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Friday Five Minus One

Friday Five3

Happy Friday to you! I only have four things to share this week, but there’s a lot to chew on in some of them.

  1. Jane Friedman’s post on social media for authors was a soothing balm to me. Particularly these sentences: “It works best when you can see it as play, as a natural extension of your work. As soon as you carve it out as the ‘marketing and promotion’ part of work/life, your results may be lackluster.” Sometimes, I worry about my online presence, as the bulk of my writing time is spent in offline projects and SEO stuff. Then when I do post on social media, I feel like it has to really be something special. So I end up not posting for longer. It’s possible I’m overthinking it and just need to play.
  2. Melissa Febos via  Catapult urges us to fight the expectations placed on us (…that we place on ourselves also?) to better manage our time and get work done. I like any advice that tells me to ignore emails (except for customer emails at work, of course).
  3. If there’s one thing I love about the upcoming female remake of Lord of the Flies, it’s the opportunity it provides for satire. The last faux excerpt on this list is my favorite:

    “Murder?!” asked Erica.

    “Literally the only thing we’re trying to do on this island is not die. Why—” but Sam couldn’t finish her sentence. She was laughing too hard.

  4. The 2017 Texas Book Festival. I am going to this one year. This might not be the year, but maybe. I haven’t been to Austin in a while.

So that’s my week. Give me a fifth – what have you read this week that you liked?

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story cure

The Story Cure is a how-to manual from a book doctor on fixing your manuscript. This book can do for your manuscript what a physician’s home reference book can do for what ails you physically.

According to Dinty Moore, a book doctor is “a person who will take a book manuscript…and diagnose why it is not yet working.” He then goes on to detail what aspects you might need to address during the editing process. The goal of this book is to help writers get from “I finished/started/proposed a manuscript” to “I have a real book that people might actually want to read.”

When I am evaluating writing books, I look at three things:

  1. How many notes I take
  2. How many ideas I scribble in the margin for current or future projects.
  3. How long it takes me to get through it or how often I come back to it while editing

Judging from my five pages of excited jottings, this book was a success. I read it straight through once and then went back to start some of the tasks Moore lays out. It has improved my focus on my main fiction project and has inspired new ideas for a novel I’m going to start in November. It’s been so helpful, I may have to give him credit in my acknowledgements section when the books are published.

It should also be noted that I said “when” – not “if” – they are published, because The Story Cure has armed me with tools that I’m confident will lead to publication.

Elements that I found particularly helpful include

  • character motivation/development questions to focus your characters (and thus your story),
  • a massive amount of examples and advice from other writers (complete with reference list), and
  • adaptations for people who write fiction vs. nonfiction and for people who are at varying steps in the writing process.

I also appreciate his writing style, particularly when it includes gems like this when referring to why we fix bad writing – “So Roland is safe after all, but unfortunately not everyone is safe, because it is at this point that the reader pulls out a gun and shoots the author at point-blank range.”

The Story Cure is a helpful tool for people who are in the midst of editing a story that isn’t quite where they want it to be. This book can help get you there.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

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photo (2)

My Instagram is cute. My house is not always cute. Sometimes, parts of my house look like this. It’s okay…ish. It could be better. I like it when it’s better.

My schedule has changed recently, so things are falling through the cracks. Things that I’m usually pretty good at, like keeping up with my meal planning calendar and laundry. It’s been a long time since the table beside the couch looked like the picture above. I can’t say that I’ve missed that.

I recently lamented to friends that I was disappointed with how my year of wild is going. As someone who is mostly organized but is also a little fond of and prone to chaos, I was looking forward to wild really shaking my year up. A still life of cups and glasses was not the chaos I had in mind. On the surface, wild hasn’t stirred around much. My life is just as un-wild as it ever has been.

Or so it would seem.

One facet of wild that I am particularly interested in cultivating is freedom. Freedom from shoulds. Freedom from lifeless traditions. Freedom from good advice that doesn’t particularly work for me in practice.

In this way, this year has been super wild, and my progress on my resolutions shows it. I am farther along toward my goals this year than I was at this time last year. Who knew that, instead of just saying, “I do what I want!” while still bending over backwards to fulfill obligations that aren’t really mine to fulfill, intentionally embracing saying no in order to cling to what fulfills me would result in getting what I want done?

Everyone, you say? Literally everyone knew that? Okay. That’s fair.

Anyway, I apologize to wild for being disappointed. Although…don’t go anywhere, wild. We’re not done here.

Perhaps it doesn’t look wild to me because I use structure, but I think this is a misunderstanding of the term. Sometimes I expect wild to be loose and flowy, but then I watch an animal stalk its prey (and by animal, I do mean my mom’s barn cats). Wild definitely requires a certain measure of focus for survival.

