Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Few Crazy Days

A few crazy days have flown by, and none of them involved writing. Yikes! Back at it in the morning if I can keep from opening the news and Twitter for a few hours.

Twitter? Moi? Well, yes, moi.

Let me explain.

I've thought the idea of Twitter was interesting, but I couldn't imagine what it might be used for, usefully. I live in Central California and my husband is a firefighter. A Battalion Chief. He goes to wild land fires in the summer. Currently, he is at the Station Fire, a great big monster in the LA area.

We've been doing the "he goes to fires and I stay home and worry" thing for years. We've been doing it for so long that I remember times when he was gone for two weeks and I never heard from him. There were no cell phones! Can you imagine?

It seems like another life when I think back on those days. Now, not only do we have cell phones, but we can text and I can follow the larger scale of things via the Internet and especially - Twitter!

Yes, there is a bunch of blah, blah, blah and repetition, but after you get used to how it goes, you just start to filter out the bull and get to the good stuff. I don't think I'll be one of those people who use it a lot (unless I get published and someone actually cares what I'm doing), but I now have a firm grasp on its value. I get it. I'm rather pleased with myself.

On a serious and sad note, my condolences to the families and brothers/sisters of the two firefighters killed today in the Line of Duty on the Station Fire. Resquiescat in Pace.

Jo Taylor

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Long Road to Being Published

I started writing in December of 2008. The idea for Margaret's story came up as I was working on a short story for a writing contest. Not a big contest, mostly a writing exercise that gets posted and competes against ten other stories. By now, August of 2009, I have a portfolio of about fifty short stories. Most okay, some pretty good, and at least one that is very good. Good enough to almost get published.

Fortunately or unfortunately, the one that is very good was the first story I wrote. The first. It got an honorable mention for Glimmer Train in February 2009. At the time I sent it in, since it was the first thing I wrote, I had no idea if it was any good, AND I had no idea that Glimmer Train is kind of a big deal.

Now I know. I don't know whether to take the honor as signs of bigger things to come, or as notice that I've already passed my peak. I choose the former. I would really like to be published. First, I need to write something good.

Here's the link with my name, Jo Taylor, as proof. Just because it's cool (I think).

The email I received with this link said I could post it on my blog. I didn't have one then, but it was part of the prodding I found everywhere to start this up. Like a sissy, I'm doing it under a character's identity, but I've already explained why. I've gotten more brave (braver?) lately, so I'll be changing the profile to accurately depict what I'm doing here now, now that I have a clue myself.

What I'm doing is using the blog as a way to let characters speak for themselves: As an exercise in finding voice and developing character. Right now it is just the characters in Margaret's Story, but I can see how this may be useful in working with other characters. Besides, I will have a one stop area for reference. Where's that list I made about the things Margaret likes? Oh yeah, right here. No more boxes of dead trees with black ink.

So even if this is not interesting to anyone but me, it has its purpose and I intend to use it fully, on the long road to being published.

Jo Taylor

Sunday, August 23, 2009

So Far

So far, I have written 15,000 words for this story. I'm not stuck, but I'm past the point of free flowing ideas, using any available inspiration to give me ideas for the story. I have all those down now, I know the story and now I need to do some work to connect the various actions with their motivations and plan how they will affect the characters in the future. This is turning out to be real work. I'm surprised by this.

It will make me feel personally proud when I have finished this first book, even if it is never published. Writing a novel is indeed an accomplishment. I have no desire to climb mountains, but I have desire to write a novel.

I wonder if those desires are somehow similar, somehow linked in the human condition. Do they come from the same place? Is the ember only different because of the material it comes from? It's an interesting question; one that has application in character motivation too. I can see now, slowly unwrapping itself before me, the idea that the plot happenings in a book can be more about how the different characters deal with it than the action itself.

I know this on an intellectual level, it is not that deep or esoteric. However, actually getting that concept down into your gut, into the inner workings of your writing takes chewing on it. It takes a contemplation that takes time.

Like a good beef marinade. Invariably, all things return to food metaphor and simile. Yum. My husband made a steak last night that was to die for. If I could just write and eat for the rest of my life, I'd be happy.

I'm happy now though. I eat every day, whether I need to or not (really, I don't think I need to for awhile). I write almost everyday. Life is good. No matter how much desire you have for something, it takes time for the learning you do to sink in. I'm just a big chunk of meat at the moment.

