Archive for the writing Category

Full-time Writing

Posted in Ramblings, writing on 12/01/2017 by molliemoogle

I’ve just finished reading an article in Writer’s Digest about being a writer with a full-time job.

Yeah, that’s hard. It’s doing all your work, plus more work when you get home—although the work at home is much more like play-time, than work. You can relax, unwind, put your characters through Hell, and edit that really shitty paragraph you wrote two days ago and have been wondering if it was really you that wrote that shitty paragraph.

And most of the other articles I’ve read would ask writers to get up early in the morning and write before they have to get ready for work.

 

mrs-brown

People write at 5:30am? Srsly?

 

In the old house, I took 5:30am for what it actually was: a time I should be asleep. But, now that my commute is nearly an hour both ways (2 hours return), I’ve got to get up at 5:30 in the morning to get myself prepared for work, and leave the house by 6:45 to get to my desk at 7:45am.

Could I get up earlier? Possibly, but that means sacrificing sleep, and/or going to bed earlier, which probably won’t happen, one, because sleep is really important and I need the 7-9 hours a night, and two, because I’ve got a metric craptonne of scheduling issues.

Not to mention that I really like being relaxed when I write. I want to take my time and I don’t want to rush or be rushed. I want to let the words flow. I want to take 5 minutes to find out how countries spied on each other in 295BC or what a real good whisky smells like. I like going on Youtube, looking for interesting bits of history or philosophy that I can add into my novel.

As a side note, I inevitably get lost while watching Youtube videos, and it looks a lot like this:

5:53pm: Go in, search for, and watch one video on the Battle of Sentinum. Note that Publius Decius devoted himself/sacrificed himself and galvanised the Roman army. Use this as a template for Sarah’s character when she sacrifices herself to save her husband.

10:48am: I belong to the Church of the Fuck Box, and pledge an eternal bond of servitude to my Lord and Saviour, the Demon God Dumplin. I also know how to talk to giraffes.

 

dumplin

Dumplin can talk to giraffes too… from the FUCK BOX!

 

It’s no secret that I can’t brain in the morning. I’m lucky I can turn off my alarm and that only requires one button to push. Imagine pushing heaps?

Night is my time to write.

I take a few minutes while the mince is browning or the pancakes are cooking to write 100 words. I don’t have kids, and don’t watch television. PlusOne and I retire to our respective computers before and after dinner (we don’t eat in front of the computer or the television if there’s something on). I write, and he does… stuff, like quoting The Big Lebowski ad infinitum and looking at BBQ pitmaster videos.

I have always found solace in the night. It’s quieter, but it also has its own sounds, smells, and tastes. A hot drink at 3pm doesn’t taste nearly as good as a hot drink at 10pm. It’s comforting, quiet, and relaxing. The insects buzz, and the birds cease chirping. Wood snaps in the fire place. A wristwatch ticks in the stillness. Stars dot the sky, like someone poked holes in a black piece of paper. Nychtophile (love of the night) and scotophile (love of the darkness) describe me pretty well. Pluviophile (love of the rain) is another. Selenophile (love of the moon) is yet another. Rain on the roof in the middle of the night is one of nature’s symphonies; it’s loud and euphonious, and makes me feel calm.

To me, the night is sitting on the porch in the dark, sipping hot chocolate, and listening to the sounds of the night while wrapped in the blanket my mom crocheted for me. It’s also the sound of my fingers flying over the keyboard, and spinning tales of… whatever I’m writing at the time.

Ideally, though, you want what ultimately works for you. All we need is a consistent writing routine and whether you’re a night person or a morning person is irrelevant. Studies show that creativity happens at any time your mind is quiet and free from distractions, which is why you get good ideas in the shower. Some of my best ideas happen when I’ve got zero distractions: folding clothes, doing the dishes, and showering. During the day, I tend to be completely out of my creative zone (with few exceptions). I have things to do, work to get done, paper to file, emails to write, phones to answer. There’s very little time for creativity and idea generation. So, I wait till I get home and for the sun to go down. That’s when I truly feel alive.

What do you find is the best time to write?

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Diamond Polishing

Posted in writing with tags , , , on 28/06/2016 by molliemoogle

I’ve been thinking a lot about the world around me, where I fit in to it, my habits, hang-ups, likes, and dislikes, and how I plan to bring what joy and happiness I have to the world.

HAHA. Just kidding. I’ve been writing. Or, rather, I haven’t been writing. Call it wilful procrastination, call it writer’s block, or call it just a bump in the road, but it is what it is: I haven’t been writing.

