Ritual freak-out

Monday, April 30, 2007

This weekend was a mass of phrases and clauses as I worked frantically to complete two articles and a revised synopsis. Yeah, for the darn WIP. ;)

Ahead of me are two more article deadlines. The latter is for one of my regular columns, so I'm pretty sure that I can polish that one off without much bloodshed. It's the first article, which will be the result of three months of research and interviews, that has me totally freaking out.

This takes me back to my days at Toronto's tourism office, when I was asked to write a three-page advertorial for a publication. No sweat, I thought, as I needed more stuff like that in my portfolio. Then I made the mistake of asking which publication it would be appearing in, expecting it to be "Trips for Swingers" or some other "under the radar" magazine.

It was for the New York Times Travel Magazine.

No pressure. I spent the first afternoon staring at the monitor until spots appeared before my eyes and my forehead burst open. Every single word I tried to type was absolute crap. By 5:00 I was breathing into a paper bag. When I got home, the DH wanted to know why I was shaking like I'd been with Petunia in rehab.

So I told him how my boss was going to discover that I had no talent and would fire me once she read the article I couldn't write.

That's when he told me to get it over with and hand in a piece of crap. "Just put some words on the page and run spell check," he said. Easy for him to say. Didn't he realize where the article would be appearing?

"Why should this be any different than the other stuff you write?" he asked, which made me want to strangle him because the man is too logical for me at times.

So I wrote the piece and lived to tell the tale. Sure, some parts of it needed revising, but that's just the way writing is. But why is it that I let myself get all caught up in a frenzy when, ideally, this should be just another assignment that happens to be for one of the larger publications?

Do I really need to lose my mind every time I want to produce something good? Couldn't I just eat some raisins or sacrifice a pet rock or something?

Hmm. Are there any bizarre rituals that work for you?

posted by Bonnie Staring at 12:06 AM 0 comments

My needs are aplenty

Friday, April 27, 2007

Stole this meme from Michelle. Google your name and the word "needs" to see what you've been missing out on for so long that the Internet knows about it.

Bonnie needs something that can show up as an external hard drive. (Um thanks, I think.)

Bonnie needs to do some soul-searching about the sacrifices she's willing to make. (Too true. Goodbye Doritos...)

Bonnie needs to back off from Mimi. (Oh really? I think Mimi is the one who needs to back off from me. Represent.)

Bonnie needs a Wii. (I do? OK then...)

Bonnie needs a Photojournalist. (Finally!)

Bonnie needs to perform certain tasks. (Like eating, watching TV, blogging...)

Bonnie needs very gentle hands. (My back is still aching from the gardening and water-tossing.)

Bonnie needs the following information: Your name, a credit card number and type of card. (Operators are standing by...)

Bonnie needs a sperm donor. (LOL)

Bonnie needs a good home. (Or at least a larger one with all those kids I'm supposed to have.)

Okay, now it's your turn. No tags, I'm too busy looking over the other 3,010 search results!

posted by Bonnie Staring at 11:04 AM 1 comments

The business of writing

Thursday, April 26, 2007

It's been a busy week for me, which is a pain because that means I can't just curl up on the couch with a bag of Doritos and watch trash TV all day.

And, unlike my comrades blessed (yes, I meant to use that word) with day jobs, busy doesn't always equal billable time. Le sigh.

Don't get me wrong; I understand the evil of having a day job. But a regular paycheque isn't something you should take for granted. Because that just doesn't happen on its own when freelancing.

That's why it's so important to make sure you have cash flow by keeping the work flow consistent. Going crazy working on five projects in January leads to a relatively poor April if you've been neglectful at pitching new business during that frenzied month.

When my life coach suggested that I'd need to spend half a day a week on "business stuff" once I went freelance, I thought she meant shopping for office supplies. After two months of eating cat food, I realized that she might have been referring to the following tasks:

1. Explore new markets
In any business, the only way to grow is by gaining new clients and markets. For freelance writers, that means being on the lookout for new places to get your work published and new clients/editors who might be open to working with you. As one writing instructor told me, "You have to approach them; no one is going to approach you until you've already made it."

