Monday Musings

Monday Musings 4-1-19

I’m just heading home from Planet Comicon in Kansas City. It was a fun, entertaining, exhausting weekend, as all Con weekends are. I love hanging out with fellow science fiction fans and introducing new people to my book series. If we met this weekend and you’re new to Monday Musings, welcome! It was an honor to meet you, and I hope you enjoy my work. Please stay in touch!

At these events, I’ll often meet aspiring writers, wearing the same deer-in-the-headlights look I’m sure I had at the start of this creative adventure, asking for words of wisdom. My advice is always the same. Finish something!

Here’s a post I wrote a while back titled Just Finish It! You’ll Be Glad You Did. If you aren’t a writer, feel free to skip this part and check out the goofy pictures at the bottom!

 It’s important to finish a task. We know this is true for most things in life. If you don’t finish the laundry, you’ll have nothing clean to wear. If you don’t finish a class assignment, you’ll get a failing grade. If you don’t finish a project for a client, you’ll likely get fired.

 For writers, finishing our work is just as important. In this case, I’m talking about finishing a draft. Here are my top five reasons why this is really, really necessary:

An unfinished draft will never become a book.

 If you have no first draft, you have nothing to work with. A terrible first draft is still better than no draft at all. Maybe this draft won’t become a book. Maybe it didn’t turn out the way you planned. Maybe you’ve lost your enthusiasm for it and want to move on to the next idea. But maybe with patience, more work, and good editing, it will become a book worthy of publishing. You won’t know unless you finish it.

You’ll learn to write even when you don’t feel like it.

There are days when I really don’t want to write. I’d rather do just about anything else, like hang out on Twitter, or clean my bathroom, but I have to because this is a job now. What I’ve learned from finishing my projects, even the ones someone else isn’t paying me to finish, are good habits. I know that I have to create a schedule and stick to it. I know I have to fiercely protect my writing time and space. I also know I have to work through writer’s block.

For me, writer’s block has never been about lack of ideas. Instead, it’s been about losing my way with a story and becoming nearly paralyzed with fear that I won’t be able to find a trail of breadcrumbs to follow back. At the end of the day, every writer faces moments when the words won’t flow, or when we simply don’t feel like doing the work. We have to have the wherewithal to do it anyway.

You’ll know you can do it.

Once you’ve completed a project, you’ll know what it takes, and you’ll know you have what it takes. The biggest factor that kept me from starting my first novel years earlier than I did was the idea that I couldn’t finish something, that I wouldn’t be able to sustain the story arc, that I just didn’t have a whole book in my head. When I wrote the last line of my first manuscript, I knew without a doubt I could do it again. Finish something. Even if it’s terrible. Only then will you will know you can.

There will always be another shiny new object.

When I’m in the drafting phase of a project, all the new ideas want to show themselves. I think it’s because my creative juices are flowing and it’s like opening a floodgate! But if I let every shiny new story idea distract me, I’d never finish anything. Instead, if something really promising presents itself, I create a folder, jot down a few notes in an outline, and save it under my “wait your turn” file. I know I won’t lose the thread of the new story, but I also have the discipline to finish what I’ve already started first.

You’ll learn to get through the sticky middle.

Writing the beginning of a story is exciting. Making it to the end feels liberating. But the middle can sometimes get pretty sticky. Once you’ve made it through the middle, which can sometimes feel like getting lost in the forest without that breadcrumb trail again, you’ll know how to do it. Maybe not elegantly, maybe not as skillfully as you will a few years and a few more novels from now, but you’ll have done it, and there’s value in the experience alone.

Keep working and I’ll meet you at the finish line!

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This writer’s life is certainly an adventure!

Monday Musings 3-25-19

One of my sweet kitties died this weekend. I’v written about this guy before and posted many pictures of him on social media. He’s the one who always seemed to know when I needed a little extra love. One of his favorite spots was sprawled next to my computer on the kitchen table, sometimes even on top of the keyboard if he thought I needed a break.

The thing about pets is we know they’re going to break our hearts. Their short lifespan pretty much guarantees we’ll have to say goodbye to them before we’re ready. But the unconditional love they offer to us, and their quiet, unwavering presence in our lives makes the sadness worth it.

As hard as it was to watch my furry friend fade away over the last few weeks from kidney failure, I got to take good care of him and hold him when he passed. Hopefully, I gave him back some of the comfort he brought to me over the last couple of years.

RIP sweet Bede. You will be missed.

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Monday Musings 3-18-19

So much more goes into producing a book than writing the content, a fact which caught me by surprise with my first novel. I’ve written many posts about editing, and what a big part of the process it is. But, there’s more. To take a book from idea to publication requires the expertise of many other talented professionals. It requires writers to put their trust in these folks, not an easy thing considering how attached we are to our creative work. From cover designers to proof readers, we need help to get it all done.