I hit one of those brick walls, where I looked at my manuscript and thought “what the hell is this hot mess?” but then, I had to wonder, what actually constitutes a hot mess? What is it about this particular part that qualifies as “a hot mess”? Does it ramble or go nowhere? Does it not reveal character, plot, or both? Does it have inconsistencies (kind of a moot point)? Is it a hot mess because it’s not finished or is it a hot mess because it’s not polished?

Ah, there’s the rub. It’s not polished. There are edits that can be made to help with economy of language, showing and not telling, and clarity. So, maybe what I’m writing isn’t so much a hot mess as it is unpolished (and incidentally, unfinished).

For me, part of getting over that brick wall is to just put myself out there. What’s the worst that can happen? Someone doesn’t like what I’ve written? Big deal. The world isn’t going to end because Bob the Troll happens to think my manuscript reads like it was written by a teenage fanfic writer trying to Mary Sue herself into a story with Tom Hiddleston’s Loki.

As an aside, I’ve got a massive crush on both Tom Hiddleston and Loki- Mr Hiddleston is a real gentleman; Loki is a seductive bad boy.

loki

That smile. That evil, wicked, naughty, come-hither smile. Rawr.

 

*Ahem*

The world will continue its orbit around the sun and spin on its axis. It won’t end if someone doesn’t like what I’ve written or if I mess up in any way.

The following excerpt is from my current (untitled) work in progress. Romance writers call this the “meet cute” obligatory scene, where the love birds meet each other for the first time. There’s supposed to be a spark between them. With this story, I want to spin those obligatory scenes on their heads—so there’s not so much a spark as an accidental bonfire.

 

Simon hit the up button for the elevator in the lobby. The numbers showed that it was coming down from the sixth floor. He checked his watch. One-twenty. He had nearly another hour to find something else for lunch.

The lunch he had with Marcus Price and Takeshi Hiroto from Xeno Investment Partners could only be described as a disaster: dry, overcooked, bad service, and none of their lunches came out at the same time. Next time, he would take them to Tarragon, an incredible hole-in-the-wall Italian place on Twenty-Fifth Street. Or maybe Cinnamon, the Sri Lankan restaurant his friend and neighbour Kalidasa owned.

The elevator dinged open and several of James’s legal team walked out, not recognising him as they laughed their way through the lobby to the bustling lunchtime street outside. He stepped in and hit the button for the thirtieth floor, making a mental note to ask Indra to call Kalidasa.

“Please, hold the elevator!”

Racing toward him was an attractive young woman with pink hair, a green tartan mini skirt and spiked black boots over fishnet stockings. She didn’t work for him, did she? Still, she was attractive in a punk-rock, gothic way; she would certainly make an interesting diversion for an hour or two in a grungy hotel room.

Two bags, full of some kind of take-out, bounced up and down in her hand and a back pack jiggled from side to side. He pressed the open door button, more out of curiosity than anything else.

“Oh, shit, thank you so much,” she said, out of breath. She offered him a sweet smile. Up close, she was even prettier, but her piercings made him wonder how on earth she would ever be able to hold down a job. “Can you please press nineteen?”

He nearly gagged on the revolting smell of some form of meat covered in gelatinous gravy. How did people eat that stuff? Did they really think it was authentic ethnic food?

However, when the young woman flipped her hair over her shoulder, releasing a floral, oriental perfume, it beguiled him, overriding the smell of the monstrosity that people dared to call ethnic. He savoured it for a moment. Quite a sophisticated scent for someone so young. How old was she? She couldn’t have been any older than twenty, twenty-two at a stretch.

“Are you in the right elevator?” he asked.

“Yeah,” she said, drawing it out. “My dad works here.”

Simon looked her up and down, wondering if she chose the clothing because she identified with the subculture or if it was just a personal choice. He guessed the latter, but she was cute enough to pull it off. “Just making sure; the mall is a couple of blocks over.”

She rolled her eyes and huffed. “Like I haven’t heard that one before. I’m surprising my dad with lunch; not that you give two shits.”

The floor ticked over to five. If she took out the metal in her nose, eyebrows, and tongue, and covered up her tattoos, she might land a good job one day. She probably hadn’t thought about the repercussions of having needles poked through and ink staining her skin when she got them done. It was all about the here and now with kids her age. It must have been nice to be so carefree.

