RoadWriter

Heart, Soul, and Rough Edges — A Gypsy Journey of Words and Wonder

Archive for the category “Mary’s Expression”

The Evolution of a Story pt 1

I have multiple novels in various stages. Sometimes I have a basic idea, but not enough for characters or plot. I always write these down anyways. If I’m bored, I’ll pull up my idea file and see if any of the bits and pieces will work together.

I want to share with you the notes and evolution of how my current project came together. All these notes came at completely different times and from unrelated places.

ideas

ideas (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

Idea 1

Someone who lives to their beliefs. Mental expectation defines our reality. Refusing to belief that flight is impossible. A person lives by their own set of rules. What others see as tricks and magic is reality for this person. Anything is possible if you believe.

Idea 2

two best friends from childhood, begin to grow apart. the guy stops writing. she continues, unaware that he is throwing her letters away without reading them. The guys roommate gets curious and opens them. he falls for her through the letters. when she writes about interest in a guy, he gets jealous, has to meet her.

Idea 3

Story about the Crazy Lady:

They call me crazy. I’m not crazy. Just different. I’m happy. I can’t help expressing it. They don’t understand me, because they have not experienced my happiness.

Story

It wasn’t until later that I came back to this notes and realized they could all be combined into one story. Each alone is only a concept, a character, a setting. But combined together we can begin to see a STORY. Suddenly I had three characters: a “crazy” woman who believes in magic and writes letters to her old friend, and the roommate who intercepts these letters.

I still wasn’t ready to write the story. It needed rules, conflict. But the combined ideas gave it a shape, popped it out of 2D and into 3D. So that’s my advice for today. Always write down your ideas, no matter how small. And if you cut a character from a story, or a line from a poem, save that as well. You never know where it might find a fit later.

If you don’t have anything in your idea file, or can’t find a way to make any of your ideas fit for a story, don’t be afraid to use prompts. There are plenty of prompt generators online. Feel free to use different ones, mix and match. Get a character here, a setting there. The more ideas you can combine, the more depth your story will have.

Resources

Here are a few places for free writing prompts

Seventh Sanctum: A personal favorite. In addition to story prompts, has a lot of other random generators.

Writers Digest Boot Camp has a download for two full weeks of prompts.

Hundreds of little prompts at Creative Writing Prompts

And if you’re more visual, try out Writing Picture Prompts

Next time on Mary’s Expression (March 19): Evolution of a Story continues

 

Mary Butterfly Signature

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2013: Looking Forward

Today begins a new year, a new Age. A time for re-evaluations, making new goals and adjusting old ones. I, for one, didn’t do very well on the goals I set in 2012. Rather than do a repeat, with likely similar results, I’m changing the way I make changes. I’m taking it from the verbal to the visual. I saw some pretty butterfly stickers at WalMart and snagged them as the basis of my reward sheet. I pulled out all my scrapbook and craft supplies, and came up with this:

IncentiveSheet

My main goals are to exercise and write more, and get the house in shape as well. Very vague and insubstantial.

Exercise

I’ve set a weight loss goal, but I know it takes time and the day to day can get discouraging. Solution? Celebrate both individual exercise sessions, to get in the habit and get healthy, as well as the weight loss milestones.

I’m going to add one butterfly sticker to the picture for each exercise session. For every ten butterflies, I give myself a mini-reward. Every 5 pounds lost (see the ladybug markers) earns me a bigger reward. If I lose the full 25 pounds, I get the BIG reward: a Steampunk corset.

 

Writing

StickersMy past experience with NaNoWriMo and writing in general has taught me that I’m not very good at focusing on one project all the way through. Rather than beat myself up for that fact, I’ll work with it. I don’t care what I work on, I just need to write! My major rule is: No new projects until I finish at least one of my FIVE Works in Progress (WIP’s).

For the sheet, one flower added for every 2500 words written. Every ten flowers gets rewarded. When I actually finish a WIP, I am taking a writers retreat. Probably something really small and local this year, like a night or two at a hotel. I think this big reward would be well earned, since I haven’t actually finished a novel since November 2007. That’s five years! No wonder I’m feeling unaccomplished.

