Where Ladybugs Roar

Confessions and Passions of a Compulsive Writer

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Somebody Wants Something

And I'm tempted to give it to them.

*raises eyebrows*

No, I haven't lost my mind.  Well, a little, but that's beside the point.

So, I was reading this article and, being as I've now passed my three years as a writer point (mid-October), I was feeling a bit snide when I read the title.  I thought, "Yeah, I've written so many novels... I don't need to read this over-simplified advice on how to write a novel."  I scoffed.  *Wendy tsks self*

Here is the article: How to Create a Story.

To create a good story, you must first understand what a story is. I have a simple formula:
"Somebody wants something and has a hard time getting it."

Now, if you're like me, you're thinking, "It's not that simple and even if it is, so what?"

So what?  SOOOO WHATTT?  I give you gold, and you dare say, "SO WHAT?"  GOLD!

Actually, that's exactly what I thought. Then, I boiled down the novel I'm preparing to write for NaNoWriMo:

A Mused: An artist wants peace and inspiration; an unusual girl he meets near the lake is going to make sure neither comes without a price... in fact, he might not even survive to see either.

My mouth dropped open, and I thought, "But that's like a tagline.  That's sort of brilliant.  It can't work every time... can it?  But... really?  Can it?"

Okay, fine...

Secrets of Skin and Stone: Piper wants to know if she's to blame for her dog's death... and if it's not her or her OCD... what dark secrets are hidden in Hidden Creek, Alabama.  (Alternately... Gris's side would be: Gris wants to solve the mysteries of the neighbor girl and keep her alive--all while keeping the monster inside him hidden.)

I then mentally ran a bunch of my novels through this.  It was fascinating.  They all could be summarized with that same formula.

Still, what use is that for someone who clearly can write a complete novel?  Writing the novel isn't my problem.  On the other hand, I'm going back under the knife for yet another revision of Secrets of Skin and Stone.  Sarah and I have been going back and forth on a few scenes I want to keep, and she says they need to contribute to the narrative in some way.  (Isn't the fact that I like them and want to hug them enough?  NO?  Wuh?  Why?)  As I examined these scenes in light of the boiled down plotlines above... *coughs* they may not further the plot or entirely contribute to my MCs' main driving forces (those things they want, but are having trouble reaching....)

One of the downsides to pantsing is that you end up with these straggling scenes or narrative fills where you needed a plotpoint or scene to get you to the next scene or to fill in exposition.  These aren't final copy scenes, but they're hard to cut completely or replace because they're entrenched.  *sighs* I need to get rid of or fix a bunch of those in Secrets of Skin and Stone.  I may be talking a lot about revising for the first part of November as I'm doing what I hope is my last revision.

Anyway, I found that article interesting and useful, and I hope you did too.

Happy Halloween, everyone.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Trapping Plot Bunnies

NaNoWriMo is almost upon us!  (National Novel Writing Month--where writers try to crank out 50K in a single month.)

So, I've gotten the go-ahead from Sarah to participate this year.  I'm trying to decide which story to go with.  I have two WIPs that I'm tempted to cheat and ADD 50K onto them to finish them, but that feels wrong.  Then, earlier this week, I thought maybe I'd write a MG book which I plotted out a bit.  My sisters are pushing me to do Honor 8 for this, and I'm almost tempted because Honor's head is fun to be in and that might help with stress--plus, with Honor on Twitter, there'd be someone to talk to about the plot. I also have a few sketched out ideas in their own documents that I've had... that could be expanded on.

So, in the end, what do you write about when you almost have too many choices?

You write the one that won't get out of your head--the one that won't leave you alone.

I've had this one story stuck in my head since April of this year which is in the sketched out idea in a document category.  I considered asking opinions on what I should work on, but the fact that my brain keeps going back to this one idea and has since April... I'd just be annoyed with myself if I went with anything else.

It's nice that I've decided... now, I just have to write it--starting November 1st.  By the way, the title is A Mused.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Five Things Thursday

Since I've been down and depressing lately, I thought I'd post five things you might or might not know about me.

1. I once ate roadkill squirrel.  My grandfather brought me some meat on a plate and said, "Taste it." I should have known better by then because my grandpa is funny in so many ways.  It was only after I'd eaten a piece that I found out where it was from.  (Yes, it tasted like chicken... greasy chicken.)

