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Posts Tagged ‘novel’

 

A couple weeks ago we were besieged by a toddler. My husband’s niece, to be exact. We had his sister over for lunch one Sunday afternoon, which meant the SO and the munchkin were part of the package. Family obligations being what they are, you know. It was exhausting.

To be fair, the little one was cute as she could be, and her parents were very diligent about keeping her under control in our not-at-all-safe-for-children house. But me and the cat are cranky old farts used to our routine, and watching this tiny blonde super ball bounce around, zero to screaming to giggling in 1.3 seconds, all the while demonstrating her variable speed overdrive on short, wobbly legs that shouldn’t be able to move that fast, left us both feeling like the morning after a New Year’s Eve night before. And no confetti in sight.

I do not envy you, parents.

Somewhere there is a font of special elixir just for mothers and fathers to drink from, so they may survive their little darlings. Obviously I was never given directions. It was pretty clear from the beginning that I wasn’t going to have my own children, so that part of the programming was left out. No regrets, mind you. The beauty of being that crazy aunt the rest of the family warns everyone about is getting to do all the fun stuff, and then handing the little buggers back when you’re done twisting their little minds.

Yes, there really are monsters under your bed.

I saw them myself and beat them back with my cane.

I wouldn’t look under there if I were you…

That, and a treat of dark chocolate covered espresso beans given ten minutes before the parents rescue them from my dastardly clutches. Enjoy the drive home, Sis.

So as I’m lying in bed later that evening with a pounding headache and feeling like road kill, I had an epiphany: spending an afternoon with a toddler is a lot like writing a novel. Your best laid plans are usually derailed right at the beginning, the emotional outbursts range from volcanic to glacial and change so fast it’s like riding a roller coaster, cooperation is fleeting, and resistance is futile. By the end of it all, you’re a wreck and your creation is flying off on its own without a backward glance. You can only hope that it does well enough to allow you a room IN the old folk’s home, instead of under the bridge next door.

Of course, the scientist within had to test the hypothesis. I sat down at the keyboard the next day and began my observations:

“Okay, guys. We gotta get on this next scene.”

*crickets*

“No, really. The goal is 500 words a day. That shouldn’t be so hard.”

*frog croaks*

“Stop kidding around. How are we handling this transition?”

*fart*giggle*snort*

*face*palm*

“This sounds like a good place for exposition explaining the transcendental nature of human relationships.”

“Finally. That’ll work with you lead characters.”

“We want a pony.”

“There are no ponies in this thing.”

“We want a pony!”

“How ‘bout a space ship?”

“WE WANT A PONY!!!”

“Okay, okay, I’ll see if I can figure out how to get a pony in this thing.”

“A chocolate pony.”

“Oh for fuck’s sake…”

*giggle*snort*

“If I promise to figure out the pony thing, can we actually move on to the fight scene?”

“What pony?”

*head*desk*

“He sat at the main table, uncomfortable to be included in the celebratory meal under full swing around him. With the exception of Dave, who had been moved to his own quarters that afternoon after his stay in Sickbay, the entirety of the crew enjoyed the repast set before them. Chef flitted back and forth between table and galley, occasionally alighting in the chair to one side of him. On the other side was their guest, herself just the slightest bit uneasy about her place of honor. He sensed that she didn’t understand why the humans felt so grateful to her. She had just done her job, a logical task in an otherwise illogical situation. At least she still had a sense of purpose.”

“Hey, I like that. Nice work.”

“There’s plenty more where that came from.”

“Cool. Sock it to me.”

“Nah. I’m gonna take a nap.”

And that’s why writing a novel is like having a toddler. Frustrating, joyous, mind-numbing, energizing and all the other little twists and turns of life that eventually lead us to a successful completion. But, hopefully, it won’t take me eighteen years to see my baby off into the world. I’ll let you know how we’re doing after our nap.

