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Write as if your life depends on it.

Writing is hard.

Okay, allow me to expand on my initial words.

Writing fiction capable of holding a reader in the story until she, or he, reaches THE END is damn difficult.

hemingway quotes about writing-writing is hard-there is nothing to writing
Thanks, Ernest. I’ll remember that.

Truth time. How many books have you read in the past ten days? Twenty days? Month? I don’t mean perused, but held on until the last page? Me? One. (And, no, it wasn’t my book. I don’t like to read my books, which has nothing to do with my stories. It’s more of a perfectionist thing. “Why did I end that sentence with a dreaded ‘ly’ word?”)

compulsiveness-writing is hard

Sorry. I digressed. I’ve been confined to a recliner chair for the past two weeks–surgeon’s orders. (http://bit.ly/2iK76pU)

In my banishment I’ve written, played Hearthstone, watched movies (one thumb up for LaLa Land and two thumbs and all my toes up for Collateral Beauty), and read.

At least, I tried to read. Why, you ask? (You should be asking that.) They sucked. The characters were as transparent as ghosts and the story lines boring as (I’ll quote my son’s favorite adjective) fuck.

life's too short to read shitty books-shitty books

One book’s premise claimed the story was a paranormal romance. The prologue introduced me to the spectral hero as he raped the handcuffed and gagged living heroine. With his talons!!!!! Hmmm, that’s not romance. That’s erotica. Graphic, bloody, degrading erotica. And I blame you, E.L. James, for opening that Pandora’s box.

pandora's box-pandora
I bet Pandora would have cringed if she read some of the books being published lately.

Three other books, although new releases with a gazillion years on the New York Times’ bestseller list, were yawn-fests. I didn’t care if the characters fell off the now flat earth. In fact, I wanted to be the one to push them.

boring books-blog about boring books
Here’s a quote from one of the books: “He looked at me with weepy eyes and whined.” No, ‘he’ wasn’t a dog!

I eventually found a book to read. One from my bookshelf. It held my interest and I fell in love with the characters all over again. Ray Bradbury, thank you.

“It was the face of spring, it was the face of summer, it was the warmness of clover breath. Pomegranate glowed in her lips, and the noon sky in her eyes. To touch her face was that always new experience of opening your window one December morning, early, and putting out your hand to the first white cool powdering of snow that had come, silently, with no announcement, in the night. And all of this, this breath-warmness and plum-tenderness was held forever in one miracle of photographic is chemistry which no clock winds could blow upon to change one hour or one second; this fine first cool white snow would never melt, but live a thousand summers.”  Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

ray bradbury quotes on writing-writing quotes
Thank you, Ray.

Okay, fellow writers, I challenge you to write. I mean truly write. Dig deep into your characters. Find their buttons. Weave worlds were magic happens. Take your readers to places their hearts, and souls, long, or fear, to visit. Don’t just slap words into your computer. Write, damn it. You too, E.L.

hemingway quotes on writing-hemingway writing quotes
Thank you, Ernest.

And I promise to do the same.

Blessed be :}

 

 

Character Arcs and why you should get to know your Main Character!

Have you ever stayed with a book until the last sentence and realized the main character was as dull as white bread? She, or he, never changed? Well, I just read such a book. Typically, I would give up by the second chapter but the reviews for this particular book were so glowing that I trusted the MC would spark a bit of life. Nope. Reading her journey was like reading a pamphlet about watching paint dry.

character arcs-woman resting-depressed woman-sleeping woman
Character Arcs can change up or down, but they MUST change.

For those of you new to this writing gig, allow me to clarify the definition of a Character Arc. A Character Arc is the change a character goes through as she/he passes through the story. That’s it! No big mystery. Character Arc can be positive, negative, or they can remain unchanged, which I call flat-liners.

Let’s peek at the new Jack Reacher movie, Never Go Back (spoiler alert). Jack moves through a positive arc and by the end of the movie learns to give another human being a place in his heart. No, not a love interest. You’ll have to watch the movie to understand.

In other words, Jack goes through a positive arc. Scrooge travels through a positive arc as he realizes the error of his ways. As did Darth Vader.

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Aw, he was nice all along. He didn’t mean to kill those millions of innocent people.
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Angel had a positive Character Arc. Damn, I miss this show.

Some characters travel negative arcs.

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Check out the movie Chatroom.

And some characters remain unchanged. They are whom they are from beginning to end. Yup. Indie is a flat-liner. The story still worked, thanks to the genius of Steven Spielberg.

