I can.

Yesterday I was in a funk. A mood. Something inside me felt like it was cracking open and that actually scared me.

And I do not scare easily.

All around me were giants. Hulking masses with clubs.

All around me were possibilities. Ethereal and tangible and opaque and translucent.

All around me were things outside my control. And I love to maintain control. Relinquishing it? That’s just a fancy word for lose.

I wanted to get some work done, and I couldn’t. I couldn’t get above the fog long enough to focus. Because I couldn’t stop looking everything around me that I needed or wanted to hold together.

I kept seeing myself at Barnes and Noble. A three-story beauty with windows that look out over the whimsically lovely courtyard at the Americana Mall in Glendale.

I kept seeing it, and so finally I took myself there. I rode escalators to the top floor where all the romance and thrillers, the YAs and middle grades live. I wandered the floor and looked at the books, considered buying some but mostly just touched them.

Absorbed the power of imagination inside them.

I stepped outside to the patio lined with tables and chairs, found a spot, and got set up.

I didn’t start working right away.

I watched the fountain dance to the beat of the music. Watched tree leaves rustle in the breeze. I watched the ground below me, felt like a bird perched on a ledge, surveying and unencumbered by the need to walk.

Then I had ideas and I did crack open.

I kept on cracking open for the rest of the day, into the night, where I cried while watching my son sleep curled around a dragon-dog stuffed toy, snoring lightly. Because I remembered when my biggest fear in the world was that I wouldn’t ever get pregnant. That I’d never have him at all. That even if I did, I’d somehow screw it up.

But there he was, 10 years old now, and so much lovelier than I ever imagined, so worth all the faith and the struggle, fighting my giants of fear, relinquishing my control to just trust.

If I did it for him, for the dream of him and the reality of him, couldn’t I do it again for all the other dreams – the uncountable number I hold in my heart?

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Writing is the JOB

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Here’s the thing: I don’t actually think it is any easier to show up to the work we feel required to do — the work with immediate financial return — than to show up to our creative work.
 
Both require commitment. Both present challenges. Both can be frustrating/exhilarating/mind-stretching.
 
The difference is how we value the creative work – how we allow ourselves to treat it.
 
When my son was 2-years-old and I decided to commit to the WRITER in me dying to run free, I had to confront the idea that as a stay-at-home-mom my writing could always be placed on the back burner.
 
Right behind the mac ‘n cheese and broccoli.
 
I had to begin to shift my thinking from:
 
First, I take care of everything that needs to be done around the house, I make sure to play for a few hours with my son, I get dinner prepped, and THEN I can write if I am not asleep on the couch by seven pm.
 
To:
 
The house can be messy, or someone else who lives here can pitch in. I can hire a babysitter occasionally. We can order take-out. My husband can put the kid to bed. Screen time will not kill my child – I want to finish this scene.
 
The writing MATTERS, it is real and important and I have a right to pursue it.
 
My job as a mom remains demanding. My job as a freelance editor and book biz coach continues to require energy and time. I am a social butterfly who loves to hang out with friends and go do fun things in LA.
 
My writing WILL NOT be put on the back burner no matter what else winds up on my plate.
 
My plate is full with valuable, interesting things and I am lucky.
 
We cannot achieve the big dreams we harbor inside without agreeing to make big changes to the way we view our passions.
 
YOUR writing is a job worthy of YOUR time.
 
Value the creative life and the creative life will begin to pour out of you.

COMMIT

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WRITING DOESN’T HAVE TO BE A HOBBY.

When I was 26 -years-old, I moved to Brooklyn with my husband and son. The move was for my husband’s career — at the time my career was caring for my then two-year-old son. But I had always WANTED to write. To be a WRITER. I had dabbled in it for years- mostly with one act plays and screenplays that lived in perpetually unfinished states of being.

Writing was a hobby, for me, not a career.

I will never forget the moment that changed. I was sitting on my front stoop watching my son draw with chalk on the sidewalk. The sun was low and everything was bathed in orange and pink light. I had just started writing my first novel EVER and I was in that heady stage of early romance with the process. It was unfamiliar and sexy and deeply, unthinkably terrifying.

It was a beautiful evening, and I was doing what I had always done with my time — and LOVED doing — except one thing had changed.

ME.

My fingers itched to type. My head swam with a character’s voice. I was in another world and it was exactly where I wanted to be. Right then and there, I knew I had to commit.
I had to call myself a WRITER.

I had to admit I wanted to make money with my craft. I had to claim the time necessary to get there. Because I wanted it for more than a hobby — I was love-drunk with it and I never wanted to break up. I knew that in order to get where I wanted to go, I had to stop pretending there was anywhere else I COULD go. That any other thing would ever be ENOUGH.