2. I used to work as a Barney impersonator, and I wanted to be a mime.  I really did... on both.  I used to do children's birthday parties, and I made some kickin' cash... but then it got too violent.  (No joke.)  I got punched in the stomach by a bunch of guys when I was dealing with heat exhaustion after being in a parade in Utah in 100 degree heat.  I was done.  I was around 18 then... and just over 100 lbs.

3. I lived in Vegas when a chemical plant in Henderson blew up.  I was at school at the time and we went outside and saw a huge mushroom cloud in the distance.  They put the school in lockdown and I was in art class (my favorite class) for three hours that day.

4. I went to high school in Vegas and on my first day of high school--freshman year... we went to homeroom, the school went into lockdown, and we were sent home because someone had been killed (gang war) in the cafeteria.

5. I met my husband fourteen years ago after bumping into him all over the state of Utah but never meeting...  Our first date went until five in the morning and the moment he kissed me--I knew we were going to get married.  We were talking about marriage within days, and we were married less than five months later.  It was crazy, but I just knew.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

WIP Wednesday - Revise Me, Baby, One More Time!

So, I'm working on revising that novella but, sadly, I'm not working on it.  I can't seem to work up the motivation to revise.  I'm not sure what's wrong with me, but it's making me crazy.  I keep on hoping I'll magically feel motivated to do it but, thus far, Past Wendy isn't doing any favors for Future Wendy.  My husband is out of town for the week, and I was busy today.  I ran in and out of my house.  So, it's not entirely just me slacking off, but I've been reading to calm down at night, and I have to go cold turkey on reading other people's fiction and watching TV for the muse to play nice.  I have a very finicky muse.

I really need to get it done... not only is there a deadline, but there is also NaNoWriMo approaching, and I might still need to do another revision of SECRETS soon.

So, how do you magically motivate yourself to be creative?

Maybe I'll go sit in front of the fire tomorrow and turn the internet off.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Unsent Messages and Unsaid Words

A long, long, long time ago, I won a book in a contest by a Twitter friend Regan Leigh. It was called Other People's Love Letters and I  loved this book... it totally made me feel like a voyeur, but I still loved it. There is something about reading something you were never meant to see that appeals to the sneak in me.  It's like people watching in someone's diary.  I find human nature and psychology fascinating so that book was one of the best books I've read this year.

I bring it up because I was hunting for something yesterday, and I suspected I'd emailed it to myself to remember it.  It's a trick I frequently do because my memory is lousy... it's even worse on meds, but it's not spectacular either way.  Instead, I stumbled across a few other things I'd sent myself--weird emails that both fascinate and disturb me.  I send myself is things I say, but don't say--like blog posts I don't post because I'm not brave enough or crazy enough.  There are emails to people that I need to get out, but don't need them to read.  A few years ago, I stumbled across a letter I'd written to an ex-boyfriend who'd just dumped me... one that was never sent.  Between all these different things, I've got quite the correspondence with myself that isn't to me.  There are all these things I've said, but never said.

It makes me wonder... how many sealed envelopes are out there that are never sent?

I know other people do this.  Sometimes you need things to be said but not said.  I've had therapists recommend this to me so I can "let go" of things that my OCD wants to obsess on, so I know it's a practice used by other people.  There may be millions of these letters, emails, and so on... gathering dust.  They're the roads left untaken, the opportunities for vehemence or confession left behind.

How different would my life be today if I had said these things?  If I had sent these letters, emails, posted these blogs posts what would have happened?  Did I make the right choice?

I don't know, but it intrigues me.

One of the blog posts that I didn't post in its entirety was written almost exactly one year ago.  I'd been talking about getting off the meds. (I hit one year four days ago... and I think that's part of why it's been so difficult for me recently... those stupid date benchmarks.)  It's very dark and that's why I didn't post it.  It's dark and pessimistic, and I was afraid it was too honest. It still feels too honest... but it is interesting.

