Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Writer's Greatest Gift

I've been posting a lot here lately about my editing goals and how I'd like to have a draft finished for critique/queries by March 1. A few weeks ago I ended a post with a little *hint* to my husband that this Christmas, the best gift for me would be time.

Turns out, he actually reads this thing. Who knew?

And guess what? He did give me time for Christmas. He literally wrapped it into a package. (OK, maybe he didn't literally wrap time into a package. But he did figure out a way to put "the gift of time" under our tree.) Hopefully he won't mind if I share his awesomeness with you....

Inside a gift bag were 15 tokens. (Actual tokens, like the ones you used in the ski ball machine when you were a kid. I have no idea where my husband got tokens.) Along with the tokens was a small cardboard "sign" with this headline: Payment Plan for Book Editing Time. Under the headline were two columns, one labeled "coins" and one labeled "product." Under the "coins" column were numbers. Under the "product" column were units of time each number of coins buys.

So, for example, two coins buys uninterrupted editing time that starts at 8 p.m. - meaning he cleans up after dinner and handles our son's bathtime and bedtime. Four coin buys four hours of uninterrupted time, any time, no questions asked. Ten coins buys an entire Saturday. And so on. And when I run out of coins, the system resets.

I asked him how long this gift would be in effect, and he answered, "Until you're finished revising the book."

Seriously, people. How awesome is the man I married???

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

For the Love of Reading

How many times have we heard it said that as writers, we must also be readers? And that's true, of course. But it's also true that as writers, we must read differently than other readers. We read not merely for the love of reading, but for the education and challenge of it.

I don't know about you, but now that I'm writing fiction, reading other writers' work can be pretty intimidating. It brings to the surface all those "am I good enoughs?" and "what the hell am I thinkings?" I tend to struggle with. I've come to realize, though, that those feelings of doubt and insecurity are a good thing, because they're what challenge me and drive me forward. I read, and it makes me want to write. I write, and it makes me want to read. And all of it makes me want to write better ... and makes me realize I can.
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I read a great passage recently in a blog post by Maud Newton at The Millions. She articulated beautifully this idea of reading as a catalyst to better writing:

"When I’m writing, really writing, I read selfishly. Not only do I want to be awestruck, I want to be driven to write better — as well as I possibly can — and I want to feel that the book I’m reading, however superior to my own work, shows me how I might do that. I want it to lead by example."

Yes! Well said. Bring on the insecurity! Bring on the self-doubt! Because along with it comes the burning desire to write more, to write better, to hone my craft.

There's a flip side to this, though. Reading for reading's sake is a different animal than reading for writing's sake. When I'm reading for pure enjoyment, for the pure love of words, I can lose myself entirely in a story. I'm not mindful of where the author decides to place a modifier or why she chooses an em-dash instead of a semi-colon. I don't think, "Oh, what a brilliant sentence," or "Ooh, I wouldn't have used that word there." But now that I'm writing, I can't help that.

I'm not saying I can't still lose myself in a great book. But I also can't lose my critical eye, even if I try.

I read a really good book a few weeks ago (which I won't name in order to avoid spoiling it for anybody else) and was having one of those book-in-one-hand, spoon-stirring-pot-on-stove-in-the-other-hand moments - I couldn't put it down. Here I was, living in this world the author had created, feeling what the characters felt, cringing in anticipation of the inevitable disaster. Then right when the story reached its pinnacle, when the inevitable happened and the tension was at its most tense, the author broke in with a narrator-esque, sing-songey speech to the reader, waxing poetic about the characters and their fates. It very nearly ruined the book for me because it pulled me so abruptly from the story. The funny thing is, though, I don't think I'd even have noticed it if it weren't for this critical eye I've developed through writing.

It's an occupational hazard, for sure, and one I was already familiar with. For years I haven't been able to read a newspaper or magazine story without mentally editing it, and since going to design school I can't simply sit and enjoy my surroundings without rearranging them in my head. It's not an ego thing. (Struggling with self-doubt and insecurity, remember?) It just is.

Again, I think it's a good thing. As writers, we have to be aware. Aware of our surroundings, aware of human behaviors, aware of words and how each individual writer shapes them. It helps us discover our own shape, I think. Our own voice.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Real Goal. Really.

All right, I'm just gonna put this out there: I want to have a final draft of my WIP ready by March 1.
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I need a goal, so I'm setting one. So there. And even though it's a personal deadline (and I've blogged in the past that I'm not so great with "fake" deadlines), I'm going to see it through.

Why the sudden, dogged determination?

Easy. I've decided it's time to get serious with myself. I'm excited about this book and I'm ready to start the abusive process of querying it out. And I want to start a new book. I have several ideas in various stages of progress and I'm anxious to get moving on them.

Plus, as I've mentioned here before, I think chronologically. I can't do two things at once, period, and that includes writing two books at once. I have to finish a project before starting another one. (Ask me how I juggle freelance writing projects with a design career and a 4-year-old. I really have no answer.) .

Revising my first novel has been a long, slow, sometimes painful process. I finished writing the first draft around March. After a solid read-through and line edit, I put it down. I let a few people read it. I mulled over their feedback. Meanwhile, I kept living with my characters, letting their thoughts interrupt my thoughts on a daily basis, the same way they did while I was writing. Eventually, I reopened the document. I hammered out a new first chapter, then kept going. I made big changes and small changes while plodding through the manuscript (of course) chapter by chapter.
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And that's where I am now - roughly halfway through this process of revising and tightening, cutting and recreating. I'm on the precipice of a major change for my main character (I'll be blogging about that soon) and I'm also at a point where my momentum is high. When I'm not working on revisions, I'm thinking about revisions. I'm jotting down notes related to revisions. The Post-Its are stacking up again like they did while I was in the thick of writing.
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I guess that's why I'm setting this goal - I want to capitalize on my momentum. I feel like this process of perfecting and recreating could get unwieldy, and I don't want to fall into the trap of overediting. The changes I'm making are ones I've thought through very carefully after months of planning, pondering my beta reader feedback, reading all the fiction I can get my hands on and studying craft (which for me has meant reading blogs, interacting with other writers and reading and re-reading a fantastic book on editing).
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So basically, it's time to make a move. Either I'm going to attempt to become a published author or I'm not. And let me just go on the record right now to say I am. I want this. I do. And I realize a lot of other people want it, too, and it might not happen, but it won't be because I haven't put everything I have into it.
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So, March 1. And this blog is my accountability partner. By that date - which I'm marking on my calendar in permanent ink with all my other writing deadlines - I'll have a final draft ready, if not for querying (after all this work, I don't want to jump the gun), then at least for serious critique.
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I promise to keep you posted.

