We all have those days – you know the ones where it feels like someone has licked the red off your lollipop.
It’s nothing major, just little things setting your teeth on edge and you can’t figure out why your blood seems to be boiling beneath your skin.
But it could have something to do with the fact that you just showered, washed & styled your hair, put on clean clothes and walked outside – only to be blasted by the smoke from your neighbor’s burn barrel. Now you smell like a campfire and every time you move your head, a smoky aroma wafts from your hair.
Yeah, that could be one of those little things…
It certainly set the tone for my day and no matter how hard I tried to find the humor in the situation, I couldn’t get past the fact that my neighbor was oblivious to the gusting winds that so conveniently blew the smoke and smell out of his yard into those downwind.
I’m sure he had no idea how much I like being outside on sunny days – especially after being stuck inside all week. It’s not like he was aware that I have allergies and being exposed to smoke triggers some pretty severe headaches. And I’m absolutely positive, he had no idea that his playing pyromaniac would release the monster that I try to contain. But it did…
and Whiny Deb emerged.
I not only managed to stomp around all afternoon, I was the poster child for the grouchy and irritable. Evil queens and fabled monsters were busy taking notes.
Now as the day draws to a close, I look back with much regret. Because my plans (writing outside) didn’t pan out, I took a dive into the deep end of the pouting pool. I focused on what I couldn’t do instead of what I could. Because of that, I missed some valuable writing time and I have no one to blame but myself.
When I wrote my first novel, I worked a full-time job, had two kids in school which meant football games, practices, etc. I was taking a weekly creative writing class as well as dealing with health issues. I had a lot going on.
I didn’t publish anything in 2015 – worked on a couple of stories but failed to finish anything.
Flash forward to 2016: My kids have graduated so no more practices or games. That, in and of itself, freed up all kinds of time. I still work a full-time job but I’m usually home just a few minutes after five. Logically, I should have been whipping out the words only that wasn’t happening. In fact, short of my blog posts, I wasn’t making any significant headway with my writing – particularly with my current WIP.
So what was the problem?
It wasn’t writers block or my super busy life. We have an on-going home remodeling project but that doesn’t take anymore time than picking my kids up from practices and attending football games.
My problem came down to accountability.
Back when I was writing my first book, my creative writing class sort of morphed into a critique group – same instructor – only we started bringing in what we were working on. We shared excerpts of our work, offered and received honest critiques and we made progress.
Over the past year or so, I let other things get in the way of my writing. It started with a “just this one time” and became an “I’ll write later” kind of situation. It’s amazing how easy it was to justify my lack of progress. I mean seriously, The Big Bang Theory couldn’t be missed and trolling Facebook – that was okay because I was just too tired to even think about connecting a subject to a predicate.
Only the excuses wore thin and I was left facing the truth. My book wasn’t going to write itself and the literary fairies weren’t knocking at my door.
So a couple of weeks ago, at our last book signing, we decided to give the critique group another try and seeing as how I couldn’t go empty handed, I took advantage of those spare moments. My characters, who had all but given up on me ever taking the time to listen, roused from their slumber and excitedly shared their stories.
I listened and I wrote and I made some real headway with my story.
Some writers are very disciplined. Me? Not so much. As life happens, my writing pays the price. It tends to be the first thing that gets moved to the “I’ll do it tomorrow” list and I end up feeling frustrated with my lack of progress. I admire writers who stick to schedules, who recognize the importance in what they do. In an effort to make some changes in my writing life, I came up with a set of commandments that I hope will help me stay on the path.
In North Carolina, it’s common knowledge that if you don’t like the weather, have patience. It’ll change in a day or two. After the blizzard of 2016, to which residents of coastal NC were casual observers, we had a couple days of rain and then a warming trend. Today (Sunday) saw a high in the upper 60’s and plenty of sunshine. When days come along like this – you have to take advantage of them. I grabbed some paper and a pen and headed to the park.
The change of scenery provided me with an escape from the distractions of home. Scenes unfolded and the words came. It was wonderful – so wonderful, I’m thinking that a weekly writing escape might be in order.
And then comes my blog…
I stumbled across a blog post talking about the reasons a blog is a waste of time for a writer and that prompted a lot of thinking on my part. Am I a writer who blogs? Am I a blogger who writes? Does it really make a difference?
If you are a writer, I’m sure you can relate to the dilemma so many of us face.
Over and over, we are told:
Build your platform!
Grow your audience!