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Bottom line? A character must have an arc or you, the author, won’t have a story worth reading.

By now, you might be wondering how to ensure your MC has an arc. It’s easy. Talk to her. Ask questions. My favorites–Why? and How? Here’s an example. Let’s say your MC wants to move to a new town.

Writer: Why?

MC: I want change.

Writer: Why?

MC: My life in this town is suffocating me.

Writer: Why?

MC: Because everyone has known me since I was a little girl. I’m a woman now. I’m different.

Writer: How?

MC: I’ve matured. I look at the world as a place to explore. They don’t accept this new part of me.

Writer: Why?

MC: They’re caught up in the past. They never change. They never grow. They never even travel beyond the city limits.

Even after a brief interaction with your MC, you should see the twists and turns of your story and your character’s goal(s). The MC needs to flee life in the small town. Perhaps the residents practice strange rituals on the full moon. Or always reference how cute she was, even when she’s on a date. Maybe there’s a strange force keeping the residents prisoner and the MC has to free them from its clutches.

I’m not saying this is the best example, but at least I tried.

The important thing to remember is that you’re trying to flesh out your character. Give her life–flesh, bones, actions, thoughts, reasons. When our characters become real, the reader becomes part of the story. So ask your main character questions. Lots and lots of questions. Interview them. You might be surprised what you learn.

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So, tell me, why do you wear scary make-up?

I love to read comments. Authors, do you interview your characters? Readers, what do you think about Character ARCs?

While you’re here, sign-up for my newsletter. I don’t SPAM–honest.

Blessed be, :} T.C.

 

 

 

Why do I write?

Last week I had coffee with a woman who has read my book, The Summer of Annah, and she asked me ‘Why do you write?’

I almost blurted out ‘Because I like writing!’ However, I then took a moment to sip my coffee and pondered the question.

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Give me a moment to think about this.

Here’s what I told her. I write because I love to create new worlds.

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When I write, I control the Universe!

My companion seemed satisfied. We finished our visit and went our separate ways. During the drive home, I thought over her question and almost called her to add to my answer. This is what I would have said:

I write because I see the world differently than most people. In my day-to-day living I taste, drink, smell, and touch potential stories. Everything that happens to me, or around me, is fodder for my imagination.

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Hear me soar!

I write because it is who I am within the depths of my soul. In my past life I was the person sitting in the glow cast by the fire, weaving stories for the other tribe members.

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Join me and I’ll tell you a tale.

I write because it’s in my blood. As a young child I told stories to my classmates (much to the annoyance of the sisters at St. Francis of Assisi). Out on the playground, you would have found me surrounded by other children as I entertained them with magical tales. My words would take them flying.

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Come along with me, the best is yet to be!

I write because it is who I am and I am unique. No one else has my voice, my mind, my vision–my stories. I’m passionate about the characters I bring to life. There are days when I would love to drive to Copedale and share a Boston cream doughnut with Annah. Or, chat with Isabella about Under the Tuscan Sun.

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I am me!

I write because it’s a grand high when a reader tells me she stayed up all night because she had to finish my book.

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‘Just one more page.’

I write because it’s what I do. It’s who I am. What about you? Why do you write? Why do you read? Share your thoughts in the comments section. I’d love to hear from you.

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Blessed be :}

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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May-December relationships between older women and younger men and why they rock!

While I wrote The Summer of Annah: A Midsummer’s Wish, I constantly questioned myself whether a May-December romance could work between an older woman and a younger man.  The book is more than a story of older an woman fantasizing about a young man. Moreover, it’s not erotica. It centers on an older woman coming to terms with her emotional scares, learning to trust her instincts, and recognizing love when it’s present in the soul of a man outside her comfort zone.

Tom Clancy is quoted as saying the difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense.

tom clancy writing quotes

Even though my novel is based in fiction, it had to make sense. Had I been writing erotica, I believe readers would have accepted the age difference. What’s not to love about a romp with a younger man between the pages of a steamy book? However, a long-term relationship? Well, even Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher failed at that endeavor.

When I met older woman, I asked their thoughts on the topic. Many told me the relationship wouldn’t work because the younger man is unable to appreciate and understand the journey the woman has traveled. In other words, the younger man lacks maturity. An older man understands the woman’s intelligence and flaws. My response–if that were true, older women would be happily wrapped in the arms of their male counterparts.

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Dating websites, such as Match or eHarmony, demonstrate just the opposite.

According to Susan Winter, co-author of Older Women, Younger Men: New Options for Love and Romance, younger men are looking for women who “…are stable and mature. They don’t want to be mothered. They want a woman who knows who she is.”

