Thursday, November 17, 2011

When life nudges into the plan

It is appreciated when someone tells me they believe I know what I'm doing and I'm going to succeed. Somewhere deep inside of me I know I can do what I want to do if I am willing to work hard to get there. But inside my head I see the doubt in the eyes of people I know. I hear them say, "You will get there someday," but I imagine that they don't really believe it. They are living by the credo that mother's teach their young: If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.

I know a little about writing. I was a newspaper reporter/editor for how many years? But I haven't published a novel yet, so I don't think other writers take me seriously. And so, that little seed of doubt is enough to hold me back from achieving my dreams. To hear someone close to me, whom I trusted, say, "I gave up on your writing long ago. You aren't ever going to do anything with it" shakes my self-confidence.

Do you know--have you ever heard--that you have to believe in yourself when you think there is nobody else to believe in you? So, why am I holding myself back? Why am I not believing in me? Why do I think I don't know enough? Life has taught me so many lessons, and I remember that long ago day when I asked God to teach me what I needed to know about my gifts so I could use them for him. It's more years later than I want to admit. Isn't it about time? Then there was that thing I read a few weeks takes 10,000 hours of doing something in order to master that something. Haven't I gotten close to 10K hours yet?

Well, as I've told my husband many times, writing is not the only thing I've been doing all of this time. And many times my writing took a backseat on my list of priorities. Family has always been first for me. Children, husband, parents, home...And at the end of the day I would drop, exhausted, into bed and immediately drop off to sleep. There was no time for my dreams then. But I held to the faith that one day it would be my turn.

Is it my turn yet? My children are grown. My parents are gone. My husband drifts in and out of my days, doing his thing, grumbling that I haven't done anything with that degree I had to go back to school and get. (Actually, he's careful what he grumbles about because he knows I'm not going to forget and he's going to hear about it whenever the time is right for that conversation.) But I've been busy! But maybe it's time to set my busyness (business??)and move on to the dreams I've been procrastinating over. I'm not getting any younger!

So, here it is, Nov. 18, NaNoWriMo is at Day 18 and my word count is at 9,704 at 12:20 a.m. If I marathon write this weekend--Friday midnight to Sunday midnight--will I be able to pick up 20K more words? That sounds like a lot, but if my writer friend, Carma, can write in excess of 80K already this month, surely I can come up with 20K in a weekend! Well, first I have to revise my outline. A major change took place in the story line that I was NOT anticipating. And I'm just starting Chapter 5 of 22 or so.

Pacing the floor is no longer permitted. What am I waiting for? Just do it!!!

(c)2011 Cathy Thomas Brownfield -- All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

NANO 2011

It is Sunday, Oct. 30, my dad's birthday. He would be 85 if he was living. Fourteen of us gathered at the cemetery, where we lovingly refer to Mom and Dad's headstone as "Dad's Pad." This is Mom's first year at the annual Silly String Fight. Three years ago the grandchildren hosted a birthday party for their grandfather because they feared he would not be with us to celebrate the next one. They were correct. Five months later he was gone. At that SSF, Dad had SUCH a good time! We have pictures! So, we decided that it would become an annual event in his honor. Mom passed away in late August, so she was there for this one. And now, with the celebration of our parents' lives behind us, it is time to focus on NaNoWriMo 2011.

I usually write by the seat of my pants, not really planning a story, just starting in writing and seeing where it takes me by the end of 50K words or 30 days, whichever comes first. But this year I am going to write a story I've been thinking about for several years. It came to me one day as I was driving to classes at Kent State-East Liverpool Campus. I was thinking about the kinds of films Clint Eastwood has written, directed, starred in, etc., over the last 10 years or so, and what kind of story I could write that might gain his attention for another movie. Since he's the same age as my mother, and I think I heard that he wasn't going to do any more movies, I guess that doesn't matter. But if the book would ever become a movie, I would want Mr. Eastwood to have the lead male role. I know he would do it justice.

