Tag Archives: Arts

Musical Monday: February Seven by The Avett Brothers

I love this song by The Avett Brothers. I’m especially fond of the lyrics. I’ve read that  the writer, Scott Avett, was vague about the meaning and would only say it referred to a lesson he learned on February 7th. As a result, there has been much speculation about the meaning of the song and many believe it refers to addiction or infidelity.

That may be so, but for me, the lyrics refer to something much broader in scope: the search for meaning in life (I went on the search for something true), and how we can be blinded to it by chasing the things we think we desire, but only end up harming us (a perfect blade it slit my throat). These things will not bring us happiness. Chasing them is pointless (there’s no fortune at the end of the road that has no end). Once we’ve uncovered that illusion (there’s no falling back to sleep once you’ve awakened from the dream) we realize that throughout our struggles there has been a constant in our lives (but I awoke and you were standing there) waiting patiently as we discover why we are here. That’s when life really begins.

February Seven

by The Avett Brothers

I went on the search for something true.
I was almost there when I found you.
Sooner then my fate was wrote
A perfect blade it slit my throat
And beads of lust released into the air.
When I awoke you were standing there.

I was on the mend when I fell through.
The sky around was anything but blue.
I found as I regained my feet
A wound across my memory
That no amount of stitches would repair.
But I awoke and you were standing there.

There’s no fortune at the end of the road that has no end.
There’s no returning to the spoils
Once you’ve spoiled the thought of them.
There’s no falling back asleep
Once you’ve wakened from the dream
Now I’m rested and I’m ready,
I’m rested and I’m ready to begin.
I’m ready to begin.

I went on the search for something real.
Traded what I know for how I feel.
But the ceiling and the walls collapsed
Upon the darkness I was trapped
And as the last of breath was drawn from me
The light broke in and brought me to my feet.

There’s no fortune at the end of the road that has no end.
There’s no returning to the spoils
Once you’ve spoiled the thought of them.
There’s no falling back asleep
Once you’ve wakened from the dream.
Now I’m rested and I’m ready
I’m rested and I’m ready
Yeah I’m rested and I’m ready
I’m rested and I’m ready
Yeah I’m rested and I’m ready
I’m rested and I’m ready
To begin
I’m ready to begin

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Musical Monday: Dreams by Brandi Carlile

“Dreams”

Dreams, I have dreams
When I’m awake when I’m asleep
And you, you are in my dreams
You’re underneath my skin,
How am I so weak

And now in my dreams,
I can feel the way, I can just come clean
I keep it to myself, I know what it means
I can’t have you, but I have dreams

How long, can you hold your breath?
Can you count to ten, can you let it pass?
Keep, can you keep it in?
Keep it behind latches, can you make it last?

And now in my dreams,
I can feel the way, I can just come clean
I keep it to myself, I know what it means
I can’t have you, but I have dreams
Oh, and I have dreams, I have dreams

Mind, can you read my mind?
Has it come undone, am I showing signs?

And now, in my dreams
I can feel the way, I can just come clean
I keep it to myself, I know what it means
I can’t have you, but I have dreams
I have dreams, I have, I have, I have dreams

Musical Monday: Counting Stars by One Republic

“Counting Stars”

[Chorus]
Lately I been, I been losing sleep
Dreaming about the things that we could be
But baby, I been, I been prayin’ hard
Said no more counting dollars
We’ll be counting stars
Yeah, we’ll be counting stars

[Verse 1]
I see this life
Like a swinging vine
Swing my heart across the line
In my face is flashing signs
Seek it out and ye shall find

Old, but I’m not that old
Young, but I’m not that bold
And I don’t think the world is sold
I’m just doing what we’re told

I feel something so right
By doing the wrong thing
And I feel something so wrong
By doing the right thing
I could lie, could lie, could lie
Everything that kills me makes me feel alive

