Friday, January 31, 2014

Not Insanely Bad Rough Draft

After writing the rough draft of Black Nectar by writing, writing, writing with no stopping for editing or revising, I was scared to read what I had written.  Thought I would open up over two hundred pages of babbling mess and run away to hide.

But guess what? Surprise of all surprises, I like what I have written. For some backwards crazy reason, the stuff is pretty good.  The revisions I am now making on it are minimal. Why didn't someone tell me this wild way could actually work? Or maybe I was told, but like my inner teenager, I did not listen.

Writing the rough draft straight through was brutal. Felt like I was creating words by pulling them directly from the inner lining of my teeth.  My back ached and my forearms screamed at the end of each hours long session.  There was no rest for this weary writer. Only mockery that I thought writing a story could ever be an easy venture.

Sometimes in the midst of plucking out the keys that would form the words that told the story, I would remind myself that this was fun. That this was the career path that I had leaped to with love and joy in my heart.  Are all writers this delusional? Or do we have a split personality? One that believes writing to be fun, and the other than knows the wickedness of an addiction that has me clutching a story plot out of thin air.  Where did this madness come from?

Perhaps I could stoop to the level of blaming my mother as she possesses the writing addiction also. But I am too old and no longer naive enough to blame Mom for my issues.  Besides, she would just laugh and roll her eyes and let me know I was being ridiculous.  Writing addiction is not an inherited disease.

So in this past week of discovering that the rough draft to the sequel to Red Nectar is not something that I will run away screaming from like I did when I went to see Heath Ledger playing The Joker (he was scary!), my joy has been extreme.  I could just kiss every word that actually sounds not half bad in the way that it was placed in the creation of a new story.

Next story that I write with the hunker down and right the rough straight through method will be met with a glimmer of hope at the end of each chapter.  I will know that the efforts do pay off.  There can be gold within the time spent picking out the story.

Now I just need someone to critique it for me so that I know I am not just lying to myself. Telling myself that it is a decent young adult novel so that I won't fling myself over the Coronado Bridge after all the time and pain invested.

Rough drafts, revising, critiques. Let me remind myself again that the entire process is joyful and easy.

Heather Leigh

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Being Thankful

Some friends and I are doing a twenty-eight day being thankful process through The Magic by Rhonda Byrne.  Everyday, we are given some thing to do that will enhance our mode of being thankful.  The reasoning is that if it is hammered into us for four straight weeks, SOMETHING will have to stick and we will be happy campers for the rest of our lives.

Well, truth is, I've done this last year and it helped me immensely.  It became an ingrained system of being thankful for every situation that I encounter.  But over time the toy of gratefulness was not as shiny and pretty as it was when I first unwrapped it. So we are re-opening the gift of her book and doing it again.

It can be a creative challenge to figure out how to be thankful for EVERYTHING that comes my way. For instance: this weekend I came home overly tired and when my sons started arguing about who was going to take the dog for a  potty break, I yelled at them.  How do I be thankful for that?  Well, the look of shock on their faces at my raised voice told me that they were not accustomed to being screamed at. So, okay, I am not a total failure as a mother, just an occasional one.  And one who can say I'm sorry a few minutes later, so I am doing okay as a person, too.

 When I have to clean up dog poop? I'm thankful for having a wonderful Australian Shepherd.

When the car almost over-heated? I'm thankful for a mechanic neighbor who came to look at it and found it was a cheap and simple repair job.

When I have to wait another year for the next series of 'Sherlock Holmes'? I can be thankful that the darned show exists--there is something about those quirky characters that makes me love that show.

When I realize that my movie star crush, Alan Rickman, and I will probably never meet in this life-time? I can be thankful for all the movies I can watch him in (thank you Jane Austen for Sense and Sensibility).

As an author, being thankful in this time period is easy breezy lemon squeezy.  There is a plethora of opportunity in the self-publishing kingdom.  And social media is everywhere for promoting.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for Kindle Publishing and CreateSpace.  Next I'll be trying out the soon-to-be-opening Nokbok, like a library for on-line readers. Oh, and Goodreads, can't forget them.

We all have mucho to be grateful for. And if you are finding it too difficult to be thankful for a challenge in your life, appreciate that 'this too shall pass'.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for reading this blog!

Heather Leigh

Friday, January 10, 2014

Roughing It With Scout and Ellie

Scout and Ellie, the characters from my middle grade chapter book, just finished telling me their story in rough draft form.  They were on a crazy adventure of getting Ellie ready for the Miss Dainty Flower Beauty Pageant. Can you imagine watching a beauty pageant and seeing an elephant come on stage as one of the contestants? Walking in a fancy dress, then bathing suit, and finally juggling peanuts?

I have fun writing about the antics of this human-like elephant. Although I write an outline of what the pair will be doing in each chapter, Ellie is the wild card that keeps the outline from getting too specific. Truth be told, I don't know what she is going to do, or how she is going to react to each situation until I am with her in the chapter.  Going to get her nails painted? Oh, sounds innocent enough. Until there is another store she decides to visit along the way.  And how will she react if laughed at, loses, or wins?  She is like that inner raw emotion inside of us that we don't know quite how to control.

Scout gets stuck with helping her get ready for the contest.  All that poor kid wanted was a new toy. He didn't ask to get dragged into Ellie's emotional roller coaster life.  But then again, roller coasters can be fun.  Just hope this one doesn't get going too fast and fly off the rails.

This weekend will be spent recharging for the next writing adventure--revising the rough draft of the sequel to Red Nectar, the young adult novel about Emily, girl with dangerous telepathic powers.  She's not crazy wild like the elephant, but I do enjoy watching her mature.

Revising is easier than writing the rough draft.  It's more like fine tuning a piano that already exists as opposed to building one from scratch.  Well, maybe it is just as challenging but in a different way. In writing a draft, I don't worry about the details. I just figure they will get the magnifying glass treatment later. So now is the inspecting and fretting time. The time to make sure my 'i's are dotted and the 't's are crossed.

Wonder what I will end up doing this weekend? I have an outline of events to cover and will probably stick closely to them.  Because to my misfortune, there is no elephant in my life to screw everything up.

Heather Leigh

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Long Live Coincidences

I read a facebook post recently in which someone wrote that writers use coincidences as a cheap and easy way to get out of a difficult plot situation.  At first I thought that sounded like a half-way true remark, but then realized that life is full of coincidences so why wouldn't they be a part of storytelling?

For instance, yesterday, after leading my dog over to do her morning business in the McDonald's grassy area (we live in an apartment with no poop place), I ventured over to my car to attempt to learn why it had, almost,  over-heated the day before.  As I was peering under the hood, hoping that the location of the radiator, and where and how to check the coolant level, would jump out and announce itself, a neighbor walked by and asked if I needed help. I had only been standing there for 30 seconds and he was walking by on his way to work. I've never met this neighbor.  Turns out he works in an auto parts store and knew all about radiators and how engines work and had way more knowledge of the automobile than my narrow vantage of where the gas goes in.  With in a couple of minutes, I learned how to check the coolant level, about the reserve thingie, and where to buy the necessary fluid; it was almost empty.

So if that was not a coincidence, than I need to relearn that basic word.

And haven't we all experienced those random, lovely happenstances in which the seemingly impossible suddenly works out because of some accident of fate, being in the right place at the right time, or stumbling on a new situation at just the correct moment in our lives?

So phooey and blah to those who think coincidence should be shoo-shooed out of books. If they happen in real life, they need to be in stories.

Heather Leigh