Celebrate RAOK Day 30

It’s finally here, the last day of the RAOK Challenge. Now, that wasn’t so hard, was it? One small, eentsy-weentsy good deed per day, how difficult could that be? Even a smile counted, so you can’t tell me you weren’t able to meet the challenge. For me, it became easier and easier until it finally became a way of life. It takes 3 months (or is that 3 weeks) to create a habit. I’ve done that.

Today, for the final day, I’m going to take some time to write a few Thank You notes. I’m going to thank a friend for a beautiful gift, I’m going to thank a friend for being so kind to my daughter, and I may just send a card just to say hi and make someone feel good. What are you going to do? What if you missed a few days throughout the month? Give it your best shot to make today a fantastic RAOK day!

Finally, now that the RAOK Challenge is officially over-I have one more challenge for you. Can you take it? Are you sighing and saying to yourself, “What more does she want from us? We did what she asked!” Well, I want you to do one more small thing for me-this will be your RAOK to me…keep it up. Keep it going and don’t stop these random acts of kindness. Just because the month is up doesn’t mean you can’t open that door for someone, or send a note to someone telling her how kind she’s been. Smile at someone for no reason and see how great you feel.

I’m going to meet my own challenge, what about you? Challenge yourself to keep this up and you will feel great-I guarantee! And many, many thanks to my good friend Sara for putting together the great button you see on the right, and for spreading the word. She was a wonderful inspiration and I know for a fact that she’s keeping it up!

(And for those of you thinking this couldn’t be any more Pollyanna-I’m sorry about that. I’ll try to tone it down a little. I’m even giving myself a toothache! Back to writing now…)

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Do you plan the theme or does it find itself?

I’ve written a lovely book-a book about a wonderful, strong girl who must fight to save herself and everyone else from an unseen evil. Sounds typical, but that theme is carried out in so many books. Mine is different, just like everyone else’s (pardon my pun). But did I plan that theme? The good vs. evil, the girl-coming-of-age, the find-your-strength-underneath-your-fears? I find that thinking about writing a book based on a theme can be very disheartening. I have always thought that a book is a book and that reviewers and readers find a theme if they want one.

Then I heard that John Gardner’s ‘On Becoming a Novelist,’ has this information. He basically says that writers don’t write about themes, they write stories and themes are identified by critics. Yes, a writer should be aware of themes in the story and work around them to solidify a story, but the main concern should not be the theme.

So what do you do? Do you write according to a theme, or do you let that take care of itself? I believe the theme in my novel is apparent, but it wasn’t so much until I finished the book and looked back and found it had a strong theme.

I’m keeping this theme, and I love the story and book. I’m curious to see what others find the theme to be, or if they see one at all. I know I do.

My Twitter love affair

Not long ago, I was totally in the dark about Twitter. I figured it was something teenagers did-like passing notes or texting each other with such earth-shattering info like “I’m eating fries,” or “Wasup?” I figured I didn’t have the time or inclination to get caught up in that. But then I attended a writers’ meeting and one of the guys there talked and talked about how great Twitter was and how he was using it to promote himself and learn about the business. What? I was curious enough to sign on and create an account “just to look around.” I didn’t quite get it.

But then something happened–I got retweeted, I got mentioned, people started following me and answering my questions. I was hooked. It’s been a few months now and I can safely say that I am an addict. Not a true addict in the sense that I tweet constantly, but enough that I do it every day, I check it many times a day and I have it on my Blackberry. OK, stop laughing. I guess that’s pretty addicted. But what is so great about it, you ask? I have met so many wonderful people on it. Yes, they may be clowns or crazy people in their underwear in their parents’ basement watching Oprah, but I don’t think so. The agents, writers, social-media experts, cooks, moms, pilots, etc. that I’ve met are all real. They have blogs that I read faithfully now. The agents answer questions I didn’t even know I had. They make me laugh.

