Bonnie's excuse of the week

Friday, November 28, 2008

It's the time of week again, and I've got a doozy of an excuse for you:

"There's something else I should be doing."

This one gets me every time, especially when the "should" is paying work or seeing family and friends. But I have been known to ditch the writing for less rewarding tasks such as decluttering, laundry, food preparation, contest entering and coupon clipping. Sometimes performed all at once.

So how do I show the "shoulds" the door? It's not easy.

Tactic One: bucket-list mentality
You don't have to watch the movie to get this one. All I do is imagine myself on my deathbed or being told that I only have a year left to live (oh yeah, happy thoughts) and I compare the two tasks competing for my attention. Which would I regret not doing more? Writing the novel or folding the laundry?

Sure, most of those comparisons are a no-brainer, which makes the bucket-list mentality totally useless when you have to choose between feeding the kitten and spending time staring at words on a screen until your eyeballs bleed.

Sometimes it's easier to feed the cat. And no, that's not some double-entendre catch phrase that all the cool kids are using these days. Distraction is one of the steps I frequently use to bring forth a Great Shashoomba when I'm stuck with my words. And, sometimes, the place is a disaster zone and I can't find anything because of all the piles of paper on every flat surface of the house.

It makes the cat cranky too, as he tends to slip on the papers when leaping onto the furniture. We won't discuss how the neat-freak DH feels about such matters; he lets me know on days that end in "y".

So when Tactic One doesn't work, I switch gears to:

Tactic Two: moments of greatness
This goes along with my earlier advice on breaking down a goal into bite-sized pieces. Thinking about writing an entire novel is tiring; it just sounds like it's gonna take forever. So I only force myself to sit at the computer for ten minutes of greatness.

That's it. Ten minutes.

Now you're probably thinking, "How much can she possibly write in ten minutes?"

Not a heck of a lot. And that's why this tactic is so effective yet evil: most times, I can't stop at ten minutes. If I'm in a great scene or establishing a cool setting, I won't want to stop. But, by convincing myself that I'll only be working on the novel "for a few minutes," I can get myself into the writing mindset and have the words flowing onto the page. Like buttah.

Okay, maybe not all the time.

How do you stop those "shoulds" from taking over?

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posted by Bonnie Staring at 8:16 AM 2 comments

A brilliant, thankful day

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

You know you're gonna have an awesome day when the DH wakes you in the morning with breakfast from McDonalds. ;)

And even long after the grease from the hash browns left my fingers, I still worked through the day with a dopey smile on my face.

Why? Let me tell you: I have finally finished revising one of my manuscripts to death!

That's it. I'm done. No more second-guessing, tweaking, primping and giving it one last look...

Oh yeah, it's been a long year working on this puppy. I lie: it's been over a year. And that doesn't make for a prolific writing career, let me tell you.

So, the next WIP, which I started with NaNo and now shall lovingly refer to as CA, is back on. The best part? While working on the other manuscript, CA pulled a temper tantrum and threw a Great Shashoomba* at my feet. This gives my heroine the motivation she sorely needed, so that made me wanna get the revs done on that other masterpiece right away.

Then, during a celebratory dinner tonight, DH helped me with some brainstorming to give this WIP the high concept it so sorely needed. I know; the DH and high-concept development! Who knew that his fabulousness never ends?

Thank goodness I chased him down and forced him to be my man as soon as I met him. Oh, in a non-threatening, flirtatious way, of course. With pepper spray. ;)

And, speaking of thankfulness, I'd like to take a moment to wish all my American friends a wonderful Thanksgiving. May you be surrounded by good friends, good food and family members who don't drive you too crazy.

*For those not aware, the Great Shashoomba is an idea that appears to come out of nowhere to solve a major problem in a manuscript, whether it's a plot point, character trait or, in the case of CA, the reason why the story needs to be told.

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posted by Bonnie Staring at 5:14 PM 4 comments

Being held captive

Monday, November 24, 2008

There's no need to call the cops; handcuffs aren't involved. Although some people like that. ;)

There I was, hitting some significant word-count action on NaNo, when suddenly another WIP, which has been sitting around waiting for me to get it it for some revisions, body-slammed me. Next thing I knew, I had worked my way through three chapters without even realizing it.

So I kept at it, without a second thought to the NaNo WIP.

Do you feel sorry for the abandoned work in progress? It has no feelings...

Actually, I'm delighted with the 15,000 words I created in just over two weeks. That's pretty freaking awesome, coming from a woman who seems to take forever to work her way through a novel.

