Archive | October, 2009

Update #3: The Most Boring Title for a Post Ever. (Sorry.)

22 Oct

This week keeps getting better and better.  Day 3 of Oktoberzest proved to be the best of the week, so far.  

Why is it that rain persuades so many people to feel sluggish, tired, and downright procrastinatory, and for me it acts as instant inspiration?  Don’t get me wrong – I’ve indulged in the occasional coffee-on-the-couch-in-pajamas-watching-movies-with-my-cats kind of rainy days.  Usually, though, rainy days boost my creativity like no other.  Yesterday was no exception.

In the time I was able to spend writing – about two hours again – I finished two more scenes, which finished a chapter.  The grand total was 1356 words for the day, which I was more than happy with.  I probably could have done more than that, even, had I not allowed myself to get sucked in to watching Top Model.  We also watched Glee last night, which – (if you haven’t seen it, please get addicted soon) – was hilarious, not to mention well-written.  Loved it.

Anyway, I was pleased to discover a mistake in my calculations, too.  Turns out the day before was actually at 1109 words, not 620.  It was a weird oversight: basically, I was working off a rough draft of a 500-word scene.  I added 620 new words to it, but what I didn’t realize was that I changed most of those original 500.  So, though there were 500 words there to begin with, I changed them and added 620 to them, making 1100ish new words.  (Told you it was weird.)

Well.  Now that we’ve covered addition, inspiration, and weather, it’s time for my Thursday morning coffee date, and my friend is on her way.  After that: more writing!  More scenes!  More awesome danger in which to dangle my little characters!  More exclamation points!

Hide and Seek

21 Oct

Now that’s more like it!  

Oktoberzest Monday got off to a somewhat rocky start, but Tuesday was much better.  In the time I was able to spend focusing on the novel (about an hour and a half, given some unrelated responsibilities), I wrote 620 new words.  This is still not quite up to my (sometimes unusually high) expectations, but I’m much happier with Tuesday than Monday.

Makeshift Desk

Here’s why:

While I spent more time on Monday planted at the makeshift desk I’ve constructed in the living room (using two tray tables, positioned beside my potted-plant-covered porch¹), my time on Tuesday was much more fruitful.  I got into the scene, felt it, smelled it, tasted it, and then?  I finished it.  It was the end of a particularly difficult scene, with some emotional/motivational layers going on.  Writing it took some fine concentration, and I feel good about what I wrote.

Discipline is proving to be addictive, by the way.  Sometimes, I find myself feeling like I have to combine such a serious attitude with the discipline, though.  What I tried yesterday was to remember that I’m doing this because I LOVE it.  That I love to write, that it’s fun to create, that it never ceases to amaze me what pokes its way through from the other side of the page to claim its spot in the story.  In short?  Fun.  It is fun, it’s supposed to be fun, and you can be disciplined while having fun!  Talk about an epiphany.  I always knew it, but I let my serious side pin fun to the floor for a little while.

The leaves are shaking, and it’s gray and rainy outside my makeshift Starbucks window.  I’m going to give Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek” a play on my I-tunes before I get started writing, because it’s that kind of day – inspiring, with mystery and beauty hiding in plain sight. 

Have fun today, you guys.  Thanks so much to those of you who are supporting me this week (and always, really).  Your comments are making more of a difference than you may know! 

¹Yes, I am trying to convince myself that this random section of my apartment can feel like a Starbucks café.  It’s working, so far.  Oh yeah, and anyone wondering why I’m not at the beautiful desk in the bedroom has obviously not met our new kitten who lives in there right now.  We call him Dexter the Crazy Flying Squirrel, if that gives you any idea what it’s like to be around him.  He also has a penchant for making beautiful music with the blinds.  Not quite the soundtrack that fosters any emotion other than frustration, I must say.

Honesty is Refreshing, Right?

20 Oct

As promised, here is Update #1 on my Oktoberzest¹ Project.  Warning: it’s not as shiny and sparkly as I wish it was.  Not at all.  Yesterday seemed to be a free day, empty of other responsibilities, a day in which I could conquer distractions, and write…a lot of words.  Notice I used the word seemed instead of was.  Yeeeah.  

I had a block of five hours between the time I wrote this blog and the time I was supposed to prepare/leave for my rehearsal.  Here’s the breakdown, in all its ugly splendor:

11:00 : Made schedule

11:06 : Got to work

11:16 : Remembered Nathan Bransford’s blog contest, and just had to see who won it.  And, apparently, I couldn’t just stop at seeing the winner, I had to read the entire post and a few comments.  

11:29 : Back to work, though not actually writing – I realized there were some technical issues I needed to take care of before continuing to write, such as inserting the revised order of scenes into the larger document, and making it look as plain as possible so I’d ignore all my notes for things to fix later.  Then, I made another chart to help with pacing the last half of this novel.  Oktoberzest is already teaching me about my tendency to prepare to write instead of actually writing.

