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Two Years!

3 Jun

Happy blogobirthday to you…

Happy blogobirthday to you!

Happy blogobirthday dear blog-o’-mine—

[insert warbling that goes on longer than it should]

Happy blogobirthday to you!

Ahem. *clears throat* (A warble got lodged in my windpipe.)(Never a good thing.)

As of today yesterday, the blog is a two-year-old! Now, we all know what they say about two-year-olds—they’re terrible, and whatnot—but my blog is determined to shatter that stereotype and prefers you think of him (I guess the blog is male?) as a terrific two-year-old instead.

These two years have flown by—in fact, it feels like just yesterday that I wrote this post (last year’s “it’s been a whole year!” blogobirthday post).

Following the tradition I started last year, here’s a list of things I have now that I didn’t have a year ago:

  • A so-close-to-being-finished novel (albeit one that still needs a bit of work)
  • Two more novels in the first draft phase
  • More amazing Twitter/blog friends, and deeper relationships with the ones I already knew
  • A very, very, very full bookshelf
  • A new apartment in a new city
  • A baby boy (currently, uh, still baking)
  • A first writers’ conference experience
  • Numerous in-person writer friends
  • A fantastic critique group, and more experience giving/receiving feedback

I’m sure I’m forgetting things, but that’s a good thing! There is much to be thankful for. Happy writing and reading to you all!

 

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Enough

1 Jun

Enough.

Six letters stand in the way of your best work.

Six letters can convince you you can’t possibly work harder. Sometimes it’s true. Not always.

Six letters can be the difference between succeeding at your goal and coming up just a little bit short of it.

Don’t settle for good enough.

Settle for your best.

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. ♥

Patience

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.

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.

Wine + Cheese

4 Apr

(…and other things I can’t have right now.)

So, yesterday, a friend invited my husband and me over for dinner, and she asked this question: “Do either of you have any allergies or aversions I should know about?”

Normally, we’re totally not picky.¹ This time, however, I felt like the Queen of High Maintenance. Thank you, pregnancy, for giving me a ready-made list of foods I either can’t have (and totally want!) or can’t stand (and won’t want for a long while). I typed up The List.

No undercooked meats or eggs—to which I say BAH. I eat my steaks medium rare and my eggs poached and slightly runny, so alas. I am craving these things but can’t have them.

Same with wine, margaritas, piña coladas. I’m not a habitual drinker, and I never drink to get drunk. I don’t enjoy even being buzzed; I like feeling in control of my body. Simply? I enjoy the taste. I love a good cabernet (with a medium rare steak…that I can’t have). Margaritas and Mexican food? YES. And nothing says “It’s Summer!” like a piña colada. My apologies to those of you who are still getting snow and don’t remember what summer feels like.

The worst is this: no soft cheese, because it’s usually unpasteurized. Apparently, unpasteurized = DANGER. I’m not a huge fan of DANGER, the all-caps version or otherwise.

No brie (cue tears!). No feta (cue river of tears!). No gorgonzola, no bleu. The worst? No goat cheese, no fabulous, fabulous goat cheese (my latest pre-pregnancy food obsession).² Sigh.

But you know what I CAN have?

TACOS.

Lots and lots and LOTS AND LOTS of tacos. Spicy-as-they’ll-let-me-have-them tacos. Fresh, non-greasy avocado/black bean/cilantro/sour cream tacos. Shredded chicken with garlic sauce tacos. Tacos, tacos, tacos, and the occasional burrito.

My husband is starting to despise tacos.

The other thing I’ll get to have at the end of all this? A baby. (No, not to eat, you crazies. To love.) An actual human life, a real someone who has directly benefitted from my sacrificing all these things.

So, my point: most of us? Totally don’t get to have everything we want. This is usually for one of two reasons, sometimes both—either we simply can’t have it, for whatever reason, or we’re choosing not to have it, a sacrifice for a specific reason.

What I’m learning is this: focus on the tacos, y’all.

Tacos taste exponentially better (and they’re already AMAZING) when you’re not dreaming of wine, goat cheese, and steak.

¹Okay, so my husband would say that he is totally not picky. Admittedly, there are some things I…um…prefer. There’s hardly anything I truly DON’T like. On that short list are the following: bologna, mayonnaise, green bean casserole, and scalloped potatoes. I’m even coming around to liking the occasional grapefruit.

²I’m still wondering how women in France deal with this whole no-soft-cheese thing—I’m guessing they roll their eyes at that rule, stuff their faces, and produce healthy babies all while looking like Hot French Mamas. Somehow. Since it was one of the few things my doctor actually mentioned, though, I’m not taking any chances.

The Blank Page

29 Mar

Oh, the blank page. At this point, I’m so, so familiar with it. And, in many ways, I’m starting over with a blank page right now.

You may have noticed that March pretty much turned into a month-long hiatus from blogging. This was mainly intentional.

It’s been a season of transition for me. The time off helped me to focus on a few larger-than-life areas—especially the fact that I was finishing up my first trimester of pregnancy and feeling like utter junk for most of the time. I think it’s getting better. Finally.

That’s not the only reason I took a break, though. In majorly exciting news, the novel I’ve been working on for most of this blog’s life? I finished it. And by finished, of course, you know I mean that in a relative sense—mainly, I mean I feel satisfied with the work I’ve done on it, to the point that I feel it’s ready for agents’ eyes.

Also? That tiny little word I just used—work? It seems small. Way. Too. Small.

Those four letters represent years of discipline and heart, poured into every page.

They represent countless lattes, post-it notes, index cards, and hours spent at Starbucks.

They represent four drafts started from four scary blank pages: the one where I started with nothing more than the name of my character; the one where I re-envisioned so much of the story that I couldn’t simply weave in the changes; the one where I was satisfied with the story and structure but knew I could make the writing itself stronger; the one where the first third got completely re-worked.

And that, my friends, is why I took a month off. Transitioning out of that much work and jumping into a new blank page? Not easy. (Especially when there are three compelling ideas begging me to write them.) But! I’m pleased to say I’ve chosen (with much difficulty) which project to pursue next, and that I’m making good progress on it already.

Thanks so much for being patient while I disappeared, and for checking in on me to let me know you missed my regular blogging. Now that I’m past the hump of bad baby sickness (hopefully) and have transitioned between projects, I should be back to posting on a regular basis again.

Happy writing and reading to all of you!

xoxo