Finding Why: in Life and in Fiction

There is nothing wrong with being an ambitious woman. No matter what sexism and misogyny tells you. No matter what other women might say to your face or behind your back. Your place is wherever you feel right — it may not be in the home, the kitchen, the office, the schools.

But I have to admit, even though I know this is true — I live and breathe this mindset – lately, I’m struggling to find the why of my ambition. And I need to explore that, because as a writer, knowing why is where you start. In story, WHY is better known as MOTIVE or GOAL. It is the driving force behind the protagonists struggle forward. It is what keeps the main character fighting when all the odds are stacked against them, when everything seems lost, when finally they have their big chance.

It’s no surprise to me that I am also struggling to find the why for my main character at the moment. That sounds about right, since life imitates art, art imitates life, and both myself and this shiny new character need to get to the true motive for our actions.

Earlier this year I started a YouTube channel(Books, Booze and Bitches, for anyone interested). At first it was very loose, free — just a thing my sister and I were doing to chronicle our adventure to Comic-Con. It was a release and escape from the pressing matter of what the hell am I doing in my life and career. And it was FUN. It was MINE. Anyone could watch and like or dislike, but they weren’t in control of it. And for someone trying to make it in both publishing and film, two highly-competitive, highly-controlled fields, having my own thing was like growing wings.

But then I got ambitious. I wanted it to grow wings, too. It was fine, I said, to want more from this thing than just an outlet. I could do well on YouTube. It could explode. But then it stopped being quite so fun. I started getting pissed if everyone didn’t watch, and then I started getting sick of it a little.

Ambition has tried to rob me of the fun of creative pursuit. YouTube is not the first near victim. Earlier this year I wrote about my anger toward the publishing industry, how it was killing my desire to write, ruining my stories, and giving me wrinkles. I wrote about how I was going to take a step back so I could rediscover the reason I loved writing books.

Hint: it’s not about a book deal. That is insignificant to the love of writing. The magic is in creation. If you ever think you do a thing for money or acclaim, that thing will end up souring before you can ever savor it.

Last night, after I posted my video to YouTube and Facebook, I didn’t feel happy to have it out in the world. I felt irritated. I felt like I was screaming in a room full of people and somehow no one could hear me. Because even though it always gets views, I can’t figure out how to WIN. I want to conquer the Internet. I want to crack the code to success.

But WHY? What am I hoping to achieve from YouTube? Or writing, really? What am I doing it for? I sat on my couch last night and I couldn’t even answer that question. What, existentially, the hell do I want?

On the surface, of course I want publication, or my screenplay made into a film, I want to entertain people through YouTube, and somewhere not too far below the surface, I want validation and acceptance of my creativity.

What do I have to prove? As competitive as I am (do not play me in a board game, I will crush you), I don’t care about being the best. I like to win, but my definition of winning has nothing to do with other people. I care about being the best version of me. I don’t compare myself to others often. I compare myself to the woman I think I should be by now. I look at how successful I believe myself capable, and I shoot for more. I’m not happy if I’m not winning against me.

But I will never begrudge another person’s success. I will never be jealous. I will always support someone I believe in. I’m a Gryffindor, Loyalty and Chivalry are kind of our thing.

When you’re writing a story, you always start on the surface. Getting to know a character is like getting to know another human being. You ask them questions, and they give you true but shallow answers. The reason your character MUST survive the Hunger Games cannot be just because she doesn’t want to die. That is primal, and truthful, but it is not deep. Now, winning so she can give her sister a better life, that sells. That is something we as feeling people empathize with.

You don’t reach your goal because of external wants. You reach your goal because inside you have something worth fighting for.

So…what is my WHY?

I am compelled to be more than I was yesterday. I am fighting for success, but I am also striving for excellence. I need to show my son he can WIN if he never gives up. I need to prove to my nieces that bravery is just as important as beauty. I need to prove to the little girl that had the dream to become something when she grew up that she is something already.

In the story of your life, you must be the hero. You must define for yourself what your goal is, and you must make a promise to fight through all the obstacles until you get there.

Find WHY and your character, yourself, can win it all.

Ready. Set. Write! Update 4

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Ready. Set. WRITE! is a summer writing intensive that encourages goal-setting and accountability, and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on wherever we’re at with our writing projects—planning, drafting, revising, or polishing.  This year, your RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin FunkElodie Nowodazkij, and myself. All the details are HERE.

How I Did on Last Week’s Goals:

Writing — I was able to get 25 pages on my screenplay last week. So I wrote most days, at least 5 pages. This is me accomplishing my goal.

Reading— I didn’t have any time this week to read. But I did make a video about being an American woman and get to go on a date with my husband. So, I am okay with my choices.

