Just Do It

Whenever non-writers find out that I wrote I book, I typically get the same reaction: “Oh wow, you wrote a book?  I could never write a book.”  Lately, this has been bugging me more and more.  Not to sound self-righteous or anything, because believe me, I’m not.  Like the majority of writers I know, I’m extraordinarily self-deprecating.  My husband fusses at me all the time for saying negative things about myself.  That being said, I just don’t think writing a book is that amazing of a feat.

Anyone can write a book.  Writing a good book?  Well, that’s another story.  Writing a great book is much harder.  Getting published? That’s a completely different ballgame altogether.  But writing?  You just have to have the desire.

I wrote my first book a few years ago.  I’d intended to write others in the past, had started several, but never progressed past the first few chapters.  I didn’t sit down with the plan to write a book.  I sat down with an idea for a story and started typing.  Next thing I knew, I had 10,000 words, then 30,000, then, 50,000.  Then I decided to do some research to see how many words a first book was supposed to be.  The answer I found (which turned out to not be entirely correct) was 80,000-100,000.  Before I knew it, I had 96,000 words.  (That particular book has now been cut down to 84,000 and shelved for now.  I’m sure when I start revising again that will go down even more).

Now, I can understand not having the time to write.  I wrote that first one in a three month span between taking the Bar exam and receiving the results when I had nothing else to do.  But then again, I can’t.  I wrote my most recent book (a 78,000 word Young Adult) even though I have a full time day job.  If you still think don’t have time, start small.  Aim for 50,000 words.  That’s a typical middle grade novel.  Or write a children’s book.  If you want to write, you make the time.

I’ve heard others claim they just weren’t creative enough to write a book.  So write non-fiction.  Write a cookbook.  Write short stories or poetry.  Write a blog.  Still others have claimed they just aren’t good writers.  That may be the case, or maybe you haven’t given yourself the chance.  You never know until you try.  Plus, there are lots of places on the internet, like Absolute Write, where you can post your work anonymously and get feedback and help.  Or join a local writer’s group.  I do both and I can’t tell you how much my writing has improved since getting help from other writers, and I considered myself a pretty good writer to start with. (Again, not tooting my own horn…okay maybe a little…but I’ve always excelled in my writing courses and spent the first few years of my legal career doing nothing but writing appellate briefs.  It’s one area I’m pretty confident in my ability).

When I started writing fiction, I had no idea how to space things, or how to structure dialog.  I didn’t realize how  weak adverbs made my writing, or how vague I could sometimes be.  It’s easy to forget that although you know exactly what you’re talking about, others can’t see inside your head.  I must say, being on the trial team in law school also helped tremendously in this area.  For example, we were told to bring a picture to class, then had to describe that picture to our classmates without letting them see it.  Once we were done, we showed the picture and our classmates told us whether or not they got the correct image in their head.  Conveying images through words is a valuable skill in the courtroom, but I highly recommend this exercise for anyone who wants to write as well.  My point is, there are resources you can use to improve your writing, so don’t let the concern that you’re not good enough keep you from trying.

I can see where writing a book might be a challenge to someone with a learning disability, such as dyslexia, or someone with chronic health problems.  I can even see the challenge for a book that requires extensive research.  But, I know people who have overcome all of these mountains and more and written books.  Full time students and stay at home moms, retirees and those in the work force.  It doesn’t have to be done in a month or two, it doesn’t even have to be done in a year.  It just has to be done.

If you’re one of those people who is in awe of someone who can write an entire book, don’t be.  Be in awe of the good books, the great books, the published books, but always keep in mind that just writing something isn’t that big a deal.  You can do it too.  You could even write something good, or great, or published.  You just have to try.

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Flash Fiction- “Hunger”

Last night’s flash fiction prompt on the AW forum was “Hunger.”  Here is my story based around this prompt.  If you like to write and haven’t seen the Flash Fiction Challenge, head on over and see what you can do with the prompt.

                                                               “Tantalizing”

It had been three weeks since the game had started. Jack paced across the kitchen floor like a zoo lion who can smell the zebras and antelope in the neighboring pen. The tantalizing aroma in the next room was almost too much. But he couldn’t give in. Not when he thought about the source of those smells.

Just that thought was enough to stop his stomach from growling for a little while. He had to win. It wasn’t just the money on the line, although a million smack-a-roos would change his life, his sanity precariously teetered like a playground seesaw. Even the smallest nibble would send him over the edge.

Hell, he thought he’d go crazy just smelling the barbecued flesh next door. He’d seen the spread. They had showed all of them on the first day. A buffet table ran the length of the long room, piled high with meat cooked in every manner possible and replenished daily. Stews, steaks, ribs, hamburgers, fajitas, cheesesteaks, chili…

Jack crouched and leaned his too thin frame against the kitchen cabinets with his hands over his ears. Like that would stave off the hunger. He rocked back and forth and tried to focus on something else. Anything else.

His stomach rumbled. He thought of roaches and maggots crawling through the meat. Of the food floating in slimy green cesspools. He thought of where the meat came from. It was enough…for now.

Then he heard footsteps and the sound of breaking glass. Someone was in the next room. He tried not to listen but the groans of pleasure were too loud. A lion had breached the fence and snacked happily on a gazelle.

Without realizing it, he’d risen to his feet and approached the door. His hand touched the knob. He forced himself to retract it, to wait. He had no idea how many others had given in to the temptation. They switched rooms every day. Some were closer to the dining room than others. Since he’d been in the kitchen, he’d heard two other people dining on the disgusting spread.

