Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Toasting Your Dreams

Last Friday I toasted and drank champagne one more time with one of my very best friends. Today she is leaving for a new life in the Peace Corp stationed in Azerbaijan for the next two years. She just retired after nearly 40 years in television news and is going off to pursue a long time dream.

Liz, my friend, I salute you and toast to you. You never turned your back on the spirit of those dreams we always used to share. And that remains true today. Even if some never came true, we've never stopped dreaming and we're always ready to pursue something new.
Liz and I met as young broadcast journalists back in the early 70s, working an early morning shift at San Diego CBS affiliate KFMB-TV. We spent hours after work and on weekends, sitting on the beach, drinking cheap wine and beer, talking about things we wanted to do during our lives. In those early days she wanted to go to Egypt to see the Pyramids. My dreams were much more modest. I wanted to live and work in lots of different cities. But I also wanted to be a writer.
Our dreams shifted focus as we went along the way but we never stopped chasing them. She got married and raised two wonderful children. I wanted to write romance novels, but I also fell in love with television news. I kept up my fiction writing during my spare time while working long hours to become a newsroom manager. During those middle years, she did get to Egypt—and many other foreign places with her family—while I worked in five different western cities, including three different stints in Los Angeles.

And now we’re looking at our newest round of making our dreams come true. Last year my fourth book came out and a new novella, Shadows from the Past, is soon to be released. Liz travelled to Hanoi earlier this year and now she is on her way to perhaps one of her biggest dreams—to live and work in a foreign country.
I was going to say I’m not nearly as daring as Liz—I couldn’t see myself going off to live in a strange city—but then I had to stop because I’ve done that over and over in my career—even if all the cities I moved to were in this country. There were times I showed up in a new city with nothing more than the clothes and furniture in my U-haul or car carrier and whatever Mustang I was driving at the time. And I wouldn't know a soul for thousands of miles. But I was living my dream.

And the point is we were always ready to look for the next step toward a new dream—whether it be writing or travelling. It took me nearly 20 years to finally get a book published. So while our dreams might shift or we might have to re-focus— and we’re re-focusing a lot these days because we both need glasses just to read our favorite Chinese restaurant menu—we’re still pursuing our dreams.
So, Liz, I'm drinking Mimosas to you today! I’ll keep writing my stories and looking for updates on your newest travel adventure.

For other writers out there who might be discouraged at their latest rejection, keep on going. Never give up on your dreams. They can shift, they may need to be refined, but keep having them and keep living them!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Morning Mimosas

There is nothing quite like a morning Mimosa on the patio. That's one way to celebrate finishing a book! To start the week I sent in my final galleys for my upcoming romantic suspense, Shadows from the Past. Now I just need to get cover art and get the release date.

Right now I'm working on edits of another suspense. (more on that at another time) Today I want to discuss something I heard from a friend last week. He told me that he hasn't been writing as much lately because he had discovered that he hadn't been reading enough.

Huh? It sounded weird at first, but it got me to thinking and he is right.

Sometimes when I find myself in a dull period in my writing, I discover I need to do the same thing. I’ve always enjoyed reading so it isn’t hard for me to want to do it for enjoyment. There's nothing quite like sitting down with a good book or short story and getting buried in it.

But there are other times when it is also helpful to do your reading as homework. Dare I say study?

How many times have we heard bestselling authors say, read, read, read?
It keeps us connected. Reading can bring me out of the doldrums and get me going again. I especially find it true when I’m editing. Suddenly I find myself questioning everything. I don’t like the way I've written something and I start questioning my voice, my word choice, EVERYTHING.

I've learned that reading works by others and analyzing the way they say things can help me to put new spark into my own work. Suddenly I’m exposed to different word flow, different voices and it helps me analyze my own work in the same way. Was that how I wanted to write that scene? What can I do to make the scene livelier, more compact yet get my point across?

What about dialogue? Am I using too many tags? Am I using dialogue as an information dump? What do I like about the way they've written a passage? What don't I like about it? What do I like about their voice? I look at my favorite authors and question why I like their work so much, why I enjoy their voice. I look for the little things that they do as authors to make their work special and unique. At other times I take time to study work by writers I don't normally read and look for the difference in why I don't usually buy their books. Sometimes I even discover a new favorite author that way.

Then when I sit down with my own work, I spend a few minutes looking at what I like about what I'm writing and how I want to get my own story across. Before long I've rediscovered my own rhythm, my own voice and I'm ready to move forward again.

So take the time and read, read, read. It’s important to read in your own genre, but reading outside your genre can also introduce you to new worlds too.  Enjoy your reading… I’ll be sitting down with a mimosa and a good book and doing some homework.

Please leave a comment. I'd love to hear what you think of reading for enjoyment and as a way to study your craft.