Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sorry

I know you're anxiously waiting for the next installment of Bel's Writing Adventure, but my in-laws are here and the Follies director is getting all anxious about the multimedia stuff I'm supposed to be working on and honestly, I haven't had a chance to write much. I promise, though, that as soon as I have something new to share, I'll bust out my keyboard and let you know. Okay?

Now, in the meantime, does anyone know how to get a Sn00kie hair bump without one of those hair bump thingies? I need to know by 1:00 today.

Thanks!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Day 5 – Trudging Forward

Day 5: I did what I wanted to do; I rewrote the opening scene with her husband instead of her friend. It was not a difficult task to change the relationship and may have actually helped make the story more coherent. What is missing from the original relationship, though, is the emotion a person would feel if the partner that person had abandoned suddenly and unexpectedly showed up. How would she feel? What should she do? Does she still love him? What should she do about still loving him (or not)? This is my new challenge, and by challenge I mean thing I cannot readily and easily do, but it needs to be addressed to some extent in the beginning. So I printed the pages of rewritten material and will be performing literary plastic surgery with my pen over the weekend. I may or may not wear a surgical mask…

Since I was finished, then, thinking about this less-miserable mess of words, I pulled out my other story and went to work on the fantastic notes Septembermom had given me. I’ve added a paragraph and a couple of words here and there based on her recommendations, and it’s really coming along.

And then I found myself wandering through my house muttering, “Mud room… Front hallway… Wavy blonde hair…” and wondered if other writers talk to themselves as much as I do while they’re working. I actually wondered this out loud.

So? Do you?

(Next – Day Next: Dealing with dinner…)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Day 4, in which I consider whether it might not be the best idea to count the days.

I was thinking, are you really going to care what day it is when it’s day 627 and I blog about changing the word “and” on page 3 to “but”? Are you still going to be with me in a year-and-a-half? A girl can hope… But if not, I’ll just pretend you are and it’ll be just like now.

I was also thinking that you might be more interested in the changes I make to my gelatin-dessert-like mass that I’ve been referring to as a story, if you knew a little bit about it. Here’s a one-sentence summary for you:

A man tries to convince a woman to return to the family she abandoned.

You totally want to read it now, right? Yeah. No you don’t. But please do read this.

Day 4: I rewrote the pivotal dialogue at the end of the story. Originally it had been between the woman and a male friend, but I rewrote it, just to see, so it’s between the woman and her husband. I’m chewing on that now. There is definitely more opportunity for tension and conflict if the man is her husband rather than some random old friend. I think next I’ll try rewriting the beginning this way next and see what we get. Also, there is a bunch of stuff in the middle that is unnecessary to the story. It’s weird to chunk out big portions of your writing and just discard them, but it’s totally necessary sometimes. Changing the character will definitely make this easier.

And it feels like progress. It doesn’t look like much. But it feels like it.

(Up next: Day 5: more of the same…)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Writing a Terrible Wrong (Day 3)

(you can read about Days 1 & 2 here).

Day 3: The typing is done. Finished. Fine (that’s “feenay” fine – it means end). The wretched text now resides in my “Working” folder. Whew! I didn’t do a ton of rewriting after I shook myself awake from the jaded trance I was in. Mostly I thought more about what the story is about and wrote a description of my protagonist, which, for some reason, didn’t include what she looks like… Sigh… Oh well. Something to do for Day 4.

Then I gave my other story, the one Talented Bel wrote 12 years ago, a once-over and rewrote the paragraph I shared with you to make it flow better (among other things). Now it says:

Her mother called to her from the porch. “Hi, honey.” She was standing on the top step with her hands hanging at her sides. She looked like she was trying not to wave.

It’s still not quite right, but I think that’s better, don’t you? Unfortunately I sent it to Septembermom to read before I changed that sentence… Kelly? Note the change, okay?

Day 3 wasn’t fantastic, but it wasn’t a bust. Right? I’m still going!

(Coming up: Day 4: Transformation! HAHAHAHAHAHA! Yeah right.)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Because I Know You Want to Hear All About It But Are Too Shy to Ask...

wordle

I've got this miserable pile of random words that I half refer to as a story. I wrote about it a couple of days ago. Remember? Click here if not.

My plan now is to turn the stinky heap into something readable, and I am dragging you along on this tedious and painful journey. Welcome. And enjoy.

Day 1: You already know that Day 1 involved me giving up on the thing before I revisited my breakfast or melted into a puddle of inadequacy tears (yeah huh it’s a real thing!).

