Renewing Writing Practices

Reading and journaling these past weeks with Colleen Story’s game changing Writer Get Noticed, so many of my writing plans have come into sharper focus, including how best to adjust my writing practices. Specifically, I’m looking at changing writing routines when my husband retires at the end of the year.

When I finish Jane in St Pete in December, I have no plans for a next novel. Al’s retirement is not the only reason it feels right to take a break from writing novels. Since I’ve been publishing books, I’ve steadily released at least one a year. I noticed a slow down with Lily White in Detroit, my tenth novel.

At first I attributed my decreased output to the added research that comes with writing crime novels, but after studying Colleen’s writer’s self-help guide, I realized I’ve come to a natural stopping point, at least for now, at least as far as writing novels.

As I worked through the illuminating exercises Colleen lays out in a genius step process, I learned that while adjusting to a new life passage that involves fun, travel and moving out of my home state, I still want to keep some portable writing practices. Writing a novel takes a big chunk of time, a room of my own and steady commitment, day after day, month after month.

My life is not going to have those long stretches of time in a writing room, at least not for a year or maybe even longer. Although…I start every day with morning pages, and have done for many years. I won’t give up my journal and gel pen. And I don’t want to give up my fiction writing groups and friends, either.

Short stories helped me fill the gap after Lily White and gave me something to bring to my critique groups. Stories kept my craft skills sharp. And eventually, they led to Jane in St. Pete. Like many writers, I started writing fiction with short stories. I published a few of them, but mostly they were a way to begin to figure out my voice and how to write a narrative.

Things can get stale for me if I keep doing them over and over without hitting refresh, and that happened recently with morning pages. I’d write a half page and sit there with nothing to say. Julia Cameron, who introduced me to morning pages, recommends three pages every morning. That’s still what I shoot for. Answering the questions Colleen poses became a way for me to write not just three pages every morning, but four, five, even six pages. All while discovering what to do next.

I was on fire as I got deeper into the heart of what I really want out of my writing life now. More flexibility. Less sustained attention. Writing I can finish in a couple of hours or days. Long before I began the daily discipline needed for writing novels, I was a blogger. I also published book reviews, personal essays, poetry and short stories. All things I enjoyed and could do around my teaching job.

With the help of Colleen’s therapeutic method of writerly inquiry, I was able to figure out how to keep the writing I love close while figuring out how this new adventurous phase of married life will look in retirement. I have so many new goals. I’m looking forward to finishing Jane and going through the editing process with my publisher’s guidance. I can’t wait to gear up for the marketing aspect of a new release–Colleen also helped me clarify how to do publicity my way.

I’ve learned what does and does not work for me as a writer. I love morning pages, social media, my blog. I especially enjoy giving my website a fresh design, which will happen in 2020 along with that novel I’ve been working on for a while now. 🙂 I’ve still got a ways to go with the novel, but the revision is coming together even as I decide what to pack and what to leave behind on this next great adventure.

Feeling Published

Remember flame wars? In 2002, this same week, I got torched on a Yahoo Fan Page. Which led me to leave a group I’d really loved. It was so hard, and so much on my mind, I told my son about it. I shocked myself when cried a little bit before wiping my tears away and laughing at myself.

My son Mike asked me what I’d liked so much about the group. I thought about it. I finally said I liked talking about writing. Which was something we did a lot in that group. I’d miss having that outlet. Mike said “Mom, you should start a blog.”

I sniffed and said I wouldn’t know how to do that, and anyway, weren’t blogs over? He replied that he’d set up the site for me and also, no, blogs were not over. They were only going to get bigger. He was in IT, so I figured he knew more about the internet than I did. I said yes, thank you, that sounds like fun.

I hadn’t published a book yet, just some poems, short stories and book reviews in magazines, but the minute I posted my first blog entry, I felt published. It was an incredible validation. All these years later, I still feel so good about my blog, which my son continued to help me with for more than ten years, until his first son was born.

I have such happy memories of this adventure. Choosing wallpaper for a custom template, learning to write a key lines of code, blogging every single day about the novel I was working on. In 2002 there wasn’t any software that did tech things for you, so Mike did them for me. He was so patient when I wanted to change my blue stars wallpaper to pink flowers. The blog was a joint project and my son was my teacher. What a gift.

Mike said he could still do the work on my blog after the baby came. By this time we had been through Blogger and Moveable Type and were firmly into Word Press. I’d met Barb of Bakerview Consulting online and was sure she could do the housekeeping chores. I was also sure Mike was about to be way busier than he could begin to imagine. Both of these things turned out to be true.

What started out as a way to talk about writing became my author platform and I didn’t even know it until I read Colleen Story’s “Writer Get Noticed!” I’m learning more about my writing self from Colleen’s book…like what specific things I want from this writing life I’m living. The answers will be different for everyone, but the discovery process is the same.

It starts with the question Mike asked me all those years ago: What do I like about doing this? Why do I like it? These days I’m revisiting those questions and so many more that Colleen poses. Doing the exercises in Colleen’s book is an illuminating way to fill my morning pages. Which is the way I always start my day. Why? Because I like it.

Why do I like it? Any of it? Morning pages, blogging, writing novels, participating in a Twitter hashtag? It’s all one reason, really. It’s the best way, the perfect way for me, to communicate with the world. And I didn’t really put it all together quite like this until I read Colleen’s book, so thanks Colleen. And thanks to Mike, who set me off on this adventure. And most of all to you, whoever you are, wherever you are, reading this. ❤

cascade of ideas

This morning, like every morning, I woke up and thought about my writing. Maybe I won’t write today, I thought. Maybe I need time for ideas to perk. Then I thought, no, I want to write. Even if it’s another day of useless words, they’re not useless to me. They might be useless in the WIP, but they take me where I need to go. I want to put down my words today. At least three pages.

After the pep talk, I got out of bed and made a cup of tea which I took with me into my writing room. I opened my notebook, curious to see what would happen. Almost immediately an idea occurred to me and then another and another and by the time I’d finished, I had six pages and a clear path to how the second act will play out. I’m really glad I didn’t talk myself out of writing today!