Tag Archives: writer’s block

Writing Calendar Success!

So, last week, after my post, I actually….

wait for it…

…WORKED ON MY BOOK!

Can you imagine?  Actual writing getting done because I set myself up on a schedule! I didn’t write a lot, but I finished a chapter and that’s something to celebrate.  I’ve come to a crossroads in my story. Remember the character I couldn’t get to come back when he walked off the page? And then finally he came back?

Well, he’s now just died. As was his purpose.

So, we have come to the climax. The fork in the road. The s**t or get off the pot moment.

My main character has some decisions to make and I’ve gotta say, I have no earthly idea what’s going to happen next.  Well, I know what’s going to happen in the next chapter, but after that, I’m walking in the dark without a flashlight. You might recall my story is based on an actual person and I know a little of what that person did with the rest of her life from census records.

But being loosely based on a real person and writing a biography are two completely different sections of the bookstore, and I want my version of this person to decide what she wants to do and not what historical records say she has already done.

I mean, I’ve been following her lead this whole way, so why would the rest of the story be any different? I just wish she would give me a little more advance insight into her plans, because fly by the seat of my pants writing has gotten me stuck in more than one pickle jar as I’ve gone along.

It’s a good thing I like pickles.

 

Word count: 37,576

 

 

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Compliments Will Get You Everywhere

I had two compliments last week in my day job that have spurred me on to really focus on my writing.

I do a bit of writing for my employer…newsletters and blog posts.  The thing is ~ it’s a boating organization, of which I know little.  So, I’ve been plugging along, learning as I go and enjoying the ability to live vicariously through these boaters.

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Well, two different people were so impressed with things I had written that one complimented me directly and the other one complimented me to my boss (which is probably even BETTER).  Haha!

One of the ladies was surprised to learn that I’m not really a boater because the information I wrote for a route segment on the website sounded so authentic she  thought it was written by someone who had been out on the water. That made my day.  That means two things:  First, that I’m starting to understand things like shoaling and tides and what type of boat a Catamaran is. Second, not only am I beginning to put it all together, but I’m doing it in such a way, that I sound experienced and knowledgeable!

The second woman, has been boating for a long time. We wanted to highlight her in a blog post and she sent me pages of typed notes that she had been assembling of her travels with the hope of turning it into a book. Right now, it’s more like journal entries, but she’s got some great information there with some beautiful experiences that she does a great job of expressing.  She warned me that what she sent me was pretty long and she wasn’t sure if there was anything there I could use or not, but I was free to do as I may.

So I did.

And after the post was written, she told my boss that I did a great job of taking her pages of notes and turning them into a story.

Now, when she’s ready to turn her experiences into a book, I hope she keeps me in mind.

In any event, I’m feeling pretty good about my writing chops these days, so I really needed to put my butt back in my writing chair.

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I’ve tried this before and been unsuccessful, but I created a little schedule for myself. I have so many things I want to work on, that I can never seem to decide what to work on first.  So, I’m going to work on different projects on different days of the week, with the weekends being free days.

I have a craft day, writing day, genealogy day…you get the idea.  That way, I’m getting my hands on everything that makes me happy at some time during the course of a week. We’ll see if I can make it stick this time.

If you haven’t already figured it out, today is writing day.  So, from here, I’m going right to my novel and I’m going to write until I start to fall asleep at the keyboard.

So, till about 8:30.  haha!

 

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Letting Your Story Marinate

I can’t believe two months have flown by since my last post. In my defense, I had two work events – the one where I wrote my last post and another one in November. And by then we were sailing straight into Thanksgiving. And now, we’re tumbling right into Christmas and the New Year.

On the plus side, I DID write as planned at my work event in October.  Sadly, I haven’t written a word since I’ve gotten back.

But I’ve read that just as much of the writing happens in your head when you are not writing as happens when you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). Sometimes the story needs to sit in your head and marinate for a bit.

When I was figuring out how to bring my main male character back home after he walked away, it took a bit to come up with a satisfying story line to explain his absence. And then I had to find a way to bring him back because he needed to get sick and die. It’s what causes my main female character to take some chances. To get up out of the rut she has allowed society to box her into and make some changes in her life. It’s her chance to grow. His death – caused in part by the society they lived in – will give her the strength and determination to rise above. After all, she has children to raise. And she wants to be an example for them to follow. Her babies are the first generation born free and she will not allow them to accept being treated as slaves.

In any event, I had written myself into a place where I needed some time to mull it over and find a way to bring him to the illness to which he succumbs. A diphtheria epidemic rolls through Charleston and their youngest child becomes ill.  In working with the general idea that illness generally is hardest on the young, the elderly and the weak, it’s going to take him and the young child. This is going to be the most painful thing my main character has ever gone through (even having been born into slavery) and it’s going to be the fuel she needs to make changes.

Don’t ask what those changes are, because right now, I haven’t a clue. I have to wait for the story to get that far so I can see what direction she wants to take. Will she leave Charleston? Will she stay and fight for her rights? I expect she will stay, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned through this process is that you can never assume you know what your character wants to do until she’s right there, having to take action.

