Catching Fireflies

finding magic along the way

Where to start?

As many of you know, I have been deep into the editing phase of my second novel since January. Over the last week, I completed the formatting phase. 😊

Over the last few years, I have been asked how you do it. How do you start with a blank page and end up with a book?

First, let me say, you do NOT do it alone! It’s important to know your weaknesses and embrace them. Don’t try to cover them up. Find people who can help you in those areas. Also, and equally important, understand that their help is not free. You will need to spend money to self-publish. Understanding what you can do yourself, and what you need to hire others to accomplish, is the key.

There are many tools I have used along the way as well. Each phase of the book making process requires I wear a different hat and approach my project with a different mind-set.

The most important thing to do in the first draft phase is to simply shut up and get out of your own way. I think more dreams die before they even begin because we have a hard time doing this! We let every minor distraction interrupt us, and we let every moment of indecision derail us.

If our inner critic isn’t born with us, it surely is developed during our school days. Maybe it takes after a parent who never hesitated to tell you that you will never amount to anything. Maybe it stems from a teacher who took pleasure in belittling you. Maybe it was a group of other students who made you doubt yourself. Regardless of where your inner critic was born, you need to learn how to sit down and do whatever it is you want to do and just let it jabber away in the background.

“This is stupid.”
“Who would ever want to read or buy this?”
“Who do you think you are?”

Just let it roll off your back.
If it helps, you can occasionally yell, “Shut up! Maybe it will suck, but I am going to do it anyway!”

Go ahead.
Try it.
I’ll wait.

After years of practice at doing it anyway, you will improve. You will learn to quiet that inner critic and get the words down, or the paint on the canvas, or the ________________ (Fill in the blank. This advice works for all dreams.)

My tools for this phase are simple. Cheap notebooks, pens and/or a computer will take you there. I personally love to use my old Alphasmart Neo. Sadly they don’t make them anymore, but this little gem is perfect for spilling words out without getting hung up on rereading what I have written and trying to fix it as I go. They run forever on standard batteries, automatically save your work, have an instant on/off and only show a few lines of text at a time. Best of all, it is not connected to the internet! Distraction free writing! If you see one on EBay, I suggest you grab it!

For those of you who also need to be far from the pleasures of google and Facebook in order to focus, there are programs out there that can accomplish the same environment. Though I don’t have experience using them, I have heard good things about FocusWriter, WriteMonkey and OmmWriter.

I usually get the entire first draft done on my Neo, and then transfer the files into Word for the first rewrite. I am also a huge fan of Scrivener. It is an inexpensive and feature rich program that many writers love. Sadly, the learning curve is steep and I haven’t figured out how to use it to its fullest capacity yet.

When I am in the first draft phase, I bring very few rules to the table. I have found that NaNoWriMo is a great way to get my creative juices working – a monumental but doable goal, a deadline, and the knowledge that hundreds of thousands of other writers are writing at the same time. For those who are new to the game, NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, sets us up to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

Over the years, NaNo has taught me some valuable lessons.

  1. I can do this. The first year I did NaNo I reworded myself with prizes every 10,000 words to keep me motivated. In the following years though the high of finishing was prize enough.
  2. Before I can do this, I need to quiet that inner critic. She is welcome to return during rewrites and editing as long as she is constructive.
  3. To accomplish the monumental task, I need to make my writing a priority. If I don’t take it seriously, no one else will either. I must prioritize.

Both of my novels, Far Away and Ever After (2015), and the upcoming Magic Key (2018), started as NaNo projects. I’m here to tell you that 30 days may be enough time to get the story lines down. But to get to the point where I feel it is ready for the “publish” button, it takes a LOT more work. It takes different tools, and different hats, and a team.

I will be talking about the rest of the process this summer, so be sure to check back each week!

Monday Morning Pick-Me-Up

Let’s face it. Monday’s are rough. The end of the freedom that came with the weekend, the start of a long week, the return to work. To help ease you into your week, I wanted to share a little something that made me smile.

The Perfect Writerly Gift

What do you get a writer on such a momentous birthday as the big five-oh??

Why, a vintage, mint condition dictionary, of course!
With a magnifying glass to help these old eyes read it. 😊

This is the 2nd edition Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language, unabridged, originally published in 1934. This particular copy was printed in 1943.


It is beautiful! And mammoth! Picture that giant dictionary that held a place of honor in the elementary school library, the one that you were allowed to approach only with permission.

   

The edges of the pages still have a multicolored design that is only slightly faded in spots. The pages are clean and crisp with very little signs of aging. The binding is tight. And there is no attic odor like you get with so many old books.

With over 600,000 entries and a 400 page Reference History of the World, this tome will meet every possible word I could throw at it! It list definitions in chronological order for each entry so there are many definitions that are obsolete.

Filled with thousands of illustrations and full color plates, it is a feast for the eyes.

   

Thanks to Mr. Webster, for such a fabulous celebration of the English language!


I will cherish this for all my days!

