Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Saturday sigh

Nope. I got nuthin’. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

I don’t know what to write about this week. No new updates on the manuscript front. No ideas from the writers’ grab bag.

Weeding. Taming tomato plants, picking beans, prolific zucchini (big surprise there–not), and patrolling for cabbage worms. Boooring.

Shameless plugs for writing sisters who have books out recently or coming out soon:

Crossing the Line

St. Mary’s Private Dancer

Progress report? Finishing the last edits on my 20 pages to send to my writing sisters. In two weeks I’ll be in Wisconsin at our reunion. I can’t wait!

Hmm, anything useful for fellow writers? Updates on the publishing journey?

I have been reading some good blog posts lately about writing and how important patience and persistence are. I was thinking about my current adventure I’m taking, courtesy of my agent. She started sending the manuscript out in February. It’s now almost the end of July, and we’re still “pounding the pavement”. There are a handful of editors who haven’t said “yea” or “nay”; actually, they haven’t said much at all.

It’s a waiting game. And even once a publisher picks up the manuscript (crossing fingers here!), I know it’ll be at least a year before release, because that’s how long it takes. This is the patience part.

If this manuscript doesn’t sell, I’ve got another one ready to go. It’s just a matter of whether my agent will like it enough to represent it. If not, I’m working on my old “new” WIP, but that won’t be ready until closer to the end of the year. I’ll talk to my agent about next steps.

And I might have to start the hunt all over again (I hope not, because I really like my agent). This is the persistence part. This business is not for anyone who likes instant gratification. Short fiction would have a shorter timeline, and I’ve had short stories published (B.C.–Before Children), so that’s an option.

Bottom line: Keep writing. Keep learning, improving, practicing. Every draft, every query, every rejection is another step on the journey. Keep moving forward.

Okay, that’s about all I’ve got. Heading to my dad’s to see my sister today. I only see her a couple times a year since she lives in WI, so I’m looking forward to catching up a little with her. Gotta finish my 20 pages, so I’m going to sign off.

Have a great weekend! Wear sunscreen, keep hydrated, and WRITE!


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A summer of distractions

Welcome to the first week of summer–though you’d never know it here in MN. Our temps are in the 70s, when usually we’ve got 80s by now (that’s Fahrenheit for those from Down Under or across the pond). And I’m not complaining. I like cooler rather than the gawd-awful heat they’re getting out west. I mean, over 110 degrees in AZ? OMG.

I’d rather complain about the mosquitos. I was out in the garden the other night (pulling weeds because, well, they seem to think they own the place), and it was like a cloud of tiny vampires. I had mosquito repellent on, plus a long-sleeved shirt, plus a net I wear over my head so I don’t have to put repellent on my face. The air around me buzzed. Ugh. And no dragonflies in sight. With such a feast, maybe the dragonflies were full 🙂

*looks around the writing office* Anyone see my Muse? No? Whew. He’s been threatening to tie me to my chair so I’ll have no choice but to write. I know he’s doing his job, but I’m really having trouble getting back into my WIP. I took a mini-retreat last weekend to my dad’s, since he went to visit my sister. I got through the scene I was stuck on, now I’m stuck again. I’m thinking I need some writing sister help.

Speaking of, I’m starting to count down to our reunion–one month and change. We always have a great time, and so much creative energy!

“A-hem.”

Okay, um, he’s behind me, isn’t he? Damn, I knew if I mentioned him he’d show up. Maybe if I pretend I didn’t hear him, he’ll go away.

“You know I won’t, love.”

Gulp. I’ll update the board. Yep, I was meaning to do that. I rearrange the active and inactive lists. My agent touched base with all the editors who have the manuscript, so there’s eight on the active list. Two of them have been unresponsive, so the inactive list has two entries.

“Now that you’re done playing around, sit down and write.”