Household

Zone CalendarThis past five months or so I’ve been trying FlyLady. There’s great ideas there, but I hate having my days so structured. I do need some sort of plan, as my house is more a mess than not most weeks. There are a few ideas from FlyLady that work well with my shotgun approach. My biggest lesson: You Can Do Anything in 15 Minutes. That goes for my writing, housework, exercise (a starting point until I get stamina for longer sessions. Everyone can fit in at least one 15 minute session a day.

The other thing I’m taking from FlyLady is Zones. I tweaked her list a bit to come up with my own personalized House Zones. 5 Zones to cover the entire house. One zone per week, so every five weeks I’ve given attention to each part of the house. If I do a minimum of one cleaning session (15 minutes!) each day, with one day off, that’s an hour and a half cleaning in each zone. Depending on the room, I could be spending that time decluttering, or deep cleaning, or organizing. I got a little calendar from BHG. I highlighted each week in a different color for different zones.

Zone 1 (yellow): Entrance, Front Porch, and Hall
Zone 2 (orange): Kitchen and Dining
Zone 3 (green): Bathrooms and Laundry Room
Zone 4 (blue): Bedrooms and Corner Room
Zone 5 (pink): Family Room and Front Room

Looking Forward

Hopefully taking this more visual approach will be a boon. I love stickers, and butterflies and pretty things, so adding to my flower garden chart will be a motivation in and of itself. I do, however, need to start brainstorming some reward ideas for those smaller milestones. Any ideas? What are your goals for the new year?

Mary Butterfly Signature

The Game of Books: Where Books Meet Gaming

Are you a reader? A writer? A librarian? Or a teacher? Then this project will be of interest to you.

What happens when reading meets gaming? The Game of Books. In life, every book you read teaches you something. You are gaining knowledge, experience, from each book. Soon there will be a way to track that. Imagine leveling up in your interests. Tracking your progress, comparing it to your friends.

The Kickstarter fundraising for The Game of Books succeeded yesterday. It may be too late to back it, but it’s worth following. And there may be a way to support it, to receive kits, even though the Kickstarter is closed. It’s something they are looking into. In the meantime, read more about The Game of Books, and watch the video. And even use the demo to create your own Character Card, as I’ve done below.

My husband and I are very excited for this to come out, and are getting a Family Starter Kit. It’s great to see innovative ideas like this get the attention they deserve.


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My Fairy Muse

Fairies, dancing through the light that breaks through the forest. Calling others to join them. How can I resist? I love fantasy, magic, flight, and butterflies. Fairies combine all these elements into delicate, enchanting beings. I may not believe in real fairies, but of all the paranormal creatures they are the ones I wish most for. It’s no wonder they inspire me. From my bliss book to home decor to my writing. Here’s some excerpts.

from my poem “Concrete Forest”

Stench of pigeons
rouses me;
I uncurl from the nook
at the statue’s collar,
flap my wings
to rid night’s dust.

The birds share their crumbs–
pigeons and a fairy,
what a quaint family.

From the novel “Fly With Me”

The main character, Alexa, collects dollhouses for a fairy refuge in her front yard. Here’s an outsiders glimpse inside her home.

Sunshine poured through the bay window, creating a cloud of fairy dust over the round dining table. Placed evenly around the table were five mismatched place settings, all in vivid pictures. A plate of fairies here, sitting atop a larger one depicting lovebirds. One had a wine glass with a pewter dragon wrapped around the base, while another had a yellow plastic cup with red airplanes. The only thing connecting them all was the image of flight. Folded over the back of each simple wooden chair was a homemade name card. Unusual names, such as Casternon and Lalla-Lu, written in purple ink.

One long shelf of marble extended above the fireplace. The contents had as little sense as the place settings. Bottled flies, a dollhouse, dried hot peppers. The hardwood floor beneath had long scratches half-covered by what looked like dragon scales. Almost hidden behind the door was a pair of feathered wings hanging from a hook. No two of the sewn feathers were alike.

