Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Musing Mysteries, Part 2

Okay, so how many of you are ready to attend a writers’ conference? Let’s see hands. C’mon, don’t be shy. I’d love to meet you. Even though I’m giving you a sneak peek at my presentation, it’ll be way more fun in person. Really. Promise.
WI2018 Check out the UW-Madison Writers’ Institute. It’s an amazing three days (four if you count the extra presentations on Thursday) dedicated to writing. Whether you are practicing the craft (we’re always practicing, right?) or starting the quest toward publishing, the Writers’ Institute is a great opportunity to learn, meet other writers, and enrich your creative energies. Here’s a little view into the fun: Writers’ Institute Pathway to Publication.

Eight-ish weeks to go. I’m getting excited–I’ll get to see my Writing Sisters. Can’t wait!

“Are you about ready, love?” My Muse is leaning on my desk in my writing office. He checks his bare wrist as if he kept a Timex there.

“Why, you have an appointment?”

He straightens and crosses the office to the white board. “No, but you do. What’s next on your list of clues to writing mysteries?”

200w_d

I grab a marker and add another entry to the list on the board. “The clock is ticking. A deadline.”

“Okay. What’s your deadline in Book 2?”

Hmm. “My main characters are only in town for three days.” I hold up a hand. “Don’t. Just don’t. I know, I know, three days. How many impossible missions were accomplished in three days?” That has got to be the most common deadline ever. I mean, outside of Kiefer Sutherland’s famous twenty-four hour countdown.

My Muse sighs. “At least it made a little sense. These days a team of geniouses save the world in mere hours every week. In a one-hour show.”

Nothing like the regular usage of the deux ex machina plot device—the oh-my-gawd-how-lucky-that-theory-actually-came-through (a “magical” intervention of some thing) tropeto allow Team Scorpion to stop a tsunami, or prevent an underground explosion that would’ve destroyed L.A., or catch two kids who have to jump out of an airplane at precisely the same time to land in a net (that was a Valentine’s Day episode). Probably not the best example of working against a deadline.

“Anyway. l’ve got a three-day deadline. Next?”

“Doesn’t seem like your main character is in a whole lot of danger.”

I point to the previous entries. Characters and stakes. “We went over the stakes already. And the characters. And the threat to the main characters, remember? The drug boss. The teacher who helped the protagonist after the attack, and who is now suspected of murder.”

“Raise them.”

“Excuse me?”

He adds to the list. “How can you raise the stakes, love?”

Raise them? More? “You heard the part about the drug boss, right? And how she thinks my main character is involved with the victim who was stealing from her.”

“Yes, I remember.” He underlines the entry on the list. “What can you do to the story that will make the main character less likely to quit?”

Hmm. If the main character was related to the suspect, or the victim, that would increase the risk to the main character. That won’t work with this story. There is a connection between the suspect and the protagonist. And a connection between the suspect and the victim.

“The victim is the suspect’s son-in-law.” I call this ‘blood is thicker than water’, because a connection between relatives has more meaning than between strangers.

“Better. Can you do more?”

A connection between the antagonist and the protagonist, or the protagonist and the victim, or the victim and the suspect are solid ways to raise the stakes. So, how can I ratchet things up?

Aha. “The suspect’s son died in an accident, and he learns the victim was involved. Oh, did I mention the suspect and the victim are family–by marriage?”

“Good. Now use that.”

I am. The trick is going to be using that to increase the threat to the protagonist. I’ll have to noodle on that for a bit. Two more down: deadline and raising stakes even more.

In other news, Week 2 word total is 21,816, about 1500 words short of the 23,338 I should’ve hit. It’s been slow, but I’ve gotten past the inciting incident now, so the story should flow faster. I will say that writing 1 to 2 hours every night is helping charge my creative energies.

Keeping my Muse close doesn’t hurt either 😀

Have a great writing weekend!

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Musing Mysteries, Part 1

I finished erasing the wall-sized whiteboard in my writing office. There. A nice, shiny, white expanse all ready for me.

And I stare at the nice, shiny, white expanse. Without a plan.

Which is my problem. No plan. Well, rather, I have a half-baked plan, but that’s about as tasty as a pancake that’s been pulled off the griddle too soon. You know, when it still has a gooey center.