 

© 2014   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

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I’ve never been very good doing stuff just for me. I’ve always had to have some outside force, like my parents or teachers, to really keep me motivated to hit a goal. That’s the little kid in me still striving for approval. I’ll do whatever it is for them, but forget doing it just for myself, because I’m not worth it. That’s the sinister secret of depression. Too many people hear “depression” and expect you to be crying your eyeballs out for no known reason, but the truth is most of the time depression is just a blanket of doubt shrouding your every being, weighing you down and nit-picking your self worth to death.

The last few months I’ve really let the depression have way too much control over me. When you’re constantly fighting a chronic condition, there come times when you just don’t have the energy to make even the slightest protest against it, and that’s where I’ve been. I just didn’t care anymore, because nothing mattered and the blackness would continue without end until my urn corroded into dust on some mantel somewhere. I was just so tired. I’m still so tired. But I had a brief moment of clarity a couple weeks ago, during which I finally connected to the notion that I’m a writer. Yeah, I’ve called myself that for a long time, but I was all talk and very little do. I may still be, but I’ve decided maybe it’s time to try some new things and see if I can shake something loose.

For a number of years now I’ve been on what I consider to be my natural circadian rhythm – sleeping during the day and up at night. I’ve always preferred the night, mainly because it’s usually quieter, cooler and not so eye-throbbing bright. I’ve always felt I’ve done my best creative work at night. But in looking back, I’ve learned that I’m not necessarily at my optimal productive capacity. See, when you don’t’ HAVE to be somewhere at any specific time, when there is no one expecting or demanding anything of you, it’s very easy to keep putting things off. Nah, I don’t feel like it – I’ll do that tomorrow. What’s the point in getting dressed? I’m not going anywhere. It’s cool, and dark and safe in here – I’ll just stay in bed. Let me tell you right now – it’s a trap.

Getting into/staying in a regular routine is a vital part of combating depression[1]. And while my “routine” was sort of regular as far as when I slept and ate, there wasn’t a whole lot else to it. During a discussion with my ever-patient and supportive husband, two things came to light: 1) writing was the last thing I was doing in my “day”, and 2) my husband didn’t like sleeping alone. I had so isolated myself in my supposed quest for the creative muse that the two things most important to me were, in reality, on the back shelf. I was not living up to my half of the bargain made when we decided I was going to stay home and try life as a word hack. And that’s when it really hit home that I wasn’t doing this just for me, but for both of us.

So I’ve made a major scheduling change. I’ve flipped back to a daytime existence. My alarm (yes, I’m actually using it) is now set for 8:00am. The morning routine is now the same as when I was working for someone else, minus the power suits. And after breakfast I head to the office and get to writing. That is now the FIRST thing I do in the day. That is now my JOB. Monday is my blog and any business related writing things (queries, submissions, research, etc.). Tuesday is short fiction day, whether I like it or not. The rest of the week is scratching out the latest novel. Weekends tend to be a crapshoot because the husband is home and a lot of the household errands end up being done then, but sometimes words get snuck onto computer pages here and there.

I do the household chores and make dinner beginning in late afternoon, and then spend some rare conscious moments with that big lug I agreed to live with the rest of my life. A couple hours are spent watching TV and working on needlework or weaving projects, and occasionally I end the night off with killing a few things on a computer game. Then I go to bed. With my husband. Snoring and farting and blanket wrangling aside (he puts up with so much from me), it’s been really nice feeling him next to me. Research has indicated that sleeping with your partner has some positive health benefits,[2] and that certainly can’t hurt either.

So here I go into the second week of this change. It’ll be a few weeks more before it settles in. I’m still battling the urge to sleep in the day (that bright thing in the sky – it burns the Precious!), mainly because my nighttime sleep isn’t regular yet. But I’ve already written more in this last week than I did the two months previous. Sadly, not really saying much, but that too will come with regularity. At least, I hope so. Wish me luck.