Here is a portion of what I left unsaid last year at this time:

I've been cutting back on my meds for a year now... because I hate letting anything control me. I'm stubborn and stupid that way... and it's everything to do with OCD also. Control is a commodity in my mind. I'm down to just one med... and its side effects. The one med I'm down to controls the dark, paranoid thoughts that are a hallmark of OCD. It's the reason why memory loss is a possible symptom. If you live in the current fifteen seconds, the rest of your life doesn't eat you alive. So, naturally, going off the meds means that I'll be plunged back into the hell that is the mind of someone with OCD. 

I'll probably be moody the next few weeks... and distant and pissy... and angry at the world. I'll be frustrated as it settles its claws back into me because B also has OCD and it's probably as severe as mine is. In a few weeks, my strange sense of humor will overcome my pessimism and I'll pull on my facade of mental health and we'll all be happy again.

It's not an easy decision... and it might not even be the right one. Anyway, so there it is. Dr. Jekyll is sick of controlling Mr. Hyde after three years. We'll see if my dark mind can behave itself enough that I can be off meds for long enough to store up some long term memories for when it's time to go back into the cage.

Monday, October 17, 2011

We, the readers...

So, I returned my first ebook today.  It was somewhat liberating. I've deleted books that I didn't care for, but this was the first of around 400 books I've returned.

It wasn't because it was bad, though... it did suck somewhat, but I wouldn't return a book for that.  It wasn't what it advertised.  It was supposed to be a book of romance short stories--that was the title and the blurb.  Only it wasn't.  Usually I'll be the first to admit that the line in modern romances vs. erotica is becoming blurred--which sometimes bothers me as I don't really want to read erotica, but there was absolutely no romance in the few short stories I read.  There was sex--a lot of sex, but sex doesn't always equal romance.  In fact, I found it disturbing that one story in particular was in the group.  If that was a romance... well... it wasn't... okay, it just wasn't.  *shudders* *goes to get brain bleach*

I mean, where are we as a society when the word "romance" = sex?  It shouldn't.  I think that's part of what bothered me.  This was edited and compiled by a female--does she not understand the definition of romance?     In the short story that snapped it for me--the woman has absolutely no feelings or relationship with either of the two random people she has sex with.  I skipped whole pages looking for dialogue because the descriptions were boring.  The sex was boring without emotional context!  Plus, it was skeevy and gross without that too. *shudders again* Blech. I should have stopped reading long before I did.

I'm tempted to write a review on this... and I never write negative reviews.

It's funny because it takes a lot to offend me as a reader. I like to judge books by their covers, and I think you should be able to.  I think a book should live up to its blurb and its cover.  I think books should also meet our expectations for content.  I hate being disappointed in books.  I hate deleting and, now, returning them.  On the other hand, life is too short to waste on bad books... and with the money I get back from this book, I'll buy a book that is what it advertises.

Geez, I WANT to love books.  Every time I open a book, I want to fall in love with it.  I want it to be the best book I've ever read.  I want it to make me feel like an inferior writer. I want that.  I want to escape my life for a few hours and never want to return.  I want to turn off my inner editor and just be a reader again.

I really needed the escape too.  The car that my husband fixed on Saturday so he could leave me with a running car--it had a flat tire when I went out to go run errands today. He leaves tomorrow.  I needed the escape.  I've started rereading my favorite books just to avoid being disappointed.  That's awfully pathetic.

LOL.  This is sort of a boring blog post, but I've been annoyed all day about this book. However, I've already received two emails from Amazon informing me that my return is being processed.  *thumbs up*

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Peace in the Chaos of a Crowded Mind

I don't normally do this--as I see my blog as my own little corner of my own little space.  (I don't usually advertise my posts on Twitter or elsewhere--though I'm grateful for those who follow my blog.  If I thought this blog got a lot of hits I might watch what I say a little more.)  So, normally, I don't post warnings on content, but I will this time.

