Monday, June 28, 2010

My Sister Went to Haiti


My sister sent me a write up of her recent visit to Haiti, and I felt like I should share it with all of you. To really understand the context, my sister was adopted as a few week old infant from Brazil, from a house for unwed mothers. She is an incredibly caring person.

The story of how she got to the US is truly amazing, considering all the red tape that my mother had to go through. At one point my mother had to leave my sister with a woman that she didn't know, so that my mother could fly back to the US for more paperwork. In the end, she had to go to the palace and blackmail an official for my sister to leave the country.

Here is her write up of her recent trip.

My trip to Haiti, in a word...unforgettabl e.

I was there for two full weeks which was the longest I've ever been, but it felt not nearly long enough. I never knew what day or what time it was and I literally felt as though I were there for about 2 days.

The average temp was about 99, the days were VERY HOT, but I was lucky enough to have stayed at a home which had a window air conditioner and fans running at night ( very rare for Haiti ). The power was hit and miss , so in order to run the air or the fan we had to run a generator so I decided I would only use the fan.

There are currently about 80 kids at the orphanage ( about 20 pre - earthquake and the rest new arrivals. The staff told me there have been severe behavior problems with the 20 kids that were not issued the humanitarian parole after the earthquake because all of their friends are now gone. The kids speak a little English but mostly what they said to me and the other American workers was "you adoption me", meaning they were asking for us to adopt them.

The damage is unbelievable and it is not hard to understand why nearly 200,000 people were killed. The buildings literally collapsed and where they once were are now huge piles of rubble. I asked if the bodies were retrieved, but there really is no way of knowing until the rubble is removed, which will be many years from now, if ever. Even though Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, Haitians rarely voice a concern about anything. They seem to accept the life they have, living on an average of $2 a day, but understandably this earthquake has shaken them to the core. Each Haitian I spoke with is deathly afraid of the quake happening again and nearly everyone has lost someone. I don't think any of us could ever imagine what it would be like to try and stumble knee deep through piles of bodies searching for someone we know.

I spent each afternoon at the orphanage helping prepare lunch, holding babies, and assisting as much as I could with the play therapy that a couple of doctors were doing with the older kids. I also spent a couple of days helping clean up the home of one of the orphanage directors which was badly torn apart by the earthquake.

The common scene driving home from the orphanage was piles of rubble, "tent cities" everywhere, and kids tapping on the car windows begging for money.

Having said all of that, I really did have a wonderful time and we had a lot of fun. I went to my first ever restaurant in Haiti where I tried goat for lunch and it was actually pretty good ( tasted like roast beef ). On my second to the last day there, we drove a couple of hours to a beach resort and spent the day relaxing.

I could have stayed forever and I could go on and on with sad, funny, and unbelievable stories, but you get the idea and I have lots of pics! Thanks everyone for your gifts of money, it really did help a lot!!

Thanks a lot sis.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Foundation of Fear

One of the foundations of fear is a poor image of self.
Fear and poor self-image and writing are a frightful ménage à trois. “Master your fear” is a pithy phrase for this kind of fear. Self-image issues do not need mastery--they need elimination. There is no bargaining with a poor self-image. Like a terrorist, it only deserves ire and elimination. Stomp on it first, and then address the causes.
The causes of poor self-esteem are legion, as are the effects of fear on writing. Nevertheless, with a little bit of knowledge comes a lot of understanding. Take the query process, for example.
Fear of rejection is an honest fear having biological roots. We are genetically pre-disposed to fear rejection because rejection, not too long ago, meant death. Literally. On the evolutionary scale, rejection was starvation. Hyperthermia. Hypothermia. Being eaten.
But ah, the query process! How can one fear agent forty sending out a rejection, when one was rejected by the prior thirty-nine? After a while, it becomes an intellectual challenge and a test of tenacity (hopefully not stubbornness with a side of whoops).
Repetition is a great fear killer. Writing is a creative endeavor. Eliminating a poor image of self is difficult as the writer rallies against subversive forces both within and without, but creativity flourishes in the absence of fear. Even writing about fear is easier, as once can see it for what it is.
Thus one of the answers to fear, fear of rejection, fear of snide comments, fear of hurt feelings, fear of not getting there, is perspective.
A ferociously yucky animal did not eat you today. And that makes today wonderful!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Writerly Distractions


The World Cup has seriously cut into my writing lately. I have been a fan for a number of years, but this is the first year that I have watched this many games. I have a son that loves to play soccer, and it's great spending time watching the games with him. He gives me an insight into the games that I cannot get by just watching. When there is a questionable call, or something that I don't understand, he provides a unique insight about why the call was a good or bad one. He provides background information about the players that give me a unique insight into why they act the way they do.

