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Category: Life of an Author

Embrace Myself – I’m a Pantser and Proud to not Plot my Books

Embrace Myself – I’m a Pantser and Proud to not Plot my Books

What’s a pantser you ask?

I  didn’t embrace myself when I started to write. I assumed I was doing something wrong until I met other authors. As I quickly found out, there are two types of authors. One like JK Rowling who meticulously plans out the story. I’m sure if you’re a fan you’ve seen the notes and graphs of her outlines. She is what’s known as a plotter.

The other side of this is the writer who starts with an idea, a beginning, middle and end and sits in front of the computer screen and just writes. That would be Stephen King, He approaches his stories as if he’s discovered an artifact and as he writes, he carefully unearths the story. This is called a pantser.

And that is me.

Doing it wrong – embrace myself.

For the longest time I thought I was doing it wrong. The crafting of the story I thought might go smoother, easier if I could plan it out. Unfortunately for me, planning always goes off the rails and I end up writing by the seat of my pants anyway.

After reading On Writing, by Stephen King, I realized other authors write like me and I stopped fretting and worrying, and finally embraced my style, learned to work with the quirks rather than fitting my style into someone else’s.

But is this a good way to write?

Hell yes! As I write, I become kinda like the reader. I might have a direction in which I’m heading, but the story is slowly revealed to me and that includes twists and surprises. There have been times that the story unfolds and I will stare at the computer screen and think, “What the hell? I wasn’t expecting that!”

I enjoy the surprises, not knowing exactly what’s coming up for my characters. Though I must say, it can take more draft before the story is crafted the way that I like. But it is so worth the extra time. And I enjoy the surprises now that I embrace my process.

Lessons

Lesson in the first: Embrace yourself. Why fight your true nature. Learn to work within your quirks.

Lesson in the second: Know your limitations and find a work around. I know it will take me more than two drafts before I have a well crafted story. It’s just the way it is. I couldn’t be happier with how The Wizard Hall Chronicles are shaping up. It wouldn’t have been this good if I planned it.

Lesson in the third: Embrace who you are. When I stopped worrying about doing it like other authors and really looked at how I worked, whether it’s writing as a pantser or writing best between 1 and 7 in the afternoon, I worked better not harder.

Lesson in the fourth: I’m not a bad story teller and I have a good product. Be proud of your work, put the effort in and people will notice. I’ve been fortunate to have found some amazing fans. Now if I can only clone them and find more like them, it’ll be gravy.

So here’s to the writers who plan and plot and those of us who sit down and write and let the story unfold. We are who we are however we get there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Becoming Lola – What Do You Like

Becoming Lola – What Do You Like

Why did I decide to reinvent myself and call myself Lola? My wheels have been spinning for years, never getting closer to finding THE job or figuring out how to sell more books. It felt as though I was I was taking two steps back for every step I took forward. I decided it was time to regenerate myself and my life.

This became an exercise in figuring out who I really was, what I enjoyed doing and trying things that might not have been in my comfort zone. I’ve had a photo shoot, learned about meditation, had an enlightening conversation with a Buddhist monk, changed my hair color, spent time with my friends and tried to stay optimistic about accepting new and different experiences.

I’m working on something new. What is it that I really like to do? What makes me happy? What puts a smile on my face when I do it, when I talk about it? What can’t I wait to do when it’s in the schedule?

The ocean. I love walking along the coast, any coast. I like the sound of water as it crashes against the shore. I love shelling, and shells, finding different shapes, different colors. It’s like a treasure hunt for me. Though I’m terrified of deep water, I love being near the water, dipping my toes in the water and mostly I love looking into the infinity of the ocean, seeing the curve of the world and seeing nothing on the other side. It represents no boundaries, that the world offers endless possibility if you open yourself up to them.

Writing makes me happy. Creating actually is what I love. It’s why I love painting, drawing, interior design. I love fabrics, colors, and making things pretty. When I was six, I bought a pin cushion, not because I sewed, but because it had three coordinating fabrics, in varying shades of pink. I liked it.

The two questions you might be asking, why don’t I already know what I like to do and why is it important? I don’t know anymore what makes me happy after life threw me several curve balls. I’ve been so preoccupied with a kid with anxiety, a kid who cut themselves because they were uncomfortable in their own skin, with things that pulled me so far from my original goals, I had to take a step back and figure out what I really wanted, what would make me happy.

