Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
"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
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
I promise to keep you posted.
Monday, December 13, 2010
Photo courtesy Scott Cranfill