The Power of a Good Routine

One of the things that I am learning, both through NaNoWriMo and joining in chats on forums and boards for writers is that for me, consistency is a key element to my process, but not the most important. I need to make time to write, yes, but it doesn’t have to be a certain time and place. I find that the words flow best for me in a rather odd place at a time I’ve never tried before last month. I don’t write at my desk or on my futon; rather, I sit on the floor, propped against my dresser with three pillows at my back, legs stretched out in front of me. No, seriously, that is how I’m writing this book, lounging on the floor in my bedroom. Still, I have moments of clarity on particularly sticky parts on my lunch break, in the car,  while working at the day job—everywhere. As long as I have blocked off some time to write and have either my computer or a pen and paper, I can get at least a few hundred words in.

At this very moment, I am just over 41k into Delivering Justice. I’m still trying to find the best line to target. It’s a romantic suspense story. It is a little too racy for Love Inspired suspense (and no mention of faith), and I don’t know if I can make it long enough for Harlequin Romantic Suspense. I think there’s a little too much subplot and secondary characters for Intrigue. What’s a girl to do? Stop thinking about where it fits and finish my first draft, of course!

I am making myself take this one step at a time and have fun with the characters and the story. I think that’s the most important thing that I can do for the story at this point. I do read everything I write in the afternoon, and I do a little fact checking here and there if I need to. I am aware that I am not strictly adhering to the rules of NaNoWriMo anymore than I’m adhering to what I usually do to write a story, and I think this break from the norm for me is really helping me to get close to a finished first draft.

Once I’m done with this first draft, I’m AM going to adhere to a good piece of advice and focus my attention elsewhere. I want to get back to tweaking Pleasure’s Payne, and try to excavate my class reunion story, but I am going to just take a week to bask in being finished with Delivering Justice (and celebrating my anniversary  with the boyfriend on December 5th!). I’ll catch up on reviews for Harlequin Junkie, reading all the best upcoming books before I give DJ a good once over and send it out. Then I’ll get into the next project. I’ll try and forget I sent it in and put a calendar date out there for March to remind myself to follow up if I haven’t heard anything, all the while writing better and better books.

How’s NaNoWriMo going for you all? Is anyone else excited about the story they’re creating this month?  Would anyone be interested in seeing a snippet of Delivering Justice?

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No NaNo…and I’m Okay with That

I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year, and I’m OK with that. I don’t want you to take that to mean I’m not writing; I am. It’s just that I’m choosing to focus on finishing my marriage kit book instead of heading headlong into the fiction writing frenzy of NaNoWriMo. I’ve committed myself fully to focusing on this one project and actually finishing a manuscript this year as I’ve planned.

Thanks to a new position at work sparking new life in me and conversations and news articles that have kept my interest in this project high, I have a lot written down in various places. Now I’m typing it all up, as well as expanding on ideas and trying to put it in some sort of other. I feel as if I have confirmation I’m working on the right book at the right time.

So I have decided to be fully committed to one project at a time, at least until I finish this one. I haven’t been on the blogs as much and I haven’t been working on other projects. I’m going to give something my all, for once. And so far, it seems to be the best road for me to have taken.

Research is the New Black

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of research and only a little writing on my Marriage Kit project. The research is interesting and fun, and finding things that validate my argument are essential to making the book a success, but I miss the writing part. For the past week, I’ve been organizing myself, making a makeshift outline (something I never do as I’m a pantser), deciding what I really want to focus on and say. So far, I’ve identified the areas I most want to discuss, started pulling out scriptures I may want to use and researching them, writing down any insights that strike me while studying this, and trying to find further resources.

The one thing I’m worried about with the research is hitting a wall. For this project, there are a lot of people I want to talk to–counselors, matchmakers, ministers, married couples, singles ministers, singles. For the more professional people, if I can’t get information from them, it could halt my progress.

But I’m not thinking about that. I’m pushing on…and I’m focusing only on this project, whether I’m writing or researching, I’m putting my focus on one thing at a time and one project at a time…finally.

So, that’s why I’ve been a little silent here. I will try to update more as I navigate my way through this process.

Cheating in the Next Room…

BLACK SOUL SINGER JOHNNY TAYLOR PERFORMS AT TH...

I'm hoping my WIPs don't listen to this guy (Johnny Taylor) Image via Wikipedia

…is a blues song by Johnny Taylor. “Cheating in the Next Room” is about a woman talking on the phone to a man she is cheating with, making plans to meet up with him. Johnny is letting her know that he knows she has been faking lovemaking with him and has been meeting this other man. He tells her “that’s alright; I’ll soon be gone.” He is fed up and won’t take it anymore.

My writing can say the same thing about me. I’ve been “cheating” on some projects with other projects. I am supposed to be working on the short story project that I had the breakthrough on. Before I had that breakthrough, I was working on my memoir about college. Now I put the college memoir on the back burner, because I think the program I’m preparing for the high school students at church on Saturday would be the perfect place to begin the memoir (as it involves my college journey). Since the event hasn’t happened, I don’t have the opening. That’s understandable. I’m at a natural stopping point.

However, after talking to a real-life and blogging friend, I began to get really excited about another project that’s been on the backburner: possibly turning the marriage kits into a book. The thing is, making the marriage kits into a book will involve more than just compiling the interviews (and conducting more): I’ve noticed the book on weddings I’m reading has things to say about marriage. I have several other books, podcasts, and TV shows that speak to marriage that I frequently mine for information. I want to expand my interview pool. I want to research. I want to put away the short story project and work on this one, even though I know I’m supposed to return to the memoir after Saturday. I also know I will be doing more researching than writing working on the marriage kit project.

Does anyone else suffer from the lure of research over actual writing? I get so excited about some of the research I put into projects that I never get around to writing it until much later. How do you balance research with writing?