Monday, December 13, 2010

My Own Worst Frenemy

The single greatest and single worst thing about being self-employed is having total ownership of my time.

Back when I had a full-time day job, I prided myself on not taking it home with me. I got my work done between the hours of 9 and 5, then I hightailed it out of the office and went home to my nights of housework and Must-See TV and whatever else occupied the post-5pm hours of my (very non-industrious) 20s. I barely turned on a computer outside the office because, after staring at a screen all day, every day, why would I have spent my free time doing the same thing? The thought of working outside the Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 realm was abhorrent to me.

Enter 2010. This week, my schedule looked like this: Monday, work from home. Fit in a little housework, a little fiction writing, a little reading here and there when my deadlines allowed. Pay for it by working straight up until 7 pm-ish. Tuesday, work from home between 10 and 2:45 while kid at preschool. Wednesday, ditto Monday, only leave a little work unfinished and vow to get it done by end of weekend. Thursday, work at (design firm) office from 10 to 5. Friday, fit in work around mommying wherever I can. Drop kid off at in-laws long enough to squeeze in design client presentation. Saturday, unplug. Sunday, reluctantly drive out into the cold for pre-church story interview. Feel guilt over Wednesday's unfinished work that did not, in fact, get done by end of weekend.

Then blog about it all at 1:30am while, of all things, procrastinating on the WIP.

And thank God and my lucky stars that this is my life now. If there's one lesson I've learned in my career so far, it's that no job is perfect ... not even one where I'm making up the rules. Sure, maybe as I get better at this freelance career thing I'll find ways to fit more work into the 9 to 5 hours and less in my free time, but if not, I'm not too worried about it - because I'm able to fit free time into my 9 to 5 hours.

That's a beautiful thing.

Maybe back in the day I didn't physically take work home with me, but the 9 to 5 drone numbed my brain and zapped my creativity - hence the nights of Must-See TV. Plus I carried the stress of my job on my shoulders at all times. Now, I definitely wouldn't say my career is stress-free (especially on those rare Sunday nights when I'm sweating till the wee hours over a Monday morning deadline), but I have built-in mechanisms to deal with the stress.

Like taking a time-out for a cup of tea in my own living room in the middle of the workday. Or snagging a day off for a play-date with my son without eating into my measly two weeks' vacation time. Or choosing to go light on assignments one week because I'm busy or tired. Or writing, because I love it so much I can do it all day and still look forward to opening the WIP at 11pm when the house is finally quiet.

Yep, I can be my own worst frenemy work-wise. But I love my work for the first time in my career.

Photo courtesy Scott Cranfill

Monday, December 6, 2010

My Name Is Stacey, and I'm a Writer

I took a big step over the weekend without even realizing I was doing it. Somebody asked what I do, and I replied, "I'm a writer."

Now, you might be saying, "Um, yeah. Of course you're a writer. You write this blog. And it's about writing."

But in my career thus far - depite the fact that I've done newspaper writing, magazine writing, corporate writing, PR writing, ad copywriting, even script writing - I'm pretty sure I've never referred to myself as a "writer." All those jobs came with another title: reporter, editor, communications specialist, etc., etc. But the fact of the matter is, every professional job I've ever had has included some type of writing in the job description - even my job as an interior designer. (Somebody has to write the press releases and website copy.)

So why is it so hard for a writer to own the title?

Honestly, I'd never given the subject a minute's thought until I started writing fiction. And that's where the difficulty comes in. It isn't hard to admit I write. Pretty much everybody who knows me knows I write - especially since I've hit up pretty much every friend and acquaintance in my contact list for a quote at some point.

But not many people know I write fiction. In fact, even this blog is on the down-low. I don't link to it on Facebook (and shudder at the thought). I do link to it on Twitter, but only on the super-secret Twitter account (actually it's my only public Twitter account, but that's beside the point) created specifically to interact with other writers.

It's OK for strangers to know I write, just not friends.

What's that about? Fear of failure, I guess? Like, if people know I'm writing a book, they might ask me how the book's going, or whether it's published yet, or even worse, whether I've thought about self-publishing (not that there's anything wrong with that) like their uncle's cousin's best friend did. And I'm a pretty private person, so the thought of answering those questions is kind of mortifying.

But there are other, more benign reasons for my covert behavior. Like, I figured my friends who do know I'm writing fiction (and who are now being hit up to read said fiction) were probably sick to death of hearing about it. That was my main motivation for starting this blog and creating my Twitter account - to give myself an outlet for discussing the HUGE part of my life that is writing without systematically driving away all my friends.

I don't know when I'm going to feel comfortable owning the title of writer. When a work of fiction is published with my name on it? When I'm actually able to make a decent living solely through my wordsmithing capabilities? When I get over myself and just admit that this is what I do and who I am?

Step One: admitting there's a problem....

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What I Write ... & Why

I just finished reading The Awakening by Kate Chopin, which is a fantastic piece of literature. It got me thinking about the genres I like to read, the way I write and how the two things relate. I don't tend to stick to one genre, but I do prefer fiction over most forms of non-fiction, and I do read a lot of books aimed at a female audience, whether classic or contemporary.

My own writing style falls somewhere in the land of contemporary women's fiction. It's tough for me to draw a comparison for my work, largely because I don't feel bold enough yet to hold my work up to other, credentialed, actually published authors. Plus the manuscript I'm working on is my first manuscript, and it's still morphing and growing and changing.

Still, I know I have a style that's all my own. All writers do, I think, and it shines through our work whether we embrace it, flaunt it, stifle it or attempt to altogether mask it. Trying to disguise your writing voice, I think, would be like trying to disguise your true personality to win a million bucks on Survivor. People have tried it, and the results have been comical at best, humiliating at worst.

We can't hide who we are, even on the written page. Even when we become someone else.

That doesn't mean our characters all reflect us. It doesn't mean our plots or subplots or snippets of our dialogue are plucked from our daily lives, though they sometimes are. It just means that pieces of ourselves are, necessarily, sprinkled throughout our work, and if they're not ... well, that work will be disengenuous at best, unappealing at worst.

Because the reader can tell.

I think a savvy reader can absolutely tell when a writer is trying to be something he/she is not. And I think that's why there's so much advice out there along the lines of "write what you know" and so many writers who say they "write the types of books they like to read." That's what I do. It doesn't mean I shouldn't challenge myself. It doesn't mean I shouldn't stretch outside my comfort zone and better my technique and exercise my writing muscles in new ways. But I don't want to write a certain way or in a certain genre or in a certain style or point of view simply because it's what other people are doing or because it might gain me more respect in certain circles.

