All you wanted to do was write a book.
You had a great start–six-thousand five hundred and seventeen words. But now you’re stuck. You haven’t written a word… in three years.
You venture online for a bit of help and inspiration and in no time at all you’re sorry you ever heard of the Internet.
Sifting through a thin layer of the gazillion returns on ‘how to write a book’, you become confused.
Tropes? Outlines? MS? Taglines?
All you want to do is write a book. That story has been stuck in your head since the week before high school graduation decades ago, and it won’t go away.
You just want to get it down on paper.
But all the search returns–where do you start?
You find THE link that says, “Join a group” and things are starting to make sense. You can join a group. You’re a born joiner!
Discouragement sets in a few days later when you still haven’t found a group to join, and it’s not that you didn’t look.
The first group was for published authors only. LA-DE-DA!
The second group didn’t require members to be published, but a completed manuscript WAS required.
How are these groups even in the “how to write a book” search returns if you must already have written something to join???
The next group wasn’t so bad… they were just weird.
They kept calling themselves plotters and pantsers, and talking about conflict resolution, and a satisfactory HEA to satisfy Betas.
What’s a beta?
The last group… wow. That was some next-level-new-age-bullshit!
Moments after joining the group chat, introducing yourself, and sharing your dream of writing a book the interrogation begins.
How big is your mailing list? What’s the link to your author website? Have you installed Google Analytics? How often do you blog? What’s your target audience? Do you have a professional editor lined up? What program are you typing your book in? What’s your plan for marketing and promotion? Have you written proposal letters for publishers and agents? How do you expect to get noticed and sell books?
You break out in a cold sweat! What the hell is SEO and ROI??? And there’s that ‘Beta’ word again!
How are you supposed to HAVE these things when you JUST DECIDED TO WRITE THE FREAKIN’ BOOK???
The Group has been throwing out links which you’ve clicked on and you now have thirteen browsers open. You’ve also kept a running total of costs in your head – $4500.
And you haven’t even hit ten-thousand words in your story.
The group moves on to new topics and you sit quietly… even though you want to scream and vent like you invented the term “going postal”.
The meeting ends… thankfully… and you toss your thanks and goodbyes into the chorus. You leave the chat, unjoin the group, and close the browser.
In hindsight, you should have followed your spouse to Art and Wine Night, or surprised your parents by showing up at St. Paul’s for bingo night.
Sighing heavily, you head for the coffeemaker, suddenly veering off towards the wine… minus the art.
Returning to your desk, your mind is crammed full of things you know nothing about, but just about everyone is the free world is willing to teach you… for a price.
All you wanted to do was write a book. When did writing become so complicated? The Internet did not invent books. Millions were written before ‘https://www.’ became a thing.
Collecting your thoughts… with a nod to the wine… you make a short list of the things you saw and heard repeatedly. Website, mailing list, social networks. Those will do to start… eventually.
You push the list aside, close the remaining thirteen browsers… and work on your book.
(Week 10 of the 52-Week Writing Challenge)
She didn’t need a shrink to tell her she had PTSD.
Virgie Hudson well knew of the price she’d paid for thirty-two years of military service – twenty-two of those years… on the front lines.
The day after passage and ratification of SB 1200 allowing women into combat, Virgie left behind ten years of desk and training duties. Like her father and brothers, she would now get to serve on the front lines.
As one of only four women who would lead combat forces, Virginia’s service was legendary. She had numerous medals and awards. She also had numerous scars… on her body and her mind. Virgie remembered all too well how and when she’d received each scar – physical and mental.
For every inch of ground taken, every hill won, every town liberated, there was a memory attached.
The good memories made Virginia smile.
The day her unit entered the town of Ras al-Ayn, the grateful Kurdish women’s militia cheered. After fighting ISIS forces for days, the exhausted women thanked the Americans’ for their help… and for some relief. With American support, ISIS guerrillas made a hasty retreat.
The memories of losing team members played on repeat in her mind often. Pfc. Jeff Ollenbeck – lost to a land mine. Pfc. David Jencks and LCpl. Donald Morgan – killed in an ambush attack. 2ndLt. Shelley Cooper – taken down by a sniper. There were more. So many more.
Why did she survive?
Virgie squeezed her eyes shut and yanked at her thick, black curls attempting to block out the faces of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
She grabbed the tumbler of bourbon from the table in front of her, gulping it down in one breath. Even in those brief periods when fallen Marines didn’t cloud her thoughts, there was always the children.
