Inspirations

August in Review

Lynette M Burrows, image of sunflower, goodbye august

August wasn’t like any other August I’ve experienced. We’ve had mild and wet weather in Kansas. There was the spectacular solar eclipse, a visiting writer, a wet basement—twice, and a family crisis. Goals were met and goals were . . . not met.

Writing Goals

  1. Get at least half-way through Act 3. NOT MET *Sigh* I wrote 3 of 5 chapters. I fixed a big timeline issue which took a ridiculous amount of time.
  2. Write 4 new blog posts. MET
  3. Send out reader questionnaires for a new blog series I’d like to do. MET though I would love to get more completed questionnaires.

House Goals

  1. Finish the exercise room. NOT MET
  2. Get estimates for repairs to the house. MET
  3. Finish the bathroom project. NOT MET

Day Job

  1. Keep the number of times I must use a day off to complete those hours to just two days. MET

Other Goals

  1. Research, Learning, Reading – ONGOING
  2. Continue researching book promotion. MET
  3. Continue listening to podcasts when I’m able. MET
  4. Choose a new fiction book and begin reading. READING
  5. View the solar eclipse, Monday, August 21. AWESOME EXPERIENCE – MET
  6. Attend the Seven Deadly First-Page Sins by Tex Thompson on August 21. ENTERTAINING AND EDUCATIONAL—MET

Unexpected Events

Basement flooded—Twice! Once at the beginning of the month and once near the end of the month. No serious damage but it required an unplanned expenditure of time to clean up. My wet basement was nothing compared those who will be cleaning and rebuilding after Harvey. My heart goes out to them!

A seriously illness (family member), who was hospitalized for a week. I had very little sleep during that week which meant those were completely unproductive days.

Things I Learned

A line or two expressing what your character expects for his/her future can be all the ‘before’ you need in your story beginning.

Study folklore — it’s how we express our fears.

For an emotionally powerful scene, include one small contrasting detail.

Watching an eclipse is AWESOME!

From Tex Thompson: “Find the easiest, laziest, most obvious choice you could make – and then do something else.”

From Dean Wesley Smith: “The only Failure in writing is not writing.” And “All Writing is practice.”

From Science Friday: Tatoos can damage sweat glands. People with full body tatoos can have difficulty dealing with heat.

Where you were born dictates how many sweat glands you have though living in AC can subvert this.

From Writing Excuses Podcast: A short story should focus on one idea. Strip all but dialog then add only what is necessary. Be as specific as possible. To make it work you must have targeted stakes for the character. Consider, what are the consequences of failure?

From Writing Excuses Podcast: For inspiration in creating titles look through the online Shakespeare database. And “Monsters are best when they subvert the status quo and remind us we’re not at the top of the food chain.”

From Writers Helping Writers Podcast: Mentor characters are a touchstone for the thematic truth. The interaction between the mentor and protagonist shouldn’t be easy. Mentor characters should be flawed, unique. The mentor shouldn’t ‘save’ the character except with severe consequences.

“Failure isn’t Forever!” Angela Lee Duckworth Thank you, Angela! 

Final thoughts for August

August was a challenging month in all the areas that interrupt or stop my writing. I have also changed where I sit to write. This change has affected my ability to focus and get things done. It is not something I can change back anytime soon, so I will continue to work on finding ways to focus.

I don’t remember which blogger said that she tracks the things she learns each week. I thought I’d try it for a month. I love it!  Reviewing all of the tidbits of new information at the end of the month is invigorating and reinforces the learning.

I didn’t accomplish what I wanted to in August, but September is a new month and a new slate.

September Goals

Writing

Write 4 Chapters minimum.

Write 4 new blog posts, post reader questionnaire results on Fridays.

House

Finish bathroom project.

Get gutters replaced. (The source of my wet basement problem.)

Day Job

I will have to be flexible this month.

Other Goals

Continue to listen and learn via podcasts.

Dedicate at least 2 hours per week for reading.

Finish revising website.

Going Forward

I hope the month of September will have fewer challenges for us all!

Thanks for reading!

I am ever so grateful you’ve taken the time to read my scribbles. If you’ve taken the time to comment, I’m delighted and honored.

image courtesy of PicturesCafe.

