Category Archives: Write

Novel Draft 1.0

This morning the phone rang at 5:30. It was the school, to say that the boys would be staying at home today. Noooooooo!

Not that I don’t love my boys and enjoy their company, but today was the last day I had to work on my novel before my critique group expected to see it in their inboxes.

Knowing that the kids would sleep in unless roused, I stumbled out of bed (at 5:30. Yes, I did) and fired up my laptop. I’d been working fairly intensely for the past two or three weeks: printing out what I had of the manuscript, cutting up the papers in to scenes, paperclipping them together and writing notes on index cards clipped to each scene. I had been writing linking scenes, rewriting scenes and making notes on what I still had to do. I knew I was close. I just needed to push on and get it done.

K appeared, at some point, to say his work was closed too, because of the approaching storm. Something in the back of my brain said “whoopee”, but I don’t think I even stopped to acknowledge him. I just kept working. The sun came up. The boys started moving around. I smelled eggs and bacon cooking. I worked on.

By noon I had been though the whole manuscript and typed up the ending I had written a couple of months ago. I was just about to pat myself on the back for being done, when I discovered a whole slew of scenes that I thought I had already written, that I had in fact only written “[this is what happens here]” notes for. Eek!

Two hours later, I stumbled, crazy-haired and unwashed, out of the office and declared my novel (first draft) DONE.

Four years, four months and four days after the first line was written.

I could/should have proof read the whole thing again before I sent it off, but I was so drained that I just compiled the text, gave it a quick once-over and sent it off.

I wrote a novel. And people are going to read it. It was a Herculean task and I feel pretty amazing for having wrangled the darned thing into some kind of shape I’m happy with. It’s a first draft. It’s not ready for prime time, but the pieces are in place and I’m happy to let people look at it in all its imperfect glory.

And I’m taking the rest of the day off.

Little By Little, I’ll Get There

So, I have this deadline. It hits in exactly two weeks. I have to finish a readable draft of the novel I’ve been tinkering with since Nov 2010, and send it off to my critique group.

Finishing a novel seems like such a huge, unmanageable task that I keep putting it off. Every time I started on it, without the deadline and the critique group, I got overwhelmed at the idea of all the things I had to fix and finish.

With the deadline, I’ve been able to force myself to solve problems and make notes and plan scenes and push myself to figure out how to get them written even when I don’t feel inspired (or as if I know what I’m doing). There are lots of resources that have helped me, but the most important thing I’ve discovered:Writing Log YTD

Doing any writing, even a little bit at a time, helps me get closer to the end.

Fancy that.

This is a lesson I’ve learned from knitting. Even if I only knit one row a day, I”ll eventually get to the end of the project. The biggest thing I’ve ever knitted turned into a manageable project when I sat down and figured out that I had to knit four rows a day every day between then and October to get the thing done. And then it wasn’t scary any more.

So.

I’ve been planning out the scenes I need to write. I’m still far from being done, and I feel like i’m not getting anywhere, but when I look at that chart up there I realize that yeah, I’m getting stuff done. 29,955 words so far this year.

Wish me luck with getting that first draft ready in two weeks!

Good Writing

2300+ words on the novel today.

It doesn’t seem like that much until you realize that I’ve been up since 6:30 AM and it’s now 3 PM and I’ve exercised and eaten well, and got two boys out to school (with help) and cleaned up the breakfast dishes and eaten a healthy lunch and spent half an hour on the treadmill and that, as well as all that, it was GOOD writing.

I don’t mean deathless prose. I mean: I thought about what I wanted to write and made notes. I worked through my temptation to give in to Resistance. I put myself in front of my keyboard and pounded out words until some of them started to go together in ways I liked. I let go of ‘perfect’ and settled for ‘something I can work with and that gets me closer to the end of the story’.

These are big things for me, people. Big things.

Routine. Determination, Persistence.

Not things that I specialize in. (Going, rather, for a hopefully charming spontaneity and good humor).

But I’m trying to find a process that gets me closer to what I want (which is to be writing and finishing stories all the time.)