2. Send queries
Once an idea is turned down by one publication, I send it back out (once I make any revisions, if necessary). A great lesson I've learned is that you don't get paid to mope. Oh, and there are always other ideas out there. Of course, I'm talking about magazine articles here. I'm sure I will learn very soon that things are completely different when you're shopping your novel around. ;)

3. Accounts receivable
Invoicing and following up on deadbeat accounts is key. One rule of thumb I follow is to not do work or another article for a client until I've been paid for the first job. Sometimes magazines fold or clients "forget" to pay you. Unless you're okay with working for free, state your terms on your invoice (e.g., net 30 days) and gently remind payees when their invoices have passed the 45-day mark.

4. Track expenses
The thought of all the expenses I could have claimed for last year, had I only kept the blasted receipts, brings a tear to my eye. Sure, I kept most of them, but the others probably got swept up in error during a fun night of shredding. Remember folks: shredding and Bacardi Breezers don't mix.

5. Do it every week
Miss out on a few weeks of business stuff and you'll soon discover that the business has taken a holiday. And so might your bank balance. Sure, there are probably a gazillion more tips to help you become a better businessperson, but I'd much rather focus on the writing.

These have worked for me. Do you have a "business stuff" tip that you'd like to share?

posted by Bonnie Staring at 1:27 PM 2 comments

She was in rehab, but her boyfriend is hot

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Have I mentioned how educational public transit can be? Especially when Petunia* has a fully-charged cell phone?

"Hey! How ya doin'? It's been like, ages!"

Did I mention that Petunia is about 12 feet away? And all of us are now aware that she hasn't spoken to, we'll call her Hyacinth, in, like, ages.

"Yeah, I got a bit of a sunburn on my chest...oh no, I don't tan evenly
anymore. Ever since I got out of rehab my skin has been really pasty."

Note to Lindsay Lohan: rehab is bad for your skin tone.

"No, dumped him...the guy I'm with now, totally hot. He's 5'9", 5'9-1/2"..."

Either she can't remember or she's trying to calculate from metric.

"...and 105 pounds. I know, he weighs five more pounds than me! Can you
believe it?"

At this point I wonder if they hooked up in rehab. Or at a pasty skin convention.

"He's older. I don't waste my time on boys anymore."

I'm so glad to hear the girl has her priorities straight. Especially now that she needs to apply sunscreen when she heads for the beach with her skinny boyfriend. Hope she checks the wind conditions before they head out.

*not her real name. At least I don't think so.

posted by Bonnie Staring at 12:44 AM 4 comments

Tub runneth over

Monday, April 23, 2007

I always thought that certain things only happened in movies or on television. Thanks to the powers that be, this theory was proven wrong Sunday afternoon.

The scenario: Bonnie has finished weeding the back yard. She is covered in dirt and weed sludge. Bathing is required.

So I turn on the taps, add a little peach bubble bath (to compensate for the patch of stinkweed I discovered in the back 40) and grab a Diet Coke.

The phone rings.

In an act of complete absurdity, I...answer it. A wonderful friend is on the other end of the line. Enough time has passed since our last conversation to compare notes on a dumbass situation happening at her place of employment...then I had to tell her about the contest I just won (more on that another day)...and we had a really great little chat.

Until I noticed the water. On the carpet. In the hallway.

In Hollywood, the heroine usually takes one look at the disaster zone and immediately freaks out. In Bonnieland, I took a look at the waves cascading over the top of the tub and thought:

"Wow, it really is possible to flood the bathroom."

Then I totally freaked. Twisted knobs. Pulled the plug. Grabbed a large bucket from the basement and started throwing water out the back door.

At this point I must point out that the next door neighbours, who were hanging out in their back yard, didn't find the sight of me in a drenched bathrobe pitching buckets of water out the back of the house as odd. Must be the new black pants I bought last week.

Do you know what happens to the water that cascades out of the bathtub? It pools at the lowest point of the room; at Casa Staring, that is the area behind the toilet. Nice.

