Why writers don’t write more

Writer’s need to write, but for some stupid reason we procrastinate and avoid the page.

What if what I write is garbage? The first draft probably will be, but that’s what editing is all about. We are mining for the jewels in the trash.

What if no one wants to read what I’ve written? We want to share what we’re writing and have it resonate with someone else out there. Preferably, LOTS of someone elses. But, it should be okay to write for one’s self. To explore and express and not have to share it with the masses – RIGHT? Theoretically, yes.

Should I keep writing if no one buys my books? I guess it depends on why you’re writing. Every author wants to make money writing, but it’s not usually the case. So, why not take up ceramics or painting instead? Writer’s want to tell stories, and most of us would make ceramics or paintings if we had the time or inclination.

I think that we all want to excel in everything we do. That is the kicker. No one wants to write a bad story. No one wants to write a book that others don’t care to read. We’re a world of dreamers that don’t always realize our dreams.

Artists of all kinds (writers, musicians, sculptors, painters, etc.) dream of creating beautiful things that others will want for themselves. We can’t help it. We get so much joy creating our art that we want to share it. We long to be loved for our work. Oh my. Where did that come from? Could that be the flaw in our creative dreams?

Whenever I sit down to a blank page, I want to create something lovely, and it doesn’t happen every time. But the act of putting words down does allow for the creative flow to happen, the muse comes to visit and the story unfolds. The key – sitting down to the blank page and not letting it scare you off. Right. Note to self. Nothing will happen unless I do it. The story will not write itself. DUH.

What if you have so many stories and characters crowding your mind you can’t settle on one and finish it? That is a problem. Bottom line – pick one. Finish the first draft. Then you can move on to flesh it out more, editing as you, or put it aside and start on the next idea that won’t leave you alone. I know. I’ve been there. Done that. And continue to…

 

Happy Holidays & Goodbye to 2017

First of all, I want to wish you all a wonderful holiday season. I hope that it will be a joyous and healthy time. Pay special attention to the stories being told over the dinner table; stories are our lifeblood. Listen with your feelings as well as your ears.  And be present, get out of your head and be present! Santa reading

Thinking back on 2017 it was quite eventful, although I didn’t always realize it. I started the year editing like a fiend on my first romantic suspense novel, “Your Every Move.” It was fun writing about college days in the 80’s, but having a stalker causes serious trust issues. “Your Every Move” was published in e-book in June and in print in July. It’s available in e-book everywhere and print via Amazon, Watermark Books & Cafe, and my closet. 

In case you were wondering why I didn’t blog much this year, well, there were lots of reasons. Life, mostly. You can always find me on the Author Expressions Blog the third Friday each month, however, so I hope you’ll pop over and see what this great group of authors have to say.

Sometimes we creative types have to expand our arena and dabble elsewhere. I like painting and had a blast visiting the Carriage Gallery in Newton with my friend Karen to paint Sunflowers in January. What a wonderful place to express yourselves and enjoy the artworks on display. They have classes for all ages and all levels of skill.

Because I’m not getting any younger (are any of us) my husband and I attended a retirement workshop this year at WSU. That was eye-opening, too bad we didn’t start saving sooner. We learned new ways to save and make money stretch, that’s always a good thing. 

My brother-in-law had a heart attack in February, but he is doing fine, enjoying retirement and learning to cook and count sodium. He is finding that everything has salt and it’s almost as prevalent as sugar. UGH.  We are truly blessed that he is going strong.

In March I had the pleasure of speaking to the First Thursday Bookclub about my novel, “Patchwork Family.” What a great bunch and lunch was very healthy as well as tasty. That same month I visited the Kansas Writers Association meeting, and we discussed query, synopsis and agents. That was a lively talk, I must say.

In April the Wichita Public Library at Westlink invited me to read and discuss, “The Log of the Cowboy.” OMG, what a blast. And I learned so much from the discussion. My current work-in-progress, tentative title “Finding Grace” is set in the 1890’s during the Oklahoma land rush, so the story of a trail drive across the Midwest helped to put me in the period.

