Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Friday, February 27, 2009

25 minutes

On the weekdays, I have a schedule: Get up at 5 (or 5ish, depending on what thoughts I have running through my head upon awakening), let the dogs out, start the coffee, pray, check email and do other miscellaneous stuff on the computer while enjoying my morning cup of java. Part of that miscellaneous stuff I was doing this morning included brainstorming over and writing up an article for Shadowlands.

This was Deadline Week. And I've been spending ALL week trying to figure out what the heck to write about for Shadowlands this time 'round. You would think that after a few years, the old idea well might've run dry by now. But, nope! Seems like there's ALWAYS something to write about as far as ghosts and hauntings are concerned.

But when I come up with an idea for Shadowlands, I have to do a little extra mental work first. I look up articles on the site to see if the topic is already on there. Then, if not, I try to recall if I've seen this kind of article in past issues of the newsletter. (I am NOT like some editors I know who have a mental inventory of every single article published, but I do try to recall some articles in their newsletters which I have read.) If I get it wrong and they HAVE done this topic, I trust will be notified by Dave Juliano. Still, doesn't hurt to try to think about it first! (I have not been with Shadowlands from the very beginning and I know of other writers who've been writing for them longer than I have!)

As I brainstormed for an article to write, I tried to think of what's been going on with my research of the paranormal this month. What news have I come across? What movies have I seen which sparked an idea? What Web sites have I visited? Hmmm.

Then I thought, wait a minute. Web sites. That's it! I can write about Web sites!

Hm, should I do a "top 5" list? Nah. Notables? Nope.

Then I recalled certain problems I have been having with paranormal-themed sites lately. Sites which, let's see, have TONS of graphics on them, confusing me as I wade through the pages trying to find stuff. Or which have NO contact info on them (like an email address). Sites with dead links. Sites that scream "amateur!" And, of course, you gotta love the sites which, on one hand, try to show the paranormalist in a serious light but, on the other hand, have pictures and negative references to girls with...large cleavage.

So, I could write about the low-down on creating your own paranormal-themed site, and some tips on what to include, as well as what NOT to include. I don't have my own paranormal-themed site, but after all the stuff I saw and went through with other sites, I thought I might "file a complaint" via a helpful, educational article.

Thing of it was, by this time, I had to REALLY get the ball rolling. I had 25 minutes to write the first draft before it was time for a shower. (If I don't shower EARLY in the morning before the baby wakes up, I won't have another window of time until noon!) Hm, 25 minutes to write the first draft of an article?

I'll give it a shot!

But I didn't get it done in time. In fact, it took me 50 minutes to write that first draft! At nearly 1400 words. (After I finished editing it later on, it was a little over 1400 words.)

Because of this, I had to change my schedule. Instead of getting my daughter up for school 30 minutes earlier, I'd have to wake her up at the usual time.

With this change, I had 25 minutes to take my shower. Just 25 minutes, again!

At least THAT was a time limit I was able to meet -- even at under 20 minutes.

Hey, at least I got my article done!

I'll wash my hair later....


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Quotes that inspire: The Bridge

Quote: "To experience a place I need to walk in it as often as I can."
From Poemcrazy by Susan G. Wooldridge

This quote has inspired me to write about a place I like to "experience" from time to time.

There is a bridge that I like to visit. It is not a special, fancy bridge, though it is nicely paved for bicyclists. It's just a bridge connecting one area to another. But there is something about this bridge that pulls me to it. Something about it which makes me feel it is a sacred space.

The first time I was on this bridge, my daughter was with me. Five at the time, we took turns going back and forth, pointing at the cars and seeing how far we could see.

Now I usually visit this bridge alone. It is a place where I can think, where I can meditate. Where I can ponder the thoughts in my head. When I don't have a person to talk to about things, this is where I go to try to work them out for myself. This is also where I go to just be "invisible" from everything. It's like I am on the outside looking in on this world, and that bridge is my window to that world.

As I look beneath me, I watch all of the cars passing by. Where is everybody going? Where have they been? What conversations are they having inside of their closed-off world made of steel?

I look out past the cars, out past the people walking on the sidewalks below, and I see more cityscape beyond. I see more cars coming and going. I see a road stretched out in the distance, beckoning to me to tread its path. I see the trees reaching out to the clouds in the sky.

Bridges act as a connection from one point to another. They are what brings one side together with another side, sealed together in a way that is not too imposing or awkward. They connect the sides we could not otherwise venture to, and may never know were it not for that very bridge.

A bridge is a welcoming invitation to cross over to something new, something that may lead to a new chapter in our life. A new destination. A new phase of our adventure. A new world for us to explore and grow in.