So here’s the dilemma. I need to work on Book 2–which I’ve sort of drafted already, but the plot needs serious work. I’ve had things tumbling about in my head, and some stuff’s fallen into place, but there’s still a lot of questions.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m thinking too hard about it at this redraft stage. Kinda like Rough Draft, take 2. Or is it take 3 now?

“Why did I know I’d find you staring at a blank slate?” My Muse steps up behind me. He must have come in the back door. He leans on me, resting an elbow on my shoulder, his hand hanging limp. “So, how do you want to do this, love?”

“Well …” Man, he’s a bit distracting, all six-foot-two inches of so-easy-on-the-eyes Aussie complete with a super-cozy, super-soft, super-fuzzy arctic fleece shirt in a blue that complements his eyes. I duck away from him before I succumb. “I’ve got my presentation for the Writers’ Institute in April. Ten Clues to Writing Mysteries. Let’s work through those. Might help me organize the plan.”

He sighs. “You’ve got half of those things figured out already. Focus on what is still fuzzy.”

I press my lips together to make sure I don’t say it out loud. You’re fuzzy. Wuzzy. I had to. C’mon, you thought it, too. 🙂

He clears his throat and crosses his arms on his warm, fuzzy chest. “Julie.”

Busted. “Okay.” I grab a marker and start my list, in no particular order. Characters.

“You’ve got that figured out, right?”

“The protagonists, yeah, of course. This is book two. I know them.”

“Antagonist?”

“The cop that didn’t serve the restraining order right away.” He’s mentioned in the first book. “There’s still a lot of unresolved issues with the main character.”

My Muse waits. No foot-tapping yet. “And?”

“I’ve got secondary characters.”

“You need a stronger antagonist, love. You need more conflict with your main character.”

Yep. I know that. “Okay, so there are these brothers that are running …”

“Nope. Try again.”

Er. “There’s the drug boss that thinks the main character is in cahoots with the guy who was skimming from her. She wants her money, but my MC doesn’t know anything about it. Conflict and threat.”

He nods. “Okay, but there has to be more pressure on the antagonist. Is there something besides greed behind the threat?”

“Um…”

He takes a marker and adds a note. “Think about it. Next, what’s your protagonist’s motive? What’s the story goal?”

“Have you been talking to my writing mentor?”

“Focus, love.”

“Her goal is to make sure the man who helped her after the attack is cleared, so she needs to find out who killed the victim.”

“What are the stakes? What does she have to lose if she doesn’t figure it out?”

Dammit. Why did I think this was a good idea? “Her life. The bad guy thinks she was working with the victim, who skimmed from the pot.”

He adds it to the board. “Why does she have to figure this out?”

I know why he’s doing this. He’s walking me through the steps I haven’t thought enough about. (psst–I’m pretty sure he’s been talking to my writing mentor) “Because when she gets sucked into the mess, the man who encouraged her to keep going after the attack is the only suspect, and she has to clear his name. Payback for what he did for her.”

“Good.” He finishes the list. “One down.”

“Actually, that’s two. Character and stakes.”

He snaps the cap onto the marker. “Okay. Think about these for a bit, love. We’ll do some more next time.”

“Wait, what? Next time? Where do you think you’re going? I happen to know Mr. E is not available.”

He settles into one of the recliners, extends the footrest, and laces his fingers behind his head. “Let it simmer a bit. We’ll brainstorm in a few hours.”

I toss my marker onto the little shelf on the whiteboard. Well, okay then. I settle into the other recliner beside him. “You do know I’ve been brainstorming on this for a while. Like, weeks. Right?”

“And you’ve been spinning your wheels. Time to take this step by step.” He closes his eyes. “Think about the stakes. Think about what she risks by getting involved.”

“Did I mention she hated the victim because he was a buddy of the guy who tried to kill her?”

“Good. There’s a reason for her to not want to get involved, but she does because why?”

“Because of what the suspect did for her when she wanted to give up her dream.”

The corners of his mouth turn up in a grin. “Use that. Work on how that plays into the threat to your MC.”

Sometimes I wonder if I’m stuck because I’m trying to address everything I know the story needs before I get into the story. Overthinking it. It’s a first–well, a do-over first–draft, it’s supposed to be a mess because part of the process is working out the story.

