Monday, August 31, 2015

Wendy Paine Miller 8.0

Why 8.0? This is my eight hundredth post. 800! And since I was never a fan of moving the decimal, or any math for that matter, I’m sticking with 8.0. Eight is my favorite number anyway.

What comes with the 8.0 version of me?


I had no idea what to blog about today. I had a major brain block and for those of you who know me that was no small thing. It rattled me and challenged me to debate if maybe my days of making thoughts move are over. See, unlike decimal points, inspiring you to think is where I’ve found my groove. Those in the publishing industry might dub it something like a brand. Call it whatever you want, but it’s what I love to do. In my novels. On this blog. Even during conversations. (Probably why I’m infatuated with book clubs.)

Thousands of ideas surge through my head throughout the day. I even think in tweets sometimes (I know, scary). But I have to admit, these years of bravely going public as a writer have resulted in a bit of a trippy experience. What to share? What not to share?

Let me explain…in this day and age when people post every stinking photo and status update, documenting their lives in second by second play-by-plays, I get a little freaked out. I begin to wonder if we all start to naively believe we know someone when we’re only sampling one version of that person.

Those makeup tutorials about how to put on concealer on Pinterest have a tendency to weird me out. We’ve all gotten so good at covering up, at photographing our best side, at crafting a tweet-worthy response. My gut tells me it’s only going to get more and more difficult to discern what’s real and what’s not. The natural versus the programmed, rehearsed, and orchestrated.

I’ve made a commitment to be candid here on this blog. But I’ve had so much go on behind the scenes I haven’t opened up about. On purpose. Not because I’m trying to present this Pollyanna falsification of myself, but because life has reminded me in some rather cruel and startling ways how people don’t always have my best interests at heart. There are so many folks online who’ve become like vultures with their opinions, feeding on the risks and failures of others. I share a lot, but I hold a lot back, too. I’ve found that’s what works best for me—helps me to keep my balance and perspective when it’s time for reviews to role in.

So, now to address what this new Wendy 8.0 version will be…

Me, candid…uncensored. It won’t be me trying to check the boxes of what some publishing house is looking for or even what I think my readers need to know (because I’m not a mind reader).

8.0 is going to be the stirrings of my heart, the quiet promptings impossible to ignore. Soul whispers.

I miss Sincerity online lately.

So, I’m bringing her back. Except she has my name. She takes a horrible selfie. She doesn’t follow fads. She cries after reading books like Eleanor & Park. Her heart breaks for family members. Her fury ignites whenever anyone threatens harm against her kids. Forgiveness and grace bleed throughout her entire being—but she wrestles them frequently. She gets pissed. She gets tired. She gets lonely in a crowded room. She’s infected with a passion for writing and stung with compassion whenever she sees a crying woman. She loves.

And she’s now going to stop talking about herself in the third person.

8.0 out.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Short and Sincere Life of Ellory James

Look what's coming late this October/early November!

The Short & Sincere Life of Ellory James
My latest novella.

Hope you'll love it as much as I do.

More details to come!

Click here to see the cover.
(For some reason blogger isn't letting me upload the cover image.)

*Note: Zoey's 2nd book, The Precarious Hold of Love releases late spring of 2016

Monday, August 17, 2015

Ten Priorities Up On Top

What’s a woman to do when she has five million priorities weighing on her? It’s often difficult to know what to tackle first and in what order. In time, I’ve found that there are a few ways to alleviate the stress related with this time of year.
And I’d love to share what has helped me in the past.
Ten Things to Help You Prioritize
Don’t Get All Dystopian on Your Schedule
I have a tendency to let anxiety creep in if I know there are dozens of things I need to tackle in a short amount of time or, as often happens, I need to get all three kids to activities at the exact same time. My husband likes to tell me not to “run down the path”. It’s his way of reminding me not to freak myself out about what the future holds and that usually the things that need to get done…get done.
Put Your Pants on One Leg at a Time
Don’t overcomplicate things. Sometimes the things you keep insisting have to get accomplished really don’t.
Pray It Out
I’m always amazed at what a little meditative breathing, chat with God, and/or time of reflective surrender does for my mental outlook.
Don’t Be a Train Wreck
Be aware of what’s likely to derail you throughout the day. Is it self-deprecation on steroids? How about the babbling mail carrier? Could it be social media? Or spending more time planning than actually doing?
Time Travel to Gauge Regret
I know, I know, I just told you not to get all dystopian, but what I mean here is to take pause. Evaluate the twenty things on your list and ask yourself to take one giant step in the future. Now, looking back, which things on that list will you regret doing? Or not doing?
Be a Magic Johnson Kind of Point Guard
Had to ask my husband for basketball help on this. Guard points of interest in your life that matter to you outside of the never-ending to-do list. Carve out time to exercise. Block out major distractions. Discern when a maybe-do shows up on the court disguised as a must-do.
Maximize Light Bulb Hours
There are certain times of the day when your brain is sharper than others. Know what time of day your light bulbs go off the most. Accomplish the more involved, mentally involved tasks during these hours.
Blueprint Your Days
I’ll admit it. I still use a planner. Maybe I’m stuck in the 80s. Or maybe I know myself and I’ve discovered there’s something about writing a task down that locks it in my head better. Make goals. Write them down. Stay on target.
Call on the Troops
Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help when needed. You’re bound to be more effective in the areas you’re most called to when you’re willing to involve others. We all bring strengths to the table. Look around. There’s a big table out there.
Whoops—I Call a Do-Over
We’re sort of like cats in this area. We get at least nine do-overs. So what, you were late to carpool. No big deal you forgot to bring dessert to the second grade meet and greet. Oh well, you didn’t cross off everything on your list today.

