Monday, January 30, 2012

The One, The Only...The MANY...oh, and the boots that I will buy when I am published :)

My most hated advice, which professional writers give not-yet-professional writers ALL THE TIME, is that it takes four or five (or more) written novels under your belt in order to write The One.

I hear this advice all the time. Write a novel. And then write another. And then another. And then, maybe, maybe, if you've grown enough as a writer, that fourth or fifth novel might be The One.

And, the kicker is--I AGREE with this horrible advice. I agree wholeheartedly. The only way to learn to write a kick-a$$ novel is to do it a few times.

The reason why I hate this advice? Because in order for you to grow as a writer (I feel, anyway), you need to write each novel AS IF IT IS THE ONE.

I mean, why else would you spend endless hours away from your family, your friends, your laundry? To slave over your practice novel? No, it has to be The One, in order for you to be All In.

And, if you're not All In, then I don't believe that you are going to learn what you need to in order to get to the next level.

Every novel that you work on needs to be The One.

And, then, when it isn't, you have to put it away, and become THAT ENGAGED in The Next One.

For the love of Pete.

What an incredibly painful process.

We talk about the rejection of submission all the time. Someone else rejecting our own precious works. But before we even get to that process, many times, we have already rejected our works.

I have secret hopes for my first three The Ones. Secret hopes that those novels will go off and become books. I love those books--and deep down, I believe that I can revise (or rewrite) those The Ones until they work.

But not until I finish with my current The One.

My fourth The One.

My first novel was a Middle Grade adventure. I still hold that one dear to my heart, even though it would take a complete rewrite to get that sucker up to par. I love the concept, I love that it was set in Spain, I love the twists and turns and energy. These were the boots which I promised myself I would buy when I published that The One:

Santiago Walking Boots from National Geographic dot com.

Still waiting to get those boots.

My second The One, was a wonderfully magical middle grade novel. It's very possible that with what I know now about my writing, I could go back and fix that one. It was The One for a few years.
This sweet, glittery, youthful high top would be perfect for my starry second novel. Unfortunately, Skechers only makes it for kids
My third The One was an adventurous NaNo novel. I have yet to revise that one at all, so it hasn't really gotten the chance it deserves. I have high hopes for returning to that novel. It's fun, zany, and humorous.

These boots are perfect for interstellar, other worldly adventures, don't you think? From CosplayBoots dot com.
I am positive that my current work-in-progress is The One. I have to be--how else would I give it my all? It is a YA with cyberpunk elements.

Let's hope that you see me sporting these tough thigh high boots sometime soon! :)
 Although, by the end of my book, one of my MC might wear these:
Love these Ameile boots! 
Maybe I'll let you guys vote, when that book comes to publication, over which boots I should get. :)

What do you promise that you will do for yourself, when you complete the painstaking process of completing a novel and getting it published? How many The Ones have you set aside? Do you think you will go back to them? Do you send all your The Ones out into the world, or do you reject them before they get there? Do you think the ability to self-publish has changed this process? Has it changed the process for you?

Which boots are your favorite? Feel free to share a link to some boots (or shoes) which you have been drooling over. :)

On the Row80 front, I had a down week last week for keeping up with my goals. However, I did plot out the next 19 scenes that I am working on, so that is definitely awesome. I want to get back to logging in my two hours of writing a day, get back into hosting the Practice Room, and start writing down my progress again.

The great thing is that I continue to make progress on this The One. :)

What goals do you have for your writing week?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Don't Fix Me

I had a friend who would always give me advice**.

When I'd say: Urgh, laundry is piling up at home. It's such a pain. I just can't keep up with it.

She'd tell me: What you need to do, is do a load every day. And put it away as soon as it's done. That's what I do.

Let's take a closer look.

What I really said: I have a tough time balancing what I want to do (write) with what I need to do (everything else). I wish there was a way to magically get all the work done so I can focus on my writing career. Unless I find a cleaning fairy, and trick her into being my personal servant, I guess I'm going to have to suck it up and do the house work. But only when I have to. :)

What she really said: I am better than you at life. I have my priorities straight, and get everything done. I won't let anyone see that sometimes I'm not in control of my life. I will reach down (from my pedestal) and try to lift you up to my standards. 

Okay, now clearly, my friend probably didn't mean to say this. But by always telling me how I should do things, that was what she was communicating. That she was better at something than me. Not that I had my own way that should be respected. Not that I should be enjoyed in spite of (or because of--gasp--) all my laundry flaws. And, not that she was going to support me through my laundry crisis.

But that she was going to fix it.

Fix me.

This is not to say that I don't want expertise. I WANT expertise. If you know how to fix my computer, and can show me how, that's super awesome. In fact, if anyone out there knows how to fix a dryer which won't spin, PLEASE tell me!!

But don't fix me.

I have some wonderful crit partners. They are tough. Very tough on my WIPs. They tell me what works, what doesn't. They tell me which parts pulled them out from the book, made their thoughts wander. Sometimes they tell me I'm crazy.