PS: I’ve made some changes on my site, adding a page where I’ll be sharing my short stories. Check it out and let me know what you think. https://ckendsley.wordpress.com/

© Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

 

[1] “Lifestyle Tips for Treatment-Resistant Depression”

[2] “The Powerful Benefits of Sleeping Together”

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I’ve decided I need to do more short fiction, namely short stories in particular (anything less than 7,500 words). I came to this conclusion because sometimes I just need a break from novel writing, but mainly I need representation of my work out there in the real world. There are a crap-ton of publications and contests waiting for word fools like myself to feed them. I looked around at the writers I like to read and to a person they all had bunches of stuff besides their full-length novels. Besides the additional (hopefully positive) exposure that comes with short story publication and/or contest wins, there’s also that little bit of cash that usually accompanies such things. A definite bonus in a cash-strapped environment. Plus, I’ve always been intimidated by short stories and one should tackle head on that which makes one most afraid.

One writing day a week will now be dedicated to short fiction writing. I have a couple ideas to get started with, and will be trawling the world for more. Since I’m a science fiction geek, most of my stories will head in that direction, and some will even occasionally show their faces here. You’ve been warned.

And, in that vein, below is one I did for a contest a couple years ago. I never heard anything back from the contest so I’m assuming it was a bust, but I still like it and thought it would be fun to share. It was one of those “write a story to match this photograph” kind of things. The photograph was of a modern era middle-aged man sipping tea on a train. The story that follows is what my little brain did with it.

 ****************************************************************

From Afar

 He had seen her on the platform, a leggy brunette with luminous green eyes. Fresh-faced with that type of glowing soft skin you only get from Mother Nature, she walked down the aisle with a dancer’s grace.

She was so much prettier in person.

Watching her melt into a padded seat and then shuffling her bag underneath, he wondered if she was off to another film set, or vacation. Not that it really mattered either way. He was content to enjoy the long ride up the mountains before their next stop. It would be plenty of time.

She was recognized by several people and graciously signed their proffered memorabilia as the train eased away from the station. Not a big celebrity, not like some of the others, but she was a favorite of housewives and college kids and was often seen on the cover of one fashion magazine or another. Within a few minutes she had fulfilled the demand for her attention and sat back to gaze out the window at the passing landscape.

She looked tired, he thought. The sharp tang of lemon rose from the tea setting the steward placed before him, and he pondered on the reasons why she had that look while making sure the steward had indeed brought Earl Grey, and not green tea or chamomile.

No, the look was something else. Glancing back up, he saw that it was a pale shadow of remorse on her lovely cheekbones. A weary ache of loss sat on her shoulders. Maybe that’s why she had taken public transport instead of a private car or plane. Being lost in the crowds could chase off that sort of feeling, for short periods. Just long enough to make it from Point A to Point B. Sometimes that’s all one needed to survive.

Though he didn’t count himself a fan, he had seen a number of her appearances on that comedy serial, and a couple of those low-budget horror movies, too. Neither was much of a stretch for most actors and she had done her job as well as any. There was potential there, despite only being allowed the ubiquitous beautiful bimbo roles. So sad when potential was wasted.

Dribbling honey into the tea, he envisioned her as Lady Macbeth, wringing her hands and babbling about spots. He could see that she had that kind of darkness in her, that kind of depth. It was something he knew well, since he saw it every day in the mirror. Though not in the acting profession, his job often gave him opportunities to play various roles: the tough protector, the gentle rescuer. And that one time in Istanbul, with the clown hat, but that was so long in the past it was just a shadow of memory anymore.

This time there was no need for such theatrics.

He sipped his tea and watched as she stared out the window, and occasionally looked out his own. The train chugged up the grade into the mountains and within minutes snow could be seen scattered on the ground. Then more snow, and then lots of snow, and then great mounds of snow on either side of the tracks. The evergreens were laden with white and he could almost feel the heavy silence of the mountain forest. It was hours still until dark, but a grey haze crept over the landscape as clear skies were supplanted by threatening clouds.