It’s important because we shouldn’t wait to ask permission to do the things we like, and no matter how crazy hectic our lives can be, we should always carve out time for ourselves doing the things that we enjoy. So for me that means a walk along the beach searching for hidden treasures and a camera to feed my creative side. I won’t ever let myself forget again, to but myself first once and awhile.

Becoming Lola – It’s Good Enough

Becoming Lola – It’s Good Enough

Several times in the past few weeks I’ve come across the idea of good enough. Good enough, a cop out,  a means of settling, taking the first and easy way. It’s really not so.

In yoga, there’s a thought process that as beginners, you use props like a block or a strap because you aren’t able to bend or stretch as far as someone who has done it for years. When you’ve practiced for awhile, you stop using the props because you can bed and touch the ground without bending your legs. The final stage is the practiced yogi who’s been doing yoga for decades, who returns to the use of the block and strap because they understand that it’s not about touching the ground, it’s about the pose and the stretch that the pose brings. In other words, it’s about the journey.

With so much stress in my life, I ache from my back, feet, hands, shoulders. What I understand about the practice of yoga is simple, modification. I know what hurts, I also know what the purpose of the stretches are and I make modifications to the poses in order to not injure myself, worse than I already am. It’s not about bending farther than the person next to me, or not using the block because the person three mats down is capable of entering the triangle pose without a prop, or bend without the assistance of the strap.

I modify so that I can also feel my muscles engage, feel the burn as it were, as I hold a pose.

It’s good enough. It’s about the journey into the pose not the difficulty of the pose itself.

The idea of good enough isn’t weak. It’s understanding that everyday is a different day. As in yoga, one side of your body might be more open and easily bends to our will while the other side is tight and yields with difficulty and on the next day, it’s the opposite.

Why can’t we accept ourselves for who and what we are rather than compare ourselves to each other? We don’t know what someone else feels or what difficulties they experience that day. Today accept yourself for the day, and tomorrow accept the changes or the difference. Use the props, they stabilize you even after you grow stronger.

It’s all in perspective.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Water Churns, and Undulates, Alive with Pain, Anger, Love and Loss

The Water Churns, and Undulates, Alive with Pain, Anger, Love and Loss

I’m writing my memoir, sort of. It’s not an exact retelling of my life and the low, very low experiences that have eventually brought me to this point. It’s a lot of poetry, a lot of essays and a lot of imagery.

That’s not so remarkable. JK Rowling wrote about her depression. She made it a character in her books. Remember the dementors? They were an embodiment of the depression she experienced after her divorce. Mine is an image, its water. Water, something that I bathe in everyday, that I drink all day and use to prepare meals. And yet, since I was about six years old, I’ve been terrified of the water.

I learned to swim in a lake. Dark and dirty, I couldn’t see the bottom. I had a loss of control during one class, the day we jumped off the dock and the instructors kept us under water for what seemed like an eternity. I can still see the sun through the greenish water, a dull ball in the sky. I remember the panic waiting for the teacher to lift me out of the water. From that day on, I never liked being in the water.

I tried to learn over the years. I took the classes in high school, but my fear was so gripping that my teacher, while holding me in the deep end, told me, you are too afraid, I can’t teach you here.” She proceeded to swim me to the shallow end, where I spent the rest of the two-week unit, walking. As if that’s not a waste of time.

As I write about my life, about the death of my daughter, I find myself using water as a representation of that horrible time.

“it beats roughly against the rocky coast.”

“The water churns, and undulates, alive with pain, anger, love and loss. Each harsh wave erodes the rocks, removing a piece forever.”

“I can no longer breathe as the water pummels me, suppresses me, I try to scream but my voice can no longer be heard amidst the roar.”

I found myself writing the second entry and the images waters contained my sorrow, my heart-felt apologies, my fear and anger.

The water doesn’t just scare me. It terrifies me. White knuckle terror. When I took swimming lessons after the birth of my second child, I remember swimming in the deep end of pool. I climbed out still wearing my life jacket and stood above the pool. My teacher told me to jump in. My head understood the command, but my legs were grounded to the pool deck. I couldn’t move. I was paralyzed.

This is the imagery that describes the ups and downs. The white water rapids that describe my life. the way I can deliver my message and have others understand how I view my life.

