Humility vs Perfection and the sweet space in between

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Humble is a good place to live, right?

I’ve had an interesting week. Shackles, the first novel that I wrote (over a decade over *cough*) never found an official publishing home. It did get my foot in the door with my current publishing house though, so I’m grateful for that.

A few years back, I read Shackles again and I still loved the characters and the plot. At that point I decided to put it out as a ‘warts-and-all’ freebie to give readers the opportunity of checking out my writing. Bait, if you will. I even wrote a ‘warts-and-all’ disclaimer in the preface because I just wasn’t going to re-edit the whole thing again. (Besides, I’d checked it twenty-trillion-times and had some others look over it for errors too and we were all happy that it was fine.) I knew I’d have to re-edit at some point, but with new books to be written, that never really loomed large on my horizon.

Fast forward a few years to this week.

Out of the blue, four new reviews arrived. Check them out here. All of them positive – some so lovely that I wanted to cry and hug my dog. Considering my allergies, that is quite something.

BUT…

A significant number of these reviews commented on a few grammar and typo issues.

*DIES* but (even bigger BUT…)

Here’s the weird thing, they loved the book anyway.

My immediate reaction was to start re-editing. Sorry kids, make your own supper. But I’m also currently writing to deadline. So what is a girl to do? I feel like I’m parading Amazon in my ancient bikini, the one with the elastic that has given up on life.

It is humbling.

But it’s also beautiful because I know that what they are falling in love with is not my broken ability but they are seeing Jesus through the cracks of what I can produce and are loving Him in the midst of typos and dodgy grammar.

It just doesn’t get better than that.

So I do have a chapter-a-day-only-after-I’ve-met-my-word-count editing plan. But it will take time and in the meantime, I’ll be out there warts and all for the world to read. And strangely, I’m okay with that.

I’d love to hear from you. Perfectionist? Any humbling happening in your life right now? Please tell me I’m not alone in my ancient bikini.

(This blog first appeared on the International Christian Fiction Writers blog.)

 

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2014: Syncing and Downloading

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I’ve had this post regarding new years resolutions brewing for weeks now and I thought it would be best to get it out before January is over. Good plan, yes? Did you make any? How is that working out for you?

I don’t do resolutions for the simple reason it’s like drawing a line in the sand. The moment that groove appears, I am filled with an overwhelming urge to slap my big, hairy toe over it. It’s not that I’m a rebel. I’m just genetically bent towards sabotaging myself.

So I had this discussion with Jesus about 2014. All the normal stuff – what should I get involved with, what needs to be priority… what time-suckers should be hacked off and destroyed as hazardous radioactive energy-zapping waste. I want this year to be different. One thing that already is (different), is that I’m a proud owner of a Kindle. A friend (you know who you are!) bought me one and I’m smitten. I love that it has a little line on the menu for ‘syncing and downloading’. Click on those words, and you have whatever books you’ve ordered at your fingertips in seconds.

That’s when He switched the lights on. It’s got nothing to do with deciding my priorities using my brain and limited knowledge of what this year holds, and everything to do with getting in sync with Heaven and downloading His latest blueprints. The access is instant and the download, immediate. And the best part? You can hit that little line 20, 50… 100 times a day. The Kindle doesn’t mind and neither does God. If there is anything new, you’ll be on the receiving end. If not, He won’t get irritated with you for asking.

Here’s to a year constructed according to His perfect blueprint!

 

 

 

265 in… 100 to go

UnHinged 1My diary informs me that today is the 265th day of 2013. There are 100 days until another year bites the dust. Its enough to make my head split in half.

I’ve been scarce here, I know. I do poke my nose in to check up on you every so often. Quietly, like a mouse. Or a stalker. Just kidding. 🙂

So what have I been up to… I finished Finding Mia in the first half of the year. It’s with a publisher and I should get the thumbs up or down by the middle of October.  The second half of the year was taken up with putting on a stage show UnHinged. That all went down last week and I’ve slowly been finding my brain since.

Here are some pics of the action on stage, taken by the legendary WolfWorx. The mastermind behind WolfWorx is Brian – a photographic artist. He also blogs right here on WordPress so pop over and say hi..

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2013 also saw my first words in print in a book rather than a magazine. Not Your Mothers Book on Home Improvement is a fun anthology all about misadventures in DIY. My contribution is 1 tiny story out of 65! Haha! But I love small beginnings, because they have a tendency to grow into bigger things.

For some even bigger news – I actually read a book this week. From start to finish, in a day. It was glorious! The kidlets were a little shell-shocked at having to make their own lunch, but I called it tough love and moved on.

Can 20 minutes change your life?

A few weeks back I would have laughed and said no ways! Now, I know that it can.

Just to be clear – I’m not talking about car smashes or connecting with God for the first time. I’m talking about the humdrum of normal life. You know – the parts that never make it into novels… feeding the dogs and shaving your armpits, that kind of thing. Not convinced? Check out these scenario’s and then we’ll talk again.

Scenario # 1:

5:25 I get woken up with tea. I sit semi-comatose in the dark, sipping the warm liquid. It helps to wake me a shade beyond snoring.

5:40 a stagger zombie-like to the kitchen to slap together lunch for the small people, help them find a ridiculous number of lost things and help the smallest, grumpiest person in the house to get dressed and ready.

6:20 usher them all out the door with much hugging and love you’s and 0h-poop-I-forgot-my-sports bag/homework/to kiss the cat.

Note: at this point I am still pretty much asleep.

After that follows brekkies and all the stuff that ladies do to make themselves feel acceptable for human company.

7:30 I finally sit down to write a few words before heading out the door.

 

Scenario # 2:

5:00  My cellphone sings me an irritating ditty and I try not to smash it.