12:30 : My love came home for lunch, so I spent an hour eating and chatting with him.

1:40 : Sat back down at my computer, read blogs in the time it took to make coffee in the French press.

1:50 : Finally started back to work.  Actually started to type out words to a new scene this time!  Yay!  

2:17 : …Aaaaaand my mom called.  But, I hadn’t talked to her in a while.  She said “five minutes!” and I believed her – I should have known.  The conversation was worthwhile, though, so I don’t regret it and I’m glad she called.  

3:05 : Back to work again.  Set a timer and did not stop until it beeped.

4:05 : The timer beeped.  Done with the time I set for myself to write, I ended up with a measly total of 469 new words.  

As I calculate it, that’s a total of 1 hour & 10 minutes spent on writing preparations, and about 1 hour & 30 minutes spent actually writing.  That’s only a little more than half the time block spent on the novel, and only half of that spent writing.

I don’t like those numbers, not for the amount of time I expected to spend.  Though I don’t like it, and though know I can do more in a day (lots more), I’m not really ashamed of it.  Disappointed, but not ashamed.  It took discipline to pull myself away from browsing the blogosphere, discipline to start to work after such a long phone call when I only had an hour left, discipline to stop working at 4:00 so I’d know my music and be a responsible ensemble member.  

I’m aware that reading through the by-the-minute-awesomeness of my life may not be your favorite thing to do, ever, but I’m posting for two reasons:

1) I firmly believe today will be a better day purely because I shared all my ugly timesuckers with you guys (and don’t want to have to do it again, lest you come through the computer and hold me to my goals, like I asked of you yesterday), and

2) Maybe you are like me.  Maybe you were under the impression that little distractions don’t add up, that five minutes here or there don’t make much of a difference.  

I think my Monday is proof that these things matter.  They’re not always avoidable, but they are (I hope) minimizable.  And, if you can’t minimize the distractions, you can at least make the most out of every single minute you spend at your manuscript.  

Thanks for your support, everyone, and I wish you a magnificent day!  I’ll post another update tomorrow morning, and maybe something fun in between, if I have more writing success today than yesterday.

¹Oktoberzest = my spontaneous title for yesterday’s post, where I had zest for my October and challenged myself to publicly declare my goals for the week and then hold myself accountable to them.  Hence, I shall now call it the Oktoberzest Project.

This is mainly because I feel like Heidi Klum when I spell things so Germanly, and because how often do we really get to use words that have a z in them?  Not often enough.

Oktoberzest

19 Oct

One batch of cherry-pistachio biscotti baked, a mountain of laundry (almost) cleaned¹, every meal in October prepared at home (with two exceptions), numerous cat-fights squelched, countless coffee dates with friends, and one a-cappella-jazz-singing-group joined:  it’s been a busy month.  

Throw in the writing and revisions I’ve done on my novel, and the still-semi-frequent trips to the gym, and you’d think I’d be overwhelmed, or zonked out on the couch watching marathons of shows like MTV’s Made, or old seasons of Top Chef.

Actually, though, I’m quite energized by all of this awesomeness going on as of late.  I’ve only succumbed to one episode of Made, and no marathons of anything.  A few years ago, I went through a my-life-is-one-big-meeting season, which led to the I’m-sick-of-my-life-being-one-big-meeting phase, during which I swore off busy-overcomittedness altogether.  I’ve come out of that one, and have built up my commitment level again to something healthy.

Anyway.

So, now that we’ve established I’m not zonked or drowning, you should know that today is the day I’m moving forward.  Enough of this twiddling over mid-draft revisions: time for new action!  Yay!  I waited until it was Monday morning so I’d have a fresh start, a fresh week, fresh energy².  

Hold me to it, you guys.  

It’s easy to let the yumminess of cherry-pistachio biscotti get in the way of sitting down to write, easy to put aside my goals for coffee dates, easy to say but I need to go to the gym…But, there’s a time and a place for those things.  While important, this week, I need to FOCUS.  I need to DO, not just talk.  

This week, in order to motivate myself even more, I shall commit to the scary:  every morning, I will post an update on how well I’m doing at this goal.  To give you perspective, I have about 40,000 words left to write on this draft.  I haven’t set a specific goal for this week, it’s more like an ambiguous write, and write as much as you can that passes for quality goal.  That way, I won’t stop when I merely write a sufficient amount of words, but hopefully it will get me to push myself as hard as is reasonable.

Support and encouragement are welcome, whether they come in the form of kind words or kicks in the butt.  Like I said, hold me to it.  You guys rock.

¹Folded and put away?  Another story.

²In case you can’t tell, the energy showed up on time.  (Or, maybe that’s the latte.  One can never be too sure.  I think the energy came first, though.)