I suck in a deep breath and let it out slowly before I turn around. “Oh, hi. I was just thinking about you.” My Muse is rougish today, in an oddly-attractive getup of faded jeans, holey red t-shirt that probably needs to retire to the rag pile, and faded flannel shirt that might have been red and black, but now is reddish and gray. If he’s shaved in the past week, the rough stubble on his face doesn’t show it.

“What happened to Indiana Jones? Did Harrison Ford call and ask for his fedora back?”

He crosses his arms on his chest and shoots me a stern look, the one that says “don’t give me any bullshit”, a distinct lack of humor in his eyes. “Har, har. Maybe I should take a page from the Hell’s Angels instead. Would you listen to me then? Biker leathers and chains?”

Puke. Not a fan. “No, no, this is fine. I’m good with rough and outdoorsy. It is outdoorsy, right? Not ‘I lost my construction job and I’m sulking in front of the TV’. By the way, don’t do the beard thing. Not a good look for you.”

He frowns. “You’re planning on writing this weekend, right?”

“I always plan on writing on the weekends. I’ve got my cousin’s graduation today. We’ll be gone all afternoon. And if it stays dry, I’ve got a jungle of weeds to pull. It’s summer. C’mon, this happens every summer.”

“And every summer I have to bust my ass to get you to sit down and write. Your reunion is  coming up. You have to send the first 20 pages of your WIP to your sisters in a couple weeks.”

“I think I need their help with this one. I’m not feelin’ it. There’s something missing.”

“Yeah, you at your desk, writing.” He heaves a sigh, like this is a burden he has to put up with. Come to think of it, that’s probably accurate. “Please?”

Wait. What? “Did you just say ‘please’?”

He takes another step closer and puts his hands on my shoulders. “Tell you what.” He squeezes my shoulders. “You sit down and write, and I’ll get a new bucket of ideas to toss at the brainstorming wall.”

That’ll work, I think. I’ll have an hour and a half drive to my cousin’s house and another hour and a half back today to mull over ideas. I’d include a few pics here, but I haven’t taken any new ones since it’s been so wet outside. We did let the chicks into the bigger pen now, but when I tried to take their picture, they were really shy and stayed in the coop. And I tried to get a good pic of our nightly visitor, but the lousy lighting doesn’t help. I’ll try to get a better pic and tell the story next week.

Until then, have a great weekend and WRITE!

 


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Now for something different

liebster2nd

Hiya, gang! I’ve been meaning to do this post for-ev-er, since Annika Perry over at her writing blog nominated me for a Liebster Award–um, wow, last year. *bows head in shame* I think the universe is trying to tell me something, because Mae Clair over at her site also nominated me.

Okay, okay, I’m listening. 😀 Thank you both for the nominations–sorry it took me so long, Annika.

Annika is across the pond, and has a wonderful site where she shares not only writing tidbits, but pictures of her travels. She just shared her walk-through of the Beth Chatto Gardens. Beautiful!

Mae also has a great site where she shares advice, writing news, and some of the research for her books (Mothman, anyone?) She’s also one of the authors over at Story Empire, where the authors post articles all about writing; lately they’ve had some great information about promotional stuff like media kits and newsletters.

For the Liebster Award, the rules are:

  1. Acknowledge the blog who nominated you and display the award.
  2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger gives you.
  3. Give 11 random facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate 11 blogs.
  5. Notify those blogs of the nomination.
  6. Give them 11 questions to answer.

Since both Annika and Mae nominated me, it’s only fair I answer questions from them both. So, onward!

Questions from Annika Perry:

Why did you start your blog?
Honestly, I started my blog because that’s one of the pieces of a writer’s platform. It took me a few months to really settle into it. Now I’m thinking of ways to refine it into more of an author’s website.

How do you deal with a setback at work/rejection letter etc?
I remind myself persistence is the key. I also remind myself that writing is subjective, just like any other art form. What one (or many) agents don’t like, there will be one that will love it. The trick is sticking with it long enough to find that one.

How do you celebrate a success?
Happy dance! Whoop it up! graphics-snoopy-360370 And have some really good chocolate and wine.