Day 2 (not consecutive days): I took on the role of the much needed unpaid intern and began just typing the stupid thing into Word. While I was typing, I did what any good unpaid intern would do, I silently criticized the awful unfocused-ness that I was wading through and thought about all the ways I could improve it. I didn’t get all the way through the “data entry” part of the chore yet, but when I had to set it aside to go pick up my girls from school, I took along my notebook and wrote down all the things that I, as my other self, had thought about while trying not to fall asleep on my keyboard. Things like: Who are the characters? Which of them are necessary? What are their actual roles? Should I change the setting (seriously thinking about this)? What is the point of the story (seriously wondering this too)? It felt like progress.

Then, having exhausted the literary journal full of short stories I’d been reading in the carpool line, I had quickly printed a story I’d found online to read instead. I just found it and printed it, not really looking at what it was about, just to have something to read. It turns out (you’re going to say, “No way!”) that it’s about the same thing as my “story.” Except that it takes place in Turkey, and even if I do change the setting of my story, it won’t have my protagonist in Turkey. Because I’ve never been to Turkey. Oh, and it’s been done. But I asked the same questions about this story that I had been thinking about with my story. Maybe this will encourage my words to get themselves in order and make sense, instead of swarming like rats in a sewer.

(Coming up – Day 3: More typing. Whee.)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I Need a Deadline, I Think

This whole being a grown-up and writing for my job thing isn’t going very well. For a couple of reasons. One is, you know, Follies, which is way easier to think about and work on than the stuff I get to claim all for myself. If something doesn’t work in Follies, I’m not the director and can look around like “Whose idea was that?”, and the congregation will appreciate the effort anyway.

The other is that I don’t have anything to be working toward so I don’t quite know what to be working on. It’s kind of like when I first stopped eating meat and was all unfocused and, “Well what do I eat now?” and my friend A-ME suggested I get a vegetarian cookbook, which gave me direction (the direction was just finding a vegetarian cookbook at first, but it was enough) and now I eat pizza with artichokes! Mmmm…

Sorry. Where was I going? Oh yeah…

I have several projects, new and old, that I rifle through every day. A little bit here. A word or 2 there. But I can’t seem to stick to anything. And when I get really uninspired I write something else not useful. The other day? I wrote a description of the back of my hand. Seriously.

I don’t have writer’s block. That would be easier to deal with, I think, because it’s a real problem real writers have and can’t just be chalked up to laziness or apathy. I do well with a goal, though, a deadline, a due date. But where do you get one of those when nobody is waiting for your work?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

One of My Favorite Things

Hi! Guess what! On Tuesday? This last one? The 14th, you know?

Follies rehearsals started!! Yay for Follies rehearsals!!

This year we have 30+ cast members at the start. The actual number will change as people drop out and whatever like they always apparently do, which last year allowed for the new upstart to pad her part until she had the most memorable role in the whole play (read about that here if you've forgotten). I had a hand in writing the show and in some of the multimedia stuff (which didn't get as big a laugh at the first rehearsal as I'd hoped it would, but people were distracted...); that's called "being on the production team." And the director is trying to get my character into every scene. Every scene. You know me. I don't mind.

Pete is in it with me this year. Since I helped with the script, I was able to write her a little recurring gag part that is going to be a big hit, I think. She's anxious, but I think that's because the little bit of "acting" she's done before involved, at most, 30 minutes of rehearsal on a Sunday morning right before the service in which she portrayed a (fantastic) bunny or a school child playing hopscotch (she was the only one who did the 1-2-1-2-1-2-1 right). She'll feel better about it in time for the show. I'm hoping she'll be bitten by the acting bug because that can be such a confidence booster!

The only problem is that it's hard to focus on what I'm supposed to be doing and not spend the day searching the internet for props and costumes... I already bought a mustache... :D

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

First I Called Windows a Bad Word...

Here's a little bit of Random and Uninteresting for you.

This morning I was sorting through my floppy disk files again, looking for the little poem I'd seen the other day that I thought I might clean up and enter in Cheerios Spoonful of Stories contest next March. I didn't find what I was looking for, but I did find a folder containing a file that I didn't want to keep so I told Windows to delete the unwanted folder, which was living inside another more important folder with all my files from the floppy disks on it. And Windows said, "You want I should permanently delete this large, full, important folder that contains the other little useless folder?" And I said, "Sure!"

...

Then I said, "Oops." That was when I called Windows a bad name, but right after that I thanked Windows for not living in a vacuum and not really meaning permanent when it said "permanent."

Then I spent the next 2 hours recovering my files. That didn't go so well, but the upside of the bungled recovery process is that I now have 1 - 3 extra copies of everything I had deleted. Ever. From my flash drive. I'm calling it quits for today, I think.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

LL Says:

Breakfast Conversation in Bel's Kitchen

Lulu: I've been practicing, Mom!
Me: Practicing what, Lulu?
Lulu (tucking her little fist into her armpit and pumping her elbow up and down): ARM FARTS!