There’s always regret-free tomorrow.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Creativity Dares Us

*Taking a hiatus. See you in a few weeks.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

12 Questions to Ask Your Main Character When She Is Being Elusive

I recently came through a spell where one of my characters didn’t want to budge. I knew something was up with her and instead of jamming any issue in her backstory, I waited her out. I asked some hard questions, and eventually, in time, I got to the juicy heart of who she is.
Here are twelve questions you can ask of your main character that have the power to open her up again…

What’s your problem?

Why do you look so tired? (Women, outside of fiction-land, I’d advise you never ask this question of another woman. We are tired. That’s why we look it.)

What are you running from?

What’s the worst thing anyone has ever said to you? (Bonus: do you believe it?)

If you could have a do-over for anything you’ve done in your life when would you choose?

If your friend asks your advice on an outfit that is undeniably weird, saying, “I don’t think this looks weird, what do you think?” how would you respond?

What are you most ashamed of?

What are you proudest of?

Who knows you best? Does your answer surprise you?

Who are you most protective of? Are they as protective of you?

What pisses you off?

What would embarrass you if everyone found out about it, though you secretly suspect you’re not the only one with this secret? 

There you have it. Twelve hard questions that are sure to get your main character squirming, stirred up, or spilling the beans. Hoping for the latter.


Monday, July 20, 2015

Get It Down

One of the best pieces of writing advice I received in college was from a published author who visited, imparting us with great tidbits of wisdom. I specifically remember this author telling me and my fellow writing majors that you’re only a serious author if you make a commitment to write down your thoughts.
Message received. Take notes.
Over the years I’ve done just that. I haven’t let my thoughts fade into the dying world of ideas. Or at least I’ve tried hard to keep that from happening. I get my thoughts down.
Thought it would be fun to list all of the unconventional and creative places I’ve jotted down notes throughout the years.

Kid’s projects
Inside books
Inside planners
Sticky notes
On my hand
Church bulletins
Journals (of course)
Christmas cards
Phone book
Concert bulletins
Playing cards
On magazine articles
On the back of photographs
Children’s book
Inside greeting cards
On my business cards
On a paper bag 

And the latest place I’ve been taking notes over the past few weeks (and one of my favorites)…

Paint swatches

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Five Signs You Are Overwriting + Solutions

As writers we can all slip into overwriting if we’re not careful. We might not even recognize when we throw down fancy words or shove superfluous descriptions into our prose. It sneaks up on us. Most likely, we overwrite when we exit the zone. We’re most vulnerable to overwriting when we have a word count in our heads that we must meet. It’s okay to have goals. It’s good actually and we all are guilty of overwriting at some point or another.

But here are some key identifiers to help you know when you’re beginning to let the quicksand of overwriting pull you and your novel under. I’ve also included some ways out—ropes to bring you back to solid ground.

The Thesaurus is Your New Best Friend
Don’t get me wrong, I love the thesaurus. I’ve even been known to read it on slow days or when I simply want to get my brain cogs turning again. However, if you are flipping the pages or clicking on Thesaurus sites every five minutes, I’m willing to bet you will discover overwriting when it’s time to edit. I’m all about finding the strongest word to exude a point, but I’m also a fan of getting the scene down with as few interruptions as possible during the first draft. Save the thesaurus for edit days.

Solution: Put any word down. The first one that comes to mind. Allow for weakness. Tell yourself it can be changed later. And don’t let the thesaurus tempt you to interrupt the flow.

Taking the Jaws of Life to a Scene
You haven’t quite figured out what should happen with a particular character or plot point, but you force it anyway. This isn’t just about throwing a word on the page, it’s about prying out something that’s a bloody mess and calling it a scene.

Solution: Take the necessary time to allow a scene to organically unravel in your mind. Take notes during the writing process. Be mindful when something feels forced and make a note on your manuscript so that you’ll be sure to change it later.

Turning into a Chameleon
You overwrite when you turn into an author chameleon. When you begin adopting the language of the book you’re currently reading you are inadvertently changing your author colors—and in turn changing the voice of the book. You are essentially losing your voice.

Solution: Glean from excellent writing. Appreciate it. Notice what is done well. But then imbue those lessons into your own rhythm. Keep your color by gaining confidence in your own voice.

Alice in Wonderland Mentality
You become Alice when you lose your focus and dull down your main character. Your MC gets watered down and is ultimately at risk of having her head chopped off all together (losing face).

Solution: Frequently review your main character’s internal and external goals. Reflect upon who your characters are, what they’ve been through, who they want to become, and what the story you’re writing about them would mean if they were to read it.

Skipping Down Rabbit Trails
Distracted by the beautiful rainbow. No, the waterfall. No, the scattering herd of deer…you completely lose sight of where you were headed with your novel. And you end up throwing down a bunch of needless bread crumbs in hopes to find your way back. You’ve entered the land of Plot Confusion and stop short at the sign that reads: Beware of Overwriting.

Solution: One of the best pieces of advice I read that helps keeps my plots in check is to create a back cover brief synopsis before you even begin to write a single word. It’s a structured way to maintain focus and to ensure your plot is moving in a sensible direction. It provides wonderful accountability. That way you can leave the breadcrumbs at home. There are signposts on the trees. You’re golden.