Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog–Expectations

Sarah Fine (blogger of The Strangest Situation and writer repped by Kathleen Ortiz) asks:

Where do your expectations for your writing (career/skill/quality/achievements) come from? Is the source internal, external, or both? And how do you cope when you don’t meet them?

This question is SO pertinent to what I’ve been grappling with over the fall. Like, seriously.

When I first started writing, I did it for the sheer enjoyment. In the back of my mind, I mused about how cool it would be to see my work published, but I didn’t really think it was possible. As I continued to write, I noticed progression in my skill.

Then the craziest thought popped into my head:

I want to be published and I’m going to actually DO something about it!

Gosh, it would be grand to be the next JK Rowling or Stephen King. I also know that’s a looooooong shot. So, to be more realistic, I’d like to see my novels make it to print and I’d like to see a fair amount of people read them.

I do expect to hold a bound novel with my name on the cover. Others have expressed the same vision.

But it hasn’t happened yet.

And that leads to a LOT of frustration for me. So much so, that I contemplated quitting and didn’t write for several months. There’s a natural fallow time for every writer, but this time seemed to be…the end.

It looked like my way to cope was to finally face the “truth” that it wasn’t going to happen and give up.

I thought about that.

And thought about it.

And thought about it.

(I’m a shrink and a bit obsessive, so I thought about it a lot, okay?)

And thought about it.

Finally, I realized that I’d given away control. I’d let the industry dictate how I did things. I let it beat me down.

I’ve never done that before.

Then I remembered that everyone’s path to publication is unique. No way is right or wrong, better or worse, than any other.

For example, I started at a community college, then transfered to a four-year school before applying for medical school. I was rejected the first year (a not uncommon thing). I tried the next year and got in. Medical school was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But I persevered. I got my MD. And I did it in an unconventional way. But it’s still an MD.

Publishing my work can be the same. I may not follow the path that most traditionally pubbed authors do. And that’s okay.

…I think I got off track a bit. Pretty normal, considering my general approach to life goals, LOL!

Bottom line, when in the writing game, I think it’s reasonable to expect the unexpected. Ha!

How about you? What are your expectations for writing and how do you handle it when it doesn’t work out the way you envision?

Stay tuned for Lydia’s response next week!

Happy New Year!

So, 2012 is here. If the Mayans are right, we only have a few months left to do whatever we plan to while on this planet.

The natural follow up to this is a discussion on goals. (Never mind that I’m not really buying the whole Doomsday in December thing.)

Last year, I wrote a list of writerly goals. I met about half of them. But I’m not disappointed, considering I had a huge change in my work responsibilities and I had a huge battle with my mojo over the past couple of months.

This year, I’m not going to write down goals. Why?

I don’t wanna.

Some may think that’s lame, but I don’t. I know what my overall goal is:

GET PUBLISHED.

BUT, I can’t put a timeline to that. All I can do is try my best every day. If that means slamming out 5000 words or doing absolutely nothing, that’s gonna have to be good enough.

Tell me folks, what’s your approach to goals?

Be sure to send me a writerly related psychiatric question so I can address it here on Mental Health Mondays. Check out Lydia’s Medical Monday (she’s talking about telekinesis today. Cool!!!) and Sarah Fine’s The Strangest Situation.

Cheers!

Mental Health Monday–Cold Turkey

Lynn Rush asks:

“What are the mental/behavioral side effects of opiate withdrawal? Any meds you’d recommend to help with it?”

Opioid withdrawal is a VERY painful process, BUT it’s not life threatening. (Those suffering from withdrawal often feel like they’re going to die, though!)

If you use some Lortab or Percocet for a few days after a surgery, you’re not likely to have symptoms of withdrawal when you stop. However, if you use any opioid (morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, dilaudid, heroin, etc) for weeks or months and you stop taking it suddenly, you’re likely to experience the following:

Early withdrawal:

Agitation
Anxiety
Muscle aches
Increased tearing
Insomnia
Runny nose
Sweating
Yawning

Later withdrawal:

Abdominal cramping
Diarrhea
Dilated pupils
Goose bumps
Nausea
Vomiting

Opioid withdrawal symptoms usually start within 12 hours of last heroin usage and within 30 hours of last methadone exposure.

Treatment of withdrawal usually includes the use of medications that combat the symptoms.

Clonindine–a blood pressure medicine that decreases anxiety, muscle aches, sweating, agitation, and cramps

Anti-diarrheal–to stop diarrhea

Anti-emetics–to stop nausea/vomiting

Fluids

Buprenorphine–a “partial agonist” that competes with opioids at the Mu receptor and is used for long term maintenance therapy for opioid dependence; a “high” is prevented if someone uses an opioid while taking this medication

Methadone–a long-acting opioid used for the treatment of opioid dependence; it does not produce a “high”, and reduces cravings to use

Remember, these posts are for writing purposes only and are NOT to be construed as medical treatment or advice.

