Shaking in their boots (or sandals, it is summer….)

The Great Writing Race is here!

And there are a surprising number of takers for this years challenge.

From June 1-July 31 I shall engage the most talented of my friends and, apparently, family in a race to finish my novel. (Well, that’s what I’m hoping’ll happen.) The reward? Bragging rights, of course, and dinner at a restaurant of the winner’s choice. John and Ali are already shaking in their boots.

But last time Ali cleaned up–over 40,000 words in two weeks. They weren’t even bad words! They were coherent. She is a true champion, a.k.a. the Person to Make Cry.

Though I think John may have beat her the time they raced together. But she could’ve beat him by a hair. They can correct my errors in the comment section.

Then we have Matt and Marie. Matt, my brother, who has finished at least three novel-length pieces. Marie, the steady work-horse who has finished not only two novel-length pieces that I’m aware of, but also multiple short stories and revisions of those self-same novels.

I, however, have a great deal to gain from winning this:
1. A complete manuscript that I am motivated to finish!
2. The Bragging Rights
3. Food
4. Bragging Rights
5. Making Ali cry
6. The pleasure of writing in order to beat other people, and brag about it.

Quiver, people! Shake, shiver, and move outta my way!

A Process Piece

I have come to the conclusion that there’s a pattern to my process.

Here it is, in a nutshell:

Write helter-skelter for a little while, fiddle with the characters, get a good, solid start. Then, once I’ve warmed up, I go for the end in a flurry of writing. I say, ‘Okay, Jenny, time to end it’ and then I work my tail off until it’s finished.

I have now hit that ‘Okay, Jenny, time to end it’ stage. My goal is to finish my WIP (La Llorona) by the end of July–or make a really good effort. I have the necessary scenes in mind.

Since all of you have worked on multiple projects, what kind of patterns have you noticed in your own writing process? Do you start strong and fizzle at the end? Do you start like me and wander for a while before you figure out where you’re going? Something else?

Deb just posted about a problem that I think is common to a great deal of writers: knowing when to stop the revising/rewriting/reworking.

I think Fleur’s comment on Deb’s post is very telling–when you’re putting stuff back in and you’re rearranging commas and only commas, then you’ve got the piece as good as you’re probably gonna get it.

Knowing when you’re done–whether the piece is good enough or not–is a slightly different story.

I think that if you are too tired/emotionally wrenched/busy to plunge back into a piece again (and you have to really feel that again by the way) then you kind of have your answer. The answer is: don’t work on it anymore.

Here’s the problem that we run into–sometimes it’s not ‘don’t work on it anymore’, it’s ‘don’t work on it anymore for right now’.

Recently I finished* a manuscript and I reworked it based on critiques and feedback. It came out stronger. Strong enough that I felt confident to send it out. I got a couple requests for pages and then received very polite rejection letters.

It’s not there yet, and I know all the reasons why. However, I just could not look at it anymore. So I’ve put it aside. I’m working on a couple new somethings which I really dig and I started jotting notes for another larger piece.

A couple nights ago, though, I knew very clearly how I should fix it. I wasn’t looking for the solution, it just popped into my head and it was symmetrical and lovely. But guess what that means? Jumping back in again. I think the story is worth it.

Now, however, is not the time to be working on it. I’m busy learning things from finishing other novels. I think that’s very important. Finish one thing, rework it as best you can, move on to something else–whether it’s good enough or not.

I think that’s the learning process. I don’t think I would ever have had the idea to fix the older novel if I weren’t working on these new pieces. Then, when I go back and make that one the best it can possibly be, I’ll fix it–and teach myself how to fix all those other pieces I was working on in the meantime.

The answer in either case, whether you refuse to look at the piece again or whether you intend to rewrite it eventually, is to put the piece that’s frustrating you aside. If you get back to it because what you’ve learned has struck a chord and you feel the need to pick up a pen/slam some computer keys until the piece works…then great! But don’t beat yourself up if you got a great idea to fix it and never pick the novel up again–you’ve answered your own question and you’re finishing too many other cool things.

Most of the time (99.9% of the time) the first book we write is not the first one we publish…and sometimes that novel stays under the bed, not because we decided that we wouldn’t work on it anymore, but because we haven’t made it back to it yet.

What do you guys think?

*This talk is about finished rough drafts and rewriting. I don’t think that you should just put down a rough draft that’s in progress, because you don’t know what it is yet.

I caved in and got NOOK, B&Ns ebook reader.

And let me tell you…it’s way easier to buy books this way. You just blink and there it is!

As a writer, I have to tell ya, that I dig the idea of people being able to download books as a spontaneous purchase that’s non-returnable. I can see some sales that wouldn’t have happened otherwise just, well, happening.

Once those agents/publishers figure out how to negotiate rights for us…this is gonna be way cool.

Pardon the lack of recent posting–been busy with, ya know, that life stuff.

And sometimes that life stuff takes a turn for the happy. For example, we are in the process of packing up my brother’s belongings and kicking him in the direction of Denver! Yippee! That means a free room for, dare I say it?

A writing room for Jenny.

(You know I’m happy when I talk about myself in the third person.)

Can I get three cheers from the crowd? Hip-hip-hooray!