So this week, I begin testing a new time management structure. I was inspired by Sarah Bessey’s best practices post. The ones that really stick out to me are actually writing when I have made time to write, setting boundaries but writing them in pencil, and fill your well (because if I’m not reading or eating right or staying active, everything else goes awry). I have added a second job writing SEO content, so it makes sense that my schedule could not continue as it was without something important taking the hit. I imagine it will take a few weeks of tweaking, but I’m confident that it will work.

For those who want to put a little structure in their schedule, it’s pretty simple. I started by making a list of priorities. For me, I thought about what I would need in order to consider myself as having my life together. Keep in mind that I am single and childless and that, for the most part, I operate on a pretty low supply of give-a-damns when it comes to other people telling me what my life should be. If this does not describe you, you’re going to have to concentrate a little more to get past the voices that want to shout over you. When you are listing your priorities, your opinion is the one that matters the most.

[Aside – this is not advice to shut out other people altogether. If you are in a committed relationship and you want to remain in it, you might want to list it as a priority. Please don’t ever use “I’m focusing on me right now” as an excuse to be an inattentive asshole. If you want to break up, just break up. Don’t be passive and shady about it. /psa]

After I had my list of priorities, I divided them into daily, weekly, and monthly lists. I listed each one as specific tasks to complete. For example, for my body weight, I need to drink 100 ounces of water a day to stay hydrated, so that’s what I listed as one of my daily health goals. Decide what you can reasonably do, and quantify each goal on your list. Once you have these lists, document them. I keep a goals calendar, but you can keep up with them in whatever way works for you. It helps you chart your progress.

What process do you use to meet goals?

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Not Friday Five

So Friday got away from me last week, but I have some gems to share with you from the Internet, so here we are on Monday.

Summer is my second wind of trying new things. It’s also the season that I tend to eat the best (because really, it’s just too hot to eat anything but salad and fruit. And also snow cones). So a lot of the things that stick out to me that I want to save for later are food and indoor fitness related, because running outside right now until October? That’s ridiculous. And then there are the things that always stick out to me, like livable wages and social experiments. So…enjoy!

  1. I also like tacos, though, and so I need this book. I’m not sure this can be considered a cleanse in the traditional sense, but I’m willing to listen. Because tacos.
  2. I like stories like this, even though they’re clickbaity and possibly staged and insert-all-the-cynical-things-here. All wages should be livable. Living is what working is for.
  3. I might take tap and ballet again. That would be fun. And also indoors. Win-win.
  4. This made me laugh and laugh. Also, I can attest – accurate. Don’t #notallmen me. Because that’s not the point. The point is that it doesn’t have to happen every time; it happens enough that, statistically speaking, it’s likely just as much the result of societal conditioning as it is individual asshattery, so we as a society should look into cutting it out. Also, if you feel defensive, maybe ask yourself why. Is it because it really didn’t apply to you, or is it because maybe it applied a little and you feel uncomfortable that you may have made this impression? Honor that discomfort. Maybe deal with that instead of reacting defensively. As an aside, when I use this kind of response when people compliment me, and they like it, it makes me like them even more. My people.
  5. Last, I love this. This Gen-Xer agrees.

I’m thinking about sending another newsletter soon. I have some writing news that’s exciting and different. So if you want to hear me yammer on about it, you can sign up here. Also, there’s usually a recipe. I mean, it’s summer, so it may be for a snow cone. But it would be a delicious snow cone!

 

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Friday Five2

Title reference – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Well, I did it. I turned 42, which really does feel like an answer to something. Getting through this year has felt like an accomplishment. I wonder if this is how every year from now on will be – more aches, less patience with the world and its ridiculous ways, more unlearning and relearning. It’s not so bad, I guess.

Last year at this time, I was freaking out over my blood pressure being high for the first time ever. This year, I am happy to report that it is back to normal (but my heart rate still runs high…because anxiety…working on it) and that my food and activity choices have had a lot to do with that. I have a number of pounds lost, which will make my doctor happy, but I’m happier about other things.

Today’s list is made of stories with which my 42-year-old self identifies.

