Lost

Lost. That’s how I’d describe myself right now. Lost, but not hopelessly. The day after I posted the last blog, I had an inspired idea for the fall writers contest. But I wasn’t writing anymore, so what was the point? The problem is, when I have a good story idea, I can’t just banish it. It pings around in my head, and I write sentences, scenes, dialogue, and then rewrite them over and over. It won’t stop until I put it on the page. So I finally did. It’s not my best. Nor my worst. It’s a good story.

Still, when I thought about picking up my finished novels, and editing them, there’s nothing but resistance. It feels like relief not to have to try to get them out into the world. But then I hear about a waitress who was laid off during Covid, wrote a book, and got published. She’d never wanted to be a writer. Never spent years practicing and getting better. Just wrote a book, and wham! Published. Or a 9 year old who published two books during the pandemic. It’s just that easy apparently, which makes me a complete failure. Granted,I never really had time off to write, as they did, but still. The irritation and jealousy that rears its ugly head means I’m clearly not done with writing, just as the fact that a story pestered itself into existence, tells me that writing is clearly not done with me.

At first my grim prognosis of the world didn’t seem to actually depress me. Nor did me not wanting to write. But as the days have gone by, I’ve watched my mental health decline. I’ve become more insecure, more numb, more unhappy. Not writing is not the answer.

That caused me to look at why I don’t want to write. After some reflection, I believe the problem is two-fold. 1) I’ve lost confidence in my writing ability. Sending out a manuscript over and over, revising over and over, and still never getting one person who was interested enough to request more pages, inevitably leads me to think I simply can’t write. I mean yes, I have talent, but I’m missing something that successful writers have, and until I figure out what that is and fix it, it’s all pointless.

And 2) I’ve lost the joy of writing. I’ve heard other writers talk about how much they hate the process of writing. That seems insane to me. If you don’t like doing it, why do it, even if you’re good at it? For me, losing myself in a story was pure joy. It’s what drove me to want to spend my weekends sitting at a desk in front of a computer. What could be better? But the joy is gone. It’s work. Work that I no longer think I’m particularly good at. And now I look back at all the social events I said ‘no’ to because I wanted to write. What a waste, because those invitations come far less often now, after years of ‘no’ and what have I got to show for it?

I’ve identified the problems, now I need to find the solutions. Writing is a lonely, solitary endeavor, and it’s easy to start listening to the doubts when they’re the only voice you’re hearing. One thing I have always wanted, but never found, is a mentor who has been down the writer’s road before. Someone that takes enough interest in me to want to see me succeed in some aspect of my life. Someone to guide me where I want to go, to slap me (figuratively) when I need it, and encourage me to take risks when necessary. The only reason I’m posting this here, is to put it out into the universe. I’m not saying I’ll get one through this blog post but you don’t get what you don’t ask for, so I’m asking. I think that could help me with issue #1) lack of confidence.

As for #2) lack of joy? My initial thought is that I want to start saying ‘yes’ to social activities in hopes that it will recharge my joy battery. It may not be the ultimate solution, but it is a place to start.

And that’s why I say I’m not hopelessly lost. Just a little lost. Or maybe not lost at all. Maybe this is just a part of my writer’s journey.

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Uncharted Territory

After my last post, I thought it was full steam ahead. I was ready to delve into another pass on Fear Unleashed before self-publishing. There was book two of the series to finish. Plus I have two other books to edit, and another book started. And there were short story contests. I was ready to throw myself back into all of it. And then… I found myself in uncharted territory.

For the first time in my life, I had lost my desire, drive, and inspiration. The short story I tried to write for the summer contest was flat. The one I’m working on for the fall contest also feels flat. I just didn’t feel like there is much to say. I’d never felt that way before.

On Labor Day weekend, I gave myself permission to hole up, read, and contemplate life. With time to think, I began to see why I no longer felt like writing.

From recent events, It’s clear that we’ve passed the tipping point with the earth. It’s not to say that we couldn’t still stop climate change, but we won’t. As fractured as society is, there simply isn’t time to get those who are reluctant to see the obvious, to change their ways. And without everyone on board, the task is probably impossible. Violent natural disasters will only increase, causing suffering for humanity.

