Augh! Tuesday Again!: A Tuesday Post of Accountability

Grr. Tuesday snuck up on me this week. Time to be held accountable.

1. I showed up to be critiqued at my writer’s group on Sunday. Took lots of notes on a short story that I’m going to send to Hayden’s Ferry Review for their “In the Dark” themed issue. (Ali posted it as a challenge to all y’all as well on a Saturday Pages post – so there’s still time guys!)

So, at the very least there’s gonna be some revision going on around here.

2. Annnnd there’s already some revision going on. I’ve been working on my La Llorona story – adding some scenes mostly, and cutting stuff that’s not important to the main plot. I’m up through the third chapter (I have twenty-two total and plan to work my way through all of them by the 15th).

I also went through the notes that I have from my original readers. I’ve discovered that if you wait a year you will come to the exact same conclusions as your original readers. My opinion of waiting between drafts has always been wait a looooong time. Way longer than you think. It’s the best way to get perspective.

Plus it’s easier to ‘kill your darlings’ when you don’t necessarily remember writing them….

Short and sweet, huh? I’m still baseballing too.

Blame it on the Baseball: A Tuesday Post of Accountability

Hello Tuesday and writer-friends! Time to be held accountable for our writing actions…or lack thereof.

Unfortunately, I fall into that “Lack Thereof” category this week.

And I blame baseball.

Not the major league kinda baseball – the way-more-intense world of Babe Ruth League baseball for children 9-10 years old. The world of baseball that my ten year old son now inhabits. The kind of baseball that demands I participate as one of the Moms. Snack times, gathering equipment, and all of that time/soul-sucking stuff. (And this is just the preseason…I can’t believe how much these boys and girls play!)

Since practices have gone five nights out of the week, I’ve lost some daytime hours and have had to adjust to a new routine.

But I have done some writing related thingy-bobs.

1. Observe (because Ali insists on more pictures):

Masterpiece in Progress

What is this? This is my dining room table, covered with chapters from my La Llorona story. (And for those who might be interested in learning more about the legend of La Llorona so you kinda know what the story touches on: here’s a good website.) I discovered that I didn’t have enough room in my office to spread out, so I took over the dining room. I needed to be able to visualize what I was trying to accomplish.

My plan is basically to work top left corner to bottom right corner…though you can rest assured that the second row of papers you see there will be entirely new by the time I’m done.

***The children have been warned – on penalty of heavy maiming – to NOT TOUCH***

2. Eavesdropped via Twitter on the 20th Annual Pikes Peak Writer’s Conference. Apparently Donald Maass was there and made a huge splash – lots and lots of writers tweeting about how encouraging he was. So I was, of course, exceedingly jealous that I wasn’t there. (If you’d like to hear what the PPWCers had to say visit the #PPWC2012 hashtag in Twitter. There’s a bunch of neat stuff, including some book character costumes from one of the dinners.)

Another thing I ran across during my PPWC stalking was this incredibly useful checklist via DeAnna Knippling. If you’re feeling down in the dumps about writing and hitting that Hopeless Phase, she’s probably got the solution somewhere on that list.

What’d you guys manage to accomplish this week? Learn anything useful that I can steal?

Still Typing: A Tuesday Post of Accountability

Hello writer-friends. It’s Tuesday, which means that it’s time to be accountable…which I wasn’t last Tuesday.

Quick reason for no posting last Tuesday: My grandmother died on March 31. It was rather an emotional week that manifested some strange things.

The first of which – Last Monday (the Monday after her death) I decided to go crazy and write a book in a day. For those of you who would wish to attempt this feat, here’s what you have to do in a nutshell: type 8 pages an hour for 24 hours.

I was unsuccessful.

But I think I’ve figured out the emotional component that made me want to attempt such a reaching kind of thing. It’s this: my grandmother never read anything I wrote. Because I’ve never really finished a draft that I was proud to show her, or the readers that surround me. I have the rough drafts and sketches and all that stuff we writers accumulate. I’ve shown these things to my fellow writers, but not to any readers.

Which, I’ve decided, is stupid.

What the hell am I doing this for if it isn’t for people to read the stories?

