My writing journey

This is “about me.” Apparently people want to know a little about me, besides the thoughts I put on my “About” page.

When I was about ten years old I received a diary. I didn’t put many entries in it, but it was where my writing habit began. Around the age of  twelve I began making up fairly involved stories and telling them to my sisters.

I never had difficulty with English. I did well academically, but in my school that was not what was important. The emphasis was on sports. I always thought I didn’t measure up because I couldn’t compete with the best girls in my class when it came to any sport.

During high school I worked as a waitress and had many other jobs before I married at age twenty-four. I worked in reception/admitting in a hospital before I had my first child. I have two adult sons, who are both married, and one grandchild.

My first published story was about spending Christmas in the Philippines. I entered it in a writing contest and won first prize. That launched me into starting a novel. I even bought a laptop computer to help me with the process. What a luxury it was! The Windows 95 operating system was the exciting new thing at the time.

We were living in a tiny two bedroom basement suite in a small town in Southeastern Manitoba. We had recently returned from the Philippines where we taught in a Bible School for nearly five years. In Manitoba we were associate pastors in a church and I was the director of the music ministry. After four years we moved to Vancouver Island where we planted a church and later opened a Tea Room.

At one point I became very devoted to working on my novel and on a particular day I had spent eleven hours writing on it. I remember it clearly because I had trouble coming back to reality around eight o’clock in the evening when there was a collision between a truck and a car on the stretch of road in front of our place. The jaws of life had to be used in order to enable the young woman, eight months pregnant with her second child, to be removed from her car. We watched from the room where I was writing earlier. An ambulance took her away and she died later in the hospital.

I quit writing for a long time after that, thinking I wanted to be present in this reality, not away in some other imaginary world.

For the past five years I have been working very little on my novel. I have been busy finishing my BA in Church Ministries, with a major in Counselling, graduating with highest honors. I thought I was beginning my Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy degree, but after two years of preparation I learned that I would not be admitted into the program.

Around this time I began to have health problems and underwent two surgeries. My husband and I were resident managers at the college I attended and lived on campus with approximately fifty students. This past year we bought a small condominium and moved off campus. I also relinquished my other responsibilities at the college.

In August I attended the Oregon Christian Writers Conference and determined to complete my novel in time for the conference. At the conference I pitched it to two editors and an agent. The agent asked for the manuscript and that is where I am at now.

Editing – it’s happening

I just had to share that I started editing my novel yesterday and it went well. I rounded out a scene. I did some research. I read up on plot versus character and I mapped out my plot on a large sheet of sketching paper.

Mapping out my plot was very revealing. I saw that a lot of things happened to my main character, but she was not really defined by what she did. I saw that I had left two characters dangling. I saw that my story is a story with a lot of medium-sized peaks and that I need at least one large peak. I also saw the possibility that one of my dangling characters could do this for me.

I read a bestseller recently in which the main character re-made herself. It was a good read. But what set her on this path was a bad experience with a man in her life. Throughout the story I kept thinking how satisfying it would be for her to meet up with this man as a changed woman. But it never happened. This made me think that when we get our audience to bond with someone early in the story, even if it is a villain, it  would probably be good not to drop that character.

Every character has to have a purpose and needs to further the plot in some way. I think it’s best to have as few characters as possible. My story has a lot of characters because the setting requires it, but I will take another look and see if anyone is dispensable.

Does my life look the way I want it to look?

Something needs to change around here. I was away on holidays for two weeks. When I returned, we moved so I spent that week finding places for things. The next week I started my website and it took a lot of time to figure out what I was doing. This is week five since I talked with my agent, and I have yet to start editing my novel.

Ideally, how would I like my life to look? How much structure do I require? What are the most important things I need to do every day? Every week? What do I need to give up? What should I spend less time doing? What are my goals, and the steps I will take to achieve them?

Thankfully my neck isn’t hurting today like it has been, and I can actually think.