*Warning--this post contains content religious in nature and if that offends you in any way--well, first, it's odd that you're here, but anyway... this isn't the post you're looking for--move along.  I won't apologize for my religious or spiritual nature, but I also don't want contention or to offend anyone.*

*Consider yourself warned*

I haven't been secretive about my recent OCD struggles, but I don't think anyone without OCD can really understand the nature of OCD and how difficult it is.  I've now been off meds for an entire year, and it hasn't been a good thing.  It's been a hard year.  Unfortunately, the meds have nasty side effects.  Severe memory loss.  Elevated blood pressure.  Elevated heart rate.  Sweating.  Palpitations.  Muscle spasms.  Muscle memory problems (I forget how to make my muscles move the way I want them to.)  Dry mouth to the point my lips crack and the roof of my mouth peels and bleeds.  Sometimes, my throat is so sore that it swells and I think I'm choking to death.  Sexual side effects.  Headaches.  Insomnia.  Drowsiness.  Mood swings.  Appetite loss.  Weight gain.  Nausea.  Stomach pain.  Dizzy spells.  Hallucinations.  Vision aberrations.  I talk in my sleep... all night... when I can sleep.  And these are the meds that I can take because they don't make me suicidal as some of the meds did. I have three different meds that have to be taken three times a day at exact times (so I carry them with me everywhere and have alarms set.)  It's hell.  The meds are hell.  They control me rather than the other way around.  They rule everything I do.  I can't leave home without them--can't miss a dose--can't skip meals.

So, going back on meds... isn't a decision I leap into.  It's not going to be fun.  I knew it was an inevitability.  I knew I wouldn't be able to be off them forever. I'll need to ramp up my dosage over the course of a month or two months.  I'll need to go see my doctor and probably see him regularly again for the first few months.  I hate hospitals.  I hate doctor's offices.  It's expensive.  The meds are expensive.  The month of ramping up back onto them--will be awful.  The side effects as my brain fights the intrusion will make me wish I wasn't going back on them... maybe even wish I was in the middle of a nightmare that I could wake up from.  It'll be that bad.

On the other hand, there's my OCD.  Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can take many forms and have varied symptoms.  Mine is considered severe.  On the outside, if I didn't talk about it, you wouldn't know.  My symptoms aren't obvious.  One of my most severe symptoms never steps outside my head in fact.  The dark thoughts... the dark and crazy thoughts that make me think I'm evil and violent and dark.  It's all in my head.  The darkness gets thicker and thicker and harder to ignore... until I reach a point where I feel too dark to even be in church anymore.  I feel too dark to be around people.  I want to crawl into a corner and let the darkness have me--if it wants inside so much--just take me already.

You were probably wondering when I was going to bring up religion.

I woke up this morning and my first thought was: "You need to talk to your bishop about this."  For those unfamiliar with the LDS/Mormon church we have an unpaid clergy... in fact, we're all unpaid and volunteer.  Our tithes and offerings go to support the meetinghouses and welfare programs and support administration needs, but the actual clergy and offices are unpaid.  So, a Mormon bishop makes nothing for watching over and worrying over 500+ souls.  So, my next thought was: "The bishop is too busy."  I got ready for church and the feeling persisted until there was nearly a shout in my head, saying, "Wendy... talk to the bishop about your OCD."  I shouted back, "No, he'll think I'm a freak... and I don't want to waste his time." I went to church and the prompting in my head continued... and I pushed it back... and in the clutter of my crowded mind, I thought it would go away.

There are three hour-long blocks in a typical Sunday church meeting time.  During the second and third hours I'm the secretary in the children's organization and help out in there.  During the second hour, we were practicing a program, and I discovered there was no trash can in the room.  I went out into the hall to throw away some trash and passed the bishop.  He said, "How are you?" and I mumbled something noncommittal under my breath... here was my chance, but I couldn't take it.  I just couldn't.  I didn't deserve it anymore... the darkness had won.  I just couldn't.  The shouting voice in my head said, "Oh for crying out loud, Wendy!" but I ignored it.  When I turned from the trash can, he was watching me with a perplexed look and said, "I feel like we need to talk.  For some reason, I think we need to talk. Do you have a minute to talk?"

So, we went into his office and I told him... I told him everything.  I told him about the OCD and how awful it is but how the meds are their own version of hell too.  I told him all the stress we're going through.  How T seems to rage from one moment to the next.  How we can't seem to have two running cars at any given time.  How I don't even feel like I belong in the chapel anymore because I have such darkness in my head.  I told him that I feel like this will be the rest of my life... this need to be medicated in order to be acceptable.  I told him I'm a better person when I'm medicated and how much that hurts.  We ended up talking for over an hour about it.  He offered a few solutions to things, but mostly he just listened.