Workout — I did two sessions with my brother the Personal Trainer, as well as the elliptical everyday. Yay exercise.

I also wanted to knock off some get ready for SDCC things off my list and not panic. I did both, with some concerted effort.

My Goals This Week:

Writing— I’m leaving for San Diego Comic Con on Friday morning before the buttcrack of dawn, so I this week is going to be kind of nuts already. I’d still like to add 10-15 pages to my screenplay, if possible. Dreamers gotta dream.

Reading —I plan to start A Court of Thorns and Roses at least once i get on the plan to San Diego. It will be too early to drink, so I will need something to distract me from my nerves. Plus, Sarah J. Maas will be at Comic Con

Workout — I will workout Monday through Thursday this week, at least two maybe three session with Personal Trainer and Asgrdian, brother Isaac.

I may not be able to post on Monday of next week, depending on how dog tired I am and if I remember there is a life outside Comic Con…oh, wait, that’s the title of my screenplay…

A favorite line from my story OR one word/phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised.

INT. THE EXHIBIT HALL – STILL MORNING

Abigail and Kate stand at the edge of the Exhibit Hall. Abigail has her nose in the MAP of the Exhibit Hall. Kate has her eyes on the massive crowd.

KATE

May the gods of Comic Con grant us patience and strong immune systems.

The biggest challenge I faced this week (ex. finding time to write).

I struggled to find time to write during my usual writing time with all the OTHER things going on. One of the things that really helped was scheduling some night time sessions with my CP Susan (she’s a participant in Ready. Set. Write! too) because it helped me make up pages. Plus, it was fun!

Something I love about my WiP.

This is where I talk about the necessity of plotting the hell out of a screenplay. Doing that work upfront, and not moving forward until I felt satisfied with the scenes I had planned, has made a massive difference in this revision.

So, how did you do this week on your goals?

Ready. Set. Write! Update 2

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Ready. Set. WRITE! is a summer writing intensive that encourages goal-setting and accountability, and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on wherever we’re at with our writing projects—planning, drafting, revising, or polishing.  This year, your RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin FunkElodie Nowodazkij, and myself. All the details are HERE.

I missed updating last week, but I’m here this week. Even though I missed updating last week, I did not miss meeting goals. Here’s how I’m doing:

1.  How I did on last week’s goals:

Writing: I’ve been working steadily on the Beat Sheet for my screenplay revision. In the last two weeks I have executed a major overhaul on the plot and dug down deeper in the main character’s motives. I finished a new draft on Friday and I’m pretty sure it’s the One. I also began a new Beat Sheet for a new screenplay and I am really excited about it.

Reading: I read Just One Day by Gayle Foreman and LOVED it so much. I know I’m a bit late to that fan club, but man, what a wonderful book. I am heavily into reading The Things We Know By Heart by Jessi Kirby, and it’s already ripping out my heart.

Workout: I’ve kept up my workout routine, and even added in some sessions with my brother, Isaac, who is a personal trainer. I almost died on YouTube last week when my sister-in-law and I did a workout to prepare for Comic Con. If you enjoy laughing, you should check out our video!

2.  My goal(s) for this week.

Writing:

1. I need to finish this Beat Sheet for the new screenplay because it’s due to my screenwriting consultant before Thursday.

2. Start the revision of the Comic Con screenplay!

Reading: Finish The Things We Know By Heart!

Workout: Do at least two sessions with my brother!

3.  A favorite line from my story OR one word/phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised.

Satisfying Character Arcs — one of the things I have struggled with a lot on this Comic Con screenplay is making the three main characters (because it is more of an ensemble) all have satisfying arcs that happen at the right time in the story.

4.  The biggest challenge I faced this week (ex. finding time to write).

Juggling. Like most of y’all, I’m sure, summer is insanely busy. I have a lot going on with my son, my husband, my dogs, and my own stuff. Keeping all the things in the air is kind of distracting.

5.  Something I love about my WiP.

I love that, after working so much on the plot, I really feel like I know these characters inside out, and even with all their many flaws, I am confident that each of them is worth following on their journey.

Ready. Set. Write! and My Goals

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Ready. Set. WRITE! is a summer writing intensive that encourages goal-setting and accountability, and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on wherever we’re at with our writing projects—planning, drafting, revising, or polishing.  This year, your RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin FunkElodie Nowodazkij, and myself. All the details are HERE.

This is (I think!) my third year participating in RSW, and I can promise that it is worth the commitment. Accountability and community are key to the solitary life of a writer. We need each other more because so much of being a writer means being inside your own head, warring with fictional characters and sorting out plot and stakes and getting words out.