What can a younger man bring to the table? Aside from the obvious (wink, wink) he possesses a zest for life, a desire for wisdom—an urge to dance, laugh, eat, and love. No, it’s true that not all young men are this way just as it’s true that not all clothes fit the same body. A woman has to kiss a lot of tadpoles before she’ll find one with an old soul and young heart to complement her old heart and young soul. As Kathryn Elliott, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, explains, “The key to making older women/younger man relationships work is to match voltages. Choose someone who is your voltage type–has the same level of intensity about life.”

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If you love dogs, he must love dogs. That just goes without saying.

Social norms indicate the older man-younger woman scenario is accepted but not the flip-side. Hollywood glorifies this perception. When it comes to older women-younger-men, well, can you say cougar? Mrs. Robinson? Elliott goes on to say women “…are victims of inner-critic contradictions. We think we should only weigh 120. We should marry people within two years of our age. We pathologize anything that isn’t within those shoulds.”

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Find someone who understands and shares your beliefs.

The bottom line, as I see it, is the formula, or the lack of one. No one can say what makes a relationship work and what doesn’t. However, if a woman finds a younger man who shares her core values and outlook on life, someone who will embrace the hag that lives inside of her and watch her emotional back, she has found a rare gem. Why should she turn away just because he wasn’t born when JFK was assassinated?

“Eric, I can’t do this! For goodness’ sake, you weren’t even alive when JFK was shot!” The Summer of Annah: A Midsummer’s Wish

Blessed be. :}

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contemporary women’s fiction and its distant relative, romance.

When I started writing on a more serious level, which meant having my eye on publishing my work instead of writing and shredding the pages, I foolishly thought I was writing romantic drama. Why? Well, I used Nicholas Sparks as my go to guy for the types of books I wanted to create. His characters achieve personal growth, find love, and, oftentimes, survive to have a happy ending. Sometimes they don’t but I figured I would skip the death part and shoot for HEA (that’s writing lingo for ‘happily ever after’. I performed a Google search for Mr. Sparks’ and the result came back ‘romantic fiction, romantic drama.’
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Who knew I was so far in left field I wasn’t even part of the game? Well, actually, other writers knew. I was just a little slow on the uptake. Whenever I told an author ‘I write romantic drama,’ she (or he) would look at me like I had just sprouted three heads. It wasn’t until a fellow member of my RWA group explained that I needed to get a handle on this and pronto before I got lost in the jungle of improperly-categorized books.

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A book isn’t happy until it knows what genre it belongs to, just like a tree isn’t happy unless it’s surrounded by like-minded trees.

Allow me to straighten out the difference between romance and women’s fiction. If you already know this, skip ahead to the part where I promote my contemporary women’s fiction novel, The Summer of Annah: A Midsummer’s Wish.

Ahem: A romance novel involves a love story between two individuals. Either a man and a woman; a woman and a woman; a man and a man; a man and a mermaid; a woman and an ape-man; a woman and a demi-god; a dog and a cat–pick your two individuals. The bottom line there must be a central romantic relationship. Also, and this is big–there has to be a happy ending. They can’t die, explode, part ways but vow to love each other until eternity. The lovers must ride off into the sunset, high on the bliss that comes with vanquishing whatever they vanquished to reach their HEA.

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I love when a HEA scene involves a really great kiss.

In closing, a pure romance love is the central theme, the defining thread that runs from the first page to the last and is the reason the two people (or dog and cat) are held together. A great romance will show conflict. There must be conflict to make the story interesting. But the conflict brings the individuals closer to that ahhhh moment.

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Two hearts become one and life is great! Ahhhhhhh.

The reason people tend to confuse romance with women’s fiction is that WF typically contains an element of love and might even offer a happy ending. However, neither is required. Love is not the binding that joins the story’s elements together. It’s the personal growth the heroine undergoes. Nicholas Sparks tends to write women’s fiction. His characters travel through intense growth arcs. Sometimes there’s a happy ending and sometimes not. But the growth is there.

In WF, the heroine’s journey can involve a relationship with a non-romantic character. For example, two sisters, a mother and a child, co-workers. There doesn’t have to an element of romance but, and this must be stressed, the main character must grow emotionally.

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For example, mom could learn that she’s capable of taking care of her child, despite having fled from an abusive relationship and is now working three jobs. Coming to grips with her strength is part of her emotional journey.