And yet I second-guess myself a lot. I struggle with those "am I good enough" issues I think a lot of writers struggle with. And right now, as anyone knows who's reading this thing, I'm struggling with revisions. I'm in the phase of novel-writing that entails writing in a certain way or in a certain genre or in a certain style or point of view because it's what might sell or what other people might want to read.

Trying to figure out exactly what that means has been the hardest part of this journey for me so far, mainly because writing is so personal. I want my novel to reflect my voice, my style, my genuine self - and most of all I want it to be the story I want to tell.

I also want it to be published. And those things war against each other in innumerable ways.

Oh, geez. am I overthinking this again? Maybe I just need to shut up and write.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

NaNoNoNo!

As in No writing, No revising, No blogging, No time for anything. That's been my November. C'est la vie.

I'm really glad I had the sense not to try to commit myself to NaNoWriMo, though I offer a heartfelt "congratulations" and an equally heartfelt "I'm jealous" to all my NaNoWriMo writing friends' success stories.

I did write an awful lot of words in November - and I even got paid for them. But my goal of using the month to kick it into high gear on novel revisions (see NaNoYeahRiMo) went painfully unfulfilled. Seriously - instead of revising more this month, I revised much, much less. In fact, I bet I haven't opened the manuscript five times. That's pathetic, isn't it?

All-right, all-right, this is turning into one of those all-too-common writer-kicking-myself-while-I'm-down posts. (I need to pop over to Natalie Whipple's blog to build up my store of Happy Writers' Society-esque happy thoughts.) What makes us writers so prone to self-flagellation? Could it be the excruciating levels of perfectionism/introspection/self-awareness that cause us to write in the first place?

Makes sense, I guess. Anyway, I'm glad December's almost here. Maybe I'll be less inclined to beat myself up for lack of productivity. Or maybe the holidays will give me enough of a break from the day-to-day that I can actually be productive with my revisions.

Maybe my husband will even give me the gift of time for Christmas.
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Hint, hint. *winks*

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

When I Grow Up....

I've spent the past two and half years trying to "find myself" career-wise.

Basically, after a decade in business journalism, I'd learned a whole lot about what I didn't want to do and a little bit about what I did want to do.

Instead of continuing to float along a career path that was steering me rather than vice-versa, I decided to sit down and give some major thought to how I wanted to spend my time. Here's what I came up with:

  • I didn't want to hang out all day/every day in a cube farm. (I could've written that in all caps with five exclamation points, but I restrained myself.)


  • I didn't want to write articles about mergers & acquisitions, quarterly earnings or economic forecasts.


  • I didn't want to edit other people's articles about mergers & acquisitions, quarterly earnings or economic forecasts.


  • I did want to do something creative.


  • I did want some flexibility/control over my schedule.


  • I did want to be in some way involved in the arts.

So about five years ago, I chucked my full-time job (which, don't get me wrong, I did enjoy - but it didn't light my fire) and went back to school for interior design. I knew when I did it that I was working toward two potential future goals: practicing design or writing about design.

Within a year of leaving my job, I had an infant. Within two years of leaving, I had a master's degree in home furnishings merchandising, a pretty good start as a freelance design writer and a job at a residential interior design firm.

It had all gone swimmingly.

And it's continued to do so, with one big surprise. In the middle of all that, I became a writer. A real writer. A writer who writes because I love writing, not because I'm punching a clock and picking up a check. Luckily I have been able to make a little money as a writer (more than I'm making as a designer, I might add). But that isn't what drives me to do it. It's that good old-fashioned fire in my belly and heart-soaring feeling everybody talks about so much. I write because I can't not write.

So even though a full-time career in writing isn't what I expected when I went back to school for design, it's where I'm heading, and more imporantly, it's where I want to go. The design degree wasn't a mistake. The design degree is what led me to realize I actually do love to write. I love to write about design. About houses. About art.

And I love to write fiction - and one of these days I'll write a killer novel set in a Southern interior design firm. Because that's been an education indeed.

I really do believe all things happen for a reason.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Keeping My Head Above Water

Just a little start-the-week post to say I'm still here, treading water and trying to stay afloat. I've had a super-busy two weeks, which I'm not complaining about one bit. I'm busy in my design job, busy with writing clients and busy in my home/social life too.

It's great. I love to be busy - and it's the only way for a freelancer to make any money. But I haven't had time to work on the book in a week - or to blog - and that bites.

I'll be back soon though!

Monday, November 8, 2010

To Study or Not to Study

A few nights ago, I was hanging out at the house of a friend and fellow writer. While I was there drinking sangria, binging on chocolate and listening to more late '90s R&B music than I ever thought I'd hear in one sitting (don't ask), I flipped through my friend's plethora of books on craft.

When I say "plethora of books," I mean it. They filled an entire shelf of a fairly wide bookcase.

I also had a long conversation with owner of said books - who's started and stopped one novel and is now working on a second - about her writing process. She got started the same way I did - the same way a lot of us did, I bet. One day she was a young professional with a run-of-the-mill day job. The next day the Great Idea hit, and suddenly she was a young professional with a run-of-the-mill day job and a side gig as a wanna-be novelist.
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The big difference between us is the way we approach our writing. When I started writing my first novel, I just let myself loose on it. I'd never written fiction before (at least not since the book about the girl and her dog I wrote in the third grade) and I had no idea what I was doing.
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And I knew that I had no idea what I was doing.
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And usually I'm a play-by-the-rules kind of girl, but when it came to this, I made a conscious decision to throw rules out the window and just go with it. I'm pretty sure that decision was based on fear that if I started researching the way I was supposed to write a novel (or anything about the publishing process, which terrified me then and still does), I'd psych myself out to the point that I wouldn't actually write the novel.
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So I decided I wouldn't even think about the fact that I might one day try to get what I was writing published. I didn't surf publishing websites or writing blogs. I didn't research agents. And I didn't read much while I was writing - in part because I didn't want other writers' styles to creep into my language, but mainly because reading other writers tended to give me a killer inferiority complex.
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I also didn't read any books on craft. As a matter of fact, I didn't even know to call it craft. In every conversation I happened to have with the friend mentioned above - the only other person in my social circle who's working seriously to become a published author - she taught me a new term simply because she knew and spoke the language of a writer.
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I was not yet fluent.
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But it worked for me. At least, it kept me focused on my book and getting it finished, which I did in eight and a half months despite the fact that I had a day job, a side job, a toddler and an overstuffed calendar. I stayed true to my original idea (for the most part) and just kept typing until I reached the end. Once that happened, it felt like a huge reward to finally order a few books on writing, google "getting published" and start mingling in the world of writers. It was also a huge reward to start reading again. I counted it up the other day, and I've read 39 books in the seven months since I finished my first draft.
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Here's another confession: Only one of them was on craft. I want to know the rules of writing, and especially of editing, but I don't want to stifle my creative side. Letting loose on the page was one of the best experiences I've ever had in my life. I can't wait to do it again.
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And I want it to feel a little like the first time.
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What about you? How did you "learn to write?" Did you just start doing it one day, or did you study the craft of writing first? If you could go back and start again, would you do things the same way?

