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?

The Sky Is Falling…or is it?

The world seems to be living by standards set by Chicken Little…The Sky is Falling!

It feels like we’re all on edge…no matter what your belief system, your political affiliation, your socioeconomic influence, we all seem to be living like that animated chicken who sadly mistook an acorn falling on his head for the ENTIRE sky falling.

It’s all about the extreme headlines, the ratings, who can get there (where ever ‘there’ is) first. We’re all in a panic! It’s not about whether or not you’ll reach your goal, it’s about reaching your goal FIRST!

And when things don’t go our way we immediately run to the extreme of anticipating the sky to fall. We’re absolutely sure of it! And if we can just scream louder than the next guy, then we’re convinced WE can hold up the sky one more day.

I’ve got news for you…the sky is NOT falling…at least not today. And you CAN’T hold it up ON YOUR OWN.

I’m not suggesting we don’t try to change the world. I’m a writer…it’s why I write. But I am suggesting that we don’t forget to breathe. We calm down. We don’t forget ALL of our manners. Whatever happened to “if you can’t say something nice…?”

I swear there are days that I think we’ve lost our collective mind!

And I am no better than the next guy – I find myself sucked into the mania at times too. And it depresses the hell out of me. And I can’t live like that. Can you? It’s exhausting!

We’ve gotten mean-spirited. Or maybe it’s just the headlines focus on the ugly parts of our world. My soul begs for “feel good” stories most days.

So to prove the sky is NOT falling, please share a brief inspirational story below. Tell me something good, something uniting, something kind. I really need to hear it.

Let It Go…Again

Let It Go.

It’s not just an overplayed Disney song (my apologies if you’re singing it now), it should be a way of life.

I am guilty of obsessing over trying to fix things that I may not be able to fix. I spent my morning doing just that.

Ever since my husband’s employment status changed last year, our income took a hit. We were living comfortably until then. Not richly, but comfortably. Taking a vacation was not out of the equation. Paying for the unexpected car repair wasn’t a choice between eating steak or ground round. Fortunately he found work within two months, but at a significant pay cut. And we feel it.

I can easily fall into the trap of juggling numbers and stressing over bills, and trying to pay for the dentist bill, the cable bill, and our children’s college all at once. By the way, my oldest won’t start college for 4 more years, but that won’t stop me from pretending that Rush Week starts on Monday.

I could get two more jobs, reinvent myself, put the kids to work (not really), or I could keep on trucking. I mean, we aren’t poor by any measure. We get by just fine, it’s just that the budget is tight and we have to account for every penny. Mostly that’s because of my own fear. I’m the penny pincher. My husband is much more relaxed about our provisions than I am. But I think that’s the difference in our personalities.

That’s where Elsa’s song comes to mind. But before Elsa knew to sing about letting your fears go, Jesus knew it. In fact, he instructs us to do it. He wants us to come to Him and lay our burdens at His feet. So why does it take me so long to figure it out? Why do I let it go only to pick it right back up again?

I think it happens most often when I’m not walking beside Him. When I’m not seeking Him daily. When I don’t hear His voice in my ear, then I tend to fill it in with my own voice. And if there’s one thing I know, it’s that my voice can NEVER replace God’s. But isn’t that exactly what I’m doing while I’m obsessing and stressing? I just need to trust, to listen, to let go and let God.

I need to work on that. What things in your life do you keep picking up that you really should let go?

One Key to Surviving Working (and Staying) at Home

Whether you’re a stay-at-home-mom working to raise your family, or an employee working remotely, or a freelancer making your own hours, spending that much time confined to your home can be draining, if not downright depressing.

My fellow wordpress blogger over at “For the Love of Myself Blog” wrote a post the other day that inspired me to add my two cents to this dilemma. Be sure to check out her insightful blog. Thanks for the inspiration!

Most posts will tell you that you NEED to get out and be with people and I COMPLETELY AGREE because I’m an extrovert. I need people to help me regenerate.

Winters can be long, depending what part of the world you’re in. When it snows here, I can go days without seeing anyone but my family. Don’t get me wrong, I love them, but they aren’t enough to feed my extroverted soul.

I think the key to making your “stay-at-home,” “work-at-home,” “work remotely” job work for you can be summed up with one phrase: HAVE SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO.

Without something to break up your week, you will feel like you’re living a real life Groundhog Day, over and over.