We are seeing a return to authoritarianism across the globe. While we managed to hang on to our democracy in this last election, the undercurrent of the cold civil war is taking us towards insurrection and violence. With two different sets of “facts” and two different realities, it’s hard to see how we can ever be the “united” states again. Every opportunity for unity is manipulated for political gain. Greed and selfishness have replaced our former American ethos of loving our neighbor and coming together as one. Again, can this country be saved? Absolutely? Will we? Doubtful. We have become too tribal.

The pandemic was one such issue used to divide us, when it could so very easily have united us. It has left hundreds of thousands of Americans dead. Sadly, we’re no where near the end, because we refuse to do what’s needed. We brought this suffering on ourselves, and if we think it’s the last pandemic we’ll be dealing with, we’re wrong. As the environment is destroyed, disease only increases.

With a stream of disasters and our shift towards societal collapse, writing seems like a silly endeavor. I’m writing for a world that no longer exists. And while I’ve read impassioned pleas for the arts to continue in the midst of such chaos, highlighting the great works of art that come out of such periods, I feel I’m not up to the task. I’m good with words, yes, but I don’t know that I’m talented enough to narrate the collapse of civilization. There are others who are clearly more skilled than I am who can handle that task. I suddenly feel led to do nothing more than be in each moment, experiencing what life has to offer. That seems like enough.

I have no idea if this state will continue. I don’t know if it will recede as mysteriously as it came over me. Perhaps this is just the eye of the storm, and soon the winds of story will howl through and around me. I only know that right now, just being is enough. So I will be, and maybe being will come to include writing again.

I look forward to finding out.

And I’ll keep you posted.

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Starting Again

This blog has been abandoned for far too long. There was the turmoil of the election and the never-ending pandemic, and for some time my little writing endeavors felt so unimportant. I reached the decision to self-publish my first novel, FEAR UNLEASHED, and kept meaning to blog about that, but never did. I hired an editor and delved back into the book that had been sitting on a shelf for a couple of years.

And just as I neared the end of the editing process, my landlord sent me a text telling me someone had offered him money for the house, and he was going to take it. I ended up having about 45 days to find a new place to live. I abandoned editing and publishing in order to deal with the immediate crisis.

As in so many cities and towns, we are in the midst of a housing crisis, with investors who have more money than sense, buying up every house available for more than it’s worth, driving up prices and rents. With a great deal of luck, and the blessing of being so well connected in this town, I secured financing and got a house before it went on the market, so no bidding war ensued. It’s an old house, so it will require a lot of upkeep and there are some pretty major projects in my future, but it feels like home, and I look forward to years and years spent here.

Now that I’m settled, it’s time to get back to the work of writing. There was a summer writing contest, and despite all the uproar in my life, I worked on a story. However, it was not up to my standards, and I could never get it where I wanted, so that was abandoned. It was still a worthwhile project to get me back into the writing frame of mind. And if I ever finish it, I will add it to my short story site. Today I returned to editing my novel and working towards self-publishing it.

So, after a long fallow period where I began to wonder if I would ever get back to writing, I am starting again… again.

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Moving On

Writing is a journey, and there is so much to learn along the way. One of the things you must learn is when it’s time to move on. I knew the odds of publishing my very first novel were slim. It didn’t stop me from loving the book and trying my best. It has been through many revisions, and no one has shown much interest. I still believe in it, but know it needs help that I don’t have. So I had to take a hard look and decide it was time to move on. Doing that in the midst of the stress of a pandemic and social unrest made me feel a bit like this.

While querying, editing, and querying again, I also wrote two other books. One is another children’s book that I have yet to even begin editing. The other is my memoir, detailing the 25 years I spent in the entertainment industry. I was able to use the stay-at-home order to find more time to finish it and finally pare it down to find its form.

