The Next Big Thing Bloghop!

Carla Luna Cullen tagged me in The Next Big Thing Bloghop! I am to tell you all about the latest book I am querying for representation and share the love by tagging other bloggers.

1. What is the working title of your book? IMAGINE

2. Where did you get the idea for your book? Several years ago, I was a short story writer and pub’d several shorts in a series of anthologies (you may find them on Amazon). One of my short stories, IMAGINE, was my absolute favorite. The hero, Scott Tupple, was based on The 10th Kingdom’s “Wolf” played by Scott Cohen. His ticks and quirks seemed to me as if he’d burst into cartoon character antics at any time, hence, he became the ‘imaginary friend’ who could do anything in my story. I’ve since set IMAGINE to a screen play, and the final morph of the story became my Upper MG Fantasy/Adventure book, IMAGINE.  So, despite its many adaptations, the title and the main character have always stuck with me.

3. What is the genre of your book? Oops, already answered that! Upper MG Fantasy/Adventure.

4. Which actors would you choose to play the characters in your book? Well, that’s easy, Scott Cohen would be Scott Tupple, but since he’s long past teen years, I guess I’m out of luck! Some young actor who’s wild and dark haired. Janie Mulaney, the human girl Scott falls for, would have to be sweet, young and blonde. I guess I’d prefer unknowns for the roles!

5. My one sentence elevator pitch? Toy Story meets Pinocchio – an imaginary friend who wants to become a real boy. Humans only think they’re in charge of their imagination…

6. Will your book be represented by a publisher or self-published? I am currently querying agents for representation and ultimate sale of my book to a publisher.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft? Far too long than it should have….

8. What other books compare in your genre? That’s hard to answer, because I’m hoping to be the new ‘twist’ <G>  IMAGINE is like Toy Story and Narnia, in that by opening a simple door, a whole new wonderous world is revealed.

9. Who or what inspired your book? See #2 above – Scott Cohen playing “Wolf” in The 10th Kingdom. Who could ask for a better imaginary friend?

10. What else about the book might pique a reader’s interest? IMAGINE is a ‘boy’ book, told in Scott’s POV. His sidekicks, Mort (that’s Mortalis Evolutious to you!) a scroll of knowledge, and Qui, the adorable feather quill who is more dog than pen, help him navigate the wilds of Conscientia – a world created by the collective imaginings of children. It’s like walking into a cartoon or video game – everything is animated and constantly morphing based on whim. Scott must survive The Trials – a set of grueling tests of his abilities – to win his humanity AND Janie, the human girl he loves.

For this bloghop, I’m supposed to carry on the chain by tagging up to five other writer/bloggers. Here are three awesome and inspiring fellow writers from WisRWA:

Linda Schmalz
Barb Britton
Anne Parent

Posted in IMAGINE, The Next Big Thing Bloghop, writing | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Down “Write” Funny – NaNoWriMo Land Part 2

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So!  Yesterday, at the stroke of midnight, did you scribble the thoughts ricocheting off your gray matter and rampageously vomit up a few thousand words because the fire to write your story burned feral through your fingertips?? Did you make the first day of NaNoWriMo your bitch??

Of course you did!!!

Woo-hoo!!  Yippity-skippity River dancing for you!

And now…. Today, are you simply staring at your buttcrack because all the suck tumbled out of you so fast that you wrote yourself into a black hole of no return and have no inkling where to go next? And you decided to quit because THIS IS HARD, MAN!

Of course you did!!!

Huzzah!  Welcome to NaNoWriMo Land Part 2 – The Death of Good Intentions!

Let’s face it, bubbie, this is no easy task you’ve set for yourself. WTF were you thinking?? FIFTY THOUSAND WORDS!! That’s kind of a ginormous scary amount when you eyeball the end game, isn’t it? Comparable to losing ONE HUNDRED POUNDS or running TEN THOUSAND KILOMETERS.

Exceptionally large feat when you step back and look at the whole (and not the hole, i.e. your buttcrack). Something to make your insides squinch up with doubt and insecurity. Can I do this? echoes through your bowels and is answered with a resounding fart of NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

But this is not the time to panic. (It’s the perfect time to panic! Squirrel!)

Remember your Anne Lamont permission mantra of the shitty first draft. It doesn’t matter *what* you write. It only matters *that* you write. Every day. Every Day. EVERY day. EVERY DAY!

So follow her bird by bird approach. One day at time. Chunks of 1,667 words a day equals 70 words an hour, .86 words a minute (Double Squirrel!). ANYTHING is overwhelming when you look at the whole flock of what you’re trying to accomplish, so break it down to the minutiae of little goals.