The young woman shifted the back pack up her shoulder and turned away from him, and he took a moment to look at her from the back. Shapely legs. Nice backside. A little too punk for his tastes, but all women looked the same once their clothes were off.

He stared at the tattoo on her arm for a moment, amazed at the intricate artwork. It covered most of it and it crept up and around her arm like an ink-stained vine before it disappeared under her white shirt’s short sleeves. Two brightly coloured hummingbirds fluttered next to some kind of red and yellow flowers near her upper arm. How far underneath her shirt did it go? All the way to her back? Her chest?

Floor ten.

“Your tattoo looks like it hurt, Little Hummingbird.”

She glanced over her shoulder and her blonde and pink hair fell in front of her eyes. It was a siren’s call. Seductive. Elegant.

“The shading was a bitch. Luckily, I don’t mind pain.”

That piqued his curiosity. She liked pain? If she wanted pain, he was the man to give it to her. Jessa had never complained, but the kind of game he played with her was a very watered down version of what he enjoyed. Cries. Shrieks. The crack of a flogger or a whip over bare skin. His blood ran hot for the young woman in front of him. What kind of pain did she like?

What would she look like with her hands tied to a bar above her head, her legs spread wide, her sex dripping, waiting, quivering, and oh-so ready for him?

“I don’t mind it either,” he whispered in her ear.

“Ew. Fuck off and die, James Bond,” she ground out.

He moved back a step. “You wound me. I’d like to think I was more M than James Bond.”

The elevator stopped and settled, its doors sliding open with a ding.

“Finally,” she breathed out.

Simon smiled. “Nice talking to you, Little Hummingbird.”

She turned and flipped him the bird with the take-out sliding up her arm. “Eat a dick, pervert,” she said as the doors slid closed.

Kick self-doubt in the balls

Posted in Ramblings, writing with tags , , , , on 21/04/2016 by molliemoogle

Another writing practice from The Write Practice: Out of 7 lies writers tell themselves, take one that bothers you and write about it for 15 minutes.

Lie #4: Even if you try your best, you’ll never write as well as/be successful as [insert author name here].

kick fear

Found this gem on pinterest. So much truth.

Even before I got into the writing game, I was a reader. A voracious reader. Once I get going, I can finish one book and pick up the next and the one after that and five books later, I’ve finished my binge and can return to normal life for a couple of days. Lather, rinse, repeat about 3-4 times per month.

Except, when I started writing, I would look at a sentence and think “this isn’t like [insert name here]; it’s crap”. And I’d do that all the time: “My writing isn’t like Stephen King’s, or Christine Feehan, or Cherise Sinclair. I won’t be the next Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett; why do I even bother?”

Self-doubt serves no one. Those authors started out the same as me. Putting one word in front of the other, looking ahead and telling themselves they couldn’t do it. They couldn’t write like William Faulkner or Hemmingway. But, they’ve written some of my favourite books and found their unique author voice.

At some point, we all had to learn how to write.

Some have just been doing it for a lot longer than me and by now, they should be good at it.

I tell my karate students that I started out not knowing a front punch from a reverse punch, or even what an axe kick was, and now I’m the one teaching them what it is. You have to start from white belt to get to black belt.

I know I’ll never write like Cherise Sinclair or Stephen King. I’m not them. I’m me. I will write what I want, how I want, when I want, and with help and guidance, I’ll be a good author, maybe even a ten-years-in-the-making bestselling author.

But, in the meantime, I’ve learned that to kick self-doubt to the curb, I had to have passion for what I did. Passion is having a very strong feeling about a person or a thing, an intense emotion, a compelling enthusiasm or desire for something. I was (maybe still am) lucky to have a fantastic mentor who taught me about passion: have the spirit, find a way, concentrate on what you want, be determined, and form guiding principles to get there. All that will lead to your own path.

Telling yourself that you’ll never be [insert writer here] deflates that passion.

This is probably one of the most destructive lies that writers can tell themselves. And given that I believe I’m a strong, independent person who’s fairly self-aware, I’m rather surprised that this continues to pop into my head. I cannot compare my first draft of anything to someone’s finished product. I’m not a fraud; I’m not an imposter. I’m me. I have my own way that I’ve forged myself. It’s like coming to the end of a road and being told “you can go your own way now”. Once you’ve developed your fundamentals and understand how to apply them, you can make your own path, say things with your own voice, and write just as well as Faulkner or Hemmingway or Cherise Sinclair.

Who Are You?