Working on becoming a steak.

Margaret's Mom

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I'm Not Running Out of Things To Say

My family would say to the above title: "Duh!"

They think it is a physical improbability that I will ever run out of things to say, but they are happy that I am now WRITING said things and not TALKING all the time. Not that I ever did that.

But, what I really mean by the title is that I am indeed surprised that this is my twenty-first blog post, and I am not running out of things to talk about. In fact, I've started keeping a list of things to post in the future. This is coming in handy as the current English class I am taking requires us to (can you guess?): BLOG!

How easy! I can now say this because I am a blogger. It is a bit embarrassing, but I am virtually spewing all kinds of thoughts in that blog because it's mostly about writing, and hey, that's what I do. I haven't gotten any feedback from my classmates yet, so it's kind of like this blog that no one reads either. Happy as a clam. I reserve the right to cry buckets on here if someone there does not get my humor or my teacher thinks my posts are insipid (we are supposed to be thougthtful and appropriately school-like).

I don't know if blogging can be counted in daily word counts for writers (I try to write 1500 words per day), but if it does, my productivity has seriously gone up!

I've noticed lots of capital letters and exclamation points in this particular posting, but it makes me happy so I am leaving it. That's the coolest thing about having a blog. You make the rules. Here are the first few official rules, only put down in case I need to refer to them later.

1. Blog when you have something to say, or not.

2. Try to blog in character at least half the time. (This one is turning out to be hard, she whined.)

3. Do not try to be funny. If you try, you will sound like a toad.

4. Post how you speak, sometimes it's funny.

5. Five rules are enough.

Margaret's Mom

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Glimmer Train

Yeah! Happy Dance! We got our copy of Glimmer Train today.

What is that you ask?

Glimmer Train is something I'd never personally heard of until December of last year (2008 - we're being current, currently). It is a wonderful literary publication that is a collection of short stories. I write short stories, and it is the type of publication in which I (Margaret's Mom) would someday like to be published. So it's a big deal. I usually spend the three or four days after receiving my quarterly publication reading, reading, happily reading. And hopefully learning something about writing short stories.

I've been writing a short story for a class on point of view that has been giving me fits. Mostly because the teacher, whom I like, is having us compose the story from a point of conflict first, then filling in beginning and resolutions. Bass ackward. I've never written a story like this and I'm not sure I'll ever do it again, but I actually am learning something. I'm not sure what it is yet, it hasn't "gelled" so that I could actually describe said nugget of learning, but I have that learning feeling. Kind of like that loving feeling, but not quite. I digress.

All I'm saying is that it's good to do something different. Not just different THINGS, but different methods, ideas, paths help us learn something about the preferred method, idea, or path. Could be that we like it best. Could be that we've been doing it 100% wrong all our lives. Hmmm, sounds like a good premise for a story . . .

Margaret's Mom

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Finding Jewels

I've discovered something fun to do. At the top of the blogger page is a little box that says "next blog." If you hit that tab, it sends you to a random blog. I've done it a few times now when I'm over at Margaret's house and yesterday, I found something wonderful.

The blog page had some amazing pictures. Mark the Intern is the name of the blog if you want to look too. Margaret's Mom likes to take pictures as a hobby, but this guy is amazing. What's even more amazing is the ability we have now to find stuff like this.

In honor of pictures, I, Honey, will upload for Margaret's Mom a picture for the blog, to give it some character. Since it is called Characteristically Speaking. Needs character.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Good Inspiration

Went to the movies today with my son. He wanted to see this movie called Julie & Julia. I've been in outer space or something because I had no idea what it was about or who was in it. No less than Meryl Steep and Amy Adams in a movie about - writers!

It was my lucky day. Great movie, interesting story, done in a new way by the great Nora Ephron. I won't spoil it for you by saying that it combines Julia Child's story and the story of a blogger. I felt a little like they were speaking to me. And I was inspired by the thought that I would really like to do something interesting in the way of writing. Not necessarily a best seller, but something that in this day and age of information overload, someone may think what I write is new and interesting. It's a modest goal.

