Friday, January 29, 2010

Progress report, sir

Well, the taxes are done. It's Friday. My kids are getting healthy. The in-laws are coming tomorrow to see the grandkids. And I'm feeling pretty good.

I know where to start the book now. I think I'm going to have to just start with a complete rewrite instead of the piecemeal stuff I was doing. It will probably work better that way. If I can incorporate some of the chapters I already went over, I will. Otherwise, they end up in the pile of "pretty, but unused." It's nice to be starting again.

Originally, I had anticipated being a good way through the first round of rewrites at this point. Wishful thinking on my part when there are so many other things going on in my life at any given time. The nice thing is that I can just start over with a new set of (very flexible) expectations and see what happens. I think I've had a long enough break from consistently writing that I should be able to come at it with fresh eyes and a new wave of enthusiasm. (I know. I keep saying I'm excited about writing and then the next post says the same thing again. Maybe it's just that I've been building up steam in the pressure gauge that is my creativity and it's now ready to blow.)

New goal: finish this draft by the end of February. Find some good betas. Get feedback. Start over again in March. Ready, steady, go!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

It's going around

My kids got Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. And gave it to my husband and me. Apparently, it's really contagious. And usually a childhood disease. Which makes me wonder what kind of childhood we had that didn't provide us with immunity when we got older. It's something that's going around.

Also going around right now: dejection. I've been reading blogs and talking to people and it just seems like right now is a difficult time for every body. It's hard to feel motivated. It's hard to find focus once you get going. It's hard to make time for everything.

Maybe it's the time of year. My house is surrounded by about 1.5 feet of snow. The sun hasn't broken through the cloud cover in two days. The sky has been a blurry sort of gray for a long time. It's easy to understand feeling gray when the world around you is gray too.

Maybe it's that things are catching up to us. I know that I go in creative spurts. I can write consistently for weeks on end, but then I run out of steam. And it all peters out for a couple of weeks until I can work up the gumption to start again. Usually, something else of importance has to be done and that interrupts the flow.

Maybe it's something else. I don't know.

The big thing is that a lot of people are going through it, for whatever reason. And in a way, that makes it seem not so bad. When I can look at people I think are amazing and see they have their difficulties too, it makes my difficulties seem manageable. So, here's to all of us. We can do it. We can break out of the gray and blurry world and walk into the sunshine. In fact, I'm going to do just that. Right now. Hello heater vent and hot chocolate, my new friends. I think we'll make today pretty good, yet.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

In which I overcome self pity

My sister recently started reading my current work in progress. The one that I started revising with great enthusiasm. Her opinion, so far, is that I need to just cut the first several chapters because they are pretty boring and don't really draw anyone into the story. She's right. I hate that. (She's my little sister and has no right to be right. That's my job.)

I'm realizing that it's hard to ignore criticism. It feels so personal, like they are seeing something terrible in me as a person, not my writing. It almost makes me think I'm not cut out to be a writer. And then, I let it sit for a while. And I lose the groove I was in. I haven't actually done anything with my rewrites since she talked to me.

The good news is I still love what I'm doing. And she was right. The bad news is that all the time I put into the first several chapters (which didn't change noticeably in excitement levels) is pretty much down the drain. I'll be scrapping those chapters, or maybe inserting them somewhere else in the story (in a heavily edited version since they won't fit the way they are now.)

It's hard to be at the beginning of this whole writer thing. I haven't learned to be thick-skinned or to be really consistent, even when I don't want to be writing. I'm pretty sure it's a normal thing to go through, but still. It's just one more part of the process that I hadn't been expecting.

So, I'm starting over again. Day one, rewrites. My goal for today is to figure out where to start the story if I don't start it where I have been. I don't even know if I will actually get anything down on paper to fix later. I just need to know where I'm starting so that I can move forward again. (Here's hoping I get the taxes done today or tomorrow so that I can channel that energy into writing.)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A break

We interrupt this blog for a special announcement. Happy birthday to me. You may now return to your previously scheduled blog.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


A lot of people get the question, "What inspired you to write...?" or "Why did you decide to be a writer?" The answer to those questions is different for everyone, I think, but it all comes down to one thing. We love to write.

For me, I first felt inspired to write in high school. I had the most amazing English teacher in high school. I took a class from her every year and felt like it was the greatest thing ever. In fact, when I first started college, I majored in English with the thought that I wanted to be an English teacher and inspire others to love reading and writing like she had inspired me. I wrote a lot of stuff during my teenage years. At least half of it was angsty poetry. (I still have all of it. I was pretty proud of myself.) In fact, I'm still proud of a lot of it. Here's a few short examples:


Hiding, long gone secrets,
oceans caress the
once knowing shores.
They send out waves
with gentle whisperings
of things
by the dark depths.