Posted in writing with tags , , , , on 12/04/2016 by molliemoogle
Customer-Service-Wordcloud

Borrowed from DigitalGrowth.ca

I get an occasional bout of downtime in my job. Whether this is good or bad depends on the day. Normally, I’m waiting for a customer to get back to me, or shipping details for overseas orders to arrive.

Today, there’s a lull. I have approximately eight working hours before the deluge of orders for our once-a-month run comes through and floods my desk with paper, work, and a full shipping folder that will take about 3 working days to go through. All that doesn’t include the phone calls to customers to remind them, the small tasks that I need to get through, or the back and forth walks to the planner’s office to see if we can squeeze something in.

It sounds busy and it is, but it’s far from busy-work or mundane customer service work. Mention customer service rep and they think about the open-plan office with a load of people on headsets ready to help you with all your service queries. But most people don’t know that I’m a dedicated rep, which means that I have a set of customers that I look after. I know what they order, how much they need, their core businesses, and what’s going on in the wider market that affects them and us. On top of that, I plan a smaller sister machine, which I think of as my other baby. She’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish and a topic for a different day.

As you’re very well aware, my hobby is writing. I live it, love it, and breathe it. If I have spare time, I use it to write, so it should come as no surprise that I subscribe to a large number of writing blogs, one of which is the Write Practice. I get an email most days with some kind advice on writing and craft- from how Greek and Latin make you a better writer to writing resources and everything in between.

Today’s post outlined ideas on how to get a deeper understanding of your protagonist. In short, the author reckons you need to go through a purse or briefcase, take them out to lunch, complete a questionnaire, and let your character shadow you for a day.

I had a bit of downtime this morning (and right after lunch) while I was waiting for some information to come back as well as waiting for a meeting to start. Usually, I cycle through several news media during the day: Al Jazeera, Time, Newsweek, BBC World News, two local papers, and the New Orleans news. I would look through Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, and other publications that have actual news, not Women’s Weekly articles (like the local papers) but they’re either subscription based, or they don’t like the company’s ad-blocker that we can’t turn off. Or, I look up song lyrics on AZLyrics or anything else on Google that catches my fancy for five minutes.

I don’t know what it was about today, but I wanted to write instead. The news is all doom-and-gloom; the more I read it, the more I get upset.

Below is my 15 minutes of practice (which morphed into 30, because I talked to both my protagonists):

“Oh yeah, just go through it, see what you find,” my character Sarah tells me this morning. “Just don’t judge, okay?”

“Sure thing.”

The canvas purse is small, rather compact. I’ve seen bigger, but I didn’t expect something so tiny.

I look over it. I like the colourful sugar skulls on it. “Why is it so small?”

“I don’t have much; I’m pretty low maintenance.”

I lift the flap and dump what’s in there on the table.

Two lipsticks- one of them is a chapstick. The other is a Revlon lipstick called Cherries in the Snow. Kind of a pretty red, too red for me. “Nice.”

There’s a slim black eyeliner. Obviously she needs it, given the amount of eyeliner currently in use. There’s a compact and a twist-up make-up brush. A couple of Q-tips, a hair tie.

About two dollars in change falls out. “That’s for my diet coke addiction.”

“I know that feel. Best stuff in the world.”

“I know, right! It’s the bubbles and fizz; tastes wonderful when it’s nice and cold.”

Her wallet’s about the size of a fist, just big enough for a driver’s licence, her student ID, a couple of credit cards, and a few folded up bills. She’s got $35 in bills- $15 in fives and $20 in tens. “Shame no one carries a lot of cash. It’s just enough to get me a taxi home from the bar up the road.”

“Where’s your cell phone?”

There’s a small zipped up outside pocket on the outside. “I like my tiny phone.”

It’s a small phone alright. I check out the brand: a Sony Xperia. I can hold and use it with one hand.

“I carry so many things around in my backpack, but this is what I carry when I’m out of school and outside the classroom. Small enough to not get in the way when I’m clubbing, but big enough to hold what I need. Now Simon, my husband, you should totally ask him about what’s in his briefcase.”

“I’m taking him out to lunch later.”

I shake out the bag. A small ring falls out of the outside zip. It looks like a crown of filigreed thorns. “What’s this?”

Sarah blushes and holds her hand out, sliding it on top of the simple wedding ring she’s wearing. “It’s Simon’s way of showing everyone that I belong to him. I took it off this morning since it got in the way while I was grading.”

Later, I took Simon out to lunch.