So, I sat down yesterday and decided I needed to plot it out a bit. I have a synopsis/outline for 22 chapters, the story from beginning to end. But I didn't have character names so I started to play with that. A friend (Karen) said the names would come. I don't know that I like the names, and maybe they will change, but I did come up with them. I started to do character studies, but I haven't gotten very far with that. I think I read that Stephen King just starts writing and sees where it goes. Well, with the number of books he has published, I guess by now he can do that successfully. Well, I will see how it works for me as I attempt to follow his lead in this respect.

I'm not usually much of a follower, but maybe there is a time to lead and a time to follow.

If you are participating in NaNoWriMo this year, good luck. If you haven't made up your mind, you still have time. You can do what works for you. You don't have to write 50K. You can set your own goals. You won't know what you can do until you try. NaNo comes only once a year. Go for it!!!

(c) 2011 Cathy Thomas Brownfield--All Rights Reserved.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Making Habits

Novel blogging.

The beauty of novel blogging--even if you are the only one who reads it, is that it forces you to think about novel writing. The more regular you are about updating your blog, the more you consider the study of novel-writing, learning to develop your stories to novel length, and actually working on your WIP.

Even if you have only a few minutes a day to devote to your study of novel writing, to actually put words to paper, do it. Make it a part of your daily routine. When it becomes a daily habit, stretch a bit further. Instead of 10 or 15 minutes,write for half an hour.

What I have found is that when I become involved with my writing, I forget everything around me. When I look at the clock, I can scarcely believe how much time has passed.

But too many interruptions and distractions occur that break concentration, even if you have an office in your home. It seems that when you work from home people don't think you're working. And perhaps you begin to think they are right. You feel guilty about taking the time for yourself when someone else needs assistance. Maybe you were raised that thinking of yourself and your needs is selfishness and a cardinal sin.

Set your writing time. Mark it in your day planner in ink--essentially, in stone--and keep that appointment as you would keep an appointment with your doctor, your accountant or any other professional.

If writing at home doesn't work out, go to the local library, a cafe, or even McDonald's,perhaps the park. And don't stop or leave until you have written everything you wanted to get written at this sitting. Make it a habit.

The more you write and meet your goals and make your daily habits, the better you will feel about yourself because your productivity goes up, you hone your writing and editing skills and get closer to the goals.

Let me know how this works for you.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Don't give up!

A writing colleague at an online writing group posted that after 14 acceptances of articles he had written, he had received two rejections and was giving up.


I told him all writers experience rejection. (Actually, several of us did.) It’s sometimes (often?) a matter of getting hooked up with the right market, the right editor. In doing our homework we should check the writer’s guidelines to see what they are looking for and how we can adapt our work to fit their market.

My husband is fond of saying, “Writing comes easy to you.”

Well, yes. Yes, it does. The words tumble from somewhere inside of me, flow through the pen in my hand to fill the blanks on the writing pad in front of me. BUT (and there is a but) the hard work is making those words into what a potential editor wants to read.

Sometimes I get very discouraged as I try to focus on one WIP (“work in progress,” for newbies who don’t know what that term means) because something causes me to have a sort of epiphany about another WIP that must be written right then or be forgotten forever. It is usually a crucial scene.

Sometimes I think I will never complete a novel. Other times I think there will be several novels released in rapid succession as I complete them close together.

One of my projects is a novella. It will be for a specific market, designated as eBook and will be 10,000 to 15,000 words. I believe it’s a new market by a long-time publisher. Several years ago I was selling 8,000 word romance stories to True Romance magazine. (Editor Pat Vitullo, where are you?) If I could write 8K word stories for True Romance, I can write 10K to 15K novellas for this eBook market that just happens to be within my reading and writing interests. It feels like the perfect fit! So, I am encouraged, motivated and enthusiastic. AND writing. :D

I’m pretty sure Stephen King, in his book On Writing, mentioned the spike in his office on which he impaled all of his rejections…maybe enough to paper a room? That point is irrelevant. The point is, all writers receive rejection letters. But we shouldn’t take it too hard. Get the piece back in the mail. Maybe re-read it and see if there are any changes you’d like to make, but don’t hold onto it too long. Send it out anyway, and get to work on the next story, whether it is a novel, novella or short story or a non-fiction article or book.