What’s the one crazy activity/thing you wish you’d tried but never dared?
Hang gliding. I’ve always wanted to feel what it’s like to soar like birds do. Maybe some day!

Which of your posts has got the most views? Can you post a link to it
My post on rough drafts got the most views (besides my boring About page).

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would that be?
Hmm. There’s a lot of places I’d like to go: Ireland and the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Scandinavia, Vancouver, I could go on 😀 I’d love to go back to Salzburg for the chocolate and Bavaria for the Alps!

What advice would you give your younger self?
I’d tell myself to write more, and take more writing classes sooner. And invest in Microsoft and Apple. I remember all the stock splits in the 80s and 90s; I’d be sitting pretty good by now!

What is one of your most embarrassing moment?
My best friend and I were taking a turn as DJs at a high school dance, announcing the songs as we played them (this was back before CDs and MP3s), and I mispronounced INXS (in-excess, not I-N-X-S). Over a loud speaker. I was promptly corrected by everyone on the dance floor.

What’s your favourite drink? (Alcoholic or non-alcoholic) Craft beer, especially from New Glarus Brewery in Wisconsin. Moon Man and Spotted Cow.

If you could travel into the past, which era would you go to and why?
I think it’d be interesting to go back to talk to Leonardo da Vinci. Not that those days in Europe were all that spectacular, but he’d be a cool person to talk to.

What is your most favourite (clean) joke?
You’re assuming I can remember any jokes I’ve been told! Oh, wait, here’s one: What did one cannibal say to the other cannibal after they ate a clown? Did that taste funny to you? (See what I mean? I can’t remember the good ones 😀 )

Questions from Mae Clair:

You’ve been given a working time machine. What era of history would you visit?
See my answer to Annika’s almost very same question 😉

What is your totem animal? (Inspired by a post I recently saw on Jan Sikes’ blog).
I like to think my totem animal would be a cougar: solitary, mysterious, and hangs out in the woods. Observes quietly. And it’s a cat. I’m a cat person 🙂

What was the first story you wrote?
Hmm. The first one I really remember writing was for an English class. We had to write a story where you wake up one morning and look in the mirror. What do you see? I was deep into Anne McCaffery’s Pern books (and my English teacher liked her as well), so even though the assignment was for a 2-3 page story, I wrote what would now be considered a “fanfic”: I woke up as a Pernese dragon. Ten pages later, my teacher told me it was enough, I could stop.

Beach or mountains?
Oh boy. I have to choose? Tropical tourist-free, sugar-sand beach. Or log cabin in the heavily-wooded mountains near a lake. (can you tell I’ve thought about these for a while? 😀 )

What is your favorite time of year?
Fall, because of the wonderful colors. Spring because winter is over and everything is turning green again.

Name someone from history you find intriguing.
Leonardo da Vinci. Nikola Tesla. Ben Franklin.

What is your favorite fairy tale?
The Bremen Town Musicians.

When was the last time you played a game of chess?
Back when the kids were younger. I think my son was in 5th or 6th grade. He’ll be a sophomore in college this fall.

If you could travel to any city or country in the world, where would you go?
See my answer for Annika’s almost-identical question 🙂

Name your favorite cartoon when you were a kid.
Loony Tunes–Bugs Bunny and the gang. I still remember the Barber of Seville routine with Bugs and Elmer Fudd. And I loved the Road Runner. And Taz. Gotta like Taz. And Marvin the Martian. And Foghorn Leghorn. And…

What mythical creature do you wish actually existed?
Dragons. The nice ones, though, not the ones that scorch everything. Nice ones like the Pernese dragons (or firelizards!). Or Toothless. 8-26-2016 10-00-50 AM

Whew! I’m done with the questions. Now for eleven random facts about me:

  1. I love Calvin and Hobbes. Every winter I think about recreating one of his snowman projects.
  2. I’m a cat person. I like dogs, but I’d much rather have a cat curl in my lap than a dog. I secretly want a Maine Coon, because they’re big, and having a bobcat or cougar for a pet is not the right thing to do with a wild animal. But it’d be soooo cool to have a pet cougar! (too big for a lap cat, though)
  3. My favorite flowers are lilacs and irises.
  4. No one will ever call me graceful. Ever. I’m clumsy.
  5. I haven’t worn dresses or skirts since I had kids, except once. My sister made me a bridesmaid in her wedding so I’d have to wear a dress.
  6. When I go for walks, I like to be able to identify plants along the way, especially flowers and weeds. I’ll take pictures of flowers, then look them up.
  7. I have a day job, but I’m also a substitute librarian for our town library.
  8. Favorite ice cream: mint chocolate chip
  9. Favorite TV show: Supernatural. It’s the one show nobody better interrupt while I’m watching, which is why we Tivo it. And Dean.
  10. Least favorite color for rooms: yellow (including orange). Every house hubs and I have ever had came with a yellow kitchen. Ugh!
  11. Caffeine- and alcohol-free cheer-me-up (besides Calvin and Hobbes): Jeff Dunham’s Spark of Insanity. The opening bit, before he pulls out the puppets. And Walter. And Peanut.

Okay, 11 questions for nominees (and I’m taking some from Mae’s and Annika’s nominators):

  1. Do you have a pet? If so, what is it?
  2. Favorite TV show?
  3. What is one of your pet peeves?
  4. Do you have a favorite author? Who and which of their books is your favorite?
  5. Do you read books only once, or more than once?
  6. If you won the lottery, what is the very first thing you would spend money on?
  7. What was the best advice a writing mentor or teacher ever gave you?
  8. Did you play any sports in high school? If so, which ones?
  9. You’re going to a deserted island for a month. What three things will you take?
  10. If you were a crayon, what color would you be?
  11. What is the most recent movie you’ve seen?

Okay, now for nominees. I’ll just toss out a few:

Betsy Kerekes at parentingisfunny

Diane at ladieswholunchreviews

Michelle Cook at puttingmyfeetinthedirt

Jacqui Murray at worddreams

Marquessa Matthews at simplymarquessa

There are so many great writer blogs out there, it’s just too hard to make a short list. Get out there. Explore!

Next week I’ll be back to my regularly-scheduled program. Have a great weekend!


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Reflect, Regroup

I cross off two more publishers on my white board. That leaves five actively reviewing my manuscript, with another five still in radio-silence. The publisher I’m really hoping to score is still on the active list. Now to find a four-leaf clover I can wish on–wait, that’s a falling star.

I should be writing some profound post on, well, writing. I finished and revised my synopsis (whew!) and promotional plan for my agent to send off to the publisher that asked for them. A synopsis I’ve done before, but this was my first promo plan (aka marketing plan). In my promo plan I listed my audience (adult mystery readers who like a little romance, suspense, and aviation), my street team (my fan-tab-u-lous writing sisters), the usual suspects (readings/signings at local libraries, bookstores, etc), and my web presence (blog, FB author page, Goodreads, Twitter, blog tours, etc).

I realized a few things as I put the plan together. First, I need to develop my “brand”. I’m looking at the websites of authors I know and the way they’ve branded themselves. I mean, I know my brand needs to work for me as an author, not for a particular book I’ve written, so I’ll need to do some serious brainstorming. It’s just that I could be writing instead (and procrastinating on the whole “branding” thing).

Second, so much of the promo stuff depends on having an actual book to release. You know, so I’ve got cover art, a release date, something to put in my newsletter (which is another thing I need to put together, along with every other first-time-published or waiting-to-be-published novelist, it seems). Hell, a title (because you know no matter what you call the book, the publisher may change it, especially when you think you have the perfect title). So, pretty tough to jump in early without more.

Third, I need to get more involved with local mystery writer organizations like the Twin Cities chapter of Sisters In Crime, as in attend a few meetings at the very least (one meeting a month seems reasonable, but I wish it wasn’t in Minneapolis; I’m not big on city driving). In the same vein, I should probably spend some time at Once Upon a Crime, an independent bookstore in Minneapolis known for supporting local mystery writers.