The greater question is how do you decide which project gets your time when your time is limited? I work full time, have an occasional second job, a boyfriend, a church I’m active in, my Dad’s book to format for Smashwords publication, and I want to have a little me time, so my writing time isn’t as extensive as I would like. When you don’t have time to do it all, what do you do? How do you keep a project on the backburner from burning up? This is my dilemma of the past few weeks. I’ve just went with it and done writing wherever my fancy has taken me, but I’ve not made much progress on ANYTHING. Help!

Potato Chip Writing

Pringles chips (sour cream and onion flavor)

Since I couldn't find Ruffles Sour Cream and Cheddar, these will do... Image via Wikipedia

I used to love Ruffles Sour Cream and Cheddar potato chips. They were just so good–greasy, cheesy, salty goodness on a thin little chip. I couldn’t wipe my hands on my clothes for the grease (and the cheese), nor did I want to. No, you had to lick a finger covered in cheesy powder.When it came to chips, I am was one of those people the advertisers talked about. I couldn’t eat just one potato chip; in fact, I might have been known to shove eat more multiple chips at the same time.

I have the same problem with writing. I have so many pieces I’ve started and stopped over the years, pieces that still have life left in them, pieces that are just so good. I know I should really be focused on one particular thing at a time, but like potato chips, I can’t decide on just one project. I don’t want one story to whither on the vine while I’m working on another. When I’m right in the thick of a rough spot on one, I get inspiration on the rough spot of another. I can’t let that inspiration pass.

Just the other day, I was thining about something or other I’d read somewhere, when an insight into one of my characters struck me like a bolt from the blue. I suddenly knew her motivation. I still don’t know what she’s hiding (at least, not all of it), but I know why she’s giving another character the runaround. While this insight opens up a whole world of possibilities for the Southern Gothic Novel, I’m supposed to be finalizing the finalizing of Candy Apples. I was supposed to have it sent out for publication already, supposed to be embroiled in the long submissions process while working on the other pieces in that series. Yet, just when I get to a rough patch, this happens.

I’m not fooled though. I know that this is just an attempt to get off track. I get these “ideas” all the time while I’m editing my dad’s book, researching, working. These ideas are my brains way of escaping a tough or mundane task. The truth is, if I take this one potatoe chip at a time, I can still savor the taste and fulfill the craving. I can take my time and investigate each chip for the dreaded burned parts, or the bits with potato skin still left on them. I can decide whether or not it’s bad before I’ve bit into it. The great thing about doing things this way is if it’s a good idea, it’ll keep until I get to it, just like the really cheesy, bright orange chip in the bag will still be in the bag until I eat it.

How do you cope with errant ideas belonging to other works? Do you follow it down the rabbit hole, or do you stick out that rough spot in your current work? What techniques do you find useful to combat this lesser known form of procrastination?

Genetic Bonds & Writing Magic Wands

Hefner Publications

Image via Wikipedia

My father is sending me his second book to edit and format for publication of Smashwords. I’ve read and given him suggestions on a couple of the individual chapters before, so I’m pretty well aware of the topics and subjects he’s covered. However, this will be a completely different book than those first attempts suggested.

My father started out writing a book about relationships with a Christian slant. There were, as in his previous books, Bible passages and examples used to illustrate points and make connections between the idea and the practice or application. But over time, this began to change. Hoping to appeal to a broader audience and better focus his book, my dad began to scale back on the Biblical angle. From a marketing standpoint, this was probably a good move. From a writing standpoint, it pushed his book in a new direction, necessitating rewrites and pushing his release date back from a possibly more profitable Valentine’s Day release.

I don’t know how critically taking out the Biblical emphasis changed my dad’s book (I’ll know when I read it), yet I understand why he did it. It does bring up an interesting question. What am I willing to change about my work to get it published?

This is something I’ve been pondering for a while. Always two or three steps ahead of myself, I’ve thought about my book being accepted for publication. After listening to many writers in the industry tell their stories, there’s been one step in the process that has always caused me trepidation: the editing stage. Ironically, these are the duties I’m expected to perform for my father’s book.

It’s odd to me that I can labor through writing a book, revising and rewriting my way to a “finished” product, as well as the query process, and then find myself doing further rewriting, quibbling with an editor over proposed changes. It’s hard to imagine having to change my title or switch the order of something. I know that editing is largely beneficial. It’s always good to have another set of eyes go over it. My own experience with having a teacher I respected edit my work led to a far better piece than I had initially had, even though we butted heads a bit at first. But this relationship still makes me a little queasy.

It’s a daunting prospect, editing my father’s book. My father and I have different, distinctive voices in our writing. His organization is different than how I would order things. There are probably going to be structural changes and word choices that I will disagree with. At the same time, I don’t want to translate his work into my voice–which is, I think, what scares me most about editors. This should still be his work, his creation at the end of the process.

I guess, then, that what scares me about the editing process (in the publication realm) is that I will lose the creative power I’ve had over my work up to that point. It’s the fear that I’ll have this beautiful healthy baby, and when they bring it to me after cleaning it up, it will be unrecognizable as mine. It won’t have any of the expected features like my doe in headlights brown eyes or the whimsical upward tilt of the tip of my nose. Whose book is this? Where’s my book? (Ooh, that would be a good story!…sorry, got side tracked)

So far, I haven’t had much contact with my NaNoWriYear buddy, so my issues with sharing work and editing haven’t come up. But now that I have my dad’s book being emailed to me, the question returns. Being a writer myself, I will of course be firm but gentle with his book. I will have the disposition of a parent. I will use the skill of a surgeon. I will be a fairy Godmother with a magic wand, simply allowing the opportunity for this Cinderella book to go to the ball. I can only hope my manuscripts fare as well.