For me, I’m a hopeful romantic who writes contemporary women’s fiction. Thus far my books focus on romantic relationships between the main character and a man. I prefer happy endings but I’m not against shaking things up a bit. However, the heroine’s personal growth is prominent, along with a spark of true love.

Francesco Hayez, Il bacio
Without true love, I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.

What about you? What do you read? What do you write? Let’s chat. Leave a comment.

Blessed be. :}

Here she is!!!!! My contemporary women’s fiction novel that has a romantic element. Phew.

the summer of annah, women's fiction, contemporary fiction, tinthia clemant

 

 

 

 

When Genius Strikes an Author of Contemporary Women’s Fiction

All writers have them. Those ah-ha moments when a plot piece falls into place or a saggy middle suddenly becomes a pivotal hill. Those brilliant words that threaten to explode in our heads. Ah, the joy!

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It’s a great feeling when the words click!

Unfortunately, my words seem to click at the worst times. Take today for example. (Actually, it might be last week, or two years ago. It depends on when you’re reading this post.)  I heard back from a beta reader regarding my new manuscript, You gave me wings!. She had lots of good things to say.

However, she also pointed out areas that still needed work. That’s okay. I got this! I needed to think through her suggestions. Time to take the dogs for a walk. If an ah-ha moment hits me, I’ll record it into my phone. Damn. Phone’s dead. Okay, no biggie. I’ll focus on relaxing and keep the ideas at bay. Breath, relax, and walk.

walking my dog
Walking Stevie and enjoying the sunshine.

Who was I kidding? As soon as my feet hit the pavement the plot twists and turns flowed like the Nile after a monsoon. I was panicked. There was no way I would remember all the amazing, astounding, award-winning, awesome, (my, that’s a lot of words beginning with the letter a!) ideas until I got home. I had two miles to go! I started my mantra: remember, remember, remember, REMEMBER.

See, that’s the problem with forcing one’s brain to remember. The thoughts skitter away, frightened by all the intense shouting for them to stay put and new thoughts slide in!

For example, as I walked home I thought about all the times I have my ah-ha moments but can’t write them down. (Way off the topic of my manuscript.)

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What was I trying to remember?

For example, I always seem to get a great idea when I’m just starting to fall asleep.

remembering ideas in the morning
Any body else suffer from this or is it just me?

Or when I’m in the shower? Or, how about when I’m driving????

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Hey, don’t use your phone while driving!!!

Why do the thoughts choose the worst times to spring on me? It’s like they’re lurking in the shadows of my brain, waiting for me to lower my guard.

‘Surprise! Ha ha, you can’t write me down. Boy, are you screwed!’

From now on I vow to always have a pen or pencil with me. Always! Even if I have to stick them in orifices that weren’t designed for the task.

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That looks like it would hurt. Perhaps I’ll try to store it someplace else.

I won’t need paper. That’s what hands are for–right?

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Why use paper when a hand or two will do?

Ah, a writer’s life. Full of… damn, what was I going to write? It was absolutely brilliant!

Blessed be :}

By the way. Ever wonder why I chose a younger hero for Annah in The Summer of Annah: A Midsummer’s Wish, my contemporary women’s fiction novel? Watch my newest Interview with an Author! and find out.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChm2p75hhhZn8gRt_deyhuw

Subscribe to my YouTube channel for more exciting, thrilling, thought-provoking videos (or, you can just laugh as I trip over my words).

 

 

 

 

10 things I learned on my way to becoming a self-published author.

#1: Ice cream is therapeutic.

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Ice cream helps with all marketing angst.

Why my doctor would recommend I stop eating it is beyond me. Without a daily hit of Ben and Jerry, The Summer of Annah would have never been published. My recommendation for aspiring indie-publishers–stock up!

#2: A thick skin is a must.

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It takes a thick skin to be a writer.

Everybody and her sister are going to make comments about your work. If you’re lucky enough to have a publisher buffeting the world, rock on. But for those of us who publish indie, we wear a large target on our backs. And while you’re growing that skin, learn how to roar. Because you’ll need that talent for number 3.

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I am writer; hear me roar.

#3: If you roar loud enough, some one will hear you.

Buy my book!
Is anyone listening?

How else will the world know you’ve published a book? Over 10,000 books are uploaded to to the big three: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iBooks, each day.  (This is on a global scale but I’m still not convinced the data is correct. However, I do know that in 2014 Claude Nouget estimated that a book was uploaded to Amazon, every five minutes, 24/7.) Regardless of the numbers, there’s a whole bunch of books out there. Roar, baby, roar!

#4: Develop a marketing plan BEFORE you publish your book.

