Taking Chances

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Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.
– William Faulkner

Taking chances.  How many times do you begin something then give up? Mr. Faulkner was right. It may be bad.  But you have a starting point. It can be improved upon, fixed, tweaked, torn apart and redone. That sounds a lot like writing a novel.  And since he was an author, I’m sure that’s what he meant in the quote.

If you feel your first draft is your best, you’re wrong. It’s just the beginning. When you finish your book, the feeling of euphoria envelops you. You deserve to feel that way. You are done. You’ve accomplished a mighty task.

Now walk away. Don’t do anything to this manuscript. Wait a week or two. Then start to read it again. Hopefully you’ll realize it’s just a first draft, a stepping stone to something better.

When I first started writing, I felt as if my book needed to be sent out into the world immediately.  After looking back on some of that work—Ugh! I can’t believe I felt that way. I now read my story at least three times before I have anyone look at it. That can take time, and in this day and age, a lot of us don’t have the patience for that. But if you want something to be good, I think patience needs to be added to your list.

Take chances.

Scary? Yep.

Exhilarating? Sometimes.

Unsure? Always.

But if you don’t take that first step, you’ll never know. You know the old saying, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life”. So go ahead. Take that chance. You may be one day closer to something good.

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Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

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“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.”
—Virginia Woolf

Virginia was right. Every author has written a part of themselves into their books. Think about it. If a writer doesn’t share a part of him or herself, like a singer or an actor, the audience doesn’t connect.

How much do you put in your writing? Are you willing to admit a certain character is based on your life? Are some of the scenes based on reality?

I admit some characters are part of me. How could they not be? Others are based on people I know. When it comes to dramatic moments, I may have embellished the stories to make them more exciting for the book.

During a book club meeting, some readers brought up a concern in one of my books. They found it hard to believe that my main character continued to do a certain action over and over again. They felt she should’ve learned her lesson and wised up.

Funny, that storyline came from the real world. Mine. I did that same thing. Over and over. Teens are still learning their way and make different choices than their adult counterparts. Some good. Some not. They tend to believe their peers when they say they will change or listen to their lies as if they were telling the truth.

The readers’ reactions to my answer were looks of surprise. The discussion topic changed. We talked about how we all can relate to poor choices as teens and how you learn and grow throughout life.

Life experiences. They’re part of every author’s story. I think most writers can easily share them in their books.

Secrets of the soul. That’s pretty heavy. I don’t know if I dug that deep yet. But it might make a pretty interesting book.

If you plan on being a writer, listen to Virginia. Look inside yourself. You may be surprised by the stories you find there.

And They Lived Happily Ever After

“If I’m Honest I have to tell you I still read fairy-tales and I like them best of all.”
–Audrey Hepburn

I love that quote. I, too, grew up loving fairy tales. Maybe that’s why I had my main character love them too. As the series continues, she becomes cynical and decides the stories are a young girl’s dream. Will she ever believe again?

We all want to believe in fairy tales and the “happily ever after” ending. Most Disney movies have show us that. Books I had when I was younger did, too. If Ms. Hepburn referred to those stories then I’m right with her. If she’s talking about the real Grimm’s Fairy Tales—maybe not.

I read an article recently that told the true stories behind fairy tales. It said people might be quite surprised by the real endings. Some were gruesome in their tellings. For example, Cinderella’s step-sisters chopped off their toes to make the glass slipper fit. I’ll spare you from the rest.

I think these stories were originally written to scare children into behaving. If you’re bad, look what happens. If you’re good, you’re rewarded. Don’t wander too far from home. The big bad wolf is in the forest. I’m sure children of the past took those stories to heart for different reasons than the children of today.

I’m glad fairy tales have been changed to sugar-coat the endings. Sure we still have the villains, and they get their due in the end. Kids need to still believe in something. I think fairy tales will do nicely. It encourages them to read and stimulates the imagination. In recent years the message has also changed. Not all princesses need to be rescued and not all have to fall in love. But the happily ever after message is still there.