5:01 I stumble zombie-like down the passage to the shower. This actually transfers me into the state of compos mentis.

5:20 I find clothes and brush hair. My hubby brings me tea. Thanks to the above-mentioned shower, I’m actually awake enough to read my Bible while I sip my tea (with the lights on).

5:40 I make lunch and find lost stuff and get the short-grumpy person dressed and moving.

6:25 Wave them all off feeling awake enough to actually mean it when I yell out “Love you!” Put the washing and the dishwasher on to do their thing.

6:30 I sit down to write.

A whole HOUR earlier. Isn’t that amazing? 20 minutes of sacrificed sleep buys me an extra HOUR of writing time. Isn’t that just insane? The loopy part is, it actually works. I’m 1/3 of the way through my current novel after spending months whinging about not having the time to write.

Small shifts can make a huge difference. 20 minutes a day have changed my life.

How crazy is that?

Is there anything you can rearrange in your life today that will make such a dramatic difference?

I’d love to hear your story.

Pssssst! Just between you and me,  I fell over this article by Barbara O’Neal today called The 20 Minute Win which totally proves my theory.

Amazing in utero photo for writers

You know when your friends get preggy and suddenly facebook is littered with murky scan pics that could just as easily be elephants or aliens? Well I’m proud to share MY latest in utero pic with you …

Everyone… meet Finding Mia…

She is 1/8th of the size she’ll be when fully grown. Much development has to happen before she can be born, but the potential to make readers laugh and cry… it’s all in there. 🙂

Pregnancy analogies aside – this is book #2’s plotting box. I wrote book #1 as a pantser. I literally made it up as I went along. Since then, I’ve added a third child (real flesh & blood person-child) to my brood and life is a whole lot more complicated. This means that the luxury of sitting down to write for a few hours without interuption is a fondly remembered fantasy. Now? I snatch half hours if and when I can.

This plotting box came about as the result of sheer frustration at my lack of progress. In a typical half hour gap, I would have to reread the last section I wrote to orientate myself in the story. Then I would need to think about what should be happening next. THEN I would be able to start writing. For the last five minutes. At which point I would generally think why bother? and go make tea. Not exactly a recipe for success.

I fell over this blog post by Rachel Aaron, author of the Eli Monpress novels, in which she explains how she went from writing 2000 to 10 000 words a day. Just a teensy bit mind-blowing, wouldn’t you say? I am nowhere near that yet, but she is incredibly inspiring. One of the basics is knowing what you are going to write before you actually sit down to do it. This box is my key to that.

So now I have a plan. It is by no-means complete. I’ve left a lot of room for my characters to do their own thing, as all good characters should. But I have a backbone, a spine on which to build and grow my beautiful story. So now, when I get a gap, I grab the next card and within seconds I’m ready to write. Isn’t it great?  

Tell me about your process? What works for you?

Inspired by… THAT?

 

So the grody thing in todays exotic photo is a dishevelled black satin sash that I took with me to Conference on a whim. It was lurking in between two dance costumes and I turned a blind eye and let it creep in.

It found its way into writing class one morning. Who knew an ugly sash could be such fun?

First step was to list its characteristics… that was fairly simple. Black, satin, creased, long enough to use as a belt, well-used, ugly (oh yeah, we didn’t shy away from hurting its feelings), double-sided… the list when on. One writer even spotted a tiny hole that the rest of us missed.

The next step was to write a negative story (flash fiction style) using the sash as inspiration… Just for fun, I joined in. Here is mine…

A Date With Death

It was meant to be the perfect date.

Her dress swirled around her ankles in a froth of chiffon, caught at the waist with a sash of black satin.

It took one.

One drunk driver.

Shattered journey, severed arm.

A black sash that could not stop the bleeding.

He was gone. She was alone.

Her date now, with death.

The final step was to write another story, this time a positive one, using the same departure point. You guessed it – the ugly sash.

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My toes sink into soft carpet. I inch forward, blinded by a sash so tight, I can feel every eyelash. Stacey snorts behind me, giggling.  “Don’t peep!” she choaks out between chuckles, “It’s a suprise!”

My arms wave like a double-minded windsock. My hand hits a wall of warmth. A wave of familiar scent washes over me, stirring memories like leaves in a gust.

A different chuckle, deeper now. Time turns sticky as I tear off the sash…

HE IS HOME!

The point? There were four of us and an ugly sash in writing class that day. The good-for-nothing sash was the inspiration for no less than eight stories. All of them very different, all with good potential.

So who agrees with me… for a true writer, inspiration is EVERYWHERE! 

 

Walking on aeroplane wings and other preposterous ideas

So I’m in an aeroplane. We are thousands of feet above mother earth. I look out the window and read this little gem printed on the wing…

‘Do not walk outside this area’

Oh really? Why ever not? I’m so glad they put that out there, because you know – I was just about to head out to stretch my legs…

After I recovered from a severe laughing fit, I got to thinking. That’s pretty much what we writers do all the time. It’s craziness to get out of an aeroplane and walk on the wing. Its also craziness to spend hours, days, months, years! at the keyboard, producing hundreds of pages that we hope – yes, HOPE! not know, hope – will snag the right persons attention. And yet we do. Because it’s what we’re built for. We do it because we hope our words will make a difference inside someone along the way.

It’s a good thing to hope for!

So I say to you (and me) today:

Walk outside this area!

Run

Fly

Soar

WRITE!

Disclaimer: I’m sure some of you, my tech boff buddies, will feel the urge  to enlighten me as to why they print that daft sentiment in that particularly daft place. I’m begging you to leave me wallowing in my ignorance this time. You’ve got to agree, it’s just so much funnier this way.