Tuesday, October 18, 2016


One way to keep on track with your story, especially if you find your memories bouncing all over the place, is to create storyboards.

A technique used with Lean Six Sigma teams that are working on finding a more effective and efficient way of doing something is to break a process down into small parts.  Typically, post-it notes are used to identify all of the moving parts (literally and figuratively) in a process, with different colors to represent whether something is an input or an output, or another part of the timeline, such as time spent waiting for an approval.

For your purpose, you may want to give each character in your story a specific color, or a location, or time period. You can also use a whiteboard and different colored dry erase markers, a spreadsheet, or different colored 3x5 cards.

Whatever your method for keeping track of your storyline is, you will find that it is easier to keep track of events by writing them down and not relying on your memory to keep track of them.

Monday, October 17, 2016


Sometimes chapters will develop naturally because they will follow a chronological path. Other times you may want to alternate between your characters' points of view, or between locations or events.

Be sure that however you choose to make them flow, that they make sense. Making a reader backtrack to find out what or who you are talking about, or leaving them scratching their head in confusion because you've lost control of the storyline.

It's easy to do, especially if you are writing about something that still hurts. Our subconscious will block out things that are frightening, painful, or horrific. As you write about those times, you may find yourself skipping over parts because your conscious memory just isn't ready to go back there. Yet, as you write more you may find yourself remembering things you had forgotten because as you begin to feel safe in sharing your story, so too will your subconscious feel safe in remembering.

As you remember more things, it is important for you to take time out of writing to make sure that you are emotionally healthy to continue. There is no deadline for you to finish your story. The goal here is not to slam out a novel in the 30 days of November, or even in the 31 days of October. The goal is for you to heal, and for that to happen, you have to take as much time as you need.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Writing fiction

Sharing your story as a fiction is a chance for you to rewrite your past, or look at it from another perspective. It is also the chance to live the life you dream of.

Trooper's Run was the opportunity for me to take my dream job ~ my Master's thesis ~ and develop it into something real. The first chapter was based on a idea I would love to one day take to the Shark Tank investors, or to a bank, and get the funding for it as a start up business.

Eagle Visions came as a way to have my dream family. As a young girl, my "playing house" dream was always to have a large home where I took in pets, animals, or children who were "unwanted, unloved, or alone." I wanted children. I always wanted children.

But my abuser, a man to whom I was married for 11 years, told me that I would never be a good mother so we would never have children. He told me I was not a good wife, I wasn't skinny enough or attractive enough to have a child, I was stupid and brainless, and that if we ever did have children and I tried to leave him, that he would kill me rather than fight over custody.

In 2002, more than a year after our divorce was final, I had my tubes tied. I had just turned 40, was single and not dating anyone, with no dates or men on the horizon. I knew that the family I wanted would never be a bio-family, and I didn't want to be a single parent by accident, or have someone feel obligated to marry me because of an unexpected pregnancy.

A month later my ex called and left me a message telling me that he had been wrong. I would have been a good mother, and we should have had children. He was now married to a woman who had children and suddenly realized that I had been the "love of his life," and how he had treated me was wrong. I've never been able to understand why he called to tell me those things.

I did find out later that when he said those things in his message to me, he also made it clear to his new wife that it was how he felt, so I'm thinking that he didn't change much at all after we divorced. Only became more cruel.

Share your story to change how you think about the things that happened to you. Go from being a victim, to a victor.

Saturday, October 15, 2016


Whether you are writing a memoir or a fiction, you need to introduce all the players in your story. Give the reader their back story on who they are and how you know them. You can't just drop them in from the sky ~ unless of course, that is how you met them.

If you are writing a fiction, and basing characters on real people, make them different enough that you can't be sued for slander. Develop them and make them believable. But be careful that you don't used your story to hurt someone.

Sharing your story is about you, getting rid of the demons that haunt you, forgiving yourself, and forgiving the one(s) who hurt you. If you write just to hurt them, you become just like them. You stoop to their level. Don't do that, no matter how tempting it is, because it isn't the answer to your pain. Honest.

When I wrote Trooper's Run, the Owen character was loosely based on someone who verbally, psychologically, sexually, and physically abused me in a marriage. I took things he said and did to me and incorporated them into the story, into the things that Owen said and did to Sara. But the Owen character developed into someone much worse than my abuser ever was. He became a product of my nightmares, and my fears. When he spoke, he used words and foul language that I didn't because I didn't want readers to like him. I wanted readers to recognize him as being someone to hate as soon as they met him.

The character of Dan in Trooper's Run and Eagle Visions was based on four people. An Army veterinarian I interviewed for the book; an Air Force Military Working Dog trainer I knew from my years of supporting deployed MWD teams; an Army Reservist veteran I met who had lost a leg while serving in Iraq during Desert Storm; and a man I dated shortly after high school.

