Just Write Cat

One Writer, One Journey

Bleeding Out September 18, 2011

Wow, so I just entered another amazing contest hosted by agent Janet Reid. If you hurry, you can get your entry in (contest ends tomorrow). I’ve entered just about all her 100-word contests (I’ve received a few mentions, too – yay) – and each time, I learn something new, hone my craft a bit more, get another kick in my pants to keep at this…

But this one…it almost hurt to enter. It sure as hell hurt to write the poem (and not only because I’ve never written a poem, least not since childhood). This one hit close. It came from a place I prefer to keep contained. A place that is still sutured and bandaged, lest I bleed out. As I hit send on that email, I had to tell myself, “what the hell have you got to lose, Catherine?” Still, there’s something about opening yourself like that. Again, I’m not really talking about entering the contest, but writing something that is so much a part of you, that when you send it out…something of you goes, too. Maybe it will be a bit of the pain…that wouldn’t be a bad thing.

My point – they say write what you know. Yes, and write what you feel. Write what you are most afraid of, what you most try to blank out of your mind. That event or thing or fear that gives you the cold sweats, the shivers and that gut-wrenching, twisting pain that only comes when you are at your most ill.

Now, I have to go count my blessings. Three of them are sitting on the sofa, watching a movie, and waiting for me.

Cat

 

Working with Lisa Again! August 22, 2011

Filed under: Editing,Life — justwritecat @ 10:30 pm

Thrilled….simply thrilled. I start working again with mega-editor, Lisa Rector-Maass, next month. I’ve taken all her input to heart, majorly revised (sure, it’s a word) my manuscript and am ready to take one more walk-through of Set ‘Em Up, Joe.

I’m so ashamed of the first manuscript I sent out…egads, how bad it was….so bad I should probably send a bottle of single malt to the agents who read it. At least the ones who offered to re-read once it was revised.¬† ūüôā Course, I didn’t realize how much work my manuscript needed until getting comments back from agents. And after working with Lisa the first go-round.

Without a doubt, the journey thus far has been amazing. I’ve learned a great deal about the craft of writing, yes….but also on how to be a writer. How to allow yourself to be vulnerable. To ‘go there’ in your writing. The first time around I didn’t want anything (too) bad to happen to my characters. Especially not Joe. After working with Lisa, I realized that conflict—in it’s many forms—is what drives a story. My characters must grow, and to do that – they also have to hurt.

This is gonna happen, folks. It has to.

Cat

 

 

Plugging Away… June 13, 2011

I’ve been remiss. I’ve let my writing take second chair. Well, second chair (or first, for that matter) isn’t taken – it’s given. So the burden of responsibility rests solely on my shoulders. Oh, I’ve been writing – mainly for local magazines and blogs – but I consider that something other than “working on my novels”.

I could point to a couple of external factors – problems due to the concussion I received two years ago (just started therapy for that, finally) or my recent involvement in my son’s PTSA¬† (funny how when you’re cell deep in your novel, you almost forget you have a real, live family). And the editor I worked with is on hiatus until the fall. I love that word, hiatus. Sounds like something requiring surgery. I had my hiatus removed, so the doc said I can’t lift anything over twenty pounds.

So, I’ve been plugging away at my manuscript (the wonderous third draft you hear so much about), trying to apply what I learned working with said (amazing) editor to the other 300 pages. I will state this: my first fifty are solid! Um, I think.

Here are my goals for the summer Рfinish my revision. attend the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference , prepare for the  International Surrey Writers Conference (both manuscript and confidence-wise), lose ten pounds (nothing to do with writing, but still a worthwhile goal. On second thought, make that an even twenty).

And how, pray tell, do you plan to spend your summer? I’ll ask another way – what writing goals have you set? Please share!

Cat

 

Guest Post on Inky Fresh Press…The Money Side of Things November 8, 2010

Filed under: Freelance,Life,Writing — justwritecat @ 8:00 am
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This month Inky Fresh Press is blogging about the money side of this whole ‘writing thing’. To read my take on the topic, please check out my guest post. I was truly honored to be asked to provide a guest post – and writing for another blog proved a worthwhile learning experience.

I hope you enjoy my thoughts on the subject!

Cat

 

What’s In It For You? October 14, 2010

Filed under: Life,You Can't Do It Alone — justwritecat @ 4:16 pm
Tags: , ,

Oh my, I’ve been busy. This says something about my personality – this past month I’ve taken on a few projects. I’m working on a couple of guest posts for Inky Fresh Press, finishing up an article for NW Kids, and oh yeah – running my son’s book fair at his school. Through all this, I’ve not spent time on my own blog. For that, I apologize!