Then the water seeps into the hallway and finds any gaps in the flooring to drip down into the (thankfully) unfinished basement, bathing the washing machine in now grimy water. Wearing socks at this point appears to be pointless so I remove them, only to end up wiping out on the soaked basement floor.

Luckily the washing machine broke my fall.

At this point, I have left three messages on the DH's cell phone:

#1: Hi honey, it's me. Uh, can you call me back right away?

#2: Hi, me again. Hey, does our shopvac work on sucking up large amounts of water? Call me.


My knight in shining armor was on his way home, oblivious to the disaster that was awaiting him as he had misplaced his cell phone at a car show. He and his British-car-mechanic friend pulled into the driveway. He was the one to notice the crazed dirt-covered woman in a soaked bathrobe wielding a bucket on the back step.

"Uh mate, I think Bonnie's in a spot of trouble." he called out to DH.

I think that's when I started to cry. ;)

The good news: our bathroom floor has never been cleaner. And the carpet has finally dried out. The bad news: any thoughts associated with bathing are currently far from relaxing. Le sigh.

posted by Bonnie Staring at 9:44 PM 4 comments

Facebook scares me

Thursday, April 19, 2007

I mean, I already spend far too much time online. To create a Facebook page and then invite every single person in the universe I know to be my friend...sounds like a lot of fun...or high school all over again. ;)

On MySpace, I only made it halfway down the first page of the registration form before I totally chickened out. Heck, isn't having a blog scary enough? Especially one that your relatives read? (Hi Dad!)

But, as some friends have told me, Facebook really could change my life. Make me a staaah.

Only you and I both know that Facebook won't finish writing my novel for me. And that's what it really all comes down to: getting the revisions DUN so that I can start the next great Bonnie Staring creation.

I do have some photos that I would put on my Facebook page if I had one.

Like this one of the movie theatre marquee that the makeover show I was on (Style By Jury) did up when they took over a theatre to show me footage of myself wearing really ugly clothes on the big screen.

Did I mention that I was wearing horizontal stripes? I still wake up screaming at night.

Oh, and who can forget Mr. Uglyfish? He deserves his own Facebook page. It's just hard to do without thumbs. Or hands for that matter.

And you know what would happen if Mr. Uglyfish and I both had Facebook pages. Everyone would invite him to be their friend, not me.

I wouldn't blame them though, he's a hit with the ladies. ;)

posted by Bonnie Staring at 9:46 PM 6 comments

What's wrong with you?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

It's such a useful question, but hardly appropriate for most business situations.

This unique phrase, changed slightly from "What's wrong with her/him/teacher name/relative name?", was used constantly in notes during classes in high school and over long drawn-out telephone conversations when my friends and I would bemoan our teenage lives.

Especially when particular guys said no when we asked them to dance. Or mean girls would be really...mean and make us cry. There was obviously something wrong with all of them. Losers.

So now, out in the scary adult world, I find myself holding back this stress-releasing question that puts things into asinine perspective. It works online, in person, over the phone...you could even put "What's wrong with you?" on a card and send it with a bouquet of stinkweed. If it's in season, of course. And no, it wouldn't be categorized as a "get well soon" gesture.

There have been a few times over the past week or so when the words have hovered on the tip of my tongue, daring me to lead into temptation. Like when a client moves up a deadline, changes the scope of a project or just does something that goes against logic. I'd love to share all the gory details, but you'd probably be comatose by the time I finished my rant.

And it's really not as freaky-weird as Lara's tales of her downstairs neighbour. Now there's a situation where a little "What's wrong with you?" is sorely needed. ;)

Great news: I'm working on the novel again! Took a little time after my contest club meeting and a bit of trash TV last night and dove right in to the spot that needs so much work it terrifies me. But it has to get done. And I can't, as Michelle suggested, skip ahead and get back to it, as I know I will never return and just leave it there to fester.

And festering is just so yesterday when it comes to writing chick lit. ;)

posted by Bonnie Staring at 3:27 PM 0 comments

The laws of distraction

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Even after reading The Secret and asking the universe for all that I want, why oh why do I still end up doing things that prevent me from reaching my goals?