The other day I saw an old newspaper clipping that had a family budget drawn up for an income of $1,600 a month. So much money for rent/mortgage, utilities, insurance, clothing, food, etc. What I need to do, is figure out how to budget my time. This is nothing new to me. Before I even begin, I know that drawing up a rigid daily plan is never effective for me, so it might be an idea to start with a monthly or weekly plan.

The other day I talked about being true to my voice. Some people think it is important to have an accountability partner in order to stay on track. I think that if I can’t keep myself on track, then I have a problem. I have to be true to myself, set up attainable goals and then accomplish them. I’m not knocking the idea of an accountability partner, if that works for someone. It just doesn’t work for me. I’m always obsessing about what that person will think of my choices…how will I justify my decisions, explain my situation. Why put myself in this position in the first place? If I know what to do, then why not just do it?

Any day now I will begin editing. Yes, I will. (Why do I hear this little mocking, disbelieving voice in my mind?) And it will go well, because when I start I will be ready. There are just a few more things that need to fall into place. And, no, you are not my accountability partner. Although, if I fail you will see it. The honest truth right now is that I don’t know exactly what I want my book to look like and I am wrestling with that. This is a subject is for another post.

Finding your voice

I am sitting with my laptop at the dining table while my husband queries me from across the room about why I haven’t been editing my novel. Nearly a month has gone by since I asked for six months. Have I been working on it?

I tell him no. To myself I think that I have been planning and trying to decide what approach to take. I’ve been allowing some thoughts to settle in my mind. And I know very well that it is over a month since I asked for extra time to edit my novel.

My adult son is in the living area with my husband, listening to our conversation. He asks me, “Why do you think you need to edit it?” I tell him, for the second time, that I have had several authors look at portions of it and advise me to make changes.

“Did they all say the same thing?”  he asks.

His question catches me off guard. I know he’s getting at something. I am suddenly alert, searching my memory for evidence I have missed.

I reply that two of the people said I should do less telling and more showing. He says, “But some people like more telling.”

I keep on thinking about his question, and as he is leaving I acknowledge that one author loved my ending, while another thought I should change it.

My son smiles and looks at me as if to say, I told you so. He remarks that so much of writing is subjective. Then he shares with me that when he was in high school he wrote a paper for which he received a C grade. Not satisfied, he took the paper to another teacher and asked him to grade it. He gave him an A+. He took the paper back and showed it to the first teacher.

One person simply did not like his writing style, while the other obviously saw its merit.

I conclude that my voice is the voice to which I must be true.

The pain passes but the beauty remains

I have been in a lot of pain recently. For some reason my neck is giving me trouble.

Today I thought about the artist, who, crippled by arthritis continued to paint the great cathedrals in Europe. When someone asked him why, he responded, “The pain passes, but the beauty remains.”

Writing requires discipline, persistence, all of the elements that go into completing any worthy project. If we persevere, then one day we will see that completed manuscript.

In an art class, a wise instructor told us, An artist is someone who completes his painting. It’s about practicing, but, more importantly, it’s about completing.

I felt the elation of success when for the first time I held in my hands the completed manuscript of my novel. I had persevered to the end. It was the same feeling I’ve had when I’ve climbed to the top of a mountain. I can scarcely believe what I’ve done. I keep being amazed at what can happen if I simply refuse to give up along the way.

Success builds confidence and one success can lead to another success. I now know what goes into the process and I’ve acquired some skills along the way. It may even be easier the second time around.

Boundaries? What’s that?

I am very poor at setting boundaries. Not in every area, but when it comes to my time.

There are things I really need to say no to, so that I can say yes to what is important, like my writing, for instance. But I have this tendency to bend, to be flexible, to allow myself to be talked into things. I go over my time limit, because I am trying to be sensitive. After all, I want other people to be sensitive to my needs. Do unto others…as the saying goes.

I also feel guilty about things I shouldn’t feel guilty about. Like saying No!