What are little goals, Betsy? And how do I get one! I see you running and screaming in circles, bald spots forming from your hair-fisting frustration.

Little goal suggestions to combat life’s problems:

Work sucks! Why yes it does, but that doesn’t mean you have to. Secretly open an email addressed to yourself and keep it in the task bar to pop up and flood with that great line/idea you know will elude you after the dragging torment of your day job leaches away all creativity (be sure to hit send before the boss busts you). When you return home, the brilliant gem in your in-box may reignite the writing energy to fulfill your daily word quota.

My spawn won’t leave me alone! Dude, park them in front of the zombie box. What are you even asking me this for? But they need to be fed, diapered, and nurtured with quality time, you heartless wench!  Fine. Whatever. Make a game of it. Slap some apples and goldfish crackers in a bowl next to their sippy cup, along with a box of crayons and coloring books to fight over and all of you sit at the table for your “quality time” together. Use the damn crayons to plot out some scenes. Draw them in hieroglyphics – Look! Mommy is coloring, too! Type it all up later when your spawn have finally passed out for the day.

The phones, they won’t stop ringing!! If you’re like me and my fellow Wisconsinites, and live in a swing state, I bet your phone is in a constant state of robo-ring. Mitt calls me every day. Sarah Palin checked in to say hello. And the minions of both parties have chosen my number to harass every five minutes for the past, oh, say, two years. Look, I don’t really give a flip who you vote for, but I do care that you vote. That’s our privilege, and if you don’t exercise it, then shut your raging maw for the next four years. I don’t want to hear it.  As for the annoying ring-ring-ring? Put the phone on mute, Einstein. That’s not a legit excuse not to write, and just like you non-voting complainers, I don’t want to hear it.

Okay, by now, you get the idea – concentrate less on the big picture (FIFTY THOUSAND WORDS!!!) and focus on the smaller pixels that it consists of. You know, like those renderings of famous portraits that when you squint at you can see they’re actually made up of puzzle pieces or box tops or some shit?

Do that. And only that. I know you can tough it out past day two, for crying out loud you pansy. Because seriously, if you can’t? Then I’m shoveling your ass in with the non-voters. Go. Be gone. Useless loser.

But if you’re made of sterner stuff, stick around. Remember my promise to be the Pied-Piper of Anti-suck? I keep my promises! We will make it through NaNoWriMo together – and we will succeed! FWIW, yesterday, I only wrote 906 words – far from the daily goal of 1667, right? Did I quit? Naw. I knew I had today off (so I was lazy pants), and I will make up my writing quota accordingly, plus it’s the weekend! My Brainstorming Crew and I have already set Saturday aside for sprint-writing. A whole day to dump gray matter into my hard drive, drink caffeine and eat whoopie pies! What more could I possibly hope for???

What little goals or potential windows in your schedule can you carve out to reach your daily writing quota? Focus *only* on the 1667 words a day, 70 words an hour, .86 words a minute….. bird by bird rhymes with word by word. Coincidence? I think not.

Posted in Brainstormers, Down Write Funny, funny, Goals, humor, Little Goals, Mitt Romney, NaNoWriMo, Sarah Palin, spawn, Squirrel!, Vote, whoopie, writing | 10 Comments

A Down “Write” Funny “Iron Uterus” Halloween Story

Meet my alter-ego – The Iron Uterus. Enjoy this post from the past as my Halloween Treat to you!

In third grade, while all the other kids wore their store-bought, lead-based
painted mask and tissue-thin plastic tunics with superhero abs imprinted on the front, my mother promised me I could wear my precious First Communion outfit, complete with embroidered lace floor-length gown, a lily of the valley bouquet and a tiara headpiece with flowing veil. I was ecstatic. I was going to be The Most Beautiful Halloween Bride EVER!

Until my mom stole my headpiece and flowers for her bowling league party.

She needed them because her team planned on dressing up as a shotgun wedding posse. Her attempts to appease and salvage my costume included a crocheted bedspread to drape over my head and some dusty fake tulips she pulled out of the attic. She handed them to me and said “You’ll be fine.”

I was not fine. I cried through the entire candy gathering ritual, presenting my tear-streaked face to each lamplit door and wailed “Trick-or-treat” pitifully.

People called me a jilted bride. I thought “jilted” was seventies slang for “your mama dresses you funny” and sobbed even harder. My pillow case overflowed by night’s end with candy people shoveled into it out of pity.