But they don't try to fix the crazy.

They don't say: Your main character should do this... or, I would write it like this...

They do say: In chapter two, the goal of your main character isn't clear. That pulled me out of the scene.

It's a fine line, I know.

But the perspective of the first example is that they know what is best for my story, for ME, and they will pull me up and teach me what it is. Which is awfully presumptuous. And a little jerky.

The perspective of the second example is that they are there to support me to make my writing better. In fact, if you read between the lines, they are confident that I know the solution, and can make the scene better.

Which may be true, or might not be true. If it's not, then because of that awesome critique, I now know what the issue is. And if I have an issue in one work, it's probable that I have a similar issue in another work. And I need to figure out what the fix is, or if I need to do some craft related research, so I can learn how to fix it. But it's mine to fix.

Don't fix me.

Don't fix my writing.

I love this quote:
Remember: when people tell you something's wrong or doesn't work, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what's wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong. ~ Neil Gaiman
But, seriously, about the dryer--anyone?

How do you go about crits? How do you quiet your voice when it says to you, "if this was my work, I would write it this way..."?

What type of crit do you find most helpful? Have you had bad experiences with critiques? Good experiences? Do you let people know ahead of time what type of feedback works for you?

Update on ROW80--I lost sight of my goals for a few days. I could use the excuse of a laundry crisis, but I won't. I'm spending the day chatting with a crit partner, and getting back on track. How are you doing with your goals?

**I hope all of my friends aren't cringing over the time that they gave me laundry advice. I would love to hear how you get your laundry done. This particular friend just always told me how to be a better person, and is no longer my friend (not because of that trait alone, but I have to say that not being her friend makes my life much better). :) Also, if she were as cute as that kitten, I would have probably suffered through the advice!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Writing Outside Of The Comfort Zone

Sometimes we all need to live outside of our comfort zone.

My favorite church service of the entire year isn't Christmas, or Easter, or any of the "big" Christian holidays.

It's the Sunday before Martin Luther King Day. 


For the past 13 years, my Congregational church has been coming together with our sister church, an African Methodist Episcopal church, in the hour which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. dubbed 'the most segregated hour in America'. Sunday morning, the church hour.

Why is this outside of my comfort zone?

Well, because it is two races coming together, deliberately, because we are aware of segregation. Aware of the wage gaps. Aware of racism. We come together because of and in spite of these things. They are in the room with us.

In this room, I am very aware of my whiteness. 

We have made an issue of our color, and have made an issue that it is still an issue.   

We sing "We will overcome," while crossing our hands over our chests, and then clasped in the hands of the person next to us. Our passings of the Peace are hugs, not handshakes. We mingle together over sandwiches and prayers, balloons, and cake. 

On the day before Martin Luther King day, we pledge to make that time the least segregated hour in America, by joining our two church communities. We form bonds and friendship which last all year long.

We continue to overcome.

And for one day, we create the world we wish that our world was.

As writers, we do this all day long. Create and recreate the world.

What responsibility do we have to use our words? What impact do we want to make on our world? What can we achieve, if we each write deliberately?

If we leave our comfort zone?

I remember reading Heinlein as a teenager, and loving that the women there were taken just as seriously as the men. These women were strong, intelligent, and treated as such. Reading those books changed something inside of me. I read a world in which I wanted to exist--a world which could exist.

It empowered me.

This responsibility is not just about race relations, but about empowering all individuals to see themselves reflected in our worlds.

Write outside of your comfort zone.

You'll never know how exhilarating it can be, until you try it. :)

Can I get an Amen?

What is your comfort zone? Do you stretch outside of it? Do you see yourself as having some responsibility to write deliberately?

On the goal front, I am loving ROW 80. I love the spirit, and I love that I am making my pledged 2 hours of progress every day. Well, except the weekends. I might have to amend my goal to not include weekends!

How is your progress? What inspires you? Music? Church? Writing outside of your comfort zone?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

In The Batcave

If you need me.

This week, I've been writing. All the time. I'm in the Batcave, churning out my revision and new words. I'm loving the novel and the time I'm spending on it, even though I know it will end shortly. I shouldn't and couldn't keep up this pace. But, in the meantime, I'm enjoying my hibernation.

I hope you have similar creative bursts in your writing life! Do you go through cycles of creativity? Do you ever just give in to those? Do you hole up in the cave when you feel inspiration striking? How often does your muse visit you? Are you keeping up with your ROW 80 goals?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Purple Nose Accountability

Welcome to this week's Monday Meeting, and Sunday check-in. (I'm only late on one of those counts!!)

I drive around town with a purple nose on the front of my car:

A couple of years ago, my husband decorated my car as a bat for Halloween. Black wings flew from the top, and a the purple nose classed up the bumper. :)

Pretty soon I realized that I enjoyed the purple nose. I like being a bit different, I love the color purple, and most of all, I love that when I pull up in front of the school, my kids know that it is me. They never approach the wrong car.

