Inspiration: Stay ready. You never know from which strange place, or species, it could come.

Picture of new-to-me lake species

What is that? Something gross-looking this way comes.

This is a slightly different post than the norm, but it is also a wonderful way to get us all into the Halloween spirit and I love Halloween. When I was driving home last Sunday and saw a pumpkin patch full of people, I said “Their jack-o-lanterns will be completely rotten by Halloween.” Of course, I assumed that, like me, they wouldn’t be able to wait and would carve their pumpkins the moment they got home. Why not have nice, whole pumpkins decorating the house all month until it is time to carve them? Then, when my mother told me she was having a costume party with Halloween games this Saturday I was surprised they would have a Halloween themed party so early, but why not? When I asked my neighbor what he was going to be for Halloween, he already had a plan–which is great because that gives my sister time to dig out the costume I made for my nephew years ago, so he can borrow it. Thus, when the lake spirit left me a dead lake monster this morning, I shouldn’t have been surprised. I think I will take it as a sign that this October is going to be a whole month of the fun, gross and creepy.

Colony of Pectinatella Magnifica

This is a real colony of organisms! I took this picture this morning.

Here’s what I wrote on the neighborhood group and facebook (those of you who get those posts can skip this part): This morning, I saw something very gross-looking washed up on the ramp. I joked with a friend that it looked like a giant jellyfish or a swollen piece of intestine, but I thought it must be a rotten old boat bumper, or piece of plastic. To my horror, upon closer inspection it really did look like a giant jellyfish, or a huge sack of eggs, or a huge bloated pile of fat. Luckily, the internet had some answers.…,…

This jelly blob, or massive colony of pectinatella magnifica, is a cluster of tiny invertebrates that supposedly are a sign of good water quality.

Seeing it up close, I’m going to continue to call it a gross lake monster, but I’m happy to know (and wanted to share with all of you in case you see one too) that it will not sting me, lay eggs in my stomach, or consume me as part of “The Blob”, or like “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”. It arrived a little early for Halloween, but it wins best gross-creepy lake creature in my book.

Close-up after opened with a stick

I tried to see the underside by moving it with a stick. It quickly fell apart.

What does this have to do with writing inspiration, you ask? Last week, I mentioned a series of stories I’m working on about The Lake Spirit. My ideas about her were first expressed as a Halloween costume I created and wore while playing the Theremin to greet Trick-or-Treaters. I have been playing around with her story for a while and have recently enjoyed where the stories are going. Since beginning my work on Stories of The Lake Spirit, I discovered, or have been made aware of, interesting, new-to-me, fresh-water species: When the lake was down, I discovered fresh-water bivalves (clams); last week a friend told me about Periwinkle bugs that I believe are equivalent to Caddisfly larva; and then, today the most shocking of them all—the super-gross jelly blob. The colony of pectinatella magnifica will soon make its way into one of the lake spirit stories, I’m guessing as an offering to the narrator, but there are so many fun possibilities.

Close-up with a bee

The sun came out, so I took more pictures. Now, there’s a bee on it. I wonder if raccoons will eat it.

I am grateful I was on the phone with a friend when I first spotted the ugly blob at the edge of the water and that he told me I had to go check it out and send him pictures. Timing is everything. We need to always be ready for inspiration.

Have you discovered any new-to-you species lately? Have you found inspiration in strange places? Please share in the comments.

Happy Writing!

Update: By the time my neighbors came over to see it, the jelly blob had mostly been reclaimed by the lake. We found a small piece under a piece of wood, so the boys could get an idea of its consistency. The consensus was GROSS, but worth getting wet in your shoes (if necessary, but hopefully not necessary) to pull out from under some wood and cool enough to want to show Mom. The answer to the raccoon question is: most likely nothing left for them to eat. But if they drink the water, do they get a couple inside them, that then gelatinize into colonies over time? Just wondering, you know, for the raccoons.

