Crappy First Draft: My Smiling Pile of Poo

All writers know first drafts are less than perfect. In fact, they are usually awful. Crappy first drafts are par for the course.

At Walmart one day I was shopping with my son. I saw a Smiling Pile of Poo Bank. Jokingly, I said, “When I finish the rough draft for my novel I should treat myself by buying this to hold all the money I earn when I’m a famous author.”

He took it off the shelf and put it in the buggy. “I’m buying it for you.”

“No, no,” I said. “I have to finish the draft first.”

“You will,” he said.

“What if I don’t?”

“You will.”

It gave me the warm fuzzies to think he had faith in me. The guy must believe I could write a novel if he parted with cash to purchase such a thing.

I’m not really sure if having this bank represents earnings I will make selling books. Perhaps, being empty, it better represents all the money I have spent attempting to learn the craft of novel writing.

The Pile of Poo sat in a central place. I saw it every day. We all saw it every day. If I had been good and worked on my novel, the face smiled encouragingly at me. On the other hand, on days I could have written but didn’t, I swear that pile of poo mocked me with its big, round bugeyes and sly, silly grin. Plus, now my son was invested, having bought that pile of poo for me.  He is a grown man, but he is still my kid. If he had enough faith in me to buy a ceramic bank with his own money, I had to be worthy of that pile of poo.

poobank

It was about this time last year when I heard back from an agent. My full manuscript had been requested, but in the end was turned down. I wasn’t entirely sure what the issue was, so I hired book coach Sarah Hamer to help me. 

Here we are many months later with about 40,000 words added to the story. Many of these words were written 500 at a time as I kept to my daily minimum goal. Over time I did pick up speed, learning to use speech to text and making adjustments to current challenges.

New characters walked onto the stage, and the plot is better. I decided to change from Middle Grade to Young Adult, and hopefully corrected any major story flaws.

Finally, my draft is finished! You know what that means. Now I get to begin re-writing and editing.

And my Smiling Pile of Poo will be here to encourage me every step of the way.

Oh, and by the way, one of my other boys bought me this lovely first draft notebook, trusting I have another story in me waiting to be written.

poonotebook

 

It’s wonderful to have supportive kids, even if they give me lots of crap, I mean poo.

#AmWriting

Keepgoingturtle

Writing Through Challenges

I’ve been fairly good at keeping my goal of writing every day. This has been a challenge. Adjustments were necessary.

The physical act of writing became too much. I have always been a person who thinks through my fingers, so to speak, which made writing fiction using speech to text challenging. It made me want to pull my hair out. To solve this problem I decided to switch gears for a bit.

There are times when you have to take a step back. To leave projects undone goes against my nature. It was hard for me to abandon my fiction long enough to figure out the best way to get words on paper, but it had to be done.

Over the summer I “wrote” the rough draft for a non-fiction book using my iPhone. There are oh-so-many bits of hard won knowledge I would like to impart to my children, or my children’s children, so I decided to make a record of my thoughts on education and homeschooling. This helped get me into the groove of transcribing thoughts without a keyboard or pen. It felt unnatural to write fiction using this method. Using verbal skills to give motherly advice was not an issue. I’m sure the kids will come to appreciate all those nuggets of wisdom someday.

Once the nonfiction project was drafted, I returned to novel writing and found speech to text a little more cooperative. It is still awkward and tedious, but I’m getting better at it. Practice makes perfect, or if not perfect, at least manageable. If only it would transcribe purposeful dictation as well as it records my frustrated, unladylike utterances.

And y’all, I have met new writing buddies! In any difficult journey, finding people who support you, believe in you, and cheer you on helps keep you focused on your calling. Go visit Linda and Rachel on their blogs and tell them “hey” from me.

I’ve found a couple of other writers who I hope to spend time with soon, sharing stories and sugar laden, caffeinated treats. I need my crit partners! Producing a marketable work takes support and help from many fronts, at least it does for this girl.

My writing coach, Sarah Hamer, has been wonderfully patient with me. I appreciate her guidance and support dearly. If you need a little help with writing projects, check out her site here.

It’s time to start considering the editing process, and with that in mind I am trying to outfit my writing space. I purchased an anti-fatigue mat to use with my standing computer desk. My standing desk is an IKEA computer desk we found on craigslist and adapted. I went by Office Depot and tried out the line of Serta computer chairs and was happy to find a comfortable chair. They even have a couple made for shorter people like me!

My eldest found a cool adjustable desk. Smartdesk moves from sitting to standing with the push of a button. It is on the wish list.

Now all I have to do is finish the last twelve chapters of the rough draft for the current rewrite of Nina’s story and I will be ready to begin edits. Right after I get some new glasses.