So, huzzah. Now I’m off to do the domestic goddess bit.

How have you fed your Creative Animal today?

Two Steps Forward…

More of that Writing Amidst Life stuff today.

Two hour delay; breakfast with husband; the lure of fine writing implements

The kids had a half day yesterday because of The Blizzard That Never Was, and I not only negotiated some writing time with the Husband, but used it productively to add 1400 words to a scene in the novel.

Today I had more time at my disposal and managed to sit and stare at the scene for quite a lot of it. I figured out my problem, though, which is something: I need to know what the heroine’s story goals at this point in the story. It’s a waste of my time to just add more words to the scene if they don’t serve the overall story. So I did some background writing to figure out what she needs to figure out at this point.  That sounds very clever and it would have been, had I not succeeded in completely confusing myself. Time to go back to my notes, It think.

But this is the absolute worst time of the day for met to try to make decisions, so I’m going to send a few emails and try to get back to this later. Or tomorrow. But at least knowing what the problem is, now.

Sheesh!

Current projects/priorities/progress:

  1. Finish draft of the novel (so I can revise it for the critique group) – Getting there. Have added, since last week, about 4000 words in three different scenes, building towards the climax. Huzzah!
  2. Post weekly Write On Wednesday prompts to StoryADay – No progress, but I have three weeks’ worth in the bank
  3. Start prepping for April’s build-up to StoryADay – Wrote a Thursday Feature Article about Turning Up At The Page
  4. Non-fiction book proposal No progress
  5. Reading –  Um…
  6. Regular column for other site – Really very little progress unless you count what I do  in the next 30 minutes…
  7. Planning – Captured a list of Things I Want To Do This Year. It’s quite a lot, and now it’s all organized and in a Google Document that I can update from year to year. Fun!

Writing Process

I’m trying to figure out my own writing process at the moment: trying to find a practice that I can use to get my writing going every day, not just when I feel inspired.

This novel I’m working on has been dragging on for too long and I’m determined to get a draft finished. To that end I’ve promised to hand a draft to my critique group in early March. So I have to write it, now. 1

So, given that I am, by nature, a sprinter, not a marathoner, I am struggling a bit.

Currently what seems to be working is to sit down and write a summary of the next scene: what is going to happen and why, what the reader should be feeling during the scene, and what it leads into. I jot it all down in the present tense and then I can start writing the scene. Having figured out where it’s going before I try to write any prose frees me up to get there by any route I fancy.

I’m also coming and working at the co-working space because it makes me feel more professional and less of a hobbyist.

Tools I am using:

  • The Snowflake Method
  • The Scene Checklist from Story Engineering
  • Scrivener for writing
  • Google Docs Spreadsheet for capturing a list of scenes
  • Google Docs Spreadsheet for capturing my word count every day (which isn’t really important but helps me to see my progress)
  • Google Docs Slacker Tracker Spreadsheet set up by Carol to help me manage different projects. Which reminds me, I have to work on another thing today too!
  1. to be clear, I have lots of words written. it’s just that they don’t entirely hang together as a coherent story with a middle and an end and any obvious reason for all the stuff that happens.

Writing-Adjacent

So far today I haven’t got very far with the actual *writing* stuff.
Lots of stuff that is “writing-adjacent”, not to mention booking tickets to see a touring Broadway show in June (that was surprisingly stressful. The tickets went on sale this morning and we had to get into an electronic queue and be alerted — by email — that our number had come up. Then K had a meeting to go to and IM-ed me the information, but I couldn’t take over his spot int the electronic queue of course, and had to wait for my own number to come up. When it did, the system told me it had expired, in spite of its only havng been up for 10 minutes not the much-vaunted 20 minutes they said I’d have. Aargh! So then I had to get into another queue and wait for that number to come up and all the while I was thinking ‘but what if all the good seats are gone?’ even though this is a pre-sale and only certain bona fide theater goers — as evidenced by previous ticket purchases — were allowed to be in this queue. Agree! So mumuch stress for 10:30 in the morning.

