Tag Archives: authors

New Year, New Goals…

3 Jan

2011 has only just started, but I can feel it: it’s going to be a big year.

A lot happened in 2010.  I made major progress on my novel, started a second novel, participated in Merrilee’s Creativity Workshop over the summer, joined Twitter, made new friendships and deepened others, and blogged more regularly (until, um, the move to Austin).

2010 was the year I really settled into a disciplined groove with writing, the year I learned how to cultivate new ideas (and therefore, the year I learned how to choose which new ideas to focus on as they came flooding in), the year I grew a spine and shared my novel with beta readers for the first time.

All that to say, I think 2011 will be just as amazing—maybe even more amazing.

The week before Christmas, I made a huge list of goals.  I’m talking HUGE.  (This is because I make extremely specific—and therefore, extremely measurable—goals.)

Perhaps the biggest, most exciting, goal is this:

This year, I will finish this novel to the point where I am satisfied enough with it to begin querying agents.

I’ve set myself a pretty ambitious, specific schedule (because, yes! I did set a goal date…and it’s soon…).  The novel’s close to being ready, but it’s not there yet.  Still: YAY.  This is the first year where “finish my WIP,” “send query letters to agents,” and “finish first draft of Shiny New Novel” have been actual, possible, achievable goals.

AND I’M SO EXCITED.

The other goal I’ll share with you guys is this: I plan a return to more regular blogging, and plan to write on a MWF schedule (plus any and all other random spurts of blogginess that just beg to be written!) from now on.¹

Happy 2011 to everyone!  I wish you all motivation, inspiration, and dedication in abundance!

xoxo ❤

 

¹On that note, if you happen to have any requests or suggestions for things you’d like to read about, let me know in the comments!

Out of the Machine

18 Oct

Over the weekend, I was helping a friend out with one of her creative writing assignments.  She was supposed to write a fable, but couldn’t come up with any ideas.

So, I asked, “What do you care about?  Writing is much more powerful when you care about your topic.”

Blank stare.  Crickets.  “I guess I don’t know what I care about,” she said.

Now, I know this girl, and know that there are a LOT of things she cares about.  I can tell by her actions, how she listens to people, how she spends her time.  What surprised me is that she’d never really thought about the reasons she does those things.  She didn’t know how to articulate them.

When I told my husband later, he wasn’t surprised at all.

“I bet there are a lot of people who just go through the motions of life without ever thinking about WHY they do what they do,” he said.  “They go to school, work, church, hang out with friends, because it’s what they think they’re supposed to be doing.”

Huh.

I guess that’s true.  When I think back to late high school and early college, I can even remember being that way.  A lot has changed over the past decade, though.

This got me thinking about writing.  About how amazing it is that so many people out there are writing novels.  About the fact that in order to write something effective — or, to write something at all — you have to jump out of that go-through-the-motions machine, look at it for what it is, and evaluate.

Is the go-through-the-motions machine taking you where you want to go?  Do you even KNOW where you want to go?  So many people are stuck in that machine and don’t even know it exists.

I don’t think many (if any) of you writer friends are stuck there, though.  There’s not a neat little place in that machine for writers.  We don’t fit.

At some point, you looked at life and thought, “Someone writes those (books/newspaper articles/screenplays/etc.) — why can’t I?” rather than sitting back and watching them like they just materialized out of nowhere.  At some point, you thought, “This needs to be said.  People need to know this.  I can say it, and I should.”  At some point, you denied yourself sleep or entertainment or time with friends because there is something you BELIEVE is worth your time.

Something you care deeply about.

Something only YOU can say.

Here’s to caring about things, taking initiative, and being inspired.  Here’s to having dreams, working toward them, and making them a reality.  And here’s to you, writer friends, for believing you have something worthwhile to say — because you absolutely do — and for being committed to sharing your words with the world.

Your words matter.  And so do you.

Oktoberzest, Revisited.

1 Oct

So, uh, wow.

I have it on good authority that October has arrived.  How is this possible?  This year has flown by.  FLOWN, I tell you.

Last year at this time, I was in the early phases of rewriting my first draft.  Now, I’m about to start actively crafting a fourth draft.  (As opposed to the past few weeks, where I’ve taken no concrete action on it, but have been mulling over crits received and changes to be made.)

