons, at least that I know about, but he did have a life, and it’s sometimes not the large things that make up a life, but the small. My dad had lost his sense of smell after working in a slaughter house for 2 years. He could only smell a few things and those things he could smell, he loved. Like the smell of hot tar.

Who loves the smell of hot tar?

I looked back at what foods he loved, at what he did as a young man (he played the bass in big bands), at who he hated and why. I looked at the mementos he kept and the pictures that were taken of him.

london burningSure, his experience in WWII shaped a lot of who he became, but there were so many other little things that made up who he was as a person. He took in homeless boarders, lost souls who needed guidance, young men who just needed someone to believe in them. He felt he was repaying a debt to someone who had taken him in when he’d come to Canada, penniless and desperate. He’d write ‘Grandma Ag’ (Agnes) every week like he wrote his mom.

Such things great characters are made of. The debts, the loves, the hates, the small joys, the big laughs, the things he would keep in a cluttered desk drawer.

So, I’ll mine a few things from my dad’s life, as much to honor him as to make a really good character. When you read about Kurt Yager, or any of my male protagonists, know that there is a little bit of my dad in them.

*****

Best show last week – Went and saw a movie with the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world –  Something we haven’t done for a long while. We saw the Kingsmen. Wow. I mean, wow. Imagine if Quentin Jerome Tarantino made a Bond movie. Violent. Funny. Massively engaging.

Book that I’m reading at the moment –  Shadow’s Edge. Brent Weeks. About half way through. The stakes are rising, but as a writer, the interesting thing is that he’s now spending about 1/2-1/3 of the book on other POV characters. Not a bad move, but interesting. I mean, why get tied down to just one?

Pages written on new book  Worked on my main character. Hence the blog. From character flows plot, right?

Social media update – Still blogging on my step-dad site about my experience as a chaperone on a grade 7 camping trip.  I have to blog about something terrifying today.

Health  Functionally deaf at the moment due to another ear infection. F*ing hell.

Best thing last week  Date night and movie with the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world.

Worst thing  My laptop being fixed. Damn you Word. Why won’t you work properly?

Links to other writers and bloggers to check out….

marieMarie Lavander – A very well done site, and only 1 of 3 she has running! http://marielavenderbooks.blogspot.ca

 

jodiJodie Llewellynwho really doesn’t need my help with promotion as she has an amazing 75,000 page views, 8,000 comments, and 6,000 followers!!!!! Wow!!! http://www.wordsreadandwritten.com.

 

 

On the road

jack-kerouac-quotes-sayings-road-motivational

Helga’s Post #105:  It’s been a wild ride since my last post, “How we write about Love”. A 2,200 km drive (or 1,400 miles to our friends across the border) straight south from Vancouver, crossing one international and two state lines. Our 4-seat sedan was loaded to capacity due to my dear husband insisting on taking his high-end Bose audio system to California. It was packed in a huge box, making it nearly impossible to get a rear view of the traffic behind us.

Regardless, we made it, and in good time. Two overnights, one in Eugene, Oregon, the second in Sacramento. I kept thinking about Jack Kerouac’s novel On The Road and visualized ourselves as members of the Beat generation. (We are almost old enough for that). enhanced-buzz-1793-1381173988-1-630x350

The trip was not without inspiration to my writer’s spirit. I started to realize something that, though I had been kind of aware of it all along, confirmed it. So, here I was, with nothing to do but focus on the scenery flying by, that my writer’s mind was able to surface. As we whipped south on the I-5 my mind more and more uncluttered, I could let my imagination roam. It’s amazing what your mind is capable of in the absence of deadlines, commitments and the drudgery of everyday life.

So I started to spin some yarns. What if … Starting with the texts exchanged on the way with writer friend Paula. I received lots and lots of texts with good advice on which roads to take, where to stop, eat, take a pee, and some such. So I was thinking, wouldn’t that be a neat backdrop to a novel? A friend giving advice play-by-play from the distance, but what if … suddenly she doesn’t get any more replies from her friends on the road. None. Zero. What could have happened? The friends never showed. Last text from Stockton, or Lodi, and then nothing. The friend goes on a search that leads her to … Bangkok, or Jakarta, or the tawdry parts of Amsterdam.

