Thursday, April 29, 2010


I've been temping at a new job and the insanity is finally winding down. In this instance insanity is defined as working 14 days straight with overtime sprinkled on top. * Children? I have children? Oh, yeah, I remember them. They're cute.* Type of thing. A birthday that passed by and made me think, really think of where I am and where I want to be in life. Not to mention one of my days off was spent at a funeral for a beloved family member. So as an understatement these past two months has been a little crazy.

And all of it has changed my clarity on so many issues. Since this is a blog about writers...

The definition of published is not in the eye of the beholder, but definitely why one wants to be published is. And in those quiet moments I've asked myself why do I want to published. With only enough time to sleep and eat writing has been pushed to the back burner for the first time in many years.

I mean, the people I work with don't know that I write. Let alone that I'm published. I'm a little ashamed to say I find this freeing. I'm not asked "When is the next book coming out?" So there is no answer that makes me feel like a failure in some way. Maybe that just means I need to have that separation of church and state i.e. Melissa the person and Melissa the writer.

But I think it means I need to find clarity on why I want to be published. The answer is there, but like I write I need to fill in the middle, which I dread. The thing is the answer won't be what it used to be. At least not the one I used to have secretly, but now it's because being published means having a career in something I'm absolutely passionate about. But first I have to get to the answer. I have to fill in those blank spaces between the question and the answer in order to know how to proceed.

Why do you want to be published? What was your journey from the question to the answer?

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Over the past year an idea -- a dream -- has been knocking around in my head. Could I retire and become a full time writer? If I focused 100% on writing -- put as much time and effort into it as I do my job, would I achieve success? I believe, I believe, I believe . . . yes, I would.

I have a great job, a lifetime of experience. It's rewarding work and I'm good at it. It represents security. And I'm making a difference in people's lives. Why would I want to turn my back on all that? But a little voice keeps whispering, "why not follow your dream?" In the back of my mind I know I have a safety net: if I just can't swing it I can go back to work. Of utmost importance to me is the medical insurance I get as part of my retirement. Without that, this would be impossible to pursue. What have I really got to lose?

If I retire now, my monthly pension will be much smaller than if I wait, and I'll have permanently lost that larger pension. My income will be approximately 1/3 of what I currently earn. (Yikes!) And I'll be the only motivation I have to pursue my new profession. I'll have to sit my butt in that chair every day. Can I do it?

I've put some money aside that I can use to supplement my pension. I'll have to be verrrrry frugal. But I want to follow that dream. I want to do something totally different than what I've done for the past 37 years. I want to give myself that opportunity. My co-workers are surprised that I'm retiring so young. "You're too young" they say. "What are you doing to do?" I tell them I'll still be working full time. I'm going to have a whole new career as a writer. I write historical romance. I'm going to follow my dream and give it a shot.

They're encouraging and happy for me. And every time I say it, it becomes a little more real, a little more possible.

I have to be brave, I have to be determined. I'm not really sure where all that's coming from, except deep down inside I do believe. I've worked hard at my craft. I have one completed, polished manuscript and I'm one-third of the way through my current WIP. I know it takes more than talent, hard work and perseverance. It takes the right time, right place, right person, too. I'm thinking maybe I can find a bit of luck.

Thinking of all the women who'd like to be able to do this but can't gives me the courage to go forward. So May 29, 2010 I officially become a full time writer. I will consider my profession to be Writer. I expect to be successful -- three years seems a reasonable goal. Yes, I Believe.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

That One Thing

I talked about that One Thing in my last post. For me it's not motivation or goal. It's the deep dark secret thing the character needs or maybe even wants. The one thing the character admits to when no one else is around or his/her usual barriers are down. It's the one thing they've been running from, because having it and losing it is the ONE THING they don't know they'll be able to survive.

It's not an easy thing to pinpoint. It may take the fifth draft of the book before it truly hits me. Of course I then go back to make sure it's not just in my head, but also on the page. The only way to find it is knowing my character. Writing is circular in that way. Need a plot? Find out who your character is. Need an overall goal for your novel? Find out who your character is.

