Writing, Writing Wednesday

Where to Begin?

For me starting a story is like starting a lawn mower. First I squeeze the lever up to the handle, then I pull the cord once, twice, sometimes thrice, before I hear the engine catch. Then I'm good to go until the grass is at least half cut, or I have to stop to pick up a fallen branch or abandoned tow and then I have to restart the engine. It takes me more than three tries to start a story.

That whole captivate the reader from the start philosophy gets in my head. I start trying to second guess what readers want and stop just writing the story. To keep my self-editor mute, I sometimes won't write those opening lines until after I've completed the rough draft.  My internal editor turns on when I worry too much about if those first pages pull the reader in. I can't write with her on. Each word becomes a laborious choice, taking hours to write a paragraph. I'll write one sentence fifty different ways instead of fifty different sentences.

I think of this as the movie making approach to writing. When a movie is being filmed, it's not done in order. All scenes for a particular location or actors with small roles are shot at around the same time, regardless of its place in the plot.

I don't have to deal with actors or locations, but I do have to deal with words and sometimes the words are flowing better for one part of the story than whatever is the next chronological part. I start writing which ever scene I know the most about, even if it's the end. I sometimes start at the end. I skip to which ever scene captivates me at the moment. This method often leaves holes in the roughest draft, but I fill them in during the revision process.

This is my method that allows me to get from the once upon a time to the they lived happily ever after. I have so many collections of incomplete stories from before I started writing this way. If I got stuck I would continue to try to write the next chapter until I got discouraged and put the work on the back burner then eventually into a box.

Getting the words on the page is more important than getting them on the page in order. Just keep writing!



Lena's Life, motivation, second wind

My Biggest Fan


It's been several years since the release of my debut novel Jack & Diane but it seems like yesterday. I still feel ecstatic and overwhelmed by its success. It reached #1 in two categories on Amazon. My book remained in the top 100 in a few categories for weeks. It has 4.2 out of 5 stars from almost two hundred reviews. People have e-mailed me to tell me how much they enjoyed reading it. While all of that is great, the thing that brought me the most joy is my mom's reaction before the novel had garnered any success. I called her at work the moment Jack & Diane went live on Amazon. She responded by yelling through the entire office, "My daughter's a published author!"

My mom no longer has an office to scream through because as of last Friday afternoon she's officially retired. As proud as she is of me I'm way prouder of her nearly 34 years of public service ensuring equality and civil rights in housing and employment. She now has, even more, time to ask me when my next novel will be completed.  Actually, I think she'll fill her time with her long time hobby of painting and hopefully turn it into a second career (or at least shares it with the world). I've started by sharing two of my favorite she's painted, HERstory and HIStory.

Mom, congrats on making it to the other side.



My Favorite Books

Like most writers, I began as an avid reader.  I've read many books, but there are some that stand out as my favorites. They are those books with stories or characters that stuck around long after I closed the cover.

I thought I'd start where it all began. The story that has been with me the longest. This book is my favorite story from my favorite series: Me Too Iguana from the Sweet Pickles series.

I think this series was available through A&P's stamp program (like my other favorite childhood series, Sesame Street Encyclopedias). For those of you not familiar, this was a program at the grocery store where you got stamps for buying groceries. After collecting the stamps in a little book, you could buy different things like dishes, or books.


There were twenty-six books (one for each letter in the alphabet). While I enjoyed the ten or so I had, Me Too Iguana stuck with me the most. Iguana couldn't see her own beauty. She wanted stripes like Zebra, or feathers like Goose, or a trunk like Elephant. It took those other characters painting themselves green to help her see she was beautiful in her own unique way.

In today's society I think this book should be required reading for boys and girls, and men and women of all ages. Even now, in my awesome years (that's what I've decided to call this wiser, grayer, stage of my life) I need to be reminded that I'm good as me. I don't need to keep up with the Joneses or the Kardashians or anyone else. I just need to keep up with me because that's the only person I need to be.

Writing, music, inspiration

Put That Rage On The Page

One of my favorite bands is The Script. On their third release #3 they have a song about the loss of two of the member's parents (Danny lost his dad and Mark lost both parents). If You Could See Me Know talks about how they wish their late parents could see their success. While I wish my late grandmother could see me now (I didn't publish until almost a decade after she died) that particular sentiment of the song isn't what I relate to the most. What resonates with me most is this line:

"Take that rage, put it on a page Take the page to the stage Blow the roof off the place"

I do this when I write. I've put my joy, my hope, and yes, my rage on the page. I've not taken it to the actual stage because my voice would send people screaming as they ran as far away as possible.

In my teens, I kept a journal to get my emotions out. It was during the tumultuous dating experiences of my twenties that I began to express my feelings with poetry. Poetry also helped me in my thirties deal with the worse experience in my romantic life, an unfaithful spouse.

I recently found the poem I wrote during that time. I was able to express my anger and pain with my words instead of my fists, or pots and pans (a cast iron skillet is good for more than just cooking). It helped me deal with the betrayal and soldier on for another three years before waving the white flag. I've shared the poem, Buckshot to the Heart and One to the Head, in my poetry section.