When I became a mom, I vowed never to put my children through such horrific, tear-filled Halloween torment. This mama wasn’t dressing her kids funny. Hell no! I’m the mom all the other moms secretly hate. I have created elaborate and authentic masterpieces with my sewing machine and glue gun skills. For my children, Halloweens would be happy!

For my beloved firstborn son, I had created a multi-patterned and detailed clown costume that would put Ringling Brothers to shame, complete with authentic face paint and hand-sewn juggling bean bags. And my reward for hours of back-breaking stitch work? Mother Nature had the freakin’ audacity to SLUSH ON ME!

You heard me. It wasn’t raining. It wasn’t snowing. It was slushing outside in below thirty-degree weather. Heavy, thick, ice blobs of slushie pelted the ground from the skies above, mocking me. This does not make for a Happy Halloween experience.

Like any good mother determined to let her kid beg candy from strangers, I strapped a see-through trash bag over clown boy and proceeded to drive him door-to-door in my iron uterus. I’d march his circus-bound fanny up to ring the bell and await with great anticipation the envious reaction of jealous
moms as they filled firstborn’s hand-made drawstring treat bag with chocolate
joy. Oh glory! Oh happy! Oh Halloween!

By the third house, firstborn’s face paint had melted to his belly-button, he was slushing wet from his pom-pom pointed hat to his lovingly stuffed and bow-tied Bozo shoes, he’d dropped his precious treat bag into a frozen puddle. . .

. . . . and he was crying.

That was the day I finally learned that despite the best laid plans, we are all destined to become our mothers. There’s no point in fighting it, so why even try? A mini-van is simply a tricked-out station wagon. Our mothers were the original Iron Uterus Generation. Their failures have taught today’s moms to strive harder for perfection, which in turn, our failures will scar the next generation for years of therapy to come.

Ain’t life grand?

Happy Halloween!

**Do you want to see more of “The Iron Uterus?”  Let me know, and I’ll throw a post in once in awhile.

Posted in #proudmama, Down Write Funny, funny, Halloween, humor, Iron Uterus, jilted bride, parenting, spawn, Trick or Treat, writing | 9 Comments

Battling the Death Cough

Heyla Friends,

I see you’ve all been visiting and it gives me a gigantic thrill in my eager newbie blogger heart to see you here, but then realization of my-porch-light-is-out-so-no-treats-for-you guilt stomps all the fun out of it.

I’m sorry! I suffer from the most evil of all death coughs. Not something too conducive to making grand impressions at the writers conference I attended this weekend either. (One woman actually moved away from me on Friday at a master class, ahem – beware my germ wrath, babe! I licked your highlighter when you weren’t looking!) My conference absence is yet another excuse I will toss into my pot of please forgive me soup.

Cow-towing aside, I do have throat-clearing news to share! I have met Agent Awesome and I plan on making her mine. Hopefully I didn’t kill the deal by infecting her with my awful this weekend, but I hid my ick well, so we’ll keep that between us if she ends up in the ER, okay? (KIDDING!)

Once I’m able to remain upright long enough to scrape my eyes over my manuscript one last time (yes, I am anal and insecure, thank you for noticing), I plan to jet that baby off and dive into NaNoWriMo with the renewed fire and vitality only a generous dose of antibiotics can provide.

Chant with me now: I think I can! I think I can! I think I can! Or wait a minute. Is that every time a bell rings? Click your heels three times? Believe hard in fairies? Bah. I forget. Just toss me whatever good-luck-your-baby’s-not-ugly mojo you can spare and I will be deeply grateful.

I love that you’re all here. Please stick with me. Once the crud vacates my lungs, I will amuse myself with spewing bits of writing wit at you again. Pinky swear.

Posted in Death Cough, Down Write Funny, funny, humor, illness, NaNoWriMo, writing | 3 Comments

Down “Write” Funny – Caught Naked and Nothing to Write With

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I come up with the best lines when I’m naked in the bathroom. Or at 2:46 a. m., when I’m in that half-fuzzed twilight between awareness and psychedelic sub-consciousness. Neither situation is conducive to preserving the brainstorm brilliance to text file since I don’t shower or sleep with my laptop.

Needless to say, I’ve lost a lot of great stuff to the ether world of steam and sleep.  I mean, a serious lot of stuff, and it’s starting to piss me off. I’m generally an actions speak louder than words kinda gal (something I bark at my spawn multiple times a day, BTW), and since a lot of pre-plotting for NaNoWriMo is rattling around my brain lately, I really need to DO something proactive to keep from losing it.