Bet you wish you ate breakfast with us!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Hi. I'm Bel. And I'm a Moron...

Now you say, "Hi Bel," and I'll share my story.

Remember I mentioned the floppies with all my stuff from when people still stored stuff on floppies (I'll get back to the floppies in a minute)? And then, I mentioned I finished my story? Right? You're up to date, right? Okay, well, when I went to transfer my story from the notebook I had written it in to the computer so I could actually edit it, I discovered that it is so completely boring that no one will want to read it. I know. I know. It is literally the first draft and is a LOOOOONG way from being done. But it was so boring that I couldn't even TYPE it. It made me really uncomfortable. REALLY uncomfortable. I think I might need to hire a nonjudgmental transcriptionist to type it for me so I can look at it again. Except they would have to work for free... Because I don't make any money in my job (as the World's Greatest Mom)... Maybe an intern...

So I was so miserable and doubt-ridden that I thought it best to just put the mess aside and look for something else to work on. What I found (among the floppy documents) was a story I wrote in 1997. 1997! And it was pretty good. It needed a lot of work, but it has way more potential than my more recent stuff (I teared up when I got to the end - and I wrote it!). So I edited it and sent it to the Grandpa and Meme for input and will continue to edit it (right - boring again - you get it - moving on - sorry).

Here's the moron part: 13 years ago, my sentences didn't all start with "Suddenly" or "Then he" and they didn't all end with some phrase that TELLS the reader what they're supposed to know or think. There was way more showing and giving and flowing-of-words and action, all good things for a story to contain when a writer trusts her reader. Here. Read this:

Her mother called to her. “Hi, honey." She was standing at the top of the front porch steps with her hands hanging at her sides. She looked like she was trying not to wave.

Right? Simple, not perfect but "She looked like she was trying not to wave"! I haven't written a sentence like that in more than a decade, I don't think. "She looked like she was trying not to wave"! Where did that come from? I know I wrote it. I remember getting all teary the first time I wrote the end of the story so I must have written the middle, right? What happened to the part of my brain that wrote stuff like that? It's gone... No... It's turned off... No... It has ATROPHIED! That has to be it, right? RIGHT? (just say, 'right' - I'm sorry for grabbing your shoulders and shaking you just then)

So what has happened to me in the past 13 years to allow my brain to stop functioning, Let's explore this together...
  • I finished school, which led to less having to write on a regular basis and fewer challenging discussions with peers. Hmm...
  • I moved in with Husbandguy and got married (yes, in that order), which led to more time in front of the TV and fewer challenging discussions in general. Hmm...
  • My best friend and I had a falling out and then she moved away and we're still only moderately in touch (hi, PSP!).
  • I had a series of low-level, non-creative jobs, which involved no writing or challenging discussions, and which I quit or was fired or laid off from. The quitting allowed me opportunities to write resignation letters at least...
  • I had 2 children, which led to reading way more books with illustrators included in the "by" and fewer books discovered while randomly scanning someone else's bookshelf. Hmm...
  • I didn't write. Not even letters or journals, and recently not even emails longer than a sentence or 2. Until I started my blog, which has gone up and down in creativity and quality. Hmm...
MedlinePlus says that atrophy can be reversed with exercise if it's caused by not using the muscle, and that seems to be the case here, even though the brain isn't technically a muscle...

Hey! Now you've got something to look forward to! Just imagine! In [insert lengthy time period here], after much "exercising" (writing and also writing), I'm going to be an interesting and compelling writer again. And then we can all sigh a big sigh of relief and enjoy my recovered brilliance together. Hang in there!

Please...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Today I Am Wondering

  • How to make a boring dialogue-driven story into something compelling to read.
  • Whether the story is actually compelling.
  • If it is possible to lose talent!
  • Whether we've scheduled Pete for too many activities this fall (it's really only Tuesdays that are full...).
  • Why it has to be 90ยบ+ after Labor Day.
  • Whether 2 Honey Buns and 3 cups of coffee is really a good breakfast.
  • Whether Lulu's potty regression is only because of all the changes in her little life or if she needs a doctor.
  • Whether Pete's warts will clear up before her self esteem suffers and/or before Follies.
  • Who's going to clean this house.
  • Why I'm not motivated to work on my story (maybe see the first bullet...).
  • What I could work on instead.
  • How to work on the computer but stay offline.
  • Will our "free" roof really be free?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

So Bel, How's the New Career Going?

Right? That's what you're wondering, right? Well, I'll tell you...

