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Is Writing Your Joy?

Of  course, I don’t expect writing to be your one and only joy, but is it still a joy? I think writers begin writing in a frenzy of excitement and joy and emotion. We daydream of conversations between our hero and heroine. We doodle grimaces on napkins while we think of our antagonist and his wily ways. I can personally attest to losing days worth of sleep in the name of writing. I’ve spent countless hours contriving events to break my beloved MCs heart, only to shed tears along with her as it unfolds, then hoot aloud in victory when she overcomes. I mean, when true love conquers all, good wins the battle, and my broken character stands tall and confident once again, I am instantly seven-years-old, spinning in my mother’s garden, face to the brilliant sun, arms out in the breeze and joy-filled beyond the constraint of human words.

And then there’s what’s happening now.

Today, I finished reading my tenth novel in as many days, and though reading is many things, including therapeutic and researchy and entertaining, today I realized I was hiding. I’ve been hiding from writing, completely avoiding the very thing that brings me joy. Why would a writer ever do that? There are probably a myriad of reasons, but mine was fear and paralysis.

Writing, blogging, and social networking, in the name of publication – or the dream and hope of publication, has rendered me wordless, and I’ve been avoiding my joy. Questions are mounted in my mind today, and I can’t answer them. What should I write now? I have a manuscript out with an agent. But what now? Do I work on a sequel to something far from due? Probably. Should I work on an old manuscript I love, but needs serious revision? Probably. Should I sit stalking my email for news on submissions? Probably NOT.

Sometimes we’re pulled in so many directions, there’s too much love going around. LOL. I love it all and it all needs my attention (except the email stalking – that comes with being a writer LOL).So, I sit here undecided, stressed out and wondering: Where’s the joy?

Well, I love to write, so I need to write, and this is the advice I’m offering to anyone else who feels a little paralyzed in their writing joy. Just get started. Write what you love because you love it. Write for the joy it brings you and nothing more. Cuddle it and polish it and send it off with all the love you can because it is an extension of you, a piece of your heart, your hard work, and a show of your creativity.

Now, I’m taking my own advice. I’ve shared my paralysis with you and I’m headed back to the YA Mystery which had me smiling before I gave into the “What ifs” of this industry and walked away from her. I’m putting down my library books and picking up MY book.

Writing is my joy, my release, my escape, and today I’m reclaiming it as exactly that.

 

Writer Wednesday Welcomes: Cynthia Patterson!

Today Writer Wednesday welcomes my new writer friend and lovely lady, Cynthia Patterson. Cynthia an dI connected on GoodReads and I am very thankful to have her here today to tell us about her new book It Had to Happen, and a little bit about herself!Please meet Cynthia!

Biography

A native Houstonian, Cynthia A. Patterson is Founder and CEO of Daughters of Virtue and Excellence Ministries, Inc. (DOVE Ministries). A nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that offers mentoring, Christian counseling, and personal development education to women of all walks of life.

A sought-after motivational conference speaker, bible teacher, and powerful prayer warrior who has a genuine passion to inspire and encourage women. Her message of faith and wholeness is raising the awareness of God’s purpose and exposing each woman to the reality of His never-ending, love, mercy, and grace.

Cynthia was generous enough to drop me a guest post to go with her book deets too!

Blog Post

Have you ever stopped and just asked yourself why?

In her debut book, It Had to Happen, Cynthia inspires the reader of God’s providence in the midst of trials what only serve as the launching pad to triumph.  She masterfully uses The Woman with the Issue of Blood to take us beyond the surface of the biblical story we’ve heard and read so many times by interjecting us into the passage in a personal way.  Our own struggles are interwoven in suggested parallelisms that bring this woman’s plight into the light of a modern day context.  And the discovery questions at the end of each chapter cause us to reflect deeply as revelation and transformation provide soothing solutions that can only come from our loving Heavenly Father who is an ever present help and a Source of unending hope.

Cynthia says “those who don’t know their own history are doomed to repeat it. You have to expose who you are so that you can determine what you need to become”.  Your journey to living a peaceful life awaits.

Cynthia wears many hats: Mother, Author, Entrepreneur, Visionary, Minister, Mentor, Friend, Fashionista, and Cheerleader for great causes. She loves to laugh and loves God’s people.