So what does this have to do with writing. Well, that's the problem, I'm not getting much writing done. There aren't enough hours in the day to watch the games, and still have a chance to write.

Luckily the tournament only lasts until mid July, and the games get less frequent as time goes on, so hopefully in a week or so, I'll be back on schedule. Who knows, maybe I'll use a soccer star as a character in a future novel.

What distracts you from your writing?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Other Word for Networking Is

Persistence.

I went online with my blog in August 2008. I joined Twitter and then sometime later I joined Facebook. Between the three and today, I have:

  • Found a half dozen non-local critique partners

  • Made online friends with two writers who later went into the writing industry

  • Shared personal email with six published writers

  • Talked to three separate literary agents about things other than book projects

  • Found my political soul mate who was also a writer

  • Had many online discussions with writers both non-published and published

  • Found the writer I adored when growing up, online, and filled my library with her backlist. We exchanged electronic letters, leaving me one very happy reader

  • Learned so many wonderful things I can even begin to describe them all

  • Had an editor out of the blue email me to submit a short story because he liked my blog posts

I could go on.

All I did was go online and try to be honest. I’ve made some mistakes. I tend to babble. Sometimes I’ve bit my tongue so hard I almost had a brain aneurism.

All I did was go online and try to be friendly.

All I did was reach out without asking for things in return.

And I never stopped.

It really is that simple.

Monday, June 14, 2010

In Between Projects


I have two books that I am querying, but both of them need work. The previous work needs a new beginning. As I have said before, the beginning definitely is very important to grab the readers interest, and set the tone to keep your readers captivated to the end.

The beginning of Blind Power, is not good enough. It's almost as if I tacked a scene onto the start that doesn't really fit with how the book gets going. It feels like a prologue, and not necessarily a good one. So it's kind of back to the drawing board on the beginning of that one. I don't think it would take more than a couple of weeks to fix it, but that would take away from working on the current one.

My latest WIP is also suffering from the same problem. It's not nearly as bad, because I learned from that last novel, but it also needs work.

So my problem is I don't know which one to work on. I am going back to ThrillerFest in New York in early July, and I want to pitch the best one. I suspect that my latest one will be the best, but the previous one with a new start, would probably be good as well.

Do you ever go back to previous works, and try to fix them? I have heard that in most cases it probably won't work because there is so much else wrong with the book. It might be better to sell the latest one, and rewrite the previous one for your next novel. I have heard of other writers that have been successful with that approach, so I think that is probably what I am going to do, but the previous one is still tapping me on the shoulder, asking "Hey, what about me?".

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Tiny, airless boxes are for trinkets and dead people

Sometimes following a post from Douglas is like being the loud fart in church after the choir has belted out some superb vocals. I mean, how do I follow up from CJ West who came here with a great post and actively responded to comments?

Douglas likes kicking puppies. Of this I am sure.

But I digress. Every now and then you come across a blog post so spectacularly awesome, it's like an epic sandwich that comes with extra bacon (for all epic sandwiches has at least some bacon, right? Right?).

Author Maureen Johnson, in Manifesto, lays out the organic nature of the interwebs, and how it is better to give, than to receive.

Check it out.

Print it out and sleep with it under your pillow.

Incorporate it into your genetic code.


Monday, June 7, 2010

The End of Marking Time Event


We here at Adventures in Writing are always glad to help out a fellow writer, especially if it's something cool. This week week's guest post is from CJ West, author of The End of Marking Time which launches on June 10th. Make sure you follow the links at the bottom to get your copy.


Are You a Plotter or a Pantser?

I don’t usually guest blog on sites aimed at writers. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to give advice if I think it is helpful, but until I’m a NYT #1 bestseller, I’m not sure I’ll feel comfortable doling out writing
advice on a grand scale. I’m about to launch my latest thriller, The End of Marking Time, and I want to share how my experience writing this book was different from my four previous novels.