Water terrifies.

Becoming Lola – Girls Weekend

Becoming Lola – Girls Weekend

We all need time away, time to process or not to not process, to unplug, unwind and hang with someone who totally gets you.

For my birthday, I loaded up the car, because I always over pack and headed to Holland, Michigan with my friend Marilyn. It was the perfect place to all of the above, and only three hours from home with just enough to keep us busy or not, for four days.

The location was beautiful, along Lake Michigan, with cute little towns, lots of great shopping, outside cafe’s along the lake, a great hiking dune, with a 239 step climb and a two-mile trail. And we did it all in my convertible. What’s not to like?

It was the perfect weekend with a great traveling companion. But for me it was something a little more. I’ve been making the most of my summer off from work, partially because I can’t find another job, partially because there’s so many things for me to catch up on and frankly, I’d rather be writing books for a living than anything else. But a weekend away, with a good friend, no kids, no husband, was what I needed. Time to just be me. Not mom, not wife, not pack mule. Just Sheryl.

I’ve been on a journey of sorts, one in which I’ve been taking myself out of my comfort zone, doing things that stress me out a little and it all started with the re-writing of my first book The Day of First Sun. In the five years since I wrote that book, I’ve evolved. I can tell because my evolution is reflected in Annie Pearce journey. She started out, maybe tough as nails, finding it difficult to let someone in and now she’s a loving, confident woman who sometimes isn’t. She changes and grows and is a far more complete character as she discovers who she is. Much like me, like the journey I’ve been on as I try new things, discover who I am and what I want my life to be.

For the first time since I lost my daughter to an undiagnosed neural muscular disease, I finally feel unstuck and in a place where I’m moving forward, and not standing still in the muck. Becoming Lola, my way of shaking myself up and moving out of a comfort zone has been an eye opener. Where once I thought incapable of doing the simplest things I now realize that when my car overheats three hours from home, I’m more than able to buy and use the antifreeze, let alone simply driving there in the first place.

Fear is paralyzing, and it’s in the relearning to do the simplest things, we realize that writing that book is really not so hard. Only the first step is.

For my first steps, check out Introvert to Sales Goddess on Amazon.com

Becoming Lola – Growing Confidence

Becoming Lola – Growing Confidence

Something happened to me in the last few weeks, I think as a direct result of quitting my job. It’s an unfamiliar feeling but it’s like a drug, I can’t get enough of it.

I quit my job 5 weeks ago. I’m just now finishing up my project, transferring my job duties to a new employee, training other co-works to replace me. I have one week left, and I have for the first time in two years, have a chance to breathe and see myself differently.

The job from the beginning, I believe was a mismatch for my skills. Not a writing position, and not responsibilities that I had a background in, the job was an opportunity to try something new. But the something new was nothing that interested me or anything I liked. It probably from the beginning was the wrong path.

Ending this job freed me. Fortunately, I’m able to quit without having something lined up. I can’t take time off and deal with my kids who have been through difficult times and have challenges ahead of them. I can use the time to pursue my dream. And as I end my projects and train and make decisions about my future, I learned something interesting about myself, something I never would have thought before….I’m freaking awesome!

After training two replacements, tested, worked through issues, wrote standard operating procedures, set up the database, prepared the data, I realized I can do anything I set my mind to. I’m smart, I’m capable and as the confidence grows, I see the light at the end of the tunnel and for the first time, I feel smart, sexy, beautiful and most importantly, confident. I made a decision, followed through, and the world opened up for me in a way that hasn’t been in a very long time.

Not everyone can quit a job, (I’ll be applying for contract work in a few weeks), but we can honor who we are by listening to what we need and what we desire.

I won’t be bored. I have 2 books I’d like to have ready by the end of the year, I have my kids I plan to hang out with and a life that I want to make my own.

Here’s to growth and change and learning to love yourself.

See where this journey of self-discovery started, when I failed at the job, tried something new and realized what it was that I really want to do.

Introvert to Sales Goddess on Amazon.com

Oops I Did It Again…a Rewrite That Is

Oops I Did It Again…a Rewrite That Is

The Day of First Sun - Copy to Use I was 7 years old when I read my first Nancy Drew book. There was something in that smart girl that resonated me and I wanted to read every adventure. But I didn’t just want to read the stories, I wanted to write them, create my own world, characters and adventures.

