Archive | July, 2010

Today: You. Me. Manuscript.

30 Jul

Dear Bright and Shiny Friday,

I have big plans for you.

Before you ask, the answer is no to the following: no, it’s not time for Survivor to come back on yet.  No, we are not going to the Bahamas¹ today and, unfortunately, no, we won’t see any oceans.  Or mountains, for that matter.  No, we aren’t going on a J.Crew shopping spree, or to a spa, but those things *could* be arranged — IF you cooperate with me today.

Which you will, because what I have in store for you, Bright and Shiny Friday?

Is SO much better.

Get this, Bright and Shiny Friday: you.  Me.  Manuscript, pens, highlighters, note cards.  Laptop, of course.  Library table, those way-more-comfortable-than-they-look chairs, and that cute little lamp that’s attached to the middle of the table.  And because Library is cool, yes we can — and will! —  bring a non-fat latte and some goldfish crackers, maybe even some nonperishable food items for lunch, since we’ll be there, like, all day.²  Another reason Library rocks?  They’re not even making us pay rent, even though we’re totally moving in for the day.

Because today?  Is Kayla + Bright and Shiny Friday’s Revision Mini-Boot-Camp Day!  You know, as if someone were actually running it.  Except they’re not.  I just decided we could use a little extra conditioning today.

What?

No, I’m not torturing you.  There will be lattes!  And goldfish!  For a while, anyway.  And, after it’s over, there will be that rewarding feeling you get when you sit there, work hard, and have something to show for it.

Be ready in ten minutes.  I just need to pack my three bags.

Love,

The Girl With The Strange Messy Bun For A Hairdo  (a.k.a. The Girl Who Has Set Aside Caring About Her Hair Today In Favor Of More Time For Mini-Boot-Camp)

¹Yet. That’s five weeks away.

²I wonder if there’s easily accessible hot water there?  I could so bring the French press and some pre-ground coffee beans?

The Verdict | Creativity Workshop, Final Update

27 Jul

Is it really possible that the Creativity Workshop is coming to a close?  Has summer really flown by so fast?

Yes.  Yes it is, and yes it has.

Though my workshop participation dropped to dormant-volcano-level¹ during the last half, I took away some valuable lessons from this experience.

one

Ideas?  Are everywhere. This workshop trained me to notice them so well that I got overwhelmed by all the ideas that started popping up.  Currently, I have ideas for a follow-up to my WIP, a separate trilogy, a totally separate book that may or may not lend itself toward a sequel or two, and a handful of on-paper-but-not-quite-started ideas for short stories.  This is the primary reason my participation level dropped — I had to slow down before I let the ideas eat me.  Which brings me to…

two

Shiny ideas are fun!  But dangerous. It’s great to have ideas.  What’s not so great is to try to work on them all at once.  For me, anyway.  My so-major-it-needs-to-be-in-all-caps-MAJOR project of the summer has been diligent effort towards completing this third draft of my WIP.  It’s my priority, and it’s rocking.  (It’s challenging.  And still needs work.  But rocking, nonetheless.)

However: what with my pursuit to hone my idea-catching skills, shiny things keep distracting me.  And not shiny as in crumpled-up-aluminum-can-on-the-side-of-the-road shiny — rather, gems-in-a-J.Crew-necklace shiny.  Which is to say, enticing and nearly impossible to avoid.

I spent one long, enthusiasm-laden Saturday night organizing the HUGE ideas I had.  Even with the intent to a) merely summarize the ideas so they’d be waiting on the other side of the MAJOR project, b) not be distracted by the shiny, and c) be chill about it so I wouldn’t get overwhelmed, I so totally got overwhelmed.  It wasn’t physically draining², but it was mentally draining to try to think about three separate (volcano-sized) ideas simultaneously.  Which is why people probably don’t try to write three separate (volcano-sized) ideas simultaneously (even simple outlines) in the first place.

three

Snail, but steady. I started the summer as a snail — steady and slow.  I’m pleased to report that I’ve kept the steady, but ditched the snail speed in favor of something more akin to waddling-goose speed.  (By this, I mean faster than a snail, slower than a puma.)  The major area of growth that contributed to this?  My much-improved ability to focus when I sit down to work.  Conquering distractions took work, but after weeks of working on it, I’ve become SO. MUCH. MORE. PRODUCTIVE. so much more often.

At first, I took the command-Q-to-Twitter-and-all-browsers approach.  Um.  That worked out about as well as that time I tried to give up lattes.  And we all know how much I love my lattes.

What I ended up with was the how-many-cupcakes-can-start-and-STAY-on-my-counter approach to Twitter/blogs/you name it.  (As opposed to the eat-all-the-cupcakes-right-now-and-what-the-heck-make-my-latte-a-breve approach.)  This ended up working well.  I learned how to keep Twitter open, but not give in to its wiles.  Now I have a nice, friendly, have-a-cupcake-but-keep-the-figure relationship with Twitter, and it’s awesome.  There are writers and resources at my fingertips, along with a manuscript that’s all the better for it (instead of suffering a death by sugar overload or neglect).