Monday Morning Pick-Me-Up

Let’s face it. Monday’s are rough. The end of the freedom that came with the weekend, the start of a long week, the return to work. To help ease you into your week, I wanted to share a little something that made me smile.

Birthday Week! The Big Five-Oh!

This is it! The Big Five-Oh arrives this week!

There will be celebrations.

There will be wine.

And as a gift to myself, there will be the cover reveal for my second novel!

Coming July 2018!!


Monday Morning Pick-Me-Up

Let’s face it. Monday’s are rough. The end of the freedom that came with the weekend, the start of a long week, the return to work. To help ease you into your week, I wanted to share a little something that made me smile.

1 week to 50!

In the last days of my forties, I found that I am still able to learn new things.

I have always been a planner. As the only non medical personnel of group of physicians and CRNAs, I wear a lot of different hats. I live by my planner and juggle multiple projects at a time. There are always a lot of moving parts in any medical office and I never take time off that hasn’t been planned days if not weeks in advance. It is just too difficult to stay on top of everything if I do.

I approached this holiday weekend with many balls in the air- a long-term data measurement project that has been weighing heavily on my mind, a retirement party for one of our physicians, a staffing shortage, and of course, my usual day-to-day work. In addition to the day job, I had plans to focus on final edits for my second book this weekend, something that would fill the hours that were not dedicated to the Memorial weekend projects around the house. Oh, and of course, our 24th anniversary would require some celebration too!

The universe had other plans.

Wednesday night, our cat, Bailey, bit my leg. Now before you ask what I did to him to make him bite me, let me explain that our boy has had some issues over the last five years or so. He suffers from anxiety and is medicated both with oral meds and a calming collar. Our boy actually lives in his own room with a baby gate, more to keep the other cats out than to keep him in. (He weights 20 pounds and could jump the gate in a heartbeat if he chose to). So my boy was purring as I went through the normal nighttime ritual of putting him to bed for the night and a second later, he lunges at me and bites my leg. After I was done swearing, we cleaned it with alcohol and went to bed.

 

I happened to already have a routine doctor appointment scheduled the next morning so I had my doctor look at the bite. She prescribed some oral antibiotics which I began right away. She told me if it worsened to go to the ER for an IV of stronger antibiotics.

By Friday morning, the side of my calf was red, swollen and extremely painful. So, being a good patient, I went to the ER on the way in to work. I texted my boss to tell her I might be late.
Despite my insisting I was fine, both my boss and the ER doctor refused to let me go to the office after my treatment. I was told to go home, elevate my leg and rest.

Upon hearing that this was my fate, I immediately started to come up with reasons that I had to go to the office. As I lay in the ER, hooked up to a drip of antibiotics, leg throbbing, I was helpless and felt the grip I had in all my juggling balls failing. I finally had to accept defeat and allow people I work with to help me. More than help me, I had to let them do my job. (And they did, for which I am so grateful!)

I followed instructions, went home, elevated my leg all day, etc. The next day, my leg had worsened, and I found myself back in the ER for another IV. The doctor that day flat-out told me that if I didn’t promise to go home and elevate my leg for the rest of the weekend, she would admit me.

Suddenly, everything was out of my control. No party for my retiring doctor, no swinging by the office to do some work to catch up for my unexpected day off, no sitting at my desk working on edits. I found myself not only laying in the ER for over ten hours with nothing but my phone and a book, but forced to bond with my couch and said book for the remainder of the weekend.

And I am surprised to report that by Sunday morning, I had somehow released my anxiety over not being allowed to work, and started to embrace the forced relaxation.

As Monday night rolled around (holiday weekend here in the US), I found that instead of the usual end-of-the-weekend angst over everything that would be facing me at the office the next morning, I was feeling relaxed and okay with starting the week already behind on my to-do list.

As I contemplated this strange sense of peace, I realized that for the first time in a very long time I had found myself with no choice than to let someone else take the reins. I realized that I had been holding on to my control over so many things in my life that I had convinced myself that it was the only way to ensure that things went smoothly. This weekend, I was forced to let that go, to let Jesus take the wheel so to speak. And despite this, despite my being completely sidelined, everything worked out.

So in the final weeks of my forties, I am learning how to let go, to relinquish the tight grip of control that I had come to believe was required to keep my life in track. Was there extra work waiting for me when I got to the office? Oh, yes. But I managed to keep my cool and forgive myself for not getting it all caught up within an hour of my return. Am I technically a week behind for my book release? Yes, I am. And that is okay. Sometimes our health and sanity has to take priority over self-imposed deadlines.

The trick will be remembering this sense of freedom  and continuing to allow myself to ask for help and relinquish the reigns from time to time. I may not always be able to do that but I promise myself to try. May my next 50 years be less stressful, and may I let go every now and then just to see what happens. 🙂

Many people have asked me what is to become of my cat… He will live out his days in a life of luxury at our house. He is my mush. He just had a moment. 🙂

Monday Morning Pick-Me-Up

Let’s face it. Monday’s are rough. The end of the freedom that came with the weekend, the start of a long week, the return to work. To help ease you into your week, I wanted to share a little something that made me smile.

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