Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Front and Back Burners

I have had this bizarre attitude towards writing that is unlike anything else that I tackle in my life. Normally I am doing twelve things at once. I have lists to work from, and I multitask. However, early on in my writing, I decided to only work on only one project at a time, and to see it through to the end. There have been several problems with this method.

1. I feel differently about drafting than I do about revisions. I am growing to like revisions, but I miss the fast drafting when I am thoughtfully polishing my draft. It uses different skills, and when I'm frustrated with the process, I haven't allowed myself any other writing outlet. I need the imaginative, brainstorming, let's-see-where-this-idea-takes-me thrill.

2. It feels frustrating to spend so much time on a small portion of writing. When I'm drafting, I feel as though I am getting somewhere fast, and the revision process is slow. I have spent months on revising, and know that I have a few more months to go. In part because I am still learning. And hopefully will always be learning.

3. The writing process is too long to have long periods of frustration (without an outlet), especially since writing normally gives me peace and sanity.

4. I hope to publish sometime, and I realized that authors are always writing the next thing, while waiting for edits from agents and publishers. And then revising one book while writing another. So, it is okay, and maybe preferable to write another book while I'm revising. This Aha! moment clicked in while I was reading this blog. Thanks Jessica!

So, full ahead with my plan for NaNoWriMo. And I'm not cheating on my novel which is sitting in revisionland (Revisions always make me feel as though my novel has done something naughty and has been put in time-out.)

One possible backfire is that I might end up with multiple projects in revision. I'll just have to man-up.

How about you? How many projects do you work on at once? Do you simultaneously have things on the front and back burners?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Monday Meeting

Phew. Monday again. This week I am gearing up for NaNoWriMo, and finishing brainstorming and outlining for the November novel. I think this will be good, as I continue to hash out my revisions on my Star novel. I didn't do a ton of writing last week, but I did a ton of thinking. Which also means that my house got cleaner. Last week I also put together a soundtrack for my new NaNoWriMo novel, so I'm ready. Clarification (for anyone coming to the party late, and welcome, if you are): I write to a soundtrack--a line-up of songs which mimics the emotional journey of my characters. I find it a wonderful tool for immediately putting me inside my novel--an essential thing since I am writing in snatches of stolen time.

So, this week, I'm just going to plug ahead, and work on whatever moves me. I want my revisions on the Star novel to be completed by the end of the year, but I have some thinking to do because I know it lacks something. Luckily, I know what it lacks--I just have to figure out exactly how I want to put it in. When I am in a creative quandry, I get intellectual. And create charts and graphs and outlines. I'll show you mine if you show me yours.

How about you? Anyone participating in NaNoWriMo? Mardi Gras for writers (I've never done it--I'm just hoping). What are your goals for the week?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Little Truths

I read a ton. I suspect that most writers do. And I read a good variety, in different genres to suit my mood. Right now I have 26 books out from the library--although some of those are titles for my kids to read. And some I know I won't get to. I just like to be prepared for whatever mood strikes me. The three on my nightstand right now are: DIARY OF A BLUES GODDESS by Erica Orloff; WILLIAM S. AND THE GREAT ESCAPE by Zilpha Keatley Snyder; and RIVER SECRETS by Shannon Hale.

One of the best general tips that I got from my writing partner (thanks, R!) is to keep a reading journal. I can flip through and remember specific quotes and plot lines from books that I read days, weeks, months ago. Things that touch me. Things I never want to forget. Like this:

Sometimes we have little truths in our hearts, in dark corners where we never shine a light. Then someone comes along with a candle and lights up that corner with something he says or something she does...and we know we can't ignore the truth that's hiding in the dark. Even if we blow the candle out, we know. The truth is there.

Erica-- You Rock!

On the weeks that I don't have high word count, I find that I am shining lights through my story, looking for little truths and exposing weaknesses. That is what I am doing this week--ruminating with a candle.

What are you reading (or writing) that resonates with you?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Whenever I get frustrated with the speed of writing, I remind myself that the best writing is organic. The story itself grows at its own pace, taking on a life of it's own. You can't rush it. You can't rush writing it; you can't rush revising it. There are other things that you can't rush.