I thoroughly enjoyed going through my work orders, reading my journals, and falling deep into the memories of the time spent with Kevin Costner in South Dakota, or with Bob Hoskins on a soundstage at Television City, I relived the infamy of turning off Bill Clinton’s mic in the middle of a speech, and the sublime feeling of standing on the field of an NFC championship game with my eyes closed, imagining what it would feel like to have the roar of the crowd be for me.

Professional Eavesdropper takes the reader behind the scenes in Hollywood and leads them on a journey from naïvely wanting to be a part of celebrity culture to the realities of the toxic environments that culture encourages. With help from beta readers and wonderfully honest critique partners, the memoir began to take its shape. It likely still needs a lot more work, but I think it’s a fairly entertaining read.

Tomorrow, after finishing the polish on my query letter and synopsis, I will send out a couple of queries, testing the waters. I am cautiously optimistic that I have something people beyond my friends and family will find interesting, and something that can begin a dialogue on what celebrity culture does to society.

Some day I hope to return to Fear Unleashed and find the missing pieces to it. Until then, I am moving on with renewed optimism and excitement where this memoir might lead. Wish me luck.

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Anti-Social Media

It’s come to my attention that I don’t like social media.

It didn’t help when I recently took a course on writing your memoir, and it was suggested that if you want to get it published, you need to have, at minimum, 100,000 followers. That’s never going to happen. I freak out when I have 200 followers.

I’ll admit, that in early stages of entering a social media platform, there’s a rush of excitement. I’m connecting. It’s fun. Whee!

But then you have to keep it up. I see people posting on Twitter 10 times a day. I barely think to look at it once a day. It is a great resource of connecting with other writers, agents, and publishers, but I simply don’t have the time and energy to make it place for real interaction.

Then there’s Facebook. When considering a post, I always ask myself why I want to post it. Who would be interested in what I have to say? Will they be entertained? Am I informing? Am I just trying to create an image of myself? Generally, after thinking all that through, I tend not to post. Sometimes I still post when I shouldn’t. Some of my reluctance to post has to do with a theory I have on intimacy. I was contemplating what intimacy is, and realized it’s the special moments we share when no-one else is around. When we broadcast everything we do, we cheapen those intimate moments. I would much rather submerse myself in that moment with a good friend than stop to take a picture and post it to show everybody I have a friend and we do stuff together. I used to feel obligated to skim through FB posts several times a day because of FOMO, but I’ve learned I don’t miss out on the people around me when I’m not glued to my phone, and that’s more important.

And then there’s this blog. I should really post more often. I should really try to get it out there, but once again I’m faced with a time and energy problem. My work requires a lot of me, and my savings are running out. I can’t afford time-wasters. I need to focus on writing, editing, and querying.

So I’ve come to the conclusion that when it comes to social media, I have to accept I’m old. And that’s going to be a huge battle in the new publishing world, but I’m just going to have to let me words speak for themselves. Either my work is good, and someone sees that, or I will spend the rest of my life continuing to tell stories just for me.

I have two books sitting in my files, needing to be edited. One is a children’s book, and the other is the memoir of my adventures in Hollywood. I’m eager to get to both, and yet last weekend I got body slammed by the best story I’ve had in a very long time. A book for adults this time, though I think teens would like it too. There’s depth, sub plots, fully developed characters, and intricate themes. I spent the day handwriting 12 pages of rough story outline. It was amazing to see it flow through me. Those are the moments every writer lives for. I think I have to write this before I edit the other ones. I just have to. I don’t know how it will resolve, and I’m trying to figure out if I can just go ahead and write what has been laid out so far in hopes the ending will present itself.

My posts will probably continue to be sporadic, because as it turns out, I’m designed more for anti-social media. So you can be ironic, and drop me a line, telling me how much you dislike social media too.

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The Prodigal Blogger

I have returned.

The last few months have been a stressful blur. I’d never been through the process of moving a business. It was almost as much work as moving myself across the country, even though we moved less than a mile. But it’s finally done, and the new space is amazing.