Life, it sometimes gets in the way. Infertility, a difficult pregnancy, the death of a child, threw me off of my course, the path I set for myself when I graduated college.

It took a wake up call, meeting a high school classmate, a published author to fuel my jealously, to snap the dream back to me. I finally wrote that book.

It took all of 6 weeks from start to finish, all 170 pages of it. It took at least 15 drafts two of which were self published. I hired marketing help.

I wasn’t ready. I didn’t understand how to edit, forget about using Twitter and Facebook effectively. Without holding up my end of the bargain, marketing, well it left me back to square one.

A horrible book release for book 2, left me constantly 5 minutes away from quitting. Paralyzed to move forward, which is where I’ve been for over 2 years as I try to figure out y life as a non writer. But I still come back to the desire to make it right, to finally live that dream.

I’ve been lucky because had I not gone down that road, I wouldn’t have met a collective group of great, smart women who have taught me some of what they know about marketing, writing and editing. And I would have learned nothing.

After careful thought, I re-wrote my first book again. I re-thought the entire series. Rather than selling books with flaws, I chose to improve the product. The premise was good but… I hope I fixed the but.

That is why I chose this major rewrite. I took a long look at the book and the series and pinpointed where I fell short. I took out chunks of the book, changed relationships and rewrote what turned out to be a majority of the book. Though the story is the same, it gets there in a different manner. One that I hope answers questions, feels complete, with characters that are worth reading about.

I often wonder why no one has said to me, you’re an awful writer you should quit. I’ve mostly experienced encouragement, just enough to ignore the bad reviews. Just enough to try again. Maybe this time I’m nearly 10 minutes away from quitting, and at least in the end I know I’ve tried.

I’m very proud of version 20 of The Day of First Sun and I look forward to it’s release. I can’t wait to share.

It’s been an emotional few years picking myself up and dusting myself off, but I did it. Sometimes it’s all we know what to do.

Pre-order The Day of First Sun, check out Amazon.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faking Confidence Leads to Real Confidence

Faking Confidence Leads to Real Confidence

Is confidence something we’re born with, or is it something we grow within ourselves when we are surrounded by a loving family, friends, society? Is it always with us or does it wane over time or experiences? I think about that as I examine my life, my choices, my career.

At seven, I knew I wanted to be a writer. Everything I did was leading me to that career. I wrote in my spare time, I became and English major, worked as a technical writing intern. I worked as a technical writer when I graduated.

Regardless of what I had done over the course of my life, I always stayed close to writing. It was what I was told I was good at since I was young, it was what I enjoyed the most and it gave me confidence. Some of the best jobs I had involved writing, whether it was business letters, technical manuals or user guides, there was a pride that came with learning a job and translating that for others to learn from. So when did the confidence wane and leave?

Bad jobs, fractured relationships, the death of a child, there are so many things that eat away at confidence, that leave a black cloud over your head, that suck the light and life away.

A series of bad events, of loss, left me paralyzed. And yet when the confidence was at its lowest, I decided to put myself out there, expose myself and write again. I needed to be reminded that I wanted to write a book and when I was, I did. To do that requires honesty and being open with the world in hopes that you find your audience.

You throw yourself out there when you publish your book whether you have a publisher or you self-publish. You read the reviews and you meet other authors and bloggers who can help you attract readers. Its raw and scary, terrifying and sometimes your read a review that is hard to stomach and you can’t speak for a week.

But there’s something in my makeup that when the confidence is lacking, propels me forward and keeps me writing. It’s a manufactured confidence, when I believe that I’m strong enough to keep writing, marketing and planning for that dream future.

Confidence is a tricky thing. It can be strong or it can be weak. We can be slaves to it or we can overpower it. I’ve never overpowered mine at least not until recently. I no longer wanted to watch other accomplish what I could only dream about. I wanted more. Even when the confidence leaves, I’ve learned to fake it. Negative self-talk can break you and positive self-talk even if you have to pretend for a while is better than none at all.

Because somewhere along the way I realized that I can do whatever I set out to do, I just have to believe in myself. Even if I have to fake it once and awhile.

