Tag Archives: Stephen King

Making Shelley a creative girl

A snowy day at Mankato's Wine Cafe, the perfect place to discuss writing.

A snowy day at Mankato‘s Wine Cafe, the perfect place to discuss writing.

I’m keeping notes on my various writing funks.

When a funk hits, it’s usually tied to isolation. Day after day of writing in a house with silence, with nobody to talk to, makes me go a little Stephen King. All work and no play makes Shelley a dull girl. Except I resist the part where Jack Nicholson hacks up his family and talks to ghosts.

Although talking to ghosts sounds fantastic. Company! They could tell me stories about the old days, and I could get them up to speed on Breaking Bad. We could share a bottle of wine. Talk books. Swap recipes. Discuss politics throughout history.

Or I could visit Mankato and rejoin my writing group, which sounds healthier and not as likely to prompt a psych ward visit. I know these writers can drink wine. Lots of wine. Ghosts? I’m not so sure.

The four-hour round trip was worth every mile.

Before the group met, I worked in the Blue Earth County Library. A creative explosion happened on that little table. My fingers have never hit the keyboard so fast. The energy and excitement of being “home” helped pull me into my novel.

Then I went to the Wine Café, a funky place that should be on your Mankato tourism list. On a notebook – and without any wine – I outlined the entire plot of a book that’s defied my wish to write itself.

Group members arrived and helped me solve problems with setting and a device. We critiqued another piece, too, an essay, which worked the adult part of my brain. For nearly an hour, I wasn’t thinking about the minds of kids. No butt jokes or little-girl social crises or bugs brought home in jars–all of which are my personal and professional life.

Then we talked about our projects, chatted about personal stuff, and laughed adult-style.

That’s one reason to be part of a writing group. Look for more reasons tomorrow.


Co-workers for rent

“Writing is utter solitude, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself.”

Sooooo lonely ...

Sooooo lonely …

Franz Kafka

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

Jack Nicholson as crazy writer Jack Torrence

There’s a backlash in the home office world. Telecommuters fought long and hard for benefits of a home office. Now they’re lurking in the “cold abyss” and fighting the urge to go Stephen King on Shelley Duvall.

We’re lonely.

But not anymore! Last night, whiIe blog surfing, I read tips from a telecommuter on replacing the office socializing we miss.

Here’s the big tip, and it’s worth a drum roll.

Drum roll … if you’re experiencing loneliness in your home office, consider renting an office with other telecommuters.

No need to read that sentence again. You got it the first time. Consider renting an office with other telecommuters.

Then telecommuters can be lonely together. They can share staples and try to unjam the copy machine. Chat about last night’s “Colbert Report.” Gossip about Jane, who works here, at Lonely Telecommuters Inc., instead of working from home where she works for her company instead of working in her company’s building.

Wow. An idea so stupid it’s almost brilliant. (This tip wasn’t exclusively for people who work hundreds of miles from the office. Just home office folks in general.)

Are we that lonely? Then tear up the home office deduction and go back to the office.

As for me, I’m staying in my pajamas until noon.

Book Trailer Part One

I have more than one year to prepare for the release of The Graham Cracker Plot. One year to plan and worry. And worry and worry and worry.

My recent internal debate: Do I need a book trailer? If you haven’t seen one, book trailers are short previews (much shorter than movie previews) of the book. The trailer should capture the book’s tone and tease the plot. If you’re lucky, the video goes viral and creates buzz for your book.

Tomorrow I’ll post about the benefits of a book trailer, doing them on a budget, and some links to book trailers.

But today, I’m clinging to the old-fashioned novel experience. Going to the bookstore and wandering for an hour. Picking up book after book. Trying to narrow the purchase. Finding a gem that will keep me awake, a book so good I have to put it in my purse in case I have time for a page or two.

My purchasing decision involves these steps.

  • The cover and title. The attention grabbers. If they’re intriguing, I’ll read the jacket copy.
  • The jacket copy. For me, this is the book trailer, minus the video.  It’s the tease.
  • The author. If I’ve read someone’s work and loved it, I’ll buy everything they write until they jump the shark. (Stephen King jumped the shark with Misery. I quietly filed for a writer-reader divorce.)
  • Placement: I always look through the store’s special displays.  I love the tables with books already sorted for me. “Debut Authors.” “Best Summer Reads.” “Award winners.” “New in paperback.” And, of course, “Clearance.”
First flip-flop: In my novel, there's one woman who tries to keep her trailer looking nice. These are part of her yard decor.

First flip-flop: In my novel, there’s one woman who tries to keep her trailer looking nice. These are part of her yard decor.

I’m not sure I want the author – or the author’s marketing team – eroding the joy of discovery and imagination with a trailer. I want to create the characters’ faces. I want to map out the town. I want to see the room in which the characters argue. All of this should occur in my imagination. The book trailer is a spoiler even if it doesn’t give away crucial plot points. When the writer types, The End, my reader mind believes the writer’s job is done.

As the writer, however, I’m intrigued with idea of giving readers a peek at my vision for setting and character. I’ve already taken some photos that translate my brain’s vision. I’m not sure what I’ll do with them, but I had a blast taking the pictures.