These stories are great inspiration for doing good work. They tell me recording the process of writing a book, while not original, may help me in the future, and hopefully someone else. That is, if anyone ever ends up reading. I will write as if they do. Or, I'll read it six or seven years from now with a different perspective. I don't know what that perspective will be, but it will be different from how I see things now.

I have lots of class work due in the next week or so, but I'll make it a habit to log in and blog.

Margaret's Mom

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Oh Good Grief!

Can it really be 12 days since I last posted something? I'm afraid it can, and it has been. But I have a great excuse. I've been vacationing. Really. We went camping and everything. I have the bug bites to prove it. You may not see them though, those little critters can get into the oddest places . . .

I gave up. Flat gave up trying to do the Book in a Month (BiaM) thing this time. Bad planning on my part. I think that type of hard time in the chair in front of the computer will work for me at some level. I just have to excuse myself sometimes from the silly, unrealistic goals we all make. Lose 20 pounds, start exercising, swear less. You know, THOSE kinds of things which, while nice and worthwhile, are not a big priority when the carousel of life speeds up and threatens to toss you in the dirt. Hanging on becomes a BIG priority.

I've been hanging on nicely, the spinning is slowing to the point where I can gracefully dismount my colored pony (well, okay, I'm not that graceful). Now to just keep going.

Margaret's story is coming along nicely and I've gotten good feedback and encouragement from a wonderful teacher, Dalia, at Gotham Writer's Workshop. I haven't shown the story to many other folks because unlike the short stories I write to improve my craft, I don't want input on this very special story. I will be my first of many novels and it may never get published. But it will be completely my work, my craft.

As I said, I've been writing short stories, about 50 of them so far, to learn to write. I have 4 other novels started, so I have no problem with finding something to work on. I have University classes (only 8 more!) to complete a Bachelor's Degree in English.

All this means I need to prioritize. Real school first, then Margaret's story, followed by stories. I still have lots to learn. The blog is fun, but not the thing I think about most. It is the place to put all these various and sundry thoughts together for quick retrieval when I'm standing in the house saying to myself "what was I supposed to be doing?"

Onward. I'll try to get Honey to show up more. My son has decided that she is his favorite character. Mine is still Margaret.

Margaret's Mom

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

BiaM Day3 - 847

Yesterday was August 3, so Book in a Month Day 3. I got to 847 words. Spent most of my day at the beach watching the kids surf, the sun set, the world go around. All in all, a good day.

Margaret's Mom

Sunday, August 2, 2009

BiaM Day2 - 1335

Okay, so I only got to 1335 today - SO FAR! I plan on writing some more tonight before bedtime. I was at work today and as happens some times, work gets in the way of my life.

But I was happy with what I produced. Also got homework done. Saved a few lives. You know, the usual.

Going camping at the beach and surf camp with my real life family, so I should have good writing time, since I don't surf. I do take pictures though. Maybe I'll post pictures when I get back. Maybe not. :)

Margaret's Mom

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Second Post for Day 1

Call it an organizational moment. This is the second post for the day and it is mostly for me, to keep me on track. I've updated some goals and the way I want to organize things.

I already had been writing about Margaret, but I didn't have it in very good order. I decided that after just the first day, I was going to get confused if I didn't go back to the beginning and put the right event after the right set-up.

I have put Margaret into a single Word document, which is how (I think) I will be submitting it to agents when it gets that far. May as well start with the proper format now. I have 12,518 words done so far (woo hoo, that's great for one day) but I still need to do 2249 words per day to reach 80,000 by the end of the month. Didn't really change the word goals by much, but I FEEL more organized.

I actually think I have a handle on what I'm doing, which is good for when I'm going to do it again in November for NaNoWriMo which is a competition for National Novel Writing Month - November! By then I'll be on to another story. There's a lot to do between now and then though, so I better get to it.

Margaret's Mom

BiaM Day 1 -2246

Day 1 we are supposed to write a single sentence story summary - did that.

We set goals for the month: Write 2323 words per day to equal 80,000 for the month - did that.

We write: 2246 words today! Close enough to the goal. Ended a scene and didn't want to start the next and quit just for word counts, so a few more words tomorrow should be no big deal.

The summary sentence is this: A young girl desperately wants to communicate with her dead mother and tries all available means to do so, learning about trust and self-worth in the process.

So far, so good.

Margaret's Mom