[Chorus]
Lately I been, I been losing sleep (hey!)
Dreaming about the things that we could be
But baby, I been, I been prayin’ hard (hey!)
Said no more counting dollars
We’ll be counting stars
Lately I been, I been losing sleep (hey!)
Dreaming about the things that we could be
But baby, I been, I been prayin’ hard (hey!)
Said no more counting dollars
We’ll be, we’ll be counting stars

[Verse 2]
I feel the love
And I feel it burn
Down this river every turn
Hope is our four letter word
Make that money
Watch it burn

Old, but I’m not that old
Young, but I’m not that bold
And I don’t think the world is sold
I’m just doing what we’re told

And I feel something so wrong
By doing the right thing
I could lie, could lie, could lie
Everything that drowns me makes me wanna fly

[Chorus]
Lately I been, I been losing sleep (hey!)
Dreaming about the things that we could be
But baby, I been, I been prayin’ hard
Said no more counting dollars
We’ll be counting stars
Lately I been, I been losing sleep (hey!)
Dreaming about the things that we could be
But baby, I been, I been prayin’ hard (hey!)
Said no more counting dollars
We’ll be, we’ll be counting stars

Oh, oh, oh.

[Bridge 4x:]
Take that money
Watch it burn
Sing in the river
The lessons I learned

Everything that kills me makes me feel alive

[Chorus]
Lately I been, I been losing sleep (hey!)
Dreaming about the things that we could be
But baby, I been, I been prayin’ hard (hey!)
Said no more counting dollars
We’ll be counting stars
Lately I been, I been losing sleep
Dreaming about the things that we could be
But baby, I been, I been prayin’ hard
Said no more counting dollars
We’ll be, we’ll be counting stars

[Outro 4x:]
Take that money
Watch it burn
Sing in the river
The lessons I learned

 

The Writing Book That Helped Me Win NaNoWriMo

Yesterday I discussed my strategy (for lack of a better word) at the kickoff of NaNoWriMo and how ill-prepared I was to write a novel. I was following in the footsteps of King and Bradbury. Silly girl, so out of your league. I had written a novel by the seat of my pants before. Surely, I could do it again. Nope, it wasn’t going to happen, certainly not in the time frame allotted. 

Maybe King and Bradbury didn’t need to plan their stories, but somewhere in those brilliant minds I believe there was a plan, just not documented. For us less talented people, we need guidance, a model and that is just what Larry Brooks provides in his book Story Engineering. I created a model in Excel based on what I learned from the book. I merged it with my timeline, so it’s a little too intricate to share in this post, but I searched the web for a summarized version and found one here.

As you can see, there are certain milestones that should occur at predefined (but not rigidly set) points in the story to increase the dramatic tension and keep the reader engaged. The book goes into a deeper level of detail. If you read it and follow the model you won’t be at a loss about what to write and when. The model provides the structure to set the right pacing and tension for your story. If you deploy one of these milestones too early or too late, you risk losing the reader.

Are you still not sure you need a model? I didn’t think I did either until I hit that wall. Here is what Brooks has to say on the subject of organic writing:

“Many writers just sit down and write without a recipe. A story may or may not emerge, and that lucky writer may or may not be cognizant of the presence of the various structural elements and storytelling presence—the recipe—required.”

“While organic writers are often loath to admit it, the very drafting process they advocate is nothing other than a process of searching for and blueprinting their story, one iteration at a time, until they arrive at a solid sequential structure for it.”

“King’s approach—known as organic writing or, in some circles, pantsing (for seat-of-the-pants storytelling)—may actually work for some, but that’s only if a) you know what you’re doing to the extent that you don’t need to plan out your story; b) you somehow stumble upon the proper structural sequence and intuitively meet all the criteria for the various essential components; and c) you’re willing to complete the inevitable rewrites that come with writing without a story plan.”

“Those published writers who, like King, just start writing their stories from an initial idea do so using an informed sensibility about, and working knowledge of, story architecture. And yet, this is the default approach for nearly every new writer and a startling percentage of established ones, published and non published alike.”