Now I’m faced with the eternal problem: lunch? Nap? Work?

Let’s have a look at what I achieved yesterday. Hmmm. I think it’s clear that the answer to the above question needs to be ‘work’, with a lunch chaser.

I spent some fun time after the stressful-ticket-buying experience, creating (templates for) graphics of inspirational quotes that will work well on Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest, because everyone seems to like images these days. People allegedly are all about video now, online too, but I surveyed “my” people and it turns out they, like me, do not like everything to happen by video. So that’s good. I can forget about veering off into distracting video-producing territories and stick to the writing.

Ah, yes, the writing…

Current projects/priorities/progress:

  1. Finish draft of the novel (so I can revise it for the critique group) – No progress. Boo
  2. Post weekly Write On Wednesday prompts to StoryADay – Yes! Posted three of these as well as five Reading Room Tuesday reviews of short stories I have read.
  3. Start prepping for April’s build-up to StoryADay – Some social media stuff. Lots of lists made. Reminders put in Evernote.
  4. Non-fiction book proposal – No progress
  5. Reading –  Read 1 short story
  6. Regular column for other site – No Progress

Writing Amidst Life

Life is happening around here.

Biohazard

It’s interesting stuff. There’s been serious illness, hospital visits and rehab. Not to mention international travel insurance, car hire, and the whole Christmas and New Year stuff.

I was feeling quite good about myself, getting in some writing here and there, while waiting for a scheduled 3-week family visit to wind down, whereupon I would plunge back into the writing.

But then…life.

And it’s fine. Because it’s important stuff. And I am thrilled that things are now going well. And that I have all these new experiences to draw upon.
I do, however, have to figure out how to write amidst it all. It’s a challenge, but one I’m kind of enjoying.

Because I’ve finally realized that life will continue to happen (at least until it doesn’t, and I certainly won’t be writing after that!).

Summer vacations will be part of my life for the next 8 years and probably longer. I have to figure out how to not put my writing on hold during them. Busy times with the kids will happen. Jobs might come and go. And I have to figure out how to write during them.

Listened to a WritingExcuses podcast yesterday where the hosts were talking about what they and people they know do, to keep writing amidst life. It was eye-opening and thought-provoking. Still not sure I could write during a foreign-language lecture, like Neil Gaiman apparently did, but you never know: there have been times when I’ve been in the middle of a story AND in the middle of the family, with the TV going in the background, and still able to write because the writing was flowing.

So.

Life.

And writing.

Watch this space.

Current projects/priorities:

  1. Finish draft of the novel (so I can revise it for the critique group)
  2. Post weekly Write On Wednesday prompts to StoryADay
  3. Start prepping for April’s build-up to StoryADay (choose projects, pare down projects, write and produce stuff e.g. this year’s prompt book)
  4. Non-fiction book proposal
  5. Reading
  6. Regular column for other site.

Not Forgotten

I hate this patch of grass.

It’s not even good grass. It grew in, scraggly and clover-filled, over-seeded carelessly by the new owners and left to fend for itself. I watched as it filled in, obscuring the scar of bare earth that used to be where the kids soared on yellow swings and hauled themselves across the monkey bars and cried because no one would go on the seesaw swing with them and shrieked with laughter, playing Squeeze The Lemon on the bumpy slide as we watched, all in a row, heads cocked, narrow-eyed, holding back, but ready to intervene if one of them looked at us with sudden, panicked eyes.

The grass was worn away by feet sized 3T-big kid 2, trampled by women’s 7s and 9s. Even regular drenchings from water balloon wars weren’t enough to save it and it gave up, leaving a rectangle of hard won, hard-worn earth in its place.

Until that summer.

When the swingset was empty and the silence rang through the neighborhood. A few kids would stop by from time to time and swing for a minute, wondering if it was OK to be there, but no-one was home to care. I just watched them, over the fence, and waited.

That fall, every time I walked out of my front door the empty swing — the one furthest to the right was her favorite — was like a kick in the guts. And then, when they’d all gone, the bare patch of earth was a memorial of sorts.