I’m over halfway there for my book-in-a-week. And I think it’s accomplished a multi-purpose emotional set of tasks:

1. I know that I can finish a rough draft relatively quickly – even quicker than a NaNo pace. So that has given me a sense of time…I have plenty of it to accomplish the telling of stories.

2. Writing is fun. Don’t focus on the publishing, people. If you’re focusing on the publishing and ‘business’ elements, you’re not writing anything anyone wants to read. I’m sorry, but that’s just the truth. If you just take the time to cut loose and enjoy yourself, you’ll accomplish a lot more and have more fun doing it.

3. Be willing to show the people you love what you’re up to. I’m sure a lot of you have read the Door Open/Door Closed section of Stephen King’s On Writing. He’s describing writing with the door closed and then, when the rough draft is finished there’s this offhand line: “it’s time to give up the goods.” I hadn’t thought much of that line – it seemed to me that he was saying “show it if you wanna show it.”

But what it really means is: Give up the goods.

(Profound, I know.)

Yes, there’s editing to do. Yes, you’re gonna change things. But the people that love you and surround you want to see some evidence of what you’ve been up to. Some of them actually want to read it and give you encouragement/advice/their opinion. Don’t spoil it for them.  
***If they actually read it you also get the added bonus of having something to discuss with them – what they think, what they dislike, what they were impressed by, and what they wished they didn’t know about you.***

4. Palate cleanser. I needed a break from the two humungous projects I’ve been working on. (One in a first draft bang-it-out state of affairs, and the other in a rewrite phase.) I’ve realized that I have a ton and half interesting ideas and that it’s okay to splurge and refresh every now and then. I don’t think I could’ve emotionally dealt with the two in-progress projects last week – I’ve placed too much on them intellectually and emotionally. A fuck-it-whatever piece was just what I needed to recollect myself.

That’s what I’ve learned this past week-and-half-or-so. What’ve you guys been up to?

P.S. In case you’re wondering – the novel is a steampunk romance mystery with Jack the Ripper. I think it might make an interesting series…we’ll see!

Last Minute Stories and Editing: A Tuesday Post of Accountability

It’s Spring Break, so I almost forgot it was Tuesday. Time to be held accountable!

Here is what I did last week:

1. As Ali posted on Saturday, Hayden’s Ferry Review has put out the call for their “In the Dark” issue. Oliver and I decided that would be a fun experiment for our writer’s group and extended it as a challenge…which Ali then passed on to you guys here.

At first, I wasn’t going to do it. I didn’t have an idea. But then Oliver threw down and I can’t just send out a challenge without participating in the challenge. So on Saturday I came up with an idea, worked it, and then worked more on Sunday right before the group.

Oh yeah, it’s a last minute thing. But I have a new short story! Yay!

2. Wrote more stuff on The Line. Got through two scenes – so about 2000 words. (Sounds pathetic, I know. But the short story writing time cut into it.)

3. Finished a rewrite of the first chapter of La Llorona.   And let me tell you something interesting about that experience:

Way back in the day, Ali was reading the early chapters of La Llorona and I remember her saying something along the lines of “The sentence structure is off.” You see, I was being all ‘literary’ and she didn’t get my genius. So, of course, it was her problem.

Then I was re-reading this stuff, marking it up, pondering it. And thought: I don’t understand what half these sentences mean. I got the gist, but it wasn’t easy reading. Most of my marks were cleaning up weird grammatical things – not incorrect, just…weird.

There are two things to take from this:

The first: You’ve heard that bit of advice about needing distance from a piece before you revise. In On Writing, Stephen King recommends at least six weeks. (Which, to many writers, seems an impossible long time. To you I say: It’s not, and it’s worth it. If you can hold out even longer, better.) I have never had a problem with this waiting gig – it makes sense to me. But I think something else goes along with it.

Practice.

Between the time you put a piece down and the time you pick it up again, you should have written something else: a short story at the very least, but maybe even a whole different novel. 

If you do nothing between the time you drop your novel and the time you pick it back up again, you have learned no new skills. You have learned no new techniques. You are the same writer. You haven’t improved. If you haven’t improved, why on earth would you think you could make your manuscript better? You learn something with everything you write – so write a lot.