  1. Addie Zierman’s Of Lent and Emptiness – On fasting/not fasting and Whole30, which I still refuse to try but if I were to try it, posts like this would be what would change my mind. Also, I weirdly miss fasting for Lent.
  2. Shawn Smucker’s On Seeing a Neighbor Hit Their Child, What Maile Did Right, and What I Would Do Differently – I’m mentioned Green Dot training fleetingly, but it is not fleeting in my mind. Scenarios like this go through my head all the time with questions of what would I do, whom would I call, how would I respond.
  3. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls – Our church is starting the second annual collection of books for our Book Bag Project. We give three or four books to graduates of a local preschool to encourage their love of reading. More and more, I am convinced that writers (and artists and musicians and etc.) have incredible power to unlock story and innovation and progress, and I want to be a part of that.
  4. Cat principles. This is basically a to-do list. Also…I remain resolute in my coffee consumption (just…shhh…).
  5. Sometimes, Ray Palmer is my spirit animal. Also, I love Legends of Tomorrow. And Flash. And even Arrow. And especially Supergirl (i.e., Cat Grant)And will always rewatch Smallville and will always, ALWAYS be angry at Season 4. Fandom squee for life.

Hello, 42. Happy to meet you.

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Friday Five2

This month has been a gift so far. I have had sufficient free time (which is no small thing for an introvert), I’m out of my writing slump and back into a good rhythm, and I have been taking advantage of all my birthday deals and coupons.

Also, it’s like the Internet knows it’s my birthmonth. Here are my five favorite things on the Internet this week:

1. A story about Denton PD’s unique relationship with the city’s homeless

2. Wildfires have destroyed a large portion of the Panhandle, and ranchers across the state are driving hay bales to feed livestock, so much so that there has been a temporary hold on doing so. And while I am not generally a fan of Abbott’s, I appreciate that he was quick to cut through red tape to make this process go smoothly. Friends have set up GoFundMe pages, and officers have stopped trucks carrying hay that direction to help pay for the gas needed to get there (Texas is big, y’all.).

3. Great article in Teen Vogue about Green Dot active bystander training and its effectiveness in reducing incidents of interpersonal violence.

4. I spend a lot of time thinking about first lines in my own books and stories. I might start a blog series with titles taken from some of my favorite first lines.

5. And finally, Beauty and the Beast comes out this week, and I’m excited, but I’m not sure it’s possible for me to enjoy it more than I enjoyed the James Corden’s crosswalk version. This is my favorite thing on the intrawebs this week.

What has made you happy this week?

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feb-wii-final

Books, coffee, and wine. Yep, sounds about right. Books pictured: Furiously Happy and A Man Called Ove. 

February is one of my favorite months, because I get to celebrate some of my favorite people. Officially, I mean. I can celebrate them any time, really. But they were born in February.

Michelle and I hung out one weekend for Galentines. There were movies (Both Pitch Perfects and Antman), wine, and junk food. And then my sister’s birthday was this last weekend. We went to see La La Land (meh – see below) after trying to see it for a couple of months.

In related news, February is also when I watch more movies than usual.

La La Land was what I expected. It was cute, and there was singing/dancing, which I enjoy. I also like the 10,000 nods to old films. But also – the savior of jazz, should ever such a person actually be needed in the world (i.e., such a person is not. Jazz is fine. It is both respectful of its roots and excited about its future. It is wild and vibrant and often experimental – *cough*aswereitsroots*cough* – and it doesn’t need saving) is probably not going to look like Ryan Gosling, adorable as he may be. If the roots of jazz are really what his character wanted to go back to, it might have been helpful for said character to remember that jazz was born of struggle, so maybe white, straight male is not the most appropriate face of that.

I have watched less TV this month, but what I have watched is still superhero-y and This is Us. I can’t get enough of that show. I love seeing a depiction of what it’s like to live with anxiety. I love the cast and that they play with the fans. I love their sorry/not sorry video, although what they really need to apologize to me for is Jack Pearson. TV has been waiting decades for Jack Pearson, and frankly – so have I. Except…he’s fictional. So basically I’m never getting married because this show has raised my already lofty standards, and a Jack Pearson sort of guy, if such a person does even exist, is probably already married or dead. Either way, he’s unavailable, so I’m going to be alone forever. Thanks, This is Us.

I didn’t finish a lot of books in February, but I read excerpts of quite a few. I currently am reading eight different books. James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room and bell hooks’s Killing Rage are on my nightstand, and I recommend both. I always love Jenny Lawson’s work, and her Furiously Happy is no exception.

You may have noticed I have not been into blogging this month, which is funny, since I’m talking about blogging at my mastermind writers group tomorrow. I also haven’t been writing a lot. I blame the ridiculous springtime weather we’ve been having. It always inspires me to withdraw (because allergies and because spring is hard for me). This is where the discipline of writing comes in handy, because I scheduled two writing nights this week, and they were more productive than the rest of the month put together. It was a good reminder that I don’t have to wait for inspiration to do the work of writing.

I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer. Hop over and read some other posts, and share with us what you’re into this month!

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