Author Archives: hopefulscribbler

About hopefulscribbler

I am an English and journalism teacher, avid reader, and blogger.

Write or Die

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Sometimes in life your choices are rather limited. You do some things, not because you want to, but because you have to do them to survive.

I’m not talking about paying the bills, making ends meet, or any of that drivel.

I’m talking about what feeds the soul…keeps you going when nothing else does.

For writers, writing is like breathing. You stop writing and you die. Maybe writing is even a substitute for breathing.

I have tackled lots of projects in the last several months from articles to novel chapters. It’s been a wild adventure.

And I’m still writing…I’m still breathing.

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The Writing Life: Lots of Irons in the Fire

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Let’s face it. Most of us work full-time jobs while trying to keep up a writing life. Carving out time to write is not the only challenge. The energy highs and lows of a workweek have a big impact on writing output. I currently have four book manuscripts to which I am devoting time. (My ADH-rattled brain can’t focus on a full-book at a time, so I write different ones in chunks.)

Needless to say, my ideas get scribbled down everywhere….in notebooks and on my iPhone. This is the only way for me to keep up a writing life. If I waited for even a half-hour of quality time to work on my computer, nothing would get done. Sure, it take lots of time to synthesize my various writings, but I just consider that my second and third drafts when I brutally tear my work apart and discard and add….the joy of watching those pages add up and knowing that you have sweated over every word is like being immersed in ice after running a marathon.

Really, the difference between a wannabe writer and a serious writer is how devoted you are to getting something down on paper and seeing a book idea through to its conclusion. Whatever it takes to lead a writer’s life is what it takes. Not all of us are like Sarah Dessen and have five hours every afternoon to write and write only. I think that she has worked hard to get where she is, but that’s my point, it takes grit and determination to lay the foundation for a writer’s life.

My biggest inspiration are writers who have actually held jobs while writing, such as Stephen King, who worked at an industrial laundry and taught high school English while writing his first novels and short stories.

When you have a full-time job, the writing life takes guts and lots of five minute jottings.

Doorways…where will they lead?

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So, I’ve been reading these books on how to construct a good plot…which are mostly blah, blah, blah…

Take this piece of advice: Every story must have conflict. I can make two assumptions about this patronizing prittle pattle… the “expert” is concerned that the potential writer reads few books or watches few movies…the “expert” comes from a perfectly functional family, doesn’t frequently encounter conflict-inducing situations, and assumes that the potential writer’s life is equally harmonious…

Whatever the case…I don’t think that beginning writers struggle with coming up with a conflict…they struggle to resolve it…at least that’s always been the case for me ….

What is scary about plotting is the risk of limiting your options too early. What I mean by this is, once you go through a particular “doorway” in a plot…you are opening all sorts of other doors in the plot…but you are also closing other potential doors.

This must have been particularly real for serial novelists in the 19th century who didn’t have the luxury of retracing their steps in terms of plot. Take Dickens, for instance. Once Great Expectations was half-way complete, there was no going back because it was already published. This may explain why Dickens wrote two endings…because he didn’t have the option of revising the novel…but he couldn’t bear not opening one last door…allowing us to see more possibilities for Pip and Estella.

Ultimately, great plots don’t close all the doors at the end. Truly wonderful stories keep enough doors just slightly ajar, so that we can ache with those “what if” questions long after the last words of the story have faded from memory.

Deciding which plot doors to close and which to leave open is what makes this craft an exhilarating frustration (adventure).

Why I’ve Given Up on New Years Resolutions

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Well, I used to write a personalized self-improvement “book” every January.

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Actually, my lists were rather unrealistic as you can see. Strangely (or maybe not) my hobby and interest goals were the most successful.

But I’ve discovered a lot can happen in one year and goals set in January often lose relevance by July.

Take this year, for example–I never planned on starting my next novel this year with a full teaching schedule. But getting laid-off allowed me to do just that…

Really, I’m setting one goal this year: be ready to “seize the day” and capitalize on opportunities as they arise. Then, I am ready to set goals and follow through on them at any time. Sounds idealistic, but it’s really working for me.

Teaching, Union Wars, and New Adventures

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My big goal for 2013 is to make sure that writing is at the heart of every day.

So, here’s my story. When I was a child, I wrote all the time…except of course when I was reading or having real-life adventures. My brother and sister begged me to tell them stories because they found my spontaneous tales fascinating.