The second: Assuming that you don’t have the time to wait (hello Deadline!), you have to trust your early readers, especially for the grammar thing – that kinda stuff isn’t as open for debate as storyline or character motivation. Readers have the distance, and they have a different skill set than you do – so they have the two things needed in order to edit gracefully: distance and practice.

That’s all for me! What’d you guys do this week? (I gotta tell you, we’re re-doing the upstairs bathroom this week…so I can’t guarantee big word counts for next week.)

Revising the Plan: A Tuesday Post of Accountability

Happy Tuesday, writerly folk! Tuesdays are accountability day here at Place for the Stolen…so time to see what we accomplished writing-wise this past week:

1. Okay, so I know last week I said to hold me accountable for the End-of-April rough draft plan. I’m here to say that perhaps that was a smidge hasty. I’ve been re-evaluating the speed at which I can compose gracefully (read: without pulling my hair out) and have come to the conclusion that slower and steadier wins the race. I’m now aiming for the end of July as the rough draft due date for The Line.

And this past week I’ve added another 2400 words to the novel. Huzzah!

2. Part of the revising my plan is also that I’m starting another draft of an earlier book – my La Llorona book for those who care what I’m working on. It occured to me that The Line won’t be ready for submission this year no matter how much I bust my ass – and I want a submittable-to-agents draft of a novel this year. That way I can at least build experience in the querying gig. Plus, I like this book and, after seeing Woman in Black, feel that a good, old fashioned ghost story is the way to go. (For those that have read some of it – you realize this means some definite retooling.)  

I whipped out my handy-dandy calendar and figured out a way to gracefully (read again: without pulling my hair out) do a new draft by the end of August.

So far I’ve marked up the first three chapters, cut another chapter, and have typed in a new two pages. Huzzah!

*Interesting note: I work better in the morning on the flat-out new stuff. Revisions are more a late afternoon/early evening thing. At least it keeps the days interesting, huh?*

That’s it for me, kids. How about you guys? Revising? Working on something new? 

Getting After It: A Tuesday Post of Accountability

Welcome to Tuesday, dear writers. That means it’s time to tell tales about what we’ve accomplished this past week.

As for me:
1. Filled a notebook! Yahoo! You know the only thing better than filling a notebook?

Starting a fresh one! Which I have also done this week. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I will have to do a lot of typing-in because I’ve made the decision to plunge ahead and fill as many notebooks as possible. This means an exceptionally long type-in session of novel writing. And I’m not the quickest on the keyboard…so I’m hoping to take my time and let the type-in assume the role of Second Drafting.

Well, it sounds good to me.

2. Finished a short story. Sent it off to a couple readers to read. So I’ve added to my submittable short story pile. (And I’m pretty sure you guys have heard how short that stack was getting, right? Well, if you haven’t hear…it was getting short.)

3. (Which doesn’t seem writing related but totally is): Called around to find out about enrolling the youngest in preschool. Preschool time for youngest child = writing time for me. Sure, she won’t be able to go until August, but I anticipate a large increase in productivity around that point.

And that was my week. What’d you guys get done?

Filling Notebooks: A Tuesday Post of Accountability

Tuesday sneaks up on me sometimes. Time to be accountable! Here is what I have done this past week:

1. Glorious news! I have almost filled a 120 page notebook with new novel words! The rough kind of words, but words nonetheless! Next week I should be able to say: filled a notebook. Such almost-satisfaction. I can see the end. I’ll be done with the notebook in just a couple days. Things are trucking along…and I think I can see the last hill I have to climb before I’m finished with the whole rough draft of The Line.

*the crowd cheers*

(Admittedly, it’s just seeing the last hill…still gotta climb it and hope to heaven that there isn’t some kind of mountain range behind it. I’m sure that happened to the covered wagon trains when they saw the Sierra Nevadas: “We’ve crossed plains! We’ve crossed a huge mountain range! We’ve crossed an unbearably hot desert! Look, it’s a hill! One more thing! Oh. Wait a sec.” That had to be a rough day.)

