D.V. Sheppard

The web-log of a duck-herding author.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

My Golden Ticket of Scrap Paper

I have a little table/desk in my living room that is technically supposed to be mine to use for writing, and whatnot. For a month or two now, we've constantly had a projector, or video game console on it (did I mention that I'm kind of a nerd?). The projector and consoles have finally been given back to my dad and brother (guess, I'm not THAT big of a nerd), and I have my desk back. I moved my laptop back to this designated spot today, and caught sight of this sitting among the surface clutter.

It says, "Paige, You are a good writer. Are you sure you want to go to massage therapy school?" This was written at the bottom of on of my papers in my English 150 class in college. I ripped it off the bottom and framed it with the name and date of the teacher who wrote it. Now, I didn't continue on and get a four year degree - I went to massage therapy school. I'm a religious person, and I can tell you right now, that it was definitely in God's plan for me to go this route. Had I not, my husband would be a very sick man, and he and I would probably still be living with my parents... or I guess one of my parents. Anyways - that's a long, miraculous and heavy story. My point is that I do not regret in any way my decision - it was the right one.

But, I am also glad that I did my one summer term stint at a university, if for no other reason (and there are other great reasons) than that my English teacher wrote this to me. - By the way, did I mention that he was hot? He was. I mean... I was a bit flabbergasted that a man so genuinely and incontrovertibly attractive could teach a freshman course. I'm pretty positive that my eyes bugged out the first day of class when I realized that the overly good-looking man at the front of the class was going to remain there for all of us to stare at the entire term. I'd put up a picture, but I don't feel that would be either respectful (yes, I recognize that I already did that damage above with my description), nor do him justice (he really is that good-looking). Just understand that, in addition to be a brilliant writer, and excellent teacher, he was a model one (teehee).

Moving on past his good looks, I'd also like to point out that he was a critical thinker, and while not in any way "mean", he wouldn't have written what he did cause he was just that kind of a nice guy. It was unexpected, and coming from him it had to really mean something. No, I don't think I was the most brilliant writer he'd ever met. I literally laugh at that thought. No, no, I am not so gifted as that. But! Up to this point, my writing had been validated by a very small handful of people - most of whom were friends. I respected my high school English teacher's opinion, and held that close to my heart (if she had written a note like the one above, I would have framed that too). This was college though! And he seemed to think I had enough talent, that if I chose to pursue writing in school, instead of massage therapy, that it would be a good move! I could maybe get good! :p

So, I keep it framed on my desk to remind me that someone who's opinion on the subject I respect thought that I had what it takes to be great. It was and is to me a Golden Ticket into the ranks of "good-enough". "All" that I have to do is the hard work to get myself from where I am to the Chocolate Factory. It may sound overly simplistic, but it motivates me- and right now that is far more important than the outcome.

What about you? Do you have any mementos that help you keep going?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Sayonara, Second Time-Sucker!

Ladies and gentleman,

I have the immense pleasure to announce that I have officially sent in my resignation letter for my stressful one day a week cafeteria job. Huzza!

Me and the Duckling Huzzah!-ing it Up

I know, I know - it doesn't sound like much of anything, but I'll tell my short happy story. I used to work at this cafeteria five days a week part-time, until about a year ago, when I picked up my massage job at the chiropractic office. This bumped down my work to only two days a week - Tuesdays (because the office is closed that day) and Thursdays (because I volunteer teach teens dance these nights, and couldn't be available as late as the office would need me). We fast forward to this summer, when I was trained as an assistant for one of the DC's, and picked up work on Thursdays after all, with the understanding that I might cut my hours just a little when dance season started up. 

So, for the past few months I've been working at the cafeteria for a five hour shot early Tuesday mornings. While I don't hate this job... it's immensely stressful. Lots to do, with only me as an actual staff member, and a small gaggle of volunteers to teach, keep busy, and keep from messing up in between getting the stuff done that only I could do. In addition my supervisor - though I love her - could occasionally be a struggle for me to work with. If nothing else, I can attest that I learned both to multi-task very well, and to bite my tongue. 

Actually, I have to admit - in comparison to my other job - which I LOVE - I did hate this cafeteria position - but only when comparing. It was a HUGE blessing to have gotten the position, and I will be somewhat sad to leave it. But lets get to the POINT of this post already!

The real question is why. Why did I leave? Part of it was the stress. My husband was sick of my coming home irritable, unhappy, and in need of a nap (which he usually put me down for like I was a five year old. Seriously, he did.). The second reason was that we didn't really need the extra money. Picking up my assistant position more than covered what my second job was providing. But, lastly, and most importantly - and I might just shed a tear of cherish-ment for my Husby's insistence in this matter - I wanted a day that I could commit to writing. I have spare time already - but, as many of you can attest - writing at the end of a long day at work is hard- and weekends, at least for me, are the time that I run all the errands and pick up all the pieces that fell apart between then and the last weekend. So my Husby decided that I needed to take the only spare day I had to do what I have a passion for. A day that I could blog, brainstorm, and bully words onto the page. A day that would be set aside to do the research, the practice, the everything. While I'm sure I'll periodically hate this new job- ya know, because I'm human like that - I truly couldn't ask for a greater present.