This post is long enough.

I learned a lot.  Things are going well.  Now, I’m working on being productive AND being a consistent blogger again.  As of today, my third draft is 47.8% finished.  Perhaps I’ll bore you with my (geektastically awesome) progress chart system someday soon.

The end.

And a beginning.

¹I had tons of ideas bubbling, lava-like, beneath the surface.  But to an observer’s eye?  The last few weeks probably looked kinda like a dead mountain.

²Okay, so confession, it kind of was.

Not In The Mood

19 Jul

Today was the day where I discovered, once and for all, that the song “Splish Splash, I Was Taking A Bath” does NOT go well with writing a scene where my main guy has just suffered some pretty major humiliation.

Not that there was ever any question about that.

Also, I discovered that it’s much easier to get in the head of a misfit who’s just been mocked by everyone he knows when my desktop background is vicious, like the one pictured here.  Lightning strikes = OUCH.  Soothing, green-more-suited-for-a-spa foliage complete with fresh, plump, hopeful water droplet?  Not so much.

I’m glad to report that despite my set-backs (read: irritating music at Starbucks¹), I still managed to write a good chunk of the difficult scene today.

However, it was only after a) clearing the clutter from my living room, b) escaping from horrid music into a haven of silence, and c) morphing my desktop from tranquil to terrifying, that I actually made some solid progress.  Some days, I can block out the stuff that pulls me from my WIP world.  Today?  Not so much.  I had to work extra hard to put myself in a mood where I could conjure up a scene with authentic heart behind it.

So, I ask you: do you listen to music when you write, or do you prefer silence, like I do?  Do you have any go-to music that helps you get into a writing mindset?  Does anyone have any other tricks that help you settle into a scene (bonus points if said tricks are used to help you transition from an irritated, distracted mind to a focused one)?

Okay.  I need to end this and let my poor Crazy Kitten out of his room, or else both the door and the carpet will be torn to shreds in a few minutes.  Better guzzle my water before he sticks his cute little paw inside and spills it over everything.

¹Which, according to a friend who works there, I “have the power to change, if I just let them know I hate it” (something I would have remembered and taken full advantage of, had I not been prone to irritation this morning)

Fresh and Focused

17 Jul

It’s a sunny Saturday morning.

I’m in my favorite sweats and zip-up hoodie, sitting in this window seat with a stack of books, pages to be edited, and this long overdue blog post to write.

Oh, and because it’s a fun fact, this window seat just happens to be in the bed and breakfast where we had our wedding, three years ago this very week.

And they have coffee.  Like, good coffee, complete with a delicious breakfast.

Today is lovely.

I’ve been trying to pinpoint the reason I haven’t been blogging as much lately.  It’s not because I don’t want to, or because I don’t like it, or because I’ve forgotten.  It’s partially because time is flying by.  Much of it is due to more focus with revisions, as I’ve mentioned.

Mainly?  While tackling this huge project, my days — though productive and lovely — have started to look the same.  I’m kind of doing you a favor, I think, by not bombarding you with daily iterations of, “Oh, and today — just like yesterday, and tomorrow — I got up, had coffee, sat at (black chair by the window with Mr. Cat draped across my lap/desk with Crazy Kitten/favorite Starbucks table) and worked on making my scenes better.  I got stuff done — probably not as much as I wanted to, but still.  Progress.”  I don’t want to bore you.

I started thinking, though, that this is probably still information worth sharing.  Maybe someone might even find it encouraging.  Because, really?  Consistency and diligence and focus is kind of the goal.  And redundant as it may be to report, I’m actually doing well with this goal.  (I don’t mean to make anyone feel guilty by saying I’m doing well, by the way.  Not every goal is going so well.  Perhaps I should make another post altogether for goals I’m not doing so hot with.)(Creativity Workshop, I had good intentions.  Truly.  I did.)

Even with progress being made, it’s nice to break up the routine and write at a new place this weekend.  I brought stacks of work, even though it’s a mini-vacation of sorts, because I think there’s a certain freshness that comes from writing in a bright, clean, unfamiliar, quiet, complimentary-coffee-at-the-ready kind of place.  Words and ideas look fresh here.  Focus feels sharper.

I think this is largely due to the window seat.

Here’s to focus and freshness and summer sun. What do you guys do when you want to — or need to — to spice up life with a little freshness?  How’s everyone doing out there?

¡Zumba!

8 Jul

As we writers know all too well, the act of writing — novels, blog posts, journaling, whatever else — is not often done on a treadmill, or on a yoga mat, or in a pool.  Perhaps that will change some day, but for now?  It’s pretty much a sedentary thing.