  • Somewhere along the way, I developed two systems that worked well for my writing habits.  One was for adding meat to a WIP and re-writing it from a blank page, the other was for tightening a WIP based on the basic structure already in place.  (Here and here.  Both links are for the tightening phase, not the total re-write.)
  • I entered the beta-reading world, both as reader and as writer.
  • Over the summer, I participated in Merrilee Faber’s creativity workshop, which sharpened my coming-up-with-ideas skills, produced several ideas for new novels, and even resulted in two YouTube videos where I covered songs by Patty Griffin and Lennon/McCartney.  (Here and here.)
  • I read a tall stack of novels.
  • I figured out how to use Twitter to my advantage (as opposed to letting it rule my day and destroy my writing time).
  • At the end of the summer, I finished the third draft.
  • In the interim between finishing and starting the fourth draft, I started writing a pressure-free first draft for a totally different novel.

So.

That brings us to now.  Sorry to get all I did this, I did that on you.  It can be easy to forget just how far we’ve come, especially when we’re focused on how far we still have to go.

Where have you been, and where are you going? Specifically, where are you going this October?

Personally, I’m headed into somewhat uncharted territory: the wow-my-betas-have-given-me-some-awesome-feedback-now-how-on-earth-do-I-deal-with-it? territory.  This territory, I hear, is sharpening.  And by sharpening, I’m thinking it’s like an arrow: you have to whittle away at it so it has a sharp point, and will therefore pierce the target with precision.  Unfortunately, the whittling may be painful. That said, precision seems to be worth a bit of temporary pain.

It’s Shiny + Bright,

7 Aug

in case you haven’t noticed.

My new blog layout, that is.  I figured I should at least acknowledge the change, since it’s the first time I’ve forced my blog to endure a makeover.

You should know: I am a creature of habit.

It was really hard for me to take the leap and actually change the theme — especially when I realized my old theme wasn’t available anymore.  Nothing like making a leap with no safety net, you know?  Nonetheless, I took the leap (obviously) and am pleased to say I’m adjusting well.

In case you are wondering why I took the leap, there are two reasons.  One: dark-on-light is easier to read.  Two: the fonts feel clean, the colors bright, and (I hope) the overall effect comes off as a bit more professional.  The only thing I don’t love are the faint pink dots in the background.  The bold pink date dots, though?  Love.

Along with the HUGE theme change, I thought I’d go ahead and call your attention to some fun additions to my blogroll.  Namely, the websites of Natalie Whipple, Kiersten White, Stephanie Perkins, and Laini Taylor’s über-awesome website (“Not for Robots”) for “people for whom writing is hard.” I’m loving these sites, and the people behind them — from what I gather via Twitter and their blogs — are adorable.  Their posts are always helpful and amazing.  On top of that, they do Twitter well.  You should follow them.

Okay.  I think that’s it.

Feel free to peruse things, if you’re in a procrastinatory mood.  Happy writing and happy weekend!

Dangling in the Balance Between Life Sucks and Happily Ever After

4 Aug

Have you ever been working on a novel, and walked away from a productive day of work feeling sort of unsettled about it?

I’m not talking about the writing itself, really.  Or the fact that it might be taking forever to complete.  Or (insert your insecurity of choice here).

Things have been going really well with these edits.  Some of the scenes are taking (a TON) more work than others.  Some are way better than I initially thought they were.  Either way, I’m making steady progress because I’ve been plowing my way through this draft with reckless abandon.  (Okay, reckless abandon is a bit melodramatic, but whatevs.  I’ve got to get the melodrama out somewhere, and it is NOT going into my draft.)

Yesterday was no exception, but despite good progress and satisfaction with the scenes I had worked on, I found myself feeling the slightest bit unsettled.  Then, it occurred to me:

Duh.  Your main guy and main girl are totally at odds with each other, and you (having the tendency to want to fix, fix, fix EVERYTHING) just want them to live peacefully ever after.

I hate to see people upset with each other in real life, so I guess it should come as no surprise that this carries over into my feelings about my characters.

This is probably a good problem to have.  It means the novel has its fair share of conflict, and it means I am able to empathize with my characters. It also means I’m not giving in to the temptation to resolve tension too quickly.  Hopefully, it means I’ll do justice to the emotions they’re experiencing so that future readers will empathize with them, too.

