Monday, December 13, 2010

Drafting

I’m at that stage: the finish-the-damn-book-before-it-kills-me stage. And I don’t have much time to finish this draft since I want it done by the time my in-laws visit in a week.

We all have our process. I think when writers talk about their process it causes mass confusion. Why? Because (and I'm chronically guilty of this) it makes the reader say: Hey, that sounds cool! I want to try that.

You know what? It never works out, at least for me. Because it’s their process, not mine. Tips and tricks, fine. Process, not so much. I don’t change my stripes very well.

What works for me? The finish-the-damn-book-before-it-kills-me draft. I toil in agony for the better part of a month or two. I have to “find” the book and introduce myself to the characters. Some books are easier than others. I envy people who can bang out a rough without blinking. Man!

For me, there comes a moment of clarity (usually about the 30K mark). Where I think: Hi there, sexy! Where did you come from? Can we make out?

And then it’s love.

Apparently, I don’t believe in love at first sight. Who knew? Oh, right. Me.

Once I fall in love, I can slam that baby out. Meaning: I chain myself to my computer and put in the work (not to be confused with just putting down whatever). Yesterday I spent so much time on the computer writing that I had a backache this morning. Geez. I associate that feeling with my muse (what does that say about me?).

I may not be posting, but I am working. It’s something, peeps! And I take my sparkles and purple ponies when I can.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

An Act of Faith

Perhaps because it’s nearing Christmas, or maybe because I was accosted (yet again) at Halloween by the endearing you’re-going-to-hell crazy people, that has led me to think a lot about faith.

Not the kind of faith that they’re talking about, to be sure. Because faith is not excluded to a religious POV.

There are a lot of things that I have to take on faith. I have faith that my kids are going to be okay. That they’re going to grow up, be happy, have a good life and (hopefully) make good choices.

I have faith that my husband will come home to me, no matter how many times he’s deployed. I need to have this faith because sometimes when he’s gone, the road is tough.

I have faith that tomorrow I will wake up and it will be a good day… and the day after that… and the day after that…

The list can and does go on.

Writing a book is an act of faith. You can plan, and plot and know what you want to write, but there is always a point at which you question everything. A point where you want to give up because the book is not fixable, or not going in the direction it should, or just plain sucks. That’s when the faith kicks in and you simply have to finish.

I started on a new book about a month ago. It doesn’t take long for the “shiny new idea” to turn into “this is the biggest pile of crap I’ve ever written.” *grin* That’s the time when I have to remind myself (often) that everything works out. There will be more drafts, more time to edit, smooth and polish. It does and will come together.

I apologized to Steven for my scatterbrain, frustration, and inability to concentrate on anything of value.

He blinked. “You’re always like this when you start a new book. It’s what I expect.”

True.

I forget every damn time that this is what happens: that the tunnel seems too long and full of potholes (or “plot holes” – heh). I concentrate on “getting there” without focusing on the ride. I cry, sweat and get frustrated over the fact that “this is simply never going to work out,” instead of sitting back and letting my imagination work and trusting that it will.

This is the time when less experienced writers would quit. This is the number one reason there are so many half-finished first drafts. Or the plot is not “good enough” and they need to “start over.” It’s a cycle of never finishing, because the faith isn’t there yet.

It gets worse (or better?) with subsequent drafts. Having faith that you will make the story better, not worse. That the plot arc you chose to fix will make it stronger. That you will not make the same mistakes you made in the last book – because remember what a mess that was? Yes, you tell yourself, you screwed that one up royally.

And you carry the baggage on. It infects everything like a cancer. Because you’ve disconnected from the faith that is such a precious, tenuous thing.

When I open my draft I have to let all that go. I have to have faith that it will be the best thing I’ve ever written. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Life

I don’t know why it’s hard for me to blog at the end of the year – every year. I think about blogging constantly. I want to blog. I run over in my mind things I can share – but then it never happens. Right now words are precious. They come slowly from my mind and I squeeze out every one of them for my current WIP.

Speaking of, I’ve been doing a lot of exploring with my writing. I started writing a Paranormal Romance. It’s… interesting. I’m having a lot of fun with it other than the usual first draft nonsense.

Meaning: It’s odd. I used to enjoy first drafts so much. The art of creating and not having to worry about “thinking deeper,” etc. These days, I long for some editing time. It’s such a rush to make a book perfect. And perfection cannot happen with a first draft.

So there’s that. But I’ve also had an idea for a commercial fiction. That’s something way outside my usual fare. I don’t know if I want to spend any time on it, actually. Is it that I’m afraid to write it? Perhaps. It’s an overwhelming concept. Eh.

I’m trying to write and create – to not worry at all about where it goes from here. Because, honestly, I’ve been stuck on this tilt-o-whirl for a long time. And I want to get off.

***


The biggest news around here is we’re moving at the end of the school year. The decision was somewhat of a surprise to us (even though we made it). We’d decided early on to stay in Okinawa for another three years. That was the plan… all the way up until we needed to turn in the paperwork. We did something at that point that we probably shouldn’t have done (heh) and asked what our options were.

It turned out there was an opening at the schoolhouse. Rare. A long shot because schoolhouse jobs are very difficult to get. You know, regular hours and no deployments are seductive and a lot of people want it.

We put in for it thinking, well, if we get it: score, but we probably won’t and we’ll stay here. No big deal.

And then we got it! *THUNK!* You have no idea what went in to actually getting it and I’m grateful to the MstGuns for putting in all that effort. I appreciate it very much.

Right now Steven works 4:30am to 7-ish pm, Monday through Friday and then most Saturdays. I’m not quite sure what’s up with all the weekend work. It sucks. I’m looking forward to having a duty station where I actually get to see him. It will be a novelty.

Come the summer we are Arkansas bound.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Well hello, wagon. Nice to see you again.

My mom got on me about writing and my complete disappearance from the internet. She does that (and while it's annoying initially, I am thankful for it). The last time she gave me a "come to Jesus" speech she accused me of being a lush. Sheesh, if she only knew how bad it was now. When the newest WoW patch came out the other day it was so awful I cried.

CRIED! And I'm still not over it.

Yeah, so I sort of agreed that I needed to start writing again. Oh, and get a life.

*cough*

So I in turn -- not because I'm a good friend, but because I don't want to suffer alone -- gave the come to Jesus speech to Casey and then I felt better. I'm all about sharing. It's really my sweetest quality.

Heh.

I'm not going to do NaNo this year. I don't need the pressure. But maybe I should make a commitment to not only write, but to post more on this blog.

BECAUSE I NEED TO GET EXCITED ABOUT WRITING AGAIN.

But I'm not giving up WoW or my beer.


...
BTW, it amuses me how these posts make me seem like I lock myself in a dark room and never come out. In actuality, I'm rarely home. I like to eat sushi and I have to leave the house for that. And I have pretty great friends I like to hang out with, but that goes without saying. :)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Where WoW becomes an analogy:

I have nothing much to talk about other than WoW (heh, *ahem*). And since I've made a vow not to get on and play until I've at least written something, I shall tell you about what WoW and Seth are helping me learn about myself.

I know! Life lessons from WoW! Who would have thought?

My husband and I were talking about the way Seth learns. Steven said, "I just wish he had more confidence. He can do it, but he's afraid to fail. And to him failing is worse than not learning something."

I had to stop him. "Yeah, but I'm exactly the same way. If I don't know how to do something I don't try because I don't want to look stupid."

"I know," he said, giving me that look that meant he'd like me to try to change as well.

I really thought about how I've essentially taught Seth, through actions, this behavior. Which is not the greatest, I'll admit. And I've decided that I'm going to start trying new stuff. I don't plan on jumping out of an airplane any time soon, so instead I decided to tackle the one thing that scares the pee out of me: playing a dungeon in WoW.

Now, of course, I've been run through the lower-level ones. But I wasn't really playing them. I was being run through for the EXP. That's not a big deal.