From the novel “Fey Moon”

Lamaric’s stocky form stood out against the slender grace of most Fey. Jex assumed that’s why the djinn’s best friend was Lue Nae–a runt pixie, four inches to her siblings’ five.

After Shenorill left for another meeting, Jex interrupted the friends’ game of hide and seek. “Why do the Voices meet so oft?”

Lue Nae popped out of the vase she hid in, her dual set of filmy wings trembling as she hovered. “The prophecy of course. The time is getting so close! Everyone is talking about it.”

“What prophecy?”

Lamaric raised his bushy red eyebrows. “The return of the Goddess, Mother of the Elements. Satu knows the tale.”

Jex frowned. “She never told me that one. I only know of Eleuteria from your creation myths. Why would she leave in the first place?”

“Those stupid enchanters.” Lue Nae did a flip kick at an imaginary foe. “They couldn’t stand to see one of their kind in love with a goddess. She was banished to save her life. I wasn’t born yet so never even got to meet Her.” The pixie flittered over to sulk on Lamaric’s shoulder, her cottony white hair drooping around her face.

 

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Mary's Expression: Embracing the Passion

Mary's dove music boxI am a passionate person. Most people don’t get to see that. In fact, most people don’t really see me at all. I’m the quiet one in the background, invisible. At times I felt there wouldn’t even be a ripple if left. No one would notice. But there have been a few special people who have seen through that invisible shield, seen the passion I have inside.

I have a strong empathy for people. This leads me to blindly trust, believing a person to express truthfully. I need to believe in the goodness of people. There is so much pain and ugliness in the world. I’d rather see the beauty, even if it blinds me. I’m sure I’ve been lucky so far. I haven’t been badly burned. Not since I was little anyway… but I digress. I live by my emotions. My head may plan and compare and list, but my emotions are generally stronger. They’ve gotten me into much more trouble than my blind trust.

But I’d rather feel strongly than not at all. In eighth grade I was hospitalized for depression. Depression isn’t a feeling, it’s not accurate to describe it as sadness. It’s a lack of feeling. No sadness, joy, passion, pain. It’s a lack of emotion. It’s much more dangerous to not care than it is to feel. At least this way I can experience, learn, and grow, rather than remain stagnant. It can be so easy to retreat within myself, to block out all emotion, but that blocks out people as well. People that are an important, wonderful part of my life. People that care for me. Maybe that’s why I haven’t tried to control my feelings. I’m afraid that if I block one emotion I’ll do the same to the rest. I can’t afford to go back to that. I have responsibilities, people that need me. So, I will direct my passion rather than cut it off completely.

There are many things in this world that I enjoy, but there are few that I am truly passionate about, that I cannot live my life without. As you may have surmised, my close friends and family are up at the top. Other passions include dancing, poetry, my fantasy novel, books, playing the piano, and nature. I thought I could live without the last, but I find I crave fresh air. I need to spend time outside, feel the sun and the wind. These passions are what make me feel alive. Take away one of my passions and I will survive. Without a piano, I could only play when I visited my parents. But, as I crave the outdoors, I crave to feel my fingers on the keys of a piano. To make music, let it enfold me. As I read, the urge to write my own stories builds. They are all connected. Take away all my passions and I think I would die. What would I have left to live for? My fire would burn out. I’m grateful to those who have seen my passion and helped to keep the fires alive.

What are you grateful for? What are your passions? What drives you?

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Simmering Muse

It was only a couple days before the month began that I decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this year. I was already planning on doing November Poem-A-Day (Nov PAD). With two projects going on, I knew I’d have to prioritize one of them.

Since the novel will take up more words and hours, that took top spot. This also kept me from stressing over the poetry prompts. In previous years, I’ve struggled getting a decent poem written off prompts. It’s a very finicky process. I’m way more reliant on my Muse to cooperate for poetry than fiction. In fiction, I can push forward and just write. That doesn’t work for poetry! At least not for me.

So Day 1, I read the poetry prompt early. No ideas come to mind, so I shrug and allow myself to focus on my novel. I worried that since I wasn’t coming up with even an idea, or giving time to it, that the poems would be a bust again this year.