Not losing it, i.e., go postal and launch a stapler at someone’s head, but losing it, i.e., thoughts be gone, son, and they ain’t coming back no more.  Call it peri-menopausal CRS (Can’t Remember Shit), or scattered brain syndrome or just too many mom-balls to juggle in the air, but it all boils down to here-a-thought, there-a-thought, everywhere a thought-thought *until* I’m finally able to sit down at my laptop and wrangle them into a cohesive piece. Then all those thoughts cackle through my empty skull and mock me with whispers of what they were, without the screaming clarity of before when I was naked and useless to capture them.

That needs to be done with. Anyone who knows me well knows I hate to be mocked. It makes my stapler finger twitch. And we all know what happens next.

Well, last time, Betsy, you told us all to gather up post-its and napkins and scribble away those pre-NaNo notes, so why aren’t you taking your own advice, you dumb bitch, I hear you all asking.

Because, seriously? What type of person keeps little notepads all over their immediate world-space on the off chance they’ll need to jot down some brilliant piece of prose?

Certainly not me.  I was just spewing the mantra of the chirpy advice-givers who chime in, as they always do, when I’m pondering problem-solving.  Hey, it might work for some of you! Who am I to judge? But, as usual, I don’t do chirpy myself, because that sort of pedestrian slap a Band-Aid on it solution makes me irritable.

Oh, that’s not to say I haven’t tried it a couple of times. Sprinkled my world with sparkly notebooks and pens with floofy feather butts. Big mistake. Gazelle Girl immediately claimed said notebooks and pens. Pictures of unicorns, rainbows, and I heart Justin Beavertooth filled the pages before I could even fumble blindly at the nightstand to scrawl whatever wisp of a plotline haunted my dreams.

(And speaking of scrawl… on the rare occasion that I *do* write in longhand, even *I* can’t decipher it days later when the distance between the note and the thought has passed to oblivion. My handwriting is truly heinous to the point where even doctors point and sneer. I must resort to painstakingly preschool printing to leave notes for my spawn, lest they claim they could not perform whatever task I’ve set on the grounds of my illegible chicken-scratch. Squirrel!!)

What to do? What to do? Can’t keep the laptop next to the bed. Ambient light drives me nuts. (Yes, I AM one of THOSE nut jobs. Thank you for noticing.) Can’t take it into the shower, either, for obvious reasons. So how can I keep from losing those pesky stray thoughts? What, in this modern day and age, solution could possibly be at my very fingertips (besides my stapler)?

Cue the ever-present smart phone!!  You all have them. I know you do. Mine never leaves my side. Never. (Everrrr, everrr, everrr – TayTay earworm, beware my stapler!)

My vice. My noobie. My electronic umbilical cord to the mother internet.  And, it has apps!  I don’t even have to thumble type my thought gems into the notes section where my Rule of 20 lists reside. I simply tap ‘voice memo’ and speak! This allows me to listen later and translate my slurred dictation to text. Voila! No lost thoughts!

Smart phones aren’t judgy-pants. They don’t care if you’re naked, drooling, or taking care business on the porcelain throne when you’re using them.  So no excuses! No lost precious ideas! Ta-da!!

Unless of course, you prefer sparkly notepads and feather-butt pens. Perhaps you don’t have the covetous spawn problem I do. More power to you! Follow the chirpy advice. Whatever works – whatever saves your gray matter from slipping down the drain.

As for me, technology and numbers get me off every single time.  They are the first things I turn to when my brain is stumping on a problem. I rely on them heavily and would curl up into the fetal position and perish should the show Revolution ever come to pass in real life. Color me dead if that happens, people. Color me dead.

That being said, are you gearing up some good notes for NaNoWriMo yet?  Have you gone and signed up to be my buddy? Do it now. I command you.

So, what’s your go-to gadget?

Posted in Down Write Funny, funny, humor, naked, NaNoWriMo, Rule of 20, smart phone, spawn, Squirrel!, technology, writing | 11 Comments

NaNo Prep Talk

Participant 73x73 Did you miss me last Friday?  Sorry, it was a big weekend for my youngest spawn, Gazelle Girl, with the XC Conference meet and State Marching Band, but Down “Write” Funny will be back this upcoming Friday – I promise!

Meanwhile, did you go be my buddy at www.nanowrimo.org yet? I’ve gained a few, but I’ll take more!

I’m going to cheat and lead you to their prep site to get your NaNo thinking caps on and gear up for November 1st!  http://nanowrimo.org/en/pre-nano-prep

There’s good advice and fun stuff here – check it out!!

Posted in NaNoWriMo, writing | 1 Comment

Down “Write” Funny – NaNoWriMo Land

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NaNoWriMo.