All it takes is the courage to step onto that bridge, and to take every step forward to cross it.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

First drafts are like a lump of clay

I am reading the book Revision by Kit Reed. It’s good stuff and very helpful to me as a writer. I’ve jotted down some quotes in this book to use in my own book on revisions (my book contains quotes from various sources), but, in my reading, I’ve come across a lot of good quotes that talk about first drafts.

Some writers dread the first draft. One reason why is because they try to make things perfect in the first draft. It is as if every word they write in that first draft is set in stone.

But you know what? It’s not. The first draft is just a “draft.” It’s not the final manuscript you will be sending out.

The first draft is where we just get all of the writing done. As James Thurber is quoted as saying in this book, “Don’t get it right, get it written.” Just write it down. Get all of that stuff and all of those ideas onto paper (or monitor). Just get it all down first. Because the first draft is where you begin. It is the very first step you will take on your journey in writing your manuscript.

Your first draft is like dropping a huge lump of clay onto the table and experimenting with various shapes and textures of it. If you don’t like what you’ve created, you destroy it and start over. That’s what the first draft is for: You can cross things out or delete things until you get what you want onto paper. Until you finally get onto paper the story, article, poem, etc., that you've had brewing in your head all this time.

The other obstacle holding up some writers from starting their first draft is uncertainty. They stare at the blank page and think, Where do I begin? How do I get started? What POV should I use? What names should I pick?

This happens to a lot of writers. We don’t know where to begin!

When I write nonfiction, I start to mentally put together my manuscript while I’m doing research. I look for angles, quotes and slants. They say in newspaper writing that once you have your lead, you’re ready to start writing. It’s a lot like that with me. Once I figure out how to write it, I start writing it.

With fiction, there’s no hard or fast rule. I just write whatever I see in my head. Whatever idea I have.

And, you know, most of the time, the beginning isn’t really the beginning. That’s the thing to keep in mind when struggling with where to start: You may come up with a different place to "start" later on. So it’s okay to just start anywhere. Just write the story you have in your head. Write the scenes that are playing out. They may be moved to Chapter 3 later on – or even Chapter 12. The point is to get started. Just go with what you think is the way to get started. You will figure out your beginning, POV and character names later on – if you haven’t already. (Some writers do character sketches, synopses, indexed notes, etc., before they start writing their story.)

There may be other reasons why writers dread that first draft, but those are the two major ones.

I love writing first drafts. Sure they can present quite the challenge in figuring out where to begin or what exactly to write, etc., but they are essentially a playground for my muse. I just grab my idea and WRITE IT! Just go ahead and dump everything down onto paper (to allow a little “brain room” for everything else, right?) and get that first draft written.

Once you’ve written your first draft, then you can go ahead and fix it up. The first draft is to get it written; the second draft is to get it written right.

Here are the quotes from Reed’s book. Food for thought.

“Even if it’s imperfect by nature, the first draft is the beginning.”

“A rough draft gives you a place to start.”

“A first draft is a starting place. Once it’s out there, we can do anything we want with it.”

“Draft writers know better than anybody that a faulty version of a story or novel is better than no version at all, and they know better than anybody that the first draft gives them something concrete that will improve as they work on it.”

“The first draft lets you see the entire story, from beginning to end – how it starts and what happens.”

Now go take that lump of clay on your table and make something out of it!

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Posted too soon

I think I "posted too soon" about things getting back to normal around here.

My daughter started having an allergic reaction to the antibiotics, so I have to call the doctor today and see where to go from there. Then the baby started throwing up and couldn't keep anything down.

To top that off, my husband and I have been fighting. Last night's argument was just too much for me.

Yep, looks like I have another long week ahead.

Later: Husband and I have made up. Daughter has better antibiotics. And, thankfully, the baby has stopped throwing up. Woot!


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Time away from the writing

I haven't been able to do much writing work lately. Last week was pretty tough to squeeze in that writing time. My oldest had pneumonia and didn't want Mommy away from her for too long. She was out of school all week. So, I didn't have much time to work on the writing.

When I was on the computer, I did little things here and there. Organized files and bookmarks, got in touch with people, blogged (wow! I actually blogged!), updated photos and just general Internet stuff.

I also got caught up on reading books. Yes, REAL BOOKS. Not Web sites, e-books or message board postings.

Now that my daughter is better and raring to get back to school on Tuesday, I'm looking forward to getting back into the writing game. I take solace in the fact that at least I had the chance to get OTHER, long-neglected things done.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Should I be paranoid?