So there you have it folks! I'm a part-time writer! Not a spare-time writer! I'm now an as-many-hours-as-I-can-stay-on-task-on-Tuesday writer! I am ready for the challenge :D

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Never Ending Story... and a Cry for Help

Beating my head against the Plot Wall
Recently I mentioned how I was needing to do something of an overhaul with my book, because, well, plots are as elusive to me as Jason Bourne to the CIA. With my Husby's excellent help, I worked through the problems I was facing, and voila! I had a nutritionally reinforced plot. Lets fast forward to this weekend. I sit down to do some writing, and the only thing coming out is dribble. I'm not writing anything good! I give my laptop the cold shoulder and move to my "Harri" or "son" chair (one of a pair of matching named by my younger brother. I bet you can't guess what his name is :P ). In this new spot, I fussed and grumbled a little, before finally putting together coherent enough thoughts to involve my husband. You see, I had ideas of what to write. The ideas were there. The thought of writing those ideas into the story was like gagging on a mouthful of peanut butter. I wanted to do some fist shaking - but at myself, which is considerably dissatisfying to attempt. But by golly! Is there ever an end??? I just want a firm plot that doesn't leave ME questioning the authors intellect.

My policy is to push forward. Keep writing. Even if its horse manure. Move forward. I can always go back and fix it. Lately, though, I've found it pretty hard to do. I don't feel like I understand what I'm going to add to previous writing enough to move forward from it. I shudder to think of going back and adding or changing things. I wasted years doing it with my previous WIP. 

I think I started out heading in a particular direction with this blog. I suppose feeling directionless about my book had to spill over into the blogosphere. I know that my title was a lament of how I felt like my story would never end... Well, never mind.

I'm still looking for information about critique groups. How do you find yourself one? Online good? Online bad? - Truthfully, I'm timid about the whole thing. My research has only been half-hearted, but it has also felt fruitless. After all, this work is my baby. I know I can't home-school it forever - it needs social interaction and challenge - but that doesn't mean I want to be careless with it, and walk it down an alley full of thugs. What's been your experience?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

My Internal Conflict with External Conflict (IWSG)

It - is - ALIVE! My cord came in the mail and my laptop is back in action! Coincidentally - just in time for my Husby's computer to die. Funny how that happens. With the rebirth of my dear computer eNwY, comes the rebirth of my writing. I was quite excited about this, and then I realized that there was a reason I hadn't been writing a lot before my computer went on hiatus.

You see, my current WIP is a little... well... nutritionally deficient. Okay, okay, the truth is, I do a pretty shoddy job at putting plots together. You see, I'm all about the relationships. The friendship, the romance, the hatred. I'm also huge into the internal conflict. These are the things that I LIKE to write. However, I like to READ these things wrapped up in a great story of external conflict. Therefore, I am only willing to write a story about the former by including the latter. I'm just not so smooth with the latter.

Herein creates my predicament. I've been writing, and I like what I've been writing, but now that I've solidified that my one book needed to be two, I realized that book one didn't really have a good plot arc. Book two would stand alone just fine. I'm not writing book two right now, though, so I came to grips with the fact that I really did need to put the work in for numero uno. Now, here I go, working to get my Husby to sit down and be a sounding board for me. He's wonderful like that. With his help, I'll fill in the gaps and re-fall-in-love with my NEW and IMPROVED story.

While this in and of itself is obviously not a source of insecurity, it made me thing about something that sort of made my eyes go wide and blank, and my mouth tighten up (I want to draw a picture of what I need, but I haven't yet convinced my Husby of just how much I'd like him to get me an art program that I can use his drawing tablet with). I wondered in an ominous whisper, "Is this how it will always be? Will I have to dive into a story just to find that I have to pull out and re-align it, and fill in and fix plot lines EVERY time I write a book?" I'm not jumping to conclusions. This is what happened to my last book, which turned into a set a aside project so I could write this book. I don't want that repeated.

(This is my brain on plot)
I think my key weak spots are these: (1) that my outlines are not specific enough, and (2) well, I don't really like doing the work to think up plots based on external conflicts! I wonder if I'm the only one out there with this problem (please speak up if you can attest that I am not - I'm not a loner by choice). I also wonder how to strengthen these weaknesses. Any suggestions? Do plots just come to you, or do you get inspiration from outside sources? Do you make outlines that clearly direct your writing? Does it help? Any suggestions on just how to go about doing that?                                              

Share your 2 bit with me!