Or take our second stopover in Sacramento. After checking in to a modest hotel we went out to an Italian restaurant, starved for food and some nice California red wine. Our server was a pleasant and attractive young woman. “Who doe she remind you of?” I asked my husband “Julia Roberts?”

Exactly. Kind of unique, but wait! As we looked across the dining room there she was, but how it could it be when she was just at our table a nano-second ago? She brought our drinks and I asked if her sister works here too. Yes, she does, my twin sister she said. The twins were immigrants from Romania.

Imagine the odds of meeting a woman who looks like a twin of Julia Roberts, and then seeing she does in fact have a twin who looks like her too.

So, a pleasant little interlude on our journey. Again, I started spinning my yarn. What if …

And so it went, the entire drive until we finally, after a horrific Friday night traffic jam through Pasadena, and losing tire pressure somewhere along the way, arrived in Palm Springs.

That night my writer’s mind left me alone. Too exhausted to think, let alone making connections to a possible plot for another novel.

But the next morning, waking up to the incomparable vistas of the Santa Rosa Mountains bathed in the early rays of the morning sun, I got inspired all over again. And that’s where my novel might play a major role. It will be an easy fix from the setting I had previously chosen. Maybe it’s a bit of Vancouver and a lot of Southern California. My plot can accommodate both venues. And then some.

But for now, I am soaking it all in, letting the magic of blue sky, balmy weather and endless palm tree lined roads do its work on my psyche, and commanding the muse to appear again.

It’s been too long.

ctdcy_phototour12

Listen for story ideas

Karalee’s Post #81

Last Friday my husband and I had dinner with two couples that we had first “met” online. It wasn’t with the intention of increasing our social circle, but rather we connected through doing what we enjoy doing.

Dick and Marian (sitting on the right), got in touch with us through our common interest in boating, especially since all our children wanted other kids to hang out with. Initially we found each other through a Vancouver club newsletter and then kept in touch through a new technology back then called email.

At the time Dick and Marian were living in Saudi Arabia where they raised their children while Dick worked with an oil company, and David and I were on a two year homeschooling and sailing adventure with our three children in the Mediterranean. That was a dozen years ago and our families met on our sailboats in Turkey.

It is easier to get together in person now that Dick and Marian have retired and moved back to Vancouver. We do cool stuff together, like trek in Nepal (Marian guides the treks) or around the local mountains. Especially in the winter we play the board game Settlers of Catan after dinner and visiting.

The second couple (on the left above) is Alison and Don. If you follow this blog and glance at people that like our posts, you will frequently see Alison and Don. They are a very adventurous couple that sold their material wealth (and let go of their fear of letting it all go) to embrace traveling and discovering the world. They started their own blog Adventures in Wonderland and somehow found the 5Writer’s blog.

And, by some great alignment of what is meant to be, Alison and Don are from Vancouver too, and are back for a few months. Certainly the invitation for us to meet in person was not to be missed.

The six of us had a wonderful evening and were never short of stories to tell. We could have continued for days I’m sure.

Which brings up the point that most of us have stories to tell. Listen to the ones that your family and friends go on and on about. In general they have a beginning, a middle and an end, and probably a whole lot of back story. Are they worth writing about? Some are, absolutely.

Here’s the fun in listening to what’s happened in other people’s lives:

  • any one of their stories can ignite the fuse to a story idea for writers. Then in fiction writing, it is up to us to develop characters with goals and conflicts that can carry the premise idea through a myriad of connecting plot points to a great conclusion!
  • being around other storytellers feeds a writer’s soul and not only fills the void of loneliness (writing is a lonely business) it also encourages more writing that in some way doesn’t seem as lonely since there are real persons at the source of our ideas.
  • making friends and being present with other people is one of life’s true joys and it takes eating and drinking to a whole new level.

So, as Paula encourages writers to go forth and ask experts questions in order to allow our writing to sound authentic regarding the subject we are writing about, I also say go forth and listen to friends and family and strangers in the park or in coffee shops and discover some of their stories.