So far, I’m doing my Feb NaNo on my rural mystery, and working out the wrinkles in Book 2, because my editor said I can send her the first 50 pages and a synopsis when it’s ready. It’s going to be a while. For those wondering about my NaNo progress, week 1 word count is 16,643.

I’ll walk through the other clues in my presentation over the next few weeks. Maybe this’ll help with Book 2. It should help. If nothing else, I can say I’m working on it, right?

Have a great writing weekend!


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The Write Stuff?

I’m going to do it. I am. I am going to do a self-imposed NaNoWriMo this month.

Yep. Gonna. Not book 2, though. I think I need to let that sit for a bit (as if I’ve touched it much in the past month). I’m going to rewrite my other WIP. And I’m going to get the draft finished before the Writers’ Institute.

You heard me.

“Yes, I heard you, love.”

Gulp. My Muse is standing in front of my writing desk, strong arms crossed on his broad chest. He’s wearing a medium blue sweatshirt proclaiming “Bold North”, the Minnesota theme for Super Bowl 52.

I suppose they wanted to head off the inevitable “Cold North”. Secretly, I’m glad we’re colder than average this week. We should be somewhere in the vicinity of 20 F. We’ve had high temps this week in the single digits. And now:

Capture

Just proves we really are cold in the winter (not that anyone doubted it). Heh. Yes, we live where the air can hurt your face. And we still spend time outside (as evidenced by the St Paul Winter Carnival going on besides all the activities and outdoor concerts for the Super Bowl in Minneapolis).

Back to the “Bold North” sweatshirt. “So, er, did you enjoy the ‘Super Bowl Experience’?” I, on the other hand, was catching up with a bunch of paperwork, including FSA and tax stuff. Ugh.

He looks at his shirt. “Meh. Best part was listening to all those people from warmer climates ‘enjoying’ the weather here.”

“You, ah, do any pub crawls?” Here’s hoping he doesn’t catch on to the fact I’m trying to distract him.

“Actually, yes. Mr. E and I found a new bar. It’s got atmosphere, and no karaoke. I hate karaoke. So, love, when are you planning to start this NaNo February? Which, according to the calendar, you should have started last night.”

“You were apparently at a new bar last night, so I took the opportunity to catch up on some paperwork. Atmosphere, huh? What else did that bar have? Did you guys get in a few rounds of pool? Darts? No bar fights?”

“We never get into bar fights.” He frowns, those piercing blue eyes of his narrowed. “Stop trying to distract me, love. I already told Mr. E no pub crawls for a few weeks. Should be enough time for you to do your ‘NaNo’. Then we’re gong to dig back into Book 2.”

“I haven’t heard back from my editor yet. I’ll have to work on that manuscript first.”

“Of course.” He plants hands on my desk and leans over me. “But until then, you will work on that WIP.”

“Hey, I’ve got some stuff to do for the Writers’ Institute in April, and I’ve got some interview questions I need to answer and send back by next week.”

“Excuses.”

“Legit.” I pull out the sheet of questions from a marketing person at UW-Madison. “See.”

He doesn’t look. “Uh-huh. Don’t think I’m going to go off on any more pub crawls and leave you unsupervised until you hit 50k words on your WIP.”

“Good.” I think. Yep, pretty sure it’s good.

“And no Super Bowl. The Vikings aren’t playing anyway.”

“I’m okay with that.”

He straightens, makes a beeline for one of the recliners in a corner of my writing office, and settles in. “I’ll be watching you.”

Sheesh. At least there’s no bullwhip in sight. indianna-jones-hat-whip

“Looking for this?” My Muse holds up a leather coil.

Hoo-boy.

 

I’ll be writing this weekend. Will you?


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A Tribute

First, Vikes flamed out big time. It was painful to watch. I don’t know what team they brought to the conference title matchup last week, but it sure wasn’t the one they brought to all the other games they actually won.

Ah, well, maybe next year.

So, I’ve been working on my presentation for the UW-Madison Writers’ Institute. I’ve got to turn in my handouts by March. Well, everyone else has to have their handouts turned in, too, so it’s not just me 🙂

WS mug

I’ve mentioned my Writing Sisters and I are doing an author panel. We’ve been discussing a handout for our panel, and a plan for filling the one hour-ish time slot we have. We want to let other writers know what we’ve done as a group and how we’ve managed to stick together for five–almost six–years now.

