Why I write (and other things): My PitchWars mentee bio

Okay. So it’s do or die time. I think I’ve rewritten this blog post almost as many times as I’ve rewritten my query letter. It’s time to suck it up and post it.

I took the plunge and submitted my current manuscript to PitchWars this year. And, to be honest, I submitted largely because all of the people involved seem so awesome, and I want to get to know them better. So here’s a little bit about me.

I grew up in a tiny tourist town in Colorado. I wish I still lived there. Instead, I now live in a tiny tourist town in Utah. I grew up reading books and raising all different types of farm animals: sheep, goats, rabbits, horses and the occasional llama.

I wrote my first novel in middle school. I credit it with surviving that period of pre-teen angst. During seventh grade science, instead of listening to the teacher, I sat in the back of the class writing a story about my adult life operating a horse ranch with my best friend. We even raised a Kentucky Derby winner. The story enabled me to see past the bullying and failed friendships. It showed me a future that was only possible if I pushed through and survived. So I did. I didn’t go on to raise horses, but I am raising two pretty awesome kids.

I never really planned on pursuing writing. In fact, in high school, even though I did well in English, it was one of my least favorite classes. It wasn’t until college that I decided to abandon my dream of professional trumpet playing (just one of my not very realistic career choices, including country music singer) and pursue a degree in creative writing.

I am now a stay-at-home mom, and a freelance writer doing regular work for the local newspaper. I have written six novel-length stories, though many of them are doomed to the obscurity of my computer’s hard drive.

So why pick me? Well, I can sing my alphabet backwards (a trick I taught myself after hearing that cops made you do it for sobriety tests), and I can ride a unicycle. Not very far, but I can do it!

I’m also a hard worker, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get this manuscript whipped into shape so that it’s presentable to the world.

So there you have it. That’s me in a nutshell. I just hope you aren’t allergic to nuts.

Oh, and if you’re interested in checking out some of the other awesome authors that I’m up against, you can find more bios here: http://dcmorin.blogspot.com/2014/08/2014-pitchwars-contestant-hop-now-its.html

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Need to get away?

Sometimes in life, we need to escape. Hit CTRL, ALT, DEL. Reboot. Whatever. But that’s not always easy. Life can make it difficult to hide from all of its problems, so we find our own ways to escape within the confines of daily life. Some people use music. Others turn to drugs and alcohol. Me? I write.

When I sat down to write my first novel-length piece, I had no intentions of writing a novel. It was just a story. A story about my future. A story that gave me hope. I was in middle school, and I was miserable. Now, to be fair, middle school is a rough time for most kids. Changing hormones, acne, trying to fit in . . . I don’t know a single person who wishes they could go back.

Middle school was extremely rough for me. I was bullied routinely. Because I cut my hair short. Because I listened to country music. Because I preferred soccer over makeup. It was non-stop noise, constantly buzzing in my ears, making me question everything about who I was, and who I was going to be. Add to that a healthy dose of family drama and a falling out with my best friend, and some days I was pretty sure the light at the end of the tunnel had been snuffed out.

Then I started to write Rosewater Creek. It was silly, really. A story about my life on a ranch on a horse ranch in Texas. All of my friends played lead roles. I had a jockey who eventually quit to take a job riding wildebeests, a sassy stablehand who was always yelling at me, and even a trashcan prophet.

Though the story was awful and will never see the light of day, it was not a waste of time. I didn’t write Rosewater Creek dreaming of fame and fortune (though I did ask a famous country singer to come star in the film adaptation my friends and I had planned. I’m still waiting to hear back on that request. I’m sure he’s just busy.) I wrote Rosewater Creek to remind myself that life could get better. That middle school wouldn’t last forever.

I don’t live in Texas. I don’t even own a horse. And I certainly didn’t raise a Kentucky Derby winner. My life isn’t anything like I pictured it to be during those bleak days, but that’s okay. Because by picturing that life . . . by writing it down, I gave myself hope. Enough hope to struggle through the daily grind that was middle school. And I came out the other side. A little bruised and battered, and definitely a different person than I was going in. But I made it.

