Tag Archives: creative writer

My Dream is Coming True…I’m Terrified!

This week, as of Monday, Amanda and I have been on Cloud 9. In fact, if there is a better cloud than 9, that’s where you can find us. Our first novel, Love at First Plight, the start of the Perspective book series is getting published. Our dream is coming true…and I am so freakin’ scared.

Love at First Plight published Perspective book seriesI know for a fact that I couldn’t have done this with anyone but my co-author. The rollercoaster of positive and negative stresses from having been let down by so many different people and so many different companies, and from having been thoroughly supported from our closest friends and family (and from some unexpected places, too), would have tested even the truest friendship. If I’d ever had any doubts in the strength of my friendship with Amanda, they’re certainly long-gone, now.

This book has threatened to bring out the ugliest in us, and has allowed us the opportunity to rise above it. At the risk of sounding completely full of myself, I’m going to declare that Amanda and I have done just that. We faced one challenge after the next, and now a story that we adore is getting started in a published book. I am very proud of our book and I am very proud of having survived the process of making it.

If you are a published author and you are reading this, my hat goes off to you. You have made it through a storm that cannot be understood by those who have not experienced it for themselves.

Notre Dame stained glass rose windowGetting a book published is like looking at the stained glass from the inside of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. It’s like crawling, climbing, and wriggling your way through the systems of tight limestone tunnels and vast caverns of the Mammoth Caves in Kentucky. It’s like trying a very good quality of chocolate for the very first time. It is like facing your fears, your insecurities, and your dreams, head-on, and discovering who you are when you reach the other side.

You can certainly imagine what all of those things would be like, but until you go through them for yourself, it is impossible to know the complete experience. Without fail, what you see, feel, hear, smell, or taste will be different, and greater, than what you had thought.

That’s exactly what this last week has been like for me. At first, I went through a stage of denial. After all, just knowing that Love at First Plight would be an e-book and a paperback didn’t create an immediate change in my life. Certainly, I felt excited, but nothing had technically happened, yet. I had bragging rights, of course, but there is still a lot of time left before the novels will be on the bookstore shelves.

That did move on to a feeling of excitement. Equally, I think that aside from being thoroughly ecstatic (and immensely impatient – I’m not exactly known for patience), the other reining emotion that I am feeling, at the moment, is terror! Since Monday, I have been very thrilled about the future of the Perspective book series, and yet, now that my dream is coming true, I wake up in the middle of the night, sweating, with a pounding in my chest. I love the book and its characters with every part of my heart, but now that world is about to be exposed to the world…that’s a terrifying thought!

It’s a great story. It really is. I wouldn’t have put my name on it and published it if I didn’t completely believe that. At the same time, I am aware of the fact that if I actually talk to people and tell them about it, then they’ll never be able to discover the story, for themselves! This places me in the spotlight, and as someone with a social anxiety disorder, that’s not exactly the most comfortable place for me.

There are few things that I want more in life than for Love at First Plight – and the Perspective series that follows – to be a tremendous success, but even as the hype begins to build among friends and family, I can feel a rapid heartbeat kicking in with every “tag” my name receives in a Facebook post.

Love at First Plight - Perspective book series 1I feel genuine excitement when someone mentions the Perspective book series page on that social network, but whenever the attention is aimed directly at me, I find myself shaking in my boots (or, more accurately, fuzzy purple slippers, since I don’t tend to wear boots when I’m at my computer). This is definitely something I’m going to need to work on if this book is to go somewhere. After all, I don’t think that the media would be satisfied with quotes taken from the book series Facebook page. I’m going to need to start being me, in front of real-live people.

This is going to be the most important “therapy” of my life. I need to ensure that people will hear about this book so that they can enjoy the world of Qarradune as much as I have for the last 14 years. I need to be there for Amanda and for Love at First Plight if I am going to keep this dream come true going.

It’s time for me to move beyond writing a strong female character who will take on the world so that she’ll achieve her goals and dreams. It’s time for me to become one, too.

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Two Heads are Better Than One: It’s Not Just a Sesame Street Song!

I can’t stand it when writers get too descriptive. It’s not that I don’t understand the value of description. It’s not that I don’t see the skill that a beautiful and clear description requires. After a certain point, I just stop caring. It’s nothing but a big yawn for me.

julie campbell writer - writing descriptionYes, description is needed to tell the story. If I begin a story that dives right into a conversation between Mr. and Mrs. Character with absolutely no insight into who they are, how they look, and where they are, then I have lost an opportunity to give you, Reader, the chance to imagine the story in the way that I do.