The children Virgie couldn’t save.
It took several days to get into the small isolated town east of Mosul. When a ten-thousand member Iraqi counter-terrorism force arrived, militants soon scattered over the borders into the mountains of Turkey and Iran.
Villagers wept as Col. Virginia Holman Hudson’s team set up aid stations. It was obvious many of the town’s residents survived severe beatings and torture. Virgie knew one young woman wrapped in a thread-bare blanket and shielded by an older woman was a rape victim.
A silent signal to her senior officers was acknowledged only by their scattering to inspect the village. One of her team interpreters called out to Virgie.
“Col. Hudson, the children!”
“What about them, Lance Corporal?”
Accompanied by two female villagers, LCpl. Dirks approached her. “A man took the children yesterday morning.”
In rapid speech and dialect Virgie didn’t understand, she did recognize the word for ‘hill’. The woman gestured and pointed at something behind Virgie.
Virgie looked over her shoulder and saw a small, flat, mud-brick building sitting on a low hill about four hundred meters away. With one movement of her hand, the strike team fell into formation, heading for the building. Virgie led them until her second-in-command, 1st Lieutenant Reynolds pulled her back.
“Excuse me, Colonel, but you know I can’t let you do that.”
She nodded once. “Dammit, Rey… find those children!”
Led by Reynolds, the strike team moved forward up the small incline to the building. Virgie fell into step behind them.
They had traveled half the distance to the building when a man threw open the building’s only door. His maniacal laughter was rife with anger and madness.
“Hold fire!” Virgie held up her hand while glaring at the insurgent.
Stepping forward, Virgie questioned the man in flawless Arabic. “اين الاطفال?” Where are the children?
Not getting any response other than wild-eyed mania, Virgie switched to Kurdish. بچوں کی کہاں ہیں?
Recognition dawned in the mad man’s eyes. He lifted his arms and yelled, “کان کے بچے ہیں!” The children are mine!
Virgie recognized the small detonator in his hand, attached to a wire feeding into his sleeve. Before she could give the order to fall back, the crazed terrorist yelled out again, “Allah is great!”, and detonated the bomb.
What happened in the next few seconds was an eternity to Virginia Hudson.
The expression on the bomber’s face never changed as the impact of the explosion behind him ripped his body in half, each section set ablaze. Virgie lost sight of him when someone threw her to the ground, covering her body with their own. Except for the monstrous roar of the burning building, silence bathed the area.
Then sounds flooded the area.
Like a chorus, the wails of the villagers pierced the silence. Virgie pushed against the body holding her down, but stopped struggling and listened. She heard a different noise… coming from the burning building.
With one final shove, Virgie pushed the body off her enough to roll from under and to her feet. Reynolds lay a few feet away rubbing his chest from the impact of her blow. Virgie headed for the building but another team member grabbed her.
“Let go or you’re losing a stripe! I don’t care who it is!”
Anger rose inside of Virginia as she spun around and looked up into the face of Cpl. Lawrence.
“Col.… there’s nothing we can do for them.”
Her body sagged, already knowing the truth. The tears streaming down the big Marine’s face caused Virgie to look at the rest of her strike team. They all wept–male and female alike.
Donnelly watched out for Dirks, now on his knees, giving up the contents of his stomach.
Sanchez clutched the cross around his neck.
Though his face was wet with tears, Gilmore’s eyes flared with rage.
“Dirks? How many?”
Without raising his head, Dirks responded, the words causing him physical pain. “T-Thirty four, ma’am.”
Anger and grief warred inside Virgie. Anguish strangled her heart as bile rose in her throat. Closing her eyes, Virgie called upon the false sense of calm needed to do her job. Opening her eyes, Virgie spoke, knowing Reynolds was back at her side.
“Secure the perimeter, Lieutenant.”
Virgie gave the order almost as an afterthought, not moving from where she stood. Only after the cries for help stopped did she turn to look at the building crumbling in the fiery blaze.
Col. Virginia Holman Hudson knew her military career was over.
She’d had enough.
It’s NaNoWriMo time!
No, you haven’t pulled a Rip Van Winkle and slept through most of 2017! It’s CAMPNaNoWriMo, held during the month of April.
What? You’re not ready to tackle another fifty thousand word project? Good! Because that’s not what CampNaNoWriMo is for…unless you want it to be.
At Camp, you can:
- Tackle any writing project, novel or not. Are you revising your next draft? Preparing to write the next great musical, a la Lin-Manuel Miranda? Penning a collection of poems? Camp is fertile ground.
