When the Brain’s Been Hijacked

My writing bestie and critique partner, Charissa James-Weaks, said it best: Babies hijack your brain. Boy, is that ever true (especially during pregnancy)!

If you follow me on social media, then I’m sure you’re aware of my amazing news: there’s a Baby Collins on the way!

13 Week Ultrasound of Baby Collins

13 Week Ultrasound of Baby Collins (taken March 24th).

But I’m not posting to talk about the baby–at least not exclusively. I’m posting to talk about how pregnancy seriously hijacks your brain. If you remember, at the first of this year I made a commitment to get back into blogging and being active on social media and all that other jazz. BUT… the universe decided that after 2.5 years of trying to no avail to finally gift the hubs and I with a baby, and that’s when everything changed (and don’t get me wrong–I’m beyond THRILLED to finally have the child we always dreamed of, so my thoughts in this post no way lessens that or makes me ungrateful 🙂 ).

From that point on, whatever writing/revising plans I had, blog posts scheduled for writing, books to read…basically anything that wasn’t pregnancy, sleep, eating, dayjob, and hubby-related was out the damn window.

Whatever enthusiasm I had for my new blogging schedule, or my book and it’s schedule for completion became NONEXISTENT. I’m not even kidding a little on that. Between utter exhaustion and mood swings and the overwhelming excitement of a baby finally happening zapped every single bit of interest I had in my dream of publishing a novel. Cause my brain was literally hijacked.

So how am I going to overcome this so I can get the rest of this damn book revised (preferably before the little one arrives)??

Well, not quite sure yet, but I’m sure the first step is the simple fact that I’ve realized what’s happened and accepted that it’s totally okay for this to be happening. It’s my first pregnancy and I should enjoy it. If that means not being eyeballs-deep in revisions the entire nine months, then so be it.

So far the second step is shaping to be inching back into the creative part of my brain. For this I’ve just finished reading Art in the Blood: A Sherlock Holmes Adventure by Bonnie MacBird, and man, can I just say that it worked in getting that part of the brain churning? 😉

Next I’ve printed up the pages I’ve revised so far in the book (about 150 total), and plan to read in order to immerse myself back into that world. From there we’ll see what happens, but I’m hopeful I’ll be able to get back into some kind of revision schedule that allows me to spend more time away than I would under normal circumstances (because I know every weekend from now until the birth will be filled with getting things ready for the baby). So if that means the expectation is one fully revised chapter completed at least every two weeks should work, then that’s what it’ll be in order for this soon-to-be-mama to keep her sanity.

How all of this re-immersion into my writing-self will go is yet to be determined. But I do know one thing: Life’s too short to be hard on yourself. Give yourself a break, accept how things have changed (or how they’re going to change), and roll with it. Everything will work out how it’s meant to in the end.

Til next time! 🙂
Melinda

The Accountability Factor—Part One: The Family

Ahhh… Accountability. The state of being accountable. Liable. Answerable.

Online Webster’s Definition of Accountable

No matter which aspect in our lives we’re looking at, we’re all accountable to someone. And how we handle ourselves in response to the many demands accountability dumps on us is part of what defines us as individuals.

Today I wanted to look at one of the many areas of accountability in a writer’s life.

 THE FAMILY

Waking everyone up in the morning, prepping lunches for school/work, getting dinner on the table at six, running the household errands day after day… this just a sampling of the variety of tasks our family holds us accountable for on daily basis. But since we also wear the Author Hat, guess what else we’re accountable for?

Movement in our writing careers.

Whether the movement is finishing a novel that may never sit on a shelf in your local Barnes and Noble, or winning a writing contest, or starting the dreaded query process, or signing with an agent, etc…. We are accountable to our family to show some kind of movement in our journey to publishing success. After all, we are taking time away from them to play with write the stories in our heads into existence.

So what happens if a year goes by—or two or three or four or five—and we’re not seeing the movement the family would like? Or, more to the point, the movement we desperately want?

Sure, it’s easy to stress over the absence of advancement in our writing career. We’re the ones pouring our heart and souls into these books and characters and spending all this time away from the family in order to make our dream come true.

But you know what? I truly believe that just because we’re not seeing the movement we want doesn’t mean we’re not making strides in our writing career. A completely written and polished novel? A step forward. A queried novel that was rejected 20+ times? A step forward. These small accomplishments may not seem like much, but they are! And accomplishments, no matter how small or large, deserve a treat, don’t you think? *breaks out the chocolate and confetti*

Involve the Family

Sometimes simply talking about the writing process with our family shows them that we know we’re accountable to them. And many times we don’t even have to bring the topic up to them because they’ll ask us.

Husband/Wife/Mom/Dad/Sibling: “How’s the book coming along?”

Answer: “Well, I didn’t get any action off the queries I sent, so it looks like it’s just not the right time for that novel. I’m going to move forward and start plotting a new one this weekend.”