More than a Game

Lynette M Burrows, spooky apple orchard,When I was a child, about eight- or nine-years-old, my mother went to the hospital to have her third child. My brother and I were packed off to an aunt and uncle’s house. Now, this aunt and uncle had five children. The two oldest were off to college. The two youngest were about the same age as my brother and I. The middle child was a teenager, uninterested and uninvolved in the lives of children.

My aunt and uncle lived in an old farmhouse that had been updated. There was an attic with two bedroom spaces, each holding a pair of bunk beds. The second-floor held four more bedrooms. A living room, kitchen, dining room, and den made up the first floor. And there was a basement, the realm of the children. The basement had several rooms of bookcases and cabinets and a door to the outside.

Outside was a wonder. A  grape arbor and an orchard gave us plenty of room to be rowdy kids running around.

The three boys and I invented an adventure game. Being the only girl, I was the heroine or the damsel in distress, depending upon the turn of the play. The boys were the heroes and occasional victims. The evil villain was invisible, an unknown who left threatening notes. We dashed in and out of the basement, zig-zagged through the spooky fruit trees and grabby grape vines, uncovered clues and threatening notes, did heroic deeds, and wore ourselves out with fun.

Lynette M Burrows, grabby grape vines, Heather Hopkins

I’m certain we had quieter activities after a filling evening meal, but I don’t remember those. I do remember climbing upstairs to the attic bedroom, into the lower bunk, and falling fast asleep.

I woke gasping for air. Ice cold hands were around my throat, choking me! I couldn’t see who the cloaked villain was but screamed for help. The three boys rushed to the room and pounded the villain with their fists. Lights came on, the villain disappeared. I sobbed my tale of fear to my aunt and uncle.

The boy heroes identified the dastardly villain as my teen-aged cousin. He was punished. I was soothed. The visit was short (probably not to my aunt and uncle). My brother and I went home and welcomed our new baby sister.

Today, I feel bad for my teenaged cousin. He took the game a little too far, perhaps, yet, the choking was minimal and momentary, or I wouldn’t have been able to scream.  Looking back, I was frightened, but the fright was temporary.  I have a fun-to-tell memory, my brother and cousins got to be real heroes, and I got a story, two blog posts, and a novel out of the adventure!

What do you recall fondly? Childhood memories? Adventures as a Teen? Trials and Tribulations of being an adult? Any lessons you learned from these? Please share your story below in the comments below.

 

Images: “Vines at Dusk” via  Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Heather Hopkins.

“Spooky Apple Orchard” via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of R. L. Rose

Writing the Hard Stuff

Writing the Hard Stuff

Time for a glass of wine.

When I say hard stuff, I don’t mean porn or description or character or plot. The most difficult things to write are those things that come from our deepest, darkest places. The places we hide from most of the time.

I recently wrote a scene meant to tap into that place in myself. An hour and a half later, a mere 550 words had me trembling with fatigue and sick to my stomach. Yup. It was that dark of a place. Inside me!

We all have those places. That side of us that we like to pretend doesn’t exist. It’s dangerous to touch those places of fear, loathing, hate, or even fierce love. Most of us like to think we are genuinely nice people. I know I do. Yet, I have dark corners in my psyche.

So what do you do? First, do you like to read about characters who have to face a piece of their own darkness, their own demons? Is that the kind of story you aspire to write? To write that kind of scene, to make the scene come alive, you have to be willing to write the hard stuff. You have to be willing to expose yourself to your readers.

You may want to journal about that dark corner of your psyche first. That allows you to be very personal. Give yourself a break–chocolate and buying something sparkly can help. (I don’t know where I got that idea!) After some time passes, re-read your journal entry and re-imagine it in terms of how it applies to your character. Then write.

I’ve put off writing my scene FOREVER. It was a scary place to go. Having written the scene I can say that it is dark and awful and . . . not 100% me. How can that be? Because while I drew from my experiences to create my characters, I gave them traits I do not have. Those traits subtly change my dark thoughts and memories into something different. It will work that way for you, too.

What about the feeling vulnerable and exposed? Will someone ask if you actually lived that scene? Maybe. What should you do or say? I can’t really tell you how to protect yourself. As for me . . . I plan to smile and say “Only in my nightmares.” And, “If you thought that one was bad, wait ’till you read the next one!”

Do you visit dark places in your reading? Do you reach into the dark corners of your psyche when you write? How do you get through it? Or do you shy away from the dark side entirely?

Image:”Life is Hard” via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anne Helmond