March 30, 2013

Efficient Procrastination

I am intimately acquainted with Procrastination, as are, I'm certain, many of those who might read this post.  I have known many creative people to define this lack of motivation to work on the project on which they should be working as the absence of a muse, or inspiration. 

Perhaps there simply aren't enough muses for each of us to have our assigned companion by our side when necessary, or perhaps muses prefer our company when there isn't a deadline (self-imposed or not) hanging over us, overshadowing our creativity.  Whatever the case may be, I have yet to find a way not to procrastinate.  Instead, I have learned to divert my lack of a desire to do what I should be doing into doing something I will at some point need to do – that is, something that may not need to be done right that moment but is nevertheless somewhat productive.

March 29, 2013

Reflecting on #BlogFlash2013

So Terri Giuliano Long's flash blogging challenge for March 2013 is over—though some straggling posts may still be added by some participants. 21 posts each by many wonderful bloggers all over the world have been added for your reading pleasure out there in the "blogosphere".

For me, BlogFlash created openings into the wide and diverse worlds of the writing and blogging communities, affording me the opportunity to interact with and get to know many people I likely wouldn't have otherwise encountered.  I have added many new blogs (and twitter accounts) to my reading list, and I hope to be able to continue keeping up with all the posts to come.

Query Letter Quest

Once upon a time. . .

Virtually no resources existed for aspiring writers to research agents or publishers and find their contact information, not mention submission guidelines.  Guides were published and sold, but by the time they were bought, many were out of date. The aspiring writer who had slaved for months (or years) over their work had to rely largely on luck to search out a way even to make it into the currently dreaded slush pile. 

Nowadays, for those with an internet connection, the opposite is true.  Not only do agents and publishing houses have websites, Facebook pages, twitter accounts, and blogs, but many are also listed on sites such as AgentQuery, which is quite aptly named, as the first step in reaching out to agents or publishing houses is what is called a "query letter".

Flash Blog: Success

We all measure successes by unique benchmarks that are affected by those set by our parents, mentors, teachers, friends, etc.  In the last 6 months, I have undertaken many new projects, and my benchmark lately has been the simplest measure of all: completion. Since November 1st I have: 

March 28, 2013

Flash Blog: Education

A solid education is a crucial foundation for a quality life.  A well-rounded education teaches someone not facts but how to learn.  Nowadays, more and more private groups are beginning to tailor education to the specific learning styles of students rather than adopting a "one size fits all" approach, though it's unclear how effective these different approaches will ultimately be.

I'm incredibly grateful to my parents who worked ridiculous hours to provide all of their children with high-quality educations, both in school and with supplemental activities.  

March 27, 2013

Flash Blog: City

Perhaps because I grew up in an area of urban sprawl, I don't enjoy big cities – from the hectic pace to the dirty streets and skyscrapers, the entire ambience isn't for me.  The bustling nature of life in a city presses on me, overwhelming my senses.  The one major city I love is Paris, in which it is virtually impossible to get lost and which offers unlimited hidden treasures to be discovered. 

Cities began as the center of social life. To this day, large cities offer exposure to culture—through museums, theaters, music halls, and more – usually unparalleled by rural areas, which makes suburbia the perfect balance for me.

March 26, 2013

Flash Blog: Money

Nowadays, many people consider money an end in itself, working endlessly simply to increase their wealth.  Money should be, however, a means to an end – the key opening a door to a happy life, whether that means personal comfort and security or fabulous experiences while traveling the world.
Personally, I come from a background where a banana was, for years, a nearly unheard-of luxury.  I am careful with money, never spending on entertainment what needs to be spent on necessity.  Still, I remember to allow myself little luxuries when the opportunity does present itself – and I hope you do, too.

March 25, 2013

Flash Blog: Water

Considering the ubiquity of water in our world, this post shouldn't be as difficult to write as it currently seems...  

Like most of nature, water can be healing as easily as it can be destructive. Worlds of water encompass incomparable beauty, either enhancing or hiding it.  

One of the coolest aquariums I have visited was in Dalian China, where the majority of the visit happens in tunnels weaving underneath and within the worlds of aquatic life forms. Of course, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is no slouch either.

When's the last time you immersed yourself in an underwater world?

March 22, 2013

Flash Blog: Community

Being part of a community means being able to rely on the support and friendship of that community, but it also means accepting the rules of a community and shouldering the necessary responsibilities.  The wonders of the World Wide Web have linked us all into what is now called a global community, allowing us to 'meet' and communicate with people from all over the world, whom we may not have otherwise encountered.  Our interactions through BlogFlash2013 are a perfect example of this phenomenon.

Virtual communities allow people to change their own lives, those of others in the community, or those of strangers.  They allow grassroots efforts to spring forth with more vigor and be more effective.

On that note, I'd like to share a nascent community writing project to which I am very excited to contribute when the time comes—and I hope you will consider doing the same!  Scripting Change aims to bring together writers for a zero-cost project that will raise and donate funds for deserving causes, while offering writers exposure for their work. 