Word count 38,068

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It’s Like Beginning Again

After this much time away from my novel, I’ve had to spend time reading it. I had to get back in touch with the details I wrote over a year ago and forgot about completely.

I had forgotten that Margaret’s old friend’s husband beat up her new friend’s husband because of the color of his skin. This is why Margaret’s husband was walking away. His idealistic view of society crashed and burned around him as he watched the man who was his cousin beat a black man into a bloody mess just for being a black man trying to vote.

After this revelation, I wondered what else I might have forgotten that would be important as I move forward again.

I didn’t read all 50 pages word for word, but I scanned much of it just to feel again like it was mine – my words on the page.

And I was able to largely pick up where I left off, as if I hadn’t taken a year-long break.

In other news, I passed my final for the medical billing & coding program. Maybe I learned more of it then I thought but the exam was multiple choice, so really it was a matter of not choosing the answers I knew were wrong.  That would leave me with only two plausible answers to the question. I realize I could still have bombed it if I wasn’t able to correctly identify the right answer between the two, so I’m back to thinking maybe I learned a little more than I thought.

This weekend my husband and I went on a much needed mini vacay. You might recall we are from Wisconsin. In Wisconsin, we have a custard shop called Culver’s. They have a grill and do burgers and such, but their claim to fame is the custard. We love Culver’s. It’s one of the things we miss most about having moved hundreds of miles away. Imagine our delight two years ago when we discovered there was a Culver’s in Greenville, SC. Only problem is that Greenville is a three hour drive.

One way.

Now you know how good the custard is, because we’ve made this trip twice so far. Usually, we make a weekend of it – get a hotel room and find some things to do. We eat every meal at Culver’s. Except breakfast, but only because they don’t serve breakfast.

On Monday, my husband started talking about how he really wanted to get some custard. Because I’m off every weekend now, it was easy to reserve a hotel room and spend the rest of the week waiting until we could hit the road.

We drove up Friday evening and had our favorite butter burgers for dinner. We shared an order of deep fried cheese curds and he had a raspberry shake.

Here’s another ringing endorsement for how good the custard is.  I’m lactose intolerant. I can eat cheese, but milk and ice cream turn my stomach into a…well, you can imagine. Culver’s custard is well worth the stomach turmoil.

The first time we went up, we wondered if we could transport custard home with us. We bought a small cooler, bought 2 pints each of our favorite flavors (John loves red raspberry, while I prefer bonfire smores), filled the cooler with ice and made the three hour journey back to Charleston.

It worked so well that this time, we got a second cooler and brought back 4 pints each. I think this will quickly become a yearly pilgrimage.

Which is perfect, because I also have a love of waterfalls. Charleston, as you know, is a coastal community. I adore the beach, but now that I have the beach all the time, I’m developing an appreciation for the mountains. More specifically, waterfalls in the mountains. So, each time we’ve gone to Greenville, we’ve gone to see a different waterfall.  The brochure I have shows 7 waterfalls in Greenville County alone. We’ve got 5 more years of easily tying our love of custard into a weekend getaway to see a different waterfall.

The first time we went up, we went to Reedy River Falls, right in downtown Greenville.

reedy river falls

It was a pretty dry year and it wasn’t that impressive, but it didn’t matter to me – I love the sounds of moving water (partly why I love the beach so much, with the constant crashing of the waves).

This year, we went to get a look at Wildcat Branch Falls, largely because it was supposed to be the easiest one to find – you were supposed to be able to see it right off the highway. I think the trees must have grown up a little since my brochure was printed, but we did manage to find it.

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It’s been raining like crazy by the coast, so I had hoped for better rain in the upstate too.  Obviously they haven’t gotten as much. But it was a nice waterfall and we did a 1/4 mile hike that took us by two more waterfalls – one of them about half the size, located directly above and behind the main one in the picture. Back further into the woods was a huge waterfall that, with more recent rains, would have been amazing to see. The rock ledge looked as tall as the tree tops (officially, 100 feet tall), with smooth rocks all the way to the rocky and wooded trail where we stood. I gazed at it in wonder. The picture does not do it justice.

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Again, the water cascading over the top wasn’t as impressive as it could have been, but I loved it anyway.

The water energizes me and I came back from Greenville ready to get back to writing.

Or ready to eat custard.

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Finally Finished My Studies!

It’s been a long road that I still don’t know is going to bear any fruit, but I finished my final exam today for the medical billing and coding program. Fingers crossed I passed and I don’t have to take it again! I won’t know how I did for about two weeks. I should be insane with worry by then.

But, enough about that – now I can get back to writing!

This might have been just what I needed – a year-long break to mull over the plot corner I had written myself into – because I have just the solution to get my character’s husband to come back to the story. Yay, me!

I’ve also recently started a new job – away from the storage industry and into recreational boating. A large part of my job consists of writing newsletters. How much more perfect could a job be? Well, if I was being paid to sit on my sofa and read, that would be more perfect, but for real world jobs, I finally lucked out. The job is close to my house (and could end up turning into work-from-home at some point down the line) and I can wear jeans and flip-flops to the office. I’m about as happy as I can recall ever being about a job, so that’s a huge win.

This all means I should be back to doing some regular writing and blogging again.

