Writing Like a Panster

I finished my latest Manuscript and am seeking representation, which can be a long process. So, until then, I’ve started a new project.

But it’s been slow going so far, and I think I know why.

I’m OVER-THINKING.

I’m not an outliner, I’m a “Panster.” Which is weird, because being a “Panster” goes against every other part of my life. With the rest of my life, my family, my finances, etc. I am a planner. Type-A all the way.

But not when it comes to writing. Writing is the one place that I give myself permission to fly free.

I usually start with a character and go from there. The story reveals itself to me along the way. Of course, that means there is going to be a lot of tweaking and rearranging, but that’s the price I pay for being a “Panster.”

If you’re an Outliner, you plan your novel way ahead of time, from what I understand. Some people have story arcs and everything before they even start writing.

This time, I started my story with a few characters and how they interact and I immediately jumped to plotting. And I’ve been trying to make my story “fit.” But doing that for a Panster is like putting a size 10 foot into a size 8 shoe. There’s a lot of forcing, and whining and pain involved. And it isn’t fun, and it isn’t productive. Trust me, I worked in a shoe store when I was young and watched hundreds of women insist they were a size 6 when they were clearly a size 7, and then proceed to blame it on the shoe.

I’m blaming the shoe right now instead of just finding the right fit and giving myself lots and lots of room.

So, I’m starting over…in my own Panster way. I’m going to let my characters tell me their stories. I’m merely the recorder. I need to let them tell me their hopes and dreams and fears and conflicts. If I set them free on the keyboard, they will show up. But I need to stop shoving my large characters into the small shoe.

How do you start a new story? Are you a Panster or an Outliner?

Career Advice to the SAHM

First, let me say that I would not go back and change my decision to be a SAHM. It’s been rewarding and challenging, and they’ve driven me crazy a lot of days, but I wouldn’t take it back if you paid me (although getting paid to be a SAHM would be a great idea).

For my husband and I, it made more sense for me to stay at home, rather than what it cost for 2 kids in daycare. Aside from wanting to be a SAHM, the financial aspect was really the bottom line for us.

That being said, what I wish someone would have told me before I made the decision to stay at home is this: Keep up with your industry, whatever it may be, especially if it’s a technology driven field.

Fast forward, and my kids are now 15 and 11.

Before kids, I was a graphic designer. I loved doing that. It was fulfilling both to my creative side and my task-oriented side. But I happily set it on the back-burner when my daughter came along, some 15 years ago. I did some side jobs here and there, mostly volunteer work: the newsletter for my church, and any other flyer, ticket, program or brochure they needed, and I volunteered for a Pregnancy Center where I helped with their “Walk for Life” campaign. Again, with brochures and posters.

But technology changes in the blink of an eye, and after only a few years, the graphic design apps I used were quickly becoming obsolete. I still have the graphic design knowledge, just not the daily experience with the new applications. I didn’t have the money to invest to retrain myself or invest in the new programs, because I was investing in diapers and formula, and later in braces and glasses and music lessons for the kids.

Graphic Designers need a portfolio of their best work. My portfolio is filled with my children’s Citizenship Awards, and Soccer Pictures, and Homemade Cards for Mother’s Day.

My advice to new moms, or moms with young children who have stepped away from the workforce, is don’t let your special skills fall by the wayside. Your college education will always be there. But if you have a specialized field, keep up with it. Do whatever you can to stay with the technology. Take classes at the local college or adult school. Check in to your local library and see if they offer any refresher courses.

If you don’t, you will pay a price. Finding a job will be much harder when you want to get back into your field of interest. Most employers don’t mind so much if someone took time off to raise a family, so long as they kept up with their industry, or if they took a few years off (maybe 3 or 4).

But for those of us who took longer (up to 10 years), remember that the competition is tough out there. There are lots of women who didn’t take the time off standing in line for the same job you are.

If you can still talk the talk and walk the walk, it will go a long way to getting a foot in the door.

You can do it. I believe there are people that WANT mom’s to work for them, because those employers realize that Moms have a lot at stake, and are hard workers…they’re moms.

How about my fellow SAHM’s? What career advice would you give? Did you find it hard getting back into the workforce after taking time off to raise your kids?

Here we go again…novel finished…and waiting…

Here we go again…

Novel #3 is finished and ready to find a literary agent!

Now I know, it’s never really “finished” until you actually FIND the agent or publisher and it’s sitting on a retail shelf complete with bar code. But that could take some time, if ever.

So, in the meantime, what to do, what to do?

I don’t know about you, but I immediately start brainstorming on the next book. Since I write women’s fiction, I usually start with a character or characters and then build from there.

I had a “Character Journal” until my last laptop was stricken with the “Black Screen of Death.”