I’ve shared the story of how we got together. As we’ve been discussing our panel plan via email, we’ve been reminiscing a bit, contemplating a bit, reflecting on our group and why we’ve made it as long as we have.

As I was following the email threads, I realized just how much we mean to each other, and the role we’ve played in not only each other’s writing journeys, but the role we’ve played in each other’s lives.

You know, I was going to post some quotes from that email thread, but there are so many! I will, however, post a quote from our writing mentor, because it is so poignant:

“Compassion and support are so important. Good groups do get inside each other’s lives a bit, so that’s a good point to make. Individuals have to be willing to share, support, respect, nurture each other …”

And another, also from our writing mentor:

“So maybe another rule after compassion, patience, and long-term vision would be to add ‘actively nurture’ the relationship you’ve agreed to be part of, and to respect what that really means in terms of time, heart, and the work involved.”

Okay, one more from one of my Writing Sisters, about the how and the why of forming a writing group:

“I think most people think the ‘why’ is just getting critiques, but as this email exchange shows, it’s much more than that. It’s also small bits of encouragement or large amounts of butt-kicking depending on what’s needed. It’s advice and support about all the obstacles we face that detract from our writing, from medical issues to personal problems. It’s tips and tricks about apps, writing contests, software, research tools, and writing books.”

Bottom line, I was reminded just how much my Sisters mean to me, both to my writing journey and beyond. We haven’t seen each other since our August retreat, but I think about them often. It’s amazing, we were six strangers, then one more, but we “clicked” in a way that I suspect few groups of seven strangers do.

My advice to writers: find your group. It might be one or two other writers who share your passion for spending an afternoon at Caribou Coffee typing away, or a handful who spend a week every year at a little cabin retreat. Maybe you never see each other in person, but the important thing is the encouragement, the feedback, the sharing of successes and failures. The deadline of 30 days or six months and someone to hold you accountable. Other creative minds to bounce ideas off of.

Where do you find these people? Writing conferences, seminars, workshops, retreats. Writing classes that may take place over a couple hours or over a weekend. Online groups of like-minds (SFF writers, horror writers, romance writers, mystery writers, etc). Maybe even the guy or gal you always see sitting at a quiet table in the library hunched over a notebook or laptop.

Yes, you have to put yourself out there. Yes, you have to open up and share your writing and your writing goals. Yes, it’s scary.

But when you find your group, your collective energy will carry you all toward your writing target, may it be getting published, entering a contest, or just finishing a project.

Man, I miss my Sisters! April will be here before we know it 🙂

I’ll sign off with my modus interruptor, who keeps insisting she has the right-of-way when it comes to the prime spot on my lap.

zoey lapcat

Have a great weekend, everyone! Happy Writing!


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Escape from the Deep Freeze

It’s early, so the sun’s not up yet, but lookie here:

Capture

After two days above freezing–yes, I said above freezing–we’re back to the icebox. Wind chill advisory until noonish. According to the weather guys, we won’t see double digits again until the end of the week.

Sigh.

So when one of my writing sisters tagged me on this picture from Seed Savers, I had to smile:
26239161_1693631804022263_7610006661865739579_n What a great excuse to dig out the seed catalogs I got after Christmas (because when is a better time to think about spring than when it’s effing cold outside?).

We just won’t mention the whole “writer’s stuck in deep mud and can’t seem to pull herself out” part of this, will we?

*checks for Muse*

Whew. He probably got tired of babysitting me and decided to do a pub crawl with Mr. E.

In the meantime, this is what I’ve gotten in the mail. Tell me this doesn’t look like fun!
IMG_0185_cr I usually save the seed catalogs for later, when it’s closer to seed-starting time, but it’s been so cold, and I’ve been so “stuck”, that after my WS tagged me, I thought, “Well, that’ll be a nice bit of escape from Winter.”

I like looking through the catalogs, with all the pictures of veggies and flowers, but mostly veggies. If you’ve followed me for a while, you know I have a vegetable garden every year. I figured I’d share a little about how I plan it.

Wait, plan? Ha! I plan to have a smaller garden, because WEEDS, but somehow that never seems to materialize. The smaller garden, I mean. The weeds ALWAYS materialize.