The little girl I take care of in addition to my job, reached the terrible twos at about 20 months. Now don’t get me wrong, she is a sweet girl who is better behaved than most children her age, and I love her dearly. She’s incredibly bright, already counting to 10 in both English and Spanish, can sing her ABCs, and loves belting out Tomorrow from Annie, though she often stops midway through the chorus to explain very seriously, “I like Annie.” But despite how darling and wonderful she is, she’s still 2, and there’s nothing quite like having a 2 year old crying and pulling on your leg, while you’re trying to be a professional and deal with clients waiting to pay or get information, while the phone is ringing. You want to see BP rise in real time, strap a monitor on me at work. When I got home at night I would be happy doing nothing but stare blankly at the wall. Writing? Ha! I have no idea how people with children write.

Then there was PitchWars and the disappointment of not getting a single nibble. That led to a questioning of my writing ability. Winning a writing contest helped that a little. I can write. I can.

But through it all, I somehow kept putting words on the page. I’m about 1/2 way through writing my memories of my first five years in Hollywood. It’s been a really fun project. I knew I had some incredible experiences, but putting them down, one after another has reminded me how truly extraordinary my life has been. When you can research your work by looking up historic events online, you know you’ve done some stuff. I’ve begun to weave in the narrative of my own life adventures, not just what was happening on set. It was an historic time to be in LA: the riots, the Northridge earthquake. It’s beginning to feel like there could be an audience for this outside of friends and family. Eventually I’m going to have to figure out just how honest I can be about some celebrities. Right now, I’m letting it all out – the good, the bad, and the very, very, very ugly. When you combine fame, money, and entitlement, there’s a lot of ugly.

And yesterday I finally began querying my first manuscript again. Just a couple. We’ll see how that goes.

Lately I’ve found even more time for writing due to an accident. Thankfully it was a good accident and I’m not laid up injured or anything. I accidentally acquired a Roomba and it has changed my life. It was purchased as a Christmas gift for the boss, and then she bought one for herself before it could be given. The problem was, it had been on such a steep discount that I had a hard time returning it. It would have been like giving money away. And since I had a cat that gets so upset by the vacuum cleaner that she either a) pees the bed or b) runs into the farthest corner of the yard and buries her head in the grass until it is over, I often let the vacuuming go so as not to traumatize her, which means living in a filthy house. Gross!

So even though I really can’t afford it, I kept it and decided to apply my recent writing contest winnings toward the purchase. There’s been a learning curve. It first ran around like a drunk, bumping into everything, getting stuck in weird places, sending me texts saying it was stuck on a cliff and needed help. It’s starting to settle in and do a good job, but as my boss pointed out, robots are not going to be taking over the world anytime soon.

Because the Roomba requires the floor to be tidy – no discarded socks, books thrown on the floor, etc, I have to keep things picked up. And because the floor looks so clean I began to notice other places where there was clutter and began to pick them up. And then I began to be bothered by the kitchen looking messy when the rest of the house was so nice, so I began to keep that clean. And all of a sudden, my house is clean 24/7. I don’t stumble through the week, letting things pile up, then find myself spending the weekend cleaning the house. Once the weekend hits I do laundry. I cook. But mostly I WRITE! I love my Roomba so much! And while my cats don’t love it, they are a little fascinated by it, and they certainly don’t pee my bed in fear anymore.

So that’s my writer tip for the week. Get a Roomba.

And just keep writing.

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Dipping a Toe in Social Media

For years I’ve avoided most social media, because, well, it is the devil.

The most engaged I’ve been with it is Facebook, and that is just for friends and family I know. Even that has its myriad of downsides, and the more engaged I am in the real world, the less I’m interested in Facebook.

I have a Twitter account, but for years I mainly followed breaking news, celebrities, and friends. It was also an excellent place to vent my anger or frustration at a variety of companies that failed in putting the customer first. I never cared about gaining followers, and in fact, was more comfortable having few people listening to what I said.

I have an Instagram account. Can’t tell you the last time I posted.

However, all that is changing. It has to. There is a wonderful podcast called Write or Die, and many of the guests talk about the supportive writing community they discovered online. Twitter seems to be the hangout for the literary set – agents, editors, writers, publishers, all hanging out around the #writingcommunity water cooler.