It's a rhetorical question, so you can put your hand down.

Today the universe presented me with an unscheduled day off from the regular Tuesday work that takes me downtown to do stuff for one of my clients. I delighted in the thought of all that I would be able to accomplish in this mystical window of time.

Yeah, it overwhelmed me so much that I focused on busywork. It's the little things that make me feel like I'm doing something while shows about decorating, selling houses and siblings who steal each other's identities drone on in the background.

So instead of getting a large chunk of writing done, I've managed to do some invoicing and recycling. Both my bank balance and the environment will thank me later, I'm sure.

Yesterday I also received my score sheet from RWA's Golden Heart competition. It wasn't as bad as I thought.

Of the five judges, one really, really liked the book (9/10), another really didn't like it (5/10) and the other three gave it an above-average score. Though it wasn't in the top percent and in line for being a finalist, at least it rated better than average.

This means a lot considering the state of that particular version of the synopsis and those first pages! Actually, it's a good thing that Suds didn't make it to the next round, because it would have probably caused quite a scene as judges ran screaming from the room in search of red pens.

And no, this isn't a cry for sympathy. Ask my betas; they can tell you how...interesting some parts were. Even without the frequent stops for food and the cast of thousands. ;)

So while the score sheet did provide a distraction, it also gives me inspiration. That little manuscript didn't fare too badly on its first venture out into the contest world. While my focus shall be on selling this puppy and not entering contests (for my novels anyway), I do plan on taking part in the TRW Golden Opportunity competition.

That means I really have to get to work, as the deadline is May 17!

posted by Bonnie Staring at 3:32 PM 4 comments

50 Beans

Monday, April 16, 2007

Starwood Hotels/Le Meridien have a cool opportunity for writers. Not that it pays or anything, but they are looking for 50-word stories to print onto small cards that are handed out to chi-chi clients who order exotic coffee (that uses 50 beans per cup) at their luxury properties.

Hey, why hire an ad agency when you can get all your material for free? LOL

I'm always up for a challenge and, whaddya know?, a few of my submissions are up on their site (takes about 6 weeks). Some of the ideas may seem familiar as I've taken liberties with some of my flash-fiction entries for other contests. Mainly cutting out a ton of words.

Just the thought of someone with more money than I'll ever see in my lifetime reading my words makes me feel kind of tingly all over. Then again, it could be the chilly weather. ;)

If you're submitting, you may want to steer clear of humour since they only seem to want deep and kind of freaky stuff. Have a read through the entries to see what I mean.

Click here to read some very cool short stories or submit your own.

posted by Bonnie Staring at 12:20 PM 7 comments

Friday the 13th horoscope

Friday, April 13, 2007

The following is what MSN has in store for me today. Not sure if I should be happy...or concerned about the current work on my plate. ;)

Ingenuity blossoms as you make the effort to do a little writing, dear Cancer, perhaps technical manuals or other professionally oriented projects. This could represent a new stage in your professional life, as you're likely to do well and attract considerable attention from those in high places. The only downside: don't get too caught up in the need to revise, edit, then revise and edit again. It'll only take up more time, and it's possible to over-rewrite!

Bonnie's rewrite of the horoscope:

Evil woman with a bad cold
You're totally in the weeds with all of your writing projects, dear Cancer, perhaps a technical manual or goiter ointment brochure might be just the diversion you need so all work on your novel stops. This could represent a new stage in your professional life, as you would need to find a time machine to get it all done. Attracting attention from people on ladders is possible; just don't walk under them. Writing is rewriting, so get used to it!

Have a fabulous day everyone!

posted by Bonnie Staring at 11:48 AM 0 comments

A synopsis in 10 easy steps

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

It appears that writing a synopsis is even more heinous than writing a 300-page novel. Luckily I've taken enough cough and cold medication to sum up some very good steps to follow so that it will all flow onto the page and make sense. Or not.