But, driving around with a purple nose means that I have to be accountable for my driving. People know it's me. I can't drive aggressively, or cut people off. I drive respectively because I can't hide in anonymity.

I feel as though having these goals during the next 80 days, as a part of the ROW 80 community, has given me purple nose accountability. I have to own up to my progress.

So far, so good. I have been using my two hours a day to revise the first 2/3 of my manuscript, looking closely at each scene, with the aid of this Scene and Sequels technique. My friend Marisa gave me the link while in the Practice Room (we'd love to have you there to talk writing--it's great fun). In fact, I need to go and sign up to run a session over there to fulfill this week's goal!

So, I'm basically on track--I've been noting where all my writing and exercising time is going in a daily calendar.

It's really illuminating, and what I spend my time on is as clear as the purple nose on my face.

It's not all coming up lilacs--I couldn't keep up with my writing time over the weekend. Weekends are family time, and I'm going to try to carve out time to write, but if I can't, well, I'll just revise my goals.

How are you keeping yourself accountable? What are you working on this week? Do you have goals? Would you drive around with something weird on your car? Do you have purple nose accountability?

Honk if you see me cruising with my purple nose!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Avocado on My Slipper

Sometimes, I go through life wondering things. Where's my coffee? (It was on the dryer.) Where's my cell phone? (On a shelf in my clothes closet.) How did I get avocado on my slipper?



I mean, I can probably figure out the answer to these questions. But I can't remember exactly.
And then I think of the biggest question of all:

How did I get so out of touch with my manuscript?

And, I don't know how, exactly.

There are lots of excuses. I have three active kids. A husband. Commitments with schools and a church. Friends. Family. Holidays. Deaths and illnesses.

But, now that I am a few days into the New Year, a few days into ROW 80, now, I know exactly:

I'm not out of touch with my manuscript.

I have worked for a total of four hours on it, in the last two days. I know exactly what I did during those four hours, and I know exactly what I am going to do the next hours that I devote to writing. I know the time I spent blogging, and the time I spent exercising.

I am writing deliberately.

And because of that, if my MC were to get avocado on her slipper, I will remember exactly how that happened. :)

I am hitting all my writing and exercising goals. I'm excited about that. I'm excited just to know whether or not I am hitting my goals! I'm enjoying keeping track of the time I spend on things. On where my energy goes.

Maybe I'll get to that level of consciousness in my avocado filled life as well.

How are you doing? What crazy things have you done, and then later wonder how that happened? What goals are you working toward, writing or otherwise?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Monday Meeting Accountability

Grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair. Let's weigh in on what goals we have this week for writing! It's the first Monday Meeting of the New Year! A new year, a new start, for me, an exciting (if not new) project.

This is not a Resolution 2012 post, although I have to say, I loved my Resolution 2011. Last year, I decided that every day that I didn't write, I would donate to the charity, Room to Read. I think I'm going to continue that this year--because even when life got too challenging to write, I knew that my charity benefitted. Last year, I gave over $100 to the charity. :)

Instead of looking at year long goals (although I just made one, didn't I?), right now I am looking at goals for the next 80 days. I am being held accountable to these goals by all the lovely people participating in ROW 80. I'm very excited.


1. To track my writing progress. In order to fulfill this goal, I set up a OneNote calendar, where I write down what I do with my writing time. I also started a notebook for each project, so I could have my notes and ideas at my fingertips. I love handwritten calendars and notebooks, but I can never put my hands on them when I need them. So, this way, I keep myself accountable. For instance, right now, I'm logging this time in as blogging time. :)

2. To write each day, either 2 hours, or to a 1K wordcount. I am revising and drafting as I go, so it's not as speedy as fast drafting can be for me. I think this goal will be challenging, but doable. If I don't write each day, my charity will gain a dollar.

3. To host a Practice Room session once a week. I got out of the habit of doing my part in TPR last year, and I feel the loss. I love the Practice Room, and miss it when I write in the library, or places where I can't open the chat room. I invite you all to come and write there as well!

4. To be honest and realistic (with others) about how I want to spend my time. I am dedicating this next 80 days to try to complete my current WIP. I am not including this as a goal--to finish it--because my novels take as long as they take. However, I want my writing time to be used for that purpose. I always have a lot of projects in the wings, some involving other people. I want to make sure that I am dedicated to my focus.

5. To exercise five days a week. I write better when I get moving, and the winter is a time when I sometimes slack off. So, I am pledging not to slack off during this time!

6. To post at least one Friday Feature interview a month. If I had my druthers, I would set the goal to do one per week, but since this involves others, I never know what is going to happen.

Welcome, and let me know some of your goals--for the week, for the next 80 days, for the year. Do you have a fabulous way of keeping accountability? Are you super organized? What methods do you use to track your success? What writing project is keeping you up at nights? Will you meet me in the Practice Room to write?