#AmWriting

 

 

4 Tips On How Not to Plan a Writing Retreat

#amwriting donnastone.meI have had fair success at getting words on the current WIP flowing. Not all of those words are kept, mind you. But then that is the nature of a first draft.

“The first sentence can’t be written until the final sentence is written.”Joyce Carol Oates

Committed to writing a certain amount on my novel in progress every day, I have decided to pretend this forced vacating of my home is a writer’s retreat. This fantasy would probably be easier to maintain if I had not brought my family, including our new puppy, along with me.

Tip #1 Don’t bring your kids or a puppy.

kayleeintroublesmall.

There are also the constant interruptions of new information about the home repairs which tend to get me sidetracked. The ongoing saga is a twisted version of a never ending story, reminding me of If You Give A Mouse A Cookie.

Along the way to the discovery of where the moisture is coming from we found no leaks, but we did find out the home has what was referred to as “the pipe of the future” otherwise known as polybutylene pipe. This particular kind of pipe is no longer used because it is destined to fail. Check your pipes, peeps.

During the new water line installation, I was informed the hot water heater has been leaking. No word on the water damage from that yet.

After numerous consultations, it has been determined that the constant water collecting under the sinks is probably from condensation. This may be due to the vapor barrier being compromised when a neighbor’s dog got under the home. Or it could be because of improper site prep. They are working on it.

Tip #2 Leave your home problems at home and don’t answer calls.

Other issues will be dealt with as the summer progresses. The good news is, no mold in the walls as far as we can tell with mold kits and this handy snaking camera.

WIN_20150614_181226

 

Tip # 3 Don’t give up writing no matter what.

“Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed.”               Red Smith

Meanwhile, I will keep busy scribbling away on the book when I’m not enjoying myself poolside here at my writing retreat.

Tip #4 Don’t forget to find JOY in the journey.

#amwriting

How are you reaching your goals? What inspires you? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment.

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Finding Strength: Cipro Story

Strength is what I do not have.

Three years ago I had a reaction to a common antibiotic, Cipro. I was unable to walk or care for myself without assistance. I have improved, but recovery often seems like an unattainable dream.

I get discouraged. My strength has been stolen.

I miss things. Shopping with my daughter for prom dresses via text message is not the same.  I miss my family. I miss their moments and celebrations. You can’t hug when you are in different locations.

It is rare for my good days to coincide with days out. Struggling sucks the joy out. Thank goodness for online shopping. The UPS man probably thinks, “Lady, why don’t you make one big order a month already.”

During the past three years I have been occupied fighting my every day battles. On the counter right now I have several lidless containers because when I finally do get one open, the lid tends to slip away and land on the floor. You know what? Jars do fine with a bit of plastic wrap to cover the opening, and I planned on taking another vitamin tomorrow so it’s all right. However, someone really needs to pick up under the kitchen table.

The tendons and joints in my body often swell now, so any given day may be ice pack worthy. The amount of ace bandages make me look like a mummy at times. My downhill slide has been a bumpy one, with one thing following another. Challenges pop up as if falling were not already hard enough. I suppose if you’re going to go down, make it spectacular.

When I think about the physical grind it can seem like all I’ve done is shuffle along. Remember that Tim Conway old man skit? But during these three years I have had my Rocky Moments as well. Imagine that old man doing the fist pump to Gonna Fly Now. Yeah! That’s what I did the first time I managed handicap steps instead of a ramp. Go me!

I have my own speed now.

I fought a huge battle for my son, too much to get into here, but moms and dads know. Someone decided to get in the way of my child’s progress. Mistake. I fought for a year and it was one of the hardest battles I’ve ever been in. There were many prayers and tears. In the end we finally got his chance, what was rightfully his. Nothing was wrong with my voice. I made phone calls until I found a way.

He is running with that chance. Does it matter if his steps are a little slow at times? Nope. Cue Gonna Fly Now. We will fist pump together. Go son!

After I regained enough health, I completed writing two novels and started a third. Wow. I impressed myself. Sometimes I had to use speech to text. I thought I would never get Dragon trained. What a formatting mess. But words got onto the page.

I am sure the most eloquent prose ever spoken has been forever lost, mangled by my computer’s inability to master the southern accent.

The trick is to get words on paper by any means possible. Spiral notebooks were always in my bed so I could reach them. I learned to put them on their own pillow. Temperamental, they are.

I joined an accountability group and committed to a minimum of words written on my novel per day. Once you give yourself permission to take small steps and plod away you will be amazed at what you can do.

These accomplishments only came about through prayer and persistence.

