A LEAP OF FAITH

As humans, we make lots of “leaps of faith”.  When you’re an infant, you take a leap of faith when you take that first step without holding on to anything. Again, you take a leap of faith when you leave your parent’s home to get your own apartment, go to college or the military, or get married. And one of the scariest leaps of faith is when you decide to become a parent, responsible for another human being. After all, you’re the one who raises a Mother Theresa or Jeffery Dahmer.

Last weekend, I decided to make my next leap of faith. When I sold my first book, I had friends who thought I had it made.  I could quit my job and write full-time. Thankfully, my sense of security didn’t let me do that or I would have to file for bankruptcy a long time ago. Even last year, when I decided to semi-retire from my nursing job, I didn’t have the nerve to just leave nursing.

Friends and loved ones, I’m proud to announce that I will be retiring FULL TIME from nursing on (or around depending on the unit’s schedule) September 1st! Scared? You bet. Those of you who depend on your writing for the only money coming in have my most sincere respect. How do you do it? I know, if it wasn’t for my Social Security and Medicare, I would NEVER have made this decision.

But I kept thinking…do I believe in myself? Do I believe in my writing? If not, it was time to take a leap of faith. I’m pretty sure with the economy the way it is, my SS isn’t going to be enough to live on, so what better prod than that to keep me writing? That and the fear I’ll have to move into the St. John’s Shelter for the Homeless.

I’m also excited about the leap. Writing when and as long as I want without having to worry about stopping in time to go to work. Knowing when a bad snow storm is coming through I don’t have to leave the house if I don’t want to. Eating Ramen noodles when… No! I’m not going to think negatively.

It will be my finest leap of faith!

Gifted, Proud, and Paid!

In December 2011, my book came out. After a year of work, work, and more work, edits, revisions, edits, revisions, and more edits, and revisions, I should’ve felt a sense of accomplishment…pride…joy…something. Yet I felt rather blasé. To me, it seemed like a non-event. And that left me scratching my head. What’s wrong with me? I should feel something, right? I loved writing the book. I like the cover. I’m happy. So why don’t I feel as though I just won first place?

When I announced the publication, family and writer friends congratulated me.

“Well done!”

“We’re so proud of you!”

“Can’t wait to read it!”

While I appreciated their support and enthusiasm, again I felt nothing, just an odd total lack of achievement. Ah, but then a curious and wonderful thing, happened—strangely enough at the ol’ day job. I attended a meeting with several of our executive level management and an outside consultant. Introductions made, the consultant looked across the conference room table and said, “There’s a Lynn Somerville that writes a weekly blog. And I just ordered her book from Amazon.”

“That’s me,” I replied.

Her eyes bugged out. “Really? I love your work.”

One of the directors in the meeting, sat back in her chair, brow knit. “You’re a writer? You’re published? I didn’t know that.”

Finally, there it was—elation. Triumph! A grin split my face. I sat a little taller in my chair. “Yes. I am.” The meeting agenda got a little off-track while I spent about twenty minutes answering questions from C-level management about my writing and other works I’d had published.

And today I received another yes-I-am-a-writer-reminder: a royalty check!

A writer friend of mine recently told me about her dad. He’s an avid reader. However, he can’t even fathom writing a book, couldn’t come up with an idea for a story, let alone pen one. Therefore, authors are mysterious creatures.

As writers, it’s easy to take our talent and profession for granted or become insulated from readers. We spend time with other authors at chapter meetings, seminars, and conferences. We network on Facebook and Twitter with editors and agents. Get two of us together at Starbucks and we’ll talk plotting and characterization for hours. We forget, however, that not everyone is a writer. Not everyone scopes out the people in the doctor’s office waiting room thinking, “That guy over there with the adorable little boy. He could be the single dad in my next novel. And oh ! See how that nurse just looked him over? She’s gonna be the love of his life in my book.” Normal people, that is non-writers, don’t go to a carwash and spin up a tale about a serial killer who chooses his next victim while vacuuming her car.

