The Infamous Purple Box


There it is, folks.  The purple box you’ve heard so much about.  When an idea pops into my head (usually at the most inopportune moment), this is where I jot it down.  I have the box divided into four categories, and I use brightly colored index cards just to keep it visually appealing.  The categories are:

1.  Story lines. Interestingly, this is the category with the fewest number of cards.  I rarely start with an idea for a story line.

2. Characters/names.  Anytime I come across an unusual name, I jot it down.  I was travelling through Ohio once and saw an exit sign for an oddly named expressway.  It was just screaming to be put into a story.  I was going to use it for the name of a secondary character, but it’s just too wonderful for that.  This guy is a lead character, though he may be something of a nit-wit.  I haven’t decided much about him, except that his story will be fun to read aloud.

3. Titles.  This is the category with the greatest number of cards.  I know a lot of people have trouble coming up with titles; but for whatever reason, the title often comes first for me.  There’s a magic to it, almost like a spell.  A title may float around in my head for years, whispering something I can’t quite hear.  The story is in there somewhere.

4. Lines/words.  This is where I put those phrases or lines that come out of nowhere but become the foundation for the story.  I sometimes write dialogue in rhymes, and these lines come to me in an almost musical fashion.  Much more frustrating are the times I hear the rhythm of the words but not the words themselves.  In that case, a card may have nothing more on it than, “Da-dum, da-dum, da-dum, dum, dum.”

I do keep a small notebook with me when I go out, just in case the muse drops by for a visit.  Anything he leaves behind is written down and transferred to the purple box when I get home.  That box has prevented the loss of some pretty great ideas.  The cards afford plenty of room to jot down any additional ideas I might have about the story or character at that moment, before it disappears into the ether.

The purple box is probably the most organized part of my writing process.  From there, it can get pretty messy.  I keep all the notes I make once I start writing; and I put them all in a file, along with a copy of the finished product.  A story rarely ends up as it started, but the germ of the idea is not wasted or lost.  The pages I keep remind me that a story seldom comes to me fully formed, and that getting to the finished product is a lot of work.  I’m encouraged by that, especially when I’m struggling with a story that doesn’t want to cooperate.

So here’s to the purple box, the one place the muse can’t possibly escape.

Sequel to a Not Yet Published Book

My audacity of late knows no bounds.

I’m circulating a story about a boy named Winthrop, a story I feel very confident about.  I worked on and polished it for about a  year, all told.  My writing group gave it the thumbs up.  So sure am I that it will eventually be published that I’ve taken the heretofore uncharacteristically bold step of writing the sequel before the first story has sold.

Long before I finished writing it, I knew the story would need a sequel, and perhaps even a third book.  I have a strong little character I can work with and a couple of very basic plot ideas kicking around in my head.  The plot is not fully formed.  Right now, I’m more focused on the dialogue.  This particular character has a distinctive way of expressing himself.  When I wrote the first story, most of his dialogue came before the plot was figured out and I built the story from there.  That would probably give most writing teachers a case of hives, but it worked well in this case.

It often happens that a story will first present itself to me as a line that pops into my head.  In Wombat Wings (see Stories for Children), the line was, “I’ve never heard of a sillier thing than a wombat who needs wombat wings.” The story just unfolded from there.

Other stories present themselves as a sense of place or period of time.  I have a number of character names and story titles waiting for me to fill in the blanks.  There doesn’t seem to be a pattern to my creativity at all.  It I tried to cram myself into one, I’d probably never write again.

I’m rather enjoying my 2015 resolution to fight for my dream of being published.  If you’re holding back and not aggressively submitting your own work, I beg you to rethink that strategy.  If you believe your story is ready to be seen, get it out there!

Damn the torpedoes!

Dream Big or Go Home

No writer ever achieved a lot by dreaming just a little.

I seem to have run out of postage.

Good for me.

Writing Bitch (WB) Update

OK, fellow WBs! True to my word, I just sent a third manuscript to a third publisher. Three different stories out in five days. Nobody gets three to six months to get back to me. One month tops (maybe six weeks) and then I move on to the next. The first recipient is still free to accept or reject, but I’m not putting my life on hold for anyone. The next guy might read faster. Besides, these are picture books, for crying out loud. They don’t take that long to read and toss in the trash.

Doing some research on where to send next. I love that some publishers will send a free catalog when asked. I get to sit and consider the types of stories they publish and see if anything I’ve written fits in. I know it isn’t environmentally sound to request a paper catalog, but I hate scrolling through a website for information like that. The same goes for looking for publishers. I need a printed copy of the SCBWI “The Book” in front of me, along with my trusty yellow highlighter. Can’t make notes on a computer screen.  It’s after the first of the year, SCBWI!  I’m supposed to be able to order the 2015 version now.  Let’s go! We’re burning daylight!

I just found out that a publisher I’d wanted to approach last year is now accepting unsolicited manuscripts, so they’re on my list with a vengeance.

I’ve grown suspicious of submitting manuscripts via email, so I’m focusing on snail mail right now. I’m pretty certain the US Post Office will do its thing and deliver the envelopes. I don’t have as much faith in the internet. Too easy for the recipient to hit “delete” or send out a form rejection if the inbox is too full. Don’t look at me like that. I’m sure it happens.

Having put some work out there, I feel like I can look through the purple box for the next story idea.

What about you? Have you been a WB on your own behalf today?


The Year of the Writing Bitch

My printer bit the dust and I had to spend money I don’t have for a new one. I use it for the day job as well as the writing, so I guess I can write it off as a business expense. We’ll see what my nice tax lady says.

I break into a sweat any time I have to do something with technology, so installing a new printer is a draining experience. It would help if I started out by reading the English side of the instructions, I suppose.

I thought I would start the new year off by doing something positive for myself, as a writer. My first use of my new printer would not be for the hated day job. The first thing I printed was a copy of the manuscript I’m shopping around, along with a nice cover letter. My first official act of 2015 was to send a story out to a publisher. And I picked a big name. What the hell, may as well shoot for those stars. Big publisher or small, a rejection is a rejection; and the brief sense of crushing defeat won’t vary one bit, regardless of the letterhead on which it is printed. But there could be a HUGE difference between being accepted by a big publisher over a small one.

As you can see, I’m awash with optimism this morning. A shiny new printer will do that to a person, especially when it’s quiet and it’s easy to change the ink.

I also spent a little time in the shower this morning imagining myself as a successful author, interviews and all. I seem to think best when the water is running. I’m an absolute genius when I have a sink full of dirty dishes. My interviews were brilliant, by the way. I would say you should’ve been there, but I was naked at the time. Hubby would not approve.

I will admit to being rather unproductive in 2014 when it came to sending manuscripts out. Not this year. If there is one thing I have resolved to do in 2015, it’s to be aggressive about submitting my work. Forget everything else. This year, I’m going to be a little bit selfish and push hard for what I want. I’m not going to be intimidated out of making multiple submissions. This is business for me as well as for the publishers/agents, and my time is valuable. It isn’t like asking two guys to the prom at the same time. My writing time is still limited by the financial need to work a lot of hours at the day job, but I have several completed manuscripts that I haven’t given a fair chance to be seen. I’ve neglected them and thus, my dreams. Not this year.

2015–the year of the Writing Bitch.

Join me.