When I was a stay-at-home-mom with babies, having something to look forward to meant having play groups, or Mommy and Me classes. Once the kids went to kindergarten, it meant coffee with friends. I was lucky to have a small group of friends in the neighborhood that could also take time out of their morning for a coffee break.

When I went back to work, part time, from home, it meant having a “scheduled activity” every week. That’s the key for me. It HAS to be scheduled, or I will find too many other things to fill the space: laundry, doctor’s appointments, cleaning, and more laundry.

However, there will be times when no one is available; your schedules won’t quite jive. But ALWAYS have a back-up plan in place. If you’re CRAFTY, start on the project that keeps getting shoved to the side. If you’re a READER, pick up that book you’ve been meaning to get to, and read it OUTSIDE. Schedule time at the GYM, or take a YOGA CLASS if that’s your thing. If you still have babies at home, put them in the stroller and take them with you for a WALK around the block.

TAKE A CLASS at the local college, or a go to a Bible study. Check out what’s happening at your LOCAL LIBRARY – mine always has groups getting together. VOLUNTEER for your favorite cause – a lot of local charities don’t ask for much of a time commitment, but they need all the volunteers they can get. Plus, if you’re a SAHM that plans on going back to the corporate world some day, you can list your volunteer experience on your resume.

I’m not saying it’s easy. Working at home (whether SAHM or remotely) is hard. Nobody tells you that part. I’ve had many dark days where it felt like the walls are closing in, and I haven’t always made the choice to break out of the funk. But you will be much happier if you have something to look forward to that breaks up the monotony.

If you’re a SAHM or work from home, what things do you do to stay sane? Feel free to add any suggestions.

I Should Be at Church

It’s a Sunday morning, and I should have gotten everyone up on time (and against their protests) and gone to church. But I didn’t. I chose sleep for the second week in a row, in a long string of sporadic attendance, over worship.

When we lived in California, we never missed a Sunday unless someone was sick. We went to a church of about 350 members. I ran a women’s group on Mondays, my husband helped with Youth Sunday school (both High School and Elementary) and at one point was an Elder. My kids were involved in AWANA and I published the church’s newsletter, not to mention the countless times we volunteered for church events. I don’t tell you all of this to brag, I tell you all of this to show the difference between then and now. To show you I’m not just complaining, that I know things should be better, and that I know they CAN be better.

Fast forward 4 years, and we’re living on the opposite coast, and we should be well established with a new church family. But we’re not, and I know I’m not alone. At least, I don’t think I am.

We’ve been to something like five churches trying to find our fit, our new church family. The churches have varied in size from nearly nonexistent to mega-church all in attempt to find the fit…not God, but the fit. God has been in every one of the churches we’ve been to. But the difference is the people, and not God.

I mean no disrespect to the Church. I love the Church. I believe in the Church. I’m just a little frustrated. The churches we’ve encountered are just different than what we are used to, or it could be a symptom of the times. They are much more corporate, especially the mega churches, which my area seems to have a lot of. I don’t think they mean to be, and I know it’s probably a symptom of trying to serve so many different people. But classes and groups meet generally in 6 week spurts or from September to May, so you never really get a chance to share in one another’s lives. I WANT MORE. I WANT the dirty, nitty-gritty that our lives hold. I WANT to stand shoulder to shoulder with my Christian brother or sister and go through their trials and celebrate their victories. And an hour on Sunday or a few hours during a class won’t get me the intimacy of those friendships that I miss.

The one thread I’ve found running through ALL of the churches, no matter what size, is the feeling of ISOLATION. It doesn’t matter how long we attend a church, we just never seem to connect. And we’ve tried. At the large churches, we never see the same people twice. From the time we walk in the doors and are greeted with a “hello” and a smile to the time we leave with a “goodbye, have a nice day,” sometimes those are the only words that will be spoken to us. Fortunately, my kids have managed to make friends in Sunday school, but those friendships seem to end as we leave the church doors. They seem to be reserved for “while in church only.” No one seems to linger after church is over. Most people race for the parking lot to get on with their Sunday.

As Christians we’re called to be part of the “Body of Christ” but that body has to RELY on one another and LEAN on one another to function. And it seems like a bunch of body parts not communicating, but rather working separately from one another.