About two years ago I wrote a series of articles on Hub Pages that outlined my writing process. I did this because new writers kept asking me about my method and I felt I could do a better job describing it in a series of articles than I could retyping the same information into emails over and over again. When I did this, I was positive that my process was refined to the point it wouldn’t change. I was a plotter and that was the way it would always be.

Until last year that was true. My approach to writing a novel had been fairly consistent. I spent three months researching characters and significant story elements and at the same time I created an outline for the novel including the key ingredients for every chapter. Before I started writing, I knew just about everything that would happen in the book. I say “just about everything” because there are always good ideas that crop up along the way and I have always been flexible enough to include them. I have invested quite a bit of time developing tools for outlining and creating character biographies and those tools really work for me.

About two years ago I listened to Lee Child talk about his writing process. He is a pantser, meaning he has a basic idea for the story and then jumps off and writes. His planning is limited to three or four key scenes. He plans the opening, the transition to act II, the transition to act III and the ending. (If you are unfamiliar with three act structure, these transitions are critical turning points in the story.) From there, he sits down and starts writing. The idea that he could do this and come up with an intricately-plotted thriller astounded me. Pantsing was a scary concept and I dismissed it until I was drawn to an idea that grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.

I began my research for The End of Marking Time the same way I approached my other novels. I toured a local prison and I held an interview with someone from the corrections department. I had interviewed court officers and police officers months earlier while I was working on another book. I was ready to go into “planning mode” and spend the next two and a half months planning my story, but a strange thing happened. I was flooded with compelling ideas. One of these was an opening scene. I wrote it, promising myself it would be the only thing I wrote before I went back to laying out my plot.

Six weeks later, the first draft was done. I never wrote my outline. Instead I jotted chapter names for the next four chapters I would write, staying that much ahead of where I was in the draft with just a fuzzy idea what would happen. I completed my character biographies on the fly. In less time than it usually takes me to come up with an outline, I had a first draft and that draft was tighter and better than any first draft I’ve written.

Now I’m not so sure if I’m a plotter or a pantser. On my best day as a pantser I wrote 9,500 words. I’ve never come close to that level of productivity with a completed outline. It seems logical that I’d write faster with a completed outline, not slower. When I think about being this productive, pantsing is a very attractive method, scary as it may be. I’m writing a new book, which I plotted using my traditional process even though my beta readers declared my flirtation with pantsing a success. Maybe it was the story and the characters that gripped me and made pantsing possible. Or maybe I’ll evolve into a pantser as I mature as a writer. Only time will tell.

How about you?


OK, here is where you will be able to get it on Amazon


The End of Marking Time on Amazon

http://www.amazon.com/End-Marking-Time-CJ-West/dp/097677884X/

If you want to join in the Launch Party on June 10th, here's your link

http://www.facebook.com/cjwestfans

Here's an event page

http://www.facebook.com/cjwestfans?v=app_2344061033#!/event.php?eid=121950241154473&index=1

and a fun Facebook page. Facebook Group I pressed the Red/Green button

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=117868931570905

CJ West
The End of Marking Time - 2010

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Sleep


My body requires seven hours of sleep for me to function creatively.


When I get less than seven hours, I can do things like go to work and be a productive member of society, but that’s about it.

I think of all the things I gave up, hobby and entertainment wise, to write--but did I really? If I really think about it, I gave up those things to sleep and write.


Work clients pay me to produce a pile of work, not show up at a certain time and place. This is a wonderful job. If I do three days of work in two, nobody cares if I drag my butt into work late on day three. Nobody cares if I skip lunch and work through that so on Friday I can spend some alone time with my work-in-progress at the coffee shop.


I’m constantly in awe of the writer mommies out there; those who write in-between baby naps and such, or plow into a work-in-progress after everyone has gone to bed. They are continuing the sleepless cycle of taking care of baby, almost like prolonging the torture. I could not do it. In fact, I would not do it because I physically can’t. I chose to sleep, and vow to get more writing time later. Otherwise, my writing turns to crap.


One thing is for certain, supporting yourself with your writing is sure a big lure. Think of all the writing you could do if you didn’t have to go to work (or raise kids, or milk the cows, etc.)!


How about you? Can you sacrifice sleep for writing?