After all, if I don’t tell you that Mr. and Mrs. Character are having their conversation on the deck of a sailing ship, then you might be imagining them in their kitchen, sitting on the porch, or on a picnic blanket at the park. Even if I do tell you that they’re on the deck of a ship, I need to tell you that they’re on a sailing ship or you might think that they are on a massive cruise liner.  For that matter, are Mr. and Mrs Character merely passengers, or is Mrs. Character actually a pirate queen who terrorizes the nine seas (it’s my world, it can have nine seas)?

However, if I spend the first thirty pages of the book describing the precise wood used to construct the deck of the ship, the type of sealant that was applied to protect it against the salt in the seawater, the name of the family that developed said sealant, the back story on how they came into the sealant-development business, the precise shade of brown that is achieved after the application of the sealant, the number of knots per plank and the difference the sealant makes in the clockwise swirling pattern of the knots in the surface of the deck, and so on, then I’m pretty sure that I’ll have lost your attention halfway through the first paragraph. I know that my mind would certainly have wandered by then (possibly to a story from a book that wasn’t as overly descriptive).

At the same time, though, I love to write description. I adore describing a scene. Since, I can see everything very clearly in my head, I want to share that image with everyone who is experiencing the story that I am telling in the Book. But where do I draw the line? It is in this area that I find myself relying very heavily on Amanda’s opinions. I haven’t come to the point that I have had the guts to ask for it (although, being a very smart person, she may see the subtle hint in this post), I think it’s coming close to the time in which I am going to need some extra help in the editing process to know when it’s time to just shut up.

I am confident that I can do my part in giving the book some polish, but this was a team writing effort and I know that it will be a team editing effort, too. We can only work on it independently for so long and then it’s time to get out the boxing gloves.  I only hope that I will be able to take the criticisms of the length of certain descriptions with dignity and not break down into a ball of tears on the floor. If the next post sounds a little bit cranky-pants, then you’ll know that things are off to a rocky start and that I’m clinging to that thirty-page ship-deck description. Wish me luck!

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How’s My Driving…Er…Posting?

Three whole weeks!  How time has flown.

Julie Campbell writer surveyI know that my co-author, Amanda, and I are both enjoying sharing our thoughts with you as we struggle through the battles and celebrate the victories of turning our Book’s rough draft into something worth publishing (and turning us into bajillionaires), but I’m also wondering what you think of the experience.

Fortunately, I just found out how to use the “add poll” feature on this blog.  What does that mean?  We just got interactive!

Please let us know what you think about the experience so far.  If you have additional thoughts that aren’t covered by the little survey, below, please add them to the “Comments” for this post.

That was fun, wasn’t it?  Alright, you twisted my arm, here’s another one:

Addictive, aren’t they?  Okay, one more, since you insisted:

Thanks so much for reading, following, sharing, and overall sticking around.  More blog posts are on their way from both me and Amanda.

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What is that “effing” word!

Don’t you hate it when you are trying to remember that perfect word you want to use, only to be incredibly disappointed to discover that none of the words you come up with feel like the right one?  How many times have you wondered – “Am I imagining a word exists that never did?”

On the other hand, it’s so gratifying when you do remember or find the word you want. I can’t count the number of times I’ve asked Julie (using actual words and not this weird example), “what’s that word that is like such and such and is sort-of like this, but not exactly that?” and she responds with, “ You mean, blah” and I’m, like, “YES! Blah! That’s it!”

A confused panda who just can't find the right word!Sadly, for as many times as I have found the treasured “blah” word I sought, I have been equally dissatisfied in having to settle for alternatives that are not exactly what I wanted. Here’s a great example:

When writing the rough draft of our book together, Julie and I have come to refer to a certain type of smile our characters make on occasion as an “effing smile” (and yes, we actually use the word “effing” I’m not going out of my way to make this a G-rated blog). Why do we do this? Not because we’re being witty or even because it’s an inside joke, it’s literally because we don’t know what is the best word that would accurately describe the type of smile we mean.

In vain, both of us have tirelessly wracked our brains and turned to the thesaurus for any clues to find out what the perfect word could be. Naturally, we didn’t find it and just used the made-up term “effing smile”, so we would understand what the other person was describing.

In case anyone happens to know the word we’re looking for, I’ll do my best to describe the “effing smile” to you.