What scares me is actively playing and being judged on how well I do my job. I've never felt confident that I knew how to play well enough to hold my end. And really, if everyone wiped because of me, I'd feel like a complete idiot. Trust me, they do tell you how dumb you are. These 12-yr-olds can kick my butt six ways to Sunday on this game. I always hit that panic mode and forget what I'm supposed to be doing!

Everyone who plays is probably shaking their heads right about now at the fact that playing an instance scares me. Because it's pretty much the point of the game.

I decided (after much agonizing debate) that I was going to try a dungeon. Granted, it was on my hunter, and if there is anything easy to play it's that and Steven went in with me the whole time. Thank god, because I was seriously confused and his "dismiss your pet," "focus on XXX boss" and "GOD, HEATHER, DO NOT RELEASE!" really helped me.

But still, I was sick to my stomach the entire time, shaking and I nearly threw up afterwards. The three more dungeons since the first haven't made me feel any better or more knowledgable. I wouldn't even consider going in by myself at this point. And HELL NO, I'd never do it with my shaman yet, with or without him.

I am making progress, though.

What does this have to do with writing? EVERYTHING.

I live in fear in a lot of ways when it comes to my writing. Am I good enough? Is this novel worth writing? Editing? Am I writing in the right genre? Can I write in another genre?

Etc. Etc. ETC.

My default answer is to walk away from the new, unproven thing and go back to what I've been comfortable with. Like knocking my head against a wall, repeatedly.

I am trying something new. But, geez, it's hard. Not the writing part -- the internal part. I wish I could turn that part of my brain off.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Long and Short

I've been trying to write this post for three weeks. I've started it any number of ways and then:

*delete* *delete* *delete*

Sometimes I struggle with how transparent I want to be on this blog. I tread through the murky waters of what's too much to tell, etc. I want to be interesting. And I want to be honest and I don't want to be depressing.

The truth is, I've been having a really hard time with writing.

There I said it. I mean, it really should be obvious. I've all but abandoned this blog and I'm not present on Facebook much. And twitter? What's that. ;)

It's not the act of writing, per say. I'm not suffering from a block. The words would flow, if I wanted them to. In a way I do want them to, but...

See? There's always that infamous "but."

I got too caught up. Involved in other peoples success. At some point my happiness for others turned to jealousy.

I'll admit it. Jealousy is natural, I suppose. It's not productive, though.

And then there's the crux of my crisis: Where am I as a writer?

For years I've felt like I was a YA author. It's in the title of this blog. I love YA. Let's be honest, though, it's not like I've been uber successful at it. I have to question myself as to why not.

YA has never come as naturally to me as writing, say, a paranormal romance or urban fantasy. But the stories that were choosing me all ended up very YA. It's the type of story I naturally gravitate toward writing, though the voice is not.

A quandary, all right.

On one hand I have a YA MS that is pretty close to being there. I do need another rewrite (one that I'm not looking forward to, but can be done). On the other, is pursuing YA what I really want? It's certainly not the only genre I love.

I was never any good with changing the labels I chose to wear. Not that I haven't changed labels before. This seems harder somehow. It has put me in a space that is undefinable for me at the moment.

That's not all I have going on right now either. There's a lot of other persnickety things that have cropped up in my personal life.

I've given myself a timeout. I stopped reading (most) blogs, stopped twittering, Facebooking, blogging. I've spent an inordinate amount of time playing WoW (such mindless fun! when I'm not being ganked by 80s.) and reading.

I'm just about there, I think. I've gotten the self-doubt under control and the joy of creating back. I want to write again which is most important, I think.

However, I'm still struggling. And will probably continue to struggle for a while.

There you go. Honesty. I feel a little better now.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Week Rundown:

This has been a CRAZY week.

Monday was the kids’ first day of school.



I can’t believe my kids are in 1st and 2nd grade. It sort of freaks me out.

Tuesday we had a Typhoon blow through. It was pretty gorgeous throughout the day, but since we were in TC-1 the kids weren’t allowed to go to school. Say what? My kids need some education! ;)

We survived (each other and the storm). I don’t think my kids noticed that we were forced to “remain in quarters.” They just sort of grumbled about the rain and went off to tear something apart.

I, on the other hand, was a little on edge and had a beer. Steven said, “There's no alcohol sales or consumption during TC-1.”

I took a swig, then told him, “For you, buddy. I didn’t sign the contract.”

Wednesday things got back to normal. I woke the kids up and Seth said, “You never let us have the day off.”

To which I answered, “Uh, hello? You had yesterday off for the typhoon AND IT’S ONLY YOUR SECOND DAY!”

By Thursday I needed massage. I mean, can you blame me?! It ended up being a good thing. You see, I’ve been having some major heartache about a project. I knew I was doing it wrong because one day I woke up crying, the next day I woke up and threw up… so I knew that it was my inner me saying: HEY, DUMMY, DON’T MESS IT UP AGAIN!

So I was lying there getting my muscles worked out and I thought – You know, this is less about THIS project and more about who I want to be as an author. And maybe it’s okay to have a do-over.

I went home feeling pretty good about it, ready to throw everything out and start again.

Then I got sidetracked when Bekah came home crying. “I want to be in kindergarten again! I don’t want to be in first grade. It’s so, so hard! I HATE FIRST GRADE.”

“What is so hard about first grade, honey?” See? I try to be supportive.

Between snot and tears she got out, “They make me SPELL stuff!”

I gasped. “The nerve!” hahahaha

I finally got her calmed down and sent outside so that I could work. That turned out fab. I wrote 2K like it was nothing. Not only that, I have the plot and I know what the end is. Huh. I need a massage every week!

Later that night, Bekah was complaining that “Hailey’s mom let’s her do XYZ.” I gave my stock answer, “I’m not Hailey’s mom,” and left the room.

I heard her saying things under her breath, so I walked back, stood at the door and said, “Excuse me?”

She blinked. “Oh, I was just saying how I’m so happy you’re my mom. You are so sweet.”

I forced myself not to laugh. “Are you sure that’s what you said? You’re not trying to be a snot?”

“I’m not a snot! I’m serious. You’re the BEST mom in the entire world and I’m so happy you’re my mom.”

What a liar. But I smiled and said, “Okay, then.”

When I walked away I heard Bekah snort and her and Seth fell into a fit of giggles. I thought they were going to choke they were laughing so hard. Sometimes it’s fun to let them think they got away with stuff.

Friday, was busy as well. I had a phone meeting and school visits for both kids. Last night I could barely keep my eyes open. But the kids wanted to do something so I suggested a movie.

When they couldn’t decide what movie (of course) I picked out The Princess Bride.

“It’s got pirates for you,” I said, looking at Seth. “Princesses for you,” to Bekah. “And a love story for me. It’s perfect!”

When we put the movie in, the screen shot shows Robin Wright in full princess garb. Seth looked at me and asked with a lot of suspicion, “Are you sure this has pirates?”

As we watched, it was one of those moments in my life when it comes full circle. I enjoyed every minute of it. Every time Seth would get squicked out, the movie would cut to Fred Savage getting squicked out about the same thing. THE KISSING! THE EELS! After the third time Fred repeated word-for-word what Seth had just said, Seth looked at me with wide eyes. “That kid is just like me!”

I tell you, it’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a movie that much.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Four Months is a Long Time

My mom asked me if I knew I still had a blog. :) So I guess I better post. Don't want to make mom mad!

The problem is, my life has been so full of ups and downs lately that I can barely catch the wave before another one crashes. It's been crazy. Instead of focusing on the dailies, I thought I'd give you a glimpse into my goals.

I must say first off, I'm very upset about the trapped miners in Chile. They have been underground for several weeks and have at least four months to go. I can't form words as to how horrible the situation must be for them! It's been replaying in my mind often in the last few days. No matter how upsetting my life can be I'M NOT TRAPPED IN A MINE!

Then I began to think: four months is a LOT of time. Wouldn't it be wasteful if durning the time that those poor people are stuck down there and can't live, I'm above ground not doing anything?

I began to think of what I'd like to accomplish in four months. A sort of tribute saying, I can't help you, but I'm certainly not going to dishonor you by wasting my time that you weren't equally given.