- Set your own writing goal. Warm up for 50K by setting a word-count goal of 25,000. Or track hours, lines, or pages… whatever works for you.
- Find your own, personal writing group. At Camp NaNoWriMo, you can be sorted into a public cabin with writers according to your preferences, or create a private cabin for you and your already-established writing buddies.
I won’t say it’s necessarily ‘easy’, but it is that simple.
I’ve signed up and will be working on my November 2016 project, For Worse. My protagonist, Quinn Landon, seems to have developed a personality disorder. I need her to quit with the Sybil-theatrics, pick an identity and stick to it. Geeze…
Since this is camp, there are CABINS! You can choose to be assigned to one, start your own, or just fly free.
I have yet to choose a cabin. I elected to be assigned to a cabin last year, clearly specifying my preferences.
That didn’t work out so well. The only thing I had in common with my cabin-mates was the fact most of us were breathing. I say most because a few never uttered a word during the entire month.
Not going there again.
While we do stress out at times, battle muses and deal with writers’ block, I believe writers sometimes forget that writing is supposed to be something we love to do; something we’re driven to do; something we enjoy!
If you’re not having fun with it, and don’t find yourself smiling your way through scenes and situations – why are you doing it?
If you want to have some fun writing during April, look me up. I’ll be the one arguing with myself and trolling cabins!
Author AC Melody shares the struggles of genre writing – and it’s hilarious! Enjoy! #ReadWithMe
Welcome back to another ‘Read With Me’ post for Ms. Felicia’s blog hop. If you’d like to link your post or blog to the list, just click on the banner above! This is in celebration of National Reading Month and will be happening all of March, so it’s not too late to hop in.
Read What You Write, Write What You Read
Let me tell you about an adventure I had with this #1 most common piece of writing advice…
When I switched from avid reader to reader/writer 10+ years ago, I didn’t even know ‘genre’ was a thing. Mostly, because I was absolutely clueless about marketing. In my last post, I mentioned that my first book idea was born when I was only 17, but not yet hatched. It festered in my mind for years, warping, evolving, maturing and expanding. One book idea spread into a series…
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In my late teens and early twenties, I volunteered with a community literacy program that paired increasing literacy and diversity. As such, I was partnered with a young Caucasian man I’ll call Mark.
A year younger than me and just a year out of high school, Mark was one of those unfortunate students ignored by the education system and pushed through school with passing grades. Coming from a home where reading wasn’t a priority, no one realized Mark could read, but only enough to get by, much like my own father. There were nearly seventy years between my father’s school days and Mark’s. My father had to quit school at age nine. Mark was handed a high school diploma. Both were functionally illiterate.
While members of the literacy program would meet together to brainstorm and strategize on how best to help the program’s students, we were not teachers or educators. We were students, retirees, stay-at-home moms, moms employed outside the home, and professionals in other areas. Sometimes, teachers would join the program and write outlines for us and give us benchmarks to aim for, but most of the time we were just a group of ordinary folks who wanted to help others.
After determining Mark’s reading level, I gave him two books, a writing pad, and a dictionary. He was one read one chapter, look up and write down the definition of any word he didn’t understand, and write one paragraph in his own words what the chapter was about.
With an eight or twelve-week learning plan, most students completed the course with increased reading skills. Mark signed up for the twelve-week session and was determined to finish…because he wanted to join the military. Our program worked for people like Mark because we didn’t work on fixed times and locations like the larger better-funded organizations. Working nights with a restaurant clean-up crew and picking up odd jobs in construction meant Mark’s schedule could change daily. There were times he did miss one or both of our twice weekly sessions. But I have to confess I was near tears when he did show up…he always had his words and his paragraph.
Circumstances led to my having to relocate before completing the sessions with Mark. I wish I could say I knew what happened with him, but life isn’t that easy.
However, through friends connected with the literacy program I do know 1) Mark completed the program; 2) he never made it to the military; 3) He DID enroll in college.
That’s enough for me.
During the month of March, four random commenters – one each week – will win ebooks copies of some of my favorite books from authors like Toni Morrison, Terry Dean, and Walter Mosley!
March is National Reading Month and I invite you to #ReadwithMe by sharing a story about your love of reading.
Click on the Linky Tools link below to share a post from your blog/website about reading! (New browser opens) The join links are open until March 31st. Beginning April 1st, no more links can be added, but the Linky Tool and the links posted to it will remain active indefinitely!
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