The power of the written word

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Words have always been a passion of mine.  I can remember penning poems before my age was in the double digits and I loved to lose myself in books at a young age as well.  Having said this, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to me that words affect many others the same way they affect me but today I was shown a glaring example of how words, my words, had a greater resonance than I ever imagined.

On August 30th, I wrote this poem (click here) about a dear friend who had gone into hospital the previous night.   Writing, especially writing poetry, is very cathartic for me and allows me to deal with my emotion on a level on which I feel very comfortable.  I had given the poem to the companion of the woman who was the subject of the poem hoping he could read it to her in the hospital.

Sadly, a week after she went into hospital, she passed away from a virulent bacterial infection that her body couldn’t fight due to the aggressive chemotherapy she had been undergoing.  I never found out if he had read the poem to her while she was still conscious.

Today, I drove to the city with my friend and co-worker to attend the celebration of life for this dear woman we both had met at the lodge and absolutely adored.  When her companion, Sandy, saw us at the golf club, his eyes welled with tears and we were both met with a warm embrace.    He invited us to sit at his family table and treated us like we were a part of his family.  After a toast to Joan and some funny stories, I found out that Sandy had read my poem at her funeral service.  I was moved to tears.

As I write this post through many more tears, I can take great pride in knowing that my words fell onto the ears of so many others who loved her as well.  One simple night of pouring out my emotion into a blog post turned into a tribute that hundreds of people were able to hear and know how much she meant to me.  Words have connected me to her friends and family and for that I will be forever grateful.

 

 

Green means GO!

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I have been keeping myself busy with ideas for a new book while I have been anxiously awaiting my first book review from my nephew.  I had to keep reminding myself that it IS summer and he IS a 14-year old boy with other interests besides reading so I have cut him, and my nervous mind, some slack.

It is difficult to quiet a cacophony in a mind that is continually feeding on its negative thoughts.  Like an inferno that is started with one tiny spark, my mind became the spark and my stress was the oxygen that fueled the fire of my doubt.  The longer I went without any sort of feedback, the more I convinced myself that the book was terrible and my nephew didn’t know how to tell me that it was a flop.  Self-doubt is a vicious thing.

I silenced my doubts this morning as I prepared my meals for this week based on my new plant-based diet.  Being in the kitchen always allows me some escape from my reality.  After creating my meals, I ran into town and stopped at The Apothecary Shop for a few things.  I decided to use the blood pressure cuff to see if my change in diet had made a significant difference to my blood pressure.  While I was in mid-check, my nephew had seen my car and come into the Apothecary to find me.  The sight of him must have unnerved me because my blood pressure reading was ridiculous!

I couldn’t imagine what was going to come out of his mouth but I began to tug my arm out of the cuff before it had finished deflating.  He stood beside me with an apologetic smile.  He promised to finish the book before the weekend and that was all he said.  I said one word that seemed to hover in the small space between us….

“And………..”, I asked.

“It’s REALLY good”, he replied.

So now I sit, comfortably ensconced in my living room with words churning in my brain for my second book.   I have always loved the phrase ‘green means go’ and I feel like I have just been given the green light to continue my writing journey.  I’m already excited about this next book and can’t wait to dive in!  See you on the flip side.

 

 

You can’t win if you don’t play

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While this subject line generally makes me think of the lottery pool, it has taken on a much bigger meaning for me today.  I’m sure I have made you all painfully aware of the fact that I finally finished writing my first novel.  Book number two is in the works and the idea for number three is a shimmering light in the distance.

I thought that the actual writing of the book was going to be the hardest part.  And while it was a painstaking process, never having attempted to write a book before, the writing itself was a reward.  The hardest part is convincing yourself that someone else may find your words exciting enough to take you on as a client and help to get you published.

I spent my day off today, a beautiful, sunny day, bound to my couch to finish editing my book for grammatical oversights and story continuity.  I was just as excited to read the ending as if I were a first time reader and that got me even more excited.  I was excited enough to send my first two query emails to potential agents…..and now I feel nauseous.

But like that lottery pool, you can’t win if you don’t play.  I will never get published if I don’t try, and according to Yoda, there is no try, only do.  So I did.

Now I can only hope that some unsuspecting agent finds an email from a small town Canadian girl with big ideas and gets just as excited to read it as I was to write it.

A wish to build a dream on

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After successfully losing hours of sleep, multiple strands of hair and a decent portion of my sanity, I have completely read through my novel for the first time.  This first run-through was to catch any glaring grammatical issues that I would have been humiliated by had someone else seen them before I had.  Along the way, I did make some notes about slight plot restructuring and that is what the second reading will accomplish.

The romantic portion of writing a book seems to be a tiny pinpoint of light in my not-so-distant past.  The business of writing a book has taken center stage and the formidable task of marketing a book is waiting in the wings, making faces at me and sticking out its tongue.

I have been told many times and in many ways that for every one author who has the good fortune of being published, there are at least 10,000 writers whose novels will never be seen in print unless they choose to self-publish.  I want to exhaust every effort in traditional publishing before I entertain the thought of self-publishing.  Call me a bleeding heart, a romantic, a crazy…..whatever adjective you choose, my wish is to follow the path of the many authors I have read and followed for decades.  Their sacrifice, their blood, their sweat and their toil have carved a path that I want to follow.