The Biggest Lesson I learned is…Editing

The Biggest Lesson I learned is…Editing

I’ve learned a lot in the four years since I first wrote The Day of First Sun. I’ve made a lot of mistakes too. But as I put all that I’ve learned into practice, I find myself  finishing my final edit of that first book that I’ve completely re-written for the fourth time. The reason behind the re-writes stem from my early mistakes with editing. I say this because, when I first wrote the book, I never processed the story in between each edit. And without that time to process the book, the story and the characters, I never saw the book for what it could be only for what it was.

When I made the decision to re-write the book, it had been over a year since I had edited, read and touched that version of the book. It was that time that allowed me to see so much more of what the book could be and as I edited, I re-wrote. I took out the scenes that I knew made no sense, I strengthened sections that needed additional information and I added more than I thought I had in me because pieces of the book revealed themselves to me as though I was treasuring hunting and discovering a new treasure.

And it was a treasure. As the story opened up to me, I learned more about Annie and Cham, more about the murderer, the suspects and the victims. I changed locations, added tension and instead of wrapping the story up with a neat little bow, I let the story work itself out slowly and thoughtfully.

It’s the biggest lesson I learned from the last four years. Editing. Not that it’s crucial, because it is, but giving yourself time in between each edit to process the work you did and let it sink in before you begin the next edit. Before I would finish a draft and eight hours later begin my next one. It left little time to really think about the book.

It’s taken this months to edit this book, not days or weeks and I even took a break in the middle to rethink what I find to be a crucial character than the editor didn’t think was. I needed time to decide what I would do with the character, and when I was ready (when book two of the series draft one was completed), I began to clean up those final suggestions and thoughts the editor left me with. Tonight I inserted the changes to Annie’s newest nemesis, which I think are far stronger than what they were because I gave myself time to consider what I needed to do with them.

And now, I’m looking over the edge of the cliff. The one that represents the publishing of this edition of the book. I glance over the edge, no longer worried or scared that the book isn’t good enough. I did what I set out to do, I made it stronger, I gave it more to feel about, I made it better. I’m more excited than I have ever been over this book and I can’t wait to share.

Editing will always be the most important thing you can do for your book. A professional editor will not only make sure all your commas are correctly placed, but whoever they are they will make sure your story isn’t confusing, makes sense and it readable.

I thank my editor every day.

 

What You’re Worth

What You’re Worth

How do you measure what you’re worth? I don’t mean your bank account or the things that you own. Do you judge yourself by what you’ve accomplished, by the job you have or the completion of a dream?

Lately I’ve been measuring my worth by my accomplishments or lack there of and it weighs on me. Where I thought I would be at this point in my life I am no closer to achieving.

I’ve struggling with what I think I’m worth as an employee. Am I only good enough for a file clerk position or am I worth more as a writer, an organizer, a planner with valuable ideas that are helpful to my employer?

When I succeed I’m cocky and believe I can handle any job that’s thrown my way. When I fail, I dwell and worry, upset that I couldn’t do more with what I had. My worth as I view it, decreases and any change to my status at work feels like a demotion. Whether it’s good for business or not. But is it good for me? Do I have more value than what this job entails?

Should I measure my value to society, to my family, to my friends by how others view me or should I find a new measuring stick and realize that I am unique, an individual with valuable things to say.

But I can’t help but wonder if my failures should be proud moments because even though I didn’t make it, at least I tried. I can’t go there because that’s just bullshit. If I merely accept mediocrity and failure even though I tried, than the only option is to give up. I’m not there yet. I still have dreams, I still have a passion for something. Unfortunately that is precisely what I measure my worth at. It’s not enough. I want more. I’m tired of plans and decisions not ending the way I hoped. And that alone pushes me forward, gives me purpose and hope. Maybe I should measure how I feel about myself by my ability to not give up, to keep trying when everything points to the fact that maybe I should quit.

I’m finally over the mini crisis I had last week, when it felt as though I was being demoted for the inability to do the job I was hired for. I knew as I took over the job from someone else, that it wasn’t the case. I was moved to a position more suited to my abilities. I knew that. It’s what I do for a living, not who I am and not how I should value my self-worth.

How do you feel? How do you value yourself, your worth? Please tell me it doesn’t involve your job, or your bank account or even your accomplishments. tell me it’s because you are unique and an individual. We all offer something to someone in our lives. As long as we’re true to ourselves, I think we’ll be okay.

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