There’s probably a few more places like that where I should probably start showing up, so when it’s my turn, they sorta know me. And that doesn’t include all the other venues, like libraries, other writer/reader events, B&N, etc.

Hoo boy. Again the fleeting thought: What the hell have I gotten myself into? Do I really want to do this? I mean, REALLY want to do this? Because this is a LOT of work that isn’t actually writing. Somewhere in the back of my head I knew there was a lot more to building readership than shouting out to all my FB friends (and I don’t have all that many) and blog followers. Seeing the list on paper makes it more real. And more scary.

Then I think about how much I’ve put into this journey, or how long I’ve been on this journey. I spoke with an old high school classmate this week, whom I haven’t talked to for almost 20 years (no, following on FB does not count as “talking”). We talked a little about my book (I’d asked her to beta-read for me since she’s an English teacher, but she had other things going on at the time), and she reminded me about the books I wrote in elementary school.

*head slap* Oh, yeah. That’s right. Holy crap. That’s what, a really long time 😮

I have to keep going, because if I don’t, it’d be like climbing to the way top of the highest and longest slide in the world, looking down at the run, and climbing back down. Remember when you did that as a kid, got to the top of the slide, got scared, and climbed back down? Because once you jump on and let go of the ladder handles, there’s no turning back or getting off except by putting your sneakers flat against the slippery part to stop–with the possibility of tumbling head over teakettle to the bottom–and climb off.

Persistence. That’s the difference between so many writers who don’t get there, and those that do. I’m sure you know writers who have an enviable way with words, but who stopped trying or don’t try to go beyond creative fiction assignments or lovely blog posts. Then there are the writers who struggle, read every book on writing they can get, attend conferences, and practice. They stack up enough rejections to wallpaper a room. Still, they write another book. And another.

graphics-snoopy-216324

They keep going, because they can’t stop. Won’t stop. The writer starts getting positive responses. Agents request the full manuscript. And one day an agent sends an email critiquing the writer’s full manuscript, requests a revise and resubmit, and suggests the writer call if she wants to talk about the manuscript. And on that call the writer discusses the agent’s notes, suggests changes, and gets energized. They discuss a timetable for revisions. The agent compliments the writer on her professionalism.

The agent says she wants to rep the book.

The writer does a happy dance! Then gets to work doing the revisions the agent requested.

Hmm, I guess this post was sort of about writing after all. I spent last weekend working on my synopsis and promo plan, so this weekend is time to dig into the second draft of my WIP. Finally getting back to the things that started this whole wild ride: those stories that keep tumbling around in my head, mucking up the works until I get them out (that’s how I justify the CRS (Can’t Remember Shi*) 😀 )

For my US friends, have a wonderful, safe Memorial Day weekend.

And WRITE!


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Write what you know?

Sounds like a great idea, right? If you write what you know, just think of all the research you don’t have to do. That’s more time you can spend actually writing. Then again, you miss all the fun of actual research (I mean, just think of the rabbit holes you can explore when you google “lethal food”). Disclaimer: No, I haven’t googled it yet, but I write mysteries, so I’ll get there 😉 .

Not only do you get to skip out on a lot of research, you get to use all that special knowledge you’ve got stored in that gray matter of yours. It’s almost as good as bar trivia, right? I mean, if you find a substitute for drinking a shot every time you get a question wrong (just to keep the record straight, I’ve never personally played bar trivia, but I wouldn’t mind trying it 😀 )

Sounds like a plan. Heck, a lot of writers do it. Kathy Reichs’ Temperance Brennan is a forensic anthropologist, just like Kathy. John Grisham is a lawyer in the South, and he writes legal thrillers set in the South. Right now I’m reading a Jammer Davis book by Ward Larsen. Jammer is an ex-Air Force pilot and aviation accident investigator, just like … wait for it … Ward Larsen. The list goes on.