Rosewater Creek isn’t my only novel that is destined to never see the bright lights of publication. I’ve written several novel-length pieces that are likely to reside in obscurity, but they’ve all served a purpose. One helped me realize that I wanted to pursue the dream of being a writer. Another helped me handle the ups and downs of an unexpected pregnancy. And every single word I wrote brought me closer to a reality where I can call myself a writer.

When you write, there will be naysayers. People who think you are wasting your time. And chances are, in their opinion, you will waste a lot of it. But you know what? It’s not a waste. Because if you’re anything like me, even if you never achieve your dream of being traditionally published, you love writing. And doing something you love can never be a waste of time.

The NaNo Gods must be crazy . . .

We’re more than halfway through the month of November. Thanksgiving is only a week and a half away. My husband’s beard is getting decidedly bushy, and the NaNo Gods have decided to throw everything at me. Including the kitchen sink. Maybe it’s time to look for a better sacrifice. My time and sanity don’t seem to be cutting it.

On Saturday I had my first failure of NaNo. Despite writing and desperately updating my word count up until the very stroke of midnight, I only managed to log 1,356 of my 1,666 2/3 word goal. Now I could blame it on a lot of things. I could blame it on a lack of inspiration, my own procrastination or a bad impersonation. It’s got to be some sort of ation, right? But no. I lay the blame squarely on the shoulder of my bushy-bearded husband.

My husband is not nearly as big of a fan of NaNo as I am. In fact, he pretty much just hates it. Apparently I spend too much time obsessing over writing, and not enough time paying attention to him. (Forgive me. I’m an addict.) So this year in a blatant attempt to ruin my run at NaNo he went and got sick with pneumonia. Pneu-fricking-monia! Are you kidding me??? I blame it on his beard. Surely the pneumonia organisms wouldn’t have been able to settle in if they hadn’t been able to cling to the unshaven strands that are covering his face.

Needless to say, Saturday was the climax of his illness, which resulted in us spending our afternoon in the Emergency Room (because small town’s don’t understand the need for Urgent Care centers). Thankfully an amazing friend watched the kids so I didn’t have to try and corral them around the hospital waiting room.

The good news is, I have quite a few words saved for a rainy day like Saturday was. Par for today is an even thirty thousand words. I’m currently sitting at 36,673, and I haven’t written today. Well, that’s not true. I’ve written two and a half newspaper articles and this blog post. I just haven’t had a chance to sit down and work on NaNo. But I will find time. I will preserver. And tomorrow and Wednesday I will have a bit of respite while both kids are in school, and the mending spouse is at work. Hopefully I can work my way closer to that elusive 50,000 word target and not give myself pneumonia doing it.

On the fourth day of NaNo, my novel gave to me . . .

So we are officially on the fourth day of NaNoWriMo, which means I probably shouldn’t be writing this blog post. For the next few weeks, there are two reasons I will be blogging: either I’m taking a quick break from my novel (and hopefully caught up on my word counts) or I’ve fallen hopelessly behind and given up.

Today is the first of those two. Whew! It’s been a difficult few days, but I’m keeping up. I think this year had a rough start because the first of November fell on a Friday. For most people, the weekend is probably the best time to get writing done. For me, it’s the opposite. With my husband and kids home all weekend, it’s hard for me to find time to sit down by myself and concentrate like I need to. And for us, the weekend usually starts early on Friday. Combine that with a six-year-old who is still recovering from a nasty fever, and trying to hit my 1666 2/3 words each day was a challenge. 

On Friday, I managed to get a good start, writing over 2,000 words. But I knew I needed some extra in the tank to save up for later. Saturday we went for a 22.5 mile bike ride, which took most of the day. And yesterday we spent a good portion of the day in the car. It was a bit of a stretch to hit the 5,000 word mark that I needed to reach to keep on track, but I managed.