Is it wrong of me to walk away and admit NaNo defeat before the deadline? I don't think so. What it did for me was to put some scenes down on paper that had been banging around in my head for the past few months. Now that I have the setting and characters down, I need to dig deep.

Yeah, the icky stuff that terrifies me.

And here I thought being held captive by a manuscript was scary enough. ;)

Gotta keep this short, the novel is cracking the whip again.

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posted by Bonnie Staring at 9:36 PM 4 comments

Bonnie's excuse of the week

Friday, November 21, 2008

Oh, it's been a wild week over here in BonnieLand. Lots of winter preparations and searching for winter wiper blades and those really expensive gloves purchased on sale last year have eaten up too much time already. But that's not my excuse this week. I'll save that one for later. ;)

"I can't."
Wow, putting those two words on the page just made me tear up. I blame Daniel Craig keeping his clothes on throughout most of Quantum of Solace. Now where was I?

Oh yes, the c-word. I've used it a lot, especially at the gym with my personal trainer. Luckily she ignores me and just adds more reps to my routine. Grr.

But saying "I can't" is just another way of saying "I'm not even gonna bother trying," and that's what makes me sad. There have been way too many times that I've can't-ed myself out of things, like writing my first manuscript ten years ago when I first thought of it instead of waiting until that particular genre had curled up and faded away like the cucumber at the back of my fridge.

Hey, it'll come back again, what goes around comes around and all that. Whatevs.

Right now I have two "I can'ts" sitting comfortably on the futon behind my left eye, noshing on seven-layer dip and fighting over my Melrose Place DVDs. Allow me to introduce them to you:

"I can't rock climb" and "I can't write deep enough." Their nicknames are Rock and Deep, which makes them sound like characters from The Bold and the Beautiful, but who said that was a bad thing?

Rock I blame on my fear of heights. There's just something about climbing up a wall or a cliff or even an open staircase that makes me want to, how you say, COMPLETELY FREAK OUT.

And there I was, thinking that I kind of mastered the whole height thing by going ziplining for my birthday last year, but nooooooo: as part of the fitness series thing I was doing earlier this year, we did a rock-climbing day. When I say we, I mean basically everyone else. Le sigh.

I'll work on Rock later. After Paper and Scissors. (I'm here all week, people.)

Deep haunts me every time I work on a novel or an article. My voice is naturally light (like my white pasty skin), so when I approach darker, deeper subject matter or conflicts or character motivations, I tend to, how you say, COMPLETELY FREAK OUT.

And there I was, thinking that I kind of mastered the whole deep, dark thing when I made things really hard and horrible for the heroine in my last manuscript. Sure, it took me three tries to realize that she couldn't just waltz through the novel picking daisies and skipping (I mean, that's so 1967), but I did it: I put Baby in a corner and hid Patrick Swayze in my bedroom closet. For a month.

I'll admit it: Deep and I have some issues. Wow, for a moment, it looked like I had written "Depp and I have some issues," and that would be true as well. I just can't hang out with a man who looks better in eyeliner than I do.

Ugh, see what I mean? There I was, about to get to my deep, dark secret about not being able to write deep and dark, and I throw in a crack about Johnny Depp's makeup. It's a sickness, I tell you.

Maybe I'm afraid of what's behind that door way at the back of the basement that no one looks at directly, yet everyone knows is there? Perhaps the way I approach my characters' motivations, conflicts and goals reminds me of how I should approach what happens in my life?

Maybe I'm afraid that if one of my characters or I open the door and deal with what's behind it, there'll be nothing left for me to write about.

Oh yeah. That's probably it. Damn...

Anyone have advice on how I can beat Deep? Pretty please?

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posted by Bonnie Staring at 1:05 AM 6 comments

Spray cheese

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Okay, this post is not about spray cheese, but I couldn't help but notice that in my current WIP I make three references to spray cheese:

"She felt about as attractive as a can of spray cheese."

"He spotted her right away; her beach towel was the color of spray cheese."

And, my personal favorite:

" 'And you invented spray cheese too, right?' Tess said as she glared at the dark-haired girl."

So it looks like NaNo brings out the spray cheese in me. Ugh. Now there's a quote for you. LOL

And no, I haven't yet caught up to where I "should" be with the novel's word count, but I'm still okay with it. There's oodles of November left. Gulp.

Speaking of November, winter has officially arrived at Casa Staring. There is snow on the ground -- the serious stuff that looks all nice and puffy until you try to walk or drive on it. Somehow I always forget that winter happens here, every year.

DH and I snuck off for a romantic matinee screening of The Quantum of Solace yesterday. There are no spoilers in this post, so relax.