Paragraphical Insanity

15 Oct

In case you haven’t heard, Nathan Bransford, literary-agent-slash-blogger-extraordinaire, is holding a contest.  The poor (crazy?) man has volunteered his free time to read the 2300 entries (and counting) people have posted.  The contest: “The 3rd Sort-of-Annual Stupendously Ultimate First Paragraph Challenge.”

You have until later today to enter your tweaked-to-tears first paragraph, one shot to impress.  When I say “one shot,” what I really mean is “don’t do what I did and submit two different entries, then read the rules that say you can only enter once.”  I think I’ve been forgiven, since he deleted my first entry at my request.  But still.  Awesome first impression, right?  Riiight.

Okay, and here’s a pretty funny coincidence that has to do with Nathan’s contest – did you guys read my post the other day, the one called Lava?  I wrote a little bit about how it’s possible to infuse drama into anything, but ultimately, some things just don’t compel people to care.  I whipped up a stupid little example about a woman who has based her entire life collecting pristine rows of embroidery thread, then freaks out when one of the ends are frayed.  

Well, last night, after I entered, my husband and I read through lots of the entries people had submitted.  In a freak coincidence, we ran across an entry about someone who collects embroidery thread and has them all lined up in rows.  Weird¹!  I’m a little worried the author might see this blog and take offense, but in all seriousness, I stand by my point.  You are going to need to do a whole lot to make something compelling out of an embroidery thread collection.

Whatever Nathan’s motives for taking on such an insane project this week, he’s gained another faithful blog-follower in me.  Head on over and check it out, even if you don’t plan to enter.  Any writer could learn a great deal just by scoping out lots and lots of entries.  Personally, it was eye-opening to see so many people trying to stand out, to see what worked and what got lost in the sea of words/ideas.

Alright!  Best of luck to you guys, should you choose to enter.  Let’s all thank Linda Cassidy Lewis for her post on this, because without her, I’d never have known it was happening.  

¹If you feel like seeing the embroidery-thread entry for yourself, check out the comment made on Nathan’s post, which was submitted in the comments at 4:04pm, the 14th of October.  If you feel like seeing mine, it’s at 6:31pm of the same day.  Warning, you’ll have to sift through pages of stuff to get there – it would be best to start toward the end of the comments.  I don’t want to reprint the paragraph itself, lest I be accused of taking what’s not mine without permission.

Sutures

14 Oct

Project Fix-Those-Ten-Thousand-Or-So-Words-In-The-Middle is done, more or less.  Cue the rejoicing angels, because I’ve managed to focus just enough to be productive without being obsessive.  

My novel’s middle is in the recovery room, held together with fragile black sutures, but held together it is.  No guts spilling out, no bones poking through.  Nothing major, anyway.  It took one laid-back week to read through it critically, and another week to do the surgery.  I could probably spend all of next week tweaking it to death, but I’ve decided to leave the tweaks for when I read through the full version of this manuscript.  And the full version will not get written if I spend weeks dillydallying around making one section ‘perfect,’ whatever that means, if it’s even possible.

Being a perfectionist(ish) person, it’s hard for me to separate what needs to be done right now and what can wait until I finish the full draft.  What I have right now is not the prettiest, fanciest thing, but it’s functional.  It’s alive.  It’s definitely good enough to leave the tweaking for later and move on to writing fresh scenes.

With all the reading and edits I’ve done lately, I’ve gotten out of the habit of writing every single day.  I need to build my writing diligence back up again, need to get back in the swing of planting myself at the screen and typing away.  Though I haven’t fully decided whether or not I want to commit this year, I went ahead and created a NaNoWriMo¹ account.  With a new idea ready in the wings, I’m still tempted to try it, if for nothing else other than stretching my writing muscles back out again on a project unrelated to the current one.  

Anyway, the sun just started shining over Texas again.  It’s been cloudy and rainy for weeks.  I’ll pretend to be one of those people who prefers sunny days for a second, and say something cheesy like, “The rainy season of my novel has ended at last!  The sun is shining upon it once again!”

Told you it would be cheesy.

Hopefully it will start pouring again soon², and I can wear my super-awesome yellow rain boots.  And I will write, and write, and write.  And I’ll tell you all about it along the way. 

¹My NaNo name is also owlandsparrow.  Feel free to befriend me, as I will want friends if I do decide to partake in the insanity.

²In real life, I mean.  Not in cheesy-metaphor-land.

Whew!

13 Oct

My blog surfer has returned to normal, as mysteriously as it freaked out on me.  Rather than updating my last post, I thought I’d go ahead and post again to promote the Blogroll I (finally) added to the sidebar on the right.  

I added some links to my favorite writing websites, though there are a few that are not specifically devoted to writing.  If you don’t know each other already, you should.

Go ahead.  Mingle.  Background music starting…now.