Wow. Yesterday, sometime after I posted the last blog entry, I got a rejection in my email from a literary agent. The rejection said that the agency is looking for submissions of what is selling, and they don't think my novel qualifies as something that would sell.

Ouch. Seriously, after moaning about having to write what DOES sell and getting that type of rejection, I have to wonder if this agent saw the blog post and immediately decided I just wasn't an investment worth their time (or money).

Now I'm starting to wonder if EVERY single agent I query is reading this blog, or the other blogs. Or looking at my MySpace to see if I'm doing the promotional work I SHOULD be doing as a published writer. (Some editors DO do that. In fact, some expect to see us doing the promotional work.)

Granted, I realize that, on a public platform like a (public) blog, there should be some discretion as far as the content is concerned. I mean, I look at blogs and profiles, too, and try to decide whether this person is someone "safe" for me to network and associate with. (If they have stuff on there saying "I hate America!" or "Satan rocks my world," I'd be a little cautious if I ever end up communicating with them or allowing them to know of the things that I do.) But I just never thought it would make or break a writer's chances of signing with an agent.

Still, I know that this may not be the case. Maybe it was just a coincidence. Have to wonder if this very thing has happened to other writers trying to find an agent, though.

This whole thing makes me think of one publishing company I am aware of who terminated contracts with their authors after they started committing slander against the company's CEO on their blogs. And, people have gotten fired because of things they said on their blogs. Bad-mouthing their bosses and revealing company secrets.

So, maybe a little bit of caution as far as what you blog about is a good thing, aye?

But this doesn't mean I don't want to write what sells. Or that I am not willing to send out stuff that is a "hot" item. I AM willing to do that! Just not with nonfiction. With fiction, I am all for it. If I can write it, I'll send it! They're just stories! I'm just no longer comfortable with my niche, as far as NONFICTION is concerned. Fiction is a whole 'nother animal. I can jump between genres just fine!

So, to any agents out there reading this, please know that I AM willing to run with the crowd. Be a part of the team! Join the club! As a writer of fiction, I am DEFINITELY willing to send out there what is "hot" and what is "selling." No need to worry about me being a bad investment. I am actually hoping that, with the work I do, I end up being a good investment. I'm sure going to try.

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Monday, February 09, 2009

Doing what sells

Some time back, I finally got the chance to read the lyrics of the songs on the New Kids on the Block CD, The Block. I'd been a semi-fan of them for some time. (And I say "semi" because I can't even hear them and I'm not one of those CRAZY OBSESSED FANS that hunt them down, scream when I hear their names or spend hours looking at their pictures. Sheesh!) Well, I'd only been able to read the lyrics of a couple of their new songs (thanks to the fans who posted them online!) and I liked what I was reading. So after I bought the CD, I was hoping I could read the lyrics to their other songs.

Well, that didn't happen. The CD cover-label-thingy didn't have the lyrics on there. Sigh! So I did some searching on the 'Net and found a site that had the other lyrics. I started clicking on the other songs and started reading. But I didn't read ALL of them. I soon grew disgusted with the theme of many of their songs. Talking about seeing women as sex objects and talking to them in a patronizing way. I DID NOT like it!! I especially wasn't so thrilled with how they presented women as acting all self-conscientious and seeking others' approval of their appearance to feel validated. I especially didn't like how the songs were mostly about sex and not about love or romance. (Is it so terrible to want a little romance these days??)

Those are definitely NOT female-friendly lyrics! They send the wrong message to young, impressionable girls. Girls who live in a society where the rate of teen pregnancy is off the charts. They should send messages that EMPOWER girls. Inspire them and support them. Not demean them or view them as nothing more than objects of a man's pleasure.

I was so disappointed with the lyrics, I wrote a looong rant about it. Which I turned into an essay. One of my sisters read both the rant and the essay then emailed me back saying, "They're just singing the songs that sell. Look at Justin Timberlake."

Apparently, it's not the New Kids saying "we don't respect women." It's just them singing the kinds of songs that girls OBVIOUSLY are going crazy over! Sigh.

I bring this up because, just as doing what sells happens in the music industry, the same thing goes in the writing industry. A lot of writers are just writing what sells. Ditto with authors. We just....work ourselves into a niche and it's like people EXPECT those kinds of articles from us and those kinds of books.

And once we're in that corner, it's very hard to get out of it.

That is the way it is with me and my writing. I ended up just...writing myself into a niche. What started out as my attempt to understand a topic better by writing about it turned into my "niche" of writing about it. Believe me, I have nothing against writers who are doing this. There is NOTHING wrong with having a niche and writing about the thing you are known for writing about. But, for me, personally, it's not really something my heart is in anymore. I guess you could say I reached a certain "point" with it and I just don't want to be a part of that anymore.