It was a sad day, or a liberating one, depending on how you look at it. Nah, who am I kidding…it was sad…tragic even. All those ideas lost. They’re still on the computer, I just have to get to them.

I already have a name for my next main character. Besides starting a new “Character Journal,” I’ve started a “Name List.” Names are just as important as character development. You know how sometimes a name can conjure an entire character? That’s the sort of name I have in mind. Now I just have to figure out her story.

Tragedy? Comedy? A little bit of both? Hmmmmm…..maybe it’s time to head to the coffee shop and soak in some color. Am I the only one who does that? Hijack someone’s conversation? Think about that the next time you’re at the coffee shop and there’s someone sitting there all alone on their computer.

Or maybe the woman in the grocery store will wander into my next novel…or the sales woman at the department store…or the clumsy waitress that served me dinner last night.

Thank goodness we don’t have to pay royalties to the strangers that inspire us. But thank you to all the strangers that let us writers into your lives, if only for a moment, or even from afar. Stories are inspired and you are our inspiration.

Where do you go to find your best inspiration? Do you keep a Character Journal or a Notebook of phrases and ideas?

I’m Not a Hostess

 

I’ve blogged about it before, but I hate to cook…absolutely hate it.

I hate the planning, the searching for recipes that EVERYONE will like, I don’t even like the actual cooking.

So I cheat…as often as I can.

This holiday weekend we had 2 Bar-B-Ques to attend…Potluck.

My usual cheat? I’ll volunteer to bring the plates, napkins and utensils or the drinks (sodas, water and juice boxes). It gets me out of cooking, and someone has to bring them, it might as well be me. That, and I’m more than happy to clean up afterwards.

The first Bar-B-Cue was easy. Hot dogs, hamburgers, and everyone just brought what they wanted to. It was so casual that the hostess (my friend) said she didn’t even care if everyone showed up with all desserts. Then we’d end up with hot dogs, hamburgers and desserts. (Considering we accidentally had ice cream for dinner the other night, that sounded good to me). I brought two giant bags of assorted potato chips. The kids sang my praises! The parents? Not so much.

For the next Bar-B-Que, I got a text saying that everyone was bringing their “specialty.”

“Specialty?!” My “Specialty” is picking something up from the grocery store!

Don’t get me wrong, I am eternally grateful for those who DO cook. Woman cannot live on plates, napkins and juice boxes alone.

I think it stems from the fact that I have absolutely NO confidence in my cooking (or my presentation), so I am completely intimidated by those who do have that talent. It really is a talent.

Unless you were brought up in a family that entertained often, hostessing isn’t something that everyone has…especially me.

If you want to come to my house, you’re more than welcome. I LOVE being social. But my idea of entertaining is to invite my guests to kick off your shoes, relax (as if you were in your own home) and help yourself to whatever is in my cupboard or refrigerator. I am more than happy to hostess that way. But entertaining any other way completely stresses me out, and sets me up to fail EVERY TIME.

The next Bar-B-Que is later today. I will be stopping by the local grocery store to pick up my “specialty.” It’s a surprise, depending on what veggie platter, or sponge cake, or macaroni salad they have for purchase. Of course, I will put it into my own serving dish. I mean, I’m not a monster! LOL

And to all my friends cooking and hosting today, God bless you…some of us depend on you to do what you do best.

To my American friends, have a safe and Happy Fourth!

What Happened to Life Skills?

I worry about my kids’ generation’s life skills.

Because of technology, our kids are far more advanced technologically speaking than we were at their age, it’s true. AND KUDOS TO THEM. Where we had to show our mom’s how to program the VCR, they are downloading apps, and writing code by the time they’re 10 years old.

But it’s the basic “life skills” that worry me.

I was the generation of “latch key kids.” Basic “life skills” were, at least, a matter of necessity, and at most, a matter of survival.

My husband was getting dinner prepped and could de-bone a chicken by the time he was 10 years old. We could use knives, and the toaster, even the stove at a much younger age than many of our children do.

We used the phone (landline, that is) and called our friend’s houses to arrange our OWN “playdates” (we didn’t have a name for it back then). I had probably a dozen phone numbers memorized in my head, not programmed into the phone, by the time I was 7. I can still remember a few of them to this day. And we had to talk to their parents when we called and ask politely to speak with our friends.

We also knew how to take a proper message and write it down, and to screen a call to be able to tell if it was stranger or friend calling. We didn’t have “caller ID” to screen our calls. The only thing “programmed” was our ability to ALWAYS tell whoever was calling that our parent(s) was “busy” and NEVER tell the person calling that our parent(s) wasn’t home.

My generation was handling money (of the paper and coin persuasion) at a very early age too. I lived in the boondocks, but my husband lived where he could walk to the nearest liquor store with a friend and buy candy or bubble gum or a comic book, give the clerk the right money and get back the right change.

