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Oh my, I didn’t expect that I needed a disclaimer…….

When I started telling people I am trying to write a novel, most people were very excited for me. They ask the story line. They congratulate me on being brave enough to tackle writing a book. Some even offer to read chapters for me.

It’s all very fun.

But then, just the other day, a neighbor asked me, “soooooo, are the characters based on anyone I know?”

I was actually startled by the question. The Alligator Purse is most assuredly fiction. Neighbors, friends, and relatives need not worry.

But I guess this is something that all writers should consider when working on their books. People will start to get nervous that you might uncover some deep dark secret about them and reveal it to the world. Or that you will exaggerate their quirks for a laugh.

I personally cannot imagine writing a “tell-all” type book. That tabloid mentality does not appeal to me.

But that doesn’t make this t-shirt any less funny. 😎 You can get it on Amazon.

So, if you know me, don’t worry. You won’t be in my book. At least not on purpose. 😉

Arse in seat………..

Apparently, that is the way to get a book written.

Plant your arse in a seat and click away at the keyboard.

Arse in Seat

Just in case  you don’t remember every detail of the life that I chronicle here, I’ll take a sec to remind you that I am  writing a novel called The Alligator Purse. You can read chapter 1 here, if you like.

For the past three years, I have focused on non-fiction (aka this blog). And, then. Well, then I joined a writing group that encouraged me to try my hand at fiction. Now I am drinking the Kool-aid and have taken on a full-fledged novel.

That was brave, right? I know.

What was I thinking, right?

I know. Believe me, I know.

But now I am thinking, maybe some of you want the Kool-aid, too. Maybe some of you are writing a novel for the first time. Or maybe just an article or a short story – because maybe you are smarter than I am and maybe you don’t want to overwhelm yourself all at once – right before school gets out and the kids are home a.l.l. d.a.y.

I know, what was I thinking?

But maybe it would be fun not to write this novel all by my lonesome. I mean, sure, I will write the book with my own ideas and story ideas. But maybe, just maybe, we can skip down the yellow brick road together.

So, I will tell you what I am doing along the way and what works and what wasn’t so great.

Here are my first thoughts…

Arse in Seat Modus Operandi

The first thing I can tell you is that you must put your arse in a seat. And type. A lot. And then. A lot more.

That woman in the picture is not me – but she makes me want to highlight my hair again. Not all blond on the top like hers, but you know soft-subtle highlights.It’s summer after all…

Erghhhhh. See how easy it is for me to get distracted. Arse in Seat. Arse in Seat. Not Distracted. Arse in Seat.

Anyseat, I am starting my fourth chapter – I am at about 6,000 words. A typical novel runs about 75,000 words. Yes, I have a l.o.n.g. way to go.

My entire story is not completely plotted out, although I am pretty sure I know 5 or 6 major story events that must happen and how I would like the book to end. But the only way I am going to find out the details in between is to write them. (That, and drink more Kool-aid, possibly spiked with Vodka.)

Writers Groups

I will continue to go to my writers group mostly because I love them dearly and they serve yummy snacks. But also because they encourage me to write. And they tell me when I am not doing a great job – in a kind, loving way – but they let me know when something isn’t working. Plus, I am accountable to them. They expect me to submit chapters on a regular basis.

We meet once a week during the day when my kids are at school. That works well for me.

Take notes here – you want to be sure to find a writers group that has most of its members submitting work on a regular basis. You want to surround yourself with serious writers, who are writing.

If you are wondering how to find a writers group – try this:

1. Meetup – this site is great for all sorts of meetups (groups of people who like doing the same thing with other people) and there are tons of writing groups listed.

2. If your town has a university – call the English Department and see if have any writing groups.

3. Try your local library. They usually coordinate book clubs and might be willing to coordinate a writing group as well.

4. Take a writing class – many writing groups come from students who took a class together.

5. Simply ask around – I am amazed out how many aspiring authors are out in the world putting pen to paper. You might be surprised at who is interested in starting a group with you.

Beta Readers

My writing group is awesomesauce and it’s amazing that they are all writers. But that means they read a story differently than someone who is primarily a reader. Writers are more technical. They know the jargon and they will spew it out at you when necessary.

Beta readers are just people who like to read. They can tell you if your story is marketable because they will tell you if they would pass your book on to a friend when they are done with it.

The only thing you have to be careful of with beta readers is that they will tell you what they want to happen next. You have to remember that you are driving the story line. You determine the plot. They tell you if what you have already written works.