Making the transition from I WRITE IN MY SPARE TIME to I AM A WRITER takes nothing more than a moment of choice. For me, that moment was there on a red brick stoop outside my Brooklyn pad, watching the sunset and knowing I had work yet to do that day. Every time I sit down to write, I commit again. I’ve been committing for seven-years straight. Through multiple novels and screenplays, ghostwriting jobs, and MANY ups and downs in the publishing industry.

I KEEP ON COMMITTING.

If you want to be a writer – then you are one. You don’t need permission. You just need to commit.

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I put a timer on my life in LA.

Subconsciously, in subtle, but subverting ways, and because I thought that wanting to be here, wanting this life, this spot, this experience, needed to be justified in order to be valid. Then, and WAY WORSE, I realized, it wasn’t just LA I had put a timer on – it was EVERYTHING.

Somewhere along the way I made my DESIRES something I had to prove valid.

Something I had to justify wanting at all.

Over the summer, my family spent time back in Texas. A lot of time. More than we expected. And it was good, and joyful, and meaningful for us to be close to our families again, living alongside them and seeing all the changes, laughing, crying, complaining about the heat. But it also opened my eyes to something surprising.

I WANT to live in LA – and not because I don’t love Texas. Not because I don’t long to be near my family. Not because LA is better — life is much more complicated than better or worse. And it wasn’t because I want to MAKE IT. It wasn’t for any other reason than…

I wanted this – that’s it.

I choose this place. This journey. We all choose it – my husband, son, and I.

And we don’t have to validate our choice.

I don’t have to validate it and I don’t need a timer.

I never DID.

I only thought I did because…

I thought WANT was a dirty word.

Like NEEDING is better. Like SUPPOSED TO is somehow more justified or noble.

As if something deemed noble — like a calling, like a destiny, like a purpose — is better than wanting it and going for it and that’s it. Want is not inherently selfish — though, yes, it can become that way. Just like money is not evil, though many evil people seek it, acquire it, misuse it. Same with power. Same with fame.

WANT is desire, and passion and drive. WANT is why we keep going when supposed to, need to, because I should, dies on the vine.

And also…

Choosing is scary AF.

Because when we choose, we say goodbye to option B through D. We can’t keep daydreaming about the what if because now we’re living the RIGHT THIS EFFING MOMENT.

Choosing means saying yes everyday even when we want to throw in the towel. Choosing means not blaming anything, or anyone, for the shit along the way, because WE chose, and we DID have other choices — we always have other choices. It’s scary because..

What if we choose from that want then what IF we are wrong?

The day after I got back to LA, carrying all this new WANT, and CERTAINTY, and HELL YES, inside me, I went shopping with my friends. It was one of those afternoons where you talk deep and long while winding through Bloomingdales, trying on make-up and dresses and dreams, where you end up sipping Rose at an outdoor cafe, bathed in sunset and satisfaction.

It was the kind of day where you choose something just because you can. I chose Jimmy Choo sunglasses. I am really happy with my choice.

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What you want can be yours. You just have to CHOOSE.

And then you have to be willing to live that choice everyday.

 

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Author Mentor Match: Seeking Unicorns

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In the YA and MG (that’s Young Adult and Middle Grade, for those accidentally wandering onto this blog) community, helping other writers find their voice and reach their potential is a common, time-honored tradition. This community is one built by readers, and many writers working to be a part of the published YA or MG world, believe that the more strong, beautiful voices, the better.

Author Mentor Match is not a competition. It is a space to link a more seasoned or further along in the journey author with one getting ready to dive into deep waters. I am excited to be a part. To find a writer to mentor and help flourish on their way to greatness. (Just like Slytherin House could have helped Harry embrace his dark Horcrux.)

Below is the link to my personal mentor page, where you can find more about what kind of manuscript I am looking for. I am also linking the main page, because you may not want to submit to me. There are AMAZING mentors all around and so much opportunity, peruse and find your perfect fit. Plus, all the rules and details can be found on the website.

You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram for more #MSWL (Manuscript Wish List) as they come to me.

My Mentor Profile || Author Mentor Match Main Page || Twitter || Instagram

On Writing a Novel: Revision is not a Four Letter Word

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Revision is a bloodbath. It is an assault on words you vomited — eked, spit, sweat — onto the page during drafting. It is where you get to the heart of your story. It sometimes involves massive cuts, sometimes surgical edits. Sometimes it is about character, and others about prose. It is a process, and while there is no one infallible way to revise, there are some truths universally acknowledged.

Write Tip #1: You must read your entire manuscript, from start to finish. There are no exceptions.

As you begin to read your manuscript, you will consider carving out your eyes with a melon baller as an alternative to reading anymore. Push past that and separate yourself from the hope that your first draft isn’t total shit. Even if you are a seasoned and stupendous writer, your first draft will have cringeworthy moments.