I must give a shout-out to Maya, a fellow Toronto Romance Writer member who gave me a bunch of suggestions on my WIP's synopsis that made a heck of a lot of sense. Okay, enough with the preamble, let's get to the list:

1. You've got to include goals, motivation and conflict. One out of three is not the way to go, it makes all of your characters really shallow and a bit, I dunno, flaky.

2. Only introduce main characters. Okay, this one actually came from the TRW critique session in March, but it's still a pretty good point. Introducing the same number of characters as synopsis pages (e.g., only eight characters for an 8-page synopsis) is an excellent idea.

3. Don't leave out too much. This can be tricky, since the next point is:

4. Don't leave it all in. You'll end up with a 300-page synopsis. And that's never a good thing.

5. Balance the story out. My current 6-page synopsis spends four pages on the first half of the book. My last two pages are a series of short sentences trying to finish everything off in a hurry. That's not ideal, especially for a romance novel. ;)

6. Try not to use the same word over and over again. Like liver. Or tuberculosis.

7. Tell the story without the reader needing to know the novel. An agent or contest judge is counting on that little pile of pages to engage them and make them want to read the first chapter...or request a full.

8. Remember to describe your characters' personalities. Apparently saying that a guy's hot is not enough. Who knew?

9. Write it in third person, even if your book is in first person. Think of this as your only shot to hook your agent, publisher or judge. Show what each main character is about so a reader can feel the conflicts, connections and other groovy emotions that come into play in your novel.

10. Step away from the synopsis for a day or two and then give it a long hard review. Then ask someone who doesn't know anything at all about your novel (a writer though, okay?) to read it. This is the scariest step, but that person will ask questions that someone who knows the story won't even consider.

Okay, now all I have to do is...make revisions. Sigh.

Does anyone have a tip or two on synopsis writing that they'd like to share? Pretty please?

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posted by Bonnie Staring at 10:51 PM 6 comments

The EB is no friend of mine

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Easter Bunny raced right past Casa Staring sometime over the weekend. Nary a coloured egg or new chocolate items could be found hidden anywhere in the house. The Lindt gold bunny purchased early in the week, however, was slowly tortured and enjoyed, thank you very much.

Seems my laryngitis was the beginning of what I can only call the "I'm coughing, and I can't stop" syndrome. Hours can go by with hardly a post-nasal drip, and then something happens to trigger the black lung.

As an ex-smoker, this "my lungs don't work" feeling is a little too familiar. And just another reminder of why that miserable old weed is so nasty.

Of course, being ill on a long weekend does have some benefits...

Actually no, it totally sucks. Even the Pussycat Dolls' marathon didn't make me feel any better. Especially watching the episode when they all got sick right before a performance and puking everywhere. At least I don't have the dry heaves as well as the no voice, clogged head and inactive lungs.

Yeah, I'm totally hot...due to a fever. ;)

So what does a woman with too many projects on her plate do when a cold knocks her off her game? Totally go on a tangent and watch one hit wonder videos on YouTube until 3 a.m., that's what!

I also found the coolest link that lists one hit wonders by decade: One Hit Wonder Central. Talk about the grooviest way to waste your time since Tetris!

Okay, back to the 80's...

posted by Bonnie Staring at 11:31 AM 2 comments

No excuses

Saturday, April 7, 2007

I've been lame about posting. Too true. Of course, I could just explain it away by saying that my life has been so jam-packed with events, appearances and win-win opportunities that I hardly have time for beauty sleep, let alone blogging.

Or I could be busy catching up on regular stuff, like taxes. ;)

It also doesn't help that my body has responded to my need to slow things down by tossing a case of laryngitis my way. Poor Michelle didn't recognize me when I answered the phone yesterday. She also said I sound like a 97-year-old...man.

Time to record a new answering machine message, I'd say. ;)

The best part was the meeting I had with my life coach this week. Talk about a case of bad timing. Luckily Lynne and I have worked together for over two years now, so she could interpret my sputters and squeaks.

Turns out I'm taking on too much. Go figure.

