Archive | May, 2011

On Conflict

30 May

My grandmother nearly died at our family reunion yesterday, but did not want any medical attention. Three of her four children were present, along with five of her six grandchildren, her husband, and everyone who has either married into or been born into our family.

My grandmother is an incredible woman.

We all love her. We all express that love in different ways; we all feel passionately about caring for her in the ‘best way possible.’ We disagree on what the ‘best way possible’ actually is.

This sort of passion, and love—even with the best of intentions, and especially focused on issues of life or death—can lead to some intense conflict. It can be exhausting.

Perhaps it’s weird that, at the end of the day, my thoughts turned to my novel-in-progress. Or, perhaps it was just a way to think of something else. Whatever the reason, I drifted off to sleep with thoughts about the following:

My novel-in-progress: Emotion, and the various ways people express themselves, is at the heart of this new story I’m writing. I know that sounds übervague, since emotional expression is a huge part of any story, really—but I’m exploring it more heavily than usual for this idea.

As excited as I’ve been about this new project, it’s hard to start from scratch after investing so much in Speck Hawkins. Lots of my heart and soul went into that novel, and this new idea…well, so far, it’s just been a good idea to pursue.

Yesterday made it personal; themes and thoughts that were merely hypothetical somehow made their way into my real life. As exhausting as it was, now I know: my heart and soul WILL be in this new project. I feel more closely tied to it now. For a big idea like the one I’m exploring, I think I needed to have that connection in order to push past the rush of merely starting it.

On conflict, and writing it: I have decided the following are true: 1) conflict—especially the intense, exhausting sort—is not fun to experience, and 2) if you must experience it, at least that means you can come from an honest place when writing it.

Also: how odd is it that we writers put ourselves willingly into the position to create (and, therefore, experience vicariously through our characters) conflict on a daily basis, even though it’s such an exhausting thing to actually go through, you know? There must be something therapeutic to it.

I don’t usually tread into waters so personal here on the blog, but I know I’m hardly alone when it comes to family drama—I think it’s safe to say that any person, with a family or without one, has been affected by it at some point. Prayers for my grandmother’s health, and for any lingering tension certain family members might feel, would be greatly appreciated. ♥


17 May

Sometimes I wish I could do everything at once:

Hurry up and finish drafting Meren, my new work-in-progress.

Hurry up and finish drafting Tokyo, my *other* new work-in-progress.

Read all the amazing books on my shelf, both published-and-acclaimed and yet-to-be-published-and-acclaimed.

Do another pass and polish for Speck Hawkins, my beloved novel I’ve worked so very hard on this whole time you’ve known me—it needs to lose at least 10K (more than that, if I’m honest) before I continue querying agents.

Give feedback for my crit partners, whose works-in-progress are freaking awesome and leave me hungry for more.

Sometimes I want to do it all, and do it all at once. Today. Now.

But then, I remember: it’s not simply about getting to the other side of goals. It’s about loving what I do, taking joy and pride in doing it with as much excellence as possible, loving the experience. It’s about being patient and diligent, working hard and not shooting myself in the foot by rushing things. That doesn’t mean it’s about ignoring goals, or discipline, or deadlines—those things are essential for anyone who wants to make progress, professionally, and I take them seriously. It’s just that they’re not the only things that matter.

It’s about being a writer who loves to write, not about being a writer who simply loves having written.

Enjoy today, wherever you are. Don’t wish it away.

Late Night Random Thought…

9 May

You know you and your husband are Harry Potter nerds¹ when you suggest the seemingly normal name ‘Brian’ for the Possible Names We Could Name Our Son list…

…and your husband assumes you got the idea because you were thinking of Dumbledore.

And he’s right.²

Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore

¹As if this wasn’t the first clue…
²And thus you have the story of how it came to be that our son will NOT be named Brian. (Or Wulfric, for that matter.) I must say, though, the whole four-first-names thing is tempting, given our indecisiveness and long list of possibilities…

When Ideas Feel Too Big: From Paralyzed to Productive

2 May

Over the past few days, I’ve filled thirty pages of the book you see here.

New characters, a totally new world, new conflicts, new everything. It’s a weird feeling to be first drafting again, especially on an idea that feels so HUGE. Like, it feels intimidating, almost impossibly huge. Almost.

I’m writing it in the thick, leather-covered journal you see above. In one of my drafts for my first novel, I discovered that writing by hand makes me feel a deeper connection to my characters (probably because I’ve filled 20+ journals in my 28 years—I think the pen-to-lined-leather-book action automatically evokes a feeling of vulnerability in me). Already, I find myself able to focus on their stories. It helps take the this-book-is-way-too-big-for-me edge off of things, an edge that might, otherwise, be paralyzing.

To anyone trying to start, continue, or finish writing a book that feels too big: here are three ways to move from paralyzed to productive.

[one] Think on the page. Not your actual manuscript page—another one. Write out your ideas about setting, character, plot, everything you can think of that somehow relates to your too-big novel. Write, write, write, until someone forces you to make dinner (or eat dinner). Or, if you find yourself feeling oddly compelled to bake a wedding cake or scrub the baseboards of your living room with a toothbrush, set a timer and do not stop brainstorming until it goes off. You WILL end up with ideas to work with, and they will help you start to feel big enough of a writer to write your idea.

[two] Set a timer, then obey it. Even if you are a fountain of words, a timer is helpful. Set the timer for an hour. Put the pen on the page (or the fingers to the keyboard). Write words. Do not stop to check e-mail, or Twitter, or Facebook. Rinse and repeat. Do the distracting things in between timer sessions (and set a timer for that part, too).

[three] Just start writing. Then, put one word after another. In this stage of early drafting, I find myself thinking, “What is the perfect scene I need to write next?” This is great—but it also can be paralyzing. Perfection has no place in a first draft. What I’ve been doing, instead, is thinking, a) what is the logical next step, b) what would I most want to read if I was the reader, and c) what feels creative (as opposed to dull and boring)? I then spend a few minutes thinking of a way to begin a scene and go from there. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just a catalyst to some sort of action that meets the above requirements. This method keeps the action moving and often brings new ideas to mind that I wouldn’t have come up with otherwise.

So, there you have it. Yes, this stuff is common sense, and no, it doesn’t make the actual writing any easier. That part still takes work. It does do something magical, though: brainstorming + productivity + consistent output = control over a larger-than-life idea. All of which leads to CONFIDENCE. That huge idea came from your brain. You can write it, if you put your mind to it and do the work.

Take control of your ideas. Don’t let them control you.