Sara/Cidney was based on me, something a lot of my friends instantly knew when they read both books. She was who I once was, who I was at the time I wrote the books, and who I wanted to be.

Make your characters memorable and believable because if you are sharing your story so that you can heal, the one person who really needs to believe in them is you.

Friday, October 14, 2016

No shame in white flags

This is where I throw in a true disclosure, and also a plea ...

I'm far from being a professional counselor, and have great respect for them, especially having been to see many over my 50coughcough years.

I even spent a very relaxing weekend in a psych ward, not because my counselor thought I was going to do harm to myself or others, but I think he recognized that I just needed to distance myself from a situation so that I could think clearly enough to make a decision. Sometimes you just have to do that in order to find your true self again.

At the time I was married to husband #1, someone I never wanted to marry, but felt that I had no choice. I was in California, far from family or friends, with no job and no car. When he proposed, I had just put my first dog down due to age issues and was extremely vulnerable.  It was the first time I had been that far from family (who were all in Florida) and had no one I could turn to for help. When I said yes, it was mostly because I didn't know where I would go if I said no.

Four months before the wedding, before any invitations had been sent, I realized that I didn't want to be married to him. He had a drug habit I didn't share, and we were living in a house he co-owned with two other guys. I was the only female in a house with five guys, and my "role" in the house was basically to be the cook and maid for their weekend binge parties that began on Fridays when everyone got off work, and ran until Sunday night or Monday morning depending on when everyone went back to work. Monday to Friday, my "job" was to clean and plan for the next binge party.

But when I called home to tell my dad, he was pretty clear about the fact that I wasn't welcome back in Florida again, and I just needed to suck it up and go through with it. So we married, and I calculated that if I gave it a year, I could say I tried, and divorce him without any shame.

On our first anniversary I told him I wasn't happy with how things were, because they really hadn't changed from what they were before we married, and that was when he got ugly. Going to the counselor was his idea, he thought I could be convinced to stay married, but it didn't really work out like that.

So here is the thing, because I know that when I was sharing my story there were parts that were painful, and parts that I had to step away from for a few days ...

if at any time when you are writing you feel like you want to hurt yourself or someone else ...

raise the white flag and get help. Don't let it beat you up, don't let it overwhelm you to the point that you lose yourself in the pain (again).

Don't let the pain win.
Don't let them win, the one who hurt you, who might still be hurting you.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Setting your tone

When you are writing your story, don't try to be someone you aren't. Readers can smell a faux writer a mile away. If you don't use big words when you talk with your friends, don't start using them when you write your story, unless you are writing a fiction and that is how one of the characters talks.

One of the best compliments I got after I wrote "My Best Friends Have Hairy Legs" was from someone who said that reading it felt like having a conversation with me. Because I wrote like I talked. I wasn't arrogant, defensive, or pretentious (and yes, I had to run that word thru spell check because it was bigger than how I talk).

I wanted the readers who knew me to know that I was speaking truth when I shared my story.

When I wrote my first fiction, "Trooper's Run," one of the best compliments I got was that the Owen character made them uncomfortable, and they didn't like the language (cuss words) that he spoke. I took it as a compliment because it was so far apart from who I am, and what they expected of me, that I knew the character was a solid one. He was believable, unlikeable, but believable.

Write your story in such a way that if you were to see it on a bookshelf, you would want to read it.

Don't pretend to be someone you aren't because if you are sharing your story, the reader you want to really reach is yourself. Your story doesn't have to be anything more than a letter to yourself, acknowledging that there was pain, that there was hurt, but that you have survived it, and are better for it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Who is your audience?

Once you've decided that you want to share your story, decide who you want to share it with. Who do you want to reach? Why?

Some authors and publishers feel that writing a prolog/preface/introduction is a big no-no. But when you are sharing your own story, sometimes you have to explain why you are sharing your story. Are you sharing it to trash your ex? Are you sharing it to keep someone from making the same mistakes? Or are you sharing it to show someone who is in the same situation you were that there is hope?

When I wrote my memoir "My Best Friends Have Hairy Legs" I made the decision to write an intro and explain why I was writing it. I wanted to tell my story - the story of my dog and me - because we survived to come out on the other side of all that had happened to us. I wanted to tell it to give hope to others who were struggling to find their way. To tell them that there was a light within them, they just had to find it, be it, share it.

Even if you just write your story for yourself, and never share it with another person. Write it because you are a survivor. Write it because you are (or soon will be) on the other side of all that has happened to you. There is hope in your struggles. There is a light within you.

Find it.

Be it.