Tag Archives: Grandmothers

Blast From the Past

Hey, all. Suze here. Guess what? May is the Scribes’ birthday month! We’re going to have some special things going on all month long in honor of our upcoming first anniversary (including some pretty cool giveaways!). Make sure you visit us every day so you don’t miss anything.

Just for fun, I thought I’d repost my very first blog. Hope you enjoy it!

Hi, all.  Susannah Hardy here.  I’m a writer of humorous mysteries set in the fictional resort town of Bonaparte Bay.  I hope you’ll be able to travel there with me soon!

With summer approaching, I was thinking about my own childhood summers in northern New York State, way up by the Canadian border.  I would often spend a day or two with my grandma, Gert.  Gert lived with her second husband in a little converted one room schoolhouse, surrounded by zinnias, peonies (which she called “pineys”), and old-fashioned pink roses.   She always did her housework and gardening in the morning, because after lunch she dropped everything.  She’d make herself a cup of Red Rose tea and put an Archway cookie on a plate, then park herself in her rust-colored velour recliner in front of the television to watch her “stories.”  Now, there was no cable where she lived and she only got a couple of stations, so it was the CBS soap operas for her — The Edge of Night, and Secret Storm, and As the World Turns.

The point is, her stories were important to her, so she scheduled her other activities in such a way that she had time for them.  And that’s a lesson we can all learn as writers.

There are so many demands on our time — families, housework, jobs for those of us still in the traditional workforce — it can seem impossible to eke out even a few minutes to write.   I’m here to tell you, though, that The Dream, whatever The Dream constitutes for you, is never going to come true unless you find time for it.

Notice I didn’t say “make time.”   We’ve all got the same twenty-four hours in the day (at least here on Earth that’s true — you fantasy and sci-fi writers, modify to suit your particular planetary rotation), so there’s no way to make the day magically longer.  However, we can structure our days to include a few hours, or even just a few minutes, to work on our stories.

Maybe you can get up an hour earlier than the rest of your family (easier in the summer than the winter here in the Northeast!).  Maybe you can skip going out to lunch with your co-workers, but instead brown-bag it with your BFF the laptop in an unused office or the local coffee shop.  Maybe you could – gasp! –ask your family to make a simple dinner a couple of nights a week, or put in a load of laundry, or run the vacuum cleaner.   Maybe you could — bigger gasp, possibly resulting in hyperventilation! — limit Facebooking, Tweeting,  Internet surfing, e-mail reading, and/or television watching.  You might just be surprised at how much you can get done in an hour or less of focused effort.  And even small amounts will eventually add up to a completed manuscript.

Take a look at your typical day and see where you can rearrange or delegate some tasks, or delete some time-suckers, to find time for your Stories.  Nobody else will, or can, do it for you.

Till next time,

Susannah

Dear Misbehaving Manuscript,

It’s not you it’s me. Okay, so maybe it is you. We’ve been together for two months now and honestly there were points when I loved you. Oh we used to be so good together! Remember that time we added 3,300 words to our word count in one afternoon? Remember that time we laughed over that little joke in chapter three? Or the times I thought we were going so strong that nothing could break us apart?

What happened to us? There are some days when I don’t even want to work on you. Days when you cause my characters to say boring things and do stupid stuff. Times when there are so many typos you could have been written by a sleepy second grader.

Le-sigh…Even though right now you are causing me to want to pull my hair out, I still believe in you. In us. And I won’t give up on you. At least not today. So please stop misbehaving or I might be forced to punish you by… inserting so much purple prose even Stephanie Meyer would be jealous? ( His eyes were like the clearest of diamonds, sharp enough to cut through her tender heart and bruise her sweetly innocent soul.)  Or  I could end every sentence with an exclamation point? You wouldn’t like that, would you?!!!! Maybe I should let my grandmother read you? “He put his what, where?! Really, Jamie!” (How does one punish a manuscript anyway?) Regardless of what I do, what I won’t do is give up on you, no matter how badly you tick me off. So shape up. Pretty please.