But we do.

That’s no reason to be haughty, puffed up with self-importance. Yet, we do deserve to feel amazing. We take a “what if” and bring it to life on the page. Not everyone has that gift.

Scary Mondays Volume One: includes a story about a romance writer who finally gets her happily ever after in the hereafter; and a tale about another romance writer who literally brings her character to life!

Online Workshops

One of the easiest ways to learn the craft of writing is from online classes and workshops. Even seasoned writers can learn something new or simply hone their craft. Last week I took not one, but two online classes at the same time. What was wrong with me?! Sheesh. I was barely able to keep up and wasn’t able to participate like I should. But I have all of the lessons saved in a nice folder on my computer for easy reference.

One of classes was presented via RWA University called Taxes and the Writer. Sounds boring, doesn’t it? Trust me, if you’re a writer, especially a newly published writer like myself, you need this class! It was presented in terms that everyone could understand. WELL worth the time! Besides the lessons, the presenter also gave some examples of how to fill out some of the forms. Man, that’s my cup of tea. If I have an example to go by, I know I can figure it out.

And guess what? IT WAS FREE! Yes, ladies and germs, I said free. A nice bene of belonging to RWA.

The other class had a nominal cost of $20 and was called Self-Editing Workshop presented by Roses Colored Glasses. If you get a chance to take a class by these ladies, please do so. They’re fabulous! This is a hands-on class where they give you the correct way to use punctuation (as an example), then give you part of a story and your job is to correct it.

I have to admit I never turned in any of the assignments. I DID them, but well after the fact. Yeah, I messed up some, but the assignment made me stop and think, to put into practice what the lesson had taught. This wonderful class will help you tighten and clean up your story; just what you need before submitting to a contest, editor or agent. (Give yourself the best shot you can.)

So how do you find online classes? Word of mouth, from your local chapter, via your various loops, friends on Facebook and your own inquisitive nature by digging on the Internet. There’s a wealth of info out there.

Good luck!

Meet A Real Character!

Ever filled out a character chart? They’re kind of fun.

Some are simple–eye and hair color, complexion, birth order, build, birthdate, etc. Others are more complex with questions such as, “Who was his first crush?” “What did he have for breakfast?” and “Where was his mother when she first balanced a bicycle?”

It’s easy to be quick and throw out cute answers, but take your time and think about your hero/heroine’s backstory. (The dreaded BS is necessary here.)

The answers I mentioned above are important (maybe) but it’s the question behind them that makes a difference. A good character chart will tell you something about the man inside the man. (Or woman inside the woman.)

Your answers should come from the reason why a hero is what he is. The background that carved out his personality. Why he steps up when an emergency happens rather than running away. Or why he runs away when an emergency happens.

What means enough to your hero that he would give his life to protect it.

These things will never come up in most stories, but what he says and thinks and how he acts comes from his most deeply rooted being.

Wait? Did you say a hero who runs away during an emergency? (GASP!) Doesn’t sound like hero material, does it? But it absolutely could be.

The worst mistake is to make one or both of your main characters perfect. That would make them two dimensional. And who wants to read an entire book about a cardboard cut out?

Remember those children’s magazines they had in doctors’ offices when we were kids? There was one that had a cartoon about two boys–a very, very good boy and a rascal. You were supposed to decide if you wanted to be around the good kid or the bad one.

Goody Two Shoes always washes his face and hands and combs his hair before he goes to the lunchroom.

Badly Bad Boy plays on the playground until the last moment, then runs straight to the lunchroom without washing.

Which do you want to be like?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always enjoyed a little vinegar with my greens.

Without some imperfection in your characters, even the best story in the world is bland.

Do you have a favorite character chart you use for each story? Care to share? 🙂

WRITERS SUFFER FROM ADHD

“Huh?” I know that’s what you’re saying. “That doesn’t make sense!” But hear me out and you’ll see what I’m saying.

