A Time for Honesty

I’m not going to “win” Camp NaNoWriMo. I am not all broken up about it, either. The point, for me, was to jump start my writing again, to commit to spending more time writing each day. It was more an exercise of butt-in-chair than actually going for the word counts. I also wanted to commit to a first draft, of spending more time writing than I did dismantling what I’d written before. I wanted to develop a routine that allowed me to reread and alter for consistency, but still keep moving the WIP forward, not getting bogged down in trying to produce a perfect draft instead of a first draft.

I have been finding the act of a NaNoWriMo style of writing to be a bit too restrictive for me. I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing to give in to the impulses that arise whenever I’ve taken up the challenge. I keep wanting to switch my focus to other stories. I have these elaborate ideas for them, but I try to force myself to only work on the current project (although I do write the concept or a line or two down so I can come back to it). All of my word count must go to this project. The more I try to do that, the less healthy I think that is for me. My creative process isn’t exactly linear, and trying to write a story in a linear fashion hasn’t worked for me since my days of writing FO (another problem I have with my approach to NaNoWriMo months).

Here’s what I know to be true about myself as a writer: sometimes I have to follow the red herrings and see where they’re going, if only to know if the red herring is taking me off course with this story, but leading me to another; working on other projects can clear my head enough that a solution to a blockage with another story can get through; I’m always going to be a quality over quantity writer; it’s no use trying not to self-edit along the way, if for nothing else but consistency’s sake; my goals work better for me when they are less about word count or time spent writing, and more about committing to writing a certain scene or introducing certain characters, and; it’s OK that the way I work may not jibe with what the writing advice people say in some ways, as long as I am writing things of which I can be proud.

For the next six days, I will continue to concentrate on the Camp NaNoWriMo WIP. I will work to get all of the written material typed up and validated, as well as work on progressing to a certain point in the work before the end of camp. I will also begin prepping my next project for the official NaNoWriMo in November. I think that if nothing else, NaNoWriMo is a good way for me to start thinking intensively about projects and to have an official start day and begin setting time aside to at least get as much of the concept on paper as I already have in my head. The next NaNoWriMo project will be the one of the other choices from my Need Help in a Hurry post. Between August and November, aside from prepping for November, I’m going to be focused on whatever project is calling to me. I’ll write on it every day until I’ve gotten as much as possible worked out  and can’t get any more words to come out, then switch to the next project that gets hot. I would love to say that I’m going to see one project to a completed first draft before moving on, but that may or may not happen.

Also, I want to get Candy Apples published…and soon. If any other short stories get finished, I’ll work on getting them published as well. I think it’s time to move forward with my writing career in a way that will eventually allow me to write fulltime. I think that once I can fully focus on my writing, my output will be a lot higher (yet still of a great quality) and I will be that much closer to my dream of publishing domination. I can’t wait to be able to share these characters and stories that I love with readers the world over and have them love and care about them as well. That’s really where my motivation lies.

I just wanted to be honest about all of that. This is who I am as a writer and what I want to accomplish the next few months. What are you guys working on? What do you plan to accomplish the rest of this year? What type of writer are you? I can’t wait to hear your responses! 🙂

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“Finished” Products

My dad is turning out to be a terrible client for my new editing venture (sorry, Dad, but it’s true). Since this is my first time on the otherside of the writer/editor divide, I’m learning a lot about why editors get so frustrated with writers sometimes. We aren’t the mean baddies that I people make us out to be.

The issue with my dad, and perhaps with a lot of writers, is that he doesn’t know how to let his work be finished. Before he sent me his manuscript, he told me he was giving it a last thorough looking over and he was done with it. I would be able to work my editing magic on it and send it back with the changes. I began reading shortly after I received the book, on my birthday. He texted the next day that he was changing the opening of one chapter to add in some things. DAD! NO! When you submit it to the editor, you are supposed to be finished–ish.

From what I have gathered about this process, through reading blogs and other helpful resources, along with reading his manuscript, is making sure the chapters are correctly organized, word choice is superior, content flows/ is structured correctly from one point to another, transitions are smooth, and there are no gaping holes in the content. The only rewriting that should need to be done is to clarify or expand where necessary. I can offer suggestions, but I’m not writing the book, merely editing. I consider myself to be a literary nurse; he’s the doctor. Apparently, he’s one of those doctors who is always interrupting the nurse as she checks vitals to do another surgery (I don’t think such doctor’s exist, but it’s possible).

I have a hard time letting a piece be finished myself. I’ve talked about that here. However, there has to come a point in time when you decide you’ve taken the piece as far as you can without another set of eyes on it to read for clarity, continuity,  fluidity, and word choice. I submit to you that the time to be finished is before you send it to an editor.