But…this is all good stuff I’m doing. In another post I’ll comment on writing articles and even something on¬†the book fair, but for now – here’s my thoughts on writing for another blog.

Writing a guest post is a new experience. I do write the blog for a local magazine, but as I’m the only blogger I have rather free rein on what and how I write.¬†When you submit a post as a guest, you need to think about the overall content of that blog, what they’re looking for, their intended audience. It’s a challenge, but in a very good way. It’s made me question the purpose of my own blog. I started it to sort of keep track of my progress as ‘someone wanting to get a book out there’. Over time I’ve realized my blog is more about being a writer in general. Meaning, not having that singular goal in mind, but embracing writing as a life. And that includes more than writing –¬†it includes how¬†I¬†see and handle things.

Example – I’m more observant of ‘life scenes’. I’ve always felt drawn to observing human interaction (my M.A. is in Sociology), but I never really paid much attention to setting. That became painfully obvious when I started writing my first novel. I couldn’t describe places at all. My son said I should¬†go with¬†‘a person standing on some¬†street by a random house’, which I admit sounds kind of funny – but not very descriptive. I started pushing myself to notice my surroundings more and more, and to take in not just the players in a scene, but the entire setting. It’s helped, though this is still an area that proves challenging.

Another example – writing lowers my stress in ways I would not have imagined. When someone does something that really ticks me off, I create a character out of that person.¬† And then I do something really bad (or embarrassing) to that character in a story.¬† Hehehe. Only strangers, though – well, maybe a couple of people I sort of know (like kinda strangers). It’s quite cathartic.

This is a bit of a rambling post, which sort of goes with the point I’m trying to make (yes, I have one). Why do I write this blog? Is it for myself, or for other writers?¬†I initially wanted to¬†help other writers – and I want to make sure I’m reaching that goal. So¬†how can I make this blog more about you?¬†

What would you like to see more of/less of?¬† I want to do a contest – and I’ve got that almost figured out. After my son’s book fair (next week), I’ll have the time to blog about it. Until then – please, let me know what kind of information you might find useful as a fellow writer. I’m at a point where I feel a lack of purpose in this blog – or a clear purpose, at least.¬† Can you help me out?

 

Write What You Must… August 30, 2010

Filed under: Life — justwritecat @ 3:51 am
Tags: , ,

August was…rough.¬† This month has always been a difficult one for me, well – for the past fourteen years.¬† My brother was in a fatal car accident on August 27th, fourteen years ago.¬† Three months after I married my husband.¬† My brother gave me away at my wedding, a memory I will forever cherish.¬† Another memory – of my brother’s face as we said good-bye to each other minutes before he was to get in his car.¬† It was one last weekend together, playing computer games, eating Chinese food (we loved to eat Chinese food), making fun of our parents – spending time together before I was to leave for my first year as a graduate student at the University of Michigan.¬†

I’ve never written about this before, so maybe this is a sign of something.¬† That the years¬†can dull the pain, at least enough that you can write about it, can share it with others.¬†

Years ago I talked with a psychic.¬† She told me I would write a book about my brother one day.¬† This was way before I decided to write fiction, so my reaction was…one of surprise.¬† I never thought I would be able to write a novel, and certainly not one that laid bare my pain, my loss.¬†

If you’re over the shock of reading I spoke with a psychic, then here’s the important part:¬† She was right.¬† I wrote a novel, and it was about my brother.¬† I didn’t realize it at the time, of course.¬† It took working with Lisa (editor), and some serious introspection to understand that the novel I wrote was about loss.¬† About how to live when you don’t necessarily or always want to, how to move past the guilt and pain and anger to a place where you can remember the good times without crying yourself to sleep.¬† Oh, tears still flow – but not as uncontrollably.¬†

Two weeks ago one of my uncles – George Patino – died of a heart attack.¬† My brother’s middle name was George, named after our uncle.¬† My brother considered being an architect, like my uncle.¬† My oldest son’s first name is Stephen, named after my brother, Steven.¬† See how things come round like that?¬† How the memories and the connections and the love never really goes away?¬† That’s in my novel, too.¬† Those connections that carry us through, that maintain our will to live when times are dark, and show us that life can still be good, even great and beautiful.¬†

When you read advice on writing, you often get the message that you should write what you know and not be afraid to put yourself out there, not hold back.¬† When I started working with Lisa, she said there would be places I would go that would be…uncomfortable.¬† I think this is part of what she meant.¬† I didn’t sign up for this when I started my urban fantasy, that much¬†I know.¬† I had no intention of putting myself out there like that, of¬†exposing my wounds.¬†¬†Nor did I make the connection between my choice of characters –¬†someone who will, theoretically, never die – and the sense of loss I¬†continued to carry.¬† Still carry.¬† But perhaps it was too be expected.¬† If you hold something in so long, it will¬†find a way out.¬† So I will continue to put myself out there – in my writing, and maybe one day ‘in real life’.¬† Though sharing this face-to-face with someone too often, or with too many people, is not something¬†for which I’m ready.