No, I’m not saying “Hello!” from the planet Ork.  NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month.  The month in question being November, which is poised to sneak and pounce on us likewise the way September basically immaterialized before our very eyes.  (Was there a September this year? Did anyone else experience that blur? Just me? Okay.)

The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words of a novel in thirty days. Period.

That’s it. There is no rule stating you must pen a NYT Bestseller. You are not obligated to hit save and send to 100 agents and editors the moment you finish (FYI, that’s highly frowned upon, newbie). In fact, you have the express permission that every single one of those 50k words you vomit up during the course of November can amount to a big, heaping pile of text dookie.

Because the only requirement of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words of a story.

And yes, it can SUCK. Huzzah!  In fact, it’s *supposed* to suck.

That’s the magic of the month. You get to write that “shitty first draft” Anne Lamont states all writers need to do just to get the words on paper.

You are NOT, however, during the course of the month allowed to edit your black hole vortex 50k of suck. More magic! Nope. You power through it. Plop in post-it notes of “insert conflict, research blahdiddyblah here, have epic sex/fight/epiphany scene” in the spots where you know what you want to happen, but aren’t sure how to write it and then you Move On.

Excited yet? I’ve just given you permission to suck at writing. What more do you want?

Want to take my hand and yippity-skippity into the magical land of ok-to-write-copious-amount-of-suck land?  Let’s go!

Step One:  Go make a name for yourself on the official website www.nanowrimo.org (And no, I’m not getting paid for that advertisement. I just hate to be a dweeb to talk about something and not tell you how to find it.)  Fill in all the cutesy stuff that labels you a writer and poke your fellow writing buddies to add to your list and make you feel important. Do whatever to fill in all the blanks you’re comfortable shouting at the world in general about who you are and what your goal is as a writer.

The reason I say do this, other than the obvious hold yourself accountable to the task you’ve committed to factor, is because they have a neato tool that helps you track your word count and run stats over the course of the month on your progress.  I’m a numbers person, remember? Bean counter? I live for this kind of shit. Especially when it means I can combine both left and right brain activity. That’s full blown mind candy, my friends.  So do it.  DO IT, I SAY!

I’ll wait. <insert Jeopardy music>  Ready?

But HOW do I write FIFTY THOUSAND words in a month?? I can hear you gnash and wail and unleash your introverted hyper-insecurities.  Easy!!! Do the math! The anal number cruncher in me will help the math-challenged (Lady Dee, you know who I’m talking to right now). To make 50k in thirty days, you must write at least 1667 words per day. That’s roughly 70 words per hour, .86 words per minute, (Squirrel!). Sorry, forgot myself a moment and went Rainman. You get the idea. Depending on how fast you can spew suck, 1667 words is roughly one uninterrupted hour of sprint-writing, by my calculations.

Every. Day.

But what about Turkey Day? Black Friday? Holiday hoops to jump through before Xmas? Weekends, man?? Some days I just wanna sit in my jammies and scratch things I can’t in public!

Okay, fine. Then do the math another way to compensate by upping your word count for the days you cower away from your computer. Some days you might write 500 or 5000 words, just make sure it averages out to reach your 50k goal.

Spend the rest of October preparing. Maybe jot a few notes, think about the story you want to write, create a few characters, but DO NOT WRITE. You’ll want to. The desire to start now will burn inside you! But let the embers fuel you for the jump start on November 1st when you can unleash the story fire onto your unsuspecting computer. A lot of NaNo’s cheerlead and say you should also make meals ahead, prepare to let the laundry sit, ignore your family, lock yourself away, all in the name of plowing through to your goal, but let’s get real.

You don’t need to give up your life to write. IMO, the goal of NaNoWriMo is to break your lazy habit of writing ONLY when you have a spare minute and insert a write-every-day-no-matter-what habit in its stead. They say you can make or break a habit in two weeks.  NaNo doubles that timeframe, and forces you to write every day for FOUR weeks. So, you miss a day or two here and there. That’s life, bucko. Your spawn needs attention. The day job requires your presence. I get it, financial and emotional bills need to be paid before you can follow your dream and write. But if your true goal is to BE a writer, then newsflash, you gotta WRITE!

Will all of you make it to 50k? No. I’m telling you this now. I have yet to make that prestigious goal and win the colorful and enviable little web badge stating I’m a NaNoWriMo winner! Maybe you’ll make it to 30k or 40k, but the point is, it’s a helluva lot more than you normally would have, right? So, that makes you a winner. Cuz I say so, that’s why.

But this year… THIS YEAR!!  I have set my cap. As God Is My Witness!  And you, of course, to hold me accountable and boo-hiss me as a miserable failure if I don’t….. No, wait. We are winners all. I promise you!