It’s a good way to make your characters sound authentic. And that’s the idea, right? Make the reader believe your character really knows what s/he is doing. If you are an investigative journalist and know the ins and outs of the business, including working for a television news station, your investigative journalist character will be authentic and believable, just like Hank Phillippi Ryan’s Charlotte McNally.

Since you’ve done the job, you can add extra details to ensure the reader believes in the character. And adding that tidbit to the blurb lends you some weight with readers. Think: well, this author is a third-degree black belt in jujitsu, so this book about a ninja should be pretty good.

But … (you knew this was coming 🙂 )

There’s a line between authenticity and readability. If you worked as a chocolatier for ten years, and your main character is a chocolatier, you can have that character describe how to get the perfect temper for the chocolate. If you, a geologist writing a thriller, make your character a geologist,  that character can describe the aspects of drilling for oil, or searching for gold, or taking core samples in Antarctica.

And just as you’re describing how the change in strata means a volcanic eruption a couple million years ago produced a solid vein of gold rather than gold scattered through the rock, your reader is skipping ahead to where the bad guy has your main character lined up with the cross-hairs of the scope of his high-powered rifle.

See the dilemma? You want to include the details to prove you know what you’re talking about, but unless the reader is interested in geology, they don’t want to wade through that. If you want some examples of TMTI (too much technical information), read Kathy Reichs’ Temperance Brennan books.

dash8 smOkay, so how much do you take out so the reader won’t skip that part? Or, how much do you include to make sure the reader knows you know what you’re talking about? That’s where I’m at with my manuscript. After talking with my agent, and reviewing the somewhat-but-not-very-helpful feedback from the publishers who have passed, I’m tweaking my manuscript to remove even more of the TMTI bits, because we suspect that might be a big part of the reason they passed. If the editors stumble through those parts, it ruins the reading experience. In fact, the most recent publisher to pass said it was a really close decision. If there’d been a little bit less TMTI, would they have accepted it? Maybe. Maybe not. But it’s something.

For instance, my main character, who is an aircraft mechanic, is asked about the fire bottle for the auxiliary power unit (APU) in an airplane. Initially, she described it thus:

“Fire bottle. If there’s a fire in the APU, it’ll blow. There’s an explosive squib here,” she pointed to a nodule on the bottle connected to a wire harness, “that ruptures the diaphragm and releases high-pressure suppressant.” She indicated the line that carried the chemical extinguisher to the combustion chamber of the APU.

If you’re someone familiar with mechanical stuff, you can probably follow this pretty well. But if you have trouble doing more than pumping gas or airing up your tires, you’ll probably skim this. So, time to leave out more of the details:

Fire bottle. If theres a fire in the APU, itll blow. Theres an explosive squib here, she pointed to a nodule on the bottle connected to a wire harness, that releases high-pressure suppressant.

Why did I keep the detail about the squib and the wire harness? Because it’s relevant in one of the climax scenes. Which is smoother to read? The second one, I hope.

I’ve pulled a lot of the remaining technical details out (by this point far less then in earlier drafts), but it’s still a struggle of wanting to prove I know what I’m talking about (authenticity) and making it accessible to mostly non-mechanical readers (readability). After my guinea pigs–er, readers go through it, I’ll send it to my agent for the next round of submissions. Here’s hoping!

It’s been a short week–at least it seems like it. Had a nice day with relatives last week, and everyone (in-laws) got to meet my son’s girlfriend. Whew, it’s over! For all those who celebrate Easter, have a blessed holiday weekend. For everyone else, get writing!


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Roughing It – 5 things I’ve learned about first drafts

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of creating, writing, bringing characters in your mind to life on the page. When the energy propels you to get the words out, that story in your head takes shape. You can see the unfolding of the plot, the characters, the setting, every bit that is part of the whole. You can’t refine your work until it’s in front of you. Enter the first draft, better known as the rough draft.