When most successful writers sit down and write, they are totally focused.  And by successful, I don’t mean only the writers who sell.  I’m talking about the committed writer.  We sit at the computer and write.  It may not be smooth. It may not flow freely like a stream.  We may cuss and whine and delete like crazy, but once we are actually writing, we stay with it until we’ve finished for the day, the week, whatever.

But none of us write 24/7.  We have “the rest of our lives”; families, housework, children, and sometimes other jobs. This is where the ADHD comes in. If you can say yes to any of the following, you have writers’ ADHD.

Do you ever drive somewhere and not remember how you got there because you were working out a plot problem while behind the wheel?

When you see a couple fighting or being lovey-dovey in the park and start plotting out their “story”?

Do you ever overcook dinner because in the middle of preparing it, you get a brilliant idea for a sexy thing your hero can do for the heroine and loss track of the timer while writing it down before you forget it?

At the end of a fascinating documentary on television, have you immediately started researching further on the subject because it triggered a story idea?

Yeah, not only are you a writer, but you’re ADHD about it. I’ve met a lot of writers who say that writing is a job.  Once they complete their daily goal, they put it aside. They turn their focus on the other parts of their life. That may be true.  God knows, there are plenty of writers out there who seem to compartmentalize their lives better than I.

But I have to admit, I wonder if that’s totally true. You want to tell me they don’t think about tightening up dialogue while helping the kid out with his/her algebra? She doesn’t re-cycle the dryer one more time so she can finish jotting down a story idea? And how many have admitted they take an Alphasmart (or its equivalent) to their child’s soccer game unless they want to be ready…just in case.

Yep, ADHD. But that’s because writing isn’t just a job; it’s also a calling. And when the Muse talks, we have to listen…no matter what’s going on around us.

Perfect? No Way!

Old habits are hard to break, mine is striving to be Super Woman.  I set goals and aim for perfection.  In writing that can be double-edged sword.  Certainly, I want to submit to a publisher or agent a flawless piece of work.  Yet I have to watch myself, or else I end up polishing, then re-polishing, polishing, then re-polishing, polishing, then re-polishing …you get the idea.   At some point, I have to take a step back, look at my work objectively, and accept that my best effort is just that…my best effort.

I learned to do beadwork from George, a Santee Sioux.  One day, as I was beading a strawberry motif on a pair of moccasins,  I held out one of the moccasins to admire my work.  George, who was sitting next to me, laid the leggings he was working on down.  He took the moccasin from me.  He  inspected it without a word, handed it back and asked, “Did you mean to do that?”  I took another look at my beadwork, saw the flaws, ripped out all the beading I had done and started over.   Sometimes, my writing effort is like that.  I want to be able to say, “Yes, George, I meant to do that.” And still recognize when good enough, is truly good enough.

Posers

I recently watched a movie call WILD HOGS. It’s about 4 men who take time off from their busy lives to take a motorcycle trip to the west coast, to experience the freedom of simply riding. Along the way they encounter a real motorcycle gang and get on their bad side. The gang leader calls the Wild Hogs “Posers.”

The Wild Hogs aren’t real bikers according to the gang, they’re only pretending, so, of course, the gang of 50 beat up the gang of 4. In the end, the so-called posers are the ones who actually live up to the name of real bikers and the actual posers, the gang members, leave with their tails between their legs. (Metaphorically speaking.) The Wild Hogs discover a newfound respect for themselves as they continue their journey.

Do you ever feel as if you’re a poser? Someone who proclaims to be a writer, but then start to wonder if you really are? Yes, I know we’re all writers if we string a coherent sentence together. But, do you doubt yourself if you only self-publish? Or only publish through a small press?

Do you feel as if you aren’t a “real” author unless you’ve published through New York? Do you have to hit the NY Times Best Seller List to consider yourself real? It doesn’t matter that a lot of the big name authors are also going Indie, you don’t want to start out that way.

Guess what? Those of us who have decided to start with a small press, or become an Indie are not posers. We’re like the 4 men who called themselves the Wild Hogs.

We’re the real deal. Go Hogs! 🙂