I started following a few writers and agents, attempting to jump into conversations here or there, but never really connecting. I continued as a Twitter wallflower.

Last year, I discovered a mentoring contest called PitchWars, just before it began. There was time to enter, but I missed out on the socializing that went on beforehand. This year I’m using PitchWars as an excuse to finally dip my toe in the social media pool.

Downside: It is a time sucker, and I hate that I’m spending more time in front of a screen.

Upsides: I am connecting with other authors pursuing publication, as well as published authors, editors, and agents. In the last month I’ve gained 30 followers, which I know isn’t many, but for me it’s a lot. Quality over quantity. Not only am I following authors and agents, a few are following me. I’ve met a new CP (critique partner). It’s starting to feel like I’m finding my community.

Writers have vibrant worlds and stories in their heads, but we alone can see them. Then we spend years alone, putting them on paper not knowing if anyone will join us and fall in love with them too. Writing is a very lonely and often disheartening endeavor. Social media can help. Struggling with writer’s block? Tweet your frustration and you’ll have a chorus of suggestions and encouragement. Confused about the query process? Ask the #writingcommunity and get advice from industry professionals. Search #MSWL to see which agents would love to see a book just like yours. Social media can bring you inside the #writingcommunity and out of the wannabe cold.

Even if it’s not your thing, make it your thing. At least try it.

You can follow me at @LynnieDN I’ll give you a follow back.

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Content

So, you ask, does the title refer to the content of a book, or being content in life?

It is both. You see, I’ve discovered some things about my writerly self. It is easiest for me to write when I am happy. It is harder for me to write when I am unhappy. But, it is hardest to write when I am content. In other words, being content means I produce little content. See? Both.

I began the new year with the determination to turn off the screens and read more. I have done that. I set a goal of 50 books this year and I’m almost to 40. The free time also set my mind to niggling at problem areas of my book, which along with feedback from critique partners, helped me delve back into a rewrite. Success on that front.

Already feeling a slower pace of life from reading more, I then discovered a meditation/breathing technique that calms anxiety and finally allowed me to sleep well after over 20 years of interrupted sleep and constant weariness. It’s amazing how much more manageable problems seem when you’ve had a good night’s sleep.

The biggest problem I have to manage is my finances, and I can’t say all the worry from that is gone. I’m slowly depleting what’s left of my savings, but all the things that truly matter in life are in place. My work is fulfilling, I’ve found my tribe, and I’m strong and healthy. And with better sleep and less anxiety I can appreciate all that even more. Thus, I am content.

Yes, being a published author is an unfulfilled goal, but since I’m content, I’m happy to keep journeying. If the road leads to a career in writing and I don’t live my senior years trying to figure out how to keep a roof over my head, that’s a bonus.

The down side to all this contentment… it’s hard to find the motivation to spend hours a day carefully reading each sentence of my manuscript, making sure it says exactly what I want it to say. There’s just no rush.

Pitchwars is coming up, so I have that as a deadline, but it’s still far enough away that I don’t feel the pressure. And I wonder, should I just start querying again and skip the mentor contest? That would give me a more immediate goal and keep me rewriting. After all, I now have a killer query letter and I think the first 10 pages will grab the reader. Do I just go for it? However, I see so many Pitchwars mentees get book deals after having a mentor help them.

I think I will wait and submit again, because if I submit and get no requests, I will know I still have work to do, and won’t have burned through any agents. Sadly, that decision won’t speed up my editing process, and it will be even longer before I start querying again.

That’s okay. What’s a few more months when you’re content and enjoying the scenery.

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Once More Unto the Breach

Four years ago today I arrived in Springfield, MO – my spirit nearly broken, exhausted, and clinging to a small bit of hope that my life wasn’t irreparable. It wasn’t, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I am not grateful for the leap I took.

Looking back, I have to laugh at my naivety. I had done the math, knew the cost of living in Springfield, knew the profit I made from the sale of my house, and figured I had 3-4 years to get a book published before it all fell apart.

