Monday, March 28, 2011

looking forward

I'm a teacher (I don't know if I've mentioned that directly--and I'm still not sure I should), and the only thing that's sustaining me this week is the promise of Spring Break next week. Is it because I'll be in some tropical paradise, sipping mojitos and gazing at the majestic ocean as it gently laps at the shore? Nope. I'll still be in cold old Michigan and I have no plans to leave my house. At all.

I'm excited because I plan to devote all that time "off" to writing.

(Note that off is in quotation marks. A teacher is never really off. I am trying to orchestrate things so that I won't have anything to grade past maybe Friday [and as Friday is the end of the marking period, I think I can swing it], but I still have to plan for the coming weeks. Oh, and I'm taking a class for my Master's degree, and I'll have to do work for that over my break.)

I'm jealous when I read about other authors spending hours each day writing. I'd love to do that, but, as I mentioned in my last post, the real world keeps me from it. I suppose I could get up at four o'clock in the morning and spend an hour an a half or two hours writing, but I doubt it would be coherent at that point in the day. Now, I'll be the first to admit that my time management skills leave something to be desired. I know I've spent too many hours watching Stargate SG-1 instead of doing something even resembling productive. (It's just that Daniel Jackson is so pretty...) I would much rather read a good book than grade a test or an essay. And I'd rather check Facebook than do a class assignment.

But that has to change. I know it. And I'm hoping that next week will kick-start everything for me.

I've been meeting my goal of at-least-one-sentence-per-day since I set it last week, but, unfortunately, I'm not getting much more than that. Time, again, is not on my side.

But with next week off and Easter Weekend's writers' conference (at Rachel's place), I think April will be an excellent month for my writing endeavors.

As always, I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The highs and lows

First of all, it must be said, Internet, I have missed the hell out of you! Since the lovely people from at&t left 3 cable boxes and a flashy looking wireless modem at my house, I have been in media heaven. I forgot how wonderful Bravo, Food network and HGTV truly are. I have been on facebook, reading blogs, and checking out writers forums like its my job. Bliss.

Today I am going to make a conscious effort to unplug so I can tackle some writing. It's been a few days since I've put much on paper and I've been feeling crappy about that.

Let me briefly explain how the process of this book has gone thus far:
1.Maddie and I get all worked up about indie publishing, making our dreams come true, fulfilling our life's purpose, blah, blah, blah.
2.I write like a crazy person for a week and a half, knocking out close to 20,000 words.
3. I love, love, love my novel.
4. I wake up one morning and decide my novel is, in fact, the worst thing I have ever written.

Its crazy the way I can feel such different emotions about the same words on two different days. But man, once those doubts start to set in, its tough to even want to write. The whole thing has felt clunky and heavy, the opposite of what you want in a chick-lit novel. So I've been battling with myself for a few days, trying to get out of my head and just write. Regardless of whether its good or bad, regardless of whether I end up trashing the whole thing in revision. I need to just write. But I couldn't get myself there.

But then today I woke up with a vision. Fully formed in my head was a new way to lay the whole thing out and, hopefully, freshen it up and make it feel lighter. And now, again, I'm looking at my novel with a fresh set of eyes. It feels great.

I know this ease of writing won't last forever, I know there will be many more days where I am convinced I, and my book, suck. But for today I will take it and be grateful...and hopefully get a lot of words down on that paper.

Friday, March 25, 2011

to be the rainmaker

I had hoped to update the blog earlier this week, but things have been a little out of hand. Since I took some time off from work last week, I ended up with a double-whammy of work to do this week: the assignments I neglected on my days off plus the work assigned while I was out. Couple that with a late night at work and no blogging is apparently the result.

I, like Rob Thomas, wish the real world would stop hassling me.

On a bright note, however, I have kept to my goal of writing at least one sentence every day. It seems like an insignificant goal, maybe, but I'm finding that having the consistent forward motion (even if it's just a little bit) is satisfying and even inspiring.

(I kind of feel like I should mention the whole Amanda-Hocking-signs-a-two-million-dollar-contract-with-a-traditional-publisher thing, but I have too many thoughts about it and don't want to subject you, dear reader, to the twists and turns in my mind. Let's just say I'll be watching with interest to see what happens next.)

I picked up a magazine on Sunday about writing a novel in 30 days. Now, I've read a book that promises the same outcome, but this magazine suggests a much more...organized approach to the writing process. A few of the tips have helped me to clarify and focus a bit, so we'll see how that goes. I don't know that I'm necessarily aiming for a book in 30 days or less, but it'd be nice. And I have spring break coming up the first week of April. I plan on devoting much of that time to writing. And then at the end of April, Rachel and I will hold a writers' conference over Easter weekend. I'm really looking forward to spending the time writing, reading each other's work, giving feedback, wearing sloth pants, and eating lots of mac and cheese. It should be epic.