Other good things of note happened these last three years. My middle son became a proud homeowner. The oldest is building a house, the youngest boy started college, and Baby Girl has found her calling.

It’s enough to make one dizzy, this fast crawl.

None of my strength comes from myself. It’s plain to see I have none. What I have is a destiny. And I have my own pace, even if it is a slow shuffle.

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None of my strength comes from myself . . .donnastone.me on pink boxing gloves

Growing Weary?

Do not grow weary.

I get weary. Who doesn’t? But lately I have been pondering growing weary. Not being weary, but growing it.

To grow something you have to feed it. Good or bad, growing things must have a source of light, water, and food. Conditions have to be right. Shelter from predators and inclement conditions must be provided.

I never considered the concept of growing weary like I grow other things like faith and patience. I can see how a person could feed weariness. Negative thoughts, listening to wrong people, forgetting Who is really in charge here, neglecting to recharge and encourage ourselves; all of these things help weariness thrive.

Our souls will always filled by something. Even when we say we are empty we are speaking of a feeling of darkness, despondency, or negativity. Our world is designed with no gaps, the spaces filling up as soon as there is an inch of available space. Something pushes in. Something grows.

To raise something we want, we cultivate, preparing the soil and digging as deep as future roots require. No shallow scraping out of a handful of dirt, the shovel digs deep. If the earth resists, we dampen with water, forcing softness out of stubbornness. We do this without taking affront. It is the nature of things.

It is also the nature within us that prompts us to prepare for a large thing, a deep thing. This is faith.

We loosen the earth, raking, grabbing handfuls of dirt and squeezing, breaking, understanding that the goodness will not give itself up to those who refuse to work. You have to be willing to get your hands dirty. You have to be willing to have faith.

Your faith must be large enough that you feed and water the plants and protect them constantly. Unguarded and neglected, they rarely produce. Even the strong, well established plants are no match for a sudden frost, or hungry caterpillars.

Except of course, for the never ending weeds. This is the battle. Plants that give us life, and plants that choke out those that give us sustenance.

We choose what we will grow.

Death and life. Build or destroy.

It is very easy to grow weariness if we succumb. It is a natural thing, like weeds. Something is going to flourish in every gap we leave open. There is no empty space.

No one intends to propagate weeds. They creep in when attention is elsewhere, taking advantage of every opportunity. Before you know it, they are tall and strong, arrogantly taking over the place if we let them.

A garden needs regular tending. A calling needs feeding.

Do not grow weary.

 

Watering Can A garden ... Do not grow weary quote donnastone,me

 

Today I will feed my soul with Truth and not grow weary. If I keep my focus on the tending of my destiny, refusing negative thoughts, weariness will have a much harder time taking hold.

Time to get my hands grit-under-the-nails dirty.

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Goal Setting: What Does God Require?

Goal Setting What Does God RequireI love a good to do list. I actually make goals at a set aside time twice a year. Goals are good and necessary. Without a plan it is virtually impossible to succeed at any large task. But inevitably all my planning leads to more planning.

My eyes are bigger than my planner, and my pencil too fat to scribble in everything I try to fit into those neat little lines. There is no way to squeeze in everything I think I should or could be doing.  There is always a lack, a big hole in my life where I am failing. As soon as I get one area of my life under control I notice, or remember, something else that needs to be done. I am only scattered when I try to do too much. Somehow the idea of a fresh start deludes me into thinking that I am suddenly a woman of limitless energy and the amount of time contained in a day has become infinite.

to do list

Usually by the end of the first week of January my stress level is pretty high. I know I should be organized, scheduled, and have an exercise plan for the new year like everyone else. The truth is, I rarely even have the new calendar printed out yet.

 

 

I know I should be organized, scheduled, and have an exercise plan for the new year like everyone else. The truth is, I rarely even have the new calendar printed out yet. (Tweet This)

I think a great deal of my over planning and unrealistic goals comes from my fear of being inadequate. The tendency to compare my life, my goals, and my abilities to other people’s is a trap I regularly fall into. You would think I would have learned to avoid such a pitfall by now, but the prize looks so shiny. You know, all those filled in little checkboxes that are written proof I have done a good job. This may make me feel accomplished, but in truth all those activities can make me lose sight of what should be the priority.

Years ago God gave me a verse and I wrote this verse on my very first serious planner.

And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

When I become overwhelmed, which is quite often, these words anchor me. All the various goals I made for myself are not necessarily what God has required of me. His requirements are simple. They are not easy. They are infinitely practical. Every day, whether planned out or not, I can be sure that I will be given plenty of opportunities to fulfill my Lord’s requirements for the way I should conduct my life.