My goals for the next four months are:

  • I would like to have finished at least the second/third draft of the manuscript I just started. At least have it to a place where I can pass it on to MM.
  • I want to organize/get rid of all the kids toys. They are overwhelming and the task intimidates me.
  • Teach Bekah how to tie her shoes. I spent every morning of last year practicing with her. She doesn't get it.
What are your four month goals?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My Life in Bullet Points

I haven't done one of these in a while so here goes:
  • I'm in first draft LOOOOOOOVE. *happy sigh*

  • I may not do justice to this story on the first round, but I don't care. It's enough that it's keeping me awake. I haven't had a proper night's sleep in a week.

  • My kids are driving me crazy. 18 days until school starts (totally counting).

  • 12 days till MOCKINGJAY is released (I just realized something important. How am I going to read it during the six days that I still have the kids home??? Arg).

  • Suzanne's books were at the Kadena BX (I checked). Someone had already turned them face out. Yay, Suzanne!

  • I've noticed since I've returned to the iphone (I missed you, iPhone!) I take random pictures. I look at the camera roll and think: huh? I forgot that I did that. Like a picture of a snail that is the size of my hand:


Or a picture of a snail that is itty-bitty (Steven's finger):



Why do I need these pictures???
  • My car is irritating the snot out of me. First, I put in a new stereo and somehow that caused the panel that covers the airbag to pop off. Instead of taking it back to the place so that they'd fix it, my husband decided to GLUE it (please don't get me started). That didn't work. Now I have glue residue on my dash. And now my sunroof won't open (completely unrelated, but still irritating). Why, god? Why?!

  • Oh, and Steven's going to gunny camp. At least he'll be up north so we can see him on the weekends. I will miss him. Him and his glue.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

That's not the point!

My dad complained about my “boring” blog posts (re: writing junk), so I’m going to keep this short. I finished my edit Monday night. One week! Yay! And then I took off Tuesday and Wednesday. I may work a little on it tonight. I need to clean up a few things and read it through.




It’s been a very active summer. I’ve done tons of stuff with the kids. The problem: They’re not obeying. They’re totally melting down and shutting off. It’s irritating me to no end.

I had a discussion with them tonight about how disappointed I was. How my parents never did anything special with me over the summer when I was a kid. I am the oldest of five, so I can’t blame my mom. That’s a lot of work!

The point being, my kids are lucky. They have the beach and the pool and when it’s raining they can go bowling and to the movies. All I ask is that they obey.

And yet, they insist on being disrespectful.

Sometime later Bekah told me, “I’m sorry, Mom.”

I thought perhaps something clicked with her and she realized what a pill she’s been. And I do have a rule that you have to know what you’re apologizing for. Truthfully, she could have apologized for any of the million-and-one bad things she did today and I would have thought it was a victory.

I asked, “Sorry for what?”

“I’m sorry Nana and Papa never took you anywhere special when you were a kid. You had a pathetic life.”



Friday, July 23, 2010

What’s up with the edit, yo?

It’s time to check in. I’m not quite a week in to my two-week deadline. Am I on track? Not really. I’m going a bit slower than I would prefer. I’ve pushed through where I was stuck, at least. That’s something. And I do have an entire weekend ahead of me in which I haven’t scheduled anything.

Fingers crossed that on Monday I’ll be closer to ‘on track’ than I am today.

Now that I’m in the third (of assumed five) run-through of this edit I’m noticing terrible stuff. Like:

The passive language! The telling! And “What?! Where did that come from? That doesn’t make sense!” It’s killing me!

Terribly embarrassing. More so because I sent this crap to Mark. Hahaha. Poor guy. He was probably scratching his head.

In all fairness, when I sent it I made it clear that it was in a sorry/pathetic state and I needed help figuring out where the book was. Because it was there somewhere.

Everyone does this writing gig a bit different. The basic rule of thumb is: Do what works for you.

I read it multiple times before I send it to him because that continuous-pass thing, where you ship off your MS to your agent and then you keep up that dance, back-and-forth for what seems like forever (10 plus drafts, or chapter-by-chapter, or whatever) – Yeah, that doesn’t work for me. I can see how it works for other people. For me, it breaks me down (and not in a good way). Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt.

Which is why I’m fascinated by this thread on Verla Kay about editorial agents.

It reminded me how much I love Mark. Is he an editorial agent? Is the sky blue? Is sushi the best food ever? The answer to all three of those questions is yes. He is an amazing, insightful, helpful and extremely encouraging editorial agent. He sees things that blow my mind.

But if someone asked me: how does your relationship with him work? I hesitate to answer only because, what our relationship is will never reflect anyone else’s. No two writer/agent relationships are the same.

Having an editorial agent doesn't make your manuscript necessarily better either. Like I said, it's what works for you. I have published friends who thrive under little to no feedback, but when confronted with an agent who simply asks questions, they shut down entirely.

That's why I found the thread so interesting. I took away that the majority of the commentors (at least those who weren't agented) thought it was better to only sub to those agents who were known to be hands-on editors. To which I ask: huh?

I don't get it. By doing that you may miss out on connecting with someone who really gets you and your work. All because you're staking your career on someone's reported agency style? You don't have a clue if you'll click with them. Or if that's the kind of relationship you'll eventually develop with that agent.

My advice: query widely. Don't set your heart on your "dream agent" because someone on the Internet said they were great. They might be the best agent on the planet, but that does not equate to being the best agent for you.

Anyway, back to the grind. This book won’t edit itself.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Plot Bunnies, ATTACK!

Starting today I'm getting serious. Not that I wasn't serious before, it's more that I've hit that mood: the take-no-prisoners, time-to-kick-ass, I-don't-have-time-for-messin'-around mood. It takes me a while to get spooled up, but once I’m there, watch out!

Plot bunnies are attacking me from all sides. At an alarming rate, letmetellyou. At least one or two shiny new ideas a day. That's when it becomes painfully obvious I've been with this manuscript too long.

Not that I'm complaining about shiny ideas exactly. They're great. It's just that (1) it takes time to pull myself away from what I'm doing to jot down notes that, more often than not, lead to blurbs and one or two pages of notes and/or opening scenes. And (2) I only get an abundance of shiny ideas when I should be focusing! It's like my brain knows I’ve shut off the creative line and it gets backed up and implodes.

Plus, I'm in the middle of reading 9 books. Nothing is holding my attention. Make no mistake, it is not the books' fault. The fault completely lies with my brain not relaxing and letting go.

I want this edit done and over with.

I'm grumpy. I'm surly. I need chocolate and coffee!

Time for goals, peeps.* I'm going to go out on a limb and declare very little sleep for my near future. Two weeks.** This edit needs to be done in two weeks, or you should have my padded cell ready.

Feel free to leave your goal in the comments. We can all be loony together.




*I would like to point out that I did make my month goal last time. I just, uh, started over. I’m officially headed toward that 3-month revision, per my usual. And I’m not going to have it! Oh, but I did hire a maid!

**Two weeks does frighten me. Can I do it?! I don't know! *biting nails*




Saturday, July 10, 2010

An Open Letter To My Peeps:

This blog has been pathetically dead lately. It gets this way every summer. The days fly by and I can do little more than hang on and enjoy them.

Plus, I’ve been absent from the internet for the most part. I do occasionally post on Facebook. But really, other than that, I’ve been absent from blogs, twitter and other social sites. It’s part of my new writer pact I have with myself. The one where I get in touch with what makes me unique and my muse rewards me by making this edit fantastic.

Yup, still working away (or working again) on this book. I was serious when I said I was starting over. I have and it was the best decision ever. I’m not even half done though, so I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed as my self-imposed deadline looms.

Perhaps it’s the time of the year, it seems like everyone around me is struggling with writing. Not publishing or anything, but the actual task of sitting down and putting the words to the page. Including me. And it’s hard when I need other people to help me stay afloat and, well, they’re struggling as much as I am.

On top of that I’ve been reading. I seem to float between being blown-away, thinking I’ll never write something that incredible and being severely disappointed, thinking is that what they want? Because the book was crap and if that’s what they (whoever the illusive "they" may be) want, perhaps I’m not writing in the right genre.