How do you prove you’ve reached your 50k goal, you ask? It’s an honor system, really. Each day, you can input your current word count into the cool stat thingy I told you about earlier to keep your daily tally, but by the last day of the month, you must upload all 50k of your writing to verify word count. They have a cool word jumbler that turns your suck to nonsense, so you don’t have to worry about them stealing your story. What happens after that? You win, of course! Nifty NaNo Scout Badge!!

No cash? No prizes? No free vacation? No, silly. You wrote suck. Be happy with the badge.

Of course, you could cheat, your cheating cheater-pants sub-conscious self is already realizing , and upload 50k words of some other project you didn’t  write during NaNo. But who does that serve, really? Is the stupid internet badge really worth tainting your soul? Then be my guest.

OR, you could accept the challenge and show yourself you’ve got 50k waiting to be purged from your writer depths. It’s only a month. Any story could be told. Fill the blank pages that mock you. Make them your bitch.

Who knows what emptying yourself into a text file without some crusty internal editor to seize you up could create? What’s the worst that could happen? Sparkling little perfect morsels of story hidden inside the vortex of suck? The skeleton start of a potentially amazing plot? An intriguing character or conflict twist?

Yeah. That.  That could happen. You may not suck as bad as you think. In fact, you may anti-suck yourself into believing you can do this.

Join me! Tra la la la! For I am the Pied Piper of Anti-Suck and I will play my magic blog-flute and lead you down this path of dangerously habit-forming writing exercise and we will succeed together.

Grab napkins and post-its and start manically scribbling ideas for your upcoming writing binge. Warn family and friends. Overfeed your pets. Stock up on Ramen Noodles and Mac-n-cheese.

PREPARE!

Now go sign up and be my writing buddy!  My handle is BNorman at www.nanowrimo.org.

See you there!

Posted in Down Write Funny, NaNoWriMo, Squirrel!, writing | 14 Comments

Down “Write” Funny – Rule of 20

Somewhere along your journey of being a writer you’re going to hear the term “Rule of 20.”

If you haven’t so far, great, this will be a truly useful tool to learn that once you master you can go forth and spew this impressive parlor trick to the uninitiated. If you already have, and the Rule of 20 is proudly displayed on the wall of your workshop educated brain, well good for you. Stick around for the lemonade and brownies I’ll be serving later.

The Rule of 20 is a brainstorming technique to force you to get creative and go beyond the been-there, done-that hash vibrating in the front of your gray matter that serves as your typical go-to source of reference when you’re trying to write. The stuff you’ve seen/heard/read/watched ad nauseum that perpetuates the same ol’, same ol’ of lazy writing. The stale crap that fails to strike the tickle spot of an agent or editor who is looking for that “FRESH VOICE.”

Here’s how it works.

First, drop and give me twenty. Ideas, that is. (But if push-ups help your writer blood flow, be my guest. I’ll wait. I prefer deep elbow bends with my Starbucks, but hey, we all have our motivational rituals.)

Start by creating a numbered list from – you guessed it, smartie! – one to twenty. Pretty easy so far, right? Next step is to decide what you’ll be working on – be it a scene, a plot twist, conflict, black moment –whatever. The thing that’s constipating your brain at the moment. Got it?  Good. Now, next to each empty, waiting number, jot the idea that first comes to mind. Each consecutive idea should push you further into taking that big mental dump to solve the bind of your writing dilemma.

How’s it going so far? Slowing down yet? That’s okay. You’ll hit a wall around eleven or twelve, because the first ten you grunt out will come from the shallow wading pool of TV/commercials/novels stereotypes that bombard your brain on a daily basis. Those go-to clichés we talked about. The same old tired ideas that smell like porta-potties in a heat wave.

It gets a bit more difficult once you’ve performed your mind enema, because you’re thinking there’s nothing left, right?

Wrong.

Now comes the good stuff. The dig deep for that fresh idea – no matter how crazy or improbable it may sound – stuff. Write those down. Really. Do it. Because one of them can/could/will spark something you can work with later. I promise. This is where the unique FRESH VOICE that only you possess takes over. This is where ideas and solutions and plot twists buried under the muck of predisposed, has-been images you’ve been fed all of your life can finally surface and squint at the bright light your emptied mind has shed on them.

And yes, some will be uber-ridiculous. Flying superhero earwigs and singing cops (Cop Rock anyone? Just me?  Okay.) type mega-flop ideas. But some will be genius.  GENIUS, I SAY!!!

Keep going all the way to 20 even if it means downing a shot of mental laxative to empty your brain completely.