I've often wished we had confessionals in our church--so you could go tell someone these things.  Sometimes the need to confess is so strong.  And there is a cathartic feeling that comes from not carrying the burden of the secrets of your soul by yourself.

At the end, he asked if he could offer a prayer for me, and I agreed.  And in the loud chaos of my mind there was the quiet clarity of his voice as he prayed for enough peace within me to make the decision I'll need to.  For the first time in a long time, my mind is quiet again.  I can't tell you how rare this is right now or how good it feels to not feel the crowd yelling in my head.  I don't feel dark inside.  I don't feel evil--just like he told me I wasn't.

Our bishop is an amazing man.  I can't imagine the burden he must carry after days where people dump the emotional baggage that I just dropped on him.  I'm just one person and there are a lot of members in our ward...

I never told him that I'd felt like I should talk to him all morning, but I couldn't bring myself to intrude on his busy schedule.  He told me that he'd felt a strong prompting to talk to me when he saw me.

I don't really know how to classify this blog post.  It's about OCD.  It's a little about my family.  It's about being LDS/Mormon.  I don't even know why I'm mentioning it--other than maybe I still need that catharsis of unburdening myself after such an emotional experience.

My Mormon.org profile went live this week.  For those not LDS, our church has been very vocal about what we believe and who we are.  You've probably seen the "I'm a Mormon" ads on the internet and on tv.  We were asked to fill out a profile so that others could find kindred spirits and see we're more and less than we're made out to be.  I filled out my profile, and it was awaiting approval for quite a while.  Then... because the world is a small one after all, someone I know from Twitter contacted me to let me know he'd reviewed my profile and it was "live." If you're curious, here's mine: http://mormon.org/me/6J6T/Wendy/  You can go check it out and see that we're not all freaks.  (To find the non-freaks, you'll want to click on one of the profiles on the side, of course.)

Since this post is religious in nature--and I warned you--I'll delete comments that are negative in any way.  I doubt I'll have a problem with that, but I get weird spammy moments on here, and it wouldn't surprise me if this post nets a few.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Breakable Me

So, the title of this post is based on this song by Ingrid Michaelson: 

... and from the first time I heard it, it made me think of days and moments like today when you recognize you're fragile in so many ways.  You don't feel badass or even sturdy--you feel breakable--like your skin is actually egg shells instead of a coat.  

Right now that feeling is based on a lot of things.  I'm very stressed out.  Spring and fall are hard for me.  The season changes bring allergies and time adjustments and the rain--which means less Vitamin D. I also have a lot of strange memories that get to me.  In the spring, it's when B was diagnosed... and a few other unpleasant memories.  In fall, I had a really bad October four years ago when I was trying to get on medication for my OCD.  Every October since then I've felt haunted by those days.  It's silly to let dates and seasons depress me, but I never claimed to not be silly.  I know it's common in some with OCD to have these emotional connections to dates.  Some of January, March 8th, most of May, the time changes, October 31st... they're fragile times.  They've kept a piece of me that I can't seem to get back. 

Then, there are my kids.  T is having more bad days than good days lately. He's been struggling with manic violence again, and his school life seems to bounce between okay and upsetting.  B is doing well in school, but she is spending a lot of time distracted and in her own little origami world when home.  They're both fragile in their own ways.  I want to protect them while not sheltering them and this strange balance is killing me each year.  They have to adapt to a hostile world, but watching it and allowing it... is very hard.  I have to deal with their parent-teacher conferences in two weeks, and I just found out my husband has been tapped for a business trip for then.  He'll also be missing their annual church program.  The timing isn't his fault and not within his control... but it's lousy.

There is also the revision I've been working on with Secrets of Skin and Stone.  I've skipped around burn-out with this one.  I also did a few more revisions this year on other manuscripts--revisions that will need to be revisited.  Usually my revisions have felt more successful than these ones.  Maybe with a little more guidance or some perspective I'll be able to figure out where I went wrong, but... *sighs*  When you've done a lot of revision, it's a bit of a blow to your self esteem as a writer.  I never feel like my first draft is fantastic, but having to rework a manuscript over and over and over peels off those layers of self confidence. There's some point where the fragile being inside you just wants to whisper "am I good enough yet?"  That point was a month and a half ago. Sarah is going over my latest revision now, and I might have another round yet. 