Someone, a local businessman, once told me, the person who fails is the one who gave up too soon.

DON’T GIVE UP!!! Even if nobody else believes in you, YOU need to believe in YOU! Persistence and determination are the key.

Now, what are you writing today?

Monday, February 07, 2011

Doubts aside

There are times (like yesterday) when I ask myself what EVER gave me the idea that I can write anything anyone wants to read; times when I am tired of working, over and over, on the same group of words. At those times I want to get up and walk away. But something drives me to keep my behind glued to my chair. And in retaliation my brain messages that maybe I should put this story aside and work on something else. It’s just another ploy to impede my writing progress. Next trick, become so bored my eyelids get heavy and want to close. Then I read a part of the story:

Thick, brown hair tumbled around Seth Smith’s shoulders. He wasn’t old, but he’d lived hard for too long. Nervous energy kept him moving. He couldn’t sit still even for a few minutes. He appeared not to focus on anything, but Kate knew he was taking in everything around them. He thrust his hands into the front pockets of his jeans. Then he pulled them back out and crossed his arms, his legs bearing his evenly distributed weight. Although he appeared to be looking at her, she knew he was looking past her.


“Not a good idea for us to talk here.” He shifted to one leg.

“You suggested it.” They stood on the dock watching coal barges move up and down the river. The spring festival had a good crowd. “Want to walk?”

He set off. Kate had to double-step to keep up with his stride.

“You trust Snead?” he asked.

The question startled her. She hadn’t thought ever to question the director. “Is there some reason why I shouldn’t?”

Seth shrugged. “What about Ambrose Aisling?”


They walked on, eyes ahead, ears sharp. Either Seth was paranoid or there were eyes on them.

“Carlos Menz.”

There were reasons for listing this who’s who. She’d been pondering the same.

“Talk to me, Seth.”

He stopped and looked dead-on at her. “I’m not sure I can trust you.”

“You know me, Seth. Have you ever known me to betray the team?”

He shook his head.

“Women are disappearing. Someone has to make it stop. That’s my job.”

“Honey, I have to check my car for bombs before I touch it. I have a post office box so mail can’t get to my house unless I take it there. My wife and I got a divorce so she and the kids are safe. I don’t even know where they are.”

What could she say? She’d told Snead it was time for her to get out of the business. She wanted children, and the clock on that was running out. Focus. This man was strong. Stacked conspiracies were his forte. She didn’t want to end up like him…

It may not be Robert Ludlum, but it has potential. How can I quit, walk away, and never dabble in words again. “Dabble?” That’s a problem. I don’t want to “dabble.” I want to delve into it, a serious endeavor.
All the years I was raising my children I kept telling myself I would get my turn when the children were grown.
It’s my turn.
Why would I want to waste it?

Monday, January 31, 2011

Focus and learn to say, "No."

I did it. I wrote a novel for my thesis. It was not the finished product, but it had a beginning, a middle and an end that I could get excited about. When I submitted it, the publisher said it was an important story that needs to be told, but it needs a lot of work first. It’s two years later. Why haven’t I written, finished, submitted and been published?

A host of family obligations happened to slow me down. I’ve had some false starts. I need to do a few things:

• Make writing a priority so everyone around me will do that, too.

Jessamyn West said, “People just don’t think of writing seriously. If I had been going off to teach all day, it would be different. They wouldn’t interrupt your work if you were employed at a grocery store. That’s considered serious business. It’s because you work at home. People think they can interrupt writing.”

• Learn to mean, “No.”

A writer can be filled with good intentions, armed with a plan of daily goals, like writing for two hours a day or setting a daily word count. But when the phone rings and a family member needs you to babysit, transport them to a doctor’s appointment, or your spouse wants you to spend time with him/her, what happens?

• Don’t procrastinate.