The next spring’s thin weed-ridden growth was an insult: Life goes on. But this lush coating of green three years later?

I hate it.

ForgeTown Cover

ForgeTown 1.16 – Sleep Tight, Stella

Buoyed by her success in settling down her restless and homesick son, Kath crossed the hall and knocked on Stella’s door. A baseline thumped spasmodically behind the door. Overtones of a whiny pop diva’s voice bled through like a mosquito on speed. Kath winced. Stella knew she couldn’t stand that song.  It was, she realized, probably why Stella listened to it incessantly. As acts of rebellion go, it wasn’t the worst. Deeply irritating, of course, but Kath could do irritating too. She grinned. You’d have one less problem without me, girl? Ha!

She knocked as she pushed the door open.

“Mo-om! What about privacy? Why can’t I have a lock on that door? What kind of hell is this you’ve brought me to?”

Kath raised her hands in front of her to fend off the attack.

“Woah!” she said. “A, I knocked; B, who said you couldn’t have a lock? The fact is the door doesn’t currently have a lock, that’s all. And C, what kind of tone is that to take with your mother, missy?”

Oh God, she sounded like her mother. In the bad old days. Still, she couldn’t back down now.

“And could you please turn that ‘music’ down? My ear drums are going to split.” Had she really just done the air-quotes thing around ‘music’? Yes, she had.

Stella, curled up on her bed, looked small in this big new room. She was clutching her iPod. Her ever-present notebook was beside her on the bed, its pages scrawled with tiny writing. She flipped its cover closed as Kath approached. It took all Kath’s self-control not to reciprocate the preteen’s eyerool. Stella did, however, turn the volume down on the auto tuned mosquito noises.

“Thank you”

“I’m never going to get to sleep. It’s too loud out there.”

Kath mentally pictured the street outside: empty sidewalks, roomy yards, token streetlights dripping weak spots of light onto the sidewalk for the occasion late night dog walker; a far cry from the busy Waterville sidewalks that had nudged up against the kids’ bedrooms bringing city lights, thumping baselines from vibrating, pimped-out Honda Civics and snatches of shouted conversations that had been an education in colorful vocabulary for every neighborhood kids down through the generations.

“Too loud?”

Stella bolted out of her bed and stood, hands on hips by the window.

“Listen,” One palm up, she indicated the offending outdoors as if her mother must be not only hard of hearing but also hard of thinking.

Kath listened.

Nothing. Well, apart from the insects doing that come-and-go chirping thing she associated with movies about country life. There were some shirrings of air conditioners too, but apart from that…then there was a scuffle as if something was digging in the flower bed outside.

“What’s that?” she asked. Stella dropped the drama queen act and stared back at her, wide eyed.

“Cats?”

“Maybe it’s a possum,” Kath said. “Out here in the wilds of Pennsylvania, they might have possums. What is a possum anyway?” Kath struck a dramatic pose. “What does a possum even look like? Are they carnivorous. Are we on the menu?”

Stella looked like she might crack a smile.

“Possum!” she repeated, letting the smile break through, briefly.

“Would it help if I let you have the iPod and headphones for tonight?” Kath asked.

She thought she saw a hint of the little girl Stella had been until about two months ago, when this move had come up and she had vaulted into the teen years. A wave of softness flooded over her, then Stella arched an eyebrow at her and mumbled. “thanks,” and the moment was over.

“It’s going to be–“Kath began.

“Fine. I know. So you keep telling me.” Stella threw herself back down on to her bed and scrolled studiously through her music, her back to her mother.

Kath slowly and silently counted to ten — which, she remembered somewhat belatedly, only ever served to make her angrier — then decided to let her Angry Young Woman stew. A thousand opening lines died on her tongue and she turned back to the door.

“Sleep tight, Stella,” she said.

After she closed the door Kath waited for a moment on the landing. From behind the closed door, she thought she heard the faintest, “And don’t let the bugs bite.”