2. Started second drafts of two short stories. So, yay for progress.

Soon I’ll be able to add to my list of stories I’m submitting. My submittable short story list has been woefully short for a while. When you’re focusing on novel-length work, the time to create new short stories (and actually revise and polish them) is tight. But I’ve recently felt the need to say that something was finished. That I’m making some kind of progress.

Because working on a big ol’ novel sometimes feels like you’re spinning your wheels…even when you’re not.

3. Got some new short story ideas, and one idea for a play. My buddy John has recently been super-active in our local theatre community. Going to these play recently, I have been inspired. I had a one-act play produced when I was in college but haven’t embraced the challenge of a full-length. Sometimes you’ve gotta mix it up. (Just ask Neil Gaiman, right?)

And how have you guys been? Got a lot done?

The Nepalese Cheese Man: A Tuesday Post of Accountability

Welcome to Tuesday – it’s time to be accountable again.

This last week has meant adjustment. There was decidedly less drama this week, so that certainly made everything easier. Whew!

1. Unfortunately, for me because I’m no morning person, my schedule has necessarily been adjusted to accomodate – *gulp* – morning writing. Yes, my writing bretheren, I am now getting up at 5:30a.m. to write.

While it is generally painful, it is more painful not to write…and that’s exactly what was happening these past few weeks. Bronwen has given up naps and therefore keboshed my writing time. I admit to a certain level of irritation at this.

But! Apparently morning writing is a successful alternative. I’ve added a chapter and a half since last week. I’m planning on finishing the rough draft of this puppy in two months TWO MONTHS! Note it, dear blog readers! Hold me accountable! Rough Draft Done in Two Months!!!

2. This past weekend was also writers group weekend and I have to say that I learn something about myself as a writer every month because of these beautiful people.

But first, a seeming tangent:

Do you guys watch House Hunters International? I do. I greatly enjoy learning about different parts of the world and especially the challenges facing those who choose to live somewhere other than their hometown/country.

There was recently an episode of HHI in which a French man decided to pack everything up and head to Nepal to become a cheese maker. My first thought was: Really? Then, when he confessed to not having a great deal of experience in cheese and that he’d been something like a computer engineer (I can’t remember now what he actually did), I thought: Really?

Then they started showing the ‘houses.’ By ‘houses’ I mean shacks along the side of rutted dirt roads where running water was a luxury. And I thought: REALLY? And by now I’m convinced this guy is bat-shit crazy. He knows nothing about cheese, nothing about the area, nothing about whatever else he might need to know about!

Crazy!

I watched the whole show with bated breath, dying to see the six month update where the show follows up and sees how folks are doing.

Six month update: The guy was doing great. He’d revamped the shacks, hired local workers, developed a small factory, had a stable for the animals, storage for the cheeses, equipment to make the cheeses, and vehicles to take the cheese into town to sell. He managed to harness the water, smooth out the road leading to his land, and looked way better groomed than I thought he could’ve managed.

It struck me: the Nepalese cheese man had a vision. And in order for me to buy into it, he had to show me. His talking about it was not good enough. All his talking and explaining did was convince me how dead wrong he was.

Cut to writers group.

I submitted a revised first chapter. It’s about ten pages and is a change in tone and style from the stuff the group had read before. This change was instigated based on other changes I made during NaNoWriMo.

The reactions to the change were not mixed. Every single person had the same issue – solutions varied, but the central issue remained the same. Namely, the tone and structure of the new piece was inconsistant with the tone and structure of the chapters the group had read before. They looked at me as if I were nuts, as if I were some Frenchman who was doing a perfectly good job in computer science but suddenly wanted to be a Nepalese fromagier.

I admit, my initial reaction was very defensive.

It took me a little while to work out why I was so incredibly bothered by their reaction. I soooo wanted them to roll with the new digs. And it honestly surprised me when they seemed so confused or worried about the new pages. Normally I can judge what the issues are going to be.

Then it occured to me: I’m 100 pages ahead of these guys. (120 if you count this past week’s work.) I’ve made changes they haven’t seen or even heard of. I switched the structure quite a bit. I did a 180 on them and expected them to turn when they’d been reading on another axis entirely.