Blog! Tweet! Pin!
And we do it or at least we try…
But in doing so, it’s easy to lose sight of the reason we’re doing all of this – because we want to write books – we want to share our stories – and the time we’d spend conjuring those tales is instead spent on creating content for our blogs and being good neighbors over in Twitter-land…
Maybe that’s a necessary evil.
I’m not sure.
What I have learned is this –
Blogging doesn’t equate to selling books.
And neither does tweeting.
Writing more books, however, definitely increases the likelihood of sales.
On Twitter, I follow boohoos of authors. Some do nothing but scream “Buy my book!” I admit it – I ignore those tweets. Others share links to their blogs – offering great content – maybe an interesting podcast – and if I find them helpful, I sign up for their emails. On occasion, I might purchase an e-book. But the thing is – that’s not an everyday occurrence and just because I find a twitter account informative doesn’t mean I’m going to buy the author’s books. The same holds true with blogs.
I don’t think I’m alone in this…
It’s not that I don’t appreciate the author’s efforts. I do. But my goodness – who has the time or the financial resources to support every writer we come in contact with?
When it comes to my blog-
I try to offer interesting content. My followers/daily traffic is increasing. I know that building a following takes time. That being said – all the blogging and tweeting really haven’t made a difference in my book sales. And that’s okay. I like blogging. I’ve made connections with people from all over the world – friendships that were made possible because of our blogs.
What’s it going to be?
My focus will be on my writing. That’s my dream. BUT – I’ll continue to blog and if blogging leads to a book sale then great. And if blogging continues to open doors to different parts of the world, allowing me to meet new people and share ideas with them, that’s even better!
What about you? How do you balance blogging, writing, and all the rest?
Time Saving Tip:
In an effort to maintain my social media presence with a minimal time investment, I’ve turned to Hootsuite. If you haven’t tried this scheduling option, I’d encourage you to check it out. By scheduling your tweets, etc – you can in effect be in multiple places at one time. I may be at work but Hootsuite is sending out my tweets/facebook posts, etc – making me look active. Hootsuite also provides links to relevant content (blogs) that you can share on your various accounts. Best of all – it’s free. (There is a paid option available.)
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about supporting characters and the important roll they have in telling a story.
I love the movie Forrest Gump. One of my favorite characters is Jenny Curran, played by Robin Wright (adult) and Hanna R. Hall (child). Jenny is such a complex character. At face value she’s a wild child – going through life making terrible decisions. But when you look deeper, you see a character that mirrors Forrest in many ways.
Like Forrest, Jenny is an outsider. While the reasons they don’t fit into local society are different, they recognize they are both outcasts, so to speak. Forrest is born with physical and mental disabilities. Jenny is born into poverty and sexually abused by her father. Neither have the ability to save themselves. But because of their life experiences, they recognize that they are safe with each other and they develop a beautiful friendship.
As the story progresses, we see Jenny continually running from her past, from her pain, from her feelings. Not only does she choose men who abuse her, she abuses herself. She is a person that lacks a sense of self worth.
If you’ve seen the movie, you know Forrest falls in love with Jenny. It appears to be an unrequited love. At this point in the movie, my husband and boys are furious with her. (One son calls her the Mega Skankosaurus which loosely translates into the swankiest dinosaur ever.) But I can’t help but feel sorry for her. The guilt she carries knowing that she is hurting Forrest. And then thinking of her love for him and the confusion that it might bring. Does she love him as friend? Or is it more? And if it’s a romantic love, would she be happy? Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe Forrest is a unwitting reminder of the past she longs to forget…
The beauty of Forrest is that he knows and accepts himself.
And then we have the night –
Jenny and Forrest make love and afterwards, she runs away again. Only this time, we see Forrest run, too. While her running is more figurative, his is very literal. He is actually running from the pain of a broken heart.
For me, it is this periodic intersecting of their lives that help to propel the story. Without Jenny, the story of Forrest Gump would be ho-hum at best. It is precisely the solid multi-layer construction of a supporting character that helps make this story great. And that is true for any story. No matter how intriguing a main character might be, if the supporting cast is flat, the story will be too. This is not to say that all of the supporting characters must be well-rounded. However, those who frequently interact with the main character should be fleshed out. (Think Samwise Gamgee in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.)
These are some questions I ask myself when considering my supporting cast – particularly those characters who are more important to the story.
So – what about you? Any thoughts or tips on how you develop your supporting characters?