I mean, to be honest, I REALLY want to make more leeway in fiction and get into screenwriting, as well.

It's just hard to break away from it. To break away from what you are known for. I mean, just when I think "I'm going to do it!" I get tapped for an article or approached by someone with something to do with this topic. That stuff doesn't happen by accident, though I realize it could just be what could make me either stand by my decision or just...."go back to what's familiar." I seem to do that a lot.

Maybe one of these days I will be able to break away from my niche. Right now, I can't do that, because I have certain obligations and things I said I would do. But maybe one day, it will tone down and I can focus my energies writing more about other topics and other things. I know some things about my niche are ongoing. Being the way I am, sensitive to those things, that's part and parcel of living this life as a writer. But maybe instead of including them in the writing life, they can just be in "everyday life." I don't ALWAYS have to write about them. Not everything should be written about....and that's why I think I really do need to find a way to move out of the niche I have written myself into. There are other things that ARE worth writing about. Things that have to do with LIFE. Because life is about living, and not just about what's selling.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Keeping busy

First, I want to thank everyone who has commented on this blog or emailed me about that thing that happened. Bless you all. You guys are so awesome! :) I am pretty much over what happened but, like I said, it was so surreal. Talking with my friend helped. She gave me good advice. The thing that stuck with me, though, is her saying, "It's not your fault because you didn't know how to protect yourself." Well, that is true. It's not exactly the same as something ELSE that I've had to deal with in the recent past. But being unable to grasp what was going on and realize what WAS going on...it's very unsettling. Nevertheless, it has definitely made me want to learn how to protect myself from such things. I just really....REALLY want to stay in my own skin 24/7. If you know what I mean! Nobody else is allowed to step in and take over. No way! So I was at the bookstore and I came across a book that's supposed to show how you can protect yourself from things like that. Just, establish certain boundaries with unseen forces. I hope the book will help. If not, I will ask some people I know who know how to do that sort of thing.

But, really. Thank you again for your concern. It has really helped a lot.

On another note, I'm still at it with the writing. I just spent two days doing research for an article. UGH! I don't know what frustrates me more: That it took me 2 days to fully understand this stuff or that I even had a hard time understanding this stuff! Good grief! Freelance writers are supposed to be able to process information more quickly. Sigh. Well, it HAS been a while since I've been doing the freelancing....

As to book stuff, well, I keep losing track of everything. Gah! I've got...three different projects on the table. I go between them, editing here, revising there. Then I have three more when THOSE are done! But with these three books I'm working on each at a time, sometimes I forget about what I'm supposed to do and what the status is. For example, with one book, I need quotes from people. But when I try contacting them, it's like, "Get back to me when you have a contract." *grumbles* And with the other, I'm not sure if I should continue tweaking it or if I should just leave it in beta mode. I fixed up the first three chapters and revised according to feedback received on them, but I don't know if I should continue even while somebody is reading the rest of it. Hmmm.

I am also revising a novel manuscript for, oh, the hundredth time. I keep telling myself "this is the LAST revision!!" but we'll see if that sticks. Hah! If I find an agent interested in it, I'll just stop the revisions (cause I'm already so far into that, anyway) and see what happens there. (Yes, I'm still searching for an agent. I would really LIKE to get more novels published. If that's okay.)

Also, I am seriously thinking of self-publishing my poetry books. I mean, why not? You know? I know that attempt failed miserably with the one book I self-pubbed, but I'm not gonna give up just because I failed once! I'm gonna get back up, dust myself off and try it again! (Yeah, I'm stubborn like that. Haha.) I mean, I look at it this way: Traditional publishers are not too willing to take a risk with poetry. I mean, not the ones who already publish the money-making poets, anyway! But I mean, with the economy being the way it is and everybody cutting corners the way they are now, it's just not likely that a whole lot of poetry books from unfamous poets will get published.

And, besides, I'm so tired of playing cat and mouse with publishers. Just...tired of it. I have been trying to get this book published for FIVE YEARS!!! Fer cryin' out loud! Two publishers accepted it and then those two publishers disappeared. One other publisher stopped answering my emails. Soooo, I am pretty much just...going to self-publish them. Say what you will about self-publishing. I just really think it's the best way for me to go, with the poetry books.

And, hey, at least self-publishing your poetry books is more acceptable in the writing community. :)

So, that's what's new in my writing life. I'm busy as heck but happy to be busy. Let's hope this ongoing work will continue for a little while longer because keeping busy is a good thing.