In my opinion, this is the smile that you give to someone when you understand, know, and/or realize that nothing more can really be said or done about a certain sucky/unfortunate situation or topic of discussion. In essence, the person giving the smile would like to give comfort, but they know that the situation is what it is, what’s done is done, and there is no fairytale ending. It’s like a combination of a half-hearted smile, an understanding smile, an empathetic smile, a wry smile, a comforting smile, and an “oh well, waddaya gonna do?” smile. See, it’s not so easy to come up with one word that encompasses all of that!

Today, after years of not finding the word (seriously, I’m not kidding, it’s been like 5 years), we are pretty much convinced that the word we’re looking for doesn’t exist. Therefore, until we can both agree on an actual word from the English language that will satisfy us, we’ve just used our term, because it’s what works for us.

When it comes to writing, whether it is creative or otherwise, it is important to not get stuck or hung up on finding the perfect word. That’s what editing is for. If after a few minutes you can’t call to mind the accurate word you want, use the best substitute (and even make a note to your future self about wanting to change the word), but keep on writing. If you obsess too much about making everything perfect in the first draft, you risk hindering your creativity and limiting your imagination. Believe me, I know. Editing while I’m creating remains one of my biggest setbacks as a writer.

Anyway, the good news is that before we introduce our book to the world, Julie and I still have time to find a suitable replacement for “effing smile”. While we won’t settle for something that isn’t satisfactory, I now understand that we may have to settle for less than perfect. I can live with that.  After all, writing a good story requires focus on the story as a whole, not obsessing over a single word.

And, who knows, maybe if we can’t find what we want, we’ll just make up words and provide a glossary of terms in the book 😉 Ah, the power of creative writing and imagination – I adolve* it!

Thanks for reading!

*Adolve – A newly made up word, which here means that the writer absolutely adores and loves the control she has when writing creatively.

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Learning About Myself Through Editing

I’ve experienced a number of insights as I’ve been going over the Book that I have neglected for three years. Technically speaking, the story I’m now tackling is more than a decade old. It’s been edited, poked, and prodded, but it’s old work.

Julie Campbell writer self learningAs I read over what is there, I’m discovering a lot about myself. My thought patterns for telling a story aren’t exactly the same. I do love what I have, and the story is still very strong, but the way that I was expressing it had a “deliberate” feel. By reading it, I could see exactly what I was trying to accomplish – not a great experience from the reader’s perspective.

I can spot the words that I selected through the use of a thesaurus instead of choosing something out of my own vocabulary. I can identify all of the “set ups” that I chose to lead a reader in a certain direction. Those are only powerful elements in a story when they are seamless, not when they stand out.

What I’m discovering is that what I wrote ten years ago and picked at for a while was a story. Now, it’s time to make it into a book. I may not have been able to do it then, but I feel confident that I can do it now.

There is something to be said about spending a tremendous amount of time on a written project. In school, I was always told not to write a paper at the last minute because one of the most important steps was to be able to sleep after having completed a piece, and then edit it after having had some time to forget about it for a while. Like most students, I finished most of my papers at 3am or 4am on the day that it was due, but it doesn’t mean that I have forgotten the lesson.

As I read over the Book, I can now see the true value that my teachers were trying to express. Certainly, ten years is a bit on the long side, but it has given me time to learn, grow, practice, and improve, so that I can view my work with a fresh (albeit moderately crazy) mind.

It has been frustrating me that I hadn’t gone back to the Book earlier so that I could have had it published, sooner. But now that I am actually working on it, I can genuinely say that I’m glad that I waited until this point. I’m feeling much more confident about it, and I know that I have the skill to be able to lift my words from being a decent story to being a very good book.

We’ve all read stories that were exceptionally enjoyable but that were poorly told. That is just what the story I am writing used to be. Soon enough, it will be an enjoyable story, but it will be told in a book that is worth reading. I can’t wait to see how that looks.

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Who am I? (No, Not 24601)

While re-reading and editing the Book, I have come to a discovery that I have found to be rather amusing. As was the case when I was writing these pieces for the first time, I am – once again – allowing myself to become lost in the characters that make up their fictional world.

Julie Campbell author character developmentI’ve always considered this ability to be a very positive one, as it helps me to remain truer to who the characters are, and better gauge what they would think about various circumstances and how they would react to the situations that they must face.  It’s like a form of “method acting” as a writer. It is important, because it stops me from forcing my own personal reactions onto the character.

