art

A Moment of Gratitude. . .

sunny forest

A sunny day in green forest with high trees

I love. . .

life.

reading.

my reading friends.

writing.

my writer friends.

my daughter and how she brings sparkle and laughter to my life.

my son and how ambitious, confident and reliable he is.

my husband and how loyal and smart he is.

the city I live in with its small town feel, friendly people, and quaint Old Town and British-style traffic circle, even though it’s actually a big city with all the conveniences.

that I have a short commute to work.

losing myself in music, both as a listener and as a player, and that jubilant moment when I hear, for the first time, a song I know I’ll love forever.

the music and foreign language students of all ages I work with, their enthusiasm, “aha” moments, hugs, and goofy things they say like, “You smell like a seashell.”

my piano students, AKA friends and fellow musicians, who tell me jokes and say Anna is way better than Elsa (I agree!), and get me to do my Stitch, dog, pigeon, and wicked witch imitations.

the excitement of knowing I will publish novels.

my two dogs and two cats, the friendliest, most intuitive furry friends ever, especially Teddie, our not-purebred-poodle-after-all with his really ugly butt.

my friends who make me feel like the nicest, funniest, smartest person in the world and who’ll talk to me about anything.

my parents and wish they lived closer.

my brothers and what good family men they are.

ice cream, being outside on sunny days, being indoors on cloudy days, libraries, meeting nice people, amazing talent, handsome cowboys (but, sorry, not cowboy music), epiphanies,  dumb blonde jokes, walking in the woods, and beauty in all its forms.

–Eve Messenger

 

 

Inspiration: Which Artist Do You Wish You Could Write Like?

Janelle Monae

Musician and performance artist Janelle Monae makes music the way I want to write: totally out of the box and genuine.  If you have not watched her video for the song Tightrope, please do not pass “go;” head directly to YouTube. . . or watch it here. 🙂

 

Talk about truth and singing from the heart, watch what happens starting at 1:33 when Janelle Monae sings, “I was made to believe there’s something wrong with me.” She released this video as-is. Why? Because it’s deeply honest.

 

Which artist would you like to write fiction like?

How to Motivate Yourself to Finish Your Novel #amwriting #writerslife

As my adored and esteemed writing friend Tracy L. Jackson once wisely said, “Writing a novel is a marathon, not a sprint.” Good advice! Completing a marathon–just like completing a novel–takes endurance. And, despite our hard work and passion for writing, sometimes we lose our motivation. Why? What are the internal hurdles that get in our way?

The main hurdle is fear. I’ve never finished a book before–I mean, really finished, as in multiple drafts rewritten and polished to completion (notice I didn’t say “perfection.”). Over the past couple of years I’ve knocked out first, second, and thirdish drafts of three novels, and the process has taught me a lot, but now I’m working on a novel that I really want to take all the way to publication, and I want to do the story and characters justice.

That’s scary. Maybe there are some writers out there who write and write and rewrite and let nothing stand in their way until their novels are finished. Maybe I’m not that ballsy, but I am no less committed. For me, the process of writing (and finishing) novels includes figuring out how to get past the hurdles.

For example, I recently stood at the glorious precipice of two blissful weeks of winter break: no work to report to every day, pretty much all the free time I wanted, and yet I found myself stalling, stalling, stalling and finding a million reasons not to work on my novel. To get past this hurdle, here’s what I told myself:

Close Your Eyes
Breathe
Shift Perspective

Then. . .

Visualize Your Success

For me, visualizing success means seeing a row of my published novels sitting on a shelf. That simple, but it still wasn’t getting me working on my novel. There were FAR too many other, fun, easy ways to occupy my  vacation time: playing with the dogs, checking out my husband’s woodworking projects, blogging, finding out why the neighbors are moving, playing online word games. Everything except writing. So I asked myself:

Do You Want to Publish Novels?

Of course, my answer was a resounding yes. So . . .

Find a Way to Get Excited about the Novel

I reached into my bag of tricks and found something to get me excited about working on my novel–the kind of excitement and enthusiasm that supersedes fear.

In this case, I recalled how one of my dream agents told me that, even though she’s currently closed to queries, she will accept my mine. . . as long as I send it before the end of January 2016. (Yikes, that’s coming up soon). Remembering this got  me excited and served as a powerful motivator to work hard at finishing my novel.

Set Goals and Track Progress

Setting writing goals has helped me enormously over the past few years, so when I hit that “stall wall” at the beginning of winter break, I sat down and decided on a reasonable writing/editing goal of two hours day (including weekends). Then I did something I’ve never done before: I created an Excel spreadsheet to track the time I put in each day. “Clocking in” on that spreadsheet and seeing my writing time add up has been indispensable for keeping on track with my writing goals. Here’s a copy of my Writing Time spreadsheet in case you’d like to give it a try.