From there the questions can vary, but most times we’ll get asked why no one was interested in our novel, is it our writing, is it the agents. This opens a fantastic window to share the world of publishing and the many facets of perfect timing that we usually need to happen in order to take a leap forward (right story meets the right agent at the right time…right?). Once they understand a small portion of the pubbing industry, their need of seeing movement in our career is usually temporarily satisfied.

Be Open with the Family

Tell your family what’s going on. Especially the husband/wife. We can make them our sounding board for our frustrations. Just the simple act of sharing our angst over character difficulties, the excitement over a new story idea, the giddiness over an exceptional plot twist we just wrote… All of these satisfy a bit of the accountability we have to our families.

The only downside, obviously, is that we can’t control everything, can we? We can’t make the publishing world see the golden nugget that is our novel. We can’t force an agent to concentrate 100% of their attention on our query and opening pages. We can’t Professor X an editor at a NY publishing house to offer us the four-book deal we’ve dreamed of.

All we can do is our personal best. Learning the craft, utilizing what we’ve learned, writing the best novels and queries and blurbs possible. All of these are in our control. And all of these are how we are accountable to our families.

We need to put our best idea forward and go as far up the road to publishing as we can with that idea. If we do that, we’re not letting the family down whatsoever. And because they’re our family, they will be proud of us no matter what!

What do you think? How else are we accountable to our family? Do you have any other tips to share?

Thank You

In place of my regular weekly round-up post, I’d like to take this time to say THANK YOU to everyone for their thoughts and prayers over the course of this past week.

While it has most definitely been tough, and the wounds have yet to heal, the kind words, thoughts, and gestures have meant the world to both me and my husband they are priceless in helping us and our family get through this difficult time.

Next week will be back to ‘semi’ normal with a writing post on Wednesday and a round-up of writing links on Friday. No music for Monday, sorry.

THANK YOU again for everything to all of my writing and blogging friends! You are the best supportive, awesome, incredible, beautiful, wonderful and amazing group of peeps a writer could ever ask for!

Happy Writing!

Melinda

A Difficult 24 Hours

My apologies, but today’s regular post, This Week in Favs, will not be available.

Wednesday night, around 10:30pm, my husband received a call from his sister. His mother was rushed to the hospital, unresponsive and without a heartbeat. Around 7am Thursday morning, we said good bye.
This was sudden, shocking, and surreal since my mother-in-law had not been sick. She was young, full of life, laughter, and love, and was the type of mother who took care of everyone – and always before herself. She was the definition of selflessness. She was a nurse and the matriarch of my husband’s family. She was the model of what it meant to truly love another person unconditionally, and from the moment I met her (1 week after my husband and I started dating 12 years ago), she welcomed me with warm, loving arms.
She will be missed, and will forever live on in our hearts. Not a day will go by without thinking of her.
My husband, Jason, and his mother, Shirley

A Life Full of Love, Laughter, and Salt & Pepper Shakers

This week has been a difficult one.

On Tuesday at 12pm, my great-grandmother, Margaret Ramsey Plummer, passed away – one month and a day shy of her 90th birthday. 

Margaret Ramsey Plummer
April 28th, 1922 – March 27th, 2012

It has definitely been quite an emotional week for me. And the funeral will be tough to get through tomorrow. But the one thing I believe we have to keep reminding ourselves is that she had almost 90 years on this earth.

Can you imagine?

90 years of births, family weddings, birthday celebrations, holiday gatherings, family reunions, and watching her closest friends and family pass on. Not to mention the 90 years of history she’s witnessed. While we’ll be sad tomorrow as she’s being put in her final resting place, we’ll be honoring and celebrating a life well lived. A life full of happiness, joy, love, and….salt and pepper shakers (she had a collection of over 1,200 sets).

My great-grandmother with her children: Rev. Robert Plummer (my grandfather) and Betty Holland

So unfortunately today there will not be a mash-up of the best in writing posts.

Instead, not that you’d need to be told to, but I’d like to remind and encourage everyone to love your family to the fullest each and every day, and to remind them of that as often as you can.


I’ll return on Monday with a new Song of the Week. In the mean time, please check out Wednesday’s post, How a Scene Can Turn on a Word – Comedy or Tragedy?, and enter for a chance to win one of 5 prizes (4 are awesome writing craft/plotting books!).  The comments will close at 8pm EST on Tuesday night and a winner will be announced bright and early on Wednesday morning.

Happy Writing!!!


Melinda

Writerly Wednesday: On 50th Anniversaries and Writing Novels….

My Grandparents on their Wedding Day

I recently undertook a large project, and if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you may have heard me mention it a few times over the past month or so. My grandparents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this past Saturday, and in celebration of this amazing fete, I gathered over 500 photos taken throughout the 50 years that they have been happily married (plus some from their childhoods) and created a DVD video. That’s a lot of photos, right?! Any-who, needless to say I had this grand idea in my head of what I wanted the project to be, what I wanted it to look like, how I thought it should come together, and I was also very naïve in thinking how easy this project should be.