How many were left?

How much longer would he have to hold out?

How much longer could he hold out?

Jack knew humans could survive a long time, weeks, months even, without food. But how long could they make it knowing food was just next door? His stomach growled again. He grabbed the knob. If he turned, if he looked, there would be no going back.

Just as he twisted the knob, a scream erupted from the other side of the door. The most pathetic, horrific, insane scream Jack had ever heard. He released the knob like it was on fire. Loud crashes followed. Something hit the wall and clattered to the floor.

Jack stumbled back and fell on his rump. A glint of silver shone through the crack under the door. Beside it, a chunk of meat stared at him. Tested him. Tempted him.

He lay down and looked at it. The explosion of sound had ceased in the buffet room. The contestant must have been carried away, losing more than just the contest.

Jack inched closer. Smelled the meat. He could almost taste it. Surely one little lick would be okay? He wouldn’t really be eating it, right?

The buzz of the loudspeaker interrupted his thoughts.

“Congratulations to contestant number twelve, Jack Kreacher! Winner of the tenth annual Tantalus Contest!”

The door burst open and a man in a sleek suit appeared.

“Mr. Kreacher, you’ve just won a million dollars! What do you have to say?” He shoved a microphone under Jack’s nose.

Jack looked past the mic to the room beyond the man. At the smashed table and the scattered human flesh. It was over. He couldn’t believe it was over.

“Mr. Kreacher?” the man asked, a nervous twinge to his voice. “You just won. What do you have to say?”

Jack turned to the man, and sighed. “I think I’m a vegetarian.”

 

Flash Fiction

I frequent the forums at Absolute Write (which is an excellent source for any writer, aspiring or published.  There are forums for query critiques, beta readers, questions about agents/agencies, and the answer to pretty much any writing and publishing question you might have.), and have recently found the Flash Fiction Challenge.  Basically, every Sunday night, a moderator posts a prompt.  You have 90 minutes to write and edit a story based on the prompt and post it.  It’s a great exercise to get your mind working and to get you writing.  I decided to start posting my flash fiction here each week.  Bear in mind, these are things I came up with on the fly, so they won’t be perfect.

To kick things off, here is last week’s story.  The prompt was “Pleat”.  What kind of story (or poem) would you write based off the prompt?

“In”

Maria smoothed the wrinkles out of her skirt and took a deep breath. A thin sheen of sweat covered her arms and face. She slid over to the nearby water fountain and took a long drink. Don’t throw up. Whatever you do, just don’t throw up. There wasn’t time to be sick. And this was her only shot at proving herself.

She glanced at her watch. Eleven minutes til two o’clock. The second hand crept around the face. Maria closed her eyes and breathed deeply again. The bell clanged from somewhere up the hall. Doors flew open on either side of the hallway and students poured out, yelling to one another and chattering about whatever class they’d just left.

No one noticed as Maria slipped into the throng, weaving seamlessly among the actual students. She glanced at the other girls’ skirts as she passed. I didn’t do such a bad job after all. Her hand rubbed the pleats again. It didn’t seem like anyone would notice her homemade skirt anyway. They were all too absorbed in their own worlds. Talking about the classes they just left, or the boys who passed them notes.

This would be easier than she thought.

A large clock on the wall caught Maria’s eye as she passed. Eight till. She’d need to pick up the pace. She hitched up her backpack and quickened her step. The crowd thickened as she approached a bank of lockers. Maybe I should have done this during the class period after all. She pushed through, keeping her head down but her eyes on the prize. No. I’m less likely to be noticed in a group.

The hallway intersected with another, making a “T” shape. There, centered on the wall was the statue. A twelve by ten gold leaf eagle. Its wings were tucked in and its eyes stared directly at Maria. She pushed towards it and swung her backpack around to her chest. Within seconds she had it unzipped and ready.

It was now or never. She’d only have one chance and if she flubbed, well…she would have more to worry about than whether she got into the Anchor Society.

Maria approached the statue and in one fluid motion swept it off the base and into the backpack. It just fit. The hall was too loud to hear her skirt rip, but she felt it snag on the corner of the pedestal as she walked away. She zipped up the bag and slung it back over her shoulder, then glanced at her skirt.

One of the pleats was torn. A single red thread waved in the wind she created as she hurried to the exit. Oh well. Not like I’ll ever wear it again.

The cry erupted as she reached the double doors at the end of the hall.

“Hey! Where’s Spirit?” a boy shouted.

Maria didn’t wait for a response. She pushed open the doors and strode out into the warm afternoon, pleased with herself. By the time the bell rang for last period, Maria had put good distance between her and the school. They’d have to let her in now. No one had ever stolen such a grand prize for their admission challenge as this. And from their rival, Weston Prep!

The golden eagle in her backpack was her ticket to popularity. She’d have to make sure and wipe her fingerprints off of it before handing it over to the Anchor Society though. If she played her cards right, it wouldn’t only guarantee her a place in Carson High’s elite, it would be the first rung on her climb to domination. The second would be unseating Amanda Malone from the top of the food chain.

And Amanda’s fingerprints on a stolen statue would do the trick nicely.

Maria stepped into the bushes in a nearby park and stripped off her homemade Weston Prep uniform. By the time she stepped out back on the sidewalk, she was just another scantily clad teenager walking home from school.

No one noticed the plaid pleated skirt and red sweater she left behind.