Terrytown's Library

Terrytown's Library
Raised in Terrytown, Louisiana

Monday, January 31, 2011

Rewrite and Characters From Work

Rewriting the story again, this time changing everything. Something simply isn't flowing for me, but this is the way we write. We try something, hope it doesn't work and we try something else when it doesn't work. I'm learning that writing is trial and error, it is the willingness to throw out pages and characters, etc. and start all over. I'm also learning that writing is about paying attention, which is what I did at work this weekend. I have a writing friend in Alpharetta who told me that I have to leave work with at least one character. (She may have said two.)

Mia said to her cousin, "girl, you need to get yourself a lunch box." Her aunt Regine just laughed, but something about the box the girl swung looked both familiar and unfamiliar. She turned from Mia and Lisa and went back to trying to choose the least expensive outfit to put together for her daughter.

"Your daughter is just too funny. She's got everything in that box of hers."

Jerry shook his head, but didn't say anything. He barely smiled, which was odd to Regine because he smiled and laughed at anything his daughter did.

"Are you okay?"

Jerry shrugged. When he glanced at Regine, she thought he might tell her something, but he went back to staring at the girls underwear.

"Does she really need anymore of that." Regine lowered her voice, "you do know what happens when you hold it all in?"

Jerry jerked his head from side to side. Regine sighed but didn't go back to looking for clothes for her daughter. Rather, she watched her brother while he seemed to be pretending to pick up items for her child.

This piece is based on something a customer told me at the register. Right now, I like it. Actually she was talking to the woman with her, I just listened in. She was telling both of us how this little girl picked up a lunch box that no one paid for and put all of her stuff in it, which the cashier had to take out once they were checking out. The story she told me stuck with me.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Working On Rewrite

I'm working on a rewrite of the story I published on second blog, the fiction side. It will be a little different because I think I set the story in the wrong location.

The third prompt I came up with is write about something, either as a whole story or a piece of a story, you or your character heard on NPR or another news program. I believe I can work this into the story, just as I've worked the second prompt into the story, write about a place you've visited or want to visit someday or want to return.

In the meantime I completed the first draft of a story that I started yesterday. I can't wait to write and complete the second draft and I can't wait to complete this draft, which I hope to be able to do this weekend.

Another thing I've always wanted to do is to use another type of art to write a story, maybe a painting or an image. I would love to write a story based on a song, maybe write a collection of stories based on music. I love music. I think I'll work on that soon.

I'm trying to use this time to get beyond my fears and find ways to write the stories I've always wanted to write.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Maeve Binchy's quote, from her book, THE MAEVE BINCHY WRITER'S CLUB has slowly become my favorite for beginning fiction stories and I'm sure it works for nonfiction pieces. She said, "Something happens to the main character at the start, and we follow him or her dealing with it, or not dealing with it, or ignoring it, or making it worse." I like this quote because it encourages you to start your idea and your story with a problem. I want to write an updated version of John Updike's fiction story (which I've probably mentioned a little too much already) 'A&P.' The protagonist wants to quit his job, but he stays until he sees his manager treating three girls badly simply because they were wearing bathing suits. He walks out knowing the consequences when he gets home. My character wants to quit her retail job, but she's not as young as the main character. There are consequences are worse for her. There's a such thing as keeping your job until a better one comes along and that hasn't happened yet. What does my character do? She sulks and writes fiction stories. (It's hard creating a character based on you and your experiences without making her a writer.)

Start with a problem, and then write a first sentence. That way your story will have further to go. How's this for a problem: she's tired of her this man hitting on her. Why can't she do anything about it. That will be this week's writing prompt. I'm actually trying to work on another prompt I've come up with a friend of mine. Write a story based on a past event or person returning to your present life in some form.
I feel that everyday you need to motivate yourself in becoming a writer. I agree with quote in Paul Raymond Martin's INSPIRATION AND MOTIVATION, "You cannot decide once and for all to be a writer. You must renew your commitment to writing every day." I'm not sure how I'm going to do that, but I do agree with it because there are sometimes I don't believe that it's possible and other days I feel like my collection will be published as soon as I can complete it. I do believe that like a novel, a collection needs a theme that connects the stories. It just might be easier to write the collection by starting with a theme the way that some writers feel that starting with the end is how you get to the beginning. This is how I'll write those stories that I can't seem to begin and I will let you know how it's doing.

Remember those two writing prompts, choose one and begin with whatever can happen to the protagonist or main character at the beginning of the story.

Next entry will be about using literary magazine submission guidelines as a prompt.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Improvisation or Spontaneous Writing

This is my favorite type of writing. I think it's the best way to get a ideas for anything that you're trying to write.