This read through is to identify the Global Problems. World building, themes, arcs — these are all Global. Focus on those first. Are they all working? Did you drop a thread somewhere in the middle and never pick it back up? Are character arcs satisfying? Is the voice consistent?

Once you have read and unearthed the large problems in your manuscript you can make a plan.

Write Tip #2: Do not begin cutting and slicing before deciding on a plan of action that will address the problems in your manuscript. Then write it down.

Break your problems up into categories. Define them by character. Divide them by plot point. I cannot tell you how best to organize the list of issues you will likely uncover.  It will all feel a lot more manageable if you organize it in a way that helps you relate to the story with fresh eyes.

If you focused on plot in the drafting stage, try organizing your revision by character arc and internal goals. If you were all internals and forgot plot points even existed, focus on the story structure.

Write Tip #3: Take it one step at a time. It is easy to get overwhelmed during revision, breaking it down into bite size pieces is how you avoid that.

During a recent revision I had to cut a character. Not kill her. Cut her – remove her from the story entirely. The first step was extracting her from every scene she was featured in. Then, I made notes with Track Changes to remind myself that the scene would need to be reworked later. I did this throughout the entire manuscript until all evidence of her existence had been edited away. I was then able to go back and revise the now chopped up scenes all at once.

Write Tip #4: When the first set of revisions is complete, and before sending it to critique partners, read it again, this time focusing on Local Problems.

Local Problems — grammar, punctuation, word choice and narrative flow. Local problems have a big influence on how the manuscript reads, and while they might not be as glaringly obvious as Global Problems, they are just as important.

You will never be able to make everything perfect, and even with reading and rereading you may not notice all the problems in your own manuscript. Print and read your draft aloud. When you stumble on the prose, examine why.

Write Tip #5: Give it to readers and begin work on another project. At some point you will take a draft as far as you can on your own, and a fresh set of eyes is essential. While those eyes are perusing, take out a Shiny New Idea from the vault and ask yourself what if?

Next up: Handling critique, revising on feedback, and preparing to query. 

To check out previous posts in this series follow these handy links ::

Planning and Research

Drafting until it’s Drafted.

 

Busy, busy bee…

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Much of my creative energy has been going to actually writing. No, plotting. No, thinking. No, all of the above. These last few weeks have been full, to the brim, overflowing. I would like to say I am not kind of person who likes to be busy, that busyness pulls me from a carefully constructed shell where creativity is guarded, but that’s not entirely true.

As a writer, time alone with my thoughts is valuable. Necessary. The only way actual words get down. As a person who edges easily toward the OCD overpass right off anxiety highway, alone time (when not actually writing or doing something I see as productive) is a slippery slope. A carefully constructed busy can be the best possible way to jumpstart my creative, while also maintaing my sane.

Last Thursday I went to an author signing and panel in Frisco, TX featuring the fabulous talent of Tessa Gratton, Myra McEntire, Tara Hudson and Sonia Gensler. Before the event, my dear friend and 2014 debut author Lindsay Cummings signed us up for a Fresh Fiction organized dinner with the authors. I was one of the very few writers present at this dinner that was unagented or unpublished. I don’t say this for sympathy, being in the company of these many talented women was inspiring. Lindsay and I were seated with Tessa Gratton, who I heartily recommend you follow on Twitter, buy her books, and generally adore. She said something at dinner about writers commonly being introverts, and that she has learned to play the extrovert for the purpose of promoting her books.

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I would agree with her, most writers are introverts. I am not. I am also not a people person. I don’t love everyone. I don’t get along with everyone. I define friendship, at the most basic level, as a connection born from mutual interest, mutual respect, or mutual benefit…or all of these things.

I do well in social situations where there is a common love of storytelling, whether that mean they’re filmmakers, writers, of fans of Dr. Who. I will not (happily, without much resistance) entertain a conversation about breast milk, or Obama, or baking. (Though, if you are a baker who likes books, I will love you forever.)

What does this have to do with busyness? There are inevitable times where we are more productive, more creatively affluent, more stimulated and therefore more in demand. This can mean professionally, personally, emotionally, but rest assured whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, you will have to conquer your inherent inner monologue to succeed. I enjoy socially engaging. I am a bit of a performer. I am a fan of banter. But at the end of the day, I’m a writer, and in order to succeed I have to will myself away from the lure of the spotlight or the joy of connecting socially, to connect with the creative ability inside.

When I was a girl, my uncle who likes to recite limericks of all kinds, used one in particular on me and my brothers. The Busy, Busy Bee.

The busy, busy bee he circles all around; the busy, busy bee, he needs a place to land, he’ll circle round your nose, he’ll circle round your toes, he’ll pull out his stinger, and he’ll get you in the seat!

Life is a balance, between our desires and our fears, between what we know we can do and what we long to conquer. Busy is a poor descriptive word for searching, and as you search, you start to connect.