Today was an example. I had said no to something on Friday, and today I was pressured to yield. It was almost impossible for me to be firm. Oh, this will only take a few minutes. I’ll just send this email. I’ll notify this person. I should probably follow this through….and so on. My husband, who, incidentally, knows how to set boundaries, finally told me how to do it. Tell them you are no longer in charge, he told me. It seemed so clear and simple to him. To me it felt like moving a mountain. It was literally as though I could feel all of this resistance.

Well, I did as he told me. And I haven’t yet checked my emails, because, to tell the truth, I’m thinking I’ll get sucked in again.

This blog is about writing

This blog is about writing, in case you didn’t notice. I mean, what could give you a clue? Dewdrops on green leaves, maybe?

This is my main site, and I’m so proud of getting my own name as the domain name. Well, pride isn’t really a factor, because it was merely a matter of availability, but I’m pleased none the less.

This is about writing and finishing my novel, to publication. It is also about finding other things to write about, and places to publish what I write.

I have this sense that I will have to change the appearance of this site in some way, so that it at least gives people a bit of a heads up. I’m taking some time to think about that. Unfortunately I am one of those people who often needs quite a bit of time to think. It’s well worth it if I come up with something. But it can also be a real waste of time.

But, basically, I like the look of this site as it is. And it does say, “My Novel” up top in the “pages” section.

My other blogs are actual writing, about my life, and of course my photography. My home page, as I call this, is currently devoted to writing about writing, the process. So, you can see, there is truly a bit of a focus here.

A few more snags

I’m trying to put widgets on my sites, but the ones I’ve imported are frozen. It happened when I tried to link to Facebook. They won’t open and they won’t move. I feel rather helpless, but maybe this will eventually sort itself out. I closed everything down and now I’ll see if it makes a difference.

I’ve posted on all of my blogs today. This is the last one. I’m trying to decide how much time I can afford to spend on my blogs. Will I have to delete any of them? It is good writing practice, but my novel is sitting forlornly on the sidelines, waiting to be edited.

Of course, once I can get the sites properly set up then I won’t be wasting so much time with technicalities. I am really looking forward to having time to check out other people’s blogs. I’ve put this pleasure on hold for now, except for two people who liked my site. =) This is definitely starting off with a bang.

One of my “likes” has a fantastic photography blog and you may see me following him in the future. He has pictures of hiking the West Coast Trail. But I won’t be following the other one, I can tell you right now. I am not interested in porn photos and was actually disappointed that wordpress hosts this site. I thought I read something in their agreement about certain standards for posting. Will women please wake up and realize that if we want to be respected we have to stop taking all of our clothes off in public?!!!

I’m done with my rant….now back to my blog. I was also unsuccessful in trying to learn how to put the “read more” tags on my posts. I have worked with blogspot and I think in some ways blogspot is easier to navigate than wordpress.

I look forward to more trial and error until I get the hang of this. At some point I’ll tell my friends about my blogs. I admit I never did so when I was on blogspot. Well, there was one exception, and after I told her I deleted them all. But Facebook has made me a little braver, I think.

Moving along…

I just deleted the Mr. WordPress “comment” and now this is beginning to look like a for real web page. I’ll warn you, though, it is still under construction.

Yesterday I did a lot of work here. When my husband came home I was still in my housecoat. Not true. It was his housecoat. He thought I was ready for bed. It was that late. I get really obsessive sometimes and when I get that way, stay out of my way! Don’t worry. I am clothed and of sound mind today.

I realized that “pages” were not what I thought they were and they were not going to serve my purpose. So, I started some new blogs. I guess what I wanted was something like a host page for blogs.

I am experiencing a steep learning curve. I love learning. What I don’t like is running into things that don’t work. It’s especially discouraging when you’re learning, because you keep doing something over and over, thinking the mistake must be your own. I finally gave up on one of the themes I tried for a blog because it wouldn’t post my photo and text or it would cut it off.  It’s the one with the six columns, I’ll warn you.

Today I will make a few posts, and hopefully learn how to put links to my blogs on my other websites. I also need to start using tags. I’ll be posting an interesting development on My Novel in a minute.