Therefore, to counteract all the chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream (with dark chocolate syrup) I’ve eaten lately¹, I’ve been trying new things.  These new things include Misery (step + abs), Torture Upon Torture (pilates), and That Which Hurts My Nose More Than My Body (Latin Heat/Zumba dance class).

Today, I shall focus on That Which Hurts My Nose More Than My Body class.  Here’s what I learned in my first (not-completely-dreadful) attempt at it:

Lesson #1: I am a white, white girl. Don’t let the freckles fool you, folks — I am a white girl by nature, and if there are two things white girls don’t do well, they are rapping and…well, rapping.  I was going to say dancing, too, but I’m not sure it’s 100% true.  Many white girls are blessed with the ability to move to music in a way that is appealing (versus stilted and awkward).  I am not one of them.  On a related note, don’t expect a rapping/dancing rendition of TLC’s “Waterfalls” from me any time in the near future.  (There goes that dream…)

Lesson #2: For some reason, skeezy guys think it’s okay to take video of zumba class on their iPhones, awkward white girls and all. And what’s worse, the skeezy guys with the videophones?  Were totally in league with staff members of my gym, two of which had the audacity to stand there and re-watch the video over and over again.  And laugh.  Can’t say I blame them, but still. I don’t know about you, but I kind of expect to go to gym class with relative safety².

Lesson #3: There’s a good chance every inhale will feel as though an entire plate of beef enchiladas has sneaked its way into your lungs. I mean this in the nicest way possible, but everywhere I turned smelled like a Mexican restaurant.  This makes sense, given that it’s a class called Latin Heat/Zumba — and if you’re a vibrant Latina vixen (like me!)(ha.) with awesome dance skillz, why wouldn’t you come to show off, you know?  Anyway, the smell.  I don’t know why it was there, but it was.  Overwhelmingly.  It’s a wonderful, wonderful aroma, don’t get me wrong — when I’m hungry for those incredible soft chicken tacos with the habanero sauce³ — but when I’m working out, breathing deeply, and generally trying to stay focused on the dance steps while ignoring the skeezy guys with their iPhones?  Um.  Not my idea of fresh air.

Lesson #4: It was awesome! Despite the awkwardness, the skeeziness, and the suffocation, it turned out to be a pretty fun experience.  I made it through the whole class (not very gracefully, but whatever).  Plus, it made me sore in a good way, and it’s WAY better than the boring old treadmill.  I will be going back.

Okay, that’s all I’ve learned so far.  Now, I’m off to get ready for Misery class, which starts in half an hour.  Pray for my abs.

¹Which, to my credit, is not an obscene amount.  It’s a nice, healthy (inasmuch as ice cream can be healthy) amount, and not something I indulge in too terribly often, but those things add up when you sit all day.

²(i.e. assurance that skeezy dudes with iPhones are not going to be focusing their cameras on my lackluster attempts toward fitness and coordination)

³Yet another reason I’m trying the class in the first place…

Project: Edit | About Time For An Update, No?

2 Jul

My Novel

On this lovely, unseasonably cool (for Texas)(83°F), overcast Friday morning, a thought occurred to me: perhaps I should update you on, oh, the stuff that’s been consuming almost all of my working time as of late.

This morning, I went through my ancient posts and dug up something from aeons ago (late March).  Included in this fossil, I hashed out the plan for my index-card editing process.  Click here to check it out, since I don’t plan to re-hash.  (Plus, there are pretty pictures. And a Harry Potter quote to fill your token inspirational quota for the day.)

So, how is that stack o’ bright index cards working out?

BEAUTIFULLY.

According to my nerdily-detailed charts, I’m about 32% of the way through the stack.  I’m aiming to be chill about my editing speed, lest I freak out and think I need to go faster-faster-FASTERFASTERFASTER!!!!!! because we all know shouty-rushed-faster-than-thou writing doesn’t always (or, ever?) mean BETTER.

And I want BETTER.

So, rather than take the road more hastily traveled: I’m aiming for consistent diligence, doing as much as I can, when I can, with as much focus as my head and heart can handle.  I’m also trying to rest hard, in between, because if you just work as hard as you can, always and forever?  Say it with me: Burn. Out.

All that to say, things are going well.  The note card plan has helped immensely, and has carried me through the first three of my nine sections.  The upcoming fourth section is a huge chunk of work, and looks CHALL.EN.GING.  I’ve been reading over it this morning, sorting out some semblance of a plan, and will start overhauling it this afternoon.  (Or, possibly, twenty minutes from now.)

Wishing you all a lovely journey down your roads thoughtfully and purposefully — not hastily —traveled.  And, a happy holiday weekend.¹

¹On a (sort of) related note, I’m wishing myself a swift recovery from Ouchland (also known as the Torture Step + Abs class at my gym) and Hoarse-Voice Land (also known as the reason why, once again, I didn’t make a music video this week).  And yes, Merrilee — if anyone has a song request, I’ll see what I can make of it.  That is, if my voice will cooperate.

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