Recently, I’ve been working with a voice actor to produce my books on audio. This process, like publication, requires someone else’s expertise to bring the project to life. Audio is a different medium than print, and my story feels different on that platform. To a degree, it reflects the actor’s interpretation of my words. At first, this idea made me nervous, much as it did when I first started working with a developmental editor. But now, as we get started producing my third book on audio, I’m just plain excited.

I’ve thought a lot about what it means to work with other professionals in a creative space, and how important those relationships are to the quality and success of my work. Really, the rules for working collaboratively are similar in any space. It’s about building relationships. Honest, respectful communication is key, as is treating these folks like the professionals they are. I can’t control everything. At the end of the day, I have to trust the shared vision we’ve created and let them do what they do best. Letting go isn’t easy, but I’ve learned sometimes I need to do just that.

INFINITY is now available on audio. Kudos to David Draffin, the fabulous voice actor, for brining it to life. Let me know what you think!

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Monday Musing 3-11-19

A friend of mine is writing a book. She’s had the idea for a long time. In fact, the story is the backdrop for an amazing product line of fairy-like beings she’s created and turned into a cool small business. She’s hesitated to do the writing for a long time, and we finally got down to the why of it over a couple of cocktails the other night.

What stops most of us from pursuing a dream - whether that dream is climbing a mountain, running a race, finishing a degree, or writing a book - is often fear. Sure, we can make up excuses. I don’t have time, I’m not in shape, I’m not really a writer. Those things may all be true, but for me anyway, the thing that froze me in my tracks before I put one word on a page, was absolutely fear. I didn’t start writing until I was forty years old because I was afraid I really wasn’t as talented as people thought, I wouldn’t be able to finish what I started, and my stories wouldn’t be any good. And the biggest fear of all was that by putting my writing into the world I’d be exposing some sensitive, private pieces of myself.

I think the only way to counter fear is by putting one foot in front of the other. When we do this for long enough, we can look back and track our movements. When we commit to doing something toward our dream every day, we will make progress. Our fear may tell us we aren’t good enough, we’ll never finish, or that others may judge us, but we can make a choice to do our thing anyway.

At the end of the day, what matters most may be our decision to admit we’re afraid and still take that first step forward.

Monday Musings 3-4-19

Last week I spent a couple of hours presenting the Horizon series to an interested third party. It was so much fun to talk about the story arc I’d created, my beloved characters and how they’d developed over time, and the major themes I was interested in exploring through my writing.

When I finished, he asked me whether I’d considered making different choices around particular plot points, or taking any of the action in a different direction. Essentially, he wanted to know how I decided which choices were the right ones for my story. From that conversation, I wrote a blog post titled Have You Lost the Plot? While the post focuses on writing craft, and how to make sure a manuscript doesn’t veer too far from the intended story, I realized I could have easily been talking about life.

Living intentionally is a bit like working on a manuscript. As we craft the narrative of our own lives, we have to have a vision for our story. We have to make choices that support this vision. And, we have to allow room for the unexpected plot twists that will inevitably take us by surprise.

When I feel like I’ve lost the plot, so to speak, it usually means I need to adjust my choices so they better support the story I want to tell.

Monday Musings 2-25-19

Equinox is finished! It’s a strange feeling indeed to have completed the last book in this series, a series I’ve been working on for over six years. I’ve lived in this made-up world, fallen in love with the characters, put them through some tough stuff, and now it’s time to say goodbye. It’s bittersweet, but it’s time.

As I get older, I’ve experienced moving on in many areas of my life. From changing jobs, to moving houses, to watching kids go off to college, letting go is part of the deal, and sometimes knowing when to let go is the trick.

My style, with writing, with the other work I’ve done over the years, with my home life, is to fully invest. I throw my whole self into the experience. I’m all in. I make mistakes, I learn, I grow. But because I’ve given it my full attention, when it’s time to move on, I usually feel ready. I may be nostalgic, but generally, I don’t have regrets.

When I typed “the end” on the last page, it was with a little bit of sadness but also a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. I’ve worked hard to improve my craft over these last six years. I’ve learned a ton about the publishing industry. I’ve been invited to teach what I’ve learned. Most importantly, with these books, I think I’ve told a good story.

Equinox will release on May 7th. I hope you enjoy!

Monday Musings 2-18-19

I’ve been working on Equinox edits for a couple of weeks now, and if I want to make my release deadline, I have to keep my nose down and finish. For the last three days, I haven’t moved much from my spot on the couch. There are printed documents strewn everywhere, laundry piled on the kitchen table, and I’m wearing the same pajamas I had on three days ago.

It’s funny, but I don’t really mind. I know this state of suspended reality isn’t going to last. Eventually, the rest of my life will need to be tended to and I’ll be more than ready to get back to it. For now, though, my full focus is on finishing this story and I’ve enjoyed giving it my full attention for the home stretch.