Bonnie's review for The Quantum of Solace: James Bond had way too much clothing on.

I mean, the guy is in the middle of the desert and he leaves his suit jacket and shirt on? What gives? And what's with him wearing white or beige pants everywhere? Sure, he can pull it off, but it's not like he's on a cruise ship getting ready for the shuffleboard circuit. Sheesh.

That's all I'm gonna say about it.

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posted by Bonnie Staring at 9:54 AM 5 comments

Do what you love

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

There's a lot to be said for those who take the whole "do what you love, the money will follow" credo to heart, Especially when it takes forever for the money to follow.

This can also get a lot of people in trouble, as they interpret this as doing only things that they absolutely, positively enjoy doing 100% of the time. For me, that would be sampling Lindor chocolates, watching retro '80s music videos and, when I grew tired of that, reading some fabulous books.

But even doing the things you love could get tiring after a while. And we all know how fickle we can be. ;)

For me, the whole "doing what I love" includes things that I would never claim to love: like accounting, making sales calls and, in some cases, working on projects where the love ran out long before the due date. ;) That's just the way life is. You've gotta have the rough to appreciate the smooth or the Wang to appreciate the Chung.

With all the doom and gloom regarding the economy, it's easy get all angsty and nervous about where the next pair of shoes is coming from. But, as I discovered while working full time, job security is harder to find than pixie dust, even during good times. And then there's the trouble of where to store it so the trolls don't come after you...

Of course, doing what I love should be incorporated into my writing, as that's what I truly love to do, even when the words are harder to get out of my head than dried molasses... or a grape juice stain on a white shag carpet. Sure, those times are heinous, horrid and a whole bunch of other words starting with the letter H, but they're just bumps in the road. A long road filled with all kinds of pit stops, like a Lindor chocolate sampling station or a taping of a Duran Duran video.

And, speaking of great '80s videos...

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posted by Bonnie Staring at 9:06 AM 3 comments

A hitch in the NaNo train

Sunday, November 16, 2008

This is the point of NaNo when most writers should have passed the 25K mark. I have not. Not even close.

And, somehow, I'm okay with this.

It's not that I've given up; I'm just catching myself doing those things that I do when I lose track of where a story is going. When that happens, I add characters, have them stop and eat or simply throw in a dance sequence with celebrity judges. Le sigh.

Hitting 50K by November 30 is still possible. I just want to make sure that what I have created can be useful once NaNo is over and done. I look back at my last NaNo success (which was a few years back), and it's a big heap of words with no real sense of purpose, direction or, for that matter, punctuation.

And no, I'm not going back and reading over everything. That's asking for trouble. My first draft is rough and nasty, filled with repetitive words, oodles of dialogue and passages of description that come out of nowhere. Oh, and there's this owl that keeps on hooting for no apparent reason. Gotta love the Canadian wilderness. ;)

So yeah, my current word count may suck, but I have 12,500 more words than I did on November 1. And that's not too shabby.

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posted by Bonnie Staring at 11:16 PM 3 comments

Bonnie's excuse of the week

Friday, November 14, 2008

For this excuse, I need to thank a colleague who asked me for advice for a friend, who's looking into doing freelance writing.

"I'm not ready."
It's hard to treat this as just another excuse, because it's really a self-sabotaging mindset most people starting on a new adventure or career path cling to for as long as possible until a better excuse comes along.

Issues? I gotz 'em.

Why should this excuse bother me so much? Because it pokes at the heart of our dreams and goals, looking for the loophole to keep us in a holding pattern. It leaves us terrified enough to put off taking that next step to bring us closer to our goal.

For me, "I'm not ready" stopped me from sending article queries to some major Canadian magazines. Sure, I had a portfolio of clippings, but I still didn't feel that I had the chops to swim in the big pool. I was comfortable in the kiddie pool, even though my water wings were starting to pinch and my lips were turning blue.

There were a gazillion reasons why I wasn't ready to approach those editors. That's why writers are so great at sabotaging their own careers: we can create a very believable list of reasons to do anything but succeed. ;)

And then someone named Michelle Rowen told me to pitch an article to Homemakers magazine anyway. "Just do it already," she had said. "The worst thing that could happen is they say no."

So I wrote up a query letter and revised it... for about a week. Then, just when I was sure an instantaneous rejection would soon follow, I hit "send."

As soon as I released the key, nothing happened.

The sky didn't fall. Cabana boys didn't suddenly burst into song. Life simply went on, just like it had before. It was a big relief actually. Michelle and I celebrated my huge victory (actually sending the damn query) and I continued on with my other projects.