How appropriate, he mused. A dark day for a dark soul.

He hadn’t always been such. His youth had been much like anyone else’s. Normal parents who worked much too hard for what they had. Average school grades with average friends who had built jump ramps for their bikes on the back lot of the local pub. Good with his hands and a football, he had made a minor local name for himself in the rugby league. He even still played, when time allowed.

But something had changed somewhere. He wasn’t even sure where or when anymore, just that it had. He could empathize with others, from a distance, but there came a point when he could just turn it off and feel nothing. That’s what made him so good at what he did.

He watched the sway of her hips with admiration when she walked down the aisle to the restroom. She was truly a beautiful woman, and in another time he might have been interested more than professionally. But this was not the time.

Using his tablet, he pulled up the maps for the next station and examined them closely. It had a small platform, with really only one way out. He knew from his earlier research that many of the train’s passengers would be getting off there, ski season being in full swing. It would make for a crowded exodus, people bumping and brushing each other in their zeal to make an afternoon run or two before the clouds covered the mountain for the night. The perfect cover.

He slid the tablet back into his bag, covering the pistol with attached silencer therein.

No one would ever notice, and she wouldn’t feel a thing.

 

© 2014   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved

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Being middle-aged is more than watching your waistline expand like a balloon at the carnival; it’s also about watching the myriad pieces of your childhood disappear, one by one, until there’s nothing left but fuzzy memories. This is the way of the world. Time marches on, change is inevitable, and the only guarantees left are death and taxes. Or maybe it’s death BY taxes… I’ll get back to you on that one.

Anyway, another piece of my youth is falling by the wayside. Last week David Letterman announced his retirement. You can watch how he handled it in his usual sarcastic way here. Now, Dave wasn’t necessarily a part of my childhood – I grew up watching Johnny Carson, and he will always be THE late night TV host for me – but Dave has always been my first choice for late night as an adult because of his dry sarcastic wit, his fearless and pointed questions, and his inimitable ability to be the perfect straight man. Supposedly Carson’s chosen successor, there was quite the furor when NBC went with Jay Leno instead, and is the cause behind Letterman jumping ship (quite successfully) to CBS.

That was another reason I stuck with Letterman; I don’t like it when people are shafted (I’m still mad at the Cowboys for how they fired Tom Landry – yes, I hold grudges). I enjoyed Leno as a stand up comedian, but I could just never get into him as a talk show guy. And I’m really showing how curmudgeonly I am by swearing off Jimmy Fallon (almost) entirely. Talented youngster, but most of his stuff isn’t funny to me (okay, some of the musical stuff is hilarious, but I’m a Weird Al Yankovic fan, too, so there you go. You actually have to be a pretty damn good musician yourself to parody others, and that I can really appreciate.) I’m hoping Craig Ferguson gets promoted so there will be at least one crazy person left on late night TV I can still enjoy.

The speculations abound as to why Letterman has chosen to retire now. I think David Bianculli puts forth the best reasons in his CNN opinion pieceIs Internet driving Letterman away?” It all goes back to what I said at the beginning – change is inevitable. The younger generation wants everything in sound bites. Memes and viral videos are the way of the world now, and someone like Letterman just doesn’t translate well to those micro-mediums.

It’s the same reason behind the decline of the printed word. There’s an entire generation of short-attention-span-theater-goers coming up right now, running around with their smart phones, tablets, e-readers and Siri-enabled cars. Most don’t want to bother to take longer than a few minutes to engage their brain in anything. They’re like a bunch of fleas on a hot plate, jumping about from one thing to the next and never landing anywhere for very long. And people wonder about the rise of ADHD diagnoses. I don’t think it’s actually a genetic thing – I think it’s an environment thing. The world is overloaded with sensory input and our frail human brains are having a hard time keeping up with it all.