There is no middle ground. At least not for me. And that leaves me confused. When, I'm confused, it's hard to write because I'm thinking of the millions of things I think I need to do, instead of just letting go and enjoying myself.

All those things combined: the pep talks to other writers, trying to finish my own edit, reading way too much and not having anything to blog about leaves me feeling philosophical. The following is nothing that my crit partners haven't heard me say a million times (as much to remind myself as it is for them).

So these are the rules I live by (good for writing and world domination. Take your pick):

WRITING SOMETHING I CAN BE PROUD OF.

This to me is my number one rule. It comes from reading. Too often I find myself pausing (especially when something makes no sense at all) and thinking, was the author rushed when he/she was editing? Did he/she not realize that they said X 10 pages ago, Y 5 pages ago... and now they're saying Z? All of which make no sense! Is this really the best they could do?

But as an author I understand why this happened. Hell, it's happened to me more often than I'd like to admit. And it's EMBARRASSING when it's pointed out.

Take this last edit, when Casey pointed out that I was missing the mark. It suddenly became clear what I was doing, and I felt so dumb! How many times is it going to take before I actually get it, you know? Arg.

It's everything that I should know -- I DO know -- but then it seems to slip out of my mind.

I wrote some time ago about wanting to fall in love with my MS, and really, that's the most important thing. I realized that I was falling into the pattern of trying to make other people happy. And when you do that, you really don't make anyone happy.

FOLLOWING MY GUT.

I’m easily swayed. Or, I used to be. I’m not so much anymore. It used to be that someone told me I had to fix something and I obsessed over it. Instead of spending time thinking about how to change something, I would go in to whack-mode cutting anything and everything. That makes a muckety-muck of a book.

Then I went way the other way and refused to show anyone. Not because I couldn't trust the advice, but because I couldn't trust myself to filter it.

Eventually I learned the trick to listen, but not to react, not until you know what you want to do. Willy-nilly cutting/fixing does not help.

If your book is making someone pause, there is something you need to fix, but it rarely ever is what they say it is. You have to be your own interpreter. It's up to you to determine what it is that needs fixing. How are you going to do that? Go with your gut. You already know what needs to be done. You only have to take the time to listen for it.

Scene from my life:

ME: *wah, wah, waaaaaah*

CRIT PARTNER: What do you think you should do?

ME: Well I could XYZ…

CRIT PARTNER: Well, then?


Really, I should be writing all the things that make me happy. I know what this MS is supposed to be better than anyone else.

DON’T BE AFRAID.

We know the rules. And you know what? We’re letting the rules kill us. Trying too hard to fit into the box squashes the potential of a book.

I constantly fight this. For some reason, internally, I automatically change things because there’s this little voice that tells me “if you do that, it’s unsellable.” And then… it doesn’t work out because it’s not what’s best for the story. And I want to kick myself.

Screw fitting in to the box. The box changes. Focus on what’s best for the book.

And you know what? So what if it doesn’t sell. Would you rather have a book that doesn’t fit and it’s something you wanted to write, or a book that sells and you’re less than proud of it?

KICK SELF-DOUBT IN THE ASS.

What is telling yourself that you suck going to do for you? Only people who think like winners, win.

Get up. Dust yourself off. Start over. Put in the work.

JUST GET THE DAMN THING DONE.

Seriously, quit the fracking whining. Sit down at your computer and type. Everything can be edited. You don't have to show anyone your efforts. And it's not going to finish itself.

I say the above paragraph nearly every day. :)

The person I say it to changes. Sometimes it's me, more often it's to my crit partners. I am quite a bit nicer and more encouraging when I say it. Ha. Except when I lose it and play bad cop. Then they write things like: "I hope Heather doesn't read this...," "I know what Heather's going to say...," or "Heather may kill me, but..."

They make me laugh.

We all need to hear it, though. For some reason it's much easier to whine about the unfairness of publishing than to do actual work.

I get especially frustrated when I read whining about not being able to snag an agent. Write another book! If the one you're pimping isn't getting attention, write another one that will.

Trust me, it doesn't change. Once you get an agent, you may have to do the same thing in order to sell. It's a fact of life and the sooner you come to grips with that, the less stressed you'll be.

GET ZEN.

Nothing, beyond the act of writing itself, is in your control. How I wish I could make things work out for myself! But my journey has been torturous for a reason. What that reason is, I can’t really tell you at the moment. Someday, though, I might be able to write an award-winning blog extolling the virtues of patience.

Until then, understand that it’s not about you. That there is nothing you can do to make it faster/easier/ less agonizing. Call it character building and accept it as it is.

Focus on what you can do. Explore your craft. Write another book. KEEP TRYING.

BE HAPPY WITH BEING ME.

I'm me. I write the way I write and I phrase things the way I phrase things. I can't change. I’ve tried in the past and I realize that I don't want to change. It is better to embrace my quirks and try to get them to work for me than to demand they go away.



So muse, you going to work a little magic today? Because I really need it. XOXOXOXO

Love,

Heather

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Freethinking and Association

Thank you for your kind words on my pictures. They’re not half bad, I think, especially since I didn’t carry my huge camera around. My little point and shoot isn’t ideal, but it works.

I was thinking about pictures last night before I went to bed and how it relates to my writing. Taking a good picture isn’t about the equipment you have, or the editing software you use (for the record the only editing I did on those pictures was to add the border – I didn’t even crop them). It seems to me that everyone with a half decent camera hangs out a sign and calls themselves a professional photographer now days.

Much like writing. Have a computer? You’re a writer! No need to study your craft.

There are a lot of professional photographers on this island who I greatly admire. I subscribe to their blog feeds and friend them on Facebook. I study their pictures. For hours. Why did they take the picture that way? Why did they choose to edit that color in? Why did they crop it to look like that? What story are they trying to tell?

Because it’s an art and I want to be a master. In order to create like the masters, I need to understand the masters. Or at least the principles that they are displaying.

The thing I do know is, I could be standing with these same photographers, in the same spot, with the same type of camera – and our pictures would be vastly different.

The story I want to tell is always going to be different from theirs. I’m okay with that because it’s my story. And as long as I have a story to tell, a viewpoint with which to speak from, that’s all that matters.

I need to remind myself of this, often. Especially when I get depressed that my journey seems to be ridden with potholes and detours. It’s okay. As long as I’m constantly moving forward and improving, it will all work out.

In the meantime, I can create something beautiful.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Slow Build

My parents and one of my brothers arrive today! Yay! So excited. My parents have visited several times (they can't go too long without seeing the muchkins) so I don't feel any pressure as far as they're concerned. But it's my brother's first time in Japan, which means I feel some responsibility to show him around. At this point the plan is iffy. I had wanted to do water sports (his favorite) and, um... it's raining. It better clear up!


I posted on FB a few days ago, that though I was almost done with this edit, I decided to start over.

You know what? It's okay. I got a 'talking to' from Casey and everything she said made complete sense. And I don't think it was necessarily what she said about my manuscript that made something click in my brain, so much as we were talking about what I wanted this manuscript to be.

I kept saying: I want a Hunger Games.

She was confused by this because my book is nothing like HG. So I went on to explain all the emotions HG makes me feel. That it's unputdownable. That the world grabs you from page one, puts its clutches in you and won't let you go. That's what I want.

Yeah, I know. Tall order.

When we began to discuss HG, that's when it started clicking for me what I was doing wrong with my manuscript. Why I wasn't feeling satisfied with it.

Casey began to talk about "the slow build." How HG never presents a mystery. Everything is upfront from page one. The tension is in the layering. And the characters never react to anything (this was my ah-ha moment). Their actions aren't a series of X happened so I need to do Y to counteract.

It made perfect sense.

So I started over. And I'm so happy. This is why you need peeps to watch your back.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

I'm here, buried under the desk:

It's been a week since my last confession blog post. I'm ready for my penitence. :)

The truth is, I've been so focused on this edit that I've ignored my family, my life and even this blog.