But then, maybe I’m wrong on what an editor does. Maybe I’m making this too simple or too complex. Tell me about your experiences with editors, and when you consider a piece you are working on finished. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

What Writers are Writing

Día del Libro

Image by clspeace via Flickr

On my other blog, I’ve begun sharing the link love. Each Friday, I choose the post that I’ve read and enjoyed and post them up for my subscribers’ reading pleasure. It’s my way of passing on a good book blog. Since I’ve started this blog, I’ve come across some fantastic writer’s blogs. I have decided that I should share my favorite writing related posts of the week on this here blog, and any other reading/writing related bits that don’t fit anywhere else on Free to Read Fridays! Hmm…that sounds a little lame. No worries, I’ll come up with something better by next week.

What’s been going on with me this week? Well, I finished Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. It was so different from the movie. It was so much better than the movie. Although the movie kept the trip to Thailand and some other scenarios, it veered deeply away from the major conflict. The way they resolved the conflict in the movie…cheap is the best word I can come up with. It was a cheap trick. Helen Fielding is a much better writer than the movies would suggest (even if she does write without using pronouns: Right, will just meditate…Must call mother….where are the pronouns here? Is it a British thing? Maybe I’m misinformed.)

I also began work on my memoir and decided to send out Candy Apples as is for publication consideration. I’ve already blogged about the tiny breakthrough I had with my memoir in “Rusty Water.” As for my decision to send out Candy Apples as is, it was a bit spur of the moment. I was debating on adding further examples of the main character’s addiction and some other things, but I want to see how it’s received. Besides, I can always add those parts and publish it in the alternate form as part of a short story collection, right? I want to submit it before my birthday (two weeks from yesterday).

Speaking of my birthday, I have set a goal of having one chapter of my memoir done by my birthday. I think this is a reasonable goal, as the chapters now focus of specific images, ideas, or periods of time and can be elaborated on and fleshed out in a moderate amount of time.

Now, the Moment You’ve All Been Waiting For…Link Love:

Here’s what I found fascinating around the blogosphere, writing/reading wise:

What were your favorite writing and reading reads around the web this week?

The Gift of Confidence

Medieval illustration of a Christian scribe wr...

One of these days, I'll at least have a writing desk like this! Image via Wikipedia

I again sat and read the beginning of my NaNoWriMo novel (which is in need of a better working title) this past week. I was expecting to be bombarded with mistakes and plot holes, to be blindsided by changes in tense, and to find that the way I manipulated time in the story was confusing instead of opening up the possibilities of what could be done with the story. I wasn’t expecting to find much useable material.

As I sat on my floor (still need that writing desk/computer desk), editing my work in the reading mode of Microsoft Word, I was pleasantly surprised to find there were many strong points in the story. Even though I’d felt I had a good story as NaNoWriMo was underway, I expected to feel differently about the writing once the rush was over. I didn’t have an excessive amount of filler words that were written just to meet the requirements (which is probably part of the reason I fell short). It gave me a boost of confidence in my writing to see how well it’s held up to proofreading.

Even though I’d promised myself not to proofread until I actually finished a first draft, I’m glad I broke my promise. I know now that there’s a reason to continue. I didn’t do any extensive editing, just fixed a few typos and let the material stand as; I suppose this was an effort to compromise with myself over editing.

On a sad note, one of the pages of the handwritten draft is missing. It’s a page I hadn’t transcribed yet. Hopefully a good organizing of paperwork will yield the missing page. I hate when I misplace pages and have to recreate things. Either I don’t remember what is missing or I can’t recapture the magic of the moment. It’s much easier to get the jist of a thing down and craft it out of this rough material than it is to start from scratch with only a general idea of what the jist might have been.

It’s going to be easier for me to go forward with my writing goals in this new year because I’ve restored a bit of my confidence in my writing. I’ll share my writing goals with you as it gets closer to the New Year. I hope everyone finds the courage and the confidence from somewhere to continue to persevere in their writing.

The Writer as Reader

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As a recovering English Literature graduate (B.A.), I find that I have trouble reading for enjoyment sometimes. I’ve heard many of my classmates lament that they had trouble reading for enjoyment anymore, either because they were used to reading for writing papers or because they were afraid to read anything that could end up in their own work by accident. I’ve heard that all good writers are readers and that all writers love to read, but at the same time, it can be difficult to switch gears from editor and critic to reader.