I was frustrated when they recommended changes I’d already made. A little evil part of me went: Why the hell are they being so obtuse? Can’t they just trust my genius?

Well, no Nepalese Cheese Man Jenny, they can’t.

Here’s why:
1. They have no access to your brain.
2. They have no access to the pages you’ve written/rewritten – they have only the context you’ve given them.
3. And you’re misunderstanding them anyway. They’re only pointing out shit you’ve already acknowledged needs to be corrected.

Here’s what to take away from that: it’s not enough to tell people your vision – whether as a writer or a Nepalese cheese man. For people to buy into your work, you have to do the work well and show them. Otherwise they’ll argue against you, convinced that you’re dead wrong. You’re defensive. You’re obtuse.

Show don’t tell counts in life as well as fiction. Remember that.

Now…what did you guys learn? Get a lot of work done? (Yes, Fleur…I know about your rough draft. Punk. Whom I love. But…punk.)

Make It Stop: A Tuesday Post of Accountability

You’d think after last week that there was no more drama to be had. You’d think wrong! But it is Tuesday, so it’s time to be accountable for writing stuff.

1. I did finish a chapter of The Line. It was like pulling teeth for every single word, but the chapter got written! The struggle I’m having with writing is a schedule shift. The soon-to-be four year old doesn’t nap anymore. Pfft! There went my hour-a-day time. Without it, finding time has been a chore. After discussions with Shane, we have fleshed out a new schedule – it’s not every day, but should buy enough time to get stuff down on paper…and let me out of the house. So cheers for that.

2. Almost done with a new short story. I’m diggin’ it and that’s what counts. Just gotta write out the last scene and ta-da! I’ll be finished with that.

But, damn, this was a doozy of a week.

My grandma is still in the ICU with weird tubes and stuff stuck all over. She’s doing better, but it’s still stressful.

Last Thursday night, the car’s fuel pump gave out on Shane on his way home. I’ve been minus a ride for a few days while the mechanics get parts and whatnot. Stuck, stuck, stuck. (P.S. Thank you to Ali and John – who kept me entertained while I waited in the car for the tow truck – long story on how I was the one who wound up waiting – on a really dark, kinda spooky stretch of road. They endured the phone cutting off and me talking to AAA, who needed directions to the spooky stretch of road.)

The Big Doozy: And Sunday night (read: super-early Monday morning – 3:00 a.m.) Shane tripped on something in the bathroom and clonked his head on the bathtub. He managed to knock himself out and received a b*tch of a cut above his right eye…that bled a lot. After keeping him awake and doing all the stuff you’re supposed to do, I took him to the Urgent Care in the later morning. He needed ten stitches.

Yeah, the week isn’t starting off too swell.

And to top it off – insult to injury! – I’ll probably have jury duty tomorrow. Everyone keep your fingers crossed that when I call the jury line tonight I won’t have to go in.

Doing Stuff: A Tuesday Post of Accountability

Oh, yeah! It’s Tuesday – time to see what we’ve accomplished this past week.

I’ve gotta say: not much. My grandmother became very, very ill this past week and that entailed multiple cross-country phone calls, getting my mother to the airport, lots of stressing, and just general unrest in life. I’m sure you guys have had those weeks too. I hope everyone reading this had a great week and nothing too bad happened. Much love to all y’all.

However, it wasn’t a total bust of week, for all that. I managed to get a couple pages written on my big manuscript and fiddled with a short story that I haven’t quite finished – I don’t know if it’s the peripheral stress going on right now, or if it’s the story itself that I’m struggling with. Only time and work will tell.

I did meet up with Iver this week and, as always, he gave me great feedback on a story I sent him. And let me tell you (I’m currently working with a group and Iver separately as a writing partner/buddy/mentor): having someone to read your work and thoroughly go over it is a real gift. I love all of my groupies! Between Iver’s mark up and the group’s critique, this should turn out pretty good. So that makes me happy.

And that’s my week. I hope you guys got some stuff done too! Let me know.

Happy Valentine’s Day! Go hug someone you love.