Whew! Wipe the sweat off your brow and there you have it. Twenty ideas. Naw, strike that. Tear the sheet in half and mercy flush the first ten. They suck.  NOW you have it. Ten ideas. Ten brilliant, deep from your writing bowels, ideas to work with to create the aforementioned FRESH scene, plot twist, conflict, black moment, whatever.

Pretty elementary stuff, once you think about it. A Writer 101 type lesson we’ve all been taught to use when gobsmacked with the dreaded writers’ block or when we want to take our writing up a notch.

But how many of us still actually DO THIS??? I mean, really sit down and go 1.  2.  3.  And fill in the corresponding ideas all the way to 20? Or how many of us *think* we’ve mastered the fresh idea, and instead of brainstorming we spiral into the brainwashed habits of tried and true and blah you suck rejected tripe? (Ooh! Ooh! I know this one! *raises hand*)

Challenge. The next time you’re sitting on the pot playing Turds With Friends on your smart phone, open your Notes app instead. Blow the stink off your writing and number that bad boy up. See what empties out and don’t forget to mercy flush the first ten ideas.

Oh, I almost forgot. Lemonade and brownies anyone?

Posted in Brainstormers, Down Write Funny, Rule of 20, writing | 5 Comments

Down “Write” Funny – Muscle Memory

  1. As infants, we learn motor control by the repetition of a series of actions that will result in reaching our goal.

Crying and squalling equals a nipple shoved into your mouth to ravage like an angry beaver (Your spawn didn’t have early teeth when you nursed? Just mine? Figures.) and fill the empty hole in your gut, or spur an adult to remove the wet pile of slop newly deposited into your diaper.  Howl long and hard enough, and eventually you’ll pass out to enjoy the much needed nap your mom’s been rocking and begging you to take for the past 2-3 hours.

The shriek ‘til you’re fire engine red routine CAN earn you all three, if you’re lucky.

And life is good.

But once we become toddlers, the same techniques don’t apply to earn us, say, another episode of Yo Gabba Gabba or Dora the Explorer. Instead, such babyish behavior might horrifically backfire and land us in time out. Our brains must adapt, suss out new methods to get what we want.

Hence, the development of new techniques. Cue ninja skills. The evolution of negotiation, manipulation and yes, even blackmail, weave their way into our subconscious behavior as we grasp towards adulthood. No longer are we allowed to toss a tantrum to achieve our desired goal. We train our brain and learn what gets results.

As writers, our goal is to write. Yes? Despite the whole “just sit your ass in the chair and do it” approach often tossed at us to over-simplify the process, we need to acknowledge the actual muscle memory of writing. We ponder and test drive the series of events that initiate the creative process.

This concept was brought to my attention at the www.WisRWA.org Write Touch Conference earlier this summer. Whether it was Jade Lee or Elizabeth Hoyt who spoke of it, my feeble mind forgets, so I will give both wonderful ladies credit for the term.

Muscle memory is like that squall and cry behavior –do this, and that happens. We trained ourselves as infants, and we can train ourselves as adults.

Think. Where and when do you write best? In your fortress of solitude, that specific scent of candle lit, soft indiscernible no-lyrics-to-distract-you (Squirrel!) music playing in the background, with several hours to get in the ‘mood’ to create?

Yeah. Good luck with that.

That’s what your brain *thinks* you need. But you CAN train your brain to abandon that ideal and perform on command when you want to pound out word count the same way you trained your mom to shove a boob into your rooting little maw to shut you up.

Begin with the tools that help you most. Do you write best on a laptop? Notepad and favorite lilac-scented pen? Desktop in the corner? At the kitchen table? Library? The B&N Starbucks with several of your brainstorming besties? (Oh wait, that’s me again…)

Find the tool that triggers your brain (or MUSE, if you must use that fickle bitch as a crutch), and use it to jumpstart the writing action Every Time.

Finding the right combination truly can be magical. For me, it’s the not-my-house location and like-minded writing buddies to hold me accountable that lights the fuse. We get our coffee, we have our chat, and then BING! The timer begins and fingers start flying in true Pavlovian style. Twenty minute timed increments turn quickly into upwards eight, nine hundred words or more. We do at least three of them and bam, I’ve finished a chapter.

Muscle memory: Laptop, plus overpriced caffeine and off-site setting = writing output. The key combination signals my brain that it needs to WRITE. NOW. Because I have trained it to do so by the repetition of a series of actions that will help me to achieve my goal.

Sound familiar?

Now who would ever compare a boob in the mouth and a dry butt to finishing a novel?