Last week was the girls' first full week of school and the week I had intended to start really writing every day. I did manage to squeeze in a little writing a couple of the days, and I read every day (a celebrated new addition to my daily schedule that involves being 30 minutes early for car-pool), but with volunteering and doctor appointments and procrastination, I didn't have time energy initiative to really start. [insert your very own random but valid excuse here - it'll be just as good as mine would be]

But guess what! Today, after I got home from the grocery store (crazy Real Life!) I finished the short story I've been working on for months. Go me! Now, when I say "finished" I mean that I got to the end of it, of the first draft. I do not mean that anyone will be allowed (or want) to read it. It's a mess. It's a confuddlement. It's terrible. YAY! Yay for very first, very rough, very finished drafts. And tomorrow I think I'll transfer it from my composition book, where it lives now because I knew I'd be more likely to finish it and not just editeditedit, to the computer so I can edit, edit, edit. Then maybe someone can read it... By January... We'll see...

Have you started any new big projects/chapters in your life recently?

Hey! Don't I Owe You One More for April?

The Hoodeler

He doesn't hide under your bed at night.
Oh, wait a minute
That's not quite right.
It's safe to say, I would guess,
If he lives in your closet
It's under duress.
You'll hear him always
In some other room
Hoodeling, hoodeling
Sounds of doom
You'd better look out
Once you're in his sights.
With razor claws and mad animal's bite,
He'll make you wish
(You'll be filled with fright)
That the Hoodeler
Was Hoodeling
Elsewhere tonight.

(The real Hoodler was my mom's and my cat, Vinnie, a large, orange fluffball with enough Maine coon cat in him. He made this little noise when he walked around the house that didn't really fit with his giant size. It sounded like "hoodlehoodlehoodle." He was actually a gentle doofus and couldn't fill anyone with fright.)

Monday, September 6, 2010

I'm So Glad I'm Not 20 Anymore!

This week I started sorting through all the stuff I pulled off of the floppies I have from when I was young and creative and prolific. Apparently I was also dramatic and passive aggressive and needy, too, because, included with the real Hoodeler poem (the not-real one is here, I'll post the real one tomorrow) and the scary short I wrote for composition class about a home invasion, are "love" letters to my high school boyfriend. Our 3-year relationship ended when I moved here from there, and apparently I took it really hard, harder than I seemed to believe he was taking it. I can't remember if I sent him any of these letters that I wrote him on my old Smith-Corona word processor (and saved, for some reason). I hope not. If I did, no wonder he was glad to be rid of me!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Another One About Growing Up

My 4 year-old uses air quotes. And she uses them correctly to indicate that the term she is using doesn't mean exactly what it sounds like.

My 8½ year-old was so brave at the doctor today. He wanted to treat the warts on her chest that her pediatrician hadn't frozen the other day, and he admitted it would be uncomfortable. Pete, at first, refused, covering the little patch with both hands. I offered my hand and told her it would be over quickly, but she still refused. After he explained, though, that it would be uncomfortable to treat them but without treatment they would never go away (I wish I could remember what he said exactly because it was really great), she unclenched her fists from each other and extended her hand to me and took a deep breath and toughed it out. I was so very proud of her.

sigh... no more babies...

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Me? Really?

Yesterday I said this, "Laurie Halse An-GASP! I WON A T-SHIRT!"

Check it out.

I never win anything! I guess I can't say that anymore...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Not Cool Enough for School

The weather, I'm talking about. It's supposed to be in the mid 90's all week (it's Wednesday - so far, so good), and that is just too hot for school. It's September today, for goodness sake. That's not what this post is about though. It's really about school. And little people who are uncertain about whether they want to be there.

Lulu has had 2 days of school. According to the one of her teachers I keep bumping into, she is having a great experience. And immediately after school, Lulu expresses the same thing. As she was climbing into the car yesterday afternoon, she said, "I had so much fun today, Mommy!" but by the time I pulled away from the curb, she couldn't remember what had been so fun, and by the time we left the parking lot, she didn't like school anymore. Then she proceeded to reminisce, the whole way home, about what it had been like when I picked her up from school last year and we went home and had a snack and waited for Pete to get home on the bus. "I wish I could go to my old school again," she said. As fantastic as that experience was for both of us, it's time to move on and grow up and learn the 7's times tables and to write in cursive (oh wait, that's later...).

Fortunately, being Lulu, she hasn't had any trouble making friends or finding someone to play with on the playground. Her teacher said a few of the bigger girls drag her around with them when they're outside. I commented that that would probably change as Lulu gets more comfortable and that she'll eventually be the one calling the plays.

But (hopefully I'm not kidding myself) I think Lulu is missing being with me, just hanging out, doing whatever, Mommy's monkey. I miss that too. It's a lot quieter around here, and after the busy of this week and the shortness of next week, which is only a 2 day week with the holiday and teacher workdays, it's going to be really strange here. I imagine I'll go through a little remember-when-ing too. Probably right about the time Lulu gets used to it all.
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