March 21, 2013

Feedback Fears

Jody Hedlund has a wonderful post about how writers do react to feedback—and how they should. Intellectually, I agree with many of her points, and I've even stated some before on this blog. Readers' feedback is absolutely invaluable and crucial to the overall quality of the book.  Receiving this feedback is inevitable if a writer is serious about creating a completed product, and considering this feedback—whether or not we ultimately choose to incorporate it into the work—will improve our writing.

Knowing this intellectually does not, unfortunately, change the trepidation we feel when giving our book to a reader for the first time, the anxiety we feel as we wait for a response, and the insecurity we feel when reading critiques and comments.  I was about to write that I had only, so far, received a few general comments from one reader when a new email popped up in my inbox—with in-depth critiques from that reader.  

Flash Blog: Friendship

A short excerpt from my novel, touching on today's prompt:

"Sabella switched to her own car and headed home.  Occasionally, she glimpsed the purple highlights that now adorned her hair in her rear-view mirror, but there was nothing she could do about them now.  Theoretically, the color would rinse out in ten to fourteen days.  As always, in her own bizarrely effectual way, Gina had reminded her of her determinedly unfettered independence, and that she shouldn’t be defined by the assumptions of a virtual stranger, no matter how attractive and otherwise charming...Gina was inarguably one of a kind, and an incomparable friend."

March 20, 2013

Flash Blog: Home

I like this picture of home in the palm of our hands, since a home is something built as much as it is something found.  We may feel at home in a certain place, but that sensation without fail boils down to those people still inhabiting that space, those that built it for you or with you, or those memories a loved one who had once shared that home has left behind. We could as easily feel at home encircled in the arms of a beloved or surrounded by a closely bonded group of friends.  

And occasionally, home is the place that waits to welcome us once we find our way back.

March 19, 2013

Flash Blog: Darkness

It is easy to love the light, but darkness often deters affection.  And yet darkness reveals otherwise hidden yet spectacular realities that are equally worthy of love.

The undeniable beauty of a day in the forest is matched, if not surpassed, by that of the forest at night, which divulges secrets of its resident species—of those trees whose leaves shine in the moonlight, illuminating a darkened path, and those animals, predisposed to nocturnal lifestyles. 

Darkness in a person can be a marker of complexity, the result of triumph over trauma unintelligible to those touched only by light.   Complementary hints of darkness ultimately connect us with one another.

March 18, 2013

Flash Blog: Music

Music is an expressive form of communication unlike any other.  It transcends cultures, languages, and ages.  It seamlessly matches our moods, supporting us through difficult and delightful moments, while providing an outlet for turbulent or exultant emotions.  Music stimulates and enhances neurological function, aiding in the development of a child or in the productivity and retention of adult minds.  

And yet, music is one of the first types of education to be sacrificed in schools or by some professionally driven parents.  So to those who read this, please consider bringing music and musical education into your lives and the lives of your children, and supporting the musicians in your communities.

March 15, 2013

Flash Blog: Running

As important as fitness is, for both our physical and mental health, I hate running.  I have hated running since I was a child, forced to run laps by an arbitrary physical education requirement.  

Metaphorically speaking, though, I have been running for most of my life; many of us probably have.  In today's world, that relentlessly intense pace seems required for success of any kind.  It's no wonder that now extensive markets exist for anything that offers a moment of peace away from the race, whether that is a spa treatment, a yoga class, or simply a fun night out.

March 14, 2013

Stacks of Paper

It may be impossible for me to stress sufficiently the necessity of printing out a manuscript (or short story, or essay, etc.) and editing a version on paper. An invaluable, artificial distance is created by taking your work from the screen to the page, allowing for a wholly different experience of the text.  This in turn creates the opportunity to notice problems our eyes may have otherwise skipped and frees us to make corrections we wouldn't have otherwise made.  I can't begin to count the times I noticed issues in essays I wrote while in University only when I was about to hand in the printed version, and, unsurprisingly, the same holds true for my new novel.

Flash Blog: Time

Every post before this, I wrote ahead of time.  Ironically, this one I am writing much later than normal, as time frequently flies away from us in the midst of the realities of life.  Tonight (last night? a few hours ago), a 77th birthday party ended in a trip to the ER. 

The ticking may seem slow, but time flows too fast.

March 13, 2013

Flash Blog: Spring

Spring is touted as a season representing rebirth, the reinvigoration of our surroundings and our lives.  As I write this, though, spring feels so very far away—completely out of reach.

I suppose it is therefore time to be inspired by the snowdrop—a resilient little flower which can bloom even when the ground is still covered in snow, bringing a touch of spring with it.

March 12, 2013

Flash Blog: Chocolate

Believe it or not, I have been to two Chocolate Museums.  The first was in Bruges – a tiny and adorable town.  This museum offers a glimpse into how chocolate is made, shows how it has been packaged in the past, and introduces a knowledgable cocoa bean to dispel myths. 