So how do you find that one thing? Unfortunately it doesn't show up in the ms color-coded or followed by !!!! to emphasize it's importance. Oh, how I wish, because it can be anywhere. And sadly, it's like porn you know when you see it. I've written or read it and something in me paused. I come across it and all the layers I've surrounded my character with makes sense.

Let me see if I can make this clear as mud with an example:

I have this hero. He's all business. He grew up poor, but his push has nothing do with not being poor ever again. At first I thought it had everything to do with his father being murdered. Losing someone in such a violent and sudden way can skew you in a way that can't be defined. For him it made him focus with a tunnel vision that made him torture himself and refuse the lighter side of life. So, of course he wouldn't stop to smell the roses. And, of course pairing him with someone who manages to do everything but focus would drive him insane.

In a way I was right. Losing his father was the One Thing, but only the top layer.

Father murdered.

Scared of losing someone else he loves.

That fear turns into him not connecting with others in a deep and intimate way.

The heroine's way of living is his idea of worst nightmare. He pushes her away and by doing that pushing away the very thought of intimacy.

Yet when they get closer he tells himself their attraction, their compatibility is out of his control. When it's really him finally rejecting the idea he doesn't want intimacy.

Then I came across this:

He could have Lynne who made him forget reason. Forget his purpose for being in this town. Make Nate forget the grief that wanted to choke him at night when he was alone.

Out of context this makes absolutely no sense, but when I wrote this I had to stop. Yes, he wants intimacy and is sabotaging himself in order to get it. It's something he craves, but in order for him to have it he has to let go of the grief. The same grief that goes away when he's with the heroine.

His One Thing is letting go. He believes if he lets go of his goal (the goal is the physical manifestation of this ---->), lets go of the grief he will somehow forget his father and making his father's life in vain. It's the one thing he admits to himself when no one else is around--he wants to stop grieving for his father. He secretly wishes that constant ache would lessen.

No the realization isn't ground breaking, but everything about my hero made sense--why he was so cold, why he was fighting to death for his goal, why loving the heroine was the absolutely last thing he wanted to do (not for the idea of loving someone is scary, but what he would have to give up in order to love her). The wonderful thing, it also helped me see what the ending needed to be.

Which is the One Thing I'm still looking for with the new story I talked about. Sigh. Needle in the haystack, anyone?

Have you found your character's One Thing?

Monday, January 25, 2010

I Have No Idea

How my current story is going to end. To a non-writer this may make no sense at all. The logical set up is that you have a story in your head. That's where it resides. Since it does you should know every facet of the characters, the plot, and the ending.

The truth is every writer makes it up as they go. I say this even for a plotter. While they may use some tool to help them plan before they sit down to write Chapter 1 they still don't know every facet of the story before they use a tool.

So here I am with my names, a plot, some backstory, but I just can't fathom how the story ends. To be honest I'm at war with the hero making the ultimate sacrafice again in one of my stories. Maybe I've been trying to strike a blow for womenkind who have had to make sacrafices for centuries when it comes to love and family.

More likely, while I'm penning the novel the perfect solution will hit me. The one thing I do strive for is that the characters meet each other half-way. A part of love, for me, means letting go of the things you should have done a long time. (usually a faulty belief system.) You have to let whatever it is in order to have that HEA. At this point of the story (I have a plot and some pages written) I can't say with 100 percent certainty what it is my chracters need to let go. Fear, hurt, self-doubt all manifests itself differently. For all I know the heroine has a ring that somehow symbolizes the ONE THING and she has to give it away, lose it, or throw into the ocean to finally be free.

But that's the thing, I have no idea. And THAT'S the reason why I keep writing. Why I love it when a story takes ahold of me. It's an uncertainty in my life that I don't have any control over, but it has yet to fail me.

What don't you know about your story right now?