After about a month, Homemakers wrote me back. Not just Homemakers, but the editor. She even used my name and everything.

Apparently, according to her, I was more than ready. Not only did she assign me that article, I've gone on to write a few more for them. And, once I get back on the article-query bandwagon (yeah, I gotz excuses for that one too), hopefully I'll be able to do a lot more.

So the whole "I'm not ready" thing is an act of self-preservation that actually prevents you from learning. Sure, maybe if I had tried querying that magazine a year earlier I might have been rejected, but I know if I had waited another year to pitch an idea, I would have missed out on the other opportunities that followed the initial article I wrote for them.

In other words, suck it up and take the next step. If you're not "ready," you may just connect with someone who can help you get there. You won't know unless you try.

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posted by Bonnie Staring at 8:11 AM 4 comments

Tubular thoughts

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ugh. It's a "zombie gotz mah brains" kind of week. I blame it on the full workload, NaNo (over 10K words now) and a bunch of cool events happening when not working for the wo-man (moi) or the manuscript.

And at some of these events, loot bags are involved. Yippee!

Now this is normally the time when I start to whine and complain that I don't have any time for myself to relax or to simply sit back and listen to retro '80s tunes because I'm so darn busy, but I'm not gonna.

Why? Because my choices brought me to this place. It's all that "be careful what you wish for" stuff giving me a hefty kick in the rear. And somehow, it all works. Just like it does with this little fella.

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posted by Bonnie Staring at 10:59 PM 0 comments

The best laid plans

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Oh, this was going to be an awesome post, filled with so much ensuing hilarity that it would have been dangerous holding a beverage while reading these words.

Yeah, well, it's good to have dreams.

Speaking of dreams, I saw a fantabulous film this evening. So fantabulous, in fact, that it snagged the People's Choice award at the Toronto International Film Festival this year. It made me laugh, cry, hide my eyes and root for such an unlikely hero that I may go see it again a few more times.

It's called Slumdog Millionaire. Here's the trailer:

Love irony? Scenes that terrify? Dancing? Redemption? Abject poverty? Game shows? This one's got them all. Bring tissues and, for some moments, a blindfold.


posted by Bonnie Staring at 12:53 AM 2 comments

Only 43K to go

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Somehow I've been able to get 7,000 words down on the page for my new WIP. Yahoo!

My secret? Not looking back at the traffic accident of words that I wrote the day before. I made that mistake last weekend and it threw me off my game. Of course, by now my word count should be around 15K, but at least I can say that I only have 172 steps (of 250 words) left.

So it's still completely doable.

And now that I'm working on the new idea, the recently completed (but in need of a good revision) manuscript has been sending me drinks and winking at me. It's sorely tempting, but I can't go there -- not without sabotaging progress on the WIP and risking a NaNo failure.

:::sends drink back after taking the paper umbrella:::

The week ahead is full of too many things already that will take me away from the keyboard, so I'll have to find a way to make good use of the time I do have available. Will I have to pull the plug on the Internet again?

I hope not, as that was a wonewee time in BonnieLand. ;)

Saturday I attended a fantabulous workshop on world building by Maria V. Snyder. Not only was the timing of it ideal for me and my manuscripts, it also opened my eyes to what I've been leaving out in my novels. Well, beside the plot, character development and dance sequences. What I learned in those few hours will definitely help me for years to come... or at least until November 30.

Okay, must dash and see if I can get another 250-word hunk in before I hit the hay.

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posted by Bonnie Staring at 11:28 PM 4 comments

Bonnie's excuse of the week

Friday, November 7, 2008

This one I actually caught myself thinking several times throughout the week (thanks to NaNo):

"I'll make up for it on the weekend."
Of course I will! According to the list of things I feel that I will be able to accomplish during the weekend, mine last about, I dunno, three months or so. ;) It's all part of the thrill of working from home.

Only I haven't been lately. I've been doing some onsite work for some clients. Onsite as in "not at home in pyjamas, able to work on whatever I want, when I want." Onsite as in "they expect me to focus on the tasks at hand while I'm here between 9 and 5."

Sometimes I forget, since I'm used to taking breaks at the home office. Sometimes they last for a day or two...

And that's frowned upon in those corporate-type offices. You know, the ones with supervisors in them.

So I've been struggling with getting words on the page for my current WIP so that I can hit 50,000 words by the end of the month, struggling with reworking another manuscript's synopsis so it kind of resembles the revised novel and struggling to simply get stuff done, like laundry and meal preparation.

DH is a saint and can do the laundry, but his kitchen skills are limited to soup or breakfast foods. A woman cannot live on waffles and noodles forever, no matter how tempting.

