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

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