It’s probably a good thing I didn’t know that the journey to publication can be a very, very long one. Many authors don’t get published until they’ve written 9-10-20 books. Each of those books might go through 6-16 rewrites. 3-4 years! HA!

Of course there are always the wunderkinds – the ones who get published right out of the gate. There are the self-published who can claim the title of published author, but can’t claim to have many readers or earn a living. But the vast majority of authors who want to publish traditionally, toil away in the trenches for years, learning to write, learning to tell stories, and learning to deal with rejection.

This is what I’ve gathered the path to publication is: write – celebrate – edit and polish – celebrate again, imagining agents thronging to your brilliant book – rejection – rewrite – test the waters – rejection – rewrite – rewrite – rejection – rewrite – rewrite – rewrite – rewrite – agent – rewrite – rewrite – rewrite – publisher – rewrite – rewrite – rewrite. Publication!

I’ve been stuck in the rewrite process, floundering. Not sure what direction to go. Since form letter rejections leave the author blind, and my writer’s group has disbanded for the time being, I needed to get some pertinent critiques from authors who write and read similar books to what I’m writing. I got a couple of critique partners online and we are in the process of reading each other’s manuscripts and giving feedback. I’ve gotten one back already and it has given me so much to think about. Many areas that I had problems with, but my early readers assured me were fine, gave them problems too. I wish I could learn to listen to my own instincts more.

I am heading back into the rewrite breach. What will follow is analyzing the already written story for structure. Breaking each chapter down. Examining plot. And most daunting… possibly rewriting the entire novel from a different POV. Right now each chapter is told from each of the main characters point of view – rotating through to tell the story. I am considering switching to third person omniscient. It seems overwhelming to even attempt it, but I may give it a shot. If it doesn’t work, I still have my original.

So for those who ask where I am with my writing… that is where I am. Once more unto the breach.

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Boredom Update

By this time each year, most people have let their new year’s resolutions slide into oblivion. So, it made sense to wait six weeks before reporting on how my boredom experiment is going.

It’s been an abject failure.

Let me explain.

My life has improved dramatically in just a few weeks. Last year I read 16 books over the year. More than one a month. I considered it acceptable, though for a writer, less than stellar. This year, on Goodreads Reading Challenge, I committed to reading at least 50 books. With largely TV free evenings and weekends, I read 9 books in January. (So far, Beneath a Scarlet Sky – a true story of a 17 year old Italian boy during WWII, is my favorite.)

With more free time away from screens, I began meditating regularly again. I decided on the schedule of 20 minutes, twice daily. Yes, it meant getting up earlier, which I am loathe to do. There have been many mornings when I thought about going to just 1 evening session a day, but I wanted to stick with it until it was a habit — give it a fair shot. I’ve reached that point. I look forward to the time on the cushion, and am reaping the benefits of a regular practice, though some mornings, I would still rather sleep another 20 minutes.

It’s great I’m reading so much more, after all, I recently heard that every hour of reading is like an hour of studying writing. But, I also have a shelf full of writing books, many of which I’ve never read. It made sense to add more academic endeavors to my reading regimen.

After looking over the titles, I picked The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass, of the Donald Maass Literary Agency. In just the first chapter I saw things I could do to improve both books I’ve been working on. It felt like my opening chapter of Fear Unleashed didn’t grab the reader like I wanted it to. My intention was to create a slow build of getting to know the main character, but I don’t think that helped sell the story. It has inspired me to rethink much of my first novel, and since I have a lot of passion for those changes, I think I’m jumping tracks and letting my current work in progress go for a moment while I rewrite Fear Unleashed.

The truth of my boredom update is this… I have failed miserably at being bored in 2019. I now see that I already was bored and screen time was just a lazy way to fill the boredom. So I guess I am sort of breaking my resolution. I no longer resolve that 2019 is the year of boredom. Instead I resolve it is the year I switch boredom off and reengage with the things that give life meaning. It’s an easy resolution to keep.

How are your New Year’s Resolutions going? Have you also tried less screen time? How is that working for you?

Read any good books lately? Please tell me about them, as I’m constantly looking for my next book.

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