Don’t get me wrong – I love technology. I have a smart phone and think e-readers are where the future of reading is headed. But I’m also an unapologetic bibliophile. It’s why I’m so insistent on exhausting every possibility at selling my novel into actual hard copy. I want to feel that heft, smell that new paper and the fresh ink, walk into a bookstore and see that spine with my name on a shelf. It is my golden ideal. And, like David Letterman, I seem to be one of the last of my kind.

Books don’t seem to carry the importance and status they used to. Being able to read and write was once a significant privilege reserved only for the carefully selected few (read: stinking rich or high level clergy). The invention of the printing press allowed the greater masses to become part of that vaunted learned class. Once the “ordinary” people gained the ability to see for themselves what all those fancy books said, significant social and economic changes quickly followed. Knowledge is power, and books became the symbol (and actual medium) of that power.

Books don’t need batteries. They don’t bow to public opinion. They don’t change words between readings, or advertise the latest fashion drug between paragraphs. You can use them while your plane is taking off and landing. You can read them in the bathtub without fear of electrocuting yourself. Take them with you to a coffee shop, a convention, or even to court and no one will blink twice. In a pinch, you can level your computer desk or knock out a burglar. Try that with your e-reader.

And in the advent of a real zombie apocalypse, where do you think all you fancy city folk are going to learn how to do anything without your trusty electronic minders? Yeah, books, bitches.

So while Letterman is going out with grace and dignity after a lengthy and successful career, I’ll give up my books with all the grace and dignity of a rabid badger on meth. I know, I know, most of you hear “bookshelf” and think:

 bookshelves coco rocha in vogue

http://cotedetexas.blogspot.com/2012/12/ask-miss-cote-de-texas.html

Not exactly my definition. I’d rather have something more like:

English manor libraryhttp://www.beautiful-libraries.com/3500-1.html

And maybe one day I will. But in the mean time, this old fart will enjoy:

Cheri's bookshelves

…and hope soon my own words will be in those piles somewhere with the rest.

 

© 2014   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

 

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Last week saw receipt of another rejection. It’s getting really old. Usually I try to get another query off within a couple days after that “Thanks, but no thanks,” missive, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it this time. I’ve gone back and re-evaluated my tagline, my short and long summaries, my synopsis and all the other creative aspects of presenting my novel I can think of. I like all of them. It’s taken me a couple years of tweaking, but I finally have a group of PR blurbs about my novel that I’m happy with. And I’m pretty confident that the novel itself is decent. I’ve had several beta readers – ranging from an English teacher to a sci-fi fandom legend – pour through it and give me comments. All of them gave it a thumb’s up. And, in general, I’ve never been told I’m a bad writer. So I was at a loss as to why I just can’t crack the door into actual publishing. It took me a while, because evaluating yourself is such a hard task even under the simplest of conditions, but I finally found what the problem is:

My query letter stinks.

Some of you might be arguing that the query letter is probably the most important part of the presentation of your work, and you would be right. But twenty-five years of professional office administration makes it really difficult for me to put a “creative” spin in what is technically a cover letter. All those years as an office schmuck saw me working with accountants, insurance brokers and attorneys, and letters were meant to be voice neutral, matter-of-fact, information delivery systems. My query letter is exactly that, which means it’s doomed from the start.

You can go on the Internet and do a search for “how to write a query letter,” and come up with about seven million hits. Most of them repeat the same basic ideas: learn about who you’re querying; tell them why you want to work with them specifically; give them a quickie paragraph about your novel; tell them a little about yourself and your experience; keep it short and professional. I can follow that layout in my sleep (and probably have, literally, on some of my jobs), as it’s a very common format for just about any professional cover letter. The challenge lies in keeping it professional while also making it a real grab-their-eyeballs-hoo-gods-I-have-to-read-this presentation.