Put yourself out there, bare all.  It may hurt, you may cry, but it will help not only your writing and your ability to connect to readers, it will help your soul.

Tears still flow…

 

Working with Lisa Rector, We’re Only Getting Started… June 28, 2010

I had my first phone session with Lisa Rector last week.¬† Wow.¬† Um, she’s amazing.¬†¬† The session lasted two hours and was part therapy¬†(see below), part brainstorming session and part line by line¬†commentary.¬† And slightly overwhelming, but in a ‘there’s a ton of work ahead of me, but with her guidance I can do it’ kind of way.¬†¬†

To prep for the call, I sent her my first two chapters and ideas/general thoughts and questions (on those two chapters and the larger story).¬† We barely made it to the end of the first chapter.¬† ūüôā

Let me begin by saying that she is incredibly friendly and approachable.¬† I was a bit nervous given how – well, how good she is…but within seconds, she’d put me at ease.¬† When I’d contacted her to see if she could still work with me on my manuscript, I’d mentioned my less than positive experience with the previous editor.¬† Before we started on Set ‘Em Up, Joe – she asked me if I could share what happened.¬† I did (she’s a great listener), and then we talked about our expectations going in…and then she got right into things!

She asked me some questions about the overall story, but mainly she focused on characterization.¬† We discussed Joe’s motivations, which proved rather enlightening.¬† I spent a fair amount of time getting to know Joe before and during the writing of his story, but she helped me dig deeper into his psyche.¬† If Joe ever agreed to go to therapy, I believe this is what it would be like!¬† She even apologized for asking so many questions, which wasn’t necessary.¬† I enjoyed discussing Joe and the novel, and her questions helped me think about things I hadn’t fully considered.¬†

We worked through part of the first chapter – not line by line exactly, more like by paragraph.¬† She pointed out the paragraphs that stood out for her, the ones that ‘were all Joe’.¬† She suggested ways to lighten some of the exposition and to heighten the tension.¬† All of this was helpful, but what I really got out of this first session was to ‘go there’.

Lisa¬†encouraged me to stop pulling back.¬†¬†She told me that I was on the cusp of making Joe a fully realized vampire unique from other vampires.¬† Now given how many vampires are out there (uh, in books) – that was an amazing compliment.¬† She said I just had to stop pulling back.¬† I understood what she meant.¬† I’m constantly struggling with how far to take things or rather, how vulnerable I should make Joe.¬† Which is directly tied to how vulnerable I allow myself to be as a writer (and as a person in general).¬† Yikes, who is on the couch now??

I know I have revision work ahead of me, but rather than feeling overwhelmed – I’m eager, excited and relieved.¬† Eager to make my novel ‘more’ (more of whatever it needs to be for readers).¬† Excited by the deeper plot lines and character motivations that will follow.¬† And relieved Lisa will be there to guide me and to let me know what I’m doing right and not quite right.¬†

For the first time since starting to work on Set ‘Em Up, Joe – I¬†have this weird kind of confidence thing going on.¬† Like, maybe I might be able to write after all.¬† Not stellar or anything right now, but enough to feel good about what I’m doing.¬†¬†That the efforts I’ve made thus far are not a waste, that¬†I’m heading in the right direction and learning, learning, learning along the way.¬†¬†¬†

See, I always thought writers were born that way.¬† And that either you had it or you didn’t.¬† If you had it, you’d know rather early in life.¬† Maybe pen a few gems in your alphabet soup or in crayon on your bedroom walls.¬† At least by high school.¬† If you didn’t have it, well – hey, what else are you good at?¬† Cooking?¬† Sure, why not.¬† Everyone needs to eat.¬† Teaching?¬† That’s good, too.¬† Everyone needs to learn something.¬† Turns out, you can learn anything.¬† Like how to be a writer.¬† Yes, some writers are born with it.¬† Some show their talent early and often.¬† But some don’t – until they turn forty and realize there’s nothing stopping ’em but their own doubt.¬† Doubt’s a heavy thing to wear for long.¬†¬†It’ll keep you grounded, and then how will your dreams take flight?

Wow, how’s that for my first two-hour session with Lisa?¬† I wonder what the next call will bring?¬†