Small faces
that smile
through a covering
of cloth,
they are
the peacemakers
between the left and the right.


away the aches
in my weary soul,
the tears fall over
the mountains of
my face.

I have stories that I started and never finished. Most of them are only one or two pages, but they have a lot of potential in them. I think I might have been a better story teller then.

Somewhere along the way, I lost the desire to be writing. I gave up on the English major. I just didn't love it any more. And I went on a really long, personal journey that ended with a psychology degree, a husband, and two kids.

It was at the end of that journey that I found myself thinking, "What am I doing with my life? Where do I find fulfillment on a personal level?" and I couldn't think of a single thing.

One night, I couldn't sleep. I rolled over and said, "Help me fall asleep. I've tried everything I can think of." My husband said, "Tell yourself a story." So I did. It was more of a question when it started. What would happen if you cross Cinderella with the Ugly Duckling. And my first novel was born. I worked on it in the evenings for months. And when I had it finished, I looked back at the creative process and realized that I really enjoyed it. I felt that sense of accomplishment and fulfillment that had been missing in my life.

The one idea spawned another idea and I wrote another book based on it. Everything just kind of flew together. I am still working on the craft, but I feel so fortunate to have found something that I love to do. (Although, revising is not my favorite. I really did want to have the perfect first draft. Sweetly naive, I know.)

I have to remind myself why I am doing all this in the first place. It seems so easy to forget the part where it's fun and rewarding. It's easy to get caught up in the "I'll never be as good as" or "It's a lot of work that I didn't expect" or "the people that matter to me don't like it."

When I am writing, it doesn't matter how many other things are going on. I always find the time for them. It's just a matter of feeling inspired again. When I'm feeling inspired about this one aspect of my life, everything else is inspiring too.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

About me

Contrary to what you might think, this isn't going to be some kind of rambling "get to know me" session.

I had a thought recently that I wanted to remember. I'm in the process of editing. It's really my first attempt at serious editing since I only have two completed first drafts and I'm learning a lot about the process as I go. The things that work for me and the things that don't. Mostly, right now, I'm trying to make sure that I have a good grasp of my characters.

The current project is focused around a girl who has been trapped by circumstances and has overprotective parents. She's willful, independent, and prone to rebel against the situation she finds herself in. It's been hard to portray those aspects of her without making her come off as a total brat. She's also kind and concerned about others, but in that teenage, what's it going to get me sort of way.

I didn't realize until last night that I was really writing about myself. If I tried to describe my young adult years, it might go like this: parents wouldn't let me date. Parents tried to help me be my best self (which I saw as being interfering.) I stayed out late with a boy (frequently) to show them I was old enough and smart enough to handle myself. When they tried to talk to me about my behavior, I didn't listen. I knew all the answers. I distinctly remember one particular discussion in which I stopped paying attention to them and eventually interrupted my mom with "I think I need a new yellow shirt." I walked out of the room and continued to do what I thought I wanted. It's not that I was trying to be a brat. Or that I didn't appreciate my parents. I just didn't have the same perspective that they did or that I do now.

That is the journey my character is taking. She's rebellious and independent, but only because she hasn't learned to appreciate that she doesn't know everything yet. Just like pretty much every other teen I have ever known. I don't know if every other writer puts a little of themselves into the characters they create, but they always say 'write what you know' (whoever they are.)

So, my story is about me, wrapped all up in fairy tale trappings. I hope somebody thinks I'm fascinating enough to want to get to know.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Finding the balance

We got a kitchen scale for Christmas this year. I actually was really excited because it will help me with managing my weight, something that I dread on a regular basis. I pulled it out this morning to see how much I actually eat when I pour a bowlful of yummy cereal. The answer in a nutshell: too much. You read the back of the box and you think... hey! I'm doing pretty good. One serving is 210 calories. And then, you weigh it and find out that you eat 3 or 4 servings in a morning. Good job, every one. Honestly. Who decided that 52 Grams of my favorite cereal is a serving? It looks like I'll be teaching my body about portion control.

On a similar note, I'm having a hard time weighing what I put on the blog. (See how I tied that in? Weighing food... weighing content... Huh? Huh?) I read different opinions about putting personal information on a writing blog. And if I want this to be a writing blog, how much is too much? I mean, I can talk about my kids till the stars turn cold, but does any one really care that my 1 year old climbed up his dresser and got stuck at the top? It made me laugh, but it's not exactly noteworthy to any one else (unless I'm writing a book about how to be a mother without killing your kids and not die laughing first.)