So, this year I swear it’ll be a smaller garden. Seriously. Because I’ve got other things to do, like start promoting my book coming out next year. And writing/revising book 2 and another book and probably revising another book my agent has looked at that needs a whole lotta work (and here I thought it was almost ready to go–phffft!)

Everything else is subject to how I feel that year, that is, how much trouble the veggie is and how much I don’t want to bother with it. I have things I always plant no matter what: tomatoes, onions, peppers (sweet and hot), cilantro (see a theme here? Fresh salsa!), cucumbers (pickling, not slicing), dill (see another theme? Pickles!), radishes, and potatoes. This year, since I’m not canning tomatoes (did that last year), I want to plant a nice heirloom slicing tomato. They taste sooo good.

Beets I like because they aren’t much work, just need to be weeded. Green beans are okay; the bush varieties still don’t grow as upright as they sound, and I always seem to plant way more than I need.

Zucchini is another thing I plant every year, but I always forget how big the plants get. And they’re fine until the squash bugs show up. Damn things. Some years they aren’t a problem, but other years I don’t get many squash because of those little bastards. They suck juices out of the squash plant, and of course in the process infect it with whatever nasty fungus they carry. And they’re creepy–think boxelder beetle but bigger and gray and they stink when you crush them. With blue goo inside.

Definitely doing kale again, but this year I’m starting the seeds in the house–I planted three times but they never came up, so I had to buy plants last year. And I want to do not-so-curly kale, because of the cabbage worms (you know kale is in the same family with cabbage and Brussels sprouts, right?) Speaking of, as much as I like Brussels sprouts, don’t know that I’ll plant them this year. It’s a pain in the ass to pick the cabbage worms every day (since I’m too lazy to cover them with netting so the stupid butterflies can’t get to them).

Hmm. The rest is up to whim. I don’t like planting corn because you have to have at least 4 rows to get good pollination, and we never seem to pick it at the right time. I always have borage, which self-seeds like dill and cilantro, because the bees love it.

I always plant spinach, too, but I haven’t gotten a good spinach crop in years. And I like to toss in flowers, because whenever you order seeds you get free samples of flowers. This year I might do marigolds to try and keep the rabbits out. They say it works. It’ll be a second line of defense 🙂 And maybe pie pumpkins this year–I love pumpkin bread.

Every year I like to plant something new, or at least something I haven’t grown for a while. A couple years ago I did sugar snap peas, and had the same lousy results I had the last time I planted peas (about 10 years ago), so probably no peas. Did eggplant–nobody ate it. Did watermelon, but never seem to pick it at the right time, though there is a variety where the rind changes color when it’s ripe. Did cantaloupe–see watermelon.

I’m thinking garbanzo beans this year. Or maybe … Hmm. That’s what the seed catalogs are really good for. Finding something new to try. So maybe artichokes. Or leeks. Or edamame. Or Napa cabbage.

While I’m off to peruse my seed catalogs, I’ll leave you with a parting shot (don’t say I wasn’t thinking about you, B 😉 )

zoey12-17-2

Stay warm! Have a great weekend and keep writing!


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Musing Resolve

I’m resisting the urge to close my notebook and toss my pen across the room. I still can’t focus. My mind keeps bouncing around–I should really start thinking about my garden. I love looking through seed catalogs. I can’t wait for it to warm up. Woo-hoo! It’ll be double digits above zero when I walk down the driveway to get the mail. I’ve got a book review to write. No, I really need to write this scene. I’ve got two chapters of beta reading to do this weekend. I love Christmas lights, but I suppose I should put them away. Am I going to be able to finish that blanket I’ve been crocheting for the past–yikes, that long?–before my daughter graduates? Hey, where’s the cat?

Arrgh. This is my brain on a severe lack of resolve. Or rather, focus. Where is my damn Muse?

Aaaannd . . .

*clock ticks echo in the room*

Um.

I set my notebook down (no, I don’t throw it across the room, as satisfying as that would be) and open the door to my writing office.

Nada. No one in sight.

O-kay. I head to the other door, the one that opens onto the beach/woods/field/–you get the picture. Steel-gray clouds brood over wind-roughened water. The Adirondack chairs at the edge of the beach’s sandy shore are empty.