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Fretful First Chapter

I've been pondering first chapters a lot lately.

I've read some great blog posts by others about them. I've paid close attention to them in every book I've read recently. And every once in a while, I revisit my own first chapter. I stare at and reconfigure the words. I cut something. I add something. I scratch my head and try to figure out how to make it convey exactly the right tone, the right level of intrigue, the right ... everything.

Revisions are hard (I think I say that in every blog post) and first chapter revisions are hardest. I'm working on the third draft of my novel right now, which means my first chapter has already had two major overhauls.
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And there'll be a third.

I know this largely because of the feedback I got from an agent last month. She liked my idea, she liked my writing style, but she didn't dig the pacing my first chapter set for the book. And I definitely see her point. I'm well past the first chapter right now in revisions, but I'm such a chronological writer and editor that I doubt I'll go back and tackle chapter 1 again until I've finished this round of revisions.

Seriously. I write and edit from start to finish. It's kind of a problem.

But even though I'm not working on my first chapter right now, I keep pondering it. I know I've got to lose some of my MC's copious internal monologue and get to the action quicker. How to do it, now there's the dilemma. I read a post yesterday on Writer Unboxed about structural editing, and I really relate to the way the author of that post works. I edit as I go. I reread and edit a chapter or a few pages ahead of my actual starting point almost every time I sit down to write. It helps draw me into the story.

And it leads to a clean draft. But that doesn't make editing any easier. Honestly, it makes it harder, because tight transitions and clean writing are difficult to cut. I know that from years of editing and being edited as a journalist.

The first chapter is hardest of all, in part because it has such a big job to do - hook the reader, set the tone, establish the characters - but mainly because the way it's structured affects the structure of the rest of the book.

So basically, it's always on my mind. Even when I'm working in chapter 14. Even when I'm working in chapter 30. When I'm eating. When I'm sleeping. When I'm driving.

I might even dream about it.

I think I need a vacation.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Anticrastination

What is it about us writers that makes us so prone to procrastination?

Is it because we do most of our work on computers, and those computers are invariably connected to the Great Time Suck (aka Internet)? Is it because our work requires self-motivation, and unless we're under tight deadlines (and sometimes even if we are), nobody's pushing us to achieve except ourselves? Is it because it's just plain hard to think until we've finished every other thing on our to-do lists and made our blog-surfing, status-updating, headline-skimming rounds?

Is it all of the above?

Definitely. At least that's my take on it.

I'm reading a good book right now called Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch, and the main character at one point lists "the secrets of anticrastination." It's funny. It's sarcastic. It's part of author Richard Hine's satirical, hysterical take on the uselessness of corporate culture. But it also makes great sense. And I, for one, could stand to follow these points on a regular basis. Here they are, quoted verbatim from the book (exclamation points and all):

  1. List your Works in Progress (WIPs). Now prioritize them!!

  2. Complete your WIPs. Set yourself a deadline and don't start new projects till your current WIPs are finished!!

  3. Reward yourself. Do something fun to celebrate the completion of each project before moving on to the next!!

For example, for me, right now, my highest-priority WIP would be to Revise my novel!! Instead, I'm blogging. A waste of time? No. A means of procrastination? Yes.

I think the anticrastination list can actually help me. It's too late for tonight, but over the next few days, I'm going to try setting page and chapter "deadlines" to help me through revisions. I'll see how it works to start my writing-editing time with actual writing and editing, then reward myself afterward with surfing-tweeting-blogging-reading time. I don't know if I'm strong enough to make it work, but I'll let you know how it goes.

So thanks, Richard Hine-a-la-Russell Wiley. I needed that.

Photo courtesy Grahambones

Friday, October 29, 2010

NaNoYeahRiMo

I really wish I could do NaNoWriMo. I wish I could do it in the same way I wish I could push a "pause" button to make life hold on for a bit while I catch up.

The two things are equally realistic for me right now.

I've been reading great posts about NaNoWriMo across the blogosphere, and I'm totally hooked on the excitement buzzing around it and the idea that it could help me kick-start a new writing project and challenge myself. But it'd be torturous, ridiculous, crazy, masochistic, all-around-looney of me to sign up this time around. Not that I'm not a little masochistic with my self-expectations. Just that I do live in the real world, most of the time, and I know how hard it was for me to carve out the time it took to write a novel in eight and a half months. And how hard it is, right now, for me to carve out time to revise said novel.
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I think it would set me back to do NaNoWriMo, not push me forward.

So I'll hold that thought till November 2011. In the meantime, though, I'm thinking about making November my own personal StaNoReMo: Stacey's Novel Revising Month. That's right - revisions complete in 30 short days. Think I can do it? Think I can at least have a fully finished third draft ready for critique, if not ready to query, by the end of next month?

I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wait a Minute ... What???

Ahh, the twists and ahh, the turns. They're what make fiction great. They're what make writing fiction great - I love it when a character surprises me.

But I thought I was past all that with the first draft. Because that's where the major plot twists emerge, isn't it? Editing's all about shaping and finessing and fine-tuning, but there aren't any big surprises.

Right?
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I mean, I know how the story ends.

And yet there I was, tapping away at the keyboard, nonchalantly going at revisions when a new twist on an old line just sort of happened. And it changed everything.

And I do mean everything. It changed relationships, it changed intentions, it changed motivations and emotions and reactions. Most importantly, though, it solved a problem I was having with my main character. The way the scene was written before, she sort of fell away, in that moment, from who she was. With that one little tweak - one little errant thought that gets in the way of the action going on - she becomes herself again, and her struggles become more real. It means more work for me as the writer, but that's what revisions are for.

I keep saying this, and it's because it's true: Revising a novel is soooo much harder than writing a novel.