It feels good to be back.

 

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Priorities

I’m writing this post from my day job. I had to make The Drive to a store 20 miles from my house, so I left super early. It occurred to me a couple of days ago that it’s been FOREVER since I updated y’all on how the book is going.

It’s not going.

Not stopped forever, just for right now.

Besides, the character who walked away has still not decided he wants to come back.

I decided my husband is right – I have to focus on getting through my education. I am supposed to have the program completed by May 18 and that’s going to be a struggle. I’ve only just gotten to the actual coding part of the course (everything else I’ve been doing was medical terminology, pathological conditions and treatments) and it has been challenging. My older brain needs more time to put all of this together, but I don’t really have the luxury of time. I’m taking a week vacation from work in April to try to get as much of the school work knocked out as possible.

I do, however, have another book idea taking shape in my head, so there’s that.

So, hopefully, in a month or two, my focus will return to the book and my wayward character will give me a break and come back to the story.

 

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My First Hurricane

I now understand why the natives make light of hurricanes. You have to or it will make you lose your mind.

The meteorologists brought Matthew to our attention before the storm had even earned a name. We’re talking weeks of weather segments on every local TV channel giving us the latest update about where the storm was currently and where it “might” possibly go next. For a storm that started somewhere towards Africa, traveling about 12 miles an hour, the average local has time to sell their home, pack up, drive all their worldly possessions to Ohio, then unpack and settle into their new home long before the storm will cause a ripple on the beach.

Anyone who has lived along the coast for any length of time knows this. I learned quickly that if the natives talk less of hurricane parties and more about boarding up windows, we’re screwed.

I haven’t lived along the coast for that much time and I was worried from the very first spaghetti models showing Matthew coming right up along the coast.

Once the Weather Channel got involved, I was updating my life insurance beneficiary – no sense in it being my husband because, according to the Weather Channel folks, we were all going to die. I understand having to take the storm seriously, but it seemed a little bit to me like this was their 15 minutes of fame and they were darn well going to make the most of it.

I can’t speak for everyone, but my husband and I only watch the Weather Channel when there’s a weather crisis somewhere that might affect our family or friends. Because our local meteorologists weren’t on 24/7 (until the storm actually got to our shores) we were often forced to watch the Weather Channel if we wanted to know how our friends in Florida were faring. I think the Weather Channel knows this so they better hit the ground running and give us the best storm coverage they can muster up.

I didn’t see/hear this myself, but one of our friends watching the coverage from Wisconsin said one meteorologist (I’m not sure what channel he was watching) basically said anyone who doesn’t evacuate should put their social security number on their arm in permanent marker so the body could be identified later. WHAT!?

Even though it was my first hurricane, it seemed that a storm not scheduled to even make land fall (at that point) could be so serious that you better make it easier for the morgue to contact your next of kin.

Certainly Hurricane Matthew was serious and it did a lot of damage, but I don’t think it warranted that bit of gruesome advice. The storm was more deadly in Cuba, Haiti and other islands in the Atlantic, but for the U.S., the magic marker advice was a bit heavy-handed. I hope that person was reprimanded off air.

Nevertheless, the impending doom and gloom of Matthew was a train wreck I couldn’t turn away from. I didn’t write, I barely went to work (in fact, three days before the storm arrived, the governor declared mandatory evacuation of the coastal communities, so I didn’t go to work because various roads were closed). We stocked up on water, non-perishables and batteries just like everyone else. We bought a generator and took the flag pole down off the porch. We sat down with our TV tuned to the Weather Channel, changing the channel only for our local news. We went to the Waffle House because that was the only place open.

Seriously, they never close.

The waitresses were talking about who was scheduled to work on Saturday (when Matthew was scheduled to visit our slice of shoreline). We asked them if they were for real going to be open during the storm. One of them nodded her head, “The windows might all blow out, but we’ll be here.” I turned to look at the two walls of nothing but floor to ceiling glass windows. My jaw dropped straight into my chocolate chip waffles.

I spent several days with a migraine headache surely caused by the fact that I slept little more than 4 hours a night for almost a week. By Friday, my husband and I decided that waiting was the worst part.

I found the whole thing hideously ominous. The sun would be out, but on the TV, we could see Matthew blowing into Florida and bending palm trees in half. It was a little bit like watching ourselves inside of a horror movie. We knew Jason was coming…he was around the next bend…but he had all the control. We were tied to a palm tree in the middle of town and had no choice but to wait him out.

Friday night we slept in shifts. If something happened, one of us would be awake and aware. Not that either one of us could sleep anyway. I think that was the scariest part for me. Why do these things always come to town under cover of darkness? You can’t see the wind swaying the trees to the point of pulling them out of the ground. You don’t know if the water rushing down the road is also creeping silently up to your front door. It’s harder to be pro-active when you can’t see the enemy coming.

Fortunately, we made it through the storm with only a few shingles missing from the roof and a broken gate on our fence. We can see cracks in the ground where one of our trees had been swinging in the wind. Thankfully, it didn’t come down. That tree will be removed – hopefully before the next storm blows our way.

Hopefully, there won’t be another one for many years.

 

 

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