So, I am excited to join in. And here are my goals:

  1. Get my BEAT SHEET finalized for my screenplay There’s Life Outside Comic Con. Now that I am working with a consultant, I am not allowed to move forward until the Beat Sheet (from Save the Cat!) proves this script will hit all the high notes.
  2. Begin the Revision on that screenplay, with the hope of completing another draft by the middle of July. (When I will be at San Diego Comic Con!)
  3. Start a revision of my manuscript Of Blood and Promises. I had back burnered it for a while to focus on screenwriting. I am moving slow with this, and need to be right now since that’s not my #1 priority. So, just knowing how to start and starting is my goal for the summer.
  4. Do a Beat Sheet draft for at least one more feature.
  5. Read the books I want to read, as many or as few, and let myself be moved, take time, stay up all night.
  6. Continue to work out every weekday. I have been exercising for the last six weeks and am seeing happy-making results. I am doing nothing for diet, but don’t want to. My goal is strength and stamina and feeling good about my body. That’s it.

Next week (Monday, June 15th) we’ll be posting our first update using these headings…

1.  How I did on last week’s goals.

2.  My goal(s) for this week.

3.  A favorite line from my story OR one word/phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised.

4.  The biggest challenge I faced this week (ex. finding time to write).

5.  Something I love about my WiP.

I hope you join in! I’ll be cheering you on if you do. 

Baby Steps

Work it out. Take it one step at a time. We don’t always get what we want, when we want it. Stop freaking out. Try again…

These are things I say to my five-year-old a lot. Like, multiple times a day, sometimes an hour. And often when I am huffing the words at him, I am huffing them at myself. I am acknowledging how hard it is to ever remember those immoveable truths.

Recently I started working out again. My relationship with exercise is comparable to non-exclusive dating. We see each other when we see each other. Maybe we text winky emojis or question marks when we’ve gone too long without physical contact. But we’re not possessive. We’re not committed. And a lot of it is my fault. I never want to bite the bullet. To hunker down and do the real work to get to know exercise. I like to keep my options open for laziness, or busyness, or “not feeling it today”.

A few weeks ago I was pretty low on myself. Grappling with my state of ALMOST in every area of my life, examining my complete and utter Coming Soon status. I am the summer feature that gets pushed to fall, to next spring, to limited release…I am waiting for my premier in an infinite loop.

So I decided to trick myself into motion. I decided I was tired of waiting on my moment, and realized my moment was now, and tomorrow, and always.

I started with baby steps.

I reintroduced myself to the elliptical machine. We moved slow in this period of rediscovery. Then — once we were both comfortable — we added time, we added resistance, increased our speed. The machine became a place to challenge myself, to focus some of my energy in a way that will make my heart healthy and my ass a little tighter, to process the swirl of ideas in my wild mind.

I stayed off the scale. I closed my eyes when the seconds on the timer seemed to slow, as if my machine had somehow slipped into an event horizon. I didn’t set a goal beyond doing it and not giving up.

And somehow, this trickery uncovered a truth I’d hidden deep inside. I wasn’t just tired of waiting. I was tired of being told how to wait. If making my own rules for working out kept me going back for more, would making my own rules for my creative life do the same?

And so I tried. Or, rather, I felt. I stuck my fingers in my imaginary clay and started to mold. I opened my heart up to new ideas, to old ideas, to ideas that scare and unsettle me. Instead of asking myself What should I be working on? I asked, What do I want to work on? I called my friend and spilled my fears and hopes at her feet and allowed her to help me clean it up and make it pretty.

I cut myself some slack even if it looked like a fail.

fist bump

Goal oriented people struggle. We expend a lot of energy on beating ourselves up when we miss, fall short, lose sight. We think a lot about the end and forget to enjoy the journey. We forget that all worthy tasks take time, build slowly, plateau, but rarely do they peak too soon. Rarely do you regret your part.

I am not going to build up my stamina, or shave a few pounds and a tiny marsupial pooch, without doing the work. Without committing to hours with my elliptical.

Be a today person. A there-is-not-one-moment-but-many type.

Take baby steps.

sailing

What’s Up Wednesday

TreeWUWWhat’s Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what’s up. Should you wish to join us, you will find the link widget at the bottom of Jaime or Erin’s blog.

What I’m Reading

I just started How to Get a Love Life by Rosie Blank. I started it about four months ago, forgot about it the hustle of things and it being on my Kindle app which sometimes I hate, and then remembered and opened back up. It was published in the UK and is absolutely adorable. It’s chick lit, which is not normally my bag — I say that, but I have loved quite a few books I’d call chick lit actually — but I’m really enjoying it.