What the hell?

I close the door, fully expecting my Muse to pop in. Except he doesn’t. “Hey,” I say into the empty office, “where are you?”

Nuthin’.

Remember the Batphone from the old Batman show from the 60s? tenor I’ve got one like it (but way cooler) that’s a direct line to my Muse. I pick it up.

No dial tone.

Oh shit.

This isn’t right. He wouldn’t just leave.

Would he?

A curl of dread twists in my gut. He can’t leave. He’s my Muse. I toggle the cradle button. Still no dial tone. Crap. After hanging up the phone, I pace. Where could he be? “Hey, look, I’m sorry about the last few weeks.” My voice echoes in the room. “C’mon. Where are you?”

A knock at the back door. When I open it, my book dragon’s head fills the doorway, her red eyes glowing like Christmas lights against shiny green scales.

dragon1_cr I scratch her chin. “Thanks for coming, but I’m not looking for you right now. Have you seen my Muse?”

She draws back. *Really? I’m a perfectly good muse, you know.*

“I know. But I’m not working on a fantasy right now. I need my Muse. Have you seen him?”

She rolls her eyes. *Maybe.*

“What do you mean, ‘maybe’? Where is he?”

*He told me not to tell.*

“Are you kidding me? He told you? Why can’t he hear me?”

*Oh, he can hear you just fine.*

“Then why isn’t he here?”

She shrugs, stretches one gold-green wing. *He said something about appreciating the work he does. Oh, and something about how it feels to be ignored.*

Oh. My. Gawd. “Seriously? Tell him I need to talk to him.”

*He said I wasn’t supposed to be a go-between. Talk to him yourself. He can hear you.* With that, she turns and shoves into the air, wings sweeping down and kicking up wind as she climbs toward the low clouds.

What the hell? It’s not like this is the first time I’ve ever been stuck. And I’ve got a few extra weeks before my editor gets my manuscript back to me, so I need to finish the draft of Book 2. The notebook helps, but I’ve been letting myself get distracted. I need my Muse to be here.

I close the door. I’m not ignoring him. I’m just … dammit. I’ve been forgetting stuff, stuff that’s important but not writing-important. Life-important. Family stuff. And I’ve had a few discussions–not heated, but more than casual–with my husband about stuff I was supposed to remember but didn’t. I’ve even started bullet journaling to try and get a handle on it.

“You need to focus, love.”

My lungs stop working for a moment. I turn. My Muse is kicked back in one of the recliners in the corner, hands behind his head, legs crossed at the ankles on the footrest.

“Where the hell have you been?”

“Ignoring you. How does it feel?”

“I haven’t been ignoring you. I’ve been thinking about my books–that’s probably why I keep forgetting other stuff.”

He shakes his head. “If you’ve been thinking about your books, why is it you haven’t done any writing since before Christmas?”

“Because …” I falter. “I’ve started working on my presentation for the Writers’ Institute, and I’m doing a beta read. And I finished–”

“Excuses. Whatever happened to spending one or two hours a night writing, hmm? Tell me that.”

“I …” I’ve been slacking. Badly. And every night I chastise myself for it.

My Muse lowers the footrest and pushes out of the chair. “You need to get your shit together, love.” He waves a finger at me as a fedora appears on his head and a bullwhip materializes on his belt. “You’ve got stuff going on, but if you’re serious about this, you have to figure it out. You’ve done it before, why are you having such a hard time now?”

He’s right. And I think a lot of it boils down to waiting for my editor to get my manuscript back to me, because I know I’ll have to work on that. Which is stupid. I’ve got the time now, before I have any deadlines, to work on stuff, especially Book 2. And my presentation, which I actually do have a soft deadline for.

My Muse nods. “And there it is. You know what you should be doing, love, so do it. Hell, schedule it. You know your husband will hold you to it. He’ll send you off to write.”

He will. He has in the past. “You’ll stay here, right?”

A crooked smile brightens his face. “Me and my whip.”

I think I hear the Indiana Jones theme song in the background.

Another weekend, and dammit, I will work on my draft. Or my presentation. My son is heading back to school, so that’s one distraction out of the way. After a break in routine courtesy of the holidays, it always seems to take extra effort to get back into it. And we might even crack the freezing temperature this week–heat wave!