"Sometimes I feel like I just want to write and other times I feel like I want to get away, but I'm afraid of picking up my pen or turning on my computer." Kelley looked past the therapist who, every so often, scribbled something down in her notebook.

"You mentioned fear. Why are you afraid?"

"I've already been told not to write anymore--."

"No Kelley, why are you afraid? What are your expectations of yourself?" The therapist, who was actually a graduate student, moved back in her chair. Calling her by name would make it seem real. It was easy to think I have a therapist not to mention her name. Then it wouldn't be casual and she might have to admit that she was crazy. At least that was her thinking. She didn't know that some of her family members and relatives either were in therapy or had sought therapy for their problems. Everything embarrassed and intimidated Kelley.

"Think about what your expectations are of you and don't worry about what anyone else may think. I want you to write about it, anyway that you feel comfortable and then show it to me next week."

Kelley nodded and then stood when her therapist stood. Kelley's smile was grim. She shook the graduate student's hand and thanked her for another session. It was free, the only thing she could afford without any insurance. Her job didn't offer any benefits and it was possible that no schools would need substitute teachers for a week or longer. Luckily, Kelley was needed everyday at various schools. It was almost like they were fighting over her. She smiled at that image as the therapist followed her and talked about how great their session was. It was the same thing she said every week.

Spontaneous writing allows you to write those stories you've always wanted to write, but never could figure out how.

"The car's broken?"

"No. Runs just fine. It was my," he paused in trying to decide what to call Diane. He decided on fiance even though he hadn't proposed to her when she was killed. By her own hand. That, Mark thought, sounded better than suicide.

Mark watched the young, chipper college student walk around the car a few more times. It wasn't anything fancy, but Diane loved to blast Little Richard and Elvis Presley when they drove. You'd think they were their parents rather than graduate students in their mid twenties. But she loved anything ancient and antique. It was why, he knew, that he was the only guy her age that she ever had a relationship with. Every other boyfriend was thirties or older. She even attended one old boyfriend's funeral. He asked her a few times what was wrong with her and then stopped asking when it only offended her and he realized that she wasn't ever going to give him an answer.

Spontaneous writing gets you past the story idea and into the story. Everyone should try it. And if you try it, have fun with it.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Paying Attention

I'm working on paying attention to my writing. My stories need conflict and motivation, but they also need better writing. I'm realizing that if you can't get passed the beyond writing, then no one will ever be able to read your story. This is something I should have learned in my early school years, something I should have paid a bit more attention to, but it's obvious that I didn't. Working on my craft means perfecting my writing as well as the conflict and motivation of the story.

My favorite way of writing will always involve beginning with a first sentence. I think ideas are in that first sentence. I just need to pay attention to; He was there again, sitting against the square post near the shelves of reference books. He seemed to always be there. I'm trying to write short stories based on my personal experiences and this is one I've been trying to write about living and working and writing in New York. I'm still learning to add to the experience to better the short story. I'm trying to be truthful to the story and the characters, not the experience the story is based on.

"Won't even say hi." I was pulling a book from the shelf when he spoke to me. His voice was loud in order to reach the new book fiction section I stood in front of. I pulled down Lee K Abbott's new and selected stories called, All Things, All At Once and turned to him. I was slow in walking towards me because I knew the conversation would be about my healing process since Hurricane Katrina. "How can you have a boyfriend," he said when we first met, "when you can't move past pain. No one wants to hear that." We'd been leaning against the wall beneath the window for a while, which was probably why he felt comfortable enough to give me advice. He had been confiding in me all day and I didn't tell him anything about my life. I sat down next to him and braced myself for the worst.

In real life, there's no guy I met in Barnes and Noble. So far, I like the character. The story that I'm working on now, I need to cut out a few characters that are only talked about and I like those characters, but it might help the story a lot.

"I like to say there isn't anything you can do now that will be worse than what has already happened," he said after a while. He smiled, eventually and we fell silent for a while.

It's truly good to know what you need to work on. I can't believe it's already 6:50. It was 5:41 not long ago. I didn't think I fell into that trap called, but that's how it really happened. Doesn't matter what really happened. What matters is the truth of the story that your trying to write. It's the story and characters that you have to be true to, not the experience.

Happy Writing

Next entry will be a writing prompt and my response to it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Completing Drafts

It feels incredible to complete a draft, even better the more drafts you complete. I feel that I've accomplished something and that I'm closer to even greater accomplishments, like submitting it to a literary magazine, enter it in a contest, having other people read it. I wish everyone could know this feeling, could have something this great that they want to run and tell everyone what they did while at the same time wanting to keep it for themselves. I've had people, past co-workers, to not care about what I call my writing achievement. I ignore them and keep on writing because I know that I did something so wonderful and that it will lead to more wonderful things. Writing fiction, especially completing drafts gives me so much confidence that it can only spill into the other things I'm trying to achieve, like getting a better job and moving into my own apartment and calling libraries and colleges to find out how I can give talks there about writing and reading fiction. I'm going to try Georgia State University first. I took a semester there and would love to talk to writers, one student writer to another.