Brooks provided many analogies in his book to emphasize this point. Here are a few:

 Recipe Analogy

“Consider a chef preparing a gourmet dish as an apt analogy for writing a story. First, the chef acquires all the ingredients called for in the recipe. There are basic principles to follow (eggs Benedict, for example, doesn’t fly without eggs, ham, an English muffin, and hollandaise sauce); still, there is room for the chef to play with the recipe to make it his own creation.”

Architecture Analogy

“Just as an engineer relies on an architecturally sound blueprint to build a structure that will bear weight and resist the elements—a vision and a plan based on proven physics and structural dynamics—writers can benefit from approaching the craft of storytelling armed with a keen command of the literary equivalent. It’s unthinkable that an engineer and an architect would meet at the construction site one day and just start digging holes and pouring concrete.

Writing is no different. We build our stories on a foundation of structurally sound principles. But from there we depend on something less definable and teachable to elevate our work. To raise it to something that publishers will buy and readers will consume and embrace.”

Human Body Analogy

“Human beings bring only a handful of facial features to the blueprint of how we look—two eyes, two eyebrows, a nose, a mouth, a pair of cheekbones, and two ears, all pasted onto a somewhat ovular-to-round face. That particular blueprint doesn’t often vary much, either. Interestingly enough, this is about the same number of essential storytelling parts and milestones that each and every story needs to showcase in order to be successful.

Now, consider this: With only these eleven variables to work with, ask yourself how often you see two people who look exactly alike. Where we humans are concerned, the miracle of originality resides in the Creator, who applies an engineering-driven process—eleven variables—to an artistic outcome.”

There are seven billion people on the planet. How often do you see two people who look exactly alike? Yet we all have the same basic structure underneath. His model provides the basic structure of every successful story without limiting the writer’s creativity. Brooks tells us “with some isolated and therefore irrelevant, exceptions, every published novel or produced screenplay delivers on each of the Six Core Competencies described in this model, at least to some degree. Even if the author doesn’t recognize it, or happened to back into them after multiple drafts. And even then, the really successful ones take them to a level of integration that defies definition. That become artful.”

So what are the six core competencies?

  1. Concept-The idea that evolves into a platform for a story.
  2. Character-Every story needs a hero. We don’t need to like him, but we do need to root for him.
  3. Theme-What your story is illuminating about life.
  4. Structure-What happens and in what order.
  5. Scene Execution-A story is a series of scenes with connective tissue and guidelines to make them work.
  6. Writing Voice-The suit of clothes that delivers the story to the reader.

The list only touches the surface of what is covered in the book. Maybe, like me, you had a basic understanding of the core competencies. I’ve read dozens of books on the craft of writing, but this is the first one that provided clarity on how it all worked together. This book will take your understanding of the writing process, story structure, and hopefully your writing, to a higher level.

To learn more about the competencies and how to deploy them properly in your novel, you will need to read the book.

 

How I Won NaNoWriMo

Yesterday, I discussed my, ahem, “strategy” for NaNoWriMo. Okay, you can stop laughing now. Seriously, stop. It’s embarrassing. Okay, are we done yet? Let’s move on people.

Yeah, it didn’t work out so well for me. But, I did win. See that image in the blue box on the right of my blog? At 50,004 words, I won by a hair.

Here are my daily word count statistics from the NaNoWriMo website:

NaNoWriMo StatsSee how I was churning out words every day, with the exception of my day of “cleaning” out the cobwebs (literally and figuratively) on day seven? I was on a roll. I was going to finish early! Somewhere around mid-month, I scheduled a celebratory wine tour with my husband to take place on November 30th. It would be my reward for winning NaNoWriMo. Presumptuous, I know, but I felt confident {key phrase coming} at that point.

Then I hit a wall and didn’t write anything for four days (the 20th through the 23rd). It felt like I was gasping for my last breath as a writer. On the fourth day I turned to Story Engineering by Larry Brooks for oxygen. Reading his book was like breathing in the fresh air. I had read dozens of books on the craft of writing up to this point, but found the formula for writing a good novel was nonexistent or esoteric at best. You just had to plug away at the keyboard every day and eventually something worthwhile would emerge. Some of these books have been praised by me in posts on this blog (Words of Wisdom on Writing from the King and Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury).