Here’s some information about It Had to Happen:

Book blurb

It Had to Happen is an inspiring book that will heal wounds, restore your faith and dramatically change your relationship with God. After carefully retracing your steps, you will be able to identify with the direction you are heading and begin your journey with confidence and faith. During this process, you’ll learn:

• The secrets needed to pursue your purpose

• To enjoy the success of finding out who you really are

And most importantly understand that past mistakes simply, HAD TO HAPPEN!

Links to where Cynthia can be found online

www.dove-ministries.org

http://www.facebook.com/doveministryinc

www.twitter.com/cyndypatterson

http://dove-ministries.blogspot.com/

Thank you so much for stopping by Musings today Cynthia! I’m sure everyone has enjoyed meeting you and hearing about your new book as much as I have. Thanks!

The Ending of An Era

Today is the first day of school for my 5 & 8 year old sons. I mean it. it’s the actual FIRST day. Until today, I’ve home schooled my kids. Four years ago we bought six acres of land in a town about 30 minutes from here and about 10 minutes from Hubsy’s job. I didn’t want to enroll my Kindergartner in one school system only to pull him out mid year. Home schooling is really trending around here, so I jumped on the bandwagon and decided I’d teach him until we got our home built and moved. Then, Hubsy was recruited to a company an hour away – in the OTHER direction from our current home. When I called the local school – I AM DEAD SERIOUS – they told me the school was full. LOL We live in a very rural area with a little country school and a whole lot of new housing developments, McMansions and condos going up where farm land was when we moved in. This means lots of new families and lots of full classrooms.

I shrugged it off and bought a first grade curriculum. I had a great time teaching my son. Then, I started writing. And it all changed fast. I started writing in the hopes of publication about 2 1/2 years ago, and I’d just had a baby. I wasn’t sleeping. Homeschooling got more tricky. No sleep and more time commitments made Mommy a grump girl. Then last year I added blogging to my list of to-dos, I signed some writing contracts AND my middle son started Kindergarten at home.

Three months ago, I called “uncle”. I threw in the towel. I was teaching a 2nd grader, AND a kindergartner (which is NOT as easy as it sounds. You need to teach those little guys how to read, and write letters and add and everything everything everything), plus I had a toddler interfering with everything everything everything, and a home and meals, and Hubsy, and writing, and blogging and crit groups and the list keeps going. I wasn’t doing anything to my best ability and I hated it. I am a crazy over achiever and “getting by” wasn’t cutting it. I called the school again and discovered the local system had moved 5th graders over to the middle school so there was room for both my sons this year.

And they are gone. A yellow bus carried them away. Only 1 mile away, but they’re gone and the house is quiet and my heart is both heavy, and proud, and guilty too. My daughter is looking doe eyed already from missing them.

Did I choose my writing over my kids? That’s what my guilt says. My pride says, this is good for them and I am proud they went off to do and try something new. I’m glad I was brave enough to show them you should chase dreams – like mine of being a writer. And you shouldn’t be afraid to do new and intimidating things – like go to school where you have no friends and no clue what to expect. I gave them the gift of independence and confidence when I waved goodbye. They understand I trust them to handle this. They can do it! I’ll be waiting in the middle of the road for that yellow bus in a few hours though.

So far, this the toughest decision I’ve had to make as a parent.

Letting go was hard.

Now I’m going to Starbucks.

Reading is Like Eating Chocolate & Losing Weight

Writing is a “Binge/Purge Situation.” Some of you may prefer the feast/famine expression, but either will work. As people with lives outside of writing, we’re limited on the time needed to pursue our dream of publication. For this reason, writing becomes a push (it aside) and pull (it back in front of you) part of life.

When you do have time, what do you attend to first? Aspiring writers do so much more than just write. We plot and scheme, then write and edit. We offer pages up to betas and make changes. We offer to beta for others. We read countless agent and editor blogs, books on writing, and take courses to learn and hone our craft. Writers are blogging and jumping feet-first into social media, hoping to establish a web-presence. Some of us even do our share of guest blogs. We want to meet other writers, unite and network. It takes a real time commitment to stay on top of such an ever-changing industry.

There’s almost no time left to read or write. We have to prioritize the time in between our real lives. So, how is the time best spent when we have so little of it? I find that the first thing I drop is reading. In fact reading is my biggest binge/purge situation. I will devour a novel a day for weeks on end and then, nothing for two or three months. I try to write every day, but there isn’t always time left over to read.