I held on to my love of reading and found ways to get around this English Paper Mentality for a long time. I would always read things twice: once for enjoyment and then again to accomplish whatever assignment was attached. I was disappointed when I didn’t enjoy something the first time and had to write a paper about it. My primary joy was not in relating how Their Eyes Were Watching God worked as a Bildungsroman as it was the quotable lines that said so much in so few words. However, the English Paper Mentality has caught up with me in recent years as I’ve focused more and more on my writing. So what does a writer do to regain her “reader’s eye?”

Well, what I’m doing is going back to some old standbys, books that I love reading just for the joy of reading them. At the moment, I’m reading Autobiography of a Face for at least the third time. As soon as I secure a library card, I will be rereading Wasted: A Memoir and Prozac Nation. I’m sure there will be plenty of others, but these are the books that have been on my reader’s mind. As I’m working on my fiction writings, it’s a good change of pace.

What do you do to get back in reader mode when you’re experiencing editor/proofreader burnout? How do you return to your own work as a reader, reading for enjoyment as well as plot holes and continuity? How do you retrain your eyes to see what a reader would want to know more about, instead of just where you need a stronger verb? Can you separate your reader self from your writer self at all?

NaNoWriMo Postmortem

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I wonder if failing is like lying. Can you fail by omission? Does it matter if you’re closer to success than failure? What constitutes failure? Is it up for debate?

NaNoWriMo ended yesterday. All of us participants are now wearily coming out of the basement to access the damage this tornado has wrought in our lives. Perhaps yours didn’t end up too bad; you got a good first draft of a novel and kept your sanity. If you made it to 50,000 words, according to NaNoWriMo, you succeeded. I know a few of you who discovered your novels weren’t done at 50,000 words, so maybe you view it a little differently.

I didn’t make it to 50,000 words. I wasn’t even close. So, in that sense, I failed. I knew, in the back of my mind, that with all of the things I had pressed into last month that I would fail. So the goal for me was to learn and let the experience teach me about myself as a writer.

Here’s what I learned:

  • There’s no such thing as a “dead story” when the idea and characters work. I thought because I hadn’t been able to write on a story in a while, or hit a wall that it meant the story wouldn’t work or I wasn’t a good enough writer to write the story. But using an old idea and characters for NaNoWriMo taught me that sometimes I just need to let a story simmer until the ideas are fully cooked.
  • There’s no such thing as a “writing mood.” I don’t have to be in the mood to write. I don’t need a writing desk and the perfect lighting. I can write anywhere at any time. Even when I feel like I have nothing to say, if I sit down and read where I left off, I can usually fall write back into the story. I have no excuse not to write now.
  • I can’t let my deadlines choke me. I’d always heard that if you aren’t published by the time you’re 25, you haven’t got it. I don’t know why I believed that. So many people in literary history have proven that wrong. But, I was so obsessed with getting published this year, while I’m still 25, that I was choking my creativity. I didn’t want to write down anything I couldn’t publish immediately. NaNoWriMo forced me to write everything. Even if I wasn’t sure or didn’t think it worked. Even though I didn’t make the deadline, I am OK with that. I wrote some great things; I wrote some silly things. I didn’t let the deadline bother me. I can still finish my NaNoWriMo story. I will still finish it. In my own time.

How was your NaNoWriMo experience this year? Were you successful? What did you learn about yourself as a writer? What will you do with your novel now?

NaNoWriMo

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I’ve been (in)actively participating in NaNoWriMo this year. This is my first time participating, and the circumstances aren’t ideal. I am moving at the end of the month and have no internet access at home at the moment, so I can’t keep my word count up to date. I’m packing and cleaning a lot of the time. I write at work during lunch and have to type up all the things I write whenever I get access to a computer.

Writing 50,000 words by hand, then typing them out while preparing to move to another city would be hard enough to do if I wasn’t a chronic perfectionist. I keep taking out words that aren’t necessary or cross out phrases to say things more succintly. I can’t make myself skip around in the story when I get stuck in a scene. I have to write in a linear fashion most of the time. I can’t get through a first draft without proofreading. It’s a sickness.

The good thing about this whole process is that it’s gotten me back into the habit of writing daily. I may not meet the word count each day, may fail at the 50,000 word count goal, but I’m writing daily, writing a story that I care about and that’s a lot of fun.

This is my first attempt at chick lit, and I am enjoying it. I don’t have many of the clichés and the story is quite complex. I’m happy with the level of writing I’m doing (even though it is a first draft and I’m rushing, I have some really good things written already). I love turning to the spot where I left off, and falling back down that hole in the page, revisiting these characters.

I saved a story from the DOA pile to try for this NaNoWriMo thing. I started over from scratch with just four characters and a sticky situation, and it’s been evolving ever since. I hope to share more details with you as this journey unfolds.

Other NaNoWriMo participants, what are you learning about yourself as a writer this go around? Would also love some encouragement!