You can't rush relationships. Some may happen quickly. You may find a kindred spirit. But the trust? The comfortable familiarity? Well, you can't rush it. It has to be organic.

You also can't rush knowledge. You can't skip a rung on the learning ladder. You can't jump past where you.

And I think that if you are firmly with the moment, if you are letting things grow, organically, then the universe responds with what you need. To enable you to grow and keep moving forward.

I am where I need to be right now, as is my writing. Would I love it if the writing resembled what it is in my imagination? Yes. Will it get there? Yes. Organically.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday Meeting

After completing many mundane and unsightly non-writing tasks this morning, I am rebelling against convention. (My own convention, in fact.) I'm not setting one goal this week. My writing partner is going out of town, so it makes sense to take this week as a 'bye' week. I am just going to wing it, and see where the writing muse takes me. Into Space, I imagine.

Where do you plan on going with your writing this week?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Parenting Styles

Critiquing is a skill. And one that I worry about when I do it. Am I truly respecting the writer's child? Am I loving it as it should be loved, and am I pointing out any misbehaving? Because otherwise, I'm letting that child (and writer) down.

My crit partner is a genius when it comes to critiquing. He carefully supports the neck and head as he holds my baby, says how beautiful she is, and then gently tells me that the baby has spit up all down its front. Perhaps I should consider changing her?

Writing is exploration for me--I go on walks with my baby through seedy parts of town--just to see. My baby doesn't know better. She gurgles happily in her stroller, and allows me to take her wherever I want to go. I love to walk. And when my crit partner says, "I think you took a wrong turn." I own up to it. "I know, I saw all the signs. The broken windows. The guys in ski masks. I know, I know. I never should have taken my baby down this way. But there was this really cool vintage shop just around the corner. And, on the way, I saw this other street. I think I'll take a look." I try the different direction. Even if I don't use any of the day's travels, the journey still helps me get to where I need to go. My crit partner understands this, and is a very patient co-parent and partner.

I recently did an exchange with new critter. And I was worried--not only did I not know what kind of parent she was, but would I be a good sitter for her? Would I love her child and know how to tell her when her child misbehaved? "We don't put our hands on the stove at my house..." Or would I let her child run rampant? Permissive parenting has never been my style. In the end, her baby was a delight. I loved the baby. I wasn't all that graceful in telling her my thoughts--I let the worry get in the way. However she was graceful in critiquing my baby. She was an extremely capable sitter--honest, reflective and respectful.

So, thanks R, for pointing out the seediness, and thanks E, for the honest feedback.

And thank you both, for never once saying (yet), "Dear God, what IS that thing?"

What kind of parent and sitter are you? What kind of sitter do you prefer for your baby?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

In The Beginning There Was...

There is a first paragraph contest going on at Nathan Bransford's blog this week. Yesterday, Nathan followed up with a discussion of what makes a good first paragraph of a novel. For me, I think that a first paragraph should convey voice and theme and immediately ground the reader. I read some of the comments at Nathan's blog, and I love what this person, Mark Cecil, wrote. His name wasn't clickable, so I haven't gotten the okay to post this, so I hope he doesn't mind.

Mark Cecil said...
A feeling that the author is going to take care of you. To lead you along. That he is saying: here is what my story is going to be about. Here is how I'm going to tell it. Relax. You're in my hands now. We will have ups and downs, we will have surprises and dissapointments, but i will lead you through it all, like a guide in a strange land.

So, what do you think makes for a good opening?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Monday Meeting

Yes, I know that it is Tuesday. But yesterday got sucked into the holiday vortex, and while I knew (kind-of) that it was Monday, it felt like Sunday. My whole week was thrown off. So today, in my universe, it's Monday. Hopefully everyone can deal with that.

This week, I'm chugging ahead with revisions. I have a few more things to input into the first half, and some sequence changes. And this past weekend I cut some thirty pages from the second half. I am acutely aware that I am writing for MG, and that even some of the action is unnecessary. So, thirty pages of good stuff is out. I'm definitely moving forward.

And, I was surprised to find myself writing (on a blog comment) that I was enjoying the revision process. I was surprised to write it, and more surprised to find that it was true. So, maybe I can do this writing thing.