So, yes, I’m a flip-flopper. I confess.

More tomorrow.

Who do they think they are?

From the excellent Gotham Writers Workshop, a very cool blog. Recently, the blogger wrote about famous books and the number of rejections the authors received. Hopefully it’ll provide new writers with some perspective and let them know they’re in very good company.


It just feels fatal. It’s not.

There’s a post along with it. Check it out here.

Dune by Frank Herbert – 13 rejections

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – 14 rejections

Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis – 17 rejections

Jonathan Livingston Seagull – 18 rejections

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle – 29 rejections

Carrie by Stephen King – over 30 rejections

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – 38 rejections

A Time to Kill by John Grisham – 45 rejections

Louis L’Amour, author of over 100 western novels – over 300 rejections before publishing his first book

John Creasy, author of 564 mystery novels – 743 rejections before publishing his first book

Ray Bradbury, author of over 100 science fiction novels and stories – around 800 rejections before selling his first story

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter – rejected so universally the author decided to self-publish the book

From rejection slip for George Orwell’s Animal Farm: “It is impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A.”

From rejection slip for Norman MacLean’s A River Runs Through It: “These stories have trees in them.”

From rejection slip for article sent to the San Francisco Examiner to Rudyard Kipling: “I’m sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.”

From rejection slip for The Diary of Anne Frank: “The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the curiosity level.”

Rejection slip for Dr. Seuss’s And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street: “Too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling.”

Rejection from a Chinese economic journal: “We have read your manuscript with boundless delight. If we were to publish your paper, it would be impossible for us to publish any work of lower standard. And as it is unthinkable that in the next thousand years we shall see its equal, we are, to our regret, compelled to return your divine composition, and to beg you a thousand times to overlook our short sight and timidity.”

So you’re a writer? How cute!

Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.

Stephen King

Yesterday I had coffee with a former professor. He retired early so he could write full time. I think he took some kind of pledge because WOW. He’s doing incredible things in the world of art and literature. More about his work in another post.

Needless to say, we had a lot to talk about. I also have a friend who’s a full-time painter, and another friend who wrote full time for a year. Plus friends who spent their sabbaticals writing. Here’s what it’s like for me, with anecdotes from the artists I mentioned.

  • You have to get up. Lazy mornings turn into lazy afternoons. For me, I have to get dressed. Pajamas call me back to bed.
  • You are isolated. No co-workers for a quick social outlet. That’s why I try to work once a week with my artist friend. Before I moved, I had regular work dates with other writers. Did we chat? Sure, just like people at the water cooler. Did we have lunch? Yes, that’s when we caught up. Mostly, we talked writing.
  • Non-artists ask, when are you going to get a job?
  • Retired family members (I love them dearly for their support!) forget about your day job. Can you go out to lunch? Can you run some errands with me? Want to go shopping? Can you do me a favor since you’ve got free time? Often my answer is yes, because it’s good karma. Because I finally live close to them and I want to make up lost time. They’ve done so much for me throughout the years, I’m eager to give back.
  • Once my writer friend was asked to provide day care in the summer. Since she didn’t have a job and all.
  • You have to take breaks but keep them short. I put down the laptop for a 30-minute workout (which I hate more than getting up early). I throw in a load of laundry. But mostly, I work.
  • Sometimes you have to work on vacation. My last two trips, the laptop went with us. I had deadlines both times. Usually I work on the weekends. How long depends on deadlines and whether I’ve been struck by an idea I need to play with and outline.
  • You have to set goals so you’re not wandering aimlessly.
  • In my case, the Internet is the devil. Sometimes I have my almost-husband shut down the wireless for the day. On the other hand, it’s a research tool and a way to network.
  • I rarely answer my phone during the day. Sometimes I don’t answer the door.
  • The best advice I’ve ever had: Do something you dread every day. Sometimes it’s a call to make a pitch. Sometimes it’s asking an indie bookstore owner, please carry my book! Sometimes it’s tweeting, which still confuses me.
  • You have to read. You can’t write if you don’t read. You read different genres to learn. It’s your homework – and usually a pleasure.
  • You have to get writers to critique your work. In return, you critique their work. In my case, it’s a writing group. We’ve been meeting religiously twice a month for almost a decade.
  • If you write for kids, you have to hang out with kids. Listen to their dialogue patterns. Learn their silly sense of humor. Watch them play and interact.
  • You live in droughts. A good paycheck, then nothing for months. A small paycheck followed by a better paycheck.

There’s more, but I hit the main points.

I’m lucky. My awesome almost-husband never comes home and complains about dinner not being ready (usually not even planned) or the state of the house or all

And this is on a good day! A clean house is a sign of wasted time. Um ... yeah.

And this is on a good day! A clean house is a sign of wasted time. Um … yeah.

the Diet Pepsi bottles on the counter. He comes home and says, did you write today? Good for you!

He put a writing nook in our smallish house. He put a monitor on the wall, so I can change neck positions. He bought me anti-virus software and a back-up system. He gave me the most comfortable chair I’ve ever owned. Not to mention this amazing laptop. He’s my champion.

Thinking of writing full time? Congratulations! It’s a wonderful life.