So, how much of my life should I write about? And how professional do I want to be? I don't know. If any one comes across a scale that measures that, let me know?

Friday, January 15, 2010


Well, today, I did it. I made the start. And it was a good start. I edited two chapters. I added a whole new depth to my main character (and the story in general) that is going to mean changing the rest of the manuscript. And it's great! I love it!

I added 500 words to the first two chapters, even after cutting out all the random, meaningless extras. It's surprising what happens when you just find something you love and go with it.

And now, I feel the need to write again, like I haven't in a long while. I just can't stop myself. So, here's to more writing in the very near future.

In love

It happened today. I fell in love again. That's right. I'm in love with my story. It's been a while. Our relationship was a fast and furious one. I pulled together all the ideas and put it down on my faithful word processor. We met together every day for weeks. I made time for it when I didn't think I could find time to even shower. (Good thing my story isn't a judgmental type. He put up with strange hours and lots of interruptions.)

Shortly after writing the fateful THE END on that perfect first draft, the flames fizzled. All my motivation drained down into the hard to reach areas of my left pinky toe. The rest of the world came between us with its insistent cries of "clean the house" and "feed the kids" and "pay the bills." The longer I let my poor story sit in the dark recesses, the harder it was to feel that same passion. I tried to resurrect it, but it seemed like a dying thing.

And now, the sun has broken through. I feel that desire to get working again. And for real, this time. Not the half-hearted attempts, but a full-fledged, throw myself off the balcony, run away to the circus sort of thing. I'm ready to feel the joy of doing something creative. Something that only I can do. Something that may not have any meaning to any one else, but is important because I feel like it is important.

You may have to take the backseat every once in a while, story, while I do the things that can't be ignored. Don't worry, though. I found you again, and this time, I think we can go all the way!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Reading leads to writing

I just finished a book. I don't know where I found the time, but I did. And it was great. My love affair with writing began when I learned to read. This particular book (Doomsday Book by Connie Willis) has sparked again my love for the whole idea of writing. It's an amazing thing how that happens.

Doomsday Book isn't the kind of book I would write. It's kind of sci-fi with future elements and time travel. It's also something like 500 pages. Immense! But so rewarding as a reader. She created two very distinct worlds and drew me in to them both. She never gave a huge exposition about what makes her world so special or different from anything else. She just told her story and let me fill in all the pieces. It was so refreshing to not have to sift through all the world building stuff you get when you read something like, for instance, David Eddings. (Don't get me wrong. I loved David Eddings' books as a teenager. He just goes into great detail about everything.) Reading Doomsday, I found it so easy to just sink into the people and places.

And I found a desire to write like that. Probably not as long. Heavens, I would probably shoot myself before I got through a complete edit. But to have that easy, flowing way of telling the story. That is what I want to do. (It also wouldn't hurt to win a Hugo or Nebula award. That would be pretty cool.)

So, now I have a new goal for my editing. Bring a better flow. Tell less. Show more. And I have a great example of how to do that. I just have to take for granted that people will understand my world. And chances are, they will.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Well, here we go.

My house is mostly clean right now. Just doing some laundry. No big effort there. The accounting is all caught up for the day. I managed to feed the kids and sit down for a few quiet moments at the laptop. I have read through all the blogs I follow, left some comments, learned some things. Now, I'm ready to write.

I sit at the kitchen table. This is one of the few places in the house where I can still keep one eye on the kids, but they can't help me with the keyboard. (Unless an extra chair just happens to be next to the table. They'll climb up on that and try to see what I'm doing.) I open the document. And stare at it. And just keep staring at it. Wow. Where do I even start?

I've gotten some pretty good feedback on the first draft. The story is going in a good direction. It seems like it's just minor things that would make it sing for most of the people who have looked at it so far. Logistical things like "you kick a horse to make it go, not shake the reins." But, I'm not satisfied with making minor changes. I read these stories of the journey that people take to finish a book and think, "I'm not making nearly the same effort." I joke about having written the perfect (or nearly perfect, considering the reins issue) first draft, but I just can't believe that's really true. And I have no idea where to go with it right now.

So, I'm just staring. I know I'll get to it at some point today. I'll write a few words. I'll clear up the writing, tighten it up, show more instead of telling. And it will be great and I will feel satisfied having done something. Just this moment, however, I feel stuck.


Inspiration just struck! Got to get cracking!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Are you kidding me?