Fairy tales. Whether you love them or not, they are steeped in history. Audrey Hepburn loved them as adult. So I guess it’s okay if I still love them, too.

To Finish or Not to Finish, That is the Question

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I don’t care if a reader hates one of my stories, just as long as he finishes the book.”
—Roald Dahl

I love Roald Dahl, author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but don’t know exactly what he meant by that quote. Did he just want you to read for the sake of reading? Or give the book a chance?

I think if you don’t like a book and gave it a fighting chance, say fifty pages, it’s okay to give up. Not every book is for everybody.

I found this quote interesting because I also review books and will admit I couldn’t finish some. As an author, I’d prefer that method over a less than stellar review. Forcing yourself to read is like being back in school. Reading should be for pleasure. When I taught, I felt the library was one of the places children could choose. I didn’t have to tell them what to read. They could start a book and put it down if it wasn’t for them. They’d have another chance the next week to find something new.

So what do you think? What did Roald Dahl mean in his quote? Do you agree or not? I’d love to hear from you.

Never Forget Louisa May Alcott

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“I want to do something splendid…
Something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead…
I think I shall write books.”
― Louisa May Alcott

Such a nice thought. I think I shall write books and people will remember me.

What a simple time Louisa lived in. I love the quote, but does it work for today’s world? Thousands of people are writing books and publishing them at record speed. The general public doesn’t have to wait for new stories to come on bookshelves once or twice a year.

Computers, the internet, self-publishing have changed all that. Competition is fierce. Who will notice your book? And why should they read it? Is it free? Or 99¢? Hardback or ebook? So many choices. Louisa May Alcott, it would make your head spin.

Luckily, Louisa’s books were published during a time when readers could discover an author at a slower pace and look forward to their next novel.  People read for entertainment, reading being one of the only outlets at the time.

I remember reading Little Women over and over again when I was young. I went on to read other books by Louisa. Little Men and Jo’s Boys come to mind, but I don’t remember reading those stories more than one time.

Louisa May Alcott got her wish. Her time-honored story of four sisters, Jo, Beth, Meg and Amy March, has been made into a movie, a musical, and has a soundtrack. Yes, Louisa, people remember you.

How can writers apply the quote to today’s world? Well, I wouldn’t change a word. Go ahead and do something splendid. Do something heroic. Write it all down. Maybe you won’t be remembered, but perhaps you’ll inspire someone by doing something you believe in. There’s a possibility you’ll make yourself feel wonderful you accomplished a huge undertaking. Writing a book is no small task.

So I challenge you. If you had the urge to write and felt you wouldn’t be heard, so what? Tell yourself, “I think I shall write books.” Just like Ms. Alcott did. Pick up the pen and get started. You may surprise yourself.

Choose One Chair

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Pavarotti was talking about the advice he got from his father when he couldn’t decide between teaching and singing. His father told him, “Son, if you try to sit on two chairs, you will fall between them. For life, you must choose one chair.”

I love that message. His father wasn’t rich or famous but gave great advice. Too often in this fast paced world, people want things handed to them or become an overnight sensation. The easier it is, the better.

When I first started writing my book, I kept telling myself I was crazy. I researched how many words a book should have and found 60,000 to 100,000 as the common answer. I decided if I made the commitment, I’d stick it out till the end, regardless the outcome.

I wrote, researched, and read each chapter over and over again. I had no idea how many words it was because I decided that wasn’t important. The essential thing was to get the words on the paper. Worry about the small stuff later.

I finally gave in and used the tool bar to click “word count”. Imagine my surprise when I had 55,000 words and wasn’t nearly done. I chose one chair and stuck to it. More stepping stones would come along after the book was written but I had met the challenge. As I continued on, each task needed to be handled with that same mindset. One chair at a time.

The message is clear. Stick to one thing and do it well. If you don’t love what you’re doing, try to see it through to the end. You never know what might happen and you could end up liking it. Can you change your mind and follow a different path? Absolutely. Just do it one chair at a time.