I know there are other people within the church walls feeling the same as me. I know it’s up to us to get involved and reach out. But the times that I’ve tried, I’m either too late because a class has already started, or a group is already established. Not to mention that, for me, not being able to drive makes it really hard (if not impossible) to get there sometimes. And the church is just too big to make a friend that would be willing to give a girl a ride now and then.

So if you’re in a large church this Sunday or next, do me a favor and turn around and greet the person seated behind you. It may make the difference in them ever coming back again. And if you’re brave enough, go one step further and invite them to an upcoming church function, AND OFFER TO MEET THEM THERE so they won’t feel so alone. I promise you that you’re effort won’t be wasted. They may think you’re weird, but it’s a chance you should take. You may even make a friend for life.

Have you had similar experiences with church? How did you get past it?

Writing Without Fear

 

My latest WIP has been a bit of a challenge. I’m a panster, not an outliner which can be both freeing and completely stifling.

I usually start with an idea for a character, or characters, and then build a story and plot around them. I know, it’s backwards, but it’s the way my brain works.

I’ve started my current WIP three different times.

First, the plot wasn’t strong enough, so I set it aside. But the characters kept talking to me, and telling me they had a story to tell.

So I picked it up again. I tried changing the plot and making it more appealing, and it seemed to be working for a while. But it was still missing something and I couldn’t put my finger on it, so I set it down again.

The third time I picked it up I realized that the story was focused around the wrong character. I was trying to make a supporting character the protagonist. One of the side characters had a much better story to tell and made a much better protagonist: the kind you want to root for even when you know they’re going to fail miserably.

So I started over…again.

I also decided to write with a different approach. No editing. No rereading. Just keep writing. I know that means there will be a LOT more editing at the end, but it’s been kind of fun writing without fear.

I’m also writing completely prepared to cut out scenes, even chapters if necessary. Many times, as writers (or at least it’s this way with me), we’re reluctant to take out scenes, especially the ones that we really love. We don’t want to let go of them. But this time I KNOW there is going to be changes, and I’m good with that. Sometimes as I’m writing a particular scene, I may have an idea that it may not make it to the final cut. I’ve even found myself thinking “that doesn’t fit there” or “that chapter really sucked.” But I just keep writing.

This WIP has turned into a sort of writing exercise in free writing. Who knows if it will work? I’m not sure what I’m going to gain from it, but I’m not afraid even if the whole thing needs to be scrapped. As long as I finish it, then I will have reached my first goal.

Writing without fear may turn into editing without fear.

What do you do when a WIP isn’t working? Do you scrap it or do you try to re-work it? Are you a panster or an outliner?

Keeping My Head Above Water

Some days it’s all I can do to keep my head above water.

Being “Mom” and “Wife” is a varied job description for women. No one woman does the same job as her counterpart, yet we share a sisterhood that, on many days, all we need to do is look one another in the eye and nod. That nod says it all. I understand. I’m right there with you.

Some days I get too far ahead of myself. When things seem to be not going as planned, I’m the first one to want to jump in and fix them. But unfortunately, sometimes there are no quick fixes, no immediate solutions, and that drives me crazy!

The hamster wheel just doesn’t go fast enough for me and it still only goes round and round in circles. No end, no fix, just a whole lot of wasted energy.

Whether it’s the mounting price of groceries, or the stress of doing taxes, or keeping the kids in clothes or  worrying over their grades, I just can’t do it.

And then I remember what’s missing: God.

I’ve been trying to do it on my own: trying to solve problems that haven’t even happened yet, and may not ever happen, all on my own. The people around me feel my stress. I’m one of those who can’t hide my feelings…my face shows my every emotion. It’s a curse, really.

There’s a definition of “Anxiety” that I really like: trying to figure it all out at once.

That about sums it up.

The nights when I can’t sleep because I’m running numbers in my head, and no matter how I rearrange them, they just don’t add up. The nights when I wake myself up because my jaw hurts from clenching it so tightly that I might break a tooth.

All those nights could be better spent in rest and sleep if only I would let things go, and let God work it out. I know it may sound silly, but it really does help. God wants us to bring our worries to him, not so that He can fix them (though he certainly can), but so that we will rely on Him and not ourselves.

He’s already got it figured out. He really doesn’t need our help. In fact, for a lot of us, He just needs us to get out of our own way.

So I’m going to remember to breathe when things get hectic. If only I could remember to do that BEFORE the craziness starts.

Here’s to a better night’s sleep.