I was also a part of the Watermark Literary Festival with three other authors during April. One of the folks from the cowboy discussion at the library came, brought a friend, and bought a book. What fun!

May brought another opportunity to talk about cowboys at Covenant Presbyterian Church. And yes, they were kind enough to feed me. I’m having lots of fun learning about the building of the plains area of our country, and it is fascinating.

Did you see the total eclipse in August? We did, and I must say it was an experience I will NEVER forget. In fact, I will probably become an eclipse groupie, there’s supposed to be one in Texas next year so count me in.

This fall one of my favorite aunts passed away. She had the most infectious laugh, and I loved her dearly. She was the sweetest person I know and we will all miss her.

In December a dear friend of mine, Lois Ruby and her son Jeff spoke at Watermark Books. They both have new books out, and it was so much fun to see them and hear about their writing journies. This is Jeff’s first novel “Penelope March is Melting,” and it’s been on the best seller list at Watermark for two weeks now. Go, Jeff! Lois wrote another spooky novel “The Secret Grave,” and I can’t wait to read it.

I hope you all don’t mind the chatty holiday letter and wish you all well. Let’s all read more books next year!

Bonnie (BD) Tharp

Your humble author and friend.

reading books

Memoirs

Lately, my book club has been reading memoirs. “The Glass Castle” and “Mennonite in a Little Black Dress.” Both stories were so vastly different but interesting. As we enter the later chapters of our lives I wonder if anyone would really care about my family story, except maybe our kids or grandkids. Now that my grandparents are gone and my parents as well, I wonder what stories I missed. Are most lives interesting enough to write about? In their entirety, probably not – but segments of all of our lives are compelling and interesting enough to share. Hence, the popularity of blogging, the proliferation of memoirs and people writing novels loosely based on their lives. All stories can be interesting – depending on how we tell them, of course. Ah, KEY: how well do we tell the story? Another key: the RELATIONSHIP with our readers. Do they care? It’s something to think about.

November where are you?

Okay, what happened to November? It was here and now it’s gone.surprise

I looked back at the calendar to see just why and it appears to have been inordinately busy, with family visiting, holidays, and birthdays. All good things. Is it my imagination or does time go faster as you mature? I suppose scientifically it does not – but it appears to, none the less.

There’s always something that needs to be done – but do we make good choices? I confess I don’t always. Do we make time for the things that truly matter? I hope so. Some things can wait another day, like dusting and laundry. But sharing a conversation or coffee with friends are important. Make time for them.

Our children grow up, move away and have families of their own. Soon the grandchildren are grown as well. Time does not stop or slow down for any of us, no matter how much we want it to. Some days I am amazed how much time has passed in my life then I think of all things I’ve experienced and realize it’s been not only productive but incredible.

Will things slow down in December? Doubtful. Will I enjoy it? Absolutely. I’d like to repeat myself – make time for the things that matter and have a healthy, happy December.

Santa reading

Editing my fingers to the bone.

Sorry, I’ve not been posting regularly lately, but I’ve been editing, editing and editing some more. The 1970’s YA novel is now a 1980’s YA novel because the youth today know the 80’s references and so do their parents. So, the story can promote discussion….YES!

The new title is “Every Move You Make: I’ll Be Watching” and yes it has suspense, romance, betrayal, friendship, obsession and abandonment, not necessarily in that order.

tvSTAY TUNED!!