Just changed the sixth poopy daiper of the day. My two year old is wearing his fifth complete outfit. The house needs a thorough cleaning before company comes tomorrow night. And I'm moonlighting as an accountant during end of year tax season for a company with employees who don't know how to count.

When did I think I was going to be a writer?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


I've been following the blogs of several literary agents/editors/really cool people who write. It might just be the time of year, but there's a lot of contests on blogs right now. I even entered one on Nathan Bransford's blog. Write a teen diary entry. It felt pretty amazing to start out on this grand journey of writing. I sat down and composed a diary entry, loosely based on one of my own high school experiences. I lovingly went over the draft, making sure that it conveyed the sentiment I intended. I tweaked the words until it fit my idea of a high school voice. (Or at least, what I might have written at the time, had I actually written something.) I copied and pasted it into a comment and hit submit. And instantly regretted it.

Not because I think I am a bad writer. I don't. It also wasn't because I saw a spelling error just after I clicked the button. It was everything I had hoped it would be. No. I merely realized that I probably don't stand a chance.

I've checked back at the thread where diary entries are being posted in droves. The last I saw, 620 or so people had put finger to keyboard in a similar endeavor.

And many, many of them are amazing. I can't say I read every entry. There are just too many of them. I did read a lot of them and I immediately felt inadequate in my own ability.

My own little story wasn't particularly angsty or cutting edge or "troubled." It was just a girl who likes a boy. He's way out of her league and only talks to her when no one else is around. It's something very real for me, and terribly poignant.

We'll see how it goes. I can't imagine that out of 600 entries, mine will rise to the top. It's a starting place, though. I just keep having reminders of how much I have to do before I get to where I want to be. Here's to all the work ahead. Cheers!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A novel update: the first of many

At least part of the purpose of blogging for me is to be accountable to myself. I'm trying to find time to polish the two books I wrote last year. Putting it out here for any one to read is supposed to motivate me. And so far, I think it's working.

I have taken a bit of time off from the whole book thing while I waited for some feedback on the first draft of my current work in progress. Mostly, the reviews have been really positive, with lots of good suggestions for improvement. In fact, I only had one review that said, "You just aren't any good at this. Try something else." Okay. That wasn't exactly what it said. It's what it felt like. I really got derailed for a little while. I kept going back to that one response and dwelling on it until I lost all motivation completely.

Fortunately, I have the most supportive husband on the face of the planet. Not only does he encourage me to write, but he helps me put things into a good perspective. He hasn't read the whole manuscript yet (he wants to read the finished thing), but he had some great suggestions based on the concerns I have been working through.

So, I started editing yesterday. It felt great to get my hands on the story again. I still have a lot of work to do. More than I realized when I was still caught up in the first rush of finishing. (Of course, I am the first person to have written the perfect first draft, right?) I have the basics of the story in place. I just need to figure out what I can do to take out some of the predictability. (It's an ambitious project for a fairy tale retelling. Every one knows how the story is supposed to end.)

The nicest thing is that I'm in love with writing, all over again. Watch for more to come. I've got a long way to go if I'm going to meet my goals to query both books this year!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A lazy Saturday

Right now, I am sitting on the couch in my living room. There's a king sized fuzzy blanket in a delightful shade of green to wrap up in. I should probably have been doing laundry today, but didn't really feel like it. Also, at some point before I go to bed, it will probably be a good idea to clean up the house a little, but I can't seem to find the motivation. I think I am taking a vacation from my vacation.

My 2 year old is standing on the other side of the room, just where the light shines in through the closed curtains. He's just learned to spit in the last few weeks. He calls it "blowing bubbles." At this point, he's spitting into the light, watching the little droplets forming as they spew forth into the air in front of him. It's kept him pretty much entranced for nearly ten minutes. I forget sometimes what it's like to find joy (or in his case, fascination) in the simple things.

The thing about two year olds is that everything is wonderful like that. Does this plate roll on its side? Do the pictures in this book change if I read it again? What happens if I take off my socks and put them on again? Is this shirt better than the other one? Or the one before it? Or the one before it?

Sometimes, I don't really appreciate how amazing life is. It's really easy to get lost in the day to day stuff and ignore the wonder around me. I have to do the laundry, clean the house, feed the kids, go shopping, or whatever else it is. (And all of those things have to be done.) I just don't have to lose sight of the fact that I am surrounded by everyday miracles.

Especially when that two year old helps with the dishes or laundry, wants to vacuum or make his bed. Or does something sweet and funny, just because that's who he is. And I think he really has the right idea. He's happy pretty much all the time, even if all he's doing is spitting into the sunlight. Shouldn't we all be like that?