Check out Lydia’s Medical Monday and Sarah’s The Strangest Situation!

Mental Health Monday–Munchausen’s Syndrome

Lydia, Sarah, and I are converging to make the perfect storm trifecta of blog posts regarding Munchausen’s Syndrome.

Named after the great Baron von Munchausen, who purportedly told elaborate and fictional stories about himself, Munchausen’s Disorder is part of a class of disorders called Facticious Disorders.

The DSM-IV criteria for Facticious Disorders include:

  • Intentionally producing or feigning symptoms of a medical or mental illness
  • External motivators (as found in Malingering) (such as wanting three hots and a cot) are absent
  • Motivation for such behavior is to adapt the “sick role”

Munchausen Syndrome Factoids:

  • Individuals suffering from Munchausen Syndrome have a particularly chronic and severe course
  • They tend to have medical knowledge or even training in the medical field
  • They will intentionally infect themselves or overdose on medication such that medical intervention is necessary. Examples include: putting urine, feces, or dirty water in a wound; taking insulin to cause a drop in blood sugar; taking Warfarin (Coumadin), a blood thinner, to cause bruising and bleeding
  • They will often submit to or even demand invasive procedures and surgeries. A telltale sign of someone with Munchausen’s Syndrome is multiple scars over their bodies, particularly the abdomen
  • They will often move from town to town, hospital to hospital, especially when they are “found out”

The risks of having Munchausen’s Syndrome:

  • Feigning illness leads to unnecessary and sometimes risky procedures
  • Infecting a wound or overdosing on medications could be life-threatening
  • A patient often lies about real medical issues or allergies and therefore could be given treatment that will harm or even kill them
  • Because of multiple, unnecessary visits to hospitals, they are more at risk of developing iatrogenic illness
  • They often refuse corroboration with other treatment providers, leaving gaps in history that may be significant for a clinician to know

So, how do we help people with Munchausen’s Syndrome?

It’s VERY difficult. Most do not admit to their behavior and become very angry when confronted. They sign out AMA (Against Medical Advice) and seek another hospital/clinician. They are often not even remotely interested in psychiatric help. They have little insight (internal understanding) of their illness and behavior. In other words, they aren’t able to see what makes it risky or potentially harmful.

The individual in the photo below had over 40 unnecessary surgeries. Turns out, he did end up developing colon cancer. Talk about the case of the boy who cried wolf!

Remember, these posts are for WRITING PURPOSES ONLY and are NOT to be construed as medical or psychiatric treatment or advice.

ALSO, check out Kendall Grey’s blog today–I’m up for her Manual Transmission tour! 🙂

We’re Halfway There!

Hey, gang, November is officially more than half over, which means Nanoers are heading toward the sloggy middle of their manuscripts!

For those of you who outline, you may have developed a nice plot line that’ll help guide you through the potential muck and slush of the-middle-of-the-novel, but those of you who are pansters may be stuck.

What’s a panster to do???

Well, here are some tips!

How to get un-stuck:

  • Skip a scene or three and write something that’ll get ya stoked about the story again.
  • Throw in a plot twist. (Didn’t know your character is allergic to peanuts? Have her hotter than hot love interest make her a peanut butter cup in the shape of a heart.) (The antagonist is actually the protagonist’s half-sister? Yikes!! Now what’re the characters gonna do?)
  • Free write using the POV of your main character. Just let them do the talking and see where it takes you. Inspiration may strike and you’ll be back on track again.
  • Remember Write or Die? Challenge yourself to a timed session there and I’ll guarantee you’ll be typing faster than your mind can think.
  • Sprint with some pals.
  • For God’s sake, take a freaking break and let your mind rest! Read a few chapters of the book you’ve set aside for the past two weeks. Go see Breaking Dawn. Let your unconscious (AKA subconscious) mind work things out. It’ll let you know when the problem is solved…Trust me. (You know those EUREKA! moments? That’s your unconscious giving you an answer.)
  • Take a walk. Physical exercise not only makes us healthier, it provides stress relief, and the scenery may just trigger an idea.
  • Check out Sarah’s Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog post on whether or not she Nanos. Then review Lydia’s and mine. 😉
  • DON’T GIVE UP.

Your turn to share you ideas of how to get through the sloggy middle!

Whipping Out The Words

Participating in NaNo forces us to channel Speeedy Gonzales, the Tazmanian Devil, and the Road Runner at the same time so we can burn up the keyboard with word counts.

But dear LORD, how do we do it?!?!?!