Me, I guess. But that’s just the way my trained (Squirrel!), cough, rambling mind goes. But hey, it works!

What combination works for you?

Posted in Brainstormers, Down Write Funny, Muscle Memory, spawn, Squirrel!, writing | 2 Comments

Down “Write” Funny – Back to School Blather

So I thought to write a typical back to school post, but I realized I wouldn’t have much new to add to the bevy of blogs currently circulating the net. Oh, gee, I guess I’ll toss confetti, too, and get it out of my system.

Sing it with me now: Freedom!  FREEdom!!!  FREEDOM!!!!!!!!

There. I feel better.

I used to enjoy back to school more when my spawn were much younger. Punting their little fannies out the door in elementary school meant six solid hours of peace, quiet and mommy sanity before chaos reigned once more at precisely 3:05 in the afternoon.

Now?  Not so much. So back to school has lost some of its former luster for me.

My oldest, The Lone Bandana has flown the nest. He and the GF stop in for the occasional free meal or to “borrow” something, and after three long years of tough love get your shit together battles, he is a very productive member of society and now quite amiable to be around. Except, he’s no longer around, like I said.  Seems once you’re finally able to tolerate your spawn, they leave. Life is funny like that.

Middle child, Spaz, a recent high school graduate, is in the throngs of indecision. To college, or not to college? That is the question.  Well, here is the answer, son. To college, or there is the curb, to which I will kick your scrawny ass, because if you don’t go, then my job here is done and you are no longer my responsibility. Spaz chose college. Go figure.

And then there’s the baby, Gazelle Girl, a high school sophomore, whom I oft times referred to as ‘the mouth with feet’ because she spent the majority of her formative years sprinting through the house babbling incoherently. That’s paid off. She is now a Track and Cross Country star, and my last hope for scholarship money paying for her future.

Now, even though The Lone Bandana is gone, Spaz and Gazelle Girl still nest at home. College classes are sporadic, hence Spaz is sprawled on my couch more often than not, and GG is involved in every sport and activity known to man that I must attend and dutifully scream my lungs out at. That M-F six hour chunk of nirvana all moms celebrate come back to school day has long since disappeared for me.

No rest for the wicked, they say. And they were right.

So now what? How do I get those hours back? When will I find that elusive me-time all writers require to, you know, write? Until Spaz and GG go the way of The Lone Bandana?

We kicked TLB out early due to unforeseen circumstances that caused us to want to strangle him on a regular basis. Who’s to say we’ll get that lucky with the other two? It could be years before I find freedom and time alone to write again.

Take your laptop to your children’s events, the do-gooder advice-spewers say. Sure. Find me an outlet in the middle of a Cross Country meet and I’m there. Oh, or how about on the football field where Track and Marching Bands compete? My battery can’t really outlast these all-day events, can yours? Basketball is indoors, but those parents get extremely testy when the cord you’ve strung across the doorway trips up the entire team during their triumphant entry. Bad mom!

First and foremost, I am a proud mom. I kinda dig embarrassing my kids from the bleachers and I’m a little too ADHD (Squirrel!) to try and string together a coherent plot with a roaring crowd around me, so dragging my laptop to their events is a moot point. These years will pass too soon and I don’t want to miss out.

So, here’s the compromise. I force the squirmy buggers to sit their collective buttocks down at the kitchen table like any other responsible mother and make them do their homework – yes, even Spaz. My roof, my rules. I remind him of the ever encroaching curb when he balks.

And then I will join them.  Or at least I plan to once classes get rolling and assignments pour in. This will be my time, too, to pound out chapters and word count goals I set for myself. All of us together until it’s done. Imagine that. The kids don’t have to be gone for me to write.

I’ve finally come to the realization that it doesn’t take isolation or huge chunks of solitude to finish the damn book. It takes commitment. Even if it’s only 50 or 500 words at a time.

I have a friend who made the commitment to write 500 words a day – without fail – until she completed the first draft of a novel that had sat unfinished for years. I am happy to say she made that goal. Even with a full-time job and two ankle-biters under the age of three! What an inspiration. Was it easy? Certainly not, as any mom knows. But she did it.  And you can too. Hell, so can I, for that matter!

So, once the back to school bon-bons have been consumed and the dance through the house naked ritual is over, it’s time to get serious. Make the decision to commit to your writing, and then do it. That’s my plan, and I’m sticking to it.

Aw, gee, and here I wasn’t going to write a back to school post.

But I DID find the time to write today. <G> Did you?

Posted in #proudmama, Back to School, Down Write Funny, spawn, Squirrel!, writing | 4 Comments