We all had jobs by the time we were 16, some of us were even younger. If we didn’t work at the mall or a fast food restaurant, we pulled weeds for neighbors, or mowed the lawn for the old lady down the street. We learned responsibility.

Some of us had paper routes, much to our parent’s chagrin, where we folded and banded the papers, and on rainy days stuffed them in plastic bags. And we were responsible if someone didn’t get their paper, because WE got a call telling us so. But that rarely happened, because we didn’t want to get back on our bike or incur the wrath of mom or dad who had to drive us to go back out to deliver the lone paper, especially in the rain.

I worry that this generation doesn’t have those skills, just as I’m sure my parent’s generation said the same thing about us. I know it’s our responsibility to teach them, but here’s the thing: Unless they get a chance to PRACTICE THEM OVER AND OVER ON A REGULAR BASIS, they will always be a little bit hesitant, or worse, over-confidant, and THINK they know what they’re doing when in actuality they only know a fraction of what they should.

The thing is I don’t know where this mindset comes from that we tend to shield our kids from the world. We want to do everything for them, and it isn’t helping them at all. I’m guilty of it too.

This summer, is the summer of “Do It Yourself” at my house: your laundry, your lunch, your social arrangements with your friends (with permission of course), your dishes, your hygiene (I can’t even believe this one is an issue), your money management, and your time management.

So far, it’s going well. They feel more empowered. Of course, there’s still whining at times, but it’s working…I hope.

Please feel free to leave any suggestions for encouraging “life skills?”

As a side note: I had a hard time finding stock photos of kids doing any of the things I listed above.

Fast Food is My Nemesis

 

It’s true…sad…but true.

Last year, we tried clean eating, because my husband was on a weird diet to combat psoriasis. And it worked for a little while. But the psoriasis came back, and we all really missed red meat, pork roast and tomatoes. So, gradually, red meat came back and so did tomatoes which led to fast food coming back too.

We don’t eat it all the time. I mean, I don’t even drive, so it’s not like I’m out running errands and it’s just easier to pick up than cooking dinner.

I just really HATE to cook!

I have a whole collection of food blogger recipes and pinterest recipes that I’ve collected over time. I’m even fairly budget-conscious, so I plan my meals in advance, and only buy what I need.

But cooking! UGH!

I blame part of it on my kids (not really) because they aren’t big eaters either. And 5 days out of the week, I hear “what’s that?” while I’m making dinner. And sometimes I agree with them.

Tonight, we were supposed to have chili with pancake batter drop biscuits. Easy, right? But I just can’t bring myself to cook it. That, and my husband ate the leftover stew meat that was going to go in it. Oh, and I’m not a fan of chili. And the kids even grumbled at the idea.

Right now, a burger with cheese and onions and a side of fries sounds so good. My mouth watered just saying that!

I shouldn’t…I really shouldn’t. But I promise I’ll make up for it with a balanced meal tomorrow with chicken and vegetables and everything. But tonight…I want that cheeseburger!

Now to convince my husband to pick it up on his way home. He stands between me and my craving.

I justify this by saying that I don’t spend my money on clothes (I live in yoga pants and t-shirts), I don’t go out and party (I haven’t had a drink in months – not even wine), I don’t even get my hair colored or styled (I’m very low maintenance), and I can’t even tell you what the last movie was that I saw in the theater …except I NEED my fast food fix every few weeks.

Is that a crime? Who else is willing to fess up?

Brushing up on your job skills

 

Did you know the Goodwill does more than resell clothes and furniture? Whether you’re a SAHM going back into the workforce, an older adult learning how to navigate technology or you just need a refresher, I stumbled across a FREE website the other day that can help.

This is not a sponsored post. I’m just sharing information that I found.

The Goodwill Community Foundation has a website that offers FREE tutorials on a myriad of topics. You don’t have to create an account and think of yet another password. They offer the service for free (from what I’ve experienced so far).

They offer tutorials in Microsoft Office, Google Docs, Basic Internet usage, even Reading and Math Skills.

The tutorials are simple and easy to follow. Sometimes you may just need to get acquainted or re-acquainted with up-to-date software. For instance, you may remember how to use an older version of Office and just need to see what Office 2016 has to offer.

There is also work and career advice on resume writing and job search tools including interview skills.

It makes so much sense to have a service like this. Most people, when looking for a job, can’t afford to take classes, either because they don’t have the money or the time to sit in a classroom. For many, time is running out, and they need a job ASAP. This is a great option.

If you don’t need the service, then please pass the information along. We all know someone who needs a job. Or maybe you just need the confidence builder.

Hope this helps someone, and thank you to the Goodwill for recognizing a need and doing something about it.