I mean, I don't want to admit this, but today is my husband's birthday. Did I get him a card? No. A present? No (well, yes, two weeks ago and he already took it -- I plan ahead). What did I do for him? I made him asked him, kindly, to pick us up lunch so that I didn't have to stop working.

I did let him sleep in, though. I'm not a complete ogre. Oh, and I did tell him if he wanted to drink with the boys tonight - have fun. I shall stay home pulling my hair out working.

Today is the 5th. My parents get here on the 11th. Which means, I need to finish this edit PDQ so I can send it off to my critique partners and get it back in time! *stress* (self-imposed, but still)

I'll be back soon. Promise. Probably groggy with lack of sleep and sporting severe black circles under my eyes, but I WILL be back!

In the meantime:

Happy birthday, Steven. xoxoxoxo

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Working

I realize that it's been a few days since I've posted.

First of all, I'm like a cranky zombie (if zombies can be cranky) during an edit. Or maybe that's most of the time... whatever. Anyway, for the purpose of this story it's during an edit only.

I have a difficult time concentrating on anything but my edit. I supposedly have conversations with my husband and kids that they swear I'm a part of. I'm not buying it and I'm leaning toward a conspiracy theory.

I will admit to forgetting things. Lots of things. Even things that I read on my calendar and promptly forget ten seconds later.

The thing I forget the majority of the time is whatever it is I happen to be drinking. During the day I leave coffee cups strewn throughout the house because I forget where I put them. I'll find two (because I didn't see the first one) in the microwave. I've found cups on the bookshelf, refrigerator, bathroom sink...

This week I reached a new low. I found a cup, half filled, in the shoe cabinet. I swear, I don't know how it got there!

At night it's a different story. It involves my husband bringing me tea and me forgetting every single time that it's there! It's become a bit of a joke (for him). He'll bring it to me, put it in my hand and announce, "I BROUGHT YOU TEA."

When he walks out, I'll set the cup down so that I can type and forget about it for at least half an hour when it's too cold at that point to drink. We repeat this cycle over and over. My husband, being the jokester he is, likes to come back and stand in the doorway until I remember and then cracks up.

He does offer me more tea afterwards.

However, he did take his life in to his hands today when he asked, "When are you going to call a maid?"

I walked upstairs and called his cell phone.

All this to say: I'm still working on my edit and I'm nowhere near done.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

This is the life!

I’ve come to a conclusion: I would be a whole lot more productive if I didn’t have the Internet.

Huh. Imagine that.

I have been working.

I’m doing that editing thing… You know, the one where you eat everything in sight? Yeah. Any food that I see ends up in my mouth. It’s bad. Remember that time I OD’d on Girl Scout cookies? It’s got nothing on me now! I literally consumed within two hours:

Coffee… a lunchable… more coffee… chocolate ice cream… more coffee… pickle… more coffee… salad… more coffee… Kit Kat…. coffee… couscous with black beans… water…

Ya’all sick now? Because I am!

That is to say: If I’m eating all this crap, I guess the edit’s going well. Because I only blindly eat when I’m distracted.

Speaking of food:

Steven sent me an email asking me what I was making for dinner. The boy has a death wish.

I was like: I’m going wild and crazy – bordering on the exotic! – and making spaghetti! Doesn’t that sound yummy?!

Heh.

And he said, “Oh, because I was going to run to the commissary and get us some steaks to grill. And maybe some fresh corn? I wanted to cook for you.”

Well twist my arm!

And this is how I work (it’s not like it’s a secret): I wanted fresh green beans too. But if I had asked green beans he would have freaked, so I added something even more abhorrent to the list.

“Thanks, babe! I’d like something else too. Like maybe green beans or brussels sprouts?”

Brussels spouts are my favorite.

His response was something akin to: BRUSSELS SPROUTS?! ARE YOU TRYING TO POISON ME?! I’ll get you some green beans, baby.

*fist pump!*

Now I’m drinking a beer and waiting for him to finish making dinner.

Oh, and editing… always editing…

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Heigh Ho, Silver!

I think about blogging every single day. Funny things people say... Funny things I see... I'm continually running them in my mind to create the best possible way to tell the story.

I haven't forgotten you. And I will be back more regularly.

It's been a combination of things that have kept me away. There's a little bit of reservation tied with blogging now (I’m still not ready to talk about it). But mostly I've been busy.

Like... Busy running around doing who knows what. Oh, and there was the never-ending sickness that the kids have finally gotten over. But guess who’s lost her voice? Me! The kids are thrilled.

It occurred to me the other day as I was writing out my May goals: well, crap! Summer is almost here! And with that goes my freedom. Which means that very little writing is going to get done.

How did summer sneak up on me? I think it was all the rain lulling me into thinking it was still winter. Did we miss spring this year?

Anyway, so there I was, counting down the few precious days I have left (and let me tell ya, there aren't many) and I started to panic. I need to get this rewrite/ edit -- whatever the heck it is -- DONE!

*deep breath*

I've been working. Still taking a few lunch dates, though, because a girl's got to eat!

My question is: how do other writers edit so fast? I’m seriously blown away by how quick you are! It seems (at least on the internet) that you guys get edits and you turn them around within days.

I mean, I don't think I'm particularly slow. I have a system, sort of. It goes like this:

Month 1: Obsess over how I’m going to change the manuscript. Worry about every little detail before I start. Pull my hair out. Maybe whine a bit.

Month 2: Psyche myself up that I can, in fact, edit the manuscript. This takes a while. Usually by this point I’m so paranoid of my own ability that I’m almost numb.

Month 3: By month three, I’m completely fed up with my lack of progress. This motivates me. Which means I crank it out: three weeks editing and then 1 week of “review” before I send it off. That’s not to say that I haven’t edited a bit throughout the first two months, it’s just that the majority of the edit occurs now.

So… Now I’m looking at three weeks total. *cough* (This is where I’m going to start blowing sunshine!)

It’s not as if I can’t do it. Technically, I can. I mean… technically all I really need is about a month, right? I’ve obsessed about the edit about… two or three weeks. I can pretend that it’s more like two months. Right?

I need to believe I can do this. I CAN do this.

With that said, I will be in and out of the blog... And in about three weeks I sincerely hope that I can say I’ve finished (at least this round).

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Happy Monday!

I know, I only got through two days of my Hong Kong trip so far and I will finish them (promise), but the pictures are on another computer and if I wait to get my act together I might never post again. :)

In the meantime...

It's Monday morning after Spring Break. Back to work. Back to school. Back to life.

I like the week after vacation. I love that I had a little time off to think and relax (I rarely do that). Plus, I got my edits/edit letter this weekend for a YA project I'm working on. Yay! It's put me in a super good mood. Why, you ask? Well...

I'm not one of those peeps who thinks that every word I write is gold. Quite the contrary. I'm overly critical with my work and I can rarely see the good. It's frustrating. But what is more frustrating is that I have this idea of what I want the book to be/do/say and it takes me a long time to reach enough of that for me to be satisfied.

So when I sent this MS to MM I knew I'd have rewrite quite a lot on the next go-around.

We'd talked prior to my getting notes back about what I wanted with this novel. This is something that I really value about MM. It's not guaranteed in this industry that the edits requested will be focused with your vision in mind, in addition to what works and what's sellable.

So, wow, this revision letter...

I'm very excited. I've been thinking about the possibilities for a few days now and I can finally see the book.

For me, writing a book is sort of like having a dream. When the idea first percolates it's crystal clear, much like while you are asleep. The characters are amusing, the plot is great, the color is vivid and it's awesome!

But then you wake up. Or in my case, actually sit down to write. At that point it becomes a hazy mess. I can't remember anything! Everything seems jumbled and cut short. Not at all like it was when it was first conceptualized.

At some point, though, it clicks. It's as if you had the pieces there all along and they've been waiting for you to align them properly. Of course, that makes me want to thump my head against a desk because why didn't I see that in the first place?!

Who knows when that clicking happens. Sometimes it's fast. Sometimes it takes seven drafts (ugh!). Fortunately, I felt the click! (or at least I hope, ha!)