In a way, the whole process parallels life. My characters keep learning and growing and struggling the same way I keep learning and growing and struggling. The big difference is that in the fictional world, I can go in after the fact and dabble with the past. It's pretty cool to have power over a character's emotions plus the ability to go back in time and see what happens when Just That One Moment takes place a little differently.

And that kind of makes you think about life, right? If you'd said that one thing that one time that you instead held back, it might have redirected the entire course of your future..

That's heady stuff.

And again, it's what makes writing fiction great.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

On Time and a Lack Thereof

Holy cow, where's the past week gone? It feels like I blinked and it flashed by.

Fall pretty much always feels that way around my house. So much happens this time of year - parties, events, sports, etc., etc. I've been running nonstop, and that means I haven't had much of the "me" time it takes to sit at my computer to work on my manuscript or write blog entries. And that's happy and sad at the same time. Happy because it's things like my son's 4th birthday and my husband's lifelong favorite team making the World Series and my freelance career gaining steam that have kept me outside my book. Sad because, well, I'm always sad when I have to spend a prolonged period of time outside my book.

But also happy because every time real life keeps me away from my fiction, I come back to it recharged and raring to go. I might not have opened the manuscript in a few days, but that doesn't mean it hasn't been on my mind. I know when I do get a chance to get back into it (which WILL happen tonight), I'll jump right in, feet-first, with a whole new level of perspective and enthusiasm.

There's a lot to be said for that. In fact, without the forced breaks I took throughout the process of writing my first draft - sometimes a few days, sometimes a few weeks - I don't know that I could have charged through it the way I did. Even good things have to happen in moderation.

OK, pep talk over. Now I need to get some work done so I can get in a little "me" time today.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Menace to Society

(Alternate title: Music as Muse.)

Like a lot of other writers, I have a playlist that inspires me as I work. In my case, it's a soundtrack to the book - the songs relate to and follow the storyline and characters. I've picked up new songs along the way and tweak/shuffle them according to what happens and changes as I edit.

My husband, who's way into music (like High Fidelity kind of obsessed), sends new songs my way every now and then that he thinks relate to the story. That's how I knew, in fact, that he liked my book. He was my first true beta reader, and while he read, and especially once he finished, he reacted by sending me names of songs for my book playlist.

That was, like, a huge compliment from him. A stamp of approval.

So what's on the playlist? Killers, Coldplay, Dido, Iron & Wine, Drive-By Truckers, U2, John Mayer, Anya Marina, Postal Service, Otis Redding, Aerosmith, The Cure and my current band crush, Band of Horses. Among others.

And how, you might ask, does all that relate to the title of this post? Well, here's how. I don't actually listen to my playlist while I write. I've learned I like to write fiction with little background noise. If the TV's on, I mute it. If music's on, I drop the volume to barely audible. If my 4-year-old is running around, well, I do what I gotta do. There's no mute button on that guy. ;-)

When I do listen to my playlist, it's at times I can't physically be at the computer working on my manuscript. While I clean the house. While I'm at the office. While I'm busy. While I'm living life. And while I'm driving.
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Most often, in fact, while I'm driving.

Hence, the post title. My playlist is the means through which I enter my fictional world when I really want to be at my computer moving around inside that world. And the songs on the list really put me there. They get me thinking about my characters, which gets me thinking about scenes in the book, which gets characters talking in my head, which leads me to pull out a pen and the closest receipt or take-out menu or playbill and start scribbling out ideas and dialogue while hurtling down the highway at 70 mph.

I try to pull off the road. But sometimes it's just not possible, and we all know how elusive and valuable and fleeting these sudden, random tidbits of story can be. Guess I should invest in a mini voice recorder ... but that would be organized. And organized I am not.

So instead I'm a menace to society. But in my defense, my in-transit notes look more like blind contour drawings - because at the very least, I keep my eyes on the road. That's more than I can say for the chick texting in the car beside me.

Lord help us all.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Separate Spheres

It's so fun and funny and odd and interesting and ... disturbing to move deftly between two worlds on a regular basis. I mean, I guess I should be used to it. I've been devouring books since I was a tiny person, and that's kind of the same thing. You move out of the real world for a while and into this new, constructed reality that - when it's well done - is hardly discernible from the real thing.

The weirdest part about it is how often I wish I could be inside my make believe world when I'm out in the real world, doing other things. It has nothing to do with not enjoying reality. I do. But when I'm really feeling "on" with my manuscript, which I am right now, there's not much in this world I'd rather be doing than working on it.

And often - very, very often - real life prevents that.

That's OK. I mean, it is what it is. I'm not a person who can, or even wants to, shut myself away from society to write. I get the occasional urge - usually at the end of a loooong day when I've got twelve other things on the to-do list before I can sit down at the computer - to get away for a little while, to rent a cabin in the woods for a few days and snuggle up in front of a crackling fireplace with a glass of wine and my laptop. But the practical side of me shuts that urge down before it can get too out of control. Cabins in the woods aren't actually all that appealing to me without other people to share them with. Funnily enough.

The thing is, I'm busy. I'm sitting here looking at the start of a veeeery busy weekend, and that's what has me musing on this topic. Real life isn't going to lend much time for writing and editing this weekend, and again, that's OK. This weekend, life's poignant moments won't be playing out on page, but in real life, in real time, in living color. With the people I love. So the Land of Make Believe will just have to wait.

I write to live, but I don't live to write.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Timely Advice

You know how sometimes you hear a word you've never heard before and then you hear it again, in a different setting and different context, like three times that same week? That's what this week has been like for me - total synchronicity.

Only this time it's not a new word that's appearing again and again. It's advice that keeps popping up without me really seeking it on issues that were plaguing me at the precise moments I received the advice.

OK, let me start making some sense.

I'm in the revision phase on my novel. And revision is hell. Why? Well, try taking something you know is probably broken but that you, nonetheless, like the way it is. And then try fixing it so other people will like it - even though the concept of "what people like" is subjective and everybody likes something different. It's a nebulous assignment, to say the least.

Did I say I was going to start making sense? Well, apparently that's not in the cards today. ;-)

Anyway, I'm tackling revisions - slowly, painfully, prayerfully. And one thing that's helping me get through them is the support of the online writing community. And in the past couple of days, I've come across not one, not two, not even three but at least four bloggers who've been doling out advice on the exact issues I'm struggling with at the exact time I'm struggling with them. Not to mention that I got feedback from that agent (see Rejected!, two posts prior) on issues she could see in my manuscript.