I’m working on the first draft of my next novel, and hitting a stretch of frustration that my mental picture of the story wasn’t complete enough to make the draft a smoother ride. It’s not the characters; the book my agent is shopping introduces the characters. It’s not the setting, though I think I’ll have to do a road trip (twenty+ years since I’ve been there). It’s the plot. The timeline. The guideposts along the way.

I tried to outline, but I don’t think I had a clear vision of the story. With most of my other projects, by the time I got to the point of writing the first draft, I had a pretty good handle on them in my head. This one, not so much.

It occurred to me as I was trying to hit my word quota last night that I’ve learned some things over the course of thirteen novel first drafts. I figured I’d share them (don’t worry, there’s pictures at the end–but not of my cat 😉 )

In no particular order, here are 5 things I’ve learned about first drafts:

  • I’m a novelist. Not that I can’t write short stories–my first publishing credits were short stories–but the stories in my head tend to be novel-length: 80,000 words or more. It took me over five or six years to write the first draft of my first novel (not counting the trunk novel I wrote in elementary–jr. high school). I knew I wanted to write a book–actually, rewrite that first book–after my kids were born, but I didn’t want it to drag on until they graduated.

When I learned about NaNoWriMo (50k words in 30 days), I knew that was my ticket to finishing a book in a reasonable amount of time. The key to “winning” at NaNo? Kicking the inner editor into a cage and locking it (that’s besides the 1,667 words a day). I learned I need to treat a new project like I’m doing National Novel Writing Month, no matter what time of the year. It’s only with that 30-day deadline and a restrained inner editor that I’m able to put myself into the frame of mind to just write. It also seems to be the only way I can get back into the habit of writing every day.

  • I outline, in a loose-ish sense of the word. The outline is not the only route from beginning to end for me, but it gives me an idea of the journey. With my current project, I struggled with the outline. I came up with characters, conflict, and setting, but the path through from beginning to end was fuzzy, and it shows during my writing sessions. I’ve learned my draft goes much better when I have a good idea of the story (outline), BUT
  • I’ve learned the process of writing the first draft actually helps bring the story into focus. As I’m writing, I make both inline notes and off-line notes. This particular draft looks less like an actual book and more like a scriptwriter’s attempt to put a director’s vision into some sort of storyboard-in-words. The story is more clear to me now than it was when I started. Maybe that’s because my NaNo-style first draft method is a lot like free-writing. No takebacks, no revising, no editing, just inline notes and writing forward.
  • I’ve learned first drafts are called “rough” for a reason. It’s less like a rock you can polish into something to put in a ring and more like deadwood turned into a functional piece of furniture with class. Rough drafts are UGLY. At least this one is. I mentioned it to some online friends as “sucking like a lemon soaked in turpentine”. Yep. Pretty much. I will never be like George R. R. Martin, with a first draft that’s ready to publish right off the finish line. Then again, my draft takes 30 days to finish, not five or six or more years.
  • I’ve learned to trust my method (your mileage may vary). This project taught me that skipping steps in the beginning (I didn’t lay out a timeline, or figure out the major plot points (just thought about the general direction), or fill out my storyline worksheets from Karen Wiesner’s First Draft in 30 Days) results in uncertainty and missing my word quota.

When I work through my process, I can often exceed my word count because I can just write. I don’t have to think about where I’m going next. I know I’m headed in the right direction because I plotted my course (heh, see what I did there) ahead of time. It’s like planning a route when you drive to a writers’ conference or retreat. You know pretty much how to get there, even if there are detours along the way. My process has changed over the years (more free-writing, less fill-in-every-entry-in-the-worksheets), but it works for me. This is the first time I got lazy (or uninspired) about planning/outlining, and boy, do I know it.

I’m on the home stretch. One more week (and I get an extra day this month because March has 31 days–heh), and I’ll have 50k words and a complete or almost-complete first draft for my next book. Then the scramble to prep for hosting the fam for Easter in — OMG — two weeks?! I’ve gotta get moving on that.

