With Reckless Abandon or…Is It Abandonment? The Story of My Petulant Little “Children”

My writer’s brain is very much a Pandora’s Box and every time I pop the lid on it to reach in and retrieve inspiration or ideas for my next project, I am defenseless against those story ideas that escape from the box prematurely, like a genie popping out of a magic lamp that hasn’t been rubbed. And while many beginning writers complain or struggle with writer’s block, this Pandora side effect is actually the opposite. I reached in for one story and let lose endless ideas that will haunt, and distract me while I try to focus and finish my current manuscript.

I’ve been suffering this Pandora’s Syndrome since I tried my hand at writing back in high school, some twenty-nine years ago. As a result, no matter when I’m writing, or what what story I’m trying to breath life into, there are always, a minimum of three to four other stories, that like little petulant children demand and scream for my attention. As I battle to get to the finish line with the current project, no doubt what the others believe is the favorite child, I must neglect my other “babies” and push forward to completion in order to, eventually, move on to the next. But in the meantime, my petulant children feel abandoned and forgotten, and so I wonder, am I working with the necessary reckless abandon or am I actually neglecting them. I occasionally console them and tell myself they are not tabled, they are just temporarily detained. I will free them soon enough, stop their kicking and screaming and give them the love and attention they each deserve.

Q: DO YOU EVER SUFFER FROM THE PANDORA SYNDROME? DO YOU HAVE YOUR OWN PETULANT CHILDREN?

Here are my current petulant children:

Not Writer’s Block But Rather A Writer’s Excess: A Conversation With My Current Manuscript

One of the most common complaints associated with the writer’s life is the dreaded “writer’s block” – I can’t say I know many writers who actually suffer from it – actually, I can’t say I know many writers at all. Being a beginning writer precludes me from leaving the house. On my best days, I drag myself out of bed (but stay in my jammies), splash enough cold water on my face to manage consciousness and follow the cold water regime with copious amounts of caffeine: espresso, lattes, regular joe, hot or cold as long as it has creamer, I drink just about any cup of coffee available. When I am finally semi-awake, the voices start kicking in. No, not I-am-completely-nuts-and-talk-to-myself level of crazy. The more normal Imaginary-characters-demanding-to-jump-onto-the-pages-of-their-stories kind of crazy. You see, I have never suffered from “writer’s block” – instead I fight with a different form of writer’s disease. It was a struggle to decide what to call it, but I think I will, for lack of a better term call it “writer’s excess” – since an excess of story ideas is precisely the opposite of a complete lack of ideas, I think the label is suitable. At least, until I can think of something a bit more punny or witty.

SO “WRITER’S EXCESS” – what exactly does that look like?

I am knee-deep in the first draft of a new story, a manuscript that I am committed to finishing despite the roadblocks of the profession, like horrible writing, shifty plot development, and characters that were once “speaking” very loudly and suddenly go silent without much to say. I fight feelings of frustration and failure and drudge on. I remember the wise words of Stephen King, “Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.” So I carry on and proceed to shovel the additional shit it will take to get me to my next shitty chapter. But then, out of nowhere, without warning or signs, IT creeps up. Now, I’m not only fighting the shitty writing but THIS GREAT NEW STORY IDEA that has grabbed hold and won’t let go. The New Story begins to softly mumbling little nothings in my ear but eventually the mumbles turn into requests and the requests become demands shouted from the rooftops.

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When Story Ideas Bully Their Way In!

When you’re in the middle of editing your manuscript, because you’ve finally finished the dreaded first draft and know there are hours and days and weeks of tedious revisions ahead before you can consider yourself done…you start to hear voices in your head…actually voices (plural). Not the you-need-therapy voices, but the creative ones from desperate characters demanding to be brought to life. Trying to ignore them is futile. So you give in…or at least I do. Now I’m editing book 2 in my Friends series, putting off the project (Sanctuary) which I promised myself I’d tackle next – but I can’t resist so I answer the loudest voices first. “The Keepers of Deadwood Forest” was a recent inspiration after watching the new incredible Netflix series, “Stranger Things” – it was so Stephen King, so 1980’s and so dense with mystery and myth that my head exploded with ideas. I couldn’t scribble them down on my notebooks fast enough. Many of these great ideas have died on the toilet, like so many do because I failed to take a pad and pencil in there with me. I am seriously considering installing a hanging writing pad and pencil next to my toilet paper holder! 

For now, I guess I’ll keep banging on those keyboard keys and see what comes of this little adventure. 

QUESTION: What do you do in the middle of your process when new story ideas bully their way in?