Do you ever feel unsettled after writing scenes that leave your characters dangling in the balance between life sucks and happily ever after, or is it just me?  If you do feel this sort of empathy with your characters, I’m curious — what made you realize you’d come to care so much for them?

Everything is Neon Pink

7 May

I hereby interrupt this session of attempted productivity for a fun Friday post!

(Not that productivity isn’t fun.  It is.  It’s just that sometimes certain types of fun require me to take a little break and think about nothing.)

Can I just take a moment to say that yesterday’s goal-setting session pretty much lit an Olympic-sized torch in me?  Even after 3.2 miles on the treadmill yesterday and a strength-training session, I still had more energy than time to use it.  (This is not normal, and it may or may not have something to do with my new neon-pink running shoes.  They exude energy.)  Seriously, though — I’m even more excited than I expected to be about these workshop goals.¹

It just occurred to me that this whole day is bathed in neon pink.  New shoes?  Check.  Notecards for the scenes I’m revising?  Check.  The color I think of when I think of my plans for this evening?  Yep.

One of my favorite authors, Jen Lancaster², is in Dallas today!  She’s on tour promoting her new memoir, My Fair Lazy.  I haven’t read it yet, but I have a copy in front of me just itching to be read. (It’s taken some real strength to not drop everything just to read it, FYI.)  She’s hilarious, and I’m looking forward to hearing her speak at the signing.³

The idea of going to a signing is inspiring, especially as I’m working on editing this novel, and especially because of who Jen Lancaster is.  If you don’t know anything about her, here’s a little background: she was laid off from an high-level executive position several years ago, and the lovely economy was not very kind to her.  She job-searched like crazy, only to come up empty-handed over and over again.  So, what did she do?  She wrote her first novel (Bitter is the New Black), a memoir focused on this process.  Her witty-sarcastic-yet-not-off-putting perspective is fun to read, and I suspect that’s why she’s now out promoting her fifth memoir.

All that to say, the woman has determination.  I’m inspired by her.  If you don’t believe me, find a copy of Pretty in Plaid.  Read it all, at some point, but for now, just read the last few pages.  They’re about the first time she landed on the New York Times bestsellers list, and how surreal it was.  Here’s a little excerpt, though you really should read the whole chapter (and the whole book):

Here I am, on the New York Times bestsellers list, practically the greatest barometer for success an author could ever hope to achieve.  And I got here by telling my story my way.

Me.  A nobody from Indiana.  A random girl with a bunch of sorority dance T-shirts and old Jordache jeans stored in her mom’s attic.  Nothing remarkable about her except an unvarying yearning to be better…and maybe an unhealthy fascination with cupcakes.

I did it.

I made it.

That’s my name on the list.

But I recognize that I’m here right now living my dream because my audience connects with me, not because I’m carrying a Prada bag, but because we all have the same fears, insecurities, and joys.  Thus, they’re the ones who motivate me to be better.  And the notion of having an audience pull for me because I’m one of them is far more daunting than making a list ever could be.

— Jen Lancaster, Pretty in Plaid, found on the last few pages

Well, there you go.  Wow, right?  I like to swap out Texas for Indiana, and American Eagle jeans for the Jordache, and imagine that could be me someday.  (Also, swap out lattes for cupcakes.)  It could be you, too.  The one way it certainly won’t be me?  If I don’t get these edits done.

Happy motivation, and happy weekend, to all of you!  For those of you participating in Merrilee’s workshop, I wish you a peaceful last couple of days!  Back to this mess of neon and notes I go.

¹Don’t get me wrong, though.  This excitement is a nice little distraction from the oh-my-goodness-this-is-going-to-be-REALLY-HARD-and-what-did-I-sign-up-for? feeling that’s bubbling under the surface.  Perhaps you can relate?

²She’s written five memoirs.  Among them are my two favorites, New York Times bestsellers Pretty in Plaid and Such a Pretty Fat.

³In case you’re wondering where neon pink fits into this little picture, it doesn’t, really.  There’s pink on the cover of her new book, as well as last year’s Pretty in Plaid, so I guess my brain just turned normal pink into neon somehow?  Or, maybe it’s because she wore hot pink in her television interview this morning.  Still, hot pink ≠ neon.  Whatever.

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