That’s where the office schmuck and the creative genius become Clash of the Titans. So far the office schmuck has retained control over the query letter, and until that fortress can be breached, I fear my novel is doomed to languish on a computer drive in Purgatory for untold ages.

But the office schmuck doesn’t have dominion here….

So, here’s the query letter I’d love to send if I could ever actually break those bonds of formality:

Dear ÜberAgent/Publisher:

Pick me. Yeah, you read that right – just pick me. You won’t regret it. Why? Because I’m awesome, that’s why. Because I actually know how to write. You may look at that screenwriting thing on my resume and not want to take me seriously, because for some reason so many in publishing look down upon the lowly screenwriter as second class. But I had one of the best writing teachers on the planet while at film school, and he taught me a whole lot more than just formatting; he taught me about characters, and pacing, and plot points, and points of view, and voice. He taught me how to ad tension to a scene with the simplest, most subtle of devices, and that good drama isn’t about the obvious choices. He taught me how to take what is essentially a short story and turn it into an epic experience. He took a raw recruit and turned her into a special ops soldier who can handle anything thrown at her.

And, yeah, I’m a middle-aged fat broad, too. What of it? I’m a writer, not a beauty contestant. Like my words or don’t like them, but leave my face out of it. And, besides, we Baby Boomers make up the largest generation in America. We’re more likely to be financially stable, be college graduates, and spend more of our time and money at home. Most importantly, we read. A LOT. We like books. Any shape, any size, any topic. We devour them like sharks in chum. But they had better be well-written because we grew up with the likes of Frank Herbert’s Dune and Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land and Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. [1] On TV we had Star Trek and The Twilight Zone[2], while at the movies we sat glued in our seats watching Psycho, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Easy Rider and In the Heat of the Night.[3]

We don’t want sparkly vampires or brooding werewolves or lots of angst-ridden teens fighting the Evil Empire. We want rich, adult characters in realistic worlds where the accepted norms of today’s society are challenged and commented upon. Give us spooky and creepy, not gory and senseless; haunting and powerful, instead of predictive and forgettable; emotional and colorful, rather than angry and grey. Give us Space Opera and Fantasy and Thrillers and Mysteries. Give us something good to read and we’ll fill your coffers with gold.

No, I don’t know all that much about “Social Media” because my phone and computer are tools, not a lifestyle choice. But I do have teenage nieces, which gives me genius level access by default. I understand what a deadline is, that editors aren’t making changes because they hate me personally, and that I won’t be an instant New York Times Bestseller (if ever). I’m a professional adult who accepts personal responsibility, insists on fairness and honesty, and holds my word as my bond. Any certificate of achievement I ever received was because I damn well earned it by beating the (metaphorical) pants off everyone else, so I know how to win with humility and lose gracefully. My school papers were graded in red ink, peanut butter was on the lunch menu, I rode my bike without a helmet and played with click-clacks.

And all that gives me a unique and rich perspective that will give you a product you’ll be proud to promote.

So, yeah, pick me. It’ll be the best decision you’ll make all year.

 

© 2014   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

 

[1] http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/18.Best_Books_of_the_Decade_1960_s

[2] http://classic-tv.com/60s-shows/

[3] http://www.digitaldreamdoor.com/pages/movie-pages/movie_60s.html

 

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So today started out with yet another rejection of my novel. That makes a total of nine so far: seven from agents, one from a publisher and one from a grant program. As if starting on Monday wasn’t bad enough for the week. When they have it for a long time, and then ask for additional chapters, you get hopeful. Then when those hopes are dashed on the rocks of despair, it makes a bag of dark chocolate M&Ms look like the lap of salvation.

Every time it happens, I wonder if I’ve made the right choice staying at home and slogging through all the wait, wait, wait, no thanks. It’s going on three years now, and I feel like I have nothing to show for it. Certainly no money from it, which is starting to wear thin. My husband is carrying the financial load, and while he doesn’t complain, I know the stress is eating at him. But having been out of the work force for nearly five years, and crossed into the AARP zone, the chances of me finding anything out there in the real world are somewhere between none and zip. So in some ways I have no choice but to continue on this path, because it’s the only one left to me.