To combat this "save it for the weekend" mentality, I'll break a task down into smaller steps, and then promise myself to tackle at least one step before I can postpone the rest of it until I have another spare moment.

This tactic normally works for me, since, to make it easy on myself, I'll break something down into so many steps, each one only takes about five minutes. Then I'll end up doing two or three steps, and soon enough, I'll just plow through the whole darn thing, just to get it off my list.

Of course, when facing 50,000 words, I've broken it down into 250-word allotments. I only have to do that 200 times (actually, it's only 184 now) before the end of the month. It's totally doable, just like the commercial-break squats I try to remember to do while watching TV instead of going to the gym.

Ugh, I'll have to make up for that on the weekend. ;)

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posted by Bonnie Staring at 12:18 AM 4 comments

Bad news wrapped in a very nice package

Monday, November 3, 2008

It was the grooviest of times. It was the grimmest of times.

My search for a literary agent continues. Now powered by leftover Halloween candy I purchased at half price. ;)

It's not all doom and gloom though, because I received the absolute best rejection letter ever. And no, it didn't have a blank check attached to it.

The agent was warm, friendly and provided such an incredible combination of complimentary and constructive feedback that I hardly felt rejected at all.

Okay, well maybe a bit. That's why the chocolate is in the house.

It also reminded me of how I felt at the LG Fashion Fusion event at Toronto's Fashion Week that I attended a week ago. There were bevvies, appetizers, fashions and Maroon 5 all rolled into one glam-packed evening.

Not only was I as giddy as a schoolgirl, I was also terrified at being found out as a poser instead of a true fashionista. What if someone asked me to even name one of the designers who showed that night? Heck, what if I was standing beside one of them while I cut up their catwalk creations?

Oh, and they served sausage rolls at one time, marking the low point of the evening. ;)

Where I'm going with this is that there were two moments during the event where things appeared to fall into place, putting everything within reach.

The first was during the bathing suit presentations...

And the other was when Maroon 5 was performing...

But destiny (in this case, security) blocked my path, saving me from total embarrassment and/or a handcuffed escort off the premises. At least my girlfriend Larisa took some great photos. We even picked out the holiday party dresses we'll buy when we win the lottery.

Isn't that what taking a risk is all about? Instead of moping over the rejection, I should be celebrating that I had the balls to send out my query, and then my partial, in the first place. If I hadn't taken a risk, I wouldn't have received some valuable feedback from an industry professional I truly respect.

That alone makes this dip in the road totally worth it.

Now I must get back to NaNo...

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posted by Bonnie Staring at 11:22 PM 3 comments

NaNo Day 2

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Okay, I've actually spent more time waiting for the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) website to load than actually writing, so that makes me a wee bit cranky.

All because I'm actually at 3,005 words, which is right where I'm supposed to be.

Will I reach 50,000 words by the end of the month? Why not? I've been able to do it before. And my last two manuscripts were waaay longer than 50K.

Of course, both of those took me a little longer than 30 days to write. ;)

But NaNoWriMo is all about the coyote-ugly first draft. It's when you basically throw the words onto the page and hope that it'll all make sense when you read it later. My goal is to turn off my internal editor, which has only gotten louder thanks to feedback on a whole bunch of novel-writing contests I entered over the past few months.

:::pours herself another Diet Coke and fires up the chocolate fountain:::

You know you're in trouble when the Penguins of Panic start cutting up rough about the names you've given your characters. This time around, I went with names that are brand-spanking new to me, free of any connection to people in my past or celebrities or anything written by Stephanie Meyer.

And the Penguins just couldn't get over my hero's name. They even made a little annoying song about it to try and convince me why it sucks. To the tune of "Happy Birthday." I'm not even gonna put it in this blog post because I'm happy with his name, it's NaNo and he's dreamy. As intriguing as a 17-year-old can possibly be.

Ah, the good old days. From, like, five years ago. ;)

It's been such a long time since I've started a fresh new novel that I've forgotten how overwhelming/exciting/mind-blowing it all is. For this moment, whether it lasts another 24 hours or until the middle of the month, I'm in the driver's seat. Ah, the power!

But eventually my brilliantly named characters are going to start doing their own things and making their own decisions. Le sigh. It's so hard when they grow up.

And, to make things even more interesting, I'm trying this novel out in third person with two points of view. This is huge for me, since I'm so comfortable writing in first person. It could be that I'm an only child.

Me, me, me, me...

Okay, Day 3 is almost upon us and I still have 1,495 words to go. Eek!

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posted by Bonnie Staring at 11:57 PM 0 comments