I hope to finish it by the end of the week because as my reward for getting ALL THE REVISING accomplished, I am buying Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas and may not speak to another human person until I have devoured it.

What I’m Writing

I am doing a revision on my manuscript Of Blood and Promises. Mostly, it was prompted by really incredible notes from an agent I’ve been working with (not signed, don’t get too excited), but then as I considered her notes I began to see so many things come clear that it took on a life of its own. I am kind of killing this revision, and now that my son is in school, I have time to really knock it out.

In the last couple weeks I have witten over 9,000 new words and revised a whole lot more. So, in honor, here is a tiny little excerpt that I revised last week:

I hear Aiken move from the bed, shuffle across the room, and then lean against the door. After another moment he opens it. His face is washed in moonlight, revealing eyes hooded with sleep and hair mussed all over. He wears thin pants that hang from his hips and cling to his thighs, and for the smallest moment I forget myself, the reason Malia and I woke him… reason at all. It is work to force my eyes back to his face.

He glances between us, waiting.

What Inspires Me

I’ve been inspired by some really incredible YA high fantasy. I read The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutoski and Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, which are very different brands of high fantasy, and both incredibly well done.

This for tone and emotion:

obandpinspireWhat Else I’m Up To

Still very much adjusting to my son starting Kindergarten. There is no doubt that he is ready, that he will flourish, but it is emotional to realize how big he’s getting, and how fast that’s happening.

I’m started exercising again. I have been mostly eating healthy and not drinking (not having a night cap every night). I really hate working out but I really love the sense of calm I have when I do, and hopefully the result of a cuter ass won’t be so bad either. 😉

Happy Wednesday!

 

Ready. Set. Write! Update #2

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Ready. Set. WRITE! is an online writing intensive to help stay accountable with your writing goals over the summer and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on whether planning, drafting, or revising! Your RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin Funk, and Katy Upperman. Find the rest of the details HERE.

It’s Monday again, which means it’s check-in time. 

Last Weeks Goals:

1. Write 15 screenplay pages. That sounds ambitious, but I plan to spend most of my writing time this week on screenplays.

~ I wrote 10 screenplay pages, and I am REALLY happy with them. Yay!

2. Finish those three new revision points on my manuscript.

~ Finished the revision points on my manuscript and started reading through it. SO, THAT IS EXTRA!

3. Adjust to my son’s new schedule.

~ LOL

4. Finish the beta reading I have lingering on my computer AT ALL COSTS.

~ I forgot that Ruin and Rising came out last week. So, uh, that took up all my reading time. I cannot feel bad, because THAT BOOK! And my CP Susan was threatening my life if I didn’t read it so we could talk about it. I did finish one manuscript, which I throughly enjoyed, so I halfway met my goal.

A favorite line from my story or one word or phrase that sums up what I wrote or revised:

“The heart is deceptive.”

“The heart houses the power to do great and mighty exploits,” she says, tying a piece of thin leather around the end of my braid. “The mind is a faulty device.”

Biggest Challenge:

Anxiety and time.

Something I love about my WiP:

Even with the grim circumstances my main characters face, the story still comes off dreamy and lush and I think that has a lot to do with the setting.

This weeks goals:

1. Finish the read through of my manuscript.

2. BETA READING!

3. Ten screenplay pages.

4. One blog post.

Writer Recharge Wrap-Up

writer-recharge

For more on Writer Recharge please follow this link. A huge thank you to the brilliant ladies who came up with it. It is always awesome writing with you guys — even if it’s in the virtual sense.

First, my goals for the month:

  • Finish my YA Fantasy WiP. I’ve been steadily building this world and story since August 2013. I need to finish the draft.
  • Finish the TV pilot I began work on in January.
  • Stop starting new ideas until the other ones are finished.
  • Title the YA Fantasy WiP because I’m tired of calling it (awkwardly) Banyan Book.

I met exactly one of my goals. Care to guess which one?

Anybody, anybody?

Bueller? Bueller?

If you guessed, stop starting new ideas until the other ones are finished, then well done. And, to be fair, that was hard for me.

While I didn’t finish my draft, or the TV pilot, of title this manuscript anything less awkward, I did make headway on all fronts. I added word count or scene count. I discovered important layers to my own plot. I had an amazing writers retreat where I connected with other writers I hope to know, support and be enriched by for years to come.

Most importantly, I rediscovered a love of the story. Not just this particular story, but all of them. The undiscovered. The already ignoring. The previously written. February ends with me firmly in love again with just writing. Writing for the mere fact that I must, I am compelled, and I am inspired. That is a huge gift.

I have new goals. Goals to finish this draft in the next two weeks or so, and now I know how to do it thanks to this month. And I am very energized.