The first case of this was a fantastic post by literary agent/author/speaker Donald Maass at Writer Unboxed on how to instill meaning into your work and what it means to take your MC on a true journey. Inspiring stuff. So inspiring I'm hand-copying an excerpt from it into my personal journal. And it really hit me where I was struggling at the exact moment I read it.

The second bit of advice had nothing to do with revisions, but everything to do with my writing career. It was a post by Lori Widmer at Words on the Page about lessons she's learned the hard way and how to apply them to your freelancing career. And since I'm stuck in a couple of different ruts with my own freelance work right now (namely the rut of complacency - I have enough work with regular clients to keep me busy and paid right now, so I'm not doing much [OK, I'm not doing anything] to meet my goal of writing for national design publications). That one kind of kicked me where it hurts - and I needed it.

The third post, a guest post at Nathan Bransford's blog, had to do with the first chapter and how crucial, critical, imperative, a-thousand-other-words-that-mean-important it is to get it right. That one came along just after I'd written a beta reader a novel-length e-mail about what was wrong with (the latest and greatest version of) my first chapter and what I can do to fix it.

The fourth case happened just a couple of hours ago. I've been doing much, much pondering in the past few weeks - and especially the past few days - about how to revise my manuscript. But I haven't been doing much actual revising. And I think it's because I've been sticking to the same non-functioning routine: I sit down at the end of the night, when I'm completely spent from a long day of freelance writing, housekeeping, wife-ing and mommy-ing, pull my computer onto my lap and open my manuscript. Usually I even do it in bed. So no wonder - right? - that I get through about two sentences before falling asleep. I was very happy, then, to read Creepy Query Girl's latest post, which is about her revision process and how she (literally) shook things up.

Seriously, people, thanks! You don't know how helpful you've been. Now as for the fact that my new struggle with blog addiction is eating into my limited revision time - well, I don't really think there's much you can do to help me with that. ;-)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Oops....

A reader pointed out to me a few days ago (thanks Jen!) that something was going on with my comment settings. I thought I'd fixed the problem, but I finally remembered tonight to test it and sure enough, it was still messed up. This time, I'm pretty sure I actually fixed it. I'm sorry about that!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Rejected!

I've been initiated. Actually, no, I've been validated. This is a big day for me - I got my first rejection letter.

Is it nuts that I'm super excited about it?

Here's the story. I finished my manuscript in the spring. Soon after, I handed it off to a few beta readers, and they gave me some great feedback. Since then, I've been tweaking and revising and chopping and "killing my darlings," etc., etc. I've written, at this point, three different Chapter Ones. I've made it to the not-quite-halfway point with my edits, and when I get all the way through, I'll probably start again at the beginning and tweak, revise, chop and kill some more.

In other words, I'm not really to the point of sending queries out yet.

But I did send one, just one. A few months back, I saw this contest/opportunity to get my query and first chapter read by an agent. A real agent - a really, really good agent. So I jumped on it. I polished the query letter I'd started shakily writing, prepped my Chapter-One-du-Jour best as I could, held my breath and clicked send.

Then I let the breath out, because I didn't honestly expect to hear anything back. The agency I sent to is one of the ones that doesn't guarantee a response because it receives so many queries. But I did hear back! I did! I'm still reeling from it. It was a rejection, of course, but it was more than a form rejection! The agent gave me real feedback! Honest to goodness constructive criticism! She mentioned my main character by name - she really did read my work! And her criticism was spot-on. I now have some solid ideas about things to work on to make my manuscript stronger. I can't tell you how excited I am about that.

Plus she said I'm "a lovely writer." I can guarantee you, even if she just threw that in to spare my feelings, that's the part of the letter I'll be thinking about as I drift off to sleep tonight, not the negative, rejection-y stuff.

I'm really glad I took that leap and entered that contest. Even though I might have jumped the gun - even though, honestly, there's a tiny chance I missed an opportunity to be represented by this agent by sending her my work before I had it fully ready, I'm glad I did it. I feel encouraged by the experience, not discouraged. I feel, somehow, like I'm a "real" writer now. And most important, I feel ready and eager and anxious to delve back into the manuscript and get it ready to send out. (And if anybody's been reading my recent posts, you know I really needed that kick in the pants.)

I'm soooo psyched to get in there and make my story better. So, basically, I'm about as happy as a girl can be to have been rejected.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Avoiding Distraction

I've been having a little trouble sticking to a revision schedule.

When I wrote the first draft of my novel, I was so disciplined. Or, I guess it wasn't discipline so much as obsession. I had to get that book out of me. I pounded on my keyboard with a fury that literally wore down the keys on a fairly new laptop.

And I made the book my main focus. At least the main focus of my free time. I kicked my TV habit pretty much completely. Not only did I not watch TV, I had no interest in watching TV. I watched absolutely nothing except Glee (which I was addicted to almost as much as my manuscript) for at least two TV seasons.

I didn't read much. For one thing, reading is time-consuming. And books for me are pretty much all-consuming - when I'm into one, I can't put it down. For another thing, I didn't want reading to interfere with my writing. I wanted my book to be in my voice, unencumbered by the voices of my favorite authors. And for yet another thing, I didn't want to psych myself out. When I did read while writing, I'd get all neurotic about it. Like, "wow, I really suck. This writer is so much more awesome than me."

And I don't like feeling that way.

Plus, and here's the big one, I refused to let myself think about the fact that I might, one day, actually try to get this book I was pounding out published. I didn't google "literary agents" or "publishing houses." I was completely ignorant of the whole process, and I wanted it that way. One of my rewards to myself when I finished typing the last chapter of my manuscript was to finally go on amazon and order a copy of the latest Writer's Market. And thus began my journey into publishing research.

I knew that part would be intimidating, but I didn't realize just how intimidating it would be. The online writing community is awesome - fabulous, amazing, supportive, insert adjective-of-choice - but it's also huge. I had no idea how many people were out there doing exactly what I was doing. And it rocks. And it's what I'm now addicted to - I have a whole round of blogs I have to check out every day, and those blogs lead to books I have to read, and now I have my own blog....

And that's all great, seriously great. But if there's one major, major lesson I've learned through all my research, it's that I don't want to launch my manuscript out into the world until it's ready. The first draft was easy. Revisions are ... not. And so I haven't been glued to the manuscript lately. But I need to be. I want to be. I want to launch my baby out of the nest and into the world.