SO, I might miss my mark in the interest of not embarrassing myself with my in-laws. We’ll see. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a peek into my garden this summer.

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onion seedlings

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tomatoes and a few peppers

Have a great weekend!


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Slogging

Here I am, ready to start writing my post, and WTF happened to my WordPress editor? Seriously. Did they bother telling anyone they were changing it?

So off to the WP Admin page, then to the Posts page, then the older editor. Whew! This I understand. Don’t get all fancy-schmancy on me. I don’t need pretty, I just need it to work without me getting confused.

Sigh. Okay, now on to the real post…

*crickets*

Ugh. Now I forgot what I wanted to write about. Figures. Oh, wait, I remember 🙂 I was going to write about how cruel Mother Nature is by teasing us–in March, mind you–with temps in the 60s (F). Before St. Patrick’s Day. In Minnesota. Of course, she tempers it with winds kicking at 40 mph. It would’ve been really nice otherwise. Spring is here!

Yeah–no. Yesterday, high in the 20s Today the same. Actually, cold all week, and a snowstorm for tomorrow. Gotta love MN!

Okay, maybe not what I was going to write about, but I need some words. As in, here I am in week 2 of my NaNo and I’m about 3k words  behind where I should be. Hell, I should be about a thousand words ahead. Ugh.

And then there’s my Muse, who has been conspicuously absent despite my request he stick around.

*door slams*

Speaking of the devil. Then again… “What the hell happened to you?”

My muse shuffles in front of my writing board. “Still only two crossed off.” He toes his sneakers off and kicks them into a corner.

He’s referring to the list of publishers that have my manuscript in their editor’s hands. “My agent didn’t pass along any news this week. I suppose she reached out to them last week, so next week she’ll check on them again.” He’s wearing a fleece-lined flannel hooded jacket, you know, the ones with the cream-colored sheep’s wool-kinda lining inside. His jeans are faded, with a long black smear on the back of a leg and dried leaves sticking to the flannel.

“Again, what the hell happened to you? Muse football game?”

He brushes the leaves off his jacket, then rubs the black streak. Now I see his jeans are actually wet–damp?–from the knees down. “Wasn’t watching where I was going.”

“So you what, slipped into the creek?”

He turns, hits me with a glare. “Yes, I slipped into the creek. Your point?”

“My point is you are goofing off in the woods when I need you here.”

He plants hands on his hips and snorts. “You need me here, love? Then you bloody well better sit your ass down and write. I’ve been here.”

“Falling into creeks?”

“No. Trying to inspire you to get the story moving. I keep tossing ideas at you.” He crosses his arms on his chest and rocks on his heels. “Somehow, you’re not quite catching them. You walk when you need to think, so do I.” He crossed the office to lean over me and read my laptop screen. “That sucks.”

The latest chapter of my draft is on the screen. “No shit. So, where have you been?”

“Not proof-reading.”

I shove the computer forward. “It’s a first draft. It’s supposed to suck. I haven’t written a first draft for a couple years–I’m trying to keep my inner editor in her cage.” Argh. “I’m finally getting to the next biggish plot point, so hopefully it’ll be easier to keep going now.”

My Muse shakes his head. “It still sucks. Let me change and we’ll try to get this thing going. You feeling it yet?”

Feeling it? Feeling the creative energy fuel my story? “Not so much.”

He frowns. Sighs. “I’ll see what I can come up with. But it’s the weekend, and damn it, you will catch up your word count.”

Yep. That’s the goal. And I need to get my ass in gear; we’re entertaining family for Easter on the weekend before Easter, so I’ve got to start organizing and cleaning. You know, like the annual refrigerator toss-out (toss out anything that looks or smells like a science experiment), and the why-am-I-keeping-this-stuff derby.

And now I can record these words for my count–yippee! I could drone on about something just for more words, but that could get kinda dull and boring and you’ve probably already checked out so I’m not sure why I’m still writing this post but I think I can claim about seven hundred and forty words now. Sweet!

Have a great weekend!