Like them, I was a panster. We don’t need no stinking model! Both King and Bradbury professed that there was no magic formula to writing. Here is what they had to say on the subject:

“Plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible.” Stephen King, On Writing

“Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.” ― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

I found their books inspiring, stirring to a writer’s soul, and while they provided loads of helpful advice, there was no specific advice about how to write a novel. I didn’t think it existed, until I read Brooks’ book.

After reading the book, I knew exactly what to write next. I came back with a bang on the 24th, but then took time off to celebrate my son’s birthday on the 25th and Thanksgiving with the families on the 28th and 29th.

I woke up early on the 30th and wrote feverishly for a few hours. As I was nearing the 50k mark, I began to imagine that my computer would somehow blow up and the work would be lost forever. Even the copy on the jump drive would somehow magically disappear. Once I noticed that my word count had surpassed 50,000 words, I hastily pasted the story into the NaNoWriMo site and validated my word count. MS Word showed the total word count at 50,048. The NaNoWriMo validation check clocked it at 50,004, just a few words over the required minimum. I had done it. I actually wrote 50,000 words in a month.

This is how I felt:

 

 Tomorrow, I’ll discuss what I learned from Brook’s masterful book.

A Review of My Strategy for NaNoWriMo

It’s been ten days since the end of NaNoWriMo, and after giving myself some time to digest the process, I’ve decided to share what I learned during those thirty maddening stimulating days of writing. I thought I was prepared to write. Heh. Heh. Heh. {Shakes head} Bless her naive little heart.  

I had a story idea. It’s an idea that’s been with me since 2009. Actually even earlier, but that’s when I first scribbled the idea on a slip of paper. It’s the story I’ve wanted to write, but could never seem to wrap my head around it.

So, the first novel I cut my literary teeth on was a romance. I chose it because the story structure seemed pretty straightforward. In very simple terms, they meet, obstacles tear them apart; they’re reunited, and live happily ever after. Because of this I was never at a loss about what to write and when. I created detailed character descriptions and a timeline that evolved as I was writing, but I didn’t plan ahead. I was a “panster”, an organic writer, in every sense of the word. After I had finished writing the novel, I learned about Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat Beat Sheet (more about that in a later post). I plugged my story into the formula and realized I had somehow managed to write a story that followed proper story architecture. Score! Well, not really. There are other issues with it, so the novel is currently collecting cyber dust on my laptop.

But anyway, given that experience, I thought, “Pfft. Plan schman. I got this, man. Besides, developing a plan will hinder the creative process. I’m going to tackle that story.” Here was my strategy {shakes head again}:

  • Develop character profiles.
  • Have a general idea (undocumented) of the story.
  • Write stream of consciousness.
  • If you have trouble with a scene, just write the dialogue and go back in and add the details later.
  • Resist the urge to correct as you go along. Vanquish that inner editor!
  • Don’t worry about how messy the house gets (I failed at this one, though. Read on.)
  • No rules, just write!

Yeah, I think that about sums it up. I’m not sure because guess what, I didn’t write it down {shakes head once more}.

I started to have doubts about my ability to write 50,000 words in one month, but received a Pep Talk   (click on the link to read the post) on the eve of NaNoWriMo that restored my faith. On day one, I bolted out of the starting gates writing 2,729 words, far above the 1,667 daily average to meet the goal by month end. I continued at this pace for the next several days, averaging about 2,400 words per day for the next eighteen days.

There was one rare exception during this time period where I didn’t write a single word. I somehow found it necessary to clean my entire house from top to bottom including cleaning out the refrigerator, the oven, organizing my kids’ closets, and even rearranging the attic (yes, you read that right). But I viewed this as necessary to the creative process. After all, sometimes the best ideas come to me while performing some mundane task like washing the dishes.

The next day I was happily pounding the keys of my laptop again, turning in high daily word counts. I was going to finish early! Ha! This is so easy!

 And then…BAM!