I suggest a quick business lunch with Simon, my main character. He names a place called Tarragon, an upscale Italian place up the road from his office that he thinks I’d like. I meet him in the lobby and walk with him down there.

“The consultancy business is pretty cut-throat right now. Before the financial crisis, corporations and businesses used consultants to gain an outsiders perspective on how to improve their businesses and everyone became a consultant. But, afterwards, well,” he shrugs, “a number of independents and firms are still struggling. Prodigy did what any good consultancy business would do and worked with our clients through the financial crisis. The end result is that we’re still here.”

“Prodigy survived in-tact, then?”

“Against all expectations, we grew. We’ve got a great team that’s experienced, a board that’s forward-thinking, and a CE committee that isn’t afraid to get their hands dirty.”

We walk for another few minutes, talking about the future of the company.

I change the subject when we get to the restaurant. “And your marriage is going well?”

He offers a smile. “I have to thank you for Sarah. She is, for lack of a better word, amazing. Responsive, beautiful, intelligent.”

The waiter shows us to the table he reserved near the kitchen. The chef comes out and shakes Simon’s hand, in turn chiding Simon for not coming in often enough and congratulating him on his marriage. He then kisses my cheeks in a larger-than-life welcome.

Simon orders a complicated Italian dish that’s not on the menu and I order a baked pennette. He sits at the table like he’s sitting at his desk; forearms resting on the table and his hands are folded, leaning slightly forward. I don’t expect anything else given that’s he’s one of the most successful CEOs in the consulting industry.

“Before you decide to plumb the depths, I don’t answer any deeply personal questions- not about my wife, myself, or my marriage. You know all of that already.”

His received pronunciation sounds all the more sinister, like a James Bond villain, but I can hear that he prefers his personal life to be just that– personal.

“What’s your favourite music,” I ask.

Another smile. More than that though, is the crack in the CEO facade. “Classical, opera, and I’m growing partial to some of Sarah’s metal music. It’s atmospheric for certain activities.”

I know exactly what he’s talking about, so skip to the next question. “Favourite colour?”

“Are you really asking me this? Grey. Blue. White. Black,” he says, then adds with a knowing smile. “Red.”

“What about favourite food?”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake, Mollie. Small-talk doesn’t become either one of us. Small-talk is mundane. It’s for when you really don’t want to know about the other person, but don’t want to seem rude. Small-talk is for weak-minded individuals who are superficial thinkers. Deep thinkers like you and me don’t worry about the superficiality of the world, because we know it’s all a facade. Favourite foods change; favourite colours change; favourite music changes. The only constant is ourselves and our core personality: courageous, wild, controlled, generous, arrogant, intelligent, funny. We are all of them and none of them. We love our favourite things, but we aren’t defined by them.”

My fifteen/thirty minutes were up, so I left it there, but I think it reveals more than I had anticipated.

First: Sarah’s low-maintenance. She tells us, but she’s very concerned with her looks and keeping them looking good. She’s superficial and she hides behind her make-up. She rebels somewhat, by taking off the ring that Simon gave her (the ring doesn’t come into play in the story). She’s practical and a little bit of an old soul

Second: Simon’s not interested in small-talk. He wants to get to the meat of the conversation and really discuss it in depth. But he’s friendly, open, and honest, and loves his job. He has time for people, but he is always very much in control of the conversation and of the things in his life. He’s got a bit of a cheeky streak.

The more I read over these small snippets of my protagonists’ lives, the more I realise that I added myself into them, without really knowing that I did it. Personally, I am low-maintenance- though I don’t carry makeup in my handbag. I’m practical and I rebel against social mores and norms. I hate small-talk- probably because I’m so bad at it. Small talk implies that I care about your favourite food enough to talk about it, but I’m only filling in time before I can leave. I love classical, opera, and metal. And Italian. Fuck, I love Italian food. It shows, believe me.

But I think it also speaks more about stereotyping people. In fiction, we can get away with it. Simon’s wealthy, so he needs to have understated, but expensive tastes: Chivas Regal whisky, bespoke shoes and suits, classic male colours, ethnic cuisine, and he talks business. Sarah’s a student, and she’s married: a cellphone, some money, make-up in her bag, a sweet and innocent side, and a ring from her husband.

In real life, we stereotype regardless of whether we should or not.

Are these characters or caricatures? Another topic for another day, methinks.

That’s just a small window into the life of my protagonists. I’m a little afraid to let Simon shadow me for the day and what would happen if I gave Sarah Marcel Proust’s questionnaire.