Basically, I want to get re-addicted to my manuscript. I want to resist all the temptations out there that are calling my name, and I don't want to have to go to Franzen-style lengths to do it. (Did anybody see that Time photo of the desk where he worked on Freedom? Spartan. Facing a wall. No internet. Ugh. But it definitely worked for him.)

So I guess I'd better shut this down and get back to Chapter 11.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Cozying up to My Characters

This weekend, I went to Dallas for the first time in ages. I lived there back in the early 2000s, and lately the place has taken on a new significance for me because one of the characters in my novel lives there.

That just happened. It was one of the many moments in my book where a turn of events surprised even me. I had mapped and plotted out a good bit of the story, but I'd left the details up to the characters to fill in. I was wondering where Noah ended up, and suddenly, while writing, there he was. In the great state of Texas.

It definitely makes it easier to write about a place when you have an intimate level of familiarity with it, and several of the places I've lived or visited frequently have cameos or major roles in my book. In the case of Dallas, I still had to do some googling to find a logical spot for Noah to live and work, and while there this weekend, I was really curious to find out how well I'd done in describing a setting that existed, until then, solely in my head. Turns out, really well. I drove around and found "his" office - there was one there, in the spot I'd described, that fit the way I'd described it. I found the park where he walks his dog. I found the bars and restaurants he hangs out in. I drank a couple of beers for him.

With him.

That's the weird thing about it. Being there, in the setting I've lived in inside my head for so long, really made me feel close to my characters - like they could walk around a corner and bump into me at any given second. It's the second time it's happened to me since this whole crazy Land of Make Believe thing started. Back in the spring I visited the town where I was born and spent the first couple years of my life - which also plays a significant role in the book. I hadn't seen it in years, so the town in my novel is completely fictional. But it was so much fun to drive around and, again, see how well I'd done describing a place that had taken on an entirely new life in my head. And again, I found some uncanny similarities to the settings I'd described.

Like the house pictured above. It couldn't be any more like Amelia's family's house. It is Amelia's family's house. As weird as that sounds. But then, anybody reading this is likely a writer, too, so you might understand this particular brand of weirdness.

Or maybe it's just me.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fitting It In Where I Can

I'm sitting at my desk at the interior design firm where I work a very part-time schedule, and I want to be writing. I need to be writing. I will be writing soon, very soon. I've been plowing through my design work to-do list, and the next thing on it isn't design, but journalism - it's the story I have due first thing in the morning, which I've yet to start.

So I'll be sitting here for a few more hours at my desk at the design firm, finishing up my client work for the week and waiting for my co-workers to trickle out the door. Then I'll stick around and write.

Got to do it whenever and wherever I can. That's the toughest part, for me, of the writing life. Life comes first, paid writing work comes second and unpaid writing work gets stuck into whatever cracks life happens to leave open. Usually that's time that would otherwise be used for sleep.

Hopefully I can knock this story out quickly and have a little sliver of time to be alone with my manuscript. Because those slivers have been too few and too far between lately, and I miss my characters. I miss the exhilarated feeling of getting somewhere with my manuscript. I miss writing, even though I do it all the time. Funny how I love writing so much that I even miss it while I'm sitting here doing it.

Monday, September 27, 2010

It's ... Too ... Much ...

This has been one of those days where it feels like my tower of work is going to collapse and crumble all around me. Seriously - too much work, not enough time. Which is a not such a bad problem to have, considering I've been dealing with just the opposite in my day job as a designer.

But tough to handle all the same.

Part of the problem is that every week lately, there's been some sort of "special" circumstance, like traveling or having to work extra at the office or lack of a babysitter, that's caused me to miss out on some precious freelance writing work time. Each week, I've busted my tail to make all my deadlines, but haven't had time to prepare for the following week's deadlines. So the next week starts and I'm in the same spot all over again.

I think it's that I'm still adjusting to my new schedule and to this life as a sort-of full-time writer. Growing pains, I guess you could say. I'll choose to look at it that way - I'm growing into this new profession, growing and learning and adapting and hopefully figuring out the best ways to make this career of mine work.

And until I do - and maybe even once I do - I'll continue to fit work in wherever I can, including these late-night, after-the-little-guy's-in-bed hours. It really is worth it to own my time. Because even though the trip I've planned for later this week is eating into my work time, at least I can take it without having to worry about how many vacation days it's eating up.

Seriously, why am I complaining? The reason I'm doing this in the first place is because at the end of the day, it's all about the trade-offs. No, my work's not easy - especially on days like this. But it's mine, and I can pick and choose how much work I take on and when, and even when it threatens to topple down on me (like today), I still love it.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Why Is Editing So Hard???

Writing my first draft of my first-ever work of fiction was easy.

OK, maybe not easy, considering I'd never done it before and I had a full-time job, a part-time freelance writing gig and all the trappings of a married, home-owning, mother-of-a-3-year-old life. Add all that together and it equals a lot of nights with very little sleep.

But some of my best stuff came out after 1 a.m.

That's not, however, translating into revisions. I still love my manuscript, and I'm itching to start querying it out, but I can't do that until it's ready, and it won't be ready until I actually buckle down and finish editing it. Problem is, my schedule is still roughly the same - it's just that writing has become my full-time-ish job and my old full-time job is now my part-time job. (I apologize to anyone who's actually reading this for the total incoherency....) Point is, I still have to do my unpaid writing work very, very late at night.

While writing, I had to force myself to put the computer away and go to sleep. But while editing, I keep falling asleep in the middle of trying to work. Aargh! That system isn't lending itself to producing a polished final draft.

So, suggestions, anyone? I've thought about creating a time slot during my daytime working hours for editing. Not ideal, considering I have as much paid writing work to do during those hours as I can handle. But at least I'd be able to keep my eyes open. I've also thought about getting away for some intense editing time - holing up somewhere for a weekend, on my own, with no distractions. Maybe that'd work; I'd probably get a lot done.

But I'd be wracked with Mommy guilt.

Again, aargh! So, OK, it's 12:45 a.m. and I've vented here enough to wake my brain up a bit. Back to the manuscript it is....

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Creative Recharge

I've spent the past 14 months half in the real world, half in a fictional world. The fictional world has taken over my real life at times (occasionally beyond reason), and I've spent loads of my free time either writing (eight and a half months to finish my first draft) or editing (five months of revisions so far).
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And I did a little editing this weekend.

But I also felt a huge need to recharge - to do something creative that in no way involved sitting in front of a computer screen. So last night, I painted. For the first time in, well, probably 14 months. I got a random urge to finally do something with these two tiny canvases I bought in an art shop on vacation a couple of months ago, so I dragged out my supplies and went to work.