Characters Vs. Stories

I think most fiction writers are driven by two main aspects: the characters OR the stories. There are times when we (fiction writers that is) wake up in the morning, or head to our daytime job, or find ourselves sitting quietly on the toilet taking care of business (oh don’t make that face, we all do it #writerslife ) and then, out of the blue, we are stricken by inspiration. This inspiration comes in the form of either an intriguing, unique, quirky or troubled character OR it comes in the form of a story arc or ‘what-if’ scenario.

I’ve come to discover, as I navigate the world of writing, editing and submissions (that when I try to bend my stories to the mainstream market, I often fail – I don’t do this anymore and don’t recommend anyone else do it either – write what you know – write what you love – period). Ultimately, I decided, I DO NOT write stories, I write characters! I fall utterly and complete in love with the people that populate my worlds. It is not the world, setting, or surrounding that dominates my storytelling, it is the person (that woman or man, that couple, the widower or the new adult lost in their adulating world). And, as I write to breathe life into my characters, they inadvertently end up breathing life into me.

WHICH WRITER ARE YOU? ARE YOU CALLED UPON BY THE JOURNEY OF A STORY? OR ARE YOU SEDUCED BY YOUR CHARACTERS?

The Power of a Book Review

In today’s connected world, most products and businesses thrive or die based on the reviews they receive. Sites like Yelp, Amazon and Goodreads (the latter specifically for books) give consumers a voice and provide a pro/con discussion about goods and services, so business and/or products focus on that which matters most: customer satisfaction! 

It is the same with publishing. Authors and their success or lack of, is closely tied to building a readership. The catch is that readership is usually achieved through with great reviews (unless you are Nora Roberts, Stephen King or James Patterson). But the review game can be like the credit game – it’s hard to get it if you don’t already have it frown emoticon So writers everywhere are worried and hoping for reader reviews (sometimes more than they worry about royalties). 

The best thing a satisfied reader can do for a new author is get on sites like Amazon & Goodreads.com (it only takes a few minutes to set up a FREE count) and you can rate books, leave reviews and comments or start a discussion with other readers!

Book Review (ENTERTAINMENT)

1. The Road…Well? I try to. Keep my. Posts positive so. I’ll have. To get. Back to this one because. I just can’t say. Enough. about a. Writer that. Wrote. A book almost. Entirely in fragments. The. End.

2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo…a very gripping Law & Order SVU-style exposition that sets you up for the suspenseful ride as we discover the…read it! This was so good a ride I had to read it all in one sitting. I also had to take a quick break to run for a few cups of coffee, because even though I lived in Hawaii at the time, Larsson’s descriptive language made me COLD (and not in a metaphorical way) – I could see the snow, the ice and their frozen breath…IT WAS MAGNIFICENT!!! Kudos Larsson for an awesome series!

Marriage & the Art of Refrigeration (an excerpt)

The contents of a refrigerator can reveal a great deal about a person’s life. Marly and Sam Franco had the same refrigerator for twenty-three years. It was a standard Kenmore model with 19.5 cubic feet of space and a side-by-side design that allowed for easy access to an icemaker and filtered water on the left exterior door. This cool convenience guaranteed that the kids would effectively make dangerous puddles for anyone to run through and break their necks. This fridge also featured the latest in gallon doors so the Francos hung heavy gallons of orange juice, cranberry juice, mango juice, apple juice and large tubs of V8 with confidence—a true haven for all that was processed and sugary. These same doors turned into a blank canvas that the kids would paint on with greasy fingers, red streaks of spaghetti sauce, and sticky strawberry jam on a daily basis—a caked-in masterpiece that took extra-strength cleansers and an offensive amount of elbow grease to remove.

 For more than two decades, the Francos always kept their beige Kenmore stocked with the most coveted family essentials. There was always a gallon of low-fat milk, which was never enough to last the week with two kids and a dad that demanded cereal every morning. The kids always kept countless rows of Lunchables stacked along the second and third shelves that were often traded at school for more desirable choices. The Kenmore’s crispers always stored the freshest fruits and vegetables alongside a few wilted lettuce heads and a bag of moldy carrots the kids refused to eat. The dairy shelf on top included more than enough butter, coffee creamers, mustard, mayo, catsup, relish, three types of vinaigrette and several cups of yogurt and cream cheese selections well past their expiration date—a true condiment zone. The freezer was home to the proteins but most importantly it accommodated the family’s precious reserves of ice cream sandwiches that were the happy culmination of endless Friday Family Movie Nights.

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