As always, I wish I had a robot-me who could take over my daily responsibilities (or maybe just some of them) so that I had more time to do what I want to do (in this case, write). Alas, I have no robot. As with so many things in life, if I want to make this happen, I've got to find a way to make it happen. I've waited too long for the mystical genie to appear and offer me three wishes. It's time to take matters into my own hands and get stuff done.

I don't want to wonder anymore if I can "make it" as a writer. I don't want to wait any longer to "be" a writer. I am. It's in me. And in order to "make it," I've got to first make time for it.

And so, dear friends, I leave you. Time to write.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

setting up for success

So, I'm home from Phase Two of Birthday Weekend Extravaganza. (Phase One was actually going OUT for St. Patty's day for the first time and hanging out with Rachel and other friends. Phase Two was Niagara and wineries. Phase three: dinosaurs.) I managed to get some reading done over the last 48 hours or so: While in the car on the way to Niagara, I read aloud long selections from The 4 Hour Body by Tim Ferriss to Brian (so he would not feel left out), and I also managed to finish Switched by Amanda Hocking.

Interestingly, both of these books solidified in me my resolve to get writing.

I meant to make a post to this effect on Thursday, but I wasn't at home long enough to do so, so here goes:

I'm making a commitment to myself. By the time I turn thirty (364 days from today; 2012 is a leap year), I will have completed (drafted and revised) three novels. (As for which three books, that's still a little up in the air. I really want to work on book one of my trilogy--working title is Awaking. But then I'm already 22,000+ words along in my yet-unnamed soccer story. And I'd really love to redo The Crystal Society simply because it's been around for so long--and I think the premise would be pretty well-received. So, right now, I'm thinking those are the three.) Also by March 17, 2012, I will have published these three novels (probably through Smashwords or something similar). And in order to get this done, I commit to writing at least one sentence every day.

Okay, I know what you're thinking: One sentence? You'll never get anything done that way.

Look, I didn't say I'd write only one sentence, just at least one, every day, no matter what. That's a goal I can live with, and it sets me up for success, unlike a goal of, say, two pages per day.

So, I'll let you know how this goes.

I'd write more, but it's time for me to write my at least one sentence for the day. I think I'll work on...Awaking. I've been thinking about it since Niagara. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

why i have to

When I was really young -- kindergarten, maybe -- I remember walking into my bedroom while my mom called something after me. In my mind, I added, "Mom said."

In the fifth grade, I wrote a story in a notebook. And then another one.

In middle school, all my "story" notebook were the same color (teal, for some reason) so I could discriminate easily between them and my academic notebooks.

(I still have these notebooks, by the way.)

I passed the stories around. I inspired others to write stories, too.

In the ninth grade, I finished my first book. It wasn't my first long story, but it was, for some reason, the most important story I'd yet written. I remember walking the halls of my high school telling strangers that I had just finished my novel (and I probably had a ream of paper in my hand to prove it).

My senior year, I had an independent study wherein my task for the year was to complete a novel.

...and on and on...

There's never a time in my memory when I haven't thought of stories, told stories, written stories. And nothing brings me more joy than weaving a world from words, than crying while I write an emotional moment, than hearing from someone else that they're enjoying reading something I've written.

I think we've all got a purpose in life. Well, probably, we all have a great many purposes, but I'm talking about Purpose. And mine has always been writing.

And finally the planets are aligning.

Can't Hardly Wait...and wait...and wait

Well here I am, all excited to get going on this new project and no internet to help me on my way. I never realized how dependent I was on my computer until I lost it...and until Madeline got me all fired up about finally getting our butts in gear to publish our books. For the past few days I've been itching to get online to blog, to read, to research, to do everything possible to make this book publishing dream a reality.

Not only am I currently without internet (I'm posting this from my parent's house, by the way), but my trusty laptop appears to have died the death. I am struggling to continue my novel on my sister's old machine. The word processing software is...lacking.

They tell me I'll have internet connection back in about a week and a half. I'm not sure when the word processing situation will get sorted out, but hey, what's an accomplishment if not born in strife? Someday, when my book is published (and wildly successful), I'll have fun stories to tell about its inception. Stay tuned...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

revision woes

Rewriting always makes me a little sad.

Now, understand when I say "rewriting," I don't mean "rewriting small sections of text," I mean "rewriting entire drafts." Why, you may ask? Well, I guess the easy answer is twofold: I am both stubborn and lazy. I'll start writing a draft and I'll be convinced it's working. I'll have plans, and the draft will, more or less, follow those plans. And I'll get to the end of the draft and I'll feel very accomplished for having finished something. And then I'll start rereading. And then the pain begins.

I'll think, Really, I thought this was a good idea?

