Saturday, December 29, 2007

Make It a Good Kiss

For those of you who did not reach a goal or two in 2007, I beg you not to consider the year to have been spent in vain. Consider the particulars you have learned this year and how they have affected your writing. If you are like me, the difference in your writing from last January to this is the difference between liking roses and growing them.

I am now quite the gardener:

1. I have only this year learned the definition of head-hopping, and deepening points of view.
2. I have learned how to work intensely with a critique partner.
3. I have had the "flash drive" breakthrough which has moved me a decade closer to understanding the technology at my disposal.
4. I have learned why you never send a second draft to an agent, no matter how anxious she is to see it. Especially before going through it with the aforementioned critique partner.

So on my trip to the New York Big House, I have put another state behind me. You can't just get there from Utah without covering some distance, you know. Unless some fairy godmother gets you there by cheating. (I do know some cheaters, by the way.)

So kiss 2007 goodbye, but make it a good kiss. It was well worth your time.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Writer or A Mouse

Something I heard at a writer's conference a few months ago has belatedly set off an alarm in my head...

A New York agent was speaking on realistic expectations. In fact, she encouraged giving yourself a realistic goal of getting one or two novels done in a year--because, after all, "real life does step in."
Have you ever been dancing--you know, real dancing--when someone has cut in? It only happened to me once, but it was planned. I was dancing at my wedding with my grandfather and my groom cut in. My grandfather reluctantly handed me off and the two of us shuffled around the floor until the song ended. That was the last time I danced with my grandfather, and in spite of the great video footage, I often wish my husband had not stepped in.
So today it hit me. No matter what the timing, the planning, the seeming importance, we should resist a lot harder when life wants to step in. We should look people in the eye and say, "Sorry, this dance is taken."

If only this could fit on a tee shirt:
"I am unable to resist mothering my children because I love them and they are a part of who I am. And for those of you who have forgotten that I am a writer, I am unable to set aside my writing at this moment for the same simple reasons."

Come on! I'm not saying "forget the real world". I'm saying "If real life wants to dance, it'll have to wait for the next song."

Life is short, and personally, I have far too many stories to tell to sit back and only write when the phone is not ringing. It's time I said, "Take a message."

Repeat after me, "I am a writer, not a mouse."

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I am a writer today

Today is the anniversary of the day I first began writing Romance. I had just finished reading what I believed was the last available book written by Julie Garwood. In only a few months' time I had become addicted to Scottish Historicals and when I foolishly believed that supply had run dry, I concluded I would have to begin cooking from scratch.

I sat down with a few empty notebooks and three weeks later I naively wrote the words "The End." I had around 60,000 words after it was typed up, and had no idea what to do next. Thanks to a little inspired googling, I found the local RWA chapter, went to one meeting, then signed up for the conference the following month. I have been the happiest in my life since then.

The other day, the program went down at work and suddenly I had nothing to do but write. In about three hours I had produced 2000 words and that old rush came back. I remembered how much I relished diving into another world, blocking out the everyday mundane, and creating something gut wrenching and beautiful.

I want more. I can't wait for New Years for resolution. There is a hungry reader out there waiting for a satisfaction I can supply. What a shame if I gave it all up.

Gave it up? Are you kidding?
I am a writer today, tomorrow, and everyday I get out of bed. And since there will be very few days in my life when I would be allowed to stay under the covers, I will be a writer always. Because let's face it, if we were lying there in bed for hours and hours, we're bound to have some fantastic scene unfold in our heads and we'd find some way to jot down the "gist" so we didn't forget.

EMBRACE THE ADDICTION! Let's both be writers today.


Sunday, December 2, 2007

A Picturesque Cannonball

What I love is a huge chunk of time dipped in chocolate and presented on a miniature pedestal plate. Guilt free and unrepentant, I like to completely lose track of time, space, and my own existence.
But how many pages can I generate on those five rare days per year?
Not much!
So, like other writers before me, I must take a swimming lesson. (Yes, before we took a walk...I get it. Just stay with me.)

You know you love to swim. You do. It may have been quite some time since you allowed the world to view you in a bathing suit, or even a wet tee shirt over a bathing suit--for those of you who know me, try to avoid the mental picture. In any case, we all love to swim, it is like flying, only in water instead of air. Who could possibly dislike that?

Well, it's not the swimming we dislike, or even the public picture we supply, but the PLUNGE.
We know it's going to be a shock and we avoid it, even though we know our bodies will adjust and the water will soon feel warm.

I liken this reluctance to using short moments to write. Oh, sure, we can all jump online and write a few emails--or blogs--and feel that blood pumping into our fingers, reintroducing them to the placement of the letters on the keyboard. We can even get a modest rush from a quip sent out into the universe, but that is not writing, working.

Were you a writer today? Writers write, right? So did you? Have you? Something that counts? Something with a WORD count? No?
Well, at least you admit it. The first of a 12 step program, and all that.

"Hello, I am Ainsley MacQueen, and I haven't written a bloody word today. In fact, forgive me, Writer, for I have sinned. I cannot call myself a writer today"....but the day's not over yet.

I am going to take the plunge. I have a mere 30 minutes before my husband will stomp in here and demand that I come to bed, so I am going to cannonball. No time to acclimate my silly toes, no chocolate, no ambiance. No going back a few pages to build up my speed. Damn the cold. It won't last long. One quick lap around the pool. Opening the file now....splash!

Come on in, the water's fine. But hurry, the pool closes soon, and you will wish you had!

Soon-to-be-dripping-so-don't-look Ainsley

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Your Holiday Excuse

You won't find your holiday excuse here. Shame on you if you thought to use one.

Don't waste these sensory filled days. If your ms lacks "setting", what better time to remind yourself of the poetry of SMELLS, heat and cold, lighting, TASTE, sounds that trip memory...

Set yourself down in the middle of your lackluster scene. You know the one. It's the scene you hate to work on because it doesn't excite you. If it 's relevant, necessary, then enhance the setting with the visceral material around you today. It doesn't need to be a holiday scene for the smell of cinnamon to line the roof of your character's mouth, etc. Your character's goosebumps tickling the backs of her arms can be from the AC and not from returning to an icy house after a long day of holiday shopping. You get the idea.

Don't forget to give yourself the gift of writing time.
The emotionally charged atmosphere of the holidays is ripe for the pillaging.
Go forth. Pillage.

Happy Writing Holidays,

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Dear Writer,

So here you are. Stuck in traffic. All those places to go in your mind, and in your story, and you can't move. No problem.
Say it. "No problem."
If the vehicle is blocked in on all sides, you always have an option. You can walk.

So, let's walk.

The tip for today is to take a step back from technology and rely on yourself.
Get a pen. Find a notepad. No, it's alright, you can type it all up later. People used to walk this way all the time. Some still do. Silly, I know.

So, we're walking...we're walking...NO! Do not take this opportunity to run to the nearest office supply for the perfect notepad! Yes, you may take a moment to find a decent pen. And we're walking...we're walking...What was it you were supposed to write about? Oh, yeah.

Apply the messy end of the pen to the paper and rub. It's alright if it's garbage for a paragraph or two. Remember, even the greatest athletes warm up. That's right. You remember, now.

You're good.