Then reality set in, and I decided to become an English teacher. I thought that as a teacher I would read stories all day and assign and grade writing…and that teaching was a worthy calling and helpful for humanity…and it came with benefits and a retirement plan, right?

Well, after teaching for four years and finding out that public school teaching is about unions and years of service, I keep asking myself why I spent my twenties pursuing this career.

I loved the kids, teaching journalism, and helping my students write award-winning articles. But the school board and the union didn’t care about me, my hard work, my talent, or my kids. I worked 70 plus hours a week, and they laid me off along with 50 other young, hopeful teachers. We were just pawns in a big chess game between the union and the school board.

So I did get another teaching job…(my old school district called me back, but I said no!)… but then I started to think…is this all there is to my life…I have a wonderful family and God, but professionally? My hard work of establishing myself and doing cool things as a teacher got wiped out in one meeting when the board voted to let 50 teachers go…and I had poured my soul into that school, journalism program, and classroom.

So I came to the conclusion…maybe it’s time to invest more into my own creative life. Don’t misunderstand…I’m still teaching and helping kids, but I’ve pulled all my writing projects out, and I’m ready now to give them my focus.

Maybe writing doesn’t pay the bills, but I’m going to explore all the options available in this field. And, even if I have to work other jobs, I’m going to do what I love first..which is writing…and worry about retirement later…

Reflections on NaNoWrMo

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I’m glad that my novel writing went better than my blogging. No, I wasn’t a winner of the challenge, but I did write 22,000 words for my novel. For me, this was a good start.

I learned a few things about composition as a result of writing so many words in a short space of time:

•Ending phobia can be conquered…I wrote my ending
first.
•Writing out-of-sequence keeps writer’s block at bay.
•It is possible to write over 5,000 words in a day.
•Outlining really works! I feel that what I have so far is structurally sound, and a few interesting subplots arose spontaneously out of my drafting, so I don’t think that I lost anything from outlining.
•Reading about writing helps me work out trouble spots in my composing process.

One-third done, two-thirds of my first draft left!

NaNoWriMo: Days Three and Four pm

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Well, I disappeared from my blog for a couple of days because of an intense work schedule.

But I’m back and ready to report on my progress. Last time, I discussed the challenges of typing a novel on my iPhone. (I do have a laptop; I just couldn’t use it at work.) I finally just broke down and wrote longhand on a legal notepad, which was a great idea because I wrote fragments of two chapters, totalling 1,000 words in less than an hour. My plan to write fragments and piece them together is really working well, since I am writing a literary novel and symbolic motifs are important in the creation of the story.

I guess I need to actually reveal some of the specifics of my book…I have been pretty focussed on the hardcore realities of word generation..

The trailer for my story is as follows:

In this novel, an overwhelmed single parent starts feeling a premonition of her own death. She makes a will, assigns a guardian for her child, and tries to prepare her daughter…all the while thinking that she has lost her mind. Within the course of a month, she is hit by a car, and the reader expects that the premonition has become reality. The woman survives, but she has serious brain damage and is in a coma. However, the woman can actually hear; she is just severely paralyzed. As she gradually comes to realize that she is experiencing a living death, she copes through her daughter’s visits, which fluctuate over the years in their regularity. The woman watches her daughter go through the stages of grief as if she, her mother, was really dead. She realizes the toll that her illness has caused on her daughter. Then the woman begins to contemplate whether she should really keep fighting to live or whether she should just let go… She becomes worried that her accident may have permanently scared her daughter and that her coma is actually worse than death itself. She begins to fear that her daughter will be unable to move on with her life until her mother actually dies…At the same time, the daughter begins graduate school and becomes obsessed with researching case histories of comma victims…she discovers that sometimes coma victims are falsely diagnosed and that sometimes they actually are fully conscious, just totally paralyzed…she begins searching for a way to communicate with her mother…

This book explores the fluidity of grief and its cyclic realities… the tension between science and faith…the complications of mother-daughter relationships…the real distinctions between life and death…the power and pain of love…and the plausibility of miracles…

In the first part of the book, I’m setting up a lot of scenes that seem random but that actually come together symbolically as the story progresses. Also, I am generously interspersing flashbacks with the present in the second part of the book. I’m up to 4,400 words now, although I should be at 6,000.