And as in all things in life, nothing is ever as simple as it may seem…..

Countless hours were put into scanning photos before I could even begin to sit down, edit the pictures and put them into a nifty program called Magix Photostory. Beginning in September and not finishing – completely – until last Wednesday (and the event was on Saturday) speaks volumes for how hard a project like this can be, especially when we have high aspirations for it.

It wasn’t until I sat back and watched through the entire thirty-five minute PhotoStory video that I realized how similar to writing a novel this entire process was:

  1. Kernel of an Idea: Every story – whether a short story or full-fledged novel – begins with a tiny kernel, a mere idea that you’re eager to expand on, that you have the highest expectations of. Making a PhotoStory DVD is about the same – you get a grand idea in your head, but putting it together is another story entirely.
  2. Expanding the Idea: Once you have the idea/plot of your story written down, it’s time to set out on the journey of bringing it to life, breathing into it the characters, worlds, locations and relationships while you plot (or pants) your way through the twists and turns your story will take. This is where the kernel of an idea begins to grow into something with a backbone that you can expand upon later. Picture DVD’s are much like this – you do the ground work in scanning/selecting your pictures, editing/cropping them, and uploading them into your program of choice.
  3. Editing the Idea: This is where the real work begins. You’ve taken your idea and fleshed it out, created characters and scenes, built your world and plotted when/where every twist and turn is going to happen. But now you have to go back and take another look at your work, examining the words, descriptions, cutting scenes that aren’t needed because they don’t do anything to further the plot, adding more to the scenes that are a bit ‘meh’ and possibly rearranging and rewriting some scenes here and there. The same can be said for creating a PhotoStory DVD: you’ve uploaded your photos and put them in an order that seems to make sense, but then you come across a few photos here and there that, while you really want them to make the ‘cut,’ they’re not really needed and are just adding to the ever-increasing playing-time of your video. So you cut those, and maybe rearrange a few photos here and there, and maybe you also add some picture-in-picture collages (which are really cool animations by the way, and a great way to cut down on a few seconds here and there). At times, you may even find yourself going back and scanning some photos you initially didn’t think you needed. :0)
  4. Adding those Finishing Touches: You’ve run through your MS countless amounts of times, now it’s time to add a few finishing touches. Maybe now it’s time for you add in chapter breaks, maybe a little extra fluff here and there (AKA: descriptions, action dialogue tags, etc) in places that you didn’t notice before, send it out to your CP or Beta Readers, write a query letter so that your newly polished MS is ready for submission requests after you’ve made the changes your CP or Beta Readers have sent to you. With a PhotoStory DVD, once you have the photos in order and the animations and transitions added, this is when you go back and add the music that will accompany your beautiful photos! :0)  This part is so much fun, especially since you can see the end in sight. With this particular project, I searched far and wide for music as far back as the 50’s, and I carefully selected each song, ensuring that the words fit for the section/decade they were representing. This part was actually fairly easy, but you also have to remember that you will continually second guess yourself when make those decisions – which is much like it is in writing when you make those last-minute edits.
  5. Sitting Back and Seeing Your Baby Enjoyed: Though I have no idea what it could possibly feel like, I can only hope that one day we will all be published and we can take a moment to relax and enjoy seeing our hard work as it sits on a shelf in a bookstore (if we’re really lucky, it won’t be there ‘cause it sold out!). Yes, there’s more work to do with marketing and signings and blog tours, but you’re finally able to enjoy the fruits of your labor as you read through what I’m sure will be rave reviews of your work. What I can speak from experience on is how good it felt to see my grandparent’s faces as they sat down and watched the entire video. That in and of itself was the best feeling in the world as they kept asking ‘how did you do that?’ and ‘I love that graphic there!’ They laughed in the places where I was meaning for people to laugh, and they were silenced in the spots where I hoped they would as well. And seeing the large amount of people in the fellowship hall as they came by to celebrate with all of us on Saturday, and watching them watch ‘my baby’ as it played on loop throughout the entire gathering, was a feeling that I rather enjoyed and hope to replicate with a published book one day.

Overall this experience was one that I learned a LOT from and am extremely grateful to have as I truly believe that my writing process has benefited from the lessons learned throughout this process. Dare I say it, but I believe that I may have turned a bit into a plotter *gasp* since I found myself writing scenes on index cards (due to the lack of writing time I’ve had) for a new idea I got, and eventually placing them in order for when I’m ready to get back to writing – which looks to be much sooner than I initially thought. :0)


What other non-writerly activities have you participated in to where you realized, maybe after the fact, that the process you followed for it mirrored that of writing a novel or short story? Did that activity make you a better writer in the end, or did your process remain the same?