Notable Quotes

Habit is the bed of creativity. Tuck yourself in. ~Stephen King

Have a goal – die trying. ~Karl Marx

Inspiration is everywhere – carry a notebook. ~Victor Hugo

Follow your zen. ~Herman Melville

The is no ideal environment to work in. ~William Faulkner

Finish. ~James Joyce

seasonsoflife

Who tells the story?

kids_sprinklerThe art of perspective, or who tells the story, is vital to a story well told. What does that mean? Usually, the best person to be the main point of view character is the one who changes the most or is most impacted by the events you are portraying. I’m not talking about “I” telling the story (this is POV and the HOW), it can be first person, but it can also be third person (he or she), or the all seeing god-view. I personally like third person, because, “I” can only know what “I” know and not what is going on in any other character’s head. The experience portrayed in this photo could easily be told by one of the children, but also by the mother who witnesses their play. She would no doubt have a similar experience to share from her childhood and be able to relate it using all senses. My point here is that POV and the teller are linked.collage_heart

In romance, the story is about the two lovers (to be or not to be). There can be lots of interesting secondary characters, but they are not the most important to the story – it’s the couple finding their way to each other. So, even if the maid can tell the story, the story is about how the lovers get together, not how she feels about the job or the price of beef. It can be interesting to see an observers view of how a romance transpires, but there is too much distance to the emotions in the story to be satisfying to the reader.

In the story, Driving Miss Daisy, the driver tells us about Miss Daisy and their relationship. He has a very interesting perspective of his charge and is able to share her antics with honesty. Their friendship evolves over the story as her health devolves. We perceive the racial tension in the south, but these two people overcome that barrier. She needs his calm dependability and he needs to be needed. (I confess I saw the film and didn’t read the book, this is how I perceived the story telling.)

glasses_paper_keyboardSo, how does a writer decide who is the best to tell the story? If you aren’t sure, I suggest trying to write it through a couple of different character’s (or POV) and see which flows best. My short story, “The Crossroads” has always been from Sylvia’s POV, but it was in first person first. When I changed it to third person it flowed better. It is “her” story, and no one else could tell it better, but as an author I had to put some distance between us. Being her in the “I” in the story, put me too close to see everything clearly. We decide “who” and “how” the story will be told.

“The Book Thief” interestingly enough was told from the point of view of ‘death’, but it was the young girl’s experience during this time in WWII. As narrator he was able to express the darkness of the time.

What makes the best “teller” in your story? That’s for the author to decide. Experiment. When you’re recounting the story of your toddler in the store shouting, “Mommy, what’s a jock strap?” It’s mommy’s embarrassment and toddler’s antics that make the story. It wouldn’t work if the toddler told how he did this, so the best person to relate it is Mommy or the clerk standing on the ladder witnessing the exchange. friends_n_rain

When I was little my grandmother always told me the way to understand why someone acted a certain way I should, “Listen harder. Walk around in their shoes for a while.” In essence that’s what an author does. We listen to our character and put ourselves in the story in order to relate the feelings, smells, sounds, textures of the experience. If we are lucky, we grow so close to the story that for a little while we become the characters and their story becomes even richer.

Enjoy the journey, my friends.

otter

 

Life is not a straight line…

Life is not a straight line. We bounce around and find our way through.

forget me notsIf you follow your “curiosity” it will give you clues. Be aware. Be open. Listen. Trust that every place you go is where you are supposed to be in order to gain experience, wisdom, grace, humility, discipline, faith…

This was especially true in my twenties. But I have to say that even at my current age I must not fall into the pit of focusing so hard on one outcome that I miss opportunities to grow. How about you?

When I’m writing a story and think I already know the ending it’s surprising what can happen along the way. New characters appear. Old characters change. Assumptions made no longer apply. And sometimes the ending morphs as well. Follow the path, wherever it leads you.

I love when I’m reading and the story surprises me. Occasional unpredictability can be inspiring – emotional – even educational. But writer beware of throwing a huge rock in the soup, it will totally change the flavor and splash not only the broth, but the reader right out of the pot.

snoopy happy danceI’m a fan of satisfying endings. Who wants to read about a total loser who never ever wins? Totally depressing. You want readers to feel hope for the characters, satisfaction that the story ended as it should and they didn’t waste their time.