Reward Yourself

Most of us probably can’t afford to reward ourselves with new cars or spa days for achieving our writing goals, so what I did was pay a visit to OrientalTradingCompany.com and buy myself a set of stickers. Yep, that works for me because, in my world, no one is too old for stickers! And I’m not too proud to admit that I gleefully pore over that sheet of stickers and choose exactly the one I want to reward myself with when I complete my writing goal for the day.

Stickers - 50 United States rotated.jpg

Doing all of this helped me climbed the “stall wall” and, as always, the more I work on the novel, the more I fall in love with it, which makes me WANT to return to it each day.

–Eve Messenger

What if You’re Not a Natural Born Storyteller? #amwriting

light-bulb-over-head2

Thankfully, one of the many great things about writing novels is that there are unlimited opportunities to revise and rewrite until we get our stories right—to make them great, even. Writers who are natural storytellers (those lucky devils) might have an easier time coming up with great plot ideas, but those of us who aren’t necessarily born storytellers have more work to do. We are readers and lovers of novels, so we know when a story is good. It just might take more time for us to get our own stories to that point.

When a Writing Dream Becomes a Mission #amwriting

Dance leap on the beach

Two years ago, my lovely, well-read, Russian friend Irina and I were chatting over coffee, reflecting on how some people seem to soar toward their dreams while others — like us — do not. “Break through the wall,” Irina said. Somehow, those words resonated. Each night after my family settled into their beds, I held her words close as I stole upstairs and Just Wrote.

I finally started working on a novel idea that had been kicking around in my head for years– through countless short stories, writer’s workshops (in one of which I met my future husband), a writing conference or two, a local writers’ network I founded that lived on long after I left it. After that one conversation with Irina, I started my novel, one character, one plot idea at a time.

And then abandoned it.

A few months later, I participated in my first National Novel Writing Month, jumped in with both feet, attended write-ins, checked off goals. And I completed the novel. Or a semblance of one. A rambling, complicated mess, actually. But alone in a Starbucks just before closing time I typed these words: “The End.” And I cried. I collected myself, went to the counter to buy a green tea, and when the Starbucks employee gave it to me for free he was joining my celebration and didn’t even know it.

I printed out the manuscript of my first novel, wrote out the scenes on flash cards, tried reordering them all into a semblance of a logical narrative. Then gave up.  I put the manuscript in a drawer, tossed the pile of scene cards on top, and left it.

But I kept writing.

Short stories, more novel ideas, observations on my fresh return to writing, my fear and excitement over witnessing what had always been a DREAM turning into a GOAL.  About the possibility that maybe it really is Never Too Late.

Then one day a character stepped out onto my page in all her feisty, loyal, kick-ass glory. Her magical world, her concept, all right there. And now I’m completing the third, much improved, 80,000-word draft of her YA fantasy story.

I wish I could explain how I finally broke through the wall. I think part of it is that, for so many years, I limited myself to only writing short stories because that seemed more attainable. But now I was finally allowing myself to write novels. As daunting as that had always seemed, I realized for the first time in my life that writing a novel was possible. And I loved it. Novels made sense to me because they are what I have always read. To be sure, writing a novel is as bloody difficult as everyone says, but I haven’t given up (well, not for more than a couple of days), and ideas for new novels are springing up all over the place.

As a writer, I still battle deep insecurities, but I breathe deep and jump back in to tackle those weak plot points, underdeveloped characters, and bad prose. The answers come. And I feel the shift.

My DREAM has become a MISSION.

–Eve Messenger

Books Choose Their Authors

Michelangelo's

Michelangelo said, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” Salman Rushdie said, “Books choose their authors.” This concept of a complete work of art waiting in the ethos to be carefully released by the artist, helps me. I find it reassuring to think of my novel not as an evolving thing but as something which exists and is merely waiting to be discovered. With each editing and writing session, I chisel away at the marble to expose the True Work within.

As I move well into the first revision of my YA fantasy novel, do I see the True Work revealing itself? Yes, the characters, the magic, the plot twists, the history, they’re all very exciting to discover. But the thing I can’t seem to reveal — the thing that is kicking my excavating arse, quite frankly — is the most important element of all: what the main character truly, truly wants. She wants a lot of things. She wants to buck convention; she is very curious and wants to know where the massive structures on her otherwise bucolic world come from, who built them, what their purpose is or was. She questions the True Mission of her people and wants to turn against it. I’m having a hard time solidifying that into EXACTLY what she wants. I get this feeling that the answer is right in front of me but I’m not seeing it.

Fellow Writer, What Puts You into a Creative State of Mind? 

Creativity

I’d be really curious to learn what stirs your imagination and creative spirit.  If it’s music, do you usually listen to the same music, or does the music vary depending on what you’re creating?  Reading great literature?  Exercise — rigorous workouts or leisurely strolls?  Habit, as in writing at the same time every day or in a particular environment?  Meditation?  Random things?

I’d love to hear from you!