This feeling of being so connected to something you’ve made, and realizing you’re almost ready to share it with the world, is a strange and wonderful part of the creative process. It’s also a time when I know most writers and artists feel pretty vulnerable. We’ve poured ourselves into our work and we have no idea how that work will be received. When I finished writing my first novel, Horizon, I wrote an entire blog post on this subject: Handle with Care. Here’s a little snippet that captures the sentiment:

Any artist in any field understands that to share our work is to be vulnerable. We’ve risked opening our hearts to strangers - with words, in images, with a paintbrush, on a stage. We’ve put something of our private selves out into the world. Even my stories, full of spaceships and evil villains, myths and magic, have some of the real “me” in them. People who know me well will recognize those pieces. But it’s worth it to tell the story. And I’m learning to make peace with the discomfort.

As I finish this last round of edits for the last book in this series, I’m more confident in myself as a writer and in my craft. My skin is definitely thicker when it comes to criticism, but there’s still a moment of hesitation, a bit of discomfort and fragility. What I’ve learned, though, is it’s a pretty universal feeling among us artsy types. When I’m feeling it, I have a whole community of people who encourage me. When I have a chance to offer that encouragement back, I do. And I really am learning to make peace with the discomfort.

Monday Musings 2-4-19

On New Year's Eve this year I went to a dance party with my husband and some friends. I literally danced for hours. Ray, who would have much preferred to be on the stage with his guitar, humored me by filling my champagne glass and letting me shake and twirl all night long.

I got my first pair of ballet slippers when I was seven, scratched up the kitchen floor with my tap shoes at ten, and performed straight through college. Now, with the exception of weddings, I rarely dance at all. Turns out, I really miss it. Yesterday I joined a gym that offers Salsa and Zumba and all kinds of other 'dancey' classes. Today I gave one a try. So much FUN! Loud music, easy choreography, sweaty bodies. What could be better?

I'm not sure why it took me so long to realize I've missed this, or to remember how important it is to do something I love, simply because I love it. I think we all get caught up in our work, in our families, in running our households and businesses. We may even enjoy all these things most days. But, this isn't the same thing as doing something we enjoy for no practical reason whatsoever. Maybe it's time to give ourselves permission to do just that.

Monday Musings 1-14-19

I woke up cranky this morning. It was dark, my to-do list was long, and I felt a little under the weather. Part of this was my fault. I had a heck of a good time over the weekend, but, since I am no longer a spring chicken, apparently I don't recover from a 'good time' very quickly. You probably also know from past posts that winter is my least favorite time of year. I whine about everything from my chapped lips to the lack of daylight. So, altogether, I did not feel like leaping out of bed to face this Monday. 

I did, however, make it to a power yoga class. My yoga practice is one of the things that keeps me moderately well balanced throughout the winter. I make myself go even when I wake up feeling like the Grinch. At the end of today's class, while I suffered in frog pose, the instructor asked us this question: "Can you be present in the moment even when things are unpleasant?" I actually worried that my dark energy had contaminated the room and she was speaking directly to me. 

When I'm in a bad mood, or otherwise not feeling my best, I often wish the time away. I want to extract myself from the discomfort, or just get to the other side of a bad experience. But what I started to think about after my yogic kick-in-the-pants today is how quickly time passes. The older I get, the more acutely I feel it. I don't want to spend my energy wishing time away or focusing on my own internal darkness.

Turns out, after the cue this morning, it wasn't hard to make a mental shift. I can be present even when things are unpleasant because I don't want to miss out on this moment. I know I won't get it back.

Monday Musings 1-7-19

I only spent one semester as an English major before switching over to Classics, so when I started my official writing career, I didn't have a degree to support it, or any real experience. What I learned, though, is that the way you become a writer is by, well, writing.

First, you write crap. Then you rewrite it. Or maybe you put that project aside and start a new one. Somewhere along the way, you realize actual skill is required to do this job well. Like any form of art, talent alone doesn't cut it.

I found that workshops, conferences, critique partners, and good editors made all the difference. I could produce content while improving my craft. Now, on occasion, I get to lead those workshops, guest lecture, and, in different ways, teach new writers some of what I've learned along the way.

Saturday, January 12th at 10:00 am, I'll be at the Pascoag Public Library hosting a workshop on World-Building. For science fiction and fantasy writers, crafting believable worlds in unbelievable settings is part of the job. But, as I've learned, we can't just dump detail after detail into our story or we'll bore our readers to distraction. Seamlessly weaving in background, history, and setting, creating rules for magic and advanced technology, and bringing authenticity to our imaginary worlds requires skill. And, there are actual lessons to be learned on how to do this.

So, if you're an aspiring writer and in the area, check it out. Here's a FB link with more info: Author Series: World Building with Tabitha Lord. Maybe I'll see you there!