I'm going to attempt to hold onto this excitement for a few days. It never lasts very long. LOL

With all that said... It's 11am and I have yet to open the manuscript. I'm off to a stellar start!


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Hong Kong, Day 2

In my imagination we awoke early on the first full day in Hong Kong. We were perky, the weather was beautiful and we were all healthy. That isn't close to how it went, but we still managed to scrape together a fun day.

In reality we woke up closer to noon. This is us, bright eyed and bushy tailed:





We jumped on the subway and took it to Victoria Harbor.



Once there, we stopped and had lunch. Bekah got a salad, which in Hong Kong means cut up veggies. She was in HEAVEN.



These pictures were taken on Victoria Harbor, Kowloon side facing Hong Kong island. As you can see, the weather was nasty and stayed nasty the whole time we were there. It's hard to complain, though, when faced with this beauty! I can hardly wait to go back and see it when it's sunny.





In this next picture is the Star Ferry:





Steven spent several years in Hong Kong as a child. He always told me that they used bamboo as scaffolding. I believed him... but believing something and seeing it are two different things. Crazy!



We walked along the Avenue of Stars to the Star Ferry. This was something Steven requested as he had to get a picture with the statue of Bruce Lee.



This picture is on the Star Ferry crossing to Hong Kong island:



Next we walked all over Hong Kong island. Uphill. So I was sweating in the rain (Amy Stewart, I can hear you laughing. I'll have you know, I wore the ugly tennis shoes too!).





We stopped at Man Mo Temple. I love temples. I wish I could have taken pictures inside.



Afterward, we walked back to the ferry, shopped some more and then went back to the hotel for dinner and swam in the pool. This is pretty much what my kids remembered of the whole day (taken on the Star Ferry on the way back):


2010.04.10 on Star Ferry - Hong Kong from Heather on Vimeo.


This is Bekah later that night showing off the fan her dad bought her the night before:

Friday, April 16, 2010

Hong Kong, Day 1

I could call this trip "the vomit trip," but I'm going to try to spare you the nitty-gritty, disgusting details. Let's just say, we went sick and came back sick. there was no less than 3 vomit episodes on the floor of the airport (one 5 feet after we cleared customs declaring we weren't sick) and 8 episodes of vomit on the plane... That's not to say that there weren't many (MANY!) more episodes during the actual vacation.

For necessity, though, I'm not going to recall all the times we'd get sick over a particularly nasty taxi ride, or subway ride, or smells, or food, or when the boat to Macau was stranded at sea for an hour... those all led to vomit episodes.

The bottom line: It is NOT fun to travel sick.

With that in mind, I'm going to recount our adventures without mentioning that again (hopefully).

So...

I don't know if I've talked about the crazy food they serve when flying. It's interesting to note that American flights do not include food unless you're flying overseas. Asian airlines are different. It seems like they feed you every chance they get. You get a full meal with a one hour flight. If your plane is late, they feed you tea and crackers. The customer service rocks.

Now, that's not to say that the food is good. Every time I fly ANA I get some nasty meal that makes me gag to smell it. Fish stew... fish curry... fish and noodles.

This time we flew China Air and I have to say their meals were MUCH better (though I didn't taste the two coming home). This is what they call a curry pork rice burger:


The "patties" are made from rice which made it extremely tricky to eat! It was pretty tasty, though.

We landed quite late in Hong Kong (due to a late flight out of Taiwan). Added to the episodes I'm not mentioning... the kids were sort of crabby. We checked into the hotel and headed off for something to eat. Don't they look thrilled?



They did NOT want to go out. Steven wanted to go check out the night market, so after promising to buy them toys, they were all smiles.


Off we went to the night market where there was junk, junk and more junk.


I'm not particularly a junk buyer. The kids LOVED it because there were toys and Steven was being generous buying them. I kept saying, "They don't need that crap."

Steven would say, "We're on vacation, let them have it."

Then the kids would get huge smiles and give him lots of hugs. I think I figured out why he's their favorite.

... Day two is coming as soon as I'm up to it. Right now I've only eaten 4 crackers in the last 30 hours. If I don't feel better soon I'm going to the doctor. Blah.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Working on a Saturday

Oh, those SNI's how they tease me! They always creep up on me when I'm doing well with a project. Thursday I figured out how to make my way to the end on my current first draft. That took all day - a long shower (hot water always helps me think), lots of Oreos and some doodling. I figured it out, though!

Which means that since I figured out what I'm doing for the end, instead of working on it (which, would be the smart thing), I'm letting the SNI tease me.

I've spent the morning dreaming up a new project. Something younger than anything I've ever written, and to be honest, I'm not 100% sure I can pull it off.

I have huge respect for picture book, children and middle grade writers. It seems like they get the short end of the stick. That everyone feels as if they could write 500 - 10K words and get published.

It's hard to write for that age. Much harder than anything else. I have two kids and I understand how difficult it is to hold their attention while entertaining me enough so that I'll read it to them.

I get it and I respect it. Why, then, am I thinking about dipping my toe in?

I think the challenge is wooing me.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Way It Is

I’ve been in this really weird mood lately. Not a good or bad one… a strange one. Take for instance this weekend:

I should start off by saying I’m relatively frugal (that’s the nice was of saying cheap). I think about things for a long time before I buy them. Especially things I can’t return, like music. I have no idea why I do this because I end up buying the album anyway and I could have been enjoying it for months while I thought about it… so why waste the time?

*eye roll* It’s another one of those quirky things I do.

Here’s the part of the story where I get embarrassed for myself.

An album that I’ve wanted for forever is the newest Lady Gaga. There’s a very specific reason I haven’t bought it yet. The music is too fast for me to write to. And it’s rare that I’m in the car anymore for any period of time where I turn on my music. When would I listen to it?

I know, don’t get on me about how lame this reasoning is. I get it.

Steven wants that album too. Occasionally he’ll ask: Hey, did you buy it yet? To which I respond with a long-winded debate about the pros and cons.

This weekend I decided, you know what? I’m going to pony up the $13.99 and be done with it.

*Cough*

The plot unraveled from there. For some reason (shiny!) I got distracted (shiny!) by really old albums (shiiiiiiiiny!). Ridiculous ones. Ones I do not want to admit to buying. My finger started clicking like I had a sick disease. FIVE ALBUMS LATER… I still hadn’t bought Lady Gaga. Only now I’d spent (… adding up 5 albums at $12.99…) a lot more than the $13.99 I had complained about spending in the first place!

Steven chose that moment to walk in to my office. “Oh, good. You finally bought Lady Gaga, can I have it?”

“Uh…”

He looked over my selections and then said to the kids, “You all need to back away from your mother.”

Seth looked up from his toys. “Why?”

“She’s having a nostalgic breakdown and I’m not sure how this is going to play out.”

I rolled my eyes. “What are you talking about?”

He folded his arms. “You always do this. You get stuck in your book and buy a bunch of weird music and then go into this crazy nostalgic state.”

Huh. I guess I do.

P.S. I still want the Lady Gaga album.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

It's Thursday!

I have nothing to say. So… I decided to make a list of all the uninteresting things in my life just so that I had something to write about. Lucky you! Ha!

• I broke out my 80’s music for the kids. Not the really good stuff. It was the fun stuff that I shouldn't admit I listen to. Bangles! Debbie Gibson!

They loved it! And memorized the songs. When we were in the car (with the music blaring and the kids singing at the top of their lungs) and had to enter the base, Steven turned down the volume (way down).

“Are you embarrassed?” I asked.

He gave me that look. The one that I can only describe as: Are you kidding me?! Of COURSE I’m embarrassed!

Note to self: I should take the kids to karaoke (they’re all over the place!). They’d enjoy that.

• My son’s front teeth need to fall out of his mouth PDQ. He’s a grinder and has completely worn the backs of both his front teeth out. Like… literally there is NO BACK on them. He was complaining that they hurt so we took him to see three dentists (because no one could tell us what’s up - *rant about the military*). Finally we ended up with a kid’s specialist who said… “Well, he has no roots left in the front two so he really needs to start wiggling them, otherwise we’ll have to extract them.” Ugh! And then, his adult molars have grown in already! No wonder the kid was in pain!