March 11, 2013

Flash Blog: Nature

Sometimes a character says it best, so for today's prompt, a short excerpt from an unfinished manuscript:

"You would work better if you let nature in where you worked, like you do elsewhere in your home.  Sunlight streaming through the windows, perhaps a butterfly or two flitting past..." Alexandra's face lit up as she described it.  "Nature is pure inspiration.  How much closer can you get to ultimate motivation than the universe, the ideas that created it?"

"All great ideas have come while someone was out in nature:  Newton understood gravity while outside, and wise prophets are still talked about as meeting people on a hill under a tree.  If you simply let yourself feel nature as you worked, you would probably suffer fewer 'writer's blocks' as you call them."

March 10, 2013

The Story Bubble

Since last August, the characters of my novel have been insistently intruding into my thoughts, clamoring for attention—demanding that their story be told.  Piece by piece, their world was created by my words. Even when the first draft was completed, there were parts that did not exactly fit, and a varying combination of comments describing necessary changes filled the margins. Scenes and characters continually leaked out of the growing bubble of the story and into my mind, an incessant reminder that their world—the bubble of their story—was incomplete. 

March 9, 2013

Reaching a Milestone

At the beginning of this year, I had hoped to have my manuscript edited by March 1st. Life, as it tends to, interfered, and writing doesn't particularly like following a plan either, so that didn't happen.

In search of a new, reasonable time frame, I decided I wanted to finish revising before my balloons—the ones celebrating the completion of my first draft—fully deflated. This did happen. 

At 76,276 words, my manuscript is now ready to progress to its next stage: being printed for a round of editing on paper. Five standard balloons lay listless on the floor, but two foil balloons remain as an unflinching reminder of accomplishment and the motivation to continue following this path through.

March 8, 2013

Flash Blog: Island

Without you, I float
In wishes for women's day
An island of grief

March 7, 2013

The Bumpy Road of Revision

As I've mentioned before, I began revising long before I finished my first draft, an approach which, for me, actually helped the writing. Once I had a completed draft, I moved on to official revising, which I, despite the previous revisions, began at the first word of my manuscript. So, as I made some changes, polishing my work, I was almost encountering an artificially buffered experience of revising, which I only realized when, suddenly, I was horrified by a scene. 

Flash Blog: Health

The obvious flip side of health is illness.  Illness and even disability are not always as apparent as many people would expect.  The people taking the elevator up one floor?  They're called lazy, which they may very well be.  But they could also be recovering from a leg injury, suffering from debilitating back pain, or simply having an extremely difficult day.

Instead of considering the alternative possibilities, people frequently assume the worst about others.  Instead, we should remember that not all illness is apparent to our eyes, nor should obvious illness be the only reason for our compassion.

March 6, 2013

Flash Blog: Books!

I love books.  They offer escapes, transporting readers into new and different worlds and providing abundant information that carries through generations.

While I understand the convenience factor of electronic readers, I nevertheless believe that the true experience of reading must involve a physical book, with pages that can be felt and flipped.  I also prefer hard-bound books, especially those bound with materials now used almost exclusively for special editions. 

Books should, I believe, offer a respite from our technology-filled lives.  So, while I do support the growing trend of electronic publishing, I also affirm that print publishing should not be swept aside and left behind. 

March 5, 2013

Flash Blog: Innocence

As a romance writer, I deal with a very different kind of innocence than this #BlogFlash2013 image portrays. 

Sexual innocence is an especially complex topic nowadays.  Mixed messages are sent to and about women – a girl who has sex is promiscuous or adventurous; one who doesn't is prudish or virtuous.  

Media addressing this topic of abstaining from premarital sex frequently have the heroine "slip" – have sex – and then "re-virginize", which I find deplorable, as it teaches either that it is impossible to remain a virgin by choice regardless of one's convictions, or that, once one has sex, amends must be made.

March 4, 2013

Flash Blog: Technology

Popular technology creates artificial connection, frequently while imposing an impenetrable barrier between any individual and the outside world.

It is all too easy to blame our technology for this dissociation, though it predominately exists to improve our lives.  Technology augments quality of life at home and in the workplace, literally saves lives, and affords opportunities for growth our predecessors could not even dream of – though they tried.   It's our fault that we simply hide behind it. 

Blaming technology for our own shortcomings has become a crutch for many of us.  Wouldn't you rather stand on your own two feet?  

* The first draft of this post was significantly longer, but in trying to keep with  the "Flash" part of the challenge I trimmed it down.  Perhaps I will revisit this topic later on!

March 1, 2013

Flash Blog: Laughter

Different types of laughter can be as telling and distinctive as manners of speech – chuckling, chortling, giggling, twittering, sniggering, etc.  How do your characters laugh?

Personally, no type of laughter is as precious to me as that of my nieces.  Many would, I believe, agree with the general sentiment that children's laughter can be heartening, curative, and inspiring.  We should all pay more attention to that beautiful sound.