I still haven’t given up on the idea of taking my novel through traditional publishing. While self-publishing is getting much easier and cheaper, the content offered through that medium is still largely crap. There are a few notable exceptions, of course, but the stigma is still there and I don’t want to have to fight upstream. Being a new writer is stigma enough. I keep reminding myself of all the novels out there that are now considered classics/bestsellers which have far more rejections to their titles than my sci-fi effort does, but there’s still that little voice nagging me from the back of my brain: “Maybe you really aren’t any good after all.”

So the question becomes, when DO you give up? Well, if Stephen King had to deal with sixty rejections before he made his first sale, I’d say I have a ways to go yet before I need to consider throwing in the towel. The task at this point is to review my process and to expand my list of prospective agents/publishers. I need to get more queries out there – the broader the net, the greater the possibility I’ll catch something. I need to get back to a regular writing schedule – these last few weeks I’ve had a bad case of Idonwanna and have spent more time in bed or playing computer games than any reasonable person should. My husband says I was just hibernating, but I think the real reason is I was just trying to escape the inescapable – to be a writer, you have to write; to be a successful writer, you have to write lots. And between the two, you have to deal with rejection after rejection after rejection.

So here’s your first lesson for free: have patience. With your characters, with your career, with yourself. I’ve learned that my characters will tell me their stories when they are damn well ready to, and not a moment sooner, so I might as well just enjoy the peace and quiet until then. And the career will come after dogged determination overcomes the constant rejection and something finally breaks through. As for you, we creative types are our own worst enemies, so we just need to ignore those nagging little voices using our fears against us and keep skipping down the yellow brick road to our goal. Success doesn’t happen overnight, and even those that are called “overnight sensations” have most likely been slogging in the trenches for years, if not decades.

That’s what I’m going to keep telling myself, anyway. For the remaining lesson packets, they can be yours for 17 easy installments of $19.95 plus shipping and handling. Just send me your credit card information telepathically and I’ll ship them out via carrier pigeon in the next six to eight years…

© 2014   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

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I was one of those weird kids, as you’ve probably already figured out. That quiet one in the corner who likes to read, will actually eat her vegetables willingly (except squash – not even on a dare!), and asks questions that make teachers stutter. While the rest of my peers were either 1) teasing me, or 2) ignoring me, I was plotting the overthrow of the universe, one backwater planet at a time. Starting with this one, of course. You’ll get your orders soon.

Anyway, one of the other indicators of my weirdness is that I actually like to write by hand. I was taught cursive in school, probably part of the last generation to have that skill. Which is kind of scary to me, given that our founding documents and many other Very Important Papers were all done in cursive, and if we don’t teach it anymore, how are we going to read it? Those documents will become the domain of an elite who will tell us what they say and, like the Dark Ages when the clergy told the masses what was in the Bible, we’ll end up with some twisted, garbled version like out of a Star Trek episode. (E plebnista, anyone?)

I had to learn to write by hand because “keyboarding” didn’t exist (yeah, I’m that old), unless you meant taking a typing class, which I took under duress (then, but am thankful for it now) to waste time before I could take Driver’s Ed. That one’s not offered in schools anymore either, sadly, and we’ve been seeing the results of that on the roads a lot lately. But I digress.

I thought cursive was cool. I even dove into calligraphy for a while. It fascinated me that something so simple as handwriting could be so beautiful. As a kid, I was really into the Gothic styles, but I’ve mellowed with age and now prefer the more elegant and simpler styles of penmanship. Handwriting allows a connection to the mind that typing directly into a computer just doesn’t quite match. I love the scratch of a fountain pen nib across the face of some really nice cotton bond paper. It makes me feel like I’m really accomplishing something. But I’ve already blathered a bit about that aspect of manual writing before (check out my previous rants “Recycling” and “Keyboards and Pencils and Pens, Oh My!” for further details), and this entry isn’t really about that, anyway.

