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!


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. 

Back in the Saddle: A Tuesday Post of Accountability

Welcome to Tuesday, writer friends! ‘Tis the day to view our writing progress.

1. For me, January was supposed to be the month of my Triumphant Return To The Novel! I took December off to focus on family and holiday stuff. You guys know how that is, I’m sure. So January! Time to write! And…I missed my word count. Badly.

But this last week I’ve hit my stride again – and I’m almost done with a new chapter. Yay! I’m behind where I’d like to be, but this isn’t a race right? (RIGHT?! Someone please tell me this isn’t a race!) (Okay, I’m better now. I think.)

2. Yeah, refer to #1 – that’s about all I did. Played a lot of computer solitaire and plotted in my head too…does that count? Let’s count it.

But, all in all, I’m back in the saddle and riding (writing) away.

How’d you guys do? 

A Week of Almost-Not-Quite: A Tuesday Post of Accountability

Ah, welcome to Tuesday comrades. Time to see what we’ve accomplished this week.

For me:

It’s the week of almost-not-quite.

1. Almost finished a new short story. I’m up to the climatic, near-end scene. The story sorta wrote itself, which is always nice, right? But it still isn’t finished. Just two more scenes.

2. Worked on the first chapter of the book I’m collaborating on with Ali. (Soon she and I are going to be joined at the hip we’re doing so much together.) But I didn’t finish the work I wanted to do on the second chapter.

This collaboration thing is interesting. It seems to me that a lot of the decisions you make while writing are instinctive. When you have a writing partner, you have to be able to articulate – or, at least, to show – to another person what and why you’re doing what you’re doing. This is true both for this blog now that we’re both working on it and for the fiction piece we’re doing.

Ali – what are your thoughts on this work together stuff?

3. Almost hit my scheduled weekly word count for my own novel. But not entirely there. Sad faces all around. And I’m pretty sure I’m not going to hit the count again this week because I’ve got to prep for a presentation that my writing group is doing this Sunday. (More on that next week!) Also, I have to prep my submission to the same group – which means editing some of my NaNo pile instead of new writing. At least that is all on the same project.

4. Almost finished with a poetry chapbook on Ted Bundy that I’m going to submit to a competition. Need three more poems. I know the subject matter, it’s just a matter of finding the right words. Poetry is tougher than anything when you’re struggling with finding words. So it’ll probably take me right up to the deadline before I finish.

5. Oh! I did finish one thing. I set up a page on Facebook for my writers’ group The Under Ground Writing Project (UGWP to those ‘in the know’). If you’re so inclined, you can go on Facebook or go to the website and click Like. Also, feel free to join the website itself, even if you can’t make the regular meetings. There are writing forums and blog posts and writing resources listed. The only thing you can’t do on the site is read the group’s documents. You’ll forgive me for protecting our work, right? I really want to promote writerly friendships.

Now it’s your turn! Tell me what you’ve been up to this week!

Time to clear the stack:JenRidReadMo

Last month, as you guys know, was National Novel Writing Month. Millions of writers across the country set pen to paper/fingers to keyboard in order to write an entire novel in a month. Which is a crazy idea, when you get right down to it.

Partly to recover from this last bout of ridiculousness, and partly because I set myself the challenge of reading 80 books this year, I will be reading a book a day until the end of the year.

I’m dubbing this challenge: JenRidReadMo. (Jenny’s Ridiculous Reading Month)

Why? I’m sure my friend John is asking (because he’s always the one looking at me like I’ve lost my mind when I say “I’m gonna do this [fill in random thought]!”).

My Reasons:
Palate cleansing. Post NaNo, I find I need a break from writing. I’m still working on a couple things, and by working I mean fiddling and getting nothing accomplished. And reading will help reboot the system.

Well filling. During NaNo my brain stopped working correctly. I didn’t entirely lose the vision of my novel, but it definitely got blurred around the edges. I need fuel to kick the ol’ imagination back in gear. Right now I feel like I have nothing to pull from. Time to chill and gather my brilliant thoughts again.

Because I wanna. Like NaNo, JenRidReadMo, is a challenge. I’d like to say that I did it. And I don’t mean 35 books in one month, I’m referring to the goal I set back way early in the year – which I already missed because my original insane goal was 100. My previous years (according to Goodreads stats) I’ve managed about 30 books a year. I don’t want to set it back again – that feels like failing and I don’t like to fail. So this is an area where I’d like to push myself.

And a quick shout out to Deniz – who is doing her own removal of her teetering to-read pile.


I’m a Winner!: A Tuesday Post of Accountability

It’s Tuesday again folks. And every Tuesday you will be subjected to regaled by the writing progress I have made over the last week. But! I insist that I not be the only one exposing myself sounding off. Let your comments reflect what kind of suffering butt-kicking you have done too!
And there’s one big thing I’ve done in the last week:

I WON NANOWRIMO!!!!!!!!!!!!

50,000 total new words for my work in progress in the last month!!!!!

*crowd cheers*

So, about equals about 10,000 new words on my work in progress for the week.

That’s really probably enough, isn’t it?

And I’m not alone. Crossing the finish line with me: my good dear friend Deb and my good dear spouse Shane.

A big hearty congratulations to everyone who wrote this past month. And to everyone who is still punching those keys: STOP READING RIGHT NOW AND GET TO WORK.

It was a great experience and now I shall list what I have learned:

1. Having someone to write with is a good thing. Early on in the month I was gonna throw in the towel. Then Shane got a fire lit under his own typing fingers and sped past me. In one day he banged out 7,000 words, made me feel like a total bum, and therefore I kicked my own ass to keep up. Because, really, I should not get beaten by people with full time jobs. If they can do it, I can do it. No excuses.

He still kept ahead of me throughout the month. *Jenny’s carrot*

Until I saw the magical ‘40,000’ on the bottom of my Word screen. After that I was not stopping, I wasn’t slowing down for anyone and ditched everyone and everything to end NaNo early on Sunday. I was beyond thrilled.  

So it served to prove that, all too often, I’m the person in my own way.

2. I need a sketch pad or something where I can sketch out floor plans, ground plans, street maps, or whatever. The idea for this had already been in the back of my head because of an Umberto Eco essay in Confessions of a Young Novelist. I don’t have the book in front of me, but Eco talks about how he added dialogue because a set of stairs in The Name of the Rose was long and the characters should be talking all the way down. Basically, he was so aware of space and location that he had his characters behave accordingly.

I think I need to do that — and the point was brought home to me via my writer’s group on Sunday. Basically, the end section of Part I is confused. There’s a lot of action, but no one knows where anyone else is in relation to the whole. Part of that is me not having a clear idea of where or what I want my characters to be doing.  I also forgot where I put the kitchen. And the home office.

This is stuff you need to know, ya know?

3. Writing is a reward in itself. Yesterday, when I had nothing I had to write, I still had a million and one things I wanted to get down on paper. I actually stopped myself because my well is really really really dry at the moment. It was energizing to get all that stuff down, but I need to get my bearings a little bit.

Today I’m going to continue work on a short story, but I’m going to take it nice and slow.

How are you guys recovering? Revving up for the holidays?