And if you want to talk career, let’s have a seat and chat. It’s been great for my writing. As I mentioned, so many agents are willing to offer snippets of their day including what not to do in a query, how not to contact them, what they love about a ms, what they wish they were offered in a ms, and more. It goes on and on and I take every bit in as if we are having coffee and  they are talking directly to me. How can that not be beneficial in a writing career? I found a wonderful writer offering a query class online and it helped immensely. (Thanks @cjredwine)

OK, I’ll admit I’ve got crushes on a few of those agents. One in particular (and I won’t mention who for fear of sending a query and having her remember me and say, “That’s that crazy woman with the crush on me.”) has got me fascinated by her life. I know it sounds crazy, but even if she doesn’t take my novel, I want to be her friend. Crazy, OK? But what the heck, nobody knows about it right? As a matter of fact, I want to be friends with most of them. They all lead fascinating lives. And for some reason if I go for coffee, it’s just coffee. When someone in San Francisco goes for a latte and is browsing a bookstore, it sounds chic and boho, or is that just me?

And as far as writers go, what a great way to find people who walk the same path. As writers know, people who are not writers just don’t get it-period. They don’t get the agony over writing just one scene, the pain of killing off a character, the anguish over POV and queries. But other writers get it and wow, it’s like being accepted into a sorority-the best one on campus. (although I wouldn’t know, not being accepted or anything, just saying… but I’m imagining it’s like that). Thanks to all those writers spilling their guts about writing, publishing, editing and sleeping (which none of us seems to do well).

So, if you’re on the fence about Twitter, jump off on the Twitter side. Go for it. You can always get off later. But I’m sure you won’t be sorry.

One note of caution–there are rules for Twitter including retweets, mentioning people, posting information, etc. There are tons of sites out there and blogs listing those. Check out: The Morning News for a great list,  shegeeks and Business Know-how. Don’t forget to read them and follow the rules-but if you make a mistake, don’t sweat it. Everyone screws up sometimes. Someone will call you on it, you learn from it, and just keep going and have fun. I know I am!

I shouldn’t have told them I was writing a novel…

“All great achievements require time.” – Maya Angelou

I saw this on Twitter recently and somehow it defined what I was living right now. Ever wish you could go back in time and change something you’ve said? I guess that’s a stupid question…we all have something we’d like to take back. Right now, I’d like to go back to a gathering of friends and acquaintances just a few months ago–“What have you been doing?” A simple innocent question-but I dropped the bomb. Aaaahhhh, why did I say it? I was so proud of the fact that I had finished my novel and I was on to the query stage. I had finished my query and was so excited to send it out, I blurted out the mistake sentence, “I’ve written a novel and now I’m starting to send it out to agents.” Yikes…why didn’t I just tell everyone I had gone on a diet? It’s like giving people the right to ask you each time they see you, “How’s the diet going?” Then you feel like crap when you have to say, “Fine, except for the ice cream sundae I ate yesterday.”

So now that so many people are aware of my writing project, I am constantly hearing, “How is the book going? Have you sold it yet?” Somebody shoot me! Why did I do it? What was I thinking? Sure, I can look at it as a great motivator-a way to push me to keep sending out the queries. But in the long run, it’s just a reminder that I’m not quite there yet.

Of course, I’ve read the blogs and heard the tales from seasoned writers. They’ve said not to tell and I didn’t listen. Now I know and I’m here to help you. My advice, make sure you’re ready to tell everyone you’re writing a book. Make sure you’re ready to answer questions almost daily on how your writing is going, whether you are published, and what your book is about. Yes, it’s good practice to tell others what your book is about, but do you want to do it every day? Just be aware of the impact of that one, simple sentence.

Have you told? Are you going to tell? Or maybe the question is when will you tell?

RAOK Day 16, still going strong

It’s day 16 of the RAOK challenge. It’s become second nature to me now and I’m loving the wonderful feeling I get by helping others, giving things and essentially, just being nice. I’ve brought bread to a friend who hadn’t had it before (gluten-free and fabulous) driven my mom to her Dr. appt, therapy appt, Trader Joe’s, and more. So glad she’ll be able to drive at the end of the month, freeing me up to give to others now (sorry mom). I’ve made brownies and muffins, encouraged a friend, and even helped out my niece with her dog. It feels good to keep going. If you’ve signed on to the RAOK, don’t lose momentum, keep going. It gets easier as the month goes on, and it is a truly special way to be every day.