But that prompt was still in the back of my head, doing its work. Turns out I need to have more faith in my Muse/subconscious. For first thing the next morning, when I was trying to get more sleep, there was that prompt, and accompanied with how I was going to use it. I even had a repetitious phrase!

Lesson learned: For the poetry, read the prompts but don’t stress it. Let it simmer, sit in the back of my brain while I do other stuff. When it’s ready, I won’t be able to ignore it.

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Mary's Muse Conference Experience

Last week was the annual Muse Online Writers Conference. The Muselings have a history with this conference.

Our group emerged from this conference, we learned the tools to create our poetry collection LIFELINES. We pitched our book to publishers at a later Muse Conference, and it was during Muse Con of last year that we got our acceptance letter. We owe the success of this group and our book to Muse Conference.

And this year we paid it forward. For the first time, the Poetic Muselings presented a workshop. Poetry: Not Just for Writing Verses.

It was a great experience all around. We talked poetry, wrote poetry, critiqued poetry. Hopefully those that attended learned something and made their own connections to continue in the days ahead.

On Saturday’s topic, Michele brought up some questions to help us look at how poetry can enhance our other writing. It made me take a look at the relationship between my two types of writing. Sometimes I try to keep them in two separate boxes, a poet in one moment and a fiction writer in another. But they are both a part of me, and they definitely bleed into each other.

One thing I’m still working on is taking my strengths from each form and applying them to the other. I need to be more descriptive in my fiction, and use more story in my poetry. My best writing has elements of both.

I spent most of my week in our poetry forum, but I also dabbled in some of the other workshops. One of my favorites of the week was Creating a Writerly Logo. I learned the importance of choosing good font and color, spacing and shapes. It was a lot of fun coming up with a logo that represented both sides of my writing.

Here is my final result:

 

 

If you have different hobbies, or write different styles or genres, how do they overlap?

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Reach for the Light – Responding to Other Work

Aurora borealis in Alaska

Aurora borealis in Alaska (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve posted this before, on other blogs, but letting it re-inspire me now. Especially needed after my last post.

I was challenged to write a response to a song. I chose one that’s always resonated with me, and wrote back to it, made it my own. At the time, I was struggling with finishing my first book. Now that I’m struggling to finish a second, I need to listen to it again.

Song lyrics in orange, interspersed with my own thoughts at the time:

Reach for the light**

Deep in the night the winds blow cold,
And in a heartbeat, the fear takes hold.

The fear can freeze me—
fear of failure, rejection, even success.

Deep in the storm, there’s a place that’s soft and still,
Where the road waits to be taken, if you only will.

The potential is in me,
all I have to do is find the iron will within.

The voices inside you can lead you so astray,
Believe in what you dream,
don’t turn away, don’t you turn away.

I must overcome the doubts that haunt me;
I’ve wanted this my entire life, I won’t give it up.

Reach for the light,
you might touch the sky.
Stand on a mountain top, and see yourself flying.
Reach for the light,
To capture a star,
Come out of the darkness and find out who you are.

I know who I am—I am a writer.
So many dream but don’t follow through.
I can never be published if I don’t finish writing the book.

Somewhere in time the truth shines through,
And the spirit knows what it has to do.

This is my purpose in life; without it, I am not complete.
Time will show my dedication. Time will bring success.

Somewhere in you there’s a power with no name,
It can rise to meet the moment and burn like a flame.

My muse will lead me if I give it the chance;
I simply need to set her free.

And you can be stronger than any fear you know,
Hold onto what you see don’t let it go, don’t you let it go.

I’ve made it this far. I have it in me.
Nothing will stop me.

<refrain>

There’s no turning back.
Your destiny is calling.
Listen to the thunder roar,
And let your heart break free.

Whether I chose this path, or it chose me, it is the path I’m meant to be on.
The thunder of my accomplishments shall roar, and my heart shall break free from fear.

Oooh, Reach for the light!

<refrain x 2>

Yeah! Yes reach for the light.

If I don’t reach for the light, for my dreams, then the light may as well go out.

will finish my book. I will get published. I will reach for the light.