Every time I complete a draft, I feel more confident in the possibility of having a career as a published fiction writer. Becoming an indie fiction writer.

I'm also going to start working on a story about being snowed in for three days so far and why it doesn't have too much affect on the protagonist of my story.

"Hi, welcome to Baby Care," I said to the couple who came in through the door that the woman left carrying her bag of baby bath things and a thermometer. Seeing her cart-less made me look to the front of the customer service box where I saw an empty blue cart at an angle.

Maybe I'm writing a story right here on my blog. It's a continuation of the scene I wrote earlier.

"It's great to be here," one of my co-workers Jasper said.

I knew he was being sarcastic, but I played along. He was cute. "Sure is." I was being partly sarcastic. It was great having a job, even if I was working far less than part time. I had a paycheck and hoped to have a second job and a writing career soon. Who didn't want to do something other than what they were doing right now.

It's probably going to be my next story. Maybe a story about silence that I'm supposed to be working on for my critique group. Or, and it will be my version of John Updike's A&P. Everyone should read it.

Everyone happy writing. Let's prayer that the snow and ice quickly melts for those who really need to be out on the road.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


The second day of being snowed in. I completed another draft of Dawn's story yesterday. I'm going to see if I can reread it, make some corrections and type it up and prepare to submit it somewhere. I'm pretty excited about the story, which is about realizing that a friend has changed so much that there's nothing left to do but to move on. And it's not easy to do that.

It's a great day to catch up on some household chores and to do some writing. It's a great day to do some writing prompts and especially to create your own writing prompts.

I rang up her purchases as I smiled at her, but she was fumbling in her purse looking for coupons. The customer before her was on the phone and barely looked at me. I rotated my shoulders and head when I finished ringing her up. This was not the job I imagined when I was walking across the stage in New Orleans to get my Bachelor Degree. And it was barely paying the bills.

"I do have some coupons," the woman said without looking up from her purse. She smiled at me and then returned to digging around her large purse.

I smiled and said, "it's okay. Take your time." She was the only person in line and no one was coming after her. "You can bring your coupon in with your receipt and get a price adjustment, as long as the coupon is still good.

She kept looking as if I hadn't said anything. "Found it. Way at the bottom of my purse." She smiled and waved at me as if it was a winning lottery ticket and I had the million dollars in my register to give to her. She sighed with relief when I accepted the coupon and scanned it using the price gun.

This is probably my third, if not fourth, attempt at writing a story based on my retail job. I'm reading Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way and I'm doing her twelve week course; the morning pages, the artist date. I'm only on week two, but it's been fun so far and informative. If you can, pick up the book and dive into the twelve week course.

After she left, I looked around the customer service box to see what I could do to keep busy while waiting for the next customer.

Friday, January 7, 2011

I'm so excited that I'm finally working on a second story for my short story collection. Childhood was initially going to be the link between the stories, but now I think it will be music since music was part of Dad's Death and music is part of this latest story, whose title is probably going to change, but for now is called, Life After High School. I've been drafting this story for a week and a half, took a break and then pulled up the file and started rewriting it. So far, both stories are set in Louisiana and are based on person experiences of mine.

I'm praying that my interview at Rooms To Go will land me a full time job at one of their locations, a close by location. Other than that, I'm still searching for any full time job that will allow me to move into my own place and buy furniture and pay bills and pay off debt.

I'm so pleased that I'm writing stories based on my personal experiences. Right now it's the past, but I'd like to write stories based on where I'm living now. I want to write my version of John Updike's A&P story. I think I can do that. And I want to write some what if stories. I have ideas, like
  • What if my high school friend's ex came into the store I worked in What would he have to tell me about my old friend.
Working in retail has given me a few stories that I have yet to write, but I will and I'm excited about these future stories.

For all of the writers try this writing prompt. Take something or someone from your past and put it into a story based on your present life.

I wiped my brow, wishing for fans above the customer service box. I felt like I'd been standing in the desert or I was back in the school gym waiting for Hurricane Katrina to leave us and then waiting to be rescued.

A man walked in the store, but he didn't turn towards me. Instead, someone at the baby registry greeted him and then gave me a curious look. I couldn't answer and I couldn't stop staring at this man who I hoped wouldn't buy anything while at the same time hoping to learn what happened with my friend.

This is the beginning of my what if stories. How about writing yours? Happy writing.