I asked my beta readers two things…

1. To promise not to share my chapters with anyone else. I told them if they know of someone who would like to be a beta reader, I would happily add her name to the distribution list. But I need to know who is getting what and when.

2. To be perfectly honest. I absolutely want to hear what works and what they like. But, more importantly, I want to hear where they get stuck – what doesn’t make sense. I want to know what piques their interest and makes them want to read more. And I absolutely want to know what questions they have – so I make sure to answer them all.

Writing Classes

I have signed up for two classes – both through Writers Digest.

The first one is this one that starts tomorrow. It’s called the Agent One-on-One Pitch Slam. During the course, I will work directly with Paula Munier on the first ten pages of The Alligator Purse.

The second class begins mid-June and is taught by Mark Spencer. It is an Advanced Novel Writing Course. You have to have 10,000 words written at the beginning of the course and the plan is to get you to 50,000 by the end of the 8-week session. Gulp.

My arse will need to be in a seat quite a bit.

Other Resources

Next week, I will also meet with Rachelle Gardner. She hosted this contest and, holy koolaid, I won. The prize is half an hour with her. Reviewing my work.

I won this contest because I took a chance and entered. There were tons of great entries and I just got lucky that my friends love me enough to vote for me.

Web Presence – aka Platform

This is a word that sends most novice writers right back under the blankets. I don’t know a lot about all of this but I do have a blog, another blog, a twitter, a facebook, and a pinterest account. I also reserved www.TheAlligatorPurse.com so that no one can take it before I become wildly successful and try to snag it too late. I also reserved my full name as a url so that I can start working on my name as my brand.

Luckily for us newbiews, there are lots of folks who know a lot about building a platform. You can read this post from Jeff Goins blog sharing information from platform guru Michael Hyatt.

Notebook

For Shakespeare’s sake, keep a notebook with you or at least something you can write down your ideas on. Trust me on this one. You are going to have a moment of sheer brilliance at the most unexpected time and you are going to be so confident that you couldn’t possibly forget it. Then you are going to start noticing other people’s hair color and “poof”, your idea will be gone. Lost 4-evah. So write it down the minute you have it.

I wrote about this in an article called Believing We Have a Story To Tell on Writer Unboxed because I have learned it the hard way. Too. Many. Times.

Own It

This is the most important thing – so it probably should have gone at the top – pretend it’s there okay?

You must own the fact that you are a writer. When you are at a cocktail party and someone asks you what you do, you must answer confidently, “I am a writer.” Do not explain that you are not published. Do not explain that your mother loves your work. Dear heavens, please do not explain that. Do not explain that it’s really more of a hobby.

YOU. ARE. A. WRITER. period. You Write. Therefore. YOU. ARE. A. WRITER. If you are not actually writing, remember the Arse in Seat axiom.

That is all for now. Because in a moment of extreme weakness, I signed up for a class and have 10,000 (quality) words due to a published author who will critique my work in two weeks.

I am going to keep my arse in this seat until I no longer feel like this…..

Disclaimer #1: It is important to note that the Arse in Seat Model does not work for all disciplines. For example, if you are hoping to compete in a marathon of more than mere words, you must get your arse out of the seat.

Disclaimer #2: This picture is also not me. I do not wear heels and I do not dress in all white – not even after Easter. And my floor is very honestly not that clean. Never will be.

The New Year with all its hope and promise…………

I have been struggling to write down some resolutions this year – not that there isn’t more than plenty that I need to work on – but which ones? How do I narrow it all down to ensure success?

Let’s look at the clear front runners…

Lose weight – yeah – okay – but that’s been on the list for at least a decade.Past results are beginning to look strangely like a predictor of future non-success. 🙁

Get published – a new addition to the list but it comes with a ton ‘o pressure.

Be nicer – but the grumpy people on the planet are making this one harder and harder.

Be a better parent/spouse – I really am doing the best I can here folks. No, really, I am. At least most of the time.

See what I mean? I might really be doomed.

So, I decided to put a new twist on an old favorite. I am simply going to believe in myself more – in all things. That sounds good, right?

And with the help of Twitter, I found these little inspirational diddies…

1. Obvious to me, maybe – but to others, maybe not..

2. 25 Things Writers Should Stop Doing – there is some language not preferred by most in this post – but once you skip past it – the message is good – and by the by, it’s a lot easier to stop doing things than to start doing things, right? Just nod in agreement please.

3. And if all else fails, I can simply wait to enjoy the spoils of my flexible self in my retirement years – Professional Women and a Secure Retirement.