Reading is more important to writers than some realize. I was guilty of that train of thought for a long time. I’ve always read because I love words, but I didn’t consider how it affected my writing, or what my work would be like without it until my betas began comparing my prose to some of my favorite authors.
Reading is research and refinement and inspiration. It makes sense that we pick up our favorite phrases, new words, or mimic voices that speak to us. I’m inspired by reading. I know exactly what I love and why I love it, then I apply those concepts to my work and it shows.

Additionally, if you’re not reading in your genre then you can’t know what’s selling. You’re missing an incredible opportunity to learn. Those books have sturdy hard covers at the library for a reason. An editor bought them. Something inside was “right.” So, if you’re like me and are in the famine part of your reading cycle, take a minute to look at the new releases getting all the buzz then go pick them up. Enjoy the ride then take a little something you can use with you. To a writer, reading is the equivalent of eating chocolate to lose weight. Where else can you get such enjoyment and self improvement all in one?

The KerPlunk Theory

The KerPlunk Theory of Writing Fiction

by Christina Vasilevski <– my new editor bestie from twitter :) Seriously people Get. On. Twitter.

I have a dirty little secret – sometimes I don’t read very much. In the world of writing and editing, this is equivalent to a French chef admitting that he dislikes cooking with butter. Unfathomable, in other words.

Actually, let me qualify that: I read in bursts. I often go for a few weeks without reading something, and then I’ll devour a book if it grabs me. Most of the time, I enjoy what I read. But sometimes, a book is so amazing that I pay conscious attention to the skill with which it was written: the careful rationing of backstory, the distribution of telling personality traits and motivations amongst different characters, and the amazing, delicate use of le mot juste.

I felt this most recently while reading Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. In reading it, I was acutely aware of how subtly the author was building up the tension, looping between the moments immediately before and after the novel’s opening terrorist attack and then switching back to describe a Japanese businessman’s abiding love for opera.

This all brought to mind an old childhood game: KerPlunk.

If you were a kid in the late 80s to early 90s, you might know what I’m talking about. In this game, you have a tall column of plastic with holes studded through the middle. In these holes, you thread in enough small plastic sticks to make a sturdy lattice. Then, you pour a number of marbles on top of the lattice and try to pull out as many of the sticks as possible without making the marbles fall, like so:

 

KerPlunk makes you wonder how much weight those sticks can bear before the marbles find a new way to crash to the ground. How many can you take away before they fall? And how long will it take to do so?

In other words, how well can you make each sentence count? How can you make each individual piece of your story’s support structure – your characters, setting, dialogue, and more –  grab your reader in the most efficient and compelling manner possible? Like KerPlunk, writing a good story is about testing certain limits. Write for yourself, and take away whatever you think doesn’t serve your story in the end. However, unlike KerPlunk, you have the luxury of removing and then reinserting elements of your story into new places – and thank goodness for that!

Sometimes, this requires a lot of planning. The surest way to lose KerPlunk is to keep pulling out plastic threads from the same section, eventually widening the gaps through which the marbles can fall. And the surest way to lose the attention of readers is to not provide important information when needed.

In KerPlunk terms, don’t pull out every plastic thread you can, because you might need it in the future. Make backup plans. Make your setting breathe. Give your readers information that proves useful later. Throw in a red herring if the story demands it, like in mysteries. But always think about how you can make each part of your story carry the most weight possible without buckling or breaking or letting any marbles through.

PS: In Bel Canto, the author wrote only a single acknowledgement – and that was to her editor. High praise indeed! So if you’re feeling cranky and think that your editor/friend/writing group doesn’t really understand what you’re trying to do, just imagine that they’re trying to play KerPlunk with you. They have the same goal to remove as many unnecessary plastic threads as possible, but they’re doing so from a different perspective.

 

About Christina:

Christina Vasilevski is a writer and editor living in Toronto, Canada. By day she works as a proofreader of online medical content, but by night she blogs, edits, plays video games, and develops WordPress websites. She is a member of the Board of Directors for the Writers’ Community of Durham Region and the Editors’ Association of Canada . She is also a recent graduate of Ryerson University’s publishing program, a full review of which is available on her website 105 Creations.

Thank you so much Christina! What a super fun post and I know all my writer peeps are so glad to meet you and read this post. hooray for bookish friends. *Hugs to you*

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