Love always,

 Your crazy writer Jamie.

Am I crazy? Absolutely. But all writers go through a time when they are just not getting along with their WIPs. So how do you renew the magic? I do what many writer’s are loathed to do. I stop wherever I am and go back. Sometimes all the way to the beginning(AH!) and read it all over to see what I liked about it, what I think can be improved and to check to see if things are going the way I planned. This way I can fix it before I do major damage.  But most of the time it’s not the big stinking mess I think it is. Having an honest critique partner you trust or a good mentor is also helpful. Sometimes just to cheer you on or the steer you in the right direction.

Sharing time! I want to know what you do when your manuscript is misbehaving. Do you write it a letter? Do you take a break? Move on? Cry a little? Drink? Play Angry Birds? Tell your friends. Any and all comments are welcome.

Why is this so stinkin’ hard?

This week was rough for me. Not only did I go back to work teaching cranky children in a non air conditioned school, but my writing… well, it just wasn’t working for me.

Allow me to backtrack a bit. It was Tuesday afternoon, my first day of summer school and  anyone who remembers what first days  are like will understand that hectic doesn’t begin to describe the process. I didn’t lose any of my darlings, everybody got on the right bus and only one lunch box was left behind. Success! I had planned to go back home and write. I had an awesome  last week adding about 12,000 words to my manuscript 5300 of those on Monday. But when I got home to write my brain melted. I was done. I was mentally exhausted. I decided to give myself a time out. A little rest and you’ll be fine. So, I went upstairs  turned on the People’s Court, and vegged. Ah! Exactly what I needed. I went back to my computer ready to go but, nada. I pecked out a few words and decided the only thing I was going to produce in that moment was toilet worthy. I left my computer after checking Facebook, my email, my bank balance and picked up my friend’s work in progress. She is new to writing, doubtful of her talent, you know, all the things we all were when we first picked up the pen. I was trying to encourage her through text message to keep going, to pursue her dream. She responded, “I know , but writing so hard.” 

I let that marinate in my mind over the next couple of hours and ventured back to my laptop. I sat in my favorite writing spot, put my fingers to the keyboard but nothing came out. I have the whole book plotted in my head. I know what I am supposed to be writing but the greatness in my head doesn’t match the product on the screen. I went back and reread my last scene and decided that what I wrote was redundant and hit the delete button. My friend was right. Writing was sooo hard. My total word count for that day was negative 396.

How lowering! Okay, I told myself, try again tomorrow and I did, and nada, zip, zilch, nothing. Thursday despite my best efforts no golden words came flowing from my fingers. Friday I forced out a pitiful 1000. I began to feel a little bummed. I had entered this Double Dog Dare Challenge with my sister scribes. I was supposed to be kicking butt and taking names, but I wasn’t and to top it all of every time I sat in my favorite writing chair to write I began to itch, like tiny little bugs were crawling over my skin. What was that all about? It was my mind revolting!

By Saturday I was sick of myself  and my lack of progress. I went shopping. That always makes me feel better but after dropping too much money and seeing not one but two students in the store I was still too bummed to write. So I got my hair done. To quote my grandmother, “If you look good, you feel good and if you feel good, you do go.” And I did feel good. I was whipping my hair back and forth like Willow Smith, ( I hope some of you know what I was referring to there,) I put my new shoes on and a cute sundress. I starting reading a book. After all that I finally felt better. I took my  laptop away from its normal spot and tried writing in bedroom. Tada! success. 2300 words Saturday night. 1200 Sunday morning. And it was work I could be proud of.

I go through this with everything I write. That period of self-doubt, the fear of letting it go, the times where my head is so blocked I’m wishing for a transplant. For me thankfully it only lasted a few days, but for some of us it lasts weeks or months or even years. I am sure this will happen to me again, in fact I am counting on it.

Here’s what I need from you… Tell me how you combat writer’s block/ writer’s blues.