Is it really any wonder I feel breakable?  Maybe other people handle it better.  Maybe they don't.  I just feel so fragile. 

So, I thought I would write and submit to this anthology: http://www.entangledinromance.com/2011/10/03/call-for-subs-superhero-anthology/  Working on a new WIP has felt really good actually.  It felt like magic and everything I love about writing.  It was beautiful and perfect... until I had to show other people.  Then, I got worried and fragile again.  Now, I just need to revise it before November 1st.  There's just one problem... there isn't enough time to just set it aside and come back to it myself in a few months and do most of the revision without help. I've used line-edit or intense betas in the past, but that was when I had some sort of shell.  I've got nothing now.  I write to escape from stress.  Right now, both my worlds feel like they're under attack.  It's got me thinking maybe I can't do this.  Maybe I can't make that deadline without pushing myself too much. 

I feel so fragile and breakable. I hate it.  I hate it so much.  I want to have that thick skin and pretend that nothing hurts and nothing matters, but I don't... I don't have that. 

How do you handle the days like this?  And what would you do about the anthology and revising something that you just want to pretend doesn't need to be revised? 

And we are so fragile,
And our cracking bones make noise,
And we are just,
Breakable, breakable, breakable girls and boys.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Shelving Books--Not in the Librarian Way

So, yesterday, I stopped writing the WIP I was working on, closed the document, and walked away from it. It was a novella, and I was only about 7K into it, but I just knew it wasn't working.  I had parts of it set in a lab, and I just didn't know enough about the setting or protocol.  I could have done a lot of research and so on but, in the end, it wasn't worth it to me and the story felt forced.  On the other hand, I immediately opened up another document and started another novella, and some of the aspects from the previously closed document were helpful in this new WIP already.

I've read a lot about trunk novels or shelved novels lately on the internet--most of it conflicting--which is common on the internet.

There is this post: Trunk Novels are an Endangered Species.   (Quote: But the world has changed, and now, not to put too fine a point on it, keeping a completed and coherent trunk novel (or short story) in the trunk is a mistake. It’s bad business. It’s simply…well…dumb.)  It's a very interesting take on it.  I don't entirely agree, but his reasoning is sound, if aggressively business-like.

Then, there was a post this week on Kidlit.com which somewhat addressed the subject of "other works" from a querying perspective: What to Query With.  (Quote: Every time you sit down to write, you are getting better. You’re learning. Sometimes it takes writing an entire novel-length manuscript to teach you a valuable lesson about your own craft. And sometimes, that lesson won’t get published. Sometimes, in fact, it takes five manuscripts, ten manuscripts, twenty, for you to feel your way around the novel form.)   (And Quote: I think it’s more reasonable to see your early work and your early, prolific output as more of an exercise rather than a finished product. As such, I don’t want to see all of your exercises in my inbox. Some practice is better left for your eyes only.) 

Which is mostly in line with something Kiersten White said on her blog: New! Books! Or, Writing is Never a Waste  (Quote: In the end, these are two entirely new books. But they are two entirely new books that would be impossible without all of the books that came before them. So if you are a writer, and you're sad that you might have to leave an early manuscript behind, please know that it's never a waste. You learned. You grew as a writer. You wrote what you could when you could, and what you write in the future will always, always benefit from what you wrote in the past.)

Some of you have probably noticed I'm a very prolific writer... or I was anyway.  I think I might only complete four novels this year--which is a lot for most people, but much fewer than normal for me.  I have a lot of novels I've shelved, and I don't regret any of them.  I learned so much about writing FROM writing.  There are just so many things that can only be learned from practice.  I know it makes some of my beta readers sad that I might not ever try to get some of my past writing published, but I feel like I'm stealing from and incorporating those books into every new story I write.  My writing is a product of everything I've ever written.  

Anyway, so yesterday... it was a little hard to close down that document because of how far along I was, but then I sat down and wrote 9K on the new story... the one that I couldn't write until I'd tried and failed at this other. 

I'm not sure how other writers feel about trunked/shelved books, but I like the thought of only my best work making the cut.  I might revise and eventually revisit some of those earlier books, but I'm satisfied if they were just really good books to practice on.