Maybe things are looking up for 2012 – and, apparently, beyond.

Not Even a Finalist. Hmpf………..

So George Mason University was hosting this contest about the best couple’s story – you know, a “how we met at Mason” extravaganza.

I entered my story with Number One Hubby. We didn’t even make the finals.

But, I have my own blog. So there. You can still be bored to tears with how we met!

Violence in Film – A Love Story

I just know it is going to happen. At our 50th wedding anniversary, my grand-daughter is going to lean down close to my chair right before we blow out the candles on our anniversary cheesecake and whisper excitedly, “How did you and Grandpa meet?”

And just as excitedly, I will lean in closer to her with my hand cupped gently around my mouth and giggle into her tiny tilted ear, “in a Violence in Film class at George Mason University way back in 1989”. She will surely take a step back and wonder if I am hitting early Alzheimers.

My husband and I will simply laugh. Because that is exactly how it all started. I was an English major taking a film class. I (obviously) didn’t pay much attention to the genre when I picked this class. I was just trying to get one more requirement in and in a course catalogue filled with poetry and short story writing and literature and transcendental meditation classes, who would be worried about a simple film class focusing on violence? Clearly, not me. A Violence in Film class is just about the last class I would ever sign up for. It is even lower on the list than Shark Training 101.

Unfortunately, it did not all happen on a dark and stormy night because that would have made a great introduction to the story. Alas, it was actually a bright and sunny day at the beginning of the Fall semester. He was already sitting down when I walked into class on that first day. He was scrunched down in the seat, feet in the aisle, ankles crossed, and his blue tattered hat was tilted to just enough to the right. And he was cute as heck. He was an accounting major taking an upper level English class as an elective. Because that makes perfect sense.

Then I saw her. The teacher. Cynthia Fuchs. In fatigues and, if I remember correctly, she donned a strawberry blond crew cut. She looked pretty serious. Then I saw the syllabus. Violence in Film. Hmmm. I immediately wondered how many classes I was allowed to attend before dropping the class without GPA consequences. I wanted to stay just long enough to meet that guy, but not one short take more because the movies listed were gruesome – Taxi, Robocop, Blue Velvet. I would not have paid $5 to watch those shows at the theater and then suddenly I was about to let my parents drop a load of tuition dollars on this class because there was a cute guy in the back row. Excellent.

Professor Fuchs started calling out attendance. I waited and watched to see when he would raise his hand. This was my chance to find out his name.

Robert.

Here.

Seriously? Is that Rob, Bob, Bert, Robert, Robbie, or perhaps Bobby? Or maybe he goes by his initials. You gotta be kidding me. This might take more than one or two classes to figure out, especially considering the fact that every other class was scheduled as a viewing class where we would sit in the dark, in silence and watch a movie. A violent movie.

What I came to find out not so much later was that the cute guy in the tilted hat with the official first name of “Robert” actually went by his middle name.

I figured I would at least go to the next class. We were watching a movie. So, I packed my popcorn and my cranberry juice and headed off to class. The seat next to Robert/Bobby/Rob a.k.a. Number One Hubby was open. I took it. Maybe I pushed another student out of the way to get there, maybe not. But I got the seat. The lights dimmed, the movie started, and I carefully put one piece of popcorn in my mouth at a time and let it melt, slowly and quietly.

Then I heard, “Pssst.”

Really, was he talking to me? The dropping of this class and the making of our first date just might happen sooner than later.

I put my hand to my chest and shrugged my shoulders as if to say, “who me”. I might have even flipped my hair. A little. Maybe. Just a little.

To which he replied, “Could you please keep it down? It’s hard to hear the movie.”

Oh dear heavens. That is when I learned that my future husband was not only handsome, but also a smart arse. And thus the crush began.

We starting skipping the classes in which films were being shown and, instead, hung out in the Ratt. I vaguely remember beers and pizza being involved. Then we would have to rent the movie and it made more sense to watch it together. We’d go to the discussion class together and have our own discussions afterward. He liked the movies. I hated the movies. It was a match made in movie heaven.

We even worked side by side on our final papers. We had to create our own violent movie scene. And to this day, Number One Hubby will swear he got a better grade in the class than I got. And sometimes, for the sake of marriage, we let the little tales go so that one day we will be able to tell a Violence in Film Love Story at our 50th wedding anniversary party.

It all came together when he proposed to me, wearing that same tattered blue hat tilted perfectly to the right, in the Blockbuster video parking lot. We were creating a new story – not for homework – but for a lifetime.