Have a good weekend all, and get some writing done. I will. Promise.


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Looking Back–Looking Forward

This weekend is the traditional reflection on the past year, and the look ahead to what’s coming up in the next. Hey, who am I to mess with tradition?

And it’s a ready-made blog post subject so hey, less work, right?

But first:

weather12-30-17wndchll Get a load of that wind chill number, kids. And wow, that dew point! Now, granted, the sun’s not up yet, and we’re within spitting distance of January, but our average temperature for this time of year is closer to 24 degrees (F) than zero. So, we’re under a National Weather Service Wind Chill Warning until sometime on Monday.

Guess what I’m NOT going to be doing this weekend 🙂

Looking back

My writing journey has spanned many years, even more if I count all those years in elementary and high school during which I wrote my very first “never to see the light of day” trunk novel and a lot of teen angsty poetry involving eagles and mountain wilderness.

The most-significant year of my writing journey was 2012, when I took the plunge and attended the week-long Write-By-The-Lake retreat at UW-Madison. There I met not only one of the most wonderful writing teachers, but I also met my Writing Sisters. To this day I marvel at how the planets aligned that summer to put me in the same room with so many skilled writers. We added another great gal to our group a few years ago, and we’re still going strong.

The second most-significant year of my writing journey is this year, 2017. This is the year I signed with my agent, a great writing coach and advocate. She helped me make my book stronger. I signed my first publishing contract. I still can’t really believe it. I suppose reality will kick in when I hear back from my editor–Yikes!

Over the past five years I’ve learned a lot about writing. I’ve made a lot of great writing friends, even though I haven’t met most of them in person. Yet, anyway. 🙂

A takeaway for everyone on a writing journey, no matter if your goal is to be published or to just get your current project done: You’ve moved forward. If you feel that you haven’t gotten anywhere, look back and really see what you’ve done. Every step, from that first idea, to putting pencil to paper (even if it’s electronic), to revising is a step. Every critique you get, every one you give, has the effect of expanding your knowledge of the craft. Have you made progress since last month? Last year? I bet you have, even if it’s just a paragraph describing that incredible apple strudel you had at the local farmer’s market or a poem written after you met your first child/grandchild.

Look at it as progress. Keep moving forward. Some steps are smaller than others, but they are steps, just like on any journey.

Looking forward

This year promises to be full. Uff-da. From everything that goes into getting a book ready for publication to sending my youngest off to college, things are going to be busy.

If you are looking for a writing conference, no matter where you are, consider the UW-Madison Writers’ Institute. Seriously. And I’m not recommending it just because you’ll get to see me with my Writing Sisters there–we’re doing an author panel. And not because I’m giving a workshop with one of my Sisters, either. Although, both are excellent reasons to come 😀 Mark off that second weekend in April, the 12th through the 15th, and come on out to Madison, WI. I’ve met people who’ve come all the way from California and Maine there. It is a spectacular weekend where you can absorb all the creative energy stirred up by so many writers gathering together.

This coming year will also be an experience getting my first book ready for the world, including editing (ugh), blurbs, cover design, and all the other things that go into releasing a book into the world. A grand learning experience for sure.

This year I’m hoping to attend the Writers’ Police Academy for the first time. I hope Lee Lofland, who basically runs it, will still schedule it for 2018. Lee’s daughter was diagnosed with cancer this year, so things are pretty chaotic in his world right now. If you follow his blog, he keeps his followers up on what’s happening. The WPA is the weekend after my Writing Sister reunion, so it’ll be a few busy travel weeks for me, but everything I’ve heard about the WPA sounds like it’ll be well worth it.

How about you? What new adventures are you planning for the coming year? A new project? Polishing a current project? Finishing one? Starting one? Maybe taking a class or going to a writing conference? Resolve to move forward on your writing journey, even if it’s to finally write that story about Great-Aunt Ruth (everyone has a Great-Aunt Ruth, right?) and her roadtrip through South Dakota where she met her first buffalo, saw the Black Hills, and lost almost everything she’d packed into a carrier strapped to the car roof.

It’s a journey. Take a minute to enjoy it. Then get out those seed catalogs and dream about the garden–I mean, what else is there to do when it’s f**king cold outside?

Have a Happy and Safe New Year!