• I went for another massage & facial yesterday. I needed it. I think it took the last of headache away. I could get on the bandwagon of holistic medicine if it included lots of massages.

• It’s the fourth of the month and I’m already behind on my word count.

• I have a post going up tomorrow over on Okinawa Hai. It’s been a while since I’ve subbed an article there. It’s regarding that adoption workshop Steven and I went to.

• And… Let’s say a certain kick-ass agent asked if I was interested in doing a guest post for him. If I wrote it, what would you guys be interested in reading about? I’m trying to keep it topical. Maybe genre switching since I’m trying my hand at an adult paranormal right now. Perhaps also trying to work in aspects of living overseas. Suggestions on what you’d find entertaining?

… See? Nothing too crazy going on over here. Life as usual.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

First Drafting Is Not For Wusses

Guess what I’m doing right now? That’s right, first drafting. WoW has taken a back seat (poor thing!) for the moment. I did play a few hours this weekend. *grin* So all is not lost.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about first drafts. As much as I whine about editing… that’s the easy part. God! I know, right? That’s crazy talk.

The truth is, for me it’s easier to polish something than to create it from scratch. My first (and sometimes second and third) drafts are plagued by doubt. It’s a lot of: Does that go there??? Oh, what about this??? What if… NO! THAT WON’T WORK! Arg! The ending! The ENDING! Why can I never nail the ending?!

I guess it would be surprising if you asked me which part I enjoy more. First drafting ALL THE WAY. No matter how difficult it is. Editing is like eating steak with a spork. It’s tedious, time consuming and annoying. First drafting (for as much as I get frustrated) is so much fun.

You cannot hope to achieve perfection with a first draft. It’s impossible. I don’t care who you are. I think that the great majority of writers who don’t finish that first draft suffer from perfection-itis.

That’s a real disease. I suffer from it. It drives me bananas if something doesn’t work the first time through.

It’s taken me years to be able to say: It doesn’t matter. Just finish. The dialog doesn’t flow? So. Finish. The characters are schizo? So. We’ll get them some meds on the second draft. Finish. The plot has so many holes it can sink a ship? It can be fixed. Finish.

And you know what? I have to tell myself that mantra every single day. Somehow between the time I go to sleep and the time I wake up, I forget.

I repeat to myself once again: The possibilities are endless! Grab hold of them. They don’t need to be perfect. They just need to be there.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Are You A Special Snowflake?

Last week I was reading this particular blog by Angela James and I snorted my coffee through my nose. It was this line that did it to me:

The critique partner who thinks every word you write is a special snowflake may not be the one for you, as they’re not helping you learn. Seek out places and people that will help you learn.

I LOVE that line! Special snowflake! I wish I'd come up with it.

I immediately sent this link to my critique partners. The response back: We all know you're not a special snowflake! Geez, Heather. It would be nice if you had a little bit of snowflake in you.

*grin*

I admit, I'm a tough critiquer. I try to be respectful (I think I succeed) and honest (I'm certainly that). The thing is, I feel that if you're asking for my opinion that you want my opinion.

The sad truth is: There are very few writers who want to hear what they can fix. They think their work is perfect to start with. If you have anything constructive to say, they break down in tears like you murdered their dog.

I'm not an insensitive person. Do you realize how this makes me feel to know that I've hurt you? Like crap, that's what.

Every single time I critique for someone outside of my critique circle I agonize over what I'm going to say. They have no idea what a critique from me is going to be like, even though I give them fair warning before I start. Nine times out of ten it ends badly. And I lick my wounds and swear up and down to whoever will listen that I will NEVER, EVER critique for someone again.

And then I do.

Why would I put myself through the torture? Because every once in a while I meet someone I click with. Who can take my comments in the manner they're intended and use them to figure out how to improve their writing. And in turn, I end up with someone who's willing to be honest with me and whose opinion I value.

Finding a click is a funny thing. I wish it happened more often. It doesn't, but I'm grateful for when it works.

If you're looking for a Special Snowflake, that person is not me. Consider yourself warned.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Starting Over

The edit is done and emailed.

Let's pause a minute while I scream: HALLELUJAH!!!!

Two seconds after I hit SEND I felt deflated. I hate that feeling. Instead of immediately taking some time off (which I am going to do tomorrow, don't you worry. WoW is a-callin') I decided to write a bit. Mostly because it helps to remind myself that writing is never done and I shouldn't feel sad when I've sent something off into the world.

Here's where the problem comes in. It's so hard for me to get back to that first draft, complete and utter drivel stage. I've been working with polished stuff. To switch to crap... It makes me disappointed that I can't write perfect the first time.

Ah, well. I'm still having fun even if I haven't come up with a plan for this book yet. It's being totally pantsed. I AM NOT A PANTSER! It's freaking me out. And yet, I'm strangely thrilled by the idea of writing something that I have no idea where it's going.

Oh... and I'm writing it out of order.

And it's an adult paranormal romance.

Tee-hee. My mom's going to blush when she reads it. I can't wait! *grin*

The plan for next week is to fall in love with my new MS and to beta for a friend.

Cheers!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

My Life In Bullet Points:

  • This week will go down as one of the hardest I've had in a long time. It was one thing after another - BAM! BAM! BAM! I'm really glad today is Friday. Yay, Friday! And I'm crossing my fingers that next week is better (if it gets worse I'm in SERIOUS trouble). I could use a little sunshine.

  • My editing got pushed aside this week. Mostly because I can't sit at my computer any longer without being in serious pain. My shoulders and back are so knotted with tension that I'm no longer comfortable sitting, standing, sleeping... I'm exhausted.

  • So... I'm off to get a massage today. I LOVE this island. Want to know why? I'm getting a 90 minute massage and a 60 minute facial for A HUNDRED BUCKS. How cheap is that?! I'm trying a new place today, not the "buddy massage" place. I hope I like it.

  • I have been, however, writing bits and pieces here and there. Handwritten because I can't sit at the computer and don't have a lot of time in-between the craziness that's been going on. I'm really excited about this new MS.

  • I wish that the rain would clear up so that I can see the cherry blossoms this weekend. I do so miss them. This is my favorite time of year.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

And The Winner Is...

My mom drives me crazy. I called her to find out who she chose to win the contest.


Mom: They're all good. I don't know who to pick.

Me: Anyone you want.

Mom: But THEY'RE ALL GOOD. (She tells me the merits of who-its and whats-its).

Me: (not really listening)... Yeah, exactly. So who's the winner?

Mom: You would pick XXX, wouldn't you? Or what about XXX, you'd pick them!

Me: It doesn't matter who I'd pick. YOU have to pick.

Mom: I like them all. I'm not a writer. How would I choose?

Me: I asked you to pick because you're not a writer. That way everyone would have a fair chance. You're a mom. Mom's like everything.

Mom: ...

Me: Well, you have some time. Think about it and get back to me.



FIVE PHONE CALLS LATER:

Me: (looking at caller ID before hitting 'talk') OMG! Just pick a winner already!

Mom: What if they hate me?!

Me: Who cares? They don't know you! What are they going to do, track down 'Heather's mom' and beat you up?

Mom: I don't like to hurt anyone's feelings.

Me: (*eye roll*) It's a contest. You have to pick a winner.

Mom: This is too much responsibility. I don't want to do this for you again.

Me: Believe me, I won't ask. I've learned my lesson.


The winner is... Dawn! Yay, Dawn! It only took me three hours to find out that you're the winner. :) Congratulations!

Here's a BIG THANK YOU to everyone who entered! I had a fun time reading your cheater reports! They all made me laugh.



(Dawn, I sent you an email.)

Monday, February 1, 2010

I Need Cheese with My Whine

I've spent too much time with this novel. We are not friends right now. It's like the bad boyfriend that treats you like dirt, but he's way too good looking to contemplate dumping. Not to mention a great kisser...

Not that, ya know, I've ever done such a thing. Nope. Not me.