Here are some tips on how to put your nose to the ACME anvil and grind out the pages:

  • Practice with Write or Die. This website sets up a timed session. If you don’t reach a certain word count in a certain amount of time, your words will be DELETED! (I’ve never been brave enough to try this myself, but lots of writers LOVE it!)
  • Make your Word document window 1-2 lines long and use a large font. You’ll only be able to see a couple of sentences so you can’t go back and re-read and re-read and re-read and…well, you get the point. (My dear friend, Mary Lindsey, came up with that one. Her book SHATTERED SOULS comes out SOON!!!!!! I can’t WAIT to read it.)
  • Connect with some writer buds and do a write-off. Pick a chat room, keep tabs via Twitter, use direct messaging, anything that’ll keep you in real time communication with others so you can all sit down together and challenge one another to pound out some words. (Lynn Rush, Rachel Firasek, Ciara Knight, and Kendall Grey like this route.)
  • Join a group on the NaNo website. (You’ll see a lot of familiar faces–er, avatars–there. Capitalize on it!)
  • Don’t think of all 50,000 words in one chunk. It’s like staring Mt. Everest in the face and thinking you’ll reach the summit in one step. Yeah, not gonna happen. Instead, remember that you only need 1667 words a day. That’s a doable number. A few pages. Half a chapter. A couple of scenes.
  • Now is NOT the time to edit. Don’t worry about nailing description, smoothing dialogue, or capturing an action scene in cinematic detail. Get the essence down and MOVE ON.

What tips do you have to keep the words flowing?

Check out Sarah’s response to whether or not a pet/person/plant inspires her writing. 😉

Mental Health Monday–Character Conflict

As writers gear up for NaNo, I want to review an important tidbit to keep in mind.

Stories thrive on tension and a sure-fire way to create tension is through conflict. Not only can conflict occur between characters, it can also happen within a character.

Here are some examples of conflict between characters:

  • Protagonist vs. Antagonist
  • Protagonist vs. BFF
  • Protagonist vs. Parent
  • Protagonist vs. Love Interest
  • Antagonist vs. Minion

Pretty straight forward, right?

So how do you develop conflict within a character?

  • Put him or her in a situation where he/she has to choose between two “bad” choices. (Does the phrase “the lesser of two evils” come to mind?)
  • Make it so the antagonist is a sympathetic character and let the protagonist see it. This will put him or her at odds with defeating the “bad guy” versus giving them forgiveness or helping them.
  • Set things up so the protagonist can’t necessarily tell the difference between reality or fantasy. This doesn’t have to apply strictly to paranormal or even psychosis, but situations can be open to interpretation and it all boils down to perception. For example, if a protag sees her love interest hug an attractive woman, the protag may assume he’s married or dating when in reality the “other woman” could be a cousin or sister.
  • Like all humans, it’s natural for our protag’s to have mixed emotions about things. For example, maybe the protag is trying to quit drinking because he’s got a DWI, but his buddies are egging him on to drink. He knows he shouldn’t, but dammit, why can’t he have a good time like everybody else?
  • Remember that the higher the stakes, the more tension and the more conflict arises.

What strategies do you use to raise tension and conflict between and within a character?

Check out Lydia’s Medical Monday and Sarah Fine’s The Strangest Situation for some awesome writerly posts!

Mental Health Monday–To NaNo or Not To NaNo, That Is the Question

Okay, so last week I reviewed some NaNoWriMo prep tips because it’s important to be mentally prepared to tackle writing 50,000 words in 30 days.

This week, I wanted to check in with you guys regarding whether or not NaNo is for you.

Come on, admit it, if you haven’t done NaNo (and if you have), I’m sure you’ve had some fluctuating thoughts and feelings toward it.

(Talking about thoughts and feelings = Mental Health, just in case you were looking for the Mental Health Monday connection. 😉 )

It’s a BIG decision.

Here’s some reasons to DO NaNo:

  • You’re looking for a new writing challenge.
  • You’ve got an idea for a novel and wanna crank out that rough draft like nobody’s business.
  • You’re focusing on word counts and quantity rather than quality (I’m not dissing quality; quality can be developed during revising).
  • You need a reason to commit to putting down a certain number of words a day for a certain length of time.
  • You need the structure.
  • You thrive on that sense of accomplishment that NaNo gives.
  • Your friends have coerced you to…oh, wait, maybe that’s not a great reason.
  • You made a bet.   (You didn’t see that one, okay?)

Here’s some reasons to sit out and cheer on your NaNo’ing friends:

  • You’ve done NaNo before.
  • You know you can plop a bunch of words down on the page.
  • You want to work on quality rather than quantity.
  • You struggle with massive word counts and might get frustrated with the process to the point where it’s no longer enjoyable to write.
  • You hate revising and know that a NaNo project will need a couple years of smoothing…if it’s smoothable at all.
  • You’ve got a HECK of a lot of other things happening in November.
  • You’ve got a life. (Just kidding. NaNoers have lives, hehehe.)

What are some other reasons to NaNo or not to NaNo?