Take some notes too. We all know that some truths are far stranger than any fiction story we can ever imagine. Who knows what you will discover!

Happy writing!

 

The voice

 

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Paula’s Post #71 – This past ten days, we 5writers have been focusing a lot on the ‘it’ factor. First Silk posted about ‘That can’t look away ingredient’ , then Joe followed up with his own examination of what makes a storyline ‘addictive’ in ‘The it factor’, now in yesterday’s post I see we have Silk back for another kick at the cat with ‘Where does ‘it’ come from’.

I’d like to say I know where ‘it’ comes from, but I’m afraid that like my 5writer colleagues, I have more questions than answers in the search for the elusive ‘it’ factor.

Yet in researching today’s blog post, I did discover that best-selling author Stephen King found the word ‘IT’ sufficiently powerful to title and anchor an entire novel.

For Mr. King, the ‘it’ factor appeared in the disguise of an ‘evil murderous clown’ preying on a town’s children. Deeply rooted in the commonality of childhood fears, he later wrote that the book was inspired by his recollections of an oft-recounted childrens’ fairy-tale: The Three Billy Goats Gruff:

I thought of the fairy tale called “The Three Billy-Goats Gruff” and wondered what I would do if a troll called out from beneath me, “Who is trip-trapping upon my bridge?” All of a sudden I wanted to write a novel about a real troll under a real bridge. I stopped, thinking of a line by Marianne Moore, something about “real toads in imaginary gardens,” only it came out “real trolls in imaginary gardens.” A good idea is like a yo-yo–it may go to the end of its string, but it doesn’t die there; it only sleeps. Eventually it rolls back up into your palm. I forgot about the bridge and the troll in the business of picking up my car and signing the papers, but it came back to me off and on over the next two years. I decided that the bridge could be some sort of symbol–a point of passing. I started thinking of Bangor, where I had lived, with its strange canal bisecting the city, and decided that the bridge could be the city, if there was something under it. What’s under a city? Tunnels. Sewers. Ah! What a good place for a troll! Trolls should live in sewers! A year passed. The yo-yo stayed down at the end of its string, sleeping, and then it came back up. I started to remember Stratford, Connecticut, where I had lived for a time as a kid. In Stratford there was a library where the adult section and the children’s section was connected by a short corridor. I decided that the corridor was also a bridge, one across which every goat of a child must risk trip-trapping to become an adult. About six months later I thought of how such a story might be cast; how it might be possible to create a ricochet effect, interweaving the stories of children and the adults they become. Sometime in the summer of 1981 I realized that I had to write about the troll under the bridge or leave him–IT–forever.

Now, I must confess I do not have an obsession with either billy goats or bridges. Nor do I have an irrational fear of clowns (at least I do not think I do). But I can say that the books I am most passionate about writing have a similar gestational history to Mr. King’s novel, ‘IT’. A nagging voice that echoes through my subconscious, a dropped thread that reappears when I least expect it.

In the past, this nagging voice has led to one completed novel that I can say that I am proud of, (the one I co-authored with my fellow 5writer Helga) and one still incomplete but promising novel, (set in pre-war Honolulu) that I can say I’m also quite proud of and which has been the object of much encouraging feedback from my fellow 5writers.

But now, that nagging voice is back, apparently coaxing me to write a historical novel set in Scotland, loosely inspired by my own family history.  For me, that ‘nagging voice’ will not be silenced, though right now, I can’t help think I should be writing something else.

Something a little less demanding. Something requiring a little less research. Something a tad less complex.

So to listen to ‘this nagging voice’ or not? Like Shakespeare put it all so aptly, ‘that is the question.

Do you have your own little nagging voice, coaxing you to write a particular story? If so, are you listening to ‘the voice’ or ignoring ‘it’.

I’d like to know.

Paula’s Update:

Kilometres driven this week – 2551

Bed’s slept in – 6 (believe me, that sounds racier than it actually is)

Dog’s transported across international borders – 2

Pages written on new novel – 0

Nagging voice intrusions – 17 (but who’s counting).