Novel Recommit Challenge Final Count

Gator  McBumpypants, Herman and Dee Dee look out over the waterAs Robert Evenhouse mentioned in a post during the challenge, life will get in the way of your word count goals and that happened to me yesterday, so as you may have noticed, I didn’t get a blog post up (or get my words written) after critique group. So, Thursday’s total word count was 1,194 words. My grand total for the whole seven day challenge was 6,371. I didn’t quite make my goal, but I made great progress on my projects and I am happy with the results. Congratulations to Robert for reaching his goal of 7,000 words in 7 days!

My main take away from the challenge was that inspiration doesn’t have to strike first, ideas come and get fleshed out as you write.

Organized Writing: Tips to Keep Your Ideas at Your Fingertips

Notes and ideas are collected in many media

My writing is all over the place.                                                                                                 Photo by Maria L. Berg

Over the course of writing my novel, I became disorganized. I have notes in so many different notebooks, computer programs, sheets of paper and anything handy to write on that I waste half a day looking for a name I wrote somewhere, or a thought I had months ago that finally fits.

In the hope that you and I can learn from my mistakes, I want to share organizational tips that I attempted to follow, I think would have made my life easier and I plan to follow for my next novel.

  1. Create a well labeled file system that has meaning specific to you and your work– I have tried many different versions of physical organization of the things that inspire my work. I have binders, color coded files in a drawer, homemade fabric-covered boxes, bins, tubs, etc. For my next novel, physical elements like found objects, cut-outs, print-outs, critique notes, etc. will find home in color-coded, labeled file folders  within an accordion-type file folder because they are easy to organize, keep everything in one place and are portable. Once you have decided on your physical file system, you can make a matching system in your documents on your computer.
  2.  Sticky note tabs in notebooks – Having wonderful computer programs doesn’t replace the need to physically write on the page or the occasional napkin or with the paintbrush or with the camera. So, the post-it, or glued tab, or  labeling-attention-getter of your choice can be very important. I write in many different notebooks in one week. I have my daily journal pages (I try to write three stream of consciousness pages every morning), the pages I print and a notebook for writing group, my smaller writing journal for outings and studies, my children’s stories journal, my songwriter’s journal, my artists sketchbook, etc. I have ideas in all of them that relate to one novel. I find myself spending way too much time searching through all of them and re-reading months of boring daily logs to find the moments or thoughts I know are in there. When I find them, I bend down the corners so I can find them again, but what good does that do me? When I get back to the bent corners, I wonder why I bent them down. Like the amazing revelation of post-its for my butcher paper wall-sized timeline, large post-its with quick notes about content will save me a ton of time. Matching or relating the post-its/tabs to my other files will make life easier during the writing process.
  3. Using inline comments / removing inline comments – I really enjoy using inline comments in Microsoft Word to make notes about word choice or secondary plot points, but for the longest time I couldn’t figure out how to get rid of them when I no longer wanted them. I kept going to Review, Track Changes, Final which hid the notes, but it never got rid of them. So, here’s my super hint: To get rid of inline comments in your draft click on Review then the arrow under Reject (or accept) and click on reject all changes in document. I found that I still had to reject a few comments individually before they were all gone, but once all of the comments have been accepted of rejected, the document will return back to normal. Once I figured the out, using inline comments became a great way to organize notes and thoughts within the text while I’m working.
  4. Make time once a day and once a week to review and organize – I think this is where I went wrong and where I can improve going forward. Taking a little time to make sure all of my notes are consolidated into one place will save me a lot of time. I like using Microsoft OneNote as my digital notebook, so for my next novel I plan to carefully set up a notebook for all of my research and notes. Each day before I start writing, I will gather all of my research and notes from the day before and make sure everything is put into pages under the correct subject tabs. Then, once a week (I tend to review on Monday mornings), I will review all of the notes and research from the week before and make sure everything is organized into my files and notebook. This way, I’ll have gathered my thoughts before they have a chance to get lost.