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I want the criticism (I think), I want the rewrites (I hope), I want to inhabit my space on the arc of the learning curve and I want to have my book published in the way in which I have always dreamed.  Perhaps my dream is lofty but I am willing to follow the bread crumbs to their inevitable conclusion, whether that outcome favors me or not.

At the end of this journey, at least I can say I followed the culmination of my devotion to writing and gave it everything I had.  In no way have I conceded my efforts to appease the writing Gods.  I can only hope that, after my constant effort, the writing world has something it would like to give back to me.  Fingers crossed.

 

 

 

 

 

What you leave behind

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Everyone wants to make their mark on the world, to leave something behind so they will be remembered.  For me, that mark is made with words.  This blog will live on in cyber space long after I am gone and I can only hope that some of the phrases that I have strung together will leave an indelible imprint, not only on the internet but, in the memories of those people who took the time to read my posts.

I have taken it one step further and just completed writing my first novel, hopefully the first of many.  This chain of ideas, this woven tale of characters and plot lines, has a piece of my soul buried in its structure.  It has my emotion and my sense of humor represented by the cast, human or canine.   It is stippled with moments of my life that had a lasting impact on me whether they were humorous or traumatic.

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My words are my legacy.  They are the things I choose to leave behind, the things I want people to remember about me.  Besides my relationships with family and friends, words are the things that I gave my heart to expecting nothing in return.

We all make choices every day of our lives.  The hardest choices are sometimes the most meaningful and the most rewarding.  If you had to make a choice, what will you leave behind?

 

 

 

 

The stages of writing a book

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I am writing a book.  There, I’ve said it.  I’m out.   Although the book is not quite finished, I have stopped to reflect on the different stages of writing a fiction novel.

The first stage, for me,  was definitely the romantic stage.  Writing a book has an allure about it.  There is something truly whimsical about imagining yourself dancing in a meadow with a plethora of phrases spilling from your brain.  Each of those phrases floats through the air and settles onto fluffy white clouds until you are able to collect them all and put them to paper.

The second stage is certainly more realistic than the first.  This stage for me was jotting down the plot twists that I wanted in my story but not knowing where they would be presented.  I also had to decide whether I wanted to write a full outline and follow it or if I simply wanted the characters to tell their story as they saw fit.  There are many places in my life where structure and organization are crucial but creating a story is not one of those places so the characters were able to share their voices without my framework.

The third stage was fantastic.  Once I had the basic premise in my head, I just sat down and wrote.  Some days were better than others but I spent a significant amount of time each day seeing how much further I could delve into the story and where it would lead me.  The best part about the third stage was getting excited when I came up with a new plot twist and  having those ideas create even more scenarios that I had never thought of before.  This stage was the ‘perpetual high’ stage.

I am now in the fourth stage, which is the panic stage.  I am so close to finishing the book and now I am second guessing everything I have written.  Are my characters deficient in some way?  Does the story line flow properly?  Is there enough meat in the story to keep readers interested?  Am I even going to have readers?   The list goes on….

I am hoping that there is a bright light at the end of this arduous tunnel when I gain back a little more self-confidence and I can just pat myself on the back and say, ‘you finished your book’.  That in itself will be a monumental occasion.

I already have the sequel planned and seemingly I am willing to put myself through these phases all over again.  They must make some sort of pill for this……

Oh, the places I’ll go

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I am in the middle of a steep learning curve.  I have never written anything longer than a 3,500 word short story so I should have expected a few pitfalls when I decided to pursue my dream of writing a book, or two or three.   But I was committed to give it one hundred percent and see where the journey led me.  I am well on my way to achieving 82,000 (ish) words for a novel-length book and only have 17,000 more to go!

I have been amazed by the process.  I have a journal I keep at my side to remind me of what has happened in each paragraph so the story will not seem disjointed or confusing.  I have done my best, pre-editing, to make sure the plot line flows well and ties in all the loose ends.  I’m sure I have missed a few small details throughout the process but I’m new at this so I’m giving myself ample opportunities to go back and alter the things that don’t work.  I have noticed that my characters have taken on a life of their own, causing me to go back and change a few details of their past but so far I feel blessed to have made it this far.

My writing has mainly been directed by the characters.  I had a simple outline of where I wanted the book to go but their personalities have taken control of the wheel and taken me in a few directions I hadn’t thought of.  On Friday, I wrote a paragraph and then I couldn’t write any more.  Something was off.  I didn’t know it was wrong when I wrote it, but that one paragraph derailed my train of thought.  I stared at that page as the characters sat idly by waiting for me to send them in a direction, any direction, but I was stuck.

I read that last paragraph many times and it eventually dawned on me to remove the last sentence.  As soon as that freeway in my brain cleared of the congestion, the traffic of words started to flow and sped off down the road.  I now understand how writer’s can figuratively paint themselves into a corner.  That one line was the difference between writing and staring at my walls.

Persistence is the key.  I have many lines and paragraphs that I have omitted from the book.  They are not gone but merely stored on a different page until I know those ideas are not meant for this book.  I have no idea where I will end up, but, oh, the places I’ll go on my journey to get there.