I was editing. Me and the manuscript-of-angst were getting along fine.

Then I cut the last half of the book off (THREE TIMES!). The novel hated me for that, but I was like, oh hey, I AM THE WRITER SO BACK OFF!

I got it to a place I wanted it, but I couldn't leave it alone! It needed just one more edit. Though, that really means changing every stinkin' word.

I was going pretty good and then *BAM* I hit a wall.

GAHHHHH!

That was four days ago.

This morning when I woke up I realized that I had fallen asleep in my clothes while not accomplishing anything. I got mad and changed out of my clothes into P.J.'s.

I can think in P.J.'s thankyouverymuch.

And then walked my kids to the bus stop wearing them because it's not about pride, peeps, it's about GETTING THE WORK DONE.

(Can we all tell I'm a wee bit frustrated?)

When I got home, I went on a whining-bender to all my friends: I suck! Everything I write sucks! I'm going to give up!!!

I drank a pot of coffee while everyone tried to calm me down. Aren't they nice?!

Annnnnnnd then I got to work and finished the chapter I was working on. Yay!

It's a slow start, but me and my P.J.'s are going to crawl our way out. Oh, yes we are! Take that manuscript-of angst.




Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Query Blurbs

After I wrote my first book (which I was sure was going to be snapped up immediately – ha!) I attended a writer’s conference. It was the first time that I’d ever talked to an agent. A real, live, breathing agent. And he couldn’t run away, at least for ten minutes, because I’d paid to talk to him. *grin*

So this agent (bless his heart) looked at my query and said, “I can tell you have plot problems.”

“Um, what?”

“Plot problems, see here,” he pointed to my query, “you spend way too much time telling me the little details of what’s happening rather than giving me the big picture. Plot problems.”

In that ten-minute meeting I learned a valuable writing lesson: your query/blurb is a reflection of your manuscript. If your manuscript is tight, well planned and executed with finesse, your query will reflect that. However, if your manuscript could stand about ten more edits, your query is going to reflect that too.

I made it my mission to figure out this query business. I studied it, much like I studied how to write. And it helped me to understand that at the heart of every book is an if/then question. The “if” is the setup (the first chapters) the “then” is the meat of the book.

Recognizing what this if/then question is helps to keep the book on track. If you already know up front, there should be no rambling chapters that have nothing to do with the plot.

When writing a blurb you’re going to focus on the “if” – the setup. You are also going to give an illusion to the “then” – not the whole thing!

You can write a blurb a few ways. The two ways I use most is:

Character 1
Character 2
Conflict

and

Character
Book set up*
Conflict*

*or if this is easier to think of as story 1 & story 2


The first way is more for romance novels where the plot revolves around two people rather than the world around them. The second is if you have a novel that is more plot driven.

I’m going to give an example of both.

I guess the only way to do this is to show my thought process. I’m going to make up two novels. Two novels that I would never write, so no comments about the lameness of the plot, please. We’re focusing on the blurb and not originality. :)


EXAMPLE 1:

I’ll start with the first one. I decide I’m going to write a romance novel about Penny and Jack. Penny and Jack knew each other in high school – where they hated each other.

What’s the if? What’s going to throw these two together? What is our plot?

Years later Penny is desperate. Her business is failing. She’s one step away from bankruptcy. She has one last opportunity to win a huge contract if she can convince the client that she can do the job.

What’s the then? The problem?

Enter Jack. He’s the owner of said business. He’s not too fond of Penny. He remembers her as the girl in high school who made his life miserable.


I’m going to use the character 1 / character 2 / Conflict:


Penny Preston has a problem. Her business is failing – the one she gave up her life for – when it’s gone, she’ll have nothing to show for it except debt and an empty apartment. Penny has one last chance to convince a buyer to invest in her company. Too bad it’s Jack.

Jack Smith is local boy made good. He has everything he ever wanted and then some. Trouble is, he never got over that embarrassing incident in high school -- the one where Penny Preston said that he’d never amount to anything, and if he did, she still wouldn’t be interested.

Now that they were face to face, he should walk away. He doesn’t trust her. She couldn’t possibly be less spoiled than the girl he knew. Then why is he so attracted to her?


EXAMPLE 2:

For my second example, I asked Deb, “Hey, give me a plot idea I can use for an example. One you wouldn’t use.”

She gave me:

Darcy Miller is sure she has a brain tumor. She has become sensitive to daylight, can't sleep at night, and has no appetite. Unless you count rare meat. She hasn't hit the gym in months yet she just flattened the weirdo who tried to snatch her purse. And what was going on with her front teeth aching like a son-of-a-bitch?

My first thought was: Hilarious! My second thought was: I did a good job teaching her how to write blurbs! Ha. This one has sassitude.

Sassitude is important in blurb, especially if you have sassy writing. The level of sassiness in the blurb needs to be directly related to the level of sassiness in the manuscript. Nothing will kill you faster than creating a sassy blurb only to deliver literary fiction.

This is why I purposely left out any trace of sassiness in Example 1. At the core of a blurb you do not need sassiness. You need facts. Sassiness is like using fancy Malaysian honey with herbs on your toast instead of store-bought honey. Both get the job done, the flavor is just different. Don’t substitute sassiness for competency.

Let’s break down what Deb wrote and add to it so that you can see what the whole query would look like because if you notice, what she gave me is not finished. It’s just a character description.

Her character, Darcy, is turning into a werewolf.

What is the if and then? What’s the book set up and conflict?

How about… Darcy is a flight attendant. And because of her change not only can’t she take certain shifts but the undercover federal martial thinks she’s part of a terrorist plot.

The blurb using the Character/ Set up / Conflict would look something like:

Darcy Miller is sure she has a brain tumor. She has become sensitive to daylight, can't sleep at night, and has no appetite. Unless you count rare meat. She hasn't hit the gym in months yet she just flattened the weirdo who tried to snatch her purse. And what was going on with her front teeth aching like a son-of-a-bitch?

Fifty-thousand feet above ground is the last place Darcy expected to fight her own war on terror. A federal martial thinks she’s behind a plot to take the plane she works on down. She’s not, but who is?

Darcy had better find out before the plane explodes or she turns wolfy. Either way, it’s a hairy situation!



… Actually, that one is pretty dang funny. Heh.

Anyway, the point is, blurbs are pretty straightforward. They’re not about the plot points, they’re about the plot as a whole. Conceptualize the book, don’t break it apart.

Any questions? I’d be happy to answer them.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Wednesday: Still Editing My Life Away

I'm going to ramble today, okay? I've been too deep in edits where every! word! has! to! have! a! point! And, well... sometimes it's fun to be pointless.

I wanted to tell a cute story of my kids (that's the most fun to write about). Except I realized, I haven't spent any time with them lately. I mean, I saw them. I've eaten with them. I've helped with homework. It's just that my attention has been on this book.

"Okay, Mom has to work now. Snack? Sure whatever. TV? Make sure it's not too loud. Matches? Go for it, just don't burn the house down."

Er... not really that last one. I think I would notice if they asked to play with matches. Maybe.

I was considering writing a tongue-in-cheek post entitled: Editing, As Fun As A Gynecological Exam. But nixed it because I felt that it might alienate my one (or two) male readers. No, really, I think I have about four. Hi all you XYers!

I want to post the blurb for my SNI (but can't) because it cracks me up every time I read it. I have mentioned previously that I write my blurbs before the book. And then during one of my breaks from editing (where I wasn't stuffing my face with ice cream cake) I was catching up on Query Shark. Love!

It occurred to me that most new writers (1st time in the query trenches) don't understand the basic principles of blurbing a book. Blurbing isn't just important for querying. You still need to know how to do it after you have an agent. In my mind, it's the essential first step to every book.

I thought (for all of five seconds) I should do a post on how to write one. Not "this is how to fix yours" because I think that most writers are too close to their own book and miss the point of how a blurb should read. It would have to be a new idea, one I'd never use. And where would I get that idea? Then the post became a lot of work in my mind and I wondered, would anyone be interested? Because I will write it, if you are.

Back to editing. :)


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