No, today I’d like to tell you about how I realized handwriting my latest novel wasn’t going to be the best course of action. Not if I actually wanted it finished this century. Let alone this decade. I started it with my favorite fountain pen (fine point, green ink) and this lovely paper I get from Levenger (a business that caters to the discriminating writer and reader in all of us). Yes, it’s pricey, but the stuff is a dream to write on and I can use both sides of the page without experiencing bleed-through. Plus the format works well for keeping track of project info and scribbling in notes. Regular notebook paper you get from the local big box store can barely handle pencil. Once I found this combo, it was really hard for me to write any other way.

So off I go, scribbling away on the new novel. I very quickly have lots of paper floating around, with scenes from all over what is becoming a massive project. No, I often don’t write the first draft in linear form – it comes to me how it comes to me, and then I have to put the puzzle pieces together in some sort of order later. Plus there’s the research for the various science, historical and cultural aspects, sticky notes tacked all over with links to websites, books and articles. Add to this, there are the character notes, glossary of terms and names and places for me to keep straight; pictures for inspiration, and all the other little bits and pieces that one must keep track of when jotting down what is looking like a serious trilogy. After a few months and about 20,000 words, I tried to organize it into a binder. It was 3” thick.

I struggled with that for a few weeks, but it got really frustrating flipping pages back and forth to try and find that one bizarre reference in one character’s history I didn’t think would be important enough to note, and now finding out that it was a major deal. I was losing a lot of time looking for stuff instead of writing, and I had barely begun the project! It was time to join the computer age.

There are a lot of decent software programs out there, for a variety of things. And I know plenty of writers who use just plain word processing programs quite successfully. But this was going to be beyond just word processing, and I hate Microsoft Word even on a good day (the original WordPerfect was a superior product, IMHO), so it wasn’t even in the picture. No, this was going to take something a little more than straight typing from page to page. I have Final Draft for my screenwriting, and while it’s fabulous for how I work in that medium, it wasn’t quite what I wanted for the novel.

After stumbling around the Internet for a while, I came across Scrivener. It took me going back to the site several times while looking at other programs in between before I finally bit the bullet and bought it. As most programs go, it’s damn cheap. Especially once you find out just what it can do for you. And it was also one of the (VERY) few that ran on a Mac (it was actually specifically built for Mac first). I can organize on the computer now like I was doing with pen and ink. I can write the individual scenes and move them around on a virtual corkboard into whatever order I want, as many times as I want, with just a simple drag and drop. I can link to my research, add all sorts of media, jot notes, keep track of the different drafts, compile and export into various formats, and all sorts of other things I haven’t even begun to investigate. Yes, there’s a bit of a learning curve, but the onboard tutorials and help sections are stellar.  If you’re like me, and write by the seat of your pants as the voices in your head blurt their life stories at you, Scrivener is an organizational lifesaver.

Yes, I miss my fountain pen. Handwriting is just such a luxurious creative connection. But I think in the long term, my conversion will work out for the best. Now I don’t have to hand write everything first, trying to keep track of all those pieces of paper over the months and years, and THEN type it all into the computer so it can be edited and submitted somewhere. And with various electronic backups, I don’t run the risk of losing everything in a house fire or having Chapter 3 eaten by the dog. My novels have joined the computer age.

The short stories, however, are still fountain pen fodder. Just where did I put my ink…

P.S. Just to be clear, I wasn’t asked to do any reviews of the above-mentioned products, nor have I received any compensation in any form from any of those businesses. I just wanted to share what I found to be helpful for me, and hope it helps some of you.

© 2013   Cheri K. Endsley   All rights Reserved.

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