The story has been moving a little more slowly than I’d like, and I’m not sure I like most of what I’ve written, but that’s the point in NaNo. Sometimes you have to just have to hogtie your inner-editor, add some duct tape across their mouth and toss them in the corner. They can wait there patiently until December first. So that’s my plan. I’ll keep putting down words, and hopefully I’ll have at least a rough story that can be shaped into something better down the line.

As I write this, I’m at 7,295 words which puts me ahead of where I need to be, but there’s a long time between now and the end of the month. There’s no telling what could happen between now and them. So for now, I’ll just keep on plugging along and hope divine inspiration strikes.

Ask me about my NaNo

The leaves are changing colors, the mountains are covered with tiny blankets of white, and there is a definite chill in the air. That means it’s almost my favorite time of year (and probably my husband’s least favorite.) I’m talking about NaNoWriMo.

For those of you who don’t know, November is National Novel Writing Month. Granted, it’s also No Shave November, National Diabetes Awareness Month, Sweet Potato Awareness Month, Native American Heritage Month, and a whole slew of others. So it’s totally understandable if, between all of those and the holidays, you didn’t know about NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo is celebrated with an online writing contest. The goal is to write 50,000 words during the month of November. Doesn’t matter if they’re good or not. The point is just to sit down and get the story out. My husband actually wrote, “This is my novel” and copied and pasted it a billion times. He actually made the computer freeze up after getting over a million words. He threatened to actually upload it just to say he was a winner, but he chickened out, leaving me as the only NaNoWriMo winner in this house.

Last year was my first year competing in NaNo, and it was an eye opening experience for me. I had written several novels before, but each had taken me years to get down on paper (or the computer screen). By forcing myself to ignore my annoying, OCD inner-editor, I was able to hit the 50,000 word goal days before the deadline. It was a huge victory for me, and I still smile thinking about it. Was it hard work? Yeah. I had to dedicate a lot of my free time to writing. It meant spending less time on Facebook and more time thinking. And it was totally worth it.

Now, obviously a novel written in the course of a month isn’t likely going to be publishable right off the bat. I’m still working on the one hundred and ninetieth rewrite of last year’s novel (not quite, but it feels like it.) But come November 1st, the gloves are off. The rewrite will be pushed to the side, and if all goes well, another 50,000 words will be born.

So join me if you like. There’s nothing to lose even if you don’t hit the goal. At least you can say you tried. And feel free to ask me questions about NaNo. I may not be an expert, but I’ve lived it, and I can’t wait to do it again.

Scrapbooking and Self-Doubt

Scrapbooking and laundry. That’s what I did yesterday during the small amount of precious free time that I get these days. That’s right. I said scrapbooking. For those of you who know me, you’re probably having a hard time reconciling that image. I don’t scrapbook. I’d love to, but it’s not really my thing. I started a scrapbook when my son was 2 years old. I got three pages done before realizing I had other things I’d rather do with my far from copious amounts of free time. So it got filed away.

For the past eight months, I have dedicated a large part of my free time every day to writing. Writing this blog, writing one of the two novels I’ve been working on, anything. All I wanted to do was write. I loved it. It felt so freeing, and I couldn’t wait for that block of time each day so I could sit down with my computer and get more words on the page. I even began to dread weekends, because I lost that time.

So how did I find myself working on a scrapbook yesterday instead of writing? Simple. Self doubt has paralyzed me, and left me more or less useless at the keyboard. It’s ironic because just over two months ago, at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference, I sat in on a session about Writers Block. The speaker talked a lot about writers block being caused by fear: fear of failure, fear of not being good enough, etc. And I remember being surprised. I wasn’t scared of failing. I write for fun. Because I enjoy it. Failure, while a definite option, wasn’t a concern.