I'm no Monet, but my little project was fun. And then afterward, I lost myself in novel-land and actually knocked out the rest of the section I've been working on. Apparently, I really needed that creative kick in the pants.

Then today, I got another creative recharge - this one completely different, and completely different from anything I've ever done. I went with my best friend to a five-hour class at the Viking Cooking School. We pan-seared and blanched and butterflied and marinated. We learned some mean dicing techniques. We whipped up damn-near perfect chocolate souffles. And then we ate like food was going out of style.

I needed this weekend for perspective. I needed it to remind myself that the real world is great, too, and that I have to make room for my other hobbies. And now I'm ready to head back to the land of make-believe.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Career Direction

I really didn't expect to be doing this.

What I mean is, I've slipped off the trail, lost the other hikers and gone off exploring on my own in the past year, career-wise. And it's surprised even me. It's not that I'm not adventurous, because I am (though not in the off-trail-hiking kind of way so much as the I'm-stir-crazy-let's-book-a-flight kind of way). It's just that I'm the kind of girl who's always pushed myself to achieve. Grades! Degrees! Jobs! And now I don't really have a job.

I mean, I have about four jobs, but none of them requires me to punch a time clock, and none of them gives me a steady paycheck, either.

And that's, like, whoa.

And some days I'm thinking, "Am I nuts?" Because a few years ago I was on a career path. I'd worked my way up the ranks of the 9-5 world. I had a title and a staff and a salary ... and a long commute and sleepless nights and loads of stress and days spent chained to my desk, bleary-eyed from staring at a computer for hours on end.

OK, maybe not so nuts. Anyway, so I'm doing this writing thing pretty much full-time now, and it's still new, and it's going well so far. I'm still chained to my desk some days, but I don't have to drive to get to it, and I can sit here in my PJs instead of heels. I can take days off to hang out with my son without eating into my precious, measly two weeks' vacation time. And I like my work. Really, really like it. Like it so much that I'm sitting here using my free time to write about it, read about it and do more of it. And when I finish this, I'm going to work on my manuscript into the wee hours of the night. The crazy thing is, I can't wait.

And that rocks.

What about you? Is writing your day job, or do you squeeze it into your free time? Have you ever quit a job to do something more fulfilling?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Word Binge

For years, I've written news stories. Tons and tons of features, but also lots of hard news, business news - basically a whole big bunch of cut-and-dried, just-the-facts-ma'am types of pieces. No editorializing. No florid description. Just clear, concise inverted pyramids.

So fiction's opened up a whole new can of words.

And man, did I go nuts with all those new words in the beginning. If there was an adjective, I had to have it. Or better yet, an adverb. Believe me when I say I went happily, dizzily, excitedly, maniacally tripping down the flowery path of my expanded vocabulary. The first draft of my manuscript weighs in, right now, at about 108,000 words. I figure if I put my adverb usage on a major diet during revisions, I can shrink it down to a much more respectable size.

But what about my other fiction writing idiosyncrasies? Because everybody has them; I know it's not just me. I read a great post on literary agent Nathan Bransford's blog about writing good dialogue. It's a pet peeve of his when writers use expository dialogue - meaning they try to cram things into characters' conversations they wouldn't actually say in real life, just to make sure readers have all the background info they need to follow the story. I don't think I've done much of that in my manuscript. Kind of the opposite, really. I didn't have enough dialogue in my earliest versions.

Too much telling, not enough showing.

Who knew fiction writing had as many rules as journalistic writing? Not me. But here's the thing: I'm a play-by-the-rules girl, but when it came to writing that first draft, I let my hair down and let 108,000 words come spilling out of me however they saw fit. Happily, dizzily, excitedly and maniacally. And it was fun.

And I can always go on a diet tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I Need Friends

That title may be a little melodramatic.

Or maybe not.

Because writing is lonely. No matter what type of writing you're doing, the actual process of getting words on the page or screen is a solitary business. A few weeks ago, I took the plunge into (almost) full-on entrepreneurship. And now that I've decided to devote more of my time to writing, I spend hours every day staring at this 17-inch screen, lost in my own head.

Which is cool. But the problem is that I'm a social girl. I love talking. Hanging out. Happy hour-ing. Living in the real world. And I do that quite a bit with the friends I already have. But if I don't stop babbling on and on about writing, those friends might not want to hang around me so much.

Seriously.

So, my point is that I really want to find some writer friends. I've read a lot of blog entries about the importance of connecting with other writers - writing groups, workshops, critique groups. I just have no idea where they are and how to find them. I guess I should point out about this time that I'm writing fiction. And that feels like a major confession (I feel a future blog post coming on). Most people who know me know I'm a journalist - my byline's been floating around town for years, and at least a fifth of the people I know have been coerced at some point to serve as a source for some article I've written. But only a select few know that I recently finished my first novel.

And fiction is a whole new world to me. Literally - I have whole new worlds floating around in my head at all times, waiting to be poured out on screen. But I have so much to learn about how to do it. I've been reading some great books on craft and poring over the many awesome writing blogs out there. (Who would've guessed writers would make such great bloggers??) Now I just need someone to talk to - face to face, over coffee or tea or wine or whatever - about what it's like to have characters having conversations in your head and how to get those conversations on the page and how hard it is to then get it all published. Because I'm completely terrified about that part. (Yet another future blog post.)

So, anybody know how I can get plugged in to the Memphis-area writing community? Or have suggestions for conferences/workshops/seminars where a new, inexperienced fiction writer won't be laughed out of the room???

Monday, September 6, 2010

Late-Night Life of a Writer

I've been wanting to start this blog for a while now, and let me just tell you, it's sooooo me that I've picked this moment to do it.

I'm on deadline.

And blogging is a fantastic means of procrastination, because it's more productive than, say, twittering away time on certain social media sites we all know and love. Anyway, I'm doing some prize-winning procrastination this weekend, considering it's Labor Day and I've had a whole extra day to meet a weekend deadline, and here it is after 10 p.m. on Monday night and I've yet to creep much past the lead of my story that's due.

But it's also a great time to start writing this blog, because this very issue - the need to self-motivate - is so incredibly indicative of what I'm going through as a writer. I'm sure this will be the first of many posts on this topic, and I can't wait to start interacting (hopefully) with other writers who are going through similar things. This post, though, will be short and sweet. It's really just a note to say hi, I'm here, and please stop back again sometime. I have lots to talk about when it comes to this crazy life-of-a-writer I've chosen.

And I'm sure I'll find plenty of time to talk about it while I'm on deadline.