These are just a few ways to keep writing organized through the novel writing process. Do you have any tips and tricks that work for you? Please share your ideas in the comments.

Yesterday’s word count: 1,069 words. I finally wrote the first murder scene in “Creation of the Lake Spirit”. Very fun. Though keeping up with the challenge has been difficult, it has been highly motivational.

A Wonderful Day For Stuffed Wildlife Photography

Herman by the waterToday was a very special day. My friend, Spencer Matthews, came for a visit and helped me plan out and set up my shots for over half of Gator McBumpypants in Dee Dee Makes Three. The weather cooperated, the sunlight cooperated, and my subjects, mostly cooperated. After we finished the wildlife photography, Spencer, a visual artist, set his Burning Phoenix sculpture on fire and I took pictures of it as well with dynamic results.phoenix sculpture ablaze

Thank you, Spencer, for a productive and rewarding day!

Yesterday’s word count: 1,056 words. Participating in a word count challenge is definitely motivating me to get words on the page.

Happy Writing!

The Novel Recommit Continues – Quick Update

I’m excited to say I wrote 1,038 words yesterday. So far so good.

Happy Writing.

Gator McBumpypants in Dee Dee Makes Three First Draft Thanks To A Thousand Words A Day

Dee Dee the Duck with her new friendsThough I did not write another 1,000 words since I reported yesterday, I did write 570 words to finish up the first draft of my third picture book in the Gator McBumpypants and friends series: Gator McBumpypants in Dee Dee Makes Three. That brings the weekend total to 2,014! By my math, I made it to the goal of 1,000 words a day (though I still have to write 1,000 today, but that’s for tomorrow’s blog). I’m very excited about this book, not only because it’s fun to take pictures of stuffed animals in the wild and tell their stories, but because Dee Dee is the first of my characters that I designed and created myself. Spoiler alert! I plan to make a box turtle next.

For the rest of my 5,000 words this week I will be working on two projects:

One is a middle grade novel that I plan as a series. It’s about a nine year old girl who realizes she can interact with spirits to help them with their unfinished business. However, she doesn’t want anyone, especially her classmates, to know, so she creates a business getting rid of household noises.

The other project is a series of short stories about a lake spirit. The story I’m trying to finish is called “Creation of the Lake Spirit” and is about half done. I hope to finish this week.

As part of the Novel Recommit challenge, I said I would post my word count each day, so I will keep you posted. I have a couple of more instructional yet-to-be-finished blog posts saved in my drafts to dust off for you throughout the week and hopefully some very fun pictures of Gator McBumpypants and his new friend Dee Dee as the week progresses.

Happy Writing!

Dee Dee The Duck and A Thousand Words A Day

Mt. Rainier and puffy clouds

The last month has been very busy in my writing life. I am happy to say that I reached my goal of sending out a draft of my novel to first readers on August 28th. I have already received some invaluable feedback and I am excited for more over the next couple of months.

In the meantime, I set another major goal which is to write and publish the next Gator McBumpypants book. For the third book in my picture book series I wanted to design and build a new friend for Gator and Herman and she is finally finished. Meet Dee Dee the duck.

Dee Dee the duck stands by the water

Dee Dee Wings Tucked

Dee Dee showing off her wings

Dee Dee Wings Out

This week I’ll start taking the photographs for the book, but I want to keep making progress on my other stories as well, so I joined Robert Evenhouse over at Part-Time Novel for his Novel Recommit. The goal is to write 1,000 words each day this week. I’ll admit I only reached 581 words yesterday, but I was inspired to get up early and write 863 more. Since I usually have trouble writing anything at all on the weekend, Robert’s challenge has already inspired me to write 1,444 more words than I would have written. However, the day is not done. Robert and I agreed to hold each other accountable by writing a blog post with our word count for each day. Hopefully, this is my report that I wrote 1,444 words for Saturday and tomorrow I’ll report at least 1,000 words for Sunday. This should be a fun and productive week.

Stay tuned.