So what happened? To put it simply, within one week two of the three agents who requested to look at my manuscript turned me down. They were both very cordial about it, and I can’t say I was surprised. It’s a tough business to get into. It was only a few months ago that I wrote about getting my first rejection and how it wasn’t going to get to me because I knew it was going to be hard. I tried to be stoic and not let it get to me. But apparently it did, because my current work in progress has been languishing, and even though I have some ideas on how to fix the manuscript that has been turned down, I can’t bring myself to open a file and work on it. I have all of these ideas in my head, but when I do try to write, they seem stale and lifeless. So instead, I spend my time on Facebook. Or worse . . . scrapbooking.

But I finally felt enough inspiration to write this. So here’s to the hope that finally being able to pound out a blog post (though it may not be funny or witty at all) signals at least a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Because I have to push through this and keep going. At least if I don’t, I’ll have a mediocre-at-best scrapbook to show for it.

Top Ten Ways Writing a Novel is Like a Relationship

Writing this blog has helped me realize several things. One is the fact that I probably need serious therapy. I mean, really, who confesses to being a failure of a coffee drinker, gushes about being rejected and then posts about having intimate relationships with the main characters from their novels? Well, probably most aspiring authors, but that’s not the point. I’m starting to suspect I have daddy issues. (Just kidding Dad. Love ya!) But I’ve also realized that writing a novel is like a relationship. So here are the top ten ways the two activities are similar.

Top Ten Ways Writing a Novel is Like a Relationship

  1. You learn all of your main characters dirty little secrets, and you finish his/her sentences. You laugh when they laugh (because it means you’re funny!) You cry when they fail or are hurt. You want them to succeed, but sometimes you’ll hurt them to help them get there. And you’re constantly trying to change them to be what you want. (Not necessarily a hallmark of great relationships, but still pretty common.)
  2. First impressions are important. Even though you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, most people do. And even if they’re willing to look a little deeper, they usually know by the end of the first conversation if they’re willing to give it a try.
  3. Sometimes things will be great. Especially in the beginning. You’ll get along great, and even when you don’t you’ll brush it off. Everything will be sunshine, rainbows and unicorns that poop marshmallows (which I hear taste awesome if you add sprinkles. I can’t claim ownership of that beautiful imagery, but I still love it.)
  4. Sometimes things will be tough. Your main character may not see eye-to-eye with your vision of where you want things to go. You might fight because you put the roll of toilet paper on backwards (something I didn’t realize was a sin until I started dating my husband.) There will be times where you’ll feel like you’re wading knee-deep through mashed potatoes (without gravy) just to make progress.
  5. In the beginning of a really good one, things are all fireworks and sparks and excitement. You’re incapable of thinking of anything else. Not your kids (if you have them), your real job (if you have one), or cleaning the house. The only thing you can think about is spending some more time together. When you finally manage to fall asleep at night, you’re thinking about where things will go next and where they’ve already been.
  6. Everyone has their own taste. They may like skinny or thick, funny or serious, young, blonde and charming, or old and crotchety. You have to pick what works best for you and stick with it regardless of what everyone else likes. Because if you try and make it work with someone who really doesn’t fit your style, it’s going to be painful for both of you.
  7. Sometimes you have to share with others! Okay, so maybe that’s not typical in most relationships, but it works for some people. Those swing parties that people have are disturbingly similar to a critique group. Everyone brings theirs and lets other people take it home.
  8. Juggling more than one is not easy. I made the mistake of starting a new relationship with Joann after promising Phoebe that I’d spend more time with her. But Phoebe and I were struggling to get by, and what Joann and I have is new and exciting.
  9. Sometimes it ends. You may reach a point where it just isn’t working, and you have to move on to something new. Or, after a dozen revisions, it may be time to start seeing other people (hopefully agents or editors for your manuscript, and new characters for you.) One way or another, you have to move on and let go.
  10. If you’re in another relationship (ie married, like I am) your significant other is constantly jealous and suspicious. You find yourself lying to cover things up. (Him: Why are you so quiet? Me: I’m thinking about . . . umm . . . the stars. Yeah, the stars. I’m certainly not thinking about the next conversation between my main character and her love interest and how they’re going to resolve their fight.)

What do you think? Are there ways that I’m missing? Let me know.