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You need a plan to develop a good marketing plan.

You wouldn’t go to Disney World without a plan, so don’t published your book without a plan. Know ahead of time what you’re going to do and when. Nail that sucker down to the last minute and be prepared with contingency plans when things don’t work out, because, they won’t. See #1.

#5: Tweet your ass off!

Twitter for success.
Tweet until your fingers bleed.

Twitter is a great way to develop an author platform. But, and this is a big BUT, make sure you’re tweets are relevant. Tweeting about your cat barfing on your comforter has nothing to do with your book, unless the book is about locations where cats prefer to barf, then, well you get the idea.

#6: Dive in. The Facebook waters may be shark infested and full of the remains of despairing authors but at least you won’t be alone.

Facebook isn't for sissies.
Facebook is your friend!

An author page on Facebook is a must for every aspiring indie author. Why? Well, how else will you pass the time while your waiting for your book to sell?

#7: Invest money. And when you think you’ve spent enough, borrow some and invest more.

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It takes money to make money! What does that saying even mean? Jeez.

To date, my debut novel has cost me… a lot! Let’s see, there was editing, cover art, formatting, marketing, more marketing, a website, web hosting for the website, more marketing, triage for when the reviews stopped, requests for reviews, book purchases to send to reviewers, postage costs, ice cream, wine, larger clothes. The list just keeps growing. I recommend a second, third, or perhaps fourth job to help pay for your book. And the ice cream. And the wine. And the larger clothes.

#8: Find a good therapist.

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Writing is hard. Marketing is hard. Thinking is hard.

Either Jack Daniels will do or someone with a degree who can help you figure out why you wanted to self-publish in the first place.

#9: Ignore the hordes of other authors pumping out books.

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Where’s the writer?

You’ll be one of millions but your book is yours. It’s unique because you wrote it. Cheer for the other authors and bless their success but stay focused on what you’ve written.  Unless you’re getting trampled by the other authors. Then, I suggest revisiting lessons #1 and #9.

#10: Be true to your calling.

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“I know I can think of a different word than ‘walk.’ I know I can.”

Writing isn’t for everyone. It takes courage to put that pen to paper, or key the letters into a computer. Courage and tenacity. When the voices in your head refuse to speak to you, it takes a gentle hand to get them to play along. If you want to write and publish your book, stick with it. But remember, when in doubt, follow rule #1.

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Never cry over dropped ice cream. Pull our your credit card and buy another cone.

Oh, and please, BUY MY BOOK!

The Summer of Annah
Enter my love story.

Blessed be.

 

Photos courtesy of Pexels.com  🙂

Turning coal into diamonds!

Many writers call their first drafts, for lack of any imagination, crap! I can only assume those writers are paraphrasing Ernest Hemingway, who once said:

“The first draft of anything is shit.”

Allow me to put Hemingway’s quote in perspective. He didn’t ball-up a sheet of paper and throw it into a blazing fire as he screamed what was to become an infamous piece of prose. He eloquently inserted it in an explanation regarding the writing process. Here’s the entire quote:

‘Don’t get discouraged because there’s a lot of mechanical work to writing. There is, and you can’t get out of it. I rewrote the first part of A Farewell to Arms at least fifty times. You’ve got to work it over. The first draft of anything is shit. When you first start to write you get all the kick and the reader gets none, but after you learn to work it’s your object to convey everything to the reader so that he remembers it not as a story he had read but something that happened to himself.’

He’s also quoted as saying, ‘There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it’s like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.’ 

improve-my-writing-skills-first-drafts-are-crap

Remember the scene from Superman III when Superman, aka Christopher Reeves, turns a piece of fossilized carbon into a diamond?

superman

True, not the best movie in the Superman series, however, that’s not the point. The point is how does one create a lump of coal that CAN be turned into a diamond. I’ve been told by many writing coaches to not worry about my first draft. ‘Let it be shit! Get the idea out. You’ll clean it up later.’ Unfortunately, this is difficult for someone who suffers from OCD, as I do. (Okay, it’s self-diagnosed, but still…) I want my first drafts to be good. No, I want my first drafts to great!

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And, that, my dear blog reader, is the conundrum I face each morning–a dance between my fingers wanting to type coal and my brain wanting to create diamonds.

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It’s often said there is no great writing, only great rewriting. This quote belongs to Justice Louis Brandeis and I love it because it gives me hope that my piece-of-coal first draft will, eventually become a diamond. If I have the perseverance of a superhero.

Just call me Superwoman.

SuperwomanLoisLane

Blessed be. :}