I really don’t need to go looking for other accomplishments to try and succeed at. This one verse, Micah 6:8, is a pretty tall order all on its own. I don’t need to over fill calendars, lists or organizers until I feel like I measure up to a self-imposed standard. I only need to stay yielded to the Holy Spirit and remember what is primary.

Keeping my eyes on three things: to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God gives me the focus I need to succeed in reaching the goal that God has for my life.

 Three things: to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God gives me the focus I need to succeed. (Tweet This)

Nothing else required.

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Authentic Pharisee

In today’s Christian culture, old fashioned terminology is more than frowned upon; it is loudly disdained by some of the ‘cool’ Christians.

I have never been cool. Awkwardness is my forte. Cliché has often crept into my vocabulary. I have, at times, committed that terrible offense of speaking Christianese.

The thing is, I don’t see anything wrong with certain terms unless gets in the way of communication. Truth be told, sometimes it does, and in my search to find better methods I keep stumbling across negative slams against those not culturally up to speed.

au•then•tic adj.- not false or copied; genuine; real

I can’t wrap my head around the idea that certain people are automatically labeled as fake because of the terms they use. Who can look inside a person’s heart? Who can dare to say they know another’s true thoughts and intentions?

It really isn’t anything new, this mocking of people who look, act, or speak differently than we do. We have all experienced it, and we’ve all done it. Rejecting a person based on a dated vocabulary is no different than unfairly judging someone by appearance.

phar·i·see n.-a sanctimonious, self-righteous, or hypocritical person.

It doesn’t seem to matter who you are, sooner or later a judgmental attitude will take over if we are anything less than vigilant in preserving our unity. Churchy language, contemporary music, body piercings, stained glass, these things are not the most important issues. Try to remember a matter of preference is no reason to show disrespect. Negative, divisive attitudes do not belong in the body.

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1-3 NASV

Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Colossians 3:14-15 NASV

In Danger of Death

I’ve been meditating on 2 Corinthians 4 today.

We are always in danger of death so that the life of Jesus may be seen.

Death. Life.

You have to die before you can go to heaven. Before we can even begin to experience the heavenly life our souls long for, the physical body must die.

Before we can be spiritually reborn and pass from the death of merely existing on this planet into the life of being one with Christ, we have to die to our old ways, our will.

Because we follow Him, relationships are in danger. Some of them will die.

To make people see Jesus, you must act as He acts. Forgive. Serve. Feed. Weep. Die to self. Be vulnerable. No follower of Christ gets a pass on this assignment.

And we don’t get to decide which people we minister to. He does.

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

I’m so glad He’s here with me, every single time I face death.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

Student at the Wheel

Today I bought some magnetic ‘Student Driver’ stickers for my car. I got one for the back and one for each door as well.

There is much less aggression from other drivers when you have one of those bright yellow and black striped stickers on your car. Those sharing the road tend to be more patient and drive better themselves if they know a young driver is at the wheel of a nearby vehicle. The sign is clearly understood and the student is almost always given extra room.

Life is hard to navigate.

The person whose performance is less than perfect may be trying their best, but their attempts are awkward for any number of reasons.

Do you ever wish there was a wearable sign for the times in life when your efforts are awkward and the terrain is unfamiliar? The times you are wobbly and unsure? A heads up to those nearby that made them lose impatience and gain understanding? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a visible notice others would pay attention to that said, “Please be patient. Give me room,” and they would?

“If I have not the patience of my Saviour with the souls who grow slowly; if I know little of travail (a sharp and painful thing) till Christ be fully formed in them, then I know nothing of Calvary love.” ~ Amy Carmichael

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:1-2 (NIV)

Mean Girls

mean (adj.) selfish in a petty way, unkind, cruel, spiteful; ignoble.

It’s a common pitfall. Everyone hates the mean girl, but if we are honest we have to admit her shoes fit us entirely too well.

After all, what’s a comment or two? And that youtube video was awfully funny, even if it embarrassingly mocked that girl. People do irritate us with their inconsiderate behavior. So what’s wrong with a little venting? It’s only an opinion. Besides, my friends agree with me, so I must be right. Right?

Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word nor unwholesome or worthless talk [ever] come out of your mouth, but only such [speech] as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others, as is fitting to the need and the occasion, that it may be a blessing and give grace (God’s favor) to those who hear it. Ephesians 4:29 AMP

We may not consider our words to be exactly evil, but scripture tells us to only speak that which is good and beneficial.

Is It Kind? Is It True? Is It Necessary?

Instead of being ‘mean-spirited’, we are commanded to be a conduit of God’s love, so that we fulfill our purpose to give blessing and bring grace.

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nuthin’ at all.”