** Music: James Horner. Lyrics: Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil. Singer: Steve Winwood

Have you ever used music to inspire you? Take a song or poem, and write a response to it. Write it in your own words to make it personal, or counter it in some way.

 

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Sometimes We Stumble

It’s been almost a year since I wrote the following in response to a discussion question on Why do I Write? It spiraled further than I was expecting, and it’s something I keep circling back to.

As long as I can remember I’ve wanted to write. From my very first stories in first grade, and the encouraging words of my teacher, and my love of books. Even as my other interests varied, the desire to be an author when I grew up remained constant. Books were my escape (which being an introvert with eight siblings was much needed), and I wanted to create my own worlds, share that wonder with readers. Now writing has become an escape for me, much as reading has been.

Fantasy has always inspired me. Creating fantastical worlds, or bringing the fantastic into our own. In writing I try to capture that magic. And when it works, when I can read something I wrote and get carried away, and think “I actually wrote that!”, is a form of magic in itself. A huge sense of accomplishment. There really isn’t anything in life that affects me the same way.

In high school I finally started being serious about writing. Wrote and submitted poetry, even got a few published. Wrote short stories. Started plotting out my novel. But it wasn’t for another couple years that I really started writing that novel. Each new page, each chapter, excited me. I was finally going after my dream. And I had the wonderful support of one of my sisters who was also writing *her* first book. So we read and praised each others work, challenged each other to deadlines, and actually managed to finish the same month.

Having already experienced the challenges of getting published through my efforts with poetry and short stories, I knew enough to edit my book before sending it out. And while I edited, I researched publishing. Learned I wanted to target an agent before tackling the big publishers. So after a year of editing (with the feedback of a couple beta readers, and many drafts), I used QueryTracker to help me find agents for my genre and charged forward gungho. One year later, fifty queries behind me with only a sparse handful of requests and no serious feedback or bites… I figured something must be seriously wrong with my first novel and didn’t know how to fix it. So I benched it.

I had already started a couple of novels at this point, so the new goal was to finish a second book. That was two [now three] years ago. I’ve been struggling ever since. I love my stories, I’ve heard my writing has improved massively since my first book, and I can spend hours plotting, doing character work, research. But when it comes to the actual writing I tend to freeze up. I’ve tried many techniques, but the writing still comes in inconsistent spurts. So I write less often… and get even more out of the habit. But those story ideas are still pestering. And when I read what I *do* have, I know it needs work but that excitement and love is still there.

Maybe I am afraid. All that frustration trying to publish my first book, all those hours, a total of nine revisions, multiple query rewrites and all those rejections… Why would I want to put so much work into another project only to see it fail too? I read these wonderful books that I can’t put down, and feel I can’t compete, that no matter how much I write I’ll always fall short.

Back to the present: The only light in the tunnel was a few days after posting this, we heard word that Lifelines was to be published. That gave me focus for a while. But now I’m emotionally back to this same space. Any advice for a struggling writer?

True to My Nature

“Musicians must make music, artists must paint, poets must write if they are to be ultimately at peace with themselves. What humans can be, they must be. They must be true to their own nature.” — Abraham Maslow

Art Supplies

A R T

I pull the cardboard box off the shelf
too long dusty
set it on the cleared table
trace my finger over the markered three letters
and open
creation in a box

I remove the items one by one
too long neglected
set them in their proper place
next to water, canvas, towel
and tally
creation in a box

I see pencils, paints, stencils,
too long idle
set by projects incomplete
search for a paint brush
and initiate
creation in a box

I wet the brush and moisten paints
too long dried out
set colors to a scantily clad canvas
bringing life to the scene
and treasure
creation in a box

Though I like to dabble in art, and do crafts with my son, I don’t consider myself much of an artist. That’s Lin‘s territory. I’m more comfortable with the written word. Over the years, I’ve learned that even when I am not writing, I still need to be creating to feel alive. Whether a poem, a story, a craft project, a dessert, or even a house in Sims 3. As Maslow says, I must be true to my nature. I must create.

We are all creators… not just of art, but relationships, homes, personal space, etc. What do you create? Why do you create?

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