I’ve noticed that my choices are different these days. While jockeying for a parking space, I give it up a lot quicker now and consider it my RAOK for the day. I let someone go ahead of me in the cashier’s line and consider that my RAOK. They may not even know it, but I don’t care. It makes me feel good and I know I’ve just done something good for no reason.

On the writing front… I’ve graduated the query workshop with a fab query. It’s time to wrap up the first chapter, which needs a little reworking thanks to a friend’s advice. Once that’s done, it’s time to send out that stealth query and begin to entertain offers. Watch this spot for news of an offer- coming real soon…

Watch where you’re driving… Day 10 of the RAOK Challenge

It’s day 10…and it feels as if it’s been a month already. I’m trying to post every day, and trying to make sure I do something significant every day. It’s not difficult at all, but there are so many little things we do all day and do they count? Would we have done them anyway?

Today I spent the day driving my mother around. She’s still healing from surgery and can’t drive for another two weeks. She needed clothes, groceries, Aveda supplies, etc. It was a day of driving and chatting, fueled by too many stops at Starbuck’s. I walked slowly with her through the mall, and kept out of her way as she tried to maneuver the electronic scooter at Whole Foods. Those things can be dangerous if you’re not looking, she almost took out a cereal display. She walks with a cane and I was trying too hard to walk slowly behind her at the mall, but I’m so impatient (and caffeine fueled) that I gave her a flat tire, taking her shoe right off. Luckily, it was on the good leg or I would have felt like shit. She just laughed, thank goodness. She’s getting a better sense of humor as she ages.

As far as the “Perfect Query Quest,” I’m still working on the online  query workshop and it’s been quite enlightening. Today was the first day we were to write the first draft of the query and send it in for initial critique. Since I already had a query that has been beautifully rejected, I rewrote that one to the class specifications. We’ll see how that flies and go from there, but I am loving the research and rewrite process.

It’s a step-by-step process. After this, I hope I find a synopsis workshop. Anybody know of one?

A random act of violence – Day 9 of the RAOK Challenge

Just a few weeks ago, a good friend of mine was the recipient of a random act of violence.  She sat in a nail salon in a busy strip center, the only customer on a Monday afternoon at 4:30. Two people walked in. She looked up at the man who had come up beside her and his gun hit the side of her head, knocking her off her chair and on to the ground. She felt the blood running down her face from the force of the blow. The man then reached down and dragged her to a closet, throwing her inside and closing the door. She caught a glimpse of the shopkeepers being beaten by the man’s accomplice as she was dragged to the closet.

For what seemed like hours, but was only just a few minutes, she stayed in the closet. She thought of her children and her husband, waiting for her at home. She thought of running out to help the shopkeeper, but then risking her life and leaving her young children alone. She finally left the closet and found the attackers were gone. She ran to an exercise studio next door and called the police.

Why am I telling you this? For a few reasons. The first is that although we keep pushing for random acts of kindness, it is so important to realize that random acts of violence still happen every day. And for each random act of kindness, we believe that the ripple effect continues, leading each person in turn to do something nice for someone else. But does that work with the RAOV? For my friend, the ripples from the incident are her nightmares and her fear of being alone at night or in a parking lot. She fears for her kids when she drops them off anywhere. Who can blame her?

The scars from her attack are healing, but the scars you can’t see will take much longer to heal. The fears and nightmares will continue. But along with that came an outpouring of kindness from friends and people she hadn’t met. She was given a spa day by her office, her boss paid off a bill for her, her friends have given her flowers and cards. She receives more hugs now than she ever did before when she gets to work. And she appreciates each one.

Continue your random acts of kindness and we can spread the kindness and good feelings outward. Yes, things like this will continue to happen, we can’t stop it. But we can learn to move on and continue to be kind and good to others. My friend is still a loving, caring person with a positive outlook. She’s a strong woman and I’m so glad she’s my friend.

Have a great day…and be safe out there.