Bottom line: Listen to yourself. If you’re ready, you’ll know. If you’re not ready, you don’t have to push yourself to do it. Another November will come around next year. Just sayin’.

Check out Lydia’s Medical Monday post and Sarah Fine’s blog, The Strangest Situation!

Mental Health Monday–NaNo Prep Tips; It All Starts with a Goal

I’m kicking off my new blog series where I focus on a different writerly topic every month with NaNoWriMo Prep!

How does this connect to Mental Health Monday?

Well, whenever a challenge presents itself, it is often helpful to tackle it strategically in order to keep stress and mental anguish as low as possible. 😉

Those of you who are familiar with NaNoWriMo (National November Writing Month) know that it’s a marathon for writers. Instead of pounding out miles with our sneakers, we pound out words with our fingers.

It’s important to remember that you’ve got to exercise your writing muscle before November 1. Here are some helpful tips that’ll get you warmed up and ready for the race.

1. Identify a goal.

The goal for NaNo is pretty simple, right? Write 50,000 words in 30 days. But how are you going to break down that hefty wordage into manageable chunks? If you divide 50,000 by 30, you get: 1667. That means you’ve got to write 1667 words a day to stay on track. Or 3333 every other day. Or 12,500 a weekend.

  • Take a look at your schedule. Do you have time to write every day, every other day, or weekends only?
  • Take a look at your writing preferences. Do you like to write here and there or in large chunks of time?
  • If you’re worried about letting time slide by, literally schedule writing time in your day planner.

2. Prepare a space. 

Do you have an office, a library, or a corner of your apartment that’s designated for writing? Or do you sit on the couch with your laptop and pound out words with your feet up and your back melded to a cushion?

  • Consider clearing off your writing space. Get rid of clutter. It’ll fill your mind and block your creativity–things you don’t want to happen while plopping out massive word counts on a daily basis.
  • Consider developing an inspiration wall. Collect things that spark your creativity or make you feel all energized and warm and fuzzy. Put it up on a cork board or poster board. If you’ve got a story idea in mind, print pictures of characters, settings, or clip magazine photos of the same. It’ll help you visualize the world you’re creating.
  • Consider adding a pleasant scent, either with fresh flowers, a scented candle, or sachet. Just like our writing, we need to engage all the senses, not just our eyes.
  • Don’t forget the tunes! Do you like Metallica or Vivaldi? Make sure your ipod, CD player, or Pandora station is ready for you.

3. Gather supplies.

  • Do you write in notebooks? Use post-its? What kind of pens, pencils, markers do you use?
  • Keep bottled water nearby. Set your favorite mug by the computer. Collect your favorite teas or coffees. Have them handy so you don’t have to waste time “getting ready.”
  • Writers need snacks. Salty, sweet, healthy, whatever floats your boat, get yourself a cute basket and fill it up so you’re ready to go the moment you sit down.

4. What’s your story going to be about? 

Here may be the trickiest part. Are you a panster, thriving off the thrill of not knowing what’ll happen next? (Psst, that may be tricky during NaNo if you get stuck…just saying.) Maybe you’ve got an idea or an “old” manuscript you haven’t been able to develop.

  • Consider mapping out a loose plan. Draft an outline so you have something to follow while you’re whipping out the words.

5. Schedule time to relax.

NaNo can be a pretty nerve-wracking and brain-numbing month. Be sure to allow yourself time to chill out or you’ll get so stressed writer’s block just might get you.

  • Keep a novel near by to read a chapter here and there, the break will allow your brain to recharge so you can be fresh and alert to reach your goal.
  • Keep a sketch pad next to you if you draw.
  • Keep your walking shoes nearby. Exercise will help you stretch our your muscles and your mind. You just may figure out that sticky plot point while the wind whips through your hair.

All right, well that’s a good start, I think. Don’t want to overload y’all with too much information. We’ve got the whole month to prep, after all.

How about you? What tips do you use to prepare for NaNo?

Don’t forget to check out Lydia’s Medical Monday and Sarah Fine’s blog for more writerly information!

Flake-out Friday: Dear God, I’ve Become The Cat Lady…Also, CONTEST WINNERS!!!!

All the stereotypes are true. If you’re a single woman in a big house, you’re going to have cats. Lots of them.

*shakes head*

I never thought it would happen to me. Guess that’s how denial works.

But they’re just SO CUUUUTE! How could I NOT keep them?

*grin*

Gracie (The Diva Princess)

Callie (upper right) and Lily (lower left) (The Twins)

Mahli (The Boy)

 

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

*drum roll please*

The winners of last week’s blog tour contestants are:

Lydia K wins Wasteland by Lynn Rush!

AND

Amie Borst wins Monarch by Michelle Davidson Argyle

Post your email and I’ll forward it on to Lynn and Michelle respectively.

CONGRATS!!!!!!