And all this work has taken me away from my WIP and all the great book concepts waiting in the wings. When will I make the time to focus on them? We all know that waiting for the muse to arrive is a big bag of doo-doo, so what's stopping me?

Total fear of rejection, I'd say. ;)

Now, this isn't a pity party invitation. It's just that I've been living vicariously through the brave published and the unpublished-but-submitting souls that have gone before me and I shudder at some of their stories of photocopied rejection letters, hateful Amazon reviews or, what I feel is the worst, no response at all, whether from an agent or sales figures.

But I can't let that stop me. The Toronto Romance Writer's Golden Opportunity writing contest deadline is May 15. And I plan on having the WIP/RIP ready well before that date. Like May 10.

posted by Bonnie Staring at 5:20 PM 2 comments


Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Queen and I have shared a love/hate relationship since I was a wee lass. One of the first record albums I owned (yes, it was on vinyl and everything) was The Game, featuring the 80's hit Another One Bites The Dust. Of course, I tended to prefer Weird Al's Another One Rides the Bus, but you couldn't admit stuff like that in public and still be invited to all the cool parties.

Hang on, I don't think I was ever invited to those ones anyway. ;)

Fast-forward a few years, and any Queen I heard was from my roommate's headphones. In the next room. At 3:00 in the morning.

He thought because I knew which album he was listening to that I must have been an ultimate fan. Not really, I could recognize the guitar riffs because they were too loud from 12 feet away.

And we'll just pretend that Body Language didn't happen.

When it was announced that We Will Rock You, a musical celebrating all things Queen, was coming to Toronto, I wasn't sure of what to expect.

Would they take themselves too seriously? Would Ben Elton (the playwright) be able to present us with an experience that allows the audience to re-discover their love of the music, kind of like the whole Mamma Mia/ABBA experience?

Oh yeah. Totally.

Wild characters. Fabulous villains. A storyline that proves once again how freedom of thought is something that should be celebrated. That it was served up with a liberal helping of humour had me in stitches, the "inside" rock and roll jokes were definitely appreciated by the crowd. Oh, and the songs were brought out to play with such passion and energy that dear Freddie Mercury would be proud.

And, as a major Canadian bonus, our very own Suzie McNeil from RockStar: INXS fame took to the stage as Oz, the rock and roll rebel babe.

You could even buy WWRU glowsticks for waving around during your favourite songs.

All in all, I give it two lighters up. Any way the wind blows...

posted by Bonnie Staring at 1:58 PM 2 comments

Where did the time go?

Monday, April 2, 2007

April snuck in without me noticing. And there I was with my St. Paddy's Day hat still on and everything. ;)

The feeling is that I'm on one of those carnival rides where you're stuck between two Sumo wrestlers and spun backwards while loud music by Bon Jovi plays in the background. Every once in a while the carnie calls out over the microphone, "Do you wanna go faster?"

The kids all scream, "YES!"

This is not my response, but I find it hard to breathe as I am squeezed beyond recognition in a Sumo sandwich. All I can do is pray that the ride will end soon.

But then I'd just get bored and take on another set of projects so that the cycle starts up again. ;)

Life happens like that. And being a pro at procrastination doesn't help. Why is it that my taxes seemed to be the most appealing thing for me to do yesterday? All of the other projects called out to me from their spots around the house: the beta-read, the copywriting, the editing, the transcribing of interview notes...and all the other stuff that seems to carry forward like an oversized backpack on the Amazing Race.

There are oodles of things to do, but I know I need to slow down. Working steadily, even if some of it is work that I delight in, leaves me little time to regroup and connect with other human beings.

As the DH so eloquently states, "When the computer is on, you're not here."

That's okay if we're talking about an hour here or there, but an entire day can go by and I find myself wondering why it's suddenly dark outside. The doorbell rings and I don't hear it. The DH could be attacked by a squad of zombie cheerleaders and the only way I'd know something was amiss would be finding a pompom with a hand still attached to it in the living room.

Hey, that's a great idea for a story...

posted by Bonnie Staring at 11:57 AM 5 comments