This practice, as useful as it may be, also appears to have quite an unexpected side. I have found it rather entertaining to note that when I’ve been disturbed from writing a cute character or a kind one, my reaction to the interruption is often similar to the one that the character would have, while in his or her “current” mental state (in the place that I am editing in the “Book”). What isn’t quite as fun are the times in which I am writing and editing someone unpleasant or downright villainous. Those reactions to the distraction aren’t quite as warm – to say the least.

It has made me think back to the early days of the Book, over a decade ago, when Amanda and I were originally talking on the phone and writing the first pages together. I can quite distinctly remember snapping at my sister on more than one occasion, just because she came to my bedroom door to tell me that dinner was ready or to ask me if I’d like anything.  It wasn’t her fault, but she interrupted the wrong character!

The influence that writing characters can have on one’s own behaviours is quite a shocking one, if you’re anything like me. While it is an experience that I thoroughly enjoy, it makes me think about the nature of a real individual’s personality. As much as we may form strong characters for ourselves throughout our lives, it really doesn’t take much to change our reactions and behaviours to ones that are completely outside of what we believe our nature to be.

For me, simply imagining what it is like to be someone else is enough for me to temporarily behave as they would. Naturally, it isn’t a lasting impact, and I don’t suffer from a multiple personality disorder (nor do I).  At the same time, even though this change in myself is one that continues for only a split second, it is still quite notable that who I am can be that fragile under the right circumstances.

I’m not exactly sure what to make all of this, quite yet, but it is something that I will be mulling over for a while. After all, this may be an important thing to understand when it comes to making certain that my characters in the Book are reacting in a genuine and realistic way. A person’s actions aren’t always a matter of doing what a list of character traits prescribes. Sometimes, they can surprise you.

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The Karenina Effect

Earlier this year, a heartbreaking event had one of those astounding “everything happens for a reason” impacts on me. The situation was awful, but at the same time, it managed to reconnect me with a friend with whom I had lost contact. It had been about 15 years since I’d spoken with her, and then suddenly we became better friends than we ever were, “back in the day”.

Julie Campbell - Karenina EffectAt some point during our regular, mile-long (or kilometre-long, for those of us who use metric) emails, my old-new friend mentioned that she had downloaded an e-copy of “Anna Karenina” and that she was starting to read it. I had always had an irrational fear of that book, after having heard it mentioned incessantly by the characters in “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”, which I read when I was in high school. I had assumed that it was a story that would be far too complex for me to understand.

After some encouragement, I downloaded my own copy. Alright, in truth, I downloaded several copies. As much as it may be free and easy to find because it is public domain, there are an awful lot of bad translations out there!

As I first started reading it, I was surprised to see that my friend was right about “Anna Karenina”. It is far more accessible than I had expected it to be. However, as it turns out, accessibility isn’t everything.

When I read for enjoyment, I read to wind down at the end of the day, immediately before I go to sleep at night. It’s the only time I have. Unfortunately, a barely-conscious state is not at all compatible with this story. Tolstoy did love his descriptions and slow-moving dialogue, but my ability to remain awake does not. While I’m certain that the description and dialog create a foundation upon which a glorious story is finally built, I haven’t been able to make it past the first quarter of the book, to see it for myself.

The book has what I am now calling “The Karenina Effect”. Despite the fact that there may be a story buried within it that approaches genius, I will likely never know about it because it has a similar impact on me to a large mug of chamomile tea and the sound of steady rain. Zzzzzz….

Could Tolstoy have known that he was creating the ideal non-prescription Ambien alternative for someone like me? But more importantly (at least, to me it’s more important, and this is my blog post, so there!), will I know it if my own descriptions will have a similar impact on you, Reader, once I finish editing the Book?

A book is a very personal thing. The Book that I’m writing with Amanda is easily one of my favourite parts of my life. I think it’s good. Very good. And I’m working hard to make it better. At the same time, when the day comes for it to be published, is there any way to know for certain that it won’t need a complementary energy drink coupon sold along with it?

Reader, if my blog posts are your best method for combating insomnia, you’d tell me, right?

Note – WordPress has just informed me that as I am using this platform for free, they will occasionally place an add below the posts on this blog.  I just wanted to take this opportunity to say that those are added automatically by WordPress and that none of the ads were selected by either Amanda or myself and neither of us endorse any of the products or services being advertised. 

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