I hit the proverbial wall on day nineteen. I struggled to write one word. I remember I had written a total of eighteen—that’s right, 1-8— words in the first hour. I buried my head in my hands. Oh, the agony! With great effort, I managed to write 545 words that day, but the stuff I wrote was complete shite. For the next four days, I didn’t write one single word (yes, I know that’s redundant, but it’s intentional for dramatic emphasis). I was going to fail.

As a writer, I went from feeling like this:

Meme Best Day Ever 

To this:

Rapunzel Failure Meme 

My poor muse didn’t know what to make of me. Yeah, that’s him sitting beside me, looking utterly frustrated. 

And then I picked up Story Engineering by Larry Brooks {clouds part, angels sing}. Hallelujah! I’d discovered the holy grail on writing. Tomorrow, I’ll tell you how I won NaNoWriMo.

Word of the Day: consanguinity

con·san·guin·i·ty noun \-ˈgwi-nə-tē\

plural con·san·guin·i·ties

Definition of CONSANGUINITY

1: the quality or state of being consanguineous

2: a close relation or connection

 

First Known Use of CONSANGUINITY

14th century

Definition source: http://www.merriam-webster.com

The Word of the Day started with this post.

Book Review: We Are Not Alone by Kristin Lamb

We Are Not Alone by Kristin Lamb

Goodreads Description:

Forward written by NY Times Best-Selling Author and Co-Creator of Who Dares Wins Publishing Bob Mayer “I wished there had been a step-by-step guide for writers on how to not only do it technically, but do it content-wise. This book is the answer to that wish.” Social Media is more popular than ever. As society becomes more and more technologically advanced, people are seeking new ways to interact. Humans are social creatures. Relationships and community are vital to our survival and our mental and emotional health. Writers, published and unpublished, fiction and non-fiction are hearing words like platform and brand with increasing frequency as the publishing paradigm shifts into the 21st century. The world around us is changing faster than ever, and publishing is certainly not immune. There are more opportunities for a new author today than there has been in the entirety of human history. Yet, the flip side of that reality is, with thousands and thousands of authors with books and blogs, how can a writer ever hope to stand apart let alone succeed? This book will show you how. There are countless social media experts, but Kristen’s system is specifically designed to meet the unique needs of a writer. Take charge of your future today. You have great books to write, and don’t have time for rookie mistakes that can cost you years of rebuilding your name, brand, and platform. Kristen’s method is simple, effective, and helps you harness that same creativity you apply to your writing and harness it to build you social media platform. Best part is you don’t even have to be a computer expert or know anything about sales. This system is designed to change the writer’s approach, not the writer’s personality. And the best part is you have help. Remember, We Are Not Alone.

My Review:

I read this book shortly after I started blogging in March of this year. The most valuable advice that I gleaned from it was the importance of branding your own name. If you’re a writer, don’t use a moniker for your social media platforms. Readers will have difficulty finding your book if the author name is rarely mentioned. She also advised that authors avoid using the title of their book as their name/identifier in social media platforms unless they plan to write just that one book. And what if you change the title of your book before publishing? She recommends that you use your name or the name you will be writing under for all social media platforms.

This was eye opening for me. When I started my blog, I wasn’t sure what name to use. I remember coming across all these creative social media monikers, but I couldn’t come up with one that I thought I’d want to stick with permanently, so I just used my name. By sheer dumb luck, I did exactly as the author recommends. Well, it’s more than a recommendation. To her, it’s a must.

“…it is absolutely crucial for you to brand your name over and over and over and it is always associated with your content, that is like a non-stop commercial pitching your work every single day. This is why a moniker can absolutely KILL your platform.

When you use anything other than the name that will be printed across your book, you give up your most valuable marketing real estate…the top of mind.”

The book is a bit dated, but considering it covers the ever-changing world of social media and was published in 2010, that’s not surprising. Still, it contains useful information for those who are new to social media and with the author’s sense of humor mixed in, it’s a very enjoyable read.

4 out of 5 stars

Kristin has recently released an updated book titled Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World. It’s been getting rave reviews and is on my TBR list.