And I'll finally see all the shortcomings my idea had to begin with. Now, I'm not saying that my idea was completely worthless or anything--far from it. Instead, I'll see that I didn't execute the idea to the best of my ability.

Thus the rewrite.

Take, for example, a story I started back in high school. (High school! I've now been teaching high school longer than I ever attended it.) This particular story, which never did have a name, ended up being 87,000+ words long (and I never did "end" the thing). I realize now that, while the basic premise was good, the execution was lacking. It sounds like a high school kid wrote it because, well, one did. So, within the last year or two, I decided to completely overhaul this book. I've kept the same characters and many of the same plot points, but I've changed a great many things, too. I'm now in the rewriting phase.  As of today, I'm at 22,400 words. It's a little sad; the book now is only a quarter as long as the original draft had been. And it's not even like I can cannibalize parts of the original draft: This is, in essence, a completely new book.

Now, if this were an isolated incident, it might not be so depressing. Alas. I have two more "first drafts" that are suffering through the same fate.

I know that the books will be better for the extra work, but it's disheartening. I'd like to think that I could write a really good first draft--one that, sure, would need a few edits, but that would be pretty much what I wanted it to be.

I guess I'm not being entirely fair to myself. The book I referenced above and one of the others are works I wrote in high school. And while, yes, I'd like to think that I had some talent as a high schooler, I'm also woman enough to admit that I wouldn't really like for anyone else to read these works.

So, I suppose what I really need now is the followthrough required to rewrite. Because, let's face it, in the long run, it'll be worth it.

old school thinking in a new school world

Okay. I've already established that I plan to publish the ebook way. New school, right? Make a name for myself, blaze a trail, all that. But there's still something in me that's drawn to the allure of books-in-print. Now, I love my NOOK and seem to find more time to read now than I have in the past, but there's something reassuring about the feel of a paperback in your hand, you know? So I still would like, someday, to see my stories transformed into real-life ink-and-paper babies. Something I could hold out to someone and say, "See this, here? This is mine."

But I guess that's not the only reason. While I'm excited by the prospect of getting my stories out there for people to read, I almost feel like going the self-publishing-ebook way is a bit of a cheat. Here's what I mean: No one has said, "Yes, this book is worthy of publishing. People should read this book." Well, I've said this, of course, but it hasn't been verified by outside sources.

(Perhaps that's where sales and reviews come in. Let the people say what they think of the books.)

I guess my fear is this: I tell someone, "Hey, I've published some books. You should read them." That person says, "Sounds awesome. Next time I'm at the book store, I'll pick one up." And I say, "Oh, you can only buy them online because I self-published online." I fear then the person might not be as eager to read what I've written. It's not gone through any sort of vetting system, so it might not be any good--or so this person may think.

To be fair, there have always been books written and published (traditionally published!) that have been...not very good. I remember one specifically--it was written by a French teen (probably why it was published--a gimmick) and it was not skillfully executed. I think the story was an okay idea, just wasn't good. And I know there are other examples like this in the world. I know more than one author has lamented, "How did that crap get published when no one will publish me?" But my fear is that self-published ebooks might have that same air of mystery (and not the good kind) to them--like mystery meat. It might be okay, but you really don't want to try just in case it leaves you camped out on the toilet all night.

I remember a couple years ago I got an e-mail from a former student. She was doing a poll for a college class she was in and the subject was publishing. One of the questions asked whether I thought there should  be more avenues for unknown authors to use to get published. Of course, that's only what I think the question was asking--it was so poorly constructed I couldn't really tell. That's the thing: I've known a great many "writers" in my time who have thought their work was phenomenal but whose work was really clunky, confusing, poor. (Now, before you think I'm being stuck up, please know that I count myself among these authors. The works I wrote in middle- and high school are atrocious. The ideas were good, perhaps, but the execution is lacking. Not that you could have convinced my teenage self of that.) Indeed, I have seen a couple of ebooks of such poor quality that I've not been able to read them (grammar is not dead!).

My fear is being lumped into that group. My fear is not being taken seriously.

But a bigger fear is never being heard, never sharing my stories. Never living.

So, this old school girl is trying to shift her paradigm and accept the future.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

grabbing life

Well, today is the day, I suppose. It could be said about any day, really, but today really is the day.

Encouraged by the success authors like Amanda Hocking have had with epublishing, my friend and birthday twin Rachel and I have decided to grab life by the cajones and do what we have always wanted to do: write books and make them available for others to read.

So, here we are, less than a week before we both hit the big 2-9, trying to make our lives what we want them to be.

I'm working on a couple projects at the moment, waiting to see which one wins out for the time being. I'll update you with more details later.

So, why am I keeping this blog? Part to be kept accountable. Part to let my voice be heard. Part just to write. Because a girl's got to, let's face it.