What goals do you have for this week? What's surprising you this week?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Cherry Pie

I'm rereading Madeleine L'Engle's journal, A CIRCLE OF QUIET, and I cherish her story of how she decided to stick out the writing life, after ten years of writing book after unpublished book. (The following excerpts are from pages 20-21 for those who want to follow along.)

But during that decade when I was in my thirties, I couldn't sell anything. If a writer says he doesn't care whether he is published or not, I don't believe him. I care. Undoubtedly I care too much. But we do not write for ourselves alone. I write about what concerns me, and I want to share my concerns. I want what I write to be read. Every rejection slip--and you could paper walls with my rejection slips--was like the rejection of me, myself, and certainly of my amour-propre.

Madeleine recounted all the reasons the publishers gave for turning her novels down. For example, publishers rejected A Wrinkle In Time, in part, because they couldn't figure out whether it was a book for adults or children. Thank goodness for today's YA distinction! Other books were rejected because they began with a death, or were too moral. She believed that the tide would turn when she turned forty. So, on her fortieth birthday, when she received the rejection of a novel which had spent enough time at a publication house to give her hope, she was crushed.

This seemed an obvious sign from heaven. I should stop trying to write. All during the decade of my thirties (the world's fifties) I went through spasms of guilt because I spent so much time writing, because I wasn't like a good New England housewife and mother. When I scrubbed the kitchen floor, the family cheered. I couldn't make a decent pie crust. I always managed to get something red in with the white laundry in the washing machine, so that everyone wore streaky pink underwear. And with all the hours I spent writing, I was still not pulling my own weight financially.

So the rejection on the fortieth birthday seemed an unmistakable command: Stop this foolishness and learn to make cherry pie.

Madeleine gave up writing, put away the typewriter, and was filled with despair. Until, that is, she realized that in her head, she was busy writing a novel about failure. It was then that she knew that she had to write.

In the moment of failure I knew that the idea of Madeleine, who had to write in order to be, was not an image.

Madeleine L'Engle published over 60 books in her life time. I'm glad she never learned to make that cherry pie. What do you think? Do you foresee a time when you might give up? Have you had a cherry pie moment? One that made you know that you will write no matter what?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Monday Meeting

Thanks to a great week with revisions, I am plowing ahead. I didn't quite finish what I set out to do last week, but got really close.

This week, I'm hoping to finish the first half of revisions and start cruising through the second half. These will be rolling revisions, since enough has changed in the first half that I will need to change the second half as well. Better and better with every revision.

But, I'm giving myself a break this week. I got a pretty wild migraine yesterday, and am still feeling the effects. One of the things that happens during my migraines is that I lose words. Not the best thing to happen to a writer (or a mom, I suppose). Even this morning, 24 hours after the onset of the migraine, I still could not carry on a conversation. I feel as though there are holes in my brain, and the words slip out, and I can't find them. But the words are really still there, only hidden by the holes. I cannot thread words together, and forget how to say things. This is not good. It'll take me another day to bounce back.

Hopefully nobody else is losing their words. What are your goals for the week?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Putting My Money Where My Heart Is

Buy-A-Book Club Update:

Since my last post explaining the plan to buy one book a month, I have indeed bought a book. I have actually bought three books. They are:

Magickeepers, Erica Kirov
The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z., Kate Messner
Skippyjon Jones--Lost in Spice, Judy Schachner

And, at the request of my son, we bought one of the above titles twice, so he could give it to his friend for his birthday.

So, my goal of buying one book a week was surpassed times four. Evidently I am not to be trusted with a credit card in an independent book store.

All kidding aside, I love my purchases. They are wonderful books. Every book was signed by the author, except for Magickeepers, and I intend to get that one signed as well. In fact, we had to take out an additional copy of Magickeepers from the library, since three family members were reading it at once, and one copy just wasn't enough! Check out the GOLD Moonbeam Children's Book Award it just won.

And the Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z.? That's the book that my son bought for his friend. Who says that boys won't read a book with a girl as the main character?

Look for reviews coming up on the blog for both Magickeepers and The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. I've already posted a review of Lost in Spice.

I recommend them all!

What do you recommend? What are you reading and/or buying?