I hate to see a cool character die or an antagonist that can’t be redeemed (even just a little bit). In life, those things happen, so they have to occur in story as well. What is story, but the telling of a life experience (real or imagined)? A path taken that resulted in certain consequences that the reader can relate to, utilize as a lesson learned in their own lives, or imagine and enjoy.  which way signLife is not a straight line…so the story can’t be either.

Enjoy the journey, my friends. I plan to.

 

 

 

Live and Learn and Pass it on

“Live and learn and pass it on” is a good motto, and one that hopefully will stay with me well into the new year.

So, what have you learned in 2015?

I’m going to give this a try myself and see what lessons I’ve learned this past year.

  • You really are only the age that you feel. (Some days I feel younger than others.)bonnie_jan_50s

 

  • Keeping your teeth healthy (brush, floss, don’t grind) is super important, unless you want to only eat soft foods after your teeth fall out. (Had two root canals this year.)
  • Most really good accomplishments started out with the thought that it couldn’t be done. (This includes skills that you thought you had to pay for – installing light fixtures, tearing up old carpet or wallpaper or ceramic tile. I learned how and saved some bucks.)
  • Exercise will keep you fit and feeling younger. (So will manual labor, but walking and yoga are more fun.)
  • Wcchipcookiesarm cookies from the oven are far superior to cold ones from the cookie jar. (Therefore, I only bake a dozen at a time and enjoy them fresh each day or until the dough runs out.)
  • Good cooking is all about the seasoning. (As is a good life.)
  • Enthusiasm is catching, not something you can teach.
  • Even when I have pain, I don’t need to be one.
  • When you drop a slice of bread it always falls jelly side down. (It happening to my grandson was a good reminder.)happy_person
  • There’s nothing more attractive than a smile. (It improves your face value.)
  • We can’t be lovable all of the time, but when we’re not is when we need love most.
  • Doing something in anger usually makes more work for later. (Especially when you’re stripping wallpaper.)
  • You find out who your true friends are when you have a terrible job that you need help with. (And help might be in the form of prayer or a hug, or extra hands to do the work. It all counts!)
  • I’ve learned that you don’t always get what you pay for. (Contractors is a perfect example. If they are called “Affordable” they do a cheap job.)
  • Receiving (and sending) cards is a fabulous way to reach out. (I love getting and sending surprise notes in the mail.)
  • An un-watched pot will either boil over or boil dry. Every time.
  • Laundry is never “done.” (Unless you are in a nudist colony, I guess.)
  • reading_lotsReading a good book on a rainy day with a quilt and fuzzy socks is awesome. (And I do this as much as possible, with or without the rain.)

 

  • The value of human touch is priceless, especially when the touch is filled with love.
  • Not seeing your kids or grandkids for a year is TOO LONG.
  • I’ve learned that storytelling is what helps us touch, teach and support one another.
  • You can learn something from everyone you meet.
  • Be generous with praise. It costs nothing and reaps huge rewards.
  • You can find anything through Google. (My husband does it all the time.)
  • Don’t wear white if you’re planning on eating salsa or tomato sauce. (Nuff said)
  • Moving is really hard physically, emotionally, and financially. (Sometimes it’s worth it!)
  • Pick your battles. Not everything is worth fighting about.
  • Nothing is more delightful than a baby’s laugh. (Toddler giggles are up there, too.)baby_kissyface
  • Be kind. Always.
  • Make time to do the things you enjoy.
  • While humans plan, God laughs.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. I’m sure before I drift off to sleep tonight I’ll think of another lesson learned. The point is living and enjoying the days we have on this earth. And taking care of each other, too.

dancing_minions

HE KNOWS HOW IT FEELS TO WRITE

“You first dreamed of becoming a writer to create a deep connection. You wanted another person to know how you felt. You wanted to change someone’s life.” excerpt from Joe Bunting article on Writing Practice, Medium Daily

He writing wineis so RIGHT. Good books move me on so many levels. I want to write those kinds of books. It is my wish for readers and a dream for me. Thank you, Joe, for putting it so succinctly.