There are easier things than writing. And negative self-talk slows us down. Playing games on the computer, chatting on the Internet with friends around the world, playing at Facebook are all distractions. It’s great to stay in touch with people you know, but a lot of writing time is wasted because we have convinced ourselves that we should wait til tomorrow or we really can’t write that novel.

• Focus on the current work-in-progress (WIP).

Why are you having trouble staying focused? Have you planned the novel? Who are the characters? What is the journey that becomes the plot? Whose story are you telling? Who is narrating the story?

I can see now why an outline is valuable to the novelist. It acts as a map from the beginning, through the middle to the end. It helps to maintain continuity and sequence through the story. Writing at the same time everyday doesn’t just help us keep track of our stories. It helps us establish our writing habits, strengthens resolve to say, “No,” and leads us to achieving goals.

A writer can write a novel, but it takes a storyteller to develop characters. As a writer friend advised me, “Just write a good story.”

Craig Lock (at advises the main novel writing pitfalls are:
1. Focus: too many subplots, characters, issues.
2. Plot weak with boring, trivial details.
3. Weak character development.
4. Telling instead of showing.

I know what I have to do. How about you?

Friday, January 21, 2011


Friends at an online writers group have similar problems to mine: procrastination is easier than writing, focusing on writing is a challenge with family and other obligations, and distractions like housework that eat away at writing time. Someone said she would be glad to moderate a goals group on list and the rest, as they say, is history. We have just completed Week Two. Let me report my success.

Week One felt like a bust. I had so many things on my to-do list. But how realistic was my list? I found that I was doing something I discovered was helpful to me years ago: make a daily list and prioritize the items on the list because there was no way everything was going to get done. Because I was listing, I had more awareness of how I was spending my time. And I didn't come close to achieving everything I wanted to that first week.

Week Two was more realistic. Every time I have thought I needed to check email or play a game at Facebook I thought of my friends at the goals group and what impression I was going to make if I didn't have something positive to report. I am becoming more accountable. And that is making a difference for me.

Yesterday (Thursday) I sat down with my netbook and summarized the 24 chapters of my novel. First, let me say I was surprised to discover that most of the story has been written. To have 70,000 words was encouraging, but I was thinking there was an ending still to write. The story isn't finished, but I have a beginning, a middle and an end to my story. Now I am writing the synopsis and will use it to keep me on track as I edit and revise. I can actually see the end in sight, which I couldn't before.

Accountability. That factor can be a driving force for a writer who is so afraid of failing, she is afraid to succeed.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Writing time

What began as a novel challenge among some of my writing friends resulted in this, my writing blog. So, it's pretty obvious that this blog should be about, surprise, Novel Writing. Today, I guess it's unclear if this column should be here at my writing blog, or over at my critical blog, Patchwork & Petticoats. I'll let you decide.

My husband periodically says, "You've been working on that novel for 25 years. When are you going to finish it?"

I'm not sure how he can ask a question like that when he comes face to face with a shelf and a half of folders containing writing and research every day when he gets out of bed. He knows about the full filing cabinet at my desk, the boxes of writing projects in my office, under his pool table and in the top of the garage. And he can ask when I'm going to finish the novel I started 25 years ago???

Here's where this whole thing crosses over to Patchwork & Petticoats...My family has been very patriarchal up to my children's generations. Mom always said, "You can do anything you put your mind to," but actions spoke louder than words and held me back.

I think a major clue was the first time Mom muttered, "I sure hope there's a heaven because if there isn't I sure have wasted my life." Now back to the writing blog.

Mom's words about wasting her life are my mainstay for continuing to write when I can snatch fragments of time for penning words.

Yes, I have finished rough drafts.

Yes, I am rewriting stories.

Yes, I am struggling to make writing a priority.

Now, back to Patchwork & Petticoats: It's not easy to prioritize my own interests when I am drawn to whichever grandchild needs or desires my undivided attention. The grandchildren are the future of my family. They need to know what I can give them to hold onto when they can't find something else to get them through the hard times.

Back to the writing blog: Fifteen minutes a day for novel writing isn't enough. If I don't take my writing time, if I don't make it a priority, nobody else will, either.